Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Sweet Life

 Here are some excerpts of my jottings which serve as part of the journal of my experience as a mother of two teenage daughters when they attended middle school .... the sweet life?

 15 January

The keys ? Where could they be ?? Frantic is what I felt when my sixteen year old could not find the keys she was holding for the school locker. I also felt helpless when my fourteen year old thought that the pen drive which belonged to her class teacher fell out of her school uniform pocket.

 Not only do I feel compulsive about protecting my girls from any harm, I also feel that I have to be of some assistance when they misplace their stuff. Why do I feel the way I feel and often for circumstances beyond my control ?  There were times when I actually surprised myself and found all the missing stuff in the unlikely places with a bit of common sense and sixth sense.

 17  January

 Why must Tammy kick up such a fuss when her daughter was not selected to be in the school tennis team? She found out that her beloved daughter had been victimized. The girls in the school tennis team preferred to have another girl on the team even though Tammy’s daughter was a better player than the player they had selected as the reserve. The  team girls reckoned that it did not matter who their reserve player would be . They rather had someone they were fond of as their reserve player on their team rather than Tammy’s daughter who they disliked. Tammy kicked up a fuss and reported to the teacher in charge and insisted on a rematch  amongst the students. Because of Tammy's interference, my daughter had to go  through two additional selection exercises. The girls had to end up playing round robin for another day. 

 When Soo Ling got into my car, she did not say anything. The silence began to make me feel    uncomfortable.
  I turned  and looked at her. She said, “ Look at the road mom.”
  I asked  as I drove, “ So how was it?”
  “ Okay..”
  “ Are you in or out?”
  “ What do you think?”
  “ I don’t know what to think.”
  “It’s okay.”
   “ So you are not on the team?”
   “ Mom!!”
   “ What?”
   “ Surely you gotta have more confidence in me.”
   “ Well you didn’t have your breakfast ….”
   “Yea ya ya never forget the importance of  breakfast.”

  I do not remember if I ever spoke to my late mother in that manner. There were times when I found my daughter rather rude.  Maybe these days, as parents we are too aware of our frailties that we have become too  indulgent as parents .

 1 February

 Don’t get angry. But do take charge. I told myself.
 I had to keep telling myself:  “If I lose my cool, my daughter and I will get into this screaming match…..” 

 On the other hand, I had to ensure that this could not be happening again.

 As we arrived at the piano teacher’s house, the gate was locked. I watched Mei Ling sullenly got back into the car. I waited while my daughter checked her book and confirmed that the lesson had been vacated. I had been missing my yoga sessions and I had wanted to go for the yoga class this morning. 


  After driving out of the housing area, I asked, “ Do you know why the lesson was cancelled?”
  “ Dunno… I think there is a replacement class on Sunday.”
  “ Why don’t you check your book and see if there is a class on Sunday?”

 Mei Ling confirmed that the replacement class was on Sunday. I was upset thinking about the yoga   session i had missed and that I would have to taxi my daughter to her piano class apart from her usual tennis clinic on my precious Sunday afternoon.

  6 February

 As I looked out of my office window, it was     overcast weather. I had hoped that the weather would hold as I was looking forward to hit some tennis. I planned  to leave the office at five thirty for club night tennis.

 At 5p.m. I received a phone call from my elder daughter. 
 " Mom!  I have a replacement  piano class  and can you pick me up from Ms Khoo's place  at 6 p.m. ? "  
 " Oh I have tennis . Let me see if i can ask your dad to pick you up..."  
  So I rang up the girls' dad. There was still a flicker of hope that he could help out with the ferrying.  He picked up the phone on the first ring.

 "Oh I can't. I'm having a drink with some clients..."  I would have liked to stage a protest about the unfairness of how all this  upset my plan too.
  ( Perhaps I would like to  try this : 
  "Actually i'm also hitting tennis with my clients ?"
   Well Sue  is a client so is Ellen . ... oh well they are my friends }    

 Guess I could not have gotten past that so not wanting to give up on having a tennis game, I telephoned   my daughter, Soo Ling.
 " Can you ask Ms Khoo if you can go an hour  earlier or change the date ? She really should not change      the time without checking with me ..."
  " NO there is no other time  and I can't make it tomorrow Mom ...." Soo Ling answered,  exasperated.

