Posted in Culture, fiction

The Rise of a Median King

Hello everyone, hope you are well! One of my favorite interests include Greek classical history and mythology.

I’m endlessly fascinated about the downfall of former empires and the Greek tragedies that touch upon universal themes and issues that impact humanity. To this day, classical mythology has influenced modern-day culture in a variety of arenas: sports, cardinal virtues, architecture, chemistry. Many series such as The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson is highly influenced by classical myth.

The fictional story below is an embellishment of historical and biblical events that took place in ancient Iran, Iraq, and Ukraine during 627 BCE to 560 BCE. I loosely followed the accounts of Herodotus, a Greek historian, in his book, “The Histories”, Josephus’ in “Against Apion”, the Bible, and Qu’ran. There are some inconsistencies regarding the parentage of Amytis across historical accounts, but that leaves room for my imagination to weave in some magic. 🙂

A Bold Maneuver

He noted the situation had become grim...

Young Cyaxares, son of the late king of Media, Phraotes, received news that his father was dead. He was slain in battle by members of the Assyrian army led by Ashurbanipal, the zealous and brutal king of Assyria.

Relief of Ashurbanipal hunting on horseback. Nineveh, Assyria, 645–635 BC.
Image Credit: British Museum

The Assyrian empire was powerful and dominated the lands. They reached the ultimate heights of technological, scientific and cultural achievements of the time. Ashurbanipal, in all his might and military expertise, reasserted dominion over the Medes, Persians, and Parthians. His glorious palace along the Tigris River served as a reminder of his status in the world.

The Monuments of Nineveh by Sir Austen Henry Layard, 1853
Image Credit: National Geographic

Nomadic Scythian warriors got wind of the news and swiftly raided Cyaxares’ homeland. For nearly three decades, Scythian officials controlled the region and exacted tribute from the Median citizens. Cyaxares resented their presence and began to formulate a strategic plan to avenge his father.

One evening, Cyaxares invited the Scythian chieftains to a fine banquet where they enjoyed a fine feast and alcohol. The aroma of marijuana filled the air. Cyaxares murdered them while they were drunk and their guards were lowered. He later proclaimed that he was king of Medes. The Scythians soon recognized their leaders were killed and subsequently retreated to the steppes.

Taking Down the Big Kahuna

Cyaxares united various tribal forces afterward and gradually conquered and occupied several Assyrian territories. He prepared to go to war against the Assyrian empire, but he was going to need help. He formed a few alliance and friendship treaties. One of his allies was Nabopolassar, Chaldean king of Babylonia, who decided to join Cyaxares’ effort to confront the Assyrians and their Egyptian allies.

The eventual death of Ashurbanipal led to Assyria’s weakened political infrastructure. The Medians and the Babylonians took advantage of Assyria’s internal strife and besieged the capital of Assryia, Nineveh, one of the greatest cities in the world.

Battle of Nineveh
Image Credit: Alchetron

Raising a Family

Cyaxares married and soon gave birth to a son named Astyages and a daughter named Amytis. To forge and formalize the alliance between the Babylonian and the Median dynasties, Cyaxares gave his daughter’s, Amytis, hand in marriage to Nabopolassar’s son, Nebuchadrezzar II.

Image Credit: Louvre Museum

She packed a few belongings and moved to Babylon with Nebuchadrezzar II. When she arrived, she was dismayed at the dry and flat landscape. She missed the mountains and lush scenery of Media. Cognizant of Amytis’ homesickness, he decided to replicate a piece of her homeland by creating: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

 Maarten van Heemskerck (1498-1574)

Amytis was surprised that her new husband would go to such lengths to make her happy. She recognized certain trees and plants that she enjoyed in her homeland and was touched by his commiseration. Not only was she pleased, the community shared their plaudits. She knew that he was capable of bringing Babylon back to its full glory.

