The Recovering Farmer

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year That Was

I was going through my usual morning routine, part of which is checking the headlines in the Winnipeg Free Press. Saw an article entitled “Farming, Family Meant Everything”. Obviously it piqued my curiosity. I was shocked by what I read. The story of a young farmer killed in a tragic farm accident. Any farm accident hits me hard because I often think of what might have been. Particularly shocking was that the article referred to a man I have had the opportunity to meet many times. Often saw him wearing a cowboy hat. That was because he was a cowboy. He had a passion. A passion for agriculture. A passion for the cattle industry. A passion for family. He was an industry leader. I met him through Keystone Agricultural Producers. He was the cattle representative, I was the hog representative. We shared many similar passions. Enjoyed the debates. I had moved on, no longer involved in farming. He was looking forward to his life as a Manitoba family farmer. Now there is family left with a massive hole in their lives. It seems so unfair.

Today’s Winnipeg Free Press poll of the day asked the question, “If the world ended at the close of 2012, how would you feel?” I was unsure as to the intent of the question till I realized that the Mayan calendar calls for the world to end in 2012. Potential answers ranged from, content to mostly satisfied to a bit bummed to woebegone. I experienced some anxiety when I read that question. (one reason for the anxiety is an experience I had one New Year’s eve, a story best left for another day) Number 1, no one wants to think about the world ending. Secondly, I seem to focus on regrets when I look back. I should be focusing on positives. There were lots of those. These thoughts of woulda, coulda and shoulda are much to self-defeating. I suspect that everyone would make changes if they could turn back the clock. I said, somewhat facetiously, to someone the other day that if I would have known thirty or forty years ago what I know today I would have had a lot more fun. Perhaps. But life is good. We need to focus on the future.

We are saying goodbye to 2011. Ushering in a New Year. What will it bring? I seem to have missed making any New Year resolutions. Perhaps it is intentional. New Year resolutions are a lot of work. You know how it is. You wake up January 1 and nothing really changes. Nothing looks different. Nothing feels different. So why not go with what you got? Keep working at what you have been working on for the last year. Resolve to work at it harder. That way when you fail it is easier to get up, dust yourself off and carry on.

I am looking ahead. Saw an interesting commercial on TV. The quote at the end said “If good deeds were more common they would not stand out as much”. Perhaps that is what we can strive for in 2012. Forget about the world ending. Forget about any regrets. Make it a goal to do more good deeds. You might be surprised at the positive impact this has on your life and the lives of others. In the meantime I will again remind you of a picture that hangs in my office. It simply says that “It’s not that life ends so soon but that we wait so long to begin it”. How true. So here’s to 2012. Bring it on. Make it a good one.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing You a Merry Christmas

It is that time of year. Where has the year gone? It feels like only yesterday I was sitting at my computer writing a Christmas blog. Here it is again. As I said a few weeks ago, I have the Christmas spirit. Still not sure what that means other than that I am looking forward to spending time with friends and family. I have already survived two family gatherings. Awesome. Now further rest and relaxation and food. Not going anywhere, just looking forward to kids coming home.

Over the course of the last number of years all things surrounding the traditional Christmas have been pushed aside. What I mean is this. For years many of us have been making an effort to be politically correct. I hear of schools canceling Christmas programs because it might offend people who are not of the Christian faith. We put up “holiday trees”. I recall many years ago when someone first wished me a ``happy holiday`` rather than the traditional ``Merry Christmas``. I found that rather odd. Did not understand. And then I did. I thought, okay, it offends people when I wish them a Merry Christmas. So I decided to change. Go with the flow. I could do that. So I did.

A couple of weeks ago a colleague and I visited the flood recovery office to get a better handle on the stress these workers were experiencing. As we walked out the door I turned back towards the staff and wished them a Merry Christmas. Thought nothing of it till my colleague suggested that I had not been politically correct. Of course, I responded with my usual gruff self, suggesting that I could wish people whatever I wanted to. But it got me thinking. It created confusion. It left me with mixed feelings. I want to now respond to that issue. Note I said respond, not answer. My thought being that when I respond I leave the door open for further dialogue. Hear me out.

December 25 is Christmas day. It matters not what one believes, the calendar marks the 25th as Christmas day. No different than Remembrance day, Canada day, Hanukah, or Eid. We celebrate Labor Day weekends, Thanksgiving, and Boxing day. I was in Japan, a number of years ago, just before Christmas. All the stores had put up Christmas decorations. I asked our host about this. He told me that, although Japanese people do not consider themselves “Christian”, they do celebrate the Christmas season. It’s a time for family. It’s a time for giving. And for me that is the essence of Christmas. Taking time with family and friends. Taking time to reflect. Taking time to give.
There is another point I would like to make. When I wish someone a Merry Christmas I am in no way, shape or form pushing my beliefs in their face. I would like it if people would wish me a Happy Hanukah, wish me a Blessed Eid (not sure that is the correct greeting that Muslims would use), or any other greeting that signifies that person’s traditions or beliefs. It would give me a better world view. It would help me better understand others. It would give me a greater respect for the beliefs of others. And quite honestly, if someone chooses to wish me Happy Holidays, so be it, unless they are doing so only to be politically correct. Because in that case it has a very hollow ring to it.

So there you have it. My wish for you is that you have a Merry Christmas. May this time fill you with renewed love. May it fill you with contentment. May you have the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle and appreciate all we have. Make it a good one.

Friday, December 16, 2011

When Your Life Changes

Just recently a colleague and I facilitated stress management workshops for people working with flood victims. Part and parcel of that workshop entailed discussion on the stages of crisis. I realize I have talked about this before but I need to talk about it again. Obviously when Mother Nature throws us a curve ball the consequences can and are disastrous. Property is destroyed. Lives are changed, in some cases, forever. After a while people can and do adapt. However, that can take time. What has really been heavy on my mind is when people are faced with circumstances beyond their control. When people are involved in accidents, when health issues become a concern, when lives are changed forever. How does one cope? Where can people turn to? Who can help?

When we do our workshops we talk about the first stage of crisis being when an individual is hit by the storm. The point where they come face to face with the realization that life has changed. Often they have feelings of shock, disbelief, rage and panic. There is a sense of loss. People are in a place where often times they turn to unhealthy ways of coping.

The second stage considers people being in the foggy middle. A period of empty, confused feelings. Life seems chaotic. Some days they feel hopeful the next hopeless. Nothing seems to make sense. When in this stage one needs to find ways to cope. This can be a long and uncomfortable journey. Based on experience, the only way to move on is to find some clarity. To find the missing pieces. To realize that life will go on. To establish new coping mechanisms. And to develop solutions.

The third stage is known as the recovery stage. Being on solid ground. People start to adjust and adapt to changed surroundings. Depending on the individual, people return to a pre-crisis level of functioning. Often times that level of functioning may not be what it used to be. Much depends on the outcome of the crisis. It also depends on a person’s internal and external supports.

Why am I talking about this again? I have talked to a number of people this week who are in different stages of crisis. I marvel at the strength many of them have. I can’t imagine myself in their shoes. That friend whose health issues have turned into a fight against cancer. The accident victim who cannot get back to a normal life. That particular friend who had his hopes set on a job only to find out he didn’t get it. The family member who is struggling with work and looking at making significant changes. The friend who would like to talk about issues in life but finds it difficult to find the right listening ear. The individual who talks about frustrating relational issues. The one who is losing the farm and all he has worked for. Far too often life just does not seem to be fair. Sometimes life just simply sucks.

But we need to move on. Find ways to cope. Find ways to develop solutions. Seek that higher ground. Take the time to reflect. Take the time to move on. One of the people I just mentioned told me that he had spent time in reflecting. Realized mistakes he had made. Understood his own mortality. And was going to move forward in a different way. The idea is to make positive changes. But sometimes that is so difficult. My friend ended an email by saying that he felt he could cope with the help of family, friends and God. Find your supports. They are there. They are ready to help. They are ready to listen. Make it a good one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Here Comes Santa Claus

I have a problem. A serious problem. Something that I remember happening in the past. But that was years ago. I don’t know how it happened now. I don’t know how to deal with it. My life has changed. I need to work my way through this. I may need professional help. I always challenge people to seek help when they are struggling. To seek their supports. I am not sure that I can share this with anyone. It is truly traumatic. Just putting these thoughts into words is upsetting. How will people react? What will my kids think? My poor wife?

Speaking about my wife. We celebrated our 3oth wedding anniversary this week. Okay, I admit, we did not celebrate. It was more of an acknowledgement. 30 years. That’s an awfully long time. I have been married, to the same woman, for over half my life. Not that being married to the same woman is surprising, but rather that she has stuck with me. But there was one reason to celebrate. I bought flowers. When I mentioned to my colleagues during the day that it was our anniversary, flowers seemed to be a common theme. Of course my colleagues are women so what else would I hear, right? I am not the mushy type. Never been much of a romantic. Never sensed that my wife really appreciated flowers. However, on my way out of Brandon, I made the decision. I would step outside of the norm. I would buy flowers. The challenge then became what to buy. The woman at the flower shop gave me a real strange look when I said I needed to buy flowers for our anniversary but I had no idea what I wanted. Only knew I didn’t want to spend too much. Bottom line? I bought flowers, they look awesome, (a dozen white roses) and my wife liked them.

