Sunday, August 30, 2009

My mother's daughter

When I was little, my mother owned a little business at home. It was called Soft Expressions. All I remember of it were the blue business cards with baby's breadth on it, my mother always taking orders to do flowers and Christmas being a busy time for her where she and her sister would be making ornaments and little arrangements where there were two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree. I remember the house smelling wonderful and there were always people over to help with the sewing. I'm guessing it was their version of a cottage industry.

Needless to say, every bone in my mother's body is a creative one. My brothers and I are not like her. Well, I think we each got a little bone of it from her but we don't have oodles of it the way she does. She was livid when I failed my art exams in school and said I was an embarrassment.

In the recent years however, I've come to realise that I appreciate craft and the beauty in things because of her influences. I am thankful she didn't try and bang it over my head because more likely than not, I would not have learned then. I constantly amaze myself when I find myself dipping my fingers into things that I used to just ask Mom whether she could do for me.

Example 1.

A cousin I am very close to just had a baby. Her family, unlike mine are all creative and have a penchant for all things pretty. Because of that, I thought she and her mother (my mother's sister than I mentioned above) would get a very big kick out of receiving a diapercake rather than packets of chicken and fish essence and mee swa which was what I got a lot of.

To be honest, I did ask my mother for help. But rather than leave her to do it, I tried to build it with her around. It turned out to be a lot of fun and my mother admitted somewhat admiringly that it was something she'd never thought about and was impressed that I had and known how to imagine it. To hear that from her was a great compliment.
Anyway, we have a picture of a half finished product here. Half finished because I wanted to buy fabric to cover the rest of the diapercake up but Mom decided that buying baby blankets to cover it up would be a more useful idea and had sent me out to buy some. I can't wait to see the end product but I was quite proud of what it looked like, half built.

Example 2.

We recently got our house blessed. And I got myself in a frenzy about making it presentable. Packrat could not understand what all the fuss was about. After all, we have had friends over before. My retort was that we never had 'adults' here before. Our families in full strength plus a church leader and his wife. One of the things I got myself into a tizzy over was to buy flowers. Again, Packrat was like "since when do we have flowers in the house?". My response "I am my mother's daughter and the house MUST have flowers!" At that point, he must have wondered when it was that the aliens had abducted his regularly practical and nonchalant about all things pretty wife and replaced her with a Martha Stewart in the making wife.

The nursery near us that sold fresh flowers had a cold room problem and thus no fresh flowers in stock. The supermarket flowers were unexpensive and not very fresh. But not having a choice, I settled for what was the best.

This was the eventual outcome. All I could do in 10 minutes before the guest arrived and without a flower sponge and all the other paraphenalia that my mother has around the house for emergencies like that.

It isn't much. But for someone who has nary an artistic bone in her body, finding these little creative sparks are quite a big thrill to me and makes me proud that at least a miniscule bit of my mother's legacy will be left behind in me.

Ondine tossed this thought in at 07:46

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The truth hurts

One of the fantasies a teacher has is the ability to tell the truth. When it comes to writing recommendations, we outrightly lie because we're too chicken- hearted to let the kid go to a lesser university even if he or she deserves it. Most of the time, it's an attitude thing rather than an academic thing and that sits much more uneasily on my conscience.

If only I could say "xxx is a pompous bastard who is too competitive for his/her own good, has no qualms about getting to the top by climbing over others and is absolutely unrepentant when told that his/her attitude stinks and it requires a full make over".

Instead, I'll probably have to say "xxx was a good student who was very focussed in his/her academic pursuits. Single-minded determination has been shown and xxx has never allowed anything to stand in the way of achieving it. Xxx is also a strongly independent learner and can be counted on to do his/her best. "

See, with the latter, the kid doesn't end up sounding so bad and the uni would probably look upon the recommendation quite favourably. Unfortunately, I am in the business of getting the students to university, I do after all work for a pre-university institution and the unwritten part of my job description includes plumping up recommendations that otherwise would cause the kid difficultt getting a job even at the local McDonald's.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 11:23

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Monday, August 10, 2009

The true Singaporean

Shell Singapore had a one hour National Day offer today where between the hours of 4 and 5 pm, fuel was $0.44 less per litre. Which is alot.

