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A New Lease On Life…

11 Jul

With my hair straightened and blow-dried, I precariously applied a light coat of lip gloss.  I studied myself in the mirror one last time and thought, “Hmm…not too bad, girlfriend.”

The meticulous preparation and the subtle pep talk to self was reminiscent of being single and first dates.  But it wasn’t.  Instead, I left the bathroom and went to find my husband to ask for his opinion.

“Wow !  You look like a brand new person…” he beamed.

The moment his face lit up when I walked into the room, I knew I hadn’t just been placing tabs on myself.

I knew I felt good.  I knew I felt confident and comfortable in my skin.

But he proved that it was also visible.

The new me.

Walking to the bus stop, waiting in anticipation, I was eager to meet up with my newly acquainted friends.

I believe that people step into your life at the right time for the right reasons.  I found it to be true when meeting my husband.

Having only met these ladies once before, we established a connection in the first instance.  So much so that I went home not being able to sleep – my head whirling with the possibilities of where the friendship could take us.

The only natural progression was to see them again soon after.  To be absolutely sure we were on the same page.  That the initial profound conversations were not a fluke.

And they weren’t.

We immediately picked up where we left off – sharing secrets, trading stories, planning goals together.

It had been awhile since I felt involved.  Where my opinion mattered.  Where my past experiences in the corporate world were considered valuable.  An asset, even.  Delving into the conversations – feeding off from each other’s excitement and passion – I felt alive again.

I know I never died.

This is not to claim that my roles as a wife and mother are unsatisfying.  Or that my existing long-term relationships and friendships are inadequate.  Getting caught in the humdrum of life, sometimes there is little time left for family and a handful of friends.

So, how is it possible that I establish a new circle ?

Where did the need come from ?

The unquenchable search to figure out my purpose in life beyond motherhood.

That it is possible to find an even newer lease on life…

To Assume, Or Not To Assume; It’s Never A Question

30 Jun

Back in the day when I was fighting my way through the crazy corporate jungle which was full of bigger -than-their -BMW’s-business egos (compensating for their insecurities and other “shortcomings), I had many an idiot of a boss.  One in particular.

But, ironically, this is the idiot that left one piece of advice that has always stayed with me:

“Never assume.”

This man doesn’t deserve any more of a mention but the other day those words struck a chord.

Waiting in line for my much-needed coffee, a lady tapped me on the shoulder and while pointing to the twinlets said, “Oh, please do tell me some of your nanny friends so I can refer either you or them to my daughter.  She’s looking for someone at the moment…and you seem to be doing a fabulous job with those twins…”

“Haha, I should think so.  After all, I am their mother…” I replied, trying to contain my urge to whack the tactless lady in the head.

Arriving at playgroup, I told the other mums about my run-in.  One mum knew exactly where I was coming from.  She is Hungarian; Her husband is of Filipino background; Their little boy is his dad’s mini-me.

Another mum made an interesting point.

“She just should’ve just asked straight up if they were yours.  At least she could’ve saved herself the embarrassment.”

And although I almost despise being asked that question too (It’s up there with “Are they IVF ?”), I think my mum friend is right.

I started thinking about assumptions and tried to recall a time where they have every played a positive role.

Being an Indonesian born Australian, I’ve been dumped with a few in my life.

There was the time a QANTAS flight attendant was frustrated with all the Indonesian passengers who couldn’t speak (shock !  horror !) English on a flight from Jakarta to Sydney.  Getting peeved at having to repeatedly explain that the dinner choices were either fish or chicken, by the time he came around to me, he spoke so slowly and yet in an impatient and rude manner.

I turned on my thickest of Aussie accents and twang:  “Um, dunno.  Maybe the chicken, but what’s in the fish ?”

I’ll never forget his look of shame and his lame attempt to explain his bad behaviour.

