Monday, September 17, 2018

Why I, a Christian, believe 377A should be repealed

Four years ago, I wrote a post in response to the NLB’s banning of the penguin books. Today, I’m writing a post in response to the 377A issue. I struggled with whether to post this because I know it will generate a lot of controversy from all sides, and I dislike conflict. Immensely. 

However, I know many Christians have been grappling with this issue and I’ve been feeling a strong urge to share my views as a fellow Christian. I don’t know if you are for, against, or not sure which stance you are supposed to take. I will make it very clear – these are my views and I’m not forcing you to agree with me. We can agree to disagree. But if this post can somehow help you gain clarity on the issue, then that’s all I can ask for. 

I believe 377A should be repealed. Here’s why: 

1) Sin and crime are two very different things. Even if you believe homosexuality is a sin, as stated in the bible, it is unjust to call it a crime. I’ve said this before: some Christians feel like as long as LGBT is on the cards, they have to always take the other side. Stop and think about how ludicrous this is. If sins should be considered crimes, then why don’t we criminalise adultery? Or premarital sex? Or divorce? Or, as I jokingly mentioned on FB to the horror of my foodie friend, why not criminalise gluttony? Ban buffets! 

2) The 377A is a sham because it is openly unenforced. What’s the point of it then? For this reason, having the 377A does not discourage homosexuality. It’s like having a law against speeding, then declaring that the law would never be enforced. Does the law deter speeding then? No. So if I say the law should be dropped, am I then saying that I support speeding? Of course not.

But by keeping 377A, we are legitimising hatred and prejudice towards the LGBT, which impinges on human rights. This is not just a secular issue. In the bible, we are told to seek justice for all as well.

As for the argument that we should uphold Asian values, guess what – 377A is not a law enacted by Singapore (and thus Asian). It is an antiquated British law introduced in 1938 that we inherited from our colonial past. So what Asian values are we talking about?

3) I hope you recognise that Singapore is a secular society. I think it’s terribly obtuse of Christians to insist that laws for a secular society should be in line with their own beliefs. You cannot furtively try to “make” Singapore more Christian by forcing Christian values down the throats of non-believers. That’s incredibly arrogant.

I will even go so far as to say that’s what the Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ time did. Instead of loving, helping and guiding people, all they did was prescribe a whole lot of laws, police moral conduct and condemn those who did not fall within their circle of acceptability.

Consider the bible story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). The Pharisees wanted to stone her according to the law of Moses. But Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” Note, he didn’t say: “Let him who is without sin of adultery”. The bible clearly states that “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22,23). All sins are equally bad, ie no sin is “better” than another. Why then do we always play up the sin of homosexuality with such indignation without looking at our own sins of greed, pride, anger, envy and so on? 

Some Christians think that since the LGBT haven’t obeyed Jesus’ command to “go and sin no more”, they are justified in rejecting the LGBT. Yes, Jesus did say that. And that relationship is between God and the individual. Nothing to do with you. By the way, how are you doing with your own sins? Are you now completely sinless? It makes me incredibly angry that some people think they have the right to judge others in this way, or tell others they are not welcome in church until they repent. Who made you gatekeeper of God’s Kingdom?

Jesus was kind to the woman because she acknowledged her sin and received his grace. But he was harsh to the Pharisees because they condemned her and justified themselves. Contrary to popular belief, the hardened criminals or people struggling with sin are usually not those who are most lost to the gospel. Ironically, these are the ones who generally obey the rules, are quite nice folks and think they’re not so bad, therefore don’t need God’s mercy as much as others. Once we attribute righteousness through our own efforts and not through God, we are rejecting the gospel of grace. I believe that people with spiritual pride are always treated harshly by God because the self takes credit for God’s work. 

Supporting the repeal is not equal to endorsing homosexuality

Most Christians would be familiar with the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). In today’s context, if Jesus had retold the parable, I imagine the priest might be a pastor, the Levite a cell group leader, and the Samaritan a gay man who doesn’t believe in God.

Are you feeling offended? If you are, then perhaps you should ask yourself why. The people who were offended by the story during Jesus’ time were the Jews. They felt insulted because the priests and the Levites were the spiritual leaders of their time, whereas the Samaritans were half-Jew, half-Gentile and had their own religious system.

