The New Luxury

A really long time ago, precious “me” time meant fun haircuts, soothing mani/pedi sessions, delicious dining options (note: seated down, and eating slowly, not chomping it down hurriedly) or a relaxing spa session.

Today, I was hurrying about on a grocery errand. It was a sunny Spring morning. I decided to do a 2-minute detour, popped into cumaica and got myself an iced coffee.

You should have seen the grin on my face.

Like a little girl in a candy store. Except this was a grown woman getting her coffee.

The barista must have thought I was one of those nutty ones.

It was truly a treat. To be sipping coffee as I go about my weekend errands, trying not to feel too domesticated. This cup in my hand is doing wonders to make me feel like a game-changer.

Only because I broke my usual home routine, and did something for a change.

I really need to get out more!

In the meantime, a busy mom will take whatever little luxury she can have for now, even if it means a cuppa sipped leisurely.

Mom’s Luxuries. A whole new world.

Coffee break. March 30, 2013

Day & Night in San Francisco

So this is where I live, now.
Somewhere in between work trips, Mt. Laundry, Twin Sleep Rebellions and hectic life calendar, I forgot the beauty of this place I live in.

Thanks to this great video by Teton Gravity Research, it rekindled a fresh appreciate of this city in this urban transplant.

I made a silent resolution to myself: I must not forget the explorer in me, and I must discover this city, no matter how hard it is to pull away from the daily demands of juggling twin toddlers and work.

Sister, Near and Far

Life got the better of me. I still draft my posts in my head, but I just don’t put them down in writing anymore. Not because of anything, but the sheer lack of time. Raising twin toddlers, and working, and adapting to a new city can do that to you.

And then I came across this post from Design Mom. And it struck a chord so deep that I decided I should break out of my “blog hermitage” and try and reconnect my thoughts and my blog again.

Now that I am 8,000+ miles away from home, my sister and my dear girlfriends are not a short drive away. I miss the camaraderie. The kind of sisterly kinship that only a sister will know; the kind of girly bonds that only girlfriends can relate to. There is nothing more emotionally powerful than your “sistas” giving you a lift when you need it.

I miss my girls.

But I know I will always have them with me. 8,000 miles away or not.

Sister for life. Friends for life. Thank you for your love. Even from so far away, I know you still have my back.


Zombie Mom

I have not had the time nor the mind space to go near this dashboard. For the past three months, life continued to be a whirlwind of diaper changes and tending to sick twin babies and night feeds.

Oh, yes. Night feeds. Twice the load.

Then there is Work.

Reading Rebecca Woolf’s blogpost (Adventures in Sleep Deprivation) made me GRATEFUL. So grateful that I had to blog again. Pronto.

For months, in spite of the sleep deprivation, sicknesses (yes, moms do catch the bug from the babies!), work stress, physical weariness, I turned up religiously for work, determined to make a difference. Work is by no means an easy feat. Being head of an office means when I fight fire at work, it’s the “sh*t-hits-the-fan” kind of fires. It also means the buck stops here, cos I need to be the all-knowing, all-discerning problem solver, even though I sometimes wonder how could those problems have occured in the first place.

So sleep deprivation, sicknesses, work stress and physical weariness aside, I turn up for work, trying to solve as many problems as I can, and fight as many fires as I can, and then I head home to start “mom duty” in the midst of 8pm/9pm/10pm concalls, and then I sleep, and then I wake up the next day feeling like groundhog day.

Yet, everyday I tell myself, “Today will be better. It can only be better.”

Except “better” never comes.

The truth is, when tending to young babies, there are so many situations that can arise that you cannot predict or schedule, or reschedule! Everyday it was rough just maintaining sanity, let alone deal with all the stress in many forms. Keeping pace with this whole new life was tough. It requires mental stamina to keep going, keep positive and will the worn out body to keep functioning both as a boss and as a mom.

One night while working late in the office, a coworker’s insensitive remarks put a halt to my goundhog day realities. I decided it was enough to try and keep up, but I should just be darn honest with the darn challenges that I have to deal with. Just because I’ve been sucking it up and doing my utmost best to keep afloat doesn’t mean it is as easy as it looks, and I should not need to be apologetic for being worn out.

So I declared, “Well, because tending to two young babies, AND dealing with all these bad sh*t at work at the same time IS tiring!”

Thankfully, there are many more enlightened souls in the organization than the insensitive ones. And many are parents themselves, who offer their support and their encouragement. One colleague even commented that my honesty helps him to be a better manager towards his colleagues who recently became new moms. “We know it is tough, but we men don’t REALLY know how tough it is. So when I see your perspective, I can empathize better with my colleagues who are new moms. ”

Kudos, mister!

