THE OWL

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The highlight of my day was seeing an owl perched on a fence on the return home from my walk. I left a few minutes later than usual as I had received a message from someone I went to school with many years ago and wanted to respond to her before I left.

At first I thought maybe it was some other kind of bird. But it was not as it turned its light-coloured head towards me when it heard me passing by.

‘Huh’, I stated a bit too loudly in my disbelief of my having seen an owl. I wasn’t quite sure if I had ever seen one in person. The next moment he had flown away.

I continued on towards home after having run two laps around the track this time, having added an extra lap to yesterday’s endeavour. Once home, I responded to my friend before settling in for the evening.

And I thought how beautiful the owl was under the light of the full moon.

BEYOND COMFORT

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The temptation was there. To stay home and go to bed early or to go on my evening walk even though I was really tired. And I had a headache. And I could come up with a myriad of other reasons if I had wanted to talk myself out of it. But I did not. I dressed in my workout clothes and went on my walk as I had done the past week.

The walk helped my headache to some degree so I was glad that I went. It was almost 20,30 when I left the apartment and still light outside though the sun was scheduled to start its descent in about five minutes. But the bold and varied colours of nights before were nowhere to be found.

The parking lots of both schools had cars parked there. The football field in the back of the school had at least ten boys practicing. As I passed the baseball field, I noticed two people practicing batting. The tennis courts were almost completely full with people playing. I had wished I could play but I neither know how nor have the equipment to do so. It’s also not a one-person sport as yoga and biking can be so that was not an option.

When I reached the tree, I took my photo and noticed that the gates were opened to the running field.  The smaller one at my daughters’ school. I decided to jog around for one lap and expand my evening routine as long as I am able to do so. I know that once the days get shorter, I will have to readjust my schedule as I might not be able to go at the time I do now.

On the return trip home, I noticed a family of four children with their parents on the back road where I walked. Three of the children were on their scooters and it reminded me of the times I went walking with my children whilst they were riding their scooters. The fourth child was walking alongside his parents. It surprised me that so many people were out so late, enjoying their evening instead of staying indoors.

As I turned the corner, I looked up and noticed the full moon. Though I had wanted to take a photograph of it, I decided the quality of the phone would not do it justice so I simply basked in its beauty and committed the image to my memory.

When I reached the apartments, I noticed the neighbour’s belongings were still in the breezeway as they had been when I returned home from work earlier this evening. She had mentioned she was moving but stated she will remain in the apartment complex. In the next building, I believe.

Once I was inside my place, I looked at the Health app on my phone and noticed that between my walks during the day at work and the evening walk, I had managed to log 5.5 miles today. Four to five miles has been my average during the past week. All due to pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. Though I wanted nothing more than to lie down and read or sleep, I knew that I had to get out and make a change.

A change for the better requires us to break old habits and build new ones. And this starts with us taking one step at a time towards our goals.

LEASING WOES

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The front panel of the oven door fell off again this morning. The first time this had happened was shortly after we had moved in. I was baking something or possibly heating a bagel, as I was this morning, when the door front simply hung open as I pulled on the handle to open the oven.

After a few times of this happening, I figured out that if I tighten the screws inside the door as I slide the front panel under the handle that this would work for a while. And it did. Until it didn’t.

On Saturday I decided to let the leasing office know of this and other issues. I did not expect them to come inside the apartment today but someone did. I am certain that the maintenance guy was not thinking he would have to walk through a maze but he did manage to find the path to the kitchen through all of that furniture.

I had asked for a new oven. I had hoped for one. But that was clearly not going to happen. Then again, it is not as if we would be getting a gas range, so it didn’t really matter. I would prefer a gas range and oven. A convection oven. The induction stove top would have to suffice as long as we live here. Such as the leasing woes that one would not have with a house one owns. There would be other issues but at least they would be my own decisions to make.

There were two notices left on the kitchen counter which I glanced at and set aside. Both stated the reason for the entrance. One stated that the maintenance guy left the bulb to the bell light above the kitchen sink though my changing it did not help with the issue. The other stated something about ordering parts for the stove. Judging from the three screws left on the counter with one missing in the door, I am guessing it had to do with another screw.

These were only a few of the items which needed to be addressed. I would not be bringing up the refrigerator which makes a loud noise from time to time and over-cools everything inside even though the coolness levels are already adjusted to above the coldest setting. I would not be bringing up the clogged shower drain which was never unclogged when I moved in. And I would not be bringing up the lingering smell of mold by the air conditioner from the time the upstairs neighbour’s clogged air conditioner unit leaked watered into our apartment.

Somehow we will learn to deal with these and other issues until the time comes to find a place of our own. If that time ever comes. At least the oven door will be fixed before the autumn baking begins. At least we have a roof over our heads with a beautiful view which faces a nature preserve. At least we have a nice place for evening walks. We are here in this place, in this moment for a reason. The next step on this interesting journey.

ANYWHERE IT FITS

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‘You’re earlier than I expected’, I said as I opened the door, hoping to have had a little more time for last minute preparations.

‘We’ve had coffee’, replied one of the two guys walking through the door. ‘Have you had coffee’, he asked me.

‘I’ve had tea. Black tea’, I replied.

‘I see that we’ve moved you six times’, he stated as he scrolled through his iPad.

