Sunday, March 31, 2013

Three Joys

The Christian community around the world celebrates Easter today, a wonderment unparalleled by any other human events in history, except perhaps by a related event, Christmas. For about two thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Israelites under the captivity and later bondage of the Babylonians and then the Romans recalled the time their ancestors were slaves to the Egyptian masters, and longed for freedom with the coming of the prophesied Messiah. He came and was the first joy to ordinary Israelites who felt Jesus gave them the compelling message of liberty from human sin and bondage when He pointed them towards another kingdom not established of the world but in spirit. Jesus declared that the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. A puzzling message even today but one that requires faith and belief that Jesus will deliver those who accept His call to a new life anchored in a world beyond death, in eternity. The birth of Jesus was the first joy but only to those who believe Him to be sent by God to deliver them from sin to acceptance before God, and Jesus offer and led the way. This is why Christmas is always celebrated as a Joy to the World, The Lord has come, let earth receive her King.

Easter is our second joy, no less than the first and of much significance. On Easter God really tells His children never to fear death but to expect it. Death is a doorway towards that promised new life in Heaven. Jesus Himself showed death can be conquered when he raised a dead man 4 days after he died. Lazarus was starting to putrefy when Jesus brought him back to life. And on Easter Sunday some 2000 years ago Jesus Himself was raised from His death to become alive again. The significance of Easter is not inasmuch that death can be vanquished but that Jesus is very much alive today. This makes the faith of all Christians meaningful and alive. Today we celebrate our second joy.

The third and final joy would come to those still alive when Jesus returns to this world to reclaim it for Himself. But even for those who die before this epic making event their final joy shall be in their death and of leaving this world to return to Heaven.

We can discover Joy and the reason of life if we discover the Person of Jesus, the Son of God, who came to die so that those who believe in Him can receive salvation. It is available but on a time limited offer. It expires upon death when you are no longer able to exercise the decision to choose Him. Choose now.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sharon's New World

It is exactly 2 weeks since our youngest grandchild came to live with us. It wasn't a smooth transition for her and viewing from her helpless state fearfulness was her constant companion as she struggled to adjust and adapt to a new world. She cried a lot in the first week, then less. She hardly smile but now it has become easier for her. She was a brave little girl who overcame and have become a more confident toddler ready to take her development to a new level.

Sharon experienced many new things that she was exposed to. She rode the stroller purchased 2 years ago for the Australian holiday, the Doraemon toy tricycle, car seat, high chairs and of course her walker. She went to the mall and assimilated an interesting and fun place she didn't know exist. Later we will be bringing her to the park, to see and feed Koi fishes and tortoises, the same way her older sister and brother and cousins experienced. She will enjoy many car rides and watch buildings and motor vehicles fly by. She has discovered the joy and excitement of climbing stairs. We have started her on baby cereals and fruit purée. And we have introduce music and songs to her by playing nursery rhymes even as background white noise while she naps. And sing to her and train her to sing back as she grows older to be musically minded. It may seems like a crash course switching from country to suburban living. In a way it is for she is living in a different world in which she will grow up in.

She learns to live and sleep in noisier environment and have adapted very well. Her biggest challenge was learning to trust more than one caregiver. She'd cry whenever she was handed from one to another, for here in our home there are 5 adults as compared to just 2 in her paternal grandparents house. Her trust and faith has been well tested and from a little child's mind she couldn't understand why she was 'abandoned' by her grandparents. Why couldn't things stayed the same? Why change?

From one world she grew up in for 8 months she's introduced to another she'll be growing up in our home and her parent's nearby. Two hurdles set the transition points of her acceptance of us and her new home. One is bath time. She loved water and had enjoyed bathing by her paternal grandmother. Until 3 days ago she had feared bathing. Perhaps she felt vulnerable or she missed the familiar tub and style she was handled. I've said the day she allows her maternal grandmother and the maid bath her and no longer fuss or cry will be the day of real homecoming. Indeed Sharon has stopped crying each time she was unclothed and brought to the tub of warm water. It was a moment to relish for my wife who had patiently waited to be accepted by Sharon. The other hurdle we intend to cross is help Sharon nap on a mattress instead of in a hanging net pod that requires gentle bouncing to put her to sleep. It is both tedious as well as not a long term habit as she grows heavier. That, little Sharon will have to adjust and certainly we will wean her away when she develop more confidence growing up here.

For now crying when her parents leave for work after dropping her each weekday morning will soon be overcome too as she welcomes the idea that her world is going to be larger and more fun.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Grace Tan Presents ...

