Friday, December 31, 2010

What a year it has been!

The year 2010 has been a roller coaster year for me. Despite the bumpy ride, I gained some invaluable experiences.

The year opened on a mixed note. I wasn't so sure where I was heading and in a haste, I landed up with a job that lasted me only for 2 months.

Then I decided to play nanny to my niece and nephew who came and stayed with us for a week during the school holidays. It is true after all when they said "Children are great teachers." They both taught a thing or two and it was an enriching experience.

Later, I got a contract to work as a Personal Assistant to the Managing Director in a local company. The position is completely foreign to me and I was thankful to be given the opportunity to even try!

In between the months, I volunteered in running events more than I raced. I've volunteered in Pacesetters 30k, NB15k, Mizuno Wave, SCKLIM, Orange Run, Kordel Walk and Chinwoo Biathlon but only participated in 3 races : Chinwoo Charity Walk, Hatyai Nature Run and Newton Run. Surprisingly, I won! Maybe fewer is better?

During the recent public holidays running buddies Eric and Gary explored a new running route for us to try at Desa Park City and all of us love it!

October : A few weekends spent being care-giver to my sister-in-law Tan In Mee, who is a Down Syndrome in hospital had taught me a few wonderful lessons about love. She has opened up my soul to realize that people with learning disability are special in their own ways. Their talents, innocence and beauty is really up to us to discover them. Goodness, it took me a decade to see and learn these things from her!

November : I attended a Breathworks session with Dehyana and the message of love and forgiveness were once again emphasized to me so vividly. Dehyana also highlighted to me the importance of receiving as in giving. There must always be a balance in giving and receiving.
I was also invited to witness the baptism of Ms. Moey's 91 year old aunt, her cousin & cousin-in-law (who are parents of my friends, Sook Fun, Sook May & Joanne).

December : It's always a month of celebration, reunion and reflection.
Celebrated Susan's 71st birthday and had a good time reuniting with old collegues eg. Jenny Tan, Ven Sze, Chris, Shirlay, Monica, Peony, Veron, Valerie etc.
Former classmates held our Annual Get-Together at Karen's place and the turn-out was fantastic. We repeated our life's stories, recalled some silly old school jokes and it was a whole barrel of fun!
As usual, we had Christmas at Ms. Moey's home with her family and some of her close friends, and it was like a yearly affair for us. The next day, we had late Christmas lunch with my mom, sister and Tan In Mee (my SIL).

On a more serious note, I attended a preliminary round of Hospis home visit with Shafeqsh, a Hospis Nurse (I hope to elaborate on this in another blog later).
I also participated in a workshop for Hospis volunteers conducted by Dr. Edlin, Dr. Felicia, Raymond and Ranjit where topics such as Pain In Palliative Care, Being Non Judgmental in our role as volunteers, the history of Hospis were the order of the day. Raymond taught us on how to deal with the wheelchair (safety transfer, body mechanic and types of transfer) which I often had problems with.

I guess at the end of the training, the questions that I need to ask myself are :
As a helper in palliative care, how am I living my life?
How can I contribute to help improve the patients quality of life?
What kind of awareness can be done to change the public mindset that Hospis is really NOT a place for the dying but a window between a patient and caregiver where compassion flows?

Indeed, it has been a year of trying new things and failing in many aspects.
It has also been a year of making the most mistakes and taking each one as a lesson learned.
It has been a year of personal growth...pushing me to a totally new level where I finally learn to look at life with different eyes, and allow everything to be my teacher and my healer.

Before I close another chapter in 2010, I wish to thank the Year for the giving me all the opportunities to make mistakes and learn, for new friends that I made, for old friends that remain true and for people that appeared in my space, providing me with an opportunity to love myself!

"The people we are in relationship with are always a mirror, reflecting our own beliefs and simultaneously we are mirrors reflecting their beliefs. So a relationship is one of the most powerful tools for growth...If we look honestly at our relationships we can see so much about how we have created them". - Shakti Gawain.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Message

When I received this message from Dehyana, it is quite clear that this message is not just meant for me but for each and everyone of us.
The gift of forgiveness.
It is always so easy to say "I forgive" but have I really forgive to the extend that I can love the person once more?

"As I contemplate the deeper meaning of the birth of Jesus, I drop my mind down into my heart and let the Christ in Christmas be born in me.

It occurred to me this morning as I glanced at the headlines of our daily newspaper, that a life not centered on Christ is a life filled with longings and desires that can’t find their satisfaction in what this world offers. And it’s obvious as I listen to the endless stories of lives gone bad that each one of us carries way too much negativity in our hearts. As the holidays quickly approach, it is my hope that every person alive, regardless of their religious beliefs, takes part in the birthing of pure heart consciousness through a deep and profound willingness to forgive and forget. What a gift each of us can give to all people everywhere; the gift of total and complete forgiveness of this great illusion.

Christmas reminds us that the love of God incarnated and took a body as the one born in Bethlehem. Christ Jesus, wrapped in solar light, demonstrates the hope of glory hiding in each one of us. The Christ in you is eager to use you as the gift of redemption in this world. Are you willing? Do you want to walk the malls this holiday season and enjoy Christmas celebrations with family and friends without judgment, exhaustion, depression and anger? If so, keep the Christ in Christmas alive by forgiving everyone with a pure heart, regardless of past hurts or regrets. The story of Jesus being born on earth is the story of you being born as the son of man, only to rise as the Christ in God. Bethlehem is in you. The manger is in you as the Christ child, a pure heart, the innocent one, forgiveness incarnate, wrapped in the same solar sun of God’s infinite love!

In case you haven’t realized, we all face the same uncertainty about the future of our planet. There is far too much hatred in the world because there remains unforgivness in our hearts. Ask yourself this right now, “Who and what must I forgive?” If you want the redeemer to live in you, then you must release all negativity through radical forgiveness and give only love and acceptance. And if you wish to join with those of us who are working toward unity consciousness, please get out of your head and get into your heart this holiday season by keeping the Christ in Christmas. Forgive, forgive and forgive some more until you are grateful to God for your life and all things in it.

I invite each and every one of you to join with me as we make a conscious decision this holiday season to live always from our hearts. Merry Christmas to the Christ in each one of us, for we are the light of the world.

Ps. if you don’t know what to give someone this Christmas, stop thinking about what to buy them and simply show up as someone who has made a difference in their life!"

God Bless You,
Dehyana

Giving and receiving are one and the same!

I would also like to share an article which I received from the holiday edition of 'The Key' a newsletter from Anchoring The Light:

Christmas is a time for celebrating, for getting together with family and friends; it is a time for joy, happiness and child-like excitement! And of course, what would Christmas be without all those goodies stacked under the tree?

During this festive time of year, it's so easy to get caught up giving (and let's be honest - receiving!) the perfect gift. With the constant bombardment of a consumer society; commercials, emails, flyers, and apps all advertising the perfect gift, encouraging you to buy buy buy, it's easy to get caught up in the commercialism of the holiday season. This truly is a magical time of year by offering some tips to keep you centred and grounded, while still participating in the tradition of giving during the festivities:

10. Let go of holiday expectations and detach with love.

9. Call a friend you have lost touch with to wish them a happy holiday.

8. Volunteer your time at a local shelter.

7. Give a gift of appreciation for that special someone who serves you, often without recognition.

6. Treat yourself! Often we are so focused on what to buy for others that we forget about ourselves. Give something to you!

5. Make a conscious effort not to get stressed at this time of year by being grateful for what you have and for the people surrounding you.

4. Say a silent prayer every time you purchase a gift for someone.

3. Don't wait for the big day to give. Why not give the gift of a smile…it goes a lot further than you might think, and you can't beat the price.

2. Forgive that person you've been holding a grudge against.

1. Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by remembering that you are light and love.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

To build a better world is to build a better you

Just when I thought that great social problems are beyond our scope these days, I came across an article with this small story :

God said to me, "Your task is to build a better world."

I answered, "How can I do that? The world is such a large, vast place, so complicated now, and I am so small and useless. There's nothing I can do."

