The Magic of Random Conversation

I was in Penang the other day and, as is my wont, I started chatting with the taxi driver as he skillfully wove in and out of late afternoon traffic to send me to Penang International Airport. Somehow, we got to talking about hobbies, when he suddenly asked me to look at the pocket behind the front passenger’s seat…and out came a sketch book!

sketch

Well whaddya know? The guy’s got some talent, despite not having had any training whatsoever before. He said it’s just his way of passing the time while waiting for passengers or while in a queue.

This just goes to show that you never know what magic you can encounter when you take the chance on a conversation with a random stranger…

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Nearing The Home Stretch

A new semester is about to begin. After all the blood, sweat and tears of four grueling semesters of part-time graduate school, I am left with two core subjects, one elective, and my final project (a thesis that will take up two whole semesters). The finish line actually feels very close at hand now. Fancy that!

I still can’t believe how I managed to survive the past four semesters, given everything that I have on my plate. The last semester was the worst of them all — not only did I have three subjects (one of them being THE dreaded Corporate Finance class!), but my maid of five years also ran out on me, going off on holiday in her kampung (village) and never coming back. I actually took steps to to take a break for one semester but, in the end, I could not do so because by then, it was too late to drop the subjects that I’ve taken and it would have resulted in automatic Fs for me in all three subjects. So I plodded on, even if it felt like crawling in thick, slippery mud up to my ears.  And, with God’s grace, I survived! God, indeed, does not burden a soul more than it can bear.

People ask me all the time now, more than ever, “How do you do it?”. In an article that I wrote for a Polish magazine way back in 2009, I attributed my ability to juggle my dual responsibilities of motherhood and a career to three things: (i) a commitment to make it work, without losing sight of the objective; (ii) being blessed with an excellent support system; and (iii) being lucky enough to live in Malaysia. Those three things are still very much relevant…especially (ii), now that my mum lives with me!

And after 4 semesters of MBA classes, case studies, and term papers, I’d like to highlight one more thing about this whole motherhood-career-study juggling thing: you can do everything and be everything…just NOT at all once.

It’s not an original answer by any means. I know I’ve read it somewhere. But it resonates deep and true. There is only one me and there are only 24 hours in a day. So within those 24 precious hours, I can do everything that I need to do, just not at the same time. And I often have to make painful choices to let one thing go so that I can give priority to what I deem to be the more important matter. It can be as simple as reducing the house cleaning to a once-a-week affair, just so I could get my homework done. Or it can be as difficult as deciding to skip the last 30 minutes of an online lecture because my Little Dragon needed me. In fact, about a week before final exams, there was a night when I shoved all my textbooks to one side and decided to join my kids’  ‘Movie Night’ at home — all the kids gathered around the TV in the living room, lights out, volume turned up slightly more than what I usually allow (the latter being attempts to simulate the cinematic experience), watching a DVD of their choice. And you know what? That single night off didn’t make me flunk. Neither did it kill me.

Sometimes I feel that us, working mothers or even stay-at-home mothers, are too hard on ourselves. We put up the bar way too high, expecting nothing but perfection, and worst of all, comparing ourselves to some imaginary ideal, usually stereotypes perpetuated by movies or TV shows. I know now that there is no such thing as a perfect mother; there is no such thing as a Super Mama. We are all humans, fraught with our own frailties and faults. We have good days and our own share of bad days. Sometimes we feel it’s worth all the effort; sometimes, we feel like dropping everything and just running walking away. We can only attempt to give it our best at any given time, with whatever information and resources available to us at that time. After giving our best, the rest is in God’s hands and we no longer have control over it.

Sure, we all make mistakes and it is expected of us to learn from those mistakes so as not to fall into the same hole all over again. But at the same time, we should not dwell on those mistakes to the point of falling into despair and giving up altogether. Life is still beautiful, despite a few dark days every now and then. We are where we are because we are meant to be there. Whatever happens, we need to keep the faith that He is the All-Wise, the All-Knowing, and the Best Planner of all.

