Roughin’ It (With Estee Lauder)

SteampunkhomePHOTO CREDIT:

     Last weekend I went camping with my family.  It went down like this:

A 65 percent chance of thunderstorms was forecasted.  It was the night of my birthday; though not a decade marker yet, it hovers just slightly south of the cincuenta border.   I had worked earlier that day, then shopped for groceries, prepared hobo packets for dinner, and loaded the Jeep with 6 bins of camp gear, sleeping bags, cooler with prepped food, grill, charcoal, collapsible chairs, portable table, a 19-inch deluxe air mattress and pump, a single mattress for the munchkin, about a dozen D-sized batteries, lanterns, and our brand spanking new forty-five pound bag of:


     Now here’s the beautiful thing:  We just received our swanky new tent a few days earlier.  I found the ONE website on the entire internet that sold it for $100 less than everywhere elseIt is the Taj Mahal of camping tents!  It has a hinged front door.  It has a 3-inch mini zippered door beneath the main door, so your pet mouse can go in and out.  Or at least that’s what I thought, until my genius husband explained that was for the electrical cords to pass thru.  Fabulous!

It has windows that have slap bracelets inserted in them, so you can roll them down instantly with a cool-sounding SLAP!  And it even has a 3-way light and dimmer above, and get this:  An adaptor for a camping ceiling fan!    The only design flaw I could find is that it doesn’t come with a flushing toilet, but I will submit this suggestion online.

Cool beansNow Liz is ready to rough it for the weekend. 

Fast forward to 7 pm.  Hubby arrives home late from work.  Mama is hungry and fairly exhausted and feeling kind of birthday-less after going at breakneck speed to MAKE THIS HAPPEN (a fatal flaw of mine when my intentional plans run contrary to unexpected circumstances.   I run upstairs to print prior email with camp directions as this was a family scouting trip.

WHAT’S THIS?!?  The trip was cancelled?  Why didn’t this email stamped 11:32 am come to my phone that I checked throughout the day?!?!  (A mystery of technology that will never be explained!)

  &*(#%@ I thought inwardly.  We are camping come hell or high-water, with high-water being a high probability.  See, I had already invested in this trip with precious energy.  It was too late to back out for me.  If we were the only ones at the camp ground, we were going!

Well we drove everywhere that night down dark spooky roads out in the country.  9:03pm.  Eureka!  What’s this?  The gates close at 9 pm.  We go back home.  Starving.  Both of us tired from work.  Frustrated.  Ill at one another.  Disappointed.

Mr. Holland was right:  Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

Saturday, 7 am:   Reload the cooler and off we go.  My husband has a bad back.  You know what that means.  I got to carry the gear down the hill, through the valley, and back up a hill, until we reached our campsite.  Hooray!  A few die-hard campers were there; we weren’t alone.  Then the ensuing men-are-from-Mars, women-are-from-Venus battle of the sexes transpired over reading pica .001 directions on the tent label.  Actually, it was not that bad.  It took about thirty minutes and now we’ve got it for next time.

The rest of the day was great.  We went on a hike and watched friends fish.    We lamented that we still haven’t bought fishing gear, but if we do, we’ll need a back door basket as we are already at overflow capacity.

Our oldest son met us mid-day and brought our dog who became best friends with everyone who brought meat.  Letting him be loved by so many and play with kids in the woods was a blast. Liz made smores for kids in an industrial smore-maker with gargantuan marshmallows.   My young son, and I, and other scouts played the trivia game Hoopla by the fire.  One of the other Dads recited from memory Shakespear’s Hamlet that he knew by heart as we sat around the fire. Liz was impressed.  And exhausted.  Unable to move or speak.  Nearly numb.  Just sitting there experiencing this one thing… long last:


     It’s something I rarely do.  Just sit.  In a chair.  Thinking about nothing.  Doing nothing.  Just watching fire.  Contemplating life.  And then quickly forgetting it.  Why is this so hard for me?  I wonder

10 pm.  Plip.  Plop.  Right on schedule.  Rain.   Story time around the fire is over and nothing left but to go back to the tent and sleep under a rainy sky.  Well not exactly rain, more like a monsoon.  ALL NIGHT LONG.   But the Taj Mahal stayed dry thanks to the generosity of a friend who gave us another tarp to put over the rainfly.  So I didn’t get to see the stars I’d hoped to see, as my weary eyes dimmed, but I did have this one comforting thought:

At least when I wake up, I can put on my Estee Lauder make up in the tent.  I can just TURN ON THE LIGHT and use a mirror.  And although Camp Hyatt (Grand) is still my favorite place to take a family vacay, the whole camping thing is something every woman should experience at least once! 

Out in the wild wilderness I can bring a bit of plum lipstick to a mostly brown and green forest.   I am older now, but not so old I can’t put a little sweat equity into participating in outdoor adventures with the two and a half men in my life.  I can get muddy.  I can lift a heavy load a few times.  And somewhere in the mix of all these boys, and men, and dirt, and fish, and canvass, and leaves, and dog breath, and fire is a little girl inside a middle-aged woman’s body dreaming of the stories she will someday write.

