Monday, June 27, 2016

Stairway to Heaven

My husband and I went hiking on Saturday. I thought it would be a fun activity for us to do together while the girls are away. I have a warped idea of fun. We drove to Vernon and went on a seven-mile hike in the Wawayanda State Park, with the goal of climbing the Stairway to Heaven.
I should have known from the name this was not going to go well.
The hike started out easy—according to my husband, it wasn’t a hike, it was a "nature trail." And it was lovely. The trails were flat, some of them included walking on boardwalks over the marsh and there were even a few bridges to walk on—including a suspension bridge that was WAY less scary than the ropes course we did a few weeks ago (and from which my body has FINALLY stopped being sore, and most of the bruises have faded). I loved wandering through farmland and marshes and reminiscing about nature walks my great-uncle used to take my cousins and me on when we were little.
The worst part about it was the heat.
They had benches strategically place so you could sit and rest. I’m not sure why you’d want to, as the benches were within the first mile of the hike, made of really splintery wood and in the blazing sunlight. There was not a spot of shade to be found, so sitting and sweating didn’t sound appealing. We kept walking. I sweated and thought about turning around, but that wouldn’t get me out of the sun. 
After an hour, we found a rock in the woods that was in the shade. Yay! My husband looked at the time and said we’d been walking an hour and asked if I wanted to stop. In the woods, with the temperature several degrees cooler, suddenly I didn’t mind continuing. Besides, he didn’t think it was a hike yet.
Then we got to the train tracks.
From there, we looked across the meadow—where there were cows—and saw a mountain. My husband wondered if we were climbing that. I laughed. No way were we climbing that and getting back to the beginning while only hiking seven miles. Apparently, my knowledge of distance is about as reliable as my knowledge of geography and directions.
The good news: it was shady.
The bad news: It was rocky. I kept getting lost because I couldn’t find the stupid white marks that told you where to go. It was steep. Really, really steep. And every person we met on the trail told us it was 30 minutes to the top.
No matter how long we kept walking, it was 30 minutes. And we’d know we were close when we saw the “really big rocks.” Um, we were climbing up, around and over really big rocks. Lots of them. And we didn’t seem to get any closer.
I thought I was going to die. Seriously. So I started planning my funeral, only to realize that if I died, my rabbi wouldn’t be able to officiate because he’s away at camp, and I’d have some stranger talking about me, who probably wouldn't get me or my humor. Except I probably wouldn’t care since I’d be dead. 
After the longest 30 minutes of my life, we finally made it to a fork in the trail that had a huge man-made pyramid of rocks (even I could tell we’d made it). There were people standing there talking about bears.
Apparently, a mama bear and her anywhere from two to five cubs—depending on who was relaying the information—was at the top where the view was. The view that was the only reason we were on this damn mountain in the first place. There was no way I was turning around this close to the end. Not happening.
So we waited until those people turned in another direction, because I didn’t want to have to deal with them and we headed toward the ridge. We didn’t see the bear. My husband said he didn’t want to end up one of those stupid people on the Internet (as of now, it’s probably too late). So we walked carefully. And I tried to remember all the tips from the "What To Do If You See A Bear" brochure hanging at the beginning of the hike. All I remembered was something about being loud--was I supposed to be loud or were bears loud? Because I didn't hear any bears, and I'm not really good at being loud. When we got to the ridge, the view was beautiful and we started taking pictures.
A man and his teenaged daughters arrived and asked if we’d seen the bear. We said no.
And then we saw the bear.
The man said not to worry, he was a cop and he had his gun with him.
Great. Except I was not letting him shoot a mama bear and orphan the babies. Nope. He was going to have to shoot me too. And then there would be the funeral planning that I mentioned earlier. We peeked over the ridge and watched the mama bear and her cub (I only saw one) walk below us. The cub looked like a cat. I’ll assume it was a bear, since I wasn’t getting closer. More people showed up and eventually the mama started looking annoyed.
Actually, she looked like she was smiling, but even I don’t believe that.
We turned around and headed back down the mountain, which was significantly easier than heading up it, especially with “I saw bears” adrenaline running through me.
Until I wandered off the trail—because, again, the stupid white marks were impossible to find. Why anyone let me go first and navigate is beyond me. So we hiked down and I distracted myself by wondering how the heck I was going to contact anyone if something happened and we got stuck.
“Hi, we’re next to the big rock.”
When the “I saw bears” adrenaline wore off, we were still on the mountain. Climbing down over the rocks wasn’t as scary as climbing up, but it certainly wasn’t any easier. But at least it was shady.
Because when we finally got off the mountain, there wasn’t anymore shade.
So we stopped at a farm ( advertising ice cream (and lunch), because my husband needed a break from my complaining and feeding me usually accomplishes that.
Eventually, we got back to our car, after passing the cows who kept walking toward us rather than away from us, scaring a baby deer and passing some guy walking through the marsh trying to photograph a butterfly.
And lots of people who asked us if we’d seen any bears.

Monday, June 20, 2016


This week is weird.

We dropped Princess off at camp on Sunday, but Banana Girl still has school. Camp drop-off didn’t feel like camp drop-off—it wasn’t crazy, there were no first-timers trying to figure out what to do and I didn’t insist on keeping my 10-minute unpacking and leaving record. We didn’t come home to an empty house and dinner was chosen by our remaining child. That hasn’t happened in years.

