Tag Archives: family

The Power of Acknowledgements

Flowers. I love them. When I used to stay in Beijing, the one thing I did religiously every weekend was to make a trip down to the wholesale flower market to buy a big bouquet of flowers for my apartment. Actually, they are for me. I love the sight and smell of flowers. They cheer me up. They remind me of the beauty in this world. They remind to stop rushing around and (literally) smell the flowers. I love flowers.

In the past month, I know of four bouquets of flowers that brightened up six lives. I sent my secretary a bouquet of flowers for Secretary’s Day – as it turned out, it was the first time ever she received flowers. She then sent her mother and sister-in-law flowers for Mother’s Day. I sent my gf a bouquet of flowers on her birthday, in the name of another gf who is now living in India and me.

There was a stretch last year when I was feeling low. My husband sent me flowers to cheer me up. It lifted me out of my malaise and melancholy mood. I was reminded that I am loved no matter what and every time my memories recall that file, I am reminded I am loved. (I couldn’t resist patting myself on the back for cleverly showing my husband my favourite online floral shop some time back. Ha!)

In the lift on my way home, I met a pair of folks whom I believe to be co-workers. The lady’s eyes lit up when she saw the bouquet and said, beautiful flowers, with a whimsical smile. The guy asked if it was my birthday or anniversary or some special day. Before I could answer, the lady added, did he do something wrong?

I laughed then and I laugh now at the memory of that short exchange. I remember I responded: They are from my husband, I was feeling a little down the last few days and he sent them to cheer me up. The woman blushed a little, I guess somewhat embarrassed about her last remark. The guy simply said, Wow.

My passing shot delivered with a smile: you don’t need a reason to send someone flowers. Everyone likes to know he is being appreciated in some way.

Acknowledgement is for everyone, anytime, anywhere. Flowers are but a tool; in my opinion a simple and effective one. You don’t need a reason to acknowledge someone. You don’t need to be a man to send flowers. You don’t need to be a woman to receive them. You don’t need to wait for a “special” day to do so. You could acknowledge someone for no reason and THAT would make any normal day special for the person.

I can think of a million reasons to acknowledge the people in my life but there really is only one that matters: because I can. Like the ones who make my day bearable when it gets tough going; the ones who make me smile; the ones who lighten my work and life loads; the ones who quietly exist in my life; the ones who left a footprint in the years passed; the ones who touched my life in the many small ways that I sometimes do not realise until much later.

It is with hindsight that I saw that the very buying flowers for myself in Beijing was an acknowledgement of my life in this foreign land; a simple acknowledgement of my courage to stay sane despite all the chaos I was experiencing. A willingness to look past the struggles, the flowers were an expression of my gratitude that I was able to still enjoy the simple beauty in life.

My secretary expressed her love and acknowledgement for her mother and sister in law with flowers, a simple act that tilted everyone out of their comfort zones and reminded everybody that something bigger is present, something hopeful and optimistic that is available in life. The flowers I sent was my way of saying ‘thank you for being in my life’. It over-rode my sense of inadequacy in our relationships and was my way of expressing my gratitude that I am blessed by their existence in my life.

Sometimes we forget to count our blessings. Yet, don’t just stop at that. Take it one step further – acknowledge the people for being a blessing in your life in the first place.

Acknowledgement is a simple act of generosity and kindness. When was the last time you acknowledged someone in your life?

P/s: There is another aspect to acknowledgement that applies in the not-so-pleasant aspects of life. I am leaving that for a separate post as it deserves its own space.


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My Valentine

A friend posted on her FB yesterday asking if married couples (those who are married for a while) still celebrate Valentine’s Day.

My husband and I have no specific plans to celebrate this day except to spend time with each other. We talked about it but the conversation was brief. It’s not that we don’t celebrate our love. We share the view that we don’t need to wait for a specific day to show our love for each other; and the display of our love doesn’t come in the form of bouquets of flowers, expensive meals, gifts or doing anything out of the ordinary.

Now, I am not saying I don’t like flowers, gifts or my husband doing something ‘special’ for me. Come on, I am a woman! I do like superficial things like that, really.

I am saying we don’t need a reason or a special date to show we love each other.  

