That’s a Wrap – Day 1

As 2022 was winding down I found myself aware that despite the numerous things that were hard about the year that has passed, there were several things that got added into our year that were a bonus. I made a list and hope to do some writing over the next several days just to explore the good a little bit.

I have been aware of this “added bonus” reality for the last few years, at the end of recent years there has always been one or more things to say, “wow, I didn’t expect to have that or appreciate it like I do!”

One of my added bonus items for this year is vinegar.

Please hear me out.

In 2020 when I spent days living with my Mom I was exposed to how she would add a healthy splash of vinegar to her dishwasher just before she ran it. I have to admit that when I first witnessed this, and received her instruction that when I was running her dishwasher, I too should do the vinegar treatment, I wanted to roll my eyes. My Mom had things she was a bit fanatical about, like she recycled every imaginable thing she could, those in her circle had to figure out how to stay on board with her strategy. She regularly urged us to sleep better by blocking out blue light and she sat down and had a big talk with us some years ago about the challenge to control weight during menopause, a talk which I was quite offended by. I have no good reason to have been offended, but I was. Sometimes its hard to have your Mom acting like your Mom. Yet, I was blessed by her wisdom, over and over again throughout my whole life, and this vinegar trick is likely the last concrete tip she passed on to me.

The sentiment in this image is the first wisdom Mom passed on that involved vinegar. It was something she would say often enough.

When I returned home I started following her example, and it seemed that there was positive effect. My dishes did look a little better. However, I have never really been able to feel proud of the dishes I put on the table, a light film has always been present, more or less. As problems go, this is not a problem, but then again, it was bugging me.

About a month ago I got serious about the vinegar situation. I decided that I was leaving too much to chance and not getting the benefit of that vinegar. That generous splash that my Mom used was more like a half cup in our house and it still didn’t have the effect I wanted. I got tricky and I got strategic. I took the spray bottle I used for wetting down hair and I filled it with vinegar. Then I gave each glass a spritz or two on the inside as I put it in the dishwasher. (It has helped that my girls have both moved away in the last month and I am usually the only one loading the machine. This added step is one only I have to contend with.) Then I give several spritz over each level of the dishwasher, put in the soap and hit the start button.

My dishes have been verging on beautiful.

I am thrilled.

Who cares right? Its not life or death. But here is the thing………..

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself being a ranch wife. Housekeeping is an uphill climb. The dogs, the dirt, the grease, the grass, the melting snow, the mud, the calves in the house in spring, the dust generated by the gravel road nearby…..its a bit complex to keep this place looking even half decent. Having crappy looking dishes due to hard well water is a part of that scenario. But……something has been figured out to make it slightly better. I literally feel thrilled to pull the smooth, clear and shiny glasses from the dishwasher. When I pass them to my guys or to company, I feel a bit of quiet pride. I feel less sorry for myself.

Most of the time I don’t feel sorry for myself, I have a good life. A moment today…..Russ got my attention to stop and watch the dogs. Knightwing and Coffee were wrestling on the floor right in front of the kitchen sink. They were completely self absorbed, oblivious to the fact that they were in busy space not designated for dog action. It was a bit wild. I thought to myself, “this is not normal.” And I also loved it. It is quite intrigueing how they play together and fight and protect each other at the same time. Life is spicy.

And… is sharp, like the smell of vinegar hanging in the air as I get those glasses loaded.

I am thrilled that I figured this something out. That wisdom that Mom started in me got strategic and one of my life problems is figured out. I’ll count that as a win and count spritzed vinegar as one of the gifts of 2022.

Fire Follow-up

The support we received after our fire through the blog posting on facebook was really heartwarming. Tonight after supper Russell asked me to read to him all the comments. He found it all very encouraging, we both did. He is still talking about the phone calls and offers of help that were a big part of Sunday. Thank you for all this support.

I have a few tidbits that are leftovers and also follow-up to share.

