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SubhanAllah, it's halfway through October already. I had pledged to write a post on each of my husband's birthday which falls on the 12th of the month. This would be the fourth year I'm doing so, albeit almost  a week late.

How time flies...I feel like it was only a couple of months ago that I had written for this occasion. We both have been so busy, which we are very grateful for. I had mentioned before that having a bee farm would be the ultimate in my healing career. And now, thanks to my dear sister Aimi, I am finally moving towards that direction, four years after I had hopelessly fallen in love with bees and beekeeping.

Most people would be planning their retirement at this age, but here I am getting involved in a new venture at just over half a century old and four years short of the retirement age. I have always been a slow starter, only realising my true calling after my forties. Notwithstanding the setbacks in my life, which always turned out to be the start of something better, it had been a wonderful journey, made even better after having married Ahmad Cendana in February 2011.

He too had gone through numerous changes since he first stepped foot on Selangor soil nine months before we married. That move from Pasir Mas where he had lived for about 25 years was barely two months after we had known each other. It sounds like a pretty short time, but at that time, it felt too long.

Unknown to me then, Ahmad Cendana was in a bad shape, putting it mildly. We never saw or spoke to each other; we communicated only through text messages and Facebook, so I had no idea how he looked, much less know the physical condition he was in. But the urge to help him was overwhelming. For the two months we were living 500 km apart, thoughts of him and his well-being consumed me. It wasn't just feelings of love, but a deep compassion and desire to help him get well, and live a reasonably normal life.

I had to totally depend on guidance from the Almighty, as there wasn't anyone else who was seeing him that could provide information on his actual condition. At times he would be silent for a few days, not responding to my messages and calls. I felt desperate and totally helpless when I was unable to be there to help him, not knowing his condition, and not knowing if he was dead or still alive...was agonising. During these times, I had almost given up, but always, just at the breaking point, I would receive "messages" telling me to be patient and to hang on. The strength He had provided me with to endure these times was truly incredible. 

The most significant "message" I received was that this man, who had gone through hell and back, was in a totally wasted condition and place. His disposition did not do justice to the gifts of talent and intellect God had bestowed him with. He himself was wasted, but even so, some selfish people had been taking advantage of him and making use of whatever he had at that time. He had done his time. It was time for his turnaround and for some reason or other, God had chosen me to be his aide.

The "messages" further indicated that Ahmad Cendana was meant for much bigger things in life, where he would be of immense benefit to mankind. Yes...mankind. That's the extent of his influence over people through his writing and knowledge, in a faculty that he would eventually master. "Benefit to mankind" could I ignore that call. I would have committed an unforgivable wrongdoing and be regarded as zaleem if I did.

Four years on, Ahmad Cendana is almost recovered, alhamdulillah. He had gained substantial weight, and has added four inches to his waist. This would have made my late Mama very happy, as she had whispered to him to put on some weight on our wedding day. He now works for a coastal and environment engineering consultant firm, where he loves what he does. He edits, translates and writes parts of the reports, which are the major source of income for the company. Some of the projects involved are crucial to the society, such as projects to stop soil erosion, silting and floods. Being involved in and contributing to projects that is beneficial to people bring much satisfaction to my husband, and it gives him the much needed sense of pride and fulfillment.

But Ahmad Cendana is not quite there yet. He has not realised his full potential, not even half of it. He knows it, but he is quite contented where he is right now. He just wants to be in the moment, and be grateful that he is now of use and of great significance to his family, his company and his country. 

We don't know what's in store for us; we just have to fully utilise the resources and energy created and presented to us each day. Between us, I think we have achieved more in the last four years than in the last forty years. Each day together is a celebration, each day is a blessing, and we're going to take each day, one at a time.

Happy Birthday, Sayang...I love you so much.

This is sort of a continuation from the last post which was written rather impulsively; I was feeling so comfortable curled up with my daughter in her bed while watching the rain outside that morning, and the desire to write was too compelling . This post is about the last leg of our very brief visit to Kota Kinabalu, but regardless, it had left on me a huge and renewed impression of Malaysia and being a Malaysian. The time we had in Borneo was filled with fun and lots of laughter, but more importantly, it came with a deep sense of gratitude and contentment - in being where I was, what I have and who I am.

