A Plate of Oatmeal Cookies and Dinosaurs- My Housewife Life

In this big vast world, full of countless roads with houses and even more people in those houses, is a place few people have seen. My home.

While the rest of the world was moving, I was quietly sitting still, on the couch, stroking my two year old son’s soft brown hair. His forehead was slightly too warm. I have been indoors with sick kids for two weeks already. It was a cold white winter day in this part of the world, and the snow was shovelled high on our road. My older son was finally feeling better. He had put both legs in one pant leg and dumped every toy he owns on the floor as proof of his new found health. My younger son had taken over the “sick seat” on the couch, cuddled next to me. It was nearing lunchtime.

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Twenty minutes later I smelled something burning. The timer had not yet gone off! I took out the cookie sheet of oatmeal cookies. I can only describe them as a solid mass of something “edible”. The balls I had rolled were melted into one big thin sheet of cookie. Once cooled, they were not bad. A bit chewy but the flavour was okay. However, my enthusiasm skills clearly need practice as my boys were not convinced that this offer was so grand after all. What kind of mother am I? How do I fail so badly at cookies? Especially when my kids have been so sick?! Note to self: always have a batch of store bought cookies hidden somewhere as back up. I’ll just scrap the idea of trying to make EVERYTHING from scratch. Reality check here, just having a reality check. Both boys refused to even try the cookies.  Guess who ate half the batch by herself?

So the excitement of the cookies was short-lived and we were all back on the couch. The sickly two year old had fallen asleep. The four year old grabbed a dinosaur fact book and wanted me to read to him. His favourite pages are the ones that show the internal anatomy of the dinosaur and the page that shows the extinction theories. He loves fire and hot lava. As I read, my four year old burped the word “ouch” in my ear. I looked at him. He was already looking at me, small corners curved up, pleased with himself and his recently discovered talent. Will I ever get used to spontaneously burped words in my ear?

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I looked outside our front window. The snow kept falling. The occasional car drove by. I am a stay at home mom. I should not feel so insignificant but I often do. There are moments, like today, when I ‘let’ the world go on without me, I stop chasing after it. I realise I am wanted and needed right here, taking care of these special little boys. Not much happened today, but that is what it is sometimes.

And in this house, our home, that sits on a street I never knew existed until I moved in, is our world.

The Cab Driver

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I have journals for both of my boys. In those journals I have written some experiences I have had in my life, I also write down stories about them when they were babies and over the years. I have written quotes and other inspiring stories I have come across that have somehow touched me. I want my boys to know bits about my life too so I try to choose carefully which stories to share. And this one about the cab driver, is important to me. It was a unique, brief encounter all about kindness from a stranger.

The year was 2005 and I was in my second year of university. Dressed in my usual jeans, trainers and green corduroy jacket, I had taken the train from Barking to West Ham and stood waiting for the Jubilee line. I looked up at the time schedule, 15 minutes. That was very unusual and I felt my underarms become heated and my heart started to pound. I had to change trains again, but the DLR only came every ten minutes and I would definitely miss my deadline! There had to be another way to get to Prince Regent Station on time. I quickly walked, okay it was more like half running, out of the station to the pay phone by the ticket booth. There were numbers for cabs everywhere. I dialled a few mini cab numbers but the waiting time was too long. I had a deadline creeping up fast! So I called for a black cab. They were posh and pricey but I was desperate. A shiny black cab pulled up and I ran to the door. In a possibly stressed tone of voice I said to the driver-

“To the university please! I need to be there before 4 o’clock! I don’t know how to get there from here on the roads.”

Calmly he replies- “No worries!”

My watch said it was already 3:47. I looked out the window. In my head I thought, black cabs are notorious for taking the long way or driving slow just to cash in! How annoying that I always take public transport and don’t know the roads! Here is another time living in London when I missed having a car! Somehow having car meant more independence. Relying on public transport meant that I was constantly at the mercy of them keeping time! I said a prayer in my head that this will turn out ok.
The driver disrupted my negative, yet hopeful, thoughts with-

“What’s your essay on?”

