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Posts Tagged With: Dad

The right side of the gate

rodeo clown

When I was a girl I often helped Dad outside in the barnyard. In fact, I’d choose nearly any chore over chores inside.  Mucking stalls, loading bales, hauling chop (chopped oats), you name it.  I’d happily hop in the truck with Dad and run an errand, too: pick up a load of hay, drop off a steer, etc.  Plus, riding with Dad had its bonuses, namely you ride with the Candy Man you get some candy, man!  🙂

Flash forward to my corporate life today: I’m inside a lot, but I take the opportunity to get out “in the field” and in front of people as much as possible.  There’s only so many spreadsheets a girl can take.  I can create and run pivot tables, populate Power Point, yada yada yada, but, as I’ve blogged about before, sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and experience things head on.

A situation has been brewing that I’ve been managing and monitoring; I’ve pulled in local leaders and they understand the scenario.  Getting our corporate team’s attention isn’t always as easy, however.  Not for any other reason than what’s concerning me isn’t blowing up their backyard, it’s blowing up mine.

On a conference call with two lawyers the other day, I sensed they weren’t getting it.  So I brought up my Dad.  I explained that I’d learned a lot about the work I do by observing him as a Rural Municipal rep. He navigated political situations adeptly, he was a good listener, and his quiet charm and gentle approach served him well.  As a girl I tagged along to his meetings, making sure the coffee was fresh and the literature was straight.  I watched and learned as he listened to others’ concerns.

Further, I explained there were certain times when Dad would enlist all 5 of us kids for help – working cattle.  And one of his life lessons was to ensure we were always on the “right side of the gate.”  I shared his words, “If the bull’s out, you want to be in. If the bull’s in, you want to be out.”  Using this analogy, I related that I recently I’d felt like I was in the chute with a frothy mob of bulls bearing down on me and that it was up to the company to give me support as I vaulted up and over to the right side of the gate.  When I added that lately I’d felt like a “rodeo clown,”  they laughed and I felt Dad with me.

Me and those attorneys?  They get it, we formulated a plan and I am once again on the right side of the gate.

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Oh you could put yourself between her and her babies, but I wouldn’t advise it. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

 

Can you relate to this story? Have you ever found yourself on the “wrong side of the gate?”   What childhood life lesson applies to your work life today?

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Categories: Animals, Attitude, Confidence at any age, Elections, Faith, Family, Growth, Home, Life Lessons, Self Discovery, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Love stories

Mom’s settling into the nursing home and my sisters have started the long haul of cleaning out the house.  Sorting, stacking, settling, packing, throwing, reading, crying.  60+ years of living in the home Mom shared with Dad, the same home he grew up in.

I’m not there, I’m thousands of miles away, and the guilt is palpable.  But, so is reality.  I could stop what I’m doing and take a week off and dig in too, and guess what, a week is not enough. They work too, so they’re fitting this in as they can.  One sister gets it, the other grumbles, and I understand and appreciate both.  Again, the guilt …

There are the books, the pots, the pans, the dishes, the china, the crystal, the photographs, the note pads, the junk drawer, the sock drawer, the paper drawer, the plastic drawer.  The Christmas ornaments, the treasures, the junk, the furniture, the appliances, the you-name-its. No, a week would hardly be enough.

But, as my sissy has said more than once, the journey has brought moments of awe – a trunk we never knew about, tucked away in a spot we’d long forgotten, filled with our baby outfits – in pristine condition.  Shorts, caps and vests for my brothers, yellow and peach dresses for my sisters, and this frothy pink confection for me:

baby MJ in this pink dress. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

baby MJ in the pink dress. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

I don’t own pink, haven’t in years.  But seeing this photo again let’s me see myself through their eyes.

They also found letters – from Dad to Mom. She had been away visiting a sister and he missed her is all, and “Scout” the dog wasn’t much of a companion.  He used words like “my darling,” words I don’t remember hearing him say.   I expect he was about this age, or younger, when he wrote to her.  And the love and longing in his words transcends time and miles for all of us.

Dad riding

Dad wrangling a horse in spring. An Emjayandthem (C) photo.

So when I think of them, I think of their date nights, his taking her hand on the dance floor, holding the door and her giggle as she stepped through.  I think about the farmer and the teacher who met on a blind date, fell in love, and built a life and family together.

