The Recovering Farmer

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Am I Drowning

We are approaching that time of year again when many people that experience mental health issues find themselves in somewhat of a quandary. I know I do. It is a time of celebration, a time to renew relationships with family and friends, and a time to over eat. Unfortunately we get caught up in the commercialization and busyness of the season. No sooner do we have Halloween off the books and we become bombarded with the material side of the season. It always seems a contradiction to hear carols such as Silent Night as you literally fight your way through the masses in various stores trying desperately to buy that perfect gift for someone who already has everything.

It is also the time of year when daylight hours are at a minimum. Normally it can be the beginning of the coldest time of year. Sure. We had the warmest November since 1899. Wonder what that does to the global warming argument. Perhaps I won’t go there. The price we paid for this unusually warm weather is a total lack of sunshine. Not helpful at all for improving mental health. Even the hand full of Vitamin D each morning could not get me to fight my way through the gloom of another cloudy day.

But enough of me. A few weeks ago I presented to the local CMHA chapter in Melville, Saskatchewan. Earlier this year when I first chatted with one of the board members she shared a concern with me. As we talked about various experiences she mentioned that awareness of mental health issues was a good thing. She mentioned a family member that had suffered the debilitating effects of depression. She expressed gratitude about the way that resources had been available to help this particular person. But she also expressed concern that there seemed to be little mention of the people that were trying to be helpful to those that live with mental health challenges. She felt that these care givers were largely ignored in the big picture.

She makes a valid point. Far too often we forget about those that provide support and care, a support without any clear direction. There are no instructions written that cover the various challenges they face. Never knowing what the day may bring. Mental health issues are so unpredictable. It becomes an exhausting effort. It can have the potential to create another whole set of issues with far reaching implications.

That maybe why the following resonated with me. Sometimes you can get so busy trying to be everyone else’s anchor that you don’t even realize you are drowning. Isn’t that the truth. Whether through work, with family, friends, or community, we become so involved in wanting to be there, show leadership, make sure things happen, never miss a moment, that we lose sight of ourselves and the effect all of this can have on our own mental health. And then we wake up one morning and come face to face with the reality that our lives have changed. That we are now experiencing everything we were helping the other to overcome. Make sure you take the time to look after yourself. After all, without relationships, without community, without a healthy mental state, this time of year can be lonely and sad. We don’t want that and don’t need that. Make it a good one.

“Some people and events are difficult to deal with, but they can only stress us if we let them. Breathe in calm, breathe out chaos, and anchor yourself in peace.” Lori Deschene

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Try To Undertand

Conflict can be such a confusing issue to deal with. First we are told that it can be positive. But then again it can be negative. Addressed properly it can be constructive. Improperly it is destructive. Why is that? Maybe, just maybe, it is because we don’t listen well.

The recent election in the USA has shown us some classic examples of what conflict should not be. To a degree this was prevalent in the Canadian election a year ago. Let’s be clear. Obviously as democracies we hold elections because there are many and diverse ideas of what government policy should be about. In simple terms we have ideologies from right wing to left wing. People differ and that is not a bad thing. Political debates and conversations should be a means to discuss policies, share ideas and visions, issues that can improve the lot of citizens and ultimately the world. However, when the dialogue denigrates into personal accusations and insults we accomplish nothing except destructive conflict.

Even after the election, the insults, anger, and gnashing of teeth continues. A short scroll through Facebook proves the point. As someone suggested the other day they miss the day when someone would post instructions on pork chop recipes, or of a dog that was not feeling well, or of. . . . forget it. Might say something I may regret. And don’t even get me going on people that drag religion into the political arena. Never seen such sanctimonious and self-righteous venting as I have in the last year. Perhaps my forefathers were right when they suggested that church and state don’t mix. Their thoughts were that our only duty was to pray for our government. Isn’t that a novel idea.

Sorry. Back to conflict. As has been taught through the ages constructive conflict is important and beneficial. It helps us learn. It helps us develop new thought and ideas. Patrick Lencioni describes the usefulness of conflict in his book “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. In essence he suggests that the basis of any team is trust and when trust is present team members can engage in conflict because it provides the safety to express ideas and thoughts even if they are bound to create significant feedback.

What is it that spirals our relationships into destructive conflict? Why is it that I have such a difficult time in admitting to being wrong? Why is it that I keep defending my position even when subconsciously I know I am wrong? I hate being wrong. The thought of being wrong is a blow to my self-esteem. In essence it makes me unacceptable to myself. That is why I tend to become defensive. I need to save face.

