Mom, yesterday as Jill, Russell and I rolled down the road to Estevan, I sat behind Jill the driver, my eyes closed, battling my nausea wondering to myself, “what do I need from my Mom still?” Your comforting text that morning had touched me so readily. I wondered, “what more do I need to hear from her?”
One thing that came to mind is I need more of your wisdom + advice. That got me thinking, what advice has Mom already given that rumbles in me in a big way. Your wisdom has completely shaped my existence but what advice rings + echoes. The first of 3 things to tell you is this, I was ticked off about it at the time, but you gathered us girls at the dining room table about 5 years ago and warned us that our weight could easily get away on us in this mid-life stage, we need to make it a priority to take care of ourselves. As time unfolded your words were so true. I love this picture
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of Russell and I striding through the corral. I had lost 35 pounds, felt strong and my long lean legs were a revelation to me. The other night you were cleaning your teeth at your beside, taking time on them even when you were exhausted + hurting. You said you wished you had done better with this through the years. You are a good example to me Mom. I want to promise you this, and this feels deadly serious……I am stopping to think about this before I write it, do I mean it? Can I follow through? I have to. I Katherine Mary Kyle promise to take good care of myself – my soul- I will keep on in my r’ship with God, my weight – I am on the right track, my teeth – gonna buy more of those little tools you gave me. My skin – Mary Kay and I are gonna be best friends. My “me” – I will write more (thats the one that makes me cry to
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write…..hmmmmm -). So that was piece #1 of advice. You also told me “don’t worry how long something will take if you really want it, like education, the years are going to pass anyways.” And when I was 19 and came home from a dance broken-hearted, feeling rejected you said to me “keep doing what matters to you, what you love to do and Mr. Right will cross your path.” Again, as time unfolded, your words were so true. I have found in Russell the most loyal and loving life partner I could ask for. I am thankful for him, especially his wisdom, his humor and his absolutely incredible ability as a Dad. So this set of 3 notes + 3 pics is rounded out by these 2 from our vow renewal day. That hat Russell is wearing and his coat are the same he wore in 2000. Thanks for your advice Mom!
This is the 17th of 22 posts in a series, sharing ranch photographs taken by Liz Griffin Photography and used as “postcards” to communicate with my Mom. These were all written in the fall of 2020, while my Mom dealt with a terminal cancer diagnosis.
A little further background…………the trip to Estevan mentioned at the start was for Jillian’s drivers exam. Thinking about it now, through the lens of distance and a much lighter heart, I want to give myself a hero badge. I had a headache bad enough to be nauseated and my heart was burdened, over burdened. Due to Covid the examiner could not be in the car with Jill, instead Jill had a video camera installed, a parent beside her and a cell phone on speaker mode connecting her with the examiner. We were not sure that Russ could keep from influencing Jill with his expressive ways, so, I was the parent in the vehicle throughout the test. She passed! I think my headache was mostly gone when the exam started, but still, patting myself on the back, I think this should be remembered as one of those times when I stepped up to the plate. Russ cuts me alot of slack most of the time, I don’t feel like I have to do super hard things very often, but I remember this as one of those times and I am actually stunned that I could pull up my socks and do it.
This post which was mostly written before Church last Sunday did not get finished and the week has sped by. Hopefully it is still okay. It has been such an eventful week in the world that this feels outdated, but its me and us in our small corner. So here goes……
In our neck of the woods there is not much better than waking to the sound of steady rain, it has happened twice this week when not predicted. It allows so much hope and we are so grateful. I am sitting at my desk right now looking out at a soggy yard and typing with the rain in the background. Its more thrilling than Disney. Do I mean that? Yes, I do. I think Disney is about joy and creativity but rain equals growth and nourishment and as the hope for that rises like a flame it is powerful.
Are you coming over in the rain? Russell just put a cup of coffee beside me, its instant, his specialty, I appreciate it but if you come I am going to grind some beans and make something a little more robust.
Were you to be sitting at my counter with me I would ask you “how are you?” I would ask, “how has your week been?” I might ask, “what have you been thinking about lately?” I would tell you some stories from our week that likely connect to some of the pictures here.
Mom, I love this picture of Gina, I look at it and I think “Grace”. She is in a place and posture to receive. The kiss of the sun looks as if it is giving her peace, a reminder of how sacred she is, a moment of rest. In addition it brings her beauty alive in a new way. I find myself wishing the same things for you. I know how you love to see and feel the sun, you can transport yourself to Hawaii anytime if the sun is kissing you. In a hospital room it may not be as possible, but God’s grace is enduring and not dependent on circumstances. So I wish for you, as in this image, a deep sense of peace, constant reminder of how sacred you are & comfortable rest. I observe that this time is bringing alive in you, or making glow, your particular inner beauty…..the ability to flex + flow, to be grateful in all circumstances, to give unconditional love, to inspire goodness. Thank-you.
