Spiderweb Swing (Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art)

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Yesterday my husband and me went to Bedok Reservoir Park for an evening run. It’s my husband’s second time running at this park, but for me I have been coming here since my childhood. There is also a playground for children at the park, but the playground constantly changes through the years. I discovered yesterday that a new swing has been added to the playground family. What I love about it was the spiderweb-like pattern chains making up the seat of the swing. I have never seen this kind of swing before, and I thought it was a lovely work of art on its own.

(Also, I could not help but played on the swing for a while before starting our run! :P)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Work of Art

Sisterly Fitness Camp by Muslimah-in-mind

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Alhamdulillah so last Wednesday-Thursday on Labour Day holiday I attended the Sisterly Fitness Camp (SFC) held at Al-Khair Mosque. It’s been a long time since I attended any camps at all so when my Saff sisters asked me along, I thought okay let’s do this together. Furthermore the word fitness caught my eye – the thing about exercising is, I need buddies! Who’s with me? Hehe. 😀

The all-women 2D1N camp started off with a complimentary health check, followed by a wellness talk by Dr Rauzanah Affandi, a medical doctor who has worked at SGH and KKH previously, a qiyamullail (night prayer), and then a 4.4 km outdoor trail from Masjid Al-Khair to Choa Chu Kang Park the following day. The message of the camp was not just about being fit but about comprehensive wellness and being healthy as a whole, be it taking care of your diet, mental and physical health, as well as intellectual and spiritual wellbeing.

Extracted from the Muslimah-in-mind website, the aims of the camp;

“Islam takes a holistic approach to health.  Just as religious life is inseparable from secular life, physical, emotional and spiritual health cannot be separated; they are three parts that make a completely healthy person.

A true believer recognises the wonder of the human body and is grateful to the Creator.  This gratitude is shown in the care and attention given to maintaining optimum health.  Islam’s holistic approach to health covers all aspects of the mind, body and soul.  A truly health conscious person blends diet, nutrition and exercise with the remembrance of God and an intention to fulfil all their religious obligations.

Prophet Muhammad s.a.w said, 
A strong believer is better than a weak believer.”  

He was talking in terms of faith and character, but also indicating that physical strength (optimum health and fitness) were desirable, and that God has given us ways and means to attain such strength. Islam’s holistic approach to life and thus health offers us the ability to remain strong and healthy.

Thus, the Sisterly Fitness Camp (SFC) aims to instill a love for keeping fit, with suggestions on how to sustain a healthy and fit lifestyle suitable for the Muslimah.”

Health Talk: Total Wellness for the Muslimah ~ Intellectual Wellness

Dr Rauzanah started off the talk by showing us a video entitled “Make Health Last. What will the last 10 years of your life look like?” by The Heart and Stroke Foundation. Not to start off with a grim topic she says, but she wanted us to open our eyes to the realities of our current health statuses as the video highlighted that the average Canadian will spend their last ten years in sickness instead of being healthy. Dr Rauzanah also mentioned that in her daily work at hospitals, she is seeing more and younger patients with major illnesses and this is a worrying concern. I must admit that seeing that video made me think of how my golden age will be like, and silently made a goal to start living life healthier by eating the right foods more and inculcating more exercise in my daily life. Afterall, you reap what you sow and you are what you eat, and your stomach is where most diseases start to develop.

Among the things she highlighted were the different components of wellness that a Muslimah generally has in her life. Three aspects she covered were intellectual wellness, spiritual wellness and physical wellness. These different aspects of wellness are vital as part of our lives as Muslimahs busy with the many commitments that we have, be it work, marriage, children and community just to name a few. She also brought up the 3333 diet, which goes by the ideal intake of food to consist of 3 parts vegetables, 3 parts fruit, 3 parts protein, 3 parts grain and carbohydrates – divided into 3 meals per day. How do you measure the right proportion? By using the size of your fist as a guide. In addition, she also emphasized on the importance of getting enough sleep daily.

Tadabbur and Tahajjud ~ Spiritual Wellness

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After the talk, we prayed Isyak in congregation led by Ustazah Rusydah. Then, we were divided into groups of 12 persons each (there were 4 groups in total) and after a short ta’aruf (getting to know each other), we read several paragraphs of 3 different surahs together. They were surah An-An’am; verses 161-165, An-Nahl; verses 65-72 and Al-Furqan; verses 63-77. This was then followed by a light supper, and lights out by 11.30 pm as we were to wake up by 4.30 am for our tahajjud session together.

