Tuesday 25 June 2013

Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

One of the toughest aspects of modern life for Muslimah’s right now is marriage – or lack thereof.  I know so many sisters who are looking to marry and are struggling for so many reasons.

We seem to be a generation caught between the old way of doing things where our parents found someone vaguely suitable and we went along with it and a new way where we want to find halal love but are not sure how to go about it.

Many people my age married someone from their parent’s home country, often a distant relative.  They went along with it because they wanted to be good girls and obedient to their parents, they were too young to think too deeply about whether this was the right thing to do and they had no idea what the alternative was.  For some this worked out and they found themselves happily married.  For others it turned into a nightmare where they were used for the benefit of extended family (visas, money sent back home) and lumbered with partners who were wholly unsuitable.  I suspect for many it was a case of settling and learning to live with the choices that had been made for them and never expecting anything more.

I married someone I met in Pakistan and went through the process of bringing them to join me in this country.  I feel like I am one of the lucky ones in my generation.  My parents gave me the choice (albeit limited to a handful of young men I was introduced to, to pick from).  My husband turned out to be a kind, gentle, pious man who helped bring me closer to my faith and has made me happy alhamdulillah.

I know sisters who aren’t particularly enamoured with their husbands from back home, but are getting one with their lives: work, housework and children.  They seem fairly content, but it makes me a little sad to think that the spark is not there in their marriages and they are just getting by because that is the only choice they have in the path laid out for them.

Then there are the horror stories.  Girls who married with good intentions but found that once their husbands had indefinite leave to remain in the country their attitude changed.  I have a good friend whose husband’s personality switched overnight and she found herself being beaten regularly.  In the end she had to leave him and go back to her parents home with her two children.  I have another friend who stayed with her husband for ten years before walking away because she just could not stand the sight of a man she had not wanted to marry in the first place.  I have met women my age whose marriages with husbands from abroad have broken down due to domestic violence, gambling, drinking, the sheer grasping greed of relatives back home or just outright personality differences.

The problem is not always a difficult husband.  Often the partner from back home arrives to find their spouse in this country looks down on them, wants to change them and wants them to fit in with the norms of their new home country.  Sometimes the culture difference is too much.

I adore my husband and because we are both from a Pakistani background I would have expected that culturally we would be a good match.  Surprisingly to me, because he was born in Pakistan and I was born and grew up in England our cultural differences were significant.  He served as a mirror to show me how strongly I had been socialised by the norms, media and culture of this country.  Despite sharing a language, we found that one concept, occasion or relationship could mean two very different things to us.  We knew each others language but we had to learn what we both really meant in a slow and painstaking process which was tolerable because we cared so deeply for each other.  But if the love is not there, how unbearable and difficult must that process be.

I think it is many of these things that put those only a little younger than me off the idea of “going back home” to marry.  I know my younger sisters and their friends were certainly not open to the idea.  Part of the problem was the language barrier and the process of bringing someone to this country.  Another issue was that most people who marry abroad have to work as it can take some time for their spouse to settle here, find their feet, learn the language and find a job.  Often when their spouse does find work it is not well paid and nowhere near as prestigious as the jobs they did back home which made them good candidates to marry spouses in the West in the first place.  This leads to further frustration and unhappiness.  My husband worked for a newspaper in Pakistan designing page layouts using computer-aided design.  He hung out with journalists and photographers and often accompanied them on assignments on his motorbike which he loved to travel around Pakistan on.  He was well respected in his family and in his neighbourhood. 

On coming here he tried a few things before he found work in a warehouse.  Despite being run by Muslims he was not allowed to pray and constantly had to fight for this, he was expected to come to office parties where the alcohol was available freely, he was expected to stay silent regarding the theft and cheating by senior managers.  He had a miserable time and was constantly fighting with management.  It was a relief when he started his own business as a removal contractor which allowed him to earn halal, pray on time in the masjid and balance his family life.

He met people working in the warehouse who had been bank managers in Pakistan, he even met one person who worked for the IMF in Pakistan and had left to try and gain some experience in the UK and ended up in this chain of warehouses.

It is all of these things and more that has put young people off marrying in this traditional way.  They are searching for someone whose lifestyle and values match their own and who will share the life that they have mapped out for themselves.  Easier said than done!

