The Perfect Parent Lives in Timbuktu (and is likely a Sasquatch!)

I haven’t met the perfect parent. It’s not me. It’s likely not you either.
But that’s ok. Children are born of love, not perfection.

Still, sometimes we wonder if there is a scientific formula for being the perfect parent, a special combination of elements that will help us get it just right.

Our society encourages this; we are told we must have the right economic, educational, medical, emotional, and intellectual circumstances to responsibly have a child. It seems a very dangerous and risky business, and one must be perfectly prepared.

Sometimes people wait their whole lives to be perfectly ready. Baby room painted just so. Millions in the bank. 800 parenting books read. Relationship so stable it makes mountains look wispy and wobbly. Health just so, taking the right 60 vitamins, and doing yoga 10 hours a day.

What happened to something that used to be so natural? A creative overflow of love? Isn’t the sincere love between parents already giving your child a lot, especially in today’s world?

But our fear of being imperfect parents in an imperfect world really paralyzes us so much as a society. We fear traumatizing our kids and are haunted of visions of their future therapist’s couch before they even leave their cradle.

We are told we better consult the experts constantly, because we as “mere parents” (just rabbits really) know nothing. I don’t think all this fear is actually making us better parents, just less confident and optimistic ones.

If we risk having one, we think we shouldn’t have another, because we’re not perfect yet. The funny thing is though, that having another child helps us to grow better, more mature, relaxed and confident, and therefore helps our first child, too. Experience is a good teacher.

So please don’t let fear of your imperfection stop you from loving; that would be a terrible tragedy. None of us had perfect parents, but we’re still glad to be here, in this messy, imperfect, absurdly beautiful world.

While I haven’t met perfect parents, I have met perfect babies.
Actually many of them.
More specifically, ALL of them.
Each baby is perfect.
A perfect gift, a perfect miracle, a perfect parcel of love.
Each one makes the world more beautiful. That means you, too.

Siblings help each other to grow as well, precisely through their imperfection, their foibles and stubborn streaks; experiencing all this children learn, in a context of love, how to get along with, embrace and accept others.

If we are teaching our kids to love, to care for others and help them when they are down, we are doing a lot toward making the world a better place.

My kids can squabble as much as the next ones, but I was happy to see my older girls stepping up and caring for the younger ones this week when they weren’t feeling well. Here’s a picture of my 5 year old reading bedtime stories to her little sister. Without being asked. That made me really happy.

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So stop worrying about being perfect, unless you want to go live with the Sasquatch, who can maybe give you some pointers.

Personally, I think what you need as a parent is love, commitment, and a willingness to adapt and grow, because as much as parenting will make your children grow, it’ll make you grow more.

Happy trails! And may you be abundantly blessed in love.

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Yippee: Debt Free

This Valentine’s my husband gave me a wonderful, unexpected gift. He paid off my last, our last, student loan. Six substantial loans gone…debt free!

After 4 years of living in a one-bedroom apartment with the kids to save money, 8 years of taking the bus because we couldn’t afford a car, cutting my own hair to save the money, 8 years of handing over every extra cent to pay them off, every tax refund, every little windfall, we finally did it. Paid off a massive amount of student loan debt on one modest income, and now we are free!

It is a wonderful gift. My husband works so hard and sacrifices so much for us. I am truly grateful.

So, you ask, what did you get him for Valentine’s?

Well, a sandwich.

What?!

I tried to make it the yummiest one I could: tomato bocconcini with fresh spinach leaves, homemade olive oil and balsamic dressing, full of basil, oregano and garlic…roasted in the oven, with juicy purple olives on the side…but yes, a sandwich.

And a card I coloured with my three year old:

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It doesn’t really compare does it? To thousands of dollars? But you know, we each gave our gifts with love, and we’re both happy.

It’s not a competition, and besides, I am happy to be outdone by him. Happy to be forever indebted to him, who has given me so much. I don’t mind needing him.

After watching a sweet romantic comedy called “Just Like Heaven,” I listened to him falling asleep, breathing slowly and holding my hand. Our fingers were squeezed together until I couldn’t tell if the faint “ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum” I felt between my them was my pulse or his.

Being vulnerable and needing each other, each on our own ways, helps us stay close. And isn’t that what Valentine’s is all about?

Birthday Soup

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This is my handsome husband. It’s his birthday today, but here are some pictures from when he recently took me out for mine. He’s grinning rather mischievously because he has taken me out to a Malaysian restaurant and has ordered among many yummy things, clam soup. Like in-the-shell-steaming-bucket-of-beach-water-and-assorted-refuse clam soup. For wimpy, picky me.
Ugh.

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Of course the romantic has to share everything, so no escape for me. “Drink the broth out of the shell,” says my gourmand, “It’s delicious that way.”

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He gives me a demonstration and beams. I wrinkle my nose, screw up my courage and slurp. Salty….

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It’s actually not that bad. Except in my head. But then my mouth is in my head, so hard to tell the difference sometimes. The little clams taste like button mushrooms, instead of squishy aliens, so that’s good. Daddy and baby are proud of me.

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My sweet other half just likes to make sure life stays a bit of an adventure, like on our first big date, when we went for Ethiopian food and ate with our hands.

