James Walton London, UK


“Framing Angie” came very highly recommended by friends and contacts

I am a great collector of originally signed sporting memorabilia and when when I arrived in Singapore a few years ago I wanted to find a company that could produce innovative and high quality framing to display my collection.

“Framing Angie” came very highly recommended by friends and contactsand I have been extremely happy with all the pieces Angie and her team have produced for me.

When you walk into the gallery you are always guaranteed with a warm welcome and everybody is incredibly customer focused and find out exactly what your framing needs are. I value their impeccable design advice when it comes to deciding which way to best present my memorabilia, from signed
shirts and cricket bats, to an original Muhammad Ali glove.

Many of my friends have commented on the eye – catching floating frames and boxed showcases “Framing Angie” has created to display the items. I know wherever I move to next, whether in Asia or back home to the UK,’ my memorabilia will look fantastic on any wall”.

James Walton London, UK

Tammy Hong – USA


Despite our love for collecting beautiful objects, we tend to only purchase accessories and furnishings by which were inspired. This also applies to the buying o f art and carpets. A piece must touch you, not necessarily ‘bankrupt’ you.

The collections in our house capture the essence of our travels and all the placeswe have ever been. However, don’t overlook our own backyard here in Singapore and all that Framing Angie has to offer. Some of our very favorite finds have come from her.

Tammy Johnson, Houston Texas


When I started my business in Singapore five years ago as a designer, I knew I had to have Angie design my frames. I decided it would be best to start with my own home before introducing her to my clients. I challenged Angie at every corner, and she learned and adapted to my taste very quickly.

The creativity that comes from Angie is rare and I love working with her as she thinks outside the box. I now send all my clients to her.She and her team always find means to accommodate my clients’ busy schedule and never fail to get the job done. Angie and her team are the best!

Shyanne Roeloffs, New York, USA


My husband and I came to Singapore with many Asian works which we had accumulated through the years, some never properly framed, others in need of an update, and a few in need of restorative care given their age and delicate nature. Framing Angie was recommended by everyone we asked.

Not only did Angie assist in arranging our collection, but she also took the context of each piece into consideration recommending styles ranging from rustic to refined,and surprising us with some cutting edge and pizzazz where appropriate. We couldn’t be happier with her work, and are always finding ourselves taking ‘just one more piece’ over to Angie for another job well done!

Darla Bryans, Washington, USA


I have lived in Singapore for twelve and a half years. I remember after several years of letting things pile up I started asking around about a good framer. A close friend of mine recommended “ Framing Angie ”.

I went in to the gallery with my own ideas. However, after talking with Angie and learning how creative she was, all of my ideas went out of the window. Every item in my home whether it be a piece of art, a corkboard for the children’s rooms, family portraits, sports memorabilia has all been framed by Angie.

Libby and Jim McColgin, Texas, USA.


We have traveled and lived in the region for many years. Over time, we have acquired a collection of artwork. It wasn’t until moving to Singapore 2 ½ years ago that we learned about the talent of Angie. She has taken many of our pieces and transformed them.

She guided us in frame selection and gave advice on how best to show the work in order to accentuate the beauty and individuality of each piece. She is a gifted artist in her own right. When Angie started framing pieces, friends suddenly started asking where we had acquired our beautiful paintings. The right frame makes almost any painting look great. We have always been pleased with her work.

Jamie and Bill Amelio, and all of our 6 children, USA


When I first met Angie over seven years  ago I had no idea that she would not only frame and make my art beautiful but, I came to respect her in a way that was  special. I am awed by her eye to take a simple piece of  paper and  make it look like a treasure that one would never want to let go of ! We are honored to have your work in my  home.

Thank you Angie!

Tammy Hale, Beaumont, Texas USA


For the past seven years Angie has been taking my paintings, tapestries, porcelain, and  other sentimental items and has turned them into absolutely  phenomenal pieces of  work.  Her passion and everlasting commitment to her work has made my house an absolute pleasure to live in, making it welcoming and pleasing to the eye.

Living overseas for the past 16 years, I have never come across such elaborate  and  fulfilling  work. Guests who come over frequently wonder whose whose hands created such magnificent pieces.

I always recommend friends to Angie with the knowledge that they will be as touched as I was when they get their first piece back from her.

I will be looking forward to her framing portraits of my children, knowing  she will put her  passionate effort and heart  into it because in the  end, she is the one I would trust to make something so close to my heart close to hers as well.

Sangita Jhunjhnuwala – India


I have been living in Singapore for last fifteen years with my husband who is a businessman. We have two boys aged 18 and 14 who are currently studying at  the United World College of S.E.A. I am an event organizer as it keeps me busy during the day when the two boys are in school as one can be flexible with  the  timings. I enjoy event organizing as I love meeting and interacting with people.

Angie and I clicked from day one. She is one of the most down to earth person I come across.

She is really very good at her profession and all my artworks are framed by her. I just leave it to her to decide what goes where.

Greg and Sandra Hill / USA


When  we first  came to Singapore,  we needed  to decorate our new home, which had lots of white, blank walls.  We asked our decorator if she knew of someone who  could  supply  us with  some unique  Asian  artwork and alsoframe some of our special  treasures that  we had acquired from our travels in Europe. She  told  us  about Angie, which began a  very special business and personal relationship with someone who is uniquely gifted.

Thomas Wolfe once said that…

“If someone has a talent and cannot use it, they have failed.
If someone has a talent and uses only half of it, they have partly failed.
If someone has a talent  and learns somehow to use the whole of it, they have
gloriously succeeded, and won a satisfaction and a triumph few people ever know”

Clearly, this defines Angie.She truly is one of those unique people you meet in  your life that  has maximised  her  talent. Sharing  one’s  gifts  is  sharing oneself, and we are so grateful that she has done so because  she  has  not only enriched our home, but also our lives. Thanks Angie for being so great!

Rosio Flynn , Sydney Australia


I met Angie soon after our arrival in Singapore 6 years ago from Sydney and I had  many paintings and photos framed by  her.  The  wonderful  thing  is that  they are  all  thought through and designed  individually to suit each piece of art. Ranging  from  large  oil paintings to watercolors and  most recently  works  of  Buddha images.The  great  thing about Angie is that she treats each piece importantly and considers the  sentiments, size and  colors  before  recommending  a suitable  frame  moldings  or style. I  initially  relied  heavily on Angie’s advice. As I have gained more experience I have provided more  imput  and  she is  always very  opened  to  receiving  my  thoughts  and comments.

To ensure that the frame presents my work in the best way possible and  also  to  use  the frame as  an extension and enhancement  of my work – these  are  two  key  principles which Angie bases her designs on.  And  it became a great motivation for me.I have never met anyone with such a flair for framing art and craft as Angie. Great effort is put behind every  piece  of  art and  she takes  great pride in her work. I will not hesitate to recommend her to anybody who needs the  highest  standard  in  framing.

Michelle Smith, USA


Angie is a truly wonderful and talented artist who translates  elegance  into everything  she designs and  has done almost all the artwork,framing and mirrors in my home.  She has turned undesirable architectural  features  in our home  into beautiful focal points.

Angie is able to transform absolutely everything and  anything into a real work of  art !  Her visions  and  creativity give our  home  a one of  kind  designer  feel.  Elegant  and  classy.

Dipika & Harmeet Bedi – India


Angie  has been  inspirational  in  transforming the look of all  the art in our home. We started working with Angie five years ago,  and once she  framed  our first  painting  there was  no  going  back  –  she  makes  good  art   look  great and great  art  look outstanding.We  cannot think  of going anywhere  but  to Angie for our framing.

Her artistic ability to  transform  the  paintings  lies  in  her eye  for detail and quality  of  work which she never, never  compromises  on. As  of today we  can proudly say that all the paintings  that hang  on our walls are Angie’s trademark.  We  continually receive compliments from all our friends on the  innovative styles  of  frames  we have  got.   And  we will continue  to recommend Angie to all our friends and she can vouch for having  a  lot  of  references  given  by  us.

