Sunday, October 14, 2012

Days of our lives...a step back...

This has got me thinking about my life right now...

It has been work, work, work...for as long as I remember, after I graduated back in 1982.
Even when the kids came along, I had to juggle work and being a mom. Hubby was helpful and family
was often nearby to help. There was my mum and dad when I had my first girl.Then when I had my other
two younger kids, my mum in-law came to stay I was certainly lucky. My real test came when I took a two year break from to become a full time mom and followed my husband to the US where he was studying for his Masters. I had to take care of the kids full time while hubby went off to study. It was a very trying time but it gave me the experience to learn more about being a housewife and mother. As I look back now, it was a good basis for a strong relationship with my kids...I am in contact with them everyday either through Watsapp or Facebook or Skype. My children are all great kids and I sincerely hope they remain in contact with me and my husband even when they are all gorwn up, married adn with kids of their own. One hears of stories where paremts get alienated from their children as they age. As I go on in years, I pray everyday that God will keep my family in his care always. I won't be retiring just yet, can't afford to retire actually. So I trudge to work everyday, praying for good health and the strength to carry on and deliver the tasks given to me, plus the responsibility entrusted upon me.

Family is important to me...not only my nucleus family but my extended family members. Having read my sister's stories of our lives when we were young made me want to reflect on mine as well. I had a good childhood...I had good memories of growing up, I remember everything, my parents, my relatives, my brothers and sisters, my neighbours, my neighbourhood, my friends, my school, my childhood. Yes there were good times, and good memories but there were also some not so good times. Still I think I will want to remember the good times cos this is what has shaped me to be what I am today...

Will be wiriting soon...

My sister's walk down memory lane...

This is my sister's is so beautifully written I just had to share it.  Here goes...

...Whenever I returned from the UK, my siblings and I would reminisce about the "good ole days". Actually, I am not sure that they were all happy memories so it is with slight trepidation that I have decided to recount my childhood memories.

Nevertheless, my intention here is not to wallow in self pity or seek sympathy but rather to remember our humble beginning so when we reflect on the present and the past it reminds us to be humble always yet take pride in the fact that we did not become slaves to our past. I also hope that it teaches the younger generation about humility and to never give up without trying because despite whatever struggles or obstacles we face in life, there is always hope and we can succeed and achieve anything if we set our mind to it and strive hard and that the real failure in life is if we never tried.


Yes, those were the days of our lives, we were poor. We were eight in our family. Not sure how my parents orchestrated such equal distribution of our sexes but we were three girls and three boys. My father was the sole breadwinner working as an electrician at the Singapore naval base so it was always a real struggle to make ends meet. I think my father's monthly take home pay was something like $300ish and around $400 when he retired. Even in those days and definitely by todays standard, we were living below the poverty line. Often, we could barely pay the bills but my mum made sure that we were fed, watered and cleanly clothed.

We had an account with the local provision shop for our necessity food like rice and some dried stuff but some months we would have difficulty paying the bill. Luckily for us, the owner was a kind man and allowed us to "put it on our tab" until we cleared the debt in our own time, which usually took a period of a few months each time. I am not sure if all my siblings remember this bit but the few of us who were assigned to ask the shop owner each time, certainly remember to this day. How could we forget...the embarrassment of it all!


Our house was as you would expect, very modest. We moved a few times but the house I remember the most before I left for the UK was the one above a steel/metal factory shop, which was part of a long row of terraced shophouses. We shared this accommodation with my uncle, one of my dad's brother and his family. We had the front of the house and they had the rear. As such, our home consisted of one bedroom - my parents', a fair sized living room and the balcony which served as our dining room and kitchen. There was also the tiny space above the staircase which was turned into a bedroom for my eldest sister and the rest of us shared the living room which by night was converted into our bedroom. In the morning, we would fold and pack up all our mattresses and store them in my parents' room. That was our daily routine and it worked. We did not ask or expect a lot as kids so not having much or any luxury items in our house was never an issue. Guess you cannot miss what you don't have but did we really deserve a wasps' nest? Yes, we had one right above the main door of our house at the bottom of our staircase. Mind you, nobody seemed to be disturbed by this apparent danger sitting at the entrance of our house but it was terrifying for me. It was an art to get up or down that staircase without being stung. Somehow, no matter how skilful I was, I was constantly stung. As if this was not bad enough, there were the other enemies, those vicious mosquitoes! No wonder, I have this phobia, no HATRED for insects to date.


We had all heard about this orang minyak, the oily man. He was essentially a burglar who oiled himself so that he was too slippery to grab should he be caught. One night we had the misfortune of his visit although up until then I thought he was just a myth or part of a scaremongering rumour. He had climbed up the drainpipe and onto our balcony, which only had a canvas for windows so it wasn't much of an effort for him to enter our house.

Unfortunately, my eldest sister's "bedroom" was the most obvious on entry so he jumped up there and stole her handbag. As he jumped down, my mother happened to come out from her bedroom and she had the biggest shock. Almost catatonic with the chamber pot in her hand, all she could manage was to shrivel out my father's name "Ah Seng" repeatedly until he awoke. Then the whole family was awake. It was pandemonium! My father tried to catch him but he made the slip and was quickly down the drainpipe and then he was gone. It was very scary and we all huddled together. My parents' main concern was for my sister but luckily she was unharmed because orang minyak was just after her bag. Phew, thank god! Afterwards, my father asked my mother why she did not shout "help" instead of just calling out his name but I guess it was all she could manage at the time. Personally, I thought she did very well considering she did not drop the chamber pot. After this incident, my father replaced the canvas with a stronger one as this was all we could afford.


