As a new mum, I quickly realised that I wasn’t capable of meeting my baby’s needs, staying alive/sane myself, and having a clean house and the garden the way I would like it. I’m not sure if that’s just me or if it was my baby (eventually three babies) or the way I chose to parent, but it was that simple. I made the only choice I thought I had: the mess ruled, and still does, the babies and I came/come first.
It cost me people: after my anti-natal coffee-group had been around on one particularly messy occasion, I had several in that group who never returned; I had someone close to me, on more than one occasion tell me she couldn’t live this (with dramatic gesture) way, and my ex-father-in-law was postively rude every time he walked in the door.
I care. I cared. It upset me. I like things to be clean and orderly, I’d love my garden to be gorgeous with trimmed lawns. I’d like it done and it drives me nuts that in my otherwise very well organised life, I can’t pull it all off. I’m not sure how others can. How do you?
Now the boys are older (15, 12 & 7.5 – don’t forget the half), and I’m a solo-mum. I work full-time equivalent between two jobs, and the kids and I still come as first as we can. The boys contribute to getting things done and daily/weekly I do the basics like loo and washing, but still outside and inside usually look like a tribe of elephants has been through. I still get people calling in and casting an eye and giving me the frosty-nostril – to the point I’ve never really had visitors come to the house for over two years.
I have lovely friends, and the vast majority would visit me and not my house, but that sense of not being enough remains constant. I rarely even have my parents around for a meal and I’m always watching people’s reactions as they walk in the door. I’m conscious of not meeting some ridiculous standard of perfection. All. The. Time.
I also have no inclination to exercise beyond the incidental 10,000 steps I do each day; none of us is fit – but apparently that’s a capital offense too.
And, there’s the new issue of having been separated for over two years of – why are you still single, have you met anyone yet, time to get online dating, he’s got a new girlfriend, why haven’t you…
And dammit,this all bugs me. I’m 49 years old and pretty damned happy with the way my life is panning out, the boys are well-adjusted and make me very proud (mostly because, kids), I love my work and I have great friends and enough of a social life to keep me feeling part of the world. But these things still get to me: why isn’t my house cleaner and tidier; why isn’t my garden looking pristine; why aren’t we all fit and gorgeous; why can’t I really be bothered to be out looking for a new partner?
And why do I care what other people think?
My daughters and I recently started watching a new Netflix series called “The Kindness Diaries”. This documentary-style series follows a man, Leon, who travels around the world simply relying on the kindness of strangers. And, he finds kindness in the most desperate of circumstances. Families who can barely feed their children, provide him with food and shelter. Homeless men living on the streets, share their space and offer him the clothes off their backs. Time and time again, it is those with the least (financially) in life, who offer Leon the most. And they offer kindness entirely out of the goodness of their hearts, without any expectation of repayment.
Today, my girls and I visited a beautiful family, new to Canada. They fled Syria and then Lebanon, and arrived in Canada less than one year ago. They showed us pictures of their life in Lebanon. Beirut was flourishing, beautiful and peaceful…and their pictures showed the young family loving life. We had never met, but they welcomed us with wide open arms, into their home, and provided us with a beautiful and delicious meal. Despite the significant language barrier, we learned Arabic and experienced parts of their rich culture. The kindness they showed us was so touching. And this young family has been through so much, in fact, more than most of us could likely endure. Despite it all, their kindness was overflowing.
As we hugged and left, we were in awe of their resilience, but most of all, we were inspired by their kindness. And what we all learned, is that kindness is free and is the most valuable gift one human can give to another. If we all showed just a little bit more kindness towards each other, despite our differences, what would the world look like? What we experienced today, and what is featured on the Kindness Diaries, shows us that kindness can prevail and kindness can change the world.
So, thank you to the wonderful Helal family who showed my family kindness today. Thank you to the families in Tanzania, who have so little, but insisted on giving me gifts of eggs and soda when I visited them. Thank you to the man in Nicaragua who saw me ill and shared his only bottle of water with me at the end of a volcano hike. Thank you to Leon Logothetis for showing us all that kindness is powerful and abundant, in a world so shaken with instability and cruelty.
Your kindness matters!
