Today, today

Kiew Lee Tong main gate

Dear boys,

Today is a day of catching up with relatives dead and alive.

I remembered lately that I need to go to Kiew Lee Tong (  to pay respects to my grandparents(your great-grandparents), their epitaph is there and I got to know about that just a couple of years back, from my dad…well more of how I reconciled with my dad later.

So I woke up in the morning, and rushed off to the temple to pay my respects, your mum has packed the necessary fruits for me to bring and I remembered that there was a bus service to the temple, and somehow or rather, I couldn’t seem to find out which bus that is. Anyway, already late, so I set off, a little pissed and was a little frantic in trying to get there on time. It was about 8.30am when I left and I have to be at the airport by 11am to send Melvin off, he is going to Taiwan to work for Google for good.

So with a tight schedule, I set off and thankfully, traffic was light on this Sunday and I made it on time which was about 9.40am. I set out the fruits and put 3 joss sticks to burn, and offered my prayers to my ancestors.

While I waited a while for the joss sticks to burn, I pondered about me and my past, the existence of my grandparents and how I came to know about it. I only reconciled with my dad, briefly,  and he passed me the temple’s card with a number scribbled on it. So I resolved to make my way there to dig a little bit more about my past.

It was not an easy temple to find, but I already knew of its existence, as I’ve gone past Thomson Road many times, and seen the grand, front gates, little did I know that I am linked to the temple in such a long shot.

Anyway, I did bring you boys there the first couple of times, when we managed to borrow your mum’s parents’ car. This time I made it there on my own, as it was too early for the 2 of you little pigs to wake up. Besides, Ian has homework to do.

So while I P_20150301_094912waited the temple, I was thinking and exploring the temple a little more, the epitaphs was placed in rows and rows and there are numbers assigned to the epitaphs, your great grand parents’ was ‘1298’. (by the way, we struck lottery, albeit a small one, last year! Blessings from our ancestors!)

I noticed that the epitaphs can be accessed by 2 sliding panels, which was unlocked, so I had a curious thought to clamber up, and pick out my grandparents’ epitaph to see and actually hold it. but then again, of course I wouldn’t have done it fearing untold, perhaps paranormal consequences. I also noticed that for Chinese New Year, they changed the lanterns and did decorated the place a little. Then I realised that as I continue my visit to the same place, we will learn a little bit more about it every time, so the same old place is actually the same, new place, as we continue to discover more nooks and cranny about it. With that thought, I made my prayers and bid the quaint temple ‘au revoir’!

“You’ll always learn something new, visiting old places.”

Later in the evening, we hosted dinner for your 阿姨 ( My mum’s elder sister) and her 2 sons, your Jonathan 叔叔 and Tuck Wah 叔叔, they also brought along 2 distant relatives from Penang. Well, actually they have been working in Singapore for a long time, its a pair of distant cousins we’ve met, in a distant past, but never got really close.

They were nice people and we had a good meal, your mum psteamboat dinnerrepared steamboat, with room for extra thankfully, so that we can accommodate another 2 mouths. It was a sumptuous meal as how your mum would make it, and the conversation was good.

Our 2 cousins, spoke Cantonese, coming from Malaysia and it was a good exposure to the 2 of you, who are predominately English speaking. but I can tell that exposing the both of you to my distant cousins was good, as it did push the both of you to try and speak more Mandarin.

Our conversation warmed up considerably as the warm food filled our stomachs. The feeling is very cordial, and we connected well. It was a meaningful evening as I seldom get to mingle with my relatives. The closest we ever got was to our dear 阿姨 and your 2 叔叔, who dote on the both of you so much.

As the evening aged, we have to bid farewell, our distant cousins has to drive back to Johore Bahru and my 阿姨 has to make her way back home.

I certainly hope to see my 2 Malaysian cousins again and have another hearty meal!

The Bicycle Lock

Dear Wayne,

I was on leave a couple of weeks ago and I brought you to your kindergarten with you on your little bicycle. Having to pick you up later I decided to lock the bike at a bike stand near your school, instead of lugging it back.

