Friday, 30 November 2012

How Difficult Can It Be To Be Charitable?

Monkeying Around For The Cancer Cause

A few weeks before David’s crazy feat to run his maiden half marathon in a Gorilla suit to raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF), I had made some observations about the support he got along the way which I wish to detail in this blog post.

The Supporters

We were amazed by the resounding support he got from some friends, close ones as well as those who weren’t very close.  It was heartwarming for me to see the advice about training, heatstroke prevention, and pre-race diet he was getting from genuinely concerned friends and it was even more fabulous to see them readily supporting his cause by donating to the CCF. We were inundated with phone calls, text messages and Facebook comments offering him encouragement.

We were also chuffed when the lovely ladies at Fulford PR agency arranged a photo shoot of David in his Gorilla suit in an attempt to pitch it to the press so that he could obtain public support for the cause as early as possible. 

Another group of friends I wish to thank are the wonderful people at Spectrum who had agreed to allow Joel to accompany David at the race as his personal “medic-cum-water boy-cum-human energy gel dispenser –cum candy feeder” even though he wasn't able to register for a spot as a race participant in time.  Originally, Joel wasn’t intending to be a participant at the half marathon.  In fact, to get him to walk the dogs was enough of  an issue, let alone getting him to run a half marathon.  However, he wanted to be there for his pops in case he gets into any medical difficulties.  As a nurse-in-training, Joel felt that he could support David along the way during his race.  So, with the help of the team at Spectrum, Joel finally got his race pack and he was ready to draw a red cross on the front of his race bib.

To these friends, to the wonderful PR pals at Fulford, and Chris at Spectrum, I just wanted to say a big thank you and to let you know that your gestures really touched our hearts.

The “Hinderers”

Of course when we actively campaign for any form of support for a cause, one will encounter the enthusiastic supporters who genuinely care about the cause, as well as the apathetic ones who simply dismiss David as the "crazy foreigner who's probably smoking dope". Honestly, that’s really ok. I meet with skepticism about my Tarot reading skills daily, and these skeptics think I am a witch!  However, I do get annoyed with a particular group of people whom I had termed as the “hinderers”.  These are the lot who, through their unnecessary “go –by- the- book” approach would hinder a genuine attempt to help a cause.  I have placed them in the same category as The Establishment-hired “clipboard-toters” whom I often talked about.

I acknowledge that in a world obsessed by the perfect structure of corporate bureaucracy, there are many people who are just not empowered to do the right thing, or make the right decisions. These people are too frightened of lending support to "off-the-wall" ideas. And if the idea doesn't "fit into the plan or the business objectives" they wouldn't want to be part of it, for fear of the extra effort they may need to put into something that could possibly be classified as "out of scope" of their usual workload, and not tracked as a KPI. I have decided to list a few examples of these here so that those who attempt similar projects for the genuine passion of supporting a favorite charity, should be aware of the need to be detached from this lot and stay focused on the goal of supporting the charity.

One of these "Hinderers" are the people at Standard Chartered Bank, the sponsor of the race, who profess to be Here For Good. Their extremely appalling customer servicing is one story I shall leave for another blog entry. For the purpose of this blog post, I shall focus on their lack of response to David's call for support. David had been calling them to get them to create some publicity around the cause. However, like their customer servicing style, they tried to keep him Here in limbo For Good by passing his call from one person to another and to another and to another, with promises to return his calls repeatedly. Of course, they didn't call back.

Another of these "Hinderers" is a press publication who initially promised to run the story in the week running up to the event, after much hard work from the Fulford PR team. The intention was to run the story as early as possible so that David could garner more support for the CCF. However, at the last minute, the publication had decided not to run the story, providing no explanation at all. I can't help but feel that it may not be deemed news-worthy because the person in the ape costume wasn't Singaporean. I am quite disappointed because surely, amongst the hundreds of press clippings about bus drivers going on strike, they could surely find room to run a story to support David's fund-raising efforts towards the CCF cause.

The reality has just dawned on me that it's just 1 day to David's half marathon. However, David is better than I in that he would never allow the "Hinderers" to ruin his enthusiasm. It in fact fueled his fire to want to complete the race, and I will be there at the finishing line to receive him for sure, while holding a placard with the names of ALL the supporters who had been there for him, in some way or other, encouraging, helping, donating and advising him.

Postscript: To those who have already supported David in his fund raising efforts, thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts. If you haven't, I would appreciate your supporting David’s endeavor and donating generously to the Children’s Cancer Foundation through this link:

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".

Monday, 19 November 2012

Not A Normal Family

A Normal Family

If I could wish for anything at all, I am glad I did not wish for a “normal” family.   So let me list down what’s not too normal within the Ash household. 

We picked up a stray guitar-toting Scot along our journey to assume the position as head of the household, hubby, step-dad and chief electrician-cum-mechanic-cum entertainer. 

