family, Happy thoughts, home, inspirational, powerful

Rediscover yourself by doing nothing at all

Last weekend was my first non-working one in three weeks. Although I made sure I have more than six hours of sleep every night, I fell ill last week – with flu and fever. Staying in bed was no an option so I took some medicine and stocked up on tissues and forged ahead.

Although I was feeling much better last weekend, I wasn’t really up for doing much. I wasn’t mentally and physically exhausted but I wasn’t motivated either.

So I threw cautions to the wind and did nothing for 48 hours.

Well, when I say nothing, I mean nothing work related.

I stayed at home as my husband was away on business. I helped in the kitchen on Saturday, watched an old film on television with the family -– just basically spending time with them.

On Sunday, my fever returned for a bit and I whiled away my time watching a reality tv programme featuring members of SHINee, a Korean pop group, on YouTube and learning one of their old hit songs in Japanese (because the pronunciation is much simpler than Korean). I also put away the laundry and cleared up the living area of my room.

Doing absolutely nothing (work related) -– on a weekend, mind you – is absolutely difficult for me. It consumes me with guilt.

I always have this idea that spending a few hours on work in the weekend will help me strike off more items on my to-do list quickly.

But focusing on work on a weekend doesn’t give me “peace of mind” either. I would also have a nagging feeling that I shouldn’t have to work on my days off.

I try to complete my tasks during the work week but it’s not always possible. There will always be new deadlines, phone calls, interruptions, meetings, training etc

It’s tempting for me to work on the weekends because there are less distractions. More often than not, I do get a lot done.

But there is a danger in this too. For one thing, your mind never gets a break from work which will lead to burn out, no matter how much rest/sleep you get.

It’s tough to be creative – and a lot of jobs require creativity – when you’re constantly “producing”. When you don’t let your mind have a proper break, you will no doubt produce results but they might start to look the same.

When you’re constantly “producing” seven days a week, your product will be as creative as something churned out of a production line.

I felt better about “wasting away” my weekend after reading this post titled The power of doing absolutely nothing.

Although I feel a little guilty for indulging in 48 hours of “me” time, I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel good. Frankly, I feel refreshed, inspired, brand new. I’m not completely well physically – I’m still coughing from the flu and fever earlier last week – but I feel mentally clear.

The fact that I’m blogging again after MONTHS(!) means I’m inspired to go back to doing things that I love doing but “felt like a waste of time”.

I’m glad the last 48 hours of “doing nothing” has allowed me to reconnect with my true self.

I might not have another full 48 hours to spend “doing nothing” in the future but I will remember to “lose myself in the moment” more without feeling guilty of the endless to-do list.

Try it! Who knows, you might rediscover yourself again.


blogs, family, home, husband, me

Where do you live?

In an interview with one of my favourite bloggers Gretchen Rubin, economic development expert Richard Florida said that: “As I explained in my book Who’s Your City?, the place we choose to live in is the single most important decision we make. It has a profound impact on the jobs we have access to, our career path, our social networks, the people we date, family and lifestyle choices and ultimately the wealth we accumulate as well as our overall happiness”.

I absolutely agree with him. Living in Shah Alam (in Selangor, Malaysia) has indeed had a profound impact on various aspects of my life.

I landed (and accepted) my current job when I was living in Shah Alam because, as a non-driver, I was confident that I would make it to work on time as I needed to take only one bus to work.

I don’t think my early courtship with my husband would have lasted very long if we had lived in different towns (I know Shah Alam is a city but to me it feels more like a town).

I have lived in Shah Alam since my late teens — first as a student, then as a working adult and later as a married woman. Naturally, I have developed an attachment to this quiet town.

Sure Shah Alam can be buzzing with activities if it wants to. It’s unbelievably jammed up during football/soccer matches, Sunday mornings due to the farmer’s market, Friday prayers because of the beautiful mosque that we have and also during Ramadhan because people from other towns know that they can do great Raya shopping at PKNS Shopping Complex and the other malls in the vicinity. Besides that, TV3 still tapes its entertainment reality shows at Plaza Alam Sentral. That’s a crowd puller too.

The shopping malls here may not have a lot to offer in terms of high street fashion and entertainment — we don’t have any cinemas — but it is still crowded on weekends.

And we have beautiful parks here for picnics with the family, for exercising, for cosy dinners dates, weddings and indie music showcase.

80 per cent of the time, the traffic here is bearable. I don’t know about the industrial areas of Shah Alam but the (noise and air) pollution levels at the residential areas here are pretty low.

