Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happiness is...

When I was a little girl, I had a T-shirt with a picture of Smurfette and Papa Smurf on it. A line of text read, in cartoony script, "Happiness is walking with my Papa."

I remember how when I was three or younger (because I wasn't even in kindergarten yet) my dad would on some evenings take my brother and me to the playground behind our house. It was a short walk, yet at that time, happiness was walking with my papa.

As the years went by our communication lines got thinner and thinner, frayed and weakened by my dad's increasingly hectic work life, my growing sense of self, and what I can only explain as naturally tense dynamics between the two of us.

When I was 16, Pops had a heart attack that by any medical analysis "should have been" fatal. But after a month of bed rest, a quintuple bypass and more bed rest, he was back on his feet. In fact, within a day or two of surgery, he was back on his feet because his surgeon (my uncle) had ordered him to be mobile as soon as possible. My brother and I did laps with him down the hospital corridor at the rate of about one patient room per five minutes. Hey, it's not as if we were trying to win any races. It only occurs to me now that that was probably the first time in more than 10 years that the three of us had walked anywhere together that way.

I haven't taken a walk with my dad since those weeks following his heart surgery. We do other things, like have meals together. We've never talked much about things of the heart, but anything else is fair game: electronic circuits and stray puppies for him, comical moments of the day for me. I'm glad we talk at all.

Why this sudden burst of nostalgia? I was working on my PC on this cool, drizzly Saturday night when he knocked on my door and opened it with the widest grin on his face and a plastic container of sliced mango on his hand. A few nights ago, a relative had given us a few imported mangoes and on the way home, my dad said he'd cut them for me. For most of my life, I've been angry with him for not knowing me well enough. But one thing he has learned about his only daughter: I could probably live by mango alone if given the chance.

As I took the container from him and he stayed to talk, I had a glimpse of uglier times from our past, times when all I wanted to do was run away. (And once I did, only I did it in such a well-concealed way that even I didn't realise I was running away.) Things between us still aren't perfect, but they have improved and that gives me faith that they will continue to.

The mango was sweet and fragrant, deserving of its probably exorbitant price. But it wasn't as sweet as the thanks that flowed from my heart, thanks that this rebellious child has made her peace with fathers divine and earthly.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Which way is forward?

I've spent the better part of the past year disillusioned by the institution of church and rather worn out from much of the posturing I see there. It's uncomfortable being in limbo, not knowing whether to stay or to move on. Especially when I know that chances are, whichever church I next find myself in is just as prone to the same human follies.

I don't know whether to feel convicted by this article, or convinced that I am searching for the right thing and will not find it where I am and so it really is time to move on once and for all.

One thing I'm very thankful for: in all this time of my being bemused with the church and sometimes its people, God has proven himself to be bigger than my questions and more powerful than my confusion. He is still there to be loved, wherever I am, for wherever I am, he's there loving me.

Which is good to know, because right now I'm wondering: where next?
Image by Michal Zacharzewski, Stock.Xchng

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oh folder, wherefore art thou?

Like a sandal left on the beach, forever separated from its mate,

Like a little girl suddenly alone, looking desperately for Mummy,

Like a twentysomething searching for direction,

is a folder containing hundreds of e-mails I was compiling for work.

Lost.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Driving with Spunky

I love my yellow car with the horses. I do. I love how my brother says he doesn't need me to ring the doorbell when I arrive, because the yellow glow that precedes it already tells him I'm outside. I love that friends find it easy to follow me when we're going to a place they don't know. I love that I was able to buy the car I'd been eyeing for a year, for 1/5 less than market price but in near-new condition.

However, I am not so crazy about the fact that almost every day, I only have to drive past a bus stop or busy pedestrian walkway to find people waving at me with great fervour. It's not because Malaysians are a friendly bunch. It's because they think my precious Spunky is a taxi.

Sigh. Talk about not knowing a good thing when they see one.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wish for the day


To love You all my life and have all Your dreams for me come true.

Picture by Audrey Johnson, Stock.Xchng

Sunday, September 30, 2007

One day at the curry house

Two friends walked in to enjoy their weekly roti.

Unfortunately, the owner refused to serve the fluffy pastry with the traditional side dish of lentil stew. "I hate the stuff and am not having any of it under my roof."

"As long as I am the boss, there'll never be a dhal moment here."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Flowers for...


The other day, I thought I'd put some flowers at the place where my mother's ashes are kept.

I haven't brought flowers there for a long time; most of the recent times I've gone have been on the spur of the moment, after any sane florist's normal business hours.

"Why put flowers there?" is a question I've often asked myself in the past. It isn't for her; my mum isn't even present at this place. Then... for whom? The squirrels and snails that populate the shrubbery nearby?

Still, out of habit, when I found myself near a florist's that was open, I walked in all set to buy the usual white daisies.

A couple of minutes later, I stepped out with gerberas instead: I used to be so one-track-minded that "no daisies" would mean "leave without buying any flowers". But somehow, that day I was so drawn to their joyful, elegant appearance that I didn't want to leave without them.

Now that I think about it, gerberas were the last planting project my mother undertook, and the one in which I had the most part. When I was younger, I had so little interest in gardening you'd think I was suffering generational PTSD from the Eden incident. But with the gerberas, it was different. For some reason, I took a liking to them, and they flourished.

Then her cancer came back, we had other things to do than watering, weeding and pruning, and the gerberas died.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I wondered again exactly what the reason behind putting flowers at her place is, and couldn't find an answer that satisfied me.

