Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Magic of Words

I am a bibliophile. I buy and collect books with every intention to devour through all of them. This is when I wish I had photographic memory like Mike Ross the character from the television law drama “ Suits”  so that I could have one glance and grasp it all. But then these are writings which are different from datas, legal texts and authorities. The writings that I enjoy reading are works of fiction or writings that come from the heart of their authors.  We need to savour and feel them.

I read fictions, whether they are heavy, dark or light hearted and I also read some  non-fictions about humanity and how our brains and psyche work. I may not understand completely the findings and theories in some of these non-fictions written  by intellectuals and scientists but I do find myself learning a little bit more about humanity as I read them. It takes me a much longer  time to read these non-fictions as compared to reading novels. I enjoy fictions because I love words and the beauty of how some prose and sentences are strung together. Even though the themes I am interested in centre around life events, there is an abundant supply of fascinating stories that are created by the writers all over the world. I am constantly amazed by how insightful all of these writers are about the realities of life and how clever they are to weave a story and  that intrigue around all these words. Sometimes I read to escape from the dryness of my work, sometimes I read to find solace and resolution like what Nina Sankovitch, a lawyer turned housewife did when she started her reading project and wrote her reading memoir : Tolstoy and the Purple Chair My Year of Magical Reading . But mostly I read because I find great pleasure in reading. Nina Sankovitch was committed to reading a book a day after her sister died of cancer as she was seeking reprieve from her pain and possible answers for her loss . Like what Ms Sankovitch wrote, “But all the books I read, the hard ones to work through and the easy ones to devour, were doing me good, lots of good. And bringing me pleasure, lots of pleasure.

The Elephant House , Edinburgh
Very often I cannot wait to finish reading one book which I had started so as to get on to another. To me many books look like promising reads. The problem is you cannot gobble down words just like you cannot chomp down food no matter how hungry you are. You need to digest what you read just like you need to digest the food you consume. Sometimes when you are so engrossed with the story, it is an anti- climax when it ends and you feel a sense of loss when you come to the end of the book. There are fictions that are intense and I completely immerse myself with the protagonist and the characters and then when the story ends, I feel a little sad that  I  have to leave these characters behind. When that happens, I feel like I need to decompress and take a little breather while my head is still swinging with the stories of  these characters.

I  get particularly excited whenever I come across a passage that resonates with my thoughts. I am naturally drawn to writings that I like so that can happen quite often. I also enjoy writing. I write opinions and advice for my legal work but that is not the kind of writing I like writing. I can only write in spurts the kind of writing I dabble in. Although I do not write the kind of writing I like for a living , I find the following passage from the memoir by Haruki Murakami as translated in English by Philip Gabriel in “ What I talk about when I talk about Running” aptly describes how I  feel about writing.

As I suspect is true of many who write for a living, as I write I think about all sorts of things. I don’t necessarily write down what I’m thinking; it’s just that as I write I think about things. As I write, I arrange my thoughts. And rewriting and revising takes my thinking down even deeper paths. No matter how much I write, though, I never reach a conclusion. And no matter how much I rewrite, I never reach the destination.”

Haruki further writes, “ Even after decades of writing, the same still holds true. All I do is present a few hypotheses or paraphrase the issue. Or find an analogy between the structure of the problem and something else.

When one writes, one is in touch with his or hers thoughts and we think about things.  When we express our thoughts in written form, we are putting down in print our stance and  our beliefs if we are truthful. Writing needs concentration. It is also a creative process where one can be transported through one’s imagination when one writes. But thoughts come and go, so often I come across an idea or a concept which I think comical or insightful; I might have thought it was a brilliant idea to write about later and when I tried to recall it later somehow I could no longer feel its magic or humour. I also do not have a good memory so I can no longer recall the exact words or phrase I probably used to formulate the idea. There were times when I had scribbled my thoughts down somewhere  and subsequently  when I took a look at what I had written, they no longer worked as well as I had thought they would. It was probably just a particular state of mind at that particular moment when the idea  seemed to matter.

Writing is a form of play to me; as I write I think about how to construct a sentence to describe a thought, an emotion, a scene or an event.

