Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Scaling the Peaks

Scaling the peaks
After the initial flush, it takes essential qualities to anchor a harmonious marriage.
I MARRIED a man with whom I shared many mountain trekking expeditions during our student days. Our adventures together culminated in us trekking down the aisle in 2004, and henceforth, began our own journey of matrimonial highs and lows.
Over time, I’ve realised that just as stamina, tenacity and determination are crucial in ensuring that trekkers reach the peak of a mountain, several qualities are just as essential in maintaining a harmonious relationship.
The first of these is mutual appreciation for each other. I think this is terribly understated during one’s initial years together. Even now, this aspect can still be taken up a few notches.
I remember how acts of service which we rendered to each other during courtship would induce gushes of “oohs, aahs” and “Thank you soooo much, dear!” It’s strange that once we had vowed to serve each other till death do us part, such acts were automatically slotted under the category of “duty”. Instead of thanking each other for the things we did, we made the other feel duty-bound, for example, to provide financially, cook, clean up, fold the laundry ...
On track: The writer and her husband in Beijing.
Is it any wonder that before long, feelings of being taken for granted crept in?
Whether or not we’re duty-bound to do such things, every task becomes a labour of love when followed by a hug and a “Thank you”. Somehow, it alleviates the mundaneness of our daily tasks when we know we are needed and that we fill somebody’s void. Appreciation elevates the menial to magnificent.
Making up after a disagreement is also a crucial element of our marriage.We’ve had our share of disputes and sometimes, our anger with each other has led to week-long “cold wars”. I often joked with my husband that if mere thoughts could eliminate a person, I would have been widowed long ago.
However, I believe it is the choice we make after the quarrels that determines the path our relationship will take; whether we choose to remain bitter and thereby descend into a bog of contempt for the other person, or to reconcile and love with greater acceptance.
I remember after one particularly “cold” week; it was so difficult to say “Sorry” and forgive each other. But once we did so, the unpleasantness which had clouded us like a fog lifted and we grew closer to each other. I learned that when forgiveness is hardest to dispense, that is when it is most needed – for both the giver and receiver.
Good manners make a good couple too. In this aspect, I am still learning from my dear man. In all the time that I’ve known him, he has never been rude or ill-mannered to me or our children. He’s a Chinaman in many ways, but he’s a gentleman. When I return home late in the evening, he will open the door and greet me warmly with a smile. In contrast, several times when he came home, I greeted him with a bag of trash to discard.
Growing up, we were often taught to put our best foot forward when guests visited. I think such behaviour should not be reserved only for such occasions. If a guest who visits my house temporarily ought to be shown civility, tactfulness and generosity, what more the person I build a home with?
Finally, for me, minding our language is critical. We grew up in two different households. In one household, members practise debating styles akin to that in the Malaysian Parliament. In another, diplomacy comparable to that in the House of Commons rules conversations.
Crass language and name-calling certainly have no place in our relationship. However, the tricky part lies not just in what we say, but also how we say it to each other. There is a world of difference in the way a phrase impacts our loved one when we say it either sincerely or sarcastically.
Winning an argument with indelicate words may secure me a fleeting “victory”, but there is nothing worth gloating about if that only results in my husband’s unhappiness.
The tongue is a double-edged sword; we can use it to criticise or compliment; to cut another’s heart or carve out a deep affection for each other through endearments and sweet nothings. We should strive to choose the latter.
Undeniably, the going gets tough from time to time. Nevertheless, the rewards are great, and my reward is seven wonderful years with an exceptional man with whom I look forward to many more years together as we scale greater heights in our marriage. To this man who has loved without reservation, given much without hesitation and cared with immense compassion, I want to say: “I love you Keng Ben Sen.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

Values and Morals do Matter

While the PPSMI debate is still ongoing, I would like to touch on another subject in our education system which needs due attention: Moral Education. 

When I was a student, I used to think that Moral Education was a waste of time. Even though it was an exam subject in the SPM, I believed then and even now, that a grade in this particular paper does not represent the actual moral standing of a person. Memorizing the 36 'nilai-nilai murni' was just another form of rote learning which had taken up unnecessary space in my brain. 

