Chit Chat Over Coffee

There is a little tiny joke in this picture. Can you see it?

Its 9:36am on September 1st.  I am writing to you live from the Chopper K Auction Mart.  Russ, Gina, Jill and I are here to watch our grassers sell.  These are calves we kept many extra months to grow up a bit.  We got here early after dropping Morgan off for his first day of grade 10. 

The sale hasn’t started yet, so we have been privy to the auction mart waking up and people getting in position for the work before them.  I just learned that it’s the first sale since June, so we are really witnessing the very beginning of a new season.  I have always enjoyed “good morning” type chit chat so its good to be here.  Gina reports that the action at this point reminds her of behind the scenes when the curtain is about to open in shows she has been in.  That is kind’ve fun to think about. 

The four of us free to hang out while others buzz about. The auction mart dog “Tina” came and wedged in between Russ and I. She is quite dear.

There have been a few things to check in about.

Gina is home!  Our girl who completed her musical theatre diploma in May and then extra training in stage combat since, finished up her lease in Victoria and moved home for a bit before carrying on to Toronto.  She has shown a lot of bravery this summer, going to big cities to study and learning subway systems and new people.  It has been awesome to see.  The big deal this week is that she loaded her car and drove home, boarding a ferry at 5:30am and driving til 10:30 that night, she spent some hours sleeping in her car in Strathmore, Alberta before heading on and getting home by 3:30pm the next day.  She really enjoyed the mountain driving.  What a monkey though, she wanted to surprise me so she didn’t give me accurate info about her location. So….she got home and I wasn’t there. I had been called to town and decided to have tea with Grandma Shirley while I was there, I thought I had time.  So, when I wandered into the house with my arms full of groceries, there she was sitting at our kitchen counter sipping a cold drink and video taping my reaction. Honestly. She hid her car behind the barn and had way too much fun catching me off guard! It was my joy to soon see all my kids sitting down for supper.

Yesterday we unloaded her car and I have to say it was impressive how much she had stashed in it!

How the car looked in the driveway the first night. Russ was impressed that Gina packed alot of stuff and kept her sight lines all around.
Gina’s pal Ernie spent the last two years in Victoria and accompanied her in the front seat on the way home. He told me not to tell Gina but he is glad to be back on the prairies.
All of this was in that little car!

Backtracking a bit…..My friend Deb and her girls visited over the weekend.  We enjoyed the visits, the storytelling, the wisdom shared, the laughs, there were some great hours spent together. 

A fun idea was hatched during our last breakfast, that idea is a cookbook.  We are both good cooks and we have been friends for 45 years.  I have a vivid memory of walking down the street together when we were about 11, talking about what we thought about becoming women.  We have talked about almost every dimension of womanhood that has unfolded since then.  It seems like maybe we could make some fun title out of that and create something, even if its a cookbook just for our kids.  It was fun to dream about it at the table and brainstorm what recipes would need to be included.  It was the cinnamon buns we were eating that …..


Our calves are coming into the ring to sell.  Time to close the laptop.

Here are our observers. Jill with calculator in hand, this is her job for us every sale.

Here is a minute of what that kind of action looks like.

9 hours later…..

Well the selling phase of the day was good but certainly anxiety producing.  The prices we received are quite improved over recent years and that is well timed.  The drought and storms of recent memory have been so hard.  Cattle prices have not kept pace with expenses. We are thankful for this morning.

Our John Deere tractor is in the hospital.  It has been a hard reality to work around, slowing our progress with baling, but just one of those things.  A significant problem started last Friday making it not driveable.  Russ called our family at Fast Trucking and there was a truck in the yard within half an hour to pick up the tractor and take it to Oxbow.   We are extremely blessed.

Loading the tractor with its problems was very nerve wracking for Russ.

Further problems have arisen, so the tractor is still in Oxbow, Russ is getting familiar with the staff at the John Deere hospital and things are going well between them. 

About baling………we have all the bales we need for feed and are so close to being done we can just about say we are done.   This is a relief.   We will now begin baling some straw (likely once the tractor is out of the hospital) but that is less of a stressful thing, usually.  It is such a relief to head into winter feeling only minimally concerned about feed and water.  We know that a year like this is a total blessing.

To make a morning like the one we had today happen there are many steps. First we have to get the animals in from pasture and ready to load onto transport. I was able to take a good video of the grassers coming into the yard yesterday morning.  Our friends Jackie and Marisol joined Russ, Gina and Morgan to move them down the road and also helped with getting them sorted and prepped to load.  Here is the video, they move in quickly and it makes for an action packed minute.

Last Friday night we joined a crowd in Oxbow to see the province wide touring group Saskatchewan Express.  It was a really entertaining production and we had a special interest in it.  One of Gina’s friends from college was a performer.  Liz was the understudy that portrayed Shrek to Gina’s Fiona in all the performances we saw.  We hosted her for supper while we were in Victoria.  It was pretty nice to have a familiar face on the stage in Oxbow.  She was excellent.  There are some people in our small communities who work really hard to make our life together warmer, more interesting, and more connected.   Concerts like this one are a result of their efforts, it is a very good thing.