I was not streetwise for a long time and my nightmare experience busing to school when I was eight years old certainly did not help.

I recently asked my mother why it was that my older brother and sister had transport to school whilst I had to bus it at such a tender age. Apparently, my brother was given lifts from a neighbour whose son went to the same school and it was a similar story with my sister. My other siblings were too young to go to school so it was my sheer bad luck. I wouldn't have minded so much but the bus conductor was a sadistic scoundrel. He was evil! As I was too small to reach the bell, I had to ask him to stop the bus for me but instead he would shout and tell me off for asking too early and would deliberately allow the bus to pass my school every time so that I had to back track all the way to school. I was always angst about being late for school although I normally started out an extra half an hour early so I always made it on time. I so dreaded the journey to school that I prayed every night for a different bus conductor to be on duty but sadly, it was always ground hog day all over again. It was no wonder that I used to have nightmares and they were the same recurring ones, either forgetting to bring my schoolbag or books or not wearing shoes to school. I never told anyone back then because even at eight I was actually embarrassed for being so helpless. I am only glad that despite being traumatised, that degenerate bully did not scar me for life. On the contrary, he made me more determined to win and succeed in life. Must be my inherited maternal gene. Anyway, the moral of the story is Never let bullies win so,

I WON! I wonder if he got his karma.

Then came the bus strike. Of course my often tortured childhood would not be complete without it. My parents arranged for me to stay at my great grandmother's place as it was near my school and my aunt or uncle fetched me to and from school. I cried for the two weeks because I missed my family but my great grandmother was lovely. She tried her best to console me and kept giving me a dollar every day to buy sweets. After that, my mum managed to arrange a school van to take me. Now you would have thought that my problem was over but the driver was a fierce scary woman. I remember everyone calling her "ah ngeng" meaning eggs because she used to sell eggs. Back then it was not uncommon to call everyone by their occupations and not bother with their real names. Well, getting on that school van was an experience in itself. If you can picture a miniature version of how the Indians board their trains in India, it was exactly like it. When the van arrived, everyone just rushed and piled in so being the smallest, I got pushed and shoved around a lot but I got on it. One day though, I think I was late coming out because my class finished late and ah ngeng left without me! I was horrified. I could not believe it at first but I was also hoping that ah ngeng would realise and come back for me. She never did and after several hours, the school was deserted. I had no money and it was too far to walk home. I continued waiting, hoping that someone would come for me but no one came. By now it was getting dark and it was the late evening, so I remember climbing up and sitting by the statue of Our Lady which stood in front of the Convent school so that I could be seen. Finally, I heard that familiar sound of my uncle Mike's Vespa approaching the school. I was so happy that I ran down and hugged him. He came for me! Apparently, ah ngeng refused to come back for me because it was my fault for coming out late so eventually my parents managed to ask my uncle to come for me. Uncle Mike had a heart of gold but sadly he had cancer when he was in his 30ties and passed away. He was a great loss, he was my saviour!

By now, I began to notice a very familiar consistent pattern following me so I couldn't but help wonder if I was born a jinx or if it was just my sheer misfortune for picking the shortest straw when God was handling out silver spoons. Nowadays, I just shrug it off as a coincidence and keep positive.


I was in the school choir and drama when I was in secondary school. Every Christmas, the school would put on a musical pageant for parents, students and the public. It was wonderful because I loved singing and our choir. My music teacher was in charge of the choir and therefore the Christmas show. She did the casting too and somehow I always managed to land the lead singing role and my best friend had the opposite number but hers was more of an acting role because although she was a good little actress, she was tone deaf. I enjoyed our rehearsals because they were so fun and great and especially when they exempted me from PE, which I loathed. I wasn't exactly sporty and I was a rather plump teenager then too. We had to wear those ridiculously big blue bloomers for PE, which made my rear balloon out and I looked like a humongous blue and white penguin so I became very self-conscious. I was very grateful that choir and rehearsals gave me the best excuse not to do PE. One year, our choir was invited to sing at the RTM, our local radio station so it was a highlight for the school. Afterwards, the producer invited me to do a recording on my own on a separate occasion. I guess he thought I could sing. I remember I sang a couple of songs but I can only remember the song "Bengawan Solo". I was paid $20 for the recording. I was thrilled! He wanted to sign me on for a regular spot so we arranged a date. He met me at the bus stop so that he could take me to the studio but alas, someone spotted us and reported it to my mum so when I returned home, I was grounded and forbidden to meet him again. I am not sure why I never mentioned it to my parents then but I think by that stage, I was rather independent. However, due to my naivety and innocence, I couldn't understand my mums's concerns but now I think my mum was really afraid that he might be a paedophile. Anyway, that was the end of my potential singing career or at least the penultimate one, as it so happened.


My school organised a Talent Time so a couple of my friends and I entered this singing contest. This was our equivalent X-Factor except it wasn't even close to Simon Cowell's league. Nevertheless, we stood a good chance of winning although we were aware of another girl group who were our main competitor. On the night, we sang "Monday Monday" by the Mamas and Papas and we harmonised very well until we committed the cardinal sin for any singing competition, as Simon Cowell would say. Horror of horrors! All three of us forgot the lyrics of the same line simultaneously. We froze then and I must have died a thousand deaths so I prayed for the floor to open and swallow us up. Thank goodness for family. Before we knew what had happened, my eldest brother was standing on stage with us singing "our forgotten line" and somehow we managed to complete the song. THIS was the last time I entered any singing competition!


