Thursday, December 25, 2014

Great books that could have been

SO frustrating when the synopsis sounds great but reviews show the execution didn't live up to the promise. *sobs*

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

POV angst

Been catching up on my reading over the year-end break. Why is it that so many new writers like to use first-person POV? And there seems to be a new fad of switching POV too, so that every chapter or segment needs a header to tell you whose head you're in now. JUST USE THIRD-PERSON OMNISCIENT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bead stores in Kuala Lumpur: a review

I've just gotten into making my own jewellery. I spent today walking up and down Petaling Street, Jln Tun HS Lee and Jln Sultan because I did a google search and discovered that there are a few bead wholesalers in that area. I have to say it was a somewhat disappointing experience. Prices are okay but the selection of beads, spacers and links/connectors is dismal.

I went to Zen Chu on Petaling Street, Glister Fashion and Beading DIY on Jln Tun HS Lee, and Macy's on Jln Sultan. There used to be another store, Wan Fatt, but it has now closed down.

Zen Chu had lampwork glass beads, which the other places didn't have. However, it didn't have a wide variety (for silver foil ones, the 12mm flat round beads were only available in one colour, but they had ovals in a variety of colours. No squares, cubes, rounds, or hearts). Most of the lampwork glass beads have inlaid flowers, if you like that sort of thing. They also had cat's eye beads, which the others didn't have. Their selection of charms, spacers, beadcaps and links/connecters is limited (a lot of Pandora beads/charms, though, if you're into that, and sliding charms for flat bracelets).

Lampwork glass beads from Zen Chu

Glister Fashion had shell beads, which the others didn't have, and by this I mean the rhombus type of shell beads, like so:

Image is, obviously, from

They also had porcelain beads, which again the others didn't have -- although they didn't have very many of those. And they sold chain off spools, more types of chain than the other two places (Zen Chu only seemed to have pre-cut chain, not bought off a spool). Another plus point: they have gold-filled findings if you are looking for those, and CRIMP PLIERS -- I had despaired of finding those in Malaysia! -- and wigjig thingies under the Artistic Wire brand, if you are into working with wire. They have quite a lot of metal beads (spacers, etc.) but I didn't look at those closely because it was the first shop I visited and I didn't think the prices were all that cheap. I planned to go back, but by the time I had finished at Zen Chu (the last shop I visited), it was 6pm and Glister had closed.

Beading DIY mainly focuses on pearls and gemstones. They have all kinds of semi-precious stones. I bought red coral (dyed) beads in three sizes, lapis lazuli beads, black line agate faceted oval beads (15x20mm), hematite oval twist beads (10x15mm), mookaite beads, and a strand each of turquoise, tiger eye, red coral, amethyst, citrine and lapis lazuli chips. Total cost came up to RM195. They had a very limited amount of metal beads and findings.

Some of the loot from Beading DIY

All three had the usual glass crystal bicones, faceted glass rondelles and faceted round glass beads, and both Zen Chu and Glister had faux pearls -- Glister also had real ones. In fact, both Zen Chu and Glister also had a few semi-precious stones, but I didn't look closely at the price. In Glister it was because I didn't actually intend to buy gemstones to begin with (I know you are laughing); in Zen Chu it was because I had already bought so many in Beading DIY!

Macy's only has plastic beads. Even their supposedly wooden beads are labelled "Wood plastic beads". They are the place to go to for seed beads, though. They have seed beads in all the colours and sizes you could want. Unfortunately, most of the packets aren't clearly labelled, so you will have to guess the size by looking at the beads. They have hardly any charms, metal beads or findings.

BUT they have E-6000, an adhesive which many jewellery makers swear by (I discovered this through Google). E-6000 is used to glue cabochons onto (into?) bezels and attach other jewellery parts together which otherwise can't be fastened securely, and it is reknowned to have amazing bonding power -- a stone affixed with E-6000 will never fall out of its setting. At least, that's what a lot of jewellery designers have said; they swear by it.

Problems: In all three places, labelling of the items was very poor. When I started jewellery-making about a month ago, I bought all my stuff online. The very first place I went to was local website, which sells all the basics and a lot more besides. What I like about is that everything is clearly labelled. If it's silver-plated, they tell you it's silver-plated. If it's silver-filled, they tell you it's silver-filled. They even tell you whether it's silver-plated brass, silver-plated iron, or silver-plated pewter. They give you all the necessary measurements, including the size of the bead hole. I always know exactly what I'm getting.

In all the above brick-and-mortar shops, nowhere could I find such detailed information about the beads and findings I was looking at. I had no clue what materials they were made of, or what sizes they were. In Zen Chu, the headpins and eyepins were labelled by length but not by gauge. The guy said you have to look at the pricing, and if two packets are the same length but different price, then the more expensive one is a lower gauge (thicker). But I still wouldn't know what the diameter is. This is important, as all you need is for the headpin to be just 0.1mm thicker and it may not be able to go through certain beads because their holes are so small. That has happened to me before. On I know exactly how thick my headpins are going to be, which helps a lot.

If is so great, why did I check these stores out? Why not just stick with Well, for one thing, it's good to have alternatives :)   And while does have a variety of metal beads and charms, I feel it is limited in terms of bead caps and spacers. Plus, the variety of glass beads is moderate; for example, Czech glass beads are mainly available only in two shapes: faceted rounds or superduos. Unfaceted Czech rounds are only available in 4mm. "Chinese crystals" (faceted glass) are mainly available only in rondelle, round and tear-drop shapes -- at the time of writing, only four colours are available in 6x4mm ovals. They don't have cat's eye beads or crackle glass beads; neither do they have shell or mother-of-pearl items.

Basically, I want a greater variety of beads, especially different shapes and sizes, to make my jewellery more interesting. I've been poking around on (based in China) and on that site they offer a huge variety of beads in all kinds of shapes and sizes, made from all kinds of different materials. I ordered a bunch of stuff from them and shipping cost one-quarter of the total amount I paid, but it was worth it. They sell in bulk, so you'll get stuff in huge quantities, but they have "mixed products" lots where they offer the same item in a mix of colours, so although you get 20 strands of, say, 6x4mm faceted rondelles, you get them in maybe 9 colours. It's a great way to build up your stock.

**(Having said that, I ordered hematite from them, and now I have a whole bunch! If you are looking for some hematite, please check out my offer at the bottom of this post.)

This, THIS is why you need beads in different shapes and sizes. Necklace by Teryn Ashley; see her tutorial over at Vintage Romance Style.

Don't get me wrong, I love and will probably continue to use them as my main supplier of findings, especially for all the basics, plus connectors/links and charms. They deliver very promptly, usually within two days of placing my order and making payment. Convenient and professional -- what more could you ask for?

Overall, I'm quite disappointed by the lack of variety of beads and spacers and bead caps in the stores I visited today. Also, all of them sold only ordinary monofilament thread (similar to nylon fishing line) which I had read is not suitable for beading -- especially bead weaving, and also stringing crystals, which have sharp edges and would easily fray the thread. However, I've read that there's a new type of bonded nylon thread which is better (stronger) than monofilament, and also used for fishing. The recommended brand is Firewire -- I got it from a fishing tackle store in Taman Mayang Jaya in PJ, but you can also get it on The fishing store only had it in smoke (dark grey) or moss green, and it was RM45.10 (6lb test, 114m spool). offers it in clear for RM35, 50m spool. I guess if you're making things just for fun, it's okay to use monofilament thread, but I'm a believer in using good quality materials. To me, if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing right. Plus, I might eventually want to sell my creations :p  I can't sell things not made with quality materials!

