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Monday, July 29, 2019

Musings on Soft Strength, MOE and Motherhood: Part 3

This is Part 3 of the series, "Musings on Soft Strength, MOE and Motherhood."

Part 1 is HERE.
Part 2 is HERE.

I was coaching a Mother. I explained that Mothers needed to treat their sons like the men they will be, not like the babies they are now. What kind of man does a woman WANT to marry?
- Strong
- Protective
- Wise
- A Good Provider
- A Committed Family Man

How would you treat a man like that? That is how to treat a son, even toddler sons.

What I am about to write sounds sexist, especially in this age of gay marriage, gender fluidity, transgender issues, it somehow sounds wrong to write about normal men and normal women. Nonetheless, normal men and women do exist and it should not be considered wrong to blog about the needs of normal men and women.

My Teddy Bear
When The Son was 8 years old, he was my little teddy bear. I found him awfully cute and he loved hugs and kisses, both of which I was more than happy to give. One day, we had the following conversation.
Me: Son, you are Mommy's teddy bear.
The Son (coldly and tersely): I don't want to be a teddy bear.
Me (a bit surprised because I thought I had given him a compliment): Why not? Teddy bears are cute and adorable.
The Son: I don't want to be cute and adored.
Me (now curious): If you could choose, what would you choose to be?
The Son: I want to be a tree.

The Son was thinking of a tree like this HERE, with roots twice the height of a grown man. I looked at my puny little 8 year old boy with his baby face and I asked why he wanted to be a tree. He said that a tree is strong. He wanted to be strong, like a tree.

A Little Man
At that time, I remembered thinking how much sense it made that my son would say this. From a very young age, my son was a little man. My little boy at 3 years old took it upon himself to inspect all the doors of our tiny apartment in USA, before bedtime, when his Father was travelling out of town. He even placed a pen knife under the bed, just in case there was a need to defend his Mother and Sister from home intruders. At 3 years old, he would push past my legs to lay his chubby hands on a grocery bag, and lift it to the car. To honour his 3 year old notions of manhood, I always made sure there was a bag with a loaf of bread for him to lift easily to the car. Then, I told him that I was a very lucky Mommy to have such a strong boy.

At that time, I did and said such things because I knew it made my son happy. I had some vague intuition that it gave him great pleasure to be treated like the man he thought his Father was, even if it was just playful on my part.

Now, I know that treating him like the man he thought his Father was, has helped him grow into the man he is now, like his Father in so many ways. I come across MANY such normal little boys in the course of my work. I did not know how to explain to Mothers that I coached (doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, private bankers, Vice Presidents, Accountants) that the moment they stepped through the doors of their homes, they needed to leave behind the mantle of Hard Strength that pushed them to the pinnacle of their careers.

Exchange Hard Strength For Soft At the Door
These Mothers needed to exchange that Hard Strength for the Soft Strength that allowed their sons the space to be mini-men. Remember that these Mothers are not only highly educated, they are also highly successful at work.  A Mother like this has no time. She has a high flying job. She has KPIs. Her home must be managed like a tight ship because everything must march like clockwork. She has a task list at work. She has a task list at home. Unless these tasks are ticked off efficiently, this woman feels stressed.

I know. I was once a woman like that.

So, in response to a 3 year old little boy who reaches out in a manly way, to carry a bag of groceries for her, this Mother has no time to wait patiently for her son to slowly toddle to the car with a loaf of bread half his size. This Mother will say, "Get in the pram and give me that bag to carry. " In that one sentence and gesture, she has emasculated her son.

This little boy has just lost an opportunity to develop towards the man he naturally wants to be. He does not develop the drive to achieve. He uses his best energy to resist his Mother's bossiness and her best efforts to force him to perform. He fights his Mother's every effort to help him achieve.

Treat Your Son Like the Man You Want Him to Be
Parents come to me for coaching when their kids fail to perform in school or have behavioral problems in school. Very often (not always), if it is a boy, the root cause lies in the Mother failing to treat her son like the man he wants to be. I always feel a bit apologetic when I explain this to Mothers. It sounds so sexist, no? Especially in the face of people who INSIST that gender differences are not biologically hard coded. These people give boys dolls to play with. I did give my son dolls to play with because they were his sister's hand me downs. I read him Enid Blyton books his sister loved.

He yawned at both, and his eyes glazed over. I had lost his attention.

A Book
Actually, I not only feel apologetic about explaining this to Mothers in this modern day and age, I think I also do it very badly. Many Mothers fail to grasp my point because I have never been able to articulate it well. So there I was trying AGAIN on 20 July 2019 to clumsily explain this to a Mommy. This lady looked at me and her eyes lit up. She said, "This is what  Willard Harley, Jr. wrote in his book - His Needs Her Needs: Building An Affair Proof Marriage. 

Errrrr... we were not quite talking about extra-marital affairs but hey, why not? If there are ways to affair proof a marriage, then Petunia wants to know! So I read the book. It is an easy read. One day suffices.

This book asserts that one of the top 5 Emotional Needs a husband needs from his wife is her admiration. You can google for the other 4 needs if you are interested. I will focus only on how a woman's respect and admiration motivates boys to achieve (and Willard says it motivates men to find their wives irresistible). The question that begs to be asked, at this point, is - How do I admire my son when he has done nothing admirable yet?"

This requires a lot of Soft Strength.

Unconditional Admiration/Respect 
To illustrate the notion of unconditional admiration/respect, I think Mothers will understand better if I surfaced an anecdote relating to husbands. Then, I will expand that reasoning to sons.

In the early days of my marriage to The Husband, money was in short supply. It took us ages to save $10,000. It required a lot of sacrifice. I could not buy the clothes, bags and shoes I wanted. I could not eat in nice restaurants. We scrimped and saved. We then invested our savings in the stock market. One day, our portfolio went down by $10,000. The Husband was devastated. He felt like a failure. You must remember how young we were then.

The Husband's mother lovingly told her son, "You are not made for investment. You are just not good at it. Just do your job. Save money. No need to invest."

This was The Husband's most vulnerable moment. You can even say it was a defining moment. If I too had said the same thing as his Mother did, The Husband would believe it and accept that he was just not good enough for the stock market. It would not have killed him, but it would have frozen him into the mould of a lesser man than he deserved to be.