At home later, I found an old glass vase from my mother's huge repository of "cosmetic collectibles", just the right height and width to hold three gerberas. For the rest of the week, their presence was a sweet reminder that life isn't only for the living, but that it's for living. Yes, silly me, I'd begun to forget. Again.

Image by Danny de Bruyne, StockXchange

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A disturbing statement

"Divorce is the new marriage."

I came across this at work. I understand that it was spoken tongue in cheek, a joke.

But I never appreciated those jokes about half-dogs, red and white things that say "ho ho ho OUCH", or injured blondes, either. Not funny.

After decades or maybe centuries of getting it wrong, I hope my generation can finally end this insanity with the conclusion that marriage is the new marriage. All right? Not the superficial commitment, or the "my-parents-are-getting-old-and-will-write-me-out-of-
their-wills-unless-I-produce-offspring-by-next-year" covenant or the "I like his biceps" decision. Marriage, with all its resident inconveniences, sacrifices, obligations ... and most of all, blessing. After all, look whose idea it was.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The end begins

I just told the "parking man" not to renew my parking pass after this month. It's begun: the change to the little, mundane bits of my life that the job switch will bring on.

I need to insert a little, unsolicited snippet of praise for the "parking man" here. (I know his name, but in case he's shy I won't mention it.) Before I knew of his existence, renewing my local council parking pass entailed going to the stationery shop around the corner one week before expiry, paying cash in advance, then walking there again a few days later to pick up the new pass.

Then I discovered the parking man. All I had to do was call him once, and from then on, I didn't even have to remember when my parking pass expired. I'd get a phone call every month as a reminder to have the required amount of cash in hand, and the next day he'd be at my office front desk with the new pass. With this small, simple service (at no extra charge), he's made my life more pleasant. And really, isn't that one of the best things we can say of a person?

Monday, July 09, 2007

I'm Not an "I'm Not a Plastic Bag" Buyer

It happened sometime on Saturday. I just realised that this bag has lost all of whatever appeal it ever held for me. I've found someone who'll buy it off me without it ever being in my hands; she'll pay me and go get it from the store.

Freed from the perilous grasp of pretentious capitalism. *Breathes a sigh of relief*

Friday, July 06, 2007

Futile isn't worthwhile

earlier i went to visit some guy who has terminal cancer and he's only 29yr old
he's just waiting to die within the month


The above was part of what a friend said to me last night when we were chatting online.

Imagine waiting to die within such a short time-frame, knowing that unless a divine hand swoops in to breathe life and health back into you, it's curtains.

At times like this, the futility of my working long, long days at my present job seems all the more apparent. Just what is the long-term ROI in fashion publishing? Are the seconds, minutes and hours spent here gaining compound interest for eternity? Even in the here and now, it feels as if every evening I spend slogging at my desk or fast asleep at 9pm trying to recover from the previous week's slogging is time I didn't spend with precious people; time I'll never have again.

I need to make some adjustments so that even if death were to come tomorrow, I would be satisfied knowing that I lived today.

What is worthwhile?
A very popular British designer label launched its cotton shopper bag today. The bag is what I consider a marvellously intelligent marketing stunt. It's made of one the cheapest natural materials. The proprietary embroidery, spelling out an "environmental concern" message, plus the presence of a small logo gives the bearer an air of 1) ecological consciousness, which is the new cholesterol scare in terms of public attention; and 2) brand-display credibility, at a low price... something many Malaysians seem to crave.

By noon, we'd heard astounding first-person accounts of just how far things went out of control at the launch. Apparently, the queue went from the store entrance, over that whole floor of the mall, and apparently to the next floor. I still wonder how that's possible unless the queue reached the escalators and, finding nowhere else to go, the people at that point in the line decided to get some exercise while keeping their place, and marched on the spot up the down escalator. Then there was talk of mall security, riot police, rampaging shoppers offering black market prices on the spot to those lucky enough to leave with a bag, and stampeding aunties yelling about being deprived of their right to own such a statement piece of social consciousness.

I'd pre-ordered one of these bags because I thought they're cute and reasonably priced, and the perfect size to hold all the stuff I regularly lug around. Now I'm not so sure. I don't know if I want to be identified with something that inspires such ugly behaviour for all the wrong reasons. It's just a bag to me, but who knows what other connotations have been added to it by this morning's fiasco. Is this bag worthy to dangle off my arm?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A bizarre conversation

The following is true. Even the wildest flights of my imagination cannot have come up with what happened to me this morning. Names of individuals and organisations have been suppressed in the interests of privacy and legal protection. I hope you have a good laugh. I've already done all the crying.

I needed to phone Miss X, a former classmate who now works for my client.

I dialled her mobile number, and the following ensued.

Me [thinking]: Hmm, the last time I phoned her (which was way back... last week), her ring tone was 'Let There Be Love'. Now it's some Chinese song. Catchy, though. Maybe she felt like a change.

"Hello?" It's a man. It's a... man? All right, I can live with a man picking up a lady's phone.

"Hi, may I speak to X please?"

"I'm sorry, she's not in the office today."

Office? Didn't I dial her mobile? [Quickly check desk phone display] Yes, I did.

"Oh." [Frantic thinking.] "And... she left her phone with you?"

"What?"

"Her mobile. I dialled her mobile and got through to you. So she left her phone with you in the office?"

"No. I'm the finance manager."

By now, I'm well over the sheer strangeness of this conversation. I'm enjoying the departure from ordinary phone conversations so much, if it were a show I'd have bought front-row tickets.

"All right. I'm trying to get in touch with X over the booklet my magazine is doing with her client for August. May I know how I can reach her?"

