Thursday, June 9, 2016

Of work travel, working from home and being a boss

Salam Ramadhan to all.....

It's been ages since I blog. Apart from time, I also have nothing much to share. But of late, I have been doing a lot of thinking, at least more than usual. And this contributed to the sudden growth of my white hair so I am translating that thinking mode to this entry

Work Travel 

When I was offered this job, one condition I gave was no overseas travel. Maybe I spoke to soon, or maybe I was under assumption I can manage local travel. Little did I know I will be flying from one state to another and spending every other day at the airport. 

Be it whether it's overseas or local travel, take it from me, it's equally exhausting. Yes, overseas travel gives you opportunity to see other countries, and in my experience, that's exactly what it is, see and nothing else. With back to back meetings and engagement sessions, by the time I'm back at the hotel, either I am too exhausted or all the interesting places are closed. Also the fact I'm away from my family is something I can't do anymore. No more!

And local travel is equally, if not more exhausting. I always opt for day trip, i.e. first flight out and last flight in. And my tight schedule is not helping so there are times I travel almost every day. My record thus far from Perlis to Kuching to Pahang on the same week. And the final week before Ramadhan when I went to Kedah in the morning and then back to office for a meeting at 5pm on the same day and the next day travel to Kuantan and to return at 3pm for meeting in Taman Tun before rushing back to Putrajaya for a 6.30pm meeting. That's how crazy it can get. However, looking on the positive side, at least I get to return home to my babies every day. So far, after giving birth to Isyraf, I have only spent 2 nights away from him and I can speak on behalf of my better half, those were the longest nights in his life....

While some may feel work travel is glamorous, I beg to differ. Or may be I am getting old and don't enjoy it as much as the young ones.

Working From Home

One benefit given to me after I gave birth to Isyraf over a year ago is I am allowed to work from home 2 days a week. I am fortunate to be working for a company that promotes flexible working arrangements. However, if given a choice, I prefer to either work or stay at home cause doing both is a challenge and requires strong discipline. 

My normal routine when I work from home, I still wake up at 5am as I would when I need to go to office. I will cook lunch at 5am, like always so that I can start my office work sharp at 9am. Isyraf wakes up around 8am so I have less than an hour to give him a bath, feed and play with him. He will take his nap again around 11am so I can only arrange any conference call or video conferencing between 11am to 2pm, that's the time he usually wakes up.

And yes, I have 2 bigger kids (Mira is already in college). However, when they know I am at home, they have expectations too. They expect me to eat lunch with them while they tell me how's their day. When I work from home I know I am expected to work so I need to juggle even more. I am paid to work and I have already been given the privilege to take care of son without having to send him to day care. So, I know I should not abuse this arrangements.

For those who think work from home is easy, I can tell you with or without children, it's hard. And if you can't manage your time while you are in the office, forget working from home. It is just not for everyone.

Being a Boss

This 2 years have been a super emotional roller coaster for me. I still remember when I was offered this position i.e promotion, unlike many people who jump at such opportunity, I hesitated. I requested for more time to think about it. It comes with huge responsibility. From managing team of 4, now I have team of 20 just like that. And multiple tracks that I need to manage. I must confess, I second guess myself (at times, I still do). 

I am so used to being the "belakang tabir" person. I do the strategic work, developing framework, the research to support the framework and then track and monitor. Being an introvert (yes, I am) presenting in front of others is not my cup of tea. Let alone handling media. And the current position I am holding is the opposite of my work preference. However, when we accept an opportunity, it comes in a package. While I enjoy being involved in policy advocacy, influencing the industry academia collaboration and working hand in hand with various stakeholders, I must also accept the other part of my work, being the front line. 

If given a choice, I would want to go back to the "belakang tabir" work. Well, everything comes with a price. And for now, this is the price I have to pay....

And all I can say to those who think how easy life of others are and how you wish to get what others have, careful what you wish for, it may come true.....

Nevertheless, these challenges make life interesting. And I am glutton for punishment :)

Friday, February 12, 2016

So You Want To Travel ~ Top 5 Memorable Umrah Journey Experience

I must confess, until this day, more than a month after our Umrah journey, I still feel like Mekah and Madinah are not that far away. I still have this dream I will be back there very soon. Need to work harder and also not spend our money unnecessarily. May Allah grant us with His blessing to perform Umrah again.

Apart from this shocking experience, we had many good great memories in the Holy land. Too many to mention, so I keep it short to the best 5.