We really really value humor in our house. It has helped us cope with alot and Sunday was no different. Morgan has made us laugh many times with his imitation of me waking him up on the morning of the fire. Here is the way it really went down…….I thought I should go outside to the fire and hang out with Russell, be available, be seen, I don’t know what my real goal was, but at one point I had every intention of going out. Morgan was still sleeping. It struck me that it could be quite upsetting to wake and find the house empty and the world in chaos so I figured I better wake him up and give him the lowdown before going out. So that is what I did. Here is how he tells it, picture this with him speaking in a sweet toned kind’ve hushed falsetto voice, “good morning honey, are you awake, yeah, well, I just wanted to let you know that we like, uh, don’t have any water in the house and, also, like, the whole farm is on fire and I am going to go outside and I think you might want to get up and I can’t find Dad or Ron.” That is how he tells and retells it. After the crisis had passed it was pretty powerful how funny his imitation was. He had exaggerated, as comics often do, I knew where Russ and Ron were and it was just the shop not the whole farm, but perhaps Morgan’s imitation illumines a bit about what my words meant to his ears.

The follow-up after the fire has gone better than I could have hoped. Our insurance people have been good to work with and kind. Close to home that has been the story too. Our friend Shawn at the lumber yard went in on Sunday afternoon and opened up the shop for us to get supplies we needed. Through consulting with him we got the ball rolling with finding a contractor to repair the hole and by Monday at lunch one of the reccomended people was on site to assess. He returned this morning, a day so cold the school buses were canceled, and he set to work to close in the shop. Dalton gave me permission to use this picture I took of him here in the blog. He was unbelievably positive and capably addressed the first phase of the repairs. This is a blessing that brings us closer to feeling and functioning normally. There is a long way to go yet. There are some complicated aspects of the repair ahead.

One of the tricky parts about experiencing things like this is the after effects. It feels like we have had many difficult things to contend with over the last few years, fire and injuries and intense weather, it definitely leaves me feeling like, excuse the expression, “shit happens.” I am not able to write too much more about it right now, but I am naming it. Many many people have lived it, they know of this. I do find myself wondering, “how do I manage this so that going into the future I don’t let fear have its way with me.” Right now I think Russ and I both feel it is better if we don’t ever leave the ranch again so that we can be here for whatever arises. That is silly. We have to live. We have to contend with our utter vulnerability at all times, we have so many things that could go wrong and mostly go very right. Perhaps the prayer that flows from this is, “God, give me the strength to handle things when they go wrong and keep me ever mindful of the multitude of things that go right, very right every day.”

Today, on the coldest day of the year so far, the power was on, the house was warm, the well worked perfectly, we had one sick calf that Russ spotted and was able to treat, one of my friends got fantastic news and passed it on to us right away, Dalton was here for repairs and so easy going amid the cold, the machinery worked well enough that we got our cows fed, I tested negative for Covid again, Russell’s worst symptoms of Covid are loosening and Jill and Gina both worked today with no troubles to report with health or vehicles. If any one of those things had been different it would have been hard, quite hard in some cases. So…………I need to remind myself of all this.

When I sat down to write I had four things on my mind, three have stayed with me, and that is probably enough.

Four days until Christmas eve……

A Big Day

It has been a weird, really weird set of days. The result of all that weirdness is that I have not been able to blog. Today was a bad day, it was also a good day and it has had the effect of getting me back to the blog, back to saying, “here is what its like to be me, ranching with my family.”

This morning our hired man Ron discovered a fire burning in the wall of our shop. That has completely shaped our experiences today. Can I share with you a bunch of captioned pictures? I think that will help to illustrate how it was a bad day but also a good day.

Russ got up before me this morning and was chatting loudly with the dogs when I rather growled from my pillow, “I was hoping to sleep in today.” That was about 6:30. Russ discovered we had no water supply to the house but found that the kettle was full. He brought me a coffee and started getting dressed to go suss out the water situation. I got my head on straight before our outside guard dog came in to tell me about her night and get some love. She was just so dear that I had to take her picture. This was at 6:59am. Within the minute we would get a phone call from Ron that the shop was on fire. We could see the shop easily from our bedroom window but did not see any evidence of fire. Ron was on his way to the wellhouse when he noticed the smell and then the fire as he passed by the shop. Russ called 911 but passed me the phone, he quickly finished getting dressed. Talking to 911 can be frustrating, you just want them to dispatch help but there are necessary questions to get answered. Its also a call you just never want to be making. My tracker watch tells me my stress shot up to 100 at that point.

