“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling” -Fabienne Fredrickson
Recently I had tea with my neighbors. We caught up on the winter, and they asked many questions about mine. After hearing about my winter and how I live they were quite shocked. After a long sip of tea, my neighbor says, “You know why that guy of yours left? Because men are terrified of women with the strength of grizzly bears.” To this I laughed quite hard, but later thinking back on our conversation actually thought, “You know, that might not be too far off.”
Today was day 26 of my 28 day work week. In the morning when my alarm goes off at five, there are days where I can hear my chickens happily clucking about and rise to greet the day happily. There are also days where I get up at five and feel so groggy that I’m almost not sure what planet I’m on or what day it is. It’s on those days that I feel I pull strength up from deep within myself. It’s on those days that I think about where my strength comes from.
I’ve thought about this almost everyday this month and have decided that my strength must come from the women before me. My mother, my grandmothers, my great grandmothers and so forth. I thought today I would share a bit about these women, women with the strength of grizzly bears.
My Mother, who once wrote this nearly 20 years ago:
” I was born in Burns Lake, BC. We lived there until the age of six, then we moved to Cleardale, AB where I went to elementary school with my twin brother. I graduated from high-school in 1988. I met my husband while flagging on highway 64 during my summer vacation before my senior year. After we were married I worked in housekeeping at a hospital for two years. We moved to Kelowna, BC where we had a beautiful baby girl. Then we moved back to Cleardale and I became a full-time mom and a part time custodian. My daughter, Cassandra brightens my days with her easy laughter and quick wit. She is smart and persistent. My son Chaz, is my angel. In his first six months of his life he has experienced more than most in dealing with his hydrocephalus and heart condition. But he is growing and learns new things everyday. He is quick to smile and loves watching his older sister. ”
My Mom is one of the strongest people I know. There have been times in my life where I feel the urge to panic and give up. Then I think, well what would my Mom do. She wouldn’t waste anytime on thinking about what to do, she would already be doing the things that need to be done. She does not show weakness. I can hardly count on one hand the times I’ve seen her break down though she has had her fair share of hard times.
My Grandmother, on my Mother’s side, Susan Wiebe:
“I was married on December 16th, 1951 and moved into a little two room cabin in the bush and called it home. To this union we added 9 children. My husband worked in sawmills and logging most of his life until we started farming in the peace country. In 1976 we went on a trip to scout out a new place to live.”
“When we drove through the Cleardale area it felt like the place for us. We made the decision to move. We headed North in our pickup and tent trailer loaded with all our worldly possessions, and our four youngest children. After negotiating with some of the residents it was agreed that if we could stay the winter in a house if we could make it liveable. This was a relief. We lived in a tent trailer in the yard for the weeks that it took us to repair and clean the house. It had been vacant for several years and hence was overrun with mice. When we rearranged the cupboards, we packed out three five gallon pails of rapeseed, cheerios, and you-name-it from under them! Living in the tall grass and weeds of the lawn led to some interesting episodes as well. One morning we found a mouse that had met her “waterloo” in the sweet swirls of my strawberry jam. When we started the pick-up it was fun to watch several mice come catapulting out of the exhaust pipe! At night in the tent trailer it was frightening for the kids to hear coyotes howling outside.”
“We moved into the house before school started and had no electricity or telephone but adjusted to it. When winter came we filled the kerosene and gas lamps. One night when we were away the kids ran out of kerosene. That was no problem. They simply filled the lamp and lit it again, but it gave off a dull flickering light. When we came home we immediately knew what the problem was – it was naphtha instead of kerosene! Fortunately there had been no explosion! We loved the wide sky and the stars, and lightning storms! We could sit and watch a distant storm for hours. Also there were no rocks. I marvel that I can make rows all the way across my garden and never hit a rock. So many times God has answered my prayers when we have been down. I thank him for his guidance and faithfulness in caring for us. ”
My Great-Grandmother, on my Mother’s side, Katharina Fehr:
I have no personally written account of Katharina, though one of my Mother’s sister’s once wrote this.
“I always enjoyed spending time with my Grandma, I well remember being a child and wanting to sleep in her little house in Aunt Kate’s yard. As I grew older I began to understand the significance of her independence. I admire my Grandma for she seemed to me to be a lady with her own mind and opinions in an age and culture that did not encourage that in it’s women.”