  At five fifteen, I texted both Sue and Ellen that I could not join them for tennis.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Do Not Forward

AQUARIUS - The Sweetheart 
Optimistic and honest. Sweet personality. Very independent. Inventive and intelligent. Friendly and loyal. Can seem unemotional. Can be a bit rebellious. 
Very stubborn, but original and unique. Attractive on the inside and out. Eccentric personality. 
11 years of bad luck if you do not forward.

Call me shallow I love reading about my zodiac but I do not like getting one of these emails that promises you bad luck if you do not forward.  I sometimes forward such email to my friends on my mailing list and hope that if they are my friends they will understand. I rather be safe than sorry. Of course most days I will bravely ignore these emails and stop the chain unless I think the mail itself is hilarious or may pose some interest to some of my friends. I cannot imagine how I used to write copies of such chain letters in my teenage years  and post them out. Did I make copies of such letters? I do not remember if photocopying service was available then. Are we not grateful that it is the internet age? Only the postal services do not welcome the internet age, the rest of us who do not have any vested interest in the turnover of the postal business should rejoice the birth of the internet.

It is interesting to note that some friends have a tendency to send you mushy messages about friendship and reminders about life, some serious and cliché some funny and cliché. But most time we know that these friends talk about friendship and you really do not want to test the strength of your friendship with them. It reminds me of the joke about how a woman must not ask her husband if he will rescue her  or his mother if both of them  happen to fall into the river. Anyway I think for a start, the man should send both his mother and his wife for swimming classes to avoid confronting such a dilemma.

So when an email joke arrives, to read or delete or  to read, send then delete becomes the question. There are invariably some hilarious ones and it is good to get a chuckle out of reading them and maybe to even brighten up someone’s day. But then what is funny to you may not be funny to the others so what  the criteria should be when we decide on whether to forward or not to forward to your friends on your list? After all not everyone appreciates the same sense of humour. Often I have to delete pictures or mails which take time to download  as there is not enough time to read or scan through all of them.

With the internet, in the name of staying connected, we are constantly exchanging email jokes ( some funny, some not so) and  seemingly meaningful messages. Maybe we have the innate need to share stuff, maybe we just want to let our friends and acquaintances know that we have them in our thought even just for a fleeting second. Never mind that we do not remember who we have sent these email to since most time they are sent en bloc. They make us become frenzy as we have to check mail both work and social , read them, reply them and we have to  discard junk mail sent via snail mail we also have to de-clutter our gmail box to make way for more email, some welcome some not. Are we going to hike up our senses after reading those stories which tell us about how someone had a punctured tyre in the shopping mall car park and a man suddenly appeared from nowhere like godsend offered to change her car tyre and as it turned out that was no good Samaritan but someone who actually punctured her car tyre then showed up with the intention to rob her or do all the unthinkable things you are afraid of. Do we need to be reminded constantly that the world is not a safe place?

These days we are constantly multi-tasking because there are emails and instant text messages to respond to whether or not they are work related .I find that it is hard to stay focused on a task and it is ironic that when work get a little pedantic  and I find it easier to complete my work by multi tasking. There were times when the office internet line was down, I found myself incapable of focusing on my files at work. I wonder if it is the need to speed up things  the reason that we are all getting very impatient and edgy. Guess that is how yoga and meditation are re-invented and re-introduced into our lives  as we need to find a  balance in our contemporary lifestyle and to stay healthy and fit in the rat race on and off the internet. 

