Lessons From A Grandma

The blanket does not match anything else that I own, yet it sits in my living room. It is the quilt I reach for on chilly mornings when I spend time with God and a cup of coffee. I bought the blanket twelve years ago from a dear friend, Grandma V, an older Ojibwe woman.

We were probably quite an odd couple to behold. A tall, thirty-something professional and a diminutive, seventy-something Native American grandmother. We met through my job when she came to us as a foster grandparent. Within moments of our meeting, our hearts seemed to know we'd found (as Anne with an 'e' would say) a kindred spirit.

Grandma V reminded me of my grandmother, not only in her short stature and age but in her zest for life. She was fierce. Life had not been easy for her, but she remained (surprisingly) not bitter. V's laugh was infectious and as big as her heart. I loved hearing her having fun with the kids she was 'grandmothering,' correcting them in her goodnatured, loving way.

We would talk, when the kids weren't around, about the challenges of life. The struggles not only within races (she had married outside of her band and travelled to live in another state with her husband.) but between them. My youthful anger and frustration at the unfairness of life was tempered by her hard earned wisdom. She was not bitter, but filled with grace and determination that her children and grandchildren would rise above the small mindedness of those who try to limit their futures.

It's hard to say exactly why we bonded so quickly. Maybe our artist hearts (she did beadwork, along with quilting) were just drawn together. I would have missed the friendship altogether except...we both stepped out, clasped hands, open hearts and really looked at each other. In that moment, as I looked into the hazy, cataracted eyes of a woman forty years my senior, I saw joy, fears, hopes, and struggles.

I saw myself.

The world today scares me and I can't fix it. I worry for my children and their futures. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." If I watch the news for too long, I start to worry we are more like the latter than the former.

Then I remember my friend Grandma V. I drink my coffee, pray, and set my heart on showing others grace and love, no matter their race, class, situation, or age.

 I too will be fierce.

I will meet others with a handshake, an open heart, and really look at them and connect.

Mother Teresa is quoted as having said, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

I believe that to be true because, while there are many things that divide us, we all have one thing in common. We belong to each other because we are all part of the human race, fellow neighbors on this earth.

We are neighbors. 

I think that's as good a place as any to start a friendship.   


7 Things My Midlife Crisis Taught Me

When I was younger, I was amused at the idea of someone having a ‘mid life crisis’.  I would have a happy fulfilled life (insert nose in the air here.)

There would never be a need for any such crisis in my life.  I was cautious. I thought things through. I considered every angle.

Yeah…so I was wrong. I can say that with a certain amount of confidence, because I believe I am a very recent survivor of such a mid life event.

Life has been tough. Illness, death, and major (difficult) life events have all played prominent roles in day-to-day life.  Not all of the changes have been negative, but they have all been life altering.

I began questioning who I really was, what things mattered, who were the important people in my life and who were best left behind.

It felt like life had unraveled, leaving me with questions, sadness, regret, and self-condemnation.

While processing the junk in my life that I had ignored for years (in an attempt to appear ‘perfect’) I found seven key points popping up repeatedly. 

  1.  I need to love myself before I can fully love others. 

It dawned on me one day, that I truly didn’t know how to love myself. That was a shattering realization. My inner voice was (is) mostly negative. There was no grace there. No room for human mistakes.

 How could I expect to raise children with the resilience and self-confidence to survive this harsh world,if I thought poorly of myself? I couldn’t. The worst part, I was already seeing that part of myself reflected in my children.

  2.  We are meant to live in community with each other. 
I have always prided myself on being a lone wolf. Like a perpetual toddler, ‘I can do it myself.’ 

Except, I really can’t and I don’t need to. 

Trying to do it all myself just resulted in feelings of inadequacy (again with the low self esteem). It also meant that I couldn’t truly be my authentic self with most people, because I was trying to hard to appear perfect and invincible.

  3.  Everyone has different struggles. EV-ER-Y-ONE. 

No exceptions. Struggles don't mean that I am doing it wrong or that I should give up.  Our new phrase in our house when we are struggling and frustrated with something that we are trying to do?  "You are, what we call, a human. Just like the rest of us. Welcome. Some things are tough."

4.  Mistakes are inevitable. 

Our reactions to them (both our mistakes, and the mistakes of others) make all the difference. Acknowledge it, fix what you can, move on. No beating ourselves up for our mistakes anymore.

  5.  Forgiveness sets us free. 

Unforgiveness is like a cancer WE CHOOSE to let eat up and kill our lives. 

Whether never forgiving our own mistakes or the mistakes of others, the results are the same. We lose. A part of us that could feel love, joy, excitement, etc. is being consumed with un-forgiveness. Learn to let go.

