Me in the Middle Invites Guest Bloggers

My brother, John ~ Me in the Middle ~ My brother, Richard

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 Submit a Micro-Memoir of less than 2,000 words

and other inspirational posts

Welcome to My Blog

You can learn more about my website by going to ‘About’.

My  blog on this website, Me in the Middle, is an Invitation to you to share a time in your life where you thought you’d never make it through and you did.  A witness of the strength that you never thought you had.  An Arrival to a place of enlightenment, contentment and gratitude.  A message of hope to others.  A sharing of your “Me in the Middle” story or a post that shares a message that inspired you along the way to wholeness. (Submit through ‘Contact’)

“These folks, it appears, found a way to use hardship, pain and loss creatively. They have made of their lives works of art, they have found ways to become themselves, to achieve wholeness.”   David Goff ~ Arrival (see article)

Me in the Middle Introducing Guest Blogger, Nancy of Practically Wise

“For death is part of the human experience. I think we must respond when we are called upon to bear witness to suffering. We may feel hopeless because we can’t make the pain go away. And ultimately, we can’t stop death. Yet our willingness to simply be there leads us to greater compassion and greater wisdom. We become more fully human.”

death-2

Pixabay

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Keeping a Home, Keeping a Legacy

“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” –Sir Thomas More

My grandma, who passed earlier this spring, was a woman who had led a simple life. A typical life even, common to many of her era. Her immigrant parents, from the “old country,” came to the U.S. as young adults and eventually settled in Detroit, Michigan. Grandma was born in 1916, the younger of two children. She took her high school education to a typing job at the phone company and then to a real estate agency. She gave up full-time work after she married my grandpa in order to raise a family. They too lived in Detroit. She would take the bus to Hudson’s department store with her two young daughters, outfitted in true 1950s fashion in matching dress coats and tams, looking like tiny models out of a catalog. Her home was spic ‘n span clean with the décor arranged just so. And of course, she cooked. Hearty meals of roast beef or macaroni and cheese, with endless pleas to have some more, don’t let it go to waste.

Yet for such an ordinary life, the struggle at the very end of her life’s journey was extraordinary in the fear and agony she experienced as her body declined. Being with my grandma during her final, wretched days was heartrending. Months later, I am still processing the emotions from those mere handful of days. As Jane Austen would have said, it has “required a long application of solitude and reflection to recover.” Talking, and especially writing, has helped me find perspective. This essay is taken in part from the eulogy I delivered at my grandmother’s funeral.

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There are some, like my late grandfather, who have a zest for life. He owned a succession of small businesses, owned a sailboat, and organized rafting trips down a raging river in Virginia. But every adventurer needs a solid anchor back home, making that home and keeping it.

Such a simple-sounding verb, to keep. Yet it means more than mere tending. The art of keeping includes an array of responsibilities: being able to form strong habits, fulfilling your part of an ongoing agreement, and preserving long-standing traditions. At our best, we keep friends and promises; we keep Christmas in our hearts; we keep a home for those we love most.

My grandma was a home maker, and a keeper of that home. There’s a how-to book, Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, that I came across several years ago. In it, Mendelson suggests that many of us underappreciate the value of a well-kept home. She explains it like this:

“Housekeeping creates cleanliness, order, regularity, beauty, the conditions for health and safety, and a good place to do and feel all the things you wish and need to do and feel in your home…it is your housekeeping that makes your home alive, that turns it into a small society in its own right, a vital place with its own ways and rhythms, the place where you can be more yourself than you can be anywhere else.”

That was my grandma’s house. No matter what calamities were occurring in the world or what stresses we faced in our personal spheres, time spent at Grandma’s was restorative, a reminder that structure and comfort will always exist because they can be created with readily abundant supplies: diligence and love. She made homemaking a practice. A practice she worked at every day, creating—and keeping—a warm, inviting home for us, her small society of family she loved so dearly. A home and hub that for decades structured our lives, brought us happiness, and from which multiple generations would make our way in the world.

