My Dad Speaks to Me All the Time

17 June 2022

I asked a highly articulate 12-year-old in my tuition class where she had learnt to converse like that.

“Oh, this I will have to credit my dad…my dad speaks to me all the time,” the raven haired girl explained with a smile.

Whether she’s listening or not, the father reads aloud news and offers his views to his young daughter.

As a result, I have a student who not only answers questions very fluently, but also asks insightful questions and initiates new ideas in classroom exchanges.

Her wit & confidence may make her appear domineering, but she’s always the first to collate worksheets for others and ease new tuition mates to lesson routine.

Often in sundresses or tank tops and denims, she’s equally at ease in *shalwa kameez if tuition is preceded by a temple trip.

“Look, Ms Ong! This top used to belong to my great grandmother. My mom gave it to me. Can you imagine how tiny girls in those days were?” my little goddess opined, as she pointed to her richly coloured tunic that united 3 generations of women in her family.

The natural trend setter frequently carries her tuition homework in an NTUC jute grocery bag, and sometimes wears a pair of rugged denim shorts to contrast with a cardigan of lavender purple that sparkles with bits of sequins.

The little hair clip she uses to tame her obsidian locks looks way too tiny to do its job, but hey, it works!

Sunday tuition for her is also about sauntering down the row of shop houses with her dad to pick up Peranakan sweets and savoury dumplings before heading home.

Zooming with youth.

There’ll come a time when daughters and sons outgrow their need to be taken around and have their snacks paid for, but they’ll always need to hear from their dads no matter how old they get.

And even when some of our fathers can’t be with us, their words will continue to sustain us through shared moments and their personal belongings.

So here’s wishing a “Blessed & Delightful Fathers’ Day” to all Dads, Appas, Pappas, Pappis, Babbas and Otuo-sans for being present and accessible, especially in our growing years.

🙏May all parents be healthy and happy for your children’s sake, because they will mirror you whether you wish for it or not.

A picture taken outside a Hindu temple to honour the girl student who inspired this post.
  • shalwar kameez – ethnic clothing of knee length tunic and pants.

Happy Solstice!

21 June 2022

The crystal on my necklace sparkled with joy at the June Solstice offering of vegetarian spring rolls at our pre-solstice lunch at Whole Earth.
(20 June 2022)

Yesterday we had pre-solstice vegetarian lunch at a place called Whole Earth, where some years back I had dinner to mark my 50th year on earth.

With the pandemic & politics forcing many food businesses including the iconic ones to go under, the ones that stay afloat have become symbols of hope.

In the midst of unrelenting changes, I feel a great sense of grounding in the old and the ornate.

The dragon calligraphy above us in birthday photos year after year at our favourite Hokkien restaurant, Beng Hiang, tells me that if a piece of painted paper can survive, so can I.

We never get tired of celebrating birthdays at Beng Hiang which has been serving Hokkien food for the past 40 years.

And last week at the TWG Tea Salon I enjoyed a tea spread which even the Queen & Paddington Bear would have approved. I sat by the window like I did in my 30s & relived my canefree days when the tea house used to be called Royal Copenhagen Tea Lounge.

At TWG for a tea spread specially chosen for me. (16 June 2020)🙏

Solstice in the Latin Language means the Sun stands still. May our observation of the solstices, equinoxes, and natural phenomenas help us create havens of stillness to mitigate feelings of fear caused by man-made madness.

May Light from the past give us the grounding needed to launch courageously into the unknown.

Solstice Sisters to welcome the blessings each changing season brings.

Happy Solstice, one and all! 😊🙏

Releasing our Enemies

18 May 2022

This morning while making a sage smoke offering, I looked up. A straight line of clouds had formed in the sky, as if extending the smoke from the scallop shell in my hand to the heavens.

My prayer this morning was to be free from past hurts and wrongs, that we have experienced since childhood, whether we deserve them or not, and whether we’re conscious of them or not.

Working closely with youth & young kids allow me to see that hang ups, if not managed wisely, can ruin relationships with ourselves & others.

Disappointments in warring parents can result in trust issues and constant craving for assurance.

Humiliations suffered in the classroom or family can lead to overcompensation at work, fixation for validations & hunger for vindications.

All these cravings and fixations drain us, while leading us to attach ourselves to entities, people & organisations that can cause us further damage.

So this morning at 4am, the cats meowed, the moon blasted her light on my face and together they forced me out of bed to play the Ganesha mantra to let Wisdom in. And I finally understood “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” has such a centering effect on me because it’s an invitation to release my enemies.

