Wednesday, 25 December 2013

I Believe In The Magic Of Christmas

I do believe in the magic of Christmas after all.  It was nothing short of a miracle that Dad could be discharged just in time to come home for Christmas.  

When he suffered that stroke last Thursday, he looked so frail and he could not lift his left arm and leg.  An MRI later revealed that he had quite a few blockages and the situation could have been disastrous if Mum had not taken him to the hospital in time.  From what the doctors and nurses had been telling us, it looked like he would be hospitalized for at least a week to two weeks, maybe more.   It did not help that from time to time, Dad's frustrations at being 'confined' had made him defiant and not willing to cooperate with the therapist when it came to his rehabilitative exercises.

However, Mum and I were at the hospital daily to comfort him, kept him company and persuaded him to focus on recovery.  I was determined that Dad did not give up,  So I spent that time talking about his days as a politically detainee and searched for photographs of his old friends who were fellow ex-detainees on my iPad so that it could trigger his memory.  I gave the other patients around him names too.  I named them after his old friends just because some of them resembled his old cronies, and that made him laugh a lot. To help bring back strength to his left hand, I persuaded him to "ring the door bell and run away". So, he rang the buzzer to call for the nurse, and when the nurse turned up by his bedside, he said "I don't need anything."  That annoyed the nurses, but both of us had such a good laugh.

Perhaps, the laughter, the old stories, the company, and just knowing that his family loved and supported him, was enough to motivate Dad to recover enough to get discharged earlier than expected.  

So while we cancelled every Christmas party, my parents' 45th wedding anniversary party and several other social engagements, I went ahead to host our annual family Christmas Eve dinner.  Dad gamely showed up at my home for that dinner, the day he got discharged.  Understandably, he still looked frail, but noticeably happy.  And he had a glass of wine too to celebrate Christmas with us.

When I looked at my entire extended family happily chatting around Dad, I was a-washed with bliss.  I felt so much gratitude for the prayers for Dad from my friends in Singapore and all over the world.  When mum and I were feeling so down because of Dad's hospitalization, the only reason we had hope was because of the prayers of everyone who supported us.  So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping me BELIEVE in the magic of Christmas.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a Marketing and PR professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and Numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the colloquail term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

I truly do

Dad  - Blending in with the sofa.  He looked tired but happy

Mum and I having a good laugh at
the antics Dad and I got up to at the hospital

The antics never cease.  Grandma did not realise that I clipped a wee Santa's hat on her head.  She went home looking like that.

Our roast turkey with figs and chestnut stuffing.
It was the best turkey yet.

David cooked these.  Roasted potatoes with rosemary,
roasted parsnips with honey, roasted carrots with orange juice and brussels sprouts with wasabi glaze

David, the exhausted chef

Friday, 20 December 2013

An Indomitable Spirit

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will." ~ Mahatma Ghandi

A Change of Plans For Christmas 

We had big plans for the year-end merry-making.  Mum was preparing to whip up a big lunch the weekend before Christmas, to celebrate the Winter Solstice.   I was going to be hosting our annual family Christmas Eve dinner.  On 27th December, Mum organized a big dinner party to celebrate my parents' 45th wedding anniversary. Dotted in between these, we have got several invitations to join our friends in their Christmas celebrations.

However, these plans had to change.

Dad Is not Well

Dad was suddenly hit with a stroke and  taken to the hospital where he was also diagnosed for Parkinson's disease and dementia.  That meant he will need to be religious about his long term rehabilitative program after he got discharged.   In fact, Dad was diagnosed with a silent stroke a few years back and the neurosurgeon did advise that he should do his rehabilitative exercises regularly.  Of course, Dad was stubborn and would rather continue eating and living well in his own way than to spend time in and out of the rehabilitative cente. Even when his mobility deteriorated to the point where Mum had to assist him with basic activities like bathing, eating and walking, he would make an effort to shuffle from the bedroom to the living room, holding onto furniture for support along the way.  We were not thrilled by this because we were worried about him falling at some point but we could not stop him.

Well, this time round it certainly was not a silent one.  His left arm and leg got impacted, his speech slurred more, and he looked confused.  I had seen Dad become increasingly frail over the years, but I have never seen Dad looking completely lost and feeling helpless.  My heart broke when I saw him being wheeled through the doors to get to his MRI session.  His even frailer form looked so broken.  However, no matter how ill or weak he was, I detected fire in his eyes.

He Still Has Fire In His Belly

His frail frame disguised the fire in his belly.

When the therapist came along to ask how old he was, he slurred defiantly, " old as the hills...and older than you."  When the therapist asked him to point to his eye with his finger, and then to point to his tummy next, he slurred even more defiantly, "You are asking me to do such a simple thing?"   I had a good laugh as I thought, "That was not a question honey, my Dad wants you to stop insulting his intelligence."  He struggled to get out of his bed and told me as he pointed to the nurses, "Come on, let's go.  They are preparing for us to leave."    The nurse told him that he was not going to be able to go home just yet.  So he looked squarely at her and challenged, " That is what you say."   For once, I was thankful that he was not mobile enough to put himself in any danger.  I was however impressed that in spite of his frailty, that indomitable spirit never waned.

