Monday, January 31, 2011

Objects Sold on Kijiji Are Roughly The Same Size As They Appear

Last summer, I agreed to "foster parent" a dog. It wasn't a big dog, and in my imaginings, this arrangement would simply mean more of the same for our family. I mean- we have a dog. So, if we had two dogs, that would just two blobs of fur sleeping on the couch. Their needs are relatively simple- adore me, feed me, walk me, and let me out to pee.

That part didn't go too badly. But what I hadn't factored in was that our borrowed dog would scare the sh*t out of our own dog. Well, actually.... scare the pee right out of her. She took one look at that intruder, high-tailed it up the stairs to the bedroom, and proceeded to spend the next three weeks peeing on the boys' bedroom carpet. (yes- duh- we did carry her down, let her out, blah, blah, blah. But every time I had my head turned, that dang dog was back upstairs depositing her liquid DNA all over the spongey floor.)

Well, I do have my limits. After the dog-sitting stint was over, I rolled up that whole floor and gave it a ride to the dump. Somehow the thought of the kids making lego sculptures on shag-a-la-pee-pee made me just a little twitchy. Sans carpet, the room was left sad, destitute, ugly, and bare planked (and not in a romantic way) Lost socks and stray lego made the place look like next in line for some pathetic episode of Hoarders; with child protective agencies beating down my door. It simply wouldn't do.

So, on a bitterly cold January morning and nothing but a leaky Montana between me and a Manitoba snowstorm, I headed off to the bedroom of strangers to make a deal a la kijiji.

There's nothing like spending twenty minutes in the master bedroom with bad-hair-in-nightie woman and her hen-pecked to bloody stumps husband to get you over any fear of stranger danger. A few grunts and some sweat between strangers, and we got that floor rolled up and stuffed into the back of the van for a cool notalottamoney.

Back home, it only took dodging two snow-encrusted, tossed christmas trees, and climbing the front steps braille style in knee deep snow to wrestle that gem into the (unused) front door and straight up the stairs to the bedroom. Gym, shmim. I wrestle carpet alligators upstairs backwards, and barefoot without so much as a stratch. humph.

Armed with only a glass of leftover white wine, my utility knife and tape measure, plus an entire Saturday afternoon, I battled that shaggy beast into submission. Begone, pee pee floor. Farewell, bare wood of ugliness and slivers.

Hello, soft underfootings for my handsome, handsome little man.
(all dressed up for his thrift shop social at youth. What a looker....)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Borrowed Inspiration

"When was the last time you paid attention to the bread tag on your sliced bread? The sticker on your fruit? The tag in your dry-cleaned shirt? These artifacts are at once familiar, yet hardly noticed. But even though these ephemera of life are so basic, each was designed by someone who actually thought about how that little object ought to look.

Abbey (from Aesthetic Outburst) collected these bread tags under a decorative glass cloche. By bringing together these bits of functional plastic, one can't help but notice the collective beauty of these mundane scraps. I notice colors - just four. Sizes - there are two. The little apple-shaped cutout that keeps the bags closed - there are slight differences. Wow. It really makes you think and notice."
Sometimes the oddest things can make me stop and say; "Hmmmmmmm....."
  1. Am I a bread tag that ought to be clumped together with a thousand other bread tags so that we collectively make a statement?
  2. Should I save my bread tags?
  3. How long will it take before we are all buried alive in bread tags. (Imagine if you count the wire twisty ones... or even more insidious- the bread bags?!)
  4. If I'm a bread tag, and I'm not in a cloched bread tag collective; will I get tossed without a second thought?
  5. In another fifty years when the bread tag becomes obsolete, will this cloche be infinitely valuable?
  6. Would the little blue rings from the tops of four litre milk jugs look equally eloquent bequeathed in glass?
  7. Do I need to get out more?

This discourse is entirely off course, to be perfectly honest. I'm quite enamoured with the photo that I borrowed from ReubenMiller. I find the mass amount of ordinary objects beautiful, and profound on some inexplicable level. It makes me curious about what the next era of "collectibles" will contain.

We'll probably find ourselves wishing that we'd hoarded our paper clips, or toilet paper rolls, or Tim Horton paper cups. They'll likely make great ordinary art in a decade or two.

