Lean on Me: Dr. Ruth’s Next Prescription

If you read the post a couple weeks ago about the prescription bottle my brother’s friend gave him in 1990 you will know what is up with this post. If not, here are pictures of the gift of “uppers” given to my brother as he dealt with a cancer diagnosis.

I opened the 2nd capsule a while ago and taped its rolled up paper contents to my desk , I have been pondering it. It says “LEAN ON ME WHEN YOUR’E NOT STRONG. I’LL BE YOUR FRIEND. I’LL HELP YOU CARRY ON.” Ruth paired that with the Scripture reference Psalm 46:1-3.

I’ll be your friend………………….we can get through alot when we have that offer. What has friendship looked like on the ranch lately?

Friendship has looked like “I see you.”

Russell has been talking with a rancher friend. The depth of our hay shortage has been discussed. That friend lives not too far from here and he too is subject to this drought. But when he was offered the chance to bale up some of a farmers crop that had been written off by crop insurance, our friend said to that farmer, “why don’t you call Russell, he needs it worse than we do.” Is that not a heart stopping act of personal sacrifice and demonstrating that he really saw what Russell was working on? Russell then was approached. We went to see the crop. It was a gift beyond measure to be offered the chance to bale it. We will pay a per pound cost and it will not be cheap but it is more than fair. That farm family demonstrated a clear committment to not take advantage of this feed crisis by charging through the roof, even though surely it would have helped their bottom line. Russell shed tears over this and his spirits were boosted enormously by the experience of baling up something that really added up quickly in his baler. We are not out of the woods yet. But it helped.

Morgan and Russell in the field with our farmer friend, having a look at the crop.

Friendship has looked like “can I comfort you just by being near?”

Last Friday, late in the afternoon, Jillian started fussing to get some things clean. I was so pleased to see that. There was a reason, a happy reason. Early in the evening a car came wheeling into the laneway, windows down and Whitney Houston cranked on the stereo. Who was it? It was my friend I have had for 44 years, playing the tunes of our carefree teen days and loaded to the hilt with treats that I never buy my kids, treats for me and basics from Costco that Jill had texted to Deb in the way of a shopping list. Deb brought her own bed and bedding, set herself up in the basement and hung out with me for the weekend. We had such a good visit. She would not accept reimbursement for our shopping list items and it all added up to, “this is hard, how can I comfort you? Why don’t you lean on me a bit?”

My kids love Deb and were so happy to have her join us. Here Morgan and Russell greeted Deb when they arrived home from work to find her in our home.
We put Deb to work using her nursing skills to help with some of Coffee’s care needs. (Coffee had a sore from her splint and it needed hydrotherapy 2x daily, as well as antibiotics, Deb is a pro.)
We got to enjoy some sit down meals together, also a picnic in the broiling sun when we went out to feed the haying crew one day.

In the week since Deb’s departure Russell has again been given a message of “I see you.” Another grain farming friend, reckoning with a crop written off by Crop Insurance due to the devastation of grasshoppers, has approached Russell about baling his crop. The terms of that arrangement are again absolutely fair.

I don’t know alot about how God works, have trouble even beginning to understand most things, but one thing I have flirted with in a solid way, in my thoughts, as life has gone on, is that God is at work in the world and in my life through other humans. That is not cutting edge theology in the least, it would be pretty widely accepted among most followers of Jesus I think. It gets powerful though and maybe a bit heart stopping when you apply it to the particulars we are experiencing. Friendship will be a huge factor in determining just how whole we remain as we face down this drought. Conversations with friends, for advice, support and cameraderie have been our main strategy through all this. There have been important things to come from these talks. They amount to experiences of refuge and strength, and that is what Psalm 46:1-3,( the text Ruth quoted) promises.

That Scripture says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

That Scripture has me moving in two directions. On the one hand reckoning with my need for the assurance and comfort found in the first verse, my need for that is very real. On the other hand my fear about what is happening in the world around me is stoked by the last part, “though the earth give way”, it kind’ve feels thats the way things are going in the midst of drought, forest fire smoke, etc. etc. If Bob (my brother) had opened up this capsule and read this text I wonder what he would have thought, reading it from the point of view of being in for the fight of his life? I find the fact that it seems to affirm that trouble is a normal part of life to be a source of comfort all in itself. I think this text is affirming that trouble is not a sign of God’s absence, it is a sign of life, and God is ever present in the midst. (I maybe should write that on my forehead………I need to hear that over and over.)

There is so much that could be said. One thing is pretty certain to me though. I can’t expect people to read my mind. The needs we have are more likely seen and responded to when we find our way clear to speak of what is really going on. We live in a culture that encourages us, maybe even rewards us for looking put together, shiny, happy, even when we aren’t. But when the circumstances don’t allow that…. then what? Maybe it’s an act of faith to take the risk of letting ourselves be seen, by those who we feel are a good bet to receive kindly what we let be seen.

Sometimes life is alot. We are thankful for all the ways that God moves and touches our lives through friendship.