“She bought her first car and aspired to learn how to drive a car at the age of sixty-five (and talk a certain grand-daughter into letting her drive even though she didn’t have a license yet!) That’s my independent Grandma! What single woman among us has two suitors? Never-mind three proposals for marriage? And in quiet assertion of her wishes she wore flowers to her wedding. A beautiful, gentle way of rocking the boat and making us all think about “why” we do the the things we do. Maybe there’s a better way, a more beautiful way. ”
My Grandmother, on my Father’s Side, Gail Rode
“I was born in Edmonton, August 17th, 1945 Living in Edmonton for the first four years of my life than moved to Vancouver for a few years. Due to a very abusive marriage, my mother left my father and we moved to Saskatchewan. My mother worked in the co-op store…. we had little to eat and our house was always bitterly cold throughout the winter months. ”
“But survive we did, living through some very difficult times. My best friend’s parents ran a restaurant, they took me in as a part of their family. It was a wonderful friendship, because I was there so much, I took on chores as if I was a member of this family. We did a lot of laughing, working & playing I have such fond memories of this time in my life. I married and had a son, Shane but the marriage failed and I raised him for the first 7 years of his life myself. I remarried to a wonderful man and we had one more son, Ryan. We have had many rough roads to go over but our marriage has always remained strong, as have I. “
My Great-Grandmother, on my Father’s side, Ida Geary:
I don’t have a personal account from Ida, but have this written by Gail, my Grandmother.
“Born August 9, 1914—1968 What a life she had in so many ways, in writing about her I can only skim the top of the water, to go deeper I would find myself writing a book. Beginning with she grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, she was much loved by her family. At age eighteen she married and believed this man would be kind to her, but she was soon to realize how wrong she was. He was very abusive to her in every way. But he could not break her spirit, she held her head up high and forged ahead. She raised five children under under very terrible conditions. “
“It was her sense of humor that carried her through these tough times. People all these many years later comment on her great sense of humor. She was of such a sweet and gentle nature, never spoke a harsh word about anyone. In 1965 she was told she had multiple sclerosis. In the three years that she dealt with this disease, there was never a time that she complained to anyone. She passed away in 1968. What a great loss it has been to family and friends but she does live on through her children and grandchildren.”
My Great, Great Grandmother, on my Father’s side, Mary Sizer:
I do not have a personal account from Mary, nor a photograph, but have this, written by Gail, My Grandmother.
“Born in 1890-1953, such a hard working little pioneer woman, she gave birth to eight children. In the early days, Mary used to shoot gophers and cook them for her family. In the summer she was an avid gardener and did a great mount of canning to preserve the garden produce for winter use. Many of us still remember the beautiful angel food cakes she would bake and the delicious bread with her homemade strawberry jam. She was a wonderful cook. In the winter she was busy hooking rugs and making quilts. With a family of 10 to care for there was no idle time, she was a very caring and loving mother and grandmother. Who would ever have know that many years later a great great grand daughter, Cassandra would come into this world and have so many of Mary’s characteristics. A different day & time but both pioneer woman in their own right.”
Which brings me to myself. My Grandma admitted it was very hard to write about oneself. I was born in 1991. I have not given birth to any children or married. I live alone in a cabin in the woods and work four jobs in town, to pay to keep moving forward with the cabin. My day to day chores at the cabin include splitting wood, attempting to clean or fix things and taking care of chickens. I also sew quilts and things, knit and crochet things to sell for a bit of extra money. This summer I will be clearing some of my acreage to make space for a half-acre garden, chicken coop and greenhouse. I have lots of empty canning jars at the ready for next summers produce. (I don’t imagine I will actually plant a garden this year, just build it). I work seven days a week so it is hard to make time to keep moving forward with my goals, but the passion to keep striving and moving forward, never fades. I can feel it within myself that the way I live is my calling. It is only when I am out at the cabin that I feel a sense of peace. That the hard-work is not lost, and far enough from society to feel pleasantly alone. I look forward to seeing how things progress on my land in years to come. I also look forward to seeing how things progress within myself.