Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What I learn from 'MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III: the Taaruf session'.

I hardly slept the night before the taaruf day. Though I felt that this particular way of getting to know someone, was over and above peculiar (it's the 21st century for Heaven's sake), but I believed that the decision I made was correct. 

(Have you read 1st and 2nd MISSION IMPOSSIBLE episode?) 

This meeting has an obvious objective. A crucial decision must be made afterwards. Could this man be my compatible partner FOR LIFE?

Looking at the question list for the hundredth of times, frankly, I was doubtful whether this set of questions could help me in reaching my objective. 

And the morning came, together with more butterflies in my tummy! 

Thus, I got ready and today, the Lothian Bus (no 30) was like waiting for me faithfully at the Nicholson Street bus stop. It never did for the past 4 years! Was it a sign? Am I over-analysing? Go away butterflies!!!

With the list in hand, I went to Kak Anis' place alongside the entire species of butterflies in my tummy. But when I thought about Kak Anis and Ustaz Azman, I got a bit calm. I knew both of them well, together with their 3 young children (which has grown to 8, now!). I've enjoyed several trips with them, I took care of their kids when they went for Hajj, I went to their place uncountable times - the bottom line was, I was comfortable with the couple and I was always being myself around them. I believed that choosing a good and intelligent intermediary was essential to make the situation a less-awkward, and not uncomfortable.

As I entered the house, I saw a huge pair of shoes (quick mental note, size 10, Timberland, mmm... nice choice. Haha!) Anyway, Kak Anis invited me inside and offered me some OJ in the kitchen. Then, Ustaz Azman called us in. And 'taraaa!!', I saw him. But the butterflies didn't leave, they multiplied!
Ustaz Azman, smiling in between sipping his hot tea, started the taaruf session by introducing both of us to one another. He then pointed to the other man in the room, living the ball on his court. 'So, akh, why are we here?'

The answer was simple yet very meaningful, 'Nothing builds a home better than faith and trust. Faith in Allah on one hand, and trust to one's partner on the other. And I'm seeking for the trust.'

And so, the ball bounced onto both courts, mine and his during the taaruf. The list was extremely helpful, even there were only seven questions, but they revealed a lot about a man (and a woman, too, I reckoned). A whole lot! The session took more than 2 hours and I must admit that it was very interesting, lively and informative.

Kak Anis then told us that we should share the information with our parents and discuss well with them. If possible, she advised us to seek more information (as discretely as possible) from close friends and relatives BUT no information given and taken from the room, should be discussed outside. This would ensure no violation of privacy to others who were not related.

She then told both of us to repeatedly make alot of du'as, request from Allah through the application of istikharah prayers. Seek His help in  making a HUGE decision of your life. Then she looked at me, "In two weeks, I'll call you and ask if you have made your decision.'

I learn a few things during this taaruf process.
  • WHEN: When both suitors are ready for another chapter in their lives; not being forced or provoked, it must be a willing decision from both parties
  • WHAT: Come to the meeting prepared, i.e. dress appropriately, questions ready.
  • WHO: It should be 'chaperon-ed' meeting. The chaperons must have good faith and that you're comfortable with. And don't forget to BE YOURSELF all the time.
  • WHERE: First impression lasts very long. If two suitors meet at a club, it will always tell on the relationship. So, the best place to get to know one another is at Muslim homes, where much detail conversation can be discussed. 
To be continued...(I've got two weeks!)


'Bliss of love after marriage'  (photo from here).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What I learn from 'MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II: How do I know that he's Mr Right(eous)?'.

I was away from my parents, geographically, ever since I left home to further my studies abroad. Nonetheless, Allah has been super kind to me by introducing good friends who acts like 'positive' magnets, pulling me from doing shameful and harmful things to my imaan. One of them is Kak Anis (beautiful wife of Ustaz Azman).

One chilly morning, as I briskly walked from Moray House with Greggs cheese and onion pasties in one hand to the mosque (a wee bit late for work!), I received a call from kak Anis. Very politely and with well constructed sentences (as she usually spoke) she asked about my well beings, then informed straight to the point that there was an akh (brother in Islam) who was interested to get to know me better.

The forgotten cheese and onion pasties from Greggs in my hand.
An akh? Seriously?

'He met Ustaz and told him his intentions and hoped that Ustaz and Kak Anis can be the 'middlemen''.
'He said that since your parents are far, he wanted a proper channel to get to know you,' enlightened kak Anis.

What channel? Am I going to star a Blind Date show @ BBC?
However, Kak Anis was quick to assure me (since I must admit I was silently shocked since my mouth was zipped shut, which was peculiarly rare!) to do major thinking, to ask myself and Allah whether I was prepared for a relationship leading to marriage. Request from Allah through the application of istikharah prayers. Ask my parents. Talk to them. Make lots of du'a.

And I did all of them.

Among all of the things above, Abah's words of wisdom were the statement which cleared my doubts. I still could recall his short, precise advise to me;

'Only clean courtship leads to fruitful and successful marriage. If one wants to keep the courtship morally clean and escape immoral pursuits, then he's clearly a gentleman who has self-control, because he places this holy affairs in the care of Allah.'

Abah then added, 'Marriage is a lifetime journey and needs a lot of planning. So, you need to ask him his plans in life, what can he offer...'

Among millions of conversations that I had with Abah, I must point out that this particular phone call acted as a 'mechanism' which drew us closer. I am grateful to Him that I am one of the few whom He chooses to have super good relationships with my Abah and Mak. I must admit that before those days, it was difficult to talk and discuss with Abah since I must say that he always over-analyse matters, which sometimes made me feel uncomfortable, but now I realised, you know what, I needed someone to think critically for me, when I couldn't do it on my own (just yet. Hello, I was being a typical carefree lassie living abroad, away from my family! And having the time of my life, too!). Alhamdulillah for Abah and Mak. 

All three of us created 'the list' of open-ended questions that needed frank and straightforward answers. Those answers were personal, but essential for us to know the 'akh'. 