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In her last years, Grandma lived in an senior apartment that offered some care assistance. Her apartment, with its kitchenette and small living room, was still a home in the sense that she could receive guests. They could gather at her table or sit around the TV. Toward the end, however, we had to move Grandma to a nursing home, which was little more than a glorified hospital room, short on both privacy and space for visitors. Although she would be in the nursing home less than three months, moving her there more than anything signaled the beginning of the end. Not only was she facing the physical decline of her body, she was also losing her role, her place in life as homemaker and hostess.

And then the pneumonia set in. Her body had little defense against illness and it began to shut down. We — my mother, aunt, and a few other close family members — braced ourselves. We contacted hospice. We had been here before. In the early 2000s, we gathered at the deathbed of first my great uncle and then my grandfather. We thought we knew what to expect.

But where my uncle and grandfather went more or less “gentle into that good night,” my grandma resisted. For several days, she writhed in an agitated, restless state. She kept trying to sit upright, though lacked the strength to do so. We wrung our hands in despair.

She’ll wear herself out completely, we said. We had to take turns, relieving one another of the harrowing vigil because of the difficulty of watching her and feeling completely helpless. It will be ok, we said. The nurse will come soon with more medicine, we said.

Yet we could not soothe her. We knew our words were feeble; we knew that we could not make them strong merely through force of repetition. But we didn’t know what else to do.

So we repeated ourselves, again and again. Mother, it’s ok, we said. Lie back down, Helen. Let go. It’s ok, Helen.

We love you, Grandma.

Did she hear us? We couldn’t tell. Her distressed mind slipped into the Finn of her girlhood. She pleaded with people who were none of us. At times, the hovering people must be speaking, for Grandma would suddenly be still, listening. Who were they? Her long-lost parents? Her revered older brother, the exceptionally smart one who had been the family pride? Surely he would know what to do, how to help her.

Then she would moan and wail again, a stream of vowels and gurgling consonants, erupting from deep recesses within. She would push her frail body forward, away from the pillows. Where in life she sailed calmly like a mother duck on placid waters, in dying, she clawed her way along a rocky path, brambled, always into the head winds.

Was she fighting against death in pure terror, or was she pleading for it to take her faster? Perhaps it was the knowledge that at age 99 she was one of the last of her generation to carry the weight of her home, her life, and all that had been across her thin shoulders.

We’ll never know. Around 9p Monday evening we lost contact with her after a very long weekend. The morphine at last took over. She passed at 11:30p. In many ways, we were relieved. She was finally at peace.

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death-3

Pixabay

It was the hospice nurse who helped me see what Grandma’s life stood for. We talked about her life, her vocation as a homemaker, for she was more than a consummate homemaker, she was the keeper of the well-being of her family. A role she held onto stubbornly, so that even two days before she died, she insisted on knowing the fate of her apartment furniture. My brother told her he had taken it. This was a “loving lie” — as the hospice nurse later called it — because we had actually donated the furniture. Yet we knew Grandma would rest easier if she believed that her table, her bed had stayed in the family. Her shrewd shopper instincts were still intact, though, and much to our surprise, she had asked what moving company we used and how much we paid.

My brother was forced to embellish the little loving lie into a full-blown story (which he did with gusto, I might add!) We have certainly laughed about this incident many times since. It’s a moment that will be cherished amid so many that were emotionally charged and downright painful. Yet it’s also a moment to serve as a reminder of how Grandma kept something very dear for us for 60 years: an inviting, comfortable, loving home. And beyond that, she had given us the resources and the know-how to keep homes for our own families. Her care and dedication has extended outward through the generations.

It was difficult to decide if I should bring my two teenaged kids to the nursing home during Grandma’s final weekend for it was hard to see her in that state. She was no longer the great-grandma who gave them coins from her bingo winnings or who was excited as a little kid when it came time for dessert or opening gifts. I’m proud to say that my kids decided that they should be there, for her sake, and for the family’s sake. I thought that they should be there for their own sake as well. For death is part of the human experience. I think we must respond when we are called upon to bear witness to suffering. We may feel hopeless because we can’t make the pain go away. And ultimately, we can’t stop death. Yet our willingness to simply be there leads us to greater compassion and greater wisdom. We become more fully human.

And sometimes, it is only at the end, that we can fully appreciate a life. Despite her understated ways, Grandma knew how to make her home a living embodiment of her love. May I have the grace and fortitude to keep her legacy going strong and pass it on to my children.

