I Used To Dream Of Paris

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Years ago while living in London, I got bit by the travel bug. While working and pursuing a degree, I booked flights to places like Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Sweden to name a few. I loved experiencing their food, the textures of the land, their skies and the sounds on the streets whether it was quiet or busy or just the sound of the sea. My bucket list of places I wanted to visit was a long one.

When I met my husband, he also wanted to see the world. I imagined us going to the same places I had already been to, and then we would explore new countries together. Our dreams were big, ambitious and I was excited! We chose Paris as our first destination. We looked at hotels, things to do, and train tickets. But we never booked anything.

With marriage and family life, we knew we may have to hold off for a little while. And that was okay. We were happy to be blessed with our two little boys. When our second son was born, my husband was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition. And sometimes life does that to us. We make plans, dream, achieve some goals, and then we get thrown a curveball. We never made it to Paris.

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I recently had a conversation with a friend who said:

“YOU WILL DREAM NEW DREAMS”

She was right. The travel bug got buried. My dreams no longer contain stamped passports and foreign cheese. Living on the other side of the world now, my bucket list has changed. Every country has delicious food to be savoured. No matter where we are, every sunset on the horizon is beautiful. It’s not where we are, it is who we are sharing it with.

The other day as I walked down the picture frame aisle, I saw a lovely picture of the Eiffel Tower. The image of my husband and I sitting at a table eating bread and cheese al fresco at candlelight crossed my mind. I picked up the picture. $6. Cheaper than a flight! I added it to the cart. I went next door to the grocery store and picked up a few items for dinner. That night I fed the kids early so my husband and I could eat alone. I propped up the picture of the Eiffel Tower on our dining room table. I also placed a small vase of greenery as part of the centrepiece and lit some candles. Candlesticks that looked similar to the ones we had for our wedding. I had a bread basket with cut up baguettes, and a serving tray of different cheeses including Brie. I even put on some makeup and my jeans. Would our conversations have been so different if we were actually in Paris? Would the bread and cheese taste that much better? I’m sure our dinner would not have been interrupted with the children running back and forth to get their noses wiped, or to stop them from hitting each other or to suddenly run one to the potty. What I am sure of is that, whatever candlelit dinner I am having, I am sharing it with the best company: my husband!

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I used to dream of Paris. But before my dream of Paris, I dreamed of love and children. And here I am with them. They are my dream come true. And if the travel bug bites again, I am glad to now realise that adventure doesn’t have to be so far away. Sometimes just a short drive away. I just need to appreciate what is already around me.

(Photo credit- paris) 

(Photo credit- bread)

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Living With Chronic Illness: Symmetrical Multifocal Motor Neuropathy with Conduction Blocks

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In March of 2012, I had written a blog post about how we as a family live and cope with my husband’s neurological condition called CIDP.

I feel it appropriate to update this post because he does not have CIDP.

 But why did it take me so long to write this? To be honest, sometimes we just don’t want to talk about medical stuff. It does not define our lives, it simply becomes a part of it.

Anyhow, a few months after I wrote the blog post about CIDP, he was re-diagnosed with MMN. Multifocal Motor Neuropathy.

After having researched this condition and undergoing some horrendous medical procedures, and blah blah blah, in the end the drs doubled his treatment dosage and changed it from every 3 months to monthly. This made a world of difference! And he changed it to monthly because that is how it is done in the USA and my husband pushed for it.

This new monthly treatment made it possible for him to no longer use crutches! I felt I had my husband back. Our spirits were high and life felt pretty normal again, even though he still could not work, he could walk. He was stronger. He could play with the kids. He could use the stairs.

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I remember one day specifically. My sister had offered to watch our two young sons so we could have a lunch date. After everything we had been through, we could not stop smiling that day. We took the bus to the mall, had lunch there, walked around for a little bit and went back home. We held hands. We raced up the stairs at the train station. We laughed. We were living a miracle.

During about the same time, my papers were complete for us to move back to the USA. Yes life was so much better, but there were still unanswered questions and his diagnosis not very firm.

Now we are back in the states. He was seen by the head neurologist at Cleveland Clinic and spent an afternoon undergoing extensive testing for a firm diagnosis. Which is now: Symmetrical MMN with conduction blocks. Even he, the head neurologist, had not met anyone with this condition before. It is more common to be asymmetrical.

