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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Almost Entirely Random Observations on a Frigid Thursday Morning in November

Cheerios in milk. The most unholy, putrid smelling grossness ever to daily assault my early morning nostrils. Yuck. I've learned to hold my breath while cheerfully encouraging fuzzy headed babies to swallow them up.

Chairs. Not professionally diagnosed, but I'm convinced that I have a chair disorder. They follow me home and fill my space like mewing kittens. Thirteen kitchen chairs, four armchairs, two rockers and a couch. Not to mention all the chairs I've resold when I recognized things spiralling back out of control. Again.

I like my 1970's chrome, brown, yellow and orange floral chairs. They're delightfully outrageous. My chippy white wooden pressback chair. The turquoise chrome baby highchair with the glittering sparkles. (That's not going anywhere.) And the yellow highchair with partially destroyed decal. I have a serious fondness for old decals.

The golden thrifted armchair is perfect for reading, petting the cat, laying the dog across my lap, and because there's a chippy cupboard right beside it, I can also have my coffee within arms reach.

Book, cat, dog, coffee. No need to pontificate.

Behind that, kind of tucked against the wall, is my orange and black retro, crazy chair, a gift from a friend whose husband forbid her to make it part of their household. A tragic story really, but I'm glad to have benefitted from his lack of fen shui insight.

The patterned turquoise chairs were a major score, found while yard sale-ing in Kleefeld. I don't think you need me to explain that any further.

Then there's the singular item we have actually spent money on. The big granddaddy rocking chair where Brian likes to sit and read books about the Camino de Santiago, or chat with chicks online all day under the auspices of playing words with friends. A few years ago we decided to properly fix and reupholster it to a tune of five hundred dollars. No regrets, although I do break into the tiniest cold sweat when the littles pretend its tinkertown in the winter, while typically armed with serrated plastic play dough knives and lost pens.

And then just last night, I had 15 minutes to fly through the thrift shop. It was long overdue, there just hasn't been any time for languishing in thrift shops because of the litany of short and long term mission projects I've recently signed up for (that's another post.) And there, under the strains of magical music that only I could hear, was another rocking chair, sort of a long lost cousin to our own pride and joy rocker. Wooden, with dowels, perfect for repainting chippy white with undertones of turquoise and green. (colors my house craves, constantly, without balance or regard for interior design publications). The chair of Great Potential was a whopping eight dollars, and it followed me home.

My chairs are like family to me, really.

Please don't tell me that my family is too big and that I need to abandon some of them. I'll be forced to unfriend you.

Toast. It's winter again on my side of town, so it's taking me a solid six cups of black coffee to get me to 10 AM most mornings. And when the littles start fighting over the White Chair and the Cup With The Purple Lid, I sometimes find that toast is nothing short of medicinal. Especially since pre-noon tequila shots are frowned upon when raising other people's offspring. I never have found an appropriate space to list that on my resume.

And toast naturally brings me to: Pee. It's Pee Week at Joycie's house. No, we are not potty training, that's been done. This week is just sort of a break from the traditional, middle class, suburban notion of peeing on toilets, so we are celebrating unexplored oppurtunites such as: furniture, the floor right in front of the toilet (upstairs) and the floor right in front of the toilet (downstairs), and finally- the carpet by the back door. Softer somehow that the cold linoleum right beside the carpet, and more convenient than the toilet, slightly to the right.

I've found myself craving toast this week. And six more cups of black coffee.

Particularly as I sit on the (now laundered) chair and stare at the billions and trillions of toys on the floor. To properly raise other people's kids, you have to fill your basement with this plastic stuff in the shape of tractors, graders, pink cups and forks, building blocks, transformers, and toy adding machines. Then to contain the sheer mass of it all, and intend to keep it all organized, you need toy bins. I like the medium sized, brightly colored plastic ones that are easy for the kids to tidy up with One for books, one for little cars, one for play food, etc.

So you and I see it like this: Bins are for toys.

Kids see this: Bins ARE Toys.

First task at hand at play time is to invert all the bins. Dump everything onto the carpet. Step on the toys and cry because they hurt the bottoms of bare feet, (socks are for shoving behind the couch cushions) Then line up all the bins behind the couch to use as tiny ladders to launch their volatile little selves up and over. Then the toy bins morph into portable beds for all the fuzzy care bear babies. Become ideal for packing lunches for pretend picnics. Get piled high with Little Ponies and John Deeres to play "Happy Birthday!" Or turn the bins upside down, cover them in a superman cape tablecloth and play tea party. Lure a little baby into a bin and push them around the basement. Bins also make great helmets, or weapons. Depending on your convictions.

