Song of the Day: Happy Birthday!

I wrote about Gina and her first 20 years a few weeks ago because the days were ripe with stories. But as I post this its Saturday and officially her birthday.

As I get started on this blog I am tucked in the back seat of our Hyundai, Gina is in the front seat and she and Russ are swapping stories, currently discussing their experiences with caffeine. We are enroute home from Regina Airport. It’s currently Wednesday, Gina is home for Jill’s grad. The beauty of this moment is not lost on me. To be in the presence of my first born, enjoying her, but mostly just being near, is really nice.

At my checkup after Gina’s birth Dr. Naidu told me “that was a hard one.” Her observation was affirming, I had never done this before and I didn’t know how to describe what I had been through. The relevance to this blog is that this day 20 years ago Russ was actively caring for our girl and I was doing the bare bare minimum. I hardly knew Gina yet. What I am experiencing right now is not anything I could ever have imagined looking at those wise eyes staring back at me as we started to find our way 20 years ago.

Gina’s story has seen another big step since the blog about her earlier this month. She recently completed a two week intensive course in Vancouver, a national workshop of Fight Directors Canada. It gave her a “basic actor combatant” certificate. The first of 5 levels of training she needs to become an on set fight director. She LOVES this stuff and she is good at it. At the conclusion of the course she was assessed by fight masters and then received adjudication. What she heard was so encouraging. They told her, “you’re good, if you want to make a career of this you just have to go for it.” The part I loved hearing about as her mother was that she excelled at her teamwork. She was awarded “rookie of the year” for her group. Interesting options are emerging. A couple days ago Gina received an invitation to a regional workshop in Montreal, a chance to get her next level of training. The instructors and fight masters Gina worked with in Vancouver are encouraging her to attend more school in Toronto, another setting for more levels. She has an audition this weekend for more traditional musical theatre work. As her Mom it is thrilling to see her having options and although she has no clear plan at this point she said to me last week, “I’m in the right place.”

She shared pictures from practice sessions at the course and gave me permission to use them.

The picture below has Gina on the left. This is “quarter staff” training.

The picture below is Gina on the right doing what she loves, sword fighting.

The pictures below have her in “unarmed” fight training.

The conclusion of the course allowed Gina some time to hang out with my sister and brother in law in Vancouver. It was sweet for me to think about Jan and Ray being able to celebrate Gina’s accomplishments with her.

I can’t believe this sweet smiling face loves fighting so much! My sister reported back to me she had been shown some mighty bruises.

We are proud of you Gina and thankful, infinitely thankful for all the people and events that have got you where you are today. Happy birthday to you!

Day 57 – Calving Season 2022 – The Tenderlands – Chapter 3 – Longings

We got going a bit early today in order to be ready for the arrival of Harold. He is the trucker we use to take large herds to summer pasture and our calves to the auction mart. The first step happened when Russ and Morgan brought the group in we had put through the chute on Friday. We separated the cows and the calves and then Ron, Russ and Morg worked with Harold and got the truck loaded.

We did this with rain falling, as it had been thru the night. It was a muddy setting for our work.

Raindrops on my glasses.

At this point the accumulating moisture is still a blessing for us but has become a very large problem for grain farmers who are having trouble getting seed into the ground.

While the guys were loading the truck I bottle fed our calf, “Hadley”, a twin whose Mama couldn’t provide for both babies. Baby Hadley has a big story. When it was clear that he needed a different Mom Russ tried to adopt him onto our cow named “Hadley”, it just didn’t work and bottle feeding became a neccesity. Our guests the Fentons brought the calf his first bottle. Izzy and the calf bonded and for the remainder of the visit this was Izzy’s calf and it was given the name “Hadley Fenton” after Izzy’s great Grandpa. When Russ tried to feed Hadley after Izzy left he could hardly convince it to eat, Russ was not his Mom, “where is Izzy?” was the vibe this calf was giving off. By the time I showed up in its pen this morning that young calf had already known alot of different mothering action. We did well together. Hopefully he will get a permanent Cow Mom pretty soon.

Anyways…..Russ and Morgan checked the calving herd and then we got ready to go to church. I didn’t want to go. I am so tired. I wanted to stay in bed and drink coffee and roam the internet. Russell weighed in. With several Sundays ahead where attendance is iffy, he thought we should grab the chance to get there today. Off we went. Like alot of things, it was good to be there once we were there.

