Thursday, 6 August 2020

You’re Fat! Unhelpful Comments and Some Helpful Advice Back

I received two interesting comments yesterday that made me think.

The first was from one of my husband’s “auntie” - a lady who calls him her son and who he helps out on occasion with chores and DIY. She sees me as her daughter-in-law; because we all need more than one mum-in-law….

She came to see us yesterday and commented “you must be sitting a lot for work, you’ve gotten fat”.


I get these kinds of comments from older ladies every now and again – I’m not quite sure what bothers them so much about my weight and body, but they don’t hold back in letting me know about it. I have to say it stung – not because I have hang ups about my body – I love this body that carried me through seven pregnancies and five children, that serves me day in day out to serve my family and community, that belies a strength and stamina that people don’t realise is there and that I genuinely believe to be a beautiful body. I don’t walk about thinking “poor me, I’m fat”, I tell myself “Damn you look good, thank you Allah”

It stung because once more someone felt the need to point it out. That this is what she could see before she could see any other good quality I might have. That’s all we come down to: thin and youthful and disciplined (implying good), or fat and lazy and greedy (implying we need to fix ourselves).


When she left my poor husband had to hear about it. I told him if there were no aunties, no husbands, no neighbours and no rude relatives then I would never have to hear comments like this or worry about what they were thinking or going to say. I told him I am happy as I am and I seem to be the only one that is.  He had the good sense to listen and make no comment at this point.


The second comment was from my daughter, she overheard the conversation with my husband and later mentioned to me that she could never remember a time when I was slim (it was up until baby number four, when she was 10 years old). That surprised me, as it didn’t feel so long ago.


The thing is, if all these well-meaning people who needed to help me see myself as the fat flawed creature I supposedly am, were genuinely well-meaning they could do better than make comments or offer useless advice. They could do the things that make a difference:


Offer your time – when I started walking after work, I found it made me late for the rest of the evening – cooking, evening routines, children’s bedtimes. By the time my children’s evening routines were done, it was dark and I didn’t feel safe to go out (the number of prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, drunk people and aggressive beggars, including drug users desperate for their next fix, in our neighbourhood at night is crazy).

So, any help with watching the kids or getting things done, will help free up time to exercise.


Eat out healthier – every time we eat out its somewhere that has burgers, chips or oily curries. Healthy options are so limited locally – mainly grilled chicken or a basic salad with chicken in. So, when you look at options to eat out, look for somewhere that has better, tastier, and more healthy options.


Stop giving sweet stuff – every time there is a family gathering, or dinner, or visit, we bring chocolates, cake, mithai (Indian sweets) and all manners of unhealthy, sugary sweet stuff. I have stuff still piled up in my kitchen cupboard from Eid. Replace it with fruit, or something else useful (don’t give me a crappy candle). The only exception is Krispy Kreme donuts on Eid – my two guilt-free, eat whatever you want days of the year.


Offer your company – I always struggled to find a walking partner, none of my friends, family or neighbours have ever been able to commit to a regular, brisk walk, esp. when I am available - early in the morning. I find exercising with a partner that is good company helps the time go more quickly and with greater ease.


This all sounds a bit demanding and entitled, but if you are really concerned enough about my weight to point it out or give me unwanted advice, perhaps you can concern yourself in ways that are useful and effective. If this sounds like too much effort, then you may wish to consider if your concern is genuine or just superficial and more about you than me – in which case, shove your advice and your comments!!


Getting Organised: Our Mini Pantry

My husband has been saying for years that he needs to clear out the storage cupboards under our stairs and create some organised storage. I have been asking him if I can have the smaller of the two cupboards to use as a mini pantry to free up some space in our kitchen.


He finally got round to tackling his project.


This is the smaller of the two spaces after we cleared it out and he set me to stripping off the old wallpaper from the walls and ceilings.




I found a little friend to help me…



He filled the various holes and dips in the walls, sanded it all smooth (creating a big mess in the rest of the living room), painted the walls and ceiling and tiled and grouted the floor. He then cute, painted and installed all of the shelving from planks of wood.


This is a pic of it done, but not yet cleaned out. He finished it and left his tools on my shelves for the next two days as he was busy working.



Moving in some of my bigger items: flour bin, rice bin, big pots and the hotpots that are mainly used during Ramadan (these are getting old now and damaged and need to be replaced, any suggestions for a good long-lasting replacement are welcome):



I also moved in multiples of items - like pasta sauce and spaghetti. We are a big family, so I always have one or two extra of things. This space is a life saver when I am cooking after work and have to keep sending the kids to the shop across the road for the one missing ingredient. This way I just have to walk over to the pantry. I can add items to our shopping list as I move them from the pantry to the kitchen.




I’m really happy with this space, and really grateful to my other half for doing all of the work himself alhamdulillah.





