Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why the Words Get Written

I suppose it goes without saying that blogspots are sort of egocentric places. Its where one person, in their quiet space, allows the mind to spill out in all its twisty and less than pretty ways. Much like personal journals or diaries.

All the emotional ugliness that lands up here exposes the true depravity of my human-ness. The goal is to move it from circling endlessly around in my brain towards more conscious thought, then to words, and from there to decisions about how to change directions in the future.

All of our lives are interconnected. And so when I write about a struggle I want to resolve with another person, my writing is pathetically self-centred. Its entirely from my perspective.

Where that has offended, I apologize. My intent is not to rip others down, but to explore the nasty stuff that I see in me, and want to exorcise.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One More Shot at Making an Ugly Mark

Back in the eighties I shared the second floor of an amazing old house just off of Corydon and my roomies and I had a party that would be henceforth be remembered as the "cop stopper". As it turned out, the guys who lived below us, (and repaired harleys on the living room hardwood in their spare (sober) time) were also throwing a party, so we just threw all the doors and stairways open and had one great big, cop stopper. It felt to me like one of those life events that I could wear as a feather in my kercheif. Like maybe I had finally moved off the farm...

Well, I'm not twenty-something any more and I'm not afraid to tell you that I've been thirty-nine for some ten months now. You gals all know about the up and coming cougar party, and I trust that your shopping and hair-teasing is well under way. I'm putting quite a bit of energy into plumping myself with that extra twenty to thirty pounds that was mentioned in the comments. I'd forgotten about that cougar special, but I think I can pull that one off. (she says, taking a sip of her wine, and a big bite of baguette with boursin cheese...the sambucca resting in the folds of her thigh).

Last year I hosted my first ever I'm-thirty-nine-and-not-afraid-to-tell-you-what-to-do-about-it-Ugly-Sweater-Party. I'm not joking whatsoever when I tell you that I believed this to be my very own, original idea. I came up with it at the elevater thrift shop when I was enjoying all the ghastly holiday sweaters and wishing I had some reason to purchase them. Turns out that there are other brilliant minds out there. That this has been thought of before. And I'll tell you how I know.

After the Ugly Sweater Party, I received an e-mail from a Michigan reader who was contacted by a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press. He had googled "ugly sweater party" and landed up at her site. She had been sent a lovely honourary bad-ass sweater corsage since she had been otherwise committed on the day of the party and could not attend in person. Mr columnist guy wanted to write an article about this trendy Christmas party theme and asked her some questions about the event. She in turn directed me to him; and he to me. We exchanged e-mails, and since we were already well into December, he decided to defer until the following winter to write the piece about the ugly sweaters.

TRENDY?! Like I said, I thought that this was my original idea. I thought it was just possible that this idea of mine would be my ticket to finally making something memorable of myself- some legacy for my children, for my future generations.......

Hard to believe its been a year already. Another year off my life, and I'm still not a published author, a tae kwon doe instructer, a famous lecturer, or a coveted artist. But just this week, I received an e-mail from Dave Sanderson of the Winnipeg Free Press. He requested an invitation for himself and his photographer in anticipation of what he probably believes is an annual event for me. Rapidly approaching forty, and fearing that I may never make my mark on this world, I lept at the oppurtunity. So, maybe my works would never get published, but at least I'd get my name and maybe even a photo in the paper?!

So, here's your formal invitation:

on November 24, 2007, 7:00 pm

We request the honour of your attendance

at Joyce's second annual

Ugly Sweater Party

this year featuring

your choice of male escort or attendent.

(not necessarily paid)

No shoes, shirt, or black tie required.

Sweater mandatory.

Bring food and drink to share.


(bring your own drink and food and sweater... heck, just bring your own party!)

Care to join me in becoming famous?

Check out last year's event here and here.

This time, if you want to, you can bring your husband or significant other. (just please not both). Leave your kids and pets at home though. They remind me too much of work.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No Screen Sundays

(just don't scroll down and notice that I'm writing this on Sunday. That would make me a hypocrite.)

