I Want To Pack It In When I Have To Pack


It’s a good news, bad news kind of week.The good, well in fact great, news is that I will be engaging in international travel in just a few days on a church mission trip. The bad news is that I have to pack for it. While I love traveling, I hate packing. I’d rather clean my toilet (my least favorite household chore) than pack. On second thought, I don’t want to do either!

Putting stuff in a suitcase isn’t that big a deal. It’s determining WHAT to put in the suitcase. Since I’m a be prepared kind of gal, I want to be armed with the appropriate clothing and items to deal with any situation which might arise. The weather might be hot. The weather might be cold. There might be a dressy event. There might be a time to exercise. I might feel under the weather. I might get a boo boo. The possibilities are endless as to what i might need while I am away from home.

To face this seemingly monumental task of packing for eight days of travel, I decided to put my brain to use. Why not research packing? Surely that will solve my travel preparation dilemma–or not.

One of the first suggestions I read was to lay out all the items you think you should take with you; then put half the items back. Clearly overpacking is a big issue. Sorry, if I follow this sage advice, that still leaves me with half of my closet and half of the items from my bathroom. My suitcase is not that big, and the airline have a 50 pound limit after all. Still stressing.

Oh, here’s a brilliant suggestion as to what to remove from your suitcase–your pet! I kid you not. This suggestion actually appeared in a serious packing article. Apparently other pet owners have the same issue I do. When the suitcase comes out, the cat goes in. I see a monster to be dealt with; the feline sees a new place to nap. Check. Cat removed. Still dealing with what to put in on top of all the cat hair that is now in my suitcase.

Eventually, I’m sure I will determine what to take with me and what to leave home. Then I am faced with the issue of how to put all this stuff in the suitcase. Yes, there’s an art to it. Shoes take up the most room, so they are packed first and are placed around the inside perimeter of the suitcase. Since I have very small feet (size 5) and not that many shoes to begin with, this step isn’t so difficult for me. Packing experts advise you to wear your heaviest pair while traveling, so I have to plan my travel wardrobe around my sneakers.

Now, to place the clothing in my suitcase. Heavens, I have been doing it wrong all these years. Silly me, I thought you just folded the attire and placed it in the suitcase like you would place the item in a dresser drawer. WRONG! Two methods are available–rolling and the burrito. Rolling clothes allows the traveler to conserve space, reduces wrinkling of the packed clothes, and makes it easier to find the clothes in the suitcase. The burrito method calls for similar clothing to be wrapped together like a burrito. I can’t follow the burrito method of wrapping a newborn in a blanket, so I don’t even want to attempt to wrap my clothes.

All this talk of rolls and burritos has me hungry. Unbelievably, none of the articles I read about packing addressed how to place snacks in one’s suitcase. Just guessing that everyone takes all their snacks on the plane in carry on luggage because you should always keep your valuables with you. And my snacks of choice will be quite valuable to me when I am sick of complimentary peanuts and unfulfilled by the lack of meal service in the economy class cabin where I’ll be sitting. OK, no snacks in the suitcase.

Smart packers use every available space in the suitcase. Thus, it is suggested that small items be stuffed inside your shoes. Hmm! Better make sure that the shoes don’t smell before cramming my unmentionables inside them. Moms always advise that clean underwear be worn, and I’m guessing that “clean” is broadly defined to mean not stinky.

Then there’s layering. No, I don’t mean getting a new hairstyle before saying bon voyage. Apparently some clothes do have to be folded. If that’s the case, then layering is the appropriate method to use. Folded garments should be placed on top of rolled garments to avoid wrinkling. Wrinkles must be avoided at all costs because you don’t want to have to pack a heavy iron. Who wants to iron while traveling? Not me. I don’t even want to iron when I’m at home.

Speaking of appliances, let’s not forget that foreign countries pose the challenge of different electrical capacities. An adaptor is essential if you want to use items such as a hairdryer there. Fortunately, the adaptor is very small and could easily fit inside a packed shoe. And who cares if your adaptor stinks afterwards?

I am going to be a happy camper when my plane takes off Sunday evening. Yes, I am thrilled to be going to a beautiful destination for a meaningful reason, but I will be even happier that the dilemma of packing will be behind me. And if I fail in successfully packing, what’s the worst that can happen? No one in Budapest will know me, so who cares if my clothes are wrinkled, inappropriate for the weather, and stinky?

