Contemplating cooking…

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I have been doing quite a bit of cooking lately. Not much of a revelation unless you know me well.

You will know my self-value is not tied to how well I keep house involving cleaning or cooking – I was brought up to place significance and priority on my intellect and academics. Perhaps I am merely not sufficiently interested to do anything intricate or complex beyond the usual day-to-day meals and annual celebratory fare. You may also deduce that circumstances have favoured me not needing to do much house-keeping.

Lately, I have taken to cooking, experimenting and “catering” to my children’s taste buds (when I can). There is joy seeing them enjoying their meals, prepared by moi. And this has left me wondering why.

Am I cooking to fill time? As I don’t have a lot of time on my hands, I can answer this in the negative.

Am I cooking to fill time to avoid something else? A possibility, though I couldn’t think what. There is a certain mindfulness required when I am cooking, where I am “forced” to not think of anything else but the task at hand. Not exactly avoidance, is it? Cooking, and its creative process, is a mindful act and can be satisfying.

So, am I cooking to…?

Sitting here on a Saturday morning making up a shopping list after deciding on a menu for the coming week (yes, it is a creative project 😉 ), a possible answer or answers occurred to me.

I am preparing for my future. Not as a cook, but an empty-nester. It was not o much a plan but on reflection, a response to my life journey.

As my children mature, their taste buds too. So my experimentation serves to expand their world of foods. Most importantly, food inspires conversations of different cuisines, cultures and travels. We discover ourselves and each other in the process. And with aging parents, perhaps it is time for me to pick up this mantle?

Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat. ~ Guy Fieri

My selfish hope is that when my children leave home, they will continue to be tied to their home of origin and me, so cooking and foods will bring memories filled with nostalgic aromas, of connection and belonging. The soon-to-be adult boy has expressed a desire to explore the world, and said he would take two things with him, his family and his faith. Sweet, isn’t it? 🙂

Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love. ~ Giada De Laurentiis

Cooking is also a skill which I have been inspired to master, after hours of conversations on the intimacy of cooking together and the sensual experience of savouring foods. Perhaps a future of quiet company and adventurous samplings.

I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give. ~ Julia Child

Yes, I may have hit upon the reasons for my desire to cook at this juncture of my life. Or are they mere intellectual reasoning?!

Why do you cook?

~ FlorenceT

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Her journey begins…

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She is bright… in fact, this is an understatement. Her IQ aside, she has developed a maturity and self-efficacy way beyond her tender years.

So when she spoke of writing songs and making music at 10 years old, I was happy to indulge her. She did not jump up and down with the excitement that usually accompanies little people when they discovered something new to do. I did not think she was ‘that’ passionate, that it could perhaps be a fad. She’d always enjoyed listening to music, and her musical taste was, and still is, eclectic.

Then about a year ago, she asked for (additional) lessons on music composition and vocal lessons, after years of traditional piano and guitar lessons. That was when I discovered (through conversations with her and her teachers) that she hears music in her head, not just a melody rather she is hearing complete compositions. She wanted lessons to equip herself to document, record and produce what she hears in her head. In a year and the half, she has developed into something of a music aficionado. And this time, I have been paying attention.

To cut a long story short, fast forward to now. She has an amateur bedroom studio, and hints 😊 have been dropped for a proper soundproofed studio with the correct acoustic for recording.

While I have always been adamant that we are to meet people, especially children, where they are; not where we believe they ought to be, I did not do so with her. Social narratives are not easy to identify and dispel. For example, “she is only 9 or 10, even if she was an exceptionally intelligent child”. “A child is too young to know what she really wants.” “It is too soon to spend such money on a child, she’s bound to change her mind.” And with every delay, lack of interest, placating and condescension, we bear the risk of discouraging a genuine passion, or worse of reinforcing a message of unworthiness of her ideas, invalidity of her desires and interests, and perhaps even her as a human being. A sense of “you are not enough” to know, to want, to dream, to aspire…

I am fortunate that she didn’t give up on me, and in her own sweet way, pestered me for what she wanted. Over a tumultuous period in our family, I did finally listen.

What is more amazing, at least to me, is how with the tools now at her fingertips she begins to emerge from her “shell”, to experiment, to have the necessary conversations with like-minded people.

And very recently, I was privileged to be told that she is publishing on SoundCloud, growing a following on Twitter and Instagram… oh wow!

Here’s a track – an acoustic cover:

It is far from perfect; it is a journey … of self-discovery… of taking each necessary step to achieve a dream. She is passionate enough to take risks. She has set a goal and working towards it. For these, I am the proudest parent.

