I witnessed something so sweet just the other day. I was running errands at a neighbourhood and while walking quite hastily, I saw two little girls. They were at most 4 years old. Their prechool teacher was nearby keeping an eye on them. They were wearing their school uniform, carrying cute little pink backpacks and holding hands. One of them was talking animatedly to the other while the other was listening and smiling. What's so special about that? This is a regular common happening in a preschool setting, isn't it?
I had not seen a close friend for a while. She is a good person but we are both in a very difficult situation where we can't really say what we truly feel. I thought I might see her yesterday evening. It wasn't planned. And I did. I was happy. As I mentioned earlier - I hadn't seen her for a while.
To my surprise, she revved her car back and forth looking away when I was waving frantically to get her attention. Did she not see me in the dark? Or should I overthink this and ponder that she is perhaps avoiding me? She did later carry a conversation with me when our daughters were there. Did she not want to be alone with me, for fear of stirred up feelings? Did I do something to garner such a reaction from her? I returned home with a heavy heart all confused. Just when I thought things were going well between us...
It has been 4 years since our fallout. Interesting that she can still be so affected when I'm alright and kind of accepted the nature of our friendship. I have managed to go on with my life on my own. I wish I could help her but I can't if she doesn't allow me to. My hands are tied if she doesn't open up to me. She thinks I can't see her awkwardness and her sudden change in behaviour when she sees me unexpectedly. She thinks I don't notice, but I do. She thinks that I don't know that I am discussed often. And with whom I am discussed with. But I do. It is alright with me, if it helps her deal with her emotional rollercoaster. Actually, I'm glad she has someone who got her back.
How do I know? Intuition - its God's way of reaching out to us, to give us a heads up. I hope and pray that the day will come soon when she realises that she is stronger than she thinks she is. I can't stress enough how much she needs His guidance to fight this insecurity regarding our friendship.
May God bless you with strength and I wait for the day when you will open up your heart to me.
Update early Oct : I bounced back in 2 days but couldn't stand the suspense and the nagging thought in my head. So, I asked her. She was honest and told me that yes, she did see me then but perhaps she was busy answering messages or dressed in her drabby home clothes which prevented her from stepping out. She added that she is quite comfortable with our friendship :) and that she wasn't doing anything intentionally to avoid me. She even apologised for troubling me. I found that very sweet of her. I am glad she was honest about the whole thing. Again, I am guilty of overthinking. Gosh! When will I change ?
Oh, what a busy day! I had signed up to become a docent of NMS - National Museum of Singapore. And today it was our first field trip. We had a whole morning planned out to walk through Fort Canning Hill. I am a Singaporean and I thought I knew everything of Singapore but there is so much more to learn of Singapore history that I wasn't aware of!
We met at 9.45 at NMS as planned at the designated spot. It was drizzling and was a cool 26 deg C. Beautiful weather to start off a walk. Our Volunteer Guides Hillary (Canadian) and Stephanie (French) were wonderfully adept at explaining all the different spots on the hill. Fort Canning Hill is one of the few remaining high spots on this island and there are only a few places in Singapore where the layers of history go deep as this hill.
We were first introduced to a moss covered brick wall which looked rather innocent enough till you take a closer look. The headstones of many tombs have embedded into the brick wall! Apparently, Fort canning was once the first burial grounds for the Christians in Singapore. Between 1822 and 1865, more than 600 burials have taken place at Fort Canning and out of them, around 200 were Chinese christians.
Fort Canning went through a few name changes before it got its current name.
It was first called Bukit Larangan or Forbidden Hill as the locals believed that the hill was haunted by the spirits of the Malay Kings who passed away there. Then, when Sir Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore in 1819 and built his house on top of the hill, he called it Government Hill. It was only in 1861, it was renamed Fort Canning when a fort was built on this site and named after Lord Canning, the Governer and First Viceroy of India. 'Why named after this Canning man?' I asked. Apparently because Singapore was still controlled by East India Company based in Calcutta, India at that time.
We also came across the site of the first Botanical Gardens now relocated to Napier Road. It is a small spice garden now with spices like nutmeg, laksa leaves, pandan leaves present.
Heritage Tree - Kopok Tree which can grow as tall as 40 metres!
