Rare Opportunity

I wrote this first part of this blog almost six days ago, on Tuesday morning.

I am wading through my first morning home after many days away, reckoning with how weird I feel, both physically and emotionally.  Last Wednesday I drove the 550km that took me to Saskatoon where I got welcomed by my sister Linda and her husband Stu and we hunkered in for some days.  Linda has a gift for hospitality and I was treated like a queen. My sister Jan flew in from Vancouver and stayed with my sister Margie and her family.  Together the four of us, with help from my cousin Jodi tackled boxes and boxes of my Mom’s photo albums and some boxes of miscellaneous photos.    I feel like what we did in wading through a lifetime of memories in their fullness is pretty rare, not something people get to do more than once in their lifetime if at all.  From this rare point of view I want to report back on some of it.

The two things that I can’t stop thinking about are humor and love.   Humor because it bubbled up often and allowed us to be real about what we were dealing with and yet not wallow in self pity or sadness.  That meant for example that when Ella Fitzgerald came up on the playlist crooning about heaven, Janet, in split second creative humor, neatly revised the lyrics to address our situation.   It meant my tears about reviewing pictures of our last happy party when my Dad was still a little bit well turned to laughter, as Linda looked over my shoulder and said, “and we weren’t even that happy.”   It was true, dementia was taking its toll on all of us.  There was something about the vantage point we had, more than 20 years later, that had us all laughing at her comment and pretty hard.   We reviewed albums and albums from the 1980s which made it so inevitable that one of us would say something about hair, it was Margie, who with her very deep and sincere faith intact said “Why did no-one tell me that my hair was so god-awful?”  It all just struck us so funny.   Most of the things we laughed at are not typical knee-slappers, they might not strike you as funny, but it’s the mystery of humor, how it illumines our lives and helps us cope.

I got that far with writing then stopped. Now I am back at it, Sunday night. I have just spent much of the last hour looking at some of the pictures gleaned from our work bee. A word about process seems appropriate here. We set up in Linda’s living room, it was an invasion of sorts. Four big tables set up, the dining room table turned into a laptop and scanner station, for four days Linda’s space was pretty much turned upside down. Margie, Linda and I peeled pictures out of albums and sorted the content of the boxes, Janet received our sorted piles and using a high speed scanner we had purchased she did the painstaking work of scanning and catalogueing these pictures. Thru the wonders of modern tech we now all have access to all the pictures we handled. Can you even guess the number that Jan scanned? It was 6,700 on the nose (thats a prairie expression which means “exactly.”) Our discard pile was almost as big as our keep pile, so we looked at alot of pictures over the days.

Sitting here tonight I wonder about what makes humor possible. Definitely our stage in our healing work was part of what made us light hearted enough to laugh more than we cried. Perhaps it was the way that we had to keep a loose grip on reality because it was always changing. One minute being drawn back to 1981 and then 1939 and then 2002, all found in a combined box of pictures. Do you have one or some of these? I didn’t know my Mom had so many. I saw pictures I never saw before. Reality is a little more loose under those conditions and that loose-ness maybe encouraged humor. Maybe too it was about something kind’ve major. A kind’ve major truth, a truth that bubbled to the surface for me as we were preparing to start and discussing process. There was some anxiety rising to the surface…..what if we mishandle this and lose out on something special? We agreed we would look through the discard piles before they were garbaged in order to assure each other that we had all we wanted. It hit me then, this kind’ve major truth, I said, “girls, we have survived being orphans for a whole year now, we have lived without these photos and without our Mom and Dad for a whole year and we made it. What this represents now is the icing on the cake. We know we can make it, so everything here is bonus.” Its true. With that as our underlying truth it seemed like it was easy to live with a sense of gratitude for every one of the thousand moments our hearts smiled to see a familiar face, place, and item. With those smiles on our hearts the humor was more able to flow. In the end we never reassessed our throw aways we just let them all go.

I mentioned at the start that love and humor were on my mind. Perhaps the biggest reason that humor could flow is that each of us came to our time knowing we were loved and we are loved. Our parents loved us well, that is our most profound blessing in life. We all have taken into our hearts the faith our parents started in us, that tells us that we are beloved children of God. We all have established our own families, we have spouses, children and pets that welcome us home. That is major.

I have a few pictures to share with you. I am not going to make them orderly or chronological. It will give you a glimpse of how our minds were spinning thru these days together.

This is my Grandma Kyle. Since I wanted to write about humor I looked for pictures reflecting joy or laughter. This one was a real find. (My brother Bob in the background.)
Here is Gina and I in the summer of 2002
I saw this picture before it was scanned and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I looked for it in the files and was glad to find it. Jan catalogued well. That is Kathy Kyle feeling safe and loved in her Dad’s lap.
This is captioned on the back as the first hour my twin sisters were home from the hospital. I turned two the next day. Look where I got to sit. On Mom’s lap. She always got it, what people needed to feel seen.
I have seen this picture many times over the years but not with a growing teen boy in my house before. Tonight I looked at it and said, holy smokes, my son looks like my brother. I had never seen it before. Bob is 23 in this picture, a university graduate.
You probably will not understand the significance of this picture unless you read a previous facebook or blog post, not sure which but here is “Gina in Buster’s highchair.”
Linda at her work station.
Me working on my piles. They started to feel overwhelming after a while.
I have a picture of my Dad holding me on this day but had never seen this one before. My Grandpa Tubb was a photographer, he came over to take pictures of me the day I came home from the hospital. There were several beauties that were taken this day. It would be his last official shoot.
Great hospitality was extended to us working women by my brother in law Stuart. We really appreciated it.
Jan was what I would call “courageous”. The mental power she used to accomplish her task might have finished me off. She said she had it good because she only processed the keeper pictures. I’m not convinced. It looked hard to me.
Margie at her work station, evidence of her mischievous and playful self is in this picture. She left some lingering humor for Linda to find after we all left.