Back to my real problem. I need to talk about it. So here goes. But wait. You need to promise you won’t laugh. This is embarrassing. Could come back to haunt me. Perhaps if I try to ignore it for a day or two it will go away. Actually I have tried that and it didn’t work. Okay, here it is. I have the Christmas spirit. You heard right. The Christmas spirit. No idea where it came from. No idea what it wants. No idea how to handle this. I have this urge to listen to Christmas songs. I actually have walked through a few stores and thought about what kind of gifts to buy. Made up my mind I was going to buy my wife a gift. Now before you go thinking I that I have been a scrooge in the past, my wife and I always buy something together. It has always been the easy way out for me. But not this year. I want to surprise her. I am looking forward to having the kids at home. Spend time together. Play some games (only ones I can cheat at, of course). Eat too much food. Listen to music. Sing. (I suspect when my wife reads this she will put a freeze on the bank account) Even switched to the Country Music channel last night to watch a Christmas special.

So there you have it. The Christmas spirit. Who would have thought it. It is scary but I am going to deal with it. Having talked about it helps. Here is hoping you get a taste of it as well. It feels good. Oh, and by the way, speaking of half my life, I have a birthday happening between now and Christmas. Let me know if you need an address to send the gifts to. Make it a good one.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Your Flight Is Delayed

I dread hearing those words. But here I am sitting in the center of the universe and I just heard those words. Okay, so it may not be the center of the universe, although it is Toronto. I just want to get home. Finding out why the flight is delayed scares me even more. It’s because of the weather in Winnipeg. Ouch. When I left Thursday afternoon it was plus 9. It was beautiful. I had thoughts of golf on my mind. Two days later it is winter. I just checked the forecast for Winnipeg. Freezing rain, snow, sixty kilometer an hour winds. When I get to Winnipeg I need to walk quite a distance to my vehicle. Guess what my coat is in the vehicle. Smart move. I also know that I will have a low tire. It’s had a slow leak for a while. Oh well. Take care of it when I get there.

But I shouldn’t complain. I met many folks this week who would love to be able to get on a plane, fly from point A to point B. Get off the plane and walk to their vehicles. Would love to be able to change a tire. Would love a normal life and lifestyle. I spent the last day and a half with the Canadian Farmers with Disabilities. Talk about gaining a new perspective on life. It is truly amazing to see how these folks have adapted. They are living with their disability and doing a fine job of it. They have an incredible sense of humour. We laughed when one gentleman, confined to a wheel chair because of a horrific accident, related his experience of trying to get on the toilet. There wasn’t enough room so he had to go “side saddle”. He warned the rest of us that that position can be quite uncomfortable. He told us how he had a real issue when he realized the toilet paper was behind him and he couldn’t reach it. There were other stories. Some sad, some funny. I spoke to the group on stress management. They appreciated the humour I incorporate into my presentations. We laughed, we cried. It was an awesome experience.

It was also rewarding talking one on one with many of them. Listening to their stories. Hearing about their misfortunes. Hearing them talk about coping. They do cope. They have adapted. I never gave much thought about many of the difficulties they face. We had dinner together. One person’s meat was rather tough. Can you imagine trying to cut meat using only one arm? A simple task of splitting a bun and putting butter on it becomes a major undertaking. They are not afraid to ask for help. I chatted with one of them about the irony of a person with a physical impairment feeling free to ask for help and yet people, such as myself, with mental health issues refusing to seek help when we need it. I learned a lot.

Outside of the meeting room was a display board. There were two messages on the board. “Farmers with disabilities are there for the injured after a farming accident” and they “Support other farm families after severe injuries”. Isn’t that awesome? Supporting each other. We talked about how we could better reach out to farmers in need. Regardless of issues. Be they financial, relational, physical or mental. Supporting each other helps.

Well, its time to get ready for my flight. Hopefully it will be a good one. And when I get back to Manitoba I hope I am prepared for what the weather is going to throw at me. I also hope I remember some of the life lessons I have learned over the last few days. Make it a good one.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

That Time of Year

Noticed on Facebook that my brother had put up his Christmas tree. Right after Remembrance Day? Seems a little early, don’t you think? Maybe not. Commercials on TV have a distinct Christmas theme. Some radio stations are playing Christmas music. So, I suppose, I need to get with it. As I sit in my office on a Friday afternoon, the snow is falling. Actually looks kind of neat. Would be even neater if we were half way through winter rather than the beginning. Mind you, that would be wishing away time, would it not? Speaking of wishing away time, I realize that I am getting older and that time seems to be flying by. I am most acutely aware of this when I use the microwave. I stand and watch the timer count down and am always reminded of how my life is counting down as well. It scares me. Makes me want to avoid the microwave. I seem to be dreading this winter. I particularly seem to dread this time of year. The days are getting shorter, weather is turning cold, and yes, Christmas drawth nigh. (confused spell check with that one) However, I need to refocus on relationship building. It’s the time of year that get-togethers are being planned. Time with family and friends.

I am preparing a couple of presentations for next weekend in Toronto. One of them is a humorous, but serious, look at relationships. Perhaps I should say humorous with a serious message. Particularly as it relates to stress. I am speaking to the Canadian Farmers with Disabilities. People who have serious injuries from accidents. Trying to adapt to life with a physical impairment. Wow. Talk about stress.

Stress has a tremendous impact on our relationships with our spouses. I have always found it interesting how stress affects men and women differently. In a recent Macleans article the statement was made that “study after study show that men deal with stress through escapism and women deal with it by talking”. It is also a known fact that men are less likely to seek help. Far too often, and I speak from experience, men immerse themselves in their work thinking that the harder they work the sooner the issues and the pain will disappear. Men tend to fall into periods of irritability, higher expectations for themselves and others, substance abuse, and in general, become “emotionally unavailable”. Women, on the other hand, are more inclined to talk. A much healthier way of dealing with stress. It becomes a challenge for husbands and wives or partners to be able to understand each other when they are faced with over whelming stress.

So it’s all about relationships. On the humorous side I want to touch on the whole idea of men being waffles and women being spaghetti. Some of you may have read the book. I haven’t. My wife did. Just the title got me thinking about the difference between men and women. I used this analogy when I performed the marriage ceremony for my son and daughter-in-law. (That still has a strange ring to it. Daughter-in-law. Hmmm. Talk about getting older) They are still married. They are proud. They outlasted the Kardashians. What a debacle that was, or so I am told. I try to avoid that kind of reality TV. But I digress. Back to men and women. Ever notice how men function by having only one thought at a time in their head. Just like a waffle. Compartmentalized. Women, on the other hand, are like spaghetti. A tangled web. Each thought is linked to a myriad of other thoughts. I could say more, but that might give it away. Think about it. It makes sense.

So the goal, this year, is to work on relationships. Make it a happy time of year. Enjoy the season. And always remember. By Christmas the days start getting longer. Make it a good one.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Are You Listening?

No, this is not about the song, although the melody has been running through my head since I came up with the title. I have written and talked often about the importance of talking when you feel down, when you are feeling lonely, when you feel forgotten, when you feel that no one understands, when you feel pain, when you feel forsaken. It is easy to slip into a shell and hope that these feelings will eventually go away. Very often it is difficult to find someone that will listen.

There is another side to this story. What happens when someone wants to talk to me? How do I react? Do I know how to listen? Do I respond in such a way that the other person comes away from the conversation feeling better? It has been said that the best communicators listen more than they talk. Boy, do I have a lot to learn.
Dr. Ralph Roughten has written some good thoughts on listening. Let me share a few of his them.

“When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice
you have not done what I have asked.”

“When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me
why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on
my feelings.”

“When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to
do something to solve my problem you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.”

“When you do something for me that I can do for myself,
You contribute to my fear and inadequacy.”

“Listen! All I asked was that you listen – not talk or do.
Just hear me.”

Interesting how those thoughts reflect exactly my feelings when I feel the need to talk. Even more interesting is how I fail so miserably when others want to share with me. It is difficult not to jump in with advice or the age old “I know exactly how you feel”. Not so. I may understand how you feel. I may have had similar experiences but it is really difficult to “know” how someone feels. This is really hard when dealing with kids, your spouse or partner, or with good friends, someone close to you. Someone you think you know well. I know for myself, I always want to try to fix the problem. However, I need to stand back, listen and support. Be a source of strength. With that friend who has concerns and worries about some health issues. With the young couple, excited about being parents, losing the pregnancy in a miscarriage. The colleague who relates to my issues, hears me out, but is seldom given the opportunity to share her story. A long suffering spouse, who has to deal with a husband who is trying to find his way but spends far too much time immersed in negative thinking and rumination.
I often have dark thoughts. Try to make sense of who I am. Try to make sense of why I slip into these dark, sombre moods. I analyse. And the more I analyse the deeper I sink. Often wish I could express myself better. Never understanding why others don’t understand me. Dr. Roughten has a thought that I think relates to a lot of my frustrations.

“But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what
I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to
convince you and get about the business of
understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling.
And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious
And I don’t need advice.”

So simple yet so difficult. Listen more, understand more, love more. Make it a good one.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

And The Sign Said. . .

Ever since I wrote the blog on Dreams Never Die, I have had that song going through my head. I think most of you can relate. Although I like this song it gets rather tedious if that’s all I can sing. My wife and son are getting somewhat irritated with me as well, because each evening when I sit down at the supper table I will recite the first line of that song, not once, but two or three times. I suppose it could be worse. You know how some commercials have really catchy tunes? The one that comes to mind is where the guy comes skipping out of his house in the morning singing “good morning, good morning we talked the whole night through”. The commercial is for some kind of medication. Not sure I want any of that if it means talking all night. I would rather sleep. Enough said.

