Category Archives: Values

John O’Donohue: A Blessing For One Who Is Exhausted

Some months ago an older woman whom I greatly respect introduced me to the poetry of John O’Donohue. His poems, for me, occupy that rare space between humanity and the divine, a sort of linguistic thin place.

Today I returned to this poem, felt my breathing slow, a calm return. Perhaps it might bless you too.

A Blessing For One Who Is Exhausted
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The ride you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

The Answer

It’s 2am and I’m still awake. I had every intention to go to bed at a decent hour but for some reason, my mind was churning with thoughts about the future, of work and family and health and life’s larger purposes.

So I decided to listen to a new compilation I just bought. What joy to find another beautiful gem by the gifted (and – may I venture – anointed) Corrinne May. And now I am off to bed.

The Answer

Lyrics by Corrinne May Ying Foo
Music by Gustav Holst, ‘Jupiter’ from The Planets Suite

I believe you are the answer to every tear I’ve cried
I believe that you are with me,
My rising and my light.

Give me strength when I am weary
Give me hope when I can’t see
Through the crosses I must carry
Lord, bind my heart to Thee

That when all my days are over
and all my chores are done,
I may see your risen Glory
Forever where you are.

MOE suspends AWARE sex education programme

MOE has just announced that it will suspend AWARE’s sex education programme.

The statement says that “Today, schools are allowed to engage external vendors to supplement MOE’s sexuality education programme. MOE has reviewed the internal processes for selecting and monitoring vendors and found that they can be improved. MOE will put in more stringent processes to ensure that training materials and programmes delivered in schools are in line with the Ministry’s framework on sexuality education. Schools will suspend the engagement of external vendors until the new vetting processes are completed. The Ministry is also reviewing ways to provide parents with more information about sexuality education in the specific schools that their children are in.”

About AWARE’s sexuality education, MOE said that “in some other aspects, the Guide does not conform to MOE’s guidelines. In particular, some suggested responses in the instructor guide are explicit and inappropriate, and convey messages which could promote homosexuality or suggest approval of pre-marital sex.”

You can read the full statement here

The whole saga at AWARE has left me troubled. I didn’t like how the new guard came into power and their inability to articulate a coherent position and direction from the get-go. But I was also upset by the subsequent savagery online and offline that demonised Christians.
Continue reading

What Is That?

A friend sent me this beautiful (and chastening) video.

Manners according to Aramis

We’ve been trying to teach Aramis to say “please may I have” instead of “I want”. Here is a little anecdote from today that demonstrates how he’s doing so far:

Aramis: What’s in your cup, Mommy?

Pilgrim Mom shows him.

Aramis: Is it Ribena?

PM: Yes.

Aramis grabs cup to drink.

PM: Hey, that’s mine!

Aramis: No, mine!

PM: How do you ask me nicely?

Aramis: (in gentle dulcet tone) It’s mine.

Yasmin Ahmad shoots the Singapore family

Late to the party but I’ve just learnt that the talented Yasmin Ahmad was hired by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports to shoot an ad for Singapore’s pro-family campaign! If you’ve been a longtime consumer of Singapore’s campaigns, then you’ll understand why this is about as out-of-box as it gets. Good on MCYS!

If you liked this, please treat yourself to more of Yasmin’s work. Among her most well-known are the festive season ads she does for Petronas. These two are my favourites.

Red Sports: Let Our Children Run

Recently, there has been some national introspection about whether we are becoming less rugged as a people. It’s not something anyone can answer scientifically, but judging from the anecdotes, the answer is an unsurprising yes.

This op-ed from Red Sports speaks to that subject, and I must say it was discouraging to read that the numbers participating in track and field at the school level is on the decline. Not to mention schools giving up Sports Day. And defocusing on those sports in which they are unable to win awards

Have we lost sight of what’s important?

At least one school hasn’t. Seng Kang Primary has daily PE. And if you know anything about the primary school curriculum, then you’ll know how much vision and leadership it takes for a primary school to sustain that commitment.

Good on them. And as parents, let’s encourage our schools to do what’s right by our kids.

