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Get Your Free Track From the ‘Christmas Piano Music’ Album!

Have you subscribed to the mailing list yet? If not, this is your opportunity to sign up and receive a FREE piano track from my ‘Christmas Piano Music’ mini album! Once you subscribe, an email will be sent where you can listen the music. Do check your promotions / spam folder if you don’t receive it.

The piece is a beloved Christmas carol of French origin titled ‘Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella’. It’s one of my favorite carols, arranged masterfully by Heather Sorenson. The arrangement has all kinds of fun unexpected rhythmic changes such as 7/8, 3/8, and 5/4. I do hope it will make your day.

If you want to hear more, visit the shop and purchase the Holiday Bundle for $12.99. The Bundle includes a collection of poems along with three other tracks in the ‘Christmas Piano Music’ mini album.

Enjoy the carols!

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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.

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Covid Hoax and Hopes – Podcast Episode 1

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A new feature, which is as trendy as trendy gets this year… PODCASTING! In my podcast I interview women around Southeast Asia to bring their unique stories and experiences to empower other women. It’s the perfect way to introduce inspiring voices to this website.

Anna Meiliana, scientist

In this first episode, I interview Anna Meiliana. She is a scientist at Prodia Clinical Laboratorium, but not just any scientist. Anna is the scientific assistant for the chairman of the company. It’s safe to say she has the insider’s information on scientific progression of the virus which changed all of our lives this year. “Covid Hoax and Hopes” covers her current clinical experiments, to an in depth explanation of different types of tests, predictions on vaccines, and all the way to how this situation has changed her life habits. Listen in –all you have to do is click play!

Leave some questions in the comments, and maybe Anna will answer them in a future episode! If you want to share your story with me, let me know via the contact form.

The first episode is with special thanks to BASE Recording Studio.

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Dealing with Toxic Voices

Up until my my early twenties I was my own worst critic. I had toxic voices in my head which imprisoned and almost destroyed my life. Now in my early thirties, I still hear that voice sometimes. However, through conscious effort, I now have some tools for helping me deal with the toxic voices inside. Here is what I do.

Identify keywords and phrases the toxic voice uses most.

For me, the keywords are “stupid”, “ugly”, and “not good enough.” The phrases sound like this:

  • I’m so stupid.
  • I’m so ugly.
  • I can’t, I’m not good enough.

Then, I looked deeper into the situation which triggered my toxic voice. I realized that in most situations, the intent behind it was really for my own betterment. However, the critic was not trained to frame the response in a more constructive manner.

Analyze the situation and reframe the statement.

“I’m so stupid” often comes up when I am trying to accomplish a task, but failed. Saying the opposite of the statement (I’m smart) will make me feel better about myself. But it still doesn’t solve the issue. Instead, reframing to “I didn’t know this. Where can I find more information about this?” Then try to find out more sources of information to help in accomplishing the task.

“I’m so ugly” comes up when I look in the mirror and see a physical feature that is not Instagram Perfect. This is very difficult, because pictures in social media are often edited and far from reality. To look Instagram Perfect, what I actually need is a crash course in Adobe Photoshop.

To look Instagram Perfect, what I actually need is a crash course in Adobe Photoshop.

So a possible reframing would be making factual observations. For example:

  • My skin is dry.
  • I have zits on my forehead.
  • I have bags underneath my eyes.

Then to help analyze, I ask the question of Why.

  • Why is my skin so dry? Perhaps I forgot to use my moisturizer. Or perhaps I need a different moisturizer.
  • Why am I breaking out on my forehead? Perhaps I touched my forehead too much with my fingers.
  • Why do I have bags underneath my eyes? Perhaps I didn’t sleep enough the last couple of days.

Everything physical has a cause. If I can find the cause, then I can begin to improve the physical ailments.

Dig into the details and then make sure the conclusion is really your choice.

“I can’t, I’m not good enough” is heard when someone challenges me with something, and I am surprised by the challenge. For example, a colleague asks me to present on a certain topic. My first automatic response is “I can’t, I’m not good enough!” But wait. Let me dig deeper into the challenge. I ask questions like:

  • What is it that I actually have to do?
  • What would I have to prepare?
  • How much time will I need to prepare it?

As you look deeper, you will grasp more of the real demands of the challenge. Then, if you end up not doing it, it will be because you choose not to commit to the preparation which was necessary. Not because you are not good enough, but simply because you choose to do something else with that time.

Do you have strategies to deal with the toxic voices in your heads? Share some tips in the comments!

To learn more about toxic voices, visit this article from Psych Alive. If you need a reminder of your self worth, visit this poem which I wrote.

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Covid Wedding: Yes or No?

For the better or worse, I’ve had two weddings within the last few years. My first wedding was on 25th of February 2017 to Oky. After his death last year, I started dated Cung, whom I married 1st of August 2020. The first was a huge 2000 people pre Covid wedding, while the second was a small 30 people ceremony held during the pandemic. At first we were a bit nervous about gathering and saying vows in the current situation, but when planned carefully adhering to strict health protocols, we reflected that it was actually very beneficial to get married this year.

