Hair for Hope

HFH is a charitable programme run by the Children Cancer Foundation. Basically you shave your head, show your support by raising funds while creating awareness for the foundation, and children with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy will also understand that it is OK to be bald.

You do charity, get your free hair cut and save money on shampoo. There’s nothing to lose! (except your hair of course)


And while Papa gets a shave, baby got herself some extension..

from a very brave and kind soul.

Beautiful Bags by Ling Wu

I’m not one who advertises for free but Ling Wu has fashioned some of the most gorgeous bags I’ve laid eyes on. Unlike loud monogrammed bags designed to flaunt riches, Ling Wu bags are understatedly beautiful and rich in details. Every bag tells an unpretentious story of uniqueness and hard work. If shoes can tell you what the character of a person is, then bags like these lets you read their souls.

Why is Humility so Underrated?

from Huffington Post

Insight often arises from simultaneously holding two seemingly contradictory notions — and then allowing a deeper understanding to develop. Take, for example, David R. Hawkins’ idea that, “A universal characteristic of genius is humility.” Generally we don’t equate genius with being humble. If anything, we expect the opposite, and are pleasantly surprised when we find a counterexample. But this presumption is actually relatively modern. The writer Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how ancient Romans believed that a genius was actually an invisible, divine entity who would assist a person in a creative work. In effect, this view positions a person as an instrument of their work, as opposed to the supreme creator of it; built-in to this perspective was a way of fostering humility within the gift of extraordinary capability.
In today’s increasingly connected world, humility becomes relevant not only for us as individuals, but also for groups. A recent study at Carnegie Mellon University showed that collective intelligence had little to do with the IQs of individuals in that group. So even if you bring together the smartest people, there is no guarantee of better team performance; in fact, it’s been shown that team outcomes have much more to do with how skillfully people collaborate. Individual motivations for actively engaging in a group effort lie at the heart of effective collaboration. Such motivation is rooted in how much value we ascribe outside of ourselves. A key aspect of this is humility: it motivates a right-sized assessment of our own abilities and an awareness of our limitations. A self-view that recognizes its limitations is vital in order for real synergy to occur. This is what allows us to be receptive to other people’s contributions, knowing that they often augment our own. In a group, the more that people are rooted in a mindset of humility, the greater the potential synergy.
It works in the other direction as well: the more we experience synergy, the more we recognize our interdependence, and the more likely we are to reinforce a sense of self-value that is real. An inflated self-valuation is clearly problematic, but so is a faltering sense of self-worth; both extremes feed into an insecurity that becomes more vested in proving value rather than simply adding it.
A conscious humility, one in which we accurately know our boundaries, makes us explicitly aware of what we do have to offer. This appreciation of our abilities is important, and yet, there’s a significant distinction between strengthening a known and limited self — and growing beyond it. As columnist David Brooks recently articulated in his encouraging survey of recent psychological research on humility, “Self-affirmation is about being proud and powerful and in control. Self-transcendence is about being engaged in activities in which the self is melded into a task or a relationship.” Viewed in this light, the problem isn’t in having a sense of self, but rather in being identified with its limitations, and therefore being unable to go beyond them. When we have a static and inflexible identity, what we experience becomes filtered and severely reduced. A repeated affirmation of this limited self is ego — and its fuel is habituated thought. We are what we think.
To soften the boundaries of identity, we must first become aware of our thoughts, and then recognize how certain thought patterns color our perception. It’s a flavor of what psychologists call inattentional blindness. In the classic Invisible Gorilla experiment, study participants are asked to watch a group of people pass a ball around. As they watch the video, a man in a gorilla suit walks across the screen, and yet half of the people don’t notice it. There is a similar but subtler inattentional blindness at the level of our thoughts, and this is where deepening in awareness is crucial. It allows us to tune in to the totality of our dynamic present experience. We then have more conscious choices in what we engage with and a greater freedom to choose our own responses — internal and external.
While thoughts may be hard to tune in to in a vacuum, in reality, the mind and body are inextricably connected. What we actually sense on the body-level tends to be much more tangible. Sensations within the body tug us firmly back into the moment and serve as a proxy for mindfulness. When someone says something that we perceive as a threat to our ego, we can actually sensitize ourselves to the physical sensations associated with that emotion. Anxiety often translates to a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, and with anger we feel red-hot. It all happens in a split second. But if we are mindful of our thoughts and sensations, we then have a lever to stop the flow of previously subconscious reactivity, and we actually discover space.
Perhaps that’s what humility really comes down to — space around our perception of the world, as well as our own selves. Space to hold conflicting information, take in other people’s views and, to borrow Bruce Lee’s words, take the shape of the container we find ourselves in. Humility gives us permission to withhold conclusion and realize that what we are is always still emerging. And this is good.