However, after a recent trip to China, I do think that perhaps Moral Education is useful after all. Nearly everywhere we went in Beijing, basic courtesy was so lacking. It was so evident in the way that shopkeepers would scold customers who did not buy their wares and in people who shoved us out of the way while queueing without so much as an "Excuse me". Traffic laws were flouted habitually. Honesty was pretty much non-existent. Most tourists who have been to China would attest to the experience of what-you-paid-for-is-not-what-you-thought-you'll-get. Chinese locals spat everywhere they went, even within the marbled floors of a museum! 

After observing the locals' behavior, I concluded that there is no 'moral code' for them to abide by. The damage done since the Cultural Revolution has led to the deficiency of humanitarian values. In the wake of their massive economic growth, the society has become so "ultra-utilitarian that it concerns itself with rich lists, GDP growth and test scores" (Jiang Xueqin, The Diplomat). It is frightening how there's a fake version of everything from Gucci bags to eggs. Human lives have so little value that people would rather compensate a death than extend help and treatment as evidenced from the tragic Wang Yue incident. 

In Malaysia, we are fortunate as we still have our religion and a standard moral guideline through Moral Education in schools. However, we should not rest on our laurels as our society is still grappling with countless social diseases; domestic and child abuse, teen pregnancy, baby dumping, bullying, divorce, corruption… just to name a few. Therefore, while it is good to maintain the subject, the content should be revised and integrated into other areas so that it remains relevant to our children and youths. Apart from that, there has to be a paradigm shift from the obsession with straight A's to character building. We do not want our future society to be so driven by materialistic wealth that values like integrity and altruism are shelved. 

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. : "The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals." 

Malaysians can not, should not, MUST not walk down this path.

(published on 11/12/2011) link: Values and Morals do matter
[the editor edited it to make it 'less offensive']

Carpe Diem, everyone!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Knight in Rusty Armour

IS chivalry sexist?” asked Mary Schneider, to which I answer wholeheartedly, “Heavens, NO!” (But Then Again, June 20)
If I may take it a step further, should one examine medieval literature, chivalry can be classified under three basic areas: duty to countrymen and fellow Christians, duty to God, and most commonly, duty to women, as addressed in Schneider’s article.
The last area is also known as courtly love chivalry. During the 11th century, a knight’s duty was to his own lady and after her, all ladies. He was supposed to exhibit a general gentleness and graciousness to all members of the fairer sex.
Even today, that is not an uncommon expression of affection when one is in courtship. When wooing their lady love, most men would go to great lengths to make her feel special, whether it is by opening the car door for her, carrying her heavy grocery bag or patiently walking with her as she window-shops at her favourite boutique. However, feminists like to argue against it.
But chivalrous treatment of the lady has been the norm for dating couples. It is very unlikely that a woman will retort fiercely to a man who has just pulled out the chair for her, “You benevolent sexist! I can do that myself! Remember I am your EQUAL!”
But what happens after the wedding bells have been rung and marital vows exchanged?
Instead of opening the car door for her upon arrival at their destination, the husband closes his own door and walks off. When once they used to walk hand in hand at the shopping mall, the man now strides two or three paces ahead while the woman has to play catch up. Although, to his credit, he does turn back once in a while to ask, “Can’t you walk faster?” Gone are the days when he would window-shop with her. His newspaper is his friend while he sits on the bench and gruffly tells his wife: “Go ahead, let me finish this article...”
Maybe not all men become less chivalrous after marriage, but most do slack in their courteous treatment towards their wives. This is from the horse’s mouth, by the way; my own husband would attest to it. If the above does not apply to you, I congratulate you.
So husbands, why not continue that chivalrous trend even after you’ve already captured your sweet maiden’s heart and hand? After all, surely your wife is still just as deserving, if not more so, of your gracious manners as when she was only your girlfriend. In all honesty, it still does make us feel very special.

(published 26th June 2011) Link: The Knight in Rusty Armour

Carpe Diem, everyone!

