Tuesday, 29 December 2020

End of Year Reflection and Goal Setting 2020-2021

I usually spend some time at the end of the year undertaking some kind of planning process. Some years this has been about setting a few clear goals, other years this has involved a detailed process of planning goals and actions for thee coming year. This year I decided to take it slowly and allocate one week to reflecting back on the year and one week to do some planning for the year ahead.

 

I have found that there is real power in taking time to think about worked and didn’t work and then articulating what it is you want going forward. I have often looked back at previous years plans and been surprised at the things that have been achieved even when they felt unrealistic or out of reach.

 

Over the years one of the things that as shifted in my planning process is that I have dropped many things that I think I should achieve and become more honest with myself about the things that I genuinely want - a more heart-centred approach that has me feeling more inspired and motivated.

 

This year, although I gave myself two weeks, in reality it was a few hours dotted here and there over the fortnight. For me the magic happens in the late hours at the end of the day. Once the kids are in bed and I have had a chance to rest and clear my head a little, I can start to think about things sensibly, or maybe daydream a little. For others the best time will be first thing in the morning before the day gets busy.

 

I break the process down into some key areas of my life to provide focus:

Faith

Family and relationships (including parenting and marriage)

Health

Self-development

Home

Career/Business/Work

Money/Finance

Community

Travel, Fun and Creative

 

These are the categories that make sense for me, but you may wish to include others or have a smaller number. For instance "home" may not be something included in the past, but with lockdowns and working from home, the way we feel about the spaces we live in and how they support us to function may be much more at the front of our minds in the coming year.

 

For each area I spent a little time thinking about what went well, what didn’t in the last year. I used my mini journal (about A6) and gave each theme a page each. This was enough to get some thoughts down and didn’t feel too daunting or like too much work, but in hindsight, it is worth spending more time and giving this process more space to really get to the heart of where you feel you are with each area. This gives you a really good understanding of the situation and creates a better foundation for deciding what you want to do next.



 

Once I had finished with looking back at 2020, I set aside a page for each theme going forward, using the following format:

The Big Goal - your priority for this area in the coming year, this should be what really matters and what you want the most.

Example: Faith - improve concentration and devotion in Sabah (prayer)

Habits - list the daily habits in this area, especially the ones that will help you achieve your goal.

Example: Faith - pray on time, make effort to pray your nawafil (non obligatory) prayers.

Goals - list your other goals for this area that you would like to work towards

Example: Faith - undertake Umrah (pilgrimage) this year, learn Quran in Arabic)

Long Term - Outline here briefly what the big picture is, where you want to be in 20 years, by the end of your life, or in the next life. This will help you make sure your goals are always aligned with your long term vision.

Example: Faith - Jannah, good death, closeness to Allah (SWT).



 

I’ve worked through this process and come to the end feeling inspired and motivated. I liked the simplicity of one main goal, giving you a sense of focus - the rest are a bonus. I like also that you can defer or let go of some things and clear your head of them. I have often felt down or aimless in the last year. Sometimes being busy doing stuff is not the same as being focussed and doing the right stuff. I intend to work less hours and less intensely this year

to bring some balance back into my life and hopefully having one goal or area for improvement for each area of my life will help me with this.

 

One of the things I have committed to is to write in my mini journal every day, whether a chance to create some mixed media art, reflect on my day and capture learning or record something I find inspiring. This means I will have to hand the goal pages and I can look back every day and ask myself if I am working towards the right things in the right balance insh’Allah.

 

Do you have a process to reflect on your year? Do you set goals, what do you find helps you to internalise and achieve your goals?

Sunday, 27 December 2020

Live Online Shopping

I had fun today online shopping, but not how you think. My husband is in Pakistan at the moment spending time with his parents and is due to fly back next week. I spent the whole day with hubby sending me pictures of clothes from different shopping centres in Lahore and asking me if I like anything.


The whole clan have insisted on accompanying him, so with elderly dad, mum in wheelchair and various siblings and kids in tow he has been traipsing around the shops looking for cloths for the girls and me. I am not sure if he just has really bad taste or can’t find the shops with the good stuff or I am too fussy, but I haven’t liked almost anything he has sent me:




So, so far, my response to each pic has been:

No

Not really

Not keen

A bit bright

A bit short

No


In the end he video called and walked around shopping mall showing me stuff and I found a simple maxi dress I liked.

I enjoyed seeing the kids getting in the way, shopkeepers pulling things out, my brother-in-law giving advice and the general chaos.


Made me think of two things:

Shopping is wasted on him

I really want to go to Pakistan myself.

Who knows, maybe next year if the world is a little less crazy and it feels safe insh’Allah


Wednesday, 23 December 2020

2020 Stories: Corona, Tier 4, Exhaustion and Gratitude

Assalam-alaikam to anyone reading this and especially to those who make an effort to stop by and read despite my inconsistency in writing.

I have taken two weeks off work and a quarter of the way in, my head has cleared enough that I am motivated to write again.

It’s a curious time with Tier 4 Lockdown, winter solstices and the “Great' Conjunction” of the planets. I am off work; the kids are home from school and hubby is on his travels in Pakistan.


I hope sisters and brothers reading this are keeping well and are not suffering too much from the physical or mental effects of corona virus or a year of lockdowns and isolation insh’Allah.