The tahajjud prayer is a voluntary night prayer that you can do after Isyak until before Subuh, and you can do it individually or in congregation. To me, both ways have different impact on yourself and both ways are good. When you do your night prayers alone, your time with God is truly a personal and intimate one, whereas when you do it in jemaah, you feel a sense of togetherness as a community that is striving to become better Muslims as a group effort. And that is truly a beautiful feeling MaashaAllah.

The tahajjud prayer was led by Ustazah Hafizah, followed by witr prayer led by Ustazah Azhani. And then Ustazah Mariyam led a munajat session (an intimate prayer) afterwards. After our qiyam ended, we got ready for Subuh, praying with the mosque as a jemaah. By 6.30 am, we gathered in our groups again and had a light breakfast as well as reflections on the verses we recited the night before. My group did a reflection on surah Al-Furqan verses 63-77, which were about the qualities and characteristics of being gracious servants of God, and MaashaAllah I learned a lot from the sharings and reflections from the sisters. If I had recited and tadabbur (reflections) on my own, I would never have obtained the many different additional insights that I got. This is the power of sharings and doing things together, Alhamdulillah.

Exciting Outdoor Trail ~ Physical Wellness

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Then we gathered outside of the mosque for a warm-up before our walk, which was led by Habibah Najihahbi who is also our resident national sprinter. At 7.30 am, we started off our walk. It was a cloudy day, with the sun peeking out every now and then. We made our way in groups and enjoyed the morning air. It was a relaxing leisurely walk with great company of like-minded sisters MaashaAllah. Along the way, the sight of tables set-up with 100 plus and water replenishments made me feel wondrous! Halfway through the walk, it started to drizzle and then it slowly started to get heavier. But instead of stopping, we just took our ponchos and marched on. Rain is after all a blessing from Allah s.w.t. and what better way to beat the morning blues than working our bodies out. No prizes for guessing what I would have done if I was at home, in that cooling weather in the pouring rain…

Alhamdulillah, the rain slowly subsided towards the end of our walk and we managed to reach Choa Chu Kang Park in slightly less than 2 hours. We received a goodie bag at the entrance of the hut we gathered in where we had a short reflection on the walk and the whole camp. For my group, we reflected that because we walked together and were talking and bonding during the walk, we were able to have fun and managed to finish before the stipulated time. We also reflected that when you do things collectively, such as your ibadah, workout, trying to eat healthy together, InsyaAllah the results will be a different impact than if you were to do it alone. Afterall, God did not create us alone in this world. He created so many of us, each with different personalities, capabilities and temperaments so we can collaborate beautifully and create amazing things together SubhanAllah.

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All smiles through the rain!

Alhamdulillah it was a wonderful experience and I thank the organisers for their time and energy in planning and preparing for the SFC. May Allah bless your efforts, InsyaAllah. I also love that the camp consisted of Muslimahs of all ages. Looking forward to more fit and fab activities with the sisters InsyaAllah! 🙂

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The whole group of sisters who attended the camp 🙂

For more details on Muslimah-in-Mind, head on to their website at: www.muslimahinmind.org

Confessions of a shortie and why I hated netball

So here’s the thing. I’m five foot tall and I have been petite all my life. In other words, I’m short and small-sized – “fun sized” as I like to call it.

My mum and dad are of similar height with each other – medium Asian height, if there’s a term for this – although my dad’s side of the family leans on the shorter side while my mother’s side consists of taller counterparts. No prizes for guessing whose genes I followed. Luckily for me, this has never been an issue in my family. I grew up a happy childhood filled with happy memories children are supposed to have. In primary school, from primary 1 all the way to primary 6, I was always the shortest in my class (I should get an award for this). My 8 – year old self never had any problems with this though, primary school me was always a happy cute bunny where ever I go.

