ONE OR NONE

12jan2017

Hours spent pouring over various choices. Wondering which one or none to select. Justifying the selections and their consequences. But then I realise there might not be another chance at a later time to seize this moment because we never know if tomorrow or next month or sometime later in the year the same opportunity will still be available for us to choose.

WHAT AGES

11jan2017

'You look old' or did he say 'older'. I was not sure anymore but it did not matter.

We were talking on Skype tonight and my husband let me know I did not look my usual self. He was right. And I thought about what ages us. What makes us look a certain way sometimes but not other times.

The effects of the cedar fever were getting to me more this year than last it seems. My eyes are puffy beyond recognition. And itchy. I can no longer put on any makeup as I will inevitably wipe it off. I am more tired than ever before and no amount of sleep seems to help. I have been sent home early every day this week and am glad I do not have work the next two days.

Besides the illness of the season, the stress of our being apart also takes its toll on me both physically and mentally. After our conversation on Skype I went to my laptop and looked up flight tickets to Ireland. I wanted to both see my husband and to escape the allergies in this 'allergy capital of the world'.

The $1188 price of the round trip flight ticket, however, was too high to justify my going there. I find it unfair that the reverse flight from Ireland to Austin is half the cost. I will simply have to wait and try my best to get past this season.

OPTIONS

09jan2017

The options are there for us to choose. But which one is the dilemma. If certain things have happened we would not have to make a choice. We would simply continue with the current option.

A last minute change of plans. The cause of too much thinking and not enough planning. The failure to plan properly causes us to make those last minute decisions.

Whatever choice we make we need to follow through and make sure our goal is reached in the end.

BLACK ONYX HEART

chocolate sugar heart

No matter how much I shook the plate, the heart shape remained. Along with the back half of an arrow sticking out from the top. I thought it was strange.

The plate had been sitting on the counter for two weeks. I had intended on dipping the vanilla crescents I made at the time in the mixture of cocoa and black onyx chocolate sugar but then changed my mind. So the sugar and cocoa simply sat on the plate. Until today.

I wondered if there was a meaning to this encounter. I decided to take my curiosity online and looked up 'black onyx meaning'. I discovered the black onyx stone was a 'grounding stone'. Where one is grounded to reality and protected from negativity both from within oneself and from outside influences. A sign of things to come perhaps.

THE BITING COLD

three birds 7jan2017

I looked at my weather app a second time to be sure I was seeing the number correctly. It read '-8'. In Celsius. I switched over to the weather in Ennis where my husband lives. Though he was six hours ahead of my current location the temperature in his city was 11 Celsius.

I remember the times I used to go to Ennis in November and December. I remember how cold it was walking around in 4 degree Celsius weather with the wind blowing from time to time. A biting cold where one wished to simply stay indoors under the covers and not emerge until the summer.

But the temperatures are expected to heat up by next week. From -8C to 25C in a matter of two days. Truly strange this weather. Regardless I enjoy my time indoors. Away from the biting cold of winter.

OVERSHARPENED

6jan2017

My oldest child called me tonight to tell me she loves me. And to tell me it has been a while since she has seen me. I asked her how was her week at school. 'Boring' she replied. But she did have something interesting to report about her brother.

Perhaps I should not have laughed when she told me. How my son oversharpened a pencil. And how he did not stop until the sharpener stopped. But I thought it was rather funny as I could envision my son standing in front of the classroom exclaiming how he was going to push the now small pencil even further into the electric sharpener. 

I wonder what was going through his mind. I wonder what he thought when he realised he had broken the school's sharpener. I wonder what his teacher thought. Perhaps she was laughing too. In her mind, of course.

My mischievous seven-year-old son was looking for attention. He did not come to the phone tonight. Not even to say 'hi'. Most likely he was being punished.

My oldest promised to text me every day to say 'good night'. I thanked her and wished her sweet dreams. I would see all three of my children Monday after work.

PLAN B

3jan2016

Despite our best intentions, life does not always go into the direction we wish it to go. It takes a turn. Then another. And when we finally think we are on the right path, life decides to head in the opposite direction on another road. So when a plan goes awry you need an alternate plan. A backup plan. Plan B.

It is apparent that this year will not be as easy as I had hoped it would be. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. But we move forward. Somehow. And we realise that things will only work if we stay on course. If we do not veer off the road into another direction hoping to take a shortcut as there are no shortcuts in life.

