Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I kid you not!

Before I got married, I earnestly believe that having kids would be a cinch mainly because I love kids. At least, that's what I told myself back then : the loving kid part, that is.  

As a singleton, I did find children adorable, cute and all things nice. I had yet to, however, fully comprehend the commitment, dedication and responsibility that come with being a mother. Admittedly, I had a somehow fairly weak grasp at motherhood, since I only experienced it second-hand through handling of other people's kids.

Even though there were my eldest sister's children to help taking care of, the tasks only involve watching over and playing with them while their mother did other chores, or holding them in my arms when the request came up. There were no diaper-changing (I usually just hovered over them) or meal-spoonfeeding (I just amused myself with their seemingly cute antics at the dining table) duties to worry about. 

I did envy those who are a natural when it comes to interacting with children. Kids swarm to these so-called 'child whisperer' without hesitation or second thoughts. More often than not, I still needed to warm up to a kid in order for he or she to open up to me. This natural affinity to children sure comes in handy when these kid-charmers do have their own offspring, was my wise deduction. 

On the other hand, those whom I have observed as non-kid lovers, or are in general awkward, indifferent or cold with children, would have a hard time raising a kid. 

All these supposedly airtight hypotheses fail to, however, hold water once you have a child (or more). When a child comes into the picture, every prediction just go down the drain!

Post-kids, I know of 'kid whisperers' who struggle to maintain a healthy balance of discipline and affection, for instance. And there are cases where non-kid lovers immensely dote on their children after a protracted, awkward period of adjustment to a baby. 

Also, there are people like me, who are overwhelmed by a presence of a new person to whom they are entrusted to take care of until he or she is able to leave the house and make a living of his or her own. 

It dawned on me, a fortnight (or so) after my firstborn's arrival, that this cherub is someone who will be accompanying us in our life's journey. We are a family unit now. No longer just a couple.

To be fair, I did have an inkling that a baby makes three (duh!); I just wasn't prepared with how formidable the task is in becoming a mother. In a way, I did suffer a period of mild postpartum blues as I slowly gathered the mental strength and physical energy to assume the new coveted role. (The prolonged labour also had a hand in contributing to the doldrums, but that's another story.)

Fortunately, my beady-eyed baby girl was relatively easy to handle, notwithstanding my initial clunkiness in nursing, holding, wrapping, burping, changing, and cleaning a teeny human being.

There was also my experienced husband to fall back on, and family members who were more than willing to show me the ropes, whether I liked it or not.

Undoubtedly, hiccups and blunders occurred, running the gamut from feces trail to falling off the bed with a loud thud. When the latter happened more than once, I couldn't help but to inwardly think that I wasn't cut out for this role.

That depressing prospect then voluntarily vanished as I looked at my baby's innocent face and promised myself to do better and better. Because I realize if I don't step up, no one else will. Who else will be there for them, if not their own fledgling parents? 

Sometimes, I wish having kids comes with a manual. One manual for each child since not one person is ever alike (unless you're a clone) and has his or her own idiosyncrasies, traits and personality which you have to bear with. Different approaches and methods must be precisely utilised in order to favourably gain an alliance. 

Alas, nothing is ever really cut and dry. You have to be ready for any eventualities, despite your own physical, emotional and mental limitations. There will always be that one last drop of energy left, even though you have told yourself otherwise. Because that's what being a parent is. You suddenly develop a motherly (fatherly) intuition you never know possible, and equip yourself with extra-sensory (not to mention, sensitive) powers to circumvent any harm to your lineage.

Regardless the back story as to how you normally treat a child before having one yourself, you are never actually prepared in every sense of the word until you do have and raise one. Your own unique and exciting adventure into motherhood will begin; it is up to you to either embrace it or give it up. 

And if you are up for it, I guarantee that it will be one for the books! Your very own, your pride and joy, whether you want to share it with the world or not.

Amid the ups and downs of motherhood, you'll soon come to another realization : how you have started to sound like your own mom. Familiar phrases that she had uttered to nag you into cooperation will come to light. You will then stop dead in your tracks and say out loud, "Oh no, I sound like my motherrrr!" 

My current favourite usage : "That's not something you say to the one who gave birth to you."

