Archives for category: Randomness

With temperatures rising to bearable levels in Chiberia, I could finally engage in one of my favorite hobbies: Ice Skating. Having lived in Florida most of my life, learning to ice skate was no simple task; but I practiced enough during intermittent visits (School Field Trips) that I managed to get the basics down which means I can skate in a straight line without taking a dive. (I’m not embarrassed; some people who have lived up North their whole lives can’t even manage that much.) I have always enjoyed this once-a-year activity. So much so that my Dad bought me a pair of ice skates even though the nearest indoor rink was an hour’s drive from home.

It’s a different story, now. There’s an outdoor rink about ten minutes from my residence. Ten minutes on foot, I might add. Furthermore, I get free admission since I don’t have to rent the skates. I could finally learn to skate like a pro. Just one little problem… the weather. I don’t mind the cold that much, but a polar vortex… Forget about it! 15º F is about as low as I can handle without a parka, and I don’t like to skate looking like the Michelin Man.

2014-02-15 14.59.37Then the temperature rose to 20º F on Saturday. Hooray! I packed my skates, tugged on my nice stylish jacket, and charged out the door. Naturally, the rink shut down for cleaning just as I arrived. With nothing else to do, I retreated indoors, sat myself on a bench, and scrolled through some Facebook pages. There’s a popular site at my school where people post their crushes. In the anonymous realm of the internet, they confess their innermost feelings that they can not express to the object of their affection. Being the day after Valentine’s, the site was overrun. Some posts were obviously jokes, but others were rather sweet. I occupied the time trying to match the descriptions to classmates I know.

2014-02-15 15.25.15At 20 minutes past the hour, the gates were open again. Carefully, I tread onto the ice. Yikes! Was I wobbly! For a moment, I feared I had lost all my skill. But after a shaky spin around the rink I realized that the ice was just rougher than I was used to. Outdoor rinks, constantly exposed to the elements, tend to have that problem. The kiddies on the ice were having the time of their lives. I had to remain on guard because the little mites were tripping up all over the place, many on purpose.

At this time, a figure skater joined the surging ranks. As I watched her elegantly maneuver through the crowds, I entertained the thought that one day I too could display such skill. I turned my attention to a skill I had struggled with on my own: skating backwards. From experience turning my ankles in and out tended to start the backwards movement, but I would have to desperately clutch the wall after only a few motions. Then I tried shuffling backwards.

2014-02-15 15.32.12I imagine I must have looked rather funny, because the rink monitor slid right up to me. He was a young man with red hair and a bright red jacket. He demonstrated the beginner’s technique. Apparently, the key to skating backwards is to keep one foot steady and move the other in a c-shaped motion. We proceeded to engage in a long conversation about where I learned to skate, my hobbies, and such before he had to return to his duties. I was on my own again.

But not for long. I don’t think 5 minutes passed before the next guy noticed my efforts and offered some advice. Then the next guy showed up and even held my hands to keep balance as I practiced this new motion. You know, I’ve heard jokes that the best way to meet boys at the skating rink is to fall and act helpless. I have to say, I didn’t actually believe it. I now stand corrected. The men were only to eager to be of assistance. With their gracious help, I managed to scoot, awkwardly, on my own.

2014-02-15 15.10.16A wintry haze obscured the sun all day. Rather mournful, one could say. But I had fun, and I’m sure my smile shone a little brighter.


IMAG0927The joy of Halloween for my family is decorating. Over the years we have built up quite a collection of tombstones, coffins and props. Each year offers up a different feature that captures the attention of the guests. I’ll never forget the first year we set up the tombstones. They consisted of five slabs of plywood painted white with names. As one family came down the street, their children spotted our decorations.

An excited cry burst out from their little boy, “I want to go to that house over there!” He gestured to our display.

His parents were a little hesitant. “Why don’t we go down this street first and come around on the way back?”

The boy was not to be deterred. “No. No!” he cried and raced across the street. My parents and I were on the porch the whole time and laughed as the children ran up. I handed out the candy and waved him off.

IMAG0934(1)One year featured a flock of ravens; another a bloodbath with floating eyeballs. All the older children and teens would pause and poke the floating orbs, horrified fascination clear on their faces.

This year the theme was spiders. We dangled giant, hairy tarantulas from strings. All those tall enough would run into the spiders, startle and jump back. That was their punishment for rushing up and not taking the time to enjoy our decorations.



