If she can…

Have you ever spent literally hours on Facebook, stalking people you used to know, only to find out everyone is doing life better than you? She has a better job. She is prettier. She’s a better mother. She’s a better wife. She can climb mountains. She is fearless. Sure there is the occasional epic failure, and you breathe a sigh of relief because you have it so much more together. But for the most part, social media just makes you feel less.

Since we landed upon this mountain, I have desperately been trying to find myself and reinvent myself. So when I lost an afternoon scrolling through other people’s lives and feeling inferior to literally everyone,  I decided, “Hey, if she can do it, I can too.” I should have known better.

Typically I’m a creature of habit, I find comfort in familiarity. I like to visit the same restaurants, order the same food,  I watch the same shows. So boring.

I do love the idea of adventure, but I panic when I think of the details of the unknown. What if I get lost? What if I can’t find parking? What if everyone knows I don’t belong? What if I die? Seriously, what if I die?

Unfortunately, when you move to a far away land, there is no familiarity, there is only the unknown. When you move to the mountains, there is nothing but adventure. Hiking, fishing, tubing, kayaking, horse back riding, all in your backyard. So whats a girl to do? Everyone else can hike, I should hike. Everyone else loves the river, I should love it too. If she can, I can, right?

The first time my husband convinced me to hit the river, it was the week of our anniversary. He walked into the house with life vests, an inflatable boat, and snorkels and informed me of his plans for our special day. He wanted us to get back to our roots as a couple, have fun together, try new things. But I didn’t want to just try new things. I want to safely explore new things with someone who is an expert in the new things we are exploring.

So as to not spoil his plans and just hide in our room all day, I spoke with some locals and found out exactly where to put in and exactly where to get out and exactly what to expect. The day of, I still required a Xanax.

It took another month and a half for me to feel comfortable enough to take all the kids out on the river. Honestly, I would have dragged my feet for even longer except my daughters friend was staying with us for a few days and I refused to not do anything fun with them. After talking to some more locals, we decided to put in further down the river this time for a more relaxing and easy float. We drove separately so that we could park the truck down river and then drive back up river and park the car. After that, we spent about a half an hour blowing everything up, two tubes, a boat, and a kayak.

IMG_20170711_142041By the time we were headed for the water it was 2:30 in the afternoon. My daughter and her friend jumped in their boat and took to the water seamlessly. Next my husband and youngest daughter headed down river in the kayak and my son and I prepared to put in last. My son jumped in his tube with ease, and I stepped directly into a snake pit and screamed. OK, so it wasn’t actually a snake pit, it was just some muck that my foot got stuck in, but still. I did scream. I could just picture about a hundred baby snakes latching onto my ankle and a big momma snake chasing me all the way down river.IMG_20170711_143715

Once we were safely floating away from the venomous, slithering river reptiles, I was quite content. We were surrounded by beauty.  It was quiet and peaceful. Actually, my son doesn’t really appreciate silence the way I do, so he insisted on talking the entire time. But I didn’t mind, it was just us, talking the way we don’t often get to talk anymore, laughing and being silly and enjoying each others company. It wasn’t long before we were completely out of sight from everyone else.

The rapids were kind to us, they just gave us a gentle push and a friendly splash and we continued in bliss for a good hour or so. Around the time I was wondering if my husband would ever decide to pull off to the side and wait for us, I had a thought, “I wonder if he remembered to grab his truck key.” This is normally something that would ruin everything for me, but I was pretending to be one of those easy-going, whatever happens happens, kind of girls, so I just let it go. Whats the worst that could happen? We could hitchhike, it would be an adventure. Sigh.

He did indeed pull to the side with the girls and wait for us and when we caught up to them, we discovered, he did indeed not grab his truck key. To be fair, he did put it on my key ring, but I took off my key and put it in my water proof phone case leaving his key safely locked inside the car. We decided to both have a good attitude about it since there was no solution to the problem and we were enjoying our time so much.

To not get separated from everyone again, we attached the tubes to the kayak and tried to keep up with the girls in the boat. The last hour was perfection. I told the girls what to look out for and when to get out of the river and then I basically closed my eyes and enjoyed the bliss.

Heres what happens when you are me and you just sit back and enjoy the bliss? Everything turns to shit.

