Travel Essentials

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It’s summer vacation for many, and many of those go on actual vacations. I can’t be the only one who overpacks. I know I’m not. I’m certain that we will continue to overpack, and maybe this list will help you identify what some of your essentials are. If your essentials are different than mine, please share them in the comments.

  1. Surge protector – bringing the chargers go without saying.
  2. Ear phones – I prefer wireless.
  3. An extra Tote bag – I use this for quick hotel room clean-up, pamphlet collection, newspapers, ticket stubs, that sort of thing that’s not garbage, but you’re not sure what to do with it.
  4. Nightlight and a flashlight
  5. Sunglasses and sunscreen – regardless of the season, winter or summer, these will come in handy..
  6. 3 prong adapter
  7. Water bottle – bring it empty and fill it in after security. Stay hydrated.
  8. Lightweight Sweater – again, like number 5, this is a good thing to carry with you regardless of the season. In winter it’s a great extra layer, and in the summer, it will protect you from the air conditioning.
  9. Always carry an umbrella. Or leave it in your rental car. But keep it nearby. It will almost guarantee clear weather.
  10. KIndle or other E-reader to pass the travel time.

Check out these two links for other travel essentials:

Luvvie’s Travel Essentials
In-Flight Essentials

Packing for a Trip Around the World…Or Around the…Town?

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Author, Matthew Goodman was asked by Random House in the interview about his book, Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World:

RHRC: Nellie Bly carried only a single handbag [KB: carpetbag, not handbag at least not by today’s definition  – think Mary Poppins] for her trip around the world. How would you pack for such a trip? What would you consider the essentials to be brought along?

As a prompt, I posed the following question and promised an answer by July 10th: 

How would you answer the question?

I apologize for missing my self-imposed (but  publicly shared) deadline of July 10th by five days. In actuality, on July 10th, I was unpacking from a quick overnight for my niece’s graduation and then repacking for a retreat weekend that I am was enjoying this past weekend. However, here is my answer to Random House’s question of Mr. Goodman:

Using modern standards, I’d take a carry-on size suitcase with wheels that turn in all directions. I think the carry-on size is about the same as Nellie Bly’s carpetbag.

I would also need some kind of a small day bag or pocketbook with a crossbody strap to keep on my person with money and documents as well as my cell phone.

Nelli Bly didn’t just jump on a steamer and go. While she may not have needed a passport or visa or vaccinations, she and her team gave her an itinerary. It was not exactly spontaneous.

My carry-on suitcase is already an advantage over Nellie’s soft-sided carpetbag. It glides easily on its four roller blade wheels and because of that, I cn make it heavier than I might if it was in a carrying bag. However, since I’d still need ot lift it over curbs and into overhead bins, its weight needs to be reasonable; on the lower end even, especially if I want to buy things abroad. I’m partial to scarves, pins, and postcards, which are quite small and take up little space, but preparation is everything for any size journey, big or small, long or short.

I’ve also planned this excursion based on unlimited fund, meaning that I’ll have access to some kind of communication device, smartphone or satellite, whichever proves most reliable. Internet access for information, Instagramming, and blogging, and writing, of course, in journals or as notes for my book. There’s always a book. My smartphone will have maps and itinerary confirmations, emergency contacts (backed up with paper copies), and whatever modern world information and resources are necessary.

What are my essentials to pack?

How long will I be away? Will I need to dress up? Are there any cultural dress codes that I need to be aware of? Is there anything I should avoid wearing?

Let’s assume, instead of Nellie’s three months, I’ll travel for three weeks using a combination of plane, train, and public transportation. Since I don’t believe in disposable clothes, I’ll have to account for washing. Most hotels and hostels have washing facilities, and since this is 2019, I can buy washing supplies as I go, and if they’re too cumbersome to carry, I can leave them in the public space for the next person. I can also wear some items of clothing more than once between washings, but I will need a bag to keep the dirty laundry in while also keeping it away from the clean. I don’t normally go in for shoe bags, but if I have more than one pair of shoes to travel with, they will need a clean space to be packed in, so I’ll need one shoe bag per pair of shoes: dress shoes and sandals if needed; I’ll wear my sneakers daily (just like I do every day when I’m home).