After picking you up and heading to the locked bike, I realized that I brought the wrong key! So we have to go home and return later in the day to get the bike.

So we did and we reached the bike and realize that we didn’t check if we’ve bought the right key, that is when you told me, with a little smart in your voice, ‘I already check, this key didn’t fit the lock at home, so it will open this one!’

Your Father’s 39th Birthday

Dear Boys,

This 39th birthday I truly understand the meaning of family. It is simply because I felt a sense of abandonment from my mom and brother. I heard from my mother’s sister, my aunt, that my mother and elder brother has moved, she invited her sister to her house for some kind of house warming but she didn’t inform me. Given the kind of relationship I have with my brother, I can understand why she didn’t invite me, at the very least, tell me where they’ve moved to.

That is quite a psychological reality check for me, I guess I should have seen it coming, things hadn’t been the warmest between me and my brother and mother, but I still would think of them as family. The signs are there when I visited them one Chinese New Year and me at the gate, roused my brother from his slumber, only to hear him said, ‘Brother? I don’t have a brother.’ That was when I greeted him and asked him where is mum, and I’m his brother!

So now they’ve move, and without an address the cut is complete, and absolute. Perhaps is better this way, boys, I don’t know, things are always happening in future tense that leave us with little preparation in the present. The reality is that, I felt the loneliness in a deep and profound way.

So this birthday, it was a very small family affair, just your mum, and the 2 of you, there’s really no one else left who will remember my birthday, not to mention the mere celebrating the day. When I die, if anytime sooner, my wife will have her parents and little brother to remember her birth and celebrate with her, she has the both of you, that kind of birthday song, would sound a little louder.

For me, this 39th birthday for me, looking at the 3 of you, singing the song, made me really, really wish, and I want to hold true to that wish, ‘I wish that the 3 of you, sitting before me, will be by my side for as long as I live

Karma and the joke about it

Dear boys,

I learned something very profound about a very recent tragic event. Air Asia QZ8501 crashed and probably killed everyone on board on 27 December 2014. We can be sure that all 162 lives on board has perished. As of now, international rescue efforts are ongoing to reach the plane wreckage, underneath the sea?

Every now and then, we hear about people harboring a vindictive spite, will use the proverbial, ‘What comes around, goes around.’ or wished ‘bad karma’ upon a person with a nasty attitude. We have all been there, we are helpless against most people who did bad things to us, and we often ‘wish’ that karma will catch up on our perpetrators so that they get a taste of their own medicine. We hope that they will reap what they sow. They do bad things and will get a bad karma.

It was profound because, putting it crudely, this tragic event can be based on the sweeping concept of karma. It is ‘bad’ karma. Take a look at Tony Fernandez, the boss of Air Asia, as a businessman, I don’t think he is a saint. he would have sacked his fair share of staffs, did some things which others might be disadvantaged. He is in business, he has to ‘kill’ or be ‘killed’. So is this tragic event, happening to him, to his company, to the people who worked for him, because of his ‘bad’ karma.

No always so!

The incident taught me a deep lesson on personal faculty of choice. Tony can react tragically, he can capitulate, he can run away, he can hide behind a wall of corporate policies and do the necessary, do what is needful, pay out the insurance, handle the deceased, send counselors to the bereaved family. you know do things by the book, and through the process.

He didn’t.

He stepped up, took responsibility, and is determined not to make a bad situation worse. He made a strong statement, and clearly said that he is not running away. He is the leader of the company, and he will be as honest  and as open as he can. These are simple, direct words that the victims of the air crash needs to help them cope with this event. He didn’t say anything else and remained present and strong. If this event is a result of a ‘bad’ karma, tony has stepped up and made good out of a ‘bad’ karma.

As the result, his leadership and energy has helped transit the situation, from one that is desolation and despair to one of concerted, concentrated effort. You can sense a level of quiet determination and strength from Tony, to make sure that people are taken care of, the dead are treated with utmost respect, the living are given the best care possible. It was a conscious choice, a decision he take, no matter what his detractors can say about him, or snickered that he got what he deserved, you cannot discredit that he work towards the best outcome, in this very bad day in his life. Despite of being dealt with a very bad deck of cards, Tony continues to strive and accumulate merit through the good work he is doing.

