Enough Is Enough

Millions of people worldwide are going about their business today as usual. Early morning alarms, rushed breakfast, school runs and commutes to work. At least 200 people are not as fortunate. The lives of 36 innocent citizens have been cruelly snatched away in another act of terror, with 150 being seriously injured. The one question on everybody’s lips- why?
It was moments after publishing last night’s blog that articles started to appear on my news feed. If I’m being honest, I skimmed past them as certain pages on Facebook are well known for their scandalous headlines and I presumed this was another one. It was only after my husband had told me that there had been an explosion in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport that I knew it wasn’t a hoax. He started frantically tapping away at the keyboard looking for updates and clicking on any relevant videos to see the full extent. It was grim. Images of bloodied children being carried, bodies laying lifeless outside the terminal building and a constant rise in the number reported dead.
We tried to hide the news from our children who were also in the living room at that time, but when I saw an image of a child who must have only been the age of my youngest daughter, covered from head to foot in blood, her head having being blurred out because of the graphic extent of her injuries, I couldn’t keep myself composed any more. My husband began silently praying for patience and protection. I have travelled through that airport at least once, if not twice every year since 2007. In just three weeks time, I am due to arrive there again with my children. The airport is a mere ten minute drive from the home of my in-laws. Never before has the reality been so closer to home.
One by one, friends and family started to mark themselves as ‘safe’ on Facebook, letting loved ones know they hadn’t been caught up in the terror. My mother and father in law are currently in central Turkey visiting relatives so we knew they were safe, but we phoned my sister in law who was in a state of shock and disbelief. She fears for her daughter- a young and innocent 9 month old, she fears for her family and friends, and she fears for her own life. My other sister in law is a regular user of public transport in Istanbul as she commutes every day from the European to the Asian side. She depends on her job to run her household, and so runs a daily risk of being caught up in the terror run by the scum of the earth that is Isis. 
We all face risks in our daily lives. Whilst living in a city in the middle of the UK, we feel a certain sense of ‘protection’, being away from the evil that is being projected on major cities and areas worldwide. The truth is, we are no longer safe anywhere. Terror knows no boundaries. Terror knows of no faith. 
How do I feel about travelling to Istanbul in less than a month? Scared. I have ran scenario after scenario in my head but nobody can ever prepare for such a tragedy. I asked a friend this morning what I would do if I saw someone acting suspicious as I was due to get on my flight. Would I alert authorities at the risk of causing uproar, chaos and embarrassment, or would I bite my tongue, pray to God and hope for the best? Being a slight 5’4, how would I be able to shield all three of my children from firing bullets? Would I run for my life or lay on the floor and play dead? 
This is no longer an exaggerated way of thinking. This is a possibility. Of course security will be heightened at Ataturk and across airports worldwide, but the three terrorists didn’t even get past security controls before they starting spraying bullets. Had they not entered the terminal, just as much destruction could have been done in the car parks and drop off points. 
Only Allah knows when my time will be up. By not going to Turkey, I am robbing my children of spending time with their only grandparents and aunties. I am teaching them that evil rules over good. I am letting them think that I cannot protect them under my wing. 
What should have been an amazing holiday with my children as we finally visit the southern coastal area of Fethiye will be marred with an anxiety. My children are entitled to a care free six weeks in the sun where their only worry is how long they have left to play in the swimming pool. I will not take that away from them, but this year I need to be vigilant. I will have at the most, a week in Istanbul, and even then, I will not be planning my usual trips to Sultanahmet and the Grand Bazaar. My husband has advised me to stay away from the local bazaars and shopping centres. I pray I will be safe in Yalova- a small city just a ferry boat ride away from Istanbul, away from the chaos. I will spend three weeks with my children and father in law in Fethiye and pray that we are safe in a small apartment complex. 
As a retired police chief, I have always felt protected by my father in law. His ‘authority’ and respect from other officials meant that at times, he could slightly bend the rules. The drop off area outside the departures terminal at Ataturk is exactly that- a drop-off point where taxis and coaches would offload their passengers and drive away. My father in law would park just a few metres back from the entrance next to a small police shelter and display his ‘police’ card whilst we unloaded the car, and he would wait there until he knew our flight had departed. Seeing the images of the carnage, I can picture his Renault Clio there now, just a few footsteps away from where 36 people had their lives so brutally taken away. I am not mentally strong enough for this kind of torment. 
Yet again, we pray for Istanbul. We pray for strength, patience and peace. Nobody in this world deserves to die at the hands of terrorism, but when you find yourself praying for the lives of yourself and your children, then you know that ‘enough is enough’.

