Sure as Autumn Flame

5 weeks to words

ImageA hot air balloon emerging from the mist,
Perhaps this is what reality looks like under all that morphine.

For months I’ve buried the stirrings of an emotional connect beneath the daily grind,
Only for a fatal incident to open my eyes to the love from friends and others close to my heart  I nearly left behind,
Through morphine and painkillers those memories are fleeting, but real,
As they etched themselves into my heart to remember, to heal.

My friends, you came and chatted, how I hung on to those conversations,
They remind me of our shared laughter and enjoyable moments,
How we’ve grown and paved our path to future destinations;
These I’ve neglected, all in the name of blinded pursuits for success and accomplishments,
And to close a chapter on love and all other emotions.

The days at home can be long and empty,
Filled with images and thoughts but alas they are so damn flighty;
You came by and spent the hours with me when I’m stuck at home and my brain so laggy,
Not my best state, with the world through my eyes turning topsy-turvy.

Touched – I was, a quiet peace that accompanied your presence,
You saw my before and aftermath, never again;
Eight lives I’ve gambled, granted with one – to love, to cherish, to put a smile on others’ faces,
To tell the stories the world ought to hear, and know somewhere, somehow I’ve made a tiny difference.

Stay if you plan to stay, don’t come and go,
The body’s battered, there leaves only the soul.
The former I can play, the latter I keep within,
Bit by bit revealed, through encounters thick and thin.

The recovery path might have seemed easy and nice;
Masked through optimism, character and moments I fantasize;
There have been minutes of frustration, worry and agony,
The fear of losing myself – intelligence, pace and musicality,
The tremble in my veins, not seeing my past wordsmith and ideas surface…

The mind could draw a blank just like that,
I find myself searching my memory banks as though I’ve misplaced the catalogue for them,
Like a confused librarian who has nothing on her hand,
I leave my search to prayers and hope,
While I re-teach myself to think the way I did again.


“25 Life Lessons For My Daughter”
November 1, 2012, 2:14 am
Filed under: L.ove, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

I came across a blog post I archived years back, in hopes of living my life by them. As titled, these were advice from a modern-day Dad, and I find it tragically funny that I had to take advice from a digital piece of writing, because I never had the opportunity to get my dose of life’s advice from my dad.

So as humorous as they are at times, they make alot of sense. I have lifted from MetroDad’s post, his 25-liners for his daughter:

(1) When posing for any photos, assume that the only people who will see them are me, your mother, your boss, and the dean of admissions.

(2) Lennon, not McCartney. Keith, not Mick. Page, not Plant.

(3) Life is too short not to order the fries.

(4) Never date a man who is rude to waiters, doesn’t say “bless you” when you sneeze, or won’t offer you his jacket when you’re cold.

(5) Never order drinks that are pink or come with an umbrella in them. Don’t be fancy.

(6) Don’t worry about being popular. The “weird” kids are much more fun and will end up being your most interesting friends. Also, when it comes to friends, you can’t trump quality with quantity. Choose wisely. Who would you call to drive your white Bronco?

(7) Give charitably, generously, and anonymously.

(8) Crocs are for people who have given up on life.

(9) Never cheat. Not on exams, the crossword puzzle, or your boyfriend.

(10) If you love someone, tell them. Don’t hold back.

(11) It may be a small world but it’s a huge planet. Grab every opportunity to see as much of it as you possibly can. Most people don’t.

(12) Keep your eye on the ball and follow through, both in sports and in life.

(13) Speaking of sports, pick a team and stick with them. There are few things more important in life than loyalty. It’s a dying trait currently in short supply. Trust me. I’m a Mets fan.

(14) Never regret staying home alone with a good book.

(15) If you feel the need to reinvent yourself, at least be original. No tattoos unless you’re in the armed forces. No body piercings unless you become a pre-Columbian tribal Aztec. No orange hair unless you join the circus.

(16) Learn from the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And always remember that the story is never over.

(17) Don’t make a scene.

(18) Learn how to entertain yourself. Close the door, crank up the stereo, and dork out. Invent new dance moves. Play the air guitar. Practice your touchdown moves. Too many people are self conscious even when they’re alone. Don’t be one of those people.

(19) While you’re at it, learn how to laugh at yourself.