Watching television was a treat, usually at the weekends at either my great grandmother's (mum's side) or my uncle's (dad's brother). Sometimes when there was a programme in the week that we wanted to watch, my sister and I would go to one of our neighbours a few doors from us that is to say, we watched from outside. This neighbour was very rich so they owned the whole house and their living room was downstairs where they had their television facing the outside. They didn't mind onlookers and we were just grateful to be allowed to stand outside their door to watch. We weren't always the only ones, sometimes there was a whole heap of other people there too. Much later on, we inherited an old television and record player, can't remember whose cast offs they were but my father fixed them and got them to work so I felt that we were at last going up in the world. I think we had a couple of records given to us too and I remember playing them over and over again whilst I did the ironing. One of them was a Pat Boone record which played one of my old time favourite "Speedy Gonzales". Yes, now all of you know my history with this song.

Special occasions like "Chingay", usually celebrated on the last day of the chinese new year was when my parents took all of us to the waterfront to watch the processions. At the time I didn't know that these Chingay parades were a celebration of the birthdays of the deities like the Goddess of Mercy and the God of Prosperity because as kids, I thought they were just great family outings. The processions were amazing! These were big yearly events and always oozed opulence and glitz, which consisted of a convoy of exciting and vibrantly decorated floats with beautifully dressed people on them that seem to go on forever, colourfully clothed men on stilts, dragons and people on gongs and drums. There were also lots of firecrackers adding to the festivity. People packed and lined the streets so that they could watch the procession go by but because my siblings and I were all little, my father had to piggy back us in succession so that we could see.

Grand Prix was another special family occasion. We would go early and climb up to the top of the post office tower in town and watch it from there because this was the best spot to watch all the racers go by. Those were such fun times.

So you see despite our humble existence, it was not always doom and gloom. We were a happy family and my parents brought us up well. We were well mannered, disciplined and respectful. Basically we were so well behaved, often seen and not heard that we were branded "good children". My parents showed us the importance of family and unity so we were a tight unit. We did everything together and pathetic though it may seem but I can only remember ever going everywhere with the family right through to late adolescence with the exception of school.


For most of our austere childhood, there really was not much else to do except "homework, study", housework and of course our various jobs to bring in the money for the family. However, as the proverb goes "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", so we made our own games. I remember playing a game called "five stones" with my two sisters. We made and sewed these ourselves using some spare cloth and sand for the filling. It was a great game and best of all it did not cost us anything.

My eldest brother was very innovative and always the intellect. He loved reading and was a straight "A" student so unsurprisingly he is a cardiologist today. Mind you, that or he would have become a priest if not for my parents' vehement objections. He was exempt from most household chores and sports because he suffered terribly from asthma as a child. I can still visualise him "wheezing" during his bad attacks, poor thing. I also remember my mum making some "white mice concoctions" for him. I mean can you believe it , no wonder his asthma worsened, he was probably allergic to those damn mice!!! Those damn old wives' tales and wannabes dishing out unfounded advice never cease to amaze me but more worrying is that some educated people today still believe them, huh?!! As I said, my brother was very enterprising, artistic and very competitive. He invented a fantastic board game for us. Think it involved battleships and all, although the name escapes me but we had great fun with it. Like most siblings, of course there were also lots of "arguments" involving winning and winners but I guess it was his invention after all. Shame we never thought to patent it.... Much later on, we acquired a couple of ping pong bats which we would play on our only multi-purpose table and of course the "carrom" board game also kept us entertained for hours...arguments and fights inclusive.


The most priceless home entertainment that I can remember was my father. We were little then. Sometimes to entertain us in the evenings, my father would disappear and reappear from his bedroom. He would comb his "brylcreemed" hair in different styles to make us laugh. He was so silly but as kids, we all laughed and thought he was very funny except for my mum because she felt that we would not respect him after this. On the contrary, we all loved him because he was the sweetest, most doting and best father in the world. Sadly, we lost him over 3years ago. We miss him very much.

To this day, I can still remember his "Elvis" look, the most. My father loved Elvis. Elvis was big, he was the King! We grew up with his songs and his films, which were shown in cinemas and later on television. When we were teenagers, my father took my eldest sister and brother to see a couple of his films but I was not included because I was probably too young so I was not a happy bunny. I think I cried and threw a few tantrums for all the good it did me. Still I think my dad did the best he knew how to under the circumstances. He was a kind gentle person, blessed with a calm quiet disposition so nothing seem to irk him irrespective of whatever adversities we faced. Always selfless and giving everything he had to us, I don't think he had any possessions of his own and we, his family were his only pride and joy. What a gem!

~GRANDMOTHER (mum's mother): LIFE SAVER~

My Ah Mah was another gem too and our life saver! She was a short small woman who wore her hair in a bun and dressed in the nonya style. Having had a tough life herself since she was widowed at a young age, I don't remember her ever complaining of the hard life she had. She stayed with her in-laws all the time, doing housework and helped to look after all her young cousins, nieces and nephews, which was why she knew all their birthdays and family history. Later on, she went to stay with one of her cousin, whom she got on with very well, again working and helping out with the family. She would come to us on Sundays and we would all go to church together then stayed and spent the rest of the day with us. Of course, we also saw her at other times and on various celebratory occasions. Then there were those dreaded times when a few of my siblings and I would have to see her. With six children to feed and bills to pay, my father's salary was often insufficient so we had to ask her for help. Very often, we would designate my middle brother to ask her for help as he was her favourite. She would give us whatever she could every time and not once did she refuse or nag. She gave unconditionally....that's the type of person our grandmother was. My only regret is that I was not here when she passed away. In fact, I didn't even know that she was ill and was only informed of her death much later on as I was overseas and my parents felt that I needn't come back, which was a rather sad and unfortunate decision because I would have liked to have seen her for the last time. That was the least I could have done considering all the help and love she gave us all. May she rest in peace..