The rent here is not cheap, though. As a small town with at least three major tertiary institutions, houses and rooms to let are snapped up like hot pisang goreng (banana fritters). I was really amused to see this room to let advert (that I saw in UiTM Shah Alam a few months back) which listed washing machines and wifi Internet connections among its basic amenities to attract new tenants. Back when I was a student in the late 90s and early 2000, we would be very lucky to even have a tv or phone line at our rented flats. Heck, we would be blessed to have our own personal computer at the time, let alone a laptop!

Times have changed, and so have lifestyles.

Shah Alam today is filled with middle-class families with money to spare — maybe more so than before. Although I had lived in Shah Alam longer than my husband has, I have only started mingling with born and bred Shah Alam residents through him.

Through them, I get to see a different side of the town. The youth of the town can be very liberal in their outlook and lifestyle. This is an affluent suburban where the kids go to the nearest town to have fun because they have the allowance and the car to get there. A majority of them don’t attend the public universities in town either because they don’t have the grades to qualify or they feel like an outcast and fit better in the private colleges. Their parents earn enough to make it possible for them to switch colleges “in case things don’t work out”.

But people from other towns have a lot of misconceived notions about this town and its people. When people tell me that they feel the people here are country bumpkins, I just laugh because it could not be farther from the truth.

I think it’s a great place to live in but I do worry about raising teenagers here. Bored suburban kids can get into a lot of trouble. Having said that, I think that generally, the 21st century has become a complicated time to raise a family, no matter where you live. Kids get abducted, purses get snatched, new born babies abandoned on a daily basis.

So I guess what’s more important is not where you live but how you live (your life). As the lyrics to that Dionne Warwick song goes:

And a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight,
And no one there you can kiss good night.

books, career, family, health, powerful

When $ can’t make up for lost time

I can’t remember exactly when it was. But I do remember how awful I felt.

I was working on a freelance assignment that required me to trawl the Internet for a list of websites. I was to look for certain features and take note of them.

It sounded easy enough when it was proposed to me, and that was the reason I agreed.

Soon, I discovered that the task was tedious, time consuming and no fun at all. I found myself slaving over it at any free time that I had — in the mornings before I went to work, after work and even on weekends. This was on top of the workload of my day job that I already had.

Thinking back, I don’t know how I managed.

But one day, the stress caught up with me. I was doing juggling my work and freelance job at a Starbucks near a college. I parked myself there hoping to get some unsuspecting college students to interview (for an assignment that I had). When there were no students in sight, I was back searching the Internet.

I remember suddenly stopping what I was doing and feeling absolutely depressed. I was on the verge of tears. I thought to myself, “Is the torture of doing something I totally hate really worth the money? I should really be doing what I want and enjoy. It’s the weekend for goodness’ sake!”

The payment I got for that job was honestly not worth the effort I had put into it. But funnily enough, that painful experience didn’t stop me from accepting more freelance jobs after that. No matter how much or little I got paid in return, regardless of how I enjoyed or hated the jobs.

It took me only a few months ago to realise that when I already had enough on my plate, I should just refuse any “extra” work. Things got so busy that I missed my freelance deadlines and I felt awful about it.

So in the end, I just told the people who hired me that I couldn’t commit anymore. I don’t think they were too happy about it. I haven’t heard from them since. And I also didn’t mention the payment for the amount of work that I had done.

I’m not about to ask for it because I feel that I don’t deserve it. I can’t take the money, I would feel really bad about it.

So it has been a couple of months since I am “free” of freelance jobs. And guess what? I’m so much more happier because of it.

Sure, I could use the extra money to support my online shopping addiction 😛 and I do have more free time now. I spend my nights reading books for pleasure or watching DVDs or my favourite TV shows (downloaded/on tv).

If I’m on the computer at night, I’m not working on an article (unless I WANT to) or a freelance job. I’m surfing the Internet for whatever topic that interests me.

My nights are purely ME and family time. If I NEED to meet a deadline, I’d rather turn in early and wake up at 4.30am to do it. Daytime is for work and night time is for rest, which is the way it should be. But don’t be surprised, I used to work day and night, whenever I felt like it. Very bad habit, really.

Now I’m training myself to be disciplined. To be as productive and efficient in the day and to enjoy myself at night. So far, so good. The fact that I’m blogging now (during my well-deserved down time) means I am doing something right, right?

I have to give credit where it is due. The 4-hour Work Week has inspired me to make changes to my re-balance my work/life. The book has a lot of useful tips but I have benefited most from the ones that suggest that I eliminate distractions, weed out the time-consuming and boring and delegate where possible.

I’ll talk about the book some other time — what I like and dislike about it — WHEN I am actually done with it.


books, drama, family, inspirational, relationships, sister

On to another book

Maybe this is a bit premature but I’m just about 10 pages more to finishing Light On Snow (Anita Shreve).

