The Recovering Farmer

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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Golf Poem

As many of you know I am an avid golfer. A colleague sent me the following poem which gives you a hint of what I go through. It is to funny not to pass on. Enjoy a chuckle. Make it a good one.

A Golf Poem
author: unknown

In My Hand I Hold A Ball,
White And Dimpled, Rather Small.
Oh, How Bland It Does Appear,
This Harmless Looking Little Sphere.

By Its Size I Could Not Guess,
The Awesome Strength It Does Possess.
But Since I Fell Beneath Its Spell,
I've Wandered Through The Fires Of Hell.

My Life Has Not Been Quite The Same,
Since I Chose To Play This Stupid Game.
It Rules My Mind For Hours On End,
A Fortune It Has Made Me Spend.

It Has Made Me Yell, Curse And Cry.
I Hate Myself And Want To Die.
It Promises A Thing Called Par,
If I Can Hit It straight And Far..

To Master Such A Tiny Ball,
Should Not Be Very Hard At All..
But My Desires The Ball Refuses,
And Does Exactly As It Chooses.

It Hooks And Slices, Dribbles And Dies,
And Even Disappears Before My Eyes.
Often It Will Have A Whim,
To Hit A Tree Or Take A Swim.

With Miles Of Grass On Which To Land,
It Finds A Tiny Patch Of Sand.
Then Has Me Offering Up My Soul,
If Only It Would Find The Hole.

It's Made Me Whimper Like A Pup,
And Swear That I Will Give It Up.
And Take To Drink To Ease My Sorrow,
But The Ball Knows. I'll Be Back Tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The End of the World. . . Not

So, contrary to some peoples’ thoughts and predictions, the world did not end Saturday. If you don’t know what I am talking about, good for you. For the rest of us we have seen it on news, read about it in the papers and even seen billboards with the same message. The world was to end on May 21, 2011. I have no clue how this particular date was arrived at. What I do know is that it has happened before. This same person predicted the same thing back in 1994. Apparently he realized after the fact that he had made a mathematical error. Now he admits he made another mistake. No kidding. But, he claims, he is only five months out. Wait for it. New date? October 21.

Many people have made mockery of this whole debacle. Given rise to many a joke. From stories of maxing out credit cards to questioning whether to notify your boss that you won’t make it in for work. What I don’t get is, people who actually gave away their personal belongings. Does anyone else see the irony here? So if I believe that the world is ending on a certain day I know I won’t need my earthly possessions anymore. That is clear. But who do I give it to? If the world ends nobody else can use it, right? But wait a minute. Based on one article some people are going to be left behind. So we donate our stuff to them? But now one needs to decide who will stay behind. Seems to me, if I took this seriously, I would . . . . . I am leaving it there.

So here it is the beginning of the work week. Seems nothing has changed. I am still here. Means I need to go to work. However, in many areas of the world people are waking up to a different world. Worlds that have changed. For many in Missouri it feels like the world did end. The devastation from a tornado is incredible. From tornadoes in the south, to fires in the west, to flooding in the east and, of course, the continuing flood situation here at home. The rain this weekend has, again, added stress to an already late sowing season. And yet people find ways to carry on. We are resilient. We will survive. “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”.

And for those of you that feel the need to get rid of personal possessions before October 21, I may be able to help. Let me know.

Make it a good one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mixed Emotions

As I sit in my office this Monday morning I feel an anxious knot in my stomach. Looking out the window I see something I have waited for, and commiserated about, for months. Warm sunshine, a gentle breeze, trees budding, and grass turning green. Trying to understand the feelings I have. On the one hand I see renewal. The dirt and grime from a protracted winter have been washed away. In some areas farmers are headed to the fields with a quiet optimism that crops will go in. The forecast looks promising. And with each new day more and more fields are drying out. Although later than normal the time has come. There is hope.

But not that far from my office window there is another story happening. The Assiniboine River still seems to have a mind of its own. Long after the snow melt and spring run off the river rages on. It is messing with people’s emotions. It is frightening. Homes are at risk. Livelihoods are at stake. People wait anxiously for river levels to drop.

Further downstream there are other issues. The powers to be have made the decision to do a controlled breach of the Assiniboine River to minimize flood damage. This puts an added strain on all ready raw nerves. Many people, and in particular farmers, were cautiously optimistic that waters might soon recede. Hoping above all hopes that flooding could be averted. Then things change. Totally outside the control of these rural residents an intentional breach has been cut into the riverbank. Optimism turns to the harsh realities that crops may not be sown. The reality that what is there today maybe forever changed. Homes and farms built over many decades maybe damaged for years to come. When will a sense of normality return? What will normal be?

At the end of last week I talked to a young farmer who had just received word that a long sought after refinance package had been approved. This morning I had a call from a young farmer who thought that settlement had been made with a creditor only to find out that the deal had fallen through. Such a range of emotions. Stories that are typical of many farmers out there. Never certain of the future. Should we fight or should we concede?

