Sunday Morning Cinnamon

Hospitality is a super important part of our life.  Sometimes I think I am a fraud as a ranch wife, I couldn’t saddle a horse if my life depended on it, like I can’t quite get my head around all those straps and bits that are part of the bridle and bit part.  To be fair, I haven’t actually tried to get my head around, but I watch from a distance and don’t know what I am seeing.  The fact that I have no sense of urgency to learn this is definitely a part of the feeling I have that I am an imposter.   But there is more to the story, of course, I mean we have been married for almost 22 years so clearly I am a ranch wife.  I guess Russ and I have our own recipe for a ranch marriage, a big part of that is hospitality.  With Russell’s big and warm personality he attracts people who want to experience ranching.  When all is said and done, we gather at our table.  That’s where I fit in.  I serve up food and drink and hopefully an atmosphere of welcome.   I get to utilize all the tricks and traditions that my Mom and my mother in law imparted to me, I work alongside my kids and with the willing hands of friends many days we pull off some minor miracles.   At some point I slide into my spot at the table and soak up the reality of all the different people gathered with us.  I don’t know if I am just in a good mood or what, but today, after the morning we had, I do feel like one of the luckier women in the world. 

This morning the alarm went off at 4:50am.  We needed to be out of bed so that Russ could get going and get to the barn before Laurie got there.  That is Russell’s personal challenge to himself.  I was getting up extra early so that I could tidy.  Our house was showing some neglect.  We had a new friend joining us and for some dumb reason, at the age of 54, I am still trying so hard to make good impressions.   The cowboy crew was heading down to our river pasture to move a herd of cows from one pasture to another.  Last year when we did this work we had Liz Griffin on hand and she grabbed these beautiful pictures.

We had a great crew this morning, everything went smoothly, we are always grateful for that. Here is a video Russ took of the crew getting the herd from one pasture into the gate at the next.

Patrick in red in the foreground, both of his sons tucked into the back of the picture.
Beautiful morning sun. We got the job done before it got too hot.

The team was back for breakfast right when Russell hoped they would be, about 9:40am.   That is when I got to meet the newest rider at the Bar MW Ranch.  Our new local doctor Mehdi Shadmani connected with Russell recently and this led to Russ knowing that we needed to invite Mehdi out to ride with us.    I have never hosted one of our local doctors before!  Mehdi did great in the saddle and Russ said he made a fine cowboy. He was gracious about giving me permission to post about his visit on the blog.

Medhi in front, Morgan, David and Laurie behind.

 At breakfast having a new guy there gave us a chance to tell and to hear some of the good ol stories that always make us laugh, with David at the table the ice cream tattoo and the cinnamon bun story both got told.  We never tire of them. 

David on the trail this morning.

There are two things I personally want to highlight after the morning. 

I was gifted this morning.  David’s wife Linda joined us, she had already had breakfast but shared a coffee and the conversation.  She arrived before the cowboys which gave her a chance to offer a gift to me.  It was one of those, “I saw this and it made me think of you” gifts. 

If you read a recent blog of mine about Ava’s gift, you will know I love these kinds of gifts.  Linda said she was in our local thrift shop and found this dove stained glass.  She said that one of her worries was that I had been the one that donated it to the thrift shop.  I wasn’t!  Maybe the person who did is reading this.  Anyways, she showed it to David and said, “who do you think I bought this for?”  He said, “Kathy.”  I love being known.  Linda and I found an initial spot for it and got it hung up.  Then I got back to cutting up fruit.  Thank you Linda!

Sometimes I stand in awe about the fact that so much has changed in my life.  One of my truths as a young woman was that I was surrounded by women.  I was blessed by grandmas, aunts, sisters and of course my Mom, who frequently sat at our table.  My Dad and my brother were the only men for the longest time.   Cancer and dementia took them from us early.   Linda’s husband Stu joined us, but for so very long the women greatly outnumbered the men. 

Thats me in the suspenders, the picture includes my Nanny, my great Gram, my great Aunt Doris and my sisters Janet and Margie.

My life has changed.  This morning found me surrounded by kind men and greatly outnumbered. I have noted this exact thing several times over the years on facebook, but it seems I am just not done.  Jill, Linda and I were a minority.  I found this to be an impacting part of my morning.

