Thursday, 21 May 2015

Suffering, mortality and above all, Grace

Small Boy has a chesty cough that keeps him up at night.  No adult in the household gets any sleep when he is up.  He wanders over to our room, pats me awake for sips of water, wants to be held upright and disturbs our rest.  It is only with much persuasion and patience that he goes back to his own bed to lie down.

Watching my child suffer, even for a small illness, brings the wish to exchange places with him.  If only I can take away his illness and bring it onto me to alleviate his suffering.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), I have had much practice in watching a loved one suffer.

Dad turned 70 in Feb this year.  Neither my sisters nor I thought he would make this far, hence we threw a party for him, inviting his siblings for dinner at a Teochew restaurant to celebrate that "YES he made it".  The litany of his illnesses are long: lung operation at age 48 to remove 2/3s of his smoke-blackened lungs, stroke at age 55 which paralysed the right side of his body, prostate cancer at age 62 followed by skin cancer a year after due to the radiotherapy.  It is a sheer miracle he is alive.

I have a memory of my dad standing at the void deck of our apartment waiting for me to pick him up in the taxi. His back was stooped.  His eyes were closed and his arms leaned on the wall for support.  I saw an old man then, realised in that moment that he and my mother will not live forever.  Yes I know that logically he will pass on one day, but the image stays with me.

Mom had a health scare at age 64.  Stage 2 colon cancer.  Lay fragile on the hospital bed after the doctors cut out 10cm of her colon.  My dad held her hand when she came out of GA, just as she held his through his lung operation, his stroke, his radiotherapy.  Mom had been the strong one...

The Hubs is all clear for 3 years after his eye operation way back in 2012.  One day in May 2012, he finally disclosed to me that the floaters (debri in our eyes from broken blood vessels during birth) in his eyes were getting unusually more and more.  That day, we were at the GP.  2 days later, we went to the eye specialist Dr Chua.  Dr Chua used a machine to scan the Hubs' right eye, and found the floaters were actually blood clots trying to form as the tiny blood vessels had burst.  The normal pressure in all 4 quarters of the right iris is 80.  The lowest number registered by the machine on the Hubs' right eye was 220, with the highest being 480.  Dr Chua recommended laser surgery the very next day to close the blood vessels, prevent further bleeding lest his vision is impaired.  I went home in a daze that evening, and managed to arrange for the boys to be at my mother's the next morning while I took a taxi with the Hubs (did not trust myself to drive) to Mt Elizabeth Hospital the next day.  The rest of the day passed in a blur.  Thank God he is all well now.

I can bear my own suffering.  I cannot bear it when my beloved suffers.

I am very glad that my God knows what it is like to watch the beloved suffer.  For He sent His Son to save the world, did He not?
There is Grace there, and Hope, and Faith.  Grace freely given.

Thursday, 25 September 2014


Intuition is nothing more than taking in data points, and seeing a pattern.

My intuition kicked in ~2 years ago.  On a work telecon meeting with my teammates, I listened half-heartedly to the usual preamble of how are yous, and what has been the highlight/lowlight of the past fortnight, when suddenly my teammate mentioned that she was in hospital for a week.  I messaged her almost immediately to ask how she was, and was she better.  After she evaded giving me a straight answer after I asked what was her illness.... I said... "Did you have a miscarriage?"

She was surprised enough to start yes, and really how did I know?

The data points are (1) she is normally a bubbly, enthusiastic person (2) she sounded sad - yes it came through in her voice even though the telecon only had audio without video (3) I know she had been trying for a baby from a previous conversation.  Putting all these separate pieces of information together, I deduced that she had been pregnant, and lost the baby.
See, easy peasy.

This afternoon, I went to an alternative healer who is trained in the ancient Chinese art of bone therapy.  He asked me to lie face down, felt along my spine, and said a couple of startling things about me, things that I never expected a total stranger to know about me....

Intuition?  Tis his training in the healing arts that gave him these insights into me.  My body really was laid out before him like a map.  This spot was connected to my heart, this to my colon, this to my reproductive system.  WOW.

I suppose it only seems wow to me, because I am not trained to see what he saw.

