Hello Tuesday

I had an experience on Sunday morning that I was eager to write about as it was unfolding.  I didn’t get a chance. 

It was likely a couple months ago that I got a phone call from the church in Estevan asking if I could lead worship at their Church and include the sacrament of Holy Communion.  They are currently without a minister and therefore do not get the chance to have communion very often.   I remember thinking that by late November I would be free of cow chase work and I could be available.  The thing is, I then forgot that I had made the commitment.  It was a busy fall and I think my brain is struggling to hold onto many details.  I am not really worried about this, even though my Dad was my age when his dementia began.  There was a random moment of extreme grace that saved my hide.  I was at a church meeting in Carnduff a few weeks ago when our minister said to me, “Kathy you are at Estevan on the 20th eh?”  She had been at a meeting there and saw their worship plan.  I was stunned by the news she had for me.  I came home scoured the calendar and the notes on my desk and I did not find any record of it.  Could it be?  I eventually just had to call the church and talk to the secretary in a way that might confirm the date without revealing how forgetful I was.  It was true.  I was on the schedule.    By this point my aunts funeral was already set for Friday in Saskatoon.   It was destined to be a busy time.   Things unfolded as they needed to and I was grateful to be safely home from Saskatoon and prepared for worship as 9:15 rolled around on Sunday morning.  As I walked to my closet to grab my stole, (an embroidered very long scarf that I wear during the sacraments) with the family already headed to the truck, I looked down to realize that there were spots of blood on the floor.  Nothing awful had happened.  One of our dogs had begun to cycle.  I had already done some cleaning up earlier in the morning and naively thought I had it.  In a moment when time was short I just decided to step over it.  That is the exact moment when I said, “I want to write about this.”  Why?  I think there is a thought in society that ministers and the activities that fill our lives are kind’ve holy, perhaps holier than thou?   That moment seemed to capture much.  I was about to conduct the service that I would have missed had it not been for Susan’s attention to details, I was stepping over canine menstrual blood and I was leaving mess in my path as I headed out the door.   Ancient notions of holiness included total separation from menstrual blood.  Being forgetful is a sin in this culture of ours.  Is orderliness next to Godliness as the saying goes?  All those things were tumbling around in my head as we pulled out of the yard in the still very dirty truck.  If service to God requires all our ducks are in order I cannot rise to the task.  If service to God requires a willingness to go where we are needed with the best that we got, relying on God to both understand us and work through us, well, its worth a try.  The folks in Estevan delighted us with such a warm welcome.   Its another example, in my own experience, that we best not wait til we have everything polished up to jump into the life that is in front of us.   Maybe this is where faith actually comes in.  Daring to believe that we are good enough as we are, to be people who live to help God make the world more whole. 

This picture is 2-1/2 years old but is the last one I have that illustrates what a stole looks like. This was during a service that we recorded outdoors during total lockdown, a “blessing of the animals” service.

P.S. Something funny…..when I read this over to Russell he said, “thank goodness you clarified about that blood.  I was thinking that when you said our dog had begun to cycle people were going to think that Knightwing had taken up biking and was getting lots of owies!”  That mental picture gives me the giggles.

When Knightwing isn’t busy with her first job – guard dog at the ranch, and when she isn’t working on her new hobby of bike riding, wink, wink, she is a committed cattle dog, totally part of the team.

December 8th – Checking In

Its shortly after 6am, I have been awake since 5:15am, thats the fourth day in a row of that nonsense. Day 1 was so that I could be ready to lead worship and get there on time, day 2 was because I forgot to turn off my alarm from day 1 and I couldn’t go back to sleep, day 3 was because our dog Maddie started barking for no apparent reason, today it was Coffee dog, same time, same thing, random barks starting at 5:15. I went to bed earlier last night to try and compensate for how foggy headed I felt and I am glad because I am ready for a bit of writing this morning instead of desperately trying to get more sleep.

