Saturday, 17 May 2014

Baby Steps To A Fitter Me

This blog post was written as a special shout-out for my personal trainers at  IFC Personal Training.

Struggling With Fitness

Throughout my life, I had always been struggling with my health and fitness.  Growing up too skinny would be a slight on my Asian parents' capability of providing the best for me, so Mum and Dad always ensured that I was fed the best of everything which gradually also meant more of everything.  I fared poorly at physical fitness sessions in my school days.  I would often forge Dad's signature in a letter requesting to be excused from physical fitness sessions. I also often pretended I was suddenly not well on that day.  I spent half my school life dreaming up of creative ideas to dodge physical fitness sessions.  I thought that was okay after all, I knew of friends who spent half their school life dreaming up of creative ideas to dodge regular classes and even school altogether.

I only discovered the love for sports when I became a rugby player.  I did not like training even then but I did love turning up for a tournament.  My coach who became my husband years later would never stand for that.  He felt that I would be a liability to the team if I did not train regularly to prepare myself for the tournaments.

IFC Personal Training

So my personal trainers at IFC Personal Training were the same. It started with just Aaron Rolley.  I was introduced to him through an ex-boss, mentor and good friend Laurel, who had been training under Aaron after incurring a back injury through a gym accident. Aaron specialised in rehabilitative training and got her back to full recovery.  

Aaron supplemented all that rugby training three times a week by helping me increase my strength and stamina.  Without Aaron, I would have gotten more injured at the rugby games.  

 Years of playing rugby had taken its toll and driven me right to the surgery room of the hospital for a Tibial Tubular Elevation surgery a couple of years ago.  Please do not ask me any details about the surgery.  I am still clueless about what the surgeon did but I went home with a prosthetic shin. By then Aaron's team of personal trainers grew.  I had Yu Wen, then Justin and now Greg who had been responsible for my total recovery from surgery.  Again, like Aaron, they specialised in rehabilitative training.  I gradually grew my strength back in my left knee, and lost the weight I had initially put back on while convalescing from that surgery.

I never got to play rugby again, but Greg got me to the point where I could do my first half marathon last year.  That was just exactly one year after my surgery.

Then over the year, I was hit with several health issues.  I had a breast cancer scare and discovered through an angiogram that I had a myocardial bridge condition in my heart.  Undaunted, and even more eager to get fitter, Greg and Aaron worked on a fitness regime as well as watched my diet very closely.  In a year, I managed to lose 11 kg and I am still on the journey to lose more of that extra weight to get to my optimum fitness level.  My heart surgeon was so pleased that he halved my hypertension pills late last year and is set to decrease my cocktail of pills even more when I visit him this August.

Pumped with a little more confidence and the desire to get even fitter, I took on boxing training with a never-say-die attitude.  Who ever said that someone with a plastic shin and a heart problem cannot do certain sports?  Never say never.

I am very thankful to the team at IFC for getting me here on a journey that was tougher than anyone could ever imagine.  It is easier for those who are very fit to get even fitter as they trained for their respective passions like the Ironman competition, the ultra marathons and even an MMA fight.  For someone who had been through the health ringer with 3 surgeries in 2 years,  this journey towards a fitter me was even more arduous.  However I was never alone.  My personal trainers from IFC were with me all the way.  They will get me there.

You can find out more about IFC Personal Training at and you may contact Aaron at

About The Writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  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".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.  Her other blog can be found at
Left - After IFC's Training ; Right - Before IFC's Training

That's Me Refusing To Do My Yoga Pose For The Press Interview.  I lost.

I Could Never Do A Downward Dog A Year Ago

Completed My First Half Marathon A Year After Knee Surgery

Undisputed Queen Of Planks Holding It At 4 minutes

That's Me Now!

Attempting To Punch My boxing Coach

Seen Here Giving One Of My Numerology Workshops a year ago.
Lordie, Lordie!  Why Haven't Anyone Told Me I was Huge!

Aaron Seen Here Torturing Greg.  Why Do You Think I Am So Strong With My Planks?  

