Monday, May 30, 2016

Blessed & Grateful: Thoughts From A Family Outing

I was wearing a batik skirt for the outing. Batik is a traditional Indonesian fabric, made by hand, either hand0-stamped or hand-painted by local craftmens.
As Michael grew into a toddler, I started to notice similar theme on my friends' social media: pictures of them as parents, with their toddler children, visiting places of interest of our childhood.
You see, when we were little, our senses were much more atuned. Any new spectacle, smell and sound will hold us enthralled and mesmerized. The color of a new toy, the cheerful songs of a circus, the feel of petting a neighbor's dog, those all excited us and gave us joy. As we got older, everthing felt much more mundane and even what we used to think as spectacular became ordinary.
Logically speaking, I know that an otter who can count and a parrot who can spell are extraordinary, but having seen them a lot in the circus and numerous shows growing up, they no longer hold excitement for me. I no longer experience the same excitement as I used to as a child.
For that matter, theme parks, circus, and dolphin shows are less interest to me now compared to experiences that I have not had before, such as new Broadway shows and art museums. You know, boring, grown up attractions. Oh yeah, and traveling and occasionally - don't judge, it's just a woman thing - shopping.
A while back, both Hubby and I took a day off and took Michael to watch dolphin and sea lion shows at Seaworld. The venue is only twenty-minutes drive away, and there's no way we would take Michael on a weekend because the place turned into a zoo with throngs of people from all over Jakarta as well as tourists from other towns.
It was a successful family outings, and there were so many things I was grateful for. Very much.
Seeing Michael enjoying the shows.
Poker face. That's what Michael is. He rarely shows emotions nor excitements, well, except when he plays, of course. When he likes something, he will just say with a blank expression, "I like it, Mommy." No jump-up-and-down-excited thing from this child. However, during the sea lion show, his serious face lighted up, he cracked into a wide grin, laughed merrily, and exclaimed in cheerful glee, "Look, Mommy! The sea lion is so cute! I want to come here again one day!" That, generates a warm feeling and glow from deep inside my heart.


A husband who has grown into a better and better, more involved father.
It might be a simple gesture. It might be a small thing to some. But not to me. For me, there is nothing sexier than a man who is patiently and willingly take care of his toddler with such tenderness and manliness at the same time. From teaching his son to punch another boy who tried to bully him during the show (I'm a big believer that anyone is entitled to stand up for him/herself from bullying), to taking him to the male bathroom instead of having to go to the female bathroom with Mommy!

Michael was borrowing his father's sunglasses, striking a "cool" pose.

That we can really, really afford to go there again, and "take it for granted" should we have to.
This might lead some of the readers to critize me, and I have no intention whatsoever to boast. I am fully aware of how blessed and fortunate I am to be born in a relatively well-off family and married to a man who is a very good provider for the family. Not to mention that I myself also have a relatively good career with lots of perks, benefits, and flexibility.
Here's a background. Indonesia is not a developed country. It means, you will find very very very wealthy people here, and lots, lots and lots VERY poor people. The venue that we went to, is considered expensive for most Indonesian people, and a lot of parents will save and treat an outing to the place as a big excursion. Which means, quite often, it's like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend such money, which will warrant the toddlers and parents to take in as much shows and attractions as they could squeeze into in one day. To go in, you need a pass that will cover all the shows, and if you don't have much money, you have been saving for a long time to enjoy the venue, not to mention that you are from out of town and most likely if you will not visit the capital again you won't get the chance to go, you have to take as much advantage of the day, as possible. So even if you are tired, and your children are tired, and in the tropics it could be as hot as a furnace, you will drag your family from show to show to get most of the money. Because you have been saving a lot for the occassion, and most likely, it would be many many years before you get the opportunity ever again.
For our family, it doesn't have to be that way. Because thanks to the income that my dear husband brought in every month, and my income, and the fact that we don't live far from the park, we could well afford to visit again should we want to. 
Though it was not a holiday, the park was jam packed. We started early in the morning, and at noon, Michael was tired already from only watching two shows, there was a lot of queing and walking going on. He didn't complain, but we noticed. Afterall, he is only three years old, and it was summertime in the tropics, in an outdoor venue. Seeing the excited faces of the children and parents around us, but also noting the worn, overheated, and tired expression on them, yet the determined look that they will keep going until the last show of the day, Hubby and I looked at each other and silently sent a little prayer of thanks to the Lord.
"Michael, are you tired already? Do you want to eat here and watch the dolphin show later or just leave to the mall to eat something?" Hubby asked our son.
"Will you take me back here one day to watch the dolphins?" Michael asked.
"Of course, when Mommy and Daddy have a day off and if you want to, we can."
"Then let's leave and have lunch, Daddy. I'm tired."
So that's it. We blew three full-priced tickets that could have lasted us for one full day, and left. We could go back after lunch, but Michael fell asleep already, so we headed home and tucked him in for his usual nap.
Let me tell you, Friends. I don't believe that money is evil. The love of money is. Money is only a tool. It cannot do anything. We can put it to good use, or bad use, either way.
And reality bites, I am thankful that eventhough we are not wealthy family, we lack nothing and God provides for us abundantly.

