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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Waking Up Into A Dream- My First Day in Sweden

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It was afternoon when I woke up on a brown leather sofa in my grandmother’s living room. I looked around. Above me on the wall was an oil painting of a sunset on the water. Water can be so beautiful but I am terrified of it. To my left was a wall covered in framed family photographs. There was a small photo of my family when there had been only four kids. Close to it was a photo of my mother as a young girl. For the first time I saw my great grandmother, she looked like she had been working when the photo was taken. To my right was a large open window with white curtains that danced in the breeze. It looked out to the back courtyard. I was on the ground floor in an apartment building, in a neighbourhood with lots of other buildings that all looked exactly the same. The soft sounds of the upstairs neighbour’s conversations travelled down to us. It was the month of May and the sun shone brightly, trying to cheer up my gray mood.

‘I am in Sweden’, I kept repeating to myself. I am awake, but it feels like a dream. I left reality behind, this isn’t real. I am not really here. I touched my arm, my face and looked at my feet. I saw that I was whole, but parts of me felt missing.

My grandmother noticed I had woken up and brought me a glass of pear juice. It was delicious. I looked at her. It had been several years since she had visited us in the states. Her hair still black with only a few white strands. Her physique slender from all the walking she does. Her face naturally beautiful as she did not wear make up. I could see that she was my mother’s mother. She then started to point out her things and explain them. She had a large collection of white porcelain pieces displayed in a glass cabinet, all labeled on the bottom with her name and the year she got it. She had bookshelves full of journals that she had faithfully written through the years. I looked out the window again as she kept talking. Her Swedish was easy to understand. My mother’s mother, they spoke similar. Just yesterday I had been home in Ohio. Four airplanes later I was here. The world felt small and I grew restless. I stood up and asked if we could walk. She looked surprised but agreed.

We walked around the block. I was looking for something interesting, something that stood out to be “different”. Something that would make me feel like it was okay to be here because there was something I would have otherwise missed out on. We crossed the road onto a sidewalk that was made of cobblestone. It was pretty to look at, but made my ankles hurt. The greenery was beautiful, the cars that drove past were all nice but the thing that stood out the most wasn’t a thing, it was sound. Everything seemed so quiet. The cars weren’t honking. The dogs weren’t barking. People weren’t shouting. The calmness around me a direct opposite from how I was feeling inside, because inside I was screaming.

We walked back to the apartment and she began to cook dinner. I sat in the living room and called my mom. The phone sounds were different. The smells from the kitchen were foreign to my nose. I had just arrived but I was ready to run. Like an ungrateful spoiled girl, I sat with a bad attitude. Complaining about everything under my breath. Blind to the opportunity around me. Eventually I would learn, but I was a hard egg to break. And with that hardness, some things come too late.

A Foreign Community, An Extended Family- A True Story

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Many years ago when I lived in Sweden, in my early 2o’s, I had my own apartment in a community made up of foreignors. The buildings were tall, brightly painted with huge numbers so addresses were easy to find. I was number 74 V.2. We were from everywhere. Brazil, Iran, Pakistan, Argentina, Russia, different countries from Africa, America, Poland, Chile, Peru, Iraq, India, and many more. Ironically, technically, I am Swedish. I do not have the stereotypical blonde hair and blue eyes like all my cousins, and I didn’t (still don’t) speak with the same Swedish accent, but I am a Swede. A Swede who seemed to fit better in this international neighbourhood.

Here, I remember especially the women. They’d smile at me and shout out a “hello” in their language as they beat their rugs outside, and I felt they instantly accepted me as one of their own. Sure I’ll pretend a second to be Bolivian! Hola! Okay that was the only one I knew at the time, to the others I just smiled back. These women cooked with open windows and the smell of their food made my mouth water. Where ever I went, there was a woman with children closeby. Be it her own, or her grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, children were everywhere. I was fascinated that all these people from around the world had found their way here.

Across the courtyard from me lived a close friend that I had met and gotten to know. Her family was Assyrian from Iran. I later learned to greet them with a word that sounded like it would be spelled “schlamalockhone”. Her parents didn’t speak much Swedish but it didn’t matter. They were so kind to me! Spending time in their home made me realise how my friends must have felt visiting my family. They only knew English and my family spoke Swedish at home! In time I learned the sounds of their language and when I heard others at bus stops or shops, I always knew if they were speaking their dialect of Assyrian or not and I would greet them with a friendly “schlamalockhone”.

My friend’s mother was such a busy body. From what I observed, she cooked a big pot of food each morning. I can still almost taste her meatballs with buttery rice on the side.Whoever came to the house could have some food and there was always plenty to eat. She then spent the rest of her day helping others. Every day! On days where she was home cleaning, she had the TV on a channel that played her home music. Have you heard of Arabic oldies? I loved it! I became infused by their culture. They easily made me feel like I had more than just friends as neighbours, they were my extended family.