That is making ‘bad’ Karma good.

(View video clip on Tony Fernandez’s statement)


The New Year

Dear Boys,

As mentioned in my Facebook post, this is my 38th New Year, having celebrated 38th times, what makes a New Year ‘new’? Isn’t new technically means that you are doing something you’ve never done before? So how can New Year be new, when I’ve experi enced it 38 times?

I used to be ambivalent towards the ‘new year’. because I want to look at things on an equanimous opinion. Besides, when the ‘new year’ comes, the radio station will still be playing ‘last’ year’s songs, It is still yesterday’s news on the newspapers, the people you know, and knew were from last year. There is, technically, nothing different, this day from the one just ended.

This changed a little when I caught this movie called ‘New Year’s Eve’ back in 2011.We were out on a date and we didn’t know what movie to catch, this one was showing in the cinema and it was a star studded cast, so we chance to catch it. It was a life changing movie, well, gradually that is.

It changed my perspective on New Year’s Day. It was a significant event.

People being people, will seek a certain closure, promises made, promises kept, resolutions made, kept. People to meet, places to go. The end of the Julian Calender is a timely reminder for us all to make good what we want to do for ourselves and for other people. The Year’s End and the New Year is of the spirit of continual closure and renewal. Things that we didn’t do so well, we will resolve to do better in the ‘new’ year. People who have died, we seek a closure, the New Year is an opportunity for us to move on, start anew.

This New Year. I planned to sleep through it, there was no place to go, I’m at home with all the people I love and treasure the most. All the other places are too crowded, the world is getting too commercialised, you want to party on New Year’s eve? Pay.

Besides, there was an air crash, Air Asia QZ8501 went down on 27 December, and as I typed this, rescuers are still trying to reach the plane wreckage under the sea. No, I don’t know anyone there, but such news, depresses and sullens me. I’m also concerned about Uncle Vincent, who has gone over to New York to further his studies and I hadn’t heard from him since. His Facebook is closed and there is no way for me to ascertain his well being.

But the New Year has a different plan for me!

Massive fireworks gone off right outside my bedroom, there is the usual New Year Celebration and the fireworks was spectacular! we lived on the 15th floor and the view was magnificent. You boys are so excited about it and so is everyone downstairs. More importantly, we are serendipitously granted a grandstand view to the fireworks!

The celebrations jolted me out of my blues. There is no way the new year is going to let me go without a bang!

What is the significance of the New Year? It gives us courage to forgive, even if we do not want to forgive ourselves. It gives empowers us to try again, and give us hope. and because everyone celebrate and is aligned to this day, it gives us collective energy. Everyone is in the spirit of renewal, everyone is given the same new year, the same chance again. Everyone starts fresh.

So let’s start fresh as a family and fill our 2015 with meaningful experiences and endeavour to find new meaning to fill the pages of our lives.


Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Dear Ian,

One thing we learned in our planning is that we need a lot of communication, constant talk, and making sure that we communicate our expectations, goals, obstacles, challenges, adversaries and friends. This kind of communication is important all round, because it helps you keep close, tactical, on the ground tab on what is happening and if you would be able to meet your goals as planned.

This communication is starts with yourself!

Self talk has a lot of taboo. People thinks that people who talks to themselves, sometimes a bit too loudly, are crazy people. Well, your dad is one of those crazy people. When I was younger, I would break out into a crazy dance when I’m in the mood with a song.

Then again, I learned that self talk can bring out a different creature in you!

I used to scold myself, and belittle myself, with a lot of profanities and vulgarities. Constantly playing the role of a ‘Drill Sergeant’ to myself, nothing I did for myself was good enough, and everything I did was bad enough for a string of profanities, all aimed at myself.

Then as I grew older, I learned to love myself more, accept me for who I am and the things I can do and cannot do. Well you call that maturity, I call that meeting reality once too many times!