November 20 2021 Ranch News

We are celebrating with Russell today.  He had a big job on his hands and its done.  In July we contracted with a farm family in the Alameda area.  They had a winter crop that was very compromised by last winters unusual conditions, crop insurance was writing it off, would we like to come bale it?  The answer was yes.  The offer was an answer to prayer.  I don’t like bossing God around with my prayers but I do think I am invited to be deeply real with God about what I want and need.  So I had been praying like this, “God, I want to feed and water these cows.”  The feed part of it, thanks to two grain farm families and drought relief support from the provincial government has been addressed for now.  The water part…..well it remains to be seen how that will all pan out.   We move forward.  Anyways…………today Russell hauled the last of the bales home.  We baled 687 bales in early August and they sat until three weeks ago when Russ began bringing them home.   Under normal road conditions it was about a 50 minute trip to get to the field.  He could bring home 18 at a time.  Needless to say he has spent a lot of time on the road!  I have made a few of those trips with him, to keep him company and have some pal time.  Today Jill and I both went, we stopped for brunch in Oxbow, had a coffee with Foster, paid him for the bales and then went and loaded the last load.  Jill then drove the tractor home and I took the victorious last run with Russ.

Russ driving the last load of bales home.
Jill hopping out of the tractor after arriving home, greeted by our pup “Coffee.”

There are a few threads of this story that could be teased out a little bit.  How do you bring home 18 bales at one time when each bale weighs about 1245lbs?  With a flat deck trailer.  We have always had one of these however ours only held 12 bales.  After we made the bale deal with the Warriners Russell did serious pondering about the logistics of getting these bales home.  We began to talk about a bigger flat deck.  A friend of ours scouted out a used one in Estevan, it would be $8000 to bring home.   Jill and I had to be in the city so we got designated as the shoppers for this trailer.  I have to tell you, this ticked me off.  We were so devastated by the drought conditions, we didn’t know how we were going to manage everything, we didn’t yet have word of the support from the government and I was being asked to get used to the idea of spending another 8000 bucks for the privilege of continuing to ranch.  It was with some relief that I had a good look at the trailer and decided it was too rusty for my liking. 

Jill grabbed this picture of me doing that shopping back in the summer.

Whew, 8000 bucks saved, except, we still had that hay to get home.    I am an intensely practical person.  As much as having to shell out more dollars was disturbing me it was also disturbing me to think about the time and gas wasted making one third more trips over that 60 km span.  So…….I percolated as I sometimes do.  Russ gently needled me to do some shopping online.  Before I knew it I was making phone calls and learning the specs of flat deck trailers.   Here is where the sadness of my year of being an orphan gets transformed a tiny bit (I know orphan talk is dramatic and truly inaccurate, but I am giving myself permission to be this way.)  Being an orphan sucks, but my Mom’s estate was dispersed and I had some money to work with.  My Mom loved Russell and found her way clear to celebrate and support the work that we do.   My Mom was also a very practical person.   I came to terms with the possibility that it would make my Mom happy to be able to step in and do something so concrete to lower our stress and increase our efficiency.    So, Mom provided us with a 34 foot flat deck trailer.  In a million years I can’t imagine that she would have predicted part of her legacy on this earth would be a flat deck trailer, but there it is.   So that’s one part of the living through a drought story. 

Home with our new trailer and I got a free hat out of the deal. Russ says these hats and bonus things we get with big purchases are some of the most expensive clothing we have.

I am thinking about another dimension to this.   To give credit where it is due.  I feel like we have a good news story to tell.   That crop we baled was one that when assessed by Crop Insurance was considered borderline. It could have been written off but it was also just about good enough to be considered worth harvesting.  However, the adjuster was encouraged to make his decision about the crop through the lens of this drought and the ranchers in need.  Given that direction from his boss the adjuster wrote it off and gave Foster the go ahead to find a rancher who needed it and then sell it. Receiving the phone call where the offer was made was a game changer. The shift in morale was unmistakable and Russ is not ashamed that he needed to wipe away tears more than once. The hard thing is that all this crop we bought to bale, from two different families, is extra cost. More expense than we already have, and we already have enough. It was therefore rather stunning to learn that all cattle farmers would be given a per cow benefit through government crop insurance to help them make it through the year. One hundred dollars per cow doesn’t sound like much but it does add up and paid a part of our extra feed bill this year. All of this reminds me of my blog name, about being seen. Maybe I am too easily soothed but it means alot to me that our role feeding the world, the vulnerability we face and the sustainability we hope to secure are all things that seem to be seen and honored. I am feeling really thankful for this. So is Russ. Its another thing that brings tears.

So that was today on the ranch. A huge job checked off the to do list, a big bill paid, good coffee and wow Foster makes amazing biscuits.

