Morbid Or Plain Pragmatic?

Use This

A fat package sat in my letter box today and it yielded a booklet entitled Understanding HOTA—Human Organ Transplant Act. Produced by Singapore’s Health Ministry, it’s sent to all households where a member is approaching the legal adult age of 21. That’s because HOTA allows the kidneys, liver, heart and corneas of all adult citizens and permanent residents to be used for transplantation after death unless the person is “mentally disordered” or specifically objected while alive.

There’s a form for those wanting to opt out, along with a caution that doing so would mean lower priority if the objector needs an organ in future. Another form gives the choice of donating additional body parts under MTERA—Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act.

And thus a conversation ensued between my older son and me on my preferences upon death.

Just an hour earlier, a kind neighbour Angela who cooked me a delicious lunch had recommended maintaining a fuss-free collection of personal effects so that those we leave behind wouldn’t be burdened with extensive sorting out and clearing up. After all, she reminded me, there’s a saying that goes, “One man’s treasure is another man’s garbage.” So I was challenged afresh to streamline my possessions. I’d written previously about seeking to lead an unfettered life free of joy-draining emotional baggage and clutter. But books, documents and gadgets have a way of sneaking up on you!

A bible verse comes to mind, and here’s The Message version:
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” –Matthew 6:19-21

Then there’s the beautiful promise in Psalm 55:22, “Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—He’ll carry your load, He’ll help you out. He’ll never let good people topple into ruin.” And 1 Peter 5:7 urges us, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” How comforting!


Back to my list of deathbed preferences—the reason for the title of this post. My sweet boy said, “Mum, please write them down somewhere as I hope it’ll be many decades before I need it, and I might forget by then.” So here it is…

*Life Support & Organ Donation
The HOTA booklet, written in the four official languages of Singapore—English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil—explains the difference between cardiac death and brain death, and between comatose and brain dead. As one who believes in the sovereignty of God, I do not believe in giving up hope because He can perform miracles that defy medical science, as many real life testimonies attest to. When it’s time for my earthly life to end, I know that my Lord will let me breathe my last naturally. And therein lies the controversy surrounding turning off life support at the recommendation of doctors. With my belief that God is ultimately in control, is it better for me to opt out of HOTA while I’m alive, so that my loved ones would have the final say instead of medical professionals? I’m reviewing this issue thoroughly.

After I die, I’d be happy to donate every organ and all tissues that can be harvested to benefit the living. After all, “Then shall the dust [out of which God made man’s body] return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” -Ecclesiastes 12:7

I like the way bible scholar John Piper puts it, “Burying your loved one is a sign that you believe in the resurrection. The body is precious. I know it decomposes; we’re talking symbolic significance. God created it, He’s going to resurrect it, there’s going to be continuity between what you were and what you are so that you can recognise each other. You want to symbolically put it to rest because that’s the language of the bible—you’re sleeping. He will waken those who sleep.” 1 Thessalonians 5:10 states, “Whether we are still alive or are dead [at Christ’s appearing], we might live together with Him and share His life.

*Songs At The Wake & Funeral
I’ve asked my loved ones to refer to my favourite songs in the blog page Carol In A Nutshell. A must-have is “Blessed Be Your Name” which contains the powerful line from Job 1:21, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed (praised and magnified in worship) be the name of the Lord!” My good and just God has the perfect perspective and I know His timing is always ideal, never too early or too late.

*My Graduation
Jesus wept”—the shortest verse in the bible. It is God who gave us humans a range of emotions, and it is healthy to properly grieve the loss of someone you love. Every treasured family member and good friend is a gift and blessing from the Lord and we’ll miss their company when they’re no longer around. But underlying and underscoring the sorrow at a Christian’s death is the glorious hope that he or she has “graduated” to eternity.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognising the benefits He has bestowed].”
1 Corinthians 2:9

“Death is not the extinguishing of the Light but the turning down of the lamp because the Dawn has come.”
Author unknown

Last Words of Great Christian Leaders:
The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell! Farewell!
John Wesley (Co-founder of the Methodist movement)
Live in Christ, live in Christ, and the flesh need not fear death.
John Knox (Leader, Scottish Protestant Reformation)
Our God is the God from whom cometh salvation: God is the Lord by whom we escape death.
Martin Luther (Initiator, Protestant Reformation)


All Things Weird & Wonderful

Skinny Pig
Breed: Guinea Pig (Practically hairless)
Price: S$150 (USD120) for one, S$200 (USD160) for a pair
My neighbourhood pet shop is promoting the Skinny Pig and I like stopping by to check them out. To me, this critter fits the traditional definition of cute—ugly but adorable!

