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Friday, 28 December 2012

49. NOT the end of the world

Up until a couple of minutes right before the last heartbeat of 21.12.2012, I had been feeling a little out of sorts.  For weeks I had felt an uneasy stranglehold over my heart as I grappled with the possibilities of major earth disasters, galaxy-invading planets hurtling along predicted Milky Way alignments, problems all over the earth caused by the flipping of the magnetic poles, and/or any sort of apocalypse bringing about an ultimate end of the world.  Mind you, I didn’t rush out to stockpile food nor did I reserve a spot for my family in the French village of Bugerach (located in the foothills of the Pyrenees and rumored to be one of the spots to be spared in an apocalypse).  Instead, I just felt despondent.

Melancholy over all the possibilities my girls would miss out on if the world did come to a grinding halt.  Of all the milestones that would be eluded and all the journeys that would never be made.   Not wanting to look the fool, I kept this torment to myself, all whilst scanning the Internet for all sorts of evidence and arguments of what might happen on the 21st.   And of course that was a big mistake as the media hype and hysteria only kept mounting as the day drew closer.

But wait!  That’s just TWO days before Matt got to FINALLY hit the BIG 4-0!!  That just wasn’t fair!  I had been throwing him all sorts of celebrations since January and I wanted to see his face when he opened his presents the girls and I had hidden all over the house!  And speaking of hidden presents, what about all the Christmas presents for the girls?  Not to mention how Tia was not going to get to start at the fantastic new school she had just had been offered a place at.  Hmm.. maybe I should hold off buying her school uniform until AFTER the 21st.  I was beginning to sound like a raving lunatic to myself as I worked myself into such a state I started losing sleep over the impending day.  My self-torture continued and I found myself swinging between being logically sane and emotionally unhinged.  My biggest fear was that I was being an irresponsible mother and failing my girls by not preparing for this possible doomsday! Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and one night, as we lay in bed, I unloaded all my concerns onto Matt. 

“Matt, what do you think of all of this Mayan business?  You know, I have been reading all sorts of reports and watching lots of videos about what is going on.  Its not really the end of the world..”  I was rewarded with a look.  I pushed ahead.  “But just in case it is, I am grateful the girls will at least be with me and we will be together.. but I am sad you will be playing golf with some people you don’t really know very well and you will be so far away from us..”  I took a breath and waited for his response.  Now, Matt is one of the most pragmatic people I know (and luckily), also incredibly patient with me and one of the few people who can make me laugh in spite of myself.  If anyone can put my heart and mind at ease, this man is it.

He started by pointing out a couple of facts about Mayan history (which I won’t repeat) to make me question the validity of what was being reported; and then finished his argument by pointing out that the actual 'moment' was not meant to happen till much later on in the day – meaning he would be home by then and should the world end, I would get my wish and have us all together.  Okay, okay.  I know a few people might be chortling at my thought process here!  But ANYWAY..

When the day arrived, I confess I kept my eye on a Mayan countdown app a friend posted on FB as I went about my day, running errands and taking the girls to the movies.  And the moment came and went.  At first though, I thought the app was faulty when the countdown appeared to have increased when I went back to the page.  It took me a few ‘refreshes’ to figure out I had missed the 0.00 deadline and what I was seeing was now, in effect, a tally of how much time had passed since the world had NOT ended!  Yay!

Its been some days now since the 21.12.2012.  I am happy to say Matt got to open his birthday presents on the 23rd and we got to celebrate Christmas on the 25th.  Looks like I’ll be around a little longer to amuse my husband with my ruminations on life and love!  Lucky him!


Monday, 10 December 2012

48. Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving came and went without much fanfare in our household last month.  Not because we are not thankful for everything we have, but more because as Australians, its not a ‘holiday’ we naturally celebrate.  Which is not to say we are not grateful; after all, they don’t call Australia the ‘lucky country’ for nothing.

So, Matt and I just got back from a running event in Cambodia.  To be honest, beyond preparing for my run, I had given little thought to precious else. Additionally, I am ashamed to say, my vague knowledge of Cambodia and her besieged history left me ill-prepared for the reality that clawed at my senses – the poverty and the remnants of a civil war that literally hacked apart what was once a thriving empire, and left the country a broken shell.  And yet… the people we came across were so gracious, earnest, and for the most part, happy with their lot. 

But, the image of the woman who followed our little boat as we toured the Tonle Sap Lake, with the child who lay asleep under the blazing sun on her makeshift boat is forever burned in my memory.  As is the one of the woman with the snake-bearing children.  Both were petitioning for money.  And I could look neither in the eye as I followed our guide’s instructions to deny their requests.  “For their own good,” he counseled.  But my stomach turned inside of me as I put myself in each woman’s place and considered their reality and that of their family.  Of the life that awaited these families who lived in the water village and the limited options they had available to them.  And I was awash with guilt at my charmed existence.

