Blog Archives

challenges, part II

As threatened, challenges. I’ve been thinking about that. What counts as a challenge is, of course, widely different from person to person, and not only that, it can also be different for one person at different stages in life. So I’ve been trying to determine what counts as challenging for me at the moment and I’ve come up with a frightening number of things:

Going out. Social interaction away from the computer, not counting my family. Reading something new. Watching a movie that is too emotional and/or thought-provoking. Staying up to date with news and what’s going on in the world. Writing on a daily (or any other kind of regular) basis. Sports (as in the healthy, weight-loss, general-health-improving way). Thinking about the future. Taking steps to learn any of the things I want to learn/improve (guitar, photography, …. a score of things). Working towards any of the million of ideas I have of what I what to do in my life.

Damn, this is a frustrating and terrible list. I hope you haven’t lost all respect for me now. I’m really not as pathetic as this makes me sound. That is… I’m not underneath. On the surface, however, I seem to be quite as pathetic at that, at the moment at least, and thinking about this, I’ve realized that I’ve been merely coasting on the surface for quite a long while now. And that explains why there are so many things that I see as challenging at the moment – apparently I’ve shut myself off from anything that has any depth or that connects with anything deep inside me.

And that’s about to change! 🙂

I’m proposing three levels of challenges: a short-term one that will cover 1 day to 1 week maximum. A medium-term one that will cover one month. And one or two ongoing ones. I’ll stick them to the side of the blog in a neat little widget, together with the time frame. The crucial part is that I really need to be afraid or ashamed of not reaching the goal, so that I push through. That’s where I need you guys. You gotta hold me accountable.

(btw – y’all made me glow and smile and all-over-happy with your comments on the last post! Big hugs to all of you!)

So, feel free to threaten horrible guilt from time to time, or if you have an idea for a good punishment, I’d welcome that, too! I’ve been thinking that maybe I could make some kind of financial agreement with myself to set aside a certain amount of money for every challenge that I failed and then give that money to some good cause? Does that sound sensible or plain stupid? It’s just an idea at the moment… (Although the danger is, of course, that I won’t mind not making the challenge… hm… difficult…)

Aaaaand, if anyone wants to join in with any of them at any time, I’d so love that, too! Mutual encouragement works just as well as fear of shame. 🙂

First round of challenges then:

short-term: I will go into town and sit in a café (extra points if I go to one of the new ones that I don’t know!) for at least one hour, either reading or writing, but NOT on the computer.

(this may not sound particularly challenging to you, and it wouldn’t have sounded so to me a year ago, but at the moment my heart is fluttering just thinking about it…)

mid-term: I will go running at least twice a week for the whole of December, each run lasting a minimum of thirty minutes.

(I can do that. I can definitely do that.)

on-going: I will take part in an “official” writing/blogging challenge once a week (the exact challenge yet to be determined).

(this one is making my palms sweat!)

Oh, and the promised cookies for reading the last post!!! I almost forgot. If you follow this link, you’ll be taken to a download location (via wetransfer) where I put three pdfs for you to download – the recipes of the cookies we made last week. Enjoy! 🙂



I had a blog before this one. It was similar in look, I guess, and similar in content. I started it when I went abroad to do another university degree and it was meant as a sort of mass e-mail, to stay in touch with people. Necessarily, therefore, it was a lot more personal. And after a few months, I stopped it in disgust because it was meandering, pointless (= no thread) and most of all, I hated that it had started to sound negative and complaining and vulnerable and whiny and annoying and a lot of other things that I can’t quite remember now, but that were bad. BAD. Like drunk-dialing or something. I vowed never to blog again. I couldn’t trust myself.

Then after a while I got over it and started again, with a new name, a new idea and an actual purpose – to get my voice, my writing, out there and see if it resonated with anyone or if it was all just in my mind. “It” being the notion that I wasn’t too bad at putting words together. At the same time, I promised myself that I wouldn’t post anything if I didn’t feel good and that even if I was going to write about not-so-good things, I’d better make damn sure it was funny!

And then today I got an e-mail from a friend, casually saying that he’s been reading the blog and thinks I sound depressed. And that was a shock. Admittedly, this friend is like a soul brother, so he probably picked up some stray radiation from reading my mind, as he’s wont to do, but still…!

It’s been bugging me all day, and I can’t stop thinking about it, so I want to clear the air about some stuff:

1. If I ever sound complaining, whiny, or annoying, please, PLEASE, kick me in the (digital) butt! I mean that.

2. I’m not depressed. Really.

3. I know what depressed is like, and while it’s true that I’ve been happier, chirpier, more focused and more positive in my life than I am at this point in time, I’m not depressed.

4. No, I’m not protesting too much.

5. I’m actually not very happy at the moment, and the problem is motivation, or lack thereof. Or rather, the strength to see things through and to be who I want to be. I’m not going to bore you with this stuff, just wanted to mention it, because it relates to:

6. I’ve been on the point of asking my friends for help in checking up on me at semi-regular intervals and using the naming-and-shaming technique to get me to accomplish things, but I dismissed that thought again, because that’s also whiny and pathetic, and it’d be a lot of trouble and some people would worry unnecessarily and so…

7. … I’ve decided to set myself challenges, and because it’s too easy to find excuses for myself (I’m such a sucker for a good excuse from myself), I’m going to set the challenges publicly and let the internet do the naming-and-shaming. And by internet, I mean of course you, the wonderful readers of this blog. Which brings me to this:

8. From this moment on, expect challenges. Not quite sure what that’ll look like, but be prepared for them.

9. If you’ve managed to read this far without falling asleep, you’re awesome and you get a cookie. Or some home-made gingerbread.