Share with us an experience you are reminded of, after reading this post. Please let us know through the comments.
April 29th will mark President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office.
As a foreigner, I have watched the news feeling extremely grateful that I gained American citizenship during the last administration. As a foreigner who looks of ambiguous origin and definitely not of any Caucasian descent, I wonder if I will ever be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the mother of three children who mostly look African American, I wonder how their lives will be here in their own country. As the mother of one of my children whose last name is Arabic, and who could pass for Arab or Indian, I wonder if she would be red-flagged during travel. As an American citizen, I wonder where we are headed for, and to be honest, I feel like the magnitude of the situation is beyond our spectrum of understanding.
I do not tend to get into politics very often. I do my best to look at the character of the candidate before voting, without paying attention to the party she, or he, belongs to. However, this time the outcome of the presidential race was quite different than what most people expected, and so far President Trump has been in the news so much that even small children know his name, and some have not yet spoken or been too aware of the name ‘Obama’. It’s remarkably impressive.
With President Trump in office, it feels necessary to stay up to date with news of his actions, because one does not know what extreme thing will have happened between one day and the next.
A number of decisions that President Trump has made, ensure that some of us sit at the edge of our seats, or walk around the living room in circles with our hands on our hands, wondering if this is all an episode from the twilight zone.
If I may be honest, I really held, and in a smaller fraction still hold, hope for President Trump to be a great president. Why? Because he is not a politician, and being a politician is not a constitutional requirement to be a US President. When he was elected I thought that here is a person, specifically a white male in America who has money (so he won’t have to pay as much attention to lobbying influence), who sounds bold enough to make decisions that could cause some serious good change! A person who is a bit eccentric in his own ways, but that is not a bad thing. A person who gained the love of many Americans by showing them love and value. I felt that maybe his rhetoric was more on the side of … wrong, but that he actually will make things right, or improve upon what President Obama’s administration built.
However, with changes on the government’s take on climate change, health, internet privacy , immigration, travel from certain countries; but really the reasons behind the Travel Ban, separating the United States from Mexico, despite environmental issues that will arise (not discussing separation or blocking of people from entering the country), issues to do with Natives/First Nations and the bit of land over which they have sovereignty, I am no longer an idealist about what is going to happen.
(One can see a list of things President Trump has worked on as of January 30, 2017, by clicking here).
I wonder about the relationship between Americans of various ethnic backgrounds now that we are under this new presidency.
I personally know two people (one a child) who was insulted based on race, the day after President Trump was named president-elect.
I wonder how much the choices, that President Trump is making will impact American soil and the planet at large.
Planet Earth will always take care of herself, but I feel in her doing so, we may not fare that well.
So now, 27 days away from President Trump’s first 100 days, all I can think to do is pray. Sincerely pray for him every single day. I admit it sounds cliche, but I think it can only be so if it is not meant. I do not intend to hold prayer meetings for him, or ardently and with much effort be in prayer for him. I just mean, that every single day, I want to suggest to this amazing universe to put the thought in President Trump’s heart to make the right decision. Maybe it sounds like I care more about this president than others, but I really don’t. I do care about how they all make decisions. I just feel that as being one of the major players in how the world works, it is imperative that we all make a daily, prayerful suggestion that President Trump make the right decisions.
Have you faced similar feelings about the new president in your country?
Do you have any fears or concerns with regards to President Trump’s actions thus far?
Do you feel he can do a great job in leading this country and as a global team player?
Photo Credit: Flickr
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Clark, an amazing woman who organized an initiative called Project Love around the holidays. Driving through the valley in which she lives, Melissa spotted a campfire from a homeless enclave. Seeing folks struggling to stay warm on such a cold winter day moved Melissa in a very personal way. You see, not too long ago, Melissa herself was homeless and struggling with substance abuse.
I connected with Melissa through her current home, Acres of Diamonds , in Duvall, Washington, USA. AOD is a faith-based non-profit that provides housing, life coaching, and a variety of support services to homeless women and their children affected by domestic abuse, substance abuse, and mental health problems. AOD provides more than just temporary shelter. The residents at AOD join a program to break the cycles that keep them from self-sufficiency.