Letter to My Daughters

What one mother would like her girls to know, just in case God decides to call her home sooner rather than later.
MY dear girls,
As a financial planner, one overused phrase I always hear and have to repeat is: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This pertains to one’s finances, of course. It occurred to me one day, what if I planned my finances well enough for you to inherit all my hard-earned money, but I fail to express my hopes and aspirations for you?
Money as a legacy may not last very long, but I hope that as beneficiaries of these heartfelt words of mine, you will always remember my love for you transcends time and death.
My beams of sunshine
Your papa and I often called you both our “sunshine” the first time you smiled at us as infants. I wanted to be the best mother possible for my babies so I loaded up on flash cards, toys that encouraged the development of your fine motor skills, Mozart CDs (supposedly, they make babies more intelligent).
I read up on babies’ and toddlers’ developmental stages. I spent nearly all my free time facilitating your learning experiences when you were older, making sure every moment was constructive to your critical learning years.
But one day, my dear Rachel, you turned to me and you said, “Mama, why don’t we just play?” It struck me then, that in my haste and enthusiasm to “develop” you, I had taken the joy out of our experience. I was missing out on savouring your growing moments.
Therefore, Leia, since your elder sister was the guinea pig for most of our parenting “firsts”, I am happy to write that I did not commit the same mistakes with you. So make sure you thank your sister for it.
Bulldogs’ cheeks and flabby arms
If laughter is the best medicine, then children are the ultimate elixir!
I have lost count of the times when your innocent banter sent me into stitches and, not a few times, into speechlessness. Like the time when Rachel stretched my left arm out and said “Mummy, look! Bulldogs’ cheeks are like that! Puh-lop, puh-lop, puh-lop ...,” while flapping the loose skin under my upper arm.
Or when playing Simon Says, Leia, you weren’t even two and you did EVERYTHING your sister instructed, including “Simon says pick your nose ...!”
The point here is, find humour in everything you do and in everyone you meet. For there will be times when you may meet a dead end or encounter unpleasantness in some people.
Humour has a wonderful way of clearing up muddled situations that tempers can’t.
So laugh a lot and laugh hard, laugh till your tears roll down your cheeks and your sides hurt. All those endorphins will do you good.
If all else fails, I find that watching a YouTube video of Phua Chu Kang often helps ...
To infinity and beyond!
My dear girls, when I gaze into your bright eyes, I believe that both of you can be GREAT. You are incredibly intelligent (your papa would say you inherited his brain). Whatever your dreams may be, reach for them, and reach high.
Never let a jealous schoolmate, or a frustrated teacher having a bad day, or even a family member tell you that there are things you cannot do (except for taking drugs, drinking, gambling – you know the drill!).
Life is too full of mediocre people telling the extraordinary ones what can’t be done. Never mind what can’t be done. It is your business to decide what can be done. Period.
Who will be your Prince Charming?
I may not be around by this time, but I have to have a say on my future sons-in-law. (However, if you choose to remain single, feel free to skip this part.)
My precious ones, when it comes to matters of the heart, girls must not let them go to their heads. Always conduct yourselves in such a manner that no man would dare dishonour you. You must consciously decide whom you will love. Love a man who is worthy of you and one who appreciates you.
Of course, if I have to break it down to specifics, I would probably say look to your father as a fine example of a man who is not flawless but always loving, helpful and respectful towards women.
One thing you must understand about your mama’s heart – you will always be my cherished little ones. So it is my hope that the men both of you eventually choose as your soulmates will treasure you even more. But if they don’t, you can be sure I’ll return to haunt their miserable, wretched lives for a long, looooong time.
And, finally
When I ponder the miracle of my two beautiful girls, I can’t help feeling as Maria and the Captain did in The Sound Of Music: “For here you are, standing there, loving me, whether or not you should. So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”
Dear ones, with every hug, in every kiss, every time you say “Mama, you are the best mummy!”, with every letter or card you’ve written, and with every picture you’ve drawn of “beautiful mama”, I thank God for rewarding me for that something good I must have done in the past with my two lovely angels.
I love you both so much.