So, I felt, it was time to introduce a new song to my brain. A song I have loved for years, a song that I can sing along with, in its entirety, is the song Signs. You know the one that starts with “And the sign says long haired freaky people need not apply. . . “? A good message in that song. Seems we live in a society where liability is becoming a larger issue. If you burn your tongue on coffee, if you catch your finger in a door, if you fall off a ladder, or any other number of things that happen to us, you have the ability to sue. As a result of that there are warnings and signs posted everywhere. “Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign”.

Whenever I think about signs I think of all the signs I see on highways. It is constant. “blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind”. With all the miles I put on, and this week was a bad one again, I see these signs. I see a lot of people breaking the rules. Complete and total disregard for law and order. Where are the cops when this happens? I know, they are lurking around the corner waiting for me to make some minor mistake. A telescope set up to ensure I am not talking on my cell phone. A red light camera. Guess what. That’s a tough one to get away with. Those tickets get sent out in the mail. Guess who picks up the mail at our house. Knock on wood, but it has been awhile since I was caught for any infraction.

As most of you know by now, most of my anxiety, most of my moodiness, a lot of my anger manifests itself in road rage. I am convinced that other drivers wait just for me so they can cut me off, drive just under the speed limit, stop for no apparent reason or a host of other things that tick me off. Not sure if I am the only one but traffic in Brandon gets me every time. Is it just me or are there traffic issues? All I know is it’s a real test of patience getting from point A to point B.

So, as I have said before, I need to relax and listen to more music. As a friend told me this morning, music is good for the soul. It helps calm the spirit. It helps in changing our “stinking thinking”. It eases anxiety. It keeps us centered. It keeps us in the moment. I like the last sentence of the last verse in the song Signs. “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ‘bout me. I’m alive and doing fine. Wooo!” Hopefully that is the line going through my mind for a while. Make it a good one.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What Women Want

Who remembers the movie What Women Want starring Mel Gibson? In the movie Gibson, through a freak accident involving pantyhose and a hair dryer (don’t want to go there), has the ability to hear what women think. Now for most of us that is a scary thought. Usually I hear enough verbally that any more information would be detrimental to my well-being. Self-esteem is enough of an issue without more information. However, in the movie, it is rather humorous. The point of this dialogue is really not the movie at all. Rather, when I thought about what I wanted to write about, the name of the movie came to mind. Read on and you will understand why.

I started writing this blog some time ago. I have resisted posting it as I want to make sure that I am politically correct, as to state my case in any other way would result in. . . well, put it this way, I wouldn’t live it down. After all, in my counselling training, I learned that being able to think and communicate as a feminist is very important. Feminism, to me, had always been about women’s rights. I have found out different. Wikipedia defines feminism as a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. “As a feminist we want it all but we want it for everyone”.

Did you know that October 18 is the anniversary date of women getting the right to personhood? Quite astounding actually. Not that they got the right, but that they did not have it prior to that. What’s up with that? Based on the article women have had the right to vote since 1918. However, women were not considered “persons” under the British North American Act till 1929. The article goes on to say that women in Canada were considered “persons in matters of pains and penalties, but not persons in matters of rights and privileges”. This until a mere 82 years ago. Something that happened in my parents’ lifetime.

I have often wondered why women were at one time considered lesser than men. Just never quite made sense to me. I was raised in a church (that is a topic best left for another day) where there is still dialogue regarding women in leadership roles. Recently I heard a woman talk about the fact that it continues to be difficult, and in some cases, impossible for women to achieve equality in the workplace, particularly in wages and salaries. Definitely something wrong with this picture.

Going back to a previous discussion, I talked about the movie The Help. The movie depicts the exploitation of black women. Again, events that happened in my parent’s lifetime. I could cite many more instances where women, people of different color, various ethnic groups and people with disabilities get discriminated against. I know of someone that suggested that the problems of the world can be laid squarely at the feet of white males. As much as I hate the thought, perhaps there is more truth in that then I would like to admit.

So what next? There have been vast improvements but still so much that can be, and needs to be done. What can I do to make this world a better place? What can I do to ensure equality? It would seem to me that if we reach out, if we strive for equality, if we do what we can, this world will be a better place. Jimi Hendrix says it well, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power there will be peace”. Make it a good one.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dreams Never Die. . .

At least that is what the song says. Beautiful song I might add. “Some men dream of fame, and some of fortune. Some men dream about time gone by.” Isn’t that the truth? I particularly dream of times gone by. I still smile when I think about the quote,” it's very strange when the life you never had flashes before your eyes”. Let me explain.

I attended a retirement bash for my wife’s co-worker recently. As retirement parties go, it was okay. Lots of kind words. Happiness. All that goes along with someone that has dedicated their life to a job. Stuck with it. Persevered. As I was sitting there it hit me. This person that was retiring was someone I had gone to school with. We were the same age. Obviously I reflected on my life. It was kind of depressing. I knew I was a long way from retirement. I am at the age where I know others that are getting close to retirement. They are counting the days. The only chance I have is to win the lottery. But, I realize, the chances of that are slim as I seldom buy a ticket. There I go, dreaming about “fortune”.

I have often said, facetiously, that I blew my retirement in the nineties. Hey, I had a lot of fun doing it. Back then, of course, I was farming. Life was great. I had the opportunity to travel the world through my association with a commodity group. I had hired help. I was my own boss. Unfortunately I should have dedicated more time to the farm. Although as a hog producer, perhaps the writing was on the wall. I try not to look back. I am moving on. After all I am a recovering farmer. I have other opportunities. I enjoy my work. The only reality is that freedom 55 will not apply to me.

In my work with farm debt mediation I meet many people who have given their life to their farm. Many people whose dreams have died. They too, have persevered. They have given their all. Only to find out it is for naught. There are families who have lost relationships due to the stress of farming. Interesting how financial stress wreaks havoc with relationships. There are many who have lost their homes. Have lost farms that have been passed down from previous generations. Many families, farm or non-farm, struggle on a daily basis to make things work. Talking earlier this week to a long-time friend and farmer he suggested to me that his “get up and go had got up and left”. A sentiment shared by many. It becomes exhausting.

However, dreaming can be a good thing. The key is to dream about positive things. I meet regularly with a couple that lost their farm in the late eighties. They too had dreams. In our discussions we talk about changing our thought pattern from the negative to the positive. In spite of the ease with which negative thoughts arrive, in spite of the ruts of rumination and self-pity that we slip into, it is interesting to note how one’s mood, temperament and general health improve when we focus on positives. I am reminded of the gentleman, who on his death bed, stated that he had had many problems in life, most of which never happened. There are many positives that we can draw on from the past. It is even more important to keep dreaming about the future. As the song says, “cause without dreams inside us, yeah, without dreams how would we all get by”. Make it a good one.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

When Things Go Wrong

Often time’s people are caught by surprise. We have certain plans for the future. We have expectations to live till “we’re too old to die young”. But sometimes those plans do not unfold. Something happens. What now?

I have chatted a few times with a man who was involved in a serious accident a few years ago. He was driving a semi, was slowing down to turn a corner, and was rear ended by another semi. The force of two semis colliding like that defies imagination. He is lucky to be alive. It could have been worse. He could have died. He could be confined to a wheel chair. He is struggling to find some way to get better. He wants to get back to work. As much as insurance is covering some lost income, money may not be the biggest issue. The feeling of being helpless. Feelings of negative self-worth. Always wondering, questioning whether there is something he is missing. Something that might help. I suspect in some of his darkest hours he wonders whether death might have been a better option.

But I have noticed something else in this person. An inner strength that defies logic. I sit and mope about what I think are issues and having met this man puts everything into perspective. He epitomizes the very meaning of resiliency. Remember when we talked about this before? Webster’s Dictionary defines “resilience” as “an ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change”. He is adapting. He is in a recovery mode. I marvel at his ability to do that. He has no idea when his body will heal enough for his life to return to normal. And yet he keeps trying.

We chatted this week about the ability to heal. We talked about having a strong mind. Thinking positively. Mind over matter, as they say. A colleague sent me a quote by Henry David Thoreau. “As a single footstep will not make a path on earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Tough to do when your mind is full of bitterness and resentment. Tough to do when you have uncertainty about health concerns. Far too easy to slip into the ruts left by negative thinking. The key is to practice the art of positive thinking. As they say “practice makes perfect”.

Just one other note about the person I just told you about. He has an incredible sense of humour. He likes to laugh. He has improved my mood by making me laugh. After all laughter is the best medicine. I know him and me will talk some more. There are many more things we can share with each other. There are more things we can learn from each other. And, hopefully, in some small way, I can help him on his journey. He sure has helped me. Make it a good one.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wheezing, Sneezing and Coughing

I am moping around home suffering from a cold. What’s up with that? Then I remembered writing about a cold last year. Looked back and wouldn’t you know that was exactly a year ago. Makes me wonder whether the cold is as regular as the change from summer to fall to winter. The difference this time around is that my wife has a cold as well. I recall her making fun of me last year when I thought that I was suffering from the worst cold of my life. I recall others suggesting that because I am a man I was just looking for sympathy. Well, justice has been served. She is suffering right along with me. We had big plans for this weekend. We were going to go out west and visit with family. It didn’t happen.