Ways to entertain yourselves

(Article by guest writer E. Martin)

Entertainment plays very important role in your lives. It helps you recharge your batteries and start work with a renewed vigor. It provides you ample scope to amuse yourselves in your leisure time. Entertainment may be active as well as passive. If you are watching a drama or a movie, you are a part of passive entertainment. Again, if you are engaged in a sports or musical performance, then you are actively participating in some entertainment activity.

Entertainment helps you get rid of the monotony of day to day mundane life. It provides you ample fun, laughter and enjoyment. Over the centuries, the entertainment industry has also grown by leaps and bounds. Entertainment may be of different forms such as sports, theatre, cinema, clowns, pantomimes, dance, music and many more. Some popular forms of entertainment include:

• Theatre and cinema

Theatre and cinema are popular forms of entertainment which have huge mass appeal. Over the years, these forms of entertainment, have evolved and have taken today’s shape. In fact, cinema industry has grown  gigantic and is offering quality entertainment opportunities to the masses.

• Animation

With the development of computer technology, animation industry has grown stupendously. Many people, young or old, find animation to be entertaining and amusing. The introduction of 3D has broadened the scope of animation industry, creating cartoons which have evolved into realistic animated works. These animation provide ample scope for amusement and entertainment to both children and adult.

• Sports and games

Since the dawn of civilization, sports and games are part of our lives. The secretion of adrenalin as well as the fun, skill and excitement associated with sports enliven spirits and rejuvenate minds. Sports may be played by one person or by a group of individuals. Various competitions and championships have raised the appeal of sports among the people. Games may or may not be of physical contact in nature. Non-physical contact games such as playing cards and chess, also provide a quieten, more civilized form of entertainment.

• Music and dance

It is said that music is the medicine of mind. Many of us find music as a wonderful way to entertain ourselves. Various forms and genres of music cater to the requirement of varied types of listeners. Alongside with music, you may find dancing as also a popular way to amuse one self.

Life without entertainment becomes completely dull, boring, mechanical and lifeless. Innumerable ways are available before you to entertain and amuse yourselves. Entertainment does not have to be expensive, nor does it have to involve anyone else.  Pick the one which suits you the most and you may never be acquainted with boredom again.

‘Each Moment Is New’: Lessons from the Front Lines of Motherhood

(Reposted with thanks from Huffington Post)

I have no idea how to do this.

I realize this truth at some point every day. When it hits me, I get roller-coaster belly and jelly knees, as the ground I thought I was standing on is suddenly gone. All that I had so proudly figured out yesterday no longer applies today. The knowledge that I’m flying blind, winging it, somehow left in charge of the entire well-being of this tiny human, is petrifying.

Before I had a baby I was barely able to keep plants alive. In fact, I prided myself on it. I was too full of myself, my work, to attend to the needs of dependents. I never babysat, didn’t have any aspirations for spending large amounts of time with kids and was uncomfortable holding newborns.

