Sowing Love

18 Jan 2023

Although I grew up watching my Kinmen grandma cross stitch elaborate & perfectly symmetrical patterns on fabrics, I was miserable at sewing lessons in my primary school days.

I was very dependent on the teacher marking out where the cross stitches should be.

Once towards recess time, she coldly warned me that I woudn’t get my break unless I could sew the cross stitches diagonally across a square fabric. I panicked.

To my 7-year-old self then missing recess was unthinkable for two reasons. Firstly, I would miss the delicious food which I was thinking about all morning. Secondly, to be stuck in the classroom to struggle with sewing felt like the ultimate betrayal by an adult for whom I had the highest regard.

So I had a meltdown.

A classmate’s mom came to my aid when I was hyperventilating and trying to thread the needle through tears at the same time. Till this day I can still recall my rescuer’s hairstyle, her facial features and her gentle voice. A couple of her teeth were capped in gold.

In my childhood, lots of women could stitch & sew. Their sewing skills put food on the table and their kids through school. So I have deep respect for women and later on men, who can sew and cook, long before social media & celebrities make these skills trendy.

Years later after that episode I would develop a special fondness for the cross stitches and indigo prints of minority people in China, Northern Thailand and Vietnam.

Showcase of Hilltribe embroidery at the Asian Civilisation Museum.

And each time I wear something handmade by women I’ve never met, I feel the collective power of all our female ancestors and the kindness of my classmate’s mother all over again. ❤️😊

Red Hmong embroidery purchased from Chiangmai, Thailand.

Setting Intentions


The 11 and 12-year-olds in my tuition class were given 6mins to write down their names and decorate them using whatever they can find in their pencil cases. While beautifying their names they were to come up with 3 personal traits which they think they have and wish to be known for.

The time for this activity was kept short to prevent overthinking, sharing of ideas and making comparisons.

Being helpful & kind, intelligent,
elegant and a good team player were some of the qualities these youngsters wanted to be known for. And having a sense of humour and respecting others were mentioned as well.

“Why do u need others to know you are intelligent?” I asked the girl whose spectacles seemed to occupy all of her face.

“Because I want people to know I will still do the right thing even when no one’s watching,” the 11-year-old replied softly.

A recurring motif that appeared in their 6mins output came from nature. Floating clouds, mountain peaks, planets and animals appeared abundantly around and on the letters that formed their names.

One boy turned the letters of his name into a blue print for a future park he would like to build, complete with security features and facilities to make the visit a good one. And the traits he would like to be known for are bravery, boldness and kindness.

When I gave this same boy an old calendar card last year because he likes elephants, he pointed out to me that his birthday falls on International Vegetarian Day.

“Mama, why aren’t you glad that my tusks are growing?” – 2014 IFAW calendar to highlight plight of elephants killed for their tusks to meet demand for ivory.

Perhaps the path to peace is to appreciate the perspectives of children. And when they place nature and animals alongside their names, they’re also carrying aspirations of healing & hope for all that’s been broken in this world.

Art By Seb Mckinnon.

Sweet Start


Little Monk & Lord Ganesha ushering in 2023 with coconut candy.

Colorful coconut candy for Ganesha, the Lord of New Beginnings, to usher in a year of Sweetness, Wisdom and Resourcefulness for all sentient beings.

This celadon Ganesha figurine has travelled from Chiangmai to Bangkok before reaching Singapore. It is an unexpected gift from 2 friends. (Received on 29 Dec 2022)
A former student whom I taught 29 years ago and now a father of two bought me these coconut candy on a family trip in Malacca. Just the right timing & quantity for me to offer them to Lord Ganesha to usher in sweetness, wisdom & resourcefulness in 2023. (Received on 30 Dec Dec 2022)

First Outing of 2023


Posing with Year of the Rabbit CNY decor. Both of us were born in the Year of Rabbit and have been friends since for nearly 40 years.

Yesterday we repeated our favourite pre-celebration ritual of vegetarian meal, temple visits and decoration shopping in the Fortune Centre area. The last time we could do so maskless & free, was in 2020.

At the vegetarian cafe where we ordered longevity noodle. My lunar birthday fell on 1 Jan 2023 this year.

In 20 days’ time the Lunar New Year will be upon us.

It was good to see the old folks up and about at the vegetarian cafe. They were happily taking food orders and heartily conveying their choices to the kitchen.

The evening puja at Sri Krishnan Temple had started as we walked by. The aroma of incense offering and intermittent peal of brass temple bell lifted our spirit.

A moment of calm amidst the aromas of incense and peal of the prayer bells.
Lord Hanuman watches over us as we pose for a picture at the beautiful Sri Krishnan Temple.

At the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple (Goddess of Mercy), devotees were quietly praying outside the closed temple gates as dusk fell.

A few steps ahead, we chanced upon a shop called “Good Neighbour,” that appeared to be only selling household goods. As we ventured further in, an array of chinese new year decors in shades of vermillion & carmine greeted our eyes.

Blessings and Prosperity are in our hands.