A guest speaker at my recent church conference was Pastor Peter Tsukahira, who pastors a church in Israel. He shared that we tend to believe the priest and Levite passed the wounded man on the road because they were heartless and uncaring. But at that time, priests had to abide by strict rules to maintain purity of the mind and body. Touching a dead or dying body would have rendered the priest impure and unable to perform his priestly duties, until he was thoroughly cleansed. Likewise for the Levites who performed some religious duties at the temple, touching a corpse was considered unclean. In other words, they could have been avoiding the man just so they could remain pure to perform God’s work.

In contrast, the Samaritans were considered heretics because they had broken away from God’s Word and believed that God could only be worshipped in Samaria.

Yet, Jesus deliberately told this parable in response to the young rabbi’s question: “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, and said: “Go and do likewise.” He was contrasting the priest and Levite (who had belief but no action) with the Samaritan (who had the wrong belief but right action).

Some Christians fear that by supporting the repeal of 377A, they are sending the message that homosexuality is acceptable. It is not, the same way that when Jesus told the young rabbi to “go and do likewise”, he wasn’t endorsing the Samaritan’s belief. He was making the point that what we do matters too, not just what we believe. 

Other Christians feel that 377A should be upheld, otherwise it will lead to the slippery slope of gay marriage promotion or homosexuality in schools. It bugs me that people think they can use the possibility of dangers in the future to justify them not doing the right thing now. This reminds me of the ancient emperors in China, who would eliminate entire families of their enemies, just to prevent any of them from seeking revenge in the future. We are to do the right thing, always. What may happen in the future does not justify any wrongdoing, ever. 

Often, I feel people caricaturise the LGBT out of ignorance and fear. If you don’t have a single LGBT friend, then it’s easy to paint them as villains with a common evil intent (the “Gay Agenda”!) It’s just like how people who don’t have friends from other races tend to be the most racist. It’s easier to draw tribal lines and imagine “others” as a wicked bunch when you don’t know any of them. But the LGBT community, like the Christian community, is far from being a homogeneous group. If you take the time to befriend them and know them personally, you will see that each of them has his own fears, struggles, hopes and dreams. In other words, they are human beings, just like us.

The great commission is to turn people to Christ. And last I checked, trying to impose Christian values on non-believers usually has the opposite effect. Jesus said in no uncertain terms that we are live for Christ by loving God, and our neighbours as ourselves. And yes, our neighbours include the LGBT. Like it or not, this community has been deeply hurt by Christians in the past, even well-meaning ones. It’s time we showed them kindness as God intended it.

Showing them kindness doesn’t mean you are endorsing or encouraging homosexuality. Don’t confuse your actions with outcomes. You are only responsible for the former, not the latter. In fact, if you believe that you somehow have to control the outcome, then you are not only robbing God of His sovereignty, you are demonstrating very little faith in His ability to transform hearts. Be the light and God will take care of the rest.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” – Romans 12:15-18


Monday, June 18, 2018

The buggy generation

Read to the end to find out what this post is REALLY about.

A couple of weeks ago, my church organised its once-in-two-years church camp. Traditionally, the June hols are when churches hold their church camps and mine is no different. Since Andre's poly holidays didn't coincide with that week, he had to stay home and Kenneth decided to stay with him.

So it was an all-girl trip for us - me, Lesley-Anne and my sister. We had such an enriching and blessed time together. Our speaker was Pastor Edmund Chan who started the annual IDMC Conference. He's such a spirit-led and charismatic speaker. Apparently, our church booked him four years in advance, that's how popular a speaker he is!


Our church camp was held at AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort, an hour drive from KL. The resort is gorgeous - it's like something out of the Maldives (but closer to home and cheaper!). It's really an ideal place for a retreat. It's quiet with a fabulous beach. For a small fee, you can take part in unlimited sea sports, like jet-skiing.


Infinity pool
For families, there are luxurious family villas that sleep four with two separate rooms and two bathrooms! Lesley-Anne and I were booked in a superior villa (sleeps two). All the villas have a balcony that looks out to the sea.


The only drawback is that due to the size of the resort (the villas are very spread out), depending on where your villa is, you can be quite far from the lobby/main entrance area, which was where we had to go for all our speaker sessions.

If you see the photo below, the resort is laid out like a palm tree, with the lobby area at the base of the trunk. The superior villas are mostly along the trunk, while the family villas are along the "branches". Just the trunk itself is around 500m, and each of the "branches" is another 500m or so. Which means that if your villa is situated at the end of one of the branches, it's about a 1km hike to the main lobby.  

Photo: Avani Sepang
To facilitate movement, the resort provides free bikes that can be found parked all along the villas. 


