Monday, 25 February 2013

I Love My Imperfect Family

Mum Brought The Party To Us Through Food

In the last 2 weeks, as we celebrated Lunar New Year as a family, I had given much thought to what family is about.  With just my weekly visits, I don’t see Mum and Dad often enough, though David begs to differ unless something delicious is brewing on Mum’s stove.  What he sees as lunch, I saw as love.

Mum and Dad know that I am never far away.  I often dig out the treasures of past childhood memories from within my heart as a means to help me ride the rough of adulthood.  In the Tarot language, we call this the “6 of Cups” moment.  In the marketing language, I call it “Mum’s Exquisite Culinary Delights Prepared With Love” ( I have to be 'marketing-savvy' about how I term this with Mum so that she'll do more of it).

Over the last 2 weeks, we had been bonding over Mum’s home-cooked lunches.  We have been eating our way to a comatose state whilst catching up with the extended family on everything from babies, to weddings, to work, right down to the recent hot topic about facing an over-crowded Singapore.

The more we had to eat, the livelier the discussions were, across the dining table.  It’s not just merely food.  It’s Mum’s cooking.  There’s a magic dust she sprinkles over her cooking that creates all the animated chatter and the loud laughter.

We Brought The Party To Dad With The Feasting

Even Dad had a lot of fun.  Ever since Dad’s health deteriorated over the years, given that he had suffered a “silent” stroke, Mum tried to bring any form of celebrations at home so that he could enjoy them without having to move about too much. He definitely enjoyed the array of dishes Mum cooked to celebrate the Lunar New Year.  He didn’t even mind tottering gingerly across the kitchen for half an hour to take his place at the kitchen table so that Mum could serve him some of his favorite dishes.  It was the only exercise he did for that month I think…tottering across the kitchen.

Although Dad just sat there in his favorite chair  most of the time to enjoy the family around him, and he didn’t talk much because his speech was a wee bit slower than usual, his mind is still lucid as ever.   From time to time, he would interject about a topic closest to his heart – his dislike for “The Establishment”.  For me, that was wonderful to see because it’s a sign of his unwavering fighting spirit within him.  Also, while I noticed that he might be physically slower and got quite tired often, I saw him reach out a hand to grab my nephew, pulling him closer so that he could play with the little boy.  I thought that was amazing for someone who took half an hour just to shuffle across a tiny kitchen.

When Dad couldn’t peel a fruit with his weak hands yesterday, I happily did it for him and remembered how he did the same for me when I was very young and didn’t know how to fiddle with a rambutan.   Knowing that Dad has an appetite for junk food, I watched  him look intently in anticipation at me as I removed the wrapper around a chocolate for him.  I did the same when I was very young as he opened a box of chocolates for me.  Dad had fond memories of our family dog Blooie when I was a child.  Blooie was a white toy poodle given to me as a birthday gift.  He died long ago in a road accident and that was the first time I saw my stoic father cry.  My current family dog Bailey, bears a close resemblance to Blooie.  It was heartwarming for me to see Dad laughing at Bailey and annoying the daylights out of the poor mutt who patiently allowed Dad to prod him, blow in his ear and pull his tail.   

I Love My Family

I love my family.  We aren’t perfect.  Half the extended family’s either living abroad or about to live abroad.  My immediate family looks like ambassadors for the United Nations Council For Cultural Diversity given our different last names and different nationalities.  Dad’s not in perfect health, Mum’s sometimes not in the perfect mood, David’s not a perfect shape, but hell, sometimes I am not in perfect mind!  It really doesn’t matter.  All the more I love my rather imperfect family.   However we bitch at each other, no matter how much we get on each other’s nerves and however little doses we can take of each other, at least once a year, particularly every Lunar New Year, Christmas and Easter, I would remember why I love my imperfect family.  In every way, they are perfect to me.

I can’t wait for Easter now.

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".

Dad and Mum visited the newly opened Gardens By The Bay recently.  Thanks to my cousin, they enjoyed the visit very much and it gave Dad a wonderful tan.

