A Journey of the heart <3

My heart has been on a wonderful journey. Something makes me feel like the destination was destined. In so many ways, I can see these wonderful connected events over the last few years as to how this trip, that my family and I have been on, happened.

My husband and I were privileged to have been able to go for Hajj in 2014. Hajj is the major pilgrimage that all muslims try to go for at least once in their lifetime (if they can afford to). Our boys were quite small at the time and the daunting idea of leaving them for 5 weeks was the most difficult guilt to bear while on this spiritual journey. They filled every thought and every prayer and somehow they were very much with us then.

On coming back home from this miraculous place and blessed journey you long to return as soon as the plane touches down. Visiting places like Makkah, Madinah, Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah during the time of Hajj is exceptionally emotional as well as sacred. This most spiritually charged and blessed place draws you in like no other experience, it’s almost as if you have left a part of yourself in these places where you began, where your whole story started.

Yes, our Hajj journey was amazing and yes, we had experiences that have etched into our hearts but it’s still needless to say that the separation from the boys during Hajj was difficult for us and for them. The boys clung to us for months after afraid we might ‘go on Hajj’ again, they made us promise over and over to never leave them. Oddly enough, before 2014 we did go on couple trips overseas and travelled a bit, leaving the kids at granny’s every now and then but after we just never really did. They have had some sleepovers and little trips without us but it was with them wanting to, we haven’t really initiated long periods of time away from them.

For my husband after this momentous life changing Hajj, the burning desire to return to Makkah and Madinah was attached to his children and it became a want collectively for all of us. Umrah is the non-compulsory spiritual trip that is a mini version of Hajj. Of course, over the last four years we have had some family holidays, mini breaks and trips. All have been needed and welcome as rewards during the year but nothing big. Somehow this year we were thinking of a trip to go on but everything seemed impossible, either timing or way too expensive for a family of five. One day we received a note from school talking about a potential Umrah trip, it encouraged parents to accompany their kids. It was promoted as educational and boasted reduced rates. It seemed almost too good to be true. We didn’t really take it seriously but the idea of going for Umrah this year was formed. Unbeknownst to me, my husband made some enquiries and after doing some finances it actually seemed possible?

And so the wheels started turning and plans started being made for a journey that started in many ways years ago. It was all connected, destined and meant to be. Subhanallah. How else would we have decided to go if not for this little note from school. This trip cannot be described, the whole experience (as with anything) is what you make of it and we made the most of it. Umrah is a spiritual trip but it is also fun and joyous and allows for bonding like no other with whomever you are accompanied by. You make friends forever. You disconnect from the craziness that is life as you know it. You actually truly connect with God, yourself, your husband, your kids! It was filled with belly laughs (my kids are sooo funny), ice-cream for days… like literally daily! Dramatic moments where someone got lost (namely me), the beautiful sight of the Kabah, the serenity of Madinah, the picnic meals on the bed and other wonderful memories that is ours to keep and cherish forever.  sometimes just walking the streets of these holy destinations invokes reflection and realisation, your consciousness is awakened and you are able to experience emotions in the most authentic way. Our lives have been forever enriched, being there is like being in a dream, being back is like a dream coming true, you never really think it will happen and then it does.

Alhamdulillah a thousand times, and a thousand times more. Blessed. Happy. Content.

Spring! into Action…

It’s the Southern Hemisphere, it’s springtime, it’s my birthday month, for me it feels like there is change simmering as the summer sets in.

So here’s a couple of things that might sound like cliches but that actually can invoke change! These small things might change you a little, or just offer some new perspective after these dreary winter months…. This is what I plan to do, maybe you like some of my ideas and we can do it together #springisintheair.

Spring cleaning…

Ok I have to admit that in winter I am miserable most of the time … I tend to hibernate, curl up under the blankies and just plain moody. Generally, we moan about things, the weather, the flu, the amount of layers we have to wear and frankly I don’t get anything done. I postpone and procrastinate to no end …. perhaps the cold just doesn’t agree with us(me). This maybe causes me to fester and feed off of negative energy, perhaps hold grudges and possibly hang on to every injustice ever perpetrated against me, ever.