So, a date and time were set for a 'taaruf' session between the two of us, with the wonderful couple, Kak Anis and Ustaz Azman at Glendalough Crescent, Edinburgh. 

Though I must admit, it was still a super weird thing for me to do, but I always remember Allah's promise that prosperity and barakah wait anyone who follows the commendments of Allah and the example of Rasulullah. I prayed that this, out of the norm, way of getting to know Mr. Right(eous) would mould me to be a better muslimah, whatever the outcome would be.

For now, I'd just pray.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What I learn from 'MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: The process of looking for Mr Right(eous)'.

At 22 years of age, the question of marriage began to arise in front of my eyes. Seeing my friends having boyfriends, getting engaged and I even attended and took part in the preparation of some of my friends weddings in the UK (Jannah & Nurman's, Neri & Jas', Sameena & Hubby's), it made the question of marriage, or at least, finding someone to get married to got bigger and bigger.

Frankly, I was clueless and had scarce experience with man, with the exception of my dad and three elder brothers. I grew up in all girls school nearly my whole life - Convent Seremban and Tunku Kurshiah College, then venturing in a nearly all-ladies TESOL course in Edinburgh University. I was seriously skeptical whether I could find Mr Right at all.

Nonetheless, I always have strong faith in Mak's advice to me, ever since I 'began to blossom'. Mak always reminded me to train and improve myself to become a good, pure and honest lady, and insha Allah in return, Allah would grant me a good, pure and honest man.

It turns out that Mak is parting her wisdom based on Allah's unambiguous advise;

'Women of impure are for men of impure, and men of impure are for women of empure; 
and women of purity are for men of purity and men of purity are for women of purity'

With my extraordinary wise Mak, Zawiah bt Budin.

Mak also reminded me a few times to find someone compatible before coming back to Malaysia for good. She said that from her observations of the community, it was difficult for ladies to find a compatible partner (and when she says compatible, it means, Muslim, God fearing, single, matured, suitable mental and physical well-being, pleasant; to name a few). For her, finding a husband who has the same academic background, which was studying abroad, would be important for me since both of us had shared the common, or similar experiences, and the man would not feel intimidated of me.

Phew, this was a HUGE assignment! I had a year to complete it... and for me, it seemed to be like an episode of Mission Impossible, with Tom Cruise as the lead actor. (Emmm, having Tom Cruise look alike as a husband would be nice, eh?)

But how Mak? Would there be a secret recipe to find Mr Right? Or would there be a copy of Finding a Husband: Book for Dummies, in the library? 

Mak wisely replied, 'You'll know it, and you'll just do it..' 


'The first thing that needs to be done is self-improvement. Remember Allah's promise, 'women of purity are for men of purity and men of purity are for women of purity,'' Mak repeated herself. 

And I soon discovered that at that age, when I was still single, I could do lots of things to improve myself, in order for me to 'design' myself as a better muslimah of good strong spiritual uprightness. And that was the first step of the process of looking for Mr Right. Not looking out, but looking into myself.

I have a strong believe that nothing builds a home better than faith and trust. Faith in Allah on one hand, and trust to the partner on the other. My submission is plainly based on Allah's promise in verse 26 of Surah AnNuur.

'Women of impure are for men of impure, and men of impure are for women of empure; 
and women of purity are for men of purity and men of purity are for women of purity'

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What I learn from 'PhD illness'.

When I read, read, read and read journal articles, it came to a point when I asked myself, what am I reading? Why am I reviewing? When should I stop? And when these questions started popping out in your mind, I knew that I'm starting to loose focus, I'm starting to loose interest.

Then, I would find 'other' more interesting stuff, which range from facebooking, ebay/online/window/virtual/pasar payang shopping, playing games, scrapbooking, no-objective-online-browsing, HBO, TLC, Diva Universal, and even shifting my concentration and energy in a  sudden interest in cooking and new recipes.

Surely, at the end of the day, I'd suffer the 'non-guilt-free sleep' syndrome. Yikes!!

Cure needed!
I needed to find a cure. So, I arranged for a special appointment with my SV and told him about my disease, well he's a Dr afterall! To my amazement, he said that this is a common illness for full time PhD students.

And so, we came to an agreement that I needed (and still need) to keep focus by not reading off track. Off track in this context can mean too much, or too little reading. So, he told me to start compiling my reviews in an article format. This means, I have to limit my review on a sub-topic only up to 15-18 pages, including the reference. 15 page?! Gosh.. that's alot!

But then, I think my SV read my mind (and wrinkled face), and he said, 'Hello Azza, your first few parts will be your abstract and your intro, which will be your background of studies. You've got them already from your proposal! Just reshape your reviews and put them into a theoretical review! Please bring it to my table in a week.'

A week?!! Biar benar?!

Puzzle pieces.
I thought it'll be hard, but hey, I was wrong! Remember in the third lesson from the previous entry that I told you all the 'wrong' reviews will build up to be the 'right' one? This was the 'a-ha' moment for me, putting all the tiny jigsaw pieces into the right places in the research puzzle.

During my next appointment, I bravely showed my SV my first draft on my first ever attempt in writing an article. He nodded, then he shook his head, and some more nods.

The verdict.
He told me that it was a 'marketable' article (being an editor of an international journal himself, I have to admit I was very pleased) BUT I needed to refine my academic writing style and flow of writing. And so, he gave me a private tutoring on how to create a good journal. Then, he sent me back to my work station and asked me to meet him again after lunch, where he wanted to read my second draft.

In less then 3 hours, I managed to produce a second draft, yes, I was shocked I could manage to do that in a short amount of time (but I think I managed well because I did not change my window browser at all during that time!).

The issue of co-write or solo author.
During the second meeting in regards of my first ever journal article, my SV asked me frankly whether I wanted to co-write with him or publish this article on my own. I gave him a truthful answer, which I have thought about during the AirAsia flight from KT-KL earlier in the morning, that I wanted to co-write with him.