This postcard is the 16th in a series of 22 being posted occasionally on the blog. It is part of a set of photocards, all taken by Liz Griffin Photography at various times since November 2019. The postcards were for my Mom when she was living with cancer.
This photo was part of Gina’s grade 12 graduation photos, from her casual photo shoot with Liz in July of 2020.
As I write this postcard you have been gone from my life for a long time. It makes me happy to think that heaven is a realm of wholeness and dementia no longer has a grip on you. I don’t know how anything works in the realm beyond earthly life but I believe that love shapes everything. Is it possible for you to know whats up here in my world? I have no way of knowing. I write this for myself. When you were well if someone had shown you and I this picture and said, “here is a glimpse of the story in the future” I would have been stunned and disbelieving. I had preconceptions about cowboy life, about what it means to ranch and about what I needed. I wonder what you would have thought. I think your exposure to the humans and the action in this scene would stir pride in you. Dad, that is your grandson and he is a gem. That is the man with the courage necessary to take on, love and nurture your quite complicated daughter. That is a dog who owns a huge chunk of my heart. This picture is all about teamwork. Do I value teamwork so much because of how we did things at home? I am not sure. Thank you for everything you did to prepare me to love these men, the land, the creatures and God.
This picture could be very old, it has a timeless quality to it. It is not. It gets me thinking about what is timeless in life, what are the pieces that endure despite the rapid changes around us? A man, his horse and his dog are timeless, so is the power of kindness, humor, loyalty and compassion. You and Russell have in common the intention to practice these things. It sure has made a difference in my life and in the lives of our children. It seems to me to be the ingredients of excellent fatherhood.
Dad, Liz got this action shot of Morgan last month. He reminds me of you. Not that I EVER saw you on a horse but there is a lilt to his walk that puts me in mind of you…………how odd…..I have not seen you on your feet in 20 years. There is no doubt that genetics that stem from your being are unfolding in his life and it is exciting. You would enjoy him so much. He never knew the thrill of feeling your pride in him but I do my best to pass on and use what you taught me about how to treat people. He is catching it. You would be proud.
These pictures were taken by Liz Griffin about a month ago. We wanted to capture some of the work of calving season. Liz got some cute and pretty epic pictures that day. It is a joy to be able to share these great images and use them to process some of the thoughts I work through as life unfolds.
Its Saturday morning and I have a bit of time, Saturday morning feels like a time to sit with a cup of coffee in hand for just a bit longer, in my ideal world anyways!
When life is shaped mostly by the rhythms of rural life (versus Covid rhythm) we often have people at our table that we talk to about our cows. Here is what that might sound like if you were hunkered down with a beverage, even if was just hot water, right Donna?
Our spring work is coming along and it is good to get jobs checked off. We are down to about 34 cows left to calve and most others are at their summer pastures. The most notable thing to report about the ranch is that we had a big rain last week, the kind of rain that gives us hope. Prior to that Russ described the conditions as drier than he has ever seen. Now we have hope that dugouts will maybe water cows through the summer, that hay just might grow and that pastures will hold. We shall see. Hope is a powerful thing and that rain delivered it. Calving season has been unusually successful, we have lost very few calves and had lots of twins so most Moms have a baby. Its been quite astounding. It has also meant that our bottle fed calf named “Bob” still has not got his own Mama. We are all getting quite close to our friend through our sharing of bottle duties. I would enjoy showing you this picture if you were here. A glimpse of barn life!
Sandy, you are so curious about Gina. If you were here we might forego the coffee in favor of a bottle of beer! And while here you could ask Gina in person how she has been. She is home for the summer! This was the sight last week when we picked her up from the Regina airport. She landed in a lightening storm, it was with huge relief we saw her plane taxiing up the runway! I have goosebumps writing this.
I recently had a birthday! With Gina’s plane landing late we stayed in Regina overnight and I woke up on my birthday in a hotel with all my kids near. Russ got the day rolling with the celebrating by scheming with the hotel staff to get candles and create this birthday breakfast muffin. I wish that Tara, who lives in Denver, could come for coffee, she has always impressed me with her committment to celebrating birthdays and remembering special days. I think she would be proud of Russell when the stories of this day got told.
