I just overheard a video being replayed that Russell made this morning. It was for our friends in Nova Scotia. Clear as a bell his morning weather report rang out in the house. His four words seemed like a good title for this blog, as good as any. It was frickin cold out today. We had a job to do and it could not be delayed. We all had to find our strength to confront that cold.
It was weaning day. Thats the point in the year when we separate the calves from their Mamas. We do that in preparation to send the steer calves to the Auction Mart. (The heifer calves go onto feed and stay with us for another six weeks or so before being sold). The sale of the steers creates one of the big paydays of our year. It has been an expensive year. We are thankful that payday is almost here. At the same time, as much as we look forward to the sale our anxiety level is high. Many things could go wrong in the varied steps leading up to it.
As I sit writing this now Russ and Morgan have gone to roping lessons, I am alone in our house, it is warm at my desk and we are feeling grateful for an excellent day, despite that frickin cold. I am actually really feeling short on words. That is not my usual. I think the pictures we were able to manage to grab will tell the tale better than I could.
A little less than two months ago Jill came to the kitchen and with a bit of trepidation (it seemed to me) said, “Mom I want to move out.” I sensed she thought I would resist this, perhaps suggest it wasn’t the right thing to do. But how could I do that? To be honest, I was relieved. It meant positive things were percolating in Jill. For a long while Jill has been playing things safe. That is what she needed. It seems evident now that Jill needed some space. The demands of high school, the ranch, Covid nastiness, grief and being a teenager all piled up. Jill grabbed some time for herself and good stuff flowed from that time.
What followed from that kitchen conversation was action. There was a hunt for an apartment which had some dramatic parts to it. The hunt for a job. The need to assess what she needed and what she had and then packing. Finally this past week, on December 1st, she got moved into her own apartment in Regina.
It’s quiet around here.
10 days ago all three kids were here. We are down to Morgan. Gina is having a good start in Toronto, Jill seemed delighted after her first full day in Regina. I am appreciating the quiet sometimes. Mostly it all seems hard to believe.
Jill starts work on Monday, she has a week of training and soon will be a Barista on duty at the Starbucks in the Chapters bookstore. She is thrilled by this.
I am proud of these girls. Russell …. well if you know Russell you know….he is beside himself with pride and missing them. I said to Russ on the way home from Regina on Thursday, “Russ, Tanya said Gina is quiet, Jill’s interviewer encouraged her to loosen up and be less self conscious, but you know what’s cool, we both know what will flow once they do relax and open up, the people around them are in for a treat, it’s like they are unwrapping something precious.” Jill is so zesty and funny when she is ready. She is soooo caring. Gina is passionate and principled and loving. They are both brave and curious and capable. I know once they each take the awkward steps thru these beginning days they will be okay. I think I will be ok. I think Russ will be too. And Morgan, well, he is enjoying trying out being an only child, so far it suits him okay. I suspect though that we all have some bumpy days ahead.
Russ and I are super grateful. Kids that grow up in rural Canada often have to make big changes happen to get access to broader opportunities. Jill has decided the changes are worth it. She has flown our coop and seems to have landed well. I love her apartment. She has a cozy place in a great location. It has character, a mid-century modern vibe. Jill will be stretching her wings beyond her comfort zone, she is poised to discover much about herself and the world. This is life and it is so good. Our nest will always be here.
Its hard to know how to write about the day we have had. Two problems exist. I only have about 10 minutes to write and there is too much to put into words even if I had an hour.
Good weather this weekend meant a big change in plans for Russell. He says he woke up yesterday with a thought ringing through his mind…..”we need to Ivomec the bulls today.” We were able to access Ivomec at the last minute and the plan expanded, despite having a big party at our house tonight and hopes to get to Church, we put sixty cow calf pairs through the chute today as well as 60 bred heifers. We had the party, we didn’t get to church. The work with the cows went really really well. Russ wants to give credit to a welder who has helped us to adjust our working chute so that calves move through without turning around. This makes everything safer. Thanks Joe! I think Russ is really grateful that we were able to get the Ivomec applied and shots of Vitamin A&D in these groups while the weather was good. Meanwhile ….. with Morg and Jill at the chute with Russ I boogied to get final tidying done and meal prep underway. We were expecting 42 people for supper but some last minute changes meant we were about 33.