The Little Things

With my busy work schedule, the last thing I need is to see chunks of spam or forwarded mail when I access my email messages. On a hectic morning, as I was deleting these unwelcomed mail as usual, a forwarded mail titled “9 -11” caught my attention.  The contents are hardly frivolous and had since been a useful reminder for me to curb my impatience and anger in my daily life and especially when I was about to lose my cool behind the wheel. It reminds me to stay cool and not get irritated when I have delayed services in a restaurant or a boutique.

I even learned to feel sincerely thankful when I could not get a booking on a flight or when my taxi was late. Read on and you will also learn from these “little things” how to stay calm and unruffled by the irritations in our daily lives. Frankly, I cannot remember who sent me this message, or if these “ little things” were made up or it may be true, but if applied philosophically, it certainly will make a real difference in your lives.

After September 11th, one company invited the remaining members of other companies who had been decimated by the attack on the Twin Towers to share their available office space.

At a morning meeting, the head of security told stories of why these people were alive and allthe stories were just “little things”.

As you might know, the head of the company survived that day because his son started kindergarten.

Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn’t go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike because of an auto accident.

One of them missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.

One’s car wouldn’t start.

One went back to answer the telephone.

One had a child that dawdled and didn’t get ready as soon as he should have.

One couldn’t get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning the various means to get to work but before he got there he developed a blister on his foot. He   stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.

Now when I am stuck in traffic, miss an elevator, turn back to answer a ringing telephone all the little things that annoy me. I think to myself, this is exactly where God wants me to be at this very moment.”

Next time your morning seems to be going wrong, the children are slow getting dressed, you can’t seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light, don’t get mad or frustrated.  Remember that all those annoying little things may have their possible purpose.

A Carrot, an egg, and a cup of Coffee

A young  woman went to her mother and told her about  her life and  how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted  to  give up. She  was tired  of  fighting  and  struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a  new  one  arose.

Her  mother took  her  to the kitchen. She filled  three  pots with water and placed each on a  high fire. Soon the pots  came  to  boil. In  the  first  she placed  carrots,  in  the  second  she placed   eggs,  and  in  the  last  she placed ground coffee beans.  She let them sit and boil;  without  saying  a word. In  about  twenty minutes  she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots  out  and  placed  them  in  a  bowl.  She  pulled  the  eggs out and placed  them  in  a  bowl. Then  she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she  asked, “Tell  me,  what you  see?” “Carrots,eggs,and coffee” she replied. Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft.

The  mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the  mother  asked  the  daughter  to  sip the coffee.  The  daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked,  “What does it mean, mother?” Her mother explained.

Each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being  subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected  its liquid  interior, but after sitting through the  boiling water, its inside  became  hardened.

The  ground  coffee  beans were  unique,however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?”she asked her daughter. When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think  of  this:  “Which  am  I ?  Am  I  the  carrot  that seems  strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and  become  soft  and  lose  my  strength?”

Am  I the  egg that starts  with  a malleable heart, but changes  with  the  heat?  Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become  hardened  and stiff?  Does my  shell  look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with  a stiff  spirit  and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The  bean  actually  changes  the  hot water, the very circumstance  that  brings  the pain. When  the  water gets hot,it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst,  you get better and change the situation around you.

When  the  hour is  the  darkest  and  trials  are  their greatest,  do  you elevate  yourself  to another level? How  do you  handle  adversity?  Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May  you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough  trials to  make you strong,  enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.

The  brightest  future  will  always  be  based  on  a forgotten  past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go  of  your  past  failures  and  heartaches.

Dying to Live Better

Due to superstitious reasons, I do not attend wakes or funerals. I was inspired by Patty and her annual birthday bash and so I have decided to make a list of older relatives and friends I am close to and to think what would they like me to do for them. I then resolved to make the effort to make sure that I keep in touch with these precious people, even if its something as having a meal with them. I know that I will not attend their funeral and I’m sure that they would much prefer me to stay in touch while they are alive, when it matters.

I have been following with much interest a report on a new trend in Korea where, for a reasonable sum, a funeral parlor will organize for you a mock burial funeral. Participants take a class on the meaning  of life, pose for their funeral portrait and write their wills as if they only had 3 days to live. After that, the “deceased” will enter his or her coffin. Workers will nail the coffin shut, sprinkle dirt on top as the lights are switched off.

Participants are left in the coffin for 15 minutes. In this time, the participants are asked to reflect on their past and think of a better future. Many of them have came out crying and sobbing uncontrollably. Many of the participants interviewed said they were really frightened while in the coffin and that they were flooded with thoughts of people they love and miss. Many said that they will live differently after this inspiring experience so as not to have any regrets in their lives.

To die well, we should live well. Many participants cried wile reading their wills, which means they felt that they had much to regret.

While many may think of this is a crazy and morbid practice, I personally feel that it is a practical way to jot us out of our self-denial and us taking each other for granted. Anyone can die unexpectedly. We should make a list of people we want to thank or to express our appreciation for today and make it a point to do so. We should not wait for the funerals, real or otherwise.

A wonderful book on this subject is "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche.  For Tibetans, the main festival of the year is the New Year, which is like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Birthdays all rolled into one.

The author, a Tibetan master, would weep on this day. When he was asked why, he would reply that it was because another year had gone by and so many people have come one year closer to death – and still unprepared for it.

Just Switch on the television or glance at a newspaper and you will see death everywhere – from plane crashes and car accidents to war. These victims did not expect to die. We all tend to take our lives for granted – most of them are not the exception.
How often do we hear of someone we know dying unexpectedly? While we may sometimes feel invincible when we’re young, all of us are equally vulnerable of sudden death. We need to shake ourselves from time to time and seriously ask ourselves:
"What if I am to die tonight?"

As a Tibetan saying goes, "Tomorrow or the next life. Whichever comes first, we never know." According to the book, some Tibetan masters, empty their cups and leave them upside down on their tables before they go to bed at night. They do so because they are never sure if they will wake up to use them the following day.

“What if I am to die tonight?”   As a Tibetan saying goes, “Tomorrow or the next life. Whichever comes first, we never know.”

“Based on the wisdom of Buddha, we can actually use our lives to prepare for death.  We do not have to wait for the painful death of someone close to us of the shock of terminal illness to force us into looking at our own lives. Nor are we condemned to go out empty-handed at death to meet the unknown.”

We can begin here and now to find meaning in our lives. “We can make every moment an opportunity to change and to prepare – wholeheartedly, precisely and with peace of mind – for death and eternity.”

Tibetan masters empty their cups and leave them upside down on their tables before they go to bed at night. They do so because they are never sure if they will wake up to use them the following day.

I am not suggesting that we live our lives constantly thinking of death. Life has to go on as usual, but we do need to build a strong mental state of mind to prepare ourselves for death.

I found the book immensely inspiring because it approaches the subject of death philosophically rather than simply as an expression of a particular religion.

If the topic of dying intrigues you, even just a little, I highly recommend this book.  If you keep an open mind and read it from cover to cover, I am confident you will look at the subject in a new light. You may still be frightened of death but you will now be more prepared for the inevitable.

If there are people you want to thank, express your love and concern, I urge you to go about doing it today  and not wait till the funeral when it is too late.

Alone on Valentines?

The general view is that happiness is an expression of times spent with others; of special occassion get togethers and parties. There is a tendency to view being  alone  on holidays or birthdays  as taboo.  As a result,  a person choosing to spend these moments alone may be  sympathised  by  others.

I remember when I was twenty first travelled to Europe alone. I didn’t mind  sight seeing, shopping or sleeping alone. What I could not and still  cannot  tolerate is eating alone.Whenever I entered a restaurant I would look for some harmless old couple and asked them  if I could join their table.  If  I  have company when I eat I do not feel alone. I  have since developed  the habit  of having dinner in front of the television. Most  times I am oblivious to  the programmes but find the sound coming from the set a comfort.This is akin to company and I do not feel alone.