‘Yes’, I replied, not sure what else to say as I tried to calculate in my mind if that was in fact the correct amount of times. I had used another moving company for my move from the first townhouse to the first house until I found them for my subsequent moves. Today would be the sixth time, I calculated. And the second part of the move from the house to the apartment.

I proceeded to explain what they would take, pointing out that it would only be the furniture and not all of the other items I plan to take in the next two weeks. They then got to work wrapping and carrying furniture to the truck which took them about an hour.

‘Where do you want the furniture to go’, asked the loud one. A few times he had let out screams of some kind which I did not appreciate and did not find to be professional. Also, it was Sunday and it was early enough in the morning to where the neighbours might have still been sleeping.

‘Anywhere it fits’, I replied. ‘This is all the space you have to work with’, I stated as waved my arms around the small space of the living room which was already filled with furniture from the last move back in April.

They proceeded to carry in the children’s dressers, two pieces of a tall cabinet, the large red shelf with sliding doors, the queen-size mattress and box spring, the metal headboard and footboard frames from my bed, the other nightstand, and the two side pieces of the sofa which they had to store standing up and which reached within a foot of the ceiling.

Once everything that needed to go into the apartment was in, there was very little walking space left. This would be one interesting puzzle to assemble, I thought.

‘Where do you want the other items’, asked the other quiet guy.

‘Ah, that will be more challenging’, I said and then proceeded to explain that the bunk bed will need to be assembled in the garage so that I could store items within and on top of it. As for the three large metal garage shelves and the cat tree, those would fit in the remaining space with my having to figure out the organisation at a later time.

‘See you in a year or two’, said the loud once when the move was finished I had paid for the almost three hours.

‘Hopefully it will be a house next time’, I replied. The only move I intend to make next is into my own home. Of course, circumstances change and we never know what the future holds but at least we can have a plan of action. For now, I was glad to have all of the furniture, except for one small table and two mirrors I would take myself, at the apartment.

For the remainder of my Sunday, I made a smaller version of my Dutch baby pancake for breakfast, did some studying, and then took an evening walk. I was glad to have heard from my girls and to know that they were doing well. They were still in Nevada but outside of Las Vegas so I am guessing they are on their way back home. Now I will have to work quickly in order to set up our home before they arrive in close to three weeks’ time.

A PRODUCTIVE SATURDAY

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Getting prepared for the movers who arrive tomorrow morning was of the utmost importance today. A feat that involved shifting around boxes in both the old and new garages in addition to making space in the small apartment to accommodate furniture that would be a challenge to fit in such a space.

But before starting that work, I took a long and relaxing walk and made a hearty breakfast of kajgana with avocado, baby tomatoes, and a bagel. Since I had no avocado left to go with those creamy eggs, I made a quick trip to the grocery shop.

In addition to the one avocado, I bought a quarter of a watermelon which I noticed as I walked in through the front doors. It had been years since I had bought a watermelon and it looked so good. Especially in this summer heat.

After breakfast, I drove to the house to see what needed to be done. As soon as I walked through the house, I noticed that two lights and a fan had been left on since the realtors showed the house to a potential tenant earlier this week. I was not pleased with that seeing how I was still paying for the electric bill.

A few moments after I had arrived, I noticed someone approaching the front door. It was a real estate agent who wanted to show the house to a family of four from Colorado. The confused look on my face must have thrown him off so I proceeded to explain that I was told that I would be given a 24-hour notice to enter the house.

The agent looked through his paperwork and stated there was no mention of any notice only that the house was vacant but that furniture would still be there. I let him know that the family is certainly able to come in for a look whilst I gather a few more items to take with me. I had them leave their shoes at the front door. The agent said it would be but a moment of them looking around.

He was right. I was only a moment. The briefest moment I had ever thought could exist for determining whether a house had any chance with the family. The wife took one look at the kitchen and made up her mind that this was not the house for them. I even suggested she take a look upstairs or anywhere else. She kindly declined and did not go into any other room. Instead, she thanked me for my time and continued on her way to another listing.

I could see how the kitchen might not be appealing with the gold and brown tiled backsplash, black countertops, and outdated cabinetry along with the white, inexpensive refrigerator. Thankfully it is not my house, so I have none of those worries of not being able to rent a place. Hopefully one day. But then again, maybe I will keep renting.  

Two hours later, I was back at the house. After dinner, I went on my evening walk which ended up being a few minutes of running to that tree. The one where I could see the final moments of the sun dipping beneath the horizon. Once again, the colours were stunning and I was glad to have seen them. I then continued on my walk and returned home after an hour. A nice end to a productive Saturday.

CHASING THE SUN

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One of the most beautiful sights our eyes can behold is witnessing the beginning and ending of the day as shown to us by the sun. By its rising and setting every morning and every evening. Though some days it might not be seen to us, it is still there. Hiding behind the clouds. Letting them have their time in the limelight.

The sun this morning, as seen from both of the children’s bedroom windows, was a stunning display of pinks and oranges in various shades. I grabbed my phone and took some photos as I knew the scene would shift within seconds.

I readied myself for work shortly thereafter and was delighted it was Friday. Shortly before 13,00, Cinnamon texted me that they made it to Nevada. She was excited that they, the kids, would be getting their own hotel room and let me know that they have not gone to the Grand Canyon but they will visit it on their return home. Aside from that, I did not hear much more from them today.

Once home, I ate the potato soup that I made last night and spent less than an hour afterwards reading. As I looked outside the window, I waited for the evening to draw to a close. For the sun to start its descent. At that moment, I got ready for my evening walk.

