Sunday, August 31, 2014

Saving Our Campsite, Labor-Day Weekend 2014

My husband and I took my daughter camping, her first time in the woods overnight. As with most new things, we prepared her in advance, for new things like sleeping in a tent, not having a bathroom or running water, being safe near a fire, and so on.  Our thinking is that the better we prep her for new things, the less fear she will have (and the less whining & dramatics we will have.) It’s a parenting tactic that we like and employ often, based on my own need for preparedness—I am more comfortable what I’m walking into.

As expected, S liked the dirt and collecting sticks for the fire. She was excited about the tent and sleeping on her mattress. She liked being outside. There was a moment that she paused to look at the stars, so bright and unlike home.  She liked making s’mores (she adorably calls them “snores”) and cooking in the fire. And as not expected, but silly on our part, S was the same in the woods as she was at home.

Her boredom came easily; she secretly packed the constant demands from home into her sleeping bag.  S was unchanged by the woods. Nature changes me. It makes me sit and look and breathe and be more still & more quiet. Maybe that’s because I am all of those things, and daily city life knocks that quiet right out of me. Maybe for me, the woods is a more natural environment than the city. I'm at ease in the middle of nature. Maybe it’s a maturity thing? To allow yourself to be transformed by beauty and nature, to receive all of the air, and light, and space.  S was not interested in transformation.

It’s one thing to give a kid nothing to “do” at home.  After her demands for TV or the iPad are denied and after a bit of crying and whining about not having her way, the kid finds something to do (usually something creative like building a castle out of paper, creating a fort from all the sheets & pillows in the house, making picnic lunches for all of her babies, or building a Lego kitchen to cook us breakfast—with plastic & wooden foods, of course.)  We let her, force her, to get bored and then, she magically finds something to do to relieve that boredom. Her instincts and creativity surface and she saves her own day from the ruin of tedium.

On the side of a hill, in a small camp site, surrounded by brush, thick foliage, and other people, on a crowded holiday weekend, we couldn’t just let her go to find something to do. There were too many dangers. After the initial excitement of dirt and outside and the tent, she was restless and demanding.  Before we had children, DD & I would read and nap and poke at the fire. We would hike for hours and just sit looking at the trees. The next time you are in the woods with your 3 year old, see how long you can get him/her to sit and look at trees. 10 minutes tops. That leaves the next 23 5/6 hours left of your day.  

Missing the comforts of home, had a all new meaning.

We could happily overlook not having walls or electricity. Peeing outside was not an issue. As a great, and wonderful, surprise, S did not once ask for tv or iPad during our camping stay. (I count that alone as a victory!) She was not missing toys or the tub, but the freedom to wander and self-soothe, the freedom to create, for herself, something to do. 

Here’s what we, the parents, did wrong (and have heartily learned for our next trip—learn from us.)  1.) We will do better research on the site itself. The campsite was very small (smallest site I’ve ever camped) and too closed in by the hill & thick brush. It didn’t have a wide-open-in-the-wilderness feel that we like. I would've felt better about S poking around in the woods if we could see her, but our site was carved into a nook in a hill surrounded by nettles. There was nowhere to roam.

2.) We will not camp on a holiday weekend.  It was overactive with constant reminders of people: people walking, driving up and down the gravel-paved hill, listening to music, laughing, hooting, it was a party until 1 am or so. For me, camping is about getting away from people and the trappings of civilization.  It’s tough for me to suspend my disbelief that we are living off the land when confronted with “Cherry Pie” and “War Pigs” from a neighboring camper’s truck’s radio at midnight.

3.) We will plan a rough schedule, not to overbook our time, but to structure and give S some things to look forward to, maybe as simple as morning hike, lunch, nap, afternoon swim.  Having no plans, made it tough to make decisions.  Again, preemptive research would have paid off here.

After our first failed (and sleepless) night at the noisy, crowded, party-like campsite, we went took a perfect country drive toward a pristine lake, rented a boat, tooled around and went for a swim. S was fearless in the lake water, jumping off the boat deck with full child-like glee (and a life vest, of course.) Her joy and love of water and swimming was a wholesome tonic for the long night we’d suffered at camp. We had an awesome lunch on the boat (grapes, cheese sandwiches, chips & baba ghanoush, ranch & veg), and napped.

My husband’s creativity, flexibility, and rare (awesome) impulsiveness led us away from the disappointments of the campsite and to the lake. His deep love of lakes & all things nautical, paid off. We were rescued from own exhaustion & tedium by fun, impulsive thinking and ended up having a better time than we could have imagined.  Maybe frustration, boredom, and exhaustion are also mothers of invention.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Oh, I am always choosing between and among the things I want to do and the things I want to do more.

I'm supposed to be working, like at my job that pays me and provides stability & health insurance. And yet, I decided to take a break to write, but after I wrote a new page and fiddled with an old page, I started reading about writers instead. 

