Five of Swords

The Five of Swords Take on Achieving Goals

Today, I did a new moon tarot spread ritual. Being an Aries ♈︎ new moon, the first zodiac in the cycle with a new beginning theme attached to it, I did the spread focusing on the goals I set for myself this year. The last card on the spread was the “message from the Universe“, and I got the Five of Swords.

Five of Swords is about:

conflict resulting in winning but not really (winning at all costs) or being defeated.

Neither is a message I expected to get when asking about achieving my goals.

The card I pulled was from the Tarot of The Divine deck by Yoshi Yoshitani (yep, I finally got the deck after waiting for more than six months). Here, the card shows Anubis, the Egyptian god of the afterlife, holding five scythes while the fertility Goddess Isis is mourning near his feet.

Btw, I feel like it’s worth mentioning that looking at the card only and associating it with The Five of Swords‘ traditional meaning, one might interpret it as Anubis has defeated Iris in the duel. That’s not the case. In the Egyptian mythology, Anubis restored Iris’s husband, Orisis’s, chopped dead body parts, turning him into the first mummy. Therefore, Anubis is more of an ally instead of an opponent. It flipped Five of Swords’ classic deception, which is traditionally drawn as two opposing sides, one side winning and causing a grievance to the other side. Because of this and many other distorted links between the image on the cards and the mythologies behind each of them, I am not sure whether I want to celebrate this deck as the culture-themed tarot deck that I have been waiting for all my tarot-practicing life.

Five of Swords Tarot

Anyway, back to the Five of Swords and my achievement-focused Aries ♈︎ new moon tarot spread. After some mulling-over, I remembered a story from the mega-inspiring book that I read years ago: Happier by Tal Ben Shahar. He started the book with a story of being disappointed after winning a race he put so much effort into because he thought it would make him happy (the classic: I will be happy when *insert future achievements here*), but it didn’t, because achieving goals doesn’t equal being happy/happier.

I guess the Universe is trying to tell me the same thing:

Achieving all my 2021 goals won’t bring me happiness.

Both might work parallelly and possibly interlinked, but I’d be a fool to see them as the same things. This, though I don’t like to admit, is a good reminder for a goal-hungry Virgo like myself.

Now, how do I cultivate happiness, which is the ultimate goal?

My Christmas To-do List

Merry Christmas ‘errbody!

I have a feeling that most of you are having at least a wee bit different kind of Christmas this year, as am I. Usually, I will be either on the plane on Christmas day or celebrating the festivities at my cousin’s house, eating my aunty’s delicious cooking, and taking multiple selfies with all my cousins in front of the Christmas tree.

Today though we went to St. Ali for a boozy brekkie and came home to a long list of a to-do list that I need to tick off before we leave to the farm tomorrow.

My Christmas day to-do list includes:

Organizing my perpetually messy closet and witchy drawers, major packing, update my bu-jo diary, research cocktail recipes, watering the eight houseplants, recover formatted pictures from the USB, update my goodreads (I have six more books to read this year to reach my 36 books goal), get a straw hat from Cotton-On (if they are open), upload Meletos staycation trip photos, wish people on my contact list a very merry Christmas, clean the house, research about Echuca (bookstores, cafe, Indian restaurant, bar, new-age store, winery and hiking trails) where we will be spending our new year holidays at and the trip tarot spread before we leave; which means I gotta start early (like immediately!), to tick off as many items as I can from the list before our “official” holiday tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I wish you a lovely to-do-list-less Christmas and happy new-normal-ish holidays!

The Alchemist

You are reading The Alchemist again?! Why?” Fafa asked me this morning when he saw the paperback on my bedside table.

I am reading it for the first time” I confessed to his surprise.

I didn’t plan to not read The Alchemist. It’s just, for some reason, I hadn’t gotten around to it. Which, I know, is a bit weird coming from someone who read books just because it was recommended by semi-influencers on IG (next on the list: Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. A recommendation by a Singaporean blogger).

Unfortunately, The Alchemist had managed to stay outside my book-craze radar for the most of my reading life. At least until last Sunday, when I had a boozy heart to heart conversation with Aina. We were talking about how, at times, it takes more time for us to learn something about ourselves even when it’s painfully obvious to those around us. That’s when she quoted the book. When I told her I have yet to read it, she gave me the most concerned look I have ever gotten from her. Enough to make my drunken self order the book (the 25th edition of the paperback was cheaper than the Kindle version) immediately after I got home that night.