Inside the Head – Nov 19/21

Thursday afternoon, once we were home from selling our steers and Russ had his outside chores done we found ourselves settling into a couple of very comfy chairs in our living room. We each had a mug of tea and a blanket. It was about 4pm. There were a couple things going on. Most immediately, Russ was fighting cold symptoms and was feeling chilled. He wanted this warm up time and invited me to join him. Also we are beginning our transition into winter schedules. This means more down time to catch our breath and do stuff that isn’t urgent. We are both so ready for this. It was interesting for me to note that I was fighting a little fight, or maybe doing a little dance, with the reality of guilt. It was four pm and most of my friends were still at work. But not me. My hubby and I were having precious moments to be still and cozy and to breathe a bit deeper. Its kind’ve weird to catch oneself waging this war with guilt. Where does it come from? Was it justified at all? Did I need to feel guilty? No I don’t think so. So why did I? The answer to that requires some reflection and maybe it is a bit too personal for the blog. But here is where my thinking went next, almost in an effort to defend myself I think, “this is our trade off for the long work days that are part of our summer.” I was referring to the weeks where there are no weekends (all of them), the times when you open facebook to see that it appears that everyone else is having a ball and you are staring at your ringing phone willing it not to be a problem that needs your action or sympathy. The evenings that never seem to end as the haying machines run til the grass gets tough, and I find myself cooking the last meal of the day closer to midnight than the supper hour. As I write this a lot of feeling goes with it, a sense of just how unpredictable and trying a ranching summer is and what a feeling of victory goes with just getting through it. If I am to report back to you who live beyond the ranching community, relaying what it is to be a rancher, what it is to be a ranchers wife, than part of that is to say that we have some different seasons around here. While the darkness and the cold of winter is hard, hard on our animals and hard to work in, when the darkness falls the days work is usuallly mostly done. Meals happen at good times, the light over top of the dining room table sheds a cozy glow against the darkness, time is available for a little bit of our hobbies, maybe a movie together. Its nice. Its really really nice. Its pretty easy. And for some dumb reason, when things are easy, I feel a little bit guilty.

I sense that I am not the only one.

Isn’t it weird to talk about things being so easy that guilt should arise? Life is not easy for anyone right now. Perhaps the feeling of guilt is a flag of sorts, alerting me to the things that feel really good amid the trials of these days. Maybe, just maybe, Russ and I should, with a deep sense of gratitude, bundle up in blankets, with mugs of tea, every day, knowing this is the good stuff, the stuff that translates to ease for our weary bodies and minds.

Thats what lives in the head of this ranch wife this week.

As I wondered if there was a picture to post these summer pictures came to mind. They give a glimpse of the machinery and people power Russ is managing and remind me of the weather worries and pressure we felt to make the feed that will keep our bovine girls going all winter.

A birds eye view of the rake and baler at work in the field. A photo captured by my niece Brodie Sollid, she has an aerial photography business.
Russ on the job running the baling tractor. He broke his own personal record this summer when he baled for 31 hours straight. The weather conditions were right and he was motivated. Part of this summer’s stress was needing to purchase a tractor when one of our trusty good ol ones cratered on us. This used John Deere was a blessing when it came across our path. (Liz Griffin Photograpny)
Taking care. (Liz Griffin Photography)
I wonder what we were discussing. (Liz Griffin Photography)
We are going to get through this together. (Liz Griffin Photography)
Liz Griffin has the ability to make a difficult reality look kind of poetic.

Stormy Ranching

It was a big day at our ranch today, not as big as yesterday though.  Our annual crop of steers was auctioned off at Chopper K this morning.   This is a couple weeks early but we understand the market is looking risky by December so we dove in and got it done.  That meant we had to get all our cows home late Tuesday, then yesterday we brought them into the corral. 

Russell, Morgan and his friend bringing up the rear and heading straight into the wind on Tuesday’s after school ride.
The mane and tail whip in the wind like a flag while Russ perseveres, they were almost home and done at this point.
Laurie’s cheeks are red for a reason.

Wednesday morning, after getting started in the dark to bring the herd from all over the home half we separated the Moms from the babies and also separated the steers from the heifers.   

Cousin Dawson at his gate, a new group had been pushed up into the sorting area by Morgan and Laurie.

The steers got on a truck right away and headed to the Auction Mart.  They sold well today, not as high as previous years, but we were relieved that the market had not tanked given how stormy the whole world feels right now.  

The work Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning was certainly made harder by the extreme wind that had all of Saskatchewan in its grip.   Where we are located our snowfall was almost non-existent compared to a few hours away from here.  That likely is what made it possible to even be out working as the wind gusts approached 100km/hr at times.  There was something that made this work easier though too. We have these amazing family members and a brave friend who came when asked, got on their horse and got those cows where we needed them to be. That anyone would voluntarily endure that wind is almost beyond my ability to comprehend. We are blessed by these relationships. Wednesday morning as we sorted the herd I had a really active job and actually worked up enough sweat that I shed a layer by mid morning, Morgan on the other hand, on horse back the entire morning, looks to have windburn on an eye lid, his contact lenses don’t offer the same protection as his old spectacles did. 

Three layers on my legs, two pairs of socks, and six layers on top….I sweat a bit as I trotted up and down the alley pushing the calves to their gates.
As the boss of the steer gate Jill did more standing around than me as she stayed ready to open her gate and let her fellas in. It seemed smart to transplant my extra warm stuff onto her. Here she is tucked into the pole shed getting wind relief.

We went to the auction mart this morning and watched the calves sell. 

Some of our calves going through the ring.

Its so weird to have something so consequential unfolding before one’s eyes.  Just how will things balance out?   The moment by moment bidding is determining that and most of the time its hard to understand what the auctioneer is even saying, but I’m getting better at it.  We have goals for the cattle we bring to market, it seems we are reaching those goals.  Two of the buyers advised Russell today, after ours sold, “don’t change anything about your program, those are beautiful calves.”  I’ll tell you, after the journey we travel with those creatures, first setting our eyes on them when they are so little and vulnerable, saving some of them by bringing them in our house and warming and drying them. After working so closely with them in our chute to give them tags, immunizations and more, getting them trucked to pasture for summer, walking them home in the fall, dancing with them in the corral as we get them all separated and market ready and then seeing them enter the ring, well……..its like they are your kids in a small way, and we are proud of them and we are thankful for them. 

Ranching is stormy right now. We are in for a tough spell of holding tight and hoping and praying for what we really need. All around us the world seems stormy. We are thankful for good days. We are thankful for today.