My childhood memory would not be complete without mentioning our favourite aunt Millie, my mum's cousin-sister and her husband. They were very much a part of our lives. Aunt Millie and my mum shared this amazing kinship, having grown up together ... and they were tight. Naturally, she was very close to all of us too and we saw a lot of her. My mum also minded her two children when they were young. Aunt Millie, god rest her soul, we lost her a good few years ago, was a very special person and the best aunt we had. She was the kindest, loveliest and most generous person you could ever know. Nothing was too much to ask and she would always put others before herself, much to the annoyance of her husband, who was not of the same cut although he was okay with my family. One time, they hired a van and took all of us to Jasons Bay for a picnic. I don't think any of my family could swim except for my father and my middle brother. My brother was the tiniest teenager and the smallest amongst his friends but he was more streetwise than the rest of us. He hung out a lot with his friends and learnt to swim and cycle with them. Shame he grew up too quickly because I used to bribe him with treats so that he would buy my sanitary pads for me as I was too embarrassed to get them myself but he refused once he got wise. Still it's always advantageous to have many siblings so I worked on my youngest brother.

We arrived at the beach and unpacked our picnic. Everyone was excited and rushed into the water but I was less enthusiastic so I stayed on the beach with my mum and aunt. They wouldn't leave me alone and coaxed me in. Disaster! No sooner when I put both feet in the water, I got bitten by some crab or shell-like animal. It stung like hell. I tried to pull it off but it would not let go so my father or uncle yanked it off. My foot swelled immediately and it was very painful so there was panic. I felt bad for ruining their fun but then if only they had left me alone. Aunt Millie was the manager of Jaro, an arts and crafts centre in Johor Bahru, whose employees were mainly disabled but with exceptional skills. Of course, being the amazing person she was, she was brilliant at her work and naturally very popular with all her staff and customers alike. My sisters and I also benefited from her working there because every chinese new year, she would buy us new clothes from Jaro so we at least had something new to wear for chinese new year. Now, not that I am ungrateful but she would dress my younger sister and I like twins, always identical dresses in two different sizes. Yeah!... I guess.


My mother was also very enterprising. To help make ends meet, she took on child minding. There were the neighbours' children, my little cousins and a few other kids. Their parents would drop them off in the mornings before going off to work and pick them up when they finished work in the evenings. This carried on for a few years. Although it wasn't much, it helped to subsidise our livelihood. Ah Soh, our neighbour next door soon became our good friend. She and her husband lived in the premises above their coffee shop which they jointly ran so my mum minded her son during the day. Ah Soh's in-laws also owned a couple of cafes, which served the best fresh cream cakes in town. We were very fortunate to have sampled them because she often gave us bags of remnant cake bits. These were bits that were cut off from the edges or something and that would have been thrown out so although they didn't look too great squashed in a plastic bag, we weren't proud. They were delicious!


As we were growing up so did our needs which put more of a strain on our already stretched financial situation so when my siblings and I reached adolescence barring the three youngest who were still children, my family engaged in a local cottage industry - umbrella making. There was a small factory just down the road from our house that was employing people to sew and make umbrellas for them. I think they paid a miserable $2.60 per dozen umbrellas. The deal was that we would pick up the umbrella parts from them, sew them at home, returned the completed umbrellas to them and be paid after they checked and approved each and every one of them.

Since we were all schooling as well then, we could only manage to sew two dozens at a time so at the weekends, our living room was transformed into a small umbrella factory. Being the perfectionist that I still am I was assigned to sew the umbrella heads because this needed to be perfect to prevent any puckering and the umbrellas falling apart. After that experience, we became umbrella experts.


My eldest sister by now had completed her "O" levels. She sacrificed pursuing further studies but went on to successfully complete a tying/secretarial course and landed her first job. She gave half of her salary to our family so we were very grateful for her generosity. My three younger siblings and I also got a Saturday job, cleaning my great aunt's house, where my grandmother was and who recommended us. This was a very wealthy family and I secretly called them the godfather family. They had a ginormous detached house or a bungalow as they call it here with a huge compound. We washed the whole house inside out, every nook and corner, every single room from top to bottom including all the windows, railings and the drains outside. The four of us worked continuously from 08.00hrs till lunchtime and believe me, it was extremely exhausting hard work especially when one is so anal about cleanliness like me. When the house was spick and span our great aunt would spread eagle on the floor with excitement whilst we waited patiently to be paid. Many a time, my grandmother had to remind her. We could not wait to run back home for a shower, then have lunch which my mum always had ready for us. I have never complained about hard work before but I always thought that it was child exploitation, for a measly $6! After a year, my grandmother negotiated a raise for us - $12. Even so after a couple more years we stopped because we couldn't continue really. After all, we were only kids and we were physically burnt out. Financially, it was still a struggle but somehow with my eldest sister's contribution we seemed to manage.


