I love this picture. It is artistic and shows Jill’s capability. Somehow this image means alot to me at this time, as the health care system shapes our experiences so much.
I know that Jill could go almost any direction in life. I think her choices almost overwhelm her. However I think the common theme will be related to this image. Here she is poised to inject a vitamin dose into a cow. She has drawn it up, into the syringe.
What has she drawn up into herself because of your life, your legacy, that she will in turn inject into the world around her? 1)Generosity 2)Kindness. 3)Creativity 4)Hospitality
This picture was taken by Liz Griffin Photography on January 1st, 2020. We were putting our whole cow herd through the chute to replace any tags that had come out, give a dose of vitamin A & D and a dose of ivomec, a liquid we apply down a cow’s back which helps prevent parasites. It was a big day. The next day they were being walked five miles by a crew on horseback, to a field of standing corn where they spent the month of January.
This postcard is the 6th part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1.”
When I look at this picture it reminds me of the line in the 23rd Psalm, he “leadeth me beside the still waters.”
This situation does not seem to give us the luxury of enjoying water from outside of it. You are in the deep end, treading water to stay afloat, your loved ones take turns jumping in with you. The love + compassion of God, known in Jesus, are maybe like our life preservers, which will help us all go the distance. Food for thought.
By the time I wrote this photo card I was staying with my Mom, helping her recover from surgery which had revealed her cancer was much worse than initially thought. I wrote the card, put it in an addressed envelope and then when I went down to get her mail I slid it in with the other mail. Mom was playful in her soul, so she received this with a glint in her eye, noting that I was being tricky. As the days went by and more and more of these pictures were created she caught on that I was reusing the same envelope after swiping it from her recycling. Once she was onto my tactics she would hand me the emptied envelope with that glint in her eye and say, “I think you might want this.” It was a fun part of our days.
This photo was taken by Liz Griffin Photography on June 20, 2020 before Liz took the wife carrying pictures featured yesterday. It is a very beautiful picture which might not display on a small screen in a way that reveals this.
This postcard is the 5th part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1”.
This is a fun but quirky photo. It was taken by Liz the day that we were supposed to be at the big race in South Dakota.
The thing I find myself thinking about looking at this image is the truth that when you have a large load to carry you have to do it strategically, large loads can be born by everyday, average people.
What is the key piece of strategy for you and I and all as we move through these days? How can we bear this load? We have talked about tears, about love, about prayer. These are key I think.
This picture was taken by Liz Griffin Photography on June 20, 2020, the day Russell and I were to have taken part in a wife carrying competition in Frederick, South Dakota. Covid changed our plans. Instead we worked with a group of cows and calves that day and got Liz to photograph that plus document us doing our own race in the pasture. We won the race, admittedly the competitors were absent! Liz got some astoundingly beautiful photos that day.
I was in Saskatoon with Mom when she opened this piece of mail. As she drew the picture out of the envelope she said something like this, “oh I have not liked this wife carrying stuff you are doing, it feels so brutish, a man should not be able to carry you off like that.” My feelings were not hurt, although hearing your Mother’s displeasure is never an easy thing. I had not thought about this experience through the lens that Mom was using, she had a point. To me it had always been about fun and exercise (for Russ) and as the one being carried it was totally an exercise in trust. As she read the writing on the back of the picture she softened. I believe this was the day she said, “I love how your brain works.”
This postcard is the 4th part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1.”
I love seeing and hearing the enjoyment you get from all your grandchildren. You have always seen them through eyes of love and been able to overlook their struggles, to see the beautiful people they are. As a Mom that has been a gift to me.
This picture was taken by Liz Griffin Photography as part of Gina’s graduation formals in July 2020.
If you have been following this series so far this is the 3rd family type pic in a row. I promise it will get ranchy soon!
This postcard is the 3rd part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1.”
I have a little problem on my hands. I am behind on one large chunk of paperwork, two regular May month end jobs await me too. In good conscience I just don’t have the time to blog. On Tuesday I had an hour of time driving by myself and I told myself, “no music, you are going to brainstorm how to make all this happen, create a strategy.” That resulted in a detailed daily schedule I have discussed with Russell and an option for the blog, which I also shared with Russ, I really needed his opinion. He said, “do it.”
