Monday, 3 December 2012

The Gorilla Made It

I had promised to share an update of David’s experience at his maiden half marathon in a Gorilla suit at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2012.  So here it is.

The Night Before

The night before, both David and Joel used carbo-loading as an excuse to binge on everything they could find in the refrigerator.    This included Tuna Pasta, Noodles, Wraps and Sandwiches.  In fact, David started his carbo-loading the week before.  The arrival of his best friend Alistair and his lovely wife Suzanne from London, meant that David could carbo-load on many jugs of beers between them.

Somehow, an endurance race would spur the weirdest behaviors of first time participants. Some break out in cold sweat the night before, others run madly for miles just the week before, but David very suddenly became extraordinarily organized. He can't even sort out his underwear drawer to divide the boxers from the briefs. Yet, the surprising thing for me was to watch David carefully hang his Gorilla suit on a hanger behind the bedroom door, with his race bib already attached to the suit.  It was funny to watch because usually, even with a big business meeting the next morning, he wouldn’t bother with getting his suit ready the night before.

Race Day

I fetched David and Joel to the venue as early as 5.15am on the morning of the race day.  They said they needed about an hour to warm up.  However, I found out from Joel that David was having fun flirting in front of the cameras snapping away at him, entertaining whoever wanted to have a photograph taken with what the other race participants thought was an event side-show.

When the race was flagged off at 6.30am, the two of them made their way along the route around Universal Studios at a relatively quick but steady pace, apart from a pit stop to forage for food.  By the time they got out to the 10km mark, that’s when David’s calves started to twang around like a broken guitar string.  He suffered the dreaded cramps.

Throughout all that, Joel had been the biggest supporter cheering on his Pops, and encouraging him to brave the pain and push it to the end.

I tracked them every hour via text through Joel, and had several text messages from concerned friends who ran past the two of them at various spots along the route.

I waited for them at 10am near the finishing line, still getting blow by blow accounts about David’s painful legs, the weight of the suit weighing down on him and the heat of the morning sun becoming increasingly unbearable.  In fact, David admitted that he was close to giving up.  However, with Joel egging him on, he continued to soldier on.

By 10.30am, I began to worry because he was supposed to have arrived at the finishing line by then.  Joel informed me that he was still trudging along at the Flyer, slowing down his pace to accommodate his exhaustion.  I sent a text telling him to take his time and that no matter what; he needed to complete it now.  He was just 2 km away from the finish line.

The Gorilla Finally Made It

Finally, I spotted David and Joel at the bend just 150m from the finish line.  I was almost near to tears, both from worry and pride.  When they saw me at the sidelines cheering them on, their strides picked up enough to have them cross the finish line at 11am.  4 ½ hours to complete a half marathon for the first time, with not much training and wearing a stupid suit. Not bad at all!

I am so proud of the both of them.  David really came through with his promise.  He made that pledge to carry it through for the Children’s Cancer Foundation, and he owed it to the support he had gotten from everyone who was behind him.  Joel, was the perfect run partner.  He admitted that if his Pops had decided to throw in the towel, by hook or by crook, he would be pushing David from behind.  I found out hours later that the reason Joel was bouncing off the walls while David was completely exhausted was that Joel had finished the entire pack of candy and left David with only 1.  I packed in 4 buns for breakfast in their little kit bag, and Joel finished 3 of them, leaving David with only 1.   David finally had to fall back on the energy gels which thankfully did not lead him to the queue at the portaloos.

So this was their little adventure.  Never again, please. However, with the bottom of our hearts I'd like to thank Fulford PR, Spectrum and all our wonderful friends who supported the cause.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Friday, 30 November 2012

How Difficult Can It Be To Be Charitable?

Monkeying Around For The Cancer Cause

A few weeks before David’s crazy feat to run his maiden half marathon in a Gorilla suit to raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF), I had made some observations about the support he got along the way which I wish to detail in this blog post.

The Supporters

We were amazed by the resounding support he got from some friends, close ones as well as those who weren’t very close.  It was heartwarming for me to see the advice about training, heatstroke prevention, and pre-race diet he was getting from genuinely concerned friends and it was even more fabulous to see them readily supporting his cause by donating to the CCF. We were inundated with phone calls, text messages and Facebook comments offering him encouragement.

We were also chuffed when the lovely ladies at Fulford PR agency arranged a photo shoot of David in his Gorilla suit in an attempt to pitch it to the press so that he could obtain public support for the cause as early as possible. 

Another group of friends I wish to thank are the wonderful people at Spectrum who had agreed to allow Joel to accompany David at the race as his personal “medic-cum-water boy-cum-human energy gel dispenser –cum candy feeder” even though he wasn't able to register for a spot as a race participant in time.  Originally, Joel wasn’t intending to be a participant at the half marathon.  In fact, to get him to walk the dogs was enough of  an issue, let alone getting him to run a half marathon.  However, he wanted to be there for his pops in case he gets into any medical difficulties.  As a nurse-in-training, Joel felt that he could support David along the way during his race.  So, with the help of the team at Spectrum, Joel finally got his race pack and he was ready to draw a red cross on the front of his race bib.

To these friends, to the wonderful PR pals at Fulford, and Chris at Spectrum, I just wanted to say a big thank you and to let you know that your gestures really touched our hearts.

