Goodbye Annus Horribilis and Hello to New Beginnings

2016 is over. Finally. While most of us usually approach December with “I can’t believe how quickly the year has gone by already”, it seemed as the year was drawing to a close, everyone was happy to just get through the year and hope for a better start in 2017.

david-bowieTwelve months ago, the world mourned collectively for the loss of music icon, David Bowie. Whether you were a Bowie fan or not, you knew the words to at least one of his songs. His final album was released only a week before his death, so the news of his passing came as a huge shock to everyone except for his family.

alan-rickmanA mere four days later, we bade farewell to Alan Rickman – the thespian with the voice that could at once seduce, threaten and command you. Kids grew up knowing Rickman as Professor Snape in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series while their parents loved him as terrorist-thief Hans Gruber in Die Hard or the cheating husband in that “other” popular Christmas movie, Love Actually.

 

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For Rodney: Sing Like There’s Nobody Listening

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Just over two weeks ago, I was shocked by the news that Rodney, husband to my late friend, Mary, and father to their two little girls, passed away suddenly from heart failure, apparently a genetic condition.
Although I did not know Rod very well, I remember having a very long phone conversation with him about a year after Mary’s death in 2011. He told me of the day-to-day difficulties of living without Mary. It was not just coping with the grief and being a single Dad – the girls were always going to be his first priority – but dealing with “simple” things like the phone company and untangling any financial commitments they had as a couple.
yesterday-is-history-tomorrow-is-a-mystery-today-is-a-gift-thats-why-they-call-it-the-presentIn the five years since Mary’s death from cancer, friends and family were kept up to date with the family’s progress on Facebook (thanks Mr Zuckerberg). We watched from afar as the girls got through kindergarten, first days of school, birthday parties and other special occasions, even just regular occasions, and seeing how happy and healthy and well-loved they were.
Just two nights before his death, Rod posted photos of their young daughters decorating the Christmas tree. If I am still struggling with Rod’s sudden passing, I can only imagine how devastated his daughters must be feeling.
Life is fragile and should not be taken for granted. We never know what could be around the corner. Lives can change at the blink of an eye, for better or worse. Live in the moment because you may not get another chance.
So, dear Rodney, you are reunited with your beloved Mary now. May Bruno Mars be always on your playlist. Rest in peace now. Your legacy will live on.

What’s Next?

An historic event occurred on November 9th, 1989: the Berlin Wall came down as thousands of citizens took their sledgehammers to a construction that represented a generation of oppression, tyranny and death and reunited their nation.

Twenty-seven years later, in a country that once fought against the ideals that raised that wall in Berlin, votes were being counted to elect the 45th President of the United States. While many around the world sat in shock at the final result, myself included, perhaps it should have come as no big surprise after all. Only a few short months earlier, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in what was known as “Brexit” referendum. Most of us assumed that would never happen either. And now, look where we are.

I have been struggling to articulate my thoughts about the events that have unfolded in the past 24 hours. Being in Sydney, the polling booths were only just beginning to close from the east to the west coasts during our late afternoon. I had resisted the temptation to watch the election coverage until around 2pm. And then as the counts started rolling in and it became apparent that we were not going to be seeing the first female President any time soon, I picked up the phone and called my friends in Chicago. I began to cry.

All afternoon, I watched my Twitter feed light up with tweets expressing shock, horror, outrage, disappointments. I was among those expressing such thoughts. The most common expressions were: “What is happening?” or “How is this possible?” Occasionally, my twitter exchanges would be interrupted by “eavesdroppers” who disagreed with us, accusing us of supporting corrupt government/liar/baby killers, and so forth. Many of those people believe that January 20th, 2017 is going to be the dawn of a new great era in America. Continue reading

New York City: 9/11

December 1995: my first visit to New York City. The Big Apple. So much to see. The famous World Trade Centre was definitely on my “must-see” list. However, I never got past the lobby. Being holiday season, the queue to go up to the observation deck snaked through the lobby and I was short on time. “You can always come back next time,” my friends suggested. So we left. There was never a “next time” for the Twin Towers.

After the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001, “Ground Zero” became almost sacred ground. It was the resting place of almost three thousand people. When the dust settled (literally), discussions began about the best way to honour the victims, including the First Respondents who perished during the rescue efforts.

One thing was agreed – that new towers would not be rebuilt where the old towers stood. Instead, a 9/11 Memorial with two reflecting pools featuring North America’s largest man-made waterfalls, would take the place of where the original towers were.

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April 2013, construction in progress behind the reflecting pools

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Daffodil Day: A Spring Awakening

Cancer sucks. No point beating around the bush. It’s a reality. Each one of us has been touched by this terrible disease directly or indirectly. If you, like me, have been lucky enough not to have lost someone in your immediate family to cancer, then chances are you probably know someone close to you who have: a neighbour, a friend, a teacher, a colleague or a distant relative.

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In the past decade, I have lost a school friend and family friends, and watched close friends grieve while they lost their parents, and I thank God that my own family is healthy.

Today is Daffodil Day – the Cancer Council’s annual national fund-raising day.  The daffodil signifies the arrival of spring, new life, vitality and growth which makes it the perfect symbol of hope for all those who have been affected by cancer.

2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Daffodil Day and my first time volunteering to help sell their merchandise in my local mall. I had been looking forward to this day for weeks and it proved as fruitful as I had hoped.

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Post-Olympic Blues

Every four years, I find myself glued to the television watching sports that I know nothing about but somehow find myself an expert in. Some of these sports seem like activities I did in the schoolyard or friends’ backyards: trampoline, badminton, table tennis, handball. How many people knew which sports are included in the Modern Pentathlon? (Which leads to the question a friend of mine asked: what was the Ancient Pentathlon?)

Here’s a sample of my armchair commentary:

Platform diving – “Oh, that landing was terrible!”

Swimming – “She didn’t have a strong enough push off the starting blocks!”

Hockey – “What kind of refereeing do you call that?”

Long jump – “Watch that takeoff board!”

The reality is that I am as unfamiliar with the rules of pretty much all of the 28 sports that featured at the 2016 Olympics in Rio as the millions of people who watched around the world. Still, this two-week event dominates the news around the world and captures the imagination of even the least sporting of audiences. Why?

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One Day

IMG_0556On August 3rd, 2015 (exactly twelve months ago as I write now), I set off on a much-anticipated holiday to London. It was a trip that I had put into motion twelve months before that, when a few friends and I agreed to meet there to see British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch return to the stage to star in Hamlet. It was unusual for any stage production to start selling tickets a year in advance but Cumberbatch’s popularity was on the rise (and continues to do so) and the anticipation for his return to the stage was beyond belief.

I love travelling and seeing the world. It is one of life’s privileges that I do not take for granted. These days, travelling seem to require a little more care and thought. I remember my first solo trip some twenty years before, when my biggest concern was being mugged or losing my traveller’s cheques. Getting lost was not such a big deal as you know you can always rely on some friendly locals to help you out. The world has changed a lot since, some for the better and some for the worse.

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