July 28, 2013

Raining with Mercy

Imagine for a moment that it’s raining and imagine that you're inside your house, watching as it falls. Well, it's pouring, in fact. But imagine that there's something very different about this rain. It's unlike any other you've ever seen. It's not raining water, it's raining something much more precious to you. Imagine that it's raining money. What would you do? What would happen in your neighborhood on that day? What would happen in the world? Would we not run outside, falling all over ourselves, competing to gain as much of the raining money as we can? Would we not stand outside all night to gather as much as possible? We would do this for money because money is precious. But imagine for a moment that it's raining something priceless. Not thousand money, not trillions, but the mercy of Allah, a currency that no human currency could even measure.

In this Ramadan, we're shielded from hell-fire, protected from the satan and cleansed from our sins. Within this month, there's a night that is greater than a thousand months (lailatul qadr). So, what greater loss can there be than to find ourselves standing in the middle of this massive downfall of blessings without collecting all we can of Allah's mercy? And while this mercy showers on us throughout the blessed month, the last 10 days are like no other. But how can we fully take advantage of this blessed month, especially in the last 10 days? Here's a few ways:

1. Reserve a private meeting with Allah.
Set a time before or after suhoor to be alone with Allah. Use this time to connect to Him by praying or reading Quran. There's no other time like it. 

2. Set a time for reflection.
In the midst of our busy schedule, we seldom find time to stop and relax, let alone reflect on the realities of life. Make time to do this. Take time to step outside of your daily routine and introspect about where you are and where you’re going. Reflect on the creation around you and on the  reality of this life, death, and our final meeting with our Creator. Choose a time, such as the last third of the night, when there are no distractions.

3. Take a trip to Allah.
We all need to get away sometimes. Use Ramadan as a chance to go away with Allah as your companion.

We're getting closer to the end of Ramadan. Let's make the best of the remaining days. 

July 27, 2013

Rise Like a Phoenix

Sometimes, we have to fall down and scrape our knees to remember that we're human, that we're alive. We're earthbound creatures yearning for the sky, so naturally the more we leap upward the further we have to fall. It's the law of the land, it's gravity. What we must remember in these trying times is that we're capable of rising again. We can rise up from the ashes as a beautiful phoenix when before we were merely a jailbird chained to a perch.

That's not to say that we'll never fall again. But with each dive, we transform into something brighter and better. We learn how to adapt to our surroundings, how to read the red flags and how to detour out of arm’s way. After climbing to reach the height of freedom and being slammed back into reality, we learn that life is not perfect, but life is beautiful even when it feels so ugly.

We remember who we are at our lowest, where we came from. We become one with the dirt, with the flowers, and with the trees and we take a lesson from nature and continue reaching for the sun. We come to terms with the fact that if we fall out of line, no one will be saving our spot for when we're able to return. We have to save ourselves. We have to believe in ourselves and when we do, well, that's when we achieve the impossible. That's where miracles are born and bred in abundance.

Sometimes, we have to fall down and scrape our knees to remember that we're human, that we're alive.

Remember that.

July 22, 2013

Things That Just Aren’t Fair

1. Some people are born into families and circumstances which, despite their clearly limited talents or abilities in any given field, will yield the kind of opportunities and luxuries that most of us will never experience.

2. Many people throughout your life are going to start off with the promise of good friendship and real understanding, only to quickly reveal themselves as a friend you can only engage in shallow, superficial interactions with.

3. The perception that a lot of people in life have is going to hinge on your appearance and how cool you seem to them. They won't be interested in you as a person, even if you treat them with nothing but respect and compassion.

4. Sometimes your crush will not be interested in you, and will pick someone else over you who doesn't share their interests, or know them on as intimate a level as you do. And that’s likely exactly what they are looking for.

5. Even when you follow the recipe, sometimes it’s going to come out tasting and looking horrendous.

6. Sometimes the thing someone chose to study in school ends up proving very useful and relevant, and they have a smooth transition into a nice job that they like, even if they have what is perceived as a pointless degree.

7. Sometimes the thing someone chose to study, despite being a very good investment by almost all measurements, yields almost nothing in the way of job prospects upon graduation and leaves them feeling like their whole education was a waste of time.

8. Job applications/cover letters/resumes may often not be read or even opened, no matter how hard you worked on them.

9. Because they're from a generation that never lived with the kind of job market and debt that we currently face, the judgments and comments of older people in your family or community are something you’ll never really be able to get rid of.

10. There are certain people who are incapable of keeping secrets or taking in personal information without rendering judgment, and sometimes you don’t know who they are until it’s too late.

11. Some people who have the things you've always wanted but haven't found (a loving relationship, a successful career, a beautiful apartment, etc) are not going to appreciate them. They won’t take care of them the way you believe they should.

