On Turning Fifty
Posted on December 20, 2017 4 Comments
Someone recently told me, “Women often feel embarrassed about their age. You seem proud.”
Darn right. I’m proud and happy.
A Very Strange Idea
Even though I grew up in this culture, it remains a very strange idea to me that anyone should feel ashamed of living long. What’s up with that? Are wrinkled women better off dead? Don’t aging women deserve to feel the wind in our hair and the earth beneath our feet? Should we just dig a hole and toss ourselves in, leaving those disappointed by our aging to cover us with dirt?
“Lori, you’re over-reacting. There’s not that much pressure to be young.” Then why do we allow doctors to cut into the tender flesh of our faces and insert foreign objects into our breasts? We’d rather be voluntarily-tortured than grow old. We’d rather pay big bucks to be mutilated than to let the natural aging process happen. That sounds like pressure to me.
Too Chicken to be a Rubber Duck
It’s not for me. I’m too chicken to be plastic. I don’t even like getting an immunization shot, so put away your gleaming knives, cosmetic surgeon. You’re barking up the wrong old tree. I can live with how I look and I’m frankly very happy to be aging. It means I’m not dead and that’s a good thing. I’m not going to be convinced otherwise. I’m not going to feel ashamed because I had the audacity to live beyond youth and to look like it.
I hope to live long and to die looking old. I apologize in advance to anyone offended by lined skin and a stooped skeleton. You’ll just have to shop elsewhere for your eye candy. I sat on that shelf long enough. I’m tired of it.
Happy Birthday to Me!
Yesterday I turned fifty. The great thing about it for me is that I have a lot of opportunities and many open doors ahead. I acknowledge that this is not the reality shared by everyone who is aging. But it is my reality and for me, fifty means good fortune.
In my fiftieth year I had the chance to leave one job and to train for another career. I’ve had the chance to travel to my beloved Mexico several times this past decade and look forward to visiting that country again. While I’ve had some health concerns and a couple scares, I’ve emerged unscathed and feeling better than fine. Most days, I am optimistic and my heart is cheerful.
Being fifty makes me think of my friends and family who fell ill or died suddenly before seeing this age. I remember them and feel especially grateful to get to say that I’m fifty. I’m able to walk and exercise and study and write.
At fifty, I’m free as a bird. This freedom is partly due to choices I’ve made, but in larger part this freedom exists because of factors over which I have no control. My health is good because my genetics are mostly strong. I live in a vast, beautiful and free country. This is important and easy to forget. It’s so easy to overlook the advantages I have strictly because of where and when I was born, and to whom.
At fifty I feel allowed now to let go of many goals, to stop chasing after some vision of who I want to be. I’m there and I’m her. There’s nowhere to run to and no one to become. It’s a relief to stop striving and to just breathe. In these later years, I’ll give myself permission to move a little slower, to take my time and to savour the days. I’ll enjoy the journey instead of pushing myself along as if my precious life were nothing more than an ordeal to “get through.” Get through to what, the cemetery?
At fifty, I have a supportive spouse and many great friends and family members. I have experience and the little bit of wisdom that came along with it.
If I’m lucky, my skin will wrinkle and my body will slowly slow down. If I’m lucky, I’ll get older. That’s what the first fifty years has taught me. It’s a gift and good luck to live even this long. I won’t be embarrassed to tell my age, and I won’t submit myself to torture that turns me into a distorted image of my youthful self.
I can’t say I’m pleased with everything I’ve done and with every decision I’ve made along the way, but I can say that I’m really grateful to be fifty. Why wouldn’t I be?
Posted on December 19, 2017 Leave a Comment
The only journey is the one within. (Rainer Maria Rilke)
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll state upfront that I have often—half jokingly, half seriously—referred to life as a minefield. Running, running down the days, the years, in pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. All the while, one eye out for those pesky tripwires, ducking, dodging the myriad hazards until I land on the one that blows me sky high, game over. An event, hopefully, far off in the misty future.
