Arts & Music Therapy and Mini Hackathons for Refugee Children


While volunteering abroad in orphanages and schools for children in third-world countries, I realized how crucial it is to focus on teaching them not only the necessary skills and information they will need to progress in school, get accepted for a job, or make it in life to provide for themselves and their families but also survival skills for any situation, as well as methods of creativity to express themselves and heal. The world is a beautiful place full of miracles, arts, music, historical artifacts, adventures, and possibilities, but one has to be able to wear their own invisible shield to protect themselves and the world from those who wish not to see those gems.

I think taking Native American shaman wisdom into consideration is crucial, especially during times of information overflow and starvation for wisdom, so I try to keep these arts and music therapy activities fulfilling in both – learning how to navigate through the tech world and being informed of skills needed to navigate through, and wisdom to retain their spiritual freedom and health that is essential during their decision-making process.

I found it fulfilling to travel abroad to help children to learn how to express themselves through creativity and music, but I also found it helpful to put my girls’ scout experience to good use and teach them a few survival hacks such as Morse code communication and how to navigate with a compass when lost. Below are a few activities I created to awaken a sense of adventure as well as curiosity, teamwork, and passion for life. Please feel free to use them if you plan to travel abroad for a similar cause.

Musical Improv & Theatre

If you play a guitar, piano, or djembe, you have the flexibility to use this skill set when volunteering as a music and art therapist. Laughter always provides an instant mental vacation and being from the city of comedy, I got to experience some improv and musical improv at Second City. I love taking courses there as a form of relaxation, self-expression, socializing, and training in public speaking. I found it extremely valuable. Getting together with a team to use music and improv in a humorous way to express oneself and find a way to not be afraid to express creatively can be very beneficial for anyone at any age. Getting a group of kids to say what is on their mind – anything that makes them laugh or peculiar thinking put into a melody that I would accompany with my guitar and/or djembe. Another activity would be dressing up for musicals to involve both singing and dancing. Musical improv and Theatre is a very open-minded activity. This teaches kids public speaking, self-expression, music, inclusivity, and creativity, and helps them overcome shyness and fear of crowds.

Dance Choreography Composition

Another way to overcome shyness, and learn to express oneself creatively is by dancing. Having experience with different dance genres, I like to combine them. Some of my favorites are contemporary, Latin, western African, and Arabic. There are many techno pieces that combine those genres with trance beats, which makes it a terrific music piece to dance to and feel invincible. Dance therapy does wonders in healing from trauma. Choreographing dance skits to engage in and perform with your peers is great for self-expression, public performance, positive and friendly competition, confidence & self-esteem boost, teamwork, body memory, and exercise.

Morse Code Communication & Jewelry

In Kenya I applied a couple of activities to learn the basics of coding, starting with morse code. I would share stories from girls’ scout camps and weekend trips, sharing how we would communicate with each other through the woods by sounds or through the dark by flashlights. I started with an activity to make bracelets that would hold round and oval beads to represent a dot and a line. They made their bracelets to hold a code for their favorite word, phrase, or name. I plan on coming up with more games that would involve morse code, similar to some of the communication activities we used in scouting. You never know what life may bring and when you may need the morse code knowledge. Morse code teaches communication, teamwork, coding, hearing and sighting reflexes, and imagination.

The Path of The Brave!

The path of the brave would be one of my favorite childhood activities. This could happen during the night or in the daylight. Participants would have to follow a path to get from one spot in the woods (or any other environment) to another. During the day we would tie strings from one tree to the other to have them follow the string with blindfolds (like in Bird Box). During the night, they would follow the candles to the destination. Once they would get to the destination, they would have to complete some type of task that would include a survival skill set they’ve learned. Many times the participants would face some type of scare through the path, like ghosts or sounds. Similar to some of the Halloween haunted houses, but not as scary and involving tasks to teach survival. A funny story I remember from my childhood was when we could go in pairs, and my friend said when we go deep into the dark woods I can go first, and we switch on the way back!! I had to giggle and I hated the idea. I actually think that if I had a wand and knew Harry Potter books then, then I would feel safer.

This activity also teaches sound reflexes, survival skills, and communication. It would be different for children who experienced any kind of trauma. I have not applied this activity, because I am not sure how much children from a traumatic past would enjoy scary moments, but I’ve thought to do something with blindfolds to navigate and complete survival tasks with the help of their teammates to enhance teamwork ethics and a sense of community. This is something I plan to discuss with my team on the next trip to design the game specifically to teach how to overcome fears and learn skills that will keep one safe and at the same time overcome PTSD. I wanted it to have a similar effect as the well-known activity of falling backward to have the team catch you as a therapy practice to give a sense of support to the team, but with more creative thinking and involving more teamwork in terms of different types of communication and innovation, looking into different challenges they may be facing in their lives and how to cope and protect themselves.