Maybe that’s enough of a check in.  I hope this finds you well and ready to face what this new season holds.

Oh wait….the joke……

Some of the people in this house love cats. We have cat mugs. I picked one by chance tonight, to hold my decaf coffee. Then I took a picture of the mug to use as a lead image for this blog. But wouldn’t you know it, right beside those cats was a mouse. A computer mouse. My fairly stressed brain was quite amused by the cat and mouse story going on on my desk. You got the joke right off the top didn’t you? I probably didn’t even need to explain. Sweet dreams!

The Fruit of your REST

There is a phrase we use in Canada and probably in lots of other places too, it is “the fruit of your labor.”  When I use that phrase I mean the good stuff or the benefits that come from work done.  Lately I have found myself thinking about the opposite, that is, the benefits of taking rest time. 

In June I took advantage of a seat sale and got to go to Toronto where I stayed in an Anglican convent and did lots of resting.  I also spent time with friends and family.  Those were great days.  When I came home I found myself with a word in my head.  This word bears no connection that I can see to the things I experienced in Toronto, but nonetheless it was there.  The word was “decisive.”  I found myself with a readiness to deal with a longstanding problem.    I had a strategy emerge for it.  This all seems so weird.  This was not what I was expecting to receive from my “retreat” days. 

Rest time often brings with it a change of perspective.

The problem I had was that I have lived with a sense of urgency for far too long.  When that happens, like so many of you know, you deal with what is urgent, and push to the side what is important but not urgent.  In my life, what that meant, was that I had opened and paid all our bills as the months and years have gone by, but all mail that did not have that kind of urgency was not opened.    Things that did not have an obvious place to be put away got piled in and around my desk.  I counted.  I had almost 250 unopened pieces of mail, bank and credit card statements mostly, having been paid on line and monitored online, the mail itself had no urgency.  I also had at least 140 miscellaneous things piled on and near my desk.  It was all weighing me down.  How could I accept an invitation from Russell to ride along on a journey to pastures  or elsewhere when all that chaos was hanging over my head?  I decided I had to tell Russell what the numbers were and share what was burdening me.  Then I had to deal with it.  I am learning that a big work day set aside for a major overhaul rarely can actually come to pass.  This had to be a longhaul overhaul.   I made a chart.  I identified the problems I had before me and committed to open five pieces of mail a day and put away five of those miscellaneous things.  I added other things to the chart that would help me prevent further chaos, like opening three current pieces of mail each day.  I am now almost 3 months into this process and I am over the moon about the difference this is making at my desk but also in my head and heart. 

My desk usually looks something like this now.

Two weeks ago I took a few days off and after going to a Regina appointment kept driving north for a visit with my people in Saskatoon.   I stayed with my cousin but each morning we got up and going and went to my sister’s for coffee.  It was great.

In one of these visits talk turned to the fact that each of them wear activity trackers.   My eyes were opened to the benefits of wearing something that could track many health details and activity level.  I came home knowing I needed to research that for myself.  Russ and I each got one.  Is it life in the 50s plus age zone that makes you take health stuff more seriously?  Not sure, but the first days with the trackers have been very interesting and this tracker is going to be helpful, I can tell.   Sitting down for these visits because I chose to step away from the ranch for a bit allowed something new and helpful to enter my radar.

We have had some hard and frustrating days lately. Russ sent me this screenshot on one of the worst days last week. We are both finding it interesting and validating to have what we are going through spelled out like this.

What feels controversial about how rest happens around here relates to Russ.  Basically he has got to a point where he is claiming time to rest and rejuvenate because he enjoys it so much.  He is bucking the training that has been part of his culture since day one.  That training would say that as long as the sun is up, you are either at work or at a doctors appointment or something super important with your kids.  Time taken away from the ranch implies perhaps laziness, perhaps lack of dedication, perhaps lack of concern for the welfare of the farm/ranch.   Time taken away brings with it guilt.  I have no idea how it has happened that Russ has found the way clear to resist that culture and its guilt and claim the time we need.  I can tell you it has made a difference. 

We recently went to Minot for two nights.  Russ said, “Kathy, that greenfeed is not going to be dry enough to bale until at least Wednesday, lets go to Minot.”  I said, “Russ, we were just there last month.  Are you sure you can get away?”  My inner dialogue was dancing between guilt that I might have five nights away within two weeks, guilt at our abandonment of our ranch and delight at the thought of being away with Russ.   I did research that led us to an air bnb in downtown Minot.  It was great.  It was so cozy and comfortable.   What came of that rest?  Hard to know at this point.  I don’t have a new guiding word in my head, or a new health insight but am I a bit more resilient because of quiet hours on a beautiful deck on a warm summer night sitting beside my honey? 

We went to a movie in Minot and took the chance to pose a bit goofy with posters there.
Resting….I am blogging, Russ behind on the couch reading….just can see a head and foot.