"I'll transfer you to Y. Y should be able to talk to you about this."

"No, really, I've been dealing with X directly regarding this booklet and I'd rather speak to her in person. May I know how to reach her?"

"No, no, she's attending a conference all day. I'll transfer you to Y. You can talk to Y."

"OK, thanks."

I hear mumbling and murmuring in the background of the "Who is it?" "Regarding what?" "Call from where?" sort. Another male voice comes on.

"Hello?"

"Hi, is this Y?"

"Yeah, speaking. Who are you?"

Well. Hello. "I'm calling from [magazine name]. I've been trying to get in touch with XX [I include the surname for greater credibility, because by now I realise this is getting really bizarre] regarding the B mobile phone booklet you're doing with us. I understand I can talk to you about it?"

"Yeah, yeah. So what is it you want to know?"

"X has approved the whole booklet and we're about to send it to print. We just noticed that while your logo on the front cover is blue, the one on the back cover is white. I'd like to check if this is really what you want, or you'd prefer that we change the back logo to blue."

"What logo is it?"

"[Mobile phone brand]."

"What's that in blue?"

"Your logo."

"What logo?"

"[Mobile phone brand]. We were given a specific CMYK colour to use."

"Oh, I see, OK, OK. I can send our logo to you, no problem."

"It's all right. We have your logo. Just let me know if you want it in your signature blue or white for the back cover."

"What blue is that?"

"The blue you provided."

"Actually what has X approved?"

"The booklet. The [mobile phone brand] booklet you're doing in collaboration with [magazine name]."

"For [health supplement megastore]?"

By now, I am utterly lost for words. This is autopilot in the truest sense of the word.

"[With as little exasperation as I can manage] No! For [mobile phone brand]."

"Oh. Actually I don't know what this is about. We are not [mobile phone brand]. We're not doing any booklet."

I have Reached My Limit.

"May I clarify that I have been trying to get in touch with Ms X, I dialled her mobile number, got through to your colleague, mentioned [mobile phone brand] and [magazine title], was assured that you would be able to help me, was transferred to you..."

"Yes, yes."

"... and you aren't even at the right company?"

"Yeah. I think you have the wrong number. We are not doing any booklet with your magazine."

Click.

Friday, June 08, 2007

You make my heart go...

Love, you make me dance
I may look like a fool
But with you, I'm a king

Love, you make me sing
I may sound like a toad
But with you, I'm on wing

Love, you make me laugh
And love, you make me cry
Because you make me live.


This is especially for Keon and Khai Veun. I am SO HAPPY for you, my dear cousin and future cousin-in-law! I'm enjoying every moment I get to share your journey with you. Love you both!

Oh. Just for the record, both Bu Keon and Khai Veun can sing and dance well. The poem is for you two, it's not meant to be by you two. Thought I should clear that up before I'm accused of defaming you on my blog.


Image from Stock.Xchnge

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Always with me


Image from Stock.Xchng. If you're the photographer who captured this image, please leave a comment with your details so I can credit you.


You alone are my hiding place
You alone are my song and my strength
Permit me to come and worship
With my offering of thanks

You are witness to the depths of my heart
And your love is never far from my soul
In every loss, in every defeat
I know you are always with me.

A rather direct translation of one of my favourite songs.

Because there's simply no one else.

Original Bahasa Indonesia lyrics:

S'lalu Bersamaku
Words and music: Sydney Mohede
Performed by
GMB

Hanya Kau tempat ku berlindung
Hanya Engkau laguku dan kekuatanku
Ijinkanlah ku datang menyembah
Membawa syukurku

Sedalamnya hatiku Kau pun tahu
Dan kasihMu tak jauh dalam jiwaku
Di dalam kesesakan
Di dalam kemenangan
Ku tahu Engkau s'lalu bersamaku

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Waiting

Jilly Pepper at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, April 2007

Sometimes, this is how I feel.

I know I'm waiting.

It's a longer wait than I'd prefer.

I'm going home.

Eventually.

But first, there's that suffocating plane ride with the bad food, difficult people and backache-inducing chairs.

Life. I'm on my way home, but sometimes it seems I'll be stuck in the waiting lounge forever. Waiting to do those bigger things I've been promised. Not wanting to dwell on past enjoyments and achievements, and continually looking ahead to the bounty that I know awaits me there.

And in the meantime, trying to make the most of the fact that this is where I am for now.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Isn't it lovely?

Image source unknown

Some call them weeds. I call them beautiful.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Marriage and retail

"Archie's marriage felt like buying a pair of shoes, taking them home and finding they don't fit. For the sake of appearances, he put up with them. And then, all of a sudden and after thirty years, the shoes picked themselves up and walked out of the house. She left. Thirty years." (from White Teeth by Zadie Smith)

I don't approve of the "mega sale" model for romantic relationships, also known as the "grab anything that looks like a good bargain, and if you find it looks bad on you later, just throw it out" model. Come to think of it, I don't even approve of the "mega sale" shopping model... if I'm paying for something, it had better be something I'm prepared to love for a lifetime (its lifetime or mine, whichever ends sooner), not just something that happened to be cheap and available.

Image by Petr Kovar

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bangkok!