It was only in primary 6, when I was 11 years old that I started to understand the reality of being short and fun-sized. We had an inter-class tournament and my teacher would ask for volunteers to form a netball team among the girls. The best team for every class competes with the other teams. Now the good thing about being small is being lightweight thus possessing the ability to be more agile than others. Which made me generally like physical ed. classes and all sorts of sports as I can run and get away from people pretty fast. So happy cute bunny me put my name in without thinking twice (possibly forgetting the very simple fact that netball players require a certain height to qualify).

And apparently, I was told to be “too short for netball”.

Ouch.

I did the most logically emotional thing every 11-year old does after being told she was too short for netball (okay, maybe just me). Proceed to the nearest washroom and cry my eyes off. And of course, striked off netball from my list of favourite sports. I remember comparing myself to other classmates and wishing to be taller and then asking God to please add some tall genes to my petite being when I grow up. I remember that incident as my first memory of being “rejected” and the first time I expected myself to fit into the “normal-sized people” quorum.

Fast forward to now – some things don’t change. I’m still as cute as a bunny (please don’t puke yet, lol) staying petite as an adult. As a self-proclaimed shortie, there are some things I encounter. Shopping – long skirts and pants always require some altering. You’re always mistaken as a student if you dress casually and have no make-up on. People always call you “cute” which sometimes can be pretty annoying. Sometimes you want to wear black formal looking flats when you have an important work event to attend but you can’t because other people are always towering over you.

But what’s changed is that I don’t expect to fit in into any “normal-sized people” sizes anymore (what’s that anyway?). When I think of that memory, I feel a little silly and now I can laugh at my petite self in all good manners. Obviously netball is not the only sport in town but to my primary school self, it was one of the few sports I knew.

In polytechnic, I discovered my agility to serve me well in another sport which I have come to love – rock climbing. There are some moments in your life where you just know when something is for you. The first time I climbed a rock wall, I knew. That I was meant to be a rock climber. Okay okay dramatic aha-moment announcement aside, here’s why I love climbing rock walls. Because I was lightweight, I was able to carry myself up along the wall easily. Because of my agility, I was able to manoeuver the wall tiles from the bottom to the top with ease. Sure, if you’re a tall rock climber you may reach certain tiles easily when you’re on the wall, but I could always compensate that by being flexible enough to step up a couple of tiles without much difficulty. Rock climbing allowed me to see and use my strengths to my advantage, as well as trained my mind and body to work around my weaknesses.

The point of this story is that I eventually worked around my weaknesses and focused on my strengths. I learned how to sew, so I can alter clothes easily. I learned to dress up well, so I can look more presentable. I learned to accept myself and my flaws – and found myself easily accepting of other people along the way. I learned to love myself and be grateful for all my blessings. Most importantly, I learned that it’s okay to have expectations on something or someone or yourself for that matter but there’s something that goes hand in hand with your expectations –  when an expectation doesn’t meet your standard, expect yourself to let it go.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Great Expectations

My Battle with Acne (I Won).

I guess if I were to pinpoint a fear from this experience, it would have to be an irrational fear of breaking out in cystic acne again. Because even though my skin has cleared up, when I breakout now I tend to get very paranoid. Then I take all measures to make sure it goes away quickly. (Daily Prompt: Fear Factor)

Like Tracy from The Love Vitamin and Jill who recently guest posted from Heal Your Face with Food, I am also a former acne sufferer.

My history with acne started from my late teens until in my early to mid-twenties. The acne was not just a couple of zits but it was the severe kind. If you have experienced this before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I hope you never do because it does things to your confidence and self-esteem. That was my battlefield during those days.

Currently, by a change of lifestyle and food and a couple of other factors as well, I’m happy to say my skin has greatly improved. It is not perfect and not completely “clear”, but I am happy with my skin now 🙂 I do have scars, but no more cystic acne and any kind of inflammation which I used to have previously. Alhamdulillah.

When I was in secondary school I didn’t have acne. I only had a few zits at my forehead when I was stressed. It all started when I was 16, after my O levels. Secondary school had ended and I was waiting for my O level results.

I started working in a factory producing spare parts for machinery. So I was part of a factory line and I had to wear a jumpsuit and shower cap, the works. I worked for 10 hours a day and we had to meet a certain target by the end of each day. It was during this time that my acne started to flare up. My skin started to get inflamed, I started breaking out like crazy and getting cystic acne (I didn’t know that was what it was called then) on my forehead, cheeks and chin. I reckon the heat and stress levels were the main factors that affected my skin.