One interesting trend I have picked up on is that of young Muslims delaying marriage because they feel that they are not ready.  They will start finding that people are interested in them in their early twenties but turn down proposals or delay them as long as possible because they feel they are too young.  They want to complete their education or they want to enjoy life first.  As they start to look for a partner in their late twenties, they find that they cannot find what they are looking for and regret turning down some of the proposals they had received earlier.  I know more than one sister who has found herself in this position.

Then there are the young people with a checklist – the minimum requirements they have for a person they would want to marry.  This can include the level of education, career or earnings, height, weight, colour, complexion (obviously the requirement for fair skin is predominant!), ethnicity, caste, various personality characteristics and also his family situation – whether his parents are around, whether he has too many sisters (that might interfere or take sides with the mother-in-law) whether he intends to move away from his family.

This checklist makes me so very sad.  I understand the need for some minimum standards and I understand looking for someone that you could at least be attracted to as I honestly feel this is a basic right of every Muslim.  But I think the long specific checklists stop you from seeing people as they really are.  They block you from meeting and considering people who might be kind, sincere, of excellent character and would make such a loving spouse.  But how would you ever know because they didn’t earn so much at that point, or their car was old or they had lots of sisters or they were perfect except they are a little on the short side.  Circumstances change, okay so they aren’t likely to suddenly get taller, but one day Allah might increase their income or give them an amazing car, or land them with an amazing job.  Insh’Allah that’s when they’ll appreciate the woman who chose them when their circumstances weren’t at their best, yet she was able to recognise the good in him.

There are so many sisters who don’t have a checklist, who are open to meeting a good brother, yet are struggling to find anyone.  If you are a good, pious, shy sister who has always observed her limits with men, where do you suddenly find a good one?  Clearly the parents should be looking for partners for their children.  This is when things start to come unstuck.  For a long time many parents were not willing to look beyond their extended families or their village “back home”.  They realised that after waiting five, eight, ten years their children were just not willing to go back.  They never imagined a situation where they would have to actually look around, be nice to people, humbly ask for an introduction as the parents of a daughter and to their horror – even make the first move towards speaking to a prospective groom’s family.

I know some parents whose pride just would not allow them to “stoop” to this.  Despite their connections in the community and the masjid, they could not bring themselves to do these things.  Then there are the parents who deserve credit for trying to rise to the challenge.  They have absolutely no idea where to start but start asking their friends and start looking at their networks.  Often they will go to “aunties” that arrange introductions and see if anyone suitable turns up.  This is a slow and haphazard way of doing things and it seems to yield results only on rare occasions, mainly when the girl is still in her early twenties.  It also often leads to numerous introductions with highly unsuitable people that can leave the family feeling humiliated, embarrassed and disheartened. 

This had led to young people trying to find someone on their own.  I know a lot of people who have met their spouses at school or university.  The worry is that they will do something haram or immodest and often they will be keen to formalise the relationship through marriage to support this.  I have found that most times these young people are absolutely terrified of telling their parents.  They have no idea what the reaction will be or the consequences.  Sometimes the parents will support them, on other occasions all hell breaks loose with the parents refusing to accept someone they have not chosen.  A war of attrition follows with one side or the other eventually breaking down and capitulating to the will of the other.  The concern with these marriages is that the parents have no involvement and there is no-one to caste a mature eye over the prospective spouse and offer sensible advice as to their suitability.  I know girls who have married the man they met at university and then outgrown them as they matured and became mothers.  They are stuck with men who can be childish and irresponsible or who have not shared their wife’s journey in coming closer to her faith which can also be a bone of contention.

For those who spent university studying and refusing to look at boys, once they have finished their studies, the process starts from scratch.  Often they realise that the “professional aunties” proposals are mainly for guys that just can’t find anyone for some reason.  These are brothers whose parents are trying to fix their problem using the supposed magic cure-all of marriage.  The problem being drug addiction (I know a sister who this happened to who has suffered her entire married life), constant partying and clubbing, having a non-Muslim girlfriend they are trying to get rid of, homosexuality (I know a lovely sister who almost got landed with this too and another that clocked on the day of her nikah and then had to get a divorce in a panic) or some mysterious undisclosed illness that you don’t find out about till much later.  This is not to discredit the aunties, they are trying in a confusing and challenging environment and they are trying to help others for free.  Sometimes they even find a successful match (although I am yet to see this happen personally). 