Let's see what it will be next year. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Of reward and punishment

Growing up, I came to believe that anything wrong happening in someone's life must be a result of a misdeed which he had partaken in. That something 'wrong' can be a loss of any kind, be it an employment, a family member, a healthy life or the overriding happy feeling. Like, when a person lost a family member, he must have done something grave to receive such a punishment. Or when I got a bad grade in my exam (despite studying hard), it must be because God is angry with me for being disobedient and disgraceful. Everyone must be at their best behaviour in order to avoid His wrath.
My almost fatalistic and downright pessimistic view on reward-versus-punishment, however, turned upside down when I was informed of my mother's failing health. When you are a 13-year-old, there's only a lot you could digest before leaving the rest to the adults to manage. Back then I knew something was wrong with my mom's kidney, but the details were at best hazy. 
I vividly remember it was the first time that my mother was not sleeping together with us in our Shah Alam house. My sisters and I slept en masse on the floor of my parents' room, with my dad and my young brother on the bed. I recall waking in the middle of the night, searching (or maybe crying even) for my mom who was hospitalised for her deteriorating renal condition.
At that point, I wondered to myself as to why bad things happen to good folks like my own mother. She is a caring and doting person, putting others' need first than hers. Perhaps, she had pushed herself over the limit to please other people, much to her detriment.
My question remained unanswered throughout much of my adolescent years and thereafter in college. The fact that an ustaz in my residential school practically scared the non-hijabis into donning a hijab - wear now or you'll be in hell! - left me skeptical and confirmed my suspicion about sinning and its consequences. 
Post-college, I struggled with some issues regarding my faith when life's tribulations left me sad, envious and weary. Ultimately and fortunately, I still have the good sense of knowing that pleasing God is the most important agenda in life. 
I really don't know how the realisation finally set in. How I grasped at the answer to my question : good-versus-bad people and their outcome in life. It must have been a progressive understanding over a period of time. From reading online articles and exposing myself to the English materials on Islam. 
I know God is just. I had just forgotten how merciful God is! He is Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem, after all. I began to understand that life itself is a test. It is up to us to make the best of it according to His rules, to overcome the test and to prepare for the next journey. The test is never to break you. It is to make you stronger. And always, always believe that Allah won't burden us more than we can bear. And that after a hardship, there is relief. It is never about why bad thing happens to good people, or vice-versa. God tests His servants, ever since the beginning of Adam. Bear also in mind, that through suffering or pain, there are the likelihood that our sins will be expiated. So never take lightly the prick of the finger, or the sudden thud on your toe (as long as they are not self-inflicted!). 
Another thing that I learned though is that a trial that you now undergo, might be a result of a past's bad behaviour. In a way, my first naive notion about punishment is true. But instead of looking it through a mirror of a wrathful God when I was younger, I see it now through an image of a merciful and wise God. This trial will aid in cleansing some (if not, all) of the bad deeds. It is also God's way of giving us a chance to be reflective and realise the missteps we might have trodden to become so distant from Him. 
That is, at least, my comprehension following some soul-searching and epiphany through Islamic-related writings. Anything lacking is entirely my fault as my knowledge is sporadic and limited to the teachings of renowned Muslim scholars whom I have oftentimes the privilege of reading and listening. 
Embattled with my own personal conflicts, the vastly different worldview that I have now about Islam has helped me in making headway where acceptance and spiritual growth are concerned. While people's flaws - whether real or imagined - can bring you down and affect 'your momentum', they shouldn't and mustn't dictate how you are going to live (and leave) your life today. Make the best of it!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Anniversary in retrospect

Friday marks our 11th year wedding anniversary - as per the Islamic or Hijri calendar. It was the idea of my husband whom I had wrongly thought as secular as they come, to celebrate the occasion on the first year of our marriage.

I was both surprised and elated by his suggestion, which I should then take as a grand romantic gesture.

Every year thereon, we have celebrated it in one form or another, either at home or at a mall du jour somewhere. It is usually low-key, and not as ambitious as the Roman calendar one.

We were married on the 14th of Shawwal 1425. It just lately occurred to me though that we were actually and technically married on the 15th of Shawwal since the ceremony took place after Isya' on a clear Saturday night. For those in the dark, according to Islamic tradition, it is already considered the 'next day' in Islam after the sun sets for the day at Maghrib prayers. That's why some people commence the loud chanting of Eid takbeer as soon as Maghrib prayers end. Also, this is the reason behind why the supererogatory prayers of Tarawikh begin on the night before Ramadan fasting starts the following day.