The “Hinderers”

Of course when we actively campaign for any form of support for a cause, one will encounter the enthusiastic supporters who genuinely care about the cause, as well as the apathetic ones who simply dismiss David as the "crazy foreigner who's probably smoking dope". Honestly, that’s really ok. I meet with skepticism about my Tarot reading skills daily, and these skeptics think I am a witch!  However, I do get annoyed with a particular group of people whom I had termed as the “hinderers”.  These are the lot who, through their unnecessary “go –by- the- book” approach would hinder a genuine attempt to help a cause.  I have placed them in the same category as The Establishment-hired “clipboard-toters” whom I often talked about.

I acknowledge that in a world obsessed by the perfect structure of corporate bureaucracy, there are many people who are just not empowered to do the right thing, or make the right decisions. These people are too frightened of lending support to "off-the-wall" ideas. And if the idea doesn't "fit into the plan or the business objectives" they wouldn't want to be part of it, for fear of the extra effort they may need to put into something that could possibly be classified as "out of scope" of their usual workload, and not tracked as a KPI. I have decided to list a few examples of these here so that those who attempt similar projects for the genuine passion of supporting a favorite charity, should be aware of the need to be detached from this lot and stay focused on the goal of supporting the charity.

One of these "Hinderers" are the people at Standard Chartered Bank, the sponsor of the race, who profess to be Here For Good. Their extremely appalling customer servicing is one story I shall leave for another blog entry. For the purpose of this blog post, I shall focus on their lack of response to David's call for support. David had been calling them to get them to create some publicity around the cause. However, like their customer servicing style, they tried to keep him Here in limbo For Good by passing his call from one person to another and to another and to another, with promises to return his calls repeatedly. Of course, they didn't call back.

Another of these "Hinderers" is a press publication who initially promised to run the story in the week running up to the event, after much hard work from the Fulford PR team. The intention was to run the story as early as possible so that David could garner more support for the CCF. However, at the last minute, the publication had decided not to run the story, providing no explanation at all. I can't help but feel that it may not be deemed news-worthy because the person in the ape costume wasn't Singaporean. I am quite disappointed because surely, amongst the hundreds of press clippings about bus drivers going on strike, they could surely find room to run a story to support David's fund-raising efforts towards the CCF cause.

The reality has just dawned on me that it's just 1 day to David's half marathon. However, David is better than I in that he would never allow the "Hinderers" to ruin his enthusiasm. It in fact fueled his fire to want to complete the race, and I will be there at the finishing line to receive him for sure, while holding a placard with the names of ALL the supporters who had been there for him, in some way or other, encouraging, helping, donating and advising him.

Postscript: To those who have already supported David in his fund raising efforts, thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts. If you haven't, I would appreciate your supporting David’s endeavor and donating generously to the Children’s Cancer Foundation through this link:

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Monday, 19 November 2012

Not A Normal Family

A Normal Family

If I could wish for anything at all, I am glad I did not wish for a “normal” family.   So let me list down what’s not too normal within the Ash household. 

We picked up a stray guitar-toting Scot along our journey to assume the position as head of the household, hubby, step-dad and chief electrician-cum-mechanic-cum entertainer. 

Our son is a nurse-in-training who actually has a genuine passion for talking to the elderly sick patients.  While guys his age would rather tog themselves out in the latest fashion, hang out at clubs and spend hours on the phone with girlfriends, this boy hopes to own his private nursing care practice at some point.  He makes a hobby out of chasing the dogs around the house with his stethoscope, pinning David and I down for  blood pressure checks and playing scrabble with my Dad to help slow down any signs of Alzheimer’s. 

I am the looney tarot reader and numerologist who spend my free time talking to my tarot cards and my collection of crystals in between meditating to sunrise.  In between all that, I am actually a slightly normal corporate careerist working on developing marketing and PR plans for the company.

The household’s not too normal – the way I like it.  Any semblance of normalcy is frowned upon as being boring.  So the Ash family continues to traipse down this road of looniness in an attempt to create an album worth talking about when we are old and grey. 

However, what’s making this album even more special for me, is the intent behind our respective idiosyncrasies and our looney behavior which I will expand upon further.

Life Is Transcient

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with calcification of the right breast which the surgeon had suspected was caused by the presence of pre-cancerous cells.  I had a surgery to remove the affected area of the breast and weeks later, I was given a clean bill of health.  

The months before the surgery when I had undergone every test possible from multiple mammograms, to ultrasound, to a biopsy, my family went through a roller-coaster of emotions that I am determined never to experience again.  If there was anything good that came out of it, it was that;

- It made Joel even more determined to become a top notch medical professional providing the best nursing care ever. 

- It made me realize that life was too short to be devoted to climbing that corporate ladder.  I wanted to do more to add value to the people around me, and had decided to turn my tarot reading and numerological skills into a hobby that could help support the Children’s Cancer Foundation. 

- It made David realize the transience of life and that, after the years of building an executive search business, all he’s got that was meaningful, was Joel and I.  So here’s what he’s decided to do – Monkey Around.

Monkeying Around

David and I do lead a sedentary life.  Over the years, our love for rugby and sports, gave way to our love for a pint of Guinness, a steak and kidney pie and some chili cheese fries.  Some friends described us this way “…met at rugby, bonded over a Guinness, marriage held together by the love of pie.”  If we continued our sedentary lifestyle, this would be the epitaph on our grave stones.  So we had decided to get serious with fitness. 

I have got a great personal trainer who actually kicked my ass into shape – well, round is a shape.  And I went on the Paleolithic diet – most times.  What I love most is walking the 11km trail on weekends at the MacRitchie Resevoir and walking the dogs at the Botanic Gardens.