Russ is very clear about something.  He believes that rest time experienced together is good for our marriage.  He thinks of these stolen hours and sometimes days as sequels to the honeymoon.  About this I know I am very lucky.   I also know that our marriage didn’t feel like this when Russ worked all day every day while I raised little kids.  The easing up of childcare duties, time to refresh that we have been claiming over the last five years and a commitment to really try and see each other has breathed life into the bond between us. 

In 2017 our friends invited us to go to Vegas with them. Our first trip without the kids. It felt like a cold drink of water and we awoke to the value of this kind of time.

The rest we claim would not feel nearly as wonderful if it was not the counter balance to lots of work, shaping most of our days.  There has to be a balance.  That’s the thing we are learning, and sometimes allowed to glimpse clear evidence of….there has to be a balance.   A balance between work and play, between effort and rest, between push and retreat. 

Let It Go Elsa!

On Friday night I sat in the Strand theatre in Melita, Manitoba with a bit of nervous anticipation.   Our girl Jill would soon be on stage with the cast of Frozen for a production they pulled together in 9 days at a theatre camp.   I was so proud of Jill before the curtain even rose.  Having just graduated from high school she was surely the oldest member of the cast, that didn’t hold her back.  She heard about the opportunity and knew immediately she wanted to sign up.   She is in a bit of limbo in her life, not sure what the next steps need to be, but she knows she loves musical theatre.  She hoped for the part of Elsa, one of two female leads, she got it.  She spent her days working on her part and riding the waves that come when sharing a project with children of many ages. 

Once the curtain rose there was much to take in.  The lead characters Anna and Elsa were played by three pairs of actresses, to relay the passing of time.  The little ones were so cute and showed much promise as performers.   Many familiar faces were part of the cast and that made it extra interesting.  The staging of a musical with little time or budget involves a lot of dedication and creativity, it was very interesting to see how it all came together.   The point where Jill and Amelia came on as the adult Anna and Elsa was notable.  Both these girls attended the first ever theatre camp back in 2016, they both love it, they were both strong performers who carried their lines and the emotion within their parts very well.  As an audience I think it was clear we could relax with the understanding, “they got this.”  That is a big deal.

Our friend Sue-lynn had front row seats and got this picture from that vantage point. Thanks for sharing Sue-lynn!

Jill basically blew me away.  I have not had the chance to see her perform like this for so very long.  Three years?  The combination of her maturity, experience, inner spirit and ability meant she took to the stage with confidence and was very effective.  I was so proud of her, she claimed her space as a performer.  What do I mean when I say this?   Its like the performer says within themselves, “I am here, with all that I am, I have a story to tell, I am letting you see something within me, I am dramatic, I may not be what you are expecting, but I am here and I am not leaving till I have given every last drop to get my message across.”  I know from experience that this is not easy to do but it makes the difference between an average and an excellent performance.  One of Jill’s fans was embarrassed by the tears that fell when taking in what Jill had to offer.  I wasn’t surprised.  They seeped from my eyes too.

I asked Jill if I could share the videos I took of her solos.  She was not so comfortable with that.  So you will have to trust me that her singing was lovely. 

Beyond the chance to learn and perform, as a parent I find myself with hopes that my kids make friends in activities like this.   It was therefore quite fun to drive home with Jill after the first performance and hear stories, not about the show, but the people in the show, the kids interacted with Jill in fun ways and it was heartwarming to hear how that all unfolded.   Jill didn’t come home with a new best friend but she was enfolded in a little community and that matters. 

Our friends and family were supportive of Jill, there were a lot of good feelings that flowed from seeing familiar faces and hearing words of support and affirmation.  The long distance family lent their support from afar through the family chat.   There are so many things that have made life challenging over the last couple years but without a doubt the chance to see faces and feel hugs and stand close for pictures makes a person think, “we are going to make it!”

Here are a selection of pictures we grabbed to remember the moments and the love.

This picture betrays Grandma Shirley’s usually sunny spirit. I am including it because I am wearing my Mom’s shirt. I wore one of her shirts to every one of Gina’s Shrek shows, to symbolize her presence in our lives in some way. I wore it to this 2nd show of Jill’s. Mom spent many hours in the theatre at Melita watching all the kids in these drama performances. Behind Shirley and I is a friend from Oxbow, Donna was able to sneak in the performance during time she was already in Melita, thanks to Facebook she knew about it. It was so nice to see her.

We are thankful to Brittany Walker and the Antler River Recreation Department for creating opportunities that have meant alot to our family, especially Gina and Jill. We are really proud of them both, its Jill’s time to shine!

Sunday Morning Cinnamon

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

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

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

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

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

Medhi in front, Morgan, David and Laurie behind.

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

David on the trail this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How About Something Nice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Banks of Fun Creek – Labels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show & Tell – Ava’s Gift

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

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

The gift is a rosary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Ava.

On the Banks of Fun Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday morning Coffee

Good morning,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Have Not Been Blogging…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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