The Recovering Farmer

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.