Used to Be

I used to write a lot but am finding it harder and harder these days as life takes over and I have no energy left to write. In time I know I will get back to it but these periods are always unbalancing for me because writing is akin to breathing for me.

I also used to be a home owner. Four homes I owned consecutively with my ex and each sold swiftly for full price because of all the decorating and landscaping I did. Yes, he helped some. But he was no good at landscaping, he could mow the lawn and that was about it because he often overwhelmed himself with projects he simply stopped mid way and I finished the job as in installing hardwood floors, mill work, crown mouldings/trim, painting, setting tile, installing backsplashes, pressure washing and staining a cedar deck, pressure washing and coating the aggregate patio and much much more.

Decades ago when I was seeing a psychologist to try to save our marriage the psychologist told me my ex has a “theme of negligence” going on through out his life. Yes, the psychologist was absolutely right and even though my ex would never go for help himself (this way he could always say I was the crazy one who needed help, but I digress)… he did agree with everything the psychologist said of him.

Anyway, I used to be a very good wife but I am no longer in that relationship, have not been for over eight years now. I do have photos of all the homes we owned and they were very nice especially after I finished updating and upgrading so many of the rooms and gardens. I say used to be because I now live in a wee basement apartment that receives little natural light. To that end I have decorated with cheerful light and bright decor to make up for the windows I wish I had.

I used to be able to paint a room in a day by myself, have it all back in place by the next day and I used to work in the back gardens for days on end especially in the spring and fall when they required so much work. I used to have a lot more energy but that was before Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Fibromyalgia stole it from me. Some days are better than others but on days I can’t even get out or can’t get past the physical pain, it helps to have pretty things to look at.

I may never own a home again but I love my peaceful pretty place. A good friend once said that my homes all feel the same, they were peaceful, an extension of me and an expression of my artistic soul. If he is right and he often is, you will now know me better after seeing these pictures taken from my current “home.”

More writing soon to come and meantime, enjoy this little glimpse into my current world.

(c) Janni Styles (all photos and text are property of the author/photographer)



The Butter Papers

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When I was a child it never occured to me how precious a simple thing as a butter wrapper could be.  As I began to crumple one to toss it in the garbage one day, my mother’s voice halted me in my tracks.

“Ah, ah, ah, what are you doing with that? I need that, don’t throw it away. ”

Suddenly my knowledge of butter papers grew exponentially as I witnessed the many uses for them. Butter and margarine wrappers were used to grease the bread pans, to line a frying pan before the eggs were cracked into it and to butter the cookie sheets at Christmas time.

It wasn’t long before I learned to carefully fold those papers and set them in the fridge if they weren’t used right away. It also wasn’t long before I found myself calling out to younger siblings in the same way my mother had done to me.  I was a fast learner and carried the butter paper practise into my marriage where I stopped my then husband from tossing out the butter papers. He never did learn how precious they could be.

Many times I would wind up with a little stack of butter papers in my fridge. Working outside the house full time while running it pretty much singlehandedly left little time for baking. It was easier to buy our baked goods. Even now, living single, I don’t bake much or often.

Still, today I laid a butter paper aside on the counter.  Just in case.

Butter papers represent childhood memories of being in warm aromatic country kitchens where the women made the work of caring for their families look easy.  Butter papers remind me of my mother’s hands always working to take care of us.

It was easy to see why, later in life, my mother tired of cooking. Having so many children to tend to for so many years likely wore that desire out.  She was happy to have others cook for her and even wanted us to. And we did.

Some habits die hard. Even though I don’t use them anymore, I still fold and set aside the butter papers. I likely always will. Tossing them out seems wasteful but I know it is about more than that.  Tossing out the butter papers means saying goodbye to memories I will never make again, memories of fragrant Christmas baking fresh from the oven and sharing it all with family who loved being a family.

The butter papers will always trigger these memories in me, memories of simpler, slower times when what mattered could not be bought.

What triggers Christmas memories for you?

(C) Janni Styles


Family Habits, why is there a messy one in every bunch?

Do you have someone, residents or visitors, in your house who never put things back how they found them?

A resident or visitor who always makes a big mess and leaves your things out of order everywhere no matter what they do?

A resident or visitor who eats sitting on the couch and leaves half of the feast on the cushions, the coffee table or floor for you to clean and sweep up later?

Well, I have news for you. This is not just a messy person. This is a LAZY person.

When I ran a daycare in my home many moons ago, the children would get up from the meal and clean up whatever the dog didn’t from the floor underneath the lunch table. Then they would clamor to be the first to put their bowls or spoons in the sink. We had rules that made things easier for everyone but those things they just learned from watching me and wanting to “hep” me.  These were preschool children who knew if they made a mess, toys, food or whatever, they could also clean it up and while they weren’t always happy to do so, they did it.

Again, I have news for you. Not every person who sees better and knows better will stop being LAZY even if they are over the age of five.

It is my belief that anyone over the age of five should have manners, consideration and tidiness down to a fine art. Personally, I resent having to clean up behind someone over the age of five.  There is nothing worse than getting your feet wet from over-sprayed pee or for that matter, your underwear which touch the toilet when you sit on it getting drenched from over-sprayed pee. Aim that thing or sit down to pee, I say.

When living alone I never have mess anywhere and only have to give my place (except the weekly toilet cleaning) a good cleaning once a month.  With regular visitors, in my life anyway, this changes drastically to having to clean every single week, sometimes even every few days, which my Fibromyalgia and Polymyalgia Rheumatica hate me for.

So what can we do about this to stop having to clean up after people, big people who should know better?

Sticky notes! Yes, I said, sticky notes. I use them wherever I need something to stay as I left it. Currently my bathroom has two sticky notes. Above the toilet roll it says, “I go over, not under” and on the closed toilet lid it says, “please close me before flushing.”  There is nothing I hate more than trying to extract tissue from a roll that won’t let me because it is stuck under. My hands hate it, too, and punish me with everything that isn’t easy for them. Why people need to change things in “my home” is beyond me.

As for the lid note, well, I read somewhere if you leave your toilet open when you flush the invisible “spray” can reach six feet and yes, you guessed, it my toothbrush is only about four feet from the toilet, maybe five feet but not an inch more. So I need that peace of mind or I will gag when I brush or I will need a new toothbrush every time.

My next sticky note is going to say: NO MORE EATING IN THE LIVING ROOM! NONE! EVER!

Yes, of course, I know there are far bigger issues to worry about in the world but these are things that are an easy and very considerate fix. No rocket science here, just some manners and consideration for others. Life is easy if we get these simple things that are so easy to do and really quite fair since it is about taking care of our own messes.  I mean, unless someone wants to pay me $30 an hour to clean up behind them, then I sure wouldn’t mind so much.

Life can feel rough if the people visiting us don’t or won’t get these simple things that make life not only easier but much nicer. Besides, when in another’s home, aren’t you supposed to do as they wish, not as you wish? Well, that’s what I was raised to believe. More work is the last thing in the world anyone needs, especially with chronic health conditions that cost us pain and stress to clean up.

When I visit people I try to leave the tiniest footprint ever. I clean up behind myself as I go and if I am there overnight, I may sweep the floor(s) or even clean the toilet before I leave just so they don’t have to. I did this recently when visiting relatives who live a ferry away. I left the bathroom sparkling just as it was when I arrived because I didn’t want my hostess to have to clean up after me. I think it’s rude and actually very insulting to assume it’s okay to leave our messes for others to clean up.

And, besides, I like standing in pee said nobody ever.