Still in one piece 

Today has been one of those days to top last year when instead of putting my car key in the ignition, I put my seat belt buckle in instead. I’m surprised I’ve made it to this time of day, but somehow I’m still standing (actually sitting).
I had a heavy feeling in my heart from the moment I woke up. I struggled to eat anything substantial for sahur last night and I have really paid the price for it today. My day started unfortunately with a few disagreements with regards to progressing with the divorce and as much as I have tried to avoid any conflict, I realised that I could not go a whole month without trying to make some move forward. Needless to say, I felt upset and run down afterwards, and that more or less shaped my whole afternoon.
With every window down in the car, I drove my girls to spend a few hours with their friends and then headed with my son to find party supplies for my youngest daughters birthday. He thought it was amusing that I couldn’t even answer the most basic of his questions without feeling like I had steam coming out of my ears. Of course I had a lot on my mind, and along with the fact that I’ve had a liquid dinner for the past two evenings out of three, it hasn’t done much for my energy levels. 
Ever the efficient driver, I somehow managed to misjudge the metal barrier in front of my parking spot and clipped the front of the car as I parked. It took me a good 5 minutes to pluck up the courage to get out and check the damage, but luck was on my side when I got away with just a tiny little scuff. I then wandered aimlessly looking for invitations and other bits, buying stuff I didn’t even need and drove straight past the large Asda at the same time as suggesting to my son we go to an Asda to look for tropical themed party props. I had started to lose the will to live.
A successful shop later and as a treat, I offered to buy my son his favourite take away for tea. Whilst sitting in the car park struggling to read what was in front of me, I logged into the Just Eat app, ready to spend the next ten minutes trying to navigate my way around ordering a chicken wrap. He looked at me and asked why I just didn’t phone them when the number was starting me in the face. Smart child. 
At this point is was peak time traffic. Not the best of times to be stuck in a car with a child who is reading the lamest of jokes out of his new book, whilst I can feel my insides shrinking by the second. A good thirty minutes and a bit of road rage later, we arrive at the take away. No sooner do I step foot out of the car and I feel it rolling backwards. Yes, I had forgotten to put on the hand brake. As if my pride hadn’t been dented enough, it was witnessed by around eight youths loitering, and tried to redeem myself by complaining in a loud voice that I had been sold a dodgy car. The stench of eight teens smoking cannabis doesn’t do wonders on an empty stomach, and I stopped just short of flying back home.
I have now safely returned home with no further injury to any person or vehicle. I’m sure that as I am blonde by default, I will manage to break or damage something before iftar. Seriously though, I have realised today just how important it is to make the most of sahur. I would not want to have to break my fast earlier than needed because I hadn’t taken care of myself properly. I am proud that I am managing as well as I have and that we are already on day four. There is still a long way to go, but compared to this time last year, I am in a better place emotionally and able to appreciate the holy month much more. 
The events of today have been another reminder to be thankful. Even when it feels like the day will be a disaster, our attitudes can change the whole outlook. Be positive, and you will get it in return. Smile, and you will receive a smile back. Do something silly? Laugh it off. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. If you have a roof over your head, your health and friends and family who care for you, then you’re already one of the richest people in the world.

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What is love?

