Ayman half whispering to Ayra –

Ayman: Ada, I think mummy loves shoes. She’s got too many of them! Look!

Ayra: Yah ada. I love shoes too! Ooooh, beautiful!

Ibu: What Ayman? Were you talking about me??

Ayman: Noooooo (covers face). I just said you like shoes.

Ibu: Why, that’s right :D :D :D


Now this came unexpectedly lol.


This email from futureme.org from 5 years ago came unexpectedly. I mean I don’t ever recall writing this all the way back in March 2010, but it captured that moment in time perfectly. That was the 24+ yo me, just in the second semester of grad school, somewhat clueless, somewhat loss, stuck in the middle of so many classes that don’t seem to make sense at all and endless lab work with the research group. That was the semester I took a 20-credit coursework load, working on the Master thesis proposal, doing coding and transcription work for the lab, moved into a another apartment in the middle of the semester (it was inevitable given the location of the lab and amount of lab work at the time), and funnily, trying hard to conceive at the same time, and still very much a perfectionist, trying to keep a clean record to everything, that a few class ditches made me loathe myself so much. That was the 24+ yo me, so excuse the immature language use. LOL. (Scroll over to posts from March 2010, and you’ll know where this post is coming from. Such a crayzayh semester for a 24 yo to handle lol).

Somewhat lost soul back then, tapi confident habis panggil future self “Dr”. That’s the power of dreams actions, I guess. Dreams Actions will get you there.  Small, little but significant actions, no matter at what point you start it will get you there, as long as you keep on marching forward (no matter how many times you had to march backwards!).

Time to write to my 34+ yo self to read in 2020. I wonder what I should address myself. Mak Hajjah perhaps? LOL.

Lesson learned: Never overthink.

Except for the endless battle against my own immune system (read: severe allergies to the Malaysian air, something I’ve been battling since 12 yo anyway), everything went well, as planned.

The flight back home was horrendous, both of them. But I reached home anyway (after not sleeping a wink for the entire 24+ odd hours and ucap syahadah every other minute). Food was good. Weather was good. Being back at the office was good. I especially appreciate the warm welcome from everyone. BTN was good. Semua semua lah. I don’t know why I like to think the worse about everything. All’s I’m doing is worrying over problems that never existed at the first place! Seesh.

Now it’s time to pack up and get ready to meet my one and only nephew for the very first time! :P

London-bound again, come Monday. Will promise self to get some sleep. Kalau dah ajal, tersepak batu pun boleh jadi penyebab, right?

Go be fearless

Less than a month to go and I’ll be on that long trip home – alone. Not something I really look forward to for motherhood has transformed me into an extra clingy person. Clingy to Daddo and both the babies. Not that I’ve ever been an independent person before I got married anyway.. But yeah, what fun is there without them. :cry:

There’s lots in my head right now. Funny what’s bothering me the most is if I will ever make my way round the airport(s) without getting lost. Truth be told, even a flea has greater spatial intelligence than I do. Tsk. The level of its severity is something Nashriq, after 11 years or so of knowing me, has painfully learned to live with. Hahah.  And of course there are greater things to think about .. Especially the risk of not being able to come back here. And the fact that part of my journey will be via MAS. Not that I have lost faith in what used to be one of our national prides, but the grave incidents this year had turned me into a nervous wreck just thinking that nothing, nothing is impossible because the worst case scenarios have indeed happened. Lost as if flown into an abyss without a track, and another blown mid-air. During each air trip I take comfort knowing that there’s the floating device .. and that jumbo jets will glide even if every single of its mechanics malfunctions. But no, from now on I will have to put all my trust in God.

