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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When its early winter morning and the sun is still low and she’s just bathed and the room is warm… when it’s all that and she’s combed back her freshly shampooed hair, she’s beautiful in her bathroom mirror. It’s a trick, a Photoshop effect only real, but she tells herself she’ll remember that girl in the mirror for the rest of the day, because she is lovely.

You’re beautiful, she whispers as she Olays her face and neck, and she watches her eyes when she smiles and she says to herself that they are crinkling in the corners like they did when she was a girl.

She takes the extra minutes to sweeten her skin and the mango scented lotion covers arms and elbows and knees, as smooth and silky as the bottle advertises.

She knows it’s an illusion of kind morning light, but she carries that girl with her even as she dries her too-long-for-her-age hair with it’s wiry strands and it’s glinting silver. Even as the waning day reminds her the eye crinkles are actually wrinkles and the sweet morning scent fades into the reality of eggs frying and dishwater soap and something tracked in from the barn on the bottom of her boot.

The day wears itself on her face and the years are the years, there’s no denying them, but it’s a gift she gives herself each day, that morning exchange with herself, and she’ll unwrap it again tomorrow.

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When I wrote that post I didn’t think it would amount to much. I wrote it fast and hot and a little mad, and I barely checked the spelling let alone the things I was saying. It amazes me, always, how these things work.

It amazes me, the conversation of sharing that begins when a door is cracked.

Thank you, each of you who commented and each of you who contacted me privately and wow, especially the men. I value your thoughts and prayers and stories, your hearts and your encouragements and your frustrations. Because it’s not a sexy or trendy thing to talk about.

Menopause.

There, I said it and I didn’t die.

But its taught me that I will. I suppose that’s been the sobering lesson in it all. These bright red-stained past few months are marking a transition. Midway or more. Nearer the end than the beginning, and all that.

The thing is though… I’m not dead, yet. I’m just where I am, right now, at this point in my story and there’s lots of story left. There are things I’m just beginning. Things I’m just now starting to understand and many many things I want to learn.

You are just where you are, right now, at your important part of your important story. And who knows, really, where you will go?

Can I encourage you the way you’ve encouraged me? Can I ask you to keep sharing and talking and listening? Even if it’s on the internet, but especially if it’s in your real world.

Do you wish sometimes we had stronger community traditions? Things built into our days together that are simply taken for granted times and ways of being with each other?

I wish we all took Sundays off and we all went to the same church and we all had coffee together every Tuesday afternoon. I wish we kissed each other’s cheeks when we met on the street and held hands with our friends and spent afternoons visiting while the children played in the street in front of our houses.

I wish we took trips to places poorer than ours and didn’t care so much about what things cost and gave more stuff away.

I wish we talked more.

I wish we shared more.

Because then maybe journeys like miscarriage or menopause or mental health wouldn’t be such lonely walks.

I don’t know. I’m still thinking it through. What do you think?

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It’s not like having the flu or a cold, where you know you will get better but chances are you’ll get sick again, too.

It’s not like when I cut my hair short the last time and I said to my friends this will be it because I’m passed that age and I’ll never have long hair again. Or the time I graduated school and said no more to the books and the learning. Or the time I carried Colton in my belly, thinking he would be the last baby.

It’s not even like the horrible monthly period, or in my case the random whenever-it-felt-like-showing-up-exclamation-point arriving with gifts of discomfort and promise at the same time, even though there is in both a draining away of life blood and possibility.

It’s not a thing I hear talked about much except in jokes of course, the way we joke about women’s things. I’m supposed to be grumpy and fragile and tearful and moody, I think, along with hot flashes and sleeplessness and the rest.

But no one said I’d be sad.

And feel so crappy and bleed and bleed and bleed, and I’m sorry if it’s not the thing to talk about but its The Thing right now and I’m too worn with it to filter or flower it much.

I don’t know what it is or has been like for you because of the no talking about it thing, but this is the way it is for me. I can sum it up in three words.

Blah, blah, blah.

Because I have grown my hair long again, and I’ve picked up new books and learned new things, and I had another baby after Colton.

But this thing that’s happening now, it’s really the end.