I can’t wait for her original material! And no, I don’t get a private preview!

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Renewal and inspired, by whom?

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I crept into the back of the Hall as the speaker began. I had made sure I would be a little late so everyone was seated and facing the stage at the front. I didn’t want her to see me, not quite sure what that reception was to be – pleasure, anger, embarrassment…

This was not my usual type of occasion, as if I had a type. A little ill at ease possibly from the nature of the proceedings and the fact she was unaware of my presence (and wanted to keep it so), I scanned the audience hoping to catch a glimpse of her. No such luck. It was not easy to spot her amidst the hundreds in attendance.

After a couple of minutes, I noticed myself settling into my seat; a certain calmness overtook me. There was hardly any talking, instead music flowed through the hall. There was a sense of solemnity and also relief of what was to come. The restlessness I expected was absent. For what seemed a long time, I allowed myself to be transported to times of old, when this gathering was familiar and comforting. To be drawn to the sounds and sights, to nostalgia. What had happened in the intervening years? Do I no longer trust or believe? Was it easier not to? Dare I again?

Then I saw her rise and walked to the stage. Instinctively I slunk lower into my seat. The last thing I wanted was to distract her should she see me then, especially when she would not have time to digest the fact of my presence. Looking composed contrary to what I knew she must be feeling, she began. A silence filled the room as every person seemed to focus on her, mesmerised by the timbre in her voice and the magical way she appeared to have commanded our attention. I saw people craning their neck to catch a glimpse of the owner of the soulful voice.

She was the closing vocal performance at the Easter Chapel Service. At a tender age, she had stepped up and held her ground. Fearless and unabashed.

And I was brought back to times when I had been in her shoes, and am inspired.

Life is ever changing, always full of interesting challenges. I see them and, like her, I will be fearless and unabashed in claiming my ground.

 

what is belief
when the world does not
must we see
must we touch
is there proof
do we feel
the spirit moving
the senses alight
of love, peace and grace
is that proof
of man’s science
or of faith
in the divine.

 

For those who celebrate Easter, I wish you a time of rebirth and renewal. Happy Easter!

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Contemplation on Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving… giving thanks… for what do we give thanks? Today? At this time?

In a time when every change, great or small, is tracked, accentuated, dissected, analysed, discussed… its volume so loud that we lose sight of its actual significance, we lose the measure of their relative importance. Everything is the same, and nothing is the same. The noise causing us to lose our sense of what is true.

So perhaps at this time of year – whether we are religious or otherwise, whether we are alone, with family or friends, whether we are home or missing home – we may carve out a space to contemplate on what is true – the circle of life which connects us andtouches everyone, as it crosses every boundary underneath the sun“.

 

Some say
The walls between us stand so tall
They don’t see there’s just one sun
Shining on us all

I say
We each choose roads to call our own
But none of us is travelling through
This universe alone

And this circle
Just goes on and on
It began before us
It will be here when we’ve gone

And this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Connecting our humanity
Joining me to you and you to me

Seasons
Keep spinning on the wheel of time
We stand we fall
We struggle up

The mountains we must climb
Different dreams
May color what we see ahead
But our lives are strong together
On a common thread

And this circle (circle)
Just goes on and on (on and on)
It began before us
It will be here when we’ve gone

And this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Connecting our humanity
Joining me to you and you to me

Around and round and round and round we go
Around and round and round we go
Love and learn and change and grow
Round and round and round we go

And this circle
Touches everyone
As it crosses every boundary
Underneath the sun

And this circle
Just goes on and on
It began before us
It will be here when we’re gone

Yes this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Someday we will come to see
I’m joined to you and you to me

So to my American friends and readers:

happy-thanksgiving

~ FlorenceT

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

I believe in you

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Vulnerability and strength, two words not commonly associated with each other until recent years. Vulnerability tends to be perceived as weakness rather than strength.  And how often have I had to remind myself in the candid moments, in the times when being true to myself seemed a betrayal, when the tears flowed and the heart broke, when my vulnerability was exposed… that it was strength that brought me here, and it would carry me through… as it always will.

Those moments when friends around me were inspired, so they said, by my courage and incisiveness, to which I wanted to reply, “can you see how vulnerable I feel?” At last, only to realise perhaps that was what they saw… the strength was the vulnerability being carried ever so lightly.

Trust and patience, perhaps a less uncommon pairing.  Words easily spouted but how do we trust? When the distractions, the temptations, the greener grass is always on the other side, beckoning and making promises… Can we be patient? Can we be at peace with what arrives or returns? To know that I am worthy and enough, is a first step. Self-assured that I am complete, and will be so even if the trust is misguided, the patience runs out.