Creative writing is one of the activities I enjoyed as a child. Writing down my thoughts and experiences with sketches while traveling across Europe was sacred to me. I thought of getting every child an empty journal to fill in as another activity I would suggest doing on their own, teaching them that it is a form of self-expression and documentation of their life experiences.

Future of Hackathons for Children

With a bit of an experience with these activities as well as humanitarian hackathons and UX events abroad, I wanted to look into starting a mini hackathon for children as well, in order to help kids develop problem-solving skills. I thought the activities above teach the basics of skills children will need in the design process and presentation of solutions, but in a fun, introductory way where they learn to interact and collaborate with each other. Before the hackathon, the tasks are designed according to the global problem the child wants to solve.

Improv teaches them to be comfortable with sharing their thoughts and ideas, and sometimes even leading discussions, which is what happens during design workshops. I would give them a (user) scenario to act out, then let them make up the script to flex their creative and communication muscles.

Journaling would introduce them to journey mapping and storytelling. They would keep their own journal, but they would use this skill while working with their team to map out another persona’s journey.

Morse Code would introduce them to more abstract communication and coding in a fun, creative way.

Blind Trail I would do this with my cousins as a kid after I learned it in girls scout. I would tie a string to follow blindfolded, and go from one tree to another in the woods, for them to complete a survival task at each tree. It would let them learn capabilities such as navigating through the sense of listening.

Path of the Brave is meant to help them develop the mind of a strategist. They would have a problem to solve with tasks to complete in order to progress to the next steps (same as the full product design cycle). The activities would be as basic as building random office space without instructions using any items laying around as if they were lego pieces, to actually putting together a lo-fi prototype, depending on their age.

Childhood Christmas in Jizera Mountains


After our traditional cross-country ski hike to Jested, it’s a day of rest.
I am strolling under the peaceful tints of the world’s ceiling
as it blends with fresh pine trees proudly standing.
Both still and quiet after the wheezing two-day storm I wished for.
The branches are holding freshly clean pillows for the willows to rest on.
Once again, they won the battle of the fittest during crisp winter,
Giving the components that carry berries and fruits time to rest,
To prepare to bloom and produce thousands of new color blends,
and nutritious compounds of saccharinity in a few months.

The village has its familiar warmth.
I know the unique harmony of every home.
I surpass the row of houses.
They seem to be bowing in front of the bells of a local chapel,
As it reaches for the clouds with a rusted cross.
My cheeks are pink, with frost touching them lightly.
The cold white fabric cracks beneath the soles of my shoes,
And the December hills shine their way across like a crystal desert,
Where each crystal carries a unique pattern,
A burst of six arms and their formations,
Proud of their energy,
No matter how short their life may seem.
I wonder if there are more species of snowflakes,
Than anything else, still glittering in silence,
Under the sun or the street lamp at night.
They will always glitter in my mind,
Almost like nature’s reminders,
if there were only one special snowflake,
We could go extinct,
Or could be transformed.

There is a black poodle “Azor,”
happily sniffing on my right.
His paws are like four snowballs
Dancing continuously around his body,
Getting bigger and bigger…
What a valuable problem solver,
Knowing that the snow will eventually melt,
When he gets to lay down next to the fire.
His marble eyes peek amid the fluff of curls,
glistening with wisdom, innocence, and curiosity,
ready to explore whatever mission they find me contemplating.

I pull a sleigh with two large urns,
Splashing fresh water from a local stream.
I should hurry home, but I feel adventurous.
Right now, I am one of London’s characters,
I crawled through the harsh Yukon winter in the middle of a deadly night.
Every five steps of this strenuous hill call for the urgency
To try starting that fire.
If I can crush two stones with my frostbitten fingers,
I may have a chance of survival.
Azor is now a wild wolf, getting closer to the fire.
His meat could be my food, and his fur my coat,
But do I yearn for friendship more after a month of walking in solitude?

Suddenly I come back to reality, spotting the smoke.
It comes from our wood-burning stove.
It’s a sign of humanity! I can make it!
I arrive home to see others with a few raised eyebrows.
“How did you take a full hour to walk 100m?
The schnitzels are getting cold!”
Thus begins our quiet and cozy Christmas Eve.
I add fresh pine cones to our candle base on the table,
standing in the middle of a shared room,
I take a look at the ambiance of the evening…
carp from the tub to the fryer, potato salad, Christmas cookies,
candles, sparkles, laughs, storytelling, the opening of presents, games,
followed by gathering with friends in Rasovka.
We end the evening with snowball fights and egg nog,
checking out the sizes of icicles hanging from our rooftop,
and frost glued to our windows,
noting a sign of a healthy and buoyant winter!

