Thursday, 30 April 2009
I had thought that I was pregnant (sickness, exhaustion and three positive pregnancy tests seemed rather good indicators) with all the ensuing chaos that this caused: the fear of being sick for nine whole months again, the exhaustion, the fear of turning into a heifer again, absolute horror at the thought of having to work through another pregnancy, the thought of another painful labour. But then there was also the exhilarating thought of holding a tiny one in my arms again, maybe giving Little Lady the little sister she so craves and hubby the baby daughter he would so love to have. It also meant an end to the ridiculous underlying guilt I feel that I am not having any more children.
What I wasn’t suspecting was the severity of the sickness. I think the last three months have been the hardest of my life. I haven’t been able to take care of my children or my home properly, to pray with any sense of calm or concentration or to get through a day of work without feeling like a mess. It got worse and worse until I was going for two days at a time without keeping any food down, stopped going to work and felt as miserable, weak, and useless as I ever have.
My mother-in-law has been an angel during this time, cooking, doing laundry and taking care of the kids. Likewise my husband has proved to be my rock once again with his patience, care and concern which was far more than I deserve and much more than many better women get alhamdulillah.
The other thing that has kept me going has been books, these have helped to remove me from my existing unbearable state and take me somewhere far away from my desperate, depressed self. In the meantime I was unable to maintain any interest in my home, my hobbies, my blog or my work and not being able to take care of the kids was absolutely mortifying.
Eventually, after various complications which led to two trips to emergency, I finally got the diagnosis that I was not pregnant after all, but had an extremely rare illness which was giving me all the symptoms of pregnancy, one indicator was that the nausea it causes is much greater than in a normal pregnancy.
I went into hospital yesterday for the necessary surgery and treatment and alhamdulillah woke up with the nausea reduced. During the day it reduced further and I was discharged with a big pack of my fave happy-pills – co-codamol. My hyper sense of smell is starting to calm down, the nausea is almost gone, I can taste some things again and I am starting to feel like myself albeit weaker and rather sore. I have lost a lot of weight, which I had planned to do this year, but maybe not so suddenly it left me with shaky legs. Best of all I feel like myself again. I am rearing to get going with civilizing my kids once more (i.e. dinner and bed time moving back from 9pm and 10.30pm to 7.00pm and 8.30pm respectively for one), making inroads at work, enjoying my cards, jewellery, blog, kitchen and garden once more. More than anything, organizing my house which looks like a tornado hit it. Thankfully the doctor has given me a note to take one week off work and my manager is happy with that. So I am going to rest for a few days and learn to savour the small things I have missed (keeping water down, being able to walk without feeling dopey, enjoying fruit), just enjoy not being severely nauseous and most of all thank Allah (SWT). One of the things that got me through this period has been Allah’s promise that:
“Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him.
Allah will grant after hardship, ease.” ~ Al- Quran 65:7
“Surely with every difficulty there is relief.
Surely with every difficulty there is relief.” ~ Al- Quran 94:5-6
So I am back to being a mum-of-three and it looks like it will stay that way. I am never, ever getting pregnant, I could not stomach feeling like this again and now I have every reason not to ever feel guilty about this decision…although I will miss holding a tiny new one in my arms one more time. I suppose I will just have to coddle Gorgeous like crazy.
“When Allah has previously decreed for a servant a rank which he has not attained by his action, he afflicts him in his body, or his property or his children.”~ Abu Dawud
”There is nothing (in the form of trouble) that comes to a believer even if it is the pricking of a thorn that there is decreed for him by Allah (something) good or his sins are obliterated.” ~ Sahih Muslim
She was also kind enough to send me some "light" reading as she puts it. I haven't started reading this yet, but have already started flipping through to where there are recipes interspersed in the story (just the inspiration I neede to become the gourmet cook I keep deluding myself I will be, especially as I haven't stepped into the kitchen in weeks).
Thanks Sister Farhana for arranging the swap and Umm Nassim for the treats. You can head over to Farhana's blog Sketched Soul to see what the other swap partners have been sending and receiving and read their book reviews, and while you are there please do take a look at some of the sadaqah projects and see if you can assist insh'Allah.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
This one was about experimenting with different size flowers and these great glitter circles.