1. Nothing can ever beat the feeling of seeing Kaabah for the first time. Technically, this is my second time, but I feel the first time doesn't count. I was only 16 and may not have a good sense of appreciation of Kaabah. For this round, both my better half and I automatically cried the moment we saw Kaabah. It's indescribable feeling, not right words can even describe that moment. I felt so blessed and thanking Allah for allowing me to be His guest. As I am typing this, I miss Kaabah so much and still holding on to doa and hopes I will return and able to perform my prayers right in front of Kaabah

2. Another indescribable feeling is when I visited Masjid Nabawi, specifically at Raudhah or an area which Nabi Muhammad s.a.w said is a garden from paradise. How do we know we are in Raudhah? The area is covered with green carpet whereas the rest of the mosque in red. I was blessed to be allowed to perform solat sunat there. The moment I did my final sujud, automatically I cried. I know I have not been a good muslim, I pray for Allah to continue giving me the hidayah and, guide me to be a better muslim Insyallah. Though female jemaah can't go near the makam Rasulullah saw, being under the same roof with his makam is already a huge blessing. Same wish as Mekah, for Allah to grant us with the blessing to come again.

3. There's this famous food joint called Al-Baik. We get to enjoy that couple of times in Mekah. In Madinah, Baby wanted that again, however we just couldn't locate the nearest restaurant. So, this one time after Asar prayers, we were walking around areas near Masjid Nabawi and found a family enjoying Al-Baik. I wanted to ask them where is the restaurant, however, Alhamdulilah, rezeki Baby, the father gave Baby a pack of chicken from Al-Baik. He just gave that away. We were shocked, however very happy Baby got to enjoy her favourite fried chicken. Moga Allah murahkan rezekimu dan keluargamu, wahai saudara. Thanks so much for the chicken.

4. My main worry of this whole Umrah trip is Isyraf. Will he behave and let us perform our umrah and prayers. Will he throw tantrum when we perform our tawaf and saei. What if he wants feeding and wants to sleep in the middle of prayers. How do I pray with him wanting me to carry him all the time. Alhamdulilah, Isyraf made the whole journey easy. When performing tawaf, I was carrying him with the carrier attached to my body. He slept throughout the 7 rounds. When performing saie, he was carried by my better half. Despite being awake, he kept quiet and just observed. Many of the jemaah was impressed on how well behave he was, many put their hands on his head and pray for his well being. Alhamdulilah....

5. My better half got to celebrate his birthday in Madinah, coincidentally same day as the Prophet's birthday. Though there's no usual makan2 or outings, he said it was the best birthday gift ever, nothing can come close to this. Alhamdulilah....

I pray and pray and pray for Allah to allow me to go again. Somehow, rasa tak puas. I want to perform prayers at the 2 mosques, I want to recite Al Quran there. I know this can only happen if Allah allow it to happen.

Insyallah, I will get the opportunity again....

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

So You Want To Travel ~ Umrah Journey, What to expect

It's no secret one of my greatest passion is traveling. I find there's no better education than going places and learning culture and life of others. It makes you appreciate many things, like your own country and what it feels like to be minority.

Some may say "duit banyak, pegi sana sini, tapi tak nak pegi umrah". Well, it has always been a dream of mine to go. And I want to be really ready when I finally go. However, I told myself, one can't be ready, sometimes we just need to do it and then we will force ourselves to be ready. That's exactly what we did.

It started with making this nazar. I promised I will take my family for umrah should Mira gets straight A for her PMR. Deep down, I know she will get that results. And Alhamdulilah, she did. Since we have rezeki lebih, we decided to bring our parents as well. So, that will make 10 of us to be on this journey. I jokingly told many people this is the real Rombongan Che Kiah, simply because my mom in law's name is Rukiah :).

There are so many things to share about this trip. Yes, so many things, I don't know how to begin and I don't know how to end. So, I will choose top 5 most useful info(at least in my definition). For the top 5 most memorable memories from this trip, I will share that in another entry which I hope will be published soon, subject to my tahap kerajinan :)

Top 5 most useful info

- Choose the travel agency for this trip wisely. We some what made that mistake. Apart from the price, we chose the travel agent mainly because their office is near to our house, we assume that will make things easier. Many things which were promised not delivered though some may say, "Nak beribadah, tak payah nak berkira sangat". I have different views. I don't think any travel agents should take advantage of people who want to go to perform ibadah. They should make it easy on them so the jemaah can really focus with the ibadah. So, ya, this is very crucial

- Know the current weather both in Mekah and Madinah. When we arrived at Mekah, the weather was quite ok. It can get cold later in the evening. Other than that, it was not too bad. However, I can't say the same about Madinah. It was really cold and Alhamdulilah, we came prepared. I can see some of the jemaah was not and they ended up not having jackets to protect them from the cold. Something I feel the agents should be advising their clients. (Yes, back to point number 1)

- Bring sufficient clothes cause laundry in Mekah and Madinah is super expensive. I would recommend to buy jubah there, it's cheaper than laundry. I only brought 2 jubah and the rest I bought it there. Between Mekah and Madinah, shopping in Madinah is cheaper and the jubahs are much nicer.