My Life

Tonight Russell and I went out on a date, as the rain made the hayfield too wet to work. Yes, rain, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be able to say that again. At different times as we rolled towards Alameda to meet friends for a double date the song “In My Life” was in my head, one line in particular, it goes like this, “though I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before, I know I’ll often stop and think about them, but in my life, I’ll love you more.” It was funny to arrive at the restaurant and find our friends there and seated at the next table was my singing partner Erin. It was Erin who introduced me to the song and we now sing it as part of our set list. Living in a small area really has its perks, its very fun to accidentally run into people who are important to you. We really enjoyed our meal and our visit, another episode of life feeling more normal again and getting strength from friends. As we pulled into the driveway when we got home, that same line was in my head again, I found myself analyzing what I was really singing and then turned to Russell as I was heading up the walk and said to him, “do you know what I’m singing?” “I am singing that as much as I am missing my Mom and Dad, and I am missing them both alot lately, as much as I love them and always will, I, (and at this point I hit him on the shoulder with the charging cord I was carrying), I love YOU more.” That realization hit me hard. Russell responded very quickly. He said, “well you should.” He followed that up by saying “you have committed your whole life to me, if you don’t love me more you should leave me and find something better.” It was not a confrontative moment at all, it was like a discovery moment, me discovering that as much as my missing is normal, I have something as full and nourishing right beside me, my choice and my life option. This was a reminder maybe, to live in the present. Thats it. Thats what happened.

A 30 second clip of the song in my head.
A picture of my parents I keep on my desk. Dad was 2 years past his dementia diagnosis at this time.
A Liz Griffin picture, Russ and I a year ago this week, when we renewed our vows.

Day 19 – Postcards from the Heart

October 16, 6:37am

Mom, when we went to Disney last year we went on a thrilling ride that had Russ feeling scared. There were characters on the 3D screen that were part of it, he kept saying one looked like me. In the midst of the ride I asked, “why do you say she looks like me?” (She was 8 feet tall, skinny, blue) He said, “because if I think its you I can be brave.” I was IMMENSELY touched by this comment. THAT is the person I want to be, someone who helps others be their best self. We bought these matching bracelets to remember that moment/insight. These corral pictures illustrate moments Russ has helped me be brave. Many times in this journey with your aging body you have had to be brave. Where did you find the bravery you needed? I think the confidence in me that you and Dad showed has helped me be brave. I just re-read your Psalm, v 3 says “though an army….my heart shall not fear, though war…..yet I will be confident”

Re: Psalm 27:3 -May that be so

This postcard series is based on a series of photographs taken by Liz Griffin as she documented our work on our ranch. I used them as postcards to send messages to my Mom as she travelled her final days of a journey with cancer.

Vasectomies and Vaccines

A friend of mine is struggling to make a decision with a pretty time sensitive matter relating to health. This has got me thinking about a story of my own that has similarities. My story involves Russell, so before I got writing this, (I was away for a few days in June when I started this) I sent him a text asking his permission to share the story. He answered with these words “I think if more people shared their stories and wisdom the world would be a better place. The story kinda makes me look like a bad husband but it is the truth. It is what it is. I know I’m not perfect and I don’t think I really would want to come across to any one as perfect. The best I have ever done is just try hard every day. So Definitely yes.”

This is not a dramatic story really, its mostly about how seven words affected my life in a very tangible way. The events began when I was creeping towards 40 years of age and living in the midst of a situation that could be described as a difficult treadmill or a place of abundant blessing and both would be true. I had a 5 year old, a three year old and a baby. My days were filled with the fun and the fervor of preschool life and my husband was not available much. The ranch work was unrelenting (if you are a reader from the city you might not realize that what I mean is there is no such thing as a weekend or a 5 o’clock bell, you work while the sun shines and often longer.) Russ was not in the position to call the shots and shape things in a way that allowed more family time. I was at my load max regarding family life. Thats the difficult treadmill part. At the same time I was living my dream. This is what I doodled about on my notes in Miss Rodgers grade 10 social studies class. I wanted to be a Mom, as Miss Rodgers did her best to get me into world history I remember doodling my future kids’ names, one of them would be Anna I hoped. Gina is not far off as names go. Not only did I have my kids, I had healthy kids and we were able to make it work for me to be mostly home with them. Not only did I have my kids but we got pregnant very easily and with the exception of one miscarriage (a traumatizing one I will admit), carrying them was easy and birth was straightforward (as straightforward as XL babies can allow!) We were abundantly blessed. Herein lay the problem though, it was easy for us to do this, but I knew, deep in my soul, that I needed to be done. There is alot of I and my in that last sentence. The miracle of creating life is pretty intoxicating and it is hard to say, “thats enough”, I think I needed to be done but Russ was not sure. However he respected where I was at and so the conversation began about how to prevent anymore babies. I wanted a solution that left no room for wondering and worrying, giving up sex was not an option, talk of a vasectomy was next. This is the part that makes Russell look bad. In a nutshell, (no joke intended, really, I just wrote that and then realized it was quite descriptive…….) So, in a nutshell, Russ talked it over with several people and tried to convince himself that he could do this, and he couldn’t. He just couldn’t find his way clear to take the steps to make it happen. Was I frustrated by this? Yes, but it is what it is. I made an appointment to talk to my doctor. I was embarrassed to bring up our predicament, I knew it made Russ look bad and made me look like a woman not standing up for herself. However, I am an intensely practical person and so I was prepared to have the procedure to end my fertility. I am also a feminist, in a soft, kind’ve meek version of that word, but I am. It seemed to me that my giving in and subjecting my body to another thing, when it should have been the man’s turn, was something my feminist peers would tell me was unfortunate and that I had let myself down by not fighting harder. Here is where Dr. Naidu did me a great favor. I told her what was going on. She looked at me and she said this, “you have to take care of yourself.” Seven words. They were seven words that accomplished a total reframing of the predicament. The frame I had constructed around this problem was “if I am the one to give in and go for the surgery I lose.” Her seven words reframed it in my mind like this, “your job is to make a decision that takes care of your future, your needs, your dreams, you are the boss of you, do what you need.” My life experiences up til that point meant I had zero concerns about having procedures done. It was an extremely easy decision for me to make when framed in the way that Dr. Naidu constructed. I had the procedure, all went well for me and the next chapter of our life opened up. Russell did not take my flexibility lightly, he was appreciative and showed it.