Selected pictures from three days in Bangkok:
I was unexpectedly allocated a room with two twin beds, instead of one king. It worked out well, because my travelling companion has been known to hog the covers.
She bagged the bed on the left as soon as we got in. Pushy, pushy.One of the walls in the hotel coffee house was decorated with assorted cooking utensils. I'm constantly fascinated by how a little creativity can turn an everyday object into a work of art.
Went for a walkabout in Siam Square after lunch. There was this queue of people from the record shop on the corner, where an unassuming-looking guy was signing CD covers, all the way to the other end of the road. I wonder if there'll ever be anyone or anything I'm willing to queue like that for.
I met the lovely Orn and her friend Tong for dinner, after which they took me for sorbet at Iberry. The sorbet was delicious, and the warmly lit interior with all that wrought iron furniture and white china made it all the sweeter. They've probably tried to dress up their ice-cream parlour to look like an old-fashioned dining room. I wouldn't mind having a dining room that looks like this ice-cream parlour!
From the Skytrain station, I had to walk through this corridor of the hotel to get back to my room. It's a long corridor with marble floors and I loved how it suddenly turns a corner instead of just going straight down. I know, it's "just a corridor". But can't you imagine a tall, striking lady running down those steps in a ballgown with her hair streaming behind her, racing to beat the clock and get home before her coachmen turn to mice?
Got back to my room and found that my comforter had been turned down and dressed with an orchid (for beautiful dreams?) and a bookmark (in case the dreams didn't happen).
The view from my breakfast table on the riverside terrace the next morning.
Viewing presentations must be hungry work.
Breakfast the following day was a simple, one-pass-at-the-buffet-table affair for me. I think I must have made some appetising choices, because...... the spread even attracted some local wildlife.
Heh no, it's not a stampede. I spotted Jilly Pepper's long-lost herd at the Jim Thompson boutique in the airport. Love the colours!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fluffy

I need to say it. Our Mudslide is adorable. Adorable, I tells ya.

Cosying up to my little elephant friend, Jilly Pepper. She has claimed this corner of my bed as her own. Usually I'm all territorial and fussy about privacy and who gets to (or doesn't get to) come hang out in my room, but there's always the Fuzzy Amendment.


My Shanghai trip (with some pictures)

I know. I got back three weekends ago. But I only just borrowed the cable to upload pictures with.

Just a little background/refresher information for those who don't know or may have forgotten... I went to Shanghai in late April to cover the opening of a fashion brand's first stand-alone boutique in China. I won't state the brand or publish any of the pictures that will give it away here, since that probably warrants advertising.

It was my first trip to China, "banana" that I am, but I did have some very good moments. I'll let the pictures tell the story from here onwards. (Thanks, KV, for lending me the camera!)


A Shanghai sidewalk.
Which came first, the movie or the restaurant?
I don't know why, but I really liked this shot. Maybe because I like side lanes. Maybe because I like scooters.
Maybe because I'm just random.
Clearly, random is everywhere. I just realised the words probably can't be read at this resolution. This is the window of a store in an immense shopping centre on Shanghai's famous "shopping street", Nanjing Lu. From left, the words read: "My favourites", "The colour of a sapphire-blue sky", "A new-born life", "My long shadow", and "Strikingly colour ribbon". They brought back fond memories of those writing classes in uni when we had to construct a whole story based on a few arbitrarily chosen words.

This is for my peng iu, Aaron, and for my "lil' bro", Aaron. See, I was thinking of you both.
This sign was on my bedside table. It reads, "WARNING: The Hotel Management has Determined that SMOKING IN BED is Dangerous to Your LIFE."
I THINK they're Quite Serious about It. Fortunately, My Life is SAFE.

The view from my room while I was munching on a bak hu (meat floss) bun at 7am the next day. What's so special about this street, you ask? Well, nothing... but if you zoom in really, really close on that clump of people near the little white building, you'll see that they're old people, social dancing. I always find it touching when I see older couples dancing together. And I wasn't expecting to see it on a Shanghai sidewalk. To me, it was an indication that this day would contain many more delights. (That proved true. Do scroll down, gentle reader.)

One of many pictures I haphazardly snapped while walking around the Bund, which I got to by public bus. I didn't know why I wanted to spend my one free morning on this trip at the Bund. I still don't know why. When I was little, my mother used to talk about the TV series a lot. Maybe that's why.
Except that it wasn't covered in snow, this reminded me of...
"I hadn't known what Humans were like before I met you. Of course I can't give you up to the Witch, not now that I know you. But we must be off at once. I'll see you back to the lamp-post. I suppose you can find your own way from there back to Spare Oom and War Drobe?"
This little charmer (I'm talking about the cat) held my attention for quite a while, because shortly after it snacked on dried meat, it dashed across the broad sidewalk...
... to this tree, where it proceeded to run up and down branches with the finesse of a trapeze artist. I was already missing my daily dose of fur by then, so this was truly heaven-sent. (I never get to see Mudslide climb anything other than Pops' leg, anyway, and that's not an entertaining sight.)

After spending the whole morning breathing in rather smoggy air, and following two nights of very little sleep, by lunchtime I was feeling quite ill. I realised I had only an hour and a half before we had to gather for the press conference. So, I went to a fast-food type Chinese place near my hotel, performed the ancient Chinese art of ta pau, and had lunch in bed, something I never ordinarily do but when one is running out of time and needs to eat and sleep simultaneously... not that I managed to, but I think I came close. And all without spilling anything. (Those who've had many meals with me will realise what an achievement this is, because I am a Really Messy Eater.)
On closer examination, what I ordered ended up looking (and tasting) a lot like the beef rice at a popular Japanese chain. (Won't advertise them either!) Very MSG-full. Good thing I'd boiled and stored 2 litres of water by then.

The rest of my trip was spent "working", and there are brand logos all over those images so I won't post them here.