But God in His great wisdom said, "Just build a better you."

Friday, November 5, 2010

To Robert Kot

Dear Robert,

I know I'm one day early but I'll be travelling tomorrow, so I'm writing to you now.

How the years have flown…
It’s been 6 years since you left. I thought it would be good to let you know how much I missed you and how often your name popped up in some of our conversations whenever ‘we’ meet up. ‘We’ are the Clinique alumnis.
Yes, you’ve left that indelible mark on our hearts.

I left company just about the time you went off to your heaven.
I’ve always wonder what would life be after Clinique because in the Lauder family, one is so protected, so pampered and so respected.
Not many, especially those who have worked for more than a decade would even dare to dream of leaving.
My existence there for two decades was a gigantic achievement or so I thought!
But I guess I’m also one who has always been seeking to experience something different.
Although I’m neither adventurous nor ambitious, I’m always curious.

Therefore, I went seeking for something more fulfilling but before I even discover what I’d really wanted, I landed with old Sue again. I helped her develop her businesses and don’t deny that I did gain a wealth of knowledge from all the businesses that she ventured in.
And of course, lessons which I’ve learned from you still stay intact.
They became a source of encouragement for me over the years.
For example, the company’s vision statement of Bringing The Best To Everyone We Touch became a personal motto for me as well.
Remember how you used to challenge me on staffs’ turnover and pressure me crazy over their productivity?
Honestly, I detested it and fought back with questions like, “Why don’t you pressure the HR manager? It’s also her responsibility as well!”
Deep down, only I alone will know the answer to my own question.
You’d wanted me to look beyond myself and grow.

You must've known that by the time I left Clinique, I had succeeded in controlling the turnover and the Brand was experiencing a double digit growth. It matters a lot to me at that time.
Some of the best friends I have now are my own staff, because you’ve inspired me to take it deeply from within and to serve them with the heart.

When I started with Sue, I didn’t leave those principles behind, I actually carried them along with me, much to the chagrin of my boss then.
Although he seemed to be a nice young chap, our working styles were completely different.
I could always feel negative energies from him. I don’t know. I just felt it and it was suffocating my soul.
I endured for 5 years and left.
I left with no regrets because I badly needed time to heal myself.
I need to learn how to let go….

I took a break and spent the last one and a half years, semi-working, reflecting and taking time to seek, to observe, to learn, to serve, to run and to dream a bit more than before. Basically, I need to realign myself back with nature.
Bits and pieces of my interesting encounters are shared in this blog.

Unlike some of my peers, I haven’t made much progress career wise, but I’m not worried. At some point in life, one needs to slow down and take stock of what we have in order to appreciate more.
It was good for me to look at the various aspects of life and learn.
Still learning…

I knew for sure what I wanted to do. I want to work in Hospis! Don’t ask me why. My heart just felt it.
The saying, ask and it shall be given….
Not so in my case, I asked but was rejected several times. I felt upset and discouraged.
Perhaps, it wasn’t meant for me after all.

Therefore, I’m now back to the retail industry which fortunately, I still do have some values. Haha! Friends commented that it is all fated because retail operation remains my forte – I can’t run away from it.
But then, retail no longer excites or drives me like it used to before.
Although the rewards are good but it is not the same as doing something after my own heart. Get the drift?

Guess what? I’m currently engaged with the Bonita Group Of Companies, reporting directly to the MD. He’s very kind man.
In some ways, he reminds me of you. I’m not joking!
Good business acumen, compassionate and down to earth.
But there’s one thing he is of no match to you; his attention to details. I guess you’ve set such high standards that made it so difficult for me to compare anyone with you. Perhaps, that’s the reason why I appear in his space.

Well, Robert. I don’t think I have the guts to tell you all these if you’re still my MD. But now, I’m writing it all down for you.
If you’re still around, I’ll be presenting to you my retail sales plan and we will be discusing about sales vs. target.
Funny, how we tend to talk more privately to people only when they are gone.
Sad, but I supposed life is like that.

Robert, do you remember how we panicked and got all stressed up over that Jeanette Wagner, Fred Langhammer and Leonard Lauder’s visits? Eeee…I certainly wouldn’t want to go through those nightmares again!

And I will also never forget the day when Steph and I were dragged to your office over an ad that we placed in The Star. We were forced to look at our own mistakes and when we couldn’t find it, you pointed out the flaws and taught us about attention to details all over again.
Your eye for details – no one in the company can escape from you!

Well, 6 years and many things have changed.
John and I had run a few more marathons.
Your daughters are all beautifully grown up. I’ve seen them every now and then in Annie’s facebook.
I met Mr. Loo briefly about 3 months ago and he is running Suria Meriang smoothly albeit the normal challenges.
Sue and Madam have both expanded their businesses and doing well.
The politics in this country are growing from bad to worse but you don’t need to know.
We’ve many more malls now and the cosmetics brands have increased 20 to 30 fold!
So are the competitions! It’s certainly not an easy market.

I believe as I mature my priorities change too. The things that are important to me right now are no longer the status, power or winning competitions.
It’s about living a life with love and humour. Love to understand and humour to endure.
It’s about learning to help the less fortunate.
It’s about leading with good intent of the heart.
This brought me back to some of the lessons which have been inspired by you.
You’ve taught me …

- The vision given and aims to aspire
- The pride of doing things well
- The attention to details
- The opportunities of responsibilities
- The power of perseverance
- To respect in order to gain respect
- To practice what we preach
- To deliver what we promise

Different phase in life, we do different things. And soon, I will be taking another leap of faith again.
By the time, I end this letter I already had a job offer from Hospis Malaysia and they are willing to wait for me to finish off my contract with Bonita until next year.
It is for me after all!!
Some people thought I am a bit ridiculous to opt out the security of a lucrative job and be surrounded by people who are terminally ill (directly or indirectly).
But I believe I will find meaning in my role in the palliative care services and the rewards will be much more than the salary package from both Clinique and Bonita put together.

I believe I'll be a better person too because I want to be a better person.

Miss you much...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A celebration, a story and a poem

I attended my company's Annual Dinner last night, which is the reason why I can afford to be late at work this morning and quickly post an entry...yeh!

The Annual Dinner is held in conjunction with their 20th. year anniversary celebration. By request, I wrote and contributed a piece of poem to the Board of Directors, which was read so badly by the emcee that I almost flew off my chair!!

The poem : THE BONITA STORY

Every story begins with a chapter.
The chapter here is about an ambitious couple.
It all began with one simple journey,
A journey of a husband and wife’s passion for fashion and beauty.

From a humble beginning in Johor Baru way back in 1990,
Mr. & Mrs. Teo Ai Siong started the Bonita Group of Companies.
With diligence and perseverance, the business expanded and grew,
We saw how those sales charts flourished and flew!

When the couple’s desire to expand the business increased,
They ventured into cosmetics to fill the customers’ needs.
Products are that good, affordable and of variety,
Bingo! And the rest they said is history.

The Brand was born 5 years ago,
It is none other than the famous elianto.
To fulfill the needs of women from head to toe,
Today, millions of elianto units are sold.

The birth of Tiamo speaks of Sylvia’s love for fine, elegant fashion and shoes.
It boasts a wealth of designer pieces and jewelleries for customers to choose.
Tomorrow at Gardens Mall, a new Tiamo Concept Store you’ll find,
The concept of designer Ballerina Flats that is first of its kind.

So, it started with one simple dream twenty years ago,
Now we’ve seen that dream beginning to overflow.
An empire filled with handbags, shoes and cosmetics galore!
Also with accessories, time-pieces and many many more.

Bonita Group of Companies - 20 years old.
The chapter of her achievement has now been told.
Yet to unfold are twenty thousands more…
Her success stories still plenty in store.