Even though it was near closing time, the staff and cashier remained hospitable to browsers and handled each customer’s enquiry good-naturedly.

The young man at the cashier counter code switched effortlessly among English, Mandarin, Malay and Hokkien depending on the language being used to address him.

“When beautiful people talk to me nicely, I will speak clearly too,” he shot back cheerfully when we expressed amazement at the accuracy of his Hokkien pronunciation.

After he had helped us take a picture with the Year of the Hare (Rabbit) decor, he respectfully wished the two of us elderly Rabbits good health and many years of new year jaunting to come.

With the multilingual and good natured Malaysian boy. We named him Golden Lion.

When my friend wished him the blessings of good employment & kind employer for all round prosperity, the carefree boy with studded ears and golden streaks in his hair listened intently & bowed lightly.

Our first day outing of 2023 came to a sweet close as we stopped for local ice cream wrapped in bread. Above us the nearly full moon shone.

Freedom is eating local ice cream wrapped in bread under the open evening sky.

Mandala for Final New Moon of 2022

23 Dec 2022

Handcrafted Mandala from Nepal received on 21 Dec 2022.

I just received a mandala crafted from stone by a young mason. He took two days. The two young ladies who commissioned this piece of work were amazed by the depth of the craftsman’s knowledge & pride in his culture.

Mandala for the final new moon of 2022. (23 Dec 2022)

In the beginning of December, a former student on honeymoon in Italy texted to send me light & love. He remembered me telling him about St Francis, Botticelli and Machiavelli when he was just a boy. And now he is seeing what he read about for real with his wife.

Another, who is a businessman and now father of two has ordered a book for me which he thinks I will like based on our delight in words and respect for language.

If these former students hadn’t gotten in touch I wouldn’t have known how well their lives have turned out. The return of investment in young people takes a long time.

I imagine the youthful maker of tonight’s mandala peering over the details which his dexterous hands had coaxed from stone. He inhaled the dust particles that emerged from all that chipping, as the spirit of the mandala and his breath became one.

Youth power: Sanam crafted the mandala upon the request of Cheryl & Judy when they met in Nepal in November.

So may the New Moon tonight watch over our youths, and bless the intentions of their hearts and the work of their hands, to secure their future for the benefit of ALL sentient beings. 🙏

The Sun (Son) Rises


Emmanuel listens to story of his rescue as Mother Mary holding Baby Jesus watches on. (25 Dec 2022)

My cat, Emmanuel stretches as he soaks up the sun streaming into our living room.

Many years ago he was found without his mother. He was about to leap off the balcony to escape a bunch of well intentioned, but poorly informed school girls trying to get close to him. Luckily a teacher walked by and intervened in the ill conceived rescue mission. A tragedy of a kitten falling from height and a bunch of wailing school girls was thus averted.

Emmanuel means “God with us,” in the Hebrew language. It is also the name of Jesus, who was born of a woman to manifest the Divine.

Bambi sleeps on a pistachio yuletide log. The deer is an important & sacred animal in nordic, hindu & buddhist tradition.
2022 Bambi and deer light holder from India which was purchased in 2012.

So as we observe the birth of Divinity and the return of Light during this holy season, may we be reborn from ignorance to wisdom, confusion to clarity and fear to compassion. 🙏

Over the years holy day festivities have gotten smaller, simpler, quieter & deeper for us. (Christmas Lunch 25 Dec 2022)

Solstice Practice

11 Dec 2022

My second time making dumplings from glutinous rice floor from scratch. We added yam flour from Philippines to rice flour from Thailand to create the colour purple.

“Solstice” means the Sun stands still. In the north, it stands for the symbolic death of the Sun, only to be reborn in 3 days’ time.

Although it is endless summer in Singapore, Winter Solstice is celebrated as “Dong Zhi” (冬至) by south-east asian Chinese who inherited the practice from their east asian ancestors.

In about 11 days’ time, on 22 Dec 2022, the winter solstice will be upon us.

To mark the occasion, matriarchs of the family, either the mother or grandma will gather the children around the kitchen table to make glutinous rice dumplings that symbolise the sun, reunion & rebirth.

No alchohol was abused in the making of these dumplings.

These days, readymade dumplings of various colours and fillings from supermarkets have rendered the above practice redundant.

Recently I was only too delighted to be invited to make the spherical shaped dumplings from scratch in a friend’s newly moved in apartment.

Just imagine, on a high rise floor up in the sky, and surrounded by the latest state-of-the-art home gadgets, two English speaking persons of Fujian ancestry participating in a food making ritual that originated in ancient times.

As we ate the creation of our hands cooked and sweetened in a herbal concoction of lemon grass, honey and flowers, our friendship deepened in silence.

Handmade dumplings cooked in a concoction of lemon grass, honey and flower syrup.

So as the Solstice approaches and year end celebrations beckon, I hope we can choose to do less but put in more time & effort, and not feel pressured to fall into the trap of convenience, trying to do everything and ending up with nothing.

Wishing all friends & sentient beings a healing time as we follow the Sun. 🙏


1 Dec 2022

Yesterday we went to bid farewell to a 52-year-old park that holds a special place in our heart.