Instead of just spring cleaning the house and changing the sheets, let’s change it up and let go of some of those things. Focus on what’s real and what’s in front of us and stop daydreaming about what will never be, or worrying about things you cannot change. I am going to go back to basics. Islam teaches us that what we want but don’t have now might still be waiting for us somewhere in the future… or perhaps was not good for us in the first place… so I am going to stop plotting against the perpetrators 🙂 and listen to Elsa.

Elsa from Frozen validly to told us to ‘Let it go’, little girls (and big ones) sing this song with gusto but now as I think about it she definitely has a point and maybe we should embrace it, and if by some chance people have truly troubled you and burdened you and its seems like you’re in an endless battle with no reprieve The Beatles told us to ‘Let it be’ When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me 
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

This is just a way or a reminder to shake some of those things off and begin anew. I think the time is now …to let go and let be.

Spring Wardrobe Refresh ( or rather revival)

We are naturally drawn to aesthetics. We like shiny, pretty, youthful, elegant, gorgeous things. Literally, a wardrobe can change your life. Definitely sounds superficial yes? But I don’t mean in a let’s go and shop for the most trendiest brands and expensive designer wear. I’m saying looking at what you have with fresh eyes. You can look smarter, or younger, or trendier, or maybe older, more mature than you are.

I recently binge watched the series Younger where the main character really pulls off being 27 despite being 41. The only real change was her wardrobe. Maybe some lingo here and there. Perhaps, an upgrade in some social media skills and some ‘withit’ concepts and there you have it a 27 year old. I really wondered what it would be like to go back and do some of it again… but then I realized I wouldn’t be doing it again because all of it has happened and led to who I am now…

In my case people are still always shocked at my 3 kids and the question ‘When did you start?’ is often asked. 😉 I seem to look everything between 20 something to 30 something and beyond. I guess my ‘agelessness’ for lack of a better term is because I am relatable. Maybe it’s fueled by my interest in things current and maybe my younger siblings always also help to keep me in the know. But sometimes we feel down and in the dumps… because of all our problems, we think we should be doing more, have better careers and nicer houses. I am definitely not the same, my life, my family, my friends, my experiences all have to be appreciated because it’s how I got here…

So stop thinking about what should be and definitely don’t mope about where you are in the life. Use the change in season to change your perspective. Overall, you are fabulous! Fish out a favorite pair of shoes from your closet and wear those heels. Find something colourful… Personally, I love matching different things and can’t wait to get into my summer clothes, all those patterns, florals and funky combinations. Pack away those coats and dreary colours. Dress for you. Dress in clothes that make you feel happy. Just use what you have to dress a little differently… but at the same time think it out loud. Do it to feel young, or refreshed, or joyful and just give yourself a boost to spring into action every day!

Springing around town…

I generally like people and socialising but when winter sets in it makes me a recluse. I want to be indoors, in my pj’s and with some yummy snack by my side as I indulge in some series or glued to some book. I say no to every invite that comes my way and just the thought of having to go anywhere was upsetting. Now that the warmer weather is coming in… I feel my social side coming alive again. I also feel the energy, good vibes and positivity it can bring. We feed off each other. Our auras and energy speak to each other. So being apart of things and interacting with people who are positive and want to cherish life is uplifting. So go out there and grab every moment. Plan a picnic or a hike. Go on holiday. Have lunch with the girls. Connect with the people closest to you. You might be surprised at the love you receive in return.

From babies to astronauts…

You blink and they’re 8, you blink again and they’re 20… there’s a couple of these messages in memes and inspirational Instagram posts urging us to cherish every moment because it all goes so fast. I have 8 year old twins, and an 11 year old going on 21 😉 I swear I don’t know when this happened!

They are so cool and with-it, with opinions, playing fortnite online, expressing how ‘things blow their minds’, p.s. they are all comedians in the making … their wit, their charm and their sharpness is sometimes unreal. They are unbelievably quick in conversation and hilariously funny! They definitely get all this from their Dad. I wish I could capture all the moments and the humour that captures our hearts and store it for those rainy days to come, when they’re actually grown up and not around anymore because they’re out with friends.