I can't wait.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How Basketball Is Actually a Lot Like Housework

It's been a nearly insurmountable challenge; this being born with two left feet beneath knees that bend in alternate directions; and thighs made up entirely of unidentifiable materials. Aside from the obvious challenges in purchasing footwear, the darkest, saddest, most unfortunate side has existed in the impossibility of participating in varsity ball as a teenager.

Now, clearly seven steps of freedom exist between the likes of me and my firstborn daughter. Not only were her feet born right, but she can simultaneously move them back and forth, while bouncing a ball up and down, and remembering which direction she ought to be pointed in.

So, although I have grave disabilities of my own to contend with, I manage to drag myself (on my belly) across many a gymnasium floor to watch her perform her magic. My head has learned the rhythm of looking to and fro as the ball gets dribbled from one side of the gym to the other- back and forth, and back and forth again.

And in perhaps a desperate attempt to bridge the chasm between the haves (the coordinated properly footed individuals who also favour lulu lemon) and the have-nots (those of us who ask; "Who's the ump?" and "Can I drive the Zamboni?" at out of town basketball games...) I've found my own way to identify with the mysterious world of sport.

It's not entirely unlike housework. Substitute the ball for a full set of dishes that must be continuously run to and fro- from cupboard to table; table to sink; sink to sink, suds to dish rack. Throw in some confusing rules about how much time you have before you've got a penalty (you pretty much have thirty seconds to do the whole routine before the next time a kid whines; "I'm hungry"...) and all you really need to complete the analogy is a stripey shirted referee. (or it is "Back catcher"?!)

Once you fully grasp the parallels of the ball to life indoors, you'll be amazed how sporty you really are. Take laundry, for instance. You wrestle and wrangle it down the stairs, dodging pets, small and large kids, and unwielding furniture in your wake. You take aim at the mouth of your open washing machine from however close you can manage to get (cue pets, kids, etc). This is the start of the back and forth, sweat-forming set of motions that laundry demands. Up, down, back, forth... for endless quarters.

Yes, you are an athlete extraordinaire. You've no need for a $92.00 track jacket that will be obsolete and outdated in six weeks; a pair of hightops, or a team cheer. You are the team! You train tirelessly; and while you run to and fro, you juggle, dribble, sop, twist, all while performing the fanciest of all footwork.

Yes, basketball really is a lot like housework.
We'll just have to work on our pass...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shades Of Grey

My house is sandwiched between two churches. On Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings I love to watch the comings and goings and speculate on the subtleties of human nature.

The church located directly across the street also serves us in ways that the ministerial never intended. In spring when our yard is sloppy and mucky, the children and I haul the wheeled toys across the street and enjoy the stretch of empty sidewalk that borders the front of the building. The boys ride their bikes all along its length and then speed off onto the gravel parking lot. I sit on the concrete steps with a baby wrapped in a blanket, and smile at the timid sun trying to thaw the winter's despair out of all creation. We note the birds returning, the first dandelion that squeezes up between the church and the sidewalk, and the perennial shrubs trying to find new shoots.

In the winter, the prudent clearing the its parking lot means marvelous hills for the children to climb. There's a clearly stamped path through the lot, over the snow hill, and straight up the sidewalk towards the school crosswalk. This means that from my kitchen window, I can clearly see the progress of my charges as they proceed from the warm of my breakfast table toward the warm of their classroom desks. I like watching them walking to and fro across that church lot.

I am not the only one who watches. In winter, an entire colony of pigeons wait out the long stretches of bitter cold; hunched up, proud and stoic in a long line across the peak of the roof. Over the years, I've come to think of those pigeons as my neighbours and friends. I wonder what it is that they say to each other in that long line-up. Are they like the song-leaders and deacons in the Mennonite church I grew up in? All stiff and serious in their plain suits, lined up like pacifist soldiers of the cross, waiting for the moment when the "sangster" would pull his "peep-dink" from his chest pocket and blast out the starting note for a fifty-four verse hymn with absolutely no musical accompaniment? All the rest of the time, I don't know if those deacons moved a muscle. But that was a special, highly charged moment when power was granted to the song leader to announce, loud and clear, his well thought through choice of German hymn. It always sounded something like this:

"Numma Noyn-Hunnert-noyn-noyn-a-noynsich"

I always thought of this as a powerful moment, and think the man with the peep-dink might have strived in service for many a thirsty year before he was entrusted with such a responsibility. Maybe he had to start out by being the guy who keeps the sidewalks clear, or plunges clogged toilets.

