The Recovering Farmer

Friday, March 30, 2012

All Things Considered. . .

Last fall I wrote about people facing extraordinary challenges in their lives. Of particular concern was my friend, compatriot and golf buddy. I refer to him as that certain left hander. We have laughed together and cried together. Shared together. He has helped me with an awful lot in my life. He was always there for me as I faced different challenges. Since last fall he has been dealing with the dreaded C word. Cancer. A disease that is not only devastating physically, but has the potential to wreak havoc with one’s mental and emotional being as well. It has been worrying. Never sure what’s around the next corner. He finally had his surgery this week. The reports are positive. But again, he has to wait. Two more weeks before he finds out whether the operation was a complete success or whether there will be a requirement for further treatments. I visited him last night. It was good to see that through all of this he has maintained his sense of humour. My thoughts and prayers are with him as he starts out on the next step. The road to recovery. It won’t always be easy. Especially knowing that he would much rather be out on the golf course. I know that time will come.

I also mentioned that someone very close to us had lost their pregnancy just as they were beginning to share that news with loved ones. That someone was our kids. It was devastating. A few weeks ago we heard that she was pregnant. However, they wanted to wait with telling others till they were more certain that things would be okay. An ultrasound today showed that baby and mother are healthy. Great news. Looking forward to that. Wait a minute. That means I will be a grandpa. That means I am old. Think back to your first images of your grandparents. My first recollection is that my grandparents were really old. Now I am there. Perhaps I now have an excuse if I moan and groan every time I move. I will be a grandpa, so there. My daughter in law phoned to share the news. She also related how, while watching the ultrasound, the baby had turned over and mooned them. She said that the baby is already acting like a Friesen. Haha.

I find myself being apprehensive over what might be around the next corner. Things have gone so well since the start of the New Year. Something bad must be lurking around the next corner. Often that is a response I hear from many of the people I deal with. They lose their way. They are caught in that foggy middle. However, I have, as have many that have gone before, come through bad experiences to discover new life. Totally unexpected. Not planned but certainly positive. As difficult as it may be, as hopeless as it may seem, one must arise to the challenges, surround yourself with your support system, and meet the challenges as they come.

Just as I was crafting these thoughts another friend sent me a text. A simple quote. “ The better off you are the more unrealistic your expectations are”. Interesting. Need to think about that. In the meantime? Make it a good one.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thank A Farmer

Interesting how we can go from snow and cold to melting and abnormally high temperatures in a matter of a week. However, that is Manitoba. I know with the warmer temps and snow melting farmers are beginning to look towards the fields. The itch has started. In most cases the planning, the budgeting, the repairs and input purchases have been done. Now it is time to get at it. As Larry the Cable Guy would say, “Git R Done”. After a mixed bag of excessive moisture, flooding and ultimately drought conditions last year farmers appear to be cautiously optimistic. They are showing their resilience. For an outsider looking in it is refreshing to see that. Just like the season, there are new beginnings. And as an outsider I need to be mindful of the struggle it takes to provide the food I eat on a daily basis. I need to take the time to “Thank A Farmer’.

While lounging by the pool down south I wore a Thank A Farmer t-shirt one day. The reaction was bizarre. People stopped me and wanted to talk. They were interested. It was difficult to get from point A to point B without getting involved in a discussion with a complete stranger. I loved it. Everyone knows someone who is a farmer. Many people have family members who are farmers. One person asked me why we should thank farmers. He seemed to take exception to it. I replied by telling him that farmers produce the food we eat and that is why we should thank them. His response left me bewildered. He told me that if it wasn’t for him people would not be reading. I did not pursue it. I felt myself being frustrated. I knew my response would not be diplomatic. (diplomacy: the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip) I walked away. I found out later that he owns a printing business. Farmers, generally speaking, are price takers and not price makers. I suspect this person does not run his business that way. I suspect he is unclear on the concept.