Sunday evenings are always entertaining. There’s a mixture of euphoria over the weekend that was and despair over the school week ahead. This Sunday evening was particularly memorable we had just returned from a lovely lunch with the family. The boys love their little girl cousin who is just 2 years old. They were recapping the day and marvelling at how cute she is. Let’s just say, adorable just does not do justice to describe this precious little munchkin. We spent the afternoon watching them play and bond, we were collectively in awe over her counting skills and wonderfully amazed at her nursery rhyme abilities. It’s quite cute to hear my little people talk about other little people as if they were the adults!

So as we’re watching Carte Blanche, this is an investigative journalist television show that highlights current affairs and sometimes exposes people’s incompetencies. The interviewer is asking the interviewee some questions. I think it was some government official talking about recouping monies’ or something like that. Anyways, the person being interviewed was quite bad at articulating himself and he said something about getting it back, so one of the twins pipes in “When are you getting your english back!” I laughed out loud, I didn’t even realise that he was listening so intently to the interview.

My 11 year old is the king of sarcasm. I wore something really elaborate in colour the other day and I really wasn’t sure if it worked or if I could pull the colour off (it was a bit much, like a mustard, nobody can really do mustard, what was I thinking!) So I leave the room and cautiously walk down the passage to see if anyone would notice. And then he sees me:

Him:  “Wow Mom, gooood choice. Wow. I mean, WOW! It looks …wow.

Me: “Ok Ok boy relax I get it, you can stop now. I will go change.”

He continues, “No mom, no please don’t change, wear that, please go out like that, I dare you”

🙂

The previous evening while watching a marvel movie (superhero movies always win in our house) … Dad was really not into the movie because it was one we had watched a couple of times over … anyways Dad kept interrupting the movie with sarcastic comments about the superhero’s dialogue and generally making fun of the movie. The twins were not impressed and both got quite annoyed to the point where one says, ‘You know Dad, you’re really not that funny!’ So intensely and so seriously that I couldn’t help but chuckle quietly on the couch, while cringing a little.

Their minds are so unique. One of them can analyse and make a conclusion based on one sentence from conversation. My slightly older twin (by two minutes) is so adorably complex. He started a conversation with me this week…

Him – Mom, what do YOU think I will be when I grow up?

Me – Well, baby … I think you will be anything you want to, maybe an engineer?

Him – Well… I do like to build things… but Mom, I like so many things … it so hard to choose because I also want to explore (yes, he said explore) the oceans and I want to fly into space like an astronaut.

Me – Wow, you want to do a lot things! but guess what I think you can.

We are always amazed at their curiosity and creativity. One has always surprised us over and over again with elaborate LEGO designs, which we’re sometimes not sure what he has built. So I will say cautiously “wow what a cool spaceship, my boy” but then he will jump into an explanation “Mom, this is a pirate ship, that can convert into a rocket but with a trap door for a submarine?” Then we’re like what? Where did you even come up with that idea.

In these moments I have flashbacks to my adorable first newborn, fragile and innocent and a remarkable miracle baby. Then to my twin newborns overwhelmingly screaming for my attention or then my cute curly-haired toddlers running around us in circles … now they are conversing about current affairs, careers and are trainee comedians? Now they are not my babies. Possibly, my builder, my engineer in the making. My future astronaut. My potential ocean explorer.

All of them have these unique qualities that are wonderful bits of magic developing their personalities. I try to catalogue the moments and the memories created daily but there’s just so much I need to remember but probably take for granted. I want to bottle and store away everything! I hope I remember to remember… because honestly I don’t know where my babies have gone and when or how have they been replaced with three extraordinary little men in the making.

Crossroads

I have a problem. I have many, many problems. I have so many serious issues, that I don’t know where to start. Ok, maybe they are not so life critical and serious. But one of them is, that I am my own worst enemy. I tend to like to do things right, most of the time. I don’t like things half-baked, except when it’s convenient.  If I’m in a relationship I’m all in, except when im tired, or moody or that time of the month?… shhhh. When I get a new project at work I’m guns blazing, for the first few weeks. When school asks me to do something or the kids have to prepare for a poetry festival. I’m there. All in. Except during working hours… working mom here people!