2013-03-25 17.30.35

My Favourite Bird
Pelicans always look adorably goofy to me. That large throat pouch never fails to make me smile 🙂



My Favourite Dog
Chow Chow resembles a miniature bear with a lion’s mane. Its unique tongue comes in one of my favourite colours—purple! Origin: China, where it’s known as 松狮犬 (Songshi Quan)



My Favourite Cat
Don’t know what breed Harry Cat is, but I really like this picture from a children’s book called “The Cricket in Times Square” written by George Selden and illustrated by Garth Williams. I’ve added one of my Guiding Principles and made it the cover of files containing songs that I use to lead group worship. The words in Chinese 敬 拜 耶 和 华 (prono: jìng bài yē hé huá) mean Worship Yahweh/Jehovah.


The picture reminds me of Isaiah 11:6 in the Bible, “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatted domestic animal together; and a little child shall lead them.” …..World Peace!


A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever



“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray”
-Joyce Kilmer

Glass Finery – Skylight of Raffles City as seen from Out Of The Pan restaurant

Apple Delight
I call this the Fruit Fly—what imagination! -(Artist unknown)
Love the way the stalk was split to make butterfly antennae!

Red Blood Cells seen under a scanning electron microscope that detects incredible details of 1-5 nanometre in size. They’re the most common type of blood cells and they have the tall task of carrying oxygen to our entire body. Women have some 4-5 million RBCs per cubic millimetre of blood and in men, it’s 5-6 million.

Eagle Paw
Sheer artistry! -(Artist unknown)
“Those who wait for and hope in the Lord shall renew their strength & power; they shall soar on wings like eagles and mount up close to God; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired”
-Isaiah 40:31


“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done”
-Johnson Oatman, Jr.


Fun Occupation: Regurgitator
(Thanks to rYo for sharing this)

Fun On The Job


Hope Springs Eternal


A youth asked me the other day, “Is there hope for this world?” The question came in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the death of a 4-year old girl after she was viciously raped in India, and the collapse of a factory complex in Bangladesh that killed more than 400.

My answer was an emphatic “Yes!” I’m not burying my head in the sand, for news is the essence of my career, and I’m keenly aware of the tensions, scandals, chaos and disasters around the globe. And yes, I realise that many animal and plant species are going extinct while natural reserves are being depleted at an unsustainable rate. Closer to home, I know people who’re struggling with money problems, family breakups, terminal diseases and mental illnesses.

But what is life without hope? To me, that sounds like the surest route to depression, or severe ennui as the French call it—listlessness, utter weariness and discontent. To be perpetually pessimistic is to embrace what King Solomon of ancient Israel (gifted with great wisdom yet foolish in his lifestyle choices) concluded in old age, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” or “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” -Ecclesiastes 12:8

Hopelessness paralyses. Hope keeps us going, even if it’s for just one day at a time. An author who suffered crushing childhood abuse entitled her book, “Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On.”  Stormie Omartian exemplifies the spirit of the biblical holy women who “trusted and hoped in God” and “do not give way to fear” but do what is “good and right.” -1 Peter 3:5-6


More than a decade ago, a colleague commented with a tinge of envy, “Carol, you have everything!” By which she meant a good job, a husband with a promising career, bright children and the 5Cs sought after by many Singaporeans—Car, Credit Card, Condominium and Country Club membership. She couldn’t see the insecurity and fears that I felt deep inside me despite the outward achievements, and in fact, I wouldn’t have known how to express it if asked then, although now I recognise that it was a God-shaped void in me. I certainly wasn’t ready then to encounter death and meet my Creator face-to-face, for my family had lapsed into nominal Christianity.

My forties have been a decade of coping with major losses including the death of my mother who wasn’t a Christian. Witnessing the intense agony that I went through—a very dark few weeks during which I had to literally “wrestle with God” the way Job did in the bible—a long-time friend remarked, “I don’t know how you manage to stay sane.” The answer to that was that I had drawn close to my Heavenly Father again during those years and was firmly anchored in Him, assured of my true identity as His beloved child. My life hasn’t been a bed of roses, but my faithful God has seen me through every storm, so I’ve learnt to constantly find my security in Him and draw strength and refreshment daily from “my ever present Help in trouble.”

Now, whenever something happens that I don’t appreciate and may never understand this side of Heaven, my many personal testimonies of God’s faithfulness, goodness and guidance enables me to continue placing my confidence and trust in Him. So in the midst of the worst situations and circumstances, I can boldly declare that my sovereign Lord is the perfect blend of Love and Holiness, Grace and Judgement. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right” and “deal justly?” No one will have any cause for complaint against God when His perspective is fully revealed at a future date in history.


There are useful experiences and hard-earned lessons that I plan to share in my future posts, with the hope that they’ll encourage those facing the same issues and struggles. Some colleagues who’ve been with me most of my working life will be surprised that they never knew what I was going through at the time. But if we’re honest, I think most of us don’t really have a clue as to what the majority of the people we interact with at work are really feeling or going through.  I don’t put on a front, for I believe in honesty and am typically grounded in reality, but I’ve also learnt to be wise. Share personal matters only with those you trust, people who’ll take the time to provide good counsel or even lend a helping hand when needed. You don’t have to oblige if you suspect that all the other party wants is more fodder for the gossip mill.