Dad's so happy when Bailey visits.  Bailey reminds him of Blooie, a white toy poodle Dad had given me as a birthday gift when I was a kid. Dad truly loved Blooie like a son.  Today he loves Bailey like a grandson.

Sighhhh....why can't I have a normal family.  The boy uses Bailey as a cushion from time to time.

Don't underestimate Dad...he's lucid enough to remember the past

My United Nations Family - We look like Ambassadors for Cultural Diversity.

Mum is attempting to clown about with fashion glasses. 

Friday, 8 February 2013

Chinese New Year Is A Family Thing

Chinese New Year

Indeed Chinese New Year is all about family.  It’s the longest and most important event in a Chinese festive calendar.  The purpose of which, is to welcome the wonderful season of  Spring.   This year, we celebrate the Lunar New Year of the Chinese Zodiacal sign of the Snake.  It reminded me of the stories my friends told me about how snakes, a symbol of fertility, would appear  out of their hidey holes to test the weather, some time just after Imbolc, which celebrates the midway mark between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. 

As I have been blessed with so many friends from all over the world, I thought to take this opportunity to share a bit of my culture with everyone in this blog post dedicated to my family's celebration of the Lunar New Year of the Snake.

There is a folklore that surrounded Chinese New Year.  When I was very young, I was told stories about this beast called “Nian” who would come out of the Winter hibernation to visit the villages with the intent to hunt for food.  It would  eat crops, livestock and the villagers, causing much fear.  So the villagers would put food out at their front door in the hope that “Nian”’s hunger will be satiated by the food and would leave the crops, livestock and their fellow villagers alone.  “Nian” was afraid of the colour red too, so the villagers would hang red lanterns above their doorways and everyone would wear red during Spring.  “Nian” was also afraid of loud noises hence the villagers would be lighting firecrackers throughout the village in an attempt to frighten “Nian” away.

This week, we celebrate Chinese New Year similarly by hanging red-colored decorations around the home.  I’ve got pretty calligraphy of Chinese couplets printed on red-colored paper hung all over my home and pasted on my front door….much like a Christmas wreath. 

It’s All About Family

We’d spent the week before the festivities spring cleaning and shopping for festive goodies and new clothes.  While my family and I had done all that together, the nicest thing this year was that I did the same with my team at work who are very much family to me too.  My team and I spent our lunch hour one afternoon, shopping along Chinatown and we even rolled up our sleeves to spring clean the office!  One of my more nutty staff suggested that we should be spring cleaning our office, using water with pomelo leaves soaked in it.  Pomelo is seen as a symbol of luck and success, so I hope our projects at work will be launched successfully after breaking my back wiping down my entire office using pomelo leaves.  It was hilarious really, when I started sprinkling my office space and my nameplate with the pomelo leaves in the hope of bringing abundance to my work area!

What’s most important for us during this festive holiday is the “reunion dinner” on the eve of the first day of Chinese New Year.  In China, the villages and town centres are spread far and wide so the younger generation in the family who were working all over, would make a trip home to their villages in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations which would be kicked off with the reunion dinner.  Honestly, it happens here in Singapore too, where some of my Malaysian Chinese, Australian Chinese, British Chinese, American Chinese, Indonesian Chinese, Thai Chinese and Vietnamese Chinese friends had already taken the week off to fly back home to join their extended families for the celebrations.

As today is the eve of Chinese New Year, we celebrated it with a reunion dinner at Mum and Dad’s (much like Thanksgiving), and all my uncles and aunties, my cousins, my brother, my sister-in-law, Granny, David and Joel congregated there for the scrumptious meal.  Mum laid out a smorgasbord of food themed to the festival, for example, the “Prosperity Roasted Duck”, “Longevity Noodles” and “Abundance Hot Pot”.  Okay, slightly cheesy, but you get the message.  My favorite dish at the table was the “Prosperity Raw Fish Salad” which was a dish made of slivers of freshly sliced salmon ( to represent wealth) and a colorful assortment of vegetables. The dish tasted wonderful and tossing the salad  together as a family was fun. As we tossed the salad, we had to utter words of prosperity to “seal the spell”…know what I mean?