The sky was aglow once again but this time with deep reds and fuchsias. The scene changed ever so rapidly which meant I had to forego my usual route to get to the large tree by the other school’s field to witness the sun’s final dip beneath the horizon. I was amazed at how quickly the colours changed and faded but was happy to have been able to see this with my own eyes. The beauty of chasing the sun.

NOT IN MEXICO

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‘Dobro jutro! How are you three?’, I texted to the group chat during my first break of the day.

‘Cute we r in Mexico’, was the reply I received from Saffron two hours later when I was sitting outside on my lunch break eating ‘sick’ crackers and water. I was still recovering from yesterday’s bout of illness.

My son has come to refer to the Saltine crackers as ‘sick’ crackers as that is what he remembers giving to me the time I had pneumonia but thought I had the flu. Or the other times when he was sick and could eat nothing else.

‘What? How can you be in Mexico when Seena said you were in Arizona?’, I wrote back, bewildered that I was not told the children would be leaving the country. Their passports were in my possession so I knew they did not have them and wondered how they would be able to leave Mexico without both the passports and a letter of authorisation that I did not sign or was even aware of due to not knowing this supposed change of plans.

‘Nvm I was sleeping when we passed the arazona sign’, she replied to my relief.

‘Girl, you are funny’, I wrote back and was able to relax once again. I told her I missed her and that I look forward to their return. I was happy to finally hear from her and to know that she is doing well. She mentioned that the motel they stayed at last night was very nice.

For someone who was against going on a road trip, she seemed to have had a change of mind. I told her that maybe one day we will go on a road trip though I would have to figure out how to get extra time off or make the trip the summer after next as my hope is to be able to take them to Croatia next summer.

The remainder of the day was more studying in the training rooms. I was behind a day due to being out sick yesterday and wondered if I would be able to catch up. Then my eye caught the construction workers outside as they carefully and patiently raised large panes of glass.

The facade of the building was to be large panels of glass. The way this was accomplished was with some sort of suction contraption on a crane which was raised to subsequent floors where two other construction workers grabbed the glass and somehow attached them to the side of the building inside of metal framing.

For almost four months, I have been watching the construction of this new building and the neighbouring parking garage which I have found both fascinating and encouraging. If a group of workers can come together every single day and coordinate the construction of such a large building then certainly I can make it through the chapters of my book or make it through any other endeavour until completion.

Slow and steady progress, I thought. Along with patience and perseverance. This is how one succeeds. And as my eyes returned to my book, I was able to focus on the words in front of me. I thought of my children and was glad they were enjoying their drive through Arizona and that they were not in Mexico.

 

ONWARD TO ARIZONA

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‘Hi mama…Sorry if I woke you up’, texted Cinnamon at almost 01,00. I was asleep and did not hear that or the message two hours later letting me know that they arrived at their first hotel.

‘Thank you for letting me know you arrived safely’, I wrote back when I awoke half an hour before I should have been at work. She thanked me and also let me know that she was reading a book.

‘I am reading a novel called ‘a dog’s way home’’, she wrote and let me know that it is also a movie that she really wants to see.

Yesterday I was not feeling well at work and things were not any better this morning. I decided to stay home and rest some more though I know I would need more than one day. I know that somehow I will have to make it to work tomorrow.

Throughout the day, as I was reading and resting, I received various updates on their whereabouts. My son wrote that they were going to the War Eagle Museum. Then Cinnamon texted me the same and sent me a photo of planes at the museum.

When evening came and I had come to the end of my book, Cinnamon let me know that they were finally leaving Texas and were now in New Mexico. The photo that followed was of the restaurant where she was eating shrimp which was placed in a circle around the rim of a large glass.

It made me happy to hear from them but I do wonder about my older daughter. I’ve only heard from her once. Briefly before they left for the trip. Being on the verge of becoming a teenager is not easy for any child so I can understand. In a month’s time, she will be 13. I am certain she knows I love her and will always be here for her. Just as I will for her brother and sister.

‘We just passed New Mexico. We are now in Arizona.’, texted Cinnamon shortly before midnight tonight.

Fear came over me as I imagined that tomorrow’s outing will be the Grand Canyon. My wish is that they are safe and that they have fun. No selfies please!

VEGAS BOUND

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‘Do you like it?’, he asked.

‘Gorgeous!’, I texted back. The photo was of tonight’s beautiful sunset. One taken from the car where he was sitting and listening to music as the summer road trip began.

‘We are going to Las Vegas’, they wrote earlier in the evening. Both Sage and Cinnamon texted me to let me know they will be leaving soon on their road trip. More than three hours later, they were finally on their way as they first had to drop off their dog and bunny to be watched during their week-long trip. Or however long it takes them to return.

‘I’m just listening to marshmello music’, he continued. ‘And chilling. In the car.’

I told him I was reading on his bed and then told him about the book because he asked. He seemed interested enough to ask if he could read it. Somehow I wished all three would spend more time with a book in their hands instead of their various devices.

‘…or are they not good for kids’, he asked. I told him I was currently reading the story which takes place at the Queensway station. The Tube station where we exited that time I took him to London and where we stayed in that tiny, dilapidated flat over the Subway restaurant. The flat where he ran his forehead into the edge of a wall in the living area as the floors were super slippery.