  1. Surely my SV has more publications=experiences in writing journal articles. When he agrees to co-write, it means that he can help me reword and edit my amateur version.
  2. His name could ring a bell to another international journal editor, so it'll be easier for the article to be accepted (I think).
  3. It'll be a win-win situation for both of us. Not only my SV will be credited for another journal article, but I also have a publication, too! 
  4. Furthermore, the article would be edited and refined by both my SV and the editor of the journal, hence, I could easily cut and paste it without doubt into my thesis! Cool eh?! Super cool!
I think these are more than enough reasons to co-write.

And so, both of us had corrected and refined the article until the 6th draft before I boldly sent it to an international journal editor! And it was accepted with 2 more corrections!! Alhamdulillah!

And now, I have submitted another article in an international journal, but there is no reply just yet, and working on my third one. The reason I want to write on this was not to boast, astaghfirullah, but to share that there is a cure out there for the PhD illnesses!

You'll enjoy doing something when you have a reward instore for you. It's a basic Affective theory in education. It's a basic theory of life.

'Many learners want to succeed. They are capable of suceeding: 
they are simply lack the belief (and effort) to do so." Jensen, The Learning Brain (1994)



Monday, November 8, 2010

What I learn from ‘Al Hidayah’s Merit Certificate’.

In Al Hidayah Islamic School, Bentley, WA, my class consisted of a good mixture of genders, nationalities, first languages, and of course, different level of learning abilities. The year 3 students were at a super active age, who loves to try and learn; and I had a marvelous time creating and improving lessons to feed these thirsty young minds.

Al Hidayah beliefs in the philosophy that all learners need to achieve success on a regular basis and such achievements must be recognized and celebrated. Every Friday, the class and religious studies teachers will have the opportunity to award students with merit certificates. The ‘merit’ was not only applied to excellence in assignments or tests, it also applies to the fantastic behavior (adaab) in class, as well as honoring their progress in learning. I learn that a wonderful climate of achievement can be fostered using this method. Al Hidayah celebrates all students, not just the ‘more intellectually capable’ ones. And I love that philosophy.

Some of the examples of Merit Certificates.
I got them from here.

What I learn from the philosophy of setting a wonderful climate of achievement were, as teachers as well as parents, we should:

  1. Show optimism;
  2. Demonstrate positive expectations to young people;
  3. Emphasise success and potential rather than failings and shortcomings;
  4. Stress the value of effort, persistence and the learning process;
  5. View mistakes as opportunities for learning;
  6. Ensure our judgement and assessment should focus more on the differences between past and present performance, so then the improvement(s) can be seen.
  7. Celebrate each success, however small it is, so young people know that they’ll be acknowledged by doing good deeds, even it’s so minute.
  8. Understand that all children are born with potential, and we cannot be sure of the learning limits of any child. Hence, shower them with as many learning opportunities as we can.
From the short 2 years I worked in Al Hidayah, I saw considerable evidence to show that when teachers and parents have high expectations of children, they will usually achieve greater success in their learning, and vice-versa. The high expectations should always be accompanied with motivations, support, positive encouragement (and re-encouragement), patience and of course, lots of TLC (tender loving care). Teachers and parents can dramatically influence young people’s attitudes to learning.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

What I learn from ‘the intelligent process of cut & paste’.

Plagiarism? Of course not! The key word of the title above is intelligent.

In writing and reviewing various journal articles, I found that some articles were more ‘reader friendly’ than others. When, I analysed them, I discovered that these researchers have the flair of language which made the articles more comprehensible and lucid. I want to be like them, too!

So, that’s when I learned to use the intelligent process of cut & paste. This process involves;

  1. Scanning for intelligently thought and wonderfully constructed sentences in any articles
  2. Strip all the content
  3. Leave only the grammatical constructs.
This process will leave you with fantastic argumentative statements/structures that you have ‘worked so hard for’.

Listed below are some of the examples:

  1. The study builds on and contributes to work in                            In recent years,                              have gained more attention for a number of reasons.
    Different studies have also proven the importance of                      . They investigate the characteristics of                                      
    The recent development of                         could be used to provide                            .
    Some researchers think that                            , while others believe                             .
  2. There is no empirical research that compared                           . Hence, more research is needed on                                 .
  3. A review of the literature shows the need to evaluate                          .
  4. There is also the need to find out if                              .
  5. Although studies                             have examined                    , there has not been a                       .
  6. As such, this study provides additional insight into                                .
  7. The analytic focus on                         enables another contribution.
  8. Although numerous studies (                ) have identified                         , little analytic attention has been paid to                             .
  9. The study addresses this issue by demonstrating                                 .
  10. Although it was a decade ago that                                       made this observation, it has a timeless quality and is applicable to our present generation.
  11. A considerable body of research exists which illustrates the significant relationship between                           and                                          .
  12. It is important to avoid the tendency to over generalize                                .
  13. Indeed, such information should, to some extent, determine                            .
  14. In spite of great strides made regarding U     , many still have difficulty                                 .
  15. The suggestions offered in this article are but a few of the strategies                     might utilize to ensure                                     .
  16. This paper addresses the following questions:                         ;                         ; and                        .
  17. The majority of study on                           has focused                              .  On the other hand, this study concentrates on                                    .
  18. An attempt will be made to link                            to                             , with the aim of                     .
  19. A study of literature indicated that                              (                     ).
  20. Another striking attribute of the                                      is that it can also be related/differ to                                           .
  21. The question now arises as to whether                                               .
  22. Little is known about the                                              .
  23. It is often supposed that                                        . The actual influence of these                             .
  24. What has remain unclear until now are the interrelations among                                   ,                     and                           .
  25. Insight into these processes can make an important contribution to the improvement of                      .
  26. A large literature is available on the theory of                             , and a number of studies explore the                                   . Nonetheless, the literature is missing                                           .
  27. The study also examined many of the aforementioned critiques of the issues related to                       .
  28.                              was the founder of                               and influenced its spread as                                 .
  29. The current study synthesises on                                         .
  30. The development of                                       has gained momentum over the past decade.
  31. Research has resulted in the identification of                                          .
  32. A variety of factors are seen to be related to                                         .
  33. Research has shown that                                   may reflect                                      .
  34. Whilst                              has undergone extensive investigation by researchers, the role of                has not been as thoroughly researched and thus is not well understood.
  35. An extension of the debate takes the view that                                          .
  36. In recent times the debate has gained new urgency in                                           .
  37. Examining the issue of                             is important for evaluating                                          .
  38. This study seeks to examine                                 with respect to                                            .
  39. Therefore, information obtained from studying the                      can serve to inform                          .
  40. Investigating                             is critical to determining the extent to which                            .
  41. While several studies have been conducted that show                         , few have been conducted to determine                              .
  42. This study sought to identify                               . To address this issue,                                    .
  43. In pursuing this discussion, this paper defines                              as                                 .
  44. It is expected that these findings can not only inform                                , but also serve as baseline for a change for                                   .
  45. The study sought to provide in-depth information about                         . By taking this tack, it also sought to enhance                                   .
  46. These elaborations are based on theoretical considerations (            ,               ,                ,            ).
  47. This study adapted and expanded                    ‘s model to use as a framework for                    .
  48. However, to date, the number of studies with the research design of                    is limited.
  49. This paper explores aspects that enhance                                 .
I learn that these phrases do come in handy, especially on the days when the mind is pretty non-cooperative in creating cool, meaningful sentences. Please do share some of your wonderful findings of intelligent cut & paste statements. It might help others to reduce their stress of thinking of the perfect sentence!

