Thursday, 20 October 2016

Extending An Olive Branch To My Son

Let’s Talk About It


I have  always stood by my belief that if I wanted to invest my time writing a blog post, the content had to stem from a place of brutal honesty and I would never hold back on expressing how I truly felt about issues that were impacting me directly or indirectly. I thought long and hard about writing this post though.  This topic was a sensitive one.  It was a topic that I could discuss at length quite openly, peppering it with a few belly laughs coupled with exaggerated expressions of disappointment that included rolling my eyes and "palming" my face in despair.  Generally, I would be masking my true feelings with humor, brushing my despondency away in the hope that this issue was just a temporary irritation to my otherwise peaceful family life.

In reality, this issue had ripped my heart apart into a million pieces in the past, making me question my role as a mother every time the subject got raised.  This was a topic about my son’s romance. It was a subject of much grief at home.  It was the cause of numerous mother-son fights for years.  It was the cause of my depression in the past.  It created a divide between my Mom and I because of our different approaches to parenting.  It contributed to the rows David and I had when we discussed the issue of Joel’s allowance, Joel’s free-spending habits, acceptance of his girlfriend and his lack of time spent with us.


A Pressing Issue

Having experienced the negativity of past broken relationships and a divorce, I had always advised Joel to keep his options open when it came to relationships. I told him that he had many more years ahead of him to meet many girls and eventually settle on the perfect one later who would be sharing a life with him.

When he was navigating his studies at school and now serving his national service duties, I had always felt that he had to be more focused on his priorities.  Falling head over heels at an age where most things in life were transient, could be a complete waste of time.

Joel, like his mother, was never good at taking sound advice.  He threw himself into this relationship when he met this girl at school. When we were introduced years ago as he brought her home for infrequent visits, my disdain for her was quite obvious.  My list of reasons why I disliked her, was as long as my bill spent on cosmetics in my lifetime.  I will list just a fraction of them here:

1)   I had no patience for one who could not hold a proper, intellectual conversation. Every time I asked her a question, she turned to Joel for an answer.
2)   As our family centered our daily lives with fitness, sports, photography and other exciting interests, we felt that she was uninspiring as she did not seem to have any interests outside of combing malls, dining at cafes and catching pokemon.  How then could she inspire Joel to lead a better and more fulfilling life in future?

3)   I abhorred clinginess.  When she started work and Joel was waiting for enlistment into the army, she demanded a lot of Joel’s time, to the point that he used to wake up at the crack of dawn, take a bus to her home, and hopped onto the bus with her to accompany her to work.  Sometimes, he would wait around at Starbucks till it was time for her lunch-break, so that he could have lunch with her.  And when she knocked off from work in the evening, he would accompany her back on the bus. There was nothing productive about this daily regime at all.

4)   I was disappointed that Joel had even let down his best friends who had come all the way from Thailand to Singapore for a visit and he had no time to spend with them because he would rather be “glue-gummed” to his girlfriend.

5)   Having been brought up in a traditional Peranakan Chinese household that valued respect, manners and decent behavior, I was unhappy that while she greeted David and I during her visits, she ignored our helper Evelyn, as if she was a piece of furniture.  When Evelyn cooked dinner for Joel and his girlfriend, she had not thanked her after, nor had she offered to help wash the dishes. 

6)   It did not help my already sullied opinion of her, when Joel spent a lot of money on presents for her, from a camera, to a pair of Chanel earrings, as well as frequent cab rides, all paid out of his small allowance.

7)   I was unhappy with the fact that while my birthday past me by without a word and a gift from him, he spent time and energy planning a birthday celebration for her.  I mean, for goodness sakes.  I spent my birthday eating at home and watching re-runs of Game of Thrones, while he celebrated her birthday at a high-end restaurant!

These were just random examples of situations that led to my disappointment with his relationship with her. I could go on.

These issues had escalated to a point where Joel and I would burst into regular heated arguments on an almost weekly basis.  My disdain for her increased as time went by.  For everything that Joel did which hurt or disappointed me, I would blame her as the cause of it. He avoided having a direct conversation with me about the topic.  And he even took to lying to me about the most basic stuff like where he was, whom he was with, what he was doing.  It came to a point, where I could no longer welcome her in my home. 

When Joel told me that he wished his national service duties kept him in camp even throughout the weekends so that he need not have to juggle between his girlfriend and I, I felt utterly depressed.  I felt like I truly had failed as a mother if my son was not looking forward to coming home to a happy family, loving parents and hot food on the table.


Finding Peace

Months and years flew by, and true to Joel’s tenacious nature, this relationship had lasted almost 4 years. However I thought of the relationship, I realized that what I could not change, was that Joel really loved her.

So I set out to re-evaluate the whole situation from a more objective point of view – something I found very difficult to do for most things in my life. While I was my father’s daughter, highly opinionated, unbending, tenacious and strong-willed, Joel was his mother’s son.

Yes.  He was exactly like me.  Through his relationship challenges, between his girlfriend, him and I, he held strong to the belief that one day I would change my attitude about her and that I would come to accept them as a couple.