By the way, I know some of my faithful (and curious) friends wanted to see pictures of me in those outfits I borrowed for the party and press conference. I don't do that whole "this is my blog, so here's meeeeeeeee!" followed by 952 pictures of myself thing. If y'all still want to see the pictures, please leave me a comment or drop me an e-mail, and I'll e-mail them to you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Love Always

I think this phrase has turned into such a cliche, a cheapened, reduced version of its true self.

It's used to sign off greeting cards, splashed on gift wrap, thoughtlessly dashed off at the end of a note.

But what does it truly mean to love, always?

Let's say, hypothetically, I wrote a note to someone I loved deeply, and signed off with "love always".

That would mean I'm bound to keep my word and, well, love him always.

Even when he's late for dinner.

Even when he leaves the toilet seat up.

Even when his socks stay in a messy heap, like very flat roadkill, on the living room floor.

Even when he's sick and can't even cough without sneezing, let alone say "I love you, too."

Even when life is average, everything is going smoothly and there is none of what a friend calls "mushi mushi" (as in how my dad sometimes picks up the phone) stuff to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside about each other.

Even when life is downright lousy, with work stress, problems with parents, and friends who seem more interested in telling you what to do than in being with you.

How about family? Can I truly say "love, always" ... even when they don't seem to have time for me? Even when they don't do something they'd promised they would? Even when they just can't be and do everything I wish they could, simply because they're also only human?

To the people around me, can I truly say, "love, always"? As in, "I love you, when you're able to sit down with me for hours over coffee and just laugh. But I also love you when you say something hurtful about my ambition and dreams."

"I love you when you're efficient at work and willing to have lunch at an inexpensive place, and I love you even if today you can't say a nice thing about anyone, including me, because you're just too hurt by what's going on in your home."

"I love you and constantly want the best for you, no matter what happens."

I think if we were forced to expand the two-word phrase to this whole sentence, a lot of us would be much less willing to use it, because we'd suddenly realise the implications.

It isn't easy, but I believe it's a worthy pursuit.

Am I truly able to love ... always?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

a desperate prayer

God, please grant me the clarity I need to submit my 2 pages before the end of the workday so I can leave at 6pm sharp and begin to regain the balance I lost, working 27 hours' OT in 5 working days.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Simple pleasures: Reading

I've loved reading ever since I picked up my first book. I think it was a Richard Scarry pocket edition, Mr Fixit Fox. I can't even estimate how many books I must have read by now.

I have a possibly bad habit of re-reading old, well-loved books over and over again, rather than picking up a new book. The rationale behind this is: I know what I love about the old books, and I don't mind reading something I've read several times before because good writing is something that can be enjoyed countless times without losing any of its savour. With a new book, there's always the risk that it'll turn out so bad that I get literary food poisoning (when I would rather expel the entire contents of the book than have any ideas, impressions or memories from it remain in my mind).

It's now the evening of the second of two consecutive public holidays. With the remaining hours of free time before the hectic schedule of closing week begins, I'm having a hard time choosing between: CS Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Treehouse by Naomi Wolf; and The Golden Road by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

I first read The Golden Road when I was 12 and the older I get, the more I love it. The same goes for all the Montgomery books I've read. Someday, when I have more time, I'd love to write about why I love the work of this late-19th-century Canadian author so much. Right now, I have a date with...?

This time, I think Lewis wins. The beautiful leather-bound, gold-edged copy of the entire Chronicles of Narnia I was given two Christmases ago is as much a delight to touch, smell and see as to read, and who doesn't love a little multi-sensory enjoyment?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Blues

On a day when the sky seems more teal than azure, what keeps me alive?

I came home a little under the weather, and am still feeling lethargic and out of sorts. Plus, a few not-too-peachy things have happened and it all leaves me a few notches short of "chirpy".

Still, I will remember that:
  1. I'm not the only person in the world
  2. Plenty of other people are going through much worse
  3. I've been through worse, and survived
  4. A lot of the things I'm tempted to worry about are beyond my control
  5. A month from now, most of these things won't matter. A year from now, all of these things won't matter.
  6. I'm not alone
  7. I'll always have chocolate. (Or I would always have chocolate, if only I weren't fasting from it.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I think I summed up my current state of mind pretty well in this e-mail to a good friend:

"Morning [name withheld],

"Help... I am leaving for Shanghai in less than 24 hours and fluctuating between a mellow, 'It's aaaaaaaaaallll good' state of mind (complete with illusions of warm yellow sunlight, and daisies, and bright-coloured VW bug carting me off to a blissful 2 days in Shanghai) and absolute panic, as in, 'What do I ask Paul Marciano [at the press conference]?', 'How am I going to look glamorous and get through an alcohol-soaked party (no problems with the alcohol 'cos I don't drink, but what about the other smoking, drinking, possibly not very coherent after a while, but doubtlessly very nice, people???)?' and 'Whose life is this, and how did I end up living it?'

"Hahahaha... can you tell that I am a little overwhelmed? The good thing is, my boss and colleagues are lending me their glammed-up outfits so clothes-wise, I think I'm ok. I am not even intimidated at the thought of meeting international fashion and entertainment celebs... after all, if I could *ahem* interview such illustrious, world-acclaimed artistes as... uh... Afroman? One-half of A1? I can... I can... siiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. Of course, my conscience won't let Philippians 4:13* out of its sight... [SNIP, this is where the relevance ends.]"

