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Puppy Mom Life

The end of 2021 ushered in something new for me and hubby. We decided to buy a chow chow puppy (read: fluffies). Yes, it’s puppy mom life for the next couple of months.

Why chow chow, you might ask? Other than the obvious cuteness of this breed’s appearance (their fluffy hair and facial structure makes them look bearish), I actually grew up with two chow chows wayyy back during junior high and high school. My family had Vegas and Venus, two brown babies from the same litter. So it was a bit of nostalgia slash something innate in myself that wanted to have another furry buddy around.

When we found a black chow-chow puppy whose breed and temperament seemed quite to our liking, we decided to bring him home. Thus started my puppy mom life.

Growing up with dogs, I had never really been the one in charge of taking care of the dogs. Even Rimsky, my now 12 years old golden retriever was largely taken care of by my late husband Oky and now by my dad. And it had been a long time since Rimsky was a pup. In a way, I had a lot of learning to do, almost as much as Kofie (the new pup)!

A lot of people say that when you (attempt) to take care of a puppy right, it’s very much like taking care of a baby. The wonderful thing is dogs mature much faster than humans, so puppyhood isn’t half as long. I can now understand this (night time anxiety, constant supervision, etc etc etc) and I think can begin to understand a bit of what my friends’ go through who take care of babies. Goodness. Young moms, you rock.

In the meanwhile, Kofie is about to eat bat poop so I gotta go!

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Fear of Heights

I stared at the hundreds of steps going almost straight up to the peak of Padar Island. We were on a sunrise hike to one of the most beautiful views in East Indonesia and I was shaking with fear of heights.

Padar Island is one of the stops on the Rafida Adventure liveaboard which sails off of Labuan Bajo, Flores. Ever since a good friend Oka Setiawan decided to try his luck in the leisure boating business, I have been wanting to go visit and try it out. I originally was going to go with Oky, but obviously, he didn’t make it. Then the pandemic came about, and Rafida could not sail for almost a year.

Sailing Trip

When it was finally able to sail again, Cung, me, and several other friends were invited to go on the sailing trip to try out the services of the crew. It was such a lovely time, and my first time to Flores made me see why so many people liked to go there. It’s so different from West Java, with its own culture, language, and climate.

This beautiful climate allowed for dry islands to rise out of the oceans, sprinkling the waters with small to relatively high hills. From on top of the hill, you could see the ocean, the beach, and the other islands.

The view was indeed spectacular, but I really could not enjoy it as much as the others did. They took shots in what seemed to me to be dangerous spots, but were actually quite safe, I suppose. I took a picture instead of leaning on a rock. That was the best I could do-I didn’t want my feet to give out on me.

Much later, after seeing all the photos, I did have a slight regret. Where had this fear of heights come from? I couldn’t quite place it. It’s so interesting because most people are more afraid of diving. They are afraid of the ocean, of the deep blue, or of sharks. I love deep diving, and I love seeing sharks!

I think of all the enjoyment I would be able to have I wasn’t afraid of heights. For such a lover of nature, I feel I owe it to myself to slowly learn how to conquer that fear.

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Communication Lessons From Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is one of my absolute passions; I’m currently a divemaster-in-training (Covid is making this training much more complicated than it would normally be) but I am sure I’ll finish the requirements in due time. I’ve learned so many things through scuba diving that can be implemented in daily life, such as dealing with fear and not panicking. In this post, I’ll be going through what I learned about communication through scuba diving hand signals.

The 3 Main Hand Signals in Scuba Diving

Sign 1.

Under the water, you obviously can’t talk, so hand signals are the way to communicate to your dive buddy, instructor, or guide. A good divemaster or guide will continuously check in on you during the length of the dive to make sure everything is alright with your oxygen, equipment, and to make sure you’re staying within sight and in line with everyone else.

As your guide checks in on you, you have to give the signs. If everything is going well and you feel happy, then you give the first sign. It means let’s continue, all good.

If something is bothering you and you need to pause, then give the second sign. This doesn’t necessarily mean we have to stop the dive yet. It just means something is wrong and we need to fix it before we can continue. In scuba diving, it might be the oxygen is feeling weird, or the fins are too tight (or too loose), or the weights are too heavy (or too light). Anything can cause discomfort under the water.

It’s important to pause and check up on the root of the discomfort. Once it’s fixed, you give the OK sign and continue. If it’s something that cannot be fixed under the water, and no one has a spare part or solution, then you give the third sign.

The third sign means we have to abort the dive and surface. This is completely fine-there is nothing wrong or shameful with aborting a dive. Diving can be very dangerous and you need to be in tip-top shape, so if you feel something cannot be fixed then it is much better to abort the dive.

Daily Life Implementations

Sign 2.

This philosophy has taught me so much about communication with my team members when I think something is wrong, and that we need to just pause to fix it before we move on. If it’s not fixable, then we need to discontinue the project or the program or the partnership, or the relationship. There is nothing wrong with discontinuing.