My daughter and her friend completely missed the ramp where they were supposed to get out. It came out of nowhere. By the time we caught up to them they were caught in some trees and a stranger was swimming out to help them. Their boat was almost completely deflated and they were on the outside of it, hanging on. Upon seeing them, I threw myself out of the tube, thinking that I would help get the kids and the kayak out of the river quickly so that my husband and I could get to the girls and help. The river was so deep at the point I jumped in, my feet couldn’t touch and the current was so strong I was immediately being swept away. Panic set in. I was no longer just worried about the girls but myself as well. My husband managed to wedge the kayak and tubes in the area where the girls had been but by the time he got there, they were further down river and out of sight. I swam to a more shallow area and struggled to find my footing. Eventually, I made it over to the kayak and my husband ordered me inside. I only agreed if he jumped out immediately to get to the girls.

To be honest, sometimes I’m a judgy asshole. I hear of terrible things happening to people and I think, “How does that happen? Weren’t they prepared? How did they possibly end up in that situation?” And then God laughs at me and says, “I’ll show you, you judgmental brat!”

I had no idea what was going to happen. I held on to the ropes that had us safely tucked into the trees and prayed that this wouldn’t be the worst day of my life.We waited there for what seemed like forever. Long enough for my kids to fight with each other, long enough for a fist sized spider to terrorize us. Long enough for regret. Long enough for fear.

Finally, we heard them. They were safe on land, the girls were fine and my husband and this good Samaritan were trying to figure out how to rescue us. They quickly learned that they would have to get back in the river, unlatch us from the tangled mess we were in and guide us to a calmer spot downriver where they were able to pull the girls out.

We were smacked in the head by tree branches, scraped and covered in bruises by the time we were all on dry land. As I was catching my breath, I learned that my girls were rescued by a stranger, who was in fact in a van, down by the river, freshly out of the hospital with diverticulitis. Seriously.

I was so humbled and grateful for his willingness to help regardless of whether or not it was in his best interest. He simply said, “When someone calls for help, you help.”

Once our adrenaline levels balanced out again, the girls assured me that they had a great time and that they weren’t traumatized for the rest of their lives. My husband hitched a ride with the park ranger to pick up our car and we met some friendly locals while we waited for him.

If I could, I would change a lot about that day. I skipped over so many important details because my main focus was, if she can, I can too.

But, I am cautious. I check things twice. I try things before I let my kids do them. And maybe she does too, but that’s not what she posts on Facebook, now is it?

So, while I will continue to find myself, and reinvent myself, I have also realized, I need to be true to myself. If she can, I can…but in my own way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oh the Humanity

Theres a party game out there, a party game for horrible people. If you are horrible, you know exactly what I’m talking about, if you are not (horrible), let me fill you in. It comes in a black box with plain white print that simply states, Cards Against Humanity, a party game for horrible people.

Basically it’s an R rated version of Apples to Apples. Everyone gets a handful of cards with statements that are offensive, politically incorrect, racist, sexually explicit or just plain weird. The “Card Czar” reads a statement and everyone else picks a card that best fits that statement, they turn in their answer and the “Card Czar” chooses a winner.

I’m sure by now that you can conclude, I am one of the millions of horrible people who have played this game. I may have played it numerous times, I may own it and bring it to Christmas parties, I’ll never tell. My favorite card is, “Why am I sticky?”  You can only imagine what kind of answers can go with this card, let your imagination run wild but keep it to yourself, we needn’t offend everyone.

Intrigued? Let’s play a special version right now, we can call it Cards Against Hospitality, how to lose faith in humanity.

First question. Whats gone missing in Cabin 2? A cup? A towel? A grill?  Cups and towels go missing all the time, it’s the obvious answer. False. If you guessed a grill, you win. You win nothing, but at least you didn’t lose a grill. Grills are not in the same category as soaps, and lotions, and single serve coffee packs. You don’t take the grill. The grill stays with the room. Well, it should stay with the room.

Second question. Whats missing in Cabin 4? An ashtray? A coffee maker? A bedspread? If you guessed bedspread, you win! Congratulations, this must have happened to you. No? You mean people don’t come stay at your house and steal the bedspread off of the incredibly comfy bed they just slept in? Oh, that’s just us. Bedspreads are not supposed to be mementos of a romantic weekend, not if they don’t actually belong to you.