My mother was a full time mother and housewife and she worked tirelessly day in and out but the stress and physical hard work over the years soon took its toll on her health so my youngest sister and I took over most of the chores. With my eldest sister out working and eldest brother asthmatic, my other siblings and I did most of the housework between us when my mum took ill. My youngest sister and I did the laundry for the whole family, which was a challenge. Prior to this we took everything my mum did for granted. Since washing machines were unheard of and we couldn't afford it if there were anyway, it was sheer physical strength and stamina. We had to scrub the clothes clean, then rinse several times I must add and wrung dry before hanging them up on bamboo sticks. My poor little sister probably cursed me quietly because I wouldn't allow her to cut corners being the anal that I was. She and my middle brother did the marketing because I hated the wet market, having accompanied my mother only once. It was dirty and the smell of fish and seafood was repugnant to me. My youngest brother ran errands for us especially to the local shop. My sister also helped my mum with the cooking but I inherited the ironing and cleaning. I remember my sister tried ironing but trousers especially would end up with more lines in them so I banned her. Cleaning was my forte, I had to clean everything and everything had to be cleaned properly irrespective of how tired or busy I was. Guess that's how I became a "scrubber" and neurotic about cleanliness. Ask any of my family or friends and they will vouch to this. I suppose old habits die hard.


Every Christmas eve, my eldest sister would make chicken pies for our late supper which we savoured when we returned from attending midnight mass. It was a real treat and I always looked forward to going home after mass. They were the best and most scrumptious chicken pies we ever tasted! Thank you, sis.


When we got older my parents decided to give us each our weekly allowance. Think it was $2. It was sufficient because back then, a bowl of noodles or the like would cost 20-30cents. Sometimes I had a few spare coins to buy sweets but mostly I saved my money to buy my "Sixteen" magazine monthly. This was a popular teenage magazine with all the pop artists of the time, the likes of Elvis, David Cassidy and lots of actors. I also made my own scrapbook from these magazine cuttings and included lots of song lyrics too. I was very proud of my scrapbook, it was my worldly possession. One day, I had a big fight with my eldest brother. Being of the same fiery temperament, things got really ugly. He squashed all the pages of my scrapbook because he knew this would hurt me the most. I was beside myself and at that time, I felt a deep sense of loss and I could not stop crying. Afterwards, he must have felt terrible because he sellotaped some of the ripped pages before returning it back to me. I was so angry that I just threw it back at him. The damage was done...he had ruined everything! A few days later, I did pick it up but the pages were more torn and crumpled. I did my best to salvage it and even ironed some of the pages but it was never the same again. I stopped buying my magazines and I didn't add anything else after that. It was gone.....luckily time is a healer. I had forgotten about my scrapbook until now. I wonder what became of it? My youngest brother however, is completely different from the two of us, even tempered. He is also generous, considerate and very capable. He would use his left over allowance to buy us snacks and things. He always remembered our birthdays and would surprise us with cards and little presents. I don't know who taught him to be so sentimental but he is a very special person and he is my little brother even when he towers over me now.


When I was in my late teens, I used to go shopping in Singapore with my older sister. We would take the bus to Woodlands or Beauty World and sometimes to Orchard Road. Mostly, we bought clothes. I really enjoyed our trips, they were great but I ended up with a collection of new clothes hanging in the cupboard.

Trouble was I wasn't really sociable back then so I was very selective with friends and only had a handful of close friends from school. We normally hung out together at their homes but we didn't really party a lot unlike my youngest sister who had loads of friends and parties. Sometimes I had to ask my parents on her behalf to let her go out as there were quite a few. Guess my parents trusted my sensibility.

Needless to say, most of the dresses I had bought were brand new and kept for special occasions. You can imagine my horror when my sister started to wear them for work. I was so upset because I hadn't even worn them myself and she did not ask my permission so I complained to my mother but mum said that it was good to share. That was not good enough, I wanted revenge. I decided to use something of hers in return so when she went to work the next day, I used her hair removing cream on my legs. Big mistake! Obviously I was allergic to the cream as my legs was covered in rashes and became beetroot red. Retribution, I could not believe it! If it was not so comical I would cry. I had no choice but to inform my mother. She put some ointment on my legs and the rashes went after a couple of days. I was so ashamed and embarrassed for being wicked and revengeful that I made my mother promise not to tell on me but the guilt played on my mind for a long time. Sorry sis. From that day on, rightly or wrongly, I swore that I would not lie or do anything bad intentionally because it wasn't worth it, my guilty conscience would eat me up inside. Besides, knowing my luck, I would be caught in the first instance.


I don't know if it is nature or nurture and perhaps it is both but even as a child I had strict principles and high expectations of myself. I am thankful for my childhood and life experiences, which has taught me well - to value life and live it to the fullest without regrets or guilt. I believe in honesty and respecting and treating others as I would like to be treated myself. I no longer am embarrassed or proud to admit fault where fitting but I will not suffer fools gladly either. I especially detest people who are dishonest, selfish and self-absorbed because I truly believe that we should always be helpful and kind to others and especially to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. I therefore have a zero tolerance for people who are cruel or deliberately ignorant but I have all the patience in the world for the needy, must be my years in the nursing profession. However, from personal experience, I realise that this is by no means an easy feat because there are so many variables that are beyond our control and most importantly whether that person wants to be helped.

Nevertheless, I still believe that one should not shirk from responsibilities regardless of the situation so even when everything is not within our control, my paradigm in life is to try to do the right thing wherever possible and not put things off for a rainy day because it might just be too late and what is left would only be regret or guilt. Going on holidays and having fun can always take a back seat but the needs of ageing parents should not. One never knows how long parents are going to be around but the lucky ones are those who still have them. So no matter how inconvenient or busy one is, I believe it is so much better if we never have to say the "if onlys.....if only I found the time or if only I spent more time". People often say that my siblings and I are such devoted and filial children when in fact it is the only decent and very least we can do.

