Monday, June 29, 2009

But I don't feel old!

This is a post about hair, and the way it makes you feel to have a style and colour that works, and portrays on the outside the image of who you think you might possibly be on the inside.

I was cruising around the net this morning and found "Going Gray Looking Great", a site dedicated to going women transitioning from processed to natural hair! Which had me thinking about my own hair and what colour it really is underneath the 'highlights', chunks and streaks. And do I really want to become acquainted again with the real me?

But, first, something I wrote a couple of years ago before the real, hardcore, effects of menopause began to take hold. I thought it might be interesting to see what I was thinking then, compared to present day when physical evidence is much more apparent!

"Skin Deep:

Every once in a while, OK, let’s be honest, almost daily, I find myself staring in a mirror, and what starts as a quick fix of the hair or a lipstick touch-up becomes a critical assessment of what I see. I push and pull my face, considering my chin’s defining curve, or how the lines on each side of my mouth -- my smile lines -- remain long after my smile is gone. And then, while I stare in an unkind way at my refection, my mind wanders to consider changing what I see... 'Botox'... and other kinds of procedures that are mainstream in our culture and affordable, begin to lure me dangerously close. Part of the attraction is vanity, no doubt about it, but part of it is because the age I feel inside doesn’t match how I look on the outside. It’s easy to get stuck in the dichotomy of this.

One recent and memorable morning, as my husband and I lingered over our last breakfast in Maui, an older couple sat down at the table next to us. I was soon mesmerized by them. They appeared to be at least 80 years old and on vacation just as we were. And they were in love. They spoke in hushed voices -- she reaching over to touch his face. She smiled, eyes crinkled up in a brown, age spotted and furrowed face, and I caught a glimpse of unique beauty. The woman’s face wasn’t pretty, or smooth or made up to be more beautiful, but it was full of joy. Her face radiated joy. It radiated the beauty that only time can bring, the beauty of a woman loved for many years. And a woman who loved herself as she was.

Now I don’t pretend to know her life’s details, or know much beyond my obviously superficial observation, but seeing that woman made me stop and consider what true beauty really is. Which brings me back to the mirror and the face I look at each day with a little disappointment. And as I, and perhaps you too, occasionally give consideration to altering the signs of aging, I wonder if it might be better to embrace my age and stage as a gift? Aren’t the lines I would choose to erase the very indicators of wisdom and character, tried and tested and true? Would I wipe the slate clean of what proves me to be a survivor, creating a taut canvas rather than a beautiful masterpiece made more priceless with years? Some days I come awfully close to doing so.

It’s a battle, and one I am sure to fight again and again over the years. But, I’m determined to not give in to the message that says youthfulness equals happiness. I will seek to discover the joys of my aging beauty in new ways, ways sprinkled generously with wisdom and grace, rather than covet the untried, wild and illusive beauty of youth.

Two years after writing this heart felt piece, I can tell you that the battle has become more violent… the casualties including my middle, my face, my hair, my emotions, and my mind… not necessarily in that order and certainly not all at once, but still, I've found that this new reality of living in a mid-menopausal body is very difficult at times.

When I wrote 'Skin Deep', my concerns were limited to wrinkles… but now that the rest of my body has suddenly become involved, it's not so easy to philosophize and muster up that same resilient approach to aging. Every morning when I get dressed I grieve a little about my waistline, and as I take Maca nutrient supplements with my hot coffee, I consider whether they will really do what they promise… to balance and energize me enough to make a difference. I'm trying to figure out how to love myself again in a newly shaped body and how to accept this a reduced capacity in the task and productivity parts of me. It's not going to happen overnight!

So, just for fun, I thought I'd take a look at a few hairstyles that I've played with over the past couple of years… and consider whether they might work in gray. 'Cause gray and blond are not that different… are they?

Here goes…

Tell me what you think!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It is 'well'

It has begun…

With the final written exams, the last day of classes, the carefully chosen teacher gifts, the return to the now empty school building to pick up report cards, and the arrival of summer solstice and long evenings of twilight… summer has officially begun for us. And as much as I've longed for these days of non-committed hours and spontaneous relaxation, I have to admit that the first few hours have been riddled with anxiety.

