What a Year

Wow, what a year it’s been! I’m sure there are many versions of this sentiment out there already but it bears repeating: it was a strange one. And it seems to be right back where it almost started at.

I still can’t believe how fast this year has gone. In April, as we prepared to celebrate my daughter’s 3rd birthday under very strange circumstances, it felt like time had slowed down. Each day felt like a week and there was nothing to do.

After Ramadan and Eid, I launched my new business: a home bakery, Sweet Story. Sweet Story has been on my mind for many years and almost started it a few times. But this time, I decided to do it. It’s been tough launching something in quarantine and definitely not what I expected. It’s definitely different baking things for myself and my family vs for customers!

After launching Sweet Story, time suddenly started flying. Before I knew it, it was Fall.

But Fall ended up being even weirder since my maternal aunt, my khala, passed away on October 7th. It was devastating and shocking, a complete surprise. She wasn’t sick and passed away so unexpectedly. My world and my family’s was rocked and it took me so long to come to terms with it. Like so many other things, grief felt so much more difficult during Covid.

There were so many emotions I felt during this time and I longed to turn my pen to paper to process them, but I couldn’t. My emotions and thoughts remained locked up inside of me and in turn, I turned back to food for my comfort and solace. Like so many other times in my life, food has been there to comfort me and I felt like I went back to the beginning of my battle with my unhealthy eating habits. These were habits that I had worked so hard to get rid of earlier in the year. But grief hits in unexpected ways and when I couldn’t make sense of my emotions, I ate. Luckily, I don’t think I was alone in this.

Winter has been tough again especially since we are back in Lockdown here in Ontario. We were self-isolating since November and then the province shut down right after the holidays, which means another month of self-isolating. We are definitely feeling the quarantine burnout. It seems surreal that it’s March in another 3 months, the month that it all started.

This year I read 47 books, completing my 45 Goodreads book challenge! This was probably the first year I read so many books since having my daughter 3 years ago. This was the year of the Thriller for me. I read so many thrillers and mysteries this year that they’ve all blurred together. I don’t remember many of them, to be honest, since their plots were so similar haha.

I made/baked lots of new things this year. I tackled my fear of bread and made many loaves of artisan bread. At one point everyone seemed like they were making bread! I also made risotto this week for my anniversary and it was amazing! I was scared of making it for ages but it wasn’t that scary at all, just a little time-consuming. I also made Baked Alaska, which didn’t turn out so well. But you win some and you lose some! I’m so grateful for the chance to challenge myself!

2020 is a year that most of us won’t forget, but there were still moments in it that I’m grateful for. We probably won’t have another year that makes us stop and pause our lives, the way this one did. And while it was depressing at times, there were also times that were filled with light and made me appreciate my family and the time we spent.

Let’s hope 2021 is a better year, one that is filled with good health and time spent with our friends and family.

Stay safe everyone!

Ikhlas

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The blank page stares at me, its whiteness all-encompassing until I’m drowning in it.

These words are rare, stilted, and awkward. It’s like my brain has forgotten how to transfer thoughts into words to my fingers. The different components are rusty, as they twist and turn together painfully to try and make this work. To try and explain what I feel.

Instead I’m left with thoughts. Ugly, deep, messy, and complicated thoughts. They flutter around in my head, like birds with broken wings, completely ungraceful and undignified. I try to catch one and tame it, but it dodges all my efforts. It is hopeless.

This is not poetry or anything beautiful that will evoke deep emotions or provoke rapid actions. This is instead a collection of the broken, jumbled, fragmented thoughts floating around in my head. This is me.

I have been moving for so long that I haven’t stopped to peer inside at what’s going on inside of me. I try to remember the last time I put pen to paper or even finger to keyboard, and come up completely blank. I have been running for so long that it’s painful to stop. I honestly don’t know how to stop. But then I remind myself, isn’t this why I kept moving?

For someone who loved to live inside her head for most of her life, I’m finding it rather hard to find my place inside of it. I blame motherhood for this ailment, since most of my thoughts shooting around inside my head relate to my strong-willed, active, talkative daughter, and the day to day management of the house. There is no room for pretty poetry or astute observations about the world or people around me. There is mostly boring monologue about endless housework and cooking and bedtime and cleaning and scheduling that shoots through like a train.

But I long to return to the house in my head, a place where I created words and worlds, castles and caves, depth and drama, love and light. They poured out of me, pooling page after page, filling the emptiness with life. Now, there is so much life around me, but all I do is consume it. It doesn’t fill me. There is only emptiness inside now.

My soul aches from the emptiness, the boredom and the silence, of staring at screens and consuming other people’s worlds. I long to feel productive and tired from using my brain to think and create, and not just using my body to run around.

And so I’m looking for a way to bring back the light so I can dust the cobwebs from the corners of my soul, and find my way back home.

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Catching up

Wow, another unexpected break from the blog! I definitely didn’t plan this long break, but as usual, it happened on its own.

I’ve been thinking about blogging for quite some time, but to be honest, it’s been hard. Despite being in quarantine since the end of March, not much has been going on. We celebrated Emaan’s birthday at the end of April, a day before Ramadan started, and then it was Ramadan.