The church across the street from me is of the same historical background from whence I came. I remember well the solemn striving, the hard-working commitment of its members. Steady, unrelenting, quiet service. A sort of air of suspicion around others who moved quickly, thought outside the box, or produced sounds above a hoarse whisper. Even the children.

Now, the children who cross over to my side of the street have not been taught to Be Still And Know. At least, not in the church sense of the word. They are lovely, loud, energetic, joyful children. From my vantage point, they breathe life into those church grounds- laughing and climbing their way along its hills; speeding along its sidewalk, and climbing her aging wooden wheelchair ramp. The children also notice the birds. Fat, grey-suited, serious looking creatures they are- sitting along the very tip of that roof line, and watching the children in all their careless jubilence, running and shouting without a care for the cold of the winter around them.

And sometimes the children speak to the birds.

Just the other day outside my front room window, I witnessed a Norman-Rockwell-esque row of rosey cheeked children standing before the church screaming at the pigeons. They screamed and screamed- their heads thrown right back, eyes sparkling and bright; their mouths laughing when their screams needed to rest. They wanted to watch the whole row of birds rise up in a chorus of flight, their shirt tails flying.

Now, snow had been falling all that day, and the sidewalk before the church was laid in robes of white. A van was pulled up snug alongside it, and a servant from within was methodically pushing clean lines through to ready the place for the inevitable arrival of spiritually hungry and thirsty people, seeking the joy of the Lord.

The children, having already found their joy, never lost hope that their choir of acapella screams would rouse the deacons and sangsters from their grey-suited perch. They screamed and laughed, screamed and laughed.

In one split second, the rapture that the children knew became contagious. The man in the grey pants leaned on his shovel, swivelled his head towards the children and began to speak in tongues foreign to the sobriety of his lineage and church member status.


Now, I'm no deacon. I've never been elected to become lifelong pastor with zero pay. I'm not even really an interpreter. But I think the message is pretty clear: If you want joy, then file in quietly on Sunday morning. Find your place, bow your head, recite your lines. Strive. Shovel.
And maybe. Just maybe. One day YOU can wear the grey suit and blow on the peep-dink.
And at the blast of that note; it'll okay to have just a tiny little bit of joy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Irma and Janice

Now, I understand that at first glance I probably appear to be one of those indiscriminate hoarders. But it taint true attall. Nope, the things that I hold my greedy mitts onto for years on end qualify in one of the following categories: They are either

  1. beautiful

  2. functional; or

  3. delightful

Irma; placed resolutely before her large bowl of asparagus is not particularly beautiful or very high functioning. She is, however, delightful. I bump into Irma every so many years as she slips out of a stack of other delightful things I have hoarded/stored/protected around the place. Most recently, she found her way onto my sewing room table and I grin inwardly whenever I set eyes on her.

The postcard was a note from my sister, sent to me while I was a hopeful (misguided? misplaced? nearly dismembered?!) volunteer for the Mennonite Disaster Service. The only available disaster back in 1988 or so was the entire city of Wichita, Kansas. I only served to confirm that status in the five months I found myself attempting to pour my areas of giftedness into a non-profit housing company that did helpful things like replace doors and windows, blow insulation, paint rotting wood, and apply caulking to thin sheets of glass that served as window panes. I think I may have actually been glueing the bits of glass to rotting wood, just to buy the homeowner a month or two of reduced windchill values.

It was a disaster from start to finish. And not only in my pathetic attempts of becoming part of a construction crew with zero training, zero confidence, ineptitude with numbers (turns out that doors need to be trimmed and measured before getting attached to house-type structures). Lucky I was blonde and had nice boobs at the time. It spared me from having my teeth knocked out with a set of donated wrenches.