*"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Which is, after all, the bottom line when I think of any of the other challenges in life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

From the cat's mouth

This is Mudslide, posting on behalf of Sharon. She's one of my two humans who live in this house: the one who feeds me less frequently and usually with less yummy stuff. My other human, Pops, understands that all a cat really asks is three square meals a day of nothing less than boiled chicken in broth. That, and hourly grooming sessions, and to be left alone until I want a human foot to kick/scratch. Really, it shouldn't be so hard to understand. My remaining two humans who've moved to Bangkok seem to have the balance of chicken-in-broth/grooming/play sessions just right but well, they're in Bangkok.

Oh, all right. I'm not so ornery as that. I do enjoy the company of the two humans who live here. Which is why I like hanging out on the bathroom mat while Pops is taking his shower. So that when he comes out, I'm right there to greet him. Either that, or I'm right there to trip him up because he doesn't often look down where his feet are going.

Sharon just wipes her feet on me if I happen to be there, which is why I've learned to see who's going in the bathroom before I lie on the rug. Humans are filthy. This is why I always give myself a thorough cleaning right after they wipe their grubby hands on me. That's another thing about humans. They don't seem to know that such things as "hand towels" exist; they're always rubbing mucky hands on you and acting like they're doing you a favour.

Anyway. Sharon's down with bronchitis, which she at first thought was the common cold. So she doesn't actually know what she wants me to write about. But I'm an intelligent cat, in case you didn't already know, so I can take over writing for her this time. Most of us cats are naturally very intelligent. Although I've heard talk of a cat who used to have these same humans. His name was Nermal and he was, in Sharon's words, "a few catnip leaves short of a scratching post". Apparently, Nermal wasn't quite stupid; he was just "different".

Like, he would get put out of the house for jumping on the dining table and similar misdemeanours. After which, he'd stay outside the glass sliding door, miaowing his head off piteously at the great injustice done to him.

But Nermal was, after all, Not Stupid. So he learned: if you want to get out of the house and all the doors are closed, what do you do?

And he'd jump on the dining table, because that always got him thrown out, without fail.

After which, he'd stay outside the glass sliding door, miaowing his head off piteously at the great injustice done to him... for about 20 seconds, before he realised he'd asked for The Great Injustice and went off to his kitty appointments.

If you've read up to this point and are wondering why you just gave up 10 irrecoverable minutes of your life to read a post about some cat who's long gone to wherever good cats go, I'd sooner ask you: Why'd you start out reading a cat's writing in the first place? Surely you weren't expecting anything earth-shaking since after all, all I am is a small, fluffy creature who spends the better part of her days curled up on a cardboard box and nights skulking outside a suburban bathroom.

And aren't you wondering how I got this typed, seeing that most cats when placed on a computer keyboard will write something really profound, like "JIOP WEOHJH KHOIUEW JBFDJK(*GJKSD@*UO*#$"? Maybe, if you're really nice to me, I'll let you in on my secret so that you, too can get your cat typing. Just leave a comment with your e-mail address and I'll be in touch to let you know where to send the deliveries of gourmet chicken in broth as payment.

Sharon is now blowing her nose and asking me to stop "mucking about". Huh. Why do humans get so crabby when they're sick?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

An all seeing-eye? I think not...

A few of Malaysia’s more outspoken bloggers and columnists have attacked the Eye on Malaysia, saying there are better ways to spend money. I’ll reserve comment. All I can say is, you would think something called the “Eye on Anything” would offer a widespread, all-inclusive view.

If I had lived my whole life without ever visiting the Eye, I would have been happy. I suppose I could appear kiam siap to some people, but I just like to know that every cent I spend is going to a worthy cause. What constitutes worthy? With me, it’s complex. RM10 for a ticket to just any ol’ movie for mindless entertainment’s sake: fail. RM10 for an ice-cream cone and coloured gel pen to cheer myself up on a bad day: pass. And so on. I’m sure not everyone would agree, but they’re not living my life, so there. So, RM15 is not something I’d usually spend on a Ferris wheel ride, because I’ve never understood the attraction of Ferris wheels. And being nonconforming me, I’m resistant to hype, publicity and everything that hordes of other people are doing.

But I’ve recently begun attending a college zone cell group again, and someone wanted to go there, and that someone happens to be the one who drives most of us to cell.

Now that I’ve gone, all I can say is that the name is really misleading. There is so much more to Malaysia than the KL city centre and the surrounds of Tasik Titiwangsa. So much that you do not see at the Eye. What things, you ask? Why, things like...

... the indescribably yummy banana pancakes from Penang. The ones that are liberally sprinkled with sesame seeds, fried in Planta, and are probably your heart’s worst nightmare... but bliss on the taste buds.

... the beggars you see in larger Malaysian cities, who just about break your heart with their disfigured bodies and raggedy clothing... then raise your suspicions with their Starbucks collection cups.

... the still remarkably clear waters off Sabah, where exotic fish (including nasty little ones that bite, but don’t draw blood) live.

... the views you get driving on the PLUS highway on a clear day (when you can see foreeeeeeeeeeeverrrrrr... sorry). All that blue and green can just about blind you with its beauty. Just add one Brahmini kite out on his daily hunt, and... bliss.

... the visual and tactile beauty that is only found in Nyonya beadwork. One pair of finely crafted shoes takes up to 50 (wo)man hours to sew... and that’s before it’s even made up into a shoe.

There is so much more to this country than what you see from 60m above Tasik Titiwangsa. Beautiful things; ugly things. That contrast is what makes the fabric of a nation, the warp and the weft. Frustrations aside, all things considered, I love this country. But what did I see as the wheel went round and round? The affluence of the nearby homes. The glaring brightness of the Twin Towers. And the slow-moving traffic of downtown KL. If this Eye gives some people the only view they will ever have of Malaysia, I’m sorry for them indeed.

