The grandma’s girl

I’ve always been a grandma kind of girl.

For many good reasons, I must say. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.

My parents hold full-time jobs in our family business. It’s a very simple equation. No work = no money to feed the mouths. My grandma was the one who brought most of us up. Without her, the household probably wouldn’t be functional.

My earliest memories of her hover in my schooling days. She would put me in a shopping trolley where I’ll sit while we go marketing for groceries. Later, I’d sit in the passenger seat of her bicycle when she would send me to kindergarten. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be able to dance too, she was the one who drove me around for my dance practices.

She was (is?) also the source for extra pocket money to purchase the prized bookshop (often, useless) stationery and later, my travels. Up till a couple of weeks ago, she was still cooking my supper and sometimes, Sunday bee hoon to bring to rehearsals.

Then, she had a stroke.

A stroke is defined as a “brain attack” where blood flow is cut off to the brain. Once oxygen flow is cut off, the brain cells begin to die. How a person is affected by a stroke depends on which part of the brain it is and how much of the brain cells are affected.

And strokes change lives.

I used to do quite a bit of healthcare communications and the information is gushing back at me very quickly. The previous caregiver and patient studies seemed a lot more realistic and are coming alive as we speak. I understand why the caregiver often can’t speak without tears welling up in their eyes because emotions engulf them.

Loss of physical mobility

Previously, she was an active senior who could get by easily and now, she is dependent on a caregiver for the daily life functions that we take for granted. Simple things such as:

  • Going to the toilet
  • Showering
  • Brushing her teeth

To someone on the outside, you’d think, it’s just going about with your daily life, needing some extra help isn’t it?

I hate to say this until you have someone who is dependent on caregiving 24/7, you probably wouldn’t understand how tiring it is. You can’t leave her alone, not even when she is sleeping because she may need to go to the toilet.

Devotion of a child

You know why your parents keep asking you to get married and have kids? Your offspring are your safeguards for old age.

It is so easy to shirk off responsibility and ship off old age to a nursing home or day care centre. Just across the causeway, you can get a two-bedder assisted living room for approx S$900 a month. I think this is probably my personal choice when it comes to me being old and immobile.

It takes the love of a devoted child. I really admire my Mum because she is not even a daughter of my (paternal) grandma, just a daughter-in-law, but she is so selfless in helping to take on the bulk of the caregiving. When it comes down to crunch time, things such as helping to shower and assisting her to the toilet, the champ is the one who steps up to the call.

Taking care of an immobile aged parent is more than just visiting for a few hours per day.

I don’t think my Mum is any different from any of us: She holds a full-time job, she is the parent to four children (and grandparent to a baby boy) yet she does her part more than anyone. She sleeps less, go out less and made way more personal sacrifices.

I stand by my point that multiple children may not be necessary: You either earn enough money to take care of yourself or you groom a child who will be able to take care of you.

Emotions

Strokes are not a leading cause of death but it is a leading cause of chronic disability.

Depression is a common sight among stroke patients. I’d be depressed too if the only thing I can do is lie/sit down and have to wait for people to serve me.

Impacts on me

This incident has been an emotional roller coaster more than anything. Also, the caregiving is tiring.

I never expected myself to be okay helping someone to bath and go toilet but when it comes to crunch time, you just have to put aside all inhibitions.

The hardest thing to come to realisation is that my grandma will probably not regain her full mobility. Even with rehab and physio, her mobility is likely going to be reduced to 2/3 of what she previously had.

That is the hardest thing to come to terms to…

That Ah Ma will never be the same again.

 

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My 12 (+1) Most significant moments in 2015

Oh my, what a year it has been. I think 2015 marks one of my most fulfilling years, where I set out to achieve a massive amount of milestones.

Here’s a #throwback for 2015.

1. Stepping out of my comfort zone

9 January 2015

I took one of the bravest steps in my life where I decided to leave my comfort zone and venture into the unknown. I had left my previous job making an active decision to take a break so I was not sure how would things work out.

I used to be quite a workaholic, I think. Luckily, things worked out okay, I had a month’s break before my new stint. I spent time hanging out with friends, chilling by the poolside and even…

Packed my sneakers.

2. Spoke at my first public speaking engagement

I organise and host a lot of public events for work but I am mostly backstage, making sure that all gears are oiled and in place.

This time, I was alone on stage, sharing a little bit of my team’s story and efforts. Thank you NAC and Matchbox for having me!

Source: NAC Matchbox

3. Moving into the next age group check box

You know what’s the best thing you can do on your birthday? Spending time with your favourite people and food.

Btw, I love having photographer friends!

Photo by Kelvin Chua

Photo by Kelvin Chua

4. Stepped into a new role

As a busker in the hotel lobby singing “You Are My Sunshine”.