Fun Fact – Fierce Azor died much later of the old age of 19.5 years, well known to breed until the time of his death. He adopted his role as a wild wolf quite seriously throughout his life and even became a leader of the dog pack in the village when I departed to the USA, biting dogs three times his size in the ass if they didn’t follow his orders. 😀

Interior Design – By the Clan of The Cave Rat


I have a family member who is a production designer and is incredibly inspiring. Seeing some of her work really feels like you are experiencing a number of different worlds, and the detail she puts into each project is astonishing. When I got to my place, I realized your environment has a profound effect on your psyche, and the best way to make yourself feel at home is to design it to reflect the person you are. It takes great empathy to be able to connect to a character on such a deep level, which is what made her work so interesting to me. When I saw it I thought she could teach this! After living in Chicago for over a decade and deciding to call it home, I was determined to make this my world, so I took a stab at creating “my space”. When one is lost in many thoughts, they can make a big mess of their place. Knowing yourself and designing the place to reflect you may help to respect things from your life that bring you joy and you will find a natural tendency to be yourself.

The Use of Wallpaper

There are many productions that use wallpaper and I developed a whole new respect for it. I never liked wallpaper much, but if you can find a nice pattern and color, one wall as an accent is a great way to add depth and character. If you think that painting is not appropriate, then you shouldn’t have tried teaching me much much worse at such an early age!!!

Bathroom Vanity

This mosaic vanity DIY only cost $180 (including the waterfall faucet) and was a lot of fun. All you need is random mosaic tiles, mosaic powdered grout, glue, tile nippers, and a thirst for a weekend creative project. I didn’t record myself, but instructions can be viewed here. Hers is a bit more tedious design with smaller pieces. I wanted to be spontaneous with complementary colors and randomness.

I loved all women’s take on Carrie’s apartment article on Modsy. I used the ottomans and accent sofa color used in Carrie’s take to come up with my own version, including my love of all types of music, and to resemble some of the cultures I have experienced and come to love. I find books a way to travel, and I love sailing, so I made the book stoppers as antique ends of a sailboat, and they are all antique books I kept from my grandparents and parents. Road trips to all the national parks such as Zeon, Great Teton, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and more – have been quite an adventure. I went on rides through those on my own, so I got a retro car planter for a small cactus and a retro-style radio to tune in to FM to savor those memories. The pillows are there to remind you to dream and travel in your dreams. The painting is a Leonid Afremov painting.

I love his knife technique, his take on impressionism with bright colors, and his life story. I chose the triptych with a girl walking in the rain because, in Kenya, I was given the name “Wanjiku” and told it means “born with rain.” Actually, I just liked the painting because I thought it was very calming, and I want to run/walk/dance/believe in the rain… and Leonid is so gifted at catching the ambiance of rain in his paintings. But, I think
in my subconscious, I was still connected to that name. You know how some of those books about the power of your subconscious mind tell you how your paintings at home describe you, and you may not always be aware of it? I felt that AFTER I hung the painting up. I was also shocked how my colleagues in Kenya got me, and I love it when I invite friends over; they see me in the design of my apartment and also feel good about hanging around here. I want to start having tea parties and cook some Czech cuisine for them in the future. The lamp is a mesh lamp to remind me of our lights at Amazon Jungle or African Safari. The faux lambskin is to remind me of grandma’s room in Czechia. When I visited her, I always found it to be like a door to the Roman Empire.

When it came to the color choice, I wanted to keep it within the 60-30-10 color rule, including my guitars, djembe, and harp, but of course, I played around a bit to add to that. I’d say 60 would be the warm tones (yellow, orange, brown), 30 would be the cool blues, and 10 would be the patterns. I slightly altered the hue of blue to teal when I started designing the bedroom. The cool tone is the primary color, adding a bit of green to resemble the nature of blending trees with the blue sky. To alter the yellow, I changed it to gold to fill in the 10%.

My music corner is a depiction of a love of improvisation. My grandfather was an improvisation jazz musician, singer, and piano player. I thought he would even be with me when I would play my piano and look at the guitar-playing lamp – reminding me to keep going with the flow, and then the lightbulb will go off. I’ll perhaps even compose something one day or just jam along as I did with the musicians in Kenya Riruta Satellite.