Tomorrow, on the first day of Chinese New Year, we will visit Granny, as well as Mum and Dad – the older generation. This year, I wouldn’t visit my uncles because I wanted to dedicate more time during this holiday to David and Joel, just relaxing at home and watching movies together.  What we'd be missing would be the little “pop-up” black jack tables at my uncle’s home.  It’s always filled with much fun and laughter.   During our visits, we would give each other mandarin oranges and red packets filled with money to the children as well as to Granny, Mum and Dad. Giving out mandarin oranges and red packets is seen as a token gesture wishing our relatives, and friends a blessed Lunar New Year full of good health and prosperity. 

It’s Significance To Me

I loved Chinese New Year because of the cultural significance of familial piety.  My Granny, Dad and Mom came from a highly conventional background where they held dearly the Confucian values of respect, piety, and loyalty.  Modern day career demands and fast paced lifestyle have eroded bits of my culture and rendering it excusable  to “not observe the full practice” of the Chinese New Year celebrations.  For example,  today, we don’t wear  traditional Chinese garb (except Joel, who often become the butt of jokes when friends pointed to his Chinese traditional shirt and pants, and asked him why he was still in his pyjamas in the middle of the afternoon) and although  a married daughter was not allowed to go back to her mother’s home for the reunion dinner ( this was culturally forbidden because it was thought that once the daughter is married, she belonged to her husband's family.  A visit back to her own parents' home indicated issues with the marriage), I did.   

My generation and indeed the generation after will see  our culture eroding bit by bit but what still remains strong is our Confucian values of respect, piety and loyalty. 

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".

    My table decked with mandarin oranges, a symbol of gold and abundance, plenty of candy and chocs, and a red packet filled with money.
This is the Chinese word for Prosperity.  It's created out of paper-cutting.  I got this from Chinatown and thought it was such a creative piece of craft.

I have to admit, I haven't the faintest idea what the words in this couplet mean.  I was just told by the bloke at the shop that this was good for David's business.  Whatever helps eh?

The ubiquitous Salmon "Yu Sheng" Salad.  The higher we toss the dish with our chopsticks, the more prosperity will come our they say.

My advertising agencies very kindly visited the office bearing these gifts. 

Pomelo leaves soaked in the water meant to be used for spring cleaning the office.  This is a new custom to me.  Haven't heard that one before.  Not sure if that nutter of a staff is being funny.
The girls captured a pic of me trying to "smudge" my nameplate at the office with the darn pomelo leaves.  On looking back, I think that nutter of a staff was indeed trying to be funny.

And below, is a pic of me with Mr Bean, an albino python.  I think he is albino.  I loved Mr Bean. He is a very gentle python and was brought in by his trainer seen beside me, to usher in the Lunar New Year of the Snake with plenty of photo opportunities for the guests at the event.   He was such a poser and would be peering unabashedly at the photographer.  I never had snakes around my body before and thought he was going to be slimey and icky.  But he was warm, comfy and oh so friendly!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Older And Wiser

Older And Wiser

Now that I am older and wiser, I’ve become more tolerant and accepting and even appreciative of differences.

I pinned this new Jo down to age.  Age and experience have mellowed me, and made me a better and more open-minded  person while still maintaining that fight within me.  You’d think that the older, more experienced and better trained or educated people around me would be the same.  However, in the last month, I felt so disappointed when I encountered a couple of people who disgusted me with their prejudicial views and insincerity. 