Just WONDER-ing: What do you dislike the most about traveling? Do you have any helpful packing tips?



They Say It’s Your Birthday!

So I was told, I was born on September 19th. Although I was there for the momentous event, I don’t recall any of it. All I did was simply show up, so why the big fuss to honor me on the anniversary of this occurrence every year? At least three other people–my mom, my dad, and the OB–had more to do with my arrival than I did. Where are the kudos for them?

Making an annual big deal about the fact that one exists seems a bit self-centered to me. But this practice has existed for a very long time. The Romans are considered the first to have celebrated birthdays, but they only celebrated men’s birthdays, at least initially. No wonder that civilization crumbled; approximately half of the population was ignored on their big day.

Early Christians opposed birthday celebrations because such a celebration was connected to the pagan culture of the Romans. How is a birthday celebration pagan? Well, the Romans decided to put candles on birthday cakes to honor their moon god. And we thought the candles were merely placed on the top of a cake to show the birthday boy or girl’s age…

Germans popularized the practice of having a cake at a birthday party in the late 18th century. Hard to imagine a birthday party without a birthday cake, isn’t it? The eating part of “eat, drink and be merry” at a birthday party clearly is synonymous with eating cake today.

But what type of cake will be served? Since the birthday boy/girl is being honored, hopefully his/her favorite cake is what is selected for the birthday party menu. To absolutely no one’s surprise, a survey referenced by the Norfolk Daily News revealed that chocolate was the most popular birthday cake flavor. Bunnies will be happy to learn that carrot cake came in seventh. My favorite birthday cake, strawberry, did not even make the top ten, which just goes to show that there is no accounting for taste.

But is the person for whom the birthday cake is prepared (or bought) really all that special? The birthday boy may think of his birthdate as “his” big day, but a whole bunch of other people in this world share the date with him. I, of course, live in the United States. September is the most common month for births in this country. And the most common birthdate for Americans to have been born is either September 9th or September 16th, depending on which study you accept. Regardless, of which of these days is the most popular of all days to be born, clearly mid-December is not only a time for holiday cheer but for conceiving an addition to your family as well. Beware of that mistletoe!

Rather than using a birthday to be the center of attention, maybe the birthday boy should use the event to reflect on what he has been given. Regardless of what presents his friends and loved ones may give him to mark the occasion currently, he received the best gift of all the day he was born, i.e., his life. Reflecting on that enormous blessing and how it is being used is a better use of the event than frivolous (and undoubtedly fattening) merrymaking.

Samuel Longhorn Clemens, better known under his penname of Mark Twain, made a profound observation when he said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” We don’t have anything to say about being given life or when we are born. But once we have life, then the ball is in our court to make the most of what we have been given. We can spend our life merely having a ball and chasing pleasure. Alternatively, we can act with purpose and use the life we have been given to make a difference in the world in which we find ourselves.

I personally don’t believe that I was put here on the earth simply to make a big deal about having lived another year. Rather than just sharing some birthday cake to celebrate my big (getting bigger every year) day, I want to share myself, my talents, and my resources with those around me on a regular basis. Today I am sharing my words with you, and that’s way better than offering you a piece of birthday cake that isn’t healthy for you anyway.

The Beatles had a hit song in “They Say It’s Your Birthday.” When it is your birthday, what will you say? Will it be all about you and “your” big day?

Just WONDER-ing: Is celebrating your birthday self-centered? Have you experienced the day you found out why you were born (other than the obvious biological explanation)? Other than birthday cake, what do you want to share with those around you on your big day?








411 On 9/11

The nation paused to remember the tragic events of September 11, 2001 earlier this week. Flags were flown at half-staff, special programs were held, and familiar video footage of the events were replayed. Instead of “Remember the Alamo,” the mantra was “Remember 9/11.”

Remembering is not the issue for those of us who were alive on 9/11 and were glued to our radios, TVs, and computers while the unbelievable events unfolded. I mean who could forget those horrifying scenes and chilling news reports? A common theme on Facebook this week has been to recount where one was when they were informed of what was taking place.