This next picture is so random but at 7:17 Jill messaged the family chat wondering if someone could send her the recipe for biscuits. I was thinking, “not right now Jill, the farm is on fire.” But then thought again, I was up, I had nothing I could do, why not pull out my recipe file and get it to her. So I sent this at 7:19 and said nothing about what was going on. Its always tricky to know when and how to share hard news. I wanted a few facts before weighing down my far away girls.

At 7:23 the first fire truck pulled in. That is amazing. We are a 12 minute drive from the firestation in Carnduff. The volunteer firefighters woke up, got to the station, suited up and got to us 23 minutes after we dialled 911. It makes my stomach quiver as I write this. It just reminds me of how incredibly vulnerable we felt in those moments. Russ was out there thinking there is no way we can save the shop, we had acetylene, tractors and a skid steer all in the shop. We had our diesel and gas fuel tanks about 12 feet away from the fire, outside, and we had the heating fuel tank for the shop outside but right where the fire appeared to be. The worst case scenarios were running through Russell’s head. This was the picture I could grab from our front door. This picture was taken at 7:36am.

Russ grabbed this next picture from his perspective on the ground. I am not sure what time it was. The shop was absolutely smoke filled. The firefighters wore breathing tanks, when one got close to empty its alarm went off and the sound of that is something we have discussed a few times today. About these volunteers……Russ says, “when they come, they are your friends, neighbors and family, they come with so much love and respect for those they are helping.” They know their stuff and did amazing work, by 8am everything felt so much better.

Russ took this next picture of the firefighters assessing roof status, and the possibility of any fire remaining in the roof I believe.

I could not watch this action non-stop. Just too much. So I bumbled around the house, it had no power by that point, and put stuff away and kept myself busy. I prayed that the firefighters would have the wisdom, safety and strength that they needed. I kept checking back and at one point saw a truck whiz through the yard that looked just like Laurie’s truck. It was. He had heard from work that the fire department had requested water trucks and he came straight out. He is a person whose presence puts the rest of us at ease. I am sure that is why Russell grabbed this picture of him when everyone could breathe just a little easier.

When the fire department left this was the exterior damage. They were so careful to cause as little damage as they could while still rooting in to the fire itself. That huge smoky scene from the hour before looks unrelated to this patch of damage. There the heating fuel tank is, dangerously close. Russ had snuck in and turned the valve off on this tank before the fire department got there. He found it fairly warm.

A wee story: we had a guest in the house this morning. He had never visited our home before. As he rounded the corner from the hall into the kitchen he let out a small gasp, he admired the house. Russ walked him into the living room. With my back turned as I stood at a counter fussing over some coffee preparations I heard Russell say this, “my wife comes from Saskatoon, when she was a girl her family had a cottage where she spent her summers. Then she went and married a rancher. No time for lake holidays. So when we built this house we made her a room that feels like her cabin. And sometimes we have 30 cowboys home for supper, it all works out really good.” It is hard to describe how I felt as I heard those words of Russell’s. It was warm. It was soothing. It was a gift. What I heard in those sentences was the message, “I see her, I want her to feel good, I want to give her what I can.” I kept at my work, and fought back my tears. It was the best moment of my day.

The picture below is our cabin in the early 80s when it was being finished. It looks like we were having a reading party on the front lawn. The big deal about that space was what those big upper windows did for the space.