Everybody has a different idea as to what love is. There is no right or wrong. However, there are a few fundamental notions that I can think most people can agree with. Love is honesty and trust, a mutual respect, a willing to help one another and a connection of two hearts.
People are all too quick to complicate the idea of love. It is a feeling of not wanting to hurt that special person in your life, being accepting of their hopes and dreams and wanting to work with them to achieve all they desire. Love is something that is cultivated between two people and grows over time, through getting to know him or her and experiencing life’s many ups and downs together.
Love doesn’t have to be as it’s portrayed in films, where couples are in their own little indestructible bubble, where they never argue about leaving dirty washing on the floor or about who is responsible for the washing up. Of course the kind love we see on television is just an illusion, but that doesn’t mean that love isn’t any less real or obtainable.
It’s about finding a connection with someone for whom you’re happy when they’re happy, you hurt when they’re hurting and when you’re in their company, it feels like home. Love doesn’t have to be splashed all over social media. If something isn’t shared, it doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Why does the rest of the world need to know your relationship status when you should be focusing your attention on that rather than worrying how many likes your latest loved up post will rack up.
I have made so many mistakes when it came to what I thought was love. I was just 20 years old when I got married, a mere three months after we met. I didn’t know what love was, I was young and naive and thought that I had been swept off my feet. On the outside the relationship was a fairytale, but there were major problems from the offset. I was too scared to burst the bubble, worrying about being alone and losing the person that I thought loved me unconditionally. 
My faith over the years helped me to keep strong. Muslims believe that Allah does not give you any more burden than what you can handle. So many times I thought I would crumble. So many times I questioned why I was being put through so much hurt and upset. I wondered what I had done to deserve such a turbulent and broken marriage.
This time last year, in fact around the second or third night of fasting, I finally realised that what I had thought was love all these years, was in fact not love at all. I don’t need to go into detail, but on this one particular night, I learnt exactly what love was not. That was the moment that I had been waiting for- my realisation, my escape and my chance at building on the lie I had been exposed to for all those years.
Since then, the love I have towards my faith has increased remarkably. I realised that I was tested all those years because Allah was waiting for me to recognise my strength and courage. I lived the life I did so that I could set the standards for what I would accept in the future. I have been built from every mistake I’ve ever made and as a result, I have a big heart that hopefully someone, someday will be able to call theirs. I have realised how the idea of love can hurt, but more importantly realised that actually love doesn’t hurt, only people do.
Someday I would love to have that one person on who’s mind I am on first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I would love to walk hand in hand with someone who is proud to call me theirs. I look forward to the day I can laugh with someone again so much that my sides hurt, and with whom I can enjoy a tub of Ben & Jerry’s at midnight because I’m not embarrassed about being a lover of food! 
Love doesn’t have to be extravagant, made official on a piece of paper or be on show to everyone- it just has to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. 
On that note, I think the only thing that will be making me feel warm and fuzzy tonight will be my meal at iftar. There are just over three hours to go and the days are getting gradually longer. My sleeping pattern has started to go crazy. For the past three nights I have woken at 4.50am and have been wide awake for a good hour despite only going to bed a couple of hours before. That should be fun when my days start at 6.15am again from next week! Today has been another fairly good day. The decrease in temperature is helping to keep thirst away and I’ve only had a couple of hunger pangs during the day. I am embracing the peace and tranquility that comes with the holy month, making the extra effort to pray. The children are being well behaved and understanding but it is still quite lonely to break the fast alone. There is a reason for this though and Allah knows it. Who knows what the year ahead will bring, but for now, it’s about living in the moment and being thankful for all we have.