I attended my first writing workshop in October. It was really embarrassing that I had attended a writing workshop without any writing pad. What kind of aspiring writer are you when you do not carry a note pad ? The problem with me is that I can be planning ahead and somehow miss out the important detail so there I was, turning up at the workshop without any writing sheets. In  the past whenever I scribble a thought that came to mind, I tend to discard it whenever I sit down with a view  to type them out. I had even tried recording when I drove but when I played it they sounded hollow. So these days, I carry my laptop everywhere with me just in case I can find some time to sit down and write. The workshop was an eye opener for me so now I carry notepads around as  it does make sense to carry a notepad to jot down interesting words that I might come across when I read. Inspirations is everywhere if one pays attention to one’s surroundings. What I have learnt from the workshop and talks about writing  is  that you must write everyday so rain or shine, you have to sit down and write in order to hone your writing skills. Writing and reading are solitary activities and you simply need to set aside the time and space to get down to it everyday.

Writing is meditative and you need to be calm to possess a clarity of mind. I find that  if I am  pre-occupied or feel troubled, I will not be able to write. But then again what did I learn from the writing workshop? You must sit down and write everyday even if you are not feeling particularly insightful about anything on that day. Yes troubles and problems can wait, but not reading nor writing. Be inspired everyday and everywhere.

Sozzled Sausage, a pub in Lemington Spa, England

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Time Machine

The Astronomical Clock in Prague

About a year ago, my elder daughter asked me, “ Mom, it is said that a woman cannot have it all. That's true right?”  I reckon she and her friends were talking about how a woman must balance her work and family thus it is not possible to have it all. I am not sure if I gave her an answer. Maybe I did not want to discourage her and I wanted to sound optimistic,  I might have mumbled something incoherent that I have no recollection.

A month ago, my younger daughter who is nineteen said to me, “ Mom I want to try so many things.  There are just so many different things I want to do.” That was when she was trying to decide which societies to join in her first year at the university. It is wonderful that she is keen to get involved with the student communities. Her enthusiasm is commendable.

Time is slipping from us. When we are young and robust, we think that we have all the time in the world but if  time travel were possible and  I could go back in time to  tell my young self “ You have to prioritize your goals in life and tackle each one with singularity”, my young self would probably chuckle and dismiss that in a huff.

In his memoir “ What I talk about when I talk about Running Haruki Murakami writes about his experience in running and preparing for marathons and how running intersects with writing for him.  He writes about how he has to accept the fact that as he ages, he will not be able to run the way he used to. He writes, “ Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do.”  He observes that physical decline is waiting as you age and though it is not one of your  happier realities, you will have  to get used to that. 

It is a fact that time is ever moving forward without a moment’s rest. Thus it is not important to compete against time but it is important to know one’s limitations and as long as we are physically fit and able, we make the best use of our time to do whatever we enjoy doing. But what happens when there are still so much more to explore and to learn about? The question is how can we prevent ourselves from getting all wired up in order to fit in all the things we must do and also things we like to do?

Whether we are young or old, we do not know what tomorrow awaits us until tomorrow comes. Meanwhile whatever strong desires we have about doing something, we probably should just give it everything we have to set out to do it. So can we try to do it all?

Maybe if we really want something bad enough, if we know for certain what we want, we will somehow make it happen, otherwise we just have to accept that we cannot have or do everything. That is life. It is not just us women who cannot have it all. Nobody can have it all. The author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair My Year of Magical Reading, Nina Sankovitch wrote in her reading memoir about what else she wanted for her children; Ms Sankovitch told her husband about Murakami, “ He doesn’t try to do it all.” Murakami dedicated himself to writing when he decided that writing would be the focus of his life so he gave up socializing and change his lifestyle to suit his new vocation.

Like  Ms Nina Sankovitch,  I would quote Murakami’s words to my daughters:

 You really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.”

To be able to do something totally well, we should totally and definitely commit to the task and tackle it with singularity and rigour if and when we decide to do it. But  the difficulty for most of us when we are  young is  to know what is it that we would like  to do with such conviction and quite often nothing specific comes to mind. So tick – tock, tick- tock………..


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fair Dinkum

View from The Millennium Bridge, London                                
After taking a vacation for a couple of weeks, it is time to get back to the routine.  There is no such thing as easing into the work life. Reality hits when clients call up about the status of their files. Despite judgments and orders being obtained in their favour, they are still unable to get back their money or their land. It has become necessary to take further actions. I certainly wish I were somewhere in Nice struggling  to converse with my spatters of  French to the shop assistant, café waiter or restaurant hostess or  walking down the streets in Leamington Spa or catching a tube to get from one place to another around London.