I grew up watching and learning from that indomitable spirit. Just before he was incarcerated without trial for his "off-center" political views in 1978,  I remembered the moments when the lackeys of the Establishment marched Dad, in handcuffs, into our home while I was having Mandarin lessons with the tutor.  I saw  how frail and helpless Dad looked then ( like he did just now as he was wheeled out of the ward for his MRI session)  surrounded by a bunch of burley men hiding behind dark glasses, walkie-talkies and cheap plastic name tags.   Yet, at that point, he tried to be stoic and promised Mum and I  that all was going to be fine.  I was however, mortified that these strangers could barge into my home to disturb the peace of a once happy family.  I was extremely angry that they handcuffed a man with alternative political views when that handcuff should be reserved for common criminals. I was even more aghast at the thought that Dad was going to be taken away from us, without trial, without any ability to defend himself.  I rushed towards Dad  shouting " Let him go, you bastards.  He is not a criminal."   Dad shot them a very angry look.  It took me years to realize the anger was not at what had happend to him, but at the terrible way in which they handled the issue in front of his family that included an 8 year old.   His indomitable spirit never waned even then, as he just wanted to protect his family.

Bringing Christmas To Dad

Dad's condition will not get better.  That is the fact about stroke.  It is a condition that should be managed, but it will never get better.  As the doctors put him through tests after tests here at the hospital, he said, " They are wasting my time."  I agree.  They are.  I felt his frustrations.  I am sure somewhere in these tests, they are doing something productive to help him get better but I am not seeing it just yet.  His lack of rest at the hospital is not helping.   I wished I could take him home with me now and we could all have a fabulous Christmas celebration together as a family.  But I know that is not possible.  So, like Dad, with his indomitable spirit, if he cannot join me for our annual family Christmas Eve dinner, I will bring the Christmas revelry to him at the hospital on Christmas Day. 

Joel, please chill the wine already.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a Marketing and PR professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and Numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the colloquail term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

This is Dad when he was younger.  Wasn't exactly David Hasselhoff..more like an Asian Che Guevera eh? This picture was taken during a family vacation at Desaru Beach in Malaysia. I remembered he lost his glasses in the waves.

Friday, 13 December 2013

The New Domestic Goddess

The Working Mother Without A Home Portfolio

I felt quite disturbed by the fact that while my sunny disposition had given me the moniker of Sun Goddess, my culinary and housekeeping skills had not framed me as a Domestic Goddess.  For years, I had been whipping up delectable dishes for my men  from an unrivalled roast leg of lamb, to a power-packed Peranakan chicken curry that was considered the best in Singapore, Johore and some say Batam too.  I had been picking up their laundry to put back into the laundry basket, instead of having dirty laundry decorate the floor around the basket.  I had even walked the dogs when the both of them pretended to snooze like the annoying  passengers  who occupied the seats for the disabled in a crowded train. 

Yet, I was not known  as  a Domestic Goddess!  I found myself unfairly dismissed as the “Working Mother Without A Home Portfolio”, much like a “Minister Without Portfolio” when the latter had been put on the roll-call of cabinet personnel bound for that invitation list of the next civil service retirement party.

The Housekeeper Is On Vacation

Okay, I should admit that my multi-talented  housekeeper Evelyn, with her cooking, baking, sewing, housekeeping skills and uncanny ability to burp while she brushes her teeth in the morning, had  rendered me rather useless for the last 8 years.  Evelyn is a key member of my family, and possibly the designated Chief Operations Officer of the Ash household.   David, Joel and I would be lost without Evelyn.  David would not know where he had kept his camera equipment, Joel could never find his shoes and I would not know how the kitchen appliances work without her. 

Evelyn is about to leave for a 3 week vacation back to her home country in the Philippines, and my men are frantic, treating her impending absence as a major disaster.  When I told them that I would be in charge of the kitchen for the next 3 weeks, I was dismayed to see horror registered on their faces.

The Domestic Goddess

For the next 3 weeks, I am determined to prove to my men that I am not only the Sun Goddess, but I am the Domestic Goddess too.  I have delegated the laundry, garbage and bathroom duties to David, and Joel will be official care-taker of the mutts.  The kitchen is of course, my domain. 

My biggest project is the annual traditional family Christmas Eve dinner when I will be expecting about 25 of my extended family members at my home to celebrate the yuletide season with us.  Yes, I will be cooking.  I was not too ambitious so I had the chef at one of my favourite restaurants prepare the roast turkey with figs and chestnut stuffing.  I did not know what a fig looks like you see.  However, I will be cooking the rest of the meal which will include a grilled salmon with lemon, mint and parsley, roast potatoes and parsnips with rosemary, a seafood salad  with raspberry vinaigrette and a shepherd’s pie.    Thank goodness Uncle Winston will be bringing a cake. 