I've considered getting bigger boxes so that we can store the toys and the bins in larger boxes, but I think we all know where that's headed: choo choo train and school bus.

That's pretty much it, more or less for this Thursday.

It's cold, and random. Only four months to go.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oh, The Blog Posts I Haven't Written

In Rattatouille, there's a scene where chef Rat tries to teach his more ratty brother how to put flavours together in more imaginative ways.

Then ever so briefly, the brother hears an visualizes a sort of flavour symphony forming in the air above hime until suddenly and abruptly-- POOF! its gone again.

Such is the tale of Joyce and her blog posts. The word symphonies begin, there are lovely little swirls and flashes and inspirational sort of background music. My fingers start to tingle, and I yearn for a few minutes to find my keyboard so I can let it all pour out of me. Until- Poof! Nope. It's gone again.

And that's why I haven't quite written about

How I Don't Even Know Who I Am Anymore: My Tiny Midlife Crisis, and

Watching My Dad Disappear, and

How I Re-Found My Sewing Machine, and

Life: How Lifelong Relationships Vaporize, and

Brunch With Karla, and

Raising Boys, and

My Body, The Ongoing Story, and

How I Made Peace With My Bread Machine, and

The Last Supper: Giving Up My Position on the Thrift Shop Board.

So maybe I actually don't even know why I am any more. Sure, I'd love to write about it, but it remains to be seen whether any swirly bits of inspiration will stick around long enough for finger to find keyboard. One can only hope.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Exercise of Exorcise.

October 10-  fifteen days ago Meghan Trainor's "All about That Bass" had me singing and bopping along in my car as I rode along.  But fifteen days straight of that same song relentlessly playing itself over and over and over in my head has got me craving an exorcism.

I've put on other music, forced myself to mentally sing "happy birthday" over and over again, read books, and shoved the end of a protractor through my eardrums.  But nothing, no nothing with change the tune that goes round and round and round in my head.

And with each morning of waking up and hoping that its gone, I'm freshly disappointed and compelled beyond reason to sing about booty and boom boom.  You might say I've meditated on these lyrics both day and night for half the month now.  And in my unwilling meditative state, I've decided a few things about Bringing Booty Back.

Because you know I'm all about that bass,
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble
I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble
I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass

Firstly.  What do bass and treble have to do with anything?  Well.  A quick look at the googlers brought me this bit of wisdom:  

" The "bass" she's all about is a reference to curves–bass tends to be deep and big"
So it follows that "no treble" means that there's nothing skinny and small about her.  Ok, I get that.

Yeah it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two
But I can shake it, shake it like I'm supposed to do
'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
All the right junk in all the right places

I'm still with you, Meghan.  I'm not a size two either, good grief.  That would mean not eating even ever.  Forget it.  

Can't say we'll be be besties on the whole shake it, shake it thingie- that's really not in my skill set.  Just ask my kids.  I suppose I do have boom boom and junk in places....  I guess.  But I'm starting to feel a wee bit uncomfortable that your song about body acceptance (which I dig) is still suggesting that we should make sure our bodies are pleasing and desirable to "all the boys".  Hmmmmm.

I see the magazines working that Photoshop
We know that shit ain't real
Come on now, make it stop
If you got beauty beauty just raise 'em up
'Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

Sing it!
I can even feel myself shaking it a little, activate booty and boom boom!

Yeah, my momma she told me don't worry about your size
She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won't be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll,
So, if that's what's you're into
Then go ahead and move along

so..... we should have curvy curves for the boys?!

Because you know I'm all about that bass,
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble
I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble
I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass

I'm bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches Hey
No, I'm just playing I know you think you're fat,
But I'm here to tell you that,
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Hold on.
would a song with the line:  "Go ahead and tell them fat bitches" make it to  the number-two spot on the Billboard Hot 100–??  Wouldn't we all be instantly offended at a lyric like that?  How come its ok to hate on little people now?

Yeah, my momma she told me don't worry about your size
She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won't be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll,
So, if that's what's you're into
Then go ahead and move along

I tell you what-  I appreciate the momma who tells her girls not to worry about their size.  I just really wish she didn't make it about being sexually available and pleasing for the boys.
I wish we had more songs about brains and enough-ness, compassion and determination.  Not that they'd be popular.  But what if songs with powerful and positive messages did get stuck in my brain?  would it help me to get over my booty?