Categories: Parenting, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Worth Its Weight In Gold

As smartphones and tablets get smarter and as their cameras get better, I find that people are relying on these mobile devices more and more to capture important events in their lives. You see everyone, young and old, using them to take photos in weddings, graduations, birthdays, award ceremonies. After all, those mobile devices are lightweight, very easy to use, and they double as communication devices, as well, that can instantly upload the pics to social networks right after snapping them.

I, myself, use my mobile devices a lot for snapping everyday pics — little things that catch my eye while going for a quick run; the gorgeous changing hues of the sunset that change from day to day during my drive home from work; the little things that I upload to Instagram and Facebook.

But for my travels and for special occasions, I still turn to my trusty Nikon DSLR. It’s heavy, true, and clunky, too. But I find the control, precision, and detail that DSLR cameras offer to be simply unparalleled until now.

Proof #1: instantaneous bokeh. All I had to do was adjust the aperture, focus on the red tulip, and voila! Beautiful bokeh straight out of the camera.

tulip_bokeh

Proof #2: water flowing like silken strands. Simply adjust the shutter speed to achieve the effect that you want — slow, smooth, dreamy…or frozen in time? Just make sure your hand is very steady…or invest in a tripod. (This pic is actually pretty shaky because I didn’t have a tripod at that time but I love how it looks just the same.)

water_flow

Proof #3: incredible moon pics. This was a handheld shot of the moon over New Zealand using my Nikon D90 and my trusty old 18-200mm lens. No mobile device can capture a decent shot of the moon; all you’ll ever end up with is a blob of light with a lot of noise (those random specks of light and colour that show up in most low-light photos or in low-resolution photos when you try to zoom in too much).

moon_over_NZ

And if you’re not sure which camera or lens to buy, fret not! There are now free online services in Malaysia that make it so much easier to compare prices and specifications at a glance.

So yeah. A DSLR camera may be heavy, clunky, and un-sexy. But it’s definitely worth its weight in gold!

Categories: Photography | 3 Comments

It’s Been A While, Crocodile

Whoa! Two months since my last post?! Oh wow.

I’m still here. Kinda. I’m drowning in (graduate) schoolwork, laundry, office commitments, cooking, babysitting. Mostly babysitting. Running’s been sidelined. All other extra activities chucked in the back burner. No thanks to my Indonesian maid who has gone missing, after going home to marry off her daughter in August. I consider her good as gone by now *sob*.

But life goes on. Life is still beautiful. And I am confident that God will not place me in any situation beyond what I can bear.

KL skyline at dusk

So yeah. Just a quick post to let y’all know I’m still alive. Somewhat.

(I know, I know. The pic’s got nothing to do with the post. But I do live in KL. And it’s a beautiful pic that makes me smile just looking at it. So it will have to do *giggle*)

Categories: Rojak | 3 Comments

Tuna Casserole From Scratch

Just because it’s Malaysia Day…and the school holidays…and my Little Dragon is still sleeping (giving me a very rare opportunity to do something more elaborate for breakfast), I made tuna casserole from scratch today.

tuna casserole

Tuna Casserole From Scratch

Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 cans button mushrooms, sliced thinly
2 cans tuna, drained
1 pack (250 gm) elbow macaroni
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
Salt & pepper to taste

Method:
1. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Preheat oven 190 C. Butter the baking dish(es) and set aside.
3. Sauté garlic, onions, celery. Add mushrooms. Set aside.
4. Melt butter over low heat, slowly whisking in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk. Season with salt and pepper. (I was feeling adventurous and added a bit of paprika.)
5. Mix well the pasta, mushroom mixture and the sauce. Transfer into the baking dish(es).
6. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

The original recipe called for 1 cup of peas but my kids and I detest them so we skipped those. The original recipe also called for breadcrumbs topping but we didn’t have any and decided to just have the cheese but it came out yummy anyway. The original recipe also used egg noodles but I only had elbow macaroni but it was awesome all the same.

Original recipe here: http://m.allrecipes.com/recipe/86069/tuna-noodle-casserole-from-scratch

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