To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation

– The Alchemist

It arrived today, and I have just started it. Now, please tell me, I am not the only one who hasn’t read it!

Heartburn

Though it’s no match to I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman, it’s so apparent from the first few paragraphs that Heartburn has also been drizzled with Nora Ephron’s magic. I finished the book over the weekend and enjoyed It immensely. Except for the cooking part. I wasn’t there for it.

Heartburn is a work of fiction that is heavily based on Nora Ephron’s life.

I find it refreshing that in the book Rachel, although was carrying a child and attending to a toddler, didn’t make the story about her pregnancy nor the baby. Instead, it’s about her, specifically her heartbreak.

The book managed to bend my opinions on people who forgive their spouses for cheating, before straightening it again.

It reinforces my life approach as an adult:

Well, it might be absolutely shit right now, but maybe there is a story in it

— me.

She showed me that you can hate someone (Thelma Rice, her husband’s mistress) but still be classy about it (e.g. she wrote about Thelma being funny or that she has long legs), inspired me to sign up for group therapy once this pandemic dies down as it might be good for me to talk things out, reminded me that strong friendships are important and to take my life lightly and my oath loyally.

I also find being proposed on a plane rather cute. And that Washington isn’t all that, New York is.

There were many more pages in the book I resonated with, but the last chapter, when she told herself: “No he doesn’t love you, you can throw the pie on his face” was the one that lingered until now, a week later when I type this post

What a relief it’s to realize no point staying in a relationship when the other person doesn’t love you after feeling hurt repeatedly. I remember the moment I felt the same, though it happened more than a decade ago, it was the moment I’ll never forget because that was the moment I chose myself. And that was also the moment Nora chose herself and moved back to New York.

In conclusion, Heartburn is absolutely a must for every woman who has been hurt, forgiven, and moved on.  I wish I had read it sooner.

10 Things I Like About Myself

Happy Monday!


I took off today (hence the happy part of the earlier greeting) to read and write which I didn’t do until 11 AM because I was watching 73 Things You Missed in Final Destination 2 (2003) — adding zero value to my life.

Alas, I managed to muster enough discipline cells to close my laptop and turn on my Kindle to continue reading Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies.

One page in, the author gave a test:

Right now, write down then things you like about yourself.

Paragraph 1 Chapter 3 Part 2 of Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster.

She acknowledged that it could be a daunting challenge, but to do it anyway.

I decided to one-up her test by not only coming up with the ten things but also sharing it here with you. By which I am hoping you would indulge Tara and me by writing your version of the things you like about yourself. It matters not how many (three or ten) nor where (here, online or in your secret diary), try to write it as soon as you can without overthinking about it.

Here is mine:

  • I am good with directions.
  • and in Maths.
  • I strive to grow and keep learning.
  • I am pretty independent.
  • I am open-minded.
  • I am adaptable – a trait I build from migrating to Jakarta then Singapore then Melbourne.
  • I am curious by nature.
  • I enjoy my own company.
  • I can eat and enjoy food without an ounce of guilt.
  • I don’t care much about people’s opinion about me. Case in point: I am writing about ten things I like about myself on a Monday morning and share it on the internet.

Writing the above list reminded me of what Adrienne from Yoga’s Adrienne said in at least two of her videos that I watch the most:

“If I can do it on YouTube, so can you!”

— ditto me to you!

People From My Neighbourhood

I was browsing The Paperback Bookshop’s online catalog when I saw a book in pink with Japanese type of houses and a Sakura tree pictures on it. Titled People From My Neighbourhood, it’s written by Hiromi Kawakami.

SIngapore Chinatown back-alley

Hiromi Kawakami’s first English translated book was The Strange Weather in Tokyo. I bought it at the WHS at Singapore Changi International Airport and finished reading on the plane on my way back to Jakarta. It’s the book that topped my reading list in 2014. And I thought that was reason enough to get this book from the bookshop.

When the book came in the mail a week later, I kept it aside, planning to savor it once I had finished my exam. And I ended up reading and finishing it hours right after my exam.

