That’s a Wrap – Day 1

As 2022 was winding down I found myself aware that despite the numerous things that were hard about the year that has passed, there were several things that got added into our year that were a bonus. I made a list and hope to do some writing over the next several days just to explore the good a little bit.

I have been aware of this “added bonus” reality for the last few years, at the end of recent years there has always been one or more things to say, “wow, I didn’t expect to have that or appreciate it like I do!”

One of my added bonus items for this year is vinegar.

Please hear me out.

In 2020 when I spent days living with my Mom I was exposed to how she would add a healthy splash of vinegar to her dishwasher just before she ran it. I have to admit that when I first witnessed this, and received her instruction that when I was running her dishwasher, I too should do the vinegar treatment, I wanted to roll my eyes. My Mom had things she was a bit fanatical about, like she recycled every imaginable thing she could, those in her circle had to figure out how to stay on board with her strategy. She regularly urged us to sleep better by blocking out blue light and she sat down and had a big talk with us some years ago about the challenge to control weight during menopause, a talk which I was quite offended by. I have no good reason to have been offended, but I was. Sometimes its hard to have your Mom acting like your Mom. Yet, I was blessed by her wisdom, over and over again throughout my whole life, and this vinegar trick is likely the last concrete tip she passed on to me.

The sentiment in this image is the first wisdom Mom passed on that involved vinegar. It was something she would say often enough.

When I returned home I started following her example, and it seemed that there was positive effect. My dishes did look a little better. However, I have never really been able to feel proud of the dishes I put on the table, a light film has always been present, more or less. As problems go, this is not a problem, but then again, it was bugging me.

About a month ago I got serious about the vinegar situation. I decided that I was leaving too much to chance and not getting the benefit of that vinegar. That generous splash that my Mom used was more like a half cup in our house and it still didn’t have the effect I wanted. I got tricky and I got strategic. I took the spray bottle I used for wetting down hair and I filled it with vinegar. Then I gave each glass a spritz or two on the inside as I put it in the dishwasher. (It has helped that my girls have both moved away in the last month and I am usually the only one loading the machine. This added step is one only I have to contend with.) Then I give several spritz over each level of the dishwasher, put in the soap and hit the start button.

My dishes have been verging on beautiful.

I am thrilled.

Who cares right? Its not life or death. But here is the thing………..

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself being a ranch wife. Housekeeping is an uphill climb. The dogs, the dirt, the grease, the grass, the melting snow, the mud, the calves in the house in spring, the dust generated by the gravel road nearby…..its a bit complex to keep this place looking even half decent. Having crappy looking dishes due to hard well water is a part of that scenario. But……something has been figured out to make it slightly better. I literally feel thrilled to pull the smooth, clear and shiny glasses from the dishwasher. When I pass them to my guys or to company, I feel a bit of quiet pride. I feel less sorry for myself.

Most of the time I don’t feel sorry for myself, I have a good life. A moment today…..Russ got my attention to stop and watch the dogs. Knightwing and Coffee were wrestling on the floor right in front of the kitchen sink. They were completely self absorbed, oblivious to the fact that they were in busy space not designated for dog action. It was a bit wild. I thought to myself, “this is not normal.” And I also loved it. It is quite intrigueing how they play together and fight and protect each other at the same time. Life is spicy.

And… is sharp, like the smell of vinegar hanging in the air as I get those glasses loaded.

I am thrilled that I figured this something out. That wisdom that Mom started in me got strategic and one of my life problems is figured out. I’ll count that as a win and count spritzed vinegar as one of the gifts of 2022.

Important Day

Its 3:09 on December 29th as I start this blog. I am thinking about what was happening and how I was feeling 21 years ago. Russ and I were married in this beautiful church at 4pm on December 29th, 2000.

It’s the church where I was raised. The bricks, mortar, stained glass and shingles sheltered my family for moments both routine and ultra meaningful, since 1961. It meant so much to be welcomed back there, along with so many friends and Bayliss family from the southeast, to experience the moments that would make official the transition I decided to make. That transition was to leave the city behind to embrace love, rural life and ranching. To embrace Russell, with all he brings to the table.

I think one of the most confounding and at times painful realities of life is how hard being married is and at the same time how much potential there is within marriage.

I would observe that what is hard about being married changes with the seasons and circumstances of life. That makes sense to me. Somehow Russ and I have weathered those cold days and seasons of marriage.

Today is for celebrating. Celebrating the grace that has allowed us to get this far. Celebrating the wisdom we have been able to grasp. This has helped us explore and experience some of the potential of marriage.

Two years ago something shifted for Russ and I. Some key pieces of wisdom seem to have been injected into our life together. There is no real clear explanation for how we landed with the wisdom we needed when we needed it, but we did. So I call that God’s grace. It meant really seeing each other and risking more vulnerability with each other than we had before. It meant that more than ever we found we had a best friend in each other. It has been so comforting. Especially since the last two years have been so difficult, so stretching, so mind boggling, so worrisome, so full of change and loss.

My blog is fundamentally about ranching. Ranches are about four legged creatures and the individuals and families that tend them. Our branch of the Bar MW ranch family story officially began 21 years ago today. It’s an important day.

We celebrated our 20th anniversary in stages over 13 months, due to the pandemic. The last piece of this was in September 2021, we ventured to the most eastern point of North America, wearing our original wedding dress and jacket. We met a photographer at Cape Spear, Newfoundland who captured these moments for us.

