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.
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.
Things have settled down with the end of the blizzard. However as cold temperatures linger and we work with the snow that fell we are mighty grateful that calving has not kicked into high gear. One day last year we had 25 calves in one day. Those stats during a week like this one would just about kill us perhaps.
We have had a story develop with an unusual twist. Yesterday Russell and Morgan were working at the calving pasture when they thought they heard a calf bawling. Did they? They became as still as they could and listened hard….yes, they did hear that and it was near enough to be one of ours. The hunt began. The calf was located in the trees, by itself, hungry, cold, licked off. It had been abandoned it seemed. Russ phoned me to tell me the news and ask me to prepare the dog room for the arrival of a cold calf. Further phone calls had the two of us going back and forth on the best plan….. the bottom line, this calf was big, too big for Russ to want to carry it up the stairs and into the house, after riding around in the back of the truck it was warming up well, it maybe didn’t need the house. In the end I made a bottle for it and Jill went out and fed it in the truck. Russ took a video. If you ever wondered how a lively calf handles the back seat of a truck here is a glimpse.
After the calf mostly guzzled this dose of colostrum Russ then took it to the pen where he had a cow he thought was calving. He had brought her home to shelter given this strong suspicion he had. Was this in fact the calf’s Mom? Had he missed some key moments and read the signs wrong? I wondered if she maybe was in the midst of having twins. There was much confusion. Once the calf was placed in with the cow named “Hungary” a good connection was made, Hungary was not thrilled with feeding this calf but the calf sought her out and Hungary let that calf suck. Russ was stumped about what the whole story was.
This morning Russ came in to bring me a cup of tea and said I have good news and bad news. As I tried to open my eyes I was thinking, “oh no….bad news…..oh jeez….what?” The bad news was that Knightwing our guard dog had come in the house and threw up on the kitchen floor. Russ assured me it was just disgusting and he could not deal with it and he was so sorry. It turned out to be no big deal of a clean up for me, which meant the bad news was nothing to ruffle a feather over. Hallelujah. That is a word I should not be thinking on Good Friday, but I have heard way too much bad news in recent years and I am always ever so grateful when it is not a big deal. The good news was that Hungary had birthed herself a calf overnight. She was continuing to care for the abandoned calf and take care of her own. What a trooper. But heres the thing, Hungary has quite a back story with our ranch. Russ wondered if I could search his Facebook profile for stories of Hungary, I knew how to do that. In a few seconds I had the stories he was thinking of in front of me. Here are the screen shots of what we looked at.
The story became a good news one the following year and Russ and Jill followed up on Facebook……
Two years later its another happy chapter in Hungary’s story with us……
So that is the developing good news story about Hungary!
In other news………last night Morgan and Russ stripped down to their base layer at supper time, getting rid of the outer layers helps the heat get to them more quickly. It was with a good deal of enjoyment they discovered they were “twinning” and this photo was taken.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When Jill gave me a list of things she would appreciate for Christmas it included a bag of garlic.
I think she was just being zesty, (literally), she didn’t expect such a thing but Jill has a very lively sense of humor, it crept into her list making. The truth is Jill loves garlic and cooks with it whenever she can.
Last Monday I took one of our people into Regina for an appointment. That meant a quick as possible visit to a crazy busy Costco. There I happened upon a bulk bag of garlic for around 5 dollars. That seemed a small price to pay to indulge Jill’s sense of humor. I didn’t think very long before putting it in the cart.
It was a part of Jill’s stocking. On Christmas morning when she pulled off the tissue Russ wrapped it in, there was alot of amusement, some laughter and a good photo to be had.
The bag of garlic sat on the counter as boxing day unfolded, then Jill and I decided to tackle it. It would not become that mushy sprouting kind of garlic if we could help it.
We split the heads up into their individual cloves, and started to peel them. I abandoned Jill partway through to tackle a different job that was pressing on me. Jill stayed the course and created an amazing supply of garlic to be frozen. I asked her, “how long do you think this will last you?” She said, “probably til I am 24!”
I can’t imagine the garlic will last that long, but this is a gift that will keep on giving for at least several months. I am curious how it will fold into family lore. Will I now think of Jill whenever I see those bulk garlic packages? Will we refer back to this gift through the year and in future years? Maybe. Every Christmas seems to have some standout feature. The Kyle family talk about the Christmas the tree fell over during breakfast. We talk about the Christmas we danced on the street to a Barbie cassette tape. We talk about the Christmas I lost my mind from excitement over satin pyjamas. Around home here we talk about last year as the Christmas when Grandma Shirley was here (Covid kept her from her own daughter). We talk about the Christmas it was so warm that Russ took toddler Gina for a pony ride. We are happy to be reminded of the year Morgan got the wisemen from the nativity in a hide and seek match with John Wayne type Playmobil figures. So many memories. Maybe Christmas 2021 will be known more for the garlic than the snow, cold, wind and grief in the midst of a pandemic. Maybe. Maybe this blog will help that transformation. Long live the healing power of garlic!