One last thing……I have been absent from my blog for so long.  I can’t really explain why.  I have missed a whole season of ranching and of being Kathy.  I think I am trying to figure out how to do this.  How to share what is on my mind and heart, how to share the goings on of a ranch, and while sharing keep reasonable privacy.  I also get affected by the way that my stuff is received, I want to post things that people like, which is understandable, it’s the way the world turns, but maybe I let it shape me and even silence me too much.  I feel like I am at a new stage with this.  Maybe a little more ready to let the ranch do the talking and not worry about posting only the best content or things that amount to alot. We shall see. However, I wanted to acknowledge that I have been missing in action.

The Color Orange

Yesterday was a big day for many reasons. Our family observed Truth and Reconciliation Day in a way that was pretty special for us. It was also month end which meant farm business, music festival board business for me and a time to tally the stats for the Broken Bread Bakery. I have a series of captioned pictures to tell the tale.

Jill found this butterfly on the highway during the walk we took part in yesterday. It seems a good way to start this blog off. To me butterflies can symbolize transformation and they are so beautiful.
The last report from the Broken Bread Bakery was at the end of July since then I have pretty much met my goal of baking and sharing one batch of buns per week, on average.
This was a terrific day of baking, two batches in one afternoon happened when my neighbor Sheila came over. Baking bees like this will continue until I have seen to the baking of one bun for every child who died at residential school, some treated as entirely forgettable. This is a long term project. In August and September I was able to bake and share 362 buns. I had a couple of huge orders, 12 dozen for a trailride and six dozen to one individual. The flurry of baking for those allowed some weeks off from baking at other times.
The joy of working together at the counter was literally enriched by the generosity of folks who received the buns. The donations given for the healing fund in July and August totaled $375. This figure is lower than it might be because I donated 4.5 dozen buns to a bake sale. I counted those towards the remembering of children because honestly, with thousands of buns to make I need to stay focused on this unfolding memorial instead of for example baking cookies for the bake sale. I was mindful of those children as I baked. I tagged the buns as being from the Broken Bread Bakery and I said a little bit about the project. The entire project total so far is 644 buns baked and $1,020 raised for the Healing Fund of the United Church of Canada.
While in St. John’s we took in an afternoon at an amazing museum. There was a good display about residential schools within the museum. The thing that has struck me lately is how this school system impacted the parents and the grandparents. Children removed from ones life and all the everyday joys gone, in moments. It got me thinking about how much I loved bedtime routine with our kids with the book reading we shared. It was routine, the books well worn, one might say it was boring really and it was time consuming. But it was special and warm and good and essential. How would we have coped if all our routines had been taken from us?
It bothered me to read that a ship that shares my last name was used to transport children away to school.
I have this picture of a notebook Jill was creating in the summer, preparing for back to school. I looked at it and I said, “Jilly, even nature proclaims that every child matters.” I found the Liz Griffin pictures that she used, and a couple different ones, they are here with my interpretation of the parent child dynamic at play. The brown surroundings reflect the time of year, it was just before the spring burst of color. The cows look rough. They had just weathered winter and been thru the birthing time and they definitely needed a bit of time to reemerge in their beauty.
“I am your Mama and I need to wash your face.”
“We are together and so the world is at peace.”
“I WILL protect you. I will not let them near you.”
“Your aunties and I, we got you, stay near.” (This was a pen with three Moms who had birthed twins and were each successfully raising both calves.)
“My sense of smell is going to keep you well, just don’t you worry.”
“I love you”
All of the things percolating in us that you read above made it important for us to be a part of the walk that was hosted by Alameda United Church yesterday. A walk for truth and reconciliation. It was about a 4 mile journey up and down highway 9. Maybe people say, “why is that important, why are you slowing down traffic?” Maybe because nothing changes until it is seen for what it is. Maybe its okay to have to slow down and think, for us walkers and for the drivers too. Maybe that creates openings for the Spirit to be at work. Having said that I am tired and a bit overwhelmed by everything in the world. I was thinking about it later….the repetition of shaping buns and putting one step in front of the other is what I am capable of right now. I don’t have space in my head for deep learning. I will trust that God will take my steps and my buns and work with them.
It was awesome to have support from some folks driving by, like this flag bearing truck. The best were the semi truck drivers that blew their airhorns. We walked with friends on a beautiful fall day and perhaps made more concrete for ourselves who we want to be as individuals and as a family.
My friend ordered this flag and Russ and I took a turn walking with it for a while. That created a good chance for a picture but carrying my friends survivor sign for a while to give her a break, and bearing this flag both felt like sacred responsibilities.

The color orange is being transformed in our culture. In my world it was once the color I associated with halloween. Then as I got to know some bikers it became the color of Harley Davidson, then as we built our house it became a color of energy and we chose it for our kitchen. Now it is a color that speaks of honoring. Honoring and not silencing. Honoring and not shaming. Honoring through listening. Honoring difference and uniqueness. Honoring another even if it costs me a bit. It means living out what we say when we say that every child matters. It was the color of halloween, and I see maybe like a butterfly, the color orange is being transformed, can it become a color that when seen quickens the heart, sending out a signal that ingredients for hope and healing are not far away. May it be so.

Sweet and Salty

I want to tell you about my morning.  I tried to get up extra early to make a batch of fudge for Gina and get a care package ready. 

