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Hajj Friends

Saturday night, several of the local NJ families from our hajj group finally got together. I say finally because we have been trying to make it happen since we got back from hajj six months ago but life kept getting in the way. Alhumdulillah for a huge and close-knit family, but sometimes that makes it nearly impossible to meet with other social circles. Not to mention, my life has been nothing but chaos this first quarter of the year.

Over the course of the past six months, I can’t tell you how many people have told me how nice it is how we have stayed in contact with people in our hajj group– that they don’t even remember most of who were in theirs, etc.

I have stayed in contact with several people over the phone, texting and of course Facebook… but to see them after so long? Joyous. Alhumdulillah, we picked up right where we left off. Reflecting, reminiscing… and recounting the many funny stories of course.

The friendship/bond I have with a select few of them is indescribable. It’s like we have known each other our whole lives, except for the fact that they were mere strangers six months ago who have become like family since then. No formality, no fuss: just plainly and simply a fun time with down to earth people.

I don’t know if our paths would have ever crossed, even though so many of us are from New Jersey, had we not been in the same hajj group. What I do know is this: they were [and are] a huge part of the “hajj experience” for me. I am thankful for their friendship and I am thankful we shared the experience(s) of hajj together. I hope no matter what the distance between us may be, that our friendship surpasses that.

We met and became friends in one of the greatest ways possible. Not to mention in the greatest place possible. The stories, memories and experiences we share are like no other.

And for that, they will always hold a special place in my heart. May our friendship grow even stronger over the years.

InshAllah, I can’t wait  to have the group gather again soon [and hopefully it won’t take another six months this time around]… you know, before I leave for the other end of the world… 🙂

Verily with Hardship comes Ease

2014, in essence, thus far has proved to be the worst of times and the best of times.

It started off as [relatively] horrible as it possibly could, with the c-word scare and surgery soon thereafter [and the not so fun recovery]. It started off with the many “what if’s”, “how could this be” and “why” questions. Not to mention the most stressful months of my life.

I often had to remind myself that this, too, shall pass.

And in the midst of all this chaos… in the way both spectrums intertwined at the same time… there is truly no other way to explain it in my mind other than: He, above, once again proved: Verily with Hardship comes Ease – [94:5-6]

Most of my family and friends, by now, know that  I am engaged as of early March.

In the days after, someone jokingly said to me that I apparently don’t do anything the normal/typical way. But that is my life. So why would this be any different? For the first time since leaving Pakistan 19.5 years ago, I will travel back to Pakistan mid December. And not just to visit, mind you; to get married there. Why not, right?!

Never in a million years would I have imagined traveling back to Pakistan, let alone to go back for the first time after so many years to get married AND move to Australia immediately afterwards.

 

But alhumdulillah. He is the best of planners.

 

Last year at the this time, it was all about planning/preparing for hajj. This year? Wedding/Pakistan Trip.

My Recipes Featured in Local Newspaper

When my brother Ayaz emailed me a link to a tweet by our local newspaper asking for our favorite pizza pie recipes, I let it sit in my email box for a few days before going, “what the heck, I’ll share my Bubble-up Pizza and my favorite pizza recipe.

I figured that would be it, a RT (retweet on twitter) at the most.

Surprisingly, shortly thereafter, I got an email from the Social Media Editor affiliated with the newspaper. She asked me whether I would mind sharing some of my recipes on a post they would be featuring for Pi Day (today), how I started cooking, and why I post my recipes on my blog amongst a few other things.

As a result, my Pi Day recipes from last year (Chicken Pot Pie and a Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie) are part of their Pi Day feature in their newspaper’s website today [alongside a link to my “What’s for Dinner” section of the blog!

Click here to see the full article (mine is the last one). Below, I took a screen shot of my portion [because I’m not sure if the link will work for everyone or not.):

Like my recipes? Click the below link to purchase my cookbook “What’s for Dinner”:

Purses

See, it is the next task I took on… just six months later. And by accident.

Some a long time ago, like back at the end of August two days before a party at our house when I had a million other things to be doing, I decided that I needed to reorganize the way I organize my hijabs because they currently use up 4/6 of my dresser drawers. Not that I had other priorities at the moment or anything with 80+ people invited.


When that plan failed in under 60 seconds, this happened:
This door pocket organizer [that I’ve had at the bottom of my closet for the almost three years I’ve lived in the house] now houses some of my clutches, wristlets, small purses etc.

The main reason I didn’t end up storing some of my hijabs in this pocket organizer? The pockets weren’t opaque. I couldn’t see them unless I pulled them out, and that defeated the purpose. I wasn’t about to pull out each hijab trying to find which one I wanted to wear. I’m an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of person for sure for things like this.

