If I Had Only Know the Beauty in OrdinaryMy digital photo stash needs organizing, but what about all those seemingly ordinary days on the farm or in town that you wish you would have captured, if you had known your life would drastically change one day?

Consider Chad Hymas’s story. Chad was crushed by a 2000-lb bale in an open tractor with faulty hydraulics that he had “just not gotten around to fixing.” He now impacts the lives of thousands, sharing the reality of his life as a C-4 quadriplegic. Chad’s strong farm hands have withered to curled thin tools. He showed us the only picture from his archives, a single photo of his strong hands in a family shot that reminds him how quickly things can change.

Just after hearing Chad’s story, I received sad news that a wonderful, talented man who had worked alongside us for only a year had just passed away from a second battle with cancer. This amazing, cheerful fellow had landed at our farm to fulfill a dream of working with big farm equipment, and we welcomed his talent to envision, create, and build things for the good of our operation. One of the first things I thought of was his family picture that graces the spot where he shared supper with us on a regular basis, and the harvest shots that are now priceless, as 2009 was his first and last harvest with us.

Appreciating the Ordinary

Why am I telling you these sad stories?

I want you to start appreciating the ordinary things of your day and your life that you are taking for granted, especially the people sharing your journey.

Try hanging out with farm families as they work to capture the cows, sit down at the farm kitchen table, and experience the feelings of pride in the farm folks whose weathered faces under ball caps and tanned bodies are working hard to provide great food for this world.

How many pictures are there of you tending the garden or the flower beds? Do you have a shot of your hubby in front of his favorite truck, or raking the lawn with his grandchild? The everyday things of life become highly charged when a loved one departs this world, and you realize that you never really captured his or her essence on film – be that in black and white, sepia tones, color photos, or on video.

[Tweet “#Farmers enjoy the beauty of #ordinary. Don’t let yourself say “if I had only known.””]

If I Had Only Known

Just after I learned the news of our employee’s death, I was sitting in the memorial as Jana Stanfield played her guitar and sang “If I had only known.”

Jan sings: “If I had only known it was our last walk in the rain, I’d keep you out for hours in the storm…I would hold your hand like a lifeline to my heart, and underneath the thunder, we’d be warm…if I had only known…”

How about setting aside one evening a week to archive the photos you have, make a collage, and take the snapshots that are missing from the extraordinary family you belong to, the family that just does ordinary things?

When someone dies without much time to say goodbye, there are often regrets or what I call “grief spasms” that remind us of our loss. If I had only known that my mom was going to have an asthma attack in the middle of harvest, I would have phoned her the night I thought deeply about her, after I had delivered the meals to the field. I thought of her while I was crossing the yard. The last time I heard my mom’s voice was a night when my house was full of Sunday guests, and she was looking for “Judy’s apple pie filling recipe.” If only I had known… our last conversation might have been different.

I have heard of widows who gently refuse to erase the voice mail of their spouse’s voices on the answering machine. How about doing some digital recording of the fun stories your kids, grandchildren, and other relatives would love to share? My husband Wes and I once listened to his mom’s story on a cassette tape while we were driving to his mom’s sister’s funeral. It was an amazing ride. Mom’s voice comforted us and helped us celebrate the aunt’s life. The aunt was a beloved sister who died just six short weeks after Mom.

If you had known that it was going to freeze last night, with a killing frost, you might have run out to the garden in your nightie to cover the tomatoes. Yes, I too am glad that the neighbors aren’t able to see my late night garden attire, but aren’t you thankful for another few weeks of delicious home-grown food?

If you had known that your friend was having her sixtieth birthday the night you invited her over for supper, you might have baked a cake. I discovered at the last minute that my friend was turning sixty the night she and her hubby shared our supper table. I am thankful that my stash in the gift drawer had something she liked.

I am also thankful that the flames of tissue paper that ignited when her gift wrapping touched the votive candle centerpiece only caused a small fire! If you had known that the fire would consume your belongings… you might have renewed or upgraded your household insurance.

Capturing the Essence of Ordinary

There are so many things that we need to manage in our households, but some of it is only stuff. People and the joyous memories of the richness of our relationships cannot be replaced by stuff.

Would you be willing to spend the price of four bags of seed canola on a photo book that captures the essence of your farm family on an “ordinary day?” I would.

I might rearrange the household finances to find a way to treasure the memories of fun in the barn, straw forts, spring rafting, chasing cows, or riding horses with “Pappy” or “Nanna.”

The night before my friend Karen’s father died, she felt led to take a photo of his hands. He had struggled for a decade with a chronic illness, yet never complained. He modeled gratitude and grace right to the end of his life. His name was Bob McRuer, and because of some of his visionary hard work and others, there is a Boundary Trails Hospital today between Winkler and Morden. That’s the same hospital that gave sanctuary to our employee before he passed.

What do you know in your heart that you need to do today so that tomorrow doesn’t catch you saying: “If I had only known?”

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


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“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
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Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
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Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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