- Another expensive item in Mekah and Madinah is medicine so bring your own Panadol, cough mixture or what ever basic medication needed. Unfortunately, Isyraf was down with fever in Madinah mainly due to the cold weather and he was teething. We forgot to bring his fever medication and ended up paying about 36 Riyal (which is close to RM40). In Malaysia, the same medicine would cost us about RM15 the most

- If you get lost, don't panic! Masjidil Haram and Masjid Nabawi are huge and full of thousands of people. If you are going in groups, it is advisable to make ground rule. In our case, we made it a point should anyone of us get lost, to wait at Door 88 in Mekah or gate 17 in Madinah. If we have waited for more than 15 minutes and still no one showed up, go straight to the hotel and wait at the lobby. The reason why we chose this 2 doors mainly because our hotel is about 100 meters from the door.

Yes, there are many other tips, like bring the small water spray in case your wudhu' batal since the nearest ablution place is very far but I feel the above is the most important ones.

I still dream of going to Mekah and Madinah again soon Insyallah. May Allah choose us to be His guests soon....

Next stop, top 5 memories for the umrah trip....

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

So You Want To Cook ~ Pengat Labu dan Sagu (Pumpkin Dessert with Sago)

I always love cooking. I find cooking a therapy. And while the work I do, I may need to wait quite some time to see the results, cooking on the other hand, able to provide me instant results which can be satisfying, some of the time at least.

And today, I just have this urge to cook Pengat Labu and Sagu. Actually, Mira has been asking for this since we came back from umrah. Only today, I managed to make it for her. I also taught her how to make it. It's quite a simple dish and can be ready in less than 30 min.

The ingredients :
Labu (pumpkin) - Quarter of a medium size pumpkin, cut in big dices
Sago (my better half chose to buy the green one, nampak cantik katanya)
Sugar - the ratio is up to you, some may like it sweet. For quarter of a medium size pumpkin, I just put quarter cup of sugar
Santan (coconut milk)
Salt - about 1 teaspoon is sufficient

When I say it's easy, it really is.

First, you put the santan in the pot and add some water. Then pour the sugar and salt and stir it.

Once it starts to simmer, add in the pumpkin. Make sure you wait until the pumpkin is half cooked before you include the sago. Sago may also have thickening effect so do add water to make it thinner. Not too much though.


Told you it's simple.And now you can enjoy this with your family after a long day at work!

Monday, January 4, 2016

So You Want To Get A Job ~ Do You?

In my line of work, I'm privileged to meet and interact with many future graduates from various institute of higher learnings(IHLs). Some are very proactive, some are so so lah, some tak minat langsung. While we read and listen to many complains from employers how quality of our graduates have declined, I must say I still meet many good ones, possessing all the right qualities employers look for.

Rather than joining the bandwagon and continue to criticise, I thought to contribute beyond my scope of work by giving some guidance and tips to future job seekers to prepare them for their next journey in life. Yes adik2, after getting a degree, you will enter the next phase of life where you are expected to work to earn an income. My plan is to share this topic every Monday, subject to availability of time of course.

Well, before we even go to the technical bit like what makes a good CV or how do you prepare yourself for interview, first thing first. You need to ask yourself, do you really want to get a job.

Why do I say this?

I've met many graduates who are still lost and clueless in exploring opportunities. While many IHLs are doing their best to prepare their graduates for employment, many are just not ready or worse, not even interested. I can say most of IHLs I'm working with have career related initiatives implemented. Initiatives like career fairs, interviews workshop, CV writing classes to name a few are organised in many IHLs. Some even took the extra mile by inviting speakers from industries to ensure the content delivered are exactly what the industries wanted. Of course such initiatives are mostly targeted for final year students.

Coming back to why I asked "Do You Really Want To Get A Job". Cause many times when such initiatives are conducted, the turnout is very disappointing. There was this one time, I delivered such content to only about 15 students when the overall university's population is 21K! Can't even get 1to be interested to learn about interview technique. At first I thought maybe I'm not glamour enough, not well known so it is expected for the turnout to be low, however, this has happened before to more prominent speakers, even to the level of HR Directors.

