Sunday, 30 September 2012

Final Good-Byes

This has been my last week on the Island. To describe it as bittersweet would be an under statement but I am having trouble finding the exact words that would fully caption what I am feeling. Perhaps if I begin by sharing this week’s events I will be better equipped to explain myself. 

It started off with a bang, quite literally. Last Sunday night just as I had tucked myself into bed and finished reading a chapter in A Wind at the Door, by Madeleine L’Engle, a heard a boom! It sounded like muffled fireworks but there was no crackle of colour followed by it. Sirens could be heard all over the city coming closer and closer. Another boom pounded through the night and then a BA-BOOM!!! That was not the sound of fireworks that was the sound of something exploding. I looked out my window and could see a screen of smoke fill the night sky over the city. My roommates had also heard the explosion and we gathered outside on the front step in our pajama’s standing on our tip-toes, craning our necks to see what caused the commotion. Fire truck, police, and ambulance sirens robbed the night of any peace and scattered confusion and curiosity through out the city. We could barely make out where the fire was and what was on fire but we could see the glow of orange flames on the base of the curtain of smoke. Being in the technical age that we are Nathan pulled out his phone and within minutes the social network was a buzz with what was burning in Charlottetown. The whole scene seemed apocalyptic and poetic and it reminded of the Billy Joel song ‘Miami 2017.’ Turns out the cause of calamity can be credited to a tour bus that had caught fire. Thankfully there were no passengers on the bus and the bus driver escaped without injury, but the bus is one big piece of charcoal now. 

Monday brought a lovely stroll through down town Charlottetown, I had some errands to run and it was a beautiful day for a jaunt. After I mailed some letters, took care of some business, made a stop at the bank, and other such practical adult tasks I sauntered through my favourite part of town. I breathed in the harbour, walked under the shade of the Basilica, and took a short cut through the Province House grounds. I found a new coffee shop on Water street called Young Folk & Kettle Black. The coffee was superb and I treated myself to a blueberry buttermilk tart as well. I took my coffee time on a park bench behind Province House and watched tourists mill about, taking pictures, asking questions, maps unfolded in front of them. No doubt these were the tourists from the cruise ship that had just come to port. As I enjoyed my coffee time I noticed an elderly gentleman on the park bench across from me also having a coffee break. There was something so simply beautiful about this man. He was wearing grey pants and a maroon sweater, his hair line was reseeding but what hair he had left was salt and peppered and long and tussled. His face was thin and weather with beautiful wrinkles leaving a trace of his expressions and emotions, and to complete the picture a pair of brown loafers hugged his feet. I smiled at him and I think he smiled back, the corner of his mouth twitched for an instant so I took that as a smile. He lit up a cigarette, leaned back on the bench and watched the tourists walk past. He was a vision of retired life. 

Tuesday brought a blessing of women. I attended woman’s group in the evening because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the one the following week since I would be most likely packing and crying. It was a beautiful blessing to be apart of the women that evening. The rich sound of women in conversation is deeper than any sound. We can talk about every subject under the sun and when we have exhausted all those we still find more to talk about it. It’s not just that woman have an ability to talk and talk and talk, it’s where we talk from. Women speak from their hearts and to each others hearts. Underneath the everyday conversation about work, family, husbands, and food there is a constant ribbon of nurturing. When a woman asks, “How are you today?”  she is genuinely asking how are you feeling. She is asking, how can I pray for you today? Is there something I can do for you? Do you need a hug? Do you need me to hold your hand? There is no sweeter, more genuine and empowering affection than affection from a woman. I needed those few hours with those sassy women who I have come to love, come to role model my life after, come to admire and derive inspiration from, come to cherish and to uphold. 

Wednesday was sublime, I spent a few joyous hours in the afternoon with a friend from school. She invited me over for coffee and we sat on her couch, eating delicious home made squares and doing what women do best, talking. She lives a stretch out into the country and driving to her house was beautiful. The autumn colours are starting to tip the trees and rich smells of the harvest are on the breeze. It was a day when I finally felt excited to go home, where the promise of seeing my family and friends put a smile on my face and a happy skip in my heart. My friend has a son who has a tire swing and I couldn’t resist the urge to have a go at it. I barely fit and the ratchet straps that held it to the tree cut off the circulation to my legs but it was fun to swing back and forth for a bit. 

