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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven – Ecclesiastes 3:1

This week, I enter 50 with gratitude for God’s goodness in my life.

Today also marks the final session of my dad’s cancer treatment and our numerous trips to hospitals over the past 6 months through diagnosis and treatment. I thank God that he is in full remission and well now.

A Time to Heal…

The signs around point me to a new season as I come out of 5 years of dealing with cancer – for myself, with my mum and with my dad. Through it all, we have been blessed with amazing doctors and healthcare staff who have brought us healing and our clean slate.

A Time to Build up…

In these past 14 years as an author, I have experienced God’s favour throughout the 40+ books that I have been privileged to write and the precious relationships developed along the way.

A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

In the past 23 years since I was first inflicted with Spasmodic Dysphonia, a strange voice disorder, I have gone through many times of silence. It’s only with God’s strength that I have able to get through many times of speaking at numerous public events (even though it still comes with some fear and trembling). I am thankful for how He has given me a new voice through my writing.

So, I enter the gates of 50 with thanksgiving, and with the hope of making my life count for more as I prepare to walk through new God-given doors opening my way.

This has been such a full week in so many ways that I need to time-mark it here:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-7

A Time to Mourn…

We mourned Ben’s cousin’s passing in hospital last Sunday. She’s such a steady lady who has been so take-charge with her own health conditions. She even texted me in her final week to let me know that she was not going to pull through and to ask for prayer. Her sister arranged for us to video-call with her since we could not visit due to Covid restrictions. I’m thankful that we had a chance to pray for her two days before she passed on. Though she was already in a semi-conscious state, she opened her eyes several times to look at us when she heard Ben’s and my voice. Rest in Peace, dearest Siew Choo.

A Time to Embrace…

Ben and I celebrated our 23th wedding anniversary over the weekend with dinner out at a restaurant in town. After diligently eating at home for the past few weeks since Singapore’s latest circuit breaker measures, I decided to embrace a meal out for our special occasion. As the restaurant wasn’t crowded, we were blessed with a private room that would normally sit 10 persons. So, we had the ultimate safe-distanced meal out, with a bird’s eye view of Orchard Road.

A Time to Laugh…

Okay, I’m one of those parents who let out a loud cheer when I heard about the cancellation of year end exams for the Primary 3 and Primary 4 kids. This year of multiple school disruptions has been taxing for teachers, parents and children alike. For me, the schoolkids getting through all the safe-distancing measures and multiple curriculum changes is good-enough reason for all the kids to move up to the next year without the exams.

A Time to Dance…

Yes, I danced with joy when I received news that my Little Series won the Silver Medal for Best Picture Book Series at the 2021 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. This sounds like a child, but I’m thrilled that I can stick award stickers on all three Little books!

A Time to Plant…

Three months ago, I started sensing that a new season is before me, through a few key signs of nature around me.

This week, I had a glimpse of that new season. Whilst I feel somewhat inadequate, I know that God will equip me if He has called me to this time to plant anew.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

I’m over the moon and beaming over the shiny news from the 2021 Moonbeam Awards results!

My Little Series picture books – Little Godwit Finds His Wings/Little Mole’s Awesome Star/Little Mimic’s Superpower – has been awarded Best Picture Book Series (Silver Medal) at the 2021 US-based Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards!

Our Little Series, which I conceived and was illustrated by the talented illustrator John Lim, has been a precious collaboration. And it happened with the wonderful support of our publisher Marshall Cavendish Children and our editor Lydia.

I will be beaming for a while!

My Little Series picture books – Little Godwit Finds His Wings/Little Mole’s Awesome Star/Little Mimic’s Superpower – are available in the bookstores, on Amazon (online overseas) and Times Bookstores (online local).

This weekend is US-based NSDA’s Walk for Talk 2021. I participated remotely from Singapore. I walked around my neighbourhood alone, as my symbolic walk for Spasmodic Dysphonia, a rare neurological voice order that had brought me down many lonely paths which I had to walk alone. I’m grateful that one of those lonely roads led me to NSDA, the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association. Through NSDA’s website, I found a community of people struggling with SD who were positive, encouraging and good listening ears as we shared our experiences on the NSDA bulletin board. Many SD sufferers go through years of being misheard, misunderstood and misdiagnosed. NSDA has worked hard to address this, working with the medical community for treatments and increasing awareness of this strange voice condition.

