Taking the “Chinese” Out Of Parenting

So … don’t you hate it when someone speaks the truth in love to you? 😉 Especially when said truth is kinda true? Yup, well, I had one of these moments recently when hubby said, “You sounded kind of harsh when you were talking to E. Like a Chinese parent.”

Argh. Okay, let me back up and explain the scenario. We were at Lowe’s looking at outdoor patio-type chairs. One of our family’s favorite pastimes is sitting on our front porch together eating snacks while playing Plants vs. Zombies 2, watching the hummingbirds come eat at our feeder, and meowing at stray cats.

Here’s our newest feline friend. 🙂

To do so though requires us to drag 4 of our dining room chairs outside, which then get left in the living room when we’re done, unintentionally creating an obstacle course. That’s why I had the brilliant idea of buying either a bench or foldable chairs for us to use outside. But as any parent knows, most kiddos don’t have the same definition of “brilliant” as their parents. So, there we were at Lowe’s browsing around when 5 minutes in, E started saying he was bored and could we leave, like 5 minutes ago? To which I replied in a frustrated tone, “There are times in life when you have to do things you don’t want to do. How are you going to survive if you’re not patient?”

E’s response? He flopped down in a chair and said, “I won’t! It’s okay if I don’t!”

Dramatic, much? 😉

Okay. So, maybe hubby was right. I did kinda have a “tiger mom” moment there. In hindsight, I realized I was playing the wrong hand or choosing the wrong strategy, however you’d like to call it. Instead, I should’ve said something that appealed to E’s relational nature, such as “I know you don’t want to be here, but it makes me very happy to see you trying to be patient. We’ll be done in ten minutes” and topped it off with a side hug (’cause kissing a 10-year old in public is not allowed!). I’m sure that would have been more effective, don’t you?

Sigh. So, lesson learned. Even though I am Chinese, I’m going to try to take the “Chinese” out of my parenting. That means saying no to being prickly, growly, and mean. And saying yes to being gracious, kind, and long-suffering (emphasis on the long!). 🙂

I’ve been obsessed with the singing group Voctave and their covers of songs. This one, “You Have More Friends Than You Know”, is just beautiful … except that there was one part that confused me until today. It’s the phrase, “Those who love you the most may need more time to grow”. I think that sums up my role as a parent perfectly. I do love my munchkins oh-so much, but I still have so much more growing to do as their mama. I don’t think I’ll ever be done growing this side of heaven, but I’m thankful God is not done with me yet.

What ways do you still need to grow?

Giving Thanks with a Grumbling and Grateful Heart

Back in college, my roomie/best bud had a cool idea to write down one thing we were thankful for each day. Keep in mind, this was in the dark ages of the mid-90s, so there were no online articles touting the health benefits of gratitude or gratitude apps (I randomly did a Google search and actually found one!) to inspire her. Nope, she thought of it all on her own. 🙂

I wish I had kept the journal I used for the exercise so I could remember what I had recorded, but I’m guessing it was pretty ordinary stuff.

Monday – Good friends

Tuesday – Passed a test/finished a paper

Wednesday – Good church

Thursday – Food (even dorm food)

Friday/Saturday/Sunday – repeat, repeat, repeat

As a college kid I had a pretty easy life; my parents paid for all my expenses and my only “job” was to study and pass my classes (and have some fun in between). I don’t remember it being too hard for me to be thankful on a daily basis.

Now enter real life (AKA adulthood). My life two decades later is pretty different from my college days. There are a lot more responsibilities to handle, more challenges to face, and let’s be honest, more complaints to list. Those days of jotting down a reason to be thankful every day are long gone, along with my youthful optimism and energy. Instead, I often find myself giving thanks out of guilt and through gritted teeth, like when I saw this image on Facebook this week:

Grateful

Now I’m sure the mom who put this list together truly is grateful for her life. When I read the list, I was even encouraged to be thankful for all those things. But I’ll admit, I groaned a little, too (okay, a lot). 😉

It’s not that I’m not thankful. I’m constantly in awe of how gracious God is to me and my family. But maybe once in a while, I want to acknowledge the struggles of life, even – and especially – the small ones, instead of glossing over them. I want to admit I have a hard time keeping the house clean. I don’t like doing the mundane tasks of changing the sheets or vacuuming or cooking. I struggle every day with being patient and loving toward the kids. I feel and look tired when I go to bed and often times when I wake up in the morning. And I suspect life only gets busier and more challenging the older I get.