I stopped in Winnipeg, this week, at a nutrition store. Picked up my supply of protein powder. The gentleman behind the counter wanted to talk. We obviously talked about the weather, it being Manitoba and all. He started talking about how it looked like farmers would be off to a good start and how important it was that farmers would have a better year than they had last year. He was all too aware of the drought conditions last fall. I commented about how refreshing it was to hear a business person inside the perimeter expounding the virtues of agriculture. He was quite emphatic when he suggested the economies in Manitoba and Saskatchewan were directly linked to agriculture. He obviously gets it.

An August, 2010 article in the Ottawa Citizen had the following quote; “Too often farmers are overlooked in our rush to throw something on the table. And that does a disservice to them and, ultimately, to ourselves. You see, when you get down to issues of survival, international relations, global security and trade between nations, it really is all about the food. Always has been”.

A Chatham, Ontario newspaper told readers to get the attention of politicians about the importance of agriculture. “Lean on your MP and MPP; lean on every MP and MPP across this great nation of ours. Write them all letters, phone them all, send them all e-mails, put signs in your yard, telegraph them, have them paged in Wal-Mart or hire a sky writer. I don’t care how you do it, but get their attention and do it repeatedly”.

So to all farmers out there; Thank you. Make it a safe one. Make it a good one.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ready, Fire, Aim. . .

We speak often about communicating. How can we communicate in a more positive way? In the world we live in there are many different types of communicating. Many years ago people only communicated with neighbors. And only if they would walk to the other neighbors. There were no easy means for travel. There were no telephones. And if someone a great distance away needed to be sent a message, they communicated via telegraph. Using telegraph required a certain skill set to ensure messages were crafted in the most efficient way. After all, you paid by the word. Mail was delivered by mailmen on horses. Then along came telephones and cars. More efficient mail deliveries. Now we have graduated to instant communication. We have cell phones, email, Twitter, BB messenger, Linkedin, Skype, and many other means for communication. Along with all these ways of communicating has come a certain deterioration in the way we communicate.

Years ago, when you became angry at someone else, it took considerable effort to communicate that to the person you were upset with. If the communication happened face to face it was not so easy to express anger or frustration. When you look someone in the eye anger can often dissipate before it is expressed. Even expressing anger during a telephone call is difficult, although somewhat easier than face to face. Now, with instant messaging, we often communicate and express feelings without giving ourselves the time to think things through. How often, when we do send an email, do we wish we could recall the message after having given it a sober second thought? Hence the title to this blog. The idea is to get ready, aim and then fire. Far too often we get ready, fire and then aim. Make sense?

Using today’s means of communication also lacks in any type of personal touch. Messages become short and to the point. Often when I get emails I wonder at the intent. It is easy to read into messages certain emotions or lack of emotion that may or may not be there. Then we are left to wonder. We second guess. Anyone that has any self-esteem issues knows what I mean.

So we need to learn, or should I say, relearn the art of communication. I am preparing a presentation on “how to listen so people will talk”. I have suggested before that the best communicators listen more than they talk. It can be difficult. When you are in a passionate discussion it is hard not to interrupt, to argue a point that has not even been made yet. It is very difficult to sit back and listen. To really try to understand the point that the other person is making, we need to do a better job of listening.

Perhaps we need to change our mind set. Instead of thinking we need to change the other person’s mind or way of thinking, we need to make an effort to understand. Turn judgement to curiosity. We become empowered when we are understood. We empower others when we try to understand. Perhaps it is not a matter of being right. Perhaps it’s not a matter of proving the other one wrong. It’s a matter of listening and understanding. Because when we understand we draw closer to the truth. And the truth shall set you free. Make it a good one.

Friday, March 9, 2012

On The Beach

2012 has had its share of surprises, a whirlwind of activity and some major changes. Not a lot of time to think. Getting from point A to point B and in some cases back again. It is interesting how we become dependent on technology and media. As quickly as things were happening we did not realize all the things that needed to be done. Being without internet and TV has the potential to make one feel lost. And yet, it actually can be a benefit when you are staring at a pile of boxes that need to be unpacked. There are no excuses. It’s amazing how much work you can get done without distraction.