Every mom whom I meet tells me that I must be superwoman, returning to work so soon (after just 2.5 months) and working such a stressful job while juggling two demanding babies for that matter! Talk about burning on both ends.

But I never knew for sure if my challenges were understood.

Sometimes, I even doubt if I understand how worn out I am. You just don’t afford that kind of indulgence to yourself anymore. You keep on going on. Every single day. There is just too much pressure to “keep it together”. But if you take a look at the moms blogs, or working mom websites, you can easily tell that keeping it together is the last thing on every mom’s mind. Keeping sane is more the theme of eternity.

And then I read this article by fellow twin mom Rebecca Woolf. And I realise, I am not alone. It WILL get better…. and shoo those who cannot understand and still penalise me for my fatigue because my fellow moms will know that I am doing is far and beyond what the “normal”.

So thank YOU, Rebecca! Thank you for bringing me a little piece of affirmation in the midst of zombieland.

This further inspires me to “keep it real” instead of “keep it together”. The idealist in me believes in humanity a lot more than thinking that people just want to see the Stepford Life.

Goddess. Out.

My nails are chipped. Cuticles rough and uncut. The hair has split ends. The face tired.

The goddess has left me.

But I’m happy. And satisfied.

I miss my weekend pampering treats where I’m fussed and groomed, and I can escape from the work week’s stress by tending to my tresses. But I’m happy.

This is what motherhood does to you. Especially since I have twin boys and my demanding four-month old babies are still on a very regular three/four-hour feeding schedule. Personal time is now an invalid entry in my dictionary.

Motherhood is not all bliss. Oh! I found out the hard way that there are A LOT that people don’t tell you about motherhood. Most probably because if too much of it is told, our species will end cos we women will not rationally go into the noble task of continuing the homo sapient genes. But that is the point: motherhood is not a rational decision; it is an emotional one. And hence, its benefits are equally emotional and sans rationale.

That is the only reason why I am in such an ungodly state and can still be happy.

I have willingly bequeath my “goddess” past to my little princes.

It is when I look into their angelic faces as they sleep, little hands clinging tight to me that I feel heavenly again.

My nails are chipped. Cuticles rough and uncut. The hair has split ends. The face tired. My heart is full.


Of bunnies and babies

This Chinese New Year was a strange one for me.

Everyday as I flipped through the newspapers, I get more and more confused.

It’s the Year of the Rabbit, and our PM urged Singaporeans to have more babies alongside wishing us a happy new year. I get the message. I am one of the many whom my nation will teasingly say that I do not fulfill my “national service” to bring up the country’s fertility rates. I read the low statistics of 1.16 fertility rate, and my intellectual rationale kicks in. Trust me, I get the message. The severity that this has on our social-economical equilibrium, and the threat it brings to our nation’s existence.

What I don’t get: why is everyone flogging this issue as if it is an intellectual one?

“It could have been because of the Year of the Tiger, or perhaps the economic uncertainties the year before, in 2009. Whatever the reasons, I hope more couples will start or add to their families in the Year of the Rabbit. Chinese New Year is the time for families to come together in celebration, and more babies can only mean more joy in the years to come,” said the Prime Minister as he wished all Singaporeans a very happy Year of the Rabbit. (Source: TODAY, Feb 02, 2011)

I understand that our leaders are trying their best to cajole the people into a very real societal challenge. However, I must confess that I find it disturbing that my decision to start a family (or not) is thought to be pinned upon a Chinese horoscope. Or, rising costs of living for that matter, as CNN reports it. Or, because of my tiertiary education, or my selfish needs of maintaining a “freedom” lifestyle, as our government’s survey results have released.

Every time the news outlets report about the nation’s fertility problem, and we are urged to have more babies, I’m made to feel very indignant.

Until I read Venessa Lee’s article in the weekend TODAY. She found the right angle to view the challenge at hand. She probably had given many of us, non-nation-serving Singaporean women a voice. The right voice.

I find it puzzling that for years and years, we are flogged this issue in our faces, blamed for not wanting family and attributed as selfish, offered cash bonuses and incentives accordingly to our fertility contribution. How was all these going to address a fundamentally EMOTIONAL and PERSONAL decision?

We do not have to look too deep into our intellect to be able to relate to the human stories of the challenge. Just tap into the pop culture available. E News anchor Giuliana and Bill Rancic share openly about their desire to have a family, and their arduous journey to do so. What started as a reality show episode became a widely followed topic for many couples, and eventually the Season 2 curtain raiser. Why does their story have such a draw? Because it’s a human one.

I feel indignant because nobody seems to care about the human stories behind the fertility issue.  Why are we so obsessed about the issue, and not willing to find the right solutions for it? Even if we are a nation of pragmatic people, our leaders ought to understand that this involves people, lives and many many couple’s arduous journeys.

