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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Author

Velle

I come from a much smaller island-city-state-country called Singapore. I’ve been setting down roots in Australia since 2003. I love both countries immensely. In 1986, I became a writer. In 2002, a blogger. In 2004, a wife. In 2011, a mother. Somewhere in amongst all that, I did event and conference management, public relations, marketing, and online communications for over a decade. I’m currently a freelance web manager for a modern dance school, a part-time Communications and Marketing Manager, a part-time writer, and a part-time stay-at-home mother. I don’t sleep much.

Mei Ling Market & Food Centre

Dearest Fruit of my Loins,

According to Google Maps, it’d take us 12 hours to get from Canberra International Airport to within whiffing distance of the hawker centre that nourished me through my growing years and beyond. It remains the nearest hawker centre to my childhood home. In its bosom, I learnt how to cross a street all on my own and order takeaway for my mum and I. I learnt how to use my manners and pluck up the courage to ask for extra chilli — nevermind my crap Chinese intonation. I observed unwritten boundaries regarding drink stall territory, heard the neighbourhood gossip, and was in turn gossiped about now and then. I know about the last thanks to Teresa from Teresa’s Hairdressing because she gossips about everybody and reveals all her sources. She’d make both a formidable and terrible journo.

Continue reading “Mei Ling Market & Food Centre”

5 Things I Miss While In Lockdown

At the time of starting this post, I’m in Week 4, Day 3 of Lockdown 2.

We’re well, in good health overall, and the full bite of cabin fever hasn’t set in and festered because we’re only in Week 4, Day 3 of Lockdown 2. We’re pottering along just fine. And I know it’s largely because there’s a confluence of privileges working in our favour — things like our education, location, white-collar jobs in fairly inelastic industries that allow us to work from home, and nifty things like easy access to technology and food.

It feels churlish to complain about anything. This isn’t meant to be a list of complaints. I just miss some things, and I also appreciate some other things about being locked in with my family.

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A First(ish) Easter

Growing up CofC had meant eschewing major traditional Christian events like Christmas and Easter on account of them both being pagan festivals, rebranded and rebadged.

So for 40 years, I didn’t have a particularly churchy Christmas or observe Holy Week. The CofC in Canberra didn’t ever plan a shindig on Good Friday, while the church I grew up with in Singapore used to spend that public holiday hunkered down in a whole-day retreat.

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On Your 8th Anniversary

I don’t write about you much. I think about you every day. You’re never really far, anyway. You shadow every waking thought, lace every decision I make like a fragrance I’ll never want to forget, except I’ve already forgotten your smell.

They say it’s always the first thing that goes.

All I know is that you smelled like Comfort. And Home. And Unconditional Love. Big, fierce, protective, passionate, ain’t-nothing-that-can-tear-me-away-from-you-except-death love.

I don’t write about you because tears prickle the eyes easily. Still. It’s been 8 years. You’d think I’d be used to your long trip away from me by now.

(I’m not.)


Some of my earliest memories of you include walking into a crowded auditorium for a gospel rally. Of begging you to let me play with the white pet rabbit at the YMCA. Of running through tunnels there until you tell me it’s time to leave.

And then taking the bus home, walking up two long flights of stairs on short, spindly legs, ordering my favourite mee pok da (the one with the 炸云吞 you never let me get precisely because it’s deep-fried) and walking home together, hand in hand.

I remember bus rides to Orchard Road, falling asleep on your lap, your maroon patent leather handbag my hard and bumpy pillow. Sometimes, I’d actually fall asleep amidst the roar of the engine in the 64, the wind blowing overhead and teasing your hair, my legs already too long to tuck underneath my chin without jabbing across the narrow aisle.


I miss our talks long into the night, where I’d tell you almost everything about the boys I loved but knew I wouldn’t marry.

I miss, I miss, I miss sharing with you. Curled up on your narrow single bed in the dead of night.

To this day, it fills me with extraordinary pride that my friends liked you. Even loved you enough to happily lunch and dinner with you on their own. I never needed to play chaperone.

I loved that they saw you as a person and a friend, and not just as my mother. It’s totally #parentinggoalz to be that mother for my own children’s friends one day, but I suspect we are quite different people and you were way cooler.


The generosity of your spirit and your heart for others… They weren’t just turned towards the people you love like me and Shawn & Andrea and Ah-yee.

