4 Must Have Items On My Vacation Packing List

  1. Ibuprofen (Check)
  2. Clothes for any possible temperature(Check)
  3. Audio book downloaded (Check)
  4. Night-light (??)

Yup night-light. I’m not afraid of monsters under my bed, more of what goes bump in the night- like me- right into a bathroom door in an unfamiliar place.

I don’t sleep well when away-extra pain from travel, bad mattress, etc.so when awake, I use the rest room. The bathroom wasn’t far and I didn’t want to turn the big light on and wake my husband (occasionally I’m considerate like that). I thought I’d walk in safely by doing -you know- the zombie walk- with arms (or for me one arm and a cane) out in front, and, BAM! Walked right into the door. Now, I needed ibuprofen that I unpacked in the kitchen earlier.

While doing my best Ninja impersonation sliding up against wall (to avoid anything that might be in my path) from the bathroom to the bedroom door leading to the kitchen, it dawned on me-my phone has a flashlight! Once again, I prove that owning a smart phone does not necessarily mean I’m a smart user. Anyway…

I knew I wouldn’t fall back asleep, so I decided to read in the living room. For Christians it’s the season of Lent and I brought the book, Whispers of Rest, by Bonnie Gray with me. I first discovered her blog posts on (in)courage and felt a connection through our Asian American heritage. Her words drew me in and keep me inspired. I enjoyed her short daily chapters that ended with reflection questions. I answered them in a notebook, and then extended it to writing scenes for my current manuscript drafts.

That morning’s journaling along with my recent door ‘incident’, had me realize that I was searching blindly for any remedy/solution for the extra pain from my newer medical issues. I desperately wanted to at least feel the age I am instead of 30+ years more and feared the progression of my RSD symptoms. On the writing front, I had been researching for my manuscript drafts, yet still not sure which direction I wanted to go with them. Instead of hitting the proverbial wall, I hit a door (you know I’ve got to be different) 😊 Not that morning’s actual wooden door kind, but the exhausted, anxious, conflicted, pain filled, and defeated door-which hurts a heck of a lot more. It’s harder for me to open and walk through, that’s for sure.

You see, before our vacation, I felt depressed and worried that I wouldn’t enjoy our daughter’s last Spring break with us (she’s graduating from college in May-Wait, WHAT?!) 😊 My pain level prior to it made it difficult to leave the house for doctor appointments, let alone going somewhere fun. Thankfully, Hilton Head’s temperatures were much warmer than NC’s and we spent more time just being together than going places. However, we did see Captain Marvel (AMAZING Movie!!) but more importantly all of the cinema’s seats were recliners, Y’all! Perfect to keep my leg from swelling!

This year our mom/daughter beach day tradition began with a light breeze, warm sunshine, and hardly a cloud in the sky. As I watched and listened to the swishing of the lightly foaming waves reaching the shore, my body relaxed, and I sighed. It was as if the refreshing ocean air pushed out all that fight or flight that’s been stuck churning inside me in that one exhale. That’s one of the reasons that the beach is my happy place.

I love that I can’t see what’s beyond the horizon-reminding me that possibilities are endless. Something I easily forget. Later we watched two dolphins jump in and out of the water, almost as if to remind us it’s okay to take time to play without any other porpoise (sorry, couldn’t resist) in mind. The quiet moments just sitting with my daughter on our beach towels cradled by the warm sand, are just as precious as our conversations. I marveled at the fact that she was no longer the little girl wanting to build sand castles, but a young woman about to graduate college and start building her own life (although she still relied on me to pack the sun screen, water and snacks for the beach) 😊

Lately, my paths shifted way too often from the direction I originally intended. I had no control over which doors would slam shut. But I’m starting to realize it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even if it may feel that I’m blindly walking into doors when I could have used a flashlight to light the way. Hindsight is always 20/20. Some days it seems I’m failing at each opportunity I step toward, and I think maybe I should just stop trying, already. But if I keep stepping forward, (okay, more like stumbling forward), on a different course than what I’m comfortable traveling, somewhere along the wall I eventually find a door and choose to step through it.