12. People will say “I’m broke” when they just mean “I spend too much money and I should really go to fewer brunches this week,” and you are actually broke.

13. The days you painstakingly plan often end up being a bust or a mild disappointment, while the evenings which just kind of pop up out of nowhere become the nights you remember forever.

14. Sometimes public transportation will seem out to screw you over personally, and you will end up late to something important, and no one will really believe your story about the subway, then the bus, then the bike share. So you will have to live in your multi-layered frustration all by yourself.

15. No matter what it is you choose to do with your life, how you want to make money, or who you want to be in love with, you are going to be upsetting someone. There is going to be someone who looks at your life, even when it has absolutely no bearing on their own, and feels personally affronted enough by your decision to be an asshole and make disdainful comments about it. This is only a poor reflection on them, and realizing they don’t matter as quickly as possible is the best course of action you can take.

July 21, 2013

Me Being a Teacher

I'm unofficially graduated. I barely have money and I need it so badly. So I signed up for a contract job at the district education office and guess what, I've got the job as a substitute teacher at a primary school, it's been 2 weeks already. So I teach English, Maths and Visual Arts for the pupils of Year 4 and 5. Yeah, I know, laugh all the way. Arts, huh? I can't even draw a tree properly. Lol. But surprisingly, I don't have to teach them how to draw or make DIYs, because they're really good at it. 

I once believed that I won't be a teacher because I can't teach people, I didn't know how to do it. But really, it's not that bad at all. Especially when they're much younger than you. Well, I have 11 nieces and nephews, so I don't really find it difficult in dealing with kids. So far I can keep the kids at school in check for the most part and I'm feeling confident in my ability to lead them. If I have to discipline a kid for bad behavior I don't even think twice. Modifying lesson plans also is not a problem. 

I think my strength has always been in being flexible and being able to adapt to whatever situations are thrown at me. This is helping me in the classroom. One of the perks of being a teacher is being exposed to the logic of young children. It's fascinating to watch them learn, think and talk, you know. Most children are so creative and imaginative and sometimes come up with the most profound or funny things to say. At the end of the day, this is what puts a smile on my face. I know I'm gonna miss them when the contract is over. I'm feeling good and that's all that matters to me now. I'm going to relish in this feeling that lately has been hard to come by. 

July 20, 2013

Dear Cory

The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and always will be. Maybe we've lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them we've found each other. And maybe each time, we've been forced apart for the same reasons. That means that this goodbye is both a goodbye for the past ten thousand years and a prelude to what will come. 

When I look at you, I see your beauty and grace and know they have grown stronger with every life you have lived. And I know I have spent every life before this on searching for you. Not someone like you, but you, for your soul and mine must always come together. And then, for a reason neither of us understand, we've been forced to say goodbye.


I would love to tell you that everything will work out for us, and I promise to do all I can to make sure it does. But if we never meet again and this is truly goodbye, I know we will see each other again, and maybe the stars will have changed, and we will not only love each other in that time, but for all the times we've had before.

— Nicholas Sparks

The beautiful words above are taken from The Notebook novel by Nicholas Sparks. I've always loved it. When I read it back, my mind somehow drifts to Cory Monteith. All Gleeks were mourning him and crying so hard, I guess we still are, well at least I still am. My excitement for Glee 5 has all gone because it doesn't feel right to be excited for it anymore. Watching Finn Hudson on tv and knowing that he's dead would be a devastation. It won't be the same.

Dear Cory, I'll probably never meet you and never be able to thank you for the moments that you made us happy even if you don’t know it. Of course I never will. The love of a fan is funny, you know. When you think you could not love so intensely someone that you barely know, sometimes life just sweep you off your feet and you find yourself loving them more. Thank you for the smiles you put on our face. Thank you for soothing us with your amazing voice. For all the friends I've made around the world. There once was a tall, awkward Canadian with a crooked smile that came in this world with the mission of bringing happiness to the people that surround him. 

Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone. I miss you, Cory. 

be strong, Lea

July 19, 2013

Fiction Friday: What's Left of Us

Sequel to this

Her eyes are glued to the scenery ahead as we rush through the heart of this city. Her slender fingers tap the steering wheel as I thumb through the newspaper we bought at our last pit stop a few miles back. The headlines read that our strength as a country is rapidly dwindling and violence has taken precedence over love. This is not news to me so I fold it up and cram it into the glove box.

I halfway roll down the window and light up a cigarette, letting the rush of toxins and smoke cloud my lungs for a brief second before exhaling. She shoots me a disapproving glance so I steal a few more puffs and toss what’s left out the window. I watch as it tumbles onto the rolling ground behind us and out of sight. She smiles and averts her eyes back to the cars she is chasing after. I fiddle with the radio but fail to find a station that plays good music. Great. Now, all we have to listen to is our impenetrable silence which I have learned to be equally as deafening. 