I have so many problems I don’t know which one to choose to resolve. Does this mean I invariably resolve none and put everything on the back-burner with a label “Stuff I must do later” Or “Stuff we will never do because it’s too hard?”

The problem is that when we are faced with many paths to take often we choose the path of least resistance. The one that has a pro’s list longer that the con’s list. The one that pleases the most people and the one that maybe requires the least effort to attain success. Or rather some level of success as opposed to complete failure. The notion of something is better that nothing.

No – this must stop!

Choose something, do Something, make a decision based on what you want to do, choose when you want it, do things because you have passion for it, when you love something give it time and give it attention. So often we settle. We don’t fight for the things we want, we accept the hand we’re dealt. Don’t settle! Anymore…

After some thought and much introspection I have come to realise that we actually need to establish what we choose to do, by the end state. This phrase end state was recently uttered to me by my husband, as he was relaying a conversation with some new Exec that joined the team. At first, we both giggled at the new buzzword of this exec, and we chatted about how all these guys at this level come with some flavor of buzzwords that they coin as their own. Anyways, the more we spoke about the subject the more it made sense to me. This idea formulated in my mind about, how we problem solve in life, in general.

When we have a big decision to make we often do pro’s and con’s. We constantly focussing on achieving results and showing some success but that may not be the actual thing we want, it’s in the vicinity of what we want.

Think about how different our decision-making would be if we chose to focus on the impossible, the unattainable, the green fields, blue sky kinda solutions or goals. What if we didn’t plan for the obstacles along the path. What if we chose based purely on the reward or the utopia of the desired end state.

If you do this with conviction, and passion, and drive you will achieve the impossible. You will choose the path that leads you to ultimate happiness and endless love and the greatest success story you have ever heard.

Think about a goal you wanted to achieve. Lose 5 kg’s this month. What if instead of thinking about the pain of the exercise, or the loss of the yummy delicious sugary treat you usually indulge in. We don’t think about the true end result of what we want. We get distracted by the immediate rewards. What if all we said is I can lose 5 kg’s, I will not eat that cupcake and I will run today. If I did that for 30 days I would mostly likely achieve my goal. The problem is I focus on the cupcake I’m not able to eat and then by day 2 I have a dozen cupcakes in front of me, to reward myself for yesterday’s run 🙂

When faced with these crossroads let’s assess differently. Let’s look at the thing we want most out of the path and believe that it is achievable. Let’s focus on the journey rather than the unrealistic destination. Let’s believe that we deserve the utopia. That all the problems we see with this choice is solvable, all the obstacles seen and unseen are challenges accepted! Then you know what this means? It means, that it can be yours. The thing that you want most, the thing you think you cannot have, can be yours.

The success you envision can materialise. The love you want in your life is right there within reach. Right now, I want to stop here. Because already my mind is forming sentences to accommodate all the what if scenarios, all the naysayers questions and all the self-doubt telling me I’m not worthy.

But just believe it today and then believe again tomorrow and then the next day and what you get in the end will still be more…. so much more than before.

Everything in the universe is within you.

Ask all from yourself. – Rumi

When the lights go out…

Living in a developing country means that the lights going out is just another element of our daily lives. Not that it happens daily. In fact the occurrence of the lights going out varies quite drastically depending on the area you live in, the time of year, the crime level (cable theft, yes like they steal the actual copper cable), the political climate with the state-owned energy producer and sometimes even the demographic of the people living in a particular area. In my area, we can go months without any incidents or outages and then all of a sudden it could be weekly occurrence. Many households have made provision for this by introducing energy-saving techniques to avoid outages including solar geysers, gas heating, gas stoves and solar or led rechargeable lighting for when the lights go out. Also note, this is a problem for privileged households that have access to electricity in the first place, many people from poorer communities don’t have any electricity to begin with and our contingency plans of candles is their reality. Alhamdulillah for my problems.