Back in late summer as my Mom’s cancer diagnosis was settling in, living 550km from her and with Covid distancing a big deal, I struggled to know how to support my Mom. I got an idea. I had 150 of the pictures Liz Griffin had taken printed up. I had the goal of mailing one to Mom every day, so she would always have something personal in her mailbox. The pictures were a selection of my favourite images from the various times that Liz had been out at the ranch capturing work and celebration photographs for us. I wrote on the back of the photos, thoughts that came to mind as I explained or reflected on the action or person in the picture. Those thoughts started out very brief, but as the days unfolded the reflections got a bit lengthier. I realized reading them all over yesterday and sharing them with Russell, they contain alot of work. Not the prep to write and post, but the inner work that might get to happen walking the journey we were on. There are lots of thank yous. I was glad to read that when I looked over them again. So, the question is, would it be a good idea to day by day share them until this mountain of paperwork is done? Keep the blog going without much new thought? Its now Thursday and I have spent most of my brain wandering time in the last two days pondering that question. What I have come to is this……first, the pictures reflect beauty. Liz is a first rate photographer and she has a talent for drawing out the meaning in a moment, adding a layer of beauty to an image that is already about wonderful things. Secondly, our world is hurting. We have been going through a really hard thing and there is much division. I wonder if the contents of these “postcards” is a celebration of sorts, an upholding of what it is to be human, of what matters, there is no one who reads this who will say, “love doesn’t matter to me.” Love matters. Maybe that can be a source of unity. The story that unfolds behind the scenes, my Mom’s journey through her final days, remains her story, very little of it is disclosed here. The pictures allow continued exploration of life on a ranch and are a point of connection to human things. So, I have decided to share these and here is the first.
We do not run the race alone Nor go into exile by ourselves For we journey along the Way Made smooth by those who’ve gone before.
And though invisible to the eye They are with us still, forebears in faith, Whose example, wisdom and yes, prayers Inspire, encourage and guide us Through the valleys and mountains of life.
And in the silence of the night Listen for the soft whisper of Ancestors, relatives and friends Who, though gone, from the sidelines Still cheer us on and Whose love and countless kindnesses Brought us to this very day.
Alone no longer (as if we ever were) We are part of a vast, unending Procession of love and life Past, present and to come Where memory and meaning mingle To create an eternal, dynamic Community of souls and Communion of saints.
The notion of taking comfort and strength from those not physically with us has been on my mind in a very particular way lately. I have been listening to alot of Maya Angelou interviews. Several times I have heard her say “I take my people with me” when doing something scary or challenging. I like that, but, besides packing up my figurines I can’t quite figure out how it works. But then this morning she said this, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” That clicked. I like that it affirms my individuality and competence as I come to a hard thing but it doesn’t leave me on my own. It links me to all that has come before and those who have faced the challenges and prevailed. It invites me to think about the names and faces I know and find strength from, those who have walked this walk too. In the realm of women ranching with their husbands I think of Marlene, Kay, Carol, Donalee, Sheila, Lyla, Melissa, Bonnie, Donna, Molly, Georgie and Gail. Those are the names I know, but I stand in a long line and a wide circle of women doing this life. I come as one but I stand as many.
This mural and the write up about it I took from a page on the internet. Its another illustration of a great cloud of witnesses and I like that it illumines some of those witnesses Maya Angelou brought with her to her life stage. She spoke of friendships with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, they are here.
I am in the midst of setting up a new desk location for myself in our home. I am almost there. One of the last jobs is to hang some beautiful portraits of my Mom and Dad. There were terrific encouragers and I want their faces near to remind me to persevere when I am scared or daunted or tired.
This post has been for me an unusual braid…..the utter ridiculousness of hauling figurines around the ranch and telling you about it, woven together with Holy Scripture, poetry, art and song and then the ongoing story of finding my courage, healing and strength in the midst of all that life holds. Some people think of braids as something to do with hair, but we do alot of braiding here lately as part of ropes and lead shanks and halters. They hold alot of weight and provide alot of security. The same might be said of the clouds of witnesses that exist for you and for me.
If you have a minute, look through the lyrics to this Carolyn Arends song. They are so vivid and thought provoking for me. Here is a link to the song as Carolyn performs it.
