Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places



TTT – Going live, coming home

I know this is now two days late.

To be fair, I did start writing this on Thursday… Greenland time.

Better late than never, etc etc…

I don’t know whether it was the lack of sleep, my current gooey pregnancy hormones or the fact that I have the day off today, but I woke up this morning feeling a whole lot of Thankful. There’s a calm in me, wholesome and warm like freshly baked bread, and just as nourishing and welcome on this cool winter’s afternoon. I don’t usually gush about the good things in life, but there’s just something about today that makes my soul hum.

We’ve had Andrea and Ben over this last week from Singapore. Between blogging the hours away and immersing myself in their cheer and company, I chose the latter the way one savours a good meal and is loathe to let any morsel go to waste. They got on the coach this morning and even as I type, are on their way to Sydney to eat their weight in fresh seafood and work it off after with long walks around this hilly, bustling metropolis. I’m going to miss them, but I’m sure they have, in no small way, contributed to my sunny sense of wellness this day.

So here goes.

1) Going live, baby

After telling myself that I’d like to get out of web project management and try something else, I landed a part-time contract in April with a Christian organisation that I just could not refuse. It turned out to be an intense project full of twists and turns that required constant creative thinking and firefighting, and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. It’s not finished yet, but the first part of the product launched on our deadline despite crazy, crazy odds and yet another last-minute curve ball. Awed, inspired and grateful for the many hands on deck, but most of all touched by the graciousness I constantly encounter from others in this business.

It also meant I could enjoy the rest of the week with Andrea and Ben without this project hanging over my head and heart. Bliss!

2) Being at home with my homies

I remember one bible class lesson with Willie where she described how, decades into her marriage, she still feels about hanging out with her family of origin. That sense of sinking into that deep sigh of familiarity and knowing, “This, THIS  is my family”. Don’t get me wrong – Tony, Arddun, Boy Blob and I are a family. They are my family. And of course home is wherever they are. And I love Tony’s family too – his family of origin. The source code that explains his uniqueness.

But being with your own family of origin means dipping your whole being into the aaah-just-right waters of your genetic pool. It means never having to explain the history, because they were a part of it. It means saying a word to recall a lifetime, and to watch this sage-like recognition of where you’re coming from when you talk about a time and place.

I don’t think Ben, Andrea and I slept very much over the week, mostly because we were chatting so late into the nights, and then starting the day early-ish so we could spend more time with each other still. It didn’t take very long for Arddun to pick up where she left off with them in June last year. The second moment she got home from school on Friday – 9 hours after they’d departed for Sydney – she looked around the house before quietly asking, “Where’s Aunty Andy? And Uncle Ben?” And I know she misses them still.

(Sorry for funny colours. Was playing with filters.)

Andrea and Ben
Our visitors – “Uncle Ben” and “Aunty Andy”
Andrea doing Arddun's hair in the morning
Still waking up at the breakfast bar while Aunty Andy does her Elsa hair
Andrea and Arddun
Her Aunty Andy
Arddun climbing steep ladder to slide
Getting by with a little help from Ah Ben
Arddun solo down slide
Arddun running out from slide
Again, again!
Andrea Arddun slide
Sliding down together is so much fun!


3) Seeing the world I’ve grown to love through appreciative eyes

I get a little teasing, mainly from Singaporeans, for choosing to live in Canberra. Partly because most of them have only heard about how quiet it is, but mostly because Canberra is about as different a city from Singapore as you can get. It’s 350,000 inhabitants “squished” in land area bigger than Singapore (including the latter’s islands and numerous land reclamation projects). It isn’t about shopping and food. It has four seasons including a real winter, a struggling public transportation system, and a lot of natural parkland and reserves. It’s quiet. Oh lord, it’s quiet. You can hear your thoughts here. You have room to breathe the freshest air blowing through from surrounding hills and ridgeland, and your sinuses and skin clear up because it’s dry and clean. You can see sheep and kangaroos grazing (though not together). You can build houses here. You can work hard here, you can slow down here, you can grow alongside your children and soak up their childhood. And because there aren’t so many people around, you can find yourself here – distinct, apart from the crowd, clear, lucid. Apprised of, but relatively sheltered from fads and trends and popular opinion. You can get clarity here. You can dream.

As with any home, you know its faults most of all – but you’d defend it to the ground if someone on the outside were to attack it. And until a few years ago, I guess I’d secretly regarded Canberra as a looooong staycation. But it’s been eleven years since I moved from Singapore, and I’m more content now than I’ve ever been in over a decade.

It’s a lifestyle – and a life choice – that is hard to explain, and even harder to embrace if you’re not looking for it. Tranquility can often be mistaken for boredom, and it took me a while – especially coming out of my twenties – to wind down the adrenaline junkie in me. I still pack too much in a day, and I still burn the candle on both ends to embrace all my interests. But I’m beginning to understand that a life without constant hyperventilative event and drama can be deeply satisfying.

(HUGE caveat: I’m not saying my Singaporean friends and loved ones are all dark and twisty adrenaline bunnies incapable of switching off and building fulfilling lives. Hardly. I’m just saying Canberra is starting to suit me, but it doesn’t suit everyone. Mostly because there are no durian parties here.)