The cloud extends beyond the picture frame, as if facilitating my intention to let my enemies go so that I no longer become prisoner of fear & pain.

Safe Space for Youth

16 May 2022

A young girl from a dysfunctional family cut out a picture of a boat she found in a magazine and put it on the wall. During episodes of domestic violence, she would cope by imagining herself taking her younger brother with her and getting on that boat.

When she went down on her knees to scrub the kitchen floor, she imagined herself wiping the deck of her boat & making it shine.

This vision sustained her for many years, and kept her from developing self-destructive behaviour.

She would grow up, make something of herself & eventually owned a real boat!

This story has helped me in my dealings with young children, especially those from desperate circumstances when immediate escape was not possible.

I once gave a friendless young boy in a foster care facility a palm sized cat plush toy. It had travelled a long way from Finland to Singapore and got tossed about before it reached me, I told him. So whenever he felt lonely, he must remember to look at the toy to remind himself that he too would survive the hardship because there were people caring for him even if he couldn’t see them.

Findus to journey with a primary 5 boy in foster care facility.

The next day when we met, the boy told me he had hidden the cat plush toy inside his pillow case so that it would be safe.

He drew a card to help me remember him too. ❤️

The one needing protection had become the protector!

As I was searching for pictures to accompany this post, a former student texted to say she has been accepted into a summer programme at a reputable university. She thanked me for writing her the letter of recommendation.

The girl who once needed a simple letter to help her get started will be studying & writing scores of far more complex materials to bring about a better world for herself and others.

So here’s wishing all adults to use whatever limited means we have to create safe spaces for our youth, and wish them well, so that unlimited and unexpected good may come through.

When I see the potentials in these youths, I’m motivated to do what I can within my limits to facilitate their paths. (Primary 5 2021)

Radiance

5-5-22

Yesterday (May 4) I saw a young man walking most inelegantly in the Botanics Gardens.

In each of his hand was a walking aid which wobbled with each step he took. Two persons were holding to the straps attached to a girdle around his waist to keep him from falling over.

He was probably in post-surgery mode or suffering from something. His walk didn’t look easy or comfortable. But boy, could he smile!

He didn’t care who was looking at his struggle or how ungainly he looked to others. With each clumsy step he took, he was radiating joy.

One of the members in his entourage must have noticed my awestruck state and smiled warmly back at me when our eyes met.

He was a vision. I’ve rarely seen a beautiful smile like his on many intact, clean limbed & youthful bodies.

Is this what it means to rise above all circumstances?

A Heritage of Peace

3-5-22

This morning, decked in traditional finery that spoke of ethnic pride & brimming with benedictions fresh from morning prayers, First Tutee touched the back of my hand with his forehead to wish me peace.

First Tutee is now taller than me. I’ve known him before he entered Primary One.

For the past few years, my home has been his first place of visit after prayers at the mosque on Hari Raya mornings.

A little boy and his cat friend on Hari Raya morning a a few years back.

This year he brought a friend with him. He wanted to show him how to interact with Oliver the Cat.

First Tutee supervising his friend’s first contact with a cat.

First Tutee explained to his little friend how he used to be scared of cats before he met Oliver.

He then taught him how to sit still while waiting for the cat to approach, and how to offer food respectfully to the animal.

Showing his little friend how to approach a cat & feed him respectfully.

“Don’t touch him when he’s trying to eat cos it makes him nervous,” said the older boy to the younger one.

While they were sitting by the window, First Tutee pointed out the direction of Batam, Indonesia, to his fascinated guest. He also told him the body of water he saw was called a reservoire, not a swimming pool.

Two Muslim boys looking out of the window at the world while the prayer flags flutter above them.

Although First Tutee and I are not related by blood, and these days we don’t see each other much, he seems to have taken after me in the way he explains things. And now & then when he spots a full moon, he’ll send me a picture of it.

While we make material provisions for our children, showing them how to live peacefully with all despite our differences could give them the wisdom & compassion to journey further & do better under all circumstances in life.

“Unity doesn’t have to mean uniformity” – Palki Sharma, news anchor of WION.

Becoming Conduits

29 April 2022

Shelter cats, Cauliflower Boy & Hoonie aka Divina, were recently treated to a day at the cat spa, courtesy of groomer turned friend, Ong Hong Kuen.

Arrival of Cauliflower Boy & Hoonie aka Divina from Metta Cats & Dogs Sanctuary to Mad About Grooming for their cat spa pampering.