No, not really but I took up a new challenge that is more in line with my hobbies and allowed me to harness my creativity. Initially, it was a rocky start, I felt like I was paddling in the deep sea like a poor swimmer. But hey, I kept my head high up. That said I have also:

  • Gone to MediaCorp more times than I had ever before
  • Met creative talents who are very hardworking and with laundry lists of accolades but remain humble and grounded.
  • Had the most fabulous reception food

5. Impromptu trip to Bangkok

Bestie and I have known each other since our NUS days but this was only the second trip that we have made together. So in mid-March, we decided on a whim that we should travel together this year and so we booked a trip to Bangkok and flew off on 1 April.

No April’s fool joke.

We discovered new night markets and my Talad Rot Fai Ratchada post has been the reason why my blog statistics have been on a rise.

P.S. I also found a new favourite cat cafe, Cataholic Cafe, in Bangkok.

6. Unexpected trip to Japan

While Bangkok was an impromptu trip, Japan was an unexpected trip that didn’t come up in my travel plans for 2015. I was activated for chaperone duties by my parental units and it was a zoom zoom decision.

Osaka and Kyoto were both familiar to me and I am back in my old spots in less than 6 months. But how can anyone get tired of Japan really?

7. Start of Flair Life Project

I was initiated into the Flair Life Project, which is a series of events in 2015, ran by a dance crew, The Flair Brothers. While I have been dancing for a while, seen bits and pieces of dance events work, I have not delved into the street scene before.

Freestyle, 7-to-smoke: all these were unknown terms for me.

The boys were all kind and welcoming to me, the new chick. I also spent some time with the girls crew (basically, the helpers and girlfriends), ensuring that the events run smoothly. In a year, I checked off 4 events.

8. Being a pseudo Stage Manager

I usually can take challenges (and all kinds of un-doable) thrown at me quite well. But being asked to be a Stage Manager, just a night before a production, was really no joke.

At that point of time, it was do or die and of course, I had to survive. I didn’t have time to think about anything else, save trying my best to do a good job. I was also thankful to the Lighting Manager, Evelyn for guiding me along because I would have died 100 times over without her. Much thanks to all the dancers who are all superbly encouraging.

I don’t think she’d read this but she has inspired me to take up a Stage Manager course next year.

Photo by Robin (middle) and Evelyn is on the right

9. Blast Presents: Out of Bounce

This is the new annual smaller concert by my varsity dance group staged in September each year. Prior to the concert, we usually begin rehearsals in May.

This is also the reason why I try to keep travelling before May and after September because I hate missing rehearsals.

I started out with one item with the alumni…

But ended up in 2.25 items in the end. The 0.25 item was the 30 sec in finale item.

Balancing multiple work events and a dance concert was a toll on my physical body and sleep. But hey, no one said this was easy.

10. Blast Alumni Movement on Sundays

On Sundays, I spend my afternoons trying to get groovy with a bunch of other fogeys. My alumni friends that is. This is a new initiative a few of us have mooted.

It was challenging to keep it going because of the administrative issues and also, participation rates. Sometimes, you just got to keep it going. And we did for 2015.

We wrapped up the year with a showcase at Blast Camp and I wore my new H&M sweater.

11. #meowgeroo15

Saving the best for the last, this is my epic trip of the year! This is one of my longer and more ambitious trips. We travelled for 11 days and had a 5D road trip driving from Sydney to Melbourne.

Great company, good food, lovely sights and perfect photos. That reminds me, I need to get my blogging mojo on.

What else can you ask for? More trips in 2016!!

Photo by Camistry Lab

12. My first staycation

My girls and I don’t spend a lot of time together due to our clashing schedules but its always a good time when we see each other.

We booked a staycation at Festive Hotel, spent the time lazing by the beach, watching TV and enjoying breakfast with each of our personal reads. We’re so close such no one bats an eye when each has their own personal breakfast routine.

13. Upgraded: I’m an aunt!

Ha, bet ya didn’t expect this. My family welcomed an addition to our already huge family.

Travis said “hello, world” on 17 December.

Having a serious conversation with my nephew

My 12 Most significant moments in 2014

So, this came a little late (but hey, for a good reason) so, here’s a recap of my 12 most significant moments in 2014!

1. I hit a quarter of a century old

Turning a year older was a simple affair with my family. We did our favourite late night activity: We made a trip to Swensen’s at Changi Airport and had my favourite Gula Melaka salted caramel sundae.

2. Playing the ukulele

Chinese New Year is also significant this year because that was when I got back on my uke seriously. Previously, I just kind of muddled my way through and could barely play.

