Finders, Keeper

Finders, Keeper

“Mummy! Papa found a two dollar!”

“Mummy! Papa found a two dollar!”

Ian bellowed across the supermarket aisle at the frozen section.

Dear Ian,

Sometimes it is not the best way to tell people about your serendipitous wealth.

The Law of Finder’s Keepers.

Your mum told me about something like this when she was about 5, your little brother’s age. She was with her mum, on a Sunday going to the market, her mum was walking in front, when your mum was blocked by a $50 note lying on the ground in front of her.

She too shouted for her mum. This time she said: “There’s a $50 on the ground!” repeatedly, whilst her mum was gesturing repeatedly at her to pick it up and shut her gap.

She did, pick up the wet note and her mum took it away from her.

That was her.

For us, I saw the lonely $2 on the floor, unbelievably, no one saw it, and it is not as if the aisle is vacated. I walked a pick it up and kept it, of course. But not without Ian telling the whole world your dad’s keeps.

Well, boys, it isn’t the easiest thing to do as to explain the law of such finds. I mean, what is someone walks up and say, hey that is my $2! What can I say? What can you say?

This is one of life’s grey area, there is no right no wrong to it, but you cannot simply just leave the $2 buck on the floor! If you don’t pick it up, someone else would and guess what, finders, keepers!

Published: October 7, 2014

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

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.

Published: December 30, 2014

Easy being difficult

Dear Boys,

You will come to a point in time, where you have to decide, with discipline on proceeding to do something worthwhile on a long consistent basis.

The difficulty in such an endeavor is how deceptively easy it will look, and you will be lulled into thinking at easily said, easily done. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is the easy things that will trick you into the difficult.

Nothing is really hard to do, if we put our mind to it, we can break hard things down into easy parts and do them. But sometimes, doing exactly that is the most counter productive thing.

When things seem easy to do, ironically, we have lesser motivations to do them. Simply because they are easy to do!

There is, (pun intended) no easy way out of this. You have to remain ever vigilant for the easy stuffs. and do them, condition your mind to do them, do things, accomplish things, irrespective if they are easy or not. Try not to brand things, as ‘easy’ or ‘hard’. Things are never ‘easy’ and never very ‘hard’. you just need to stay focused and get them done.

First posted February 26, 2014

National Service

Dear Boys.

I’ve completed my national service!

In case you do not have National Service in the not-so-distant future, it is basically a mandatory service all young men have to perform, in one of the few uniformed service, such as the Police Force, Civil Defence, or the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) branch like, Navy, Air Force or the Army.

I was in the Army, and since I was enlisted at the age of 18, more than 21 years ago, my vocation has always been a Regimental Policeman (RP), and right now, the SAF called it ‘Security Trooper’ just another name for military security guard.

In total, looking back, I spent more than 2 decades on this, 2 years as a full time NSF, and 7 years in hiatus, before being called up at the age of 27 to serve in this battalion for the next 12 years.

Since then a couple of things has changed.

The camouflaged uniform as went from ‘patches’ to ‘pixels

image.img
P_20150315_230054

The weapons went from M-16 to SAR-21

M-16
SAR 21

The Trucks went from a 3 tonner to a 5 tonner

3 tonner
5 tonner

My Camp went from Portsdown Camp to the modern Kranji Camp 3.

There is a lot more military ranks other than the usual Officers, specialists, and Warrant Officers. The SAF introduced something call ‘ME’- better known as ‘Military Experts’ rank.

The food at the cookhouse was also different. In my NSF time, there were actually cooks as a military vocations, now, the eating part of it has been totally outsourced, first to Singapore Food Industries (SFI) and now the later part SATS Food, the food used to be nutritionally bland, now at least there are occasional Ice-Creams and other yummy desserts.

But one thing didn’t change.