But now I have a daughter, a baby girl who is hungry, tired and screaming in the back seat because I still can’t figure out how to run errands, take care of the dog, see friends and get home in time for dinner and a bath before she passes out with tear-streaked cheeks squished against the car seat. At those moments, I close my eyes and tell myself (out loud) that I am not failing at this — but I usually don’t believe it.

This is the terrifying side of motherhood, the underbelly that no one talks about, or at least not in public circles. Sister-to-sister, we share our ugly truths and our deepest fears in our own private confessionals, reserved for those of us who have seen the shadowy side of “perfect mommy.” I liken us to shipwrecked survivors, each struggling on our own private islands, waving to each other as we float by or perhaps calling out a word or two of advice that helped us once.

We send our messages-in-a-bottle out to sea, but there is no real help in sight. It’s completely up to us to either sink or swim.

Then there is the unconscious side of motherhood, or the other 90 percent of the day, when I am just reacting. I don’t have time to consider the bigger picture, to mourn my old boobs or pine for a night out dancing, or to wallow in yesterday’s mistakes. I am unshowered and covered with remnants of quinoa/blueberry mush, and I hardly notice because my child won’t sit still for more than five seconds. Desperate to walk at only 9 months, she hurls herself into the unknown and bumps her head several times a day. With each blow my confidence as a mom drops: Could I have prevented that? Should I be baby-proofing the whole world? Watching her more closely? I can’t even answer my own questions because I am too exhausted to think straight. To be honest, I am so sleep-deprived that I forget really important things, like paying bills and turning off the stove. This short blog has taken me weeks to write.

But I count myself lucky that I have some training for this. I had an early career that prepared me for thinking on my feet and sleeping in short bursts. After years of promoting human rights in areas of armed conflict, those skills alone, honed on the actual battlefield, are helping me survive the unfamiliar landscape of motherhood.

I am doing my best to tread water and stay afloat, but there are many days when I wake up wondering where I’m going to find the strength to keep kicking.

And then there are occasional moments of public shame when I run into a smiling supermom who has somehow lost all of her baby weight, looks like she got eight hours of sleep last night and thinks being a mom is just the greatest job in the world.

“Oh, hi!” she yells loudly across the parking lot. And then, in one quick burst, “Oh my gosh, it’s been forever! How are you? Wow, is this your little girl? How do you like being a mom? Don’t you just love it?”

I throw out my best fake grin (the one that never touches my eyes) and mutter something about how I think I do love it… I mean, I love her… I mean, yeah I like it… a lot… mostly. Then I change the subject, because no one wants to hear about the hard stuff.

And yet when I talk honestly with fellow moms, the truth always comes out. They too are having a difficult time; they too have lost themselves. Lonely and isolated, they too had no idea it would be this hard. In the past few weeks alone, three other moms have asked me to write about it, to reveal the truth behind the mask we so bravely put on each morning. And I am nothing if not a truth-teller, have risked my life several times over to bring information to light, and I suppose this is no different.

Let me put it into perspective:

I once spent five weeks sleeping in three- to five-hour shifts, barely eating or bathing, while monitoring the whereabouts of 70 human rights activists risking their lives on the ground at the Beijing Olympics, protesting for Tibetan independence. Now after nine months of full-time motherhood, I find myself longing for the personal freedoms I had during that Olympic Campaign.

Before motherhood I had no idea what real sacrifice looked like, which is saying something when you consider that I spent time in Chinese detention, was kidnapped in Sri Lanka and held at gunpoint by rebels in the Congo. From my unique point of view, three sleepless days of interrogation by the Chinese police was much, much easier than this.

As an activist, I got to choose when and where I offered my help and my time. When I felt spent, I would tag-out, taking my turn to rest and recuperate. My life was full of new and exciting experiences, traveling to places few people have seen, making choices and decisions on a whim, exploring, activating, accomplishing big goals. I was the destroyer of routine, determined not to fall asleep at the wheel of life.