They also provide a buggy service. However, since our church contingent comprised more than 600 campers, our church organisers told us to leave the buggies for the older folks who really needed it.

Our villa was located at the 350m mark from the main lobby, so it really didn't seem like a problem. Lesley-Anne is a terrible cyclist and she said she would most likely cycle into the sea, so walking was going to be our mode of transport. However, by the second day, my knees were killing me (though it was probably the prolonged standing during the sessions more than the walking that caused the problem).

One afternoon, Lesley-Anne was walking ahead and I was lagging behind under the scorching sun when I passed by a couple of bikes. Suddenly, biking seemed like a really good idea. I picked one, placed my bag in the front basket and hopped on. I gripped the handlebars confidently, and off I went!...for about 10 metres before nearly crashing into a flower bed. So much for not ever forgetting how to ride a bike. Anyway, the bike went back to the side of the path and I went back to shuffling the rest of the way.

So by the end of the second day with aching knees, I gave in and took the buggy.


I was a little abashed that I was taking up a spot that should have gone to the old aunties...and then I noticed something curious. Nobody shot me dirty looks as the buggy whizzed past them on the path. In fact, nobody even looked twice in my direction. Then it dawned on me. OMG. I AM THE OLD AUNTIE.

It's amazing how quickly your feelings can evolve. I went from shame to wonder to indignation to resignation all within a split second. (I'm efficient. Even my feelings are efficient). If ever I was in denial about my auntie status, that jiggly ride on the buggy snapped me out of my delusions once and for all.

It's official - I am part of the buggy generation. It's quite funny, when you think about it, that I had more than one sort of awakening at church camp. Ah well. The least I can do is accept it with grace and humour. And at least it's a comfortable ride.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Let's talk books - from fun ones to assessment books

The school hols are upon us again!

If you missed Lesley-Anne and me at our book launch at the Botanic Gardens, here's another chance to catch us:

Date: Saturday, 9 June 2018, 2.30-3pm 
Venue: Neo Kinokuniya Singapore Main Branch (Ngee Ann City)

We will be sharing stories behind our latest book, Secrets of Singapore: Botanic Gardens, answering any questions you might have, and of course, signing books. Meanwhile, I share some secrets of the book with Epigram Books!

And if it's the PSLE that's bugging you, here's a second date to jot down on your calendar: Thursday 7 June 9.30pm. Tune in to Channel NewsAsia's Talking Point, where they will be discussing the hot topic of assessment books. I spoke to the host Steven Chia about my views (and no, I won't be telling you which ones to buy!)


I was interviewed in my capacity as a mum, education blogger and author of The Good, the Bad and the PSLE, which Steven is reading here.


Remember to tune in!


Monday, May 7, 2018

Skincare more than Ordinary

Today's post is quite uncharacteristic - it's on skincare. If you're like me, facing the onset of ageing skin, read on.

My skin is generally unproblematic but when the kids came along, I started getting breakouts. I tried different products, from the drugstore brands to high end ones. Some were ok, many of them broke me out even more, but none were really very spectacular, even the ones that came highly recommended.

Then a few years ago, I discovered Paula's Choice and that was a game changer. Paula's Choice is founded by Paula Begoun. who has been lambasting beauty companies for years, for selling skincare with unproven claims and at ridiculously doped up prices. In the best case scenario, some of these dubious ingredients do nothing for your skin, and in the worst case, are actually harmful. Or in some cases, the ingredients in the product actually do work, but exist in such small quantities or are inappropriately packaged, so that their effectiveness is negligible.

For example, did you know many ingredients, like Vitamin C, when exposed to air, quickly oxidise and lose their effectiveness? Worse, instead of being antioxidants, they become pro-oxidants, meaning they're harmful for your skin. You can tell this has happened when your Vitamin C serum turns orange. In other words, if your cream is packaged in a jar, once you open it, it instantly starts to be less effective. Your $100 jar of face cream might as well be a decorative ornament on your dresser. Pretty but useless.

Know that beauty products are not strictly regulated so companies can make any claims they want. "75% of users showed a reduction in wrinkles in 2 weeks!" Well, that could very well be 3 out of 4 of the company's friends. Nobody checks or sets rules for these claims.

Paula's Choice products use ingredients that have been scientifically proven to work. In her products, she lists what each ingredient is used for. Her packaging does not allow for oxidisation and she doesn't add loads of unnecessary preservatives and fragrance, which are potentially irritating to the skin.