How so?

First: Economic benefits.

A wedding can be extremely expensive! Sending and printing invitations, food, parking, wedding souvenirs, all this plus the bill for the organizers afterwards. In Indonesia, a fancy wedding is also a sign of wealth and social standing. Its also a matter of “face” to invite everyone both sides of the family knows. Naturally the guest list increases, adding up to a figure which can be irrational.

Given the Covid situation, you can only have about 30 guests or so. People understand this and won’t get offended, so you can actually save a lot of expenses. Family and good friends still send in gifts in the form of angpao-money in an envelope. Thus the chances are very high that you will end up having some extra cash, which is so nice in this economically challenging time.

The chances are very high that you will end up having some extra cash, which is so nice in this economically challenging time.

Second: Virtual trends allow for more guests.

Broadcasting trends with Zoom, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, or any other technology actually allows you to have more guests at a very low cost! You can invite friends from all over the globe to be a part of your special day. This is a huge benefit because otherwise, it would be a challenge for them to attend your wedding. Of course, if you are the type to prefer intimate private parties, then you don’t have to do this.

With affordable technology, you can invite friends from all over the globe to be a part of your special day.

Third: Facing the reality of life together.

For me, this is the most important benefit of a Covid wedding: getting married during a hard time forces you to truly think about the reality of your lives together. Real life has been very difficult this year, but guess what? That is the nature of life. In a couple of years another crisis will come along, whether it’s your personal life, work life, political emergencies, natural disaster, or some other global crisis. Living through this year’s adversity side by side and making the decision to get through future crisis together as a team, is priceless. You will be able to look back and say: we survived the pandemic together. We can survive more things together.

Getting married during a hard time forces you to truly think about the reality of your lives together.

So, Covid wedding? If you are ready to face the realities of life together, then yes. Go for it. This year is as good as any year.

To read a comparison of my first and second wedding, visit White Heels and Avocadoes.

Have you attended or perhaps had a wedding in this time? Do you know a friend or relative thinking of getting married under the current circumstances? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear them!

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Super Heroines of Classic Young Adult Fantasy

Growing up with my nose in books, fictional characters were as real to me as everyday people. Their wits, courage, and attitude facing adversity inspired me during my moments of challenges. Here are five of my favorite super heroines of classic young adult fantasy.

5. Matilda from ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl

Matilda Wormwood is considered a misfit and a failure by her irresponsible parents.

Often neglected, she learns to take care of herself with the resources available to her which included intelligence and telekinetic powers. She also shows some leadership skills when she rallies her classmates to defend their beloved Miss Honey from the evil principal: The Trunchbull.

4. Princess Eilonwy from ‘The Chronicles of Prydain’ by Lloyd Alexander

“I’m Princess Eilonwy. And you’re in bad trouble, aren’t you?”

The headstrong, talkative, kind and brave Princess Eilonwy of Llyr is definitely someone I would want on my team, whatever the adventure is. She is an enchantress by heritage. Her relationship with Taran the Assistant Pig Keeper is interesting because it develops from friendship first and evolves into a romantic relationship as they grow up in the course of the five books.

3. Hermione Granger from ‘Harry Potter’ by JK Rowling

JK Rowling is currently under a lot of heavy criticism about being a transphobe (someone who irrationally fears a transgender).

Her devoted fans have turned against her, including many actors from the movie series. This gives me many mixed feelings, as I literally grew up with the Harry Potter books. In the end, I decided to keep Hermione on this list because she is surely one of the most brilliant witches in the history of magic! On top of that, she is also loyal to her values even when it gets really tough.

2. Miri from ‘Princess Academy’ by Shannon Hale

Miri and her sister Marda come from a small village on Mount Eskel where the community mines for a living.

When the Capital decides the next Queen is to come from the mountains, a temporary school is set up so the mountain girls can be educated. Here Miri learns to read for the first time. Hungry for more, she digs into history and learns some truths that eventually save her village. The heart of the ‘Princess Academy’ trilogy is the importance of education. Freedom is freedom to learn, and a woman can be powerful when she has the necessary knowledge.

1. Sophie Hatter from ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ by Dianne Wynne Jones

I am a huge fan of Diana Wynne Jones. Guess what, so are authors such as Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, Robin McKinley, and JK Rowling.

‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ is one of her most popular fantasy books, especially after being made into a box office animation by Studio Ghibli. Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three daughters. In the land of Ingary, this means she is cursed to live a dull life at home. She is doubly cursed when the Witch of the Waste turns her into an old woman. Sophie then goes on a journey to find the Wizard Howl to help her lift the curses. In the end, it is Sophie that lifts her own curse while saving Howl in the process.

Who are your favorite fictional heroines? Let me know in the comments!