This is my first Anita Shreve book and I have been curious ever since I read the review in a magazine about three years ago. I got this book as a birthday gift from my sister this year.

I don’t know about other people but for me, this book engages me in waves. Sometimes, I’m really engrossed, and at other times I don’t think very much about the writing nor the plot.

But I noticed that I love reading about the relationship that 12-year-old Nicky developed with Charlotte, the 19-year-old unwed mother. Somehow, to me, Charlotte is the character that I remember most. I actually had to go back to the book to check on Nicky’s name. Not that she is a forgettable character. I think Nicky is so taken by Charlotte (charlotte this, charlotte that) that I think it rubbed off on me 🙂

Finishing this book means that I now have to decide on which book to read next. I think I should finally attempt Three Cups of Tea which my sister lent me early this year (or was it late last year?). TCoT is a bigger, thicker book so carrying it around will be more difficult. But I can always read it before bed, even if that means only reading two pages a night before I pass out.

Well, at least that’s better than not reading at all, ey?

cousin, exercise, family, fashion, food, friends, holiday, husband

All you can eat weekend

Looks like it’s going to be a weekend of eating, eating and eating.

It started with my friend, Shah’s 30th birthday bash on Thursday. It was a cosy get-together. He had some food catered but many of the guests brought their own. It was almost a pot luck affair. Some of them brought triffles, roast chicken, creme puffs etc. I loved the white chocolate birthday cake. Normally, I hate white chocolate because it’s too sweet. But this one was different. It had almond in it and it was not sweet at all. Just perfect!

The venue was our friend Sh3gar’s boutique-cum-office. He’s trying to develop his own clothing line and already has, at least, two local celebrity clients – both girls have been VJs and are top local actresses. As the office is quite new, he hasn’t come round to fixing the prices on his clothes. I told him that his designs are something that I would definitely wear. If they’re not too expensive, I would definitely buy em 🙂

To burn off all the calories I consumed from the party, I went to the gym and had a good 40-minute walk/climb/run on the treadmill. I think this is the perfect routine for me because although “switching gears” is hard but it made the time fly by. Before I knew it, I was already on my 35th minute!

I discovered one trick to distract me while I’m running, especially when I’m not listening to the iPod – play games on the treadmill. By that I mean as I run, I make a square. One second I’m on the left side of the conveyor’s belt and another I’m on the right. It’s like I’m running in a zig zag motion. I found that although I was on a relatively comfortable speed, I exerted more energy just to keep up. Whatever it takes to get my heart rate up, yeah?

After the cardio, I did some squats, walking lunges, sit ups on the exercise ball and threw some punches with a 5-pound dumbell on each hand. Just moves that I remember reading from my health magazines.

Right after gym, I had a shower and met my husband who played three rounds of volleyball on the rooftop. After both of us were done, we went straight to my husband’s cousin’s place. An@s (the cousin) had a going away party/kenduri doa selamat. He and his wife, A1re3n will be leaving for Istanbul on the 12th as he will be doing a three-year dentistry postgraduate course there. Istanbul is also where his parents-in-law are. His FIL is the malaysian ambassador there, if I’m not mistaken. I think by the time they come back to KL, they would have had a kid or two 🙂 Insya-Allah.

Just this afternoon, his uncle of his had a housewarming party. I’m still stuffed from the beriyani and ayam masak merah.

I suppose tomorrow we will be eating in. But since Mak Na (his aunt) and her husband, Uncle J0hn and two children – Ad@m and B3n, are down here from New Castle, mom-in-law is sure to have some dinner plans. 

Now usually all this eating would make my stomach go haywire. But since I started taking DigestAid, I have had little to no problem. The only uncomfortable side effect is the flatulence. Either I’m farting all the time or I’m having difficulties passing wind. But that beats needing to urgently pass motion. It’s one evil or the other, I guess. Remember, beggars can’t be choosers!

But I think I’m going to try to substitute my DigestAid pills which contains papaya and pineapple enzymes for the real thing – papaya and pineapple fruits. Like on Friday, I missed breakfast, so I took a long piece of papaya just before lunch. After lunch, I took a pill. The surprise was, I was fine. No stomach cramps and urgent need to go to the toilet. Success!

I think Princess wants to do dinner on Monday. More eating! But I must reconfirm with her. So, later!

P/S: I have Rihanna’s Take A Bow minus one. Next singing contest, I’m singing Rihanna for sure 😛

books, family, home, husband

Home is where the heart is

Damn it, I couldn’t wake up early this morning! Oh well….

