Tag: Advice

Tall Ships Festival Part I

“A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.”
― Herman Melville

I think that it’s easy for some people to forget that Britain, with all its history and wars and books and world impact…is a group of decently small islands. There isn’t a spot that is more that 70 miles from a coastline throughout the whole of the country, the sea is ever present. Plus through much of recorded history, Britain was covered with bogs and marshes in addition to being crisscrossed by rivers. In other words, boats and ships have been an intrinsic part of British history.

This is especially true in London with its prime spot along the Thames. It has been a major travel and shipping hub for centuries and if you take a look at almost any historical representation of the city, you will see ships depicted as lining the river with masts as thick as as forest. Though the Thames is a lot less crowded these days, it’s fun to get a glimpse of the city’s maritime history, which is why I trotted along to the Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich a few weeks ago.

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A mix of historical presentation and street food, this sort of thing was straight up my alley and I ended up walking nearly six miles along the river to look at the variety of sailing ships moored so that visitors could have a chance to board and get a sense of what this vessels were like. There were also costumed interpreters and amateur naval enthusiasts parading around in clever and wacky get ups as only the British seem to be able to do.

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What most people don’t realize is that most sailing ships were tiny, almost unbelievably small. Explorers and privateers circumnavigated the globe in crafts not much longer than a bus with about as much personal space. As a child I had some idea that ships were solid things but getting to see them up close and personal you realize that they are as much rope as they are beams and are quite literally tied together in a lot of cases. One wrong knot and you’ve lost a major function that could leave you and your entire crew lost at sea.

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At one point, the British navy was virtually populated by kidnapped men and criminals, largely commanded by child officers who had purchased commissions, and funded by a prize system that turned almost everyone into privateers. It was kept in check by a system of legalized brutality and fueled with some of the worst food imaginable with a side of drunkenness. And it was a system that conquered the world, led to some of the most important scientific finds of human history, and kicked off globalization. A complicated history that deserves being better known.

Sending Up the Online/Freelancer/Blogger Batsignal

“If you need help bark like a dog.”
“That’s stupid. If I need help I’ll shout help.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings

Friends, readers, country-minions, lend me your thoughts!

One of my big goals this year is to upgrade this blog into a site. A simple one perhaps, but a site nonetheless. It’s served me well for nigh on seven years now (clutches self a bit to realize that) and it’s overdue some maintenance and love. I’ve been studying up on this for months now, probably closer to a year, but I still feel out of my depth and recently I realized that I’ve neglected a potentially killer source of expertise on this: you guys!

So tell me, have you made the leap from a .wordpress or .blogspot to a full on .com domain or known someone who has? How did you make decisions about hosting and other concerns? Was design an issue for you, and if so how did you solve them? Did you hire a brilliant friend or professional to help you transition or did you do it yourself? Any good founts of knowledge I should know about?

Direct me, kittens.


Getting On With It, And Other Concerns

“Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy.”
~ Charlie McCarthy

Ducklings?  Come, sit by me and let’s have a semi-serious musing together, alright?

Ponder with me.

Do you ever get bored?  That is a ridiculous question, and I’m aware of it, but I’m honestly curious.  I ask because when scrolling through the list of incredible and incredibly talented friends that make up my address book, I am struck at how many of them look at their accomplishments and feel an overwhelming sense of “whatever.”  Multiple friends and acquaintances, whose experiences and opportunities I genuinely envy and admire, have recently expressed how unimpressed with or apathetic they are towards those things I’d kill to have right now.

It makes me feel better, because I feel as if my life is incredibly unimpressive (at least of late), and apparently I’m in good company.  But it doesn’t stop the feelings of apathy, boredom, listlessness, and (occasionally) resentment from cropping up.

It certainly affects my writing.  From time to time I try to figure out just what exactly I’m doing with this blog.  It started as a way to just get me to write when I was getting lazy, it morphed into a way to share the funny stories of my workplace and served as a place for me to comment snidely but fondly on the tiny slice of humanity I am privileged to observe so closely.  I like this little blog of mine, I have no intention of abandoning it, but on it’s journey that so closely mirrors my own, it’s a bit stale and lacking focus.  Not entirely unlike myself.