I looked back at my own experiences with my relationships.  Often, I defined my response to these relationships with a fear of lack of control.  My divorce from my first husband was a result of that.  He had a high-flying career which would see me taking a back seat for the rest of my life.  I was then looking at a future where my life and destiny was “controlled” and dictated by his career progression.  As I did not want to fit into his plans, and would have preferred that he fit into mine instead, I chose to walk out of that relationship.

With Joel and his girlfriend, the same theme got played back to me and I suddenly felt that I had lost control of my son.  I thought I was on that right track of creating that perfect scenario of that perfect home, with that perfect family, spending quality time together, having a great time, sharing happy moments.  However when Joel met his girlfriend, it felt like someone threw a pebble into that pool to cause a ripple in that otherwise perfect reflection.


Positive Changes

A few months ago, Joel’s best friends had a heart to heart talk with him. It was a tipping point when Joel realized that he had been managing his relationship with his girlfriend and us, in a wrong way.

One night, while having a conversation with me, he apologized for the years of grief he had caused and explained that all he wanted to do was to present a perfect embodiment of a girlfriend to me.  So if she was deemed not perfect by my standards, he then put a wedge between us by trying to avoid any opportunity for prolonged interaction between her and us.

I assured him that I was not looking for perfection.  All I was looking for, was someone with good values, who understood the importance of filial piety, familial loyalty, respect, and integrity.

Interestingly, this conversation opened my mind to the root cause of the issue – the issue of fear of lack of control.  I spent my entire lifetime trying to take control of everything.  I was a control freak.  I controlled even the way my son thought, behave, spoke, and forgot that he was one day going to grow up to develop his own identity, formed his own opinions, made his own decisions and shaped his own future.  It made sense now why he would think I demanded perfection from the girlfriend that he was to have.  I had imposed that notion in his mind that any tiny flaw, anything that I could not manipulate, mold and control, was imperfect.

Taking on a more objective perspective, I also began to reassess my judgment of his girlfriend.  These were some of my thoughts:

1)   When I asked a question and she looked at Joel for a response, was she deferring to Joel’s need to take control the way I normally did, so that he could manipulate her response back to me? 

2)   As I had a strong and imposing personality, did her mousey attempts to address David and I, and her whimpers during our conversations reflect her fear of me?

3)   Did Joel, on his own accord, instruct her to just leave the dishes in the kitchen sink “so that the helper could wash it” because he was brought up accustomed to the practice of having the helper pick up after him?

4)   When Joel bought all the expensive presents to impress her, could it be his immature attempts to keep her sweet when they were going through issues in their relationship although it was not the right thing to do? 

5)   As men were generally not as sensitive and…er…intelligent as women, could it be that he took my instructions to not plan or buy me anything for my birthday at face value and literally allowed my birthday to pass  without saying a word?



Over the last few weeks, Joel and I went through a period of healing.  We were focused on the goal of reconciliation.  Whatever rift there was that had existed between us, was a result of our different expectations about his management of his relationship. In the wider scheme of things, we realized that we both were still very present in each other’s lives, and just wanted peace and happiness within the family. 

In the past, conversations with him tested our patience because he would respond with monosyllables.  Today, we would have open conversations about his life in the army, where he went with his girlfriend, and his general thoughts on most things.  He was more open with what he was spending on as he knew that his free-spending ways in the past was one of my bugbears. 

In the past, his life at home was behind his closed room door and in front of his computer. He even had his meal at his desk in his room.  Today, he would try to sit with us in the living room and have a decent conversation with us over dinner.

The home no longer felt like his hotel room.  He would let us know when he was coming home for dinner and he would even make arrangements to meet us for dinner after he booked out of his army camp on some Friday evenings. On his day off, he would accompany me to work, and have a cup of coffee with me at Starbucks to help me ease into my day.

He made time for us or for things that were important to us, for example, the weekly mass at Church and our weekly visits to Mom for lunch on Sundays.

He had also attempted to bring us together by asking me out to lunch with the both of them one Saturday afternoon, when David was out of town.  He was aware that I was going to spend the weekend alone otherwise.  I turned the invitation down politely as I wanted some “me time” spent on boxing training. There was no drama.  He just accepted it and went on his way.

The following week, he attempted to ask David and I to spend a Saturday evening out with them at the annual Halloween Horror Nights.  Again I turned the invitation down politely as “two old crusties were averse to the crowd who might knock our walking sticks off our hands.” Again, there was no drama as he had just accepted it and went on his way.

Before he left the house to head back to camp last Sunday afternoon, he walked into my room as I was taking a nap.  He planted a loud, wet kiss on my forehead and said, “I love you Mom.  I am going back to camp.  See you soon.” 

Deep down in my heart then, I knew that he has indeed evolved from a boy to a man. Whomever he dated, and whatever choices he made, nothing could ever change the bond between a mother and son. 

So I extended the olive branch on my end, and bought the both of them a night out to Halloween Horror Nights this coming weekend while the two crusties at home can polish each other’s false teeth.