I spent alot of the day pondering what I might say during speech time. Thats a tradition we have. We always have a speech and grace before we eat. Its usually a time to say thanks and reflect on the day a bit. Tonight we got to say thanks and reflect on the whole season just a bit. As I pondered I became aware that the way things unfold around here has given Russ and I chances to explore and discover skills we hold. The fact that all these people come together has given us the chance to test and prove ourselves as crew boss and mealtime mastermind. It is cool to get to discover and then expands on things about yourself that you didn’t know were there.
It was a special night for us. It was great to be surrounded by alot of our awesome crew, some of our people couldn’t make it and we missed them. We had crew gifts to share and people seemed to like them. For me there was quite a powerful sense of being held up, I mean, being seen and being supported. One of our crew offered to come early to help. Her hands were busy, as were here daughters and then other friends that came along. I felt a little scatter brained, but I had my list and I had these helping hands and it all got done. Another friend had a speech too, and gifts for Russ and I. Several brought hostess gifts and food to contribute. My sister in law heard what we were up to and sent out a new specialty of hers, beatniks. They were delicious. I have to say, it feels sacred to be seen and then to be supported. I am really touched.
I drove to Sherwood, North Dakota this morning to pick up packages. I was thinking about things I have been studying and it led to this question, “if I could have a visit with Nanny right now, what would she say?” As I thought about her life as it connects with mine, I pondered the importance she placed on her two nights out every week. That is when she would practice with the Saskatoon Choral Society and the choir at Third Avenue United. She loved those times. I also thought about how much she loved knitting and needle point. Evidence of her handiwork was all over her house, her afghans are cherished by many of us to this day.
I remember my Nanny as a content person, flexible, steady and creative.
It came to me quicker than I could have imagined what she would say to me if she was sitting in the passenger seat of my vehicle, she would say, “you are so lucky to have so many ways to express your creativity.” That shifted my mindset. I was tired and feeling burdened by the work I needed to accomplish today. That musing, and I really could imagine her saying that, was a reminder that the time I live in means I have options. I get to write and publish as much as I wish to. I can even work on publishing a book. I have access to music options too. Almost any song I want to try singing is availabe on Youtube music as a karaoke track. It is definitely not as good as live music but for a woman in the boonies its a darn fine option.
Somehow all that opened doors for a bit more dreaming. Dreaming about singing more. How could I make that work? As a start I pulled out my phone and pulled up my favorite karaoke tracks and sang almost all the way back to Carnduff. It was good for me.
Things got pretty hardcore practical after that. Russ needed me to pick up supplies at the vet clinic, I had a lengthy grocery list to attend to, I got a call from Russell saying he was making lunch, that perked up my step and the day quickly unfolded. We are having our ranch volunteers for supper tomorrow night. Its a night to celebrate the work we have accomplished together over the year. We will need lots of space and so today held lots of tidying. Jill has been a huge help, we worked side by side and tried to imitate the routine of our cleaning lady (who is on maternity leave.) Cleaning is alot more fun and rewarding with a partner I have to say.
Its almost time to dream again, the pillow kind of dreams. I am working on some fun stuff and it is so nice to have dreams percolating in the day and night.
There are a fraction of mothers in the world who can answer the question, “whats it like to be the mother of a cowboy?” I am one of those people.
I don’t know how I would fare as a mother of a rodeo cowboy, although I may become that at times in the future. I have often thought I could never be a mother in the stands at a rodeo watching my son ride bulls. I can’t watch strangers do that, let alone my son.
My life as the mother of a cowboy has details that many of you might guess. A porch where there is always a pair of cowboy boots lying about, chaps to find a spot for, and spurs, pairs of spurs seem to swim around our porch like goldfish at times. I do laundry that has rough looking stains due to bareback riding and I always have straw, hay, or manure in the clothes or in close proximity to our washing machine.
The thing I want to talk about though is how having a cowboy for a son is shaping the action in the house. Perhaps there are stages of that. When Morgan was a little boy he could adapt many different household items to make for himself a pretend horse. There was a lot of pretend play that happened that was fun to watch.
Lately the action has evolved. Morgan has been taking roping lessons and has had some serious roping work to do with the herd. He is motivated to get better and better. That means practice. Sometimes its outside with his roping dummy. Lately, often, like every night, it has meant he practices in the house. He has adopted a long piece of red parachute cord, created a special end on it (the technical word is Hondo) and with that he practices his roping skills as often as he can. Until yesterday there were four humans in the house besides himself, there are four dogs in the house at different times, we have all been the object of his roping passion. It seems Morgan is drawn to his rope like a magnet. Supper ends, he gets up like he is going to get ice cream, maybe he is, but he comes back with that rope. Practice begins. The dogs get the brunt of it and they are very patient. I get up to get something from the kitchen and I am roped, with about 90% accuracy. His work is actually impressive. But I am not always patient like the dogs. Mostly I am amused, because I never seem to see it coming.