In the age of Google where every fact can be found with a search, the art of intuition is even more crucial for excelling in one's chosen field.  A teacher leads you to the facts, education is seeing patterns when the data points are a mess to the untrained eye.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Purple sky

This post was written mid Mar before my Melbourne 2-week self drive holiday.  I have sorely neglected my blog... Cannot post in the office due to IE incompatibility with Blogger (and I think Corporate IT blocked blogger!) and little time to post at home after eating dinner, and putting the boys to sleep.

I had set my internal alarm clock to wake me at 630am.  Half an hour before the boys were supposed to wake.  To catch up on my alone time – reading newspapers, and reading Facebook feeds. I probably made a little too much noise opening my closet to take out my work clothes (even though I tried to move quietly).  Medium Boy stirred.  I tip-toed out to the kitchen to toast my bread, and make myself a cup of coffee.  Medium Boy stumbled out sleepily, then flew to hug me at the waist.  “What happened, dear?” I asked.  “I missed you when I woke up, Mama…” he replied, rubbing his eyes. “Mama, I have an idea. Let’s cuddle and watch the sky.”
And so we did.  As we huddled in the chilly morning under the blanket watching the sky turn from night to day, Medium Boy told me that his Ikea toy dog had a bad dream, of bad guys chasing him.  I checked in on his dog, gave him and Dog a few kisses, and yes, I really wanted to read my own stuff.  Hence I eased out of the bed, and told him I was really hungry, and I needed to eat.  He looked at me with solemn eyes (same expression when he first opened his eyes at birth to look at me, my firstborn is a solemn one) and said ok, but come back soon.
He came out to get me – again! – when I took a longer time than he wanted.  This push and pull, is the weave and warp of my life now.  I want to be with the children, and I want to be alone.  When I share this with the Husband, he looks at me incredulously. Tell them to leave you alone when you want to be alone, he says.  That easy?  Yes it is that easy.  And only a dad would think about that, a mom definitely wouldn't.
Really?  I do not know. I do know that I need to nourish myself.  And nourishing myself was what I did this morning when I cuddled my son and watched night turn into day.
The sky is purple, he told me.  
Yes my son, it is.  You notice the purples and the oranges only when you look.  Please continue to look even as you grow.  I am proud that you turn to nature to start your day.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Where are the kids?

Hello everybody!  I am back writing again on my blog.  Came back from MY after the annual CNY trip back.  The boys had FUN FUN FUN! Fireworks, poppers thrown onto the floor, firecrackers, topped off with a trip to bathe and frolic in the river on Tuesday.

My boys are active boys…. they run around, they tug my hand to show me stuff, most tree branches have to be inspected for any interesting insects that might come out…. bringing them outside means the world entertains them, not just me or the Husband.

Last evening at ~815pm, I walked with the 2 boys out to the library.  Strangely enough, there were no kids playing at the playground downstairs or cycling/skating at the concrete court.  Where are all the kids?

If I guess correctly, most children were doing homework at home, or coming back/going to enrichment classes on a Thu evening.  It would be a strange day when my boys grow up and they too have their own routines.  They are now old enough that I do not need to monitor them (for safety reasons) 24/7 and I have some space and time to do my own things… and young enough that they still tug my hand to show me their latest discovery, be it a new way to construct a fan (Medium Boy) or a new configuration of bowling pins / race tracks (Small Boy).

Life is good with these 2 little boys around.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Look back at Nov and Dec

I realise that it has been a good 2 months since I last blogged.  The reason I started to blog is to capture the fleeting thoughts and make sense of them…. The days and months have passed me quickly by.

Aug was the announcement of the reorganisation at work. I start tomorrow with a new boss and new teammates.  Hope the new setup is more beneficial for my personal growth journey!

Nov and Dec were trying months.
15 Nov: start of school holidays.  My ILs arrive with SIL's 1-and-a-half year old daughter N in tow.  They bring lots of stuff over with a baby, some of which are still cluttering up my home today.  I shall bring the playpen, diapers, baby bottle detergent, baby bottle brush and baby clothes back to my SIL when I return to MY for CNY.
I receive news at work that my presence is necessary for a workshop on 28 Nov, 2 weeks before the event, when I had already taken leave to be with my family at Legoland.

16 Nov: Little N falls ill with a wheezing cough and runny nose.

18 Nov: I accompany N and ILs to the boys' PD, who as I blogged before in Feb, is worth her weight in gold. I accompany them to explain to the nurses bat little N as the PD normally does not take in new patients as her current patient load is full to bursting.

