Feeling Grateful

I don’t know where to begin.

Its calving season and we have known some serious blessings. I write that truth while very aware that many near to us are living with some major struggle. As I think about that I try and absorb that this is a time to breathe deep of what is good, we have had our struggle days too, in the last months and years, but if I don’t appreciate what these days hold I will not be ready when the struggle days come around again.

Would you like to do a brief tour of the last couple weeks with me, with some favorite pictures as the guide?

Before all the shenanigans of calving season began Coffee agreed to pose for this picture. “I am ready family” she said, in not so many words.

Before Easter break began Morgan and Russ played in the father-son basketball game at Carnduff school. There were definite moments like this where they were aware of and enjoying each other on the court. It meant a fun night out. Russ was thrilled to be able to say “I got a goal!” He sunk a basket! It was a nail biter in overtime, the boys won by 3 points.

Good Friday had Morgan and I on the road to Arcola for a 5:30 service that I led. It was a good experience with the people there. We then continued to Regina.

At 10:45pm I met a plane from Toronto, carrying a passenger from Switzerland, a woman coming back to the ranch with me. Her name is Anja. We began to get acquainted as we waited in line for her lost luggage. I was back at the airport a few hours later with Morgan. He was off with a school group to visit Paris, Monaco and Italy.

As Anja and I got rolling in Regina on Saturday morning news came from the ranch that calving had begun. Ian Fleming was the first and a first calf heifer. All the first calf heifers this year are named after authors,we call Ian Fleming’s offspring, “calf, James calf”, (Ian Fleming is the author of the James Bond series.) Anja braved Costco with me on the Saturday of Easter weekend. Her stellar strength was evident already!! We had an easy trip back to the ranch except Anja could not believe the distance we had to cover to get home from Regina.

Easter morning dawned with no kids in the house!!!!! I tried a new recipe, caramel rolls, a contribution for our potluck at church. They turned out great!!

Gina sent this selfie outside of her job at Medieval Times in Toronto. She had to work and had already dug into Easter treats I sent her earlier in the week, so she lost track that it was Easter!

Meanwhile, Morgan had made it to Paris. I was touched by this picture shared by one of the chaperones. The fellow in the black t shirt and brown cap is my son, on the streets of Paris far far away from me.

Easter afternoon put us to the test. I thought I was ready to go into town for Easter supper at Grandma Shirley’s but got an S.0.S. call from the pasture. It was the second day of calving and I was already dealing with unexpected laundry issues . I loved having that wee creature on my lap though.

A blessing: much water on the prairie.

Anja’s first day and she was quickly dumped into the intensity of calving life. She was joyful through it all.

When the nest is empty the jeep isn’t, not with Coffee, Maddie and Bingo needing a lift. They definitely help to cover the absences.

It was my job to check and pen up the first calf heifers for the night. Then I was free to get to Shirley’s where Shirley and her family and Russell’s sister Tammy were waiting on us. That is the hiefer “Maya Angelou” in the center of the picture.

Anja and Russell arrived, Russ grabbed the clean shirt I had brought him and changed on the street. We could enjoy our Easter supper. Work was done for the day.

After supper Grandma Shirley came out to the truck to see her favorite dog.

Meanwhile……..Jill was gathered with our Kyle and Garvie family. She mentioned the invite to me and I gave her my blessing to go north instead of south for Easter. I figured with all the jet lag and lack of sleep at our place combined with calving it was going to be a bit of “shitshow” here. I figured she would do well to go meet up with our people in Saskatoon. I was right. She sent this picture, sharing a moment from a game. Thats Jill 2nd from left.

Back in Carnduff Russ and Anja were off. Having arrived for Easter supper with two saddled horses in the trailer, an irritable cow, a calf in the front seat and Knightwing, they had much settling to do once back to the ranch.

Morgan was having some fine moments. Here he is at the Louvre in Paris.

Thats Cowboy Morgan nearing the Eiffel Tower.

Some tough moments on Tuesday happened when we decided to ask the vet to come and do a c section delivery on our cow Belle. She had gone down in a wet spot, we couldn’t get her to dry ground after two days and we couldn’t make her comfortable. We needed to relieve her of her suffering, caused by rapid onset of old age, it seemed. The delivery was exciting. Marcel found not one calf but two and both looked close to being viable. They came home for care. Anja joined me and we worked to get our calves established.

A day that held hours of work, drying, rubbing, clearing mouths of fluids, ultimately ended up in sadness. We lost the smallest calf at noon and the bigger one by midnight. It was very traumatic in the sense that we were forced to reckon with the question, “when do I give up?” That is a haunting question that I have had to ponder before in a very difficult time. As best we can understand it seems their stomachs were underdeveloped. It was the addition of food that hastened their deaths.