(20) When you realize that everyone comes from a dysfunctional family, life gets a little easier and you feel a little less crazy.  The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.

(21) Thank you notes are to be written promptly by hand on personal stationery. E-mails, phone calls and text messages don’t count.

(22) Remember that nice guys do finish first. If you don’t know that, then you don’t know where the finish line is.

(23) Learn to cook one thing really well.

(24) Happiness is not fame, money or power. The key to life is finding your sweet spot.

(25) Take every piece of advice anyone ever gives you with a grain of salt.


Truth be told, a huge part of me feels angry that I was given another sort of advice as life’s lessons – points that I do not agree with because they aren’t in my character to stick to. Another part of me feels sad that I had to discover such common sense advice through my own idle reading, and never having the wonderful privilege to know a role model to live life by.

So on the contrary, below are the life lessons given to me:

(1) A woman’s goal in life is finding a rich man who will love you, care for you so that you never have to work a day in your life.

(2) Happiness is having so much money that you never have to work a day in your life and you can do whatever you please.

(3) Always study hard no matter what, because that’s going to get you a good salary, and a good life.

(4) Always lift the toilet seat up; you don’t want the next person to have her butt wet while taking a piss or dump.

(5) Cook only in the kitchen if it doesn’t make the counter and floor oily, because it is stressful having to clean up.

(6) Always eat from a disposable container with disposable cutlery when you can, to save on washing up after that.

(7) Never work harder than what your scope of work requires you to. People never appreciate what you do anyway.

(8) Bliss is finding the man who is able to provide you and your family with a comfortable life (read: big house, maid, car and holidays)

(9) Don’t play too much sports because men are never gonna love scars on women.

(10) Skincare regime begins from 21 years old, because the Chinese saying: “When you do not burn a joss-stick as offering to the gods regularly, they would not come to your rescue at the last-minute even when you hug them at their legs.”


And perhaps, for good measure, here are my personal anecdotes to start with:

(1) Spend time finding out who you are, because once you have discovered and love that, it becomes for others to love you.

(2) Travel whenever you can. Nothing beats chalking a life full of stories to share over a round of beers.

(3) Decide if you will work for passion or for money. The best you can achieve is a balance of both but never more of your preferred choice. The grass is always greener than the other side.

(4) If you realise you are decent-looking enough, use your good looks to your advantage – get people to remember you, make an impression, and most of all, be NICE.

(5) Honesty is the best policy. The more you lie, the more you have to remember to make your stories consistent.

There are a great many more…but these are enough to start off with, for now.

An Awakening
July 16, 2012, 1:33 am
Filed under: L.ove, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

“Goodbye cuz, till I see you in Singapore.”

This trip to Kuala Lumpur brought me home, in every sense of the word. It was perfect timing, from coinciding landing times on Thursday with another cousin who flew home from Canada, having clients and friends in KL to play catch-up with, and the start of my break from work.

“Do you remember the times when we used to go to Yom Peng and play? Funny how 20 years later we are sitting here having coffee and talking about what we want in life.”

I spent the entire Thursday with them: we had lunch, went shopping, took ourselves out to this really awesome restorant-under-the-bridge, and spent the night skyping with another aunt, watching TV, talking, and dozing off. It was too short.

“I wish you could spend more nights here,” my aunt said.

I wish I could have planned it better. Mentally making a resolve to return for another weekend, I thought how it took me 20 years to find my way home. Leaving Malaysia for good meant saying goodbye to my closest family members, to my cousins I grew up with. My mum and I made every excuse not to visit although we were just a few hours away. In our pursuit for life, and the potential of gold it holds, we have drifted our ways and kept telling ourselves, next time next time. Till today as we caught up over coffee we realised our hunger for freedom and to taste the world has not hindered us a single bit, but fueled us to become who we are today – him as an Associate Creative Director in his own design firm, his sister in Social Couselling, and me, a consultant in Public Relations.

You are more than welcome to stay with us anytime, you know that.

That was my uncle, a man of few words. When he speaks, his words carry a halo of sincerity that warms you all up inside. I knew I could come back here and feel right at home, as I came this time to seek familiarity that is naturally there for me. True enough, I did. The slight similarities that remind us we are related by blood unfold themselves in the most peculiar ways ever: our late sleeping habits, our need to catch up with social media, our habits we formed since young, and the ease we moved about one another.