A friend of mine is driving to Victoria, leaving tomorrow and offered to take a box to Gina.  I was up early but not quite early enough so I landed into church 10 minutes late, however I was really happy with the care package.  Being late I didn’t have time to look over the bulletin to check out what was slated for hymns and stuff.  I really enjoyed the service.   A theme for worship came from the story of Esther, the phrase “for such a time as this” was well explored and I had new resolve to do what I feel called to do in this time.  There was a beautiful piece of music that really brought the message home.  So….I was feeling pretty centred when Susan announced the closing hymn.  At that point I believe my mask had the effect of turning off any censoring I was inclined to do.  I heard her announce it, I looked down at the bulletin to confirm that is what I heard and I said out loud, “well fuck.”  I swear too much.  I do.  I know it and I admit it.  I have not enough resolve to do much about it.  But looking back on this moment I have decided to have compassion on myself.  What information was held in that uttering? Those two words that missed the loop around my brain and came straight from my guts?  I think its something like this…. I am in the provincial territory of grief and I am on a calm lake but there is word of a storm brewing.  That hymn equated to someone rocking my boat.  It was so surprising.  I have decided to talk about it because maybe its valuable for people who find words easy to document the journey of grief.  A friend of mine is in a similar boat, except that having lost a child his lake is hardly ever calm, but from that boat that rocks to and fro and splashes him all the time, he writes back to the rest of us on shore to say, “this is what its like”.  I find him brave.  So, here are some words, maybe sent to those on other lakes in the province of grief, is this what its like for you too?

The hymn was VU #639, it will forever be a legendary number in my mind, because back when I was a brand new minister I would go over to our organist’s house for visits.  We might have been at the care home for a service and land back at her place for tea and some ultra delicious baking.  Her name was Mae and she was a profoundly good musician.  Invariably we would end up in her music room, she would search a song from her memory and see if I could sing it.  She had memorized several of the new hymns in our then new hymn book before macular degeneration affected her. Number 639 was one of them.  She loved it.  It was peppy and she rocked it, every time.  It is called “One More Step Along the World I Go” and the repeating line is “and its from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.”    I have always loved being with older people, I love tea and baking, I love music and I needed a Grandma presence in my life.  My times with Mae as co-worship leaders at the care home, with the debrief after, were precious to me.  Mae passed away maybe 10 years ago now.  It was darn hard.  I believe, if I remember right, that I sang that song at her funeral.    I have sung it in church many times since Mae passed.  I ALWAYS think of her but never before have I been prompted to swear. 

Mae, Gina and I at a special occasion.

It turns out my body is pretty smart.  I am most definitely in the territory of grief and there is a storm brewing and I maybe inherently know that I can hardly tolerate any rocking of the boat with that storm on the horizon.   If I had let myself finish the sentence maybe I would have said, “oh fuck, here it comes, I’m going under.”  I think what my heart and guts were keeping track of was what my brain had been working on that morning.  I made fudge today.  I did so knowing it was the exact recipe I made exactly one year ago today when I was helping Mom and she wanted to make a gift for my niece who was being confirmed at Church. 

I documented Mom as the main character in “when you are a Kyle, fudge is a love language” fall episode of 2020 with lots of pictures. This one is delish looking.

I was wearing my Mom’s robe as I cooked, not because I was wallowing in my memories but because I wear it every day, it is so perfectly comfortable.   I have so many pictures of her in it though.

Fudge making for one we love, the fall 2021 episode.

I smelled my Mom’s perfume in the house randomly this week.  So did one of the kids.  Many anniversary days are coming up in the next few weeks.  I think I am working hard in my mind to manage the implications of just everything.  As I headed off to church today I was surprised at how well I was doing.  Then that hymn.  Here is the thing that got me through.  First, I still love the song, so I just threw myself into it.  Second, it was funny.  I am an ordained minister and I was definitely misbehaving by uttering such words in church.  I don’t get rebellious very often so I was enjoying being bad with no chance of being caught.  (Until I made this confession anyways.)  There are some good side effects of masks! 

What do I take from all this?

-I think I understand just a little bit better why it is that people avoid church sometimes.  Some of our big moments happen within those four walls.  Some of the music gets connected to our most joyful and painful times and then random connections happen too and it just gets to be a lot, especially when we don’t know what will trip us up and when.

-The truth is always going to show itself. 

-There are life preservers on board any boat, at least there should be.  Is humor one of them?  I think it was for me today.

-Contrary to what many people have told me, God does not use lightening bolts in church to discipline people.  I said that four letter word and it appears I am okay.  Instead, I was led to be curious about myself and compassionate with myself. If I can keep that up I think I might just get through this.

Adventure

Russ and I are home from a trip.  It’s a trip that we began planning two years ago, thinking ahead to our 20th anniversary.  However, the cruise we planned for fall 2020 was cancelled, and so was the one we then booked for fall 2021.   At the point where the 2nd cruise was cancelled we decided to fly to St. John’s Newfoundland for a week. 

On September 13th we were pretty elated to be in a plane and successfully soaring towards our holiday.  After all the changes to our plans, and then changes to our changes as a result of Hurricane Larry, it felt amazing to be on our way. 

A picture we took after arriving at the St. John’s Airport. After all the changes to our plans we could hardly believe we were really there.

When we landed in St. John’s we had already submitted a travel form that included an attached record of our vaccinations.  So when we got to the airport exit and took our turn going through the screening desk, they were able to pull up our form and see that we were clear to exit and start our holiday.  Bottom line…..we complied with their expectation and were deemed acceptable.   Honestly, I know there is so many hard thoughts and feelings around how all this is or isn’t handled, but my reality was that we were finally starting our adventure, and I felt gratitude for what had made that possible. In my head many times was the thought “isn’t it amazing that in the midst of a very contagious variant of a pandemic illness we are on the move.” 

After we arrived Monday night we got unpacked at the Air Bnb we had booked and then walked the few blocks that would take us to George Street.  We found ourselves at a pub called O’Reilly’s where we began our tasting of Newfoundland beer and goodies.  We had nachos with moose meat on them and Newfoundland poutine.   When we first approached the bouncer at the door he drew us close and looked us in the eye and said, “wer’e all vaccinated eh loves, all double vaccinated?”  Yes we were.  “Well then loves you just take your masks off, we’re all good here, we all gots the vaccine.”  And there we sat, in the heart of St. John’s Newfoundland, enjoying local everything, including live Newfie music and getting called “love” by tough looking strangers!

