Category Archives: family

Scent of a Woman

It is said that certain stimulus to our senses like sight, taste, touch, hearing or smell can trigger us to recall certain memories.   For example, hearing an old familiar tune may bring back memories of hanging round the jukebox with close childhood friends at the neighbourhood soda fountain shop.  My wife has always said that smells remind her of things in her life.

I tend to be more a visual and tactile person and never imagined how a smell may jog a memory. At least until today.  Today, I came home to the smell of my wife cooking a traditional Malaysian Chinese sweet dessert called “Fu-chuk yi mai tong sui”. This dessert is made by boiling pearl barley (yi mai), soya beancurd skin (fu-chuk) and gingko nuts together.  It is sweetened with rock sugar and flavoured by the essence from pandan leaves.

The picture above shows a pandan plant with its fragrant leaves. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the pandan, it is used in Southeast Asian cooking to flavor rice, meats and desserts.  The flavor and fragrance is very similar to that found in fragrant jasmine rice.  Anyway, for the sake of this post, suffice to say that it is a very distinctive and delectable fragrance.

And, for the very first time that I am aware of, I had a most vivid memory flash triggered by a smell; the smell of the pandan leaf.  The smell reminded me of my mother.

My mother used to wear a really strong perfume which many people associate with her but that used to provoke asthma attacks for me.  So my fond memories of my mother is tied to the pandan fragrance cause it brings back childhood memories of being in her kitchen and pestering her while she concocted all kinds of culinary delectables.  She was a great cook.  Later in life, the pandan fragrance was still associated with her as she used the pandan leaf in her home made version of potpourri.

For me, the pandan fragrance truly is sweet.

Which of your five senses triggers powerful memories for you?


P.S.  Note to self.  Today was Deacon Day.

My Life as a Bum ……….So Far - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster  and more About 15 days ago, I left my job of 15 years to start my life as a bum.  I commemorated the occasion by shifting my posts from blogger and starting this blog on WordPress with “First Day of the Rest of My Life“.   In the post, I said that I wanted to focus on certain things.  I thought I should do a report card on my progress so far as a bum.

1 Actually Leave Work F-
For various reasons, I have been back to help at the office on 7 days out of 15 work days.  Plus I attended three farewell dinners with various colleagues.  It’s not a good way to leave work behind.
2. Relaxing on a beach F-
Again no squirrel footprints in the sand and no squirrel paws soaking in the sea yet.
3. Getting Healthy C+
Yay! I actually made it to the gym on two of the three days I had planned.  Had a good time.  On each occasion I ran for 3 km on the treadmills and 5 km on the rowing machine.  I thought that was fairly good until I read that Le Night Owl walks 5 km a day to work.  Ah, well.  One day……maybe.
4. Art C-
I said that I would get creative.  By that I meant doing some writing and poetry.  I   wrote about art on this blog but unfortunately the only creative writing has been on this blog.
5. Volunteer Work F-
Also no progress here. Bummer.
6. Family B+
I said that I would spend more time with family and I think this is one area that has shown much improvement and I am happy with the progress.
7. Home Improvements B+
Leaving the office has meant more time at home.  As I twiddle my thumbs there, I started to wonder how long the kettle had been leaking or whether it is normal for the ceiling fan to make a loud irritating hum while shooting out sparks.  Suffice to say, I am finally getting down to home repairs and improvements which my wife has put into the chores jar sometime in the last century.
8. Looking like a bum A++
Sadly, this is one area that I have a natural ability and capacity for.  Shaving and grooming has been successfully ignored and this squirrel is growing whiskers.  (see photo below)
Happily Bummin'

Nor Sleet Nor Snow

Last week, my wife found herself in New York after a two week working road-trip that saw her travel from Asia to Europe and finally to America. We were looking forward to her returning on a Wednesday evening flight from JFK Airport which would bring her back home just in time for the traditional family re-union dinner on the eve of the Chinese New Year.

On Wednesday morning in Kuala Lumpur (9 pm at night in New York), my wife called and gave me the disappointing news that she might not be able to come back as scheduled. Earlier that week, New York had already been hit by a blizzard which resulted in all the airports being closed for three days. Now, barely two days later, another blizzard was rolling in. My wife’s flight was scheduled for 9pm that day but the problem was that the snow storm was expected to roar in at noon. The travel agents and the airports were predicting that no flights would make it out that night.