But now I reign queen in the land of routine. Cultivating plans weeks in advance, thinking about dinner at 10:30 in the morning, rushing home for a 5:30 bath like the world depended on it. I do it because my daughter needs it, because her world does depend on it. She laughs and flaps her arms with joy when she recognizes people and places; she feels safe and sleeps better when we go through our pre-bedtime ritual. She loves doing the same thing over and over again.

The more I surrender to this merry-go-round existence, the easier the whole parenthood thing becomes — but the foggier my life becomes.

People used to ask me if I was scared to do the work I do, traveling in and out of war zones, tempting fate. And I would say, “Yeah, of course I’m scared. But I’m more afraid not to do it, to fall asleep and miss my life while doing the same thing everyday just because it’s safe.”

In her excellent book “Making Space for Children,” Virginia Hilliker writes to parents, “Good news: Each moment is new,” meaning that as parents we have the opportunity to relate to the world through our children, with fresh eyes, from moment to moment. Regardless of yesterday’s missteps, we can start fresh each day, each moment. People spend years in meditation trying to gain this very view of the world.

And this, I’m learning, is the difference.

My fear of routine, of each day resembling the next, is obliterated by the wondrous beginner’s mind that my baby exhibits. After months of taking a bath in the same tub, she suddenly discovers the drain and learns that she can pull the plug and become the master of water! This realization manifests as a wide-eyed, two-tooth smile that quickly becomes a raucous laughter that shakes her entire being. Tonight’s bath is new.

This is why I fell in love with traveling. Waking up each day in a different place, with new sounds and new tastes, makes you feel alive as the world around you suddenly appears in Technicolor. It is addicting and exciting to surround yourself with the unknown.

I would often experience culture shock upon retuning home to the U.S., falling into a depression at the complete lack of luster I felt in familiar surroundings. I longed to be tested, to grow with each new sight, to expand my understanding of the world and my place in it… to become the master of water again.

With each new achievement, my daughter is teaching me to remember the wonder that surrounds us. The fact that one surface is hard while the other one is squishy is magical, when you really think about it. The very first taste of mango is divine, and flowers can pop up anywhere, even in the middle of concrete fields. And even though from the outside today looks exactly like yesterday, nothing is the same in her eyes. In fact, everything, everyday, is brand new again.

So for now, this is how I will travel. I will get down on all fours and crawl above her, seeing the world from her perspective, finding amazement in a springy doorstop or the sound of Tupperware on tile. I will strive to approach each bath-time with the anticipation of an early explorer diving into uncharted waters.

This has become my meditation, my practice, as a new mom. I hope it will bring some relief to the other not-so-in-love-with-this moms out there, struggling to find joy amidst the mundane. This is the mantra that I chant through the sleep-deprived haze of my days, trying to remain fascinated about what tomorrow will bring:

“Each moment is new… Each moment is new… Each moment is new.”

Do you have an ugly truth to share? What strategies do you use to transform routine into awakened mind? Let’s start talking about it. Please comment below.


Kiri Westby

A Young Mother’s take on the General Elections

I love how the author hit every nerve (both good and bad ones) with her honest, mature and sensible take on the upcoming Singapore General Election. Would want to see more of these please!

(Reposted with thanks from )

My take on the Singapore General Elections.

by Daphne on April 29, 2011

I’ve been mulling a long time over whether or not to do a post on the General Elections seeing how politics is such a contentious issue and this is after all a happy family blog.

The truth is, I’ve never been this interested in local politics in all my 28 years and this political awakening (if you can call it that) is a big deal for me. Not that I don’t like politics as a whole because I spent days camped out in front of the TV watching CNN during the last few American Presidential elections and my entire Final Year Thesis was on the topic of American politics. I’ve just never been interested in local politics because it seemed like such a lost cause to me. It was always just a bunch of disgruntled old men yelling at other less disgruntled old men – something I had very little interest or time for.

This time though, I’m excited because not only do we finally have a chance to vote (instead of being told we have no options), we’re also seeing young voters being interested in the voting process. I’ve been reading so many political opinions of late that it didn’t seem right to just sit this one out.

