I want my life to be like this mushroom carbonara we had last weekend. Easy. Quick. Minimal effort that produces fabulous quality and taste. Chopping the onions and mushrooms, crushing the garlic and sauteeing it together while the spaghetti boiled took around 10 minutes, and I have a 10-minute heart and life stopwatch inside that goes off whenever a problem, issue, person or my own self starts to head in the 30-minute, or God-forbid, the hour-long direction.

Why didn’t I listen to those who told me that the living of life, the sorting through of life, the fixing and mending of  life takes time. The change we want, the desires we have, and the ache of lack clenches inside me. It’s a familiar feeling, one I lived with since I was a child. Whether it was not getting picked to be on the newspaper in grade six or the pain of friendship betrayals in high school, I always knew there was more, that somehow the person I was and the things I was doing was not representative of what was deep inside. I could never figure it out then; I was only maddeningly impatient with myself, loathing myself for not being where I was supposed to be because it was supposed to be happening now. Everything should come together right here right now. 

Life takes time, and time gives life. 

It has only been in the past weeks that this came together for me as I am slowly beginning to see the life that grows around me and the life that blooms inside of me after years of only being able to see pain, death and emptiness. Time gives life because it takes time to bring life into existence, it takes time to birth life, it takes time to create life. 

I remember after Small One was born thinking about when he would start sleeping through the night. I didn’t care so much that he woke up at night, but sleeping through the night would be an achievement, my achievement, proof that I was a good parent and knew what I was doing. So he was going to sleep through the night. Early. Earlier than everyone else’s babies.

You know where this story goes. Of course he didn’t sleep through the night early, and I tried things I should not have tried to get him to sleep more because I was ignoring the laws of time and placing myself as lord over time. He needed time, and the truth is, I needed it, too. I needed those night feedings of holding him in my arms, getting to know him, understanding him, falling in love with him. I needed the time to think, to watch early sunrises, and I needed to be taken to my emotional and physical limit to realize that I would not be able to do this on my own because having a baby is an exercise in knowing you can’t do it alone. 

It took time, but time brought life to us and we learned what worked for Small One, for us, for our family.  

I remember battling fear and insecurity about everything from school and grades to food and cooking to make up to hair cuts to clothing to money to boys to men to university choice to what people thought of me to what people in positions of influence thought of me to having enough friends to really this list could go on for a while.

And I remember thinking I could not go on like this but my ways of trying to fix it ignored the one thing I needed for “it” to change – I needed time. It has only been in the daily living, the daily facing of daily challenges, the daily choosing to say no to the daily fear and the daily insecurity that has led to the daily covering of the daily peace and the daily freedom. 

I remember when Husband and I started our marriage, and I moved into his apartment. He wasn’t a typical bachelor – the flat was cleaner then than it is now – and he had good taste in furniture and appliances, but I still wanted everything decorated now, everything needed to be thrown away, sorted, cleaned out, organized now. But Husband lives by the laws of time, he does not have an internal stopwatch that goes off when something is taking too long, and he does not do something for the sake of completing an imaginary list or schedule. He does not rush. Ever.

I didn’t kick and scream because that’s not how I do things, but every few months my internal stopwatch went off and a meltdown ensued. I cried, I whined, I complained, I got angry because nothing was changing, everything was still the same. 

How much heartache could I have saved all of us if I could have just waited? Why didn’t I realize that the months of “suffering” with disorder was something that would come together with time? We needed time to see what was the best way to go about tackling our things, we needed time to know what kind of home we wanted to create, we needed time to find the right pieces of furniture and the style that is us, not the style that is me or the style that is him.

The time is right now as we slowly work our way through this home, deciding what will stay and where it will stay, brainstorming ideas for how to better organize and build our family’s possessions and dreaming of creative projects that best suit the space that we have. We are off-schedule already, parts of our flat are a mess, and it is good.

But even this, this doing that we have now, this time that I have waited impatiently for, even this is taking time, but for a change I am not whining, crying and complaining because after two years – and maybe even a lifetime – of impatience, my heart is a little wiser and knows that it will take time, it has to take time, life takes time and time brings life. 

  • Mushroom Carbonara   (from delicious. magazine)  An easy recipe for lunch or dinner. The ingredient list is simple, and it takes 10-15 minutes to cook from start to finish. I have all the ingredients between our pantry and fridge, with the mushrooms being the only thing I would normally have to plan for.

(Part 1 here)

1. The only way to know that a need exists is to pay attention. 

Listen. Listen. Listen some more. Watch. Pay close attention to detail. When you give someone your full mental, emotional and physical attention, it is much easier to know if there is a need and how you can meet it. When you are talking, chastising, correcting and questioning, it impedes your ability to understand, and your baby – and everyone else in your life – needs you to understand more than they need anything else. Wise understanding is the best foundation on which to build your words, love, correction and discipline. 

