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bits + pieces

Photo One: 6.35am – leaving the house for my hourly brisk walk with a co-worker before work

Photo Two: 6.50am – ‘God-time’ in the car while waiting for co-worker to arrive

Photo Three: 7.35am – South Beach, the halfway mark of our brisk walk

Photo Four: 5.35pm – why coming home will always be something I look forward to

Photo Five: the view from our dining table

Photo Six: close-up shot of the native flower arrangement on the coffee table

Photo Seven: what’s in our fruit bowl now

Photo Eight: my current obsessions – fruity ‘Jubes’ from Pascalls

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life lessons from the world of fashion…

A girlfriend sent the above video to a few of us this week: “TED talks is one of those apps I have on my iPhone. It is a series of talks given by people sharing their ideas in less than 10 mins. So here’s one  that makes me think about Ervina’s eclectic sense of dressing! Enjoy!”

For those who don’t have time to watch the video in full, below are some highlights and comments in parenthesis are mine:

“Secondhand shopping has allowed me to reduce my impact of my wardrobe has on the environment and on my wallet.” (Yes, another advocate of thrift-shopping!)

“It is almost physiologically impossible to be in a bad mood when you are wearing bright red pants.” (I am not so brave to own a pair of red pants although I do have red leggings…Does that count?)

“Fitting in is way overrated. Just be who you are. If you surround yourself with the right people, they will not only get it, they will appreciate it.” (Honestly, this is something I’ve only really learned entering into my thirties – choose a few people you will listen to and the rest is just ‘good advice’.)

“Embrace your inner child.” (Something I am good at, I think! In fact, perhaps too well, much to the aghast of Ben sometimes…)

“If you believe you’re a beautiful person inside and out, there is no look you can’t pull off. We should be able to rock anything we want to rock.” (So, what are you waiting for?!)

“Gold sequins go with anything.” (Time to look for gold sequins in my next opshop trip!)

“Developing your own unique personal style is a really great way to tell the world something about you without having to say a word.” (Bravo!)

“…it’s okay to let go. I don’t need to get emotionally attached to these things, because around the corner, there is always going to be another crazy, colourful, shiny outfit just waiting for me…” (De-cluttering is my fashion motto ‘cos I’ve realized by now that anything I haven’t worn in the last one year is never going to be worn EVER so it might as well go to someone!)

Since this post is fashion-related, this is what I wore for a casual dinner date with the Mr. last night.

Details: sunglasses – $2 brand-new opshop find; cardigan – Singapore; heart-prints blouse – Dorothy Perkins, Singapore; shorts – Rivers, Australia; shoes – Far East Plaza, Singapore; Esprit tote bag – $5 opshop find

savoring anne lamott

I am currently reading my second Anne Lamott book, ‘Traveling Mercies‘ and enjoying it. Be warned though, this is not your usual read about how a hippie/intellectual-turned Christian-and-so-she-lived-happily-after. In fact, her faith journey is fraught with accounts of drugs, alcohol, numerous relationships, unwanted pregnancies. But her honest, brutal accounts of how God meets her in some of her most vulnerable moments leave me in awe of God’s amazing grace. In fact, when I shared parts of her story with CS, his candid response was ‘if I am God, I’d have walked away.’ Am I glad that God is God and none of us will ever be!

For fear of doing a dismal job in paraphrasing her, here are snippets from her book:

pg 43: (on what it means to be ‘saved’ in the Christian jargon) “I guess it’s like discovering you’re on the shelf of a pawnshop, dusty and forgotten and maybe not worth very much. But Jesus comes in and tells the pawnbroker, ‘I’ll take her place on the shelf. Let her go outside again.'”

pg 68: (on grief when she lost her best friend to cancer) “…what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it.”