Mom and Dad with one of their winning horses - and a date night. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

Mom and Dad with one of their winning horses – and a date night. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

 

Mom & Dad dancing (and singing) at our wedding

Mom & Dad dancing (and singing) at our wedding, an Emjayandthem(C) photo

Dad’s been gone 11 years; Mom’s carried on and accepted this new phase in her life.  There were many great times, and some that weren’t.  But their love stories – those are the keepsakes that remain with me.

 * * * *

“As long as you remember the person who loved you, and whom you still love, then you’re making love endure.”  ― Guillaume Musso 

 * * * *

Have you been far, far away as major life changes took place?  What keepsakes are worth keeping?

Categories: Attitude, Beauty, Faith, Family, Grief, Growth, Love, Men, Personal, Relationships, Romance, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Angel Kisses

Stepping up to the desk I watched as she noted my name and birth date.  Placing a wristband on me, and snapping it shut, she smiled while handing over a questionnaire to complete.  Answering questions about family history and trying to remember past surgical dates I stopped and looked up. Looked around.  At the others there.  My age, many older, a few younger.  All women.  Most alone, some with a friend or a husband, all sitting quietly …  just waiting their turn.

Heading back, I changed into a gown and felt a shiver, like a kiss, on my shoulder.

I took my seat in the internal waiting room, smiled at the other ladies gathered there and glanced around. Hoda and Kathie Lee blathered on, I answered a few emails, and glanced at the women’s magazines laid out for us.

Someone new called my name and I followed, stepping into the room with the machine looming.  Asking my last name and birth date, and checking my wrist band, we exchanged pleasant banter as she explained why I’d been called back today.  See there was this area they wondered about, and I really should have it checked further, and so here I was.

I’d nearly rescheduled the appointment just days before.  The test isn’t even covered by insurance.  My job is so full right now, etc.  I don’t have time. But something, something stopped me from doing that.

trust your intuition

We started through the test, one side of the gown dropping away, my arm draped around the top of machine, the other shoulder trying to relax.  It pressed down, the whirring of the imaging doing its job, followed by her soft words of encouragement.  Wrapping up again, off I went to wait.  Wait with the others.

She came back again and pulled me aside to say they’d ordered further tests and that I’d be staying for a while and would that be OK?  Sure I said, not really thinking about it.  Then, with her hand on my arm, this question “Is anyone here with you?”  And a look.  A look that your soul can only recognize as one of concern and when I saw her expression change, I felt concern, too.

Going back to the waiting room, I looked again at the magazines waiting, and laughed at what was on top. “Guideposts,” a spiritually rich periodical that I used to read with Hubbs’ Mom.  I remembered sharing issues with her and both of us dog-earing our favorite stories to talk about later.   Taking that as a sign, I smiled through several stories of faith and inspiration.  Fear receded.

Another called my name and led me down the hall and round the corner for an Ultrasound.  Now the only ultrasounds I’ve ever had were years ago when pregnant with my boys so I knew this wasn’t any big deal.  The Technician was friendly, with a pretty smile and bouncing brown curls, and she put me at ease immediately.  Again, the same routine, confirmation of my name and birth date, a check of the wrist band, and we were off.  But in the soft light of that darkened room, I let myself go there.  To those thoughts that anyone would have when they realize their life might be changing in a very big way.  A tear rolled down my cheek and I muttered the same words to myself that Sissy did during her heart attack this spring: Well this is b.s.  The same ones Mom said when she went in the hospital 49 days ago. Then I took a breath and smiled at her as she covered up my chest with a warm blanket and an explanation that the Radiologist would read the results right now. However, she added, he might come in and do more testing himself. Would I be all right with that? Did I have any questions? She smiled as she waited.  “Yes,” I said.  “Is he good-looking?”  Tipping her head back we laughed together.  Out loud and hard.  I explained how I used to watch daytime “programs” with my Grandma and that she fancied this one particularly handsome Doctor.  We giggled like we’d known each other more than 40 minutes and again I felt a shiver, like a kiss, on my shoulder.

