Countdown 25 days

People, The Big Day

R has been quite busy with classes these two days. I had the evening to myself yesterday as Pris cancelled on me due to deadlines. I had dinner at the food court and then went home to design a jpg file with directions to the wedding venue. I also caught up on personal grooming, which was very much needed but sorely neglected amidst all the social obligations, appointments and… busyness.

I don’t like this busyness. It’s a mindless sort of busyness that makes me feel that I’ve accomplished nothing at the end of it.

Joel and Cheryl said that the best feeling comes right after the wedding, when everything is done and the day is over. “You’d be super relaxed,” they said. 

It’s 6.57pm now, and I’m on my way to meet my parents for dinner. My mom finished up her chemotherapy cycles about three years ago (Yes, she’s a cancer survivor) and since then, I’ve made it a point to have dinner with her once a week. We have been meeting regularly every Tuesday and grown closer because of this. Some Tuesdays we talk, some Tuesdays she listens as I whine about stuff, and there have been some Tuesdays where she sits with me as I cry. She tells me about her work, her friends from church and sometimes, she asks for my opinion.

She has told me before that she looks forward to these weekly dinners that we have. I remember being being very happy to hear that. 

Some months ago, I told her that I intend to continue meeting her for dinner even after I’m married. I think she looked relieved. Perhaps it’s because my brother stopped meeting her when he got married, she didn’t want to hold expectations of me.

It’s four more Tuesdays to the wedding day. While a lot will be changing, Tuesdays for me will remain the same. My mom has been my constant through the years, whether in school, at work or in life, through heartbreaks and disappointments, joys and achievements, and hopefully I can be a fraction of that for her as she grows old.

Advertisements

Learning Business

People

Two months have gone by since I last posted.

I have afforded quite a bit of time to Post A Posy over the past month or so. Since my daylight hours are spent in the office, my nights filled with personal appointments, and my weekends are spent with flowers and in church, I have hardly had the time to work on the other projects.

Although that sounds like a bad thing, I realised that Post A Posy has given me opportunities to have a taste of what it feels like to do business, allowing me to be better prepared for bigger endeavours to come.

I know two months isn’t much, but in these two months, I have done some things I have never done before and learnt a lot from them. One was fulfilling a single order of 20 flower cones – the biggest order I have to date. Another was to sell flowers at a market, which turned out to be a real test of my flower wrapping skills.

Just last week, R and I attended a networking session. It wasn’t any ordinary networking session – it was a networking sessions for introverts (yes, I’m an introvert, if you don’t already know that). It was curiosity on my part to agree to attend the session because I wanted to see what a networking session for introverts looked like.

Networking sessions are known to be loud, messy events where everyone is talking to everyone. It’s easy to get lost and as an introvert, I don’t naturally gravitate towards such events. In my profession as a writer (sometimes journo or editor), I attend press conferences, product launches, and the occasional party. At these events, I’m constantly meeting people and making new acquaintances – all part and parcel of the job and I’m okay with it, in large part because they’re unavoidable and I have learnt how to handle them.

But to voluntarily attend an event that is known to be loud (and energy-zapping for introverts)? No, I really rather not. Except that this time, it’s BY introverts FOR introverts.

Err. Will anyone even be talking?

Haha. Ok, I kid. There’s a difference between introversion and shyness!

So, I was curious and decided to attend it together with R.

And it was pretty cool.

Mervin, the organiser of the networking session, was warm and welcoming. We met some really interesting individuals, and all in all, it was a positive experience. People were happy to get to know one another, but no one was overly-enthusiastic or hyper-excited or zipping around trying to get to know everyone. The energy in the room was palpable but not threatening.

At the same time, I have been reading The Introvert Entrepreneur by Beth Buelow, and in one chapter, she covers networking and provides helpful tips and suggestions on how introverts can make use of our strengths to excel in networking.

I suppose, I’m on my way to business networking?

And a quarter passes…

Book matters, Faith, People

There’s just about a week left to the second quarter of 2016.

When the year started, I set out to work on four projects: my book; an online platform for the book; a young adults ministry in church, and my flower hobby-turn-business.

Since I started work in a full-time position in mid-February, I’m quite glad that these projects are, albeit a little slowly, still moving.

Over the past weekend, I had professional photos taken for my author profile picture. I also got to meet up with Vincent, a relationship coach whom I met at a workshop in January. He shared a couple of valuable ideas with me that I could use in my book.

I’ve got an Instagram account for my flower hobby-turn-business: check out @postaposy! And I’m in the midst of setting up a Tictail store.

