Month: April 2014

Knocking the Door to Paradise

While every mosque in Malaysia would definitely has its schedule of weekly religious classes, studying different topics/books on different days, I sadly could not commit. At this stage, what I knew I need is more than just 'tazkirah', but in-depth studying of a topic. Inflexibility in the schedule is really a problem now that I am a mother (never mind how lame this excuse is), so I know, I need to find alternative for structured study sessions if I really want to widen and deepen my knowledge.  I found that Seekers Guidance provide good courses for free (students are welcomed to give donations), and I enrolled for one course before and found it really beneficial. I have enrolled for one more which will begin in January and hopefully many more to come - and I am sure that Resolution #5 will support this one - early morning should be a great time to study.  I also included in this resolution, attending live classes, perhaps attending courses organised by al Kauthar at least twice a year. I love their courses because they are structured excellently and only last for one full weekend.

It is one of my goals this year to participate in at least six structured Islamic courses. Ambitious as I am, I signed up for two Seekers Guidance courses. One of them is on parenting, and another one the very much needed spirituality lessons – Purification of the Heart.

I tried to discipline myself into spending an hour a week for this – but it doesn’t work. Until last week, when I felt so low I know I must start being serious about this – cleansing my heart from all the filth it has collected along the way.

For the time being, I am trying to focus on one course first – the  Purification of the Heart & Praiseworthy Character (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion). It has 12 lessons, and I am currently on the second one. Yes, pretty slow, but I am trying to digest and discuss with my husband as much as I can about what I learnt.

And the first lesson, on the first blameworthy trait, the first disease of the heart I need to purify is Gluttony.

Excessive food consumption.

Let me tell you how this lesson has affected me, one who is definitely guilty of this.

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Even after listening the first part of the lesson, I was struck.

Being a mother, and consequently reading about hundreds and hundreds of articles advocating for natural, organic, and healthy foods, I am aware that I need to provide myself and my family we fresh food, not processed food. As natural as I could, perhaps organic if I am able to find them. Three proper meals a day, with healthy snacking in between. Loads of water. Need to have healthy portions of carbohydrates, protein, fruits and veggies.

I understand those, and tried to practise whenever I can. And being a woman, I take pride on preparing home-cooked meals, maybe elaborated traditional Malay delicacies at times.

Even with all that, I know I am on the wrong path. My ‘worldview’ on food has been skewed bits by bits without me knowing.

Eat to Live, not Live to Eat

I have heard of this mantra and tried to live according to it for a while. Being married to a simple man enforces that too, but now I am beginning to think that my ‘I am worth it’, ‘Food are little pleasures God created for us to enjoy once in a while’  excuses might have corrupted him in that sense.

For  a start, though we are not frequent visitors of high-end restaurants I do think that a once in a while indulgence is nearly a must. Most of the times my husband does not agree with this notion but he follows anyway…

It could also be a peer-pressure thing, but I take pride on preparing complete, proper meals for my family. By complete, it means the standard Malaysian staple – rice, one protein/seafood-based dish and one vegetable-based dish. Even this is simple according to my parents’ standard (who will have TWO protein/seafood-based dishes in one seating). Probably it is how I have been brought up too. My husband told me the reason he could not help but feeling sleepy all the time whenever we visit and stay with my parents is that he would be  ‘forced’ to eat like six heavy meals per day! I know that is how my parents show their love, but, pheww.. six meals could be too much.

Even with that relatively simple meals I prepare (not everyday though) for my husband, he still thinks it is too much, and that it could be much simpler, or of a smaller portions (because he tends to finish whatever that’s left).

Then I realised that:

1. I am sticking to a standard which comes from nowhere that it is better to have more food than not enough food. My husband thinks otherwise. He can make do with whatever that he has.

2. I hold on to a belief that a good housewife should be able to prepare a complete meal, tasty and elaborate at that too. My husband wants it simple.

3. I should not watch Masterchef. Or Asian Food Channel for that matter. It just turns the thing of ‘Eat to Live’ upside down. Look at how they describe food. Look how crazy we are about food, that there are numerous TV channels dedicated to this sport – eating.

