Sunday

Blogger: Umm Salihah

Umm Salihah's blogs:

Umm Salihah, what cartoon character best describes you?

Doug comes to mind for some reason, even though he is a boy.

Please describe a typical weekday in your life?

I wake at 6am for Fajr and then spend some time reading the Quran.  I get ready for work and luckily at the moment get a lift to work from my husband (who then has to shoot back and get the kids ready for school).  I get to work for 7.30 and after praying my morning dua’s, which help me feel a bit braver and brewing my herbal tea, I get stuck in.  I’m a morning person so I try to get as much done as possible in the first few hours before my energy tails off.  It also motivates me to get more done if I see ticks on my to-do list.

At about midday I make wudhu in the disabled loos (the tiny sink is the bane of my life!) and head for the prayer room after making For lunch I resort to the canteen, although I am trying to bring meals more often from home (healthier and cheaper).  I am a woman of extremes so it’s either salad or chips and cheese!  I usually end up with a noisy bunch of ladies but try to have a day or two in the week where I can just sit alone and read.  I struggle through the afternoon and then fly out of the door at 4pm.  Hubby is usually waiting for me, kids in tow and I get home for 4.30, pray and then rest for a little while I catch up with my husband about what has been happening with us that day.  This is usually the time the kids unload too, with talk of what is happening at school. 

Around now I get my second wind as hubby leaves for work (he runs a removal business and books jobs around me, so that one of us can always be with the kids).  I get the dinner on and then sit down with my daughter for her Arabic lesson, although sometimes we end up cooking and studying at the same time.  This usually leaves me with a bit of time before dinner to play, so I either blog, answer e-mails, go play with my craft materials, sort through my beads, or just read whilst the kids play.

Then hubby pops in between jobs for dinner and the brother-in-law gets back from work.  Often there are others, my in-laws may be staying, a guest might come by (which happens a few time a week) and most days one or the other of my three sisters will pop by or my dad might drop in (to play noughts and crosses with my daughter).  So dinner is usually a leisurely and lively affair.  As we don’t have TV, hubby will put on one of the Pakistani news channels on the internet whilst we clear away, unless he has to rush out to do another job.  If the weather is good, everyone will go for a “night walk” as the children call them; these are particularly wonderful on summer evenings.  In winter we relax for a while or go visit my mum who lives five minutes away.

After this we start the bedtime routine much to everyone’s protest, sometimes they get a story, sometimes my daughter will read a story to my sons who are younger, occasionally they get a stern warning to stay in bed.  My husband will go through the bedtime prayers with them.  This leaves us with a bit of time for ourselves.  Usually I read until my husband gets home, occasionally my husband reads to me whilst I get everyone’s clothes and bags ready for the next day.



Umm Salihah, what motives you to write excellent blog posts, even though you are extremely busy?

I am not sure about excellent, I look back over my posts sometimes and cringe, thinking I could have edited that a bit better.  Despite this, I love to write.  I find it extremely therapeutic and I like the idea of sharing experiences and hearing from others who might be going through something similar.  I also like the idea of recording my thoughts somewhere (for instance with my book reviews) and finally I hope that sometimes my writing acts as a form of dawah and helps to challenge stereotypes about Muslims.

You mention in your profile that you want to be an author. So are you in a process of writing your first novel?

I did start writing something, but lost my nerve.  I will begin again at some point when I have the motivation to do so, but not necessarily a novel.  I like the idea of writing something for my children or a short story insh’Allah.

You are an avid reader of self help books/blogs and have a keen interest in positive psychology. How has that knowledge helped improve your lifestyle and career?

I think over the years there has been lots I have read and rejected but some things that have stayed with me and impacted the way I look at life.  I feel that perhaps I have become a little more resilient and a little quicker to look to solutions and alternatives rather than get down when things don’t go my way.  The first book I read in this vein was Barbara Sher’s I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was and it blew my mind as a teenager because it dealt with issues that women face from those around them, I felt like it spoke to me at the time.  I have been hooked since, although I am more critical of what I read now.  I am looking on with pleasure at the growth of Muslim self-help, because I always felt that there was a gap in these types of books where Allah (SWT)’s greatness was not acknowledged.  It’s good to see people like Zohra Sarwari and Muhammed Al Shareef combine faith and self-coaching in a useful way.

I suppose the things that have stayed with me the most have been:
  • Resourcefulness not resources
  • One step at a time
  • Keep learning something new
  • You are who you are
  • Always listen to your gut instincts
  • Write it down - your thoughts, plans and dreams. It will make them more real and is also cathartic.
  • Each day is a new day, you can start afresh if things don’t work out.
  • Most importantly - ask Allah SWT

Your talent exceeds writing; you design beautiful cards and jewellery. Could you please tell us how that creative journey started?