Apart from bonded or fused nylon thread, you can also use beading wire for stringing beads. This is also available on Beading wire, so google tells me, consists of strands of wire woven together and covered by nylon, thus ensuring the "thread" is tough and lasting. It's wire but it's very flexible and can still be knotted like a thread. You're recommended to use 19-strand beading wire because 7-strand can be a bit stiff (good for chokers, I hear). Apparently, the more strands it has, the more flexible it will be.

Other stores. I didn't manage to go to K&K Crystal Sdn Bhd, which is located in GM Plaza along Lorong Haji Taib 5 (near Chow Kit), or Syarikat Bunga Reben, either on Jln TAR or or Plaza City One along Jln Munshi Abdullah. Those will have to wait for another day.
*      *      *      *      *      *
By the way, if anybody needs hematite, I have 15 strands of oval twists 8x5mm (51pcs/strand) and 10 strands of drops 8x16mm (26pcs/strand). I'll probably never finish it all within my lifetime, so I'll be happy to trade or something. Contact me on gmail - wilfulsunflower.

A picture of the drops and oval twists. I love the twists because it's such an unusual shape, and the drops are awesome for earrings or necklaces.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Here's how it goes: you buy more stuff, then you need to buy more stuff to organise your new stuff.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

R is for relationships

I fail at ABC. I just realised I posted P after Q. *facepalm*

So anyway. Last night I was at a cousin's wedding banquet, and my brother and his wife had been asked to emcee the event. 10 minutes before it was to start, they were going over their script, deciding who was to say what, and an interesting fact emerged: he likes to ad-lib, she likes to stick to the script. You can imagine her chagrin!

Most couples I know do have somewhat opposite traits or personalities, so perhaps it's true that opposites attract. I don't know whether it's a subconscious thing that draws people together, recognising that this person has strengths you don't and therefore would be able to help you out, or if it's just something that happens. My brother and his wife have commonalities (among other things, they're both careful with money and share the same religious beliefs) but they're very different in other ways. She focuses on details, he sees the big picture. She observes the conventions, he gets impatient with them. She's an introvert, he's an extrovert.

I like observing couples interact because people and relationships fascinate me. We all know people whose relationships haven't worked out. You can read a lot of advice, but living it out is different, isn't it? What makes one relationship gel, while another doesn't? How do you build a relationship that not only lasts, but thrives? Is it possible to have a joyful, fulfilling relationship after being married 30 years? Coz you know, my parents aren't showing such a great example of that. They're still together, but they don't seem happy.

It all seems like such a mystery to me. The scary thing is that relationships have no guarantees and I've always been one who likes things to be certain. I want to know that if I put my heart into a guy's hands, he's not going to take it and walk away. But you just don't know, do you? People change, couples grow apart instead of growing together, or sometimes the person you thought you knew wasn't who he seemed to be. In some ways relationships feel like such a gamble. Perhaps that's why I'm still single; I do want to find love, but at the same time I'm afraid...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

P is for play

I play games. Like, you know, computer games. On my iPod Touch, though, not on a computer. But still, they're games.

I've always felt vaguely guilty about that. Like a 36-year-old has no business playing games. Nobody has ever said that to me, it's just me being weird (and weirdly judgemental of myself). I feel like games are frivolous and I should focus on more... err... productive things. Things which are useful and constructive rather than just for play.

The truth is, I most likely got that mindset from my parents, who both have a strong work ethic. Rationally, I don't think there's anything wrong with playing; all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy -- there's a time for everything. But emotions aren't logical, and I can't get past the feeling that I shouldn't be playing. In this sort of thinking, even play is work: you can read a book in your spare time, but it should be an improving book, not a mere trashy novel.

I use games and play as a sort of "time out" from the mad world. Sometimes I do puzzles, occasionally I'm playing word games, but the majority of the time I play mindless games that don't require me to think too hard. Lately I've been playing Reversi, which obviously isn't mindless, but I play it sort of mindlessly, in the sense that I don't have any real strategy: I do put some thought into where to place my next piece, but I don't think too hard about it and often just move intuitively (read: impulsively). My aunt was like, "I don't believe you don't have a strategy! How did you trounce the computer so completely?!"

The answer is: I don't know how I did it, and I don't know how to replicate it, but I'm going to have fun trying!
**I'm so behind on the A to Z challenge that I'm just going to post in order of the alphabet from where I last stopped, and quit worrying about what day it is. Apologies for falling down on it >.<

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for queue

So now I have a whole queue of unwritten A to Z posts. They're unwritten not just on the blog but also in my head, which is another way of saying, "I ain't got nuthin' fer ya." This week just completely did me in and the only reason I managed Tuesday's post was because I had pre-written it the week before. I've been working flat out, sleeping 4 hours a night on average and generally doing a great imitation of a zombie. Braaaaaaains... gimme some braaaaaaains...

I swear teachers must be masochists because we like to generate more work for ourselves. Assigning the students homework means this homework has to be checked or marked later. If they don't do homework, I scold -- okay, I don't scold, I am nice, but I raise my eyebrows and give them The Look™ -- and complain to my fellow teachers: "Can you believe it? Only TWO STUDENTS did the homework today!" when I should really be jumping for joy because I'll have less work to do.

Anyway, on Tuesday I:
  • Taught 2 hours of class
  • Facilitated 1 hour of language lab
  • Finished setting one testpaper
  • Formatted two other testpapers
  • Renamed and uploaded audio recordings of the students' speaking assessments to the database

By the time I'd done all that, it was 7:40pm and I still had to mark the students' homework and prepare the lesson for the next day. Not complaining, but after this week I will bitch-slap anyone who dares to tell me teachers have an easy life!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for MBTI

I am an ISTP.

For those unfamiliar with the MBTI, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, what I just said probably just looks like a jumble of letters to you. ISTP? Do I have a lisp or something?

The MBTI instrument breaks down various aspects of one's personality and gives you an understanding of how you make decisions, gather information from the world around you, interact with people, and order your world. These four different aspects provide quite a comprehensive way of looking at a person and how he or she functions. I've found it extremely helpful in understanding myself better and realising why I am the way I am.

For many, many years, I tried and tried to make myself into a J (judging type). Now, when MBTI uses the word "judging", it doesn't carry the same meaning as it would in layman's terms; it refers to the way you prefer to order your world. The judging types like to have life all planned out. They follow rules and schedules, they love order, they want things to be settled and organised. They don't like surprises and they HATE working last-minute.

My parents are very neat and disciplined people, especially my dad. Oh the Js! They were always trying to instill discipline into me, and of course you have to admit that being organised and neat and disciplined are good things, things to aspire to. So I always wanted to be J and despised myself for not being able to be J; each time I failed as a J, I felt like a mess, the sort of mess that my desk has always been -- a terrible useless human being who couldn't get her act together. What is wrong with you? I don't remember my parents saying this, but I said it to myself all the time. You can't even do such a simple thing like keep your desk neat.