But Why Is The Rum Gone?

Me? I’m dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It’s the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they’re going to do something incredibly… stupid.  Captain Jack Sparrow


So my family and I took a trip to Washington DC this past weekend.  We fought off hypothermia as we walked around Constitution Avenue and the blocks surrounding the Smithsonian museums and galleries while Congress and the House and the President (who popped back in from yet another exotic vacation– this time it was Hawaii)  debated what is the best way to jump off the fiscal cliff.

As I’m fairly aware of my surroundings at all times, I knew when I heard the chik,chik,chik,chik  of chopper blades between the Senate and the White House, and knowing I was standing in the middle of a no fly zone, I quickly deduced it was most likely Marine One.    Especially since there were news media vans from every major city in America parked mere yards away.

Marine Force OnePresident Obama Disembarks Marine One (Photo: Denver Post)

This minute stands out firmly in my brain when I saw the helicopter because I saw it as a historic opportunity to teach my son about the “majesty” of the Office of President.  At the very least, there was historical relevance of “WOW!  You are standing here on nearly the last day of 2012, and the President of the United States is circling right above us!”  I grabbed my video camera and hit record as an agent in dark clothing several dozen yards away kept his polite assault rifle on standby, just in case I was a nut job and my video camera was a weapon.  I decided to make tiny movements and speak slowly.

“Look son!  It’s the President’s official helicopter hovering above you!”   And as I simultaneously hit the record button to record a slice of history for all posterity, my seven year old sorely exclaimed, “I don’t care about the President flying above, I’m just too FREEZING to death!  Can we just GO ?!?!?”  I turned the camera off.   That was it.   I had to laugh.  My son’s first opportunity to witness something historical and he blows it.

See a few weeks ago, though I confess it now feels more like years, I was much of a political junkie.  Addicted, I would even say.  A year of nail biting to the nub while digesting all the political fodder, I was totally wrapped up in every moment of the pending election and the crisis that would ensue if my guy didn’t win.

He didn’t.   I cried.  And then the next day came.  Right on schedule.

So I had to laugh when I realized my son is not yet a political junkie or gasp…..even a patriot!  We still have time to teach love of country.  Right now, hate of weather was the only crisis he was concerned with.

We have all been dealing with crisis for quite a whileI don’t know about you but I’m rather crisis weary!

      Being that in my life every day I deal with everything from my van’s transmission blowing up, to root canals gone awry that demand a redrill soon, to dryers clunking out, to cracked iPhone screens, to nightly homework-help marathons, to figuring out how to pay for college, and manage mothering and part time work on all the days that don’t involve family vacation day OR dreams of my fodder (which dabbling in writing/photography basically amounts to).

        Basically the other 354 days of the year, I, like most Americans sit down with our calendar and our Quicken and try to figure out how to rob Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay the remaining bills when there is too much month at the end of the money after the first stack of bills, disasters, and Uncle Sam are paid.   I try to balance dreams with reality with 1% of time devoted to dreams and well….you do the math.

Dangerous DropI found the Fiscal Cliff in Washington DC – This is the accompanying warning sign.

I am already keenly familiar with fiscal cliffs and their ensuing aftermath.  They basically go down like this:

The poop hits the fan.

And then the sun rises.

     Yep, that’s about it.  You just add another zero on the right side of the ledger and you keep moving on.  Simple as pie.   One or both of you starts taking on more work.  Second jobs are added.   Part time switches to full-time.  Full time takes on overtime.  It’s all good….right?  

In a New World Order based on fairness and equality, we have not even begun to pay our fair share, as there is always someone who works harder than we do, and according to the media, nearly everyone has way less which gives me a never-ending guilt complex. We have a long ways to go until we’re all equal, and we all have a fair equal shot at everything in life. 

        Before our trip to DC, we had just wrapped up first part of our vacation at Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida.     It was great.  Off went the TV.   On came the fun!  Our biggest crisis was “Puh-leeze Dad!  Did you have to cut the cheese again?!?!”

       We laughed.  We gallivanted between theme parks and traipsed around museums.  We nearly amused ourselves to death!  We became ignorant of the world around us for the first time in a long time.  We decided to postpone our personal fiscal cliff until 2013!  

We lived!

And now vacation is over.  School is back in session and all are back to work.  My daughter leaves for college soon and has informed me of where she will live this summer, which is NOT home.   Reality beckons after almost two weeks spent far from it.

After spending some considerable time at Disney’s “The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow” I realized that a Pirate’s Life is based on two priorities:  Redistribution of Treasure.  Rum.   That’s it.   Oh, and perhaps a dalliance with a pretty lassie from time to time.  Or wench, as the case may be.     Not that much difference from politics today.

Perhaps if our current lot of people’s representatives would don beaded dreadlocks and black eyeliner and speak to us with a tad more charm, we’d all be happy to acquiesce with all their demands.