Even worse, even if my wife could get on a flight the day after or the following days, she would be stranded in Singapore because all the flights from Singapore to Malaysia were fully booked for people traveling home for the Chinese New Year. There seemed noway that she would be spending the Chinese New Year holidays with me. Very depressing news indeed.

Anyway, later that day, it happened to be my weekly bible study group day and I shared the situation with them and challenged them to pray with me for something that if not impossible, seemed to be most improbable; that God would somehow get my wife home for the holidays. That was at 8 am New York time and a phone call from my wife confirmed that the snow was already falling and New York was under a blanket of white. The storm was still expected to peak in another 4 hours and her flight still a distant 13 hours away. The airports still were prediting cancellations.

Well, having committed the matter to God, I went to sleep and woke up the next day to find an exciting SMS on my handphone from my wife. Her flight was in the air and she was on her way back. Hallelujah!

It later turns out that Newark and LaGuardia airports were closed by the storm. JFK Airport remained open but one by one the flights were cancelled. Somehow, her Singapore Airlines flight was boarded, spent three hours de-icing on the runway but finally took off. It was to be the ONLY flight to leave that night.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. God is the best travel agent there is. Happy Chinese New Year! May great things roar in for you this Year of the Tiger!


At Home with the Lord and Re-united at Last.

My father passed away in 2007 at the age of 93. Just a few days ago, on the 3rd of November, my mother, at the age of 87, followed him into heaven. It was almost exactly 2 years and a month later. Suddenly, even though I am a middle aged man, I feel like I have been orphaned.

My parents were a very loving couple and so very co-dependent that when my dad passed away, there were many from within family and friends who thought that my mother would not last very long. Well, she carried on for another 2 years. It was not an easy two years though. Even though she had no shortage of family, friends and visitors, it was clear that she missed him very much and had a loneliness and an emptiness that none of us was able to fill.

When they were both younger, she would always ask my dad to promise to allow her to die first for the very fact that she felt she could not bear being alone in the world without him. Very good naturedly, my father would assure her that he would definitely not go first so she was assured that he would be there to take care of her. However, as it turned out, that was one promise he was not able to keep.

And so, I think these last two years were perhaps for my mom a very sad and lonely time. There were, of course, happy days during this period. She particularly enjoyed the visits of her grandchildren. She still had a good appetite and was still able to enjoy her favorites like barbequed pork, fried banana fritters and durian fruit. On her penultimate day on earth, she asked me to get her some satay (seasoned meat skewers grilled over a charcoal fire) for dinner. To my everlasting regret, I was not able to do so because of heavy rain. She even placed an order with my brother for an Indian specialty called mee rebus for lunch the next day; and not any mee rebus but one from a particular shop that she used to take us to as kids.

Yet despite her relatively good appetite, she was extremely malnourished. I suppose, the scientific explanation would be that she was not able to absorb enough of the nutrients. However, our hearts tell us that she was sad and just wanted to move on.

She took to her bed and began to cut her ties to the world about three months ago. Perhaps the second anniversary of my father’s passing weighed more heavily on her than we had imagined. A doctor examined her that very morning and declared that her lungs were clear and her heart beat was incredibly strong for someone her age. By noon, she had breathed her last, for no other reason perhaps than that she was ready, nay, desirous to go.

I am glad that she is beyond this period of loneliness and suffering. I believe that she is now home in heaven with God and reunited with my father; altogether in a much happier place and at peace.

For me though, the world seems a more dangerous and wild place as if a great source of love and light had been extinguished. Even though like all children, I sought to establish my independence from my parents, deep down I was always glad and relieved to know that their love and support was a constant in this tumultuous life. And now, with them both gone, I cannot help feeling like a 47 year old orphan.

To family and friends, I thank you for all your love shown. I thank you for your faithful visits to my mother, for your prayers, support, kind words and actions. God bless you all.

Weapon Escalation

It seemed like a peaceful day; slightly overcast and pleasant. I was just 11 years old and while my mother was doing gardening and sweeping out the drain at the back of our home, I was using my imagination to turn my entire backyard into a fantasy world where the grass became vast expanses of rainforest and the concrete porch abutting the drain became a large airstrip for my toy planes.

