Travel – Kids’ Fun Bags

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​For those of us in the US, the next two weeks have us frantically preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday. For a holiday that is supposed to be a time to settle in with our loved ones and reflect on our lucky we are, how grateful we are to have our needs and wants met as well as to think about how to help those less fortunate in meaningful ways, it sure is a stressful, anxiety-filled, busy time. For the US, with so many diverse cultures, ethnicities, and religions, Thanksgiving is one of the few things that we share. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but we can all be a part of the Thanksgiving mindset. We are all thankful for something, and one of those things is where we are privileged to live. Many countries around the world set aside a day for thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving in the US is also the busiest travel day of the year. We are waiting in lines at the airport, on the highways, at the convenience stores for that last cup of coffee to get us there. Those of us that travel with kids know how difficult it can be to map out the route, pack the snacks, and keep the kiddos entertained over hill and dale on the way to Grandma’s (or whomever’s) house.

While we were on vacation this past August, I set up a small paper gift bag for each of my children, a travel bag that they received once they were in the car and we were at least one hundred miles from home. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go over. Their ages at the time were 22, 14, and 13, and they each have their own phones that alternate entertaining them and boring them to tears. I did think that maybe they were too old for this sort of thing, but still, I thought it would be something different.

They surprised me. Even my oldest seemed to like his travel bag. He’s not one to complain anyway. I sneaked a look into the back seat, and saw him perusing each item curiously, and I knew that no matter what else, this was a success!

What did I include, you ask?

1. A small, plain, paper gift bag, about the size to fit a paperback book. I didn’t put their names on the bag so I could re-use them, but I did attach a colored paperclip to each one so I’d know who’s belonged to who since some items were child specific. The bag could also be used for their garbage that tends to accumulate on the floor at their feet.

2. Bottle of water

3. Small unlined notepad and a pen

4. Candy – M&Ms, Swedish fish, Skittles, something that came in a package with many small candies.

5. Package of Mini-Muffins.

6. Granola bar

7. A half sheet of paper with a list of apps they should download that were related to our destination. If Grandma lives in another state, it might be interesting for them to check out a few new apps, maybe a game too.

8. A folded paper with list for a Scavenger Hunt. They really (all of them) had great fun with this.

9. Netflix password.

10. Some things that I included for our vacation that I would not include for the Thanksgiving holiday were: a card with the hotel information on it, the phone number for weather information for my daughter who is interested in such things, Tim Horton’s gift card for $5 but any fast food gift card would do, and a packet of their vacation money.

What would you include? Share below!

My Essential Packing vs. Nellie Bly’s

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​Prompt: Author, Matthew Goodman was asked this by Random House in the interview about his book, Ninety Days….

How would you answer the question?

RHRC: Nellie Bly carried only a single handbag for her trip around the world. How would you pack for such a trip? What would you consider the essentials to be brought along?
My answer follows, and as with many of my writings, it veered off the very specific topic of what essentials should be considered to bring along. I may give this a go as part of my summer writing. It would be nice to see if I can stick to a limited topic and a deadline, so lets’s give it a deadline of July 10th. Sound good? It must be; I just felt my anxiety do a little somersault.

I’ve traveled alone only a handful of times, and in those times, only once was I not meeting someone else or staying in somewhat familiar surroundings. That one time was the adventure of a lifetime, and I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. Unfortunately, packing was not one of those things that improved over time. I always take more than I need and more than I should.
Since that first whirlwind solo trip across the Atlantic to meet my college roommate, I continue to keep a list during and after each trip of all the things I brought that I did not use as well as all of the things I forgot. The former list is always much longer than the latter.

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My Easter Bag

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​It’s hard to believe that Easter was only one week ago. Most of my Holy Week was spent in church between morning prayer services, the parish community dinner, evening prayer and mass. There is a lot going on and a lot packed into the second half of the week following Palm Sunday. The three days of Holy Week prior to Easter Sunday is called the Triduum, which is basically one long service beginning on Holy Thursday with the sign of the Cross and ending at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night the same way. At our parish we have hospitality or receptions on Saturday morning and evening, the former in celebration of the lighting the Easter fire and the latter in celebration of welcoming the new members to the Catholic church through the RCIA program.

