Wednesday 28 July 2010

A 5 Year Plan

I have been feeling funny lately. Lethargic, anti-social, lazy, not very interested in anything.

I start a hundred things and can’t seem to go anywhere near finishing any of them. Books I have read two chapters of are piling up on my bedside table, a pile of cards I have started and not finished and lots of ideas for jewellery where I have chosen the beads and then not done anything with them. I haven’t been anywhere near my computer, so no blogging and not much in the way of e-mailing friends and answering e-mails (sorry!!).

I still have this annoying cough and sore throat which means I have had a different voice every day for the last three weeks or so, although I am seeing the doctor tonight and will be haranguing him for antibiotics. I’m also going to be asking for blood tests to try and find out why I get tired and sleepy so much more quickly than I used to when I seem to be doing less.

There are some other things on the horizon which are taking up my mental space and energy. I am trying to set up my computer so I can work one day a week from home insh’Allah. At the same time I am gearing up to ask my employers if I can work four days instead of three (with one of those four at home). As our service is currently being reviewed and the indications on the grapevine are that all local authority services will be reviewed every year for the next five years, this feels like a bit of a scary time to do this, but I keep reminding myself that our needs are not met by employers but by Allah (SWT) and that things will happen only as he intends.

At the same time I have had such a positive response to my jewellery (pictures soon insh'Allah) and the tasbih I made for my mum-in-law that I am thinking about selling them. I have thought about pricing, sourcing materials and websites, but my main issue at the moment is time, so I need to do a bit more thinking still and ask Allah (SWT) to place barakah (blessing) in my time and I need to be thoughtful about which things are good for me to take on.

The other issue is that I booked leave in October to go to Pakistan for three weeks for my two brothers-in-laws’ weddings. Hubby suggested today that I cancel the leave and book three weeks during Ramadan to go with him to Germany instead to work with some masjids who are doing dawah work. Although I am a bit apprehensive, my feeling is that I asked Allah (SWT) to give me the opportunity to walk in the path that most pleases him, so how can I turn this down? I have asked for the leave and it is with my manager to consider, so it will be a case of if Allah (SWT) wills.

I have already had a small difference with my manager over leave and negotiating working one day less and her response had me really annoyed, until I realised that even the most annoying situation can benefit you if you let them. My boss mentioned having a five year plan and making career decisions and life decisions according to that longer plan rather than on a whim. It brought back to me the importance of thinking things through and balancing all of the aspects of your life and of looking at the long-term consequences of your actions. The manager said that she believed every woman should have a 5 year plan and perhaps she had a point. So I am looking at the aspects of my life which are important or take up the most resource: children and family, faith, work, business, creativity and how I can take time and energy from one (work) and methodically move it to another (children) through small steps like working less, working from home or perhaps through trying to create a different stream of income than my current job. Alhamdulillah life has the potential to get very interesting in the next few months.

Little Lady Helping Out

Little Lady sometimes gives me heaps of attitude and I worry about the affect of modern life and culture which seeps into young childrens consciousness no matter how much you try to protect them (High School Musical, Bratz, Hannah Montana, the obsession with weight and looks...). But I was pleasantly surprised when I got home from work today. She had washed the lunch dishes, changed her little brothers clothes and had been taking him to the bathroom mash'Allah. She absolutely insisted in doing the dinner dishes which Little Man dutifully carried to her one plate and spoon at a time (some whilst the person was still eating).

I often tell her she is the lady of the house in my absence and she seems to have taken it to heart saying she is the little mummy of the house. I almost felt guilty, until I recalled I was exactly the same age when Fashionista Sister was born and I used to help with feeding her and changing her nappies. I remember I used to like to think she was my baby.

It kind of freaks me out how big she has gotten already mash'Allah. I am also doing a double-take at how long her hair looks in this picture, I never did get to cutting it and can't bring myself to now, maybe a trim before Eid...