A Flight to Remember on 30 Nov 2022. A tourist from Hong Kong helped us so that we could all be together in this frame.

The Jurong Bird Park which opened on 3 January 1971 will close on 3 January 2023. Its feathered residents will be relocated to Bird Paradise in Mandai.

The mindful pace of the flamingoes remind us to take our time. Photo credit: SH Ng

In the sweltering Sg heat, the cooling breeze on the tram ride was a life saver. For families with very young children and for the mobility challenged like me, it enabled us to take in 20 hectares worth of sights & sounds of the old Park without feeling drained or left out.

The blistering heat and high humidity of the Singapore weather make every step a test of endurance & will power.

My difficulty in getting on the ride was noted by our tram captain who promptly produced a supportive accessory to facilitate my ascent.

The highest manmade waterfall in the world behind us may be nothing to shout about now, but it was a big deal half a century ago. And it still is a structure of affection for us locals.

He then communicated with his colleague from the next station who was on standby to assist me by the time we arrived.

He did this for me on top of having to navigate the vehicle, watch out for passenger safety and wipe down a seat that someone had spilled a drink on when it was explicitly stated “No Food & Drinks on Tram.”

I used to think able-bodied people had it easier. I’m sometimes quick to join in berating them for lacking empathy towards the disabled or for not being inclusive enough.

But yesterday after witnessing what a man had to do cheerfully in order to earn his keep, I feel that my comparison was groundless.

That encounter also helps me see that some physical problems are not readily visible to the ones who don’t have them. If we’re looking for help, it is also our responsibility to explain our needs, so that people can choose their responses.

My friends and I cannot recall what we were looking at or smiling about in this shot taken at the Jurong Bird Park yesterday, but we sure can’t fake joy like this.

The joy is all the more precious because we can’t recall what we were looking or smiling at.

As we bade goodbye to the Bird Park on the last day of November and welcome the start of December, may I take this chance to wish readers of this post the peace that comes from accepting what cannot be changed, and the joy for the support that eases our ride on our journey ahead. 🙏😊

World Cup

20 Nov 2022 (World Cup in Qatar)

Twenty years ago during World Cup 2002, I had a picture taken with the match schedule at HardRock Cafe Beijing not because I understood soccer, but because Tiger Beer, a Singapore brand was featured.

I felt honoured that our beer from our tiny island was the chosen beverage for watching & celebrating an international sporting event in a gigantic country.

I’ve never known a sport that can unite and divide with such vehemence like soccer. I’m always cautious when asked which team is my favourite. My inquirer’s face morphing from friendly interest to utter disdain in a matter of seconds tells me not to drop team names casually.

2014 World Cup fever reaches the landlocked Nepal. We were on our way to Nagarkot and saw this street lined with flags of partipating countries.

One year on a crowded street in Piccadily Circus in London, a total stranger high fived & hugged my travel mate as if they were long lost relatives because the latter was spotting a certain soccer jersey.

This tribal loyalty is too much for me so I stay clear of soccer politics. But soccer uniform designs, soccer boots & related training gears continue to fascinate me deeply because they celebrate the power & grace of the human form.

I love watching the moves but I don’t like the anger and violence of the crowd when players don’t perform as expected.

So as World Cup 2022 starts in Qatar today, may our human nature evolve to meet the standards of this beautiful game called soccer, and may all sentient beings be blessed.

Years later I would learn to my great sorrow, that some hosting countries cull street animals as part of their attempts to clean & beautify locations chosen for such high stakes sporting events.

So as the World Cup opening ceremony begins in Qatar today, may our human nature also evolve to match the qualities promoted by this beautiful game called soccer. May all sentient beings be blessed.

Instinctive Draw


Of all the manifestations or portrayals of the Buddha, I feel drawn to the one with curls on his head.

This manifestation of the Buddha which I’m drawn to is located at Tkechen Choling Temple in Beatty Lane, Singapore.

Somehow he felt Nepali to me. In 2011, before my first trip to Nepal I made a trip to the Tkechen Choling temple in Beatty Lane. I told him that I was going to visit his country & asked for his blessings on the medicines & veterinary supplies that we were bringing for the street dogs.

I’m old school in the sense that if I’m visiting a country for the first time, especially one with known spiritual traditions, I have a compelling urge to declare my intentions.

Today we were at the temple to light butter lamps. I lit a lamp for a beloved shelter cat that is lost and the people who are searching for him. May the Light guide him to safety. If he has left his physical form, may the Light embrace his soul & neutralise all negative imprints & comfort the people who love him.

Whether it is just by the window of my home, or in the presence of a sacred figure of reverence, dedicating a light is one of the ways of expressing respect, support and affection.

May Tam Tam the Cat be well. May his finders be guided and comforted.

And today I also learnt for the first time that the Nepali Buddha I’ve been speaking to for the past 11 years regarding my medicine journeys for animals is none other than the Medicine Buddha himself.

May we be guided as we seek to improve our own lives and the lives of others.