I am out of time so this is it. This is what its like to be a mother of a cowboy, at least for me, right now. There is always something swirling in the air….. ropes, some exasperation, laughter and the odd swear thrown about when called for.
We are in our Expedition enroute from Regina. We have been gifted with a beautiful sunset.
We left Gina at the Regina Airport at about 2:30, did some shopping and started home. It has been a beautiful winter day for us to travel.
I am thankful for that as the reality of saying goodbye to Gina has been painful. She is moving to Toronto, looking for opportunity for more training, for connections, and just the possibility to be in the right place at the right time.
Our hearts are kinda hurting. We got so used to having her around again, we had three months with her home. They were good days.
She is off again, with very little arranged. Her plane will land in 10 minutes. She will go to bed tonight in the home of people who house international students, they had space for Gina. My friend Tanya made this contact for Gina. Tanya’s house is across the street. She is one of the warmest people I know. With these details in place we feel good about this next stage for Gina. I have other friends and family in the area. As hard and scary as this day is, Gina will not be alone.
I often think about the saying “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” It is relationships that make me feel safe and whole, that is where I experience wealth. This exact hour, as my girl breathes in the night air in Toronto for the first time, but kind people wait to say hello, I feel rich. I feel tender. I feel thankful.
We JUST got a message on the family chat. Gina has landed. She saw the CN tower from the plane. My heart feels weird.🥴💗
I am continuing on my weeklong writing experiment. The title of the blog has little to do with the contents, its just a way of organizing this week’s posts.
I made a supper last night that turned out really well. Its best by request right now. We are preparing to have Gina leave for Toronto later this week and I am cooking up some of her favorites. At the end of the meal, out of the blue, Russell brought me a glass of red wine. I am not sure what to say to explain the timing of that delivery, not sure what was in his head, however I received it and thought, “hmmm, I guess this will be my dessert.” The thing is that I usually eat things I love in pairs. Toast and coffee. Cookies and coffee. Chips and beer or Cheezies and Bubly water. Wine…..what pairs with it for dessert? Cheese maybe, but there was a loaf of bread on the table and I decided to have a piece of buttered bread with my glass of wine.
After presiding at the sacrament of communion so many times in my life I was not able to experience this combo of bread and wine without doing exactly what the communion story invites us to do. When Jesus communed with his disciples with bread and wine in hand he told them that as often as they break bread and drink wine together they should remember him. With that in mind I posed a question at the table. “What do you remember about Jesus?” Russell was the first and only to answer because his answer took us in a new direction. He said, “I remember him in a nightclub.” This was such a meaningful answer. I had seen a post that my friend made earlier in the day, I had a heartfelt reaction to it, I immediately shared it with Jill. Gina saw the same poem shared elsewhere and put it in our family Whatsapp chat. It was a poem posted in response to the mass shooting in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs on the weekend. Russell was offering his experience of that poem as the answer to my question.
Here is the poem.
In the spring of ’21 Jill had something to share with us. It was that she is bisexual. She gave me permission to name that here. She also gave me permission to share a few pictures.
I think these images illumine the incredible vulnerability of a person coming out. It helps to illumine why we value poems like the one shared here and in our family chat. That poem speaks of things I want my children to know. It creates an image I want my kids to have in their head. It’s an image I need to have in my head as I consider my child encountering a world where she will at times be rejected and at times risk violence against herself just for being who she is.
“Remember me” he said at the table. I will, with gratitude. It turns out that a glass of red wine was a fine dessert and it was good for my heart.
I had an experience on Sunday morning that I was eager to write about as it was unfolding. I didn’t get a chance.