Part of the local delight was Newfie beer. We enjoyed pubs and breweries, we went to the Yellow Belly Brewery patio twice and bought beer to take home too. We had fun with this sampler we ordered and as a result decided that we definitely had a favorite Newfie beer, made at this very spot.
Our favorite was called “Stay Where Your’e At”, usually bottled as “Come From Away”, in honor of Covid it was renamed temporarily.

Something about our holiday that we really enjoyed was the chance to make new friends.  We didn’t come home with new buddies, but we connected on a human to human level with people we had never met before, from cultures we were not familiar with.  There was an old man on the corner of our street who flagged us down to talk.  He was anxious to tell us a bit about himself, he was intrigued to hear about our ranch.  He told us he is 81 years old and he has lived in the same house for 81 years, he was born there, it was his “mudders” and she gave it to him.  He asked us to wait a minute and keep watch of his dog while he went into his house. He came back with lapel pins for us that say “St. John’s”.  It was only a few random minutes but our sense of neighborhood was enriched. 

Russ in our neighborhood.
Our neighborhood..me standing in front of our place. It looks tiny but it had three decks off the other side and all we could ever need.

We enjoyed a lunch on the balcony of the Quidi Vidi brewery until rain forced us inside.  There we shared a table with two travellers from the Washington, D.C. area.  We learned they were friends who had worked together and retired from national security.   As we talked about the work they did and what we did a very interesting thought to ponder came up, something I think we will include in the book we are writing.   Their joyful energy was fun, a treat to experience. 

At the Quidi Vidi brewery enjoying the shelter and the visiting. Wish we could package that rain and bring it home.
Russ surveying the little fishing village known as “The Quidi Vidi Gut.”

We had an incredibly charismatic boat steward on a small ocean trip we took with Iceberg Quest. His name was “Glen”, his energy and charisma made our day, we should have known we were up for a blast when he ushered us on the boat wearing a pirate hat and never took it off.  During the trip he learned I was a minister.  The last thing he said to me as we disembarked was “pray for me.”  I have not taken that lightly, although maybe he was just kidding, us ministers hear that often enough.

On the boat ride we got “screeched in” and became honorary Newfoundlanders.

If you want to know more about the screeching in tradition I have an invitation for you. Search up the musical “Come From Away” on whatever streaming platform you have. Youtube music worked for me. If you have time listen to the whole thing. You get the story of 9-11, from the angle of what happened in Gander Newfoundland that very scary day 20 years ago. It is so heartwarming of a story and so much Newfie culture comes through. If you don’t have time for the whole musical just search up “Screech In”, that song explores the tradition.

The effects of Hurricane Larry had subsided and the ocean was calm. Glen, Nate and Barry our crew were able to take us to the far side of Cape Spear. This is the most eastern point of North America. We think that is a very cool fact

We encountered more than a few people asking for money.  I stood very close to one as he looked me straight in the eye to ask for what he needed.  I could not believe the beauty of his eyes.  I have seen few people in my life with more beautiful eyes.  I asked him for his name, I just wanted to call him by his name, it was weird what was going on inside of me. I wasn’t poking for info it just seemed important to me that as we put some money in his hands I could use his name, maybe hoping to somehow give the message, “I see your humanity.”  I think about him alot still.

By late in the holiday Russ needed another book to read, we tackled a long walk to find Chapters.  Enroute we came across the building which houses the Saturday farmers market.  It was Sunday and a multicultural market was on.  I felt like we had struck gold.  We had seen few people of color and I had been wondering about the immigrant community.  We landed in and found friendly friendly people, eager to share their cultural wares with us.  I brought three aprons.  We mingled with the folks there, (masks on after a new level of precaution was enacted the day before).   I promised the woman who had stayed up all night sewing aprons to sell at the market, that I would take a picture of me wearing her apron while serving trail food to our cowboys and I would send it to her.  That pleased her.  It is a GORGEOUS apron.  

Here I am standing with the creator of my very colorful apron.

Our taxi ride back to the airport included conversation about driving back to our ranch from the Regina airport.  We have a ranch, we have cows.  That information was literally exciting to our driver.  He had experience with cows in his home country, he loved something about them.  By the time we parted from him I had given him my blog address and our names.  He laughed heartily at himself when he realized that he had forgotten to collect our money, he was so distracted by the talk of cows.  

It was so much fun and interesting to randomly make these connections.

Like many people on a holiday I experienced relief from all the duties that shape my usual everyday life.  As wonderful as that is it creates a huge void.  Left with tons of time to shape as we wanted a very important variable was at play and it made me realize again that I married the right person.  Someone who knows me, with all my quirks, and what he knows about me he likes and he relates to.  So, everyday we ambled through activities that mean a lot to both of us and we chit chatted and joked and interacted with the people and events we encountered with a deep comfort.  As the days went by I noticed how much I often opened my mouth and spoke, joked and quipped without thinking twice, no need to guard or censor myself.  I don’t think this is totally unusual for me or anything, but somehow it hit me, I was feeling particularly free to be myself.  One of the things we talked about, maybe as we made a marathon uphill walk to the top of Signal Hill, (something Russell would like credit for, and he deserves it…..because I coaxed he and I both into alot of walking/hiking that day)….anyways…..what I asked him was “Russell, all over facebook people are talking about their freedoms being taken away.  Have you ever experienced your freedom being taken away?”  He thought about it and said “No.”  I said, “me neither, so I am kind’ve confused.  What are these people talking about?”   I am thankful that Russell has never said, “Kathy, your’e too analytical.”   I heard that enough in my life before Russell.  So, he welcomes my wandering thoughts and efforts to figure things out maybe because he is analytical too. Perhaps this enjoyment/acceptance of each other is how we made it through our almost 21 years, because there were some points it seemed iffy. Marking that accomplishment we did something really corny and maybe a bit excessive. We hired a photographer and we packed our original wedding clothes and we had a session at Cape Spear, the most eastern point of the continent. I hope to do a blog telling some of that story but for now here is one image from our gallery, me and the guy I get to be most totally myself with.