Assaulted By Insincerity

A few months ago, there were a few fabulous initiatives launched at work with the aim to increase engagement between colleagues.  I thought that was a wonderful intent. We took that opportunity to share our hobbies, create common interest groups, share tips about family life, health and fitness.  I loved blogging, so I shared my blog.  However, through my blogs, a colleague picked up about my love for Tarot and told me that it was “spiritual” and the “mambo jambo” was “personally offensive”.   I spent a week feeling upset about this personal assault based on someone’s lack of understanding, intolerance and complete disregard for diversity of interests and experiences.  I confronted him to find out what then we should be engaging colleagues about.  He promptly replied, “Hobbies.  You know, like movies, books and food.”  So I retorted back, “That’s great, but my hobbies aren’t movies books and food.  It is Tarot.”  He couldn’t provide me a better justification thereafter, for his prejudicial views.  What’s even worse is that I had initially respected that colleague for his progressiveness, strategic thought leadership and experience.  How could I be so wrong in my judgment?  I can only be thankful that in my role, I don’t have to work too closely with him.

I was keen to move on from that incident because I didn’t want a “fuddy-duddy” and unauthentic person affect the individuality and creativity that I had come to respect in each of my team members at work.  I wanted them to know that in a world full of such unauthentic people, we still need to be true to ourselves, and be proud of our respective gifts.  Oh, I am not supposed to use the word “gifts”.  It has potentially offensive “spiritual”cannotations.

Assaulted By Prejudice

Another incident happened just last week within the Tarot community.  I had been working very hard for awhile now, building my knowledge and skills around Tarot.  Having obtained my Certified Professional Tarot Reader’s qualification from the Tarot Certification Board of America (TCBA) was one of the most fulfilling experiences for me.  I am continuing my esoteric studies only because I have a personal ambition to always learn more and be better. 

However, a very experienced Tarot reader whom I had been communicating with via social media slapped me with a personal assault that took me awhile to regain composure from, more so because she was a fellow Tarot reader.  When she found out about my qualifications, she said “Who are the TCBA to decide whether I am a proficient Tarot reader or not?  I have been reading for more than 30 years and am perhaps a better reader than one armed with a certification.”  I was appalled at that arrogance because I don’t believe there are such things as better readers or worse readers.  As lightworkers, we exist for the purpose of bringing clarity and assurance to our clients.  Bad readers and good readers don’t exist.  We are just Tarot readers trying to hold the hands of our clients.  I wrote a lengthy blog post about this on

Still Older But Wiser

25 years ago, I would have removed a shoe to throw it at people like that, and plied the corridors of my office with loud rantings. At my age, I have learnt to accept that such people do exist and we just need to manage them well, not giving them the opportunity to shake our confidence.  In fact, I used these examples to better educate my team at work about the importance of being genuine and appreciative of diversity.  I also spoke to my Tarot protégés about not being arrogant about their experience with Tarot as they get better in their reading skills.   I’d like to think that age and experience did not just make me more appreciative of differences.  I’ve also learnt to manage negative situations better too.

In fact, I shared this outlook with David when he was royally "stiffed" by someone who asked him to take some nice corporate photographs of her as she was starting a new business, for a very paltry sum of money. When she got her photos, she said she liked them. Then after sitting on them for ages, David reminded her that he had yet to be paid. She then suddenly said she didn't like them after all but couldn't explain why. David was very angry because it was a matter of principle which she had clearly violated. David was quite outraged as he had been doing fantastic photography work for years and had an amazing portfolio of photography work under his belt as a testament to his skills. He's never had an issue with his clients all this while. This particular one proved to be that odd ball who was just out to get a free ride from someone so dedicated to his craft. I too, would be mad, if it had happened to me.

Having carried my new "older, wiser, more mellowed" outlook for awhile, I tried to be positive and told him," That's ok. It's only a small sum of money. It had nothing to do with your photography and everything to do with the fact that she couldn't accept her lack of er....grace and beauty. In fact, good photography aside, the best photo-editing equipment and an army of make-up artistes couldn't even help that." I was just being completely honest but that got David laughing so hard and perhaps less mad. So you see, whether you are a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a strategist or a psychotherapist, it's not your education, profession, experience, and seniority that makes you. My older and wiser self tells me, it's actually your self-belief that does.

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".