The attitude towards National Service, since it is a kind of mandatory duty, many people, including myself, sees it as a waste of time. It does not really add value to our civilian life, and more often than not, it is more of an inconvenience. Well to me, being some kind of a military bluff, I don’t mind it, but more importantly, I went with the flow and was discharging my duties in the least best way. well, I did the minimum, there are others, who did less than the minimum, bordering malingering.

After 21 years dabbling in civilian soldiering, one thing finally changed in me.

I begin to realise that you can still do good in a very bad situation. I can either choose to see it as a waste of time, and waste time, hence fulfilling a prophecy, or begin to do something good. Since this was my last ICT, I decide to do something different.

Network

I’ve been in the battalion for the past 12 years, I literally grew up with it. There are people I know that the newer NSmen wouldn’t know, processes and screw ups I’ve seen that gives me the confidence and maturity to handle a complicated situation. I also have a well established network of strangers turned friends. I know storemen, officers, Regimental Sergeant Majors (RSM), trainers, specialists and other new players to make my ICT experience better than those who just joined the battalion. Since I am leaving, I told my chums to take care of the new batches of RPs.

Doing more

Nobody, I mean absolutely nobody would want to ‘volunteer’ in the military, more often than not you get ‘volunteered’ to do something. This time, when my RSM tasked me to delegate a duty to one of my fellow RPs, I took on the task myself, and called upon a few other friends. I didn’t have a habit of volunteering people, so I volunteered myself, and it was a good experience, I learned a couple of more things through my willingness to take on a little more duties.

Can do attitude in a can’t do place

Admittedly, I do not have that. I wasn’t can do, but I just want things to be done, and been in there for so long, I know how things should be done, and I did it, my way, how it should be done. I realised that given all the rigidity in the military, as long as you prove that you can do it, you’d be left to do it on your own, with resources at your disposal. Of course, if you choose to cannot do it, then it cannot be done, with certainty!

On a high note

I’m quite thankful that I ended my last ICT on a high note, There was a Change of Command (CoC) for my battalion RSM, and the good got better, the outgoing Master Warrant Officer Chia was replaced by an Afghan-deployed 1st Warrant Officer Ang, he is a solid, albeit funny professional soldier, very approachable, very people-soldier. I left the unit with Major Sim at the helm, a fantastic Commanding Officer, the best out of the three that commanded the unit. I got a best soldier award on my last in camp, what else can I ask for?

(Pictures are sourced from Google. Picture of pixelised uniform belongs to me)

First posted March 16, 2015

Leftovers

Leftovers
bento

Dear Ian,

This evening, we ordered a salmon/ chicken bento set for your dinner. You ate your fill and you wanted me to finish off the rest. There was a piece of chicken left and you wanted to eat that up first before passing your rice to me.

And I asked you, ‘You want your father to eat plain rice?’

To which you rationalized, ‘No’, you are going to leave the soup for me as well. In fact you are going to put some soup into the rice so that I can have the soup and the rice.

I was a little sad and disappointed.

Technically you are going to leave me with a porridge, while you eat up all the salmon and chicken, albeit the last piece, after you said that you are too full to finish everything. So you finished the best of everything and leave your dad soup and rice. Have we ever only given you soup and rice?

I raised to you the issues of morals. We do not want to raise kids that has the best of everything and leave the least of everything for other people. More importantly, I do not want you and your brother to pick this habit up and do it to your grandparents. They will eat everything you boys cannot finish and they will not say a word about it, this is because they both love you in their own special way.

So I have to put a foot to it. While I certainly do not mind eating only rice and soup, but I need you to understand, you cannot treat people like this, this is plain selfish, me, me, me, mentality. You cannot take the best and give others the least. We do not do that to you, please don’t do it to us, please don;t do this to others.

You are going to get the best the world can ever provide, but what are you going to give back in return? You will always get the best resources. we will never give you leftovers, if we can help it. We will always think in your best interests, any decent parents would do that for their children, we just need you to understand that you have to, give back, a decent level of respect to your elders. to your grandparents, to those around you. you cannot take all that is good for yourself and leave whatever is left for others. This is not how we want to bring you up.