Today, I’ll be blogging about the new house, particularly our room 🙂

Located in Sect 2 in S.A, the house is currently under renovation. It’s quite massive because 90% of the windows are being changed – the old ones had arches on top of the windows which were too big and heavily tinted but not covered by curtains. I assume it can be quite scary at night because you can see outside from those arches.

One bedroom is being split into two because it’s too big and one kitchen wall which separates it from another room in the house is being torn down so as to join the dry kitchen and would-be dining area. My parents-in-law’s room will have a quite large walk-in wardrobe. Our room will have a very beautiful view of UiTM wtf. But seriously, the view is nice. And because the house behind is lower than ours, the second floor is very breezy. This is not confirmed yet but my husband and I may get our own walk-in wardrobe too. The room which was to be our toilet will be the walk-in wardrobe. Our toilet will be built somewhere else in the room.

That may mean that the lounge/tv/study area will be smaller. But because all other junks will be in the walk-in wardrobe, I suppose it won’t be so bad. I’m a little concerned about my magazine and book collection but guess they will be in the library – somewhere close to the kitchen or the family room. Not sure where yet. Could be placed in the lounge area upstairs too.

My guestimate is that the house will be ready in Feb 08. I’m looking forward to decorating the room, particularly but am dreading the packing up! Well, we’ll cross the bridge when we get there.

Here are some pictures of my room undergoing renovation:

View from balcony

Another view of the room from the balcony

Construction guy hard at work. He is standing where our bed will be

This is where the study/tv/lounge area will be

Raff in the toilet or walk-in wardrobe 😛

This is the view which will greet us every morning, noon and night

books, family, job

Early riser

I was reading success stories about women who have managed to lose weight on website two days ago and found Sarah Robin’s story.

She says that part of her slimming success is rising at 4.30am daily to go to the gym. She said that by doing so, she can get home by 8am to help her kids go off to school. This is not the first time I have read about mothers waking up before anyone else in their house just so that they can have their “alone” time.

All these women say that waking up when it’s still dark outside is one of the best decisions they have ever made. One thing is for sure, these women can safely claim that they get so much done even other people get started. By getting things out of the way early, they have their evenings free. Isn’t that great?

I have occasionally been forced to wake up early. Usually because I have a deadline to meet. I dreaded the prospect of waking up that early but once I was awake, I find that I write best in the early morning when it’s really quiet. I almost never get a writing block when I’m writing at 5am because parts where I got stuck the night before seems to untangle itself after a few hours of sleep.

I’m already sold on the idea but knowing how easy it is to talk myself into going back to sleep at 4.55am, I did some reading on the subject of rising early. A website called Zen Habits explained it all in an article titled 10 benefits of being an early riser and baby steps to become one.

And so yesterday I thought I’d give it a try. I set the clock for 5am. 4.30am is too early for me, quite frankly. The alarm rang and I hit snooze. So I ended up getting up at my regular 7am 😛
But I wasn’t about to give up. So I tried again this morning. Succes!

Granted, I didn’t get to tick off ALL of the items on my to-do list. But at least I managed to shot off some e-mails and finish the first draft of my story for next week. That’s a start right?
Granted, I was feeling drowsy again by 11am. But I allowed myself a break/treat and finished my Madonna storybook titled The Adventures of Abdi (yep, I got it for 30 per cent off at the Times Book store Warehouse Sale in Sect 13, PJ. I was so excited to find it. The illustration is beautiful but I still prefer Jehan’s book, Yakov and the Seven Thieves.

I bought five other novels by Anne Rule (The Stranger beside Me and If You Really Loved Me); Anita Shreve (Resistance); John Grisham (Bleachers) and Elizabeth Noble (The Reading Group). These are authors who I have never read before – yep, not even Grisham. These books may not the best from these authors but I wanted to challenge my literary sense to… different stimulants, if you like. I could have easily picked up Plum Syke’s Bergdorf Blondes but I’m tired of reading about rich women with unlimited budget for everything.

I spent about RM130 on all the books – which is a great deal and would have spent more if not for the assignment I had after that. Yeah, Jehan and I used out lunch break to shop for books.

If time and budget permits, I’d like to go again, maybe Sunday. I only covered a quarter of the sale – just the bargain area (between 30 and 90 per cent off). I’d really like to see if there are other Anita Shreve’s Light on Snow is there. The last I checked – MPH Bgsr Village 2 – only her latest book Body Surfing is available and in hardcover at that. Who has the $ to buy hard covers?

I think this entry is getting a little long. I shall save news about the development of the family’s currently-under-renovation home tonight or tomorrow (with pictures!) for next time. Watch this space!