Those who resort to filing a suit or an action in court  believe that they have been wronged and they are hoping that justice will straighten things out. As lawyers, when we agree to take on a brief, we act upon instructions from our clients. Everyone interprets the facts from their own point of view. After a while you realize that there is no absolute right or wrong, it is just a matter of who may deserve it more and how some justice must be seen to be done whether by way of some monetary compensation or other form of remedies. As lawyers, it is our job in finding the law that supports our clients’ cases and put forth arguments within the legal limits since we are paid to argue to uphold our clients’ stance and position.

Court House in Nice
 We implore the law to help sort out our clients’ woes in their lives when trouble strikes. We also prepare the necessary documentation to safeguard our clients’ interests when they enter into transactions and partnerships with others. The law definitely  plays a large role in the commercial and financial world .In the banking world, when the banks or lenders  recover what is legally due to them, the amount may be inflated and compounded with interests so much so that  the borrowers now have to settle some amount much larger than what they had initially borrowed. Just like in all business transactions, someone must make a gain or earn their keep while another person must lose or  pay for that someone’s gain or reward. Perhaps if the bank had been prudent in lending, there would be less bad debts but this is economy and  the lending is necessary so that there is more buying and selling and it gives the economy a buzz.

If one person feels that he has been hurt or injured whether it is his name or reputation, he will sue for libel.  If one feels that his legal interests had been invaded or  his rights had been infringed, he will file a complaint. Nobody wants to be treated unfairly but trying to get even with somebody is indeed not a good premise to begin with. Life is fair in a strange way. If only everyone could look into the mirror and ask “Really? You honestly believe that you did not ask for this to happen to you?”

Whatever it is, nobody wants to be at the losing end or taken advantage of . The question is as soon as we feel it is our legal right, we will defend what we believe is our legal right. For some twist of fate or a moment of indiscretion, whether it is in the name of claiming his or her legal entitlement or simply being strictly uncompromising, a law suit is filed by or  against him or her rightly or wrongly. Often when a quarrel ends up in the court room, there is no turning point; it may feel like falling into  quicksand and you can no longer escape from the trappings following the unfinished business that hang over your head and drain your energy and spirit. As lawyers, we are paid to argue but success cannot be guaranteed. We certainly want to win the cases for our clients otherwise we should not have taken up the cases . Often it might be wise for a litigant to make a decision to walk away, count his or her bad luck and make peace with the world, if not the person may find himself or herself entangled in the web of legal battles and wonder “ Why me ?” If one sticks to the basic rule: What is meant to be yours will be yours and the other Karmic  rule : what comes round goes around and what goes round must come round, will there still be a need for legal services?

But then life is complicated, the complexity of a
modern society needs to be regulated to safeguard against malice and harm. We require laws and order to keep the environment safe for everyone and  minimize abuse or unfair treatments of certain groups of people and prevent flagrant flouting of the law. We need the laws to regularize things and make things lawful and proper for those who need the protection of the law. For example, the new born baby who had been borne out of wedlock and had to be put up for adoption, the housewife whose ignorance had ended her in some fraudulent scams, the worker who had been unfairly treated and many others who have not understood the gravity of their actions or omissions So we lawyers soldier on ….

 Tate Modern

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The World is not Tough

I often feel that the young ones seem a lot more street smart than me at their age. Have they become more aware of  some of  the ugly truths and harsh realities in this fast changing world through the media? Could it be that  the parents these days are inclined to steer their children ahead in anticipation of the tough competition due to bad economy and rising cost of living ?  In my twenties, I was fickle and experimental yet more often than not, I was spontaneous  and even impulsive, definitely less weary of following my heart. I believe that each and every decision I had made were just decisions I had to make. In reaching those decisions, I must have taken  into considerations what my parents, teachers and elders had tried to tell me as they felt that it was their duty to guide me.  I listened to them because they were supposed to be worldly. There were times I had digressed and caused pain to my parents as the path which they had envisioned for me might have differed from what they witnessed. But seriously, are the old ones wiser really?

Now that I am a parent, I endeavour to protect my children from experiencing hardship, despair and hurt while I  know that I must let go and allow them to make up their own minds, handle their own dilemmas and not be afraid to venture. As trite it may sound, life per se is for every individual to go through on their own. We take life seriously and although we know that nothing is certain, we still  make plans for the future.