Weekend Iman Refresher

Last weekend I had guests from another part of the UK who were in London doing dawah work mash’Allah. They were absolutely wonderful and we had lectures from the imam from our local masjid and sisters circles over the course of the two days. The focus was mostly on Tauheed, or the belief in one God and everything this means and entails and also on valuing and adopting the Sunnah (traditions and habits) of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). The other main elements which came up a lot were around setting a good example, through our kindness and sincerity, to non-Muslims as a form of dawah and preparing for Ramadan which has come upon us so quickly mash’Allah.

One of the good things the weekend was that lots of women from my neighbourhood who I have never met before came to visit to listen and help out.

Another big benefit for me was that I got to meet lots of other mothers and ask them about some of the things they do with their children. One of the sisters whose children are now teenagers, told me that she used to sit them down with one big plate of food and one glass of water and feed them with her own hands at the same time. I have been doing this for the last few days and you won’t believe the amount of food I am getting them to polish off mash’Allah!

Another sister advised that although she doesn’t celebrate birthdays, she made a big fuss when her child turned 7 as this is considered the age of tarbiyyah (good upbringing and manners). This was to reinforce that they were now old enough to behave well, have some responsibilities and begin to pray five times a day with their parents.

It was a good weekend and a good reminder of what life is about for Muslims, what the purpose of our being here is and what is important. My children managed to misbehave through every single talk and circle, including Gorgeous singing “LALALALALA!!!” at the top of his lungs through one talk while I chased him around the room. My husband saw how tired I was by Sunday night and sensibly packed the older two off to their cousins, where Little Man promptly broke a wardrobe. You can bet the cousins were trying to send them back early the next day.

One other positive legacy is that we will be having weekly a weekly sisters circle every Sunday and insh’Allah this will set a good example for my children and an opportunity to learn for me as well as get to know sisters in my community insh’Allah.

Friday 23 July 2010

Observations on Joy – Early Morning Peace

A few Fridays ago I was inspired to start this regular post to share something positive every Friday insh’Allah. Not necessarily anything life-changing, but something small and everyday that we may take for granted but for which we should be immensely grateful to Allah (SWT).

I haven't managed to get near my computer the last two Fridays, but managed today, which is a good start. Work is manic at the moment, but there is one part which I particularly enjoy, and that is the early morning start. I get in at 7.30, before most people and take my time settling in, making my herbal tea and deciding what I want to do with my day.

I can take my time at this time of the morning and enjoy the view from my window:

It looks particularly lovely when the swans float by in formation or the tugboat comes meandering along.

This Friday, there are no managers in for some reason and most of my colleagues seem to have booked leave, so I and a colleague have decided to abscond for a long lunch at Pizza Hut. I will be taking a bracelet I have made her (I'll try to remember to take a picture). Hope you have a good day too today insh'Allah– Jummah Mubarak.

I have guests staying the entire weekend and hubby and his brothers are away, as well as a Sisters circle starting on Sunday (for those of you who know me and are nearby, do come - it is 2-3pm every Sunday insh'Allah). Hopefully, I will get the kids to go to kids to bed early-ish (although they have the excuse that school is finished after today) and get lots of me-time in between the busy time insh'Allah.

Craft Haul

I was asked to make some cards for an event in the beginning of August. As i don't get paid for the cards, I am always looking for ways to keep the costs down. Last Sundays' visit to Dunton boot fair paid off, with a big craft haul. All of the items came from one man selling off craft stock. Someone asked him if he came to Dunton every week and he advised he came three times a year, although he didn't say when.

The items came to £1o in total and are worth over £100. I joked with my sisters that all those items I have been staring at wistfully in HobbyCrafts and the Range and then can't bring myself to buy because of the cost, I can now play around with. I have a pile of about 100 cards sitting on my bedroom floor, with the backgrounds and outlines ready to embellish and complete if I can just find the time.

I also managed to pick up some beads fairly cheaply (about £2 in total). The lady selling thought the blue ones might be unpolished turquoise, though she could not be sure. The wooden ones are exactly perfect for a necklace I had in mind insh'Allah (peridot greens, all shades of brown and a touch of orange)

Saturday 17 July 2010

Rainbow Tasbeeh

Ever since I received these beads, my mum-in-law has been mentioning at regular intervals what a pretty tasbeeh, or set of prayer beads, they would make. I decided to take the hint and have fun with the pretty colours and put together the tasbeeh below.