This is not as dark a characterization as it may sound. I would describe myself as a happy person. I have a major sense of whimsy. Love to laugh, love to joke. The minefield thing is more of a heads-up approach to the great unknown that greets us each morning. And the near-miss can be quite exhilarating, just as I imagine it is on a real battlefield. Ha-ha…
View original post 1,605 more words
Posted on December 14, 2017 4 Comments
Good evening! It’s been a busy week and it’s only Tuesday. That’s the Christmas season for you. I was looking over my previous posts and I really like this one. It ran in our local newspaper last year. It’s all about family history and the stories we tell to create our identity and to carve out a tiny place in this big old universe for ourselves. Thanks for dropping by.
When she was a child, my grandmother received a locket as a baptism gift. That was in Calumet, Michigan. The family later moved to Hughenden. Then in 1931, my great uncle Elmer died from a ruptured appendix when he was sixteen and my grandma was twenty.
By her younger brother’s graveside in the Hughenden cemetery, my grandma lost that precious locket that she’d owned most all her life. That’s how it goes sometimes. Years later, in 1944, her father, my great grandfather, died. He was buried near his son Elmer, and as that grave was being prepared, the locket bearing my grandma’s initials was dug up.
Listen to me read this post:
Life is comprised of stories. My life is stories and your life is stories. These are scenarios that happened, that might happen, and that are happening right now. I love stories, but hearing the tales of the old folks who came before me leaves me feeling two different ways.
The first feeling is warm and sentimental. The old stories make me feel connected to the people whose blood flows in my veins. I treasure that connection, like time as a railroad track joining our stations along the way.
The second feeling is the stark realization that someday all that will be left of me is stories. And then, after a while, even the most colourful Lori stories will fade into time and eventually disappear. It’s true.
I like the story of my Grandma Knutson and her newborn baby, Jeannette, on their way home from the hospital following a March snowstorm. When the cutter tipped over in the deep banks, both new mother and new baby were pitched into a snowdrift. Good thing they were bundled up and that babies are typically a bit bouncy.
If you know me, you know I love ghost stories! Sadly, I’ve lost some of the belief in their plausibility. It’s too bad because the possibility of truth made those old stories especially thrilling. In this case, the truth doesn’t matter. I like hearing ghost stories and I like telling ghost stories.
Back in the day Grandma would tell me about the house she and Grandpa lived in on the edge of Hughenden Lake when they were first married.
She’d tell it like this: “Often, late at night, the door at the top of the stairs would slam shut really hard. At first this was terrifying, but after a while, we got used to it. We were startled, but we weren’t scared.”
Even so, my grandparents didn’t live in that house for long.
All the people involved in those stories are gone. The house, long since moved from the lakeshore into the village, stands here in town today. I wonder if the door at the top of the stairs slams hard enough to shake the walls. Does that particular draft, uneven foundation, or angry spirit still haunt the place?
People come and go from houses. We bring stories, we make more, and then we move on.
I always tell the story of Erwin Knutson, my dad’s uncle who was found dead in an abandoned vehicle outside of Wetaskiwin. It was December, 1957. The body had no identification on it, no wallet, and no money. But there was a slip of paper in one of the jacket pockets that read: Erwin Knutson, Hughenden.
My dad told me about him being fourteen years old and traveling to the Hughenden cemetery with his dad, the deceased’s brother, to deliver the rough box used to shore up the interior of that wintry grave.
I held on to that story and it became my novel, Denby Jullsen, Hughenden.
I’m grateful for the stories that connect me to my past and to my ancestors. I’m also thankful for the stories I’m living now, and for the good ones I imagine might happen.
My wish for you is that you remember and share your stories. I hope you’ll make new ones to tell again and again down through the years because, in the end, the stories are all we’ve got.
Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori
Eulogy for an Aging Book Guy – by Timothy Eberle
Posted on December 14, 2017 4 Comments
“Because to everything there is a season, and the season for ‘trying on identities like costumes’ is somewhere between the ages of seventeen and twenty-six. Anything beyond that, and all you’re actually doing is simply ‘wearing a costume.’”