I believe this was taken at my 40th birthday party, not too long after all the deliberating had taken place.

Do the words “you have to take care of yourself” touch your story today? My friend is working on the question, “should I get the Covid vaccine?” I sense there are many, many variables that are swirling around as that decision gets tossed back and forth. One thing is for certain, the decision to get vaccinated is not a private issue like Russ and I were going through. People out and about ask if you have had it and pass a certain amount of judgment based on the answer they want to hear. In addition there is a need to provide proof in order to get on planes and cruises and cross borders. The decision has very public implications. The forces that push one way or the other are varied, can be intense and could be quite personal. It strikes me that Dr. Naidu’s words to me need to be applied to this situation so that something very important can be honored. That very important thing is, the human person making this decision. Putting aside all the push and pull, all the argument and counter-argument, all the shoulds, coulds and maybes, what are the dreams and hopes of the person? I see this as having some real parallels to my story above. Russell should have stepped up and got it done. I had spent 32 months of my life hosting our children within my womb, couldn’t he have just done the right thing? In a perfect world, yes. And in a perfect world no one should have to get an injection that they do not fully understand or trust. No-one has to get that vaccination but in order to live life as much as normal for the next while, you must have it. As likely as an unwanted pregnancy for us was, without precautions, it is pretty clear that Covid can move in and wreak havoc on individuals and health care systems, we have to find the most effective way to preserve our communal hopes and dreams for the long haul. So thinking about my friend, what I want to say first of all is, “thank you for listening to my story” and I also want to say what Dr. Naidu said to me, “you have to take care of yourself.” Only you know the subtleties of all that stirs within, only you and your doctor know best what your health dictates. If you trust your doctor listen to him/her and to your hopes and dreams. Put aside what all the competing voices are saying and do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

To those readers who are fully convinced that I should be urging my friend, pushing for vaccination, I have to say that I really believe in the power of listening. I would rather listen to hear what is going back and forth for my friend than be pushy about my perspective and silence the voice that is honestly struggling already. The listening process is well suited to helping people discern what is right for them.

To those readers who hang firmly to the information they have that makes this vaccine a very poor choice, not in the service of hopes and dreams but other darker things altogether I can’t get on board with that. But I will listen. I see the way that case rates are falling and the overwhelming majority of physicians and scientists who endorse it and I sit with that. If you can’t I think thats okay. As long as enough of us can find our way clear to be vaccinated, and I think we are, we can keep those case numbers falling and find our normal.

A few more pictures to illumine the story that has been told…….

With two kids my hands were full but it looks like I was loving it even if they weren’t at the time!
Russell has quite a tolerance for having his hands full.
Jill’s first day of kindergarten. Can you see why it was hard to quit? What a trio of spice and spark. I miss the days of sippy cups!
There is a lot of our kids’ personalities in this picture.

July 31 Update – The Broken Bread Bakery

It has been a full month pretty much since The Broken Bread Bakery came to life. It really occupied my thoughts alot in the first part of the month, lately we have been pretty extra stressed on the ranch and I have just slipped it in as I could. Still, it was a fantastic month. The summary stats for July are as follows…………..

Buns delivered = 23.5 dozen (282 buns)

Donations received for “The Healing Fund” = $645.00

Pounds of donated flour = 140!

I feel great about this and thankful for the support of many people.

A Summary: It has been an inspiring month. As I have baked alongside other people I have listened to stories and heard the resolutions that people are making to stop negative cycles and patterns, to learn more, to have courage, hoping for a better future together with Aboriginal Canadians. That is quite something. I have made new friends and enjoyed old ones.

Favorite quirky moment of the month: happened when I texted one of my oldest friends in the world, in the middle of a work day in Los Angeles and asked him, “hey, do you wanna bake buns this afternoon?” On the off chance he was free to chat I thought I could pop in my earbuds and work on buns while talking over things. It didn’t happen that day but it will yet. It was fun to send a goofy sounding text.

Bonus Developments: There have been moments of connecting as messages have been sent back and forth to arrange for deliveries. Many of those deliveries have meant some face to face contact, still a bit of a novelty after a year with Covid.