Cats are by nature self cleaning until old age and other infirmities strike. Much like humans, the untidy old woman or dishevelled old man we see at bus stops or food courts must have been dashing once.

Underneath all that stains is a fluffy cotton candy chest & belly. For want of grooming skills & tools, it is still better to leave an animal unkempt than injured or bleeding.

On each shelter trip, my friend,Marcus Tan for all his adherence to principles of aesthetics, makes it a point to check on the animals that may not receive as much attention, because they’re not as cute as their younger & healthier counterparts.

Hoonie aka Divina after her first cleaning by my groomer friend Ong Hong Kuen when she visited a few months ago. This time she decided to take her to her salon where she has access to tools, warm water, blow dryer etc.

In fact, it was him who got me started on cleaning Divina’s face and untangling her knots while he held her. Unlike dogs, cats are more wary and less cooperative with fur cleaning & nail trimming.

Besides, I’m no groomer and the wrong choice of tools can lead to dire outcomes. Therefore I understand for want of skills and equipment, it is still better to have an unkempt looking animal than an injured or bleeding one.

That day at the shelter we did what we could with Divina and as Cauliflower Boy was not familiar with us, we decided to ask for professional help.

And the Universe answered swiftly.

Within a week, our professional groomer friend turned up at the shelter and took both Cauliflower Boy & Divina in her car back to her salon for some needed spa treatment. ON THE HOUSE. She would hear nothing of payment, transport charges etc.

Under her loving hands and in the calm ambience of their surroundings, both cats had an enjoyable session and a complete makeover.

Cauliflower Boy’s milky white bib returned. Once the stains came off, his fluffy belly shone like cotton candy. Divina’s ears cleared and her persian fur regained its gossamar texture.

The true nature shines after the dirt comes off.

Little did we know that all the above changes were perhaps in preparation for a miracle about to manifest.

Yesterday, we received news that Cauliflower Boy got adopted!!!

Cauliflower no more! He is has a new name called Bernie to match his real appearance.

Yes, the boy cat with the deformed ear hence the name Cauliflower, and with a low adoptability potential, has found his home!

And as if to signify a departure from his past afflictions, Cauliflower Boy’s adopter has changed his name to Bernie. ❤️

As for Divina, she will continue to receive love and generate miracles for others at the shelter until such a time a special human appears for her.

In a couple of days, the New Moon will be upon us. May our recent witnessing of how two disadvantaged cats receive new lease of life, also encourage all who read this post that renewal is as much a state of mind and a matter of intention as it is dependent on external factors.

And so may we maximise our capacity as conduits for positive transformations & renewal regardless of how bleak the situation may appear.🙏

Full Moon Medicine Meditation

18 April 2022

Full Moon Medicine Mandala. May the full moon bless all medicines & medical equipment, and the hands that use them to relieve & heal all sentient beings.

This recent full moon observation on 14 April 2022 was extra special to me. Not only it was Good Friday, but it also marked New Year for friends of Nepalese and Khmer heritage.

The confluence of the above high holidays got me on the lookout for auspicious items that would align with the idea of death & resurrection, release & renewal to dedicate a full moon mandala.

However, the reality was eversince Emmanuel the Cat was diagnosed with diabetes a month ago, I’ve been preoccupied with syringes, insulin vial & blood glucose tracking.

As someone with a nervous disposition, I was at first terrified of handling the sharp needles and getting the dosage wrong for Emmanuel. This was apart from having to locate the injection site without making the cat suspicious & without injecting myself accidentally.

Emmanuel has been listening to Medicine Buddha mantra & receiving insulin shots twice daily.

It got to a point where my anxiety levels were tied to the fluctuations in Emmanuel’s blood glucose readings.

Doubts filled my waking hours and even in my sleep. Did I really insert the needle correctly? Did the insulin go under his skin? Did I over feed him?

Yesterday I had a mental breakthrough of sorts. I realised I can and should medicate my 15-year old cat to the best of my ability & means, but the medical outcomes are not mine to decide.

That acceptance also liberates me as a caregiver from the fear of not doing enough or not doing it right. Such fears when left unchecked, can turn mean & morph into accusations against the patient for not trying hard enough to get well.

And this morning, as if to show his approval of my approach to his medical issue, Emmanuel turned around to lick my hand as soon as I pushed the plunger to deliver the insulin under his skin. 🙏

Grace under Pressure

11 April 2022

My little Kitty Hawk loved lying under the picture of Mother Mary and Baby Jesus.