3. My most epic work event

You know how, in work, you have that ONE epic work event that you remember for a while? This event in March topped my three-year work history.

Image credit: @yiyans

Continue reading “My 12 Most significant moments in 2014”

My first step at seven

I was one of those early starters. I remember peeking through the louvres of my primary school hall’s sliding doors, admiring at the dancers’… long hair. I was fascinated at possibility of having swishy long hair I can whip around.

I whip my hair back and forth

Yes, I started dance so I could have long hair. And so it began, the start of my Chinese Dance Thursdays because trainings had always been on Thursdays.

I remember the first day at dance was a very painful experience. My mother bought me the standard uniform (of a pink leotard and short blue tights) and reminded me to listen to the teacher. I thought it would be fun. Maybe, we would get to prance around pretending to be fairies and killing monsters. Or we’d go on tippy toes and catch butterflies.

Instead, my first lesson was spent on learning the basics such as: the famed 莲花手(loosely translated to lotus hand which is the basic hand hold of Chinese dance) and how to flex/point your feet. Then, the horror came – stretching. .. Just imagine the NAPFA sit and reach test in your mind. That was what it was like. The instructor was sitting on the top of my back and there was no way to wriggle out.

Breathe in, breathe out. Push the pain to the back of your mind.

That was one of the most painful stretches for me because I wasn’t flexible that way. But the stretching also primed me to be able to take a lot of pain. Those were the times when lessons weren’t made to be fun. Unlike now, when you check out kids’ dance curriculum, they’re all about having fun and inculcating the love for dance.

I stuck by Chinese dance for years somehow. Many of my classmates laughed at the gaudy make up /costumes and I had to make time for extra dance examination drilling and SYF (Singapore Youth Festival) training. I had extra dance training on Sunday mornings at 9am which were 1.5 hours away from my home. Chinese dance in primary school was also tolerable because of my two other good friends. The love-hate relationship with dance veered towards hate more than love. On many occasions, I wanted to quit but my mother was adamant that I persevere for as long as I can.

Secondary school came,  Chinese dance then became a burden to my (somewhat) hectic social life and seemed uncool to teenagers who just wanted to hang out at Parkway Parade, wandering through the shops. Couple that with endless band practices (my CCA at that time), and trying to pass Maths, it felt almost unbearable. I finally made the decision to call it quits when I was 13 or 14 and only picked dance back up seriously (not Chinese dance) when I was in my late teens/early twenties.

Upon reflection, I think I enjoyed doing the numerous shows (performing is the fun part right?) but the examinations were painful.

I am thankful for the flexibility Chinese dance imbued in me which turned out to be a blessing during Jazz and contemporary classes (kinda). Memorising numerous short routines for each dance examination expanded my brain’s memory bank for choreography. Chinese dance also taught similar techniques to Jazz such as 大跳 (big jump) which would be the equivalent of a  jete and 平转 (turn) which formed the basis of chaines. I was blessed to have so many different learning opportunities.

Going for the many lessons also taught me discipline and independence. I had to learn to manage my own time and schedule since I was the one who wanted to learn dance, I had to be responsible for myself. This means prepping dance gear and arranging for transport (my grandma used to drive me home or I’ll take the public bus myself) cos my mama ain’t got time for that yo.

And yes, I started taking the public bus home myself at age 8.

Did I regret stopping Chinese dance? Yes and no. Yes, because I could have stuck by it and gone so much further. No, because I wouldn’t have left my comfort zone and started really enjoying and loving dance like how I do now.

Eh maybe I wouldn’t be in NUS Dance Blast! but join Chinese Dance instead?

Blast concert in 2012, Second girl from the right

If I could have made a choice, somehow, I don’t think I would have chosen to lose my virginity (in dance, you dirty minded people) in any other way.

Thank you to the Tay family for teaching my first steps in Chinese Dance!

Remembering Jean, my best friend

I realised when I can’t sleep, I write. So tonight is one of those sleepless nights again.

Primary school was a fleeting memory for me. I remember I used to do Chinese Dance on Thursdays and dressed in costumes that weren’t the coolest but that was okay for a tween. I learnt how to do a front walkover, struggled with spilts and aced my Chinese Dance examinations somehow.

Secondary school was impactful. I was posted to my third choice of school (then we had to choose schools before we received our results, such a dumb system honestly). It was one hour away from my home and I had just maybe a couple of primary school friends in the same school. And, the school had no dance as a CCA. What a downer.

Luckily enough, I made a friend right on my first day of school. Her name was Jean and she asked to share my orientation booklet. She told me that she came to the school to join the band – I was like what?! You actually selected a school for its band?

And you know what, I joined the band with her. LOL.