I was flying my model Douglas A4 Skyhawk over the hostile and mysterious jungles looking for ant hills and other insects to irritate when the quiet of the afternoon was suddenly interrupted by a yell from my mother. A foolish rat had decided to emerge from the drain and run along the concrete porch. My mom reacted quickly, grabbing a broom and using it to try to bean the animal on the head as it ran.

I was jumping with excitement as I witness the contest between my mom and the rat. Down came the broom here with a crash and there with a bang. The rat was clearly regretting his decision to come out and was squealing as he expertly dodged the blows raining down on him. One of my mom’s blows with the broom had hit him but perhaps not with much force. He was able to carry on his crazy run even though he appeared at least a little stunned. It seemed like a long time but perhaps barely half a minute had passed when the rat managed to dive into safety into a little crack between the drain and the porch.

There were cracks and holes all along the juncture of the porch and the drainwhere the concrete there was crumbly with age. When the rat made it into that labyrinth under the concrete, I thought that the day’s entertainment was over but my mother’s blood was up. She used the broom handle and tried to poke it through the hole. What infuriated her was that she could not get at the rat but when she removed the broom, she could make out the rat’s shiny beady eyes in the deep recesses of the hole looking at her.

She ran into the kitchen and came back out with some rags and an insecticide aerosol can. She used the rags to stuff some of the holes along the drain to prevent the rat from escaping and then she pumped the aerosol can contents into the first hole. Then we both waited, expecting the rat to emerge gassed.

Nothing happened. My mom then decided to smoke the rat out. She twisted some newspaper, lit it and inserted it into the hole. Now my highly intelligent readers will no doubt have anticipated the consequence of applying a flame to a dense cloud of inflammable aerosol.

There was an almighty explosion. BOOM! Sheets of flame shot out of all the holes and cracks and when the dust settled, parts of the concrete slabs was completely blown up into rubble exposing parts of the underground sanctuary. My mom’s hair was slightly singed.

Both my mom and I was stunned by the explosion. I looked at her slightly soot-dusted face and we laughed away the tension of the moment. After she recovered her composure, she rooted through the rubble with the broom handle but found no evidence of the rat. No body or even gross body parts.

I’d like to think that the rat got out alive. Perhaps he was already on his way out one of the escape routes when he was catapulted out by the explosion. There he lay, slightly singed and dazed but alive! While my mom searched the debris, he would make his escape to his nest where he would tell his astonished and rapt rodent audience about his adventure and how he cheated death at the hands of this new weapon of terror.

The Hotel That Got Away

It was 1994, I had been studying in Ottawa on a scholarship for more than 3 years. My stay in Canada was coming to an end and I saved up money so that my wife and I could enjoy one big Canadian travel adventure before we had to leave. My brother and his wife also was keen to visit Canada while we were there. So it was agreed that we would meet in Vancouver and drive through the Canadian Rockies to Banff and then on to Calgary.

While I was definitely excited about this and sharing the car rental helped a lot to stretch my limited resources, choosing accommodation became a problem. My brother and his wife were accustomed to a better quality or level of accommodation whereas I was more concerned about the costs.

As the date neared, I desperately scoured the Internet for information on the best deals for accommodation. In Vancouver, I narrowed it down to two places. The first was Sylvia Hotel. It seemed too good to be true. From the pictures, it looked like it had a lot of character and the price was incredibly reasonable. I could not believe the price and I suspected a con job. Back then, the web pages were not as interactive as today’s travel pages and more importantly it did not have comments from previous customers. If we had that, I am sure we would have gone for it.

Instead, I delayed making a decision and lost the rooms. I eventually chose a place called Shatto Inn which was a bargain and near Stanley Park but it was not Sylvia Inn. When we finally arrived in Vancouver and saw Sylvia Hotel for ourselves, we could find nothing wrong with the place. It would become, in our family lore, the great hotel that got away.

A funny side-story was that I spoke to my brother on the telephone and told him to make his way to Shatto Inn when he arrived as our flight would arrive some 6 hours later. He thought he heard “Chateau Inn” which conjured up some thoughts of a rather opulent establishment and was therefore a little taken aback when the taxi took him to Shatto Inn – a three star rather than five star establishment.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, A Majority of Two, posted about the Sylvia Hotel and talked about the hotel in detail, even about a cat called Mister Got to Go. Please follow the link to read more about it. At that time, I mentioned that there was a song by Cheryl Wheeler about the Hotel and the cat is even mentioned.