“Parents can mishandle potential.”

A website I go to regularly is Red Sports. Its mission is to tell the Singapore sports story, a narrative that is often neglected by the local dailies which are heavily skewed towards international sports.

Anyway, Red Sports put up an interview with the parents of Nicolette Teo, one of Singapore’s star swimmers. In kiasu, hypercompetitive Singapore, I thought their wisdom was a breath of fresh air.

Red Sports interview with Adrian and Doreen Teo

Happy Mothers’ Day, everyone!

Sore Loser – The Sequel

Over a year ago, I wrote a post about Athos and sore loser syndrome.

Well it’s happening again, this time with Porthos. His favourite game right now is Junior Scrabble, not least because he’s won every time we’ve played it. Beginner’s luck came to an end this afternoon, and Porthos was dealt a few bad hands. According to the rules, he was obliged to put down his letters even though it helps someone else to get points. But he kept saying, “I pass,” and refused to move.

The first time it happened I confess I took the easy way out and just exchanged letters with him to help him along. But experience is a good teacher and like Athos, I realised that Porthos was going to have to come to terms with losing sooner or later, and better he learns how to lose with me first.

So, as we say in Singapore, I “don’t give chance”. The next time Porthos got a bad hand and said “I pass”, I told him if he didn’t play by the rules, I would stop playing. And so I did. I went to another room and started doing something else. A few minutes later, Porthos came into the room and said, “OK it’s your turn.” I went back and saw that he had decided to go along with the rules after all.

When we finished the game, he had lost 11 to 8. He stomped out of the room and sat in the balcony for a while. I decided to withhold the parental sermon and let him be.

And so it goes, and so it goes….

Sex In The City

This morning on the way to school, Pilgrim Dad and Athos passed by a hotel out of which tumbled a group of prostitutes. Athos saw them, turning his body to follow them until he couldn’t see them anymore. Pilgrim Dad took a deep breath and decided to engage Athos:

Pilgrim Dad: What are you looking at?

Athos: Those people aren’t wearing a lot of clothes.

PD: They’re prostitutes.

Athos: What’s that?

PD: You pay them money to have sex.

Athos: What’s sex?

Pilgrim Dad gives a brief description.

Athos: So sex is bad?

PD: No. Sex is a good thing when mummies and daddies do it. But it’s bad if people charge money to do it.

Considering the sun hadn’t even come up yet, I was impressed by both Pilgrim Dad’s courage and cogency.


I encountered the term “freecycle” a few months back but never got round to looking it up. Thanks to Alternative Mom‘s comment on my previous post, I was reminded and went to look it up.

The Freecycle Network began a couple of years back in Arizona, USA and now has 4,221 groups and 4,335,000 members around the world. The idea is basically to connect the people who have things to give away, with people who want those things. I am completely sold on the idea.

And the great news, my friends, is that Singapore has its own Singapore Freecycle Network! An excerpt from its Yahoo Groups webpage:

Whether you’re looking to discard or acquire an item, you’ve come to the right place. Computers, furniture, clothing, magazines – no item is too big or too small. (That said, we request that you keep in mind that this is not intended to be a Christmas wish-list. Asking for LCD TVs, XBox’s, PS3s, etc., is a bit over-the-top.) Since this is a Freecycle list, ALL items must be 100% FREE and not subject to exchange or sale.

As of this writing, it has over 4200 members. I have just signed up as member #4211 – will you consider being #4212?

Join the Singapore Freecycle Network.

Too. Much. Stuff.

After hosting 6 multi-family garage sales, it’s become painfully clear to me that we are living in a consumer society in which we often buy things we don’t really need, or in quantities that we don’t require. (True of the Pilgrim family too, by the way.)

Which is why I was struck by what’s going In The Trenches of Motherhood. This mother of seven is taking one year off buying anything other than essentials, and writes some great posts about (non-)shopping at Target and Ikea. And then today, a friend sent me the link to The Story of Stuff, a compelling (though somewhat long) video about the crisis of our materialist economy. Watch it, if only for the superb graphics.

What will you do about it?

Wii = Exercise? Think again.