That was a surprise. I looked at him. Middle aged, brown hair, pleasant face. It was then that I noticed the cab was very clean as well and had no bad odours. It took a second to think of a reply but he went on before I spoke-

“My daughter is in college, deadlines can be stressful. Don’t worry though, I’ll get you there.”

He was calm and his voice sincere. He spoke to me the way any girl would want a father to speak to her. And he was being kind to me. An unpleasant, stressed out stranger. His words helped my heart stop beating so fast. He drove on roads I had never seen before and pulled up to the backside of the main building, a side I never saw because I am not a part of the car world.

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He spoke again-

“Just go and turn in your essay, I’ll wait here.”

I quickly glanced at the money meter then opened the door and ran down the long hallway to the main desk. I couldn’t believe he trusted me! A young, possibly dodgy, university student! He was just going to wait for me? That was going to be so expensive! Darn Jubilee line and tube delays! He seemed nice though and if he trusted me then maybe I could return the favour and trust him back. I handed in my essay to the lady at exactly 4pm! Relieved, my steps slowed down but I could feel a migraine growing behind my forehead. I walked to the cashpoint on the opposite side of the building from where the cab was supposedly still waiting. Taped to the cashpoint were the dreaded words “out of order”. Are you kidding me? What luck today!

I ran back to the cab and he was parked in the very same place. I was not even sure if he was allowed to be there but he didn’t seem to care. Apologetically I said-

“I am so sorry but their cashpoint is out of order! Can you just take me to Barking station? There’s another one right inside.”

He reached over and turned the meter back on. I thought he was going to charge me for waiting and all the time of his I was taking, but he was only charging me for the driving. I sat back in the cab seat. The trains were delayed. The cashpoint was broke. I barely made the deadline. And I have been a wreck. In the midst of my challenges today, God sent me this particular cab driver. He pulled up to the side of Barking station where other cabs were also parked, I got out and the smell of cigarettes and fried chicken hit my face making my migraine worse. Again the driver patiently waited for me as I went to that cashpoint.

After such a hectic afternoon, he only charged me £25! Despite my previous bad luck of events, I then felt very lucky!

There was that moment where I wanted to hug this stranger who no longer felt like a stranger. I wanted to tell him that I hoped to see him again! I wanted to tell him that I hoped God would bless him forever for being so kind to me. But I just said thank you several times and we said good bye. He drove off, and I walked back to the station and headed home to share this story with my family.

I think about these encounters often and want to document them. I feel the most important thing he did for me that day was not getting me to the university on time for my deadline, but he instilled in me an experience of hope. Hope for kindness. Hope for good. Hope that there are people who are fair in these business dealings with me. Any true story that demonstrates kindness from strangers is a story I want my children to know.

Photo credit (cab)

Photo credit (UEL campus)

Socks- Moments in my Housewife Life

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He sat in front of me with defiance in his eyes. Our eyes did not move away from each other, watching closely, intensely, waiting for a reaction from the other. As if we were in a boxing ring, anticipating who would make the first move so that the opponent knew how to cleverly fight back. With growing impatience, I broke the silence.

“Let mommy put your socks on.” He didn’t flinch. Not yet.

I believe that in these moments, children have an advantage of being ignorant to time. I know there is a clock and our lives pretty much revolve around that.  In these moments I also wonder what career route he will end up making. What job would suit these characteristics of his?

“Give me your feet without kicking, and let mommy put your socks on please.” I stayed in position, mentally congratulating myself for staying calm, yet also ready to grab him if he were to try and make a run for it.

As a new mother, one of the many advices I’ve been given is to “CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES.” I have battled one at a time. Today I face a battle within myself: my impatience vs my wanting to parent right. I mentioned a clock, but there comes a point when even the clock has to take a seat while I live my family life. I am tempted to bribe him. It ALWAYS works! Marshmallows, chocolates, a walk around the block to grandma’s house. I also know I cannot raise him like that forever. There has to be logic in the things we do. Socks keep our feet warm and we put our socks on first, then we can put shoes on.

“Do you like these socks? They’re from grandma so they’re special. We all love your feet and want to keep them warm. Or did you want to pick another pair?”