My words to The Husband were sharp. I said, "You do mental math faster than I can press the buttons on a calculator. You have had the best education that money can buy. You have a good brain. Don't tell me you can't LEARN to invest. I can accept a husband who loses $10,000 to the stock market, but I cannot accept a husband who loses his guts and fighting spirit too. Money lost can be made back. If you lose your guts and fighting spirit then you are not worth being married to. Get back in that stock market and bring me back that $10,000 you lost."

I admired, respected and believed in The Husband even when he did not admire, respect nor believe in himself.

How Is This Soft Strength? 
To be able to tell The Husband what I told him required every single virtue detailed in Beverley Lahaye's book - A Different Kind of Strength.

Purity: My motives had to be pure. I needed to love my husband more than I loved my money. Mothers need to love their sons more than they love his achievements. 

Humility: I had to be humble. I could not be so arrogant that I take over the investment portfolio and invest on his behalf. Mothers need to know that their sons thrive on conquering difficulty on their own without an over helpful Mom. 

Endurance: I bloody hell needed to endure even MORE years of material deprivation. Mothers must be able to endure the shame when their son fails at something. 

Obedience: Ephesians 5:33 says, 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. The bible teaches that men should give their wives unconditional LOVE but women need to give their husbands unconditional RESPECT/ADMIRATION. I married a man who had yet achieved nothing in his life. God needed me to nourish him with my respect/admiration so that he would achieve something in time to come. I owed God my obedience. Mothers have to nourish sons' spirits with respect/admiration. 

Courage: I needed to have the courage to risk even more money losses. Mothers need to have the courage to let their sons fail. 

Fortitude: Fortitude is the quality in a person's character that is like the temper in steel, which gives it its ability to not break under pressure. Another way of seeing fortitude is in the strength of a silk rope. The tighter you pull it, the stronger it becomes. I needed to have fortitude so as not to crack under the twin pressures of material deprivation and shame. Mothers need fortitude so that they don't crack when faced with the pressures of school and social expectations, and end up treating their sons like shit. 

Wisdom: I needed to have the wisdom to see that I had married a very intelligent man, who could LEARN to invest better. It was not the end of the road. Our lives together were only just starting. Mothers should have the wisdom to see that society needs giftings that go beyond 4 PSLE subjects. I read an article today about a man who earned $25,000 a month in his 20s despite leaving school at age 14 years, to become a cleaner. An ex girlfriend of his broke up with him saying that he was only a cleaner, with no future. I wonder what she must be thinking now, because he is now the CEO of a cleaning company with an annual turnover in the millions. 

Boldness: I had to be bold in how I communicated my faith in The Husband - "Tarzan! You get back in there and hunt me $10,000!" said Jane. Mothers need to be bold in how they defend their sons - "My Tarzan Jr. just fell out of a tree and hit his head. If you diss him, I will hit yours!" said Mommy Jane. 

Devotion: I had to stay committed and devoted to The Husband in his moment of failure. It would not have helped if I went out to date another more "successful" man. Mothers need to stay devoted to their own sons and not look around at other people's sons enviously. 

Beauty: Shakespeare wrote, "She's beautiful; therefore to be woo'd. She is a woman; therefore to be won." Few want to admit it but there really is power in a woman's beauty. Men are strange creatures. They would do much and achieve much to win the love of a beautiful woman. The Husband had to woo me, win me and keep me with the investing prowess I was certain he had.

Ok, I am not all that beautiful. However, The Husband did pick me to marry so he must have thought I was pretty enough, even though he won't say it, unless under duress. In any case, whether beautiful or not, I am the only beauty he has been able to snag, so I had to make do.

If they decide to, sons too, will make miracles happen for the first beauty they encounter - their Mom. When they grow older, I am sorry to tell you this, these motivations are transferred to girlfriends and wives. Yes, yes... I know. There is no justice in this world. Just because a more beautiful and younger woman came along...

Soft strength is underrated. We live in a society where Hard Strength is prized. This puts everything off kilter and weakens our society, our bonds of community and family.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Another Grumpy Hawker At Chong Pang

I cannot read Chinese so I don't know what the stall is called but you have a picture above should you need to find it at Chong Pang Food Centre.

The stall makes fish soup the way Piao Ji Fish Soup makes it at Amoy Street. I love Piao Ji Fish Soup so much that I once dragged The Husband all the way to Amoy Street and queued up for an hour. See HERE. Thank goodness I have a more than satisfactory simulacrum in Chong Pang Food Centre. I've gone nuts, eating this everyday since Monday!!

It is sooooooo gooooood!

The man who runs this stall is super grumpy. Some time ago, I asked if the fried fish pieces were coated in flour. With an irritated look, he yelled at me, "Sure got one lah!" That spooked me enough that I did not dare to queue up. It was not the yelling that frightened me. Hawkers yell at me all the time. I just have a face that makes hawkers grumpy. It was the flour that frightened me. If the fried fish is coated in flour, it will make me sick with diarrhoea and tummy cramps for a week.

The Husband encouraged me to try this stall's fish soup. He was intrigued by the queue. Now, I regret that I did not try it earlier!

I have resolved to charm this hawker into submission too! Some timely chocolate cake diplomacy and avocado diplomacy have turned all the grumpy guys at Chuan Kee Boneless Braised Duck into smiley faces who speak gently to me, and when the queue is too long, I am exempted from queuing. Teeheehee! One of the guys is a natural comedian too (with a style like Trevor Noah)! So, for every plate I order, I get a Laugh Out Loud joke to go with it.

In general, male hawkers tend to be very grumpy. I wonder why. Does testosterone make people grumpy? It is much much easier to charm a female hawker. Female hawkers warm up real fast, and they are not so ready to yell at me. Male hawkers need a lot of persistence and determination to charm into submission. If the food is good, and the queues are long, it is well worth the effort though!

Do You Really Work?

Many years ago, the man at Soon Kee Teochew porridge said something to me, about me working, which made me so angry that I actually cried. I blogged about it HERE.