We had about 150 visitors, which is pretty good for our neighborhood. Per capita, this city is one of the oldest in the nation and the houses are pretty spread out. That’s why we see a fair amount of cars on the road on Halloween. We were a little worried for our neighborhood cats in fact. Our own were meowing at the door wanting to go out and we feared they would be run over with all the traffic.

Our neighbor who has recently moved in and started decorating asked us how many visitors to expect. Upon hearing the answer he yelps, “Oh #&$%*! I need more candy.” He promptly hops in his car and drives off to the store.

IMAG0923My little brother finally decided to go trick-or-treating for the first time in his life. He’s rather shy with adult strangers and has always shaken his head furiously when asked to participate. Usually he likes to see all the kids in their costumes and hand out candy. Though he did that too later on… introducing himself loudly to the bemusement of those on the doorstep.

Some of the costumes were quite interesting. Two young girls ran up in beautifully embroidered Persian dresses and capes. When asked where they got their costumes, they replied that their mother had sewn it for them. Another group, a teenager with his younger brothers, was poor and they all couldn’t afford costumes from the store so they improvised. The teen dressed up as a terrorist with clothes from his wardrobe. That one was in fact rather scary in spite of its mundane origins.

IMAG0929Our household is determined to provide for every child who comes to our door. In the event of a candy shortage, we would resort to my brother’s gummy treats. One group rang at about 9:15 at night. Three children from the same family who’d gotten a late start. Luckily there was just enough candy to give each child about three pieces and then the bucket was empty. However, no more arrived that night.


About ten years ago, I received a 5000 piece puzzle for Christmas. “Florence on the Arno” it was called, and it was a sight. The image depicts Florence in the springtime with blooming flowers in the foreground framing the city. Unfortunately, at the time, the puzzle was just too difficult for me. After months of work, I only managed to complete the city section. Then, I could progress no further. Eventually, I packed it away unfinished, full of regret. Through the years, my mind would return to that incomplete masterpiece, and I would think about it sitting in the closet gathering dust. Such a shame, I would lament.

IMAG0872It would be as if Michelangelo had abandoned the Sistine Chapel project having deemed the task too vast, arduous, and complex.

So I vowed to someday complete my task as well. Meanwhile I dreamed and dwelt on the city. I didn’t know much of Florence then, but the cityscape never left my mind. Because of that puzzle I learned. I wanted to know the story behind each building that beckoned mysteriously from that photo.

I first learned of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Arnolfo di Cambio conceived the initial design in 1296 but died long before the project could really get underway. The cathedral lay unfinished and neglected for 30 years until a new succession of artists and architects took up the crusade. Finally in 1436 the cathedral was completed nearly 150 years after the first stone was laid. Accompanied by the Campanile di Giotto and the Battistero di San Giovanni, the Piazza del Duomo dominates the Florentine skyline to this very day.

This story inspired me, and finally I completed “Florence on the Arno.”

IMAG0837Interest sparked, I learned of the other treasures found within the city. The Piazza della Signoria home to the Palazzo Vecchio also drew my attention. The old palace was another one of the mysteries that beckoned to me from my masterpiece. From there, I encountered the Fountain of Neptune, the Loggia dei Lanzi, and the Uffizi Complex.

 Yet, the location that still resonates in my heart is the very spot where that image was taken, appropriately named Piazzale Michelangelo. 

I think my hands are still shaking.

IMAG0876First things first, my dad can be quite the packrat and on top of that he’s extremely disorganized. So, I decided to embark on a once a decade “fall clearance” as I like to call it. So I was cleaning out his bookshelf, which was a complete mess. Thrillers, textbooks, road maps, magazines, brochures, user manuals, CDs, records, and whatnot, all thrown together. The books aren’t in single rows, but rather double rows.

I had to organize it because finding a book on a specific topic was like panning for gold. You’re hoping to find something but there’s so much dirt that you can’t see the shine. To get a feel, this is just a small part of the bookshelf after I’d organized it… somewhat. Just imagine what it was like originally. Anyway, it’s such a mess that my dad himself doesn’t know what he has. Then I stumbled upon something. 