He continued to tell me about his playlist of 52 songs. All Marshmello. 5 hours and 53 minutes of songs that he is now listening to as he sits in the car and drives towards Nevada. It’s the only music he listens to these days. I am delighted that he has such an interest in music. Then he proceeded to tell me that he reads my blogs and that I can keep writing them.

‘Will you be stopping in New Mexico?’, I asked him.

‘…yes we are stopping in New Mexico so yes and why do you want to know is there something cool there that you want me to see?’, he continued in one of the longest texts from him that I’ve seen yet. Then he promptly apologised for the long text to which I replied that I like when he writes.

I like when any of the children write to let me know how they are doing. It has been only six nights that they have been away but it seems so much longer. I believe they will have fun but I will continue to worry about them as they travel away from home. I still wish that I was able to take them somewhere fun this year.

‘We were there when you were younger’, I wrote back to him. I told him how we went camping up in the mountains and then sliding down the white sand mountains at White Sands in little plastic disks. I also told him about the caverns. Carlsbad Caverns. At that point the signal was lost.

A CALMING STORM

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The comforting sounds of the rushing water outside the bedroom window reminded me of the sounds one finds on the Calm app or meditation channels on YouTube. The one used to fall asleep or to use as white noise when trying to read in a room filled with varying conversations.

Whenever it rains, a mini waterfall forms in an area by the fence on the border of a small nature preserve in the back of the apartments. The same area where the brown bunny grazes the grass, though I have not seen him since last week.

The sky was darkening to a deep grey as I ascended the hill to my home. In the distance, I noticed strikes of lightning. I had made it home earlier than usual today and would be doing so for the next two weeks. I made it in enough time before the storm became too intense for driving on the busy roads during rush hour traffic.

As I checked the windows to see if I had left any of them open, I started to wonder if the wind would tear off the branches of one of the trees and send them hurling through those various windows throughout the apartment. One day perhaps. But not tonight.

Coming home earlier had the added advantage of my being able to create a healthy and hearty meal. Something I had not done for myself since sometime last year, if I remember correctly. As the oven heated and the brown rice cooked on the induction stovetop, I wrapped the corn cob in aluminum foil to bake whilst I prepared the salmon and salad.

The lights flickered at one point during a moment of a loud crack of thunder and I had hoped that I would be able to make my dinner before the power went out as it did the last time there was a thunderstorm.

The comfort of the falling rain and the storm made me wish I had a fireplace to turn on to complete the effect even if it was summertime which would not normally warrant the need for a fireplace.

The large, white shallow bowl was filled with rocket, cucumbers, avocado, baby tomatoes, and feta. On top of that I added the brown rice, baked salmon, and a thick stream of balsamic vinegar. The result was divine.

After dinner, I exchanged a few texts with my children and then lay down to read. The second book, of the three that I ordered last month, arrived today so I had to make sure I finished the first one. The third one should be arriving either tomorrow or the day after.

Though I had my doubts about the format of the book I was reading, I remembered wanting to reading something lighter than my usual psychological thrillers. This book contained a collection of stories rather than a novel in its entirety. Something different for summer. Akin to the other book I read last year by that same Irish author which was an exciting read.  

As I listened to the sounds of falling rain interspersed with crackling thunder, I wondered how that could possibly make for a calming and relaxing atmosphere conducive to sleep. Yet somehow it was.

A SUNDAY ADRIFT

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Some days appear to hold more promise than others. Some days the motivation flows steadily. Other days we seem adrift. Unanchored and floating away without direction.

Being on the move year after year brings about certain unrest. Boxes upon boxes never to be unpacked as the next destination is unknown. The next chapter writing itself with every passing moment. The yearning for stability never ceasing but realising the possibility is nowhere in sight. At least not in the foreseeable future.

With every turn a wall stands in the way. Some with doors. Others without. Though the doors all appear to be closed, one knows there must be at least one that will open. One which holds promise for a better future.

BY WAY OF EXAMPLE

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The text came in around noon. A photo of eggs on a yellow plate on top of the glass table that I remember, along with an explanation. He let me know this was his first time making sunny-side up eggs and that it was a fail. It now tasted like scrambled eggs instead of how he remembered it at my place when I made it for him. But the second one he made tasted like a sunny-side up egg.

I smiled when I read the words from my son and told him I was proud of him. He seemed disappointed but I told him that as long as you learn from your mistake, this was what mattered most. He might have failed the first time but he learned what not to do the second time and succeeded.

At ten years of age he is taking something he learned at my place and using that knowledge at his father’s house. Indeed, I am proud of him. Of all of my children. Though it might seem that they do not listen at times, I am finding that they observe what I am doing and learn by way of example.

After my own breakfast of kajgana eggs, made in the way that I learned as a child, I set about to move more items from my bedroom in preparation for my bed which will arrive next weekend. Though there is so much more to do to try to get this place ready for when the children return next month, I work my way through them as best I can.

Two trips to the house were all I could get myself to do today. The idea I had with putting the heavy rug into a large box ended up not working out as the box was not large enough. It broke apart. At that point I flattened the box and placed the rug wrapped in plastic on top of the box thinking that I could simply drag it over to the door.

The rug was too heavy for it to be dragged such a distance. At times I wanted to give up. To leave the rug sitting there in the parking lot until I figured out another way. But in the end, I could not give up. I needed that rug to somehow make it through those doors so I could place it on the cold concrete floor of my bedroom.

Inch by inch, I continued to drag the box and then to carry the rug a few feet before dropping it on the ground to rearrange my grip on the plastic and to cover the torn parts. There was nobody around to help me. Nobody to call. I had to figure out a way.