Now, there is an example of how we could put the money that the Lord entrusted to us in a good way.

We had fish and chips, New York style, at Fish&Co. I'm not a big fan of spending a lot on mineral water, but they only sell overpriced Equil, so we had no choice for Michael. Tap water is not drinkable in Indonesia, by the way.

Instead of spending money on Easter basket, Egg hunts, or Easter party, some coworkers from Catholic & Christian Community at my office joint forces together to visit an orphanage, as well as donating money and groceries. We deliberately picked an orphanage that is not well known, because the more "popular" ones have no difficulty getting donation.
At first, it seems like we could not collect enough money to make a sigificant contribution among ourselves. I suggested that they also spread the words to other coworkers outside the community. "Kindness has no religious border, " I tried to convinced them. "In my previous office I spread the words about donating feminine pads for an all girls' Catholic orphanage, and everyone, from any religion, gave something that my car was overflowed. I am sure that many many people want to donate should there is a possibility, it's just that they don't always know the way, where to send the donation to, or basically just too lazy to visit the orphanage themselves."
On the D-day, the money collected for donation was three times from our initial target.
It's so good to know that despite everything, there is still a good amount of kindness and love all around us. We just need to seek it and reach out.
And yes, a little bit of money won't hurt. ^__^

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Birthday of Concious Choice

Here in Indonesia, when one celebrate her birthday, she can expect two things: presents, and treat her friends to dine out. That's the tradition that we have here.

I read somewhere:

"Life is inexpensive, yet brand make it expensive.
LIfe is simple, yet pride makes it complicated."

My point is, for some with pride bigger than her wallet, this kind of tradition is something that will stress them out days before the actual birthday. For the birthday girl, AND for the friend. Why? Some think that birthday presents should be expensive. And some also think one should treat friends to expensive restaurant. Simple present and simple food hurt their pride.

Well, I personally think that's silly. Of course we are all have some pride, and we should, in a proper portion and in good way. Tell me one new parent who doesn't feel at least a slight feel of pride for her child, and I will tell you that's not very healthy! But pride should be under our control, and not controlling us.

Months before my birthday, I already hinted to my coworkers, and I don't want nor need "another thing to dust". I love decorative objects, yet one can have so many in her house without starting to feel suffocated! And I love dresses and bags and shoes just as much as the next woman, but I already have a closet full of them, which I am still in the process of purging and editing.

I am not lacking anything.

Yet I also understand and respect the custom of giving gifts for one's birthday. So this year, I make it easy for everyone. Weeks before my birthday, I told one coworker, that all I wanted for my birthday is fancy toiletries. Surprise? Not really. I don't like perfume, and I never wear deodorant in my life, but I do love wonderfully scented body lotions, delicious soap, sweet smelling shower gel in pretty packaging, and scented candle whose fragrant can light up the whole atmosphere of one's bedroom. I especially love Bath & Body Works products.

But there is one problem: I am way too stingy, ahem, frugal, to justiying spending the amount of money one needs to spend on such luxury at any Indonesian BBW stores.

You might laugh at me for writing this, especially if you live in the US, where BBW holds annual and semiannual sales regularly, and you can get pretty good deal online with coupons and sites as Retail Me Not dot Com. In Indonesia, with different currency and somebody in the marketing department deciding that BBW products should be positioned "up there" as luxury brand, the prices are ridiculous.

So I never have the heart to splurge on their products, for myself.

Hence, I told that particular coworker that I would love to receive something that I can enjoy, but won't create new clutter in my house. Such as fancy shower gel. Of course, I didn't know at that time that the whole team would pitch in to buy a basket chucked full with products from my favorite brand! I got the whole she bang: a body lotion, a shower gel, a bubble bath, three hand sanitizers, a body creme, and a scented candle. All in beautiful shades of pink, in the wonderful and lovely scent of Japanese Cherry Blossom. Yayyyyyyy!!!!

My coworkers also noted that I don't like extra waste. I am frugal and I don't like being wasteful, either. For my card, they bought a card that's handmade by a little girl from recyleable materials. The little girl made many cards which she sold and then donated to the proceeds from the sale for the needy. Isn't it sweet?

They also opted out of buying me a birthday cake, noting I don't care for cakes. I love chocolates, but whenever anyone has a birthday, I never eat the birthday cake, giving my share to someone else with sweet tooth. Instead of a birthday cake, they got the office chef created my favorite sandwich with french fries, put them in my own food boxes that have been kept at the office pantry, and put a spare candle on top of the box! Now, that's my kind of birthday cake! Want not, waste not! Too bad I don't have proper picture of the unique "cake"!

