Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Carry-On Vacation

My husband and I recently returned from a two-week Caribbean cruise. It was warm. It was sunny. It was luxurious. Last year we went on a one week cruise that visited some of the same islands, but we did not mind the repeat destinations. There is always lots to do, even if it is just reading a book.

Last year my husband proposed an experiment. We would only pack a carry-on travel bag. In a previous life I traveled a lot for work. And I mean a lot. I got so that I could pack for a one week trip in just a carry-on, so I knew I was up to my husband’s challenge. The following is my approach:
Think about what you really need for a week in the Caribbean (or anywhere you are headed). I know I’m particular to some of my toiletries, so I knew I had to pack those. I bought travel sized everything; toothpaste, shampoo, conditioners, moisturizers, etc. I made sure he also packed travel sized toothpaste so that we would have enough.
I then considered the evening dress code. On this particular cruise line there is only one formal night per week, so I packed one knit dress that was appropriate; the type that you can roll up in a ball and it hangs up with no wrinkles. I then packed a pair of black slacks and three sparkly dress tops. There is nothing that says you cannot repeat your evening wardrobe. Plus, who is going to notice that the top I wore on Sunday evening is the same one I’m wearing Thursday? I packed one pair of nicer, black flip-flops that I wore each evening.
For day-wear I thought about the fact that I was going to the Caribbean. I packed two bathing suits and one cover-all. I also made sure I had beach flip-flops. Those can also be worn around the ship during the day. I put in two pairs of shorts and a tee-shirt for each day. For my travel days I wore walking shoes that would be good for the shore excursions I intended to take. Of course I made sure I had a week’s worth of underwear. Done.
Having such success last year I thought about doing the same for this trip. After all, I knew the amenities of the cruise ship (they give you some wonderful soap that made me leave my shower gel at home). However, as I packed for this trip I realized that there were a few additional items that I would like to take if I were to be away for two weeks. So I broke out the bigger suitcase that would have to be checked. Our airline allowed for one free, checked bag so I thought I’d take advantage of that.
I still packed frugally, and ended up with room to spare. I also knew I could (and would) do a load of laundry on this trip. The good news about this approach was that I did not have to lug a carry-on into the passenger cabin of the plane. I just had a backpack filled with items I did not want lose as my one personal bag. It also doubled as a great beach/shore excursion bag. My husband also packed a checked-luggage suitcase this year.
As a result of these two lean excursions, my husband has come up with another experiment he wishes to try. Pack nothing and shop at each port for our necessities. I’m not sure I could do without my hair products, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Year of Grace

If I were to describe 2014 I would say that it was a year of grace. Grace is a theme that I continually turned to; of which I was continually reminded. According to the word itself has many uses. The grace that I found is best described as “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.” Further, it is the “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virtue coming from God.”

In 2013 I kept a gratitude jar and wrote about it January 1, 2014. I started the jar over again but find that I stopped putting slips of paper into it about mid-way through the year. It’s not that I am no longer grateful. In fact, I’m probably more grateful this year than I was in 2013. When I opened this year’s gratitude jar I found that the main theme was, once again, spending time with family and friends. There were many birthday celebrations, hikes, lunches, and a couple of very special reunions.

Along the way there were trips. A Caribbean vacation, the Avon Walk in Chicago, and our annual fly-in with friends. The 2014 destination was Dayton, OH complete with a reunion with a high school friend.
In addition to the obvious I found notes regarding health issues. Friends who hit milestones in their recovery. Others who received good news about a scan or ultrasound follow-up after a questionable mammogram. What wasn’t there were the diagnoses. For those, I am grateful that I can listen.
My job changed focus this past year. I read a lot of regulations. I do research. I answer yes or no questions with three paragraphs of explanation all so that I can say “it depends.”
I had to smile at “4-wheel drive to get up a steep, snowy hill.” I remember that day. The sun was shining and there was significant amounts of snow from a storm the day before. In looking back on the year I realize that I never drove Linda into Boston (or home) in a snow storm. For that, I am thankful.
The note that touches my heart said, “Kiwi on my lap every morning.” She is a cuddle-bug who just simply loves. There are no strings attached. She truly has grace.

Much of 2014 was routine, and yet I received so many gifts. Gifts of friendships, gifts of moments, gifts of making memories. And most of all, the gift of grace.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.