In spite of my physical maladies, I am taking advantage of the half decent weather we are having. I am moving my goldfish from their summer home to their winter home. Just kind of confirms the fact that summer is over. Why is it that I dread what’s coming? I like warm weather. I like everything that comes with the warm weather. Particularly golf. I suppose the golf season is over as well. I had great expectations for this year’s golf. I had practiced for a number of months during last winter and thought that the game would see some significant improvements. I golfed more this summer than any summer before. Spent many an early morning enjoying the sunrise, gentle breeze, the dew on the grass and the solitude one has when you seem to be the only one up and at em. Also spent some time golfing with others. I have mentioned before the competition I have with a certain left hander. Well, truth be told, it’s not much competition. I did win a few rounds but for the most part that only happened when he was not playing up to his potential. It was fun none the less. There is always next year, right?

Took a break from writing this to go blow out the sprinkler lines. Wow, I am efficient. I recall doing that when I had to thaw out the lines in some places. One year did not blow them out at all. Paid dearly for that the following spring. We are ready for winter. Go figure. I suggested building a fire in the fire place. My wife wanted none of that. Perhaps she is in denial.

My thoughts go out today to a good friend who is worried about some health issues. He had some struggles over the summer but nothing serious. Just very uncomfortable. Painful at times. Seemed to be making headways. Then he got word this week that he needs a biopsy on something that he always attributed to a sports injury. What a load to carry around till a biopsy can be scheduled. He finds it tough to function. So easy to imagine the worst. At times like this I think of the following prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference”. Here is hoping that all turns out well for him.

As for me?? I am sick. It is windy. I can’t golf. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Just kidding, of course. Make it a good one.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Way Things Were

I came across some comments that were made back in 1957. That is a long time ago. And just in case you are wondering, NO, I was not born yet. It’s interesting to hear what some thoughts were back then. Now, these comments may have been made or someone has dreamt them up as a lark. Whatever the case, they do make some sense. Here is just a taste.

“If cigarettes keep going up in price I’m going to quit. A quarter a pack is ridiculous.”

Can you imagine? 25 cents a pack. I have not bought cigarettes for quite some time but last I heard they were around twelve dollars a pack. Twenty five in a pack. Works out to 48 cents per cigarette. People that smoke can only wish that it was 25 cents a pack. Heck. At 25 cents a pack I would smoke too. Wait a minute. There is also a health issue. Okay. I’ll leave that one alone.

“I’ll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it’s going to be impossible
to buy a week’s groceries for $20.00.”

If only. I stopped to pick up some groceries last night. $20.00 does not buy a whole lot. Some fruit, a jug of milk, some pop and the total bill was $65.00. Never mind when you check in the meat department. I won’t even begin to rant about prices farmers are getting for their commodities at the farm gate. Without going into details it is interesting to note the figures when the Keystone Agricultural Producers do their annual Farmer’s share study.

“Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just
to play ball? It wouldn’t surprise me if someday they will be making more than
the president.”

Wikipedia suggests that the American president has an annual salary of $400,000. I suspect that there are very few major league players in hockey, baseball or basketball whose salary would be that low. It defies logic when you start hearing about salaries that players get in this day and age. Anybody that follows golf will have been glued to the TV two weeks ago when there was a playoff between two golfers for a mind boggling $11,144,000. Based on this I need to seriously look at upping my hourly rate. Hmmmmm. Wonder who would hire me. I best get back to work so I can afford the groceries I bought last night. Especially if I want to smoke too.

“When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 29
cents a gallon. Guess we’d be better off leaving the car in the garage.”

Okay. Let me do some quick math here. At today’s price of $1.109 per liter the per gallon price is in excess of $5.00. Not good. And to think I just bought a vehicle which, for all intents and purposes, would be considered a gas guzzler. I have actually slowed down to try to improve my gas mileage. Perhaps the garage would be a good place for it. But wait a minute. I need to drive to earn money to pay for the groceries. I can’t win.

“It’s too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are
having to work to make ends meet.”

How things have changed. It is the norm, in 2011, for women to work. Someone once suggested that there should be a law requiring all farmers to have at least three wives to subsidize the farm. I am not touching that one. I facetiously made a comment to someone this week that my wife had more than one job to support my golfing. Truth be told. With incomes the way they are, with costs sky rocketing, families need the income from both parents just to survive.

There you have it. Things have changed and continue to change. I am curious what will be said in 50 years from now regarding changes that will happen. Whatever the case I cannot worry about that because I probably won’t be around to find out. I sometimes worry about what is in store for my kids and grandkids. But then again, my parents and grandparents probably worried about the same things. Oh well. Make it a good one.

Friday, September 30, 2011

When Columbus Sailed The Ocean Blue

Life is full of surprises. Many of them pleasant. Others not so much. Often times we wonder what the real meaning is behind the different twists and turns we experience. Sometimes things don’t make sense. We have certain dreams. We have aspirations. We have relationships with others who have dreams. It hurts when someone we love faces hurts or disappointments. We feel lost, confused or angry, if our plans don’t work out. We become uncertain of the future.

In my work with mediation I come across many situations where people have been knocked off course. Whether it’s a family situation, a debt situation, a relational issue, we wonder what we did wrong. We second guess. Many times we feel uncertain about what our next steps should be. We don’t know where to turn for help.

I am reminded of a story told about Christopher Columbus. It is said that when he left home he did not know where he was going. He had no idea how to get there. And when he did get there he had no idea where he was. Can you imagine how much different the story of Columbus would be if he had had the benefits of modern technology. A compass, a map, Google Earth, GPS. Any of these would have made life easier for him. Heck, he wasn’t even sure whether the earth was flat and he might sail over the edge.

Reminds me of when I went through some challenges. Whether it was mental health issues, financial stress, production problems, or relational challenges. I could have used a road map. I could have used the guidance of some one that had gone before. I could have used the help of a professional. Instead I did it on my own. I had no idea where I was going. I had no idea how to get there. And now I sometimes wonder where I am. With the experience I have gained, with many professionals I have worked with over the years, and the results I have seen when professionals are utilized, I see the errors of my ways. I should have made use of the help out there. The journey would have been easier. The end result would have been better.

That help is available. If stress, depression or anxiety is getting to you and you need someone to talk to there are counsellors available at the Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services. If your farm is experiencing financial challenges there are free services available through the Manitoba Farm Mediation Board or through Farm Debt Mediation Services. If your family is experiencing relational issues or you would like assistance with putting together a succession plan or business plan, there are professionals available through the Canadian Association of Farm Advisers (CAFA). Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives have staff that can help with, and provide resources for, many of your needs. It is a matter of availing yourself of the help that is out there.

Take the time to explore your options. Ensure you feel comfortable with the professional you are considering. Envision your destination through establishing goals. Find a map for the journey. That way you will know where you are headed, you will know how to get there and when you get there you will know where you are. Make it as good one.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Taking Time Off

Some time ago my wife suggested to me that she was going to be taking the third week in September as holidays and highly recommended I do the same. I agreed. And so this week I have been on holidays. Tough to figure out what it really means to be on holidays. Not that I have never taken time off before. But I do not remember ever taking a week off when we did not have a trip planned. I suppose I still have that farmer mentality. When “hanging” out at home there is always work staring you in the face. In my case, being self-employed, taking time off is not a big deal but does take significant effort. So I don’t go to the office but I am still connected. With modern technology it takes more of an effort to disconnect yourself from work. The Blackberry went with me where ever we went. And I have yet to learn to ignore messages or emails “till I return to the office”. So each day I did spend some time communicating with clients.

We did take some time to play golf. Remember last spring when I talked about the deal we had made? My wife was going take golf lessons and together we would take dance lessons as well. Well, we had done some dancing, culminating in some “real” dancing at our son’s wedding. However, the golf part of our deal remained somewhat lacking. So with the good weather we had this week we golfed a couple of rounds. Good times.

We also went and watched a movie. Now, you have to understand that we do not often go to the movies. We seem to have very different ideas as to what a good movie is. Two weeks ago we had gone to see a movie as well. At the time I wanted to see Contagion while Rose suggested The Help. The reviews on The Help were non-existent and I had seen some previews about Contagion. A medical thriller. Looked interesting. Contagion won out. We went. We watched. We were disappointed. Not much of a story line. The most interesting, and perhaps scariest, aspect of the movie dealt with how quickly a virus can spread. With the SARS situation a few years ago and more recently the H1N1 scare, there was something eerily real about the movies.

However, a friend told us this week that The Help was an excellent movie so we went and watched it. Two movies in two weeks? Wow. Turns out The Help is an awesome movie. Very good storyline. Deals with racism. The sad part is that stories like this did happen and happened not that long ago. It hit home even more after hearing the story of a banana being thrown at a black hockey player in a NHL hockey game. What kind of society do we live in where some people have this idea that they are superior? The idea that people of different color or ethnicity are inferior. We sit by and watch as it happens in a larger way with the Israelis and the Palestinians. We see racial tensions all over the world. Examples of ethnic cleansing. People thumping their chests and claiming superiority. We choose sides. We are indignant. We are angry. We hope and pray for peace. As we should. And yet we see smaller examples of racism, discrimination, and hatred right in our back yard. What do we do about it? Far too often I am guilty of turning a blind eye. It is much too easy just to ignore. To pretend it doesn’t happen.

But it does happen. Watch the movie The Help. Decide for yourself on how we can make a difference. And then let’s strive for peace. Let’s strive for true equality. Let’s make this world, this country, our community a better place to live. Make it a peaceful one. Make it a good one.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I chatted earlier in the day with a colleague and explained to her that I seemed lacking in ideas for my weekly blog. Then I received an email from a friend who suggested he was tired or rereading my last one and could do with a new one. So why is it that some weeks I have all kinds of ideas and then suddenly everything goes blank. Nothing seems to make sense. Nothing flows. Almost like the weather. Unbelievable warm weather and just like that it turns cold. Sunday it was over 30 degrees and for tonight there are frost warnings. Perhaps it’s the change in seasons. Days are getting shorter. It seems like only yesterday I was waiting for the golf courses to open for the summer. With all these changes people often times have a change in mood as well.