I still have a few more of the flowers in pink, yellow and white, so hopefully will get to try out a few more designs.
I had fun making this card as I finally have a paper trimmer and craft knife to use on all the bits of paper I have been accumulating. I hope she likes her gift.
Monday, 20 April 2009
The book is set in the fantasy world of the Old Kingdom and its more modern neighbour Ancelstierre. The heroine of the title is the daughter of a Mage or Abhorsen as wizards from this family are known. The job of the Abhorsen is to ensure that once people die, they stay dead and are not caught between life and death or do not return to cause havoc amongst living people.
As a child, Sabriel is left by her father at a boarding school in Ancelstierre which is deemed to be safer that the Old Kingdom. She is close to completing her schooling when she learns that her father may have been killed. She crosses the Great Wall between the two lands in search of her father and finds the Old Kingdom in disarray with the dead causing havoc and finds herself being stalked by a malevolent and powerful creature.
At first glance, with its maps, hero(ine) on a quest and fantastical, magical worlds, this book might remind you of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Triology or Ursula Le Guin’s Wizards of Earthsea books. But Sabriel does not have the sweeping fantastical feel of these books, rather the worlds and people described feel closer to reality. Ancelstierre has cars and machine guns indicating that it is a fairly modern world, albeit not as technologically advanced as the modern day (it felt like 1930’s England to me with its black-and-white movies and biplanes). The Old Kingdom in contrast has a fairly medieval feel with it’s descriptions of fishing villages, and imperial cities.
The heroine also feels flawed – lacking knowledge and magic, seemingly scraping through by luck each time and very aware of her weaknesses in contrast to the wizard in Le Guin’s book or the powerful Gandalf in the LOTR books.
Perhaps a better comparison would be with Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials triology. Like Pullman’s books, this book is aimed at young adults but has sufficient quality and depth to be read by adults. In fact I found some themes and passages of the book quite grown up.
Overall, I found this book easy to read, action-packed if slightly predictable at times and with characters that are easy to sympathise with.
Part 2 - Lirael
Part 3 - Abhorsen
Sunday, 19 April 2009
A few hours later we were having lunch and heard a loud crash. We all turned around to see Little Lady standing in amongst this with her mouth open. Her gran piped up that she stands on the shelf every day to get to my scissors.
Of course our yelling and empty threats had no affect at all. I keep consoling myself with the thought that they are nowhere near as bad as I and my siblings were as children. Not even close.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
The tomatoes and cucumbers were ready to go out:
I thought it was a bit early to get the peppers and chilli's out, but decided to get everything done in one go - this year I have tried jalapeno's, cayeenne and sweet California peppers. It's a long shot any of these will grow with the climate here, but it's worth a try:
The seeds you can see in the dirt are coriander (or cilantro as some of you call it) and I spread the seeds out in between the peppers and chilli's. My gardening space is so small, that this is the only way I will get the things I like in.
The other things that are really starting to bloom are the strawberries, mint and jasmine which really does stink (I should say smell, but it is so strong!):
This year I have also tried planting spinach (easy), beans (slugs are having a field day), onions and peas. All of these I planted straight out and are starting to push through.
Friday, 17 April 2009
Start of the week - A Window of Peace
After days of feeling very much under the weather, which was making me feel very sad and also feeling very neglectful of the important things in my life – my faith, my children, home, family, myself, blogging, crafting and work, I suddenly felt very different today. After weeks of feeling bleurgh, it was so strange to feel well and completely at peace. I just sat and stared at my computer screen wondering what I should do to take advantage of this feeling while it lasts. I said a quiet prayer to Allah (SWT) for not burdening me with more than I can bear and for blessing me with more than I deserve. I wasn’t near my children to play with them, I wasn’t at home to start manically cleaning and cooking, or near my craft materials to start playing with beads which is what my mood is starting to turn towards. So I did what I used to as a child with my mum – went for a walk in the rain past a nearby field with horses. That sounds very romantic, but in hindsight isn’t very sensible because now I am sitting at my desk feeling very damp, and the air-con that hasn’t worked all week has suddenly switched on. I suppose it will keep me awake for the rest of the afternoon.