Picture 6 - 16 year old boys in my living room playing COD4 and hanging their long legs over the edges of our couch and chairs. Picture the same boys texting and making phone calls, and eating and drinking and acting like they live here… which is what I thought I wanted to have happen just a few short days ago. Picture me standing awkwardly behind the couch, trying to be the charming host, offering up interesting conversation and getting very little response and absolutely NO eye contact. Picture my daughter looking at me with panic in her eyes, retreating to her room for a little quiet time, and my 13 year old son trying hard to fit in with his older brother and friends. Noise, testosterone, nervous energy, angst, stilted conversation and I soon retreat as well… to the laundry room to fold some clothes… feeling like the odd mother out for no real reason other than the voices in my head that tell me it is so.

Then the voice asks me what they are doing here in the first place, and a wee bit of resentment starts to build. And that's never a good thing.

There's an idealized picture in my head (and in my husband's head too, I think) of what we'd like our home to be. We want to be the place where our kids and their friends gather, where they want to be. We think that's a great gift to give our kids, and it works for us as well because we don't have to worry about where they are and what they are doing.

We talk about it, plan for it in how we build our home, invest in it (put in a pool last summer)… and it's all great in theory, but when it starts happening in real life… it's a bit scary. I feel so ill-equipped for the role of hostess to these 16 year old kids… and I don't know why. I'm not sure what to say or not to say… whether to give them space or whether to engage with them. I know food is needed, but I don't really know how to let them eat and spill and not clean up and not say thank you. When they are here in our home I feel like I don't belong here myself… which is not a great way to feel.

Anyway, the 16 year olds came and went and I survived, somewhat shakily and inadequately in my own mind. Today we are hosting a more manageable and comfortable and interactive 11 year old friend of my daughters… and that is just so much better. Albeit this child is more like a niece, but I don't feel the nervousness when she is here. And I have to admit I don't feel nervous when 13 year old's are here either. There's just something about those big boys that makes my heart beat faster and I'm going to have to figure out some way to get over these feelings fast.

My husband always thinks it's about the physical space we need to be together in one building… and sees the soon to be completed basement 'rec. room' as the solution to all of our problems. Then the gaming will take place one floor beneath me, the food will be spilled out of sight, and the long legs will have dedicated space to stretch out in. And sleepovers will even be possible - yikes!!!

Maybe that's the answer to everything… or maybe I just need to create a different kind of space in my head and in my heart for these big man-children who really don't mean me any harm, are just figuring things out socially, and who really just like having a place to hang out in, with a mom who asks odd questions and all. Maybe my capacity needs stretching… my grace a little exercise… just maybe…?

Quite often, it's actually me that needs to grow up!



Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This is summer…

Well, it's finally here. The kids are finishing up school this week, and our family vacation is only a few weeks away. And we are all so very ready this year.

Summer camp, weekends on the lake, trips to the ocean, and time at home with friends are all conjured up in my memories of summer's past. So many good times with people we love in places we will never forget.

I thought I might
just share a few moments with you.

Day's end -- surfing's done

Beach cookout… mmmm… s'mores and red wine

Riding shotgun for channel boarding

Claire with salted beach hair

Evening light on S. Chesterman Beach

Sun kissed Malcolm at the beach cookout

Tidal pool life

Bob's dockside view of things

So, I bid you adieu for a few days… and trust that you might also
choose to take time this summer to sip a glass of chilled wine,
laze in the sun, walk along a beach,
and read a good book,
splash the kids,
kiss your love,
and admire the incredible view
from here.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Who am I?

It's eleven o'clock and all seems not quite as well as I think it should feel.

I've managed to spend almost two hours on the computer this morning, administrative hat firmly set on my head, and organized events, coordinated lives, planned holidays, answered various other emails, solved technical glitches… so, why do I feel like I haven't really accomplished much at all?

Every time I sit in front of my computer, I come away feeling like it's 'time well wasted' (like that commercial for… I can't remember what). I talk about this issue of time wasting with others who also spend time on their computers but don't feel how I do. Why is that? What's different about them than me… not much really… just their feelings on things.