It’s very fulfilling and spiritual, but it’s long and it’s tiring. Since my first Vigil, one of my yearly customs is that I will bring a small tote bag along with my usual purse to carry a water, cough drops, tissues. I’ll add my worship booklet so I have it for the entire three days.

At some point during Holy Week, I’ll realize that I don’t really need my pocketbook if I toss my wallet and kindle and phone and other necessities into the tote bag. That way I only have one bag to carry and keep track of.

Genius, right?

Well, every year, I’m surprised by the time Saturday afternoon rolls around at how heavy this tote bag is. I don’t realize it’s getting heavier as I add things one at a time until the very end when I go to grab it out of the car, and it pulls me back in.

Here is a picture of it when I arrived at church for the lighting of the Easter fire on Saturday morning:

The inside of my Easter bag on Holy Saturday morning. (c)2019

It has my large wallet, kindle, hearing aids, extra batteries for the hearing aids, clipboard and pad if the urge to write grabs hold of me, a pen, packet of tissues, bag of cough drops, daily reflection book for Lent, cell phone, rosary, Triduum worship aid, any of the other worship aids that I’ve collected during the week, bottle of cold water, umbrella for the upcoming rain (it wasn’t raining when I arrived but it was raining very hard when we all went outside to light the fire). I think there may have been a few other odds and ends in there. All I know is it was really heavy by the time I pulled it out of the back seat.
Admittedly, and embarrassingly, this one week later, it still has stuff in it, and needs to be completely emptied and put away. It doesn’t have much, but still, it’s long past time.

30 Days of Nano – Day 2

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What’s your minimum that you need to just sit down and write?

I need a notebook/journal/document folder and a pen or keyboard. My notebook fits in my purse, and I pack away an extra pen and a pencil. I don’t normally use a pencil, but they don’t run out of ink, so they’re a good emergency backup.

Have your minimum supplies with you so you can always sit down and write some words, a brief stream of consciousness, a ten minute free-write.

Write daily.

And to write daily, be ready.

April: Quiet, Rebirth, Reassessment: Reflection

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​I reassess how things are going at various times throughout the year. I think some of that attitude is due to therapy, the constant thinking on how I’m doing, how I’m feeling, what’s new, what’s stale, etc.

I usually start with Rosh Hashanah and look back again at New Year’s

Spring is another good time to reassess how things are going, personally, professionally, spiritually, whatever needs assessing. I’m constantly assessing and reassessing my prayer life (when, how, what’s working, what’s not), my family life (discipline, family time, housekeeping, vacation plans, if any), and my writing life (outlines, content, major changes). Those are probably the three biggest for me.

What in your life needs a reassessment?

Ask yourself these questions:

Is this still working for me?

If not, what is it that’s not working?

What changes will help me move forward?

What can I do to do/be better? (Sometimes, it’s simply a minor thing, like getting up half an hour earlier or even wearing a favorite scarf or pin.)

The sun is shining more, the winds have died down, and it’s a bit warmer out (not this year in the Northeast, but we can hope for the coming change). It’s a good time to make changes when we’re coming out of our winter shell.

What changes will you make this month?

Putting Together Your Writer’s Kit

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​Towards the end of this week, my biannual writing group returns for the spring. That weekly sojourn for a few weeks to recharge the writer and see what we can do. In addition to that, this month marks the first time I’m embarking on Camp Nanowrimo, the summer camp version of November’s event. This is a little different, a little more at ease. I was invited to a cabin in Tennessee, so I thought I’ve never been to Tennessee, why not. (Just a quick note: the cabins are virtual – it’s a chat room with a few like-minded writers.Unfortunately, I won’t be traveling to Tennessee.) It will give me the impetus to do more with my Wales book, maybe get an outline or an ongoing theme, but definitely something.

With these two embarkments and my commitment to this site, I need to get my writing tools in order so that they can easily be adapted to any environment: home, library, coffee shop, cabin in the woods.