Then there was the awful time when my dad had a seizure in the middle of a road trip and we had to race him to the nearest hospital.  While waiting for his CT scan results in the emergency room, a nurse started speaking candidly to his colleague about my dad’s condition, thinking he and his family who were in the room didn’t speak English.

There will always be morons in this world.  There’s no denying that.

But I think assumptions can be prevented.  (And likewise, I definitely need some hard-up lessons of my own).

Perhaps, we could argue that they aren’t as severe as unsolicited judgements or criticisms.  One could even see them as harmless.

Yet, my life experiences tell me differently.  I think assumptions can be the root and the stem of the yuckiness and negativity of close-mindedness and prejudice.

Feel free to correct me, if I’m wrong.

Anywhoooo…ending on a lighter note.

Here is the latest photo of me and the twinlets:

Please, please, pretty please tell me that  you can see a teeny tiny resemblence of me in them.

The flat nose ?  The squidgy lips ? Anything ?

Lies and far-stretched truths will be happily accepted 🙂

Playing in the Puddles

13 Jun

Despite being a staunch republican (the Australian anti-royalist type, not the American right-winged kind), I do love a long weekend.

And although the Queen’s Birthday comes at a non-eventful time of the year weatherwise (Rain, rain and more rain), who’s gonna say no to an extra day off ?  Even for a mum who’s job is 24 x 7, anyway.

This time last year, I was in such a hormonal daze, I honestly don’t remember how we spent the weekend.  I’m sure it included three hourly breast feeds, maybe a recovery from nipple thrush and definitely sleep deprivation.

So, this weekend we took advantage of finally breaking from the chains of in-house confinement.  We even braved the cold, wet windy weather to go ahead with a day trip to the south coast.

In fact, we made sure we were well prepared.

As pragmatic mountain trekkers and  inhabitants of cold climates will tell you, as long as you’re well equipped and appropriately attired, then the weather shouldn’t be an obstacle.

It’s all about water-proofing and layering.

And the end result ?  Two little eskimos – a blue and a red one.

Happily jumping in the puddles, slipping and sliding their way through a soaking and slippery playground.

During the brief intervals of the dancing in the rain, I managed to catch up with old uni friends who I haven’t seen in a lifetime.

Seriously.  With one friend, we couldn’t place the exact time we last saw each other.  Japan ?  Australia ?  It was never concluded.

So, hip, hip hooray for *ahem* non-important public holidays.

Yay for rare opportunities to catch up with dear old friends and their growing families.

God save the Queen, indeed.

Little Steps…

13 May

Being in a 24 hour full-on job like motherhood doesn’t permit you to embrace a Friday like I did back in my corporate days.  But, I must say, this week has seen some small goal kicks.  Little steps moving forward.  I feel I have reason to celebrate.

Here’s a summary:

Smart ‘N Move:

This “school-readiness”program that the boys attend every Wednesday is actually called “Art ‘N Move”.  For 45 minutes, a teacher goes through play school type activities to get the young tots active and to “stimulate their senses”.  The boys are into their second term.

I changed its title to my own sarcastic one because I was dubious whether these classes provided any actual benefit for the boys.  It all felt like another sham – another toddler marketing ploy.

In the majority of classes, my lovely twinlets – although the oldest in the class – are the least attentive.  There is an element of embarrassment for me as I watch the other proud mothers and their astute children happily join in the activities.

But hey, as I learned long ago, it’s not about me anymore.

It’s.All.About.The.Boys.

Begrudgingly, I took the boys to their weekly class.  I don’t know what happened, but a light switched on in their little heads.

To my surprise, they were quietly paying attention to the teacher.  They didn’t wander off in disinterest and climb on the classroom side benches like they usually do.  They were even laughing and looked like they were having a (shock, horror) fun time.

Chocolate Mud Cake:

I think I can say that the oven and I are now (ahem) a little better acquainted.   It has taken me four attempts.  Three of them over the short course of this week – Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.

