A Tribute to Our Mother

She was a woman of exceptional courage. She faced all of life’s challenges head on, fielding everything thrown at her with great tenacity, determination and always well-dressed and immaculately groomed while doing it. She lived life with a passion, always willing to try new experiences and learn new things.

“If life hands you lemons, make lemonade”, so the saying goes. Well, our mother was given somewhat better ingredients than just lemons (being blessed with intelligence, good looks and personality) and she whipped up a fabulous feast, a sumptuous buffet spread of all the joys of life and we her family and her friends were all privileged to partake, nourished by her care and concern.

How could so much energy and life be packed into such a petite frame? What was the source of her indomitable spirit? I believe that it was her faith.

Hers was not a faith professed merely on the lips. Hers was a “true grit” faith lived out every single day of her life ever since she accepted the Lord as a teenager in school in Seremban, Malaysia. It was shaped and forged through her journey through all of life’s greatest joys and deepest disappointments. Her faith was what empowered her in her many battles with ill health. Suffering polio as a child which left her walking with a limp and a deformed knee, she nonetheless adapted her gait and could take the stairs at an impressive speed in her younger days. She defeated cancer more than 10 years ago and when handed a diagnosis of metastasis toward the end of her treatment, her faith in God’s plan for her was so unflinching that she rejected the advice of the best specialists in the Sloan-Kettering clinic and refused further treatment. Her decision terrified us, her loved ones, but she had no fear, only supreme confidence that the Lord would heal her in His way.

Hers was not a passive faith that is the close relative of fatalism. It was a faith of action and active prayer. She was not afraid of making decisions because she was not afraid of making mistakes, even if she did not like to admit that she did sometimes make mistakes. She covered us all in prayer, every single day.

Hers was not a blind, unquestioning faith. We have heard her question God many, many times, why, when she has had to endure or when her loved ones and dear friends have had to suffer personal tragedies. Yet these questions have only strengthened her faith. No matter what she endured, she still had joy and a spirit of thankfulness.

Her strength and energy were often employed in support and defence of her loved ones. A woman of strong opinions, she was certainly not hesitant to voice them. She had no patience for hypocrites and bullies and dealt with them in her own inimitable way. But for all her forceful nature, she had immense compassion and a tender heart for those in need. She was generous with her material possessions but more importantly, generous with her time and spirit, always giving of herself to her friends and loved ones. She was a great enabler and encourager.

In recent years, she enjoyed her three grandsons Joshua, Kai and Michael enormously. She was the Great Protector against parental discipline, dispensing largesse in the form of keropok and soda pop. She had the natural ability to relate to them on their level, whether that was teddy bears and Thomas the Tank Engine or iPods and Apps.

She lived life to the fullest and appreciated the finer things in life – a good cup of cuppucino, a lip-smacking char kuay teow, beautiful clothes, music. Most of all, she enjoyed people, reaching out to them and connecting with them. She had the rare gift of being able to reach across the generation gap and her friends could be anyone aged from eight to eighty years old.

She was so full of life and energy that it is hard to believe that she is not with us anymore. We will miss her but she will always be a part of us. We are truly blessed.

Written by Mei Ling, Benjamin & Kenneth

Smelly people

Kai learned the word “smelly” from Naomi’s mum, and to our delight, applied it when Naomi brought him to the zoo – he applied it on the goats at the kids’ section, where they had a petting zoo or something, I dunno, I din go.

Then last week Naomi brought him to the zoo again (we bought a family pass so we got discounted tickets), and again he said, “smelly”, or more accurately, “schmeowwy”. Naomi looked around for goats, and didn’t see any, and so asked our darling baby son what animal he saw that he thought smelly.

“Schmeowwy People”, he said.

It’s Chap Goh Meh, but here’s a Christmas story

While workshopping Kumar’s show last week, Selena Tan brought up this gem of information on how the Japanese celebrate Christmas. I would’ve teased Naomi for not knowing this Japanese tradition but a) she doesn’t take too kindly to criticism about her lack of Japanese knowledge, b) it is a rather offbeat kind of tradition.

Before 1974, westerners in Japan who happened to be around during Christmas found it difficult to celebrate Christmas because turkeys were apparently hard to find in the shops (or elsewhere, for that matter), and so the closest thing a foreigner could pass off as a Christmas turkey dinner was a chicken dinner, and chicken dinners were easy to find at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets around the country.

So, in 1974 a clever marketing fella at KFC decided to sell the first KFC Christmas meal, consisting of fried chicken and a glass of wine. It was immensely popular, and for some reason, Japanese locals began to think that this was a bona fide tradition, and as the years went by, began passing it down to younger generations.

These days, KFC Christmas meals are ordered several months in advance, and if you think about it, Colonel Sanders could pass off as Santa Claus.

If you think that’s weird, @bubblevicious and @tetanus point out that the annual Chingay Parade has its tradition/roots in the government trying to appease the pyromanic masses’ discontent at the firecracker ban in 1973.

I have a friend who’s a knight. You got or not?

We attended Hossan’s “knighting” ceremony Friday night at the French ambassador’s residence. There was no pomp and very little ceremony, which suited us fine, although the newly minted Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres cut a dash in his Ted Baker suit bought off the rack for the occasion.

And when the French ambassador rattled off his achievements before the presentation, the flush of pride on everyone’s faces (Hossan’s family members included) turned to tortured stifled giggles when he got to “Asian Boys Vol.1, Mardi Gras and Top or Bottom.” Dunno lah. So childish, all of us. But good lah, that someone who’s bringing so much joy to our lives – and according to ST readers polled, is joint fifth top national icon – is being recognised in this manner.