I started making jewellery from broken and old pieces as a teenager because I liked the idea of wearing something I made.  Much later when I was expecting my first child, I picked this up again, because I found threading the beads therapeutic and a good way to wind down after a long day at work.  More recently, I like the idea of wearing things which work with my hijab and don’t cost anything.  I like the idea of seeing something and adapting it to my own style.

In respect of cards, I never did like the old-fashioned chintzy Eid cards with bouquets and doves that usually are imported from Pakistan and are pricey.  I also really liked the look of the handmade cards that were appearing on the market although I found them expensive.  One year I thought about the size of my extended family and decided to make some cards myself.  They were a bit hit-and-miss, but I got a really positive response from people.  Although you can get some beautiful, artistic Eid cards now, it’s still feels like more fun making my own.

Other than your blog, where do you promote your creative work?

I haven’t really thought about promoting what I make.  I have pictures on Flickr, but that’s partly because I kept losing my pictures on my personal desktop (my kids are always managing to crash my computer), so the Flickr site serves as a good store for me.  Mostly I hope that the images and posts serve as inspiration for others to have a go at creating something of their own.

What’s the secret behind your healthy work/life balance?

I think state of mind plays a big part in this.  If I am happy I feel healthy and balanced.  If I am not, then it impacts the way I eat and take care of myself.  So most important for me is taking care of the relationships in my life.  If my parents or hubby were annoyed with me, that would make me miserable.  If my kids were down, that would make me anxious.  So I try to keep all loved ones close and keep an eye on extended family and friends.  If I have upset someone I try to make amends.  When I have these things in place I feel good, and when I feel good I feel strong.

The other thing I try to make sure I do is have time for myself.  Work takes up the space in your life it does, even without you paying attention to making time for it, whereas when it comes to personal time I think women are not good at playing.  They feel guilty if they are not doing something, whereas men turn their play (football, golf, gaming) into things of monumental importance.  So I make time to craft, read or just jump on the bed with the kids if that’s what I need.  

Perhaps the biggest thing that keeps me sane is my relationship with my truly wonderful sisters.  No matter how bad things have ever been, how down I have felt, spending a little time with them is like a balm for me.  We laugh, we joke we reminisce, we argue and then we make plans together.


Umm Salihah, what are your goals for this year?

My goals for this year are the 30 I wrote down for my birthday here (http://www.happymuslimah.com/2009/08/30-days-for-30-years.html).  The ones that are most important to me at the moment are improving my salah, learning to drive (I aim to take my first lesson this summer if I can get over my mental block), being more assertive and getting into the habit of using miswak.

Please tell us which blogs you like and why?

The ones on my blog’s sidebar are the ones I go back to most often, particularly Rickshaw Diaries for the writers wonderful sweetness and spirituality, Hegab Rehab for the style and attitude, Musab Borah’s Mr Moo for its downright hilarity and Islamic Unit Studies for the range and quality of it’s resources for Muslim children.  Also Muslimah Media Watch for their intelligent analysis.

For non-Muslim blogs I like Down-to-Earth (http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/) for advice and motivation toward living more simply and naturally, Emma Falconbridge’s blog for her gentle style of mothering and Racialicious and Rocks in My Dryer for variety.  Also, I keep going back to Stephanie’s blog http://nieniedialogues.blogspot.com

For creative inspiration I have a long list of blogs on my favourites lists, but my faves are Moxie Fab World, Marcia Decoster’s Mad Designs, Elizabeth Kartchner’s Dear Lizzie, Dancing Mermaid and Dawn McVey’s card blog.  For wedding creativity I head to GupShup Forums which is hard to navigate round sometimes but has a wealth of ideas and advice.

I am a very visual person, so for eye-candy I go to Polyvore, Amy Atlas’s candy bar website, Aaina Bridal, Hostess with the Mostess, D Z Dar and numerous wedding, food, home-style and hijab fashion websites.


Umm Salihah, before we wrap-up this wonderful interview, do you have any advice for newbies to the blogsphere?

Write from your heart.  If you are genuine and sincere and honest in what you write, it will speak to other people and touch them.  They will respond to you.  Also be patient, you may think no one is reading your blog, but people will be attracted to what you write over time.  Don’t worry about comments or blog stats, just enjoy the process of what you are doing.

Thank you Umm Salihah, for sharing with us your creative work. I am extremely glad to have interviewed you. You’ve certainly inspired us to do more with our time.

Salam

1 comment:

Fruitful Fusion said...

Brilliant interview ma sha Allah!