Every fall and spring and new year, and possibly days in between, I get the undeniable urge to write down some goals and good intentions. Some directions to move into. Some intentional plans to pull into focus the rumbling, fumbling grey matter above.
At the end of August, I forced my sometimes pliable husband to sit with me and agree on some good intentions for our family life in the new school year. As much as I love screens, and couldn't possibly convince anyone that I'm above all that technology, pretty colours, lights, and sounds..... THEY DRIVE ME UTTERLY INSANE. I like to blame it on the fact that I grew up without any screens whatsoever. We never, ever had a television, and since humanity had just recently left the dank caves, home computers were unheard of. (unimaginable). I like to pretend that this has caused the inability in me to know what balance is. That I was raised on such purity that my "inner child" craves the silence (hah! eight kids!) and creativity of our farm house years.
So, I foolishly came up with the notion of "no screen Sundays". Not because my parents had taught me that cards and homework on the sabbath were sins, (they didn't.) not because I think it irreverent to humour hollywood on the Lord's day... well, I wish I were that holy but I'm not. I just thought that I wasn't really willing to make it Saturday since that's the day after Friday and some saturday mornings, there's nothing better than a bunch of brain dead kids in front of the tv and me not being side-show-daycare-lady for a change. So I picked Sunday. I also reasoned that we'd be more likely to remember undone homework due on Monday if the tv was off. And that out of sheer boredom and desparation, everyone would come to church with me instead of watching Bing and Bong in their underwear.
And its had the desired effect. Children get their homework done. (or sit and cry about their homework, but its a start, right?) Children haul out tape and crap out of the recycling bin and make tvs and computers for their play mobil people. (at least they're seeing some action...) Wildly stimulating and educational comic books get read. Block towers are built and conquered. The hamster's cage is cleaned. Flute practise gets done. Friends come by, dress up breaks into hysteria. Children actually ask to go visit grandma and grandpa.
oh the noise.
I nearly succombed today. I nearly suggested that after they clean up the twelve thousand blocks, the fabric scraps, the milk jug lids, the shoes in the porch, the baskets of laundry and miscellaneous, the playhouse people, the markers, the waffle crumbs, and the bionicle pieces, that we should reward ourselves with an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos. Oh, how close did I come.
But thirteen odd years of trial and error parenting whispered in my ear..... You know where that will get you. Every sunday from now until eternity the children will use that as a bargaining chip. You know that you suck at saying no. You know that they will see your weakness and rub you with it.
So, I did the mature thing.
I made them all go to bed early, after doing all the housework.
Then I came down to use the computer in some peace and quiet.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cougar Party

I think that "cougar" may be a term from the plains. I've spent more time on google than I'll ever admit to, looking for images that would fall under the heading of "cougar" and mostly came up with large, frightening looking animals who live in Africa. That's really not what I have in mind for my fortieth birthday party. If you are from Manitoba, you may be familiar with the other meaning of the word "cougar". Its the word I remember my brother-in-law using to describe certain ladies who were past their "prime" but still dressed, and presented themselves as though they were "all that". I tend to think of nylons with print, really high stillettoes, hair that's been teased way beyond the point of being amusing, tight skirts like the sort we were fond of in the eighties.... but that's only my limited perspective. Here's what I need from you. Tell me, via comments, what "cougar" means to you. Then come to my fortieth birthday party dressed in such a manner. I don't care how old you are, how young you are, whether you know me, or whether I know you. I just want a house full of women and I want it to be about me turning forty. I want people to come who have never come before. I want people who have come before to come again.

There are few rules or guidelines. Simply, bring something to share. Come in character. Introduce yourself at the door if I don't know you. (thats one of my favourite parts!)