22 Nov: The Husband and I take a day off to celebrate my birthday.  We drove to JB to shop for the boys' at-home clothes (RM5 for a tee! RM10 for shorts! cheap!) and lug groceries including milk powder back home.

24 Nov: SIL arrives with elder daughter G.  G and Medium Boy promptly devise all sorts of games together.  I am reminded anew why I agreed to the crowds descending on my 88 sq metre apartment in the first place…. to make memories with the boys' cousins!  Hang onto that thought…… because…..

27 Nov: I retire to bed with a headache.  Or rather, that was my original intention when I returned home.  Medium Boy, Small Boy and G have child tickets to the Mickey Mouse magic show at MBS.  The Husband bought just ONE adult ticket.  The SIL decides to be the security guard cum bag concierge over the children.  Seeing that I am home, the MIL decides to go out too, leaving me alone with the helper and N.
N cries for one hour, 15mins before she falls asleep.

28 Nov: I wake up with headache still intact and sit through an intense workshop in Park Hotel, half my mind on work and networking, half my mind wishing I were with the boys at Legoland.

29 Nov: I take a bus to Legoland.  Start off from SG at 9am.  Waiting at the SG checkpoint - 45mins.  Waiting at the MY checkpoint - 1h10mins.  I arrive at Legoland at 1130am.

30 Nov: Return to SG, driving the females of the home (MIL, SIL, G and N, helper) home first.  The boys (FIL, the Husband, Medium Boy, Small Boy) are off on an errand to retrieve the Groupon present that FIL bought online.  Indicated the shipping address as one of the Husband's friends staying in JB.  Friend was not at home when courier came.  Courier refused to release the package to the Husband's friend, citing that his name is not the same as the one indicated on the package.  Gee.  What a whole lot of trouble over one online purchase.
30 Nov was the Husband's 2nd attempt to pick up the package.  22 Nov was the first.

1 Dec: ILs plus 2 little girls depart SG.

9 Dec: Little India riot in SG.  Helper's husband is fatally stabbed in Manila.  While doing his job as a security guard.  What an absolute waste.
I complete my last ops note of 2013.  Together with margin latest estimates that indicate we will fall short of target.  Sigh.

10 Dec: Helper receives news.  Her 12yo daughter sits silent in a corner of the morgue after identifying her father's body.  Only speaks and cries when my helper calls home.

12 Dec: Helper flies home.

29 Dec: Helper returns.

1 Jan: I host New Year lunch for my parents and aunts today.  It is a blessing to feast with family :)

As you can see, I have had 2 months of ups and downs.  Above all, I am thankful for the Husband who made things easier for me when he could.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Poverty: the closed circle

I dashed into the taxi to the school this morning. 

I wore an old and faded red t-shirt, half jeans with a tear in the right knee and carried a ratty handbag.  That is my grocery shopping uniform.  Yes I take an hour during a weekday morning to shop for groceries as I detest weekend crowds, and I shop more efficiently without a 5yo and a 3yo in tow.  Truth be told, I am better dressed this morning than I normally would have been.  The Husband took a look at the (even more faded) top I had chosen when I came out of the room, and reminded me that I had better clothes than that to wear.  -sulk- My vanity was pricked enough that I went back to change into a slightly less worn, slightly less faded top.

The call from school came when I was paying for groceries.  Medium Boy had small ulcers in his mouth, and he had just recovered from a fever from Tuesday night / Wednesday morning.  His teacher asked me to please come and bring him for a checkup at the doctor’s to see if it was Hand Foot Mouth Disease “HFMD”.   Hence the dash into the taxi after sending my helper home with the groceries.

I caught a glimpse of the taxi driver looking askew at me when I climbed into the taxi.  Perspiring with sweat stains – yes.  Wallet falling apart at the seams – yes. (I was clutching my wallet to see if I had enough cash on hand when I finally managed to hail a taxi).  The kind of look that wondered “Does this passenger have enough to pay?”.  I saw the look.  THEN I opened my mouth and said in my best Standard English “Boss, please take me to xxx.  I need to get my child from school.”  After that, we exchanged pleasantries… talked briefly about the weather, how wet it has been in the afternoons this week.

The nurses at the PD had seen me in all states before.  No raised eyebrows there or meaningful looks.

