Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Hubby offered to take me for dinner and I immediately dropped all of my plans. We battled rush hour to go to one of or favourite old haunts (A1 kebabish) that we hadn't been to in ages.
If the kids ever find out, we'll never get them to go madrassah. I think we should do this more often.
Monday, 30 January 2012
I was saving the cardstock I used for this for something special. Its DCWV's All Occasion Glitter Mat Stack and I pulled out the pastel shades. I thought something for a mum-to-be was a special enough reason to use them.
Having run out of A and E's in all of my alphabets set's, I ended up using a mixture of lettering. I embellished each panel with something that went with the baby theme.
We gatecrashed a South Indian wedding (gloriously colourful) and a Nigerian wedding (the bridesmaids were being drilled rather severely beforehand). No-one seemed to mind us tramping through. On the way out of the South Indian wedding some little girls throwing flower petals at guests, stopped to look each other quizzically, confused at whether they should be throwing petals over us or not, it as quite funny.
We saw some very pretty venues, one more to see next weekend before Fashionista makes her choice.
Saturday, 28 January 2012
This is until he falls sick and a number of people come to visit him, changing his life – the handsome cloth merchant who wants to take him home, the physician who wants to heal him and a final, unexpected little visitor.
The story appears to be an analogy of mans ability to be content with what he has or choose to be taken in by desire for the wealth of the world (dunya) and lose his contentment.
The language used is simple but evocative, with some startling images; the handsome merchant with his “olive skin and almond-shaped eyes”, the child in the startling white clothes, which stand out in a story that otherwise flows with a gentle rhythm.
This is not an easy book with a simple story and a happy ending, but a more layered story with the villagers in the background, the visitors own agenda’s and the kings behaviour and reactions not always obvious to interpret. I did wonder if my children would be able to understand the messages in the book.
The images accompanying the story are simple line drawings softly filled in with washes of soft colours creating an impression of what is happening and a mood rather than the clear and descriptive drawings you more commonly find in children’s books. The effect is haunting and it makes you wonder rather than tell you what to think.
This is a touching book to be read many times to get an understanding of what the messages behind the story are. One that will make children think and stay with them after they have finished it. My daughter’s verdict on the book: “I really liked it mum, it made me feel sad.”
Thursday, 26 January 2012
Mum-in-law has gone back to Pakistan, meaning the dynamics in our home have changed subtly. It’s nice to have more time with just me and hubby, but means I have to manage the housework on my own and the small stuff seems to invade all of my time.
I am trying to manage my health better too. I have started juicing and the first two days I ended up with cramps and stomach pain. I lowered the dosage and built it back up slowly. I have tons of energy, but my body still does strange things, so I am getting used to what suits and what doesn’t – I will do the sensible thing and buy a book on the subject at some point.
I have also started running after work (okay running for thirty seconds, then walking fast for the next 40 minutes or so). Kooky Little Sister is my running buddy and humours me as she can actually run, but resists and keeps my pace. I absolutely love this opportunity to get fitter and stronger insh’Allah, but it means when I get home, I have hardly any time left to do anything else.
The boys are still attending madrassah after school for two hours, but Little Lady is not going as her teacher has just had a baby. I am trying to teach at her home, but we are missing days and I am anxious that she doesn’t lose any of the wonderful progress she has made. The fact that she does not have to go, means that Little Man plays up daily, with cries of “it’s not fair” which we can explain away, and “I feel sick” which we can’t. So every day they are late because we are trying to work out if he is actually ill/dizzy/has a headache/stomach ache as he says or he is faking. The real issue for me is that he hates madrassah so much that he tries so hard to get out of it every day. I desperately want my children to love Islam and to love to the Quran, I don’t think this is impossible, but it requires something different from the usual approach we employ in teaching our children. So I have asked hubby to sit in for one session and see if he can identify what is going wrong. Otherwise the next option is for me to teach them all at home. I have studied tajweed, so I am confident I could teach them up to Quran, but I was keen to get them all memorise (do hifz of) as much of the Quran as possible, I don’t feel qualified to instruct them in this. Maybe more learning required for me? Insh’Allah one step at a time, but I have no idea how I will fit this in (maybe I need to start running at night after everyone is asleep and all my chores are done? With all the drug-dealers and prostitutes that hang out outside our home...no thanks).
