The World You’re Inheriting

Dear Boys,

I’ve heard more than once, “I wouldn’t want to bring a child into the world full of pain and suffering.” so says a newly wedded couple, or a childless couple.

Why?

Initially, I wasn’t ready for a response, but as the narrative sinks in, I guess I have to kind of address for it you boys to understand. First of all, we have to understand the complexities of the current world, and how the demographics have changed, and the demands have evolved.

Procreation

It is in all living beings biological drive to reproduce and carry on the gene pool. even a bacteria knows how to do that. It is a natural order for a male and female organism to get together and create the next generation. It shouldn’t have been different for humans. But we choose to use our greater cognitive prowess against ourselves.

The Me, Myself, and I Generation

These days we are looking at a world where companies are out to sell us stuff, that makes us feel good, look good, and be good, all the goodness in it. There is a plethora of services and solutions that people can pay to make themselves feel good. People are earning enough to pamper themselves to kingdom come and high heavens.

We have reached a self-gratifying generation where people are not encouraged to do anything above and beyond what is needed to do. There is no need for anyone to do anything selfless like parenting. Why bother to raise children when I can have all the time for myself?

Is the world really that bad?

Our perception shapes our reality. Opinion might differs as a matter of a cup half full or half empty. The news agencies would certainly like to paint a sour picture as bad news certainly sells better than good news, which is the irony. Which it isn’t. Dramatics and violence always sells, and captures the attention of the masses.

The news and media agencies are cashing in on our Selective Negative Bias and our addiction towards it, somehow negative bias stirs our emotions, captures our attention, and jolts us to action. Poverty, War, Death and Destruction are all tools the media use to sell their existence. Try to find a newspaper that is totally dedicated to good news.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Too much of anything

We must always learn to strike a balance on how our reality is. Some might argue that the world we are in, the challenges we are facing, global warming, crime, war, COVID19 are all completely justifiable reasons for us to protect our future generations from, by not bringing them into this world.

The world we live in can never be completely bad, neither can it be complete good. There is always a mixture of both and we have to decipher the reality correctly to continue living. The virtue that our race is still here, means we are so far doing a decent job.

Our World, Their Reality

You boys might not have heard of Boyan Slat, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Greta Thunberg, and I’m sure their parents did have plans for them to reach their level of influence, but they did and rise above and beyond what their parents to achieve during their life time.

As your parents, I can only hope that the both of you turns out to become decent adults, never mind that you might not save the world, or clean up the ocean, but there is always a chance that you might raise children that do.

With every iteration of the human race, we raise people who brings good to this world. Of course, there are also maniacs out there, who took all the darkness and destroys the world, Adolf Hitler’s parents wouldn’t have had him if they’re gonna see the kind of death and destruction their son brought upon the world. Then again, that’s debatable, I certainly don’t hope to see you boys head that direction of notoriety.

Hope

I’m your dad, a guy, and a husband, and your mum, my wife told me more than once she wants to have my children. I can only guess that whatever I’m doing, gives her a safe haven, comfort and confidence for her to feel it is worth it to risk her life to bear children for me. That’s the logic part of me, perhaps it is the love between us, the bond we have for each other that is so intimate and deep, having kids of our own is a manifestation of that love.

I certainly hope that both of you boys grow up to become men who can provide for your women, make them feel safe, sheltered, protected and love, so that they can build a whole family with you with kids.

Ian’s birthday 2009, with grandma

How to Cheat at Soccer

How to Cheat at Soccer

Dear Boys,

This was an interesting story since your dad is not a ‘ball’ guy, and has little or no interest whatsoever in anything ballsy. This happened back in 2006 when I was with the bank.

