Thank you, everyone, for making 2013 special for me!

2013 was the year I learnt about taking life one step at a time. I learnt that self-worth is more important than net worth. It’s not how much I have. It’s how much I enjoy that makes me happy.

2013 was the year I learnt that nothing in life is to be feared … it is only to be understood. I finally opened up about my life as a mother, daughter-in-law, daughter and wife. And it never felt so liberating!

2013 was the year I learnt that I cannot do everything on my own. There’s a greater force that guides me. I discovered the power of God’s love.

2013 was the year I discovered the meaning of reaching out to other women (and men) through my book, Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun! I gave two workshops on Writing From The Heart, with Women’s Initiative on Ageing Successfully (WINGS) and National Cancer Centre of Singapore (NCCS).

I loved 2013 ….. then, I received two emails which moved me to tears and made me more determined to inspire others to live their best life. I share both emails here, coz it made me want to hug my two friends for making 2013 so unbearably special for me! And yes, remembering the people and events I love and cherish through my photos ..

Dear Catherine,
I chance upon your book through a colleague who attended a talk about women’s menopause last month..I was immediately attracted to your book title…So I asked her to loan me your book …
It’s half read but i felt so connected …. it compelled me to write you an email…some excerpts of your book that touch me…my soul..probably I am going thru a midlife crisis ..
See I am turning 49 next yr..so close into the big 50…I am a divorcee with three kids living in Melbourne..
I felt intense loving bonding moments when I read about your CNY trip to spend with Pauli..the pelicans feed & walk in the park…simply magical…
I am motivated by your undying pursuit of your passion, your dream. so marvellous … I salute to your bravery…BRAVO!!
Its my hope to finish your book by 31 Dec 2013 to end the year and prepare to make more betterment in 2014..
Wishing you a magical new year!
Yes, things happen for a reason…
truly yours,

Hi Catherine,
Can’t let the year pass by without wishing you a grand new year ahead.
Been tardy again. Advent is behind us and so many things are still not done.
A number of books at the bedside vying for my attention. Store room needs a makeover.
Too laid back. Gotta find the zest of life again. Time fly off faster than a hurricane.
Gotta be more resolved to be more productive. Distractions, not busy schedule are the enemies
of good time management. Thus must instill a greater amount of discipline.
Will definitely spend some time each week, or perhaps every other day for some reflection, not just in the mind, but to put thoughts on paper, or on the computer. That’s my new year promise to myself. And you.
Thank you for the write trigger.
HAPPY NEW YEAR

Friends who taught me about the power of laughter and hope

Friends who taught me about the power of laughter and hope

Mrs Jetsun Pema, aka HH The Dalai Lama's sister, who taught me about unconditional love.

Mrs Jetsun Pema, aka HH The Dalai Lama’s sister, who taught me about unconditional love.

My N6 Cluster Advanced Young Author Scheme class .... where stories are best shared

My N6 Cluster Advanced Young Author Scheme class …. where stories are best shared

It was truly an Amazing Journey ... where giving taught my journeyers about life's blessings ...

It was truly an Amazing Journey … where giving taught my journeyers about life’s blessings …

Looking out from my room in Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala .... overlooking the Himalayan plateau

Looking out from my room in Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala …. overlooking the Himalayan plateau

Sitting among Men in White in Bangkok's celebration as UNESCO World Book Capital 2013

Sitting among Men in White in Bangkok’s celebration as UNESCO World Book Capital 2013

The Young Author Scheme in Manila .... yay! Finally going international!

The Young Author Scheme in Manila …. yay! Finally going international!

Happiness is doing simple things together! I love you, Paulina!

Happiness is doing simple things together! I love you, Paulina!

Cambodia taught me that every child has a dream. Every parent wants to fulfil this dream for them!

Cambodia taught me that every child has a dream. Every parent wants to fulfil this dream for them!

Coolest ride of my life. That's me, in the red-rimmed cap and sticking her head out whilst trying to keep her white hat on, is Paulina. Tis divine, flying over the Barossa Valley in Adelaide, and then partaking of a delicious champagne breakfast in a vineyard. Life begins at 50! And yes, this photo was inspiration for my book cover.

Coolest ride of my life. That’s me, in the red-rimmed cap and sticking her head out whilst trying to keep her white hat on, is Paulina. Tis divine, flying over the Barossa Valley in Adelaide, and then partaking of a delicious champagne breakfast in a vineyard. Life begins at 50! And yes, this photo was inspiration for my book cover.

Can a woman Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun! Sure, why not?

Can a woman Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun! Sure, why not?

Red, the colour of love!

Red, the colour of love!

Angels or rascals?

Angels or rascals?

I've come this far, jumped this high .... I know I can do it!

I’ve come this far, jumped this high …. I know I can do it!

Writing From The Heart workshop for NCCS. It was a truly humbling experience for me. I learnt the power of living life in the present.

Writing From The Heart workshop for NCCS. It was a truly humbling experience for me. I learnt the power of living life in the present.