For instance, when I first started breaking out in adult acne, I tried a cream by L'oreal that contained BHA (salicylic acid), because I read that BHAs are great for acne. Horrors! It gave me little bumps like eczema. So I thought I was allergic to BHA and stopped using it. Many year later, I decided to try the Paula's Choice 2% BHA gel and guess what, it is a fantastic cure for acne. Turns out it was probably poor formulation on the L'oreal product or additives that didn't agree with my skin. Paula's Choice BHA worked so well so me that I bought a bottle for Andre when he was suffering from bad acne on his back. It completely healed. From then, this is the go-to zit cream for the whole family.

Anyway, for many years, I stuck to a Paula's Choice regime of BHA, retinol and moisturiser. It has kept my skin pretty problem-free.

Then in the last year or so, my skin started morphing again. It got drier and yet, I would regularly get painful cystic acne - you know, those big angry zits that even when they dry up, leave inflamed bumps under your skin that take forever to go away. BHA didn't seem to work as well. My skin was "maturing". GAH. I had to change my makeup because it would cake badly under my eyes and settle into the gazillion lines I never knew I had. Things became worse when I started swimming regularly. All that chlorine and thick sunscreen turned my skin into a confused mess.

Enter The Ordinary from UK. It caught my eye when I chanced upon many bloggers raving about this new brand and its focus on skincare research and science. What's unusual about this brand is that most of their products are formulated with only one main ingredient each, to target a specific problem, with no additives, fragrance, etc. You might be thinking, one ingredient? How many would I need then to tackle multiple issues?

Well, that's the beauty of the brand. You can customise your regime based on what you need and layer them as you wish because their prices are DIRT CHEAP. Less than S$10 for a 30ml bottle of high concentration Vitamin C or retinol serum. The founder, Brandon Truaxe, is pretty extraordinary. He ditches fancy marketing and packaging to reduce costs, and every time he manages to negotiate better prices for raw ingredients, he passes the savings back to customers. The Ordinary's tagline is "clinical formulations with integrity" and you only have to do a Google search to read all the rave reviews by users. Their rivals are selling equivalent concentrations for up to 10 times the price. No wonder The Ordinary can't produce the items fast enough to keep them in stock.


I bought two items to try out: Alpha Lipoic Acid 5% and Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. Now, both are very strong and people have reported stinging sensations when using them. But me, being overly optimistic, figured that since I've been a long-time user of BHA, Vitamin C and Retinol, I would be ok. More is best, right?

Alpha Lipoic Acid is both an exfoliant and an antioxidant. They tell you you can't use it more than 2-3 times a week. I will attest to its strength. The first time, I only used 3 drops for whole face and neck. Holy cow. The burn. I quickly put a soothing moisturiser on top but even then, the sting took a while to subside. Oh and it has a funky smell, like sulphur.

Same with the Vitamin C 23%. They warn you on the website that application is not pleasant because of the gritty bits and it might sting because of its high potency. Yes to both. Plus it goes on with an oily feel that doesn't quite go away, so some people may not like that.

So at first, I half regretted my decision, especially for the Vitamin C cream, because the application was so unpleasant. It's almost like suffering for beauty. Was it worth it? I was thinking that maybe I shouldn't have been quite so gung-ho and gone for lower, more tolerant formulas.

But I found out that if I mixed the serums with my usual moisturiser (as advised on the website) before applying, it didn't sting so much any more or feel sandy. Then after about a week and a half of using the two products, I woke up one day and suddenly noticed the row of remnant cystic acne bumps along my chin that had stubbornly plagued me for more than a month was imperceptible. Like magic. I peered into the mirror and realised that my skin was brighter and smoother than it had been for a long time.

WOWZERS. At that moment, I had to quell an overwhelming urge to run out (virtually) and buy every single product from The Ordinary. I mean, I still love Paula's Choice but some of their products are really expensive, and the price point of The Ordinary is just so darn attractive.

Of course I didn't lah. I just bought a few. And then a few more. Don't judge me.

If you're confused by the many options in skincare and don't know where to start, I've tried to simplify it for you. (I'm not addressing things like cleansing and toning, just the stuff you put on your skin).

If you really are the can't-be-bothered type and want to do the minimum, I'd say just use a moisturiser with sunscreen in the morning and one with retinol at night. 

But if you are like me, above 40, facing the unpleasant realities of ageing skin, and want to do something about it before you end up looking like a wrinkled prune, here's a mini skincare lesson. There are many good skincare ingredients, but an essential anti-ageing regime should incorporate these main "types" (for lack of a better word) of skin thingies.