(published: 12th June 2011) Link: Letter to My Daughters
Carpe Diem, everyone!

Thin Does Not Mean Pretty

Dear Visitors to Carpe Diem Mamas,

During my hiatus from blogging, I have gone mainstream and have been writing on a regular basis to our national (Malaysian) newspaper, The Star, on various issues I feel strongly about. (Oh yes, just in case you're wondering if I get paid doing it, cos everybody keeps asking me that, -----I don't, as I'm not a columnist. It's just another platform for me to express my views.) I will be putting selected published articles here on the blog to share with all of you. Feel free to give your feedback.... unless it's derogatory or unkind, in which case I'll just spam you. Apart from that, you're most welcome to share your thoughts!

Thin does not mean pretty

I APPRECIATE Mary Schneider’s article, Fill her up!, especially the last line: “If only some parents would stop focusing so much on their children’s physical attributes, we’d have a lot more healthier adults on this planet.”
I have two daughters. The older, now six, was a beautiful, chubby baby and she retained her baby fat for a while.
However, due to swimming and dance lessons (which she loves, by the way), she gained some height and muscle tone.
It never occurred to me to do all this to make her “thinner” as I believe very much in making exercise a lifestyle.
What irked me though were parents (incidentally, more mothers than fathers) who came up to her and said, “Wow, you look so pretty now! So slim!”
I was aghast by that statement.
Firstly, I have been spending a lot of time telling my daughter that beauty is not dependent on how thin she is, but rather, her beauty should radiate from within, through her kindness, confidence and health.
I even highlighted the problem of anorexia nervosa in some girls who are obsessed with being thin, to the detriment of their own well-being.
Secondly, I have also been explaining to her that beauty comes in many forms, not just a particular shape, height or colour.
It broke my heart when she sometimes came up to me and told me her friend called her fat and that she didn’t think she is pretty.
Although I cannot control what other people say to my daughter, I hope that parents (especially mothers) will accept and appreciate the fact that their children do not have to adhere to Hollywood standards of superficial attractiveness to be beautiful.
(published 29th May, 2011) Thin does not mean pretty

Carpe Diem, everyone!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Man Talk - Victor

Name: Victor
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Age: 31 years old
Married for 6 years

1) An Anonymous asked " contributing to the community more important than contributing to your infant son?.." (Man Talk - Ah Keong).

Bringing up our children will directly contribute to humanity, on a smaller scale, to our country, our state, our city and our neigbourhood. A person with good principle/ethics/values/character walking on the street is definitely better compared to walking in the streets with 'wolves'.

A strong/healthy country consist of a strong/healthy family. Family is made out of individual, and community is made out of groups of individuals/families. So in reality, contributing to our children is contributing to the community around us.
Brief summary, regardless, our contribution to the 'community' or to our children we are contributing to our community. Which is more important? That's your pick!

2) Ah Keong stated that men have no right to balance their lifestyle until they can balance their family cheque book. Do you agree/disagree with him and why?

I've some questions for Ah Keong:

a) I would like to know why does he think that the family cheque book needs to be balanced before he gets his own lifestyle balanced?

b) Where did he get the notion that only man have the responsibility to balance their family cheque book? Answer honestly.

c) At what figure (RM/USD ???) is considered, "balanced family cheque book"?

d) What is a balanced lifestyle?

e) What are your priorities in life? How much time do you spend based on your priorities? Does the time spent tally with your priorities? E.g. My priority is Family, Work, and Hobby. I spent 1 hour for family, 12 hours at work, and none for my hobby. Does it tally?

At this point, many will think that I'm attacking Ah Keong. I'm not, the questions is meant to trigger some soul searching. Some may feel angry, some will say, "I've not thought about it before" and some would 'just' read, period :-D. If we were to ask these same questions to 10 different men, most of them would answer differently.

To start with, we are not immortal, as time passes so does our youth, as time passes so does our opportunities. This may read as, work harder! Yea, right! Please don't jump the gun too soon, this applies to our entire life, including those that we missed out spending with our family. Balance is always read out as 50% this and 50% that, 50:50 la..