I wish I know for certain that you know how well things turned out for the many, many, many children you educated and helped and befriended. Who are now grown and married and seem well-adjusted enough. I bet you’d have known how they were doing. Your stash of greeting cards are still in my stationery sideboard.

I love that you kept a Filofax of greeting cards you’d bought a year in advance to send to people you liked and love. Like, carefully curated greeting cards filed by month for births and marriages and birthdays and anniversaries and I-love-you-just-because.

I love and ache over how people still remember you fondly and with deep sadness about your passing. How they would have liked to grow old with you.


I wear your clothes now. I’m now at the age you were when you wore what you still had hanging in your cupboard when you died. It doesn’t necessarily bring you closer to me when I wear your clothes because I look so different in them. It’s hardly like looking in the mirror and seeing you. But there are times when I realise that when you were my age and wearing what I’m wearing, I was already 20. I’d stare at myself in your clothes and the enormity of what you accomplished comes at me wave after shuddering wave.

You were a rockstar.

We had so little and yet we were pretty content, all things considered. I now live in an insanely large house compared to what we had. And just like back then, my life today is enough and also NOT enough.

I miss you like a tree without most of its roots. I’m still growing (sideways now.. fatter… you would have said something about that, I’m sure).

But boy, do I miss you.

Time to reconnect

It’s the first day of Winter and Reconciliation Day. Yesterday, the children had bible class online and talked about Sorry Day and what reconciliation means and looks like. Out of the mouth of one babe (not mine — a much better taught one), a little boy gave the perfect stock answer: it’s about making an effort to fix a broken relationship.

(Or something very close to that. I didn’t have pen and paper ready, but what he said was gold.)

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Happy Birthday to my Sister from Another Mother

One of the main things I am hugely thankful for in the midst of this pandemic is technology — specifically our ability to afford it, understand it, and be in community with others who enjoy such privilege and access.

This afternoon, I got to catch up with Audrey — one of my sisters from another mother. Audrey’s family and mine are linked in many ways — primarily through church but also through proximity in terms of distance, life stage, and opportunity. My mother had tutored all three kids in that family, and they, in turn, had been my babysitters twice or three times a week at one stage, when my mother had to work late evenings tutoring other kids. I’d eaten their dinners, learned all their hiding places, played in their playground, watched their TV, read their books, practised on their piano (badly), and loved each of them as I still do.

Audrey is the friend who is closer than a sister, and easily one of the kindest people I know. Her Christian faith is deep with far-reaching roots so I find comfort in knowing she’s still here — running the long race, face tilted towards the Son. Her faith is child-like but hardly naive — the best kind of child-like there is — while I find myself constantly questioning and doubting and uneasy. I really treasure this woman, even though we can hardly find the time to chat between the children, the time difference, and our jobs.

Until today. It’s her birthday, and thanks in part to this pandemic, we managed to have a long and luxurious chat — she in her kitchen, me amongst the books. She’s one of those lifelong friends with whom I can easily oscillate between the superficial and the sacred, the shallows and the deep. So much shared history that there’s such an easy shorthand. So much silliness that we can dissolve into the kind of laughter that hurts.

As for that kitchen she was sitting in, it’s where I experienced that crazy unconditional love — her stripping and cleaning my stroller when Arddun (still not quite 2 years old then) had taken suddenly and violently ill while out at the zoo. That was a seriously gross endeavour and Audrey had been amazing. Honestly, I wouldn’t have taken it well if someone else’s kid had made such a mess and I helped clean it up. I can barely stand my own kids’ mess, much less someone else’s.

Happy Birthday, sis. You know I love ya and miss ya. xx

Three jobs and a Lady

It has been a time of massive adjustment for our household. It’s time to take a breath. Let’s recap.

Thanks to the Sunday of Tumult (22 March) wherein the east coast of Australia speedily jumped within the day from “self-isolate as far as possible but SCHOOLS ARE DEFINITELY STAYING OPEN” to “Wait… we’re closing the schools! Except for those in ‘essential services’, whatever that means — sort yerselves out?” to the Federal government stepping in just hours later and yelling, “SCHOOLS ARE DEFINITELY STAYING OPEN! Take your kids out at your own discretion and peril!” I paraphrase. But it was an abysmal day for Not Confusing the Australian Public, with many of us in the communication field screaming silently.

Silent screeching from the peanut gallery
Continue reading “Three jobs and a Lady”

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