Yesterday at BSF, Dora mentioned the significance of the Lord’s Prayer. We were talking about “hidden manna” (Revelation 2:17) and Jesus being the “bread of life” (John 6:35) when she brought up that, as per Anglican tradition, we recite the Lord’s Prayer saying:

“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

She shared that every day when she says these words, she is reminded that for each day, Jesus is enough for her. By holding on to Jesus each day, she has enough “bread” to sustain her through the day, no matter the circumstances.

That hit close to home. I realised that somehow I seemed to have forgotten that Jesus is the one who gives me the strength to overcome challenges. It seemed to have slipped my mind that I can rest in Him.

I’m thankful for that reminder.

Design Galore

Book matters, People, Singapore

It’s Singapore Design Week. It’s only Tuesday and the week is just busy, busy.

There is SingaPlural, Maison&Objet Asia, IFFS. I’ve got interviews and press events to go for. At these many, many press events, I meet lots of people and the team has been introducing me to the different brands we work with.

Even without these things going on, my mind has been quite fully occupied with work on the weekdays and I haven’t been doing much for my book even on the weekends. I’ve been telling myself that I’ll get back to my book once I’m more settled in my job.

But I think that’s not what God has in mind.

I met an editor of another publication yesterday and bumped into her again today. We started talking and the subject of my book came up. She then suggested something which I thought was absolutely brilliant–design for autism.

As she elaborated on her suggestion, I found myself being simply impressed.

I guess I’m always impressed by people who can come up with ideas and different perspectives on the spot. So cool, these people. I do come up with ideas but it takes me time.

So anyway, I got excited about that idea and decided that it’s something I definitely want to pursue, but probably when “I’m more settled in my job”.

But just half an hour later, I bumped into her again and she very excitedly introduced me to a designer from a very prominent local architecture firm. What they have recently done was put together the first-ever all-inclusive school in Singapore. It’s not yet fully operational and I think there hasn’t been much publicity because it’s just really, really new.

So, this seems to be a nudge to start work on the online platform.

In the Least Likeliest of Places

People, Singapore

It’s an unexpected place for an autistic kid to find friends.

Yet on two different accounts, it is where friendships have reportedly been forged.

One parent said that his son had a friend who became his unofficial study buddy. This friend would regularly get him to study together in school or at the library.

He calls the boy “an angel” and even goes as far to credit him for helping his son pass the final examinations.

Another parent said that her son was no longer bullied and was even asked to go on outings.

She feels that he was finally in a place where he was simply accepted for his differences.

It’s not therapy.

It’s not a special school for students with autism.

It’s the Institute of Technical Education, or more commonly known as ITE.

Before you call me out for being elitist (because I expressed surprise over something good that came out of ITE), allow me to say that I’d have been equally surprised if this were to have happened in any junior college or polytechnic.

Simply because students in these tertiary institutions are mostly still kids.

It’s quite common to hear of autistic individuals thriving in universities. One reason is that students get to focus on a specialisation. Another reason is that university entrants are usually hitting their twenties and have by this age, realised that kindness is an option when responding to someone who seems odd to them.

So for kids in ITE to take an autistic individual as one of them is something I did not quite expect.

Neither did these two parents.

Their respective sons had gone through mainstream education enduring much bullying and embarrassment and they hadn’t expect ITE to be any different.

Yet it was a world of difference.

Insider Knowledge

People

Over the weekend, I had the privilege to hear Dr Stephen Shore speak on autism.

Dr Shore wrote the book Understanding Autism for Dummies. That however, isn’t the reason he’s an autism expert. The man has autism himself.

As a child, Dr Shore was diagnosed with “atypical development with strong autistic tendencies” and recommended for institutionalisation. Instead, his parents engaged him in play, music and movement, many of which have official sounding names now like Floortime and Miller Method, in order to “reach into his world”.

Today, Dr Shore is a professor of special education at Adelphi University. He is married for 25 years now and speaks candidly of navigating the dating scene in high school and college.

The two-day seminar with Dr Shore gave us valuable insight into autism and what it is like for someone on the spectrum. Besides intervention and teaching methods, he also spoke about self-advocacy and employment issues, which I feel are very pertinent to the situation in Singapore.

Without looking at the number of undiagnosed/misdiagnosed adults, there are 600 to 700 children diagnosed with autism in Singapore every year. These kids are going to grow up, those in school now are going to be adults in just a few years, and the question is: Will they be ready to live in society? More importantly, is society ready for them?

A Little Wish

Book matters, Faith, People

The mother I met up with today shared her experience of going to the cinema with her son. At one point during the show, he started laughing. It would have been no big deal if it had been a funny scene. Unfortunately, it was not and his laughter elicited a cacophony of irritated hushes from the rest of the audience.