Mr. & Mrs. Teo (my bosses) are one of the most successful couple in the retail industry and I'm inspired by their humble story. I'm glad our paths crossed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A worthy comeback

9 months ago I was lamenting over the physical pain of my back that had gone crooked! 9 months ago I was coping with the psychic pain of not being able to run. Although I know I should give my body a chance to rest and shouldn't rush its healing process, it was tough.
After all the time, energy and miles invested to get into an optimum fitness level, it was difficult to just give up an activity which has been a large part of me for so many years. Then there is always the fear of losing my stamina and my sanity as quickly as I stop running. Therefore, in between times, I walked so that I don't fall into that lazy mode.
For an active person like me, my patience had surely been tried and tested...argh!! However, after 8 months of rest, it is equally important to know how to come back slowly. When I started, I trained with care...taking it slowly on flat roads, avoiding hills and ran the Hatyai Nature Run in August. I started participating in local races just about 2 weeks ago; the Chin Woo 5km Walk and Newton 25km Run where I ran the 12km distance.
As I wasn't quite ready for both events, I adjusted my expectations and took it easy in order not to get frustrated. I didn't get frustrated - instead, I was elated with my feat. I emerged Champion in both the said events, much to the surprise of many and my own!
Perhaps I was just lucky but my results were not bad at all. I managed 30mins for the 5km Walk and 68mins for Newton 12km Run where there were at least 3 to 4 hills to tackle. To be able to taste victory once more when I least expected it, feel just too good to be true.

Now I think the time taken off to rest has given me an opportunity to get to know my body and get it a chance to rest and heal. Perhaps, my body is also thanking me too.
The lesson? Rest is actually good for me. Yup, these 2 trophies had proven to me that the body has the capability to bounce back to form, if I allow her the rest she deserves. It will also serve as a reminder for me to race wisely from now on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Shanghai!


We had 4 holidays during Hari Raya and took the opportunity to take a short break ourselves. We were excited. We are supposed to visit the World Expo in Shanghai. But upon arrival, we decided to change our plans.

Shanghai is so crowded. Everywhere we go...it's only people and buildings that our eyes behold. However, we delighted ourselves to the magnificent sights from the Oriental Pearl Tower, the beautiful sceneries in Yu Yuan Garden and in Hangzhou, we found beauty around the West Lake etc.

On arrival at the Arrival Hall, we were greeted by a huge group of fans who were waiting anxiously for their idol. Their greetings took us by surprise as we did not get to see who the celebrity was. We were told that he is a Korean star. However, with all the excitement in cheerings and screamings, it was impossible for us not to feel 'grand' (ahem!)!

We stayed at Citadines Shanghai Biyun, a subsidary of the Ascot. This hotel apartment is cozy and comfortable.

The Oriental Pearl Tower - An outstanding landmark of Shanghai.

A panoramic view from The Oriental Pearl Tower - towering at 468m high, it's the highest tower in Asia and 3rd highest in the world.

Shanghai! Shanghai!

Yu Yuan Garden - An exquisite layout with beautiful scenery. The artistic style of garden architecture have made this garden one of the highlights of Shanghai.

Chenghuangmiao surrounding area - a commercial center where one can taste delicious local delicacies and enjoy some shopping. It was packed with people (both local & tourists).

The busy and famous Nanjing Road known as "first Street in China". It is one of the busiest and most important commercial place. Endless shopping. It's always packed with tourists. Here one can feel the pulse of modern Shanghai.

The Bund

Took a train to Hangzhou.

"Ripping water shimmer on sunny day
Misty mountains shrouded the rain
Plain or gaily checked out like Xizi
West Lake is always alluring." - Su Dongpo

These poetic sentiment leaves one in no doubt of the glory of the scenery that inspired them.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

THE BALANCE OF LOVE

A woman died after living a long, dignified life. When she meets GOD, she asks Him something that has long bothered her. "If man is created in GOD'S image, and if men are created equal, why do people treat each other so badly?"
GOD replied that each person that enters our life has a unique lesson to teach us, and only through these lessons that we learn about life, people, relationships and GOD. This confuses this woman, so GOD begins to explain :

1. When someone lies to you, it teaches you that things are not always as they seem. The truth is often far beneath the surface. Look beyond the mask people wear if you want to know their heart. And remove your own mask to let people know yours.

2. When someone steals from you, it teaches you that nothing is forever. Always appreciate what you have, for you never know when you might lose it. And never take your friend and family for granted because today is the only guarantee you have.

3. When someone inflicts an injury upon you, it teaches you that human state is fragile. Protect and take care of your soul as best you can because it's the only thing you are sure to have forever.

4. When someone mocks you, it teaches you that no two people are alike. When you encounter people who are different from you, don't judge them by how they look or act. Instead base your opinion on the content of their heart.

5. When someone breaks your heart, it teaches you that loving someone does not always mean that the person will love you back. But don't turn your back on love because when you find the right person, the joy that person brings will make up for all the past hurts put together.

6. When someone holds a grudge against you, it teaches you that everyone makes mistakes. Forgive the offender without any pretence. Forgiving those who have hurt us is the most difficult yet the most courageous and noblest thing a man can do.

7. When a loved one is unfaithful to you, it teaches you that resisting temptation is man's greatest challenge. Be vigilant in your resistance against all temptation. By doing so, you will be rewarded with an enduring sense of satisfaction far greater than the temporary pleasures by which you were tempted.

8. When someone cheats you, it teaches you that greed is the root of all evil. Aspire to make your dreams come true no matter how hazy they may be. Do not feel guilty about your success, but never let an obsession with achieving your goals lead you to engage in malevolent activities.

9. When someone ridicules you, it teaches you that nobody is perfect. Accept people for their merits and be tolerant of their flaws. Do not ever reject someone for their imperfection over which you have no control.

GOD tells the woman that man's capacity to love is the greatest gift he has. At the root of all kindness is love, and each act of love teaches us a lesson. As the woman's curiosity deepens GOD once again explains :
"When someone loves us, it teaches us the love, kindness, charity, honesty, humility, forgiveness and acceptance can counteract all evil in the world.
For every good deed, there is one less evil deed. Man alone has the power to control the balance between good and evil, but because the lessons of love are not taught often enough, the power is often abused.
When we enter someone's life whether by choice or chance, what will our lesson be? Will we teach love or harsh reality?
Each one of us has power over the balance of love, use that power wisely."


The above sharing is taken from an old e-mail sent to me by my late sister on April 26, 2005.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Of Friends, Fun, Food and The Hatyai Nature Run

Looking Forward
If my memory have any measure of accuracy the last time I ran the Hatyai Nature Run was 8 years ago, in 2002. This year - I was looking forward.

Having refrained from running and competitions for an entire 7 months, I was looking forward.

Although my training was conservative; covering merely two 8kms and two 10kms on the Sundays in July, I was looking forward.

I was looking forward until 4 days before the race, I stepped onto a cracked plastic stool while doing some household chores, broke the stool and got cut on my left leg. It took me quite awhile to retrieve that darn leg out of the stool and when I finally succeeded, blood just oozed out as if it was ready to make a donation!
The cut wasn't that serious but it was rather a long, deep and painful one. Anyway, I am a sucker for pain and freak accidents like these happened to me every now and then. So it's no big deal.
John commented that depending on how fast the wound can heal, I may not be able to race. At that point, a brief wave of disappointment washed over me and my spirit was kinda dampened, yet I was still looking forward.

Whether I'm able to run or not, we made it to Hatyai - an 'entourage' of almost 45 of us travelling in a bus and 4 cars. The first day our time were occupied with race registration, shopping, eating and massages. The second day was pretty much the same...running, more shopping, more eating, more massages and at night, it was all about drinking, dancing and singing. In between, we had barrels of fun just by talking and laughing and then, laughing again and talking again!!!

Indeed, this is one of my merriest trips so far.

14th. Hatyai Nature Run
Upon arrival at the Prince Of Songkla University, we met many fellow Malaysian friends: Uncle Sonny and gang, Derrick Yau and friends, Tan Wah Sing and others. At the same time, we found new friends in Dr Au Yong Pui San, Carrie, Dannie and Yum Kin Kok.
That morning, a light drizzle greeted us and we were thankful that it went away as swiftly as it came. While waiting, we were joking and laughing again, being so amused by this Doctor-In-Distress Andrew Tye who is new to our group. All of us were so thoroughly absorbed with the topic of finding him 'his ideal wife' that we've almost forgotten all about time and race.
When we discovered that we were just minutes away to start, we hurriedly rushed to the start line. Then we discovered that we have not registered ourselves and hurriedly ran right to the back to register and then manoeuvred our way back to the pack somewhere in the middle...phew! How chaotic!

