A Day in London with Charles Dickens: Photo Essay

A day in London exploring Charles Dickens and his haunts.

A visit with Charles Dickens made the top of my list as I traveled by train from Gatwick to London. So far, the trip to Europe had exceeded anything in my crazy imagination. I brought comfy shoes and planned to walk everywhere. After recent terror attacks, I hoped it would be enjoyable and police presence wouldn’t spoil the mood. Quite the opposite happened. I discussed how Londoners fight terrorism. So very simple, isn’t it? (Adopting the English manner of speaking to get you in the mood.) Instead, the city was filled with families enjoying the day. Any sort of trepidation melted away in the London sunshine.

The Grange Wellington Hotel, chosen by the crew from the Bloggers Bash, proved to be a great location for sightseeing. Many tourist attractions were located nearby.

First stop: Buckingham Palace.

The timing couldn’t have been better. As my husband, Danny, and I approached the Palace, the Changing of the Guard began. I didn’t know they had a marching band too. Very cool! I walked by the gate and snapped a photo while security kept me moving.

I wonder what that little boy is thinking. Did toilet paper stick to my shoe?

This photo needs a caption: Continue reading

Brainstormed Design Ideas for the Future

I’m a writer, illustrator, and child of the 1960’s. What do I know about designing for the future? I grew up with Star Trek and could relate to its creator, Gene Roddenberry. What we have in common is imagination. When I was a kid, I used to have a recurring dream where a Polaroid picture would move like a video for about five seconds. When I saw Harry Potter for the first time, I loved seeing the wizards’ newspapers. Moving photos on paper. I’m still waiting for that.

All technological breakthroughs start with an idea.

Creative people are the indispensable cogs which jump start the design engine. With the ignorance of engineering and technology, they can brainstorm all kinds of crazy ideas. I am the queen of crazy. There are no rules for imagination. So here goes.

Windows for the World

We all love windows. I can’t imagine living in a home without them. What if you had to create a livable environment in an undesirable location? It may not be cost effective to have windows. Homes built in extreme climates like in the Antarctic, Arctic, desert, or Mars could have live feed windows. A camera mounted outside could project the image inside on a faux window/television screen. This would provide the link to the outdoors needed for mental health. Mine especially. It could be programmed to provide a completely different picture if the environment wasn’t so great like in heavily polluted areas or looking at a building’s brick wall.

The creators of LG Ultra put their screens to the test. Continue reading

Back in the Water for #SharkWeek

Kelly and Susie Santa Monica Beach

The crashing of the sea drowned out my beating heart as I stepped into the waves with my surfboard. I would share this massive body of water with all kinds of sea creatures including sharks. The last time I surfed, the rhythmic waves in Costa Rica made standing up on a board as simple as standing on a picnic table. That board’s width and length helped too. This time would be different. The foam board would be gentle on my knee if I smacked it, but its narrow width and my still wimpy left leg would make balance squirrelly. I was stoked for the challenge. 

I have never been at ease when black water swirled around my body. I’ve spent a lot of time in lakes and had been nibbled several times. But a lifeguard stood on the Santa Monica beach while helicopters watched from their perch in the sky. I had no fear of sharks. 

What happened here? Continue reading

What to Wear for Comic Con: Photo Essay

Dressing up in costume is the norm at Comic Con. Last time, I went as Poison Ivy. After a long vacation, costumes were the furthest thing from my mind. I couldn’t motivate.

What would I wear?

Penguin, bat girl, poison ivy

Silly question for a woman who has a room full of costumes, I know! But this is Comic Con. The last time we went, more than half the attendees dressed up. Wearing a costume was a blast.

There’s even a name for it:

Cosplay:

A performance art in which participants called cosplayers wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character – Wikipedia.

What to wear at Comic Con:

  • Super hero costume

  • Or villain

  • Favorite alien

  • Or Monster

  • Cartoon character

  • Comic book character, preferably from the Marvel series

  • Character from a fantasy, sci-fi, or horror movie or series

  • Character from a popular animated movie

  • Go as yourself. You might be in the majority.

Check out these amazing costumes!  Continue reading

How Londoners Fight Terrorism

While Danny and I prepared for our trip to Europe, we heard about the terrorist attack in Manchester, England. Our whole vacation started with London at its heart. I would attend the Bloggers Bash on June 10th.