A few short days after the move we left for a week in the Dominican Republic. A trip that was booked before we had any idea of all the changes that were coming. I suspect we would not have booked the trip had we known. But again, the timing was good. We were able to move before the trip and so did not have that daunting task on our return. Now it’s a matter of settling in. The trip was awesome. We went down with some of my wife’s family and had an enjoyable time. We were able to reacquaint ourselves with family. Get to know each other better. There was only one rule. We would not discuss religion or politics. Obviously with a group such as that there can be a vast array of opinions. If the others are anything like me, and I suspect they are, it is far too easy to become passionate and that could lead to uncomfortable feelings.

Of course, I could not leave home without my trusted Blackberry. I felt I needed to stay connected. It was handy being able to text back and forth with our kids. That way we knew that, if needed, they could send us messages. At the same time it was frustrating. Every time I switched it on I would notice that I had new voice messages. The curiosity killed me. I needed to know. My emails and texts downloaded but I could not for the life of me find a way to retrieve messages. Deep down I knew that it could wait till I got home but for some reason I needed to know. Finally sent a text to my son asking him to retrieve messages and let me know who they were from. He did send me the names of the people who had left messages but the closing sentence in his text was; “ what the %#**% do you want your messages for? Get back to the beach!” Guess what? After all that angst and wondering it turned out that they could wait. I could have ignored them. I wish I would have left the darn thing at home. Now I am waiting for my phone bill to see how much my curiosity will cost me. I suspect I am in for another “I told you so”.

The bottom line? It was fun. It was relaxing. Good company. Good food. Nice resort. Warm temperatures. A laid back holiday. Now, however, it’s time to get back at it. Begin this new chapter in our lives. I keep looking out our windows at the golf course. Hoping that soon the snow will melt. Hoping for Spring. More new beginnings. It will come. Till then I better get at the boxes. Make it a good one.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Runaway Thoughts

As mentioned previously, we are experiencing real change in our lives. Selling a house and buying a house can be a daunting task. Somehow things have worked out really well for us. Our house sold quicker than we had expected plus we were able to purchase a house that really meets our needs in a community that we have always liked. Trust me, the fact that the house is situated on the first fairway of a nice golf course is purely coincidental. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Now that we have moved I am finding the time to reflect on all these changes.

As the sale of our house was being finalized and we were negotiating the purchase of a house, I was trying desperately to carry on with my work. It so happened that I spent a lot of time in Winnipeg and so evenings were spent conversing with agents, advisers and my wife via telephone. Not the best way to finalize deals. I found it interesting that as I was feeling the stress of having to make some major decisions I was having flashbacks to the issues I dealt with when we were faced with significant financial challenges on the farm. It seemed that the stress I was under was triggering memories of negotiations and meetings regarding the sale of our farm and settlement negotiations with our creditors. Left me with very uncomfortable feelings. I find it interesting what triggers some of these “flashbacks”. I would have thought that the experiences this week could be categorized as good stress whereas the stress we went through on the farm was bad stress. But, hey, things got done. It’s a matter of utilizing the right tools. Stress management tools, that is.

However, in spite of things happening quickly, there are always some challenges that arise. Perhaps some negligence in reading the fine print. Perhaps not understanding the real estate process. Call it what you may. Suffice it to say that being in limbo is nerve racking. It creates anxiety. It creates fear. It creates a feeling of “what have I done now”.

As I made my way to Brandon, on a dark foggy morning, I was very uptight. I was wondering what could all go wrong with our plans. I was feeling extreme anxiety. I was desperately needing some Lorazapam. Wait a minute. I think I have some. I looked for it. Found it. I think it’s outdated. Thought it might help. Just as I was trying to open the child-proof cap I received an email, from a friend, on my “not so smart” smart phone. (a story best left for another day) It was a godsend. The quote she sent went as follows;

“Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success”. B. Adams

My first thought was, how did she know that I was experiencing some real anxiety. And then I thought about the quote and realized that I must become patient. A real sense of calm came over me. It was great.

See how simple it can be? Sometimes, and I speak for myself, I over complicate things. I don’t realize how simple solutions are right at my finger tips. When that anxiety hits, when we have doubts, when we begin to question our competency, we must take the time to sit back and breath. Let our thoughts become quiet. Allow patience to take over. Make it a good one.