Get Off The Speed-Dial

I cannot wait to prove to my men that I can actually cook and clean on top of managing the marketing and PR projects at work and reading Tarot cards for clients.  The world is filled with so many multi-talented working mothers.  I could be one too.  I just wished David and Joel had more faith in me.  As I was writing this blog post, I spotted them attaching  Pizza Hut’s and McDonald’s flyers on the refrigerator door and putting their numbers on speed-dial.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  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".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

Joel - attempting to get acquainted with the mop.

Bailey - getting acquainted with the toilet brush

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

I Found My Magical Moments In Chiang Mai

Magical Moments

About 1 ½ months after my glorious week in Bali surrendering to my first experience of being “in the zone” with Yoga, I had decided to pack my bags for another week of the same, this time in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  I have to admit that, the year-end rush to complete projects at work, some of the lingering work-stress and the multitude of emails that  could not be ignored,  had collectively dampened my attempts to surrender to the same “in the zone” experience with Yoga there.  

To make matters worse, although we stayed at an exquisite villa surrounded by lush greenery and an inviting pool, the pool was un-swimmable because we were welcomed by 15 degree days in our thin T-shirts and shorts, thinking that we had booked a trip to an Asian city that promised the warmth of the blazing sun and other usual trappings of the tropics.

When I looked back at my week in Chiang Mai, I had decided to look for the magical moments then so that I could remember this city for what it truly was - Magic. And I found some.

Deepening My Consciousness With Yoga

As always, my primary objective of a trip like this was to practice the asanas in a different environment and with a different instructor, in the hope of enriching my experience with yoga.  Time spent with Gernot Huber from Yoga Mind Yoga Body was possibly the best decision I made about the trip because he had helped me deepen my consciousness with yoga.  The most important thing I learnt from him was the importance of building  self awareness.  By surrendering myself to self awareness, I could let go of that ego that inhibits my growth.  It could help me to not cling onto disappointments that could get in the way of attaining my true goals. Andre Lima put  it quite succinctly when he tweeted “You let go, not for something to go away, but for ‘what is’ to stay.” 

The Boat Trip Up The Mae Ping River

With Gernot’s words still ringing in my ear,  we had decided to take a leisurely boat ride up the Mae Ping river.  In a word, that experience was, idyllic, because I took on the trip without my blackberry and just surrendered myself to the beauty of life by the river.  The Thais who lived by the river were so laid back as most were just fishing by the river bank.  When we spotted some with 8 fishing rods in action at the same time, waiting for the day’s catch, we knew that they were not fishing for leisure.  They were possibly fishing for food.  Yet, they looked so calm and gave us a friendly wave from time to time.  David and I felt so relaxed throughout the boat ride which was made complete with a visit to a vegetable farm along the river.  The vegetable farmer had a tiny petting zoo comprising of 2 wild boars that looked perpetually drugged, and a family of rabbits that looked like they fed on vegetation that grew next to a nuclear power plant.  They were humongous in size! They looked larger than my dogs!  

Releasing Birds At Wat Chedi Luang

Chiang Mai was quite a small city but it held a rich history.  This was reflected in some of the temple architecture as well as the ancient brick wall that demarcated the boundary of the old city from the new.  One of the oldest and I thought, the coolest architecture was that of the Pagoda at Wat Chedi Luang.  It was built in the 15thcentury by the Thai King who died while in the midst of constructing that pagoda. His Queen then promptly finished constructing it by building the tip of the Pagoda.  What a love story!  What can a man do without his woman, eh? Unfortunately, the Pagoda was partially destroyed by an earthquake but this once magnificent structure still looked hauntingly beautiful.  

A little old lady approached us as we were taking photographs of the Pagoda.  “100 baht! 100 baht! For good luck!” she squawked, as she shoved into our hands, a little birdcage with 4 finches fluttering about frantically within it.  It would certainly be good luck for the finches if we let them go free.  So after paying the old lady, we  released these birds as we uttered a prayer for peace and good health.  I was not sure if it was for the birds’ peace  and good health or mine, but it was nonetheless  a magical experience.

Spiritual Energy At Dol SuThep

David and I made a long drive up to Dol SuThep where we visited the Wat Prathat temple that sat on top of the mountain.  The temple was built way back in 1383.  What we did not expect was a crowd of tourists jostling to capture the stunning views with their cameras.  Thankfully, we did not walk up the 309 steps to the temple only to be confronted by annoyingly loud tourists.  We took the easy route - by tram.   I told David that serenity should come from within, and if he could  just spare a moment to be still for awhile, he would surely feel the serenity.  We closed our eyes as we touched one of the many giant bells that sat around the temple grounds.  Gradually, we could feel peace descending in our hearts and minds, such that when we opened our eyes again, the hordes of tourists seemed to have disappeared to make way for the stunning views of a city calling us to appreciate it for its spiritual energy.   We had to say goodbye to the temple by walking down 309 steps.  Daunting as it might have sounded, it truly was not - effortless.