My second grand-daughter Grace made her 'public' appearance at the Yamaha JMC Mini Concert last Friday. She had started the primary 1 class of 6 girls (one dropped out mid way) last October. A few weeks earlier her class teacher announced that a mini concert will be held on the last day before they take a week's break and then resume in primary 2 class. Each of the girls were asked to choose 2 or 3 songs to play. The other 4 girls chose two but Grace decided to play three. Brave and confident girl she is. The teacher also asked for 2 girls to play duet. Grace volunteered to be one of them. And there will also be two group action songs and solfege singing. Parents and 'supporters' were encouraged to attend and the girls were told to be dressed appropriately, that is no slippers are allowed.

In the weeks leading to this important date Grace practised at home on the old 30+ year upright piano as well as on the Casio keyboard guided by her mother, herself an ex-Yamaha student when she was at the same age. It was deja vu for me when I was asked to chaperon Grace to her weekly lessons as I did for her mother. Grace was a little rebellious but talented learner. In class she would feint impatience and played badly and would not follow the correct fingering style shown by the teacher. Sometimes I felt annoyed by her refusal to follow the teacher but during home practice she showed how to play correctly. She is by nature playful and naughty. When guided to introduce herself as 'I am Tan Shuen Ling ... ' she insisted on using 'I am Grace Tan ...'.

On March 22 an hour before we were due to leave for Yamaha she was already dressed up in her skirt and new shoes. She insisted we must leave by 5.30pm to make sure we are in the class well before 6pm. The whole family was there to cheer her - grandparents, parents, siblings and kakak (maid). In the line up she was first and fortunately performed well but not without tiny mistakes. It was after all her first solo performance before a small crowd. The only unscripted scene was when brother Andrew for no apparent reason decided to walk up to her as she was singing and hit her before walking away. Grace fortunately was unperturbed and continued with singing the opening song, Pa-pa-pa Parade, with the other girls. Here's the clip to watch. Please subscribe to watch the rest.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lawn Makeover

It was just over a year back I blogged about my 'ugly' lawn and my desire to replace it but was discouraged by a landscape contractor. In the year I took over mowing my own lawn I also watched the weeds gained greater control over the host grass until I no longer feel watering and fertilizing the lawn does it any good. I'm not going to feed weeds, you know what I mean.

During the Chinese New Year trip home to visit my mother last month I bought a bottle of weedkiller solution said to effectively knock off common weeds in my garden. That's what the seller told me confidently. A week after I came back I bought a pressure sprayer and hunted down the weeds square foot by square foot. For a week nothing happened, then the grass began to turn yellow then brown. A month later 90% of the lawn was gone but slowly revived. Sadly not with the host cow grass. The new emerging green patches here and there are actually WEEDS!

I admit it has been a losing battle and felt the landscape contractor wasn't realistic when he told me I would get back a good lawn with proper care. What he didn't say was the weeds like cancer has metastasized and need 'chemotherapy'. In lay term, replanting is the answer.

My grandkids have reached outdoor age, that it they prefer to be doing things outside the four walls. Like cycling and bouncing the basketball hoop. I realized that my lawn need to be kid-safe and that means a makeover is due. So I called another landscape contractor Alex who came by this afternoon. He didn't try to push away my business. I guess he was more pragmatic and even if he did sound like my lawn can be saved I'll still tell him to replace with new grass.

He was armed with a measuring tape and a writing pad. And a smartphone with a calculator app. With his nephew helping they measured the lawn which totaled 1800 sq.ft. Close to my estimate of 2000 sq.ft. Actually my figure is correct because about 200 sq.ft. had to be deducted for existing planted area that doesn't require re-grassing as well as a patch I want cemented.

He quoted RM1.50 per sq.ft. run to cover the cost of pure instant cow grass carpets, removing the existing grass (read weeds) and soil, treatment to kill residual weeds, laying new sandy soil, leveling, another round of weed treatment before laying the new grass in close turf to prevent weeds from growing within the gaps, fertilizing the grass and cutting it a month later. This job will set me back by just under RM3,000 but in exchange I'll get a brand new lawn. After 13 years I think it will be a good investment.

The inconvenience is dusty compound and untidy garden as well as off limit to garden activities for 2 months to allow the grass to be firmly rooted. After that the garden will be a playground that my grandkids can safely romp about.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

We Are Tired of Waiting

Speaking on behalf of thousands of Malaysians, and my friend whose travel plan is held in limbo because he doesn't know when the 13th General Election is going to be held, we want Najib Razak to know that we are tired of waiting. We just want to go out and cast our votes and return to our normal lives. The prolonged waiting neither serve any good for him nor help us change our minds. Enough events of the preceding 2 or 3 years have made us realize that change within the government is not forthcoming and promise of change, given the time and a victory in the 13GE, is no longer believable but have instead hardened our hearts and minds to convince us that change must come with a revamp of the government, a total replacement. The present government has expired its usefulness. Sorry.