I do a lot of thinking about what makes life good.  For me time at the table is a huge part of the recipe.  There we experience good flavors, like cinnamon.  We experience stories, they make us feel alive and connected.  We are invited to know worlds beyond our own.  Hopefully, safe space is created to simply be human.  It has been a while since I had to extend our table out to its maximum length, today we did, it was a good morning!

How About Something Nice

Back in April when we were in the final days of our epic power outage, on the day that a calf caked in mud was brought to me when I had zero gas in my inner tank, my sister in law offered to provide us with a hot meal.  It was delicious and so incredibly appreciated.  We had spent days being occupied by tasks that spread us thin and kept us from a lot of contact with each other.  Tammy’s gift of a meal allowed us what other gift meals we had previously been given also allowed, precious moments when we came together and inhaled hot nourishment, feeling like veterans of a war with a special camaraderie. 

Last month Tammy offered us another meal, this time it was ribs and it was quite amazing.

This past week Tammy called to line up another day when she could feed us.   We got it arranged for this past Saturday which was handy as I conducted a wedding that afternoon while Russell attended our aunts funeral.  I then whipped back to Carnduff to attend the reception after the funeral.  It was another day when we really appreciated being fed.  Tammy provides very generously and puts a lot of thought into making it all work. 

I am making a blog post about this because I feel like this is another example of what my blog title is all about.  I see you, you see me……Tammy’s efforts for us tell me that she sees two different things.  She sees that we are hustling and mostly doing our best to make life work, to keep the ranch that was once her home going strong.  She also sees that we are sharing with her what we can, our time, to support her in getting to city visits for appointments.  Her actions speak loudly of her appreciation, it seems we see each others areas of need.

This last gift of a meal had an added heartwarming piece to it. Russ and I went to town to pick up the meal. Morgan stayed back, Jill was with her friends. When we returned with the meal Morgan had without being asked set the table. He had lit a candle. He hit the play button just as we entered the house so we arrived to Billy Joel singing “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, and he stood table side ready to receive us with a cloth draped over his arm. It delighted me to no end. What was he telling me? Perhaps that he is not too old to play pretend and its fun. Perhaps that he sees Russ and I doing our best most days. Perhaps he is noticing that we are a bit tired. What do I see when I look at him? I see the playful spirit that gripped him as a kid translated into his almost adult self, he still loves to play. Perhaps this is one of the ways we stay well, to let ourselves keep playing, there are so many ways it happens. In Morgan’s case I remember a day when he and his friend were 5 or 6 and every other sentence started with “how about”, followed by some plan to make some kind of pretend world come to life. I think about that often. How about…….

On the weekend it was like Tammy said to herself, “how about I make that recipe they like so much, and give Kathy a break.”

Morgan said to himself, “how about I transform this dining room into an Italian restaurant?”

It left me saying, “how about I write a post about nice things that happen when we really see each other.”

On the Banks of Fun Creek – Labels

Some time ago I bought a labeler on a routine run through Walmart.   I have an ever present desire to be more organized.  Sometimes I make progress with this and I have noticed that having labels for certain things helps.  However, like many things I buy to get more organized nothing happened with my new labeller for the longest time.  It sat in a drawer in my desk, perhaps I was a bit overwhelmed by learning something new.  That tells you about my mindset.  One day this summer Jill was in my office and I pulled it out and said, “Jill, remember this?”  Where I feared to tread Jill had no hesitation.  She immediately opened the package and got it set up.  What followed has been a bit nutty, the use of that labeler did not go at all as I expected.  There has been no improvement in organization as a result of that thing coming out of its package, however, there has been more fun happening this side of the creek.

One of my first memories of the labeler in action happened the morning we had a sewer problem which saw a mini flood happen in our basement.  As we got that situation fixed up Morgan came to me and said, “Mom, did you see the alligator?”  I thought he was making some reference to animals that creep out of sewers or something like that, I honestly hardly processed what he was saying, I was a bit dismissive.   But then, I caught a good look at our dog Maddie.  She had been labelled to honor the day, “ALLIGATOR”……I laughed.

