Song of the Day: Happy Birthday!

I wrote about Gina and her first 20 years a few weeks ago because the days were ripe with stories. But as I post this its Saturday and officially her birthday.

As I get started on this blog I am tucked in the back seat of our Hyundai, Gina is in the front seat and she and Russ are swapping stories, currently discussing their experiences with caffeine. We are enroute home from Regina Airport. It’s currently Wednesday, Gina is home for Jill’s grad. The beauty of this moment is not lost on me. To be in the presence of my first born, enjoying her, but mostly just being near, is really nice.

At my checkup after Gina’s birth Dr. Naidu told me “that was a hard one.” Her observation was affirming, I had never done this before and I didn’t know how to describe what I had been through. The relevance to this blog is that this day 20 years ago Russ was actively caring for our girl and I was doing the bare bare minimum. I hardly knew Gina yet. What I am experiencing right now is not anything I could ever have imagined looking at those wise eyes staring back at me as we started to find our way 20 years ago.

Gina’s story has seen another big step since the blog about her earlier this month. She recently completed a two week intensive course in Vancouver, a national workshop of Fight Directors Canada. It gave her a “basic actor combatant” certificate. The first of 5 levels of training she needs to become an on set fight director. She LOVES this stuff and she is good at it. At the conclusion of the course she was assessed by fight masters and then received adjudication. What she heard was so encouraging. They told her, “you’re good, if you want to make a career of this you just have to go for it.” The part I loved hearing about as her mother was that she excelled at her teamwork. She was awarded “rookie of the year” for her group. Interesting options are emerging. A couple days ago Gina received an invitation to a regional workshop in Montreal, a chance to get her next level of training. The instructors and fight masters Gina worked with in Vancouver are encouraging her to attend more school in Toronto, another setting for more levels. She has an audition this weekend for more traditional musical theatre work. As her Mom it is thrilling to see her having options and although she has no clear plan at this point she said to me last week, “I’m in the right place.”

She shared pictures from practice sessions at the course and gave me permission to use them.

The picture below has Gina on the left. This is “quarter staff” training.

The picture below is Gina on the right doing what she loves, sword fighting.

The pictures below have her in “unarmed” fight training.

The conclusion of the course allowed Gina some time to hang out with my sister and brother in law in Vancouver. It was sweet for me to think about Jan and Ray being able to celebrate Gina’s accomplishments with her.

I can’t believe this sweet smiling face loves fighting so much! My sister reported back to me she had been shown some mighty bruises.

We are proud of you Gina and thankful, infinitely thankful for all the people and events that have got you where you are today. Happy birthday to you!

My Theory about Roe v Wade

I have an enduring interest in American culture and right now that automatically seems to mean politics.    Is there American culture separate from politics?   Right now it doesn’t seem like it.  I am a people pleaser so I tend to keep what I think about the developments in the U.S.A. to myself, in an effort to keep everyone feeling good about Kathy Kyle.  But I think I am done. 

Its not that I am done with a particular party or a set of policies.  Not exactly.  I respect that there are different ways to do things.  However when people are lying I am deeply offended and I think there is a lot of lying going on.  Fundamentally, I think the decision to overturn Roe v Wade is not about protecting the life of the unborn.  Its not about ensuring the unborn have a chance to live. The decision has the effect of taking power away from women, securing a block of votes for the Republican party and distracting from other matters, also urgent, that don’t cast a good light on the former president and his party.     I think the decision is all about pandering, politics and power plays.  Top of my mind right now are two things….

First, those who worked to get Roe v Wade overturned, are from the same group who voted against measures to ease the baby formula shortage in the United States.  How can you say you are pro life, that is pro baby, but actively work against what would clearly reduce stress for baby and parent?  Seriously?  What would it have cost these lawmakers to vote in support of this effort?  That is the tip of the iceberg.  There are other policies that could be enacted and budget priorities made that would ensure a quality of life for every baby born, starting with decent parental leave.  Why do these pro life loving United States grant parental leave that can best be counted in weeks, while most developed nations provide months and months of leave, more than a year in some cases.  The policies and budget priorities that are truly pro life are demonized by the group who call themselves pro life and there is no importance attached to them when wooing voters.  Those who seek quality education for all, health care for all, and social services to support the troubled are called socialist snowflakes.   Don’t even get me started on the discrepancy that a human life should never be ended prematurely but if I was an American parent I would have to wonder, daily, if my kid and I would return safely from school, church, a concert or the grocery store, because it is everyone’s right to possess the technology to end life, to end multiple lives in split seconds.   How is that pro life?  Being excited about today’s decision doesn’t mean you are pro life, it means you are pro birth, I will grant you that, but wouldn’t being truly pro life mean a lot more than seeing a child able to emerge from the womb and take a breath?

I think policy makers are lying when they say this is about protecting the lives of unborn babies because every aspect of the effort to protect the babies costs women, not men, yet men and women are equally involved in getting the ball rolling. I want to make a spicy joke right here, but I am so perturbed I can’t. So….. Temporary sterilization of men is totally possible.  Why is policy not even considered that has men temporary sterilized until they can commit to their readiness to parent and to provide for the children they father.  You probably think I am crazy to suggest that.  Why would that be crazy?  Men can create a child more than once a day.  Women about once a year.  In an effort to prevent the conception of unwanted children, what about putting the onus on men?  If you resist this, why?   Do you feel that’s overreach?  That the government shouldn’t be able to mandate what men do with their sexual organs?    Okay, well then, how about this?  If abortion becomes impossible, then it should be law that men must provide for the fruit of their loins.  Those who don’t will get their property seized or go to prison for abandoning their offspring.   Women have known the gift and wonder of motherhood since time began, but have also had to shoulder the risk, sacrifice and work of it.  Wherever men share in the risk, sacrifice and work they share more fully in the gift and the wonder.    There are proposed policies in some of the states that criminalize women for seeking abortion and release men from the equation altogether.   This is very much about gender and power and not about justice, infant health and human wholeness.  

These interventions you might think me crazy for suggesting will never happen.  I know that, at least I think I know that.  The unlikeliness of these kinds of things is what makes me say, this is not about protecting the lives of babies.  Something else is going on.  Its in someone’s interest to keep women pre-occupied with their fertility and its implications.  Its in someone’s best interest to keep women and children very vulnerable to the harshness of life (rape, incest, maternal health concerns, poverty and lack of opportunity are at the top of my mind.)  I am a Mom.  In fact 20 years ago at this moment I was 3 hours from delivering my first child.  Having children has been among the most wondrous things I ever did.  The sheer miracle of this means I will never be cavalier about abortion.   However, today, I am clearer than ever, that this supreme court decision is not about babies.  Its about politics, pandering and power brokering.  I want policy that is practical, legislation that reflects love, judicial power that is just and fair, policy that protects all, houses of government that are honest.   This is what I see and what I long for.  It’s a matter of life and death. 

I want to thank Russell for listening to multiple read throughs of this and offering thoughts to round out my own. I have relied on him for perspective and courage. This is not easy for me to publish.

How do you solve a problem like Kaklika?

