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While We Still Can, a poem

Here we all are

so lucky to be alive and alright

at the end of one long long year

where darkness was absolute

but kindness overcame fear.

Here we all are,

hoping for a kinder year

praying for those we hold dear.

And if tomorrow does not come

if next year proves harsher than this one

if those we love leave us

and everything we work for is lost?

Well, bear it we must

and bear it we shall

a day at a time

while we still can.

A poem for the new year.

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3 Tips to Reach Your Goals

I love to plan and make goals, especially at end-of-year time. The reason is because goals help you to measure how your life went this year, review what could be better (or could be worse), and set new goals for the coming year!

In order to increase the likelihood of reaching your goal, make sure that they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). In addition to these, I’ll share three tips that have helped me in reaching my goals and increasing my performance.

1. Find an accountability partner.

It takes intense amount of self discipline to be able to follow through your intentions daily. If you are an athlete, classical musician, or someone used to being so disciplined, then you won’t have a problem. But if you are not used to the discipline, then daily life can easily distract you. An accountability partner is someone that is committed to hold you accountable to the goals you made yourself. A friend, spouse, or even a paid professional (fitness trainer, teacher, life coach) can help you do this. Simply knowing that someone is watching to see whether you did it or not, will help you to get it done.

2. Divide the goal into something you can do everyday.

For example, in 2021 I would like to be more fluent in Chinese. So my goal is not to be fluent in Chinese, but rather it is to study Chinese language for 10 minutes everyday. I do this on an app called Chinese Skill which has a cute big panda for its cover image.

3. Get the right tools to help you.

In 2019, one of my goals was to exercise more regularly. This goal inspired by a figure I really looked up to. I managed to exercise regularly with an app called Se7en, which creates a sequence of 10-12 exercises that last for exactly 7 minutes. Notice that for my Chinese language goal, I use the Chinese Skill app. Both of them are free, and will show a daily record of the progress. These days just about anything you need will already be available in the appstore, so take a look, try a couple, and settle on whatever works best for you. It might not even be an application, but you will know that best.

The real victory is in the daily habits you form as a result.

Last but not least: remember that the goal is important, but the real victory is in the daily habits you form as a result of trying to achieve that goal. Also known as the process, the know-how, the journey; there are many words for it. all of them points to this: what you learn about yourself through the process of trying.

Ready to set and achieve some goals in 2021? I wish you the best of luck, and a wonderful year ahead.

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Series Review: His Dark Materials (Season 2)

Season 2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials just finished on the 21st of December, with a 7th episode that will not disappoint fans. After a slow build up throughout this season, the last two episodes have been fast paced as everyone intersects in a world inhibited by soul sucking creatures known as specters (think JK Rowling’s dementors).

In this world, a weapon called The Subtle Knife was made which can slice through anything: even the veils between universes. Here Will Parry, destined Bearer of the Knife meets our heroine Lyra Silvertongue. Here also their budding relationship starts, triggering events which will lead to The Fall of Eve. The witches know that Lyra is Eve, so they rally to protect her.

How Does the Show Compare to the Book?

HBO largely preserves author Phillip Pullman’s masterful storytelling, with the exception of how one of the character’s die. HBO also took more liberty to dig deeper into Mrs. Coulter’s psychology, but who wouldn’t with such a bravura performance by Ruth Wilson?

Would I Recommend to Friends?

Not if you are a religious conservative. Unlike The Golden Compass (2007 film with Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter), HBO stays true to Pullman’s main views about freedom of will, the importance of celebrating physical and natural senses, and the unjust tyranny of, well, God himself. If you’re more open to such view, then this is an epic series absolutely worth your time.

What Did I Like Most?

Amir Wilson as Will Parry! He carries the brooding outcast-warrior character well.

What Did I Like Least?

What in the multiple worlds happened to our heroine? Lyra was clever, confident, and relentless throughout Season 1. Here she gets more and more subdued towards the end of Season 2. She questions herself, the aletheometer, makes too big a deal of her mistakes, and lets her fears dictate her decisions. Is it really necessary to put her into such a corner? Perhaps, or perhaps not.

Do you follow this series? What did you think?

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When Worst Fears of the Year Comes True

Several times this year my worst fears came true. In May I had symptoms of a fever, which turned out to be dengue hemorrhagic fever, thanks to some mosquitos in the neighborhood. I was treated in a hospital which would not let me know whether it had Covid patients or not. This was during the early months of the pandemic.

A couple months after that, it was confirmed that a co-op which had 1/3 of my investments failed, and I lost about 8,000 USD. The economic crisis hit home, and hit hard.

Then, here we are in December 2020, and I received new that my father and 2 other members of my family tested positive for the Corona virus.

Honestly, what was my first reaction? Thank goodness my husband and I have been on a different island for the last couple of weeks. Second reaction? What a horrible person I am to be feeling this way. The guilt weighed heavily on me, until I realized that those emotions wouldn’t help anyone anyways.