It was likely a couple months ago that I got a phone call from the church in Estevan asking if I could lead worship at their Church and include the sacrament of Holy Communion. They are currently without a minister and therefore do not get the chance to have communion very often. I remember thinking that by late November I would be free of cow chase work and I could be available. The thing is, I then forgot that I had made the commitment. It was a busy fall and I think my brain is struggling to hold onto many details. I am not really worried about this, even though my Dad was my age when his dementia began. There was a random moment of extreme grace that saved my hide. I was at a church meeting in Carnduff a few weeks ago when our minister said to me, “Kathy you are at Estevan on the 20th eh?” She had been at a meeting there and saw their worship plan. I was stunned by the news she had for me. I came home scoured the calendar and the notes on my desk and I did not find any record of it. Could it be? I eventually just had to call the church and talk to the secretary in a way that might confirm the date without revealing how forgetful I was. It was true. I was on the schedule. By this point my aunts funeral was already set for Friday in Saskatoon. It was destined to be a busy time. Things unfolded as they needed to and I was grateful to be safely home from Saskatoon and prepared for worship as 9:15 rolled around on Sunday morning. As I walked to my closet to grab my stole, (an embroidered very long scarf that I wear during the sacraments) with the family already headed to the truck, I looked down to realize that there were spots of blood on the floor. Nothing awful had happened. One of our dogs had begun to cycle. I had already done some cleaning up earlier in the morning and naively thought I had it. In a moment when time was short I just decided to step over it. That is the exact moment when I said, “I want to write about this.” Why? I think there is a thought in society that ministers and the activities that fill our lives are kind’ve holy, perhaps holier than thou? That moment seemed to capture much. I was about to conduct the service that I would have missed had it not been for Susan’s attention to details, I was stepping over canine menstrual blood and I was leaving mess in my path as I headed out the door. Ancient notions of holiness included total separation from menstrual blood. Being forgetful is a sin in this culture of ours. Is orderliness next to Godliness as the saying goes? All those things were tumbling around in my head as we pulled out of the yard in the still very dirty truck. If service to God requires all our ducks are in order I cannot rise to the task. If service to God requires a willingness to go where we are needed with the best that we got, relying on God to both understand us and work through us, well, its worth a try. The folks in Estevan delighted us with such a warm welcome. Its another example, in my own experience, that we best not wait til we have everything polished up to jump into the life that is in front of us. Maybe this is where faith actually comes in. Daring to believe that we are good enough as we are, to be people who live to help God make the world more whole.
P.S. Something funny…..when I read this over to Russell he said, “thank goodness you clarified about that blood. I was thinking that when you said our dog had begun to cycle people were going to think that Knightwing had taken up biking and was getting lots of owies!” That mental picture gives me the giggles.
Preamble: I am doing a bit of a writing experiment for this week. It means I will post some shorter blogs daily. I will perhaps tell you about the experiment itself next week.
It has been an amazing set of days. I have been stretched and I have been filled and I feel so grateful. Last Thursday the girls and I headed to Saskatoon. Later that day Russ and Morgan came up. Friday we joined my family, it was just family, for a funeral service at the Saskatoon Funeral Home, followed by burial at Woodlawn Cemetery. I am not sure why I am so specific about these locations, maybe because they are big deals in our family story. In big cities there are many funeral homes to choose from and once your family has a link to one it becomes your family funeral home. The Kyle family has alot of history at the Saskatoon Funeral Home, including the fact that my Dad used to pop in and sing solos in services at the chapel there. He used to have a joke, “people are die-ing to hear to me sing.” Well on Friday it was my turn to be at the front, I was the minister. That meant many many things. Right off the top of my head it meant being ushered by the funeral director thru a series of doors to a back room where clergy can gather their thoughts before services began. I was invited into the inner sanctum. I find those moments interesting. It is a big deal though when you walk into the family room and it is your family sitting there. I don’t know how to be cousin and pastor both in those moments but I snapped to it when it was time to start the service. For the first time ever in my experience as a funeral presider I entered the sanctuary and I had to ask the guests to take a seat. Every guest was standing around in the chapel visiting. That happens at weddings alot, where I have to get bossy and ask people to be seated, this time was a funeral first for me but a sign of good things, even in the midst of deep sadness people were happy to see each other. I led my cousins and their families into the chapel, took my place at the pulpit and looked out to a sea of familiar faces. It was a beautiful sight and felt incredibly intimate. We honored my aunt, my Mom’s sister. It was a time I was nervous about. My Aunt was an amazing but complex person, could I capture what needed to be captured? In getting ready it felt like the hardest funeral service I had ever prepared. It probably wasn’t. It just took more than usual and that makes sense. The service was just part of a much bigger day, a day absolutely shaped by family and by love. Meals were hosted by my sisters after the service, we had time to be together, so much visiting happened and story telling. My Aunt had constructed absolutely beautiful scrapbooks of her early days and as we pored over them together so many conversations were sparked. We had cousins with us from Toronto and we drew from the bonds that began 60 years ago when our Nanny gathered us in her small bungalow and we did what families did back then and now still, we ate, we played, we shared stories, we took part in traditions. Wow, how that has paid off.