As the NSDA contact person in Singapore, I’ve communicated with a few young ladies grappling with this disorder, and been reminded of how crippling it can be to not be heard. So, here’s a shout-out to NSDA’s good work and the volunteers keeping it going. And I should add that I found God on one of those paths and was gifted with a new voice in writing and many new precious friendships since!

I finally met (or bumped) into my littlest and cutest reader ever! Declan is my dear, dear friend Jamie’s nephew and loves books. Jamie was there with him to buy an encyclopedia on ocean animals which he wanted. And that was just after she had read him my book Marky Polo in Tokyo at home.

“Which of Auntie Emily’s books do you like best?” Jamie asked her little nephew.

“Everything!” Declan declared.

Wah! First Prize answer. I asked for permission to take photos with him. 😊😄🤩

A coincidental meeting in matching dye tie clothing

This week, Mum would have turned 73 years old. We commemorated her birthday with a family dinner in remembrance of her.

I interviewed Dad on his and Mum’s story for his book My Life, My Stories, which I recently published for Dad’s birthday two weeks back. The interview on Mum was the hardest, yet most precious for him, as we recorded memories and gems of their dating life and marriage of 52 years.

This is an extract:

“My favourite memory of Joyce:

Joyce and I often went to Satay Club in our younger years. On one occasion, we were both seated on a stone bench at the Esplanade looking out towards the sea where Marina Bay is now. This was a few months into dating, and Joyce took my hand and suddenly popped a question to me. She asked if I would ever leave her. I said, “No, I will never leave you.”

I had two other favourite memories:

  • The first was when I took Joyce for a very formal police annual dinner at Hyatt Hotel. This was after we were married. Jack was already born but Emily was not. Joyce was dressed in a long gown and wore a wig. She looked so elegant and I felt very proud to show her off.

  • The second was an incident that happened during my dating days with Joyce. A former girlfriend Veronica turned up at a Victoria Memorial Hall party which we are at. I had stopped dating Veronica by then, but she showed up there to scold me anyway. Joyce out-shouted her and fended her off.

Other fond memories:

  • Joyce cared more for my health than her own. It was always that way. She did not take care of her own health.
  • Joyce always gave her best and bought the best things for our family (for our children and grandchildren) – medical treatment, milk powder etc. It never occurred to her that giving more to us meant spending less for herself.
  • Joyce was generous by nature. She supported my first brother’s eldest son through his university education and made me give my eldest sister’s son Ah Dan $1,000 to pay for his wedding, which was a lot back then (about 30 years ago). She also helped her brother James and paid for his maid to take care of their mother during the times that she stayed there.
  • Joyce was very hot-tempered by nature. But after each flare-up, she would make it up to me by buying things for me and I always had to hold her back from buying too much.
  • Joyce was very trusting, and she liked to help people. She never expected favours, rewards or anything back in return. I was always concerned that she would be taken advantage of. She was generous towards others and not extravagant in lifestyle. She was happiest when designing her own clothes. I followed her to many tailors through the years, from the first one in Jalan Bukit Ho Swee to the present tailor Mdm Leong at West Coast Road.”

Happy Birthday, Mum! As Caleb would say, Mama is having Heavenly laksa and Heavenly nasi lemak – which are all healthy in Heaven.

Related post:

At the end of Singapore’s Circuit Breaker in 2020 (Singapore’s version of a lockdown), I found my conversations with my dad had become everything Covid-related. I felt we needed to change the conversation. So, I decided to write his life story.

I interviewed my dad over a series of scheduled interviews (although we live in the same house…LOL).  I recorded and transcribed each interview (my wannabe journalist instincts). Then, I sat down to put it together into a manuscript.

