It rarely occurs to one the trouble taken to build a flat. The workers who deal with the sun, mud, accidents and incomprehensible supervisors. Foundations, architecture, engineering, project management, utilities planning, material selection, timelines and ultimately the multiple compromises due to market demands. In Singapore, getting a home means, please sir, can we have more loan quantum?

Grand Designs (on Netflix) is an eye opener. Homes could float away, slide down, crumble into dust. How rare and special it is, to be able to go out and buy a home has telephone, light and water, that is near buses and trains, near ready to eat food, with renovators who at a snap give you a template in order to pretend to have taste and deliver this illusion in a few months. Someone has done all the calculations, taken the risks to made sure there are no expensive mistakes. Nobody has to pay half a million or close to a million to discover that the plot is a bog.

Zoom is an equaliser. Everyone works off a small, slightly, tilting ceiling.

Yet other people’s interiors always bother us: bowed shelves acquiescing to just-one-more-wouldn’t-hurt and joyfully unfashionable floors.

Great money and effort turns inward to stamp that wealth, tearing down and building up. On zoom, only the tilting blank ceiling is allowed. Books and letters piling on top of the dusty piano, and the children and their legs strewn over coffee tables are portraits too intimate.

I can’t recommend this enough

Dear Diary by Mary Tuda

I am totally fascinated by this teenage diary kept between 1976 and 1981. I was surfing around for a diary sort of blog. How refreshing this introspection, this daily detail of who said what to whom. I miss the time when blogs were more or less ‘dear diary’. I can’t see that they will return to the more innocent times. I am tired of reading blogs monetizing food eaten, plays watched, books read, and economics and politics. I sort of accepted it that everything on YouTube is Sellavision and enjoy it but I like my reading uninterrupted.

An excerpt:

Also, from reading this diary one would think that I am a non-intellectual, very typical and rather boring teenager – not too mature, either, for although I repeatedly refer to my work I don’t enlarge on it at all and don’t in any way air my own views on books, authors – ETC, or even my philosophy of life, and believe me, I do think about those things, albeit in a fairly elementary manner; but they do interest me. I believe in many things. But I very rarely discuss them with anyone, I wouldn’t be nearly so obnoxious as to discuss them with Dad; it’s so hard to tell what he’s really thinking.

Fantasy Office

My boss humourously pointed out I seem to have an aversion to creating slides. I asked one too many times in a day, how many slides should I do; is one slide enough, etc.

If it were up to me, all bosses will get printed memos on letterheads that require signatures in their approval process. Their secretary will have to keep that signed document. If analytical or investigative reports, they appear on as a word document. Excel charts or tables will form appendices. (Nothing against them but they are workings, not the conclusion.)

Try handing up two pictures instead of a two thousand word essay on the stock market run-up to the great depression, is my thinking. Only words on a wet signature will do, thank you very much.

Brought To You By The Letter F

It is not the word flower that my son wrote in the inner page of his homework that got him into trouble.

Accordingly, I over-reacted. We both did. Kid is eight. What business does he have with swear words? We already freaked out once, when called younger child names. (The word used was not doll-face.) He said he heard it from older boys in school who use it all the time. Why can’t he use it, he wept. Later on, he told on his sister. She used something other than freckles ubiquitous in telling her brother to be quiet. He said she learnt it from her 12 year old friend.

Whatever your leanings on this topic, indulge me. He is 8. His sister is 7. We did not allow screen time when they were small – we don’t have a television set at home. Older, I vet their youtube watching. Why are older kids letting younger kids hang around them? I remember we were barely ok with someone a year younger. Two years younger, we think they are babies.

At about 14, I was reading my aunts’ books I was introduced to adults using bad words. Using them requires friends to be of similar vocab – I am introverted and my friends are unworldly. This was different when I turned 17 and got myself more sophisticated friends.

You call your mum a [seaside], I asked, incredulous.

All the time, replied my friend.

She let you, I asked in wonder.

It’s just a word, she said airily.

I totally fell for it.

I am now 44 and can tell it is rubbish talk. Most of all, Aunty is a church going kindergarten teacher. The probability of [seaside] being “just-a-word” is really slim. From then, I had friends to practice these cool new terms with and usage flowered. We were not using these words at work or randomly swearing at parents, strangers, parents and neighbours. Just amongst ourselves.

When we all had children, it stopped. It was hard to eradicate them but I succeeded. (Mr TCM doesn’t use any of these words. I am the potty mouth in the house.) Except for the odd occasion when I burnt myself cooking, or I had forgotten a very important work requirement. I cleaned myself up.

I have no doubt, that after a while they will know the context to use it. They will also clean up their potty mouth eventually. Yes it could be worse. They could be sarcastic and cynical. At this point, I am not ready to handle little children who maybe calling their moms, a beach.