Soon she left the room and I lay there, quietly singing one of my favorite Gospel songs, thinking about how things can go from zero to sixty and how life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. I went from scared to mad to making promises– how I’d take on less, I’d exercise more, and maybe I’d even give up potato chips and then the door opened and there he was. Smiling down and explaining what they’d seen didn’t warrant a specialist or further tests and how they’d just been extra cautious because my type of tissue is hard to read and stuff can hide in there.  Then he said these words: “come back in 6 months for another test and you should be good to go.”  Tears clouded my vision as he shook my hand, smiled and left the room.

And then I breathed.  Really breathed.  Like I must have been holding my breath for 3 hours breathed.   She walked me out, I got dressed, and checked out at the front desk. We made that 6 month appointment and cut off my wrist band.  Before heading to my car I stopped and bought a coffee and smiled at the potato chips winking at me from the checkout line.

angels-kiss

I’ve narrowed my kiss givers to four loves no longer here with me: Nana, Grandma, Hubbs’ Mom, or my Dad. Or maybe four took turns, I don’t know.  See, I lost count of the kisses, but not the feeling that remains.

 * * * * *

How about you? Have you had a health scare?  Did your reaction surprise you? Have you ever experienced an Angel’s Kiss?  Who do you think it was?

breast cancer awareness

Yes, I’m aware. You?

Categories: Attitude, Determination, Faith, fear, Gratitude, Growth, Joy, Life Lessons, Mom, News, Opinion, Personal, Self Discovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The desire to be whole again

Next week I’m stepping away from all that is my world and returning to my childhood home: the farm I grew up on in rural Saskatchewan, Canada. The farm-house where I lived from birth till 19.  The yard where I played and coulees where all our adventures were carried out.  Mom’s still there, my brother and his wife are just across the way and sissy is up the hill.  Cows, farm dogs, wind, a wide open sky and conversations that meander in and out and go on forever.

an Aerial view of the family farm .. an Emjayandthem(C) photo

an aerial view of the family farm .. House and Homestead top left, barns and corrals lower right. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

A family wedding is the cause for celebration and I’ll be Mom’s date!   She with her Oxygen and a twinkle in her eye.  I teased her that we’ll “Thelma & Louise-it,” without the driving off the cliff part.  She snorted.  But when I told her that if we see Brad Pitt hitch-hiking I’m pulling over, she laughed out loud.  God, I love her.

themaand louise

Up to no good. Google.images.com

To say things there are familiar would be an understatement. The truth is, time has a way of standing still in your childhood home. And it’s comforting to know that some things still remain.

The kitchen radio, on from sun up to sundown, with farm reports and cattle prices, corny jokes and auction announcements.

The bedspread from the Sears catalogue, the same one that’s been on my bed since I was in college.  Cheery and clean, waiting for me.

Mixing bowls nestled where they’ve always been, tin foil in the 2nd drawer, and a toaster you have to jiggle the cord for.  A big can of coffee sits on the floor near the fridge, just under that east window.  Ivory soap in the dish by the sink, the same one where Dad stood as he cleaned up at night.  I swear I can still see him standing there sometimes.

... Dad's

… Dad’s “shop” .. where I still expect to hear him whistling … An Emjayandthem (C) photo

Books in bookshelves, pictures on walls, throw pillows arranged just so.

And at night?

Quiet.  Dark.  No streetlights, no cars rushing by, nothing.  Just quiet.

Big deep skies with stars that go on forever and, if I’m lucky, the Northern lights will visit me, too.

image from canada-maps.org

image from canada-maps.org

In the morning, I’ll be up with the birds and outside as daylight arrives.  I’ll visit the cows and play with the kitties, feel the wind blowing, and the farm dog will tag along with me.  My soul will sing and my smiles will not be contained.

Laddy and Stevie... family farm; an Emjayandthem photo (C)

Laddy and Stevie… family farm; an Emjayandthem photo (C)

I know things have changed, she’s had some setbacks, but her spirit is as strong as ever. She’s loyal as ever to her Riders football team, debates the news, and is a voracious reader. Talking about my visit and our plans, she said with such longing,  “It’s going to go by so fast.”

me & mom MD 2014

Me & Mom, Mothers Day 2014. An Emjayandthem (C) photo

I know.

I know.

That’s why I already feel the pinch because to stop everything and spend eight days together, every day, every meal, every night, and roll in those moments when it’s just the two of us, let me tell you what: I love it.  I love that we get to laugh and talk and tell stories and secrets and be girlfriends for a while.  Yes I’ll get out of her hair and take a walk and stretch my legs and when I come back in there she’ll be .. waiting for me.  Bright eyed. Ready to pick up right where we left off.