Midweek - Hot-desking Fun
My move to a new office has been accompanied by instructions for a new way of working. We no longer have our own desks, but sit anywhere and just drag along the little pedestal that holds our belongings (this is called a pod) and “park” it where we choose to sit. So far I have just been sitting at the same place and no-one else has chosen to sit there, but the window seat next to me seems to be the subject of hot dispute with each successive person to sit at it re-adjusting all the fixtures and fittings (chair, monitor, phone etc) only for the next person to come along to huff and puff and change it all back. Yesterday a gentleman left all of his specialist equipment on his desk (he has arthritis) only for another lady to come along the next morning and unplug it all and dump it elsewhere. The gentleman in question turned up a little later and had a mini melt-down, which was continued in the team meeting for everyone’s benefit.
End of the Week - Google Magic
I was finally given some work to do!! The team had to create some graphs for a report and no-one could work how to do it. Somehow, they have got the impression that because I am the youngest I must know computers. I decided not to disabuse them of this idea, so Googled "microsoft create charts" and found this worksheet which basically told me I had to cut and paste the graph into Excel and press one little button. Everyone was suitably impressed and I didn't let on - I think this is called bluffing and this is how most people in most jobs in our city get by. Best of all I felt well all day and really enjoyed the work (a study into deprivation in one particular ward and what is being done to alleviate it - one of the biggest development projects in Europe)
Some Pictures of the New Place
The view from my window, every time a plane takes off or lands, I sit and stare.
Just a note - apologies for not blogging much or responding to comments, I have not been feeling great and also the increase in the number of people in my home means that I don't often get to get near the computer (I am trying to refrain from getting annoyed and reminding everyone that it is MY computer). I hope to post some more this weekend and to reply to comments insh'Allah (especially as your comments are my little treat each morning).
I hope Allah's blessings rain down on you all this blessed day. Jummah Mubarak
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
The first change that I had to make was cooking regularly and regular mealtimes. Previously it was just me and hubby and we ate when and what we felt like, if at all at home. With an elderly person at home we had to have three set mealtimes and sensible food. This was good preparation for better habits for when we had children.
Another change in our lives was the amount of visitors that came traipsing through our doors. The whole family had to come to our home to visit their mum. As she was well-known in the community, we also had all sorts of people we didn’t know coming to visit at all sorts of times (sitting with her late into the night). This taught me a lot about taking care of guests, being gracious when you didn’t want to be and providing for guests despite an almost empty kitchen. An aspect of this I also loved was the control it gave me over my family – whether you liked me or not, you still have to come to my house to see your mum/mother-in-law/gran.
One of the things I found much harder was my grandmother’s dependence. She suffered from severe and crippling rheumatoid-arthritis, which meant that I had to help her with getting her bath ready, bringing her meals to her, and smaller tasks like cutting her nails or washing her walking stick (don’t ask me why!). I was wary of leaving her alone for long and this also curtailed my freedom somewhat. A typical afternoon out would begin with me telling her I wanted to go out and being called back from the door half-a-dozen times to ask me a question, to remind me of something, to make her a cup of tea before I went. This was usually coupled with Little Lady, who was a baby at the time, dirtying her nappy as we were finally about to step out the door.
There were also the good things. I spent many hours listening to my gran reminisce. I learnt so much about my family, my roots and about the lessons that life brings. I and my husband gained the respect and friendship of my entire family which have stayed with us until today.
I also learnt some lessons. I learnt what it is to be elderly, in pain and the torture of being dependent on others after a lifetime of being strong, competent and hard-working. I learnt what it is to have a sharp, lucid mind trapped inside a body that will not do what you tell it. I was also reminded by living with my gran that elderly people, do still have a sense of humour, being elderly does not take away your sense of appreciation for things that are good or beautiful.
The biggest lesson I learnt was to ask for help and to take it where offered. The care of each of us is the job of our community and family, as it is our job to care for our family and community. I asked my sisters to help with shopping for things Gran needed. My husband made her breakfast and my mum made lunch which dad brought round. The lady who was lodging with us at the time made her afternoon tea everyday.