And endings can be a bit troublesome, so there.

If I sound whiney, I don’t intend to be. I mostly smile and I mostly feel like smiling, and I mostly love and appreciate and treasure and value all the moments in all the days and I mostly have fun or at least find meaning. And I know I’m blessed and my life is beautiful and Jesus loves me. I know all that and I mean I KNOW all that. I really do.

But my body is doing a normal ageing thing right now and it comes with words like autumn of your life and upper age brackets and silver in my hair, and it’s making me just a little bit crazy with the implications.

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I remember, from when the kids were small, wishing for more colour.  Boy clothes, in my experience, are pretty much navy or brown. Or, if they are clothes with a little colour about them, they are soon dirty. Which makes them, again, brown.

I’d gaze at the girl clothes, racks and racks of them, all soft material and bright colours and so cute, and then I’d buy more jeans and t-shirts, and wonder how long till these had holes in them like the rest.

I had a girl once, for a year, and it was fun, dressing up and doing hair and taking joy in pretty.

My boy world, though, is pretty brown. But beautiful, still.

The prairie is browning around me. Shades of gold and faded, like an old monochromatic photograph. The leaves are leaving their tree homes, resting yellow on beds of trampled, brittle grass. Flying up again, though, for a final dance, old folks dosey doe-ing. Swing your partner round and round. Last call, ladies.

I’m tempted to miss summer’s youth. Bright and fresh and full of possibility. When they were babies and we had all the time in the world to get it right.

I’m settling into brown, though, and finding the blessing of this colour.

It’s a gentle, familiar colour, reminding me of my men and hard work and hard play and the harvest of the bright summer.

It’s the colour of reaping what was sown, of pulling up from the ground and shaking off the dirt and enjoying what was worked for.

You know I’m not just talking gardens, right?

You know I’m talking children growing and marriage mellowing and the preserving of the years of planting and watering and tending, right?

We aren’t finished, of course. There is still green and colour and growing to do, but I am more conscious now of the reaping. The blessing of the harvest. The enjoyment of the brown.

This colour, the colour of harvest, is part of my life, too. I don’t want to miss its beauty.

I love hearing an old person talk. I love the wavery, quavery, whispery quality of an elder’s speech. I love the direct, no-nonsense approach of so many of them. Like, time is short so let’s get to the point! I appreciate the wisdom of their years. I enjoy the back in the day stories they tell.

my beautiful grandma, Gladys Hanson

my beautiful grandma, Gladys Hanson

I remember conversations with my grandmother in her nursing home, me on the edge of the bed trying to keep track of two busy little boys. She in her big chair by the window, her mighty geranium plant on the table beside her overshadowing the room.

How many blooms does it have this week, Grandma?

She loved to drag out her old, bursting-at-the-seams photo album. She would page through it while we talked, sharing bits and pieces of the past. She told me about her Ma, and the old farm. About  the way things used to be and about the way things had changed. She had opinions about women and relationships and money and church. I loved that she was open to sharing her thoughts.

In the last few years, she was interested in the recording of things. She taped my mom and others singing with her. It seemed important to her to leave something vocal behind. Something more than the photographs.

As I grow older, I am recognizing how priorities and interests change. The farther I go, the more I treasure life and desire to live it well. I am thankful to older men and women who are willing to share their stories, their journeys, with me.

I am like my grandma in some ways. I, too, am interested in the story. The sound. It is important to voice things. To say them out loud. Stories are the glue of community. Being able to tell your story is a gift that you give. It is an opening of the door to others. It’s an invitation to relationship.

Johnny Cash is a good friend in our home. We all love his music and his story. Recently, we bought his last studio cd, American VI. It always moves me to tears to hear an old Johnny sing about how the grave wouldn’t be able to keep him down, and how death wouldn’t have victory.

In an old man’s voice, he sings out his faith and his confidence.

He gets to the point.

Ain’t No Grave … Johnny flips us off at one point in this montage. But, this is part of his journey. It is part of the truth of who he was, which makes the story of who he became so beautiful.

This is a repost of something I wrote a couple of years ago. Still love stories. Still love the sound of old people talking. Still love old Johnny singing his heart out.

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.