And I’ll thank God for the opportunity to love the life I have but still be so very lucky that I can touch wood, kiss her face and feel whole again.

“The desire to go home that is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.”  ― Rebecca Solnit

 

Can you go back to your childhood home?  What’s the experience like for you?  Have you ever spent an entire week just hanging out with one of your parents? If not, I recommend it ~ you might be amazed what you’ll learn!

related posts:

Categories: Attitude, Confidence at any age, Faith, Family, Friendship, Fun, Gratitude, Growth, Home, Joy, Life, Opinion, Personal, Quotes, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

R5F – Peonies, memories, crimes & attitudes

It’s Friday and time for 5 random happenings and observations from my world.

1.  My Lilacs have come and gone but look who is making their grand debut?

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Frankie loved the peonies and his ashes are scattered here. Seeing them bloom makes me smile and long for my silly old dog.

2. Last night we ran the dishwasher, a routine task done a few times a week.  It’s normally filled with plates, silverware and coffee cups.  Youngest boy put a large sauce pot in the lower tray upside down.  Reading quietly in the next room I heard a sound I couldn’t quite identify and then it hit me:  the spray of water hitting the bottom of that pot reminded me of milking cows as a little girl.   With 5 kids we always kept one or two milk cows and Dad would let us “help.”  More often than not we tilted Bossie’s *ahem* appendages in such a way that the barn cats got both a milk shower and a good drink and we probably spilled more than we didn’t.  Dad let us learn anyways.  Memories come to us in the most random of ways don’t they?

milking cows

3. I recently bought a “Fitbit” – a nifty little bracelet that works as a pedometer and tracks your sleep.  (You can track other things, too, but those are the ones I was interested in.) The first day I wore it was a Saturday and, between laundry, groceries, and yard work, I clocked 6 miles.  I slept well that night – 7 hours with 8 minutes of restlessness.  I really wanted it for my D.C. trip next week because we walk so much, up and down stairs in the Capitol office buildings.  Did you know that tunnels connect these buildings?  They’re clean and well-lit, but old as time.  I always feel a bit like Desmond in “L.O.S.T” in there … freaky.   Oh and elevators are reserved for Members when Congress is in session. That means I’ll be hoofing it to everything — in heels. And yes, I think I’ll sleep well every night :).

"See you in another life, Brotha."  -L.O.S.T.

“See you in another life, Brotha.” -L.O.S.T.

4. This week my job took me to the Michigan State Capitol – the day we were there happened to be “Older Michiganians Day” which meant we had a steady stream of older folks touring the building and sometimes stopping to ask us questions.  Everything was fine until two ladies came through and brazenly swiped several handfuls of cookies. Right in front of us.  With a look in their eyes that said, “whaddyagonnadoboutit?”  We looked at each other incredulously and shook our heads.  People are fascinating! And that day I clocked 7.8 miles – in heels!

old_lady11

Not this colorfully dressed but with just as much ‘tude

5. Jumping back to the Fitbit I also got it because, when I’m in the office, I’m aware I don’t move much.  It was shocking to me that, by noon yesterday, after a morning of conference calls, I hadn’t yet hit 2,000 steps.  That served as a powerful motivator to get in a workout!   On the treadmill last night, thinking about all I have to do before I fly out Sunday, this song came on and I knew it had to be shared:

Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He’s not gonna let it get the best of you

You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer… You’re an overcomer!

Happy Friday, folks!  What sound take you back to your childhood? Tried any neat gadgets lately?  Ever witnessed Senior crime?  What are you working hard at overcoming?

 

 

 

Categories: Attitude, Confidence at any age, Determination, Faith, Fun, Humor, Joy, Life, music, Patriotic, Politics, Products I love, Share, Technology, Thoughts, Wisdom, Women, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Random Five … Sleigh Bells Ring

It’s Saturday and I’m a day late for 5 random thoughts … here goes!

1.  5 – count ’em – 5 upper respiratory infections this year – with another landing Tuesday. By 4:30 I was in the Doc’s office, feverish and aching.  Today marks 4 days of rest mixed with work, lots of fluids and antibiotics and somehow I still sound like Kermit the Frog.  But at least it’s not Christmas Eve! 🙂

2. Opened a package from my cousin recently and to my delight I found this:

Only in Canada, eh?