My sister Margie has a real goofy side and knows about my enjoyment of Costco, she shares it. I would love having her for coffee and telling her about these silly moments. Maybe anyone who knows Russell can easily imagine them. Our time in Regina was short but a trip to Costco was top priority. We had not been in months and certain items are so great to have. With rain strongly in the forecast we bought a box of industrial garbage bags and bagged everything, including Gina’s luggage. The family work bee to get everything ready in the midst of very heavy winds, get the truck loaded and the carts returned was fun (we were still in the prone to giggle stage of our time away together, the prone to quarrel could have just as easily been at play as we tackled this wrap job which at times was frustrating.) The fun took some typical turns under Russell’s leadership.
We zoomed back to Carnduff and dropped the kids at the rink where all three got their vaccinations. Russ and I went home, checked the cows, put the groceries away and met back up with the kids at Grandma Shirley’s house where she hosted a Chinese Food and Carrot Cake birthday supper. If there is coffee in heaven, and I hope there is, my Mom was possibly spilling hers, out of the sheer thrill she would feel in this vaccine development, also knowing someone was making her girl a great carrot cake.
I am longing for one of those conversations where we dig around in our hearts and talk it out. My cousin and I did the phone version last week, but there is something about the in person version that is best. If you like the dig around in the heart kinds of conversation maybe we would consider the topic I started with Jodi last week. I have been struggling with a sense of doom. I think the dry conditions were a big part of that, but also this is perhaps part of the mental health toll of the pandemic and the hardship, injuries and losses that piled up over the year. I am a woman of faith so to admit that I have a sense of doom feels like a sign of weak faith. I don’t know about that. I just want to be honest. Naming it out loud is maybe part of the process of wrestling with it.
I really wish I could have my Grandma Kyle come for a cup of tea. She has really been on my mind. Russell has picked me some wild roses from the pastures a couple of times this week. Their scent is so vivid and it is has been a welcome addition to our house where dog related odors have been a bit much this week. The smell of roses reminds me of my Grandma Kyle because she loved all things rose and I quickly am reminded of being back in her home when I smell that rose scent, it was the soap in her bathroom I think. As I worked at my kitchen counter this week, thinking about her, I had something I don’t want to forget come to my mind. It was that to combat my sense of doom I need to broaden my perspective, my Grandma could be a part of that. She lost her first child in infancy, parented her next four children through infancy into teen years while WW2 waged on and then bore her sixth child in the last year of the war. I want to ask her….. What was that like? How did a sense of doom figure into her life? What came about for her after the worst had passed? From my perspective it looked like she lived a long and good life shaped by music, a growing family, much pride in her people and a strong sense of connection to her community and her faith. She had so much to look forward to even as war was waged. Thinking about her inspires me to think that there is much goodness yet to be known and lived and if she could walk through the shadows to get there I can too. Another part of the perspective I seek is my faith. I was reading my Bible that same day I was thinking about my Grandma. One of my favorite chapters invited me to consider Jesus, who endured so much opposition. It made the connection that in considering his experience of opposition, the hearer might not grow weary and not lose heart. What struck me about that was the word “consider”, in other words stop, or at least slow down, and be thoughtful, thought-filled, about those beyond you in space and time, there is more to the story Kathy, and Jesus is part of that, don’t lose heart.
I want to have someone for coffee, I don’t know who, who might talk with me about how weird life is. That on the one hand, in the inner spaces of our days we struggle with things like doom, like anxiety, like confusion and then we put on our outside faces and we go out into the world and we put forth our strong selves, and both things are true. I would tell my coffee partner about how Erin and I had the chance to sing at the farmers market in Oxbow this week. Our first gig since each of us had loss, big loss. We made mistakes, we laughed it off, we enjoyed the time to be with the community and to the outside eye noone would guess that this was a milestone of sorts. We managed to sing one of our really painful songs because Erin is brave. There is one I can’t do yet. We debuted a medley of Bee Gees songs that Erin created and brought a Beatles tune out for the 2nd time, its getting more solid. Its all alot of fun.
Gina has been home for a full week now and settled in really well. It has been great to have her home and I admire how she has made the transition from adult living her own big life in a city far away to ranch life under her parents roof. Yesterday we hauled our hot tub west of Estevan for repair (a mistake I made in the cold of January caused inner core damage). It was a road trip for Gina, Russ and I and included a few stops in Estevan. Once we got the tub dropped off it was really fun. Shopping cart antics were again in play, I think its about reclaiming a few minutes of childhood. Russell’s favorite part was when a man looked at our cart which Gina was sitting in and asked him, “what shelf do you find those on?” Russell loves to play and was glad to have someone playing along with their game. He had the chance to quickly reply including these words “my girl is home from university!” It was a good moment. I think this would be the time to have Aunt Karen over for coffee. I think she gets that as much as Russ is a big kid who can play hard, he is wired to be a Dad and bears the weight of the world on his shoulders, and this moment shows how he is keeping it all in balance. She frequently conveys her pride in Russ, she would like to have been there for these moments I think, but a re-telling over coffee would bring some laughs.