Anja’s strong work ethic, skill, humor and desire to learn have meant she has made a terrific difference on our ranch in the first week. Here she is putting a calf up to suck. She called this calf “Sunset.

Deb, my longest time friend in the world came to visit on Tuesday and we made lots of memories, it was quite a week to share with her. On Thursday we made buns for Grandma Shirley’s birthday supper. They were just about to come out of the oven when the crew was done their lunch break. They decided to stay in the house for five extra minutes and have an extra snack. Our crew was enriched this week by Grandma Shirley’s granddaughter Kayla. She was on her school break, visiting her Gram but getting lots of hours in the saddle too. She is a natural and was a joy to have around. That is her on the left.

Kayla at days end, having been a big help.
Friday we were all in town in the afternoon for Shirley’s birthday tea. Her daughter Colleen, seen here with her, had arranged for beautiful decorations and delicious cake. We had a good party, extra tables were put up when people kept arriving. It was great!
Our Shirley, looking wonderful. She gave a heartwarming speech where she acknowledged that 90 just kindv’e snuck up on her.

Russ and Anja made it to the tea for Shirley but missed the supper when during their late afternoon check they found this calf almost dead, it had crawled through a fence and was lying in a puddle, cold, hungry and separated from its mother. Anja took on the duties of head nurse. The calf then spent the night in the dog room and by morning was pretty zesty. I woke to the sound of Russ walking it around the porch.

Meanwhile…..in Florence, Italy – Morgan had a ride on a Ferris Wheel. The woman in the middle is the school leader of the trip. I admire her so much for taking on the challenge of making this opportunity happen for the kids.

It was a big week. It was a good week. It was also a hard week. We have much to be thankful for.

Carnduff for the Win

Sitting among the spectators in the Carnduff school gym on Tuesday night it was incredibly obvious that something very special was happening.  Three strands of story were coming together to create a sturdy net, catching our community in its fold.   It was the “Feel the Heat” challenge, the Carnduff Fire Department playing against the CEC Sr. Boys basketball team, as the evening unfolded it became clear that we all won just by having the chance to be there.

A post game picture of the teams.

The home team has a short history.  For the first time in 20 years the Carnduff school has put together a seniors boys basketball team.  With little experience, aside from a few members who have played with other teams, they came in as the underdogs in every league game.  With unswerving enthusiasm, growing skill and good sportsmanship they tackled each game, however there was not a game victory to be had.  This was the backstory for the home team part of the net being woven this night.

The guests on the court were men aged 19 to fifty something and one female firefighter.  They are the men and woman we call in some of our most vulnerable moments, and they rise to the task with resolve and skill every time.   They are a group who bring out deep feelings of gratitude and admiration from the community.  On this night they rose to the challenge put before them and showed up to the game with smiles, easy going spirits, hard running efforts and a few unforgettable fashion statements.

The third strand of the story was this moment in time we are living.  A community that has not had many opportunities to gather for fun in a long time was more than ready for what this night held.  A hearty mix of things that are good for the soul was being caught up in that net.  There was much laughter, delight, awe, and cheering that crossed team lines, all through the game.  It felt good……very good, with the only obvious downside being the possibility of some sore muscles come morning.  The audience that filled nearly every spare and safe spot in the gym had a great time.

So what happened?  The boys basketball team ended their season with the taste of victory.  They beat the firefighters, in a match that was never considered close in terms of score, but in terms of effort, the firemen really outdid themselves. 

What victory looks like.

There were so many things that people might be talking about or posting to social media as they do the replay of what we saw and heard at this inaugural “feel the heat” challenge.

There will be much amusement in recollecting the uniform of fire chief Clint Paton.  Decked out in a neon orange headband, black tights of some kind with knee length shorts overtop, neon orange socks and last but not least croc sandals, (in sports mode), he made a statement as soon as he entered the gym.  We all cheered when Clint sunk a basket. 

Those who love to see good basketball form will be delighting over the magic as Raf dribbled the ball, as if he was an elusive fly, always close but not stoppable, encountering every member of the firemans team within seconds it seemed, and moving right past them to get that ball one way or another into the key for CEC or the hands of a teammate . 

There is so much action and some definite smiles going on here as Raf deals with this ball.