The  World’s Greatest Toffee.  Only in Canada, eh!  Mmm mmm good.

How do you enjoy toffee with 4 temporary crowns?  Very, very carefully LOL!

3. A friend found out yesterday that her job ends Jan 2nd  – after 34 years of service.  She’s 55 and couldn’t be happier.  Why?  Severance pay & time to spend with her grand kids and sister.   There’s planning and then there’s planning meets opportunity.  I couldn’t be happier for her, either.

I love her Moxie!

I love her Moxie!

4. 3 days left of work for me this year then some much-needed vacation; I plan to be on the ‘whatever’ schedule for the duration! Whee!

funny clock

5. Mid-week, huddled under blankets and feeling miserable, Hubbs brought me a package that had arrived in the mail.   I unwrapped it, read the little note with it … and cried.    Seems my brother and his family were cleaning out an old farm building when they came across 7 sleigh bells on a leather strap — all curled up in a pail.  Turns out these were the jingle bells Dad would add to the team’s  harnesses at Christmas-time.  The sound of all those bells – the crunching of snow beneath draught horses hooves – and our squeals of delight singing, “bells on bobbed-tails ring, making spirits bright, what fun it is to laugh and sing a sleighing song tonight,” – well it was so wonderful to revisit those memories again.  The bell is substantial, it fills my palm, and as I hold it I swear Dad is right here with me.  One word:  Magic.

Dad's sleigh bell; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

Dad’s sleigh bell; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

And how was your week? Care to share your “Random 5” with me?

Categories: Animals, Attitude, Beauty, Blogging, Faith, Family, Gratitude, Growth, Holidays, Home, Joy, Life, Mom, Personal, Relationships, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

It’s the cliches that cause the trouble

10 years have passed since he left us. 10 years.

And despite what people say, time doesn’t heal everything – it never gets easier, missing someone you love. You just get through it and, over the years, you get used to the ache that remains.

For those of you who didn’t know my Dad, let me tell you a little about him. His name was Lloyd.

He put cookies in his pocket & kept licorice and peppermints in the truck. He didn’t go anywhere without a favorite cap or a little grin on his face. He loved people, but he had a soft spot for children and animals, especially dogs. He taught me where to find Saskatoon berries, to appreciate the land we farmed, to be fearless, to drive a stick shift, to read the sky, and to dance while standing on his toes. He taught me girls could do anything but that it was perfectly OK to look like one, too, and without too much makeup. He taught me that doors should be opened for ladies and that if someone came into the yard and honked they could just keep on driving. He taught me to be helpful, to fix what I could, to re-use what I had, to preserve what was good and to let go what wasn’t. He taught me real men cry, cherish their wives, tickle their children, and are playful, gentle and loyal. Dad loved to dance, kid around, make up silly songs and laugh; most of all, he loved his wife and every single one of us kids and all grand kids and greats, friends, family and neighbors. He was a man of few words. He didn’t need them I suppose. His actions spoke volumes. He showed up.

my Dad as a young man; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

Dad as a young man; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

As much as I long to hear his voice and see his kind face, I continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for the gift of a kind and loving father. Who gets that? We did. So lucky.

“You’ll get over it…” It’s the clichés that cause the trouble. To lose someone you love is to alter your life for ever. You don’t get over it because ‘it” is the person you loved. The pain stops, there are new people, but the gap never closes. How could it? The particularness of someone who mattered enough to grieve over is not made anodyne by death. This hole in my heart is in the shape of you and no-one else can fit it. Why would I want them to?”
― Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body

Who are you missing today?

Categories: Faith, Family, Gratitude, Grief, Growth, Life, Life Lessons, Love, Men, Personal, Relationships, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Praise and be raised

Spring visited us Sunday … balmy, humid and breezy, I was able to wear a short-sleeved shirt around the house!  Feeling the warmth, I started to complain about my clothes sticking to me as I did my chores.  Then I remembered that it’s been 6 months without a hoodie OVER that tee-shirt – and I stopped in my tracks.   I remembered something learned in childhood:

If you complain you’ll remain; if you praise, you’ll be raised.