A piece of art at the convent that really touched me.

In a recent blog I spoke about finding my way to taking a vacation in a convent in Toronto.    In this blog I want to write about a learning that came up as that unfolded. 

What happened at the convent is part of the story, the rest happened earlier this spring.  The earlier part happened when I was talking with someone I love alot and I don’t get to talk to in a personal way very often at all.   My go to approach when I want to bond with someone is to ask them questions and try and listen well.  As this conversation unfolded I became very curious about how a particular part of their life story unfolded.  I asked questions.  Unfortunately my questions were not received as they were meant, an invitation to share.  I was given the feedback that my questions were received as implying that this person was not qualified to be where they are, and it felt to them like I was judging them.  I was kind’ve shocked.  I back pedalled, explained, and apologized for the impression given.  We parted ways for a bit, a half hour where my own brain kicked in and said, “wait a minute, I am the one that should be offended, you think that I am sitting here, a person who loves you, and my whole agenda is judgment?!?!?!”  It was tough.   When we reunited a little later words of apology and a hug set things straight.  For me, a big piece of this, besides sadness at how confusing things can get with human relationships, the big piece was me having that “wait a minute!” moment.  The moment where I claimed back a little space for myself.  Where I said, “hey, just cause someone is upset doesn’t mean I am the problem.” 

Fast forward to Friday night and the tables were turned.  It was me expecting judgment from someone, when I had no real reason to and I suddenly understood a bunch of the subtle layers of this earlier encounter better.  

I arrived in Toronto before lunch on Friday.  My cousin Doug picked me up at the airport and we joined my cousin Lori, my Uncle Ted and his love Susan at their condo.   It was so nice to see my family again, it had been a long while. 

Uncle Ted married my Mom’s sister Carol.  In 2006 Auntie Carol lost her battle with brain cancer.  It was a pleasure to meet Susan on this trip and be warmly welcomed to her home.

Our visit was cut short by the reality that I needed to check in at the convent between 2-4 pm.  I couldn’t really imagine that anything in Toronto could be more than an hour away on the subway but Doug knew full well.  With his insight the visit with my family ended in time, hopefully, to get me to the convent door by 4pm.  It was a rushed ending and I felt badly about that.  As Doug was braving the Friday afternoon Toronto traffic getting me to the closest subway station he got a phone call. It was Lori, I had forgotten my laptop.  With the traffic and the deadline we opted not to turn back.  Something else would have to get figured out.

It did….Doug drove it all the way to the convent the next day.  I took this picture because I told him I needed a record of my knight in shining armor.  He downplayed it.

Back to Friday afternoon….with a little help I figured out the ticket situation and got myself and my luggage onto a subway train. Got off that one and successfully transfered to the next before an ominous announcement happened. There was a fire up the tracks somewhere and it meant the whole thing was coming to a halt and everyone had to evacuate.  I made my way to the surface.   As I remember it I kind’ve stumbled into the sunlight on Yonge street absolutely unclear as to what I should do next.  I had already called the convent and gotten permission to arrive a bit late.  How late could I push that?   After discovering that due to increased demand an Uber would cost 72$ I opted for a bus.  But a call to the convent to check in had the guest house coordinator checking TTC for me and telling me the good news that the line was up and running again.  It felt like a miracle.  I went back down below and with little extra drama arrived at the spot where I could transfer to a bus for the last leg of my journey and make my way to the convent.  I was 50 minutes late.  I got checked in and had a half hour before the next thing.  Not evening prayer or supper with the sisters, but getting back on the bus to meet friends a little ways down Yonge St.  I really really overscheduled this travel day but one of my friends was leaving town the next day, this was it if we were to see each other.   At this point I was feeling really badly because I didn’t want the sisters to think that I was treating their convent like a hotel.  But I was flitting in late and rushing out again to go to a bar.   They didn’t know that but I did. 

The time with my friends was superb.  These women and I travelled many miles together in 1991 as our Up With People cast made its way to many places in North America and Europe.  Our organization’s goal was to improve understanding between cultures.  Kindv’e intense stuff and it meant our cast became close.  On Friday night I got to see 2 of my closest friends from the cast.  It was fantastic to see each other.   It was not one of those quick 1.5 hour get to-gethers.  It took the whole evening to get ourselves caught up.  

So it was that at 10:45pm I was spilling out of an Uber in front of the convent and finding myself in a pickle.   The outside door was locked.  It was my first night at the convent, I thought I knew all I needed to know about security because I had the keycode.  As I was to discover that code reader was behind a locked door.  I was not without options.   I sent a text to the number I had.  Waited.  No answer.  I sat on the bench outside and pondered….”could I sleep the whole night on this bench?”  After rising at 2:45am in Regina to catch my flight I was a bit tired and I almost thought I could actually sleep there. But would I be safe? There was a door bell.  Should I ring it?  I was going to disturb someone.   For my safety I had to do it.  I rang it.  A couple minutes passed.  Then two things happened at the same time.  I got a text back.  “Your passcode will get you in at the guest door entry”  (as opposed to this main entry I was standing at) and two women came to the door I was standing at.  One in a nursing uniform and the other in a housecoat.   I can’t begin to describe how mortified I was by the thought that not only had I got this rather older nun from her bed but that I was putting them in this situation of having to come to a stranger at a door in the dark.  

Can we break for a cut scene?  A little diversion……  Last week when I was preparing to get away Russell and I were both fairly intrigued by the thought that I was coming to a convent.   I handled my intrigue by pondering the books I should pack.  Russell handled his with humor, singing to me a phrase from the musical The Sound of Music, “how do you solve a problem like Kaklika?” (One of my nicknames as a kid, it’s Hawaiian for Kathy, it is also the right number of syllables to match the original song “How do you solve a problem like Maria.”)

Darn that man, that is exactly what unfolded.  Like a scene out of the Sound of Music Kathy/Maria stands flustered at the door, a doorbell gets rung, an elderly nun comes from a distance and encounters this woman who can’t contain her own heart or get her act together.  That is exactly how I felt in that moment.  It was probably 20 seconds or less of sorting out what was going on and then Sister Beryl, I guess sensing that everything was on the up and up, offered to show me to my room on the 2nd floor. I only let her walk me to the stairs, (she was using a cane),  I could figure the rest out, but in those moments I was overcome with relief about the grace I was receiving. 

As I pondered this grace I was very struck by my assumption that I deserved to be judged or assessed first, versus simply received. Where did that come from? Nuns have a mixed reputation, so maybe that. However, given the sister’s identity as followers of Jesus, which implies lives shaped by love and grace, with hospitality as part of their mission, my expectation that I would be judged for my lack of perfection, was really quite an insult to those nuns.

