Is Love Alive? I have been lucky. I am loved.

But, every year, I am conflicted about Valentine’s Day.

First Love

Don’t get me wrong, I love Love. I cry at weddings. I cheer for relationships.

But, I bristle at the exclusiveness Valentine’s Day implies for some. That a particular type of love is more valuable than others. That romantic love, marked by a narrow selection of gestures is how we shall know we are valued and loved.  Couples only, please.

This isn’t a bah-humbug post, but an appeal to reframe this day that might be disappointing or exclusionary for some, into one that is completely inclusive.

Even as children we feel the exclusivity of Valentine’s Day. I remember the big dilemma – do I give a card to everyone, including the kid who bullied me, or that I just didn’t like?  It stung if some classmate didn’t deem me worthy of one of their cheap-ass store bought cards.  I remember sitting at my desk in 4th grade watching popular kids count up their cards to see how got the most. There’s nothing quite like a gloating nine-year-old.

To belong is to be loved

Here’s the great news, whether or not you’re a fan of the hoopla of Valentine’s Day, whether you are in a loving relationship or not, Valentine’s Day does not define love. Your lovableness cannot be boiled down to a single date on the calendar, or if one person chooses you on one day out of 365. Love is much more than that. Regardless of your status, today you can express your love for another person – a best friend, a mentor, a family member and brighten both of your days.

As we hit our late thirties, into our forties and beyond, our perspective of love changes, but the need for it never does. To be loved is to belong. Brené Brown puts it beautifully describing in Braving the Wilderness that our biggest need is for belonging.

What is left to say about love that has not been said before? Perhaps this: you are loved.

Love is alive

There are many types of love and lots of ways to spread it around. Try these and tell me how it goes. If you’re posting on social media use the hashtag #fortyologylove.

  1. Show yourself some healthy self-love and buy a cute journal today. Start writing it in it. What are your dreams? What are your healthy and unhealthy views of love?
  2. If you’ve got a pet, you’re definitely loved. Jojo Moyes writes a love letter to her dog. If you try this, please share!
  3. Pop a bottle of your favourite bubbly. (Pictured: my favourite)

       4. Send love to your pal-entines and gal-entines to remind them they’re loved.

5. If you think someone could use it, share this post.

6. Listen to this song (scroll down).






More on Love.

Love In The Time of Ageism





Organic Love Leaving a big city in your prime dating years, peace-ing out on a career, family and friends to live alone on a farm would seem a terrible way to find love. But, love is funny that way. When you’re in the right place, it finds you.

by Brenda Hsueh

I was no spring chicken at 33 when I went to Everdale, an organic teaching farm, as a long-term volunteer in 2008, wanting to learn about organic farming. There I proved I was not just up to the task physically, but loved it. In late fall, I went shopping for farms. By Christmas, my offer on a piece of land had been accepted and I was moved in by March of 2009. In spring, ground was broken on my first vegetable field, and Black Sheep Farm was born.

The first year out here, I learned that my road was actually a busy one,  good for a roadside stand. Unlike my condo in the city, ‘town’ is an hour’s round trip away. Since then, I’ve learned to wire in a new pressure for my well switch in -20C, and then to run a heat lamp out to the pump house to defrost the now frozen pressure tank.

And, there’ve been other, harder lessons. In 2012 a drought killed all my winter squash and zucchini, about 20% of my vegetable field. I learned first hand that soils depleted of organic matter don’t retain water.

farm baby

This year, 2017, is my ninth growing season at Black Sheep Farm, and my most challenging. Why? My daughter Emma was born on May 5. I’m a new mom, with all that implies, lack of sleep, torturous breast feeding in the beginning, and the isolation of spending most of the day home with an infant.  It also meant I needed help to run the farm, so I hired a full-time employee , Michelle, and we’ve been managing a vegetable garden in the wettest and coolest year since I moved out here.


We were lucky, with a healthy pregnancy, birthing and baby, all despite the odds, though I’d like to credit my strong farming body with the results.”

In my pre-farming life, I  worked an office job in the financial sector in downtown Toronto, living in a condo, trying out new restaurants, and generally living the city life. But I cared deeply about the environment, social justice, and food, so when the 2007 financial crisis hit, it was a wakeup call for me to find meaning in what I do.

I learned that our global food system is broken, exploiting people’s labour and health and destroying the environment with pesticides. I wanted to be part of a better way.

That’s now what I do, I farm using agroecological principles that improve soil life, producing food in a manner that improves the environment, maximizing diversity and resilience. My goal isn’t to grow the biggest vegetables or the most pounds per acre, but to produce food at a rate that the land can support, and that can support me financially. The farm produces vegetables for its CSA (community supported agriculture) members, as well as meat and fibre from a growing flock of sheep.

Leaving Home to Find It

I was single all my years in Toronto, and was still single when I moved to the farm. I certainly didn’t expect to find anyone out here in the middle of nowhere, with a population density a fraction of Toronto’s, and mostly over 50 years old. However, I became good friends with the family next door, and started dating the oldest son in 2012. We’ve been together ever since.