However, when I drill down to the cause of this defensiveness, when I take the third person approach, I gain an understanding of what is happening internally. I find that I have not listened to understand but rather to respond. I have not taken the time to check on what the other really is trying to achieve. I have not explored what I really need out of the conversation. So I argue vigorously to make my point. A point that becomes lost because quite frankly when two parties are in attack mode what really is the point.

I hate being wrong. What is even worse is admitting I am wrong. So I need to look inward. And answer a key question. Do I want to defend my beliefs at all costs or do I want to see the world as clearly as possible? I want to see the world as clearly as possible. And when I am intrigued rather than defensive I am well on my way to gaining a much clearer perspective and having what the Eagles sing about. “That peaceful, easy feeling.” Make it a good one.

“Be selective with your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right.”

Monday, November 7, 2016

Much Ado About Nothing

It has been awhile. Did manage to put some thoughts together after our road trip this summer. Still love telling the story of 4 GPS’s, a map, and my wife. Not sure why my inspiration to write left me. Perhaps it was writer’s cramp. Quite frankly I don’t even know what that means. Perhaps I lost focus. Thoughts that could be passed on did not come to me. If they did I would forget before I had a chance to jot them down.

Changing the clocks this weekend seems to have reignited something. Twice a year the debate rages. All the dangers society faces when our bodies have to adjust for a one hour change. Statistics show that there are more accidents the Monday after we lose the one hour. Okay. Perhaps. Just not sure why. Its not that we all have a set time when we go to bed or wake up. So these changes happen in our bodies even if the clock doesn’t change. But to flog that debate again when we gain an hour of sleep is beyond me.

Here is the latest. So as mentioned, in Spring there are more accidents on Monday morning. Now the experts say that the fall change affects us more on Saturdays. Does that make sense? Me thinks that is much ado about nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. Sleep is important. I have been reminded of that again as I prepare for a stress management workshop in Saskatchewan. I have been reviewing the materials used in our Sleepless in Manitoba workshops from a few years ago. How well we perform during the day depends on the sleep we have had the night before. Lack of proper sleep increases the risk of accidents and injury. We become more susceptible to heart attacks, strokes, and other medical issues. There is an increased likelihood of depression and other mental health problems. There is an increase in substance abuse. Research has shown that decreased productivity from lack of sleep costs $25 billion in Canada.

So I get it. We need a good night’s sleep. It will provide for a better quality of life. But does a one hour change really impact that much? Quite frankly if I was in charge I would add another change. Hear me out. Should we not change to daylight saving time the sun would rise around 4:00 am during the time of the summer solstice. It would set at 9:00 pm. It would seem to me that we would spend too much time sleeping during daylight hours. What I would suggest is that right round the middle of May we spring ahead an additional hour. That would make for even longer daylight in the evenings. I like that. After all I am an avid golfer.

So if the one hour change twice a year wreaks havoc in our lives think of the chaos four time changes would create. Apocalyptic. Makes me shudder just thinking of it. In fact I think our current leaders should no longer allow travel outside of our time zones. Just imagine the danger we are when we travel east or west. And the further we travel the more dangerous we become. It should not happen. We need to stay put. Perhaps there is a reason I am not in charge.

There is my vent for the week. Aren’t you glad I was inspired to write about this? You too can now be more aware of the detrimental effects of a time change. Be vigilant. Be careful. But most of all just get some sleep. The good news is that in a mere six weeks the days start getting longer. That’s what I am waiting for. Make it a good one.

“At the end of the day I am thankful that my blessings are bigger than my problems.”

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Much has been said about GPS (Global Positioning System) in the last few years. Where I first began noticing the use of GPS was in agriculture. Farmers talked about it. They used it. It was amazing to see the straight lines made by tillage equipment. I remember when I used to drive tractors the lines were anything but straight. Now that is different. Must be boring me thinks.

For Father’s Day my kids gave me a Garmin watch. For those that have no clue what that is it simply is a watch that I wear when golfing. It, quite frankly, is amazing technology. It provides me with yardages from wherever I might be on the course. I switch it on when I start my round, pick the course I am on, it has the coordinates for 3000 courses, and the rest is automatic. As a matter of fact I can get a yardage distance to every green at Kingswood from in my office. Like I say, incredible technology.

Earlier this year we purchased a convertible. Something that had been on our bucket list for a while. A week ago my wife and I took it on a road trip. We traveled east to Ottawa, down to Niagara Falls and then back home. Over 5000 kilometers of beautiful scenery, busy highways, and interesting destinations. Each morning my wife would punch in the address of our destination for the day on the GPS in our car. Quite interesting to have someone other than my wife telling me where to go and how to get there. As we approached Ottawa my wife decided to overrule the GPS. After all she still had a map in her hands and felt she knew where would be better routes to take. Imagine my consternation when I heeded the directions from my wife and the GPS kept telling me to make a legal Uturn. Who to listen to? Actually a no brainer. I listened to my wife.