I would like to have you over for coffee Arlie, or anyone else who is wondering why I was absent from my blog for so long even when I had a plan for easy posting. After we got a cup of something poured and a bit of chit chat I would have to tell you that I confused myself but I just didn’t feel like blogging. My postcard project, as much as I enjoy it, takes me back to very tender days and I think thats why I just can’t post those as easily as I thought I could. I will get back to that. I have become obsessed with getting life better under control at home. I really mean at my desk. My yard needs lots of love yet. Adding to that my brain was not feeling creative at all, I just didn’t have content bubbling up. Really, I think this is life, things ebb and flow, circumstances shift, our emotions get unruly, we can become rather guarded. And then we wake up one morning, the sun is shining, there seems to be a bit of time, a cup of coffee is calling and you say to yourself, “I think I will go do some blogging.” Being a human is not dull.
This picture of Jilly is one I love. She is glowing. I think she is quite proud of herself. I love one particular aspect of this picture, I can see her breath. It is the tangible evidence of the life pounding in her. Makes me think of the day she was born and those lunch time moments when her first breath was taken. You were not far away! What a gift to see her move with health through the years, grow, change and mature. The not tangible life force pounding in her is something I recognize having grown up with you and Dad. More and more she is willing to use her voice and energy to stand up for those who need her solidarity, she has a bright mind that sorts out issues of justice + power, she gives generously of her monetary resources. Its all holy…..holy spirit moving. Thank-you for your BIG part in helping her flourish!
This postcard was written early one morning along with many others, it was clear that time was running short. Mom had received gifts of two different prayer shawls from churches in our area and I had gone onto Facebook to see if anyone was going to Saskatoon, could I send a package with them? I felt really very blessed when Janis Mann responded to my request. I met her at a crossroads on the road between our two homes and passed over the package. By evening a bunch of postcards and the prayer shawls were in my sister’s hands and by morning the next day, the 16th, Mom had it all. I was told that she received the shawls with delight, used one like a blanket and one around her neck and that is where they stayed. She passed with them comforting her and I now have them back at the ranch. Life really is something else and our hands really do have great potential for comforting one another in various ways. It meant so much to me that Janis reached out her hands and received my box, then with care got it delivered to my sister’s home. It helped soothe the ache in my heart at being distant at this time.
This photo by Liz Griffin Photography was taken December 4, 2019 as we sorted and weaned our herd in preparation for marketing. This postcard is the 15th in a series of 22 messages prepared for my Mom. I was attempting to share these awesome ranch pictures with her while we were all facing her cancer reality. They are shared on the blog when times are busy at the ranch yet I still want to explore on the blog what life is all about.
Mom, for some reason when I was dating and wanting to date, I didn’t imagine that I would be wanted by a typically handsome guy. Its a sad and unnecessary part of my inner drama. I married Russell not for his looks, but the beautiful soul I sensed lived within, I have always loved his ruddy, rounded presentation though. Anyways, time has moved on, Russ is now an athlete and Morgan has grown. This picture was taken almost exactly a year ago. Morg has had quite a growth streak since then. He hugs me and we are shoulder to shoulder + heart to heart. I think he is the crush of a few girls in his class. He has this huge heart, tender soul, creative wit and a growing ruggedness. He is tall and handsome. Lately I have been marvelling how God has given me beautiful men to live with. The boy on this horse, giving leadership with humor + kindness is a piece of you!
This is a special photo. In November 2019 we decided on a whim to ask Liz Griffin to come take pictures of our final cow chase of the year, when a combined herd of 370 cow calf pairs and 10 bulls would be coming down the road. (The largest group Russell had ever trailed all at once.) Exactly 10 years prior a newspaper photographer had been out to document a chase and those epic pictures were still on our wall. It was time for an update. This chase day unfolded for me like most others, a mix of work and worry, the details of feeding a large crew a couple of nourishing meals shaping my thoughts. That was the case again that day until about 6:00 pm when in the heat of last minute work, quite frazzled, I heard my phone ding. It was a message from Liz, it contained this picture as a sneak peek from her session that day. Everything came to a standstill for a minute as I processed what I was seeing. I started to cry. Jill was with me in the kitchen, she became alarmed until I assured her everything was fine. I said to Jill, “even if there are no other pictures worth noting from this day, that one alone makes the photo shoot worthwhile.” However, there were literally dozens of epic pictures. Liz submitted this picture to a photography contest in its horizontal version which includes more cows. In a pool of more than 25,000 images she didn’t win the contest but placed very strongly with it.
