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