Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Coming Home To Family


In 2016, I made a conscious effort to stick to my resolution of putting more time aside for family.  That meant that I learnt to prioritize my time, cut down on the number of social engagements and dedicated my weekends and spare time to the family.  It was a year where I spent hours deliberating over conflicting appointments, cancelling and filling entries in my diary just so I could be there for the family


Time For Mom


I spent a lot of time with Mom, and this was so because Dad had passed on only barely a year ago then.  I shared the pain of her bereavement and wanted to help her create an independent and active life particularly when all she had ever known was a life dedicated to taking care of Dad, my brother and I.  Every phone call we had, and time spent with her at our weekly visit to Mom’s were precious moments worth celebrating.  This culminated in a vacation with her in November when we went for a week-long cruise together, followed by a trip to Hanoi where we spent our time gallivanting along the small alleys looking for good bargains and street food.  We both had fun. 


Mom, throughout the year, had made an effort to keep herself busy and moved on with her life without Dad.   I enjoyed watching Mom as she kept herself busy with the things she loved to do.  She loved cooking.  So whenever we went out for a meal, she would come home to experiment in the kitchen, then whip up her own version of it.  My brother, sister-in-law, David, Joel and I became unwitting guinea pigs of her version of the Korean Army Pot, and Vietnamese Banh Mi and Vietnamese Pho.  I made a mental note to not take her to anywhere exotic for the year end vacation in case she whipped up Fish Balls Stewed In Yak’s Milk or something similar. 


I also noticed that she made it a point to not revolve her life around my brother and I.  Often, I found myself calling her at home, only to discover that she had been traipsing across town with friends, transporting containers of food that she had cooked to Granny’s, working her magic hands across the mahjong table and generally making friends and influencing people across Singapore.  I was glad because I realized that quality time, and being present had very little to do with being physically there beside her.  She certainly could hold her own.  What was most important was that she knew that I always had her in my heart and mind and would do anything to make her happy.  Even a 2 minute phone call to ask if she had eaten her lunch was enough to fill her with joy.  


I only see Mom for lunch every Sunday afternoon and I used to feel guilty about that very little time we had together.  However, coming home, for me, was remembering that the both of us as mother and daughter, had ridden the good times and bad enough to know that we had each other’s back no matter what happened.


Time For Joel


I also spent a lot of time with Joel, trying to rebuild a mother-son relationship that had been lost to 3 years of misunderstandings, miscommunication, my initial non-acceptance of his girlfriend and all the rough patches that came with a generational divide. In our separate ways, we both grew up together, learning to accept our differences and converging when and where we could to bring back peace and harmony into our home.  At this time, we have never been closer than we are now.


In the past year, Joel has been enjoying his national service stint.  I enjoyed listening to the stories he brandished about his time spent outfield and often annoyed him with the question, “So how many plasters and panadols have you dished out this week, medic?” He took his duties in the army very seriously and would get really annoyed when I poked fun at his efforts.  Just barely a year before, we would not even have a proper conversation because Joel would spend his time out of the house just to avoid having a conversation with me.  In the past, any mention of his girlfriend would have erupted into a huge quarrel. In the last 6 months, we even had meaningful discussions about his relationship.  This opened the doors to more opened communication between us.  And whether or not he was home, out on dates, or back in his army camp, it did not matter to me because I knew I was always in his heart. Our whatsapp messages which were once peppered with caustic remarks were now filled with messages from him like, “Have you had dinner?”, “Where is Pops, is he with you?”, and “What are you doing this weekend?”


I only see Joel for a few hours over the weekends and I used to feel guilty about using those few hours to nag him about his army fatigues left on the floor around the laundry basket, the unequal amount of time spent between our home and his girlfriend’s home, and his awful diet of biscuits and crisps.  However, coming home, for me, was the knowledge that Joel knew what family values meant, his proactive attempts to bring laughter and harmony into our home, and his awareness that this bond between mother and son was unbreakable.


Time For David


I spent a lot of time with David too, traveling with him whenever I could when he had a photography assignment overseas.  When we were not traveling, we took to spending our weekends on activities we found a lot of enjoyment doing together, instead of leading our separate lives like we had done before.


