Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Vassar Commencement Address 2010 by Lisa Kudrow

Commencement Address

May 23, 2010
Thank you, President Hill, for inviting me to speak, and thank you to the Class of 2010 for not protesting...seriously. I was wondering what I should say to you — there are so many possibilities you know? So I asked some of you — and by "some" I mean two — who I happened to see in passing. (it was convenient for me). Well I couldn't ask every one of you. It's not like there's some kind of social network wherein I could communicate with such a large number of people at once. That's a joke because there is such a thing — it’s called the Internet.
No, I did actually hear from a little more than two of you that, because I went here, you wanted to know about my experiences after graduating and I understand that because the twenties are that time in your life when (this is not a joke) you're really getting acquainted with your own adult self and seeing how you respond to self doubt when there's so much seemingly at stake. So, let me reassure you. It's not supposed to be easy, but it doesn't have to be torture. You're supposed to have moments of uncertainty about which path to take because the 20's are full of crossroads.
So, back to me. Yes, I sat exactly where you're sitting, exactly 25 years ago. (Pause for disbelief. Thank you!) Well it WAS 25 years ago — I know it’s hard to believe — and Governor Mario Cuomo was our speaker. I had been up all night so I was drifting in and out of consciousness [looks around the crowd] — like that guy. I don't remember much, but I do remember at one point Governor Cuomo told us to look around at our classmates. The idea was to really take in these people we've just had this very meaningful experience with for four important years in our lives. So you can go ahead and do that now if you want to.
Did you do it? I don't know what you all just felt, but when I did it 25 years ago. I didn't feel a thing. Nothing. I thought, yeah, okay, I probably won't remember most of these people and a lot of things that happened over the past four years will fade away and that's all right because that's the way it goes. So I went back to sleep. I know, I 'm a little...cold, I’ve been told. Then I thought, "Oh but, I am going to miss seeing that guy...I see around, Stephen, the Mug manager who dances well. I really won't ever see him again. That’s weird. Well, try to remember him." Now, we weren't close friends he was just a guy I'd run into on campus. As we'd exchange how-are-you’s he'd say, "Oh God, I've got like seven papers? and three tests? all within the next four days?!" and I'd say "Oh God." He'd say, "Yeah." "Okay. Well, bye." "Bye."
I thought it a little odd that the only thing I'd be missing was bumping into cool Stephen the Mug manager who danced well and worked hard. But that was it because I had done what I had set out to do. I had gone to a great school on the east coast, met really interesting and intellectually curious people, made a few good friends, and received a superior education from engaging professors who had high standards. I met those high standards and adopted them as my own and could hopefully carry them into my future.
I wasn't in the mood to look back and be sad over what I might miss later. I was ready to be looking I'm sure a lot of you are. How many of you are excited to start your brilliant career doing some research in some area of neuro-psycho-pharmacology [and see if you can't ultimately answer questions about how things like neuro transmitters evolved]? Me, too. I was very excited to get home. I had a job lined up with my father who was a headache specialist — yes, I said “headache.” He's retired now, but he was a world-renowned headache specialist who mostly did research. I immediately started to work with him on a study concerning hemispheric dominance and headache types. I won't go into the details, but I could! The important thing was that I was on my way to getting published, then onto a graduate program at whichever very impressive university accepted me. Six months after graduation I dumped that plan and decided to become an actress. Then I was cast on the show Friends and now I'm here, any questions?
How did I go from biology major to actress? That is the one question I'm asked most frequently. Okay, when I was a kid, I did want to be an actress, but when I took biology in high school, I was hooked. The biological theories I learned, to me were the height of creativity. So I pursued my passion for biology and wherever that would lead me. I had nothing to do with acting in high school nor while at Vassar. I was never in a play. I don’t think I ever really saw a play. I wasn't interested in the least, not the least. Then during my senior year at Vassar when I was home for spring break, I was driving around L.A. and heard a promo for a sitcom on the radio. They'd play their best joke from the show and I remember hearing in my head, "Oh, God, that's not funny. They punched the joke too hard, just throw it away, Lisa remember to throw it away when you do it. Why do I need to remember to throw a joke away? I don't need to remember that."