Any ideas for the larger purses and bags? I’m thinking of just throwing them in a basket like container and storing it inside my closet, but let’s see.

…and while we are it, any ideas for organizing hijabs? I’d like my 4/6 dresser drawers back…

Papa and Me Time

Family is family and there is nothing like family. One of the hardest things I have had to do in a very long time [if not ever] was to say goodbye and head back home hours away this past Tuesday night after spending a wonderful week by Papa’s side.

 
There is no one better to take care of [your loved one] than a caring and loving family member. One who knows what they like and dislike, one who gets them, one who can comfort them and reason with them.
Of course, it’s not easy. And everyone’s circumstances are different and you have to do what you have to do. But a stranger can never replace the level of care a family member can provide: because most of all, [your loved one] just wants some good old company. Someone to sit by their side and talk. Or do absolutely nothing. They need to be shown how much they mean to us, that they are loved, taken care of, and an important part of our life!

I am blessed beyond words to have Papa in my life, and I loved every minute of the almost six days I had with him- the “Papa and me” time will always hold a special place in my heart. The last few days of my trip involved a lot of tears from my end, because I couldn’t imagine leaving him- what I wouldn’t do to be able to stay there longer by his side. My six days revolved completely around Papa, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, so you can imagine who weird it felt to be back home and only speak to him via the phone.

Life Lessons

While you are busy planning for it, life happens. And you just learn to deal with it.

Things I’ve been reminded about lately:

  1. Everything that can possibly go wrong, most likely will. Deal with it. Like the air conditioning deciding to stop working on us with about 80 people in the house on a hot/humid summer day in August. With the oven on constantly all day and burners under the chafing dish[es] running all day. Fun.
  2. Cherish the moment. You’ll never get it back. Because of Papa’s dementia, I have learned very quickly to just stop and savor the moment. As I was sitting with Papa last night , I realized to just sit there by his side and do absolutely nothing else… there is no where I’d rather be when I am lucky enough to have him nearby. Everything else can wait.
  3. Family first. Always. Nothing is more important. Period. There’s no one else that will always have your back.
  4. Eat healthy to live healthy. I found myself in a healthier eating habit I’d say almost a year and some change back and I can honestly say it makes a difference. Lately, often times I’ve not been home enough for meals or I’d eat something I normally wouldn’t… or eat late… and I can tell the difference. When you eat right, it helps you feel better inside and out.
  5. Just when you would like need the time to slow down a little is when it seems to speed up even more. Plus throw more chaos into a very hectic schedule already for more fun.
  6. If you don’t laugh about it, you’ll cry about it. Unfortunately, I have cried about it several times in the last few days.
  7. This, too, shall pass. For as long as I can remember, I have repeated this to myself on not-so-easy days/times. There are better days ahead.
  8. Glass is always half full. It could be oh so much worse. 

Dementia

“… among you is he who is returned to the most decrepit [old] age so that he knows, after [once having] knowledge, nothing.” [22.5].

Dementia. I don’t know whether it’s nice to hate something, but I do. I hate dementia. With every ounce of me.

It’s taken away my maternal grandfather mentally from us, and that is something that breaks my heart. The signs were there for so long, but I can’t begin to explain to you the rapid changes in just one month’s time. You just had to see it to believe it. I don’t think I would have believed it if I wasn’t experiencing it in front of my very own eyes about someone so near and dear to my heart. For someone with so much worldly knowledge and experience, to now suddenly succumb to something like this and so rapidly… I can’t put into words how much I detest it.

I don’t say this because our family can’t handle it. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Each person in the immediate family has stepped up their game and done more than their share. And done it because they want to.

Even when in your heart you already know [and we knew], when it was finally confirmed by medical professionals: it was so hard to digest and believe. Or even fathom. How could this be?

This too is a test from Him above, and together we will conquer it. It hasn’t been easy, and I know it won’t. But for someone that I have looked up to from day one? I would do anything I possibly can for him.

In some ways, it truly is like having a newborn/toddler around. You learn to have patience, and sooth their mind. You can’t leave them alone at all, and your senses need to be at the top of their game 24 hours a day. Yes, even at night when sleeping. You do things for them, and help them with other stuff. They lose their independence and they become dependent on you. Worse, they feel like a burden. How in the world do you explain to, no scratch that… not just explain, BUT show them they are anything but? We would go to the moon and back without a second thought.

And just like when a child’s toy is broken and they bring it to you to fix, you wish you could fix this for him just as easily. But you can’t. It’s broken and we can’t do anything about it. We can, only, help him physically, but that will never seem to be enough.

Amongst the family we have been talking about how so often we remember in our prayers our physical abilities, but how often do we pray to retain our mental abilities? Each part of the human body, plays such an intricate role and together makes the human body whole. Even with one deficiency, it’s as if the whole person is effected.