The project came to a pause earlier this year when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. For the next few months, we were in and out of hospitals for consultations, tests and scans. He’s just completed his last cycle of chemotherapy, in time for his 77th birthday. So, it’s been timely that I was able to publish his legacy book in time to celebrate both his birthday and end of chemotherapy treatment.

I blogged last year about how my grandparents moved from China to Singapore in search of a better life around 1940. After World War 2, my grandfather wanted to heed China’s call for their people to return to rebuild the country. He felt a strong sense of duty to his home country.

When my grandmother did not allow him to do so, it led to a heated argument which led to him taking a chopper and chopping off the last finger on his left hand to show his resolve to go back to China. Grandma gave in when he threatened to cut off another finger.

This was what happened next in my dad’s words:

“Father took my two elder brothers and me back to China. Unfortunately, the ship that we were on sank shortly after leaving Hong Kong harbour. I learnt that there were two ships at Hong Kong harbour at that time. There was a storm brewing and that other ship stayed in the harbour. But the ship that I was on set sail and sank shortly after.

According to records, on 19 July 1947, U.S. destroyer ‘Myles C Fox and Hawkins with British escort ship HMS Hart saved the crew and passengers of SS Hong Kheng after the passenger ship had run aground on Chilang Point some eight miles north of Hong Kong. Six motorboats, two from each warship, and two skiffs from Hong Kong made 76 trips to save some 1,800 survivors.’

I was about three years old then and too young to remember. Both my older brothers remembered that when the ship started to sink, my father used a rope to tie all three of us to him to keep us together. My first brother Poh Chan said it was so that we would not get lost.  My second brother Poh Chiew said that the real reason was that if one could not survive, it would ensure that we would go down together.

My family was rescued and brought back to Hong Kong. We subsequently made our way to Xiamen, Fujian and back to our village.

According to an old newspaper clip Straits Echo & Times of Malaya, dated 22 July 1947, “the ship ‘Hong Kheng’ had 1,800 passengers. After the passengers were removed, the ship caught fire spontaneously and all luggage on board was destroyed.””

Grandmother eventually brought my dad back to Singapore and my two uncles remained in China with Grandfather.

This and many more stories of my dad’s and grandparents’ generation are what we’ll pass down to our next generation.

It took the pandemic for me to pause and produce this legacy book. I’m glad that I did as I am richer for it in experience and memories.

Okay, this is my corny attempt to pun on a well-known movie from a long time ago. But the past two weeks has truly seen several reasons for celebrations.

I thank God for:

  1. Celebration of a bestie’s birthday

Last Wednesday, I had a catch-up with besties Gail and Jing Siew from Uni when we celebrated Jing Siew’s birthday over breakfast. Can’t believe how time flies and that we have known each other for over 3 decades through every birth, passing and other highs and lows. Thank God for over 30 years of friendship and counting!

2. Celebration of bosom buddy’s birthday

Over the weekend, I celebrated another bosom buddy’s birthday. I’ve known these girls since Primary school (a few since Primary 1). I shan’t count how many years that is…gulp! I’m thankful for this year of #50 Wonderful Birthdays, even as we constantly pivot birthday plans back and forth with the changing Covid restrictions. This was a One-derful meal out.

3. Celebration of my dad’s 77th birthday

During 2020, I wanted to change the conversation away from everything Covid-related. So, I started interviewing my dad on his life stories, systematically from his childhood till my mum’s passing. After many rounds of drafts and editing, I was thrilled to wrap it up in time to publish My Life, My Stories in good time for my dad’s 77th birthday. He looked at the book and said that it is his best birthday present. (More on the stories in the next post.)

I thank God for publisher friends who kindly offered up help for the critical last mile of book design and layout, and the printing of this very small print run for family and family friends.

4. Celebrating Singapore’s 56th birthday

Our National Day Parade was postponed from 9th August to 21 August, in line with Singapore’s reopening to our ‘new normal’. Caleb and I watched the NDP hybrid show on TV. We sang our hearts out with the performers and cheered through the parade highlights. I felt uplifted watching the animated storytelling of true stories of overcomers from our pioneer generation. And I thank God for our collective unity through this crisis of our generation.