I even used a “cake from scratch” recipe for each of these cake batter splattered war zone episodes.

I know, I’m insane.  But I was vehemently determined to make this damn cake.

And, I did.  Okay, it’s modest in its appearance, to say the least.

I don’t care.  It was a goal I set out to do.  Hot diggity damn…tick !

Blog post to come.

Kreativ Blogger Award:

I woke up Tuesday morning with a terrible cold, swollen glands and a splitting headache.  Just as I was about to grumble about having to look after the boys with a bout of sickness, I received an email from a fellow mummy blogger who had nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger Award:


Tat at Muminsearch talks about her journey and discoveries in life and parenting.  She makes sure that there’s some fun and joy along the way.  Her posts are inspirational and when she mentions what she’s grateful for (which is often), it’s always from the heart.

So, I am humbled that among others, she’s also chosen my blog.  My space.  The little corner of my world.

Many may see all of this as trivial dalliances.

For me though, it’s all leading to something more significant.

I’m going to sign off this post with a fun video of my family.

A tiny snippet to the craziness and laughter in our home.

This is the real reward.

The Boy Everyone Wanted to Have Dinner With

29 Apr

High school was an awkward time.

You’re either one to fondly reminisce or discreetly sweep it all under the carpet of adulthood – never to utter a mention of puberty or pimples again.

I have mixed recollections.

There was a time where I was probably a carpet sweeper.  But  living overseas kept me distant and removed from all teenage memories.  Stepping into adult life, there were moments of nostalgia, wondering what happened to those who influenced you when you were vulnerable and young.

This is a story about an unlikely friendship.  But one that has stood the test of time.

It’s about the boy that provided fun and laughter while jamming in the music classroom – me bashing away on the beat up old piano and him strumming on a cheap nylon stringed guitar.

My Guitar Buddy.

Whether we were talented or not, that didn’t matter.  We both just loved playing music.

My Guitar Buddy and I weren’t in the “popular group”.  Although, neither did we hang out with the nerds.  We both happily coasted along in the happy medium.

We were amongst the students who diligently completed homework, never got into trouble with the teachers and were involved in swotty extra-curricular activities like playing the clarinet in the school orchestra or singing in the choir (Glee, much ?)

In the beginning of his budding music career, my Guitar Buddy was an oblivious figure.  Floating through the school corridors in anonymity.

As for girlfriends ?  None to really speak of.  Just his musical platonic partner in crime – yours truly – who he had*ahem* tentatively promised to take to the Year 10 formal.

Then, like all legendary rock stars, he landed his big break.

Assigned to play in the high school rock band for the annual high school musical – he of course was the main guitarist, and I took over on the keyboards – my Guitar Buddy shot up in the popularity stakes.

He became an overnight sensation.  Our yearbook voted him as “The Guy You Would Most Like To Have Dinner With.”

Then came every male rock musician’s ultimate dream: the female fan club.

Playing the blues on the guitar snagged the chicks.  And there were plenty.

With an abundance in choice created by his sudden fame, decisions on who to take to the Year 10 formal became somewhat tainted.

No harm done.  I ended up having an awesome time with my girlfriends.  While apparently at his after party, he drank so much that he threw up near the host’s backyard fence…almost all over his pretty, blonde date.

20 plus years later, when he found me, his initial email message also included a heartfelt apology for not taking me to the formal.

Life works in mysterious ways.

Even after a 20 year hiatus, there must be an explanation why we have mutually gone to great lengths to become reacquainted – his visits to Sydney and our recent trip to Tasmania.

We can still share a laugh.  We can still talk about music.  As adults, our values in life are closely aligned.  Even our families get along.

I guess it’s only natural that this post, a tribute to our lasting friendship, is written on – of all days – his birthday.

There’s a few things about high school that I would gladly leave in the past – my peacock 80’s hairstyle and obsession with hairspray; my bedroom wallpapered with posters of Duran Duran; my gaudy hot pink tube skirt.