So I picked up the phone and asked my mom how she was doing. She was understandably very distraught. Her emotions were swirling around, thinking about what if what if what if… she seemed to be handling the external situation fine, but crumbling internally under self judgment. I tried to give her nonjudgmental support and words of love.

Oh what a crazy ride this year has been. I don’t have any tips or suggestions for this post. Just an acknowledgment of my fears and the scariest moments of this year. I wonder what more will the future bring? Am I ready? And if not, what can I do to prepare myself?

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Widowhood in Patriarchal Societies – Podcast Episode 2

“What a great topic for holidays!” Frances comments to me with her touch of dry humor.

“Well, being widowed is the end of a life. But I suppose its also the beginning of another,” I reply slowly.

Frances Bowden Affandy

In the second episode of my podcast, I interview anthropologist Frances Bowden Affandy on the topic of Widowhood in Patriarchal Societies. Quite understandably, very few people talk about their experience surviving the death of a spouse. And yet, so many this year have lost their loved ones. There is the emotional condition, and in addition to that there is the legal, financial, and social dimensions of widowhood that often gets forgotten.

Frances was widowed several years ago when her husband David “Didi” Affandy died of diabetes. From the hysteria of funerals to what traditions dictate, this interview will blow you away. Oh, and if you hang around for the extras, you will not be dissapointed.

Do you have a story to share with me? Contact me and maybe you will be interviewed in the next episode! The airinefferin podcast can also be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, and other podcasting platforms.

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Series Review: The Queen’s Gambit

Easily one of the best Netflix series in 2020 is the fictional story of Beth Harmon, child chess prodigy. Told in 6 episodes, The Queen’s Gambit had me completely hooked since the first move to the last checkmate. I am a chess lover and amateur chess player, so I could really appreciate the interplay between the game and her life.

“It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it; I can dominate it. And it’s predictable, so if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame.”

Beth Harmon, The queen’s Gambit

In chess every player begins with the same pieces. The area is defined, the rules are clear. Everyone is equal in the game. How different it is in the real world, especially in a society that downplays women! There are so many factors which daily put women at a disadvantage, making it seem like a woman is fighting not just one, but several different armies at once. As a chess master, Beth actually does this a couple times throughout the series. This display shows off not only her chess skills but all of the challenges she has to overcome in order to be the world champion.

Beth enters into a special mental state in order to visualize the chess board on the ceiling. It is a state of deep concentration. Relaxed yet focused, calm yet ready. Many athletes, performing artists, and writers will be familiar with this state of mind. It can be practiced daily with meditation techniques. Beth thought (wrongly) that she could only get to that special mind place with substances. She became addicted, and her addiction could have destroyed her life if not for unexpected friends who stepped in just in time. What a lesson about friendship. It reminded me of how a couple of friends helped me survive and move past my own eating disorder, which lasted a whole decade.

All in all, I loved the Queen’s Gambit, and would recommend it to anyone, even those who don’t like chess.

I didn’t read the book though, so if anyone has read the book, please let me know in the comments what you thought of the novel?

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Favorite Hand Stretches

My heels hurt if I don’t stretch (read the post on plantar fasciitis), and recently I developed carpal tunnel syndrome due to typing for an extended period of time with the wrong position. You would think being a retired concert pianist and all I would know how to take care of my hands better! Interestingly after I stopped practicing piano 8 hours a day I must have slackened in the care of my wrists. As a result, the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome arrived.

These stretches are great if your wrists are aching, and even better as a prevention before your wrists start hurting. Your hands are incredibly precious assets, so I hope these tips will help you take good care of them. Trust me, carpal tunnel syndrome sucks. The one good thing about all this is that I retired from piano, if not, it would have devastated me. As an author and blogger, I can still type with the help of wrist braces and an elevated position using a wrist rest support pad.

If you have other tips to take care of your hands, please share them in the comments.

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Series Review: The Enola Holmes Mysteries

I first heard about Sherlock’s younger sister through the recently released Netflix film: Enola Holmes (September 2020). The film is a must watch. It is utterly delightful with great acting from Millie Bobby Brown who plays Enola. I then discovered the 6-book mystery series by Nancy Springer, of which the film was based upon.

Did I like the books?

YES! Fast paced, action filled, with surprisingly dark mystery themes as befits Victorian London (late 1800s to early 1900s). The author most definitely has an agenda which is to show the massive gap of gender inequality during those times, and how Enola and her mother managed to still make a life for themselves. I especially liked how the corset was used as a continuing imagery to suffocate women, but Enola brilliantly and very practically used it as a tool to hide her most precious belongings (money), including a dagger to protect herself.

How did the film and the books differ?

Films and books always have huge differences. In this case I liked both, although I will say the film tried to appeal to a more “traditional” mindset when they added possible romantic nuance between Enola and Lord Tewksbury. In the books there was no such shimmer. All Enola wanted to do was go to university and make friends with the like minded, strong-willed Lady Cecily. Oh and the ending? No spoilers but the the sixth book punches a much stronger ending.