Groan, groan, groan. Mutter, mutter, mutter.

Ahh… okay, now that I’m done acknowledging all the hard stuff, I feel more authentic and a lot less like I’m lying to myself. 😉 Ironically enough, I can understand the image above better. When I first saw the equal signs in the phrases, I read them as “but …” in an effort to keep a glass half-full mentality, however, now I see them as “and …” in an effort to be real. And I suppose that’s what the mom who wrote them meant, too.

I’m learning it’s a matter of embracing that life is full of hard stuff and good stuff … all at the same time. It’s not an either/or thing; it’s all-inclusive. It’s about doing the hard work of being responsible and patient, and knowing that your heart and character are being shaped and molded during the process. It’s about persevering through the hard moments, and believing that the more you do, the more mature you’ll become and the fewer complaints you’ll have. Because sometimes a lot of the time, the hard stuff makes us appreciate the good stuff even more than if we only had the good stuff by itself.

So here’s to celebrating Thanksgiving with a grumbling and grateful heart, and thanking God for all the hard and the good stuff.

Here is a beautiful song by Pam Thum, “Life is Hard (God is Good)”. I love the truth of these lyrics: “Sometimes living takes the life out of you, and sometimes living is all you can do.” May this song bring encouragement and comfort to your heart through whatever hard stuff you’re facing today.

What hard stuff do you give thanks for, or hope to give thanks for one day?

Faking it till You Make It (as an Author)

I saw this image on one of my favorite author’s Facebook page this week and had to smile.

Yeah, baby!

Yeah, baby!

I liked how such a successful author like her (we’re talking about the NY Times and USA Today bestseller status) could relate to the struggles of a way lesser-known, indie author like me.

In the four years since I started pursuing a writing “career” (I added quotes around the word career to show you how seriously I take it, haha), I have learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned how fragile my ego is, how much I base my self-confidence on what other people think, and how I do have what it takes to be an author.

Wait a minute, how did that last comment sneak in there? 😉 More importantly, is it true or is it just a lie I tell myself as I tend to my wounded ego?

The thing is, to be a writer (especially a fiction writer), you constantly need to make things real and believable (things you tell your readers and yourself). You create characters and settings and a plot line out of scratch. You add descriptions and dialogue and drama to give flavor and texture to the story. And you top it all off with a happy-ever-after, or some sort of meaningful ending, so the reader feels satisfied and fulfilled until their next meal, I mean, book. 🙂

If you were to condense my short time as a writer into a novel, it would be one of those “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” type of stories. The kind where the soldier rushes off into war with a youthful spirit and all the best intentions, only to emerge from the fight bruised and scarred and weary. But then, thanks to the pep talks of his loved ones, he goes into battle again with renewed hope and a belief that he can do it(!), and he comes out a winner.

Yep, like that soldier, I’ve been beaten down by rejection emails, gotten stuck in the trenches of writer’s doubt and considered giving up. But through the process, I’ve picked up lots of great tips from other writers, tried new techniques and developed literary muscles. And I’ve had to give myself one pep talk after another, talks that include just enough truth to keep me fighting.

Truth such as: “There was a lot good about this book, especially the life and faith lessons, but there were some problems, too. Head hopping was a major issue, because it went back and forth between different points of view so often. So much time was skipped in places it left the reader feeling as if they were missing out on too much of the story. For the first 60% of my kindle edition, there was a lot of thinking and second-guessing but little to no conflict. The tension picked up between 60% and 75% but then fell off again, and everything was resolved. The last part just tied everything up. I did like the book, but it could have been much better with just a little more work.”

That was a review left by a reader of my first book. When I saw it, I took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in my throat. Then I read it again and found myself nodding … because every criticism she gave was true. And because of her honesty (and those of my critique partners and beta readers), I know how to improve and what it takes to be an author.