Back to when our Hijri anniversary date really is, it all boils down to semantics, I suppose.

In any case and to cover all bases, let's call for a two-day celebration! Feast and more feast, I'd say!

I have been introspective now that we have come to that post-a-decade goalpost. That, in itself, shouldn't be a cause for alarm as I have always been over-analytical by nature. I'm not proud, nor ashamed to analyze things at length. This predilection, however, does deter with progress when I refuse to budge from my position in the midst of an over-analytical process. My other half does counter that over-thinking makes me feel miserable, if not downright pessimistic.

It is only natural to reminisce about the years passed when you have been married for a period of time. You get to recall those good and bad times. The euphoric, happy-as-a-dandy times. The times that make you grow as a couple. Even those times when you falter and try to make sense of it all.

There were times I wonder if I could read my other half's mind so that it would save me the trouble of second-guessing and getting worked up over nothing. Don't sweat over the small stuff. Look at the bigger picture. Don't miss the forest for the trees. You get the drift.

Once you pigeonhole someone into a certain mould in your head, and add some historical overtones to the mix, you are left with a cast that is very rigid and flinty. As a result, when expectations fall short of reality, you tend to be sorely disappointed. That's what had happened to me.

Amid the mundane, daily rush, I tend to forget that my husband is also human with his own set of foibles and flaws. Instead of looking out for rays of sunshine, I am readying myself for a rainy overcast.

Life has a funny (or dramatic) way of springing some surprises when you least expect it. I believe it is a wake-up call from Allah to buck up or lose out on my opportunities. While possessing mind-reading skill might be handy, having faith in your other half is of a more basic and rudimentary requirement. Similarly, chipping away at the hard layers of who-I-think-he-is versus who-he-really-is will save me the trouble of getting us both into a sticky situation.

"As long as there is love, anything is possible."

When he wants to celebrate the Islamic anniversary, when he whips up my favourite food, when he brings home my favourite things, when he adheres to his before-marriage-how-to principles, when he looks out for my well-being and the kids', when he protects my honour by berating a snob, when he takes my side in a school misunderstanding, when he suddenly fixes my tudung or brushes my hair, when he asks me what I want to eat.

That made me realise : When I try hard to search for some grand, hyperbolic overtures, I overlook instead these small gestures which are worth their weight in gold and inordinately sum up a person's true character.

Love is hard work. It takes a concerted effort to make love thrive. Never take each other for granted.

"Love gives us something more than just what you can give or make externally. Love has a greater and deeper inner side. When there is love between two people there is exchange between their souls, there is a transfusion of their souls."

To my soulmate, my anamcara, Happy, glorious 11th anniversary, and may Allah continue to shower our marriage with His Mawaddah, Rahmah and Barakah always. May we grow old and travel the world together. May we still be here to see our lovely children grow up. May we still look at each other with that familiar, affectionate glint in our eyes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A case of the feline

"Don't trust people who don't like cats for no apparent reason." --- Anonymous

I had completely forgotten to mention in my previous post of another milestone that took place in the last five years : pet possession. 

Ever since I was a little girl, cats have been a permanent feature in our household. My mom loves to regale us with tales of our - my twin and I - legendary antics which had landed us in many a hot soup. One of them involves giving a poor kitten a bath and THEN hanging it to dry using clothespins! I kid you not. We were four years old then and lived in a rented single storey house at Kampung Tunku, PJ. 

When we moved to Shah Alam in 1979, cats continued to come and go at our terrace house. Some came to just eat and some stayed to call us home. The memorable cats of our youth (read : teenage years) were Chowyu (named after my twin's favourite Hong Kong film star at the time, Chow Yuen Fatt) and Nuno (my elder sister named her after the one half of the famous one-hit-wonder duo called Extreme). 

Chowyu's untimely death left my twin severely heartbroken and if I'm not mistaken, Nuno passed away when I was in the States. Come to think of it, I was never a cat owner. At least, not until recently. I am fond of cats and go gaga whenever I see them in their different fluffy variants. Both Chowyu and Nuno were not mine: I am just a co-owner.