The next morning at breakfast, as I gathered with the sisters in the “refectory”, drinking some of the best coffee I had ever had, and eating a piece of toast from bread so good that God might have made it, I realized that I had done to Sister Beryl what I was so offended about being done to me earlier in the spring.  I assumed that she came to me with assessment on the mind.  Of course she did, from a safety point of view, but after I passed that test, I was pretty certain she might be pondering that I was inconsiderate and if not that, well, surely she would need to assess me in some way.  As it was we mostly quietly walked together down the long hallway.  Mostly quietly.  There were the moments where I apologized, and then apologized again, feeling so inept.  Here is what I noted in my journal about Sister Beryl the next morning, she had gentle eyes and it felt like an understanding, companion instinct.  Her words were few but somehow they assured me it was not the end of the world.  Thinking about this at breakfast, at chapel, in my journal and again now as I write I can’t help but have tears in my eyes.  It just means so much.  It means so much to bring all that we bring and be received with grace.  To bring all that we bring….. for me, that day, it was layers and layers of needing favors arising from being inexperienced, naive, forgetful, and optimistic. 

It go’s further. I think I treat God like this too. At least part of the time. Expecting that if God were to come to the door and see me there, ill prepared for the moment I would hear, “what the hell Kathy?!? Did you not read the manual and see about the guest door? Did you really need to push this day to the absolute limit and in the process ask many people to bend and flex for you? How many times are you going to need to be bailed out?”

But that’s not the God who said, “you who are without sin can throw the first stone.” In other words, no-one is perfect.

That’s not the God who told his followers to respond with generosity to hunger, loneliness, thirst and nakedness…in other words to see and actively care, no mention of assessment and judging.

If there was a competition regarding what is the most transformative force in the world I think grace maybe runs neck and neck with love. Then again, maybe I am splitting hairs, maybe love is grace and grace is love. I can’t quite tease it out but I know that I need grace and when I receive it it’s everything. It allows me to love myself. It makes it possible to extend understanding and love to others.

I think my late night encounter with Sister Beryl and the learnings in it for me will be something I revisit may times as life unfolds. To call forth another song title from Maria’s repertoire…..that memory will be one of “My Favorite Things.”

Come on over for a decaf….

Do you have time for an evening coffee?  In my case it will have to be decaf. 

The windows are open, the birds are chirping a bit, the air is still, it is a gorgeous evening.   It is 9:28pm on the longest day of the year.  I think I have about a half hour before my pillow and I need each other. 

I am missing my blog.  I just haven’t made it here too much lately and definitely not for a chatty blog.  I like doing those.    This is my chance.

We feel like these are good moments we are in.  Maybe that’s crazy, considering the fuel bill for last month is a little more than $9,000.   Life is kind’ve expensive these days.  We carry on.  We are counting ourselves blessed in this moment that our dugouts are full, the creek is full, the well is full and the grass is growing quickly.  This was a scene we couldn’t imagine last year at this time.  Our cow herd is doing really well, gaining some weight back after our tough winter and doing well with pushing out the calves.  We are thankful.  The last little bit has seen Ron and Russ working on fence repair and construction.  Ron has also been attending to machinery upkeep.  Russ has been getting cow/calf pairs trucked to their summer pastures.  Morgan has been a jack of all trades and recently started doing some horse training.  Jill and I are floating around the edges.  Jill dives deep when needed.  She has had the nerve wracking job of running the controls on the hydraulic chute and continues to be the head castrator on our crew, she is swift and kind.  So………….all our skills are being expanded and deepened as we all continue to monitor the calving herd and respond to things.

When we checked cows after church on Sunday we found one abandoned by its Mom in 34 degree heat. It was dehydrated. We kidnapped it and through electrolytes and bottles have him almost thriving again. We have a calf to bottle feed for the foreseeable future, his Mom is AWOL.

Off the ranch Gina has had a great month so far and I am going to write about that a bit more in a few days when we celebrate her 20th birthday.    She arrives into the Regina airport tomorrow and we are sure looking forward to setting our eyes on her.    

Jill graduates next week.  We have so many different feelings.  One of the big ones tonight is concern.  Morgan tested positive for Covid this morning.  Our hope is that he remains the only case in the house, he works through it and we are all good to attend next week.  However, it may unfold in a multitude of ways that mean we will be flexing and bending.  I picked up five more boxes of test kits, so we have about 30 tests on hand.  That should allow us to test the heck out of ourselves.  At this point Morgan is doing well, he has a sore throat and a bit lower energy but otherwise is feeling good.

I have a lot of baking to do in anticipation of next week and today dawned cool and cloudy so it was the day to get at it.  I put a mask on and baked away. 

Seems like overkill maybe, but peace of mind for me means this is how it looks.   I made a puffed wheat cake using a new recipe and put it in a bundt pan.  It turned out so well.    That kind of stuff excites me.  I also made a batch of buns and bowed to peer pressure, (just from Russell), I used a little mini branding iron and pushed our brand into the buns.  It didn’t really turn out. 

Once they rose the brand became almost invisible. It was worth a try.

When I was a kid our route to the cottage included driving past a pig farm near the Petrofka bridge.  It was inconceivable to me that anyone could live with the smell that came from that place.  I perhaps was acting like a bit of a snooty city girl.  Anyways, its spring on our ranch and Ron started taking care of the manure in our corral today.  Our whole yard smells just like that spot on the highway.  I never thought I would be a girl with a not-snooty nose, but here I am killing it! The balance to this smell is the heavenly aroma on my kitchen counter from the bouquet of roses that Russ picked me in the pasture. He was thrilled to report the abundance of wild roses found there and took me for a tour later today. The smell is incredible.

We celebrated Father’s Day by attending church together, having lunch out and our good ol cinnamon bun and bacon celebratory meal for Supper.   On the way to church everyone answered the question, “what is your favorite memory with Dad/Russ?”  At lunch we talked over, “what is something Dad/Russ has set as a good example for me?”.  At supper we worked with the question, “what is something you are looking forward to doing with Dad/Russ?”   Later on Gina phoned Russ, I was there, Russ put the phone onto speaker phone and I asked her those questions.  She indicated that she really liked answering them.  Maybe sometimes words can be gifts.   (I hope so at least, because Jill was the only one to buy Russell a gift.)

I spent half an hour on the phone yesterday reporting fraud on my credit card.  Today I was telling Gina about it, she reminded me that I had given her permission to use my credit card to pay for parking fees at the course she was at.  So………..I called the credit card company today and spent half an hour getting the fraud report reversed.  Oops.  In my defense, Gina was in Vancouver and the line came through on my credit card for “Honk Mobile Toronto” and I had just been in Toronto so it just seemed that these $20 dollar daily charges were a result of my number getting lifted.  Nope.  Russell did say, “weird that they would steal your card number and then only spend so little.”  Yes.  Weird.  And………..my mistake….again. 

Time is up.

I wish I could put into words all the funny stuff that happens.

There is hours I could spend writing about the Tenderlands.  I have been struggling.  Maybe a few minutes will present itself.

We have some deeply uncertain days ahead.

Mostly, we are well.

Our deepest truth is that we are thankful.

I promise if you were here in person I would not do all the talking like this. I would enjoy hearing about what you are being tested by, what you have been smelling lately and any mistakes you are reckoning with, along with the funniness, gratitude and worry that might be shaping your days.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles and trailers and my own 2 feet.