I was just four, my grandmother’s place I knelt by her sofa and started this race And now I’ve been running for such a long while I’ve kind of lost track of the miles Sometimes I press on, sometimes I look back Sometimes I just lay in the road on my back When I’ve got to get up and I don’t know how I hear in the distance the roar of a crowd
It’s the great cloud of witnesses Cheering me on each step that I go It’s the great cloud of witnesses They say the finish is worth every inch of the road
Moses is there, up in his seat With my Grandad Wilfred, my Nana Bernice There’s Abraham, Isaac and my buddy Rich And I think they’re shouting “don’t quit”
So if you are tired, and your back is sore If you’re not so sure you can run anymore Then just take a moment and listen real close Do you hear a sound like a heavenly host?
It’s the great cloud of witnesses Cheering us on each step that we go It’s the great cloud of witnesses They say the finish is worth every inch of the road
It’s friends and relations and each generation of saints who believed And received The Prize They have looked into His eyes
Its been a week since I was free to do any blogging. It has been an unusually intense week, we took many pictures over the days and invite you to glimpse a week in the life of a prairie ranch family in spring 2021.
This was a hard week. We are all exhausted. On Wednesday I calculated at the end of that one day that between five of us we had worked 63 hours, I was not including our lunch break, but did include a fifteen minute coffee in the afternoon. Why bother telling of that? I think it comes back to the title theme of this blog, about being seen. Its a hope that when I give that figure people will understand that us agriculture people truly do work hard for our living, that we love our animals and we are busting our butts trying to manage all the variables that equal quality of life for them. As I sit here tonight I can picture all the pairs we put through the chute this week, they are doing their thing, many of them already at their summer pastures, enjoying endless hours of prairie sunshine, hanging out as Mama and baby cows together. It seems okay.
In the midst of all this we have lots of great moments, Russ is fun and makes us laugh. Morgan is growing and changing and adding skills every day. We have had time with our cousins Laurie and Dawson who we appreciate so much. I made some food that I am proud of. We have had hard times, its not roses and sunshine around here all the time. We are worried sick about the lack of moisture, one of our dugouts went dry this week. We are getting impatient with each other. Russell and I had some hard words and I gave myself a time out at one point this week. Things don’t feel too carefree when work is front and centre from sun up til sun down. You start to miss feeling a bit carefree. But then the grace sweeps in. The warm things that start to thaw the ice between a man and a woman. The wisdom found in an awesome YouTube video (more Maya Angelou for me, listened to while checking cows) reminds of everything deeper and wider than the present moment. Cousins arrive and remind you that you are not alone. That softened ice cream tastes delicious and makes you feel brilliant for finding it. The beauty surrounding us, sights and sounds, touches your heart. My people come up against the dangers of big animals and stay safe, again and again. I am reminded that God has given me a purpose for my life. You find a way to give permission to yourself to be just human and struggling. The grace sweeps in and in a slower moment gratitude bubbles up.
And that is the week we have known. Is it too early to go to bed?
I have been thinking ahead to this day all week, in little bits and pieces. I want it to be easy, of course I am naïve. It will be what it will be. Mother’s Day is a day of Mammoth importance. If Mother’s Day is about knowing blessings it’s a different day than if its about dissapointments, resentments, difficulties, and losses. So much of our lives is laid bare on Mother’s Day. I could write pages and pages and not do justice to the significance of this day. I don’t need that task this year. Do you want to join me in just some brief thoughts about the two mothers I am thinking about a lot today?
