Wednesday, May 20, 2015

horrible work year

Why it’s been horrible:
  • I am driven to send my first lawyer’s letter. It’s called a Letter of Demand and it’s served – by hand – to recalcitrant clients who repeatedly ignore my pleas for payment. This client owed me money for a year. Did they pay? Yes. They were truly flummoxed, that a nice harmless woman like me would resort to hiring a lawyer. They thought I was happy waiting a year, they thought I enjoyed sending e-mails every other month to ask politely: How's progress? They thought I liked being side-lined.
  • It looks like I have to send another one. To a law firm which owes me money. Amazing, I have to hire a law firm to prod another law firm.
  • I am bullied by the Government tendering system. Essentially, I do 150% of the work – and this is by word count meaning I write something like 1,500 words when only 1,000 is required – but I am told that going by the system I can only be paid for 1,000. Even if I were to write 10,000 words I’d still be paid for 1,000. I am so disappointed I cannot bring myself to finish what I owe them.
  • I take on a lot of book projects because these days they give me a lot more buzz than a magazine article. The problem with books is that I don’t usually get paid until the book is published. It’s never been a problem, I had a lot of ‘small work’ to carry me through the months, but I only realize now that by taking on so many books I can’t squeeze in time for small work. Essentially I will have to live off my husband until the cheques come at the end of the year perhaps?
  • I’m really bad at valuing and managing myself and even after 10, 11 years of freelancing, I'm still as bad. Its like cooking. Some things, I just suck at. Even Day, after he realizes some of the s#$t I have to put up with, scolds me: "Mama, how can you let people bully you like that?!?" I'm not setting a very good example there... you know, standing up for yourself and all.

Monday, May 18, 2015

results back

Monday, all the children from the kids’ school returned home to face the music. For some it was sweet, for others it was jarring.

As I picked them up from school, I could hear parents around me, asking: "Did you get any results back? How was it?" I wonder, what goes on in thousands of households around Singapore when results are released?

Lu, for her Primary 1 year, she had an exam too although it’s not called that (bad connotations for aren’t schools supposed to be moving away from exams?). I think it’s called holistic assessment or some such other idiotic diplomatic term. She, more than her brother her sister, feels the pressure because their school is moving toward, er, assessment and results. Poor girl. I don’t care, but how can she not when she miserably tells all her friends are doing better than her and whatnot? Never mind. I’m proud that she completed all her exams with her left hand.

Jo, is thriving in school - results-wise - in her dogged, diligent, head-in-the-books manner. I realize she didn’t even have the issues which Day faced at the start of P3. She just launched into it, seemed to decide that she wanted to do very well, and made sure it happened. (Like when they went into multiplication, she actually studied and memorised multiplication tables before bed every night which was so cool!) Her success is entirely hers, including for Chinese. She makes life difficult for herself, but very easy for me. 

* KK brings her out for a nice meal

Day, is at an all-time low. Based on his latest ‘aggregate’, he has calculated that he is on his way to Queenstown Secondary (KK yells, 'It's very far away you better travel there on your own!'), and this time nobody is laughing. We're officially in the (sickening) grip of the PSLE!

* Erm. In a happy moment. I can well imagine himself saying (and he does) - "Aiya so what? Results are not everything in life! I'm healthy that's all that matters!" (well its true but HE shouldn't be saying or feeling it. HE should be stressed while I quietly count my blessings)

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Malaise strikes this week.

I go down, Lu goes down, Jo goes down.

* Lollipop medicine :)

* Utterly terrified she will cough until she vomits

Everyone clucks sympathetically: It’s really been going around this one. You get a cough and a sore throat and a running nose and a fever right? Ya lah, it’s the terrible weather we’ve been having lah. So hot, then it rains.

As a result, what should have been one of the most fun gigs I have ever scored (Taiwanese singers the likes of Huang Shujun and Bobby Chen Sheng) turns out to be one of the most miserable.