Looking into the details of how you design your home sets your mood and connection with yourself. I normally just throw stuff around and hardly tidy up; in childhood, I had posters of my favorite bands wherever there was space. Making this my space that I want to feel at home in and be grateful for makes me more excited to make my bed in the morning. I recommend it to anyone!! I absolutely loved the process of designing my own place. I wanted to thank all the interior and production designers for their inspiration and hard work that helped us connect with each other, most of all, my family! ❤

This place is also available on Airbnb for rent when I am traveling. The location is idyllic for those who like to keep themselves busy throughout the day and night and are interested in many cultural aspects of metropolitan cities, such as arts, music, cuisine, nature, entertainment, sports, etc. Some of the amenities in the building, as well as close by, include…

Amenities that are part of the property:

  • WiFi & Cable
  • two pools & tennis courts
  • rooftop grill area with views of the city and the lake
  • laundry
  • full kitchen with dishwasher, microwave, and electric stove
  • large flat screen TV with Prime subscription and all major news channels
  • feel free to checkout any books in the library, but return without damage
  • music corner is open for use, containing two acoustic guitars, one classical guitar, one electric guitar, piano, violin, djembe and lyre harp
  • Alexa operated lighting and sound system in bedroom/bathroom/living room
  • Alexa operated blackout blinds
  • soothing electric fireplace attached to TV stand
  • rainfall shower and hydromassage tub with Alexa in the bathroom
  • night time doorman
  • guest parking garage
  • bike room
  • package delivery up to the apartment door
  • maintenance available by appointment (or in emergency)

This one-bedroom condo with a full kitchen and three closets can be rented for $123/night or $2,300/month, all amenities included. Check out availability on Airbnb.

Close by venues and entertainment:

  • steps away from the lake and two of the main beaches in Chicago with volleyball nets and restaurants with tiky bars and live music
  • Chicago is very bike and dog friendly, with terrific trails around the lake
  • Navy Pier is a few minutes down South, you can catch fireworks each Saturday Night throughout the months of Summer
  • 1.5 miles away from sailboats and boating events/classes
  • steps away from upscale shopping & dining as well as live music & comedy entertainment such as the Second City or Porchlight Music Theatre right around the corner… Improv is something that is naturally associated to LA and NYC, but Chicago is the birthplace of Improv, well known for its comedy scene and voted as America’s funniest city year to year, being home to some of the most prominent personalities in the field, such as Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Chris Farley, Keegan-Michael Key, Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell—to name a few, but there are also many local artists, musicians and play writers who have open exhibitions and performances throughout the year…
  • steps away from Lincoln Park, Zoo, and Botanic Garden, where you can also take outdoor yoga classes for free
  • stroll away from beautiful Old Town and other unique Chicago neighborhoods such as Logan Square, Chicago Loop, Lakeview, Wicker Park and River North… all very unique with their own crowd ranging from hip and artsy trend setters to LGBTQ communities, or families and young professionals… you can experiment with wide range of international cuisines and local as well as international breweries, local artist shows, concerts, and plays… or have a quiet dinner on one of the rooftops in the city with spectacular views of the river, modern architecture, and lake…
  • steps away from public transport
  • gym with basketball courts, classes, an indoor pool, and a spa is around the corner
  • 10-minute walk to the city center
  • within a two-mile radius, you can find Millenium and Grand Park with Buckingham Fountain, Bean and natural public lawn for a Summer picnic you can plan during the classical or jazz live music festival at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or join in during the Latin dance festival
  • within a two-mile radius, you can also find Field Museum, Art Institute
  • within the same two-mile radius is also THE oldest planetarium in the US, also one of the best – Adler Planetarium, and one of the largest aquariums in the world – Shedd Aquarium. I take regular walks there to say hi to the dolphins and belugas or watch the sky at the planetarium. They are right next to each other, so you can do both 🙂
  • Gold Coast is right in the middle of two major Chicago sport arenas, both within a stroll away – the Cubs in Lakeview up North, and the BlackHawks hockey as well as Chicago Bulls basketball at the United Center going South direction
  • Chicago is known for its architecture, and Gold Coast is no exception, full of its own contributions, with historic mansions that have stood the test of time, until more modern architecture done by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright was added, as well as some of the most recent tall skyscrapers such as The One Chicago East Tower… walking through the neighborhood can almost feel like walking through many different centuries in human history

About Gold Coast

Read about this lively and charming neighborhood here –

Since I got into this and spent all the money on designing my space, I am started to do interior design as a hobby, currently working as a freelance interior designer on Task Rabbit until I build a larger portfolio. I start my work by giving a questionnaire and interviewing you about your style (favorite artworks, music, designs etc.) and to get to know who you are and what you enjoy in life. It gives me a sense of how to use and design your space to match and represent YOU. Feel free to reach out if you’d like my help!

No recipes yet, I don’t want to poison you! :)


A shaman was asked, what is poison? He replied “Anything beyond what we need is poison. It can be power, laziness, food, ego, ambition, vanity, fear, anger, or whatever.”

