Yesterday is always better/worse

Your future and my past is very different

Dear Boys,

In your lifetime, you will certainly hear this from other people, and it usually goes something like:

“Back in those days…” or “In my time, things were a lot tougher! easier! better! worse!” Or “compare to our times…”You youngsters had it easy!”

Well, your dad, will probably pull the same script on you from time to time and I have been told umpteenth times by folks from all walks of life, young and old, the same thing.

Our concerns back in 1993

People will always try to compare things. And when they compare, there will only be 2 outcomes that will influence their decision making;

1- things were better in the past, so if currently things are worse off I’d better do something.

2- if things were worse in the past, and we have it better now, we’d better do something.

We all have to do something, irrespective of how well or bad things were in the past. You job, as the future, is to make things the best you can, with your resources at your given specific time and space. Sure people like to reminiscence things, tell you things of their good ‘ol days, don’t be fooled into thinking that you had it better, you will not. Neither did you had it worse, you didn’t.

Newspaper clipping from 1993

‘In my days’, when I was in national service, I wore helmets dating back to the Vietnam War, Kevlar helmets was considered a luxury, and our instructors used that as a motivation for us to do well in our obstacle course, saying we get to wear ‘Air-con’ helmets, owing to its more cooling design. Nowadays, all helmets in the Armed forces are Kevlar, and the newer ones are even better than the ones I had. I’m telling you boys this, is not to tell you that you are going to have it better. Well that is a given, but the task at hand is still very much a challenging one. It never has been any better.

My School’s Assessment Report

So the point is, don’t envy, if someone had it better in their heydays, don’t gloat if someone’s worse off than you. That was that, this is now. Your future and my past is very different, I will tell you boys stories, my experiences, do some of these ‘in my days things’ but please understand it from your context, not mine. Use my experiences as lessons, understand that problems then were different, solutions to those problems are different too. You will have your own set of problems and requires the solutions that is only appropriate at your time.

Take away one thing though, the spirit, attitude to problem solving is the same, you must apply the same tenacity, dedication and focus to solving them, the problems you have now and the problems you will have in future. And when you tell you children and the newer generation your ‘In my days’ story, please remember, that was in your days, not theirs! So give them a break!

First Publish June 15, 2015

Profanities

Dear Boys,

profanity 2

We will have to deal with this sooner than later. Perhaps a couple of years down the road, when you both are matured enough, the use of profanities will eventually enter your vernacular. Until then…

Of late, Ian, you’ve told me that you have a classmate who uses the ‘F’ word in a liberal manner in school and even in the presence of a teacher. And you think that he is a brave kid in doing so. Let me tell you what I told you that evening, it is not a brave thing, neither is it a cool thing.

Sure, you hear about it in the movies, in TV shows and perhaps even me using it. We cannot avoid it, I do use it, and more liberally when I am in Army fatigues. I have a linguistic degree and for that fact, I am minimally qualified to tell you that, in any language, cursing and swearing is very normal. It helps us, to a certain degree, manage our emotions, it serves as a kind of outlet for our negativity. Sometimes it is useful, sometimes it is counterproductive.

profanity 1

But don’t you dare utter this, kids, as personally, for me, it is a big no, no. I cannot stop you boys from hearing it, but I sure as hell (that’s cussing too!) do not want to hear you boys using it, not at this age.

Ian, your classmates used it, that is his problem, like I said, he has a dirty mouth, it is his parents’ responsibilities to clean it. If his parents doesn’t clean his dirty mouth, chances are, someone, a member of society will take matters into their own hands and do some cleaning themselves.

Personally, I do not use it, as linguistically, I have far more useful words in my repertoire to serve my anger in a message without the use of profanity.  As mentioned earlier, my usage only increased when I am in military service.

There is something about the military that is closely linked to the use of profanities and other derogatory words. Its the culture, and when I used it in the military, it serves a functional purpose, not for an angry outburst, not to piss other people off. to me profanities is not ‘angry’ words for the use in an outburst of anger. it allows me to enmesh into a particular culture, a specific conformity. And yes, I do as the Romans do, when it comes to military service.

So when will be a good time for you boys to cuss? That is a judgement call, there is no specific date, time, turn of the century, we all have to see if you boys knows and are mature enough to understand why you want to say what you said. Right now, it is not a brave thing to say it, it is not a cool thing to say it. You boys are not matured enough to know the purpose and function of profanities. It is a ‘play by the ear’ scenario.