As usual, Ramadan flew by and then it was Eid and we’re still in quarantine. Kind of, at least.

The whole world is opening up, but we’re still being safe and keeping indoors mostly. It’s really hard explaining to a three year old though why we can’t go to the park when it’s clearly open -_-

We have started going out for more walks, so that has definitely made her happier! Nicer weather also helps.

The past few months have definitely been a lot more difficult than I ever anticipated, and I know I’m so incredibly lucky. But when the whole situation started, I had this silly idea (and I’m guessing a lot of other people did too) that it would be over by summer. I never envisioned that it would go on this long, or how much it would affect my mental well-being.

For those who know me, I’m a self-proclaimed homebody. I like being home and sticking to my routine. But when I was being told that I had to stay home, it suddenly wasn’t so fun anymore.

I’ve always had lots to keep me busy at home, with my writing/editing, brush calligraphy, blogging, reading, but the past three months were more difficult than I had ever imagined.

I’m not exactly a social butterfly nor do I have a large social circle, but I really missed seeing my family, and even being able to go out to shop or to the mall. As a stay-at-home mom, that’s about the maximum amount of socialising I do anyway, so without it, I felt like I was going crazy!

It’s been nice to be able to start seeing out family again, but we’re still choosing to be cautious and only going out for groceries or walks during the week.

I finished writing my last WIP and even finished editing it, much later than I anticipated. It was a monster at close to 130,000 words and I had a difficult time bringing it down, but I got it down to 92,000 and I’m hoping it’s good enough. InshAllah!

I even started working on a new book idea, but then real life got in the way as usual. Ha! It’s not really a new idea, but an idea that’s been living inside my head for at least 5 years now, but might now have a chance to come to life. It’s very different from both Aisha and Farah, which were contemporary. Farah is teen, and this new story will also be teen but fantasy. I’ve always wanted to write fantasy/historical but it takes so much time to come up with the backstory and the larger plot. It’s supposed to be a trilogy so it’s definitely going to take some time to sketch it out.

But right now I’m working on a new project which I can’t wait to share with all of you! It’s a new business venture that I’m working on with my brother and it relates to one of my passions: baking! I’m hoping to launch it within the next few weeks, InshAllah. I can’t wait!

Ever since Ramadan ended, I’ve been trying to not gain too much weight. I found so much benefit in Ramadan and fasting this year that I decided to continue it after! Aside from the spiritual benefits, I found that fasting has really helped me curb my snacking habit. I’m a muncher and munch on things all day, never realizing how much I’ve eaten! Especially snack items.

So after fasting every a few days, ever since Ramadan ended, I’ve found that I forget about eating and only eat main meals and no snacks. I’ve lost 20 lbs so far, but I would like to lose 10 more inshAllah. So far I’ve been maintaining it, and have been having a few cheat items here and there (more so on the weekends) and I find it really helps keep me sane. I love sugar and it’s hard to stay completely away from it.

To be honest, it’s always been about self control. I have none. But I’m trying to change that and to really tell myself no when I want another bite of something (right now I’m battling myself over some chocolate covered pretzels haha). Not buying junk definitely helps with this, and eating healthy as a family is obviously important. The less we all eat of it, the better!

Another huge change I’ve made recently is working out. If anyone asked me 3 months ago what my version of working out was, I would say boxing class once a week and maybe some treadmill every few days or say lol. But since quarantine started, I’ve gotten in the habit of working out every single day for an hour.

During Ramadan, I did 30 mins every day so that I didn’t lose all my progress, and it’s been difficult to get back into the rhythm after Ramadan. There are some days I only manage to do 45 or 50 mins, or even some days (often weekends) when I end up skipping it, but it’s definitely a lot more than I have ever done in my whole life!

I’m definitely not a workout junkie and I don’t get a thrill out of doing it. But I do enjoy how I feel after, which is accomplished. It makes me feel good about myself and I do feel a bit stronger. Some days it still feels like a chore, so I have to find ways to make it interesting haha.

The world has changed so much in the past 3 months, and it’s hard to imagine when and if it will ever go back to normal. Is this our new normal?

Many of these changes were just waiting to happen. We can only hope that the media attention that Black Lives Matter got isn’t temporary, and that it incites a permanent change. Because it’s about time.

Anyway, what’s new with you? How has quarantine life been treating you?

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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Quarantine Day 56457

Hey everyone! I’m back with another survival post documenting my 56457th day in Quarantine. ๐Ÿ˜›

Since I last blogged, I have watched 6456 Disney movies, listened to 439 Wiggles songs, watched Gossip Girl episodes for probably the 60th time, made 10000000 meals, and stepped out of my apartment 3 times. How’s your quarantine going?!

All jokes aside, this has been harder than I thought it was going to be. We are probably a little over a month in quarantine and it’s hard to tell the days apart now. I often forget what day it is and I probably would have forgotten what month it is, except my daughter’s birthday is in less than a week so we’ve been counting down to that! Her birthday coincides with the first day of Ramadan this year so we have two things to look forward to!