Image Credit: Wallpaper Safari

Her husband fortified the city’s defenses and rebuilt many temples. Little did she know, however, that he would go mad towards his final days. All of his past achievements and success contributed to an increasingly high ego.

Nebuchadrezzar II
Image Credit: jubran.deviantart.com

When three young Hebrew men didn’t bow down to him one fateful day, he tried to burn them in a fiery furnace to no avail. Daniel, a revealer of future mysteries, was held in captivity with them. He interpreted the king’s dreams and predicted that world powers shall rise and fall. Feeling a bit insecure, Nebuchadnezzar threw Daniel into a pit of lions. Imagine his surprise when the lions didn’t eat Daniel… 🙂

Posted in fiction

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time, there was a royal newlywed who lived in a castle nestled in the forest nearby a glistening lake. The beloved couple ruled over the kingdom to the best of their ability honoring the previous leaders who recently passed away. The king and queen were deeply in love, but for reasons unexplained, they had difficulty bearing children.

Image Credit: Pixabay

They decided to visit a village of fairies who lived within a grove of jacaranda trees near a majestic waterfall. There was one famed fairy, in particular, who could help them with their barrenness, and her name was Florence.

The royal couple packed for food and supplies for a day’s trek, saddled their horses, and ventured out into the forest. The cool breeze whipped around them as their steeds galloped onto the soft ground. They smiled at each other the moment they listened to the resounding sound of the waterfall swishing on the boulders.

The jacaranda trees were a sight to behold! Lavender blossoms gently fell about them as the fairies warmly greeted the king and queen. One of the fairies welcomed the couple into her home, and put on the tea kettle. “How can we help you?”

Blessed by her hospitality, the queen smiled. “We’re looking for a fairy named Florence. My husband and I are in need of her assistance.” The fairy gazed at the queen thoughtfully for the briefest of moments before she left to fetch Florence.

The king clasped the queen’s clammy hands as they waited, “We will be fine, I’m sure.” The queen gazed at his hazelnut eyes warmed by the twinkle in his eyes and his reassurance.

“NOW…. who is need of my assistance?”

The queen was startled by a loud, sing-song voice. The couple turned around taking in the sight of Florence. Her hair was a brilliant shade of ultraviolet which framed a lovely heart-shaped face. Her crooked nose was accompanied by a gleaming broad smile.

Breaking out of a trance, the king introduced themselves. “My wife and I are having difficulty bearing children, but we would love to raise a family someday.” Florence nodded in understanding, “You came to the right fairy. I can help you with that!”

In her satchel, she took out some magical blackberries she harvested while searching for various herbs. She mashed them in a bowl and poured special nectar on them to mix. She gave the concoction to the king and queen, “Here you go! Drink this, and it will grant your dreams.”

The couple was willing to be open to various possibilities, and obediently they drank the delicious drink excited by what will unfold in the coming months.

Posted in fiction

#FFFC – A Singular Flight of Fancy

Kieu just got back from a long day at work, and she was exhausted.

She draped some fabric she bought on the stand and tossed the chiffon on the sofa as she walked into the room.

Kieu shed her work clothes. She lifted her face shield and took off her mask. She felt a tad bit lighter. There was a sort of freedom she experienced while being in the nude. Her girlfriend was still out running errands. She cracked the window open and welcomed the summer breeze into the stuffy room.

The AC hasn’t been working for the past couple of months. She hasn’t gotten around to fixing it. During the pandemic, she was afraid to call a professional to stop by and replace it. She decided to cut this one expense this season. She figured her and her girlfriend will survive. They’ve been through worse. Bills were piling up, and life has been so busy, anyway.

The sofa looked appealing and was inviting her to rest. Kieu wrapped herself in the chiffon fabric as she sat down. She closed her eyes and rested her face between her legs. She curled into a cat yoga pose, and stretched all the tense muscles in her back. Taking a deep inhale, she held the pose for a satisfying long minute before exhaling and releasing anxious thoughts.

Time for her daily mind dump!