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Thank You Molly

What happened to my every good intention of blogging every day for a whole month? I don’t know either. 
This year has tested my strength to the max. Going 18.5 hours without food or drink is no mean feat. We are now in the home stretch and with less than a week to go, I have to admit I feel weak, dry, tired and lazy. Going for nearly three weeks without caffeine has certainly had its effects- drinking orange flavoured sugar (Lucozade), after iftar to bring my sugar levels up means my face currently resembles a dot to dot. If I eat one more egg, I fear I may wake up with feathers, and if my daughter tells me one more time that my breath stinks, I may actually cry.
I have failed miserably in the goals I set myself at the start of the month. Sleeping for what works out at 3 full days throughout the 29 is a cop out to say the least. However, I have tried, and whilst I believe I could have been better and stronger, I haven’t lost faith. 
There has been so much unrest and uncertainty over the past few weeks. With the murder of politician Jo Cox, to the surprising vote for the UK to leave the EU, our lives, or certainly mine at least, feels like it is passenger on a ship in stormy seas, with no sense of direction, and no captain to man the wheel. We are living in a society where we cannot even trust those in power to have B plans and C plans, they lie for their own political gain, and the country is now filled with hatred and discrimination. 
One thing that will remain however, and what should never be tampered with, is the innocence of our children, and strong foundations upon which friendships are built. My daughter was invited for dinner to the house of her best friend this evening. She has been counting down the sleeps since she was invited, and at times when in the past she may have been fearful and reserved, thanks to her friend, she has blossomed into a confident and outspoken little girl. She looks up to her friend, as with being 9 months younger, my daughter is one of the babies in the class. However, children know no borders or rules when it comes to choosing friends- they trust their heart. My daughter once told me that her and her friend will sometimes have ‘days off’ from one another, where they choose to play with other children, and there are no hard feelings or jealousy. A lot can be learnt from the perspective and outlook of a six year old. That way, they value each other more, and know that although there are others, they will always have a special bond between themselves.
We worry far too much about what impression other people have of us as individuals. Long gone are my days of posting photos on Instagram to see how many likes I could get. I have even deleted the Pages app from my mobile so I am not constantly checking to see if my craft page Moon & Sixpence has any new followers. I am not a model or an entrepreneur. I am not an academic or multi millionaire. I am beyond trying to be anybody I am not. I am Rachel, a 31 year old Mum of three and a wife. I have my flaws. My roots are currently longer than those in my back garden. I start work pristine clean and am wearing half of the menu by lunch. I don’t buy designer clothes and am not ashamed to say I shop at Primark. My children are heathy, my fridge has food, I have a loving husband and I have a roof over my head. Those factors alone mean I am one of the richest people in the world. 
If I have to clean up spills after dinner, it means my family have eaten that night. If I have a washing basket full to bursting, it means my family are clothed. If my children shout ‘Mummy’ it means that have someone they trust. If I set my alarm clock for the morning, it means I have a reason to get up. I am happy being Rachel.
Tonight I was lucky enough to be able to read the tale of Molly’s Marvellous Moustache written by a lovely friend of mine. It is a story of girl and her dreams and imaginations of what she can do with her marvellous moustache. The tale really struck a chord with me when Molly realised that actually being just Molly can be marvellous too. So, thank you ‘Molly’ and thank you Andrea for helping me realise that I can have hopes and dreams, but being just Rachel can be fantastic too.
Molly’s Marvellous Moustache is available to buy from http://www.andreaheaton.com

Throwing It Out There

Hello, it’s me. Fear not, I am still alive and kicking. I am 3kg lighter, a dress size smaller and probably a couple of shades paler but I am very much alive! I have been humbled by the amount of people who have asked why I haven’t blogged for almost a week now. It really means so much to know that I am not just talking to a laptop- that are people who take a genuine interest in my ramblings. I was told today that my blog is the kind of thing we need in this current climate, and to throw it out there- so this guys, is for you!