The next memorable moment happened when Jill made a label for Russ, she placed it on his forehead, where, he says, because he tries to be a good Dad, he indulged her and left it on.   It stayed on all night and he was quite aware of it.  He left for work in the morning with it on and his hat placed  over it.  It had survived a trip through the shower.  When I picked him up in the field to go to Church he wasn’t thinking about it.  As we came in he removed his hat, now well accustomed to the label he wasn’t feeling it.  But the usher was observant.  “Whats on your forehead Russell?”  He said, “Oh! Jill put a label on my head.”  “What does it say?”  “It says, ‘16 head’”  Laughter followed.  With Russell’s hair challenge Jill figured Russell had way more than a fore head, his forehead was multiples of fore/four.  She decided on 16.  We have no picture of that label.

There were various miscellaneous ways that the labeller got used for no reason in particular.

Russell reports that multiple people asked him, did he know he had a label on his sunglasses.

Then last week I was away in Saskatoon when we had some visitors in the house.   One of our visitors, by the name of Dawson, might have been inspired by the ridiculous labels he saw, he added to them and when I got home there were some things to discover. 

Regarding this sugar, some may find this label offensive, it was placed when our friend Jen was in the kitchen, she is part Dene and part Cree and didn’t take offense.  She is my thermometer on things like this.

When I came home from Saskatoon I brought the fam a new kettle.  It had three significant perks, its lit on/off switch, its red color and the price, only $14.88.   Russ was inspired.  While I slept in the next day he got busy with the labeller.  I had to spot three different labels to catch the joke.  Here are the labels.  Will you get the joke?

Yeah, the good ol saying, “that’s the pot calling the kettle black.”

While I was in Saskatoon Morgan joined our public pasture manager to work cows for several days.  He took one of Russell’s water bottles, previously labelled.  

The pasture manager spotted the label on Morgan’s bottle and Morgan tells us he was quite eager to clarify, was that the 2nd favorite water bottle or is Morgan the 2nd favorite kid?  That brought some laughs.  The bottle label fared pretty well after several days of hard core work in the sun, in and out of saddle bags, roping bulls, cows and calves.

Labels are a dicey subject in society.  They can pigeon hole people and limit options.  But they also can help us make order out of chaos.  Perhaps there is another purpose, Russ figures in our case it was that the labels helped members of our circle showcase their sense of humor.    The humor helps us navigate the stress of life and haying.  Don’t be surprised if you see us around town and glimpse a little white rectangle on us, or at the post office picking up a refill of label tape in the mail.  This doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, that first roll of tape has really lasted. 

Show & Tell – Ava’s Gift

This week I had an appointment in Regina, that got me half way to Saskatoon, my hometown. I decided that since I was already half way there it was the perfect time to abandon the ranch for a few days and plant myself amongst my people in Saskatoon. It was a very good few days.

One of the visits I had was with my oldest friend in the world, Deb, my pal since we were nine. We went out to eat but when I arrived at her place to pick her up I was told I needed to come in, Ava had something for me. Ava is Deb’s 17 year old daughter. So I sat on Deb’s couch and was handed a small white paper bag. I was told a story. I was thrilled with the story and with the gift.

The gift is a rosary

The story is that Ava took part in a school trip to Italy and Rome at Easter time. There were many amazing sights to see and things to do, including time at Vatican city. This is the home of the pope. Ava told me that when she found herself in the gift shop she told herself or maybe it was her friend, I can’t quite remember exactly, “Heh! My Auntie Kathy is very religious, maybe she would like these things, I want to get her something!” She selected this beautiful blue toned rosary. When she went to pay for it the cashier told her that if she left it with them they would present it to the pope to receive a blessing, it would be returned to her tour group the next day. Ava did that. When she told someone in her group about the gift she had purchased they led her to think she had made a poor choice. Ava was given the message that since I am a woman and a minister I could not be Catholic and that I therefore would not appreciate a gift like this. With that message ringing in her ears she did not know how it was all going to unfold and I got the sense it took a bit of encouragement from Deb for Ava to present me with the gift she had purchased.

I absolutely love this gift. So I asked Ava to pose with it.