We didn’t change our plans.

Instead, we drove from Glasgow to Edinburgh, Scotland when I noticed London trending on Twitter. To be honest, a second terrorist attack so soon after Manchester gave me pause. Was it an outbreak?

We didn’t change our plans.

After a fabulous week in Scotland, we flew to Gatwick airport and took the train to London. I wondered if police presence would be everywhere. Would any of the tourist attractions be open? Would we have to stick around the neighborhood of the Wellington Hotel?

The fabulous Bloggers Bash was the next day. We planned to take London by storm on Sunday. I brought my most comfortable walking shoes. I wanted to see Buckingham Palace, check out my buddy, Chuck, I mean Charles Dickens’ haunts, and go to Covent Gardens.

As soon as we walked out of Victoria’s station, I was struck by the number of cute little children, dressed to impress.

How Londoners Fight Terrorism (1)

And just like that, I was over any doubt or fear.

Of course, we didn’t change our plans.

When I asked people in London how they felt about safety, they all said, “We have to live their lives.” One man said, “Americans are scaredy cats.” True that. I was, but not anymore.

My suggestion to Americans?

Travel to London or Paris or wherever you want. It’s the only way we win. Terrorists want to destroy our way of life. When we change our plans because we’re afraid, they win.

Have you changed your vacation plans because of recent events? Would you?

How Seneca, Attracting Positive Energy, and Happiness Heal Grief

Positive thinking has always been my forté, if not my downfall, since being an optimist doesn’t always prepare me for the horrific. When the worst happened this spring, I had to work at thinking positive. Even cancer and double boobectomies didn’t shut down happiness like death.

I’m a firm believer in the Law of Attraction.

You attract the energy of your thoughts, whether they are positive or negative. What a simple way to live, right? Just think positive and you’ll attract a great life. But it’s hard when you’re grieving and random memories arise like when I notice the safety googles in my garage. “Watch out for your eyes,” my brother used to say at random times; a standing joke from a time when he helped me move out of an apartment. He almost poked his eye out on a table leg. Don’t ask.

I needed help from an old Roman philosopher, Seneca.

There’s no time limit on grief. I read philosopher, Lucia Seneca’s letter yesterday in a Brain Picking’s article by Maria Popova. Seneca wrote to his mother a few millennia ago, when he was banished to Corsica. He told her that distracting yourself from loss makes it worse. Grief will be hanging out when you come back from the Bahamas, or dinner with friends. He was a little more eloquent than that.

“It is better to conquer our grief than to deceive it. For if it has withdrawn, being merely beguiled by pleasures and preoccupations, it starts up again and from its very respite gains force to savage us.”

Instead, Seneca suggested a focus on “liberal arts.”

“I am leading you to that resource which must be the refuge of all who are flying from Fortune, liberal studies. They will heal your wound, they will withdraw all your melancholy.”

Whoa! Would reading end my grief? Cool. I’d start with Tuesdays with Morrie, memorize some Faulkner quotes on dying, and round it off with a little philosophy by reading Camus, Sagan, and the Dali Lama.

I finished Camus’, The Stranger and scratched my head. I mean, the main character was absolutely clueless. He acted more like an amoeba, than a thoughtful man. Then I found out he won the Nobel Prize for introducing philosophy of the absurd. Oh.

It occurred to me the meaning of liberal arts may have changed over time. Wikipedia to the rescue.

*insert mind blown gesture here*

Liberal arts in ancient Greece refers to the education of a “free” person “to know in order to take an active part in civic life, something that (for Ancient Greece) included participating in public debate, defending oneself in court, serving on juries, and most importantly, military service.”

Ha! Maybe Seneca could’ve improved on the defense of his affair with the emperor’s sister had he brushed up on liberal arts. Did he want his mother to educate herself so she could defend herself someday? Nah.

Most likely, he wanted his mother to “take an active part of civic life,” come out of her grief and find a way to contribute to society. He could’ve said, “Join the living, Mom!” But, hey, they lived a few millennia ago.

So am I joining the living? Of course. I never left, but there are moments every day where I remember my brother and it brings me down with the “would have, could have, should haves.” Not anymore.