Earlier this afternoon, she noticed a window display at a boutique while walking back to her home. Kieu gazed at a stunning white chiffon dress on a mannequin. The price tag could not keep her eyes away from the lovely design. She marveled at the layers of cascading ruffles. Light and airy, it was a heavenly dream dress.

She wanted it, but her budget begged for another solution. “Fine, Budget, I see how it is! But…..where there is a will, there is a way!” The image of the dress was engraved in her mind. She stopped by the fabric shop and bought several yards of fabric.

Kieu opened her eyes.

This must not remain a pipe dream.

Posted in Concepts, flashback, Food/Recipes, poetry

#Paint-Chip Poem – When I was Little…

I enjoyed the aroma of turmeric in mom’s curry
Dad’s old leather boots were curiously in a hurry
A divine touch of luck to discover an Indian Head penny
Lazy lizard beaded key chains of which there were many

Experienced euphoria while gazing at sparkling lakes
Created my own potpourri out of orange peels and floral flakes
The sheer power of Gyarados, a sea serpent, gave me the shakes
So, to calm myself down, I would bake several mini-cakes!

New blogging friend over at revivedwriter introduced me to the concept paint chip poetry created by Linda Kruschke. It was a rather touching experience to go back to my childhood! Thank you!

Posted in awareness, exercise, fiction, Food/Recipes, poetry

#FOWC – Microbiome Aid

Image from Pixabay

There’s an intestinal microscopic war people face
Which affects their digestive bodies’ precious space.
Can your complex ecosystem experience years of grace?

The gut microbiome is home to good and bad bacteria
In the digestive tract, there’s certain health criteria
That makes one think twice about choices in the cafeteria

Be the hero as your gut flora will need some aid
From a cavalry of probiotics that are unafraid
To force the pesky inflammation and anxiety to fade

Probiotics thrive on the prebiotic dietary fibers
Onion, apple, carrot, legume, and wheat subscribers
That gives them the strength of many Excaliburs

Maintaining equilibrium with sleep and exercise
Avoiding fad diets that affect metabolic balance is also wise
The effect of gut microbes on stress & mood should be no surprise

Posted in fiction, poetry, Quotes

A Fourth to Remember

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

Joy!
Wa-hoo!
Today’s the day!
Buzzing with excitement
We’re celebrating indoors today!
My owner created a scavenger hunt for me
She hid some delectable treats throughout the house
Pop a tunnel of floating bubbles along the way
Canine peanut butter, vanilla cookie treats
Await me at the end of the obstacle
An excursion to the back patio
Fetching a squeaky ball
My owner loves me
No fireworks
Tender
Care

Word of the Day: Excitement

Posted in Uncategorized

#Metaphorical Poem- A Dessert-filled Morning

Good morning everyone! Inspired from an episode that I watched from the Food Network Star, I created this metaphor to symbolize the all the great experiences that I have checking out your blogs. I wrote this poem back in January 2018, but it’s been sitting in my draft box for a long time.

Dverse Poets : Meet the Bar- Creating a Metaphor

Salted Caramel’s Blogger’s Coffee Morning

Blogs on WordPress
are the countless types of desserts
on the buffet of life
Matcha Green Tea Cake
Coconut Creme Pie
Sinfully Chocolate Brownie
Angel Vanilla Cake
Pistachio Nut Pudding
Sour Lemon Tart
Raspberry Kolache
Fortune Cookie
Sitting on a plate looking delectable
Various guilty pleasures
Some may delight the senses
You may be allergic to others
Blending in with your morning
tea, coffee, juice, or milk
Each one delivers a unique experience

tea-2107191_960_720
Posted in Uncategorized

Hack Into the Deadline – A2Z Reflections on Niches and Motivations

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

On the one hand, I like deadlines. Its existence spurs me to action.
On the other, I don’t like them. It forces me to make sacrifices and prioritize decisions.

