AFTER THE STORM

Tonight's orange sunset with a hang glider in the distance.

Tonight's orange sunset with a hang glider in the distance.

Torrents of rain thrashed against the windows on the opposite side of the house rousing me from a deep sleep at two this morning. As I lay wide awake watching the light show put on by nature outside my bedroom window, I thought how lonely such a storm can make one feel in the absence of someone lying next to you and comforting you.

Life brings with it a torrent of storms as well. Ones which frighten us and cause us great sadness. Yet somehow we find strength in weathering the storms of life as the storms of nature. We clean up the fallen trees and debris which the winds scatter. In life, we make mistakes. We fall. But we learn to stand back up and start over again. Somehow.

After the storm, the sun always finds a way to brighten our tomorrow. It brings us hope when all hope is lost. It teaches us to smile again. It brings us comfort until the next storms come our way and we once again find a way to move forward.

FROZEN MILK TO BOILING BLOOD

sage reads lafcadio

'That's a funny joke, Mama' laughed Saffron with sarcasm as I deluded the children into believing the neighbour sent me an email threatening to call the cops if they did not calm down and be quiet. If it wasn't dark I would have seen the smirk on her face. Clearly she did not care one bit about their carrying on as they have been for the past half hour. Tonight being worse than last night.

At this point, my neighbours might mention something to the landlord which might get me kicked out. For them it does not matter as they have a place to live at their father's. Saffron continued to joke that I can simply live 'at Mario's place'. Her indifference and the contempt in her voice becoming ever so aggravating.

The day started out with frozen milk from a broken refrigerator and ended with boiling blood. Mine. As I try to find something positive today I can recall the quiet moments listening to my son read his lion book and know that the refrigerator will be fixed so there will be no more frozen milk for breakfast.

THREE AGAINST ONE

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I do not remember being as unruly and bored as a child. I remember finding my own entertainment which usually involved reading a magazine or book, writing, drawing, or walking outside in search of interesting rocks. Yet my children expect to be entertained almost every minute of the day or else they are 'bored'.

My oldest complained about spending too much time indoors at the other house. Just yesterday she complained about having to spend her time outdoors here at the townhouse. I find I simply cannot win as nothing is good enough. I told her to be happy it is sunny and that she is able to spend time outdoors.

Today they had no school. With the end of school a month away, I had better try harder to find a job this summer so we can move into a place of our own sometime soon, though not as soon as I would like. Living in temporary housing is fine for a while but does not provide the stability children need as we are now moving once a year.

What today has shown me is that Europe, for them, is out of the question this summer. Perhaps with one child I can manage and focus better. With three against one, I feel outnumbered. But I know this will be the case going forward so I have to find a way to deal with it.

Perhaps when they are older they will behave better. Or maybe they will be the same. Time will tell. Maybe they will stop giving me a hard time but I doubt that will be anytime soon.

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS

magical sunset
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
— Albert Einstein

Time and time again we do something repeatedly, without change, but then wonder why we still feel the same. Why we are still in that place when we wish to be elsewhere. Why we find we are making no progress whatsoever. But if we stop to think for a moment, we realise the answer lies in change.

Fear causes us to stay in one place. The fear of failure, of leaving that safe haven we have known for most of our lives. The incessant wondering if we have made the right decision only to discover that making no decision at all is anything but the correct choice.

When we make the decision to step outside the box, to start to believe we can make a difference if not to anyone else but ourselves, we feel the lightening of the burden which fear has placed upon us. Those shackles of dispair are unlocked and we are set free. Free to live life instead of merely exist in life.

When all else fails, change is the answer. Expecting an alternate result after repeating the same thing time after time brings us nothing but insanity, as Einstein expressed.  

Oftentimes we make life more complicated than it should be. We think, we ruminate, we ponder to our demise. Instead, we need to change our point of view. Change our environment by taking a trip to a neighbouring city or a country far away. The slightest of change is better than none at all.

Exchanging stories with strangers can prove to be cathartic. Travel provides such an experience. You know you might never see that person from the train or the plane again but you leave with a sense of having gained something which adds to your life experiences. 

Communication with others helps us understand what it is we desire in life. Meaningful communication and not merely small talk. Sharing experiences. Sharing thoughts. Simply sharing through verbal or written avenues provides insight into life. Life needs change in order to move forward. Without change, insanity remains.

REMEMBERING

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He was not the type of person to ignore emails, especially ones asking for advice. It had been a while since we exchanged words so when he did not write back, I should have wondered why. Instead, I was too preoccupied with the move and other issues to realise the reason for his lack of response.

For some reason I decided to go on Facebook before 3 this morning to see if there was a message to which I needed to reply. I haven't been active on there in a while. A long while apparently.

As I scrolled through my messages, I clicked on a friend's avatar which led me to his page. I wanted to see what he was up to as I wrote to him last Friday asking for career advice and also a month ago just to see how he was doing. When I landed on his page, I saw the word 'Remembering' under his avatar.