As soon as the race started, I was surprised and glad that my pair of legs although half-abused, had miraculously found their rhythm right away. Perhaps like me - they were also looking forward.
It's August now and it's also my first competition of the year, so I should just go easy and enjoy the run. My race distance is 10.5km and I would be happy if I could make it back within an hour but John predicted 55mins for me. Anyhow, I started at a comfortable pace, enjoying the cool breeze that the early morning drizzle had left behind.

At about 3km, I sighted Agnes Tee not far and was instantly motivated. I ran together with Agnes sharing the light-hearted moments which she missed out before the start of the race. We laughed again. When we reached the U-Turn (about 5.2km), Agnes alerted me that our timing was 28mins. It was good enough for me but knowing Agnes' potential, I suggested that she should speed up to catch some runners in front of us. She finally broke away from me at 7km. My pace was rather consistent and I kept at it all the way to the finishing line where I clocked in at 56mins. John's calculation was rather accurate after all. I took 8th placing in the Women's 40 above category and was pleased with it.
Later I managed to witness John sprinting triumphantly to the finishing line to obtain 10th placing in the Men's 40 above category. He ran 21.1km and did great in 1hr 41mins with 9 Thai fellas ahead of him!
The rest did very well too. Amongst the other winners from our group were Agnes Tee & Teresa Goh (both 10.5km), Lian Bee Hoon, Chooi Lin, Carol Low, Tammy, Shirley, Linda and Uncle Hooi (all 21.1km).

True to the very Thai tradition, people are very hospitable, so before and after every race, the food was abundant and everyone had a feast! Free flow of coffee, isotonic and water. Generous supply of porridge with yau char kway (deep fried buns), watermelons, meehoon and kway teow.

This is certainly one of the friendliest and most enjoyable runs!

Acknowledgements
I would like to accord my gratitude and thanks to the following:
- NEW BALANCE & GIORDANO : for sponsoring us the T-Shirt, Travelling Bag & other gifts.
- GARY GOH : his tireless effort in arranging for our transport, accomodation and meals.
- RICHARD TAN : our coach captain cum comedian who never ceases to entertain us with his endless supply of jokes and old grandfather's stories. There's never a dull moment with him around!
- DR ANDREW & PEK MOI : the temporary couple in Hatyai who added so much live and colour to this trip. Thank you for being extremely sporting and for giving us so much laughter and fun.
- AGNES TEE : my shopping and running companion in Hatyai.
- SOOK YING & LYNE TOH : my 2 training partners prior to the race.
- WENDY SOO : for her contagious laughter.
- TAI,GARY & LIM CHIN GUAN : for taking our photographs.
- MRS. HOOI & MRS. LIM - for looking after our bags.
- UNCLE HOOI : for inspiring us all to keep running and stay young.
- JOHN : for sponsoring all my shopping in Hatyai.
- EVERYONE : for spreading their joy, sharing their jokes, telling their stories and imparting us with good memories to cherish.

An enjoyable run, a memorable trip and the journey ended on a happy note...But out there in the elements, the fundamental truth had emerged. Some of the most important things in life really are friends, beauty, love and the journey does matter more than the destination - lessons human beings can evidently learn over and over and never tire.

Krab Khun!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Days of running dangerously

When they said life is a cycle...it's a true, and there is a law to it - the law of cause and effect.
For the last 6 months I have been paying the price for my days of running dangerously. Now when I think of it, there were those times...
when I fell while racing near the plantation in Bukit Tunggal (Kampung Gajah) with blood dripping to the finishing line...I continue running.
when I hurt my knees at Lake Gardens many years back...I continue running.
when I slipped and injured my back at my office lobby...I continue running.
last year, I fell badly on the uneven pavement along Padang Merbuk...I rested for a week and continue running, and participated in many more races including two full marathons and two ultras (if you consider Maran Walk & 12 hour Walk).

I felt like a hero. A silly one.

The value of patience
Quite often, I thought the way to treat an injury is not to rest it too much, and so I always hope that whatever ails me will be something that I can work through. It doesn't work because I know I can not go against nature. Well, those 6 months had taught me the value of patience.
But then, long distance runners are patient people. We ran for hours to reach our destination - our goal. We trained for months for that one race. We know how to pace ourselves for the long haul. But many times, when our legs are sore and our bodies are begging for rest, we tend to go against it. For a runner, paying the price for not being able to run is even more painful than running a 84km!

Having learnt some lessons, I believe everyone deserve a second chance, including me.

Finding joy in walking and volunteering
It's been exactly 6 months since I gave my legs a break. Those 6 months were long but I managed to group up with "the walking kakis"...Jenny Lim, Jenny Lee, Lynn, Tip and ocassionally Siew Cheng for our Sunday walk.
Other times when there are running events and races, I joined in as a volunteer and tried to gain different experiences in various field of work eg. time keeper, marshal etc. Although I didn't participate in any local races this year, being a volunteer gave me an opportunity to stay connected with friends in the running community and be a part of the event or race itself.
I discovered that I can enjoy myself just as much.

New shoes to mark New beginning
Yesterday my legs decided that it's time for them to start running again. As a celebration of their comeback, John bought them a new pair of running shoes. I've chosen the Mizuno Wave Hawk.

Gathered at Bukit Aman carpark at 6am with running buddies. Wah Chai and Gary had hangovers from their dinner the night before and resorted to walking instead. So I was left to run with Peter Teoh, Tai, Kim, Uncle Yee and Ah Fai. I ran cautiously with them until the bridge before crossing to the government offices. They proceeded to Hartamas while I ran the reverse route back to Lake Gardens.

My first 10km attempt for the year. It was good enough for me. I believe my legs found comfort in their new pair of Mizuno too.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Going to the temple?

"Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God. First fill your own house with the Fragrance of Love...

Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God. First remove the darkness of sin from your heart...

Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer. First learn to bow in humility before your fellowmen...

Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees. First bend down to lift someone who is down-trodden...

Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins. First forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you."
By Rabindranath Tagore

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life is short...

I've been absent from Hospis for 3 months already.
Today I'm glad to find time to visit Hospis again.
The place is still the same. The volunteers and staff are still familiar to me. But the patients I once knew are all gone!
I was told that some have been discharged.
I missed them.
I was sad to learn that CK Loh, Madam Chong, Joe Han and Mr Ong had recently gone Home to their Maker.
But I am happy that at least, they are finally free from all pain and suffer no more...
Each one of them has taught me a life's lesson and I want to thank them for it.

Life is short and so fragile!

"All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time. The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn to live." - Mitch Albom

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Wesak Day message and beyond

Yesterday was Wesak Day. I received the following message from Bodhi Fellowship:

"The significance of Wesak lies with the Buddha and his universal peace message to mankind. He illuminated the way by which mankind could cross, from a world of supersition, or hatred and fear to a new world of light, of true love and happiness."

John and I are not very religious. We only go to the temple during Wesak Day and church during Christmas. We are seriously that simple. Although sometimes we failed in many aspects in life, we always try to make every effort we could, to live as decent human beings while trying to make sense of what being 'religious' or 'spiritual' is all about. Later, I concluded that Religion is the Politics of God while Spirituality is the Grace of God.