For lunch, we went to a nearby restaurant called Sanjaya. They serve good food, lots of it, with reasonable price. And the dishes are delicious.

In the evening, Hubby brought out a heart-shaped melted brownies, made of dark chocolate, which is the only brownies that I really really like, put on some candles, and ordered some noodles from a nearby noodle shop. Noodle is a must for birthday, for it signifies long life. That's pretty much my birthday celebration this year.

It's simple and unpretentious, but I was so happy. I felt blessed and in such abundance. I felt loved and cared for and celebrated.

Thank you, Lord.

My men and my birthday cake of melted chocolate brownies.

Love, love, love this scented candle! Thank you!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Life of Experiences, Not Stuff

Hubby and I can be like two children at times. I mean, look at the collage of pictures taken when we were bored and sleepy, waiting for our 7 am flight from Jakarta to Singapore for our mini getaway.
The end of April is our anniversary, while the month of May is my birthday. We decided to combine the two celebrations and went for this three-day trip to Singapore. If you ever lived in South East Asia, once upon a time, Singapore is well knows as a shopper's paradise. While we do plan to purchase some clothings for Hubby - after all, the last time he updated his wardrobe was four years ago! - I am not into shopping mania whatsoever.
On the contrary, I'm trying to shed layers and layers of stuff from my life, our lives, getting rid of things that we no longer need, clothes that don't fit my body or lifestyle anymore, decorative items that no longer define my style, and yes, even thoughts and relationships that create negative influence in my life. You might know about this new habit I am acquiring of getting rid of one thing per day which you can read here. I don't aim to become a minimalist, which has been getting a wide following worldwide, I am just trying to simplify my life, though many said that is quite simple already. Hubby and I are simple people who loves simple life.
I have never been a girl who loves shopping too much. However, as I got older, I realized more and more that I'm the type who is more willing to invest and spend more resources - time, money, energy - on experiences instead of stuff.
In Singapore, we just walked and walked experiencing the tiny country. We ate. We took pictures. We tried out their excellent public transports. We visited the humongous, ultra modern malls as well as their local hangouts.

By the way, we left Michael home with my parents, who are overjoyed to have him all to themselves for three whole days. Michael and I have this tradition of placing fridge magnets for the number of days that Mommy and Daddy are away. Every morning after he wakes up, he will move one magnet to the other side of the fridge, and when all the magnets have been moved, that would be the day Mommy and Daddy are going to be home again.

Whenever we travel overseas, I always wear something in traditional Indonesian batik. Like this one here. It's a hand-stamped batik dress, with details around the collar, which I love. The fabric itself is not extraordinary. Afterall, it's not handpainted batik. But the craftmanship and tailoring is just exquisite.

Also although we stick to the budget for eating, opting for street food sellers and stalls most days, once in a while we will splurge. This time we went to Ce La Vie, a posh establishment on top of the famous Marina Bay Sands, on 57th floor.

This is Marina Bay Sands. Can you believe that the whole complex, not just the skyscrapers, were finished in only 3,5 years? Ce La Vie is located at the top, on the "ship" part of the three skyscrapers.

Marina Bay Sands in the evening - 20101120.jpg

Singapore is a melting pot, so naturally one can try a good variety of dishes: Malay, Peranakan, Chinese, Indian, and we tried this one restaurant next to the river at Clarke Quay that serves Spanish food. I don't remember the name of the dish, but it's like a Spanish omellete.

Going home on Saturday late in the evening, we woke up early on Sunday to pick Michael up, as well as meeting my family. My older brother and his wife, who lives halfway around the world in the US, were in town. We don't see each other much, considering the distance, so it warrants a special effort to hold a family reunion.

Monday, May 2, 2016

One Can Do A Lot With Old Office Uniform

Sometimes, the good things in life really come for free.
At my previous office, uniform is a must. Hence, every year, we girls receive a uniform set consists of two short-sleeved plain black shirts, two white ones, two black blazers, two pairs of black slacks, and one black pencil skirt. Now that I've moved to my current office, I'm free to experiment and be creative with this free, versatile piece: the black shirt.

I can wear it belted with a scarf, like in this post.
Accented with this huge purple bead necklace, like in this post. Ow, forgive the squinted eye...

Wear it under this Missoni-inspired baggy tank, cinched with a belt, like this.

Layer it with a lavender vest like I did here, like a school girl!

Pair it with my Mom's vintage skirt for dinner and watching sunset at the beach, like this.

Ooooor, even spruce it up with a children's necklace for casual days, like here!

See? Free stuff, Ladies! And it works wonders in terms of versatility!
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