Found out in a hurry that GPS can also lead you astray. Good thing we had a backup. After the built in GPS took us to a residential area, we were looking for our Hotel, we switched that one off and pulled out the backup one. It took us to the other side of town to another residential area. At that point I was calling the voice from the GPS very bad names. We then each took out our Iphones and used the GPS on them. Even they showed different routes to our destination. 4 GPS’s and two hours later we found the Hotel. Turns out we were a mere few blocks from it when we first pulled into town. Interesting how often we still went wrong in spite of this wonderful technology.

I mulled over that for the rest of the trip. Except, of course, as we traveled past Toronto, or did we drive through the city. Not sure. With multiple lanes going every direction it was tough to really think about anything except survival. Check the speed limit, add 20 kmh plus 10% and there is a chance you will actually keep up to traffic. With conditions like that it is not surprising we missed a few turns. Except on those roads you don’t make turns. You veer right or left depending on what the wonderful female in GPS land is yelling at you. Sorry. I digress.

It seems that my brain’s built in GPS also, at times, takes me to destinations I don’t care to visit. Why is that? Perhaps I have programed it wrong. Used the wrong coordinates. Wrong street address. The lesson is not to despair. There are various means to finding your way back to a life that makes sense. A life filled with happiness, satisfaction, and contentment. And as our trip showed us it may take a while but eventually you will get there and when you do you will realize and understand that it was worth the trip. Make it a good one.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” Thomas H. Palmer

Sunday, May 15, 2016


My wife sometimes suggests that I have a touch of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD). Not to a serious degree but it seems that I get into a certain routine and stick with it. For starters I need to check and recheck certain things I do. For example. I will lock the door and then go back and check it because I can’t remember whether I locked it. Numerous times I have left home only to go back and make sure I actually closed the garage door. I also seem to get into a rut with eating certain foods. I have had Bran Flakes with raisins for breakfast for a long long time. Before that it was carrot raisin muffins. Now I have to have a protein shake every day at a certain time. I also get that way with certain topics I like to write about. Communication. That is what I am fixated on these days.

Texting seems to be the communication flavor of the day. And with texting comes texting lingo which I still have some difficulty always understanding. This coming from someone involved in agriculture for many years where acronyms were used far too often. I remember AIDA and CFIP and GRIP and CAIS. Government support programs where one evolved into another that evolved into yet another and so on. There were trade deals from NAFTA to GATT to WTO to TIPP. There were insurance programs that were administered by MASC called CI that included your IPI. Lenders such as FCC, RBC, MASC, SCU, and others. I could go on but I digress.

Just recently I was exchanging texts with a golfing buddy who likes this texting lingo. She sent me a text that involved a bunch of letters that I to this day can’t figure out. I responded by asking her what she did with all her extra time she had because she used what I call shorthand. She might have saved a few seconds while I had to spend an extra minute of my life trying to figure out what she was actually saying, a minute I will never get back. LOL, which can mean laughing out loud or lots of love or living on Lipitor, is a common one. LMAO, ROTFLO, TTYL, TMI, STBY, and OMG are but a few. Google it. There are hundreds of them. BTW R U sure that you want to say that because me thinks you should CYA because my POV is like OMG, are you serious? When I see gobble de goop like that I just simply respond WTF. That one works for me. It covers everything. From good news to bad news and everything in between.

I had a reminder this week that I have been overdoing it with emails. I sent an email to a client suggesting which day would work for me to meet with them. The evening of the day I could meet I got a response. They suggested that they did not regularly check emails so it would be better if I called and left a message. Touché. I agree. What is this hang-up, no pun intended, with actually talking to people, even if it is by telephone? Is it actually a time saver? Sometimes I think it’s another way of avoidance. A way of not actually communicating but rather sending a message for which there is little accountability.

Ever sat in a restaurant and when a cell phone rang everyone reached for their pocket? Notice how often people in a social setting keep checking their phones and using their phones? It seems that effective communication has gone the way of the dodo bird. Along with it relationships are not being retained or maintained. I think we can improve on that. Next time you are with a group of friends leave your phone on silent and in your pocket. Bet you can’t do it. By the way. .02, the title I used, in texting lingo means sharing my two cents worth. And that is what this is, my two cents worth. Perhaps you feel short changed. Doesn’t matter. TTYL. Make it a good one.

“Actions speak louder than words, but not nearly as often.” Mark Twain

Thursday, May 5, 2016

You Got This

It took a while but I think it is safe to say “Spring is sprung and the grass is riz”. It is a time for optimism. A time for regrowth. This past weekend brought the warmer temperatures, gale force winds calmed, it was downright nice weather. Particularly for golf.