Loneliness versus Aloneness

I  am alone a lot of the time.I get up early each morning and go to the gym: shoot straight to the gallery and return  home  after nine in the  evening. My children are generally out with their friends or glued to their computers. But I do not feel lonely. Not at all. I am just alone. I enjoy the solitude and my  quiet moments. Many  people suffer from loneliness even though they are surrounded with others. Whether you are in the the company of others or alone, the feeling of loneliness is a state of mind.  To rise beyond this  feeling requires  renewed self esteem, strength and sense of  self  fulfillment.

As  a  single mother I am used to spending time on my own  and am happy about  it.  There  are  times I  enjoy  attending  friends’ parties  but there are plenty of occasions  where I choose to stay at home.  I am  quite  happy snuggling  up with a  good  book  or working  on  my computer  without  a  trace  of  self  pity.

This  is  simple.  Make your life as meaningful and as fulfilling as possible. Build up your self esteem. It can be a job, a hobby or a  mission that takes up so much of your time and passion that all you want is to be alone whenever there is an opportunity. It is this passion that will take up a chunk of your time. Eighty percent meaningfully occupied – twenty percent alone.

Realistically,this will take time.Self-esteem can only be improved with  personal  commitment. You  must  learn  to  release  guilt or regret,concentrate and focus on self-respect and learn to approve of yourself.  Indulging in self-pity and denying yourself happiness is detrimental to the fight.  You must feel good about yourself and enjoy your own company.  This  way  you  can combat feelings of loneliness  which  may  invade  your  state  of  being. When Valentine’s  Day is around the corner,  do  you worry about not receiving flowers?  Are you concerned about having a candle lit dinner or attending a party?  If your wife or husband show their love 364 days a year, should it matter if it is not demonstrated on this single day?

On this special day it is more important that you express love for yourself. Whether your are having a party, a romantic dinner, or curled up alone, be determined with yourself not to be lonely.

Tipping from the Heart

I was very touched when I learned that my friend’s husband,Tim,a habitual morning jogger,always brings cash out with him on his runs. Not to stop for a latte at Starbuck or pick up mineral water at 7-11, but rather for alms for the homeless who live with their belonging in plastic bags.

He would press anything from $20 to $50 into their hands and then run off to leave the recipient in shock without expecting any appreciation.

This, to me, is truly giving with absolutely no motive. I had a chance to speak Tim again and I learned something else. He gives to make the person feel he is appreciated and to make his day. This was an extension to tipping generously to waiters and other people who in their own small way make his life better.

He particularly does this for the older attendants at petrol stations. Tim believes that these people are under-appreciated everyday. They have less glamorous jobs that many do not want and probably need the money for survival.

So, over the years, I always think of Tim when I tip. In the beginning, I was leery of giving a tip larger than a certain amount for a meal. But I always remind myself that the additional tip can make so much of a difference to a waitress who probably does not earn much and hope that with the extra money he can buy his girlfriend a nice meal that evening or add to his savings for a new Ipod. However, I think the receiver of the tip is not happy for the tip in itself, but rather the gesture that it represents.

My daughter was surprised when I gave a towel lady in a restaurant bathroom a big tip when we were sure we were never ever going to see her again. She understood why I did that when I explained it to her on our way back to our seats and when she glanced back to see the towel lady beaming and waving at us in gratitude.

The only downside to this is when I DO see the person again I’ll receive more attention that I really want.

I do not feel smug gratification when I tip generously these days. Only a sense of contentment that I had the opportunity to make someone feel appreciated and happy, even if just for a day.

No Fish for My Children

My daughter Crystal once retorted  “Why must you bring us up in the way your own mother brought you up ?? Why is it always grandma did this or grandma said that ?? ” My reply was that I don’t see any thing wrong with that at all. “I did not turn out too badly, did I ??”

I was never spoiled as a child and I make it a point not to spoil my own children.. I try to help them understand the value of money and as early as I can, I made my son Danon memorize the word " M E R C E N E R Y " by the time he learned how to read and write in school when even the word “a e r o p l a n e” was a long and complex word to him . As he got older, I continued to expand the meaning of word and how he must never become mercenary.

My daughter Crystal once retorted ” Why must you bring us up in the way your own mother brought you up ?? Why is it always grandma did this or grandma said that ?? ” My reply was that I don’t see any thing wrong with that at all. ” I did not turn out too badly, did I ?? ”

I was never spoiled as a child and I make it a point not to spoil my own children.. I try to help them understand the value of money and as early as I can, I made my son Danon memorize the word ” M E R C E N E R Y ” by the time he learned how to read and write in school when even the word “a e r o p l a n e” was a long and complex word to him . As he got older, I continued to expand the meaning of word and how he must never become mercenary.

It was initially extremely difficult for him to understand this so I made him repeat and spell out loud “ I must not be mercenary ” after me every other day. He still teases me about this till today and tells his friends how “ funny ” his mother is.

I have always made it a point never to sign any restaurant or shopping bill in front of my children. As curious children, they would ask me about the bill. I would just tell them “Go away. It is rude to look at bills”.

So when a restaurant bill is presented nowadays, they never ask me how much is the meal.

I know it is not easy to fully understand the meaning of “ Mercenary ” and how difficult it sometimes is not to be mercenary. Danon once wanted to drag me to Toys r Us to get a popular action figure from a TV cartoon when he was five. I told him “ Mummy has no money”. He quickly replied…” but you go to that machine and put in your card and the money will come out ”. At that very moment , I knew it would not be easy to inculcate the value of money or “ no money ” without changing my lifestyle, an impractical alternative. And so I made a conscious effort to drive the point home by imposing all kind of restrictions, many which I am still not sure and undecided if I had done the right thing.

I sent them to a local “ heartland ” school so they would mix with children who are less privileged than they are in order for them to understand and appreciate that life is not always so “ comfortable ” for everybody. The last thing I wanted was to send them to elite schools where students often compare notes on their expensive holidays, their latest TV toys or the type of cars their parents drive. Even the most well adjusted child will find it difficult not to feel envious and may likely develop a complex if there is so much of it around him. His or her holiday to Malaysia would pale in comparison to glamorous trips to New York, London or Paris.

I gave them sufficient but definitely not excessive allowances to go to school and made sure that they could “ balance their accounts ” and spent within their means. Danon struggled in the beginning, and everybody noticed how he was always rather thin towards the end of the month when he ran out of “funds”. He could no longer have his Macdonald Happy Meals whenever he wished and had to eat home more often which was fine by me since I got to see a lot more of him. Both my children learned early how to prioritize, trade off spending with saving and budgeting.

I have never regretted making these choices for my children. I was adamant on managing Danon’s money as a young adult though most of his peers would have insisted on financial independence.It was initially extremely difficult for him to understand this so I made him repeat and spell out loud “ I must not be mercenary ” after me every other day. He still teases me about this till today and tells his friends how “ funny ” his mother is.

I have always made it a point never to sign any restaurant or shopping bill in front of my children. As curious children, they would ask me about the bill. I would just tell them “Go away. It is rude to look at bills”.

So when a restaurant bill is presented nowadays, they never ask me how much is the meal.

I know it is not easy to fully understand the meaning of “ Mercenary ” and how difficult it sometimes is not to be mercenary. Danon once wanted to drag me to Toys r Us to get a popular action figure from a TV cartoon when he was five. I told him “ Mummy has no money”. He quickly replied…” but you go to that machine and put in your card and the money will come out ”. At that very moment , I knew it would not be easy to inculcate the value of money or “ no money ” without changing my lifestyle, an impractical alternative. And so I made a conscious effort to drive the point home by imposing all kind of restrictions, many which I am still not sure and undecided if I had done the right thing.

I sent them to a local “ heartland ” school so they would mix with children who are less privileged than they are in order for them to understand and appreciate that life is not always so “ comfortable ” for everybody. The last thing I wanted was to send them to elite schools where students often compare notes on their expensive holidays, their latest TV toys or the type of cars their parents drive. Even the most well adjusted child will find it difficult not to feel envious and may likely develop a complex if there is so much of it around him. His or her holiday to Malaysia would pale in comparison to glamorous trips to New York, London or Paris.