Retinol

Retinol, to date, is the only ingredient has been scientifically proven to lessen fine lines and reduce acne. It is the gold standard in wrinkle reduction. NOTHING ELSE. Forget whatever new snake oil companies are trying to market. This is what dermatologists prescribe for acne and wrinkles.

The problem is that retinol, especially in high concentrations, is highly irritating. Many people have been known to purge and peel for days, even weeks before they see that baby soft skin. This article explains retinol pretty comprehensively.

The Ordinary sells 6 different retinoid products, 3 of which are with Granactive Retinoid - an advanced form of retinol with all the goodness of retinol but without the irritation. I suggest you try these instead. Do note that retinoids make your skin sensitive to the sun, so use them only at night.

Exfoliants

Exfoliants are AHAs or BHAs that get rid of dead skin cells, unclog pores and reduce acne and blackheads, thus improving the texture of your skin. It's good to use this a few times a week. As mentioned, my family uses Paula's Choice 2% BHA for acne with much success.

However, like with retinol, if you're not used to exfoliants, you can also end up peeling before your skin heals. Technology has since uncovered new types of exfoliants that are even gentler on the skin. The Ordinary now offers Azelaic Acid and Mandelic Acid, both of which work like exfoliants but without the typical side effects.

Vitamin C

Once you hit a certain age, you realise with horror that the age spots you used to see on little old ladies now appear on you (ie you have become that little old lady). You curse all the times you were garang and refused to carry an umbrella while walking in the sun (because very "auntie") or the times you forgot to wear sunscreen.

If retinol is the gold standard for reducing wrinkles, then Vitamin C is the counterpart for reducing dark spots. Believe it or not, The Ordinary has 8 different products with Vitamin C, with different strengths and formulations. Talk about an over-achiever. Similarly, Vitamin C makes your skin sensitive to the sun so either wear sunscreen on top or use it only at night.

To reduce the confusion as to which one might be suitable for you, read their Vitamin C guide.

Moisturisers

Personally, I find this category really boring, so I try to use serums that multi-task in this area. Sometimes, I just skip this altogether if my serums have hydrating ingredients. If you need a moisturiser, The Ordinary has some very affordable ones with natural moisturising ingredients that you might like.


And that ends my very long post on skincare. I will try out the other items from The Ordinary and may review them on this blog if enough people are interested.

If you're not used to acids or retinol, don't be greedy and start with the lower concentrations. Otherwise you might end up peeling like an orange and having to hibernate at home for a few weeks.

I bought my earlier batch from Beauty Bay - you get free delivery to Singapore if you spend just S$28. Or you can also buy from Cult Beauty or LookFantastic (smallest range but no minimum for free shipping). They're always out of stock, so be patient. 

If you want to try Paula's Choice instead, use this referral code to get a $10 coupon: http://i.refs.cc/v2j0UikY?u=1525157486660. The online store is offering free shipping on any purchase for the month of May.

You know I'm not a beauty blogger so none of my products were sponsored. I'm blogging about it because all good things should be shared. Let me know if you've enjoyed reading this, ok?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Job opportunity - Content Creator/Copywriter

Update 6 May 2018: I have changed the job specs slightly and extended the deadline to 17 May.

Last year, I listed job vacancies for copywriters with my agency, Hedgehog Communications. I took on two candidates and thought that would shore up capacity for at least a year or two. As it turned out, we were so blessed that business grew faster than I expected and here I am, looking for people again, six months later.

Here are the details of the job. If you fit the bill, or you know anyone who does, please feel free to write in.

Content Creator/Copywriter

We are looking for content creators and copywriters able to write original and engaging copy. Priority will be given to those who have written for online channels, including websites and social media. However, we are also seeking copywriters for print media, such as annual reports, brochures, newsletters and advertising campaigns.

Job requirements

• You should have at least five years of professional writing experience.
• You should have written for online and print media, with a portfolio of published articles (letters to ST Forum page do NOT count).
• Ideally, you should be comfortable with the digital environment, and familiar with SEO practices. If you are not, you should be prepared to undergo on a course on SEO writing.
• Since this is a writing position, you should be able to use words as a tool to communicate clearly and simply. You will sometimes need to help clients organise their content in a way that makes sense for the reader.
• Needless to say, you should be a stickler for grammar.
• You should be able to adapt your writing style to suit different types of clients/industries.

Do you fit the profile of a Hedgie?