“…the bad news is that whatever you use to keep the pain at bay robs you of the flecks and nuggets of gold that feeling grief will give you. A fixation can keep you nicely defined and give you the illusion that your life has not fallen apart.”

pg 75: (on life) “Life does not seem to present itself to me for my convenience, to box itself up nicely so I can write about it with wisdom and a point to make before putting it on a shelf somewhere.”

pg 89: (chapter on church, people, steeple)

Late Fragment – Raymond Carver

And did you get what

you wanted from this life even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.

pg 97: (about an old lady from church who was going blind in her eighties) “..that was heroic of her, that it spoke of such integrity to refuse to pretend that you’re doing well just so to help other people deal with the fact that sometimes we face an impossible loss.”

pg 100: (on church) “The church became my home in the old meaning of home – that it’s where, when you show up, they have to let you in.”

pg 103: (on community) “I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox, full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said Do the best you can with these, they will have to do. And mostly, against all odds, they’re enough.”

pg 106: (how the book’s title was derived) “This is what they (the old people at church) always say when one of us goes off for a while. Traveling mercies: love the journey, God is with you, come home safe and sound.”

pg 138 & 139: (on grace) “I know nothing, except what everyone knows – if there when Grace dances, I should dance.” (W.H. Auden)

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

And my favourite quote from the book thus far:

pg 145: (by her son Sam aged seven) “I think I already understand about life: pretty good, some problems.”

confessions of a bookaholic…

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Hello everyone. My name is Ervina and I am a bookaholic. I don’t exactly know when it started but I did remember receiving mostly books as presents when I was growing up. Any books by Enid Blyton, The Hardy Boys, The Secret Five and Nancy Drew were my staple (literary) diet. And libraries were my favourite haunts. In fact, I am very sure that my serious myopia today was caused by me reading by the dim lights when I was supposed to be asleep!

From my latest Amazon purchase, I had since finished ‘The Blue Parakeet – Rethinking how you read the Bible’, another excellent book by Scot McKnight. A must-read for those who wish to be jolted from their usual Bible reading habits. Anne Lamott’s ‘bird by bird’ is a book about writing. I like her sense of humor and the very practical advice about getting started on writing. It makes me want to get started in my new Moleskin notebook which I bought ages ago.

personal project\two people twelve times\June 2011


June
Frankly, this is not the best photo but it is the only one we took for the month. Unbelievable but true. When I was trying to look for a photo for this monthly post, I was surprised that we haven’t taken any shots together except for this one which was taken half-heartedly at San Churros with some friends from Singapore. It just goes to show that it is easy to let the daily grind takes over if I don’t deliberately take time out to capture snapshots of our moments together. Got to do better next month!

april reflections

April has been a whirlwind of a month. Is it because I’d turned thirty-six that I am feeling the urgency of time all the more? And there were many reflective moments.

Singapore trip

We were back in Singapore for our annual visit. Not surprisingly, it was never long enough. ‘What, you are only here for 10 days?’ was the common refrain we received from family and friends when we met.It was, however, the best ‘homecoming trip’ we have had in all our previous visits. This time round, we deliberately scaled down our to-do list. Our last appointment of the day would be dinnertime so if it went longer than that, there wasn’t any stress about us being late for our next appointment.

We even managed to squeeze in time to do some touristy thing like visit Marina Bay Sands and Universal Studios. And I am happy to say that we were eating local food all the time. Almost. Because I still didn’t get to eat my bbq stingray and oyster omelette.

But the best part of our Singapore trip is always about people. Countless sharing was done over meals and drinks. And I am often comforted by the fact that distance hasn’t pulled us apart from the many relationships we have left behind. Thank you, dear ones, for your love and friendship. We are blessed indeed.

Interlude – Kuala Lumpur trip

Before coming to Singapore, we had actually spent the weekend in Kuala Lumpur so I could visit my best friend since secondary school days, SF. It was a good trip because I’d also invited my best friend since university days Liz to come along. So the trip had allowed me to spend quality time with 2 of these girlfriends who played an important role in my growing up years.

SF and Liz – I love you girls to bits. Thank you for loving and accepting me, just as I am.

Quality time with special couple – Joey & Huiyi

They are the third couple we have hosted and the couple we have the most intense quality time with. Perhaps because Joey and I have similar personalities, and we both could only do small talk for so looong; it wasn’t surprising that quality conversations were happening all the time. CS and I felt privileged to have had shared moments with this couple as they embarked on a new chapter in their couplehood journey.

However, what stood out most for me was talking to Huiyi over breakfast at Moore’s. It was a deliberate decision to ask Huiyi out. I’d wanted to know her better and hear what’s on her heart and vice versa. And what a beautiful morning that turned out to be. We shared openly as only sister to sister could.