As the healing continues, I began to embrace the notion that what I could not change, I had to change the way I thought about it.  His girlfriend is very present in his life, as I am in his.  I had to start accepting the fact that the moments they shared together, would make him happy.

I love my son.  All I ever wanted was for him to be happy. If she was going to be one of the contributors to his happiness, I had to start accepting her in his life.

My stance against their relationship had thawed somewhat over the past weeks.  While there was still some residual reluctance to letting go of my son who would always be my baby, I knew it was time to do so.

I no longer need to control him and how he leads his life because, as a grown man, he would be ultimately accountable for his own choices.  By letting go, I felt that instead of losing him, I would be gaining his trust and his respect. Beyond love, the bond between a mother and son can never be broken when there is trust and respect. 


About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Thursday, 1 September 2016

I Need To Be Gentler With Myself

Rewiring The Brain


Did you know that childhood experiences could wire one’s brain in a way that could cause one to create perceptions in adulthood, that might or might not be the truth?

When I was a little girl, Dad was incarcerated for alternative political views. However when he was released, he had continued to hold political views that were not aligned with the establishment, and was still quite vocal about it amongst his friends.   I felt that when the family had already walked through the struggle of his detention, he should just stop taking too hard a stand against the establishment and learn to be more open to the intent behind some of these policies and indeed be more open to the political opinions of others.  I blamed Dad’s continuous anti-establishment rhetoric on my not being important enough for him to just “shut up”.  When my parents chided me for grades that were not within the top percentile, I blamed it on my not being intelligent enough and my lack of discipline.  When my brother hurt himself while playing as a toddler, his nanny told my parents that I had bullied him, and of course I had a scolding for it.  I blamed that incident on my failure to take better care of him. 

That wiring in my brain had over time, made me extremely critical of myself.  When my performance appraisals at work saw general comments like “needs improvement”,  I blamed it on the fact that I might not have delivered a project well, had not been detailed enough with my work or perhaps I was too lax in the management of my team.  When I struggled at the gym with boxing, always making the same mistakes repeatedly, I blamed it on my age and my lack of agility.  When my Mom fell a few months ago on her way to church, I blamed it on the fact that I had not spent enough time with her and had not taken better care of her.   When my son went through the phase of acting like an imbecilic teenager by spending lavishly on his girlfriend without thought of the value of money, and covering up his lack of control over his expenditure with lies to David and I, I blamed it on my failure as a mother.


Putting So Much Pressure On Myself

I spent the weekend talking to Mom, to my best friend Molly, and then to my mentor Alixe last night and there was a common thread that ran through each of their advice. They said that I was putting too much pressure on myself.  Every day, I juggled multiple roles, trying to be a good marketer at work, a counselor and mentor with my clients, a student at my boxing training, a mother, wife, and daughter at home.  I had inevitably placed my own set of evaluation criteria on myself within each of these roles, trying to over-achieve all the time, trying to please everybody, and trying my best to take care of everyone’s needs but my own.  In some of these situations, I had bitten off more than I can chew, taking on everyone else’s responsibilities and worrying for the people in my life that mattered most to me. 

Last night, I drew a circle on a piece of paper and wrote the names of the people within my network that were closest to me. I then wrote a bunch of words that automatically described my immediate thoughts about them and things I had done for them or wished to do for them.  Finally I circled the words that were repeated most.  These were the words that got circled the most -  Save, Support, Salvage, Nurture,  Heal, Sorry, Please.  These words told a story of how I had always felt I had never given enough, done enough or delivered enough.  There was always something I had to save someone from.  There was always a situation I had to salvage for someone.  There was always someone that needed my support.  There was always someone I had to continuously nurture.  There was always someone that had an open wound that needed continuously healing. There was always someone I needed to please. There was always someone I felt so sorry to, for not being able to further save, support, salvage, please or heal. So I often held myself accountable for someone else’s issues or mistakes.

Being Gentle To Myself

Acknowledging my own limitations and my need to draw that boundary around me, I  decided today that I had to be gentler to myself.  I had to stop taking responsibility for other people’s problems, faults and failings.   I needed to take time out to rest for a bit.  I needed space from some people.  I needed time to nourish my soul and nurture my mind, body and spirit back to a state where I can take back control of my personal power.

Taking Care Of Me

So I will take care of myself over the next few weeks. 

I had to stop being anxious about Joel and his lack of accountability for his frivolous spend. Whatever little he earned from his national service stint belonged to him after all and he had every right to spend it in the way he wanted to. How he managed his money today would go a long way to teaching him about the value of savings and wealth management as he grows older, manages a career, owns his own home and have a family in the future. 


I had to stop nagging David about his lack of discipline with regard to his diet.  His health was his responsibility. The quality of life that he wanted to live in future as he got older, would be determined by how he managed his health, lifestyle and fitness today.

I had to stop stressing about Mom’s well-being and whether or not she was getting enough attention from me. Mom had a huge circle of friends, and she was often surrounded by my uncles, aunt and cousins who often spent time with her. She would have to assume full responsibility over the way she wanted to design her new lifestyle after my Dad had passed on.