I think four or five days worth of clothes that can be mixed and matched and swapped out to create other different looking outfits. I’d bring about seven days of underwear and socks. For me, two bras would be enough plus one to wear. This of course, depends on how hot it gets. It may just necessitate more frequent washing. Layers are essential: cotton t-shirt, 3/4 or long sleeve overshirt, lightweight cardigan sweater, and a foldable jacket if needed. This can remain in the front pocket of the carry-on for when it’s needed. When we went to Ireland in 2017, my daughter packed all shorts since it was August despite my telling her it would not be the same 90 degree temperature it was in our home state. She was freezing when the rain came down and the wind blew. My advice: check out the average temperature and weather expectations of anywhere you’re planning on traveling to.

For toiletries, the simpler, the better: Deodorant, q-tips, hairbrush (if I don’t bring it for my short short hair, I will need it desperately, and it doesn’t take up that much space), feminine hygiene products, hand lotion, Tylenol, and of course, my medications – enough for the entire trip (with copies of my prescriptions in my travel document case).

Chargers for all of my electronics, including investing in a solar charger just in case I’m in a place that has no electricity. I wouldn’t be planning on it, but you never know. I’d also have international converters/adapters. My essential electronics include my smartphone, Kindle Fire, wireless earphones, camera. My essential non-electronics include a journal and supply of pens as well as my sketchbook and mechanical pencil. I don’t think I’d carry my colored pencils. I’ve found that when I’ve brought them, they sit in the bag. I can sketch without them and write down the colors to use later on, kind of like a paint by number.

Definitely umbrella and sunglasses. A neck pillow (if there’s room enough) and an eye mask for sleeping on the train. I like to bring my own tea. Obviously some countries do tea extremely well (United Kingdom, Ireland, India, China), but for those other destinations and train station cafeterias, I prefer my own. I also like to have a scarf with me. It’s good for dressing up an outfit, covering a stain, rolling up as a pillow, and curling up under as a blanket if it’s too cold as all transports tend to be.

As I come to the end, I feel as though I’ve forgotten something. I must have forgotten something. Please remind me in the comments of what I have forgotten or what you’d bring in place of my listings or in addition to – I’d love to update my plans!

Patriotism Reclaimed

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One of the things I’ve thought about as I’ve witnessed the Republican Party implode and become who many of us already thought their politicians were, proving their cravenness, selfishness, greed and lack of moral character, I’ve wondered how the rest of us, the Democrats, the Progressives, the Resistance, the AMERICANS can continue to have the strength to speak out and to do whatever we can to bring our democracy back for everyone, and this statement from Jon Lovett last week said it perfectly:

“We had to figure out how to love our country enough for them too.”
This is what we’re doing because this is who we are.

The next statement of his that I’m sharing summed up how I, and many more, felt after the 2016 Election:

“I think we’ll look back on this as the moment where we decided that we weren’t participating because we were patriotic; we were patriotic because we were participating.” – Jon Lovett


I start every Saturday morning (whenever that mysterious time is) by listening to Jon Lovett’s Lovett or Leave It podcast from Crooked Media. Oftentimes, he says what I’m thinking. Last week I wasn’t able to listen until Monday morning because of some family obligations, and his last rant on the rant wheel was so profound, so relatable, so needed, that I listened to it twice. Then I posted the link on my Facebook, and added one of the two comments above that really got me in the feels, and I went on.