So, us ranchers headed to Saskatoon in our gravel road painted vehicles. There are a few things I could say to offer at least a partial explanation about why we showed up at a funeral in quite dirty vehicles. I won’t take you to those stories, just know that while we do some things really well we do other things not so well and obviously that bothers me because here I am talking about it. There was a line in the sermon that perhaps bears repeating here.
… there is an alternate story that offers relief, that God sees our hearts, what we are holding, what we are dropping, what we have figured out, perhaps incorrectly, in order to make life work, God sees it, sees us, and loves us still, no “doing it right” required, simply an offer to walk the journey together, finding grace and compassion in the tenderlands of the heart.
My sister Jan came from Vancouver and when asked to take pictures so that my cousins would have a record of the day she rose to the challenge better than I ever could have. Those pictures were shared and allow me to offer you a glimpse of a few of the moments.
A few tidbits have teased me in the last few days, pleading, “write about me!” I am going to attempt to do them justice in a concise way. I know my blogs get long, its nothing new, my sermons always used to go long too. So much to say!!! What rose to the top in the days since we got the cows home?
First…. School Pictures came home 49 hours after the cows came home. Morgan wasn’t really pleased with his. I like them. I had an odd thing happen after scanning them, I thought, “I need to send these to Mom.” It was a tradition after Mom started using a smart phone that I would take a picture of the proof sheet and text it to her. Then a bit of chit chat back and forth would take place about the pictures. She would delight in them no matter what. I was more curious about my brain having that automatic thought than I was sad. It happened last year too so I sent the pictures to my Mom’s sister. That isn’t possible this year, so I thought to myself, having noted my desire to share this marker of children’s growth, “I will put it to the blog.” We discussed it at supper on Monday and Morgan gave me permission. So, calling all you grandparent type people especially, have a look at these pictures of my boy would you? If my Mom was still with us we would chat, I am sure, about the growing resemblance that Morgan has to my side of the family. It struck me looking at Morgan’s pictures that he is like my Dad. That is a first. When I looked at old pictures we have of similiar poses I see it. Mom and I would go back and forth about that I am sure.
Looking at these again I am doubting myself, maybe the similiarity is not there, maybe I just want it to be there, I am not sure. Anyways…..school pictures are home and many things are rising to the surface, many heartwarming things.
Second…..just a fun thing, Russell and I voted today. We have land in two RMs holding municipal elections, we ventured east and west to cast our ballot. On the way home from Alameda we came across a cattle drive. It was our neighbors bringing a herd home and we arrived at the exact moment they were to cross the highway. Even after all my exposure to cattle on the move I was excited to see this. I took a few pictures. The Patons raise Charolais cattle so the appearance of their cattle drives is quite different than ours. I enjoyed seeing their herd.
Lastly, I want to give you a glimpse of what ranch wife life is like for me. When Russ and I returned from voting in Carievale I came into the house to tackle a few small things while Russ loaded three bulls we were taking to the auction mart in Alameda. We would take them with us to the polling station and then head north a couple blocks to the auction mart. Before I went in the house Russ said to me, “I might need your help with sorting these bulls.” I took that to mean “prepare yourself to be interrupted, don’t go too far from your phone, things could get a little ranchy out here.” I felt pretty neutral about this. When help is needed its needed. I came in and did at least 20 minutes of jobs. I started to get alarmed when I had received no call to say “lets go” or “I need you.” I didn’t want to interrupt Russ but I had to know if everything was okay. I phoned him. No answer. What is a woman to think? I had 3/4 of my dishwasher unloaded and told myself, “if I don’t hear from him by the time I’m done I am gonna have to go out there and see what’s happening.” You realize the scenario in my brain right? I thought to myself, “it feels surreal that I am currently standing here wondering if I can/should finish unloading the silverware, or if, in fact, my husband deeply needs me and I am doing something frivolous while he suffers.” Its ridiculous, its dramatic thinking, but its also real. I got dressed in my warm clothes and headed out. I noted that Ron our hired man was calmly doing mechanic stuff outside the shop and the dogs were lazing around and I then figured all was well. Then I saw Russ approach the cab of the truck and I met him there, he said to me, “wow you’re fast, I was just gonna call you, I’m ready.” He would have reached for his phone to make that call, reached to where he left it, on the dash! A man should perhaps have his phone in his pocket when bull work is happening. I ran back for my purse and a special pen Russell wanted to fill out our livestock manifest form and we were off for the second adventure of the day. Being a ranch wife means your loved ones are in the midst of tricky and downright dangerous situations almost every day. I find it hard. It is truly amazing and I am profoundly grateful for how many days go right. Today was one of those days.