Beyond those very few, very unimportant details, everyone knows that once you've entered the gates, the time begins to fly. Sometimes hems come up. Sometimes secrets slip out. Sometimes Dr Ruth shows up, uninvited. (ahem, ede). Sometimes the guests are blog readers. Sometimes they have no idea what a blog is. Tattoes can be revealed, curves may be uncovered. There is always, always great food. (that you bring, of course.) There is always heaps of hysterical laughter. There are always new relationships formed, fresh perspectives gleaned. People always go home too early for my taste, and I'd really like to see that change this year. Believe me, if I get tired, I'll see myself to bed, but there's no reason for anyone to be polite, or to think of their children and husbands at home. Isn't that what the rest of the year is for?


Can't wait until November the tenth.

Monday, September 17, 2007

If I Were Made of Time and Infinite Resources

... I would lose myself for hours in my beautiful, inspired sewing room. I would piece and patch and form into beauty the multitude of intentions and ideas that live in my head. (and quite a few pieces from ideas that I've stolen from other talented artists out there.)

I would hire a life coach for myself. I would learn how to have goals and a plan that would move me from a whole bunch of loose ended theories and wonderings to an intentioned way of concluding a thing or two before I turn to dust.

I would sign up for a neat thing I saw in a pamphlet at my sisters annual procrastinators birthday party this weekend. It was a weekly meeting about intentional journalling. That sounds so incredibly wonderful. To journal in the company of others who love to do so, and to have a facilitator to help us write and explore new ideas.

I would join the gym, not to beat my body into what I wish it would become, but instead to feel it work, to celebrate that all the joints and ligaments and muscles can team up and work in unision. To embrace my aging self and dance with it.

I would install a self-cleaning floor.

I would hire someone to put baseboards in my kitchen.

I would volunteer in a gritty downtown soup kitchen.

I would travel to Alberta and spend a week organizing my sister Laura. On the way there, I would stop at my friend Nancy's and drink some wine and talk about God with her.

I would set aside one night of the week for a stitch 'n bitch at my house. Except I would never call it that. I'm much too upright to say such a crass and inappropriate word. I would never suggest that my friends would fit such descriptions, or that they would accept me for another minute if they heard such foul mouthedness emerge from my lips. But. I would like to spend an evening a week with my beloved fabrics and buttons and friends. Stitching, creating, sipping, laughing, connecting.

I would go for a walk every night after supper while the children rip each other to shreds washing the dishes.

but as it stands, this post was begun first thing this morning, and I've had no time to complete it until late afternoon. I have nearly paid my bills for August now.

So, time and money do have their constraints. Lets just see what I manage to squeeze in, because if my life were entirely manageable, I'd likely die from boredom.

Friday, September 14, 2007

That. Again.

I took the kids for a walk today to get a red pepper from the grocery store. On the way to the peppers, I had to pass the magazines, and since the children were being extremely compliant, my eye had a moment to fall on two of my favourite magazines: Home Companion, and Country Living. I guess I needed an adrenalin rush or something- being a highly religious bargain hunter and buying a magazine retail really don't go hand in hand. I impulsively balanced a copy of each on top of the stroller and headed off to produce.

There was good reason for being compulsive about the magazine. I felt like I needed to compensate for missing out on some yard sales this weekend.

I've signed up for a church seminar that will take up my thursday and friday evenings, as well as all day saturday. That's not the difficult part.

Saturday also happens to be town-wide garage sale. Saturday just might be the day for that ONE garage sale... the ONE where the perfectly beautiful, perfectly affordable couch lies in wait.... for me. Its not that I haven't been taunted before. There was the time when I could see the absolutely perfect, red vintage couch and chair IN A GARAGE with an affordable price tag dangling temptingly off of it. I nearly drove off the road. I nearly stopped breathing.

Too bad the poor couch was shredded. It would have made the green one and the grey one look downright contemporary. But I digress.

Flipping through my overpriced copy of Country Living, I came across the above page. A gorgeous couch. Funky. Having recently walked through our local furniture store for the very first time, and realizing that I really loved nothing in it... I was pleased to see this avacado green piece in the magazine with the wide arm rests and fun patterns and felt relieved that these were being manufactured once again. Then I read further. Turns out that the woman had not only a stack of vintage chenille and beautiful old quilts in amazing textiles, but that she had found the couch and a matching chair for $35.00.