I tried everything to make it go away. I relied on over the counter products like Oxy and Clearasil but it didn’t work for my skin. Benzoyl peroxide helped me dry out the acne, but it ended up making other parts of my face dry. At that time, I didn’t really know about moisturizers and what I know about skincare today, so I just did what I thought was right (but not realizing how wrong they were…).

Then I got to polytechnic and well, since my acne did not clear by then, I wanted to cover it up. I went to the nearest pharmacy and bought a face powder from Clean & Clear which claimed to improve my skin as well. Biggest mistake of my life. Okay, it’s not the biggest but it was not the right decision. Instead of improving it, it made things worse. I came back a couple of weeks after and unfortunately, the saleslady who suggested the powder to me in the first place, was not much help at all. Like, thanks? And for the record I never use any C & C products anymore. None of the products has ever helped me with my skin and never shall I touch any C & C products anymore.

At this point my skin was becoming from bad to worse. Especially at my cheeks, sadly. My mum didn’t know how best to help me and brought me to this beauty place called BML. I was diagnosed with oily skin and then that was when I had my first facial. “Painful” does not even describe it, it was excruciating. They recommended me some in-house products which I eventually bought and also made a second facial appointment. Needless to say I did not go to that second appointment.

Among the products, which were not cheap by the way, may God bless my mum, was this lotion that I had to put on daily. This lotion aimed to peel off my dead skin and had a peeling effect. The thing is, it’s not the non-painful peel-off mask kind, but this was really powerful, in a not so good way. It truly did peel off my dead skin, but I was still in school and walking around with peeling skin is not something fun to do. When I got home, I had to continue with the series of products. The face soap, which contained sulfuric acid made it more painful that I had to soothe my face in front of the fan to cool it off the first time I used it. That’s how bad it was. The products aimed to clear up my skin by stripping off all moisture from it including the essential oils it’s supposed to have. My skin was red all over and I was not feeling that great either. So I stopped using them also.

In the meantime I continued experimenting with other less painful cleansers such as those with salicylic acid. My acne started to improve in my final year when my father suggested me to try this cleanser by Herbalife. It had a gel-like consistency and contained lemon and chamomile which calmed my skin so much. My skin became less inflamed by then. And to me it was like a God-sent product because it was so good and it worked! My breakouts started to slowly disappear and even my cousins saw the difference. At this point also I had begun making some adjustments to my diet by drinking more plain water and inculcated it more daily in my diet.

But my diet was still not very healthy then, because at that point I didn’t know that food had a huge impact on my skin! I had been told it was hereditary and even hated my family a teeny wee bit for this. But now, I hate it when I hear that acne is caused by your genes and there’s nothing you can do about it. Because it is NOT! And you obviously and jolly well CAN do something about it. No grudges whatsoever towards my family now.

Even though my acne was still there but seeing some improvement, I had also started building a healthy social life and made friends through joining various clubs and societies. My acne was bad, but fortunately God surrounded me with awesome people. I also picked up rockclimbing and running. I read and educated myself on skincare and beauty knowledge and treat my skin and body better too. Alhamdulillah, my skin is happier now too I believe. Currently my forehead is clear, and so are my chin. I do have some scars on my cheeks but I no longer have huge breakouts. When I do breakout now, I know the cause as well as how to treat it.

Fast forward to today, I’ve learnt that having clear skin for me is a combination of factors. They are:

1. Eating the right food. More plants; fruits and veggies especially leafy dark greens. Less red meat, more white meat and fish. Smoothies work best for me.

2. Water, water, water. If your body does not receive enough water, it will strip off the moisture from your skin and that’s when you get dry skin which results in acne.

3. Sleeping properly. By 1 to 3 AM I must be asleep to ensure my liver is detoxed completely. If not completely detoxed, the un-detoxed properties will go to your skin, hence the acne.

4. Exercise. I rarely rock climb now but mostly run, jog and take long walks.

5. Healthy mind and healthy social life, being in happy, healthy relationships.

6. Last but not least, good skincare does help but most importantly be gentle with your skin. For daytime, I now use The Body Shop’s tea tree cleanser (also has a gel-like consistency which works best for oily skin), a toner with witch hazel, and a moisturizer with SPF. At night, after cleansing and toning I use tea tree oil to combat any breakouts (I still get the occasional breakouts sometimes but they are nowhere near my previous acne times) and Raspberry Roots Sleeping Mask (it’s a gel-like overnight mask) from The Face Shop. I scrub and put on a face mask once a week.

