A few of my favorite things

I’m counting down the days to my surgery and looking for a way to get organized for my stay. In a situation where there’s so little control up for grabs, what can I control? They say I can take “a few, small personal items” to spruce up my room. So what will they be?

I could just take my phone. It’s got all my photographs, a world of music via YouTube, and my Headspace app, in case I’m ever awake enough to doze off during the meditations. Thanks to text, email and even (last resort) calling features, I’m connected with people, which is all that really counts. I wonder how long from now it’ll be before our phones are surgically implanted at birth, and how many eons before we evolve to arrive with them as part of us – heart, brain, lungs, liver, phone?

Of course, I’d like to take Baxter with me:

but he’s too big and friendly (he’ll want to visit everyone) and he sheds large clumps of dog hair that roll around like tumbleweeds. They’re not going to like that in the hospital.

I look around at all my stuff and I wonder, what makes the cut? What can I take to remind me of home and all I love in that antiseptic place? I know they’re suggesting we bring things as an anchor, to keep us connected with regular life. What can I possibly take that’s small enough?

And then I remember. I’ll take the pearl of great price:

oyster pearl

This humble tiny clay sculpture must be at least twelve years old. My daughter made it for me when she was maybe five, fashioned the shell and the pearl, painted it all and then thought to glitter up the pearl and fit it right in there. I loved it then and I love it now. It’s her essence, her creativity, her unique way of looking at the world.

And I’ll take this bluebird, with his chipped little nose too:


Decades ago now, my husband and I lived in Cairo, Egypt. We were young, we had no kids, we saved up our money and lived there for two years.  This little bluebird was a gift from an impossibly old and very British retired nurse, who had stayed on in Cairo after the Second World War and never quite made it back to Blighty.

She managed the Anglican Cathedral’s lending library, a haven of books and magazines I could actually read, having failed to pick up enough written Arabic to read even a children’s board book. The stock was pretty dubious, based as it was on the discards of expatriates heading back home. If they didn’t think it was worth lugging back on the plane, they donated it to the library where it was slowly inducted into the librarian’s complicated cataloging system and made available to those she deemed worthy of the privilege.

You earned the privilege mainly by volunteering in the library, and I spent many an afternoon re-alphabetizing the John Le Carres and James Pattersons in the lazy afternoon sunshine. I still remember the momentous day someone donated a whole stack of vintage New Yorker magazines while I was there and she let me take them all home to read first.

When our time came to move on too, she invited me for tea at the library to say goodbye and gave me this bluebird. Someone had given it to her when they left, and, nun-like in her lack of possessions, she was thrilled to have it simply so she could give it to someone else. It’s one of the few knick-knacks I’ve kept over the years, a tiny thing that summons up a whole chapter in my life. The library, Egypt, the adventure of it all.

And I’ll want to see this badge, given to me by the good folks at Temecula United Methodist Church, the church where I found my singing voice again after a 25 year detour from music:

TUMC badge

They welcomed me back and waited patiently until my voice caught up with my heart. I’ve never felt like I belonged somewhere as much as I did in that raggedy church choir with too few voices and an abundance of love and the joy of connecting through music.

These three little things have come along with me, set up on the kitchen counter wherever we’ve lived (and we’ve moved a LOT) to make the latest place feel like home. I put them on my desk when I opened the doors to Joyful Surroundings.  And now they can set off with me on this latest journey, to the world of surgery and ICU monitoring and who knows what else. Everything else I need will be on my phone or in my room, right there in person: my family, all that really matters.

It’s fun to think about what you might choose if you could only pick a few of your things and also to ponder why everything else didn’t make the cut. I’m not saying we need to declutter down to this level, but it is interesting to see which of our possessions turn out to be just stuff after all. Kind of makes you wonder why we have half of it in the first place? It’s also nice to be able to find the things we want without having to dig through mounds of clutter. Something to think about next time you want to put off today’s 20 minute decluttering session.

Now I’d love to know your “few, small personal items.” What would you take if you could take only a few small things into the hospital with you?

© 2013 – 2018 Joyful Surroundings LLC. All rights reserved.

Joyful Surroundings LLC


Everything feels better with an organized home!

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