One Christmas I was the only one in my family in Sweden. Christmas Eve was spent with my aunt and cousins and it was wonderful to learn more in depth the Swedish traditions. Christmas day was spent with my Assyrian family. We put on our best dress and went to… I think it was their grandparents home. See the importance of keeping a journal? Memory is so unreliable. So many people were there! And I had no idea what anyone was saying but it was great. More kindness was shown to me. The grandfather said these words, as my friend translated them for me: “Today we understand that you miss your family. Today we will adopt you as one of our own. Feel at home.” He then invited me to bless the big Christmas meal! I was honored! The food was out of this world delicious.

After the meal they all sat around the large living room and sang traditional songs, I had learned some of their dances and joined in on those. It was time for presents but there was so many people I only remember envelopes of money. I watched my friend and her sister open theirs, then I opened mine and we had all gotten the same amount. My heart swelled with gratitude that I was truly accepted that day and I did not feel alone or left out at all. God bless those people for opening their heart and home to me.

I’ll never forget the warm summer nights my friend and I would slowly walk around the footpath that outlined our entire community. We talked for hours. Everything from earth to heaven, our pasts and hopes for the future and probably literally EVERYTHING. Women do have a gift of talking. During our walk, we walked past a soccer field that was right in the middle of the neighbourhood. The older boys playing with the younger ones like little brothers and including them in their game. We walked past whole families who were also out walking, husband, wife and children enjoying the evening stroll. I watched them and thought, I want that one day too! Evening strolls with my family.

Family is always there when we need a friend. Or are friends there when we need family? Either way, this night she was. It was at about 2am, I woke up with an intense pain in my leg. It was a pain that had resulted in a knee injury 3 years before. I went into the kitchen and panicked when I realised I had no painkillers left. This pain would only get worse and it was unbearable. I called her. At 2am she actually answered her phone! She lived at the top of her apartment building and had to come all the way down to open the door for me. In her flat she offered me food and medicine and I simply stayed the night. She was so much more than a friend. She was like a sister. Always there and never upset with me.

I remember talking to her a lot about how much I missed home- Ohio. And it was a hard time for me. But looking back I realise more and more that those years in Sweden had become some of my biggest blessings in life. I cannot thank God enough for the experiences I had, for the life long friendships that were built, for the lessons I would not have otherwise learned. Yes, sometimes trials are blessings in disguise.

And I thank God for my extended family around the world.

xx

(photo credit)

“You heading home?”

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Many years ago while living in London, I sat on the bus after work on my way back to the HOUSE I rented on King George Avenue. For a long time I was so sensitive to the word home  that I made sure I always referred to my dwelling as “the house” and not home. On that bus, lost in thought I must have had a dazed look on my face as another passenger had said to me, “You heading home?”

I couldn’t help my answer, “I’m far from home.”

This fellow passenger seemed to understand my reply (we both had non-british accents) with a nod of his head. Instead of prying for details, he let the conversation go with, “One of the last stops eh?”

I smiled and nodded as I returned to my thoughts: when will I really get to go back HOME.

I thought about this very short conversation with a stranger as I now sit on the couch with my two sons and I am back in Ohio.

In my younger childhood years I recall a popular teeshirt that had the saying “Home is Where the Heart is.”

If home is where my heart is, then my heart is in pieces.

A piece in Sweden. Another piece in England. And a big piece never left Ohio.

Or am I thinking all wrong? Home is not a location, its my heart. And my heart belongs to my family. No matter where in this world we live, home is always there. And here.

For someone who moves a lot I suppose I have to think like that.

Today’s positive thought: It’s good to be HOME.

xx

(photo credit)

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.

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(photo credit)

Heart Everything You Love

I titled this “everyTHING” and not “everyONE” because it is so obvious to me that we love and are grateful for our near and dear. There are times I need to remind myself there is so much MORE in this world that gets easily overlooked and forgotten that has contributed to my heart.

My heart flies farther than the end of my road.

On sunless days our hearts may feel shadowed by the frustrations of the current circumstances we find ourselves in. I think its great to seek, find and make our hearts in our everyday life. Personally, I do struggle during the dark winter so these reminders simply help. A bit like my ‘Beating Depression’ series that I tried to start and ironically never finished because winter knocked the motivation right out of me!

Hearts are Love.

I love books, libraries, reading, writing and just words!

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I love to cook, eat and watch others enjoy it too.

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I love to sew and create.

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I love the many adventures marriage brings.

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I love to travel and discover all the different beauties this world has.

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I love how music can often find the words you can’t.

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There is so much more I could add my heart to. Flowers and gardens. Going for long walks in nature. Maps for road trips. Art galleries in old cities. Walking along a sandy beach barefoot. Going to the zoo with my kids!

There is a quote I found that said, “If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mind goes when it wanders.”  I imagine our minds wander very far from our address.

In my continued efforts to stay positive, I am currently surrounding myself with hearts to remind myself of what is in mine. The more love I feel for the world around me, the more I can feel love within myself and be a happier person for those I already treasure in my heart the most.

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