When, in 2010, I realised I was actually a P (perceiving type), the direct opposite of the J -- random, spontaneous, rather messy -- and that I had been fighting against my very nature all along, I was devastated. I wrote this:

    All I feel is grief, grief because I have to accept myself and how can I accept myself as a P when I think I ought to be a J? Yet how can I be a J if I was made a P? And then I realise how screwed up I am because I don't want to be a P, because I still think J is right and P is wrong, and no wonder I always feel wrong... I can't accept that there are good things about being P, I can't accept that P might be acceptable too... in my world there is no space for P.

I didn't realise until that point that I had never liked myself.

The P in me is the impractical dreamer, the artist, the pianist, the poet... all the unimportant things, the things that I had believed needed to be discarded in favour of Getting Things Done, things that wouldn't get me anywhere; things that were a distraction, a waste of time, that didn't really count. And in trying to be J these were all the things that had fallen by the wayside, swept away.

It was a friend who pointed out that we need both Js and Ps:

"Look at the clouds. Clouds are P. Look at the wind. The wind is P. Look at snowflakes. Snowflakes are P. Everywhere you see creativity and beauty, it's P."

I nearly cried.

"Sure, the process is J," my friend added. "The snowflake structure is very J. The water cycle is J. Water freezes into ice at 100ÂșC; that is J. But look at the ice formations -- they are P. So you need both J and P."

It was so hard for me to find beauty in my P, when all my life I had looked at it as a liability, something to be hated and torn out and destroyed -- and if not, then at least pushed away and banished. I still hate the fact that I have a messy desk. But at least I don't think I'm a mess any longer.

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for lacklustre

Monday, 8:31am
Guy: "Working?"

Monday, 11:52am
Me: "No, on a cruise in the Caribbean lying by the pool sipping cocktails and gazing at the starry sky"

*      *      *      *      *      *

I was going to write about online dating under O but I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE. What is it with guys these days -- or the guys I'm meeting, anyway! And to think some of my friends said I was mean to him. Hello? In my family there is a saying: "Ask a stupid question, you'll get a stupid answer." As if Monday mornings were not bad enough without inane time-wasting questions being added to the mix.

The same guy, by the way, texted me at 1:13am this morning: "Awake?" Luckily my phone's on silent mode when I'm sleeping.

I get accused of being too picky, but surely one ought to have standards. It's not like I expect scintillating conversation via text, but it could be a tad better... just a tad, mind you.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for kilograms

I've fallen off the wagon in a big way this week -- with regards to sugar, not alcohol. Cake, ice-cream, chocolates, Pepsi... I swear, they're so gonna be my downfall.

The sweet tooth comes from mum. It is mostly undiscriminating, but I love sodas especially. The other stuff -- I love those too, but I rarely snack (THANK GOD). It's sodas which are the most accessible thing. After all, a body has to drink, right? Right???

Two years ago, I made a concerted effort to cut down on my sugar and carb intake. One way was to limit myself to a single can of soda a week. I'm not militant about it, like I don't set a particular day for my soda and tell myself other days should be soda-free, or make a mark in my diary whenever I do get a soda, or anything like that. Some weeks I will pick up a can, and some weeks I won't at all. The "one a week" decision has more to do with being aware of what I'm consuming than anything else.

Well, this week I've been aware that I'm consuming more than usual. The one problem I have is with impulsiveness: "I feel like having this, so I'll have it". Because sometimes I will feel like having a soda, sometimes I will feel like having a slice of cake, and sometimes I will feel like having chocolate. Not all at the same time, of course (phew), but if you have one of them every other day, it's going to be a problem. Sometimes I try to talk myself out of it, but other times I don't. Sometimes I feel like I deserve a little treat, or I don't want to deprive myself of one of life's little pleasures... amazing, the things you tell yourself to justify bad decisions!

Some researchers say that a can of soda has 10 teaspoonfuls of sugar. Ten! Knowing this makes me feel guilty sometimes when I drink it. And my dear dad told me that if I eat a single M&M, I'd need to walk the length of a soccer field to use up all the calories. Just ONE M&M! Dad said every time I eat something, I should think about how I'm gonna work off the energy later. I told him I can't live like that: I'd never be able to enjoy food again.

So I don't count calories, but I eat half the usual portion of pasta or noodles or rice, generally avoid french fries and potatoes, and drink at most one can of soda a week -- choosing water most other times -- and over the past two years I've lost enough weight that people have been taking notice. Oh, I'm far from svelte and slim, but at least I have a bit of shape back (I know round is a shape, but it is not the shape I wanna be!).

I'm trying not to beat myself up for falling off the wagon this week. I think I have drunk at least 3 cans of soda, eaten a small bar of chocolate and one slice of chocolate cake with icing. Logically, I think my sugar intake will even out, because there are weeks when I go without eating anything unusually sweet (that is, just sticking to my usual meals and water). But I'm having an "I'm feeling fat" moment tonight. Sigh.

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for judging

I don't know why we always tend to be hardest on ourselves, but I know I am. Perhaps it's because I can see all my own small li'l faults and failures and weaknesses. Perhaps it's because I know the private, messy me as well as the outward, polished and glossy me. Perhaps it's because I know that sometimes when I try, I'm not really trying 100%, and sometimes I say I'm trying, but I'm really not. Whatever it is, I think I judge myself a lot, and I don't think I'm alone in this.

So for the longest time I've thought I'm a bit of a slacker. I get my work done but I also seem to goof off a lot, at least to me. I scramble to meet deadlines at the last-minute and often end up a day late. I ignore my paperwork, and things get piled up until the situation is so dire that I have no choice but to do my filing, because the pile is getting so high that it's becoming the Leaning Tower of Pisa and everything's going to collapse all over the floor at any moment. It just feels like so many things which should get done aren't getting done in a timely manner.

But this semester I started teaching a new subject (after four years of teaching the previous one) and suddenly I am realising that I'm not a slacker. I've had this erroneous view of myself all along. I work very hard and I do a lot of things, just that I do them in pockets or bursts -- and then I have moments where I do stop to play a game on my iPod Touch or look at Facebook.

I didn't realise how much stuff I do until I started showing my colleague, the one who heads this subject, what I had prepared for the course. She was amazed. I guess she hadn't expected me to develop a lot of stuff on my own, because I'm new to the subject, and also because she had passed me a bunch of materials -- handouts, worksheets, notes, and so on -- which she and the other teachers have been using. But I found much of it very general; I like to develop stuff which exploits the material in the textbook and takes it one step further, so that my students can see the application of whatever principles or skills we're teaching. It also helps my lesson to flow more smoothly.

Previously, I was the head of the subject I was teaching, so I never had to show my work to anyone. I would distribute whatever materials I'd developed to my fellow teachers of the same subject, and of course roll it out to students, but everyone seemed to take for granted that such things would be done and such materials should exist. But now, showing stuff to my colleague, and hearing her amazement, I realise that I actually do a lot of work!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Introvert

Nobody ever believes me when I say I'm an introvert.

Okay, okay, that was a wild exaggeration. MOST people don't believe me when I say I'm an introvert.

Because I'm social! I like people! And I go out to meet them!

But they don't notice I only go out to meet certain people, really. In small groups. And am usually the observer. Or, in a one-to-one situation, the listener.