The world has been shaken by the tragic death of politician Jo Cox. The evening of her death was the very evening I posted an update on Facebook stating that I wouldn’t be blogging because I had run out of anything remotely positive to say. Her death has hit a nerve with so many people, not only in the UK but across the globe too. I live not a million miles away from her constituency where her murder occurred. When my husband arrived in the UK ten years ago, his first job was at a restaurant just around the corner. More than anything, I was touched because she was a wife and a mother. To have a life so brutally snatched from you whilst doing the job you love so passionately is beyond comprehension. This goes back to my point about life becoming so cheap and worthless. This was a woman who balanced her family life and career, who stood up for all she believed in and tried to make a difference in the world. She wasn’t a bad person, far from it and this is apparent in the legacy she has left. Over £1 million has been pledged by the public in less than a week and is to be split between three of the charities that she was connected to. Why do we fail to recognize the good in people when they are still with us? Why are we so quick to criticize  and pick up on other people’s faults, but once they are gone, be full of hurt and regret for things that were never said or done?

I found myself watching the news updates and following the story over the next few days. My head could not process the tragedy. The high street of a quiet village had become the focus of the global press. People all over the country were attending vigils. Bouquets of flowers were being laid in their thousands from those wanting to show some sort of compassion and sympathy. I felt angry and sorrowful, but most of all, I felt exposed and vulnerable. We have three local MPs who visit our coffee shop on a frequent basis. What would it take for another tragic incident like this to happen, so easily as the first? The odds are low, but not impossible. From the terrorist threat overseas, to a different threat in our home land, we are entering a period of high risk, uncertainty, and hate. “We have more in common than that which divides us” are the powerful and touching words of the late Jo Cox. Imagine the love and power if the world united in love and peace. Instead, the only certain thing in our lives can be our faith.

We are now on day 17 and well over half way through. The nights are continuing to get longer and peak this evening at 21.48 for the next few days until from Sunday onwards they gradually shorten by a minute over the following week. I suffered with a few dizzy spells this afternoon. When work is busy, I tend to go with the flow and find myself on this artificial high because of the buzz of work. In our quieter periods though, I find myself clock watching, and more aware of how weak I start to feel. The temperatures are continuing to rise, and with little breeze, the kitchen at work is becoming difficult to work in. Its nothing that a wash of my hands and arms in cold water can’t fix, but my energy levels are beyond repair. I spend most of my day feeling weak and feeble, to then eat at iftar and then feel full and sluggish- I am my own worst enemy at the moment!

Day 10- Giving Thanks

Ramadan is a perfect time for people to reflect and take stock on things in life. It gives us a chance to realise just what is important and what are the unnecessary things that we may stress and panic over.
For those of you who are reading from further afield, you may not know that alongside running a coffee shop, I also run my own little craft venture creating and selling handmade home decor. Over the past few years I have put so much time and effort into this- something that I was proud to call my own and get recognised for at the same time. Whenever I got my craft kit out, my children would ask for who and what was I making next. They would ask on a weekend if I needed to go to Hobbycraft to stock up on supplies, and whilst they loved the fact that Mummy was creative, it was starting to take over my life and in turn, affect theirs too.
I would spend hours networking, glued to my phone, and any spare time in the evening, I would set down to work to keep on top of things. It was by far a big money earner, but once I realised that my hobby was becoming more than just that, it took control because I was obsessing that I wanted to make things work.
My inlaws came to visit a couple of months back, followed by some family friends, also from Istanbul. This meant my routine had gone well and truly out of the window, but the one things I realised was that I actually didn’t mind. I put to the back of my head and pressure I had previously put on myself. I was finding myself spending better quality time with my children because I didn’t need to rush to finish orders. I had know for a while that I didn’t have the time and resources to ever become a big household name, and although I held onto my dream for as long as I could, it was one that I just needed to let go.
Instead of clock watching until the kids bedtime, and asking them to be careful around my work, I have become so much more laid back and care free. I am valuing every minute of my time with them because they are now my ultimate focus in life. Ten years down the road when they look back on their childhood, I don’t want them to remember a Mum who used to rant and rave because she strived perfection, I want them to remember a happy go lucky Mummy who put aside her dream to do best by the people who needed her the most. I will have plenty of time when I’m old and retired to pick up some knitting needles or paintbrushes, but my kids won’t be kids forever.
Waking my eldest daughter from her sleep tonight on the advise of the Doctor as she has been suffering with night terrors, I caught her still in a deep slumber. She stirred, opened her eyes and looked at me and started to stroke my face. I reassured her that all was ok, and with her eyes now closed again, she reached up to kiss my cheek and whispered ‘I love you Mummy’. 
Those are the moments that matter. These are the previous days I will never get back with my children. We are too busy getting caught up in the rat race to sit back and note the precious moments in life. Despite my children being 8, 7 and 5, I will still carry the two youngest back to bed when they get up in the night for the toilet, because I never know when they will tell me they are too old for that anymore. Each night before bed, we have our own routine of ‘kisses, noses, cuddles, I love you’, and no matter how old they become, they will always be my babies.
Take just 10 minutes each day before bed to ask your children, or even yourself, ‘what made you happy today?’. You may be surprised at their answers, and for every positive thing, you have reason to give thanks to the God that you believe in. 