Back to 2022………the rest of this day has been spent taking care of business. I called in about insurance. I hate those kinds of jobs. Russ handled all he could relating to the fire and then turned to the reality that we had hungry animals to get fed. It was a huge stressor. A major piece in the day unfolding as well as possible is that our electrician re-arranged his life and was back and forth enabling us to keep going as much as possible by re-working electrical realities so that it was possible and safe to power our well house, fuel pumps and eventually light and some power to the shop. We could therefore keep our watering bowls going and our underground lines from freezing and get some heat in the shop. Major. It was -27 with the windchill today. At one point Russell phoned me and said, “when you see Morgan you gotta brag him up. He has done stellar today. He drove through a quarter section that had not been plowed, and didn’t get stuck, he backed into the chute for the first time in his life and didn’t get stuck there either, he got on his horse, went and found the cow and ran her into the corral and he loaded her into the trailer. Pretty good for a guy with a learners license. He was awesome. ” Later Russ called me and said, “I know its been a stressful day but you gotta go outside and see the sundog, its a double, its a little piece of beauty for us at the end of this hard day.” I was on my way out anyways so I went to the end of the lane to grab the picture. I didn’t catch the fullness of the sundog at all because I spotted Morgan backing into the corral to drop off the cow he had loaded at the calving pasture. Our poor cow Mary is having a tough time. She needs some TLC. Morgan handled getting her home. I was able to catch this picture of him in action with his trusty sidekick Coffee dog at his side.

The amazing sky with the lingering sundogs.

Once I got the sundog pic I went and called to Morgan, who had Mary unloaded in that short time, “Morgan, if I could make you any dessert you wanted tonight, what would it be?” There was a pause. From across the corral he called back, “rice krispie cake with brown sugar icing.” I headed straight in to do that. Earlier in the day I had been on the phone with Russell, I said to him, “I am thinking of making you butter tarts, would that suit you?” He said, “honestly, I don’t even care. I am so grouchy. I just wanna go to bed and I have 12 hours work left to do.” He wasn’t nasty, just honest. So Morgan got first choice on dessert action. He was pretty happy with the cake although this picture is not the best depiction of that.

By the time dessert rolled around Russ was pretty cheered up. Jeremy our electrician had worked his magic, Russ had some very supportive phone calls and our cows were fed. One of our friends had delivered hot pizza to us for supper. It was so delicious. The world felt okay. Russ was a little more interested in dessert. When he heard brown sugar icing was being prepped he suggested throwing some cookie dough slices in the oven (we bought a prepped box from Costco), he thought this was the perfect time to try a combo he had been thinking about….brown sugar icing on macadamia nut cookies, I believe he gives this Russ recipe a 9/10.

There were so many many emotions that were a part of our day. The one that breaks through and colors everything is gratitude. Is gratitude an emotion? Is it a perspetive or an action or is it all three? I am not sure. But this could have turned out so differently, we are reminded that every single day a very large volume of things goes right, today was not a day when every thing worked as it was designed to, something buggered up in our shop, but it happened at a time of day when we were pretty quickly able to notice and get help. We got help. So much help. So much help that came from caring hearts. No-one was hurt. We lost very little. We are so grateful.

Sorry this is so long. Just a bit more…..

Russ tested postive for Covid on Wedneday. I have remained negative despite our decision not to isolate from each other. He has been sick but has kept working almost as much as usual. Today he is five days past the start of symptoms so he can be out and about again. Kindv’e handy with 17 firefighters in our yard.

Jill (moved to Regina) and Gina (moved to Toronto) are both doing great and we are so happy, proud and relieved. However, having them both leave for such permanent destinations within 8 days of each other has been quite a bit harder on me than I thought it would be. I believe Russ has only cried once. Morgan is keeping his opinion about all this close to his chest.

Good night for December 18th, signing off from the Bar MW Ranch.

Its Frickin’ Cold Out

I just overheard a video being replayed that Russell made this morning. It was for our friends in Nova Scotia. Clear as a bell his morning weather report rang out in the house. His four words seemed like a good title for this blog, as good as any. It was frickin cold out today. We had a job to do and it could not be delayed. We all had to find our strength to confront that cold.

It was weaning day. Thats the point in the year when we separate the calves from their Mamas. We do that in preparation to send the steer calves to the Auction Mart. (The heifer calves go onto feed and stay with us for another six weeks or so before being sold). The sale of the steers creates one of the big paydays of our year. It has been an expensive year. We are thankful that payday is almost here. At the same time, as much as we look forward to the sale our anxiety level is high. Many things could go wrong in the varied steps leading up to it.