The goal for the residents is to achieve complete independence via graduating out of the residence and supporting themselves and their children on their own while making meaningful contributions to society.
At the time of our talk, Melissa had been at AOD and sober for 9 months. Her 7-year-old son was living with her, and she found employment at a local pizza shop. Melissa shared that she finally feels safe, secure, and loved. When she saw that homeless person’s campfire on her drive home, though, she remembered a different time in her life. The cold, the helplessness, and the spiritual battles all came to mind, and she felt God spoke to her heart in that moment to take action. But before she put plans in motion, she thought it best to honor the individuals she was trying to help by figuring out just what they needed. She and a friend visited some of the homeless folks in the community, invited them to lunch at McDonald’s, and asked them directly what they could use.
From there, the two friends put together a PowerPoint presentation for their church and pitched the idea to create care packages to deliver to the local homeless population. These efforts, titled Project Love, in partnership with an event at a local gym, resulted in huge numbers of clothing, toiletries, coats, sleeping bags, and other essentials getting directly into the hands of those forgotten members of the community.
Furthermore, Melissa, along with her son and an escort for safety, delivered packages to the homeless on Christmas Eve. Since then, she has also secured a standing gift card at the local bike shop for any homeless persons who come in needing repairs and provided a pair of insulated boots to a homeless veteran, who thanked her with tears in his eyes. She hopes to organize donation drives at least twice per year.
Melissa feels it is her ministry to show love and understanding without judgement to the homeless. Her goal is to let these people know that she sees their humanity by taking the time to listen to their stories and helping them get what they need to make it through the seasons. She views it as her duty to share the love and security she has received with others still struggling to break the cycle of homelessness. Whether she gets a person a warm meal or gifts them new gloves, she plans to keep taking steps to lift up those around her.
Talking with Melissa inspired me. I admire her ability to celebrate her own milestones while not placing value judgements on those still farther back on the path.
I admire the example she is setting for her son on overcoming obstacles to build a better future for oneself while still showing compassion for others. And I admire her willingness to look another human being in the eye and ask, “Are you ok? What can I do to help?” We live in such contentious times right now in America. People are struggling to find common ground, and they are lashing out at each other daily. Hearing Melissa’s story reminded me how simple gestures towards those around us make a huge impact and prompted me to consider what more I can be doing to help people in my community.
Melissa’s journey to sobriety and self-sufficiency is a testament to her strength, but her generosity shows her outstanding character. It’s not about how much you have, but how much you are willing to give to help those around you. And sometimes paying it forward doesn’t have to cost a thing. After all, love is free.
Who inspires you in your community?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Picture used with the permission of Melissa Clark.
In my home country of Brazil, the Zika virus has been on the minds of pregnant mothers. As a matter of fact, I’ve even had the virus myself. Zika is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, and more recently, there has been evidence that it can be transmitted sexually or from mother to child during pregnancy. Authorities believe the virus entered Brazil during the FIFA World Cup soccer games in 2014, setting off the outbreak in Latin America. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, almost 200,000 probable cases occurred from January to mid-August in 2016. 51,7% of these cases were confirmed.
At a first glance, the symptoms are not all that frightening: rashes, fever, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headaches that go away after a few days without hospitalization. When I had the fever (I wasn’t pregnant at the time) it was uncomfortable, and I had painful headaches. However, it was over in just three days, without any special treatment. 80% of people infected with Zika don’t develop any symptoms at all, thus a large number of cases go unreported. Pregnant women are at the greatest risk from Zika due to the effects it can have on their unborn babies, such as microcephaly, a birth defect in which the baby’s head is smaller than normal.
Danielle Paes Leme, a lawyer from the state of Pernambuco, discovered that she was pregnant in the midst of the Zika crisis.
“When I first found out I was pregnant it was tough. Several of my friends were getting sick and I felt the disease getting closer and closer. For a while I felt quite tense thinking that I might catch Zika and that my baby would suffer the consequences for the rest of his life. I couldn’t sleep, I cried all the time, I had nightmares and I even thought of moving to another state”.