I gave them sufficient but definitely not excessive allowances to go to school and made sure that they could “ balance their accounts ” and spent within their means. Danon struggled in the beginning, and everybody noticed how he was always rather thin towards the end of the month when he ran out of “funds”. He could no longer have his Macdonald Happy Meals whenever he wished and had to eat home more often which was fine by me since I got to see a lot more of him. Both my children learned early how to prioritize, trade off spending with saving and budgeting.

I have never regretted making these choices for my children. I was adamant on managing Danon’s money as a young adult though most of his peers would have insisted on financial independence.

Emotional Detox

A friend of mine was perpetually complaining or was always unhappy about something. If it wasn’t her friends or helper, it was her husband and the children – or the insurance agent. She got upset at the slightest fault of people serving her in restaurants and shops, and always wrote to their management to voice her dissatisfaction. If the management did not respond, or satisfy her with their response, she would then get angry with the company. Things were fine on one of the rare occasions when she had nothing to grumble about, but something invariably irked her sooner or later. Like the evening she was sitting in her luxurious lounge and glanced at her newly installed curtains to find that one of the chains on the curtain rail had come off its track. As it was past working hours she had no option but to call the company the next day. But that night she was so depressed she could not make an immediate complaint, she lost sleep over the incident.

Sensing she was not giving herself the chance to enjoy a peaceful life, I tried to advise her to take life easy and not let minor matters bother her without any success! Then I showed her an inspirational excerpt from a book written by a Vietnamese priest – Thich Nhat Hanh, and told her that she was like apple juice in a glass being stirred non – stop!

The priest related how he gave a young girl in an orphanage a full glass of home made apple juice poured from a jar, after first serving three of her friends. Since her juice was from the bottom of the jar it had some pulp in it. When she noticed the particles the young girl pouted and refused to drink it. Half-an-hour later, the young girl was thirsty and asked for a glass of water from the priest. He reminded her of the glass of apple juice on the table and asked her to drink that first. Turning to look at it, the girl saw that the pulp has settled and the juice looked clear and delicious. After drinking half of it, she asked the priest “Is this from a different jar?” “No” he answered, “ It’s the same one as before. It sat quietly for a bit, and now it is clear and delicious.” The young girl was curious. “The juice tastes really good. Is it meditating like you?” she asked. “No” the priest answered, “lets just say that I imitate the apple juice instead when I sit. That is closer to the truth”.

If we rest our mind in pleasant thinking and not submit to the unnecessary worries that will not really affect our lives – we too can become clear.

Clarity gives us strength,hope and serenity.

By seeing that the apple juice became clear after resting, it’s possible to see that if we rest our mind in pleasant thinking and not submit to the unnecessary worries that will not really affect our lives – we too can become clear. This clarity refreshes us and gives us strength, hope and serenity. Those tiny bits of pulp only have to follow the laws of gravity to fall gently to the bottom of the glass. Our thoughts obey no such law. On the contrary, they buzz feverishly like a swarm of bees. And so our thoughts cannot settle like the apple juice.

You do not need to free your thoughts or feelings to be at peace. A peaceful mind does not mean a mind empty of thoughts,sensations or emotions. Whilst meditation and yoga can be helpful they are not essential in achieving a peaceful mind. We can be at peace, not only while sitting but also in the midst of a busy schedule, looking after the home and children, or whilst working or walking.

I must admit that a few years ago, before I read this motivating passage,I was occasionally flustered with my work schedule. Starting early in the morning at 7:00 am with my gym routine for about a hour, I literally rushed though breakfast, had my bath and ran down the steps, as I’ve been told this helps to build up my bone density so I do this instead of taking the lift. Getting into the car, my mind would immediately run through my appointments for the day. The projects I had to co-ordinate with my workshop and other important things. As soon as I stepped into my gallery, it would be a non-stop day. By the end of it I would be hungry and eat my dinner with work still on my mind. As soon as I reached home I would sit in front of my computer and continue with my paperwork so that I was “ clean ” the next day. By the time I went to bed it would be past midnight. And as soon as I opened my eyes I would repeat the same routine. I think back to that time and realise I was like a glass of apple juice being shaken continuously.

Now I am more conscious of my stress levels. When they rise I imagine I am like an unsettled glass of apple juice. If you come into my gallery and notice me sitting back doing nothing, with piles of paper and framing articles on my table, you would know I am trying to “mimic” the apple juice. I’m allowing the pulp to sit and clear my mind, in order to feel fresher.

This exercise also applies to many other occasions. If you’re having an argument with your spouse or your boss and find yourself getting worked up, imagine that you are like the unclear apple juice – full of floating pulp.

Take a break and excuse yourself for a while and move elsewhere to clear your thoughts. You’ll find that when you return to continue your conversation you’ll be more in control – you might even realize you were acting unreasonably before.

It has been reported that moving house or country is the most stressful event you can experience, second only to a divorce. The arrangements with the packer, last minute purchases and the administrative procedures can be mind-boggling and taxing. You start to get temperamental and often scream at the workers and contractors involved in the move. This is the time to apply the apple juice story and try to settle the pulp as many times as you can throughout the day. Tell yourself it will not get better if you are highly strung and stressed out.

She continues to do this until she, like the pulp, slowly settles to reveal a clear glass of apple juice! Sometimes it takes longer than she’d like, but it always works.

The next time you are about to lose your cool with your boss, your spouse or your friends,try practicing this simple exercise. You will be surprised how it will also work effectively for you.

The Bamboo Story

People are prone to question their fate when faced with difficult times. When misfortune strikes it can be overwhelming and may cause fatigue for life or paranoia about the future. I have faced many battles in my life. I knew hunger and rejection as a child. I have encountered corporate politics,felt burdened with business concerns and have faced the betrayal of soured friendship and bear the obstacles facing single parenthood. There were certainly moments when I felt angry and resigned, but I have learnt an inner strength and know now that I can handle any conflict that comes my way.

I am at peace with myself and with the world. I love my simple routine and predictable life style. I am not provoked so easily and I don’t lose sleep over almost anything.

Many years ago, in the midst of one of my early battles, my Feng Shui Master, Mr Lim shared an inspiring story. He told me to imagine myself as a piece of bamboo.

For each trial I had overcome I would earn another grid on the bamboo. With each grid I would gain strength and resilience. He taught me to be grateful for my problems and the ensuing suffering. If I didn’t face hard times I would be ‘grid-less’. The taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bends. Without grids, a bamboo could not weather storms and strong winds. It would most certainly bend and break.

It was with this analogy that I learnt to face my life differently. We tend to long for a life that presents no problems, yet it is the trials, the sorrow and the disasters that cross our path that give us our strength. The story was simple yet the impact is profound. Now when I am stressed about a situation, I just roll my head back, look up towards Him and sincerely murmur” thank you for the problem.!’ The truth is that I really would prefer not to have to face or combat any further adversity. I was rather relieved to be told recently by a renowned palmist that I need not worry any more. “ You’ve had your last curtain call ”, he said.“ Your ‘drama’ stage in life is over”.

This may be so but I still believe I will need to face the likelihood of health issues as I age. It is something that many find difficult to manage, simply because it seems to be beyond our control. In spite of my current good health I still endure a full medical check up every 6 months. My doctor is bemused to see me so often in such good condition. For me it is important to be prepared and be reassured that I am OK.

Sometimes when everything feels so good and right, I find it necessary to combat my own skepticism.

No problem seems “small” or frivolous if you are involved. Whether it is a divorce, loss of job, a career change, a failed relationship or financial obstacles-there is no escaping a deep sense of anxiety or desperation. I strongly believe that nothing is a“ real problem unless it is a matter of life and death”. When a situation appears unmanageable, you need to question its importance. If it is not a matter of life or death then you will find that the gravity of the problem is less severe than what it appears to be. Under these terms you should find it easier to move on. Strength is an attitude, make yours resolute.

In times of adversity, imagine yourself as a bamboo, ready to gain another grid.