I guess it’s time to go be fearless. Be fearless with the journey itself. Be fearless of what awaits at home. Or to be more specific, at the workplace. Just. Go. Be. Fearless. As you always do, AM. As you always do.

of maggi goreng and that blue robe calit tiga


After over a week retiring early to bed and getting enough sleep (mashaAllah, what great nikmat ample sleep is!), tonight I am back being a night owl helping to proofread my sister’s work sambil teman Nashriq telaah his readings in preparation for his classes that will begin this week  – tapi sekali toleh belakang tadi nampak mcm tgh tgk kartun batman la pulak, ish! As always, bila stay up, perut pun automatic macam macam, hence maggi goreng taugeh setimbun. Exactly at 12 midnight. I guess bad habits are really hard to break :cry:

On a different note, we’ve been out and about with my parents to nearby places. They’ve only about two weeks left here. Their help and sacrifice in helping me make my mission impossible plans a reality can never be repaid. That’s why I’m so so grateful I passed unconditionally! Unfortunately our supposedly elaborate trip got cut short by the kids’ unprecedented condition. SO, I made another elaborate itinerary, booked accomodations wayyy in advance – for May 2015. Yep, I am so making them both come here again soon, USA, take 4! And it’ll all be on me this time, plane tickets and all! :-) Hint: Blue robe, calit tiga ceremony.

Heard my sister’s got an itinerary planned for a trip to Scotland when Mum and Dad visits her for two weeks. I’ll just pretend that I don’t care :lol: :lol:

Ok. Maggi pun dah habis now. Back to work!



There’s always a next time

We’re back home in Milwaukee this evening after less than 24 hours arriving in Door County where we were supposedly going to have our week-long trip. Ayra’s teeth decided to keluar secara berjemaah (like 8 of them?) and Ayman’s showing signs of stomach flu (most probably contracted either from the shopping spree at the outlet or at the mall a couple of days ago). Torturous night, last night! The endless cryings, the vomittings and what not. Oh well, sh*t happens. I feel so sorry for my parents especially Dad. But chin up, they can have fun in the UK with Angah.

And I can always create a new itinerary altogether soon! :lol:



One of the best things I enjoy doing is creating itineraries, especially road trip itineraries. It’s been a loooong while since I last created one, in fact I can’t remember the last time we ever went on a (proper) vacation. Maybe the last one was last winter, when Nazmien, Nashriq’s sister was around for four months. Since then, the past 8 months have been nothing but a dreary period of “binge writing”, which I swear I will never want to do ever again. It wasn’t fun, and that was when I realized that had I made full use of each and every minute of my time the past 5 years, I wouldn’t have to end up torturing myself for 8 long months working on writing up paper after paper after paper after paper after ..(I mean it was just crazy. Period).

So anyway, I’m currently planning an itinerary for a quick road trip with mi familia since mum and dad  only has about 3 weeks left here with us before they head over to my sister’s place. I know Wisconsin is a very beautiful state but I’ve never really had the luxury of exploring other counties beyond the Milwaukee-Madison radius. So yes, to a long-due getaway and exploring beautiful Wisconsin!

Dah puas rasanya bertapa at the local library day in day out, for weeks and weeks, months and months. Cuma mampu perhati je dari jauh kawan kawan lain sibuk post pictures having a whale of a time and kadang kadang kesat air mata sorang sorang sebab punya lah stressful and lonely, the studies – tak cukup satu dua (and it was just for candidature!), the analyses – challenging, the cuti belajar – short setahun, the financial status – uncertain, my advisor – he’s hours and hours away from where I currently live, the kids – they need round the clock attention etc. etc. so I guess now it’s my turn pulak to bersuka ria :P My bersusah-susah dahulu days are finally over, alhamdulillah! 

To the readers of this blog aka my virtual friends who wrote to me personally, congratulating me, thank you, thank you, iA I will get back to each one of you personally too. (Apakah statement bajet famous? :lol: ). Some of you wrote asking me to write about the weeks leading to the day I made it to the finishing line. iA will do that when I feel a little more settled down. It is nice to learn that through my (mostly thoughtless) rants over the years, some of you told me that you have been inspired in one way or another, that is, to not give up.