To quote Walter Cronkite from the “You Were There” series, “It was a day like all days.” People went about their business as they always did. There was nothing to indicate at the outset that this day would be any different than the day which preceded it. I was at my office when the receptionist came in with the news that a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers. Even more unsettling was the realization that this incident was believed to be a planned terrorist attack.

One minute I was in my safe cozy little world wielding control over the cases my office handled. The next my head was reeling because the security rug had been pulled out from under me, and my country spun out of control. How could something so violent and catastrophic happen in the United States? If I were a resident of say South Sudan, the most violent country in the world, it may have been just another ordinary day filled with death and destruction. But this was the U.S.A.!

Unbelief soon turned to fear. What if this was just the beginning of an attack against this country? How could I protect my young children? What should I do? My first thought was that being in close proximity to a military base probably made local residents sitting ducks. Why, I’d flee to the North Georgia mountains where my parents had a summer home on a mountainside in a lightly populated area. Not much likelihood of terrorists showing up there unless they needed a mountain vacation after wreaking havoc on us infidels.

I attempted to get through the day as if it were a normal one. Only it was anything but normal. An eerie silence hung in the air. Being five minutes from an Air Force base meant that planes flying overhead was commonplace, but none were flying. Traffic on the busy road near my office was light. I learned that the base gates had been locked down; no one was getting on and no one was getting off the base. So much for going to the court hearing that afternoon with my client who was stuck on base. No worries; court hearings were cancelled.

It should have been a relief to head home to my house, a place of familiarity and security, but the drive home was surreal. Few cars were on the road, and I saw military members armed to the teeth patrolling the base perimeter. All I wanted to do was go to bed and wake up the next morning to find that the nightmare of 9/11 was really only a nightmare.  Alas, the events were sadly all too true.

9/11 may have been a day that will live in infamy for our generation, but it was still a day like every other. The sun set in the west, followed by the sun rising in the east the next morning. Despite the loss of just under 3,000 people killed, most civilians, and an additional 6,000 being injured, time marched on.

Fast forward to 2018. What’s different? OK, yes the year is seventeen higher than when the Twin Towers were attacked. There’s a memorial area (which I have seen in person) where the Twin Towers once stood. Security is much tighter in airports. Who knows what would happen if someone (who shall, ahem, remain nameless) carried lemon body spray over 3.4 ounces onto a plane? Surely, to everyone’s great relief, that will never happen as the dangerous liquid would be confiscated and tossed. (And I had just purchased that bottle too!)

I’d like to be able to say that 9/11 resulted in a continuing pattern of national unity and a concern for being “one nation under God, indivisible.”  But, what we see today is nothing even remotely close. Americans are at each other’s throats ideologically. If a terrorist tried to sneak up on us, we’d probably be too busy squabbling over who said what to whom, what someone tweeted, or who is/isn’t a hero to notice his approach. Has no one ever heard that “a house divided cannot stand?” United we stand; divided we fall. Divisiveness is pervasive in our country. Hope everyone is preparing for a fall, and I don’t mean a tower being taken down by an outside enemy.

I know what my dear departed Mom would say about Americans today.  Well, actually, she’d say two things. First, she’d say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Hmm.  Likely to be lots of dead air on the political shows and plenty of white space in the newspaper. Mom would also urge everyone to simply “agree to disagree.” No one is going to change anyone else’s opinion by verbal attacks, so acknowledge that and move on.

Back in 2001, the enemy was a terrorist. The enemy today is not a terrorist or even anyone from a foreign country. The Pogo comic strip put it best while parodying a message from U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (a maternal ancestor of mine!) regarding the Battle of Lake Erie: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Americans are our own worst enemies. Who needs terrorists to explode anything when we are fully capable of imploding what we have on our own?

While it’s fine to remember 9/11 and to regurgitate the facts and figures relating to its horrors, remembering isn’t the key. We Americans need to learn from this historical event. The safety and security of our country is fragile; at any minute, the world as we know it could be turned upside down. 9/11 should teach us that we cannot be complacent. We need to be ever vigilant for threats to our country–from without or from within.

Just WONDER-ing: What do you remember about 9/11? What lessons should Americans take away from 9/11?






Funeral For A Friend

Funerals have dominated the news recently, and it has been very sad. Yes, we have lost big names such as Aretha Franklin and Sen. John McCain, but what’s even sadder is the way that their funerals played out. Silly me. I thought that funerals were supposed to be about the dearly departed and to celebrate his or her life. Alas, funerals today are merely one more stage for political agendas to be aired and societal flaws to be showcased.