Hurt by the Prick of a Needle

At twenty, I burned with a passion to make a difference in the world. I enrolled in the “ Samaritan Of Singapore”,a volunteer movement. To assess my skills they gave me a test. A “caller” explained that she was hurt and traumatized. Sobbing, she said she felt close to suicide as her long-term boyfriend had left her. Being young and inexperienced, and very idealistic,I naively told her that having a relationship was only part of one’s life and that she should move on. I preached to her about how she could focus on her work instead to enrich her life. Naturally I failed the test miserably and was put on clerical duties instead!

That experience taught me to never enforce my own philosophies onto somebody who is suffering emotionally. At the loss of a loved one no amount of “words of comfort” will help, and telling them to “take it easy” is lame and unrealistic. Even saying “ I understand and know what you are going through” is sometimes not believable. It’s very difficult to feel or empathise with someone’s pain unless we have gone through the same trauma or loss.

Not long ago a very close girlfriend of mine lost her grown-up and only son. I’m aware that his loss is something she’ll feel forever and will never “get over”. Not knowing how to offer her comfort I can only hold her hand, hug her and cry with her. Though five years have passed she still feels a deep sense of emptiness and as she put it herself,”my heart feels physically heavy and painful,especially when I wake up and realise that I will never see him again.” Several times she has spontaneously called out his name while reading the newspaper and wanting to share the news. Once, when she cooked his favourite meal and called for him the truth hit her so hard that she sat on the kitchen floor and cried uncontrollably.

It was during one of these extreme periods of grief that she decided to send me a fax pouring out her feelings, hoping it would bring her some kind of relief. She wanted to tell me how angry she was. Questioning why God had taken her one and only child from her and explaining how she couldn’t cope with t he stress of hiding her grief, and how her tears never stopped flowing for her son. Unfortunately her fax went to the wrong number. The party on the other line not only took the trouble to respond by fax that the original correspondence had been sent to the wrong number but they also scribbled the following…

” I know you are wrong to question your religion and God. Have faith that it is all good for you, your son might not have brought you happiness as he grew up. God knows it all and this is our trial. Start your life like you are building a new home, put the past behind you and live again.”

It sounds sensible and could even be religiously correct. But my friend found the note offensive and callous, and was even more upset after reading it. Obviously, the sender was very young or very inexperienced in life to have given such an idealistic response. Her naivety reminded me of myself when I first joined the SOS.

We very often have friends who pour out their sorrows of failed relationships, frustration with their careers or their despair over critical illnesses. Though we may not know words of consolation it’s always best to let them talk and say what’s on their mind. Allow them to release freely instead of trying to find the right response. Don’t preach religion or try to philosophise. Keep in touch with the person constantly to demonstrate your support but always refrain from telling other parties of their predicament. It is up to them to inform whom they choose of their personal problems.

Unless you’ve had an intense relationship, or have built your life around another person for years, you may not understand why estranged spouses can feel so traumatised when their relationship ends. Some may think of them as being weak, but in talking with friends I’ve discovered that such break up can hurt so much that they wished that they would simply not wake up in the morning, ending their pain. While their friends mean well and were trying to help by including them in their invite list for parties and gatherings, they very often were not ready to “face the world” and prefer to be left alone and grief….. an unavoidable process until they get back on their feet again. They also felt uncomfortable being single and alone in an environment of couples.”

It took me a long time to learn how to console others in distress. It’s being conscious of how we would want to be consoled ourselves should we be placed in a similar situation. But the person in distress doesn’t want to hear of your similar experience, or how well you coped or tackled the situation. Just remind yourself that knowing that the prick of the needle hurts is different from being hurt by the prick of the needle. Keeping this in mind I’ve learnt to say as little as possible and just listen with empathy while holding my friend’s hand.

Is it Necessary?

Often when we are caught up in the activity of our lives, we don’t stop and think about our automatic responses to question or our reactions to situations. Asking ourselves “ Is it necessary?” can save us a lot of trouble!

During a recent buying trip, I was sitting at the airport with my father. Our flight had been delayed and we had some time to kill. I was about to confide with him about a situation that developed with one of my close relatives, even though it was considered a ‘family secret’. Whilst I hadn’t been specifically told to keep it in confidence, it was clearly something that wasn’t to be discussed openly.

My dear father is an unassuming person and secrets are generally safe with him. I therefore thought there would be little harm in opening up to him. However, before I even opened my mouth I remembered an incident whereas close friend queried me with “ Is it necessary ?”

Two of my friends had had an argument. One came to me complaining about the other and I, hoping to resolve the issue, explained why the other had been offended by her attitude. Before I knew it I was drawn into their conflict. Words were put into my mouth, and things I hadn’t actually said were quoted. I was terribly upset and confided in another friend. He didn’t mince his words and harshly reprimanded me immediately. “ It’s your fault! Is it necessary to even mention how one person feels towards another ? You obviously said too much.”

His words really hit me and I’ve since decided not to get involved in other people’s quarrels or to say more than I should!

So at the point of disclosure to my father I stopped myself and questioned “Is this really necessary ? ” What good would it do ? He couldn’t help to improve the situation and there was a risk that he may slip up and spread the ‘ secret ’. Then I would be fully responsible for opening the Pandora’s Box.

Asking ourselves “Is it really necessary” can save us a lot of trouble!

Late one evening I came home hungry and in a bad mood. While trying to have my dinner, my fashion conscious son came to talk to me again about the latest fashion trends on offer along Orchard Road. After awhile, he sensed my disinterest and became angry when I told him that I would not buy him yet another fashion jacket. For the first time he raised his voice to me and stormed out of the room. I was shocked ! I have raised my children not to display their temper to me as I consider it disrespect. I was about to run after him and give him a piece of my mind, then asked myself if it was really necessary. Confronting him then with us both angry would only have aggravated the situation and may have resulted in a serious conflict.

Thankfully, the next day he apologised and we enjoyed a dinner together that evening. I was glad I had asked myself if it was “ really necessary ” to confront him before acting rashly.

At the release of the latest blue tooth wireless phone I was so excited that in the midst of my busy schedule I rushed to stand in a long queue just to purchase one. After a long wait I finally had the phone in my hands. I then stopped and asked myself if the purchase was really necessary. We already have five mobile phones in our household. Even my helper has one. I decided that I didn’t need to spoil myself with another, thanked the assistant and walked away. Driving back to the gallery I was glad that I’d avoided what was an impulsive purchase by asking myself, “ It is necessary? ”

I’ve had many opportunities to expand my business, locally or across the world. One offer was terribly serious and extremely tempting. After several meetings and having worked on the numbers. They looked good. The risk was low with guaranteed high return and a high chance of success. Even my feng shui master approved of the project!

But it would mean dragging out my power suits and traveling on long trips, details reminiscent of my past.

I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time at the gallery and would eventually lose focus. So I asked myself. “What is the attraction? More money with little time to spend it?”

So, when caught in a situation and prompted to respond, don’t just use your head or your heart to make a decision. Instead, ask yourself “Is it necessary?” before reacting. Chances are you won’t regret your decision.

Is this necessary, to complicate my life? Is it necessary to strive for more while I am really trying to map out an early retirement plan? The answer was obvious and the next day I called an end to the discussions.

“Is it necessary?” isn’t an intelligent mantra or a new philosophy. It’s just a very simple, soul-searching question that can be applied to every aspect of our lives. Whether it be within our daily routine or when making major decisions, it reminds us what is truly important.

So, before you open your mouth and say something you may regret , or when caught in a situation and prompted to respond- don’t just use your head or your heart to make a rash decision. Instead,ask yourself “Is it really necessary? ” before reacting. Chances are you won’t regret your decision.

My Mantra to Good Fortune

Good fortune, known as ‘fook’ in Chinese, has many connotations.  It  is  not simply a  statement  about financial wealth.  Clients to my gallery who purchase calligraphy are usually tempted by the ’Good Fortune’, interpreting it as a symbol of financial gain. Yet fortune can be reaped through  peaceful sleep, good  food, great  health  and  a simplistic  lifestyle.