I will spare the normal lecture how graduates nowadays are fortunate to have speakers coming to their campus sharing useful employability skills and how during my time, we had to self-help and self-learn. I'm sure you have heard all that before. But seriously people, what is a better way to learn than hearing tips from those who have recruited hundreds or thousands of people. And it doesn't cost you anything. Just for you to spare your time to learn. You also get to ask questions and get direct answers. If you are really smart, you will grab this opportunity without thinking twice, without being forced by your lecturers or deans, without your faculties have to impose this on you and making attendance compulsory.

Yes, the first step in getting a job is to ask ourselves, are we really up to it. Do we really want a job. Cause the answer to this can be sensed by interviewers. Yes, they can tell. They do this for a living remember?

If your answer is yes, look out for the next entry, probably next Monday. Till then, getting a job is not as hard as you think it is if only you put your heart and mind into it.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

And the madness starts tomorrow

Yes, you read it right. Madness! MADness! Why madness?

Well, it's the start of the new school term. New class, new form, new learning. For those who are commenting, my kids are grown up so should not be a problem, let me set the context.

Amira, my first born, completed her SPM and will be getting her results later this year. This will then shape her next move, whether she gets to enter university, whether she gets a scholarship. Or whether we need to get a loan to finance her study. After all, education is getting more expensive. Ilham will follow suit, he is sitting for his SPM this year and Baby will be taking her PT3. All would require necessary attention, either in guidance also emotional support. Gosh, I wish they were still small. It may be tiring, at least it's more manageable. At their age now, things have to be handled delicately. They are fragile and sensitive, easily bruised. I'm sure you read in the news, so many scary things happening to our youth. Both my better half and I have done the best we can to raise them, the rest is us praying to Allah for them to continue be protected.

Of course, Isyraf will also be experiencing many major milestones Insyallah. Taking his first step, his first word, first of many things. While I'm excited with his progress, deep down I wish time can slow down a bit, watching him growing up too fast is something I'm not really ready to face.

Our routine and schedule will start again tomorrow. My better half with his business, me busy with work, Mira with her first job, Ilham and Baby with school and Isyraf keeping all of us occupied. Planning is key, so we can minimise the kelam kabut. Kelam kabut will still happen of course. Many things may not go as plan, as long as we plan, Insyallah we can try to manage the best way we can.

Personally, I intend to read and write more. I also want to spend more time with my old friends, from high school and college and former work places. I need to manage my time better if I want to do all this without neglecting the most important element in my life, my family.

Yes, madness will start in few hours. Bracing myself for yet another challenging year.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

For another fresh start

Yes peeps, it's the time of the year where we make new year's resolution. I don't see anything wrong with making one. It's always a good thing to have aims and goals in life. Whether we really fulfill it, that's secondary. We have to start somewhere.

I managed quite a lot in 2015. Alhamdulilah, we were blessed with another addition to our family. Isyraf completes us, bringing such joy to our family. He is also a reminder for me to slow down and I take it as a sign from Allah giving me second chance to be a better mother.

2015 is also when I finally get to pay my nazar. We performed umrah together as family. What could be bigger than this. Everything else since then become minor achievements.

For 2016, one thing for sure, I scrapped losing weight as one of the goal. Need to step out of the denial stage. If I want to really lose weight, I put more effort. With my eating habits coupled with close to zero exercise, this will never be achieved. If I really want it, I need to put more effort, simple as that.

Few things I want to achieve in 2016 :

1. I want to khatam Al-Quran this year. It's been ages since I did that. I must also confess, I barely spend time reciting Al-Quran. It's time to restart and as a bonus, to also do this with my kids
2. I want to start something on my own. I'm so proud of my better half for finally having his own business. It's a bumpy ride, and the challenges continue, however, what's important is he pursue his passion. And it's time for me to pursue mine. For now, while doing my day job, I will be starting on my second job.
3. I want to travel local more. I want to explore places in Malaysia which we have yet to discover. I want to have more road trips. Many interesting places await us!
4. I want to perform umrah again. This time with my better half and kids. Tak puas rasanya. It was very peaceful experience. We have nothing to think about except going to the mosques and pray. And continue praying. Nothing else.

I want to focus on this four first. No point having too many goals and end up not meeting any. Insyallah, this year things will be different....

Happy New Year again everyone! It will be an awesome year if you choose it to be 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Umrah Journey 2015 - When Allah gave me second chance

Alhamdulilah, after not being able to fulfill my nazar to Allah last year due to traveling restrictions, I managed to fulfill this promise this year. Since there are enough cash, we decided to bring my parents and inlaws along. However, this entry is not about the umrah journey, at least not yet.