Wow, what a long post! If you’ve managed to read this far, I thank you! I didn’t expect to write this long but reading Jill’s article motivated me to share my battle with acne over the years. I’ve probably also cried as much as her too. I understand the physical and psychological effects that acne brings and I hope this has been helpful in any way.

This post is also inspired by Daily Prompt: Fear Factor.

Foot Reflexology and Wudhu’ (Ablution)

Yesterday, I went for foot reflexology. My left knee somehow will hurt during running and I don’t know why. I stretch, but perhaps I don’t stretch enough. But it is strange that my right knee is fine while only my left knee hurts. No worries though, it only hurts while running long-distance. My legs are fine for daily walking, Alhamdulillah.

It’s been a while since I went for any foot reflexology. I went to my uncle’s shop, Bodicaire and had my feet massaged by his friendly, motherly and firm assistant, Suraya. I told her my the problem with my left knee and she really worked on my knee. Some parts were okay while some left me with “Ouch, that was painful…” But after 30 minutes, my legs and feet feel so much better – more “lighter” and relaxed.

footreflexology

Suraya shared with me that the veins on your feet links to the rest of your body organs, so foot reflexology actually helps to regulate our body’s system. Interesting aye? Hence, it would be good to go for foot reflexology at least once a month.

How to Read a Foot Reflexology Chart

Besides foot reflexology, Bodicaire also provides neck & shoulder massage, upper back massage and also body massage. My aunt who was there as well joked that I needed to have my feet massaged since I would be getting married soon and thus, will need to toughen up my feet and body. Lol thanks, aunt. But in hindsight, I think I might just do it… Wedding planning can be quite a workout itself!

Anyway, it got me thinking how when we take ablution before prayer, one of the compulsory body parts that we have to wash is the feet. Maybe this is why, because by washing the feet we are also washing our whole body. Wow, MashaAllah if that’s true that’s amazing.

Medical Benefit of Wudhu’ (Ablution)

Buddying Up for Shape Run 2013

Yesterday I took part in Shape Run with my running buddy Hawanis.

Shape Run is a female-only run organized by Singapore Press Holdings and is held every year. This year, it was held at Nicoll Highway.

We signed up for the 10km Buddy Category so we aimed to run together no matter what.

At 6.30 am we were up and running away!

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Hawanis and me have been friends since 2005. We met in NYP’s Adventure and Rockclimbing Club and we’ve been close friend’s ever since. She’s my fellow adventurous running buddy who participates in runs more than me and whom I admire. An Engineer in profession, she has even flown a plane once, having the opportunity to do so during one of her course modules in the Aerospace degree she’s currently pursuing.

with jams

And this is Jamalia whom I first met during the Adidas Sundown half-marathon I took part in this year. How we met is very interesting; we were both 1km from the finish line, which at the time seemed so near yet so far. Feeling tired, I stopped running and started walking. She saw me walking and said, “Hey you can do it!” and proceed to continue running. Moments later, I ran and saw her – walking. So it was my turn to encourage her and then we both ran to the finish line together. Yesterday, I met her again! MashaAllah how I love these new unexpected friendships.

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Hawanis and me in our usual Muslimah-style running outfit of the day. Me in my usual black running pants, a cotton long-sleeved shirt and jersey shawl.

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Our run today wasn’t about beating previous timings but to stick together no matter how fast or slow each other is, so we ran leisurely enjoying the sights along the way…

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There are markers at every 1km of the whole route, along with motivational sentences such as “Way to go! You are a winner!” which greatly help us keep track and feel awesome even when we’re not.

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“Your goal is near!” Just one more km to go!

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Alhamdulillah at 8.15am, we finished! It was more fun than competitive, and I got to hang out with my buddy. Thank you Allah for the wonderful morning. 🙂

As an action plan after the run, I aim to get my butt off the couch and run at least 3 to 5km at least once a week InsyaAllah. (Because public declaration works best for commitments like this). I can do it!