The Chinese have a saying: “ When you can eat and sleep it is good fortune”.  A millionaire envied by many may be unhappy, depressed or not in good health.  In this state it is unlikely he would enjoy even the most expensive  or  exquisite meal  in  the world.  As  the Chinese saying expresses, ‘ even “ Dragon Meat ” loses its potent  flavour and taste when this happens’.  Miserable, it  is  unlikely  he  will sleep  well, if at all!

In comparison, an ordinary man who is content in life may devour and cherish the simplest meal  he  can afford.  With  standard hopes of increased  gain, his sleep is likely to be sweet  and  trouble  free.

Having your health is a sign of good fortune. There are days when I feel really invigorated and energized, especially after I have spent time at the gym.  On the way home,I will sing to myself, feel the steering wheel in my hands, watch the road ahead and appreciate how fortunate I am to feel so healthy.

We take a lot for granted, especially our five senses.  If  we were to be deprived of our sight, smell, taste, sound or touch, we would feel lost – and lose one more means of appreciating our world.

When people fall victim to terrible illnesses  such as cancer, all  the  treasures  and  wealth  in  the  world amount to little.  Good fortune at a time like this comes in the form of renewed health, even if just for a short period. Sadly, it often does take a shock or tragedy for people to realise that their fortune is not made simply by financial gain.  Indeed many find that the desire for monetary fortune can in itself cause misery.  Many get worked up, stressed, and have bitter disagreements with their partners over money.  Quite simply, “ any problem that money can solve is not a problem.  It is a problem only when it is a matter of life and death.”

Being an ordinary person, and  being comfortable with yourself and your life shows  respect  for your good fortune.  Years ago I visited my brother, Gallen, in San Francisco.  He took me for a tour of an opulent neighborhood where I was in awe of a sprawling mansion with lush gardens.  It was a celebrity’s home, and I exclaimed how beautiful it must be inside.  Surprisingly, my brother responded, ‘There is no doubt about that.  However, there is hardly any love or tenderness behind those walls either.’  I was staggered and wondered what the point of all that wealth is if you are unhappy.  It was ironic.

Having more or less money is unimportant. The important factor is to be comfortable with what you have.  Many are happy when their basic needs are met:  a  steady income; a comfortable home; happy children; and some savings set aside.  Dreams of upgrading cars, TV’s or computers can be realistic aims. You can live an ‘ordinary’ life, rather than a luxurious one and possess an incredible peace of mind.  There is nothing wrong with this!

You may not have the freedom to spend the way the very wealthy  do.  Yet you may possess a peace of mind that your richer friends envy.  If you can interpret ‘being ordinary’ as a blessing then you will see your own ‘good fortune’.

This is my own philosophical mix, cemented with the Asian values instilled in me by my parent.  There is always room for debate, but this premise works for me.

I hope this helps you too, in your quest for true personal “Good Fortune”.

Giving from the Heart

As a child I used to love Chinese New Year. I looked forward to new pajamas and clothes, along with the Hong Baos (red envelops containing money) that I would receive from older relatives. Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days and it is a time for visiting relatives and friends who you may not have kept in touch with. Traditionally married couples will give Hong Baos to children or to younger single people. If you are still single at 30, you may receive Hong Bao but with many questions from relatives as to why you have not yet ‘tied the knot’. Hong Baos containing one dollar were considered very generous in my youth, where 20 cents was the normal gift In retrospect I do wonder why I was so happy to receive the Hong Baos. At the end of each day my siblings and I would have to hand our takings to our mother.

As she was on a strict budget from our father, she would recycle the contents of our Hong Baos in order to give to others! When it was my turn to give I would complain that it was too costly. I had many siblings friends and relatives with young children. I can vividly recall my mother’s response and haven’t complained since: “it is good when you can afford to give. Even if you cannot, it is good to try. Remember that when you give you need to do so from the heart, without motive or expectation of something in return,” she said. My mum’s values, especially with respect to giving, are deeply ingrained in me.

Because there isn’t a high mark-up on my products, I am disciplined in controlling my profit margin, only giving token discounts on my frames. Usually, I would rather lose the sale than offer large discounts.

Occasionally, there are customers who have overspent for the month and not prepared to buy a certain frame or painting that they genuinely like. Instead of issuing a hefty discount, I sometimes give the item as a gift. I know this will make them happy. Most are pleasantly surprised and accept my offer with appreciation. It makes their day and mine to see them so happy. However, I have had customers (who do not know me personally) who are so suspicious that they literally give the frame back and a blank stare, mumbling “No thank you” as they leave the gallery! Of course frames are not given away freely – I am running a business after all!. But at times I want a particular customer to have a gift. It could be for their past support or merely to see them happy. It is as simple as that.

Giving is not just about generosity, it has to be from the heart. It can be doing things for a friend or a stranger.

Giving is going out of your way to help somebody. It is not about passing on unwanted items. How many times do we really think of those that need our clothes and furniture when we donate to the Salvation Army? Usually we are simply trying to find ourselves some more space for new things. True giving is sacrificing things that you yourself would like to keep. And hurts when giving them away.

Over the years I have donated many pieces from my gallery to charity. I feel no pain in taking frames from my display wall for this purpose. I will often quietly think of deprived children in Cambodia or elderly people requiring medical help. I do not have many ‘slow moving items’ and will often create frames with the intent of giving them away. I do not simply give away the ‘crumbs’ – can you imagine the chiding from my mother! Sometimes my staff are taken aback at the items I choose to give away.

It is sacrificing things that you would like to keep for yourself, and hurts when giving them away.

“You are giving away things that would be so easy to sell”, they say. “And why do we only get a standard thank you letter after donating so generously?” I understand their confusion but smile and explain that the principle of giving is to expect nothing in return. Expecting appreciation is as good as giving with a motive. My sister, in Australia, has a girlfriend who is a single Mum of three. They live frugally and with difficulty. Whenever I visit my sister I buy the children presents, stock their fridge and find excuses to give Hong Baos.

Several years ago I took so many things with me from Singapore that I was charged excess baggage. Then on arrival I was fined for not declaring all the food stuff I had brought in for them! One of the children, Emma, 9 years old, received a beautiful make-up case filled to the brim, from my sister. I saw a nail colour I liked and asked Emma if I could have it. She said she was happy for me to use it but I couldn’t keep it. I was rather taken aback at the time and thought her ‘ungracious’ and ‘ungrateful.’ After all I had done for her and she wouldn’t even give me a nail polish! It actually even crossed my mind not to give her anything more. Then I checked myself and realised guiltily that I was forgetting the principle of giving… I should be giving without a motive: give and make a difference to somebody else.

Why Wait for the Funeral?

As unsociable as I am, I make it a point to attend the birthday party of an even more unsociable (but close) friend Patty. This started about 10 years ago when Patty put together a list of friends she wanted at her funeral. It then dawned on her that she should be keeping in touch with these people while she is still kicking and alive. Why wait for the funeral?

My sister in law who knows that I love food always promises over family dinners that she will buy my favorite food to pray to me after I have died. I ignored this most of the time until I cracked one day and told her off — “Why not get me the food now? Why wait until after I died and when I can’t enjoy it any longer?”

I know how much my friend Lisa loves her husband Ben. She tells me so very often, often with tears welling in her eyes, how she will be devastated if she ever loses him. Yet, despite this she has fights with him all the time and she will not think twice of skipping an appointment with him to go for some other more frivolous engagement.

I still question the irony and feel disconcerted how so many of us will only show tenderness and love only when it is imminent that we will lose that loved one.

I asked her what she would do if she knew that Ben only had a month to live? Lisa said “I will love him to pieces.” I pressed on — “How?” “I will be more loving to him. I will make a special effort to make him his favorite breakfast everyday instead of putting out the convenient cereal and milk. I will make it a point not fight with him. I will remind myself of all the goodness in him and not dwell on his shortcomings” And so the “love” list went on. It seems uncanny to me that Lisa will only be nice to Ben only if he is dying. I then asked her what she would do if Ben died on her without giving her the opportunity to express her “farewell love”.