Because you know I'm all about that bass,
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble
I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble
I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass

Cuz I'm all about getting that bass to go ahead and move along.

Thank you for being a part of this exorcise.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

All I Really Need To Be Complete. And Completely Happy.

I need a warehouse.

A warehouse near my house where I can store rows and rows and stacks of wooden kitchen chairs in chippy blues and beiges. Hutches accented with decals stacked up to the ceiling. Drawer fronts with green glass knobs. Wooden medicine cabinets with warped mirrors and bevelled edges. Rocking chairs, stained glass windows, trunks, old sewing machine cabinets, chrome chairs and tables, church pews.

Real hardwood floors.

Real kitchen cupboards.

A row of checkered and floral men's bow ties arranged vertically on the dining room wall. (oh wait- Got That!)

I need a dishwasher that works on all the settings- not just "china". I don't really have china, unless you count the ecclectic collections of lovely old glass bits that I don't store in my warehouse because I don't have one.

I need a kitchen without holes in the walls. Plus a new paint job.

I need a bathroom that doesn't double as a laundry room, a walk-in closet, a pet center, and a dump. I also need that horrible green color to GO AWAY. I need a vanity that isn't warped from an under the sink leak that's gone unattended for only around ten years.

I need cleaning staff.

I need a deck!

For eleven long years, I put up with the Ugliest Deck In The World. I endured promises and predictions and plastic lattice. This spring I watched in immeasurable joy as the deck was sliced away from the house.

And then.

The problems. The papers, and permits and phone calls and waiting.

I can't speak of it, in fear of triggering repressed emotion and memory.

Suffice to say that its OCTOBER-FREAKING-EIGHT and I don't have a deck. You can't hardly expect me to be happy. "Joycie no happy", as the day kids delight to say.

To really be complete, I need my own workshop. A place with plenty of natural and unnatural lighting, shelves of colored fabrics, and my seven sewing machines all set up in a row. I need huge, blank walls on which to pin inspirational quotes, pages out of favorite books, swatches of vintage everything, old clocks, embroidered kitty cats in frames, giant old mirrors, and glass cuboards procured off kijiji for $40- or less.

I need to stop craving multi-grain cheerios, slabs of pumpkin pie (ever), homemade bread with crunchy peanut butter, and all food in general. So I can get back to my birthweight and lose the weird bulgy belly thingie that turning 40-something has produced.

I need a car. Something like the chevette that I drove in my twenties with the broken off stick shift and the hole in the gas tank that only allowed me to fill in $5- at a time. Back when $5- could get you out of your driveway. The one that couldn't go through puddles because the water would get into the hole in the gas tank and I would stall in the busiest intersection of Winnipeg at rush hour. Okay. So maybe not all those dramatic things, but I need that general feeling of youth and optimism that driving an impossible car provides.

I need three pendant lights from many perusals through many thrift shops in rural Manitoba. I need them hung in a cluster in my living room, and the husband willing to do it and tolerate it.

Right. Got that. Whew.

I need a door handle not slathered in duct tape. But not until I retire in ten or more years, ever since that incident when I went to the garage for a loaf of bread and the tinies locked me out of the house, and then went downstairs to line up on the couch and watch cartoons where they couldn't hear me knocking on the door. Ever since then.

I also needed baseboards in my kitchen. It had only been eleven years, so it wasn't particularly troubling to me that I didn't have any. But this summer when Brian wasn't building the deck that we don't have- he built baseboards! Its almost enough to make me happy and complete forever. almost.

Except that I need a haircut. And color.

I need pants without butt crack, and dresses. I only have twenty-five dresses. I need a kitten. My cats aren't kittens any more, they're all worn out of kitten hood and it just isn't right. I need my dog to stop loving me so much and to quit following me all-the-freaking-everywhere. Its annoying and makes me feel like I could never possibly ever be enough to fill her bottomless doggie tank.

I also need help parenting. My kids are amazing, what with their disinterest in suicide bombing, dating, bush parties, intravenous drugs, sleeve tattoos, witchcraft, appearances, and expensive running shoes. But still. They're likely full of all kinds of endless, bottomless potential that I have squandered with my most prolific answer to pretty well all their questions since they first arrived- "I don't know". And then, more recently- "I don't know- go ask The Googles". Recently it came to my attention that my son, aged 16, didn't know how to release the seal on a jar of home-canned salsa. I mean- what kind of mother does he have?