The journey to becoming a writer is a bit like faking it till you make it. Faking it not by lying to yourself about how good you are, but by being truthful about the areas that could be better. It’s about showing up each day to do the hard work of a writer because that’s what you are. It’s about believing you have it in you to be a regal, strong and impressive white striped tiger, even when all you feel like is a tiny, clumsy kitty.

So, cheers to all of us kitty cats working on growing into big ‘ole tigers. Believe it, own it, and go for it.

I think the perfect song for this post is Katy Perry’s “Roar”, which I’ve shared before, but this time I’m sharing a cover of it by Olivia, a pint-sized contestant on The Voice Kids Australia (we need a US version!) who has one fierce roar.

What have you tried your hand at “faking it till you make it”? What did you learn from the experience?

 

Thoughts of an Almost 40 Year Old Gal

I clearly remember the night before I turned 20 like it was yesterday (but it was, wasn’t it?? LOL). My roommates and I were studying in our college apartment, and as soon as the clock struck midnight, I freaked out. I stood up on our lumpy, faded brown couch and began jumping … up and down and up and down.

You could probably guess I was not thrilled to be growing older. Back when I was a kid, I remember thinking that 20 sounded ancient and so far away. There was no way I could ever be that old. But as someone wise once said, time waits for no one. In fact, it seems to pick up speed once you reach your early 30’s. And before you know it you’re 39 and seeing someone you don’t totally recognize in the mirror, except that she kind of reminds you of your mother (and Facebook keeps wanting to tag you in photos as her! #truestory). 😉

That’s where I am today. About a month away from turning 40 – but NOT freaking out this time. Why not? Because I know …

1. It’s a privilege to age. The truth is not everyone makes it this far. I count every day that God gives me on this earth (good and bad) a blessing and an opportunity.

2. The older I get, the more ______  I am. There are so many words I could put in that blank space. Thankful, empathic and wise are a few that come to mind. Confident is another (which is a major one for me!). The changes happening inside me far outweigh the changes taking place on the outside. You can buy smooth skin, hair dye and a new hip, but you can’t buy internal growth.

3. Age is but a number. I may not have the face or body of a 20 year old, but I can still do a lot of cool things. Some of those things I can actually do better now that I’m older. I listen better. I write better. I even dream better because I have let go of some of the fears that once held me back.

Just because I’m reaching mid-life doesn’t mean the fun is over. God willing, things are just getting good. I’m ready to tackle my 40’s with purpose and passion. I hope to publish more books. I want to meet new people, such as authors or readers (preferably online since I’m an introvert, haha). I want to grow old with hubby and be able to reminisce about the good ‘ole days with him. I may even want to experience what it’s like to live with teenagers.

There really is a lot to look forward to as I turn 40. Just not the couch jumping. I’ll leave that part to my little monkeys. 🙂

Image courtesy of http://www.amazon.com/MIP-Does-This-Shirt-T-Shirt/dp/B00NUG7CUW (this is not an affiliate link)

This shirt comes in pink! (Image courtesy of http://www.amazon.com/MIP-Does-This-Shirt-T-Shirt/dp/B00NUG7CUW – this is not an affiliate link)

This is a new song by Meghan Trainor (featuring John Legend) called “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”. The lyrics are a beautiful reminder to not take anything, especially the people in our lives, for granted.

What have you learned from growing older? What do you look forward to in the years to come?

Learning to Speak Up

On one of our recent visits to the library, C pointed to a boy and informed me, “He took E’s book.” It turns out that E had been handing her a book when it got intercepted by a small chubby hand. E, being the person that he is, remained silent and didn’t react. Meanwhile, C, being the much more feisty person that she is, instructed me to retrieve the book.

Aiya. Do I have to? I thought to myself.

First of all, I don’t like talking to strangers unless absolutely necessary and secondly, I dislike confrontation even more. So for me to approach someone – even a 3 foot someone – and point out the error of his ways had me shaking in my boots (summertime) flip flops.

Image courtesy of quickmeme.com

Image courtesy of quickmeme.com

As I debated what to do, I knew I had two choices. I could let the incident slide or I could speak up. The obvious answer was to go with door #2, but the problem is that I have always been a door #1 kind of girl.