And all of these are a stark contrast to what the Prophet and his beloved, rightly-guided Companions practised:

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said to A’isha (his wife): “Be persistent in the knocking of the door to Paradise for it to be opened for you.” She asked, “How do we persist?” He replied, “Through doing without food and water.”

Also,

“The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few morsels to keep him alive. If he must fill it, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink, and one-third for air.”

Fasting

I am always very bad at avoiding food. The one-month Ramadhan fasting is not hard, but the non-compulsory fasting on other months is difficult for me. Muslims are encouraged to fast every Monday and Thursday, and on 13th, 14th and 15th of each lunar month.  It means that for instance, in the month of April 2014, I will fast for 10 days if I were to follow the recommendations.

I always come up with reasons not to do the voluntary fasting – oh, we are having a meeting today and they serve good food, I am on an out-of-office assignment today it’s going to be tiring driving I need to drink – and the list of excuses goes on.

I know this must stop. I don’t need as much food as I thought, maybe I have been brainwashed into thinking that, for instance I need to eat three times a day (well, the Prophet and his companions lived and fought well in rigorous physical battles without eating that frequent). I don’t need that much, and I should teach

And fasting has a lot of benefits. For my body physically, and my soul.

And so I am fasting today – in the hope to grab all the benefits it offers. The best kind of fast is the Fast of Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him) – who fasted alternate days. I am not sure how long it would take before I could make such practice a habit, but that should be my aim, no?

The Myth of Food Pyramid?

The shaykh in the lecture I listened to touch about this topic albeit briefly, but it made me think.

He mentioned about a tribe of people If the food pyramid that I have come to know for so long is correct, and the healthiest, is not God being unjust to those who live in isolated areas, where certain types of food are not available, but ‘necessary’ to their health?

“Till today, some of the most healthiest (sic) people on this earth which are coming from  highlander Chinese nearby Mongolia,their  entire diet is actually based on goat, sheep meat and their fats. That’s it. Once in a while (in a couple of years) only can they have access to bread, because  but they are among healthiest of people.”

I guess how much you eat (excessively or not) is more important that what you eat? I have read articles claiming that these food pyramids are influenced by business. From where I work i.e. in food and agriculture industry, I know this is a possibility I can’t just dismiss.

Science is science. It is evidence-backed, but it is never absolute. Experiments have limitations.

Getting Old, Getting Slow

Alhamdulillah, I have always known that I am blessed to never been classified as fat even when I was younger. I know my tummy is not flat, but I have never been insecure about my body.

But pregnancy did change me. Everything stats go haywire after that – my normal blood pressure becomes consistently lower now, I suffered from iron-deficiency (hence the hair loss), my teeth are not healthiest anymore, I get tired faster, and worst of all, I have just realised that my metabolic rate has slowed down that now I am the heaviest I could be in my whole life – I am as heavy as when I was 5 months pregnant!

It was indeed a wake-up call. I want to be healthy. I have a lot I want to do and contribute, and a healthy body is a prerequisite.

And yes, all sickness comes from what you eat. I have been in such a comfort zone that I basically just eat. Everything.

Acting upon What I Have Learned

The topic has changed me, almost immediately. Unfortunately, I was in Krabi a few days after I started practising whatever I have learnt, and it was challenging. Half of vacation is about food, aren’t we told so? After a week, I went back to the old habit – but these days I miss the sweetness of not being burdened by hunger a lot I am really going to attempt that again.

The truth was hunger doesn’t control me during those times, and I love that. I got comfortable with the level of ‘hunger’ cum ‘not fullness’ – the feeling of lightness, you know, not the kind of sluggish we feel after we eat a huge meal.

And being the lady of the house means I am on the driving seat when it comes to what to feed the family. Junk food is rarely available in my house, I only bake once in a blue moon, and my husband prefers steamed food or soup, even my son has the same taste (he loves soup) – so really, it comes down to my own effort to slow down on fried or fatty food (which is difficult because Malay food are basically fried, or contain coconut milk!). I have put some limits on processed food allowed in my house, but sometimes these junks still find a space in my freezers, or on days I am so hungry I can’t cook, we just had to resort to KFC.