But before I drown everyone with my melancholic aria, I should point out the sorrow was mine, not theirs, and quite possibly overly melodramatic on my part.   After all, the guilt was mine to bear alone and who was I to poison someone else’s reality with my doom and gloom.  In fact, from what I have seen here in Singapore, Cambodia’s future could very much be an ascending star as a multitude of schools and associations here work together and separately to raise funds to build schools and houses for the Khmer nation.  Even Faith, my eldest at 13, will be heading there next year to participate in building sturdy weather-proof houses for the Cambodians.  And so, I give thanks for the time to come and the promise of hope for this land.

Getting back to giving thanks, I often talk to the girls about how incredibly lucky we are, beyond the superficial and the materialistic, that we have each other, our health and to be able to enjoy the reality that is our’s.  Of how it is through pure fortuity we were born unto a country not drowning in warfare and the resulting opportunities that actuality alone presents us with.  And I could go on.  But instead, I will record my top 10 in my “thanksgiving list”:

1.    For the health and safety of my children and husband
2.    For the gifts that are my children and my husband in my life
3.    For the opportunities we have been blessed with
4.    For the kindness shown to us in our lives
5.    For the friendships that make our everyday richer
6.    For the ability to go running to clear my head
7.    For the life I have
8.    For the ability to see good even when the view is a little murky
9.    For being able to remember there is so much to be grateful for
10. For the freedom to make my own choices 

I am grateful.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

47. Parenting styles

We just came back from a very restful weekend in Bali but the following day saw me crashing back to ‘reality’ with a giant thump!  Ahhh…..that mountain-load of ‘enticing’ laundry, beckoning at the end of each holiday…but it is what it is. So, by noon, I had powered through two loads of washing, taken Buddy to the groomers, done the food shop and gone on my 10-km run.  As I struggled through the door with the groceries, Matt looked up from his Maths session with Tia and said, “Oh, the groomers called and I think Buddy is ready to be picked up.”   Off I trudged again, then made lunch for the hungry mob, drove Matt to work, came home, more laundry and then prepared dinner.  I think you get the picture..

At some point during dinner, Tia turned to me and cheekily asked if I had done my piano practise.  Unfortunately for her, we weren’t on the same ‘comedy channel’ at that moment as I recounted every-single-task I had ‘slaved’ through that day, asked if anyone accomplished anything beyond lounging around reading or watching TV, and then dared her to re-ask the question.  Of course, in hindsight, that was a little harsh.  After all, I only had to ask and the girls would have pitched in.  But no, I wanted them to help out because they thought of it and not because I asked them to.  I know, I know.  I am beginning to sound like a crazy woman. 

I came across an interview a few weeks ago whereby multi-talented Australian actor-singer-dancer-extraordinaire-all-round-decent-and-wonderful-human-being-and-husband Hugh Jackman, aka Wolfman from the X-men franchise, shared his thoughts on parenting.  What?  Did I just sound like I have a celebrity crush?  Awww, you caught me out.  But I am only human!  Anyhow, Hugh (Haha!  First name basis!  If only!) talked about how he “yells at his kids, they drive him to despair, he worries that his deficiencies as a parent mean he is slowly but surely stuffing them up”.  He also talked about and how children can push your buttons and make you feel such extreme emotions, and the anger or fire they can sometimes incite.  I was like, “Oh my goodness!  That is EXACTLY how I feel!”  So its just as well I’m not married to Hugh Jackman because it just wouldn’t work out with both of us stressing about the same things.  Sorry Hugh.

My beautiful husband Matt, on the other hand, has such a wonderful approach to parenthood.  When I read out an excerpt from that same article about how so-and-so’s mom said, “Relax, you worry too much.  You feed them, you love them, that’s it”, it was his turn to have his that-is-EXACTLY-how-I-feel moment. I sometimes feel envious of Matt and those of my friends who have this wonderful parenting style whereby they are so attuned to seeing the big picture and able to block out the ‘other stuff’ that, in actuality, is just ‘noise’ ...

But I cannot because at least every other day (if not everyday), there are ‘boxes’ that need to be ticked, exploits that need undertaking and ‘fires’ that need putting out.  AND, if we were BOTH laissez-faire and make-it-up-as-we-go-along, would our household still work the way it works (on a good day)?  Or would those ‘little things’ fall through the cracks because non-verbal clues were missed?  Would the girls learn to think beyond themselves, realise the importance of dreaming, or master the tools needed to pick themselves up and try again with a little fine-tuning?  Am I beginning to sound a little hysterical again? Sorry.  Okay, deep breath and stop panicking over all the ‘what-would-happens’.