I had an experience with a shaman in the Amazonas, and he gave me this blend of plants to drink, then did a ritual. When he did that I was skeptical on what my thoughts would be through the process, that it will determine how I exit the ritual and how I’ll view life from then on. It’s been a journey, but I do feel connected to nature still, whether it is because of the Shaman or childhood scouting, or simply because we are starting to realize the importance of nature as a collective, I feel lucky I got to chill with the peaceful man in this vast space of oxygen supply and thousands of bird sounds.

Personally, I have to say that spaghetti made of the heart of a palm tree with squeezed camu camu as a dressing, finished with Masato in the middle of the Jungle is so delicious and educational. It made me understand the reason Czechs say salt is worth more than gold, why Morrocans love their spices, and why I’m thankful to have experienced the breaking of the Ramadan fast with dates, Harira soup, and chicken lemon tagine I learned – because the Italians made me gain a lot of weight a few years later, and I had to find a way back to my spiritual self, this time drinking spiced tea as a JUBU in Nepaul. My favorite will always be my grandmothers’ cooking, but overall, learning cuisines from different cultures has been quite an adventure, and I decided to rediscover my love of cooking.

I am moving towards a pescatarian diet with minimal use of dairy, but when I visit home in Czechia, I don’t hold back. Czech cuisine is one of my favorites. That is because much of the home cooking I eat there is from farms where I have seen the animals living an abundant life with their families.

The boat market in Thailand was an incredible experience, but one of my best and most unexpected lunch with beer experiences was while I was alone in Paris. I loved the delicious spiced teas in Nepal, and Indian and Kenyan are some of my favorite dishes, but I still invite Peruvian friends over for Pisco!! I would definitely keep planting the trees, for none of this would be possible without them!

I’ll start posting some recipes soon!

An important piece about sustainable agriculture.
How to use food waste for good.

Not all those who wander are lost


Shoes, you took me to so many places:
City life with cocktails and chatter,
Live music, comedy, and fashion events,
Public transport from Liberec to Prague, Zurich,
Malmo, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris,
Istanbul, Iquitos, Bangkok, Nairobi, Barcelona,
London, Venice, Rome, Florence, ….. and Chicago,
Romantic walks in the park,
Symbolic understanding of cultures,
Psychological expression,
Connection to the planet we live on,
Stadiums of giving nothing but your best,
Tango nights in unique Chicago neighborhoods,
And the streets of Buenos Aires,
Admiration of the perfection of dance,
Ski hikes through Czech Paradise,
And adventures with many friends,
Long hikes through the NC smoky mountains,
Italian and Austrian Alps, Grand Tetons, And Tatras.
Rock climbing in the school of Hejnice,
Snorkeling with sharks on Phi Phi island,
And the magical world in the minds of children in Kenya.

The first time I broke up with someone, I was 11.
In Czechia, it is called “giving someone cleats”.
In response, he gave me the spikes.
Of course, he loved soccer and I loved running.
I was so heartbroken, that I ended up competing,
In the NCAA Divison I,
Still crying on some evenings,
But I could not thank him more.
Spikes took me to many states in the US,
Conference USA Championships,
High school state championships,
And marathons,
While meeting friends who share the love of sports.
My love started in Czechia,
But it is shared across the globe with many others, always!
Also, breakups have never been any different than this first one.

In, 2004 I met someone I had a more serious relationship.
His grandfather owned a shoe shop in Morroco.
I enjoyed walking around with several styles,
Completely unique in the USA,
The best memory I have of him,
Is that he had his favorite red Moroccan shoes.
He wore them everywhere.
Even in the Bahamas,
Where he greeted a guy named Scooby,
With a firm “yeah man”.
I was so lost after the breakup.
One day I ended up wearing a different style on each foot to work,
Completely oblivious and unaware,
That the night before I had a date with a shoe theif,
Who seemed to be from his MBA program,
Leaving us all behind for China.
Instead of visiting,
I moved out of the trauma of shoe discombobulation.
The result was a slight paranoia,
That I must have subconsciously ditched Glinda’s sparkling red slippers.

Tango shoes gave me the soul of dance.
Something my beautiful cousin,
Who was a ballet dancer,
Experienced for many years.
And another incredible cousin expressed on the ice.
Many show it on the stage, on the streets, or alone in the woods.
You can have the best dance with a guy half your height,
Whom you met in El Floridita in Havana,
With Hemingway watching you,
Sippin on his own version of Mojito.
We all have it in common – the power of music.
Sometimes others cannot hear the same tune,
Only seeing our peculiar moves.
But somehow we also come back to it,
with hearing being our last sense of our presence,
before we leave one world,
before memory takes over,
turning into an imagination,
making music a timeless part of our existence.