If the incumbent government is smart (I am not suggesting all the ministers are un-smart, but rather lack political will and moral fortitude to stand up against unrighteous policies and acts) it would have heard long ago the woes of the people and provided solutions. Then today would have been a very different state of affair. But when the people find they are having an absentee government or one that prefer rhetoric and sloganeering instead of deliver real and long term help to improve the livelihood of the people and businesses, they cannot be blamed for casting their eyes towards another suitor. It has been a journey, a long one that is ending with a separation caused not by the people's unfaithfulness or disloyalty but by betrayal of an unfulfilled mandate and gross misappropriation of the nation's wealth. Even worse a deep sense of misgiving that the multiracial and multi-religious society have been so badly polarized by selfish and uncaring politicians that 3 generations of the major races perceive each other with prejudice and in some cases, even hatred. Malaysia used to be a harmonious country but seeds of distrust and envy have been sown to create misunderstanding among the various races. If it wasn't the fault of this incumbent government, in particular the standing prime minister of the day who wield an absolute power to address the issues and bring about unification and peacemaking but did not, then I don't know who else is responsible.

On March 8, 2008 when the incumbent government was badly bashed, or even mauled by the upstart opposition coalition, PR, the message was deafeningly clear. Change or be changed. Today, 5 years past, the warning notice has expired and the choice is clear. No monetary handouts can sway a reasoned mind. Our future is certainly worth more than RM500!

The possibility of a PR victory gets more real by the days. Yet many hearts are filled with anxieties of a disruptive change. For this reason some of the weak-minded may choose to live with a more familiar devil than give PR a chance to rule. 5 years ago I agree PR was a loose coalition with poor confidence of taking on the federal government. Its desire was at state level. However it has since acquired experience and gained confidence that it can run the nation better. Even though we still read of internal petty squabbles they have not led to a breakup. Altogether PR have matured and deserve the right to form the next government. But I have these words for them.

Assure us that you have the support of the police and the army to ensure no civil commotions during and in the days after you have captured Putrajaya because agent provocateurs will surely be let loose to cause trouble.

Be a government who knows how to rule and how to collaborate with councils of people and businesses. Cut off political overtures during your tenure but get on the job of recovering our debts and reunifying the people and making Malaysians proud to be called thus.

Live up your claims and promises. Be humble in your mistakes and magnanimous to your political enemies. However be just and recover stolen wealth for they rightly belong to the citizens. Make your supporters proud to have made the right choice and to give you a fresh mandate at every re-election. We desire a government that listen and in tune with global development so we will not be left behind.

Be business centric for they are the engines of development and growth but drive ethical values and corporate responsibilities into their culture so that they may be examples to be emulated. More so, the government and the civil services together with the police, military forces and all government agencies must cultivate strong moral and corruption-free values and standards.

Most of all be a caring government. If you succeed in vanquishing your 55 year old 'master' you do so with the people power. Always recognize and remember who sponsored you and never ever misplace their trust.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sharon's Homecoming

Our 6th grandchild will be returning to our care in a few days. The 'handover' will be this Sunday when her paternal grandparents pass her over to us. Sharon or Ying as we fondly calls her is 10 months old, petite, very fair and have speaking black eyes that melt our hearts. Due to our inability to look after 3 grandchildren without additional help, Ying was placed under the care of her ah ma, that is her paternal grandmother, who brought her up over the past 9 months and have grown attached to her. So the 'separation' is going to be difficult for both of them but necessary in order that Ying and her older siblings can have the right environment to grow up together and establish closer bonds. This opportunity to 'bring home' Ying came about when our daughter managed to get a maid after a year of searching and waiting. We are quite fortunate and thankful that Mary the maid has shown keenness and competence in both housework and childcare ever since she arrived about 4 weeks ago. Her task is mainly to care for Ying as the older children are more independent.