Final question. Whats that smell in cabin 5? A rotting cheeseburger covered with flies? A mouse in the house? An upper decker? They all sound horrible, don’t they.  At this time you may be cringing, willing to put money on upper decker. Or you don’t know what an upper decker is and so by default you want to choose cheeseburger. Or you know that this tale takes place in the mountains, in the woods and naturally a mouse is the most logical answer. You are correct, all of you, and you are wrong, all of you. The smell in cabin 5 is all of the above.

A few days went by after our last guests checked out and I planned my day around preparing for our next round of visitors. Everything seemed fine. I cleaned the bathroom, and cycled through the laundry. I disinfected all the surfaces and then moved onto the kitchen. Once the refrigerator and microwave and stove had all been wiped down and I was about to move on, I glanced at the oven and decided it was best to check in there as well in case it needed a good once over.  I opened the door and the smell hit me like a brick wall. It smelled like a rotting corpse. It was a rotting corpse.  What was once a friendly, mooing, happy cow, was now a furry, molding cheeseburger covered in flies. As I held back the vomit, I grabbed the plate and held it about six feet in front of me and ran out the front door, throwing it on to the deck.

I returned to the smell. It was everywhere.

I decided that it was best to close the oven door and set it to clean so that whatever was still swarming around would burn to a crisp over the next four hours and twenty minutes and I prayed to God that the smell died as well. Once the fumes from the oven started to make me light-headed, I realized it was time to throw in the towel for the time being. On my way out, I saw that the trash can didn’t have a bag. Before I grabbed a replacement I looked to the bottom to make sure that there was no stray garbage rotting away. There was no garbage. There was a mouse, a live mouse. I screamed and jumped backwards not so much out of fear but out of surprise. What the hell was I supposed to do now? I wasn’t going to kill it, that’s for sure, and even if I had the stomach to murder it, what would I use? My gun? That’s a little dramatic. A frying pan? That’s a little gruesome. I definitely wasn’t going to feel its little body pop under my shoe either if that’s what you’re thinking. I had no choice but to grab the trash can holding it about six feet in front of me and run out the front door, throwing it on the deck with the cheeseburger and run back inside slamming the door behind me.

I was so done. I was once again light-headed from fumes so I prayed to God the coast was clear and ran to my car. The following day I decided to return to the scene of the crime to walk it through and make sure everything was as it should be. Of course, I sent Paul there earlier to deal with the rotting corpse and vermin so I was confident all would be well.

I realized immediately that the floor needed to be swept, so I grabbed a broom and got to work. Every room I swept collected piles of mouse droppings. So I swept and swept and mopped and mopped and headed back to the kitchen knowing that mice don’t just stay on the floor. I opened the drawers and sure enough, mouse droppings. Do you know what needs to be cleaned when you find a mouse in your house? Everything! Every. Freaking. Thing.

Once everything had been bleached and Lysoled and I was shutting off all the lights, satisfied that I was not defeated by such a small creature as a mouse, I wondered, what is that smell?

I checked the shower. Clean. I checked the washing machine. Clean. I checked the toilet. Clean-ish. I flushed the toilet. Clean-ish. I flushed it again, Clean-ish.

And then I remembered, Upper Decker.

The same friend that we would play Cards Against Humanity with, used to school us with foul terms or phrases and have us guess what they meant. We would never be able to figure it out so he would pull up the Urban Dictionary.

Upper Decker, the act of defecating in the upper tank of the toilet. When the next poor unsuspecting person flushes the toilet they get a bowl of beef stew.

Upper Decker.

I hesitantly lifted the lid of the tank and I found it. The smell. The beef stew. The Upper Decker.

I wanted to curl in a ball and cry. I wanted to hit the abort button on all of humanity. I wanted to throw in the towel on nature and hospitality. But I couldn’t.

All I could do was bleach, flush, repeat.

 

 

 

13 reasons why (not to have chickens)

Let’s be honest, chickens are a little bit trendy. People are just throwing themselves onto this, “I want to have a farm and grow my own foods and have chickens and blah blah blah,” train. We no longer buy our eggs in a pink styrofoam tray for ninety-nine cents a dozen. Sometimes my eggs cost four dollars and I don’t think twice about it. We all want farm fresh, organic, free range crap and we are willing to pay out the ass for it. But why pay out the ass when you can get the chicks for free. Was that funny? It sounded like it could be.