I glad that so far, you 2 have a strong repulsion from such words. That is good. There is no need for its use at your age, and we shall have this discussion again from time to time, and see if we are ready to hear the 2 of your cuss like men, or boys.

First Publish June 3, 2015

Your Grands- The Awesomes

April 2013 @ RWS Sea Aquarium
April 2013 @ RWS Sea Aquarium

Dear Boys,

You have awesome grand parents. Period.

For your dad, he never knew his grand parents, both maternal and paternal. They died before I knew about them. You mum knew her grand parents and when I had the both of you, I knew I want the both of you to have wonderful memories about your ‘Grands’.

I can’t say the same for my parents side, as my parents and my history with them is mired in a messy controversy. Well, story of my life, at least that was until I got married and the 2 of you came along. Your mum’s parents, The Grands, as we fondly refer them as, are the Awesomes.

At Bird Park with Ian 2007
At Bird Park with Ian 2007

Your Gong Gong is awesome and so is your Ah Ma, they both doted on you like their own, even though in the strictest Chinese sense, you both are the ‘Lims’ grand children and carry my lineage. They have none of that, and loved you both tremendously, without conditions.

They would buy the best toys for you both for your birthdays and Christmas (although we do not celebrate it on a religious sense, but it was still an opportunity to get together for fun, joy and laughter.) Whatever you want, they will get for you, so much so that we were concerned about them spoiling you both.

There is always tensions in the way we want to bring you up and the way the Grands think we should bring you up. But that is what The Grands does, which many times run into conflict with The Parents. When I was a younger dad with a penchant to use the ‘rod’, I got into a rather heated argument with your Gong Gong. When I wanted to discipline you your Gong Gong physically carried you away from harm, me. Your Ah Ma cried, from the traumatic intensity of the quarrel. From then on I never want to discipline you both in their presence. We’ve all learned our limits and our boundaries from that incident.

Feb 2013, on a ferry to Kusu Island
Feb 2013, on a ferry to Kusu Island

It is important that you boys get to hang out with the Grands as often as possible, because I feel that their inputs into your lives are important in your building blocks to become responsible adults. You boys need to handle old folks, and the Grands are your hands on training. When you grow up, never get angry or impatient with old folks. When you are in your thirties, a busy executive, in a hurry to run errands, please don’t run over older folks that happen to road hog your way, think of them as your Grands. They are not in your way, without, you will not even have a way.

SONY DSC
June 2013 @ River Safari

Your Grands are the ultimate liberals, in their abode you boys can pretty much do whatever you want and rule with impunity. There is no curfew, you boys sleep as early as 2am. You boys watched TV, ate all sorts of sweets and chocolates. Ice cream was a regular affair. Even when the Grands brought you boys out, you two had it good, ate at restaurants, Swensen’s is a common affair.

Tell your children stories and tales you had with your Grands, and when my time comes, I will have my share of legacy with you children.

Wayne with Ah gong
Wayne with Ah gong

You boys need to love your Grands as much as possible. Display affection, hug them, kiss them, and hold their hands. Let them know you appreciate them, let them know that you both, while taking them for granted, do reciprocate. They have pretty much seen it through their life, they do not need much now, they do not need to strive for a good job, they do not need to please their boss, climb the corporate ladder, all they need to to have their lives filled with the din both of you made, do things that makes them worry, mess things up so that they can clean it up after you. Let them feed you boys with yummy junks.

Ah Ma with Ian, handling microscopes

So go ahead, have fun with your Grands fill their lives with all your nonsense. do things with them that you cannot do with your parents. Let them have wonderful memories of you both, and please grow up with wonderful reminiscence of them. Tell your children stories and tales you had with your Grands, and when my time comes, I will have my share of legacy with you children.

First posted June 26, 2015

Collective Idiocy-Army story

bus buttons
picture sourced from google

Dear Boys,

I want to share a story about ‘collective idiocy’ that involved your father.

When I was an Army recruit, my training camp was back in Pulau Tekong and when it was time for us to book in, we have to find our own way back to Commando Jetty. So when it was time for us to book in, it is no surprise that you will see many botak (bald-headed) recruits on the same bus, since we are all booking in at the same time.

So this fateful night, we were on the bus, and heading towards a common destination, we all have to alight at the same bus-stop and of course we need to press the bell so that the bus driver will know there are passengers who were alighting.

What happened was a matter of group-think towards collective stupidity.

We all, the recruits in the bus, knew we are all alighting at the same stop, and we all waited for one of us to press the bell, and anyone of us can, but no one did!