A few weeks ago I was blogging live from the Bar MW working chute. Today the location is distinctly different. I am coming to you from the St. David dorm room in the guest house at Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in Toronto. I am in an Anglican convent. Rain is falling quite heavily and its kind’ve a great atmosphere. Russell is enjoying milking my location for all its worth, he has been telling me that when chatting with friends he enjoys saying things like, “you think you’ve got it bad, my wife left me and went to a convent!” Its true. But I only left for a bit.

I didn’t feel right about taking many pictures while I was at the convent. I found this one on the website. These are the women I spent my days near.

Here is how this came about….back in January my sister and I were talking. She shared with me something she had recently been invited to do and that was to set goals for the new year, as opposed to resolutions. It made sense to me. The process included writing the goals on index cards and reviewing them regularly. I made goals. I wanted to read a fiction book every month and a non-fiction every three months. I wanted to ride my exercise bike with some pattern. I wanted to do some extended fasting. I wanted to work a variety of spiritual care practices into my living. I set all these things up in measurable ways. But a really important goal was that I wanted to connect with my elders more. They mean so much to me but you would never know it by how I live my life most of the time. So my goals included, “visit Uncle Ted.” In March as I reviewed the goals I realized I had to get my head around how this was going to happen. A rancher in Saskatchewan doesn’t just schedule a visit with a man in Toronto without a little planning. The pieces fell into place pretty quickly, very quickly when I realized I could get a Westjet flight to Toronto for $79 due to a sale I stumbled upon. As I thought through the options for how this could look I connected with a memory of a previous time. When I lived in Saskatoon I booked myself into a retreat house there, a place where I could go to be apart from the rigors of daily life, experience silence, be fed both spiritually and physically, talk to a spiritual director and perhaps come away renewed. I loved those days. I have tried to recreate them with varying levels of success. When I stumbled on this memory it feels like my brain literally went “ding.” I thought I could probably merge visiting family and friends with retreat life and I went on the internet. What existed in Toronto? I found the convent I am currently sitting in. For a very reasonable fee I have a very comfortable room, 3 beautiful meals a day and invitation to join the sisters in their times in the chapel. Silence is the norm in most of the public spaces, it is healing and thought provoking.

There is lots more that could be said about some of these pieces, I hope to write about some of them later.

(Fast-forward a little bit….)

I am currently starting my last full day here at the convent. It was a good decision to come here. I fly home tomorrow. In about an hour I am setting off to get to the Finch Subway station, I am going to ride south to Bloor and Yonge, transfer trains and find my way to the Kipling station, if it goes smoothly its about an hour on the trains. I will bring my book. Not far from Kipling station I will meet my Uncle for lunch. I saw him on the day I arrived but due to the distances involved, my need for rest and my desire to see other family and friends I have here, I wasn’t expecting to see Uncle Ted again. It sounds odd to plan a trip to see a person and then only see them once. The thing is, and its weird maybe, I just needed to see him, for my heart it didn’t matter for how long or how much. But since that first day I have become confident enough on the subway system and I feel rested and my cousin gave me the inside scoop on Uncle Ted’s favorite restaurant, so I called him up and we made a date.

(Fast-forward again…….)

A selfie at the Dundas Street Grille.

I am finishing this blog now, sitting in the departure lounge at the airport…. and now my spot on the plane. I read over what I wrote yesterday with its extreme amount of detail, why should you care what trains I had to take? I think that is my way of being seen for something that is kindv’e important to me. I might live on a ranch, with my hometown not even in possession of a traffic light, but I can still find my city girl groove and I am deeply thrilled that it allowed heart to heart connection with one of my people. I am super lucky to have all the pieces in place that make trips like this happen. The backbone of it is a spouse who figures he can run the ranch without me for a bit and drops me at the airport with his blessing.

The automobile action….a trip to the airport towing our trusty Hyundai on a trailer. Russell was an absolute Rockstar getting this trailer backed into and then out of the Hyundai service lot. Thanks to the Powells for lending us their trailer. Perhaps a sign that I needed some rest…I cut my lip with a bag of canned food the day before. It was pretty klutzy.
Inside the Toronto airport.
I walked through heavy rain to get to the Subway station.
Arriving into Regina.
Russ gave me a warm welcome home, including a meal at the Lancaster Taphouse. It was here we made a great connection with our server. Just one of those times when everything clicks and you have a rich conversation. It was totally fun to have a reunion a few days later when we spotted her in the midst of the pride parade. (Picture below).
Russell made good use of his trip back to the airport. He dropped off some cow calf pairs at our Manor pasture. That got him about 40 miles closer to Regina. He then unhooked the livestock trailer and headed to get me. Our trip home included picking up the trailer and checking the herd. It was great to see the calves looking good and enjoying their summer residence.
The last bit of action of my time away had me on my own two feet again in a setting drastically different from the umbrella picture. This calved out heifer named “Stir” had somehow got outside the fence. Russ went ahead to open the gate and see it got turned in, I walked it back and together we got her reunited with her calf in the pasture.

I have not yet had the chance to look over my goals for ’22 index cards. When I do, it will be with a warm feeling in my heart that I write “accomplished – June 3 and 7/22.” Have I mentioned I feel lucky?

A 20 YEAR STORY

There are some landmark days going on in our lives.  Among them is that Gina is turning 20 soon.  The echo of that fact in terms of my own story is that I am coming up on the 20th anniversary of being a hands on Mom.  This anniversary and all that the last month has held means my heart is full and my brain is churning.

20 years is a big marker.  I am thinking quite a bit about what was happening 20 years ago at this time.  I was more than 8 months pregnant.   I was a different person.  When I say that I am just trying to put into words that I had no idea what was about to unfold.   I couldn’t imagine what labor would be like, we didn’t know the sex of our child, I didn’t know how to use diapers, soothe gas pains or get stains out of laundry.  I had no idea if I would become a good mother and how Russell and I would do together.  It was a place of great unknowns and looking back I think it took alot of courage. 

This is us the morning we left the manse in Gainborough to head to Estevan hospital.  I was 13 days overdue, labor was induced later this day.  Gina was born at 2:19 the next morning.

In March Russell and I were in Victoria to attend a show at Gina’s school.  We saw a walking tour of Victoria advertised that included photos at iconic spots.  We signed up and asked Gina to join us.  We got some very excellent pictures out of it.   The similiarity between the 2002 picture above and the 2022 picture is striking.  Russ, Gina and I all in the same places, Gina squashed in both, clothing colors almost the same.

This more dignified pose is a good one too.  Notice the boots Gina is wearing.  They will make an appearance again in this post.

For sheer cuteness I am popping this picture in.  We could play a game like Uno or Crazy 8s at this point.  What color, or number or suit connects the pictures?  White shirts and jean/hat choices match this picture to the last ones.  We don’t always wear white shirts it just seems like it for the moment.  