First posted Mar 29, 2015

5 Advantages of Being Married

5 Advantages of Being Married

Dear Boys,

I’m married, of course I ‘sell’ and advocate marriage. We are all our own product ambassadors, if I’m not happily married, I won’t sell it. If I like being single, then I’ll find every damn reason there is to justify my single-ness.

Anyway here is my 5 advantages of being married.

1-You build a bigger network of extended relatives.

Humans like all organisms, are network-centric. We need to continue to grow and develop our high trust network. The easiest quickest way is to get married, suddenly all your spouse’s relatives becomes your in-laws, and obligated by the by-laws to help you, and make your aspirations successful.Think medieval times, why kings and warlords marry off their children to secure lands and power.

Who knows, your spouse might have a rich multi-billionaire uncle with a couple of million to spare for you to do business get rich?

2- You can be safe with members of the opposite gender.

Sometimes you need to work with really smart people and really beautiful people to do really smart and beautiful things, and in order to avoid mixing pleasure with business; your wedding band, spouse photo in your wallet, are ideal shields against such unwanted solicitation, attractions and distractions.

Sure some singles out there consider married individuals as fair game or even premium, then you need to hold true to your marriage oath ‘forsaking all others’. If you don’t, then you are just another two timing scum.

3- You get economies of scale

Sometimes, produce and products are better consumed in large quantities. A quart of ice-cream, shared, are calories halved. You can also go into restaurants and order 2 different items off the menu and then share, so that both gets a varied taste of the eatery.

Or if you’re too full to eat, you can always get your significant other to finish off the meal.

4-You can do crazy stupid things, without the fear of being seen as crazy and stupid

Who says only singles do crazy stupid things? Married folks can also do crazier, stupider things, all without having to seek attention. You’re married, you no longer have to seek attention, you do crazy stupid things, because you simply love doing crazy stupid things, without having to get anyone’s acceptance, other than that of your spouse.

5- You get instant maturity.

This is not funny. Choosing to spend the rest of your life with just one person, when there are more than 6 billion other alternative human beings; that takes courage or sheer idiocy (or both). And living with another human being by choice, warts and all takes a certain level of perspective, personal growth and growing up.

Taking care of another person for life, and having another person taking care of you for life is not a joke. There are responsibilities beyond that of an individual in the single-hood realm. When you tell people you are married, you get instantly upgraded up the social ladder, people will think that you have the maturity to be some kind of marriage expert and elevate you to be one. Your opinions will carry weight and what you say as a married person will be generally considered to be worth something.

First posted Dec 13 2015

Loss and love on the journey to parenthood

Mum and dad were a long time waiting before this baby girl finally arrived last week

PUBLISHED ON MAR 15, 2015 3:45 PM

https://static1.straitstimes.com.sg/s3fs-public/styles/large30x20/public/articles/2015/03/15/ST_20150315_BABY15_1141852e_2x.jpg?VersionId=EQubjjdkQCrsZmP2Nq8.13F9JINbcIZr&itok=rLt6Ce8_

BY LI XUEYING HONG KONG CORRESPONDENT

As a young reporter 11 years ago, I wrote about an alarming trend: The number of miscarriages in Singapore was going up, up and up.

I got the statistics, spoke to a woman who had experienced a miscarriage, interviewed five doctors and probed a politician on possible ways to address the problem.

It was an assignment to me, a story to be done before I moved on to the next.

A decade on, the issue became personal. Within six months, I had not one, but two miscarriages.

In May 2013, I found out that I was pregnant. It was unplanned but my husband and I, after some initial adjustment, were thrilled.

After all, we had been married for four years but somehow life had got in the way of making space for children: I went overseas to do a master’s degree, then waited for a posting as a foreign correspondent. I was then 34, just a year from being defined as a geriatric mother – or what doctors call a woman of advanced maternal age.

We saw a doctor in Hong Kong where we were now based. He did a scan.

