The Tenderlands – A More Complete Version of Things

Some of the literal tenderlands near our place. (A Brodie Sollid Aerial Photo).

One of the things I do that does not help me at all is compare my life to others, that is, to what I glimpse of others lives.  Right now I am most guilty of comparing how I seem to be managing compared to others, I assess my housekeeping, my yard and what I have or don’t have.  Day by day it varies but right now these are the general categories I have in my brain.  In earlier days the topics were different, basically depending on what I was struggling with.    There are things I do well and I know it and maybe people compare themselves to me at times, clueing in to aspects of my life that I have shared here or elsewhere.  There is a risk with all this.  That is that we are comparing ourselves to others based on minimal knowledge of the whole situation.   We judge ourselves, and its costly judgment, based on information that isn’t complete. 

I think we humans only tell a partial story in the public setting because we have to guard our privacy and keep ourselves feeling safe.   Sometimes to feel good and safe we exaggerate what is going right.  That all makes sense at some level, however, it has a price when we judge ourselves based on a comparison with what is only a partial picture that others offer. 

I was thinking about this just now.  I am having a tough day.  I thought that I should avoid writing until I feel a bit better. I should not let you see this side of me. Or….., I could say something, and shed a bit of light on the wider picture of me and the Bar MW Ranch. 

I am sad today and its making me feel fragile and guarded.  I am currently sitting in the library in town, our Hyundai is getting an oil change.  When I planned the appointment I figured I would use the time waiting on the vehicle to go over to Grandma Shirley’s for a cup of tea and a visit.  But I am too brittle. I feel like I have nothing to give, or maybe its more a matter of I feel like I only have a ¼ cup of oxygen within me and that means none to spare.  Brittle is the best word maybe.   The sadness is perhaps harder to cope with because I am physically tired.  I simply loved our weekend, we had company that resulted in me feeling more whole, we had a cow chase day that held tons of stress but ultimately great satisfaction, sleep was cut short.  Its pretty normal human territory over here where I am. 

The sadness is about grief.  Two years ago today we were driving Gina to the airport in Regina, at the end of her trip home for my Mom’s funeral.  As we traveled I got word that my friend’s daughter had died unexpectedly.   Thinking about all that this morning I was raw, perhaps triggered, that whole autumn season of 2020 held many difficult things.   

Russ and I had an interaction yesterday that I don’t want to have bother me but I can’t deny that it is.  I know from experience that if I ignore it it will fester and breed crappy stuff in me, so at some level I am processing when and how to have a talk. 

Russ is helping the neighbors, within the hour I need to meet him, we will head to the bank for an appointment.  We were fortunate to get the chance to buy some land, we need to get the financing in place.  Its not a good day for that kind of appointment, that is the scary stuff in my world, and I only have that 1/4 cup of oxygen in me. 

So that is how everything is going.  No obvious positive blog post to make, instead, struggle, but I see you, you see me, you can see this.

Before I sign off, lets break down a situation.  I post pictures that reveal feeding hot food on the side of the road to 30+ people, it might seem impressive. Days and times like that are not the whole picture.  If you are going to compare yourself you need to know that my job is at the ranch.  I am not juggling off ranch employment.  I used to but I gave it up during Covid and Mom’s cancer.  I haven’t returned because I can’t consider juggling that.  My only job on chase days is to prepare food.  I have help.  I don’t have little kids at my feet.  I have years of experience with chase meals under my belt.  I have lots of equipment, crockpots, tables, benches, even a food delivery van at my disposal.  I have a house designed around creating and serving big meals.  I like cooking.  I really like lists and organizing, they make me feel good.  I can spend as much as is necessary to get the crew fed.   I am an introverted people person.  The way I am wired it gives me joy to see the faces come through the food line and it warms my heart to hear the thankyous, but I only engage this big group for brief parts of the day, it works for me, it’s a self-fuelling scene in many ways. 

In contrast I am not so well wired for the scary work I find at my desk or the challenge to tame our yard.  I definitely fall short there and in many other life situations.  That’s the bigger story.

My concluding thought is brief………I think we need to tame the comparing and be gentle on ourselves. 

A few pictures, taken by Liz Griffin over the years, to match a few of my points.

This is a picture of the final steps to get breakfast rolls to the truck before departure.   I can do that with a mega box of chips on the counter beside me, breakfast and lunch prep side by side.  I have the space I need to pull off what this schedule requires.
See that brace on Russell’s knee? He had a random and quite devastating injury in October of 2020.  Part of the pile up of crap that haunts me some days.
A picture taken the day after returning from Mom’s funeral, we had a chase to do, but I had been in many iffy places, hence the mask as I prepped food in my own house.  Liz caught me double checking our packing list for lunch.  Lists and I get along well.
I get to see a string of faces from my post where I serve lunch, then I return to my quiet kitchen.

Vasectomies and Vaccines

A friend of mine is struggling to make a decision with a pretty time sensitive matter relating to health. This has got me thinking about a story of my own that has similarities. My story involves Russell, so before I got writing this, (I was away for a few days in June when I started this) I sent him a text asking his permission to share the story. He answered with these words “I think if more people shared their stories and wisdom the world would be a better place. The story kinda makes me look like a bad husband but it is the truth. It is what it is. I know I’m not perfect and I don’t think I really would want to come across to any one as perfect. The best I have ever done is just try hard every day. So Definitely yes.”