Perhaps some individuals  are grounded, focused and competent since young while the others are happy go lucky and come what may. I belong to the latter. Decades later , I could not help thinking if I ought to have taken more care in planning for my future then so that instead of  drifting  through my youth, I could focus on trying to achieve  what I really would have liked to do with the rest of my life.  On the other hand, given the kind of person I am, I probably would not have done anything differently. This morning,  I stopped by a new café in the neighbourhood for a latte. It was a cozy place and the coffee was reasonably priced.  I found out that the café owner  had always wanted to set up a café so he quitted teaching and started his own café. Stories like his are not new, but it is nice to talk to someone who has actually done it.  My office partners started their coffee business with a view to spread their love for siphon coffee. They still keep their main work and manage  their coffee business on the side. Our desires may be bourgeois and commonplace, no matter what our dreams are , one must not hold back if one has a plan for what he or she really wants to do.

I do not have a list of  dos and don’ts for my children. I only hope that they are bold enough to  listen to their instincts and possess the grit and conviction to follow their dreams. Quite often as we age, we become skeptical as we have been through failures,rejections and at some point in the past we might have seen or felt humiliation or heard about what happened to those who had ventured and failed miserably. In a nutshell, we are all afraid to fail as failures can make or break a person. As parents, we are worry warts and because we are worried about their future, we get them to start reading at a young age and send them to endless classes, put them through tertiary and advise them to get some  qualification that will promise a bright and lucrative future. We are far from originality in terms of our aspirations for our children. We are eager to set our children on track from young and we avoid the uncharted path because we feel that the truly ingenious ones are very few and the geniuses are definitely genetically determined. Surely  in this era, the  young has enough of their fair share of pre-loaded computer datas including global positioning system (GPS)  to navigate them from one geographical location to another, there must be room left for them to follow their intuition and find  their inner voices and their true passions. 

 Ideally, given whatever circumstances they are in, every individual must be able to follow their heart  and  be daring to  make  their own choices as to what they want to do in their lifetime so as to arrive at  the kind of person  they want to be and hope to  become. Namaste.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Much Ado about Nothing

Highland Cattle in Scotland

These days I find life is going far too quickly. Has it always been like this ? I can understand why time had to pass by very quickly when the children were growing up.  Amidst my own work, workout and coffee sessions with friends, I had my children’s activities to organize  so it was a matter of juggling acts. Seemingly when there were tons of things going on plus there were plenty of ferrying to do, time had to fly. Now that I have more free time at my disposal, somehow I still find myself having not enough time to do all the things I like to do. Someone asked me to help out at one women organization since my children are away and I might experience the so called “empty nest syndrome”. I told the friend that I still had plenty of things to do  . Her reply was “ its interesting how as we get older, friends are telling me they have no time. mebbe we do things slower.”

To think of it, her quip  bears some truth. Maybe subconsciously, we do things slower now that we need not have to dash around trying to fit in our own schedules by working around our children’s tuitions and activities. It could be because we now feel that we have earned the luxury of going about  our daily  tasks more leisurely. I certainly  hope  to have less to do so  that  I can finally have the time to rewrite that novel which never gets to the finishing line or write that story which I started or catch up with my far away friends.

Quite often we are creatures of habits . I used to be diligent in my exercise regime, I played tennis several times a week, went to yoga sessions twice a week and gym at least once a week. I led an active lifestyle. I was often in a hurry as I rushed about to fit in my tennis and yoga and doing all my favourite things along with my work and getting my daughters to classes and tuitions. Now that I do not have any ferrying to do, I slow down. Maybe I needed my tennis and yoga to  constantly  recharge myself to keep myself going from one errand to another. I needed the adrenalin pumping. These days I play less tennis  and go to yoga sessions sometimes or not  at all  as I find myself not willing to rush from one point to another and brave the traffic. I like to take my time to go from one place to another and I yearn for  more quiet moments to read.  Though I enjoy having coffee and chatters about nothing with my friends, I need those quiet time alone.  I do not want to be swept away by constantly having appointments, agendas or goals to meet.  Somehow as we age and carry on past middle age, the time before us are not only inversely proportionate to the time behind us, it appears to accelerate at a lightning speed.