David had decided to get serious with his participation in a series of 10km races.  He completed a few in the last 2 years and decided to “graduate” into the 21km half marathon category.  When he told me about his wish to do so, I thought he was crazy.  However, nothing could prepare me for the biggest shocker – his decision to do his FIRST half marathon in a Gorilla Suit.

I thought he’s definitely lost his marbles, until he told me the reason why.  He saw my work in supporting the Children’s Cancer Foundation, and wanted to do something, in his way. So he had decided to do his half marathon in his gorilla suit to raise funds for the charity.

I am worried sick about it because David’s not exactly fit and slim.  He’s not only got to carry his weight through 21km of uphills and downhills throughout the route, but he’s also got to carry the weight of the suit particularly under the hot morning sun.  I was so worried that, that was going to be a recipe for heatstroke and possibly heart attack.

So please, if you are reading this, I would appreciate your supporting David’s endeavor and donating generously to the Children’s Cancer Foundation through this link:

Familial Support

While painting our Range Rover white and sticking a red cross on its door, I stopped and wondered at how looney but wonderful this family is.  David’s impending looney feat has brought out some interesting insights about Joel which I hadn’t anticipated.

Worried for his pops, Joel was bent on joining him for the run.  He didn’t care for the race pack, his finishing time or even completing the race.  He just wanted to ensure David was safe.  He wanted to be David’s safety aide by carrying a backpack of water, energy bars and energy gels to help David along the way.  More importantly, knowing that that 21km was going to be a very long distance for a novice half –marathoner, he wanted to keep David company.

I love Joel for his thoughtfulness that is so mature beyond his years.    He grew up aware that his family was different and had to deal with questions from friends as a kid.  However, this made him even more aware about the importance of acceptance, adaptability and familial support.  

I remembered when David spoke about delays at work, or clients who were difficult, Joel would put his money from his Chinese New Year red packets and his savings into his Pop’s piggy bank, thinking that would help David.  And he told me not to tell his Pops about it.   That for me, was wonderful to see particularly because it validated the fact that David and Joel’s relationship had gone beyond that of a step-father and a step-son.   This was Joel’s way of rendering familial support in the only way he knew how.

As he knows I am passionate about the Tarot, and in spite of thinking that his mother was a tad looney, he asked to learn the skill from me and was genuinely interested in finding out more about Tarot.   

When I was incapacitated by a couple of surgeries this year, Joel would rush home from school to administer my dressing.

These incidents were just a demonstration of Joel rendering familial support in the only way he knew how.
I am truly grateful for a family that’s far from normal.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.  It’s only because of this family, that I feel truly blessed with abundance. 

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

I Have Learnt To Give Others A Fair Chance

Great Expectations

Where I worked, a few years ago, an ex-boss shaped my perceptions of what bosses should be.  A boss should be demanding, detached, uncaring, cold, officious, and not tolerate being talked back to.  Working for him was a nightmare as I had to walk the fine line between being honest, communicative and upfront, versus being subservient, servile and a “yes –woman”.

Friends and family know that I can never be a “yes-woman”.  I govern my life holding on tightly to the precepts of integrity and honesty.  In my case, it’s brutal honesty.

Reshaping Perceptions Of Myself As A Boss

Needless to say, I did not stay long with that company, and went on to join bigger and better organizations which understood the importance of employee engagement and genuine respect for people.

The best outcome from my experience with that previous boss was that I learnt never to be like him as a manager of a team.   Instead,   I learnt to nurture, respect and guide my team with the genuine intent of shaping them to become great managers themselves in the future.

However, my expectations of my own bosses as my career progressed took a little longer to evolve.  As my mind had already been framed from the past, with the notion that bosses are the “hire and fire at whim” type who would prefer “yes-men” to a brazen broad like me, I often maintained a respectful distance, kept my head down and just focused on my work, rather than proactively engaging them in a social setting.

Reshaping My Perceptions Of My Bosses

The best learning curve for me, was not managing change.  I can deal with changes.  Changes in roles, changes in portfolio, changes in scope, project changes, changes in bosses and change in jobs.  Changes happen all the time throughout my career so I am very good at managing and adapting to them.

The best learning curve for me was learning to manage my own perceptions about colleagues, bosses and even friends.  It usually takes a long time to win my trust, and takes even longer to earn my respect. 

I got lucky post working for that previous company. Over these few years, I was fortunate enough to have worked for a few bosses who were fantastic managers.  They guided me with patience, listened with openness and nurtured me as a fellow team member with the genuine intent to goad me towards a bigger goal of achieving success in all my projects.   I must admit that I was wrong about what bosses generally are.  These bosses were not the “hire and fire at whim” types who preferred “yes-men”. They were genuinely appreciative of good work, and treated staff with respect.  In the face of challenging deadlines, they patiently guided and nurtured the team in the right direction.  They encouraged open and honest communication and respected opinions even when they didn’t agree with them. 

Needless to say, my bosses have earned my respect.  I am thankful for the great relationship we’ve got, and the open discussions that we share.

More importantly, I learnt to understand this very important precept of "giving people a fair chance".    All my life I was quick to judge and label people -  colleagues, bosses, and friends alike.  The lesson I learnt is simple.  Besides being mentors and friends, bosses ultimately just want to be another “fellow member of the project team” who can work closely with us to achieve a common goal.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Pride And Prejudice

Are You Anti-Nikon?

