Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm 15 Today!

Yes, I am fifteen today... well, not today, but back in March.

No, not my age but the number of years I have been with the company.

Yes, it has been that long... and unlike a teenager, I feel so old. Sigh.

Today, my Boss came over to my desk to hand me a Long Service Award envelope. Fortunately a white one, not pink. Commendation and not condemnation... termination.

"Wow! 15 years. Congratulations." He said.

"Wow! A big envelope." I said to myself. "Thank you." I replied.

As he left the office, my friends crowded around me... congratulations from everyone.

It was indeed a big envelope... half the size of an A4 size paper. On it was printed with my name in big bold letters and "15 Year Award" in parenthesis.

Inside was a letter of congratulatory from our CEO and an invite for a dinner award this May 2008 at a 5-star hotel. Cool.

What is even more "cool" is the gold pendant that I will be receiving. 15 gram of 916 gold is quite a lot of money... taking the price of 916 gold is about S$30.00 today.

Then again, I had two other prior occasions where I received gold pendants too. 5 and 10 grams reflecting 5 and 10 years of service with the company respectively. All given to Wifey, and this one too since Muslim men are not permitted to wear gold jewelery.

I would not want to look like an R&B dude either.

I have seen and work... dealt with a lot of people. Most left for "greener pastures." A few actually passed-on prematurely, unfortunately. Great friends who I still keep in contact with, some nemesis I wish and am trying to forget, but in retrospect it always seems not-so-bad, sweet at times.

Never thought I would last this long. Seeing the ups and downs, the hay days and the trying periods like a roller coaster ride, but alas 15 years to celebrate. Phew!

So here's to 15 more?!

Err.... I do not know if I want to last that long here. Only time will tell. I would not want to be a deadwood.

In the meantime, do my best since I am paid to do so and enjoy my weekends and vacations with my family, the best I know how.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Her Childhood Haunts

Boy! This pill is tough to swallow.

Well, inhale too. No, not me, it is Wifey.

Today, I took half day off from work to be with Wifey to know the result from her Spirometry Test done a few weeks back.

It is official. Wifey is now enrolled in the Asthmatic Support Program at Changi General Hospital or CGH for short.

Her nightly incessant flu-like symptom last few months and at times breathlessness has a name now. It's Asthma. No surprise... a term she was familiar with, but as a child and in her early teen years, but not heard of for so long until today.

Though we kind-of know about it, Dr. Imran confirmed it for us.

So, her childhood illness has finally came to haunt her in adulthood. This time is it for the rest of her life as the Specialist had informed. She is now in Dr. Imran's preventive care.

No worries... as long as she sticks to the daily routine of her preventive medications of Symbicort for her lungs and Nasonex for her nose, she "will lead a good quality of life" just like a normal person would.

Her appointment at 3:50PM was delayed 20 minutes because of urgent cases that came and had to be attended to first.

I was in disbelieve when the doctor told Wifey about her condition. I asked question after question to be extra sure, simply because Wifey only had attacks in very infrequent occasions and far in between.

I was somehow in denial with the prognosis and the lifelong medication that she has to take with her "mild" condition, whereas Wifey was quiet... shocked, maybe... resent to fate, maybe.

I did not know what was going through her mind when the doctor was explaining and answering my 101 questions.

I could not accept the fact that her asthma has recurred and will stay for the rest of her life. Poor Wifey, my love.

Yes, she had symptoms of asthma and actually had several attacks that were frequent only in January 2008. The symptom with that excessive phlegm was gone after Dr. Imran treated her with all those medication.

She has recovered from the flu, but had bouts of shortness of breaths on some nights, but nothing "worrying" as Wifey puts it.

After the doctor had explained it to us, it came to mind that Wifey was late in seeking medical treatment for her flu. She waited for 2 weeks and after several "nagging" by me that I was able to "drag" her to our family doctor. Her unnecessary epitome of tolerance.

I had to "drag" her again to CHG when she had a relapse... and all led to this final prognosis and now a change in lifestyle and diet for her... and for the family, since she is the resident cook in this household. We eat what she can eat and cook.

I have to mention that Felicia, the Asthma Consulting Nurse was thorough and very patient to explain all the things that is... well, asthma, now that Wifey is in the Asthma Support Program.

A phone call away for advice and subsidized cost on her monthly medications bill.

I was still in the state of shock but ultimately understood the prognosis than seeking a second opinion an hour later, after Felicia painstakingly and genuinely explained and showed how the medication should be taken.

Just as Wifey understood what exactly asthma is, I finally understood how it occurs or triggered by, how to avoid another attack, how to prepare for overseas trips, why the need for lifelong preventive medications, the difference a relief medication provides and many more facts.

