A Week Away

Ah dear readers. I have failed a week of the writing challenge. There are two main reasons to it:

  • I was travelling
  • I had family visiting

I would like to think that it’s not an a complete failure. It has made me more aware of my lifestyle habits in correspondence to my writing. Unlike some of you out there who may be scribbling away as you traverse the globe, I find that I scribble less when I’m on the move.

Maybe it’s because there’s a break in routine, which makes it harder to get into the zone. Maybe it’s because I get carsick, as much as I’d love to use the hours in the car or bus for writing. Maybe it’s because my energy is focused on the travelling and accompanying activities there really is no time left by the end of the day. Maybe it’s because I have limited internet access. Maybe it’s all of them.

As for family visiting, well, family is higher on my priority list.

I’m not saying all this simply to excuse my absence. I’m penning them down in order to understand my habits and tendencies, and see what I can or should improve on, or figure out a better way to incorporate consistent writing.

One good thing came out of this one week. I may not have posted anything public this week, but I’ve been pondering and grasping a bit more of the topics my heart and mind tend to lean to.

Let’s see if I can make better use of the snippets of in-between times. I think I should get a good writing app on my phone, one that can easily sync to WordPress, or at least my laptop for safekeeping and eventual publishing.

Can any of you recommend a writing app (for Android)?

Habit tracker: Week 4/4; Post 1/5

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On the Everyday Need for Trust

via Daily Prompt: Trust

Just a few days ago, we had our air conditioners (or airconds, as the Malaysian-Singaporean lingo goes) serviced. It seems that a common requirement of tenants here is that the airconds in the rented unit be serviced every three months.

Honestly, I didn’t know airconds needed maintenance that often. I sure know we don’t maintain our airconds back home this often, simply because we don’t keep track!

Anyway, I had signed up for a one-year contract, in which we agree to use this particular company’s services for one year. Every quarter, they will call to remind us and schedule an appointment. In return for using their services regularly, we will be saving on costs because the contract is considerably cheaper than a one-off maintenance.

I have nothing to complain about the service offered. They reminded me of the appointment a day before, and the technicians even came early. They did a thorough job, and all the paperwork was in order and as agreed upon. But the whole exercise did make me think about trust.

When I arranged the appointment and agreed to the contract during that first call, who’s to say that the technicians will actually show up at the set time? If they do, what’s to stop them from demanding extra charges to the contract fees? And as for the future, will they honor the next three services to be scheduled in the next 12 months?

And another thing — How will the landlord ever know that we tenants will actually get the airconds serviced quarterly, and not just sneak in a one-time thing just before the end of the lease?

Simply put, trust is required in every step of a transaction, business or otherwise.

Yes, there are a lot of scams and exploitation out there. But by and large, the world still runs on a lot of trust, and on the honoring of that trust. Because without trust, a lot of things simply cannot operate. Even in writing here, I have to trust WordPress to deliver a smooth blogging experience.

We live in a postmodern world where relativism is usually the way to go. But in truth, there are certain absolute principles like trust that are still essential to the cycle of life.

Habit tracker: Week 3/4 Post 1/5

Even When It Hurts

via Daily Prompt: Promises

When it comes to life experiences and faces, I’ve been known to have a higher-than-average memory. Although I have to say that nowadays, either age is catching up on me, or today’s tech-infused instant lifestyle is simply more distracting.

But when it comes to tasks, I just cannot remember as well. Household chores have been left undone too many times to count. Once I put a kettle to boil, and the next time I came into the kitchen (for something else!), all the water had evaporated and the kettle close to melting. I’m thankful that nothing more dangerous happened!

If it’s tasks affecting only me, it doesn’t matter if I forget. But I’m prone to saying “Yes” to completing a task or helping someone out, and then find it wiped clean from memory. I suppose it’s okay if it’s a small task. But my negligence have led to several painful consequences and the loss of trust. Those repercussions and the fact that they’re my fault keep me up at night sometimes.

To give an insight into this, here’s a story. Once someone had passed me CDs of kids’ praise songs and asked me to write them out on boards to be used in a certain Sunday School. I happily said yes, went home, kept the CDs and boards nicely so I won’t lose them… and forgot. Months later, the lady approached me about it, and I couldn’t even remember her asking in the first place. We didn’t know each other very well, so I certainly don’t blame her for not trusting me with work after that. Add to that one or two similar incidences that year, and my reliability was questioned with a severe rebuke that truly honestly hurt.

Perhaps not everyone sees this problem of not keeping promises as important. But I value integrity highly, and this time I had to look in the mirror.

One verse became instrumental in pushing me to take action and do better. Psalm 15 is a description of a righteous man, and verse 4 describes him as:

“He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.”