Unexpected spin-off activity: My sister is very moved by the thought and intention with this bakery project. She asked if I would mind if she started a branch in Saskatoon. I am happy about this. Margie’s specialty is cinnamon buns and her life puts her in contact with a variety of people who could use a bit of encouragement, nourishment and care. Her branch of the Broken Bread Bakery operates by gifting baking to people she is wanting to support versus fundraising. She created a beautiful tag which she attached to a gift of baking she brought here. It now hangs on our Christmas tree. (We keep ours up year-round.)

Extra Reward: the chance to share the art of baking buns with a few people that wanted to learn more. I also was taught how to make bannock in the midst of things. Sharing the traditions that shape us is no small thing, it felt like a true gift to be taught about and enjoy fresh bannock. ( One small note……Although my Grandma K was known for her buns I was never taught to make buns at home. What I know now is a result of practice and trial and error in recent years and a few crucial tips from our local bun master, Cathy Finkle.)

A Serious and Lingering Dilemma: I am having trouble putting my thoughts to this but just how exactly do I/we honor the children for whom these buns are baked in remembrance of? There is to be one bun for every child treated as forgettable. How does one begin to capture the utter sacredness and solemnity of this? There were remains found of 215 children at the site of the Kamloops School. This means that I have now baked and delivered a bun for each of those children at Kamloops, the first discovered site. I should create a prayer ritual. But, I am tired, lacking deep thoughts, worried about so much and right now, it just feels like doing my best means doing the baking with its details. This week I got thinking about that part in the Bible where it says that the spirit intercedes for us when our sighs are too deep for words. At this time I have to lean on that, trusting that the spirit is at work through the rising I have been part of, the sharing, the reflecting and the generosity poured out by many.

We have been so immersed in haying with multiple challenges that I have been out of touch with much of the news. I have heard a bit that there are more remains being found. This project, baking one bun for each child is clearly going to be long term. Moving on to month two.

Our Family Canada Day picture, edited to reflect the support of the family for this bakery.
(They see alot of buns head out the door.)

Day 18 – Postcards from the Heart

Its been hot in Saskatchewan for days and days uninterrupted. This made me think its a good time to get back to the postcard series, knowing the next image is a January one. This is a Liz Griffin Photography capture of a day when we were moving cows to standing corn and the air was crisp. Remember what that felt like? This was January 2020, before so many things changed. The image is quite striking when seen across a screen, in the format here the wide angle aspect of it makes it display small, so for the blog, in addition to the original I did some cropping to allow a better view of the people in the picture, to get a better sense of it.

If you are a new reader you might not know of this postcard series. Its a result of a photographer documenting our life for a year. I used some of her images to communicate some matters of the heart when my Mom was sick in the fall of 2020. This one is brief, its about being counted on.

Oct 15, 5:20am

Gina is really proud of this picture. It is cool. There she is at the head of the herd coming up the slope just west of our place. She is in dialogue with Jim Lee, a retired man who sold us haying equipment in recent years. Those are his grand-daughters to Gina’s left. Days like this one have been major confidence boosters for the kids. Gina had an expectation of herself, that her Dad could count on her. With cell phones they would confer, she provided leadership. She achieved her goal. She is missing the experience this year. Thank-you for ALWAYS being someone that I and my family could count on. We feel it deep. ❤ K

Hanging out with Boo-boo – 2021

Do you wanna hear just a little something random about life on the ranch? We are bottle feeding a calf again. In a way its no big deal, many calves all over this country get a bottle fed start. This calf is kind’ve special to me though. You see this calf was a twin, born last week to our cow named Sofi.

Sofi’s birth announcement. Russ knew that word about Sofi would be special to me.

Sofi didn’t embrace the challenge of raising two calves herself and left one for us to raise. This is quite common with calf twins. When we began to suspect this was the case Russ sent Morgan to saddle up and tour the pasture looking for the 2nd calf, who was not with Sofi. He found it, roped it, stood over it with his horse and called Jill to come pick it up. Jill and Morg loaded it into the jeep and Jill started home, enroute she noticed that the calf had super perky ears which meant that it had a Batman silhouette. Jill sent a message to the family chat, “I think we should call it Batman” and included a picture of those perky ears. I could see Jill’s point but I had already been considering a name and had a different idea.

When you spend regular time with a creature making sure they have a name is quite important. We talk to and about our bottle fed calves multiple times a day and we get alot of affection going for them so having a name for them just seems natural. On any given day in June you heard these words at our ranch “whose turn is it to feed Bob?” “how did Bob do with his bottle?” “man Bob is a bottle hog, he just guzzles it down”, “good morning Bob, how was your night” “do you like my singing Bob?” A name is essential and we like our calves names to reflect some part of their reality. Bob, our previous bottle fed calf got his name from a Canadian folk song. The song is about the experiences of Jesus’ unknown brother Bob. The cow who birthed Bob was named Mary, she had twins and took well to one and not the other. We figured Mary the cow would keep “Jesus” and the forgotten calf would therefore be Bob. Its a comical song by “The Arrogant Worms,” you can look it up on Youtube. Anyways, we take some care to find the right name for the calves we tend closely. So I answered Jill’s message to the family chat, “I see why, but I am wondering about Boo-boo.”

I got my way. The family actually all quite liked that name.