Everybody put your hands in the air!

We even party similarly. We never fail to turn heads as three of us lanky legged ones stride the mall or pump our fists in the air in the middle of a music festival. We did not really care, to be honest. One night of beers, food, hoots and laughter brought us closer than ever, for we were young (forever) that night. We would have our partners in our lives, but nothing mattered more than who we are to one another – first cousins.

Ramlee Burger. Universal Studios. Coffee hideouts. Sunway Lagoon all over again. 

Hey, how about USA to visit Jennifer next?

So we planned our next trip, just like that.

Come home for dinner, my daughter
July 9, 2012, 2:34 am
Filed under: Food, L.ove, Woven Tales | Tags: , , , , ,


It is another Sunday evening, staring at my white plastic bowl, a black pair of chopsticks, and a spoon that looked like it has been through the dishwasher one too many times. The table is white, and I did not have my favourite placemat on it.

It is the usual Sunday evening, seated at a food court with my mother opposite me. Instead of a Channel 8 drama serial blaring in the background, I hear voices of the vendors repeating their patrons’ orders albeit too loudly, the tuneless stacking of plastic plates stacking on top of one another as a cleaner goes around the tables clearing up, and my mum’s complaints dimmed into the background. “It’s too salty…so expensive and they only give you three pieces of meat.”

I did a mental calculation in my head: it has been nine years since I ate regular home-cooked meals. Sure, there were the special occasions such as Chinese New Year reunion dinners, a get-together on Mother’s and Father’s Day…but too often they were seen as a rarity and I gorged…to remember the simple satisfaction I used to take for granted, and to grasp dismally at the memories pegged to them, not knowing when I would enjoy such meals again.

My dear mother, why do you not remember that the promise of a simple dinner by you brought me home faithfully every day? It wasn’t the curfew that you set for me, neither was the threat that there will be no food left if I came home late. It was the pleasure of sitting at the table to my own plate (Bodum, I remembered) of steaming white rice, stir-fry xiao bai cai and best of all, garlic steamed fish that I know I would never get in restaurants.

My dear mother, could you remember how it was a treat for me to find a slice of melted cheese stuck to the plate because you remembered my quirky love for cheese-“baked”-rice? How you complained it was hell to wash the dishes after that? The odd pairing of oyster sauce, cheese with rice lingers in my palate and my memories.

Nothing else comes quite close anymore.

It sickens me to know that the vegetables that those economic rice stalls sell have been deep-fried to preserve their rich green colour. There is no satisfaction in consuming the hardened rice because it was cooked in the morning and left till lunch. I sought pleasure in new dishes, raving reviews, fresh concepts and Peranakan kitchens in my food writing and restaurant-PR days, but nothing else could reach deep into my heart and fill the void that opened nine years ago.

Those who know me tease me about my obsession with Tangs, Muji and general designer kitchenware. Did you know that I would stroll down the aisles of tableware and cutlery sets, mentally picking out the ones I would love to use at home…if I cooked, or if you cooked. I paused at Muji’s new wooden tableware this afternoon, knowing how each plate would contain each type of dish you’d always cooked. I bought two wooden trays back from my last trip to Bangkok, knowing how perfect Sunday mornings will be if your toast was served on it, with cream cheese on the side.

Alas, we both too often came up with the excuse of having no time, too many things to wash, and simply being too lazy.

I sit at the round dining table in the mornings when you are still asleep in bed, eating out from a plastic bag. The cup of Nespresso was the only hint of a somewhat slow morning because only then I have time to make latte. Don’t you think it is funny that we have more coffee mugs than plates, two coffee machines and not a stove, and too many teaspoons but only two tablespoons?

And when I got ready to head out for the day, you stare listlessly at the stainless steel plate you picked out from, one that reminds me too much of canteen days. Where was the pride taken in choosing tableware that used to make us love setting the table and eating at home? Where was the thrill that used to pulsate through us when we insisted on a set of pots and pans? Why has it all been a convenient and cheap option of buying plates that remind me of the tuckshop days?