After getting the rug inside, I left it sitting at the entrance of my son’s room. The room where I am now sleeping until I am able to set up my own room. His room is a nice room with a beautiful view of trees and an open grassy area where sometimes the brown bunny comes around to graze on the tall grass.

As the day drew to a close, I prepared a simple meal of salad with the remaining lemon zest ricotta ravioli and sat at the dinner table surrounded by all of the boxes which were no longer in my bedroom. In time, I will have this place set up for us to enjoy. For the children to continue to learn by example and to take ownership of one’s own life. To observe what works and what does not. Learning to cook and to bake are both useful skills just as is learning how to make changes when something no longer works instead of making excuses.

INTROSPECTION AND RUMINATIONS

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A song. A beat. A melody. Memories from times long past brought to the present by mere musical notes and words to accompany them as we contemplate their meaning. If there is any meaning to be deliberated or if it is reflection simply for the sake of consideration of a time through which we have already passed.

In a moment of introspection we are transported to a time before the current one before us. Ruminating about a life which, due to retrospect, now appears simpler than life today though at the time we might have believed otherwise.

Experiences and circumstances shape the person we become. One person can never have the exact same experiences as another just as one day is never the same as the day before or will be the same as days afterwards.

Such were the thoughts playing out before me as I set out on my evening walk by the high school across the street. The time alone providing for a welcomed tranquility. For dreaming about travelling abroad next summer as I was unable to do so this year. Wondering if we would be able to go to visit family I had not seen since my oldest turned one and we had celebrated with an aunt who is no longer with us in this world.

The children would love the island and the neighbouring island as well. The one with all the stray cats. That I am certain the children will enjoy. Too much time has passed since my last visit and many things have changed. People have changed as well. But the memories remain the same and are not something anyone can take away.

Minutes chase each other around the hands of the clock and turn into hours which turn into days and years as we realise how finite that time truly is that we are given. Oftentimes we berate ourselves for having wasted such precious time but such is the fact of life with the hope that we have learned from the lessons presented to us.

To spend even a moment longer on something which serves no purpose other than a painful reminder of something we would rather forget is a moment too long. Time where we could instead be creating new memories. Ones upon which we will one day fondly reflect.

My phone signaled an incoming message as I was on my walk. My middle daughter was apologising for not having written all day as she was at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels.  Two hours later when they finally arrived home, my son texted me as well. He also apologised for not writing back as he did not bring his iPad.

I told them both not to worry. To have fun and enjoy the summer. Every day is a day that they are making memories. Memories that they will carry with them into their adult lives and fondly remember one day as a song, a beat, a melody will bring that memory back to them.

A SILENT FOURTH

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Perhaps it was because I had awoken before sunrise again to read. Or maybe it was because I had not been to work the past five days and I had simply gotten used to a different schedule that the day felt never-ending. Hour after hour passed by at such a sluggish pace that I thought the sun would never set tonight.

In addition to time standing seemingly in an idle position, the sound throughout the room was a deafening silence. No sound anywhere except the forced air of the air conditioner cooling down the apartment.

The children would not be waking in my home this morning asking me what we have for breakfast. They would not run around annoying each other and yelling at times to get out of each other’s rooms. Nor would we all get into the car to go buy something at the shop. None of these things will be happening for the next 29 days until they return.

My breakfast for one consisted of a bagel and cream cheese and one sunny-side up egg topped with chives, thyme, and oregano. The Turkish coffee gave me the momentum needed to start tidying up the place. I got started on my closet and then the bathroom before driving over to the house to see what I could take when I wanted nothing more to do with that house.

The large Persian area rug that was inside a plastic cover and had previously covered half of the mirror room carpeted floor was heavier than I expected. As I half carried it and half dragged it to the minivan, the plastic tore in several places. I decided that the rug would stay in the back of the minivan until I figured out another way to get it inside the apartment.

The closet in the master bedroom was next as I packed away half of the clothes that were left behind. The other half I would deal with at another time as I try to figure out what to do with everything. Either toss them or give them away, I reasoned.

Taking the few items from the house served little purpose other than to make me feel better about having done at least something at the house. I would have more time this coming weekend to do much more in the way of cleaning, moving boxes, and disassembling my large bed before the movers arrive the following weekend.

Once home, I settled back into the quiet zone. I prepared an early dinner of leftover spaghetti and sauce along with breaded cod fillets from the freezer which I heated whilst the tomato sauce simmered on the stove. The silence I combated with a movie on the German ZDF app that I had seen last year.

As the sun began to set, I put on my tennis shoes and workout clothes and grabbed my headphones and phone to go on a walk around the neighbourhood. A return to healthy habits is necessary and a walk was just the beginning.

After another hour of reading, I heard the ding of a message coming from my phone in the other room. Cinnamon was sending me several videos of her and her siblings enjoying lighting sparklers in the street at their father’s house. Twice I had messaged her back to ‘be careful’. But I am glad they are having a fun time.

The days away from work have been pleasant indeed but have now come to an end as I return to a normal schedule though I still have the weekend before a full week of work.

A PUZZLE AND UNO

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‘It feels so fun when you’re not at work’, exclaimed Sage as I kissed him on my way out to spend a little time with Cinnamon at Home Depot.  