Vegetarian For A Cause At Thai Freedom House

When I traveled to a destination with my Yoga practice as a primary purpose, I always went on a vegetarian diet. Chiang Mai was a haven for vegans and vegetarians.  Thankfully I did some research before the trip and chanced upon a blog post at  Thanks to the post about vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai, I was drawn to 2 of these restaurants.  One was Juicy 4U located right within the heart of the old city, where I went crazy with every manner of fresh juices including spirulina and wheatgrass shots.  David obliged too and had his less exotic options of pineapple, orange and carrot juices.  He enjoyed the veggie burger tremendously although he grumbled that they did not serve french fries with it.  He said, “a french fry is vegetarian isn’t it?”  I had the scrumptious papaya salad called Som Tum in Thai.  Delicious. 

We searched for another vegetarian restaurant called Free Bird Café for days and finally found it on the day before we left Chiang Mai.  Free Bird Café was a vegan and vegetarian restaurant run by the Thai Freedom House which was a non-profit arts and learning community that supported the Burmese refugees and minority groups in Thailand.  For such a great cause, David and I even busted our “no-dessert” rule and had a vegan brownie.

Yoga From The Heart

Another magical moment that came out of my trip to Chiang Mai, was that it had helped me with my reservations about participating in group Yoga classes.  I always thought I was not built for Yoga, not flexible enough, and too clumsy and slow as I maneuver  through the vinyasa flow sequences.   Then  I remembered Gernot's advice to me, urging me to let go of my ego as I go deeper into my yoga practice moving forward.  I realized, I did not have to wait for my next trip to do that.  I could do it right here and now in Singapore.  On January 1, 2014, Yoga From The Heart, a by-donation, Yoga class will take place at the Jacob Ballas Chidren's Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.  The donations will go to  Emerge Lanka, an NGO that supports the education and empowerment of Sri Lankan girls.  If you are in Singapore, and no matter what level of Yoga practice you are at, do join me at Yoga From The Heart on January 1, 2014, 5.25pm (Singapore Time).

A Second Chance

I definitely had magical moments in Chiang Mai amidst the work-stress and unavoidable work calls and emails.  My regret was that I had not had the time and the frame of mind to peel  more layers off Chiang Mai to discover even more spiritual spaces within the city.  I missed out on the trek across the Doi Inthanon national park, the trip to the Burmese border and the visits to the villages to experience the lifestyles of the minority tribes.  My next trip to Chiang Mai beckons. I want her to give me a second chance.  Next time, I will leave my blackberry at home.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a Marketing and PR professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and Numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the colloquail term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

The Oriental Siam Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand - We called this HOME for 6 days

My meditation space at the villa

What a beautiful ancient temple. I can't remember the name of this one.

The remains of the pagoda at Wat Chedi Luang

A relaxing boat trip along the Mae Ping River

Releasing finches at Wat Chedi Luang while uttering a prayer for peace and good health

Free Bird Cafe - a non-profit arts and learning community-run cafe that supported
Burmese refugees and minority groups in Thailand

My medley of Burmese and Shan salad lunch at Free Bird Cafe

Views from Dol SuThep

The people in Chiang Mai are so laid back.  Even the Tuk Tuk driver
had decided that his afternoon siesta was more important than giving us annoying tourists a ride.

This ancient brick wall demarcated the old city from the new. There must be so many historic stories within each brick

We walked down these 309 steps at Dol SuThep.  Check out the hordes of tourists.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Acknowledging My Faults And Failings


Acknowledging my faults and failings does make me a better person.
In the last month, the most extraordinary things had happened to me because I had decided to “give a little” and acknowledge that some circumstances happened for a purpose.  Anyone who knew me well, would tell you that I would never back down from anything I did not believe in, without a fight.  However experience taught me that while I would like to have control over most things in my life, there are some things that are best left to allow “nature to take its course”.

A Better Manager

When I had a run-in with someone at work last month which threatened to rock my confidence and instilled doubts about my capabilities, I was prepared to march into the office of someone more senior who would hopefully take the time to listen to me griping about my frustrations.  Somehow, that did not happen when busy schedules, last minute meetings and other priorities got in the way of that appointment.

I was glad that meeting did not happen because I had the opportunity during that time span to rethink about the root cause of the issue, mull about the repercussions of any rash action on my part and form a plan to make things right  not only with the person whom I had the run in with, but also between myself and my ego.  The biggest lesson that came out of it, was about the complacency within me.  The incident was an opportunity to kick me out of my comfort zone to re-think about how I should be delivering better with the team, to our work objectives.  I saw it as a challenge to take on new projects, learn new skills and knowledge, and band with the team to work better with other cross-functional teams. 

