The sweetness of imperfection

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Jackie_pic by Gina Dragone 1Jackie Lane Moore’s house is a mess. Messiness, she says, is a fact of life, the fallout of working full-time, commuting by bus two hours a day, and parenting two young kids who love to cook (from scratch) with her — often on the floor, where everyone can be at the same level.

“It gets overwhelming sometimes,” she admits. “And I would absolutely love it to be cleaner.” But she’ll take the dirty floors, the sticky hands, the home-cooked meals and cooking or being outside with her kids over gleaming countertops any day. A clean house, she says, “is not going to be my priority. You have to pick and choose your battles, and my priority will always be going for a walk with my family.”

Those walks are even more special when you consider that there was a time when Jackie, 37, wasn’t sure she’d be able to have a family. At the age of 26, as a newlywed, she was diagnosed with colon cancer after years of chronic gut inflammation. She spent the first years of her marriage on an operating table, in a hospital bed, or at home in bed, recovering from multiple, hours-long surgeries to remove her colon and create and then reverse an ostomy. When she developed ovarian cysts, doctors told her she might never be able to have children.

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Wildflowers and walks in the woods.

That’s when she decided to take her health into her own hands. She began to shift her diet, focusing on eating local, healthy, nutrient-dense foods. She supplemented her medical treatment with meditation, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and Ayurveda. And she became pregnant, twice: her daughter, Kyla, is now 8 years old; her son, Bryson, is 6.

Jackie’s health struggles and the threats to her fertility, she says, really kickstarted her push to feed herself and her family as well as possible. She doesn’t subscribe to any one “diet” — vegetarian, vegan, raw, Paleo, gluten-free, low-carb. None of them, she explains, actually guarantees healthy food choices. As she points out on her blog, L’Oven Life, “you can consume nothing but cookies, soy products and candy and call yourself a vegan, or you can live a gluten-free lifestyle eating just highly refined bread, ice cream, and bacon!” Instead, she avoids processed foods — hence, the cooking from scratch on the floor with her kids — and incorporates tons of vegetables and fermented foods into a “gut-friendly” way of eating.

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Making crepes with honey.

She’s hoping to instill in her kids not only a love of cooking (she’s succeeding, by the way — Kyla reads cookbooks at bedtime and aspires to write one of her own) but the kind of eating habits that may help them avoid the health challenges that she once faced, which may have a genetic component.

“Being in the ER with my husband at the age of 26 and hearing that I might not be able to have kids, that was huge,” she says. “And when we were able to have these two children, naturally, that was just so special. I really want to be able to help them be as healthy as possible.”

Making local food from scratch, she says, led to composting, which led to gardening in their big backyard. When Bryson was a baby, the family moved to a rural property in the town of Navan, just outside Ottawa. “I grew up in Muskoka, surrounded by nature, and really felt the need to have more green space, for myself and the kids. There’s a creek just behind the house, and the kids play down there for hours, with pots and pans and sticks.”

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Finding balance.

Growing her own food, she says, made her realize “just how much plastic there is in store-bought food. So that led us to begin to go zero-waste as a family”: shopping in bulk, buying used, signing up for community-supported agriculture (CSA) deliveries, focusing on experiences rather than things. “You begin to rethink all your purchases when you realize everything has an impact.”

A couple of years ago, the family decided to take advantage of the “Host a Hive” program offered by the Ottawa-based Gees Bees Honey Company. “We thought, we have this amazing garden, and we plant more and more each year, and we use a lot of honey and other natural sweeteners, and the bees are great for the garden. It’s a win-win situation. The bees are happy, the kids love them, and we’ve expanded the hives each year. Plus, we’re supporting a local business.”

Beekeeping, she says, has turned into a bit of a community affair. The family gives honey as gifts, and Jackie passes on the empty honeycombs to a friend who uses the beeswax to create lip balms. They recently held an impromptu honey extraction workshop for the neighbourhood kids.

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Helping with the harvest.

So, life is messy, sticky, and sweet – and still highly imperfect. “We’re not perfect zero-wasters by any stretch,” says Jackie. “We’re still buying Kleenex when I have a cold. The kids will go to a birthday party and eat a hot dog. We can’t do everything. But once you’re aware of the choices you have, it’s hard to go back. My kids know that their choices matter, that they can have an impact on the world.”

Jackie’s body, too, acts as a reminder her of the challenges she’s faced — and priorities. “My abdomen is covered in scars. And I’ve considered cosmetic surgery to fix them. But they’re also a reminder of what I’ve been through, what I still may go through, and what I’ve survived. And mostly, I would rather live with the body I have now than have a surgery that is not really necessary. I’m more motivated by how healthy I feel and how vibrant my kids are than how my belly looks. I still wear bikinis, and kids ask me, ‘What happened to your belly?’ And I tell them my story.”

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Pregnancy [Photo by Gina Dragone].

SUSAN GOLDBERG is a writer based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Ms., Toronto Life, Lilith, Today’s Parent, Full Grown People, and Stealing Time magazines, and several anthologies, including Chasing Rainbows: Exploring Gender-Fluid Parenting Practices. She is a regular contributor to several websites, including CBC Parents, and co-editor of the award-winning anthology And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families.


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