Congratulations, he said. There was a gestational sac – the first sign of pregnancy but no yolk or heartbeat. But that’s normal, he declared. It’s early days yet.

We returned to Singapore for a break and as a surprise to our best friends who had just had a baby. We popped champagne and I had an illicit sip, a toast to the new addition to our group as well as the embryo growing – I thought – inside me.

Back in Hong Kong, we went back to the clinic. The news was not good this time. The sac had not expanded, which meant the pregnancy was not progressing as it should. I’m sorry, said the doctor.

We were upset, of course.

But I sought comfort in research and statistics, including the ones I had cited in my own article from years before. One in five known pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Some of us, I told my husband and myself philosophically, just have to make up the numbers.

We decided I would have the procedure “to clean up” at the public hospital. Like many others who had miscarriages, we told few people. I explained to my office that I had to take a few days off work for a “medical procedure” and left it at that. In hospital, I finished Salman Rushdie’s new memoir Joseph Anton and kept tabs on the Edward Snowden saga then unfolding in Hong Kong.

But my husband and I had changed. Within just two short weeks of being pregnant, our world had shifted. We had begun to plan and dream, to think of what it would be like to be parents, from how we would dress the child to what values we would impart.

Two months later, I conceived again. This time, we were not so innocent in our joy. We waited till we saw the heartbeat on the ultrasound screen twice – a red dot pulsating amid a mass of variegated greys and blacks – before we told our parents.

On our third visit, when I was about 11 weeks along, I complained of slight abdominal cramps. Probably just ligament pains as the uterus stretches, the doctor – a different one – reassured me as she moved a transducer over my belly.

My husband, reaching out for his camera to take a photo of the screen, stilled. It was all darkness. The heartbeat had stopped.

This time, there was little bravado left in us. We opted for a private hospital where I would have a dilation and curettage operation that night.

We shared a room with a Hong Kong couple in their early 20s, who we gathered were there for an abortion and were placed in the awkward situation of having to listen to me tearfully break the news to my mum over the phone.

They went first. As they left, the young man whispered: “We’re sorry.”

Our turn came. In the operating room, my doctor, her pearl necklace shimmering from her surgical scrubs, loomed over me. Later, as I emerged from the haze of general anaesthesia, I blearily asked her: “Did you see if it was a boy or a girl?” She shook her head gently at me.

Silly me. It was all scraped up and sucked out.

Medically, recurrent pregnancy loss is defined as more than two miscarriages in a row. We were two strikes down, one more to go. But as anyone who has gone through miscarriage will know – and without meaning to diminish the pain for those who suffered even more loss – one is one too many.

So we went through test after test searching for causes. Nothing stood out. The only certainty, said the doctor, was my age. Fact is, old eggs are old, which means a higher risk that embryos with genetic abnormalities are incubated.

That there was all this uncertainty made it harder.

It was an invisible grief. We returned to work, looking the same on the outside but bereft within.

There had been no wake, no funeral, no body to be buried. We did not even know what to call our losses – technically they were not babies; the first was “just” an embryo while the second was “old enough” to be a foetus.

I grappled with my feelings. Somehow, society speaks of miscarriages in hushed tones – the word itself seems to suggest some kind of responsibility on the part of women who “mis-carry” their children. See how we use the word when we describe legal travesties as a “miscarriage of justice”.

The fact is, why miscarriages happen is often shrouded in mystery, and most times, say doctors, they are beyond one’s control. Yet, the secrecy surrounding it leaves much ignorance about the issue.

For many, what we know of miscarriages is what we have seen on television – a woman falling down and ending up with blood on her thighs.

Is it any wonder that many who have gone through it choose to keep silent?

I was fortunate to have family and close friends who gave us enormous support.

My husband and I certainly were not ashamed of what had happened. But we were in pain and we were not sure talking incessantly about it would help.

Furthermore, what could we expect people to say except an awkward “I’m sorry”? Unlike for other bereavement, there is no social ritual for coping with this particular kind of death.