In the crowd it was a remarkable night for a few reasons.  Its not very often that spectators in the stands at CEC are heard yelling out, “you got this Dad!”   That was the nature of much of the cheering and the signs seen.   Before the game one of the CEC basketball team was told by his father “pay attention, cause when the ol’ guys get tired they are going to start playing dirty and rough.”  It wasn’t far from the truth.  It was a more aggressive game than usual and rules became quite flexible as time went on.  In the last minute of the game the firemen had eight players on the court to CEC’s traditional 5.   No one was offended.  It was funny and seemed symbolic of their all in spirit for this game.  The crowd was privy to a very relaxed approach to the art of basketball.

Seven firefighters are seen playing in this shot!

Here a few other great moments caught on film…..

Jenn Meredith jumps high and gives the firefighters an awesome chance to get the play here.
There are alot of feet off the ground in this moment.
I think Barrett Paton should get an award for this moment.

Thinking back over what we experienced in the CEC gym on Tuesday night, it just doesn’t seem possible to say that anyone walked away having lost anything, we were all winners.

Saturday Morning

I was the first customer into the Flying M diner in Carnduff this morning. After dropping Morgan off at the school to meet his team for a basketball tournament I found the doors open and the coffee brewing ahead of schedule. It is now 7:55am and I am content. When I was a city girl it was one of my favorite things to do, grab my journal and head to a coffee shop where I could work through what was brewing in my head.

I have been wanting to blog all week but just couldn’t give myself permission to make it top priority. Its not that my week was full of big and urgent things, but just the regular stuff of life can take up time.

Something interesting happened last weekend. I was leading worship at our Church, our minister is on sabbatical and we laypeople have handled her absence by filling in. I was a bit overwhelmed by the reality of being the first to lead after Russia invaded Ukraine. As I sat at my computer outlining the service I had an idea come to me. I wanted to do the “Passing of the Peace” in a way that reflected this unusual Sunday. We have always used this part of the service to communicate peace between the people in the pews, but this Sunday pulled something different from me. I decided I would take our globe to church and I would offer everyone a chance to bless the world with peace by simply placing their hands on either side of the globe without touching it. As I sat at my computer I liked the idea. However, as Sunday morning drew nearer I found myself doubting, wondering, “is this stupid and cheesy?” Something compelled me to go with the plan. When the time came in the service I picked up the globe and I went to everyone where they were seated, everyone took the chance to do the blessing of the globe. I was still unsure of the plan, but I believe you could say “I went with God.” I started with those at the front which was Russell and Morgan. Russell whispered to me, “good idea” and that gave me some ease as I went to everyone else. I sensed it was well received, but after the service I received a couple of messages telling me how much it meant.

When we got home Russell was looking for an update on the war as I was making lunch. He went to BBC and found an article detailing the civilian lives lost already. He is tenderhearted so it was a double whammy to read about children who died after their kindergartens were bombed and find with that story this image.

It was a mirroring of what we had been doing in Church that morning. It was kind’ve mystical to see this. It was an affirmation of what we had been doing but also very much forged a sense of connection, the exact same action which had been enacted over and over in our pews that morning matched what a Ukranian person created as artwork and what was being used as comfort in announcing horrifying news.

Its 11:20am and I am now in D’Barrios in Oxbow, the first game is done. It didn’t go so well from a points point of view but as the coach said to me, “for some of these guys that was only their 3rd game ever!” My boy is one of those boys. From an experience point of view, it was major.

That is Morgan, #1 on his jersey.

There is perhaps no significance at all to the similarity of this picture to the previous one. Similarity you say? What similarity? Well…. hands are poised to hold a globe, there is a visual similarity. There is something else here…..eagerness. There is an eagerness to keep that globe (ball) from slipping through the players hands, to catch it. I see that eagerness in the response of people around here, as we lament the violence, suffering and harm we are seeing on the news and find our way clear to do something about it. We want to catch the earth from a free fall towards chaos and those of us who don’t remember WW2 perhaps feel like the guys who have only played 3 basketball games in their lives. We don’t yet know what we need to know. How do we catch the earth?

I saw a poster in the post office this week. I scanned this code. The link looks legitimate. As we think about “catching the earth” I think this looks like a good option. There is a fund to support the military effort and a fund to support the humanitarian work.

As I watched the game I found myself quite aware of one of the team members. Ivan came from Ukraine about five years ago I think, maybe more. He is in Jill’s class. I wondered to myself what he would be doing if he still lived in Ukraine, what would these exact moments in time hold for him as night falls there? The opportunity to share these moments with him feels like a vivid reminder that as humans on this earth we have so much in common.

Well….its back to the tournament as well as a trip to the Co-op to pick up supplies for a cherry cake . Jill turns 18 tomorrow and we have some celebrating to do!