Our field trip culminated at a lunch at The Fabulous Bakerboy restaurant, next to Fort Canning Hill. All in all, a lovely field trip that was quite informative. And of course a bonding session with fellow docent trainees. Sweet friendly women from so many different countries. English is not a first language for many of them but they have bravely come forward to learn and train to guide in English. Kudos to you ladies!!
For a long time, I have shied away from sharing my thoughts and feelings online as it became too personal. But I recently realised how much I have missed writing, just writing. It helps to write things down. It helps to lighten the load in my heart and feels like I am talking to someone. I guess that's why psychologists make a lot of money. People need someone to just listen to their woes without making any judgements. To offer an insight into their thought process and to dish out advice. So this is me talking to a shrink in you.
I am now at a major crossroad in my life. I am 45 and kind of lost in the vast wilderness of life. My girls are now 13 and 15 and even though they are not totally independent, I feel their reliance on me is reducing. I feel a tinge of sadness because my babies are growing up and they don't need me as much but I do realise its about tim. I am finally regaining my temporarily lost life. I have time for exercise to regain my lost figure. I have time again to pursue my interests like jewelry making, food blogging and my passion for reading which led me to start a book club last year. And I started on my docent training for the National Museum of Singapore just last week.
What I didn't forsee is that my husband also saw the absence of my major responsibilities and my newfound freed up time which led to him asking 'What are you doing with your time, now that the girls don't need you as much?' or 'Why aren't you working and contributing to the household income? You are a graduate after all. You shouldn't become obsolete' I didn't want to go back to work. I mean why would I want to sit in an office 9am-9pm? When I would rather be busy doing something I like? But I had to try. I know I'll become bored if I don't. How will my mornings go?
So, with a frenzy I spruced up my resume and dusted the cobwebs off my school certificates and sent out numerous job applications. In the last 6 months, I didn't get any response and worse - I got an immediate rejection. All these were not surprising. I am 45, not having worked for the last 17 years, totally out of touch with the working world, haven't done anything to update my skills. Why would anyone hire me? Heck, if I were a HR manager , even I wouldn't hire me!
So I am now contemplating on what my next move should be. You must be thinking - you are already doing so much, your blog, your docent training, jewelry biz (quite dormant nowadays) and your also your painting classes with Sherin ( a close friend). Why do you want to get behind a desk and join the exodus of office workers who work day in and day out? I feel I should do something with my time. Whoever is reading this - please don't mistake my family's financial situation. It's not like we are in dire straits. I am grateful to God for that. But who wouldn't want more money? Who wouldn't want to see a heavier bank balance? For those who have it all and more (I know a few), they won't know what I'm talking about. They have no idea how fortunate they are and how thankful they should be to God. But for those who just have it and those who don't, my ranting here will touch base.
What do I do now?
Take up a postgrad diploma in HR and Organisational Psychology. I majored in HR while doing my bachelor's degree in Business Admin from NUS in 1995. This Postgrad Diploma will help me to get an idea of what's going on in the HR field now and probably help secure a HR job. Or pursue a Masters after that. Beautiful plan, isn't it? See below.
Pitfalls - I may not get a job. Getting a cert doesn't guarantee you a job. And the other more important question, how will I finance these courses? I don't want to ask my husband. Its his hard earned money. I have no claim over it. Yes, I do look after our kids and the household, but I just can't attach a price to it. A friend of mine gets an allowance from her husband based on how much she would have earned if she had not given up on her career to look after their kids! I wonder if promotions and payrise are also factored in :) What other financial sources do I have? The bank says I have to work full time in order to get a personal loan. These guys don't understand my dilemma. I need the loan to get a full time job!! Then, my sister asked me - Is this really what you want to do? HR? Good question June. Honestly, I am not very sure. That got me thinking and I halted this option for the time being. I don't want to borrow and spend $6K on a postgrad diploma and then do nothing after that. And should I study HR, Counselling or Psychology?
Become a kindergarten teacher. For this option, I ticked most of my conditions for my ideal job. It won't be as stressful as a regular office job. I love working with preschoolers - they are the littlest most adorable angels around! :) The pay won't be great but its an honest reputable profession and the hours won't be very long which still leaves me time to pursue my interests. So, I printed my application form two days ago all ready mentally and my husband turns around and says - 'You are a people person. You should be in a job that requires you to have meaningful interaction with adults. Somehow, I can't see you as a kindergarten teacher'!! Thanks hubby- now I am confused again. Back to Square 1.