It has been a curious time for the children, my oldest two have A ‘levels and GCSE’s in the coming year and so have been studying without knowing if they will have exams.  My younger son has missed a lot of school between lockdown and bouts of an ear inflammation that made him too dizzy and nauseous to go school.  Thankfully after multiple doctor’s consultations and finally a trip to emergency, he is now well and managed to get back to school before the holidays started.  I can tell he is well because he is back to annoying his little sisters until they scream and teasing me non-stop. The youngest two have been playing catch up at school, with their teachers making sure they know how to use google classroom in case schools can’t open in January.


All of them have been inundated with homework and tests, but alhamdulillah have just got on with it. I have tried to focus on how they are getting on emotionally as much as on their studies and just make sure they have what they need. My work has really made me realise how many children are going to fall so far behind that they won’t be able to catch up. For reasons as varied as not having devices, or enough data, having to help with taking care of siblings when they are home, parents that don’t understand how to get their children online, or just the stress of households that have lost income or are dealing with sickness, mental health issues or domestic violence. I noticed when Darling’s class had to go online for the first time, only 6 children showed up (one spent the entire time shouting “I CAN’T HEAR YOU” and had to be put on mute by the teacher). Lots of the children in her school are from newly immigrated families, I suspect a good number from families that don’t have a right to stay in the UK yet or much income to provide a phone or tablet for the children to use.


Hubby left for Pakistan in early November, he worked throughout the pandemic but by that point in the year I could see how down he was and how much he needed some time to focus on his faith. He travels for dawah for six weeks every year, this year there are no dawah groups (or jamaats), so he stayed in one part of Pakistan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. He has finished his six weeks stay and is spending a few days with his parents before he flies back (if flights are still running…). We have the annual list of things we have broken ready for him ๐Ÿ˜Š


Mum and dad-in-law didn’t come to stay this year due to the Covid situation being worse here than in Pakistan. That was until things got really bad there too, but by then the flights were grounded.  We will have to see about next year, it is always good to have them, but it was also a break for me from caring duties and the constant squabbling between my opinionated oldest child and her equally opinionated grandmother.


Work has been a non-stop fiesta of long hours, new projects, intense learning and often just sensory overload. It has left me fit for nothing for months but evenings of binge-watching rubbish or scrolling through social media. All of my focus, creativity and mental space has been used up working on projects as varied as youth participation, community engagement, sourcing translations for covid information, looking at how we support people with no status to be here (no recourse to public funds) during the pandemic, improving access for people with disabilities, work around racism and women’s experiences – you get the picture…lots of things to fill my brain.


I kept going full speed with work, home and the kids until about autumn and then started to lose sight of why I was bothering to do any of it. I found myself waking up every day sad and then spending the day sad and then starting to feel ok by about the time I got to bed. This went on for weeks and weeks of me feeling miserable and telling myself I have everything to be grateful for, to be positive, to pull myself out of it.  In the end, it took to the end of November and lots of prayer and being still and allowing myself to feel the misery, for me to find my mojo again. I slowly found my heart lifting and seeing the good in the day again alhamdulillah.

 

At the moment I am taking it easy, going through my to-do list of things I have been putting off (what I call “life admin”) and organising the corners of the house where bits and pieces have been accumulating. I am cooking whatever the kids want, having way too many movie nights with the youngest two and have started journaling after a very long time. I intend to spend these two weeks running in the morning, going for walks, filling out my Filofax like a geek, journaling and reading. More importantly, I want to spend the next two weeks reflecting on the lessons from 2020 and dreaming up my plans and intentions (Allah SWT willing) for 2021 insh’Allah.


How has the last year been for you? What has helped you cope? Do you have an intentional end of year process?


Thursday, 6 August 2020

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

I received two interesting comments yesterday that made me think.

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


Getting Organised: Our Mini Pantry

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


He finally got round to tackling his project.


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




I found a little friend to help me…



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


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



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



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




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





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Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Handmade Girls Bracelets

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



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






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



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


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

Frugal Muslimah: Boot Fair Bargains July 2020

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


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





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



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



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



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



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



This was my fave bargain: a rope of glass crystal with a sparkly, rainbow AB (Aurora Borealis) finish for 50p. I have a project in mind for these (see next post ๐Ÿ˜Š)



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


Days Out: Weald Country Park

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

 

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



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











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



For once I didn’t make lots of food for a picnic, just some sandwiches and whatever was in the cupboard. I think we might be having simpler picnics more often ๐Ÿ˜Š



These conkers were everywhere.





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



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



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






Our green treasure back home in our nature basket.



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


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


Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Eid ul Adha 2020:1441 - Eid Mubarak

A belated Eid Mubarak everyone.

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

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

Ours was simple and quiet.

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

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

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











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


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


Eid ul Adha 2020:1441 - Eid Decorations

This year our Eid decorations were quick and simple.

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

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






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



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









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

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Quarantine Diaries: Working from Home Headaches

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Back to back meetings

E-mails piling up

Work and tasks growing in the background         

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

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


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

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

The girls got into a fight upstairs and I could hear them screaming upstairs, hubby was making phone calls in the hallways just outside at the top of his lungs and the boys were asking me what was for lunch. Thank God for the mute button and the blurry background effect on MS Teams (where we host our online meetings), I don’t think my offices management team needed to see my husband roaming around in his vest first thing in the morning ๐Ÿ˜Š

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

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

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


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


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


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


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



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


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