For starters, here’s what I’d really like to see in government.

1. I want a government that knows how to man up and say “I’m sorry” when they’ve made a mistake. For example, a mistake on the scale of busting the YOG budget by 3 times needs to be addressed with a decent amount of compunction rather than dismissiveness. With this current crop of PAP leaders, sorry really does seem to be the hardest word. Hey here’s a thought, people are more forgiving when you take responsibility and say “I’m sorry, I messed up big time.” You see, only after I hear the apology, I’ll be ready to hear about all the wonderful things you’ve done in your 5 years in office, not the other way around.

2. I want a government that really listens. The only defense that the PAP constantly falls back on these days is “I know better so just sit down and shut up.” Even if you genuinely believe that your Cambridge degrees and life of entitlement makes you better and smarter than everyone else, it would still do you a lot of good to listen to the struggles of your people. And by listening, I don’t mean walking around a week before election wearing flowers and doing your presidential wave.

3. I want a government that’s accountable. Ok, that’s my beef with a one-party system right there, a complete lack of checks and balances. It may have worked 57 years ago when you were ruling a country who didn’t know any better but we do know better now and one of the pitfalls of such a system is beginning to manifest itself in the form of disconnected, arrogant leaders who assume they have a right to lead just because they have kissed enough bottoms and made the right political connections. Connections like um say, marrying the private secretary of the Prime Minister.

4. I want a government that rises above the need to resort to threats in order to get votes. It’s insulting that you think our votes can be bought by shiny new lifts and a fresh coat of paint. If the price to pay for upgrading is my integrity and sense of justice, I’d much rather walk up that extra flight of steps and carry both my kids to run in the rain, thankyouverymuch. Also, what about your supporters living in these opposition constituencies? It’s a tad mercenary that you would sacrifice them as collateral damage just to prove a point, isn’t it?

5. I want a government that understands the value of humility and servitude. Often, it’s not just what you do but the manner in which you do it that counts. It bugs me that our Ministers talk down to the very people they are supposed to serve just because they don’t share the same opinions. You don’t get to be all high and mighty and demand that Singaporeans kiss the very ground you tread on. After all, we were the ones who put you in office and we will take you out if you alienate enough voters.

To all the people who think that voting the PAP means voting for stability, my only question is this, stability for who? If I were an incompetent Minster drawing $1.4 million of taxpayer’s money annually, I’d be yelling about stability too. I mean, it’d be mighty unstable for me if I had to one day *gasp*, take a ride on a crowded train like all my minions. And then I’d actually have to walk from point to point because where will I ever find the money to have people carry me around on their shoulders while I wear this ridiculous garland around my neck. I can’t be certain but even if Desmond Choo did momentarily lose the use of both his legs, there’s a whole range of fancy motorized wheelchairs that can serve as perfectly good modes of transportation. There’s really no need to rely on a human sedan these days. Last time I checked, you guys were supposed to BE public servants, not HAVE a lot of public servants.

Now lest you think that I’m dissing all the good work our government has done in years gone by, I’m not. I have a lot of respect for MM Lee, SM Goh, PM Lee (Jr) and a select handful of Ministers. I’ll be the first to say that I’m terribly proud of how far Singapore has come with all that was going against us so props to y’all. On my recent flight back from Florida, I was seated next to an elderly American gentleman who was thrilled to be sitting next to a “tiny Asian girl who didn’t take up too much arm room” (exact words, I promise) and decided to reward my lack of size with a spirited discourse about our Minister Mentor’s awesomeness the moment he heard that I was from Singapore. He went on and on about MM Lee’s political acumen, sharp thinking and fabulous policy-making skills. I have to admit that it was nice to know how much respect people all over the world have for one of us. Finally, he asked me “so what do you think of him?” To which I replied, “I agree with everything that you’ve said and even though we sometimes don’t like him very much, he is the single most respected man in all of Singapore.”