From Seneca – “Everlasting misfortune does have one blessing, that it ends up by toughening those whom it constantly afflicts.”

I should be badass.

It’s all about choosing happiness.

And this: “It was nature’s intention that there should be no need of great equipment for a good life: every individual can make himself happy.”

Yesterday, I read a blog post by Niki Meadows. This saying caught my attention.

Energy Flows

A great reminder to make the choice to be happy.

Here’s my interpretation:

Thinking positive to attract energy

Between Seneca and Meadows, I awoke with renewed energy. Okay, so I overslept. Now when I think about my brother, I will think about the absurdity of death. I will make the effort to smile when I remember him. Engaging in life will heal the wound. I think I’ll be okay.

 

Have you ever heard of Seneca? Do you believe your thoughts attract energy?

Related posts:

Be Your Own Badass Hero

I Celebrated a Birthday, but Failed to Save a Life

What Seeing Mila Kunis and Asthon Kutcher Taught Me

An Open Letter From My Boobs

Energy, Attention and Intention – Niki Meadows

Seneca’s Consolation to Helvia – Maria Popova, founder and editor of Brain Pickings

Fate Meets London’s Bloggers Bash

Boxes packed and ready to goSometimes fate is created with a hint of timing, a splash of coincidence, and a whole gallon of serendipity.

When our ceiling caved in from our demon washing machine, contractors and workers descended on our home. At first, I thought water damaged three rooms. Then we discovered ALL of the wood floors would have to be refinished. We would have to move out. Danny mentioned going on a vacation, but I couldn’t imagine where. East coast? West coast? The south somewhere?

“Lets go to Europe,” he said.

How could we throw a European vacation together that fast. I was still reeling from my brother’s death.

One week out of the house became two. When we learned we would have to move out for three and a half weeks, starting June 2nd, I had to sit down. That’s a humongous trip to plan and we didn’t have a lot of time.

A hint of timing walked into the room.

While sitting down, I calmed myself by reading a few blogs. I found Sacha Blacks’ post about the Bloggers Bash being held in London. It would be held on June 10th. Whoa!

Danny read the paper next to me.

“There’s a bloggers bash in London on the 10th. Maybe we could start in Scotland and then hit the Bash.”

Danny was all in.

London became our first pin on the map. The plan to travel Europe was born. I paid the $20 for the two of us online and we grew our trip from there, forward and backward. We traveled all around Scotland, stayed for a long weekend in London, hung out in Paris for eight days, then drove to Antwerp, Amsterdam and Bruges.

Then coincidence arrived:

After an adventurous week in Scotland including living in a castle and touring several others, we met a blogger on an island who showed us standing rocks. Then I was contacted by another blogger.

To say I was excited to meet Vanessa-Jane Chapman would be an understatement. Vanessa read my blog post about preparing for the UK, so she contacted me through Facebook. After giving her the deets, we couldn’t believe our good luck! She only makes an appearance once a month in London blocks away from our hotel. We could meet for dinner!

Hanging out with Vanessa-Jane in London

Just like so many other blogger meetups, Vanessa-Jane was just as lovely in person. Bubbly and full of energy, especially for someone who had worked all day and then taken the train into London, we recognized each other immediately!

We shared writing stories while Danny patiently nursed a beer happy to relax after a hectic day of travel. We discovered we knew each other through bloggers like Darla of She’s a Maineiac, Peg from Pegoleg’s Ramblings, Jules from Go Jules Go, and Paul from The Good Greatsby. We recalled the good old days when our first circle of friends posted a few times a week.

We caught up over happy hour and nibbles at one noisy bar then found a quieter spot across the way.

Vanessa is multi-talented, wild riders. She not only writes cookbooks and is working on her memoir, she has performed standup, is a mum to two fine children, and also sings with a band! Unfortunately, she didn’t have a gig that weekend. Dang! Danny and I would have been in the front row as super fans.

Like I say to all of my blogging friends, “Look us up if you ever come to Colorado!”

Saturated by Serendipity at the Bloggers Bash:

The next morning my heart beat wildly in my chest. Nope, it wasn’t a heart attack. It was excitement and maybe just a wee bit of anxiety over the original reason why we came to Europe. The London Bloggers Bash! Continue reading