I need to stop having the dream where I'm at the airport with too many bags and parcels and suitcases, largely held together with packing tape from Dollarama but I've lost my plane ticket, passport, and wallet. That dream always leaves me feeling unsettled, like maybe possibly I'm lost in this life. It has to stop.

I need passion to return to my living. For more than a year now, I've not sewn. more than a year. Can we fathom this? only with difficulty. Meanwhile the UNHCR sends me pictures of moms trying to feed their children, I read a little about Syria (being a bear of very little brain, I read, but much of it looks like blah-blah-politics-geography-blah to my itty bitty blob of grey matter). I've recently read three books on the Holocaust and was struck with nightmarish clarity that people are still living lives that are utterly lacking in kindness, clean water, and nutrition while I sit here and sip my strong, hot coffee and scarf back cheerios and pumpkin pie as though I were the only person in the universe.

And then I read "I Am Malala" and because it was written by a fifteen year old girl, it mostly went over my head- I couldn't understand three quarters of the politics outlined inside. I got the part about her being shot through the eye by the Taliban for having passion and meaning and for tirelessly advocating for girls' education. Which reminded me that one's life should be lived with passion and meaning. Which is what I need- to be complete.

But I don't have a vintage, turquoise colored boler in my back yard with a cute little patio in front of it and some old metal lawn chairs. Which makes passion pretty darned tough to come by. I don't have chickens either. No chickens at all, except the big frozen ones in my deep freezer. I don't even have lulu lemon yoga pants. All the cool kids have them, and I don't have any. I don't want them, but that's not relevant here.

Some days, I don't even have patience. Or a warehouse. I barely even have two cats, a furry bunny, a bright yellow cupboard and chippy blue shelf.

It's pretty obvious that a lot of things are going to have to come down the pike.

Before I can be happy. Or complete.

Or even, completely happy.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Church Twice Today

It happens to me sometimes- an insistent thought that pesters me into mobility. Even in the quiet, coffee fuelled space of a sacred Sunday morning.

I haven't gone to church with my parents for about twenty-five years or more.

But this morning, I got that urge. So I made my way to the Kehlers to find mom's Sunday shoes waiting by the door. Dad had on his grey wool suit and asked mom twice if he had written a cheque to the church yet this month? He told me that his legs weren't working this morning, and when he wasn't looking, mom told me he refused to use his walker and that he wouldn't stop eating tomatoes.

I didn't mean to, but a few tears rolled down my cheeks when mom asked- why do you come to Steinbach for church when you have a church in your own town? And I told her- I thought it was "A God Thing". Which is what I say when I get the weird urges to do these things. But I was crying too for dead babies, and old dads who get tottery and forgetful, and the impossibility of it all.

Then dad asked mom- "Where'd I put the cheque book?" and I thought about my dignified dad whose worst fear was becoming a burden, losing his mind, and losing his body.

We were early for church, which we drove two blocks down the street to and parked in handicap zone right in front of the door to wait for the church to empty from German service. Dad asked- where did we regularly attend church? I paused and said- we're not so regular, dad. And I sighed but no more tears leaked down.

The message was about the sign of the beast and fire breathing dragons and there was some mention of Robin Williams dying because even though he had it all, there was some unbearable emptiness left in him that couldn't be filled.

I suddenly felt terribly, terribly tired.

In the afternoon, I went to church again.

There were songs and words and a lot of tears.

And there wasn't a single word that could really fill that unbearable emptiness.

Outside, the sun shone impossibly warm and the trees dropped lively orange onto the green grasses. Two babies tottered across the parking lot crying "Mo? Mo?" and eating their mama's offerings like baby birds.

While my old dad looked around for his cane, and his tomatoes, and his chequebook.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Harvest Moon Festival

I love choosing a mountain of wooly sock and sweater goodness in anticipation of the Harvest Moon Festival.

We will be chasing the chill all weekend in our long underwear.

In perfectly toasty footwear.

I love setting up in the Southwind. Brian and I get the mirror room in the back, but the drive down is always spent snuggled up in Hank and Marie's nest behind the drivers seat.

I love tucking all my chins into my friend's shoulder for the celebratory road trip up to Clearwater. It'll be the last time in a while that we will see any of our skin bare.

Our bed is spread with munchie snacks and tastey sips. Occasionally we make the "honk, honk!" semi truck arm salute to the men miles ahead of us behind the steering wheel.

It's always wise to pack the spare key.

We are headed towards spontaneous dance parties.

and toasty campfires.

High end 6 Star sleeping accomodations.

