How Pam & Ning Got Insurance For Their Adventure

My crazy friends Ning and Pam all set for their 9 months adventure around the world!

My pals Pam and Ning are embarking on an adventure of a lifetime in 5 days! They will be traipsing across the great US of A starting from Hawaii (thank God the Tsunami did minimal damage there) and then to the mainland and then over to the E.U.!

They blogged about their difficulty getting insurance that could cover them the entire stretch of their 9-month sojourn. It struck a nerve with me — insurance really is such a tricky business. If you’re any less determined than these 2 women, or if you put it off, like many of us girls are wont to do when something as seemingly “banal” as insurance gets too complicated, you might not get the insurance you really need. Whether it’s for a journey like theirs, or protection against diseases or accidents or the twists and turns of Life.

Pam and Ning are heading for a great trip but one that potentially presents unexpected incidents that they need to be insured against, such as accidents, thefts and other travel-related issues.

That’s why I was really impressed to read that they went to Great Eastern and sat down with them to work out their needs for this trip, and GE agreed out to insure them.

That’s what I call an insurance company that listens. Great Eastern makes it great (and safe) for us to be women.

Follow Pam and Ning’s wonderful adventures at their blog, Adventures Of 2 Girls!

Happy Women’s Day! (aka The Women Who’ve Changed My Life)

I could not let 8 March pass (it’s 11.10pm when I begin writing this) without a salute to the women who have really made International Women’s Day worth celebrating!

That there even is a Women’s Day is both a great thing and a sad thing. Obviously it was founded because women weren’t being appreciated enough for all that they did! But it’s also wonderful because for one day (in fact, one month) in the calendar year, we girls get to really relish what being female is all about.

(I write this in the midst of one of the worst pre-menstrual storms to hit me, by the way. The irony.)

I’ve been thinking all day about the many women who have helped shaped me into the person I am today. There are so, so many! But here are the top 5 who have impacted me in greater ways than they’ll ever know.

1. My mother Ann Phua
I’ve written an ode to my mother last year on this blog. My mom was not a fuzzy-huggy-kissy mother. She was a tough-love mother. When I failed my Grade 6 piano exam, my father looked at me and knew I was not having fun any more, and suggested that I quit. (I was, of course, very happy.) My mother on the other hand, would not hear of it. “You wanted the piano, you have to go all the way.” Her reason back then was that I might (seeing that I was such a poor student) have a backup plan as a piano teacher. But I had no such intention (and today I am still the world’s worst trained pianist). BUT what she did teach me was perseverance. There was satisfaction when I finally got my Grade 8 results and it wasn’t a “barely passed” for once. But I have to admit I was glad to end all lessons!
My mother and I had legendary fights (involving pulling hair and kicking and all that). She made the Tiger Mom look like a pussycat. But she instilled in me
a) a fear of God: “God is always watching even if I am not!”
b) the importance of filial piety: “If you don’t treat your parents well your children won’t treat you well.” (True. Biblical.)
c) the wisdom of marrying a man who truly loved me (actually, her words were, “Better to marry someone who loves you more than you love him” but I couldn’t. So I married the man who loved me as much as I loved him.)

2. My best friend Karen Tan
Karen and I have such a strange relationship. One day I’m sure our tale will be some British film. We were schoolmates in secondary school — she was popular, I was invisible. We became friends when she dated a boy who was friends with a boy I dated, who was always terrible to her. I spent countless days (and some nights) listening to her sob, wondering aloud when this diabolical relationship would let go of her. Thank God, it did. She met and married the most wonderful doctor in the world, Quek Swee Chong. I remember he proposed when they were both on the Nile (okay I forget if it was on a boat in the Nile, or looking at the Nile, but the Nile was involved).

Karen on her part watched me fall to pieces when the boy I liked so much left (you know how emotions are 1000% sharper when you are a teenager), and she wrote me a card bearing the verses Ephesians 3:16-19:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

This card was pinned to the board above my desk for more than 20 years — I finally took it down when I was cleaning out my parents’ place after they passed on. Those verses gave me immeasurable comfort even though I had yet to know God — but they were planted in my heart, and my soul knew there was a Christ who had this incredible love for me. It was only a matter of time (18 years from the year Karen gave me that card) that I got to know Him and His love.

Karen has truly been God’s gift in my life—we have had great times together, survived motherhood, overcome all kinds of illnesses—and she continues to be the person I run to first (after my husband) when I have a crisis. I pray I am the same for her, always.

Nanz and her beautiful baby Zoe, born 2 weeks before my Little B!

3. My inspiration Nanz Chong-Komo
Nanz is one person that I hold in such high regard because she is a rare specimen who walks the talk, and her heart is so incredibly big, I think it’s the reason she’s so tall. Since I met her in the late 90s when One.99 Shop was a roaring success and I interviewed her for a series for Female magazine, I have had the great fortune to get to know and to work with her over the last 8 years. When I met her again at a Christian business meeting, she had the most incredible glow. She was pregnant with Christian, her second child, and Zara was just a few months old. Being a new Christian, I naturally gravitated into her cell group. And I can tell you it is a great privilege to be in Nanz Chong’s cell group because it girds you daily just to know she is praying for you.

If you have ever heard and watched Nanz pray, you’ll know what I mean. “Storming heaven” is a suitable phrase.

Because of Nanz, I grew in my walk with the Lord. Because of Nanz, I prayed, fasted and believed for God to do a miracle in my husband — and watched in amazement as God did it! Nanz was there throughout to cheer us on. Because of Nanz, I discovered I really did enjoy being a writer and editor even though I thought it was something I was going to leave behind forever — I had the great privilege of helping to edit her first book One Business, 99 Lessons.