Once sisters see that this option is not going to work they turn to internet matrimonial sites.  Some of these are, or previously have been useful.  I know a handful of people who have found spouses this way.  I have noticed that when a new site is set up, it starts well with sincere people joining up in the hope of finding someone and some success stories emerging.  Then as time goes by the timer-wasters and cheaters find it and start trying to use it to target vulnerable women (or maybe even men, I don’t know) to string along and try and get cash out of.  I am amazed at how many women I have come across that this has happened to who are in debt because of guys who are long gone.  Before long, the whole of the world’s visa-hunters have joined the site in the hope that they will be able to form enough of a connection with someone to reel them in.  I note there are a few halal/Islamic matrimonial sites that are trying to vet members in an attempt to stop this happening and I sincerely hope that they are successful in their attempts.

If the internet does not yield results and the parents are still in denial about their duties, then sisters are having to look further afield.  There seems to be a profusion of matrimonial events (a bit like speed-dating but with your mum or big sisters tagging along and no touching of any kind).  Sisters are telling me that for every brother there are about ten sisters and it can be quite embarrassing.  More recently these seemed to have evolved so that ratios of men to women are managed and certain audiences are targeted – professionals, over 30’s, divorcees etc.  I haven’t heard many success stories for these either, but it may be that there are some, at least people are trying to offer something to help others.

That leaves lots of sisters in a pretty tough situation – feeling hopeless, suffering from depression, feeling as if they are not good enough.  I know sisters who are miserable every day because they feel life is passing them by.  I know sisters who have gone against their parent’s wishes to marry someone they have chosen and have lost their relationship with their parents forever, I know sisters who have removed their headscarf in a bid to find someone, or even find their selves.  Easy to judge these sisters, but I refuse to because they need our love and support and not our self-righteous finger-pointing.

I know many brothers are suffering too, but their shelf-life seems to be longer, sisters seem to be relegated to the dusty back room of being “too old for a good prospect” so much sooner.  I don’t have as much of an ear to the stories of my brothers as I do to sisters, so I am not best placed to comment on what they are going through.  I meet so many sisters who I know would make amazing wives and sisters.  They would run their homes with grace and bring up wonderful children, but their chance to do so does not seem to be appearing and that makes me so sad for them.

This is the challenge of our in-between generation.  We have to drag our parents forward with us, we have been and must continue to be patient with them and try to help them to understand what we hope for from our married life (no easy task I know).  We need to find new effective and halal avenues for finding spouses which are not humiliating for everyone involved – seems like a tall order right now.

I think firstly we need to start changing our mindsets about spouses, not as someone who will meet the conditions on our checklists and then once we are married serve as the answer to all of our inadequacies and fix and complete us somehow.  Instead we need to look past checklists to genuinely look at the person we are meeting in a balanced and fair way.  We need to be willing to connect with the person for a short while to look into their hearts and see if this is a good person who will treat us well.  No easy task, but we need to learn to use our intuition, to listen to our gut instinct which Allah (SWT) has given women as a powerful sixth sense which we too often ignore and suppress to our detriment.

Secondly sisters need to get out there and grow and make themselves amazing.  Too often we treat marriage as the thing that is going to make our life amazing, fix the gaping hole in us, or take away our anxieties and pain – seriously sister, IT WILL NOT.  If we are troubled, our marriage will be troubled.  If we are sad and hurt, we will bring this to the marriage and our spouse will be expected to fix this – how can he fix what is inside of you?  You will just end up with two sad, disappointed people who are left deeply hurt. 

So I believe sisters need to fix themselves – get the therapy, self-love or healing they need.  Reconcile with their inner child, find their true voices and live authentically and with honesty with their selves.  Then you need to get out into the world and grow – develop social and community networks, serve others and live according to the purpose Allah (SWT) created for you.  It seems to me that when you are desperately searching for a spouse, that there is something about you that puts everyone off.  This means that the harder you try, the harder it gets.  Conversely when you are not looking, but seriously living – people start turning up like moths to a flame and you have to start batting guys off all over the place – after all who doesn’t want an interesting wife who cares for others and brings her whole self to a marriage -  flawed but genuine and open?