But why Boo-boo? Well, exactly 30 years ago this month I had this huge adventure with friends named Sofi and Andrew. We were assigned to go ahead of our Up With People cast, get on a plane in Toledo, transfer in Chicago, fly to Stockholm and then make our way to an island between Sweden and Finland called Aland. We would settle in there and do all the advance work for the arrival of the cast four weeks later. I had never left North America or been immersed in a language other than french. It was quite an amazing time where at the age of 23 I started to feel quite grown up. Our team worked hard and got the job done, but of course there was lots of learnings. One really important learning that I had came from working with Andrew.

Andrew hard at work.

He was a super energetic and charismatic person who didn’t do things the same way as I did. Is there a Canadian way of doing presentations and connecting with people? I am not sure. There was a Kathy way at the time. Andrew had a different way. I remember struggling with it, thinking it was not “correct”. The beauty of a four week term of close collaboration and teamwork with a clear end goal is that we got to see the outcomes of our varied efforts. Quite clearly I had been wrong. Over the weeks I watched Andrew weave his magic. I came away with a super important learning, that there are many different ways to be, that we are all gifted in ways that we must honor, that the world is better when we don’t all fit into a mold. That feels like common sense now, something we see on social media memes and nod in agreement with. I think the urgency of that is different though when something pretty big is at stake. For us in 1991 it was can we build a network here? Can we sell these tickets? Can we find homes for 110 cast members? Can we create a meaningful schedule for this cast visit? It was a challenge to let go and let be, to trust that our diverse ways would lead to greater success. They did.

Andrew, Sofi and I featured in a newspaper article about our work and the upcoming visit of Up With People.
Sofi, myself, our sponsors and Andrew after the casts final performance.

What I learned in such a vivid way was really important.

I got thinking about this learning in these last days. I have been hanging pretty close with Boo-boo the calf. It was my job to fight the good fight and get him adjusted to bottle feeding.

Here I was celebrating getting a full bottle in on our first episode of feeding together.

This time in Boo-boo’s presence has given me time to think about so many unfolding things. I found myself wondering if my days and weeks with Sofi and Andrew planted the seeds that allowed me to go on and committ my life to Russell. How is it that I found my way clear to marry someone who forges his own path, fits no molds and has gifts that I never thought I was looking for? I see a connection, not a direct line but a solid line between this vivid learning of 1991 and what I would say “I do” to in 2000. It makes me realize how fruitful it is to let ourselves get outside our comfort zone, be challenged and receive the blessings within those times. That makes me wonder about what kinds of seeds are being planted right now as we live in this terribly uncomfortable space of drought times. I believe that as hard as this is, somehow, working within us and alongside us God will wrestle good out of this, despite the barren looking ground there are seeds of good being planted.

Perhaps only one question remains for tonight. Why name the calf Boo-boo? Pretty simple really. Andrew had a commonly used nickname, it was Boo-boo. Almost exactly to the day, 30 years later, I had the chance to experience another story where the main characters were Sofi, Kathy and Boo-boo and I jumped on the chance. Our whole family is enjoying getting to know Boo-boo. I am not surprised. The original Sofi and Boo-boo did great things together too!

About Boo-boo’s future……our hope with bottle fed calves is to be able to adopt them onto Mama cows who have had a calf that dies. Russ is pretty successful with what he calls his adoptions. That is what happened with Bob. We fed him in the barn for a couple of months before Freckles had the troubles and lost her own calf. The development of affection between Bob and Freckles has been slow. Imagine birthing a 100 pound calf and a day later having a 150 pound calf ambitiously feeding from you. Freckles was not thrilled. At this point in our calving season, with only five cows left to calve it is not likely that we will need Boo-boo for an adoption. Anything is possible but hopefully things are smooth for the rest. In that case we have a really tender hearted and ambitious friend lined up to take Boo-boo home. She enjoys having bottle fed calves and has the heart to deal with whatever challenges a calf might bring with it. We on the other hand are stretched and stressed, especially this year. Boo-boo is going to have a better year hanging out with Jennifer.

And now for something fairly ridiculous. This shirt is one of the last souvenirs I bought during my year in UWP. It was never a fancy shirt but it was made of beautiful fabric that draped nicely and felt so soft and good. I have never seen another shirt like it. I have worn it with fancy scarves and jewellery and made very good use of it, but not anymore. Now, worn as it is, it sits in my closet waiting for just the right work day. My feeling is that these are the days for this shirt. The wacky sentimental and perhaps nonsensical part of me thinks that if I am striving to keep Boo-boo fed I best have my Up With People shirt on. So multiple times over the last week I have put it on for and taken it off after a feeding, saving it for the next time. It has made me happy.

And thats one of many things that went down on the Bar MW ranch this week, its probably the most lighthearted one. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Just What the “Doctor” Ordered

I am in possession of a prescription bottle that was filled and labeled in the summer of 1990. I am not sure if even one pill was used from it, that is until I opened it up last week. This medicine really took its power from the bottle itself and it served its purposes over the years.

The bottle was part of a gift that a friend of my brothers gave him. Bob was battling brain cancer and his friend gave him this bottle.

Ruth had rolled up pieces of paper with words on them and put them into clear capsules. This looks like it was painstaking work.

She filled the bottle with these capsules and made a label for the outside. She referred to herself as “Dr. Ruth”, and prescribed that Bob take one capsule daily or as needed. She called the capsules “uppers.”