And they don't notice that I sometimes disappear in the middle of social events. You know what's a godsend for an introvert? The washroom. Yes, I said it. You can lock yourself in a cubicle to take time out from everyone, and no one will bother you there. It's the one place in the whole building where you can retreat to and be guaranteed complete solitude.

Sure, some other people might enter and stand at the sink area talking loudly to each other. But you, you will be hidden in a cocoon from everyone's view, and be in a blissful bubble of your own.

Unless, of course, the washroom stinks. Which quite often is true of public restrooms in Malaysia, alas. Then the bubble isn't so blissful.

But it's still a bubble.

A place where I can take some time to collect myself and fortify myself before I need to go out there and face The Masses again. Where I can stare at my cellphone without anyone digging me in the ribs and labelling me anti-social. Where I can breathe.

And the other thing about being an introvert! I like my personal space. Quit trying to get in my personal space and make me talk! Yes, I'm referring to you, hairstylists, and also to you, cabbies! It's nice that you're being all friendly and chatty and all, but when I go to a salon, I really just wanna get a haircut and get out of there. And when I get in a cab, I really just wanna arrive at my destination and get out of the vehicle. I do not want to talk about the weather. I do not want to talk about politics. And I definitely do not need any advice on how to snare a man!

Sheesh, now I sound like a crabby old woman. And I'm only 36.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for hero

I always liked Batman better than Superman or Spiderman.

Not because I liked Michael Keaton better than Christopher Reeve, either.

Batman is real, in a way that Superman isn't. Superman has super strength (not to mention x-ray vision, as well as the ability to fly and emit laser/heat beams from his eyes), but Batman's just your ordinary average joe. He can bleed, he gets exhausted, he needs food and drink. Superman is indestructible and needs no one -- not even Lois Lane -- but Batman couldn't do without Alfred, at the very least. Oh, I know he would never admit to needing Alfred, but he does. He couldn't survive alone: when he's wounded, he needs someone to tend to him; when he's weary, he needs a safe place to rest; and when he's raging inside, he needs someone to be his voice of reason. Alfred provides all this, in his own poker-faced butlery way.

Even better, Batman is a tortured soul. He can't forget how his parents died at the hands of a mugger. He can't accept how helpless he was to help them. He's driven to fill some void in his soul by being this masked vigilante. Contrast that with Superman, who's all about "doing the right thing" and using his powers responsibly. What drives him? Nothing, just a strict moral code and an unshakeable belief in upholding justice for the sake of upholding justice. That's... noble, but boring! He ends up looking like a two-dimensional caricature next to Batman.

Even Spiderman is more interesting than Superman. Spidey is of course famous for the line, "With great power comes great responsibility", and is haunted by how his failure to stop a thief gave said thief the opportunity to later kill his Uncle Ben. But he, too, has superpowers. Batman has none.

So Batman is, for me, the embodiment of a normal guy who's just trying to do his best to survive. I don't mean survive like eke out a living, I mean survive as in push on from day to day, finding a reason to live. The main thing that keeps him going is the thought that he's avenging his parents, that by ridding Gotham City of criminals, he's preventing some other little boy from the same anguish that he has suffered; he's keeping people safe. It's not about doing right for the sake of doing right -- how many of us are that altruistic? It's about all the hurt he's buried inside.

At the heart of it, he reminds me of all of us. We're all walking wounded. It's part of life. In one way or another, we've been hurt, only in different areas and different intensities. These wounds are part of who we are. Even when they're healed, they've still paid a part in shaping who we are. We carry the scars with us, and every day, part of the reason we do the things we do, say the things we say, connect with the people we connect with -- many of these actions can be attributed to what we have experienced. Some of us are haunted by regret or driven by pain, anger, frustration. Almost all of us seek peace, love, acceptance. We do this in our own way. Batman does it his way, by fighting crime under the cover of darkness, his identity concealed under a mask. It helps to keep the pain at bay, to disassociate himself from that hurting eight-year-old boy, to protect his heart from being exposed, because he's just so vulnerable under all that machismo. Like all of us.
**Image credit: Pencils by Rags Morales, colours by Nei Ruffino. Via Abduzeedo

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for grammar

I really hate grammatical rules, which is a strange thing for an English teacher to say. But I never learnt them, so perhaps my antipathy is justified, or perhaps not! Believe it or not, I only began to learn them when I had to teach them!

But I am convinced that there is no point memorising grammatical rules, because theory and practice are two totally different things. I have students who can answer grammatical quiz questions perfectly, yet when they write paragraphs and essays none of that comes through. Why? Because when we're writing, we're not thinking about the rules. We're thinking of ideas, and how best to convey those ideas... and when you're an ESL (English as a second language) student, it's about all you can do to think of the appropriate vocabulary to articulate your opinions. Grammar becomes secondary.

I didn't realise how influential reading is until I became a teacher. Reading helps one to internalise grammatical rules and sentence structure: it's how you "just know" something is wrong, because it "feels" wrong or "looks" wrong. You may not be able to explain it, but your brain has seen a particular arrangement of words so many times that it just knows that's the way things should be.

So in a way I feel it is pointless to teach grammatical rules, except to give the students some understanding of why certain things are right and others are wrong. But in the end, harping on grammar will get us nowhere. However many times I tell my students that verbs have to change depending on whether the sentence has a singular or plural subject, they still write "Many students likes"... and when I point out, "What did you just do there?" they're like, "Oh yes! Sorry, teacher!" and jump to correct their mistake. They know the rule, but they don't practice it. It's not a part of them... YET.

I also feel that grammatical rules are ridiculously complicated and full of jargon. Coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, adverbial clauses, noun clauses, relative clauses, independent clauses, dependent clauses, what?!? If all these things make my eyes glaze over, how much more will my students' eyes do the same! I feel that it's way more important you be able to write good sentences, than to know what all these things are called. Unfortunately, it's difficult to teach how to write a good sentence without using jargon. Especially when you have to explain where to put what and how to arrange all the words and blah.

All of which makes me a rather weird language teacher. But language is not about rules! It's about usage! I don't want my students to get sidetracked by all the details and focused on knowing every single grammatical rule. I want them to be focused on trying to write well. (And of course I'd love them to pass, too. Just sayin'.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for favourites

"What's your favourite book?"

I get all flustered when people ask me that question.

Granted, I love to read, and I have many books. Toooooooo many. I have books in almost every room of my apartment, barring the kitchen (wouldn't want to accidentally set them on fire!). I have books of various genres: classics, general fiction, biographies and autobiographies, travel writings, short stories, poetry, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, crime/detective, general non-fiction, comics, crossword puzzles, writing, etymology... and I try to shelf them by genre, too, which is just mad.

But I don't have a favourite.

I wonder if others feel this way. Do fashionistas have a favourite dress, or outfit? Does anybody have one favourite song? I like so many songs... The Piña Colada Song (Rupert Holmes), the theme from Mahogany (Diana Ross), You are the Sunshine of My Life (Stevie Wonder), Starting Over Again (Natalie Cole), Annie's Song (John Denver), and... okay, I'd better stop. See? I couldn't ever choose just one!

I don't even have a favourite colour. I love maroon and burgundy (see shoes below!!), but I also love a deep rich blue which I have yet to figure out the name of. And I love dark purple and turquoise. When I walk into a clothes store, those are the colours that catch my eye. Every. Single. Time.