Anyway, if you are like me and have had dreams of raising little fuzz balls into breakfast producing machines, here’s thirteen reasons why that’s just an awful idea.

1) You can’t spread their legs and check their parts. The sex of a chick is a guessing game. Now I know you can special order hens specifically, but out in these parts, we go to a little farm, pick out little fluff balls and hope for the best. You have no idea if they are pink or blue and you really don’t care because they are so darn cute. We picked out 10, hopeful that they would all be hens. What. A. Joke.

2)  Chicken ass is nasty. It takes about two minutes once you bring those precious creatures home to notice that their ass is constantly covered in crap. Because their crap is wet, all the little wood shavings from their bedding sticks to their ass as well. You know what’s more disgusting than that? Nothing!

3) They die sad natural deaths. Unfortunately those little chirping babies are fragile AF. If the heat lamp is too hot or too cold or if all the stars just don’t align, someone is going to die. You will come to check on them and one will either be stiff and dead or dying and there will be nothing in the world you can do about it.

4) They die tragic unnatural deaths. Say you go to check on those week-old babies and somehow the heating lamp fell. Say a baby chick got caught under the lamp and burned to death. Say it burned so bad that its beak turned black and your kid was the one that found it and was inconsolable and you had to have a baby chick funeral. Not that it happened to us or anything.

5)  They wreak, not just when they burn to death. There is really nothing you can do to make baby chickens not stink. You can clean their bin out everyday, but their shit is literally being cooked under a heat lamp. Hot steaming mini piles of poo. Then they grow up and crap bigger crap that gets cooked by the sun. Disgusting!

6) They don’t just drink their water. It seems impossible but somehow these tiny little creatures manage to aim their asses directly towards their water dish and use it as a toilet. There is this little screw on cap that you attach to a mason jar and it allows just enough water to come out for them to drink but not spill everywhere. Somehow it gets completely covered in crap, every single day. 

7) They never shut up, ever. At first the little chirps are like music to your ears, you will be delighted by them. However, they really have no sense of time because of their heat lamp so that music to your ears continues on throughout the middle of the night and makes you want to claw your face off.

8) The awkward stage. They quickly outgrow the cute puffy stage where all their annoyances are forgivable and become teenagers. Teenage chickens are just as disgusting if not more so than baby chickens. They are louder and outgrow their space before you are ready for them to and become weird and awkward and kind of ugly. There is no use for them whatsoever. So they are pretty much the same as human teenagers. I kid, I kid.

9) Herding chickens is next to impossible. Once chickens are transitioned to a coop and have acclimated to it, you want to let them run around and be free chickens. The first several times is a joke. Herding cats is a vacation compared to herding chickens. They do naturally coop themselves at night once they figure out how to get back home but at first you basically have to chase them around in circles and offer them your first-born in order to get them to go where they are supposed to.

10) Chicken eating killers. We are not the only ones waiting for our chickens to produce our breakfast. Chickens attract all sorts of other, less friendly creatures. Coyotes, raccoons, foxes, and snakes all show up for breakfast, lunch or dinner without an invitation.

11) The rooster really does crow at the butt crack of early dawn. One fateful day you will be woken up by a gargling wobbly pathetic excuse for a crow. It’s cute really, that one time. You will be like a proud little momma the first time your son’s voice cracks. However, they figure it out quickly and become an overconfident asshole in about a week’s time, and they’re probably not alone. One rooster can quickly turn into four freaking cocks that take turns screaming at the top of their lungs all day long starting at about 5:30 in the morning. Say goodbye to sleeping in, like forever.

12) Farewell green thumb. Chickens eat everything. All those pretty flowers in your garden are delicious little snacks for chickens. I have watched my chickens levitate off the ground in order to pluck my roses off of their thorny bushes without permission or apology.

13) Murder. I hate to say it but what do you do with four roosters? I literally wake up every morning and fantasize about leaning out my window with a gun and blowing their mother clucking faces off. I haven’t of course, but it’s a really aggressive way to start out the day. My kids are even asking if they can kill the chickens by the end of the day. But how do you kill a chicken named Gumball, or Belina, or Jonathan or Mavis? Although I would love to eat some free range, mostly organic, happy healthy chicken, I just can’t handle the thought of Gumball soup.

