Patience 

Guilty as charged. Bang went my promise of a blog post every night, the plans of cooking nutritional meals for me to regain my strength and the pep talk I gave myself about not being crabby when hungry. It has all flown straight out of the window.
We’re now on day 18 and I cannot begin to describe how proud I am for getting this far. At the start of Ramadan, day 18 seemed a million miles away, and here we are, with less that two weeks to go until Eid, and I’ve managed every single day.
The one thing I have noticed more than anything this year is the isolation. That has played the biggest part in why I haven’t blogged for so long. It is difficult enough living in a community which isn’t predominantly Muslim, as going about your everyday business, you could be forgiven for thinking that the days of Ramadan are just like any other. The isolation goes deeper though when you find yourself breaking your fast alone every night. For me there has been no extravagant meals. It seems pointless to make that extra effort when I cannot manage more than a plateful of food. The children have eaten a good few hours prior by that point, and I don’t want to cook more than necessary and have it go to waste.
Last year’s diet was mainly a small bowl of soup followed by some fried eggs. This year, I seem to be surviving on noodles. Quick and easy to make, just the right portion size and satisfyingly filling. I went one step further last night and followed it up with an egg sandwich, but by 9.30pm I am honestly past the point of hunger and just want to quench my thirst.
The isolation I have been feeling had led to me becoming slightly depressed and withdrawn. I would leave it until the last minute to leave home each morning to take the kids to school, and upon my return, shut myself off from the world until it was time to drag myself back out again in the afternoon. I wanted to interact with my friends, but realised my energy levels were sapping because I’d not had a decent meal for sahur. I was aware my breath wasn’t the most fragrant, and I found myself avoiding contact because I couldn’t be bothered to make the effort.
I missed the atmosphere of the holy month that I had been so used to in Istanbul in previous years. I missed the bustling conversation over the iftar meal on an evening. I missed listening to the drummer walking the streets in the early hours waking people up before sunrise. I felt resentful at my situation and I felt very alone.
The biggest lesson I have been taught over the past month is patience. Nothing in this life lasts forever. Every emotion we feel, every event we anticipate and every step we take is temporary. I constantly looked for a purpose, for an answer as to what I was doing with my life. I wondered when I would get my break, my good news and my focus. I had prayed so much to Allah knowing that prayers were so much more important in the holy month, and yet each day I woke with the same heavy heart and tired mind.
Today was the day I was to receive my good news and indeed, my prayers and patience had paid off. I received news that I had been accepted onto the undergraduate university course of my dreams. So many things had previously hindered me from studying for the career path I’d had in my mind since childhood. There in front of me was the email confirming my acceptance and I cried. I had done it. Despite the odds being stacked high of being a single mum to three children, going through a messy divorce and learning to stand on her own two feet again, I had done it. I had achieved what I’d set my heart on.
The first person I wanted to call was my mum. I wanted to scream down the phone and tell her my good news. I wanted to tell my Dad and show him that I was going to make him proud. I sat and looked around me and realised that the two people who would know just how much this meant to me, weren’t even there anymore and that hurt. 
I couldn’t get to school quickly enough this afternoon to tell my children. My girls were so happy for me, but their biggest worry was who would look after them when I would be studying. It was an understandable reaction after the upheaval of the past year. I then went to collect my son from his school, and his reaction was the best I could have ever wished for. He shouted for joy and gave me the biggest cuddle ever, with a smile beaming across his face. He knew just how much I wanted this, and what I didn’t have in terms of my parents celebrating with me, he certainly more than made up for it.
Today I got my purpose, something for myself. Today I learnt the lesson to never give up. So many days I felt I didn’t have the strength or determination any more. So many times I questioned when I would reap my rewards. Today my faith and beliefs were reconfirmed because I believe that this is my reward for never giving up.
I have my focus back, my motivation and more importantly, my smile. 