I don’t love this gift because I have been wanting a rosary for a long time. I never ever considered owning one, because it isn’t part of my tradition, but this one seems so meaningful. I have to admit that I am super thrilled with the thought that this rosary has been in the presence of the pope. The first chance I got after Ava gave me the rosary I went online and researched how the pope was to bless them. I couldn’t find anything definite. In my mind, ideally, it was that he held it in his hands. Realistically he likely offered a prayer and sweeping hand motions over a pile of little white bags, or maybe they were simply in the cathedral while he offered mass and were part of a general blessing of items. Who really knows. But none of that seems as important to me as a more pressing and personal reality. Ava thought of me. On the other side of the world, in the midst of her busy and awe inspiring days, Ava thought of me. It seems to me that she was living out the title of my blog….I see you, you see me. I am immensely touched by this gift for its clear message that I am seen. Since I got home I have not removed this white bag from my purse, until now, to take some pictures. I have found it comforting to have it with me. Ava is a young woman with a huge heart and much passion for the world. I have known her since before she was born, I baptized her, I love her. She thinks of me. It all is just really touching to me.

There are so many sub-stories and questions to this story.

-It is wild that I might incorporate a rosary into my faith life. I don’t know if or how that might happen at this point. The fact that I am even open to it marks a huge transition in how the world works. I have an aunt that wanted to marry a Catholic man in her youth, her mother outlawed that possibility, because he was Catholic. Do the walls that divide start to crumble eventually? What would my grandmother say if she could read this post?

-When with great excitement I told Russell the story of the rosary he said to me, “Kathy, he’s just a man.” (Referring to the pope part of it). I know that. I often actually think of the fact that the celebrities we would be thrilled to have contact with are simply men and women like you and I. The people we do live among and have contact with can be just as fabulous as these celebrities, just not famous. It is possible that Russell has character and skill that make him a mashup of Jimmy Stewart and Kevin Costner and I get to live with him! Anyways…..its easy to get swept into the cult of celebrity worship and I am on the verge by being so scintillated by the thought that my rosary has been in the presence of the pope. (On that note, have you heard the story about Gina singing with Carol Burnett?….Epic moments).

-Most of my life the popes have just been in the background of my awareness and receiving a gift like this, blessed by him, would not touch me like this one has. The thing is that this pope is different. I was away and had access to cable tv when the events unfolded that proclaimed him pope. I was sitting in front of the TV in my suite, with my bible open, doing some daily reading. For a while I always noted the date I read something and whatever came to mind as I read, or in some cases what was major in the world that I was bringing to the text. So in my Bible, on March 13, 2013 I recorded the announcement.

Cardinal Bergoglio who chose the name Pope Francis was known as a humble person with a deep concern for the poor. The name he would take put him in line with Frances of Assisi who penned the phrase “make me an instrument of your peace.”  It would become the foundation of the hymn I love to sing, “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.”   I loved what I had the chance to learn about the character of this man who became pope. 

-Also……..I had a seriously meaningful experience when I was a student minister in a long term care home. In a time of crisis a Roman Catholic person needed last rites and there was no priest available to come.  There was however an elderly nun who resided in the home. She became aware of the situation and worked side by side with me to offer prayer over this dying man.  The thing is that she was challenged by dementia.  It took her several tries to find her way through the entire hail Mary prayer but when at last she did the entire thing, she was proud of herself.  I felt that the pure love and devotion coming from our efforts must have been similar to last rites.  I was wrong.  The patient lived another day and a priest came and offered the official last rites. What that patient received from the nun and I was whole hearted devotion and I swear it meant something.  I will never forget what the combination of love, devotion, ritual and rosary stirred in the air that night.  Some people talked about it for days after.  (Several were privy to the moments as the patient was in the hallway, no rooms were available, a nursing strike was on and hospital patients had been shuffled into long term care homes, it was an unusual time.)

I don’t know how this gift will fit into my life but I know that it fits into my life.  It might be a reminder that walls that divide can be broken down, it might be a reminder of Ava’s affection and her ability to see me, it might serve as a mandate from Pope Francis to do my best to see and to serve those who suffer, it might remind me what the Nun taught me, that we don’t have to be perfect, we simply need to do our best and offer what we have with love.

Thank you Ava.

On the Banks of Fun Creek

When I was a kid I fell in love with the books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My favorite was “On the Banks of Plum Creek”, that title came to mind just now when starting this blog, because we had a fun time on the bank of the creek by our house. That fun was documented by Liz Griffin as she photographed Jillian and the rest of our family for Jill’s grad photo session.

I think the hi jinx on set that resulted in photos that are different and fun largely arise from the fact that Morgan had Covid. His symptoms were few and his energy good enough that we were able to carry on with the photo shoot. We had to, really, because Gina was home for a short time and Liz couldn’t reschedule within that time. We couldn’t afford to be nonchalant about the sickness though because there was alot coming up, including a big audition for Gina and Jill’s grad ceremony within days. We got into a creative, outside the box mindset and it translated into moments that Liz not only indulged but I would say encouraged.