Dr. Brian Weiss in his book 'Messages From The Masters' pgs.236-238 wrote this :
"The soul has no race, no religion. It only knows love and compassion. When you dig beneath the surface rituals and customs of various religions, you find an amazing similarity of ideas, concepts, and advice. Even the words are incredibly similar.
In the end, it doesn't matter what sort of church and temple we attend, if indeed we choose at all. Like spokes on a bicycle wheel, all paths dictated by the great religions lead to the same center, to godliness and enlightenment. One path is no better or worse than the other. They are all equal.
To paraphrase a teaching found in all spiritual disciplines, the rain falls on the weeds as well as on the flowers, and the sun shines on prisons as well as on churches.
God's light does not discriminate, neither should ours.
There is not one path, one way, one church, one ideology.
There is only one light."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We can not direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

"We talk about the spirit and spiritual laws of acceptance, cooperation, understanding and enthusiasm. But what value are all of these if there are no charity? Charity is the keynote that allows us to function." - John Roger
That afternoon after the Breakfast Run In Memory Of Ngae, a group of 20 members from the Pacesetters Athletics Club made the day more meaningful by paying the elderly at Rumah Victory a visit.

Everyone of us puts in effort to contribute in our own way, be it in kind or cash. This time, instead of the usual tradition of donating money, John and I decided to contribute some items from their Wish List eg. Face Towels, Medicated Oils, Oats and Analgesic Balms for aches and pains.

In addition to that, Gary used some of the money he collected to purchase some food stuff, while Lyn bought vegetables and Tammy donated handrails and ceiling fans.

Lunch was served by us.

Goh See Kwong, John and Tammy rendered some songs to entertain them.

After that, we adjourned to a famous restaurant nearby for a great lunch.

Yes, it does feel so good to have great friends sharing the same passion. Truly it is not how much we have but how much we enjoy that makes happiness!

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender to the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and strong. Because some day in life, you will have been all these." - George Washington Carver

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In memory of Ngae

After 2 weeks of gloom and doom, I'll like to think of brighter days ahead.

Last Sunday, Wan Yew Leong our former president of the Pacesetters Athletics Club initiated an impromptu memorial run for Ngae followed by breakfast. The turn-out was overwhelming. Wan commented that it was as good as a 30km practise run that he executed some years back. No doubt about that. Many came wearing their sarongs for the very first time (yours truly included) to run and some even ran barefooted (Ngae's trademark). Not that easy but we did it in memory of this man, our fellow runner and friend. I'm sure Ngae will be happy to know that so many of his friends from all over turned up to honour and remember him this way.

At 6am, the Bukit Aman carpark was already filled up with cars and runners were seen busy putting up our bibs 'In Memory Of Ngae Koh Hieng'. At 6.30am sharp, the event began with a short speech by Wan Yew Leong and a touching message from Ngae's wife delivered by Juliana Ali (Ngae's team-mate during the Langkawi Ironman 2009). We then observed a minute of silence after which, everyone was free to run their own distance.

I chose to walk with Lyn, Jenny Lee, Jenny Lim, Wern Jun, Siew Yin, Kien Ho and for the first time, Sofian's wife Tip joined us. She doesn't come out often and that Sunday, she came because of Ngae. We were unusually quiet in the begining. Perhaps, each of us, has our way of reminiscing our friendship with Ngae. Later Lok Chan Chuen caught up with us and broke the ice.

As we chatted, we realized that most of us shared similar feelings we had for Ngae. Feelings of deep regrets, of shame and of guilt. If only one of us cared enough to visit him...if only someone sensed it coming...if only we bothered...if only we knew.
This is life, very often things happened and we are left with...if only.

On that fateful Saturday, while John and I together with a group of volunteers from Pacesetters were busy distributing the New Balance 15km bibs to runners...
while we were packing goody bags and preparing some other stuffs...
while others were having tea and joking or perhaps, some went on a shopping spree..
There was a man, our friend facing his darkest hour. He was not an ordinary man we know - he had run 100km to raise fund for a kidney patient. He survived a 7 day challenge of the Marathon Des Sable running 243km across the Sahara. He conquered 3 Ironmans, did numerous Triathlons and ran countless marathons (barefooted and in his sarong)! He was an ultra runner extraordinaire.
But that evening he was hit by the pangs of loneliness...in solitude, depressed and confused. Something seemed so wrong! He was just waiting for the right time, the right place and the right moment to act. I wondered what was running through his mind at that moment?
Has he ever thought about the further suffering a fall from a height would cause his family and friends?
Has he ever wondered when his body would be found and shocking news his loved ones would receive?
Has he ever thought about life after death?
No, he was lost in his own world.
Many still struggled to get over this for awhile but the reality is, we had lost a friend.
We will live remembering Ngae as he was. Kind, humble, determined, loud, witty, bold, amiable and full of enthusiasm.

That Sunday morning it took Ngae's demise to bond us and to remind us again the important things in life. It also made us ponder our mortality.

As I reflect, I believe I need to do some soul searching and take a deeper look within myself.

"Life is divided into 3 terms - that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better in the future." - William Wordsworth

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dedicated to Ngae

Sat : 15-05-10
Another sad sad day. John and I are saddened by the sudden demise of a friend, an icon, an ultra-marathoner, an ironman and the unique bare-footed runner with sarong named Ngae.
We tossed and turned all night, unable to shake the feeling that it might turn out to be a rumour but it wasn't. While we were both feeling so worn-out from the day's volunteering for the New Balance 15km Run, we couldn't sleep and decided to just stay awake. The news had left our emotions running low and feeling down. I was disturbed.
As a cancer survivor, Ngae went against all odds to perform feats that were beyond him. He overcame the impossible and inspired many runners. To me, he was one superfit strong fella who could sail through every storm and fight anything! So, while I was serving as a Hospis volunteer, it never crossed my mind to visit him although I knew he wasn't feeling well. How thoughtless can I be!
My mind flashed back to some fond memories of Ngae and the one that strike me right now is when he sang this song over the breakfast table at Pasar Rakyat Imbi a long while ago. It was also a song I knew from my youth and I'm gonna dedicate this song back to Ngae.

"I don't know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may be to grey.
I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I'll walk beside Him,
As He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand.
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.

Every step is getting brighter,
As the golden stairs I climb.
Every burden's getting lighter,
Every cloud is silver-lined.
There the sun is always shining,
There no tear will dim the eye.
At the ending of the rainbow,
Where the mountains touch the sky."


Ngae, no one knows why but as you return safely home to your Maker, may your soul find peace, comfort and rest. May the sun keep shining on you as you journey to the end of the rainbow where the mountains touch the sky.

You will be greatly missed!

Friday, May 14, 2010

One painful lesson and some favourite things.

Monday : 10-05-10.
I had the most unpleasant and dramatic day at work. I believe I really need to wake up and come to my senses...
That we now live in an era that encourages us to "polish our bosses' shoes" rather than working hard blindly.
That this is an age where most people make it their life's mission to cut the path of happiness short for others at work.

After today, I've learned that it is wiser to join forces with your opponents than to fight them. But then, I learnt it a little late and thus, became the weapon of my own destruction.
Devastated by the turn of events, I'm still bedevilled by the pangs of uncertainty and I remembered my own version of favourite things. I turned to them for comfort.
Sing with me if you can...(borrowed from Julie Andrews The Sound Of Music).

Sun blocks and lotions and lip balms for sunning,
Trophies and medals and prizes from winning,
Massages, deep heats and Milos they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Hot teas and coffees and waffles with butter,
Long distance phone calls and rooms filled with laughter,
Children at playground and gardens with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak
When the bones creak
When the knees go bad
I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so sad.

Pacesetters, movies and poetries in motion,
Mountains and beaches and Old Girls’ reunion,
Bundles of magazines tied up in strings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pains, confused brains, and no fear of sinning,
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinning,
And I won’t complain my short shrunken frames,
When I remember my favorite things.

When the joints ache
When the hips break
When the eyes grow dim
Then I remember the good life I’ve had
And then I don’t feel so bad!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

She needs a house to put in a home.

"A military chaplain told me the following story :

"A soldier's little girl, whose father was being moved to a distant post, was sitting at the airport among her family's meager belongings.
The girl was sleepy. She leaned against the packs and duffel bags.
A lady came by, stopped, and patted her on the head. "'Poor child,' she said. 'You haven't got a home.'
The child looked up in surprise. 'But we do have a home,' she said. 'We just don't have a house to put in.'"