Our chicken experiment has not gone as planned to say the least. We have yet to see a single egg. We are sleep deprived and covered in chicken shit. But those little dinosaurs have also become our pets. They follow us around and talk to us. They eat ticks and moths and everything out of the refrigerator that I would normally throw out. They call each other when one is missing from the group and the man chickens wait for the lady chickens to coop themselves before putting themselves to bed. Such gentlemen. They are entertaining and fascinating little creatures. And though they could provide my future omelets and should end up deep-fried and dipped in honey, for now we wear ear plugs, spend four dollars on eggs and purchase our dinner pre dead, cleaned and covered in plastic, thank you very much.

The F Word.

There is something to be said about friendships. How they change us, complete us, fulfill us, ruin us, heal us, gut us. There is something magical about how people can come into our lives by chance and change us forever. There is something tragic about how sometimes those people come into our lives and then for whatever reason leave us behind, making us a little bit less than what we were before.

When I was a kid I friended easily. There are people who are still in my life from so long ago that every friendship before them doesn’t even count. They aren’t the people that I necessarily talk to the most or see the most on my visits back home, but they are the people that I think about when I am out here, on a mountain, by myself. I think about how I will never have that here. I won’t be young and reckless and fun with anyone. I won’t have sleepovers or get into trouble or have any of those, “Do you remember that one time,” moments. These are the friendships that helped shape me into me. The people that had my back during awkward and embarrassing times, the people that knew me at my very darkest and still thought that I was amazing. I am missing those friends.

When I was an adult pretending to be a grown up,  I friended quickly. There was something about being young and married and a mother that made me grasp onto my friends like they were the only water source as I crawled on my hands and knees through Hell. Those friendships kicked the shit out of me. I loved them more than they loved me and I felt it every day. They made me hate sisters and vow that I would never be friends with any again because I would always be the odd man out. Those were the friends that I walked away from and they left a hole in me that seemed like it would never close. They taught me that friendship wasn’t necessarily forever, and I am not missing them.

When I was broken, I friended unexpectedly. They are the friends that showed up when I was bitter and had no interest in knowing them. I judged them for being too happy and perky and nice. They are the ones that healed me. They taught me that friendship could be reliable. It could be beautiful and ugly at the same time. These were the friends of verbal vomit, the ones I could plop down on their couch and unload every thought that was plaguing me and not worry about what they were thinking. They were the ones that would grab a shovel if I showed up with a body (I didn’t of course). These were the friends that gave me hope when we decided to move to Georgia. I knew that there were no shortage of people and if I was able to love these friends and be loved back equally if not more, if they could come out of nowhere, then surely others could too. These friends gave me courage, and I am missing them.

When I was desperate, I friended apprehensively. Thirsty, but afraid of the water. These friends became my tribe. They were my village. They were so not like me at all but then so WERE at the same time. They taught me how to be a better mother and a better wife, how to find joy in the little things, how to be content with simplicity. Their kids taught my kids how to be young again and some of them taught them to grow up a bit too. They helped to shape us as a family and be strong in who we were.  They made me love sisters, being that most of them were. These friends grew me up, and I am missing them.

Now I am alone. Not a kid, or a pretend grown-up, not broken and not desperate. Now I am waiting. I am so far away from feeling connected it’s suffocating.  I have no lifeline, no tribe. I have had to learn that though there were PLENTY of people to choose from in my former lives, when you live in an unpopulated area, it is just that, unpopulated. The people who are here know that I am an outsider and I feel it.

This place has me missing so many important things in so many important lives. Pregnancies, births, graduations, weddings, marathons, birthday parties. Brain cancer. There is a pull in my heart towards them that is so strong, it stretches thousands of miles. And it’s okay.

It’s okay, because this is the place where I will friend myself. This is the place where I will overcome my fears and chase my dreams. This is the place where I will be honest with myself about who I want to become. This is the place where I will friend my husband. This is where I will have to rely on him to be my best friend. This is where I will have to trust him and laugh with him and grow with him and grow old with him. This is the place where I will friend my children. This is where they will become a different version of themselves and I can get to know them all over again. This is the place where I will friend my mother, where we will have no choice but to rely on each other and laugh about this ridiculous life we signed up for.

This is where I will miss my old friends (most of them) and wait for my new friends. But in the meantime, this is the place where I will friend a God that can move mountains, and let’s be honest, He just might have to.