A second chance 

Today’s fast has gone surprisingly, and thankfully quite well. I think staying up until 2.30am helped, eating and drinking steadily for as long as possibly could. I managed a small bowl of soup for iftar last night, followed by some watermelon. My stomach struggled to digest just that small amount, so it’s no surprise that I haven’t feel particularly hungry today.
I would like to thank every one of my friends who took the time to message me after yesterday’s blog. It meant so much that not only are people taking time to read my posts, but time out of their lives to send me messages of hope and reassurance. Mentally, I still have so much more to overcomes in terms of believing my strengths and capabilities. It helps tremendously when people are recognising the problems I am facing and trying to overcome and it’s always helpful to view things from another perspective.
I spent some time praying this morning. I read verses from the Quran, offering them up to the souls of my parents and grandparents, and then took the time to pray for things close to my heart. I was wide awake long before the children this morning, for the first time in I think forever, and it was a lovely opportunity to enjoy the calm and to reflect. I also checked the reach of this blog, and am surprised to have seen it has been read in places as far as America and India!
This afternoon I took the children to a local fun fair and almost stupidly ended up breaking my fast after getting on one of the rides that was so much more nail biting than what it appeared. After what seemed like 5 minutes of being thrown around on my side in a rickety old cart at the speed of light, I almost passed out on my way to find a patch of grass on which I could sit and nurse my sickened stomach. Needless to say, that was my only thrill for the day and the children were left to enjoy the rest of the rides whilst I looked on in a gorgeous shade of green.
I’m not sure what brought the thought on, but once we’d arrived home and I’d recovered, I had some sort of ‘message’ in my mind reminding me just how short life is. I found out some devastating news a couple of days ago of a friend with a son the same age as mine who has discovered she has cancer. That, along with the tragic week in which 22 innocent victims, mainly children, lost their lives at the hands of a barbaric terrorist attack, it brought to mind the realisation that with each passing day, and every time we go to bed at night, we are one step closer to the end of our own lives.
That may seem so morbid for what is usually a lighthearted blog, but it is a realisation of the truth. I wonder how many of us can get into bed at the end of each day and say that we have truly lived our lives to the fullest, done all our hearts have desired and made a difference? I was given a second chance at happiness when I decided to take control of my life again. I was suddenly presented with this whole new journey in which I was the driver and could choose the exact path that I wanted to take. The thought was, and still is, scary, but I have been given another shot at making my life the way I want it to be, and although I may not always seem it, I am eternally grateful for how my life has now taken a turn for the better.
I have been taking small baby steps over the past few months. I have gone from being overwhelmed, to becoming more confident and decisive, to actually setting the bar higher of what my previous standards used to be. I was always happy to settle for second best, accept that my efforts were never quite enough and to be quiet at times when actually my voice should have been heard. Compared to this time last year, I am a different person in so many aspects. I have learnt to say no, I have learnt that if you don’t ask then you never get, and most importantly I have learnt that my own happiness is important too. I realise that I can still be a good mum and friend if I take time out now and then to concentrate on myself.
I have taken the steps and applied to return to university, to study the course of my dreams. I have started to take more care of my appearance and learnt that even if I don’t feel completely with it, a little lip gloss goes a long way to help me feel better about myself. I’ve also realised that sometimes it’s ok to just shut yourself off from the world when things get a little overwhelming. 
I have been told by so many lovely friends that I look so healthy and well, that I am appearing stronger and more confident, and that I have so much to give to others as a person. I would hope that one day I would be able to find someone who sees not just me on the outside, but what I have to give from inside too. That’s the thing with people who have been broken- their love is loyal because it is fragile. They have so much to offer to a relationship because they crave what they have never been given in past relationships. 
Having left an abusive marriage, I may have flaws when it comes to trust, I may have doubts and insecurities, but I think that those are secretly and strangely a blessing, because a broken woman wants to be able to experience that love that she has been denied in the past, meaning that her heart will work harder to reach that end goal.
So whilst we are faced with many challenges in our lives, we need to look for the secret messages in those. The closure of one door will lead to the opening of another. The dead end of one road means you have to turn around and try a different direction. One person’s loss is another person’s gain. We forget that each difficulty we have ever faced has made us the people we are today. 
Learn to look for the second chances, because the day will come when it’s far too late. Don’t look back in five years time and regret not making that move, taking that job opportunity, or risking being happy with someone with whom you think it won’t work. You don’t have to do things because they’re not logical, do them because they’re fun. Society creates superficial rules, go one step further and break them, because the power to change is in your hands.
It’s now less than three hours until iftar, after which I will resume the new routine I have for this year of making the most of the 5 hours before sahur. I will embrace the calm, reflect and be thankful for all I have been given. I will also watch trashy TV, sit with copious amounts of water and the odd bite to eat, finally make my intention to Allah to fast the next day, and be thankful for my second chance at being happy in life.

Searching for the strength 

I am writing this with just 40 minutes to go until I break my fast. I’d be lying if I said today hasn’t been difficult. I woke at midnight and again at 2am but the only thing I could muster to eat was a slice of Battenberg cake. To be honest, over the past few days I have been reducing the amount I’ve been eating in order to prepare my body for fasting. The feelings of hunger haven’t bothered me too much today, but the lack of energy has been a big struggle.
I have been lucky to enjoy a quiet day at home, not needing too much energy or effort. However, as I expected, the mental and emotional challenge has been tough. I have questioned endlessly the situation my children are in now, having parents who are separated, with a father who currently isn’t around. I know that I’m not the only single mum, that they’re not the only children with divorcing parents, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I question whether what I’m doing is enough, whether they would benefit from studying abroad for a year so they’re closer to their paternal family. I blame myself for having my head in the clouds and only hope one day they realise how much I love them, because lately I struggle to be the mum they need.
They have been brilliant today, showing patience and understanding whilst I’ve been fasting. They were happy enough to watch films and my eldest daughter even helped out with chores. It’s not the right thing to spend the day without making an effort to go about your everyday tasks, but as I’m not emotionally well at the moment, I used today to reflect, to think and to relax. 
I would be lying if it said I didn’t miss the vibe around Ramadan in Turkey. The whole atmosphere during the month there is something spectacular. The queues at the bakers each evening of people buying fresh bread, the queues at the markets of people buying refreshing drinks and desserts, and most importantly, the mesmerising sound of the call to prayer from the mosques that fill the streets. Instead, I’ve made the most of what I have available to me here, and made a trip to the local Turkish supermarket late afternoon. I bought packet soup, fruit juice, Turkish bread and a great juicy watermelon to eat after I’ve broken my fast this evening.
I don’t think I will manage more than a bowl of soup. The children have eaten hours ago, and they’re almost ready to go to bed. I will keep them up so I can pray with someone before I begin to eat. I will then use the rest of the night to pray, drink plenty, and to try eat something before sunrise at 2.50am.
I always get emotional at this time of the day. To go 18 hours without food or drink is a huge feat. On top of all I am battling at the moment, I sometimes fail to recognise my strength. That strength of course comes from Allah and I hope that my fast is recognised and accepted. To think that this is my daily routine until 24th June seems overwhelming. Each day will get longer, and I only hope that my strength will increase with each day. 
As I have done with each year, and again, this journey isn’t about weight loss or appearance, I am making a note that I am starting the month at 63.3kgs. 