Taken from a Sermon by the Reb, 1981. (pg 111 : Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Views from an unofficial volunteer.

Conversations, feedbacks and post mortems discussed over breakfast last Sunday had prompted me to write this post.

Having suffered compressed nerve due to my lower back pain had left me with no choice but to take a break from various activities. Running has to take a back seat for now, while racing is totally out of the topic. Yet not wanting to be left out from the running arena, I played volunteer in a few running events and mainly those organized by Pacesetters Athletics Club. I was surprised and pleased to be rewarded with some valuable lessons that volunteerism had taught me.

March 27th.
That evening of the Energizer Night Run, John and I acted as supporters instead. So at around 5.30pm we found ourselves gathered amongst friends who were running the full marathon at Cyberjaya. I looked out for my running buddies and finally spotted all of them : Gary Goh, Peter Teo, Francis Cheng, Tai, Kim, Alan Tiang and Teresa Goh. Joining this ordeal were also Phaik Hoon, Siew Ling, Haza, Chooi Lin, Choi, Frank Chong, Keat Seong, Mr Lee, Lee Woon Khau, Stanley and Steven Ho. Then there were Marathon Maniac Mohan and Catwoman Jenap from Singapore being surrounded by friends as always. It's always a joy to have these two around. We gave them our wishes and at exactly at 6pm, the full marathon runners were sent off unceremoniously into the vastness of Cyberjaya.

This event failed to attract international runners. 95% of them were mainly locals while the other 5% were made up of runners from Singapore and foreigners working in Malaysia. No Thais.

Heat
The glare and heat emanating from the powerful sun had already sent many runners sweating buckets even before the race began! Awhile later, I was shocked to find Kar Yan & Kenny Tan rushing their way to the starting line and called out to them that the race has started. Somewhere, John was riding on his Scott...escorting friends, and hope to lend some moral support and hydrating aid.

Water
While waiting for the 21km to start at 8pm, I helped some volunteers set up a last-minute water station. It was last minute when the organizer realized that Powerbars were given without any water! There were actually cartons of water lying around, and some inconsiderate runners opened up the 1 liter bottle, only to drink a few sips and threw them on the ground! Shortly after that, the organizers managed to get paper cups and we started distributing water to runners. I was rather annoyed at how rude and ungrateful some runners can be. They disposed used cups everywhere and mixed them up with the new ones. Some even had the cheek to complain and asked why were they served with warm water? Well friends, when you're really thirsty and there's water, you just shut up and drink - you don't complain!

Earth Hour
At 8pm, lights were out for a moment, runners were all given an Energizer headlamp beforehand. I was thankful to obtain a headlight courtesy of Tomatoman earlier...I put it on and continued my duty together with Wen Jun and Siew Yin (both superb children of Jenny & Lee Woon Khau). Elsewhere, I heard some runners got stranded at the carpark due to shortage of shuttles. Oh no, they'll be late for sure.
We ran out of water supply about 8 minutes before the start of the 10km Race, which was not so crucial.

Time-Keeper
Soon after my 'water task', I rushed to the finishing area to help as time-keeper for the Men Senior Veteran category and was on time to register Don Khor as the champion for this category. Volunteers at the finishing area had their share of frustration as the area was not well-litted. We could hardly read the runner's bib number. The situation became even more choatic when the 10km and 21km runners were making their way back. It was hard for us to identify the top ten runners from the different categories. Somehow we managed.

Between Wong Kar Yan and Tan Wah Sing...
At one point, I got myself all messed up when John called me to announce that Kar Yan was approaching the finishing line soon and I was to take her picture. I was all ready with the camera until I saw the barefooted veteran Tan Wah Sing sprinting towards the finishing line as well. My duty was to register Tan Wah Sing as the 1st runner-up for the Men Senior Veteran, so I had to abandon Kar Yan for him. The excitement came about because it was Kar Yan's first sub-4 marathon and she is also the Champion in the Women's Open category. Her goal was to finish a sub-4 and she achieved it in 3hrs 55mins. That night belongs to Kar Yan...she was so happy she could fly! Well done!

We left the marathon site at almost 10.40pm and headed to a nearby stall for a light dinner. Then we caught Gary Goh and Alan Tiang jogging alongside each other. John alerted them that they still had 2km ahead of them, motivated them to move on and left Cyberjaya.

Now, the feedback which I'm gonna write below is solely based on my own observation, and with no intention of pointing fingers and critising anyone. What should have been the Energizer Night Race(ENR) had turned out to be Everything Not Right.

What exactly was not right?
Collection of Race Kits
The venue at Melia Hotel is smack in the heart of the busy Golden Triangle where the traffic flow is heavy most times making it very inconvenient for some runners, while for those working around that area actually thanked their stars. Parking is usually difficult and expensive.

Vest sizes
Many runners lamented over the sizes being too small or too big (as always!) This has been a perpectual problem in most running events. Well, the bottom line is that there is NO PERFECT SIZE. In overseas where we ran, you just take it or leave it. Period. No one complains or maybe there were complaints but what we don't know won't hurt us.

Race Village
Cyberjaya may be a good place to run but logistically, parking is limited and the roads are narrow. There were no proper signages directing runners to the race village.

Car Park
Parking area is too far away from the race village. The arrangement of shuttle buses by the Organizers were not efficient, not sufficient, resulting in some runners reporting late for the race. After the race, runners had to wait for the shuttle bus to ferry them back to the car park.

Starting Line
Many runners approached me asking for the Start Line which I myself were so unsure. Later I realized that the arch is black and it was difficult to see it at night.

Race Course, Route Markers and Marathon Distance
Race Course - Too many turns. Good for some and bad for others.
Route Markers - Lack of route markers. Again, good for some and bad for others.
Marathon Distance - According to runners who wore their Garmin, the full marathon distance was shorter by 2km. This is huge for some, while others who aim just to complete couldn't be bothered.

Finishing Line
Dark - Volunteers find difficulties capturing top runners at the finishing as the area wasn't bright enough.
Narrow Lane - The lanes were very narrow. Fancy, 42k runners sharing lanes with 10k is a bad joke! Some runners were confused where to finish as the directions were not clear at all.
Digital Clock - How can the digital clock showing runners their race time be missed out? Normally, runners would want to look at their official finishing time shown on that digital clock above the finishing arch.
Finishing Arch - Banners indicating the different categories were lacking at the finishing arch. Some runners zig-zagged their way through and found themselves finishing at the wrong lanes. Poor Tan and Ken Kan had to direct every runner to take the correct lane using their hands and mouths!!

Vehicles
I was actually shocked to find that vehicles were allowed to enter into the finishing site while runners were already making their way back to the finishing line. When questioned, they claimed that they are VIPs or main sponsors of the event. To me, the VIPs for any running event is none other than the runners themselves. Period. It's a fact and the public must learn to respect that. Can you imagine a runner running triumphantly after 42km or 10km or 21km only to realize that he has to share the finishing lane with an inconsiderate Honda or Proton? This is absolutely uncalled for.
There were two occassions where the ambulance was desperately finding a way to get out to that narrow lane filled with runners from the various categories dashing their way back!

Baggage Tent
Some said it was quite a distance and they had to search for it. I agreed cos' I was helping Siew Cheng locate it as well. It was about 1km from the starting line into the center.

Prizes
Many podium finishers felt they were being short-changed even until today. Winners were promised Cash Vouchers worth RM___but instead they were given 2 months or 6 months Free Membership at a Fitness Center. They were also rewarded with Adidas gift vouchers worth RM50 redeemable with purchase of RM250 running shoes. I find this very misleading indeed!
But then what was written in The Sun was something else. It is stated that winners were awarded with cash prizes worth RM___. Cash, cash vouchers and gift vouchers are all totally different altogether.

A bottle of water, please!
I believe it's very important that every runner be handed a bottle of water at the finishing (regardless of whether he/she needs it). An exhausted runner may not have the strength to walk another few more steps to line up for water. The Organizers obviously haven't learned the lesson from Gary who collapsed and passed away during Adidas King of The Road 2009. Or perhaps, they didn't take his death seriously? Or they could've forgotten all about it? So he died in vain. sigh!