During my first year as a Broadcast Journalist, an older reporter asked me bluntly, “So did you get one, two or three?” She was referring to the standard increments then of $100, $200 or $300. Taken off-guard, I blurted out the figure. Since then, my company has corporatised and increments come in a wide range of amounts. At the same time, I’ve learnt to simply smile when faced with such brazen queries. One tip is that it’s helpful to prepare your answers at home if there are things you prefer to keep to yourself or disclose only to a select few.



Who am I, they ask me? I’m LOVED & ACCEPTED—the cure for so many of the world’s ills. Many are trapped in a relentless search for that elusive security, never finding a level that satisfies until we come to the feet of Jesus Christ. LOVED—for eternity! Surpassing all expectations and exceeding all imagination. Beloved Lord, I hunger and thirst to love and be loved to the full measure that You intend for me.”

Father God loves us, accepts us, and wants a personal relationship with us. So He’s made it possible for us to be saved by grace and “raised up with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” -Ephesians 2:6


As I was using my calculator today, I was struck by the similarity between a plus sign and the Cross of Calvary. God our Provider adds good things to our lives—Love, Family, Purpose, Wisdom, Hope of A Glorious Eternal Home through Jesus Christ!

What repels God? ==Pride. An excessively high opinion of oneself/one’s importance; contempt for others.
What attracts God? ==Humility. Throw ourselves upon the mercies of God with all our guilt, shame & unworthiness. Our Heavenly Father races to embraces us just as we are. He gathers up the fragments of our lives into His loving, healing arms. –(40-Day Prayer 2011 @

My Prayer For You
My friend, if you’re troubled, stressed or discouraged today, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy & peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
– Romans 15:13

Here’s a song that stirred up hope in many victims of Typhoon Katrina in America.
Still/Be Still My Soul – Don Moen
Lyrics/Music: Reuben Morgan

Everything Falls/Arms That Hold The Universe – Fee
Lyrics/Music: Eddie Kirkland, Steve Fee

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”
–Alexander Pope (An Essay on Man)



A very disappointed soft drinks salesman returned from his Middle East assignment.
His friend asked, “Why weren’t you successful with the Arabs?”
He explained, “When I received my new posting, I was very confident of making a good sales pitch as Cola is virtually unknown in the Middle East. But I had a problem as I don’t know Arabic. So I decided to be creative by conveying the message through three posters…

Poster 1: A man lying in the hot desert sand, totally exhausted
Poster 2: The man drinks Cola
Poster 3: Our man is totally refreshed and energised!


…I made sure these posters were put up all over town,” sighed the salesman.
“That sounds like a good idea that should have worked!” said the friend.
“To my horror,” replied the salesman sadly, “I found out that I had made a huge mistake!”…

“Don’t you know that Arabs read from right to left?!”

Know Your Customers! 😀

Life Scales & Acts Of Kindness


As some of you are aware, my company website has been revamped and the collection of staff blogs has been archived. So I’ve reproduced and updated several of my musings that attracted the most discussion among readers far and near.


August 2011

My heart leapt for joy the other day when my teenage son Caleb Brandon voluntarily carried some food for an elderly couple to their table, without any prompting from me, and without being asked. At the time, we were waiting in line behind the man, who looked to be in his seventies. When I told my boy how pleased I was with his act of kindness, he dismissed it by saying, “Mum, it was only a few metres!” “That’s not the point,” I said, “Well done, I’m proud of you!”

Just this morning, my younger boy Joshua Jared made my heart sing too. We had walked passed several foreign construction workers catching a nap during their early lunch break. “The music blasting out of their CD player sounds funny to me, Mum, but I recognise and appreciate their hard work,” he said.


cat bunny

These are the moments that make me truly thankful, for they provide glimpses of the loving and caring nature of my children. How glad I am too that hugs are still permitted, and when deemed “inconvenient”, pats on the head and a quick squeeze of the shoulders are acceptable!

A decade ago, several people more experienced in parenting urged me to exercise tough love. It goes something like this—teach your kids the realities of life early so that they’ll be better prepared to face adulthood. One man recommended telling a child who didn’t deliver top grades that if he failed to pull up his socks, he would have to get out of the house until he “woke up”. The other, a trained counsellor, deliberately locked her daughter out after she’d broken a curfew, although she did tell the girl to go to a McDonald’s near their home for “shelter” during the night.

Such advice would have resonated well with Yale Law School professor Amy Chua, who wrote the bestselling “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. Check out:,9171,2043477,00.html

The mother of two girls, now in their teens, freely shared the extremely strict parenting methods that she practised, which some have denounced as being harsh and merciless! She described the measures as being typical of Chinese families, and claimed they were highly effective in producing generations of successful children. Her revelations drew a whole gamut of reactions, mostly shock and even disgust.

Prime examples: Forcing her children to put in hours of drills and practices every day, using derogatory labels on them and withholding approval if she felt they had not met her desired standards, threatening to burn their stuffed toys if their music wasn’t played perfectly, and imposing strict controls on how they spent their leisure.