And so I dismissed it...until after I graduated and was happily doing research with my father at the headache clinic and it happened again and again and again. I'd be watching a sitcom and hear myself saying, "Don't do that. Don't do that Komedy Walk thing like these sitcom girls do." It got relentless and I entertained the idea of being an actress, then moved to justify the idea with, "You know, you're 22, you have no mortgage, no husband and kids — no responsibilities. You have to do this acting thing now. Right now. I'm so sorry, but you have to." By November of 1985, I declared that I would pursue acting. My parents and family were thrilled for me and that was the first and most important, wonderful show of support I got. (Look at parents) My parents and family were thrilled, THRILLED. Truly. My Vassar friends were shocked, SHOCKED but supportive and polite. I . . .was terrified, and not because I didn't think it would work out — I was weirdly confident...for no reason at all — but because this didn't exactly feel like it was a choice as much as succumbing to a compulsion, and I didn't analyze what led me to this point, whether it was divine intervention, or a lapse in judgment or sanity, I just listened to that inner voice. By the way, it's always a good move to listen to that inner voice...if it doesn't lead to a crime.
I was also nervous about this career choice because I didn't really care for actors. The only point of reference I had was seeing them on talk shows. They seemed so affected, picking a cause of the month as if it's not about them at all. You know, they’d say, "Please, please save the planet as a favor to me. I'll love you for it, I really will." So I couldn’t and I thought, “How do I hold onto who I am, if I'm trying to become one of them? I don't want to turn into an actress.” Well, that’s a problem, okay, because, as in most pursuits, "one's self” is one of the biggest hurdles to get over. You can't pursue something and be committed to it if you're apologizing for it at every party. Which I did for a while. I learned you have to surrender to the fact that you are one of too many in a highly competitive field where it is difficult to stand out...for now. Over time, through your work, you will demonstrate who you are and what you bring to the field. Just stay with it and keep working. I was collecting tools to cope with this uncertain path in case it got rocky later on, just in case. For now, it's good, though.
I became friends with and stuck close to the most talented person I met at my very first improv class. Conan O'Brien was a nimble improviser and fully committed in every scene, which always made it great. His writing was unparalleled and everyone understood he occupied a whole other level of talent. I hoped I would be influenced by his high standard of writing and performing. Also, I knew he belonged in this profession and I made him laugh, so I belonged too.
I'm on my road to becoming an actress. While I was taking classes at the Groundlings, an improvisation and sketch comedy theater in L.A., I had my first audition and got the part. It was for a backer's audition for an Equity waiver play called Ladies Room. These two minor characters would come in and out and be on stage for a total of maybe seven minutes of the whole play. Here was the audition:
Romy: "Uch, I hate throwing up in public."
Michele: "Oh, me too!"
Ladies Room had a nice long run and Romy and Michele were such audience pleasers, they created a TV show for them, and I was cast in the pilot as Michele. I couldn't believe how fast my success was happening! The pilot, though, was not great and didn't get picked up. I was back to square one and it was the first time I thought, "Oooooo, maybe I'm not a lucky person and this isn't meant to be." Then I recovered with "You know, there might be more ups and downs and you have to weather those storms...and Conan thinks you're funny, so...!"
Over the next eight years, my resolve and commitment was steadily challenged: challenged by casting directors telling me to my face that I was horrible, agents letting me know, "It's hard. We don't know what to do with you. They want gorgeous on TV, you know? There's really not a place for you." Finally, I get a coveted spot in the main company of the Groundlings, and the director there didn’t like my work. "The producers came to the show and they liked your sketches for their TV show. Can you believe it? All the great people they saw and they chose YOU. I just don't get it." Lorne Michaels came to a show to look for new cast members for Saturday Night Live and out of Me, Kathy Griffin, Julia Sweeney they picked Julia Sweeny. I was devastated. That director told me, "Of course they picked Julia, who else would they have picked?" Naturally, these things knocked me off balance and caused me to wonder if this was the right path for me. Am I going about this the right way? Do I belong here? Maybe I never will be a working actor and I've wasted all this time...then I'd DECIDE, no, they're just wrong (and a little insensitive) but mostly, they are just wrong. And that's ok. They don't see it yet. I'd cling to the knowledge that friends like Conan O'Brien always liked the sketches I wrote and performed. So did Kathy Griffin, Julia Sweeney, writers I knew and respected liked my work - these people, I decided, were NOT wrong. I DO belong here and Conan is never wrong! (Have I mentioned his name enough? I know him...) That's what I would tell myself to keep those moments of doubt only moments. And it worked, I kept going.