Last fall when I was in Saskatoon with my Mom I found this jar of uppers in my Mom’s pill cupboard. She had kept it for 30 years, but like Bob had never ventured to unravel what was within. As I worked with Mom to get a system for her pills figured out I put the bottle of Ruth’s uppers into the collection of bottles we were working with daily. I put a label on top to distinguish it from everything else, it was cheesy of me, probably touched me more than anyone else but I labeled the top “UPPERS Bob’s Love.” Then after Mom’s passing when we were dealing with unused medicines I ended up taking that bottle of uppers home. Back at the ranch I tucked it into our medicine drawer. A couple weeks ago when the drawer was not closing properly I decided it was time for a good sort, to get rid of the outdated and unused things. The bottle of uppers was moved to my desk and I have looked at it with curiosity since. Last week I opened it up and unrolled the first “gift”, the first “upper”. It struck me. I taped it it to my desk and have looked at it and read it and thought about it quite alot since.

It reads, “AT THE BEGINNING OF A NEW DAY, LORD, I SIT IN A CHOICE SEAT. I WAIT EXPECTANTLY FOR THE CURTAIN TO GO UP AND FOR THE DRAMA TO BEGIN ROMANS 12:12”

Yesterday I opened another one, it touched me too. I wondered if this kind and creative effort that Ruth made 31 years ago might come into the light of day through the blog and be a blessing to me and others in this difficult season we are in. I hope to keep looking at these “uppers” one at a time over the next while and using them as a jumping off point to talk about life.

About this first unfolded capsule, I have several thoughts about it. Two things are top of my mind though. If I have a choice seat than that means that this is a very fortunate place to be. This bit of wisdom Ruth planted in that capsule is a reality check. The times are challenging, its still hot and it still has not rained, I just cancelled or had cancelled my third holiday in 12 months, but…………….in fact this is a choice seat. Yes it is. I can make a long list of blessings or ways that my life is easy. How challenging and important to hold the tension within this, on the one hand choice seat and blessings and at the same time and equally true, problems that make our hearts race, our brains scramble and our spirits weary. The other thing I like about this wisdom is that it normalizes drama. I don’t mean the stirred up kind of drama that people create for whatever reason they do…..maybe to feel more alive? I mean the kind of drama that is just part of being human and trying to make a living and a life amid the unknowns of our days. I don’t know why I need that to be normalized, maybe because it seems the ideal all around is to have life under control. But teenagers, weather, animals, health and other humans are not readily within my control, so things get dramatic, and its my job to be faithful in the midst of it all. I am not sure how this prayerful sentence Ruth tucked in that first capsule would have struck my brother, a man fighting for his life, it sure would have been interesting to have talked about this with him.

The Scripture reference that Ruth attached to this prayer sentence is Romans 12:12, that reads “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I am thankful that affliction is normalized in this verse, it is not a curse, it is life, and in the midst of it we are challenged to be patient. I wonder what Russ thinks about that. I am going to ask him when he gets in tonight. What I want to tell you about this verse from Romans 12 is that I couldn’t help myself and I went ahead and read the next one, verse 13, it is, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Tears came to my eyes when I read those verses. Could it be more clear what life is supposed to look like when we are following as we should? In these confusing times we live in I am very grateful for all sources of clarity that I find in life. These verses, part of a larger section in my Bible titled “Love in Action”, offer me clarity.

There was a more modern prescription that came into play today. Like the prescription of 1990 it was meant to boost morale and made to look very official. Russ phoned me this afternoon so… ….what …..demoralized …dejected …dissapointed ….I am not sure exactly, but big feelings that were hard. He had just finished baling 80 acres that was especially bad for yield. He had taken 1 hour 4 minutes to drive around and scoop up enough hay to make one bale. It was very hard on his morale, he was grumpy, it takes alot to make him grumpy. He asked, “do you think todays batch of iced coffee could include some tippy cow?” I agreed that it could, it should and it would. Tippy cow is a chocolate rum cream.

The bottle in our fridge was part of a gift basket from our veterinarians at Christmas. I believe it was Megan the vet tech who got really creative and put into words what the intent of this gift was, on a prescription label. It gave us smiles many times.

We are all frazzled, so it was that when I made that iced coffee I forgot to put the instant coffee in. I realized it in time, but there was no more space in the blender mug. I had to take a few healthy sips of the creamy cold tippy cow part of the beverage before the 3 tsp of instant coffee that Russell likes could be added. This was my good fortune, I highly recommend this combination! To wrap up this post, in a way that is a 180 degree shift from the start, here is the final “prescription” of the day:

Kathy’s Iced Coffee

In a blender mug combine:

1 cup milk

2 Tbsp. cream (optional)

3 tbsp. chocolate syrup

Instant coffee to your liking

2 ice cubes

2+ tbsp Tippy Cow (Optional)

Blend well until ice is all mulched. Store in freezer for 5-30 minutes

Race to the hayfield for delivery.

“B.A.I.T. Out!”

“BAIT Out!” Seth shouted from the car as it reached the end of the driveway, slowing to turn onto the main gravel road.  “Did he just shout ‘Peace Out’?” I asked Russ and the kids.  Russ said, “I think he said “BAIT Out.”  Yes, that is what he said and it was a perfect conclusion to the time we had spent together. 