Sometimes it is not the moment at hand that is the real issue. I believe that these battles are the final bomb after several events throughout the day. Except now it is only 7:12 am and we are getting dressed for school. So what on earth happened already? Maybe little brother woke us up too early and disturbed our sleep. Maybe mommy should have let him have chocolate milk this morning? Maybe we should have kept track of his special car before we went to bed so we could have found it first thing this morning? Maybe he had a bad dream and it’s just put him in a mood. Maybe his tummy hurts because according to the chart it has been 4 days since his last BM. Who knows! But here we are, and all I want to do is put his socks on! It’s so simple! They’re just socks! What is the deal? Why does being a mom have to be so hard? I thought this defiance wouldn’t come until the teen years! He’s four! And for four years I have been faced with his constant no’s. I have broken down from time to time. I have lost my mind from time to time. But not this morning. Today I will win!

I open the drawer hoping he will accept the invitation to choose his own socks. I usually have his outfit picked out the night before and he usually does not care what he is wearing. I still don’t think he really cares, I think he just TRIES to do anything he can to push my buttons!

He finally moves out of his frozen position and looks in the drawer, and pulls out another pair. In continued silence he hands them to me. A satisfied look on his face that mommy did not get her way. That he in fact chose THESE socks and he will now MAKE mommy put them on him.

I do put them on his feet. I have always loved little feet. From newborns to little children, but not older children, not when feet get big and dirty and stinky! Hahaha! His skin is soft, his toenails too long. Another battle for another day.

With socks now on his feet, which is the last of his clothing attire besides shoes, he runs off knowing he is done for now. Again I mentally pat myself on the back that no war raged, that anger was kept at bay and we can move on to the next phase of our morning.

The journey of motherhood is full of unexpected rebellions from our kids, but if there is one thing I have learned so far in this 4 year journey, it is that love conquers all.

Behind the Scenes of the Housewife Life

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Having a picnic for snack time in our front yard.

My current house is painted white. There is a “welcome” mat and a small mailbox, a wreath on the door with a tiny bunting I made. I love having front steps to sit on and watch the world drive by. Sometimes the boys sit with me and we count cars together. Inside our house, and everything that happens here, is what I call “behind the scenes.” Welcome to my home and my life. Have a seat on the couch and make yourself comfy.

I have house clothes and public clothes. Once in a blue moon I decide to “dress up” in my public clothes even though I am just at home with no plans of leaving. It’s just nice to not look lazy all the time. However, of course there had to be spills. The dark smudge on my jeans was from this morning’s breakfast when my two year old decided to dump the last of his milk on my lap and I didn’t care enough to change. I tell myself no one is going to notice. And here I am pointing it out to you.

My four year old points at my sockless ankle.

“Mommy what’s that? Did you have blood?” His nose wrinkled only an inch away from the questioned site.

“That’s a scab. You have scabs too. See? It was blood but now it is healing and that’s a scab. Mine is on my ankle and yours is on your knee.” He seems surprised at the discovery of his own scab and picks at it.

While he picks at his scab I admire my new nail varnish. A nude pinkish colour. One of my favourites I have ever had. When we moved from England to Ohio almost a year ago, it took a few months for me to realise I had gotten rid of all my nail varnish! So I bought a new colour but didn’t like it. I was in a bold mood and chose a bold colour. Mood swings coupled with impulsive buying was never a good match. This “safe” nude colour has proven perfect next to my tan skin. A small and otherwise trivial matter, but sometimes these small things can make a large difference in a woman’s world. I now wear my flip flops with confidence!

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Counting cars.

My two sons begin to scream at each other over a toy. They always want to play with the same one at the same time. Seriously? They have ALL these other toys and books and whatever, but they both want that ONE! A few months ago I had asked my husband if we could please start getting two of everything. He said no. They have to share and take turns. Fine. Before I became a mother, I believed my children would never fight. I have been humbled a thousand fold for thinking so foolishly.