5. Sew Sow Good Start

This week, we had our kick-off (or should I say sew-off) for our new fundraising product line. Last year, when Covid happened, I found it hard to write-as-usual and formed a collaborative with a mum-and-daughter team of creatives. Together with more friends, we fundraised for Child at Street 11, a non-profit childcare centre for children from low-income families. With Covid still raging on this year, we decided to to do a round 2 of fundraising for Street 11.

I’m thankful for new friendships forged with these ladies whom I only got to know last year when we decided to proceed with our Sew Sow Good Stuff SG initiative! (The rest of them knew each other…haha).

And the numeral for me? Oneness.

“Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace” – Ephesians 4:3

When Kai Kai and Jia Jia first arrived in Singapore in 2012, Wildlife Reserves Singapore approached me to write the giant pandas’ story. As it was their wish that the giant pandas would produce a baby, could I bring baby panda into the story?

Fiction preceded reality.

Three Kai Kai & Jia Jia books were birthed between 2012 – 2015:

In the first book, A New Home for Kai Kai & Jia Jia, the giant pandas get to know Singapore and their friendly neighbours living at River Safari.

In the second book, The River Adventure of Kai Kai & Jia Jia, Kai Kai & Jia Jia go on a river cruise adventure to welcome their new neighbours – the giant river otters. Jia Jia doesn’t feel well through the cruise but later discovers that she isn’t ill, but pregnant.

In the third book, The New Face at River Safari, the giant pandas and their friends prepare for the arrival of baby panda.

What lovely news to see it happen for real, with Kai Kai and Jia Jia now new parents of baby panda!

Kai Kai & Jia Jia’s picture books are sold at Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s e-bookstore and physical stores at the Singapore Zoo and River Safari.

More of Kai Kai & Jia Jia’s story of how their baby came to be – at Mothership:

https://mothership.sg/2021/04/jiajia-kaikai-mate/

Today is Thank God Friday…on the other side of the world!

A day late but no less thankful for:

  1. Singapore’s 56th birthday

It was a quiet National Day on 9th August. Due to Covid19 restrictions, our annual big National Day parade has been postponed to 21st August, in step with the gradual loosening of measures.

Caleb and I did however have our little National Day songs sing-along, as we listened and sang National Day songs of past to present for over an hour. We agreed that this year’s National Day Parade 2021 song is definitely one of our favourites.

2. Poetic Friendship

Over a month back, I had scheduled brunch with my very dear friend Jamie for 10th August as she’s on leave this week. I was about to reschedule because dining-in was not then permitted as part of our Phase 2 Heightened Alert measures for a month or so. But as timing would have it, dining-in reopened on 10th August, the day after National Day.

I turned up in red and coincidentally and matchingly, my poetry-writing palliative doctor friend turned up in white. And our dining backdrop was red and white. So, we had our “We are Singapore” photo op. over our little National Day brunch.

I got to know Jamie two years ago, and only two weeks before my mum’s passing. She was the amazing palliative doctor who went over and beyond for our family. When she read me the poem that she wrote about her encounter with my parents in my mum’s last days, our faith-filled friendship was poetically sealed.

So yes, she read me new poetry over brunch and I shared my writing updates. And as with every conversation which we’ve had, we delved into issues of life and death. I’m thankful for this dearest, poetically spiritual sister.

3. Stepping out with my son

As it was a holiday for the primary school kids (except the P6 kids having exams), I spent half a day out yesterday out with Caleb, getting a few things done. It’s been a while since we have done that as mum and son. After a full week in school masked-up since the start of Covid19, he’s not been keen to follow me out on my errands-run. And I’ve also found it more practical to not bring him along as we flowed in and out of Heightened Alerts.

I’m thankful for our leisurely meal and conversation at Botanic Gardens, followed by a short walk around the park. It brought back memories of pre-Covid days. And a reminder that we need to be so much more deliberate, less hurried, and thankful about our daily living.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority—so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity.…1 Timothy 2:1-2