I had to stop getting annoyed, when certain clients did not take my advice and kept returning to consult with me on the same issues. They were afterall masters of their own destinies and needed to take charge of their own happiness by choosing to accept things that they could not change, or make changes to things that they could.

 I had to stop being “mother-hen” to my team at work, worrying that they would get bullied by other senior managers when I could not be at certain meetings.  I needed to trust that my team members are capable enough of fighting their own battles as these experiences were essential to their development as future leaders.

What impacted my emotions most would often be the people and things I cared about most.  On hindsight, I felt grateful for the angst, anxiety, anger, sadness, frustrations, disappointments and all the negativity from incidents that had triggered my feelings of fear of lack of control, lack of approval, and lack of security because these feelings helped me acknowledge my vulnerability and my own need for help, support, nurturing and space. 

So, be warned. When I need a hand to hold, I would be asking you for it soon.  When I need space and time to myself,  please know that I am not trying to avoid you.  When I indulge in a few more glasses of wine than usual outside of my cheat day, please try not to judge me for my ill discipline.  When I need to go for a vacation longer than I had planned, please allow me that time to take care of me.

What I truly need most now  though, is to go walk barefoot on the grass, listen to birds sing, feel the wind in my face, hug a tree and feel the wet sand between my toes at the beach. Please try not to think I am "hippy-wierd".

I am just learning to be gentler with myself.


About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Straight Talking

Straight Answers
I am not sure if culture has got something to do with this but in Asia, I find it hard to get straight answers, honest comments, and genuine opinions, unless, of course the answers, comments, and opinions were offered via social media, hidden behind the safety of a computer.   I thought it was an Asian thing to protect one’s face by not being too opened with opinions.  Brutal honesty was frowned upon as being crass and un-classy.  Mom just simply describes it as,”You ah! No filter between your brain and your mouth.”

Would it not be easier to resolve issues when people could discuss things in an upfront and straightforward manner?
Decipher These
As a recruiter, it was usual for David to ask potential candidates why they were looking out for a new job.  Here are a prized collection of some of the responses that often left him baffled.  If they were looking out for a new job because of some existing organizational restructure that did not favor them, they would tell David that they were in the midst of a “career re-alignment”.  If they did not get the promotion that they wanted, it would be a situation where they were considering a “salary re-engagement”.  If they were retrenched, it would be a case of managing “mid-career dismantling”.  If they were hoping for a career switch, they were “looking outside their career remit”.  

How difficult would it be for one to just be upfront and say,” I am looking for a new job because a) my boss and I do not see eye to eye on most things, b) I no longer am able to add value to the company, or c) I got retrenched 3 months ago.
I had my own fair share of experience with those who dished “wishy-washiness” at me.  When a colleague kept postponing a meeting with the excuse that he had been “putting out fires” or “still realigning plans”, more likely than not, he was avoiding having to face a difficult discussion with me.   

I would have preferred a simple, “Sorry I would not be able to meet you now because I have no answers to why that situation had happened and is causing you the deep agony of preparing responses to media queries.”
If I was asked to “re-gig the numbers”.  It usually meant that my budget was cut and we could not afford to execute one of my brilliant but crazy plans that I had spent months dreaming up.  


 To my annoyance, my son has gotten into the bad habit as well.  Singapore got swept into a trend similar to a zombie holocaust when Pokemon Go landed on our shores.  Joel was not spared.  The good thing that came out of it was that he has gotten his sedentary ass moving and his frequent trips out of the house on a hunt for pokemons, had been carefully messaged as, “I am walking the dogs Mom.”  For the first time, the dogs got walked a record 8 times a day on his day off.  Another innovative excuse for getting out of the house was, “I went to get a loaf of bread from 7-11.  After coming home with it, I realized we ran out of peanut butter, so I went back to 7-11 to buy some.”    When I asked Joel what was driving that obsession with the game, the most straight-forward response he gave me was, “You have been nagging me to get fitter haven’t you? You kept complaining that I have been shirking my responsibilities over the chores like walking the dogs, haven’t you?  You have been urging me to take less cabs and walk or use public transport more, haven’t you?” 

Yes I have.  However I was expecting him to tell me he wanted to surpass his friends by reaching level 25 on the game and maybe own a couple of gyms.

So I thought, maybe I should join the lot with my own version of undecipherable responses.  When my strength and conditioning coach gave me a pep talk about my inconsistent presence at the gym lately, I replied, “I need to have some space to recalibrate my body, mind and spirit.” When deciphered, that meant, “See you in a couple of weeks, dude.”

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Making Peace With My Inner Child

I did not like kids. They were tiresome, demanding, and often a potential liability in a way that required my making plans around them.  When Joel was little, I was every parent’s nightmare when it came to my turn to babysit the children or do the school run.  My way of entertaining these kids was to feed them with a buffet of sweets, chocolates, crisps and lots of fizzy drinks while I did my aerobics in front of the TV.