Wifey was made to practice administering the 3 daily medications to Nurse Felicia for her to be sure that Wifey was doing it correctly. Explaining the effects that may be gradual but dangerous when the symptom recurs if Wifey stopped her medication intake.

So we will have a bill of between S$60.00 monthly for her medication once these run out in June 2008. After which, her next appointment and a review on its dosages.

Sonny was saddened and gave his Mama a hug when he was told about her medical condition that will become her lifelong routine. That was heartfelt to watch. He loves his Mama.

Anyway, Wifey has the support from her two beloved people in this household. A minor but important change in our lifestyle which is doable starting tomorrow morning.

Love you Wifey... nothing has changed.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Great Downpour

Today is Friday. A wet day. The whole day.

The morning saw a downpour that clouded visibility and slowed traffic down. It even stopped traffic in several places. One such place was the expressway along TPE just before the Punggol exit.

I took a cab thinking that the bus will make me late for work. I was dead wrong. The rain made everyone late for work.

The cab I took was dead in its tracks just like the early warning traffic sign flashed as we entered TPE. A tat too late for a warning. The driver made a clever "escape" from the expressway by taking the first exit at Punggol and straight down to Sengkang East Road, my exit on a normal day's ride.

I was relieved to leave the snailing traffic on the TPE, but was short-lived a few traffic lights away. Another traffic jam was trailing vehicles just after we passed Compass Point Mall.

"I think we should go by Jalan Kayu and exit by Yio Chu Kang." The driver suggested. "May be there's flooding further down." Pouted his lips to point to the jam ahead.

I just agreed, since I had never seen a traffic jam on this route before. An accident maybe... with all this bad weather and poor visibility. Flood? Not likely, I thought to myself as the driver diverted another time passing the SMRT LRT building.

"Oh no." The driver sighed to himself.

"Oh man!" I shouted in my head.

The traffic condition was the same everywhere after all. I ended-up being stuck in the cab for almost an hour in what would normally have been a 20-minute ride.

I had to pay the price for an urgent ride to work today that cost me S$24.00! Still, I reached my intended destination in one peace. That is good.

The whole day turned-out mostly wet, with rain stopping for a brief moment only to blur the sights again with heavy downpour and clouding mists. A drenching scenery out the glass doors as I looked out from my desk.

Like the day, the pace at work was slow too. Since manufacturing was not working overtime today, an exodus of the support people took leave off work too, so the whole office seemed gloomy inside, reflecting the weather outside.

I am however amazed at the suggestive power of the mind... I was late an embarrassing hour for work today. Paid a significant amount of money for a cab fare, had soaking wet pair of shoes that was air-con dried under my desk, worked a full day's worth in a sleepy office, yet my spirits lifted more and more with every passing hour.

Why? Simply because it is Friday. The weekend is here! I live for the weekend.

The bad thing is that it is only for two days. The good thing is, I get to celebrate the weekend every week... starting 5:30PM.

Enjoy your weekend everyone, as I will with mine!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Wedding Three

Typical Malay Wedding Luncheon held at a void deck of a flat

Sundays are best left to attend wedding receptions.

For many Malays in Singapore, the whole year is open to wedding invitations on the weekends with the exception of two important months of the year... Ramadan and Hari Raya Eidulfitri.

It would not make any sense to invite anyone for a feasting luncheon when everyone is observing the fast from dawn till dusk during Ramadan.

And everybody will be so busy going visiting to families' and friends' places during the celebration month of Hari Raya Eidulfitri. In fact some families would go off to Malaysia or Indonesia to visit their families or relations overseas.

Invitations from the host would normally be coming via our parents, acting as a "distribution centre" to their children on behalf of the host. They would normally visit the elders' homes as a form of respect to invite them and their family to the wedding, about a month prior to the occasion.

I have to admit that I have a very bad habit of not showing up for such invitations, except for very close relations. I will only hand Mom a "green packet" for my parents or any of my siblings who are attending to give the host my gift and regards.

Typical Malay wedding luncheon with a dais on the far right

A typical Malay wedding would be held at the void deck of the parents' flat. All decked out nicely with a dais for the happy couple to introduce themselves and picture takings with their guests.

Both the bride and groom will hold their own wedding luncheon at both of their homes. So if both families were somehow related to you, you would probably receive two wedding invitations and obliged to go to both places.

The food spread would be a gastronomical feast, but tilted richly to the high calorie and cholesterol mix... like anything in life too good a thing is very harmful! What is worse is that instead of ala carte, nowadays its buffet style, so pigging out is an option.

Nasi Beryani or yellow spiced rice is normally served with mutton or beef curry. Fried chicken and Ayam Masak Merah or chicken in red-sauce, sweet and sour fried fish cutlets and Achar or spiced-sour cucumber and carrots... among other dishes that make the guests spoiled for choice.

Desserts will be aplenty with combinations of Malay Kueh and western cakes and cookies.