My late dad used to be very much  involved with social work like fund raising for  a school his daughters had attended and some cultural events so much so that all I could remember was  he had kept a very tight schedule and believe me he was forever on the go. He had slept very little and he  definitely enjoyed keeping himself busy until his health took its toll. Unlike my dad, I have the making of a beach bum; I like to have a life where I can idle and spend more time with my loved ones and friends even if just to talk about all things inconsequential. I want to be in touch with my surroundings . I feel life has been going too quickly. Multi- tasking can be fun but it is hard to do better in each task. I reckon one will get more joy in every task one attends  to if one can have the time and opportunity to perfect each and everyone of the tasks. When I focus on hitting the tennis balls, I definitely get more out of  each and every shot I deliver even if they are far from competitive level .I used to find baking therapeutic. It was because when I immersed myself in the mixing and blending, for those moments it felt bliss and time stood still. When one puts one’s mind into executing a task, one will get the most out of it if one could take one’s time in doing it .So if we do less or do things slower, will life slow down for us ?

Brighton city

Monday, April 30, 2012


           Baby Boomers ( born between 1945 and 1964)

Highlands West of  Inverness

Agnes :    A professional,  still working and plan to retire in another five years

 Betty :    Recently quitted her thirtieth job and  is currently looking for a job

 Carol :     Quitted working several years ago and care for the aging parents

 Dorothy:   A full time housewife

(Place : Inside a restaurant. The women are sharing a salad, a roast beef sandwich and some pasta.)

Dorothy           My  dad’s dementia appears to be getting worse.

Carol           Mmmmm.. I don’t mind losing memory of some of the things that had  happened in my life.

Betty               Oh no not dementia or Alzheimer,  you don’t want that to happen. That ‘s when you do not recall recent events and you probably remember every single detail about the past.

Dorothy          It’s terrible to not  know or remember the things you normally do.

Agnes             It feels like overloading of information sometimes I forget where I left my sunglasses and they are just sitting right on top of my head …hope that’s  not  a sign of me losing my mind.
Dorothy         Well he placed his dentures in the fridge…..argh well….

Betty               Old age sucks!

Agnes           These days sometimes when I switch bags and I have a tough time   remembering where I could have left my car keys or a particular lipstick  in.  Is that a sign of Alzheimer?

Dorothy        I guess you won’t know when it happens. My advice to you : stick to one  bag.

Carol           I find that I have to remember my dad’s pills and I’m  beginning to forget  my own supplements.

Agnes           Oh what kind of supplements are you on?

Carol            Barley green, bilberry, fish oil  and evening primrose oil.

Agnes           That many?

Carol            I want to stay healthy to enjoy my senior citizenship. Another 10 years?

Betty            Aiyo not so soon, if you think you are old you are old.

Agnes       We should have majong sessions, remember the cards sessions during our bungalow stays?

Carol             Agnes  used to win all the time.

Betty            Agnes was  always game to be  a banker.

Dorothy       Hey I remember Agnes was really good at playing bluff, even Kenny and his boys lost to you.

Betty            Hey  that sounds so incorrect. What do you mean by even the boys lost to her ?

Agnes     You girls have such good memory, I cannot remember at all. 

Carol      Remembering stuff about our past will not help. This talk is depressing me, let’s order coffee.

(As Carol tries to get the attention of one of the waiters, Betty looks contemplative.)

Betty           I remember my mother telling me about  some relative of my aunt fell into a   habit of   washing her hands repeatedly. It sounded like she had some sort  of compulsive obsessive disorder but  to think of it , she could have forgotten that she had already washed her hands. That must be dementia.

Agnes         Terrible isn’t it?  I wonder if we are constantly  in denial of the happening of certain things and consciously ignoring it you know by blocking out a certain part of our memory, will that trigger dementia?

Dorothy       Far out!


            Agnes           No it is not so incredulous. You know when you so want to escape from reality,    you reconstruct your actual situation or what you witness otherwise it is unbearable.

Dorothy       Sounds too deep to me .

Betty         Mmmm  an exercise to forget things ? Interesting. Well is that what is called           distortion of reality?

Carol          We  face different challenges  at different age. Stop worrying . Why is the     

               waiter  walking away ?

Dorothy      We are no more pretty faces lo, that’s why he does not see us .  

Betty           Hey speak for yourself .  Look at  Agnes amazingly fit .

Agnes          Mmmm thanks Betty.