So, no, I don't have a favourite book... and I think that's a horrible getting-to-know you question. I'm going to fumble and look like a flake who doesn't know her own mind, and you're going to doubt I read anything at all, much less like to read, and it's all going to end in disaster. I'll choose a book just to be able to name something, and in my panic I'll probably say something like, "the dictionary" and then you'll look at me funny and think I'm a total nerd. Which I am, but, y'know, didn't want to reveal on the first date. Ah well. The truth will out!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for energy (or the lack thereof)

Today has just been one of those days. I haven't had the energy to do anything. I woke up at two p.m. (there are definitely advantages to being single and living on your own) and then I just didn't want to get out of bed. I felt so tired I just laid in bed and read a book, then went back to sleep and when I next opened my eyes it was 9:30pm.

I don't have anything clever or witty to say. I'm afraid I might have depression because I've been struggling through unusual lows and sudden, random bouts of weeping the past two weeks. It isn't the unending dark tunnel that I experienced before, but it is alarming. There is a crushing loneliness that all the good friends and caring in the world cannot assuage. I don't know what to do with my feelings and am frustrated because it all makes no sense.

Some days are better than others. Some days I tell myself I'm just tired, or that maybe it's hormonal. Useful things to blame, hormones :)  I'm hoping it's just a temporary phase and that things will get back to their normal even keel again, soon. Meanwhile, I'm trying to hold everything together, do the stuff I need to do, and not do anything stupid or reckless which I might regret later!

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for dream

Confucius apparently said, "Choose a job you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life." Who would've thought that would become my dream? For the longest time, I didn't even realise that was my dream -- I thought my dream was to be a journalist.

But why did I want to be a journalist? Because I loved to write, because I knew I could write. In the midst of my very nerdy, bookwormish, slightly awkward teenage life, this was the one thing that stood out. Nobody ever encouraged me to write, but nobody told me I shouldn't, either. I wrote unceasingly -- not made-up stories, but stories about my life. I sent reams of letters to penpals all around the globe, and got frustrated when replies weren't forthcoming in a timely manner. I never found anyone who would write as much, and as frequently, as I did. Ever.

And there was the poetry. Startlingly bad poetry, which still makes me cringe to think of it. I'm sure every writer has stuff like that, bits of work you can't bear to throw away because they're something you wrote, part of your history, something you know you'll never be able to replicate if you were to get rid of it -- but that you fervently hope will never see the light of day!

Anyway. So I wanted to be a journalist, and I became a journalist, never mind the bumps along the way (like deciding to study law in university). And journalism was fun. It was easy. It was exciting. I was living my dream, or so I thought.

Until I realised it wasn't my dream any longer. I became restless. The work wasn't fulfilling. I wondered what the problem was. Was it me? Do I simply get bored too easily? What if I were to try something else and didn't like it, either? What would I do after that? Would I keep hopping from job to job? Should I just stick it out regardless of what I feel?

Driven by my real dream, the dream of doing something I love, I finally decided to try teaching. How I came to consider teaching is a whole other story, too long to get into here; but I can tell you that I never, in a million years, would ever have thought I'd be a teacher one day. If you had told me, ten years ago, that I would be a teacher today, I would have thought you were mad!

Yet I am a teacher, and at the end of my first semester of teaching, when my principal came to the classroom and sat through the lesson, watching me teach, evaluating my work, he told me, "You're a natural in the classroom." I was gobsmacked!

When something is right, it just is right. I can't explain it, I don't understand it, I have no idea how this happened, but teaching is right for me. Within a year I was telling friends that I could see myself teaching for the rest of my life, which is a HUGE thing. It's so ironic that the job I thought would be perfect for me, wasn't, and the job I never saw myself doing, is.

So now I've achieved my dream and I don't know what to do with myself! What do you do when you already have the biggest, most important thing you ever wanted? I mean, I still hope to meet and fall in love with a great guy one day, and get married and hopefully, have a family, but I can't do anything to make that happen. (Sing with me: "You can't hurry love, no, you just have to wait...") Barring that, I don't have anything to work towards now. I completed my Masters in 2012 and don't particularly want to do a PhD (*shudder*), so what's next? What's next? Can one be happy, yet slightly restless at the same time? Humans, never satisfied... lol. I need a new dream!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Chinese

I did not know the term "banana" until I went to college.

I can't even remember how I learnt it, because I don't recall anyone ever calling me a "banana", despite admittedly being quite banana-ish! Amazing.

What's a "banana", you ask? Someone who is "yellow outside, but white inside": a Chinese who doesn't speak Chinese. Not really derogatory (at least, I've never taken it as such), but it does imply that you've forgotten your roots and discarded your heritage.

Actually, I always kinda feel like I'm undeserving of the term banana. I can speak Chinese! I can! At least enough to order food in restaurants -- priorities, hello? -- and to exchange some social pleasantries! And I celebrate the Chinese New Year (yay, angpow!), I know what the mooncake festival is all about (even if I don't exactly know when it is), and I like origami. Oh wait, that's Japanese. Darn.

"I wasted all that money sending you for Mandarin classes," my dad says to me.

When you're 8 years old, and no one, absolutely NO ONE in the ENTIRE WORLD speaks Mandarin to you, why would you want to learn Mandarin? I didn't see the point. Now, well... okay, now I feel a bit regretful. Especially after my younger cousins laughed at my pronunciation the last time we met. Twenty years younger than I, laughing at me! I get no respect around here. *shakes head sadly*

My family is definitely not traditional at all, despite celebrating Chinese New Year, which is the only Chinese festival we do celebrate. Last CNY, nobody wore anything new (you're supposed to dress in new clothes on the first day of the new year), and not only that, only three of us cousins wore red! Gasp! (Red is an auspicious colour for the Chinese.) About the only CNY ritual we follow is giving angpow (red envelopes containing money... yay, money!). And, of course, eating. Chinese New Year would not be complete without lots and lots and lots of food.

To compound the problem, not only is my family untraditional, I also read! Reading is dangerous! It can change you. Having grown up reading timeless favourites like What Katy Did, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Heidi, Black Beauty, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables, to name a few, many of my attitudes and ways of thinking are decidedly "western". At the same time, I can't deny that I'm Chinese and there's still a teeny weeny bit of Chinese influence floating around somewhere. I'm sort of stuck in between two worlds, and don't fully fit in either.

There's one way in which I'm very Chinese, though: I always eat noodles with chopsticks. It just doesn't feel the same if I use a fork and spoon!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for besieged (did I spell that correctly?)

It's been one of those days when everything seems to be happening at once and I've been feeling overwhelmed and couldn't write anything. Now it isn't even Apr 2 in my part of the world any longer, but I know it still is in the US, and that's what really counts, right? Right?? I will cheat and adjust the date to Apr 2, anyway. I don't know if that's allowed, but in my head it's still Apr 2, okay? Shhhh... I won't tell if you don't.

Sooooo. It's too involved to get into but SOMEONE was supposed to do SOMETHING so that I could then do my work but this SOMEONE insisted it was not her job to do the SOMETHING and that I should do it instead. But this SOMETHING is a task I have never ever done before, and I wouldn't have any idea where to even start, so I was quite sure that it was SOMEONE's responsibility to do it. Then I found, in black-and-white, where it was written that SOMEONE was definitely in charge of this SOMETHING, and she finally agreed to do it... but at 7:30pm, when I was about to sit down to dinner, SOMEONE called me and said she was sure she wasn't meant to do this SOMETHING and told me I had better check with the boss!