Beijing in January 2013. Minus 17 degrees but loved the warm family togetherness

Beijing in January 2013. Minus 17 degrees but loved the warm family togetherness

My Learning Family Programme Alumni (LFPA) family. I learnt that social responsibility must come from the heart, not just from pockets.

My Learning Family Programme Alumni (LFPA) family. I learnt that social responsibility must come from the heart, not just from pockets.

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Testimony of Love and Commitment

She did not flinch, she did not shirk responsibility …. She did what she had to do for more than four decades. And she shared her love and commitment for the displaced children of Tibet with an audience of 70 women in the hall in WINGS (Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully).

I don’t think any one of them knew what Mrs Jetsun Pema would talk about. How do you speak on a topic called “How To Live A Fulfilling Life.” And as the Dalai Lama’s sister shared her life as Mother to close to 42,000 children in the Tibetan Children’s Village, I felt so much empathy and admiration emanating from the women seated quietly listening.

When she recounted how a boy of five who trekked across the Himalayas to seek refuge in Dharamsala and lost his fingers and toes through frostbite, who finally made it after that many days in the snow and danger from being spotted by border patrol guards, I thought I had a collective sigh of relief.

Throughout the one-hour sharing, I realized that what’s crucial in life is not about looking what’s wrong with the world around us. It’s about how we can help someone find his place in the world. Coz in helping that one person, we actually help ourselves. That is living a truly fulfilling life!

Thank you, Tempa la and Ama la. There's so much I have to learn about commitment and perseverance from you!

Thank you, Tempa la and Ama la. There’s so much I have to learn about commitment and perseverance from you!

It’s so evident in this picture we took after the talk. There’s Mrs Pema’s husband, Tempa la, myself, Mrs Pema, whom I call Ama la, little Tenzin, and Jinpa, my Tibetan friend, who helped me to get my book’s foreword from Ama la. What can you see in our faces? Yes, smiles of happiness and hope! Remember, there’s nothing so fulfilling as helping someone find himself!

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Those who dare to teach, should never cease to learn!

Oh! It's so enabling to know one is never too old to learn!

Oh! It’s so enabling to know one is never too old to learn!

Those who dare to teach, should never cease to learn ….. Saw this on the signboard of a training company while on my way to a WordPress class and I thought, how appropriate! I always find there’s something new to learn everyday, and yes, learning can come from everywhere, the people I meet, the children I teach, the parents and teachers I work with and yes, my family.

Perhaps it’s my training as a journalist, perhaps it’s innate … it doesn’t matter, what matters is how I view the world around me. I open my eyes every morning, stretch, turn to my husband and caress his face or just hug him (coz he doesn’t sleep very well … reason is I snore pretty loudly shh! It’s pretty embarrassing to share but makes me feel better that I’ve said it. There! Now you know 🙂 ) so yes, I open my eyes, stretch, reach out and say hello to the world, plant my feet firmly on the floor and tell myself, “Thank you for giving me another day!”

And as I work with the people around me ….. I am very delighted to be able to learn new things. In this session, I learnt about how to create websites using WordPress. Tough for a lot of people, especially people my age, in fact I was not surprised to note that out of the 7 in my class, 5 are above 40 and one is 63. Two are property agents, three are venturing into their own business, one just quitted coz he felt under-appreciated, and one is working in a bank and looks really tired. What a motley crowd. And all of them are learning to survive, either for a passive income or to keep in touch with their customers who do everything online. From looking for a house, to looking at samples, to looking for a course, today’s customer is so tech savvy. I think all of us try to make sense of it …. Some do, some struggle, but hey, I really admire this bunch who dare venture to learn new things. And yes, though I don’t think I can really learn everything, I am satisfied I managed to grasp the essentials. I learn when I understand and then I can remember, that’s my learning style, and I am so glad that I can put two and two together. Whew! Not that simple, but well, it’s not rocket science either!

Which brings me to my point …. One should never cease to learn. And you know what I learnt today? In realizing we don’t have all the answers, we begin to find humility!

The Healing Power of Conversation … And 5 Things To Do Before I Turn 55!

The Healing Power of Conversations and Five Things To Do Before I Turn 55

How did Pauli and me celebrate Chinese New Year? Never thought it would be so heartwarming, so much of an eye-opener to me. Invited Raymond and Johnny for a Chinese dinner, and yes, celebrated both their birthdays for them. Raymond said, “This is our reunion dinner,” and it made me feel so connected with them. Both did not go back home …. in fact, Johnny worked in Cha Time and he made bubble milk tea, my favourite. Raymond’s working in the rural area, he’s a nurse and loving his job, and he is going to buy alpaca and buy farmland ….