• Reliable, reliable, reliable – we always deliver quality work on time. This is non-negotiable.
• Flexible – this is essentially a freelance arrangement and the work may come in bursts and spurts, so you’ll need to be prepared to toggle between chiongster and chill modes.
• Take pride in our work – we believe that the work we do is meaningful both to us and to our clients.
• Responsive and professional – we work directly with clients and need to assure them that they are in good hands.
• Eager to improve and learn – our team of very senior writers is always ready to mentor and guide other hedgies in industries/collaterals that they may be less familiar with.
• Genuine, loyal and honest – this has nothing to do with work and everything to do with being a great human being.
• Team player – we regularly work in teams on projects, so it’s important that we look out for one another and enjoy each other’s company.
• Good sense of humour – we take our work very seriously, but ourselves, not so much.

How to apply

Let us know why you would like to join Hedgehog Communications. Along with your reasons, please submit your cv and a portfolio or links to your published work. Send your application to monica@hedgehog.sg by Thursday, 17 May 2018.
 

About Hedgehog Communications
 
With 16 years in the business, Hedgehog Communications is one of the most established copywriting agencies in Singapore, especially for the public sector. We have helped clarify and simplify written communications for more than 100 organisations, both in Singapore and internationally. We currently have a team of 13 copywriters from diverse backgrounds and experience, most of whom have at least 10 years of communication or corporate experience. All our copywriters work on a freelance basis.

We have built a reputation based on quality, reliability and timely delivery.

Why join Hedgehog Communications

• Get the opportunity to write for major clients and be involved in national level projects.
• Enjoy the flexibility of a freelance arrangement without having to report to a physical office or adhere to fixed hours (SAHMs are welcome to apply).
• Focus on writing without having to worry about business and administrative aspects.
• Be paid competitive fees typically higher than the average freelance rate.
• Be part of a very dedicated and collaborative team (with a supportive boss).

Find out more about the philosophy and background of Hedgehog Communications.



Monday, April 16, 2018

Birthday wishes for the newly minted adult

Lesley-Anne celebrated her birthday last week. This wasn't just any other birthday - it was her 21st. She didn't want a big fuss, so she just planned a small birthday party at home with a dozen of her closest friends from Yale-NUS. For the sake of their privacy, I'm not showing the pics of her friends here.

 
There's something very surreal about your child turning 21. I know every birthday is a reminder that your kid is growing up fast, but 21...what this means is that your baby is now legally an adult. You will still worry about her, nag at her like she's 12, but the fact is that she no longer needs your permission to do anything and in the eyes of the law, is now fully responsible for her own actions.

I was reflecting on this and it came to me that while this is a major milestone, the journey towards adulthood is not a sudden occurrence the day one turns 21. I sometimes hear parents scold their kids, "You have to listen to me now! When you're an adult, you can do what you want." And I've also observed that the more controlling the parent, the higher the chance the child is going to choose to do the exact opposite of what the parents want the minute he or she can.

The truth is that 21 is just a number. Your child doesn't automatically become mature or responsible on this magical day. The kind of person you child has become on this day is an accumulation of all the years, experiences and events leading up to it.

Too often, parents are so caught up in the academic rat race that we lose sight of the fact that we  have a hold on our kids for only a very short time. I take the view that our kids are not ours to possess, but entrusted to us. How do we fulfill our duties as parents? Do we strive to bring up trophies to glorify our own needs? Or do we raise good human beings able and willing to bless others and make the world a better place? Do they give more to society than take from it? Do people around them give thanks for their existence? In short, are they valued as human beings? I can safely say that in life, few people give a damn about your grades or your achievements. What matters more is whether you're a good friend and person.

I know that many consider Lesley-Anne to be very accomplished for her age. However, her family and friends who love her appreciate her not because of her accomplishments, but because she is a simple, compassionate, sensible and intelligent girl with an admirable work ethic. I don't want to take all the credit for it - as I've always maintained, there's such a thing as free will. People are not robots and two people raised the same way can turn out every differently. But if we have in any way, been an influence in the kind of values she embodies today, that makes us glad that we have played our part as parents.

Happy 21st birthday, dear Lesley-Anne and may your light continue to shine for all to see. 😘😘


"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

Monday, April 2, 2018

Wheels in motion

Lately, our family conversations have revolved around cars quite a lot, because our family car has been giving us trouble. So even though we had previously thought we would be driving this car until the end of its Singaporean life (aka scrap), it now looked like it would be more practical to replace it instead.

Kenneth, while visiting a showroom to "look-see look-see", as he called it, got talked into plonking down a deposit for a car from a brand that shall not be named but is highly desired by unkers. Since he recently turned the Big 5-0, I chalk it down to him going through a half century crisis.