What would my last week of Island life be without a trip to the beach to hunt for sea glass? And who other to go with than the beautiful Bernice? We strapped on our rubber boots clutched our buckets and were off to the south shore. I had heard of a great beach by Canoe Cove that was supposed to have sand dollars, start fish, and sea glass. However, the tide was against us that day and instead of showering the shore with such treasures, it was carpeted with 6 inch deep sea weed. Yuck! We found one beach that looked promising and came away with a few pieces of sea glass but the real natural wonder was the thousands of sea shells and sea snails! There were literally millions of them of all sizes. Most of them were suction cupped to rocks in clumps but some were sliding their way back to the ocean. It was like the March of the Penguins only for snails, the Slide of the Snails! 

I’ll skip my accounts of Friday, and Saturday because they contained the same activities: reading, writing, and avoiding packing. Sunday’s activities are what I want to dwell on, what I want to remember. 

Sunday was my last service at Charlottetown Community Church. For the past year they have lovingly folded me into their congregation, put up with my silliness, encouraged my music, prayed over me, walked with my spiritually, and befriended me. Just because it was my last Sunday there does not mean that those blessings will cease, that is the great thing about how God works, His spirit can carry over time, distance, and place. It carried on like any regular service until I was asked to join Pastor Tom at the front of the sanctuary. He announced that I would be leaving and that they were sad to see me go but they wanted to take this opportunity to pray over me. He called up who ever wanted to come, place hands on me and pray over me. I looked around the congregation and who should flock to my side but the women. The women. I was floored. Not one man came to my side to bless me, except for 3 year old Colby of course who came up with his mother, Teressa. To be honest if I wanted any man at my side praying for me it would be sweet Colby. These women prayed over, placed a lace of blessing over my body, and spoke truth and God’s word into my heart. After Pastor Tom prayed he asked if the ladies had anything to add. A God moment train ride was prophesied, laughter and joy in seeing my family and friends was wished for me, and a ripple of prayer for the desire of my heart ran through the women, but it was Teressa who bravely spoke it, honouring it, publically naming it, shamelessly and certainly commanding it,“We ask for a husband for Joelle, faithful God.” The women responded in a united, “Mmmmmm!” While all the prayers, visions, truths, and wishes were spoken over me, the most profound moment was when Teressa asked for my husband. God has provided for me over and over this year. Showing His love and deep faithfulness in ways I can’t even remember clearly enough to write down, but I know they were there, like a sparkle on my stomach or a wink in my ear. If God can provide so freely and joyously to me in my everyday needs then how much more delight will He have in providing me with the needs of my heart? I am sharing this very raw desire, this open window into a shadowy place in my heart because it is time. Being a single woman has been wonderful. It has truly freed me to jump ship and venture to the Island where spiritual, emotional, and physical eternal foundations have been laid. I have wrestled well with God and desired a love with Him and learned what that looks like and how tangibly real it is. Through that love walk with God, He has shown me how my husband is to love me, and I’m not ashamed to ask for him anymore. It’s time. As Bryan Adams puts it so beautifully, “I’m ready to love you, I’m ready to hold you, I’m ready.” 

So this is it. This is the third last blog for Mama Jo. You can expect one the night before I leave and one after I have settled back into Ontario, and then that’ll be it. I am going to close by answering 5 questions that have been asked of me over the past month. 

What have you learned while being on the Island? 
I am a treasure that is worthy to be found. I am a woman of valor, bravery, grace, independence and dependence. I have learned to make caramel sauce, danishes, ice cream, and chiffon cake. I have learned to eat, to really eat, and to not feel guilty about it, to celebrate food because with good food comes greater company. I have learned to stay true to the center of my being to where all my emotions, questions, and passions are met and answered in song. I have learned to always see the best in people until proven otherwise, and even then that they are deserving of love and a smile. I have learned the art of smiling to myself in public, to laughing out loud, and being genuinely pleasant with strangers. 