So we looked wide eyed as the bus zipped past our stop and everyone started pressing the bell in frantic. Too late, the bus driver simply ignored us, and take it that the bell we pressed was for the next stop.

So the bus alighted at the next stop and the whole group of us has to dumb, dumb walk back to the earlier bus stop and towards Commando Jetty. No one said a thing about the incident, we didn’t have to, we all made a fool out of ourselves, and now thinking back more than 21 years later, the whole incident seems petty hilarious.

First posted June 18, 2015

Your Father’s 39th Birthday

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

Posted February 23, 2015

Stop at Success

Stop at Success

Dear Sons,

Your mum baked butter cakes yesterday. Twice.

For the first round, the 2 of you tried to help in the process, In measurements and cutting of the butter, it was good to have involved the 2 of you, even though you boys monkeyed around more than being helpful.

The cake wasn’t very well made, it rise in the beginning but the cake collapsed towards the later part of its time in the oven. Of course your mum, was dejected, it was a failure. The texture of the cake was too light, and it felled apart when we cut it and when we ate it, even thought it tasted good, but it wasn’t a ‘cake’.

I saw the opportunity and told her “Let’s bake another one!” I wanted to drive this point home, Do not stop at failure, stop only when you are successful. Later that afternoon, I went out and bought another bunch of ingredients and we tried at it again, and this time the cake turned out alright.

You see, boys, the difference is that if we stop at the first bake, what would have locked into our minds? The end process of it was ‘failure’. And if we do not correct that immediately, the feeling, the mood and the psyche of having failed at baking, would have sunken in, gotten locked into our sub consciousness, and the next time we bake, may be next week, next month, we will go to our sub conscious file and access the last time we tried, which was locked in ‘failure’. What a way to starting making something as beautiful and delicious as a cake! Will our next attempt fail again? I don’t know, but I’d rather start a new endeavor , with a past history and memory of success rather than having a last records of failure.

We also did something different the second time we bake, we wrote down every bit of the process, step by step. For the second time around, you boys were playing in the living room and had no part in the baking process, maybe the absence of you 2 monkeys would help in your mum’s concentration as well?

We wrote down every writable details of the baking, so that if we fail, again, we will know, more than less, how we can adjust our process.

The second time was a success!

And what a difference it made for your mum! From dejected, deflated talk of failure in baking the first round, she is now beaming with joy knowing that the second bake was a success. This is what I want to have locked into her psyche, that she can bake and baking is a process of success. And with the formula on hand, now she can bake and repeat the same success.

So boys, when you do fail in future, quickly dust yourself off and try again. Do not stop, never stop until you have successfully achieve your given tasks. Failure and success is nothing more than a state of mind, be careful at which state of mind you decide to take a rest, for it will affect you and your next course of action. so when you fail, do not stop, keep going, stop only when you are successful.

Posted August 12, 2013

How we spent our Deepavali-Istana Visit

How we spent our Deepavali-Istana Visit

Dear Boys,

I decided to give your mum a ‘me time’ for the hardwork she put in helping you, Ian with your exams. So I took you boys out so that your mum can go for her nail message, compliments of Auntie Chai Ping.

Where can we go, 3 male members of the Lim family? The Istana was hosting an open house and it is free entry for Singaporeans, so why not? We packed up and headed out, looking forward to spending some time at the official residence of our President. After all, it is free entry and its been a long time since I’ve step foot in the Istana for a visit.

We reached the place and found it to be raining a little, and got heavier as we approached the Main Building. the compound is really a nice place to visit, with the sprawling greenery, and magnificent lawn. Once we passed the tight security, the first sight that draws us towards was the Swan pond.

Swan Pond. Admiring the Swan

The both of you were fascinated with the single white swan there and snapped pictures like it was the last living White Swan on earth. Thankfully the turf on the Istana ground is quite well maintained, despite of the rain, and wet grounds didn’t translate into a muddy quagmire, despite of the heavy trampling by the large crowds.

P_20151110_143133_1_p

As we walked up and towards the slight gradient, the both of you chatted that this was where they saw on television the funeral procession of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and wondered where is the Sri Temasek.

The Sri Temasek

The premises was out of bounds and we can only stop to appreciate the diminutive building, where so much of our country’s history has happened there. While we watch, our minds played the mental image of Mr Lee’s cortege rolled out from the place, in a wet day no different from the day we visited Istana.

The Main Building

We had to seek refuge there along with many ‘un-umbrella’ folks, as the sky decided to open up on us. We learned from a Scout there, that we can actually buy a ticket to go into Istana for a house tour. With nothing better to do, I decided to leave the 2 of you with the Scout and headed out in the downpour to get the tickets. There is no photo taking allowed inside so we have to keep our pictures in our head.