I’ve thought a lot about dementia lately, and every time I see Papa react a certain way, I wonder if he feels it. If he feels confused or senses something isn’t right. We, obviously, know things aren’t right. That he is confused to say the least. But we can deal with it. But I hope to God that to Papa, inside, he doesn’t sense that.

I pray to Allah SWT to make it easy on Papa. To give his mind peace. To give us strength to take care of him in the hardest of days. And that we continue to do it whole-heartedly.

Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?

Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?

The fact that this verse is repeated 31 times in Surah ar-Rahman [#55]… I don’t think that is by accident. It’s without a doubt, one of my favorites ayats [verses] from the Qu’ran.

The verse reminds us time and again for the many blessings we take for granted on a daily basis [and to be thankful for them]. Whether it be in terms of money, food, wealth, health… or anything and everything else: tangible and intangible.

If there’s anything I’ve learned through life experiences over the past several years, it’s let go and let god. Everything happens for a reason. You just don’t know it [yet]. By that, does it mean that you live carelessly and expect greatness? Absolutely not, of course. It means: you live following the right path, and when unexpected hurdles fall your way- you keep faith that this too shall pass.

In the beginning, several times, the inevitable why is this happening to me popped up in my head… but now I am quick to brush that though away if it does occur. Why not me? What makes me better than the next person to make me immune? And there’s always that belief that He, the all-knowing, doesn’t throw more at you than you can handle.

But this isn’t about the hurdles. It’s about the blessings [in disguise].

Like I have talked about several times over the course of time, why do we so easily ask “why me?” in difficult times, but not in good times? How often do we truly stop to be thankful for everything we take for granted on a daily basis? Just look around your own circle of network because you won’t have to look to far to find an example of someone that has it much worse than you, yet is [probably] handling their circumstance(s) a lot better.

If we truly took the time to count the blessings, we’d realize it’s impossible because it would be endless. They are infinite. But we don’t. This theme is repeated in various Surahs in the Qu’ran. Several examples:

  1. From Surah Ibrahim: “And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” [14:34]
  2. From Surah Nahl: “And if you should count the favors of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [16:18]

Just think of the basics that we consider necessities that not everyone has the luxury of: roof over our head, food on the table, clothes. I’ll be the first to admit, that I, wait cross that…not just me, we are spoiled.

Even down to breathing, seeing, hearing walking, talking: most of us take it for granted because it’s just a natural part of life to most. Those with issues pertaining to any of the above will tell you otherwise. It irks me to no end when in the public, you come across someone with a limb missing and people just stare. If anything, it should be yet another reminder for gratitude.

NoteI don’t blog about religion very often, because I don’t think I’m by any means qualified to do so, but this is a good place for me to express my thoughts- and thoughts alone… that’s all they are. Other topics I’ve done in the past: Halal vs. Zabihah (Meat) and Organ Donation. Adoption is a topic that weighs heavily on my mind a lot, so perhaps I’ll tackle my thoughts on that next.

25th Birthday

A quarter of a century old. That’s me today.

Where has the time gone and why is it going by so fast?! Sheesh. Can it slow down just a bit? I feel like 2013 just started and it’s already more than half over.
Back to the birthday. Did I post here about how I lost a year? Really, I did. For the longest time (or since my last birthday I suppose), I kept thinking I was 23. That’s the answer I gave when people asked me, and that’s the answer I whole-heartedly believed.
Then my brother’s birthday came around in April. And when people asked how old HE was now, I told them 25. After calculating he is 15 months older than me.
Then, he overheard someone asking me. His response? “I’m 26 you goofball!”
Aaah, it couldn’t be. That would mean I am was 24… and worse, about to turn 25 in a few short months (today!) How could I really not know how old I was?!

 

So that brings me to today.

A quarter of a century old. And apparently already effecting my memory. (Just kidding – thank goodness my memory is as sharp as ever. Sometimes too good in remembering unnecessary details).

Cicadas

I am scared of all bug related things, so when I just noticed two cicadas at my front door? Yeah, not going over so well.

Several years back, I saw them through the safety of the car on a road trip down to Virginia to visit family. When we got there, cicadas were also there to welcome us unfortunately. The wimp in me would run from the house to the car and back.
So far for this years invasion? We were lucky. I heard them scantly but had yet to see them in our area. I figured they would not be appearing in our area [hopefully].
And then tonight occurred. After putting the garbage and recycling items out, my brother came inside the house mentioning a big bug. Our mom asked, “it’s not a cicada is it?” jokingly to which he responded “it looked like one”.
Half hour or so later, I opened the door and there they were. Large, gross, and flying way too close to my liking.
Can they go away now?