People From My Neighbourhood was a light read as was The Strange Weather in Tokyo but it wasn’t nearly as good.

Japanese fiction, at least the ones I gravitate towards, usually are peppered with surrealism and absurdity. Which is something I expected from People From My Neighbourhood, especially since it was the second book of hers that I was reading. But I didn’t expect surrealism to be the main theme of the book.

The book, divided into 36 chapters, talks about the people who live in the narrator’s imaginary town (neighbourhood). Each chapter/story went on for a few pages. All were too short to build any connection with the characters. Nor to accept the absurdity of their personality, stories, and or situation. I didn’t understand any of the characters, let alone empathizing or liking them.

Except maybe for the middle-aged woman who runs a drinking place called The Love, who puts up the same menu every single day, which includes iced-coffee and iced-coffee only no matter the season or weather.

Another good thing from the book was the ending, the last page of the book, which I very much enjoyed. But that’s it. Nothing else. 

Only now when I am typing this I realize People From My Neighbourhood was the third Hiromi Kawakami book I have read. Last year I eagerly anticipated and utterly disappointed by The Ten Love of Mr Nishino. I only half-read it as I couldn’t continue reading after a paragraph somewhere in the middle of the book put me off so much.

Hiromi Kawakami’s novels are not my cup of tea, I know this now. The Strange Weather in Tokyo was just a beautiful one-off. Read it if you are into Japanese fiction and gratify more towards Haruki Murakami’s style of writing instead of, say Banana Yoshimoto’s.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

It has been months since I stayed past my bedtime to finish a book. The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida made me do just that yesterday. I turned off my Kindle, only leaving the epilogue part unread. There are only a few things that can match the luxury of reading in bed right after you wake up. And the last few pages of The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida would be a perfect companion to savor at that moment. Which exactly what I did right before I write this post.

I found out about The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida only a few hours before reading it while browsing through the Avid Readers event catalog online.

The first thing that caught my attention was the name “Sumida” — it must be about Japan. And as you know, something, anything to do with Japan interests me. I then went on to read the synopsis. The first paragraph said:

Miwako Sumida is dead.

That was all I needed.

I’d read the book for those two reasons alone. But then, while searching what’s the best (ie: cheapest) way I can get it, I realized that The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida was written by an Indonesian-born Singapore female writer, Clarissa Goenawan. I don’t think I have ever read any Japanese fiction written by a non-Japanese before, let alone by someone I share a certain degree of identity with. 

I feverishly waited for the workday to be over. I finished my dinner, took a shower, and told Fafa that I am retiring to bed early today. With a final click on a button that says $14.99, I entered The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida.

The book was written from three different perspectives, none by Miwako Sumida. Though all of them centering around her. The story gives equal importance to the other three characters and their life.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida is also layered with many sub-stories and details which add depth to the novel — from the watch that Miwako wore, the Salt Studio to the Secret Diary Zine — turning it into one delicious read.

It also took me to all the familiar places I have been yearning to go back to in Japan — from the English bookstore, Shinjuku train station, the convenience store, and the shrine. And then there was the part set in a small village below the valley, which made me pause to daydream about my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage in September next year in the middle of the night.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the book is written in a distinctive style of Japanese novels, with a bit of absurdity and melancholy, which if not overdone, can be utterly beautiful. And Clarrisa managed to do it perfectly. 

So beautifully written The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida might top my best book in 2020 chart. But that’s a decision to be made for another day, as I have just download Clarrisa’s first book, also set in Japan, titled RainBirds. 

Update: Avid Readers is hosting a free online Queer Book Club on The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida on 4th November and a conversation with the author the day after.

Book Club

Recently, I bit the bullet and joined an online book club because I miss people. I miss talking about the books I read. And I miss talking to people about books. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved the concept of book clubs. Just that reading an appointed book for the month can be a bit of a drag. And listening to people talking passionately about a book with a title that I can’t even decipher the meaning of, is not all that appealing.

But pandemic changes people. in a desperate time, one takes desperate measures. I emailed Natalie. Natalie is a librarian I got to know from my days in Southbank BYOD Community Club. She used to host a monthly meet-up to discuss the books we read in the past month (it’s a book club without a designated book — you know, the best kind).