Yet, I did feel an irrational resentment that not more people knew of our losses. It was not exactly sympathy I wanted. It was recognition, I think, that a loss from a miscarriage was felt as keenly as any other.

And, I wonder, if more speak more openly of their experiences, would those who have experienced the same pain feel less alone?

It is a personal issue, and different people will feel differently.

In all honesty, I began writing this only as my husband and I were waiting to welcome our daughter.

Kei An, weighing 3.25kg, measuring 49cm and boasting a nose like her father’s, finally arrived last Tuesday, six days past her due date.

Without the hope she represents, I am not sure I could write about our past losses.

But what I do know is that as my husband and I get to know this little one, we will also remember our other babies gone before her.

xueying@sph.com.sg

– See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/more-opinion-stories/story/loss-and-love-the-journey-parenthood-20150315#xtor=CS1-10

(Published with kind permission from Xue Ying; Thank you!)

Wayne’s little insecurity

Wayne’s little insecurity
Wayne trying to cycle
Wayne trying to cycle

Dear Wayne,

Watching you develop as our youngest family member can be very endearing and frustrating at the same time. You have a very light frame, very much like you dad. Small and punch size, you naturally have to fight harder for your fair share of existence.

Of late, I noticed that you have a certain disdain for bicycling. We went for a night supper a couple of weeks back, and we all agreed that, mum and dad will jog, you and your big brother will cycle. You refused to, using all sorts of excuse. Saying that you will be slow and you’ll be left behind. We constantly assured you that we will not, to no avail, you refused to budge from your stand.

I know how you feel, son, you have your smallish kiddy bike, with training wheels on, you don’t look very cool when your big brother’s bike is bigger and he is already riding on 2 wheels. You look inferior compared to him. Riding bike has somehow become your weakness, and you didn’t want the world to know.

Your weakness is not a weakness to us.

You see, son, there is no weakness to show in this family. We are one, your brother loves you and so does your dad and mum. We will not leave you behind no matter what. Your weakness is not a weakness to us.

Wayne on his bike
Wayne on his bike

This will something that you have to deal with when you grow older, handling your insecurity, your weakness. Always bear in mind, you have a family, we are family. We will help you, and even if you are struggling and stubbornly decline help, we will still help you. We will help you even if you don’t ask for our help, because that is what family is all about. You don’t have to fight your insecurities alone.

We tried to teach you to ride on 2 wheels some time back but it was tough, you made it tougher for us to teach you as you constantly self sabotage yourself, by purposely falling, pretending that it is harder than it really is. We didn’t push it, but I think the hardship has been etched already, you associate bicycle as your weakness.

You are a kid that cannot be rushed. you will do it, and you will do it well, when you want to. So I am not pushing you to learn to ride a bicycle on 2 wheels. You take your time, there are people who goes through life not knowing how to ride a bike, which is fine, so I’m not going to rush you.

your bicycles
You and your brother’s bicycles

More importantly, please don’t make your challenges your weakness. I hope by the time you are old enough to read this, you can find enough in you to face your obstacles and overcome them. We are humans, and we are born to overcome challenges. You possesses enough will and tenacity, we have seen it in you, but you’ve choose to use these values as inertia instead of a source of motivation. We need to correct this in time to come.

First published: June 26, 2015

Sparing the rod

Source from Google
Source from Google

Dear boys,

I’ve spared the rod, a few months back, did I spoil the child?

Frankly, I don’t think so, to begin with, looking back, it was not the wisest thing to do, caning you boys for the mistakes you both made, and of course the mischief you boys do.

The use of the rod has long outlived its purpose, and the reason I continued to use it is that I hadn’t found another method to replace it. Admittedly, it is somewhat like an addiction. And since it worked so well before, it will continue to work well now and into the future, when in reality it has long outlived its usefulness.

To be honest, your dad then was too immature to handle the 2 of you. It was a dark learning process for all of us. When I wield the cane, the rage compliments the pain it dispense, unfortunately you both bear much of the brunt. And now looking back, much of the caning was quite unnecessary, uncalled for. I just didn’t have enough patience wisdom and good in between my ears to handle your misdeeds appropriately.