Stripping It Back 

The dictionary definition for lonely is as follows:A lonely situation or period of time is one in which you feel unhappy because you are alone or do not have anyone to talk to. It’s quite ironic that whilst I am blessed with my beautiful children and amazing friends, that ultimately, I am lonely.
Ramadan has fallen at a perfect time for me this year. In a year in which my marriage has ended and I have had to learn to discover myself again, I need this period of peace and serenity in order to strip everything back and find my reassess my values.
This time last year, things were so much different. I was going through a very unhappy period in my life. I knew deep down that my marriage was over, and again, ironically, it was certain events which happened during the month the concreted my decision that I needed out. Working 8 hours days in a busy coffee shop on top of 18 hours of fasting actually gave me more strength to stand up and make the step to leave than any other period in my life.
Fast forward to the present day and I am so lucky to have some fantastic people in my life who have helped me up when I’ve been kicked down and who have listened to my problems. My children are my purpose- they are the reason I strive to do my best, so that they can look back in years to come and remember that I was always there for them and never gave up.
The biggest problem lies deep inside. I don’t know who I am anymore. Whilst in theory, I am a 32 year old woman with her whole life ahead of her to choose what she wants to do, and who she wants to be with, I am lacking guidance. I have been kicked back so many times in my life, lost everything that I ever cared for and was told that I was never good enough- to overcome the fear of that happening again is mentally and emotionally challenging.
Friends have asked me if I really need to fast this year. It’s simply not as easy at that. Whilst I am divorcing my husband, I am not divorcing my religion. I didn’t become a Muslim for him, I became a Muslim because it felt right for me. I simply cannot turn my back on something I have believed in for the past ten years at a time when I feel like the only person who has ‘got my back’ is Allah.
This year will be physically and mentally hard. The first week of Ramadan falls on the half term school holidays, and we are currently experiencing 25C heat. Whilst my children know about Ramadan and what I am expected to do, they deserve to live their childhood and I will be spending many hours trying to entertain them single handedly. By the time they are in bed, I will still have around a hour before I can break my fast, and this will be emotionally difficult because I will be doing it alone. There is nobody to sit and pray with me, nobody for who I can prepare the iftar meal and nobody to encourage me and tell me that I am doing well. Likewise, I will be waking along for sahur to eat and drink before sunrise whilst my children sleep peacefully. I will turn to Turkish television to listen to the prayers from the hoca and set my alarm to listen to the sound of the call to prayer from a recording I will find online.
Tonight when my children are in bed, I will remove my make up and nail polish, remove my jewellery and wash in order to pray. I will cover myself and take the time to read from the Quran in order to prepare for the month ahead. I will pray for strength, hope, health and without a doubt happiness. Allah works in mysterious way and there is a reason that things happen in our lives, whether it be to test us or not. So many times I have been guilty of questioning that reason. So many days I have wondered how much more strength I have inside me to carry on fighting. I am hoping to find those answers over the next 30 days. 
I do believe though, the happiness lies in our own hands. If we see an opportunity then we need to grab it. We cannot expect love and luck to knock on our door, just in the same way we cannot expect to win the lottery if we don’t buy a ticket. If we should buy a ticket and not win then at least we tried, but we need to make more of an effort to expose ourselves to opportunities. If we fall down on our path to happiness that we need to stand up, brush ourselves down and try again. We meet the people we do in our lives for a reason and those people shape us. Those people may change our way of thinking, may question our morals or may teach us valuable lessons. The moral is, is that there are many hidden messages in our everyday lives.
So on a beautifully sunny and holy day of Friday, tonight we look forward to welcoming the holy month of Ramadan, and for the third yet, I am also looking forward to sharing my journey with you all, wherever you may be across the world. Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Ramadan.