Which brought me back to the original conflict.
Versus Garage Saling.

Well, they said it would be a narrow road. They said that there would be sacrifices.

And now I really need to stay committed to the seminar.

Now I've got the whole jealousy thing going on, coveting whats in my neighbor's garage, whats in my neighbors handmaiden's garage, and maybe even whats in the shed they keep their oxen in.

I've got stuff to come clean on.

I may never find that couch that I just know is going to be out there on Saturday morning. Because now, not only do I have to work on my poor stewardship (buying that unnecessary magazine RETAIL) , I'll have to deal with my envious urges, my jealousies, my covetousness, and my compulsive bargain hunting.

But if I get all that dealt with and I'm no longer driven, then how will I ever find my vintage couch?!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How I Nearly Got to Guatamala

This morning, a group of people from our community left on a trip to Guatamala. They packed the maximum allowed baggage full of backpacks, gifts, and school supplies for the sponsored children whom they plan to visit. I imagine that there were also a number of toolbelts to pack, as they will be building a cinder block school house during their stay.

I felt excited about the trip, even though I couldn't even consider joining them. Gloria and Crystal have gone, as well as the grandma of one of my little daycare sweeties. I wished I were joining them.

But today, Brandy took Crystal's job.

Crystal fled the country to go build a schoolhouse.

I took Brandy's son, Mikey.

And that's how I practically flew to Guatamala.

(Micah and Mikey.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No Time to Whine.... About Turning Forty

Sometimes I think I could ditch all the books and therapies and meds and just spend a lot more time with my beloved buttons.

Recent gifts from two people I love have set my creativity on fire.

Brian bought me two amazing original mixed media drawings by Andrea Pratt to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary. He had them framed in handsome black matt and as soon as I saw them, I knew I wanted a set of four.

I played with the idea of going on Andrea's fish and cat themes, but the vintage pieces I had with those motifs were quite colourful

and detracted from the exquisate beauty of the prints.

So I turned to my favourite medium:


I had a new stash from my friend Cheri, so I sat down with them and my tins full of treasures and picked a number of favourites to sew onto black velvet.

By supper time I had the red wall patched, and my beautiful collection mounted.

I'm almost forty, and my couch sucks, but I must have the absolute most beautiful buttons in all the world. And the most amazing drawings from Andrea.

And the most thoughtful people to gift me with such beauty.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Turning Forty.... and Couches

I anticipate a landmark series on the topic of Turning Forty. They will be deep, thought provoking, and introspective. They will reflect many years of personal growth and the relentless pursuit of truth and authenticity. Likely to be an inspiration to many, the utter selflessness and absolute disregard for the lust after things will be the impetus for global change for women everywhere.

You know how most women say they want a breast augmentation, a touch of liposuction and a trip to Paris to celebrate their fortieth birthday? Well, I'm way above all that. Way above all, all, all of it. Such trivial, selfish, wasteful, and meaningless things would never have a grip on my heart. Not a corner. Not a shelf. Nope, my hopes are much more noble than all that.

I want

baseboards in my kitchen!!

a functional closet!!!



Sorry. Was that my "out loud" keyboard? So sorry.

Its just that my first couch was purchased for $8.00 at a yard sale. It was one of those twenty foot long thingies in brown textile that all of your Mennonite forefathers now have in their musty basements with an afghan thrown over the back. It came with an airmchair. It didn't cost extra. When my friends and I had a few young men over for dinner one night and they all fit onto the couch, it did this really neat thing where it slowly leaned over to the right, and then the little wooden legs just crumpled beneath it. For a long while after that, it was a really low, long couch. And really, really brown.

But then I got lucky. A friend from work got herself a puppy and mostly kept it around to eat things. After it ate all her leather pumps and a few of her kids favourite stuffies, and maybe even a kid or two, It ate a large portion of one end of her couch. It hadn't gotten around to eating the loveseat yet, so I was the lucky and grateful recipient of another "new" couch and loveseat. For many, many, many years, and five separate locations, we enjoyed those blue couches. A throw blanket was always on the right side of the main couch, and guests were given strict instructions to never touch or remove it, or to fall into the crevace left by the overindulged mut.

