February Review: Timeline

This month’s review is taking a rather different direction than last month, but my goal is to introduce you to as large of a variety of interests as possible.  That being said, February’s highlighted item is a card game called Timeline.  I was introduced to this game by a cousin at a family gathering when I walked out into the garage to find about four feet of itty bitty cards stretched out in a row.  Each card was an event in history and the string of cards was a timeline, hence the name.

Timeline Blog Highlight

The object of the game is to be the first player to get rid of all of your cards by correctly placing them in chronological order compared to the other cards that have already been played.  The concept is as simple as that, but the game itself is really just a catalyst for discussion and guesswork and a fair bit of learning along the way.

Conversation Starter:

If there is anything I love about this game, it is that there is never a loss for conversation.  And it isn’t the usual everyday sort of conversation that it inspires either.  Rather than politics or economics, gossip or confrontation, etc. Timeline sparks stories about history and culture.  How and why and when certain things came about.  What life would be like and must have been like without them.  For example: did you know that the trash bin wasn’t invented until 1875?  Can you even imagine life without them, because I can’t.  Or at least, I would rather not.

You get to listen to people tell stories about how they knew something or let them ramble on in what they hope is a right direction for an answer.  Sometimes, when there is nothing to do but guess, it comes down to a comical five-hundred year miss.  Which of course starts a whole new round of more common conversation we usually like to call smack talk.

How You Like It:

Timeline is not by any means a static game.  The whole point is that you can completely reconstruct it and, depending on your choices and the dealing of the cards, end up with an entirely new game every time you play.

One of the most obvious ways to vary it up is to use all sorts of different expansions and versions of the game.  There are all sorts of categories from Historical Events, to Inventions, to Music and Culture, to focused locales and global history.  You can mix them all together if you want to, or choose the oddest pairing or the one that nobody has a clue about, just for laughs.

If history is not your thing, you are not confined to a droning litany of who killed whom to start what war and prompt what invention.  You can make it into just a guessing game, because I can promise that even for history enthusiasts like myself, there is always at least an element of confusion to one degree or another.  And you can stick to the topics that are more interesting to you.  Like film?  There’s a set for that.  Want to up the ante for your trivia skills?  I promise, the “Diversity” set has all sorts of random knowledge that matters in exactly zero contexts for ordinary daily life.  The game is yours, through and through.

Challenge Balance:

As I mentioned, Timeline is a bit of a guessing game even for the proficients.  Because nobody in their right mind spends time learning when the baguette was invented.  But we are all pretty sure it happened after the appearance of dinosaurs.  That’s the thing: as the game progresses, those distinctions become more and more difficult to puzzle out as the gaps between dates close ranks crowded with more cards.

When the game starts, there is only one card beginning the timeline and you have a fifty-fifty shot at placing the next event.  Fast forward a few rounds and you are struggling to decide if it is a better mistake to play the card in a ten year gap or a hundred year gap.  By the end, it really is a challenge to squeeze the events into their neat little gaps.  But it isn’t the kind of challenge that makes you want to give up; it is the type that makes you want to try all the harder.

A Pretty Picture:

Part of the appeal of the game is the artwork on the cards.  They all have little drawings describing the events.  I have to admit that some of them are pretty strange and laughable, but they are certainly a point of entertainment.  You want to talk about a conversation starter, you should definitely check out the invention of the hairdryer.  That one is good for a laugh.

The Cons:

I have mentioned a couple of times that you don’t have to know anything about history to play this game.  However, you do need to have at least a smidgen of interest.  If you don’t care one jot, you will have probably about the same amount of fun playing it.  But, nothing can please everybody and I think all in all this game does a pretty decent job of appealing to most.

Overall, I love Timeline.  Hopefully you get the chance to try it out and love it too!  Let me know what you think in the comments and if you have anything else you want to see me review please let me know so that I can do that for ya.  Have a blessed day friends!

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River of Time Final Installment

This is it lovely folks!  I finally finished the story.  Thank you to all of you who waited with baited breath for each new post and I hope that even though this particular story is finished, you will still come back and visit.  Let me know in the comments if you have any more ideas for stories or posts of any kind because I would love to give you things you love to read.

If you are lost, start at the beginning.

As always, these characters belong to the lovely Lisa Bergren.

Enjoy!

 

 

“T-time travel?” I stuttered.  “That’s a little extreme of a claim, isn’t it?”