Perhaps you knew my mother in law. Her name is Marlene and she died in 2016. Lately I have found myself thinking about her in a very specific way, in a way that perhaps few women get the opportunity to do, I am not sure. I have been thinking about her from the point of view of walking in her shoes. For decades Marlene was the matriarch of this ranch. From that vantage point she lived an extremely hectic life, responding to the realities of 8 kids, a husband, hired men, hundreds of horses and cows and a good network of friends, family and neighbors. She had a store in the town of Carnduff. She fed a multitude of people every day, her kitchen churned out food that was almost always delicious. She was a quiet but dedicated Grandma. She balanced so much. There were things she didn’t manage all that well. That is just being honest and it is something that could probably be said of all of us. What I note however, is that she found a way to keep the ship afloat most of the time. Using this metaphor I don’t think Marlene had very many days that could be considered, “calm at sea”, between the ever broadening circle of family she felt responsible for, her own struggles, the needs of the animals and circumstances beyond her control like weather and markets, there was always wind up against her it seems to me. From that point of view she had to do what I am now doing, I am walking in her shoes. The thing is, I am pretty sure that for various reasons I have it approximately ten times easier than she did. Having had these years of walking in her shoes I understand better the things that might have stressed her when she was the Miss Ellie of the ranch (remember the matriarch of Dallas?) The phone rings……who wants what?………is everything okay?…………is there bad news to digest?……..do we need to change our plans? …..do I have to answer that? Marlene always answered her phone. I don’t. I am very protective of myself. Marlene sent her husband, hired men and kids out to work with huge draft horses and cows, using equipment not as safe as we are blessed with today, the risk was astounding. I wrestle with this risk every day. I am a bit scarred by what I have known. But how many times did Russell alone send Marlene into a place of worry with his various injuries? I maybe get it why Marlene was quite understated in her response to things, she had faced down a lot, it takes a toll. As I think about Marlene these days I find myself thinking, “I think I get it.” That is no small thing. It really is significant to walk in anothers shoes, both to gain understanding and promote a sense of thankfulness for what we have. As I think about what I have I am really grateful for a lot of things, but the fact that Marlene and Walter gave Russell to the world and to me is one of my greatest blessings. Her work of mothering has made a big difference to me and I do admire how she persevered cause I think I get just how tricky this life could be.
With the loss of my own Mom so fresh in my mind my thoughts of her are all over the map, trying to reign them in is like herding cats. However I did hear something this week that seemed to guide me and my little cats. I was looking for some wisdom and some comfort and I just thought to type into a Youtube search bar, “interview with Maya Angelou”, it was a rather random action. I have been listening to her ever since when space allowed and I have been loving getting to know her. A really good interview was one from 7 years ago, with CBC’s George Stroumboulopuolos. She told him the story of being at an event with the rapper Tupac Shakur. She didn’t know who he was but he was getting himself in a fight and cursing angrily. She insisted on him stepping aside to speak with her. She asked him, “young man, when was the last time someone told you how important you are?” The tension of the moment, the emotions running on high, the reality that a human was stopping a runaway train and and in effect saying, “I see you”, it’s a combination that is heart-stopping I think. With baited breath I waited to hear what happened next. She had more words for him about their shared ancestry, that their people had stood on auction blocks for them to be where they are today. Her message, with all its force and its subtlety hit him and made him weep. I was fascinated by her question. I noticed how she phrased it. She didn’t ask “when was the last time someone told you THAT you are important?”, a question which would allow us to think that his importance was up for grabs , (which is ironic because he was apparently one of the most influential rappers of all time). Instead she said, “when was the last time someone told you HOW important you are?” You might think I am splitting hairs by tuning into this slight word difference. I am doing this because it seems to me the way she phrased her question was based on a core understanding that Tupac (and all of us) was important, that is an unalterable fact, the question is, has anyone lately provided a reminder of that. How beautiful, to both affirm for him his importance as a human being and also his need, like all of ours, to have that fact reflected back to him. I think its heart-stopping. Maya’s question to Tupac has helped me. She has given me something to hold onto. On this Mother’s Day I can focus my thoughts on a great gift my Mom gave me, she never out and out said, “you are important, very important” but she treated me like that was the case and she was consistent. It is admirable how consistent she was. I don’t ever remember feeling that I was unimportant. I am incredibly blessed. In the midst of our whole families deep longings to be near to my Mom Maya gave me something firm to hold onto on this day. She focused my unruly thoughts and reminded me how important I was to Georgie Kyle.
There is a funny thing to share today too. I am married to a mother. When I talked with Russ about this post he felt that he should get honourable mention. He feels that he has been responsible to provide more creatures with their essentials for life than most mothers of the world. The numbers of creatures that Russell has fed bottles to, given mouth to mouth resuscitation to, facilitated adoptions for, assisted with establishing breast feeding and watched out for and treated signs of illness for is quite astounding. So Russ, thanks for all the mothering you do and all your instincts for care and protection that make this a very natural fit. Today on the way home from church Russ asked to stop by the calving pasture to have a look at what was happening for one particular calf. The situation is hard to explain, but Russ decided that right there and then the calf needed to come home to the barn. So, in our church clothes we loaded her up and Morgan did some wrestling all the way home. It made for an exciting interlude on Mothers Day.