There’s barely a handful of high school friendships that I will commit to.

But my Guitar Buddy and I ?  We’re solid.

Take that.

I’m still friends with the boy everyone wanted to have dinner with.

A Letter To My 32 Year-Old Self…

17 Apr

How engrossed – or dissatisfied – I was with the pursuits in my single life depended on how often I wrote in my diary.

The other day, I came across one of the many volumes – one that I had written during my early-30’s.

It wasn’t actually that long ago, but a lot has happened since then.  It feels like another life-time away.

Just arriving back in Sydney after living many years in fast-paced Tokyo, I was desperately missing my friends and feeling completely lost. Dealing with the trepidation of starting from scratch but without the luxury of time to get to where I wanted to be: a mum and someone’s wife.

So, here I am today.  Writing back to that confused self.

*****

Dear single gal Grace,

Marriage.  Children.  Family.

You’re constantly racing yourself against that blasted biological clock and you’re wondering if all this pursuing is helpless, right ?

But hey.  Chill.

Life’s going to be okay.  Trust me.

This is going to sound unbelievably crazy, but rather than chase customers all over town for purchase orders; one day you will be chasing two little munchkins up and down the hallway, trying to change their nappies.

Yes, you heard me.  T-w-o munchkins.  

Honey, you’ve never been one to do things in halves.

Hang on tight to those fabulous girlfriends of yours.

They may be far away, but they are your constants.

They will even be there on your wedding day.

Yes, YOU !  A bride !  Get outta here !!!

In all your jitters and nerves, they will cheer you on as you walk down the aisle.

Despite the distance and the time zones, they will also be there for you when you become a mum.

They will see you beyond your daggy mummy Target tracksuit pants and the pumpkin puree in your hair.

Because they remember you as the fun-loving girl in Tokyo who loved karaoke and hopelessly wore her heart on her sleeve.

Then there is your mother.

Yes, unfortunately, she still nags.  Constantly badgering you on all your flaws – like an orangutang picking at nits.

Yet, somehow this complicated, at times volatile relationship finds its way into a somewhat happy medium.

I KNOW !  Shocking, right ?  

Guess what ?  She’s going to be there during moments of despair; when you’re too tired and exhausted to meet the needs of your own children, she’s going to swoop in.  Settling them back to sleep.  Waiting beside them in the dark, until she’s certain her job is done.

Surprisingly, not only will you let her intervene, you will actually be thanking her.

Above all, take it easy on yourself.

Switch yourself off from society’s pressure cooker.

Despite what they say, the odds aren’t against you.

So, enjoy what you’ve got now – your solitude, your independence, your freedom.

Keep traveling.

Enjoy the thrill of meeting new people.

Embrace the exhilarating free fall into love and…heartbreak.

For this letter is your safety net.

A steadfast promise that all – family, love, relationships – will fall into its rightful place.

Chin up,

Mama Grace

Lost in Love; Lost in Translation

7 Apr

I have a memory of an elephant.  I retain every piece of stupid, irrelevant trivia.  Quiz me on Michael Jackson song lyrics and I will leave you in the dust.

Alas, this memory bank of silly garbage also holds onto past wrong doings of others and misunderstandings.  I can’t seem to let them go.

Now, I can just write about them.  Reverting to cathartic blogging.

Around seven years ago –  in a single gal version of my former corporate self – business reasons took me to Tokyo for a 6 month stint.  There, I had befriended a Chinese female colleague.

Besides her native Mandarin, she spoke fluent Japanese while her English on the other hand, was rusty.  Meeting in the middle, we conversed in Japanese.

Miss J was a spruce, young lass in her mid-20’s.  Several years my junior, she was over-the-top keen to marry her Japanese boyfriend.

"Love"

Yet, most mornings she would come to work unhappy because he was struggling with commitment issues.