The answer is obvious Lisa thanked me sincerely a few days later and told me how I have helped her remind herself constantly of the real threat of losing Ben. Every time she gets mad at him and on the urge of spitting out mean words at him, she will soften and found that over time, Ben responds well to her new approach and they have a more loving relationship since I met Lisa and Ben recently and it is evident in their faces that they are really happy now.

Emotional Gravity

When I wake each morning I feel blessed. I laze in bed for a few minutes mentally scheduling the events of the day. I always look forward with anticipation to receiving the frames back from the workshop, and while I exercise I remind myself of outstanding job orders that have to be handled and necessary phone calls to make. When I drive myself to the gallery I am on automatic pilot. My thoughts are of innovative frame methods, new fabrics and frame moldings. There are times when I even wonder how I have made it to the Holland Village car park!

From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, I gravitate towards my work and the gallery. I totally enjoy this single-minded focus. My gallery is my gravity.

One of my girlfriends Rachel wakes each morning to thoughts of her boyfriend. She is thankful to be still very much in love with him. Although she is in a high position in the corporate world, she still makes the time to call him in between meetings. In spite of her busy schedule she keeps up to date on the latest fashion trends, follows beauty tips, splurges on luscious lingerie and pampers herself with a regular facial. These efforts are for herself, but also for him.

As they are both busy people they make it a point to do things together whenever its feasible. This way they don’t end up following personal pursuits separately, a common trap for busy couples. He is also her mentor. Rachel feels her relationship has helped her to transform into a person with greater depth and compassion. She feels her career and achievements would be meaningless if she couldn’t share them with her partner. He is her gravity.

Another friend continually looks forward to her painting classes. It gives her infinite pleasure to proudly display her creations in her home and she is gratified to receive praises from her friends. Years before she was simply not artistic (she couldn’t even draw a cat! ) but loved the idea of painting. I encouraged her to try.“ Paint for yourself ”,I guided “not for others.” Today she gravitates towards this new love which has given her life so much meaning.

For many of us, life is channeled around our families. Yet, what happens when our partner is working, our children are at school and our friends are busy.

Gravity is defined as a force that attracts a body to the centre of the earth. Emotional gravity can be defined as a similar force but on a more personal basis. Emotional gravity provides a feeling of purpose and anticipation when you wake, makes you feel useful and meaningful and adds a ‘zest’ to your life.

You may change your own gravitational force or even have different forces from time to time. These may be in the form of a hobby, a job, a person or a charity mission. Is emotional gravity found with the click of a finger? Not usually!

If you find that what you are doing is not really what you wish for and has turned in to a chore, then it has become an emotional burden. As such it is pulling you away from searching for your true emotional centre.

An effective way to develop your own emotional gravity is to search deeply within yourself to identify your strengths and joys and then to find a way to make full use of them. What did you study or train for? Are you good at handicrafts, writing or interacting with people? For some, the family is their emotional gravity and they relish taking care of them full time. You need to determine your own strengths and interests and how they can be developed into a personal gravitational force.

What happens if we lose our emotional gravity ? Is it wise to develop an emotional gravity if it means that our world would collapse should we be so emotionally dependent on a single force? What would happen if I was unable to run my gallery,or if my girlfriend lost her partner? Would we be so devastated that we would lose the spunkiness that keeps us alive and energetic, and makes us who we are?

The honest truth is that I don’t know. What I am aware of is the desire to live for today and now, and to wake with purpose and meaning. Emotional gravity provides me with this and much more.

Understanding No Self

Often we get angry with friends who are never punctual, or colleagues who continue to disappoint us and cause inconvenience. We hit the roof when workmen do not turn up in time or deliver the wrong item or produce unsatisfactory results. And we’re devastated if our new car receives scratches in a car park due to another’s negligence in taking care when opening their car door.

There is nothing wrong with being angry. Anger releases our inner emotions and can promote well being. However, it is not healthy if we allow anger to build and in turn affect people around us. It is good to let go of anger by telling friends or family members of our frustrations, but we shouldn’t persist with our complaints.

It is natural to be upset when you are misunderstood, It is not realistic to expect the whole world to understand our point of view. I learnt from my mother a long time ago that there is no chance of explaining one’s innocence to everybody. She said “As long as the heaven, the earth and our conscience know – it is enough”. As long as the people who matter the most to us understand and accept is, we don’t need the whole world to be sympathetic.

One way to control your anger is to tell yourself that the party or the incident is not worth wasting your emotions on. We cannot matter to everyone and not everyone matters to us.

When I was younger, I use to even argue over space in a car park and often behaved as if I was related to the Godfather. I would frequently blow my top when others didn’t live up to my expectations. My friends tell me I have mellowed with age. I don’t think it is simply a question of age but also of learning how to respect others. Everybody has the freedom to behave badly but it is really their own problem. Why should we allow others to affect us? Having the last word and walking away is not even necessary or gratifying – just walk away!

Harper Lee wisely wrote in “To Kill a Mocking Bird “…you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it…”. I think this is profound and I try to calm friends who get upset with people over the smallest things. Mostly people react or behave the way they do because there is more to the story. After all, we are who we are. If we look beyond the issue and deeper into the other party, we will always find a side that explains their actions and will help to erode our anger.

My friend runs a furniture retail outlet and often complains that her customers frequently ask for discounts. She’s constantly angry with them, complaining “My prices are not high and they still want discounts. Some waste so much of my time and end up spending little or no money! . My response is “ Why not? ” She may not agree to reduce her prices, but customers reserve the right to ask because they are spending THEIR money. It may be a small or large purchase but as retailers, we have to respect our customer’s budget and preference and not measure time by the purchase value. I told my friend that she should leave the retail business if she cannot understand this principle. She should not allow her anger to rule her every day. I only truly understood why other have turned to religion after extreme disappointment of anger, when a business partner betrayed me. Each night, in between my tears, I would tread through the teachings of Buddha. They gave me the strength to get up each morning and face another day.

One of the most memorable principles I learned was “No Self” (literal translation). You shouldn’t think of how badly you were hurt or treated, how sorry you feel for yourself, how you were short-changed or how deprived you were. Once you stop thinking “I, I, I…” you will feel much better can look at things from a different perspective. At the time of betrayal, I dreaded bumping into my former business partner. It was not out of fear but because I was worried that I would be overwhelmed by my anger and be unable to control my actions. I told myself that if it happened I would imagine the glowing body of Buddha ( it could be Jesus or another religious icon) walking next to this person. He would be smiling at me with his finger waving gently, signaling me not to get angry. Of course it was only psychological therapy but it worked! We did cross paths (with Buddha next to her) and I managed to walk right past with my head held high. I was still very angry but I managed to control it. Of course my father’s advise also helps.

He believes that it is not our job to punish people who do us wrong. Any bad deed is recorded and it is up to God to handle the person.

Can we really practice “ No Self ?” It is not easy but you can try to eliminate the “I, I, I” or “Me, me, me”. It’s better than hyperventilating and counting to ten. Try it the next time you get angry. It really works. And if added support is needed, draw on your belief, in Buddha or God, for help.

Never Ruin An Apology With An Excuse

Sorry is one of the most difficult things to say. Especially so when one is under pressure or the situation is tense. Yet a heartfelt apology can ease the strain and relax an agitated soul.

I am often asked how I cope with ‘difficult’ customers. Customers are likely to get upset, demanding or unreasonable only when a mistake is made and isn’t admitted to especially when excuses are made. My philosophy is that you should never ruin an apology with an excuse. In business should a mistake be made, we will readily admit to the fault and rectify the situation. In framing a common occurrence is the sighting of marks on a picture after it has been framed. Procedures such as noting all blemishes before a painting is sent to the workshop can assist in alleviating miscommunications later. When marks are then spotted, we can communicate effectively with the customer. If a spot is unrecorded we apologize sincerely, and resolve the case.