On this Mother’s Day weekend things are unusual. Gina is away at school, Jill is in quarantine and its my first Mother’s Day without my Mom. I don’t have my girls. At this point, I am doing okay. In the space this opens up I have a chance to ponder and share some stuff about Gina. She is the human who made me into a mother. She is currently spending hours and hours every day dancing, learning the craft of acting and developing her singing talents. She is having a great experience at the Canadian College of Performing Arts.
What you may or may not know about Gina, is that she never had a single dance lesson until she was in grade 9. The summer before grade 9 she started talking about wanting to study dance. We wanted to support her interest but wondered how you start such a disciplined area of learning at that late age. She would never fit in with her peers. We found our way to a half hour weekly class in Estevan at Drewitz School of Dance, there she studied Musical Theatre. I can pretty vividly remember the day we went to registration, I felt completely and totally disoriented and maybe a little foolish, who did we think we were coming there green to all things dance?!? We were very kindly received by the owner of the school and Gina was encouraged, it felt good. I also remember holding my breath that day as our payment card was processed for the purchase of shoes Gina needed. We were never very flush with cash, but back to school time was the worst. This really was a big deal to commit to. The card went through. And we were off…….
Gina loved it. By the end of the year she had earned an award for most improved dancer in her class of 30, she was part of the grandest recital I had ever seen, it took my breath away and she wanted more. That is almost exactly when Oxbow Dance opened its doors, a school much closer to home, this was a blessing that likely changed the course of Gina’s life. In a fledgling school she had access to much one on one teaching, she thrived, she grew, and she fell more and more in love with dance as she spent hours in training every week. Fast forward to post secondary education decisions………there was no decision to be made, she knew what she wanted. She took charge of every single aspect of researching and applying to various schools where she could study musical theatre. She was accepted at the school which was her first choice and made the move this past September. She is now half way through the two year program and is loving it. It is unbelievably hard work, she is always tired, she is learning such interesting and valuable things.
More than once over the last year Gina has asked me, “Mom, how could you have missed it?” She is not accusing me of anything, it is more of a curious question. As her Mom, how could I have not seen that performer inside of her? It’s a good question. I am not sure of the whole answer but I know these two things. I was limited by my ideas of what is normal. This part of my answer is kind of sad. I am a big woman, I know nothing about doing hair and make up, and I don’t really care about it. “People like me don’t belong in the world of dance” is part of what rolled around in my head. It never crossed my mind to encourage any of my kids to pursue dance. Yet, now Jill too is finding her most joy in dance. My own sense of limits shaped the options I considered for my kids. The other part of my answer is what I am proud of. We have always listened to our kids, we have tried to honor how it felt to be them, we have tried to stretch them but also create safety for them, an interesting tension. I think the best thing is that as we listened to them we taught them to listen to themselves. Gina was doing lots of sifting and sorting in grade 8. She was doing well in cadets at that time, but it seemed that she just got honest with herself and said something like this, “I need to be more free to be expressive.” How would a grade 8 student put that? Definitely not those words but that same idea. This is the point where for no apparent reason she choreographed and performed for us a number based on music from the musical “CHICAGO”. Then she asked for those first dance lessons.
So here I sit, my first born is a long way away, she is finishing up classes and practicing for the year end musical offered in a few weeks. In hours this week when I was weary and nostalgic I spent time looking at photos and videos. There were some where indeed, you might say, “Kathy, how could you have missed that?” I and we just did. But Gina didn’t, and that is what makes all the difference. So as her proud and nostalgic Mama I invite you to share in the moments that might have added up to me getting it, but they didn’t!!
Some further credits: The pictures of the show from Gina’s school were taken by Andrew Barrett, a designated photographer. Gina is on stage with Mackenzie Langdon, Dustyn Forbes, and Jaren Guerreiro at the Canadian College of Performing Arts. The event was called “The TD Festival of New Works”.