My precious daughters are there, cuddled up under quilts and toques, waiting for Royal Canoe, enjoying the sights and sounds, and piling up like kittens in their tents at night to try and stay warm.
Sometimes bands gather up around us, and we are swept up in song.

The water drum and costco granola drums never sounded so good.

Even the dogs are compelled to sing.

People think we're telling big, bold lies when we talk about how much fun we had camping in four degrees. But we weren't defying premature winter so much as we were celebrating life, all bundled in socks, and moccs and curling into one another.

On this harvest moon.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Summer 2014, You've Been Good To Me

My summer treasure- five vintage metal lawn chairs.

Summer solstice party.

Gellato from the grocery store in St Pierre.

Graduating sweet Jane from high school. I can't quite believe that there are only two school supply lists for this fall.

Volunteering on the grad decor committee with this bunch of creative and fun loving folks.

Having both my girls home to enjoy it with.

Which is when a normal family might pose for Christmas card pics.

Seeing my garden come back to life. That never gets old.

Attending the epic dance party of the-- well, of Forever.

Thanks for retiring, Hank. Could you maybe do that again next year? That was the most fun I've had in forever.

Watching Brian disassemble the deck that I've hated for eleven years now.

Thrifting for treasures.

Patio drinks and long city walks with friends.

Breakfast at the Forks

And dinner on the patio at Carlo's and Murphy's with one of my best besties.

Taking Sam to the races.

Gimli Beach.

Pickerel and lemon potatoes with greek salad.

Strawberry picking with mom. She's only 88.

Camping with my sisters.

It might have been fun.

And hot, glorious and relaxing.

Sprucing up the house.

Checking in on the folks, and cutting their grass real stealthy like so that they won't have a chance to tell me not to.

Shopping for treasure with my girls.

Celebrating my sister's new job at The Forks.

The Medieval Festival at Cook's Creek. Wow. Just wow.

These belly dancers brought tears to my eyes. They were incredibly powerful and beautiful.

Real jousting.

Fantastic costuming.

Watching Brian in his boy band at the Altona Sunflower festival.

Free swimming for Sam, who had the pool to himself for the first hour.


Free rollkuchen and watermelon and a petting zoo.

And a very lonely lady trying to sell products from Passion Party. Everyone avoided her tent like it was on fire, but I suspect her phone was ringing off the hook after they all went home.

Hanging out with my kitty.

Bunny sitting for Arianna, and chilling with Jane's.

A very special visit from a friend from Capernwray, circa 1986.

We giggled.

Shared with the dog, fireside.

Took in Grand Beach.

And the Mennonite Heritage Museum.

With their fifty shades of grey

And the borscht and bread.

(I'd really like a "schlope bank")

Brian spoiled us rotten and chubby.

Sweet Chilliwack Rose, you make me happy. Do come again.

I'll even share my favourite hair stylist with you again.

Steinbach parade with my mama.

Remembering all dad's years operating the steam engine.

August long at my bro's cabin.

Unbelievably, we managed to get dad there for a day. There are a great many stairs down to the cabin and dad seems to have worn out his legs. But he's still stubborn, and that helps a lot.

Street party at Higgins and Main. Truly a summer highlight for me.

It's giving me stuff to think about for a long time.

Taking dirt roads, because you have no reason not to.

Stopping to listen to the sounds the ditches make in August.

Hosting the in-laws for supper and laughing at grandma H take us all down with her shrewd hotel buying ways.

Bringing in the harvest. (Why do Manitobans lock their cars and houses in August? Because. Zucchini season.)

Then- gathering up the school supplies.

Welcoming the littles back in.

(Thank goodness that Sam is around to help)

And last, but certainly not least- celebrating one entire year of going to the gym.


I'm sitting here, looking out my window at all the green, and bits of red where a tomato begs to be picked. There's a sunflower about to bust out, and my scarlet runner bean plant still boasts burst of flower. The grass is lush, the Ash is swaying in the breeze. I play this little game with myself sometimes in winter- I look out the window and try to imagine a green world. It always seems entirely impossible. And now in green world, I"m looking out and trying to imagine white. I don't want to, its not fun.

In not a very long time, the calendar is going to flip to 2015.

This year I'm hoping to concentrate on my parents, who are suddenly old.

The littles who come to my house to be loved and wiped and cared for and cuddled.

My boys, who will be my last two local students.

My heart, which looks around for God everywhere, and sees inspiring things.

My body, which I will continue to take to what has become one of my favourite places, and I'm not even making that up.

This year I will try again to live an intentional life, and even wait expectantly to see how that might look.

Summer- you've been so good to me.