Joel had a chat with me last night about the general topic of boundaries set up by people around themselves.  He had suggested hanging out with some friends to take photographs of interesting sights around Singapore.  However, he was told that they weren't keen to hang out with him because they were "anti-Nikon" 

While this is a very small and insignificant incident in Joel's mind, to me, it was a huge bug bear because I was annoyed at the frivolosity of such an excuse, behind the guise of non-acceptance of differences.  Differences exist throughout our lives, we confront differences in opinions, behaviors, personalities, cultures, races, religions, ways of life, on a daily basis, so the difference in brand of camera equipment started me on a tirade about young people being brought up with prejudicial norms that are seen to be acceptable in society.

It is not acceptable.

Prejudice Is Not Acceptable

I live in Singapore with an eclectic mix of races, religions and cultures.  I am so proud of my friends from different walks of life and even prouder to be married to a Caucasian who is often misunderstood but barely accepted in the neighborhood.

My son grew up within 2 homes, with friends who thought when he was younger, that it was quite odd that he had 2 sets of parents.

I am gifted in an uncommon skill, Tarot reading, which was seen as bordering on witchcraft and an un-Christian /occultic craft.

We Are Different, So What?

However, all 3 of us in the family, in spite of the prejudices that we had tolerated  for years due to our respective quirky talents, had never experienced someone saying he can't hang out with us because I used a different brand of Tarot cards, David used a different make of guitar, or Joel played with a different brand of rugby ball.  So when I heard Joel making a remark  about this "anti-Nikon" statement, I was completely horrified and filled with contempt that such a statement can be defended in a public forum.   I will not stand for it, and I will not stand for any prejudices of any kind.

I am still seething with anger about it.  If our young people harbour a prejudice on something as insignificant as a brand of camera, I can't fathom, what prejudices he would be harbouring when he grows up and plays a significant role in our community. 

I don't want our children's children to be tarred with the same prejudicial brush that if one is just slightly different, one can't be accepted into a circle of friends.

I hope this is food for thought particularly for those who have developed apathy for such prejudices over the years. 

Prejudice of any sort, no matter how insignificant, is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

I Found My Wat In Bangkok

The Family Vacation

I hate holidays. I must be crazy right?  But yes, I do hate holidays.  I hate the hassle of having to make decisions about which flight to book, which hotels to stay in, which destination would give me the most fun, beach or city.  I spend 5 days a week making decisions for the business, and 7 days a week making decisions for the family, so why do I have to make decisions just to go on a holiday?  I just didn’t fancy cavorting with the great unwashed at the airport, the hotel and at the shops, and be at one with the tourists.  I was in fact rather annoyed that David and Joel looked every bit the part with their cameras hung round their necks while brandishing a map in one hand, and a bottle of water in the other.

However, I had to put that selfish perspective aside and thought the family did deserve a break.  It was a rare family vacation.  My time spent being bitch boss and ogre mom for 365 days a year must surely warrant at least 5 days of rest for the sake of the sanity of my staff and my family.

So I agreed to organize a wee 5- day vacation with the family in the exciting city of Bangkok.  I do enjoy Bangkok for it’s vibrant atmosphere and ultra friendly people.  Oh, and I forgot the super delicious food.  I actually violated my Paleolithic diet for 5 days by feasting on yummy Pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles with seafood), every day of that vacation.  My personal trainer would have had a fit but hey, I was on a vacation then.  I believed I was allowed to give my diet a wee rest.

No Rest For The Wicked

I think I never understood the word “vacation”.  I am not familiar with the concept of rest and relax. Weeks before the trip, I did a lot of research to locate an organic soy wax candle supplier that could create package and supply candles under the Sun Goddess Tarot brand.  I also did a lot of research about the Tarot community in Bangkok and arranged to meet up with them for an open Tarot reading studio session.  All these research had bridged me with a group of Tarot enthusiasts as well as New Age/Spiritualists groups.
Coincidentally, I bumped into an old colleague whom I haven’t met for years, who was staying at the same hotel. Whilst catching up on old times,  I also did a Tarot reading for her, over what felt like 10 bottles of champagne.  The massive headache next morning did not prevent me from hunting for more candle suppliers and making more calls.

In between these activities, coupled with a shopping marathon and a massage session, I was on my Blackberry responding to work emails.

Definitely no rest for the wicked.

I found My Wat

So I came to Bangkok to eat, shop, get a massage, meet fellow Tarot enthusiasts and buy a truck load of candles. Ok, I perhaps needed to have a bit of rest too.  However, I got more than I bargained for, pardon the pun.   I actually found my Wat ( temple) here.

Let me explain.

We cruised along the Chao Phraya River over the weekend.  I enjoyed that very much because I saw a different perspective of Bangkok, lived by the simple river folk.  Truly, a colorful scene.
 I saw an old man sleeping in a hammock hung precariously from a crooked pillar of his dilapidated home and a dead tree stump.  He was enjoying the idyllic afternoon and oblivious that his hammock was swinging dangerously a few meters off the ground.

I took a sneak peek at a young man fishing using a huge chicken leg at the end of his line as bait.  I did not want to ask what he was fishing for as I wasn’t sure what “monsters” were lurking in the murky waters.  A “Kracken” perhaps.

I greeted a family feeding a shoal of hungry fish from the front porch of their home.  They were laughing and chatting very loudly as the fish were jumping out of the water to grab the food being thrown to them.