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Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Handmade Girls Bracelets

I recently bought this chain of glass crystal beads (details here) and wanted to make something for the little girls in our family with it. The beads have an AB (Aurora Borealis) finish which gives them the sparkly, rainbows that catches the light so beautifully.



I took the necklace apart, setting aside the smaller thinner spacer beds and setting out the round beads with some coloured glass rondelle beads – these are not perfectly round, but slightly flattened into a faceted doughnut shape which I really like.






I created a pattern with two clear white beads and a coloured bead from each colour. In hindsight I should have used one white bead for every coloured bead, as that would have saved me enough white beads to make one or two matching necklaces. The positive thing about using a greater ratio of the white beads is that it made the bracelets lighter, brighter and sparklier.



I ended up making five little bracelets as Eid gifts – one each for my two girls who loved them and three for little girls in my family.  I hope they enjoy wearing them.


Bracelets ready for the knots to be sealed and the stretchy thread to be cut.

Frugal Muslimah: Boot Fair Bargains July 2020

We managed to make it to one or two boot fairs in July. The best one being Boreham boot fair in Essex. On this occasion there were a lot of sellers, not many buyers and a lot of bargains to be had. We went late and before long people started packing up, so we grabbed a few bits:


This was only £1, but I knew it wasn’t a good idea as soon as I bought it. I got it home and the kids argued over it then managed to get tiny sweets all over the place before I had to confiscate and hide it.





The Horrible Science books were 50p for the whole stack and the two at the bottom (picked by the Babies) were 20p each. My younger son loved the Horrible series and learned a lot from them.



These learning books were around 50p each, with the Crayola handwriting practice board £1



GCSE practice books for £1, my older son has missed so much school, hopefully these will be some help for his GCSE exams next year insh'Allah.



These books were for me and were 50p each, except for The Bone Clocks which was £2. I really love this writers first book (Cloud Atlas), so was keen to try another by him. I’ve just started reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler and have heard good things about it.



Somebody kindly gave these to me for free. I may not keep them and will either pass them on or donate to a charity shop, as I use the internet for recipes. But I think I’ll have a quick flick through for inspiration.



This was my fave bargain: a rope of glass crystal with a sparkly, rainbow AB (Aurora Borealis) finish for 50p. I have a project in mind for these (see next post 😊)



I really enjoyed bargain hunting. I hope to do one more boot fair before the summer is out.


Days Out: Weald Country Park

We haven’t been out too much due to quarantine and our youngest two have been out the least. Between lockdown, both of us working and schools being shut they have been out very little. We wanted to take them out for some fresh air, to run around and to spend a few enjoyable hours.  We picked Weald County Park as it was less than an hour away and we’d never heard of it before.

 

We got there to find parking was ample and fairly reasonable. The first thing the girls saw was the play area which is based on the much-loved Stick Man book by Julia Donaldson. The park and woods are so big that even though it was quite busy, people were far from each other. The exception was the playground which felt crowded.



One of the loveliest things about the park, was the deer (the park was originally a medieval deer park during the 12th century). They are truly beautiful and there are chutes for visitors to feed them.











We had a good wonder around the wooded area despite the gentle rain that had started. The trees were dense enough to protect us from the rain when we were under them.



For once I didn’t make lots of food for a picnic, just some sandwiches and whatever was in the cupboard. I think we might be having simpler picnics more often 😊



These conkers were everywhere.





There was lots to see and explore and we only got to explore a small part before the rain got too heavy and we had to find cover.



We found this vine of blue passion flowers growing by the ticket office.  It looks a bit exotic for leafy, green Essex.



We found this picnic hut right next to where we had parked and decided to relax in here and watch the rain instead of making a run for it.






Our green treasure back home in our nature basket.



We are always on the look out for interesting places to visit, especially for day trips that we can travel to from London. Please do share any suggestions, especially places that are not so busy during the Covid19 epidemic.


For the latest updates and stories (including the places we have been visiting) please do follow me on my Instagram account and Insta-stories. Also let me know if you are on Instagram, so I can follow readers there insh’Allah.


Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Eid ul Adha 2020:1441 - Eid Mubarak

A belated Eid Mubarak everyone.

Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum (May Allah accept it from you and us).

I hope your Eid was a blessed and happy one insh’Allah.

Ours was simple and quiet.

Lunch at my mums, dinner at mine with the first day spent mostly cooking and the remaining two eating leftovers and resting and making the most of my days off.

I didn’t get as many pictures as I should have, make as many plans or even as many decorations.

But I was grateful to see my parent and siblings, to share good food and to enjoy the days with my husband and children alhamdulillah.











For the latest updates and stories (including what we were up to on Eid) please do follow me on my Instagram account and Insta-stories. Also let me know if you are on Instagram, so I can follow readers there insh’Allah.