Over the last few days I have also noticed increased activity in the fields. Farmers are getting at it. After months of waiting, planning, fixing, and generally getting ready, they are putting in the 2016 crop. For the most part they too are filled with optimism. Although, metaphorically speaking, there appear to be some storm clouds in the distance. Some issues, particularly financial, have created some anxiety. Commodity prices have softened from the levels experienced over the last few years. It seems that costs keep going up regardless. Forecasts are calling for a hot, dry summer. However farmers prove time and time again that they have resilience. They have what it takes. They are innovative. They adapt. They can do this.

This busy time of year also provides opportunity for thought. What else do you do as you put in countless hours going up and down the fields on your tractors? You think. You plan. I suspect that there will be those who will wonder whether it is time to call it a day and sell out. Many are wondering if it is time to leave it to the next generation. Perhaps there are those who will wish they had started the conversation sooner.

The thought of transitioning from the farm, whether selling or passing on to the next generation, can be frightening. Questions abound. Will my kids want to farm? Are they capable? What will I retire on? What will I do? Where will I live? How will this work? Who can help me? This is but a sampling of questions many ask. It becomes so overwhelming that many just simply ignore what needs to be done.

The challenge becomes to take the process one step at a time. There are many steps involved in a transition plan. That is why it is best to start with the first step without thinking too far ahead. Normally that first step would be to have a conversation. A conversation with your spouse, your partner and your kids. Through the conversation come to an understanding of what everyone’s expectations are. They may be different than you thought. Others may have assumed what you wanted only to find out they were wrong. The conversation will get everyone on the same page.

Not to scare anyone, but these conversations may be difficult at times. Many interests, fears, concerns, and desires may have been avoided over the years. The reality of the farm and all that goes with it may not have been truly understood. What may be equitable will not feel fair. With increased challenges on the farm there may be some who no longer want to farm. All these challenges bring fear to the retiring generation and the succeeding generation. The solutions may not be easy to come by but with the right intentions and hard work a successful plan can be implemented.

The good news is there are professionals that can help with the various components of a plan. There are those who can assist with the difficult conversations. There are those who can help mapping out the process. It is a matter of retaining that help and getting on with the plan. Make it a good one.

“Anxiety happens when you think you have to figure out everything all at once. Breathe. You’re strong. You got this. Take it day by day.” Karen Salmansohn

Monday, May 2, 2016

Can I Rely on You

I don’t know about you but I am suffering from election fatigue. I know, I should get over it as the election in Manitoba, which started shortly after the federal election, is finally over. However it feels like a hangover. Perhaps it’s because there is still a constant barrage of election “stuff” coming from south of the border. That in itself is scary enough. I mean the people involved. But I am not going there.

Shortly after I posted my last blog I realized that what I had written did not necessarily apply to all walks of life. I wrote about the fact that everyone makes mistakes, we all experience failures, we all mess up but should not let our failures define our lives, who we are, and who we will be. However, as has again been proven, if you want to be involved in politics past mistakes, errors, or failures will come back to haunt you. Far too often an election boils down to who we can trust the most.

What is it that we, as a society, want? What are we looking for? Trust. Plain and simple. We want to trust others. Our spouses, our partners, our kids, our colleagues, people we do business with, and those that are in power, such as politicians. And equally so others want to trust us.
I like one of the definitions of trust that the Encarta Dictionary has. Trust means to “rely on somebody or something”. It goes further and states that it means “to place confidence in somebody or in somebody's good qualities, especially fairness, truth, honor, or ability. . . to allow somebody to do something, having confidence that the person will behave responsibly or properly”. It does not sound complicated but, unfortunately, can be.

Patrick Lencioni, a management consultant specializing in organizational health, talks about trust being at the very foundation of a team. In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he outlines a compelling case for trust being that foundation. As he puts it, “members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level, and they are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviors”. He goes on to explain why this is essential for teams to be effective and efficient.

That same concept can be applied in most any, if not all, relationships we have. How can any relationship thrive with the absence of trust? Lack of trust leads to break downs, break ups, conflict, and lack of commitment. It destroys relationships. It destroys teams. It destroys individuals. Like the Irish saying goes, “when mistrust comes in, love goes out.”

Being involved with others, being able to trust others, requires us to be authentic. And to be authentic requires us to become vulnerable. Open ourselves up. That in itself is a scary thought. We have a tendency to hide behind walls. We are frightened at the thought of others finding out who we really are. But when we practice this we see ourselves and others in a different light. It opens up a whole new world. Yes, at times uncomfortable, but overtime it builds that trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in others. It works. Trust me. Make it a good one.

You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.” Mandy Hale