The bottom line is this, you have to have constant objective feedback to yourself, is your plans working, is your goals achievable and is what you are currently doing helping you work your ways towards your goals? you have a chance to learn and get exposed to many things I only learned in my twenties. You have a head start, and you need to tell yourself that you have an advantage over your dad’s generation and you need to work hard to make sure that you use that edge!

Please talk to yourself more, make yourself your own best friend, and learn to negotiate with your own expectations. And make sure that you talk to yourself in the best possible language.

Quadrant 2, Part 2

Dear Ian,

This is not a concept that you can embrace easily. I can see that struggle in you as you try to sort out your life, planning down the minutes and hours.

This is on a tactical level, you hadn’t really figured out the important part,well, sometimes, you just have to do this, which is also important, until the purpose of your life surface.

I told you that everyone, moi included, usually lives in all the other quadrant, except quadrant 2. we do not plan our lives, instead react to the external stimulus and react accordingly to it. The thing is as long as we do not figure out what is right and important to us, we will usually succumb to the important things of other people. People with their more important things will impinge on us and enroll our resources to help them accomplish their important things. This is fine as long as what they do as important is in line with your priorities, then you get Synergy. more often than not, you get people barge into your life, and yank you out to get you to ‘help’ them do what they want and then leave you unceremoniously after they have used you to accomplish what they want. That is living a life of dependence, we depending on outside influences and powers to justify our existence.

Aligning Quadrant 2

Once quadrant 2 is aligned, we will look to sync with other people’s Quadrant 2, everybody has them. Many of us will have permanent residence in the other quadrant, which is fine. As long as we wear the glass that allows us to pick up Quadrant 2, then we will look into other people’s Quadrant 2 and see if the contents in there is align with ours or not. If not, we move on, there is no need for conflict once we have our priorities set straight, we do not need to compete for resources, we have abundance in Quadrant 2.

Once we can align our Quadrant 2 with other people’s Quadrant 2, we can work together, on a higher level, accomplish more than what we can do alone, without a sense of being made used of, with a sense of value, team work, camaraderie. And once that alignment is out, we move on, cherished the past collaboration, and not bitter that it has ended, not being romantic about the past. We move on, and look for other collaboration to enrich our lives and the lives of other Quadrant 2 dwellers.


This is deep stuff, Ian, that many adults failed to put into action, I’ve read the book myself more than 3 times, and every time I read it, it renews something in me. And now, when you come to me to talk about the relationship between your dad and your younger brother, I know that your window is open. You begin to matter about things that mattered. So I took this chance and explained this to you, last Saturday evening. We talked till late, and since then,we’ve been talking till late. There is so much to cover and you at 9 years old, is perfect, for me.

Some started younger, as young as primary 2. At 8 years old, this boy figured out at that age, he wants to go into Raffles Institution (RI), a premier school. He was laugh at in school and his parents has their own challenges. When he got his Primary 6 result, he knows he is going to RI.

No I am not bring this up in hopes that you do what he did. What I want to impress upon you is that the by took 4 years of ridicule in school, faced a challenging family circumstance and triumph in the end! He has it planned down for the 4 years, ignoring the taunts and external difficulties, because his internal flame is lit bring, his internal compass strong, this makes him independent. He can accomplish because he is internally focused. He knows clearly what he wants and he goes out to get it. He is a kid with grit, and a lot of character. He knows and swims in his Quadrant 2.

Looking forward to greater things

 You will see people like this, internally directed, purposeful and be drawn towards them. Your plans will lead you to greater things. And when you plan, you also make room for greater things. Most of the time we think our lives are packed, but most of the time, are packed with urgent, not urgent and unimportant things. Thing that are screaming for our attention. when we allocate things proper, we will realise that we have a lot more room, space to do things, to be thing and allow things to happen. Because serendipity is not so serendipitous in reality, you have to have space, allocated in a purposeful manner so that happy, lucky things can have a chance to come by your way and for you to have the attentiveness to notice it, and catch it.

Longitudinal attitude 

Hopefully we can have you pick up the habit and smoother out any teething problems, which will be plenty, for once, I can tell that you are taking it internally, making your own time to plan, and hopefully it can work out and we can make space for bigger things!