I decided, Sunday, to watch the Blue Bomber game rather than to go golfing. I thought that I could golf Monday. Well, what a mistake that was. That was ugly. What happened to our invincible defense? Gone but not forgotten? And what about Pierce? Brutal. Not sure how often the guy can stand being tackled the way he was in that game. I was always suspect of our offense. Now we have back to back games against Montreal? Not good. It could get uglier. Perhaps I need to keep the faith. I know I won’t change any golf plans for a Bomber game again anytime soon.

So Monday morning I got up early and headed for the golf course. North wind. Showers threatening and a balmy 12 degrees. That was bad. I tried. Finally headed off the course to go to work. Thought I could golf Tuesday morning. Woke up early. Gale force north wind. Cloudy and cold. Went back to bed. That was really bad. So what now? Is the golf season over? Hope not. There is some good news in this someplace.

Back in early spring I had ordered a “belly” putter. For those of you who follow golf you know what I am talking about. A putter that is long enough that you stick in your belly for extra stability. Used to be that “old” guys would use these. Now there are many younger golfers on tour that use them. The belly putter never came. So I ended up buying a regular putter. I gave up on my putting. Nothing worked. Some of you may remember me lamenting about this last summer. Putting has always been my weakness. I think in official golf lingo, I have the yips. Two weeks ago I got a call from the golf store letting me know that a belly putter had come in. I picked it up. Took some getting used to. But it works. Still need to practice more. But at minimum I now have the confidence that the ball will end up near the cup. I know the ball will travel towards the target. Before I never knew. Now I hear that the PGA may make these putters illegal for use on the tour. Hope not. Just one problem. Either the putter is just a little too short or I need a bigger belly. Both easily fixed.

Now all I need is some nice weather. I am finishing this early Wednesday morning. Still dark outside. Thermometer reads -1. Frosty. Forecast calls for a north breeze and a high of 13. Got to the course at 7:30. Had to wait till 8:30 for the frost to clear the greens. Need some practice. Have another game with that certain left hander. Looking forward to it. Just hit me. He always has the home course advantage. Have to figure out how to get over that one. Oh well. It will be fun. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"this crazy little thing called love"

I have had some interesting conversations lately with friends, family and colleagues. The topic is about love and the difference in gender when it comes to expressing love. Not sure why and, trust me, I have not initiated these discussions. I have heard all kinds of opinions. So on the assumption that nothing can be held against me in a court of law, I will do my best to fill you in on some of the thoughts I have heard. These conversations have been initiated because of my son’s wedding this upcoming weekend. I have been asked to officiate at the wedding and so in preparation of that, the word love keeps arising to the surface. And no, I am not a minister as someone suggested today. I got myself a one day, one wedding license.

So the first thing I did is go online to check out the definition of love. The Webster’s dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person”. Excuse me. No reference to weak knees, palpitating heart, cold sweats and dizziness. Okay, I can live with that. Allright then, what is the definition of affection? Webster’s defines it as “a feeling of liking and caring for someone or something”. Hey, that sounds doable. Not as ominous as I had expected it to be based on some thoughts and opinions I had heard.

So why is it that men have such a difficult time expressing this to their significant others? I am reminded of an episode of Two and a Half Men. Charlie is walking his girlfriend (don’t ask me which one) to the door. Just before she opens the door she turns to Charlie and says “I love you”. Charlie is flustered for a second and then says “Thank you”. Not good. It’s hilarious to hear him try to talk his way out of that one. I just had a colleague tell me her brother-in-law buys flowers for his wife once a week and has done so for the five years they have been married. Okay. That is somewhat outside of the norm. Another man told me that he had told his wife he loved her the day they got married and if that ever changed he would let her know. Okay. That is an extreme the other way. One person told me that if his wife would not say “I love you” on a daily basis he could not think of why he would stay in that relationship. Is that what it takes? A verbal confirmation? Or do we show our love through other ways?

I get the distinct feeling that as men age they have more difficulty with the L word. Are they feeling trapped? Will the mere utterance of “I love you” push them into some abyss that promises no return? Or are we overthinking it? Are we complicating an otherwise simple issue?

In preparation for my son’s wedding I am trying to focus on relationships. I refer to the quote ``Relationships provide us with identity, purpose and direction. In essence, relationships are a life giving, life defining, life nurturing process”. To be involved in a relationship requires open, honest communication and a real desire to understand the other person. It is not a matter of being right or wrong. When we communicate, when we show our partners the willingness to listen and understand, we are working positively on our relationship. That defines us. That gives us direction. That gives us purpose. Perhaps that is love. Perhaps it is that simple. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There is Hope

The death of Rick Rypien has garnered a tremendous amount of media coverage. Although I have yet to see or hear that it was a suicide, that certainly has been the assumption. What we do know is that Rick suffered from depression. Issues that forced him to withdraw from hockey, for periods of time, to deal with whatever these issues were. What has become evident is that, by all outward appearances, Rick seemed to be in a good place. He was going to be playing for the new Winnipeg Jets. He had talked about the excitement of this opportunity. He had arranged a golf game with a friend. The future looked promising. By all reports Rick was moving on.

I received a call from a radio station this week asking for an interview regarding depression and suicide. Obviously this renewed interest comes on the heels of the Rick Rypien situation. They called me because of my previous interviews, regarding men and depression. One of the first questions that was asked was how the news of Rypien’s untimely demise had impacted me. My response was quick. Every second day a person dies by suicide in Manitoba. Many of these tragic deaths are never reported on. The sadness of friends, families, and communities are kept quiet. The questions that so many people have are left unsaid and unanswered. Not to downplay or diminish, in any way, the tragedy of Rick Rypien, may he rest in peace, but each and every suicide is a tragedy.

I have also been asked how I relate this situation to my own. And frankly, it scared me. Why? As many of you may be aware, just by reading some of my blogs, I have been on somewhat of an emotional roller coaster over the last while. Although life is good there are some things that fill me with profound sadness. Things that are difficult to identify but there none the less. Rick Rypien’s life was moving forward. One article stated that “he appeared to have defeated his demons and was refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to revive his career”. So my natural instinct was to wonder whether I was headed down the same road. A colleague and I discussed this scenario and it was reassuring to hear her state that we should never assume that depression inevitably leads to suicide. Suicide is a complex issue and cannot be distilled into a simple cause and effect argument. It is important to remember that depression is a very treatable mental illness and that should be our focus.

I suppose that when individuals are in the public spot light, admissions of depression, admissions of chemical addictions or death by suicide, will always garner public attention. Perhaps this is unavoidable and simply the nature of the beast. What is unfortunate is how we seem to forget about depression and the tragedy of suicide till it hits home through the reality of life. Whether that is because it is someone we know or because it hits the news because it has happened to someone who is in the public eye. Our society needs to gain a better understanding of depression. A better understanding of the resources available for people suffering with this mental illness. An understanding that there is hope. There is relief.

Let me finish by quoting Jack Layton, “love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair”. Make it a good one.

Friday, August 19, 2011

And the Beat Goes On

What a relief. I have been able to replace my old car. Took some time but the right deal came along. Not new by any stretch. A 2004 SUV. A gas guzzler. I would prefer a car. My wife and I spent time discussing what would be most practical. A car or a truck. I wanted a car. She thought it would be handy to have a truck. We compromised. An SUV with a hitch. What I like about the SUV is how easy it is to get in and out. I know. This ages me. Just wait till I tell you about my music preferences. And it has all-wheel drive, so hopefully won’t get stuck this winter. Not that that was a problem. Probably take more chances knowing that I have the all-wheel drive.

I have put on a lot of miles over the last two weeks. During the vehicle buying experience I was told that I was in the top 1 – 2% of drivers based on miles I drive in a year. I found that just a little interesting and a little disturbing. Whether that in fact is factual or not is beside the point. I spend a lot of my life on the road. What I have known for a while is that when I drive I spend a lot of time thinking. Most often, far too much time thinking. I get tired of thinking about my thinking. I stew. I get angry. I feel resentful. I wallow in self-pity. Why is that? Had a chuckle this week when I read the following quote. “it's very strange when the life you never had flashes before your eyes”. That sounds so much like some of my thinking. Always wishing something could have been different. Always thinking, “what if”.

I know from past experience that listening to music helps me be in a better frame of mind. So why don’t I listen to more music? Not sure. I do occasionally listen to news. Generally that will be on CJOB. They have some good sports reporting as well. Particularly during football season. Invariably what happens is I end up listening to some right wing talk show that just adds to my frustration and anger. So I need to get back to listening to music.

And I am. When I first drove my “new to me” vehicle the radio was set to an FM station that plays hits of the 70 and 80’s. Awesome music. I can sing along with many of the songs. Spooks my passengers. On occasion it spooks me as well. I had forgotten about the awesome tunes we had back in the 80’s. Weird how I can sing along with the song but have no clue who the band is. Unfortunately I lose reception about half way home from Winnipeg so then have to find something else to listen to.

And so it goes. I keep traveling the highways and byways. Meet a lot of interesting people. Have lots of food for thought. But spend too much time lost in a world of negativity. So I will change that. Listen to more music. Get carried away in the rhythm and lyrics. It’s neat. It cheers me up. And the beat goes on. Make it a good one.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Friday Rant

I feel the need to rant. Not sure why and not sure who or what to use as a target. I read stuff in the newspaper, on Facebook. I watch news on TV. And it gets to the point where the attitude, the seeming ineptitude, the sheer nerve of some people upset me. Why is that? So I need to pick a target and get it off my chest.