The only solution is really, to prepare homemade food. If I keep telling myself that: There is no need to have rice every evening, or to cook elaborate dishes, or that my husband is not fussy about whatever he eats, or that I am not guilty for not having ‘proper’ dinners for my son as someone else would,  I may be able to cook more often.

It all comes down to me.

*sigh*

Well, who says knocking the door to Paradise is that easy?

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Best Thing I Have Heard Yesterday

 

We were about to reach home after a 6-hour journey from my parents’ place when Isa started to chant non-stop ‘Yeay yeay alik umah Isa’ which basically means ‘Yeay yeay I am going home’. He even refused to stop by a restaurant for dinner.

I could not help but beaming.

That was indeed one of the best compliments I have received.

It tells me that I have successfully made our house a home, and my son loves it.

Turning 29

A few weeks ago I turned 29. I have a good relook at my life, and turning 30 may not be as scary as it sounds.

But 29 is a prime age. As my best friend and I always say: when we were younger we always thought that 29-year-olds are..guess what, old. And mature. But look at where we are now.

It is funny.

My boss, who is a favourite of mine, of all bosses I have worked with has tendered his resignation. He is looking to migrate for some personal reasons. He said that he is soon turning 40, and if he needs to move to other jobs (which entails lower position and hence salary) he might as well do it now.

It struck me hard, more than I thought it would, the things he said the day he announced to me that he’s leaving.

I am turning 30 in less than a year, and if I were to reinvent myself I need to do it now.

Yes, I have a fulfilling job. It is still a dream job. I have all the recognition I need and the only thing left to do if I am really into winning this section of my life is to push myself a bit harder.

But whether I have excelled at least at the same level as my career in my other roles, I have doubt.

My role as a wife.

My role as a mother.

Most of the time I feel that my work and career has consumed much of my energy, and for the other roles there are only left-overs.

That is not right. I am never, never at peace with that fact –  I am disturbed by my incapacity, which is ultimately of my own choice.

This is not me trying to ‘have it all’ as they said. This is me worrying that I could not really give a satisfying answer to  God on the Day of Judgment.

If I were to reinvent myself, I need to do it now.

Now.

I am 90% firm on this life-changing event I am planning, God willing.

May He guide us to the right path, the path of those women who have attained His blessings and mercy and have been given a place in His Paradise.

 

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Three

My husband is an unromantic person. Here’s a proof.

We were in our car when I heard the news of a man who takes up diving in the effort to find his wife’s body, three years after she went missing during tsunami.

In the attempt to replicate a typical scene of a jealous wife baiting for romantic gestures from the husband, I started the conversation below:

Me: I’m pretty sure if that was you, you’d probably marry someone else three days after I die, not even waiting for three years.

Him: You are wrong. I’m gonna marry someone else three hours before you die.

That’s my husband!

And yes, I still love him.

Reading List Update

While I truly wish I could spend time jotting notes on points and lessons learnt from the books I read, I still fail to do so. But just so you know I am not behind in this thing, I am putting here my reading list (Err, what am I trying to prove, actually? :P)

1. Al Muhaddithat

2. Sustainability is for Everyone

3. Thinking in System: a Primer

4. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (Reread)

5. The World We Made

6. The Concept of Education in Islam

7. You are Your Child First Teacher

I am reading #6 and #7 while commuting to work and in discussion with my husband.

#3 is a recommendation from #2.

#4 is a favourite, I have been reading it at least twice before that thick book and picked it up again as a light reading during my medical leaves.

#5 is the latest book from my favourite sustainability icon with whom I am working pretty closely now. I even have the autographed copy of the book, specifically signed by the author for me!

Happy reading y’all!

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This entry is part of my ‘Read-a-Book-a-Month’ attempt.