Work is interesting and I am enjoying what I do. I work half the week with my team and half the week with a team that is preparing our organisation for the impact of the Olympics. This means I am between teams with different cultures and working styles and have to adjust to both. The work has gotten me far out of my comfort zone as in the last two years I have done nothing I am experienced in, only new things which I have picked up as I go along. An amazing learning curve, but I realise it has eroded my confidence over time, because confidence comes from expertise and knowledge on a subject and although I am learning all of the time, it's always just enough to do something new.
To compound the confidence issue I had a meeting this week where I was asked to speak about something I was working on. I opened my mouth and utter nonsense came out. You know that moment when you are trying to explain something and everyone is looking at you blankly and slightly pityingly? Yep, now add a bunch of managers. One of the Olympic team came to my rescue and explained what I was trying to say, but I wished I could just disappear at that point. I spent the next two days re-visiting the meeting in my mind over and over again, unable to get out of that moment and feeling utterly worthless and terrible. I woke up in the morning with it on my mind. The reaction was deeply disproportionate to the event, and I could not understand why. I am starting to realise now, that I was with people I am trying to get used and I am working hard to prove myself as competent and confident and get over people’s assumptions about me as a Muslim woman. Because of this I was not allowing myself to achieve anything less than perfection and when I didn’t achieve this I punished myself by obsessing over one mistake. What helped in the end was Don Miguel Ruiz's book The Four Agreements which are:
1 - Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity.
2 - Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you.
3 - Don’t make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.
4 - Always do your best. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
I read it in two sittings during the morning commute and it really made me think about how I need to let go of things and forgive myself for my mistakes.
At the same time, The Olympic team has mentioned a role for me Games-time in their operations centre which would involve 12 hour shifts, sometimes at night. Although this sounded like an exciting and interesting prospect, there is one thing to consider – I have small kids!! We will be fasting during the period of the Games and I don’t feel entirely safe in the area the centre will be based. I am also not quite comfortable as a Muslimah with the idea of being at the office at night either. This has been bothering me for the last few weeks, something else to add to the maelstrom of things going round and round in my head. Hubby has been supportive, but not keen, especially as it will be Ramadan. In the end I called the person managing the centre and asked if I had been put down on the rota. He said that I hadn’t confirmed if I wanted to do it, but it was up to me and I had the option of being a back-up officer. I quite liked that option, so plan to go for it as I will get to have some involvement, but not be working 12-hour night shifts (I did the testing for this for a six-hour test event and it was gruelling).
This doesn’t mean that my usual team will be letting up, an organisational re-structure means that my work has just doubled and I am still only working half of the week with the team (but doing the same amount of work as other full-time team members).
Financially I also have to face some home truths. I have never looked too closely at my spending and income and so have always just got by. But winter is usually quieter for my husband’s removal business and masjid work has taken up most of his time for the last six months. So between us, with my careless ways and his quiet period we are managing just by the skin of our teeth. So I have been stressing about money, stressing about why I care about money (I think Muslims can sometimes have a very conflicting view about money – i.e. it is worldly and we should not chase after it, but we do need it). Instead of stressing I have booked some time this week to sit down with my bank statements and work out where we are not managing our money properly and start budgeting. I think I might need to start keeping a spending diary too to work out what makes me spend so haphazardly and deal with some of the false logic I use to justify my spending.
This week I also had deadlines for two magazines and lots of things to blog about. There just didn’t seem to be any way I could get near a computer and I felt guilty for letting people down. I also wanted to blog and write about lots of things whilst they were still current in my mind.