I’ll make us a cup of tea. I only have peppermint, is that alright? Growing up, my mother used to always make peppermint tea, but we drank it cold. My love for mint must come from her. I miss her. Do you ever eat or drink something because of memories? Years ago when I was employed, I worked in a very posh retail store. We had our lunch break and later in the evening we had a tea break. I always had peppermint and liquorice tea, sweetened with brown raw cane sugar, with a slice of my homemade lemon cake. I haven’t been able to make a successful lemon cake since the big move but I will continue to try. The tea however, I cannot find anywhere! If you happen to see it, do let me know! For now, we will be grateful for this peppermint.

So, I am really out of the loop with the music world. On a bright note, I can sing several varieties of the Itsy Bitsy spider, the ABC song, and a few others that I can’t seem to think of on the spot. Having said that, it was a real treat the other day when I was in the car listening to my husband’s playlist and this really cool song came on. I am quite convinced that someone from the band at one point lived the life of a housewife. Because it totally connected with me. I don’t know who they are and I can’t remember what they said, but it was nice knowing that someone out there shared similar feelings as me.

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My four year old comes over and inspects my cup of tea.

“Is that hot lava? It’s hot. See? Smoke. Is it a fire? And burn the house down? No. You can drink it. Mommy do you like it? Is it good?”

I cannot express how wonderful it is to see my son growing up and hearing his thoughts. He may talk in circles but I am ecstatic that he’s figuring things out on his own! My two year old then comes over to see what the fuss is. He takes a look inside my cup and goes back to his playing. He could care less about my tea. I’m proud of him too. For being able to return to his task as if there had been no distraction.

What a journey motherhood is! It’s so big I am silenced for words. There is just an emotion, understood within the circle of women.

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Behind the scenes of a landscaped yard is a squirrel running up the tree. A spider busy spinning his dinner. A lady bug being watched by my four year old. Flowers being picked by my two year old. Pinecones waiting to be played with. Rocks waiting to be treasured.

Behind the scenes of my front door is family life. I watch how they walk. How they play. I listen to their voice. Their sounds. Their cries. I touch their skin, their hair and cuddle them close. I look into their eyes. I notice the books and movies they choose. The songs they sing to themselves. I notice their emotions, their reactions, trying to make sense of who they are. I am memorising all that I can.

I just re-read the 1,000 words that you just read and one word came to my mind: details. My life has become a life full of noticing details, dissecting those details, making some sense of those details. And I wonder, if I, like the passing cars that we count, am a detail in someone else’s story. A detail among the other millions of people living in this country. And yet here you are, dear friend reading these details of my life.  And with that thought, I’ll close with a quote from my four year old prince, ” thank you for realising me”.

A Day in My Housewife Life

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Wearing his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Shell

I sit on my carpeted back steps thinking about everything that has happened so far today. My four year old is riding his trike and my two year old is napping. This also happens to be my favorite part of the day because it is the quietest. I can actually take a deep breath and think.

I wonder constantly if people are bored by the housewife life stories I tell. There are days that are literally revolved around my children’s bowel movements, but who wants to hear that?

My morning started at 6am in MY bed! It is truly a rare phenomenon. Usually every night one or both of my boys wake up and I end up sleeping either on the couch or in their bed. So to wake up next to my husband was a short-lived treat!

I say short-lived because in no time at all my four year old awoke and stood at the doorway shouting, “Mommy I’m awake! Stand up!”

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Good Morning!

I always thought I moved pretty quickly and my husband labels me a woman who is rushing life so when my two sons are throwing tantrums for their morning milk, part of my tired self is so confused. Am I not moving fast enough? Good grief! Why doesn’t milk pour faster and why didn’t I rewind this VHS last night? Oh yes, we recently became the owners of a VCR with a bag full of fun “new” movies. In a minute they have their milk filled sippy cups, a few minutes more and their movie is on and I make my way back to bed.