Lately, the hawkers at Chong Pang often ask whether I work. I don't know how to explain to them the nature of my work. Parent coaching can be done via text messaging. In fact, that is the preferred mode because it leaves written notes that parents can later refer to, or revise. Sometimes, parent coaching is done in real time. This means that I could be having lunch and the parent is on the other end facing a crisis with her child. I need to stop everything that I am doing to give on the spot guidance. What seems to them to be time whittled away chatting on my phone, is a service that I bill to parents.

Reading a research paper off my Kindle is also work. Sometimes, I might walk past them without seeing them because I am problem-solving a certain child's issue. Or, I might be dreaming about this year's PSLE Compo Design (we teach a different compo format, with different skills every year because we know that the PSLE compo marking scheme changes to account for old styles of writing... hence, like the Milan fashion show, we create new designs every year). That too, is work.

I must find a way to describe to them how I work before they all start thinking that I am a Dreamy and Lazy Good For Nothing. I am dreamy and lazy, but I do contribute and make a difference to the world I live in. I simply like to find ways to work LESS and still achieve what I want to achieve. Like HERE, where we finished material in 2 weeks that took others 1 year to complete.

This said, the hawkers at Chong Pang are kind to me. They have not expressed their disapproval of my lifestyle and work choices in the same way that horrible man at Soon Kee Teochew Muay did, but I still don't want them to think that I am a Good For Nothing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Online Clothes Shopping

It was simply too tiring to walk the malls to buy dresses, especially when nothing fits. I went online, instead. Someone wise suggested that even if there was no exact fit, I could get it altered. Here is my review of 3 sites.

I was not very impressed with this site. Partly, I was stupid. I neglected to check the stated length of the dresses. I sorta figured that if the dress looked decent on the model pictured, it would look more than decent on me. After all, the models all had long legs and I have 2 short pins. If it ain't too short for 'em long legs, it would look decent on my short ones.

All 3 dresses were too short EVEN for my short legs!

I reckoned that I could turn one dress into a top, paired with longs; and then, I could wear shorts underneath the other short dress. The 3rd one, I wanted to exchange because it was so tight that I looked like an hourglass about to burst forth into fleshy blooms of bust and butt. It did not help that the flouncy ruff at the hem was also very short. So, when I walked, I looked like one of those cute white ducks with flouncy butt in the air. As you might imagine, this looks cute when it is a duck, not when it is a menopausal woman.

Then, I realised that a too long dress can be shortened, but a too short dress cannot be lengthened.

I tried to get it changed but there were so many conditions that I gave up. It was compulsory to send it by post - and registered post too. I was not to drive over to their offices and exchange for another dress (which I was ready to pay more for). Also, there was a risk that the company would refuse to do the exchange since their website said that each exchange needed to be okay-ed on a case by case basis. If they refused to exchange it, I would have wasted my registered post charges.

I decided to cut my losses. I modified the dress for Milo to wear on cold days. Now, my dog has a nice snug dress with a flouncy hem.

LeChicSG sells cheap clothes but I will not buy from them again because cheap clothes thrown away is still money down the drain.

Saturday Club
I was stupid again (since I am a noob in online dress shopping) and failed to measure myself + 1 finger). The dress came at a correct length but it was too tight.

Saturday Club was great with the exchange. I drove to Sin Ming, tried on the new piece and got my exchange without any hassle at all. They also told me that they were going to start a showroom for trying out clothes and if I wanted to, in future, I could try on the clothes for size and fit before placing my online order.

The dress fit perfectly at both my bust and the waistline. The dress was well made too. Saturday Club is a keeper. I will definitely order more dresses, even though Saturday Club's clothes cost quite a bit more than LeChicSG.

Somethin' Sweet
This shop is based in Korea. Shipping was fast though. The models were busty enough on this site that I had some confidence that the clothes would fit well. I was right! Both dresses came fitting well at the bust and the waist. I definitely will buy again but I will be wiser when choosing designs. Lacey stuff looks nice on other people but on me, I kinda look like a country living magazine's tissue box cover.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Autism, Body, Health

Joint Hypermobility
Joint hypermobility simply means that our joints can bend in ways normal people cannot. When Tracy (my personal trainer) saw me sit down on the floor with my knees forming an M, AND then folding myself over the M to touch my nose to the floor, she was shocked. She was afraid that I might hurt or dislocate my hip joint. I do this stretch very often because it gives me relief after a cycling session.

The Husband is envious of me because try as he might, he cannot touch his toes. I not only can touch my toes at my age, I can bend over double and touch my nose to my knees.

I recently discovered that whilst not all autistic people have joint hypermobility, the prevalence of joint hypermobility is considerably higher amongst people who are autistic.

These soft and flexible muscles are also the reason why many autistic children are clumsy and lack fine motor skills. I have fragile ankles and am prone to ankle sprains because of soft muscles around my ankles. Hence I need to invest time in strengthening my ankle muscles.

Auto-Immune Issues
Apparently, auto-immune conditions where the body's immune defences attack the body's own tissues is also prevalent - See HERE. My particular auto-immune problem arises when I eat gluten. Ingesting gluten will cause my body's immune defences to attack my thyroid gland. Then, I need to go back to eating my thyroid medication.

I reckon that autistic people living in a neurotypical world live so much in the fear of social rejection that they are always anxious. Anxiety then leads to auto-immune disorders.

I think.

Youthful Looks
Anecdotal evidence suggests that autistic people tend to look younger than they are. All my life, I have been mistaken to be at least 10 years younger than I am. At 22, people thought I was 12. At 32, people thought I was 22. At 42, people thought I was 32.

I am guessing it has to do with our inability to evaluate social situations, facial expressions and motives. You know, like babies, autistic people take things literally and at face value.

Even though, as an adult autistic, I know that people pretend things or say things they don't mean, I will only be able to decipher the untruth a day or 2 after, sometimes weeks afterwards. I had lunch with a friend who commented, "Outside of your work and area of expertise, in which you are streets ahead of everyone else, you seem to be very childlike and under-developed in many ways."

I think this readiness to take things very literally leaves in our eyes a certain child-like expression that people associate with youth.