By yesterday all of these things to think about had made me slightly mental and quite over-emotional, unsettling my poor husband who was trying to calm me down and help me with the things I needed to do. I found myself at 9pm trying to get dinner for hubby and me, trying to talk to my sisters who had come round to visit for Little Man’s birthday, trying to work out what to do about the kids packed lunches and close to tears.
It was 11pm by the time I had the kids in bed, pasta cooked for packed lunches, kitchen cleared away (with hubby’s help Alhamdulillah), bags and clothes ready and my night prayer done. I prayed in floods of tears and it really helped – I believe that if you are going to cry it might as well be in front of the One that can help you.
This morning, I woke up with a clear head and some resolution to do things differently. I am going to do my best, no more, no less. I am going to prioritise – family is more important than work and deserves more of my attention and energy. I will leave work at the office and find ways to divert my attention away from work when I am not in the office. I am going to get out of my head and into the present. Insh’Allah will savour every minute – getting ready in the morning, the morning commute, the hours at the PC trying to crack the numbers and bring order to chaos, lunch with the girls or my book, the trip home with hubby, the mad rush to get the kids changed, fed and out the door to madrassah in less than 30 minutes, running with Kooks, Quran lesson with Little Lady, getting dinner on the table in time, getting the house and everyone organised for the next day and then trying to sneak some time to read and write before bed. I am going to try my best to be present in each moment of the day, to listen to my body, to do a little of something I enjoy so that I don’t feel neglected and to prioritise people over things to do, by listening attentively to the people around me and stop acting like a miserable headless chicken.
Writing this is making me think about how much I need to bring simplicity into my life. I have made so many plans for myself this year. I have set goals and broken them down into activities, exactly as the books on achievement tell you to. But when it comes to delivering and balancing it all with my hectic days, I am starting to think that what I need is simplicity. Something to reflect on as I make my way through this day.
Little Man: "I've got a really bad headache"
Today, just before it is time to go to madrassah:
Little Man: "I've got a really bad headache"
Me: "Okay, We'll get you a blood test because you have headcahe this time every day. They'll just take some blood with a little needle and put it into bottles."
Little Man: "Will it hurt?"
Little Man: "I know it's going to hurt"
Gorgeous: "OH MY GOD MY BROTHER IS GOING TO DIIIEEE. I'm going to be sad. Mum, my mosque teacher gets headache, can we give him a blood test?"
They went to madrassah on time today and without any complaints :)
I seriously love how dopey little boys are, my daughter would never have fallen for this!
Sunday, 22 January 2012
We had everyone up a ladder at some point or other to transform the plain living room wall...
...into a pretty grey and pink wall to match Fashionista's outfit.
The rest of the decorations pulled together with the same colours (courtesy of Kooky Little Sisters silver spray paint and my January sale bargains).
There were sweets to feed the sweethearts.
Pics courtsey of Shutterbug Sister and Kooky Little Sister, there are more pics of the event at Kooky's blog here. I was rather proud of my sisters, we manged to cover decor, gifts, photography and event management in-house, we make a productive team when we stop annoying the hell out of each other I think.
Friday, 13 January 2012
I have written before (in The Art of Living With Your In-Laws) about how I initially struggled to get on with her, but how eventually we found the middle ground and learned to live together without upsetting each other – letting small things go and learning to accept our differences. Two years on, I view her parting with mixed feelings.
Living with your in-laws can be challenging, even after so many years, I occasionally still find myself a little resentful or fed up. One of the difficulties I faced was my mother-in-law’s poor health. This made her much less mobile and consequently all of us less mobile as we didn’t like to leave her at home on her own for too long.
I also struggled with her anxiety and depression in the beginning. I found myself coming home from a long day at work to spend time trying to reassure her and cheer her up. Over time, alhamdulillah I have noticed her depression lifting and this being less of a problem, but in the beginning I found it wore me down each day.