But the conversation that ensued as we sat around eating the tiramisu cake (and I must say, it’s one of the best I’ve ever tasted! Raymond and I agreed it must be the weather, or maybe, it’s natural ingredients 🙂 ) the conversation lasted three hours …. But it’s honest-to-goodness sharing which I do not get back home. Tell you why …. Johnny’s from Hong Kong and same age as Pauli, Raymond’s 30 and reminds me of the child I could have got … Yeah, 1983, would be his age …. Three of them reminded me of when I was their age …. Full of dreams and wanting to do so many things, but worried about the future. The common factor linking them is a country that is overcrowded, that has forgotten what it is like to stop and smell the roses, coz there are no more roses and stopping is not recommended for economic growth ….. And the question on their lips but never asked, “What has gone out of the window in pursuit of material gains?” They like it here, and sometimes I think life is like a deja vu, our ancestors came out of China to seek better pastures for themselves and their children not so long ago …. Now our children are doing this for themselves.

It’s a bit different now, coz with so much gadgets (I thank the people who invented the Internet 😀 ) you can communicate so easily. And my advice to every young person who is reading my blog ….. Go out and experiment and experience! When I was your age, I had the same dreams, hopes and plans. The world is a scary place if you feel it is scary. It is a place of opportunities if you just follow your heart. Don’t be afraid to explore, for only then do you learn. More important, whatever you do, have compassion ……. Just as one famous human rights activist, I forgot her name, said, “Live simply, so others may simply live!” So simple words, yet so profound.

So I’ve made a list, 10 Things To Do Before I Turn 60. But then, that’s almost seven years away, and life is too short to plan so long. So, I’ve made a shorter one. Top priorities …. Top 5. Yes, 5!

1/ Sell 10,000 copies of my book Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun! And have it translated into five languages. (5,000 per year quite do-able, considering I turn 55 in Dec 2014)

2/ Establish ( now, be very careful of the word, establish) okay, ensure, no, plant the seeds sound better, plant the Young Author Scheme and The Unique Classroom in 3 countries ….. Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia. (in no particular order). Why Australia? Met the people from BBX and have this funny feeling there’s a reason why Pam came to Adelaide in 2006 and Pauli is here. This year is the 8th year my kids are here. 8 is a magical number for me! Strange too, when Pam first came, I had dinner with 2 boys from Bradford (used to be called Alexandra Lodge) their reunion dinner in Chinatown, and this year, I also had dinner with two boys who used to stay in Bradford. And Raymond came in the same year as Pam. Uncanny! And yes, my dream to nurture a Booker Prize winner …. Maybe Asian Literary Prize …. That’s more do-able.

3/ Do book tours. (Must be more specific). Okay, my imprint. I’ve decided on Witty, Wicked Women, logo www, and the first book under this is Love! Live Dangerously! And Have Fun! …. Ooh! I love exclamation marks! Makes everything so zesty! I’m going to do workshops around this book first. I also have the Amazing Journeys Travelogue (gotta start putting it together …) Cambodia, next Dharamsala. Promised Jinpa. Why workshops? Family bonding …. Parents and children to understand one another, to communicate …. that’s really my life’s mission. I feel so happy when parents and their children are happy doing things together. Let’s see where the Amazing Journeys will lead to ….

4/ Write 3 more books.
I Can Write. So Can You! (Must finish this by mid March …)
Ordinary Lives. Extraordinary Struggles.
Tips for Mothers with Children Studying Overseas (working title only. As an afterthought, yes, would include views of their kids as well, so more balanced)

5/ This is actually the fulfillment of my father’s and brother’s dream. My father planted it in me, my brother kept it growing in me …… Do my Phd in Creative Writing. Why not? First, I want to write a novel about women and why they write …. Too broad, gotta narrow it, but yes, it has got to be a literary novel …. And research is involved, and lots of reading …. I just love it. It’s also the fulfillment of my own dream …. One I had since 13 ….. Waited 40 years to see it come true ….

Life is indeed what we make of it ….. It’s good to build castles in the air, because it’s where they should be. Now put foundations under them! Look out, world! Life begins at 53!

It’s crazy … We survived minus 17 degrees in Beijing!

Day 1: I survived minus 17 degrees in Beijing!

It’s crazy …. And coming from my husband who’s deathly afraid of the cold, going to Beijing in the thick of winter, with my mum, 74, my sis-in-law, Fong, 60. My two daughters, Pam and Pauli, and Fong’s daughter, Sharon. When we got down from the plane, the cold hit us with a vengeance ….. Yes, being prepared was important. Thank goodness their aunts had lots of winter wear to lend my two girls and Fong ….

This is the first time my girls have travelled with their grandma. I didn’t know what to expect, especially from Pauli. I always felt there was a reason why she resisted going to visit my mum during CNY, but I didn’t pursue why. Time will heal all wounds, that’s my philosophy in life …. Live and let live. My girls have been inculcated with the proper values and I trust them.

I realized trust is the single most important value when bringing up my children. Trust and believe in them. And the unexpected happen. She held onto her grandma as we left theTemple of Heaven. One on each side of her arm, her grandma and her aunt. It was such a sight to behold as they both held onto her as they walked along ….

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