Perhaps I didn’t see that, and maybe it was never my intention anyway, but yes, this is what this whole journey of life is all about: to not give up, no matter what. We were given this life because we are strong enough to live it, no? 

Till I write again (on a more frequent basis, hopefully like the way I used to some two years ago), I need to get back with the road tripping thingy 8-)





PS: Previously, road tripping meant going cross-country, driving for as long as 12-hours (or more) to get to NY, for instance. But since Ayra was born, traveling is no longer our cup of tea because her personal disposition is very different from Ayman, who is tougher and tak banyak ragam. So this very first road tripping with her around is going to take us just about 2 hours to reach the destination, Door County, in northern Wisconsin. But we’ll yet have to see how it turns out :lol:

Divine intervention

Alhamdulillah, syukur. Allah permudahkan segalanya, Allah murahkan rezeki untuk rasa nikmat tamat belajar dengan jaya. Everything is still surreal right now. How does it feel like to have earned a PhD you ask? 10000 times lighter. That’s all I can describe right now.

All I have to say is, working hard alone is not enough. You have to work on your connections with the Lord above too. And get your niat straight. Among other niats, my primary niat was only one to be honest: I wanted to repay my parents by making them happy knowing that they’ve raised me well and have helped provide education to the highest possible level.

I went to Champaign with Nashriq in full-kamikaze mode, leaving the kids behind with my Ma Ayah, and trying to not over-think whether or not Ayra can survive without me as she is still nursing full time. Technically, I haven’t even passed my Special Qualifying Exam (a second doctoral candidature exam) nor have I sat for the preliminary exam (proposal defense) to be allowed to defend my final doctoral thesis. When we hit the road, I haven’t been given the official permission by Grad School to sit for any of these three oral exams (which typically depends on the succession of each and could span out to several semesters/years apart). But I went anyway, because Dick told me to. And he told me to keep my faith.

The permission eventually came from the Grad School Dean at 11 PM Monday night. That was after much deliberation (via email) between the Dean and Dick. Again, he is truly one of a kind. So I went on to defend the Special Quals and Prelims back to back in a single afternoon, which perhaps, has never occurred before in history. And it went fine.

Two days later, for all I know, I was already defending my doctoral thesis, and the next minute, 5 years of grad school was behind me. Back in August 2009 when I first started, even the Master sounded too impossible for me to complete.

Come to think of it, semuanya kerja Allah. All you have to do is berusaha sehabis baik, and the rest, you leave it to God to do His wonders. I mean there was a 99.9% chance that the back to back defenses plan could not have worked – every inch of the plan was against the written regulations, and I am so powerless to overturn any decisions that don’t side me – but in the end, it is He who decide the outcomes to everything. My 4-hour drive back home to Milwaukee that night was spent thinking just about that: God is Great. MashaAllah.

On a different note, surviving the MS-PhD is like surviving continuous mental torture. The worst have passed, and that said, say hello to the invincible me! I am that hardened, nothing else can hurt me as much! :P

18-August: Second day back on UIUC campus.

Second day being back on the grounds of this beautiful green campus of mine. May all continue to be well. Ameen. #UIUC

A photo posted by enjoy the little things (@ainimarina) on

19-August: Going through both the Special Quals and Prelims Exam

21-August: Defended my doctoral thesis

And so I lived the day to tell the tale that yes, when you've given your all, nothing is impossible. That yes, when you think it's important to you, you will find a way, no matter how difficult the path, and if not, you'll keep making excuses. Two days ago, I defended the outcomes of 3 different research projects to my committee as the second part of a 2-step doctoral candidature exam. On the same afternoon, I defended my doctoral research proposal. Today, I defended my doctoral thesis, and alhamdulillah, it was a good ending to my 5-year MSc-PhD journey. I can never thank enough these amazing individuals who have entertained my extremely unusual request to have three oral defenses back to back in a single week. They have willingly agreed to read a total of over 400 pages of academic work on a week's notice, and were kind enough to listen and genuinely appreciate my hard work. From left: my mentor extraordinaire, Professor Emeritus Richard (Dick) Anderson, Clinical Professor David Zola, Assoc. Professor Kiel Christianson, and (not pictured) Professor Janet Gaffney, my external examiner, who wasn't able to skype in from Auckland, NZ today. I owe these people the promise to be as amazing and compassionate as they are towards my future students. Again, alhamdulillah for this blessing. #UIUC #ILLINOIS