Remembering? It had to be a mistake, I thought.

I then typed his name in the search engine on my iPhone where I found reports of someone by his name having been shot and killed in Oakland back in November. It had to be someone else by the same name. But it wasn't.

I was in Northern Ireland at the time but remember emailing him a month prior to that and having a short conversation on the phone with him. He asked me to send him my CV so he could help me in my job search. I said I would, but somehow never got around to it.

I am still in shock and sorry for not keeping in touch with Jonathon. He helped me years ago when I lived in San Francisco. We worked at the same company and I remember his encouragement and dedication to helping me study for the CISSP. I attribute my passing the difficult exam to him.

He was amazingly talented and incredibly smart. He touched many people's lives with his kindness. I remember him calm and collected even under the most stressful of situations. When I browsed through his photos online, I could see his passion for life. He lived life to the fullest until that morning last November when a random 24-year old felon tried to rob him but ended up robbing him of his life instead. One random moment in time.

The moments we have are far fewer than we realise but somehow we believe we have all the time in the world to do something or say something. Until it is too late. We will wait until tomorrow, we reason. But there is no guarantee of tomorrow. All we really have is today.

THAT GLOW THAT BOW

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The sky had that look about it. That glow. I have seen it before when I was in Ireland. The land of rainbows.

I paused the German cooking show we were watching and ran to the window. I knew it would not last long so I took the screen off the window which worked and grabbed my camera whilst Saffron opened the window.

Sure enough we could see the entire bow of the rainbow. It was a beautiful sight after days of almost never-ending rains. But then we saw it. The hint of another rainbow behind the first. A double rainbow.

A STORMY SUNDAY

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The sun made a brief appearance this morning until rain, followed by thunder and lightning, took its place. I thought about the lake and how filled to capacity it must be by now and remembering how low the levels were last year before the intense rains.

So I stayed indoors. Not to say I do not do so on other days but when it rains as much as it did today, you are better off staying at home unless you need to be somewhere. I had no need to be anywhere.

I am quick approaching the end of 'The Girl on the Train'. A book I purchased in a bookshop in Ennis last year and one which I have only recently come back to reading. Alone and quiet, save for the occasional crack of thunder outside my bedroom window, the mood of this stormy Sunday made for a perfect reading day.

THE NOT KNOWING

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The path forward is at times obscured. We cannot see clearly what lies ahead though we long to know what comes next. What is in store for us tomorrow. Next week. Next year. We wonder what we need to do in order to bring about the change we so desire. 

We become doubtful as we find no solution to our dilemma. Morning comes. Night falls. Yet we still find ourselves standing in the same spot as before wondering what step to take next and whether that step will be the right one to take.

We also come to realise the not knowing is what keeps us going. What keeps us wondering and striving to move forward. The future is enigmatic. It is unclear. But if it was clear would it be better. Or is the challenge what makes it all worth the while.

BETWIXT AND BETWEEN

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We are in the midst of a holding pattern where we know not the next step. In the meantime, we wait. We put life on hold, it seems, and simply wait to decide what to do next.

This time is one of uncertainty. Of an unknown. It is unnerving, for how do we plan the next step if we are betwixt and between. How do we move forward.

So we sit and wait for someone to unfreeze time, to hit the 'Play' button so that time may continue. So life can move forward once again.

SUMMER DELIBERATIONS

orange sunset

As the end of school approaches, thoughts of summer come to mind. This year I have the three children for most of the summer break but with no definite plans on the horizon.

Certainly I would like to fulfill their rather large dream of seeing the London Eye, Tower Bridge, and the Eiffel Tower. These wishes of theirs have been brought about by my introducing them to 3D puzzles of the London Tower Bridge and the Eiffel Tower as well as reading to them 'The London Eye Mystery' during winter break.

Though I have done a preliminary search for affordable flight tickets to London or even Dublin, my search has yet to produce anything reasonable. But travel is something I believe brings much value to children as memories they will cherish for a lifetime. Years later children might not remember the toys they received as much as they will remember trips taken with family.

We still have the pool by the townhouse and books to read, puzzles to build, walks to take, along with cooking and baking lessons. There will be no shortage of activities to keep them busy but these dreams of theirs might just have to wait for a little while longer.

Sometimes we have to learn to simply enjoy the moments we have until we are able to fulfill a wish or goal of ours. It might take longer than expected. Sometimes it might not happen at all. The main thing is to keep focus and to continue moving forward.

FROM THEM BOTH

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I saw him walking towards me. A smile on his face. A small rose in his hand.

'For you, mama. I love you.' he says as he hands me the rose.

His sister found the flower and was using it for a video she was making. Her intent was to give it to me after she was finished but somewhere along the way she lost it. Her brother found it and handed it to me. A beautiful reminder from them both of love's simplicity which brought a smile to my face.

SOME DAYS

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Some days the weather seems to dictate your mood. Other days the weather is of no relevance as you simply cannot 'snap out of it' as people are so apt to advise.