The car slows around a dangerous curve and I make believe that it flips off the edge. I wonder if thoughts like that ever cross her mind or if I really am just the jerk she has declared me to be. I shrug it off and touch her hair but she swats it off almost instantaneously. Is this really what happens to love as it ages? I always envisioned everlasting butterflies and laughter but instead we are immersed in silence and anguish.

This vacation is built on the hope that we can rekindle a flame that has long since extinguished, and so far that hope is dwindling. She is fixated on cutting our traveling time in half rather than living in the moment with me. This is never going to work. We are hopeless. Hopeless. I mutter this word under my breath which stirs a reaction in her. Her eyes are already reeling when she asks me what can possibly be wrong now. I pretend that it is nothing because I know she won’t pry the way she once did back when she cared to know what was on my mind. I am right and she resumes her battle against the ticking clock.

We are 260 miles of our destination and a hundred more light years away from salvaging anything from this relationship. I am not even trying. She is not even trying. The lack of effort is burying us alive but still we are not kicking and screaming to be let out. We are accepting our defeat. We are cowards, afraid to fight for the love we once called our oxygen.

I am mourning our loss and she will not stop tapping her slender fingers against the steering wheel. The sound is puncturing my heart now. This is what is left of us.

July 14, 2013

Always my Last


Dawn turns to day,
as stars are dispersed;
wherever I lay,
I think of you first.

The sun has arisen,
the sky, a sad blue.
I quietly listen -
the wind sings of you.

The thoughts we each keep,
that are closest to heart,
we think as we sleep -
and you're always my last.
Lang Leav

p.s: Cory Monteith is dead. I long for Finn Hudson. Glee without him is unimaginable and unbearable. I'm in the mourning.

July 13, 2013

Ramadan Feeds your Soul

Alhamdulillah, it's Ramadan. It's a month not only of self-restraint and control, but rather a month where we can truly appreciate the hardship that those without the guarantee of food at the end of each day go through. For Muslims, gratitude and patience go hand in hand and both are intertwined as well as deeply practiced in this month. Feeling grateful is a genuine feeling of being blessed with everything we've been given.

Often we find that the darkest times in our lives are followed by the most precious. And it's at the moment when everything looks broken that something least expected lifts us and carries us through. Like the sun that rises at the end of the night, our dawn has come. Allah has sent the light of Ramadan to erase the night. He as sent the month of the Quran so that He might elevate us and bring us from our isolation to His nearness. He has given us the month to fill our emptiness, cure our loneliness and end our soul’s poverty.

Every moment of Ramadan is a chance to come back to Allah. Whatever we're now going through in our lives is often a direct result of our own actions. Most of all, we must never be deceived. Imagine receiving a clean slate. Imagine having everything you ever regret doing erased completely. Ramadan is that chance.

By controlling and restraining our physical needs, we gain strength for the greater battle: controlling and restraining our nafs (soul’s desire). When fasting, every hunger pang reminds us of Allah. Don’t make fasting just hunger and thirst. While fasting, understand the whole picture. Remember that fasting is not just about staying away from food. It's about striving to become a better person. And in striving, we're given a chance to escape the darkness of our own isolation from Allah. Like the sun that sets at the end of the day, so as Ramadan that will come and go, leaving only its mark on our heart’s sky. Make the best of it.

Happy Ramadan. :)

July 7, 2013

Conquering the Bald Hill

Bald Hill, Sepangar, Sabah

Me and The Baks went out as a team again yesterday to hike and conquer the Bald Hill Sepangar, which is also known by the locals as Bukit Botak or Bukit Gundul. All this time, I could only see the hill from car window, now I know that it's conquerable and we made it! It's a beautiful green hill with bald top (no trees) that you'd notice if you're in Sepangar area. As it's a unique hill, I was on cloud 9 when they set up a plan to hike there. 

There are 2 starting points to climb Bald Hill, one from UiTM, another from a construction site next to MARDI (the one that we used). We started hiking around 10 am which was quite late already as the scorching sun was rising high. To get to the peak of the hill, we had to go through deep jungle, climb and cross a valley. It's really challenging for a first-timer like me. Okay, to be more specific, we're all first-timers, none of us had ever climbed it before and we took the challenge without any guides. So we just followed the existing trail, that's almost covered by bushes and long grass, with our instincts. 

take 2

beautiful woods

feel like rangers :p

almost there

We reached the Bald Hill peak after an hour. Subhanallah, it's so beautiful! We're amazed by the mesmerizing view from up there and despite the hot sun, the breeze was soothing. We can see the UMS, sea of Sepangar Bay, islands, navy base, and the whole KK city! They could even see their houses! Lol. And yes, at the highest peak, it's really bald, no bushes or trees, except a lone bamboo tree, Sabah flag and long grass. We just sat there, took pictures, relaxed and ate some foods that we brought along to fuel up while enjoying our beautiful land of Sabah. 