For sisters to heal themselves, make themselves whole and healthy in this way and then start living their most amazing lives is a very, very tough thing in a world where for many there are serious restrictions on sisters from their families.  I know I was keen to marry simply because I was not allowed to go anywhere or do anything by my very protective parents and I know my life would not begin until I was married.  But I still think that we can take small steps within our restricted lives and circles each day to grow and come closer to being the amazing people we are meant to be.

Thirdly, those of us who are married and have good networks need to support those who are looking to get married – do we know of people who are looking who might be suitable for each other?  Can we help to connect people or pass on helpful information about people to others?

Most importantly we need to turn to Allah.  So many sisters pray and pray and beg Allah (SWT) for help in this situation.  Sometimes it must feel as if these duas (supplications) are not being answered.  I know there are sisters who I have been praying for in every salah for a long time who are still single.  But we must never, ever give up hope of Allah’s help.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, "The supplication of every one of you will be granted if he does not get impatient and say (for example): `I supplicated my Rabb but my prayer has not been granted'.'' ~ Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

I have found over time that some of my dua’s have taken a long time to be accepted.  I have realised that there is a good reason for this.  It has helped me to grow and it has helped me to truly appreciate something that I am given (I’m thinking about how many years it took to tame my temper as an example, rather than suddenly becoming a calm person overnight). 

I make dua that Allah (SWT) helps all of my brothers and sisters find kind, affectionate and righteous spouses who make them happy in every way.  I also make dua that Allah makes those brothers and sisters complete, whole, happy and righteous, so that they are fit for the spouses they dream of.  May Allah (SWT) make perfect pairs from amongst them and make them the basis of a happy family who benefits everyone and righteous children who bring nothing but good into this world.  I also make dua that Allah (SWT) makes it easy for our confused, bewildered and deeply anxious parents – that he helps them to understand what their children need, to work together with their children and to retain their dignity in the process insh’Allah.

This post is way too long and still does not cover a fraction of what is going on regarding this issue.  If you are still reading I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Or if you found something that worked for you, please share so that others can benefit insh'Allah.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Aaila Magazine: May June 2013 Ramadan Edition

The latest edition of Aaila, the Muslim Family Magazine is out now. This edition is extra special for two reasons:  It focusses on helping us to prepare for Ramadan and it is also the second anniversary issue.

Mash’Allah as always it is packed with great articles, columns and reviews from brothers and sisters.  Here's an extract from my column:

"When my first three children were small, I had no problem with going back to work at the end of my six months leave. I had family (husband, mother, mother-in-law) to help with childcare and I found being at home boring and looking after a house and very small children felt like unpaid, unappreciated drudgery.

I was full of energy and worked flexible hours, so that I would be home by 4pm and spend the rest of the day doing housework and playing with my children. Fast forward many years and with the birth of my precious fourth child, my darling little girl, my feelings have changed."

You can read the column here.

Some of my other articles include:

There are some great contributions this month including:

Muslimah Dilemma: Managing Your Time Productively During Ramadan by Tasnim Nazeer

Mash'Allah, I haven't even started reading all of the above, but just the titles are encouraging me to get in the Ramadan mindset!  There is so much more at the magazine website.  Please do head over and take a look and leave a comment.  The editor Sister Sumaiyah Umm Imran has worked so hard for the last two years with no renumeration and just the dream of benefitting the ummah mash'Allah and this last issue was a particularly big challenge to get out.

Please do also visit the Aaila Facebook page and like the magazine an leave a comment.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Eye Candy from Little Wing Gallery

Mash'Allah was browsing through Etsy and came across some serious eye candy by a company called Little Wings Gallery:

I love how the creator has really played with fonts, calligraphy and colour.

Mash'Allah, I think these would make lovely gifts.  If you are interested the shop is here and their Facebook page which also has lots of additional ideas, is here.  $2 from every sale goes to a Muslim Aid programme for orphaned children.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Be Kind

I have been at work for a week now and have really been enjoying it.  It’s nice seeing some of my colleagues; I find I look after myself a little better (I actually end up putting some face cream on as part of the morning routine) and the work is proving fascinating.

I have been trying to take care of myself by having a short half hour nap after work with the baby and eating healthily, despite this I am finding myself getting increasingly fatigued.  Last night I felt very down, I barely had the energy to pray and found myself snapping at the children.  I spent all evening trying to find some time to do my weekly Arabic homework and managed to do part of it in fits and starts.  The evening seems to disappear in between prayers, meals, feeding the baby and trying to get the house in some kind of order.