This is the one closest to my heart. Start my own cafe cum culinary school. Nothing big. Something small. Something cosy. A friend of mine Nisha who went on a temporary vegan diet recently cited difficulties finding vegan food in Singapore. So my idea is to open a vegan cafe. Many doubts and fears pop up in my head when I ponder over this option:
Where will I get the capital?
What about a business plan? How do i do that?
Will it do well?
Am I ready to sacrifice so much to start a cafe? Can I face the long hours and the hardwork of running a cafe?
Am I willing to work temporarily for a while in a cafe to study the ins and outs of running a cafe?
So many questions. No answers yet. I want to do something worthy. Something validated by myself and something that will keep me busy. Something other than being a home maker. Something that will enable my girls to view me as a role model. What do I do, shrink ?
Care enough to help answer?
On a whim I started a book club last Aug and we started off with only 3 members - Sherin, Angie and I. Now we are 7 members strong and in the words of my 13 year old - 'I'm surprised its still going on'. Like most book club meetings, we begin with the discussion of the books but mostly our conversation will veer towards non book at hand topics. Like the discussions about the recent rapists in India article. or sometimes personal problems that require a listening ear will surface and ladies being ladies we'll come up with a bucketfull of well intended advice. We have grown close all of us - Sherin, Angie, Vijaya, Aparna, Anu and Kanica (newest member) and I.
Congratulations ladies ! We have crossed the first year milestone! Here's to many more book club anniversaries!!
Yes it was exactly 2 years ago today on Nov 14 on a cold end-autumn-before-winter morning while sitting in my dining table in Blue bell, Pennsylvania that I first posted on my blog. I posted something on a whim thinking - let's see whether this picks up or not. let's see where this takes me etc. Nothing serious, just sharing recipes and thoughts.
And now 2 years later, I must say it has been an incredible journey. Receiving so much support and encouragement from friends and family made a huge influence on me. I kept on going... Then I got a chance to teach cooking at community centres near by in Singapore. That gave a whole lot of culinary confidence.
Singapore is becoming a food hub. A lot of restaurants are being set up here because of it being a culinary paradise. And along with that comes people's interest in learning how to cook. So that's why I thought I try a hand and starting my own cooking classes. Why not? I would need a a couple of induction cookers (those can be bought) , lots of space (in my function room of my condo) and of course the participants! So, I have planned to teach Thai Cuisine on 15 Dec 2016! (See ad below)...Let's see where this takes me...
I've read it hundreds of times and every time this poem never fails to calm me. Brought tears to my eyes when I first came across these lovely words. It has deepened my faith in God and in moments of absolute despair, I have learned to trust in Him and wait. If things don't seem to happening your way, that's because its not its time yet. Just wait.
by Russell Kelfer
Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, "Wait."
“Wait? you say wait?" my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming your Word.
“My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?
I'm needing a 'yes', a go-ahead sign,
Or even a 'no' to which I can resign.
“You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry:
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply."
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, "Wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting for what?"
He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.
"I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.
You'd not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.
"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.
"You'd never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you'd not know the depth of the beat of My heart.
"The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.
"You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.
"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait."
'We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.'
W. Somerset Maugham
I am rather fond of these words. We all evolve over time and we will not be the same today as we were yesterday. And yet, if you can accept and continue to love a changed person, that person has a hell of a friend in you.
Friendship is a strange thing. What is in a person which makes us like her or him? Is it how she has that connection with you or is it how she looks ? Why do we break into a smile when we spot that person on the road ? On the other hand, why do you avert your eyes and pretend to not to see another?
The title question was addressed in an article in The Sunday Times - Singapore's national newspaper. Why do some of our relationships with our friends fade away while others stand the test of time? If these so called friends were not close friends from the beginning but more of the casual kind whom we see and chat for a short few mins while waiting to pick up our kids from school, I won't be surprised for their fading. What I am addressing here is our dearest friends who had at certain points in our lives we couldn't have imagined life without them. What happens along the way for their demise from our lives?
1) Changing cirumstances can tear friendships apart.
An individual changes everyday. Apart from the physical changes, our personality, our character undergoes major changes too. Changing circumstances in people's lives may also force a friendship to slide. Life, career, spouses, children and other demands become stumbling blocks in a friendship. Priorities will change and duty does beckon.