What is your favourite part of the Island? 
The land, the water, and the people. The land is surprisingly hilling, it bends and curves like a rich line of music and it is so fertile. It has that magical green colour, the colour of Scotland and Ireland, it is no wonder there is an air of mischievious magic surrounding the Island. The ocean. Enough said. The people on the Island truly are one of the most friendly people you will ever meet. Down to earth, hard working, blue collar folk that have mastered the art of ‘doing nothing.’ Without hesitation they open up the front door, pour you a glass of ice tea and pull up a chair for you to rest your rump and spin some tales. 

What are your plans for when you get back home? 
Running full tilt into the arms of my family and friends, crying and laughing unashamed. Singing, really singing. And oh yeah, I supposed I should start that pastry cook position that I got hired for back in August. 

What are some of your accomplishments since being on the Island? 
The invention of Mutant Onion Cheese Baby Bread, (see earlier blog post ‘Bread Gone a Rye’ for full story). Faithfully writing this blog has been a big accomplishment and lesson in discipline. Loosing 15 pounds but then gaining it all back in pure muscle on my thighs from biking all around the Island, seriously. 

Do you have any regrets? 
Not taking up my brother’s advice and going skinny dipping in the ocean on my birthday. It is the only thing left to do on my Island to do list. But I still have 2 days left so here’s hoping I will find a window of opportunity. 

A statue by Province House

Big old cruise ship with lots of curious passengers.

Coffee time!


Red sand stone cliffs. 

Under the sea

Red, red, red, sand stones. 

Slide of the Snails. 

They are every where!

Michelle and I

Isabella, Rebecca, and myself

There was a potluck after church and they blessed me with a cake, with lots of beautiful autumn colours! 
I love all the red!

Oh yeah, I finally got initiated at the chocolate shop two days before I left. To make this even funnier my boss was the one that spread chocolate all over my face and then she dragged me to the window for the customers to point and laugh at. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

10 Days Left

I can’t deny it any longer. I can’t avoid talking about it. I can’t avoid thinking about it. It’s a reality that I don’t want to believe I am living in but one that I have to accept. I have 10 lefts on the Island. 10. My heart is heavy, my shoulders droop, and my eyes are cast down. I have done so well to avoid it until now.  

This past week has had some significant closure. For one I finished work at Anne of Green Gables chocolates on Friday. The day was mostly uneventful except for the part where the cheese factory reached out and grabbed me for another go at cheese! Thankfully I wasn’t vacuuming the cheese, instead they set me up in a cute little room where I helped cut and seal cheese for retail. It was much more enjoyable and there were no cheese mites in site, praise the Lord! I had to twist some ones arm but I managed to work a half day with cheese and the last half packaging chocolate covered potato chips and wrapping gold foil around pieces of almond chocolate. My wonderful co-workers took me out for lunch and gave me beautiful going away gifts that included an apron, block of cheese, and a cheese knife. They are so thoughtful and I was deeply touched and thankful. It was then that I realized I can’t avoid it anymore. I have to accept the fact that I am going home, I have to start thinking about packing and getting somewhat organized. My travel plans are set and I have to make a step forward into seeing those plans through. However, in true procrastination form I still have 10 days at my fingertips to do anything I want with. My plans as of now are vague. I will go to the beach, spend time with the people I will be leaving and eventually start packing. I still have 10 lefts to cover myself in as much Island charm as I can. 

This past Saturday was a wonderful day for soaking in some Island charm. A young couple from church, Rebecca and Darryl, and their darling 2 year old daughter Isabella invited me out for lunch on Saturday. We had a marvelous time! It turns out that my favourite cafĂ© Leonard’s is also their favourite. We dined on delicious European sandwiches, coffee, and pastries. It was perfect. As our conversation spun on I learned that both of them have strong Dutch heritages and that Rebecca can speak Dutch! I knew I liked these people for a reason. There is something so special about realizing you have a connection with people you are just starting to get to know. It instantly takes the roots of your growing friendship and shoots them deeper into the ground to that place of familiarity. You become instant friends that feel like you have known each other for years. It was fascinating to get to know them and be blessed by them and to spend time with them. I learned the Rebecca’s grandfather hid a Jewish family during World War II and I shared that my Opa had also hidden young Dutch draft dodgers and Jews. I learned that her father had a beautiful wooden sail boat and during the war they put canons in it to sink it so that the Germans wouldn’t take it. I found every part of our conversation fascinating, even when we talked about regular life things like work, school, and family.  