Looking back, I don't regret the pain, suffering or the difficult childhood we had because I believe it was our past that has shaped us into decent human beings. Even when things were not always easy for us, it did not make us resentful because we managed to have many good times too and my family remained a close-knit one.

I don't doubt that had we been rich, our outcomes today would be very different and not necessarily for the better. Instead the experiences we shared has made us all stronger and given us the self respect and belief to succeed and made us more resolute in achieving our goals and what we have today. So yes, we all made it.... we have come a long way.


I want to thank my parents for all that they have given and done for my siblings and me.Their unconditional love and their determination to keep our family together has shown us the real meaning of a family and taught us the importance of basic human values and virtues in life. I must also thank my siblings, grandmother, close relatives and friends for being a part of my childhood and giving me such wonderful memories to cherish. I am glad that I have taken this opportunity to remember my past because I no longer feel any sense of dread but instead a sense of accomplishment.



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

5 ways to relax

Many people use medications as a way to relax, but this can be dangerous. Finding a good, natural way to relax can not only improve your quality of life, but can also help you lower your stress and deal with health and emotional problems. Finding a good way to relax will help you slow your breathing and heart rate, lower tension, and even help with chronic pain.

There are five great ways to relax, the first being autogenic relaxation, which involves body awareness and visual imagery. This is done by choosing a calming word or phrase and repeating it silently to relax.

Next, visualization requires you to think of calming and peaceful images.

Third, progressive relaxation is a technique that relaxes the groups of the muscles. This is a two step process, and involves first laying on a flat surface, and then starting at the head, tensing the muscles for five seconds, and then relaxing them for thirty seconds. Continue this throughout the body until you make it to the toes.

The fourth technique is to take a breathing break. Taking a 5-10 minute break to sit in a comfortable chair and taking a couple of deep breaths and then exhaling is a great way to relax.

Lastly, exercise is one of the best ways to help you clear your mind and body. Finding natural ways to relax, and staying away from prescription drugs, will not only help you feel better, but will help you live a much healthier life as well.

...relaxation techniques...

How many calories should a woman take per day?

Ever wondered how much calories we require per day? Well, according to this article women my age should have between 1200-1600 calories. But then again, how do we watch what we eat and how many calories per food item? This requires some research...ok found one chart:

"Caloric intake is a fact of life that many people do not pay attention to. Those who work out or are trying to lose weight usually do count calories and keep a close eye on their intake. There are varying factors to determine how many calories you should intake daily to remain healthy, such as age, weight, and amount of physical activity.

On average, a woman needs about 2,000 calories everyday. However, those who work out can intake more, adding around 250 calories a day, as those are burned while exercising. Adding more than this while exercising will counter what you are trying to achieve. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should intake a larger number of calories, closer to 2,200. If you are trying to lose weight or size, eating a lower number of calories is best for you, but no less than 1,200. The reverse is also true: if you are trying to gain weight, your caloric intake should be higher. Your age can vary your caloric intake as well.

Typically, younger women, usually more active, require more calories each day to keep healthy, about 2,200. Teenage girls require the most calories daily because of their growing bodies. Active teenagers require 500-600 more calories than the average teenager. Older women, most of whom are less active, require fewer calories each day, around 1,600. These numbers are averages and for the typical person. Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise plan or diet, and ask him what your caloric intake should be".

Here is a calorie counter if you need one.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Does playing sports and eating a healthy diet help you live longer?

"Many of us know that a good diet and exercise can help us live longer, healthier lives. It is also true that playing sports does the same. This is because when you play sports, you are more active. Moving with speed and purpose will help increase your heart rate, as well as improve your lung capacity. Even sports like golf are helpful because of all the walking required. The running and jumping that many sports require help us with our overall body conditioning, and any sport that requires strength training is also great. It has been shown that players also have a much easier time fighting diseases such as cardiovascular problems, as well as diabetes. There has also been a correlation between sports and lower risks of cancer. One last advantage of playing sports is the emotional benefits. We learn about teamwork, friendship, and work ethic by working together towards a common goal. These skills not only help while playing sports, but also in other areas of our lives. Eating foods like broccoli, which contains anti-carcinogens; oily fish, which help lower cholesterol and prevents strokes and blood clots; and onions which not only help protect from cancer, but also help protect you from breathing conditions such as asthma, will help you live longer. Combining a good diet with playing sports, of any sort, will improve your overall health and increase your chances of living to a great, ripe old age".

Having read this article reminds me of the need to be active once again in sports and eating healthily. As I age, aches and pains increase and the ability to take part in active sports decrease. I do believe sports and eating healthily will help us live longer.  However, we can eat heathily, follow all kinds of meanimgful diets and foods, anti-radicals, anti-toxins, anti-cancers..the works..but all that comes to nought if we are not able to partake in active sports. I wish I could run and climb hills as I did in my younger days. But my hurtful knees and OA does not permit me. If I can manage some walking and some gardening these days, I am happy. I really hope someone will find a cure and delay ageing of the bones and have a cure for OA, gout and the works. But I know that it won't be possible in the near future. Therefore, I shall live my live to the fullest, go where I want to go and do what I want to do. Lots of places to see and the lights of the famous cities beckon to me. I hope I can live a fulfilled life before the end of my time here on earth.