At the end of the day, I don’t purport to be ‘superwoman’ and do not even try to pretend to have all the answers.  Honest with my girls about my shortcomings, I am not afraid ask for help and try to encourage the girls to go on fact-finding missions when appropriate. And with three such different individuals whose needs demand that my parenting style is constantly refined and modified as per child and situation; sometimes my appeals for us to work together as a team so the day is smoother works, and other times, not so well.  But it’s the life I have chosen and I am at peace with it.  All we can do is try our best to prepare them to stand confidently and successfully on their own two feet by giving them love, inspiring courage and fostering integrity.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

46: Two wrongs..

Whenever I finish writing a piece, I always wonder what I will work on next.  Yes, I have about 10 pieces on-the-go but quite often, these pieces just sit there until an incident 'pops up' and provides some insight, or an ENTIRELY new topic will emerge and take on a life on its own.  This is one of the latter:

Recently, I received an unpleasant call and a few bitchy texts because of  “50 Shades of Green”.  From what I gather, in spite of my efforts to be quite generic in one of the illustrations for foolish behavior, someone decided that out of some THIRTY-SEVEN lines (yes, I counted), two referred to her current situation and was so ‘shocked’ she called around to garner support for a “Mishy hate-fest”.   One particular girl rang to give me a piece of her mind but when the conversation turned thuggish and feral, and after failing to reason with her and explain she got it wrong, I had little choice but to hang up.  Rude, I know.  But I get awfully emotional when someone is yelling at me, being sarcastic about my ‘perfect family’ and trying to dictate what I can and cannot write about.  Sorry, but since when did I proclaim everything in my life was perfect?!  Obviously she has not read my scribblings and lives in La-La Land if she believes in ‘perfection’.  Anyhow, I did follow it up  with a calmer email to try to address the points raised in her accusations:

  1. No, a GENERAL commentary on the state of relationships today does not break-up marriages -- people’s careless behavior within AND outside of a relationship causes break-ups.
  2. I don’t go around telling her or anyone else what to wear or how to behave (don’t start me!), so nobody has a right to tell me what to write about.  And if she (or anyone) doesn’t like the content, don't read it.  Please.

Now, I could continue this piece with a further narration of what happened next and reveal this particular girl’s duplicitous behavior and her on-going charade of ‘sugar-and-spice-and-all-things-nice’.  In fact, when I first wrote this piece, I did.  And then I deleted it all.  Why?  Although all I would have had done was laid bare the truth, it made me feel physically ill that someone else’s venom and spitefulness could manipulate me into an exchange of hateful and sarcastic verbal warfare. Quite simply, as I previously said in “Mean Girls”, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Don’t get me wrong.  Normally, my primal instinct is to fight back and throw ‘mud’ back at my aggressor.  Nearly always.  After years of being put down by bullies and taken advantage of, I spent a good chunk of my late teens and early 20s like a bull in a china shop, under the mistaken belief I was fighting for the truth and HAD to stand up for myself.  And then,  I realized something.  I didn’t like being that person, the one filled with anger and a poisoned tongue, always ready for a fight.  And of course, becoming a mother also made me mindful of what kind of learned behavior I wanted the girls to have – if only for them to have an easier life in the ‘jungle’ of life.  And so, over time, I learnt to choose my ‘battles’.  At times, it has meant biting my tongue, hoping that the truth would come out, only to be disappointed.  But time is a great healer and no matter the end-result, once the initial indignation and disappointment fades, I ALWAYS feel better in myself that I didn’t stoop to the other party’s level.  After all, silence, they say, is golden.

I took the girls to the National Library yesterday to change their books.  As I was attempting a reverse park, a woman used her car to aggressively ‘nudge’ me to ‘speed it up’.  Much to her dismay, and especially fed-up after the drama from a couple of days ago, I stepped out of my car and approached her’s – mid-pivot.  Nervously, she wound her window down.  My “there is no need for that sort of behavior.  Please be patient…” was met with her haughty “just move your car”.  I shot back with a “you have terrible manners!”, finished the park, and headed upstairs to return the girls’ books.  Low and behold, a couple of minutes later, the same woman stood behind us in line.  As my three girls were first in line, I told them to stand aside for the woman as she seemed to be in a hurry.  They did and she said thank you – somewhat grudgingly.   She hurried away looking a little shamefaced.   My little one recognized her and asked why we let her go first even though she was so ‘mean’ before.  I just said, “Sweetie, two wrongs don’t make a right and sometimes doing the right thing is the best action.”  And with that lesson passed on, we continued on our way. 