Perhaps I could say, “My dear mother, come home for dinner. Let me into your kitchen where you were the maestro of the meals that came out of it. Let me into your haven where your hands conducted the orchestra of ingredients and your soul sang to the fire. My dear mother, come home for dinner where I will attempt to replicate a recipe and laugh as you choke on perhaps curry fish made a tad too spicy. Come home to dinner where placemats and tableware matter the world to me, and put your obsession with a squeaky clean and spotless kitchen aside just for three hours tonight.”

My dear mother, dinner is home to me.

Romance according to Richard “I’m not a crook” Nixon
March 15, 2012, 11:05 pm
Filed under: L.ove, Rhyme & Riddle | Tags: , , ,

I read an excerpt today, and it struck a chord within me.

“Every day and night I want to see you and be with you. Yet I have no feeling of selfish ownership or jealousy,” he writes in one undated letter.

“Let’s go for a long ride Sunday; let’s go to the mountains weekends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all, let’s really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours.”


I woke up next to you, the morning sun streaming in
Us huddled beneath the covers, toes and fingers entwining

Would this be the future, or a moment fleeting
Perhaps…likely…”I will consider”…baby don’t leave me hanging

Sleep in your eyes, a hint of a smile
Relaxed, at peace, come honey, just a little while

Wondering; wandering
March 13, 2012, 12:55 am
Filed under: L.ove, Rhyme & Riddle | Tags:

Why do I keep guessing what you are doing,
Why do I keep seeking what you are hiding?

Why do I read you like I read Twitter,
Like a stranger that knows you not any better?

Through love and confidence I skip through the days
While at the bottom of my heart I feel, come what may.

It sucks, it stings, it hurts like a bee got me
Yet it’s amazing, it’s crazy, it’s love (could it be?)

I miss, I crave, I soar on highs and fall into lows
I don’t settle, I thrive – on extremes of joy and sorrow.

Well, mum.
May 9, 2010, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Festive Cheers, L.ove | Tags: ,

It is Mother’s Day.

I struggle to understand the woman who single-handedly brought me up to the woman I am today…well, sort of ‘woman’ since I am moving into such a phase of my life. The past few weeks have been hell for both of us, with me doing a semi-move out and coming home only 3-4 night each week, and with her complaining that I have heartlessly abandoned her.

From my own selfish perspective, I try my darn-est to drive my point across: that I wish to stand on my own two feet; that I wish to try out living with somebody before considering anything more serious; that I am very stifled by her.

Yet on the other hand, I am also blessed with too good a heart to walk out of that front door. As a mother, it pains her to have her only child move out and leave her all alone in an apartment; her fear of loneliness which probably heightens when she comes home to an empty home; her pent-up emotions at having no one to talk to; her fear of letting go; her dashed hopes of having her daughter by her side forever.

It is Mother’s Day, and we were out having dinner. She saw the families, seemingly happy, dining with one another. “She is so lucky, one son and two daughters,” my mum remarked. Another family walked in, and my mum’s eyes took in the frail old lady who sat between two men, presumably her sons. And my mum lapsed into silence, eyes staring into a distance. Was she thinking of her life in future? Was she thinking about the lousy daughter she has by her side, who only knows to take her out for dinner once in a while? Was she reminiscising about the days when her daughter was single, and could accompany her to the gym and dinner every Saturday?

It is Mother’s Day, and a television advertisement on rice came on. An old woman appeared, with a voiceover: I only ask for your patience, and your love, and nothing else. This rice, I cook with love, patience and everything else. My mum remarked, “Good advertisement. Echoes exactly how I feel.”

A pang of sadness hit me. Could I have done more? Would it have made a little more difference if we both had cherished each evening I am home, instead of hurling snide comments at me and lamenting loudly how “poor thing” she is? I wouldn’t have had to retire into silence, shaking within in rage and tears, while she tries her best not to drown in her own sorrows.

Could there be a balance, between pursuing a life I want and remaining a stay-home mother’s daughter? It is not that she restricts me so badly, it is not that she has imposed a curfew upon me. So am I asking for more, like I have always done? Would I have been the person I am, if I have resigned to obedience?

And what happens when I get married? Do I share her with my future husband, or will I be forced to choose between the two?

And so Mother’s Day will come and go; the days of Mother and I will pass with turbulence, day by day.