To all of you who can yet walk and enjoy it while it lasts, and if sports and healthy food help prolong your life, by all means, pay heed and follow the advice.
Good luck and best wishes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Goodbye Mr 'Punch' Gunalan, Malaysia's badminton legend

I was taken by surprise with the news last Wednesday that Mr Punch Gunalan, well-known, much loved  and much respected badminton sportsman had passed away. I wasn't aware he was ill nor did I read anything about his illness. Or maybe I hadn't been reading the papers that much lately. the news reported that he was dignosed with liver cancer back in March and now after 6 months he is gone!
My sincere condolences and sympathies to his wife, son and family members on his untimely demise.

I grew up admiring Mr Punch Gunalan's badminton prowess. Back in the 70's and 80's then, Malaysia was indeed a powerhouse in badminton. And now after 4 decades, badminton still remain the sport to be reckoned with. Young or old, badminton seems to be the number one sport in the country. Punch Gunalan as he was sportingly called was indeed so popular and famous back then, that his posters adorn many a girl's bedroom along side that of Rudy Hartono and Lim Swie King. I am indeed saddened by his departure, for his role in promoting sports during his time both as a player and in the IBF, then WBF has been overwhelming.

I managed to visit his wake yesterday and couldn't help but notice so many wreaths adorning the outisde of his house. He was loved by many and from the many messages I read both on the wreaths and in the message book, many loved and will miss him. As I conveyed my condolences to his widow and son, I felt a sense of regret for not knowing him as a person for he was described by many as understanding, caring, friendly and  a great proponent of badminton.

So many young men and women players passed through his hands and they too remember him. May I also extend my condolences to them on their loss, as his widow said, "we have all lost a friend".
In the midst of celebrating our silver medal won at the rceent Olympics by Dato' Lee Chong Wei, let us also remember other badminton greats who have also passed on and who remain with us.

Let us wish all badminton supporters, players and associations/club members well, for less we forget the man and only focus on the game and winning the elusive Olympic gold medal!

To all, Malaysia once again have lost one of its greatest sportsmen, may his legend live on in the hearts of many, may his family find peace and comfort in knowing that he was well loved and remembered by everyone.

Rest in Peace, Mr Punch Gunalan.


Its that time of year again.

Here's wishing all Muslim friends and family a very Happy Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir dan Batin.
May you have great enjoyment and happiness as you spend the festive season with all your loved ones.
May you be safe in  your travels as well.

To all other friends of different religions, have a happy holiday and do visit your Muslim friends and make the occasion a festive and fun one.

Selamat Hari Raya
Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

6 All-Natural Age-Defying Skin Recipes

finally got my blogpost back...
here's something to share...

6 All-Natural Age-Defying Skin Recipes

Dr. Mao's Secrets of Longevity

by Dr. Maoshing Ni

Hundreds of expensive products and procedures exist for beautifying the skin and keeping it looking young and fresh, some of which may pose dangers to your health. Instead, try some of these all-natural, do-it-yourself beauty recipes you can use to keep your skin young and glowing—at a fraction of the cost.
1. A skin peel from nature

Probably one of the fastest ways to look younger is to have a skin peel. While the Retin-A, high-concentration glycolic acid, and harsh chemical peels that cosmetic dermatologists prescribe can decrease lines and result in a smooth skin finish, they also strip your skin's protective layer, increasing your chance of sun damage, skin aging, and skin cancer. In fact, the FDA warns that a high concentration of various skin-peel agents may thin the skin.

The alternative? Simply make a natural skin peel right from your refrigerator. You can use eggplant, tomatoes, pineapple or any other fruits and veggies that contain other natural acids. Thinly slice the ingredients and place them on your face, covering the skin thoroughly. Leave on for 20 minutes, remove the fruit and veggie pieces and wash with warm water. For the first few minutes, your skin may look red, but this should clear up quickly. Follow with a natural moisturizer.

2. Cucumber to remedy rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic skin problem that reddens the forehead, nose, cheeks, and sometimes the chin. Some of the outbreak triggers include alcohol, sunlight, temperature extremes, caffeine, spicy food, among other culprits. In my treatment of rosacea, I focus on soothing the spirit, clearing heat, and using natural remedies to remove skin blockages. A perfect natural remedy is a cucumber mask. Peel the skin off of a fresh cucumber and puree the insides in a blender with one egg white. Coat your face with this mixture, leave on for 30 minutes. And then wash off with cold water. Use this mask daily and you should notice improvement within a month.
3. Yogurt for a smooth skin texture

Yogurt is a traditional ingredient for healthy skin. It contains lactic acid, a naturally occurring alpha-hydroxy acid that gently peels off the dead skin layer, giving you a smooth skin texture. For sensitive skin that cannot withstand commercial alpha-hydroxy acid preparations, yogurt is especially beneficial. Over time, yogurt can also lighten spots and even out a patchy skin tone. To get these results, wash your face and apply organic plain yogurt as a facial cream. Leave on for 15 minutes, wash off with cold water, and finish with a moisturizer. Afterwards, to reduce any redness, apply a cold pack for 10 minutes.
4. Tone with apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can be used as a natural and effective toner for your skin. The malic acid in vinegar helps renew your skin by ridding the epidermis of dead skin cells. Dilute one part cider vinegar in two parts distilled water. After washing your skin, apply the diluted vinegar solution with a cotton pad to your face and neck. Follow with a natural moisturizing lotion.
5. Nature's "facelift"