My most memorable example occurred whilst I was away on a buying trip. A customer left a highly expensive and sentimental lacquer painting with us for framing. A part-time staff member carelessly taped over some of the lacquer and when the workshop removed the tape a discreet marking remained on the painting. I was distressed when I heard the story on my return and made an appointment to meet with the client the next morning. Distracted enough by the events, I found it hard to sleep and the next day I arrived armed with my cheque book and a heartfelt apology. The issue was resolved immediately with an angry customer instantly calmed and appreciative of our sincerity in claiming responsibility. Her admission that she had a lawyer on stand-by only qualified her fear that we would make an excuse and attempt to deny our responsibility.

Giving an excuse rather than an apology is lame and ineffective. It only provokes further debate and doesn’t assist in finding a resolution. As George Washington firmly stated "It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one”.

Excuses cause aggravation and lead to tension. Even the most placid person can be riled when given excuses following a mistake. Yet excuses are a very spontaneous defense to accusations. Restaurant staff with ineffective training and support often fall into the trap of providing their customers with excuses when something goes wrong. This results in an unhappy table of customers, friction in the room and bad word of mouth – a losing situation for everybody.

Excuses can be frustrating even in an amusing moment. I once placed a Kwan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) statue in my apartment and asked my helper not to cook any beef as it is a sign of disrespect. One evening we were eating wanton dumplings and I was skeptical as to whether my instructions had been followed. Questioned, she meekly admitted it was beef, then added, “ But Ma’am it is minced! ”

As a teenager,I was the Queen Of Excuses until my mother seriously reprimanded me. “Why must you fall to the ground and insist on grabbing sand to throw back at me? Do you know that I would respect you more if you were brave enough to own up to your mistakes? Only a coward gives excuses ! ” Then she highlighted, “Right now it is I who does not respect you. However, should you continue to make excuses during your work career you will find that colleagues and managers will also not respect you. When you make excuses and think you have won, you have actually lost.” I was astonished and shaken out of my inherent need to “win ” with excuses. Ever since, when I have been close to offering an excuse, my mother’s pointed finger and sage advice comes to mind. Admitting to a mistake is not easy but the positive consequence is that people are more understanding than I expect.

People make mistakes but this should not be an excuse in itself. In business and in relationships, these mistakes may prove costly. It is a person’s own duty to admit to a fault. When someone is defensive the tendency is to skirt about the issue and waste time before getting to the principle of the matter. Excuses may then lead to arguments, friction and unnecessary stress. Admitting to a mistake or an apology needs to be heartfelt and should not be solely used to escape an argument. Entire chapters of books are devoted to communication and effective tools of interaction. Most important is the need for genuine understanding of a situation from both sides. When it is clear where a fault lays that person needs to find the strength to admit he / she is wrong.

A lot of energy is wasted in finding excuses . Instead, use your energy to put yourself on the line, to grow from your mistakes, to cease blaming others and to move forward with strength. You can’t go wrong if you mean what you say. A heartfelt "I’m sorry" will go a long way to avoid and erase ill feelings of resentment.

To Yourself

Yes. I love myself . I truly believe that I cannot love others wholly if I do not love me! I have no regrets in my life. Absolutely none! I believe there is a meaning for what happened in our lives and what have happened have happened. In fact, I don’t even spend time wondering how things may have been. There are no “ifs” and “buts” when I reflect my past I accept who I am and am never harsh with myself. As in a Chinese saying, “He who depends on himself will attain the greatest happiness.”

I have no regrets in my life. Absolutely none. There are no “ifs” or “buts” when I reflect my past.

Naturally I will make mistakes. But I forgive myself very quickly and choose to learn by what has happened. This way I fulfill my desire to self- educate and remain open minded – ready to absorb life and all it offers. In my younger days I worked in advertising agencies. There would be times when I had put all my heart into a pitch. If I didn’t win the account I would be gentle and kind with myself. Of course I would research or aim to understand why the pitch may have failed but I would move on and strive for my next goal without beating myself up over the initial disappointment.

Go on, Kid Yourself! It is healthy.

And then I will psyched myself into believing that it is a blessing in disguise that I did not win the account. Maybe the client may turn out to be a bad paymaster, or we will not be paid in full. And I could actually feel thankful and happy and move on.

I was extremely upset when my hairdresser over perm and color my hair far from the color I have in mind. Strutting back to the gallery seething with anger, I decided to look at it from another angle. What if , like many of my friends, I were struck with some kind of cancer?? I would have no hair after Over-perm or in the wrong color tint.

If I cut my fingers very often while working in the gallery, I always calmly tell my staff.. Give me an elastroplast. Wow, I feel lucky today. Could have been a car accident or something worse. ” A load of ….. but I feel good and blessed. As long as it works for me, why not??
Many owes me money and do not never return the loan. I am too embarrassed to even disclose the accumulated sum to my family. I have also lost many friends who dared not contact me as they have not returned money to me. I am not gullible now and will not buy sob stories. In the occasional genuine cases, a fixed installment plan will be made for loan to be paid to charity bodies.

I am in no way suggesting you allow yourself to be forgiven lightly. Education involves critique and as a self-critic you need to be objective. This is part of allowing yourself to be spoken to. Self analysis and debate are healthy; you need to be honest and enquiring. You can do all of this alone and if you can’t achieve it in your head, then use a pen and paper to help yourself sort things out. The aim is to not get angry with yourself. Being cross and judgmental about yourself can ultimately lead to the way other people perceive you. Nobody enjoys being around others who are negative or miserable about themselves. Whilst guidance from others can assist, you will eventually need to help yourself.
I personally hate surprises. And do not count my chickens before they hatch. I attempt to determine all likely possibilities before they occur so that I am not surprised by any outcome. It may not always be the preferable result but at least this way I am partially prepared. I also do not believe in celebration of successful business deal and will not revel till the deal is done and completed.

I guess I like to feel I am ready for anything. This is probably why death is one of my favourite subjects. I have prepared so much for this and no doubt I may still be surprised but I think I am more ready than most!

I don’t believe the clichés in movies and books about how we should live on hope and that we hang onto to our lives with “Dreams”. I don’t believe in “dreams” not do I ever “hope”. I prefer to “go beyond the dreams”.

Out of the “soft-focus”, “dry-ice effect” scenes in movies and put efforts into real life action working towards our future which we can actually map put. I do believe in setting realistic goals. There are things I aspire to but I don’t have a list of things I wish I had time or money for.
By choice I am happily doing exactly what it is I wish to be doing. My work is my vacation, my play and my hobby. I live breathe and literally dream it. It is who I am, and I love every single minute of it!!!

From the beginning of its inception I could see wanted to achieve and I did it.

People have readily concluded that I am happily and perfectly contented. I suspect I am. I guess my approach is summed up by this Chinese proverb:

“Do not anxiously hope for that which is not yet come; do not vainly regret for what is already past.”

We are own best teachers. And no one knows us as well as we know ourselves. And certainly we are never as honest with others as we will be with ourselves. We will learn most through self honesty, open-mindedness and most importantly – our constant pursue for personal growth.

Tom & Dixie Martin, Texas, USA.


Tom and I have lived in Singapore for over six years and now I cannot remember which of our over twenty pieces done by Angie was our first. We have slowly filled every wall with an Angie original. It amazes me how she keeps coming up with new and unusual ideas. She takes such pride in even the smallest of details. I love to stop by the gallery just to see what new pieces of artwork have been added since my last visit.

Going through her clients’ pieces is like taking a tour of the many travel destinations around Asia. I have learned so much about the area just by looking at the works of art she has framed. Here is a story behind every piece. I asked Angie once if she ever got bored with some of the seemingly common things she is asked to frame and she said, “Never!”. She is a true artist in every sense of the word. She loves what she does and it is so evident in her work. It is truly an honor to be asked to participate in Angie’s book.

I could not decide if I should write this as a client or as a friend because I consider myself both. Angie sees life in such a refreshingly real way. I am amazed at her intuition and spirituality. She has not only seen to all of our framing needs, s he has been a trusted advisor, a confidant and a true friend.

Angie is not just a framer. Angie is a dream maker.

Tom & Dixie Martin, Texas, USA.