Then, it all changed. I got cast as a series regular on a show that I knew would run forever and be very well written. Jim Burrows was directing and that was a big deal. He'd directed and produced,CheersTaxi — everything good. I was set. I was done. No more guest starring roles where you're not really part of the show because you're just there for the week. I was done worrying. “ I get to do what I love on the best show ever.” After two days of rehearsal, I got fired. I got fired from Frasier, the one everyone knew was going to be a hit, and it was. The next day, my biggest source of support had to move to New York to start work on his show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien and so my best friend was gone, too. This time, it was really hard not to think that it wasn't meant to be, my career as an actress. It was so embarrassing...Jim Burrows and those producers had to fire me. They were nice, but..."It's just not working and we need to replace you." “Okay...don’t feel bad...” Didn't they know how hard I worked to finally become good at auditioning? That I had gotten over the “being an actress" issue and embraced it? That was hard for me! This was my shot! I cried a lot. Then I got a call from a friend, the actor Richard Kind who I'd met when I had guest starred on an episode of Mad About You starring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt who said, "I heard what happened. I don't know how you even get up in the morning. How do you get out of bed, get dressed, walk out the door and show your face?" That just made me laugh. That was crazy. I was getting up in the morning and leaving my apartment, so maybe I was coping better than I expected to. The best words were from Robin Schiff who wrote the play Ladies Room and later would write and produce the movie Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. She said, " I know it's hard to believe, but when one door closes, another door always opens. It really does." Yeah, I know, I had heard that very clever saying before. She was right, I didn't believe it, but I never forgot it.
A couple of months later I was almost out of money and my agent called to tell me that Danny Jacobson, the producer of Mad About You, was offering me another small role on the show. The agent was recommending I pass on it because it was too small a role and the character didn't even have a name. It was for the part of Waitress and I wouldn't even see the part until I got to the set in an hour. "Don't take it, they can't treat you like this." I didn't even think twice. Of course, I took it. Whatever it is, I'll make it funny. I'll listen and respond and make it funny. By the second day, Danny Jacobson asked if I would be okay with being written into at least five more shows throughout the season. I told him I was ok with that. Some people thought I was funny as the waitress on Mad About You, one of them was one of their talented writers named Jeffrey Klarik. Jeffrey's boyfriend, David Crane, who recommended I come in to read for his new show about six twenty-somethings who lived in New York and hung out at a coffee house. After many auditions, I was the second person cast in the pilot called Friends Like Us, which would later be changed to Friends. Jim Burrows also directed this pilot and the first ten episodes of Friends. One day the six of us were talking with Jimmy, exchanging The Time I Got Fired Stories and Jimmy told them mine. "Well, she's got the worst one of all, she got fired from Frasier. ‘You weren't right for the part darlin'.'" Thanks! And then he said, "Well, it's a good thing you got fired or you wouldn't have been on this show." He was right. And it was a good thing I didn't get Saturday Night Live and that the Romy and Michele pilot didn't work out and every other disappointment that happened...they were like guide posts that kept me on my path. Oh and after I got fired from Frasier, I went to a birthday party and, feeling like I had nothing at all to lose, I flirted with a guy who was way out of my league. We dated and on Thursday Michel and I will have been married for 15 years. Yeah, that’s the biggest achievement of all, and we’ll be celebrating with our 12 year-old son. Thank God I got fired! Maybe there is a reason for everything. I think there is.
When I was sitting where you are today twenty-five years ago and I thought how I'm not really going to miss Vassar, maybe it's not because I'm made of stone. Maybe its because deep down I knew Vassar would never leave me. My producing partner and one of my best friends is Dan Bucatinsky, Vassar class of '87. I didn't know him while I was here. But when you need to creatively partner with someone who shares your high standards, it turns out to be a Vassar guy.
No, Vassar has stayed with me because I carried those high standards that were nurtured in me here all along the way. I knew what was good and that's what I did and will always try to achieve good work. Even if the network cancels my show, I know it's good work and I'm proud of it. Even if people look at me with pity as they say, "You have a Web series? Awww..." I know it's good work and I'm proud of it. A BBC series that's a historical documentary show on genealogy on NBC? Yes. Really? For American audiences? They won't like that. Yes, they will, because it's good. And they do.
I think there's another reason I wasn't sad to leave Vassar. On some level, maybe I knew I'd be back three times a year at the Board of Trustees meetings. And one last thing...when I was invited to be on the Board, I was very nervous because it was my first meeting, and I didn’t know anyone. Then I saw there was another person from the class of '85 — Attorney, Steve Hankins...who was Stephen the cool mug manager who danced well. It's really nice to see him around again.
I truly wish you all the best in whatever it is that you want. Thank you.