Everything that should happen the way it should happen, on hindsight, that is where regret resides. But I justified it shallowly by saying, my parents cane me and I turned out alright! I fell victim to the ‘spare the rod, and spoil the child!’ Argument, and defended using the rod, since i was part of its indoctrination, so I’d indoctrinate my kiddos the same why, it didn’t hurt me that much, and it sure as hell will not hurt my kiddos more that it hurt me, but the truth is, it hurts me having to resort to caning.

There is a better way than this.

Using the cane, honestly limits me. Limits my options to educate and teach you decently. In defense of using the rod, every problem becomes a nail because the only tool I got was a hammer. Any misbehavior will almost always result in the cane being deployed. And I justified it with shallow reasons every time, while that little voice in me tells me otherwise. ‘There is a better way than this.

There is indeed a better way to do this, but it requires a lot more patience, love, understanding, time and more patience, love, understanding and time. I have to find ways to educate the both of you on what was done wrong, what needs to be done right, and how the punishment needs to be met. There is a lot more reasoning involved, and while I do lose my temper due to the insolence of you both, I screamed and threatened, but never spanked again.

So did the earlier days of spanking helped made the both of you the way you are today? I do think so, as I’d like to see things in a positive perspective, no matter how dark it was before. I just feel that the spanking was a little too much, too overdue.

The beauty of you boys are your innocence, right now as we walked forward, and putting those caning days further and further in the past, I can see that you both are just as sensible and mischievous as before, I honestly do not expect the both of you to forget those emotionally heavy and intense days of being caned. I hope I hadn’t cane you both so badly to become emotionally scarred by the experience. And from the looks of it, no, you boys remembered the caning but no in a horrified ways. For that I’m thankful that both of you are resilient in such manner.

When you boys have kiddos of your own, I hope I’ll still be around to tell you how unnecessary it is to cane them. I hope I’ll live long enough not to protect them from your caning, but to protect you from your children’s mischief. And when you have to punish them for their misdeeds, let’s do it together, in a much more mature and novel way, sans the cane.

First Published: July 25, 2015

A Pair of Foam Dinosaurs

A Pair of Foam Dinosaurs
Foam Dinosaurs
T-Rex belonged to Ian, and the Diplodocus belonged to Wayne

Dear Boys,

As kids you will be able to make the most in-animated items as fun as any toys. Having siblings helped I guess. When you bounce of the most ridiculous ideas off each other, anything can come alive.

We got you these pair of foam dinosaurs from the Science Centre (www.science.edu.sg), when we went for the Titans of the Past Exhibition. I mean, as your dad, and as an adult, it is simply a foam cut outline of a Dinosaur. Not to the both of you.

Wayne with his Diplodocus

Throughout the journey back from Jurong home, we’d expect Wayne to fall asleep on the train, since you 2 looked beat from the whole day of fun. But no, you boys were playing and playing with your foam Dinos all the way back! There was so much things a T-Rex can tell a Diplodocus! Well, Seeing how friendly T-Rex was to  the Diplodocus was interesting, because in the Dinosaur time, one would be predator and the other, prey.

Working on the colours

This fun and play continued noisily when we boarded the bus home. You 2 took a single seat and was busily playing, there was another boy perhaps a little younger than Ian, looked on at the both of you, pensively. I observed him for a while and shared with your mum, either he was looking with a sense of envy that you boys had foam Dinos, or he was looking at the kind of fun 2 two have. From my observation, he, who appeared to be the only kid (He was with his parents, with no evidence of him having another sibling, but I could be wrong) in the family and it looked like he would like to have the same kind of fun. Having a brother, or sibling to play with certainly helps!

Finding ‘fossils’ in the sand

Anything, and everything comes alive when your 2 boys put your imagination together, otherwise, a foam dinosaur, will remain a foam dinosaur.

First Publish January 12, 2014