Why am I so stressed out? This SOMEONE and SOMETHING are holding me up and I have a Tuesday deadline for submitting the work! If SOMEONE doesn't do SOMETHING, and fast, I won't be able to make my Tuesday deadline. And then other someones are going to be upset with me and everything will get backed up and... urgh. You know how it is.

Added on to that, I'm going to be teaching a new subject at work -- most likely, hopefully, if things work out the way my boss has planned, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Did you see that list of qualifiers? It all depends on the number of students we get and which levels they end up placed in... and I won't know until Friday. Guess when classes start? Monday. Exciting, eh? I'm looking at the new textbook, thinking up activities and making Powerpoints -- and can't decide if I hope I will or won't have the new subject. There's this nervousness about teaching something new and different with greater complexity, and I hate the uncertainty of it. Don't tell the kids: sometimes we teachers aren't totally sure of what we're doing!

Loads of other things going on at the same time, both in the office and on the personal/home front. I hate that feeling of being torn in pieces when I need to break up my brain and spread it over so many places, situations and things to do. I work really well when I can focus on just one thing, but the moment I have 5 things going on, I feel overwhelmed and stressed out. The only positive thing about being stressed out is that it's good for my waistline. Some people snack more when they're stressed. Me, I lose my appetite and forget to eat.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for annoyed

"Want to go to Puchong for lunch and eyebrow threading? I'll drive!" chirped my colleague.

Said colleague has been bugging me to thread my eyebrows FOREVER. And also bugging me to use make-up. Me, I go to work with a naked face. It's honest, it's easy, it's cheap. As for the eyebrow thing, I don't have a unibrow or fierce bushy eyebrows, so who cares?

Let me just clarify here: I've done threading before. It's not that I'm opposed to it. It's that I just couldn't be bothered to get it done regularly. Low-maintenance, that's me. I do dress up and do the accessorising thing (I love shoes and earrings btw) and I try to look pretty and presentable. But with a naked face! And natural eyebrows!

So anyway, in a moment of weakness, I caved and agreed to go with my colleague. You know every time you read "in a moment of weakness", the outcome's not gonna be good, right?


I tell the lady, "Don't make them too thin, just shape them." This has always worked for me before -- but of course, I went to a different place and person before. Guess what? Yeah. Now my eyebrows look like they were drawn on with a black marker. One with a thin nib.

"Oh, but you can fill them out with eyebrow pencil!" gushed colleague.

WHAT IS IT WITH WOMEN? You take out your perfectly good eyebrow hairs, then draw fake ones back in. What is the point?!

Just like how the orthodontist told teenaged-me I'd have to take out four perfectly good teeth in order to get braces in. I said no. My dad said, "Thanks for saving me four thousand bucks."

Back to my eyebrows -- because this post is about them, even though it's A and not E -- oh, they are now perfect little outlines of a semi-circle. They look freaking artificial. This is one of the things I hate about ridiculous conventional standards of beauty: you're beautiful only if you look like everyone else. We'd all be clones with high cheekbones, long legs, a slim waist (with no tummy! Which woman has no tummy, I ask you?!), long lustrous hair, thick long eyelashes, flawless glowing skin... oh, I could go on and on. I used to write advertorials for cosmetic companies. I know all the adjectives.

Of course, in times of stress the Voice of Mum™ always rings in your head. As a child, whenever I got a particularly bad haircut, my mother would always say, "Why are you upset? It'll grow back!" Yes, thank goodness my eyebrows will grow back. And in future I shall summarily glare at any woman who dares to suggest I thread them. Note how it's always the women who pressure you to do such things, not the men! Men couldn't care less about eyebrows, I'm sure. Unless you have eyebrows like a gorilla's -- wait, do gorillas have eyebrows? *goes off to google it*

Monday, March 31, 2014

A to Z challenge

I've decided to try the A to Z challenge in a bid to get myself to write something every day. It runs for the month of April, and every day (except Sundays) you're supposed to write something based on a word which starts with one letter of the alphabet... starting with A and ending with Z. We shall hope it will not be a hangat-hangat tahi ayam thing, which I'm exceedingly good at.

Since the challenge starts tomorrow, and I haven't had time to think of a theme, I'm going to be completely random. Which is pretty much what this blog is all about, anyway. Total randomness.

No clones wanted

Increasingly, I think online dating sites have gotten it all wrong.

See, most of them focus on helping you find someone with common interests. But we have two issues here:

  1. Most people have pretty generic interests (reading, watching movies, travelling) so it doesn't really help in selecting someone from a pool; and
  3. Not only is it possible for me to cultivate an interest in something my partner really likes to do, but people's interests also change over time. I may enjoy travelling now, for example, but after some years I may tire of it and try pottery, instead!

I used to think that when I'm looking for a partner, one of the most crucial criteria should be common interests. Now I no longer think so. Mainly because I realise that while I may not have any fixed sort of exercise regime now, if my partner were into fitness, I would be happy to work out alongside him. People can change and adapt. It doesn't all need to be in place from the get-go.

Plus the fact that while I do think it's important to share some commonalities with a partner, I think it's healthy to have your own interests and do your own thing apart from him, too. I don't think ALL our interests need to be similar. Perhaps one or two major ones should be, so that we would be able to do some activities together (and enjoy doing them together). But by and large, I'm not too worried about us possibly liking different things.

Dating coach Evan Marc Katz confirmed this line of thought for me in this blog post, where he said we should look for a complement, not a clone:

    This may not come naturally to you, especially if you’re a smart, strong, successful woman who thinks that you “deserve” a man who is smarter, stronger, and more successful than you are.
    Essentially, you’re trying to date yourself, with a penis.
    That kind of thinking is a huge blind spot for many women.
    If you’re out working 60 hours a week, you don’t need a guy who does the same. You might need a guy who is your complement, a supporter, a nurturer, your biggest fan who is your strength when the going gets tough. He makes you laugh. He listens to you. He gets you.

He further adds that "Your biggest problem is not who you are inside. It’s your picker," because the man you're looking for or trying to find is probably not the right one for you. "When you choose someone with a complementary energy, the puzzle pieces just fit and the whole thing becomes easy."

By and large, I think that personality matters more than activities, hobbies and interests. When I try to mesh my life with a guy's, it's our personalities which will determine how we truly get along, not our common interests. And even with personality, I'm going to need someone who complements me. As this other writer suggests, you need someone who is able to sort of balance you out a bit (just as you'll balance him) and provide some sort of challenge and excitement just by being different and encouraging you to try things you might never otherwise have thought of doing.

So I really do think all the dating websites have gotten it wrong. Compatibility is not about sameness or similarities. It's not about finding someone who is your mirror, or your clone. It's about finding someone who complements you. Now for the million-dollar question: how to go about finding someone like that?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Walk in your identity

"The real reason we avoid time with God", the title read.

The truth is that we have too narrow a view of what it is like to spend time with God. We think in terms of reading the Bible, praying, going to church. On the other hand, we have been taught that God is omnipresent; He's with us everywhere we go. We cannot ever outrun His presence. As the psalmist wrote, "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there" (Ps 139:8).