Just stay

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside.

"Your son is here," she said to the old man.

She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened. Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.

Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited. Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her.

"Who was that man?" he asked.

The nurse was startled, "He was your father," she answered.

"No, he wasn't," the Marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life."

"Then why didn't you say something when I took you to him?"

"I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn't here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell who was there or not, I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed. "

"I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey. His son was killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him. What was this gentleman's name?"

The nurse replied, with tears in her eyes, , "that was Mr. William Grey."

The next time someone needs you ... just be there. 


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What if God ...

God couldn't take the time to bless us today because
we could not take the time to thank Him yesterday...

What If...?
God decided to stop leading us tomorrow because we didn't follow Him today...

What If...?
God didn't walk with us today because we failed to recognize it as His day...

What If...?
We never saw another flower bloom because we grumbled when God sent the rain...

What If...?
God stopped loving and caring for us because we failed to love and care for others...

What If...
God took away the Bible tomorrow, because we would not read it today...

What If...
God took away His message because we failed to listen to His messenger...

What if...?
God didn't send His only begotten Son because He wanted us to be prepared to pay the price of sin...

What If...?
The door to the church was closed because we did not open the door of our hearts...

What If...?
God would not hear us today because we would not listen to Him yesterday...

What If...?
God answered our prayers the way we answer His call to service...

What If...?
God met our needs the way we give Him our lives...

What If...?
We failed to pass this message on....

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fatherhood made me a better man

This article was published in The Star yesterday 12-12-12. Made my Daddy proud too. Hope you like it too.

Fatherhood made me a better man

With daddy around, every day is like Christmas for (from left) Ewan, Ethan and Estelle Ong!


“Most unlikely to settle down.” That’s probably the most common presumption everyone put down in the yearbook for me during our days in King Edward school in Taiping, Perak. I was cheeky and never too serious about my future. That was, until I met my wife at the age of 27. Five minutes into meeting her, I turned to my best friend and said: “Simon, you see that woman? I am going to marry her.” And we got married 18 months after that.

Now, 10 years later and counting, I’m the father of three boisterous children, Ethan Ong Heng Kit, nine, Ewan Ong Heng Hon, six, and Estelle Sophie Ong Tong En, three. Now, this is the best part. Apparently, I’m the most “prolific” among ALL my schoolmates. Some of my classmates are not even married yet, let alone have kids.

“What do you mean you have three children? You can’t be serious.” Oh, but I am.

I may have been playful during our school days, but parenthood gave me a focus I never knew was inside me all this while.

When Ethan was born, I was working shifts in Westport, a seaport in Port Klang, Selangor. I would be home after the graveyard shift at nine in the morning and try to catch a few hours’ sleep. But Ethan’s constant crying put paid to that. People may know the words “patience and perseverance” but they do not know the real meaning until they actually become parents. Regardless of all the tantrums and fits the children have thrown, I love them more than life itself.

You want to know what is a “money can’t buy” experience? It’s when at the end of a busy day, you realise that you have time to fetch your boy from school instead of letting him take the bus home. And when he bounds down the steps once the school bell rings to find you waiting for him, the look of joy on his face is priceless.

When I reach home and find my little princess Estelle waiting for me with a hug and a kiss, I really don’t care if I have lost out on a million-dollar deal that day. It won’t matter anymore as long as I have these three bundles of joy.