I think.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Autistic Masking

Whether they like it or not... whether they have had early intervention or not... autistic people need to function in a world where most other people are neurotypical. Some autistics are fortunate enough to receive early intervention, which teaches them early to bridge the gap and connect with neurotypicals. By the time they get to adulthood, these lucky ones achieve enough competence in connecting with neurotypicals to blend in.

Other autistics, like me, never had the benefit of early intervention. I had to figure everything out through the long and painful process of social rejection after social rejection.

We do not grow out of our autism, just like I will never grow out of being Chinese. I am of Chinese ethnicity. I have simply learnt to speak English so that I can communicate with people from the United Kingdom and the USA. Similarly, I am autistic and I have simply learnt to bridge the gap to connect with neurotypicals... or to cope in a neurotypical world.

We call this process of connecting with neurotypicals "masking."

What is Masking?
I cannot just march up to every stranger and tell him/her that I am autistic. So, I have to pretend to BE like them, or else they will find my interaction with them very awkward. I know that I need to make eye contact. I consciously control my eyes and make eye contact. I know I should ignore smells. I know that I must not stim, so I control myself and refrain from playing with my hair. I know I must look at their faces and interpret things written on faces, that people do not say. So, I also make an effort to look at their faces to decipher what is not said.

All this...
- refraining from stimming
- controlling my frustration when I smell weird things
- forcing myself to make eye contact
- deciphering faces in real time
... is mentally VERY tiring. This is masking.

What is the Price of NOT Masking?
The price of NOT masking, is social rejection. 

Many years ago, I could spend all day with neurotypicals without getting mentally tired. I did not know how to mask and so I did not expend mental energy. However, I offended and annoyed neurotypicals. They thought me proud, snobbish, insensitive, unkind and weird.

What is the Price of Masking?
 Now that I know how to mask, I do get mentally VERY tired from the exertion. Hence, 
(1) I must limit the time in each day/week when I am in the company of neurotypicals.
(2) I must plan recovery time.

For example, HERE, the videoshoot was limited to half a day. In that half a day, I was sociable, bright, responsive to others' faces and tones of voice. Then, after lunch, I had to draw the curtains and lie down in a dark bedroom, in complete silence. I needed to recover from the mental exertions of spending the morning masking in front of neurotypicals.

Degree of Mental Exertion
If you had to sit down to solve 27 problem sums in one morning, you would be mentally tired too. My mental exhaustion is 3 times that when I mask for 3 hours. This is because I cannot intuitively understand faces, tones or hints. I need to solve every change in facial expression the way you would solve a math problem.

Speed comes with practice. Heuristics come with practice. It is still tiring, nonetheless.

The Morning Me VS The Late Afternoon/Evening Me
I appear MORE autistic later in the day, than earlier in the day. This is because I am mentally tired. If I have been marking work, making notes, thinking through different clients' family dynamics, I also use mental energy. Later in the day, I might avoid eye contact entirely, whilst in the mornings I might make more of an effort to look people in the eye. Later in the day, I might become more brusque with strangers and acquaintances. If I need to put up with people's body odour in the evenings, I am more likely to get angry. Like at Capella Hotel HERE, when I had to put up with a server's body odour. It made me so angry that The Husband asked why I was reacting so disproportionately.

Mild Autism is NOT Mild
There is no such thing as mild autism. You are either autistic or you are not. Similarly, you cannot be mildly pregnant. You are either pregnant or you are not. What YOU think is a mildly autistic person, is simply a person with higher competence at and who puts in greater effort into masking. It is very hard work.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Videoshoot: Wah! So Pretty!

I engaged the reel thing to shoot some real-life parent testimonials. The company brought along a make-up artiste to professionally do make-up for my Mommies. I did not want to be video-ed but it seemed wise to also capture an interview with me at the same session. We can always decide whether to use that video of me, later.

From UnPretty to Pretty
So, I got my make-up done too. I also had to go and dig out something white to wear. Luckily, in an entire cupboard of black dresses, I managed to find one white dress which still fits me from 10 years ago.

The make-up artiste has more than 4 decades of experience, with an illustrious freelancing career AFTER leaving Mediacorp, where she did make-up for actors, actresses, TV presenters, politicians. It was a privilege to go under her brushes.

She actually managed to make me look pretty, when pretty has never been what people use to describe me. Even at my youngest and my best looking, I was never pretty. If people wanted to praise me, they would say, "brainy," never "pretty". Even when I ask The Husband if I am pretty, he says, "Errrrr... ok lah..." So bad hor, The Husband!

So, this make-up artiste has Magic Brushes!!

The camera man also has 4 decades of experience. Not a single detail escaped his eye. He moved furniture around, pinned up the curtains, moved my plants. The whole room looked a mess but the framing was superbly pro. He knew how to manage the lighting. Even that stray lock of hair curling rebelliously on my forehead needed to be tamed, for that perfect frame.

The Mommies and I had so much fun getting dolled up!

Camera Man and I: Touched By the Testimonials
I am so very grateful to the Mommies who went on record. They had to put time into preparing their answers to the interview questions. They had to take time off to come to the videoshoot. They also spoke things from their hearts that moved me, and surprised me.

I did not know that they felt that way about the work that I had done with their children. The only thing I can say is that God's hand moves in strange and wonderful ways. Miracles happen even when God uses an instrument like me...
- lazy (the hawkers at Chong Pang don't quite believe me when I say I DO have a job)
- playful (I really spend a lot of time playing at this and that)
- dreamy (so dreamy that the kopi auntie shook her head when I forgot to take my drink from her)
- autistic
- weak in health and body...

It is true, you know. God does not choose the qualified. His glory is revealed through the weakest and most flawed of agents. Moral of the story: Don't worry. Be happy. God will make a way.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Musings on Soft Strength, MOE and Motherhood: Part 2

This is the 2nd post in the series of "Musings on Soft Strength, MOE and Motherhood." The first one is HERE.

Singaporean society is big on Hard Strength. Managers are given KPIs. Children are given grade targets. Consequences are meted out when these KPIs and targets are not met. In organisations that use people and then throw people, inflexible KPIs drive effort but also cause employee burnout. Most organisations don't care very much. They can use them and throw them.