Although our elders have rights over us to take care of them without any expectation of having to pay recompense, people also like to feel useful. I use to give my Gran something to do everyday which made her feel like she was helping and contributing – shelling peas for dinner, watching the sleeping baby, grabbing small children around the neck with her walking cane (I’m not making this up, all of my cousins and also my kids used to get this for trying to steal her cane and run away with it). When I was expecting Little Lady, I used to leave her a pomegranate every day which she would open and de-seed for me ready for when I came back from work
Traditionally the elderly lived with their children until they passed away. This taught us humility and compassion and reminded us that any one of us could be in that position with nothing to assist us but sabr (patience) one day. I think we are in loss if we have changed the way we live so much that we are unable to foresee this and have to learn it the hard way.
I strongly believe that having an elderly person in your home brings the blessings of Allah, or barakah, into that home. For us these included finding our roots, the lessons that experience brings and the barakah that guests bring into a home.
Friday, 10 April 2009
The novel is set in 1900’s New York with Freud, Jung and various other disciples of the new psychoanalytic movement arriving in America to promote their new therapy through a series of lectures. The narrator is the brilliant young Doctor Stratham Younger who is keen to accompany Freud on his tour.
Freud’s arrival coincides with the brutal murder of one wealthy and beautiful young heiress and the attempted murder of another. The victim of the attempted murder is left mute and suffering from amnesia, prompting the Mayor of New York to call in Doctor Younger in the hope that he can help stimulate a memory of the murderer before he strikes again. At the same time the city’s beleaguered coroner, Hugel, is brought into investigate with the assistance of Detective Littlemore, the most incorruptible officer on the force.
In parallel Freud’s arrival is accompanied by a campaign to humiliate and discredit him and his movement which is depicted as perverted and immoral. Three unnamed, powerful and wealthy men appear throughout the book in relation to the smear campaign and the murders, but their involvement is never clarified.
The social and political atmosphere of the time is evoked brilliantly in this novel. The story takes off at a time when a new sky-scraper breaks the record for tallest building every week in New York, the wealthy matriarchs of the city try to outdo each other in building bigger houses, wearing bigger jewels and furs and being seen with more of the right people. The rich are bright and beautiful and decadent to the extreme. In contrast Rubenfield also portrays the less sparkling side of New York: young women working in factories with sweat-shop conditions, construction workers whose lives are completely disposable, strikers beaten and thrown into jail and nervy brothel madams.
The detail is amazing in every aspect – from the language used to the descriptions of costume, buildings, transport and people, it feels completely accurate. You can see that the author took the care to ensure his novel was well-researched, but it all feels so effortless. A good word for the writing and the way it carries you along would be “elegant”.
All of these things though would have been window-dressing without the one thing I always look for – a cracking good story. An Interpretation of Murder has an engrossing fast-moving plot that leaves you eager to know who the murderer is.
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Like Persian Girls, this book is also set partly in Iran and takes us through the last days of the Shah’s rule and the revolution of 1979 up to the present day.
Sara is the daughter of Maryam and Edward, an Irani woman and an Englishman. The book opens with her suffering a miscarriage as she tries to prevent her young cousin, Saeed, from committing suicide (dramatic enough). The cause of the suicide attempt is the bullying Saeed has been subjected to and physical abuse from Maryam who is his guardian.
Tormented by guilt at the events that have unfolded, Maryam flees from her privileged life in London back to Iran and her childhood home. As the novel develops, Sara moves forward towards recovering from the miscarriage whilst Maryam looks back over her life. We are taken back over her idyllic childhood in the village of Mashad and the surrounding countryside, her rebelliousness as a teenager and her refusal to marry along with her feelings for a servant which bring tragedy for both of them. This part of the story is set during the last days of Shah Reza’s reign, however unlike in Persian Girls where the country’s political events loom large in each person’s life, in this book they are at best a distant backdrop barely affecting characters for most of the book. This is reflected in what one of the characters says at the end about how rural areas were least affected by the upheaval in the country. In contrast, the theme of the powerlessness of women in Iran looms large. We see how powerful social convention and tradition are coupled with poverty and how this constrains both men and women.