Do not get me wrong, the food spread is wonderful and befitting the occasion, but eating such sinfully delicious dishes on too many weekends make many Malays here a tat larger in size than the other races on this island... with higher incidences of cholesterol related diseases too.

So today, Wifey and I met up with two of my Sis and three of my brothers with their spouses at our parents' home to go together to the three places. One is fortunately a few blocks away from our parents' place, while the other two were clustered within Jurong West on 42 and 73 street.

The first two lunches were delicious. I was at my most weakest and pigged out... but everyone had to force eating themselves silly at the third place. Fortunately it was our closest relation, so we took our time to finish the food eventually.

A wedding procession announcing the couple's arrival

In Malay culture, it is considered insensitive to not eat at a wedding lunch, so we took our time eating and got to see the happy couple as well when they came back from the bride's home.

Three weddings, so we each received three sets of buah tangan or door gifts from the host when we congratulated and thanked them for the invitation. A guest would be giving a green packet containing anything from S$2.00 to S$50.00 to the host, though any amount one is willing and can afford to give is good enough.

Too much food eaten, too bloated to think further and too sleepy to write any more.

So off to bed for me and a tough workout tomorrow morning to get rid of the access baggage to start the week.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

We're Technically Sound

"What color do you prefer?" Wifey asked.

"Black is always the best color..." Sonny replied over the phone, "I want black, please."

That conversation was a week ago, while we were at Courts Megastore in Tampines Retail Park after viewing and "test driving" the Sony PSP alone with no accessories for S$280.00.

We were out for dinner at its Box Bistro... my favourite place for good food and reasonable price with a very nice ambiance and service I might add, to hunt for our son's gift as a reward for his good efforts in his studies and first term results.

Courts' Box Bistro Set Lunch at S$4.80

We also went to Tampines Mall and Century Square Mall continuing our hunt for the best bundled offer, but none was good enough then. The PSP and its accessories added already cost just a little over S$400.00.

Both Wifey and I rewarded him with a S$100.00 gift each as a challenge for him to get within the top 3 spot in class. He got first, so imagine how happy we were to get the news. He was shocked himself too when the teacher announced it to the class.

Quietly, he has been saving his daily allowance money all these months to buy a PSP for himself. It would have taken him about a year to accumulate that much money to buy one, so he was able to realize owning a PSP sooner than he expected with the additional gift money when he did his responsibility as a student.

Well today, he finally owns one.

We found a good enough bargain at Sim Lim Square, a haunt for computers and electronics mall. At S$348.00 net, the PSP was bundled with original Sony headphones, battery and pouch, USB charger and USB cable, a screen protector and an air-foam case.

Wifey did not leave the tech-mall empty-handed either.

She got herself a 4GB iPod... ehem clone, for S$65.00 that came with a rubber-skin case protector and a USB charger.

Interestingly enough, it just does not plays music alone... her primary desire while doing house chores and exercising, but also comes with movie videos, a radio tuner and voice recorder, photo viewer and eBook, and games capabilities.

There is also a surprisingly loud and clear speaker phone to play the radio or MP3 songs out loud. Not shabby at all.

She is happy with it, listening to the radio the first chance when we got into the train on our way home.

I will have to download all her favourite songs from my iTunes for her tomorrow.

Since I have realized my dream a little sooner with my recent purchase of an Apple 8G iPhone, the only thing I wanted was an extra USB to iPod cable to connect my office PC with it.

Fortunately I found one for S$9.90 instead of buying the original cable from an Apple authorized dealer on the 3rd floor that would have set me back S$39.90.

Now I do not have to carry an extra cable other than the earphones with my iPhone between work and home anymore.

So everyone of us was a happy camper as we left Sim Lim Square for dinner at Banquet in Raffles Hospital, a ten minutes walk from the tech-mall.

Everyone was focused on his and her palms, ears plugged with music thumping and fingers doodling on the new toys. Conversation was reduced to hand gestures and occasional "what did you say?" on our train ride home as we reached Tampines MRT Station.

Techno-gadgets kill the conversation?! We are "listening" more than we talk... but not to each other as much. Hopefully true only on journeys on the bus and trains, but not at home...


We just received a free Samsung 26 Inch LCD TV two days ago after signing on for another 2-year Broadband Premium Plan with Starhub. The TV is in our bedroom and does not fit in our built-in wardrobe the way our 20 Inch CRT TV is now.

Guess we need a floor stand for this as wall-mountable is not an option. Who will take in the chunky CRT? I will have to contact my siblings if any of them want it.

Talk about conversations...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Our Creature Comforts

"Imran, my Kicik died today..." Mom called to inform me over the phone while I was at work today.

"It was fine last night, playing on the wheel and eating well..." she continued. "Today, it didn't come out from its house when I called." She explained... sounded puzzled and sad.