Parents who manage their children similarly...
- ... meet with Bad Attitude
- ... meet with Outright Rebellion
- ... meet with Fake Incompetence

10+ years ago, I met with some VP in an organisation to sell consultancy services to improve employee morale and motivation. At that time, I was transiting from consultancy to housewifery. So, at the end of my meeting, the VP and I chatted about my plans to make a career in housewifery. What the VP said then, I will never forget, "I am more interested in learning from you how to motivate my children to study than in motivating my employees to work. Employees are easy. If they don't meet their targets, I cut their bonuses. The lousy ones, I sack. I cannot sack my kids." Here was a man whose nickname in the organisation was, "血魔", helpless in the face of his 3 children's Bad Attitude.

To cope with Bad Attitude, Outright Rebellion and Fake Incompetence, some parents go to extremes of Hard Strength. They punish. They yell. They beat. Invariably, the day comes when they admit that none of the punishing, the yelling and the beatings worked. The child became more and more intransigeant. Grades did not improve. Worse yet, a heavy price was paid in damage to the parent-child relationship. In some cases, when a parent set a Hard Target of 70/100 for the child to meet, and the child failed to meet the target, the child committed suicide.

I know because I have coached enough parents to see how the inevitable happened. In some cases, when the parent realises early enough to seek my help, some key changes in approach can turn kids around within a month. In other cases, it is simply too late for me to help in any meaningful way.

What Is Hard Strength Here?
Hard Strength here is in the inflexible KPI or grade target. The child is given a target and knows what the consequences will be if he/she fails to meet the target.
- shame
- removal of privileges
- a bad scolding
- caning
- parent disappointment

The combination of target and negative consequence is designed to bash through all resistance and every obstacle to achieve the end result.

The Husband is big on targets. When we first got married, he even set targets on exactly when we should leave house to go somewhere. When The Daughter was born, The Husband would frequently get angry with her and me. Babies don't care about your targets. When it is time to go out, and babies need to nap, pee or poop, you simply need to wait. The Husband would fly into a rage every time this happened because he had so many things to do that he simply could not WAIT.

The Husband was big on targets. If X amount of work was assigned to The Son, he would get angry if the work was not completed. The Husband's mindset was that a set amount of work was needed to get to mastery and the time to PSLE is limited. If The Son did not get enough practice, he would not achieve mastery and his PSLE results would suffer.

Hard Strength: Set the target and push through with brute force.

What is Soft Strength Here?
Soft Strength takes into account all obstacles. Soft strength chooses to...
- USE obstacles OR
- flow around them.

I set targets but on a daily basis, I would assess the obstacles...
- The Son's tiredness
- the environment
- the difficulty of the work assigned
- any other obstacle

I did have targets but what mattered to me was The Son, not the target.

Avoiding Obstacles
The Son's wellbeing came FIRST. I made a qualitative assessment of every work session and adjusted my targets accordingly. For example, when we first moved into this house, The Son could not focus. The environment was strange. The ceilings were too high. The rooms were too large. I could see that The Son could not focus as well as in the old house. I simply deleted 2 pieces of work already planned for that afternoon. I told The Son that in about 1 week, we would all get used to the new environment and then we could do more work in the same amount of time.

I avoided the obstacle presented by Strange Surroundings Interfering With Focus.

Using Obstacles
I also made use of obstacles. No child likes to do a lot of HW. That is an obstacle. So, I would plan, for example, in 3 hours...
- 3 chapters of a Math Assessment book.
- since each chapter had 3 sections, there were 9 sections in total
- since each sub-chapter had 15 questions,
- there were a total of 135 questions in 9 sections (or 3 chapters)
... to be completed in 3 hours.

Next, I showed The Son 135 questions to be completed. Then, I told him that if he could pick the most difficult questions in each sub-chapter to practise on, and he could show me that he could do them well, I would let him skip the other 12 easier questions in each sub-chapter. This reduced his workload to 27 (instead of 135) problem sums.

How many of you dare to set 27 highly challenging problem sums in a 3 hr slot? So you see, when Petunia sets targets, they are frighteningly scary targets. I am no softie when it comes to target setting.

Each time The Son completed 3 of the most difficult questions, he felt so happy that he had earned the right to skip 12 questions that he was motivated to move on to the next 3 questions. In 3 hrs, he completed 27 highly challenging problem sums. In this way, we covered in 2 weeks, the material in 1 book that took St Andrew's Primary an entire year to teach.

Which kind of employee would you prefer? The one who sits down ONE afternoon with a client and achieves his/her SGD$2 million annual target, or the one who works 12 hours a day and still cannot meet his/her SGD$2 million annual target?

Which is smarter? To budget USD$500,000 for electricity to pump water to feed all the fountains in a garden, or to build the fountains halfway down a hillside and let gravity provide the power to make fountains spurt, like in Tivoli HERE. In the past, when electricity had not yet been discovered, we had to work with nature to make fountains spurt. Nowadays, we can impose our will on nature and make fountains anywhere and everywhere using electrical water pumps. That is Hard Strength.

I have the misfortune (and good fortune) to be the wife of a strong-willed man. I also have the misfortune (and good fortune) to be the mother of 2 strong-willed children. Every single time that I have tried to IMPOSE my will on them, I have never achieved anything. The Husband does not take well to being forced or nagged. The Husband can only be charmed into submission.

Very likely, I will get broken before I break any of them. My only way was to use Soft Strength and work with my husband and children's strength of will. Harnessing The Son's own strength of will, I was able to get him to complete 27 highly challenging problem sums in 3 hrs. This is no different than ancient Roman architects harnessing the power of gravity to make the fountains of Tivoli spurt water.

This is Soft Strength.

Don't Underestimate Soft Strength
In the past, Chinese Emperors could simply send a silk rope on a tray to a wayward subordinate. Said subordinate would then use the silk rope to hang himself. Hundreds of years of Chinese history shows how Soft Strength can be used to deadly effect.

There really is no fabric softer than silk.

Summary of Learning Points
(1) Soft Strength does not mean Soft Targets.
(2) Soft Strength respects and cares for loved ones.
(3) Soft Strength engenders less pain and less stress.
(4) Soft Strength is not weakness.
(5) Soft Strength requires less effort because it avoids/uses obstacles.
(6) Soft Strength is kind.