The Pilgrim family does not own a Wii, and we have been sorely tempted on a few occasions to buy one. The kids played on their friends console and loved it. And hey, at least it gets them on their feet and moving about.

BUT, if you think that the Nintendo Wii works as a substitute for exercise, check this article out.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

There’s a conference that takes place annually in the US called TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). Bringing together some of the best minds and achievers, TED is a forum to share and spread transformational ideas. It’s a pretty exclusive conference but earlier this year, TED began to make its talks available on the Internet for free, and under a Creative Commons license (i.e. they can be freely shared and reposted).

I cannot recommend the site more highly. The handful of presentations I have watched were stellar. Since this is a parenting blog, I wanted in particular to highlight Sir Ken Robinson’s talk titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity”. Watch it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


Porthos Wises Up

Just minutes ago, Porthos walked up to me, the light of new discovery in his eyes, and uttered the following:

“I think I know why you must do the hard thing first then the easy thing. Because if you do the hard thing first, then you can play without worrying.”

My little boy grows older….

Free Rice

After receiving this link for perhaps the 4th time in as many days (and reading Owlhaven’s post on the same), I finally decided it was time to mosey on over to Free Rice and check it out for myself.

And 600 grains of rice later, I’m pleased to say this is one of the coolest sites I’ve encountered in recent months. If you like playing with and learning new words, Free Rice allows you to test your own vocabulary while donating rice to the UN for every answer you get correct. It is deceptively simple, yet judging by the advertisers and the exponential growth in grain totals, I’m guessing the site is  getting a lot of traction. Hurray for social enterprise and please do go check it out for yourself.

A Lesson In Privacy

My Dad sent me this story. I don’t know if it’s bona fide, but it doesn’t matter because the point is well worth making. In this day and age when virtual lives are overtaking real ones, our children (and us adults too!) need to learn not to let it all hang out. Do take some time to read this. Continue reading

A Franciscan Benediction

A friend wrote this to me this week, and I loved it so much I’m reproducing it here:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

If all parents prayed this into the lives of our children, perhaps the world would be a better place than it is today?

End of the Spear

We watched this movie with some friends a few nights ago. End of the Spear tells the true story of 5 young missionaries who make first contact with a remote Ecuadorian tribe, and wind up dying by their spears. Despite the horror of the encounter, the widows choose to continue with their mission, leading to a conclusion that is a powerful demonstration of forgiveness, grace and redemption.

As humans, our natural tendency is to live for the here and now, to make the most of our earthly days. When someone’s life is cut short, it is difficult for us to fathom why God would let something like that happen, particularly if the person led a blameless life. End of the Spear reminded me that the course of human history and destiny is far, far larger than my life, or even the life of any family, community or civilisation. The death of a few good men makes no sense the morning after, but seen decades later is an act of divine grace.

I’m not sure I would be able to respond the way those missionary wives did. But by God’s grace, I hope my vision grows longer by the day. If you’ve read as far as this, thank you, and may eternity do its leavening work upon your heart.

More On The Nature Deficit Disorder

I last posted on the nature deficit disorder here. While catching up on blog-reading, I found this link to a Washington Post story via Whymommy over at Toddler Planet. The article expresses concerns over nature’s diminishing presence in the lives of our children, and it’s worth a read.

It’s sad but true that unless we make a special effort, the next generation of children will experience less of nature than us. My father talked of catching guppies in drains and fighting spiders as a child. Today, we have to go somewhere before we can be surrounded by nature, and ahead of that douse ourselves head-to-toe with insect repellent so we don’t get dengue. And here in Singapore, it’s hot, it’s sweaty, and it’s so much easier to go to a mall or just stay home watching TV and playing videogames.

But let’s not be lured by what’s easy, nor put off by what’s hard. Is being outdoors amid nature a good thing? If yes, for the sake of our children, let’s just do it.

Need ideas? Try the Places to Go link above.

Here’s more if you’re interested in the topic:

Incidentally, Whymommy, whose blog I read regularly, has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She has two boys aged 2.5 years and 5 months. Would you drop by her blog and give her some encouragement?