The irony is that Amy Chua’s American husband Jed Rubenfeld, also a Yale professor, stands in contrast as a relaxed, reasonable and “permissive” Westernised parent. Yet it was clear he regularly gave in to his wife’s streak of maternal ruthlessness!

As for me, I do believe in discipline, for the age-old advice in Proverbs 23:13 remains relevant even today, “Don’t fail to correct your children. You won’t kill them by being firm, and it may even save their lives.” But selfless love must always be the underlying motivation and the Bible also instructs us that “mercy triumphs over judgment” for “judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

What I really pray for and work towards is that my sons will grow up to be trustworthy and kind men who love the Lord, are full of godly wisdom, live right, show good sense and display sound judgement. Then I shall be a joyful mother who can safely and will gladly cut the apron strings.
(It’s not easy getting teenagers to pose for photos so here’s a snapshot of Mum & Sons dated 2006/07)


July 2011

A survey by the Singapore Kindness Movement found that more than 40% of Singaporeans believe they’re more gracious than their fellow residents. Only 15% of those polled rated others as being high on graciousness. The movement’s General Manager was quoted as saying that changing this attitude will be a challenge because Singaporeans are indifferent to improving their level of graciousness. The 1400 respondents were given a statement that read, “It is not possible for Singapore to become a more gracious place due to the hectic and stressed lifestyle in the country”. More than half agreed; only 4 in 10 were optimistic.

That report led me to wonder if the apparent gap between personal and communal graciousness is more a case of bad publicity than reality. It’s true that some commuters on the local Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system or pubic buses do not voluntarily give up their seats for the elderly or for pregnant women. Some cite illness or fatigue; others say they were having a nap and didn’t notice that their seat was needed. Yet based on my personal experience, I’ve seen far more people offering seats quickly and cheerfully than not. And I know that both my teenage sons belong to this kinder and more courteous group. 🙂


Survey findings like the latest data only add to the public perception, or should I call it “misperception”, that Singaporeans aren’t kind. And the comparison with other Asians like the Japanese merely seal in the general belief that locals have a long way to go in attaining true graciousness. Wouldn’t it be more helpful for the annual State of Kindness report to reflect a balanced picture of both the negative and the positive?

In Singapore, charity drives and news reports of needy families facing tragic circumstances typically attract generous donations. Perhaps we should start highlighting more examples of Good Samaritans? Just a week ago, I saw a taxi driver stopping his vehicle because he noticed an old man trying to push a bulky item across the road. He ran to the man, helped him quietly, and then got back into his vehicle to continue earning his living.


Imagine graciousness like a tangible living spirit spreading across our island, and stories of kind and courteous behaviour multiplying. Visualise a society where the members are caring and compassionate towards one another. With God’s help, every Christian’s goal is to cultivate and manifest the 9-fold fruit of the Holy Spirit—Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.

“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches”

Hugs & Exercising The 5th Sense


October 2011

On my way home the other day, I saw a boy who was as tall as his mother lightly holding hands with her as they walked down the lane. It was a heartwarming sight that got me thinking about the power of touch.

Someone once said, “Happiness is an unexpected hug.” Our need for physical connection starts from birth—a nursing newborn instinctively seeks nourishment and comfort. Young children who are frequently cuddled and adults who receive regular positive touch (as opposed to negative forms like abuse or molest) are reportedly happier and healthier than their peers.

Touch communicates love, conveys comfort and heals hurts. It breaks down barriers so that even normally reticent teenagers would be more open to sharing their thoughts and feelings. It’s a nonverbal expression of caring when you can’t find the right words at a funeral or sickbed. I’ve read that touch strengthens our immune system, and it also lightens dark moods.

Remember that warm fuzzy feeling you had the last time you gave or received a touch? One of my favourite cartoonists Bill Watterson captured it perfectly in “Calvin & Hobbes”.


Why not give someone whom you care for a gift of touch today? Surprise him or her with a hug, a squeeze on the shoulder, a pat on the head or just lightly place your hand over theirs. Go on, make their day, and yours too! And while you’re at it, how about taking the time to say aloud, “I love you” or “You matter to me” or “I value your friendship.”

A hug is a great gift—one size fits all, and it’s easy to exchange. ~Author Unknown
A hug is like a boomerang—you get it back right away. ~Bil Keane, Cartoonist, “The Family Circus”



“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.” ~Apostle Paul


November 2011

3.14pm – My phone notification sounds….a friend just delivered her third child.
3:53pm – A colleague calls….his dad just passed away.

Life and Death within an hour. Two certainties in life; two ends of a journey that every living creature must go through. At times like this, reflection is normal: “What is it that’s truly important during our sojourn on earth?”

How many people look back when their final hour beckons, and wish they had worked harder? The reality, according to a survey, is that a desire to turn back the clock and spend more time with loved ones tops the list of death-bed regrets. Recall or read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and the warning by miserly Scrooge’s partner Jacob. He laments, “In life, my spirit never rose beyond the limits of our money-changing holes.”