This was our version of separate lives – he would crash out on the sofa on weekends with the TV blasting and remote control gripped tightly in his hand, while he snored, and I would be playing with my Tarot cards in the room.   Recently, we found a lot of fun in painting together. They called it art-jamming, but the only jamming we were familiar with was either Robertson’s Lemon Curd or plucking the life out of his old guitar with his ex-band mates. This version of jamming did not involve calories, or noise, and was filled with so much more fun and laughter between us.  It was hilarious when I thought about how I used to fail at Art during my school days.  One of my paintings now sit proudly at Mom’s home while David prepares to make a case for a potential lawsuit against him from Kellogg’s for  stealing their brand image of a white chicken.


Making time for each other was a huge effort, given his travels, and my multiple commitments.  However, coming home, for me, was knowing that every now and then, when we had time to connect, David and I could always find fun and passion between us, no matter how busy we were and how different our interests could be.  We really need not be in each other’s faces every day.


Coming Home To Scotland


My 2016 resolution propelled my decision to make a trip back to the UK to visit with David’s family last November too.   We had not been back for almost 10 years, often citing the lack of time.  How could we have let 10 years pass by without setting foot in David’s hometown?  How could we have not found time to connect with his family?  Our conversations were reduced to Facebook comments, an annual phone call and a Christmas card. 


So, together with the family, we set out to create memorable moments with each other within the very short time we had together.


One of his sisters put together a collage of old family photos during dinner and it drew much laughter and banter as stories of days past were exchanged.  Time seemed to have stood still then. That collage of photos closed the gap of 10 years and that geographical barrier between Singapore and Scotland because the entire family had so much to share about the good old days.   These were memorable moments that David and I cherished.  They were more important than attempting to squeeze time for a quick phone call and a trip to visit the family.


On a Sunday morning, I took a walk with his sister around her estate in Dundee before having brunch with the family. We attempted to look for squirrels, and slid across the frosty pathways to much laughter between us.  About 17 years ago, before David and I got married, this was the sister I had a fight with over something silly and unimportant.  Over the years, I have not had time to talk to her apart from the day we got married, and during the couple of  times when David and I visited Scotland after.   That Sunday morning, I felt that my sister-in-law and I had closed that gap once and for all.  We had so much to chat about, and we had fun in each other’s company. It was special for me because we made an effort to make that morning a memorable moment for us as a family.


Also, David had the opportunity to rekindle childhood memories as we walked through the town park and attempted to climb Falkland Hill in -2 degrees temperature.  While I felt the wintry cold, my heart was warmed by the many stories that David had shared about his Mom and Dad, his school days, and his sisters. 


Another thing that made this trip to Scotland so special was because David secretly arranged for a Minister to preside over the renewal of our marriage vows at the Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh.  When the effort came from someone who could not even match his socks each morning, it was truly special.  Coming home for me, was the realization that my husband made efforts throughout our marriage to create memorable moments with me.  The much talked about “together time” which most people insisted, made a solid marriage, was really overrated. 


Throughout our 2-weeks spent in UK, we did not want to just play tourist and create photographs.  We wanted to create special moments that would be etched in our memories for a very long time, and we did.


Home Is Where The Heart Is


So yes, in 2016, I did make time for my family. I learnt to prioritize and was adept at juggling my commitments, feverishly filling in or cancelling appointments in my calendar so that I could “be present” to my loved ones.


As the year 2017 crept by furiously, and a month had already come and gone, I was reminded that coming home, was not about my physical presence at home with the family.  It was the commitment of knowing who and what mattered most. When I know who and what mattered most, my relationship with them would not be defined by my time or physical presence. 


My relationship with those who mattered most to me would be defined by :


·      My conscious effort to be kind to them instead of brushing their grief, anger, sadness, angst or frustrations off as their “having one of those moments”.


·      My needing to listen more with empathy, instead of with the intent to respond.


·      The energy I put into having meaningful conversations with them, instead of scrolling my Facebook feeds whilst chatting with them.


·      My attempts to strike a compromise and have opened discussions when we have conflicting opinions.


·      My effort to not just be present but to create memorable moments with my loved ones


This would be a great example to illustrate my point.  This Lunar New Year, my Uncle and Aunt as well as my cousin returned from Canada and Australia respectively to spend some time with Granny.  It was really not about the sacrifice of time and money made to make this trip home happen.  They did not inform anyone of their impending visit.  Instead, they delighted the entire family when they turned up at the annual reunion dinner at Mom’s, and took us by surprise.  Mom was literally in tears and Granny was extremely happy. 


Now, that was a memorable moment and definitely, the best way to Come Home.


About The Writer

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