By the way, if your child is autistic, you have no choice but to use Soft Strength.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Curry Kapitan

It took me till now to discover Curry Kapitan, a Peranakan dish. Apparently, a British naval officer saw his domestic helper preparing a curry, and this inspired him to create a curry that was only half as spicy as normal curries. This works for our family. We are not fans of tongue-numbing spiciness and so, curry is not really in my repertoire of home cooked dishes. 

Curry Kapitan is the first curry that my children have said, "This is a keeper, Mom!" The curry sauce merely pretends to be spicy. The Daughter said that the sauce itself is worth making, sans meat. I also tried this recipe with pork shoulder. It tastes great too.

Ingredients for Rempah
4 stalks of lemongrass
15 shallots
1 bulb of garlic
15 candlenuts
5 thumbsized turmeric
half a fist-sized galangal
10 large fresh chillis
15 dried chillis
1 thumb-sized block of belachan

(1) Blend all the above ingredients together in the food processor till you get a smooth and even paste.

(2) Fry in some olive oil till fragrant.

Other ingredients
juice of 7 limau kasturi
15 leaves of limau purut
1 kampong chicken/ 1 kg of pork shoulder
3 litres of water
200ml of coconut milk

(3) Mix the fried up rempah from (2) in a thermal pot with 3 litres of water and the coconut milk. Bring to a rolling boil.

(4) Cut the chicken into half. Immerse both halves into the boiling liquid. This will cool down the boiling liquid. Bring to boil again.

(5) Once the water boils again, remove from the fire and insert into the thermal pot's insulation sleeve. Leave in there for 3 hours. If it is a pork shoulder, then bring the pot to a boil after 3 hrs and leave the pork shoulder in there for another 3 hours, i.e., 6 hrs in total.

(6) After 3 hours (or 6 hours, if pork shoulder), remove the meat from the water. Keep aside.

(7) Cut the limau purut into small bits. Add to the water, along with the limau kasturi juice.

(8) Bring the water to a boil and reduce the water content till only 1 quarter of liquid is left. This will give you a nice thick paste.

(8) Put the 2 halves of the chicken (or pork) back into the nice thick curry paste. Serve.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Autistic Sensory Overload

Autistic people have hyper senses. Happily, mine are only limited to smell and touch. I smell things other people cannot smell. I suppose that such senses can be trained and autistic people would be good at being The Nose in a fashion house. Meet Christine Nagel, The Nose of Hermés HERE. The Nose of a fashion house creates scents for the fashion house. A good Nose is worth billions in fashion industry turnover.

My nose is untrained. Yet, I still smell things that others cannot smell. I even know whether The Husband has had a bad day the moment he comes in the door, based on the smell that comes off his body. The Husband has a few distinctively different smells...
- bad day at work smell
- good day at work smell
- happy and relaxed at home smell

I have habituated myself to the smells in Chong Pang Market. I avoided Chong Pang for 5 years because Chong Pang has so many whirlpools of different smells that hit me in the face as I walk through. When there are too many smells to process, I experience a ball of anger rising from the pit of my stomach. Unless I leave the smelly place, I will blow up. Walking past people with body odour is especially hard. Each whiff of a stranger's body odour is like a punch in my face.

The flip side of this is that I am always smelling the people I love. Their smells are comforting. When I am sad or miserable, smelling The Husband is comforting. I suppose that is how dogs feel. Other people wear perfume to go out. I don't waste perfume for going out. For me, perfume is a night time routine. Nice smells are comforting and help me to sleep better.

I am less sensitive to touch but it still affects me. Clothes tags must be removed. Clothes must be made of stretchy and breathable material. I cannot tolerate fabrics around my legs, unless they are very soft and breathable. The only longs I tolerate are Ali Baba pants made of thin cotton and loose. Good thing that Singapore weather allows for short dresses and shorts. I almost never wear jeans nor tight long pants in Singapore. That is winter wear.

This makes shopping for clothes impossible. I walked in 3 malls yesterday and bought nothing. Clothes were either too thick, too tight, too hard, too scratchy. So many dresses are made of polyester. They are pretty but they don't breathe well.

I used to have higher tolerance for uncomfortable clothes but now...

It also does not help that I am misshapen. Off the shelf dresses that fit my bust are too loose at the waist and hips. Those that fit my waist and hips are too tight at the bust. Right now, I wear the same thing almost daily. T-shirts from Cotton On fit well. I bought 25 of them in black and wear the same thing every day. They are soft, breathable and stretchy.

Maybe I should make it a habit of wearing the same thing every day. After all, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs do that. However, they are men. It seems more acceptable for men to do that, than women, no?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Durian VS Sugar Cane + Viagra

Sugar cane rosemary ice slushy.

Market auntie selling black sugar cane.

Black sugar cane.


Durian is a vasodilator. This means it acts to widen veins and arteries, thus lowering blood pressure. Some people's migraine headaches are caused by overly dilated veins and arteries in the brain. I must be one of those because I stuffed myself with too much durian on Monday and promptly woke up with a migraine on Tuesday morning. I also tend towards low blood pressure so I guess a vasodilating food like durian simply is too much of a good thing for me.

Alcohol is a vasodilator too, which explains the hangover headaches the day after you get drunk. So, I guess I had a sort of durian hangover. It was not pleasant I tell you. I felt hot and was grumpy all day. I walked everywhere with my hair covering my face in order to not have to talk to anyone unnecessarily. No one wants to talk to someone who looks like the ghost from The Ring.

For people like me, who are prone to low blood pressure, it is entirely possible that eating durian with alcohol can lead to a fatal stroke. I believe it now because my vasodilated migraine was very uncomfortable.

Viagra is also a vasodilator. It was originally intended as a medication for hypertension. It dilates veins and arteries to lower blood pressure. At low doses, it does help lower blood pressure. At higher doses, it works for erectile dysfunction by dilating the veins and arteries all over the body, including in the errr... you-know-what. This begs the question then. Why don't men just eat a lot of durian? It should logically be a natural remedy for erectile dysfunction, and it also tastes good to boot.