I wrote this first part of this blog almost six days ago, on Tuesday morning.
I am wading through my first morning home after many days away, reckoning with how weird I feel, both physically and emotionally. Last Wednesday I drove the 550km that took me to Saskatoon where I got welcomed by my sister Linda and her husband Stu and we hunkered in for some days. Linda has a gift for hospitality and I was treated like a queen. My sister Jan flew in from Vancouver and stayed with my sister Margie and her family. Together the four of us, with help from my cousin Jodi tackled boxes and boxes of my Mom’s photo albums and some boxes of miscellaneous photos. I feel like what we did in wading through a lifetime of memories in their fullness is pretty rare, not something people get to do more than once in their lifetime if at all. From this rare point of view I want to report back on some of it.
The two things that I can’t stop thinking about are humor and love. Humor because it bubbled up often and allowed us to be real about what we were dealing with and yet not wallow in self pity or sadness. That meant for example that when Ella Fitzgerald came up on the playlist crooning about heaven, Janet, in split second creative humor, neatly revised the lyrics to address our situation. It meant my tears about reviewing pictures of our last happy party when my Dad was still a little bit well turned to laughter, as Linda looked over my shoulder and said, “and we weren’t even that happy.” It was true, dementia was taking its toll on all of us. There was something about the vantage point we had, more than 20 years later, that had us all laughing at her comment and pretty hard. We reviewed albums and albums from the 1980s which made it so inevitable that one of us would say something about hair, it was Margie, who with her very deep and sincere faith intact said “Why did no-one tell me that my hair was so god-awful?” It all just struck us so funny. Most of the things we laughed at are not typical knee-slappers, they might not strike you as funny, but it’s the mystery of humor, how it illumines our lives and helps us cope.
I got that far with writing then stopped. Now I am back at it, Sunday night. I have just spent much of the last hour looking at some of the pictures gleaned from our work bee. A word about process seems appropriate here. We set up in Linda’s living room, it was an invasion of sorts. Four big tables set up, the dining room table turned into a laptop and scanner station, for four days Linda’s space was pretty much turned upside down. Margie, Linda and I peeled pictures out of albums and sorted the content of the boxes, Janet received our sorted piles and using a high speed scanner we had purchased she did the painstaking work of scanning and catalogueing these pictures. Thru the wonders of modern tech we now all have access to all the pictures we handled. Can you even guess the number that Jan scanned? It was 6,700 on the nose (thats a prairie expression which means “exactly.”) Our discard pile was almost as big as our keep pile, so we looked at alot of pictures over the days.
Sitting here tonight I wonder about what makes humor possible. Definitely our stage in our healing work was part of what made us light hearted enough to laugh more than we cried. Perhaps it was the way that we had to keep a loose grip on reality because it was always changing. One minute being drawn back to 1981 and then 1939 and then 2002, all found in a combined box of pictures. Do you have one or some of these? I didn’t know my Mom had so many. I saw pictures I never saw before. Reality is a little more loose under those conditions and that loose-ness maybe encouraged humor. Maybe too it was about something kind’ve major. A kind’ve major truth, a truth that bubbled to the surface for me as we were preparing to start and discussing process. There was some anxiety rising to the surface…..what if we mishandle this and lose out on something special? We agreed we would look through the discard piles before they were garbaged in order to assure each other that we had all we wanted. It hit me then, this kind’ve major truth, I said, “girls, we have survived being orphans for a whole year now, we have lived without these photos and without our Mom and Dad for a whole year and we made it. What this represents now is the icing on the cake. We know we can make it, so everything here is bonus.” Its true. With that as our underlying truth it seemed like it was easy to live with a sense of gratitude for every one of the thousand moments our hearts smiled to see a familiar face, place, and item. With those smiles on our hearts the humor was more able to flow. In the end we never reassessed our throw aways we just let them all go.
I mentioned at the start that love and humor were on my mind. Perhaps the biggest reason that humor could flow is that each of us came to our time knowing we were loved and we are loved. Our parents loved us well, that is our most profound blessing in life. We all have taken into our hearts the faith our parents started in us, that tells us that we are beloved children of God. We all have established our own families, we have spouses, children and pets that welcome us home. That is major.
I have a few pictures to share with you. I am not going to make them orderly or chronological. It will give you a glimpse of how our minds were spinning thru these days together.