“Not when it’s true.  The Forelli family died out forty years ago when Ben Forelli gave the estate to the city to be a museum.  Nobody in that family has been called Luca in a long time, since the time of kings and lords, to be precise.” Emiliana’s smug grin settled onto her face as she spoke.  “Therefore, you either picked that name up from the museum, which I have been assured you have never visited, or you got it the same place you got your archaic Italian.”

Nobody said anything for a moment.  I was still trying to process how she could possibly have figured out that much information about us in such a short amount of time.

“Now, as I mentioned earlier, I need to figure out what to do with you two.” Emiliana said slowly and deliberately.

“We have to go back to the tomb.” The words were out of Luca’s mouth before I could stop them.  I gasped and turned to see that his jaw was set in determination.

“Luca, we can’t – ” I started, but he cut me off.

“We have no choice Lia.  We have to trust her.  If we don’t, we won’t be able to get back to the tomb in time to meet your sister and we will be stranded here.”

“He’s right, you know.” Emiliana raised an expectant eyebrow at me.

“Alright, fine.” I conceded, realizing I was beaten.  Emiliana wouldn’t be able to prove anything once we were gone anyway, so as long as she let us go I couldn’t see any way for permanent harm.  But there was still something about her I couldn’t bring myself to trust.  “What sort of clever plan do you have to whisk us away?”

“The tomb.” Emiliana said, leaning forward eagerly and perching her elegant chin on her steepled fingers.  “What is the significance?  Is that how… how it happens?”

“Yes.” I hesitated.  “There are… handprints.  If my sister and I touch them at the same time, we…” I trailed off and waved my hands, not really sure how to explain the oddity of that tunnel.

“Your sister: where is she?” Emiliana queried.

“She’s at home.” Luca tried to sound flippant as he said it, but the slightest crack in his voice at the word home almost got me bawling out of frustration and longing.  Like a little child who desperately wants nothing more than the comfort of their mother’s arms.  And then I thought about my mother.  And my dad and Gabi and Marcello and little Fortino.

“How soon can we get there?” I interrupted Emiliana’s next question before I even realized that she had already been speaking.

“Lia, we can’t leave until Gabi’s hand is on the print too.” Luca gently reminded me.  His eyes were full of empathy and I knew I wasn’t going to make anything any easier by throwing a fit about it.

“You’ll come to my place.” Emiliana declared, springing regally off of the arm of the couch and grabbing her purse.

“Hold on a second, where are you going?” I asked, incredulous at her commanding attitude.

“We’re leaving.  Get your things.  There will be a car waiting downstairs for you in ten minutes.  Pack quickly.”  And with that, she was gone.

 

Emiliana lived in a mansion.  Which, I really shouldn’t be able to complain about seeing as I lived in a castle, but I had forgotten the full extent of modern finery.  The foyer alone was overwhelming.  High arching ceilings stretched above us with three delicate chandeliers draping gracefully from them.  The walls were covered in tapestries and the floors were actual bonafide marble.  Emiliana swept down the dainty, spindly staircase the instant we walked into the house and before I could process it, I was alone in my own personal suite, trying to make my meager suitcase fill the gigantic walk-in closet that was adjacent to my bedroom/living room and across from my luxurious bathroom with a fully functioning Jacuzzi.  I figured the next few days would be bearable if I could simply manage to relax and enjoy them.

“Knock knock!” Emiliana chirped jovially from the doorway.  She had been uncannily cheerful since we arrived and I still wasn’t quite sure what ulterior motive she had for it.  “I just came to see how you are settling in.”

“Just fine, thank you.”  I replied.

“I’m glad.  If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.” She seemed every bit the perfect hostess.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked her.  “Why did you feel the need to sniff us out and, and I don’t know take us in?  What’s the point?”

“Manero stole my father’s credit too.” Emiliana whispered intensely.  “He was on the hunt for you and I knew if he found you he would kidnap you and ship you off to somewhere foul and far away.  He would strip you of all funds, of your identity, of your ability to ever come back and possibly be a threat to his fame and fortune.  My father went missing thirteen years ago.  He wrote one letter, only ever one.  He has never been able to sneak another one through, but I know is trapped in some sort of slave labor in some desert in Lebanon.  If he’s still alive, anyway.  I had to do something that wouldn’t endanger him, but that would get under Manero’s skin.  He will never know what happened to you and your family and it will haunt him for the rest of his life, knowing that you might still be out there, planning revenge.  Paranoid fool.  He will waste a boat load of money on his search for you and the fact that he can’t control you will drive him mad.  And that will have to be my revenge.”  Her face was flushed and her perfect cheekbones were dripping with impassioned tears by the time she finished her speech.