Vive la vie! Baguette! Croissant!

What are you taking for your “flu” that won’t go away?

I went to the doctor’s yesterday for the sixth time in 2 months, and he doesn’t seem too concerned that I’ve made so many trips for the same problem. He thinks I’ve been infected by several different strains of flu, and quite possibly, with H1N1 as well.

I’ve been on three courses of an antibiotic called Klacid to try to treat a throat infection that produces green-yellow phlegm mixed with blood, but that obviously hasn’t worked that well, since I’m still getting these spasmodic coughing fits which are driving me insane.

The doctor said it was probably the same thing – seasonal flu, and explained away my concern that I (and Naomi) have been sick since December by saying that “flu season is from December to February”. And although he did not discount the possibility of my having a mycoplasma infection, he gave the usual drugs to ease the symptoms, and a new antibiotic to try to kill off the bug in my throat that’s making it itch so bad I cough till I think I bust a rib:

Have you had those (click on the links) drugs before? Have they worked? Are you still coughing?

This site is not SafeSurf safe

Someone tweeted yesterday afternoon that Starhub’s SafeSurf apparently blocks this site from curious young eyes.

The SafeSurf FAQ goes on to describe the service as “a “filtering” service that blocks out undesirable websites on the Internet.” OK, I can understand why some people dislike this blog, but to block a generation of minors (whose parents pay $2.50 per month for this VAS) from enjoying my occasional outbursts of profanity? I mean, come on, do you see any nude pictures on this site? Huh? Huh? Huh?

The Online Citizen gets Cassetted, but I get SafeSurfed. FML.

Worse still, I’m a Starhub Broadband (and cable and telephone) customer. WTH?

(@starhubcares has informed me that they’re looking into it – updates when available).

Update: @starhubcares tells me they’ve taken it off the banned wagon. Kids can now get here.

It would be hell if the restaurants weren’t so good

Naomi and I hadn’t spent enough time looking through what’s on offer at the Marina Bay Sands, so we were very excited to discover that ‘celebrity chefs’ had set up shop in the massive casino complex.

There’s Mario Batali, Tetsuya Wakuda, Hide Yamamoto, and Singapore’s own drink-driving Justin Quek amongst several others. And we only found this out because we were invited by a friend of Naomi’s mum’s to Hide Yamamoto’s.

We have no idea how much dinner would’ve cost if we had paid for it ourselves, but we supped from 8pm to 11pm, so you can imagine how much we enjoyed the food there.

We think the food’s good enough reason to brave the bad air (cigarette smoke lingering in the whole atrium) and desperate gambler types that hang around the giant casino and make the whole place look like the hall full of aliens in Men In Black.


Ordinarily, I wouldn't eat tuna, but then...Roasted vegetables with REAL TRUFFLE!Grilled prawnSnow crab claw in some stock thingieGrilled wagyu beefProbably the least pretty of the dishes. But I've never had spring chicken done so nicely.Awesome dessert I forgot the name of

Lib lung and prosper

This evening we took a break from eating junk food and took Naomi’s visiting cousin out to a chili crab dinner at Long Beach Dempsey. Good thing we got there early, because a little after we got there, a queue formed with several dozen families, tired from visiting and being visited, looking to get a quick crab meal as well.

At the table next to us in the “outdoor area without shelter (sans umbrella)” was a Japanese family who were convinced to order the traditional yu sheng raw fish salad. The dish arrived, and the funniest thing was that they were given instructions on how to partake of the dish by a Filipino waiter (purst, you tuss eberyting as high as you cahn with the chupstick), who also recited English translations of the Chinese idioms/proverbs/sayings/nonsense rhymes that accompany the tossing of the salad.

May your whole pummily prospurr!

And on the second day, every dog was born

The second day of the New Year is when married daughters return to their birth family’s home and spend time there. We learned of this tradition only after we got married, because previously, both Naomi’s and my family were always pretty sketchy and inconsistent with customs. We still can’t remember for sure how many oranges we’re supposed to bring when visiting, and how many we’re supposed to leave a house with.

I suspect mandarin orange farmers were the ones who came up with the give 4 take 2 back custom, cos if you did the math and did what accountants call a “contra”, a give 2 take 2 back custom would kill the orange growers’ orange rice bowl.

Sometimes we get saboed by our families, when they suddenly come up with customs we’ve never previously observed. I remember vaguely when we were in secondary school, and my parents came home with this new fangled grated carrot and radish salad with crackers and slivers of raw fish and declared we had to eat that for good luck after tossing the salad everywhere on the table.

Sometimes we argue over what customs are what, and actually resort to googling or wikipeding what to wear and what to do so we don’t offend whatever gods it is that our families have subscribed to for the New Year.

This year’s googling/wikipeding taught me that some Chinese also believe that the 2nd day of the New Year is also the birthday of all dogs. Apparently it is when these same Chinese treat dogs extra kindly, feed them well, and try not to eat them.

Also, I found out why firecrackers were banned in Singapore – in 1970, 6 people were killed and 68 injured, leading to a partial ban. In 1972, a total ban was implemented when 2 more people were killed by explosions and 2 policemen were attacked when trying to prevent people setting off crackers.

The ban has been in place with the exception of publicly sanctioned setting off of crackers. Apparently, pro-private-firecrackers’ claim that “Firecrackers Don’t Kill People. People Kill People” fell on deaf ears.