Cross Country skiing – is one of my favorite sports.
Christmas tradition in Jested hills,
Ski trips with stepfather and his class,
And training with childhood friends,
First slalom lessons learned on cross country skis,
Downhill and uphill through the countryside,
Finished with evening discos and games,
Morning alarm of my stepdad’s trumpet,
Hot teas and soups,
And card games in our common rooms,
These became the main activities.
It made downhill skiing only natural.

Hiking boots are there to take you on many adventures,
And absorb the beauty of nature,
Finish the evening at the campfire with a guitar,
Taking shots of the mountain scenery,
The first sight upon waking up,
From the open side of your tent.
You can be greeted by the ruler of the mountains,
When you hike up Krivan mountain,
As your first mountain to conquer as a child.
But another ruler of the hills,
To remind you it’s a perfect place to start.
They can make you inspired by your aunt,
If one day you decide to start with that small hill,
It is possible to hike over 5,000 miles in your 60s.
Or Edmund Hillary that you can conquer the altitude of 747.
Regardless, yaktrax is cheaper than a few nights in a hospital.

Rubber boots and old sweatpants are the styles,
When you’re out in the Czech woods,
Picking mushrooms for the morning eggs,
Or when you’ve tied your bow,
And sharpened down the tips of your arrows with your pocket knife,
To hunt wild boar with your friends.
They can also keep you safe from snake bites in the Amazonas,
As you’re on a four-day survival hike,
Through the jungle of 1,800 species of birds,
500 species of mammals,
and over 300 species of reptiles.
Or, can make you a fashionista,
Walking by excited Millenials with a unique pattern on your boots,
While they are sliding through the mud in a rain,
Listening to a blend of Deadmau5 and Emancipator at Lolapaloosa,
Each blasting their heart out from different sides of the “common stadium”.

But bare feet is where we started,
We are reminded of Gandhi,
They can change the world for the better,
By Abebe Bikila,
They can help you cruise through 26.2 miles.
By Philippe Petit,
You can walk on the rope connecting the two twin towers,
And by children in Kenyan orphanage,
They can help you continue your dance.
They can set you free.

I have to admit – there are times,
When wearing a different style of your grandpa’s spikes on each foot,
Dropping the Cinderella’s small feet must have,
And trying any size of dance shoes,
Losing your nails when practicing your runs,
Wearing cheap, a half size smaller sneakers without giving a damn,
Or not wearing any shoes at all…
Is it a lot healthier and more fashionable than Jimmy Choo?
I’ve seen women my height trying on glass slippers,
And all they got was a loss of balance and a slippery surface.
Someone who is willing to pay $15 for 1.5 eggs at a fancy restaurant,
Wearing $600 pair of shoes,
Looking to meet someone at the next table,
Is hardly better off than a djembe drummer,
Walking down streets in Riruta Nairobi,
Picking up a chapati for 25 cents on his way to jam with his buddies.
The General Sherman Tree wants you to know,
That you can live up to 2,700 thousand years and beyond,
Just by having large feet!

Escapades in Bzi


How could one come to a thought,
that a small village in the middle of picturesque countryside,
could be home to such a diverse group of personalities?
I could say that about Bzi.

Skippy Protesting Creative Block


There’s this thing called creative block, and it is very real. Artists can be very introspective and get stuck in their heads. My cat Skippy likes to protest when the canvas is blank for too long, but I also wonder if she’s just been traumatized by my last seizure at home. There can be a number of ideas in your noodle, but apparently, this strange mental clusterfuck is necessary in order to get started, and sometimes it makes us act aloof. Pollock is a great example of creative block. From my experience in college, this is not uncommon. It is indeed painful, but for whatever reason we love it. Skippy has a hard time understanding but got used to it. I think Louis Wain would love this. This reading is usually my go-to when I experience something similar, kinda like I have during the past couple of months.

If you like reading, Julia Cameron’s new book The Listening Path explores “creative unblocking”.

All my love to fellow artists who can relate ❤

Christmas at Marco Island


When I lived in Florida, I missed home, because of the four seasons and winter sports it offered, but experiencing Christmas there was also very magical. Floridians are very keen on decorating, whether it is a palm tree or a house, there are lights everywhere and a lot of retirees go out fast walking with Santa’s hat on, sometimes smiling with white teeth, even brighter with their well-maintained tan… or they do water aerobics in a pool. For young people, Christmas in Orlando’s Disneyland is an experience of a lifetime. I spent my first Christmas day in Florida when I was 15. After joining a candlelight show choir in Orlando’s Disneyland and still daydreaming about it after, I went to the pool and suntanned and then watched dolphins at the beach – something completely foreign to me at the time. My mother brought me to Florida, knowing I was completely in love with dolphins, and even though public transport sucked and there was never any piazza in the cities, Florida had its own magic, in addition to ONE of my favorite species on the planet.