Our son is a nurse-in-training who actually has a genuine passion for talking to the elderly sick patients.  While guys his age would rather tog themselves out in the latest fashion, hang out at clubs and spend hours on the phone with girlfriends, this boy hopes to own his private nursing care practice at some point.  He makes a hobby out of chasing the dogs around the house with his stethoscope, pinning David and I down for  blood pressure checks and playing scrabble with my Dad to help slow down any signs of Alzheimer’s. 

I am the looney tarot reader and numerologist who spend my free time talking to my tarot cards and my collection of crystals in between meditating to sunrise.  In between all that, I am actually a slightly normal corporate careerist working on developing marketing and PR plans for the company.

The household’s not too normal – the way I like it.  Any semblance of normalcy is frowned upon as being boring.  So the Ash family continues to traipse down this road of looniness in an attempt to create an album worth talking about when we are old and grey. 

However, what’s making this album even more special for me, is the intent behind our respective idiosyncrasies and our looney behavior which I will expand upon further.

Life Is Transcient

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with calcification of the right breast which the surgeon had suspected was caused by the presence of pre-cancerous cells.  I had a surgery to remove the affected area of the breast and weeks later, I was given a clean bill of health.  

The months before the surgery when I had undergone every test possible from multiple mammograms, to ultrasound, to a biopsy, my family went through a roller-coaster of emotions that I am determined never to experience again.  If there was anything good that came out of it, it was that;

- It made Joel even more determined to become a top notch medical professional providing the best nursing care ever. 

- It made me realize that life was too short to be devoted to climbing that corporate ladder.  I wanted to do more to add value to the people around me, and had decided to turn my tarot reading and numerological skills into a hobby that could help support the Children’s Cancer Foundation. 

- It made David realize the transience of life and that, after the years of building an executive search business, all he’s got that was meaningful, was Joel and I.  So here’s what he’s decided to do – Monkey Around.

Monkeying Around

David and I do lead a sedentary life.  Over the years, our love for rugby and sports, gave way to our love for a pint of Guinness, a steak and kidney pie and some chili cheese fries.  Some friends described us this way “…met at rugby, bonded over a Guinness, marriage held together by the love of pie.”  If we continued our sedentary lifestyle, this would be the epitaph on our grave stones.  So we had decided to get serious with fitness. 

I have got a great personal trainer who actually kicked my ass into shape – well, round is a shape.  And I went on the Paleolithic diet – most times.  What I love most is walking the 11km trail on weekends at the MacRitchie Resevoir and walking the dogs at the Botanic Gardens.

David had decided to get serious with his participation in a series of 10km races.  He completed a few in the last 2 years and decided to “graduate” into the 21km half marathon category.  When he told me about his wish to do so, I thought he was crazy.  However, nothing could prepare me for the biggest shocker – his decision to do his FIRST half marathon in a Gorilla Suit.

I thought he’s definitely lost his marbles, until he told me the reason why.  He saw my work in supporting the Children’s Cancer Foundation, and wanted to do something, in his way. So he had decided to do his half marathon in his gorilla suit to raise funds for the charity.

I am worried sick about it because David’s not exactly fit and slim.  He’s not only got to carry his weight through 21km of uphills and downhills throughout the route, but he’s also got to carry the weight of the suit particularly under the hot morning sun.  I was so worried that, that was going to be a recipe for heatstroke and possibly heart attack.

So please, if you are reading this, I would appreciate your supporting David’s endeavor and donating generously to the Children’s Cancer Foundation through this link:

Familial Support

While painting our Range Rover white and sticking a red cross on its door, I stopped and wondered at how looney but wonderful this family is.  David’s impending looney feat has brought out some interesting insights about Joel which I hadn’t anticipated.

Worried for his pops, Joel was bent on joining him for the run.  He didn’t care for the race pack, his finishing time or even completing the race.  He just wanted to ensure David was safe.  He wanted to be David’s safety aide by carrying a backpack of water, energy bars and energy gels to help David along the way.  More importantly, knowing that that 21km was going to be a very long distance for a novice half –marathoner, he wanted to keep David company.

I love Joel for his thoughtfulness that is so mature beyond his years.    He grew up aware that his family was different and had to deal with questions from friends as a kid.  However, this made him even more aware about the importance of acceptance, adaptability and familial support.  

I remembered when David spoke about delays at work, or clients who were difficult, Joel would put his money from his Chinese New Year red packets and his savings into his Pop’s piggy bank, thinking that would help David.  And he told me not to tell his Pops about it.   That for me, was wonderful to see particularly because it validated the fact that David and Joel’s relationship had gone beyond that of a step-father and a step-son.   This was Joel’s way of rendering familial support in the only way he knew how.

As he knows I am passionate about the Tarot, and in spite of thinking that his mother was a tad looney, he asked to learn the skill from me and was genuinely interested in finding out more about Tarot.   

When I was incapacitated by a couple of surgeries this year, Joel would rush home from school to administer my dressing.

These incidents were just a demonstration of Joel rendering familial support in the only way he knew how.
I am truly grateful for a family that’s far from normal.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.  It’s only because of this family, that I feel truly blessed with abundance. 

About the writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".