Bullet Journal

During one of the highest stress points while I was working from home, I discovered bullet journal from youtube. My favourite to watch is Plant Based Bride because I love all that gold colour she puts in the journal. I also used her rolling weekly spread for my work. Journal Away has beautiful drawings in her journal. I enjoy her channel for the art.

I was really stressed in March because the kids were home for a bit. I was doing a lot of meal planning on top trying to keep up with kids homework. I had to work. My journal was a mess then because it had the kids work, my work, the food for the day (meals + snack).

In April, before the circuit breaker kicked in, I bought a planner for their homework. I planned, my husband executed. I made homework and snack breaks my husband’s job. I only did main meals.

I was still stressed in April and May but there was a bit more order in my journal – it was all about work. My tasks list for work was endless. I ran out space on the notebook. I put June in a new notebook. After a few months of experimenting I got into a groove.

I discovered that planning to the gills made me more anxious. So I started leaving weekends out from the planner. I was working on weekends but unscheduled time made me felt less stressed up.

I liked having a time sheet to blocking out my meetings. I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t completing a particular project and started to track my time. I did not magically find more hours. I realised that empty slots were filled up with other work, eg emails, work discussion, thinking, etc. I am trying to be more goal oriented but my time seem somewhat dictated by urgent business for that day. I stopped being fixated with the idea that I must accomplish big goals only. These urgent businesses were part of my job.

I started out a page a day. It took up a lot of pages. Midway through I switched to a rolling weekly list which felt tidier.

This is a great system for completing things. There is something that I find it hard to keep track of – that is my completed work. Some of my completed work will be brought up again for fine tuning because some one else has seen it and need to include their point of view. My work life has a lot of those moments. Without penciling the completed work I don’t have a list of what I have done for the month, especially if my time is spent on urgent business of the day. Penciling in doesn’t really show up in a neat way so I’m still trying to figure it out.

The other thing that I thought I could but eventually gave up was having thinking notes in the same book as the journal. It was impossible to reference any of my meeting notes because even though I had pages, everything was in a mess. I gave up and split notes and planners into different books and I felt that was more orderly.

Against the tide

My mom was determined to be middleclass. She bought a Kawai piano and I was to play it half an hour daily. She bought assessment books and told me the drill. This was at odds with my idea of childhood. I am more or less dutiful, depending on whether you spoke with my doting aunts or my mom. My dad understood the importance of working hard. He disliked homework and never got involved in my mother’s schemes. He also never said, how about a break. Interminable work stoked the fires of revolution.

No worksheets, I said to my husband, when we were picking childcare.

Amongst my few friends, I was the deviant. 回头是岸吧孩子! One of them was as fervent as a Young PAP about it. Children should start homework as young as possible. (Naturally, I ignored her.) I heard the moderates. I moaned about homework as if I was the one doing it. I still ignored them.

The teachers didn’t think the kids had a problem with school work. I concluded that the nightly assault on their spelling lists was good enough. I also thought their problems wasn’t work but behaviour. One was fidgety. They other just started class for 3 months and is a bit of a 管家婆.

Home based learning changed my life view. My son is illiterate in Chinese. My daughter doesn’t understand grammar rules. I started trying flash cards. I bought assessment books. How on earth do people decide what to buy? Luckily, my sister in law who heads English in primary school had passed me a thin booklet and an assessment book. I went to the shops with these books and bought the same thing for my son. I bought a similiar thing for Chinese. I didn’t go off into the deep end and buy exam papers like a friend advised. It would be optimistic to imagine they could take an exam and finish writing it.

Forum: MOE should publish assessment books written by teachers ...

Flowing with the tide made stress levels high. My kids were understandably upset about having mummy’s homework. I planned their school day. My husband, stuck at home, carried out those plans. The kids didn’t like Daddy messing about their homework. He was too strict, they complained. My husband missed his work – he belonged to the 手停口停族. More accurately, he was already stressed about income. Tasked to man the kids, he complained about not having his own time for paper work. Welcome to my world, I said, testily. Your life is so easy, I said at another time. I was being mean because his initial idea of manning the kids is to mess about with his phone and take a nap after.

I think we are getting better at it, the kids, their father and I. The kids yelling now takes on a note of resignation. I am now very open to the idea of tuition and the need for practice. The father is now open to changing their student care. (The 8 year old picked up rude words from older children there and they are not making sure work is done.)

Why is it that flowing with the tide is more stressful than not? It might be the realisation of not being average makes it stressful. Against the tide, there is no such realisation. It is white noise even if you notice there are others who are marching to the beat of their own drum. There is a lot more freedom. It takes more discipline and grit to flow with the tide.