I have been thinking alot about something, even right in the middle of recent performances of Shrek, I found myself thinking, “what led this girl to this place with these abilities?”  I am really excited and happy to think about the place that Gina has found herself in.  I want to write about it on the blog because quite simply its a big part of our story right now and I process things by “talking”, and sometimes I repeat myself, sorry if you are done with this topic before I am.     The thing is maybe there is a universal question at play here.  Looking at who we are, or who our kids are, or the dynamics of life that we find ourselves in we can ask the question “how did this come to be?”  In our families case, what is it that brings a girl from a small town of 1100 people to a very real comfort level with city life and the confidence to step out on a stage and share what she’s got? 

I can tell you what it wasn’t.   It wasn’t Russell or I pushing her down this path.  Just the opposite.  Gina often asks me, “Mom how did you not catch on that I was going to love this stuff?”  I just didn’t.  It didn’t cross my mind that I had a musical theatre loving kid in the making.  Ideally pictures like the one below might have tweaked my head in that direction, but that didn’t happen.

It also wasn’t a result of rich arts opportunities. We were mostly always on a tight budget and our life unfolded 8 miles from the small town in this picture.

So what happened to bring her to this point?

Maybe very partly this……

One of the things I observed sitting in the audience at Shrek was that Gina had the ability to use her speaking voice to communicate a wide range of feelings and meanings.  She went from the feisty red head we know well, to a tone of tenderness and caring very quickly and very effectively.  She had mastery of her voice and its impact.   So here is what I was thinking about sitting there…….besides the training at CCPA, is this partly about reading books together for years and years?  My method was a bit unusual. I got bored reading the same children’s books over and over again. There was variety in our library of course, but you know how kids like certain books and ask for them repeatedly?  The kissing Elmo goodnight book just about did me in.  So….to keep myself interested I just started experimenting with my voice, it was like I was asking myself “how can I phrase these words or sentences, how can I change volumes, how can I change tones so that different meanings or feelings come across?”  It was actually kind’ve fascinating for me, good research for the public speaking that I do. Gina was exposed to all these shenanigans from a very young age.   So I found myself sitting in the theatre wondering…..is this a reflection of book time?  Maybe.  Likely in some way.

And maybe this……

Gina started piano lessons in grade 2. She was not a natural but through the “Music for Young Children” program and the attention of her teachers Kari and Sharlene, she achieved a solid base of music theory and the beginning of performance skills. As dance took on a bigger role in Gina’s life piano receded however Gina recently told me how mindful she is of the theory she learned in those early days.

Then there is this…..Gina says she was in grade four when she started watching “Glee” the TV show.  She credits this show (which I have to say was a little edgy for her to be watching, parental misstep there…) as the thing that really woke up her desire to take music and performance farther in her life.

And then there was this……

Gina joined the cadet program when she was in grade 7.   This called her to stretch herself.  Her first weekend camp was terribly uncomfortable for her, only because she liked home.   The teamwork, discipline and endurance which are now part of her reputation were deeply nurtured at cadets.  The part she talks about though is her “cadet voice”.  She had a little bit of experience being parade leader at the point she decided to quit cadets (she was discerning that she just wanted to get dancing).   Those parade experiences made their mark.

Here she is center stage in “Shrek”, at one point she gets all these dancing rats in order by calling out “ten-hut”, she asked me after, “Mom! did you hear my cadet voice?”  Yes Gina, it was definitely there!
A breakthrough happened when Melita (a Manitoba town 80km from us) started a youth drama day camp.  Gina attended for three summers.  In this picture she had the role of Miss Hannigan in “Annie.”
Gina has always had fans. Family and friends have been great. Support and encouragement must play some part in the recipe for growth and success. Gina’s biggest fan was her Nana. Russ and I strive to live up to her example.

The obvious deciding factor in Gina’s journey was the opening of a dance school, 16 minutes from our driveway, when Gina was almost finished grade 9. Stephanie her teacher gave her a foundation in all forms of dance, a complete and total opportunity! This is proof positive of the difference one person can make in the life of another, simply by sharing our gifts. Gina was later asked to join the teaching team. I am certain this helped Gina root her own skills.

The Oxbow Dance teaching team in 2019.
After grade 10 Gina did something she had never done with any joy before. She went to a residential camp. She studied dance at the International Music Camp. She loved it.

Gina also had the benefit of singing lessons for one year in grade 11 and performed in our local music festival. Her passions and skill were getting kindled. The screenshot below is from Facebook. I included it because the captions for both pictures highlight the fans and are a bit funny.

When Gina was in grade 7 or so our local school started offering an annual one week intensive drama experience facilitated by Missoula Children’s Theater. She was in grade 11 and was Captain Hook in this picture. Looks like some “stage combat” could break out at any time!

The two pictures below were taken by Liz Griffin. Here are Gina’s boots in their natural habitat. We believe the close-up work with our herd, with the courage and conviction it requires, something that was a part of Gina’s life for so many years, is connected to Gina’s presence on stage.

A helpful part off Gina’s unfolding story is that it finally dawned on me how important all this was to Gina. It happened at the Carol Burnett show at the start of grade 11.

The picture above is Gina standing up in the Centre of the Arts in Regina.  In this picture she was talking to Carol Burnett.  She had sat through 30+ minutes of the show with her hand up waiting for Carol to see her and take her question (it was the format of much of the show, akin to her TV show).   When an usher pointed Gina out, (the shadows meant she was not easy for Carol to see) Carol received her question.  They had both played Miss Hannigan in Annie and they sang a chorus of “Little Girls” together.  After witnessing that hand up for that long I finally caught on…..my girl means business about this business.

Yes she meant business!  After two years of hard work and persistence, through milking the opportunity for all it was worth, Gina graduated from the Canadian College of Performing Arts on May 15th.  There she is on the left, graduating in her cowboy boots.  Russell and I feel so moved by these moments.

There are 3 very significant parts of this picture.  Most obviously, Gina had just been presented with “The Founders Award for Musical Theatre” it recognized outstanding achievement in musical theatre.   Gina says that after two years of questioning whether she belonged at CCPA, based on her limited experiences, the award has helped her know she did and does belong in the arts community. That’s major. The presenter is the founder of the college and happens to be Gina’s mentor, Jacques Lemay. He is the instructor who brought to life Gina’s love for stage combat. That is another big piece of this picture. And finally, Jacques is known in our family, through Gina’s stories, as a wise and kind gentleman. We all value that very much.

I am closing this blog with this picture on purpose. All these students are from Saskatchewan, except for one from rural Alberta. This group comprises most of the lead role actors from Shrek. (Shrek and his understudy (who did 3 of the shows as Shrek), Fiona, Donkey, and Dragon are all here. Saskatchewan sent students to CCPA they can be very proud of. This makes me think, while we perceive that not much happens in smaller places, in truth, looking at the big picture, anything is possible. When the schools, community organizations, music teachers, dance instructors, families and fans each do what they can, soil is made rich for dreams to sprout and grow. The lesson I am taking away from creating this blog is that all the pieces, even pieces that may seem small, they all add up. So it’s important to do the bits we are called and gifted to do, to nurture the soil of our shared lives, to keep possibilities possible for others.

Gina, thanks for listening to what was stirring within. Thanks for these first 20 years.