Why am I posting an ancient postcard from the shadows of my failed MDS days? Well, it's twisted and wrong, but it's because one of my favourite commenters- Janice- is headed off on a MDS mission of her own. I know that her experience will be an absolute success, and I look forward to hearing about it, in hopes that it will replace the current mental file that I have marked: Disasters! Mennonite! First of all, Janice is not a kid. It wouldn't take her five painful months of faking it for her to find her voice and say aloud; "Hey! I ASKED! And you promised that I would get training!!" (note the excessive use of exclamation points. This means that I'm getting pretty riled up. Call the paramedics if you don't hear from me within forty-five minutes).

I'm also going to assume that Janice doesn't eat half a dozen donuts, washed down with milkshakes. Nope, from what I understand, she washes down books with a bedtime glass of wine, instead.

And that's waaaay healthier.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Standing In More Than One World And Looking For My Feet

Sometimes I get my hands on a book that blocks out the incessant demands of all that beckons and pressures around and at me. Those things simply must wait as I descend into a world that is constructed entirely of words not my own.

David Bergen writes in violent, sensual imagery. Tempted to be offended, I am instead drawn into the images which depict loss, fear, desire, striving, and the search for redemption. There is love, selfishness, piety, honesty/dishonesty, disappointment, grief and joy. Drawn into the writing as I was, I spent a little time online reading about the author and his writing.

Wikipedia, that ever accurate and unquestioned source of all factual information; notes the following:

Raised as a Mennonite, Bergen has noted that the tendency of the church to stifle questions and criticism affected his decision to write fiction. "Writing is a way of figuring things out," he says. "If you can't ask certain questions in church, maybe you can ask them in fiction."
I understand this in a way. Although I remain commited to my faith; my questions and fears about "the church" continue to rise like the Red in May. It saddens me that this is true, and I feel a profound sense of loss. However, my concern over raising my children in a church environment that feels more religious than honest; more contrived than raw, and more romaniticized than real is not a mistake I'm willing to charge into naively.
Bergen easily draws me into his story, as he creates characters out of the people I brush up against in the bank, post office, and church foyer. He paints a picture of raw humanity- a picture in which I don't need to stretch my imagination even a little in order to place myself in "A Year of Lesser"'s setting. My own post office, credit union, and church foyer's walls emit the smells of souls who pass through them. Good, bad, sad, desparate people who want to be known. Who want to know something for sure.
Being brutally honest, or even spinning a tale based on your own honest story is rife with risk. Telling a story which wells up from within but reveals the honest fears and questions of your own heart and experiences is welcoming vulnerability, criticism, misunderstanding, and disdain. Needing one another as desparately as we do; how many of us are willing to take such a risk? To fear coming out the other end disliked, pitied, or misinterpreted?
Authors like Bergen disturb me with their imagery, their willingness to stand alone on their words and wait for praise or criticism, both of which become inevitable.
It's a kind of bravery that makes me intrigued to learn more.
(what are you reading?)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Affordable, DIY, Home Remedy, Pocket Sized Therapy Options

The house is seldom quiet enough to indulge myself in the lovely droning of CBC radio. But when I'm in the van, rushing off on some important milk and rye bread mission, I sometimes manage to get a little fix. Most recently, I was privy to Jian Ghomeshi's interview with Lynda Barry; author of "Picture This".

"most people say, Oh my drawing’s so terrible, I really can’t draw. But then if you’re sitting in a meeting

and you have a paper in front of you, you probably have something that you draw, this doodling thing that

everybody does. I like to ask people, Why do you think you do that? Why do we draw in that situation?

What that thing does is help you endure time. It’s almost microscopic, but without it, time feels like a cheese grater, and in doodling, it’s a little more bearable."

I think that doodling during a cheese-grator-esque meeting actually prevents several thousand unnecessary corneal transplants annually.

It helps you navigate past that prickley; "I want to poke my eyes out with a sharp pencil because surely that would be less painful than listening to this endless discussion over the benefits of polyester versus cotton blend." (insert your own pain-filled topic here)

It also acts as a sort of external filter for all the things that ought NOT to be spoken aloud.
Instead of actually verbalizing alternatives to the proposal of; say; name tags... the handy napkin dispenser soaks up the ink that redirects my inappropriate, tourette-syndrome-esque tendencies.
Which saves me from the endless embarrassment of yelling aloud;
"Name tags? How about Matching Tube Tops?!"