Interlude – Rachael’s text

Thank you, dear, for the unexpected text message on Tuesday. It brought smiles and most of all, warmth to my heart. I am still bummed that we didn’t get to meet up when we were in Singapore. Next year, I promise. We would have long chats over drinks at Starbucks.

Singapore election fever

Even though we have been away for four years now, I still follow Singapore news to keep myself abreast of what’s happening. And with all the postings on Facebook about election news, it is hard not getting caught up in the electoral fever. So I find myself trawling through videos, blogs, political commentaries on the internet. For the first time, many people are sharing their political opinions openly. Who says Singaporeans are politically apathetic?

I think the proliferation of social media since the last election has played a big part in this. Previously, any political coverage was disseminated by state-controlled mass media like the television and the newspapers so any alternate voices are often drowned out or obliterated altogether. Now, everyone can make themselves heard through self-posted videos or public domains like Facebook and Twitter. And what a plethora of voices are we hearing so far! If anything, I think it augers well for the future of Singapore. So I am quietly optimistic about this election and will  be following the live coverage come next Saturday.

Aging – can water be my answer?

Two days ago, I had a sudden panic attack – I am getting old! And then I started having mental pictures of my face losing elasticity, due to loss of collagen.

For the first time in my life, I felt fearful of aging. So I turned to what any 21st century person would turn to for help – internet. I googled about what to do about sagging face and its prevention. And the best advice I got out of? Drink lots of water because it keeps your skin hydrated and thus, prevents loss of collagen. I am sticking to this advice since it is cheap and do-able. However, I also do not want to be someone who is obsessed about what is inevitable. Life is meant to be enjoyed to the fullest; sagging face or not.

building memories…

For our 10th anniversary, CS had wanted to buy me what I’d been eying on since I started seriously baking last year – Kitchenaid Mixer. I’d found that out only because he didn’t want to spend a bomb and buy me one in a colour I didn’t like so he decided to let me know earlier. To his surprise, I suggested why don’t we go camping to celebrate it.

Frankly, that camping suggestion was inspired by what Donald Miller wrote in his book, ‘A thousand miles in a thousand years’:

“A good movie has memorable scenes, and so does a good life.”

What he said really resonated with me. Not wanting to sound unappreciative, but if you asked me what CS had bought me in all our years together, I’d fail the test miserably. Life, as I’ve slowly come to realize, is not about the things we owned or bought or were given. It is about memories and shared moments.

So I am glad we went camping to celebrate our 10th anniversary because that will be remembered in many years to come. But just for the records, here’s our ‘memorable scenes’ from the trip:

His:

* 1st meal @campsite: Mee pok dry with mum’s chilli and vinegar, along with a sunny-side up;

* Awesome seafood platter lunch on anniversary, with a panoramic view as backdrop;

* Received excellent service from an Indonesian lady at a local supermaket while buying cheeses and olives;

* Champagne, olives, cheeses, roasted almonds and biscuits for dinner;

* Brekkie @Bay Merchant cafe;

* Sunday market @ Albany Boatshed, buying live yabbies for dinner;

* Taking afternoon naps in the tent;

* Watching dvds with wifey in the tent.

Hers:

* Waking up to the sound of raindrops and rustling of the kangaroos while sleeping at night;

* Singing together to the music from our IPOD while driving;

* Lazy afternoons – watching movies and having a picnic just outside our tent;

* Climbing Mt. Clarence to the ANZAC war memorial in Albany – I thought the weather that day was befitting the occasion – overcast skies with drizzling rain;

* Looking out of the restaurant where we had our anniversary lunch – literally, it was a ‘top of the world’ moment;

* The conversation with the owner of Oranje Tractor vineyard and learning more about their story – I find that smaller vineyards are often better this way because they are more personable;

* All the meals we cooked at our campsite;

* Setting up camp and giving it as much a ‘homely’ feel as possible.

2010 in review

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While culling through our 2010 photos so I could do a back-up, many memories came flashing back while looking at the photos. So I thought it will be fun to do a recap of the year on a slideshow.