A young girl harboured a mixture of hatred and pity for a bad tempered older sibling who would hit her regularly.

At the time when we met, she was seeing a counsellor. Her family dynamics were also volatile.

As she ranted on, I realised she not only needed protection from her brother’s beatings, but also from her own fears & what she might do to him. She was an alert and well built girl whom I believed would have no problem picking up a sharp object and plunging it into her attacker if she was provoked beyond her tolerance.

After learning that she could recite the “Hail Mary,” prayer by heart, I asked if she would consider invoking Mother Mary’s help as soon as she sensed a conflict brewing.

I explained to her that some things in life are beyond logic, and there is a limit to what external intervention can do for us. Prayers are needed to do the inner work of calming hearts and deflecting blows.

Shortly after that, the girl told me that one weekend her older sibling was having a meltdown again.

This time instead of feeling scared and anticipating a fight as he moved towards her, she just looked at him and recited “Hail Mary” silently.

“My brother was walking towards me when he suddenly stopped, turned and left my room ,” the girl narrated the episode with a mixture of awe & gratitude.

Sister & brother would also begin talking after that encounter.

To some, the girl’s offering of a prayer to diffuse a potentially explosive situation could have been coincidental, but the benefit of knowing that there are other ways of facing difficulties in life besides hating those who cause us pain, must have been such a relief for that young lady.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday and in a few days’ time it’ll be Good Friday. On this day the mother of Jesus would witness attacks on her son. This may be why the memory of a young girl invoking the help of Mother Mary has come to me, for they are quintessential examples of grace under pressure.

May all who suffer from war, sickness & separation be delivered from fears & pain. And may all who engage in hurt & harm be touched by grace & awakened by wisdom.🙏

May the Divine Mother come into our midst to comfort us during wars, sickness & separation. ❤️

Centering


29 March 2022

Last week, one of my cats, Emmanuel, was admitted for diabetes. His conditions have since stabilised and will be discharged soon.

Waiting for the vet to see Emmanuel last Thursday. It had been a tense week.

Since March last year, Emmanuel & Oliver have been waking me up at all kinds of hours through their daily territorial disputes.

Sleep deprived & anxiety-ridden, I wandered the mall last Friday in hope of getting a new cat carrier for Emmanuel’s follow up vet trips as the current one has rusted and is being held together by cable ties.

Emmanuel is 15. Oliver is 16. Both cats are as healthy as can be given their age. But realistic as I am, signs of ill health trigger memories of the suffering of my 10 cats and 1 dog before they passed on over the years. And in Emmanuel’s case, concerns over if I can administer the twice daily insulin jabs occupied my mind.

In the midst of meditating on syringes, the image of the world’s largest mandala, the Boudha Stupa came to me. I was gently reminded to unfetter my mind by accepting all things.

World Mandala of Peace, Boudha Stupa during pavement repairment work in 2019.

And as I was about to pick up the new cat carrier & head home, a friend texted to ask if we could meet up for tea.

Tea? How could I have time for tea? Don’t you know I’m in the midst of a meltdown? But I resisted my self-centered habitual responses and said “Yes” to tea. And yes, worrying is so dangerously seductive. It gives a false impression of feeling responsible even as it keeps the worrier fixated & drained.

During tea, my friend found out that his evening appointment had been postponed. Since I had no plans except to worry, I accepted his invitation to see the art space he had set up to pursue his pottery passions.

Still thinking of syringes, I was content to just watch my friend at the studio throwing a pot on his newly acquired potter’s wheel.

But he being generous, insisted that I gave the clay a go. He would help me touch up the final product if needed.

And so on Friday evening, while my cat received intravenous fluid at the clinic, I sat at the potter’s wheel in my friend’s studio to connect with the silkiness of wet clay and the coolness of water as I attempted to throw a pot for the first time in 36 years.

Touching earth to feel grounded.

As I leaned my elbows on the basin for added stability as taught by my friend, and held the lump of clay firmly in both hands, my breath returned. A centering peace soon emerged from the spinning mandala of a potter’s wheel. It seeped into my fingers, travelled up my arms, touched my shoulder & ascended my head through my neck.

My Bowl of Acceptance

And in that moment, my mind was still even as everything before me was in motion. Sitting at my friend’s potter’s wheel was the break I needed to be unhinged from the cycle of constant worrying & feeling of inadequacy.

I wish all who are reading this post timely inspiration from the Divine and supervision of wise friends in your hour of need.🙏