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Non-Comprehensive List Of Things To Never Ask Rose And Joyce To Do

(You are about to read a list of warnings detailing what-never-to-expect of Rosa Rabbit and Re-Joice. These never-before-read notations were painstakingly compiled in the wee hours of the night, one snowy January day amongst the hills of a border town in an undisclosed location. When seeking volunteers for any number of needs in your community, we implore you to please be mindful of the following exceptions to our impressive areas of giftedness.)

  1. Referee a basketball game
  2. or any sort of game.
  3. volunteer as a score keeper at any sot of game. (Yellow ceilings can be very distracting..... Ceilings can be distracting)
  4. To explain the 24 second clock. (it has something to do with a key, or a ball, or taking possession of a home as a firsttime homeowner, or a thingamabobbie having to do with a basket (?)
  5. This involves an explanation to anyone- an outside party, or just ourselves. We totally don't get why a clock that only runs for 30 seconds would be useful in any context at all. Even boiling an egg.
  6. Run. Please never ask us to run in any circumstance. Even in emergencies, please ask us to refrain from running. Or moving quickly.
  7. never ask Rose to have a conversation while there is a television within a twenty-five mile radius. (SQUIRREL!)
  8. Cashier. Never, ever, ever under any circumstance.
  9. Run on a basketball court, while refereeing, as the twenty-four second clock begins to tick.
  10. Work as a bank teller.
  11. OR a waitress. Waitresses are required to: walk quickly, while balancing trays, and handling money, and remembering what people want.
  12. Build bridges or tall buildings.
  13. Run.
  14. Discuss television shows from the seventies. Or eighties. (not having had a television until our early thirties, give or take a decade...)
  15. We can't be asked to cheer at a sports event in a way that doesn't leave our children permanently and irreconcilably scarred. (Not that scars are a bad thing.)
  16. Never ask us to stand as witnesses in a court of law. Facts are extremely subjective.
  17. We can't be held accountable for remembering appointments. Or, for making appointments on a timely manner, well before an actual crisis arises.
  18. To sing solo at a wedding. We'll make up words (and tunes) as the need arises.
  19. To do the first dance.
  20. Or to dance.
  21. Never, under any circumstance (even the threat of death or torture) ask us to wear heels.
  22. NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER invite us to home parties where some poor, well-intentioned woman who just wants to make some money so she can buy her son a back brace tries to sell us products out of a catalogue. We become rude, inappropriate, obnoxious people who think our own jokes are beyond hilarious.
  23. Really. Never ask these things of Rose or me. Don't say I never warned you.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Sometimes It's Helpful to Remember....

  • That disagreeing doesn't mean disliking.
  • That anger is normal. Anger almost always masks fear (or some sort of “weaker,” more vulnerable emotion, such as anxiety, shame, guilt, helplessness, or grief (mediate dot com)
  • That sometimes there is nothing that will immediately dissolve despair. (Geneen Roth said that somewhere.....)
  • That other people's insights can be incredibly refreshing- even though you don't have to agree with every single thought and belief that this other person may have.
  • That the blogs of strangers can provide these bits of insight, and that sometimes one is lucky enough to stumble upon one or two of them.
  • (Like this one: You are weird. You’re human! So create because you must get that shade of turquoise onto the paper or you must tell the stories of your bizarre family or because you want to have a ticker tape parade in honor of your inventions but don’t create to earn your right to be who you are. (

And that, God willing; by tomorrow this time I'll be at a friend's mansion far enough away from here that it will likely be easy to put today's "Glum" behind me.

(insert snow, children, and horses here. I'm afraid of horses, but I think they look really pretty. From a distance, or in a picture.)

I'll be with friends who know how to have an unconventionally good time. Where "weird" is not weird at all. Where making stuff out of garbage is the fanciest label you could hope to wear. Where teen-agers, forty-somethings and fifty-somes are not too old to play dress-up. Where thrift show 'n' tell is way more exciting to watch than "The Incredibly Sexy Bachelor-ette With A Miraculously Repaired Cleft Palette". (with, or without popcorn)

Sometimes it's helpful to remember that today's anxieties can give way to tomorrow's Joy, Bliss, and Forever Happy Ness.