Now I'm not saying that every time I'm online it's a good use of time… sometimes I really am just surfing! But, surfing's good too… it is a type of research with underlying purpose to it… yet I've convinced myself that it's not good either, and even worse, I feel GUILT!

So I guess that's what I'm feeling right now… the rational part of my brain (wearing the 'administrator's' hat) is saying look at what you just accomplished. The emotional side of my brain (wearing the 'I must be everything to everyone at all times hat') is telling me that the dishes are still on the table, the laundry is still wet in the washer, the weeds are still growing in the garden, my hair is still un-ironed, not to mention I'm still not made up, and I don't know that my outfit is fit for much other than opening the door to get the mail (which is still in the box).

And, the emotional side is winning out right now… with physical and mental side effects… tight chest, lump in throat, shallow breath, slightly scattered thoughts.

Which makes me SO MAD! And, like all the other areas of challenge in my life, I try and try to live the truth rather than give in to the lies about myself or what I should be doing, should be like, should say, should wear etc. Yet, the lies are deeply rooted and sometimes take over… like weeds that grow faster than the more tender plants in the same garden bed… in this case, the bed of my heart and soul.

I do know what to do. I have to name the lies and then yank them out by the root. What do I mean by that? Well, sometimes that means writing them down, sometimes that means saying them out loud, and sometimes that means praying about them… and calling them what they are… LIES.

And then, I need to plant something in their place. Often that means a word of wisdom from a book I often turn to in times like this. This book contains the most profound and often simple wisdom I've ever come across in my 47 years. Words like,

By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped


Don't be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomerangs.

And there's so many more wise words where those came from. Words that might just be strong enough to take hold and grow in the soil of my heart and soul. Words that might be strong enough to overtake the weeds… just maybe… maybe some words about the importance of who I am versus what I do…

OK, so, I'm off to the garden to do some physical weeding now, with the intent of removing at least one weedy lie in the process. I'll let you know how that goes later.

Gloves going on,


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Meeting

It's odd
waiting for you like an old friend
with mutual history
while truthfully
our contact has always been announced
by the bling
of 'you've got mail'

I sit
in the lobby wing back chair
as canned music
accompanies my composition of
introductory sentences
witty conversation
anticipated silences

And I wonder
will you like me
skin on?

Lesley-Anne Evans
June 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In a London Fog!

Last night I went on a little date with my husband… just for an hour to escape from the house and get a little face time together. We ended up at Starbucks, and when I looked over the menu I decided on a new drink.

A London Fog is new to me… I've heard someone order it before, but had no clue what it was. So, I decided that I was up for a manageable adventure in my life, but needed to know a little more about what I was ordering.

I looked at the 16-something trendy 'Barrista' and asked,

"What's in a London Fog?"

He looked over the counter at me, and said,

"Well, it's Earl Grey tea, with shots of vanilla, and half water, half steamed milk. And the tea is really cool… it comes in it's own little fabric bag that floats in your cup."

I swear to you… that's what he said! He didn't smile, blink, or give any indication that he knew that tea ALWAYS comes in little fabric bags that float in your cup. I looked him directly in the eye and said,

"Well, I guess I'll take a tall London Fog."

Then I sat with my new drink, and marveled at how the fabric bag floated there, and shared a good belly laugh with my husband. And I wondered how many other young employees thought that this new tea bag thing was "really cool", having no idea that they are living in a bit of a Starbucks- induced, London Fog of their own!!!

Bottoms up!


Friday, June 5, 2009

Are you kidding me?

So I've started this 'Google alert' thing where you can actively follow any subject of interest, and in my case right now, it's menopause… initially to see what other people are writing on the subject, and to make some connections that might be of interest to me or to others reading this blog.

I've been notified three times weekly of many different types of sites and blogs, mostly medical in nature, but a few others by women who are writing through this phase of life, just like me. I usually glance over the extensive list and then follow one or two leads to see where they take me. I'm usually inspired by the name of the site or blog, then by the tone of the first line provided by 'Google alert'.