After lunch we took a marvelously long stretch down to the marina where I met more of her family and saw the wooden sail boat they had spoke of. It was beautiful! I have never seen such an excellent piece of craftsmanship in all my life. It was a 32 foot caramel coloured beauty. She had aged gracefully, was breath taking and indescribable, plus she was a hundred years old! I can only imaging the stories she could tell, the waters she has sailed, the wind she has caught, the storms she has weathered and the mermaids she has seen. I was content to gaze at her and stand next to her on the floating docks. 

Rebecca, Isabella, and I walked along the docks chasing sea gulls to Isabella’s joy while Darryl joined Rebecca’s father and uncle on the boat for an afternoon of sailing. Being down by the water was beautiful. A rich ocean breeze swept off the water and ran its salty fingers through my hair tying it into knots. Rebecca, Isabella and I walked through down town Charlottetown and I shared some of my favourite shops with them. We made a stop at Cordelia’s, of course, and strolled through the picturesque Victoria row. I took them to Happy Glass, another one of my favourite jewelry stores. All of the jewelry is hand made by a wonderful lady named BJ who makes hand made glass beads. She uses a flame worked method of glass beading that can be explained by winding molten glass around a steel mandrel. All of her works are breath taking, colourful, playful, transparently gorgeous and makes you smile. While Isabella was entertained by BJ in playing a game of place the bead on the steel mandrel, Rebecca and I looked around the store captured by the beautiful art and we decided to buy matching bracelet’s, how very high school of us. Reluctantly we had to leave because Isabella was beginning to wilt into a nap and to be honest I was a little tired as well. 

On the way home we found ourselves behind an antique car and made it our mission to follow it and snap a photo of it. It became quite the car chase was we giggled incessantly following at a respectable distance and speed to make sure Isabella wasn’t jolted out of her nap. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with my new friends, it was a very special afternoon, and it makes me even sadder to leave. 

As I write this I look down at the bracelet I purchased yesterday, it shimmers back up at me in ocean greens and whites and circles around my wrist as a reminder of this special afternoon, these special friends, and this special Island. 

Ahoy there!

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! 

Hand made glass beads by BJ at Happy Glass 

Isabella sliding the beads onto the steel mandrel. She had so much fun and was as heart broken as we were to leave. 

We hung a pair of earrings on top of her ears for kicks. She loved them and held a mirror up to her face and made some priceless funny faces. 


Quick, Rebecca, they are getting away! Vrooooom! 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Mental Health Weekend

I don’t have much to say about my week. It consisted of work much of that included vacuuming up more cheese mites and by the end of the week I was back to the chocolate shop rolling creams and baking cookies. I have also officially booked my train ticket home and will roll into the Kitchener train station on October 4th at 7:18pm. That reality of actually coming home, having a date set, and a span of time to plan my departure and pack once again has made me excited and sick to my stomach. I look forward to coming home and to see where God takes me next but I am heart broken about leaving my Island. But enough about that, I will save that sad blog for another day.

I was glad to be done with cheese mites by Tuesday and dropped off a parting gift of banana bread to solidify my resignation. Vacuuming cheese mites is a hard job. First of all you are in a fridge the size of a house that stays at a constant temperature of 10 degrees. I am in cover alls and moving often so the core of my body and my arms and hands remain warm but my feet and toes become chilled. It is an intense arm work out and I am constantly moving, lifting, and shifting wheels of cheese that weigh around 30 pounds. But the biggest toll it takes on my body is the mental affects. Every night since working with the cheese I have had the same recurring nightmare of a million droves of cheese mites crawling in through my bedroom window and attacking me in my bed. I jolt awake, leap out of bed, turn on the light and tear my bed apart looking for them. When I finally realize it was a dream I hesitantly go back to bed, but sleep doesn’t come quickly and I wake up the next morning exhausted.