This video is one Russ made for the kids but it captures a part of our hiking adventure and more importantly gives a real feel for part of the Terry Fox story, which is being marked this week in Carnduff.

Another thing that happened for me on this holiday was that I was reminded about who I am.  We took the city bus several times to get where we were going.  In those moments I was reminded that I am a city girl.  The rhythm and process of that bus skirting through the city streets was something I had written down deep within me.  It was as familiar as horseback is for Russell.  In contrast to that, the first bus ride we had, Russell asked me with some concern, “how do we tell the driver when we want to get off?”  With some shock I asked him, “you don’t know?  Well you just pull on the bell chord up here on the wall.”  Our different backgrounds were starkly clear.  Having said that, I could count on one hand the number of hours I have spent on a school bus, Russ has given years of his life to that experience with several stories to tell because of it.   One of the more surprising things I learned about myself was how much I love to be active.  It was very practical to be walking, rental cars were unavailable, buses took time, almost everywhere we wanted to go we were within 4km and it was walkable.  I loved it.  I never expected to be able to say that.   I have put some time to trying to figure out why I resist exercise at home but I was more and more thirsty for it as the days went by in St. John’s.  I think part of the reason is the walking was so practical and it felt so good (mostly).

We had mostly extraordinary weather, this sun drenched evening photo illumines one of our last restaurant meals, we shared an order of fish and chips and we shared a moose burger. They were both really good, washed down with some YYT ale. They were sold out of “Stay Where Your’e At”, but I don’t think it was our fault.

As our holiday was unfolding I found myself a bit obsessed in my thoughts with the topic of freedom. Perhaps because we were doing what seemed unthinkable only months ago. I was noticing all the different ways I was experiencing freedom besides being able to go 4000km from home, ….freedom to be myself, freedom to be in contact with different people, freedom to learn more about myself and the freedom to do that without worry of causing harm. All these freedoms mean alot and I find myself wondering if the current laser focus on freedom as people define it, is causing us to forget to see, nurture and take ownership for all the different ways that freedom does or does not touch our lives.  I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but I sure had some good things unfold, I had a good break and so did my best pal.

Superstition

One of my favorite children’s books called “Something from Nothing” uses the repeating phrase “its time to throw it out.”  I am reminded of that as I consider the green fruit on my counter.  However I’m having such a hard time throwing it out.  Through that still good looking watermelon I am being forced to confess to myself that I have a problem and its called superstition.  I am not okay with this, but its real. 

The watermelon came to our home the long weekend in August when my friend Deb visited from Saskatoon.  Laden with treats and supplies she blew in with the summer wind, that watermelon in her hands.  Morgan and I are the only people at our place that really like watermelon, so, I was waiting for the right time to cut it up, until there were a few more watermelon lovers around.  The dumb thing is I didn’t put it in the fridge.  Well, the right time to cut it never came and there it sat.  I didn’t have the resolve to throw it out when 10 days had gone by and its fresh time had passed.  And it sat.  I noticed it was a great place to kill flies, it attracted some and was a firm backdrop for the swatter to do its work.  It was earning its keep.  By the end of August I was ready to say that overall our crew was doing better. We had been able to figure out our feed crisis, there had been some rain, we had some fun.  I couldn’t help but think that it seemed that ever since that watermelon arrived in our life everything felt better.  So I looked at that watermelon and thought, “can I throw it out?”  And my immediate reaction was “no, not going to do that.”  With a few things coming up that I am nervous about I really and truly am having a hard time throwing out that watermelon. That is the dumbest thing I ever heard.  But its not the only thing I am superstitious about.  I have had pedicures on my feet about four times in the last 15 years.  The first and fourth times were followed by events that were extremely hard.  So…………although I have a gift certificate to get a pedicure, I am waiting until I have a window where I can risk whatever may follow.   

These thoughts and actions, or lack of actions, do not line up with what is at my core.  I believe in God.  I believe that no matter what life throws at me, God is with me.  I don’t believe that there is a force for chaos that can be held at bay by the presence of a watermelon or turning down pretty toe nails.  I think that what all this reveals is that I am feeling pretty vulnerable.   I am so incredibly thankful for the events that go right, where hope is allowed to flicker and shine.  I don’t want those moments where things are right and where hope is brewing to come to an end, so, I am turning to the concrete things that are in my power to hold the ship steady.  I mistakenly think that is the presence of a large green mass on my counter, (that is likely rotting on the inside.)   That leads to a good concrete question, what is within my power for holding the ship steady?  For keeping good momentum going?   

My life experience tells me that not much can control the cirumstances so that trouble never comes, but somehow the negative impact of troubling times is reduced by a couple things and these I should stay focused on. One is gratitude and the other is love. There is a part of the Bible that I have found both inspiring and challenging, it advises, “give thanks in all circumstances.” The older I get the more I agree with that. The other thing in the Bible is “love your neighbor”. If I keep showing up and loving as best as I can I will likely have much more influence on my life experiences than I will by making that watermelon on my counter a priority decor item.

Four more sentences that go another level deeper with all this. When Russ and I talked about this post he challenged me, “How important is it to be freed from trouble?” His point, that alot of good things come from hard things and hard times. We appreciate the good times better because of the hard times. I think he is absolutely right, but, still a bit shell shocked from the challenges of the last months and years I will not be looking for any trouble anytime soon. However somehow I have to muster the wisdom and maturity to throw out my watermelon. Maybe tomorrow. Until then I commit to showing up, loving my neighbor and saying thank-you.