Friday, March 09, 2007

That was Zen, this is Tao

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to put down anyone; if by any chance the people in question see it, they will have no doubt who they are and should know that I'm stating the facts.

I've been hesitant to post about this incident because I don't want my motives to be misread, but I realise that 1) it's not likely that anyone actually reads this blog anyway; and 2) people can interpret anything their way, but as long as I know why I write and my conscience is fine with it, let it fly.

A few months ago, I was asked to choreograph a dance for a church event. This I did, gathering the dancers I needed and rehearsing independently with them because the leader who'd asked me to do the job was buried over her head in other work.

Twice before the performance, she came to view the choreography, and both times she gushed approval. The second time was five days before.

Three days before the performance, she blew into the hall like a very small, but very strong, hurricane and snapped that things had to be changed because the dance was "too Zen".

How she had managed to drastically change her mind in two nights, I still don't quite understand. The bottom line is, we managed to change the choreography to something she would accept, and in the end the dance was one of the least of her worries because there was a power failure on the day of that event.


My question is...
How can a dance be described as Zen? It's a variation of the question I always ask: how can a dance, referring to the motion itself, be referred to as "Christian"? Isn't "Christian" an adjective applied to people who've made the conscious decision to believe that Jesus was God sent to earth as man; that He died; and that He came back to life on the third day? How does a dance piece "believe" anything, being a passive, intangible object?

Back to "Zen", then. I choreographed the piece to reflect the importance of prayer, humility, submission and Scripture in our faith. Apparently, some people who viewed the last few rehearsals took issue with the movement motifs I had chosen to reflect these traits, as they resembled the prayer movements of other religions.


Lines in the sand
Where does the boundary between "arbitrary gesture" and "assigned religious symbol" lie? If I place my hands together and bow my head when I meet a Thai or Nepali, is this a religious act? More and more people, thank God, will tell me that no, it's an accepted greeting in these cultures.

In that case, I'd venture to say (and may I be corrected if I'm wrong) that it wasn't spiritual discernment that made certain quarters reject the dance; it was ignorance and fear. Fear of the unfamiliar; fear of appearing "un-Christian".

Why did I not say all this then and there? Because we were counting down the hours to the performance and the priority was to do whatever worked. Because my reason for agreeing to choreograph the piece was to come up with a work that would glorify God; not to give my artistic expression exposure. Because I was tired from that and Drunk Before Dawn and all I wanted was for it to be over.


My limits aren't your limits
I realise that living as a Christian today involves walking many fine lines: socially, professionally, culturally. The fact is that for each of us, the lines fall in different places. We need the courage to accept that if something's all right for me, it may not be for you and vice versa. It was a tough lesson, but one that this experience taught me in spades.

Oh and the title? I did have a split second of wicked inspiration when I wanted to change the choreography to something different, but just as Oriental-inspired, and shoot this wisecrack at the leader. But I didn't. Peace at all costs, yada yada. Plus, it was late at night and I wanted to sleep.

I Refuse To Be A Libran

My boss and colleague whose birthdays fall after and before mine, respectively, both align themselves to the star sign Libra and keep referring to me as a "Libran" too. I've made it clear from Day 1 of this job that I don't believe in horoscopes and refuse to have anything to do with them personally, but it doesn't appear to have sunk in.

When I was 10, my mother ordered a personalised zodiac sign letter tray for me; I never picked it up. Fast-forward 16 years later, to my first month on the job at this magazine, when I was offered a spa review called "The Zodiac Ritual". I only agreed to do it on the understanding that I would not play up the zodiac aspect of what was clearly nothing more than a marketing gimmick to differentiate that spa from the multitudes that have popped up in the Klang Valley.

People may think me overly nit-picky to so strongly stand against something that's become such a natural part of our culture, but I happen to know that the stars don't have any more control over my existence than I do over theirs. The last I checked, acknowledging and believing in something you know to be wrong is called either delusion or denial. I don't know about the next person but I prefer not to live in either of these two states. Even having to edit and proofread the monthly horoscopes for the magazine where I work is a required part of my job that I constantly struggle with.

I'm no monkey
As for Chinese zodiac symbols, I know many Christians won't even acknowledge them (although most of these people don't seem to mind listing their "Western" zodiac symbols in their online profiles) but it's something I use as a calendar system. It helps me to remember how old people (mostly my relatives) are, based on the sequence of years. I don't read Chinese horoscopes and predictions based on one's animal year, either, nor will I agree that I have certain character or physical attributes due to my birth year. I'm still waiting for someone to give me a strong, Biblical reason why I should stop even acknowledging the Chinese animal calendar system.

I don't force my anti-Zodiac subscription down anyone's throat; I respect everyone's need to arrive at their own convictions over any issue. I just state what I believe and why, and then it's up to them whether they agree or not. I only wish the same could be said of the people around me who still insist on calling me a "Libran".

Monday, February 05, 2007

A hurting person spoke to me...

... and when I finally had the patience to listen, this is what I heard:

"Don't assume you have the right to tell me whether I should or shouldn't cry. Whether you would have cried if faced with the same pain doesn't make a difference to me and what I am currently feeling. Anyway, you can't possibly feel the exact same pain I feel because you're not God. My nerves are my nerves; if you saw me cut then took a knife and cut yourself, that would be your pain, not mine. It's the same with my heart. You can't know what it feels.