All those years of wondering why I couldn’t meet anyone compatible in Toronto, it turns out I was just in the wrong place. I needed to be where I was meant to be, doing what I loved, so love could find me.

Having my daughter wasn’t a given either.

Being a first-time mom at 42 meant a ‘geriatric’ pregnancy, with all the fearsome statistics and added testing and protocols to do with my ‘advanced maternal age’. We were lucky, with a healthy pregnancy, birthing and baby, all despite the odds, though I’d like to credit my strong farming body with the results.

I’m definitely healthier and stronger now in my 40’s than when working office jobs in my 20’s. I look forward to sharing this active farm lifestyle with my daughter as she grows.

calm in the chaos

sheep lamb farmer hay organic love

Brenda Hseuh, Black Sheep Farm

At this point, it’s almost halfway through the 2017 farming season, and despite its challenges, I’m quite calm. Maybe having a new person to take care of contributes to that. After all, when Mother Nature throws another torrential rainfall at you, flooding your field yet again, now you have a child to cuddle while waiting out the storm. Next year will have its own share of farming and family challenges, and the next year, and the next.

As I strive to build a resilient farm environment, I become more resilient myself, able to problem solve and work with the circumstances I’ve been given. At the end of the day, I produce something very concrete, food, a necessity for all human life, and I do so in a way I can be proud of and believe in.

It used to be that everyone was a farmer, and now it seems no one is. I hope that changes as more people choose to join me in such an honourable endeavour.


Brenda Hsueh is an organic vegetable farmer, mother, and owner of Black Sheep Farm in Grey County, south western Ontario. She lives on 40 acres with her partner, her baby and the occasional black sheep.


Love In The Time of Ageism Remember dating in your twenties? It sucked, right?  All the insecurity, bad decisions and ‘what if I never meet anyone?!’ panic. Now, in your late thirties and beyond, things are different. You are different. You know yourself better, you know what your priorities are, you’re done pretending, and you know what bulls**t looks like.  Which means, it can be a heck of a lot of fun, if you have the right headspace, and have done the healing required to be whole.

step one: don’t be ageist.

So much of how we define ourselves , and thus end up silo’d, is determined by which age-box we tick off on a form. It’s a gravitational pull towards the norms. When we’re in the market for a relationship, one of the first questions friends ask is ‘what is your age range’. Typically, it’s within a few years either side of our own age.  Unless, you’re a man, in which case, no matter what your age, you prefer 24 year olds.  (To be fair, that only reflects men on OkCupid.)  Truth is- and, ask any woman over 35 and they’ll have the stories to back it up  – men are not afraid of dating older women, not as a weird fetish, but because they recognize what they bring to the table – strength, experience, wisdom, perspective. Don’t rule out the younger man, that would be ageist.

step 2: Think, don’t overthink

Finding love after you’ve had some serious life and relationship drama is different than it was fifteen or twenty years ago, when you didn’t know what you know now. So, don’t expect to approach it the same way. It might be a more serious consideration, involving kids, or strict boundaries, or some trust issues you’ve acquired. On the other hand, it might be a post-divorce taste of freedom that has you YOLO-ing all over town. Regardless of what you tell anyone else, be honest with yourself.

“But – and, ask any woman over 35 and they’ll have the stories to back it up  – men are not afraid of dating older women, not as a weird fetish, but because they recognize what they bring to the table – strength, experience, wisdom, perspective.”

step 3: remove the deadline

Shockingly (to me, at least) is that the average time for remarriage after a split is three years. That doesn’t seem a like a huge amount of time for healing, regrouping and figuring yourself out. Maybe not surprisingly, the second-marriage divorce-rate is higher than the first timers. The lesson? Take all the time you need. Meditate, reconnect with girlfriends, make a life-list or a vision board and focus on what you really want for your life with or without a partner.  For many women, this is a time in life when they pivot; they find their true north and put their own happiness back at the top of the list. This is incredibly important. As flight attendants have taught us, you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you help anyone else.

Remarriage by Age

According to the Pew Research Center remarriage is still very popular, despite it’s very bad track record. The average age of divorce (erm, the first one) is 30, but that doesn’t make everyone gun shy. There’s a glut of couples on their second marriage between 35-54, and how about the huge number of couples 55+ tying the knot. The wedding industrial complex is alive and well.

step 4: remember, you’ll be fine

I’m not sure I’d call dating at any age ‘glamorous‘ (shout out to goop, but, no) considering the very high chance of endless first-date small talk, and, mismatched ideals, but, one thing I know is true, many women meet their soul mates in their forties, and have fulfilling, rich and rewarding relationships because they know themselves a lot better than they did when they were 24, and the ‘happy ending’ we’re looking for is centred on realistic goals and authentic connection, which may or may not include marriage. Either way, you’ll be good.

What has your experience been dating in your forties? Spill!