Having said that as things unfolded Russ felt he needed to make an apology to Susan our minister. After going full tilt for a long time and not sleeping very well the last few nights, Russ arrived at church not prepared for a warm spot to sit still for a bit and he fell asleep, repeatedly. He informed us at the end of church that he had bizarre dreams in those moments he was dozing. At one point he had been dreaming that he was sorting cows with women on horseback in Jesus’ tomb and Jesus and the angels were sitting on the ark of the covenant looking on. Its actually quite the scene to visualize. It was Morgan who had nudged Russ to wake him up at the point where this dream was getting going. He later apologized to Russ for interrupting such an interesting dream. And Russell apologized to Susan for sleeping in church. She was as gracious as ever, understanding his reality.

When Russell told me about this dream it seemed to me that there was something essential in it. I saw that maybe it had a bit in common with messaging that happened last Sunday. If you want to analyze this with me, read on…..

In Russell’s dream perhaps, and I really mean perhaps…..there is a distinct chance I am making a mountain out of a molehill…..but….in that dream was there a longing revealed? Could it be a longing to know that our daily life has holy dimensions? Like the assurance that we are living our days in the presence of God. (Why else would we sort cows in a tomb? That space where Gods power very famously prevailed.) Like the assurance that Jesus sees us doing the things that are hard and scary and loves us through it. (Why else would Jesus have stood witness to all that sorting action?) Like the chance to glimpse the possibility that our lives can be enfolded in Jesus’ story (thats what I see when action from 2 vastly different cultures and time periods gets merged together.) It was a thought provoking dream you must admit.

What happened last week is this…… Russ sent me a picture of Morgan working in our neighbors cattle handling chute. It was from the back. It struck me how much Morgan’s posture was like my Dads and that it indeed could have been my Dad in the picture.

The picture Russ sent.

I replied, “that could be my Dad.” Immediately Russ messaged me back, “That would have been cool 2 work with Wayne” In those few short words all kinds of longings were released and reflected. My longing that my Dad could be a part of what my life holds. Russell’s longing to know my Dad as a healthy man. Our enduring ache to have people alongside us that just can’t be. It was all contained in those few lines of text. Again I feel like I am making a mountain out of a molehill, us analytical people are kind’ve famous for this, but there is something there, there just is. There is definitely longing in my part of this story.

I am currently reading a book called, “The Book of Longings” by Sue Monk Kidd. Perhaps thats why longings are on my mind. What do we do with our longings? Especially knowing that many of them just cannot be met. It strikes me that one thing we can do, no matter what, is listen to them. Having listened to them perhaps something becomes more clear, maybe not. By listening though, we have honored our own hearts and that is important.

Day 57 of calving season took me to a very muddy corral, a quiet barn, a sanctuary, a restaurant and my own tenderlands. That has all been good, but the kitchen is where my attention is now needed. I find myself longing for that TV character from the 60s, Samantha from Bewitched, who could wiggle her nose and make magic happen.

I need some magic in the kitchen tonight.

Sentimental, Snassy and Super-thankful!

Thursday evening Russ got a message.  It was from a woman sitting in the front row in the theatre at the Canadian College of Performing Arts. She was awaiting the start of “Love and Information” on its opening night. Meanwhile our girl Gina was backstage, ready and waiting for her cue to enter. The message sent was a picture of a foot nearing the stage and just two words, “front seat”.    At intermission we received an asssessment of the first half.   The woman is Tammy Shaw, she was raised in the same small town near here that Gina called home for the first 3 months of her life. Tammy lives in Victoria and has been generous and kind towards Gina, very mindful of the connections we share.   The connection is pretty solid.  When I pulled into Gainsborough, Saskatchewan on June 28th, 1999 as the brand new minister who had never met a soul out here, my assignment was to go to Tammy’s Mom’s insurance business, meet Cheryl-Anne and get the keys to my new home, the United Church manse.   Cheryl-Anne gave a wonderful warm welcome, I could not have imagined then that her daughter and my daughter would be sharing the moments they did this past weekend. 

This picture is part of the first scene that Gina was in, that is Gina on the left side.  It was a scene where she needed to make eye contact with an audience member.   It was Tammy who was in the right spot to be that person.  That really pleased Gina and she made sure to tell us about this. 

Photo Credit: Peter Pokorny

When the show was over Tammy and her daughter waited to talk with Gina and they presented her with flowers.   This impressed me so much, it was just so thoughtful. 