And ultimately, love.  To be vulnerable enough to let another in and to reach out to another, to trust that we will be held with care, kindness and gentle strength in return. To be trustworthy and patient in the face of challenges that threaten the peace…

So, the lyrics to the recently released Michael Buble song ‘I believe in you‘ and the music video. Enjoy!

Time goes by and I’ve been holding everything inside
But now I’ve got nothin’ left to hide
When I’m with you, oh, you
But I can see, how strong a man I’m going to have to be
To do for you it comes so naturally
So will you move

And all I want
Is a chance to prove Show all I can do

I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright you got me through
I believe in you

And I don’t mind
If you want to hold on to me tight
You don’t have to sleep alone tonight If you don’t want to

And all I want
Is to know you’re near
You’re all I need, yeah

Time goes by and I’ve been holding everything inside
But now I’ve got nothin’ left to hide
When I’m with you, oh, you
But I can see, how strong a man I’m going to have to be
To do for you it comes so naturally
So will you move

And all I want
Is a chance to prove Show all I can do

I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright you got me through
I believe in you

And I don’t mind
If you want to hold on to me tight
You don’t have to sleep alone tonight If you don’t want to

And all I want
Is to know you’re near
You’re all I need, yeah

I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright you got me through
I believe in you
I believe in you
You got me through
I believe in you

 

~ FlorenceT

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Memories of an era

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“Take care of all your Memories. For you cannot relive them.      Bob Dylan”

It is fascinating how memories return, in the least expected ways.

There we were, travelling home late at night after his training. A winter’s night, and he had earlier jumped into the car, hugging himself tight and then putting his hands over the air vents, for some warmth. We had stopped for fuel and a hot chocolate for him, which he then clasped within his hands, taking sips every so often.

That action in a series of quick flashes reminded me of holding a takeaway cup filled with coffee, going to work, an association to being an adult, then looking over to him and realising that he was nearly there, an adult and absorbing his features of a young man eager to take on the world, invincible.

As I began saying, “I didn’t think I would see this day of you holding a coffee cup…” the image of a small ceramic cup with white foam, on an equally small saucer popped into my mind.

babycino

 

(Babycino, a cappuccino without the coffee.)

 

 

 

Those days in early 2000s came flooding back of after-school pickups and coffee at the local cafes, well for me, and for him, babycino and the occasionally cookie. Memories of how he would sit so properly on his seat, his face betraying the excitement of the little boy with his big person drink. 🙂 And now, recalling our favourite café, ‘the cushion café’ we had called it for its large windows looking onto the tiny roundabout and across to the little park where we would sometimes venture and most significantly, the colourful cushions that were strewn across the window bench.

(The café, though you can’t see the cushions.) cafe

 

 

 

 

How time has passed. While I have recognized his increasing maturity, being quite conscious of it as he staked his claim on his independence, this didn’t hit me till that moment in the car, when perhaps finally on a cellular level I finally got it.

I asked him then, if he remembered our daily sojourns. As a young man would, he replied, “of course”. Ah, so ‘it’ has not been in vain 🙂 .

 

My contribution to the Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge.

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Stressed out

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Well I have been a little, and though my intellect, my mind tells me to chill, sometimes the emotions and the body react. I hope I am not alone when I say it is so easy, rather unthinkingly to take the stressed out emotions out on someone else.

That can happen, don’t flay yourself over it. I now watch this with a certain curiosity of ‘why’ and ‘how’. The intention is to pay attention to the triggers, to catch them before the emotions erupt, before relationships become strained, friendships threatened. And sometimes it may be simpler to identify our body’s reaction before recognizing our emotions, like the tense shoulders, the trembling heart, the shaking hands, the jiggling feet… so many of our emotions manifesting in our body if only we would ‘listen’. What does your body do when there is sadness, anger, fear… Perhaps the next time you feel compelled to lash out, when you know in your mind you are angry, to watch how your body holds that emotion… Who knows, but you may find that the ‘angry’ your mind suggests may not be ‘anger’ at all.

I am not sure how I got to this, except wanting to share this song by Twenty One Pilots. The premise of the song is about being stressed out, emanating from a sense of ‘not good enough’, or ‘not enough’. One of the most common reaction we have to a sense of inadequacy is to externalise this feeling – to blame your lack of success on someone, to attempt to claw at power, control, being the centre of attention – all to make us seem ‘good enough’, at best they bring satisfaction and comfort temporarily. The thing is, we have to believe it of ourselves, that we are enough, that within us lies the knowledge of lifetimes, the wisdom of generations.