The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "The days of (Eid) are days of eating and drinking and of remembering God, the Exalted." (Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 2, Number 153)


Eid ul Adha 2020:1441 - Eid Decorations

This year our Eid decorations were quick and simple.

The colour scheme was inspired by the card stock with the macaroons and some balloons my husband bought in the same colours.

The teal green ribbon for the banners was from a box of cakes my niece sent us last Eid that I saved.






I got the youngest to add gems to the banner (to keep her busy and stop trying to “help” cut things).



The two small frames were made using the same card stock and colour scheme and some decorations recycled from an old banner that we took apart.









We enjoyed making them and they didn’t take long alhamdulillah.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Quarantine Diaries: Working from Home Headaches

We are now coming to four months on from the start of lockdown, and although restrictions have eased, I am still working from home with no likelihood of returning to the office until at least September.


This means I have productive days, unproductive days, frustrating days

I like that I can exercise in the morning instead of my commute time.

I like that I can greet the kids with love as each one wakes up.

I like that I can watch the kids and see what they are doing, eating, watching.

I love that I can pray on time and with ease as it’s easier to make ablution at home than the office.


But there are days when it is an uphill struggle. Today was one of them:

Back to back meetings

E-mails piling up

Work and tasks growing in the background         

But all of that is part of the job and all you can do is take one thing at a time, focus and do your best.

At least in a vaguely sensible, civilised world that’s all you can do.


Sensible and civilised are limited commodities in my house, especially when the youngest two are on the loose.

Today was the day for them not to play up, especially as I was meeting the Chief Exec, Directors and my manager. So of course everyone did.

The girls got into a fight upstairs and I could hear them screaming upstairs, hubby was making phone calls in the hallways just outside at the top of his lungs and the boys were asking me what was for lunch. Thank God for the mute button and the blurry background effect on MS Teams (where we host our online meetings), I don’t think my offices management team needed to see my husband roaming around in his vest first thing in the morning 😊

If my youngest gets even an inkling that the video is on in a meeting, she will drape herself over me and wait for someone to say how cute she is, so I have to lie and tell her the camera is off before I chase her off.

If Darling gets upset, she sobs loudly (usually with my oldest daughter yelling at her to shut up and let her sleep) until I stop everything and placate her.

And if Gorgeous happens to come out of the little man-cave he has turned our front room into, he’ll start dancing or clowning behind me while I’m in a meeting.


Thankfully my oldest two are sensible and will try to discourage the others from disturbing me and will leave me to work apart from the occasional sidling up and asking for money or trying to show me something on their phones.


Part of me wants to set boundaries and tell them to leave me alone, let me work, or at least not make strange noises or cry loudly when I am speaking to people. A bigger part prioritises the needs of the children and wants to make it clear that the children come first and work later.


Today after solid meetings from 9am to 2pm, I stopped work and just cooked. It gave me a break from working, if not a chance to rest, and it made me feel good to cook something that everyone would enjoy and eat their fill of (rice and chicken).


Then I decided to change the scene, so after prayers, I headed over to my mum with the youngest two and my laptop and logged on again to work for a few more hours.  She kept me company, fed me snacks and my sister kept the girls occupied.



It was the breather and change of scene that I needed. I still came home to a stack of dishes, getting the kids dinner and trying to chase Gorgeous out of his bat cave, but I didn’t feel so harassed and exhausted as I do some days by 5pm.


Tomorrow is another day to navigate and another chance at getting the balance right insh’Allah.


Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Speaking Well of Our Children

 I have been meeting over the last few days with same colleagues at work to talk about whether we need to sponsor a platform for young people locally to share their stories of racism, particularly their experiences at school.  One of the ladies leading on the project is someone I have a lot of respect for because of her knowledge and experience.


In setting out her motivation to be involved with the project, she mentioned the experiences of her own children. She described them as her “four beautiful Black children”. Her description struck me because of how loving it was and her pride in both the children and their being Black.


It got me thinking about how I view my children and how easy it can be to fall back on complaining about your children as a default. I come from a culture that is quick to criticise, make fun of or be disappointed in children, but struggles to celebrate or encourage them. This doesn’t serve anyone – the parents that start to buy into their own narrative about their children being not good enough or the young people who would flourish so much more under our nurturing, encouraging and positive words.


Even done jokingly – in the way mothers often compare notes on whose child is more mischievous or more of a handful, this can feel discouraging to children.


It made me think about being more careful about the language I use about my children, both to others and myself.  Also, about how saying good things to them and about them is part of being grateful to Allah (SWT) for them.


We are our children’s biggest champion and advocates in the world.  We create the image the world has of them, we can open doors for them in doing so and give them a good start with people.