I was a member for the most part of 2017- 2018. But then I stopped going, though if you ask me now, I can’t really remember why. I want to say it’s because of the weather. Winter in Melbourne is pretty gruesome. I never want to do anything in the evening other than rushing back from work and hiding inside my electric blanket at home. But the weather alone seems like a stupid reason to stop going.

Anyway, past action reflections aside, Natalie replied to my email which basically was a plea to her to take me under her online book club wing. She has stopped managing book clubs, she said. But she hooked me up with her colleague Ivy who was currently hosting a few book clubs online.

Ivy replied to my email. She was happy that I want to join an online book club. Unfortunately, only the eAudio book club has the capacity to add a new member at the moment.

eAudio, jeez,” I thought.

The only reason I have an Audible app on my phone is just so I can listen to various chapters of The Secret (and its’ family) in the loop.

The thought of listening to an eAudio fiction doesn’t excite me at all. But Ivy did say that the next book for the book club is a thriller and I do have all the free time thanks to the pandemic.

I sighed to no-one and replied back with “sign me up”. 

Soon afterwards I downloaded the book The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham and listened to it whenever I did chores around the house or right before drifting off to lalaland. 

To be fair, listening to eAudio fiction was not half as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe it’s got to do with the book’s genres. Anyway, a week later I finished the eBook and the week after that I logged into the book’s online meeting. 

There were 18 of us in the Zoom meeting. All women. I managed to identify a lady who I used to discuss the latest reads with in the previous book club hosted by Natalia. I wanted to greet her, but I didn’t remember her name. I peeked at her name on the zoom screen. It said “iPad”. Great.

 The book discussion started almost immediately, led by a few who must have been regulars.

I listened mostly, other than interrupting once to defend the main antagonist (she doesn’t have the capability to hurt people anymore). 

We moved on to other books they are currently reading and wanting to read and lastly, the books to read for both November and December for the book club.

An hour and a brief goodbye later, I closed my laptop, feeling fully satiated, both in mind and heart.

Thoughts on Kind of Hindu

I read Kind of Hindu, from Mindy Kaling’s Nothing Like I Imagined, a 6-parts Amazon Original Stories, on Kindle Unlimited yesterday. I chose to read Kind of Hindu first (other titles include Big Shot and Help Is on the Way) just because I find it the most relatable, as I too am kinda Hindu.

The book started with how Mindy identified as a secular American. Growing up as an Indonesian Indian, with very less exposure to both Indian culture and Hindu religion, I can relate to her. Though I have always held on to both my religion and cultural heritage. Even stronger now as an Indonesian Indian living in Australia.

The book is a light entertaining read. Dripped with the usual Mindy-ism. One of my favorite phrases in the book: “my Indian Hindu assistant, Akshara, had once hired (an Indian priest) to bless her new VW Jetta“.

I got a bit emotional towards the near end of the book when she talked about her mother. Maybe because I read it past midnight, after a couple of glasses of alcohol. Or maybe because I haven’t hugged mine for almost a year now, no thanks to Corona. Either way, I was like “I get you, sis!”.

But there are parts in the book that made me go “huh?!” — like when she categorized paper towels, scissors and apples as mysterious items just because the Indian priest had asked for it. Because, as she said, Mindy had been to Hindu pujas before, where all these items are must-haves. And even if, you have never been to any Hindu ceremony before, I can guarantee you there is no mystery about a regular household paper towel.

Also, I don’t get the joke about not knowing whether to call the Indian cities Chennai as Madras (former) and Calcutta (former) as Kolkata. Even I, the third generation of Indian Indonesian, know the reason they changed the names of some cities in India — and my parents were born in Indonesia! I didn’t find that bit funny. It was kind of knowledge-white-washing of your own heritage. I didn’t expect that from Mindy, my brown heroine.

The rest? Well, you gotta read it, I am not going to give you any more spoilers of the 23 pages book.

Kind of Hindu would make a perfect blog post or two (it’s divided into two stories in the Kindle version), not something I would pay $1.99 for. But since it’s on Kindle Unlimited, which means I am getting it for free, I have downloaded the next one, Please Like Me But Keep Away.

This time I am going to listen to it. Because listening to Mindy reading a Mindy’s adds a lotta charm to it.