Attempting to prompt a marriage proposal, she had brought him back to her hometown in the Szechuan Province to meet her folks.  Miss J had even arranged professional couple photos in preparation for the engagement and wedding invitations.

Although, back in Tokyo, he kept avoiding the topic of matrimony like it was bad sushi.

One Monday morning she came into work almost in tears.  By lunchtime, we found a quiet place to talk.  There, she opened the floodgates.

Why won’t he commit ?  We’ve already had the professional photos done, so why is he stalling ?  I want to start booking wedding venues before the wedding peak season starts, but why won’t he co-operate ?

And so the discussion continued.

I suggested that it might be better to slow things down.  Perhaps he needed more time to be comfortable with a life decision such as marriage.

Being an intelligent girl, I thought she would see reason.

Instead I found myself in the middle of an emotional firing line.

Between sobs she cried, “Grace-san, the thing is…I just don’t want to find myself at your age and in your situation.”

Wham !

I thought, maybe, just maybe, my Japanese listening ability had temporarily gone haywire and I had misunderstood what she was trying to say.

But no.  I had heard correctly.

Because she then retorted, “I know that sounds rude and terrible, but it’s true.  I want to be married before my 30’s.  Live in an apartment big enough to have a dining table.”

DOUBLE Wham !  Ker-pow !!!

I knew my single status at the time wasn’t the most ideal.  A month prior leaving Sydney, I had started dating someone.  With my impending departure, we somehow decided to keep the relationship going.  However, since arriving in Tokyo, our communication had deteriorated.  Rapidly.

"Life"

It was highly probable that I was returning to Sydney to face heartbreak.  Of course, there were no other potential prospects to speak of, either.

As a 30-something lost in love, you could see why an ambitiously keen-to-be-a bride-Chinese girl would not want my life.

Later that evening, I had a dinner date with my fabulous girlfriends who were an eclectic group of married and singles.

Coming from different walks of life:  Japanese; American; Eurasian.

Calling from different fields of professions:  Lawyer;  Account Manager;  Pre-school teacher.

All confident, smart and fiercely independent.

Reassuring me that my life of singledom wasn’t dire, they were my perfect audience.  They were my cheering squad.

When I told them about my bizzare lunchtime musings, the reaction was unified.

They were aghast.  Appalled.  In disbelief.

After double checking that yes, I had heard her correctly.  And no, I didn’t have a temporary Japanese language amnesia moment, we came to some insightful conclusions.

"Friendship"

Obviously, there was something far more deep seeded there.

It wasn’t about me.

Then, we all established another verdict.  One that simply involved cultural differences.

Although said with little eloquence, it seemed that Miss J was expressing her own disapproval of the Western approach towards finding love and marriage.

Frivilous dalliances and casual dating without a set schedule to the altar was too risky.

Originating from a culture where there were stringent rules and strict direction to reach goals and achieve social status, the Western way was too complacent.

After all, in past conversations, she had mentioned her  demanding Chinese Tiger Mother who had been hounding her to set a wedding date.

Talk about rice cooker steaming pressure.

As such, she was sticking to her agenda.

While, I was going to stick to mine.  (Or lack thereof).

Right up to my last day in Tokyo, Miss J stayed oblivious about that fateful lunch hour.  There was not even an iota of acknowledgement.

I returned to Sydney to officially end what was already a doomed relationship.

2 weeks later, I met my future husband.

Meanwhile, I heard she ditched her Japanese bloke, moved to New York and is now happily married in suburban New Jersey.

I’m sure there’s a nice big dinner table involved too.

It’s a shame we don’t know each other now.  I do wish her well.

Leaving cultural contrasts aside, I would remind her that when it comes to the confusing maze of finding love, heartbreak is universal.

That the journey isn’t as straight-forward for some.

I would tell her that maybe back then, my life was pretty wayward.

But it’s not these days.

It’s actually pretty good.  Awesome, in fact.

Okay, now, I can let it go.

"Double Happiness"

 

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