I took this picture on board the flight back to KLIA yesterday.
It somehow made me feel very proud to be a Malaysian, flying on a
Malaysian airline in Malaysian airspace. It was what inspired me
to write this post last night, which "coincidentally"
was the eve of Hari Malaysia. 
By and large, the common people of Sabah, those whom we met on the streets, in the shops and restaurants, and of course my stepdaughter's parents-in-law who are natives of Sabah, are such nice, pleasant people. Many were very helpful too. Driving and sometimes walking through the heart of Kota Kinabalu, my brother-in-law noticed and kept repeating "There are no policemen in KK!". I wonder if this could be a reflection of the peace and harmony amongst the Sabahans, and how nice if it were true.

According to my sister, Prof. Azni who visits Sabah quite frequently considering there are two UiTM campuses here, police action is mostly seen when they are conducting raids at nights to clamp down on illicit activities involving foreigners especially. Otherwise, business for the locals are centred around the vast and abundant resources available in this state.

Just two hours before our check-out time at the apartments we stayed at, Marzia had asked to go to the fish market. Back home, she would never have been keen on going to the market, marketing or anywhere that's wet and reeking of raw fish. So I had thought that she was just joking and brushed off her suggestion. But she had actually insisted on it. I found it rather strange but since Abang Pin and Azni were game, I just went along. So off we went to the wet market which is situated right beside the jetty, across where we stayed. I found myself having difficulty keeping up with her very brisk walk towards the sounds of people trading, bargaining, and chopping. "Hurry Mama!!"...I couldn't believe this was my daughter.

"Mama, look at the size of the fish!"
Once inside the market, all the four of us, Abang Pin, Azni, Marzia and I, walked around with our mouths gaping and as rounded as our eyes, and each of us pointing at every direction of the market exclaiming "Look at this!" and "Look at that!". Fish normally as big as our palm were four feet long here! Cockles nearly as big as a fist were sold in abundance, together with various other enormous shellfish.  The smaller fish, prawns and squid were so fresh and firm they looked like they were still alive.  We would have stayed there forever but we had a flight to catch so we quickly picked our choice of seafood to bring home. Then I knew what Marzia had come here for...her favourite crabs. We bought five kilograms of it, and as soon as we got back home, I prepared her favourite kari ketam for dinner, and fried crabs simply seasoned with salt and lots of black pepper for the husband, just the way he loves it

A variety of shellfish.

Fish so fresh they can be arranged upright!

Squid that seem to be
dancing with life.

This may seem like a very ordinary story, but I certainly didn't feel in the least ordinary. This is Sabah, a state in Malaysia where I come from and where I live. A state, a country which is in abundance not only in resources but also in opportunities. Yet for some it is just not enough.

It is up to us to make a life of what God has granted. As the saying goes, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But don't stop there, make lemon meringue pie, and lemon body scrub, or grow more lemons. What we saw in the market and at the eating stalls were just a tiny fraction of what life here in Malaysia has to offer.

Ever since he lived with me here, my dear husband
would put up the Malaysian flag on both Hari Merdeka
and Hari Malaysia. 

Today, we celebrate Hari Malaysia, and I am simply so grateful for what I have right now, the freedom to live where I want, to practice where I want and the opportunities to fulfill my dreams. But that doesn't mean I won't pursue bigger plans. As long as I am bestowed with good health, I wish to work and contribute to the nation in any way I can, as long as I can. Hari Malaysia for me is not just a is a celebration of being the best Malaysian that I can be.  

It's a cold, rainy Monday in the Land Beneath the Wind and I'm writing this post using my Samsung Mega under the duvet beside my daughter. The curtains are drawn and as I write this, the sea is in my full view. Oh, what bliss!

There is nothing more I love than to be by the sea. The vast spread of rippling waters and the sight of boats bobbing on the surface provides a sense of serenity and calmness not found anywhere else.

What more when I am here with the people I love family, or at least a part of it. We arrived in Kota Kinabalu on Saturday for my stepdaughter's wedding reception on her husband's side. His home town in Tuaran is 30km from Kota Kinabalu.