Is it worth the investment?

The books are about $7 each. The whole set is available on Amazon Kindle for $36, so you can save some money if you buy all six books. They are very fast reading of about 10 -12 hours per book. If strong girl heroines shattering society perceptions are your thing, then this series is definitely worth the time and money.

Have you seen the movie or read any of the books? Let me know what you thought in the comments! If you are looking for more young adult fiction with strong girl heroines, check out my book Nisha.

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The Excruciating Pain of Plantar Fasciitis

In the beginning of the lockdown, I set myself up to building a new “stay home” routine that would keep me happy and functional. I took walks in the morning and evening, started cooking again (I haven’t cooked in ten years), read a lot of books on my reading list, and kept a very close eye on how I was spending my money. I also picked up something new: gardening. It was a complete joy.

I did all of these inside the house, bare feet. And I did my walks outside with flipflops.

A couple months into the lockdown, my feet started to ache, especially in the morning after I woke up. Then I contracted dengue and had to be admitted in the hospital for one whole week. I was so heavily medicated that I stopped thinking about the ache in my feet. My whole body obviously had more urgent matters to deal with. But a month after the dengue episode, the ache returned and this time even worse than before. On some days I couldn’t even stand up due to the excruciating pain in my heels.

I decided to go to the hospital again, this time to get checked up by an orthopedic.

The diagnose? Plantar Fasciitis. Treatment? Steroid injections.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis is a common foot condition, affecting more women than men. It involves inflammation of the tissue that connects your toes to your heels. One of the reason women are more prone to suffer this is because women who are inside the house taking care of children or other chores are constantly using their feet, and often without proper indoor footwear. Too much standing or walking in high heels can also cause the inflammation.

I was aghast. The injections hurt like (insert some swear words). It really was that painful. And the steroid injections were expensive. They helped, but only for a couple weeks. I had to incorporate new habits such as daily stretches for the feet, inserting silicone gel pads inside my shoes, and wearing padded footwear inside the house. I still do all of this up until today.

Recently I met an older woman and was telling her about the shots. Her reply was “how many shots?” which made me almost pass out. One injection per heel was already traumatic enough for me! Apparently she had to get the shots quite often due to the her chronic pain.

This experience with plantar fasciitis has made me rethink everything about my footwear. The one good thing about all of this is, I think I won’t ever have to wear heels again.

Read more about symptoms and causes of plantar fasciitis here. To see stretches for heel pain, click here.

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Orange the World 2020

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign initiated in 1991 by Center for Women’s Global Leadership. It starts on 25 November and runs until 10 December (International Human Rights Day). UN Women’s activism this year is coordinated under the global theme Orange the World : Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect.

I’d like to shine some light on this issue through one of my short stories, Hazelnut and Potato. It is based on too many true stories, and fits all the global statistics regarding the issue.

  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical/sexual violence.
  • Most of this violence is from people close to the women.
  • In many societies, it is still a taboo to speak about these issues.

Here is an excerpt of the short story.

When Hazelnut was younger, Father made Mother stay home to watch out and take care of the lovely little one. Now that Hazelnut had been taught to care for herself at home, Mother also joined Potato and Father outside. It was necessary : the rice fields called for all the hands they could get. It was difficult toil. Grab and cut, grab and cut. They only paused for lunch break. They had their lunch out in the fields, underneath the shade of the bamboo gazebo. Hazelnut was not allowed to go out during the heat, so she always stayed at home having her lunch alone.

Potato’s back hardened, and her hands became rough and calloused. At night, Hazelnut would massage Potato’s hands with oil from the white wood trees. Father carefully watched the sisters, while Mother prepared food and various delicious spices.

One particular afternoon, while Mother and Potato were eating lunch, Father got up suddenly without finishing his rice. “I heard a strange sound from our house. There has been rumors of a buffalo gone mad. Hazelnut is all by herself there. I must see that she is alright. I will make sure, and return soon.”

Potato became sick with worry, but Mother said, “There will be nothing you can do against such a large animal, Potato. It is not a small field rat. If there is indeed any danger, let your Father see to it. We must tend to our fields, for the greater danger of the smallest creatures here might destroy all our hard work this season.”

After what felt to Potato like hours, Father returned to the fields.

“It was nothing,” he said. “Perhaps I heard it in my mind. I am getting old. The heat of the sun is getting to my brains, and my back.”

“What about Hazelnut?” asked Potato.

“She is perfectly fine. Perfectly fine,” Father replied.


The complete story is available in the shop. Gender-based violence is too real all around us, especially if you live in a patriarchal society. Please, please, please educate yourself on the topic. If you have daughters, find out how to raise them so that they can protect themselves. Don’t pretend gender-based violence doesn’t exist, or it will be too late when you or your loved one is the next one taken prey.

Visit WHO statistics to understand the actual data on this issue. To know more about the campaign globally, visit the 16 Days of Campaign’s website.