This morning I just got in from an invigorating walk with a friend and our two dogs. We walked and talked for an hour… the time evaporated as we discussed many topics like parenting and writing and exercise. It was really great fodder for the rest of the day of alone time doing the things that need doing in my home. (all is going well with the 5 kids and 2 dogs… although one 'guest' consumed four heaping bowls of honey nut cheerios at breakfast… not that I'm counting!)

Anyway, before I got to my domestic chores, I checked my emails and my 'Google alerts' and then followed one posting with an interesting name and ended up here. Now I'm just beginning to understand a little about the complex physical changes that take place during menopause… the hormone changes that lead to physical experiences that I've been enjoying for about a year and a half. I don't have a huge desire to know a lot… I'm just too lazy to wrap my head around too many scientific facts. Sorry.

But this posting has taken quite a different approach than any I've read so far… and it's quite a concept (or series of theories) to wrap my head around this morning. I had no idea that menopause was an example of evolution tied into the natural selection process… did you? Apparently we as women have made adaptations to our reproductive cycle to allow us to be better available to our children and our grandchildren as care givers, or, alternately, to enjoy better sex in our old age without fear of unwanted pregnancy, and, as if that wasn't enough, that our menopause may actually be 'a mistake'. All due to this damning proof that as humans, our fertility shuts down while we are still capable of having children. Apparently this doesn't happen with any creature in the animal kingdom. We humans are unique (big clue here)

Sorry for sounding snide, but I don't know of many women who would ever choose to evolve into the hot flashing, night waking, hormonally imbalanced, emotionally strung out versions of ourselves ON PURPOSE… even if it is to be a better mother, grandmother or have better sex! Sex is the last thing on the minds of most menopausal women!

As far as the mistake part… whose mistake would that be? One can't have an evolutionary discussion and then pull some loose theology into it at the end to take the blame, can one? Or, was it an evolutionary mistake… I don't know because I don't pretend to be an expert on this at all (yet something else I'm not an expert on). So you can certainly fault me for spouting off on this without having all the facts. But hey, I'm menopausal!

Now the author of this blog is not taking personal responsibility for authoring any of these theories, just posting them… so do they believe any of this to be true? I don't know. All I'm saying is it's all pretty far fetched, in my opinion, and it makes me wonder who authored those theories in the first place, and were their wives involved in the editing process?

Scratching my head on this one,


Thursday, June 4, 2009

5 kids, 2 dogs, sports, exam prep and mid-30's

No, I'm not in my mid-30's, though I wish it were true. I mean the temperature here this weekend will be in the mid-30's… hot and dry and sunny. Which is great unless you are trying to keep 5 kids and 2 dogs cool and without heat-stroke, as they play soccer and baseball. They are certainly old enough to take precautions (the kids, I mean), bring their own water, sit down when overheated, but still it's a big responsibility to keep them healthy and happy.

Our good friends headed out on a flight to Toronto this morning… sans 2 kids and dog. Which is why our usual brood has expanded somewhat. Three and a half days without kids sounds rather lovely to me… urban, recreation, adult, culture, celebration, romance… what's not to love about that! And, they deserve this time away. They have worked hard to achieve this level of success and I salute all that they have sacrificed to gain this recognition and status (it's a company perk, their trip).

My company perks are usually hot and fresh and black - straight from the coffee maker, or a perk might involve taking a longer lunch to blog in, or even taking a lunch that involves sitting at a table and eating something other than one of the selections from the plastic containers in the fridge. I'm not complaining… I love my job, my place of employment, and sometimes I even like my responsibilities. But, I'm not that crazy about the incentive program here… not many trips to Toronto on the horizon for me!

So, back to the brood. The kids are excited… cleaned their rooms and are prepared mentally for the days of 'one big party' (in the words of my daughter's best friend when vocalizing her anticipated weekend at our house - YIKES!) And, I'm excited too. It's like having cousins come to stay… they are that close to us. It's a wonderful thing to have friends that are like family in so many ways. We love them, they love us, we drive them crazy, they drive us crazy etc. etc.