The thing is that Russell and I had planned to be in Victoria and to attend the show.  We thought we had a window where we could make it happen.  Covid and cold weather conspired against us.   I am beyond thrilled that on opening night Gina had fans in the crowd.  We made sure to be in touch with Tammy afterwards so that she could know how much her support meant to us.  Tammy relayed that she wasn’t doing a big thing, because for her it was a connection to home, and she needed that too.  So Tammy, this next picture is for you.  This is young Gina, on the back step at the manse in Gainsborough, taking in the summer sun from that particular corner of the world.  You know all about it.

The next night Gina had a triple whammy of support.  Her Aunt Janet and Uncle Ray were watching the livestream in Vancouver, we were watching the livestream with the Connelly’s, and in person in the theatre were Miles and Shelley Vass.  They are friends we worship with here in Carnduff and our connections of friend, family, and ranching go way back.  Shelley’s Dad Jack was the first person I told in the church community about dating Russell.  I remember saying to him, “Jack, I have something to tell you, (he was a member of the Ministry & Personnell Committee) I have been spending time with Russell Bayliss, it maybe doesn’t make sense but…..” he cut me off, “it makes perfect sense to me!”  I needed to hear that.  Jack was among my circle of support for the rest of his years. 

It was great to hear from Shelley after the show that they had loved it and were so glad they were there.   She reported back “we had a hug and a chat with your star!”  Oh that does a Mama good to think about her girl getting that warmth and adoration from home.   Shelley sent this picture of the program.

Saturday evening, closing night, my sister Margie and her family were watching from their home just outside of Saskatoon.  I know that Gina was encouraged by the simple knowledge that people are with her in this big journey she is on. 

My appreciation for the support that Gina received is the reason “super-thankful” appears in the title of this blog.   It really is the heart of this blog entry. I want to celebrate that the ties that connect us to each other are so life-giving. Especially in these times of increased isolation I feel like we should take note every time they show up and reveal to us the importance they really do carry.  The ties that connect us are maybe the binding that allows us to keep well amid very trying or new or discouraging or big developments. They are the ties that bind. They are the ties that keep us from becoming frayed. They are sometimes not obvious until they are. I am thankful, so thankful for them.

There are other words in the blog title……..sentimental being one of them.  Gina and I had a pretty big visit on the phone this weekend, I was puttering and talking, putting away Christmas decor (not the tree, Jill wants that up til April at least…..), but shelf ornaments were getting wrapped and boxed.  Long ago I started keeping some of the favorite clothes of the kids’ childhood to use as protective wrap for our special Christmas things.  As Gina and I reviewed the highs and lows of the show experiences I was pulling these very small and very memorable clothes from a box and getting the job done.  I broke into the conversation, “oh Gina, I just pulled your striped pants out, you know I have a memory of a picture of you wearing these pants and looking in that full length mirror that was in the hallway.  You were really checking yourself out, getting very aware of your own physicality.  I don’t think I could have imagined this moment now back then.”  It was a really poignant moment in the conversation for me.  As I handled those old pants, remembering the little girl who once wore them it felt like a celebration of growth and giftedness.  I couldn’t find that picture but I found this one.  These are the striped pants that will protect my favorite nativity figurine all year long.

As I looked for the striped pants picture I had in mind I came across a few other noteable ones.  When Gina was 2 we took her and baby Jill to see Sesame Street Live.  This picture represents her first encounter with a stage.  The shirt she is wearing here is one of our favorites from the olden days.  It has a story that goes with it, we call it her “troubles Daddy!” shirt.  Last week the cat wore it. 

These favorite clothes today.

Sometimes I enjoy puzzling over how things come to be.  I do that alot actually.  I was struck looking at pictures today, of how at a very young age Gina was surrounded by somewhat unusual action.  Here at the age of almost 4 months she finds herself in the midst of lunch on a horse chase.  I wonder what went through her head as Blaine peeked at her with that big horse looming so near.

These horses were milling in the ditch beside her. What leads a country girl to have strength and fearlessness on stage? Do moments like these contribute? I don’t know but its interesting to think about.