This reminded me of an idea I have of an inclusive cinema experience for all people. This idea was planted in my head earlier this year in May when I came across sensory friendly movie showings by AMC theatres. They are like any other cinema operator, except that they have allocated certain timeslots every month for certain movies to be screened in a sensory friendly environment. This means the lights are turned up, the sound volume is turned down, and audience members are free to move about, shout, and sing. Wow.

A bit more Googling turned up another interesting find. An organisation in the UK, called Dimensions, partners with different cinemas to offer autism friendly film screenings. All I could think of was, We need to do this here in Singapore.

Of course, after I got over my initial excitement, I knew it would be difficult for me to pull it off alone. I knew nobody up there in the film industry, and it would take time and effort to reach and connect with people who could make things happen.

Doubt also crept into my mind as I thought about it more. Will parents here appreciate this? Will people view it as discriminatory? Will the ignorant public turn this well-intentioned platform into a freak show on display? I had many questions, and no answers.

I saved this little idea in my folder and decided that I would re-visit it once my book was done.

That was five months ago, and little did I expect to re-visit it so soon.

After sharing that incident at the cinema, the mother expressed her wish that cinema-goers be more understanding. She acknowledged that having autism was indeed no excuse for inappropriate behaviour in public, but that it would be great to have a special screening where autistic people and their families could watch a regular movie without the stress and worry of upsetting other cinema-goers.

I think it’s God saying something to me here. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do next or how I’m going to make this little wish a reality. But I know God has His ways; I just need to avail myself to them.

What We Need

Book matters, People

I met with a mother today so that she could share her experience with me about her little boy.

At 11, he isn’t so little now, but I still remember the small boy with big, bright eyes whom I got to know when he was just 6 years old.

We talked about the challenges that she is facing and the struggles that she had been through. Through it all, she expresses gratitude for the people who have come alongside to help her and the family.

She mentions her mother-in-law, who travels down from Malaysia regularly to look after her little boy.

She mentions her superior at work, who has allowed her to take certain afternoons off so that she could accompany her little boy for therapy and activities.

With the support of these two special people, this mother is able to continue working and have time for her little boy. The impact of their understanding and compassion cannot be more real.

We need more people like that. More understanding and less judgement. More compassion and less pity.

Some Prata and Talk

People

Joy is back in Singapore for a short visit and we had planned to go cycling at East Coast this morning. Unfortunately, the haze did not let up so we ended up cancelling and had prata instead.

So much for an active lifestyle.

But it was a good call; the hazy conditions got worse as the day went on.

It’s 1am now and the 3-hour PSI reads 245!

Anyway, we went to this prata place at Jalan Tua Kong and sat there for two hours eating, talking and catching up on each other’s lives. There isn’t much to catch up on per se because we keep in regular contact through letters (yes, snail mail!) and Whatsapp when she is away. But there is so much in our transformational journey with God that we always have something to share, be it a lesson or reminder, a current struggle or a victory.

Plus… she got engaged three days ago! So we talked a little about that as well, and I updated her on the progress of my book.

Despite being thousands of miles away in another land, she is one person who has been walking this authoring journey with me. She has been a constant in this authoring journey, during the highs and the lows. It may not have struck me as significant initially, but as the weeks turn to months, I realise what a blessing and encouragement she has been. I am grateful and thankful that God has placed her in my life.

Ground Sentiment

Book matters, People

The last interview I did for the book was in November last year. Right now, I cannot remember if it was with a parent or the pastor of a special congregation. It is likely the former.

Today, I met up with Seng Wei, a father whose son is in a mainstream school but requires much learning support. This is the first interview I’m doing after a 10-month hiatus and I’m really thankful for the affable nature of this parent. He is candid about the situation and during our conversation, shared openly his views and opinions.

As I packed up my things after our conversation was done, a familiar sense of poignancy filled me.

Fiddling and twiddling with that feeling, I realise this is what happens each time I finish an interview with a parent whose child has special needs. I get drawn into the experience and I feel too much. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–it’s why I’m passionate about helping families–but I need to learn emotional boundaries so that I can maintain my own mental health. This is important for me, especially when a lot of what is being related to me are heart-breaking accounts of something that had happened.

I enjoy my conversations with parents, don’t get me wrong. And I’m glad that parents are willing to open up and share their lives with me for the benefit of the book.

With a number more parent interviews to go, I will seek to strike that balance between lacking in empathy and too much empathy. Ground sentiment, instead of being dispiriting, can then be turned into positive energy that will propel me onward and towards the completion of this book.