It’s my birthday. I’m an age I couldn’t have imagined when I was twenty or twenty five. I’m fifty-three years old today, and it’s a mystery how I got here.

I was single most of my twenties, going to school and working. I was married with children in my thirties, barely conscious much of the time.

My forties were a rebellion. A mid-life struggle, maybe. An examination of faith and church and what it meant to be a woman who was not just a wife and a mother.

Now I’m in my fifties and it’s an exhale. It’s a bit like I’ve been holding my breath for decades, trying to be good at stuff, and now I am letting it all swirl away in deep sighs of release.

In my fifties, I’m giving myself permission to not be amazing. In my fifties, I’m believing what I told my younger self – that God is good and I am enough.

There’s something about turning fifty-one that makes a girl want to unobtrusively slip through the day. Fifty was kind of like sitting on the fence, not really committing to one half-century or the other. But fifty-one, well, that’s like risking a broken hip by jumping off the fence into the downhill side of the pasture.

Tuck and roll, that’s about all you can do.

I had my fifty-first birthday yesterday. Although when I asked my foster son how old he thought I was he said thirty-nine, so I love him the most right now.

Honestly, it was a bit of a snore as far as birthdays go. The husband and children were all away, working or travelling overseas(!) or whatever, and I was home with the fostered ones. And we ran out of milk so there was a grocery trip to town for that, plus my prescription for high cholesterol to refill, so that was glamorous and didn’t make me feel old at all.

And on the day went. Some lovely Facebook messages, a couple of homemade cards from the sweeties here, a few minutes in my yellow chair on the deck (until the sweeties here found me there) and leftovers pulled out of the fridge for supper. A tired man and two tired sons home from their hard-working days, and bless his heart, my husband wants to take me out for my birthday. Except our town is really small and there’s nothing to do if you aren’t into the local bar thing, and even the Snack Shack was closed so we settled for ice cream from the cooler at the gas station and a drive down the back roads.

I love country drives.

Smoke from forest fires way up north made for a hazy day.

Smoke from forest fires way up north made for a hazy day.

Our smokey farm.

Our smokey farm.

Until my fifty-one year old bladder couldn’t take it anymore and we had to come home so I could pee, which also didn’t make me feel old.

And then my sweet baby comes over with this made-with-his-own-hands treasure, and my heart does that little hop skip jump thing, and I think maybe fifty-one won’t be so bad after all. Because Janelle is loved.

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We’ve spent a decade-ish here, in this home and space, and the children have traveled the door frame in our entryway inch by inch, each black mark a year’s worth of growth.

When we first came, the flowers were lovely. Planted by the woman before me, snow-on-the-mountain and daisies and my favourite, peonies.

But the boys were small and running and climbing, and the peonies, bless their hearts, were smack under the big tree in the back yard. The one perfect for climbing and swinging, and the peonies were trampled the first year.

And the second and on and on, until now.

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Today I walk outside on my fiftieth birthday and find this bloom. White and showy and I think of her character, strong and persistent enough to outlast the onslaught of three boys and their friends and ten years of neglect.

It’s a gift, I know, the tiny heart ache for the years behind of boys running and climbing.

It’s a gift, I know, the children growing and the flowers blooming again.

January 2, 1993

January 2, 1993

We had our first big fight when we were on our first big car trip. It was over a cup of coffee. Except, of course, it wasn’t really. You know what I mean.

We were driving from Regina, Saskatchewan to visit my family in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It was early in the morning and we were navigating our way through Edmonton and we stopped for fuel and I said I’d really like a cup of coffee.

We could share one, he said.

Well, why don’t we each get our own, I said.

I think we should just share one, he said.

Fine, I said. But then don’t put any sugar in it because you know I don’t like it with sugar.

So when I took the first sweet sip … oh my goodness. It wasn’t pretty.

Because then it became about the thing that had happened the day before when we were packing, and that disagreement over how to read a map, and the way he had said good morning like he didn’t really care, and the long drive, and the hot day, and the coffee was simply the last straw.

We occasionally refer to The Coffee Incident. It has become symbolic of what happens when you allow misunderstandings and hurt feelings to accumulate.

Yesterday was my birthday. The boys and I had driven to Moose Jaw, where Lyndon was working, to spend a few nights in the hotel with him. I woke up in the morning to the sound of my husband getting ready to go to work. He said goodbye and headed out the door, only to slip back into the room a few minutes later with a bran muffin and a cup of coffee from the breakfast room down the hall.

Happy birthday, he said. One cream, no sugarJust the way you like it.

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I wrote this post two years ago. In three days I will be fifty years old. My husband and I have been married twenty years, and just a few weeks ago, my oldest child left our nest. Things change. Too quickly sometimes, it seems.
But some things, some great things, just get better and better.
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I’m blogging today at How to Homeschool High School, where I share a few thoughts on eighteen years of motherhood. Sniff, sniff.

Hope to see you there.

Turned forty-nine on the weekend. Next time it’s the round one. Forty-nine, though, is a quiet, simple day. Fun with the boys’ friends on a hot, hot Sunday afternoon. And a sweet, thoughtful, kinda corny birthday wish from my husband. Nice.

Watching my loves wring every drop of fun out of a summer day. The abundant simple life… there’s no better gift. Happy birthday to me!

Can you come? is the text I send her. My friend, Esther, with all her children and her big heart of gold. So she does. She hustles the children out of bed and through their chores, and piles them into the old suburban, and drives the hour and a half to spend the day with us. For his eleventh.

It’s what he asked for.

You don’t even have to buy me a present, Mom, if we could just have the Ratzlaff’s over for a day.

And the day is sweet and full. Laughter and dirt and movie-making and leeches from the dugout and kids in and out. And I visit my beautiful friend, whose wisdom and faith ever amazes me.

I agree with Carter, my oh-so-wise eleven-year-old boy.

Friendship is the best gift.