I am sharing the pictures here for the main reason that “fun” is an angle on life that I am drawn to and I sense others enjoy the chance to smile or giggle too. When the picture gallery was delivered to us I was teary about some pictures, with many of these ones I could only laugh.

Social distanced family pictures with an outlaw getting arrested flavor to them.
I believe Liz said, “how about some sass?”
What it looks like at the Bayliss house when Mom is mad.
Jill’s face!
The one normal family picture, achieved by Morgan holding his breath.
Another take on socially distanced family photography.
We were invited to ham things up, to process the question, “where is Morgan?” His stance would suggest he was replying, “I’m right here, its not that hard.”
This would not be funny if any of our children had ever been lost but as a dramatic exercise it was fun to be goofy about this. Morgan is looking to the sky, perhaps it was a “God help them!” moment.
Morgan has given up, but Gina reveals that our investment in her education was not wasted.
Having given up we pose and Morgan begins to photobomb.
Our clan has had to become adept at teamwork. Jill’s friend Rayna was a part of our photo shoot. She was ready to be the one that upped the fun factor a bit and helped us put our teamwork in action.
The most risky Covid moments of the photoshoot. I love the contrast between our serious effort to pose and what the boys were stirring up in the background.
There is that big generous smile of Morgan’s revealed for all to see. Perhaps this shot could be called, “the singers and the cowboys.”
Russ grabbed pictures of Liz and Jill on Liz’s camera. This candid moment is another angle on the fun.

The truth is that Liz is a really flexible person to work with and she is dedicated to her craft. The fun is possible because of these things, and so are the awesome images she gets. In this picture which I took on my phone Liz took the angle necessary to get the shot she envisioned. From this low spot she created the photo below.
I could see us developing this one for a wall canvas.

We had some fun on the banks of fun creek on June 23rd. Thanks for the fun Liz! Fun is a funny word isn’t it? Especially when you use fun 7 times in 41 words, it starts to sound, well…..funny!

Sunday morning Coffee

Good morning,

Come on in and have a seat, its been a whirlwind around here so if we sit at the table I will have to shake the crumbs off the tablecloth and if we sit at the counter there will be some clearing to be done before I can relax. But come on in. There is lots to tell you, but before I start, how are you?

Exciting news around here is that we got wifi hooked up this week. The Bayliss ranch is on the information superhighway at long last and it feels good. Russell loves not waiting for facebook comments to load, I love youtube videos loading with out lagging, I think the kids are enjoying some streaming shows. The best though………the day it was installed Gina phoned from Montreal. She was checking in and as has happened so much lately, our cell phone signal faltered and the inevitable started, “Mom, I didn’t catch that…..Mom, I can’t hear you…..Mom?” Then we clued in, we have wifi we could have a Messenger Video call!!!! It worked, we chatted while seeing each other’s faces and expressions, I worked in the kitchen the whole time, Gina got a glimpse of home and then Russ came in and he finished the call. It made me miss her more to see her face but at the same time, the seamless call was so very enjoyable and heartwarming. Thanks to all the facebook comments on my post a couple weeks ago that led to us learning that DMS would be able to serve us.

I had a really interesting week but it was hard too. I got to be a minister again, the dates and events kind’ve piled up on each other and it meant I was in get ready and then lead mode many times. It was practically a bit frazzling and emotionally there was a drain too, as always there were rewards.

I was asked to conduct the wedding of my singing partner’s sister which happened last Saturday. It occurred on the side of a lake in Manitoba and required special permission and arrangements with church and government in Manitoba. I am only licensed to preside in Saskatchewan. Official processes like that make me nervous, but you take the steps and do it. Now that its over its easy to discern some beautiful gifts of the whole experience. The church people in Manitoba were super easy to work with and did the hard stuff with government, the local church at Killarney was kind. That went smooth as silk, no need to be nervous. Working with the bride and groom was a total treat. There was so little anxiety about details it meant we were focused on the heart of the matter. As an added bonus Caley was one of those people with an over the top sense of humor and I basked in her presence, she brings out the goof in me. Humor like hers is a serious gift to experience. Russ and I were enfolded in the family there like we were their own. For a variety of reasons we have not had time with our families lately. It felt wonderful to be so welcomed, but more than that, to be enfolded. You don’t expect that when you say yes to doing a wedding. The way Bill and Caley had everything set up I didn’t just conduct a wedding but Russ and I had a summer experience. We slept in an air bnb beside the lake, we danced under the night sky, we went on a boat ride and enjoyed an amazing meal. Our hay situation was delayed due to a breakdown so the 24 hours that Russ stole away didn’t even cause any guilt. It was a lovely break.