I used donut-shaped crystal beads called rondelles with a diameter of 8mm in a repeat pattern of colours. I used two "spacer" beads with coloured rhinestones to mark the 33rd bead from both side of the starting point. In between the two spacers I threaded 34 more beads bringing the total to 100. I wasn't sure where to get a long bead for the "aleph"as the part at the top where the two ends of the tasbeeh join, is called. Instead I used 6 of the rhinestone spacer beads next to each other to form a column. I threaded the beads onto wire which I fed through all of the beads twice. Where the wire emerged, I used tiny white 4mm crystal rondelles to create the tassle you usually find at the end of the aleph. At the end of each tassle, where I tied a knot, I then painted the knot with clear nail varnish to prevent the knots from unravelling.

I have seen very pretty Swarovski crystal ones in an Islamic goods store nearby, but the price was above what I would pay, even if they do catch my eye every time I walk past. Insh'Allah, I hope to make one for my mum in the pretty summer colours she likes and perhaps another in white for my dad. Mum-in-law absolutely loved hers and insh'Allah I am sue it will be well-used. I have asked her not to be too gentle with it so I can get an idea if the knots are tight enough and where there are any flaws.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Memories and a Lack of Words.

Have had a testing few days alhamdulillah. My mum has flown out to Pakistan today with her younger sister to be with their dad who is close to passing away. He is in the last stages of lung cancer and in quite some pain. Your dua’s would be very much appreciated for both of them insh’Allah.

So I spent yesterday packing and trying to get her organized with the help of my sisters and managed to see her off today. At the same time, although I am well alhamdulillah, I have lost my voice almost completely, so am trying to keep quiet with little success. My office sent me home today half way through the morning which meant no rest at all (kids, family, guests, me croaking away).

So now I am sitting with my cup of milk with a spoon of turmeric and a spoon of honey mixed in (mum’s neighbours home remedy and not as disgusting as it sounds surprisingly). I am thinking of my granddad, the last of my grandparents left. I got to see him last year, but for so short a time, I wish so much now that I had made more of that time; to have taken a proper long, look at his face and to have memorized his voice. I know I will never see him again, I hope I can talk to him on the phone for a few minutes when he is up to it, although I have no idea of what words would be adequate. I beg Allah (SWT) to make his last days easy and to rain His mercy down on him. For him to find comfort in having all of his children gathered around him and for the next world to be a place of peace and joy for him insh’Allah. Ameen.

Bead Eye Candy

I had ordered some new beads a while back and they finally turned up.

These in a donut-like shape called "rondelle" in particular have caught my eye.

Green is amy favourite colour and these were a bargain. Described as semi-precious peridot, I can't be sure if they are or not.

I get plenty of wear out of anything black and I have an idea to try with square beads.

These are more rondelles, but of a smaller size and I am still wondering how best to use these.

Plenty of eye candy and will keep me busy for a while.

Sleeping Monkeys and Teddy Bears Picnic

I promised the kids I would take them to the teddy bears picnic, only to find that on the day it was 32 degrees, way too hot to go and sit in the park. So after some thought, I ordered them all to take a nap, they were a bit annoyed, but once they realised I wasn't going to let them get up, they all fell asleep.

This was the longest bit of quiet I have had in a long time, so decided to make the most of it and enjoy tea (and coffee) and chicken sandwiches and chit-chat with the hubby, mother-in-law and a visiting uncle.

When the kids woke up, it was already evening, so we decided to head over to my mum's pretty garden to enjoy a teddy bears picnic of our own.

There were bubbles to keep the kids occuppied...

...and someone got a surprise when fashionista threw those little snaps out of the upstairs window.

There were bubbles everywhere before long and the kids had great fun. Insh'Allah next time I'll find some sparklers and we'll wait till it's a bit darker.

Thursday 8 July 2010

Little Lady and Hijab

I have made quite good friends with a Sister whose daughter is in Little Lady’s class. One day she invited me to her home and I went along with my children in tow. She was great company and very hospital, bringing out endless trays of food. Whilst there I met another Sister whose daughter was also in Little Lady’s class and we all got chatting.