So have any siblings?

Slurp. Lick. Lick.

A sister, and yourself?

Stuffing spongy injera bread sopping with curries in his mouth.

Three brothers, actually.

Dip. Stuff. Lick.

You get the idea. Delicious, though. Who knew?

Anyway, I love how he likes to try new things, how he gets excited and passionate about stuff, how he has 50 rants I know by heart, how he likes to share everything (except maybe his Starbucks drink), how he’s totally honest but also affectionate and sweet. He’s helped me grow so much, and at the same time, to remain young at heart.

Here’s a little selfie of us from Christmas:

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So to my husband, a very happy birthday, and to all of you,
I wish you all as much joy and fun in your marriages as I have in mine!

Live Free: Smash your Fears

The wise Aristotle once said,

He who has overcome his fears will be truly free.

Today I want to share an amazing true story with you. It’s the story of a woman who was expected to die, but lived instead. Her name is Heather.

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Her husband Cameron shared her story with me:

Eight years ago, my wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer that kills most people within 2 years of diagnosis. She had just given birth to our daughter Lily, and was only given 15 months to live. After a life saving surgery that included the removal of her left lung, LungLeavin’ Day was born. On February 2nd, we celebrated 8 years of Heather being cancer free.

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The purpose of LungLeavin’ Day is to encourage others to face their fears! Each year, we gather around a fire in our backyard with our friends and family, write our biggest fears on a plate and smash them into the fire. We celebrate for those who are no longer with us, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, we celebrate life!

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Marcus Aurelius wrote long ago in his Meditations,

It is not death that man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

Heather wants to encourage all of us to truly live. To see life as a great gift and a joyful adventure, rather than something to be feared.

So what is it that you fear most? Rejection? Loneliness? Failure? Weakness? Poverty? Suffering?

Or perhaps responsibility, commitment or even success? What fear is holding you back?

Can you imagine if an eagle chose to sit in a cage because it was afraid of heights? It would never experience that glorious feeling of flying!

We are made for greatness, made for happiness, made for love. Sometimes these things scare us so we hide behind bars of fear we mistake for control. We convince ourselves to be stoic, to remain steady and unattached, to not get sucked into life lest it involve suffering.

But this is not freedom. This is not truly living.

Life is so much more of a beautiful adventure when we let go. Our real stories are more amazing than the ones we would write for ourselves; it’s the struggle and the suffering that makes the other moments so precious.

So what fear would you like to smash? What small step can you take today to face your fear and win your freedom?

It’s said that sometimes we fear what we desire most…

Since I was a teenager, I’ve had great desire to write, but I used to be so afraid of people reading my work. It was too painful. One great step to overcoming my fear was starting this blog. It was really hard to press publish that very first post. I literally had to force myself.

But what I feared as a source of rejection and failure has turned out to be a source of joy, encouragement, and liberation. I am more inspired and write more easily than ever before, because I gave myself permission to smash my fear and live. I feel part of a community and can rejoice in the successes of my fellow writers, because I too am pursuing my dream.

Sometimes if we ask for miracles, they really do happen, many little ones all the time, and sometimes big ones too. Our job is to be grateful and enjoy them!

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Please visit Heather’s page for more of her story and links to more info:
http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday/

Husbandly Awesomeness

This morning my husband did something so awesome. It was just a little thing, but it totally made my day. He was getting his shoes on for work, preparing to head off to another long day at the office. I was so excited to tell him, after having checked the stats on my blog that morning, that 8 people in Australia had read my blog that morning, and 1 in New Zealand, and well as a bunch here in Canada.

Looking around my rather exploding kitchen self-consiously, I began to backtrack before he had a chance to respond.

“Not that I’m just sitting around blogging all day…I’ve just been posting brief things lately, a little picture with a paragraph or so…”

My husband is really a tidy person, so he could have said, “Good thing, honey, cause this kitchen could use some work, and I wish you’d focus more on the house.” And it wouldn’t have been unreasonable. But he didn’t.

Instead he said, “That’s fine, but be careful you don’t lose followers who like your longer stuff, the ones who read it for your poems and writing. Don’t make it just a Facebook #lol, ;).”

In other words, take the time you need to write. To do your art. To be you.
Cause you’re more important than the house.

If I was a cartoon, little hearts with wings would have come flying out of me and stuck all over him.
I can’t really think of anything more romantic for him to have said!

I brought it up a few nights later to thank him again for understanding me so well, and for being such a good friend, and to say that I really do want to work on having a tidier house so it’s more peaceful for him. Remember that I mentioned he really likes things organized and clean, kind of minimalist, and somehow ended up falling in love with me, a bit of a scatterbrained clutter-bug.

Then he outdid himself again. He hugged me and said, “I’d rather have a messy house and a blog than a clean house and no blog.”

Fireworks! Applause!

It’s another reason why after 8 years of marriage, and 13 together, I’m still head over heels for my husband.

What’s your best husband story? Something little he did that just made your day…Please share your latest incident of husbandly awesomeness!

Have you told him how much it meant to you? Since I told mine about this he has been so affectionate…

Here’s me with my sweetie when we were first dating. Lucky me.

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