As I sit writing this now Russ and Morgan have gone to roping lessons, I am alone in our house, it is warm at my desk and we are feeling grateful for an excellent day, despite that frickin cold. I am actually really feeling short on words. That is not my usual. I think the pictures we were able to manage to grab will tell the tale better than I could.

A screen shot of the weather report we found once we got the courage to actually look at the scary facts.
The guys were out and saddled up by 7:30. Russ, Morgan and Laurie brought the cows in by moonlight.

What follows are a series of selfies I took.

Fearing a fight to keep my glasses from getting frosted over I dug up my contact lenses. I have not worn them in two years I think. This is a weird picture. I was posing for my sister.
With the beginning layers of clothing in place.
Suited up and heading out. 7 layers on top, 3 on the bottom.
In the corral, I don’t remember what prompted this weirdness.
The sky was gorgeous, a result of several things. Laurie in position at the heifers gate.
Russ and Morgan did the sorting work in the alley. Steers went in the pen I was at, heifers went in Laurie’s pen and Ron ran the cow pen gate. At this point I was intent on grabbing some pictures and here Morgan was trying to get me to realize I had let a steer walk past my gate.
I was distracted because I just wanted to capture a picture of those frosty eyelashes.
The semi pulled in on time, Morgan and Ron helped Harold load the first load. Russ, Laurie and I kept working with the herd.
We were blessed by a gloriously sunny day, the wind stayed low while we worked. That made the cold much much easier to bear.
We started sorting at 8am, by 12:30 we were done and in for lunch. I had a meal in crockpots before we started sorting. That hot food hit the spot.
Good to see this hardworking cousin and friend getting to relax.
The conditions were a little easier the day this picture was taken. The same work getting done but so genteel by comparison. This was 2019.

Birds in Flight

A little less than two months ago Jill came to the kitchen and with a bit of trepidation (it seemed to me) said, “Mom I want to move out.” I sensed she thought I would resist this, perhaps suggest it wasn’t the right thing to do. But how could I do that? To be honest, I was relieved. It meant positive things were percolating in Jill. For a long while Jill has been playing things safe. That is what she needed. It seems evident now that Jill needed some space. The demands of high school, the ranch, Covid nastiness, grief and being a teenager all piled up. Jill grabbed some time for herself and good stuff flowed from that time.

What followed from that kitchen conversation was action. There was a hunt for an apartment which had some dramatic parts to it. The hunt for a job. The need to assess what she needed and what she had and then packing. Finally this past week, on December 1st, she got moved into her own apartment in Regina.

It’s quiet around here.

10 days ago all three kids were here. We are down to Morgan. Gina is having a good start in Toronto, Jill seemed delighted after her first full day in Regina. I am appreciating the quiet sometimes. Mostly it all seems hard to believe.

Jill starts work on Monday, she has a week of training and soon will be a Barista on duty at the Starbucks in the Chapters bookstore. She is thrilled by this.

I am proud of these girls. Russell …. well if you know Russell you know….he is beside himself with pride and missing them. I said to Russ on the way home from Regina on Thursday, “Russ, Tanya said Gina is quiet, Jill’s interviewer encouraged her to loosen up and be less self conscious, but you know what’s cool, we both know what will flow once they do relax and open up, the people around them are in for a treat, it’s like they are unwrapping something precious.” Jill is so zesty and funny when she is ready. She is soooo caring. Gina is passionate and principled and loving. They are both brave and curious and capable. I know once they each take the awkward steps thru these beginning days they will be okay. I think I will be ok. I think Russ will be too. And Morgan, well, he is enjoying trying out being an only child, so far it suits him okay. I suspect though that we all have some bumpy days ahead.