Perhaps some other time down the road the circumstances will be better and the idea can be picked up again. Or perhaps, it is just one person that needs to remove himself or herself from the project and the project can carry on with the rest of the team-just like how the dive can carry on once the person not feeling well is safely escorted to the boat.

There is nothing wrong with discontinuing. Nothing great comes out of pushing yourself to continue the dive when you feel bad.

Sign 3.

Nothing great comes out of pushing yourself to continue the dive when you feel bad. I have learned this is the case with life. If you don’t feel good about it, then don’t push yourself to do it. You will likely end up feeling worse afterward, not better. If you need to take a break, take a break. If you need to stop, then stop. It’s completely okay. Your sleep, your health, your mental health is much too precious and nothing is worth sacrificing that.

The key here is to make clear communication to your partners/team/buddy, and to be okay with that decision. Don’t let people make you feel bad about it. You know your situation and your own limits best.

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With My Two Hands, a poem

With my two hands

I can cook a meal to feed my body and my loved ones.

I can massage away pain and give a short relief for aching muscles.

I can garden! Oh the Joy!

Create resources which I get to harvest myself!

With my two hands

I can make music, the very language of the universe.

I can write, immortalize my story.

With my two hands

I can make a difference

I can change my life.

Written 11 March 2021. For more of my poems, you can visit A Season of Poetry at the shop.

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What Do You Seek? a poem

Do you seek beauty

lovely as the full moon

fleeting as the morning bird?

Do you seek power

crushing as the thunder

commanding the hearts of men?

Do you seek wealth

shining glittery gems

born of the ground

chiseled by crafty hands?

Do you seek glory

the ardent praise of your fellows

a hall full of standing applause?

Do you seek solitude

the calm lake by the mountains

which reflects your face clearly?

Do you seek friendship

a relationship to test time

standing by in each other’s storms?

Do you seek immortality

a legacy sketched in history?

Oh wandering soul

do you know what it is you seek?

For my other poems, take a look at A Season of Poetry.

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Live Your Life, a poem

Live Your Life

Like you’re really meaning it

Like you’re really living it

Like you’re really loving it

Move it, sing it, dance it

Because, is anything as beautiful as life itself?

As long as you’re still alive

Still breathing

Still going

Then anything,

and everything,

is possible

Every second is a second chance

Every minute : something shifts

Something changes, something clicks.

With every pulse of your heart

With every beat of the drum,

A future.

This poem celebrates everything that is possible in life, as long as you stay alive. It is one of the poems I published in A Season of Poetry. The whole poetry collection, together with illustrations by Inez Wandita, is available at the shop.

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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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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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White Heels and Avocadoes

I walked to greet some of the wedding guests, seated spread apart across the Heritage Kitchen and Gallery’s garden. It was a hot sunny day, not ideal for sensitive skin but much better than rain, at least for this occasion, on this location. My heels sunk into the soft earth, and I almost lost my balance.

Darn! I thought.

I am not a fan of heels, but today, my wedding day, I pulled out these 8 inch white T straps. They were a perfect match with the asymmetric layered Carla top and white palazzo pants. Pants! I loved wearing pants for my wedding. The loose fabric of the wide cut allowed me to sit, stand, or dance comfortably anywhere around the garden.

One of my favorite moments was during the ceremony when we had to put on the wedding rings. Except in Cung and my case, we both agreed no rings. We had bracelets instead. And I put them in a lovely pouch in the pockets of my palazzo pants. No standing uncomfortably still looking lovely while waiting for the groom.

Not this time.

This time I paid for most of the wedding necessities: food, venue, photographers, church certificates, you name it. Last time my father paid for most of it.

This time I had semi casual outfit, last time it was a princess gown dress by Harry Lam, a top designer.

This time I wore almost no make up, since most of my face was covered by the mask required for Covid Protocol. Last time I woke up at 3 AM and started the 2 hour make up process with the make up artist.

This time, I married Cung, a one eyed rebel architect-historian-curator. Three years ago, I married Oky, a gentle genius architect.

Oky, my first husband died two years after we got married. I became a widow.

So what am I now? A once widow? An ex widow? A wife? A second wife ?

Life, love, and death does not fit neat categories, boxes, nor timelines.

I am all the above. Life, love, and death does not fit neat categories boxes, nor timelines. They defy our expectations, and we are left wondering: What Happened?

Rumi, a 13th century poet and scholar once said “sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment.”

The white heels was the only article of clothing which I wore for both weddings. Custom made by the maker, it fit the contour of my feet perfectly. Amazingly, they stayed clean the whole afternoon, even after several more times sinking into the lawn. The heels endured.

With them, I walked towards the guests sitting at the far end of the lawn, one of whom was wearing an avocado around her neck. Avocado was the theme of my second wedding. Guests continued to ask : why avocado?

I thought : why not ?

Originally written August 6, 2020