A photo posted by enjoy the little things (@ainimarina) on

Done with school at age 29 (like finally!):

Life as a student has officially come to an end for me this week. Bye now, Department of Educational Psychology. It was definitely an honor to be accepted into one of the top ranked departments in the country, and even more privileged to learn from your world-renown faculty members. Bye now, Department of Psychology, your toughest of toughest exams each and every semester made me invincible somehow, and helped me conquer my fears with numbers. Bye now Center for the Study of Reading, my beloved research lab, my academic family members, I've never imagined that I could be a part of a significant legacy. Bye now, University of Illinois, the place I used to call "in the middle of nowhere" but somehow have grown to bleed only "orange and blue". I'll be back someday. But for now, I must move on, stewarding excellence, as you say!

A photo posted by enjoy the little things (@ainimarina) on

You will when you believe.. So just do it, and keep the faith in God! :)

Now it all goes down to this.

Can’t believe my advisor, Dick, came to work on last minute edits with me right here at the local Greenfield library as he transits at his daughter’s house from his summer home up in northern Wisconsin. He is truly, truly, one of a kind.
Now it all goes down to this one big trip down to campus tomorrow. I am so nervous (that I could really use a writing therapy right now, hence this post!).
5 years of going through ups and downs, and everything now goes down to this: Making that trip down to Champaign, to just do it. To just get things done and over with.
Unlike most people who gets to complete one academic milestone at a time – given the regular 3/4 year study leave depending on which country they go to – I unfortunately do not have that privilege and have been working on my milestones haphazardly since Day 1 starting grad school in 2009. Macam teori kinetik jirim bak kata Cikgu Sains masa sekolah dulu.. I’ve been working so rawak like a headless chicken most of the time.
Birthing two graduate degrees are definitely harder than birthing the two babies, enduring psychological pain is torture much! Translated into real labor terms, I am now having contractions every 2 minutes. Nak terbersalin sangat dah ni, but my mind and body is so so weary already.
Just hang in there a bit more, AM. It’s time to go TTKA and make that miracle happen. Go and give birth with much pride!

Selfie selfa


Almost midnight and just about to head home after seharian library date with boyfie. Rasa jakun pulak. Maklumlah masa sekolah dulu tak pernah bercakap, masa undergrad pjj UIA Kuantan/UPM, masa sama sama blaja dekat Illinois, anak anak pulak masih merah merah. Sekarang anak anak dah besar sikit, sibuk sibuk pun, tudung pun dah blh pakai lilit lilit balik. Sikit masa lagi, bila dua dua dah masuk kerja semula, boleh la main dating dating lagi :lol:

Tp sbb ambil gambar, buat buat la sengeh sengeh mcm ni. Sebenarnya kepala & badan memang rasa dah nak barai.


on being unorthodox



The past five email correspondences have only been with this 80-yr old Atok, my mentor extraordinaire, working on so many different things all at the same time. Many more emails to come within the next few days! I will definitely miss this.

But right now, I am also palpitating like crazy. One does not normally have 3 defenses in a single week, defending three research work on top of your doctoral dissertation all at the same time. It’s usually spaced out across semesters.

But you can be the unorthodox student and make it work, he says.

And yes, you can make it work, even though you’re far, far away from campus. It’s all up to you.



3:39 AM. Sunday. Doing my rounds of prepping for the grand finale(s). Spot the coffee mugs!

Bertahanlah wahai badan. Kekal tabah lah wahai hati. You’re doing awesome and you know that.

"Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart".

Written by Toots

"Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart".

"Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart".

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