Memories flashed through my mind of all the times I should have spoken up, but didn’t. Like in elementary school when a friend ordered me to play the part of a horse so she could ride around on my back. Or the time the dentist noticed tears forming in the corners of my eyes during my wisdom teeth extraction and realized I needed more anesthesia. Looking back, I know I should have expressed my feelings and needs in those situations, but I stuffed them down instead. The child me (and even the young adult me) didn’t believe I had the right to speak up, but the adult me is realizing that I do.

And the mama me really wants my kids to know they can always speak up, too.

So I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and walked over to the little boy. I told him, “My son was giving that to his sister” and pointed to the book in his hands. He looked up at me and handed the book over without a single word. I clutched the book like a trophy and delivered it to C, all the while wishing I could high-five myself. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. And one I am building upon as I grow braver and stronger each day.

Take a listen to this cover by Boyce Avenue of John Mayer’s song, “Say”. The lyrics say so much:

Walkin’ like a one man army
Fightin’ with the shadows in your head
Livin’ out the same old moment
Knowin’ youd be better off instead
If you could only

Say what you need to say

In what ways have you grown braver and stronger?

Showing Kindness to 200 Kids

What a week! 🙂

For five days I helped assemble breakfast, snack and lunch for 80+ first to sixth graders at an academic camp put on by our church. And let me tell you, it was tiring, but a blast.

Here are some of the snacks we served – can you guess what the theme was? (Hint: Something that’s related to tents, campfires and the great outdoors.)

I found out recently that our school district only has one summer school site for the entire district, which means each school can only send one or two kids from each grade to attend. There are so many kids who need the academic help that summer school offers, but they can’t get in! This is why some teachers from our church decided to put this summer camp together for the underprivileged kids in our community. Last year we served close to 100 kids on one campus, and this year we expanded to two campuses! By God’s grace, we were able to reach out to almost 200 kids in all.

Each child who came was touched by the registration folks, the group leaders, the teachers (for science, reading/writing, math, PE, crafts and music) and the food crew. They received one-on-one attention and were affirmed on how valuable and loved they are. Over the course of the week, the kids really opened up and blossomed. One child who showed up on Monday was so quiet and shy that she needed her group leader to speak for her, but by Thursday she had gained the confidence and courage to sing a solo in front of her whole music class! This was just one of many stories I heard over the week that proved it’s possible to make a huge impact on children in a short, but meaningful time.

As part of the food prep team, I particularly enjoyed seeing the kids’ smiles when they received a meal or even for something as small as a carton of milk. These are kids who don’t have much (a couple of them live in motels), but they were so polite and thankful and enthusiastic. It really made my day to know I could play a role in helping their minds and bodies be ready to learn and grow.

I ended the week with this quote on my mind:kind

Life is hard, so let us be kind to one another. Even a smile can go a long way. I know the smiles the kids gave me this week made a big dent in my heart and will stay in my memory for a long time.

Here’s a short clip of the kids singing Josh Groban’s song, “You Raise Me Up” for their families on the last day of camp. 🙂 May these little ones inspire you to raise someone up with your kind words and actions.

How have you shown kindness to others recently? How has someone’s act of kindness made a difference in your life?

The Power of the (Toilet) Plunger and the Pen

Have you ever witnessed a backed-up toilet explode? Let me tell you, it’s not a pretty sight (or smell!).

During my last two years of college, I had the pleasure of living with three girlfriends. We shared a lot of things in that two bedroom apartment – meals, laughter, tears and, of course, a bathroom. And it was in that tiny bathroom that I got the shock of my life one spring afternoon when I pushed down the lever to flush.

Sputter. Gurgle. WHOOSH.

Before I could blink, the water in the bowl had risen to the rim and began rushing over the edge like a mini Niagara Falls. I jumped back as far as I could as the contents of the toilet seeped onto the linoleum and threatened to touch my bare feet. Half holding my breath and half praying, I considered my options: A) Run and hide! or B) Unclog the toilet. No matter how much I wanted to go with the first option, I knew I’d have to deal with the mess sooner or later. The only problem was that none of us girls had thought to buy a toilet plunger.

Oops.