It all started Tuesday night around 8pm when I was working in my kitchen.  Russ and Morgan were sitting at the dining room table with two guests.  I could hear some commotion at the garden doors off the dining room and looked up to see people at my door.   There was that split second where my brain was sorting out what I was seeing and what I was hearing, was I hearing my daughters at the door?  No.  That was???????……….seriously!!!??!!?? I shouted out loud enough for the girls in the basement to hear “is that my sister?”  They came racing up.  It was my sister.  What followed was alot of hugging, some tears and laughter. 

Earlier in the week I had sent a message to our family chat to say that the kids and I were not going to be able to make it to our regular family time at the Kyle Family Cottage.  With things being as hard as they are on the ranch I just cannot leave Russell with the work here and take his crew and be eight hours away and feel at peace.   My sister decided if she was going to see us she would need to claim the time this week.  She worried that I would fuss if I knew they were coming, hence, the surprise arrival.  She came laden with a care package so large that I am tempted to believe it was divine intervention that I was moved to clean my fridges the evening before.  That care package was the result of the baking, cooking and purchasing of all three of my sisters and my cousin.  They were sending love and comfort and some ready to go meals.  It was unbelievably exciting and overwhelming. 

I think this visit and the family care that was a part of it is a really good illustration of the concept my blog is centred on, the power of really being seen and really seeing one another, I see you, you see me.  I sent that message to the family chat and soon after heard back the concern for the ranch, for each of us, and the regret that we couldn’t be part of things this summer.   What I didn’t expect is that my message, perhaps alongside the info in recent blogs, would result in such concrete action.    Words go a long, long way in providing comfort, encouragement and understanding, but when the words are backed up by action there couldn’t be a more solid way of saying “I see you.”   Its a short trip from that clear message “I see you” to the lived feeling that we are loved.   It is unbelievable how valuable these messages of understanding and love are.  I asked Russ what is behind this for him, what makes being seen so significant.  He said, “because it tells me that we are not alone.”    That is major.  (We have good support here, we definitely know we are not alone, but I think there are times when you get so deep into the trenches that you start to forget.)

Margie and her kids Seth and Brodie arrived with great sensitivity about imposing on us (so they had a booking at the hotel), they were clear that they were here to help in whatever way they could.   I knew that what I longed for was both practical and emotional.   This team was well suited.   Margie is a great listener, funny, wise and MY SISTER.  Seth is both interested and capable with mechanical and construction stuff, Brodie has her own drone photography business.  We put them to work.  They helped us move some cows, Margie tackled a pile of dishes that had grown overnight it seemed, Seth fixed doorknobs and cupboard hinges, Brodie photographed our yard and hayfields, Seth mowed the lawn, Margie talked with me about losing our Mom and we all worked together on a couple of special meals.   All of this is where Seth’s proclamation at the end of the driveway comes into play.  On the way down from Saskatoon they had read my blog post highlighting my “bad ass” self.  They got joking that they were “B.A.I.T”  the bad ass intervention team.  Indeed they were and as Seth offered his parting words it seemed like a celebration of their “mission accomplished!”  Indeed it was.  We were seen and supported, we were enabled to carry on being our bad ass ranching selves for a little while longer. 

A few pictures…………

Brodie took this picture with her drone.  This is our house yard.  I can’t help but think that this perspective brings a whole new set of possibilities to the notion of “I see you.”    What I see here is Margie’s car in the driveway and people near it, very similiar to how it looked as she slipped into our driveway the evening before.
The excitement and the unpacking.  See that huge multi-pack of Cheezies (36 bags!)?  I took a package from them out to Russell in the field at lunch today, he said, “how did Janet know that Hawkins Cheezies are our love language?”   Janet knows.
Cheezies in their natural habitat. That is iced coffee on the dash, a summer time staple in the hayfield.
Brodie baked us a batch of her famous Chipit Squares.  Back when I started my bakery project Margie was very moved by the idea of creating a Saskatoon branch of “Broken Bread Bakery” and wondered if I would mind.  I didn’t.  Margie shares her homebaked goods with anyone who she senses needs a little extra something, care or strength, or appreciation.  She has created a beautiful tag here.
Margie is funny.  Thinking about the Super Pooper work that was part of my week she packed me the Lysol.  Kleenex for the stress tears.  Chewy candies are always a hit.  Given how the sh*t hits the fan around here many days, that toilet paper was a funny way of saying, “I see you.”  There were other nummy things on top and around these items.
Rhubarb Strawberry jam holds a really special place in our family story, because of my Mom. It was one of her specialties and part of her love language. Linda cooked up a batch and sent me four containers and many other things to make life easier and nummy.
Margie tackling those dishes while on the other side of the pass thru, Jill at her baking desk is making some of her Harry Potter sorting hat cookies. At this point I think I was just finishing up eating one of my cousin Jodi’s beyond delicious ginger cookies. On this morning I had two for breakfast and spread butter on them. Incredible. Jodi sent a pail of them, I am set for a long time!
Visiting time.
Another perspective on the ranch scene. 
Ron pulling the discbine which cuts the hay.