But alas, they refused to endure forever. After patching the tearing upholstery a million times or more, we gave our youngster a pair of scissors, sat her on the couch , and encouraged her to develop some skills before the inevitability of school.

It was time to move up in the world. Time to put out some big bucks. My pa found us a lovely hide-a-bed at the thrift shop for $50.00. It was sheer nostalgic joy, hauling that 531 pound brown beauty into our humble home. Around about the same time, a colleague of Brian's was downsizing from a house to an apartment and had some furniture for sale. We really lightened our wallets that time, and got the couch and two matching chairs for a whopping $250.00. I tell ya, it took some constraint not to invite the mayor, the minister, and the in-laws straight over to have a look at those beauties. But my humility prevailed. I hated to think of making anyone envious for my things.

And so, things hummed along for a number of years. The children multiplied. We found some friends who found us both tolerable. We added some cats, some rats, and some elephants; a budgie, a daycare, plus our kids kept hauling other kids home, even though we yelled and swore and threw rocks at them from the front door. That grey couch, still our secret pride and joy (not) was just inadequate for the number of bums frequenting the joint.

And that's when I found my favourite couch of all. The beautiful old green one. The one they made back in the day when the upholstery was meant to last a lifetime and actually did. The one with the beautifully carved wooden legs and the plush seat cushions set upon durably springy springs. When I first laid eyes on it, it was parked at the rear door of the thrift shop and I badly wanted to steal it. But what with all the personal development and maturity and all, I waited until the following day so I could properly purchase that gem. Well, that's the last time I'll ever be silly enough to ignore my initial sense of whats right and proper. When I returned the next day, those legs were gone. Gone! And so, they sold me that couch for $5.00. It was disappointing that I was bringing home a parapalegic, but the price was right so I made good use of the four thousand or so cans of tuna I had left over from that whole Y2K scare.

So, things went a long swimmingly for a time. We buried a lot of popcorn in those couches, lounging around and watching family movies, or lazing away Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings with a good book or magazine. The cats enjoyed napping on them and double dutying by using the sides to sharpen their claws on. But. While we were away one weekend, the cats got sick. Very, very sick. And after renting a upholstery cleaner, dumping toxic, chernobyl amounts of chemical into the depths of its seating, and Then hauling it outside to pressure wash...... with the garden hose....... the lucrative grey couch has never been quite the same.

Unrelated to the cats, and more likely due to the expanse and generosity of the bums planted on the green couch..... Those everlasting springs have sent multiple staples flying, then slipped through the fabric underneath and find themselves resting on the living room floor. A sort of ancestor of the original legless brown ten-footer back in the day. Maybe more like a bad theme. Maybe even a nightmare.

Which brings me back to the origin of this post. Turning forty. What I've learned. How amazingly mature I am.

Lies, all lies.

Don't get me a trip to Paris. Don't get me some dumb baseball cap or mug that has a cutesy saying about getting old. Don't get me a box of chocolates or a body spray. Not candles. No flowers. Not a pedicure or manicure, a lotion or massage.

Just get me a friggin' couch.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Once upon a time, there were two young women. They had left their farming communities and had moved their belongings into the big city, probably using their dad's hog-smellin' half-ton to get the job done right. They'd never met one another, and moved into apartments at opposite ends of the big city. But life is weird, so one way or another, they met and began to create a series of adventures built on the themes of laughter and life.

There was snow-shoeing, all-you-can-eat spaghetti-ing, greasy spoon breakfast eating, pining after handsome hunks of manliness-ing, movie watching, body part piercing, other-country-travelling, tent sleeping, hair fussing, and other general hanging-around-ed-ness.

Then came the day and the season where entirely too much sharing crossed the boundaries of frienship and loyalties. Where hearts lay ripped and oozing on the floor of the foundations we'd built that friendship on. Where apologies and justifications were shouted at one another in the very same breath. Death of trust and loyalty dealt by "friendly fire".