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Another Level Of Weird

Celebrated Our Wedding Anniversary In Sri Lanka

A few months ago, I suggested to David that we should celebrate  our 13th wedding anniversary  in Sri Lanka.  There were no other reasons for the choice of destination other than that I had never been to Sri Lanka and I wanted to book an accommodation that was set off the beaten track so that I could reconnect with myself amidst serene surroundings. I was very keen to use that time to work on my intuitive skills and practice channeling.  Then I remembered, it was our 13th anniversary.  It should be a vacation that included my husband, my best friend and soulmate all rolled into one.  We should also have time to focus on US.  I decided that maybe, that week in Sri Lanka could be used to let him get closer to my passion of doing intuitive readings while I got closer to his passion of photography by accompanying him to places off the beaten track like Yala National Park, the local temple, the local fruits and vegetable market and even secluded alleys within the village or in town, to search for subjects for his photography portfolio.  He even jokingly asked me to allow him to have some fun throughout the week, to demonstrate his unique skills of being a walking bible of useless information. No need for a travel guide then.

Roping In A Partner

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”  So, before I arrived in Sri Lanka, I had decided not to do any research about the island. Instead, David was roped into my channeling practice.  I worked with my hands,  my heart and my mind while he was my walking guide book who could validate my readings.

The Friar On A Mission

One example was just before our plane landed in Colombo, I started meditating and got into the zone enough to channel a couple of images.  One was of a Christian monk (Friar Tuck from Robin Hood came to mind).  He wore a dark robe and had a large cross worn in front of him.  When we arrived at the accommodation that we had booked, David whipped out his guidebook and said, "Oh that was very good.  The Franciscan Friars arrived on a ship together with the Porturgese in a bid to spread Christianity in Sri Lanka.  Let's do another one."

The Banyan Tree Told Me

Another example was a visit to a town square near the Galle Fort.  A couple of gigantic banyan trees stood in the middle of that square, so I had decided to put my hand on one of the tree trunks, closed my eyes and got into a meditative zone to channel any images or messages that came to mind.
  I saw prisoners or criminals being paraded around or near these trees. The image that I saw within my mind's eye were scraggly men, one was tied to a large pole and flogged and a couple of them had heir ams outstretched and bound to a plank each.  I was nervous about revealing this to David at first. I was worried that he would consider the image as a product of over-active imagination.  I could just hear him say, "Stop watching too many useless TV programs."   Instead, David asked, " So, what did you see?" Encouraged, I went ahead to reveal my visions that I got.  His face lighted up with a smile and he said, "Very good.  The guidebook here wrote that this square used to be where the magistrate courts stood during the Dutch and Portuguese colonial days.  Criminals were indeed paraded around the square and some were flogged or even hung. Let's do another one."  Wow! I was hit with a wave of exhilaration. My visions were getting clearer and the best thing was that David was so encouraging and proactively supported me all the way. There were no rude "where did you park your broom?" type of silly questions or comments from him.  I was so happy.  He acted as my coach in place of my intuitive coaches while we were on vacation!

Another Level Of Weird

When I reflected on our week together in Sri Lanka, one thing came through strongly for me.  This was really what a marriage was all about,  right?  We both encouraged and supported each other's passions no matter the level of understanding we had about these passions. I could not understand why he brought along with him huge bags of different camera equipment when in the past, I had no problems using my little compact camera.   He on the other hand could not understand why I went around touching trees and walls of old buildings while closing my eyes in meditation.  However, more than accepting each other's quirks, we encouraged and supported them too.  I was very grateful that I could practice channeling with David's help even though he clearly thought that I was on to "another level of weird".

About The Writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  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".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.  Her other blog can be found at

Photo credit:  Photo taken by David Ash at Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

My Little Piece Of Heaven - Sri Lanka

Our 13th anniversary present to each other could possibly be the best present ever.  We spent a week in Sri Lanka which could only be described as magical.  Now, this is not a travel blog so I would not want to pretend to be a travel blogger by regaling you with a colorful description of the bathroom tiles at our villa.  What made this trip magical was attributed to our magical experiences from day 0. So I had decided to dedicate this blog post to each magical moment that touched our hearts in Sri Lanka.

Templeberg Plantation

A couple of months before our trip, I tweeted about our intention to spend our 13th wedding anniversary at Sri Lanka. I was pleasantly surprised that I got a response via Twitter from the team at Templeberg Plantation in Galle.  Through my Twitter profile and my tweets, they knew  I was looking for an accommodation that could fit my need to include a daily dose of yoga practice and meditation.  So I was given information that this villa  was located at a coconut plantation, a few kilometers from the hustle and bustle of the main strip and set amidst lush greenery.  It was ideal for me. I needed the serenity to recharge my batteries.  It was even more ideal for my photography geek of a husband because he could take a lot of photographs of the flora and fauna within the grounds.