Today is the first day of summer, even though in my head that occurs on the 21st.

This should be the first day of my “summer vacation,” but in fact, Banana Girl will be home at 11:45 for the next two days. So my freedom is restrained. We don’t have the bustle of school, but we do have the craziness of studying for finals and last-minute camp packing.

She said goodbye to most of her friends this weekend at a BBQ, yet she’s still seeing them this week (and I'm still carpooling and transporting and schlepping). I still have to get up early to get her off to school, but I don’t have to pack anyone’s lunch.

She’s not filled with insane anxiety about packing, although she’s packing enough clothes for four people—maybe there’s nothing to be anxious about when you pack every piece of clothing you own? This year she’s finally adopting the T-shirt and crappy clothing for camp philosophy, although she insisted on purchasing new makeup (she doesn’t wear it during the year).

Princess is allowed to use her phone, so she texts me. I’m trying not to contact her, since I want her to have this time away, but it’s weird seeing her location active in a place it usually isn’t. Of course, she’s using her phone to send me lists of everything she needs, so the novelty is going to get old really quick.

And in the meantime, I’m hovering in that limbo area of waiting for everything to start, even though it all sort of has.

Like I said, this week is weird.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Ropes Course

This is what happens when I let my husband plan family outings.
One day while driving somewhere (we’re the parents of two teens with lots of local family—we’re always driving somewhere), we passed some people flying through the trees. Since this isn’t an ordinary sight, we paused, and realized they were swinging through a ropes course.
“That looks fun,” my husband said.
I agreed, which means I’d either not had enough sleep, was agreeing with him at the time so I could soften him up to argue with him later, or just wasn’t paying attention.
He decided it would be a great Father’s Day activity. Well, our Father’s Days are spent with both sets of grandparents, so clearly, this was not something we were going to do on any actual Father’s Day. We’d make plans to do it on a weekend close to the holiday, but due to school schedules, camp preparation and other life craziness, we never found time to get to it.
This year, he put it on the calendar. As soon as I heard my daughter’s exam schedules and departure days for sleep away camp, and realized we’ve done no preparation at all for packing, labeling or anything else, I gave him the look—the look that says, “I don’t want to tell you we’re not going to do something, but we’re not doing something.”
And he gave me his disappointed look. So I caved and suggested we go yesterday. Hey, I was being spontaneous, something that hasn’t happened since approximately 1998.
Oldest child flat out refused to go with us. She’d already been with youth group and claimed to have barely survived. She’s a little dramatic, so we ignored her warnings and told her to start packing.
I should have listened to oldest.
I thought I was being prepared by bringing bug spray. I mean, we’re in trees, there’s bugs, what else could I possibly need?
People tell you to conquer your fear. They tell you to not show that fear to your children. They tell you not to give up. My husband says, “You’ll be proud of yourself when you finish.”
In the future, I’m not listening to “people.” As for my husband, well, the jury’s still out on that one.
Because it was most definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I thought my biggest problem would be a fear of heights. No, my biggest problem was fear of landing. Because even though I was attached to a harness, it didn’t matter whether I was close to the ground or really, really high off the ground. As I tipped and shook and got blown by the wind and cursed my way across the different challenges, my biggest fear was that if this stupid harness breaks and I land on the ground, it is really, really going to hurt.

I made it through Course #1, barely. When I saw the guide, I asked him if Course #2 was the same skill level and I should have taken more seriously the way he avoided my question. Course #2 almost killed me. There was even less to hold onto, the wind was blowing harder, and I got stuck 1/3 of the way through. A random mom on the kiddie course below me tried to shout encouragement to me. Sweet really, but I’d have preferred her to give me a ladder. Eventually, I made it to the zip line—I could have just done that and been perfectly happy. 
In the past, I’ve complained that I’m always the one who has to plan things. It’s annoying and stressful and not always fun. But it’s not life threatening. In the future, I’m going to happily accept the annoyance, the stress and the lack of fun. And if my older one refuses to do something, I may just decide to listen to her.

Monday, June 6, 2016

I Work

Banana Girl defended me to her friends this weekend. They seem to have a negative opinion about whether working from home is really “work,” and Banana Girl tried to set them straight.

While I’m not a big fan of her feeling the need to defend me, I’m glad I’ve instilled in her the understanding that what I do is work. Sure, it’s not going to an office every day, reporting to a boss and requesting time off, but it’s work. I have deadlines, I have to-do lists and I get paid.

But more than that, I work even when I don’t get paid and my time is just as valuable as anyone else’s. In fact sometimes, I work harder for no money than I do for money.

My job as a mom is as important as anything else I do. I’m raising a responsible human, for goodness’ sake! And if you don’t believe that’s important, look around at all the irresponsible, horrible people out there. I want better for the world and I expect better of myself and my children.

My responsibilities extend to more than just my family, and I take those responsibilities seriously. You may not see that; many people don’t. But responsibility also comes from within, and your inability to see it doesn’t mean it’s not worthy or that it doesn’t exist.

So the next time you’re tempted to belittle someone else’s time, take a moment to think. Banana Girl does, and that to me is worth more than the salary you earn.