Putting it in words, 2010 will be remembered for these reasons (in no special order):

  1. I started baking and I mean seriously baking. From desserts such as cakes, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, loaves.
  2. CS finally took the plunge and went into his own business – starting his own driving school.
  3. Missed out on the freak hailstorm which hit Perth ‘cos we were holidaying in Phuket.
  4. We survived being away from each other for the longest time (2 months) when CS returned to SG to sell our flat.
  5. Became Australian citizens in August.
  6. Seeing breakthrough in the lives of the young adults in the connect group we lead in church.
  7. Did camping for the very first time.
  8. Experiencing off-road driving and sunset fishing during camping.
  9. Having mum-in-law come lived with us – a huge adjustment considering that we’ve always lived on our own since our marriage.
  10. Home improvement front – extended our driveway and had artificial lawn installed in our backyard.
  11. The passing away of J.R – the neighbour’s cat which we kind of ‘adopted’ ‘cos he was spending so much time in our home.
  12. All thanks to J.R, we started getting to know our neighbours really well. In fact, we now consider each other good friends and even hang out together!
  13. CS turned forty – self-explanatory, really.
  14. Being able to throw CS a proper birthday party with all our good friends around to celebrate with us.
  15. Our long weekend break in Yallingup – beautiful beach house minutes to the ocean, cooking using fresh produce from the market, each other. Really, we can’t ask for more.
  16. Growing in my new leadership role at work.
  17. Experiencing God’s grace in our lives again and again.
  18. The all-girls roadtrip was a blast but more importantly, it was a reassurance that some friendships can, indeed, stand the test of time.
  19. Starting my own herb garden – thyme, parsley, basil, mint, coriander, rocket leaves, spring onions, chives. Makes me feel like Jaime Oliver whenever I go out to the backyard and pick my own herbs for cooking!
  20. Started keeping a diary again ‘cos SF was sweet enough to send me a Starbucks one from Malaysia.
  21. Ironically, even though there is no Starbucks in Perth, my collection of the Starbucks mugs had actually grown – Lebanon, Portland, Bali, Seattle, San Franscico, Seoul. All thanks to friends who remembered.
  22. CS sold his prized Subaru Liberty GT post-Christmas cos he decided to ‘grow up’…all good except he’s now in the market looking for a 4-wheel drive to do off-road driving!
  23. First time we cut short our roadtrip downsouth to Nannup ‘cos it was too hot!
  24. All the summer stuff we got up to – beach time, snorkelling, outdoor movies, plays in the park, walk by the river etc.

Are we connecting, yet?

I’ve been reading John Maxwell’s latest book ‘Everyone Communicates, Few Connect‘. Having worked in church before, I’ve had the privilege of attending his seminar and he had remained one of my favourites speakers/authors. Needless to say, I had read almost all his books. I am halfway through the new book now but I just can’t wait to share his 5 principles of connecting:

  1. Connecting increases your influence in every situation

“Connecting with others may not be a matter of life or death for most of us, but it often is a matter of success or failure…the further along in life we get, the more aware we become of the importance of connecting with others.”

2. Connecting is all about others

“If you want to connect with others, you have to get over yourself. You have to change the focus from inward to outward, off of yourself and onto others. And the great thing is you can do it. Anyone can. All it takes are the will to change your focus, the determination to follow through, and the acquisition of a handful of skills.”

3. Connecting goes beyond words

“What you are speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. Connecting always requires energy

“I am not saying that you must be a high energy person to connect with others. Nor do you have to be an extrovert. You must simply be willing to use whatever energy you have to focus on others and reach out to them. It’s really a matter of choice.”

5. Connecting is more skill than natural talent

“If you want to be better communicator or a better leader, you can’t depend on dumb luck. You must learn to connect with others by making the most of whatever skills and experience you have.”

Of all the 5 principles, the last one spoke most strongly to me. I guess, far too often (alas!) we often attribute what we do poorly in to our personality traits. But I’ve come to realize that a lot boils down to how willing we are to step out of our comfort zone of ‘but-this-is-who-I-am’ and allow God to mould and shape us further into who He wants us to be.

“Real Life” Christianity is

[What Paul wrote in Romans 12 and as translated in The Message; highlighted words are my own.]

1 -2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you…

6 -8If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.9 -10Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

11 -13Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

14 -16Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17 -19Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20 -21Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

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