The book paints an interesting picture of the north-east of Iran: neither as modern as the capital Tehran, but not entirely backward. Perhaps traditional is the best word. Mention of English poetry, cigars and Parisian fabrics is interspersed with descriptions of the food, bazaars and houses of Mashad. Images of beautiful green-eyed Persians, pomegranates, figs, dusty lanes and enclosed courtyards create an enchanting backdrop to what is essentially a painful journey for a young woman.
The only thing that put me off a little is the level of navel-gazing the characters engage in. This is partly understandable due to trauma’s that many of them have suffered, but (the women especially) seem to have some kind of underlying self-destructive impulse which encourages them to push away those they love. Perhaps this is the author’s way of showing how pervasive our past can be in our present, especially when it is an unhappy past.
All that leaves me to do know is find a gift that refelects the two books in the swap and is preferably crafty, no problem....
Persian Girls is an autobiographical book written by the author as she looks back over her life as a child in Iran and later as an adult in America. She describes her childhood in Tehran with her widowed childless aunt and her later upbringing in her parent’s home in Ahvaz. Although this part of the book is set during the rule of the last Shah, we see that this is still a very conservative world, where despite superficial attempts at modernisation, women still have little control over their own lives.
Rachlin outlines in clean, clear prose her struggle to reconcile herself with the traditional culture of Iran and her eventual move to America in search of freedom. The second part of the book details her attempt to settle in America and gives us insight into the issues of confused identity that every immigrant faces. We also follow Rachlin as she returns to Iran after the mysterious death of her beloved sister Pari and indeed, this book is partly a eulogy to Pari.
Shia Islam and Iran are two subjects that hold a lot of mystery, and perhaps much misunderstanding, for me. This book is rich in the details of life of that country – the rituals, the traditions and the way people think.
What was also nice to see, was that despite descriptions of the hardships that women faced, religion is not made the scapegoat. Rachlin’s aunt makes clear that Islam affords women rights, but that the patriarchal culture of that time and place takes away those rights completely.
This book does for Iran what Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns do for Afghanistan, give us a history of what that country has endured over the last 50 years through the eyes of those who have experienced the unheaval.
Monday, 6 April 2009
Ideally I would have liked some kind of large tray made from natural looking wood, but had to make do with a basket until I come across one. I filled the basket with some semi-precious stones (quartz, amethyst, maybe turquoise or lapis and I don’t know what the others are), an ammonite fossil, some pine cones, an acorn, some shells and a starfish. I’m trying to encourage them to take ownership of the basket, keep an eye on the baby when he plays with it and put it out of reach when they are finished with it.
At the moment they are thrilled that I am letting them play with the colourful precious stones which are usually kept out of their reach. I just hope Gorgeous doesn’t start lobbing the stones at people.
I just physically felt every anxiety melt away. What is it that Allah (SWT) does to us when he blesses us with little ones? What does he change in is that makes us this way? Seeing Gorgeous sleeping peacefully was like balm to me, like rain on parched earth alhamdulillah.
"...which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinns and men) deny?" ~ Al-Quran 55:16
"And God has made for you mates (and companions) of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best: will they then believe in vain things, and be ungrateful for God's favours?" ~ Al-Quran 16:72
The building is stunningly space age with glass and steel everywhere, interspersed with funky time-out areas with modern looking furniture. The reception has palm trees and feels a bit like the inside of a giant glass castle. The River Thames flows past my window and the view beyond that is fascinating. If you watch the water for long enough it feels as if the building is drifting along.
Although it is so new and hi-tech, the air-con seems to be having a few problems, so that by the end of the day, everyone was roasting.
A place is made by its people though. There are a few familiar faces here, but not so many friendly ones so far. I think I will have to work my magic and warm up what feels like a slightly cold reception.
The prayer room is also not ready yet, so will have to think what to do. I wonder if I can get home in time to pray my noon prayer as the day is getting longer. Will have to see.
So for now I have a BIG SMILE pasted to my face and am rushing around trying to look busy at the same time as wondering how long it will take me to get home (three buses).
Saturday, 4 April 2009
I made the following from left-over ribbon and tags.
This centrepeice of this one was from a gift card cover. The stars were to pick out the colours. I'm still not sure how I like this one.
I like the effect of the ribbon and heart gems on this one.
This is probably my favourite. I had lots of these left-over buttons, so used some here.