I sniff, drip and hack my way through consecutive nights of long rehearsal and performance on a freezing cold stage. Even the stars and their managers are sympathetic.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Everytime I wear a Makeup Mask, it’s for a music gig.

These days it isn’t enough for classical musicians to have spent years and years perfecting their craft, honing their musicality. No, they must look good too. (parents take note. Unless you want your music-learning offspring to just, er, teach in which case it doesn’t matter)

I used to get the odd request when I started gigging over 20 years ago: Could you supply four ladies for this string quartet? Can they be pretty too?

And I used to swell in indignation. I always turned all these gigs down. All of them. I was too righteous with too prim a sensibility to want to play for a bunch of ogling lechers.

If I had an iota of entrepreneurial spirit, I would have stripped down slapped on the war paint and got three other nubile young things to jump into the scene with me.

Because now these pretty young girl groups are all the rage. With the full works and playing to thumping pop rock on electric instruments, they get paid a lot more than the pasty-faced, make-up less, limp-haired members of a standard string quartet. It’s all about the entertainment these days. (it doesn't help that the pretty girls are usually very very competent players too, those that I know anyway)

I’m 40 and past it. Even when I was 20 I think I was past it.

But the other night I get asked to play at one of these pseudo pop-rock gigs. I’m honoured, someone thinks I can still act cute. Why not?

For the first time in my life I play on an electric violin. It’s blue and quite nice because I don't have to strain to play loudly. All I need to do is press ON.



We play stuff like Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life, Guns N’ Roses Sweet Child of Mine to a polite expat crowd dining in an airplane hangar.

* (L-R) Drummer, cellist, violist and 2 violinists

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

before and after

This is such a riot.

Before: Frumpy 40-year-old housewife with out-of-shape hair, eyebags and favourite soft hairband


After: Performer. (false eyelashes, 2nd time)


I like the before, it's ME! Although as the years pass, I do look more and more hideous.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

mama’s day

It’s all sweetness and light on Mother’s Day as the girls fall over themselves trying to please me (Day does the washing).

They learn a song about mummies off Youtube and sing it to me when I wake up, only they don’t know I woke up much earlier and was trying not to laugh when they were rehearsing in front of the only computer in the house, in my room.

They make me a palm-sized medallion with our remainder shrink plastic which I of course loop over my head and wear all day, to their chagrin. “But aren’t you embarrassed mama?” they chime. I say, "Didn't you make this for me to wear? Anyway I’m too old to care about what people think. And no one else has this. It's exclusive.”

* Me and the girls. No brother

The zinger, however, came courtesy of Lu. She and Jo make me cards. Hers is all done up rather shakily in her left-hand writing.



She writes:

Mama, all these years you have been taking care of me. I really thought that you could enjoy your life. Are you enjoying it? Don’t think so. That’s why I am here to love you.

The zinger is that I really am down, due to a terrible Goat Year which has left me wrung out (of energy) and high and dry (of cash). Could she tell? (I also hope she'll write me the same card when I'm about 60)

This Sunday, I try to forget all about that and soak in the sweetness and light.

Mother’s Day is a timely reminder of where my priorities lie and where I should spend my time, forget the professional satisfaction. Because there are so many musicians and writers around, but only one mum for them. And when I'm not there for them, I don't enjoy my life.

* Joker, cutie pie and sweetie pie

Friday, May 08, 2015

one last ride

One last hurrah on a kiddie ride.

I put in $2 because they expressed interest and I thought, what the heck. Let me take some photos and document it as the last one ever.

* All over-aged

The moment the submarine started to rise and sway, Lu and Jo leapt out, leaving an incredulous Day behind.

I shooed them back in just so I could get my $2 worth. Lu refused. 


The ride lasted all of a minute. Day declares, I don't think 2-6 year olds would last very long.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

cast life


Jo ably takes over showering for Lu.

While Lu ably learns how to function with her left hand. She writes, she brushes teeth, she changes her own clothes. Good thing because the cast has to be kept on until early June.