Monday, 5 November 2012

45: No beauty queen

As a child, and right until I left home at 17, I was force-fed a daily diet of jibes of how ugly, fat and stupid I was.  They left such an imprint that even at 40-something, even though my head now knows different, the wounded child within cringes at every imagined magnified flaw.  When I became a teenager, the insults took on another level where my own father gave me all sorts of hurtful labels (eg slut, whore) – all because boys started showing an interest and calling the house.  I felt embarrassed and dirty.  So I had my hair cut short (to look like a boy), and tried my hardest to blend in with the furniture and not call attention to myself.  Of course, years later, chasing a career in show business was SO at odds with that! But a lifetime of self-loathing followed.  Then again, it took having my own babies to realize the failings did not lie within myself but with the monsters who had branded me... 

Then, some 15 years ago, my older brother asked me to accompany his wife to a cosmetic surgeon’s office in Bangkok because she was anxious about her level of English and apprehensive of the potential end-product from a ‘lost-in-translation’ situation.  Meanwhile, I was more concerned about my lack of proficiency in Cantonese (my sister-in-law’s mother tongue) AND my lack of Thai!  But he insisted.  And so, like a good little sister, I went along on the appointed day.  Long story short, after the doctor finished with her patient, she turned around to me and said, “Now, I could really get to work on your face and make you look MUCH better!”  Ouch!

But the ‘good doctor’ was probably right.  Even now, I don’t do myself any favours.  I struggle to commit to any sort of beauty regime, keep my nearly-always-unpainted nails short; and am known to sport a shiny forehead due to a lack of foundation or powder.  At 40-something, I do try to remember to at least moisturise (sometimes), but even I know its only a half-assed job. My daughters go to the hairdressers more than I do; AND I know at least one girlfriend who would be horrified to know I nearly ALWAYS take the kids to school in my workout gear.  After all, why bother with the hassle if I am just going running straight after?  The problem with that?  I struggle to be useful to my girls when it comes to the whole ‘beautify me’ thingy, often having to call my girlfriends who have a better idea on – for example, how to avoid collecting multiple frequent flyer points in Zits-ville or how to avoid a shiny face!

I kid you not! A couple of months back, when Matt and I got invited to go to some swanky fundraiser, I was petrified!  The crew who invited us are what they would call in Italy “sprezzatura”, in that they look fabulously and effortlessly glamorous – 24/7! Panicked, I promptly booked a facial, called a girlfriend-in-the-know about the whole eyelash thingy (don’t ask!) and spent the best of two weeks trawling the malls trying to find the ‘perfect’ dress and frankly, the WHOLE thing was EXHAUSTING! The time and effort required!  Urgh!  I admit I came away with a new-found respect for these girls from the little I glimpsed of their world.  But I cannot help myself – a ‘glamour-puss’ I am not.  Nada time nor patience.

I know I am not good at teaching the girls the in’s and out’s of ‘prettying-up’ and often find myself extolling a “less is more” mantra with them – whilst calling girlfriends in a panic for advice or researching the Internet for answers I do not possess.  BUT, I AM good at talking to them about being kind and strong; about the importance of ‘feeding’ their soul, heart and mind; of being true and honest; and the paramount necessity of balance and dreaming.  And most importantly, how beautiful and loved they are.  I hope its enough.


Friday, 19 October 2012

44. 50 shades of green

At 20-something, I was an ardent serial dater but convinced that ‘THE one’ only existed in movies and fairytales.  Thrice engaged, friends swiftly tagged me ‘the runaway bride’.  But I couldn’t help it as I see-sawed between hurtling towards, and then running screaming from, the white-picket-fence-2.5 kids stereotype of my generation. Fueling my emotional schizophrenia, was my memory of being a bi-product of a union that imploded when my father’s two-timing came to light and a determination to never put myself in a position where I could be similarly cuckolded.  And then, I met Matt.  And in spite of myself and my fears, I fell head-over-heels (relatively cautiously) and allowed myself to be vulnerable (somewhat reluctantly!).

But for the first few years, I worried.  Worried that my older brother would turn out to be right when he ‘sagely’ told me that ALL men cheat because they ‘simply cannot help it’.   And the problem was, I often witnessed it myself.  At work, wherever I sang, all sorts of men would pursue me with ardent declarations of love (only to cheekily turn up with their wives/girlfriends days/weeks or months later!); or later on, as a mother on the school run, having dads ‘hit’ on me.  And I would feign ignorance – if only to avoid the entailing drama!  Later I would ask Matt, “Am I SO old fashioned and such a prude that these guys’ behavior bother me?”  Was I a prig to measure these situations against whether I would be comfortable with Matt behaving or talking that way with another girl; or how would he feel if I behaved that way?  Was I over-reacting by then steering clear of that latest pesky geezer-in-question?  But by the time I got to 30-something, it was evident that the cause of marriages collapsing was no longer male-dominated. 