The interior is a grand place, which is of course, as we have to host our nation’s guests there. There is an air of importance as well as decorum, you can’t help but feel the importance of such a place to us ordinary Singaporeans. it is important that we host our country’s guests in the highest pristine so that we get the respect and voice in the global community.

The Gun Terrace

This is certainly the highlight for the both of you as you boys take turns to take pictures of it, walk around it and explore this World War 2 relic.

The Military Guardroom

P_20151110_153119_1_p

We did a few fun shots there with a few ornamental mini cannons, your little brother, as usual, is such a pain when it comes to making him look at the camera and do a decent pose!

Our signature childhood photo

This is the kind of photograph where we can look back, decades from now and relish the memories. I am sure many of us and our parents out there has a photo like that taken with a soldier standing at attention. This will certainly be a journey I hope the 2 of you can cherish and remember fondly.

P_20151110_155601_1_p

Posted November 19, 2015

Meeting my MATADOR (Army Story)

300px-MATADOR_Stand

Dear Boys,

Let me tell you an Army story.

During your father’s Reservist, he has fired a MATADOR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MATADOR). This is an Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW), that is in used with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Our unit was given some organic weapons training, the NSmen were given a few choices: M-16/SAR21, Ultimax 100/SAW, GPMG, or the MATADOR. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I chose MATADOR.

I mean, who in this world actually get a chance to fire a real anti-tank rocket? It was a chance too good to pass up!

Of course there was a familiarization lessons to go through. We handled the dummy version, understand the immediate action (IA) drill in case the weapon malfunction. This mainly have to do with the weapon not firing and we have to leave the weapon, more gently than you put a sleeping baby down! Any jerk could set off the malfunction weapon and blow everybody up with the most unintended consequences! The reality is that it can be nerve wrecking to know if that high explosive thing you put on your shoulder failed to go off.

Anyway, we went through some technical handling and we made it to the MATADOR range, which was actually an open area where we get to shoot at some metal targets simulating vehicles. Since a single live MATADOR cost more than S$10,000, the army has to make sure we are familiar with it. So we were given to sub-munition rounds to get ourselves familiar with whole drill of handling the MATADOR. There were 2 rounds of sub-munitions for us to shoot at the targets. So when we squeeze the trigger, a small projectile will be sent flying towards the target. Piece of cake.

When it came to the real thing, all of us got somber and serious. We were told that the MATADOR packed a nasty back blast, and true enough the amount of back blast was phenomenal. Anyone standing 5 meters behind it will be severely injured by the back blast. No joke, it threw a blast a good 10 meters or more.

Matador

Because it was an expensive round to fire, everyone only have one chance. and due to some military mess up, I was the last shooter for the entire cohort.

It was an exciting moment as I hefted the real thing onto my right shoulder and as I peered through the simple sights, I took aim at the big vehicle shaped metal sheet, about 250m ahead, well within the MATADOR’s maximum 500m range.

So I repeated the commands and grasp the pistol grip and flicked the safety off. The moment of truth.

Nothing prepared me for what was going to happen.

BOOM!

I squeezed the trigger and was totally taken by surprise the amount of recoil of the weapon packed. And the amount of smoke! I totally lost sight of the target momentarily.

When the smoke cleared, I couldn’t hear what the trainer was trying to tell me, I pulled my earplugs off while I exited the little mold of earth making up the firing point, everyone at the training shed was on their feet cheering!

I thought they were cheering since I was the last firing, so I lifted the empty, and light MATADOR casing in bravado. It was later when I reached the training shed that I realise what my buddies were cheering about.

As I didn’t prepare for the recoil, the warhead was jerked upwards when it left the MATADOR. Hence with an upward trajectory, the warhead totally missed the target and instead flew for its maximum 500 meters and landed beyond the range parameters!

It probably blew up some tree and killed some ants. What a way to waste a $10,000 weapon!

Link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10154083797606063

The “Bastard” Story

The “Bastard” Story

Dear Ian,

You have been acquainted to the word ‘Bastard”. No thanks to some kid in your school.

Well, this might be something we forget years from now, but it is one of those things that we would like to pen down.

You came home yesterday and asked your mum, “What is the meaning of Bastard?” Your mum, shocked to even hear you mention the word, told you in a reactive rebuke, it is of course, a ‘bad’ word. And she asked you if you’ve used it. And you obviously said ‘no’.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

What we learned from you was that someone in school used the ‘B’ word on you during your basketball training, and it was, in your account, perhaps the senior boys, in Primary 4, 5 or 6. who scolded you and added the ‘B’ word.