So insh’Allah I need to keep going back to my narrative about them: my beautiful, fierce, Muslim children. May Alah (SWT) keep them safe and protect them from every evil eye and every bad thing insh’Allah I pray that Allah (SWT) uses them for his deen and is pleased with them and us. Ameen.



Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I had been struggling with a pile of books that were not holding my attention and needed something I could get lost in enough to stay away from wasting time surfing the web. I spotted this book at the supermarket and brought it home with my shopping.


Where the Crawdads Sing is the story of Kya, a six-year-old abandoned by her family to the mercy of her alcoholic father out in the swamp land of Northern Carolina. The story moves back and forth in time between following Kya as she grows up and finds ways to survive and the books present day (in the late 1960’s).


The book is partly a celebration of nature, partly the story of a young women and partly a mystery. The body of Chase Andrews, one of two Kya’s suitors, is found in the swamp and police must find out how it ended up there. We follow Kya as she sees each family member leave, try to find ways to survive and forge tentative friendships, finding both love and facing intense rejection and loneliness.


You can tell this book is written by a naturalist. The descriptions of the swamp, its ecology and flora and fauna are just beautiful and woven through every page of the book. The book touches on themes of prejudice, racism and sexism.  Kya is named “Marsh Girl” and treated as an outcast as she is different – but her difference come about because of her vulnerability – her poverty, being abandoned, her shyness.


This is the author’s first novel, but she effectively brings to life small town America in the 1950’s with its cast of vaguely familiar characters: the handsome, arrogant jock, his snobbish mother, the kind black couple who help Kya.  In parts the book was a little predictable or unrealistic: we knew that Kya’s relationship with Chase wasn’t going to end well and I thought the benevolent black couple were a little conveniently placed to help Kya face her milestones (like puberty).


Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  As much as the story, what stayed with me was the deep meditation on Kya’s loneliness. Not the kind of loneliness we experience now and again in a room of strangers, or the type we feel when we lose someone. But a devastating, enduring, pervasive loneliness that comes with abandonment, physical isolation and being left without a single family member or friend.

 

A sweet, haunting and captivating story that carried me along and finished too soon, leaving me in tears.



Saturday, 13 June 2020

Joy in Every Moment

These last few weeks have been heavy and busy – all of the children at home, trying to get them to do schoolwork, prayers, their chores. Trying to keep up with housework. Always wondering what to make for the next meal for fussy kids whilst working from home.

My work revolves around community development, equality and diversity and youth participation. In recent months I have been working on our local authority’s corona virus response, including looking at how Black and Asian people are disproportionately affected by the illness and thinking about how we can help the most vulnerable parts of our community as we face a massive economic recession.

So the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Movement has meant that my diversity work moves into a very busy, but uncertain and uncomfortable space, where I am trying to support others, but uncertain I am doing the right things myself and questioning whether I am doing enough.

All of these things have been overwhelming at times, depressing at times and exhausting at many points. I found myself asking what the point of it all was – children, family, work, community, this world. All of it seemed like such hard work and such thankless work. I seemed to be trying to do everything as best as I could, but none of it as well as I would have liked. Over the weeks, this feeling of running as fast as I can, but never being able to keep up, started to feel like it is burying me under a heavy grey cloud.

More and more I have turned to prayer. I am trying hard to hold onto some of the feeling and good habits of Ramadan. On days it feels so hard, but I am not willing to let go, constantly asking Allah to help me hold onto his worship and remembrance. 

Last night I asked Allah SWT to help me rise out of this funk, to find peace and contentment, to be grateful for his countless blessings.  I sat with the way I was feeling and agreed with myself to stop pushing, but to go through my prayer slowly, to take my time with each part and not think beyond it.


I ended up meditating on joy. I know I am a joyful person; it is my natural state and default. I see the good in people, things, and the world. I love beauty and pleasure (perhaps too much, but it is how I am). I let the small bubble of joy well up. I reflected on how blessed we are to be in this ummah, that one truth on it’s own blows my mind when I reflect on it – Allah’s SWT blessing and favour that we take for granted every day.

I reminded myself that no one can take away my joy. It lives in me and it is who I am. It lives in each of the moments of my life, if I can just see it. This morning I woke up feeling good. Hubby came back from a night shift and I just enjoyed my hand on his arm as he talked about his night. The girls woke up and I enjoyed their morning chatter and cheerfulness. I started to fret about what to make for lunch, and thought sod it, I just got paid, I’ll treat the kids to takeaway. I can use the time to clean my house and rest (and blog). There’s no need to overthink beyond the moment and make myself miserable before the day has started. I am enjoying the beauty of the day – sunshine and a fresh breeze after days of rain. I am enjoying the banter and laughter of my children as they sit on my bed distracting me. I am enjoying the feel of cool cotton on my new kurta and the cool floor under my bare feet.

No one can take away your joy.
It’s there in every moment.
It’s there inside you.