That said, I just have a teensy weensy problem with the argument that just because they’ve had a proven track record, we should blindly cast our vote for all the subsequent leaders that they pick out for the sake of stability. First of all, we all know that past successes don’t necessarily guarantee future success. Second, for all their success in ruling the nation with a tight fist, the leaders in PAP don’t seem to be particularly adept at picking the next generation of leaders. If you’re saying that after scouring the entire list of under-30 Singaporeans and the best you can come up with is a Tin Pei Ling, that tells me all I need to know about your selection skills. I have nothing against Pei Ling as a person and I’m sure she’s every bit as saccharine sweet as her photos suggest but I have a lot against her ability to serve the needs of the people. Underneath the hollow-sounding rhetoric she dishes out, I see no substance or even real desire to better the needs of Singaporeans. It seems to me that the only criteria to be selected as a future leader in the PAP is to be able to memorize and regurgitate the party’s rhetoric (that is starting to sound as empty as a big fat black hole of emptiness).

I’m also not surprised by the popularity of her direct opposition candidate, Nicole Seah. After hearing her various speeches and interviews, I am suitably impressed. Yes, I get that she’s even younger, has no track record or experience, gets a little nervy during some of her speeches and is probably this popular only because of the seeming incompetence of Tin Pei Ling. All fair criticisms, but if if I could vote in that constituency, she would still definitely have my vote for the very fundamental reason that she’s got heart – something that’s sorely missing in our incumbent party. I respect the fact that with all her inexperience and practically zero chance of drawing a $13,000 monthly salary, she was willing to offer her candidacy simply because she wanted to make a change for the benefit of the people. Her agenda is not a fat paycheck but to put right the things that have gone so very wrong in our government. I’d go as far as to say that even if she made it into parliament and doesn’t accomplish all the things she set out to, that’s ok because damnit, she tried.

I’m growing tired of hearing the PAP say that change can only come from within. After 57 years as the ruling party, the most notable change I see is in relation to how their paychecks are getting larger. The only way to show that Ministers don’t have to draw an obscene salary from taxpayer’s money is to have brilliant Ministers who are not in it for the money and yet no less committed or capable than those who demand to have their coffers padded.

This is definitely going to be a watershed election and I’m proud to have candidates like Sylvia Lim (in my opinion, the best public speaker in the local politics scene), Low Thia Khiang and Chen Show Mao offering their services to the nation. For the first time, I feel like there’s a chance we as the people have the power to effect change. Instead of sitting around and complaining that things aren’t right and we can’t do anything about it, we see candidates who are willing to step up to the plate to make a difference. And more importantly, we see voters (especially younger ones) who aren’t ignorant or apathetic.

On this note, I’d like to point out that identifying certain glaring faults in the incumbent party does not make one anti-PAP or pro-opposition. Voters are a lot more discerning these days and just because they question some facets of your leadership does not make them the enemy. The bottom line is that I vote for progress and if that comes in the form of non-PAP politicians, that gets my vote. And I can honestly say that if the PAP can indeed bring change from within and address all the issues that have been raised, I’d be happy to be called pro-PAP.

For now though, there are several PAP candidates that don’t deserve a seat in parliament. A lot has been said about the GRC system and for all its merits, it doesn’t seem right that mediocrity is rewarded just because the right alliances are made. To be more precise, it would be a great disservice to Singaporeans if Tin Pei Ling gets a parliamentary seat and Sylvia Lim doesn’t.

In any case, this election is going to be more exciting than an episode of 24.

PS. Also, PAP, just cut it out with the comrades thing. The only people I know who went around calling everyone comrades were perpetrators of genocide. Seriously, just stop it.

Next Restaurant

Grant Achatz is one of Time magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in the world. Being diagnosed with tongue cancer did nothing to stop this culinary prodigy from visionalizing his ambition and passion for greater gastronomy.

I don’t know about you but I’ll save a whole year’s wages just to eat in this restaurant!