That’s the NKJV version. The other versions are such:

  • “who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind;” (NIV)
  • “He keeps his word even to his own disadvantage and does not change it [for his own benefit];” (AMP)
  • “who keeps his word whatever the cost,” (HCSB)
  • someone who keeps their promise even when it hurts;” (CEB)

The gravity in which a promise is taken impresses on and convicts me. Sure you can say that a promise is not as “big a deal” as an oath. But if one can’t even keep a promise, who’s to say that one can keep an oath or vow, or stay committed? The true character of a person is revealed in the smaller insignificant things.

So I had to ask myself: Am I forgetful because it’s just my natural make-up? Or is it actually a true measure of my heart and how much I value others?

In these few years, I’ve been working extra hard to remember and fulfill promises I’ve kept, small or big. I do this by listing down every single thing I’ve been asked to do, even it’s just a request for a short prayer.

Also, I’ve been more careful with the promises I do make. Instead of saying yes to everything, I check my time and capability. It’s made me give more weight to my ‘Yes’ and ‘No’s.

I still forget and make mistakes. I still stay up some nights. But the only thing I can do is to try again in the morning in renewed grace and mercy.

Do any of you struggle with keeping promises?

Habit tracker: Week 2/4 Post 2/5

The Time I Almost Drowned My Sister

via Daily Prompt: Daring (Wrote this yesterday but didn’t have time to polish it)

It was 2001. My family and I were on our very first island holiday ever. The island is Pulau Besar (previously Pulau Babi Besar) off Mersing, Johor. It’s a laidback place with no nightlife or shopping. All you have is the sun, sand and sea.

The first morning, we went to the end of the wooden jetty to snorkel. The waters were so clear you could see schools of fishes swimming around and under the jetty. It was my sister’s and my first time snorkeling and we were excited.

That is, until we were actually in the water. Then I panicked.

Now I love swimming. But this time, I was flopping and splashing around, basically in pure panic. In fact, it got so bad that I eventually clung onto my sister and pulled her under.

That’s when my dad stepped in. He called us out of the water, set me down on the jetty steps and looked me in the eye.

“Okay. You’re a good swimmer. You love swimming. What’s going on???”

“I’m afraid of great white sharks.”

Now if we were in Australia, I suppose that’s a perfectly reasonable answer. But this was Malaysia. We’ve got no great whites.

But the thing is, some weeks before the holiday, I read a news report about a great white being found off the coast somewhere. Experts concluded that it was swept here by currents. It was a small one and didn’t attack anyone.

It was a snippet of a story, but enough to haunt my imagination that morning, and haunt it badly.

I don’t exactly remember what happened after. My parents were amused, but they could also see that my fear was real. Somehow, they managed to make me see that it was unfounded, prayed, and got me to calm down. My dad coaxed me back into the waters, and although the fear still lingered, I fought it. By the end of the trip, my sister and I were swimming on our own and happily jumping off the jetty many times over.

Just a few weeks ago, my family revisited the island. It was the same sun, sand and sea. It’s been 15 years since that first panic attack. In that time, I learned to face more fears – most of the time unfounded. I still am cautious, especially when the worries are valid. But suffice it to say that I’ve grown up quite a bit.

I’m not adventurous by nature, but thanks to nurture, I think I’ve become a bit more daring.

Habit tracker: Week 1/4; Post 3/5

 

Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

via Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

I’ve just finished reading a novel, Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. It’s about this mentally disabled man, Charlie Gordon, who undergoes brain surgery as part of an experiment and becomes a genius. The entire novel then focuses on this seemingly scientific breakthrough, but I won’t tell more because I may write a proper review of the book soon.

Today’s prompt and the novel have got me wondering when I last experienced a breakthrough of any kind — mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually. I suppose when it comes to the physical, learning that I have silent reflux was one.

But I think it’s been a while since I’ve had a mental or spiritual breakthrough. You know, those moments, when you’re doing something mundane like sweeping the floor, and suddenly an epiphany comes to you about a question or problem that’s been bugging you for weeks. That lightbulb moment, when the little pieces fit together and make sense as a whole, or the dark clouds part to reveal the joyous sunshine.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve not been actually looking out for a lightbulb moment. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have an issue or problem to deal with in the first place. Not at this time, anyway. Is this a good thing? Or should we persist in challenging ourselves to greater heights — to always be asking and learning and trying, lest we drift in the doldrums of complacency.

But what if I’m just in a good place and time right now?

Habit tracker: Week 1/4; Post 2/5

The Happy Unpredictable

One day while I was in the midst of an uneventful chore — I can’t remember now, probably folding laundry — I sat up with sudden realization that I’ve not blogged in a while.

What has it been? Weeks?

I looked at the calendar and counted five months. I had a mini heart attack.

This is an unusual occurrence for me. Well actually, writing blog posts between extremely long intervals of time is not unusual. But in those intervals, the unchecked to-do will haunt me constantly.

You have not been writing. You have not blogged. You still haven’t written that post. You have not blogged.

The inner nagger will haunt until I surrender and offer a sacrificial post to appease  it.

This time, though, I was not haunted. I clean straight forgot I had a blog.