With trillions in debt and more trillions coming, my intuition tells me we’ve already gone off the cliff, no matter what pretty words they use.   

As for us?  We’ll keep on keeping on in 2013 the best we know how.    And at the risk of being uninformed of that which I cannot control, I’ll be tuning out more consistently I’ve decided.  For at this point, I’m going politically AWOL, unless our politicians utter the true crisis words of Captain Jack Sparrow:

But why is the rum gone?

    Until then–as you were, mate!  Savvy?

Why is the Rum Gone Captain Jack Sparrow –Pirates of the Caribbean

Are We There Yet?



Are we there yet?  Would anyone like to place wagers on how many times I will hear this question when our family leaves for Orlando’s Disney World tomorrow after school?   My seven year old son has been counting the days to our Disney Trip when the countdown was still over 100.

And then there was one.  One day left until we leave. Knowing how fast the last hundred days has gone is a bit troublesome because I don’t want our vacation to fly by.  I want each magical moment to linger.    I want each one of our family of five to forget about work, school, obligations, commitments, bills, responsibilities, and challenges.  Basically, I look forward to our reprieve from reality and really hope to drop anchor for a while in the new and improved Fantasyland (among other lands), that just re-opened up six days ago, on anticipation of our arrival no doubt.

This is our fifth trip in nearly thirty years of marriage and family.  It is the first real time for my youngest since he was in utero his first trip, and ten months old the second time.  He is beyond stoked for this trip.

  Personally speaking, it will be a homecoming of sorts.  A family reunion if you will.  Why there’s Uncle Mick with his big ears and chubby fingers and his sunny optimism about everything.  He is the family patriarch full of wisdom and sage advice and a voice that never matured when puberty came, if in fact it ever did.  There’s Aunt Minnie with her oversized furniture, her red and white polk-a-dotted dress, and she always wears a smile and looks as if she’s just baked a warm plate of cookies to greet whoever comes into her quirky and humble abode.  There’s Uncle Donald and his rambunctious nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, whose mischief and energy rival my son’s.  There’s the family dog Pluto, and of course Goofy.  Everyone has at least one Goofy in their family, do they not?

There’s beautiful Snow White and Prince Charming who always has his arm out to escort me and he pulls out my chair before I’m seated in front of a table lined with luxurious food.   There will be white and glass carriages escorted by perfectly groomed white horses for the ball later in the evening.

There are no arguments amongst our extended family members.  Everyone is well physically, mentally, and spiritually.  There is only endless exquisite happiness, laughter, joy,  and incredible talent on display be it singing, dancing, acting, juggling, acrobatics, magic tricks, tricks with birds and animals, feats of wonder, or acts of comedy.   This is the family millions of people run to and attach specifically to because it is such a great antidote to life’s often harsh realities.

This is the model familyThis is the World’s Family.   It’s a family where good food and drink, laughter, and smiles are always flowing and adventures abound.  Whether it’s being delightfully scared by holographic ghosts in the Haunted Mansion,  exploring all the real cool rooms of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house,  eating your way around the world in EPCOT, or watching the Spectro Magic parade at night with all the floats and characters lit up, you know you’re going to have fun.

    This is why we work in life.  This is why we struggle.  This is why we deny ourselves from having everything we want the moment we see it, because there are greater moments to behold later.

As for me and my household?  The next best thing to Jesus and the promise of heaven is most likely Disney World.  And you don’t have to go there to know it exists and that it’s great!  Kind of like heaven.  We sense it.  We know there is more than this life and its struggles.  There is a grand design, a purpose if you will, for our sufferings, our trials, our brevity here.  It’s because God has something better planned for us over there.

Of all the things God gave us in life to use, the most amazing thing he gave us in this life is our incredible mind.  A mind filled to the brim with infinite possibilities of what we could imagine and create, if we dare.  If we take that faith step and risk putting our dreams out there for the world to see.

It’s what good old Uncle Walt did.  He had a dream in his mind and a sketch pad in his hand and BOOM!  His soul connected his vision for animation and he drew what is now the world’s most famous mouse based on a pet mouse he once adopted at his first Kansas City studio.   Isn’t good he made a pet out of what most people would have so easily killed?

     Nothing in life is a coincidence.  I see things in life not with rose-colored glasses (okay, sometimes I do) but thru a lens of divine providence.    I try to connect the dots relating people and events in life as something God wants to use for good in my life and others.  I believe there is something good awaiting us at the end of our journey of toil and peril.   Disney World is man’s gift, a foreshadowing, to remind us of an even greater gift that God gave to us.  He just used vision to accomplish it in Walt.  He can use vision to accomplish it in us as well.  Open your eyes.  See!

Merry Christmas everyone!   We’re off to be a family, amidst all the other beautiful and diverse families of the world, as we watch and experience the magical family of Disney, keeping in mind that Jesus is not just the reason for the season, but a great reason to live life in awe and wonder every day because of what He has done for us.   Life.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Disney here on earth.    Heaven later.

I guess there are only four words left to say!

Are!  We!  There!  Yet!!