Dorothy     Of course she exercises eight times a week. I look like a old bag. 

Carol          No you don’t.  Stop whining, you should come and join me for walks around the botanical garden.

Dorothy     You kidding. I don’t have time.

Betty           I think exercise is definitely important to keep our mental faculty sane.

Agnes         Yup I need to de-stress through my tennis and running. I think I'll go bonkers without my workout.

Betty           It is the serotonin that picks us up.

Carol          Maybe that is one of the ways to prevent the mind from slipping.  I   reckon worrying is definitely bad for health.

Betty         Of course of course, when we worry we just zoom in and the issues become magnified. When that happens, I find my head hurting.

Dorothy      No kidding?

Betty           No kidding.

Dorothy     Should I bang the table to get attention ?

Betty           No you don’t.  Look he is coming over to our table now.

The women order their coffee and continue to chatter, chatter, chatter…..

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Think Individual

Pictures speak a thousand words. I treasure those pictures taken of me in my younger days.  When I look at those old photographs, I try to recall my state of mind and the events around the period when the pictures were taken. I wonder what I could have been thinking and how my views had changed . I have always aspired to become an independent minded person and an individualist. Maybe some people are naturally more individualistic than others while some like  to  conform with  social expectations and naturally fit into the environment they live in. There are the others who are still figuring out things. Sometimes I wish I had figured out some things sooner. Perhaps it is better late than never.

When I left home to pursue my studies, my dad bought me a Canon camera . I believe it was a AE SLR and it was one of the must haves which I carried everywhere I travelled to. When I dabbled in some baking , my dad bought for our house a standing oven during one of my vacations. My dad bought both me and my sister  a treadmill and exercise machine in the early nineties. The camera, the oven and the treadmill are  representative of the interests that had become an integral part of my adult lifestyle. I  am not much of a cook but I am a foodie. I do incorporate regular physical exercises in my weekly routine to keep fit and feel good. I enjoy taking pictures and in this digital age, photography seems to inspire infinite possibilities. During our growing years, we were sent to piano and music lessons and the brand of our first piano was Pearl River and it was subsequently replaced by a Baldwin which my daughters used when they first started their music lessons. These were of course not the only purchases my dad had expended on. However there were some items which were not purchased but home made and I did not think I appreciated them then.

As a child, we do not want to be different from the others. Peer pressure is real. As far as my memory goes,  I was never given one of those paper lanterns which children  hand carry during mid-autumn lantern festival or commonly known as mooncake festival. Every such festival, children flock outside their houses  with their little lanterns brightly lit and they walk around their backyard or parade on the street  in the neighbourhood. These paper lanterns are usually in the shape of an animal e.g. a  rabbit, a bird, a dragon or whatever that is striking and colourful. These days the design of such lanterns may include those of the anime characters. My enterprising and innovative dad used to make ornaments for Christmas decorations; there was this one time my sister and I had asked for a lantern. Instead of spending money buying one of those colourful paper lantern which was  flimsy and probably would burn out after the season,  he made my sister and I each a wooden lantern with wheels which we had to lug along on the road; he had modified one of those Christmassy dollhouses which were left over from the previous year sale. If I remember correctly, it was a dollhouse with some glitters and sparkles. Instead of a paper lantern which is feather weight and can be carried around the neighbourhood, we each had a wooden dollhouse which we had to pull or lug along the road.  As a young child, I felt very self- conscious and awkward about my “lantern” which was significantly different from the traditional paper lanterns and  I certainly did not  ever ask for another lantern during subsequent years.

Looking back, I remember having a dad who was industrious and  had little time to idle around. For a living, he had to constantly think of producing stuff  to market. When he was in PVC plastic business, he made PVC bags printed with pretty pictures and printed stickers which bore meaningful and inspirational words which we now receive through our emails from our cyber friends . More often than not, my dad on his own   learnt the ropes of whatever business he ventured into, be it books printing or screen printing or plastic industry.  He also had to plan and strategize his marketing plan on his own. He had the ideas but he did not have the people to execute them. He was innovative but he was perhaps not sufficiently resourceful  to engage the right people to perfect what he wanted to achieve. He had very little financing so he had to make money out of these merchandises quite quickly to make his businesses sustainable. As my dad felt his way around and invest his time and  energy in making products which he thought were merchantable, he also found the time to play tenor saxophone in a music band which he had formed with his friends ; he arranged music for his band which took to perform in botanical garden during festive occasions as part of the community activities. He had married my mother and a decade later, fell for a woman who was poles apart from my mother. How he could have such contrasting tastes still baffles me till this day.