This morning he woke me up with a kiss as usual. As my eyes struggled to open, he greeted me with a smile and pointed to the dresser table. A present! Happy Valentine’s Day darling, he said. I smiled and thought, GOSH, he got me a present. In that moment, I am so aware of my husband’s love for me. I reached for him and gave him a kiss, hug and a big smile. It doesn’t matter what he bought for me; it was the way he was being with me. And BEING cannot be bought or faked.

My husband is my alarm clock. He wakes me up with a kiss every morning. He wakes up early so I get to sleep in. He would get ready for work then come wake me so I have the bathroom and room to myself to get ready for my day. He would kiss me goodbye when he leaves the house before I do. He romances me every day.

He makes me laugh. He laughs with me. He supports my choices. He listens and demands the same of me. He shares his life and dreams with me. He gives me room to be me. He loves me for who I am. He loves me for who I am not. We bring out the best and worst of each other. He apologises when he makes a mistake. He gives me room to apologise when I make a mistake. He watches chick flicks just because he wants to. He would record a show he likes on TV so I get to watch it too. He sent me a bouquet of flowers just to cheer me up when I am having a bad day. He indulges me and thanks me when I indulge him. I am me, he is him and we are us.

I have never felt more loved by a man in my life. His generosity, humanity and passion for life provide me a safe space to just be. Valentine’s Day reminds me to not to take him for granted.  I am deeply grateful for him giving himself to me everyday, in his own way. That’s the best gift I can ask for in a husband.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Emril. Now, where are my flowers?

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Memories of Geylang

Last night, thanks to a visiting uncle from Melbourne, I went to Geylang for durians. Ya, the infamous red light district in Singapore that resembles a true-blue Chinese town. We parked our car at a carpark built on the land where a wet market used to stand, opposite my very first home which longer exists. The kindergarten I used to attend still stands, but my primary school which was beside the kindergarten is no more.

On our way to the durian stall, we walked past a bus stop where I used to take the bus to school every morning. The coffee shop that sells dim sum is still there though the workers are different now. Where we sat, I could see the row of shophouses where I used to play catching with my friends in the neighborhood. The stretch of drains which our feet ran over umpteen times has made way for wider roads.

I spent 18 years of my life living in Geylang, moving from lorong 25 to 27 to 23 to 18 to 15. I stayed in walk-up apartments, many of them dodgy. However at that age, I had no appreciation of the character of the environment I lived in. I used to cycle around the back alleys with my brother playing police and thief. I knew the alleys like the back of hand then and I was fearless and oblivious.

I moved into a student hostel when I went to the university and never moved back. My parents continued to stay in Geylang for a few years after I went to the university. I visited a few times and remember feeling extremely uncomfortable.

Having grown up in this environment, it wasn’t until I left it that I realized it was an unnatural environment for a girl to grow up in. Once I moved out of this domain, I could never bring myself to return to this habitat as a resident. I hardly visited my parents as a result.

Visiting it again last night gave me mixed feelings. I remember the place fondly of all the innocence I remember from my childhood, of the times we created games out of nothing, with the most hightech equipment being my bicycle. These memories are clouded by a skin-crawling sense of disgust and intolerance for what the place has become, a bigger, more in-your-face place of vice that saddens me.

I have no urge to return any time soon. I entertain the idea that Geylang serves a social purpose for the many foreign workers in Singapore, the same guys who build our homes and do the dirty jobs many of us would never consider taking on.

Like a necessary evil. Is there really such a thing, a necessary evil?

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Christmas murmers

A few friends asked me for hints on what I want for Christmas. A few asked my husband for ideas who in turn asks me. So I thought I will put a list together. If you see this, good for you. If you don’t see this, good for you too!

1. A jade bangle (done)

2. A pair of dumbells (done)

3. A skipping rope (done)

4. A earring tree (done)

5. Macbook Air 11″ (done)

6. CD by Joseph McElderry (done)

7. New clothes that fit me (done)

8. Book: Travel Photography by Insight Guides

9. 2in1 book: Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Oprah book club)

10. Any travel book including travelogues but not Eat, Pray, Love as someone already gifted that to me

11. Any music CD except Michael Buble and Josh Groban – I have most of their CDs already…

12. Cookbooks for healthy, easy to cook meals

13. Anything that is handmade

14. Anything that reminds you of me

15. A call to say hello

For completeness, what not to get for me:

1. Food of all kinds (unless you are cooking!)

2. Clothes (I really need to try them cos I may not be the same size you remember me)

3. Shoes (I will wait till I have my own place again or else I would have to sleep with them in bed)

4. Perfume

Or how about, surprise me??