Life challenges us to do our best. For ourselves and for the ones we love. Undoubtedly things will come up to stand in the way of our plans. In that case we need to do some quick thinking and come up with plan B. Another solution to get to where we wish to go.

TO MY DISMAY

january sunset

The sound of the rain pounding on the concrete below my window last night brought hope of colder days to come. Once asleep I was awoken by flashes of lightning accompanied by sounds of thunder. Neither lasted long or so I thought. I could have just fallen back asleep. To my dismay, this did not mean winter was on its way.

It also did not mean that the rain was here to stay. Though it was the heavy rain of last year which brought about the high growth of the Juniper trees which cause cedar fever, it is the rain I hope for to wash off the pollen along the way.

I turned to the Internet to find out more about this year's prediction for cedar fever. To my dismay, once again, the news reports a possibility that this year might be the highest ever pollen count due to the heavy rains which caused such growth of the trees. To further my dread of this season, recent news reported that this year cedar fever could last into March.

This was not good news and neither is the constant sense of exhaustion I feel on a daily basis. I researched some more and found a news article written two years ago on home remedies to try. A hot shower was one such suggestion. A massage was another. The shower was doable. A massage, however, will have to wait for a while.

One more interesting remedy was a change to our diet. Specifically 'things which create mucus in the body'. These things include sugar, dairy, and wheat. All of which I consumed today. Last October I went a month without these three food types and felt better. It might be time to exclude those types of foods once again as I remember feeling better as a result.

OUR YEAR

the two 2017

'This is our year' came the message from my husband early this morning whilst I was still asleep. Having spent the past three years apart, I am ready for this year to be one where we are finally together. In person, waking up next to each other instead of next to our phones waiting to talk in the early morning hours. Together as a family.

All three of us fell asleep before midnight. Somehow I woke up a few minutes before midnight and awoke the children to wish them a happy new year and to eat twelve grapes. A tradition followed in Spain for the new year in order to bring luck for the following twelve months.

We intended on doing this tradition last year but did not manage to awaken in time. This year we were all tired but followed through with our plan though eating twelve large grapes whilst tired proved to be a challenge. Then we all returned to bed until a more reasonable time in the morning.

kajgana 2017

The children finished their oatmeal from the night before. I set out to start the new year with a healthy and hearty breakfast. A breakfast which takes longer to put together than to eat but worth every moment spent preparing it.

I made kajgana which I ate with fresh vegetables and bread with cream cheese. Kajgana is simply creamy scrambled eggs made with flour, sour cream, and buttermilk. I also had coffee and hoped this would help with the lethargy I felt as a result of the allergies.

The coffee helped for a while as I was inspired to bake a cake. I found my little red journal where I wrote my recipes for the past three years and went back to the first few pages where I wrote a recipe for lemon poppy seed cake.

lemon poppy seed cake 2017

This was the cake I baked in my second flat in Edinburgh in November 2013. The day before I decided to return to Ireland and visit my now husband and his friends in Ennis. I remember making an orange poppy seed cake as well and giving it to the Aer Lingus ticket agent just because.

The cake was small. A five-inch cake baked in one of the many cake pans I purchased at Lakeland in Edinburgh. The children and I ate all of the cake this afternoon. They had milk. I had more coffee. My hope is that one day we will return to Scotland with the children to show them the beauty of a country I have visited a handful of times in the past three years. If not this year, then we will plan for next year.

Throughout the day the children kept busy working on the activity books I bought them yesterday at Barnes and Noble. Cinnamon cozied up on her mattress in the living room and worked on her word searches whilst Sage did page after page of the dot-to-dot book. Before they left to their father's house, I had them write a few words in their new journals.

children diptych

As they busied themselves with these activities I busied myself with the task of planning our pantry organising. With our having bought the elfa hanging baskets yesterday, I had the pantry door planned but not the shelves in the pantry or the storage for the baking supplies and the refrigerator.

Organising our place will take a few months but is necessary for a happy state of mind. Ridding our home of the chaos and clutter of years past is my goal for the year which starts with the kitchen.

I look forward to these next five days of time off work so I can finish putting the furniture in its place and make our home comfortable by the time all three children return Friday evening.

sage with cake

This year is the year we get organised. The year we read more books. The year we start living instead of merely existing and waiting for the days to pass. This is our year.