Some days the world appears black and white. The colour of life drained from all you see.

But some days there is that brief moment in time where you can sit and smile, if only for a while. At those little things which we at times take for granted. Your son reading a new book with little help from you. Your daughter laughing at something silly. A mere moment.

ABOVE ALL ELSE

saffi star

If we listen with intent, we hear what it is that children value above all else. They are the most basic of needs. A roof over their heads so they have a warm and safe place to sleep. Food to eat, so they are nourished. People in their lives to hear what they have to say.

The roof need not be fancy but should provide protection from the elements of nature. The food should be simple and healthy. As for the people who interact with children on a daily basis, they should make the children feel important and loved.

As I waited at the school office to leave for Saffron's field trip to the Bob Bullock Museum this morning, a fourth grade girl walked in hysterical and near tears mumbling something about somebody always touching her or her food or something along those lines. The school nurse was calm and tried to bring about a sense of calmness to the girl by asking her if she had her lunch with her for the field trip. She tried to divert the girl's attention to anywhere but the current situation.

I marveled at the nurse's ability to listen and know that what the girl really needed was to be heard. I saw the girl after lunch on the field trip and asked my daughter about her. 'Oh, she always whines' she replied and repeated exactly what the girl was saying at the office this morning.

Sometimes we listen to the sounds of conversation but do not hear the actual words. We do not take time to understand their meaning. We do not hear the cries for help disguised in children acting out in one way of another. But children are not the only ones with a need to be heard. We all have needs and wants. What it is we value above all else is what we will seek out to bring about.

ELLI AND ANGEL

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Two birthday parties today. One to which my son was invited and the other for a classmate of Cinnamon's. Sage was the only boy at a girl's Frozen-themed party at a park nearby. My daughter was the only girl at a boy's birthday party at Dave and Busters. They did not mind.

One of the moms told me the girls had been talking since Friday about Sage coming to the party. I smiled.

The face painting at the park was the highlight of the first birthday party, aside from beating Elsa senseless for the sake of Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops. For the face painting, Sage requested an elephant whilst his sister asked for a bunny. Both were wonderfully painted.

'Call me Elli' I heard Sage, the elephant, say.

'Call me Angel' followed Cinnamon, the floppy-eared bunny.

sage beats elsa
seena beats elsa

FAMILY SATURDAY

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We returned to our usual Saturday morning routine. Breakfast tacos at Whole Foods downtown followed by buying freshly baked bread at the store bakery for school the next week. Routine. It is what children need. A sense of stability and familiarity.

Lightning and rain followed us home later in the morning. I wondered whether Sage would play soccer at noon. We arrived in time but noticed few people on the field. I asked his coach whether the game was still on. It was delayed half an hour. We waited in the car. As the lightning and rain continued, it was apparent the game was cancelled.

Once back home, the three took to their iDevices for a while. The younger two then grabbed the large box of sidewalk chalk and created beautiful drawings. A large star with each point and the middle filled in with different patterns. Stripes, suns, hearts, circles, cat faces, and smiley faces.

'I'm bored' I heard Cinnamon exclaim. I explained to her that I simply cannot entertain them every second of the day and that they have to come up with their own solutions to keep themselves busy. I am sure I will be hearing these words often during the long summer weeks.

At the end of the day we walked across the main street to the small park. The one I can now see from my bedroom window. Though I have lived in this community since before the children were born and we passed by this park many times, I have never once ventured through its entrance.

The path took us in between houses and to the next roundabout where we descended the stairs. The children were not sure where we were at that point, but later regained their orientation as we returned to the townhouse entry.

Saturday is movie night at our house. Another routine to which the children look forward. They let me know their movie of choice was 'Food Boy' which they watched on Sage's iPad. They thought it was funny. I retreated upstairs to watch some German movie on my laptop. Though it will take a while to get settled into this new place, we enjoyed our second family Saturday here.

SYNERGY

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'You'll be coming back often today' commented a lady near the front office as I affixed my sticker ID to my denim skirt. And I did. But it was important to the children that I attend.

Today was the Learning Celebrations programs which signified the end of the third nine weeks of school. The children sang a song about the Seven Habits they had been learning about this past year and awards were distributed to those who attained certain goals. 

Sage received one for Synergize. Both Cinnamon and Saffron were awarded the one for understanding - Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. I was proud of my three children and how they progressed at school this year. Seeing their smiling faces as they waved to me during each of their programs made the time I was there all the worthwhile. 

I had over half an hour in between Sage’s and Cinnamon’s programs and decided to walk across the street to the park. I walked three laps around the park and spoke with my boyfriend just as I finished the third round.

'Remember...together we are stronger' I texted him after our talk. Until this moment I did not realise this was the basis of Synergize, the sixth habit. The one for which Sage received an award. One which explains how we can gain insight into new solutions by working together as we each have differing opinions and solutions which we might not otherwise see on our own. How fitting, I thought. How true.