Hello September

Hello friends! I hope you’ve all been well. I can’t believe it’s the middle of September.

September has always been a special month for me. Long after I left school and university, it’s always been a month of reset, a return to routine, and slightly cooler weather. As a self-professed lover of school, September has always reminded me of going back to school and getting back into a routine, even when I wasn’t a student anymore.

But this year, September was even more special since it was my daughter’s turn to go to school! She started junior kindergarten and had been ready for so long. The pandemic stole most opportunities for making friends and being social, so she was extra excited.

I had been dreaming about this day for so long, sometimes with longing and sometimes with dread. Maybe because of the pandemic, we hadn’t been apart for long for the past 4 years. She has been my constant shadow since she was born and I was both excited and scared for her to go off in the big wide world. But in my heart, of course I knew she was ready. She had been asking to go to school for the past 2 years and I knew how much she was going to love it. I prayed schools stayed open and the covid numbers stayed low enough for her to enjoy it.

I definitely cried after I dropped her off. My home and my heart felt so empty. But there is joy and sweetness in reuniting and getting those extra tight hugs and kisses at the end of the day.

There have been so many changes lately. The main one being that we moved! We were in Hamilton for 2 years but recently moved to Waterloo; right before my daughter started school. It was such a crazy summer trying to pack up and get the new place ready, all before school! It was my goal for my daughter to start at her new school instead of switching after a week or two so it was a mad dash.

We’re all unpacked. But I still don’t feel settled in yet; there’s always so much to be done! It’s been hard to be properly settled in too since our appliances were delayed; our stove just came 2 days ago and our dishwasher is still not hooked up.

I also joined Humber’s school for writers and am taking a creative writing course! I’ve been dreaming about this course ever since I took my Creative Book Publishing Course years ago, and now that my daughter is in school, I finally did it. I’ll be spending the year writing a book and getting feedback from my mentor. I’m so excited to be doing this and to have this dedicated time to writing.

I haven’t done much writing yet, since my routine is so out of whack. But my goal is to get into routine next week (InshAllah!!) and get writing. My fingers are itching to get started.

So lots of new things to look forward to. It’s definitely been an exciting time around here! How was your summer? Do you crave routine or are you more a go with the flow type?

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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Life Update

Wow, it’s been a little more than 4 months since my last update. Yikes.

I swear I’ve come here, ready to post, and even start a draft, but then it all seems so boring and blah. Does anyone still read this blog? Does anyone even care? Lol. I’m not sure I do, but I really want to. This post itself has been a draft for almost a month.

This blog used to be such a source of joy for me, but lately it’s fallen off my radar. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m interesting enough to write about. Pandemic fatigue has hit me hard and I feel so uninspired and creatively blocked. Daily life with it’s routine of chores takes up all of my time and most of my mental energy so that I don’t have much left to give at the end of the day when I do get a few minutes of calm to myself.

I’m a stay at home mom, but before I stayed home by choice. Now I’ve been imprisoned in my home forcefully, along with everyone else, for a year now. And I’m starting to lose it. I write this a few days after another province wide lockdown that’s been announced in Ontario, and a stay at home order and I have just had enough.

Last weekend, right before the second (or is it third???) lockdown was announced, we took a quick trip to Niagara Falls for 2 days. It was supposed to be more fun but it was announced that everything was going to be shut down the next day so things were shut down instantly. But it was still nice to get out of the house and break free from our routine, especially since we can’t travel anywhere for awhile.

I used to be happy staying in, watching movies, and doing my own thing, but when you have an overactive almost-four year old, it can become quite draining trying to entertain her day in and out. The weather hasn’t helped either; I usually get seasonal blues during the winter months, and this year it was worse with nowhere to go. It literally felt like we were imprisoned in our house.

To keep busy, I’ve been working with my critique group to revise the manuscript I’ve been editing since last year. I’ve always been eager to ask for feedback and critique, but I haven’t always been willing to offer it. But now I’ve realised the benefit of it; not only is it beneficial to the other writer, but it’s also helpful in recognizing mistakes in your own writing. So it’s a double benefit.

I feel like I’m close to the end with this manuscript and ready to start working on something else. I’m so ready to dive into another world, a fantasy world where I can get lost in.

I’ve been in such a reading funk for the past few weeks. I started 2 books and wasn’t able to finish either of them. They sat on my bedside table for days, maybe calling my name, but I never listened. I’m not sure if they weren’t interesting enough or I’m just mentally fried. TV has been my saving grace.

I love docuseries, and I’m becoming obsessed with true crime ones. They often haunt me and keep up late at night, but they’re weirdly wonderful distractions right now.

Something else that’s been a wonderful distraction has been decorating my daughter’s room. We recently moved her to her own room and that was a whole thing on its own. I think I was freaking out more than my daughter! Even though she’s right next door, it took me awhile to get used to the idea of her being away for me, and it’s just making me realise how quickly she’s growing.

It’s been almost a year since I opened up my own home bakery, and today I made the decision to shut it down. It was with a heavy heart, but it wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped it would, especially not in a pandemic where every other person decided to open a home bakery. It was a lot more work than I anticipated, especially while trying to keep an almost 4 year old entertained during lockdown after lockdown.

I’ve loved baking every since I was a little girl, but when it started to become a chore, I realised it was time to put it to bed. It’s hard when you try to make your passion into your job or business; sometimes it works out, but sometimes it ends up not being as fun as you thought. I didn’t want to end up hating baking so I decided to stop and maybe think about it again in the future. I’m hoping and praying that God has something better in store for me.

Tomorrow is Ramadan and I’m so excited for a new routine and a slight change in schedule, especially since we’re stuck at home for another month or so (praying we aren’t stuck for longer). Ramadan Kareem to all those observing! May it be a month filled with goodnessand mercy.

Thanks for reading, Ikhlas

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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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Home

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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