I am sure you are wondering why I stayed in the job so long, why didn’t I just quit? I was taught to see a job through, to pull up my socks, keep my head down, and power through, and that no job is beneath me and to always help out in anyway you could. So I did, because I am that kind of gal, hard working, able, and helpful. When I finished the job Armen was very grateful and I was too, nightmares aside it was nice to work alone for a few days with nothing but my thoughts and the hit songs on the radio to keep me company, plus it was a great arm work out.

I went back to work in the chocolate shop and found that by Thursday the labour from the cheese factory, the continuing nightmares, and the anticipation of moving home had caught up with me and I was in desperate need of a break. I took the day off work on Friday and focused on relaxing my mind and body. I didn’t do anything on that delicious Friday but sleep in, read, write a few letters by candle light, and watch funny movies. I slept well that night and my nightmares were replaced with dreams of Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, to some of you that sounds more like a nightmare than the cheese mites.

Saturday was a lazy day as well but I turned my energy toward baking with my roommates. Nathan was eager to learn how to make gluten free desserts and Lindsay was busy with making supper. So the three of us crammed into the kitchen and made hay stack cookies, mint chocolate pudding, and beef stew. Lindsay made a wonderful mouth watering stew and Nathan got the Mama Jo approval on his mint chocolate pudding, the hay stacks were a bit crumbly but that remains the recipes fault. The fun thing was I played supervisor and instructed them, gave them advise, and every so often stepped in to help stir or measure out sugar. We had a grand time with lots of laughter, jokes, and roommate building chatter. In the afternoon we took the dogs Angus and Rory to the dog beach and spent a couple hours playing fetch and strolling the sand. A perfect way to revitalize your mental health.

But Sunday was the crown of the weekend. Right after church my dear friend Natalie and I grabbed our beach gear and headed for the west. There was a collection of rock formations and cliffs I was dying to see and climb. It was a very windy and chilly day at the beach but beautiful all the same. Natalie’s joy and enthusiasm for an afternoon adventure with no time tied to it was infectious. I adore her giddy squeal and laugh and the skip in her step as we park the care and made our way down to the beach. As strolled the sand Natalie and I talked and talked and talked about everything! I honestly believe the ability to talk all day about every subject under the sun and still have something to talk about at the end of it all is a super power us women are born with. Amen to that! No one can do conversation quite like a woman can. We found the rocks and cliffs right away and I was climbing them in a heart beat. Scaly the eroding crimson cliffs with the salty fresh wind whistling in my ears and hurling my hair about my face. It was wonderful! Natalie and I explored, climbed, and walked, taking advantage of great photo opportunities and giggling the whole time like a pair of school girls. As the afternoon flowed on so to did the surf of the ocean grow. As the tide came tumbling in it brought with it a fury of zealous waves and I had the brilliant idea to stand on the edge of a rock looking out into the ocean fearlessly. The first picture turned out great, a sizable wave came crashing against the rock but defused before it reached me. But the following wave mischievously built up steam and before I could jump away I was soaked! I supposed I deserved it for being so vain.

We had a lovely dinner at a local dairy bar in Kennsingtong of poutine and ice cream. Yum! After that our adventure led us to Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage and then to the quaint town of Summerside, where Natalie showed me all her old haunts before she moved to Charlottetown. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive and as we pointed the car home to Charlottetown the most vibrant red sunset glowed behind us blessing our day. It was a perfectly divine afternoon of two good friends frolicking by the ocean and fearlessly going wherever our feet took us.

I am pleased to report that after a mental health weekend I am back in high spirits, singing anthems, and ready for my last week of work at the chocolate factory. It is amazing what a little R&R can do for the soul, mind, and heart. So the next time you are tormented by cheese mites or the stresses of work or life disappear for a few days, but don’t stay under the covers. Hop out of bed, slip on a good pair of shoes and get some fresh air with a friend. If you’re lucky, which I know you are, you’ll get washed out to an ocean of blessing.

Angus loves going for car rides!


Dream house #9

Let the adventure begin! That rock looks like a shoe! 

Natalie holding up the fort. 

Me holding up the fort. 


And then this random man ran up next to me and wanted a picture with me. Thanks random dude :) 



Wave #1

Wave #2

Natalie is so cute!

Frolicking friends

Cinderella looses her "glass slipper"

Taking princess Natalie to the ball. 

Taking Mama Jo to the ball.