I was impressed with the proactivity of the team at Templeberg Plantation.  Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING apart from the rain was arranged via Twitter and email. There was no hassle, and I certainly had nothing to worry about.  The day I left for Sri Lanka, I was even pinged by a Tweet that had a picture of our room at the plantation suite, waiting for the looney Ash family to arrive.  Good thinking, guys!  I was immediately assured of the comforts of home away from home.

My Templeberg Family

 I was not disappointed at all when I arrived. The suite was, as promised, exquisite. The entire villa was welcoming and beautiful...even at 3am in the morning, under the rain.  What made it special, was not just that it was a Dutch colonial house steeped in history and was most suitable for a psychic empath like myself to practice  channeling. More on that in my other blog

My week in Sri Lanka was made extra special by the folks at Templeberg Plantation from its intrepid owner, Karin, to the villa staff  who were ever enthusiastic about ensuring our comfort, right down to Rewa and Mumu, their 4-legged multi-tasking staff who were patio managers,  monitor lizard and monkey pest controllers  by day,  and security managers by night.  There was also Trixie, the awesome cook who delighted us with food that she had cooked from her heart.  From her salads within which she put an entire jungle to her famous jackfruit curry, I was never left in want of meat.  I wished I could pack Trixie into my luggage and take her home with me, but Karin offered to send me home with jars of her mango chutney instead.  Another special member of the Templeberg crew was Sandrew, our driver, tour guide, and advisor of all things customary in Sri Lanka like when and how much to tip for a service rendered.  Underneath that strong and quiet demeanor was really a smart cookie. He refused my offer of money straight away at Yala National Park when I told him to stand 10 meters from the leopard's tree so that I could take a photograph.  Do not underestimate the bloke.

That week, we were the only guests at the plantation save for Felix, the monitor lizard.  I should have known that the hubby was often as thorough as the nit nurse doing a hair check at school when it came to travel research.  It was the start of the monsoon season so we were welcomed by plenty of rain.  Well, I did ask for serenity and I got it. We had to stay indoors to take in the serenity of the surroundings when it rained most of the day.   Even Felix, dropped by, strolling across the lawn whilst tasting the air with his tongue,  just to see who this looney couple was, seated at the patio all day muttering expletives at the rain. 

Free Rewa

Templeberg Plantation was like home and we were treated like family even by the dogs.  One day, Rewa bounded into the patio and nudged her head against my hand.  She then laid down and rubbed her neck against the floor as if to tell me something.  David and I realized something was indeed wrong when we spotted some wire entwined around her neck.  The more we tugged at it, the tighter it got, barely choking Rewa who was by then panicking and trying to run away from us.  I alerted Karin while David got the  villa staff Sandrew and Trixie to look for pliers, wire cutters and anything that could help free Rewa from her ordeal.  Trixie managed to herd Rewa into the study and held her down while David and Sandrew tried to cut the wire.  When the wire finally got cut, Rewa had a wee wound at the neck that looked quite raw but  I knew she would be okay.  On closer examination, we realized the wire was part of an illegal snare which was purpose-built to hunt porcupines. Whomever built that snare ought to be shot.  If Rewa was trapped any longer, she could have been suffocated.  Rewa spent the entire day at the patio by our side.  It was, as if, she wanted us to know how much she trusted us.  
Even Mumu,  who was limping on 3 legs due to a road accident, grew so fond of us that she would tap her paw on our lap whenever she wanted a head rub.  It was pure bliss to win the trust of these animals.

Trust Or Nonchalance

Another thing I found quite interesting was the general nonchalance of the animals here in Sri Lanka.  When Sandrew took us for a sight-seeing trip, I noticed the cows and buffaloes nonchalantly grazing in the fields along our journey.  They were also seen nonchalantly crossing the road  without the cowherd in sight.  Even the street dogs that laid in the middle of the road were nonchalantly staring at our on-coming Tuk Tuk and would not budge an inch in spite of Sandrew madly honking his horn to force the mutts to make way for us.  Yes, he finally drove around the mutts instead.  Alas, I could not take a photo of David when his hair stood on end, his hand gripped tightly to the roof of the Tuk Tuk and his full set of teeth gritted in fear. I had my eyes half closed at that time you see.  