We had been working on the 500-piece elephant puzzle for two hours though it felt as if it were a few minutes. In that time, we had made great progress. I was glad to see the enthusiasm light up in my son’s eyes where previously there had been frustration.

For most of the morning, after the cat-shaped eggs for breakfast, he had been sitting on the bar stool at the tall stainless steel and mango wood table by the long window in the living room looking for pieces to connect. The table that has now become our puzzle table.

‘I wish you didn’t have to work. I wish you were a stay-at-home mom’, he continued.

Sometimes I wish the same but such are the circumstances that I am not able to stay home as I used to or even work from home. Perhaps one day, but not at the moment.

At Home Depot, Cinnamon and I walked through the garden center looking for soil for her ‘babies’, as she put it. The oregano and thyme plants I purchased a few months ago along with the basil plant which has since met its demise due to my neglect. The plants were still sitting in their original containers and not doing as well as they could if they had new soil.

We left without having bought anything. The bag of soil at the house would have to do though it had been sitting in the yard since last summer. Hopefully, it will be good enough. If it is not, then I will give in and buy a new bag in a month’s time when the children return to my apartment.

‘We could go buy some ice cream instead’, I offered. Cinnamon’s eyes lit up. Once at the shop, she grabbed a small container of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream and we headed to the self-checkout area where we fed the machine the endless coins I had collected in my bag. It was quite entertaining to us both and we then walked out the doors into the humid and warm air after the rain had fallen.

Once home, we all gathered around the round glass dining table and delighted in our afternoon treat of ice cream with the last of the Oreo cookies. Glancing at the clock, I knew that my time with the three was coming to an end for the month.

After our ice cream, I quickly wiped the table clean for our two games of Uno. Puzzles and Uno was the summer I could offer them this year. Not much but as much as I could do this year. At least we had each other, I thought.

As the girls were gathering their items to take to their father’s house, Sage and I decided to work on the puzzle until it was time to leave. We had about half an hour’s time and about a quarter of the puzzle left to complete. Sage wanted to do as much as possible before he left. I wanted to see if we could complete all of it.

The pieces began to click into place as his eyes started noticing the shapes and colours of the puzzle pieces quicker than it had before. The excitement was there. It was now a challenge to get the puzzle finished in the 30 remaining minutes. Though it did not seem possible, the satisfaction was there as he placed the last piece completing the four elephants. A puzzle I had brought him from Scotland years ago.

It was 17,35 when we climbed into the minivan and drove away from the apartments. Once at their father’s house, the children gathered their belongings and we hugged and kissed each other farewell for the next month. They did not want to go but knew that we would see each other soon enough. Until then, I will keep busy by making our apartment a home upon their return.

TO WORK WE GO

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Another morning of awaking early as I was eager to finish the book I had been reading for the past two weeks. I was taking my time reaching the end as I wanted my time with the story and the characters to last as long as possible. Two hours later, the end had been reached but a part of me wished the story would continue for just a while longer.

The morning continued as I got out of bed and prepared for the day ahead. No work today but there was a potluck for my team so I decided to go and was able to take the kids along. Seeing how this would not be the most exciting outing for a child, I told them there would be a surprise for them after our trip to work.

 As I cut the triple chocolate brownies into bite-sized pieces and placed them on a plate, I decided that we had time for a fun breakfast of the leftover brownie pieces we would not be taking with us. The girls drank milk. Sage had chamomile tea whilst I made myself a cup of Scottish black breakfast tea.

The children had seen a few photos that I have sent from the outside of my work but they were impressed when they had seen it in person. I was also impressed the first time I had seen it.

‘This is very nice’, one of the children stated as we walked down the parking garage stairs and across the courtyard to the tall building where I work. Once on the fifth floor, the top of the building, they said it was the nicest office they had ever seen though I am certain they have not seen too many office buildings.

‘This looks like Office Space’, exclaimed Saffron.

As we walked around, I tried to locate the place where we could place our food. Along the way, I came across various colleagues, one of whom stated that Cinnamon looked exactly like me. A ‘mini-me’, as she put it. My other colleague asked Sage if he was excited about school. ‘No’ was his simple answer. He smiled as she told him he looked handsome and thanked her.

The three were excited but respectful of having to remain as quiet as possible during the work hours. They somehow coerced my Scottish colleague to give them markers to draw on my white board by my desk. He looked at me for approval as if unsure if he should and what would be the consequences if he did. They had some fun leaving me various notes which gave life to my otherwise plain surroundings. At some point, I will need to decorate a bit.

‘I want a cat’ was one of the last notes left on the board by Cinnamon. Along with a drawing of a tea cup by Saffron which was just above my box of Tazo Awake Tea. Sage mentioned something about loving me and making sure I love cats and elephants.

The children ended up eating the chips with guacamole and some Oreos. The younger two stated they did not like hamburgers whilst the oldest said she was not too hungry for a hamburger. Despite the potluck having been in the middle of the workday and not being able to socialise as one would normally get to in an otherwise non-work setting, I was glad to have shown the children where I spend most of my days.

As we walked outside the cold air-conditioned building and into the warm and pleasant summer sun, Sage decided to run all around the green lawn in front of the building. The one had been eyeing from up above earlier as he stood at the edge of the floor-to-ceiling windows.

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‘What is our surprise’, asked Saffron, eager to go somewhere else.

‘You’ll see’, I replied.

I then drove them a short distance to The Domain and was fortunate to find a parking spot alongside the shops. The outdoor shopping area had expanded in recent years and we spent an hour or so walking around the various shops.