I’m a farmer’s daughter. The daughter of an optimist.

Next year will be better.

Now that was something he said often.

This moisture is good for the soil. 

I could hear his voice as I looked at the snow this morning.

At least there’s no dust storms!

There he is again.

Transitioning to a work story, I completed employee reviews last week.

This was my second round for two of them and first time for the newest.  I read through my assessments and wrote down examples of all of the good work they’re doing.  We had positive, open discussions.  Every one of them shared similar feedback: “This is the most thorough performance evaluation I’ve ever had, thank you for the examples.”  “Thank you for the time you put into this, I appreciate the examples and knowing why you gave me the score you did.”  “Thank you for all of this feedback; this really helps me understand the job better and I appreciate knowing I am doing it well.”

I’m so glad my Father taught me to praise and be raised.

image from Pinterest.com

All this snow is good moisture!

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Growth, Home, Life, Men, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Finding faith in the straw

originally published by Emjayandthem on December 23, 2010.

I was a college student, home for Christmas break.  Mid-terms over.  Days off and did it ever feel good to be home, home on the family farm where everything was cozy, comfortable and familiar.

Mom had the house glimmering, the fridge and freezer stuffed with baking, cheese ball, lefse, and assorted delights, and, as the youngest, it was just going to be the 3 of us until the rest of crew arrived for supper Christmas day.

It was Christmas Eve and Mom and I spent the better part the day cooking and singing along to Bing Crosby on CJWW.  We noticed the wind start to pick up, but, we weren’t alarmed or surprised, after all this was a prairie winter’s day.  Cold, always windy and a storm at a moment’s notice. No newsflash there.

When 7:00 rolled around and Dad still hadn’t come in from doing chores, Mom dispatched me to find him.

image from worldofstock.com

image from worldofstock.com

Great, I thought, with the insolent huff that an 18-year-old girl has perfected. I put on my snowmobile boots, parka, toque, mittens and scarf and, accompanied by the family pooch, headed out towards the barnyard.

Stepping out into that bitter air I nearly lost my breath.  Soon I realized it was much worse then I’d realized.  A pinch of dread gripped my stomach.  Boots, our yellow Lab, stayed close, stopping often and looking back as if to say, “you coming?”  It seemed to take forever to reach the barnyard, a distance of oh, 8 car lengths.  A distance I’d walked many times, nearly every day of my life.

Bunching my scarf up against my face and thrusting my shoulders forward, we trudged  through the snow.  I could make out a light in the distance and I assumed Dad was in one of the cow barns.

my Dad, Lloyd

my Dad, Lloyd

As we got closer, I heard a strange noise. The wind was whipping at me, making biting attempts at my face, while the dog pressed his flanks to me as if to press me forward.

As we neared the barn entrance, I heard that sound again.

A high-pitched whirring.

What the ?

Battling the winds, I braced my shoulder against the ancient door and gave it a shove with everything I had. It moved. Barely. But enough that me and the dog could squeeze through.

I stepped into the warmth of the barn to find Dad there, kneeling in the straw.  Hearing that weird whirring sound again, I finally figured out what it was: a hair dryer.  A cow stood just behind him, watching as he calmly defrosted the ears of a calf who’d been born head first into the snow.  She licked her baby as he cooed comforting words, gently blowing warm air all over the shivering tyke.  The light of the barn shone down on us and Dad gave me that shy grin I knew so well.

“Well if you’re gonna stand there you might as well be useful.” And, with that, he handed me some towels.  I moved a little too quickly and the new mother stepped forward, unsure of my intentions. Dad put his hand up to steady her.. and me.. and with a “shhh … it’s OK now, we’re just here to help.”  I waited …then slowly moved into place, joining him in the straw.

A few moments passed before he stopped and said softly, “You know it was a stable like this where the little Christ child was born. There was no room in the inn and guess where they had to make their home? Out in the barn with the cows and other animals. And no one ever talks about them, how they provided the heat and how they helped make sure He wasn’t cold.”

My Dad.  The man who tended to the animals and who kept us all safe and cozy.  The man who worked the farm every day of his life;  the man who tidied up and went to church to appease my mother but really .. . he already knew God.

He found Him where he was.

No Christmas Eve has ever impacted me like that one did.