For cohesion, banks usually will have ‘Recreational Clubs’ to organize activities for the staffs to have fun and bond over non-work related activities. So there was this ‘7-a-side’ soccer tournament and my friends in the department wanted to join. The rule was to form a team of 10, 7 playing, 3 reserves. The guys got a team of 9, and chided me to join as the tenth guy, I was thinking, well, I’m gonna chip in a name to make up the numbers, and probably sit out the whole thing; just a warm body on the bench. No sweat right? I honestly do not plan to see any action, soccer’s not my thing.

The other part was, I mistakenly thought this was Futsal, which is played in a very small area, and with that in mind, I don’t think I’d be expecting a lot of running, even if I played. No sweat.

I Actually Played Soccer!

The tournament was held at St Wilfred Soccer field, which was actually a full size soccer pitch, with a nice artificial turf. The other teams from the bank came much better prepared, they even have their own jerseys, which we found out why, at the end of the tournament.

Despite of just being a bench warmer, I ended up having to play, because some of my friends needed to catch their wind and asked for a time out. So I played, and played terribly, since it was my first time, playing ‘competitively’, my opponents was certainly much, much better. While I tried the best I could, I was completely out-dribbled and out classed by my opponents. On top of that, running around chasing the ball in a full size soccer pitch really takes the wind out of you, and I almost died out there, the fitness necessary to play soccer was really no joke, and the professionals have to do it for a full 90 minute.

Aikido to the Rescue (or not!)

Not knowing how to be a soccer player. I turn to the other physical activity I knew and was very good at: Aikido. The only good as an Aikidoka, was I can take contact sports and give as good as I get, but this is not martial arts, it’s soccer,. My brain was processing, ‘ball’ or ‘guy’. ball’ or ‘guy’ and my instinct was to attack the guy, not the ball, so I charged and dived the only way I knew (the artificial turf was such a luxury to dive in!), and of course my opponent, easily run circles around your dad, the clumsy soccer noob. Obviously I also don’t have the technical skills to dribble nor pass the ball to my team-mates properly, and likely end up more of a liability than part of a team.

It was all for the sake of fun and we all did enjoyed ourselves. We didn’t do shabby either, and managed to score some goals and climbed the small leader board.

4th place and the Commotion

Eventually we ended up 4th place, and was not bad, not last at the very least. While everyone gathered at the rest point, to have the medals presented, we heard a commotion. Apparently the runner up team complained to the judges.

The Champions cheated.

The winning team had more than 10 players, and the reason why they wore jerseys, was so that they can switch out their players and people can’t really tell the difference between the players, wearing the same jersey. We played against them, and we didn’t notice any change in their players. Maybe my friends did, but I sure as hell didn’t. Well, the other teams found out and protested the fraud.

They got disqualified, weren’t too happy about it, and even kick up a temper. They say a lot of their friends wanted to join and the 10 person limit meant that some of them would not be able to play, which was why they swop jersey so that their friends can have a change to play, which would also meant fielding fresh players as well. What an excuse!

Being in the 4th place, we got pushed up and became the 2nd runner-ups, thanks to the turn of events in our favor!

The 7 Wonders.

Your Dad- The Debt Collector

Your Dad- The Debt Collector

Dear Boys,

One of the many jobs your dad did was a Debt Collector, not the ‘Ah Long’ type, but the legal type, I started off this line of work with Standard Chartered Bank, that was here I met your mum. (That’s a story for another time) Back then such line of work was called ‘Customer Assistance’ and other times it is called ‘Credit Management’. Colloquially, we are known as Credit Control, Debt Collections, Collections or even ‘Accounts Receivables’.

Your dad’s desk, 2008

Lessons Learned

I spent almost 10 years there, from 1999-2009, and looking back, it was these years that I reflect back and learned a lot of lessons, in handling people, more about myself as a person, and also the unintended long tail of consequences. The more salient points first.

Money Management

People called it ‘financial literacy’, passive income and all that fancy name, for me it is plain simple, your output must not be more than your input, you cannot spend more than you earn. Of course if you are in business and investing, this sounds like an act of financial cowardice, but hey, this simple principle has ensured that no one is suing your dad for debts, or your dad is so swamped with bills he has not more money to spend on the family.