Three years ago Nanz and I embarked on an ambitious new media business called Nanzinc.Com. It was hard work but as with all things that Nanz touches, it was exciting and a great learning journey. Sadly for me, my cancer took more out of me than I initially thought. It was the hardest thing for me to tell Nanz I could not continue with Nanzinc — I was letting down the person I admire the most in this world after my husband. (I didn’t even do it right, but I’m too embarrassed to give details).

My prayer is one day I will be wholly well in my body. I will have learned to manage my stress. And I will have the chance, if she will let me, to do something meaningful with Nanz, the woman who taught me that nothing is impossible.

4. My editor Agatha Koh
Aggie was my second boss at my first writing job. She was editor of 8 Days magazine and I was her Arts writer. Her late husband, David Brazil, was a controversial (and endlessly entertaining) author and nightlife writer who for some reason, decided I could be groomed to write better. So Aggie would bring me his critiques week after week, addressed to “Bluestocking”, paperclipped to a well-thumbed issue of last week’s 8 Days. Aggie, on her part, would mock me mercilessly for being too Singaporean in my syntax and lexicon choices. Together, they made me a much better writer than I would have been had I continued to believe I was the Best Darn Writer 8 Days Had (we all thought that about ourselves, really).

Aggie left after two years, and then offered me a job at a new magazine called ETC. It was a fortnightly entertainment magazine, and she doubled my pay. I became the music editor and was paid to go on trips to cover things like the MTV Awards and concerts all over the place (highlights included trailing Pearl Jam and Nirvana, meeting Dave Grohl, having tea with Slash…exciting stuff). From that experience I grew to be a tough-as-nails reporter — no star left unturned!

After ETC I left, and was soon swept up in the surreal world of women’s magazines (Female, then ELLE… and later, Vanilla). But Aggie’s standards and regiments (okay okay, maybe 70% of them) stuck with me. She used to howl at us to read the papers (not just the Straits Times, which was, in her eyes, not really a newspaper, but International Herald Tribune, Asian Wall Street Journal before it was banned, and her favourite: the London Times weekend edition). From her I learned that you can’t let a shoddy page go to print if you can help it. Even if you can’t help it, you have to take it back and make it better. Printers have stopped production for her. Distributors have made their truckdrivers work OT for her. Such is the magic of Agatha Koh.

Today, Aggie is the Group Editor for custom titles at MediaCorp. She is still as sharp as nails and as mercilessly sticky as a Persian cat that’s taken a fancy to your Gucci suede jacket. I would do anything for Aggie — God knows she has trained me to!

5. My angel Ho Yeow Sun
Like many people, I read about Sun way before I met her. But unlike most people, I thought her Armani dress was not sexy enough. Sun and I met around 2002 when I interviewed her for a cover story for DARE magazine (another of Aggie’s brilliant products which sadly died). We met again when I founded my women’s group Women Make a Difference. I wanted to make these pink T-shirts (they were meant to be kitschy and cute so women would wear them as an insider joke during IWD) and then have celebrities wear them on an ad campaign. My cause was the fight against sex trafficking of women and children. The other women were my friends Karen Tan, Kit Chan, Nanz Chong, Beatrice Chia, Eunice Olsen Tan Kheng Hua and Denise Keller. I wanted someone who was a mother and an international name, and at that time, Sun had just gone to the US and released some amazing chart-toppers.

I sent her some material via her office, and was surprised when I got a call — she had gone to the websites I sent info on, done her homework, cried (like me) and shown it to her husband. She not only agreed to be one of my 8 women, she said she wanted to personally give our cause $10,000, together with some anonymous friends.

Sun — for all her immense talent and public persona — is not a person of that many words, but she chooses each one carefully. That makes her seem reserved sometimes, but she is always warm. And I can always trust that she says exactly what she means—a lost art today, especially in entertainment.

I only started attending City Harvest late in the year after Sun endorsed WMD. I admit that her approach to my cause opened my heart up a lot—it’s not often, when I ask people to endorse something, that they actually do the research. Most will say yes or no based on our relationship, which isn’t a bad thing, but I feel all the more supported when a friend feels what I feel. Karen and Nanz also both delved into the sex trafficking horror I introduced them too — they became impassioned spokespeople against this atrocity during WMD events.

Sun has become one person I call on when I am most down, and when I have to make really hard decisions (because her words are constantly seasoned with salt—wisdom like I’ve never known). She’s one person I can talk to completely honestly, knowing she will know what I mean or get to the root of what is bugging me. She’s like an older sister to me, a gentle guide who never, ever judges. I’m constantly amazed at how she does it. She puts others first, even when she’s not feeling so great, or when her own troubles seem insurmountable. When I grow up, I want to be like Sun.

There are so many other women who have touched my life — my mother-in-law, my daughters, Elim Chew who is a constant rock and a reminder that with God all things are possible; Mary Loh whose generosity and constant prayer intercession has moved me in the right direction… My oldest and dearest pals Grace Lee and Clara Goh and Judith Tan… So many of my awesome friends at church, at work… All those great women in the volunteer or fundraising circles (Saleemah Ismail, Melissa Kwee, Darryl Loh, Adeline Yeo, Celeste Basapa). My children’s teachers. My former colleagues. So many I could write a book or two.

Thank you for being the best woman you were created to be. This world needs you!