The journey of going down was another story. I never thought that going down could be more challenging than going up. Because of tiredness and less focus (we talked a lot) while climbing, we got lost twice. Not leaving marks was a mistake, and we didn't see the trail clearly. The situation reminded me of "The Road Not Taken" but there's no time to joke about it. It took them quite a while to figure out the correct trail. I didn't help at all as I was too tired to think, but of course I was worried if we stuck there forever. It's gonna rain and we must go down before dark. Alhamdulillah, we found the trail anyway. But then, my legs were too tired to deal with the steepness. I made a wrong step, tripped and fell to the ground. Man, it hurt. My doctor-to-be friend checked my ankle if it's broken. Thank God it's fine. I fought the pain and forced myself to continue the journey. Going down was agony. 

Well, we returned safely. Despite the wrong turn, clumsy step and fatigue, we had so much fun. Honestly, it's worth our time. It's a great adventure and surely we'll climb again next time with complete preparation. Heeee.. 

we made it

at the summit

just resting

hey KK

another great day with them

July 5, 2013

Fiction Friday: Unnoticed

Her back was towards the entrance, she did not see him enter but she knew he was there. She'd already felt his presence by tingling toes and the unwelcoming shivers running down her spine. It was like the old times, nothing had changed and she was glad about that. As excruciating as the feeling was, it connected her with him and she could never let go of it. She smiled at the irony.

Yesterday was the first time she had seen him since the day she walked out of his life. In that paralyzing moment when she had caught sight of his silhouette on that crowded street, she forgot the world and its meaningless inhabitants. She stood on the spot soaking in the sight, watching him as he walked past her. She was covered by the crowd, so he did not feel her presence in spite of the proximity, just like the old times he did not notice.

Fate had a twisted sense of humor, the fact that he should walk into the park and perch himself on the bench facing the gate was a live example of it. He had his back to the green trees lining the pond, he had his back to her. She stared at the figure for a long while. He hadn't changed much. She remembered their college days, she was the tomboy and he was the geek. While she loved being the center stage, he hid in the wings. She was the cheerful player, he was the silent spectator. She loved to talk, he was the most insightful listener. They were best friends. She thought they fit perfectly, she loved him and he loved her back too but only as a friend. Never in the years that they spent together did she ever tell him how she felt. One day, he told her that he loved someone else and she hated him for that, but she couldn't stop loving him either. She was an oxymoron personified. Eventually he got busier and she phased out. She knew he did not notice.

Years later, as she sat there staring at him, oblivious to her existence, she wondered what bad karma had haunted her for so many years that she had to hide from the only man she ever loved. Consumed in her thoughts, she lowered her eyes to the book on her lap blocking him from her vision. The figure on the bench turned around but she did not notice.


He sat on the bench lost in his thoughts. He was a man who was trying to fall out of love. The emotion had fooled him. He sat on that park bench cursing destiny that his first love had never materialized. Those eyes that followed him around had disappeared. They did not tell him stories anymore. He knew she never loved him the way he loved her. It hurt him. He longed for her to reciprocate his feelings, but she was clueless about them. She was his only friend, they fit perfectly. She was the yin to his yang. He loved her but she had never noticed.

Till now he wondered what evil had possessed him when he told her that he liked someone else. He meant it to be a harmless joke. But she caught on to the idea. Her eyes brightened at the thoughts but his face fell, she did not notice. Wallowing in self pity, he kept his distance from her. She too distanced herself from him. He could never get over her, they were in the same classes and he used to look at her with longing in his eyes, he missed her, but she never noticed.

Years later he sat here in a park, facing the gate rather than enjoying the view. He was here because he had felt her presence yesterday; just like the old days, he knew the eyes were watching him from somewhere. He had quickened his pace and returned to his hotel for the fear that the eyes would bewitch him again. He had his flight the next day, to kill time he had aimlessly walked around the city when he spotted the park where she used to love sitting under trees and reading.

When he entered he saw a pond lined with huge trees, he instantly knew she would have loved this place. He could not bear to sit around alone. He turned to leave, but the old sensation gripped him again, those eyes were following him. Absolutely powerless he sat on the bench relishing the sensation. It was nearly time for his flight, he could not delay it any longer, he got up and walked to the gate. just before stepping out he turned around once, someone was sitting behind the massive tree trunk engrossed in a book, but he did not notice.

July 2, 2013

On Kindness

Roger Ebert (1942-2013) was the world’s most respected movie review guy and blogger. He's diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002 and underwent several surgeries which left him without a lower jaw or the ability to speak. He found solace on the internet, where he applied his writing skills to the world of blogging. And the quote above was taken from Ebert’s autobiography which is being turned into a documentary.


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