And, being the end of the school year, it can't all be about one big party. The kids all have homework and exam prep to do. That's not going to be easy when all they will want to do is play. Study hall times sound kind of fun… to me, but to them, well, I'll be wearing the 'party pooper' hat several times this weekend, I'm sure!

My biggest concern… and one that I have to take care of right away so this blog is going to be very short… my biggest concern is the amount of food that will be consummed this weekend. Not from a cost perspective, but from the perspective of how much do I cook and will they ever be full perspective. We are talking 3 teenage boys and 2 tween girls… all active, all hungry, all the time! So, I'm thinking pasta, bread, more pasta, more bread, lots of meat, lots of veggies (with dip) and many snack options. And an ever replenished jug(s) of ice tea and lemonade in the fridge. Oh yeah, it's gonna be fun! A couple of ground rules… don't eat without asking first… and make yourself at home doesn't mean helping yourself to… yes, you guessed it… food! Again, my anxiety on food quantities!

Well, that's about all for now. I have to get to the grocery store before I pick up the kids from school.

Did I mention the dogs also eat? And walk… and poop… and bark…

All in a days work!


Monday, June 1, 2009

Do I feel too much?

It's funny how some things turn out completely opposite to how you thought they would. How our projected thoughts for the future are often so off base. And with this realization comes the 'aha' (borrowed term) that we know so very little about stuff… we think we are wise, but it's all relative and we'll probably never ever figure it all out. Once in awhile we are given tiny tidbits to chew on… and I'm thankful for those.

So today I'm chewing on the idea of maturity… particularly what it looks like to be growing in emotional maturity. Turns out it might be different than I thought, or what I've read, or what those closest to me say. Of course, this is just my opinion… can't prove it (yet).

Now people say things and write things that we read and listen to and take inside ourselves and believe without question… sometimes those things even become values for us, things to aspire to, measuring sticks, when really they are just someone's opinion… and not necessarily truth or even relevant to who I am or who I am supposed to be.

Those people closest to us speak things that we unquestioningly accept as truth too… and while I appreciate the input of those I love very much, sometimes they too can say things that are not quite right… so we must be careful that we sieve everything through a very fine mesh. Who I believe I am effects how I live my life… so who do I believe I am… and where does this ultimate definition come from? My faith is foundational… but am I sourcing this maturity thing out… and then am I living in line with what God says maturity looks like?

So I'm just starting to consider what maturity might look like; what wisdom might look like? I thought I had some understanding of these two things… that at this point in my life (mid-life - yikes!) my aspirations were that I would act a certain way and believe certain things and be strong and resilient and confident and share these things with others on the journey. But I'm beginning to wonder if being emotionally mature might look different than I thought it would? That what I have to offer might be different too?

Culture tells me that emotional maturity looks rational, intuitive, in control, well thought out, among other things. My husband certainly has these expectations after being married for 23 years this June 6th… he looks at our communication techniques, and my control over emotions in this area, as a sign of maturity in our relationship. I have to admit I don't meet his expectations here.

And I think of the things that I struggle with the most… the (over?)sensitivity of my feelings, the depth of my emotions, the passion of my expressions, and I feel like I'm not growing in my ability to control these at all, rather I'm growing in my ability to perceive them, and express them, instead of squelch them or pretend that they don't exist. And that causes conflict sometimes, I admit!

So, here's my emerging thought today… maybe maturity and wisdom brings a certain softening of the heart rather than hardening or controlling… that feeling empathy and compassion and mercy, and relating to the human condition in all it's joy and all it's tragedy… and having the confidence to speak/write openly about it, and having the guts to do something about it… that's maturity?

There's this song that we've sung at church that has the lyrics, "break my heart for what breaks Yours," and so right here, right now, I'm beginning to think that feeling the things that I do, is actually a gift rather than a curse. I want my heart to feel… my tears to be good and acceptable and a sign that I care about things outside of myself. Don't you? Is that what having a life that is "an open book" means?

As I continue with this line of thought I will source out what God says about this… that will be the ultimate truth for me. So, if you are interested, stay tuned…



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