I have been shopping for a vehicle for the last few weeks. What a frustrating experience. Why can my car not last forever? I would rather go to a dentist. It takes about an hour. It hurts. It costs too much money. But a few, mere hours later all is forgotten. But not with a purchasing a car. The pain never goes away. Can it not be simple?

For a few months I have known that my car was in not going to last too much longer. I have reached the point in kilometers where, historically, cars have died on me. 300,000 kms. Not bad. I don’t really expect any more out of a vehicle. Yeah, I know. There are those that can milk 400 or even 500,000 kilometers out of a vehicle. Not me. But I am okay with that. I have to downshift going up hills or when I need to pass someone. Often when I start off at stop signs or traffic lights the transmission slips. The car over heats when I am in rush hour traffic. The air conditioner blows hot air when I stop. The windshield is cracked vertically and horizontally. There are certain vibrations and noises coming from my wheels. The body is in decent shape. That is till I experienced a hit and run incident a few weeks ago. That is enough to send my blood pressure soaring. The nerve. I feel violated. What can I do? If I get that repaired it will cost me my deductible. Add up all the repairs and it becomes prohibitive. Never mind that almost anything else could break down soon.

The next problem is we cannot decide what to buy. My wife thinks we need a truck. I would be quite satisfied with a car. Perhaps an SUV would be a good trade off.
So I have visited a few dealerships. I have tried to be patient. I find it difficult to negotiate. Just tell me what the best price is and I will decide. Stopped at a dealership in Swan River when I was up there for a meeting. They had a truck for sale that looked to be just what I wanted. The price was close to what I would spend on a truck. Two questions. What is the best price you can give me on the truck? What will you give me in trade for my car? Simple. Right? Well, the best price on the truck was the one I had been given. As far as a value for my car? He wasn’t sure. He didn’t want to insult me. I could not get a straight answer. So I said I would think about it and left. I lied. I didn’t think about it. I was frustrated. Two days later he phoned. Wanted to know whether I was interested in the truck. Wondering whether I would buy if they sweetened the deal. Excuse me? Sweeten the deal? What deal? I thought you gave me the best price.

So the saga continues. Visited a Ford dealer. Thought I should check out their SUVs. We told the salesman what we were looking for and what our price range was. He said he had a few of those and would be right back. He popped back in the office and told us how an elderly lady had traded off a car that we might want and said he would pull it around front for us. Before I had a chance to say anything he was gone. I looked at my wife with total confusion. A car? I wanted to see an SUV. I humoured him. Looked at the car. Nice car. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT I WAS THERE FOR. Never did get to see a SUV.

What next? Not sure. Wish this could be easier. Actually, if money grew on trees it would be. However, when you are limited on what you can spend it is not quite as easy. I will push onward. I will persevere. It will happen. Just not sure when. So if you happen to see an old, red Grand Prix sitting by the side of the road, please stop. I may need a ride. Until next time, make it a good one.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Finding Your Supports

Over the last two years I have talked often about the importance of a support system for yourself. Someone you can talk to. Someone that will listen. Someone that cares. Often that will be someone you might least expect.

During the course of our Farmer to Farmer workshops this spring, I met a couple who epitomized the whole idea of a support system. I will, with their permission, tell you their story.

Ed and Jan (not their real names) farmed in the southwest region of Manitoba. Due to circumstances they had to wind down their farm in the late eighties. If you will recall the eighties saw very high interest rates and created issues for many farmers. Aside from the high interest rates Ed and Jan also experienced poor crops. As well, some of their expectations, regarding land purchases, were not met creating further hardship. They had a dream. They were young when they started, they were going to raise their kids on the farm, one of the kids would eventually take over the farm and they would retire with land sales funding a relaxed, comfortable retirement. However, that was not to be. Their dreams died. They could not carry on. They had to sell out. At a time when most folks start thinking retirement, Ed and Jan joined the workforce.
Let me jump ahead to 2011. In April, as part of the Farmer to Farmer project, I was invited to participate in a call in show put on by a local radio station. During the show I talked about the stress of farming, the stress of financial hardship, the effect of stress on relationships, as well as some stress management techniques. At the end of the program I invited listeners to a workshop that would be held in the following days. It happened that Ed and Jan were listening that day. I received a call from them asking whether they could attend. The rest, as they say, is history. They participated in the workshop. They took the opportunity to open up about many dark feelings they still harboured regarding the loss of their farm. Ed became emotional as he shared how listening to the radio show had finally given him the hope that he had found an avenue to begin the healing process of what had happened so many years ago.

After the completion of the workshops it was decided that we would hold regular support group sessions. Ed and Jan have been regular attendees. They have shared more and more of their struggles. We have laughed, we have cried. In our last meeting Ed shared another story that really hit home for me. He related how they had attended a family function and at the end of the evening he had hugged two of his nephews. On the way home Jan asked him about that. She found it strange that he had shown that much affection for someone. Ed answered by saying that having had the ability to talk and share about his struggles at our meetings had given him the opportunity to open his heart to others and show a side of him that had been hidden away under a cloud of anger and resentment. All of this because they found a support system. All this because they took the opportunity to open up and talk.

Talking helps. Often times talking is the first step to a new life. Take the time to seek out your supports. It may be a family member, a neighbour, a good friend, clergy, a doctor. Someone you can feel comfortable with. Someone you can feel safe with. You’re worth it. Your family, friends and community will benefit. Your business will benefit. And most of all your life will benefit. Make it a good one.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Might Have Been

For those of you that follow my blog you know this one is somewhat tardy. When I initially started this project I enthusiastically set a goal of writing one blog per week. It did not take long to realize that writing something reasonably intelligent, on a weekly basis, would be a challenge. Well, here I am thirteen months later still coming up with little stories that, I hope, at a minimum, provide some entertainment for you, or perhaps put a smile on your face, or give you a better understanding of who you are through someone else’s experiences. I have an excuse for being late with this one. I was on holidays. You heard right. Holidays. Two and a half days. Spent my time golfing and engaging in good conversation with a good friend, I will talk about that some other time.

Remember how I was tooting my horn, patting myself on the back, talking streak. I am referring to winning two in a row against that certain left hander. If I write about him too often I will have to give him a different name. Hmmmmm. Wonder what that name could be. The first few that come to mind should probably not be printed in this forum. Okay. I will leave that one alone for now. I am sure by now you have figured out that I lost to him last week. I buckled. Snapped like a dry twig. Broke under pressure. I lost. So now I need to grovel. Not sure why. I win approximately 7.3417%, give or take 1%, games against the guy. (about the same win percentage I have with Spider Solitaire) But I did lose.

So what now? After being convinced that I was on the right path I seemed to have lost my way. In a flash I am filled with doubts. I am afraid I am slipping back into that abyss filled with double bogies, three putt greens, and duck hooks. Enough to give me nightmares.

Reminds me of life. I have talked previously of getting hit by a storm, being in the foggy middle and finally getting on firm ground. Often times when we have experienced a crisis in our lives and feel that the worst is over something pops up and sets us back. We panic. We doubt ourselves. We are afraid. We remember some of those dark moments that we hoped had been forgotten. So what do we do? Do we allow ourselves to be consumed about what might have been? Seems that is one of my biggest weaknesses. Instead of pushing on, “getting back on the horse”, and just simply moving on, I find myself questioning and analyzing what might have been.

So here goes. I will move on. I will win again. Remember the old adage, “scars remind us where we have been but they don’t have to dictate where we are going”. I know it is within me to play a better game than I did last week. My golfing buddy is on holidays next week. There will be a couple of matches. I need to sharpen my game. Kids are coming home this weekend. They want to golf. Perhaps a few rounds will help me understand what went wrong. Then I can be ready for the next big one. Here’s hoping. And if not, at least I will have some fun. Make it a good one.

Friday, July 15, 2011

This Happened to Me

I received a call recently from a neighbour lady and during the course of the conversation she told me she was calling to see whether I was okay. I found the question rather curious. Was I okay? Where do I start? Define okay. Was wondering what she was after. She then informed me that she had heard that I had almost drowned. Almost drowned? And then I understood what she was referring to.

It happens that our home is perched on the edge of the Souris Valley. We have had a bird’s eye view of the flooding river. People have often asked me, because I am from Wawanesa, whether the flood is impacting us in any way. I often suggest that when our house floods most of Manitoba will be submerged. I have often dreamt of having a lake view property. Well, for the last three months it has been exactly that. It has been interesting, intriguing, and, yes, really picturesque. Unfortunately, I also understand what is a scenic view for me is devastating for many folks that live down stream and around the lakes that the Souris drains into.

Eleven years ago when we built our home we had a difficult time finding a water source. Ended up having to drill a well at the bottom of the valley, not that far from the river. In spring, as the flood began, I could quite easily keep an eye on the well as the trees were without leaves and so with binoculars I monitored the situation. The well was surrounded by water but there never was any danger of it becoming submerged. Two weeks ago, shortly after Minot was devastated by the flood and the forecast looked grim for Wawanesa, I decided that I needed to seal our well. In spite of the well being on a ridge and the well head being a good three feet above ground level, I felt it was better to be safe than sorry. We ventured down the hill with our supplies. The plan was simple. I would wade through the water to the well, seal it, and wade back. I did not realize how deep the water was. Turns out it was too deep to wade across. My wife went back to the house to get an air mattress. Perhaps I could use it to swim across. To ensure my safety she also brought back a life jacket. In my mind, being a man and all, I thought that somewhat unnecessary but to humour her I donned the life jacket, grabbed the air mattress and set out. I did not realize there was a current till my feet could no longer touch ground. Well, there was a current. Instantly, and with some speed, it started taking me towards the river. Not a good idea. I managed to grab a tree and surveyed the situation. My wife offered to go get help. I suggested I could probably make it back but might lose the air mattress. Long story short, I used my legs to push away from the tree and made it back to terra firma. My wife and I decided, at that point, that the well did not need sealing. The water would never get that high. I think that is often referred to as denial. It was the easy way out.