The newly married couple, my husband, sister and brother-in-law
 and stepdaughter's parents-in-law.

It was so pleasant walking along the waterfront
and stopping by anywhere that caught our fancy.

Azni loves pearls and adorns them almost everyday
as part of her working wardrobe. Most befitting I would say.

The trip was also an opportunity for Marzia to meet up with Dr. Zehan, her childhood friend who is posted to the hospital here. Dr. Zehan joined us for a glorious seafood dinner at the Philippines Market at the Waterfront.

Daughter and sister on the wharf after dinner at a Thai restaurant.

Besides my husband and daughter, my eldest sister Prof. Azni and her husband, Abang Pin are with us. She was so keen to be with us on this trip, wanting to take a break after the hectic and high-profiled Global Economic Summit in which she was Chairperson. It was said to be an astounding success.

My sister is always extremely busy, as she puts the interest of the university on top of her priority list. So time with her is precious and few. We had spent some wonderful time together here shopping, eating, walking along the waterfront and whatever else people do on a holiday.

This is a very, very rare picture of my husband.

We'll be checking out before noon today, and once we're back in KL we'll be back to our normal lives again. Work and life goes on as usual, but the memory of the time we shared together will remain with me for a very long time. The time that was meant only for us.

My husband had just only remarked that I had given good titles for my previous posts. But he had spoken too soon; this time, I was at a total loss to what title I should give this one. I was searching for the perfect adjective to describe the two exceptional women that I would feature here. I wanted one that would reflect their outstanding characters, but it was difficult because in my honest opinion, they are, well... beyond words to describe. Yes...they are undeniably, women beyond words. 

" is my staunch belief that even if there is only one person who benefits from this effort of mine, then I know I have fulfilled at least one tiny responsibility to God and mankind.

Norhafizah and her son, Ashraf Ilman. Despite her medical condition, she has brought him up to be a filial son, and whom will soon become a doctor, insya Allah.

Well, Fizah, you can be rest assured that you certainly have. Because after reading your book, of which the above statement was extracted from, I am so compelled to work even harder on my trigona bee project. You see, trigona bees produce a substance called beebread. Beebread is known to repair and rebuild cells and tissue that are diseased or damaged, and apparently is excellent in repairing damaged kidneys. There is no known medicine that can reverse the damage when kidneys are diseased so this miraculous beebread may just be the breakthrough in the treatment of End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). And God willing, I shall dedicate my time, efforts and money in making this a reality. Because you inspired me.
Norhafizah and I both do not believe in "coincidence'. Everything was in His Masterplan, and this book of hers was published at the time when I had just started rearing bees. But more about this later, this post is about my friend Hafizah and her sister, whom she refers to as Oni.

The journey XIV. by realityDream

Hafizah's story, written in a book titled Not Quite The End - A Journey Through End Stage Renal Disease is so moving it left a huge impact on me. I have taken on a new purpose, it is now my greatest desire to offer a remedy that may possibly save a number of ESRD sufferers from a lifetime treatment of dialysis and other painful procedures that are brought about by kidney failure, God willing. Dialysis needs to be done three times a week, and each session takes four hours. Failure to do this just once results in the blood getting contaminated by toxins and body waste, and eventually fatality.

Her recollection of the pain and suffering she had had to endure is enough to make readers, I'm sure, to never, ever take for granted their good health. Hafizah was diagnosed with ESRD when she was just 22, while she was studying her final year in England. It would have been the time of their lives for many young women her age, and starting their careers with a degree in hand would be would be nothing short of exciting.

But Hafizah's life was definitely far from typical of most of other young women. She was chosen to go through the most difficult trials enduring excruciating pain, physical and emotional, as she fought for her life battling ESRD. Hafizah who simply loves children, wrote about  the time when she was forced into terminating her very first pregnancy. I could only try to imagine the agony she was going through in having to make that decision, and then the procedure after.