* * *

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Categories: Animals, Faith, Life, Relationships, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

It’s in the watching

Father’s Day takes me right back to being a little kid.  I remember the hours spent making a special card and saving a little money to buy Dad something he’d really want. Except that my Dad never seemed to want anything. Oh he loved black licorice, chocolate bars and pretty much any kind of candy, but if ever there was a man hard to buy for, it was him. He wasn’t like those guys on TV or in the Sears Ads: He rarely wore slacks, he didn’t golf or fish and he certainly didn’t putter in a workshop.  He worked in one but that was an entirely different matter.

As a farmer, Dad worked more days than he didn’t; unless it rained, there were no days off.  When everyone else took holidays, that’s when he worked the hardest.  Toiling in the summer sun, he’d come in for lunch and enjoy a cold sandwich, iced tea, and a bite of pie or two.  His hat would come off and he’d wash the grit and dust from his face and neck before sitting by the fan, his reading glasses on, perusing the Western Producer. Smiling at us, he’d mess our hair and ask a question or two but it wasn’t long before he was out the door again.

Father’s Day usually found us all gathered at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for cake & ice cream, coffee and orange pop floats.  The grown-ups would visit and we kids would mess around. Sometimes we’d all gather for a wiener roast at the local park, my mom and Aunts making extra Tang and working hard to keep the cold food cold and the hot food hot.

It was one of those hot summer days that I remember whining to Mom about how I wished I could spend more time with Dad.  In her usual efficient style, she answered simply “Go where he is.”

“Huh?”

“Your Dad is always around, dear. If you want to spend time with him, go spend time with him.”  I can still see her shooing her hand at me as she said it, iron in hand, a pile of laundry behind her, and jam jars simmering on the stove.

The next day, I got up extra early to find he was already gone.  Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, my flip-flops padded softly down the dusty prairie trail to where he was, laying underneath the swather.  I figured I could be a big help by handing him tools and stuff but I forgot to think about how hot that summer sun would soon be, beating down the back of my neck.  I hadn’t considered how quickly I’d grow bore of this chore.  I listened as he hummed his way through the morning, wondering aloud at what time we might break for lunch.  I’m sure I was more in the way than not but, later, when he told Mom what a “big” help I’d been, my chest swelled with pride. Dad taught me that the most mundane jobs can be enjoyable with a little tune and the right attitude.

When I think about what Dads teach us, it’s easy to compile a list of all he taught me:  how to hold baby kittens like their Mama does, how fun it is to squirt cow’s milk at the barn cats so they stand up to reach it, how to cinch a saddle tight enough that I wouldn’t fall off but not so tight that my horse would want to bite me.   Dad taught me to be gentle with living things, to have fun in my world and that being responsible brings a certain level of safety.

I wasn’t strangling Tigger, I swear!

Dad was the one who steadied me when the training wheels came off and he was the one who gave me a little push and yelled “you can do it” and I did.    Dad taught me to stretch myself and grow.

Dad made hauling manure fun!

Dad was the one who reminded us girls that “too much makeup … was too much makeup” and it was always his praise we looked for when we debuted new dresses or pretty hairdos.  He demonstrated gender equality by handing me things that were far too heavy for my little arms to carry; he expected me to manage it .. and I did.  Dad taught me that girls could do anything but that looking like one wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, either.

Grandpa, me and Dad;

It was with Dad that I stopped in to check on elderly neighbors, and it was Dad who pulled teenagers cars out of  the sandbars down at the lake. Dad taught me to make time for people, and that being helpful and kind are just good ways to live your life.

Dad showed us where the Saskatoon berries grow the best, how to find fossils in the riverbanks and why we should leave Indian graves undisturbed.   Dad taught me respect and the importance of honoring where we come from.

Saskatoon berries grow best down in that coulee

It was Dad who taught me to dance while standing on his feet and that it was perfectly OK to make up a song and be silly once in a while.  Dad taught me that laughter is part of living.

Dad & I dancing at my wedding; He was so happy!

He taught us all what persistence looks like, braving rehabilitation hospitals and strangers after a series of strokes.  It was Dad who taught us how to let go and that, no matter the distance, that I was still his and that he would always be mine.   Dad taught me to handle what life throws at you with grace and dignity.