In some ways, my dad was an individualist. Somehow throughout the years, his aspirations for his children became pragmatic, conventional and earthy although  once upon a time he had cared more about virtues, intellect, artistic  and creative talents than money. Like all parents in the world, my dad wanted his children to have material success and a comfortable lifestyle. As he was caught in a race  juggling between his role as a breadwinner raising his family and his social obligations in fulfilling his commitments and responsibilities in the positions he had volunteered in various organizations, it appeared that he might have overlooked the essence of moderation . Maybe each individual will have to somehow figure out our own centre in order to find our balances. I figure it  is easier said than done.

Malapascua Island, Philippines

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Wonder Years

Like most books that I read or films I had seen, I stumbled upon the film ‘Tiny Furniture’ written and directed by Lena Dunham as I surfed the Astro channels one Sunday. It was a story about coming of age for a young female college graduate. Although our environments are not similar, I believe that some of us might have gone through similar experiences in search of their identities in their twenties just like Aura in ‘Tiny Furniture’. After finishing college with a film theory degree, twenty-two year old Aura returns home to her artist mother and  has to adjust living at home with her mother and sister. While trying to get over the breakup with her college boyfriend, she catches up with her childhood best friend who has never left home and has a quirky personality. She gets herself a job at the restaurant and quit when she finds it boring. She toys with a couple of romantic possibilities which the viewers can see that they are bad choices and are doomed to start with. As the film develops, the character can be endearingly homey although at times her naivety and passive aggression can be irritating. The character  and her restlessness between post college and adult life are well portrayed.

In ‘Tiny Furniture’, Aura found her mother’s old diary and read some of it. I  kept a diary when I was in secondary school and those years were probably the most awkward era of my life. I would not let it lie around for anyone to read. I feel abashed just thinking about the kind of thoughts that had gone through my mind. Through my jottings, I realized that  I had enough self-possession in some areas but not in others. The self-possession that I had was probably misguided since I lacked cynicism and was hopeful, idealistic and rather naive. I believe that one’s character is what one is  born with but with nurture, we can become either better or worse person than what we have started with. Environment can make or break a person ; the earlier we can recognize our strengths and weaknesses, the sooner we can gain a perspective about the kind of person we want to become. We all get what we deserve by reason of our personality traits hence the choices we have made.
When I was studying abroad, I did some growing but after I graduated, there was still plenty of growing to do. I feel that twenties were my formative years. How I miss those years when life was just about self-indulgence and a zest for new adventures. I wish that I had spent less time idling and were more motivated to make the best of those years. Marriage and motherhood must have made me grow up and give me the kind of grounding I lacked. 

A close friend who is the envy amongst us as she has been able to take time off to travel and dabble in hobbies which she now has time to indulge in since her son is grown up. She has an understanding spouse who seems to allow her the space she needs . When she talks about her wish to take a year off  travelling, we are appalled as she seems to be away all the time.  Despite all the trips she had been able to make the past two years, she dreams of taking a holiday for a year. I perfectly understand where she is coming from. Some of us long to take a year off from our present life as we crave for the return of those carefree days where we need not bother about our daily grinds, commitments and family obligations. While it is wonderful to have a structured and orderly life and the comfort of a life we have grown too familiar with,  we might want to get outside our comfort zone and venture into new territories. We sometimes yearn to break away from the routine and wish that we only have our very own needs to think of and not worry about anyone else at all. If it were just a notion, we will find out when we are so homesick that we just want to come home sooner than we think as there is no place like home. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Growing years

Parenthood seems to make you nervous for the rest of your life. We do our best to give our children the opportunities to realize their full potentials because we want to prepare them for a good life ahead. Children grow up as separate individuals whose aspirations are not necessarily similar to their parents’. I shy away from commerce seeing how my dad led his life as a businessman although I was grateful that he had sponsored my tertiary education. I wanted to have a career and was rather  undomesticated seeing how unhappy my mother was as her life centered around her husband and her children.