I thought maybe I would write about a few things that have been happening.

On Friday night Russell and I drove to pick up Morgan from a friends’ place. We had never been in their home before but were welcomed in for a drink. They had a couple friends over already. The six of us, and Morgan and his friend and dogs and other kids moving in and out sat in their kitchen and had a really good visit. Do you know what didn’t happen? Cellphone activity. You would never know cell phones existed except for a story that got told about forgetting one and me getting a text I needed to check and answer right at the very end of the visit. It was so cool to experience that. It felt old fashioned and right and good.

I spent my weekend with my head deeply immersed in thoughts and stories I was exposed to as a result of preparations for the sermon on Sunday morning. I listened to a priest on youtube, his name Father Gregory Boyle, he has overseen a very effective gang rehab ministry in Los Angeles from its very beginning. He knows alot of stuff about life. While I tuned in to hear about compassion I have taken away new wisdom about how important it is that we are all connected to each other and about what needs to be in my head as I am doing my lifework. It has been a gift.

Monday morning when the alarm went off at 5:15, I grabbed my phone to turn it off quickly (with some exasperation at myself), and then noticed I had a Messenger bubble notification on my screen. I tried to go back to sleep but wasn’t successful. I checked that notification. Well then for sure I didn’t go back to sleep. Late the night before someone had sent me a video, I presume they thought I needed to watch it, seeing the title stirred feelings of anger and stirred up my brain. It was called, “why are people choosing to live in cages?” I lay there wondering if I should respond to it, I thought to myself “I should watch it” but then thought, “why?” With all of Father Boyle’s wisdom about relationship on my brain I think I was sensitized to what was going on in me as this link landed in my world. What I needed was a message to go along with the link, I needed the person to say, “Hey Kathy, I sense you have some pretty clear convictions about all this Covid stuff. Listen, I saw this video today, it made me think of you. It had a good illustration I wanted you to hear. I would be curious what you think?” If that message had landed with the link then we would be in the land of relationship. I might have then answered back, “Hey, thanks for thinking of me and taking the time to connect about this stuff. I honestly don’t know if I will watch it. I am tired and I don’t have much of a brain for conflict right now. Its Christmas, I got this grief thing going on in a different way than last year, I have lots of projects in front of me. Mostly, the title throws me off, honestly, the reality of a cage just doesn’t connect. I see what is being asked of us Canadians is because something very big is at stake. I was asked the other day, “where did you get your mask? I love it!” My answer, “Newfoundland.” I was in Newfoundland this fall. So, yeah, I am not feeling pulled by this title. I really thank you for thinking of me.”

I think I would attach this picture, just for a visual about why the illustration of a cage has nowhere to land in me.

This is an extremely corny thing I am sharing, but to celebrate our 20th anniversary we had some pictures taken with our wedding clothes on, situated on the most eastern point of the continent. In this picture the only thing ahead of us is Europe, everything and most everyone dear to us is at our backs.

Without any attempt at human connection going with the delivery of this link it was kind of disorienting. I don’t know this person well at all, what does she want of me? She started this, let her create a little context for me, I have enough miscellaneous stuff floating around for my brain to manage. So that is something I have been working on getting my head around these days.

We decorated for Christmas about 10 days ago. Grandma Shirley came over and we had a day of getting at the work of pulling out the boxes, rearranging the furniture, setting up and hanging and discovering again all our old favorites. We ate copious amounts of treats, except ju jubes which got overlooked in our preparations. It almost didn’t feel like Christmas without jujubes and our favorite Christmas CD which we somehow misplaced. Christmas will come even if we don’t have the Veggietales Christmas Album on. I guess. I love the end result. As the days get dark so fast and it has turned really cold, the lights and the gentleness mean that much more.

This was definitely a time for team work.