Miraculously, my headache went away after 1 glass of very diluted sugar cane juice. I am not sure why. I kind of researched a bit and found that (according to Traditional Chinese Medicine) durian and alcohol are both considered heaty foods. Sugar cane is a cooling food. The little old lady who sells herbs and black sugar cane on the steps of Chong Pang Market told me that sugar cane clears toxin and heatiness.

Therefore, men should NOT drink too much sugar cane juice. Makes sense? Please don't take my word for it. I am not that kind of doctor. My PhD equips me to mess with people's minds, not their bodies.

Whatever it is, I guess my 1 glass of sugar cane did manage to clear heat and toxin (whatever that really means). So nowadays, on very hot afternoons, I dilute sugar cane juice using 1 part juice and 3 parts ice. It blends into a refreshing and not very sweet ice slushy which I flavour with fresh rosemary from the garden. Fresh rosemary RAISES blood pressure. I need that.

As a footnote, I am pleased to note that my Chong Pang Market is exotic enough to warrant a group of tourists!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Awfully Chocolate Mooncakes

I only just cottoned onto Awfully Chocolate Mooncakes! See HERE. I cannot wait till they start selling these delectable rounds of lotus paste filling encased in decadently sexy chocolate!

To begin with, chocolate always understands how I feel. Whether I am happy or sad or pensive, chocolate ALWAYS understands. Made money in investing? Celebrate with chocolate. Had a fight with The Hub? Confide in chocolate. Can't sleep at night? Cuddle up to a piece of chocolate.

Deep, dark and bitter chocolate (with grains of salt) for sad moments.

Creamy milk chocolate for joyful moments.

Any kind of chocolate for angry moments.

Tons of unspoken communication happen between me and my piece of chocolate. Chocolate knows how I feel without needing to be told. Best of all, once I am done talking to my piece of chocolate, it does not mind that I eat it! Now, isn't that a good best friend?

Monday, July 8, 2019

Legit Tauhuey

Petunia's Legit Tauhuey

My family's ultimate compliment for any dish I make is, "It tastes legit." The word "legit" holds within it the notion of comparison. When compared with the real thing, is my dish real enough? In the case of tauhuey, you obviously need to compare it with that made by expert hands in Chong Pang Food Centre. 

So it is that my home made tauhuey has been pronounced legit. Apparently, my braised pork is still NOT legit. I am told my braised pork has a different kind of charm than that which Chuan Kee makes. That is just the nice way of saying that my braised pork is NOT legit. 

My mutton soup is even worse. At least, when something (aka, my braised pork) has a different kind of charm, it is still charming. My mutton soup is simply vile. 

It has got to the point where I eyeball my favourite hawkers to see if they will die before I do. The braised pork guys are all much younger than I am, so I think I am safe. I should be able to eat their braised pork right up until I die. The mutton soup guy looks a bit iffy. I do hope that he has children that he will hand his recipe over to, because he does not look young enough to stick around till I die.

Here is my legit tauhuey recipe:

250g of soya beans soaked overnight, skinned and drained
1 litre of water
1/2 teaspoon of cooked (vs raw) calcium sulphate
75 ml of water

(1) I found a way to remove the soya bean skins easily. Just pop the whole lot into the kitchen machine (with a bit of water) and use the cake mix attachment to process everything till all the skins drop off. The skins rise to the top of the washing water. So, just pour them out. This is much faster than manually removing the skins. 

(2) Blend soya beans and water.

(3) Strain and press the blended mixture through a cheesecloth, to get the raw milk.

(4) Bring to a rolling boil. Stir vigorously when boiling because the bottom burns easily AND soya bean milk can bubble over within seconds. I use a large thermal pot so that when the soya bean milk bubbles over, it has to climb up 4 inches of pot sides before it boils over. Once the bubbles start a quick climb up the sides of my pot, I remove the thermal pot from the fire.

(5) Slide the thermal pot into its insulation sleeve and let rest for 30 minutes. This allows the milk to continue cooking and also lets bubbles inside the milk rise out of the milk. If there are bubbles in the soya bean milk, your tauhuey will be spongy instead of silky.

(6) Mix 1/2 teaspoon of cooked calcium sulphate and 75 ml of water. This forms a suspension. Pour the suspension into the bottom of a small 1.5 litre thermal pot. Do not allow the suspension to settle before you quickly pour in the steaming hot soya bean milk from the 5 litre thermal pot.

(7) Do NOT stir. The tauhuey sets almost immediately so if you stir, you will get curds.

(8) Insert the 1.5 litre thermal pot into its insulation sleeve and let the mixture set for 50 minutes.

(9) Scoop and serve with maple syrup.

Make sure you get the right calcium sulphate. Show the TCM Hall this picture from ieatishootipost.

Use a big 5l pot so that when the soya milk boils, it has space to climb up the pot sides.

My 1.5l vs 5l thermal pots.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Musings on Soft Strength, MOE and Motherhood: Part 1

The problem with MOE is that it is an organisation that is made in the image of masculine strength.

Its processes, its organisational mechanisms, its job descriptions are all modeled on how normal profit-driven organisations are run. It has...

- KPIs
- performance bonuses
- work plans
- individual work plans

The modern work organisation is a descendant of The Ford Model T Assembly line, the great great grand daddy of industrial organisational work process design. Such an organisation is made in the image of masculine strength. Men have always been bigger and stronger than women. This superior physical strength has some bearing on how men see the world. Men approach the world with the intent to mould it, to change it, to define it. When there are obstacles, men remove them or bash through them, like a steel hammer.

Women have always been smaller and physically weaker than men. We approach the world with the intent of adapting. We change ourselves to suit. When there are obstacles, we flow past them, like water does.

For Want of Better Terms
Now, lest my readers accuse me of sexism, let me just state that I use masculine vs feminine for want of better terms. This is also not a piece on trans men, trans women, gay or not gay. Perhaps, the closest words to describe the concepts that I am trying to put across must be 'yin vs yang." Unfortunately, not many people understand what these 2 opposing concepts mean. So, I shall persist in using masculine vs feminine strength for a while more.