We fail to see the dichotomies in our own thinking. If God is everywhere, if He is always with us, if we can never stray from His presence, are we not then spending time with God at every moment?!

What is needed is not to "spend more time with God", as I often hear many guilt-ridden Christians whisper. It is to become aware of Him and His presence in our daily lives. To know that whatever the circumstance or situation, He is there.

For too long we have been chased by the guilt of not doing enough and not being enough, when the fact is we have been accepted by God just as we are, and cannot earn His love or grace or mercy. I know I have often felt guilty for not praying enough, not reading the Bible enough, not evangelising enough, not being involved in missions (or even wanting to be involved in missions). It has to stop.

This is false guilt, keeping us bound in a performance trap. How much is 'enough'? You can pray for an hour a day, but there are those who pray for two. You may read the Bible every day, but only spend 10 minutes on it, while others linger for half an hour. Why are we comparing ourselves to everyone else? Where in the Bible do you see Jesus or any of the apostles setting any such standards?

The writer of the article states that we tend to slip into legalism, yet doesn't realise that she herself is still bound by the legalistic thinking of having to do certain things, and do them enough. She talks about how we should want to spend time with God because we should want to strengthen our relationship with Him. She says, "You can’t really get in quality time with God by just getting up five minutes earlier than usual. You’re going to have to intentionally set aside some time in order to really dig in." It's all about doing, doing, doing.

We've gotten it all wrong. Life with God is about being. It's in who you ARE. You are God's child. You are loved beyond all reason. You are accepted just as you are. You have been created in His image, fashioned with care. We have to learn to live in the knowledge of who we are. Embrace this identity. Know what it means to be called a child of God. Be aware that He is with us throughout the day. That with every thought, every whisper in our heart, every word spoken, we're communicating with Him, because He's there, and He hears us.

Of course I'm not saying that it's not important to read the Bible, or go to church, or set aside time for more formal or deeper prayer. But I'm saying that we should not look at these things as yardsticks to measure -- consciously or unconsciously -- how spiritual, faithful, or close to God we are. What a "good Christian" we are. Because we haven't been called to be "good Christians". We have been called to be children of God, and to love Him.

Think about the way you relate to your parents. You are always connected to them, no matter where you go, and you always walk around in the knowledge that this connection exists. You can't sever that from your consciousness because it's part of your core identity, from the time you were in your mother's womb, and later when you first learnt the words "mama" and "papa", or "mummy" and "daddy" (or whatever you call your parents). You may not live with your parents, in fact you may even live very far away from them; but in your heart, they are present, and your knowledge of them, the fact that you know they are somewhere out there in the world, affects your thoughts, words, and deeds, for good or ill. You remember what they have taught you, the values you've been brought up with... you do go home to spend some time with them, or call them up to connect with them, but when you aren't doing that, the connection and consciousness is still very much there.

That's how it should be with God.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Marital expectations

    To understand marriage today, it is important to see how we got to where we are. Throughout America’s history, its populace has experienced three distinct models of marriage, as scholars like the sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin and the historian Stephanie Coontz have chronicled. In the era of the institutional marriage, from the nation’s founding until around 1850, the prevalence of individual farming households meant that the main requirements Americans had for their marriage revolved around things like food production, shelter and protection from violence. To be sure, Americans were pleased if they experienced an emotional connection with their spouse, but such affinities were perquisites of a well-functioning marriage rather than its central purpose.
    In the era of the companionate marriage, from roughly 1850 until 1965, American marriage increasingly centered around intimate needs such as to love, to be loved and to experience a fulfilling sex life. This era overlapped with the shift from rural to urban life. Men increasingly engaged in wage labor outside of the home, which amplified the extent to which the two sexes occupied distinct social spheres. As the nation became wealthier and its social institutions became stronger, Americans had the luxury of looking to marriage primarily for love and companionship.
    Since around 1965, we have been living in the era of the self-expressive marriage. Americans now look to marriage increasingly for self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth. Fueled by the countercultural currents of the 1960s, they have come to view marriage less as an essential institution and more as an elective means of achieving personal fulfillment. “You make me want to be a better man,” from the 1997 movie “As Good as It Gets,” could serve as this era’s marriage ideal. In the words of the sociologist Robert N. Bellah, love has become, in good part, “the mutual exploration of infinitely rich, complex and exciting selves.”
    This historical ascent is, on its own, neither good nor bad. But it has major implications for marital well-being: Though satisfying higher-level needs yields greater happiness, serenity and depth of inner life, people must invest substantially more time and energy in the quality of their relationship when seeking to meet those higher-level needs through their marriage. To be sure, it was no small feat, circa 1800, to produce enough food or keep a house warm, but the effort required to do so did not require deep insight into, and prolonged involvement with, each other’s core essence.

This piece, The All-or-Nothing Marriage by Eli J. Finkel, is food for thought. Generally, as society has gotten more affluent and urbanised, our expectations of life itself -- not just marriage -- have moved up Maslow's hierarchy of needs. For example, no longer are we satisfied just to have a job which will put food on the table; we want jobs where we can feel a sense of achievement or fulfillment, experiencing the satisfaction of using and developing our various skills and talents. We want jobs where our contributions are recognised and we feel we are doing something worthwhile.

I'm not surprised to see the study's findings show that we want more from marriage than ever before. Finkel does say that if couples don't have the time and energy to invest in their marriage, "they might consider adjusting their expectations, perhaps by focusing on cultivating an affectionate bond without trying to facilitate each other's self-actualisation". But how to adjust expectations is another matter altogether. It's not quite as easy as it sounds.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Leaving out the essentials

Someone posted this video of Sean Lowe, last year's Bachelor, talking about his faith and his experience on the reality tv show. I haven't had a tv in more than 5 years, so I haven't been following what's going on and was surprised The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are still going strong. I thought they'd have died out by now. Those two shows have hardly produced any long-lasting, happy couples.

Anyway, it's an interesting video -- I'm not going to embed it here, but you can click the link if you want to see it. Lowe talks about how he felt conflicted dating 25 girls at one time, worrying it might damage his Christian testimony to be seen kissing so many different girls. (Easy answer: don't kiss them lah!)

He was talking about how the girl he chose (whom he married last month) is his best friend. But he never said that they shared the same values or the same faith, so now I'm wondering... because, if I were talking about my faith, and about finding a life partner, that's one of the top things I'd be mentioning. It's so crucial to me, because my faith means that much to me, God means that much to me, that it's extremely hard to for someone who doesn't share my faith to understand where I'm coming from, or to even comprehend the first thing about who I am.

So essentially, the video is a nice sound bite but it failed to address the true issue, that of the Christian concept of marriage and family. It talks about his faith, it talks about "falling in love", it talks about God opening the door and giving him the opportunity to appear on the tv show, it talks about finding a woman who is his "best friend", but it doesn't talk about the important things: does she have the same values, does she love God, will she encourage him to be the man God created him to be, will she walk alongside him as he journeys with God? How did he choose her, apart from knowing she's his "best friend"? How does he know it will last?