September 2020

My colleague started a running challenge to be achieved as a team and it has inspired me to run. The last time I ran as a form of exercise was, well, never. I used the app NikeRun and have clocked in 70km this month. I am targeting 100km next month.

I celebrated my first (and hopefully last in this lifetime!) ISO birthday together with Fafa, Jik, and my parents on Zoom. It was a memorable birthday; it reminded me that I have infinity things to be grateful for.

Every Friday evening, I take out the watercolor set I got myself for my birthday and pour a generous amount of of rose to my tea mug, and practice gouache for fun. it has been great work week stress releasing outlet.

New and Loving

ISO September turned out to be my busiest month this year, which means I had to put the cooking on the back burner (pun intended).

In the first couple of weeks, I resorted back between UberEats, sending Fafa to do Indonesian food pick-up, and going to Hecho Mehico to collect my triple order of $5 prawn chorizo tapas. Though I have been eating delicious food (definitely better than my home cooking), I can see the hit on both the weighing machine and ISO-savings acc, so I thought why not try those ready-made meals subscription. I don’t believe the 20s-yo me had envisioned the 30s-yo me standing in front of a microwave waiting for my food to be done daily. But here we are. YouFoodz has been great — except that one time when they rang the doorbell to deliver the food at 3.30 AM.

This month I also drank a copious amount of tea from Tea Tonic, shifted to oat milk, have been using Neutrogena body oil excessively,

Internet

I published three posts. I must say, for someone who almost retires the blog, it feels like a mini accomplishment. I wrote about food, obviously – stroopwafel and Tahu Gejrot and interviewed Neera, a blogger who I met at a blogging conference last year.

I also resurrected my KodakKween IG account, so I can post my side passion for film photography all willy nilly without making it culture-y or artsy.

Read

My read numbers have been running behind on Goodreads 2020 List, so I tried to catch up this month.

At the start of the month, I read and loved a thriller His and Hers by Alice Feeney.

I also finished my first ever fiction audiobook, The Secret She Keeps (free to download) by an Australian author, Michael Robotham. It’s the Avid Reader online book club choice for October. “It started good but finish off meh“, will be my feedback during the zoom sesh.

On nonfiction section I read: Don’t Be a B*tch, Be an Alpha by Seo Kelleher (read and loved), I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron (currently reading), The New Diary (presently reading, loving and kicking myself for not reading it earlier – the book was published in 1978), The Power of Tarot by Liz Worth (currently reading), You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero (reading this almost immediately after You Are a Badass), Reading the Leaves (currently reading and savoring), Pilgrimage in Japan by Lauren Hines (read and mega loved because it was published in diary/blog format).

Media

TV – I watched a few horror movies this month. Starting with The Boy II, The Grudge, The Wretched The Pyramid (really liked this one), As Above So Below, and Room for Rent (the best!). These movies sent me into a rabbit hole of the horror-movies-explained rabbit hole on Youtube. There, I discovered FoundFlix. It’s a horror movie commentary channel. I also watched and loved Away, #Alive, Criminal UK season 2, and American Murder on Netflix.

Podcast – my current favourite, which might surprise you since it’s not another true crime, the Wildy Tarot Podcast. The girls in it recommended the Power of Tarot book above.

Alice Feeney – I have been playing On brulera by Pomme on repeat on Spotify. I accidentally heard and immediately loved it when it’s played on an ending scene on one of the episodes in AWAY.

Last Time

Last year this time, I was living my best life traveling around Scandanavia with my best friend. During which I wrote about Rijsttafel-ing Indonesian Food in Amsterdam and said Hi from Bergen.

Thank You, Next!

The seven million Victorians are looking forward to being freed from lockdown in October. That is if the 14-day average for the new cases continues to drop etcetera.

Meanwhile, Fafa and are also going to celebrate our wedding anniversary with dinner-date at Yagiz and a staycation in Meletos.

There are more than a few good things to look forward to, I guess.

On the opposite side, I am sitting for CPA exam mid next month. All I can say about that is GAH!!!! But I am going to try to stay positive while still operating with a come-what-way attitude, which has been serving me well this month. I am also worried that I might experience the case of lockdown nostalgia.

But that’s for me to be worried about, next month.