The other possible worst time of her life was when she was put through a procedure called intermittent peritoneal dialysis or IPD. She described in detail the process of getting rid of toxins from her blood manually, because her kidneys couldn't do the job as they should. She described the pain as "something she wouldn't want even her worst enemy to experience". But she went through it, ten sessions in all, in ten consecutive weeks. I'd figure anyone lesser in strength and grit would not have gone to the hospital week after week to voluntarily submit herself to this torturous procedure.  

The special bond between mother and son - this pix taken by Hafizah's younger son just tugs at my heartstrings.
All the while, her absolute faith in God never waivered. She drew strength from verses in the Quran, promises and assurances by Him in it and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from the hadith. One who doesn't know God and understand how He works would probably question why such a subservient servant should be subjected to such difficult trials. 

The ordeals Hafizah had to face somehow reminds me of Anneliese Michel, a religous German girl who was purported to be obssessed by demons, and had gone through extreme torture whilst she was being exorcised by a priest. Her mother claimed Anneliese died "to save other lost souls, to atone for their sins". Whether this is true or otherwise, I believe Hafizah and Anneliese had things in common  - a solid faith, complete trust in and total submission to God, and that they believed that affliction is indeed God's Mercy on His humble beings.  

Hafizah's "baby boy" Ahmad Zakiy, named after her nephrologist in HKL.
I have never met Hafizah's sister Oni, but I dare say she is truly a woman of outstanding character. Oni had made a huge sacrifice - she had donated one of her kidneys to her younger sister so that the latter could live almost a normal life again. For the name of God and for the love of a sibling. In her book, Hafizah had related stories of how Oni cared for first her sister-in-law, and then her own sister when both underwent treatment for ESRD. I can only conclude this - there was certainly something absolutely right in their parents' upbringing which had instilled very high moral values and developed amazing unconditional love amongst the siblings.  

Humble that she is, Hafizah would never admit to having admirable strength, tenacity and willpower, that enabled her to pull through many, many tribulations in her life. Her conviction that everything happens for a reason, and that patience is a virtue is so powerful. It is this power that enables her to rise above all adversities. It is this power that makes her a woman beyond words.

Not Quite The End - A Journey Through End Stage Renal Disease is written by Norhafizah Abdul Manaf under the name Ummu Ahmadain, MD (Alt. Med) and published by The Inspiration Hub (ISBN 978-967-11596-3-7).

This is not a portrait of a legendary heroine from the past. Nor is she a princess in a fable created by an impressionable artist. This is Almaz. And she is real.

If Almaz were a building structure, I'd reckon she would be the Taj Mahal. She's beautiful, intelligent, unpretentious and strong-willed. She is a woman of principle, highly opiniated and knows exactly what she wants.   

The magical, mystical and magnificent Taj Mahal. 
Pix taken from

Almaz, which means "diamond" in Ethiopian, is vocal and extremely articulate; when she speaks, one cannot help but be mesmerised as she expresses herself with a myriad of facial expressions created from each element of her face. Her well-arched eyebrows complement her almond eyes, and in presenting a point, her right brow arches at a height according to a scale which indicates her level of seriousness.

Her nose is unusually sharp for someone who is of pure Malay parentage, and it bears the distinct septum, obviously inherited from her late mother, Hajjah Esah Hamzah. But what makes Almaz is most definitely her smile. She has one of the most enchanting smiles I have ever seen. When Almaz smiles, she gives it her all. A big, sunshiny smile that bares two neatly set rows of teeth that seem to reflect her openness and magnanimity. Often, the smile comes with a hearty, outward laugh, one that you know, somehow, that Almaz is genuine. When she likes something, she will tell you so. And when she doesn't, she will also let you know. This is just how she is. Straight-forward, open and honest.       

I love this picture. This is in Charlesten, St Austell in Devon, England,
 where the Eden Project is, she says. Taken without permission
because I wanted this to be a surprise :-p

That is probably one of the traits that makes Almaz a successful architect in her own right. She runs her own practice, known as Almaz Architect Sdn Bhd. I won't be writing about her profesional achievements as you can read all about her accolades on her website here,  I do want to mention though, that she was featured in a book titled " Biografi Tokoh Wanita Kelantan" (Biography of Kelantan Women Icons).