On days I hosted the baby group, I would have some of these kids’ parents calling me at night to complain that their children were hyperactive from the sugar overload or had lost their appetite for dinner. 


My Weekend Getaway


When the girls at work planned a weekend getaway in Malacca recently, I was informed that Susan was going to have her daughter, Sophie, come along with us. I was worried initially.  A weekend trip away with the girls always meant miles of walking, eating lots of spicy Malaysian food, and plenty of coffee stops.  “Did that sound kid-friendly to you, Susan?”  I thought.


I decided to keep my mind open.  A 5-hour bus ride to Malacca could be a nightmare with her running up and down the aisle of the bus with little or no chance of me gagging and tying her to the roof of the bus.  I decided, the fizzy drinks, sweets, chocolates and crisps tactic would not work if I wanted to have a peaceful nap for 5 hours.


Well, I was wrong about kids.  At least, I was wrong about this kid.  I did have a peaceful bus-ride.  I did have a weekend filled with so much fun and laughter. I did walk miles, shopped and ate plenty of spicy Malaysian food, with little Sophie in tow.


Little Miss Sunshine


After a great weekend, my post-vacation blues really was not inspired about missing Malacca, its food, its cafĂ© culture and its history.  I realized it was inspired by my missing Sophie.  And here’s why.


Sophie sprinkled a lot of sunshine throughout our trip.  She made us laugh with her antics, especially when she choreographed her special “jelly dance” to entertain us.   She chattered non-stop, and every opinion from her was made from the observation of a pure and innocent heart of a child. 


Her inquisitive nature inspired her to ask many questions.  I saw her learning new things, shaping her perceptions with everything she touched, heard and experienced.


She taught us to let our hair down, and look at everything and everyone around Malacca through the eyes of a child.  From that vantage point, we saw everything from a fresh perspective.  A wall mural was not just a wall mural.  We played with it and engaged with a piece of art on the wall just to have a wee bit of fun.


We became children again.  We visited the Mamee Cup Noodle factory on Jonker street, decorated our own cups and customized our own cup noodle ingredients.  It was like a school excursion.


We were not fussy about sticking to the breakfast, lunch and dinner routine.  We ate when we wanted to eat and with an adventurous spirit, tried all kinds of food that I would otherwise not have tried. 


Sophie’s love for life, inspired us to live the moment, enjoy the now, appreciate every little thing around us. Without her, I would be spending the trip checking my emails every hour on the hour like I usually did when I travelled.


I was grateful for Little Miss Sunshine’s presence throughout our weekend getaway.  Sometimes, children can teach us so much more than we would ever admit.  The most important lesson from her for me, was that, if I wanted to live the moment and truly love my life, I needed to start with an open mind.


Postscript:  Now I would usually have thought that I  had lost my mind to be drawing something like this together with Sophie during our bus-ride home from Malacca. However, on looking back at it,  this was to me, our most beautiful piece of artwork together!

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  



Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Perfect Imperfection


I have not been blogging for a while.  I made the conscious choice to stay away from anything that involved investing too much time and energy analyzing the what and wherefore of every sordid detail of everything that I had observed about life to create some meaningless content on my blog.  Instead of playing spectator to a stage of external events, situations, and issues before me, I started to walk introspectively to play spectator to myself.


I spent the last few months wading through an emotional and mental transformation that involved my letting go of aspects of myself that I had come to dislike. Every effort that I had used to make towards being better than what I was yesterday, at work, at home, in my personal life, and at the gym were deemed as an incomprehensible display of inane vanity that served to support my ego.  Every expectation that I had placed on others to be better than they were yesterday, at work, at home, in their personal lives and at the gym were deemed as an intolerance to anything or anyone that could not compete with my ego and I.


I woke up one day to the fact that if I could not be everything to everyone, then I should not be expecting that of myself. Nothing needs to be that perfect.  Life is not a checklist of “things - I –need- to- do”.  I did not need to push for an achievement in every aspect of my life to feel complete.  And if I was not expecting that of myself, why should I be expecting that of others? 


The Perfect Marriage


David and I founded our marriage on the principle that we were Best Friends First.  There was zero romance, very little time spent together, and we might have possibly violated some acceptable norms of a traditional marriage. We did not feel compelled to be the perfect spouse, having to message each other ever so often to say something inane like “I love you babes.” Didn’t we already know that?   We did not feel compelled to set aside a specific time for date night.  For goodness sakes, when we sparred at the gym and I spent half that time dodging his jabs, that was a date night.  We did not feel compelled to plan an annual vacation together.  When he had a photography assignment overseas, he would ask if I would like to come along and extend a few days after his work to enjoy some “we time” exploring the sights and doing street photography.  


We are indeed Best Friends First.  So that would mean that even in the absence of romance, hair, obliques and one’s own teeth, everything about this marriage was perfect to us.  I chose to let go of societal norms of what a perfect marriage should be.  I refused to be defined by other people’s definitions of what romance was.  I disliked reading women’s magazines which spewed advice about what good communication, togetherness and romance in marriage should look like.    This would be an example of a romantic conversation that we might have. 