Squabbling Over a Seed
Posted on December 11, 2017 3 Comments
At dinner the other night, my auntie and uncle told me about their recent experience of watching one sparrow brutally kill another. It reminded me of this post I wrote a while back.
The backyard was full of twittering birds. All three feeders were full of seed, and it was party time for the sparrows. Closest to the house, two tiny sparrows sat cute and all fluffed-up in the cedar diamonds of the lattice surrounding the deck rails. The birds were looking at each other with an intense expression that I mistook for mutual admiration.
Then, quick as feathered lightning, the sparrows lunged at each other and, horrified, I realized that I was witnessing a territorial seed dispute.
I thought, “Stupid birds, bickering over something as tiny as a seed!”
Then I considered: Isn’t that what we humans do all the time? Isn’t that the definition of irritation? Someone does one small thing:
- Gives us unwanted instructions.
- Tells us a story with more details than any breathing person could continue to care about.
- Compares some of their recent successes to our past failures.
Is your heart melting at remembering these special occasions? I know mine is.
Maybe it’s not all about us. Maybe the Being Alive Kit just happens to include feeling and causing irritation. Other beings aren’t doing irritating things to us; they’re simply doing them near us. Whether we know it or not, we’re irritating them, as well.
Being aware of those around us sometimes means we’ll want to argue over a seed and get our feathers ruffled as we ruffle the feathers of others. Fortunately, we humans can choose not to squabble over something so tiny as a seed of irritation or a rock in our shoe or a pain in our posterior.
It’s easier said than done, but every change starts somewhere.
The Gift of Home
Posted on December 5, 2017 2 Comments
As I’m re-reading this post from a couple of years ago, I realize that I’ve lived here now for as long as I lived in the house I grew up in. It’s been 14 years since we moved here and nearly 15 years since I purchased Grandma’s house in Hughenden.
After all these years, I’m still happy to live here in this house. Lots has changed in my life and in this house, but that’s how it goes, isn’t it? Just recently I’ve started thinking that I could let go of this place and be happy anywhere.
Take care and thanks for reading! ~ Lori
Listen to me read this post:
This is my 12th Christmas season spent living in Grandma’s house. In March of 2005 – 9 years after her passing – I had the opportunity to buy this rundown little bungalow and make it new again.
My grandparents, my dad’s folks, built this place the year after I was born. They moved into town after selling their farm. Grandma lived here 28 years before she died and thanks to the loving people that cared for her, she was able to live here until her brief hospital stay prior to her death.
I remember Christmases here surrounded by these same walls and by people I loved. On Christmas Eve, the tradition was for us kids to open one specially-selected gift. This gift was always the homemade pajamas that Grandma had spent the autumn sewing in the same basement where I now watch the flat screen TV from my elliptical trainer.This house isn’t large. It’s only about 900 hundred square feet, but in those days, you could cram a lot of overnight and supper guests into it. We weren’t as worried about impressing, but instead the emphasis was on being together all in one place and under one roof, this roof.
This house remains although some of the people are gone now from us. And like the people who remain, the house is older, a little creakier, but just as familiar. Together this house and I hold the memories of days and people past. As long as this house and I are here, so are they.
I’ve learned that over a decade spent in any one place can give a really clear picture of the impermanence of everything and everyone. Since coming to this community, I’ve grown to love its people and I’ve attended some of their funerals. I’ve shared meals and drinks and photos and chores. I’ve given gifts to new parents and then I had the chance to teach those children who didn’t yet exist when I first arrived here.
From Grandma’s house, I’ve watched the years move by more closely, more clearly than they would’ve moved by anywhere else. Here, the years are thick with memories, dripping with history, and sweet with sentiment. To live on this ever-moving continuum for this part of my life has been a gift. This Christmas season and after 12 years, this house in this place and time still feels like this best present I’ve ever received.
Posted on November 30, 2017 7 Comments
Is there anything better than butter and sugar melting together in a heavy pot? I don’t think so. Of course, this is subjective. Some of you are thinking that there is something better! But for me, these days, nothing is better than butter and sugar together. I love that caramel smell as cooking candy bubbles on the stovetop.