  6.  Death, pain, and loss are part of life. 

Much of my adulthood has been spent trying to stay safely away from all three of those feelings. As a result, I have missed out on many opportunities to enjoy the richness life is meant to hold. Honestly, I believe it is part of the reason that I have never married. But, as much as I tried to run and hide from it, those three found me. Multiple times. I’ve survived and I would never have avoided or missed those opportunities for love and joy that preceded (or followed) the pain.

  7.  God’s plans are way more intricate than anything I could imagine. 

For real. I couldn't think this life up if I tried. Some of the lowest points in my life had led to some of the best. Honestly, some days I feel like I'm living a Lifetime movie.


I have not enjoyed my mid life crisis. I would not choose to go through it again. In fact, I'm not even sure I'm completely through it right now! However, I am a different person now than before my ‘crisis’. I'm no longer trying to fulfill some prescribed life that I felt others expected of me. I am taking more risks, and doing things more my way these days. I'm feeling more deeply, both joy and pain. I cry more readily, and am more passionate about what truly matters to me.

I truly feel like I am just now rediscovering what is truly important to me. 

It feels good, this new me. She looks an awfully lot like the old me I vaguely remember from when was very young. The 'me' I thought I had to give up to be a real grown-up.

I think she might have been hiding in there all along. 

~Aleah Bea


Planning for Successful Summer Adventures

It's summertime again. The time when we all try to slow down, but it seems like the days speed by faster than we'd like. This is the time of year the our family looks for adventures to enjoy together. Living in a climate where it seems like we have six months of cold, we really treasure these long hot (or at least warm) days.

The other day, the kids and I went fossil hunting and...wait for it...we think WE FOUND A FOSSIL!

 Awesome? Yes.

Coincidence? Sort-of.

Adventures (as my kids like to call them) have a risk for not turning out as fabulous as planned. That's why I try to think of all the 'what ifs' before heading out with the kiddos, having a Plan A,B,C,D....Z ready ahead of time.

Little Man loves fossils. Baby B couldn't wait to find a 'dog bone' as she likes to call them (and to play in the dirt.) I was a little nervous since actually finding a fossil can be a bit like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.

However, this wasn't the first time that we have gone fossil hunting at this particular location.

The last time we went fossil hunting was before Baby B had joined the family. Little Man, some of his cousins, and myself went out one HOT summer afternoon and sorted through lots of rocks and dirt. It was a risky proposition with a major chance of the entire outing being a bust. Initially I remember feeling frustrated that the kids weren't getting as serious about the whole fossil hunting mission as I was.

Then I realized that I had become that parent who helps their kid with their science fair project by doing the project themselves. Thankfully, this dawned on me before I had ruined the day for the kids. After talking myself down from my sad, type A, goal oriented, "LET"S HAVE FUN LIKE THIS" ledge, I realized something.

Finding a fossil wasn't the point.

 We were there for the adventure.

The challenge, the mystery, the imagining of what if, and 'what was it like here years ago' discussions. The heat, and the sweat, and the scraped knees, and the dirt. The 'remember that time we went looking for fossils?' stories that we shared later. The 'man, I'm sooooo thirsty...I wonder if this is how thirsty you feel in the desert?' questions.

Thankfully, we did find a fossil on that first trip. But, even if we hadn't, I had several things working in my favor to make it a successful adventure.

1. All of the kids loved playing in dirt/sand.

2. I had researched online about where and what we should be looking for.

3. We didn't have a long trek to get to the 'dig' site.

4. I could find some nice rocks for bordering my flower beds while we were there.

5. I had taken a year of geology in college because I thought 'why not, it would be fun' (and only slept      through some of the classes) so I kind of knew what to look for.

And my ace in the hole:

6. I planned to take them swimming afterwards whether or not any fossils were found.

On this most recent trip, we had success. The kids were able to wallow in the dirt AND we found what looks to be a fossil. Plus, I found some more rocks for my flower beds. Little Man and Baby B are hoping for many more adventures this summer. I have some ideas up and MANY backup plans. More importantly, I'm trying to keep in mind that for an adventure to truly be and adventure, there needs to be the element of the unknown. Maybe even a little danger.


  1. 1.
    an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
    "her recent adventures in Italy"
    "her recent adventures in Italy"

  1. 1.
    engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.
    "they had adventured into the forest"

My job is to accentuate the unusual and exciting and eliminate (or at least minimize) the hazardous part of the adventure. This time, it turned out great. We'll see how our next adventure works out.

Here's to adventures guys. 'Tis the season.

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Another Father's Day Without Dad

Yesterday I attended the graduation party for my cousin's eldest. My 92 yr old uncle (the oldest living member of his family) was there and I was able to visit with him along with several other aunts, uncles, and cousins. Baby B sang "A Bicycle Build for Two" with him (currently her favorite song) and he sang her a song from his childhood. Moments like these have become precious to me as I know they may soon be gone.