Turns out that three days later our well did become contaminated. Still could not believe that the well could be submerged. Wondered whether there was some other reason for it. So I spent the last weekend putting up a cistern so that we could have water hauled in. Small inconvenience compared to what many people are going through. Earlier this week my son and I canoed to the well. It became obvious that the well had been submerged. By now the water has retreated and the well is again producing crystal clear water. For safety reasons we are getting the water tested to ensure that it is safe for human consumption.

Of course, I never viewed my escapade as being life threatening. However, thinking back it could have been a lot more interesting than it was. I imagine a ride down the Souris, on an air mattress, would have been rather unpleasant. Well, it didn’t happen. All is well. And in the words of Mark Twain, “the rumours of my (near) demise have been greatly exaggerated”. Make it a good one.

Friday, July 8, 2011

On Firm Ground

Well, here we are. The river has finally crested in Wawanesa. Seems that the rush to protect many parts of the town paid off. Hopefully flood concerns can start easing. After all it is July. While having said that I heard on the radio this morning that sand baggers are still required in some areas of the province. And while the towns along the Souris River can breathe a breath of relief, all the water still in the Souris River needs to find its way to Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba. Lake levels will continue rising, meaning still more challenges for land owners and farmers.

As I told you some time ago I was feeling despondent about my golf game. I felt lost. Confused. Lost in the foggy middle. Was not sure what was going on. The only bright spot being a win against that certain left hander. Wondering what would happen in our next match. Not sure how it happened but I won again this week. Two in a row. Do I dare call that a streak. Perhaps I should retire from the sport. Quit at the top. Went for an early morning round today. Beautiful morning. Hit the ball well. Made some good shots. Felt my spirits rise. There is hope.

Could it be possible that I am on firm ground? A place where self-esteem and self-worth increase? Where optimism increases? I recall some of these feelings after I had been able to work my way out of a messy financial situation on the farm. I had come face to face with the realization that, what at one time had been a dream of financial success, a source for retirement, was not going to happen. I was forced to make changes. A different way of life. At an age where many start considering retirement I had to make significant changes. A change of jobs. A lifestyle change. After the debilitating thoughts of failure, feelings of shame and guilt, I sensed myself regaining my personal power. I became more confident as I transitioned to a new life.

I have had to learn new coping skills. My level of functioning is not what it once was. I seem to have a lower tolerance to stress. I need to remind myself of this on a regular basis. Otherwise I find myself slipping back into old habits. Slipping back into a zone where coping is difficult. I can tell you that I know more about myself. I know what I want and most of all I know how to adapt. The challenge is to know that I know and ensure I act upon that knowledge.

That certain left hander (he knows who he is) gave me some advice as he watched me struggle with my golf game. He told me to quit caring so much. In other words let it happen. After all these years of golfing the body knows what to do. I need to have faith in my muscle memory. Quit analyzing each little quirk in my swing, or in my putting or with my thought patterns. Let it happen. So often we have it within ourselves to move on. To have the needed strength. To see the positive things in life. To be mindful. To live within the moment. It is just a matter of reminding ourselves of these qualities before we fall back into that foggy middle. Sometimes it is good to have someone remind us and assist us as we face various challenges. Make it a good one.

Go to to find further information on stress management. The resources include pamphlets entitled Hit by the Storm, The Foggy Middle and On Firm Ground.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wawanesa, God’s Country

I often brag to people that I live in the most beautiful area of Manitoba. Often refer to it as God’s country. I refer to the valleys and hills that are common place in this area of western Manitoba. There are creeks and rivers. Sand hills and ravines. The town of Wawanesa is situated in a valley, seldom seen or noticed by anyone passing by on the highway. It is located in the Souris Valley. It sits within a horseshoe of the Souris River. It even has a dam. Usually life in this small town is quiet and relaxed. Aside from the fact that this is where the Wawanesa Mutual Insurance was founded, the town is somewhat typical of many rural towns. It used to be that everybody knew everybody.

Even today, as you drive into the town, nothing seems too unusual. Main street is quiet. The usual crowd at the coffee shop. Someone is mowing their grass. Seems like a normal summer day. However, drive to the western most part of the village and a whole new picture emerges. It appears to be a war zone. Work is being done at a feverish pitch, trying to protect the town from a major disaster. Flood waters are coming. A river that has been flowing at unprecedented levels is forecast to rise more in the days to come. The school, the health care facility and numerous homes are at risk. No costs are spared. Looking skyward you notice a helicopter. It is dropping rocks around the dam to try and ensure the dam is not compromised. So, while most of the town appears serene, away from the public eye, rages a battle.

Reminds me of myself. On the outside all is well. It is summer time. Golf season. Weather, all though a rough start, has turned to normal summer like conditions. What more could I ask for. Well, just like the flood fight in Wawanesa, there rages a battle inside of me. Confusion reigns. Hopelessness is setting in. A total lack of direction. Not sure what steps to take to rectify the situation. Find a way out. Do I give up? Throw in the cards? Concede? Seek professional help? Therapy? I thought I figured it out. I worked on it during the winter. I was confident.

What, you ask, is the problem? My golf game. Every time I think I have it figured out something goes wrong. At times I am hopeful and in the next moment hopeless. But I need to keep fighting. I need to keep working on it. It is so enjoyable when the game plan comes together. It did come together for a fleeting moment last week. Beat a certain left hander out there. Need to do that again. The way I golfed this weekend will not cut it. I think the mental part of the game is lacking. That is the next thing I will work on. Hmmm. How do I do that? Not sure. Will figure it out. Gain some confidence. And, I suppose, practice. Make it a good one.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Will It Never End????

The natural sequence of topics for this week should be some discussion on being “On Firm Ground”. Two weeks ago I wrote a piece on Hit By The Storm. One week ago it was titled The Foggy Middle. However, stress and crisis never seem to follow a linear path. There is no natural progression. Just about when you think you have it beat, something else goes wrong. (sounds like my golf game)

Very reminiscent of the Souris River. My wife came home from work a few days ago with a new riddle. What goes up and down and up and down and up? Answer: The Souris River. Could be funny if it weren’t true. The official crest of the river came on April 26th. Since then we have had a few more crests. Now we are hearing about the river rising another eight feet. That is feet, not inches. Seems impossible. But then again, many other aspects of the flood would have seemed impossible, if considered earlier in the year.

For many people this will be another hit. Another storm. Dikes have to be re-enforced. In some cases rebuilt. Further evacuations will take place. Heard again this week on how many acres of land will not be producing a crop. Many questions abound for crops that were sown. Challenges persist. Lives are in upheaval. There is loss. Loss of property, purpose, identity. In many cases there is an impact on physical health. There is a tremendous toll on emotional health. The initial shock, disbelief and anger has turned to emptiness and confusion. Suddenly, without warning, there is a return of shock. Complete disbelief and a lot of anger. Will it never end????

Aside from the many that are experiencing loss, experiencing anxiety, experiencing the confusion and chaos of the ongoing challenges are those people that are working on the front lines. Those that work in flood recovery. Those that deal with people needing to evacuate. There are service providers from lending institutions. Department staff that are trying to help. I have met some that were pulled from retirement to assist. Many of these folk are taking the brunt of the anger and frustrations of people in crisis. By default, they too have been thrust into the cauldron. Feeling emptiness, confusion and chaos. These are new and foreign feelings for many.

I chatted, this week, with a woman whose parents had to flee their home during World War 2. She asked her mother how they had survived the long period of time hiding out in a barn. Away from home. Away from a normal life. Fully aware of the changing world around them. The answer was short and rather simplistic. They had hope. That is what kept them going.

Hope. Is that what it is that keeps us going in our darkest moments? Hope that life will change for the better. Hope that flood waters will recede. Hope that the rains will stop. Hope that flood forecasts will be wrong. Hope that we will survive. Hope that someday life will return to some semblance of normalcy. Perhaps that is all we have. Hope. Perhaps that is all we need.

Self-care becomes very important. Being able to recognize that life is out of balance. Realizing that stress has taken over. Understanding that change is a necessity. Perhaps it is time to step back. Maybe a time out is in order. Do what we can to survive. Knowing that there is hope. There is relief. Make it a good one.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Foggy Middle

This Thursday morning I left the house bright and early so I could play a round of golf before heading in to the office. I like doing this. I get to the course before anyone else. It is probably the best part of the day. Too bad it is so darn tough getting out of bed. Anyway, there I was, Thursday, heading to the course just as the sun was beginning to rise. At least it should have been. It was only after driving for fifteen minutes that I realized the fog was so thick I could not see the sun rising, in fact, I was having a difficult time seeing the road. A thought occurred. How would I ever be able to see a golf ball flying through the air, never mind the target I was supposedly headed for? I know, some of you are thinking I should have noticed the fog before I left the house. Hey, give me some credit here. I did get up awfully early. The brain does not necessarily function that well, that early. So there I was. In the fog. Hitting towards imaginary targets. Actually hit the first green in regulation. Perhaps I should golf in the fog more often. Around and about the fourth hole I felt the start of a niggling head ache. No problem. But the other strange thing was that it felt like my vision was going. Oh no. I was having a stroke. Out in the middle of a dense fog, on a golf course, by myself. All sorts of scenarios attacked my fragile brain. And then I realized that, due to the fog, the humidity in the air was actually fogging up my glasses. It was truly amazing how well I could see when I cleaned my glasses. What a relief. I was going to live to see another day. I could again concentrate on golf. Although that didn’t help. Something was wrong with my game. It was frustrating. I finally gave up. Went to work.