Day 9- First Impressions

I found myself posting an update on Facebook last night, light heartedly joking about my ability to nap for three hours after work, every day of the week and it be acceptable because it’s Ramadan. At the start of the month, I had set goals and plans that I wanted to achieve throughout the 29 days, and I hate to say I have let myself down. I am not doing anywhere near as much praying as I had hoped to do. I wanted to embrace the time I had each evening and sit with my children to teach them more about our religion. I certainly didn’t want to sleep for what works out to be more than three solid days out of the whole month.
Who is it though that decides what is acceptable and what isn’t? I would give nothing more than to devote my time to prayer and worship throughout Ramadan, but for various reasons, even though I shouldn’t have an excuse, I am unable to do so. My intentions are good and I am trying my upmost best, so why should we feel that we need to conform to certain standards and perfections? 
As a society, we are far too judgmental of others. Many of my friends comment on how ‘I’m a better person than they could ever be’ because I am fasting. Whilst those words are an absolute privelidge to hear, other people may feel that what I am doing is a cop-out because I am not following it with extra namaz (act of worship). What gives us the right to pass judgment on others as soon as someone shows a lack of conformity? 
I used to be very guilty of being presumptuous. Before I even spoke to someone, I would have an ‘idea’ in my head of how I expected them to be. In my job, I serve hundreds of people each week and so I see people from all walks of life. I am friends with people who I never imagined I would click with, but that is because I let down the ridiculous and unnecessary guard I used to have, and learnt to love people for who they really are. 
This realisation came at a low point in my life. My marriage was in a state of what then, I thought was beyond repair. Facing the prospect of a life alone with three children and no other family, inside 8 felt probably ten times worse than what I looked. I had no tears left in me and certainly no strength either. One day, I found myself in the local supermarket with my children wandering aimlessly. I had no idea what I needed to buy, I just knew that I now had three young people dependant upon my choices and decisions, but I couldn’t see from one hour to the next, never mind the days ahead.
A friendly face greeted me as a lady was giving out food samples. She fussed over the children so much, that for a split second, I had forgotten my troubles and found a smile upon my face. That lady had seen past my miserable face and mascara stained eyes. She could see that all wasn’t as it should be and tried her best, without being intrusive, to help. Most importantly, she taught me a valuable life lesson that you should never pass judgement, as you have no idea as to what a person is going through in their private lives at any given time.  
The child that is hyperactive and unable to listen to instructions may have a medical issue. The man that is loading his trolley in the supermarket with junk for may have an eating disorder. The lady that forgot to thank the cashier for her coffee may have been awake all night with an unsettled baby. 
We never know anybody’s story and we certainly do not have the right to judge. We need to learn to see the world not how we expect it to be, but to realise that we are only human and there there is no such thing as perfect. 

Day 8- Prayers For Orlando

Another mass killing. Another unnecessary and tragic loss of so many lives. Another crazed terrorist who believes his actions were the will of Allah.
The world we live in is becoming one huge trap. An American nightclub where innocent people were going about their lives, socialising and having fun, in which those attending each had their own life story, their own contribution to the world. Each of those innocent people who have lost their lives had their own hopes and dreams for the future, to have everything so brutally snatched away from them. Nobody in this world has any right to take another persons aspirations, let alone their life.
We are living in a world full of hate. Hate against foreigners who dare to enter our country. Hate against same sex marriage. Hate against politicians and leaders. Hate against people who dare to speak out for what the believe in, and what for? People are not born with hate- this is what develops in a society where it is easier to tarnish everybody with the same brush than realise that most citizens are just regular people going about their everyday lives with no intention to cause hurt or drama. 
I fear for the world in which my children are growing up in. I am developing a fear for my own life and those of my family. I would be lying if the thought hadn’t crossed my mind about another terrorist attack when I travel to Turkey this summer. If it’s going to happen, then it will happen, but when did life become so cheap?  
I have no idea of which translation of the Quran these morons are reading when they think they are following the will of Allah. Where is their fear of the one God who breathed life into them? Where is their fear of the Quran and its teachings about harming others? I just cannot comprehend.
There are so many fine detailed teachings in the Quran, that I panic about sinning if I as so much as dare to look at someone in the wrong way. From it being frowned upon to pick up dropped money on the street because someone who is less unfortunate should take it, to not singing or dancing whilst at the dining table, to it being a sin to drop bread intentionally- I cannot get my head around how these crazed, possessed fanatics think they will enter the kingdom of heaven by unlawfully and brutally robbing people of their lives and tarnishing the name of Islam.
I fear in the years to come that my children will find themselves secluded as society becomes increasingly opposed to Islam. I do not want them to hide their religion, but already in conversations I have had, I find myself having to explain my lifestyle choices and trying to reassure people that we are not all crazed lunatics. I am lucky that my friends see through that prejudice, but I may not always be so fortunate.
Anybody and anywhere is a target. That is the sickening state of the world we now live in. Don’t give up on your hopes and dreams because without them, the world would be a very monotone place to be. Be the person you want to be. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and stand up for what you believe in. Just remember, be thankful for every moment you live and breathe. 