I think part of the problem is because I am still breastfeeding and my Doctor suggested I am low in vitamin D and iron.  I am due my vitamin D shot next week and hope this gives me a boost.  At the same time I am still overweight following my pregnancy.  Initially I tried to lose weight a few months ago when the baby was five months.  I had painful knees and thought it was because of the excess weight, I refused to go to the doctor because I thought he would just tell me to lose weight as that was causing the pain.  I tried to eat a little less and found myself feeling weak and dozy.  I tried to push myself and power-walk and found my joints getting really painful.  I felt in a catch-22 of extra weight causing pain and dieting causing exhaustion, meaning I couldn’t lose the weight that I thought was causing the problem.  In the end I went to the doctor at my wits end as I felt I could not do anything more.  He took one look and gave me the vitamin D/iron diagnosis.  I felt a bit silly then.

I realised I should have been a little kinder to myself, listened to my body and I should have gone to the Doctor in the first place.

After my visit to the Doctor, I had time to reflect on how I had been treating myself.  I had been telling myself I was too greedy and too slow and just needed to work harder to lose weight.  This was unusual for me as I have always had a fairly positive body image, perhaps because I have never been particularly overweight. I think this was also because I have never judged myself in terms of my looks but in terms of my personality and my achievements (you have to when you look like the geekiest kid at school!).

I decided to turn my internal dialogue on its head.  I realised after four children, all breastfed, sixteen years of working full time and ten years of sleeping about six hours a night, I had the body I deserve and I had earned the right to be happy in the body I had ended up with.  With four children, I also need a lap big enough to fit them all in.  Once I had taken this kinder approach to myself, I felt more comfortable in my body and more ready to eat healthily.

So last night after feeling so exhausted and complaining to poor hubby that my mind is keen to keep going, but my body is refusing to drag along after it, I fell asleep thinking I needed a few slow days. 

So today, I will take a slightly longer lunch at work, I will take fruit and nuts in to snack on.  I will have an hours nap when I get home and I will spend some time playing with my children.  In between, I will try my best to spend half an hour trying to finish my Arabic homework, which is truly becoming a labour of love.

What will you do to be kind to yourself today?  What negative thoughts do you hold about yourself that are unfair and would be more beneficial for you to let go of?  How do you recover when it all feels a little too much?  Please do share insh’Allah.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Remembering the Bigger Picture

Sometimes we are so caught up in the minutiae of life that we lose sight of the important things.  Sometimes we make the little things the most important things in our life.  I think that's just human nature: not seeing the woods for the trees.

I was rushing through my housekeeping and duties today: breakfast, shopping, planning lunch, dinner and packed lunch for the next day, giving the kids their bath in the morning, because the prayers in the evening mean I have a little less time for their bedtime routine for a few weeks at this time of year.  I was worrying about how I would get the hovering done, mop the downstairs and clean the bath and still have time to catch up on my Arabic as I missed a lesson due to guests.  In fact all I wanted to do was create some tasbeehs and bracelets and work on the childrens journal I am trying to create.

Mid-morning I got a call from Pakistan.  My mum’s first cousin had passed away.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un
Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return

My mum and dad had been quite close to him and my in-laws were good friends with him also.  I remember him as a jovial man full of laughter, fun and life.  A history professor, his wife was a teacher and he leaves behind six daughters.

That was the end of hoovering and mopping.  It suddenly didn’t matter at all anymore.

We all piled into the car, dropped the kids off at my mum’s and then went to see his sister who is flying out to Pakistan today, utterly bereft.  He was a good man.  He prayed, he took care of his elderly, widowed father, he made the effort to maintain kinship ties and he raised six daughters and educated them as far as he could.

Anas may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "He who raises two daughters until their puberty will be with me in Paradise like this", and he symbolized the proximity by showing two of his fingers with a slight gap between them." (Muslim)

The beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged his companions to remember death often.  Perhaps if we remembered death more often, the small things in life would lose their hold over us and we would be more mindful of the time we have in this life.

The thought of us being washed and wrapped in two sheets of white cloth.  Lowered into the ground and clods of dirt being thrown onto us until we are covered.  Then being alone under the ground with nothing but our deeds to accompany us and earn us peace or torment.