~ Nancy at Practically Wise ~
July 17, 2016

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Purpose

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This post is a part of the series Me in the Middle Invites Guest Bloggers.  An Invitation to share a time in life where you thought you’d never make it through and you did.  A witness of the strength that you never thought you had.

It’s an honor to feature Nancy’s writing.  I encourage you to visit her Blog at ~ Nancy at Practically Wise ~.

~ For guidelines on submitting your inspiring story please go Here ~

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Me in the Middle Introducing Guest Blogger ~ Leanne

the story of how I lost my happiness and how I found it again

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~ MY LEMONY SNICKET MOMENT ~ 

Around the time I turned 50 a Series of Unfortunate Events (to quote Lemony Snicket) took place in my life and the consequence was that my happiness seemed to gradually drain away until it was almost non-existent. I never expected life to be perfect and I wouldn’t say it had ever been calm seas and smooth sailing for any length of time, but those couple of years around my 50th birthday seemed to be intent on sucking the joy right out of me.

 ~ FAMILY DRAMA ~ 

I think it started when my husband was made redundant from his job. Quite confronting at the best of times, but then he decided it was the opportunity he’d been waiting for to become a full-time student – studying externally from home. Not my idea of the bread winning 1950’s husband who was going to support me while I kicked back and finally quit the job I disliked intensely. No, he was immersed in the world of unpaid academia while I went out to earn a crust for us.

This was followed by both our children getting married and settling in the city, two hours from our country home. It was a joy for them and for us – wonderful partners, great jobs, mortgages and all the paraphernalia that goes with “children” in their 20’s……..but also the final severing of the last frayed remains of the apron strings tying us together. As a mother I was pretty much redundant – job finished, boxes ticked, but now what? Any hope of the “Brady Bunch family” was completely blown away.

 ~ WORK DRAMA ~ 

On top of all this, my job was becoming more and more soul sucking – I worked with a couple of narcissists who bounced their drama off each other all day long and there wasn’t an end in sight because I was the sole breadwinner for my ‘student’ husband and myself. So, I was trudging along to work every day (praying to be kind and pleasant) and coming home again, only to turn around and do it all over again day after day after day. On top of that, my boss lost the plot and had a meltdown at my expense one day that completely knocked the stuffing out of me.

 ~ MARRIAGE DRAMA ~ 

The Unfortunate Events crescendo-ed when my husband told me (completely out of the blue, and just after the Big Boss Meltdown episode) that he didn’t think we had anything in common and he didn’t want to be married any more. WHAT?! What do you do with that and where do you go to try and move forward? He thought it might be best if I moved out because I had an income and could afford to rent. WHAT?!! Needless to say, that didn’t happen and after a lot of soul searching, and talking, and crying (by me) we worked our way through and came out the other end and survived.

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All of these events and life situations created a perfect storm in my life and basically my wheels fell off. I was working in a job I hated, supporting a husband who wasn’t sure if he wanted to be married to me, tucked away in the back corner by my kids, hitting middle age with a vengeance and spiraling down faster than I gave it all credit for.

 ~ LIGHT BULB MOMENT ~ 

In the end I took myself off to the doctor because I thought it must be menopause (blame it on the hormones and it can all be fixed). Unfortunately (or fortunately as the case may be) he told me I wasn’t menopausal and asked if there was anything happening in my life to make me weepy and flat? Light bulb moment and a real wake up call as to where to go from there – HRT certainly wasn’t going to fix the situation – so it was up to me!

Suffice it to say, I did a lot of serious thinking and made some major (and minor) changes in my life that turned it around from a happiness score of about “3” I’d graded myself with to a score of around “9” now days. It wasn’t an overnight cure, it wasn’t just one change, it wasn’t me slapping myself over the back of the head and telling myself to pull up my socks. No, it was a Series of Fortunate Events – where I started to figure out who I was without all the old “tags” (mother, wife, faithful friend, work drudge etc), and I started liking the person who was emerging. I’m a work in progress, but I’m thriving now rather than wilting and weeping – what more can you ask for?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to cover some of those changes I’ve made, some of the discoveries I’ve made along the way, and how they turned me around and brought back my Mojo, my happiness, and my self-worth. I hope you’ll stop by and read them and share your thoughts because the journey is only just beginning – there’s so much more ahead!