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In His Bedroom

So we are almost there. My husband and I made it a goal to actually move Isa to his own bedroom by his second birthday (which is a month plus away). While that sounds like a simple task, it involved rearranging for storage of the then guest room into a toddler’s bedroom. The pre-requisites include reorganising our humble storeroom (a 3′ x 4′ at most) and making sure the study room will be a comfortable to be used as  a guest room as well.

If it comes to me, the idea of persuading a toddler who’d love to hang around his parents all the time to sleep in his own room involves making sure that he feels some sense of belonging to the room. That’s why I insisted on making sure that we have a proper wardrobe for Isa in that room and  move some of his favourite things into that room.

Last evening, we almost get it done. His wardrobe is up. The room is nearly cleared for unrelated items due to the re-organising activities.

And suddenly while I was giving my finishing touch of organising his clothes into the new wardrobe, without me inviting him, Isa started saying that he’d like to lie down on his bed and have milk.

That is an excellent cue, I thought and rushed to prepare his bottle.

His dad lied beside him, and I continued to pat his bottom. In no time he was asleep.

All praise be to God who made it easy!

I set the alarm at two in the morning to make sure I’d change his nappy (he is a heavy drinker at night I am yet to tackle this problem) to make sure that he doesn’t leak, and his dad woke up early this morning at 5.30 AM and checked on him.

He leaked, unfortunately, when he went to check, so tomorrow I’ll make sure I make another trip to his bedroom at 5 AM.

Overall he’s happy when he woke up this morning. And mommy too!

p.s. I am fighting the temptation to decorate his bedroom to my liking (with half of the ideas may not even be useful to Isa), but I have to stop at the basics. A few other things pending:

  • New pillowcases – to sew. Bought a few yards of pretty fabrics online, will have to make time for this project.
  • Install the self adhesive whiteboard – bought two rolls of 2 m long each on Groupon, yet to receive the items. Isa loves drawing on whiteboards in my office, thought he’d like this.
  • Get a set of colourful whiteboard marker

Useless things that need further review before executing:

  • New curtains … with children motives
  • Wall decals, maybe.

 

IKEA : A Love-Hate Relationship

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I had just spent a few grands at IKEA when I realised that my house is fast becoming a part of IKEA showroom. I detest that fact, but when I looked back, I truly have no options. So Isa’s room will have a STUVA storage and the guest room cum study room has a Lycksele sofa bed.

First let me admit, IKEA does produce good-looking furniture.

However,price-wise and quality-wise, their furniture are not any better than the local furniture outlets. I do not have much time to customise IKEA products that I bought (though I love browsing through the hacks people do on their store-bought IKEA items!), but time-constraint and skill-constraint as I am, my house is soon to be just like everyone else’s.

The only advantage IKEA offers, that makes me return to them more often that I’d like to is the fact that I will have all the details I need on the product I am considering to buy beforehand. I can take as much time as I need to deliberate whether to buy or not (most often by checking the reviews from other customers), whether it will fit or not, just by looking at their catalogue – online and offline.

I love window shopping – but these days it is a luxury I could not afford. Oh, how I would love to browse through the furniture stores lining beside the road leading to my house – there are a lot of them really. Last time we had our sofa custom-made according to my design – an offer I can’t say no to, because they just didn’t have the kind that I wanted. I have a very specific demand when it comes to furniture to be honest.

So for the fact that:

1. I don’t have time to window shop or visit a lot of home furnishing stores

2. My husband being far from an avid shopper of furniture so it will need a huge effort to drag him out of the house for this purpose

3. I take a long time to decide on buying things

I have to finally be happy with IKEA. It means that once I have decided to buy a certain item, I can just drop by the outlet anytime (so far I have been there during lunch time three times) just because I already have in mind what I need to buy.

So yes, while I don’t see myself making another big purchase at IKEA in the near future (even in the distant future I have doubt, because we already have the basic needs) I kind of thankful for the business model that IKEA chooses to operate in. It allows me to be efficient.

And efficiency is what any multi-tasking woman will treasure, at the cost of being boring.

P.S: I guess my husband doesn’t have much opposition for IKEA products because he fancies assembling them. It just like another LEGO set, quoting Nick Miller from New Girl.