Anyhow, life goes on. As normal as we can make it.

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We focus on the things we CAN do and not on the things we cannot. We live for the simple ways of having fun: splashing bubbles in water, scooting around on our wood floors, going to the park, having an ice cream and good old conversation! I love Q&As with my husband and my kids! I love the simple things. And a simple life. I even like to cook simple. Dress simple. Why complicate it?

In the scriptures there is a verse that says consider the lily and all her beauty. I am convinced the lily does not complain that she wasn’t taller, or as pretty as the rose, or was another colour, or lived in another part of the field. We can be the same. We can be happy and grateful for all that we do have because our blessings will always outweigh our trials.

I know I have my moments of stress and I break down. I know we have had a depressing winter and sometimes reality slaps us hard. But I also know we are going to be okay. Some questions cannot be answered. And that’s okay too because we have God and prayer and each other.

Life is full of surprises and sudden turns. I used to say that everything happens for a reason. But if I am honest, sometimes I don’t want that either. So I will instead try and learn something from this experience.

On a note about my husband, he is the one who suffers this everyday. I do not always know how he is feeling, but I know my heart has grown softer with compassion. Not just for him, but for everyone. Not only those who suffer other forms of disability, but everyone. Because everyone is fighting a battle somehow. Everyone is faced with adversity.

Our boys are young and don’t know any different. This is OUR normal. Our world. Our life.

And life is good.

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My Mother’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Fresh out of the oven, my mom would place the hot sheet of sandwiches on the table. All six of us kids had placed our orders earlier. Some wanted parsley and cheese, some wanted tomatoes and cheese, but for me, just butter and cheese.

During the chaotic half-heard conversations around the table, I would watch my mom quietly use her fork and knife to cut her hot sandwich, one little square at a time.

My mom ate different than my friends’ moms. She had her fork in her left hand, her knife in the right, and she would eat with her left hand. It did look very proper and posh but at my young age, I just didn’t understand. Why didn’t she just cut the whole sandwich into squares so she could just eat with her right hand? Why use cutlery? Us kids just ate with our hands.

At a friend’s house one day, her mom made us grilled cheese sandwiches. The sandwich in front of me looked nothing like my mom’s. It had two pieces of bread with the cheese melted in the middle. The cheese was soft and gooey. The bread was buttery. It was very good. And they ate with their hands.

Growing up in America with a Swedish mom, I noticed these small differences. The normal for my family vs the normal for my friends. As I’ve grown older, I appreciate and understand her better.

I love my mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches. If I am the one cooking, I will make them her way. And just like her, I now eat them with tomatoes and parsley, baked in the oven. If my husband is cooking, he makes them the American way. Buttered bread in the pan with gooey cheese in the middle. And just like her, I eat with a fork in my left hand and a knife in my right.

I miss my mom. We moved across the world a few months ago and the distance is sharpening my memory with details. How she does things. Normal everyday things. Mom things. I don’t want to just remember these things, I want to share them. Here is the recipe:

Grilled Cheese Sandwich aka Bruschetta

Butter mixture: 1/2 stick butter or 100grams butter, sprinkle in some basil and oregano, splash in some malt/light malt or balsamic vinegar, pour in some olive oil, and 1-2 cloves of fresh minced garlic.

1. Butter your sliced bread (white bread, baguette, bagels) with above mixture.

2. Top with sliced tomatoes. Salad, plum, or grape tomatoes are all great.

3. Sprinkle dried parsley next.

4. Top with sharp cheddar sliced or shredded cheese.

Bake 200C/400F for about ten minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy! xx

(photo credit)

Facebook as a Journal

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“Are you going to facebook status that?”

“That is facebook status worthy!”

“You’ve GOT to facebook status that!”

Ah yes, the facebook status. It is quite amazing how in a few short years Facebook has dominated us. And many of us are using that infamous option -the status update- as a journal. We share with the facebook world our children’s milestones, fun family activities we did that day, quotes that inspire us, and so on. Hey, I do it too! It’s fun and convenient.

But I have to be honest. I miss paper.