On top of that, there is this kid who smacked you head with Colin’s from behind. And someone threw a ball at your face. Those rough and tough stuffs you can rough it out, tough it out.

The twist of the story came this morning, when Colin’s mum got a call from school from the teacher to tell her about what happened. Long story short. The teacher mentioned that you used the word ‘bastard’ in school. and Colin also said you did.

Your mum knew now, you used it, but you learned it from someone, and the teacher only caught you using it, but she is not aware that you learned it from someone else in the basketball lesson.

To set the records straight, your mum went to the teacher after class and clarified the matter. Not in your defense but to make sure that the facts are set right. You used the word, which you should aptly be punished. But you didn’t bring the word into the class, someone did, and you were caught using it. That doesn’t make you less ‘wrong’ but it matters that the teacher sees the situation from another angle.

So the point is this, Ian, you have to let us know what is going on in school, even if you are punished for some reason, or you did something wrong, please let us know. Because you could have been contextually right in the wrong content and vice versa.

Had we not set the records straight, you would have been branded the boy who brought the ‘bastard’ to school. We do not want such stereotypes on you, not like this.

Posted January 28, 2014

Your Parent’s 10th Wedding Anniversary

Your Parent’s 10th Wedding Anniversary

Dear Boys,

December 14th is a significant date for your parents for it is the day your parents got married. This year is our 10th year together, and indeed is has been quite a 3650 days!

I’ve booked a room with M hotel, the hotel in which we got married back in 2003. The room was a deluxe with a King size bed, I thought it could fit the 4 of us sleeping and it did! Well, we have to snuggle width of the bed.

It was a nice roomy room. And on top of the room, it was packaged with a one way paid trip into Sentosa. I told your mum it will be a “best of both worlds’. One was we can spend time in the hotel where we had our wedding dinner in, the other was Sentosa, where I proposed to your mother.

We ‘booked’ a London cab, since none of you boys has ever taken one. Unfortunately, the hotel wasn’t able to get us one through the phone booking, as all the cabs are taken. Luckily for us, the hotel called back moments later and informed us that there was one London cab just down at the lobby having dropped of a passenger. What luck! We rushed down for the cab and it was an unforgettable ride!

We headed to Palawan beach, for the rope bridge where your dad proposed to your mum. The weather wasn’t in our favour this time as it started pouring which caused us to make a dash across the bridge and headed to one of the 2 towers at the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia.

We soon found out that the rain was a blessing in disguise as it turned out that there was young couple on top of the tower, preparing their proposal! Well, the boyfriend got some friends to help him, and they tied some balloons around the wooden handrails, and the bride-to-be was supposed to pop the balloons to get the message. We chatted up with them and they loved Wayne so much that they get him to bring a balloon to the bride-to-be and pose with her as well.

We didn’t stay to find out the success of that proposal, as we have our own agenda to run, your mum and I, posed at the spot on the bridge, where I put the ring into her finger. It is still as memorable as if it was only yesterday.

We head back to the hotel and you boys had such a splash in the bath tub. We used up all the light sticks I bought and when the lights was turned off, the bath tub emits a funky glow of green, red, blue and yellow. It was such a splash! Well, that has to come to an end when I see your 弟弟 shivering from the cold water!

While you boys were in the bathtub, Shakir, the hotel’s duty manager came up with our Anniversary Cake! It was a delicious Tiramisu cake, made to perfection. It was fluffy, light and sweet. It was so good we polished off the 1 kg cake that night. The 哥哥 who is not a cake lover, predictably couldn’t stomach his share which is to our delight! Your mum and I totally relish the cake.

We went down to the ballroom on the second floor where your parents walked down the isle. There was another couple getting married, doing the very thing we did 10 years ago, so we didn’t wanna crash their party. We took some discreet photos, and it must have look odd, thinking of it now, since we were at the wedding reception area, the parents in bermudas and slippers and the kids in their PJs!

We ended the day with all four of us squeezing into the King size bed and woke up early for another day of fun before we pack up.

Too bad, M hotel is a ‘business hotel’, because the swimming pool is not kid friendly. the shallowest part is 0.9 m and the deepest 2m, too deep for 弟弟to have fun, so we end up hoarding the Jacuzzi, both of them alternating between them.

We ended our day checking out and it was a day of great fun and memories.

Posted December 17, 2013