p/s: These statements came from social sciences journal articles. I'm have not had a chance to explore the scientific journal articles (and I have no intention to do so, too! hihih.. my hands are full at the moment!)


Thursday, November 4, 2010

What I learn ‘from my 1st three months as a PhD candidate’.

I was officially a student (yet again) on the 15th of November, 2009. I’m determined to absorb all the knowledge, skills and experience, to be a better khalifah, and servant of Allah.
I realized that the journey might not be easy – especially now I’m not like the student I was during my 1st and 2nd degree, I’m now a wife and a mom: all three are full time jobs. And I also want dedicate this journey to my Abah, who always dream to have one of his children a PhD. Insha Allah, after his son-in-law, his daughter will grasp a PhD scroll, too. Aamin.

The first lesson I learned was to set the research objectives (ROs) and research questions (RQs) during the first 2-3 meetings with the supervisor(s). Some supervisors (SV) might ask you to take your time and settle down, but for me, it’s wise to set your objectives and missions (at least for the next 3 years of your life!) earlier on in order to organize your thoughts and emotions. Yes, PhD is not just about your cognitive-self, it’s very much about your emotions, too!

What I did with my seven ROs and RQs was to print them big and huge, with bold fonts on the keywords, and fix it on my notice board. This helps me to keep focus on the keywords that I need to find during the ‘journal-hunting’ pursuit.

The second lesson is to be organized on the journal-hunting pursuit. Don’t kill yourself with books just yet, please use journal articles that aged between 1 to 5 years only to survive this long, uphill struggle;. Do keep this point in mind when skimming and scanning the articles:

Please EndNote them. Please don’t leave it for tomorrow. Please. I’ve learned my lesson for not updating my references, and I ended up wasting one whole day searching for only 3 particular articles. And do make use of your EndNotes’ ‘note’ field to insert all your bullet points above.

The third lesson is to read and review at least three articles related to your ROs and RQs, following the above system. Please don’t give up hope if you think that you have been reviewing ‘wrong’ articles and you haven’t found the ‘right’ one. Sooner or later, the building up of the ‘wrong’ reviews will help your Chapter 2 becomes ‘right’. Trust me, I’ve been through this emotional ‘oh no!’ moments (more than a hundred times!)

It’s wise to show some of your compacted and organized reviews (i.e. this group agrees with this notion but this doesn’t, etc.) to your SV, though it might be crap. At least, at this point, your SV (hopefully being responsible and empathetic) will advise you whether you’re on/off track. Both news are good news, hey, you’re only 3 months into your new journey! Chill! And make sure at the end of the appointment, set yourself a time and target for the next meeting. This will help you focus on what you should do as you leave your SV’s office.

The fourth lesson is to strengthen your background of studies, adding information on both local and current global context. Always critically ask yourself, how will my research fill in the knowledge gap? Why is my study important and current? Where’s the gap? Try to find and draw the gap using diagram. For visual learner like me, diagrams and graphs help me in having clearer thoughts.  

The fifth lesson, and to me the most important; life is all about making choices. My day to day journey as a postgraduate requires me to make wise choices. I have a choice, whether to be 1) the ‘I should start my reading now’ kind of student, or 2) the ‘reading can be delayed for a couple of hours (which will lead to the whole afternoon!)’ kind of student.

One of the simplest steps I take daily which works tremendously well is, I click the MS Words & EndNote icons only. That’s it. I do not allow myself to click on the wonderfully attractive blue and orange round icon just yet. I’ll reward myself for a guilt-free internet session later of the day, after finishing the 3 articles I need to work on.

I learn to set my priority right… though it’s not always easy. Every day should be a fulfilling day, a day that ends with a guilt-free sleep. There are a lot of distractions, but I learn that I’m more powerful than them, I have the willpower to say ‘No!’ to the lusty temptations.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I learn from 'MAC 2 mini get together'.


Taman Tasik Perdana (Playground area)

Attendees: Intan (Organiser and her sister), Amy, Eiza (and her clan), Shila (and partner), Oja (and her daughter) and myself (with her whole clan, including mom and brother!!)

From L-R: Oja, Amy, Azza, Eiza, Intan, Kakak Intan, Shila.