Sometimes what’s on the other side of that door, may be a blessing/success others will notice, but the more important ones are usually felt in our heart. It might just refresh my soul-allowing me to create, not for perfection, but just to enjoy creating for myself in the moment.

This feeling of contentment may not announce itself with a parting of the clouds, or bright light “Alleluia!” moment. Instead, it’s in the quiet form of a hug from a loved one, lunch with supportive friends, an inspiring comment to a blog post I wrote, a student telling me the story I wrote about someone I loved touched them deeply, or the comfort of just sitting on the beach next to my family. I will have times when no matter how much I prepare or how frantic I may feel; I cannot control or foresee all possible outcomes to a situation-that’s where prayer(flashlight) comes in. Although, I still highly recommend packing a night-light.

What would be the top 4 items on your packing list?


I’m also sharing this post at:  Welcome Heart.








     Has anyone else ever gone to the store and realized you left your list on the fridge, but think you remember what you need, only to return home and find out that you bought everything except the one thing on your list that you really needed? That one thing is usually something like, say, toilet paper? Please tell me I am not alone here.

     I rely on my lists. My obsession with lists almost matches my obsession with research. Sticky notes are my best friends! I was so excited to find that I could have post its on my desktop so now my home screen looks like a patch work quilt of reminders.

     When I worked on my rough draft of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, and as I work on what I am writing now, I make to do lists from my character’s point of view. What would be the character’s top five things to get done in a day? It helps me to flesh out their personalities.

     I have always made lists, but making a list took on greater meaning to me shortly after my RSD diagnosis. I struggled to accept that pain now intruded on every hour of my day. I had to give up the career I worked so hard to obtain and worse- I could not be the active, involved mom or wife I once was. I sank into a depression.

     During this time, my doctor suggested that I make a list of things I wanted or needed to do each day.  I would get to check the item off with a feeling of accomplishment. Focus on what I could still do and not what I lost. Easier said than done, but I am a people pleaser (you had to see that coming didn’t you?), so I started on my list:

– wake up ( I might as well be sure there is always one thing I can accomplish immediately…and if I don’t get to check it off-it  won’t matter anymore anyway…)
– get my daughter ready for school (remember she was 4 at the time)
– make a grocery list (yes, I wanted to remember to make another list…)
– iron (who created a school’s jumper with so many darn pleats anyway?)

       The list went on with several more items. As you can imagine, there was no way I could accomplish over 20 items(yes 20) that I put on that list and the anxiety it caused only made my pain worse. I failed at making a list-where does one go after that??

        A very good friend suggested I limit the list to 5 things—genius! But her best advice– I needed to realize that the listed items would not define me as a good person/mom/wife/daughter. If I couldn’t get to all five, just move it to the next day. This Type A personality had a tough time accepting this sudden shift in my life that RSD delivered.

        However, after spending much time praying for strength, I wrote my new list:

 – wake up (Easy and still my best way to start the list)
– spend time with my family
– iron (or throw in dryer with wet towel and remove immediately)
– rest (another easy one, I had no choice)
– write

   That first year I had to accept my life had changed. I also found out that I hated change more than I thought I did(and I thought I hated it a lot). I have good pain days where I can push through most of it and manage to do an additional couple items not on that list. There continue to be bad pain days when wake up is the only item checked off on my list.

     To do lists are necessary for most of us over the age of say 9, but we have to resist the urge to focus only on the tasks to get done.  If we make ourselves so stressed about the tasks ahead, we might forget to enjoy the day we are Blessed with before the To-Do list even gets started. We can always shift a task to another day. Oddly enough my task of ironing still gets placed on the list for the next day, then the next day……

     What are your top 5 items on a To-Do list?  Please share below.