Probably the hardest I found was not being able to say no to her. So if she wanted to go somewhere, or come early from somewhere it had to happen that way. If she wanted certain things to be cooked or household chores to be done, I felt that they had to be done, even if I thought my time would be better spent in a different way. In this way she is very similar to my mum and as with my mum I couldn’t say no. I think the way I have been raised embeds obedience very deeply and to refuse to do what a mother or mother-in-law asks feels equivalent to being a bad daughter or daughter-in-law. As always, as I write this, I am finding a lot of this is in my head and I let my over-thinking hobble me like nothing else can.
On the other hand, when she has been well, she has helped with the school run and the housework. She watched the kids whilst hubby dropped to work in the morning. She minded the children when I needed to pop across the road to get a carton of milk, saving me the frustration of spending 20 minutes getting three children ready to go across the road to pick up one thing.
She was also a second feminine influence in the home, contrasting to hubby’s obsession with building work and vehicles and the two boys’ rowdiness (and obsession with construction blocks and toy cars). She and Little Lady are fast friends, with Little Lady sneaking out of bed to get into her grandmothers bed.
Most importantly though, I believe it is extremely beneficial to have an elder in the home for so many reasons. They are in a position to pass on their life lessons so that we don’t make the same mistakes they have – in both the small matters and the big ones. They give us a powerful sense of our own mortality. Having my grandmother live with me for two years meant that I learnt to value and treasure each day of health and mobility – you may hate housework, but there might be a day when you wish you were well enough to do these things for yourself.
The blessing that elders bring to our homes are also invaluable: spending time engaged in dhikr (remembrance of Allah SWT), getting up for tahajjud (the might prayer). Spending time making dua for each and every one of their family members – what is there that comes close to a mothers supplications for her children?
Some of these things I will feel the loss of in our home, I am a little worried bout how I am going to manage, now that I have gotten so used to her being here. Mum-in-law is likely to be back in a few months insh’Allah (in time for a family wedding insh’Allah). In the meantime, I plan to let the laundry pile up, and the dishes, guilt-free...
Saturday, 7 January 2012
Like the time we were invited to a wedding in Lahore. We had to leave with the grooms party (baraat) at 8pm. At 8pm people were still mulling over what to wear I was panicking thinking we were late - much to everyone’s amusement. We finally left at 10pm, with me on my high horse thinking how terrible it was we couldn’t join the baraat on time. We got to the grooms house to find they were still getting ready! My mother-in-law pointed out – no-one here ever goes to anything on time.
Oh and then there was the time that General Musharraf tried to establish daylight saving time in Pakistan where the clocks change by an hour in the spring and autumn (not sure why, they don’t have the problem of very short winter days like we do). So now there was the time you agreed to meet, the time you actually meet which is two hours later and there is “Musharraf Time”, so people were asking each other: “Ok 1pm, is that normal time or Musharraf time?” Probably trying to work out if they should turn up at 3pm or 4pm.
I love my Dad-in-laws approach. If we had to go somewhere, we would all get ready and wait for him to get the car out. Dad-in-law has a long, leisurely breakfast in the kitchen whilst he yacks with mum-in-law. Then he goes off to pick what he wants to wear, gets one of his boys to iron it, wanders round a bit, has some more breakfast. One of us will remind him we have to go somewhere; he will reassure us there’s nothing to worry about. Goes off to get changed, gives the car keys to one of his boys to get it started…then decides it needs a clean. By this time we are about to explode with anxiety. He inspects the car, takes the keys, and finally gets in the car. We pile in and take off, with Dad-in-law mumbling about not having had a proper breakfast. At this point I realise why you have to add two hours to any appointment in Pakistan.
This still doesn’t explain why my hubby and in-laws were FOUR hours late to our wedding, but you can imagine it must have been a contributing factor (I’m still teasing him about this one and he is still making excuses!).
I have gotten used to my husband and my –in-laws’ time-keeping habits; probably some of it has rubbed off on me too. My family in contrast are sticklers for time. All of us seem to be full of nervous energy that doesn’t let us dawdle or relax and we are always early to an appointment or event (my parents are always one of the first ones to arrive at a wedding, because they actually turn up at the time on the invitation).