A personal example - I met A in 2007 when my girls were studying in Bethesda Kindergarten in Pasir Ris. She had girls who were in the same nursery class as my younger daughter Riya. At that time, we all were quite inseperable. She had just moved to Singapore from America in desperate need of a local friend while I was happy having found playdates for my girls. By nature, A is a bubbly witty person and we got along rather well. I moved away from Pasir Ris in 2008 which slowly formed the fault lines in our friendship. We kept in touch still even though the distance proved difficult for us to meet often. In 2013 she faced a major disappointment in her marital life and I had to move to America in 2014. All these changes in our lives proved too much for our already fragile friendship. Struggling to glue back the cracks, I tried to keep in touch with A via emails from America, but I believe she replied only once, citing being busy with her kids etc. I took note of her change in her circumstances at home and her nature. I realised that what we had in the early years was not going to happen again. Ruefully, we had outgrown each other.
2) On the other hand, certain situations can also bring friends closer.
Certain situations especially those that require support and reassurance can make friends discover hidden closeness towards a person. In July 2013, my girls and I were involved in a car accident. It was a scary period for my family facing the fact that we were so close to a serious injury. And another heart breaking incident that followed suit brought me to my knees. It affected me so much that I forgot birthdays of my close friends. It affected me so much that I would go to sleep with tear stained pillows. I felt like I had lost my mind. To say tt absolutely devastated my soul will be an undertatement.
Through this horrible ordeal, I am very grateful to my close friends Angie and Jenny who were there as pillars of strength. They listened patiently through my incessant woes and crying. They are both older than me - thus they gave the perspective of a more matured person and made me see the truth. It took me some time to see what they have been telling me. I will be forever indebted to them for their constant assurance and for simply being there. We are all still very close and because we have recently started a book club together, I am sure our friendships will only grow stronger from here.
3) Marriage changes a friendship especially if it involves the opposite sex.
It is possible for married couples to have healthy opposite-sex friendship but certain factors must be considered :
If you feel emotionally or physically attracted to that friend or
If your spouse is not aware of that friend or
If you would behave differently around your friend if your spouse was present
All these point to a threat to the marriage and hence it will be best to significantly limit or even end that close friendship. What you had with your opposite sex friend before the marriage will not be considered friendly anymore. it will be frought with doubts and fears from your spouse. Friendships with the opposite sex must be handled with care.
4) Sometimes, you outgrow a friend or that friend out grows you.
As we meander through life's different phases, we meet different people along the way. While we were teenagers, we would have had a big group of friends and even some rather close ones whom we call 'BFFs' nowadays. Then, as you enter adulthood and into the work life, your colleagues whom you see everyday become your close friends, having long forgotten your teenage BFFs. Marriage and children also bring along their own set of friends - friends of your spouse or your children's friends' parents inevitably become your friends . As we evolve, our character changes and our choice of friends change too. Some just don't fit into your life anymore because you or they would have changed.
5) A move can also weaken a friendship
Weaker friendships will not survive when a party involved moves to another country. The distance apart can have a detrimental effect on the friendship and no amount of Facetime or Skype can bridge that distance. The 'really close' friends will manage to keep in touch but the others will fall out because of the lack of human contact.
6) Age can make us hanker for true friendships too
If you notice, as we age, we tend to breathe new life into old friendships. We owe it our social media today which has been of great assistance with regards to rebuilding lost friendships. The urge to reconnect surfaces in our middle age when we are no longer chained to our family and work demands. Many of us long for experiences which make us happy. This of course includes spending time with people who were once important in our lives. We start looking for something meaningful including shared memories. We need to reconnect and discover each other again.
7) Parties involved must make a mutual effort to keep the friendship alive.
It can't be forced nor one-sided. This is my 14 year old daughter Ranya's take on this point. I retorted by asking about her friendship with G, her once close friend. 'What if you both had drifted apart because of different interests?', I asked. She replied, rather nonchalantly, if we both (ie Ranya & G) had made the effort we would been close friends still, regardless of different school or different interests. Sadly, they didn't.
I guess what she is trying to say is that the effort to keep the friendship alive has to come from both sides - if only one party is always sending out messages to chat or to meet up and the other party just doesn't prioritise her as much without a valid reason, then that acquaintance is headed downhill. A valid point Ranya.
I have always believed that true friendships will stand the test of time through changing circumstances or personality. People who stay in your life are meant to be there for a reason. Don't feel guilty if some friendships slide. Its alright to move on - life is short. Like I said - friendship is a strange thing but we will be nowhere without our friends.