By the time I got home I had 24 hours to prepare a funeral for a beautiful 101 year old woman. That created focus and pressure of course, but it was a heartwarming experience too. The highlight of that, besides dwelling with such a rich story as 101 years of love and kindness, was the teamwork. I love teamwork but I am terrible at initiating it. The accompanist, funeral director and UCW crew and I have alot of history. The work had a definite feel of “we like each other and together we got this.”

I had a couple of days off before the next funeral. Our minister was on her summer holiday and I had agreed to fill in for these. That one felt scary at times during the preparation. That funeral had been scheduled for a while and the planning meeting was 8 days before the service. With so much happening inbetween the vividness of what I had learned at the meeting was not top of mind like it usually is, so I procrastinated and felt dull. At times like that I can only find the courage I need through prayer. I feel that my prayers were answered, when I woke up on Thursday morning I had a sermon theme present itself and I had time to write it up. The woman we remembered on Thursday had a remarkable life. Her courage was crucial to her success. I had this phrase come to me in preparation, “its like she knew that what she had within her was greater than the challenge that was before her.” The sermon probed what was in her. It ended up being one of those sermons that I need for myself and I have found myself thinking back to the points within it for my own benefit.

The experience of being in front of others was not over. Russ and I joined Erin’s family for a second weekend in a row when Erin, Russ and I ventured to Kenton, Manitoba yesterday to sing at Erin’s cousin’s wedding. I should clarify, Erin and I sang, Russ shared his muscles and himself. Erin has an impressive amount of sound gear that Russell really hefted for us, Erin and I are both dealing with lifting limits. It has not been a good week for getting hay cut so it was another day when Russ was free to roam without guilt.

Its always fun to sing, Erin and I have a good harmony thing, but added to that was the goodness of being welcomed by strangers and getting to meet kind and interesting people and seeing Erin’s family again so soon. We discovered something at the wedding. There was the most amazing display of donuts, under a caption “Holy Matrimony”….it took me a while to get the connection between the sign and the donuts. The wedded couple apparently love donuts and puns. Well. People. The donuts were to die for and were made in Souris, Manitoba. Russell and I are considering a roadtrip there today just to buy some. Wait, Russ is in the hayfield again now and its Sunday, but seriously, I have never in my life eaten an apple fritter like I was gifted with last night. Just this week I learned that a friend from my Up With People cast has lived in Brandon for years and I didn’t know it. Now I find out about these donuts in Souris. I will be in Brandon, via Souris, before long, count on it!

Well, my goodness, this is long enough it seems. However, a quick check in about the ranch. Its a pretty darn good summer here so far. The only serious stress we have been reckoning with is equipment breakdown. That is hard for a variety of reasons. We are pleased with our yield, and more than that feel grateful beyond measure for the rebound we are seeing from last year. Jill and I have been making some miles as we have each driven to Redvers and Oxbow for parts several times this week. Jill has also been in charge of tending to a wound on a horse, a daily flushing treatment is her job, as well as checking the last of the calving cows, we have just one left, when William calves we are done! Morgan is not getting much of a break, he is hard at it raking hay and training horses. He is doing well. Gina is part way through her intermediate level certification in stage combat in Montreal. She is doing well.

One of the parts trips I made this week I asked Grandma Shirley if she wanted to hop in. Off to Redvers we went and got a visit in and a look at the crops. It was fun. Grandma Shirley is incredibly special to me, I was therefore excited to see her making her way to the funeral on Monday. I parked, hopped out and hurried to catch up with her. I was so moved by the sight of her being her that I grabbed this picture. I showed it to her a few days later and just called her to ask her permission to use it here. I don’t think she really gets the idea of a blog but did agree to me sharing it. The picture is a good conclusion to the blog and its threads of upholding older women, celebrating life and love and being embraced by family, even when they aren’t your own. Grandma Shirley adopted us and we her and we are thankful.