On the one hand, there is something to be said here about being more patient and relaxed. On the other I believe time is one of the most valuable resources available to us and we are negligent and careless about how we spend it. You can earn back lost money or property, you can regain lost health, but you can never regain time once it has passed, so I hate wasting time because someone hasn’t planned its use properly or because people are disorganised.
I also think that when someone keeps you waiting without a very good reason, they show a lack of respect. You wouldn’t keep someone you consider important waiting, you wouldn’t be late for an job interview or a meeting with your manager. So if you keep someone waiting, because you’re not that fussed about when you turn up, you can’t have much respect for them.
I feel that when you are agreeing a time with someone, you are giving them your word that you will be there at a certain time. For a Muslim, to break a promise is a big thing and we seem to take this very, very lightly. I can’t think of many Muslim events I have attended that have started or run on time, we generally seem to be hopeless at it and run on Asian Mean Time or African Time, or should we call it Chaotic Muslim Time?
One thing that helps me is to factor in salah (prayer) times. So usually when I agree to meet someone or go somewhere, I will work out which salah’s fall during that time and factor in the additional time to make wudhu (ablutions) and pray. Or often, I will agree with family members to do something by Zoher (afternoon prayer) or after fajr (dawn prayer).
Generally, though, I think we should be more careful to honour our word when it comes to agreeing a time for something. If you agreed 1pm, and know you can’t get there till 3pm, then agree 3pm. Whoever then says, “yes, but then I won’t get there till 5pm” really needs a bucket of water over their head, or an alarm clock, or some roller skates…
It got me thinking though, about my experiences:
The times growing up I get snide comments and dirty looks (“God they’re everywhere!”)
The time I got spat by a young skinhead soon after 9/11
The time an old lady man swore at me in the city, again soon after 9/11
The time I was stopped by enormous, tattooed, armed police man and had my personal details taken in Westminster – not knowing what they would do with them.
The occasions I have been out with my children and had nasty comments and swear words muttered under people’s breath (although, these people don’t seem to have the nerve to say it to my face).
Reading what some of the contributors to the Independent article went through, the above lists seems pretty tame in comparison.
But the examples above have not particularly had an impact on me, apart from making me rather short-tempered with rude and racist people. When it comes to this kind of petty, spineless racists, you know where you stand and you move on and up and leave them standing open-mouthed.
The type of racism that has always bothered me is the more insidious kind. The kind that can come from the nicest people. People who don’t have bad intentions. The kind of prejudice that is built into their thinking and perspective. The times that come to mind include:
The time when a very nice lady at work tried to explain a very basic proverb to me, in a meeting.
The times I have overheard conversations about literature and culture that people never think to have with me.
The numerous times I have walked into shops and up to stall and had someone point at an item I am looking at and explain what it is (“Candle? You know, you light?” – honestly!).
Silly little things, but also daily reminders that people can’t imagine me as being British, a part of this countries culture or knowledgeable about “English” things.
Sometimes, this is understandable, there are lots of ladies that dress like me (abaya and scarf) that don’t speak English well, or are not interested in dystopian literature or art deco. But I am sure there are enough eloquent, intelligent, cultured Muslim sisters to challenge the stereotype that people have. What gets me is when it is people that should know better, who have good intentions who hold onto these stereotypes. These are the kind of people who are convinced that they don’t have any prejudices, when in reality, we all have our prejudices – it’s human nature I think.
Which makes me think. What prejudices do we hold? What stereotypes do we hold and how do they impact on the way we treat people. Something to think about.
There is one benefit to being stereotyped in this way. Whenever I am approached by the tenacious charity representatives with their direct debit forms that proliferate through London (called charity muggers or “chuggers” Shutterbug Sister informs me). I just turn to them and say in my poshest accent “No thank you, I don’t speak English”, the look on their faces is great fun.