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

True Story

True story, I was working with a bank and through our system, I picked up an account, and looked at the profile: Young guy, just joined the military, his credit limit- $6,000, which he has maxed out couple of months back and he is now overdue in paying his credit cards. It’s a brand new account by the way. He also have a ‘Line of Credit’ account, which is similar to a credit card except you don’t have a credit card, maxed out at $6,000 as well.

That makes his total debt with my bank $12,000.

Back then we can call our counterparts in other banks to do something of a ‘card check’, this quid pro quo industry practice back then helps us manage our debtors, exchange information to help us get a more holistic picture about how deep our debtor’s debt is, actually. This guy?

Other than my bank, he also owed, like maybe 4 to five other banks.

Which means his total debt known is about… $60,000?

For a young guy who just stepped into the working world as a SAF regular.

Let’s work the sums back, usually banks will grant you a credit limit of 2x your income. If he had the $6,000, it mean that his income is about $3,000. How much we say he owed all the banks?

Good. Luck. To. Him.

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

Garnishee order (of sorts)

You boys might not heard of such a thing, but the bank is legally allowed to take the money you have in your savings/ current account to pay off your debts. This happened to one guy who was so unlucky to have this happened to him on his payday.

He owed the bank credit card debts which he didn’t pay and the account was cancelled. Once that happens, the bank will want the full payment from you. For his case, his savings/ current account was with the same bank, where he puts his salary in. Since there was money in there, we took everything and use it to pay off his credit cards, which was still not enough to clear everything.

We wipe out everything in his savings account, and it was still not enough to clear his credit card debts.

He called in that morning, because he tried to use his savings ATM card to pay for his daughter’s medical bill, and it was decline. Of course.

There was nothing we can do as it is standard procedures, like so many debtors I’ve come across, he had tonnes of excuse, but it was sheer bad luck that we cancelled his account and took all his money at the moment he got the salary. Now he has to find other ways to tide over the month till his next pay check.

For Garnishee Order, it is actually quite technical, first the bank or creditor has to find out your payday, and execute this order, on or near your payday, of which the court can seize your salary and use it to pay the banks. and the next pay check, the banks have to do it all over again.

Next time, I’ll tell you boys some more stories about things that has happened in the banks.

Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash

No Gain=No Pain

No Gain=No Pain

The old adage of ‘No Pain, No Gain’ centres a lot on our masochistic nature to push ourselves above and beyond. This sheer bravado is dangerous as it teases the ego to carry out whatever the pain threshold, just to get a little gain. And reinforces the concept that pain is good, as much as gain is.

The thing is what can we gain out of pain, really? What have we got to prove? We are tougher? We are tougher than the other guy?

We all have our breaking point, all of us, we will break at our given level. So sometimes, we can go beyond the pain, to gain, but what we really potentially can gain is irreparable damage.

So what we gain instead is pain, long term suffering.

Aikido, as with most spiritual endeavours, is about abandonment. The relinquishing of our hold that binds us to our suffering. Hence, the opposite is true, what we gain in value, causes us no pain.

Photo by Andres Ayrton from Pexels

Think of the fats we gain, and our attempts to go to the gym to work it out and get that perfect abs. In order for us to ‘gain’ that six-pack; we ‘pain’ ourselves with 1000 sit ups, brain washing ourselves with every rep, ‘No pain, no gain!’ Who are we kidding?

We need to put the cart in front, and be mindful of what we gain, we will still gain something and we cannot help it. And those that we have gain, causes us pain, we have to shed them, before these gains turn into real pain.

So had we prevent our mouths from gaining access to that delicious donut, we will have saved our entire body the pain of losing it later.

Photo by Tim Samuel from Pexels

So the more mindful we are about what we gain, the better we get at reducing our pain.

Posted on June 13, 2012

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

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