The Recovering Farmer

Sunday, March 27, 2011

But for the Grace of God

I had the distinct privilege to address the annual meeting of the Manitoba Farmers with Disabilities. Although I had had the chance to work side by side with them at various trade shows, them in their booth and I in the Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services booth, I had not met many of them. As I drove to the meeting, on a crisp spring morning, I reflected on my experiences on the farm. Interesting how different, minor accidents popped to mind. Experiences I thought I had forgotten. Like the time I used a screwdriver to direct start a tractor. (Many of you know what I mean.) The tractor was in gear and began moving forward. Lucky for me it was in a low gear and moved quite slowly. Or the time I was using a Bobcat. I had overfilled the bucket, drove over a small hill, the Bobcat’s back end came up and I went flying out of the seat. Never buckled myself in, never mind the fact that we had removed the safety cage. Or the time I climbed into a manure pit to retrieve something. These are but a few incidences I recall. All of us have heard of farmers dying or becoming seriously injured in incidences similar to the ones I just mentioned. Many of us take risks that, if gone wrong, could kill or maim.

As I observed the participants in the meeting I recalled the saying, “but for the grace of God there go I”. Certainly a stark reminder of what can happen. What impressed me was the resilience of these people. They have had to make tremendous adjustments to carry on with life. Many of them are still active farmers. They have adapted. I was wondering whether I would have had the fortitude to carry on had I lost a limb or the use of other important body parts. Not only that, the participants showed a real sense of humour. They used humour. They joked. Everybody laughed when the chairperson called for a vote on a motion, asking people to raise their right hands, hesitated for a second, and then said raising their right hook also counted. In my preparation I came across a picture, posted at a gas station, which advertised gas at costing an arm and a leg. I heard laughter when the slide came up. Only after I left the meeting did I realize the implications of that picture and the audience I was speaking to. (Think Friesen, think)

After the meeting I decided to go hit some golf balls. Irony of all ironies the gentleman hitting balls next to me had only one arm. I was mesmerized by the way he was able to swing a club and make solid contact shot after shot. You can well imagine, knowing what an avid golfer I am, I had wondered that morning how amputees could farm, never mind enjoy a sport such as golf. It was unfolding right in front of me. What an awesome lesson I learned. Things happen. Things go wrong. Sometimes we wonder how we can go on. But we do. We find a way. Make it a good one. Make it a safe one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name. . . .

So I have succumbed. Buckled, Snapped like a dry twig. Attended my first dance lesson. So bring it on. Make fun of me. Start out with Mennonite jokes. Like, why don’t Mennonites kiss standing up? Because it might lead to dancing. Haha. One friend said he thought all Mennonites had two left feet. It is true. Dancing used to be frowned on in many Mennonite communities. Trust me. I am not getting into that debate here. Our instructor related to us how he had wanted to teach dance at a camp he was working at but had been told that dancing was a no-no. He changed the name to rhythmic exercise. That seemed to work. Hmmm. What’s that saying? A rose by any other name is still a rose. (I mean the flower okay, although this could apply to my wife as well)

As it is my wife and I have had this ongoing exchange of words for a number of years. I have, at times, suggested that she take up golf. My thinking being that that would be one way of spending time together during weekends in the summer. (all right, I am being just a little selfish with that one) Every time I would bring it up she would respond with her idea that we should take up dancing. That would usually end that discussion till golf was mentioned again. Well, in the last year my daughter has joined in the fray. Of course, taking her mother’s side. She keeps hinting that she will get married someday (are you listening L) and that I will need to dance with her. Then to top it all off one of our sons is getting married this summer and, yes, there will be a dance. So I do need to learn.

Our instructor mentioned one other thing last night that did encourage me to continue down this path of rhythmic exercise. He said that when a man wants something that their partners would normally frown at you just suggest an evening out dancing. He suggested it was amazing how almost anything was made possible. And I do need some new golf stuff. This might just work.