 I would like to differ in opinion. Have you every played tug of war? The games require two teams. A center line is drawn, an additional one line is marked 4 meters distance from the center line at each direction, a red ribbon is tied in the center of the rope and lastly a blue ribbon is tied about 15ft from the red ribbon at each direction. Two teams on the opposite site, when the whistle is blown, the games start! The goal: the first team that is able to pull the opposite blue ribbon across the center line wins! Balance is like Tug of War, it is rarely 50%:50%. Each side of the rope has tension, the strongest at any point of time will bring the rope out from the center line (red ribbon moving left and right from the center line). So, balance is like Tug of War, at different season/time there is different priority that need attention but it does not mean we abandoned another, its at a different percent all the time. One item does differ though, we should never allow the blue ribbon to reach as close to the center line (or blue ribbon crosses the center line), if it does, that is the signal of extreme in life. So here is my 2 cents, always try to stay as center as possible, the tension at both ends is necessary to keep the check and balance.

Men work to kill time, while time quietly kills them.

3)  "A successful marriage requires falling in love many times - always with the same person." (Mignon Mclaughlin). Based on your own personal experience, is it possible for the above to happen?

Each day passes, I discover something new about my wife. Ok.. maybe not day... sometimes weeks, months, sometimes years. And each day passes, I discover that I love her differently as a friend, companion and lover. Does that count? In our first year of our marriage, my wife cooked for me, I LOVE that. I never required my wife to cook! She cooked because her mother does it to make the family happy! She just followed suit.. Recently, in our fifth year of our marriage, we started to learn how to joke about some serious situations, we've got lots to learns in this area, and I LOVE her for it! Does that count?

I've not read anything written by Mignon Mclaughlin, I've no idea what she is talking about. I'll try to get the context right before I provide further comment. FYI, it takes years for me to read any book! Good luck waiting...

4) What is the most challenging aspect of being a father?

Taking care and pouring more LOVE to my wife! I always remind myself not to neglect my wife. It is so easy to put all my energy to my son but I always remind myself, DON"T neglect my best friend, my wife! Some will ask why.. its because a good wife is God given, two souls tied together as one, my son however, our souls are not tied together..

My wife and I will always be one, but not with my son, that is what I believe... My son will grow up and leave, have his own family. My wife, we will grow old together. The covenant between a hushband and wife is different from that of parents and child. And also, I've discovered that, if I love my wife more, naturally, I'll love my son more. But if I 'love' my son more, I may overlook my wife's needs. It also means, I do not neglect anyone, if I love my wife first.

Such "Pain in the Butt"!

Well, to be more specific.... a terrible, terrible itch in the butt.. or rather, even more the anus.

Yes, it doesn't sound pretty but I was wondering what happened when my daughter was crying incessantly about her 'bottom being itchy'... At first, I thought maybe she didn't clean herself well, then I thought maybe she was just attention-seeking.. but when it got worse - she would frequently cry and throw herself on the floor while kicking her legs - I decided that it must be a genuine problem.

There were no marks on her bottom or in the areas surrounding her anus as I suspected it might have been a rash or infection or something. So, I decided to consult some experienced mothers (always the first step before before deciding whether to blow my savings on the doctors). Most immediately replied "Oh, she has worms!"

Like eeewww, right? How do you know anyway? Apparently, what happens is that sometimes due to the food we take , we might have contracted these unwanted guests in our guts and some could have migrated waaaaaay south, therefore causing a lot of discomfort to us or our young ones. Personally, I have not experienced it before so I can't speak for myself.

But since my daughter was in such major discomfort, I consulted the pharmacist for some remedy that might help. They recommended Zentel.

I gave it to her according to the dosage stated and practically, waited with great anticipation to see if it worked.

And you know what? It did...

She never cried about "itchy bottom" again and was happy as a lark...and I felt so relieved until I thought :
"Oh my gosh, what if I have a tapeworm swimming inside me?" If you think about it, my girl is only 6 and she contracted a 'worm'... I am now 33 and have ingested a whole lot more crap into my system than she has.