Yesterday Russ picked up a large amount of product from the Vet Clinic as we prepare to work with our herd to delouse and deworm them. I believe the bulls are first up and that is scheduled for this weekend. I have been shopping for the gates that Russell needs, our local Peavey Mart didn’t end up having them. So, thats just a few sentences about what is percolating at the ranch. The days are more predictable, generally speaking, and I value that.

Coffee Break Time

Last Saturday I was sorting through a drawer and found prescription stuff for our dog Eowyn, who was a puppy last year at this time. I looked at the date and thought, “oh we are doing well, Coffee is exactly the same age and she has not been to the vet for anything serious.” Eowyn had been quite a mischevious dog and had two head injuries as a young pup. Hence the reminders of medicine and treatments. We lost Eowyn on the first day of school this past year, when she was stepped on by a bull. It was then a hard decision to get another pup when we had the chance. We did and Coffee has been a real light in our life. It was therefore like a bit of a wee nightmare when Russell phoned me Saturday afternoon (only hours after I had decided we were off to a great start with Coffee) and said, “Coffee got stepped on, can you come pick her up and take her to the vet?” He shared his theory that she had a broken leg, due to the sound he heard. I dropped what I was doing and got out the door. These are the phone calls I hate for obvious reasons, but they also contribute to a databank of anecdotes that all scream at me, “Life is risky! Your heart is not secure! Your life is not controllable!” Those things are all true, but they are darn hard to reckon with very much.

Russell and Gina had been out working with a small group of cows, moving them from one pasture to another, just across a road was the goal. It should have been straightforward and easy but it wasn’t. The cows in this group are ones that we are not breeding again, mostly because they are so aggressive and we don’t want them around, they will do best in the world when they become part of the food chain. There are three that are just terrible, their motherly instinct is fierce and it doesn’t subside as things get established, they have proven themselves to be dangerous pretty much year round.
This picture that Liz Griffin took this calving season is a good illustration of how much the dogs are part of the action and that it can get intense.
This is another recent Liz Griffin picture, this is one of our permanently aggressive cows. Just like in this picture, on Saturday afternoon it was coming for Russell’s horse, so the horse moved fast to get out of the way and Coffee was in the wrong spot for that motion and got underfoot. The fact that Coffee got injured seems to be further proof we need to get rid of the mean cows.
Russ figured out a way that he could end the cattle move right then, sent Gina home with the horses and came to the vet with Coffee and I. I cannot lift more than 20 pounds so this turned out to be a blessing because Coffee needed to be carried. She was also overheated, it was one of our super hot days and she was stress breathing. In this picture she has ice packs on to cool her down and is having a break during the xray process.
Bingo came with us to the vet. She insisted and it made things simpler for Gina but right before we pulled away she found cool water/mud somewhere, which in our focus on Coffee we did not realize. Bingo spent time alone in the vehicle while I grabbed some quick groceries and Russ was with Coffee at the clinic. Bingo was able to get mud all over the passenger parts of my SUV. This is where I imagine someone saying, “Kathy, why don’t you set more limits? Why do you let all this chaos into your world?” To that I answer, there is constantly a triage process happening in my brain, sorting through what is important (which is no simple question), what is urgent, what can be dealt with later. In these moments I could not get worried about my seats which will wipe clean, Bingo needed us and honestly I think I needed Bingo. I spent time with her out in the yard at the clinic while Russ did 98% of the time inside with Dr. Dawn and Coffee. I liked it that way. I am finding I don’t do well in moments like that. I had paper recycling in the back and a water bottle and with these I got the seats that Russ, Coffee and I needed cleaned off and ready for the trip home. Bingo got to keep her muddy seat. (Both Bingo and the seat were dried here and much less threatening looking than they initially were!)
Back home with sedative to sleep off Coffee was an easy patient, Jill was near and happy to comfort her. Morgan was away all weekend helping friends with their cows. We elected to not tell him about Coffee’s mishap until he got home. That was a good decision.
This picture was taken back in early January, the night we picked up Coffee from her owners. What I didn’t realize in this moment was the kind of bond that Morgan was ready to establish with this dog. He and Jill have spent so much time with her and just loved her into her best self. Therefore the news of injury was very tough. As he got used to things Morgan began doing some problem solving, what would make this heal best? He texted Dr. Dawn with the question, “should I be giving a calcium supplement to Coffee?” She answered back, “nope, just lots of cuddles and kisses.” That is an easy presciption to make work.
We took Coffee to the vet for a check-up yesterday. Russell and Megan were able to restrain Coffee for the removal of her splint and for the assessment. I was needed for a bit to restrain while getting the new splint applied. We were able to avoid sedative this way. Dawn was great. She said that everything looked very good underneath and we are good to go for another week.
Those are arms of love but for Coffee I am sure they didn’t feel like it in the moment. Coffee is very resilient, she was acting like herself within a minute of being done.