Lush, the bath bomb shop, was the first stop as we had parked the car directly across from it. Nordstrom was next and then Starbucks where Saffron was able to cross off one more item from her summer bucket list. Trying the ‘pink drink’ from Starbucks. She ended up liking it. Cinnamon bought a mini vanilla scone. The last time I remembered being at a Starbucks with the children was many years ago when they were still so little.

Our last stop was the Amazon bookstore where I bought Saffron a small Pusheen colouring book that she really wanted. Cinnamon chose ‘Bummer in the Summer’, a book from a children’s series. Sage did not find anything to his liking.

Even though I was not able to take the children anywhere fun this summer, I was glad to have taken at least a few days off from work to spend a little time with them.

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NIGHT SWIM

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It was one of the many items on her summer bucket list. The night swim we did tonight. Along with baking which she did earlier today. Both which my oldest was able to cross of the list today. She made a type of cheesecake cookies with bits of crushed Oreos which turned out quite tasty. The kids had grilled hot dogs by the pool as well.

Despite my having taken today off from work, in addition to the next two days, I awoke as early as I usually do. I spent the first two hours of the morning reading and was close to finishing the book until I decided to save the last 50 or so pages for later.

After a simple breakfast of pillow bread with Irish butter and mixed berries jam, I went to the house with Cinnamon to await the arrival of the lady from the rental management company. I straightened up the house as best as I could, still not having had the time to properly clean it as furniture remained in various rooms throughout the house.

She arrived and promptly took off her shoes. The tiled floors were clean and the fireplace room and kitchen were ready for photographs to be used on the new listing on Zillow. The lady proceeded to take a few photographs as the ones she had previously taken, when we moved in at the end of 2017, she had somehow lost.

When she looked arounds and realised that the house was no longer being lived in, she mentioned that if she could get people to come look at the house more regularly that she might be able to get the house rented out before the month’s end. There was no guarantee but the chance was there. Still, I had lost five months of having to pay for the house where I no longer lived as the owners refused to let me out of the lease, despite my circumstances.

Cinnamon and l left the house just as the lady was putting up the sign letting passersby know of the house being available for lease. We drove straight home and then I took my son on a short trip back to the bank and to Trader Joe’s for exactly three items, one of which was a box of shortbread cookies we would have for our teatime.

It was after we returned that I cleared a space in our small apartment kitchen for Saffron to bake her cookies. She wanted to this all on her own and I let her. Aside from assisting her with taking out the baking sheet from the hot oven. I was proud of her and realised she could do more baking when she returned from her summer with her father next month.

The remainder of the afternoon consisted of children being children trapped in a small space. All I kept hearing, and the neighbour upstairs as well, was ‘Get out of my room!’. The oldest and youngest were scheming something as they kept entering the girls’ room whilst Cinnamon was on her bed either listening to music or watching something on her laptop.

This continued for quite some time but there was not much I could do about it. Our space is small and there is no way for me to separate them other than sending them outside to play on their scooters. That lasted for about five minutes until I heard the front door open and saw that Saffron and Sage had returned. That was enough time for them, they figured, and continued as they had before.

I then gathered the hot dogs, buns, two tortillas with cheddar cheese and salsa, along with paper plates, tongs, and Saffron’s cookies for our night swim at the pool. That part of the day we all enjoyed greatly though Cinnamon was still sulking by the side of the pool for a reason that nobody knew why.

Despite the challenges of the day, I realised that things will change as time moves forward and the three grow up, making their way through childhood to the other side into adulthood. For now, we will navigate through these times as best we can.

SUNDAY CATCAKES

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‘I know what you should make for special Sunday breakfast’, exclaimed Cinnamon as she came into my bedroom this morning. I already had something in mind which turned out to be the same as what she was requesting.

‘Pancakes’, she continued.

‘I was already thinking that’, I replied, and was delighted to see that we both had the same idea in mind.

Sundays are the one time during the week that I set out to make something which takes a little more time and effort than the rest of the week when we are usually hurry to get out the door. For almost every Sunday, this includes strawberries alongside anything that I might be making. French toast with strawberries, crepes with strawberries, and now pancakes with strawberries.

As I located my recipe and started to measure out the ingredients, Cinnamon came out of her room with a cookie cutter. It was in the shape of a cat. One which was bought on a trip to Williams Sonoma.

‘Can I use the cat cookie cutter for the pancakes’, asked Cinnamon.

‘Sure’, I replied.

The process of making Sunday breakfast is always a long one but well worth it. I had been working on my own recipe for buttermilk pancakes during the past year as every other recipe I had tried turned out to be a disappointment. The pancakes would be either too dry or too flat. In both cases, the flavour was found to be lacking. This would be the second time I tried my recipe and it turned out to be better than I remembered it being last time.

‘This doesn’t even need syrup’, exclaimed Saffron. I followed her lead and knew what she meant. The children realised that the syrup took away the taste of the pancakes. And they were right. The pancakes, or catcakes, tasted much better on their own along with the strawberries flavoured with fresh lemon zest and a touch of caster sugar.

The batter ended up making around 20 medium-sized pancakes and a few tiny ones which Saffron made as she poured the batter onto the hot griddle. The medium-sized pancakes were large enough to carve out a cat with the cookie cutter. The children were delighted and I was happy to be able to sit down with them for a slower paced breakfast this morning.