We’re coming up on another major life shift in the near future (the end of schooling for both parties in my marriage) and with all life shifts one has to sit down and figure out, “What the hell do I do now?”  It’s cliche and trite, but it’s not a trivial question.  For the first time in years I’m getting the chance to really make some decisions about the direction I want my/our life to go… and I’m discovering that my ability to be proactive, my gumption, and my basic major-life-shift skills have all atrophied somewhat.

I’ve gotten complacent.  I’ve not been a major actor in my own life (or so it feels) in a long time.  I am faced with trying something new and for the first time I feel so incredibly daunted.  I’ve hopped continents during major terrorist threats and made it through earthquakes and typhoons with less trepidation!  I’m desperate for change, growth, new opportunity, but a little worried that I’m not as capable of handling it as I once was.

Then of course, every once in a while reason reasserts itself and says, “C., you of all people know that, will you, nill you, life goes on.  And you also know that whether or not you choose to worry about, you will have no choice but to just get on with it.  And, finally, you know that you generally land on your feet.  This philosophizing of yours is fun, but hardly necessary.”

My subconscious never lets me wallow.  It’s useful, but annoying.

So, minions, do you find yourself getting bored?  Complacent?  Underwhelmed?  Ready for a change?  And what do you do if you still have to wait a while to shake things up (even if the wait is only a couple of months)?  More importantly, how do you jumpstart your own lives after letting things coast for a while?

Not Just Your Grandmother’s War Slogan

“Most of life is routine – dull and grubby, but routine is the momentum that keeps a man going.”
– Ben Nicholas

I’ve always found post-tragedy a bit surreal.  Somehow, in spite of the calamity that has just taken place and probably changed your life forever, the world just keeps on going.  People still need to eat, sleep, work, and go about day to day tasks, you can’t just check out.  After the typhoons, the damage needs to be cleaned up.  After the earthquake, pictures need to be rehung.

Life goes on.


It’s hopelessly British, but the stiff upper lip is a lifesaver, kittens.  There is nothing to keep you going through a tough slog, or helpful when your nearest and dearest are slogging along their own troubles, like routine.

What small things keep you going when Stuff Happens, m’dears?  Nothing is insignificant.

Travel and Toiletries

“I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep.  That’s deep enough.  What do you want – an adorable pancreas?”
~ Jean Kerr, The Snake Has All the Lines

We will talk about this next travel subject theoretically since it pains me a little and I’m trying awfully hard not to be bitter/depressed that J. is leaving in a month.  Well, so am I, but I’m coming back a week after that which just isn’t the same thing.

So, theoretically, when moving or traveling abroad for an extended period of time, you will save yourself a lot of time and money if you take your own toiletries, makeup, odds, and ends.  Depending on where you go the brands might change significantly and save you the headache of having to figure out (again) what products make you breakout, what acne medications you’re frightfully allergic to, or what not.  Also some countries currency exchange rate makes shopping for “luxuries” (you’ll notice the sarcastic air quotes, yes?  That’s because mascara is a necessity and not a luxury) prohibitively expensive.

Ladies: go through your makeup bag and get rid of anything past its expiration.  Yes, makeup expires.  And old blushes, shadows, mascara, and brushes can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause some truly nasty infections – which you simply don’t want to have to deal with abroad.  Clean out or replace your brushes.  Here are some good expiration guidelines.  Do a little research into your skincare regimen: how much does is cost where you live, how much will it cost where you are going, how long does it last?  Figure out if you should take a supply of your products with you.  For example, most drugstore facial care brands make me breakout so I use Clinique’s Three Step System, which lasts me nearly six months.

Next, figure out what you need to buy, and for heaven’s sake, use your experts!  As it turned out I needed to get rid of nearly all of my makeup (let’s not discuss how I found some eyeshadow that I bought back in high school…) and needed to replace it with a good brand that would last me a long time and not reduce my face to a bloated mess.  Luckily a lovely sales associate saw me wandering through the makeup section of Nordstrom and became my trusty guide.  I explained exactly what I needed and she produced a solution with the conjuring powers of a genie!  She showed me how to create multiple looks for day, evening, work, and formal occasions using just four shades of eye shadow, made recommendations on some other products, and alerted me to a future sale (so that I could get what I needed at a slightly later time for a lower price).  The ladies at Clinique did the same and let me tell you, ducklings, I left feeling empowered!