Candy and cookies and cards
This year I’m making cookies and candy for friends and family. I’m also sending out old-fashioned Christmas cards. Over the last few years we’ve received blank Christmas cards from different charities as either an incentive to give or as a thank-you for giving. The cards are gorgeous, and I have a whole heap of them. It’s great to finally send them out.
I even wrote a funny Christmas letter to include in the cards. Remember, funny, like sugar and butter, is also subjective. The letter tells about all the excitement that’s been happening around here so it’s short.
I’m using all the colourful gel pens that have sat lonely in a drawer for so long, and I’m sticking hoarded stickers on all the letters and all the envelopes. I don’t know why I love this so much but I do!
What is this unfamiliar feeling?
This holiday season I am happy. Sometimes when I’m working I’ll stop and notice that I’m smiling and my heart is light. There are no pressing thoughts about what to do next trying to push me out of this moment and into the next.
I’m relaxed and I’m happy. It’s hard to know if I’m content because I’m sending cards and baking, or if I’m sending cards and baking because I’m happy. Perhaps it’s the eggnog. Who knows? It doesn’t matter why.
The point is that it’s fun to have time to spend creating homemade gifts. It’s good for my soul.
Sure, I’m finishing up my editing program and have a big project to tackle, but that’s okay. I’ve got time to do it, and that’s a really nice feeling.
Memories of busyness
I do miss (a bit) the merriment of elementary school at Christmastime. Kids are so much fun at this time of year because their wonder and excitement are infectious. Their shining eyes remind me of my own childhood Christmases.
But as an elementary schoolteacher there is always a frantic dash up to the finish line of Christmas holidays. (I can’t see you, but I can almost feel all you former and current teachers of young students nodding in agreement. Some of you are still mildly traumatized.)
The classroom is merry in December, but it is hectic. Hectic merriment.
While teaching, I entered Christmas vacation like a zombie, numb and disengaged, but with no appetite for anything, let alone brains. When you give it all, there’s nothing left to give. You need a chance to refuel.
That’s the working world and that’s just how life was while I was teaching. I was busy! Like any job or profession, teaching has its perks and its drawbacks. Mostly, I remember the good things, and there were lots of good things.
That being said, it’s a joy this year to be joyful as I prepare for Christmas. It’s wonderful to have the time to take my time.
Life has its seasons, I know. There will be busy times again and maybe even soon. But for now and for this season, I’ll bask in the calm contentment, and wish for you, dear reader, this same pleasure. There’s nothing better.
Posted on November 28, 2017 Leave a Comment
When it comes right down to it, no matter what anyone does to us, we’re in control of our own feelings and mostly in control of our actions. Recently I was reminded of a time several years ago when I allowed someone to treat me horribly and I, in return, did the same. For a long time, I felt angry with myself about this, but now, I discover, I’m done being angry with anyone over that whole disaster.
At the time, I was newly out of a comfortable relationship and living alone. I was planning to leave my teaching position and move to a different city a lot further south. While I looked forward to that adventure, the prospect of it was also terrifying as big life changes often are. I guess I was looking for a distraction from my fear. I found a distraction, all right. It just goes to show that we should always be cautious about what we seek because we might find it.
It was the kind of relationship I’d never had before and not had since because, usually, I’m not bat-crap crazy. Back then and for a bit, I must’ve been because that’s the only explanation for my behaviour. It was an on-again, off-again kind of fiasco, rife with mind games and hurtful words and searing actions. I felt very small, and my own actions were mean and small. It’s embarrassing to think about now, but I think it’s a state most of us have experienced, so I don’t mind sharing. All of this mess happened years ago in another time and in another place.
Being an optimist and a people-lover, it’s hard for me to face the fact that there are always people in certain circumstances who will use others to benefit themselves. It’s even harder to face the fact that I have sometimes been one of those people.
Saints excluded, I think that to a greater or lesser degree, this element of self-preservation exists within most of us human beings. It’s just the way we’re wired and for evolutionary purposes, it’s probably come in really handy, this selfishness. It allowed us to survive and for our lineage to thrive. Fair enough in the jungle and in the caves, and I’d like to believe we can rise above that base instinct now and aim for something kinder, more beneficial to the entire species.