I waved at 2 young boys playing with a torn tyre of a truck, using it as a floatie in the water.  They were thrilled by that simple “toy” they had possibly found on some dirt road somewhere.

Even the animal life by the river was soaking in the idyllic river scene.  A giant monitor lizard, the size of a motorbike was sunbathing by the river bank.  A black scruffy dog popped his head out of the steel barriers by the river to have a closer look at what was going on along the river.

That cruise along the river brought a sense of calm in my mind.  I remembered that I was rushing around trying to do multiple things in a short time, but I forgot why I was on holiday.  I was supposed to enjoy every minute with my family, whether we were doing “tourist” things together as a family or just chilling out together over a drink.  When we wanted to have a meal of Pad Thai. I shouldn’t be stressing over how hygienically prepared the dish was or if that eatery had a shelter in case it rained.  When David made a mistake with the flight departure time, I should have realized that by hook or by crook, he was going to get us home anyway, which ever flight or whatever time it was going to be.   Even when the wifi at the hotel was erratic, I should have just put away the Ipad, Blackberry and phone, and enjoyed a glass of gin and tonic with the family at the lounge instead.

Tread My Own Temple Grounds Like A Buddhist Nun

In Bangkok, you might come across many Wats of various sizes. These Buddhist temples are intricately carved, depicting stories that are a few centuries old.  While the architecture of these temples are magnificent, the grounds are so serene. 

A walk around the temple grounds would allow you to meet with worshippers who were praying intently with their joss sticks, either standing or kneeling.  You might meet some monks chanting melodiously as they ran their fingers along their prayer beads.  The air would be filled with the aroma of sweet incense. 

This picture in my head reminded me of the words of an ex-boss and a very good friend L, who once said to me, “ Jo, you will need to learn to treat life like the Buddhist nun, sweeping the leaves one by one slowly as she treads the temple grounds.”

I have been sweating over the small stuff, attempting to  squeeze so many activities in 5 short days, that I realized I was more stressed and harangued than I should be.  I snapped at everyone, and was intolerant to waiters who took my food orders erroneously at the restaurants.  I grunted at the Tuk Tuk driver who took the wrong turn.  I got annoyed with Joel for leaving behind a bag of shopping on the conveyor belt at the airport.  I blamed David for attempting to "ruin my holiday" just because he made a mistake with  the flight departure time.

Actually, if anyone was ruining that holiday, it was me.  The Wat was within me.  I could choose to listen to that melodious chant of the monks in my heart or block my ears if I considered it a cacophony of noise.  I could choose to wonder at the sights and smells of this exciting city from behind the Tuk Tuk, or scold the Tuk Tuk driver for giving me a distended cocyx.  I could choose to savour the delectable flavour of that roadside Pad Thai, or  walk across to the boring Irish bar for a fish and chips.

Ultimately, the Wat was within me.  I could choose to make this 5 days in Bangkok the best vacation I have ever had.  However, for several moments, I forgot that I was on vacation with the family.

Photos used in this blog post were provided courtesy of

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

I Really Dislike The Week Of The F1 Race In Singapore

The F1 Race Is In Singapore This Week

This week, tourists and motorheads throng our little island for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix.  As the barricades and the route lights were put up along the affected roads about afew weeks back, the excitement can be felt in the air since then.  Joel, who is most familiar with anything F1 and can rattle off race statistics for all the races throughout the year had been begging me for a ticket but I wouldn't budge.  Even when "well-connected" friends attempted to arrange group discounted grand stand seats to turn it into a fabulous night out, I still wouldn't budge.   So here's where I stand with F1 and I hope that would put Joel's incessant whining to rest.

F1 Week Is Possibly The Worst Week Of The Year

Honestly, I hope I'll never see an F1 corporate suite again.  I had the privilege of experiencing the corporate suite for 2 F1 races when  I was working at  a previous company.  Actually, I wasn't sure if it was a privilege.  Sure, they served up swanky food and the champagne ( yuck, Mumm, in my opinion, is the mother of all horrid champagnes) was flowing continuously throughout the night.  However,  I was saddled with an evening of worries when I lost some of my clients who wandered off to buy useless branded knick-knacks like caps, t-shirts, and umbrellas from the retail village.  I also had to worry about bosses who were cruising down the river by the riverboat to the event venue, while I was waiting for them at another entrance 3 km away where they promised to be meeting me.  Within the suite, things didn't get better because after spending weeks allocating the right seats to the right guests, complete with personalized place cards, these clients, had decided to rearrange the seating to get closer to the balcony.  By the end of the night, with everyone pretty much wasted over the cheap champagne, we had guests stuffing their little sponge ear plugs in their nostrils. Brilliant.

I thought that the walkabout tickets would have been better.  I could come and go as I please and watch the race from every angle.  So, last year, we had decided to purchase the walkabout tickets.  To my utter disappointment, the situation was worse. To get a great view of the race, one would have had to possess claws of a koala bear to climb trees.  And if you're not built like a koala, you had better be built like a giraffe, tall enough to rise above the heads of these tourists camped against the fence.  When we sauntered over to the entertainment area, I had to wade through the sweaty bodies of drunk people dancing everywhere.  There wasn't even enough standing room left for us..  At the end of the race, the family got separated somewhere between Gates 1 and 6.  And I had to walk back to the carpark miles away alone, brandishing a newly purchased cap of a particular driver who lost the race by the end of that evening.