Thankfully, the landlord lived upstairs, and after explaining the situation to him, he ventured into the toxic waste zone known as our bathroom and restored the porcelain throne to working condition. After thanking him profusely, I cleaned up the floor, disinfected my hands and said a prayer of thanks for whoever invented the plunger. (The fact that I used three forms of the word thanks in two sentences should tell you how thankful I was!)

Image courtesy of Mister GC/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/freedigitalphotos.net

Who knew a simple rubber device like a plunger could be so powerful? 🙂

I think the same can be said of the pen.

You’ve probably heard the quote “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Have you ever thought about why that’s true?

As someone who writes every day, I can testify to how amazing words are. They have the influence to make or break a person, the force to change a situation and the power to evoke laughter or tears. Most importantly, I believe words have the power to heal.

How do words heal? By taking the unspoken and unsettled things in our hearts and bringing them to the forefront. By pinpointing the reasons behind our emotions – our joy and sadness and fear – and making us reflect on them. Taking the time to put our thoughts and feelings into words forces us to stop … to feel … and to be.

We spend so much of our days doing and fighting and stuffing and, basically, hiding away the experiences we go through. This is especially true of the negative situations we face. It’s so much safer to push the bad memories and emotions down and not deal with them. But the truth is that sooner or later, all the gunk and refuse and waste we hide away gets backed-up in the recesses of our hearts. And it cuts off the life that should be flowing through it. And as we learned from my bathroom story, a clogged toilet – or heart – is not a pretty sight.

I recently read some old essays that I wrote a few years ago. These pieces were penned when I first began my writing journey and was still processing through a lot of “life stuff” from the past. As expected, the words I jotted down were a little on the emo side and even a little dark. Reading those essays probably should have brought me down, but they didn’t. I felt nothing but relief and freedom.

It was through the power of the pen (or in my case, the computer keyboard) that I was able to dig through the stuff that I had hidden away. When I formed those experiences and emotions into words, I began the process of unclogging my heart.

Writing is seriously one of the best (and cheapest) forms of therapy. You can do it anytime and anywhere, as long as you have a pen and a piece of paper. So, take some time to listen to your heart and write down what it’s telling you.

Also, take a listen to Rachel Platten’s song, “Fight Song”. I hope it will inspire you to fight for your freedom from the stuff that’s clogging up your heart.

What experiences or emotions are clogging your heart? Write about them today.

Conversations with a 6 Year Old about Relationships

C was in the middle of her bedtime routine when she asked me, “Do you love Po Po (maternal Grandma) and Gong Gong (maternal Grandpa) more or Bob (aka. Baba) more?”

In the mirror I saw her head tilt up as she looked at me, the top of her three foot frame nearly reaching my shoulders thanks to the stool she stood on. Her big brown eyes sparkled with intensity, waiting for an answer.

Hm? What was she getting at? And why do I always get asked the strange/deep/unanswerable questions?

Humph. But as any parent (and therapist) knows, when you don’t have an answer to a question, you keep your cool and do the ‘ole switcheroo. So I asked the question back, “Who do you think I love more?”

She replied without hesitation (because as usual C already had it all figured out and was just testing me!), “Bob, of course. Because without Bob, you wouldn’t have me and E.”

Hee hee. Of course. 🙂

Although her 6 year old logic had some flaws, she was right about one thing. Life is all about relationships.

No matter who we are, where we come from or where we’re going, we are all connected to other people. Our parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, children, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, friends, enemies, strangers … the list goes on and on, especially if you include social networking.

My conversation with C got me thinking that as much as I’m an introvert and prefer to be alone, I am a better person because of the relationships I have. (I may have groaned as I typed that last sentence.)

The hardest things I have had to learn have happened because of other people’s presence and influence on my life. I’m talking about the processes of acceptance, forgiveness and trust. There’s also the acts of sharing, cooperation and encouragement. To put it simply, it’s the lessons of learning how to get along that have built my character. (Okay, I did groan this time, haha.)

As complicated and messy and tiring as relationships can be, we would not be who we are without them. And I firmly believe the people we have in our lives are there for a reason.

f88e8b5fd0b13a196483cab9ae20d13e

What’s that reason? It’s the four letter word that seems to weave itself through all of our relationships: LOVE.