2. There is a space that you can fill, and there is a space that you can’t fill. 

There are needs that are for me to meet, and there are needs that are not for me to meet. When I spend my time filling a space that’s not for me, I waste my time and my energy. Focus on the needs you can meet and give yourself to those things not to everything.

3. All of us have deep, aching needs that cannot be met by other people. 

In no small terms, having a child has shown me again and again and again that God is real. From the beginning it was abundantly clear to me that my son had needs I could not meet. When he was fearful, he needed peace in his spirit, and even if  was there, holding him, speaking kind words to him, nursing him, some times the fear was so deep, that nothing I could do would soothe him.

Oh storm-tossed one and not comforted…

He’s not alone; all babies have needs that his or her parent obviously cannot meet, and if we are deeply honest with ourselves, no human relationship can meet our deepest, “adult” needs. We try, we search, we fill the void in our souls with the best – or worst – that other people, but the best of people is not enough for us. Because we were made for more, for eternity, and we were made to be known and to know God, and it’s only there, in him, that our needs can truly be met.

Parenting is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done – not quite the most difficult thing, but it is probably the second or third on the list. For all its challenges, the process of having Small One, nurturing him, watching him and parenting him has given me back ten times over in the form of revelation and understanding about myself, relationships, people, God, love and so many other things. Here’s the list of revelations about needs.

1. There is no shame in having needs. 

Small One revels in his needs, and as a baby he had no capacity to rationalize his needs. At no point did he think to himself, I need to eat and I’m feeling a little afraid and lonely in my crib tonight, but I think I’m inconveniencing my mother by crying right now, so I’ll just go back to sleep. So obviously I don’t know what goes on in his little head, but I am 100% certain he did not have that conversation with himself ever in the first nine months of his life. He doesn’t think there is anything wrong with his needs. Why do we?

2. There is no shame in communicating needs. 

The past two months of Small One’s life has thrown (and is throwing) me for a loop. My baby who was not cranky most of the time is now more sensitive and delicate. I’ve made the mistake of not watching the time when we’re out in the middle of the day only to confront a total meltdown on his part. Why? It was his nap time. And it was hot. And I forgot to bring his sippy cup of water with us. Three basic needs that went unmet – rest, temperature and water – and what was the result? I knew about it, the whole park knew about it and most people on the street on our way home knew about it, so great was the screaming and crying.

He doesn’t think there is anything wrong with communicating his needs; he has no concept of an appropriate time and the sensitive way to communicate. All he knows is that a need is going unmet, and he will do what it takes for me to understand that it needs to be met immediately. 

Why are we so hesitant to communicate our needs?

There is a principle here, I think. Small One doesn’t just tell everyone that he’s hungry or thirsty. He comes to me or to his father and says, Yumyumyumyum. He doesn’t just scream and cry at everyone when he’s tired – even though everyone hears it – he is communicating with me in those moments because he knows that I am safe. He can trust me. He is secure in our relationship and in my love.

Are we secure in our relationships? The inability to communicate our needs an indication of a lack of relational security or a perceived lack of relational security. I say perceived because there have been many times that I’ve been in a secure relationship, but because of my own insecurities and perceptions, it kept me from communicating my needs.

3. We often are unable to identify what our needs are, but this does not take the need away. It stays, regardless of our inability to know it or communicate it. 

How many times a week do I take Small One in my arms and ask him, Tell me what’s bothering you? What is going on, kiddo? Mommy wants to understand. But he is inconsolable. I have no idea what it is. He has no idea what it is. But he has a need, and he knows that it is there until the need is met. He doesn’t have the capacity to take time and reflect, but we can do this.

More often than not, we don’t always know what our needs are, but we will be bothered by that thing until we can identify it and then do something. It has become one of my life’s necessities to take time daily and weekly to understand why I’m feeling a certain way and to find the need at the root of it all.

And now I hear the sounds of a baby waking up from his nap telling me he needs me to pick him up, change his diaper and possibly feed him. I know that these are his needs because he tells me, and I wonder how much easier our own lives and relationships would be if we had the courage to just tell people what we need.

This temporary meat-free experiment of mine forces me think through what I’m going to eat. I need lots of food, typically, because meat is a tummy filler, and I need bulky items that are high in protein. And of course I want it to taste good. And be convenient. And quick. And cheap.