“If Only” is always Mr Right –that’s the quaint expression someone I know used to say. More typically, the phrase “Hindsight is 20-20” is quoted. Few people go through life without acquiring excess baggage that sings the tune, “If only I/they had….” or “If only I/they hadn’t…”

Heed the wise sayings that go like this, “Enough for today are today’s own problems”, “Let bygones be bygones” and “Do not anxiously hope for that which is not yet come; do not vainly regret what is already past.”. That’s not to say we don’t carry forward valuable lessons learnt from past experiences, but let’s travel light.

Treasure the people in your life; they won’t be there forever. Some will be like ships that pass in the night—if that line sounds familiar, it’s probably because crooner Barry Manilow used it in a song. Others will be there only for a season but let’s be content with what they add to our lives during that period. A final group will be like cosy blankets or comfortable outfits, sticking with us through thick and thin as together, we witness the decades go by. My recommendation: Value them all!


I’ve realised the necessity of arranging or rearranging my “prioroties” to match what’s in my heart. Said an exhausted parent to his children, “I’m working day and night so you’ll have a better life.” Perhaps a pertinent question to ask is, “Better by whose standards?” A sorrowful parent told anyone who’d listen to her woes, “I worked so hard to provide for my son and spent all my time building up my business. Now, my teenager doesn’t even talk to me. He treats me like a stranger and our home like a hotel.” It’s the age-old argument of quality time versus quantity. Can our kids only enjoy one or the other?

Time is unbiased, and rich or poor, we all get the same 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 60 minutes an hour. So if someone says they’ve no time to celebrate or mourn with a family member or friend, answer a call or catch up over a meal, isn’t it a matter of choice? On a day when Life and Death met, it was time for me to reassess my commitments and activities. I know my answer to the first question in this post. How about you?

Beyond The Cursory Glance



April 2012

She sits in a cubicle in the Lady’s Washroom, and every once in a while, she’d get up to wipe the basin dry. She rarely makes eye contact, and if you pause to offer a word of thanks, she looks surprised, as if compliments are foreign in her solitary world. “Alone In The Crowd” is the phrase that comes to mind if you stop to observe her.

He sits at a corner of the Bus Interchange, unseeing, holding out packets of tissue paper that he hopes passersby will buy. When he doesn’t hear anyone around him, he slips into a still, silent cocoon of his own. Some people stop in a simple act of compassion, but far more are too caught up with their own thoughts or troubles to turn aside and reach out to him.

help blind

Tips for assisting someone who’s visually challenged
Give them your arm to hold when walking and let them set the pace.
(The guy in the cartoon should be standing on her other side!)


Stop For The One!
That’s the cry of a woman brimming over with love and compassion. Heidi Baker founded the non-profit IRIS Ministries that cares for countless orphans and provides free health clinics and feeding programmes for the poor and sick in Mozambique. Primary and secondary schools and cottage industries are other tangible demonstrations of genuine care and concern.

In his song I Refuse, singer songwriter Josh Wilson declares, “Sometimes I just want to close my eyes and act like everyone’s alright when I know they’re not. But I refuse. ‘Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care. I refuse to say another empty prayer. I could choose not to move but I refuse. I refuse to turn my back.”


Someone noted that, “The faster our world gets, the less we notice people around us.” It’s not uncommon to see families and groups of friends sitting down for meals “together” but each person is focusing on an electronic gadget-checking a social networking site, playing a game, reading emails or picking up calls. Etiquette consultant Ms Manners would have a lot to say about such behaviour that’s become the norm!

Why not take time to notice someone today? Reach out to those who usually hover on the fringe and are seldom accorded any attention. Make a connection and find out something about the person that you never knew before. Here’s a challenge from a wise teacher: “Be nice to people who’re different from us, to those who won’t or don’t treat us well, and to those who can’t or won’t pay us back.”
Radical Living—what a world it would be!




Keep in touch!” is a phrase whose context has been turned upside down, especially among those who make it a point to stay connected round-the-clock via social media and instant messaging applications. Not so long ago, a timely response meant getting or giving a reply the next day, but now some of our contacts may well express annoyance if they don’t hear from us within minutes or even seconds!

The benefits of constant connectivity are evident but the pitfalls shouldn’t be lightly dismissed. According to a new survey of 900 young people, many are struggling with growing stress as they try to stay in the loop all the time and actively participate in one another’s blow-by-blow sharing. The respondents aged 19 to 26 confessed that their social media commitments had a negative impact on their studies or jobs.


I read an amusing headline that proclaimed, “Stressed by social media? There’s an App for that!” As much of the urbanised world rushes along at breakneck speed, let’s take time to appreciate the meaning and importance of R.E.S.T. which is defined as:

– A state of quiet or repose; tranquillity; to be still
– Rest from physical or mental exertion that wearies or disturbs
– Peace; security; freedom from anxiety

There’s a lovely Hebrew greeting that can be used whenever people say Hi or Bye. It’s “Shalom” and it means well-being, wholeness, soundness, health, peace, rest, no agitation or discord, prosperity, safety, harmony and completeness.