It’s a sense of belonging that we all want and need. It’s the idea that C has that she and E are important to me, which is why I should love their Baba more than their grandparents. I didn’t mention to her that without my parents, I wouldn’t be around to have kids, but that’s beside the point. What I did say to her at the end of our conversation was this: “I love God the most because He gave all of you to me.”

And maybe that was a cop-out answer or the most brilliant answer I could have given, but it is what I know to be true. I am thankful for all the people that God has brought to cross my path. I may not always act like it (especially when I just want some peace and quiet!), but my world is so much richer because of all the relationships – close and far, in person and online – that I have had the privilege of meeting and doing life with.

So, here’s wishing you all a wonderful weekend of being with the people you love, especially the moms in your life this Sunday. 🙂

And here’s a fun parody of the song “American Boy” by Only Won & Larissa Lam called “Cantonese Boy”. I picked it in light of C’s answer to her own question (that I should love hubby more) and also because I just celebrated 14 years of marriage with my own Cantonese boy. 🙂

Who are the people in your life that you are sure crossed your path for a reason? 

Practicing What I Teach

“It’s okay to be frustrated. You’re learning something new. I can help you. Let’s try again.”

I repeated these words as I held and rocked C in my lap. Just moments before she had been working on her homework packet and I had been cleaning out the guinea pigs’ cage. Her little, high-pitched voice had called out to me as I was scooping up pellet-sized poop into a bag to ask, “Is this right?”

I craned my neck from my seat on the floor to see the paper she held up. She had circled: rectangle, circle, triangle, rectangle; circle, triangle, rectangle; circle, triangle. “No, try again. Make sure each set of the pattern starts with the same shape.”

She sighed her signature sigh, which to be accurate is more like a half groan/half roar. With an eraser in her dimpled hand, she began undoing her work. Half a minute later, she asked again, “Is this right?”

The process repeated again. “No, try again,” I replied.

Groan/roar. Erase. Groan/roar. Erase.

It was after probably the fourth cycle that I saw C plop herself down on the tile floor and burst into tears.

Oh dear.

Fortunately I had finished refilling the guinea pig cage with clean bedding by then. I closed the metal door, rushed to the sink to wash my poopy hands and then hurried over to stop the waterworks.

As I sat there comforting a very distraught kindergartener, I couldn’t help but smile. Yes, the situation was a dire one – the homework paper had been written on and erased so many times that it was now covered in gray eraser bits – but thankfully it was an easy one to fix. After letting C belt out her tears (her wails could almost be categorized as melodic), I turned her around in my lap and resumed my pep talk.

“It’s okay to be frustrated. You’re learning something new. I can help you. Let’s try again.”

I spoke those words to C that day, but I could very well have been speaking them to myself. Because it was only a few days ago that I felt like plopping down on the floor and wailing my own version of a cantata.

I had been sitting in the dark by the light of my laptop (in the wee hours of the morning) and attempting to set up a website. I had been calculating and recalculating the money I have spent on my new business venture and wondering when/if I will be able to recoup the costs. I had been frustrated and stressed out by the tasks I still need to complete and the timelines I want to meet.

In short, I was having a (recovering) perfectionist moment. A total “I have to have things done the way I want, but things are not working out right now, so can I crawl into a hole and hide?!” moment.

Hmm. These “moments” are much cuter when a five year old has them. (Side note: C is not a perfectionist; she was just being a five year old.)

Thankfully, hubby was my voice of reason. The next day when I poured out my frustrations to him, he basically said the same thing I would later tell C: “This is your first time doing this, just learn as you go. Don’t worry about the money. Just enjoy the process.”

I wanted to respond, “Enjoy the process, my foot!”, but instead I sighed my signature sigh, which meant gritting my teeth and half growling/half roaring. (Hm, I think I see a trend here, LOL). I picked myself up, dusted off my bum (figuratively speaking) and made the decision to throw my timelines, expectations and all the “shoulds” I had given myself out the window.

So here I am a few days later still reminding myself to breathe deeply, massaging the stress knots out of my neck and shoulders and saying a lot of prayers.