Personally, I welcome the internet as it is a marvelous vehicle to retrieve the information which is readily available and sufficient for a quick research and update  most of the time. During dinner with my family members, whenever there is a debate about certain trivia or some news report which stands to be corrected, we can google and do a quick data check on our iPhones and get the information we want. It can be great fun in that sense. Personally it may sound rather anti-social and in danger of being rude, it has helped me to sit through boring wedding banquets where I am surrounded by a bunch of strangers or acquaintances. Instead of having to get out of the house to run errands, since the introduction of internet banking and shopping, one can actually be cooped up in the house all day long although it may not be a healthy thing to do. So long as the internet line is working, things are functioning and we can be thousand miles away from our office and continue to work via emails and video conferencing.

Sadly, we may stay connected but we are not more connected than before in terms of our minds and spirits. When we are caught in situations which make us tongue tied, we much prefer to text instead of picking up the telephone and speak to the person.We tend to eschew from having a telephone conversation about anything unpleasant if we can avoid it. We write emails and send text message via phone and via facebook or any other social network we are on. We are expected to respond quickly and most time instantaneously to whatever texts we get on our mobile phones and via email. But I am not sure if we are becoming more efficient all I feel is I get very busy and the days seem to slip by as I  answer  emails, surf the internet and run my daily work. I also feel that while it is convenient to be able to leave one’s messages clearly via text forms, it is also worrying that for some of us, it is the answer to convey a message without having to talk face to face or over the telephone for fear of confrontation or disagreement. The communication may be instantaneous yet such communication so often lacks spontaneity or unsatisfactory for want of sincerity unlike when two people are speaking to one another. We appear to conduct monologues instead of dialogues. Short Messages Service in short “sms” appears to be  a popular mode of communication. When one texts, one can be bold and say the things one wants to say ; the messages  can be long or short and sweet. Sometimes these words can have a certain hollow ring as opposed to if they are conveyed verbally.I feel that saying things out loud usually take courage while texting in the absence of the recipient makes the job easier.

非诚勿扰 Fei cheng wu rao is the  title of the movie directed by Xiao Gang Feng . Its literal translation is ‘Do not disturb if  not sincere’ The movie is not about the internet but a romantic comedy about a guy looking for someone to settle down with. but  I would like to borrow the phrase as it is an appropriate rule to be invoked before we forward an email joke or a message. I feel that  we should only forward them if we feel it matters that our recipients do read the messages and we sincerely would like our friends to read these jokes and have a good laugh or share a thought or two.
Happiness is a glass of champagne and connectivity 

Seriously, I think the world about the internet. However I have to be careful not to be so addicted to it that  I prefer not to get out of my comfort zone of not having a face to face conversation with people and content with communicating via the facebook or email. Whenever I travel, free wifi connection is a factor I consider when I look for hotel accommodation. I am gleeful when I visit a café that provides wifi network and love  the  Apple Stores where the Macbooks and iPads are available for the customers to browse through, surf the internet and send emails.
It is interesting that the contemporary novelists tell stories which involve the internet.In "The Millennium Trilogy" by the late Steig Larsson,apart from Mikael Bloomkvist's keen eyes for details and investigative skills as a journalist, the fabric of the thriller is centered on the intricacies of technology from hackers to tracking down the villains.Apart from possessing a photographic memory, the heroine Lisbert Salander is a computer whiz and she met her other dysfunctional counterparts through their network for hackers. The theme of the story is about punishing those men who had inflicted abuse and violence against women. The chic-lit genre of novels has absolutely captured the essence of the modern lifestyle in terms of the internet and mobile technology. In “the One that Got Away” by Lucy Dawson, Molly looked up her ex boyfriend’s profile on facebook and on an impulse, she clicked on “Send Leo a message” and drive her own life to chaos and near madness.

There is a new book called “ Alone Together" by  MIT Professor Sherry Turkle  and I want to get a copy of it and read it . I read from the review that it is the author’s portrait about human interaction and changing relationship and expectations with the progress of technology.

While the internet offers us an advanced level of connectivity whether superficial or not, the technology has made life a lot easier and communication a lot faster. Like everything else, there must be a degree of moderation but how do we adjust our dependence on technology to stay connected,strike a balance with our inner lives and ensure our presence of mind in our daily endeavours? To me, that is the challenge.

View from a room