Gentlemen: same goes for your shaving kits.  Get ride of old razors, facial cleansers, and other products past their prime.  Replace them and, if prudent, stock up on spares and replacements for your time abroad.  Are there particular brands that you prefer (shampoos, athlete’s foot powders, hair products), if so take a reasonable supply with you – it will keep you from having to buy an entire medicine cabinet abroad and will get you through until you can find local brands or products you like.

Both genders, if you have prescriptions of any kind, talk to your health care provider and get a supply to take with you, or have them recommend a generic brand that accomplishes the same purpose that you could find abroad.  I have eczema on my scalp that requires a medicated shampoo for flare ups, J. uses a specific facial cleanser to prevent breakouts, so we’re making sure he (not I…hiss…) has a supply to take with him.

Consider this a slightly more frivolous yet equally important lecture on taking care of yourself abroad.

Doctor’s Orders

“Health is not simply the absence of sickness.”
– Hannah Green

When prepping for a tramp abroad, ducklings, it’s important to get your health in order as well as your house.  There is nothing fun about getting sick in a foreign country where you may or may not know how the health system works so do your research (speaking as a girl who sprained her wrist in Turkey and was a little, ah, surprised at their hospital system).  Find out well in advance whether or not you qualify for a nationalized service plan or if you should get traveler’s health insurance to cover you in the event of a mishap.  For the best results, long before you go, get the basic preventative work.

Get your teeth cleaned and ask for a fluoride treatment for extra protection.

If you can, get a blood work up.  Find out what, if anything, is lurking in your chemical makeup.

(Gentlemen, avert your eyes) Ladies, get a pelvic and breast exam.

Are you on prescription medications?  Figure out how you’re going to continue to get the meds you need, whether it’s by utilizing the resources available to travelers in your land of destination, or by taking a large supply with you.

Have your dermatologist check out and moles, freckles, lesions, sunspots, or anything else that you weren’t born with.  99% of them will be harmless and the remaining 1% will be treatable if you catch the problem early.  If you have eczema, boils, psoriasis, cysts, or acne, it can and should be treated.

Get an eye exam and update your prescription as needed.  Replace any eyewear that is scratched, broken, barely balancing on the ridge of your nose, or otherwise past its prime.

If you have orthopedic shoes or other bracing, shaping, or corrective gear, make sure it’s in good condition, and still doing its job.  If you need to update any of it, do so.

If you have more personal issues of depressions, anxiety, or any of their tricksy cousins, make sure you are equipped to care for yourself.  Whether that means having a few visits with a trusted counselor to get some coping techniques for the stresses of the move, sorting out your medications, or just making sure you’ve got a support system of people in place.  Anyone who tells you psychological problems don’t have physical symptoms, you should just “suck it up,” or “it’s all in your head” is an idiot.

Now all of this takes time, and money.  If finances are a worry, there are programs like Planned Parenthood, free clinics, student health centers, and physicians who are willing to do pro bono work.  Take advantage of your resources.  Start working through your appointments a few months before you head out to give yourself time to diagnose and treat any trickiness that turns out.

Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, address any health concerns you have with a physician.  I don’t care whether it’s chronic headaches or the alarming tendency to pass out every time you turn left.  I don’t care whether blue snot is draining out of your ears or sometimes you just feel an odd shooting pain in your elbow.  I don’t care if you have hemorrhoids or hair loss, acne or agoraphobia, stress or smallpox.  I don’t care.

Why, you ask?  Because you are entitled to feel well, whole, healthy, happy, well-adjusted, fit and equipped.  You do not have to suffer through pain, anxiety, and discomfort, and certainly not without fighting back!  Take care of yourself, kittens.

Travel Wisdom: Accessories, Darling

“Accessories (i.e. new/vintage and affordable changeable bags, scarves, belts, jewelry, shoes, hosiery) can make or break a piece and change it up seasonally. It’s very, very hard to have any style without paying serious attention to accessories; too easy to focus on the major pieces then wonder why you look dull.”

– Caitlin Kelly again for the win!  Find her day to day writing at the Broadside blog, or her book out just this year (linked to it here).