Why do I share this little story?  Because Perception is Reality.  From a local blogger’s website, I came across this thought provoking entry written by a black in the USA.  How her presentation of self matters.  I reflected for a second… how many times have I passed by such persons right in my neighbourhood… persons who are different, are obviously poor (yes, poverty exists in SG!) and made snap judgements of what they are wearing and how they speak.  And how na├»ve I am in thinking that a person living in a 2-room HBD flat cannot, and should not, buy and carry a branded handbag, or buy and wear Ferragamo shoes.   It is a human need to belong, to crack open the closed circles (closed to the poor) of the middle class.  That I have been so blind, I who have never had to worry for food or shelter in my life, to judge the buying behavior of another.

The blog entry has taught me to see the deeper reality of poverty.  Those who are born into it, raised in it, worry over the next meal or the next night’s shelter. 

Poverty exists.  I am pondering what I can do to help just one child.  Because that child could have been my Medium Boy or Small Boy.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Lean in

I struggle with the concept of having it all.  Fuzzily defined for the modern woman as having (1) a personally fulfilling and financially rewarding career, (2) at least one healthy socially well-adjusted child who is a genius in art/music/math/whatever, preferably all of the above and (3) a stable monogamous relationship with a partner who actively enables (1) and (2).  Now I do not know about you, dear reader, but to do all of that, I would need to double… possibly triple… the waking hours of my day.

Along comes Sheryl Sandberg, COO and later CEO of Facebook, successful corporate woman worth pots of money, mother to 2 children, and now author of a book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to lead”.  From Wikipedia:  Lean In is a book for professional women to help them achieve their career goals and for men who want to contribute to a more equitable society. The book looks at the barriers preventing women from taking leadership roles in the workplace, barriers such as discrimination, blatant and subtle sexism and sexual harassment. She also examines societal barriers such as the fact that women still work the double day and the devaluing of work inside the home as opposed to work outside the home. Along with the latter there are the barriers that women create for themselves through internalizing systematic discrimination and societal gender roles. Sandberg argues that in order for change to happen women need to break down these societal and personal barriers by striving for and achieving leadership roles. The ultimate goal is to encourage women to lean in to positions of leadership because she asserts that by having more female voices in positions of power there will be more equitable opportunities created for everyone.

Oh…… my first reaction is visceral, I tell you.  I want to retch at how perfect she is!

Then I stopped and thought for a bit about her concepts.  All good in theory… how can I put those into practice? Her book is aimed at the professional woman who presumably is able to choose how much, when and where to work.  Hey, that’s me!

How much to work?  I hardly know anyone who works in a corporate setting in Singapore at an executive / manager / C-suite level who works the “normal” 8 hour work day.  Far more than 8 hours is the norm.  At peak period levels, I have put in 14-16 hours of work per day… couldn’t sustain that level for anything more than a week after I had Medium Boy and Small Boy. 

When to work?  The company is very enlightened in that most managers allow their staff to work to deliver tasks, not put in face time in the office from 9am to 6pm, spending the last hour watching the clock… or social networking… or plain old coffee / hallway networking.  All my bosses in this company have also pushed me to take time off (to make up for 14 hour work days) during lull periods.  Travel is done during normal office hours from Monday to Friday… I am not expected to be on the plane during Saturday or Sunday.  MOST companies in SG are not like this.

Where to work? For the past 5 years, I was in a virtual role with a boss based in the UK.   I spent 75% of my week in the office after Medium Boy’s birth and reduced that to 10% after Small Boy’s birth.  Yes, I could and did choose to work from home.  This is only possible because the people I collaborate with are not in SG anyway, and my work is not a high-touch job (like a teacher or a doctor).  I changed department from 1 Mar 2013 and have to be in the office everyday now.  The transition made me more visible.  I am now back in circulation, listening to the grapevine news, determining which way the wind is blowing.  Leaning in MORE at work.

As long as women are still expected to work the double day…. Putting in time at home managing the house, being the primary decision maker (and implementer) when it comes to educating the children… there is practically zero time or brain space for a woman to lean in at work.   When I look critically at my own home….The Husband does his share.  Is it a 50-50 share? Not when I sit down and tabulate what he does vs what I do at home.  [Note: yes, I do more than 50%]  Is he refusing to lean in at home, or am I reluctant to lean out at home?  I do not know.  A mixture of both, I reckon.  Hence am I bowing to societal and personal barriers of what a woman should be?

Postscript: I finished this post in the middle of my night.  Just had to get this off my mind!