At one point the other Sister rebuked me, asking why I don’t make my daughter wear hijab when both the other Sisters did make their daughters wear it. This meant their daughters were questioning why if Little Lady was Muslim and didn’t have to wear it, they did. I was speechless for about a minute before I explained that I was not going to force my child to do anything she didn’t want to. The Sister was not convinced by my reply.

This exchange bothered me. I didn’t agree with the Sisters decision to make their daughters wear hijab, but I could see their reasoning for it. They didn’t expect that once their daughters reached puberty and hijab became obligatory that they would suddenly wear it, they believed that the child had to be strongly encouraged from the start.

For myself, I believe that Allah (SWT) only wants the best for us. I believe that he has commanded us to take up hijab when we reach puberty, so I worry that Little Lady will not want to and that this will displease Allah in relation to both of us. I can imagine many people saying that I am wrong to want this for my daughter, that there are more important things to worry about or want for her, that it is not for me to push her towards hijab. However I still worry, tarbiyyah (or good upbringing) doesn’t begin at puberty, but at birth by setting a good example and formally at seven years of age. Encouraging modesty is part of that tarbiyyah.

What do other sisters think and what do they suggest?

Just Rambling

I was called in by my manager yesterday to advise that I can no longer work from 7.30am, but that I have to start at 8am. I explained that my husband has to drop me off early so that he can get back home in time to drop the children off. She said that was fine, I could come in at 7.30, but not “clock-in” until 8am. My first reaction was annoyance – the managers in this department mostly like to start at 10am and then work late, so my leaving at 4pm seems like a lack of commitment to some (or perhaps that is just me assuming). My second reaction was great! I now half an hour of quiet time in the morning to either read or write for this blog which I have been neglecting or for the magazine ( – just a little plug there!).

So I am enjoying writing up various things, finishing off articles I have started and looking through old bits of reading material I have saved.

The other thing that has happened at work is that I feel like I am playing musical chairs – but you know the bit before the music starts again and everything is suspended for a moment? One of my old managers contacted me and asked me to apply for a vacancy in the organisation. It’s a high profile and very interesting job. She previously encouraged me to apply for the post below and I came second in the process. This job is the next post up and manages the post I failed to get, so I was wary of how likely I was to be successful. She reassured me that senior managers had encouraged her to push me to apply and although it would be a fair process, they wanted me to have a good try. I was shocked, I thought I had been forgotten about and left to fester in my little corner of the office. I suspect part of it might be to do with my colleague and friend H mentioning my name at regular interval to the right people, but my old manager indicated that my name had come up in various contexts as someone who was considered “talented” and who they wanted to keep in the organisation. All very gratifying, but where did they think I was about to run off to in the middle of a recession?

Anyway, at the same time, there are serious concerns about the viability of my department – we have just been reviewed and are awaiting the outcome and I hear from the grapevine (now that I am good at, getting the story from the grapevine first!) that this will be followed immediately by a second review (that sounds stupid, but that’s local government for you). So all of our jobs could be axed and we would go into redeployment for whatever else they see as fit. At the same time the job I am applying for is a one year secondment to the other post and I will only be able to take it up if I am successful only if my manager releases me for a year, which I cannot see her agreeing to. I suspect if I was successful and they liked me enough they would make her, but I am getting very far ahead of myself. The applications have to be in by Monday morning and the interviews are on Tuesday!

I have tried praying istikharah (a prayer for guidance when faced with a choice) and don’t currently feel any the wiser, so I am just going to trust in Allah (SWT) and go with the flow. As my husband is wont to remind me every time I go off on one of my anxiety trips, we do not get one grain more or less than the rizq (sustenance) that we have been allotted by Allah (SWT) and worrying, trying too hard, playing politics or trying to foresee what will happen next will not change that.

Friday 2 July 2010

Fall Down, Pick Yourself Up Again.

I have had one of those days. Okay, maybe one of those weeks. Our office is being reviewed for potential redundancy and at the same time the work is coming thick and fast. This is probably one of the first times in my career when I have come this close to saying “I can’t complete all of this work”.