Since our tank was veering on empty, we decided to brave the crowds. And as with any sort of good deal, everyone and their cat was there and that included some people who shouldn't be allowed to exist.

Obviously, a long queue had developed. Obviously, everyone was impatient. Some wanted to get home to the parade, some wanted to get on with their day, some just hated queuing. But for most, that impatience was reigned in by common courtesy where we obediently wanted our turn to get to the pumps. And it really wasn't that fuel was going to run out today.

Which must have been what this stiletto totting, Lexus driving tai tai was thinking. So despite the queue, despite all the angry and loud insults hurled at her, despite being told off by the station attendants that she should have waited her turn rather than cut ahead of twenty cars, she insisted on having her tank filled up, without a stitch of remorse, embarrassment or acknowledgement that she had just done something jaw-droppingly stupid.

Out whipped at least 100 mobile phone cameras, including Packrat's and still no sense of humility. It was a wonder the crowd did not get riotous and set her car on fire and turn it upside down. Perhaps they worried then, they wouldn't get fuel either way.

But whatever it is, I hope she gets some sort of come-uppance because even I wanted to throw rocks at her car and the 20 cars she had cut in front of us didn't include ours and we were still, that incensed.

What a nice true blue Singaporean she is.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 01:17

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

College redux

As with all bad situations, a silver lining is present if you look hard enough.

This isn't as much a silver lining as looking at the situation as the cup being half full rather than half empty.

I've moaned loud and miserably about missing my kids now that Packrat is ill and is suspected to have H1N1.

And it's true. I miss them terribly.

But I've realised something about the both of us, now that the kids are not in the house.

Our house is a mess. Not in a 'we've emptied our drawers onto the floor' kind of mess but a more chaotic 'leave things as they are' mess. There are many reasons for this.

Obviously, we are spoilt and now that we don't have our helper picking up after us, an empty box stays on the table for as long as we forget to throw it away.

We are also, obviously, messy by nature and have defaulted into our original non-parent states. Because Packrat can't go out and I haven't been feeling up to going out, we've done one of four things. We are either eating, watching television (or doing both at the same time), on our computers online or asleep.

After 3 days of doing this, it dawned on me that this was what we did all the time when we were in college/ uni, especially in our thesis years when we didn't have formal classes. The day began when we woke up, usually when the sun was high up in the sky and meals were had in front of the television on the coffee table. Crockery and cutlery would pile in the sink till the tape (then, it was video tapes) ran out and we had nothing else to watch apart from Aussie day time soaps. If our eyes were too goggled by all the television, a nap would follow and then sometime on the computer mostly chatting with friends on the then chat platform (ICQ) and possibly some work followed by preparing dinner and vegging out in front of the television for the rest of the evening till we fell asleep in front of the television. Occasionally, television was swapped out in favour for the Playstation and its games and the same vegetative state would ensue although there would be a little bit more talking in terms of yelling at one another for killing the other.

This has been what we've been more or less doing the last few days to while away the time while we waited for Packrat to stop coughing (he hasn't yet and mine has gotten worse). If not for the fact that I worry about the twins and miss them and actually do leave the house to go see them, these days would seem like a strange and surreal gift of time to be able to live the lives we led when we were carefree, young unmarried and unencumbered students.

Unfortunately, the reminders round the house of the twins act as the resounding foghorn at the back of my head that echoes louder than my conscience did all those years ago that reminded me to go back and do my work while I whiled away another afternoon/ night watching yet another 6 episodes of Friends/ Buffy/ The West Wing.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 22:28

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" Far in the stillness, a cat languishes loudly"