GOODBYE 2016

IMG_3764-1.jpg

There were a few good things which happened this year. The highlight was having my now husband come to the States for the first time and our getting married. Getting a job a few weeks before the end of this year was the other good thing this year.

But it seems this year was wrought with many more of the 'bad'. I am certain I did not anticipate moving three times this year. Nor did I think that my getting pneumonia would cause such a disruption in my ability to take care of my children. Aside from my taking them to California for two weeks this summer, I saw my children much less than I should have.

For my children, the changes this year have been many as well. Not only have they moved three times with me but they were uprooted from their family home they have known all of their lives to a new one with their father and his wife. And they relocated schools this autumn season as well. I never cease to marvel at their ability to adapt to such frequent and often sudden changes.

Our last day together this year started with freshly baked vanilla bean scones. It was a recipe I found on Sweet Paul's website. When my son did not recognise what I had made, I realised that it had been too long since I baked much of anything. This is something I intend to change next year. Afterwards we went out to a few stores to get something for eating, something for organising the kitchen, and something for entertaining the children.

I believe next year will be a better year. So now I say goodbye to 2016 and await midnight for the start of a new and much more rewarding life.

MAKING THE BEST

siblings 12302016

I admire my younger two children for making the best out of our current situation. One where they must improvise in absence of something ready-made. And in the absence of their iDevices. It is a useful life lesson and skill they will need for their future when they find themselves in a not-so-ideal situation.

I watched them play together. Sage tried showing his sister how to play Battleship. They played on the beds but at one point all of Sage's ships fell off the grid and the game was then over. They switched to colouring then to playing school.

Cinnamon was the teacher administering a math quiz and a spelling quiz. The math quiz he passed with no mistakes. It was apparent that spelling is not his strong point. I did, however like his spelling of unicorn as 'younacorn’.

They continued to play on the balcony despite Cinnamon’s allergies. The cedar allergies which affect us both. They made the best out of not having a yard as Sage ran laps around the balcony and his sister did gymnastics. But it is not a large balcony. Yet they somehow made it work.

We sat down together on the floor for a snack of apples with thin rice cakes and almond butter. This was their pretend school lunchtime after which they returned to classes. In the meantime, I started the lentil soup for dinner.

My daughter commented on how much better it tasted than before and liked my addition of rice at the end as the soup finished cooking. Both children questioned the green stuff. The sliced fresh spinach leaves I placed on the bottom of the bowls before pouring over the hot soup. I said nothing more than it was 'vegetables'. They ate all of it.

I realise none of this is easy for the children as they travel back and forth from one house to another. But more difficult with my having moved so many times and them not having the stability which they deserve. My hope for all of us is the stability of family and our moving forward towards a better future together.

WAKE-UP CALL

sunset 29dec2016

Every so often we need a reminder. A sign. A wake-up call. Something telling us to stop or start doing something which will improve our well-being, for what we have been doing up until now is clearly not working. Such was the case this afternoon.

We go through life at times in a state of hurry. Certainly here in the States it seems more the case than in Europe where the way of life is slower and people focus less on work and more on a higher quality of life. As a result of such hurriedness we neglect the most basic of our needs. Food and sleep.

In a rushed state we tend to focus less on ourselves as we hurry out the door trying to make it to the daily grind of work. We might or might not have time to sit down for breakfast. If we do, it is most often a hurried affair as we shove a piece of bread with coffee into our mouths and hope that keeps us until lunchtime.

As lunchtime rolls around we get caught up in the latest project which needs to be completed. Perhaps we skip lunch or grab something from a nearby restaurant as we ran out of time to make something at home. By the time we get home in the evening we might be too tired to cook anything. Once again grabbing something, anything to curb the hunger we feel.

In addition to the neglect in nutrition, we push sleep and exercise off to the side hoping to somehow fit them into our busy schedule. But the time comes when we can no longer delay our basic needs. The ones which sustain us. Ones necessary to keep us going.

Our bodies have ways to let us know we need to make a change. Sometimes we listen. Other times we ignore the signs and suffer the consequences in some way. This afternoon my gallstones decided it was time for a reminder. My wake-up call to return to the healthy eating and exercise habits I have neglected in the past month.