Some favorite teachers and their families joined us for supper the night before Jill left.
It was a decent day to pack a car.
Grandma Shirley sent us off with some of her delicious cookies!
We dealt with a train derailment and some pretty heavy snow before getting to Regina. Safely arrived, here Jill waits to meet her landlady.
Meanwhile, Russ and Morgan left super early with the Expedition loaded. They took in Agribition and then met us at the apartment. If you read last week’s post about Morgan’s roping obsession you will understand this quote from Morg who sauntered in with his recent rope purchase in hand, “Well Jill, is it time to break in your new apartment?”
He made his loop.

Russ and I are super grateful. Kids that grow up in rural Canada often have to make big changes happen to get access to broader opportunities. Jill has decided the changes are worth it. She has flown our coop and seems to have landed well. I love her apartment. She has a cozy place in a great location. It has character, a mid-century modern vibe. Jill will be stretching her wings beyond her comfort zone, she is poised to discover much about herself and the world. This is life and it is so good. Our nest will always be here.

Hello Sunday

Its hard to know how to write about the day we have had. Two problems exist. I only have about 10 minutes to write and there is too much to put into words even if I had an hour.

Good weather this weekend meant a big change in plans for Russell. He says he woke up yesterday with a thought ringing through his mind…..”we need to Ivomec the bulls today.” We were able to access Ivomec at the last minute and the plan expanded, despite having a big party at our house tonight and hopes to get to Church, we put sixty cow calf pairs through the chute today as well as 60 bred heifers. We had the party, we didn’t get to church. The work with the cows went really really well. Russ wants to give credit to a welder who has helped us to adjust our working chute so that calves move through without turning around. This makes everything safer. Thanks Joe! I think Russ is really grateful that we were able to get the Ivomec applied and shots of Vitamin A&D in these groups while the weather was good. Meanwhile ….. with Morg and Jill at the chute with Russ I boogied to get final tidying done and meal prep underway. We were expecting 42 people for supper but some last minute changes meant we were about 33.

I spent alot of the day pondering what I might say during speech time. Thats a tradition we have. We always have a speech and grace before we eat. Its usually a time to say thanks and reflect on the day a bit. Tonight we got to say thanks and reflect on the whole season just a bit. As I pondered I became aware that the way things unfold around here has given Russ and I chances to explore and discover skills we hold. The fact that all these people come together has given us the chance to test and prove ourselves as crew boss and mealtime mastermind. It is cool to get to discover and then expands on things about yourself that you didn’t know were there.

It was a special night for us. It was great to be surrounded by alot of our awesome crew, some of our people couldn’t make it and we missed them. We had crew gifts to share and people seemed to like them. For me there was quite a powerful sense of being held up, I mean, being seen and being supported. One of our crew offered to come early to help. Her hands were busy, as were here daughters and then other friends that came along. I felt a little scatter brained, but I had my list and I had these helping hands and it all got done. Another friend had a speech too, and gifts for Russ and I. Several brought hostess gifts and food to contribute. My sister in law heard what we were up to and sent out a new specialty of hers, beatniks. They were delicious. I have to say, it feels sacred to be seen and then to be supported. I am really touched.

It was a big day. Here are a few pictures.

The herd being brought in late yesterday afternoon in preparation for this mornings work.
Our cow named Ambulance needed a new tag. Jill didn’t feel like fitting the word Ambulance on a tag, she got permission from Russ to do it a bit differently. The sound an ambulance makes….
Meal prep. These were essential helpers. I am not sure why the Ernie statue was still standing there despite the tidying done over the weekend. He is awaiting a trip to Toronto to join Gina once she is fully settled in.
I love the look on Liam’s face…..our youngest cowboy. Russ was helping him dish up.
In an effort to please everyone’s taste buds and have enough food for the number we were expecting I created a few main courses and the food line started on the inside of the peninsula and went all the way around. That was a first. This picture features our star truck driver Sharon and her son Michael.
Terrific cowboys.
The basement was put to good use.
Russ and I had a small tiff about creating an extra dining room in my office. He wanted to keep everyone together in the main room. I was certain a peaceful corner for visiting would be appreciated. I think I was right. Tonight we were able to include spouses of the crew and it was so nice to have them.

Hello Saturday

I have been dreaming today.