The past few days were for Ying to adapt to her parents house and new routine. Today she will adapt to our house and environment where she will be spending lots of time. I'm sure she will like it as it has been a fun place for the other grandkids to play. Ying is slow to adapt to new places and faces but she will have to as part of growing up. She may miss her ah ma and cry but we know that the love we and the rest of her family shower upon her in the coming weeks will make her enjoy coming home. Sister Ling is already dotting on her and Andrew is discovering his 'competition' and learning how to share. So it will be days of discovery and learning for all of them and for us too as we get to know more of Sharon, her likes and dislikes, bring her out to the malls and parks, feed her greater variety of food and watch her take her first steps towards independence. Her older cousin, Joshua, exactly a month older has begun taking a few wobbly steps, and she will follow very soon.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Seeing God?

I sat down this morning and caught up with a number of devotional readings I missed this Lent season and settled upon this verse,

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

I recall many years ago I had wondered how God looked like and then when I saw pictures of a handsome man called Jesus, the son of God, I concluded God must be equally handsome, if not more so. I want to know more of my Heavenly Father so that should I bump into Him I can immediately recognize Him and not be misled by a pretender. I want to be holding the hands of the right Father as I go through life, and when I leave this earthly life, to see Him from a distance and race towards Him with gladness in my heart. The desire to know how my God looks like has pursued me even till now and His image has sometimes become that of a large bearded, authoritative, just but kind King who would lift me up and settle me on His lap. My Heavenly Father is both fearsome and trustworthy as well as patiently kind and loving towards me. Such a feeling and understanding help me get over moments when I feel unjustly treated or unloved and I would know that my Father is there to take over my troubles. I soon realize that it is less important to know how God looks like than how He is. Appearance itself doesn't assure one that the heart is as good as one expects. God in His infinite wisdom places greater importance on how a person's heart is than his outward appeal. You can't dress a heart like you can a body.

I remember the phrase, follow after God's own heart or be a man after God's heart, then I begin to realize that if my heart is right before God, wherever I am and wherever I go I shall not miss God's signature heart but mine shall sync with His and I shall not fail to know that this God is my Heavenly Father.

This Lent season I want to pray for my heart to be cleansed from all sinful thoughts and evil desires so that it is consonant with God's. And then I shall know that my heart is pure and that I shall really see God, not through my physical eyes, but from the eyes of my heart. And I pray that you too will see God from your inner eyes, someone you can turn to for every need.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Powershot S100 for a New Holiday

I was approached by a church friend one Sunday in February asking if my wife and I would like to join his closed group of senior church members for a 13D/11N holiday to 5 countries in Eastern Europe coming September. I was attracted by several reasons. One, I've not been to EE. Two, it will be a guided coach holiday which is more senior friendly. Three, as it is a closed group fellowship is likely to be better as we share common expectations and values. Four, September is a good time of the year being just the beginning of autumn. And Five, we are running out of time to travel as our bodies and health make mobility harder. The idea was taken back for family consideration. My wife as expected was not entirely warm to it but consented. My children gave their blessings. With the aborted Clark, Philippine holiday fresh in my mind, and this being our first and probably only 2013 holiday abroad, I attended to it enthusiastically.

In December last year I had wanted to get a new digital camera to replace the heavier and bulkier Canon Powershot A620 which I bought in 2006 but still serviceable. Its Digic2 processor is long obsoleted and picture and video resolutions have both improved tremendously in the past 2 years. Making comparisons of popular compact pocket-size digital cameras for a successor to the A620 I concluded the Powershot S100 (since replaced by the S110 in the last quarter of 2012) is a superior camera in its category although not without minor shortcomings. All reviews gave it the top marks over rival brands and models, including, surprisingly, the S110 which did away with the GPS feature. So if I buy the S100 I will be buying a slightly older technology which I can live with as I don't expect significant changes in the coming years to make my purchase outdated quickly. But the plan was aborted when the Philippine holiday was aborted plus changes in family reunion dates. It was a good decision really. At that time buying the S100 would set me back by RM1200. With the EE holiday in mind and the return of Sharon, our youngest grandchild to us in the coming weeks now that our Filipino maid has arrived recently, the need to get a better camera is revisited. I went back to my favorite online gallery where I've made several purchases to find if the S100 has dropped in price. It hasn't but one deal grabbed my attention. A seller was offering a new S100 with 15 months warranty for RM999 but it was an auction sale. When I entered the bids, another interested buyer auto-bid me out. At that point the auction expires in 3 days and bidding has reached RM800. Sensing that if I didn't act fast I will lose the bid 'war' to this other interested buyer, I exercised the QuickGrab option, essentially to bid at the reserved price of RM999 and end the auction immediately. I did that and became a proud owner of a brand new S100 at a price I'm proud to tell others about. The S100 will become my new toy and a handy device wherever I go and I will learn to make the best use of its semi-professional features.


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