I recently took a big change of career for a single reason - my children. I may have been earning more previously, but with this new vocation, I have more time to spend with my children and I believe no one can put a price on that.

I will always remember the time my parents gave me when I was growing up. My father and mother always made time to support me in whatever activity I was involved in, be it education, sports or extra-curricular. And so I made a promise to myself that I would devote the same to my children. I have noticed some changes since I started spending more time with them.

They have become more responsive and alert, and begun to learn different things at a faster pace. This, by itself, is another great bonus of being a hands-on parent. I realised something else, too. That the children of this generation are not too attached to their parents and will often detach themselves by the age of 13. So, from the time your child starts communicating up to the age of 12, is the most precious time you will ever get to spend with them.

I thank God for every day and every hour I get to be with my children because, come to think of it, your children are almost like extensions of yourself. They will see how you act, speak and treat others. Before long, they will imitate and mime your actions, if not, at the very least, the way you speak.

Thus, there is no better incentive for anyone to be a better person than for your children. Now, that must surely be the best reward any parent can get. I may not be the best role model out there, but there’s nothing that will make me happier than doing my part to ensure my children grow up to be good, decent members of society.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gurchan Singh-The Lion of Malaya

I think that it's vital our children learn more of these historical stories. Not only will it inculcate a sense of patriotism, but it will also encourage multi-culturalism. I sense that these stories were not included in history books for certain reasons, but it's even more imperative we keep them alive and recount them.

Gurchan Singh-The Lion of Malaya

UNLIKELY HERO: The cop silently waged a battle against the Japanese during World War 2
Lion of MalayaEXACTLY 71 years ago yesterday, Malaya was invaded by the Japanese Imperial Army. It didn't take them long to travel from the northern reaches of the Peninsula to Singapore, where the remnants of the Allied forces eventually surrendered on February 15, 1942.
Thousands were killed fighting the Japanese Imperial Army, and once the attack was complete, many also lost their lives in the more than three-year Occupation.
But the war was far from over in Malaya. Members of the Allied forces remained behind to sabotage the Japanese occupiers, and they were joined by rebel groups such as the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army.
Then, too, there were civilians who took part in acts of sabotage or even mere defiance, many of whose deeds or names will never be known .One such person, whose name will likely not be known among the younger generation, especially, is Gurchan Singh, nicknamed the Lion of Malaya.
Gurchan was a policeman before the war and was in charge of Japanese nationals who were interned here. His fair treatment of them proved to be useful during the Occupation as he was considered above suspicion by the Kempetai, the dreaded Japanese military police.
Outwardly friendly to the Japanese, Gurchan was actually dead against the Occupation. Together with his brothers, Gurchan began a secret organisation printing communiques with war news from around the world. It proved to be invaluable as the people were not allowed to listen to foreign news stations and Japanese news was filled with mere propaganda.
The communiques were signed Singa -- hence the nickname, which was also a play against the moniker Tiger of Malaya, given to General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the man who came up with the plans for the invasion of Malaya -- and created a sensation among the information-starved and depressed people.
Gurchan built up a nationwide network of agents as Singa, none of whom knew that it was he and his brothers who were coming up with the daily communiques.
They believed him to be a mere agent of British spies operating in the jungles, though perhaps some began to suspect something later on.In fact, the Kempetai believed the Singa communiques to be the work of Chinese gangs working hand-in-glove with British spies operating in the jungles.
At least one of Singa's agents was executed by the Japanese after he was caught with communiques, but he protected Gurchan by not revealing that it was the former policeman who was passing him the communiques. Several others were also tortured but kept mum and were later released.
Towards the end of Singa's "reign", Gurchan came up with two communiques which predicted bombings in Kuala Lumpur. They were meant merely to get people to stay away from work to disrupt the Japanese administration, but providence led to British bombers actually unloading their ordnance where Gurchan predicted they would fall.
Gurchan and his brothers did more than just produce the communiques, however. They also carried out acts of sabotage, cutting telecommunication lines and even attacking Japanese soldiers with grenades. Gurchan also recruited agents such as John Sandasamy, who helped sabotage trains, causing an untold amount of damage and delay in the transportation of war materials to Burma, where the warfront was at the time.
Inevitably, however, Singa's run came to an end. One of his agents revealed to the Kempetai the name of the person who had been passing him the communiques. Gurchan, however, managed to escape when the Kempetai came to arrest him at his Lake Gardens house, took off his turban, cut his hair, shaved off his beard and eventually joined the infamous Death Railway workforce under an assumed name.
Gurchan and several agents had planned to cross the battle lines into Allied-held territory in Burma, but the war ended before they could do so. On his return to Kuala Lumpur, he resumed his career in the Police force and ended up the principal security officer and bodyguard of Tunku Abdul Rahman. He died in an accident in Johor in 1965 while on official business for the then Prime Minister.
Gurchan was famous during his time, and he was one of the people read about in a textbook named Heroes of Malaya, widely used in schools in the 1950s. Yet his name, like so many of the heroes our country has produced over the years, has faded now.
The younger generation, and those who have yet to come, need to be reminded of these heroes. They need to know about those whose sacrifices made us the nation we are today, without whom what we enjoy now would never have come about.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

