The tired woman in the mirror still has a sparkle in her eye. The post-partum hormones haven’t managed to touch that little piece of herself that reminds her all is not lost. Still, the acne prone skin and fine lines seem to be battling for real estate on her face, which doesn’t seem fair at age 37. Whoever wanted to buy beauty products that were designed to combat both at the same time? At least they are treatable, and one likely to lose out when the pregnancy/lactating hormones finally disappear.

As her eyes stray north, she is confronted by the one thing that haunts her most. Whispers, knowing smiles and conversations over the years had warned her of the dangers that would lie ahead. “It’s in your genetics” they all advised. Surely, maybe, possibly…it would pass her by? Alas, with the stress and frustrations of infertility and loss, while rearing a young child…it sneaked up on her without fair warning.

It started out as a light peppering in her late twenties. Easy to ignore and conceal because of the light coloring in her natural hair. As the 30’s roared in, streaks appeared, and began to frame her face. Thankfully, a wise and talented professional was available on an as needed basis to add highlights and complete some hip “do’s” that would disguise the shades that began to overtake her lustrous locks. Back in those days, she was part of a dual-income earning home that could accommodate the costs of such beauty treatments.

Then, in 2012 she made the decision to stay home with her daughter and move home to the family ranch. The family income was cut in half, and the daily grind of spending time in the hayfields, and pastures lent easily to the decision to “stretch out” those visits to her favorite colorist and avoid shocking anyone by her appearance in between.

But the fall of 2016 arrived, and with it a new baby and the stress of being home bound most of the time, while living on a shoestring budget. 50 shades of gray emerged as she kept her hair in a pony and out of the reach of little fingers, all the while diving headlong into the world of “home coloring” her hair, with varying levels of success, and interesting shades and variety. The home crowd was none-too-pleased with some of the choices, while other times the “beauty in a box” treatments went entirely unnoticed.

And 8 months later, the tired mama in the mirror wonders if she should keep up this gig of “do it yourself” efforts to maintain the look of a woman who is 37 and not 57. Or, should she embrace the shades that God has given her, knowing that at least one innocent person will probably assume that the wee baby in her arms is her grand-daughter, and not her daughter? It’s another stressful decision in a long list of many these days. Because, she faces the same questions as do many. What is “beauty?” What price shall we put on the costs of beauty in America? And, am I willing to pay it?

The discussion is chock full of at least 50 shades of feelings, many of them sensitive and difficult to talk about. But the tired mama in the mirror begs you to help her decide what she should do. How you decide when the day comes that you will just live with and embrace your shades of gray?

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.