I then discovered that I clean straight forgot a few other things, too. Sunrise and sunset, I slept and I awoke, and I let the days slip into months without realizing it at all. This was particularly disconcerting because this year, I had been more intentional with my work, projects and time. So I was really baffled how I could have overlooked so much without missing them.

What happened? 

And then it dawned on me that something did happen five months ago. Something good. Something so good that it outshone almost everything else the minute it happened.

I got pregnant.

I cannot quite explain why this could have caused the lapse in memory. The pregnancy was anticipated. But I believe it’s because I was keeping my pregnancy a secret initially (except from family and close friends), and somehow that seal of silence inadvertently extended to other things like this blog.

It’s like, this was one of the BIGGEST and most exciting news to write about and yet I couldn’t. And other possible topics just didn’t seem as worthy. So I paused writing for a while, and in time this blog got neglected.

Upon this realization, I had to accept that my plans for this year didn’t turn out the way I expected. Yes, I now have to catch up on certain things to meet deadlines and prepare for the baby’s arrival. Yes, five months is a substantial loss of time.

But in the end, I’m not disappointed. Loss of time in plans meant gain of time in something else that may turn out to be of more value in the long run. I had let life happen. And life has proven itself to be an unpredictable but happy journey.

Reflections on March

Ah yes, the start of another month, and the end of the first quarter of 2016. Time flies, so on and so forth.

This year, I’m learning to break things down to smaller goals. One method is monthly reflections. So before I get lost in April, here’s an evaluation of March.

March turned out to be a month of realignment. It started from a need to do a juice cleanse. I was feeling sluggish, and pimples were breaking out – sure signs that my body was not at its optimum health. So a detox was needed.

From there, I noted other parts of my life that possibly needed a detox. There was a sense of confusion mentally. I was trying to figure out my next career steps, and had to deal with the unsettledness that comes with a nomadic lifestyle. So I needed to take stock of things, cut out the noise, and refocus.

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Book Review: Wherever You Go

P1070290 cropTitle:
Wherever You Go: A Conversation About Life, Faith & Courage

Author: Hannah Lau

Publisher: Graceworks

Retail Price: SGD 22 / RM 59.90

 

When a vision of God first captures us, we are often taken up with excitement, confident that the journey ahead would be filled with wonder and glory. But the truth is that fulfilling our calling is not a bed of roses. There will be seasons when it gets exhausting and confusing, and that is when our faith is stretched and tested.

Author Hannah Lau tackles this very challenge in her debut novel Wherever You Go, a work of fiction based on her own experience. The tale unfolds through the email correspondence of two young women, and delves into what it means to follow your dreams with courage.

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The Day I Saw Need at the Supermarket

Seeing that this Saturday is the World Day of Social Justice, and in light of the current debate on a certain plan to recruit 1.5 million foreign laborers into Malaysia, I thought sharing this post would be timely. The encounter below happened in Singapore and was recorded in late 2015.

Disclaimer: This post does not mean that I endorse the government’s plan. I suspect they’re doing it for ulterior motives and we should critique it wisely. But I hope that this would help put a face to the foreign workers already in our neighborhood.

It was Monday afternoon and I was buying groceries for the week.

Happily I carried my basket of greens and meat to the counter. As the cashier scanned and bagged the items, I looked at the SG50 cash vouchers inside my purse, wondering if I should use them. The bill came up to $43.75. My fingers grabbed $40 worth of vouchers and passed it to the cashier. I fished in my purse for cash to pay the balance and looked up. That’s when I saw it.

As the cashier laid the vouchers out to verify them, a pair of eyes were staring at them. They belonged to the customer behind me – a foreigner, probably a Bangladeshi. He was obviously a blue collar worker. His blue polo shirt was faded, his jeans worn, and his slippers and feet dusty. And he looked tired. In pure awe and hunger, he looked at my vouchers, his own hand clinging to crumpled $2 notes ready to pay for his one carton of eggs.

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Celebrating Chinese New Year – According to Me

Ah, Chinese New Year. Or Lunar New Year, as it’s more commonly known in the rest of the world. ‘Tis another season of travelling and feasting. Homes are filled with the happy cacophony of relatives and visitors. And for 15 days, red is the new black. In fact, don’t even think about wearing black!

When I was planning this post, I reflected on my experience of Chinese New Year growing up. The truth is, the celebration was always a mix of joyful memories, uncomfortable moments and learning to laugh at yourself.

For me, Chinese New Year is when:

1. You’re reminded of the goals you’ve yet to achieve

It’s a painful ritual: Smiling and pretending I understand what my 10th granduncle is saying. Then when he realizes what’s going on, he’ll ask the dreaded question, “Cannot speak Mandarin? Hokkien also? Cannot, must learn!” I try to appease his horror by promising to learn soon. But next year comes, and I still haven’t made good on that promise. Repeat.

Oh well. At least I’ve gotten pretty good at visual communication. I think. (For the record, I’m finally putting some effort in learning the language. Yay me!)

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