David, “I would like to nuzzle my beard in your neck.”

Me, “No need. Thanks.  By the way, where are my yellow handwraps?”

We do have the most perfectly imperfect marriage.


The Perfect Mother


Joel and I have the most unusual parent-child relationship founded on the fact that I had very little maternal instincts and plenty of respect for Joel as an individual.  When Joel was little, my friends would be carefully planning their children’s meals to provide them with balanced nutrition.  However, Joel and I would sometimes share a Snickers bar for breakfast, against the advice of friends who felt I was callous about nutrition for his growth. I remembered trekking hills and climbing mountains with a 1 year old strapped to my back, against the advice of friends who were worried that an accident might happen to the boy or he might catch dengue fever or malaria.  As he grew older, and went into national service, our idea of fun back home was challenging each other with diamond push-ups or chin-ups. I was not a traditional mother the way my Mom was to me.  Mom made sure I had hot food on the table every time I got home.  I just made sure Joel knew how to create his own meals every time he got home.  Mom made sure my clothes were always nicely washed and ironed. I just made sure Joel knew how to do his own laundry.  I did not feel compelled to turn up at every concert Joel was performing at when he was in school. However I was there every time he went through a hard time at school, or through a break up with some unimportant cow. 


He was never academically inclined and often did not do brilliantly in his exams.  While other parents would panic and throw tutors and enrichment classes at their children, I ignored the pressure and just walked with him through the several parent-teacher meetings, praying that one day, he would look back at this stressful academic system when he grew up and laugh because he had brilliantly created his own opportunities for success in a world that did not give a damn if you had won the egg and spoon race in secondary school. I chose to let go of any preconceptions of what a perfect mother should be.  When I was younger, I was often left out of mother-baby groups where the women got along very well because they followed the rules of what good mothering was all about, whatever they were. I sometimes felt guilty that I was not the mother to Joel the way Mom was to me.  However when I watched Joel grow up to be a strapping young man with values far older than he actually was, I thought I might have done a bloody good job, with no regrets.


I did not define my relationship with Joel with hugs, kisses and terms of endearment.  There was no need to.  This would be a typical conversation Joel and I might have.


Me, “Joel, you’re my favorite son.”

Joel, “But Mom, I am your only son.”

Me,  “Oh yes.”


In our world, Joel and I has the most perfectly imperfect mother-son relationship.


The Perfect Marketing Department


I used to push myself at work, with my brain switched on almost 24 hours a day 7 days a week, thinking through marketing plans, poking holes into every proposal that landed at my desk and dreaming up of marketing content and ideas at every chance I got. Everything that came out of my department had to be perfect.  With 20 years of Marketing experience amassed at some of the most prestigious blue chip companies, how can anything that I touched be less than perfect?  The reality is, those years back then meant nothing if I refused to grow alongside a world that had evolved with opportunities for others who might not have had the relevant experience, skills nor qualifications, yet had the balls to create brilliant marketing ideas that added value to the community.  They might not have been the most perfect plans but they worked to our business and marketing objectives.   


When I lifted this myopic veil of egoistic perceptions of what could be the perfect marketing plan, then I was able to uncover the passion, tenacity, and authenticity of creative souls who merely wanted a chance at making a difference through scope of work that I had initially claimed as my own out of sheer arrogance.  When I accepted that there was no such thing as the most perfect marketing plan, I was able to open my heart and mind to learn from others who did not have the same skills and experience as I did.


This made for a perfectly imperfect working environment at which I got excited about every day when I showed up for work.


The Perfect Home


My housekeeper Evelyn had been away for the past 3 weeks on vacation back to her hometown in the Philippines. Knowing that I was not exactly a Domestic Diva and would not have been able to tell the difference between the washing machine and the microwave oven, she set aside some time before she left, to teach me how to use the appliances at home, and pointed out where all the equipment and the washing liquids were kept.  Secretly, I was furious.  This was my home.  How could I not know how to upkeep my home, right?  My pride caused my nose to get dented out of bent when she wrote a timetable out for me to dictate when I should have my bed linen changed, when the dogs needed their bath and which capsule in the washing machine was for the laundry detergent and which one was for the fabric softener. 


When I recovered enough to tell my ego to go to hell, I sat down with David and Joel to map out a plan to divide and conquer the chores.  As the days went by without Evelyn at home, I became more comfortable with the routine of juggling all my priorities with the help of David and Joel. And I realized that over time, I accepted that it was okay to not have a home that was perfectly neat and tidy.  I valued quality time with the family over a sparkling clean kitchen. The pile of clean laundry that needed ironing kept growing.  However I was not pedantic about getting them all ironed and put away at a specific time.  It could wait.  I have better things to do, like spending some good quality time with the family.    I did, in the end, come back to a perfect home. It was a perfect home with a family that was not stressed about a little speck of dust on the shelf, or a white sock that had turned purple in the wash.


