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Friday, June 22, 2012

Camping

A lot of people may think I am a bit of a prima-donna, and they might be right.  I wasn't always this way, I will freely admit that over the course of 40 years, I have evolved into a woman who likes the finer things in life, but that's not to say that I can't appreciate the simpler things.  I *reluctantly* went camping last weekend.  I will also admit right here and now that I have a love/hate relationship with camping and it can turn on a dime, which it often does.

I grew up with a father who taught me how to camp, I mean really camp.  I washed dishes and took baths in rivers and lakes, I slept under the stars in a banana lounge chair on the shore of a cove in Lake Havasu, and I made more than a few trips to an outhouse perched atop a hill overlooking the campsite we called home for a week at a time. Truth is, I loved it (well all except the outhouse) but in my adult life, I have gotten used to being pampered.

Now I am lucky enough to have a sweet little vacation home out at the river.  It has it's issues, what with the mainentence, the occasional mouse and cockroaches the size of golfballs. But really it's like a little slice of heaven on earth.  I am spoiled because besides food, I have everything I need right there.  I have stocked that place up!  We even have cable TV, which last I checked Ridgemont still didn't.

So last weekend, we packed up the trailer we borrowed from my Mom's boyfriend Dave.  He generously allowed us to use it so that saved us quite a bit of dough since we didn't need to rent an RV.  We've used it before and it's a fine little toy-hauler, it does the job and the beds are quite comfy, even with a small child twisting and turning against my back all night long, essentially it's pretty basic but at least there is a toilet for those 3:00 a.m. bathroom breaks I now have nightly.  It's more of a "glamping" situation than pitching a tent and peeing in the bushes outside.

We joined a group of friends who really LOVE camping, I mean they do it in style with HUGE 5th wheels and all the extra goodies which makes this production much more satisfying I suspect.  Full kitchens and fancy bedrooms, the whole kit and caboodle.  Jealous? Yes I suppose I am.

Anyway, back to the camping.  So the prep work that goes with the "relaxing getaway" is not something I love.  In fact, packing up a bunch of crap while fending off a serious case of PMS, well let's just say it's not the perfect combination for a delightful weekend.  I do recognize that my attitude may have played a roll in  my reluctance, but I sucked it up and did the grocery shopping, the laundry, the stuffing of the bedding into a variety of bins, I gathered the toys and the electronics, got the bikes together, made lists of things to bring, etc. etc.  And so off we went to spend time in the great outdoors. 

We arrived in Carlsbad after an hour drive, not too bad considering we were towing.  We found our spot and our friends and began the process of setting up camp, which basically involves unpacking all the crap I had just loaded into the trailer and trying to fit 10 lbs. of shit into a 5 lb. bag...(thank's Mike, borrowed this little gem from you.  I like it.)

When I finally got it all sorted out, it was time for some sangria.  Ah...the refreshing part of the weekend!  We rode our bikes a bit and walked down to the "beach" (and I use this term only in the sense that the ocean met the shore but really it was much more of a rocky terrain than a beach). 

I did manage to whip up some rather tasty tacos in the shoebox kitchen and only got one complaint (my son, but he bitches about everything so I didn't take it seriously).  We put the little kids to bed, enlisted the 15 and 13 year-olds to babysit and joined our friends a few campsites down to sit around the fire and have a drink (or five).   Chris was the smart one who went to bed early, like maybe 11:30.  I, however, felt the need to be the last one to leave the party, probably some time around 2:00.  Yes, I am a fool.  You would think I would know better now but it's like a vortex, I just get sucked in!

So when the sun came up and the little girl woke, there really was not a whole lot of sleep for this lady.  Sleep is a valuable commodity in my life and without it, well let's just say that I might not be the "happiest" gal on the block.  Right about then, I was ready to pack up our junk and head back to the comforts of my home.  Chris was feeling the same way but when I checked on my boy who was sitting in the tent pitched outside, attempting to roll up a sleeping bag but was just sort of picking at the zipper, and saw the look on his face (with tears welled up), I knew we HAD to stay.  Chris and I muddled through the morning, Gav pulled on his wetsuit and grabbed his surfboard and went out surfing with his buddy. 

My dear friend Nicky took her little girl and Piper to a sandy, kid-friendly beach down the way.  Chris and I watched Gav surf and play in the ocean.  No sleep and a little hangover had everything to do with my own poor choice so why should our kids suffer?  Right.  They shouldn't. 

So we sucked it up and spent another night.  Our friends put together an amazing spread for dinner but grumpy old me, well I didn't even want to cook.  My family thought that Pick Up Stix sounded fine so I drove off site to have everyone's favorite camping fare: Chinese fast food.

We hit the sack and woke up early Sunday morning, Father's Day.  It's a rough holiday for both Chris and me, bittersweet since we both lost our Dads.  But Chris is such an amazing father so it's a day to celebrate him.  I'm not making excuses but I think this day coupled with grey skies and looming sadness, well it makes for a recipe resulting in a crabby bad attitude. 