I played with them but I never did form that fundamental owner-pet attachment that usually follows suit. Probably I didn't want to get emotionally attached to something I couldn't solely call my own. Or I wasn't investing that much time with them in the first place. 

Four years into my marriage and coming home from the Netherlands, we settled back in Ampang and my husband brought up the idea of having a pet. I wasn't keen of keeping a cat at a condo, especially after hearing about an increasing case of pets (and what-nots) falling from the balcony. 

Buying a residential plot on the ground level looked set to bring that pet-owning dream into motion. Alas, we can only plan but Allah is the Best of planners. We migrated to Dubai soon after and lived in an apartment throughout our duration there. 

During our final year in Dubai - despite rumours of imminent departure to KL - we bought, not one but three dwarf hamsters. They are cute, cuddly and big eaters for such tiny fellas. We were ambitious and bought them a nifty big cage. And two transparent balls for them to go in and roll around the apartment's veranda and living room. 

When news of KL move was firm, we didn't think much about any problems which might ensue if we were to bring Grey, Stripey 1 and Stripey 2 home. However, complications on the custom and health front led us to reluctantly give them away free instead - cage, accessories and all. 

It was sad having to part with them after six months together. In a way, I did form an attachment, albeit a brief one. Although I couldn't touch or stroke them like I would a cat, they were a part of our daily fixture. Well, except for that 10 days we were away from them for our Spring Break. And boy, weren't we happy to see them alive and well when we came back! 

Towards the last quarter of 2013, suburban life in Malaysia seems humdrum and laid-back enough to finally toying with the idea of getting a feline. This strong impulse brought Izzy* into our lives, after scouring the backwater of Tanjung Panglima Garang for her breeder's abode one stormy Sunday. She's a mixed Persian kitten with a friendly and lovable personality. She'd wait by our bedroom door to open in the morning to be with us human. She's a chirpy, people person, I mean, cat!

Unfortunately, Izzy fell sick two weeks after she stayed with us. She didn't want to eat, and became weak with each passing day. The diagnosis at the vet proved to be fatal. Izzy contracted a blood virus. She died about a week later during her treatment at the vet. We didn't get to see her in the end and let the vet arranged for her burial. She was only with us (including vet stay) for less than a month.

You'd have thought that incident would swear us off cats for a while. Surprisingly, it didn't deter us but made us more determined to choose from a better, long-established breeder. At the end of December 2013, we found online one in Kajang and he was more than willing to bring to our house four kittens (including the one we liked online) to pick from. 

He unzipped this portable canvas-like carrier and, lo and behold, four terrified kittens scampered for places to hide in our living room! They were all adorable, minus the scratch they left on our hands and feet. 

At that very moment, we both decided to take two kittens, instead of just one. Having a partner in crime makes it easier and quicker for them to adapt to a new place. Thus, it was the start of a beautiful (indoor living) journey with female Binoo** the seal-point ragdoll and male Stampy*** the ginger mixed Persian. 

One and (almost) a half year on, we have also adjusted to life with indoor cats. This includes neutering procedures, vaccination visits, routine check-ups and stays at the cattery whenever we go out of town. Fur-balls galore notwithstanding, they are now an enduring part of our family. All seem normal and hunky dory on the home front....

That is, until my daughter won three little fishy at a school carnival two weeks back. Now we have a small motorized fish tank for the fish! When your kid already named the fish upon reaching the car to go home, you just don't have the heart to throw the fish out. 

So, let's hope we stop at fish! Though that sugar glider in the pet store sure looks mighty cute.....

* Named after the girl character in Jake and the Neverland Pirates™.
** Named after the cat Binoo in my boy's favourite cartoon series, Toopy and Binoo™.
*** Those who play Minecraft will know the origin of this name :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Back into the groove

I started blogging in late November 2005. That is about six months shy of 10 years ago. The impetus for initiating a blog? When I found out that I'd soon be moving to another country for one year, in order to follow my husband's undertaking of his Masters in Science. At that time, I was five months or so pregnant with my firstborn. Work had been regurgitative at best, and unchallenging at worst. I used blogging as an outlet to escape and an online journal to document my journey to both babydom and moving abroad.