After Baby B had twirled off to get sugared up, while my uncle and I shared laughter and tears remembering my dad (one of his youngest brothers).

"He was one of the best men I've ever known. He had such a good heart. He would help out anyone." he said. 

Yes he was Uncle D. He really was.

I wrote the post below last year in memory of my dad, and all the men out there who take the time to be 'fatherly.'

Fatherly Behavior

It is quite common to hear the term 'motherly' being used. Ironically, we don't use the term 'fatherly' used as often. Think about it, people will often refer to a little girl as acting 'motherly' but when a little boy is acting in a nurturing manner, we don't automatically say that he is acting 'fatherly.'

I think that's too bad.

Boys need to learn about what it means to be a father just as much as girls need to learn what it means to be a mother. Nurturing and supporting others is one of the most important things we can teach a child.

On this Father's Day, I celebrate the father that was part of my for nearly 39 years. If anyone modeled fatherly traits, it was him. The man who worked hard to not only support his family financially, but also took the time to really love his children and his wife. The man who rarely, if ever, raised his voice. Whose life demonstrated what integrity, honesty, and kindness should look like. The man who was a father/mentor/grandfather to many young boys and men through the years. The man who taught Little Man so many of the things a father would have wanted to teach him. Some of those things I thought Dad was showing Little Man at too young of an age. Now I'm thankful for those lessons he gave him.

I celebrate the dads out there who aren't afraid to show their children their silly side. Who aren't afraid to let their kids see them cry. The fathers who are a firm, kind, stabilizing force in their families. Those dads who stay with their families even when things get tough, and scary, and uncomfortable. Who are 'fatherly.'

I celebrate those men who are mentors to the children who have no father around in their life. The men who help the children without dads learn how to treat a woman, and how a woman should be treated. Who are nurturing and supporting without conditions-just out of the goodness of their heart. The men who help balance out the life of these children, whose days are so often filled with only the influence of women. They really need both.

I celebrate my Father in heaven, who promises to be there for the widowed and the orphaned. Who will help me to navigate this thing called parenting. To be there for me when I am aching so to hear my dad's voice (just one more time) as he cracked a lame joke with my son, then winked at me as he waited to see if Little Man had caught it.

For those of you who still have a father here on earth, I pray that he is one that brings you that kind of love and happiness. For those of you who don't have that kind of relationship with your father, my heart aches for you. I pray that there is someone in your life who has filled that void. And, if there isn't, I know there is a God who has been waiting for years to fill the position.

Happy Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day in heaven Dad.

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Adoption Link Up 3: Adoption Ethics

The topic for this Adoption Talk Link Up is adoption ethics, a topic that I, as an adoptive parent, take very seriously. When I was considering adoption before bringing home Little Man and Baby B one of the most important parts of the process was making sure my agency was ethical.

So what exactly is an 'ethical' adoption agency? 

For me, that meant that there was evidence the agency was doing everything in the power to keep children with their birth families, if at all possible. This could involve anything from help with finding employment, to providing supplemental food while the families are getting back on their feet, to providing access to schooling, community gardens, and wells for clean water.

Helping the families and community rather than just taking their future (the children) away from the them.

It also meant that safeguards were in place to ensure that the children being placed were truly in need of a home, that they were not being stolen and/or that the parents were not being forced or coerced into letting their children go to another family, with false promises of being reunified one day.

On one occasion, during my adoption from Haiti, I was able to see the director of the agency have a conversation with a young birth mother. The mother was wanting to place her baby in the creche but the director was adamant that what she needed was to first find a job, so that she could provide for her child (support was provided from the agency for her to make steps towards this goal.) Sadly, relinquishment happens when a loving birth families who lack the resources to provide for their children's most basic needs-food, clean water, medical care, or shelter.

During my adoption journey, I worked with three different agencies. Two were very ethical, and have in place programs like the ones I mentioned. One agency I left (several thousands of dollars into an adoption) because red flags started popping up. I didn't feel comfortable that they weren't using coercion to find children to place with their adoptive families, so I walked away.

So how does a person find an ethical agency?

1. Talk to anyone you know who has adopted. Ask them what their experience was like and if they would recommend their agency to others.

2. Search the internet. RESEARCH A TON. Make a list of agencies that have in place safe guards to maintain high ethical standards, and providing support for the birth families.

2. Interview agencies. Make a list of your questions. Call and ask to speak with the director of the program you are interested in. Do a gut check. Any red flags yet?

3. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints with the agencies you are looking at.

4. Take your narrowed down list, call back those agencies, and ask for references...families that have adopted through them. Most adoptive families are very open to talking about their experiences.