Enough said about what's not right. Please pardon me if I sound like such a smart alec. But then, the truth has to be told and this is only my 2 cents worth. From my heart. Without any bad intentions whatsoever.

What went well?
Water Station / Gatorade

Ample water stations and Gatorade to keep runners hydrated.

Water Sprays
Water sprays from the Fire Brigade came as a refreshing surprise to many. Most runners welcomed it.

Medal
The medal is very nice and worth running for. Something a runner would be so proud to display and to keep for a long long time.
(pix courtesy of runwitme)
Volunteers / Organizing Committee
Whatever the event had turned out to be, the people who worked their butts off behind the scenes should be applauded. Personally, I know of these people who are so committed in putting their best effort for runners to enjoy a great race. But then again as always, they can't please everybody.

It's not easy running a marathon, let alone execute a running event.
Last Sunday, I mentioned to some friends from the Organizing Committee that they should not ignore critisms and complaints but to take them to the next level and improve on it for future events. We all keep learning. Perhaps those who made a big hoo-ha out of this should also try helping out in such event one day. It is not that easy, believe me.

Learning and contributing
During the recent NB30k Run, I remember being scolded by some runners the minute we ran out of Finisher T-Shirt. What do we do at times like this? Do we run away from accountability because we are just a volunteer? It is our responsibility to put things into perspective. Runners are customers too. Being a sales person, this is an area where I can, at least contribute my bit and put my skills at work - Customer Service.

Finally, may I suggest that everyone should consider being a volunteer at least once in their lifetime. Only then, will we be able to truly understand the frustration as well as the fun of being a volunteer or organizer. Only then, we will be able to learn to appreciate more and complain less.

Monday, March 29, 2010

He sleeps in a storm

Glad, I still managed to squeeze in some time to read.

I've just learned something from my favourite author Mitch Albom in his latest 'have a little faith.' I'll share here :

A man seeks employment on a farm. He hands his letter of recommendation to his new employer. It reads simply, 'He sleeps in a storm.'
The owner is desperate for help, so he hires the man.
Several weeks pass, and suddenly, in the middle of the night, a powerful storm rips through the valley.
Awakened by the swirling rain and howling wind, the owner leaps out of bed. He calss for his new hired hand, but the man is sleeping soundly.
So he dashes off to the barn. He sees, to his amazement, that the animals are secure with plenty of feed.
He runs out to the field. He sees the bales of wheat have been bound and are wrapped in tarpaulins.
He races to the silo. The doors are latched, and the grain is dry.
And then he understands. 'He sleeps in a storm.'

My friend, if we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business. Our words will always be sincere, our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of "I could have, I should have."
We can sleep in a storm. And when it's time, our good-byes will be complete.

Taken from a Sermon by the Reb, 1975 (pg.93 Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nostalgia


It's been 4 years since my sister Jennifer left us...seriously, that's how swiftly time passes by.
I realized that I still think and talk about her often and then, I know just how much I missed her. Her fiery outburst, her infectious laughter, her fighting spirit, her warmth...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Some glamorous job titles...

It's been a week since I started working. I hope I won't end up in the rat-race again. I don't know. I only hope.
I think I'll probably not talk about my new job until I'm more settled. It is not very different from what I've been doing. Just different products, different boss, different people and different working environment and it's all a matter of adjusting myself. One of my new collegues here happened to be an old staff of mine...15 years ago! It is indeed such a small world!
My first week at work was a breeze. The team is few and new, and there are still some recruits reporting in next week and some next month. Therefore, getting to know one other is easy. The other day, my boss was about to print my name card and she asked me what title would I like to put in my card??? Ha! how funny...My previous boss actually asked me the same thing before!
I am a very practical person and am least concern with a job title. I am more concern about my job scope or the pay package.
Later I learnt that your job defines you as much as your gender and upbringing do. I was told that it gives an insight to your level of education and lifestyle. In other words, having a glamorous job title actually carries more weight especially when you have to deal with people of higher ranks later. Not true.
Hence, a janitor can also be called as a "Custodial Engineer". A man who fixes toilets can be known as "Latrine Specialist" instead of a plumber. Housewives are now famously known as "Ministers of Home Affairs", while "Eco-warrior" is a perfect job title for the gardener or environmentalist. An "Apparel Expert" is also totally acceptable for a tailor. Well, I've also came across a nurse who named herself as a "Helping Angel" and the physician, a "Facilitator of Hope". Some nutritionists even have "Wellness Master" on their name cards while financial planners are calling themselves "Wealth Analyst". Now even an encofineer is calling himself the "Director of Solemn Ceremonies"!
Whatever that be...
I told my boss that I will humbly adhere to the unglamorous and straight forward "Sales Manager". But it is "Retail Operating Manager" that she suggested for me. Well, please don't ask me exactly what I operate...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Two sides of a coin.

As I write this, I feel truly blessed.
And I've got to sincerely thank my husband John and my sister June for it. I thank God for them. Because of them, I was given a whole year to rest and to do what I've wanted to do. Because of them, I was able to free myself from the stress of the working world and live a life.

John and June are the only ones who understood why I needed the 'break' while the rest of the world just watched and assumed, "Ah, that woman has already made her bucks! That's why she can afford not to work!"
The truth is I am not loaded at all. I don't purchase branded goods, drive a luxury car or dine in expensive restaurants. As a matter of fact, those who made that assumption are far more loaded than me.

The saying, "If you fall from grace, you'll know who your friends are" is very true. I don't think it's a disgrace when one stop working.
But I did encounter an unpleasant experience where I bumped into an old staff who completely ignored me when we met. I heard she got promoted recently. A few years back, I would get upset over a situation like this but not anymore now. People like this do not bother me anymore...the rythmn of life goes on no matter how well or how badly we went through our own. Along the way, I've also met new friends whose lives inspired and shamed me. I've learnt great lessons from them.

Ah, fortunately there are always two sides of a coin.
It is touching to have friends who face so much themselves and yet always put time aside to care.
Then there is a teacher, now a busy CEO who remembers me in her prayers and never failed to invite me over for Christmases and birthdays.
A fellow volunteer whom I just got to know but cares to text me when I was ill and down.
A young boy with learning disability sends his love every now and then even when I do not ask for it.
A few good friends who never forget to have dinner with me on my birthday year after year.
An old nanny who always welcome me to her home anytime I urged for some good home-cooked meals.
A group of running buddies who share not only my running passion but also ready to offer advice and concern when needed. Thus making my Sunday morning run more meaningful.
A husband whose shoulders I know I always can lean on anytime.

What more can I ask? With them, it is so easy to be grateful in the midst of trying to be useful. With them, it is not difficult to remember what is good. And to them, I want to say a Big Thank You from the very bottom of my heart.

The knowledge of life that I gained from the past one year were enormous and the rewards are boundless. At least I feel a better person from it.

So now, after a year it's time to get back to work again - tomorrow. It will not be easy and I had mixed feelings, but I will go with an open heart, a clear mind and some faith in myself.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." - John F Kennedy

Friday, March 5, 2010

The -

There are poems which I can read over and over again and not get tired of reciting it. This is one that I like very much. It defines the dash between our birth dates and our "expiry dates". The dash is our life, our legacy. And our decisions define our legacies and the lives we touch. It also serves as a good reminder for us to live our life. I'll just share it here...

THE DASH by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning...to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but we said that mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth...
and how only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars...the house...the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard...
are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left.
(You could be at "dash midrange").

If we could just slow down enough
to reconsider what's true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
and show more appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we've never loved them before.

If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile...
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy's being read
with your life's action to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they
say about how you spend your dash?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Conversations over a cuppa...