In my house, as soon as the lights go out, panic strikes. Well firstly, I have a few little boys who have some issues with the dark. When all the lights go out all of a sudden it is very quiet and very dark. This is quite a sudden change for the human body to process. Your brain quickly determines there is a problem. Sometimes the change from light to dark makes sparkly bits show up in front of your eyes. Once your eyes adjust, its kind of ok again and because its your house so you can navigate through quite easily.

My husband and I would immediately be thinking where are the boys, and then where are the candles and flashlights. Then the obvious next check is, How much battery life does each of the devices have? Some speculation ensues about how long the  outage will last. With the boys the immediate reaction is to find safety. Calls from where ever they are in the house, will be heard. “Mom.. Mom…. Dad… Dad…” and if we take to too long to respond there’s like this combination call “Momdad… Momdad”.

So we calmly say stay where you are we will come to you. If they are separated it’s worse because then we have to go to two or three different locations around the house, collect them and then get everyone in a central place to figure out what’s next. When they are together there is less shouting as at least one of them would have been on a device and then they would use the flashlight from the phone or iPad to navigate to us, as a group. If it’s raining one or more will cling to us in fear, as we finish up around the house so we can all huddle in one place. On a school night the best thing is to have a quick story by flashlight and then off to bed. On the weekend or during school holiday’s we might try … “Ok guys, bedtime” but it rarely works so we all cuddle in my bed and tell stories or play games by candle light / flashlight – this is awesome time actually as it is filled with conversation, giggles and NO distractions.

This time when the lights went out, thankfully after supper so didn’t have that problem, the boys decided that we should play hide and seek in the dark … They were all brave in this suggestion, as like I have stated earlier they are a tad bit afraid of the dark. This game involves someone being the seeker and the others hiding. The seeker closes their eyes counts an agreed number, in an agreed spot, known as ‘house’ or ‘home base’, this can be a wall or door  or the couch where mom is sitting. Once the counting is done he will say “Ready or not here I come”. When the seeker find’s someone he will return to ‘home’ and say “One, two, three block < shouts persons name>”, if the person gets to home before the seeker they will say “One, two, three block myself”.

When the game commenced we had a fire going in the main living area but the minute you hid away from this area you could not be seen even in open spaces. This added excitement and tension to the game. Screams filled the house as someone either reached the home base and shouted out their safety slogan or got caught. To add to the excitement Dad jump in as a monster seeker and this is when things got really crazy, eventually at the last round they all tried to hide behind the couch where I was, out of fear for being anywhere else in the house 🙂 Despite the fear factor they all thoroughly enjoyed this and one actually proclaimed “This is the best day ever!” ❤

Eventually, the realization sets in that the wifi is out, so if I was planning to work at night or catch up on Netflix that’s out of the window. And then I realise I can’t boil the kettle for that last cup of tea *sad face*. Most of all it’s if the lights are not back by morning, I know it’s going to be a cold shower, no coffee and limited options for breakfast for everyone…

No need to fret though they will come back eventually. In most households we can handle blackouts for a limited time, we have experienced it enough, to have a few contingency plans. Still, we are so reliant on that kettle to boil water for tea or a shower to be warm and welcoming. The connection to the outside world for information and entertainment. I wonder how will we ever survive without our amenities, if we ever really have to.

For now the lights going out, is a variation on the routine, encourages us to be resilient and actually creates some quality family time. Even in dark time there is always light. The light we expect to have and so desperately rely on is not always the light we actually need.

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Untold

In a world where information is everywhere still so many stories remain untold. We spend so much time worrying about our image and how people see us, perhaps we forget our own stories. We see the person next to us only through our limited knowledge of them or rather based on the assumptions we make when we scroll through their lives on their social media pages. We make judgements on ourselves for what we can or cannot do based on what they are perceived to be doing? We spend so much time engrossed in things that are sometimes only one angle of one frame of the actual picture.