Oh, we tried to bridge the abyss. Being "good Christians" and all, we worked hard against the scourges of grudge, revenge, disgust... But something was broken.

We grew up, life taking us this way and that. We lived through our mid to late twenties, and pretty well through our thirites with the memories of those times feeling well shadowed by the less than pleasant torture of our friendship's demise. But we had new lives to live, new sorrows to navigate, new friends to love. And so we were not crippled, only bruised.

And then one day, in the two seconds between the dinner table being set, and the children planting themselves on their chairs, I stole a moment to check my in-box. And I came back to the table with tears streaming down my face, my heart full, and lodged in my throat.

"Subject: Hello my old friend

Dear Joyce,
I spent the day looking through old photographs…and there you were, smiling at me, taking me back to a day in time when life seemed easier. I smiled back at you, I laughed aloud, and then I began to cry. So many regrets…what a fool I was. You were one of the greatest friends I ever had. I made so many stupid decisions in my 20’s. I am sorry! I can’t take any of it back and that makes me mad…mad at myself…mad at the world… I am sorry that it has taken me this long to say I am truly sorry…sorry for hurting you in a way that a friend never should…sorry for thinking only of myself.
Will you ever forgive me? Have you ever forgiven me? Maybe I have never forgiven myself...even after all these years."


OH! the reunion we shared after all those years. One more roadtrip, this time her doing the driving and me waiting with joy and anticipation. And then the hours and hours and hours of talking, reconnecting, redeeming, laughing, crying. How my friend had grown! How different to now spend time talking about the God we both love, the questions that no seven steps can adequately answer, the losses and sorrows that we'd had, the hope we shared in something Bigger.

And the hope I received that day, knowing that 17 or so years of a friendship lost could be redeemed in a second through her vulnerability, her sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, her lack of self-protectiveness. How anything that pains me now is not the final word. How time can be wiped away, how time itself can be redeemed.

How much of life hinges on a hope for things not yet fully seen.

But sometimes just a glimpse of that kind of redemption can be the wave to ride on and the energy to harness for today's not-yet redeemed voids.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


When we are no longer able to change a situation -
we are challenged to change ourselves.
Viktor E. Frankl
*quote stolen shamelessly, brazenly, from Roofis.
oh, God. Some days it just seems absolutely impossible.
To change.
To change the mental tapes.
To change the perspective of me, me, me.
To have some positive impact on my world.
To live outside of fear, of complacency, of wanting to be small, so as to not rock anyone's boat.
Last night after "meet the teacher", I wanted to be uber-wonder-mama and try one more time to get Jane that new backpack I had promised her for grade six. I'd also noticed that Micah; being a mensch and all, had never once tuned into the fact that his sisters had been hitting me up for wallet-opening in the name of school supplies, to Olympic proportions. He, meanwhile was using the backpack that I'd bought him for pre-school, some hand-me-down runners that had seen better days, and his still perfectly labelled markers from last year, tidily lined up in their original box.
It was time to quit saving money on the little gentleman, and get him some gear.
Wal-mart was nuttier than a box of almondillos on Christmas Eve. The purchase and return line-ups were dense with stuff-laden customers. I noticed a young mother unloading numerous pre-school sized outfits and caught myself thinking judgemental thoughts about how many practically-new-outfits she could have gotten at a yard sale for a fraction of the cost. I nosily wondered if she could afford these purchases, or if she was unwisely trying out a new credit card instead.
This led me to wonder about the need to belong. What we consciously and unconsciously do and say to feel like we've got a seat in the stadiums that we live life in.
And am I so different? The props have changed, but the premise is the same.
The upside is to realize that a lot of us just want to belong, to be accepted, to be validated. So, we have a choice- hang around, sponge-like and hope daily to be filled by affirmations from others, or, fuel up to give and not seek constantly to receive.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Back From Planet Zoloft....

Just fell off the face of the earth for a while- good... no, great food, kids who rarely whined, no nintendo, lots of nature, time to read, nap, or... snack, and friends who make me laugh.