One of the secrets of Chinese women's youthful looks is the acupuncture face-lift. We have been treating patients with facial-toning acupuncture at our wellness center for over 25 years. Research has shown that acupuncture increases blood flow in the tiny capillaries of the skin and muscles and stimulates collagen production in the dermis layer, which increases skin elasticity. Consult an acupuncturist for a natural face-lift or...
Try this do-it-yourself "facelift":

Using your fingers, you can tone your facial muscles and stimulate the natural production of collagen in the skin. Press firmly with your fingers, working your way methodically along the following points:
Point 1: GB 14 to relax the forehead
Point 2: Yintang to ease furrow between the brows
Point 3: Taiyang to get rid of crows feet around the eyes

Point 4 and 5: LI 20 and ST 3 for minimizing smile lines
Stimulate these points in the morning and at night for beautiful skin tone. For more age-defying tips and techniques, check out my new book Second Spring: Hundreds of Natural Secrets for Women to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age.
6. Tasty super skin foods

While many of the tips above use super foods directly on the skin, some good eats also treat your skin. Super skin foods include cherries, peanuts, black soybeans, walnuts, and jujube dates. Citrus fruits are packed with antioxidants that benefit your skin's health. For dry skin, eat flaxseed oil, sesame oil, olive oil, and virgin coconut oil and avocado every day. And eat a daily handful of nuts and seeds, especially pine nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.

Peaches, an excellent source of potassium and vitamins A and C, have been used in beauty tonics throughout Chinese history. One beauty recipe recommends baked peaches with honey and lavender.

A nutrient found in anchovies and sardines, DMAE (dimethyl-amino-ethanol), is a powerful membrane stabilizer that can reverse age spots on your skin.

To lighten dark circles and minimize skin damage from free radicals, try Asian pear. Asian (or Fuji) pears are packed with copper and vitamin C, antioxidant nutrients that help protect you from cellular damage caused by free radicals, preserving your skin's beauty and vitality.

These natural recipes will bring you beautiful skin well into your late years!

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

-Dr. Mao

so...let's try some of them young..stay young.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Life is fragile...

Guess, I am missing my blogging. It's been almost a month since I wrote in. February came with a blast. Valentine's Day...for lovers for family and loved ones came and went. Me still bizi with work...seems endless...sports
Then I get hit by news that some of my close friends are sick with the big C. It just hit me. Here we are day in day out working and trying to juggle our lives withfamily and career. But in some cases, people arejust fighting to stay alive for just one more day. So you think, why the big deal about who gets promoted and what big job to do next. I need to stop and take a breather...spend more time with family if I can afford it. Life is fragile...where are your friends when you need them most...we hope they will be around us. so friends...let live ya...i think i will slow down and left live. cheers folks.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chinese Zodiac - The Magnificent, Lucky and Regal Dragon

On 23rd January 2012, we left the Year of the Rabbit and entered the Year of the Dragon. How this year affects you personally will depend on your own sign and you can read about that here, but in general terms, the Year of the Dragon is considered to be an exciting and exhilarating time. This is in contrast to the peace and calm of the preceding Rabbit year.

In the West, the Dragon is seen as a vile beast to be slain and defeated. The Dragon was likened to the devil as it was seen to signify the worst moral aspects of humanity. However, this could not be further from the truth in Eastern societies. The Dragon is seen as the wise, strong, magical protector. He is seen as representing royalty and prosperity.

In a Dragon year, events can seem magnified and everything feels more intense. It is a time when we have the daring and energy to be bold and take risks. This could be an excellent time to take that step towards marriage, start a family or embark on that business venture. The only word of caution is not to get totally carried away with the enthusiasm and exhilaration of the Dragon year, as this could lead to you taking unnecessary risks. As long as you use the power and energy of this year to power your ambition, there is very little you cannot achieve.

The Dragon in Feng Shui

Feng Shui (literally translates as 'wind water') is the chinese art of placement which incorporates energy to help enhance our lives, working on the premise that different directions and areas of our homes/work places.correspond with the different areas of our lives.

The Dragon is a Feng shui 'cure' which is often used as it helps bring power and luck to the area of your life you are looking to enhance. Usually 'cures' must be used carefully as we can inadvertently turn the energies negative, so it is always best to know what you are doing or consult a specialist. But the Dragon is so powerful and lucky that it is something you can place in your house immediately and start to feel the benefits.

Some people are tempted to place Dragons all over their house, but this can be extreme and is not necessary. I would suggest placing two in your love area if you want to enhance your relationships and a further one in your business area. You can simply and easily find which areas these are by searching online or reading one of the many books on the subject.

Welcome: The Year of the Dragon

It's been awhile, 2012- leap year - Year of the Dragon -
Yes, so many events have come and gone..what a year 2011 was, and what a beginning of 2012 for us. Mum had her leg operation yet again amidst all the anxieties and dangers the op posted. Well, that was done and mum is well enough to celebrate CNY with us in JB. She is now recuperating at my brother's house and doing as well as can be. What an achievement, mum is 80 and going on 81 this July.
Christmas came and went...

Then the New Year came in a blast, with new hopes and resolutions.
Before we could get over that, in came the Dragon with all its fiery ways. It's the
4th day and yes, lots more events till we round it up on the 15th day, Chap Goh Meh.
My eldest daughter, Jennifer, a Dragon baby, born in 1988 will be 24 this year. She's now a final year medical student in Singapore's NUS. What a year ahead it will be.

Here's wishing everyone, family and friends a wonderful year ahead and may all wihses come true for you and me.
Happy New Year.