Day 57 – Calving Season 2022 – The Tenderlands – Chapter 3 – Longings

We got going a bit early today in order to be ready for the arrival of Harold. He is the trucker we use to take large herds to summer pasture and our calves to the auction mart. The first step happened when Russ and Morgan brought the group in we had put through the chute on Friday. We separated the cows and the calves and then Ron, Russ and Morg worked with Harold and got the truck loaded.

We did this with rain falling, as it had been thru the night. It was a muddy setting for our work.

Raindrops on my glasses.

At this point the accumulating moisture is still a blessing for us but has become a very large problem for grain farmers who are having trouble getting seed into the ground.

While the guys were loading the truck I bottle fed our calf, “Hadley”, a twin whose Mama couldn’t provide for both babies. Baby Hadley has a big story. When it was clear that he needed a different Mom Russ tried to adopt him onto our cow named “Hadley”, it just didn’t work and bottle feeding became a neccesity. Our guests the Fentons brought the calf his first bottle. Izzy and the calf bonded and for the remainder of the visit this was Izzy’s calf and it was given the name “Hadley Fenton” after Izzy’s great Grandpa. When Russ tried to feed Hadley after Izzy left he could hardly convince it to eat, Russ was not his Mom, “where is Izzy?” was the vibe this calf was giving off. By the time I showed up in its pen this morning that young calf had already known alot of different mothering action. We did well together. Hopefully he will get a permanent Cow Mom pretty soon.

Anyways…..Russ and Morgan checked the calving herd and then we got ready to go to church. I didn’t want to go. I am so tired. I wanted to stay in bed and drink coffee and roam the internet. Russell weighed in. With several Sundays ahead where attendance is iffy, he thought we should grab the chance to get there today. Off we went. Like alot of things, it was good to be there once we were there.

Having said that as things unfolded Russ felt he needed to make an apology to Susan our minister. After going full tilt for a long time and not sleeping very well the last few nights, Russ arrived at church not prepared for a warm spot to sit still for a bit and he fell asleep, repeatedly. He informed us at the end of church that he had bizarre dreams in those moments he was dozing. At one point he had been dreaming that he was sorting cows with women on horseback in Jesus’ tomb and Jesus and the angels were sitting on the ark of the covenant looking on. Its actually quite the scene to visualize. It was Morgan who had nudged Russ to wake him up at the point where this dream was getting going. He later apologized to Russ for interrupting such an interesting dream. And Russell apologized to Susan for sleeping in church. She was as gracious as ever, understanding his reality.

When Russell told me about this dream it seemed to me that there was something essential in it. I saw that maybe it had a bit in common with messaging that happened last Sunday. If you want to analyze this with me, read on…..

In Russell’s dream perhaps, and I really mean perhaps…..there is a distinct chance I am making a mountain out of a molehill…..but….in that dream was there a longing revealed? Could it be a longing to know that our daily life has holy dimensions? Like the assurance that we are living our days in the presence of God. (Why else would we sort cows in a tomb? That space where Gods power very famously prevailed.) Like the assurance that Jesus sees us doing the things that are hard and scary and loves us through it. (Why else would Jesus have stood witness to all that sorting action?) Like the chance to glimpse the possibility that our lives can be enfolded in Jesus’ story (thats what I see when action from 2 vastly different cultures and time periods gets merged together.) It was a thought provoking dream you must admit.

What happened last week is this…… Russ sent me a picture of Morgan working in our neighbors cattle handling chute. It was from the back. It struck me how much Morgan’s posture was like my Dads and that it indeed could have been my Dad in the picture.

The picture Russ sent.

I replied, “that could be my Dad.” Immediately Russ messaged me back, “That would have been cool 2 work with Wayne” In those few short words all kinds of longings were released and reflected. My longing that my Dad could be a part of what my life holds. Russell’s longing to know my Dad as a healthy man. Our enduring ache to have people alongside us that just can’t be. It was all contained in those few lines of text. Again I feel like I am making a mountain out of a molehill, us analytical people are kind’ve famous for this, but there is something there, there just is. There is definitely longing in my part of this story.

I am currently reading a book called, “The Book of Longings” by Sue Monk Kidd. Perhaps thats why longings are on my mind. What do we do with our longings? Especially knowing that many of them just cannot be met. It strikes me that one thing we can do, no matter what, is listen to them. Having listened to them perhaps something becomes more clear, maybe not. By listening though, we have honored our own hearts and that is important.

Day 57 of calving season took me to a very muddy corral, a quiet barn, a sanctuary, a restaurant and my own tenderlands. That has all been good, but the kitchen is where my attention is now needed. I find myself longing for that TV character from the 60s, Samantha from Bewitched, who could wiggle her nose and make magic happen.

I need some magic in the kitchen tonight.

Day 56 – Calving Season 2022 – On Location

If you will indulge me I am going to play pretend for a moment or two.  I am in this moment an on location reporter.  “This is Kathy Kyle coming to you from the Cow Dog Lounge at the Bar MW Ranch.”

Laurie had this sign made for us and showed up with it this week. We mounted it with baler twine (a ranchers 2nd best friend after duct tape). The name Laurie came up with is perfect, our dog Knightwing frequently naps in her spot on the couch as in this picture.

While I lounge on a sectional couch in the pole shed our team is right beside me putting a small herd through the chute. 

It is raining outside, it is comfortable (only one layer of clothing is about perfect), the smell of a branding iron lingers in the air.   The fact that I am blogging is a result of the fact that once again our team has been added to by friends.  Carvell is doing my job and I am here with my laptop, close enough to feel connected to the action but free to do one of the things I love, write.

Carvell is in the spot where I often stand, he is ensuring the calf is secured and stays in place while receiving its various treatments. At home Carvell works in the computer programming field, there is no denying that this man has become a cowboy too.

It has been many days since I felt free to linger on the blog.  Here is a quick check-in about how things are going.  The summary word is “well.”  Calving has not been very dramatic since our big blizzards.  Most cows are doing what they are supposed to do.  Russ has been able to manage things so that the troubles that do arise get worked out.  With seven sets of twins born we have been able to offset some of the inevitable losses that happen.   While April was absolutely abuzz with the births happening amid whatever weather was being dished up, it seems May has been consumed by practical jobs that need to happen.    By the end of today we will have about 70% of our cow calf pairs through the chute (tagged, immunized, castrated, branded, etc.) and at their summer pastures.  That is a super big deal.  We had the vet team here yesterday to semen test our bulls.   Our bulls came through winter okay, one failed his test (our bull named Cheeseball), a few need retesting, but overall, we are set for the breeding season.  Two days of the last week have seen parts of our ranch team helping different neighbors with their spring work.  That is important to us.  But the really big deal in our hearts right now is that our ranch family grew in number and depth this week. 

Last Saturday we had a family from Halifax, Nova Scotia pull into our driveway.  They had spent their day getting to the Regina airport and then to the ranch.  We had never laid eyes on each other before.  However, due to the wonder of Facebook and Messenger and this blog, we all had a darn good sense of each other.  So it was that our family looked forward to their visit, despite the fact that strictly speaking we were entertaining strangers. 