I was rather glad that this new found calmness in me had allowed me to take a break in Bali with the issue simmering at the back of my head just immediately after the incident.  In the past, my vacation would have been ruined because I would be spending that week dreaming up of some evil plot to throw my shoe at the person who had caused me this much grief.  In fact, it was the break in Bali that gave me time to re-evaluate the issue and think of turning the challenge into an opportunity.

By acknowledging my faults and failings alongside others’ and my ability to move forward by proactively creating plans to make things right, I had possibly defined myself as a better leader in the company and a better manager to my team.

A Better Mother

I had always admitted difficulty of grappling this role as a mother of a boy who had just turned into an adult.  Joel’s main weakness was thought to be his soft and sentimental heart.  It took me awhile to see that weakness as strength.  I was particularly possessive of his time.  When he had to juggle school, industrial attachment stints at the local hospitals, his girlfriend and 2 families (his Dad’s and mine), I often had fights with him about not being able to spend quality time with him.  I lamented about David and I having pre-empty nesters’ syndrome on a weekly basis.  When his girlfriend visited, I would shut myself in the room and displayed my displeasure with a growl before shutting the room door, because I felt an invasion of my space and my time with him.  I often kicked up a fuss about his excessive spending on date nights, because I could not spend excessively to dote on my once little boy. 

My perspective changed a little when this relationship with her crossed the one year mark.  Yes, they spent one year dodging my caustic bullets and menacing grunts.  They came home one day with a cake and 1 candle and announced proudly that they wanted to celebrate their first year anniversary together with me.  I was very touched by that gesture.  So now, I have moved up the dial to tolerate her presence in my home.  She was not such a bad kid after all.

By acknowledging that my son had grown up and had to walk this journey through life by maneuvering the bends along the road by himself, I had possibly defined myself as a better mother.  I would always be there for him and nothing can change the fact that I am his mother.  I had to finally learn to let go.

A Better Wife

I had an epiphany just recently about how I had been managing my relationship with David.  You would be able to read more about it from my Tarot blog,

I have always thought that being a great wife was to be able to juggle a high flying career that could contribute to a financially comfortable life for my family whilst nurturing the family with much love.  I thought I had been doing a fabulous job transposing myself from mother, to wife, to corporate careerist as a marketing head for an MNC, to a entrepreneur of a Tarot and Numerology consultancy.

If I had to explain my career ambitions better, it found its roots almost 15 years ago when I got divorced to my first husband and was told that I would never survive without a marriage, and that I would never be able to afford a home and that I would never be able to raise my son on my own.  So I spent the last 15 years proving otherwise developing a hard corporate exterior not only at work but also at home. 

I am very blessed that David is a patient man who gave me nothing but selfless love.  My surviving that divorce and such rock-bottom confidence was not because I did well in my career, but because I had a husband who gave me everything.

By acknowledging that life, including myself, could not always be story-book perfect and that all David needed was the assurance that he was doing the right thing to make me happy every day, through good times and bad, I had possibly defined myself as a better wife.  He knew last night, after reading my Tarot blog post that I was never taking him for granted again.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  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".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

My man and me - I would be nothing without him.

The kids' first anniversary cake - they celebrated their first anniversary as a couple with me.

With my boys...

My looney team at work

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Changing Perceptions - What Bali Had Taught Me

I have not blogged for awhile.  I had intended to write a piece about my trip to Bali but after discarding a few drafts, I had decided to delve deeper into what made this trip magical for me instead.

I am not new to Bali and its balmy beaches, hot surfers, cheap cocktails and fashionably cool tourists. Or was it the other way around; cool surfers, hot beaches and cheap tourists. 


12 years ago, David and I spent our honeymoon in Bali where our supposedly romantic week whirled past us as we hung about the swimming pool of a quaint little beach resort in a half drunk state.  We went back to Bali every year after that, as we loved the cheap cocktails and the bliss of hanging about by the swimming pool of a quaint little beach resort.

Years after, the resort looked like a ramshackle hut filled with half drunk European tourists some with no sense of cultural respect enough to remove their bikini tops so we could all admire the length of their breasts from knee to chest.   David and I looked at each other in disgust and gawked not at the breasts but at the vision of us hanging about by the swimming pool of that quaint little beach resort, with his red-neck-looking cowboy hat propped on top of his head, and my bikini top still back in Singapore. We could not foresee ourselves in that state during our future visits to Bali.


We came to a realization that Bali, with all its spiritual energy was worth more than those cheap cocktails and hot surfers.  We wanted to experience the spiritual magic of Bali we had missed in the last 12 years.   So we checked into a tiny but beautiful and serene villa located right smack in the middle of a rice field in Ubud, Central Bali.

Every evening, we were entertained by a symphony coming from the bull frogs, crickets, geckos, and a timing-challenged cockerel.  As we sat outside the terrace with our cups of tea (note: no booze), David pointed to the Orion belt, and we took turns guessing the names of stars.  I thought I spotted Venus too but he said I was drunk on tea.  Also, I saw fireflies for the first time, flitting about amongst the rice plants.  I was so awed by the beauty of nature and wondered why anyone would ever need television, when there was better entertainment out there in the rice fields in the evenings.