Honestly speaking, if we didn’t have either of these things to look forward to, then the days would have blurred together even more (than usual). It really helps to have something to look forward to so that there’s some sense of time.

I’m actually so excited for her birthday, apparently more than her, according to my husband! But I plan on cooking up a feast and baking a cake of course, so I can’t wait! We had planned on doing a little party at home, before this all started, but of course it won’t be happening. At this point, we’re just trying to do what we can to make the day special for our daughter.

My daughter and I have started decorating for Ramadan; I don’t have any store-bought decorations so I just tried to make some with her. If any of you reading this has a toddler, then you’ll know how impossible that is! I can’t wait till she’s a little bit older so I can do more crafts with her. I love crafts and have been collecting stuff from Michael’s for years. They’re finally coming in handy!

Ramadan is going to be so strange this year, especially since there will be no visiting family to break our fasts or go to the masjid. Eid will hardly feel like a celebration too since mostly likely we’ll still be staying home. But I keep trying to tell myself that God does things for a reason.

I’ve been cooking a lot, but nothing new or exciting unfortunately. Everyone else seems to be cooking or baking up a storm these days and I am so jealous! But I’m trying to stay firm in my goal to lose weight, so I’ve been eating pretty boring meals. I did make some pizza today for my husband and daughter though! I did have a teeny tiny slice hehe.

I’ve been reading a little bit, but have been watching a bunch of TV too. I ordered two books from Indigo a few weeks ago and finally finished the second one yesterday.

The first one was a teen fantasy one called Thorn which was a retelling of the Goose Girl fairy tale. It was very different but enjoyable! I haven’t read teen in awhile so it was fun to get back into it. The second one was an adult mystery/thriller called The Dry. This one kept showing up on a lot of lists and a lot of people seemed to enjoy it, but for me, it was just okay. It took me awhile to get into, especially because the first few pages mentioned a child being murdered, which freaked me out.

Now that I’m done with those two, I’m going to try and make a dent in some of the unread books sitting on my shelf. I can’t buy more till I finish them all apparently -_-

I’ve been trying to get back into my brush calligraphy but it’s obvious I need A LOT more practice lol.

I think I’m getting better at wreaths though!

Entertaining a toddler all day is a lot harder than it looks, so we’ve been trying to stick to a routine and then chill and watch movies on the weekend.

Anyways, hope you’re all staying healthy and safe during this pandemic. Here’s praying it ends soon <3

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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Time for…

We’re on day 12 of quarantine here and starting to get a little bit of cabin fever. It’s especially tough with a toddler who has a bundle of energy all the time. We didn’t go out much, pre-quarantine, but I’m definitely missing our trips to the library, rec centre, gymnastics, and even the grocery store. ๐Ÿ˜›

Given the way we’re feeling, I thought it was time to sit down and list some of the things that we now have time for, since we’re inside all the time.

…reading

I’ve always made time to read because it’s one of my favourite things to do, but I find now I have even more time to do it! With my husband being home, I now find patches of time where they’re doing something else and I can curl up on the couch with my book. Granted, it doesn’t always last long, but it’s definitely a lot longer than before!

…playing with my daughter

This is probably going to make me sound like a bad mother, but before, I didn’t have much time to play with my daughter one-on-one. With all the chores and errands in the day, I rarely found time to sit down and actually play with her. These days we seem to have endless time for doctor’s checkups, getting my makeup done with her, going grocery shopping in her shopping cart, and then checking out at her cash register. It’s so much fun to see her imagination at work!

…exercise

I know lots of people are finding comfort in food these days, especially since there isn’t much to do when you’re at home, but I’ve been trying to lose weight. Carving out time to exercise was so difficult before; by the time the day was done, I was too tired to do anything. But now, because my husband is home all day, there is ample time to work out.

…watching movies

My brothers, husband and I are watching Lord of the Rings together! Well not together but at the same time. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve never seen them before (they came out at the same time as Harry Potter, and of course I picked HP) and my brothers have begging me to watch them for ages. With all of us at home now, it was the perfect time! We chat while we’re watching so we can pretend we’re all together but it’s a little less annoying than me talking throughout the movie. ๐Ÿ˜›

…other hobbies

So I haven’t started this yet, but I want to get back into some of the other hobbies that I used to enjoy and used to have time for, prior to Emaan being born. I have been doing lots of arts and crafts with her lately, but I want to get back to doing them for myself. I also miss doing brush calligraphy and plan to pick that up again. This is my second blog post in one week, which is a record for these days! But I’m definitely enjoying having the time for other hobbies like blogging.

…appreciating the little things

Now that now that we are home all day, we all have time to appreciate the little things. Things like going outside for a walk, going out for dinner, seeing family and friends, going to the park, socialising, etc. seemed like little things in our pre-quarantine life. But now, we realise that they weren’t little things. These were big things. We just couldn’t see it. And I have a feeling that when life goes back to normal, we will never take these things for granted again.

What are some of the things you’re enjoying having the time for these days?

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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