The tree in May 🙂

Now when I am in Chicago I love traveling to Florida for the holidays and getting the best of both worlds. One of the traditions we started was building the Christmas trees from thousands of shells we would collect. The tree gets bigger by the year and we began getting help from other residents of our building. It makes the Christmas season all the better when celebrating with the community, and Floridians LOVE a creative project. At night we light the tree with candles and those who take Christmas evening walks on the beach hang around the tree for a while, taking pictures and/or adding shells. It was actually started by my mom, and I chipped in, then my stepdad challenged us to take it up a notch. I remember the biggest Christmas tree I ever saw was in Germany when I was 10 and we visited friends in Marktredwitz. I loved it there among the picturesque town and Christmas markets, Christmas spirit, and I could swear the snowman was bigger than the one in the Guinness book of records, but I got to see it, and was inspired to build a big tree on the beach, made of shells! Hobbes was hoping it would make Calvin’s day 🙂

My “stab” at Body art


I dared to try tattoo design and had fun designing these two. As a kid, I was fascinated with fireflies. I always thought of them as means of direction in nature. By nature, we all have our own light, but sometimes that light is dimmed if we allow negative forces from our surroundings to influence our psyche and fireflies remind us to turn the light on in dark times. The semicolon shape of the firefly’s body represents mental health. When facing mental health disability, one’s sense of direction can spin out of control, like a never-ending cycle. By observation of fireflies during girl scout camps, I noticed that sometimes fireflies themselves wander around in circles, but at a gracious pace with peaceful energy. I constantly wanted to be able to decode their luminescence and twinkle (like morse code). This made me want to edit the tattoo to have a morse code pattern around the lighthouse, but haven’t decided if I wanted it to say SOS or something else. I figured “seek” or “aspire” would be the right word, representing an urge I’d always have just when I was about to enable myself to get out of the vicious cycle of overthinking. Also, it would represent my need when I’d follow fireflies deep into the woods as if I’d be looking for my Patronus. Morse code can save your life when lost without means of communication or direction. With that said, another reason I brought this association to the meaning of my tattoo is that when looking for the right support group, you need to make sure they understand not only your light but also your twinkle. In the Czech Republic, one imaginary character would be a firefly in a form of a human, kind of like a fairy. In the Czech language, we would call them “bludicka”, meaning a mythical creature always on a quest, lost, and seeking light in the darkness, not necessarily aware of their own light. To me, it is very psychological and I love JK Rowling’s further elaboration of this with the symbolic application of Patronus and Dementors.

Lighthouse is a representation of a support system – those who will stay with you and direct you the right way towards your healing and dreams. I believe that we all have our own place for our consciousness in the timeless universe, and it is a blessing if you find those who will help you sustain your light. I also love the lighthouse symbology because of my love of sailing, it reminds me of this concept every time I sail at night as well as reimagining my horizons.

I never really believed that astrology is real, but I was curious about it and found out I actually truly related to my moon sign. Whether astrology is real or not, I found it very interesting. My moon sign is Sagittarius – an adventure and freedom-seeking adrenaline junkie with an appreciation for different cultures and nature. Reaching out to those from different backgrounds, traditions and beliefs will help to create an open-minded support system that will help you get reconnected with your light by reminding you to be yourself. Saturn is the planet of hard work and destiny, and when it falls in Sagittarius in a natal chart, it often indicates that success will be delayed until you learn to buckle down and focus on what’s important and that is health first and foremost. One of the most important relationships you’ll have in your life is with yourself and making health your priority is essential to keeping that relationship a positive one, nevertheless staying connected to nature.

Not all those who wander are lost, but when and if they do get lost, finding and trusting a lighthouse in the middle of the storm strengthens its light’s compass. In addition, if you keep trusting in your own natural light, you will add to the strength of the lighthouse by sharing your stories of triumph, adventure, and survival. When running a marathon, your mind dies before your body. When facing a storm on a sailboat, hope dies before you do. I always felt as though mental health stigma added a thick cloud that would prevent the sailor to see the lighthouse. Lighthouse is a symbol of human presence and safety and transparent communication is necessary to make the light visible. Like rock climbing, sailing is a great teacher in creating a support system you can trust when lost, and usually friendships for life after sharing a rope with one another. The swallow is a symbol of a sailor. Like a swallow, a sailor travels the world but eventually returns. A collarbone is a typical place that sailors put this tattoo on after a certain amount of sailing experience. I also decided to add this tattoo despite being a beginner, because I get seizures and unconscious while I am seizing. My seizures are pseudoseizures. Seizures can temporarily erase the memory and make you experience mental time travel through vivid dreams and flashbacks. The last seizure I had was at home. I dislocated my collarbone as a result of the fall. This was to remind me to take it easy and focus on my health, hopefully making this spell one of my last ones. The picture of the lighthouse was taken during one of our sails at night here in Chicago 🙂