What did I end up sacrificing this past month? 
Time with my blog 
Heart was willing. To-Do's ever so increasing. Energy was waning. 
Out of all things, why does it have to be something that brings me joy?
Life doesn't make sense at times.

This year’s A-to-Z blogging challenge was a bust! I truly wanted to explore these topics more in depth! In the past, I was very spontaneous with my prompts and wrote whatever I was in the mood for which was surprisingly quite successful.

A2Z Survivor? Hardly (at least not for April)! Below features all the topics I wanted to write about this past month. I’ll certainly save them for later! I’ll probably change this blogging challenge month-long sprint into a year-long marathon.

a - Axolotl 
b - Burj al Arab
c - Ciselure
d - Dogme 95 
e - Entremets
f - Fallingwater
g - Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
h - Hanno the White Elephant
i - Isicathamiya
j - Juggernaut
k - Krampusnacht
l - La Tomatina
m - Michael Jackson's Manifesto
n - Neottious 
o - Orlov Diamond
p - Paisley Underground
q - Qasida
r - Rose Trellis Egg
s - Songkran / Shibuya-kei / Sagrada Familia
t - Trumpets of the Martians
u - Umbilicanimism (American Beauty)
v - Viking Metal / Venetian Mask
w - Wonky Pop
x - Xuan Calligraphy Paper
y - Yag (Carmen San Diego Fanfiction)
z - Zen Manifesto

On top of that, I started a separate blog about project management for school thinking I could juggle another challenge…simultaneously! That was a certainly a no-go. I did manage to write about how AI is helping Save the Ghost of the Mountain. A pat on the back for something launched!

These overall reflections of my recent A2Z experience leads me to think about a question that Dr. Tanya asked sometime back in February.

Do you have a niche?

– Dr. Tanya, Blogging Insights #18

Do you have a niche for your blog? If so tell us more about it.
I think it would be visual storytelling – I called my blog Culture Shocks to focus on sharing my reactions to new cultural experiences. I wanted to undergo great periods of growth, and jarring experiences would help me stretch outside my own boundaries and meet new people.

At the very least, it would attract those who relish in new adventures and seek novel experiences because variety is the spice in life. I figured I would have plenty of fresh content so long as I didn’t pigeon-hole myself as to how I conveyed these experiences to my audience.

Have you ever thought of niche-ing down and why?
Yes, plenty of times! I think it gives me great purpose to be intentional about the audience I would be writing for who is serious about reading your content. It would motivate me to write even when I may not always feel like it because I wouldn’t want to let them down. I actually found old blogs I wrote years ago before Culture Shocks:
2009 – Trash to Treasure Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects
2012 – Exploration into World Literature
2012 – Confessions of a Parapsychologist Assistant

At the time, I thought it was just easier having separate audiences for vastly different topics. I felt like if I could focus on a particular niche, then I might be more prolific. It’s difficult to write regularly for separate blogs and maintain different brand personas. Even while doing this challenge, I thought to myself, “Gee, wouldn’t it be easier to explore deeply about one topic rather than write from five categories?”

If you chose just one as your niche, how much would you miss writing about the others?
Too much! There’s times where I feel like a skimmer rather than a diver. Though I do wonder: If I chose a niche, perhaps I can tie those topics with something unrelated and find some point of commonality which can provide a new angle on an established topic.

After Dr. Tanya’s question, Fandango shared a provocative question that also made me reflect:

As a blogger, what makes you tick?

– Fandango, FPQ #67

What DID make me write today in the midst of my busy life? My last post was 2 weeks ago. I just finished working on a rigorous 3-month long project for work this morning. Safeguarding my sanity meant encasing myself in a bubble. My supervisor and CEO said to me, “It’s time to take a well-deserved break!”

I take such a deep breath, I didn’t realize how much oxygen I missed. I realize I blog when I want to chat about something, but I don’t really share in public. I can share random trivia tidbits without worrying about wasting other people’s time.