I drove to Sherwood, North Dakota this morning to pick up packages. I was thinking about things I have been studying and it led to this question, “if I could have a visit with Nanny right now, what would she say?” As I thought about her life as it connects with mine, I pondered the importance she placed on her two nights out every week. That is when she would practice with the Saskatoon Choral Society and the choir at Third Avenue United. She loved those times. I also thought about how much she loved knitting and needle point. Evidence of her handiwork was all over her house, her afghans are cherished by many of us to this day.

My sister Jan and my brother Bob with three of our cousins in Nanny’s house. Four of her framed needlepoint on the wall behind them.

I remember my Nanny as a content person, flexible, steady and creative.

This is my Nanny.

It came to me quicker than I could have imagined what she would say to me if she was sitting in the passenger seat of my vehicle, she would say, “you are so lucky to have so many ways to express your creativity.” That shifted my mindset. I was tired and feeling burdened by the work I needed to accomplish today. That musing, and I really could imagine her saying that, was a reminder that the time I live in means I have options. I get to write and publish as much as I wish to. I can even work on publishing a book. I have access to music options too. Almost any song I want to try singing is availabe on Youtube music as a karaoke track. It is definitely not as good as live music but for a woman in the boonies its a darn fine option.

Somehow all that opened doors for a bit more dreaming. Dreaming about singing more. How could I make that work? As a start I pulled out my phone and pulled up my favorite karaoke tracks and sang almost all the way back to Carnduff. It was good for me.

Things got pretty hardcore practical after that. Russ needed me to pick up supplies at the vet clinic, I had a lengthy grocery list to attend to, I got a call from Russell saying he was making lunch, that perked up my step and the day quickly unfolded. We are having our ranch volunteers for supper tomorrow night. Its a night to celebrate the work we have accomplished together over the year. We will need lots of space and so today held lots of tidying. Jill has been a huge help, we worked side by side and tried to imitate the routine of our cleaning lady (who is on maternity leave.) Cleaning is alot more fun and rewarding with a partner I have to say.

Its almost time to dream again, the pillow kind of dreams. I am working on some fun stuff and it is so nice to have dreams percolating in the day and night.

Hello Friday

There are a fraction of mothers in the world who can answer the question, “whats it like to be the mother of a cowboy?” I am one of those people.

I don’t know how I would fare as a mother of a rodeo cowboy, although I may become that at times in the future. I have often thought I could never be a mother in the stands at a rodeo watching my son ride bulls. I can’t watch strangers do that, let alone my son.

My life as the mother of a cowboy has details that many of you might guess. A porch where there is always a pair of cowboy boots lying about, chaps to find a spot for, and spurs, pairs of spurs seem to swim around our porch like goldfish at times. I do laundry that has rough looking stains due to bareback riding and I always have straw, hay, or manure in the clothes or in close proximity to our washing machine.

The thing I want to talk about though is how having a cowboy for a son is shaping the action in the house. Perhaps there are stages of that. When Morgan was a little boy he could adapt many different household items to make for himself a pretend horse. There was a lot of pretend play that happened that was fun to watch.

Lately the action has evolved. Morgan has been taking roping lessons and has had some serious roping work to do with the herd. He is motivated to get better and better. That means practice. Sometimes its outside with his roping dummy. Lately, often, like every night, it has meant he practices in the house. He has adopted a long piece of red parachute cord, created a special end on it (the technical word is Hondo) and with that he practices his roping skills as often as he can. Until yesterday there were four humans in the house besides himself, there are four dogs in the house at different times, we have all been the object of his roping passion. It seems Morgan is drawn to his rope like a magnet. Supper ends, he gets up like he is going to get ice cream, maybe he is, but he comes back with that rope. Practice begins. The dogs get the brunt of it and they are very patient. I get up to get something from the kitchen and I am roped, with about 90% accuracy. His work is actually impressive. But I am not always patient like the dogs. Mostly I am amused, because I never seem to see it coming.

I am out of time so this is it. This is what its like to be a mother of a cowboy, at least for me, right now. There is always something swirling in the air….. ropes, some exasperation, laughter and the odd swear thrown about when called for.