I learn a lot of things from this short meeting – it was simple yet meaningful. I always thought of reunion as over-pricey and super long preparation; but our ever-thoughtful Intan, as a fabulous organizer, has proved me wrong. Her picnic event was totally undemanding and unpretentious. Neither have I needed to find new clothes (to make me look thin) nor spending hundreds of RM on food and venue. Since we’re being ourselves, we became instantly relaxed and natural.

Initiatives like Intan’s should be an exemplary. Yes I described the reunion event as light and easy, but it’s never an easy thing to be an organizer of any event, simple or posh, especially when you have just started a new job. I always appreciate it when someone does something without being asked or nominated, especially event which reconnects the relationships (ukhuwwah), I’m sure Allah will pay her well. Oh, she also packed goody bags for the kids (though she hasn’t got one yet, but planning to have one at the age of 40! You go girl!) and assembled a super fantastic down the memory lane CD: ‘You and me in Edinburgh’. Talking about being thoughtful... no one can compare to our Intan Sufinaz Daud.

Yes, we studied Scottish Highers and A-Levels in the same classroom, had the same TESOL lecturers, suffered the severe cold Edinburgh weather for nearly six years and finally, graduated in the same great McEwan hall together. Nevertheless, the next seven years have painted us to be different people – some being mothers, some switching careers, some staying in rural areas, some getting slimmer (and others wider), some pursuing their studies, some disliking their posts, some working on a job unrelated to our degree… but this get together has taught me that we could and must put aside our differences and cherish our similarities.

Ultimately, it’s not about ME, it’s about US. I urged my husband to drive us back to KL for this event because I wanted to refresh the special bonds that I had with my TESOL ’03 Edin Uni comrades. We’ve been through thick and thin, watched and acted in more than thousands of real-life dramas; hence meeting them again after all these years would remind me how I started ‘growing up’ independently. They were my teachers and models; they were my friends and foes; they were my mentors and psychologists; they were my fashion consultants and chefs. Yes, the physical features might have some (major) changes but we still belong to the same past, the same beautiful memories.

Cheers guys for the fantastic day! I enjoyed myself (and not to forget Al Fateh, Alwani and Go! Yusuf, Go!, Nenek, Aisyah, Kahlil and Bg Ikram who had super fun as well). Till we meet again, insha Allah. May the FORCE will always be with you!

2010, Taman Tasik Perdana:
 L-R: Eiza & Dalia. Oja & Iris, Amy, Intan, Shila, Azza & Go Yusuf, go!

2003, McEwan Hall:
Top L-R: Ruby, cW, Shannana, Oja, Azza, Farah, Shadd.
Bottom L-R: Rosie, Noi, Shila, Eiza, Intan, Naz, Ajie, late Gillies.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What I learn from 'unwanted articles @ scrappies'.

Be creative and enjoy playing scrappies paper airplanes with your kiddos!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

What I learn from ‘the car boot sale @ swap meet’.

It’s Sunday today, my husband and I have some plans to give our sitting area a new look. How I wish we were in the UK or Australia right at this moment to be at the car boot sales to find the odd and unique items with a cut-rate cost, but not shoddy (if you choose wisely).

I enjoyed my Sunday mornings –  rain or shine at the basement car boot Greenside Edinburgh (suffocating though); another covered swap meet at Broadway Fair, Perth, WA; the huge open parking area of Belmont shopping centre, Perth, WA (approximately 200-250 sellers and traders (with a bigger number of bargain hunters, of course); and some other times, when we went visiting friends all around the UK, car boot sales were one of the main activities on Sunday mornings, especially for the postgraduates families.

By the way, to those who are unfamiliar with car boot sales (UK term) and swap meets (OZ term),  it’s a place to buy bargain stuff, mainly pre-loved items (clothing, shoes, luggage, house decors, kitchen appliances) as well as other new unused items sold by traders. In swap meets, pots of plants (flower plants to herbs, including curry leaves, lemon grass, chilli plants), fertilizers and insecticides could be seen and bought.

For some, it’s a crowded place selling junks, but for me, it’s an interesting place to see the culture of others, to have a peep in another’s life, and ultimately, to find something that I need with lower prices (oh, and I could brush up my bargaining skills too!). For the newbie in town, car boot sale is also a place to meet Malaysians!

There were some lessons learned from these car boot sales;

Firstly, I need to have a list. If I didn’t plan things that I needed (and wanted) to buy, I ended up buying things that I didn’t need. When I was in Australia, what I did was (during recuperating days after giving birth to Alwani), I planned on how I want to furnish each room in the (imaginary Malaysian) house (3 bedrooms+2 bathrooms +kitchen +lounge).

Then I usually added another bullet point or two of the things that were needed immediately i.e Alwani’s winter wear size 00-0, Al Fateh wooden puzzles (not compulsory, though! Hahah). For the wives out there, do seek your husband’s permission; he’s going to pay the shipment!

Secondly, if you fail to produce a list, don’t despair, you can still go, BUT you must set a budget. Though from my experience, this was a pretty bad idea. Consider this scenario, I had AUD15 budget, and I brought only that amount to Belmont, no more, no less; and I intend to finish every cent of it on the things that I might need. Do you think it’s wise? But at least when having a (small-ish) budget, you won’t be coming home with too much regrets.

Hence, if you don’t have a list, stay at home! Or better yet, use your $15 budget to buy goodies at Woolies for a picnic/BBQ brunch at King’s Park or Burswood Park, by the Swan River. Or if it’s a beautifully rare sunny day in Edinburgh, why don't we enjoy a cuppa steaming hot coffee with prawn mayo sandwiches accompanied with a truly good book at the Princes Street Gardens. Bliss!

Thirdly, I learn the art of bargaining. I must admit that I'm a good haggler! I think it's inherited from Mak.

Fourthly,  I learn to choose wisely (expensive less quality items vs cheap high quality stuff). If you're a pro-car boot bargain hunters, you'll learn to be choosy. Always remember that you're going to use this item for a long time. And when you found 'it', BARGAIN! It's a must! Wajib!! Oh, and do pay attention to  the sellers, too, since they are the indicator of the products being sold.