At the same time, home is full mash’Allah, but very busy. All my efforts earlier in the year to get the kids into a routine and the house organized appear to have gone to waste as the kids laundry is all mixed up, the hall is full of piles of shoes, there is a humungous bike also parked in the hallway and my beloved bookshelf is piled high with random …stuff. We also have builders in who have re-built my living room wall and found damp all over the place. The new wall needs skimming, we have a spare sofa in the back room that needs to be sold and is taking up space and a fish tank that is sitting half way into the middle of the road because some of the cement on the new wall still isn’t fully dry. Clutter really stresses me out and I never understood why until someone explained that I am a visual person and where a person who is more audial or kinesthetic won’t see the mess, for me it means I can’t avoid seeing it and it distracts me, much in the same way that too much noise stresses out an audial person (whereas I can work through any amount of noise).

At the same time, when you have eight people living in a house, there is bound to be clutter and extra luggage. This along with various items left by previous guests and family who have stayed with us and my husbands penchant for collecting all sorts of stuff from his removal job and leaving it in various strategically irritating positions around the house (on top of the fish tank, on the kitchen window cill, on my book shelf). I can’t really complain, because I am sure he could say the same about my papercraft and jewellery making stuff and books (although he is too sweet to say anything).

The above along with the sleep deprivation I suffer fro every summer due to the very early dawn prayers and late night prayer means it all came to a head today, when I was so exhausted I could barely pray maghrib. I decided to sleep for 30 minutes and then get up refreshed for esha (the night prayer). Bad idea. I was woken up by the kids and ended up extremely disorientated and upset. I packed them off to bed and then shut the door and had a good cry. Not the sad, sniffing type, but the all out, flop on your bed, sob your heart out inconsolably type. I’m not quite sure why I went off like that, but I certainly needed it.

I still felt miserable as I prayed and asked Allah (SWT) to help me a bit more sensible, until Gorgeous (who does not believe in sleeping at a sensible time), got out of bed and came and sat in my lap. Subhan’Allah, the peace I felt in that moment was indescribable. He is 3 ½ now and due to go to nursery in September insh’Allah, but he is still a good size and weight to fit into my arms sooo perfectly. It made my head clear and it helped me to make four resolutions:

SOOTHE – I will hold each of my children each and very day and tell them I love them. I will hold them until we both have our fill of affection, love, peace and sweetness.

RELAX – I will try to have a nap when I return from work, for exactly 30 minutes. My husband is an expert at this. He can sleep anywhere for 15 minutes and wake up completely refreshed. I on the other hand find myself waking up from such naps extremely thirsty, disorientated and unable to clear the cotton wool out from between my ears. I think I need practice. So I will try 30 minutes every day as soon as I return from work and see how it goes.

PLAY – We all need to feel as if we are doing something for ourselves and not expending ourselves completely in the service of ours. So I will spend a small amount of time playing with my papers, embellishments and beads, or reading something trashy, unworthy and fun, or my newest pastime of conning China, via eBay, out of pretty things for next to nothing.

ORGANISE – One step at a time, one area at a time, even if it means one item at a time until I am visually bale to cope again. Tomorrow this will mean taking all of the shoes I can find in the house, putting them in a black bag and leaving them in my brother-in-laws room. The next day this might mean taking all of husbands tools out of my kitchen, putting them into a bag and stashing them where they are likely never to be seen again (at the back of our little store-room which acts like a bottomless pit, which is a whole ‘nother story).

Insh’Allah I feel much better now. Getting the kids routine under control is a different matter, but as the school holidays approach, I will have time to think things through. I will also have to take a more sensible approach to work. I have long held that I am not willing to give so much of myself to work that there is not enough left for my family, so tomorrow I will try to take a gentler stance and be more honest about what I can handle insh’Allah.

Tomorrow (and tonight) being Jumuah, I will also try to celebrate by wearing something nice, sharing food and working on my sunnah by smiling lots insh’Allah.
Hope you all have a happy and blessed Jummah day insh’Allah!