Jill was at the wheel of the tractor pulling the rake when this picture was taken.  I love the angle that Brodie’s drone captures.
A moment in the hayfield.  Alot of people on the ground in this moment.  I am not sure what was going on.  We have had alot of troubles this week, this could have been anything.
Visiting over a cup of coffee.  Kind’ve perfect.

Fake Teeth and Dirty Hands

On Sunday evening Russ and I headed to Carievale to pick up Jill from a friends’ place, enroute we dealt with a cow/calf issue at a pasture near there and dropped off a dozen buns for the Broken Bread Bakery. In preparation for the drop-off some texts went back and forth, in one of those I said, “Russ and I have been fixing rake teeth since 8am. I look terrible.” An hour later, standing in the doorway with buns in hand I was told that my message first read that we had been fixing fake teeth. For my bun customer this was quite confusing and required some thinking and then a re-read before getting this weird thing figured out. I enjoyed hearing this anecdote and the little part of me that needs comic relief enjoyed briefly letting my mind settle on what that would look like to be hovered over fake teeth all day with Russell, working on a fix, in the middle of haying season. Its absurd and it makes me smile.

The truth is it was a big day. The hydraulic problem we had with our rake earlier on the weekend resulted in a multitude of rake teeth getting broken due to incorrect pressures exerted on them. The normal process is that after Ron has cut the hay with the discbine and that hay is cured the kids pull this rake over the field and gather it into swaths that Russ then picks up with the baler.

Jill raking earlier last week.

On Sunday we replaced just under a hundred rake teeth, one by one, in painsticking picky work that requires two sets of hands. I believe the official tally, although Russ did not keep count on purpose, is that I had three small hissy fits and this included two episodes of being near tears. But….we survived. Once I got the hang of it I really didn’t mind it. The fact that it was not a dangerous job took a big amount of stress out of it. I got to be beside Russell all day and we easily could chit chat our way through the job (once the more hissy fit type moments had passed.)

My thumbs are still stiff from counter pressuring all these bolts as they were loosened and tightened.
Ever the faithful dog, loyal to Russell especially, Bingo hung near all day and got a really good nap in. Her relaxed and trusting position cracks us up.

Russ was able to park the rake mostly in the shade so we were quite well protected from the 34 degree heat. So that is how we passed our Sunday. Fixing fake teeth, er, I mean, rake teeth. Three things about this day……….all kind’ve random.

Gina left for work at the ice cream shop a bit early and then swung back into the yard shortly after. What was up? Well, Jean was home from holidays a little earlier than expected and Gina didn’t have to work. Jean didn’t want to call Gina too early, but what she didn’t know is that Gina is so affected by her mother always being on the verge of being late, that she is always extremely early. Anyways it was fantastic to have Gina back. She put lunch on the smoker and with Morgan tackled part one of the Carievale cow problem. Somehow in the back and forth of lunch prep Coffee dog got out and on the loose and she went for a swim in the dugout. Morgan and I nearly lost our minds. Coffee’s splint was soaked, she would need a repeat visit to the vet. Morgan loves that dog so much his reaction was worry about complications, I was upset about bugging the vets and the cost. I took her in yesterday (Monday) and they got her all dry and treated and resplinted with lots of kindness.

That splint is not bothering Coffee much. If she rested like this a little more I would feel better.

I don’t do alot of manual labor around here and I am never far from warm running water when I do. My day at the rake meant hours to accumulate dirt on my hands and I was a bit obsessed by the sight of it. It was mostly because I found it rather fascinating. My hands were the key tool I had in the job at hand, I was pushing, twisting, and wiggling alot. Russ and I coined a new phrase actually, “less thinking, more wiggling.” It worked in many cases, getting new teeth into tight spaces. Anyways, looking at my hands I marvelled that these are the same hands that have baptized alot of babies and presided over communion and formed alot of buns. How can one person swing from such “holiness” to such dirt and have it all be acceptable? My brain is a bit tired right now, I thought I was ready to probe that, but I am a bit muddled. I can’t help but think that it might make a good sermon though. What makes any of us ready to serve? Do the marks of our living make us better able to serve? Maybe thats enough for now.

Dirty hands at the rake teeth.

One last thing, in the afternoon Gina and Morgan went to Carievale to get that cow penned up, she had been found visiting the neighbors without her calf. (This is the cow Russ and I would pick up later and deliver back to its herd.) After a hot jog to chase it into the neighbors holding pen the kids stopped in Carnduff for snacks and they brought Russ and I each a cold drink. As they stood at the rake visiting with us while we took some sips, Morgan looked at me and he said, “Mom, you have such a diverse skill set, you are really bad-ass.” As a mother I should be outraged by his language but I was tickled pink by his comment. I think partly because it accomplished exactly what my blog web address reflects “I see you.” For me it feels so good to be seen. I also think his word choice represented some story balance for me. You see, I spent my whole childhood as a good kid, what we called in the 70s and 80s a “goody goody.” I didn’t date til I was 19 and I never had a drink until I was in university. I am kind’ve happy at the thought that maybe I am safely turning my middle years into some bad-ass days of living large and my boy sees me.

What bad-ass looks like in 2021.

Its Tuesday morning now and I am happy to report that yesterday I managed to get both my fridges cleaned. I open the doors and just look at how pretty they are. That friends is what you call middle aged, bad-ass living large!