We feel very lucky.  Everything we sensed through our social media interactions is true.   Carvell, Lynette and their daughter Izzy were very easily folded into the work and the rhythms of our daily life and have brought much joy our way not to mention an incredible amount of help with getting our spring work done. 

At one point this week Russell offered to share from his Hawaiian shirt collection, something he loves and he got from our friend David Powell. Symbolic of how fun loving our friends are, they accepted Russell’s invitation/challenge and went to the neighbors looking like this!
This is Lynette. When she is at home she is a manager with Workmans Comp, a few years ago she joined her family for riding lessons. She is now a fully capable ranch cowgirl, and that has meant being adventurous with many different jobs. Her job today is tame, she is filling taggers and needles. A nice contrast to Thursday morning when she wowed me as she headed out to help move our herd of bulls down the road.
This is Izzy, she is a grade 8 student at home and the one who urged her parents into learning to ride. I got this picture of her as the computer girl this morning while we were working with the cows. It seems there is no job Izzy isn’t willing to try, she also had incredible stamina, she did early checks with Russ every day.
A fun picture of Jill from the day.
Morgan branding a calf. This is a hard part of our spring work that I often try to say as little about as I can. Here is the deal. We would never impose a brand on our calves if there wasn’t a real risk of theft of our calves. It has happened before. I see this as a vivid example of how sin creates suffering. We take comfort from the fact that the calves are reunited with their Moms right after they are done, the Mom’s feed them and we know this helps the calves begin to settle and heal.
Our man Ron working with the dogs to move the calves into the tub and alleyway.

For me personally a visit like we have had has many dimensions.  Part of it is struggle, only because when people dwell among you for a stretch they get to see you, really see you.  The first few days of the visit seemed chaotic on the ranch.  I was embarrassed at what we were asking our company to go through.  Then we realized they were very tough and definitely up for the challenge.  I felt embarassed by how much I do for my kids that they can do for themselves. Lynette assured me she saw what was at play. I settled down and the feeling of needing to hide a few things passed.

The other thing is that I have found with more hands on deck with ranch work I have been freed to focus on things that I need to do and want to do well as we shared our days.  So, I have been baking a lot, taking good care of my kitchen, getting caught up on laundry and paperwork.  For me, one of the ultimate gifts I can be given in life is being uninterrupted.  Whether that is when I am speaking or getting things done.  Ranch life does not lend itself to being uninterrupted.  Interruption is the name of the game.  I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say this impacts my spirit both for good and not.  The freedom to focus in my kitchen was a gift that came from hosting visitors with such a desire to learn, see and work and make sure I felt appreciated for the food I created.

Another great thing about this time shared with new friends is that we have been spreading the goodness around.   Laurie and Dawson were with us a couple times this week and therefore got to meet the Fentons.  It made me very happy. This feeling of happiness made me realize we are really proud of all the people we are sharing our days with and its great to introduce them to one another.  This happened again when the Fentons helped us help our neighbors.  This just means more and more layers of connection and knowing.  When we see these neighbors in the days ahead we might find ourselves talking about how those Fentons are doing and we will all care about who we are talking about.  Another layer of making connections arose from the fact that Morgan has been training a Gilliland family horse. They came riding with us on Wednesday to use the horse and see Morgan’s progress. They met the Fentons. Earlier that day Russ and I had attended the funeral of an amazing woman who is part of our ranch family.  We have rented her pasture for the entirety of Russell’s life.  To honor her we spent the evening of her funeral day riding her beautiful river pasture and we gave thanks for her life as we prayed before enjoying a tailgate picnic supper.   The world feels more stable and secure when the ties that bind us weave in multiple layers. 

That rainbow in the background felt meaningful as we enjoyed Donna’s pasture.
This ride for Donna was a big deal. I was on a horse, but it was actually a mule, for the first time in more than two years.
Jill was one of the riders as well. She too has been avoiding the saddle. We both had a really good ride. Jill even took part in the race.
The race.

I think there are about five calves left to go through the chute, its getting quiet here in the pole shed, the team seems to be doing well and keeping their spirits up.   I don’t know if its just me, but I know I am avoiding the thought that we have to say good-bye tomorrow.  Carvell, Lynette and Izzy feel like family and its hard to think that four and almost five provinces are going to soon separate us.   I am always aware of my losses.  Its just a big part of my story.  I do well to remember that all the hard good-byes can be softened by the truth that there are many wonderful people in the world and it’s a gift when they come your way. We have been blessed.

Day 43 – Calving Season 2022 – Stealing a Coffee Break

I am giving myself 25 minutes to create this blog. What gets done gets done and then I hit publish.

Here at the ranch we are doing what we always do at this point in May and thats put herds of cows and calves through the working chute. This allows us to give vitamins, vaccines, tag the calves, replace lost tags on the cows and castrate the bull calves. Its a big chunk of work and it takes a crew. I should be out there but I am not because Dawson was able to come today and do my job. That is a lifesaver today in particular, I have a funeral to conduct tomorrow, a graduation to attend later today and tags to make. Not to mention feeding this crew. You might think, “why are you writing a blog?” I just have to. I have the fever to. But there is a time limit set.

Okay….maybe I have the fever because last night a friend we had not seen in a long time came for tea. As she stepped in the door she said, “I came because I just want to encourage you.” How interesting we humans are, how quickly old tapes and things rise to the surface, because you know what rose up in me when I heard that? I caught myself thinking, “oh great, someone is here to tell me what I need to do better at.” That wasn’t at all what our friend was here to share. However, I have had impacting experiences being told things that start with the words, “I just want to encourage you…….”, followed by some message to do things differently, worry less, have more faith, exercise more, …..some message that essentially said, “you are not enough.” But that is not what I heard last night, last night I heard, “your blog makes a difference, I want to encourage you to keep it up” and there was a bit more than that. But you get the drift. So, fuelled up I am here to share about this day.

There is so much stirring within.

I am proud of our crew. We had Morgan’s friend Griff with us yesterday and we got 80 pairs handled at the chute. I was not needed hands on, we had such great help, so I was able to cook and make tags and do the essentials in the house.

I am proud of Gina. More about that in the pictures.

I am sad. The details of this past week have stirred grief.

I am angry. I am angry at Covid. Tomorrow I do the first funeral I have had to do for a person who died of Covid. Two of my sisters were diagnosed with it this week. I saw them last weekend. So we have been wearing masks and testing daily. I believe I missed it this time.

I am hyper. I made the best pot of coffee this morning. It was nuclear fuel in my body. Russ just called me to tell me a story from the chute. We had a cow that needed to be chased down, details elude me. Anyways, the story was a bit epic, a should to shoulder race which Russ won and with great delight he told me, “when I looked at her tag Kathy, you know who she was?!? Streak! Kathy, I outran the streak!!!” I was suitably impressed! We agreed that coffee had weaved magic in us.

Some pictures to share!

I stepped out the door this morning to see a herd of cows and calves being moved through the yard. This still amuses me. I ran back to get my camera. Notice the mud encased Expedition. There is unreal puddle action on our roads.