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This post is a part of the series Me in the Middle Invites Guest Bloggers.  It’s an honor to feature Leanne’s writing.  I encourage you to visit her Blog at Cresting the Hill. (Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the month of July there will be a post in her series ~ 12 Steps to Happiness.)

Hi I’m Leanne, Welcome to my midlife blog ~ Cresting The Hill ~ this is where I share the discoveries I’m making about how great this stage of life is. It’s about building people up, investing in relationships, and trying new things. Lets live with gusto, embrace life, laugh every day, and appreciate the blessings that come our way. I’d love you to read, leave a comment and lets get to know each other – friendship is what it’s all about!

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~ For guidelines on submitting your inspiring story please go Here ~

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Me in the Middle Introducing Guest Blogger ~ Francis

Francis Friendship

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American Flag, Textured, Rough, Harsh

“There are people who are kind, and people who are not kind, among all races and cultures. It was a White man who gave me opportunity so I could realize the American dream.  Our friendship transcended race, and built a positive connection between the races. We can overcome racism through friendship and positive cross-cultural relationships.  “

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I am a lawful immigrant in the United States and on this eve of July 4th 2016, I wish to express my sincere appreciation for being in this country, and my heartfelt gratitude to the white American man (Tom Johnson) who came to my country – Sierra Leone – and befriended me, and who rescued me from bondage and slavery and gave me that opportunity that paved the way for me to arrive and settle at my dreamed destination– — America.

I was inspired to write my new memoir book titled Friendship: A Story of Adventure, Goodwill and Endurance because of the miracles that God has continued to perform in my life since when I was a 15-year- old boy in Sierra Leone. Continue reading

Me in the Middle introducing Guest Blogger ~ Amelia

Letting Go

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“…….. the friend who helped me move a little bit closer to being more than all right.”

A few years ago, I bumped into Simon, who was the ex-boyfriend of my ex-roommate, Felicia, from college. I was caught by surprise and realized belatedly that I was quite unprepared for this accidental meeting. Then again, we generally don’t prepare for accidents, do we?

I reached the top of the stairs, turned the corner and came face-to-face with this person from my distant past. I did a double-take. A first for me, I think. So did he. Then he called out my name as I called out his. I was the first to speak. “Wow, Simon, is it really you?” Simon motioned to the bench against the wall, took my arm and sat us down. Then we just stared at each other. I was dazed. And speechless. This was so unlike me.

“How are you?” We both blurted at the same time. I laughed, “You first.”

“I’m fine. Busy, but fine. I haven’t stopped working since Chinese New Year. And you? I haven’t seen you for years.”

“I’m fine and busy too. I think it’s been almost 6 or 7 years? Could be more? I can’t remember. Anyway, the last I heard, you were on your way to New York?”

“Don’t know where you got that information but I think you mean that my girlfriend was on her way to New York. Not me.”

“Ahhh…my information got mixed up then. Oh, do you still paint?”

“Paint? Nope. Long story there but yeah, I don’t paint anymore, I do art direction now.”

I asked Simon what that entailed and he started explaining. As he did this, I looked at him and remembered one of the last times I ever saw him. We were sitting together, like we were now, on a couch in Alfred’s house. It was Christmas and I didn’t know it then, but it was going to be one of the most significant and startling moments in my life. And Simon, this not-quite-a-friend, was there every step of the way.

CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!

“What’s that sound?” I looked around, trying to pinpoint the source.

“I think it’s coming from inside your glass…” Simon told me.

“From my glass? It’s just the ice,” I replied.

CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!

“Look, there’s something inside the ice…” he insisted.

“No! There isn’t!” I swatted his arm.

“I’m serious, look! It’s shiny!” Simon elbowed me with his knobbly elbows. Later, I was going to complain to Felicia that her boyfriend manhandled me.