The challenge becomes to focus on today. If at all possible, try to find something positive in your day. Yesterday is gone. Hindsight only contributes to questions that cannot be answered. We have no control over what tomorrow may bring. I have posted the following quote in a previous blog; “it is not the experiences of today that drive people mad – it is the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow will bring”. Avail yourself of resources to help cope with the stress of today. Call the Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services. Talking helps. Make it a good one.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Coca Cola

125 years old. Imagine that. I have enjoyed Coke for years. Actually, make that Diet Coke. People ask me why I drink diet rather than regular. It’s simple. I like it better. It did not start out that way. I recall about 30 years and 50 pounds ago drinking regular Pepsi. One day, when I realized the correlation between the amount of pop I was drinking and my weight, I switched to Diet Pepsi. It was quite a struggle. But like everything else in life it’s a simple matter of getting used to it. Hey, I recall clearly stating that I would never eat broccoli. It’s actually not bad.

Over the years I have consumed copious amounts of Diet Coke. It’s good. It’s refreshing. It serves a purpose. Through these years I have also been lectured by many on the negative effects of Coke. I have been told it destroys brain cells. It rots the stomach. It, just plain and simple, is not healthy. Based on my consumption I would then suggest that I have no brain cells left. (some people probably would agree with that one) Stomach must be gone. If you google the effects of Coke, on the internet, you will find many different tales of the benefits of Coke as well as many on the negative effects. From curing the trots to helping if your constipated. (sounds like a contradiction)From cleaning baking pans to plumping up raisins. 30 years ago I drove trucks for a building mover. One day we experienced some bad battery connections. My boss sent me to the store to buy Coke to clean battery terminals. It worked. It also cleans tires. It cuts through grease. It eats away at rust. In fact, I have been told that if you put nails into Coke the nails will disappear. I really wonder how much of this is true.

An amazing fact about Coke is this. 125 years ago they sold an average of 9 drinks per day. Today they claim to sell 1.7 billion, yes, that’s right. 1.7 billion Coke drinks are sold every day. Quite the statistic. Quite the success story. And to think. I am part of that statistic. And have been for years. Ever taken the Pepsi challenge? Where you get blindfolded and asked to identify which is which? I suspect many people could not. Although they will argue long and hard that it is possible. Ever notice that when you ask for diet coke in a restaurant that they ask whether diet pepsi would be okay? And vice versa. Sometimes I wonder whether there really is a difference.

Well, here is to Diet Coke. I love it. Make it a good one.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Week That Was

They always say, and, yes I wrote about it, that when March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb. Or vice versa. Usually this refers to weather. When I sit back and review the events of the first week in May, I think a strong case can be made that May came in like a lion. Last Friday I was in Winnipeg and the thermometer in my car showed a balmy 26 degrees. The sun was shining, anticipation of a long awaited for spring and summer was high. Little did we know what awaited us in the following forty eight hours. It was similar to arriving back in Manitoba, after a tropical holiday, in January. By mid-afternoon Saturday the skies had turned angry, the wind was howling and, yes, the steady downpour of rain was turning to snow. Even then, and in spite of the weather warnings, common sense was saying this would be short lived. I had yard work to do. I wanted to enjoy a game of golf. Neighbors were itching to start field work. It was not to be. By Sunday morning we were entombed in a winter, dare I say, wonderland. I found that my eyes were arguing with my brain. My brain was telling me it was spring, grass was turning green, birds were out and warm temperatures would prevail. My eyes, however, saw a different picture. It was cold. It was windy. It was snowing. Even the birds were confused.

Aside from the weather there were other events that reverberated around the world. A royal wedding. An election. They finally found Osama. What we know for sure was that the wedding happened. It was on every single solitary channel Friday morning when all I wanted was to watch some news. We also know that the Conservatives won an overwhelming majority. And how about those NDPs? Making history. Here is hoping that the history that was made will bode well for Canadians. Do I sound sceptical? I will let you decide that. Now the question remains, is Osama really dead? All kinds of conspiracy theories circulating on that one. Not sure it really matters in my world.

The highlight of my week was the Farmer to Farmer workshop on Wednesday. Although a PowerPoint presentation had been prepared it was hardly used as participants talked about personal experiences as it relates to stress management. Of particular interest was a couple who had lost their farm a number of years ago but were still feeling loss. They attended the workshop on work/life balance after hearing about it on a radio show. They felt apprehensive about attending because, like many of us, they were keenly aware of the stigma attached to financial stress on the farm, losing the farm and the many emotions that accompany these experiences. It was great to hear them relate how the last week had been more positive because of the workshop and the enthusiasm they now have for future events. Other participants shared personal experiences which reminded me, again, that we can learn from each other and be a support to each other.

There you have it. The week that was. Never a dull moment. Here is hoping that the weekend brings with it some warmer temperatures, a little less wind, no rain and a real sense that the world is in balance. Make it a good one.