Even the turtle at the turtle hatchery who lost his front right flipper to the  propeller of a boat seemed nonchalant about the fact that he was floating around like a plastic wind-up toy in his tank on 3 flippers while the hatchery staff were preparing to get his prosthetic flipper made.  I liked to think that even the animals practised the Buddhist philosophy of detachment as they appeared calm and composed.  I rationalized to myself that because these animals saw peace and kindness in the eyes of these wonderful people in Sri Lanka, they fully trusted that no one had any ill intentions and would not do anything to hurt them.

Harpooned By A Stilt Fishermen

On the 2nd day of my stay in Sri Lanka, I visited it's culturally famous stilt fishermen. I was amazed at this skill of fishing while perched high up on a stilt. The skill was passed from generation to generation and the fishermen were unique to Sri Lanka's coastal life.  I then spotted a sign at the beach with the words " Surfing School" written in bold.  I thought perhaps the surfing lessons were conducted by the sons or grandsons of these fishermen who did not fancy perching themselves up on stilts all day and  preferred riding the waves instead.  Anyhow, while I was tempted to give surfing lessons a shot, I suddenly saw a mental vision of being harpooned like a whale by the fishermen's long fishing rods should I fall off my surf board.  I very quickly aborted that daft idea and opted to pay a visit to the virgin tea pluckers instead.

White Tea Leaf Pluckers Are No Longer Virgins

We visited Handunugoda Virgin White Tea Plantation. You have never visited Sri Lanka unless you included a visit to a tea plantation. This one not only had tea shrubs but coffee shrubs, cinnamon trees, pepper trees, rubber trees, mahogany and teak trees.  The guide explained that the virgin white tea was so called because a long time ago, the Emperor in China ordered virgin maidens to cut the tea leaf buds with a pair of golden scissors and collected these leaves in a golden bowl.  Only the Emperor could consume white tea due to its rarity.  The guide then proceeded to say, still in his halting English, whilst pointing at the tea leaf pluckers, " No, no, they are no longer virgins." It made me laugh so hard because I had to think twice about what that poorly structured sentence meant.  

My First Safari Trip

Appreciating Sri Lanka's efforts on animal conservation and environmental awareness, we visited Yala National Park. It was like a zoo, with the only difference that if an animal caught us taking an unflattering photograph of it, it had full access to us as lunch. Yes, the park did not seem to have fencing around it to keep the animals in.  Note to self: When looking  to invest in a holiday home in Sri Lanka, do not purchase one next to the park unless you fancy being a leopard's lunch.  If you are hoping to visit Yala National Park one day, it is worth every minute of your time.  However, here are some simple rules :

Rule #1: Never consume a large 4-cheese pizza before that ride in the safari jeep. You might get hit by motion sickness and be forced to throw up at the side of the jeep.  This would definitely be of entertainment value to the safari guide and jeep driver.

Rule #2: Never attempt to switch seats mid-way through that ride in the jeep unless you want to land your face in the safari guide's crotch when the jeep jerks forward.  This would be of entertainment value to both guide and jeep driver.

Rule #3: Never stick your head out at the side of the jeep in an attempt to spot an animal.  You might get whacked in the face by an errant tree branch, and provide entertainment value to the safari guide and jeep driver.

Rule #4:  Be aware of where you are geographically and do not make yourself look stupid by asking to see non-indigenous animals like giraffes and lions.  This would not be of entertainment value to the safari guide and jeep driver who might think you are just attempting to dodge the customary practice of paying them tips.

Rule #5: You will be thrown violently around the back of the jeep because of the rough terrain. So do make an appointment with the chiropractor when you return home from your vacation and do not attempt the journey through the park if you are a) pregnant or b) suffering from piles.

Rule #6: Please tip generously. I was reminded by a friend that the locals do not have much to begin with so do not stinge on tipping. It does take a lot of effort and a keen Spidey sense to spot exotic animals in the bushes so please tip them for their effort. 

Rule #7: If you do visit the blowhole enroute to Yala National Park, do note that this blowhole has nothing to do with whales or whale-watching.   I wished someone told me that then.  This blowhole was a rock formation that created a gap at which the force of the waves will form a buildup of   pressure that contributes to sea water being blown up to 30 meters in the sky. 

My Little Piece Of Heaven

Sri Lanka was indeed my little piece of heaven.   As you can see, every place that I had visited, every person I spoke to and every thing that I had touched were magical moments for me.  Simple gestures like a dog's paw on my lap or a salad made with so much love brought me untold bliss.  In fact, due to the rainy weather, I hardly practised my yoga this week. I usually liked practicing yoga out in the garden  surrounded by nature so that I can better center and ground myself.  I realized I did not need to because I felt so centered and grounded already by these magical moments that surrounded me.