In the past I’ve used a first aid kit that I’ve gotten for free at Target. They usually have them readily available in the spring, and are often on sale – buy three items, get the kit for free. It’s a good deal, and if you actually pay for the kit, it’s not more than $6.

Currently, I’m using a slightly bigger version – this one is a Bible case. I’m sure you’ve seen them in the religion section of any bookstore. They’re large enough to fit a Bible, a notebook for Bible study, pens, etc. The one I use, I found at a bargain warehouse for $6.99. It fits everything I need, and it’s small enough that I can toss it into a tote bag to go wherever I need to. It also has a handle like a handbag, so it can be carried on its own.

None of the bags, or writing tool kits need to cost a small fortune if you know what you need ahead of time and can search for your most important specifications.

And, of course, you can reuse something you already have hidden in your closet.

The basic layout of my tool kit is that it zips around, and has one flat pocket on the outside back. Inside, I can open it to lay flat. On both sides is a slip pocket. In the center spine is an attached fabric bookmark. It is religious in nature, but if that bothers you, it can be removed with scissors. On the right side of mine, over the slip pocket, is a clear half pocket and four loops for writing instruments. 

Depending on how large your items are, you might be able to fit a cell phone and very flat wallet inside. That way, you only need to carry the case. I usually can’t do that, but one day, maybe.

What do I carry to make my case a writer’s tool kit?

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March: Blustery, Green, Wet: Reflection

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A Self-Retreat

​Right about now, the middle to end of March, I begin to feel the heaviness. The clouds are fat with moisture, lumbering across a grey sky. When the sky is blue, the air is wintry cold. yesterday was grey, but I didn’t wear a jacket. I did, however have on my snood and gloves. That was enough to trick my body into thinking it was warmer than it was.

It’s not just the weather that’s heavy. Things are picking up for school assignments. Drama club has finally ended, but it’s been replaced by notes to parents for help on those end of year assignments, and how can it be the end of the year already? There’s Easter upcoming, full weekends, bills to pay, taxes to do, and nowhere to escape.

I’ve kept busy with my kids, our weekly television viewing, a church breakfast, reading Chernow’s Grant, tagging along to find The Lost Book of Moses, two days of reflection that were everything I’d hoped they would be, and more, and still not enough.

One or two times a year I try to give myself a retreat. A self-guided retreat, some planned out and some spontaneous, encompassing both spiritual and writerly things and if I’m lucky a tiny bit of travel, too.

I am lucky this weekend to be heading out on a spiritual-slash-writing retreat and I hope to bookend the weekend with two days of my own guidance.

If you don’t have a retreat center nearby, I would highly recommend giving yourself a self-retreat.

Begin by blocking out a few days in a row. I would suggest a minimum of three days. If that’s not possible, try and arrange your regular work days off to be two consecutive days.

Choose a theme. What are you trying to get out of this time “away”? Are you looking to get something done? Are you looking to get nothing done? Quiet time? Or contemplation? Meditation and prayer? Silence and solitude?

Will you bring music along?

Will you bring food or eat out?

Will you return home at times or is one of the objects to get away from home except for sleeping?

Be flexible, but plan your itinerary. You don’t want to spend most of your limited time trying to figure out what to do.

Have a map and/or a GPS.

Have a fully charged cell phone and keep the charger in your car in case you run out of battery power.

Even if you don’t normally use one, bring a journal. You can record where you went, the weather, what you saw, what you ate, what stood out to you, what you were thinking.

If you draw, bring a sketchbook and a pencil.

Dress in layers and bring a sweater or shawl. Wherever you are, you will either be too hot or too cold, I guarantee it.

Unless your phone functions as one, bring a camera. Looking at pictures later can highlight a memory.

Most importantly, know what you hope to get out of it before you go.

For awhile last year, I would take myself out to lunch once a month to “write”, and after awhile, it was rote, and I was getting nothing new out of it; nothing helpful. This kind of self-retreat is a good way to jump-start your creativity, your motivation, but also to jump-start your SELF.

[The above photo is from my first self-retreat. On that one, I had a little guidance from Father Jim Martin’s enhanced ebook, Together on Retreat, which can be found on Amazon.]