When we think like this what comes to mind?  How we treat others, whether we fulfil their rights, what deeds we are sending ahead of us and what acts of ongoing benefit (sadaqah jariyah) like building a well or a school we have undertaken.  It certainly makes me think of what my legacy will be: my children, the way I have treated my family, the things I need to do to serve this ummah insh’Allah.

There is a hadith that always stays with me:

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The lifespan of my Ummah is from sixty to seventy (years).” (Tirmidhi – 4:2331)

I’m thirty-three.  That makes me middle-aged.  Many people my age think they are too young to marry or settle down.  Maybe they think that they are guaranteed a hundred years of life, when in reality no-one is guaranteed the next minute from now.

May Allah SWT make the next journey of my uncle easy and comfortable, make his grave a place of light and peace and make his reckoning easy.  May Allah (SWT) bestow upon him Jannatul-Firdaws insh’Allah and give his family sabr (patience).  I also make dua that Allah (SWT) gives us the opportunity to make the most of the short time we have in this world and make ample preparations for the next one insh’Allah.

Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (raḥimahullāh) once stopped at the side of a grave with his companions and said, “If this person in the grave was able to come back to this world, what do you reckon he’d focus on doing?”
“He’d make plenty istighfār (repentance) surely, and pray more and increase in all possible good deeds!” they replied.

Al-Ḥasan said, “Well he’s missed out on his chance to do that. So don’t *you* miss out on your chance right now.” (source)

Visit to Hainault Forest

Last week we decided to take the kids to Hainault Forest as it is not too far but I hadn't been since I was a child.  

We took a picnic and invited extended family for company.  Of course the first thing we did was eat as we got there after midday prayers and everyone was starving.  Mum  brought along most of the food below, although I made the sandwiches.

Hainault Forest has open fields, forest, a boating lake and a free to visit farm, so there was plenty to do.  After lunch we decided to play rounders.  All of the adults joined in and we had sooo much fun.  I can't believe I hit the ball, although hubby caught it straight away as he was on the other team and had me out.

The fields were full of buttercups and usually it is blackberry season around now, but the plants edging the fieldswere still empty due to the late spring.

The kids threw a strop after about an hour of us playing rounders as they didn't want to play.  I think the idea of their parents having do much fun was annoying them.

We headed to the play area for a bit until they were happier, before going to visit the farm.

I can't believe how big Gorgeous looks here.  He's only six but he's as tall as his eight year old brother mash'Allah.

Although the dirty knees are a good reminder of his age.

The zoo/farm was not very big but e really enjoyed wandering around.  You are allowed to pet some of the animals and there is quite a variety.


I thought these colourful parrots (or cockatiels?) were ever so beautiful.

I really enjoyed the afternoon we spent at Hainault Forest.  I didn't get to visit the forest or lake, so insh'Allah we will be going back soon for another outing.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Back at Work (Take Four)

After months of pretending its not going to happen and weeks of trepidation, this week I am back at work as my maternity leave ends.  I managed to take longer than for my other children and I have mum-in-law staying to help with the school run and to take care of Darling.  My dad-in-law is also coming from Pakistan this week, so I will have additional help with the children insh’Allah.

I visited work with the baby last week to help prepare for my return and I found myself feeling very anxious and out of place when I turned up.  Saying hello to colleagues and meeting with my manager helped so that when I turned up on Monday to decide who’s desk I was going to take (we hot desk and as an early bird, I always get first choice of seat) I felt a lot calmer.

Still, I am struggling a little.  After being at home for months, I find it hard to sit still for long periods or to stare at the computer screen for long.  My manager has yet to allocate any work to me, so I still feel a little like a spare part despite clearing the almost eight hundred e-mails in my inbox and setting up all of my systems in the first few hours and catching up with what has been happening over the last eight months on the first day.

I have also returned to find that much of the most interesting part of my work (programme and project management) seems to have been dropped and the part I cannot bear (performance management and running surveys for research) increased.  If this remains the case, each day is likely to be full of me clock-watching and waiting to rush out of the door at four in the afternoon.  I do not believe in doing things by halves, I always want to do a good job and I believe in earning my wages fairly by doing the best job I can.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I know there are so many people struggling to find work, especially in today’s economic climate and this is a good job where I am treated reasonably (apart from the restructure and threat of redundancy that seems to appear again every two years).  At the same time I cannot feel passionate about performance reports and excel spreadsheets.  Life seems so short and I have so many dreams, so many ideas and such a yearning to spend every waking minute working towards those dreams.  Alhamdulillah I am being paid whilst I dream and plan and find ways to make things happen.  At the same time, that stretch from seven to four looks like it may become unbearable and I do not want to end up in a position where the highlight of every day is lunch.