This journey was when Allah gave me a second chance. Second chance to take care of my mom better. My mom, whom I call Mummy. Yes, our family may not be the lovey dovey type . Saying I love you to the kids is not my parents style. Hugging and touching are not as well. However, we show our love in some other ways. And the most important way is we are always there for each other.

Mummy has always been there when I need her. She was there when I gave birth to all my 4 kids. She will be the first one to be in my hospital room after I gave birth. She will rush to my home everytime I call her and inform her I'm not well. And she will always bring soup and other food for me to get better. When my better half got dengue, I called her around 3am to inform her. I was so afraid and I don't know what to do. My better half was very weak and I had to leave Isyraf with Ilham and Baby when I brought him to the hospital. So I called her and she arrived right after solat subuh. So yes, she has always been there for me, my better half and kids when others don't even bother to show up.

It was a proud moment personally for me when I got to bring my Mummy and Abah for umrah. The feeling is the best feeling ever. Even better than the London trip back in July. I know both of them look forward to this umrah. They were very prepared. They even prepared ihram for my better half and Ilham knowing we are busy and may not have time for that. Mummy also prepared jubah for our whole family, she knows very well I am not a jubah person. I can easily say, she made the umrah preparation much easier.

When we were on our journey from Mekah to Madinah, the moment we reached Kota Madinah, I heard commotion at the from part of the bus. I can vividly hear my Abah's voice trying to wake Mummy up. "Dah, Dah, bangun. Dah sampai Madinah ni" (I shiver and cry silently while I type this). I was carrying Isyraf at that moment, and wanting to know what's going on, I gave Isyraf to my better half and went to my Abah.

There she was, my Mummy. Not giving any response and she looked lifeless. Her face and hands were cold. She was not breathing. I can feel water on her face, my Abah wiped her face with water to wake her up. I was frantic. I called her and begged her to get up. She was not responding at all. And I started crying. I begged her not to leave me. Mummy, please wake up. Please wake up. Bukaklah mata Mummy....

And she was still not giving any response. I could not feel her pulse and there's not air coming from her nose. But, I was not ready to give up.

One kakak in the bus gave us air zam zam. We had ours, however it was stored in our luggage. I wiped air zam zam on her face, my mouth was reciting the selawat to our beloved Prophet saw, at the same time calling my Mummy. I then use my fingers to open her mouth, to get some drops of air zam zam into her mouth. From there, I can feel her mouth is still warm, unlike her hands and the rest of her body. From there, I know my hope for her to still be alive is possible.

And that's when Allah showed His miracle in front of my face. My Mummy was like inhaling the longest breath and she exclaimed Allahuakbar! Words can't even described how thankful I was. My Abah still look lost, I know he thought he lost my Mummy too. And when he saw her came back alive I can see him smiling and Abah being Abah, scolded my Mummy, "Tulah, tidur waktu Maghrib".

My Mummy was given her life back. She couldn't stop reciting Subhanallah, Allahuakbar and Alhamdulilah. And I'm very thankful I got my mom back.....

Later, I asked her what happened. She said she felt as if she was back home, and cooking my favourite cekodok. And my voice is the only voice she can hear despite the huge commotion in the bus. She can hear clearly I was calling her name.

And this is how, Allah has given me the second chance. I have been neglecting my Mummy. And Allah reminded me I should stop doing that. I have been busy taking care of the need of others when my Mummy is supposed to be my priority. From there I know, I need and MUST do better.

Alhamdulilah. Thank you Allah for reminding me. Thank you Allah for giving back my Mummy. She is the most important person in my life and it's my turn to repay everything she has done for our family. She has always been there for my better half and kids, calling and checking on us, making sure we are all ok. I should focus on her instead of others who only expect me to be there for them and love to complain, however when I need help, they are nowhere to be seen. And please do not make excuses about how my Mummy lives near me or dia takde kerja. It takes close to 2 hours for her to come to our home and she does have work. Everytime when she comes, she has to leave her goats, chickens and other matters that provide her income. So, don't give comments to belittle her just because you are making up for your failure not being there for our family.

Mummy, I never said this to you, I hope you know how much I love and care for you. Yes, I will do better and I will make a point to spend more time with you. That's the least I can do compared to all the good things you have done for us.

Other stories about our umrah journey, will share later.

For now, signing off, going to bed and looking forward to another exciting year. 2016, bring it on!