One afternoon, when our oldest was still in high school, he whined a bit about wanting to spend time with his Dad.  I looked at him and instinctively I knew what to say, “Go where he is.”

He gave me the same look I’d given my mother, all those years ago and I gave him her answer, “Your Dad is always around, dear. If you want to spend time with him, go spend time with him.”  I said this as I shooed my hand his way, a pile of laundry behind me and supper simmering on the stove.

* * *

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.  ~Clarence Budington Kelland


Love you, Dad, forever and for always.  Happy Father’s Day in Heaven.

Categories: Animals, Attitude, Faith, Family, Holidays, Joy, Life, Men, Personal, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , | 26 Comments

On Fathering

It’s “Father’s Day” and our boys have shared their thoughts and good wishes with their Dad.  We’ll barbeque later and have a relaxing afternoon. I can’t help but think of my Dad today and how much I miss him.

my Dad, Lloyd

You didn’t know my Dad, so I let me tell you a little about him.  His name was Lloyd. He kept cookies in his pocket & licorice in his truck.  He didn’t go anywhere without his favorite cap or a little grin on his face. He loved people, but he had a soft spot for children and animals, especially dogs.  He taught me where to find Saskatoon berries, to appreciate the land we farmed, to be fearless, to drive a stick shift, to read the sky, and to dance while standing on his toes. He taught me girls could do anything but that it was best not to wear too much makeup. He taught me that doors should be opened for ladies and that if someone came into the yard and honked they could just keep on driving. He taught me to be helpful, to fix what I could, to re-use what I had, to preserve what was good and to let go what wasn’t. He taught me that real men cry, cherish their wives, tickle their children, and are playful, gentle and loyal.  My Dad loved to dance, kid around, make up silly songs and laugh; most of all, he loved his wife and every single one of us kids.  My Dad was a man of few words. He didn’t need them I suppose. His actions spoke volumes.  My Dad .. showed up.

More than 6 years have passed since he left us and it doesn’t get easier. You don’t get over it. Time does not heal.  We. Just. Get. Through. It.

But … still … as much as I long to hear his voice and see his kind face,  I continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for the gift of a kind and loving father.  Who gets that? I did. So lucky.

…. and I’d love, love, love … to dance with my father again.

Categories: Animals, Attitude, Determination, Family, Gratitude, Home, Joy, Life, Love, Men, Opinion, Share, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 25 Comments

Flying solo on Thanksgiving

source: johnnycupcakes

It was Thanksgiving Day, 2004 and we had just buried my Dad. My lovely, sweet, kind and wonderful Dad. Gone from us.

I had been home to see him about month before, when we knew things weren’t going well, and I had tried to say my good-byes. Sort of.  Because you’re never really able to say all that you want to say.   I told him I loved him, tried my best to thank him for being the best Dad ever, and clung to him until it was time to leave for the airport.

I hugged my mom and sisters, boarded the plane and headed back to the United States; away from the family farm in rural Saskatchewan.

It was Thanksgiving day and I never realized until then what a gift a light travel day could be.  What I had always imagined would be such a lonesome, awful thing to do turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

The plane was nearly empty. I didn’t have to make small talk with anyone.

I sat alone.

I ate alone.

I read.

I slept.

I cried softly into the darkness.

It was on that plane, on Thanksgiving Day, that I was, once again, overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for the gift of a kind and loving father.  For 80+ years. Who gets that? I did. Lucky.

my Dad, Lloyd; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

You didn’t know my Dad, so let me tell you a little about him.  His name was Lloyd. He stashed cookies in his pocket & licorice in his truck.  He didn’t travel without his newest favorite cap or a little grin on his face. He loved people, but he had a soft spot for children.  He taught me where to find Saskatoon berries, to love and care for animals & appreciate the land we farmed, to be fearless, to drive a stick shift, to read the sky, and to dance while standing on his shoes. He taught me that real men cry, adore their wives, tickle their children, and are playful, gentle and loyal.  My Dad was a man of few words. He didn’t need them I suppose. His actions spoke volumes.  My Dad .. showed up.

6 years have passed since he left us and it never gets easier.

You never get over it. Time does not heal; that, my friends, is a lie.

We. Just. Get. Through. It.

I Miss you Dad, on this day and every day.

Categories: Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Life, Life Lessons, Love, Personal, Relationships, Seasons, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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