People experiencing mind numbing stress, after being hit by the storm (see last week’s blog), often find themselves in the foggy middle. After having come to the realization that their life has changed, after having experienced loss and not having a healthy way to cope, people feel the way I did on that golf course. In a fog, feeling emptiness, confusion and chaos. Not sure which way to go. Nothing is clear. They need to find direction. Find the target. Find new coping methods. Gain a new understanding of how life has changed.

The challenges for many people continue. The flood waters are not diminishing their on-slaught of homes, fields, businesses, and communities. Excessive moisture has ruined the chances, for many, to produce a crop, to take advantage of higher commodity prices.

The Chinese symbol for crisis consists of two words. Danger and opportunity. Although it is very difficult to comprehend any type of opportunity when you are in the foggy middle, that opportunity may well come. Through a process of “finding” yourself, through gaining new perspectives, focusing on solutions, adjustments can be made.

A good start to accomplishing this change is to find your supports. They may include family, peers, clergy, co-workers. Perhaps you need the services of a professional such as a doctor, mental health worker or a counsellor. You can avail yourself of help lines such as the Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services. Talking helps. I know. I have been there. There is help and there is hope, Make it a good one.

Go to to find further information on stress management. The resources include pamphlets entitled Hit by the Storm, The Foggy Middle and On Firm Ground.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hit By The Storm

It finally happened. The bridge has succumbed. A bridge that has withstood the test of times. It is a sad day. What am I talking about? The bridge you see in the picture has been compromised. This particular bridge is a very short distance from our house. It has been around for numerous generations. It is unique in its design. It provides a spectacular picture of the Souris River. Very scenic. It brings back many memories. The bridge used to have three arches on each side. Massive concrete arches. Beautiful handiwork. It lost one section in the 1976 flood. A piece was added on to ensure its usefulness. Our kids called it the McDonalds bridge. (the golden arches). Many fun hours were spent at the bridge. Fishing. Swimming. Watching the idyllic flow of water, usually a lazy, serene flow. Each spring, as the Souris River ice broke up, we wondered, could it handle the pressure? It was surreal standing on the bridge and feeling it tremble and shake as large ice chunks smashed into the massive concrete pillars. But it withstood that pressure, year in and year out. However, this year things are different. The high water flows continue. On a regular basis debris would have to be cleaned out of the river as large trees would get hung up and create extra pressure. Banks would have to be reinforced as the water flow eroded the embankments. All for naught. The bridge has been closed. It is done. Rest in pieces.

Many people can relate to that bridge. They have been hit by the storm. Many have come face to face with the realization that life will never be the same. Gone are the hopes and dreams for tomorrow. In many cases people have lost what has taken generations to achieve. We are a unique culture. As farmers and others living in rural Manitoba, we have a deep connection to our land, our livestock, our way of life. The very roots of our beings are being attacked just like the bridge. The pressure is relentless. It never seems to end. There are feelings of helplessness, shock, anger. And somewhere in that storm people can lose their resilience.

Let me tell you of another group of people involved in this storm. I had the opportunity to talk to some `front line’ workers this week. Workers that have been designated to help victims through the process of recovery and rebuilding. In a heartbeat these folks have been thrust into a job that requires a strength beyond imagination. Each day they deal with people whose emotions are raw. People who have lost so much. People who are uncertain of tomorrow. Uncertain what they have left. Uncertain as to why this happened. These call center workers care. They want to help. But answers are difficult. Rules change. Mother nature has her own plans. It becomes frustrating when you need to provide help and you feel helpless yourself.

It becomes important to recognize the stress and be as proactive as possible. Try to gain a better understanding of your limits. And when you reach a breaking point, step back. Take a breather. Reduce the stress as best possible. Respond to your body`s needs. Proper nutrition, sleep and exercise are important. Take the time to relax your body and mind. And last but not least, reach out for support. Talking about it helps. Find someone you can confide in. If feelings of over whelming stress persist, seek the help of a professional. There is no shame in asking for help. Make it a good one.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Remember When. . .

For some strange reason I have the lyrics of the song “Remember When” going through my mind this week. Not sure why. Keep in mind that it is a country song sung by Alan Jackson. And quite frankly, I don’t really care for country music although I keep being told that country music is changing from what it used to be. Remember when country music consisted of nasal voices singing about. . . , I don’t want to go there because I will get depressed. Remember when there was uproar about Rock and Roll music and what happened if you played the record backwards? Yeah, I know, some of you don’t know what a record is. In fact, most of you cannot even relate to 8 tracks. As teenagers we were told that if you played rock and roll music backwards there were all kinds of messages from Satan, messages about demons, in plain language, it was bad news. You know what happens if you play country music backwards? Your wife returns to you, your dog comes back to life and you get out of prison. Haha. I love it.

I think a lot of my trip down nostalgia lane is because of the announcement this week that the Winnipeg Jets are coming back. Great news for a lot of people. It will be great for Manitoba. It will provide a significant boost to our economy. It will provide great entertainment to those that can actually afford going to games. Again I am aging myself but I remember when Bobby Hull was signed by Winnipeg. He soon became known as the Golden Jet. Rumour has it he had a hair transplant done. Not sure if that actually happened or whether that is just a story going around at the time. Remember when the Jets used to play against Edmonton in the playoffs. It was awesome hockey. A lot of hockey fans felt that if we could just get by the Oilers the Stanley Cup would come to Winnipeg. There was quite a rivalry between those teams. A lot has changed. I also remember in the mid-nineties when there was a real push on to save the Jets. People were being asked to provide financial backing. Being part of an agricultural commodity group, I recall the organization being asked for significant money to save the Jets. The irony was that farmers were being asked to save a hockey team that was paying their players millions of dollars a year, money that farmers could only dream about. Let’s hope they can survive on their own this time around.

Back to the song. I printed off the lyrics and the song has some beautiful words. Particularly the last part. Let me quote them for you.

Remember when thirty seemed so old
Now lookn' back it's just a steppin' stone
To where we are,
Where we've been
Said we'd do it all again
Remember when
Remember when we said when we turned gray
When the children grow up and move away
We won't be sad, we'll be glad
For all the life we've had
And we'll remember when

So I suppose that means enough of any regrets. Look at the positives. And there were many. So, remember when and. . .Make it a good one.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Supporting Others

I came across a couple of articles in the Winnipeg Sun this week. One article upset me while the other provided me with some insight into how people react to calamities in their lives.

First off, the article that was upsetting. The reporter obviously resides within the confines of the perimeter highway. He wrote about how the flood news just was not having an impact in his life. He had nothing to worry about. Life was moving on. His only concern being that the price of kiwis might increase because certain highways were closed so the kiwis would have to be flown in. What a narrow minded, selfish, world view. He went on to talk about the news being repetitious. In essence he was saying blah, blah, blah to the flood. Winnipeg has Duff’s ditch. Who cares. Does he not realize where his food comes from? Does he not understand the plight farmers go through just to provide a cheap food basket? He obviously has no clue what it takes to produce food at the best of times, never mind when mother nature throws us some extra challenges. Enough said before I start ranting. Leave that to Rick Mercer.

The other story was written by the executive director of Siloam Mission in Winnipeg. In the article he gives the reader a better understanding of what people go through when they are in crisis mode. People get pushed past their limits. People cease to function. Then he talks about some people just never recovering from shock and trauma. He talks about people that utilize homeless shelters. He makes the case that, in most cases, people are not there because of addictions or mental illnesses. Rather, somewhere in their lives, for whatever reason, these folks just did not have the ability to cope and, because of that, quit functioning. He goes on to say that that does not mean there is no hope. With the right support systems in place people can, and do, recover to the point where they can again cope with the realities of life. Sometimes they need someone stronger than themselves to walk with them, to support them, as they struggle to regain their own strength.

As flood waters recede and people begin the road to recovery there will be those out there that can use our help. Farmers across the province are, again, facing significant challenges. We are approaching the end of May and fields have been too wet to sow. The forecast is calling for four days of rain. I have talked to farmers who are questioning their very existence. Wondering why. Always thinking, what might have been?

Because of these articles I have been reminded of two important lessons. First of all, we should never be complacent about where our food comes from. We must remain cognizant of farmers who are struggling to put in that crop, produce fruits and vegetables, provide us with meat. That is what I need to survive. Kiwis? Not so much, all though they are good in protein shakes. The second lesson is that I belong to a community. That community is made up of people, people who are friends, neighbors, colleagues. And when one of us hurts, when one of us ceases to cope, or when one of us falls off the rails, the whole community suffers. And regardless of my own state, helping and supporting others benefits the community as well as myself.

I have experienced the benefit of a strong support network. I have had people that walked with me when I was unable to cope. I have also experienced what it means to support others. Even when there were times I felt hopeless the strength found in taking time to help others was incredible. Take the time for self-care and the care of others. Make it a good one.