Years ago as I sat in a writing class at university, my professor told us about a theory where the very act of writing can tell us more than if we just sit in front of a screen. The story from our minds travel down to the emotions of our heart, and together go down our arm, through our fingers, into our pen and onto the paper as words. More truth will come out if we engage our whole body. Like if we sit with our notebook on our lap. Body pressed against the pages, our heart pouring out into it.

It’s a theory.

Sometimes I think I should go back to always carrying a notebook with me in my bag. I have HEAPS of them! Yes it takes up space. But. When I HOLD it, it takes me back to that place where I once was. And I can see through my handwriting what emotional state I was in. There are pages that are watermarked with tears.

I blog. I do Pinterest. I do Facebook status. I do Instagram.

More and more I keep thinking I’d like to go back to paper.

I recently bought my toddler a journal. I will go back to the beginning of my Facebook days and re-write everything from there into his journal. The nice thing is that Facebook kept track of all the dates for me! I have seen some other lovely ideas like family time capsules, family journals, and so on.

I am thinking of my future generations. I don’t want them to just have a website to read, I want them to touch something I have touched. I want them to know the stories of why I kept certain items. I have a big box of stuff from my grandmother and older generations before her which is great, but there are no stories attached. I wish I knew more. I have so many questions.

So all that other stuff (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter which I never joined) is fun but as with most trends, it’s appeal is fading. At least for me.

I’d like to document life more in the “real” world. The world I can touch things and feel things and hold things and smell things. And then I’ll come back here to My Velvet Notebook, my online diary, and tell you all about it! xx

(Photo credit: I actually found on google that Facebook makes books from profiles!)

The Broken Roads in America

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Or maybe it’s just Ohio? Even my three year old noticed. We were walking home from Grandma’s house, one street over, when he tripped on the sidewalk and fell.

“The road is broke” he said.

Another time we had just parked the car and were on our way towards the store. He pointed to the ground and said, “Mommy the roads here are broke.”

And he’s right. Cracked parking lots. Holes in the middle of streets. Uneven sidewalks that suddenly end.

Perhaps he noticed this because in England, where we were just a few months ago, he never tripped on jagged roads and sidewalks were covered with snails or poop, not cracks.

My son’s observations had me thinking about broken roads. Not the literal ones I have just described, but rather the roads we travel in life that sometimes break.

Sometimes as we get about our life, suddenly we trip and fall. We didn’t see it when maybe we should have. We weren’t prepared for it so we scraped our knee or our hand and it hurt and we got mad, but now we are more careful and paying closer attention. Making better choices.

Sometimes our paths seem to dead end. Now what to do? Where to go? We have to find a different direction. It will still take us to the place we are heading, and it may feel like a detour, but maybe that other way had a purpose for us. Maybe we met someone along the way who was lost and needed directions. Maybe we found a quarter along the way, and with that quarter we were able to buy something that was needed. Who knows. Sometimes things happen in our life so we can help others. It’s not always about us.

Maybe the detour gave us the extra time we needed to just breathe and think and gather some peace to our minds. If we are too busy and being one-track minded, we forget to stop and just enjoy what God has given us. The warmth from sunshine. Beautiful trees to admire. Singing birds to listen to. When the sidewalk suddenly ended, we thought it was an obstacle, looking back we realise it was actually a blessing.

Maybe the roads aren’t even broke.

It’s just rough terrain. Each block of cement, or obstacle we face, is serving its purpose and building our character along the way.

x

(photo credit)

The Lady Who Played the Lottery- A True Story

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(photo credit)

In my younger years I worked at a petrol station and met a lot of different people. Some strange, some kind, some easily forgotten and then there are those that despite me not knowing their name, I genuinely cared about their situation and said a prayer for them. The lottery lady was one of those.

She came at the same time on the same day of every week wearing the same clothes. Big brown clogs on her wide feet. Her long skirt fitted around her round shape and only left her bare ankles showing its freckly skin. Although it was still warm from the late summer nights, a loose earthy toned long sleeve shirt and an even bigger scarf covered her top half. Grey unruly hair framed her colourless face but she always greeted us warmly.

Hopeful, she’d say,

“That one for $20.”