We sat in silence for a minute as I absorbed everything that she had just said.  She certainly seemed to be telling the truth.  If she wasn’t it was a pretty darn convincing performance.

“Okay.” I said.

“Okay what?” She sniffed, all of a sudden regaining her composure and her overconfident air.

“Okay, I’ll trust you.”  I said. “But if you screw us over, please know that we are both trained in combat.  And we are determined to get home.”

“I know.  Thank you.” Emiliana said gravely, slipping out of the room.

“Emiliana, wait!” I called after her.

“Yes?” She poked her head back around the doorframe.

“How did you know I’m combat trained?” I asked.

“The famous She-Wolves of Siena.  You didn’t really think I hadn’t figured out who they were, did you?” She quirked an eyebrow at me and then was gone.

 

“This is it then.” Emiliana hugged me briefly before shaking Luca’s hand and closing his door to the cab.  “It has been great having you this week.  I hope you find the home that you are craving.” The last part she whispered to me through the open window with her characteristic smirk.

“Thank you Emiliana.  From the bottom of my heart, grazi.” I waved as the cab began the journey down the impossibly long and winding driveway and out to Castello Forelli.  He dropped us off at the museum and we lingered just long enough to be sure he was gone.  We snuck around the back and toward the tomb blessedly uninterrupted.

“Are you ready to be home?” Luca asked as we stepped into the cool, dark space.

“More than ready.” I smiled up at him and placed my hand on the wall.  It was warm and getting warmer all the time.  I felt Luca’s strong arm around me and then I collapsed into the expectant gaze of my sister.

Home at last.

Ashes Before Easter

Today is Ash Wednesday which, in the Christian church calendar, is the beginning of Lent.  That season that too many people think is meant as a take two on their New Year’s resolution to give up sweets.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with giving something up for Lent, but I think it glosses over the real point.  The point that Ash Wednesday lays down pretty unavoidably.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

We are forcefully reminded of our sinfulness as a cross of ash is smeared upon our foreheads.  I know this is a pretty ritualistic thing, so a lot of churches don’t do it, but there is a significance in these ashes that helps to put the next forty days into perspective.

We are rank and stagnant sinners.  Made from the dust of the earth and destined to return to it.  When we die, our bodies decay and become dust once again.  We are filthy and spoiled and utterly unlovable and our fate is eternal death.

Cheerful, right?

But that is just the beginning.  The ashes are the reminder of the law and its crushing weight, but not so that we should live wretched and hopeless lives.  You see, the weight of our transgressions forces us to our knees at the foot of our cross.  It places our punishment squarely before us.

Then we look up at that cross and see that someone is already hanging there.  Someone who has taken the blame for every action done out or our sinful hearts.  Someone who deigned to love us, unlovable though we were.  Someone more than prepared to do the impossible.  God himself taking the full agonizing excruciating weight of our rightful consequences on his own human shoulders and paying every debt we owe.

There is no way to understand it.  We do nothing but hurt God and turn away from him.  We are selfish and greedy.  We indulge in lust and disregard respect.  Time and again we destroy our Creator’s gifts as if it were a right.  And yet, still he hangs on the cross in our place.

From that perspective, we arrive at the triumphant Easter morning.  Death itself is slain and God stands victorious over it all.  Alive in the most complete and final sense of the word.  And he reaches down to take your hand and pull you up.  He calls you his precious and beloved child.  He gives you his own life to share in for all of eternity.  Instead of the eternal unbearable misery that you deserve, he gives you love and life unfathomable.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved byhis life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:6-11

Christ died for the ungodly.

While we were still sinners.

And that is why Ash Wednesday is so important.  Because if we do not know how hopeless and despicable and pitiful we were, then the empty tomb means nothing to us.  If we do not know how desperate and pathetic we were, we have no idea of the overwhelming honor and blessing that has so undeservedly been bestowed on us.  If it is not for the law, the gospel has no bearing.

It is because of my sin that I cannot find enough ways to express my gratitude for my salvation.  While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.  I am more than a conqueror because of the blood of Jesus.  And so I can do nothing but celebrate the love that has been given to me.  As the ashes are placed on my forehead, I have no choice but to sing praises and rejoice for he is victorious!