(Or, at least that the yucky times almost always have an end.)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2011 Bucket List

  • Raise at least $5,000.00 for Darfur/women, children, the oppressed, the forgotten.
  • Go camping more than twice.
  • Volunteer at an orphange (if indeed my daughter's youth group settles on this idea as a summer project)
  • Bring outdoor brisk walking back into my life.
  • Talk to God intentionally.
  • Do some volunteering with my children.- Especially my teens. (We've been talking (years now?!) about working at a soup kitchen or something equivalent.- I'm open to suggestions from anyone who lives in the Winnipeg area)
  • Read to my daytime children.
  • Read. Keep reading.
  • Embrace my thrift shopping compulsion as an authentic, harmless, fun part of myself. Do not tame that beast- allow it control me! (sort of)
  • Forgive.
  • Be happy for people. Curb the urge to compare.
  • Enjoy every bite of every delicious food that I eat.
  • Don't cut down on coffee. At all.

Now, these probably look like cleverly masked resolutions. Which, let's not kid ourselves, they pretty much are. But here's my justification: the root word RESOLVE sounds too much like a big time OATH which leaves room for only two options: succeed or fail. Whereas, GOALS are just bright lights in the future to lead the way. They are attainable, they can be postponed or pursued, and they can be partially or fully completed.

For example: if I raise $500.00 this year, it's because I had hopes to raise $5,000.00.

If I walk seven times this year, it's because I admire my mother who has been walking outdoors almost every day without exception since around the time she turned fifty. She's 84 now, and we still haven't found her. I mean, she's still walking outdoors every day. I think that's really cool. If I walk seven times, it's getting me closer to my goal of turning out like my mother. (tiny, plucky, energetic, determined, self-sufficient)

So what do you think? As a fellow resolution hater, do you find yourself leaning into the new year with some renewed goals? I always find that it energizes and encourages me to have a general direction to square my shoulders into. 2011, Here I Come.

The Post In Which She Realizes.....

I feel so much better now.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Gosh, it's painfully predictable, isn't it?
As much as I think that new year's resolutions are stupid, futile, and painful ways to set myself up for failure- I find myself thinking "resolving" sorts of thoughts:

  • you've got to quit drinking wine all the freaking time. Too many calories. Not a good habit.
  • You've got to quit eating candy all the time. Too mmmmmmany calories. Not a good habit.
  • You've got to quit hauling old shit into here all the time. Too much stuff. Not a good sign of balance. A bit freaky, actually.
  • Your children lay around in front of the television way too much. You are a bad, lazy mother.
  • You should manage your funds better. Enough said, too ashamed to say anything more.
  • You should exercise- like manic. So that you grow some muscles and when you want to wear skirts in the spring, your thighs don't fall in bunches just below your knees.
  • You should stop being so hard on yourself. you should write resolutions like: This year I resolve not to diet; to always eat dessert; and to watch more television.
  • You should give up all of the guilt and shame in your life.
  • You should be less introspective. It's sad and pathetic- really.
  • You really should read to the daytime kiddies. Like seriously joyce. You should read a fair bit- like, how you used to read to your own kids. Sheesh.
  • You should sell some of your antique shit. You don't even want it all.
  • You should probably wear make-up or get a haircut, or liposuction- anything. Seriously girl- time tells a tale.
  • Your kids ought to do more housework. You're not equipping them for lives as adults.
  • You should spend more time with your parents. Ungrateful. Do you know how few people still have parents? sheesh.
  • You should write again. The way you used to, without a bunch of worries and constraints. You should worry less.
  • What are your plans for the darfur blog? Honestly, Kehler. Do something!
  • You ought to clean up your sewing room. It's disgusting.
  • And the garage.
  • And the van.

Good grief, I'm exhausted and I haven't even done a thing on my list yet. Maybe I should drink more and watch more television, go shopping when times are tough, and just buy a bigger bra instead of exercising.

How about you? How are you planning to torture yourself this January?