10. I’m done talking now, but ten is a much neater number to finish on than nine, so you get a point ten … *silence* … Anybody know any jokes? …

Witches: Their Habits and Manners – A Non-Factual Treatise on the History of Witch Behaviour

(This is the answer to an indirect challenge by a friend, who posted a picture of witches using modern kitchen appliances in the deep dark woods and answered my lengthy list of well-thought-out questions (e.g. “Where would they get the electricity and WHY would they meet in the woods ANYWAY?”) with the information that she was on a campaign to confound me. I picked up that glove and here I am, presenting you with my research on the habits and traditions of witches – and just in time for Halloween as well! – founded exclusively on half-an-hour of deep pondering.)

A long time ago, witching was a job like any other in the public service sector. People would ask for help, and witches provided solutions and received payment in the form of a leg of mutton or possibly a basket full of apples (depending on the season and the magnitude of the problem solved, of course – in harsh winters, payment might also be in the form of firewood or similar). This was the golden age of witching. Things, however, changed…

Due to migratory movements and growing population numbers, witches fell under suspicion. This was mainly because people in new settlements brought their own witches, who naturally deemed themselves better than the ones originally settled there (“Her methods are sooo eleventh century!” Hildegunde, witch of the then-newly built settlement of New Tal, about her colleague in the village of Tal, AD 1102). Rivalry amongst the witches themselves, as well as feuds between the villagers about who had the better witch led to so many clashes, that the fact of having a witch in the village slowly became something negative. People started to turn on the witches, who they thought brought only strife and violence.

In a historical council, held one autumn night on the Blocksberg, a mountain in Central Europe, the witches agreed to settle their differences and adopted a ten-point policy that would ensure their safety. This was, of course, not settled on easily, and much glaring, cursing and sulking was involved. One particularly serious discussion is still on record, detailing the insults traded between two particularly powerful witches – Bartholomea from the village Sprotz and Aldreda from the village Nethelred – but they cannot be repeated here, since nobody has ever been able to read them without turning into a frog.

This paper encompassed the first and most important point, that of the formation of the Union of Witches (UW), membership of which was compulsory for all witches aiming to earn their living from witchcraft. The other nine points covered basic procedures for mutual identification and general protection. Amongst the former category was the obligatory wearing of a black, pointed hat, the possession of at least three warts on a visible part of the body, and the keeping of a familiar off a list of further detailed animals (toads, cats, ravens, goats and the consequently much unfavoured caterpillar (further research into its unpopularity is necessary to establish exact facts, but one theory points towards the solution of caterpillars not necessarily staying caterpillars, forcing the witch to train a new familiar each year).

The latter category, that of protection, was headed by the three doctrines of 1) remoteness, 2) unobtrusiveness and 3) lying. This led to witches removing from villages to cottages all alone in the woods and only visiting their villages on rare occasions and favourably at night and, of course, being untruthful when asked if they were a witch. At that time, these measures seemed the most sensible ones to ensure protection, yet in hindsight, it can be pretty firmly established that this policy did not bring about the desired effects.

Instead of the villagers perceiving them as harmless old biddies who lived in the woods, they became even more suspicious about them, reasoning that anything that necessitated them to move into the woods meant that they were up to nefarious deeds. “Instead of stealing into the woods at dead of night to cook up their brews, which meant that anyone with even the worst eyesight could see their fires through the trees and the foul stench could be smelled miles around, it would have been so much easier to just stay at home and pretend to be a really bad cook if company came to call at the moment when the witch had a cauldron full of frog spawn on the boil,” explains Annabelle Miller, senior researcher at the Institute of Fantastical History, University of Sprotz (founded, incidentally, by the witch Bartholomea, whose highly efficient curses still retain such power today).

Although their policy was counter-productive to the extreme, the witches continued it, because on the one hand, witches are, as is widely known, traditionalist and will always stick to the “old ways” (even if those old ways aren’t necessarily that old) and on the other hand, because none of them could face another council meeting like the one on the Blocksberg that had established the UW. “I’d rather be burned than come face to face with those old biddies again!” (Rohese, of the settlement of Chardonnière).

For centuries, these procedures were carried out faithfully by the generations of witches, adhering to the guidelines of the Union to maintain maximum distance between themselves and their sister witches. In recent years, however, there has been a major change. Starting in the 1960s, on the wave of liberation, free thinking and free sex, witches started to come out into the open. Because the necessity of protecting themselves had been instilled into them for generations, they started using a number of camouflage terms, like ‘esoteric’, ‘wicca’, ‘new pagan’ and so on. This deflected attention and allowed witches to slowly become a part of mainstream culture in western countries once more.

Nowadays, it is rather the norm than the exception for witches to conduct their business in their modern, big-city flats, where they have fully equipped kitchens. Necessary ingredients like snake’s eye, frog tails and cockroach wings are ordered through highly-specialized online shops and only those witches living in rural areas still harvest their own herbs and plants. These New Witches, as they call themselves, are frowned upon by those traditionalists that still remain, causing the witch community to be once again deeply divided, although time is slowly taking care of this problem as the old traditionalists are literally dying out.

Popular perception of witches as wart-covered, hunchbacked old women, cooking over open fires in the woods is now being increasingly criticized by the New Witches. “We feel that this cliché seriously hurts our business and lifestyle, and we are in the process of launching several awareness campaigns to challenge people’s stereotypical thoughts about witches”, says Matilde Bonhom, spokeswoman for the New Witch Association. It remains to be seen how society will react to this new policy, but the author of this treatise hopes to have done her part in shedding some light on an issue that has for too long remained in the deep, dark woods.