Here is the only version I could find which is a cover version by a German fan who actually got to stay at the hotel. She heard the song first and was determined to see the hotel whereas, the squirrel never got to stay at the hotel but got to hear the song. Be warned that it is a soppy, sad, emotional type song and that it gets more interesting after the cat appears. Enjoy.

David Archuleta Sings Our Song

When I left Malaysia to study in Canada, I left my future wife behind. At that time we had been going out together for a while but had made no decisions or commitments to one another. The truth was I had a fear of commitment and our separation seemed like an easy way of letting fate decide.

I had always enjoyed traveling and coming to Canada was a real treat for me but in that first year I came to realise that as much as I enjoyed experiencing Canada, I missed not experiencing it with her. I just knew then that I wanted to experience every joy and every sorrow with her for the rest of my life. It was not fate but God who acted because just as He made me understand this and to recognise my own insecurities about commitment before, He also moved her to make a bold decision to save up and visit me on her own accord.

The timing was perfect. When I was informed that she was coming, I was excited and got prepared. The first day when she arrived I practically showed her the whole of Ottawa as if I was trying to share a year’s experience in one day. She gamely put up with it but of course she was tired and she slept soundly that night.

However, I knew what I had to do and so the next day, as soon as she awoke, I proposed to her by singing “And So it Goes” by Billy Joel. I chose this song because the lyrics accurately expressed how I felt in an honest manner that I felt she needed to hear. Needless to say, this song has remained special for us…..our song.

So, we were so pleasantly surprised when we learnt that American Idol this week, Puala Abdul chose this song for David Archuleta (also my wife’s favorite contestant) to sing.

And so it goes that ……DAVID ARCHULETA SINGS OUR SONG!!!!

I had posted about this song before and here are the complete lyrics of the song.

In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along

I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self defense

And every time I’ve held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose

But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break

And this is why my eyes are closed
It’s just as well for all I’ve seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows

So I would choose to be with you
That’s if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows.


My wife and I were budging out on DVD’s over the weekend. I had just finished watching Vantage Point which was a very interesting action drama. My adrenaline was pumping after watching the movie. Suddenly I had a craving to watch another action movie and for some reason, I thought of watching and old science fiction favorite starring Bruce Willis called “The Fifth Element”.

My wife on the other hand had been doing a marathon on chick flicks. As I was scrummaging through our old VCD collection (cause The Fifth Element is THAT old.), she threw me a DVD and told me to watch it.

I had a look at it and said, “No thanks! I have a date with Bruce the Man Willis and The Fifth Element.” Alas, I could not find it even though I went through our entire collection.

As I sat frustrated, trying to visualise in my mind’s eye where I had last seen that VCD, my wife threw me the DVD again and told me to give up the search and watch that DVD. Once again I told her that I was not in the mood for a romantic chick flick.

She persisted. She told me that it had an actor from that testosterone feast of sweaty, glistening male bodies and naked aggression called “300”. Not interested was my reply.

“It also has someone from Friends and it has one of your old favorites.” she continued.

She can be very persistent and I could read the signs that she would not be stopping on this issue. Finally, I had a look at the DVD and it was a movie entitled “P.S. I love you.”

Okay, I thought to myself, that’s a dumb unpromising title. Then I checked the actors. The actor from 300 was Gerard Butler. Now granted he is quite the hunk and a feast for the eyes for the ladies but that doesn’t do anything for me ( I assure you). The female lead is Hilary Swank. Again, I appreciate that she is a great actress but doesn’t she play all these tomboy roles? I just could not imagine her in a romantic story.

Then I discovered that Lisa Kudrow was also in the movie. Now, she’s funny. Perhaps the movie had a chance. Ooo, Ooo, and it also has Harry Connick Jr. Now I like him and perhaps he sings or plays the piano in the movie. Okay, this movie’s looking more palatable. Ah, but the clincher was when I read James Marster’s name in the credits. James was the old favorite that my wife mentioned. James played my favorite character Spike in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now I just had to see James in a movie.