I made some cheese and bacon roll-ups for a snack after the cows and calves were sorted from each other. It amused me to see how dirty Morgan’s hands were as he ate. I see this as a personal strength not weakness in Morgan. We do encourage handwashing, but, when it isn’t possible….well…….dirty hands are part of a working life and he is not too needful of perfection.
This is me and my kids during coffee break this morning. I am pointing to my shirt because it says, “Gina’s Mom”…it was a gift about 10 years ago. Gina graduates later today, we will be able to watch via a livestream at the Connelly’s. However it makes me sad to miss it. Really sad. We didn’t get to share in a ceremony for her high school grad in 2020. Its hard to miss this too. But we couldn’t be in Victoria two weekends in a row and the show weekend was more important. So……she is on our minds. And….we gotta get our work done so we can get to the livestream on time.

There was an awards ceremony yesterday. Gina’s stage combat mentor presented her with this award on behalf of the college. His words and manner touched her so much and we were so thrilled for her. The fine print says, “awarded to a student who has shown outstanding achievement in Musical Theatre.”

The college released this photo on instagram yesterday. This was an amazing number from Shrek where Gina tap danced with 12 rats. This was the number that brought me to tears. Why? Gina was having so much fun.

Jill in the foreground making a cow replacement tag, Laurie in the back. Part of the team this morning.

Not great team pictures but a little glimpse of the scene at the ranch today.

Calving is perking along, a pretty normal set of days and events are the reality right now. This is good timing. I hope your weekend is going the way you need it to. Blessings to you.

Chapter 2 – The Tenderlands – I Need Help

A very vivid moment within last months epic storm and power outage happened on Tuesday afternoon. That would be about 70 hours into the 94 hour outage. Here is the context………..things were looking up, things felt under control. I checked in with a neighbor who had just had power restored and as a result was going to head over there for coffee. Then I got real with myself, as much as I longed for what was sure to be a good visit with her, I needed sleep. My exhaustion was profound.

The day before I had gone to Oxbow for two urgent purchases that had me on edge. I needed garden hose, our water line to one cow watering bowl had frozen in the cold and powerless night, we needed to run a hose to a trough to get water to some of our herd. I was anxious about what I would do if there was none available. I also absolutely had to get fuel in our slip tank. Our on site fuel tanks were not usable with out power to pump them. We needed fuel to run our tractors to feed our cows. I have never used a bulk fuel station before and the possible complications of that had me on edge. So as I headed to Oxbow I found myself pondering what I really needed and turning that into a prayer. That meant I was asking God to help me not lose my dignity. There are times when shame and overwhelm have led me to public tears that make no sense to anyone else, I really hate that. So I simply asked God to help me keep my dignity. As it turned out, there was hose in stock and when I got to the bulk fuel station there was Dwayne, a new friend who had joined us on the trail last fall. He helped me. My prayer was answered. Whew. Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon…. Thinking ahead to the evening plan, to be in town attending a Volleyball fundraiser with Morgan, I could not imagine how I would do it in the state I was in. I was setting myself up to lose my dignity. So I cancelled the coffee date and cuddled up in the sun on the bed in the cottage for a nap. I was about fifteen minutes into that nap when Russ called. He had a calf for me and it was going to need alot of work. He and Morgan had found it mired in the mud at the edge of the new dugout, only its nose and mouth sticking out. It was a feat to suck it out of that mud.

This is the calf they brought me. Those muddy boots in the background match the condition of the guys’ muddy pants.

Russ gave me the advice I needed to get this calf going the right direction and I set to work. He hoped I would clean its nose and mouth really well and its naval very very well. He was worried about umbilical infection. It was overwhelming. I had a limited supply of rags, 2/3 roll of paper towel, dwindling water supplies and energy only from the bottom of my tank. Russ says he felt bad asking me to take this on, he knew how tired I was. The thing is he and Morg were more tired than I, they had been wrestling with the mud, the calf, getting up the dugout slope with the energy they had left four days into the marathon and they still had more to check.

The moment I want to speak of was the point when it all just became too much and the thing that pushed me over the edge was that I needed help. I assumed I couldn’t ask Russ because he was already fully occupied. I must have known that Jill and Morgan were busy too. The details of the work and my brain are all kind’ve muddy right now but I hovered over that calf and the needs of the moment just became too much. I needed water. I needed to figure out how to get the supper picked up that Russell’s sister Tammy had prepared for us. I needed more paper towel. There was a war going on inside my head, I knew that helpers were near that would be glad to help, but I wouldn’t let myself ask for various reasons. Like the road between our places was blocked with water and they would have to drive the long way around. Like how could I ask a town person to bounce over a 1/2 mile of pasture to get to me after getting their car dirty on the gravel road? Who was home? These complications, compounded by my weariness and compounded by a very uncomfortable feeling of being a “have-not” when it seemed everyone else around us already had their power returned, meant tears rolled down my face and dripped on the calf. I still had a slight sense of humor and I remember thinking, “great, I am making my muddy calf even muddier.” In the end it all worked out. Russell’s afternoon had eased up after rescuing the calf from the mud, he brought me wash water and paper towel and went to town to pick up our supper which was absolutely delicious. Everyone gathered at the cottage to eat and Jill took Morgan to the volleyball event. I lingered at the cottage, did dishes at the pace of a snail and slipped home just as darkness settled in. The sun had warmed the house through the day making bedtime a comforting moment of grace. The take away I have from the hard moments is that I know more vividly then I ever did before that it is so hard for me to ask for help.

I took this selfie with the calf when progress was evident.
Beside some of the soiled blankets and a mountain of used paper towels Jill grabbed this picture of this exciting moment at supper, when the calf who would become known as “Muckboot” took a bottle for the first time. It took a few days for its Mom to decide she really wanted it but its now in spring pasture doing well. This is very gratifying.

A couple days later I was having a good visit with another friend. She told me about one of her storm experiences where she should have asked for help but wouldn’t let herself. Her insistence on bearing her troubles on her own had a level of danger to it. Significant risk was a part of it. I think it is her story that made me think, there is a blog post in the making here.

Why is it so hard for some of us to ask for help?

I suggested to my friend that maybe she didn’t ask for help because she hadn’t really let herself believe how much other people love her and would want to help, even though it was not going to be easy.

Maybe another thing is that to admit we have need is to put ourselves in a place of vulnerability. In some ways, to intentionally make oneself vulnerable is a bizarre choice to make, doesn’t vulnerability lead to hard things? One of the people I have learned from is Brene Brown, she says that to choose to be vulnerable is an act of courage and leads to authentic living. Its not straightforward or easy, that is for sure, we have to risk entrusting our need to someone we hope will not take advantage of it. However, there are many, many good people in the world with whom it is good to be as real and honest about our situations as we can be.

Maybe another thing about asking for help is the uncomfortable feeling that we are then indebted to others. Its hard if you think you really have nothing to offer in return, no way to “pay back” the favor.

Russ heard this blog and challenged me, “okay, so you have this new awareness, what are you going to do about it?” I am going to try Russ. I am going to try and do better about inviting people in to my place of need and quit being so darn proud. I am going to try.