Maybe we adults should also think about deworming ourselves too.... Ewww....

Carpe Diem!

Monday, January 10, 2011

HAPPY 2011!

Dear all, 

Happy 2011 to all of you! Hope you're off to a great start! I have been quite busy so I read some of the comments from new visitors only recently. Thank you for visiting and for your interest in Carpe Diem Mamas.. Hope you've found the information helpful!

And now, a little inspiring poem to start off the year ! I think this is a good reminder and useful to apply whether at home or work, whether we think of our roles as parents, friends, rivals, acquaintances, colleagues...etc to people around us. No man/woman is an island and it is only too true that the world is a mirror of our own attitude towards it. So, I hope this will brighten your day and have a good year ahead....

Carpe Diem, everyone!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wine and Confinement -- To take or not to take?

Contribution by laifchan:

Was doing some reading about this issue and found 2 recent helpful articles written by Chinese researchers.

Here's a summary of my own thoughts and conclusions.

Out of the many traditions during confinement, taking red rice wine chicken soup is one that is held to dearly for a few reasons:
1. Its delicious :)
2. Claims of improving the mother's health ie prevents arthritis, balances the hot-cold thingy, improves strenght etc (not going to dispute it but lets just say so far no scientific evidence)

However, there have been countless research showing detrimental effects of alcohol on babies development (of course,  a limitation is that most studies don't track children's development into adulthood).

The question is,  does taking red rice wine chicken soup cause significant amounts of alcohol into breastmilk and cause negative effects in babies?

Well, anecdotally (meaning hearsay), Chinese women have been practicing these tradition for eons and have produced "bright" children who have grown up to be 'successful' adults. However, stories without examining the multiple factors that may influence how children turn out to be 'smart' may be misleading.

Also, there is a belief that the alcohol content in red rice wine chicken soup is negligible. This myth is challenged in 1 of the attached articles which showed that after less than 3 hrs after taking normal amounts of this soup, there IS still alcohol in the milk that can cause significant changes to the composition of breastmilk (less nutrients) and can decrease milk production.

Also, although Chinese women do breastfeed during confinement while taking red rice wine chicken soup, not many breastfeed exclusively but end up supplementing with formula milk even within the 1st mth, so the babies maybe less exposed to the negative consequences of alcohol.

Given the many proven benefits of exculsively breastfeeding for at least 6 mths ie better immunity in babies, what options do mothers have if they still want to take red rice wine soup while exclusively breastfeeding?

Well, I guess it should be done in moderation and breastfeeding timed to be at least 3 hrs after consumption of this soup.

For myself, a practical thing to do is:
1.limit any form of alcohol to just this soup (personal reasons coz i find it delicious, not for any health benefits, and don't like taking any other form of alcohol ie DOM etc)

2. Take it during dinner after i've expressed milk for my baby's night-feeds 

-this way, it would be at least a good 8 hrs before i nurse my baby after the soup and this will probably mitigate any effects of the alcohol
-couldn't do it for Jason as he seemed to be perpetually stuck to my breasts and left me no time to express, so I didn't take any soup, anyway he had jaundice so all the more reason not to take any alcohol (didn't want to overwork his tiny liver)
- another advantage of giving the baby expressed milk at night is somebody else (husbands/confnement lady) can help feed the baby while the mother is able to rest

Any other ideas or comments, people?

Thank you, laifchan!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Personal Note

Dear Friends,

  The blog has been in status quo for awhile now. That's because I've taken on a few commitments among which include a study course, training teachers, an NGO voluntary work, swimming classes besides balancing with work and family. So, quite a few things to colour my life and I'm loving every minute of it!

  Therefore, I decided to continue updating the blog on an as & when basis. If you'd like to contribute please let me know. I'm also looking for a co-author of the mama blog as well. So do inform me if you're interested. :)

   Thank you for being faithful followers and readers of Carpe Diem Mama. Continue to be the great mamas & papas you all are!!!

Carpe Diem, everyone!