"However, if you dare admit your inability to do anything to remove my pain, you may sit by my side, take my hand, and cry with me."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Deprive me not

What are the things that you absolutely must have or achieve in your lifetime?

For most people, it boils down to: a home of their own, meeting and settling down with "The One", making a name for oneself in a given industry... or maybe climbing at least one really tall mountain ("really tall" being a relative measure) or owning a European car with an unpronounceable name.

For one man, at least, it was different.

"Two things I request of You (deprive me not before I die)," this man prayed.

"Remove falsehood and lies far from me..."

Not "keep me far away from annoying people like that family down the road that's always sending their kids over to borrow a few shekels of salt for their baking".

Or "deliver me from travelling Persian salesmen". (Maybe I read too much Asterix when I was younger.)

Or "please grant me a really hot wife with thighs like jewels, a neck like an ivory tower and breasts like twin fawns... by the way, that sounds like it would make a really great song!"

But a humble request for a truthful heart.

"... Give me neither poverty nor riches feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You, and say, 'Who is the Lord?'
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God."

I used to think I have simpler tastes than most, because I really don't aspire to own a huge bungalow or win a Pulitzer. Ultimately, what I want out of life is to pursue the best in every moment, and everything else will follow. And maybe one way to get to the best is to remember, and pray with, this old-time proverb writer that I will live a life of truth; a life of constantly "being content".

"Deprive me not before I die."

Monday, January 29, 2007

STOP or I'll...


How would you complete this threat?

"Stop or I'll shoot" is a common one. But I'm non-violent.

Anyway, why this entry? Because last week, from the moment I got up on Monday morning it was go, go, go with barely a pause. I was even thinking in my sleep of how the pages looked and which ones I still needed to clear. I dreamt that we hadn't actually closed March and woke up in a cold sweat before dawn.

Thursday night, I was so filled with remorse about having taken Friday off that I could barely allow myself to leave work, and that after having worked almost straight through lunch. When I finally left, my weary head thought it would at least get a half-hour's rest before my appointment to see a movie with friends. Then, when I arrived home, I realised (with the descending, discordant organ notes from a bad '60s horror movie) that I'd left not only my employee ID tag but also my wallet containing IC, driver's licence and cash in my drawer at work. So I took off in a run back to the office (which, thank God, is near home), hardly able to keep my eyes open. By the time I got home, I had just enough time to shower and eat before I left again. *And* I had to top up my tank so that I could safely reach PD later that night. Oh yes, PD. I was planning to watch the movie, then go home to grab my stuff, and drive for two hours to the nearest place I can go to feel totally at home, yet not have 101 things begging for me to attend to them.

I reached home with my wallet (and a whole bunch of other things I'd also left behind without realising) and saw that I had even less time than I'd thought. So I did what any sane person would do. Let me rephrase that. I did what anybody wanting to stay sane would do.

I stopped.

Kicked off my shoes, put down my bags from work, kept my dinner, and sat on the sofa with my eyes closed for five miutes.

It didn't matter who I had to meet in 25 minutes' time, whether my stomach was rumbling, or that my cat was pacing peevishly around me with her "I'm hungry" face. I needed to stop doing stuff for a moment.

Five minutes later (because I was, after all, on a schedule) I got up and went on with whatever I had to do. I didn't feel as rested as if I'd got my half-hour nap, but my mind was refreshed and definitely, peace was restored within.

I think too many of us have forgotten how to be still and experience life for what it is. Not that work or relationships ought to be neglected while we sit down over a steaming cup of tea, but we are meant to lead balanced lives and that's something that I and many people I know are still struggling to achieve.

My five minutes of silence may have pushed back my schedule and made me late for my appointment, but as I work towards cutting down on the things I need and want to do, it looks like something I have to keep forcing myself to take.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

This blog is Not Dead

It's not that I haven't anything to say, just not the time to express it well enough.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I have not become too lazy to post. No, no, no.

I've just been so surrounded by activity over the past month, from Drunk Before Dawn finally being performed, to the KK trip (and more performances), to Christmas and New Year's, not to mention that fun time of month when we close the magazine, that anywhere that I can have peace and quiet is most welcome. Even if it's only my blog.

So I'm only breaking this silence for a while.

Drunk Before Dawn was superlatively good. For some odd reason, I feel compelled not to blog about it because the total experience defied words. There were nasty parts along the way. There were uplifting parts. But on the whole, as I said, it was good.

Since the year has only just begun, and I've had little time lately to reflect on all the good things in my life, I shall take a moment here to thank the Lord for...

... my new niece, Natalie Toh Tik Chu, much-loved firstborn of my cousin and his wife. There's nothing like a little baby to make you stop and rediscover what the important things in life are. According to Natalie, at the moment, they are food and sleep. Haha. No. I know there's more to life. Which is why I would also like to express my thanks for...

... the year just ended, which if I were to sum up with a theme would have been The Year Of Inward Travel. Not in some off-the-wall, dude-what-have-you-been-smoking way. Just, very rationally, that I was given so many opportunities to contemplate my life in sum and detail during the year, and as far as I can help it I'm going to use that to my benefit.

... the opportunity to perform on stage once again. It's something I've really missed, and I enjoyed it so much. Wardrobe malfunctions notwithstanding.

... the many friends I've made and deepened friendships with in the past year, and my faithful old friends.

... all those moments when for a split second I wished I had a camera (still or video) to record the occasion. I ended up with better than pictures; I ended up with memories. (I'm starting to sound like a photographic paper advertisement. This could be worrying.)
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