This is not a dramatic story really, its mostly about how seven words affected my life in a very tangible way. The events began when I was creeping towards 40 years of age and living in the midst of a situation that could be described as a difficult treadmill or a place of abundant blessing and both would be true. I had a 5 year old, a three year old and a baby. My days were filled with the fun and the fervor of preschool life and my husband was not available much. The ranch work was unrelenting (if you are a reader from the city you might not realize that what I mean is there is no such thing as a weekend or a 5 o’clock bell, you work while the sun shines and often longer.) Russ was not in the position to call the shots and shape things in a way that allowed more family time. I was at my load max regarding family life. Thats the difficult treadmill part. At the same time I was living my dream. This is what I doodled about on my notes in Miss Rodgers grade 10 social studies class. I wanted to be a Mom, as Miss Rodgers did her best to get me into world history I remember doodling my future kids’ names, one of them would be Anna I hoped. Gina is not far off as names go. Not only did I have my kids, I had healthy kids and we were able to make it work for me to be mostly home with them. Not only did I have my kids but we got pregnant very easily and with the exception of one miscarriage (a traumatizing one I will admit), carrying them was easy and birth was straightforward (as straightforward as XL babies can allow!) We were abundantly blessed. Herein lay the problem though, it was easy for us to do this, but I knew, deep in my soul, that I needed to be done. There is alot of I and my in that last sentence. The miracle of creating life is pretty intoxicating and it is hard to say, “thats enough”, I think I needed to be done but Russ was not sure. However he respected where I was at and so the conversation began about how to prevent anymore babies. I wanted a solution that left no room for wondering and worrying, giving up sex was not an option, talk of a vasectomy was next. This is the part that makes Russell look bad. In a nutshell, (no joke intended, really, I just wrote that and then realized it was quite descriptive…….) So, in a nutshell, Russ talked it over with several people and tried to convince himself that he could do this, and he couldn’t. He just couldn’t find his way clear to take the steps to make it happen. Was I frustrated by this? Yes, but it is what it is. I made an appointment to talk to my doctor. I was embarrassed to bring up our predicament, I knew it made Russ look bad and made me look like a woman not standing up for herself. However, I am an intensely practical person and so I was prepared to have the procedure to end my fertility. I am also a feminist, in a soft, kind’ve meek version of that word, but I am. It seemed to me that my giving in and subjecting my body to another thing, when it should have been the man’s turn, was something my feminist peers would tell me was unfortunate and that I had let myself down by not fighting harder. Here is where Dr. Naidu did me a great favor. I told her what was going on. She looked at me and she said this, “you have to take care of yourself.” Seven words. They were seven words that accomplished a total reframing of the predicament. The frame I had constructed around this problem was “if I am the one to give in and go for the surgery I lose.” Her seven words reframed it in my mind like this, “your job is to make a decision that takes care of your future, your needs, your dreams, you are the boss of you, do what you need.” My life experiences up til that point meant I had zero concerns about having procedures done. It was an extremely easy decision for me to make when framed in the way that Dr. Naidu constructed. I had the procedure, all went well for me and the next chapter of our life opened up. Russell did not take my flexibility lightly, he was appreciative and showed it.

I believe this was taken at my 40th birthday party, not too long after all the deliberating had taken place.

Do the words “you have to take care of yourself” touch your story today? My friend is working on the question, “should I get the Covid vaccine?” I sense there are many, many variables that are swirling around as that decision gets tossed back and forth. One thing is for certain, the decision to get vaccinated is not a private issue like Russ and I were going through. People out and about ask if you have had it and pass a certain amount of judgment based on the answer they want to hear. In addition there is a need to provide proof in order to get on planes and cruises and cross borders. The decision has very public implications. The forces that push one way or the other are varied, can be intense and could be quite personal. It strikes me that Dr. Naidu’s words to me need to be applied to this situation so that something very important can be honored. That very important thing is, the human person making this decision. Putting aside all the push and pull, all the argument and counter-argument, all the shoulds, coulds and maybes, what are the dreams and hopes of the person? I see this as having some real parallels to my story above. Russell should have stepped up and got it done. I had spent 32 months of my life hosting our children within my womb, couldn’t he have just done the right thing? In a perfect world, yes. And in a perfect world no one should have to get an injection that they do not fully understand or trust. No-one has to get that vaccination but in order to live life as much as normal for the next while, you must have it. As likely as an unwanted pregnancy for us was, without precautions, it is pretty clear that Covid can move in and wreak havoc on individuals and health care systems, we have to find the most effective way to preserve our communal hopes and dreams for the long haul. So thinking about my friend, what I want to say first of all is, “thank you for listening to my story” and I also want to say what Dr. Naidu said to me, “you have to take care of yourself.” Only you know the subtleties of all that stirs within, only you and your doctor know best what your health dictates. If you trust your doctor listen to him/her and to your hopes and dreams. Put aside what all the competing voices are saying and do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

To those readers who are fully convinced that I should be urging my friend, pushing for vaccination, I have to say that I really believe in the power of listening. I would rather listen to hear what is going back and forth for my friend than be pushy about my perspective and silence the voice that is honestly struggling already. The listening process is well suited to helping people discern what is right for them.

To those readers who hang firmly to the information they have that makes this vaccine a very poor choice, not in the service of hopes and dreams but other darker things altogether I can’t get on board with that. But I will listen. I see the way that case rates are falling and the overwhelming majority of physicians and scientists who endorse it and I sit with that. If you can’t I think thats okay. As long as enough of us can find our way clear to be vaccinated, and I think we are, we can keep those case numbers falling and find our normal.

A few more pictures to illumine the story that has been told…….

With two kids my hands were full but it looks like I was loving it even if they weren’t at the time!
Russell has quite a tolerance for having his hands full.
Jill’s first day of kindergarten. Can you see why it was hard to quit? What a trio of spice and spark. I miss the days of sippy cups!
There is a lot of our kids’ personalities in this picture.