I gave in to his insistence and tipped the glass that Aaron, who was my significant other then, had given me, so that Simon and I could peer into it. I couldn’t see anything at first. Just that one ice cube. Then I saw it, silver, not a complete band but the kind that had a gap so that you could adjust it for small fingers like mine. I almost swallowed a ring! I fished it out and stared at it encased in ice. Simon was staring at it too. I looked up, and saw an audience had gathered around us and they were all looking at me with knowing smiles on their faces. Aaron was leaning against the doorway to the kitchen and he said with what sounded like relief in his voice, “Finally, thought you were going to swallow it and all my efforts would have gone to waste. Why don’t you put it on?”

“So, how is everyone?” Simon was asking me a question. I came back to myself and decided to delay answering and replied instead with a question too. “Who do you mean by everyone?” Classic evasion tactic.

“Oh, now I have to define everyone?” he asked, curious.

“Yup, things are like that now.” That should give him a hint.

“Well, what are May Leen and Felicia up to now?” I could see that he thought that this would be an easy question for me and that I’d ramble on and on about our antics together. We were after all, nearly inseparable years ago.

“Sorry, I don’t know. I’m no longer in touch with them, it’s been several years.”

I saw Shock creep into his eyes. I had seen it so many times before when I get asked this question that I’d become immune to it already. Sometimes, I wonder if May Leen and Felicia are tired of answering it too and of seeing the Shock displayed in other people’s faces. On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe they don’t get asked about me as much as I get asked about them.

“How come? What happened?” Yep, Simon couldn’t believe it. I gave my best imitation of a contented smile (I hoped) and repeated my stock answer, “We’d need to have a looong dinner for me to answer that.” Nothing like avoiding the question by making promises to answer it at the next meeting and then conveniently, accidentally on-purpose forget to answer it then as well.

“Oh, it’s like that. Ok. So, what about Aaron? How are you guys?” I expected this question too. Inevitable. I took a deep breath and said in the breeziest, couldn’t-care-less tone I could muster, “You know what? I really don’t know, I’m afraid we’ve lost touch too.”

That really got him. He must’ve thought that after the first question, this would’ve been a no-brainer as well. Great. I’ve managed to shock the most laid back guy I know. He was aghast. I think this is the first time I’d seen him aghast and I felt really bad to be the one to put that expression on his face.

“Huh???!!! What HAPPENED?” I could hear the capital letters in his question. He was getting up close to me in his disbelief. But I definitely wasn’t getting into the mechanics of it now so I said, “I’m afraid that will also take a looong dinner to answer. Or maybe 5 loooong dinners.”

“Wow, it’s been a long time yeah?” More of an observation regarding how much had changed than a question requiring an answer. So, I left it between us, unanswered.

After that uncomfortable line of questioning, we spent the next few minutes filling in one another on the last couple of years. I found out that he’d gone mainstream, he was no longer the long-haired, devil-may-care, anti-establishment painter/sculptor I was introduced to 10 years ago. Now, he talks about being commercial and how that will get his message across. When I prodded him about why he’d put aside his paintbrushes, he enigmatically replied, “That will also take another loooong dinner.” I looked into his eyes, and knew that somehow THAT story would include what transpired between him and Felicia.

After most of the stories that didn’t require a separate long dinner had been exchanged, we got up from the bench we were hogging and began to say our goodbyes, promising to meet when his project commitments were completed. At that point, I wondered if I was really serious about getting together with him and exchanging the tales that we had promised to exchange? I didn’t know. Simon was quite intricately woven into so many significant moments of my past. He was also a connection to some of the people that I used to care a lot about, and seeing and chatting with him that day, left me with feelings of melancholy and confusion.

Perhaps this accidental meeting was my closure and that I didn’t need to meet him again to rehash what was and what will always be the not-so-great past. Perhaps sitting there on a bench outside IKEA, talking with someone who knew me from the past was enough to leave the past right where it’s supposed to be.

I stood there seeing him walk away and I also felt a sense of calmness. I knew he wasn’t going to call me about having dinner like he said he would and I knew I wasn’t going to call him to remind him about it. And you know what? I was perfectly okay with that. Ultimately, Simon, the friend who wasn’t quite a friend, was the friend who helped me move a little bit closer to being more than all right.

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This post is a part of the series Me in the Middle Invites Guest Bloggers.  It’s an honor to feature Amelia’s writing.  I encourage you to visit her Blog at Words from Sonobe.

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~ For guidelines on submitting your inspiring story please go Here ~

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