Which brings me to the topic de jour: why do some, BOTH men and women, feel that what they have at home is not enough?  An acquaintance has recently started texting and going on ‘dates’ with a man she met at a nightclub on a girls’ night out.  The problem?  1. She is married with the 'requisite' 2.5 children  2. The ‘other man’ doesn’t know she’s married – and the lies and half-truths just multiply!

Not wanting to play judge nor jury here because nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors,  but using this scenario as an example, why do so many dabble with the taboo – be it flirting, ‘hooking up’, or a full blown affaire de Coeur in spite of the nagging feeling there cannot be a happy ending and at least one person will end up devastated.  Why the sabotage?  Men who say things they shouldn’t and make promises they couldn’t possibly keep because of prior 'commitments', women who risk everything in exchange for a little bit of attention or the ones who romanticise that bastard ex -- perhaps looking to recreate something they read in books like D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover or E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey,  to fabricate an ‘exciting’ diversion from what they consider their monotonous and dreary everyday. 

This whole ‘grass is greener on the other side’ notion is often fiction at its 'best'  because majority of the time, if you climbed over the ‘fence’, there’s a high likelihood that its astro-turf or worse, dyed!  Over the years, I’ve had friends (both male and female) whom I’ve had to shake and ask “What were you thinking?”, only to be faced with responses of varying versions of how things weren’t perfect at home and blah, blah, blah..  They forget it takes two to tango.

And so, in spite of some 16 years together, I don’t assume that Matt and I are impervious to the relationship fallout's we have both since witnessed all around us and we try to keep a close eye of the state of our marriage, working very hard to keep things interesting between us.  I am no gardener but I DO know that the grass is greener where it is watered, mowed, fertilised and taken care of.


Thursday, 11 October 2012

43. Daughters

I’ve had one of those months where besides the ‘everyday stuff’, I feel as if I’ve spent nearly every waking hour, running around trying to put out one ‘fire’ after another – of the emotional kind – and frankly, I am exhausted.  Years ago, someone knowingly chuckled when I mentioned I have three daughters.  Back then, I didn’t get it.  But now, I am just beginning to understand.  

It began with me trying to encourage my eldest to participate in the everyday with honesty and awareness, instead of just going through the motions and/or only skimming  for the barest of details before throwing herself head-first (or heart) into a commitment.  That said, in spite of my not-so-subtle hints, she procrastinated over one of the matters for a little too long – and then the issue was taken out of her hands and she felt bereft and hurt.  Sigh.  There is only so much a pep talk and motivational one-liner can help when you are feeling down; and at the end of the day, its up to the individual to haul themselves out of that emotional 'ditch'.  And yet, considering she was also negotiating a new school AND the ending of a crush-that-was-going-nowhere, to her credit, after earnest tête-à-têtes, she appears to be getting on with it with a grace that I never possessed at her age.  But before I could say “Whew, let’s do a happy dance for surviving that challenge!”, another ‘fire’ appeared, and another and another… You get the picture.

Meanwhile, in-between trying to encourage my other child to believe in herself and see how exceptional and wonderful she is, I ALSO had to discourage her latest occupation – creating drama (which I sense also stems from her insecurities).  The crazy thing is, she is the child who achieves so much with so little effort and always seems to be able to form strong friendships which aren’t wrought with jealousy! So why the theatrics?  I am still trying to figure it out..

Sigh!  And just when I finished clearing up all the balled-up snotty tissues yielded  from that 'case', I noticed my other child’s inability to say “no” was getting her in all sorts of situations.  Luckily, at nearly-9, the scope is limited in what KIND of ‘situation’ you can find yourself in.  But as I imagined all the types of bothers she COULD get herself into later on in life if she didn’t learn how to say “no”, we had a few heart-to-hearts.  But yet, as I watched her from across the school playground a few days later, it was evident she had a long way to go before she learned the lesson and I reconciled myself to the knowledge that it was going to be an ongoing conversation for the foreseeable future.  But before I could take a breath, another situation cropped up which involved all three!