And sometimes, though an episode may have haunted and changed us, it can also bond us. Folk duo Simon & Garfunkel 's lyrics of the 1960s hit 'Old Friends' sums it all -
'Old Friends, memory brushes the same years, silently sharing the same fears.'
There are two ways to be unhappy - to either not getting what you want or either getting it. How can getting something you desire make you unhappy? Think about it - how many times have you felt the anticipation and excitement of an impending trip? Then as the holiday progresses, don't you dread the ending of it? True, you will have a myriad of memories all captured in smartphones and other smart gadgets, but nothing comes close to actually being there in the moment. Thus, you got the holiday but you end of being sad at the end of it. Or let's say you succeeded in getting someone's attention - you are faced with the expectations in the relationship (because of a mental build up), then as time goes by, your fascination and your love for the person increases and you feel afraid of investing too much (in case you seem clingy) or worse losing the person. So you see, you got your heart's desire but are you happy? Gosh! Life is not supposed to be this complicated!
We always feel that the solution to wanting something is getting it, then you think you would feel contented. But it rarely works that way. Either whatever you were hankering for fails to live up to your expectations or it does amazingly well and you get so afraid of losing it. Know what could be worse than this? The realisation that what you were craving for wasn't the actual thing or person but the novelty of it! Something to think about, huh?
Don't freak out - there is a scientific explanation for this. (Phew!) The brain's reward mechanisms are designed to give us bursts of dopamine (dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers) when we pursue something, not when we get it. We are chemically rewarded for being in a state of unfulfillment. Interesting and if you look at this fresh info from a consumerism angle, don't you think profits don't come from constantly trying to satisfy customers but more from making sure that they never stop seeking? Constantly providing people with new styles, new recipes, new books, new ideas ...
A different school of thought woud place emphasis on what the Universe is trying to do. Sometimes failure can be Universe's way of helping you on your way. Probably by not giving us what we want, it is actually nudging us in the so called right direction. Or a religious person would conclude that our Higher Power is giving you a chance to surrender to him to achieve a deeper personal spiritual connection.
So what am I trying to say here?
That is if sometimes somethings don't go our way, it helps to believe that it is a false promise of fulfillment. In fact, we would be a lot more happier and fulfilled if we understand our wants rather than desperately trying to relieve them. Question - what if even after understanding our wants, we still feel unhappy that we didn't get them?
Yesterday 11 th June 2016 marked another milestone in my culinary world. I received and delivered an order for dinner for 4. Never have i cooked for someone else for payment. I mean I have had parties and have cooked for friends and family. But this was the first time i had a chance to cook for others and received a monetary reward for it. Not to mention the rewarding satisfaction knowing that the guests had enjoyed the food and had found it 'very yummy' and 'very suitable to their taste'.
My close friend Angie needed an order for 4 vegetarians in her guest list. She had other sources for her non veg food and even had one for her veg food too. But she wanted to promote my good cooking and asked two weeks ago if I could cook for her. I was hesitant not because I couldn't cook for her. After all, it was only 3 dishes. But more because how would I charge her? Apart from the ingredients cost, how do I charge her for time sourcing for the ingredients and what about time and labour toiling in the kitchen? In the end, I agreed because I knew if I turned down this opportunity, I would regret it.
Yesterday, I woke up bright and early as I had to cook lunch for family first. Because it was an order for dinner, I couldn't cook too early lest it might spoil by the time dinner time comes along. I just hired a new helper Sheila and even though I could have asked her to help cut the vegetables, I didn't. ' Why not ? 'you might think unbelievingly. I don't know if you feel the same, but I feel sometimes it is easier to get things done if you do it yourself and end up saving a lot of time and frustration too. Plus, my helper is so new and is still getting used to doing things my way. I didn't want any mistakes in my first dinner order.
Hence, I toiled in the kitchen from 830am to 2pm with only a 15 min rest for breakfast! it was serious toiling. But at the end of it, food turned out great and I realised I had enjoyed myself. Angie came along at 215 to pick up the food and exclaimed 'it looks so delicious!' Thank you Angie for this wonderful oppotunity - now I can add another feather to my hat!!
Will I take any more cooking orders?? What do you think?
My home is
usually in a mess and has dust settled on almost everything. But I believe laughter and love will win the day. In 20 years, my girls won't remember how messy the house was but will remember the time we spent together and the love they felt...