This one is in the back of my neck. If I did something silly, my father would do this pinch with his knuckle at the back of my neck and it made me laugh. I know there are parents out there who use some horrible forms of punishment without letting the child know about the “crime”, to the point that there are cases of child marriages and child sex slaves when they get sold by their own family. I find this absolutely horrific. In a way, I created this tattoo because I cannot stop thinking about those children. Cherishing your inner child innocence is so important, and these children are robbed of this at a very young age. I was lucky to have a loving family with an appreciation of nature and animals as means of direction and being alive. I was lucky I got to interact with animals nature and life through so many adventures that I would wish for these children to experience more than anything. As a child, I loved the movie Neverending Story and once recited the full movie to my dad, he was probably laughing in his mind. My dad’s dad, who was a veterinarian, would call me a golden girl, meaning a “bee”, because I was the only girl in the family of cousins. Therefore the tattoo. The symbol represents letting go of anyone who stabbed you in the back or any painful experience from the past. Throughout my life, I have experienced this, and many of us do. The bee represents a hardworking, important species that not only make honey but also makes sure that there is a sustainable growth cycle of flowers. The yellow dandelion represents my mother and me making honey from the flower when I was a child and the delphinium flowers are a symbol of rebirth, grace, and dignity. The tattoo is a message that if someone stabs you in the back, they need to realize that their assumptions about you can also be who they are themselves, that you can become even better from the lesson you learn through the experience and the stab will only backfire. It represents my wishes for justice that these children deserve. It also made me think of architecture and the mile-high structure proposed by Frank Lloyd in 1956. To me, the two lines opposite to each other represent a mirror of who you really are (kind of like in the Neverending story) and I always wondered the real reason why they never built the skyscraper, because apparently, it was possible. Everyone has their own interpretation of it, but sometimes I get reminded of nightmares I had as a child and how much I connected not only to Atreyu and Bastian but also the childlike empress. I think of it when I think of the children who have been trafficked.

It should also remind you to be careful what you wish for. I view the moon shapes as means of protection and your shield when you come to the point where you have to face yourself and that there is always a way to begin again. There is also a message to watch out for thorns when given roses, therefore the bee is facing the one dropping from the ceiling… not to give in so easily. However strong the authority is, you have the right to ask questions and use them for creativity as a means of transforming that thorn into something wonderful. Also, to avoid this thorn the bee would have to fly below – meaning to always stay humble and observant in order to see things clearly. Then it is a maze… if you submit, hoping for a reward, you may face a wall… but, if you take the other way and explore the surroundings, you’ll find yourself at a place that will expand your horizons and show you what you are capable of. You may shock yourself.

It is the connection to my hand tattoo, one that stirs to the right to avoid Voldemort’s tattoo (snake stab) and to show that you cannot face negative forces without your friends and to be watchful of who your friends are. The two colors of the bee also show our dual nature as humans. I also designed this, because my father has had recent surgery and has been dealing with strokes for a while. I was present during one when I was about 10 and with him for the weekend (my parents are divorced). He woke up and wrote on a paper that he cannot talk. First I thought it was a game and laughed, asking what I need to do, but he shook his head, then wrote that he needs to go to a hospital. I was in shock and started crying, but took our dog and then walked my dad to his brother’s place. I’m glad he’s still around because I have not seen much of him in the past 20 years and wanted to spend more time with him (even if it’s just virtually). I always had this scare about his health as a child, maybe because he smoked a lot, and I tried to throw his cigarettes away, or because one day he came to pick me up from kindergarten with a black eye from some fight to protect a girl somewhere at a nightclub, or because he has a full beard and I couldn’t stand seeing Jesus on the cross when visiting any church, watching people drinking red wine as a symbol of his blood. Sometimes I felt like punching them in their noses, no matter what the Bible said. There weren’t many people with a full beard, and frankly, it made me feel better and safer when I saw it become a fashion in the tech community for the past few years. I equally loved my first stepdad, whom I had a nightmare about when I was five. He was falling down from a tall building (maybe it was the mile-high building). Sometimes I think I’ve had these scares because my mother is such a pistol, but about two months ago I also dreamt of outdated space ships running into building in Chicago, destroying the city, while I was being taken underground for investigation. Then I was taken out of my body and saw my underweight self giving my overweight self a face mask. I love talking to others about their crazy dreams and nightmares as well. Human minds are an interesting subject I have to admit. 😀