F1 Week Is Possibly The Worst Week Of The Year

During the week of the F1 race, traffic comes to a standstill on the roads and off the roads. Public transport is the recommended mode of transport during that week.  However, I find myself  reprising my rugby-playing days when jostling to get into a train and then I have to endure the numerous putrid-smelling armpits of these passengers in the train.  Also,  as David gives me a lift to work every morning, it's only during the F1 race week that he has to whip out his GPS to pre-plan the best routes to get to work so as to avoid the barricaded roads.  As the traffic is mega heavy, even the express ways are no longer an "express" route.  If you're lucky, you can get to the office within an hour.

Then there are the retail shops and food centres which think that the week of the F1 race is a licence for them to increase their prices.  I also get annoyed with stupid promotional messages like "Special Offer On The Grand Prix Chicken Wings" or " Try Our Red Hot Ferrari Sauce" and worse, at our neighbourhood Korean restaurant, the sign proudly plastered outside its glass window read "Dinner Special: The KIMI - CHI raikonnen fried rice set".

We're Watching The F1 Race At Home

So this year, given that I have got a severe reaction to crowds, I have decided to get the family to stay home to watch the race.  I won't have Mumm champagne, thank goodness for that, I'll remember to have my Moet chilled.  I'll buy the beers for David, tonnes of coke for Joel, and put out a spread of delicious food without stupid names like KIMICHI raikonnen fried rice. Hey, if you want to hear the loud roar of the engines, I'll even turn up the volume of the TV.  And if you really want to complete the F1 weekend, I will charge you for the dinner that I will be cooking specially for the race.

NB: David wants you guys to know that the photos attached to this blogpost were captured by him at the F1 race here 2 years ago. He climbed the tree for them.

Photos courtesy of

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Motivational Mondays - A Random Act Of Kindness

Motivational Mondays

I have decided that, just for a change this week, I was going to write about the kind and random act of someone I don’t know personally but am very inspired by.  That’s what Motivational Mondays are for, isn’t it?  We need something to kick the Monday blues right out of our system so that we can instead, look forward to the blessings that we will chance upon along the way this week.

A Random Act of Kindness

I chanced upon the story in The New Paper in August this year about the 27 year old Lin Dilun who had donated his healthy kidney to a complete stranger, a 6 year old little boy called Brian Liu.  
Little Brian had no kidneys.  Shockingly, in the last 3 years, he was not able to urinate because of his medical condition.  When Lin read about the plight of the boy in the newspapers, he made a monumental decision to donate his kidney to Brian.  He did not simply showed up at the hospital to get the procedure done.  He had to endure 2 years of medical tests before he could finally undergo the procedure to remove his kidney so that it could be transplanted into Brian.

This was a totally random act of kindness, to a totally random stranger.  I am still baffled by Lin’s altruistic actions but also very inspired by it, knowing that there’s so much good in this world still, in spite of the pressures and complexities of life around us.

Inspired By Joel’s Dedication

I think, within each one of us, there’s always that capacity for a random act of kindness.  I am not asking everyone to donate a kidney here, but our respective acts of kindness take different shapes and form.  Here’s an example of one, inspired by Joel.

Joel’s clinical attachment at the Singapore General Hospital had ended a couple of days ago. He came home from his shift looking quite despondent and told us that he had enjoyed his stint so much that he thought it was too short.  He said that it saddened him to break the news to some of his patients that he wasn’t going to be at the hospital next week to tend to their needs and he was genuinely worried about these patients and how they were progressing with their respective medical conditions. Joel also recounted how some of his patients were dismayed about the news as they were often delighted by Joel’s visits. 

Joel spoke particularly fondly of an elderly gentleman who was going to be relocated to a nursing home.  In spite of the fact that Joel had completed his clinical attachment for the semester, and that he had no familial relations with this elderly man, he told me that he was going to find out which nursing home the old man was going to be relocated to so that he could visit him.

I am not sure where Joel’s compassionate heart came from and I would  never dare to assume that he had inherited it from us.  However, it made me proud to know that he has governed his life with empathy, kindness and generosity. 

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Joel Has An Outstanding Aspiration


Just as I had gone through a period of transformation this year, Joel went through his. He had to stomach the disappointment of not doing as well as he had expected at the GCE O’ Levels examinations, and was  forced to come to terms with accepting admission into a course at the Polytechnic that he did not opt for as a first choice, nursing.

For him, it was a painful journey of acceptance, compromise and most of all humility throughout the first few months of the year.  He was so adamant about not wanting to be “Gaylord Focker” staring down a patient’s bedpan throughout his life.  However, upon our encouragement, he did some desktop research about the profession, read all the materials sent over by the polytechnic and I dragged him, kicking, to a career fair for prospective medical professionals.  The lady nurses at the career fair must have helped swung his thoughts positively towards the profession.

 He took our advice to embrace the nursing course as a learning experience, and we told him to enjoy his campus life.  There was going to be so many more years filled with plenty of opportunities ahead of him.  If he doesn’t try it out with an open mind, he will never know.

The Transformation

Over the months, I had seen Joel traipse in and out of home and campus with a little spring in his step and he had talked incessantly about the lecturers, his course mates, his tutorials and his industrial attachment at the hospital.  Recently, the chats about these were injected with a lot of humor, enthusiasm and a can-do spirit. He seemed to be voraciously learning as much as he could because he came home spewing weird medical terms in a bid to impress us. From time to time, he would chase the dogs around the house with a stethoscope and pin me down onto the bed to take my blood pressure.  He hasn’t yet pin David down for a prostate check so thank goodness for that.