Fifthly, when you plan well on the things that you ought to buy, trust me, you'll save a huge sum of money. For us who were just starting our lives in Malaysia, only having our wedding gifts to start our lives with, car boot sales offer a large variety of things that could be essential in your house, both in the UK/Australia as well as Malaysia, that is if you're not too fussy. Roughly, our house that we're staying in at the moment are 80% filled with stuff we bought abroad, both from car boot sales and store sales. Quick instances: Hamza Yusuf are still wearing Al Fateh's clothes which we bought from swap meets, their funky sturdy bookshelf reminded me of the days teaching in Al Hidayah Islamic School, where I used it there earlier.

However, sometimes it's better to save the money from the car boot sales and wait for the Boxing Day sales. i.e. I did not find a suitable and attractive floral arrangement for my lounge, so I did not buy any from the swap meet. It would be useless if I buy the bouquet (which I did not fancy) because I believe that it'll remain in the shipment box forever and ever! Trust me, you should not pay the shipping fees for the things that you don't need. Life's too short to waste your time, money, energy...

So last but not least spare your money for the first-hand items. Use your Argos catalogues (in the UK) and weekly junk mails (Western Australians) as your guide. You need to do your homework to compare prices. Our lovely Corelle was 'buy 2 and get 1 free' sale item at Big W ($80 for 24pax set!), the TEFAL and Marks &; Spencers cookware were bought during post-Christmas sale. Remember the floral arrangement in my list? I found the perfect dark red 'fresh' peony arrangement at Target, 4 days before we shipped our 'treasures' from Australia. And not to forget, for huge furniture, we frequent the charity shops to find good bargains i.e Al Fateh's pine bed and the sturdy study table.
CBS collections: mirror panels 3 for $5, wooden frames 5 for $5, and my lovely red 'fresh' peony $35.99 $9.75 (I still have the price tag on!)

To those who can still enjoy car boot sales and swap meet, I envy you!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What I learn from 'the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010'.

Our family enjoys watching sports events together. This is the time to sit together where the kids and I learn new rules of some of the events, teaching the children about different flags, the medal table and reasonings (why 1 gold is better than 10 silver). These kinds of events set a platform for us to learn new things and communicate with each other.

The first thing that I believe Dato Seri Utama Rais Yatim, my state mate, should do is to send the RTM sports commentators for courses and training sessions to improve their communication with their audience (with the exception of Hasbullah Awang). These commentators should speak with substance; giving professional comments and opinions based on technical issues of the event, in-depth background on sports or its players and any other information related to the events. I was watching the lawn bowl event, and the commentator kept on repeating, 'Oh tidak! Mengapa X (the Malaysian player), mengapa?', 'oh, sukar buat Malaysia', 'Aduhai, mintak-mintak jauh' and it was tremendously annoying! What I learn is that, these commentators need to do their homework on the issues stated earlier. They should also watch and learn from other professional sports commentators from abroad on their commentating skills.

Gold Muslimah
Do you know who is Nur Ayuni Halim and Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi? These two ladies are the top guns in 10M Air Rifle. I'm so proud of them when they stood on the stage to accept their gold medals with their white hijaabs, declaring that they are true Muslims. To me, it's a fabulous way to portray that Muslim ladies can be excellent sports women. It gives hopes and motivations to the young emerging lady athletes in the universities, SBPs, MRSMs and schools, as well as proving to them that the hijaab is not a reason for them to be inactive in sports. I believe that our two top guns have discretely performing their dakwah, masha Allah. 

Praises on air
Astro's effort on recognising the successes of our athletes should be applauded. Those short clips on the Malaysian contingent achievements - on the stage receiving medals, and off the stage, fighting as true champions, were excellent. It stirred the interest of the kids to know and watch the sports, and making the athletes themselves, and their parents and family members feel appreciated and proud of their hard work and achievements. I am a big believer that all accomplishments, big or small, should be highlighted. This will make others feel highly motivated to do better, or to follow the others footsteps to become successful. 

Insha Allah, I always try to draw attention to the successes of my husband and children, since I know that it makes them feel appreciated and loved. Even picking up the rubbish should be applauded so that the munchkins know that it is a good deed and by doing so, they are loved by us, and up mostly, Allah.
Alwani is the Queen in seeking praises! We don't mind giving them to her, but she needs to earn it!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I learn from being 'a cleaner'.

I admit, I was a cleaner for nearly 6 years, and I'm proud of myself.

I was privileged to live in the UK for 6 years and a bit, doing my A-Levels, Scottish Highers and Bachelor Degree. I have all these certificates to prove my achievements, but believe it or not, I learned more from the outside of the classrooms in Stevenson College and Moray House, School of Education.

I learn from what I earn. I earned from being an avid cleaner in various spots around Edinburgh throughout my six years there. I was employed by Mitie Olscott, working in the main branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland (5-7am); Br Yamin of Edinburgh Mosque (flexi hours: 3 hrs daily) and Edinburgh University Services (Pollock Halls during summer holidays; as well as Language Faculty (5-7am) after 'resigning' from Olscott since been offered better pay by Edin Uni Services).

I learn that money doesn't come easy, the halal money, I mean. You need to work for it! Waking up as early as 4.30am in the the bitterly cold and wet winter days to clean office spaces was not an easy job, truly challenging I must admit. Walking away from your warm bed to 'your office', knowing that you would be completing the usual cleaning routine: emptying bins, dusting the tables, hoovering with Mr Henry (the vacuum cleaner), buffering the floor, wiping the pantry, splashing some blue chemical in the toilet bowl: would not be a super motivation for some to wake up and leave the bed. But I did, not for the stated reasons though, I did it for the£4 - £6 per hour. I did it for the sole reason that it would fatten up my ROBOS bank account for at least £450 (x7 for RM at that point of time) monthly.