As I wrote this post, I began to love the imperfections within me and around me a lot more.    The best thing I did for myself in these few months, was to wake up celebrating just being the imperfect me, appreciating the imperfect people in this most imperfect world.


About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Combat Sports, she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  



Monday, 1 February 2016

No Ego On Her Road To Glory

The Prejudice Against Women In Combat Sports


A few months ago, my boxing coach had planned a 3-week vacation to New York and told me that he would be leaving me in the good hands of one of his trainers.  I was not too happy that he was leaving me at a time when I was already struggling with specific technical issues with my jabs and left hook and depended totally on him to work through the drills with me at each training session.  I was even more nervous when I found out that the trainer he had assigned me to was a girl, Nurshahidah Roslie.  I remembered wailing, “A GIRL?!  You got a girl to train me?”  That was it.  I thought then that for 3 weeks, I might as well have taken a vacation myself, indulged in a diet of pizzas and ice cream, and waited for the coach to return.  Of course my good sense took over, and I was assured by everyone who heard about my doubts that Shahidah was a national boxer who had represented Singapore in the SEA Games recently and came with extensive boxing experience.  Moreover, she was also poised to be Singapore’s first female professional boxer when she makes her professional debut at the World Boxing Foundation-sanctioned event, Singapore Fighting Championship, on 20th February.


Fighters’ Ego


I could explain where my prejudice against women in combat sports came from.  It was driven by past experiences when I had attempted to conduct interviews for my articles with female boxers and MMA fighters.  Ego was often in the way.  The female fighters I had encountered in the past almost always came into the ring with a chip on their shoulders.  I disliked that, particularly when I often remembered the wise words of my boxing coach who very firmly insisted that we left our egos outside the gym at every training session.  My experience with female fighters just ran contrary to that concept.


An example was an interview with an Asian female boxer who had transitioned to MMA in the past few years.  When I contacted her for an interview, she  dismissed me with responses like, “please talk to my PR people as I am busy” and worse, “you can get a glimpse of me training through my Facebook.”   Subsequently, I was not sure whether to feel sorry for her or to feel relief that that story had not been written because she suffered a string of losses in a series of fights after that.   Skills, talents, and experience often spoke louder than Ego.


Having been intimately involved with the combat industry through the fight photography and journalism work that David and I had been doing these few years, what was pretty obvious to us was that these fighters needed as much positive publicity as they could get, particularly when their fight opportunities were sometimes far and few in between.  So I would get quite disillusioned when I watched fighters display the more unpleasant side of themselves across media. I have seen that with men, as much as with women in combat sports and idealistic as I might be, I was sure as hell that I was not going to have anything more to do with anyone in combat sports that came packaged with a ribbon colored by Ego.


Inspiring Women In Combat Sports


So when my coach unceremoniously dumped a female boxing coach in the ring with me, I bristled with worry that Shahidah would come into the coaching session with that chip on her shoulder I came to associate female boxers with.


On looking back though, and after getting to know Shahidah better, I was quite embarrassed by my prejudice.  I reminded myself that I should not cast a cloak of judgment across the industry just because of a couple of bad lads and divas whom I had encountered.  I should instead stand by my principles and my genuine intent to promote women in combat sports across my social media platforms and even in the articles that I wrote.


I particularly had a soft spot for those who had struggled through life and committed their energy and time to combat sports as a positive outlet to inspire young women and children.  It was no secret that I was a big fan of Cris Cyborg in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. She had a 15-1 professional MMA record and in spite of the struggles that she had been through,  had decided to use her talents to inspire young ladies to embrace a life of fitness by launching her Pink Belt Fitness program.  Another inspiring female in combat sports that I admired was American boxer Mia St John who in her career had 22 out of 23 wins with 1 draw and was the WBC super welterweight champion defeating Christy Martin at the ripe old age of 45 years old.  Who thinks age is a barrier in combat sport again ? In her own right, she was not only a successful boxer but also a model and businesswoman, proving to other ladies, that she did not define herself by the opinions of others and made her own way through life with her own bare hands, brains and a lot of tenacity.


So my prejudice was inexcusable. 


First Singaporean Female Professional Boxer


The 3 weeks I spent with Shahidah as she meticulously worked through techniques, speed and agility together with me was an eye-opener.  This unassuming lady who often sat quietly behind the counter at the gym was a dynamite in the ring. No one should be at the end of her extremely powerful jab and left upper cut combination.  I would know, I almost had my jaw dislodged during a sparring session with her. 


During our training, we discussed her dreams, her aspirations and her hopes.  We spoke about her past, and how she had worked very hard to work towards her dream of representing the country in boxing at the SEA Games in 2015. We talked at length about each other’s fears, anxieties, and passions.  I truly respected her humility and her dedication to the goal of always being better than her current self so that she could impart her skills and knowledge to others.  I often heard boxers telling me that they wanted to garner that championship belt in a few weight categories in succession, be champions multiple times over, or be the "greatest of them all".  However all Shahidah wanted was to be a better boxer tomorrow than she was yesterday so that she could be part of the  talent development of young boxers.