Enjoy this beautiful time. The get-togethers, the laughter, the shopping, the quiet reflections of the past year. I count my blessings that I receive gifts every single day, though sometimes I don’t even realise it. I am grateful for all the old friendships that grew, new friendships forged. I am immensely thankful for being alive and kicking, for being healthy, for being happy, for the peace of mind, for many a good night’s sleep; for the presence of mind and spirit to enjoy the people and things in my life, and not rue what I have missed or wished I had. For the people I get to miss and those who miss me.

This year is no better or worse than the yester years. It is what it is, and it is what it is not. This is my life and I intend to celebrate it with gratitude and humility. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year to all of you who read this.

Love, Joanne Sofia

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Turned on the TV and the cast of Glee started to sing this song. I’ve never heard it before. The lyrics are beautiful.

I was smiling and tearing at the same time, something I seem to do quite a bit of the past week… when I went through old photos and compiled an album on my Dad. When I receive messages of love from people in my life expressing their support to me in the face of my Dad’s passing. When I speak with my mum who repeatedly tells me not to worry about her. When I look at the one and only picture I have as a baby with my Dad.

Of course I miss my Dad. I will honour him by never stop smiling, no matter how tough life becomes. That was how he lived his life.

Lyrics of ‘Smile’ by cast of Glee

Smile though your heart is aching;
Smile even though it’s breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by.
If you smile through your pain and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow,
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you.

Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near,
That’s the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just smile.

That’s the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.

Michale Jackson’s version of the song:

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First meal hubby and I made together in 2010, in under an hour 🙂 Loved it!

Doesn't get any simpler than this!

Fresh yong tau foo and watercress from West Coast wet market. When the ingredients are fresh, you don’t need to do very much to have a tasty meal!

Pacific clams with chilli and sweet basil

Ahhhhhhhh……… we want more!! We were conservative and bought only 750g. Should have thrown good sense to the wind!!

Ok, time to cook lunch. Menu: pan fried cod fish in teriyaki sauce, stir fried watercress with prawns. Gotta go!

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Speaking of family

Jan 1, 2010. Spoke to my brother, Jasper. I’m going to have another nephew (corrected)! My brother told my mum it’s a daughter, haha. Wicked! He also told me something my mum told him not to: my dad isn’t feeling too well recently, so weak that he is unable to move around even with the walking frame. He fell at home while mum was out buying him lunch. He seems to be doing better these two days. Still we talked about possibly sending my Dad to a home where he gets proper medical attention and care. My mum, his primary caregiver now, is old too. We also need to think about her needs. We talked about getting my niece Noel a car seat. We talked about my sister Cecilia who visited KL who shared with my brother the state of affairs at home. Up to that point, I was the only family outside of my sister’s to know what’s going on. Don’t tell mum though, don’t want her to worry. We talked.

Jan 2, 2010. Spoke to Mum. She sounded tired but she tried to put on a brave front so I wouldn’t worry.  She is annoyed my brother spilled the beans but as we talked, I can hear the relief in her voice that she can talk to me about it. She always keeps problems from me; I usually hear about things at home last because she doesn’t want me to worry. She would tell my brother to not tell me (but I told him to tell me EVERYTHING.) We talked about her, how she’s coping with the situation and about finding a home for Dad. She said we must ask Dad what he wants. Yes mum, we will make that decision as a family. We talked about my sister, whom I am pleased to say, appears much happier, lighter these days. Told my mum my other niece Vanessa (my sister’s first born) has started working again and is happy too. Mum is happy to hear that her children and grandchildren are well. We talked about Christine and the baby girl on the way; my mum agrees with me Christine is silly to think we’d love her or the baby any less now that we know it is not a boy. (I have since found out from my brother that he played a trick on Mum). We talked about Chinese New Year and plans. We talked.

Simple family conversations, they are not always comfortable. Family strips me raw and to the core, as a gf once described it so aptly. These conversations were not possible two years ago, when I hid behind the physical distance between my family and me (my mum and brother stay in Malaysia and my sister’s family stay in another part of Singapore). Out of fear that I can’t do anything to help them, out of guilt that I have been a coward.

It’s scary to be this close to reality. Shaken to the core. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are one family.

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