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How to Say “NO” to Figures of Authority

Girls that grew up in conservative patriarchal societies will be told by their parents, teachers, community leaders, and so on, to “be a good girl, and obey.” Children will carry this way of thinking until adulthood, unless they have very special parents who raise them to think critically and question authority.

Be a good girl, and obey.

The problem arises when figures of authority abuse their power and ask you to do something which you really do not want to do. When this happens, how do you say “NO” to these figures of authority? How do you disobey “orders” when you have been conditioned to blindly obey them your whole life?

Watch this video tutorial, and I hope this is helpful if you often deal with these situations in your daily life.

Send me a message, or leave a comment about how you say “NO” to figures of authority around you. Visit this post for the Box Breathing Tutorial to stay calm in stressful situations. Visit this article from World Health Organization on statistics of violence towards women in Southeast Asia.

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How to Stay Calm During Stressful Situations with this Breathing Technique

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Box breathing, also known as four-square breathing, is a deep breathing technique that will help you stay calm in stressful situations. It is especially useful when an emergency arises, and you really need to stay calm instead of panicking. With a calmer attitude and clearer mind, you will be able to assess the situation at hand and see what needs to be done.

This breathing technique is also useful if you have a high pressure job that needs extreme concentration, or when there is a high stake moment like an important sales pitch coming up. Resetting your breath and grounding your mind will relax your body, which will increase your performance. I myself use this breathing technique almost on a daily basis.

Watch this tutorial to understand how it works. When you try it, make sure to expand the rib and the belly as you are inhaling. Shallow, fast chest breaths will only cause you to panic more. Repeat as many times as you need.

The relaxing music in the video is by Bensound. To read more about deep breathing techniques, visit this article from Medical News Today. To read daily habits for improving self performance, visit this blogpost.

If you have found this video useful, please leave a comment, share, or subscribe so airinefferin can visit your inbox!

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Signs of Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Emotional abuse can occur in dating, family, or even work relationships. If you are not aware of the signs, sometimes it is hard to tell when you are being emotionally abused by a lover, parent/sibling, friend, or colleague. It happens more often than you might think, and its very likely that you will come across emotionally abusive people several times in your life.

Emotionally abusive people are usually after dominance and control-of you, of the group, or of the project. Often abusers are active substance addicts or have disorders such as psychopath, pathological narcissist, or borderline personality disorder. First impressions of them can be great, as they are able to be very sweet and accommodative at the beginning. In fact, they can come across as too charming or too good to be true.

I have experienced being in emotionally abusive relationships, so this is a sign I have learned to look out for.

In fact, they can come across as too charming or too good to be true.

What are some other signs?

  1. I was constantly unsure of myself. Did I say the right thing, do the right thing? Would he/she be angry at this text and ignore me, or would he/she forgive me and carry on?
  2. I was always so exhausted. I felt drained emotionally, mentally, and physically. Sleeping held no relief, instead it made me more tired because there were constant nightmares.
  3. I took no joy in my accomplishments. On the contrary, I felt guilty for outshining the partner/colleague/friend.
  4. I felt so powerless. As if there was nothing I could do to change the situation, and I had to either accept it, or leave.
  5. I spent more money than I should have, because I wanted to make the other person happy.
  6. My world got smaller and smaller and smaller. All other relationships were considered a threat to the current one.
  7. The consequences of my mistakes were amplified and used as a tool to punish me. It was my fault things went awry. I was the one who messed things up.
  8. I did not feel comfortable being near them. In fact, I was afraid that at any moment they could blow up and physically hurt me, or someone else around them.

What should I do if I am in an emotionally abusive relationship?

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, I heavily suggest seeing a therapist or talking about it with a trusted adult. Neutral third party observations can help you see things from a different perspective. Create boundaries, build a support network for yourself, make an exit plan, and get the heck out. Don’t hang in there because you think you can fix the person, or because you love the person, or because you owe them your successes. Don’t try to understand or justify their actions.

This is easy to say, and I know from experience these actions can be incredibly difficult to do. Try to be brave for yourself, and take the first step: talk about it. As Fred Rogers said: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”

Fred Rogers

Remember that you deserve an amazing relationship, and an amazing life!

Featured image photographed by Chameera Laknath during Southeast Asia Leadership Academy January 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

To read more on emotionally abusive relationships, visit this article from Health Line. If you need a reminder of your worth, visit our core beliefs.

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I am Giving Away a Free Sample of Nisha

I grew up reading fantasy books with strong heroines. These stories planted seeds in my mind that girls did not have to grow up just to be what society wanted her to be. She could grow up to be whoever she herself wanted to be. This is a radical notion if you are from conservative origins.

The coming of age novella titled Nisha is my own addition to the collection. It is set in a fantasy world with witches and wizards, but also incapable leaders, annoying brats, and a girl who is trying to figure out what is happening around her.

A good friend then suggested I record a narration. Hmm!

So, just about a month ago I brought the manuscript to a studio, took a deep breath, and recorded myself reading it out loud. As promised, click here to download the free sample of Nisha (audio).