The song also makes reference to being back in the comfort and safety of childhood, as an antidote to self-doubts and being stressed out. While this may not be true for everyone, many of us would see our childhood to be a time filled with possibilities, when life was simple and we were supported, encouraged, comforted, held, nourished. Where did that go? When did we begin to believe that we have to own more, to experience ‘great’ adventures, to meet societal standards of education, wealth, style of life, looks, … in order to be good enough?

When did we forget our beautiful and effervescent selves?

Don’t you wonder?

 

I am enjoying this somewhat quirky song and hope you like it too!

– FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Tradition has its place…

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Things change, and so do we.

New Year is just round the corner. The Chinese one, that is. Although I grew up ensconced in a Chinese family within a predominantly Chinese community, my understanding of the rituals and traditions of Chinese New Year is basic at best. I’ll put this down to leaving home at 18.

In the years leading up to that, I the child was was more interested in the new clothes for the first day of the new lunar year, the delicious Spring Festival foods and most importantly, the red packets filled with money gifted by adult family members or friends than traditions. I ‘earn’ my entire year’s pocket money in these few days of celebration. How? By smiling sweetly and obediently and greeting the ‘elders’ in the language of luck-wishing and blessings. It is after all, what ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ is, greetings of happiness and prosperity. I can’t escape my childhood and fortunately for me, I learnt a few things about the Chinese rituals and traditions through osmosis, the very process of being in and absorbing the ways and ‘talk’ of family members. Goodness, can they talk… and discuss and debate and query and disagree and seek justifications and… You get the picture. 🙂

During my teenage years, the universal trait of self-centredness hit.  I didn’t see why I had to hang around with ‘the family’ and do visits (a tradition of visiting family and friends and paying our respects) as expected of me. I did what I was told somewhat reluctantly and was well compensated by the large number of red packets I received. A cultural aside, young people continue to receive red packets until they are married, that is when they have their own familial responsibilities and thus deemed true adults. Anyway, at the time, I was also adamant the traditions of old were of little utility. Except I didn’t know then what I know now.

The university years away from home were spent striving for excellence; finding my feet, spreading my wings… essentially learning independence within an individualistic society so very different from the one I’d left. I also became a woman in this culture. While I had regaled against gender inequalities, it was while in the ‘Western’ culture that I found a name for it – feminism. I embraced it. I saw the stamp of patriarchy everywhere. I questioned every rule, every ‘must’ and every ‘should’… ‘scary’ I know :-). Anyway during these years, cultural traditions were hardly on my list of things to learn, especially when the traditions I have encountered are ‘man’-made.

I am now of a certain age (I so do not like the word ‘mid-life’) with a family. Rather than being useful from the perspective of utilitarianism, I realise rituals and traditions are beneficial for the sense of community, belonging and connection they engender.

The past few years have been years of discovering my roots, of understanding rather than judging the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of these Chinese traditions, of coming to terms with them. It doesn’t mean I will follow or agree with all of them. Some are indeed archaic. However I am much less quick to disavow them. Dare I say, I pick and choose :-).

So it is this year, by royal decree … well, I suggested that everyone dons their red outfit for the reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve. Red is an auspicious colour, in my interpretation one that shouts ‘look at me, don’t you (good fortune, good health and all things lucky) pass me by’. I am not a fan of the colour ‘red’ but we will go with it. Red lanterns and other auspicious symbolic items are decorating my home.

One family tradition that has been kept up till now is the reunion dinner on the eve. It is a time for family members to return to the fold. In the distant past, only sons and their families are welcomed back while married daughters ‘belonged’ to the families into which they married so there they went. Unmarried daughters of course belong to the family. Phew?! This tradition is now somewhat diluted, less stringent and it has become an great ‘excuse’ to have the family together. This has extended to close friends. Even my teenage son, born and bred in Australia, knows not to make alternate plans on the day.

The observation of rituals and traditions create a shared space, a place for conversations between generations especially between my children and their grandparents. This year I am going to relax into this space. Being mindful of and grateful for the souls present at the table.

Tradition bonds the people privileged within its process. We share a common goal if only briefly and a shared understanding of the meanings behind the celebration. We are each held up by the irrefutable sense of ‘you are one of us’.

I hope these rituals of celebration – preparing food, the gathering of loved ones and well-wishing – will give everyone, especially the elders, a celebratory sense of good fortune to begin the year, and in the process compels communication, forge some connection, and hopefully a sense of belonging.

So for those who celebrate Chinese New Year, I wish you love and belonging in your family, and connection with those around you.

– FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.