So here’s my question. Was he really enjoying it or was he just trying to keep the peace at home with us?

When he was posted to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for his industrial attachment, I swore I never saw anyone as excited about staring down a patient’s bedpan as he was.  He was so fired up with excitement that the chatter at home was filled with his passionate accounts about the things he learnt at the hospital, his experience of administering medical care to his patients, the different types of patients he had been talking to, and how happy he was when he saw his patients recover well enough to be discharged.

When he was booked in on a late shift, I often see him coming home exhausted, but still with a smile.  He once returned home and told me that his back hurt as he was on his feet all day.  As I was administering the plaster to relief his pain, he was recounting excitedly what he did in the hospital and what he had learnt.  Surprisingly, he said,” I prefer to be allocated the early morning shift Mum.  Although I start my day at an ungodly hour, at least I have so much more to do with the patients.”


A few days ago, while having a casual chat about his work at the hospital, Joel suddenly said, “You know Mum, initially I thought I might just complete this 3-year nursing course, go on to fulfill my national service obligation, then do something else different after national service.”  He went on to make a point, “However, after my experience at SGH, I realized I do enjoy nursing.  It’s so fulfilling when I know I am doing something great for the patients. I can’t understand it when some people can’t embrace an experience wholeheartedly enough to enjoy it and learn from it.  In fact, in future, I hope to be able to establish a private nursing care service.  That’s my goal.”

I was taken aback by that mindset change.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by my son’s maturity.  He actually has aspirations!   At the age of 19, most people his age would be thinking which club they should be checking out next weekend or which girl they should be making out with the following weekend. Their vision is often short-termed and tinted with self-interest. 

It is truly commendable for Joel to go from that unenthusiastic “nay-sayer” at the start of the course to one who has a respectable goal of bringing joy to patients with an aspiration to open a private nursing care facility.

I am so glad that like me, ultimately, Joel trusted the universe to guide him along this journey.  I remembered updating my facebook status on my Sun Goddess Tarot facebook page at the beginning of the year “ If your intent is pure, the universe, in its own time and pace, will put the right opportunities before you.”

The universe is indeed placing an abundance of opportunities at Joel's feet.

About The Writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Angry Wife Is Even Angrier

The Establishment Again

My blog followers will remember that I abhor the pedantic rules of any establishment. My more conservative friends would label me as irreverent, and the more open-minded ones would consider me a laugh-a- minute.  I am of the opinion that I am just being rational and practical, trusting my good sense to bend the rules slightly if need be, to get the right things done in the right way.

More than 30 years ago, when Dad kept racks of books and papers from left-wing political leaders, and held discussions on political ideas not aligned to the establishment, he was incarcerated for “conspiracy” and our home got ransacked by burly, glove –clad, clipboard-toting establishment lackeys.

Fast forward 30 years later, I am glad there is a little improvement in the political climate to allow for different points of view.  Perhaps, the power of social media left the establishment with no choice but to listen to all forms of public discourse with an open mind.  And when negative sentiments appeared in the social space, the establishment could only “urge the majority of Singaporeans to speak out when they do not agree with such comments”.

The Angry Wife Again

Two days ago, I received a letter from the town council requesting that we remove David’s and Joel’s bicycles from the corridor outside our front door.  I have lived here for so long, and these bicycles had never posed a problem.  Moreover, all the neighbors at every level and along the same floor, had big potted plants lined up outside their front doors too.  The width of these potted plants is definitely bigger than our bicycles, hence they wouldn’t pose any restrictions to people walking along the corridor.  Unless one is built like the A380, it definitely wouldn’t be a safety hazard as there was ample space along the corridor.

These establishment lackeys were probably looking for something important to do.  They had probably walked past our home with a clipboard and decided “1) Ugly angmo – check, 2) expensive bicycles that we can’t afford to buy that are occupying public space – check, 3) 3 annoying dogs in flat – check, let’s just make their lives miserable.”

I went into a fit of rage when we were told to have our bicycles chained downstairs at the bicycle stands instead.  This is because, I have on numerous occasions, spotted a lonely bicycle wheel, or bicycle handle still chained to the bicycle stands without the rest of the bicycle attached to it. Theft of bicycles is very common here.  Because such incidences appear to be minor crimes, unimportant for anyone to bother about and too petty for the establishment lackeys to shorten their lunch hour to put some effort behind them, many stolen bicycles remain unrecovered.

Years ago, I had an expensive mountain bike stolen from outside my front door.  I spent months looking at the rag and bone man, the friendly neighborhood road sweeper, and construction workers from neighboring work sites, with pure disdain, as I conjured images of them scurrying away with my beloved mountain bike across their backs. I did make a police report and I have yet to receive a phone call from them to say “ Sorry madam, your bike is lost forever and because we’re so busy nabbing people who park their bikes outside their homes, we have no time to find yours.”

The Crazy Angmo Again

Throughout this entire episode, David had assumed an approach of resigned calmness.  He maintained his composure whilst reading out the notice to me.  He just looked at the letter cursorily and said “Oh well, we could find a corner within the living room to place our bikes.  When this blows over in a few months, they would forget about it and we’ll just reposition our bikes along the corridor again.”  That had absolutely no effect in calming me down.  I went into a ballistic frenzy thinking he is letting the establishment win.  I felt I have been oppressed! I paid so much for a family pad and I can’t even park our bikes outside our front door!  Outrageous! And the only way he thought he could stop my torrent of expletives was to say “Stop raising your voice.  Just go play with your cards, talk to a crystal, or burn a candle. You will feel better after.”  Well, it’s been 2 days.  I haven’t felt any better and I haven’t thought any better about the establishment.