Urgh!  Trying to teach the girls the fine balance of standing up for themselves, but in a way that doesn’t cause them to mutate into mean girls, is no easy matter.  In our household, all three are quite awesome when it comes to standing up for others, but when it comes to themselves, it becomes an interesting study.  One child becomes overly defensive and aggressive, one is deceptively passive but actually on a slow-boil – until her emotions get the better of her and she explodes.  And the last?  She just wants everyone to be happy but forgets that she too deserves that satisfaction, until it all becomes too much and overwhelms her.  But no matter the behavioral feature of the child, it all ends in frustrated and confused tears.  Sometimes, even mine!

And its these times especially when I am grateful I have the choice to be there for them because not everyone is lucky enough to be able to nominate the role they want to play in their children’s lives.  

Yes, the drama, whenever it crops up, is draining.  And more often than not, unnecessary.  But, I understand it’s a rite of passage – the drama and zits, the tears and menstruation-induced mood swings, the angst and emotional roller coasters.   Throw into the mix the different personalities and traits, and with no ‘surefire-guaranteed-to-solve-it-all guide book’, all you can do is 'doggy paddle' (and in my case, pour myself a nice stiff drink at the end of the day!).

But yet, in spite of the drama, tampons and stuff that seem to magically walk out of my room and end up in their’s, I would not swap my daughters for all the tea in China because they are MY girls.  I may not always understand them or their needs but I think, alongside Matt, they are the most wonderful people in the world and so I try my hardest to figure it out, often learning on the job and making it up as I go along.

And so I pray.  For guidance, wisdom and insight.  For patience.  And most importantly, a healthy sense of humor – for us all!


Thursday, 27 September 2012

42. In the big scheme of things..

Okay.  You know how sometimes, you go through periods where for a few days in a row, everyday just feels like “one of those days”?  Well, I did.  Just.  Have spent the last 24 hours in verbal warfare with my bank (should I name and shame?) because their ineffectual management of my accounts have resulted in a few other things not going as smoothly as it should – in spite of all my behind-the-scenes control-freak-management.  Should I start from the beginning?

The growing urgency of my over-flowing to-do list has kept me up for the past two weeks and for the better part, I’ve managed to keep on top of it by dealing with one task at a time – otherwise I just get overwhelmed.  So, right now, top of my list are:

1. Final arrangements for Matt’s 40th birthday boys fishing trip this Saturday
-   organize beer, Redbull, Berocca; organize food for barbecue at our’s after the trip for ‘the boys’ and their families; organize and pay charter boat people for fishing equipment; organize stuff I will need to make everyone breakfast rolls as per Matt’s request

2. Re-submit Tia and Paige’s applications for next school year for UWCSEA
-   sort and scan past school reports, passports, ID cards, passport size pictures, and awards.  Keep under 1MB; fill out forms online; organize payment

And I could go on and REALLY bore you with the rest of my list which include the need to get all four tyres changed, fine-tuning our upcoming adventure to China, another Barbie next weekend, Paige’s birthday party, research into a new business idea.. Sorry, I DID say I would stop.  The problem with my list is this: it only takes but one ‘step’ in the ‘grand plan’ to go awry before I feel like the ‘wheels are falling off the cart’.  And then I freak out.  Have a meltdown.  Then stop sleeping.  And EVERYTHING becomes a big deal! And I wonder how my very capable friends with full-scale demanding careers manage to juggle family and work. And then I remembered something.

Two days ago, I had a lucky escape while on my weekly Mount Faber ride.  I was on my fifth round of my seventh rotation.  Going downhill, but not super fast as I was stuck behind a bus crammed with tourists.  Anyhow, I would like to think I walk, run and ride like a driver in that I am always looking ahead and around me – just in case.  So I had my wits about me as I spotted a lone woman waiting to cross the road after the bus at the end of this particular hill, especially because I always turn right to continue my rotation, in opposition to the bus’ route and am always mindful of this corner for unexpected traffic.

I am unsure if she saw me or, if she saw me but assumed I would follow the bus and also turn left.  Either way, I gently eased on my brakes and signalled – just as she walked straight into my path!  I swerved.  Missed her.  But at the angle I turned, my pedal hit the road.  My bike stopped short.  I kept going – until I landed in the middle of the luckily-deserted-road.  I should have been very hurt.  There should have been blood, a graze or two and sprains.  But I got really lucky and escaped with only a couple of attractive looking bruises..  Even my bike survived another two rotations after the fact!

Remembering the incident made me stop my internal-rant about the stupid bank and incompetent staff.  Compelled me to take a deep breath.  Forced me think beyond the immediate.  And this is what I 'saw':  the fishing trip and subsequent barbecue will fall into place.  It always does.  And if it doesn’t all go like clockwork, it will still work out – somehow.  Furthermore, a 24 or 36 hour lapse in submitting the girls’ school applications is neither here nor there.  They will get a spot when it’s the perfect time for them to get a place in the school.  As for the bank, maybe its time I seriously consider a substitute.