Almaz was a nominee of The Malaysian Women's Weekly 
Great Women of Our Time in 2010. 
Picture taken from

The book was launched on the 22nd of March this year at a "by invitation only" function which I had wormed my way into with the help of an aunt. Among other reasons, I had wanted to be a part of the occasion because my eldest sister, Prof. Dr. Azni Zain Ahmed is also featured in the book. I had written about her in an earlier post "Behind The Woman at the Helm". This book showcases women from Kelantan who had made significant contributions in academics, health, business, economy, poltics and the arts.

I'm not close enough with Almaz to say that I know everything about her in absolute detail. But as a child, I had always looked up to her as someone who didn't seem afraid of anything or anyone. I remember especially, a time when she told off a male adult, because of her concern for his child. At that time, she was barely in her teens, but she was as sharp as her jawline. Almaz makes no excuse about standing for her rights, and the rights of others.

Having battled with diabetes from an early age, Almaz is 
extremely concerned about health issues. In this picture, 
Almaz is seen visiting my late mother during a Hari Raya.  
At this time, Mama who was also a diabetic, had just had 
a minor operation on her toe.
 Almaz always showed concern for Mama especially about her diet, 
and knowing Mama had a sweet tooth, brought her 
sugar-free chocolates to indulge in.  

I am not a writer, I cannot write whenever or whatever there is to write. I can only write when I want to. Sometimes I'm not even sure what it is that compels me, as with the case of Almaz. I just felt I have to write about her, to the extent of putting aside other pressing matters just to complete this post. But the reason eluded me...right until I reached this next paragraph (I don't even plan what I'm going to write, the lines just flow from the heart to the tips of my fingers). This is the reason why I want to write about her:

Within the solid structure of steel and stone, lies a gem of a heart  that is warm, caring and generous in kind and in spirit. Just like a diamond, Almaz radiates light to the lives of the people around her. She makes time and gives attention to people, listening to them and helping in any way she can. This nobility and compassion, coming from a strong-headed person, is what I find very inspiring and reverent, and definitely a design for other women to emulate. This is, Almaz.

Another picture of Almaz I love, taken from her Facebook account.
 It's just so endearing to see her holding her
 one and only precious grandchild.

In the last few months, I had been experiencing some changes in myself, very positive ones: I somehow feel stronger and bolder, more than ever before. And I am wanting changes and challenges. Even though it feels exciting, I'm a little nervous about it too. It is quite unlike me; I used to be passive and laid back, preferring to keep a low profile and work in my comfort zone. 

Maybe it's because I've been spending a lot of time with my 24 year old partner, who's also my daughter since October last year. Marzia has joined me in my practice, and brings along with her freshness and spark to the clinic. There is definitely synergy between us. Initially she had planned to work with me only temporarily, on seeing that I was desperately in need of assistance in my practice at that time. Eventually, she found it comfortable working with me alhamdulillah, and started to gain interest in healing work. I couldn't be happier - it had always been my wish that she joins me and inherit all the knowledge and experience that I've garnered since year 2000. It's a double joy when she shares my other interest too, which is quite a surprise because it is rather uncommon among women.

In 2010, I attended a seminar on beekeeping and honey and it's medicinal uses. It was then that I started to look closely at bees and fell in love with them. Read about that love affair in this post here. 

Four years went by and my passion had not died out. But besides the stinging bee from the apis genus, I had also developed a very strong interest in meliponines, which is also in the same apidae family of bees but are stingless. Their honey has exceptional medicinal value, much higher than most other types of honey which are more well-known in the market. This, and the fact that they are stingless, had made me switch my decision to rear these bees instead. 

On the 24th of April this year, I had a very vivid dream; it had left a different feeling from the other normal dreams. In the dream, I was holding up both my hands in prayer, asking very hard from God to help me in fulfilling my desire to start a bee farm. From nowhere, my late Mama appeared, and she shoved an RM50.00 note into my upheld hand, not saying anything. When I woke up, my first instantaneous thought was, "Where, or who, could that source of money be?"  