This is a super long-winded way of me saying that it made my heart sing to see how Andrea and Ben truly appreciated this brown land I’ve come to call home. They found joy in the little things I find joy in – good food in surprising cafes, gorgeous views unassaulted by high-rise buildings, fresh produce, quirky shops. Freezing cold air juxtaposed with yummy hot chocolate, humongous stationery warehouses, a double-storey music store. Stretches of winding road enveloped in velvety darkness, supermarkets that stay open till midnight. Quiet traffic.

An almost-empty cinema and a brilliant movie playing while you’re nursing a glass of Prosecco. A surprise of wooden artistry in a forest of glass and concrete. Crazy playgrounds shaped like acorns, and a breathtaking expanse of land dedicated to the cultivation and conservation of the world’s trees.

A church that is small but intimate and loving. That trusts each other enough to lay down true burdens, that worships without fanfare (and sometimes without Powerpoint). That asks hard questions and is okay with diverse answers. That can be disorganised, but strives so hard to be patient with one another in love.

And then the ultimate compliment – that they can see why I live here. And that is heartwarming indeed.

Photo of Graham, Penny, Andrea and Ben (normal)
A posed shot with the Frys
Photo of Graham, Penny, Andrea and Ben (quirky)
That’s more like it
Andrea taking in view from arboretum
Andrea taking in the view of the arboretum

A photo an hour

Came across a blog post last night where someone took a photo an hour for about 12 hours. She’d joked that she was too “boring” a subject to make her day seem exciting through photos, but I thought, What a fabulous idea!

I’ve had Paula Spencer’s Momfidence! as my bathroom reader and it has been such a great pick-me-up because she’s such a funny writer and an even greater encourager. Anyhoo, one of the things she wished aloud in her book was that she documented more of the Everyday through photos and video. That it was one thing to take happy snaps of memorable events, but they’re usually staged and everyone is trying to smile in the camera.

That isn’t real life, though.

REAL life is spending a lot of collective family time wondering what’s in the fridge. Having slightly chaotic 17-way conversations around the dinner table. Dealing with mess in the sink. Receiving impromptu kisses from your toddler. Doing the laundry together.

These are scenes I may not think of documenting right now, but I’ll bet that one day, I’ll look out my front door to the hills and struggle to remember what that had looked like 5, 10, 15 years ago. What my everyday had been like 5, 10, 15 years ago.

So here’s my effort to document the mundane in my camera phone. I’m aiming to take and post a photo every waking hour today – mostly through my phone, so excuse photo sizes.


7:16am – Little girl is up. Me, not so much


8:07am – Arddun decides that not having bubbles Right This Minute is dreadfully unfair


9:21am – Getting dressed to do some Christmas shopping. It’s going to be hot today!


9:53am – Postman brings some Peter’s of Kensington goodness


11:00am – Scored a $29-blackboard for Arddun


12:05pm – Sushi lunch


1:10pm – Owing to time spent lost in carpark trying to locate teeny tiny door to Kmart’s customer collection centre (which turned out to be the same colour as the surrounding walls, BTW), we didn’t get home quite in time before Arddun fell asleep. Decided to embark on part 2 of Christmas shopping.


2:20pm – Arddun and I enter a store to secure Tony’s Christmas present! And then we stood outside and took a picture of the store, and OH WHAT A SHAME. My finger got in the way. I guess Tony will have to wait till Christmas.


3:14pm – Connect Cafe, cooling down from the searing heat with an ice-cold


4:13pm – Last-minute grocery shopping for church thanksgiving potluck, and Arddun scores a helium balloon while sussing out the new hair shop opposite. Very special gift.


4:57pm – Puttering around the courtyard with a small bucket of water while I prepare her dinner.


6:08pm – Cooking a chicken curry for tonight’s Thanksgiving with the church that starts at 6:30pm. Unfortunately, Tony isn’t home yet. Oh well. Better late than never, eh?


7:13pm – Church and food! When many gather in His name here, somehow there’s always food.


8:00pm – Right on 8 o’clock, this little guy thanks God for me! (Might have been a sympathy vote because I had been blubbering during my thanksgiving, but I’m pretty chuffed.)


9:34pm – Got home to find that someone had tried to wash her daddy’s clothes, but probably lost interest by the time she got to the door.


10:02pm – Continue freelance work


11:22pm – Start preparing for bed



Well, it’s been interesting. I’ve always wondered how people found the time to microblog 8 times a day and thought I could never be one of them. That my most immediate problem would be the lack of content, a close second being the lack of time.

And yet, looky what I’ve done here!

Content-wise, this is chicken feed. I’ve just uploaded a picture of my night face cream, for crying out loud. Not many brain cells were fried in the makings of this post, but it took commitment and time anyhow. I was also surprised by how many moments I couldn’t catch through photos, but that I wished I had.

For instance:

  • 11:53am – Pushing stroller with heavy 17½-month-old and shopping up a loooong stalled travellator – while wearing cute open-toe sandals with almost zero-grip. Got to a point halfway up (after I’d lost momentum from my running start) where I needed to grip handrail and physically pull us all upward. Shoes actually started sliding backwards at 75% mark. Nice young fella saved the day by rocketing stroller (and Arddun) up to the top while I giggled after him like a nincompoop.
  • 4:35pm – Physically getting Arddun into car and strapped into carseat as she hangs on to orange balloon for dear life while repeatedly kissing it. Orange balloon is still attached to shopping trolley.

I seriously doubt I’ll be microblogging my everyday moments from here on end. But this exercise has given me pause about what else I care passionately enough of to be able to write constantly.

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