I decided to try making a meat-free burrito bowl last week, and it turned out better than I could have ever imagined. The best part was when I realized I could turn the same ingredients into two other meals (and I mashed the beans and gave it to Small One, so really it was for four meals). I didn’t have the camera around for the last two, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Here are the details – I made a basic guacamole and pico de gallo, but also had left over avocados and tomatoes in the fridge. The “bulk” of the meal came from canned white beans. For the burrito bowl night, I made brown rice with coriander and lime.

The ingredients I bought for the meal were:


The ingredients I had in my pantry were:

multiple cans of white beans
brown  rice
one corn tortilla
Sri Lankan curry powder
a can of olives

I should also mention that the cooking time on this one was next to zero because beans don’t need a long time to cook. Really, there was no loss here. Even though I love meat and love my burritos, tacos and salads with meat in them, this was more than just an adequate replacement. It tasted good, filled me up and fed me multiple times. Win. Win. Win.

  • White Bean Burrito Bowls    For the pico de gallo, chop tomatoes, chop coriander, chop half an onion, mix it all together and add a squeeze of lime, salt and chili if you’re so inclined. For the guacamole, chop avocado, chop cilantro, chop an onion, chili and squeeze a bit of lime in plus salt and pepper. For the beans, I fried onion and garlic in a bit of oil, added two cans of white beans (drained and rinsed first) and let it fry for a minute or two. I added a teaspoon of my curry powder (it also has chili in it) and then I added the olives, which I had chopped. I let it cook for five to 10 minutes, stirring every now and then. For the rice, I cooked the brown rice, and when it was finished, I added some good squeezes of lime juice and chopped coriander. Put it all together, and it’s done.
  • White Bean Tacos   I was hunting for lunch a few days later and realized I had one corn tortilla left, plus avocado and tomato in the fridge and the white bean mixture left over. So I made a taco. I warmed the tortilla and the white bean mixture separately, sliced an avocado on top, chopped a bit of tomato and squeezed some Ol’ Del Paso salsa we had in the fridge. Ridiculously tasty.
  • White Bean Mexican Salad    I warmed up the white bean mixture and added – you guessed it – chopped avocado and chopped tomato to it. The cold and the warm together was fabulous, and in a strange way I liked having the avocado and tomato plain without onions, garlic, chili, lime and coriander.

His CD collection shows me how alike and dissimilar we are all at once. I unloaded every plastic case from the deep IKEA drawer, and categorized them by genre for Husband to sort through when he returned from work. A large pile of Christian music, a significant number of popular rock music CDs and the huge collection of jazz, blues and gospel music and then of course the heavy metal set. I suppose everyone must have a heavy metal album or two.

I remember the second day that Husband and I were ever together, sitting in his flat (now ours), eating spaghetti bolognese at the glass dining table and sort of listening to the conversations around me (I was so focussed on eating). I did notice that Bryan Adams was playing in the background, followed by Tracy Chapman, and I noted to myself that he had great taste in music. It’s probably a good thing I found out about his rap and metal CDs after we were engaged.

We don’t listen to much music together now, and the CDs we have in the car are getting a bit boring. Going through this CD drawer reminded me of the oddly similar past Husband and I have, years when we didn’t know each other, him living in Germany and Switzerland and I in the Philippines and the U.S., experiencing totally different cultures and ways of doing things, but we were at times listening to the same music. The Corrs, Bryan Adams, La Rue, Tracy Chapman, The Cranberries and others.

It is good to remind ourselves of the things we have in common with our spouse. The similarities bind us together while the differences (and working through the differences) make life interesting.

Husband and I are enjoying a sweet season, and despite our busy lives and the serious situations that weigh on us, I am learning – Husband is teaching me – how to reach out instead of cave in. He outdid himself in serving me this weekend. We returned home from church on Sunday to discover that I did not press “Cook” on the rice cooker before I left, so the rice was uncooked. We cooked it while we ate our tuna steak and green beans, and then Husband decided to make a rice pudding for dessert. Because I’m not eating sugar right now, it was a sugar-less dessert, and a fabulous one, I might add. This one is all his, used with permission.

  • Nectarine and Banana Rice Pudding   Cut banana into not-too-thick rounds, brown butter in a pan and fry the banana until it caramelises. Husband also put ground chili on the top for a spicy, sweet mix (it was a bit spicy for me, so I would say add your chili slowly).  Let the bananas fry well, until brown and golden on both sids, make sure to flip at some point. He took the cooked brown rice, mixed in coconut milk and a bit of water and let it boil on the stove until the mixture combined well. Toward the end he added some chopped nectarines and a bit of chili (only a bit). This is where adding sugar would probably work well . The presentation is also all him, nectarines lining the bowl, with the pudding in the middle, topped with caramelised and chillified bananas. Delicious and all-together-lovely.