The interesting thing about dance is that it is up to the man to take the lead and the woman to follow. (I did suggest that this was quite un-feminist but the women in the room told me to shut up and listen) Later my wife told me how she had really enjoyed being under my total control. Why is it not like that in real life? Oops, did I say that out loud. I am leaving that for another day. Perhaps forever. At this point I need a new putter so I am going dancing. Make it a good one.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On Being a Consultant

I have finally gotten to the stage where I call myself a consultant. It has taken some time and I still do not feel entirely comfortable with that tag. Aside from the story I am about tell you I suspect going from farmer to recovering farmer to consultant is a leap that may well require further therapy. Perhaps a support group. Who knows. The reason I feel hesitant about this is due to my experience with consultants in the past. In my involvement with Agricultural Commodity groups we often needed the assistance of consultants to examine and implement various business plans. I always felt that too much money was being spent on teaching these consultants what our business or commodity was about, before they could offer any opinions or advice on where we needed to go. So needless to say, when I came across the following story I felt validated about my feelings in the past and unsure of whether consultant was the right title for the work I now do. Before I go any further let me share that story with you. Not sure where it originates so I can’t really give anyone credit for it. Here goes.

It happens that a cattle farmer is out checking his herd one day when a BMW pulls up to the gate. The farmer saunters over to see what would bring a luxurious car like that down a dry, dusty country road. The gentleman driving the car jumps out, dressed in an expensive suit wearing expensive sun glasses exuding wealth. (I am making that part up because how would I know an expensive suit from a cheap suit) He asks the farmer, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have will you give me a calf?” The farmer, not thinking that there is any chance of this, agrees. Without hesitation the man pulls out his laptop, connects it to his cell phone and begins surfing the internet. In no time he calls up a GPS satellite which in turn scans the pasture. He downloads the information to an image processing program on his computer which in turn transfers it to an Excel worksheet and in a matter of minutes turns to the farmer and says, `there are exactly 1462 cows and calves.` The farmer has no choice but to acknowledge that the man is correct and tells him to pick a calf. As the man is putting the animal into his trunk the farmer asks the man, `if I tell you exactly what your job is will you give me back my calf?´ The man agrees and the farmer tells him, quite emphatically, that he must be a consultant. The man is rather surprised that the farmer guessed this and asks him how he could have possibly known that. Without hesitation the farmer replies, “ You showed up here though nobody called you, you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked and you don’t know anything about my business. . . Now give me back my dog.”

So, as Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story. I am going with it. I am a consultant. I will make this work. Now I just need to work on my self-esteem to be able to sell myself. Although I am reminded of the saying, “inside each self-assured person is a neurotic hoping to succeed before they are found out”. Make it a good one.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The See Saw of Life

How many of you remember seesaws? Does teeter totter ring a bell? Look at that. Spell check let that go. I am on the right path. I have these people that read my blog who question some of my spelling choices. So I try to be more vigilant. Still cannot figure out when to use “to” and when to use “too”. Come to think of it I do not remember much from my English classes.

Getting back to seesaws. Whenever I think about work-life balance I imagine a seesaw. I recall how we would sometimes try to find a perfect balance. Of course, that could be a challenge based on the size of kids involved. I also recall having some kids jump off the seesaw and me landing on my butt with a thud. That could really hurt. I was chatting with a mediation client this week who compared his struggles to a seesaw. Sometimes up and sometimes down.

I did a presentation on Friday that was meant to challenge young farmers to have available to them the ability to keep balance in their lives. I had to admit to the group that my life was completely out of balance. At the beginning of the week I thought I had things scheduled in such a way that I would be able to manage a rather hectic week. Not so. It seemed that I was on the go from early morning till bedtime. And no, bedtime did not come soon enough some of those days. My wife did remind me that it was okay to say no when work seemed to overwhelm. I remember a friend sharing with me that he felt depression setting in when he was asked to give and he had nothing left to give. It is tough to say no when others are seeking help. Towards the end of the week I found myself slipping into a place that I had been able to avoid for some weeks now. That place where patience runs thin. My defences go up. I have little motivation and don’t seem to care the way I should. And worst of all I begin to ruminate about things that happened long ago. I was in a place where resentment and anger are quick to flare up. I think the emotional gas tank is running out AGAIN.