When we woke up at 4am everyday….yes4am, because that cockerel had not yet learnt to discern when dawn breaks, we spotted rice farmers tending to their crops as birds came by our swimming pool for their morning bath. Bliss.


I also hired a personal yoga instructor to come by to the villa to practice yoga with me. Her name is Luisa. I wanted to initiate David into the wonderful world of yoga, but David got himself initiated into an evening of solitude and delectable room service instead, when he spent that entire yoga session taking photographs of Luisa’s and my butt as we did the cow and cat poses.  That photograph was posted on Facebook and possibly had become National Geographic’s photograph of the week, from the comments we got.  I was so embarrassed!

As I increasingly fell in love with yoga, I formed a friendship with Luisa.  She taught me that yoga was more than the asanas that we were practicing together.  Yoga was actually a way of life that could be used off the mat at our office and at home.  Just understanding the basic tenets of the Yamas and Niyamas, made me look at the issues at work in a different light. We both also had similar ideas about life and spirituality. In no time at all, Luisa and I came up with a business idea to bring an enriching weekend of learning and spiritual rejuvenation to people who needed it – the Blue Heaven Goddess Weekend.  Luisa and I will be launching the Blue Heaven Goddess Weekend in 2014.


Little did I know that this trip to Bali was going to be my medicine that helped salved an open wound.  When I went to Bali, I had the yoke of work issues around my neck.  I had a disagreement with someone at work which impacted my confidence and I landed in Bali with the belief that perhaps, I was really not good enough at what I did. I was made to believe that I had to be opened to change because I was not “cutting it”.

However, the deeply spiritual disposition of the Balinese people touched my heart in a way that no other experience could.  I had an inspiring encounter with my villa owner who doubled up as my driver. His name was Gungdek.  He was the epitome of contentment – he would not ask for more and was happy with life as it was because of his steep spiritual beliefs that everything he had was bestowed by God.  So he lived in joy and gratitude for every little abundance he had in his life.  Gungdek’s daughter died 13 years ago of a motorcycle accident.  2 days after burying her, his house burnt down to the ground.  Gungdek never had money.  He came from a very poor family and his own family lived from hand to mouth, from meal to meal.  However, it was after the loss of his daughter and his house, that woke him up to the fact that he still had a home – his entire family who depended on each other for love and life.  Gungdek worked very hard for years and managed to own a piece of land on which he had built this villa.  I felt so privileged to be able to stay the week in this villa that Gungdek built.  He lived next door to the villa, in a little thatched house.  A mud track led to his house and children blissfully played soccer outside his little house, oblivious to the blood and sweat Gungdek had put into providing for his family. The man was always smiling and chatty.  He drove me all over Ubud to show me the sights, recommended  good and inexpensive restaurants to us and even got a numerology reading from me.  The simplicity of his life, and the contentment about him, did not expose a past of grief, loss and sorrow.  I was inspired.  The changes in his life, and the loss he had suffered, had inspired new ideas and a conviction to turn his family’s life around and make it better.  In the same vein, I was inspired to accept that all changes can indeed inspire new ideas and a conviction to re-chart a direction towards any goal I wanted to manifest.  I should never be afraid and defensive of anyone’s perception of me, however erroneous. If anything, I should be afraid of my inability to change my perceptions about myself.

This much-needed vacation to Bali was much needed not because I wanted to de-stress, rejuvenate and recharge myself.  It was much needed because Bali was calling me to change my perceptions about her, her cheap cocktails, hot surfers, balmy beaches and colourful sarongs. She wanted to touch me with the magic of her spiritual energy. 

Bali also called to me, to change my perceptions about myself.  Like Gungdek who picked himself up from his loss of his daughter and his house, I was called to pick myself up from the loss of my confidence caused by harsh words, thoughtlessness and differing views and perceptions of others.   
I figured that whatever the hurdles and changes got thrown in my path, as long as I could be opened to changing my own perception of them, the Universe will conspire to make things right for me.

I would be coming back to Bali every year without doubt.  Perhaps, she might show me something different again, the next time I visit.  

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  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".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

The rice fields were so serene

View of the rice fields from our private villa pool

A visit to the Ubud local market

My gorgeous yoga instructor Luisa

Why can't my family be normal....sighhhh.

Luisa and I in total bliss state

Hot surfer, Cool moves

Blue Heaven Bali- My heavenly base for our Blue Heaven Goddess Weekends in 2014

Birds taking a bath in my pool

Stupid chicken

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Why Are We Celebrating Autumn?