Nevertheless, Danielle reports that after the first trimester she began to feel calmer. “I tried not to let fear affect me as much. I did what I could to protect myself and I no longer thought of moving. For those who are pregnant I would say to be optimistic and believe that everything will turn out fine – and to try to enjoy pregnancy overall”.
According to a recent publication of the Brazilian Ministry of Health, thirteen lines of action are being carried out to combat Zika and other diseases spread by the Aedes mosquito, including the distribution of diagnosis kits, meetings with specialists and government officials, improvements to diagnosis and case reporting, and increased funds for research. There has also been a massive effort to educate the population and eliminate the mosquito, which breeds in still or stagnant water. For example, 220,000 troops and 270,000 health workers are visiting homes throughout my country in search of possible breeding grounds.
Additionally, pregnant women in Brazil have been instructed to wear long clothes, use safe insect repellent, and seek out proper pre-natal care. It has also been recommended that pregnant women planning to travel to Latin America reconsider their trip.
“My sincere hope”, says Danielle, “is that this disease does not spread to other places. However, if it does, people must be educated on how fighting the Aedes mosquito is everyone’s responsibility”.
The increased risk of microcephaly from a possible link to the rampant Zika virus has brought new concerns to Brazilian mothers-to-be, but we are hoping the actions put into place to control the virus will put a stop to the spreading of the disease and protect more babies from birth defects.
Have you done anything differently after first hearing about the Zika virus, such as delaying pregnancy or cancelling travel plans?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Eco Ziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Hamza Butt. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
62,000 people. That is the estimated number of Haitians who are still displaced from the 7.0 earthquake that shook Haiti in January 2010; a heartbreaking disaster that claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced as many as 3 million people.
Elouse’s four cousins
….this is only 1% of the 900 people who lost their lives in Haiti to Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
900 lives…fathers, mothers, teachers, grandmas, little brothers, babies…lost in the waters of a sea that came on land and washed it out. A land crushed under debris created by a 145mph wind that knocked down concrete walls and tore down palm trees as if they were saplings just transplanted from a kindergarten classroom the day before.
To say that we feel for our sisters and brothers in Haiti is an understatement. My heart is heavy and it wants to scream because although it believes that we, together, will make things better, it is hard to see the road ahead when there is such a harsh wind blowing in one’s face.
To look at the state of Haiti now, with the lack of food and access, and the abundance of poverty, one may not remember how powerful a nation Haiti actually is.
In the 18th century, Toussaint-Louverture, Henri Christophe and Dessalines revolted in an effective guerilla war against the French colony. All three had been enslaved: they successfully ended slavery and regained freedom for the nation. They did this in 1791 against the French, in 1801 against the Spanish conquest, and in 1802 against an invasion ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte. They renamed Saint-Dominique after its original Arawak name, Haiti, which became the second independent nation in the Americas.
Such history should not go unnoticed because it is a significant example of the perseverance, love, and determination that courses through the veins of Haitians.
If I could say anything to my sisters and brothers in Haiti right now, if I could speak at all, I would say this:
“In the midst of the chaos; the heartbreak; the loss of life; the search for lives; the feeling that rebuilding will simply take too much energy…again; the pain; the tears that will run dry; the anguish, and all the feelings that weigh down your soul and may make you doubt your abilities, please remember who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you are capable of doing. You do not stand alone, because we stand with you. You do not sit alone, you do not swim alone, you do not cry alone, you do not hug your loved ones alone, you do not cry alone.
You do not cry alone, and you will not rebuild alone.
We are with you.
We are with you and we will laugh together again and you will see that we can get out of this. Please believe with me. I know it’s hard right now, and I do not pretend to understand what you’re going through, but please believe with me”.
To anyone who would like to assist, you may consider contacting any and all of these organizations:
Food For The Poor
Save the Children
Please remember that there is also a cholera outbreak because of lack of clean water, and it is also claiming lives. Help is needed most urgently! Please lets do what we can.
My heart goes out to everyone affected by this hurricane, not only in Haiti but in neighboring countries including the southern US states. Sending you all love and happiness in the hopes that you keep believing and looking forward to another sunrise.
Have you ever been directly affected by a devastating storm? What would you say to those who are trying to rebuild their lives?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia at ThinkSayBe. Photo credit: Ricardo’s Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.