Funerals I attended in the past were solemn occasions. Okay, I must admit that as a young child I did get a good laugh at my maternal grandfather’s funeral when my cousin threw up in his mother’s purse during the service. My grandfather, Daddy Joe as we grandkids called him, was well-known for his humor, so I suspect that he would have been glad that I could laugh at his send off. But neither laughter nor solemnity were the reported themes for the celebrity funerals in the news of late..

Since Senator John McCain was a politician, it is understandable that politics would somehow creep into  his funeral. But rather than lauding the political achievements of this former POW and long-time public servant, his daughter took the opportunity to lambast her father’s political adversary, Donald Trump. Whether or not her comments about the sitting president were accurate, they were certainly not the appropriate focus for her dad’s funeral. Let’s hear about how great your father is and how much you will miss him, Meghan–not how President Trump spouts “cheap rhetoric.” Discuss the departed and not the despised, please.

The press doesn’t get a free ride in this situation either. Reports of the event focused on controversy and negativity surrounding the funeral. Isn’t there enough of the ugly every day? Can’t we simply celebrate a man’s life and leave the bad stuff for another time?

You’d think that it was a wedding that was being thrown instead of Sen. McCain’s funeral. Who was invited and who wasn’t got just about as much attention as to who was being laid to rest. In the case of President Trump, reports were that he had been invited NOT to attend.  And then there’s the seating–often a hot button issue for nuptials. Complaints were aired that Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, were not seated in a prominent/important enough position in the National Cathedral for the funeral. Why, GASP, Ivanka was forced to sit with members of the current administration and former White House officials. Should she have to endure sitting with “the help?” So much for peace on earth; we can’t even get peace in a place of worship..

Again, what can we expect when politicians at a D.C. funeral are involved? But when a music icon is the dearly departed and the funeral’s in Detroit, surely there would be sweet music and sweet vibes there. HA!  Aretha Franklin’s service was just as controversial. Instead of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” we had #MeToo.

Singing sensation Ariana Grande was asked to sing Aretha’s hallmark song and it was a showstopper. I don’t know about her voice, but everyone was captivated by Ariana’s LBD with emphasis on the “L.”  Ariana had the black right for the funeral, but mini skirts are not really appropriate attire for this type of solemn event. Is that outfit respectful?

Former President Bill Clinton did not appear to have any issue at all with the amount of skin flaunted by Ariana. He was pictured prominently in the media with a big grin on his face like he was eyeing Ariana for an afternoon snack.  Hey! He didn’t have sex with that woman, he just ogled her….

At least Clinton only leered at Ariana. Bishop Charles Ellis was accused of groping her. While congratulating Ariana on her singing in front of all the funeral attendees, he wrapped his right arm around her and pressed his fingers against the side of her chest. Yup! He was fingered for inappropriate behavior with photographic evidence.

The pastor who eulogized Aretha at the funeral got in hot water as well. He went off on rabbit trails and denounced police violence against African-Americans and criticized Black Lives Matter. Not that these aren’t timely topics which may need to be addressed, but must we address them as we are trying to say our goodbyes to a music legend? The problems will still be there tomorrow, but Aretha won’t.

Instead of trying to be entertained or educated at a funeral, why don’t we return to the fairly simple concept of grieving for the loss of a human life? Let’s rejoice in the good times we had with the departed and how he/she touched our lives for the better.  Let’s dab our eyes with hankies to wipe away tears instead of pointing our fingers in the face of others who aren’t the subject of the service. Let’s avoid spectacles and speculate on the meaning of life and how to best carry ours on since we aren’t in the casket.

Perhaps Sir Elton John had it right with his “Funeral For A Friend” on the smash double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The song is an instrumental he created while thinking of what kind of music he would like at his funeral. Lyrics were noticeably absent from the haunting song. Funerals might be more meaningful if those attending spoke less and thought more about the departed specifically and the meaning of life in general.  And friend, don’t we all want our funerals to be like that?

Just WONDER-ing: What do you think the purpose of a funeral is? How should respect be paid to the dearly departed at this type of a service? Have you envisioned how your funeral will be? How you’d like it to be?