Dad was very quiet said Mom after he buried Kicik or Small in Malay, between two trees in front of their flat this afternoon. "Your Dad is quite sad... dealing it his way." Mom told me. He loves all his hamsters and takes care for them very well.

It was indeed strange because I saw all of them yesterday afternoon when I came over to my parents' place to fetch Mom to the doctor. Her 6 hamsters were looking well and healthy.

"Maybe its time is up." I replied with no other explanation to console Mom...

"Mama!" I called Wifey from the kitchen, "Figit is dead!"

I came right to the kitchen every day after work to see our hammies and today I found Figit, our most energetic hammie laid still and already rigid in his sand-bathing container.

I thought Figit was sleeping, but his partner, Chancey was somehow restless. She moved around the cage, came forward to me and back to Figit several times. Each time stopping at Figit, sniffed him and back to me as if telling me something was wrong.

This is exactly the reaction we would notice many times when the water bottle is empty. Our hammies seem to be "communicating" with us this way... attracting our attention to a particular thing.

I thought I was silly to think so when I first noticed it and just kept it to myself. I only realized it was not just me when Wifey and then Sonny had the same experience several times over whenever the water bottle was empty.

I guess we spent time enough with them and picked-up certain "communicating skills" with our hammies as they probably would too with us. Interesting little creatures.

Sonny is digging to bury Figit at the CemeTree as I write this post.

Figit was his favourite after Buddy died, so naturally he was shocked to get the news.

Figit had flu, though a little less fidgeting... the origin of his name, he was his normal self for the past 3 days. I gave him Septrim for the few days and noticed his runny nose had cleared.

He was well and playing on his wheel when I bid good bye before I left for work this morning. Never thought it was the last.

We are sad. It was only a few days ago that our gentle Andy died. Somehow, the sadness is less intense this time unlike the first few deaths. Not because we love Figit any less, but we know our Winter-White hammies have already reached their full lifespan. We prepare ourselves for times like this.

We had them for over two years already, we will when it is their time to go to a better place.

We love every single one of our hammies. They give us their company so that we can cope with our life's daily stresses. All the creature comforts we posses will not mean much without love around. They are love... very much a part of the family.

We will miss you Figit.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April's Full Day

Woodlands Polyclinic View from shop-house

It seemed like a full-day today.

At work, I finally found a way to tabulate and calculate man-hour requirements for the group and was formatting my spreadsheet away until my sixth sense told me that it was time to go.

I had taken half-day leave off from work to take my Mom to Woodlands Polyclinic since she had a relapse of flu and was feeling feverish the day before.

The private GP's medication she got from her first visit a block away from her home was good initially, but a relapse caused a little scare when she suffered shortness of breath... probably because of the congested lungs.

"I had a bad case of flu last night" Mom told me over the phone yesterday afternoon, "I could barely breathe..." paused and coughed violently. "I thought I was dying."

"You sound pretty bad." I replied and was concern about her. "You should to go the doctor..." I suggested "the polyclinic should be the best since they are taking care of your medical."

I called my Sister who suggested that I go to Woodlands polyclinic in the afternoon since there will be less walk-in patients then than in the morning, where working people go to get MCs off from work.

Woodlands Polyclinic Open Garden

So after a packed-lunch I bought along the way to my parents' place, we left their home for the polyclinic which has since been renovated to become a spacious, even cleaner and orderly place.

The registration for a queue number is now automated with 3 touch-screen self-serve booths, but with 2 staffs to show you how. Mom's queue number was 2580.

After a 10 minutes wait, she was asked to wait to see the doctor from Rooms 42 to 47 at level 2. That was the longest wait from the entire government doctor's visit of about 40 minutes.

An Indian male doctor... I forgotten his name already, examine Mom to find that she still had a little fever but fortunately not a congested lungs.

Mom was prescribed cough syrup and pills for her flu, paracetamol for her slight fever and mouth gargle and cream for her mouth sores which we collected from the pharmacy with our 2428 queue number after another 10 minutes wait.

The doctor's consultation fee was S$4.60 for senior citizens and S$3.50 for the medicines to total at S$8.10 after heavily subsidized.

It is truly a very reasonable fee with reasonable standard of service and nice facilities. The only downside is the waiting time, but an understandable inconvenience for a government establishment that serves the massive public.

Back at their home, Mom surprised me with a wallet she bought for me after I surprised her with some extra spending money from my bonus together with their monthly expenses money that I normally give from my paycheck.

Gucci wallet! Well, a very good imitation she bought from a traveling Nepalese salesman. At age 75, she is oblivious to the brand name or that it was fake. Fortunately she bought it for under S$12.00.

It is the thought that counts and coming from them, it is priceless!

Get well soon Mom! Talk to you both soon.