Isn’t that beautiful? Well, dear reader, I’d like to wish you, “Shalom!.”


Origins & A Matter Of Perspective



September 2011

“We would worry less about what others think of us if we realised how seldom they do.” -Ethel Barrett /~/ “A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” – Mark Twain

Someone mistook me for a mainland Chinese yesterday. He said I didn’t look like a Singaporean. Over the weekend, a woman promoting pastries at a mall kiosk tried to speak to me in Japanese. “Konnichiwa (Hello/Good afternoon). Du-ri-an! Du-ri-an!” she exclaimed as she handed me a fruit tart sample to try. I smiled and accepted it without a word ( And at a business dinner last month, I was asked if I had come from Taiwan.

None of those encounters took me by surprise. Why? They were replays of many similar queries in the past. According to these observers, I would be able to blend in with the locals in any East Asian country. Less commonly, I’ve been wrongly identified as an American Chinese. While I’ve gotten used to the idea that I apparently qualify as a citizen of the world, going by appearance alone, an interesting chain of thought was triggered.

My parents migrated to the island of Singapore from China’s Hainan Island (海南岛 hǎi nán dǎo) in the mid 20th century and all of us children were born in this sunny Southeast Asian nation. Hainan, located off the tip of Southern China, is often called the Chinese Hawaii, and it’s become a popular holiday and conference destination. If my parents hadn’t left their homeland, I could well be a card-carrying Communist right now. Besides the Hainanese dialect, I’d be conversing in 普通话 (Pǔtōnghuà – Standard Mandarin) and I would greet you with a “你好吗?” (nǐ hǎo ma – How are you?).

What if they had ended their journey a little further north, say in Malaysia? To find out how you’re getting on, my question in Malay (Bahasa Malaysia, Behasa Melayu) would be, “Apa khabar?” And if my Dad and Mum had enjoyed sailing and decided to continue due south, I’d probably greet you with a cheerful “G’day!” as they say Down Under!

As it is, I was born and bred in Singapore, in the cosy laid-back suburban estate of Serangoon Gardens. It used to be an enclave popular with military families from the Allied Forces. When they left for home, most sold their good quality reading material to a Used Books cornershop owned by an enterprising Indian gentleman. And I would devour the literary treasure they left behind, treating the collection as my personal library!

With worlds opening up before me, the authors who filled my childhood days unknowingly nurtured my love for the English language. And you could say that my career in broadcast journalism has its roots in that intense period of imaginative fervour. 🙂


What’s In A Name?
My surname Foo or 符 (prono: fú) comes down from my father’s ancestral line, which is typical for the Chinese. My given name is Say Chin or 之珍 (prono: zhī zhēn), and relatives who prefer not to use my Christian name call me 珍 (zhēn) which means precious or treasure. For the Hainanese (the dialect group that I belong to) who share the surname Foo, the first given name “之 or Say” is a generational name that’s reportedly based on an ancient Chinese poem. So there’s a prescribed character for each generation of Foos. For example, the middle name for my father’s generation was 国 (prono: guó) which means country; translated as Kok in English. His full name was Foo Kok How.

My brothers’ sons (optional for their daughters as the traditional thinking was that women marry “out” while sons carry on the family lineage) share the same first given name of “Chuan”. If they meet other Foo Chuan xxx anywhere in the world, they’ll know they all belong to the same generation of Foos. To find out which character to use next, the source to turn to is apparently the relevant clan association (会馆 huì guǎn). Formed on the basis of kinship and descent, these social institutions originated in China and were reproduced by migrant populations abroad to provide mutual support and protection. Not all Chinese follow this traditional method of naming their children; some families I know just pick whatever sounds nice to them, and others don’t even know there’s such a thing as an ancestral poem.

Carol means Song of Joy/Praise and it became part of my official name after my Water Baptism, but I believe it was my big sister who first called me that when I was a kid. I recall clearly that for some reason, my neighbours adulterated it to Carrot! And in secondary school, I was sometimes called Apple in the leadup to the biennial inter-school outdoor band competition because we’d spent hours marching in the sun to get the formations just right, and my cheeks would turn apple-red! Nowadays, most people don’t believe I ever led such an outdoor life because I don’t tan; I just burn if I’m not careful and then get back my original fair skin tone. My second “Christian name” officially added in 2014 is Kathryn which means Pure and Beloved. It’s linked to my God-given call to be in the Christian healing ministry.


Our attitude toward ourselves—our self-concept or our self-image—is one of the most important things we possess. It establishes the boundaries of our accomplishment and defines the limits of our fulfilment. If we think little of ourselves, we either accomplish little or drive ourselves unmercifully to disprove our negative self-evaluation. If we think positively about ourselves, we are free to achieve our true potential.” – Bruce Narramore (Psychologist & Author)

“More Beautiful You” is a lovely song worth listening to, especially for those struggling to accept themselves. If you’re a Christian, remember that “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”1 Samuel 7:16b

Father God’s Love Letter


This is a wonderful production that spells out why each of us is special, with a unique purpose for being right where we are at this point in history.