For love you are never too old!

I always have believed that there is someone for everyone. When my mom passed away, my dad was lucky enough to find another soulmate.
When my brother got divorced, he was so pessimistic he wouldn't find anyone ever again.
This story by Bob Perks will tell you different.

Maybe I was out of line. But I had to tell her how beautiful she was.

I just returned from my favorite breakfast restaurant.  I'm not permitted to eat stuff like this, but I do.  In fact my favorite meal in all the world is a full turkey dinner.  I don't just wait for holidays.  We had it last Sunday.  After eating to my capacity, I said to Marianne, "I hope when I die I don't die longing for one more turkey dinner.  I hope I just had my fill."

So it is with breakfast.  Home fries, scrambled eggs, bacon or ham and of course whole wheat toast for my arteries is my favorite.  I was craving for it today and it got the better of me.

As I pulled into the parking lot I saw this beautiful older woman standing there in front of her car.  She was like a picture right out of a fashion magazine.  She had wonderful short curly hair.  She wore a long brown plaid skirt that came down below her calves.  A soft, short white collar, perhaps a mock turtleneck, shown above a marvelous tan sweater that was accented with a thread of gold glitter throughout.  She had on white stockings and brown loafers.  Her matching brown leather bag sat on the ground next to where she was standing.

She was looking around obviously waiting for someone.  Her glance my way, as I pulled in, showed disappointment on her face.  I wasn't the one she was waiting for.

The sunshine and bright blue sky added to the perfect picture.  As always I struggled with my instinct that was telling me to say something to her.  I was particularly concerned because I was in an old T-shirt and jeans.  I didn't want her to think I was making advances.  Unfortunately in this day one needs to be careful about kindness.  I would be most likely a phone call away from a policeman if she mistook my intentions.

But when this particular Voice tells me to do something, I believe It will also take care of the details.  I was right.

"Pardon me.  Don't think wrongly of me.  But I must say you are a vision of beauty on such a beautiful day!" I said and then swallowed hard.

"Well, thank you sir.  I must say no one ever told me that before. "

"I can't believe that," I said. "Who ever you are waiting for is one lucky person."

"No, I am the lucky one," she said.  "I am lucky to have him back in my life."

I didn't ask anything about him.  Oh, I wanted to.  But I had already stuck my nose in where it didn't belong.  I didn't want to have my head cut off.

So I entered the restaurant.  "Linda, can I have a seat toward the back.  I wanted to watch for someone," I told my friend.

"Are you expecting someone?" she asked.

"No.  But she is," I said just as the door opened and the two of them walked in.

"Oh.  People watching again are we?" Linda replied.

"Don't I always?" I said.

They were seated about four tables up from me.  Too far to eaves drop on all the details but close enough to see their actions.

You don't have to hear people in love.  You can see people in love.

He was a perfect match for her.  I mean he dressed like the male model that would appear in that same fashion ad she could be in.  He had on a soft multi color sweater of dark blues, maroon, gray and a touch of red.  His navy blue corduroy pants and dark shoes gave him a sophisticated look.  His hair was salt and pepper and slightly long for a man his age.