Meanwhile, maybe its time to re-read the book that Matt bought me oh-so-many moons ago: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.. and its all small stuff”.


Monday, 24 September 2012

41. Everybody has an opinion

On our way to school the other day, Faith and I had a conversation that went a little like this:

Faith: Mom, what type of shape would you say my face is?
Me: What?  Why do you ask? 
Faith: I was just wondering..
Me: Sweetie, too much time and energy is wasted on ‘experts’ telling you who you are and what you should be or do.  You and your sisters are very lucky...  You are all healthy and beautiful.
Faith: Hmm..
Me: Okay, my point is this, the problem with these sort of questions is this -- depending on who you’re asking, everyone will have a different opinion.
Faith: Okay.  I get it.  But if you HAD to judge what shape my face was…
Me: In my opinion, if among all the different shapes available, and there was one called “beautiful”, that would be what I would pick.
Faith: Aww… thanks Mom.

The above is actually the abridged version of our conversation -- I had gone into a lengthy soliloquy discussing how differing people will often have contrasting opinions on a subject or person based on their personal history and experiences.  Everybody has an viewpoint about this and that.  It cannot be helped.  What differentiates us from one another is whether the belief is informed and how we allow that bias to direct the way we behave on a day-to-day basis.  That said, at 40-something, I have long given up getting my knickers in a knot about other people’s opinions, regardless of how keen they seem to want to share them!  Well, at least I try not to..

For as long as I can remember, the majority of people I met have tried to guess my heritage.  Depending on who I spoke with, they often exclaimed such surprise at my Chinese or Spanish lineage; as they expressed their varying opinions of what THEY thought I looked like.  And to be honest, it got under my skin.  AND then, when I first became a mother, no doubt like many new moms, I was fiercely protective of anything said about my babies.  People, both strangers and the-more-familiar, would come up and share their unsolicited opinions about the girls! JOY. 

For example, for Faith, I’ve had someone comment on how her naturally curly hair was just baby hair and it was all going to fall off and become dead straight!  Even now, people are a tad too keen to comment whether the girls look like Matt or me.  My standard response?  I tell them that I THINK my girls look exactly like THEMSELVES and are beautiful.

Thankfully, over the years, I am learning (I was going to say “I have learnt” but realized it wasn’t entirely true!!) to not to be so sensitive about other people’s opinions.  Even the ones who don’t believe me when I tell them “no, I don’t perm my children’s hair”!  I have learnt that human nature is that once people have decided on something, most of the time, they have no interest in changing their mind – because it would mean having to admit they were wrong to begin with. 

But in spite of all my posturing about ‘opinion’, I actually drum into my girls that its important to have an opinion; but I try to teach them to be reasonably au fait with their viewpoints as opposed to following public opinion indiscriminately.  As Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once said:

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth

And with that, I continue to encourage the girls to keep their eyes and opinions open as they make their way through this world of ours.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

40. Mean girls

As I write this, my blood is absolutely boiling because one of the mothers at school has been talking about me.  Apparently I am a real 'party animal' and am always in bars and nightclubs! This ‘juicy newsflash' reached my ears when her ten-year-old shared the ‘gossip’ with a classmate, who in-turn alerted my heart-on-the-sleeve-sensitive-Tia.  After comforting a distraught Tia who was crushed from what she saw as a vilification of her mom, we talked about the unfortunate reality of certain types in the world.  Then, I rang the source.  Of course she expressed shock and denied liability, oscillating between laying the blame on her child, and insisting she had never EVER spoken about me to anyone in her life! Except, this was not an isolated incident because two separate sources had already blown the whistle on her and both times, I was puzzled because this girl didn’t know me beyond the rudimentary greetings we had exchanged at school!  Was I tempted to call her out on it.  Yes.  Could I be bothered?  No.  Frankly, I am allergic to drama.  I rang her to show Tia the importance of standing up to bullies. BLEH!

Through the years, I’ve had so many encounters with all sorts of bitchy varieties.  Why oh why do I attract them?  Now THAT’S a VERY good question!  Matt says I am an easy target.  A girlfriend said it was probably because I am too ‘open’ and friendly.  Anyhow, whatever the reason, I find it quite maddening!

From the girl in Hong Kong (AND the one in London!) who each wormed their way into my inner circle, only to distort and falsify conversations in order to sabotage my friendships with other people; to the acquaintance who approached me one day just to share her opinion of how stupid I looked with pigtails.  Did I mention Ms ‘charming’ often wore the most hideous of weaves in garish styles and colours?  Ahh, but I must not stoop to her level because two ‘wrongs’ don’t make a ‘right’ and being candid does not give you the license to be unkind.  Although, I AM tempted to walk around with a sign that reads: Haters, take your drama somewhere else!  SIGH.