In bringing up my own children, I care most about two things , “ Intuitiveness” and secondly “ Self Esteem”. I only hope that I have not said or done things that will affect their emotional well being and their self confidence. I believe that all of us grow up with baggage and issues, some have more baggage and issues than others.  Some of us spend most  of our adult lives working through some of the damage we have suffered growing up and gain a perspective  of things in general while others  carry on living and oblivious to how their particular behaviour may have been affected by some experience they encountered during their growing years.

Recently I watched the movie “Atlas Shrugged” Part 1 and was interested to read the novel upon which the movie was based on. When I was told that we had a copy of the novel at home, I looked through our collection of books on our book shelf in search of the novel written by Ayn Rand. I did not find the novel but to my surprise, I own books like “ How Your Child Learns and Succeeds” and “How to teach Your Child to Read”.  I must have bought them in my quest to be a competent parent.

Though my life was not exactly like the protagonist, Kate Reddy in “ I don’t Know How She does it” by Allison Pearson, amid all the school runs, errands and last but not least, court runs, my adrenalin juice was constantly flowing into my veins. I tried to read in between my errands whenever I had the time even if they were just  a few minutes while waiting for children to come out from classes. However there were certain books which never got to the finishing line. While I might have good intentions, I found myself getting lost in the wilderness as I ploughed through manual like “How Your Child Learns and Succeeds”. To my defence, I would argue that my girls were growing up and I should bask in those moments observing them rather than bury my nose underneath some parenting manual. I fetched the book “How Your Child Learns and Succeeds” from the book shelf and discover a bookmark inside the book. The book mark was drawn and made by my elder daughter for  Mother’s Day (around  ten years old then)  who obviously knew what her mother needed most. Bookmarks, plenty of bookmarks to mark all the half read books and still hope to reach the finishing line one day

As I flipped through the book“ How Your Child Learns and Succeeds” written by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias,  I fervently hope that  I had not done too badly as a parent since I had barely covered one sixth of the book. It is interesting how the author characterized people with different personality traits and accorded them with different learning styles to describe how our minds work. It is useful to identify the characteristics of certain personality traits with a view to understand the individual’s  innate abilities and learning styles. If I understand correctly the description according to the chart in the book, I identify myself as the Dominant Concrete Random type; according to Tobias, what makes sense to these people are inter alia  : using insight and instinct to solve problems, working with general time frames rather than specific deadlines , trying something themselves rather than taking your word for it. Dominant Concrete Random is often stressed by excessive restrictions and limitations and forced schedules or routines. I do get easily stressed when I am expected to conform and I still charge ahead with certain tasks  despite being advised against doing them. The book by Tobias is an interesting read that gives one some insight into our respective learning style. 

Since I feel passionate about reading, I really was eager to instill in my children the reading habit hence the book “How to teach Your Child to Read”. As a new mother, I was sold the idea of getting a child to read before  the child turned  three years old. It was amazing how these sale agents had a way of knowing that you had just recently given birth and you would be interested in any programmes relating to the child brain development. Besides going through the flashcards provided by Glenn Doman reading set, I was zealous to the extent that I actually made flashcards out of manila cardboards with words which were definitely not relevant to a two year old. It was a tall order to get a curious and restless toddler to sit still for a couple of minutes while you flashed the cards with red letterings. Apparently words are supposed to be like pictures and by flashing the words, the child learns to read as he or she identify the word like the way he or she identifies a picture. It was hard work for both mother and child and I did not persevere in building a  word bank which included words that were not applicable in my children’s world.

As prosperity and greater material success appear to be the common utilitarian goals, modern life has become increasingly competitive for the young generation. Employability  is  a criteria when  pursuing a particular college degree rather than passion and an  objective to broaden one’s mind;  getting top grades to gain a place at a reputable college or institution is an urgent task. The baby boomers did not have the same stress as what the current generation are facing. Not sure if it is the desire to live vicariously through their children for their unfulfilled dreams or the need to prevent them from living in regrets, the more educated parents (baby boomers included) seem to micro-manage the affairs of their children more closely than ever. We must know that even if the young ones  make any mistakes, they might not be the same ones as the ones we have made. We do not want our children to grow old before their years by emphasizing too much about  the importance of practicality and worry about what their future holds. As we try to impress upon our children not to take for granted the passing  of their youth, each child must learn to be truthful to himself or herself; he or she must also  become  self reliant without being self absorbed and we hope that he or she will have the courage to venture beyond the comfort zone with enough sense and sensibility.