It wasn't five minutes into their meeting when he had reached across the table and caressed her hand.  She was still reading the menu and it caught her off guard.  Shaken, but like a young girl who just touched the heart throb she has always dreamed of, she responded with a smile.

I was pleased to be a witness to all of this.  It gave me hope for love in my years ahead.

Then, suddenly I saw her pointing toward me.  I panicked.  My heart started beating faster.  I could imagine her saying, "There he is, that masher.  He's the guy who hit on me.  Go beat him up!"

He approached my table, stopped dead in front of me and said, "Mary tells me you made her day."

"I aaaahhhhh," I snapped back in defense of myself.  My quick wit was never good in situations like this.

"Thank you.  When you compliment her, you compliment me.   I've been in love with her since high school.  But life took us in different directions. Now, life has gone full circle.  Today is the first time we have seen each other in 45 years," he said.

"Excellent!" I replied still cautious of the outcome.

"We both were worried about what we looked like after all this time. She looks great.  This is a new look for me.  I call it my anti-aging outfit.  Looks much younger than I am," he said.

"You both did a great job.  I'm happy for you.  You give me hope," I said.

He returned to her, grabbing her hand as he sat down, next to her this time.

No, I didn't pick up their check.  You know I like to do that.

Blame it on the Voice inside me.  He said, "Let him be the big shot.  The last time he bought her a meal it was fries and a malted."

And so young lovers whoever you are,
know what the future may hold.
Even if time has taken it's toll,
For love you are never too old.

"I believe in you!"

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The blessing of thorns

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease.

During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren't enough, her husband's company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose annual holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come.

What's worse, Sandra's friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder.

"Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered aloud. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?

"Good afternoon, can I help you?" The shop clerk's approach startled her.

"I...I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra, "for Thanksgiving?"

"Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving Special?" asked the shop clerk. "I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?

"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. " Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."

Then the door's small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, "Hi Barbara...let me get your order." She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses.

Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped...there were no flowers.

"Want this in a box?" asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers!?! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

"Yes, please." Barbara replied with an appreciative smile.

"You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again," she said as she gently tapped her chest.

"Uh," stammered Sandra, "that lady just left with, uh... she just left with no flowers!"

"Right...I cut off the flowers. That's the Special... I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.

"Oh, come on, you can't tell me someone is willing to pay for that?" exclaimed Sandra.

"Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery."

"That same year I had lost my husband, "continued the clerk," and for the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra. "I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for good things in life and never thought to ask Him why those good things happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I always enjoyed the 'flowers' of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."

Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God."

Just then someone else walked in the shop.

"Hey, Phil!" shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.

"My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement... twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?

"No...I'm glad you asked," Phil replied. "Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from "thorny" times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks to Him for what that problem taught us."

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"

"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life." Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too... fresh."

"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."

Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. "I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.

"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."

"Thank you. What do I owe you?" asked Sandra.

"Nothing." said the clerk. "Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you'd like to read it first."

It read: "Dear God, I have never thanked you for my thorns. I have thanked you a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to you along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of your rainbow look much more brilliant."

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Sunscreen - love the song

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. 
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. 
I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. 
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. 
But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. 
You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. 
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. 
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. 
Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. 
Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. 
The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. 
Forget the insults. 
If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. 
Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. 
The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. 
You never know when they'll be gone for good. 
Be nice to your siblings. 
They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. 
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. 
You, too, will get old. 
And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. 
Maybe you have a trust fund. 
Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. 
But you never know when either one might run out.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. 
Advice is a form of nostalgia. 
Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Secret of Jimmy Yen

A jury of distinguished scholars and scientists, including Albert Einstein and Orville Wright thought enough of Jimmy Yen to vote him one of the top ten Modern Revolutionaries of the Twentieth Century. 
Yet all he did was teach Chinese peasants to read.

What made that so amazing was that for four thousand years reading and writing in China was only done by the Scholars. 

"Everybody" knew, including the peasants themselves, that peasants were incapable of learning.

That thoroughly ingrained cultural belief was Jimmy Yen's first "impossible" barrier. 