But I didn’t delete that podcast as I would have normally done. I don’t know why I kept it in my dowloads, but I did, and each time I listened to something else and deleted it, I saw it there, and I thought, in passing, it’s time to delete it, but I didn’t. Even this morning, his new podcast for the week dropped (I haven’t listened to it because I’m on retreat and in a different mindset, but will probably listen tonight because I can only go so long without Jon Lovett’s words of wisdom) and I still have yet to delete last week’s.

I’d recommend listening to the whole thing (and subscribing to hear each one), but I’ve queued this one up to that moment he spoke directly to me, and I think he’ll speak to you as well:

Lovett or Leave It, timestamped for his rant on Patriotism

Reflecting

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​With borrowed car I was able to attend my first retreat/workshop of the year! There is another one next week, but what brought me to keyboard was what happened when I arrived and then when I left, and on leaving I realized that it is something of a habit for me.

Each time is different. The subjects are different; the program director is often someone new, although not this time. I always walk in, greet the greeter, settle into my seat, drop my things, and return to the entrance to pay my fee and sign in.

When I arrived on Thursday, I was greeted by the associate with such joy that it almost took me aback. I missed last month, and I guess I had forgotten to email that I was coming since I was already registered, but her joy became my joy at belonging in this place; with these people. It filled me.

Upon leaving, I take more time than I should. I put away my tea cup and throw out my napkins. I say goodbye and I slowly return to my car. Then I sit in the car, whether it’s for two minutes or ten. On this day, I read from my daily Lenten reflection book that I hadn’t the time to read in the morning when I woke up. As I began to drive away, I saw the windmill/hermitage, its stones stark against the gray sky and the bare branches of the many trees that will fill in the coming weeks. I pulled over and took a picture, similar to the one you see here.

Windmill/Hermitage. (c)2019


It just spoke to me.
About halfway home, I realized that the car was very quiet.

It occurred to me that I never turn on the radio after an event at the retreat center. I continue to be at the retreat for my commute home, not wanting the morning (or the day; or the weekend) to end. It stays with me until…

I don’t really notice the changeover, but at some point on the drive, the stillness of the retreat house, the words of wisdom, the spirit, and the calm make way for the lists in my head that had been pushed aside temporarily. Once I realize that the retreat moments are gone, I’m practically home.

On this day, however, I decided to jot down a few thoughts, those very thoughts that you’re reading, and prolong the wonder of the spirit before writing the checks and making the phone calls.

I’ve been waiting to be called to post this. As you’ve already read, this was written during Lent this past spring, but it could have been written any time in the last few years. Every time I’ve returned to the “house” I’ve thought about this, and always meant to post it, but never did for whatever reason.

Now, I’m back at the House for my first weekend of the year. I say that as if I go on many weekends throughout the year. I do not. I’d love to do more, but that is simply not financially feasible.

When I walked in this time, I was greeted (by one sister and one associate) and I checked in. My son brought my suitcase down the hall to my room and after inspecting the recliner and deemed it worthy of his admiration, he hugged me goodbye and left. He asked if I wanted the door closed (I did not) and then I was alone. I usually unpack a few things so I’m not living out of a suitcase for the two and a half days, but today, I just sat in the recliner. I knew how it felt from the last weekend I was here, and I had requested this room mainly because of this chair. I almost never sit in the chair. I don’t find the wooden rockers comfortable and the side chairs just don’t make me feel whatever it is that I’m looking for, but when I sat in this chair, it was perfect. Not so comfortable that I’d fall asleep or so uncomfortable that I couldn’t relax or contemplate the weekend, but, like Goldilocks, I found it just right.

I sat.

Not for very long, but it only took a moment or two to feel it; that feeling of belonging. Of the world drifting away for a few moments. It was like a release of …everything – the bills, the kids, the politics, the lists; it all melted away. I didn’t notice it happening; I just knew that it did.