Insh’Allah, I intend to do the best I can with my job.  I hope to bring creativity and passion to whatever element of it that I can use to interest and motivate myself.  I believe that when you have good intentions and at least make the effort, Allah (SWT) blesses that effort and brings good things from it.

Update:  I wrote the above yesterday, today I was finally allocated my workload and it turned out to be virtually no performance reporting and mainly two or three interesting, meaty projects (our organisation's asset management, tackling worklessness and assessing leisure provision in the borough) which I am looking forward to working on.  Alhamdulillah, that's a relief.

Friday 7 June 2013

Feroza Launch!

I and my three sisters are launching our new online shop Feroza today.  We will be selling handmade and kundan style  jewellery, scarves, hijab pins, accessories, handmade cards and tasbeeh.

We have been working away for the last few weeks hunting for lovely things for our shop, taking pictures, designing logos and advertising, working on the shop website and social media channels and setting up the logistics for the business (lots of work I can tell you!)

So today is the fun part:  launch time!!
You can visit our shop here: http://feroza.myshopify.com/and take a look at the collections.  We will be adding new items every few days, so please do keep stopping by.

As we are a new business, your feedback and thoughts would be essential for us.  Please do let us know what you think and if there are items that you would love to see in the shop.

Please do also like us on our Facebook page as we will be updating it with new products and news, you can also follow us on Twitter or join us on Pinterest if our shop takes takes your fancy and we’d love for you to tell others about us too.

 All that leaves is for us to throw a launch party (any excuse!).

Please make dua for our new venture insh’Allah and do let us know what you think.

Our Garden for 2013

Every year we go through the same  routine with our garden.  I ask hubby to get rid of the spare timber, paint pots and metal, he doesn't get time.  I get rid of what I can manage and work round the rest.  Through the year various junk gets dumped in the garden again and it starts to look even messier.

Well happily, this year, hubby finally got round to clearing the garden.  This pictures below show just a part of the stuff, we managed to fill a people carrier to take to the dump.

He kindly dug up the beds for me and turned over the soil making it soft and easy for me to work with.

After months of neglect, what followed was a a few days of work.  The day hubby cleared the garden, I was thinking how nice it would be to have a lawn instead of tiles.  I didn't mention it but the next day he turned up with a big role of fake grass.  Looks funny in the middle like that, but its kind of nice next to the bench and the kids like it.

The first thing I did to motivate myself was to plant flowers.  These are visible from our living room door, so are a nice sight first thing in the morning or for guests.

I cleared the strawberry plants this year to make room for other plants, but we couldn't have the garden without any strawberries at all, so have stuck to this little hanging planter which is filling up with red strawberries already.

The bean plant that Gorgeous brought home from school.  He gets so happy when he sees his plant growing.

I left one small bed just for spinach.  We'll be using these for pakora's in Ramadan insh'Allah.

Tomatoes and aubergine plants.

I've also planted lots of potatoes, onions and at the children's request peas.  Mash'Allah, these are coming up nicely now.

These are the first fruits on Little Man's little apple tree.  He checks it every day and gets so cross with the ants that climb over it.  He's convinced their after his fruit!

I pulled all of the mint out of the pots and restricted it to two pots as it spreads so fast and can take over the beds.  Insh'Allah hope to use this for mint sauce to go with the pakora's.

In the tall planters which hubby bought home last year I have planted blackcurrant, red currant and tayberry plants. The first two are doing well, the tayberry has yet to show any greenery, but they taste so good (they look like long raspberries), so I am hoping it will come to life. Restricting them to the planters also means they wont spread all over the place in my little garden.

Alhamdullilah, it's so pleasant to have a bit of space to enjoy outside.  I've now handed it over to the kids who play in it every day outside with the neighbours children, water my plants, keep it tidy, have picnics and have their clubs out there.  Yesterday they raided the kitchen and threw their grandmother a party outside much to her amusement.  Insh'Allah, next step is to get the barbecue stand out.