Thank goodness that Saturday came when it did. Spent some time today relaxing. Reading a book. Watched some golf. Even a little curling. Did venture outside, but not for long. Still cold. I still think that when Spring finally arrives I will feel better. But till then I must resort to practising what I preach. Learn to find more balance in my life. I know it can work. Make it a good one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Oh to be a Goldfish

I have this routine in the morning. I have coffee and then do a stint on the treadmill. On the way to the treadmill I feed our goldfish. Early this morning I took a look at the fish and some questions came to mind. I wondered whether they sleep at night. And when they sleep do they quit moving? And if they quit moving do they sink or float? You would think I could be thinking more useful thoughts. What did come to mind is that someone once told me that a goldfish’s memory is only three seconds long. Probably information which could be verified on the internet. But then again, would the internet actually give me facts on this very important topic? We all know the internet can be very useful for checking weather, self-diagnosing illness, looking for deals and many others. It is also a source of totally useless information such as the fact that when ants get drunk they always fall over on their right side. Interesting fact. Two questions come to mind. How do they get drunk and who paid for this research? Check it out, ants actually do get drunk. But then again who cares.

Getting back to goldfish. I thought this morning that having a three second memory might be good. Figured it could have saved me a lot of pain in my days. Could save on many of the regrets I have. Would not waste time and energy on hind-sight. But then I thought, there are so many good memories I cherish. I also thought back to many of the bad things I would have liked to forget and realized that many of those life experiences have benefited me in life and to have forgotten them would take away a lot of what makes me who I am today. Quite often when I feel that I am experiencing something traumatic I wonder what life is throwing at me and what good could possibly come out of that experience. I recall a bailiff showing up at my door one Saturday morning. Always thought I was safe on weekends. Apparently not. I recall wondering what good could ever come out of that. But positives have emerged from that awful experience. I am glad that I can remember what happened. I am thankful for lessons I have learned in life. I am happy I can share some of those life experiences with others. And I am even happier when others share some of their life experiences with me. Together we learn. Together we can face what comes our way. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Like a Lion, Out like a . . . .?????

What is up with the weather. Seems like Spring will not arrive this year. Obviously even the ground hog was confused as it had predicted an early spring. Here we are March 1, (by the way, Happy Birthday to one of my sisters) and the temperature is way below normal. Like we are talking a high today of -23 which, if you care , is 20 degrees below normal. 20 degrees. When will it end??? So they say if March comes in like a Lion it will go out like a lamb. The Winnipeg Free Press reported that “March came in like a cranky, hung over, sleep deprived lion”. Good description, me thinks. I saw sun dogs this morning. That means another six weeks of cold temperatures. A friend told me last night he had heard that the long range forecast calls for heavy snow in March. As much snow as we have already had this winter, this does not bode well. On my way to the office this morning, driving across the bald prairies, the wind howling, the snow blowing I thought I was up in the Artic. Brought to mind some of the books I used to read by Farley Mowat. You know, Lost in the Barrens. I felt lost. Lost in this barren land of winter. I need a break. Wait a minute. I just had a break. How quickly we forget. Trying to console myself with the fact it’s a dry cold. Forget that. Not working. At this point cold is cold.

I met this week with my co-facilitator for the Farmer to Farmer workshops. He is a psychologist by trade and he informed me that this is the busiest time of year for them. Why? Because people are getting weary of the winter. Apparently this happens every year. No matter how we brag about being resilient Manitobans it does eventually get to us. Temporarily, those comments made me feel better. At least I am not alone. It is interesting how we take consolation knowing there are other people on the same journey as us. Sometimes that journey involves just simply surviving. And survive we will. Take advantage of the community you are part of. Talking helps. Sharing with people helps. Hearing others talk about their challenges helps.

Looking forward to learning some new coping skills as we kick off our Farmer to Farmer workshops. Focusing in on resilience. Reaffirming my ability to turn negative thoughts to positive thoughts. Hey, days are getting longer. There is some warmth in the sun. Spring is three weeks away. And trust me. I am counting on March going out like a lamb. What other option is there. Right? Make it a good one.