Whatever the subject of the retreat is, while it’s important and interesting, and giving me something to both hold onto and to reach for, it is only part of the retreat experience. Last night, we talked about resting, but not resting as in sleeping or brushing off this day and getting ready for the next; the resting that comes through meditation, which isn’t legs crossed on the floor, eyes closed, hands still, although it is that for some. It is the meditation that is contemplation, that is searching, but quietly, letting it come to me rather than my running after something that I can’t see. It’s a refresh, a recharge, but it is also more than that.

Through my bedroom window there is a copse of trees and through them there is a parking lot. I know this, but when I looked out this morning in the very early morning light, it looked like a lake and its stillness brought me stillness and it reminded me that wherever I am can be where I want to be.

Things are not what they appear to be. (c)2019


When I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, I typically roll over and return to sleep while I can. For an instant I think I’ll get up and write, but I never do. Not even here, but today that is what I’m doing. It’s five-thirty and this is what I’m doing, and it feels perfectly just right.
Once I finish, which is coming very quickly, I am going to put on a long sweater and sit out in the courtyard. I picture myself with a warm mug of tea but I know that I’m not getting the tea; I just want a few minutes outside feeling the breeze that I see blowing the leaves around. That’s how I will start today.

Good morning.

What Does the 4th of July Really Mean?

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We celebrate our independence, just before the Revolution, and that was the first step, the birth of this American Experiment. And so today, with so much of our norms being obliterated, and our patriotism being co-opted, our country changing, for the worse, right before our eyes, I thought I would do something different than previous Fourth of Julys. No grilling, no fireworks, no parades.

I started today by sitting quietly and reading the Constitution. It’s not very long. It made my heart smile as the language changed from British Colonial to more modern day parlance, as rights were enshrined and bestowed on those without access to them previously. I say it that way, because rights cannot be given, only recognized. In the reading, I remembered some familiar phrases, some amendments that I’ve read more than a few times, some I’ve never read. I interpreted some a little differently than I had previously.

I share my art and an immigrant’s podcast and a destination that opens up the world to you.

Happy 4th, but more importantly, Happy 243rd Birthday America. I know you’ve got a few more in you. Now, get to work!

I had this in my head for a few days before sitting down to art it. As I wrote it, and as I read the preamble to the Constitution this morning, I sang it Schoolhouse Rock style; it is the only way I remember it even if I’m only singing in my head. Original Art. (c)2019

Podcast: Stay Tuned with Preet (Bharara): What Patriotism Means to You (with Heidi Schreck)   

National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA

The United States Constitution 

Direct download of the Constitution 

President Obama’s Speech on the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March, 2015: 

Profile – Perennial Geek Girl Felicia Day

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​Felicia Day was born today in Huntsville, Alabama in 1979. She plays video games and the violin. She is at home in front of the camera and behind it. She’s an actor, a writer, and a web content creator. She is the mother to Calliope who was born in 2017.

I knew her name, I saw her work in places, but couldn’t place her beyond Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.

I was excited when she joined the cast of Supernatural and her character is almost Mary Sue-esque to both herself and myself. She encapsulates, both as Charlie Bradbury and herself, as the perpetual geek girl. Her Pop Vinyl figure was the first I bought because it was a mini-me – redhead, earphones, cell phone, messenger bag, layered clothes – I related! See?!

Pop Vinyl Charlie Bradbury from Supernatural, portrayed by Felicia Day, my collection. (c)2019


The home page of her website visually shows the dichotomy that many of us women feel, the duality of our lives – on the left, the t-shirted and jeans dressed gamer and geek, and on the right, the polished, professional, dare I say sexy feminist. It is a line that we all walk tenuously, although for us surviving the modern world is becoming more blurred and blended where we don’t need to hide our real selves from anyone else, including from ourselves.
She also has a bestselling memoir out: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), and a podcast, Felicitations, which I am listening to right now as I type this.

Also definitely check her out on Twitter.