This postcard is the 13th of 22 in a series, using photos taken by Liz Griffin Photography over the course of a year of ranch and family life. I shared these particular images and words with my Mom in the fall of 2020 while she was fighting cancer.
Mom, things feel very serious this a.m. I pray that things can be figured out, and that your comfort can be much enhanced. It is hard to be far away but at the same time, to be honest, it is okay to not be responsible to assess and get help. It is hard to fathom just how tricky 2020 has become. Your example to us is that we can always count our blessings. These 3 pictures capture our greatest blessings 1) Love 2) Gina and her beautiful passion 3) Jill and her deep well of character 3) Morgan and his joy in being a friend to all. (Thats all “mostly” so). Without your life these particular blessings would not exist. Without you there would be no Kathy Kyle, no Gina, Jill or Morgan. You and Dad birthed blessings into the world, multiple generations of them. You are a blessing.
These pictures were taken by Liz Griffin Photography in August 2020 when we celebrated our upcoming 20th wedding anniversary by having a small ceremony to renew our vows.
This is the 13th of 22 postcard messages I sent to my Mom in the fall of 2020. It was becoming clear that I was not going to have the chance to send all of the 150 pictures that I had printed up to send to her, time was becoming short. I started sending more than one picture at a time.
Thinking about packing up and leaving you, I find myself wondering if I might have thoughts ands feelings similiar to how you felt when you left me with new babies after getting me through those first days. You know in your heart and mind that the pieces are in places to ensure that loving care is known by all, but nonetheless, circumstances are tricky. Mothers and daughters — a lifelong process of holding close and letting go. From my perspective you have lived that “dance” almost perfectly, even when it was hard (when I moved to Gainsborough.) Here, we only hugged a bit, once, after you vomited, but maybe our table graces allowed a spiritual hug that looked like this pic of Gina and I.
As long as I live I will treasure your wisdom that held me close when I needed it and let me go to find my way too.
I feel like I want to explain the bit about only hugging once. My Mom’s life convictions about being a good citizen led her to many great decisions and actions. When Covid came to be a reality she followed guidelines with utmost care, and she did as she was told, she hugged no-one. I almost don’t want to say this because it will fuel those who say that fear ruled people’s lives. Maybe it did for my Mom but it was fear fuelled by love for all. She wanted to be part of the solution. She also couldn’t risk becoming sick, she needed to have access to the cancer clinic and she was keeping herself ready for that. It was all very tricky. If you look at this with a critical eye you will say, “you sat beside her on her bed and gave her pills, you sat closely at her table, if you were going to give it to her, if you were carrying it, she would have got it.” That would likely be true. So the way this was handled wasn’t exactly consistent and didn’t truly make sense. This is, for me, where grace comes in, doing the best I could with what I had and extending grace, trusting that even if people are inconsistent they are doing the best they can. Did it hurt that my Mom wouldn’t hug me? Yes. Do I regret that? Yes. Did she spiritually hug me almost constantly……with her concern, interest, gratitude, and affirmation of me? Yes. I will hold on to that and celebrate the beautiful example of citizenship that my Mom was.
This postcard is the 12th in a series of 22 that were shared with my Mom in the fall of 2020 when she was battling cancer. I am sharing them as blog posts for two reasons, to keep my blog active when I am too busy to create fresh material, and to offer material that might draw us together around our common humanity, in a time when life is pretty hard for alot of people and conflict is so painful.
This photo was taken by Liz Griffin Photography as part of Gina’s grad formals session.
I asked Liz for this particular shot – this background. I love it. Our homes are, in reality, the backdrop for our whole lives. Our tour on Sunday where we set our eyes on 2614 again, and we saw your grandparents house was special. There have been many addresses you have spoken lovingly about – 1025 Ave B., 6th St, 213 Vancouver, 2614 Wiggins, Phillips grove, Morgan Ave and now I have started to refer to your apt. as 505. The places where we have been loved and have shared love are holy. These few rooms where we have shared many full days together will always have a sacred and holy place in my mind and heart. ‘505’ will be for me a reminder of loving, even in the midst of struggle. Scripture reminds us of a future place, being prepared for us, I believe pure love shapes that.
This post is #11 in a 22 part series, all Liz Griffin Photography images from 2020. These “postcards” arose from circumstances detailed in the post called “Postcards from the Heart – Day 1.”