So many unanswered questions...
UPDATE: I saw news that she accepted Christ last year and was baptised in December. That answers some of my questions, but not all...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sounds nice, but isn't true

So one of my friends shared this on Facebook today. There are a lot of these pictures and motivational messages going around, but some of them, like this one, also perpetuate myths and bad theology. The concept that the enemy attacks you because you're strong is totally unbiblical.

I commented on my friend's post:

He's mainly fighting you because you're God's. It's not got a lot to do with whether you're weak or strong. You're just on the wrong side, that's all.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Routed: game, set and match

I bought this book for my dad at the Big Bad Wolf sale because the subtitle says, "How your mind can grow stronger as your brain grows older," and my dad is always joking about doing sudoku puzzles to ward off Alzheimer's. Have to keep the ol' brain agile, you see. Not that he's all that old, but he's also always been interested in how we use our brains, how to improve memory, and that kinda thing, so I thought he might be interested in what the author had to say.

Well, I gave it to him at CNY, and to my horror he kept telling everyone, "My daughter thinks I'm not wise enough, so she gave me this book." I kept falling over myself trying to explain, for fear someone might take him seriously. My dad has a warped sense of humour! I don't know how I never noticed this before.

And he still has the capacity to thoroughly embarrass his daughter of thirty-five years. Well played, dad, well played.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

No laughing matter

    Funny quote of the day: A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he's finished. —Zsa Zsa Gabor

Last week someone posted this in one of the social network mailing list thingies that I'm a part of. You hear "jokes" like this every day. Who hasn't heard the one that says marriage is a three-ring circus -- "engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering"?

I'm sorry, but I really don't think such "jokes" are funny. I think they're rather sad.

We live in a society where divorce rates are rising and even when couples do not divorce, that doesn't mean they're happy or fulfilled in the marriage or that they're thankful to still be together with their partner after all these years. In fact, a truly happy, healthy marriage is pretty hard to find. When you look at it that way, the prospects for a fulfilling and wholesome marriage are rather bleak. And then we accentuate the bleakness by making "jokes" about marriage, perpetuating the idea of marriage being a ball and chain, or reinforcing stereotypes of the domineering, nagging wife and hen-pecked husband.

Now, I don't think anybody should go into marriage all rosy-eyed and expecting "happily ever after". People should be prepared for the amount of effort it takes to meld two lives into one, two very different personalities and characters coming from different backgrounds, with different expectations and all kinds of weird habits. That's one thing. But there's no call to make marriage sound like a jail cell, the death knell of joy, or a harbinger of doom. Come on!

"Jokes" like those I quoted above undermine the whole institution of marriage, the covenant of marriage. Yes, if you're a Christian, you know that the marriage vows are a covenant, a solemn promise made to your spouse and to God. What does it mean when we promise to "love, honour and cherish" and yet joke that after the engagement ring and the wedding ring comes suffering? And then we laugh at the so-called joke, not realising that when we laugh, we are tacitly acknowledging the implication that spouses are often unreasonable and difficult to get along with. Do you realise how this actually shows dishonour to a spouse?

Also -- it's never funny to garner a laugh at someone else's expense, and in fact when we laugh at "jokes" like these we're laughing at the people who struggle to make their marriages work, people for whom everyday life is a challenge because for whatever reason, their marriage is in upheaval, or at least facing major difficulties. It's not funny to them, and it shouldn't be funny to us. It's not funny to reduce very complex problems into a simplistic, stereotypical script and run that off as a two-line "joke".

When I was growing up, Mom had a saying: "If you can't think of anything good to say, don't say anything." Based on that principle... if we have to be negative and cynical about marriage, we'd be better off saying nothing. And, if you must quote someone, just so you know, there are better people to quote than Zsa Zsa Gabor:

  • Love is not a weakness. It is strong. Only the sacrament of marriage can contain it.
    Boris Pasternak
  • A great marriage is not when the 'perfect couple' come together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.
    Dave Meurer
  • A happy marriage is a long conversation that seems all too short.
    Andre Maurois
  • A marriage is like a long trip in a tiny rowboat: If one passenger starts to rock the boat, the other has to steady it; otherwise they will go to the bottom together.
    David Reuben
  • A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
    Mignon McLaughlin
  • To choose a woman for a wife is not to say to Miss So-and-so: You are the ideal of my dreams... To choose a woman for a wife is to say to Miss So-and-so: I want to live with you just as you are... It is you I choose to share my life with me, and that is the only evidence there can be that I love you.
    Denis de Rougemont
  • A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.
    Ruth Bell Graham
  • Real giving is when we give to our spouses what's important to them, whether we understand it, like it, agree with it, or not.
    Michele Weiner-Davis
  • Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry.
    Tom Mullen
  • The married are those who have taken the terrible risk of intimacy and, having taken it, know life without intimacy to be impossible.
    Carolyn Heilbrun

My favourite quote, though, comes from Winston Churchill: "My most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me."
* Reposted from a now-defunct blog. Originally published Dec 9, 2008

Monday, January 27, 2014

In simple English

I've noticed this trend in my church recently where non-Christians are no longer called non-Christians. They're now "pre-believers".

We're supposed to "reach out" to the "pre-believers" in our "oikos". We wait for a "kairos moment" to "share the good news"... or just for one of the evangelistic events at church, and invite them to it. We pray for God to "touch them" and to "minister to them".

How is it that no one else seems to notice the amount of jargon we use in everyday Christianity?

I'm part of a church that doesn't call church service "church" any longer; it's called "celebration". So people go to celebration instead of attending church. Every church ministry has a special name (hint: the worship team is not called a worship team). The whole thing bothers me a lot.

I was reminded of this recently when one of my connections on Facebook posted a link to this article about "church jargon". I don't identify with most of the examples given, but I agree that we need to take a closer look at our 21st century church culture. Jargon creates a divide. If you do not know what I'm talking about, you're in the outer circle; if you do, you're in the inner circle.

I don't know why we can't just say things plainly.

    We have friends and family members who do not yet know our God in the same way we know Him. We are going to pray and ask Him for the right time to speak with them. We may invite them to an evangelistic meeting where we pray they will understand and respond to God's great love for them.

How hard was it to say that?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Two birds with one stone

I shower in the morning not so much to get clean, but to wake myself up. Getting clean is just a happy side effect.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shoe fetish

Have resorted to labelling my shoeboxes so I can remember what shoes I have and easily find the ones I want to wear. 43 pairs at last count, not including 4 which need repair... No more shoe-buying for the rest of the year, Sunflower! >.<

I was a Boy Scout in a previous life

I am not ever going to run out of brads in my lifetime. Maybe even three lifetimes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Embarrassing moment of the year #1

Applied for CNY leave on the wrong dates. OBVIOUSLY have been working too hard.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Whoa, kinetic memory!

Played scales this morning for probably the first time in 15 years or so. It's true what they say -- the fingers remember where to go!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Shattering preconceptions

That moment when your dad sends an SMS saying, "TQVM" and you realise that your parents are more hip and "with it" than you thought.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Note to self: Checking email a dozen times within the span of five minutes will not make something magically appear.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Smooth, man. Real smooth.

A friendly tip to the single guys out there: If a woman tells you she's uncomfortable with your extravagant and effusive compliments because you hardly know her well enough to have been able to decide that she's all you've said she is, you are not going to endear yourself to her by saying, "I guess you are not used to people complimenting you; hence you take it the other way round."