I know a girl who loved a boy. I know a father who loves his son. I know people who have found love but then lost it. I know love. I know a mother who has lost a child. I know a son who lost a father. I know a person who lost someone’s trust. I know a person who’s lost a sibling. I know a daughter who’s lost a father. I know a husband who loves his wife. I know this love and this loss defines them in many respects but its something we don’t truly pay attention to. Finding love or losing love is maybe something that happens to someone. We think. We don’t actually recognise that it becomes the configuration, structure and formation of the person themselves. It has an influence on how we think and how we see the world. The actual effects of real love or loss only emerge later in your story when that love has enabled you to grow, that loss enabled you to learn. They allow you to become who you were meant to be, and then teach that same love to others in your life. The shape that loves gives to your character is only really seen through reciprocation and recognition of that love. As you love others in your life you learn but also, you love someone based on how you have learned to love.

Similarly, the scar of the loss that love leaves, is sketched into your soul. Perhaps the loss so deep that you rely on the muscle memory to continue in the world. You have to find ways to function without that person. You want to remember everything but maybe you also want to forget. But any love lost, or hurt experience inflicted by a loved one is actually just more complexity that makes the person who they are. When you to lean into that loss, you do remember everything that person was and still is to you. The object should not be to forget, because you might forget something of yourself in the process. It is the magic of knowing and experiencing that kind of love that makes you this person, that cannot be compared to anyone else. Your individual story, your individual experience. It’s so personal because it is rarely described or shared with someone outside of that love.

Like between a mother and a son. No other person will know all the silent times together, the giggles, the secrets you shared, the stories you told them about the dreams you have for them, as you rocked them to sleep in the depth of the night, when they were little babies. No other person will know the strength of the relationship between a father and a son. The first time they kicked a ball or rode a bike or bought a car. What we do know is the surface of that story, we know the documented part, captured in a picture, posted online. We don’t know the whole of that story, the intricate impact on the life of that little boy or grown son, the significance for the father in later years, the multitude of feelings associated with it, before and after.

So when you lose it. Of course the loss of it is indescribable. Of course the pain associated with the finality of someone moving on and leaving you is heart wrenching. Of course the death of this person you love, where there is nothing more you can do and the helplessness of that kind of loss, cannot be diminished. The loss is forever with you. The loss darkens you. This is probably the story you choose not to tell.

All of the difficulties you have faced become the parts you keep for yourself, but they are all there, and they do shine through in the most unexpected ways. It’s how you relate to a friend that confesses their relationship woes. It’s the part where you comfort your children with encouraging words after a soccer defeat. It’s the bit where you cherish all the moments with the people you do have. It’s gratitude, it’s appreciation, it’s forgiveness.

How you deal with loss sometimes is also how you live your life. You can bury head in the sand and hope for all the pain to go away or you can take the pain along the journey until it is bearable and not overwhelmingly all you feel. You can avoid the people who speak with truth because they are saying what you don’t want to hear or you can recognise the truth as love and embrace every ounce of love from anywhere you get it. You can be on the surface like said social media page or you can engage with depth and meaning. Embrace your love and embrace your loss. It will allow you to be real, be authentic, be genuine, be harsh, be intimidating, be honest, be fierce, be gentle, be kind, be all that you are. Your untold story is how you know how to just be.

very little grows on jagged rock. be ground. be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are…   ~Rumi

 

 

Food for Thought

Eid Mubarak! Alhamdulillah we have just celebrated the end of Ramadaan after 29 days of fasting. It is always a bittersweet goodbye as we bid farewell to the month. The kindness and spirituality that is amplified during the month of Ramadaan will start to dwindle and we all go back to our normal routines and sometimes, self involved priorities. I hope and pray that we can hold on to and carry the feeling and sentiment of the holy month of Ramadaan throughout more months of the year. Insha-Allah.

The day of Eid is a lovely celebratory day. The run up to Eid is filled with confirming attendance at the various gatherings you have been invited to, baking, ordering, planning the parts that’s your responsibility. The night before the moon must first be sighted just as it was when the month began. The day starts with a special Eid salah (prayer), followed by a huge family breakfast. Our tradition is still the same even though my grandmother has passed for a number of years. The family still get together at what was her home, all the cousins and aunts and uncles are in and out of this central location. Even if the rest of the day everyone is split amongst other invitations for lunch and dinner,  breakfast is a priority for everyone and we all get to see each other.

Continue reading “Food for Thought”