By going through these steps, you will, hopefully, have narrowed it down to one or two agencies. Take your time and don't rush this part of the process. You want to find an agency that not only is a good fit for you but, perhaps even more importantly, respects, honors, and supports the birth families as the struggle to make the best choice for their child.

Don't forget to check out the other blogs in the link up (here's one to check out) and leave a comment.


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Adoption Link Up 2: Strong Willed Children

For the second Adoption Talk Link Up the topic is "Anything Goes," so I decided to do a re-post of one of my most read posts, Parenting a Strong Willed Child. 

I was what people call a 'strong willed' child. I knew what was expected of me and would behave appropriately in public (most of the time). At home however, it was a different story.

My poor parents. I know that many of their gray hairs have my name on them. They told me when I was out of college that they seriously wondered if I would survive to adulthood (yep, that bad).

The ironic part of all of this is that I am now raising not one, but two strong-willed children. Each one has their own strong-willed tendencies. This doesn't mean that they are bad children. They have definite leadership potential. They are loving, sensitive, creative kids. Thankfully, the battles they each pick aren't the same ones. Usually, they aren't at the same time either.

The funny thing is, at the end of a day full of battles, my kids aren't the problem...I am.

Being a former strong willed child, part of me wants to pull on the gloves when I sense conflict. I think the word that my mom used to use for it was being 'ornery' or 'contrary'.  You say yes? Well then, my answer must be 'no'. Try to back me into a corner decision wise...I'll come out fighting.

I know, it makes no rational sense and is completely juvenile. In most adult situations, I can mentally talk myself down from this mindset. With my kids however, I have the added piece of 'Hey, I'm the grown-up here. Just obey me now, okay?' My kids know exactly which buttons to push to get me going. The last thing they need is a mom who is playing a headbutting game of wills over ridiculous things, just for the sake of having my own way.

So, what's a parent to do?

I've narrowed it down to eight things for myself.

1. Admit that I have a oppositional streak. Ask myself "Is it really the kids picking the battle, or am I just in a 'mood.'"

2. Take a break. Don't discipline until I can do so calmly and rationally.

3. Look back to look forward. I was a strong-willed child and I turned out okay. I just need to work the rest of my strong willed 'kinks' out. What did my parents do to help me turn into a successful adult.

4. Make a research project out of it. I've been trying to figure out what things are triggers for me, and what my children's triggers are.  If it helps to avoid conflict in the long run, it's worth it.

5. Laugh a little. Talking to other formerly strong willed children (and parents) helps a ton. Not only does it help me to be able to laugh a little at my struggles, but suddenly I no longer feel so alone in this journey. Plus, most of us have at least one strong willed child so we have a lot a stories to share.

6. Take care of myself. The better I eat, the more I sleep, and the more I move the better I parent. Remember how crabby you would be the day after Halloween as a kid when you were coming down from your sugar rush and had gotten to bed too late? Enough said.

7. Admit defeat. Sometimes I will be wrong. I will make the wrong decision. I will jump to the wrong conclusion and I need to tell my kids those two words, "I'm sorry." It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength and it's something that my children need to see me model.

8. Pray for wisdom and discernment. God will point out to my flaws and weaknesses if I ask him. I might not always like what I discover but it's worth it.

Becoming a parent didn't mean that I automatically had all of the answers. Boy, was that disappointing to discover! But, being a parent does mean I need to be the best that I can be so that I can help my children become their best. To do that I need to take care of my strong willed tendencies, so that they don't raise their ugly head during the sometimes stressful journey of raising two amazing human beings.

I think I am up for the challenge. Remember...I'm kind of strong willed. ☺

Now, don't forget to check out the other blogs in the link up (here's one to check out) and leave a comment.


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Our Adoption Story (A Second Look)

Today I'm excited to be participating in the first topic of the Adoption Talk Link Up. The first topic we are covering is “Our Stories.”


I've written about our adoption stories before (you can read it here) but today I decided to go out on a limb and tackle how it felt when I adopted my oldest, Little Man (kind of a big deal for me so please be kind.)

Several years ago, I was part of a discussion with some other parents about our children's adoption stories. It was expressed by one of the parents that they wished their children had the fairy tale coming home story that many children being raised by their birth families had.

That really resonated with me. Adoption, to me, is the redemption of a deep tragedy. A testament that beauty can rise from the ashes.

At the time, I was being treated for Hodgkin's Lymphoma and was having trouble sleeping due to some of my medications. One night, after a day of chemo, this story poured out, a gift from God. I slept like a baby once I had finished it.  I hope to write down Baby B's story one day to share with her as well.

I've never shared our story in this way on the blog before. It's meant too much, and seemed too precious and sacred to share. It was never the right time.

Until now.

There you go! If you have an adoption story to share please feel free join the link up and check out some of the other blogs here, to get started.

~ Aleah Bea

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