June 2011

“Ask Carol. She’s tech-savvy.”
– from one of my colleagues to another

“You know about live streaming?!”
– from a teenager, with a tinge of incredulousness

And so it is that to some, I’m the go-to person for queries like how to download online videos, extract and convert music from videos, change .3gp phone voice recordings to MP3/WMA format, or edit visuals with various free software. Yet to others, especially youngsters who grew up with gadgets galore at home and in school, I’m viewed as a toddler in this arena!

A recent global survey of 7,000 youths and young adults yielded some unusual findings. A little over half the respondents who were aged 16-22 said they would rather give up their ability to smell than go without technology. One quotable quote arising from the exercise was that to this group, “losing the ability to explore and communicate via technology would be like a blind man losing his stick.”


According to McCann Worldgroup’s report, three factors motivate today’s young people: the need for connections and community, social or personal justice, and authenticity.”

I believe the three items identified have their echoes in earlier generations, for they reflect essential human needs. However, the expression of these motivators has taken on a new dimension. The world has never been this connected, and I can appreciate that for some, staying in touch through tech-enabled media has become an invaluable part of modern life. It’s also clear that owning the latest gadgets is a priority for many. An extreme example that proves this can be found in China, where a 17-year-old student sold one of his kidneys to buy an iPad 2!


As for me, I can honestly say that if you were to give me an assignment to stay away from mobile phones, computers and other hi-tech devices for a period of time, I’ll happily accept the challenge, and be confident of accomplishing the task! For sure, I treasure every one of my physical senses, and wouldn’t give up a single one of them just to stay on Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Google+ and the like.

I must admit that one thing I do like to have with me is anything that plays music and Christian teaching. I guess we all place different weightage on the stuff we surround ourselves with. 🙂 I’m eyeing a product that will convert recordings on cassette tapes to digital files. The reviews have been good so it might be time for me to do a spot of e-shopping!


Of Underdogs & Beating The Odds



The following post was clearly a hot favourite with readers, with feedback flooding in even more than a year after it was first published. I could only surmise that many liked the idea of underdogs getting a breakthrough or nice surprise, such as when a cleaner wins a pair of air tickets at the office Dinner & Dance instead of a manager. I remember a heartwarming night when a supervisor declined his top prize and placed it back in the draw.


June 2011

Much has been said about the power of cyberspace and mobile media, and they’ve certainly given rise to a whole new collection of verbs such as googling, twittering and facebooking, as well as added a fresh layer of meaning to traditional ones such as surfing, posting and tweet. The ability to quickly garner knowledge on endless subjects from all sorts of sources is a great equaliser! Not surprisingly, teams taking part in treasure hunts or fun quizzes are often seen turning to their smartphones for answers.

I must admit that hardly a day goes by that I don’t tap an online platform for some information or other. So, with the help of the internet, here are links to several of my favourite underdogs. Be inspired and challenged!

Top Dog – The dominant person in a situation or hierarchy.
Underdog – Origin 1887. The beaten dog in a fight. An unlikely winner in a contest or struggle, someone who’s at a disadvantage. Synonyms include bottom dog, dark horse, stalking horse, sleeper and upsetter.


NICK VUJAJIC – From No Limbs To No Limits
Born 1982 with No Arms & No Legs.
Motivational Speaker & Evangelist. Married. Dad. – (Addressing Youths) – (Addressing Adults) – (Sharing at Rock Church)
Check out:


TED WILLIAMS – Stay Hopeful, Never Give Up!


SUSAN BOYLE – Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
Singing the song “I Dreamed A Dream” from my all-time favourite musical Les Miserables


CHOI SUNG BONG – South Korea’s Susan Boyle
Orphaned and homeless but far from helpless.





MARLO & FRAN COWAN – Who Says We Can’t?


SEVERN SUZUKI – Together We Can!
Oldie But Goldie


A Tale of 2 Jeremys – Against The Odds
February 2012


Jeremy Lin
His achievements and wholesome lifestyle are inspiring basketball fans throughout Asia



Jeremy Lim
His positive outlook on life has touched the hearts of Singaporeans since he was a child



Dost thou love life?
Then do not squander time,
for that is the stuff life is made of.

Benjamin Franklin

Have a wonderful month filled with Love, Joy & Peace!

Flowing From One Blog to Another


As some of you are aware, my company website has been revamped and the collection of staff blogs has been archived. So I’ve reproduced and updated several of my musings that attracted the most discussion among readers far and near.