Maybe I should be writing a book about how procrastination is a new step in the writing process (my process which includes very little actual writing. le sigh.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset: Mid-August

I was raised to open the house up in the morning. That means opening the windows (on the ground floor), and curtains, and blinds, and letting in the light and air. At night, we close the windows (on the ground floor) and the curtains, pull the shades, shut out the world, shut out the darkness.

My house always feels cocooned in the night. Fabric over blinds or shades pulled tight. It's soft and glowy inside. Lamps illuminate, never an overhead light.  We keep the world out. We are vulnerable in our home clothes, our pjs, barefoot, unadorned, in our post-bath skin. We are soft and need protection from outside, from peeping eyes, from moths, and katydids, and crickets, from the night. I love the night song.

The morning is bright. Everything opens. Light, air, birds, music. We are vulnerable still in our early morning beds, one foot in dreams, one foot in backtowork, whattodotoday, reality. The quiet of dawn tricks us into thinking we are safe. Once I shower and put on clothes and make up and shoes (my armor) I am safe. The world can come in. I am in armor after all.

In my bedroom tonight, the sound of those late summer bugs is so so loud. It makes me remember sleeping at church camp in my family's cabin. I remember it almost felt like camping with the thinness of the walls of that cabin and light from the lamppost outside flooding into my window. I couldn't shut the window or the curtain to block out the light or the sounds, it was too hot. Exhaustion drove me to sleep with or without the light. The late-summer bugs chirped me to sleep.

Dark clings to the dawn later in August than in June. This morning I heard the katydids, cicadas, crickets, and the robins and sparrows. There was this clash, this overlap of songs as one group of singers faded in and the other faded out. It's a bittersweet time of year. I can see fall and winter coming. A few more hot sticky days of sun and pools and ice cream and bubbles and barbecues, just a few more.

Making Gratitude Obligatory

When we sit at the table to talk about our day, I like to ask "What was the best part of your day?" It's a good question. Starting tonight, I am going to ask "What are you grateful for? Where did you find blessings?"

Repeated thoughts form grooves in your brain's web-like synapses (I only play a doctor to my daughter's scraped knees, so please forgive my non-scientific terms.)  Each thought repeated digs that groove over and over again. When you think about being grateful over and over and over again, you become more grateful--it's easier to think "I am grateful for [blank]."  Likewise, when you think "I am ugly/fat/stupid/lazy/lonely/sad/pathetic/loser/failure/dumbass/weakling/dirty/bad-mom/bad-wife/bad person--it's easier and easier to think that thought again and again. 

I want to make gratitude a mental obligation in my head and in my house. 

What was the best part of your day? To what/whom are you grateful? 

You feel better now, just thinking about it, don't you? 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Life Is Lifelike: Having It All

I have it all.

Having it all, means compromising all of it. Having it all means dividing it and slicing it up into small and smaller pieces. Why do we work so much? To pay for what? Cars, clothes, nice gadgets? Are we still trying to keep up with the now antiquated American dream?

We need a new dream. A dream that doesn't include a mortgage that we can't afford, working 60 hours a week to have more stuff to fill in that mortgage while starving our loved ones from showers of time, adoration, support, patience, attention that they need, starving ourselves from bubblebaths and quality time and self-fulfillment and time, really, starving ourselves from the time that we need to give to others and the time we need to give to ourselves.

I have it all and I'm ready to give some of it back. I want less stuff and more time. I want to work less and write more. I want to have more time not money. The scale is unbalanced. Time to get some of that levity that I like so well and ditch some of this gravitas somewhere. Anyone need some gravitas?

Monday, August 4, 2014

To My Daughter (Voice Memo while Driving)


My mind has always been sound.

The decisions that I make throughout my life are about me and you and all the things that I want for you.

I'm going to continue to be a writer. I'm going to complete some things and send them out. If I think about the type of person I want to be, and about how I want you to see me and to see women, I want you to see me doing something challenging but that I love. And my job right now is not those things. It's challenging but I don't love it. It's a way to make ends meet. There is not a lot of dream in it.

I want you to understand that if you dream something, you can make it happen. I want to show you that in my life--to show you that I have always wanted to be a writer and that I will work hard enough to be one. It's time for me to do that for myself and for you.

So, you know, daddy and I go through a lot of things and you see us and we talk and we have work & frustrations and our lives, and in some ways your dad and I are always trying to provide financially to have a nice place to live and safe cars to drive around and cute clothes for you to wear and toys for you to play with and all the things that equal in some ways (in our modern and lame society) a stable and secure childhood.

We want you to have those things but they are just things. I do believe that you having a mother who loves what she does and is happy and satisfied with working hard to do something that I'm passionate about, that I believe in, that I've been waiting to do for a long time, I think you having parents like that instead of cute dresses is really important.

We will take some financial hits here, babe, but it's okay. You will have everything you need and you will have parents that are self-satisfied and that are strong and can show you how to do what you want and how to love yourself the way that we love you.