Women Can Have Male Strength And Vice Versa
In truth, when Petunia was working in corporate, she too embodied masculine strength. She was KPI driven, workplan driven, goal driven. If there were obstacles, Petunia got rid of them or smashed them. It was in my job description to deliver results whether that meant:
- billable hours
- customer service KPIs
- deadlines

A woman in corporate HAS to exhibit masculine strength (yes yes... for want of a better term), and many of us women do that very well. There are also men who do NOT do masculine strength very well. 

In other words, whether one possesses masculine strength, or feminine strength has NOTHING to do with one's genitals. One of my long time friends is gay. He is Global Counsel for a global pharmaceutical company, and his lifelong partner is an Air Steward. My friend embodies male strength. It is his job to hunt down companies who infringe his company's patents and smash them to bits, in the courts of law. His lifelong partner, an Air Steward, embodies feminine strength. I once had the blessing to be personally served by my friend's lifelong partner on a flight to Europe. I had never felt so pampered on any flight before nor after.

These two men are a stable pair, looking after each other through life's journey. Neither type of strength is superior. Both need to work together to face life and achieve.

Soft Strength VS Hard Strength
At this point in the blogpost, I think I have defined the notions I want enough to introduce the terms "hard strength" vs "soft strength" in lieu of "masculine strength" vs "feminine strength."

Definition of Soft Strength
The best working definition of soft strength that I can think of, comes to me from a book. See picture below. The book details strength in the form of...
- Courage
- Fortitude
- Wisdom
- Boldness
- Devotion
- Obedience
- Beauty
- Endurance
- Purity
- Humility

Working With Children Requires Soft Strength: A Lot of It
What I discovered when I quit my job to look after hearth, home and children, was that I could NOT get results from my children, using hard strength. Children cannot be managed with...
- KPIs
- workplans
- deadlines

In my current classes, I have no KPIs, no detailed plans and all my students' parents will tell you that Dr. Pet smiles kindly on deadline extensions. Yet, I do deliver results.

In the course of my work nowadays, I encounter many mothers who approach child-rearing with masculine strength. They seek to bend their children to their will. They dictate workload, behaviours, KPIs. They have schedules and workplans that they stress themselves to implement. When the children do not lend themselves to be so moulded and regulated, they are punished.  When plans go awry, mothers melt down... and some fathers become violent.

That is not strength. It is weakness.

It does not work. The harder they push the more their children:
- push back
- dig in
- underperform
- refuse to cooperate...

... and thus, the mothers come to Dr. Pet for solutions. I shall end this post here with some questions...

(1) Why is it that the more you push, the worse the results you get with children?

(2) What parenting strategies do work?

(3) How do these parenting strategies embody feminine strength?

(4) How can MOE potentially embrace feminine strength?

Part 2  of these Musings is HERE.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Windmills of My Heart

"Les Moulins de Mon Coeur" was a French song that was reinterpreted into English. Again, I much prefer the French version and have translated it as follows. The original title translates into "Windmills of My Heart". The English title is "Windmills of Your Mind."

Windmills of My Heart (in French)

Like a pebble that one throws into the bubbling waters of a stream
And which leaves behind it countless ripples in the water
Like the carousel of the moon with its train of stars, like horses
Like one of Saturn's rings, a carnival balloon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
Like the turning face of the sunflower
Your name turns the windmills of my heart

Like a skein of wool in a child's hands Like the words of a song caught in the whirling harp song of the wind
Like a flurry of snow, from the forests of Norway 
Like the flight of seagulls, off of the ocean foam
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
Like the turning face of the sunflower
Your name turns the windmills of my heart

On that day, close to the water spring, God knows what you told me
But summer is at at end, the bird has fallen from its nest
Our footprints in the sand are disappearing already
And I am alone at the table which resonates under my drumming fingers
Like a tambourine that sobs under the pummelling of raindrops
Like the songs which die just as soon as we forget them
When the autumn leaves swirl against skies less blue
When your absence turns them the colour of your hair

Like a pebble that one throws into the bubbling waters of a stream
And which leaves behind it countless ripples in the water
Like the whirling winds of all four seasons
Your name turns the windmills of my heart

Windmills of Your Mind (in English)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Mommy! Look At Me!

I am ashamed to say that I don't always notice Milo, our dog. I am naturally dreamy anyway, and tend to walk around focusing on thoughts in my own head. With my earphones on and music in my ears, I am even MORE unaware of my surroundings. I already have trouble noticing people at my eye level when I am walking around, what more a dog who is only as tall as my knee.

This morning, I rushed around trying some new steps in making tauhuey. I wanted softer and silkier tauhuey and decided to tweak ieatishootipost's recipe a little. If I make good tauhuey, it not only saves me money, it also saves me a daily trip to Chong Pang Food Centre!

With my head full of ideas and my mind focused on getting the steps right, I rushed hither and thither. Milo followed me around for a good 15 minutes. He touched his nose to my thigh. He touched his nose to my hand. He touched his nose to my calf. Each time he did so, his limpid golden eyes stared up at me beseechingly, "Mommy! Look at me! At least say 'hello'"

But, I was busy, distracted and preoccupied.

In the end, M said quietly, "Ma'am, make him a 'hello'. He has waited so long and followed you everywhere."

I looked down and my Milo was smiling a 'Good morning!' at me, his eyes pleading for just one look and my  ackowledgment. Oh... I am a naughty Mommy! I had ignored my poor dog! I looked at him, scratched the back of his ears and said, "Hello!"

That was enough. All he wanted was one look from me. Aiyo! When Milo dies (he is 10 years old already), I think my heart will break.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Economy Rice in Mega@Woodlands

The economy rice here is delicious! They also have dishes I see nowhere else. The whole team speaks with a Malaysian accent. That heh heh... already indicates that they can cook well. The people are friendly too. They wave hello when I walk in, and they wave goodbye when I leave. Such warm people!

The whole place is well managed too. Dishes are cleared fast by a very responsible cleaner with impeccable manners. There is greenery so it is like dining al fresco. The food is cheaper than in most places.

When I first started eating here (shortly after it opened), there were always ample parking lots. Nowadays, I compete with Jaguars, Mercedes, Lexus cars for a parking lot. Clearly, news about the food here has spread.