I got a little sidelined……

Hello again……

I have been away from the blog for about a month.  I never expected that to happen!  However, day by day, things have stolen any time I had for writing and also I start posts and only get half done.  I think I have 7 drafts going.   Hopefully I can get publishing them soon.  I have really missed the whole process, evidence of that is that in my head I am writing something almost every day.

Getting back into the swing of things I have a few pictures to share.  Liz came and photographed a couple of summer sessions, we are now pretty sure we have all the pictures we need for the coffee table book we are creating about ranching.    The first of these summer sessions Liz delivered a few weeks ago.  Here are some favorites from that evening (July 15th) when we moved 120 pairs and six bulls from one pasture to another.  The main water source in the starting pasture had gone dry and grass was getting to be a concern.   We usually move these cows once in the summer but with these drought conditions this needed to happen two weeks early. 

Jill and I were in charge of traffic control on foot at the gates. We had some free time to hang out with Liz while the cowboys brought the cows near to the gates. I like the “mother is shelter” feel to this picture.
The cows had come from across the pasture and arrived at the coulee. Russ on the left and Dawson on the right were with the herd while Morgan and Kent were just off camera in strategic spots.
I love how this picture showcases our cousin Dawson. A couple years ago he was just getting started with much riding. In this picture, pictured at the very top, he is looking so relaxed and almost in charge.
This picture looks like it was pulled from an old western. That’s my boy Morgan in the back.
I see teamwork at its finest in this picture. The cows were being given a chance to drink and the cowboys each had their spot and were on guard to keep the cows in place. Can you spot all four cowboys?
A great closeup of cowboy Kent.
Jill and I in the far back, prepared to keep the cows from going down the road behind us. They did well, they came out their gate and took our cue to advance through the open gate waiting for them into this next pasture.
Dawson, Jill and I (Morgan too) ensuring the last calves get through.
Job done, the cowboy is off his horse. Russ really likes kissing and Liz is used to our antics by now.
When I see this picture I ponder “what is Bingo thinking?” She looks like she is assessing something, I do believe it might be something like, “do you need me in there Dad? (pant, pant) I can help you Dad! (pant, pant) If anything hurts you I will bark for you Dad! I can do it! (pant, pant)
It turns out what Bingo was watching was Russ getting this calf out of the trailer. We had roped it and put it in the trailer before the chase started. At birth it was premature and had weak knees, they never did strengthen up like they should. It could not tolerate the action of this night. Here Russ is getting it back with its Mama after the move. This is one of my favorite pictures because of its sense of animal husbandry.
This picture got me thinking about the unspoken communication between Maddie and Russ. I think maybe they were having a post chase debrief, possibly discussing who got cowboy of the day and who got dog of the day. Maddie is a bit of a diva, she might have, in this instant, been putting her name forward for dog of the day.
What do you learn about Bingo by looking at this picture Liz captured? She has a long tongue, thats the obvious thing, but her bigger reality is that she puts her heart and soul into working alongside Russ, she is never afraid to push herself, and will not quit, until its time to rest, the moment captured here.
Getting the trailer loaded in the background and in the foreground an incredibly proud moment for me. My growing son is now taller than me and I enjoy him so much.
Maddie takes her post chase rest, and right in the middle of the road!

I know these pictures betray a sense of drought, the spot where Liz met up with the crew was at a coulee fed by lots of springs, it is green. The dugout we moved them away from was essentially dry, days after we got the cows out we had machinery in to clean it out and hopefully reactivate any springs that feed it. The trackhoe removed 8 feet of mud from the bottom of the dugout. That statistic alarmed Russell, cows left there to scrounge for water could easily have been mired in mud and soon dead. The day after the cleanout was done Russ had a picnic lunch on the dry and almost dusty bottom of the dugout. There was no replenishment to be had.

A picture that Russ took from the bottom of the dugout. That is Maddie dog in the back.

Day 20 – Postcards from the Heart

Looking at this postcard and the seven pictures that go with it I can tell that I was in a hurry when I wrote it. I have tried to reproduce it exactly as the original postcard looked. There is no date, no greeting, no sign off, several abbreviations and its basically in point form. That in itself tells a tale. I remember it was at a time when I knew if I wanted Mom to see these pictures I didn’t have the time to send them one by one.

The first picture was taken in December 2020, the next six were all November 2020. Liz has a zillion more colourful and varied pictures of Russ since this time, but this is what I had chosen to have developed for Mom. They look good in this format but some of these will be best shown, perhaps you could even say, “AMAZING” in the coffee table book we are working on creating with Liz.

This set of pictures comprises the 20th of 22 posts of this series “Postcards from the Heart”. The entire series contains photos taken by Liz Griffin Photography, used as a way to share my life and my thoughts with my mom while she dealt with her cancer reality.

SEVEN PICTURES – ONE CARD

Caption: “YOUR SON-IN-LAW IS A COWBOY!”

-its core to his identity

-I think being a mother is core to your identity and I wonder if seeing that in you has allowed me to embrace that for myself. I believe my call in life is not primarily ministry, but to create a family…. to be “Mom”. I ❤ it!!

The pics 1. Morgan, cousin Laurie + Russ in the morning sun.

2. Russ + Clarence at the back of the herd.

3. 4 hooves off the ground! Dirt flying!

4. Russ – pleased by something🙂!

5. Maddie, David Powell, Knightwing, Russ + Bingo – rounding cows out of the bushes in our rented “River Pasture”.

6. The snow that made for epic pictures.

7. Russ, hot on the trail + 65 lbs heavier than he is now.

Morgan, cousin Laurie + Russ in the morning sun.

Russ + Clarence at the back of the herd.

4 hooves off the ground! Dirt flying!

Russ – pleased by something!

Maddie, David Powell, Knightwing, Russ + Bingo – rounding cows out of the bushes in our rented “River Pasture”.

The snow that made for epic pictures.

Russ, hot on the trail + 65 lbs heavier than he is now.