I look over to my left and my eyes fixate on my cute, whimsical owls, and my thoughts drifted into how I missed my whimsical blog. I once read a journal article titled:

The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus

Hiroshi Nittono, Michiko Fukushima, Akihiro Yano, Hiroki Moriya

I’m exhausted. I almost don’t want to stare at a screen. Yet, I miss the people in this community and want to stay close the proverbial campfire. While eating some ambrosia salad, I wrote this poem below with intertwined quotes:

Take a Deep Breath. 

Do you know the feeling that DEADLINES induce?
Future date unmistakably marked
Yet, why does it feel imaginary?
Why doesn't iit feel as real as The Present?

Deadlines just aren’t real to me until I’m staring one in the face.

― Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief
Deadline looms around the corner
Like a shadow in a dark alley
Skin tingles. Hair prickles.
Its impending presence

…grind us to the lowest depth of subjugation…

– William Williston Heartsill, Diary of William Williston Heartsill (entry Mar. 1863)
Everlasting companions: Anxiety, Stress, Exhaustion
Gradually creep into one's well being
Despite Deep Breaths' attempts to squash its vitality,
Lassoing the infamous Trio proves quite difficult

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12
Calling in for reinforcements
Spiro-meters are important
To measure the shortness of breath, but to tackle it?
A Blessing Counter. A Kindness Barometer. A Playfulness Gauge.
Maybe, a flexible Salvidor Dali's clock
Or... a Clock that breaks quite often
So that you can take a break along with it.

Focusing on the act of breathing clears the mind of all daily distractions and clears our energy enabling us to better connect with the Spirit within.

– Author Unknown
Not ready to receive my comeuppance
Deadline taps me on the shoulder
Delivers the final pummeling blow
Just as quickly as It arrived
It was gone in a flash and left without a trace.

Breathe deeply, until sweet air extinguishes the burn of fear in your lungs and every breath is a beautiful refusal to become anything less than infinite.

– D. Antoinette Foy
Posted in Culture, fiction, Quotes

#A2Z- The Ciselure Shop (fiction)

The chimes on the door clanged. A portly gentleman dressed in an olive-green tweed suit just entered Vpyshit’sya, a small shop nestled within a mountain village of Dzembronya, Ukraine. Novak took a burgundy handkerchief from out of his breast pocket, and wiped the dust off his gold rimmed glasses. He breathed a sigh of relief that he arrived in one piece as the foggy weather made safety of the travelling conditions questionable.

After taking a quick glance inside, he decided to walk around the shop quietly studying the craftsmanship of the metal pieces that were on display. He displayed a keen perspicacity in recognizing quality pieces. He heard about this shop as he chatted to the barman last night. Ukraine was well known for a variety of metal and wood carvings.

He was immediately enthused by the diversity of products he found: unique jewelry that was encased by glass display boxes, brass Viking shields that hung on the walls, intricately engraved kitchen knife sets, engraved metal wall decor.

He slowly found his way to the check out desk in the back of the shop. He noticed a young lady diligently working in the back room. Sophia’s family has been in the ciselure business for five generations. Her family taught her everything they knew, and precocious Sophia became a young master in the craft. She was inspired by a few techniques from a video she watched.

She was finishing up an jewelry box for an exhibit held at the Metal Working International Trade Fair in Kiev, the capital. She was looking forward to learning new things in metallurgy and the innovative tools in metal industry.

Novak cleared his throat, “Excuse me, mam. I was told that you can create metal designs for a wide variety of things.” Sophia broke from her trance, got up from her workstation, and walked towards the man. He took out a wooden box from his bag, and set it on the table.

“Careful now, there’s a golden pocket knife I would like to engrave for my son. It’s his birthday and there is something I would like to inscribe.” He took out a note for Sophia to read:

My son, take time to sharpen your skills, your tools, your resources, and you’ll be more productive. Much love, Novak

Image Credit: Pixabay

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