Day 6/7- Masallah

Do you remember the can of Red Bull I bought myself Friday morning, but restrained myself enough to not drink it an break my fast? Well drinking it at 10pm Friday night wasn’t the most clever of ideas I have had either. By 2am I was still wide awake. 
It is hard to describe how I have been feeling the past couple of days. I feel as though there is some sort of force or pressure on me. Nothing in the physical sense (quite the opposite with the weight I am losing), but more of a spiritual sense. I feel an amazing sense is achievement every evening when I break my fast, but I feel as though I am not doing nowhere near enough in terms of worship.
Had we have been in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, the aura would have been so different. The atmosphere and vibe in the air is unmissable. Women gathering in the mosque each afternoon for daily prayers, men attending each evening after Iftar for teravi prayers, and more than anything, the bellowing from the minarets which signal the time to break the fast. 
My husband and I feel very much secluded whilst fasting here in the UK. For the majority of our friends, Eid will just be like any other day. We won’t be sending our children to school on the first day of Eid. This year is the first time in years we will be together as a family, and whilst I will more than likely be working, we want them to experience our joy of commemorating fasting for a whole month. We will buy them each a new outfit and go to visit friends. We will more than likely break tradition and have a BBQ depending upon the unpredictable British weather. It isn’t about how you do it, but more like who you do it with, and for us we could not ask for more than our small family and some close family friends.
I think loneliness partly sums up the heavy feeling I have been experiencing. If is difficult not having family next to us at the best of times, but throughout such an important time as Ramadan, we really do miss having people to share our experiences. I am very grateful for the cool weather, the routine of the children being in school and having a loving husband who will take over the chores early evening so I can nap. It is all about making the most out of what we have, and I do have so much to be thankful for.
This month won’t last forever. We are a quarter of the way through already. A lovely friend commented on how fresh my skin looked, and I have learnt again a self control that I didn’t know I had in me. I need to work more at my mood and my patience. I don’t deal with being hungry at the best of times, but now I have a purpose to restrain myself, I need to remind myself that this is about appreciating what we have compared to all those who are less fortunate. I wish I didn’t sleep so much- I almost feel like a fraud for napping as much as I have been doing, but it isn’t frowned upon, in fact quite the opposite. It is about letting our bodies rest and recuperate.  
The Turks believe in an idea called ‘nazar’ and that is why so many homes and places of work are adorned with the ‘nazar boncuk’ or evil eye. It is believed that the eye protects from jealous thoughts and also protects. The eyes are pinned to the clothes of new babies, hung from the mirrors of cars and placed on the walls of homes. Even if is not intentional, a person making the most innocent of comments can be perceived to be jealous or green eyed, and that is why many Turks used the phrase ‘maşallah’ after passing a nice comment about something or someone. That is a way of saying that they don’t want their comments to be perceived as jealousy.
I have been victim to nazar so many times, and usually my Mother in law recites the nazar prayer to rid of any ‘evil’ thoughts. She can tell how heavy the nazar is by how much she yawns when she prays. There have been countless times she has prayed for my children and tears have streamed out of her eyes because they have been troubled so much by the nazar. I was once told I have beautiful eyes and the next morning woke up with an eye infection- if that doesn’t make you believe then I’m not sure what will.
I feel as though the heavy feeling again may be caused by nazar. I’m not sure if it is the amount of people that are commenting on how well I am doing- believe me, those comments mean the world to me. In the way that Turks do best, if you forget to say maşallah, you could always pretend to spit on me and that has the same effect- just remember to not do it to every English person you meet otherwise you may find yourself at the receiving end of a bit more than a thank you!