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Happiness 

Some of you may have noted that there wasn’t a post yesterday. These past two days have been the toughest days yet. It hasn’t necessarily been the fasting as such, but a combination of external factors such as my mood, outlook and events in my personal life.
My emotional outburst yesterday was triggered by hearing the call to prayer at iftar time in Istanbul on Turkish TV. I always get goosebumps when I hear the calls from the mosque, but this was particularly poignant because it took me by complete surprise. I’d not heard the sound in months, since I was last in Turkey in September. Here I was, standing in my living room all alone imaging the families across not only Turkey but all over the world who would be gathering together to break their fast. I didn’t have that luxury. I looked at my phone half expecting someone, just anyone to call or text, but nothing. I cried. I felt so very alone. 
I didn’t have it in my heart to write a post yesterday because to be honest, I didn’t have anything positive to say. I normally try to grab a nap during the day but I had exhausted myself by cleaning every corner of the house and garden, and so it was 8pm by the time I managed a shower and to sit down. I was then fortunate to receive a couple of messages from some very lovely friends which helped to lift my mood a little. I didn’t even have the energy to cook anything substantial for iftar and managed a small plate of eggs and chicken salami. I cried when I ate that too.
Despite making what I believe was and still is the right decision to remove my children from an unhappy household, it is still very raw and hurts so much knowing that I am literally a one man band now. This was even more so obvious when I woke up this morning.
I think it was the stress that brought on the really bad migraine that I had right up until this evening. I could barely lift my head off the pillow, and that was accompanied by a very heavy nauseous feeling in my stomach. I didn’t want to break my fast by taking tablets but I struggled so much. I was going from being hot one minute to being cold the next and the saddest thing was that yet again, I was coping alone. The weather was beautiful outside yet I couldn’t muster the energy to even sit with the children in the garden. They didn’t deserve this and of course, the guilt made me feel worse.
I spend a lot of time reading books about self-help and have a album full of meaningful quotes on my phone that have all meant something to me and some point. One quote in particular that really stands out talks of how we cannot change the things in our past or how people behave. Nor can we change the inevitable, but the one thing we have control of is our attitude towards our circumstances and that life is a mere 10% of what happens to us and the other 90% is how we choose to react. I cannot change my past, and I still sometimes believe I am grieving ten years on over the loss of my Mum. I have to learn to channel my thoughts and rather than be full of hurt and regret, accept the situation and use this as a point to project my own self belief that I am a strong and capable woman. Tensions are fraught between my ex and I, but whereas in the past I would jump and bite at every piece in contact, I have learnt that not reacting is a bigger and better answer, having faith that I will receive all I deserve both emotionally and financially.
I remember back in 2007 when my mum passed away and my initial thought was that I had hit rock bottom and things could not get any worse than that period of my life. When you’ve hit that level, there really is only one way you can go, and that is up. The morning after she passed, I remember waking up extremely early and thinking to myself, ‘you’ve lost your dad, you almost lost your son at birth, you’ve now lost your mum, at least divorce won’t ever be on that list’ and here I am, ten years on.
It has been so hard for me to believe that any happiness I have from this point onwards will be here to stay. We are so naive to think that tomorrow is guaranteed. We are wrong when we think that the people we have in our lives will stay forever. That fear is maybe what is holding me back from being upbeat and positive. All I had in my life that ever made me happy has been taken- my mum, my dad, my vision of an ideal marriage. Even some of my hopes and dreams were taken by the person who should have been supporting them from the start. I think I must be one of the only people around who is actually scared to try and be happy again for for fear of it all being taken away.
If anything, the past six days have helped me appreciate peace and the power of prayer. I have spent so much more time praying than I was able to last year and I only hope that my efforts are rewarded. Tomorrow will mark a week since Ramadan started- we are a quarter of the way through already. I have got past the hunger pains and thirst, the hardest parts are the lack of energy, long daylight hours and loneliness. I hope that regardless of my struggles, my hurt and upset, that Allah recognises my determination and that one day, I will find and appreciate the happiness I am looking for. 

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.

Until Next Year

It’s 9am and a balmy 16C. The skies are a lovely shade of blue and the sun is lighting up the streets. It’s a far cry from the usual cold and stoney weather that greets us in the lead to the festive season, but today were not celebrating Christmas Eve, it’s Eid Eve!
Today is the 29th and last day of fasting in this holy month, and we must give thanks to Allah for letting us experience another beautiful, gracious and rewarding Ramadan. Homes of Muslims across the world are being prepared for the festivities of the next three days for Eid. To a certain extent, most of Eid will be like any other days for me as we are still opening up our coffee shop, but once we close mid afternoon, we will take the time to visit close friends and spend some quality time together as a family.
The children will be absent from school for the first two days of Eid. This year in Turkey, it is a nine day national holiday and the schools have already closed for summer vacation. After having celebrated this special time in Turkey for the past few years, this year will certainly be on the quieter side! We easily spent two whole days visiting the homes of family and friends, often splitting up into groups and finding each other later on in the day congregating in the living room of an Aunty or Uncle! 
This year, my son will go to early morning prayers with my husband, and then there will be a lovely spread for breakfast mid-morning (the first breakfast as whole family in a month!). It is tradition to buy new outfits for Eid, so the children have been treated to new clothes and shoes. In Turkey, it is known as the ‘sugar festival’ as sweet treats are given to the children as they knock on the doors of their neighbours to wish them a happy Eid. Trays of fresh baklava and other desserts are prepared and given to guests. The weight lost throughout Ramadan is very easily put back on in the first 48 hours! Money is given to the younger children in the family if they kiss the hand of their elders. They can then treat themselves with the money and usually buy toys or games. Unlike Christmas, presents are not pre-bought. The emphasis on Eid is a time to be with family and friends, to reflect on all achieved in the previous month and to enjoy each other’s company.
It has been a testing month worldwide. Hundreds of people have needlessly lost their lives at the hands of terrorism. In a period when terrorist activity rises, further confirming that terrorism knows no religion, we have been stunned, shocked and silenced. We have seen political unrest, financial instability and social outbursts. Individually we have been tested on a physical and spiritual level. I have cried and laughed, felt pride yet also felt failure. At times I have questioned my own beliefs, then experienced things that have cemented what I based my life on. 
My appetite has dwindled to now only being able to manage half a bowl of soup and a small plate of food. I only eat dessert in order to keep my sugar levels up. Final weigh in is 62.4kg and dress size 8. My husband has really struggled the past two days with terrible stomach acid but refused medication so he wouldn’t break his fast. He has lost a whopping 8kg (not bad considering he has slept through more of it than I!). Out of the past 696 hours, fasting has been for 536 of those!
So until next year, I would like to say thank you for reading my blog, for your kind wishes and comments. In comparison to last year, my blogging has been somewhat patchy and even non-existent for most days, but I am sure you can appreciate the tough mental and physical challenge we have just completed. I wish you all peace, love and happiness, and remember, we don’t need to believe in the same God, we don’t need to perform the same acts of worship, we just need to learn to love and respect one another- let’s help to stop this division in society because as a unity, we can achieve incredible things.
Eid Mubarek 

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’.

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.