The only problem, says Lu, is that her fingers smell like a pair of socks just removed off a sweaty person’s foot. Or the foot itself.

They DO. Urgh.


Monday, May 04, 2015


A year after she was pushed off a swing and fractured the bone in her upper left arm, she’s now broken the bone in her right wrist.

Lu seems a tad breakable.

Here’s the background to this year’s fracture: She has been learning gymnastics tricks from Jo. They play school and one of the enrichment classes they conduct in school is gymnastics. Jo plays teacher, and Lu plays student. 


They bring the class outdoors, and Jo teaches simple (relatively safe) gymnastics tricks to Lu on public exercise equipment. Like how to hang from bars. Or how to pose.

Lu therefore developed a false sense of confidence. She thinks she can dismount with finesse, she thinks she is strong, she thinks she can learn gymnastics at home. (by the way all these I realized on hindsight because if I had known then I would have been a lot more attentive)

Today Day and Jo race on the monkey bars at a playground. Day times himself, Jo times herself, they see who is faster.

Lu thought she could do the same. She confidently stepped off to grab a bar with both hands, let go of her right hand to grab the next, and dropped like a stone. She landed on her bum. But as she had tried to break her fall with her right arm which was locked straight, her wrist apparently took all the impact.

She got straight up and walked to me very stiffly without making a sound, I knew she did not want to make a scene or draw any attention to herself. But when she came to me, buried her face in my shirt, whined for a protracted length of time and her wrist swelled, I knew. Drat.

* Seeking refuge from the pain in sleep

We made another trip to the KK Hospital, a place which she now knows and hates. 


Cheery blue walls with fish motifs and 'beach' curtains of ships and pirates notwithstanding, its a terrible place reverberating with screams and distress, alleviated only by tiny television sets screening cartoons. I was genuinely glad, however, that it was only a piddling broken bone we had to worry about.

* Waiting with preliminary sling

Four hours later, an X-ray confirmed the fracture – it looks worse than last year’s – and she was casted once again. No piano, no art, no writing for a while.


Day looks longingly at her cast. He asks - Can you break my right wrist? (He has exams in a week)

Last note: The monkey bar is the single most dangerous piece of equipment in the playground. A story I did in 2009 - the irony! - was on how the monkey bar is the top cause for playground-related serious injuries accounting for one in two fracture cases. The doctor I interviewed then said: It’s usually those kids who are between the ages of 4 and 6 who are most vulnerable, as that is the time when they have developed the confidence to get onto the monkey bar, but are not strong or agile enough to manouver themselves safely.

Another paediatrician friend told me, on hearing about Lu - Monkey bars are for monkeys. (but I do think its good exercise for Day and Jo)

Saturday, May 02, 2015

sacac again

A few differences between last year (when Day attended for the first time this gym competition at the Singapore American School) and this year.

Pappy’s Not Around

After last year’s boredom, KK doesn’t come this time. Lulu and I are Day and Jo’s cheerleading team. Lu however is a wet blanket and she covers her face whenever I bellow WOOHOO or shriek “Go Day, Go Jo!”

She hisses, “Can you KEEP QUIET, mama, you’re embarrassing us.” Of course I don’t listen to her. I’m there to cheer, man.

* Mama! Stop it!

Jo in the Sun

Its Jo’s first time at SACAC. After two gym competitions, I think she finally realizes that competition can be alright. She doesn’t get panicky when she doesn’t win, and she doesn’t get embarrassed when she does. She has come a mile from her competition-phobic days and I feel like that's one big item I can tick on my To Do List for her.


(Her main concern is this: I think my legs are the biggest in the gym, mama. Why are my legs so fat?)

Lu’s Gym Picnic

We are very much more clever this year.

I now know that 'supporting' my children means I have to wait a lot.

I go to the gym with a big bag of food and junk (bread and chips), a blanket and Lu packs an entertainment pack because we know we’ll mainly be passing the time in a very cold place, occasionally looking up to see Day and Jo then passing time once more.