The pain of gallstones is intense but nothing new to me. I have had them in the past and every time it has been the result of eating something my body was not used to eating on a regular basis. I suspect the popcorn with oil I shared with the children yesterday was tonight's culprit. But I am guessing this was not the only reason.

The stress of everything combined from the last few months and certainly this latest move have all caught up with me. My wake-up call was here to let me know I needed to shift focus back to a healthier lifestyle. To take time to plan healthy meals, drink more water, and return to a steady exercise routine.  

With a new year ahead of us comes a great time to make the changes necessary for a healthier and happier life. If we neglect to listen to the signs, that wake-up call, we might not get another chance down the road. The time to listen is now.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

popcorn and movie

It seems this year has been filled with many disappointments. Today was no exception. It started shortly before my three children arrived to spend the next four and a half days with me as I talked with my husband. It ended with my oldest child leaving my home as she wished not to stay in a place where nothing was set up yet.

I was fed up with everything at this point. Nothing is going according to plan. Everything I had hoped for in the new year has now changed. In two weeks I would have seen my husband again. But things have changed and that is now no longer the case.

The entire reason for my getting a basic job was to bring him here. I did everything on my part to ensure I could have him here. With my starting the job it meant my putting off the setting up of the apartment as I would be too tired after coming home late to work on it. This resulted in my not having the children's room or any room fully ready for their arrival.

When my oldest child realised there was nothing to do, she started to complain. She was being a real spoiled brat and I texted her father to come get her. I also told him she was spoiled and a brat. Yes, I said that because at his place she has it all. Her own large room with a sofa and a play area and a desk with a chair. At my place she has a place to sleep and food to eat. Apparently that is not enough.

I told the younger two they could leave as well. I no longer felt good enough for anybody. But my middle daughter and her younger brother wished to stay. They would find a way to make things work amidst this mess. I set up the remaining two mattresses on the floor in the living room, put on two Christmas movies for us to watch, and made popcorn for us to eat. They were happy.

But I was still not happy about my current situation. With decisions made which now need to be changed. With promises broken. Not once but many times. This time with more severe consequences. I have done everything and given everything to make things work but find I no longer can do this by myself. The trust I had in a better year has vanished.

When trust is broken we need time to heal and to try to come up with another solution. It might seem impossible at first but anything worthwhile is worth the effort. My disappointments were great today but this year was filled with many more disappointments which somehow worked out in the end. I can only hope next year is better than this past one.

WONDERINGS

december bird

It is winter but it feels nothing like winter. I wonder whether we will simply fast forward to spring, foregoing the cold of the season.

Times are difficult. I wonder what the next steps we should take.

The wonderings are many as we navigate through these trying times. But I believe things will work out as they should even if we would like them to be otherwise.

WITHOUT MUCH ADO

vanillekipferl

'How are you' he asked.

'Fine' I replied and asked him how he was. His answer was the same as mine but we could sense we were anything but fine as we celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple apart.

Cedar allergies did nothing but add to the somber mood. Temperatures climbed to 25 degrees Celsius so I opened the door to the balcony and two of the windows letting in the pollen. I wondered if we were going to have a proper winter this season.

During my afternoon coffee, I took out the remaining dough I had from the vanilla crescents and baked five cookies. This was as to close to celebrating Christmas as I got this year.

Afterwards I was glad to talk with my oldest daughter though the camera on her phone was broken so I could not see her on FaceTime. But she was able to see me and my husband as I was talking with him on Skype right before she called.

My son mentioned he was unable to call me on his iPad as he let me know it was currently in his father's bedroom and he was not allowed to use it during 'special days'. Good to know as I will make sure to adopt this rule at our place next Christmas when the children are here with us.

Christmas is now over having come and gone without much ado. I look forward to next year's celebration when all five of us are together as a family. As it should be.

NEXT YEAR

christmaseve2016

'Tonight I'm going to spy on Santa', she texted me this evening. I was glad to hear from my oldest but sad not to have the children spend Christmas with me. I told her good luck and let her know that Santa was not coming to my place this year.

'I have no tree either' I let her know so that she and her siblings are aware of this before they come to see me on Wednesday. I did not want them to be disappointed as I am but such is the case this year. 'Next year' I promised her.

'At least you have us' she tried to make me feel better but I told her it's not Christmas without them. 'Next year with Mario' she continued. At that point I told her that next year all five of us will have a real Christmas. Celebrating together as we should be doing this year. Next year will be a better year.