As a mother, it especially pains me to see any child on the receiving end of spiteful behaviour -- and its even worse when it is your child being bullied.  My gut still turns itself inside-out when I recall how a handful of girls at school made Faith’s life miserable for a few years.  From excluding her to name calling, to actual physical abuse.  We had endless discussions about how to deal with the bullies.  Crucially, we also talked about how their behaviour was more likely a manifestation of their insecurities and possibly stuff they were going through at home as opposed to a reflection of who she was.  To her credit, Faith found the confidence to celebrate her individuality, steered away from the mean girls and found people who didn’t make her feel bad about herself.

Getting back to the original incident that kicked off this rant, the next morning at breakfast, Tia had a few questions. She wanted to know why I didn’t tell the woman I knew about all the other things she had said about me.  I replied there was nothing to gain from revealing the true extent of my knowledge.  She then asked, “What are you going to do the next time you see her?”  My response was no doubt long-winded but I expressed that while it wasn’t a big deal I was not on this woman’s ‘BFF’ list, and that her opinion of me was HER problem, not mine; I wasn’t going to let someone else’s maliciousness make me feel bad about myself or stop me from being friendly.  I then finished our conversation with an old Eleanor Roosevelt quote: 

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

That made my little girl break into a big smile as she skipped off to get ready for school. 


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

39. Its a fine line..

It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain.  No, I am not referring to 80s Aussie rock band Divinyls’ song “Pleasure and Pain”; nor am I alluding to the kind of ‘proceedings’ as described in E L James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey”!  Okay, let me start again.  As you may have heard, I have been putting my poor 40-something-year-old body through some punishment for the sake of training for a running event in Angkor Wat in December.  Yes, yes, I’m talking about it again!  How can I not when so much of my week revolves around it at the moment. 

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago, around the same time Matt got injured, I felt a muscle in my right leg twinge.  In denial, my training continued regardless, but the grumbling muscle finally got the better of me and I booked myself in for a massage a few days later when a spare hour happily appeared in my diary.

“Ahhhh.. this will get me back in proper working order..” I thought as I got ‘into position’ and waited for the therapist.  I was absolutely aching all over and so tired of being in pain.  My masseur du jour entered the room and the first thing she said was: “You run.”  Just those two words and then, she got to work.   “How’s the pressure?” she asked.  I told her she could go a little harder.  My mistake.  BIG mistake.

With that response, the ‘pain-fest’ kicked up a gear but what topped it off was my now-excruciating massage was also peppered with all sorts of pointers from my new ‘guru’.  Apparently, I had ‘bubbles’ all through my system (I thought they were knots!) which were brought on by hot showers and my supposed precarious consumption of peanuts and cold drinks.  She admonished me for using air-conditioning and when I countered I don’t actually have it on during the day, she tarried with a “what about in the car?”  My ‘guru’ then started telling me how one side of me was not longer bloated due to her expert massaging (okaaaaay..) and then started prodding different parts of my aching muscles – I think to determine whether or not I deserved more punishment.  Darn!  I started with aching muscles but now felt like my body was riddled with many more ailments that I had walked in with!

Suddenly, I had a flashback!  Some ten months ago, I was at this very same ‘spa’ and the therapist had, towards the end of my session, started kneading overly enthusiastically around my stomach region.  I remember grabbing at her hands, saying she had to either stop or be more gentle.  That’s when she mumbled something about how my womb had ‘dropped’ and needed pushing back!  I remember pleading with her through the pain that I already had three children and didn’t need my womb to be in the right place as I had NO intention of using it again in this lifetime!  She stopped – albeit reluctantly.

And that’s when the penny dropped!  Holy cannenoli!   The therapist then and the one hovering over me now were one and the same!  Armed with this new knowledge, the session continued with me largely dutifully agreeing to everything she said: “Can you feel how much better that feels?”  Me: “Yes, yes, much better.”

We parted ways with her showing me how to do a dead lift (she offered, I didn’t ask why but just tried to look interested!) and a stern directive to make another appointment to see her within three weeks (okaaaaay…. NOT!).  I made a quick exit citing an imaginary meeting.

I had another much-needed massage today.  Yes, I asked for a different therapist and yes, her technique was much MUCH more suited to my ‘pain threshold’.  That said, perhaps I should start thinking about why I put my body through so much torture.. ah yes, now I remember.  Its because I HAVE to due to my love affair with food.  Oh well, as the saying goes: it’s a fine line…