It was a huge risk to marry Russell, given that it meant joining a way of life that altered my reality completely. I am glad I did. When I woke up on December 29th, 2000 I lay in bed and counted on my fingers all the reasons I was marrying Russell. I am analytical like that and I needed that. It was a big big deal what was unfolding that day. What I valued then holds true today. We are very grateful for the opportunity to live this life together and to have a shared mission to be like the church we were married in. To be a sheltering presence n the world, offering space for routine life and meaningful moments to be explored and shared. Russ is the perfect person to live that mission with.

Just What the “Doctor” Ordered

I am in possession of a prescription bottle that was filled and labeled in the summer of 1990. I am not sure if even one pill was used from it, that is until I opened it up last week. This medicine really took its power from the bottle itself and it served its purposes over the years.

The bottle was part of a gift that a friend of my brothers gave him. Bob was battling brain cancer and his friend gave him this bottle.

Ruth had rolled up pieces of paper with words on them and put them into clear capsules. This looks like it was painstaking work.

She filled the bottle with these capsules and made a label for the outside. She referred to herself as “Dr. Ruth”, and prescribed that Bob take one capsule daily or as needed. She called the capsules “uppers.”

Last fall when I was in Saskatoon with my Mom I found this jar of uppers in my Mom’s pill cupboard. She had kept it for 30 years, but like Bob had never ventured to unravel what was within. As I worked with Mom to get a system for her pills figured out I put the bottle of Ruth’s uppers into the collection of bottles we were working with daily. I put a label on top to distinguish it from everything else, it was cheesy of me, probably touched me more than anyone else but I labeled the top “UPPERS Bob’s Love.” Then after Mom’s passing when we were dealing with unused medicines I ended up taking that bottle of uppers home. Back at the ranch I tucked it into our medicine drawer. A couple weeks ago when the drawer was not closing properly I decided it was time for a good sort, to get rid of the outdated and unused things. The bottle of uppers was moved to my desk and I have looked at it with curiosity since. Last week I opened it up and unrolled the first “gift”, the first “upper”. It struck me. I taped it it to my desk and have looked at it and read it and thought about it quite alot since.


Yesterday I opened another one, it touched me too. I wondered if this kind and creative effort that Ruth made 31 years ago might come into the light of day through the blog and be a blessing to me and others in this difficult season we are in. I hope to keep looking at these “uppers” one at a time over the next while and using them as a jumping off point to talk about life.

About this first unfolded capsule, I have several thoughts about it. Two things are top of my mind though. If I have a choice seat than that means that this is a very fortunate place to be. This bit of wisdom Ruth planted in that capsule is a reality check. The times are challenging, its still hot and it still has not rained, I just cancelled or had cancelled my third holiday in 12 months, but…………….in fact this is a choice seat. Yes it is. I can make a long list of blessings or ways that my life is easy. How challenging and important to hold the tension within this, on the one hand choice seat and blessings and at the same time and equally true, problems that make our hearts race, our brains scramble and our spirits weary. The other thing I like about this wisdom is that it normalizes drama. I don’t mean the stirred up kind of drama that people create for whatever reason they do…..maybe to feel more alive? I mean the kind of drama that is just part of being human and trying to make a living and a life amid the unknowns of our days. I don’t know why I need that to be normalized, maybe because it seems the ideal all around is to have life under control. But teenagers, weather, animals, health and other humans are not readily within my control, so things get dramatic, and its my job to be faithful in the midst of it all. I am not sure how this prayerful sentence Ruth tucked in that first capsule would have struck my brother, a man fighting for his life, it sure would have been interesting to have talked about this with him.

The Scripture reference that Ruth attached to this prayer sentence is Romans 12:12, that reads “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I am thankful that affliction is normalized in this verse, it is not a curse, it is life, and in the midst of it we are challenged to be patient. I wonder what Russ thinks about that. I am going to ask him when he gets in tonight. What I want to tell you about this verse from Romans 12 is that I couldn’t help myself and I went ahead and read the next one, verse 13, it is, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Tears came to my eyes when I read those verses. Could it be more clear what life is supposed to look like when we are following as we should? In these confusing times we live in I am very grateful for all sources of clarity that I find in life. These verses, part of a larger section in my Bible titled “Love in Action”, offer me clarity.

There was a more modern prescription that came into play today. Like the prescription of 1990 it was meant to boost morale and made to look very official. Russ phoned me this afternoon so… ….what …..demoralized …dejected …dissapointed ….I am not sure exactly, but big feelings that were hard. He had just finished baling 80 acres that was especially bad for yield. He had taken 1 hour 4 minutes to drive around and scoop up enough hay to make one bale. It was very hard on his morale, he was grumpy, it takes alot to make him grumpy. He asked, “do you think todays batch of iced coffee could include some tippy cow?” I agreed that it could, it should and it would. Tippy cow is a chocolate rum cream.

The bottle in our fridge was part of a gift basket from our veterinarians at Christmas. I believe it was Megan the vet tech who got really creative and put into words what the intent of this gift was, on a prescription label. It gave us smiles many times.

We are all frazzled, so it was that when I made that iced coffee I forgot to put the instant coffee in. I realized it in time, but there was no more space in the blender mug. I had to take a few healthy sips of the creamy cold tippy cow part of the beverage before the 3 tsp of instant coffee that Russell likes could be added. This was my good fortune, I highly recommend this combination! To wrap up this post, in a way that is a 180 degree shift from the start, here is the final “prescription” of the day:

Kathy’s Iced Coffee

In a blender mug combine:

1 cup milk

2 Tbsp. cream (optional)

3 tbsp. chocolate syrup

Instant coffee to your liking

2 ice cubes

2+ tbsp Tippy Cow (Optional)

Blend well until ice is all mulched. Store in freezer for 5-30 minutes

Race to the hayfield for delivery.