We all knew which one. Nine green rectangles with dollar signs on them. The same one each week. The way she dressed had me pre-judging her to be financially strained but I’m sure in those days I simply called her “poor”,  and with that label I never knew why she would spend so much money on the lottery. Seemed like such a waste. She quickly and eagerly scratched her card before I even had her money in the register.

She tapped her penny on the counter when she finished and said,

“Oh nevermind. Maybe next time.”

She never won but she did always come back to try again. One night I finally asked her where she was coming from this late at night every week.

“My daughter is in the hospital.”

Her eyes stayed down and I felt her fighting back tears. That was all she would say, and we didn’t dare ask more. Her visits were always short but with that extra information, her quick exit felt so wrong and awkward.

Now that we knew something was troubling her we had decided that next time we would do something or have something nice for her. I was excited and imagined how happy she would be.

When I think back, I sadly don’t remember exactly what that “nice something” was but I do remember that as we waited for her to come at the same time on the same day she always had, this time she did not come.

Even now it really pulls at my emotions because there was no closure. What happened to her daughter? Did she get better and go home or was it bad news? Did she run out of $20 dollar bills? Is she okay?

I continued to work at that petrol station for another six months but never saw the lottery lady again. But I could never forget her because she had so much mystery and emotion about her.

Each person’s life is full of stories and when I cross paths with certain people, I just want to hear theirs. Listen to them, cry with them, be happy for them. There is so much we can learn from each other.

This one had no ending to satisfy the reader. As is with many things in life and sometimes that’s the reality of it.

If I am to learn one lesson from the experience of meeting the lottery lady, is that I should not have taken so long to talk to her. Time does not wait for us. It keeps ticking, people’s lives keep going and the world keeps turning whether we are paying attention or not.

Need to live with no regrets.

x

New Year, New Life, New Address

I have seen a number of posts where people are really excited for the new year because 2012, to say bluntly, sucked. Last year was not easy but then again, what year is? No one day is perfect. No one year ever is either.

I wanted to think of ten things that made 2012 GOOD and let the good override all the hard stuff.

This is listed in the order the events happened.

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1. This time last year we were in Ohio on holidays and I got to spend a day with just my sister and I (and baby who was only 6 months old). She planned the day in Canton and I loved it! We walked around McKinley park and we picnicked in her car. Took lots of pictures. We went to the mall and my favourite store and drove down memory lanes past places that were meaningful to us. Thanks Katherine for a great outing!

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2.My heart has been touched countless times as I think of all the people- every single one of you!- who stepped in and helped my family when the Hubs was in hospital. My mom or sister watched the kids every night while someone drove me to hospital. Friends visited him on their own time, brought him meals, sent us messages and kept us in their prayers. Thank you for making the difficult times heartwarming with your kindness.

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3. Summer mornings are my favourite with the kids. I peg the washing outside (which I love to do!) and we go to the park, then we walk along the lovely footpaths before going back home for naps and lunch. Playing outside with my kids is the best!

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4. My baby had a few milestones this year! He was weaned, turned one and learned how to walk!

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5. A long anticipated trip to Sweden highlighted our summer! I was so happy to share my family with loved ones there and to share the experience of Sweden with my husband and kids. It was wonderful!

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6. Having a boot sale with the hubs was fun! We had such a great day! 🙂 Thanks mom for having the kids! Love you!

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7. One day in particular stands out. My sister watched the kids so the hubs and I could go out on a day date. It was soon after a recent change in his treatment and we went out WITHOUT his crutches! I feel I witnessed a miracle that day and I’ll never forget how happy we both were!

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8. I think fondly of all the play dates and dinners we have shared with friends and family. Love you all so much! x

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9. Getting definite news that yes indeed we are moving back to Ohio! England, you have been good to me and you will be missed!

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10. Starting a new life here and all the incredible blessings received already! Thank you to my wonderful mother in law for everything she has done! Love you!

Meant To Be!

Meant To Be!

Would like to also mention that hubs and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary this past December! Love you Shaun!

Ten is not a big number. Lots of more wonderful things happened this year to my family and good news all around from the siblings that add to my joy of knowing blessings never cease. I am so grateful for all the good God blesses us with in our lives. Even during times of hardship throughout the year, there is always more to be thankful for.

Now living in our new address, starting our new life, I look forward to this new year. x