I Have Not Been Blogging…

It is fascinating to me how the inner landscape of a persons life can shift. In my case that means I have gone from being a person excited to write or blog about daily life to being someone who feels really private. I can’t quite explain it. It has been about a month or more since I got much published about ranching or our days just being us. I have felt busy and focused elsewhere, that is part of the equation, but I have also been resistant to sitting and writing.

I am doing a lot of wrestling and maybe thats why I can’t put a foot forward into the public forum.

Wrestling. A few areas of my life have called me to wrestle. As a blogger I am wrestling with a notion that to write about what we do as ranchers gives some feeling that we are unique or special when in fact we are doing what many we know do, and having experiences very similar to many others. What I have begun to come to peace with is that in fact and of course we are not much different from the others in this fraternity of ranchers we dwell among, but I like to write and I can get some stuff across. The writing I can do is something that I bring to the mix, others have other gifts that I don’t have, so maybe its okay to express myself and put a foot forward into the public forum with the thoughts and stories that are ours. I have received many messages of encouragement among these lines and that has helped me know its good that I write even if I struggle with feeling weird about it sometimes. Several years ago when I was rather deep into Facebook my Mom would express a bit of chagrin at how much I shared, she herself had a much more private approach to life, she simply couldn’t understand what motivated me. I find it interesting to have spent much of the last month feeling so similiar to what she expressed for herself. The reality of feeling private really did have the effect of bringing the blog to a halt because I don’t really have much material other than what arises from being human and being ranchers in this time.

I am glad to share that the last month has been very good for me. I have been enjoying summer. Unlike many places in the world we have had pretty normal summer weather, unlike many other places on the prairie we have had the right amount of rain. After last summer where tears fell readily in the face of devastating conditions, we breathe deeply at the sight of the bales in our fields. We have had mostly cool nights. I planted some flowers this year and they are currently blooming abundantly and are so pretty. The schedule has been different. We got a little down time before haying started. All this has conspired to have me feeling happier than I have in many summers. I usually struggle in July and August. All of the good stuff could change in an instant, I know that, from experience, but for today I am living in the moment and expressing a deep well of gratitude for the multitude of blessings that I know to be my truth.

Over the last couple of weeks I have taken pictures and been photographed in ways that I found thought provoking. This morning an older picture came to my attention creating this set.

A couple Sundays ago I picked up Russ from the field, he had taken an early shift raking hay, without changing his clothes we headed into church. His hands were clean-ish. I was moved by the sight of these work mans hands ready to worship so I pulled out my camera. I am deeply moved by the wisdom in our church that we are welcomed just as we are.
Later that same day Russ called me needing help with some adjustments to the hitch on his baling tractor and a side door on his baler. I have to admit that I am intrigued with just how many things my hands are capable of and the fact that they can get so dirty.
Yesterday Russ asked me to come out because he needed my long lean fingers. He had been adjusting a hydraulic hose and getting it reconnected meant working in a really tight space. It was not easy getting everything lined up but with some persistence I got the hose end threaded onto the bolt. The hydraulic oil on my hands attracted every piece of dust and grass I came near.
This morning we were showing friends pictures of our Newfoundland trip and this picture came up. I love how the Atlantic Ocean is peeking through between the fence slabs under my arm. I love the contrast of our clean and well dressed hands in contrast to the previous picture.

I have always been fascinated by hands, by all they do in a day, the ways they can become intensely dirty, very soiled by life’s yuck, and then be renewed and ready for the next thing. I have sometimes wondered if I should write a speech about this, title it something like, “Don’t be Afraid to Get Dirty.” My hands have tackled some serious yuck and they have also been to the absolute opposite extreme. The hands pictured here are the same ones that have baptized babies, broken sacred communion bread and rubbed lotion into the skin of my elders. Sometimes I wonder how this vast difference can be my truth. It makes me think of a song we sing that starts with the words, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Its probably true that we should worry less about the dirt under our own and others fingernails, and offer those song lyrics as a prayer alot more. After I hit the publish button I am going to go put a load of laundry in. The last big job of the day for these hands of mine. My head and my heart need to ponder a little more what it means to have a clean heart. That is a speech I am nowhere ready to write tonight but I suspect it has to do with love. Sweet dreams.

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.”