Tuesday, 3 January 2012
1. We are not meant to be happy all of the time. We wouldn’t even know what happiness felt like if we never experienced any grief or sorrow. Once we accept this, we can stop being anxious about not being happy every second of the day.
2. Keep to your salah (prayers) and Allah (SWT) will bestow contentment and tranquillity insh’Allah
3. Take action – when something is upsetting you, decide what you need to do to change your situation and then do it.
4. Enjoy the moment. Sometimes happiness is not about doing, achieving or completing but just savouring that everyday moment in its full intense glory: the moment your baby falls asleep in your arms, enjoying a simple, wholesome meal, finding a passage in a book that has you crying big tears in a packed train, feeling the grass under your bare feet, being called mum, drinking a cold glass of water on a hot day.
5. Be the first to say sorry – forgive and move on.
6. Laugh with your sisters – no matter how miserable I have felt, spending time with my sisters, laughing, joking, making fun of each other, reminiscing and getting very, very childish helps me forget my troubles.
7. Be grateful – The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "He who does not thank people is unthankful to Allah." (Abu Dawud)
8. Be content - as I once red in a self-help, the source of which I cannot now recall “The blessings already are”, its up to you whether you choose to see them or dismiss them.
9. Serve others – doing so brings so much satisfaction and helps you to see there are others in tougher situations than you.
10. Look at those in worse off positions than you. I will always remember travelling to work whilst pregnant and being so fed up and feeling very sorry for myself when I saw an article in the paper about pregnant women in South Africa who had AIDS and were struggling to get medicines to prevent the disease passing to their babies. I never, ever felt bad about the fact I had to work through my pregnancies again.
11. Be gentle in your relationships – give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, be present with your children and discipline them with kindness, be patient with our parents and elders. People matter more than things – always. Sounds obvious, but think about it next time the kids break something or hubby leaves his stuff lying around.
12. Be enthusiastic – everyone loves a person with a good attitude, it’s contagious and it opens doors for you, because everyone wants a piece of you.
13. Do things for yourself – no-one likes a person with a martyr complex, and I think we all feel better doing things for others when we have taken care of our needs, perhaps we are in a better state to give of ourselves, when we have something to give. So, sometimes its nice to take stock, think about what we need or enjoy and then get some of it – whether that’s rest, some pleasure, a treat, wanting to look great or wanting to spend some time alone.
14. Play – every day. Men take their hobbies seriously – football, cars, golf, they make a business of it an their leisure time is important. Women too often dismiss their hobbies and interest and feel guilty about them. Make the time to play every day without allowing any guilt to creep in. Get your arts and crafts materials out, play with your beads, get your running shoes on or your camera ready and feel the satisfaction and creativity spill over into other areas of your life.
15. Keep learning – whether a new skill, a course, a qualification, reading non-fiction, self-help or personal development websites.
16. Review yourself – spend some time at the end of every day to review how you did that day – did you treat people, especially your family, in the right way, did you fulfil your obligations, especially to Allah (SWT), what could you have done better?
17. Be a giver – trust in Allah (SWT) to provide your sustenance. Give without worrying about how you will manage or what you will get in return. Have an abundance mentality
18. Under-promise and over-deliver – this is easy for me as many people take one look and assume I can’t speak English, let alone think I could be good at stuff! It’s great fun surprising people and challenging their stereotypes too.
19. Make dua (supplication) – no ask, no get.
20. Set goals and work to achieve them – there is a sense of satisfaction in working towards something that matters to you, often even more so than achieving it the goal.
21. Trust Allah (SWT) – if he wills something for you, then nothing can take it away, and if he decides something is not for you, everyone in the world put together cannot give it to you. I think knowing and accepting this brings a lot of peace into our lives.
Oh and one more I couldn't leave out - spend time in nature: in a meadow, on the beach, in woods, on moors. No matter how disinclines you are to get away from your creature comforts (me in particular), this one lifts your spirits and brings back the awe of Allah (SWT) that we should foster in our hearts.