Please get this right. We have no seasons in Singapore.  It is either,  hot, humid, rainy or the governmental elections season.  However, Singaporeans will always find a reason to celebrate regardless of occasion and season.  When our friends in the Northern hemisphere celebrate a winter white Christmas, I found it quite amusing that one of the local malls would be decked out in Christmas decoration with glitter-dusted cardboard cut-out snowflakes hanging all across the ceiling.  Furthermore, a giant inflatable snowman would sit outside the mall’s entrance, next to a snow machine that pumps out real snow.  I often found that odd and hoped that no small kids were mentally impacted by this ludicrous picture of a snowman and real snow in the tropics.

This month, we would be celebrating Autumn.  I knew Autumn was at our hot and humid doorstep when I could not find nice dresses in the shops.  The clothes racks at every shop were filled with fur-lined, fur-collared, quilted and woolly things. When I had decided to comfort myself by browsing for nice sandals at the shoe shop, I was dismayed to find boots of different lengths and colours lined up at the shop window…some even were fur-lined. For goodness sakes, we are in the tropics!

Tomorrow, Chinese all over the world will be celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival with Mooncakes and colourful lanterns.  I was not even sure when Autumn began in Singapore, yet we would be celebrating mid-Autumn tomorrow.  I started surfing the internet for more information about the Mid-Autumn festival last week.  It was part of my commitment to revisit my Chinese roots, if you remembered my last blog post at

My research uncovered that the Mid-Autumn festival was surrounded by ancient myths.  One version of the myth was that in ancient China, there was an archer called Hou Yi who successfully shot down  9 out of the 10 suns that appeared in the sky to scorch and destroy the land.  He left only 1 sun in existence to provide light and life, not allowing the earth to fall into darkness.  Celebrated for his prowess, he became King and married the lady Chang Er.  Over time, Hou Yi became a despot obsessed about continuing his rule by searching for an elixir.  This elixir promised eternal life.  When the elixir was found,  Chang Er decided to consume it instead in a bid to prevent her husband from continuing his despotic rule forever.  She then transformed into a fairy and flew to the Moon on which she lived.    The grateful people on earth lighted their lanterns on earth so that Chang Er could see them from the moon.  That is why today, the Chinese hang lanterns around their homes during this festival.    Hou Yi grieved for his beloved wife so he put out a table of offerings of cakes and sweets to honour her every Autumn.  Today, the Chinese consumed moon-shaped cakes with the same intent to honor her.   To find out more about Chang Er, do read it at .  

The Mid-Autumn festival was always a wonderful gathering of family members enjoying Mooncakes and sipping tea under the light of the full moon, while children carried lanterns and ran across the garden.  Sometimes, if you were lucky, you might hear a scream from the kitchen when a child’s lantern caught fire and his or her mother came running with a kettle of water to put the fire out.  Often the mother and her visibly shaken child would be okay, but it was totally hilarious for the rest of us peering from the other side of the fence.

Mum will be cooking up a storm to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival tomorrow.  Our dessert would be the ubiquitous Mooncakes in different flavours.  I personally liked the ice-cream Mooncakes, but Mum thought it was an abomination to the Chinese culture.  She did not rate the chocolate, truffle-filled and lychee martini ones either, and thought they were too ”angmo” for her.  So I had decided to get my own Mooncakes – Hello Kitty ones.  I even got a Hello Kitty lantern to match.

Mum saw festivals like these as an opportunity to gather as a family.  I saw them as an opportunity to relive the memories of my childhood.  Autumn was not about the weather becoming colder, the leaves turning from green to a rusty gold and certainly not about the calorie-laden Mooncakes.  It was a season that celebrated my childhood, and I knew every year that when Mid-Autumn festival came around, it would not be too long before  the “cold-wintry-white” season of Christmas would arrive.  That was yet another wonderful opportunity to relive my childhood memories.

About the writer:
The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  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".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.

Hello Kitty Mooncakes.  Too cute.  They came packaged in this Hello Kitty bag.

Hello Kitty lantern.  Super cute.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Going Back To My Chinese Roots

What is that one little fact you could never have guessed about me? 

In my 2nd year at Primary school, I did very well in my Chinese examinations, with grades that got me ranked as the top student for Chinese.  I won a book prize for that feat. I bet you never knew huh!.

Mum and Dad were so happy that they got be my first furry friend, an uncharacteristically “gay and emo” poodle by the name of Blooie.  Blooie was gay and emotional simply because he did not like female dogs.  He humped only male dogs.  He was deeply sensitive and emotional, and would snuggle by me when I was sad, literally licked my wounded knee when I fell and threw a tantrum when I showed some affection to the neighbours’ dogs. 

I Love My English Teachers At School

My language skills were very much like that "emo" Blooie.   I favoured my English teachers and disliked the old and fuddy-duddy Chinese teachers, so I built a special bond with my English teachers who had over time deepened my love for the English language so much that it became the subject I majored in, when I was at the local University.   My English teachers left an indelible mark on me because with their true dedication to the craft of teaching, they guided me through my writing and speaking skills even outside of the classroom.  My kindergarten teacher was the first to leave that indelible mark on me when she gently nudged me onto the stage to do a graduation speech.  I was then 6 years old.   My English teacher Mrs Mary Tan, encouraged me to read and write beyond what the lessons taught.  Due to my love for English, I could write prose and poetry even during my free time and Mrs Tan would painstakingly edit them during her lunch hour.  