I had tried to share this perspective to some people who are able to make the difference. To that point, their perspective was, “Oh our job is not to listen. That’s another department’s job.” End of discussion.

*dramatic pause* (I still cannot comprehend that answer, by the way. Flabbergasted.)

I am right smack in the target group who have contributed to the fertility problem by not having children (yet). So are many of my girlfriends. Ever since my indignant fury on the topic has been provoked, I have been reaching out to my friends and openly discussing what was – and still very much is – a taboo topic. We talked as woman to woman, wife to wife, and we talked with our maternity instincts intact. Yes, many of us are successful career women and happily married but we are not as selfish as reports make us out to be. Every single of us who have delayed our child-bearing decisions have our personal real-life challenges to deal with. These real-life challenges are not as simplified as “rising costs of living” or a “personal lifestyle choice”. These real-life challenges involved real-life families, loved ones, and problems that only we are left to deal with.

I wonder who has heard these stories?

Or more accurately, who has cared to ask the right questions?

My line of work involves communicating to the audience with the specific messages designed to resonate. Sometimes this means bringing societal taboo out in the open to be discussed and to be resolved, but in a relatable way. I have seen many corporate companies do this well and with huge success. Often it begins with listening. Listening to the audience, understanding them and then asking the right questions.

So, thank you Venessa Lee for writing your article and bringing out the success that Australia enjoys. Thank you for showing that the baby bonus is really not the point nor the solution, but there are other areas of needs that should be looked into.

I only hope this time, it will be heard.


A Quarter-decade Friendship

Last night, I met my girlfriend whom I have known for 25 years!

I had the cold, nursing a stuffy nose and exhausted from a full day’s work, but still I carried on with our dinner plans, because she was taking the midnight flight out of Singapore back to where she’s based now for work.

We have not seen each other for the past 8 years. In between, we moved houses, relocated, changed jobs and we simply lost touch. And now, a cold cannot hold me back from meeting this friend for dinner.

She found me through the social networking sites, tracked down my latest contact details because she was in Singapore for a work trip. We arranged to meet for dinner.

25 years is a long time. We knew each other when we were little girls. My family was on a vacation to Taiwan, and while the adults chit chat, the children found our way to the playground and we played for an entire afternoon. When you were kids, an entire afternoon is an eternity, and if you got along, you become best friends forever.

So we promised to write each other. This is a time before the internet. We were pen pals. We’d share with each other the details of our lives, complete with drawings and illustrations to bring out the full meaning of what we were trying to express over paper. Sometimes there’ll be a bookmark, or a sticker and these are simple gifts that’ll travel miles and miles just to tell a friend that we care.

Through our middle school, high school and college years, we’d write and write and write to each other. Sometimes it is not what is written, but what was written then scratched away. The intensity of the handwriting, the speed of how the words were scribed, or how the letters were folded are all telling signs. Signs of a friendship that grew with pen and paper; signs of a friendship that grew intuitively.

As we mature into womanhood, our lives took on different beats. Things happen so fast so soon that it was impossible to catch each other up via pen and paper anymore.

Our correspondences dwindled in frequency, but never diminishes in intensity. We still knew we had each other’s ears.

She has always reach out to me when she reaches the low points in her life. When she feels most defeated and needs a safe harbor to rest. For the past 8 years, when I did not hear from her, I know that she wanted to on her own and fight the good fight because  she wanted to be strong. But when I heard her voice over the phone to schedule for our dinner, I also knew instinctively that she needed an old friend’s assurance again.

Hence, cold-struck or not, I was determined to make it to dinner.

2010 was a bad year for her. Work wise she was doing well when she left Taiwan and relocated to be where her work took her, but her personal life was falling apart and the challenges too much to take on all alone in a foreign land. She sank into depression, and her work days sustained only by the medication prescribed by her doctor. In between our dinner, she’d still be teary-eyed as we talked and there will be moments when she needed to take in a deep breathe to calm herself.

You are so brave, my friend. You’ve always had a kind heart, and sadly there are some people who’d trample on that. Don’t beat yourself up because you had been kind. From now on, just be kinder to yourself.

She nodded.

I think that was all that needed from an old, old friend.

Last night, as we shared our dinner and we poured our hearts out , I know that no amount of time can take away that sense of familiarity. We were there with each other when we – our menial existence of mind and soul – was only just forming. You could say that in a sense, we knew each other from genesis.

As I saw her leave for her flight, I could only say my quiet prayers in my heart. Get well, my friend. Life is hard, but you know when you have an old friend who is still with you in spirit for the past 25 years and still more to come, you can be strong!

A friendship that started in a sandbox, sustained by penpal-ship and now reconnected by technology.