Pictures of livestock help to transition to the last word in the title of the blog……snassy. This also is a pivot from dwelling on Gina’s experiences and turns us to Morgan for a bit of humor. Morgan loves to use the word “sassy” and he pronounces it with zest. In itself it is not a funny word really, but the way Morgan brings it into use it just has a humorous tone to it, all the time. Well on Saturday we took advantage of mild temperatures and being home and we got a big job done. With the help of Laurie and Dawson we put our heifers and late calves through the chute and gave them a treatment to prevent parasites and skin bugs. It was an all afternoon job and held both monotony and rodeo type excitement at times. At one point I looked at Morgan and noted that it seemed he was wearing his good jeans. I hassled him about this. He assured me these looked like good jeans but in fact had very inconvenient “air conditioning” (a bad and not stylish hole). Then it was his turn to hassle me, he told me I was being snippy, I said, “yeah especially because it seems I am wearing my good jeans!” “Well Mom!” Morgan said, “you are being snippy and sassy!” And there and then in the midst of that monotonous work a new word was born, “snassy” and it gave us something to smile about then and since.

Morgan at his station, bringing the calves up the alleyway to get them to the chute for their treatments.

This was a long blog. If you got this far, thank you for your endurance. I just couldn’t leave any part out. I think for me being sentimental is one of the ways I nourish the ties that exist between me and the people and things of the past. I seem to need that. Expressing gratitude is how I nurture the ties that bind in the current moment. Its a big part of my faith. When people say thank you to me I notice it, I feel it, I know it has nourishing power. I try to offer it back as much as possible. I could do better with that though. And how could I leave out snassy? If we didn’t get to celebrate humor I am not sure we could carry on around here.

Super thankful, sentimental and snassy……..thats me.

P.S. The new characters on the blog tonight gave their permission to me to use their names here.

Deb Diagnoses a Dilemma

I thought I would share the story of how this blog came to be. A couple years ago a friend of mine (Deb) said “Kathy I think there’s a Blog in you dying to come out.” She might have been right at the time, I think she was, but there was no way I wanted to think about starting something at that point, I had a lot going on. Fast forward to this set of months we have been living. Its been hard and the writing and sharing I have usually done on Facebook just didn’t seem a good fit for me anymore. At the same time, maybe as part of my healing from grief and burnout, I started to have some dreams. They were slightly odd but they were helpful and I started to feel better. Then almost a month ago I had a dream about my grade 3 teacher. She was a good teacher and I had liked her very much. I was really pleased when at some point in the 1990s I came across her while she was doing some volunteer work in Saskatoon, she was retired, healthy and she remembered me. Now its 2021, and when I woke up from that dream that included her I thought to myself, “I need to see if she is still alive.” I picked up my phone and I put in her name. I was thankful not to have an obituary come up. Instead what came was a link to a blog. It was her nieces blog, the story I was directed to included a picture and a little bit about her, it was quite recent. I looked around at the blog and enjoyed it and I thought to myself “I need to ask this woman about blogging!” I found her email on her page and I sent her a message. I included the top two questions that I had. I also was able to get the address for her aunt and get a letter ready to send her, she is 98 years old now. It was awesome to receive Marylou’s reply. She said that one of the top benefits of blogging for her was the way it allowed her to connect with people from a variety of places. That gave me goosebumps. I decided to go for it, started getting set up and then did the launch a couple weeks ago. It has been a good experience for sure and different from Facebook which I seemed to need. As I think about what has unfolded I can’t help but think about the fact that my grade 3 teacher, who likely was among the first to work with me on things like sentence structure, has indirectly given me something at this late stage in the game. She is 98 and I am 52 and still her legacy, the impression she made on me, something, was stirring in me to make me dream about her. That led to contact with MaryLou and the courage/the push to consider doing this thing which i am really enjoying. I think that’s really neat. I wonder what it was about our connection that prompted that dream that night. Maybe the truth is, our teachers are never really done with us.

My school photo from the year I was in grade 3. The day this picture was taken I’m sure I spent hours with Miss Schmidt.
This strikes me as especially true after the experiences with Miss Schmidt.
Switching back to ranch life….A different kind of couple picture I caught yesterday.
I was on duty to check the heifers a couple times today. There were more births among them today, one of them is pictured here. A few days ago I wrote about the tag theme for this group, they are all words that are part of a strong relationship, the heifers birthing today were “Romance” and “Warm.”
“Cuddle” is holding on, but looking pretty rounded. 16 calves were born today, no big troubles, “Canada” is looking like she is ready to birth….maybe by tomorrow. She had trouble last year so we are watching especially closely.