Later that same morning, I received a message via Watsapp from my dearest sister, Aimi. "I'll be getting an x amount of money from.... Would you like a head start for your bee project?". My head started reeling, my heart was bursting and tears of joy were streaming down my cheeks. It wasn't just because of the offer, but also because of the very clear sign that Allah swt had answered my doa', and that the project I was going into was a blessing from Him. What I couldn't be sure of, is the presence and significance of Mama in that dream.   

Somehow, along the way, Aimi had become interested in the project too, and the two of us, together with Marzia, signed-up for a beekeeping course organised by MARDI in Serdang. It must have been more than sheer coincidence that this course was scheduled to be held at the end of May. It was most  
certainly destiny. 

Needless to say, I was elated to be amongst bees again, albeit stingless ones. And it was wonderful that this time, I was sharing the passion with my own sister and daughter. 

A company was registered, which officially had it's business commencing on the 15th May 2014 (the name, which will also be the brand name of our product will be revealed later when it is launched insyaAllah, during the coming Eid) bearing Aimi and Marzia as partners. Why that particular date, and why only the two of them and not me, is another story which I may tell in time...or not. 

Above pictures, left and right, the ceremonious "official" signing of the partnership in a less-than-conventional situation - the back of a car. 
Nevertheless, it was truly memorable, and a very significant
milestone for the three of us women.

Just four years ago, I was certain that I had wanted to remain a single mother. This was a decision made after a broken marriage which had become bitter and stale no matter how hard I fought to keep it intact. I realised that it was hurting me and the children more than making us happy; it was definitely more disheartening than empowering. Our goals, ideals and even opinions had diverged beyond compromise and reason; we no longer had anything in common. 

The divorce wasn't easy, it never is. Especially for the children. But I had to "cut the losses" so to speak. I was tired and weary and about to crash and burn. It had been almost ten years of turbulence. There were only sentiment and empathy left, and even those were wearing thin. I didn't want to stay in an emotional rut; the burden was badly affecting my focus on my practice, and not to mention the children. 

But there was no way I would have known what would have been the best for me and the children. I could only perceive what the future would hold for us. My ex-husband and I had already been living separately and I was aware that I was much more at peace in that situation. But I couldn't continue a relationship which didn't seem to go anywhere but further and deeper into destruction. had to make a decision. I had to be the one to do something, and there couldn't be the slightest, tiniest room for a mistake. 
I knew that only God Almighty would have the True Knowledge of everything and so in Him I sought Help, Guidance and Strength. I did the solat istikharah (a special prayer to seek Guidance in making a decision or choice) everyday and just let everything rest in Him. Just by doing this I had dropped a huge load off my mind, shoulders and heart. Each time I prostrated I gained strength, and clarity in my thoughts and feelings. 

blue water drops wallpaperWhen the answer finally came loud and clear, I had put my total trust in Him and had made the huge and forceful step towards living my life on my own, ending twenty two years of marriage. I hadn't told a single person about my decision. Not to my closest family, and not even my own mother. She would have been devastated if she had known of my decision. Mama was one who believed in being totally loyal and subservient to her husband, whatever the circumstances. And there weren't many divorces amongst my family and relatives. 

The divorce finally went through in October 2009 with only the two of us at the Syariah court. No one else knew about the proceedings. I had only told my sisters about my status a month later. I felt totally liberated to say the least, but more importantly I had finally felt at peace. I was going through a spiritual evolution and I revered the time and freedom I had to perform all the compulsory and obligatory rituals in my own private space. I had told myself and my children that I was absolutely content and happy and had wanted to remain that way till the day I died. I sensed that the children were happier too, and thankfully their father and I had managed to remain amicable enough.

Stock image of 'fresh water with bubbles'

As it turned out, I was destined for something else, for something even better . In retrospective, who was I to think and to say what the future had in store for me, much less to claim that I know what was best for myself. It is He Who Knows best, and He Who decides. And there is no defying when He decrees. In hardly less than a year, I had met someone who had totally captured my heart. And in hardly less than a year of knowing him, I married him.

Three years on, here I am, the once adamant and unyielding, is suddenly feeling vulnerable and thinking what my life would be like without this husband. My life, my practice and I have been elevated to a level I have never been before with him. In every aspect: spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, I am almost getting to the state that I want to be in. 
Of self-actualisation, if at all it exists. 

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