For Better or Worse

Alyce Gorter

Alyce's two Scottish Highland steers, 24 hours after they arrived.
[This article appears in the February/March 2020 issue of The SCOOP.]

People sometimes ask how long Mr. Wonderful and I have been married. “Twenty-five happy years,” I tell them, “forty-seven altogether.”  The unmarried questioners laugh. The married ones nod in understanding. Marriage is not for the faint of heart. The Bible says that “If you marry, you WILL have tribulation.” Since there is no “maybe” about it, it should come as no surprise that the marriage relationship demands more than the usual amount of love, patience, mildness, and self-control to stand firm through the years. There are no exceptions. That may not have been so clear to me once upon a time. It is now.

But for those who have been married for any length of time — if “live and learn” is your motto — then it’s probable that you have learned some skill that will help your marriage survive.  Since no two marriages are alike, what you have learned for your partnership to continue until death do you part could be vastly different from the training needed by anyone else. In fact, for one person it might be a tactile skill like learning how to drive a standard transmission or how to dance. In another case, it could be a diplomatic skill like learning when to say nothing or refraining from bad-mouthing the in-laws. In other instances, it could be a quality that you have had to develop. So far, my marriage has forced me to major in resourcefulness.

So, let me explain the need for my Marital Resourcefulness for Survival (aka MRS). Over the years I have had many excellent ideas. It’s true that for most of them to be realized, they required some type of investment by my personal J.P. Morgan/Tim the Toolman of either money, labour, or both.  However, I need you to know that they have all been top-of-the-line, Cracker-Jack ideas. Mr. Wonderful, although not blessed with the foresight to immediately recognize these gems for what they are, has been equipped from the start with the uncanny ability of knowing instantly (1) Four reasons why it isn’t a good idea in the first place; (2) Six reasons why it can’t be done; and (3) Eight reasons why he wouldn’t be able to support the project any way anyhow. All delivered within three minutes of hearing my plan. At this point, I used to reconsider the idea to determine whether I was convinced of its merit enough to proceed on my own. Of course, I always knew it would work. I just never knew how well. So already, you can probably see the need for resourcefulness on my part. The challenge has been to prove (a) that it is a great idea, (b) that it can be done, if not in its entirety then at least to some point, without him, and (c) that his life would be improved by helping out in some way before it’s finished, even if it’s just so he can assume bragging rights.

Here’s a case in point. My family name is Ackerman (Acre man = acreage = agriculture = farm = animals). Farming is part of my DNA, it’s in my blood. Or so I claim. However, any mention at all of owning a farm was always met with objections (see points #1, #2, and #3 in above paragraph).  Rethink merit of idea. Still love the thought. Develop and apply resourcefulness lessons. One month before retiring from a much-loved career, I bought a vacant farm WITH support in money (and subsequently labour) from my personal Dragon’s Den sponsor.  My beloved herd of Scottish Highland cattle was beautiful and contented, the government seemed pleased with my farming efforts, and, although requiring much hard work, the farm gave me many happy hours. However, after some years, it was decided that we could not realistically provide adequate time and effort to maintain two demanding properties and the farm was sold. That did not change my desire to have a farm. In fact, having tried my hand at it, I found I loved it! Just had to rethink the matter a bit more, bide my time, and… be resourceful.

So, this December was a busy month. First, we took a three-week holiday. Then we had to run like fury when we got back home to catch up on everything before businesses were impacted by shortened hours and holiday closures. This meant that one of us had to drive somewhere for some reason each day. No big deal. The other didn’t need to be told the destination. Details of the trip were neither expected nor required. Nor was there ever any reason for the other to go along. However, when I mentioned I would be gone all day Thursday, suddenly it was like being interviewed for the National Enquirer — including where was I going and why? “To Vankleek Hill to pick up two Scottish Highland steers,” I said. “It’s a long trip, but it’s cheaper for me to go get them than it is to have them Purolated.” He was shocked. “I know,” I said. “You would think Purolator would have competitive shipping rates for cattle. They don’t.”

Apparently, that wasn’t the reason for his surprise.

However, one chapter of my Marital Resourcefulness for Survival course covers the importance of Timing. You have to ensure that the project is not introduced until you’ve moved it past the point where all the reasons why it isn’t a good idea, and the reasons why it can’t be done, appear to be untrue. If you can get the project this far, then in all likelihood you’ve won your case. It’s either that or wait until you’ve gone too far to turn back and then ask for forgiveness — and some help to bail you out. But the way I see it, if the hole is already dug, you might as well put in the pool.

As for my current project, it looks like we’ve bypassed #1, #2, and maybe even #3, as he has already helped set up the round pen in which to put my new herd and even filled their hay feeder. He’s also going to go to help get the animals. But keep in mind, this kind of success doesn’t happen overnight, I’ve had a lot of years to hone my skill.

And there is the possibility that he could still be in shock.

Call me if you want a copy of my MRS manual.