Most of all, I’m trying to focus on being, creating, enjoying, and NOT stressing because …

Real-Values

 

The song, “Under Pressure” could have been my theme song this week. 😛 Here it is sung by Queen and David Bowie (I’m dating myself again with this song choice, haha).

How do you deal with the pressure of perfection?

P.S. C finished that homework problem correctly on her next try and with a triumphant smile on her face. 🙂

An Unexpected Trip to the ER and a Confession

My family and I had the pleasure of taking a short weekend getaway to a nearby beach town last weekend. It was the four of us, plus my parents and sister and brother-in-law. One weekend together staying in a quaint house should have equaled semi-rest and relaxation (after all, we had babysitters on hand); what we didn’t expect however was that it would also include a visit to the ER.

Hubby, the kids and the grandparents had settled themselves comfortably on a stretch of sand while my sister and bro-in-law had gone boogie boarding. I had been given the task of buying some beach toys because we of course had forgotten to bring our whole stash of shovels, pails and molds from home. I had just made the purchase and was returning my wallet to my purse when I decided to check my phone.

Three missed calls and one voicemail?!?! I had not even been gone for ten minutes. What could be wrong?

As I walked out of the store, I listened to the message from my mom and heard the worry in her voice as she said, “T dislocated his shoulder again! He needs to go to the hospital!”

My thought process went something like this:

AIYA! But they barely got into the water! It was probably a foreshadowing of things to come when T joked, “It was nice knowing you” right before he headed off towards the ocean. Oh dear! Where, what, how …?!?!

After a series of calls and missed calls, I finally reached my mom who told me hubby and the kids had driven our bro-in-law and my sister to the ER. I met up with my parents, and we decided to walk the 1.3 miles back to our rental house, two boogie boards and an unopened bag of sand toys in tow.

The thirty minute stroll (which could have taken twenty minutes had we thought to take a shortcut via a bridge) gave us a good opportunity to enjoy the warm sunshine. It also provided a rare chance for my parents and I to chat, just the three of us. So there we were, looking very touristy with Google maps open on my phone, walking single file up and down the narrow streets when my dad called up to me, “I told Mommy when you got married that I was worried it wouldn’t work out.”

Later on when I shared my dad’s confession with hubby, he also said, without batting an eye, “I was worried, too.”

Hm … Was I the only person who had optimistically naively thought our dating relationship, and subsequent marriage, would have a happily ever after?

Apparently, yes. 😉

You may be wondering what all the fuss was about? Well, let’s just say that hubby and I are very different in a lot of areas, personality and dating histories being two of them. Throw in some concerned family and friends to the mix, and well, you’ve got some legitimately concerned family and friends.

Looking back, I can say I was 100% sure of my decision to marry hubby. But frankly speaking, my confidence came from a lot of unrealistic notions of love and marriage. Beliefs such as: troubles will never come our way; we will always feel loving towards each other; and we’ll always have a happy relationship (yes, I’ve needed to wean myself from an “all or nothing” mentality over the years). What I learned in the days following our wedding was the complete opposite: all couples will face troubles; there will be times when you dislike each other; and there will be plenty of moments when you drive each other bananas.

Isn't this a cute group of bananas?

Isn’t this a cute group of bananas?

The years leading up to today have included many such doses of reality. But as an older friend at church (with eleven years of marriage under his belt compared to our one at the time) once told us, “It gets better.”

It does?! If so, when? And how? His comment left me with some doubt, but also with some hope.

But he was right. Marriage does get better. With time, you really get to know your spouse, his way of thinking, doing and planning (or not planning). You grow to trust each other more. You learn to not take things so personally. You try to become a better lover and friend.

The key is that it takes time. Time to change and to see change happen. So it’s important that we be patient with our spouses and with ourselves. Our marriages are a work in progress because we are a work in progress.

On that note, my dad followed up on his confession during our walk with this: “I see how happy your (and your sister’s) marriages are and I’m not worried anymore.”

Whew. 🙂

Here’s Alicia Keys’ song, “If I Ain’t Got You“, a sappy, but powerful love song. 😉

In what ways have you seen a relationship or marriage improve over the years?

P.S. Our brother-in-law got his shoulder relocated at the hospital (his 7th time!) and has now learned how to do it himself should it ever happen again. 😛

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