Prior to marrying Russell I had only one experience with a pet, a cat we got when I was already a high school graduate. I didn’t grow up like my kids are growing up, surrounded by 4 legged creatures, some that sleep with them. The word that comes to mind this morning is “privilege.” It is a privilege to have these lives join ours and journey together. Isn’t it funny how the same thing that I call a privilege is also the thing that causes me to say “this is chaos!” Its so true. At 2am I was awakened by Coffee barking (but teen boy Morgan wasn’t woken!), I went downstairs and let her out of Morgan’s room, I let her have a drink and tucked her back in. Before I was back in bed she was barking again. I brought her up to the dog room tucked her in there and thankfully never heard from her again. In these middle of the night moments of wakefulness I am tempted to feel hard done by. Sometimes I totally do and I get a bit stormy. Last night, perhaps mindful of how blessed I feel that Coffee is on the mend, I was at peace and went back to bed and went to sleep. There is alot of deep stuff at play here……the power of relationship between creature and human, the possibility of and evidence of healing, so much gratitude for skilled caregivers like our veterinarians and gratitude to the Creator of all who has designed a world where healing, relationship and helping are forces like gravity, always having a say in what we need and how we act, for better or worse. Coffee is a joy, both the dog and for me the beverage. Thanks for taking a break a reading about our coffee.

The Dog Days of Spring

My larger goal with my blog is to keep things very real.  I can’t imagine what benefit there would be to projecting this message, “we sure have our sh*t together.” We don’t.  Today that means nothing dark to report thankfully, just life.  

Our dogs are a huge and constant source of joy, having said that they cost me. Last night around 2:30am I was wakened by our outside dog, she was defending our yard from coyotes (I think), her barks were quite ferocious and Coffee responded from the dog room and joined in.  That’s a lot.  I was awake.  I could not go back to sleep for three hours. Now I am so whooped I am almost useless, so why not write a blog about it eh?  Its 6:50pm, I think the guys will be working for another hour but I am tired so I am unusually hungry.  I am generally trying to eat low carb but I just polished off a large bowl of leftover perogies.  Its one of those days.   Back to the dogs…….I was just rounding the counter when I started to trip over a noisy thing on the floor but ended up just kicking it.  I thought it was a dogbone.  No, not that pretty.  Coffee had brought in a donkey hoof trimming from the ferrier’s recent visit.  A couple friends with donkeys brought them over to meet with the ferrier. We had souvenirs. True confession here……..I have a regular appointment with a cleaning woman.  Every second Tuesday she is here.  I’ll be honest, I feel guilty about this.  It’s a serious indulgence especially now that I am not working outside the home.  It needs to be in place until I dig myself out from the pileup that happened when I was committed to too much.  Maybe I will always give myself this treat.  For one thing, it frees me up to have company without worrying about the state of the house, at least not as much as I used to.  (I am operating under the belief that the day will return when once again our house holds regular company).   Anyways, today was Joanna’s day to be here and two hours after her departure I have a horse hoof on my kitchen floor.  If I used hashtags this would be the spot to place a #ranchwifelife.  