The second barrier was the Chinese language itself, consisting of 40,000 characters, each character signifying a different word! 
The third barrier was the lack of technology and good roads. 
How could Jimmy Yen reach the 350 million peasants in China?

Impossible odds, an impossibly huge goal-and yet he had almost attained it when he was forced (by Communism) to leave his country.

Did he give up? 

He learned from defeat and expanded his goal: Teach the rest of the Third World to read. Practical reading programs, like the ones he invented in China, started pumping out literate people like a gushing oil well in the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Columbia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ghana, India — people became literate. 
For the first time in their entire genetic history, they had access to the accumulated knowledge of the human race.

For those of us who take literacy for granted, I'd like you to consider for a moment how narrow your world would be if you'd never learned how to read and there was no access to radios or TVs.

180,000 Chinese peasants were hired by the Allied Forces in WW1 as laborers in the war effort. Most of them had no idea- not a clue-where England, Germany or France was, they didn't know what they were being hired to do, and didn't even know what a war was!

Jimmy Yen was a savior to them.

What was the secret of Jimmy Yen's success? 

He found a real need, and found in himself a strong desire to answer that need. 
And he took some action: He tried to do something about it even though it seemed impossible. 
He worked long hours. 
And he started with what he had in front of him and gradually took on more and more, a little upon a little.

The English author Thomas Carlyle said, "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand." 

And that's what Jimmy Yen did. 
He started out teaching a few peasants to read, with no desks, no pens, no money, no overhead projectors. 
He started from where he found himself and did what was clearly at hand.

And that's all you need to do. 

Start now. 

Start here. 

And do what lies clearly at hand.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Ode to my children

I’m writing this list based on three fundamentals: 
1. Life is unpredictable. No one knows how long we’re going to live, so some things are better said earlier than later. 
2. I’m your father. I’d be the only one to tell you these things. 
3. Everything on this list came from my own experience. I learnt them the hard way, and hopefully that’ll save some unnecessary steps in your life. 

Below are the things you need to remember at all times in your life:
1. To people who are unkind to you, don’t sweat it. Through your lifetime, no one is obligated to be nice to you, besides your mom and me.
As for the people who are kind to you, treasure them, be grateful, but at the same time, be extra cautious. Everyone does everything for a reason. When someone is nice to you, it doesn’t mean they like you. You need to be able to see through the surface, instead of making them your true friends immediately.

2. No one is irreplaceable, and nothing is indispensable. With that in mind, even when you lose the people or things that you love and treasure the most, in the future, you need to understand that it’s not that big of a deal.

3. Life is short. While you’re wasting it today, you’ll realize you’re at the end of it tomorrow.   So the earlier you start to treasure your life, the earlier you can enjoy it. Instead of hoping for longevity, start to live life fully early.

4.   The thing called “The Best Love”, or “The One”, doesn’t exist. Love is a feeling of moments. It will definitely changes over time and moods. If your so-called “Best Love” left you, please be patient and let time heals your wounds. Through time, your heart will come to peace and your pain will ease. Don’t over expect the beauty of Love, nor over exaggerate the pain when you lose it.

5. Although a lot of successful people not necessarily received high education, you might not be successful if you don't study hard. The knowledge you consume will become your weapon. You can start from nothing to your name, but you can go nowhere if you are not fully prepared. Never forget that!

6 . I don’t expect you to support me for the rest of my life, so I’m not going to do the same for you either. When you’re grown enough to be independent, it will be the end of my responsibilities to you. From that point, it’s completely your own responsibilities and decisions, whether to take the bus or drive a Benz, or whether to eat shark fins or rice noodle.

7. You can require yourself to be accountable to others, but don’t expect accountability from others to you. You can require yourself to be nice to other, but don’t expect the same from others to you. However you decide to treat others, they won’t necessarily do the same in return. You must be very clear on this, or you’ll be very disappointed unnecessarily. 

8. I’ve been buying the Lottery for almost twenty years, but still poor. I had never got the third prize even once. So remember, you have to work hard to be successful. There’s no free lunch in the world.
9. You got your family by karma and it happens only once. Please treasure every moment we spend together, because we don’t know how long it will last. After this lifetime, we won’t see each other anymore