Travel – Harriet Tubman – William Seward Statue, Schenectady, NY

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Statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward installed at the Schenectady (New York) Public Library. Dedication May 17, 2019. (c)2019

Attending the dedication and unveiling of this new statue was an incredibly moving and surprisingly learning experience. I thought I knew who Harriet Tubman was and her place in history, but in listening to the speakers, the experts in African-American history and the history of Harriet Tubman in particular, I was more than a little surprised at how insufficient my knowledge of Harriet Tubman was. My knowledge was merely on the periphery, and lacked a more indepth substance of her life and who she really was. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to impart this new found information on someone at the statue the following day.
Unless we’ve taken electives in high school or college that focus on the African-American experience, much of this substance is missing. I knew the basics. My daughter is currently studying for her seventh grade finals which include the Civil War, and I don’t think that Harriet Tubman is included much beyond those bare facts that I remembered. Her knowledge (and mine prior to this event) could fit into a thimble.

This would be a travesty in any study on the plight of the slaves, but it is even more so in my home state of New York, where Harriet Tubman eventually made her home.

Put simply, her life was a miracle. She was born on a Maryland plantation where her parents were slaves and where she was forced to work as well as being loaned out. She was named Araminta and called Minty. He didn’t change her name to Harriet until later on in her life, naming herself after her mother.

She was hit on the head by a large object by a slave owner in town. She was unconscious and bleeding, and it is believed that she sustained a concussion. From that time on, she would involuntarily fall asleep at all sorts of unpredictable times. She also had dreams and visions that she took as signs from G-d, calling them revelations. He guided her and she her people to the promised land of the North. She was often referred to as Moses because of her embracing of the Bible’s Exodus story.

Timeline of Harriet Tubman

She was illiterate, and never learned to read or write. I think that her statute outside a public library is such a testament to how far you can come and who you can be when you use whatever skills you have.

She made thirteen trips back and forth to get slaves north, her final rescue in 1860. Because of the Fugitive Slave Act, she brought the slaves in her charge including her parents further north to Canada, to St. Catherine’s where they lived for a time but found it too cold.

One of the things I didn’t know was her role in the Civil War after her time with the Underground Railroad. She was a cook, a nurse, scout and a spy. She carried a pistol. She guided a raid that liberated seven hundred slaves at Combahee Ferry, and that was after helping John Brown plan and recruit for his Harpers Ferry raid. Despite her service for the Union Army, she didn’t receive a government pension until 1899. She was also involved in women’s suffrage with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

She was unstoppable.

Harriet Tubman Historical Society

Harriet Tubman in Auburn, New York, 1911. Public Domain. (c)2019

William Seward, in addition to buying Alaska, was the governor of New York and the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. On the night of Lincoln’s assassination, he was also attacked as part of the same plot, and stabbed several times, but survived the attempted assassination and brutal assault.
He was an early abolitionist and provided monies for their works including the Stephen and Harriet Myers home in Albany, NY.

He and Harriet Tubman became close friends. Seward sold Harriet land in Auburn, New York where she settled and moved her parents there when it was relatively safe and St. Catherine’s became too cold. I’m not sure they found the Upstate New York climate much warmer than southern Canada. The land she owned became a refuge for her family and other former slaves. She sold some of it for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and founded a home for the aged for African-Americans. She lived there until her death in 1913. She was buried in Auburn with semi-military honors. 

She and Seward had become so close that she trusted he and his family to care for her niece while she continued her work as conductor on the Underground Railroad and her Union Army service, although the girl may have actually been Harriet’s daughter.

It was this friendship that formed the inspiration for the statue at the Schenectady Public Library.

Video of the Dedication

L-R, Top to Bottom: 1/2. Two views of Tubman-Seward Statue, 3. The three men who worked tirelessly to make this project happen, 4. Rev. Paul G. Carter, former pastor at the AME Zion Church in Auburn, NY, 5. Rev. Paul G. Carter, his wife and the sculptor with the statue, 6. The plaque on the statue, 7. Historian Marsha Mortimore with the statue.