This donkey hoof is not as gross as it looks.

As I write this Coffee is playing with the water dish.  Its quite large and holds a lot of water and it can create a flood when she gets going, and I should be disciplining her, but here I sit.  And this is the spot for a hashtag including these words…. if I ignore it will it go away?    I always try hard to have the house clutter free before Joanna gets here, I can achieve that in places, but never in the 3 years I have had Tiki Cleaning coming here have I ever been truly ready in the whole house.  Todays victory was slim, the kitchen was almost perfect by the time she got to it (better than it has looked in weeks and now even better after her handiwork).  

The scene where, believe it or not, clutter has been reduced.

Back to the dogs…….this morning Coffee had another set of puppy vaccinations.  She rolled into the vet clinic like a beast on fire.  She was so excited by the bird in the lobby and being out and hearing other dogs and she made her presence known.  As I was holding her for the early part of the exam I quietly urged her, “okay Coffee, now show these women your best self, you can do it Coffee!” Then I explained to Coffee that they were used to our old dog Foxy, a sweet and quiet Chihuahua, she needed to be like Foxy. There is nothing like negative comparisons to guide behaviour…..not my best moment, but really I was just trying to be funny. I was kind’ve embarrassed by her huge presence, her 15 kg was coming off as 50.   The trip home was a bit outrageous.  I had groceries in the back and Coffee was super reactive to vehicles we crossed paths with.  Its like she thought she would chase them off so she would throw herself at the back window each time one went by.  I thought she was going to give herself brain damage.  After the third time it happened with no sign of it abating I roared.  When I have mentioned my grouch factor before many people have said to me, “YOU….grouchy?  I can’t imagine it.”   I wish you could have been there.  You would have believed it.  She was driving me nuts and I was sleep deprived after all!  Despite making myself hoarse after shouting her name only a few times, nothing changed.  I pulled over onto the highway shoulder, got her on my lap and held on for dear life.  She was perfect the whole rest of the way home, best pals, only damage was the wet mark on my pants from her slobbering on me.  Earlier in the ride I had resigned myself to the thought that I had likely ruined 6 dollars worth of bread by letting Coffee near the groceries in the state she was in.  It turned out the bread was perfect.  It was the tortilla chips that died, I see a taco salad in our future.

In other news it has been a record setting day on the ranch.  According to the names Russell is sending my way we have had 22 calves today and glory be, none of them needed me.  There are some noteable ones for sure.  We started the day relieved that Canada had safely calved and birthed herself almost a mini me.  She is red and white so she earned her nametag.  Later in the day another special red and white cow gave us a calf. Here she is…..

This is Mrs. Claus, she had just birthed her own mini me.

 The heifers were really busy today too, emotion, fidelity and lust all calved.  (Story behind these weird names in the blog post called “Love Me Tender”).   One of the later ones today is “Abba.”  

“ABBA” with her new calf. We love the music of ABBA at our house.

The sun is shining, the wind is low, the air is warm, it’s been an especially beautiful prairie spring day.  A great day to have 22 calves.  Now I am going to leave this and go work on supper.  I am hoping for a super inspired finishing thought.  Maybe it will happen.  Maybe it won’t.

As I finish I am not super comfortable with this post.  I am not really used to being so scattered and off the cuff, and maybe, like having a cleaning lady, feel a little guilty.  Guilty for highlighting a bunch of passing details in a light hearted way.  Life around us is serious, am I being irresponsible to turn my back on all the deep need in the world?  Maybe its okay to appear to ignore the hard stuff for a bit.  Maybe a day where the sun is shining and the air is still and the dogs are acting crazy and a cow named lust is calving, maybe that’s a good day to embrace that line in the 23rd Psalm I talked about a couple days ago…“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.”  We are allowed to take a break and rest and let others help us and maybe try something different, something light and fun.  Maybe despite being sleep deprived we can find ourselves saying, through all the craziness, “he restores my soul.”  May that be so.