Every year during the Chinese New Year, I looked forward to those very meaningful ads. by the late filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad. Something's definitely missing this year. I recalled this one being aired in 2006. It's one of my favourites.
The scene opens in a yard where four elderly women were sharing some stories and discussing their offspring. The first boasted of her successful businessman son whose clients include Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau.
The second scorned at this and talked about her surgeon son who makes 20,000 pounds an operation.
The third bragged about her auditor son who makes half a million a year.
Yet the happiest of them all turned out to be the one whose son came with just an Iswara and drove his mother home to celebrate Chinese New year with her.
This clip reminds me to think about my own life. What is the right balance between chasing riches and living a life? When I gave up my job last year, I tried really hard.
The first challenge I need to deal with was to overcome my dependence on a lucrative salary, perks and lifestyle that came with my job. I managed to let go and learned that life is actually very short and simple. There are many things I can live without.

Sometime back...I had tea with some former colleagues. They remind me about the same scenario on Yasmin's ad. We talked about our families, careers, health issues and trends.
One boosted about purchasing a special edition Armani bag which costs her RM5,000.
The other boasted to us that 'so and so' was overjoyed that she got her Hermes bag at RM14,000 and now the price has gone up to RM18,000!!
Then there was a comparison of whose house is larger etc.
As much as I enjoyed catching up with these friends, I detested those trivial conversations that we discussed. I realized that I just coudn't blend into some of their topics anymore. I was being extremely truthful when I pointed out that whether owing a RM5,000 or RM14,000 bag is a sin (to me)! And that my husband and I feel very comfortable staying in our humble abode. They may have thought that I'm just being a sour grape when I made such a remark just because I couldn't afford to own one myself.
But wait,...the amount of money used to purchase a branded bag could feed many meals for the poor, shelter for the homeless or someone seeking funds for medical aid. Then my friend was quick to reply that she did her part in charity as well. No doubt. But again, what is RM1,000 donation compared to a RM14,000 bag? I am not sure. I feel that charity should always come from the heart and not from obligation or the feelings of being guilty.

As I approach the 3rd month of the year, may I remain to be truthful and conscious and not forget those who are less fortunate.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Annual Affair

For the last few years, my Chinese New Year routines had become truly mundane and it has repeatedly become so, yearly.
It is basically...
- Buying cookies, mandarin oranges, pineapple tarts etc.

- Packing angpows, Give angpows, Receive a few angpows too.

- Neverending Dinners : Reunion Dinner, Lo Sang Dinners, Chap Goh Mei Dinner, Open House Dinners etc.

- Running with buddies on the 1st Day and then 2nd Day as well.

- Watching TV from noon till night, if at home.

- Giving & Receiving : Visit some relatives and friends with bagful of goodies and came home with bagful of goodies!

- Finishing up all the mandarin oranges and cookies in the cookie jars.

- Wait for the next Chinese New Year and repeat the same old routine. Sigh!
GONG XI FA CAI!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sleepless at Putrajaya through the eyes of an observer...

During the 12hr walk last December, my husband John sacrificed his precious sleep to support his wife all through the 12 hours. I must admit that my walk would not be any easier if he wasn't there to cheer and motivate me.

It was the 1st Putrajaya Night Marathon last Saturday, and thousands of runners took Putrajaya by storm! This time, I decided that it was my turn to play the supporting role. Although I didn't register for the race, I could feel the excitement of those participating. The response was overwhelming - perhaps, it's because it was the very first night marathon ever held in Malaysia. While waiting for John, I followed the 7.7km race and ran together with the other runners at 9pm.

The overall event was well-organized and rated as good:

- Ample parking space.
- Convenient toilet facilities.
- Sufficient sponging and water stations (both water & isotonic).
- Generous supply of power bars before and during the race.
- Staggered start time for the different categories to avoid confusion.
- Distance markers placed at every kilometres with arrows to indicate directions
- Professional road marshalls to guide runners and some were roller-blading to assist slower runners to ensure safety.
- Friendly volunteers who acted as cheering team as well.

What could've been better was the atmosphere during the entire marathon. The roads were somewhat dead. No cheering team. Basically, it was just the runner and the road.
It was boring and so lack of 'live'. The atmosphere at the race village was no better. By the time the full marathoners arrived, the atmosphere was drab. The Milo and 100Plus stations were gone. Suggested that the full marathon to start at 7pm instead of 8pm in future.

Being an observer that night, I witnessed the pain all the marathoners went through and I can confirm that running a marathon at night is not any easier than the day. The weather was hot and humid. The rain earlier that evening did not help clear the stale air. It was dull, lonely and boring especially after the half marathon where most runners were left to run their own pace. Cheering team is not popular in Malaysia at all. So, it's always the runner and the road. In the dark (although the streets were well litted that night) runners have to rely mainly on their mental strength to stay motivated in order to overcome any pain or fatigue.

At about 10pm, I was already at the finishing line together with Gail to cheer and welcome the half marathon runners, while waiting for John. I assumed he'll be back at midnight.
The first male marathon runner arrived at 10.28pm (2hr 28mims). Later Jenny Lim and her kids joined me to cheer other runners. We saw and congratulated Don Khor for crossing the line first in the Men Senior Veteran Category with a remarkable time of 3hr 10mins. And then Amutha for being the first Women full marathon runner finishing her first marathon at 3hr 32mins.

Everyone who reached the finishing line heaved a huge sigh of relief and with pain written all over their faces and bodies as well! So glad that they eventually made it. Ah, this feeling is familiar to me! I looked at my watch again and it was past midnight - there was still no sight of John. I was getting anxious...did he injure himself? maybe he had cramps? I was so anxious that I cheered the wrong runner whom I had mistaken for John (embarassed)..argh!!!
At 12.25am, he finally made his way...

See, not bad - as usual, he kept his cool and still able to keep his 'trademark' smile as he ran towards the finishing line. Yet behind that smile was a very worn-out body that only he himself could feel. 4hr 25mins may be a dream to some runners, but for John it was not a good race. He succumbed to fatigue and boredom half way through the race. I guessed his body wasn't prepare to take the stress of a night marathon. Still, I am so proud of him. He had managed to pull through another marathon and not surrender. For him, it was an experience which he aptly puts it "THE PUTRAJAYA NIGHTMARE MARATHON"!

Not a single soul I knew, achieved a PB (personal best). Many runners performed below par and for some, a PW (personal worst) yet they can not claim that they did poorly because running at night is different.
Every runner ran the same 42km route and endured the same pain, but each one has his/her own story to share. It is truly heart-warming as I listened to different runners sharing their experiences, and all I could say was no matter how long it took for them to finish a marathon, every runner who finishes the marathon is a winner.

Running a marathon is no easy feat. It takes loads of courage and determination. Running a night marathon is even harder. It is punishing, lonely and boring. Boredom can kill a runner's desire to continue in a race. Many times a runner really needs to psyche himself/herself to keep going no matter how tired he/she maybe, and to fight the urge to quit.

As we were strolling to the parking area at around 2am, we saw many runners still on the road struggling hard to complete their race and we both knew just how painful that journey can be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Poem : Playing God?

If you play God, play God at tennis,
A strict code of conduct is expected.
Clear lines must be drawn in the sand.
The ball will be either in or out.
At times there is talk of love.

If you play God, play God at chess,
All decisions must be black or white.
They are ways for Him to be kept in check.
Bishops are available for consultation.
There is the possibility of mating.

If you play God, play God at cards,
There is a clear opportunity for cheating.
You might deal from the bottom of the pack.
Aces can be hidden up your sleeve.
The joker should be specially marked.

If you play God, play God at darts,
He will dislike their resemblence to nails.
An acceptable target must be provided.
There is a fine line he will not be permitted to cross,
Cursing should never be allowed.

If you play God, play God at monopoly,
Everyone is expected to take turns.
He must sit at a table like everyone else.
You might refuse him a room at your inn.
He is certain to be feeling overconfident.

This poem is taken from the book 'Playing God' by Glenn Colquhoun. He is a doctor and his revealing poems are mainly conversations between his doubt and his indoubted love for his work. He feels like a fraud, he knows he can not fix everything. He said he is a human being with a little bit of science and a lot of doubts. Yet he is admired for his honest voice, dry sense of humour and a quiet instinct for tapping deep emotions.