The day the Morgan Bayliss Roping Show found itself in Saskatoon.
Uncle Gary is a good sport.

Hello Thursday

We are in our Expedition enroute from Regina. We have been gifted with a beautiful sunset.

We left Gina at the Regina Airport at about 2:30, did some shopping and started home. It has been a beautiful winter day for us to travel.

I am thankful for that as the reality of saying goodbye to Gina has been painful. She is moving to Toronto, looking for opportunity for more training, for connections, and just the possibility to be in the right place at the right time.

Our hearts are kinda hurting. We got so used to having her around again, we had three months with her home. They were good days.

She is off again, with very little arranged. Her plane will land in 10 minutes. She will go to bed tonight in the home of people who house international students, they had space for Gina. My friend Tanya made this contact for Gina. Tanya’s house is across the street. She is one of the warmest people I know. With these details in place we feel good about this next stage for Gina. I have other friends and family in the area. As hard and scary as this day is, Gina will not be alone.

I often think about the saying “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” It is relationships that make me feel safe and whole, that is where I experience wealth. This exact hour, as my girl breathes in the night air in Toronto for the first time, but kind people wait to say hello, I feel rich. I feel tender. I feel thankful.

Our last supper. Gina won’t be home for Christmas.
Gina really shone as a crew member on the trail this fall.
Our last view of that hat for a while.

We JUST got a message on the family chat. Gina has landed. She saw the CN tower from the plane. My heart feels weird.🥴💗

Hello Wednesday

I am continuing on my weeklong writing experiment. The title of the blog has little to do with the contents, its just a way of organizing this week’s posts.

(An image from

I made a supper last night that turned out really well. Its best by request right now. We are preparing to have Gina leave for Toronto later this week and I am cooking up some of her favorites. At the end of the meal, out of the blue, Russell brought me a glass of red wine. I am not sure what to say to explain the timing of that delivery, not sure what was in his head, however I received it and thought, “hmmm, I guess this will be my dessert.” The thing is that I usually eat things I love in pairs. Toast and coffee. Cookies and coffee. Chips and beer or Cheezies and Bubly water. Wine…..what pairs with it for dessert? Cheese maybe, but there was a loaf of bread on the table and I decided to have a piece of buttered bread with my glass of wine.

After presiding at the sacrament of communion so many times in my life I was not able to experience this combo of bread and wine without doing exactly what the communion story invites us to do. When Jesus communed with his disciples with bread and wine in hand he told them that as often as they break bread and drink wine together they should remember him. With that in mind I posed a question at the table. “What do you remember about Jesus?” Russell was the first and only to answer because his answer took us in a new direction. He said, “I remember him in a nightclub.” This was such a meaningful answer. I had seen a post that my friend made earlier in the day, I had a heartfelt reaction to it, I immediately shared it with Jill. Gina saw the same poem shared elsewhere and put it in our family Whatsapp chat. It was a poem posted in response to the mass shooting in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs on the weekend. Russell was offering his experience of that poem as the answer to my question.

Here is the poem.

In the spring of ’21 Jill had something to share with us. It was that she is bisexual. She gave me permission to name that here. She also gave me permission to share a few pictures.

Jill created this cake for dessert that night in April of 21. We discovered the very inside was a bit hollowed out and was filled with home-made sprinkles and a note.
We were photographing this moment because something was up. Despite the colors in the cake I had no clue what was coming. In fact, this is a momentous time we captured.
This was the note, with a bi-sexual character from one of our favorite shows (Brooklyn ’99) as illustration.

I think these images illumine the incredible vulnerability of a person coming out. It helps to illumine why we value poems like the one shared here and in our family chat. That poem speaks of things I want my children to know. It creates an image I want my kids to have in their head. It’s an image I need to have in my head as I consider my child encountering a world where she will at times be rejected and at times risk violence against herself just for being who she is.

“Remember me” he said at the table. I will, with gratitude. It turns out that a glass of red wine was a fine dessert and it was good for my heart.