And so, I watched all two hours of it. The movie surprised me almost from the start. I was disappointed that James Marster did not have a bigger role but that was irrelevant to the fact that this movie just touched me from beginning to end. The DVD cover called it a romantic comedy. Then how was it that I cried for most of that two hours. Now I may be a softie but I have never, ever cried right through an entire movie. This had more onion factor than Sleepless in Seattle (onions can make you cry – hence onion factor). Darn it! My wife loves to see me cry. It was entrapment.

I won’t tell you the story cause that would take the fun out of it. I will tell you that the movie was based on a book by the same name and it was written by Cecilia Ahern who is the daughter of the previous Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

It did well in the box office and got generally good reviews from cinema goers. The critics on the other hand gave it between a negative review to mixed reviews but then again critics are grouchy individuals who would never admit that they cried.

While I am uncertain that it is best to describe it as a romantic comedy, it is not a romantic tragedy and there are laughs to be had in the movie. It’s just that you will still have tears running down your cheeks even when you are laughing.

Watch this movie. I dare you. Just keep the Kleenex handy. As for me, I needed to overdose on Schwarzenegger and the Terminator series to feel like a man again.

Ming Dynasty – Tea Ceremony

Regular readers will remember that I was in Australia at the end of last year. The reason I was there was to help with the preparations and to witness the wedding of my nephew, Ming. Despite the distance, I would like to think that we have always remained quite close even as the boy grew up to be a man. In our culture, we often refer to the couple on their wedding day as King and Queen for a day. So indeed, I feel that with his wedding to his lovely wife Jean, old foggies like myself begin to slide into the sunset to make way for a new exciting chapter in the family history ……the Dynasty of Ming!

The wedding is in three parts; the tea ceremony, the exchange of vows and the wedding dinner. The newly wed couple cannot immediately begin reigning their own household until they pay homage to their parents and elders which they do so by offering cups of tea to their elders as a symbol of servitude and respect. In turn, the parents and elders will give them a symbolic gift or “ang pow” (red packet filled with money) to signal acceptance into the family and also to wish them good fortune in their new life together.

This wedding was also exceptional as the groom was from a Malaysian Chinese culture and the bride was Korean. Hence, the day was full of colourful representation of both rich cultures.

Ming & Jean – the King and Queen for the day, making their entrance
The Tea Ceremony – for Ming’s parents
The Korean side of the Dynasty in colourful traditional dress (hanbok)
Malaysian relatives
(Chinese Cheong-sam – ladies at both ends of the line)
(Peranakan Sarong Kebaya – the two ladies 2nd and 3rd from left)
(Batik Shirt – sole gentleman amongst the ladies)
Fruits and cakes from both cultures
Emperor Ming discovers Korean Tradition of carrying Mother-in-law!
All photos are by LGS.

My Ass Hurts!

Ow! Ouch! Ooo! Arrgh! Owwwooowwwoow! Ouch! That was a quick summary of the week that was. If you still haven’t got the hint, my ass hurts……………a lot.

Before I go on with my misery report, I would first like to thank all of you for your kind words, prayers and best wishes. They were all much appreciated. Thank you Mark (The Walking Man) for recommending Neurontin; it’s the only thing keeping me from screaming. Thank you Proxima for reminding me I am not a spring chicken; I must really remember that so that there will not be a next time.

My mom is doing physically well. Operatio went without a hitch and without any complications. The wound is healing well. She is doing physiotherapy and her strength is returning to her leg. Physically, everything is as good as could be expected but she is a bit depressed and needs to be ordered/cajoled to do her exercise. Surprisingly, her appetite is very good and she might even put on some much needed weight.

As for me, my ass hurts………….. a lot. the doctor has confirmed that I have not one but three prolapsed discs in the lumbar region of the spine. At least two of those are compressing the spine and one is compressing a nerve leaving the spine. I have difficulty walking or standing for more than a minute and I cannot lie down flat. I have been sleeping in a sitting position for the last week.

Prognosis though seems hopeful as it appears to be an old injury which has been aggravated rather than a new one. The doctor recommended a treatment of physiotherapy and traction. I am on neurontin . Surgery will be considered only if the condition shows a deterioration. Doctor cheerfully predicts that I will be incapacitated with pain for at least another two weeks.

That means I am off and working from home. Whether that means I will post on the blog more regularly or less regularly remains to be seen.

In the meantime, a word from the wise, take care of your back or you might get a painful kick in the ass.