About The Writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Monday, 27 August 2012

Reflecting On Our PM's National Day Rally Speech

Our Prime Minister’s National Day Rally speech over the weekend, had provided much fodder for reflection.  He had appealed to Singaporeans to write the next chapter of the Singapore story with him, through the ideals of looking forward to brighter hopes, having a bigger heart, and building a better home.

Hope, Heart and Home

Having lived through a very different Singapore years ago when Dad was incarcerated for having a different perspective, this theme of “Hope, Heart, and Home” reminded me to leave the past with its bitter-sweet memories behind and look forward to a future that will belong to Joel and his generation.  When Joel go out into the world as an adult, I want him to govern his life with an aim to always have brighter hopes, and govern his actions with a bigger heart, so that he can do his part to build a better home, a better Singapore.  That’s the only way I can attempt to explain the crux of that speech to Joel.   

Bigger Hearts

I told Joel that Singaporeans do have a bigger heart. We have seen so many caring Singaporeans putting in their efforts to save stray dogs and volunteer their time at charity homes.  I just can’t explain the time when our bigger heart failed us as David had occasionally become a victim of verbal racial abuse or subjected to xenophobic neighbors living in the same block of flats who would push a lift button feverishly to close the elevator doors on him.  I think Joel is mature enough to realize that while he governed his life with an aspiration, he had to acknowledge that there were those who wouldn’t.  That, I guess, made my country an even more interesting place to live in, because of the different stories we could tell with our experiences.  Today, David, Joel and I can laugh at these antics.  They added color to our lives.

Better Home

I also told Joel that we must always be loyal to our home, Singapore, and do everything we could to make it a better home.  When David had decided to get his permanent residency status here and is looking forward to someday obtaining his citizenship in Singapore whilst giving up his British passport, we realized that home wasn’t about a tiny red dot on the map.  Home was instead where our family and our happiness were.  That in itself was worth protecting and investing in.

Brighter Hopes

Singapore has built itself into a city promising brighter hopes.  How many countries can boast of abundant opportunities nurtured by a society of ambitious and educated people who worked very hard to live their fullest potential? 
As a mother, I had spent angst-filled years with Joel helping him through his school work, watching him juggle his time between school, tuition classes and sports, grieving with the boy when he failed his examinations and was forced to stay back at the same level in one of his secondary years and comforting him through the time he thought he was not normal when he was allocated into a 5-year normal stream in secondary school.  I held his hand through those angst-filled years in the hope that he would have a brighter future some day.  My goal for Joel was very simple. I just wanted him to be happy and to work towards a career path that would enable him to capitalize on his great communication and interpersonal skills to add value to the people he will touch along the way and provide him with a lot of fulfillment.  

When his GCE O’ Level results dictated that he had to take up nursing at the polytechnic instead of mass communications which he was more enthusiastic about, his world shattered before him because he was determined not to be termed “Gaylord Focker” by friends and spend the rest of his life staring into a patient’s bed pan each day.  However my advice to Joel at that time was to embrace the challenge wholeheartedly because with his great communication and interpersonal skills most needed in nursing, perhaps he might find that the universe was guiding him towards that path.  If he didn’t try it out, he would never know.  Joel took that advice and he had been putting his heart and soul into learning as much as he could in the nursing faculty.
Last night, we met a bunch of Singaporean students who were either members of the alumni of Scottish universities or are heading to these universities for their undergraduate studies in the coming months.  Joel whispered to me “I feel so ashamed that I can’t be as good as they are to be at these universities.”  I assured Joel that each of us was meant to carve our different paths according to our different strengths and none of these paths make any of us lesser than the other. 

Brighter Hopes Can Only Be Determined By You

However, I couldn’t help but feel the negative impact of societal norms and pressures that held people to the belief that the right and best path is to follow the clinical route.  This is the expected route of getting from a reputable primary school to an express stream in a reputable secondary school, to a reputable junior college and then to a top university, followed by getting a fantastic high-paying job, and then get married as early as possible so that you can get a government-subsidized flat at a reputable estate, and have at least 2 kids who will start the cycle of going to a reputable primary school. 
Joel felt left out of that cycle and I wished he didn’t feel that way because I was almost in the throes of that cycle until I forced myself out of it after obtaining a divorce, and started carving my own path through the unbeaten track.  And frankly, I am still doing it because I believe my true education is gained from the experiences learnt in the University of Life.  I wanted Joel to not be a follower, but be a leader.  Being one of the few blokes in a nursing faculty, I wanted him to feel proud that he was breaking through the barriers of prejudice to stand out from the sea of nursing students. Given that Singapore has an ageing population with growing healthcare talent shortage, his skills were going to be useful in filling the gap.  And frankly, if you know Joel for his “can-do” attitude, his courage, his infectious enthusiasm, his great communication and interpersonal skills, I would say that, true to our Prime Minister’s expectations, Joel is already heading towards building a brighter future for himself and for the industry.

Our Prime Minster has requested that we write the next chapter of the Singapore story with him.  That next chapter belongs to Joel.  I hope that the continuous learning he had gleaned from David and me and the experiences that he will be garnering along the way, helps him write an even more colorful chapter of the Singapore story, without fear of being different and without the pressure and expectations of being “boxed” into preconceived notions of success.