With the wage I earned, I learn to appreciate life, I learn to explore the beautiful world of Allah. Yes, travelling was my passion at the age of 18. I traveled to the places where RyanAir and Easy Jet (the low-cost airlines) offered free seats, which meant, I would have more to spend on accommodation (mainly YMCA and youth hostels), food and souvenirs (I love leather bookmarks!!). Hence, I learn to control my expenditure (which ain't easy, people!) and I did not dare to ask money from my parents for the reason of  overspending! So, I work hard, then I play hard.

Alhamdulillah, I managed to travel all around the UK (Scotland, England and Wales), from the Land's End to John O'Groats; hitched a trip with Bang Ammar and Kak Huda + little Anis to Istanbul, Turkey; Legoland Billund in German with Noi; Cool Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmoe, Sweden trip with Noi and Marina; Disneyland Paris trip with Nani and Kak Ain; the rustic 2-week Egypt trip with N, Nani, Kak Has, Kak Kathy and Nonoi, covering Cairo, Sinai (and saw the historic Suez Cannal), Hurgada at the Red Sea, Luxor and Alexandria ; the coupon collecting-drive yourself- all around Italy trip with Kak Lily, Nawfal and Hakimi, where we covered Brescia, Verona, Venice, Firenze (Florence), Rome, Pisa, Genova, Nice (France), Monte Carlo (Monaco), and Torino; and just a bit of Northern Ireland.
Kak Kathy, Nani, Kak Has, Azza, Nonoi and N, Egypt trip, Y2K.

Honestly, if not with the wage by being a cleaner, I would not be able to see His fantastic and phenomenal creations, different and unique, subhanallah.(And I must admit that I learn more about Geography too! More then what I've learned from the PMR exams, definitely more!)

Furthermore, I learn the art of giving. This was not easy, since I thought that I've worked so hard, why must spend it on others? But having the pleasure to see the happiness in Mak's eyes when I bought the stacks of  the Royal Albert Old Country Roses teas sets, plates and bowls seconds in Stoke-on Trent (a 'China' adventure with Pipah) and Bally & Clarks shoes for Abah in Norwich and Colne; that was priceless! And trust me, scholarship money would never ever be enough, ever! Thank God for creating cleaning jobs!
Mak's frequently used OCR collections.

Last but not least, I learn about save vs spend. I learn how to love to do both, up till now!

So, to those who have the opportunity to travel, please do. We'll learn alot about the country, culture and people; we learn about being true to Allah: obeying the rules of halal and haraam instated by Him; we'll learn to be grateful for the things we have; we'll learn to appreciate our lives; we learn how to survive.

Alhamdulillah for all those experiences Ya Rabb.

p/s:  Believe it or not, my dowry and wedding gifts from my husband were from his cleaning wage as well!
Thank God for cleaning jobs!! haha..

What I learn from 'Maher Zain'.

Taqwa vs Wealth

I was one of 'the chosen one' who had the opportunity to watch and listen to brother Maher Zain's mini-story of his life and journey in Nasi Lemak Kopi O @ TV9. Before this, we are just one of the millions who extremely enjoy his voice and songs from his new (original) album Thank You Allah, but now, after listening to some history of this 28 year old Lebanese born artiste, my respect for him and his songs moves up another level.

Having a choice to live in a high-profile life, earning million dollars annually versus an unknown journey to reach the hearts of millions of Muslims (and Muslims-to-be insha Allah); which path might you choose? For someone who have tasted the glamorous life of LA, brother Maher Zain bravely chose the second option. Why? To be nearer to Allah.

Believe in Allah's Promises

Brother Maher Zain's journey of being a better Muslim has opened my eyes to be a better and stronger believer. As an outsider, I must admit that I think that brother Maher Zain has passed Allah's test of 'taqwa vs wealth', therefore Allah grants both to him now. He chose to be closer to Allah, to pray in the mosque back in Sweden, left the fab life that he might have in LA for the sake of Allah; be happy and contented with continuing his journey in an unknown region.

But look deeper, for choosing the right option in life, Allah has granted him more. He grants him with sharp ideas to make brilliant songs and lyrics. Allah grants him health and wealth to travel all over the world to spread the truth using his intoxicating voice. Allah grants him with a style with suit him and his ways in doing his 'dakwah'. Allah grants him good family and friends who support him and not turn back to him. Allah grants him with good communications skills to communicate with media and fans, on and off stage. The list may go on and on.

The lesson I learn is choose the right path, Allah's path. Allah may test us with wealth, happiness and highly recognised and acknowledged by others, but it may be against His paths. So choose wisely.

Thanks brother Maher Zain for the lesson learned. Jazakallahukhairan kathira.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I learn from 'my back ache'.

Yusuf whimpered in his cot. I peeped at the digital clock, 2:03, I was pretty sure that he needed milk. As I set my mind to walk to the kitchen, I halted. I tried hard to execute the plan but I just couldn't move!

It was a scary moment for me. I could feel my toes and fingers, they weren't numb, but I couldn't move my body. I shook my husband gently, asked him as softly as possible to mix a bottle of formula for Yusuf, he obliged sleepily. As he came back to the room, he brought a bottle of warm rub as he saw me pinching my back profusely. Yes, his miracle massages and warm rub soothed the pain, alhamdulillah.

So then I paid a visit to a GP, to make sure what went wrong with my back. I found out that the effect of the epidural poking procedure during my third birth was the cause of the horrid pain. I was not surprise since the procedure I had on the 30 January 2009 at HSNZ was a failure. The pain killer fail to kill any pain, though several dosages were added through the drip.  And at the end of the 10 hours of labour, we discovered all the pain killers were 'spilled' on the hospital bed. What a waste! What worse is that, I'm suffering the pain, up until this moment!

Why epidural?
I took the pain killer during the previous giving birth processes. I discovered from my experiences that this was the only pain relief which helped me to stay strong and energised for the pushing bit. But I must admit, the 3rd time in HSNZ the atmosphere were different from King Eddie's. At King Eddie, the anesthetist and midwives deliberated with both my husband and I on the pros and cons of having epidural, they were relaxed and not rushing for home. But on the 30th of January, 2009, I overheard the anesthetist talking to the head nurse to speed up the process since it was nearly 4p.m., his home time. Was that ethical? To poke my spine and thinking about what to eat for tea?