Not long after breakfast, I reluctantly drove to the house to finish washing the tiled floors downstairs. That was the last thing I wanted to do on a Sunday but I knew that it needed to be done. Only a few more weekends, I told myself, and this will be over.

Dinner was earlier than usual which was also good. I cooked up a new batch of linguine and warmed up the Alfredo sauce from the night before. The children declared that the Alfredo sauce tasted much better this time. After I had watered it down with some pasta water so it was not as thick.

For dessert, we finished the last of the catcakes from breakfast. The last day of June was nearing its end with the second half of the year before us with a promise of being much better than the first half had been.

A LABOURING SATURDAY

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‘Mama, am I adorable or cute’, asked my son after drinking his tea tonight.

‘Ahhh, you’re cute’, I replied.

‘Adorable is better’, he stated.

Though it was the weekend, I was still not able to sleep in later than usual. I was awake before the sun and settled on my little twin mattress and continued reading the second book from Elizabeth Haynes. An hour later I was out of bed to get ready to go buy a few items at Central Market.

My son heard me open my bedroom door so I asked him if he would like to go with me to the shop. He readied himself and then we left. The drive on the highway was pleasant as the road was near empty. By the time we reached the shop, it was around 08,30.

‘Why are all these closed’, my son asked about the several checkout lines that were not yet open.

‘It’s still early’, I replied. And it was the perfect time to be close to city centre as most people were likely still sleeping in on a Saturday morning.

He seemed surprised when the lady at the checkout told us the total. It was the amount I quoted my son as I had kept a running total in my head. I let him know that math is one of those skills in school he learns that will actually be useful in the future. History, on the other hand, is not a subject I see as being used on a daily basis as we reach adulthood.

We stopped by the bank after going to one more shop but the wait was too long so we continued to home where we awoke the girls for breakfast. Fresh baguette with Irish butter and mixed berries jam, eggs for two of the children, and coffee. Simple and pleasant as it had been a long while since we ate such a breakfast as we had been without jam for several weeks.

After breakfast and cleanup, my son and I went to the house to clear out his room and his sisters’ room. The management company will be arriving Monday to check on the house and see if it is ready for potential residents to view it for leasing. I told the lady that it is not and that we still have furniture and other items there. One more month and the place will be empty and clean. For now, it is a work in progress.

We laboured for over an hour then put most of the items in the garage at the apartment. I then left my son home and returned for another transfer of the items from the upstairs rooms. There are not many more things remaining upstairs except the two dressers, a cabinet, and a wooden bunk bed. The bed will be relegated to the garage with hopes that someone will buy it at some point in the future.

After returning home, I stayed indoors the rest of the day. We ate ice cream and cookies upon my return which we all enjoyed. An hour or so later, I prepared a salad with cod fish fillets. And then after that we had our evening tea with cookies, albeit without the usual shortbread cookies which accompany our tea.

Though I had hoped this to be a more relaxing day, it turned out to be more of a labouring Saturday. I look forward to the day when I can hand over the keys to the rental house and move forward with our new home.

A DISTANT JOURNEY

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‘Why did you have to say that’, she groaned as she placed the items into the little grocery cart.

‘Reading is fun’, I replied. ‘And good for you. ‘

‘No it isn’t’, she came back. The mere thought of it seemed to have pained her somehow.

The conversation started with her asking if I had any special plans for the upcoming weekend. I told her relaxing, which was not exactly the relaxing that some people might have in mind, and reading. That was definitely something I would do as it is my way to unwind.

I realised my trips to the grocery store for random items have decreased significantly since I have started to use cash instead of relying solely on credit cards. Tonight I had planned to buy one avocado but then noticed that both the Teo and Haagen Dazs ice creams were on sale. Seeing how I had promised the children that we would be buying ice cream for these last five days that they are with me this half of summer, I decided to buy three different kinds.

‘You just have to find the right book’, I continued. And then proceeded to explain that if you were reading a murder mystery book that you couldn’t wait to find out who was the killer. Still, the girl was not impressed. She looked no older than 16. The woman ringing up the items was much older and heard our conversation.

‘Enjoy your murder mystery…or whatever you’re reading’, the older woman wished me as I rolled away the little cart with three containers of ice cream and one avocado. I smiled as I was certain that she agreed with me about the reading.

A good book can transport you to a faraway place providing an escape from the life you lead now. Characters in a book can teach you lessons which might take years for you to learn otherwise. Or they might simply give you a glimpse into the different personalities of humans. Reading expands your mind in a way that no device or social media platform can provide. Somehow, it seems the younger generation has developed a great dislike for the printed medium.

The act of holding a book and flipping the pages with suspense brings with it an excitement that no other form of entertainment can bring. It is an active as opposed to a passive form of entertainment. But you truly need to find the book for you. The sort of story which will keep your interest and not cause your mind to wander but instead will arouse your curiosity.

As you approach the last half of the book you realise that the end is nigh. Perhaps you speed through to the end to see if you were right about story’s direction. Or maybe you’re the kind of person who slows down during the second half of the book as you know that reaching the final chapters will bring about a sort of sadness as you disconnect with the characters.

In addition to being fun and entertaining, reading can be educational. It expands your mind and leads you on a journey to worlds unknown. Places you would like to visit. Topics which enrich our thoughts and lead to more fulfilled lives. The options are endless. We simply need to make time to sit down and embrace those quiet moments alone with a book and let it take us on that distant journey.