By 8:15am my four year old and I commenced our first weeding event together!  Okay, not my first time but it was his first time to help. As we went out the door, I said to my two year old that we were not playing, we were going to weed and work, but he began to scream “bike! bike!”. He loves playing outside. Daddy was there with him but he screamed for me. I felt so bad! He sounded so sad, as if I had just favored my four year old and left him behind. Poor little guy. Anyhow, my four year old was given the responsibility to hold the plastic bag while I pulled weeds. He was a champ! I found a special surprise: a bloody bird leg with lots of feathers on the side. Nice. I genuinely did not have much patience to do more weeding than the front of the house so we finished up and went back inside. I tell myself no one notices a weedy garden anyways.

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He would not sit still for a haircut, so we buzzed him bald!

Have you ever had one of those days where everything is just annoying? Maybe the world has not changed one bit but some days, those same things just grate your nerves? Or is it just me? I found the thought of having a shower incredibly annoying. Seriously, no one ever sees me apart from my kids and husband! Sometimes I just could care less about my appearance. Plus my back hurt from the weeding and I just wanted to sit. Sit and sulk with Axel’s cuddles in my lap and postponed my shower until later.

At some point in the 11’o clock hour my husband came downstairs from his office, which he never does, and announces he is going to the store to run an errand. I want to go! I need out of the house! Can we just tag along and sit in the car? I need adventure in my life! Running errands is an adventure? Yes! ANYTHING that gets me out of the house is, in my book, an adventure! Anything can happen. You just never know what you’ll see, who you’ll meet, your life can change!

Of course I did not shower on a day when my life could possibly change from a spontaneous adventure. Of course! Grrr at my own laziness.

Oh what luck! I had a few bucks in my wallet and a coupon! And with a lovely husband behind the wheel, me and my two year old got dropped off at a fabric store for a goody while he and our four year old went to do their thing.

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I love the smell of fabric stores. I love walking up and down the aisles and looking at all the gorgeous fabrics. I love fabric. As a kid I remember fabric shopping with my mom. I used to feel the fabric and rub two sides together. I loved the silkier fabrics because they were smooth to the touch. Those few memories are now very important to me. A subtle sign of destiny?

I have a list of projects and ideas I’d like to do. Oh to choose only one! Which one?!  What fun! What a good day this is turning out to be! I ask the lady at the cutting counter the cost and she gave me the exact price. Perfect, I had just enough.

I get to the check out and hold up! That’s MORE than what the cutting counter lady said! TAX?!?! I always forget they charge extra for tax on everything! (except food) I was 89 cents short! How embarrassing! I call the lovely husband to rescue me and he is on his way, my hero.

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It was sweet when the lady behind me offered a dollar but my husband was already walking in. Maybe I looked like life was rough with my no makeup face, un-showered self, a bandana on my head and a fussy toddler. Who knows but God bless the selfless people in this world who still do good deeds for others.

Back at home it was peanut butter and cinnamon sandwiches for lunch. My boys refuse to eat the crust and I don’t like wasting food. So there was my lunch. I am pretty convinced this is also why I can never lose weight! They ask for another sandwich and then won’t eat it, so I do! Sometimes I think I won’t bother trying to lose weight for another ten years. Ten years might seem like a long time but anything less than that kind of stresses me out.

I put the bread, peanut butter and cinnamon away, sneak some chocolate chips into my mouth without anyone seeing, put my two year old down for his nap, and me and my four year old go outside to play.

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And that’s where I am.

He is on his trike and pedals around the driveway. Occasionally he will stop and just look at me. I tell him to keep playing and he tells me I have to watch him.

And I do. I watch him. My son. Why do I let silly little things get to me? I love him. His innocence. He pulls at my heart strings when he says, “mommy I’m four. I just want to talk to you.” When he says, “please can you just be happy?” My eyes suddenly open and I just see a little boy, four years old, and I’m just a mom, everything else in life are details. I try my best. I am so far from perfect. I thank God that this little boy has such an unconditional love for me and that he is completely mine.

The rest of my day consisted of me finally having that shower, sharing a bowl of popcorn with my four year old while the other still napped, and really all we did after that was play together, laugh together, we ate, we talked, we giggled, we chased and we hugged until bedtime.

Why do I get annoyed by these huge blessings? These two adorable little boys.

It was a good day when I finally decided to make it good. x

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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)