We packed up all the gear, the chairs, surfboards and bikes into the back of the trailer and got the hell out of Dodge before you could start your generator, which incidentally in California State Parks, is not until 10:00 a.m.  Ugh~no coffee.

The good that came from this weekend was that our kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  They got filthy dirty, ate junk food, hung out and played with their friends and smiled the whole time.  So even with all this bitching, will I do it again?  Probably.  Will I complain the whole time?  Maybe, depends on the time of the month.

The bottom line is this:  The stuff we do for our kids, for our families, might not always be our favorite, but we do it anyway.  We do it because we get to see the way our kids light up and share their joy and happiness.  We do it because we remember our own childhood (the good and bad) and make choices to make things better, more fun, for our own kids.  Ultimately, we do it to create memories and connections with our family and friends.  

I often tell my son to "suck it up" and make the most of the situation you find yourself in.  I suppose I need to take my own advice.  But, I am only human and I won't apologize for that.  I will, however, apologize for acting like a turd if I offended anyone by being a grumpy crumudgeon, but that's what hormones and a lack of a shower will do to a girl.

In any case, I wish you all the best of luck in your future camping endeavers and if you are anything like me, I recommend sangria and sleep, in that order.

Happy Weekend and Summer!



Monday, June 11, 2012

Tranformation

I just spent a wonderful weekend at our little place on the Colorado River.  We went out there with some friends and were lucky enough to have wonderful sitters for the kids. So for just a minute or two, it felt like we were on Spring Break again, oh the good ole' days.  Would I want to go back there (meaning days without responsibilities like children and a mortgage)?  Not really, but that's what makes the time away well appreciated and the joy of coming home to my kids' smiling faces that much sweeter.

We have been friends with the three people that came with us for almost 20 years, Chris has known them even longer, back to the days of high school. What's so interesting is that one of them is going through an extraordinary transformation and I gotta tell ya, watching the changes this man is making, both inside and out, is truly inspiring.  I think he would agree with the assessment that his personality might be construed as "strong." At times, he can be obnoxious and abrasive, but most other times he can be a trusted confidant and friend.  In any case, as I watch him grow and evolve as a person, I see the light and happiness begin to break through that rough and tough exterior.  It's a bit like watching a Monarch shed his cocoon and spread those magnificent orange and black wings.  I'm looking forward to watching him fly.

Transformation. 

It can happen to anyone at any time.  To sum it up, it can be defined as a "marked change, usually for the better."  Do these changes need to be immediate and massive? I don't think so.  In fact, the process itself might involve a series of small changes, put together to create a chain.  Each link is fused to the next forming a bond that is structurally sound and able to withstand even the most difficult and unexpected circumstances.  This analogy can apply to either physical or emotional changes, but don't they often go hand in hand?  Our bodies do tend to reflect what we are thinking and feeling inside our heads.  Regarding these personal transformations, the "experts" say that if we tackle challenges head on and face our fear of change by making small adjustments, we can better manage ourselves as we navigate through unfamiliar territory without feeling overwhelmed.  

Setting goals is important but making them realistic is essential.  I've always said that adopting the "all or nothing" mentality can backfire.  Committing to changing or starting something; whether it be quitting smoking, exercise, eating healthy, finishing school, planting a garden, learning to swim, riding a bike, smiling more, being a better friend, whatever~I think it's important to start small.  And if you slip up, cut yourself some slack already.  Rome wasn't built in a day, right? 

We are all works in progress.  There isn't anything that holds us back more than our perception of ourselves. Believe me, I know as much as anyone, that the negative mental baggage we continue to schlep around can be exceptionally hard to lose.  But if you start by letting go of that stupid little carry-on first, it can be much easier to unload that faux leather Samsonite you are dragging behind you. You know what I'm talking about, the bag that's so old it doesn't even have those fancy little wheels and the handle that pops up out of the top?  Yeah, that's the one.  That enormous suitcase filled with the mental crap that you don't need.  If it doesn't serve you, let it go. 

And now you are shouting at me, "But that's easier said than done!"

And yes, you are right.  But you do have a choice in the matter.  This is your life.  If you want to keep toting around that old bag full of junk, go right on ahead.  Or would you rather trade it in for a sparkly new number with a shiny handle, a protective cover (maybe with pink flamingos on it) and wheels that even do a 360*?

Life is riddled with tough decisions and challenges.  How we respond to them is our choice.  Resisting change is easy, embracing change is hard, no big surprise there.  And now that I am witnessing my friend transform his whole life -his perspective, his body and his mind- it reminds me to face my own challenges head on and that determination, support and sheer will are key tools to ensure success. That and a little thing called forgiveness.

I think the message is this:  If you want to make changes in your life, if you want to make a transformation of sorts, don't be afraid to do it.  Get a new set of luggage and fill it with stuff you actually need, things like books and journals and support  from your friends and family by sharing your intentions.  Acutally put those tools to good use.  And remember there is no room for negative junk, only the good stuff.  Knowledge is power and not just because the guy on the Saturday morning cartoons sang about it, that really was some sound advice. 

And to my friend Demko, spread those wings man...it's your time to fly.