Andre will turn 18 end of this year, and he'll be signing up for driving lessons, something he's been looking forward to from the time he could scoot around our living room in a mini racer (he was two years old in this picture).

Lesley-Anne, on the other hand, has zero interest in getting behind the wheel.

Kenneth: "But it's a life skill! It's good to know how to drive."

Lesley-Anne: "Why? There's the train and there's Grab. There's really no need to drive."

Me: "Actually, I agree. It's expensive to own a car as well."

Kenneth: "What if there is a zombie apocalypse and you need to escape?"

Lesley-Anne (frowning): "You want me to learn how to drive in case of a zombie apocalypse?"

Kenneth: "You must be prepared for all situations."

Me: "Well, technically in a zombie apocalypse, nobody will care if you have a license. Just put the gear in Drive and go."


Goodbye, trusty VW. You've been a most enjoyable ride.


Monday, March 19, 2018

New book launch, and speaking about women and writing

Last Saturday morning, we launched Secrets of Singapore: Botanic Gardens at where else, but the Botanic Gardens. Truly glad and grateful that many kids and parents took the time to attend the event.


In case you missed the event, here's a short clip of Lesley-Anne sharing some snippets from the book.


Here we are with Dr Nigel Taylor, Director of the Botanic Gardens, who has been wonderfully supportive of the book throughout the whole process.


The best part - meeting the fans!


If you missed our launch, I will be speaking at another event this coming Sunday, 25 March 2018. It's From Now On (Women Taking Charge) held at SMU from 1-4pm. The event will feature discussions about the issues facing women in our world.

I will be speaking about my journey as a writer (both book and corporate writing) under Write Your Life which is 2-3pm. RSVP in the link above. I have previously blogged about my stories as a female writer and entrepreneur. If you'd like to hear from me in person, I would love to meet you - come join in if you can!




Monday, March 5, 2018

Launch of Secrets of Singapore: Botanic Gardens!

This book seemed to be in the works forever (at least it did for me), but I'm happy to announce that it's finally here! Presenting Secrets of Singapore: Botanic Gardens 😍

I love, love, love this book. I feel that we got everything right with this one for these reasons:

1) A great mix of really fun facts, not just about the Botanic Gardens but also about plants in general. Primary school kids will be able to relate because we cover a lot of information about plants that's in the Science syllabus - from plant reproduction to photosynthesis and plant adaptations, just to name a few. And all told in a conversational, fun way, of course.



2) So many punny jokes. I think Pun Princess Lesley-Anne outdid herself this time.

3) If you love the Botanic Gardens, this book serves as a very handy guide. All the plants and places of interest that we mention in the book are numbered ad marked on a comprehensive map at the back of the book, so you can follow it like going on a treasure hunt.


We've already received some very positive feedback on the book:

The book should hit bookstores in a couple of weeks. If you can't wait, you can get it online from the Epigram Books store.

The book will be officially launched on Saturday 17 March, 10.30am at the Botany Centre's Green Pavilion, Botanic Gardens. We'll be sharing some snippets from the book and there will be games and prizes. Bring the whole family! The book will be on sale at the event and we will autograph all purchases.


Meanwhile, Epigram Books is running a weekly contest on their Facebook page (every Friday), where you answer a question and stand a chance to win a set of Secrets of Singapore.

Do support us and hope to see you next Saturday!


Monday, February 5, 2018

Forever 36 and 5 observations about ageing

Last weekend, I celebrated my birthday. Not gonna reveal how old I am except that I'm forever 36.

When you're a kid, birthdays are milestones to look forward to. You wish for stuff like, grow a little taller perhaps. Able to take public bus by yourself. Done with PSLE year. And for the less forward-looking, more presents! Once you're an adult and have kids of your own, the milestones tend to centre around your kids. First tooth! First steps! First word! Done with that dang PSLE!

Then when you reach a certain *ahem* age, you become less ambitious ("Let my wrinkles not show in my birthday photos"). You suddenly wish for birthdays to be less eventful and have fewer milestones. Cos the milestones tend to be more alarming and catch you totally by surprise. Like you step on a scale and realise with a shock that's the first time you've gone over a certain number. Or the first time you discover that white hair isn't limited to the hair on your head.