IMAG0877-1Wait… is that Hawthorne, as in Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, which by the way is one of my all time favorite books? It is! It looks old too… So I check. The publication date is 1896! What the hell is my dad who’s from Germany and reads mostly German doing with an 1896 English copy of Hawthorne’s Grandfather’s Chair? He’s never even heard of Hawthorne, and he has a nearly 120-year-old copy of Hawthorne’s works. Am I even allowed to touch this much less hold or even read it? Another question. Which German ancestor of mine was fluent in English and purchased this book about a hundred years ago. I guess I’ll never know.

Then I encounter these little puppies.

IMAG0878-1I check the title page.

IMAG0880Property of the Annette von Droste-Hülshof School. Well, let’s not think about how my dad got hold of them. The large one is Deutsche heldensagen (German Hero Sagas) containing “Gudrun” und “Nibelungensage,” the other Auslese aus dem Sagenschatze Rheinlands (Selections from the Story Chest of the Rhinelands.) Both published around 1913, give or take.

Just think, I’ve been reading this:


when I could have been reading this:


Furthermore, there’s a hundred year old copy of Ludwig Ganghofer’s Der Dorfapostel, multiple titles from the 30s, 40s, 50s and so on. Then there’s this little book: a 105-year-old copy of Aiken’s Music Course. Walter H Aiken being, of course, the music supervisor for the Cincinnati Public Schools. How my English loving German ancestor came across that one and brought it back to Germany, I leave you to figure it out.IMAG0882-1-1

Tarot – An Exercise in Creativity

First of all, I think divination is a load of hogwash. I don’t believe in mystical energies and such nonsense, but I do believe in the power of the human mind. I find that the best fortunetellers are extremely skilled in observation and communication. Using their tools, both mental and physical, fortunetellers construct a story they think relevant to the one seeking their guidance.

And stories, mind you, are extremely powerful. They are one of the cornerstones of human civilization. It is in our nature to transform any event, any emotion into a story using whatever tools we have at hand: words, paint, music, ect. 

That is where Tarot comes in. It’s ironic isn’t it? I don’t believe in divination; yet, I practice reading Tarot cards. But I am a sucker for a good story nonetheless, and Tarot abounds in them.

Now think about the elements of a typical narrative

  • Setting
  • Character
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Climax
  • Resolution

Next, let’s look at a commonly used Tarot spread: The Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross Spread

  1. The Present                       
  2. The Challenge
  3. The Past
  4. The Future
  5. The Goal
  6. The Reason
  7. Advice
  8. External Influence
  9. Hopes/Fears
  10. Outcome

Tarot is used to foretell decisions and consequences, and the probable outcomes. It can also be used for introspection and self-examination. Just the elements which are critical to a well written tale. Based on the meaning and position of a card, you can develop an interesting interpretation

The biggest obstacle to writing is the blank page. Now using the Celtic Cross I have developed an initial draft of my story. Using the center cross, I can form a character and a conflict. With the side column I can create a plot, climax, and resolution.

Let’s try a real example.

            Position                 Card                     Meaning

  1. The Present              Queen of Pentacles       Fortune
  2. The Challenge            King of Pentacles        Pragmatism
  3. The Past                 Ace of Wands             Initiation
  4. The Future               Temperance               Patience
  5. The Goal                 Prince of Swords         Ingenuity
  6. The Reason               Ten of Hearts            Success
  7. Advice                   Four of Swords           Seclusion
  8. External Factor          Six of Swords           Passage
  9. Hopes/Fears              Ace of Pentacles         Reward
  10. Outcome                  Two of Swords            Balance

An interesting result…


Let’s see, my main character will be a woman. She has it all, a great job at the local newspaper, a loving husband, a large home, and beautiful children. One thing she doesn’t have is satisfaction. Something is missing from her life.

Before marriage she had dreamed of becoming a freelance journalist and traveling to strange and sometimes dangerous lands to tell the world’s stories.  At the same time she loves her family and the life she has now.

Her pragmatism tells her not to give up a good thing, but her heart yearns after adventure. Then, an opportunity comes along. She is invited to join a news team on an assignment abroad. She decides to take it. Away from her family she will decide the path she wants her life to take.


Before, examining the tarot cards, I only had a vague idea of a story. Now I have a solid foundation to work with and the words are flowing. There are many spreads to choose from depending on your mood and needs. However, every shuffle of the cards yields a new story and a new adventure.

What are some of your methods to help creativity flow?

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