I Dislike My Chinese Teachers At School

My Chinese teachers lost their places in my heart.  I disliked learning the idioms, I disliked language rules, I disliked writing Chinese characters wrongly only to be tapped on my knuckles with the teachers’ pencils.  Most of all I disliked the weekly Chinese spelling tests which almost always made me ill.   I do not even remember the names of my Chinese teachers.  I only had faint memories of one Mrs Leong whom you had to hold an umbrella to when she scolded us because she often spluttered a spray of saliva in our faces in the midst of her scoldings.

Therefore,  in spite of walking around school half-dazed most of the time, I had not expected to be recognized for my speaking and writing skills in Chinese during my 2nd year at Primary school.  Today, I still haven’t the faintest idea how it happened because along the way home from then, right through adulthood, it was as if I had been struck by lightning which rendered me dumb and deaf when it came to anything related to the Chinese language.

Going Back To My Roots

My dislike for Chinese also had roots in the way I was brought up at home.  I came from a family of  Peranakans.  Peranakans were Straits-born Chinese ( ).   My ancestors came from a line of Chinese merchants who had settled in Malaya and married the local Malay women.  I told my husband a different story.  I told him that the Chinese Emperor sent his daughter to marry the local Malay Sultan and hence, the Peranakan race was born.  Up to this day, he believed I was royalty and rightfully treated me as one.

Peranakans formed a unique indigenous culture of their own, complete with their own unique fashion, language and foods.  Dad could not speak Mandarin.  He spoke a mixture of Malay and Hokkien which was traditionally unique to the Peranakan culture.  The family was matriarchal, placing a lot of importance on the “head” of the household, my great grandmother, when I was very young.  So I told David that I was Empress of our household, and he, merely the Empress’ consort.  Having been brought up in a Peranakan household meant that Mum and Dad would converse with me soley in English.  And as Dad was a lawyer, he had expected me to be one when I grew up, thus demanding that I excelled in the use of the language.

Over time, my skills in the various Chinese languages, be it Mandarin or the dialects like Hokkien and Teochew were reduced to a pitiful smattering of English-accented Chinese mix with hand signals.  My grades for my Chinese examination paper became a consistent C in my secondary school years and a dominant D during my junior college years.

The Importance Of Being…Chinese

As an adult, working in an Asian-based multi-national corporation , creating marketing brochureware and advertising creatives that are in both English and Chinese, meant that I needed to be effectively bilingual.  However, I started to feel that I was missing out on so much more by not having a good command of the Chinese language.   A good command of the Chinese language went  beyond effectiveness at work,  it went beyond the ability to fluently order a takeaway lunch from the staff at the Chinese food stall without getting the order wrong, and it definitely went beyond my sensitivities when a colleague, at a discussion table broke out into fluent Mandarin in an attempt to call me a “stupid cow” because I refused to accede to her unreasonable request.

No matter how one would justify the need to be effectively bilingual, the simple fact was that I needed to be because I am a Singaporean Chinese.  I lived in a cosmopolitan city spiced by an interesting melting pot of different races and worked at a multi-national corporation that dealt with different markets which meant that English was an important language needed to bridge geographical and racial barriers.  However as a Chinese, proud of my heritage borne from  my forefathers who once sailed those ships across the treacherous  South China Sea to come here as tradesmen and builders so that we could live the way we do today,  I made up my mind to go back to my Chinese roots, understand the culture better and speak the language better.  One day, my son, and his children could possibly thank me for it because their lives would be made much richer for doing so.

Embracing The Beauty Of The Language

Another thing that convinced me of the need to go back to my roots, was the beauty of the language.  One of my fellow Tarot reading friends bought a pre-owned book from Amazon last week.  When it arrived, there were some Chinese text written within the inside back cover of the book.  I tried very hard to decipher the script and got some help from one of my staff.  This was what it said, “Loving a book is like loving someone.  The deeper your love, the deeper it adds up to that surprising sweet ending.”  It was beautiful, and I would not have been able to feel this book lover’s passion if I had not taken an interest in the Chinese text.

So this is what I am doing to embrace the beauty of the Chinese language.   I have been speaking in Mandarin to my colleagues at work.  While I have a few colleagues designated to approve Chinese copy for the brochureware and advertising creatives that we develop, I had started to get more involved in it.  I started taking an interest in reading print advertising headlines in Chinese.  I have also been watching Chinese drama serials on TV so that I could brush up on enunciation.  The only thing I have not done is to learn to sing a song in Mandarin, which I suspect, might be the next thing one of my Karaoke-crazy colleagues might be pushing me to do.  Wish my neighbors luck when that happens.

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 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".