When I told Shahidah about my experience with female fighters in the past, she said, “Before anyone thinks of picking up boxing, perfecting the techniques, garnering fame and glory, he or she needs to have an attitude that is heart-driven and powered by determination.  This attitude is NOT driven by ego and greed.  I am sorry about your past experiences but female boxers do need all the support that they can get.  If they have the right heart-driven attitude, hopefully, the support for female boxers will start streaming in when people like you can see the struggles and sacrifices we have made out of our love for the sport.  I am hoping to see more talented young female boxers stepping into the scene to represent Singapore.  It can only happen if people like you give them as much support and publicity that they need.”


Just A Girl


When I started boxing, many friends and relatives thought I was suffering from mid-life crisis.  I remembered a friend who said, “Joanna, you have been an over-achiever all your life.  You want to do everything to prove something all the time.  At your age, you have nothing to prove, so why should you start boxing now?”  That hurt.  I had lots to prove.  I wanted to prove that life should never have limits no matter the circumstance.  I thought objections would happen only to those who got into combat sports at a later age, like myself.   However, Shahidah had her fair share of objections as well from her family.  She was after all, “just a girl”.  More than anything, they were worried for her safety but knew that their objections would fall on deaf ears.   Shahidah took her family’s reservations in her stride, and instead of feeling dejected, she threw her energy behind her passion because it was a sport that made her aware of her strength, and was in awe of the discipline it had instilled in her.  She even proved her family wrong about boxing being “a man’s sport” when she started embracing her feminity even more and  became more aware of the fact that as a female boxer, she was inadvertently paving her way to be a role model for young up and coming female boxers too.




Life as a female boxer in general, was already not easy.  It was even harder when one is a female boxer in Singapore, where fight opportunities for female boxers were limited.  Shahidah spent hours training at the gym for the last 8 years, craving for as much fight experience as she could get.  However, fight opportunities here were far and few in between.  She prayed silently to be called up for matches and “just trained and waited, while bearing with the emptiness.” She was keen to get out there, push the envelope and raise that bar to develop her skills further but she often waited a very long time.


Another obstacle she had to overcome was money. Shahidah was practical enough to know that she needed to work to earn a decent living, mindful also that  what she earned had to be enough also to cover any medical costs incurred in the event that she had sustained  injuries  during her fights. However, work sometimes got in the way of her training schedule so she had to strike a delicate balance between work, training and rest. That was one of her biggest hurdles.


The Big Break


 Shahidah’s big break came when she was selected to represent Singapore in the SEA Games in 2015.  I got another glimpse of her humility and down to earth attitude when she told me that all she wanted to do was to train very hard so that she would not let down those who had invested time and energy on her.  She was keen on putting up a good fight. And her sportsmanship shone through when she said, “Whether I won or lost the fight, what was important to me was that I had given my heart and soul into putting up the fight of my life for my country.  For a start, I felt  honored to represent Singapore and that experience had shown me that the years of sacrifice and hard work was all well worth my effort.”


Training With The Best


Shahidah attributed the support she got on her boxing journey to our coach, Arvind from Juggernaut Fight Club.  She had a lot of respect for a coach that stood by his proteges “as if they were family.”    She said, “He was the only coach I know who would give more than100% to help his boxers. In the business of fight sports, he went through a lot of struggles, yet he found the means to develop athletes with his heart. There are times we do not agree with each other but at the end of the day, his heart had always been in the right place.” I resonated with that because I saw that with my own eyes with each of the boxers he had trained including the other  national boxers Leong Jun Hao and Tai Jia Wei.


Easy To Pick Up, Hard To Master


My almost 2 years of boxing training had been a long and difficult journey.  Many times, I wanted to run out of the gym, admit defeat and just give up.  However, David, my coach, and my gym mates had always been my biggest critiques and yet my biggest supporters.  When I shared that thought with Shahidah, she knew exactly what I meant.  Shahidah’s experience with boxing was dotted with an equal amount of joy, tears, hardship, defeat and victory.  In her words, the sport was “easy to pick up but hard to master.”  Her learning was a continuous journey and each time she entered the ring, the bar would be set higher. 


Ultimately, Shahidah hopes to be ranked in the world before she stops competing.  She also hopes to be actively involved in the process of scouting boxing talent and training them to be better than she was.


Shahidah won me with her authenticity and her humility.  I have developed a better understanding of the struggles and sacrifices that boxers make, particularly with female boxers like her.  Not only do I have a lot more respect for females in combat sports now, I have even more respect for each minute I spent in the ring with my coach.  It may be a long and hard journey for me, but it is even harder for boxers like Shahidah who are committed to making boxing a professional career.


Singapore Fighting Championship


Shahidah will make history as Singapore’s first professional boxer.  She makes her professional debut at the second instalment of Singapore Fighting Championship on 20th February.  The event is sanctioned by the World Boxing Foundation.  For more information about the event, do visit

Photo credits:  All Photos accompanying this post were provided by David Ash, @SingaporeMaven

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.