What I learn from my back ache episodes;
  1. Love your body and learn about it. I learn that I need to do my stretches. Two hours is the maximum time for me to sit in front of the computer, then I need to stand up and do other short activity to relieve the pressure on my back. 
  2. I am thankful to Him for bestowing me a great husband.
  3. Alhamdulillah for another day.
  4. Make lots of du'a that I'll be stronger and find a cure for my back ache, aamin.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What I learn from 'King Eddie Hospital' - Ep 2.

KEMH, Perth
July, 2005 & April, 2007.

KEMH Birth suite

Post-delivery: Educate, educate, educate

I remembered waking up looking at the puffy wee baby in the wheeled-cot, smelling beautiful fresh lilies (feeling impressed at the same time because my husband knows my favourite flower), looking at my not-so-big-anymore tummy and feeling very hungry. I buzz the pink button, and there comes Tamara, a familiar face from the Aqua team. She beamed and congratulated me for the long hard work (so she knew what happened the day before). After a quick check of my chart and other things, she said, 'You need to stretch those legs, come for a short walk around the ward, and I'll reward you later'. I was lucky that I was properly dressed, another crucial information given by the midwives during my final pregnancy visit, which were to pack comfortable dark coloured skirts and buttoned blouses to ease breastfeeding process. 

So I hopped (hahah) out of bed, while Tamara pushed the bub, who was sleeping dreamily in the wheeled-cot. She showed me the pantry, where the labels and marker pens were so that I could label my food to put in the fridge, then the 24 hour guarded nursery, where she left my baby there, then back to the pantry, where she grabbed a tray and filled it with an apple, an orange and mango juice popper, another popper of Brownes' fresh milk and a plate of tuna and egg sandwiches, with a small halal sticker on the cling film.'Let's go, and when you feel hungry, just grab anything in the pantry which has no owners, i.e, no stickers attached to food'.

As I sat on the chair in my room to eat, Tamara explained to me a few things (and this is at 4 in the morning!):
  1. Since I was on epidural, it was essential to check that my legs were still in order and out of the pain killers, that was why she wanted me to walk.
  2. As I walk, there were no gush of 'clean' blood out of my body, it was a good sign because I was in a very very long labour, blood loss might be one of the complications. 
  3. I could never leave the baby alone, at any time. If I need to have a shower, or even to the loo, send the baby to the nursery, or buzz the front desk. Though the bub was wearing the security tag (just like the tags on the clothing at Jusco/Parkson, just a little bit smaller), KEMH didn't want to take any risk.
  4. If the baby is too cranky, doesn't want to sleep even after feed and nappy change, please send him/her to the nursery, so that I can sleep and have a rest.
  5. No formula allowed. Breastfeeding only! No excuses accepted. 
  6. Nappies, towels, and mom's pads and baby's clothing will be supplied by KEMH. (Yes, nappies too! High quality ones!)
  7. My lunch and dinner will be halal meals, while breakfast, morning and afternoon tea as well as supper will be tea/coffee/milo + fruits +milk+biccies (and weetabix + toast and jam for breakfast). Sandwiches will always be available in the pantry, if needed. 
  8. The baby should always be with the mother, that's where he/she should be. 

And at the end of the information absorbing processes, I completed most of the things on the tray! Tamara then gave me a new baby pack gift from King Eddie, as well as 'My Baby Diary'.


Another new thing learned in the morning, just after my husband entered the single suite ward, another midwife came with cheery spirit and announced, 'Are you ready to give the baby the first bath, Dad?' Yes, not me, the ummi, but Abi! Then she said that bringing up a child should not be one-sided, both parents should participate actively. Breastfeeding is the most precious way to connect to your newborn, and the other would be during nappy time and bathing. And so, Abi was taught how to bathe the one-day old baby, from testing the water temperature using the elbow till bundling it with a thin blankie. He beamed with pride, the red sticker on his chest, and I'm very proud of him, too!
The sticker 'I bathed the baby' still in the scrapbook!
Both Al Fateh and Alwani's first baths were conducted by Abi, yes, their FIRST. There were still blood in between their fingers and sticky hair! King Eddie's staff educate us to connect, they want the baby to know that they are loved by Abi and Ummi!


A breastfeeding officer visits me frequently, to check my techniques, ensuring that it wouldn't be a painful experience and the baby would be full and satisfied. I learn that it's all in the mind, including your milk flow. The officer told me to think positive, send messages to your brain so that the brain will produce enough milk for the baby. It works, even after my third.

A bit of flash back...

Just after giving birth, though super-tired, the midwife in-charge put the baby on my chest. She said, '10 seconds photo session and feeding time.' Huh? Feeding? How? So, snap-snap-snap, then Lorraine, one of the midwives on duty, stood next to my bed and taught me how to feed my baby, for the first time in my life! It was a magical experience, subhanallah!
After the baby (we didn't have a name yet at that point) was contented and detached himself,  Lorraine told my husband to perform any religious ritual before she started her routine check-up. While my husband recited the azan, she served all three of us a cup of hot chocolate! We didn't expect such courteous and fantastic understanding from King Eddie's staff, but masha Allah, they deserve proper recognition for that.

Before Mak and my husband left for home, they sent me to my suite. In hand, Lorraine had a plastic container, similar to the 1L ice cream tub; she then asked my husband to sign some papers and handed him the tub. In it, cleaned placenta (uri). Mak said, Al Fateh and Alwani's placentas were the easiest to clean since the hospital had done a great job, in a great sealed package, too!
A snap from Alwani's baby scrapbook. Just above Al Fateh's head was the sink where my husband bathe Alwani for the first time. The family photo was taken in Room 28, King Eddie's.

Thank you King Eddie staff, especially the midwives of Aqua team who have been educating us, young parents, with beautiful new knowledge using fantastic gracious methods. I applaud you!

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