But hey, that's the universe's way of saying, "Surprise! Happy birthday, my old pal!" So in the spirit of graceful ageing, here are five observations I've made about growing older:

1) Eyesight 

One of the first signs of ageing is deteriorating eyesight. Suddenly, words on a page can't come into focus, even after you've blinked furiously. When you're trying to take a photo, you think your phone automatically engaged a soft filter with blurring effect. Oh wait, it's just your eyes.

I've given up reading the fine print on menus. Not sure if I'll be getting avocados or asparagus. When I play Farm Heroes Saga on my phone, I sometimes have to ask Andre to tell me many strawberries I'm missing. I tell my writers to submit drafts to me in Point Size 12. Any smaller than that and they're asking for it.

You know what really annoys me? These measuring cups for medicine:


The markings are etched without colour on the cup. How the heck do they expect optically-challenged seniors to pour out our meds in the right amount? Do we need to paint a black backdrop on the kitchen wall just so we can contrast the dang cup against it? Idiots.

The solution is simple but troublesome. Lao hua glasses. I buy them from Daiso - they're cheap and you can change the degree according to how quickly your eyesight degenerates. I buy multiple pairs and put them in almost every room at home, partly because I often can't remember where I last left them. There have been instances when I'm holding a pair in my hands, yelling, "Where are those glasses?!" But that's a different problem with ageing.

2) White hair

When your hair decides that it's lost its will to pigmentise and will go au naturale. I've actually had white sprouts before I was 30 but those were the rogue ones. Once I hit 40, it became a mass contingent. So much so that I gave up going to the salon to colour my hair - it was too frequent and took up too much time. I just diy with store-bought hair dye every month or so.

My friend recently recounted to me how she was asked twice within a week by supermarket cashiers whether she had the senior citizen card. She's the same age as I am. Which probably explains the extreme indignation I expressed towards the impertinence of these supermarket aunties. How dare they! I've known this friend since we were best friends in primary 1, so we still think of each other as spring chickens prancing around in our pinafores.

"It's probably cos of all my white hair," my friend shrugged. She has no issues with ageing. Apparently I do, because I then made a quiet resolve to be more diligent in my hair colouring.

3) Exercise

When you're in your 20s and 30s, exercise involves hitting the courts for a sweaty game of tennis or jumping in tune to an hour of aerobics. I used to stare unabashedly at elderly folks wearing bright orange caps and shorts, swinging their arms vigorously while walking, like they're trying to karate chop flies. Now I get it. The neon orange is cos they can't see anyone - they need people to see them. And you become a little limited in the type of exercise you can do when anything can potentially injure a joint, a bone, a muscle.

Talking about injuries, when you're younger, you ache after a marathon session of badminton. Or an ultra challenging workout at the gym. Now, I can get a neck ache from simply turning too quickly when checking my blind spot in the car. And I have to whip out that Salonpas for my aching shoulder after sleeping in one position all night. I have a permanent crick in my knees, an ache in my right hip, and the soles of my feet hurt when I walk too much. Talk about less ambitious physical goals.

4) Wet and dry

One of the (many) annoying things about ageing is that parts of you that are supposed to be moist become dry and parts that are supposed to be dry become moist. My skin, for instance. It has always been reasonably cooperative - a little oily in parts but nothing that some blotting paper can't fix. Now, makeup that has looked good on me for years settle into fine likes and cake up like bad fondant. I've succumbed to the Curse of Mature Skin. Gah.

Meanwhile, my eyes and nose have gone the opposite route - tearing and dripping for no apparent reason other than to irritate the hell out of me. The only bright side I can see to this is that when you enter the train blinking and sniffling, people move away from you faster than a speeding bullet.

5) Body shape

When I was a kid, people probably thought I was anorexic. Stick-thin and I could eat whatever I wanted. My body type was pretty kind to calories. A few decades later, I'm paying for the wanton dietary disregard. My metabolic rate has slowed to a crawl. I merely have to look at a curry puff and I can feel my midriff expanding.

Last year, I decided that swimming would be my sport of choice, since it's kinder on the joints. I went to Decathlon to look for a swim shirt. The women's selection was all shaped something like this:

Concave in the middle cos presumably that's the female shape. Female shape, my foot. I tried one on and OMG, I looked like a bak chang. My middle section is where I'm BIGGEST, not smallest. In the end, I bought a swim shirt from the men's selection.

I have become a lot more realistic in my goal-setting. No more "get thinner" or "get back my waistline" nonsense. At my age, it's about maintaining (if you think it couldn't get any worse, yes it can).

If I can still fit into the same clothes a birthday from now, that's a worthy achievement. Then maybe I can celebrate with a curry puff.


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