I admit that I was no innocent bystander in this craziness, no halo-draped angel. Nope, I was fully-engaged and I take responsibility for allowing the destructiveness to continue for as long as it did. I could have walked away any time. Finally, I did.
I had the opportunity to re-engage that person from so long ago. While I wish him health and happiness, I’m smarter now. When I saw it approaching, the wisdom I’ve acquired in the years between now and then told me to leap off the tracks and just let that train speed on by.
Wisdom also told me not to place dynamite on the tracks or to throw eggs at the passing cars. There’s no point. What good are they, those little actions that serve only to shrink and harden my heart? After all, it was a small, hard heart that got me into that situation and it’s a bigger, more open heart that’s keeping me out.
Don’t Come To My Funeral
Posted on November 23, 2017 3 Comments
This is a post I wrote back in 2017 when I threw a birthday party and was somewhat dismayed at the lack of response my invitations received. Still, we had a really good time. It was almost as fun as any funeral.
Listen to me read this post or read it below. And, please, come to my barbeque.
Years ago, I attended a friend’s 90th birthday party. Her family intended it to be a celebration of this woman’s life. That’s what funerals are now sometimes called: celebrations of life. Only this celebration was held before the one we were celebrating had died. It was wonderful.
I loved seeing her glow as each eulogy was given. Some of the stories were touching and some were funny, and all illustrated a piece of her life. What a waste these tales would’ve been if she’d have been too dead to hear all the sweet memories folks shared about her.
Funerals are for the living.
I do understand that funerals are for the living. They provide a chance to connect and a chance to accept the passing of a loved one. Mourning together is better.
Funerals affirm that, even in the face of death, life goes on. We’ll all die but for now, we are alive. Funerals are good to remind us of this fact.
I also understand why folks come out for funerals. At funerals you see everyone; all those old friends and relatives crawl out of the woodwork and come back home. They step out of their comfortable, full lives, and they come to mourn and visit and reconnect.
At funerals someone often asks, “Why don’t we ever get together like this when there’s not a funeral?” Good question.
A gathering where no one’s dead can be fun too.
Now and then, I’ll invite people to events at which everyone is alive. Often my invitation is turned down cold. I can’t compete with funerals.
Next time I host a party, I’m going to call it a funeral just to see if more people come. Death more than simple pleasure seems to be worth making an effort for.
Don’t put off living.
We’re all guilty of putting off a life that begs to be lived. We especially put off the pleasant things. There’s something in our culture that still esteems suffering while it diminishes enjoyment.
I had a great aunt who worked hard all her life at a mundane job that she disliked. She kept working and promised herself that when she retired, she’d finally travel and enjoy life. I loved and admired this woman. When she became ill and died before she got to travel, I paid attention.
Suffering is not more important than enjoyment.
In our western culture, a high premium is placed on stoic suffering. I get it. When pioneers came to this land, stoic suffering was their only choice. Put your head down and work until you carved a life into this rugged nowhere. The strong survived and there wasn’t time to cultivate roses let alone smell them.
It’s different now. We can relax a bit and enjoy being alive. I won’t suffer in the hopes that someone will shed an earned tear at my funeral. I’d gladly exchange a tearful funeral for a joy-filled life. I wouldn’t even mind a bitter eulogy: “All she did was go around being happy and savouring life.”
I’m no martyr. The fact is, my suffering doesn’t improve anyone else’s life. It only makes me miserable and, in turn, I make the world more miserable.
It won’t kill you to go to the party.
When someone calls you to go spend time with the living, try to go. I know. Life is busy and there are competing priorities. Keep in mind that it is far easier to visit with the folks we love, to hold them and be near them, before they are dead.
Life is short and enjoying it fully is more important than suffering through it. It’s respectful to attend the funerals, but it’s crucial to go to the barbeques.
Thanks for reading and listening! I hope you have a great new week wherever you are.