About The Writer:
The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  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".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.  Her other blog can be found at

Templeberg Plantation, Galle, Sri Lanka

Surrounded By Lush Greenery.  So Serene.

The Plantation Suite.  Beautiful.

Shell-shocked Rewa

Mumu Thanking David For Saving Her Friend Rewa

Buffalo Curd, Treacle And Fresh Tropical Fruits For Breakfast

Roti And Mango Chutney For Breakfast

Trixie's Everything-From-The-Jungle-Salad

Flipper, The 3-Flippered Turtle Waiting For His Prosthetic Flipper
Before He Can Be Set Free Again

Waiting For Baby Turtles To Crawl Out Of The Sand

You See? I Was Not Kidding About The Virgins

White Tea Leaf Bud

Tea Leaves Ready For Packing

"About Last Week...I Forgive You For Taking A Dump On My Head."

Stilt Fishermen

Sherman Posed For Us At The Tea Plantation

Beautiful Kingfisher - Found Everywhere In Sri Lanka

The Blowhole Is Not A Whale! I Repeat..It Is Not A Whale

Lucy, My Leopard At Yala National Park.  She Said, "Go Away, You Are Disturbing My Dinner."

This Jackal Was A Poser.  Followed Our Jeep Quite A Distance, Yala National Park

I Told Sandrew To Go Catch That Warthog For Me But He Refused, Yala National Park

Betty, What Happened To Your Horn? - Yala National Park

The Yala Safari Jeep.  I Lost My Tailbone With It.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Championing The Cause Of The Asian Women's Welfare Organization

Last week, I visited a  Volunteer Workers Organization called Asian Women's Welfare Organization (AWWA).  Embarrassingly, I did not realize that the office complex of the AWWA was located across the road from where I lived, tucked at the end of a long road right behind a school.  I had for quite a long time, thought that AWWA was an organization that supporter only underprivileged women.  I was so surprised at the wide spectrum of beneficiaries that they had supported, including kids with special needs, the disadvantaged elderly, and they even provided caregiver support.  

Kids With Special Needs

AWWA ran a school for kids with special needs, as well as an after school program.  They also housed rehabilitative facilities for these kids.  What I was most impressed with was that their main focus was not to just raise funds for the disadvantaged and nearly forgotten segment of the population but to train and educate them in such a way as to facilitate their integration back into the community.  I had the privilege of visiting the kids in the midst of their after school program.  The kids were truly fun to be with. They were like sunshine, so warm, friendly, enthusiastic and so welcoming.  They chattered non-stop about their day as they put a puzzle or read a picture book together. They were happier and bouncier than regular kids, and there was definitely no question that they could integrate well with the community as they grow up to become productive adults.....if and only when the community would accept them and acknowledge their disabilities with compassion and generosity.

Caregiver Support

Also, realizing that while the disadvantaged benefitted from the compassion of many people, the caregivers were often forgotten.  These caregivers needed a network of support, counselling and training, for which the team at AWWA had been proactively providing.  What was most unfortunate was that while the establishment funded most of the support needed for the disadvantaged, they would not provide the funding for AWWA's effort towards supporting caregivers.  I was familiar with the needs of caregivers.  Mom had suffered depression, frustrations  a sore arm and back pains, when she took care of Dad.  I hired a nursing - trained helper for Mom so that she would not need to feel isolated and lonely as she took care of Dad.  However, there are thousands of others out there like Mom who might be bearing the burden alone.  So what AWWA had been developing to help caregivers was truly noble. I just wished there were more people who knew about it, hence my intention for writing this blogpost.

Help Needed

Out of the compassion of your heart, when you are attempting to make a difference in people's lives, whether by volunteering your time or donating some money, please remember the wonderful work that AWWA does.   I certainly am, whether through my work as a marketing communications head or through my passion as an intuitive reader running Sun Goddess Tarot.

About The Writer:

The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  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".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.  Her other blog can be found at

These beautiful artwork were done
by the kids with special needs. 
Add caption
Creativity and talent
have no boundaries and limitations.
"Happiness is like a butterfly which when pursued,
is always beyond our grasp, but if you will sit down quietly,
may alight upon you." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

"In order to be open to creativity,
one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude.
 One must overcome the fear of being alone." - Rollo May