August 2010 (An Extract)

At the heart of journalism is the desire to convey information. As early as during my primary school days, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered confidently—a writer! I grew up with books, loads of them, and remember the amazing vistas they opened up. The power of words in the hands of a skilled wordsmith! Nowadays I do a lot of my reading on a computer or smartphone, but I continue to love the feel of printed material. So I’m happily enjoying the best of both worlds—the classic appeal of ink on paper, and the audio-visual impact of online articles.

Wikipedia, a most helpful tool in my opinion, defines blogs as providing “commentary or news” or functioning as more “personal online diaries”. You’ll find a combination of both as I go along. It’ll be my pleasure to share my thoughts, impressions and experiences, and I hope you’ll interact. Some entries will be thematic, and others whimsical or random.

“Why bother to write,” you might ask? An opportunity to express myself, and in the process, hopefully add colour to someone’s day, or spread a little joy in some way.


Take care and have a wonderful week!


I had composed the next heading in all innocence, never expecting it to be given an interpretation that was far from my mind. Somehow, it prompted strangers to send in some of the most unusual comments that I’ve ever received! 😀


October 2010

The taxi driver had quite a tale to tell. Four grown children, all graduates. Two had won scholarships to study abroad while the other two had shone at Singapore’s own varsities. One son had been feted at a reception hosted by the island’s leading politicians, said the proud father. I wondered, “Could the young man have been a President’s Scholar? Or perhaps he had won a government scholarship from the Public Service Commission?”

There was more. The cabbie had enjoyed an all-expenses paid trip to USA to attend his older son’s convocation. Well, I’d heard that some foreign colleges pick up the tab for their outstanding students to share their joy with those who’d inspired them. So, I thought, maybe his child had consistently made the Dean’s List, or perhaps he had graduated summa cum laude with the highest honour.

Sadly, the driver was short on details. He knew that two of his children had graduated from National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. But he was unsure which overseas tertiary institutions his other children had been at. And no, he had no idea what courses the talented quartet had studied.

Still, there was ample reason to celebrate, wouldn’t you say? To have raised children who were now confident and independent adults, playing a useful role in society and contributing to the world at large.

But wait, the story doesn’t end there. He was past 60, he said, but he had to drive a taxi for a living because none of his children gave him any financial support. So unlike some of his peers who claimed to ferry passengers around for extra pocket money or just to pass the time away, he did so for purposes of survival.

So was it a case of parental neglect or a breakdown in familial ties? Or was his tale just wishful fantasy? Well, a 15-minute journey is far too short to reach any conclusion on a person’s character and emotional health, so I simply wished him well.

A colleague whom I shared his plight with envisaged two extremes—the elderly man could have been a poor example of a father, hence alienating all his children (but then, the trip to America seemed to nullify that possibility), or he might have shown such a strong streak of independence that his children mistakenly thought he wouldn’t appreciate any pecuniary display of filial piety (however, this notion would clash with his poignant statement about not receiving any allowance from them).


Someone said that if you want a barometer that can accurately reflect the state of a city and its people, just spend time with cab drivers–the “eyes and ears” that can tell if the economy has truly bounced back, or standards of morality have slipped, or whether the dominant political party will win back all seats at the next General Elections…..

Hopping into a taxi is a journey to the unknown for the passenger. Will you meet a chatty driver who’s bursting to share his conspiracy theories, or will it be one who’ll freely unload his grievances and complaints? On good days, you’ll walk away with gems of wisdom which drive home the fact that intelligence isn’t necessarily linked to educational attainment.

Whichever it may be, for me, a cab ride is always a time to enjoy a brief connection with a fellow human being. And for the opportunity to listen to experiences and world views that may be poles apart from mine, a handful of dollars is well worth the expenditure indeed.


March 2012

I am embarking on a mission to rid myself of clutter, excess emotional baggage and unneeded burdens. It may take a while to achieve that level of freedom and simplicity but I’m confident it’s a realistic and reachable goal.

One useful article that I read stated emphatically that it takes time, energy and motivation to declutter our living and work spaces. So the tip is to schedule specific time slots every few days to tackle unwanted additions to our homes and offices. In other words, it takes effort and discipline 🙂

As for non-physical baggage like could-haves, should-haves, wish-I-hadn’t or if-only-I-had, a spiritual solution like prayer has been of immense value to many. A life filled with regrets, anger and bitterness that are not released but are “played back” over and over again has driven some to depression, insanity and even suicide. Let’s not go down that route but instead, let’s believe that There Is Hope For The Future!


The following may sound like cliches, but there’s true wisdom in them:

*Forget Regrets Or Life Is Yours To Miss

*Forget The Former Things; Do Not Dwell On The Past

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”
– Anne Frank

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that…I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
– Martin Luther King, Jnr

When the world says, “Give up,”
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”
– Anonymous

*If You’re Alive, There’s A Purpose for Your Life!


The Miracle of Conception & Birth

“For You, God, created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”Psalm 139:13-14

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “thoughts and plans for welfare and peace, to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and hope in your final outcome.” Jeremiah 29:11


I Know The Plans – Bobby Michaels
Music/Lyrics: Bobby Michaels