We became fast friends being classmates and bandmates. We were similar in personality, sucked at homework (read: hated maths), hung out at Bugis and Parkway Parade after school and enjoyed going to band practices. We spoke on the phone every night about all things that mattered to teenage girls. No such thing as BFF then so we were best friends.

When we were 15, she started complaining about being exhausted and had bad headaches. We always brushed it off because that was our military band year – which kid won’t be tired after marching in the hot sun for hours right?

One day, she collapsed in school – then again, pretty common because we had kids fainting from exhaustion in band all the time. We only realised how serious it was when she was sent to the hospital. Then, the news came.

She had a brain tumour.

She never woke up from her coma and we never got to say bye or our last words. The next year was spent shuttling between school, hospital and home visits. We celebrated her 15th birthday with her hooked up to many machines. We made 1,000 cranes for her. She passed on a year later, on 22 May 2005, age 15-almost-16.

Today, she would have turned 25 if she is still with us. I always wonder how will life be like if she’s still here. Would she have gone to a polytechnic or junior college? Maybe she would be my roomie in NUS? Would she still be playing the clarinet?

Now that I’m old(er), I look back and smile at the good times we had. (Okay when I was younger, I tend to cry more and was more angst). I try to remember all the good lessons she had taught me. Her perseverance and determination in life, hardworking attitude, humility and willingness to lend a helping hand anywhere, anytime always inspires me.

jean 2

So tonight, I go to bed not in tears but in happy memories of our beautiful teenage times.

Post note: Also, here’s a sincere shout out to all my secondary school friends and those who may have crossed paths with Jean. Thanks for sharing your memories of her with me, it’s so sweet to read them again. They’re so poignant for me. Also, to my band mates and classmates (where ma homies from 3K/4K at?) : thank you for supporting and helping to hold me up when we were kids at 15/16 because I wouldn’t have made it till now.

Of 2013 memories and 2014 more to come

2013 has been a year of adventure and also, somewhat tumultuous for me. I went on my first solo trip to the other end of the world, earned my first work promotion and spent time with my precious people and most importantly, took time and a step back to think about myself and what I want.

2014 will be a tough year for me because it marks a series of decisions to be made. I think traveling might slow down somewhat too.

And, I’ve decided I’m going to try doing one post/photo a day either on Instagram or WordPress. Let’s hope that this determination goes on for the next 364 days.

On turning 24…

I always thought birthdays are way too overrated, after all, it’s just another day of your life. I don’t think you actually feel any different on that particular day. Well, I always wished I feel wiser/smarter/more talented but nah… same old, same old.

I had a fabuloust time having high tea with Shu at Dempsey before heading home to Ben & Jerry’s with my family.

Simple, quiet, muted but filled with love and blessings. Just the way I like it.

High tea at House Dempsey

Shu made these cupcake toppers

And cat being annoying as usual

Top moments of 2012

I had so many moments this year I had to take mental snapshots of. These are my top five moments:

Celebration for my 23rd

1. Turning 23 in a quiet but blessed affair with time spent with my loved ones.

The WCTOH team in our celebratory poses

2. Working on the World Conference for Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) 2012. I was really lucky to be able to work on a global conference of this scale.

Hong Kong 26 June to 1 July 2012

3. Traveling to Hong Kong with a mixed up bunch that I wouldn’t have thought of hanging out previously.

Second girl from the right

4. Dancing in NUS Dance Blast’s Shut Up And Dance 2012 concert. This was my second large scale concert and my sixth (in-house) concert with Blast.

Best show faces!

5. Attending my first Blast! wedding which turned out to be like Blast prom.

Weddings of 2012

2012 marks the first of (many to come) weddings. What I mean is, I attended my first “friends” wedding in 2012. Oh actually, screw that, I just remembered I’ve been to two other weddings before (one of a secondary school friend and a colleague’s last year). But somehow weddings this year seemed a little more grand and heartwarming to me.

I think it’s also because I’m more in tuned and more in touch, closer to the people whose weddings I attended. I also just had to squeeze my way in between the wedded couples for snaps.

Jocelyn and Desmond

Yong Kai and Michelle

Michelle and Yong Kai are both my dance friends from NUS Dance Blast! and I’ve danced with both of them in different items for countless times. It was the first Blast wedding I attended and it was so much fun because it was like Blast prom for us. We went trigger happy, it isn’t often that we’re togged in nice clothes and make up that isn’t meant for stage.

Normal picture

Show faces!

The second wedding was Jocelyn’s and Desmond’s wedding. I met Jocelyn when we were dancing at Jitterbugs. The funny coincidence was that, she stayed just in the next street from me! We make fast buddies traveling home together after late night rehearsals. I always look upon to Jocelyn for quick dance advice.

I had to tip toe

Happy family! Just nice we are colour coordinated