Camping 102

smoreI missed our Sunday Evening Art Gallery post yesterday as I was camping for the weekend with my crazy family. We try and rent side-by-side sites, all the better to have the grandkids run helter skelter between grandparent campers. What one grandparent doesn’t have the other does. Riding vehicles, pokey sticks for the fire, dog treats, juice boxes — grandparents are a cornicopia of things to make the world a better place.

There is a payment for those hidden tokens, though. Marshmallows and flower hunting come at a price.

I  haven’t ridden a bicycle in a couple of years. Well, this past weekend changed all that. Bicycle to the bathroom. Bicycle to the beach. Bicycle around the “O”. All with my 6-year-old grandson. First ride in the morning, last ride in the evening. Not to be left behind as a lazy granny, I’m peddling off towards the sunset, blinded by the light, laughing as I’m crying. It wouldn’t be proper to say what part of my body hurts the most, but let’s just say it’s in the middle of the word SassY.

We also play Polish Horseshoes, a game made of string and blocks of wood and dowel rods. I’m sure there’s a professional name and version of this game, but not by us. And the more the participants drink, the harder it is to hit simple blocks of wood. We cook enough food for every meal to feed an army. Sometimes it’s a mishmash of Polish and Mexican and Belgium; other times it’s carefully planned exercises in free-for-all. I suppose that’s to ensure that there’s something on the table everyone likes. And leftovers to make their way to all ends of the state.

That’s why I need more bicycle rides.

Beach time is tella tubby time, but the grandkids don’t notice, so neither do I. It’s a time to build sand castles, endure freezing water temperatures, and wander over to the food stand for an ice cream cone. It doesn’t matter that the ice cream is fattening or the sand is corrosive — all it means is that for a short time GB and I were building castles in the air and drowning the poor sand soldiers made of plopped pillars of sand.

The best times are when family and friends sit around the campfire. Night has descended, the birds and squirrels are asleep, and the park’s raccoon pack hasn’t made it down to our campsite yet. We settle in our chairs, drink our drinks, make sticky, messy, yummy Smores, and talk about our lives. We all become human around the fire — not some speedy office hero, super mom, retired teacher, or trained security guard. We are just family people, sharing family thoughts, dreaming of the best way to retire or clean out our basements or keep in touch with other family members who don’t want to keep in touch. We tell each other what a good job we’ve done as parents and friends and children, how the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and how we would fix it if we could. Then we finally make it back home, derierres and leg muscles sore, hearts fixed.

Family Time, Friend Time, is so important to human survival. We don’t have to be best friends with the world to be best friends to one. Find one. Find a dozen. Share yourself. People will accept you, quirks and all.

And who better to share smores with than someone who is as full of sticky sweet sugar as you?


Remembering Italktoomuchitis


Although I think all my past blogs are funny/magical/clever, I don’t often repost them for the fear that thousands of likes rather than an appropriate few will jam the WP system.

Keeping that in mind, I was wandering through the rocky mountains of my memory and thought about this blog from June 2012. It hits the bullseye once again.

 Chit Chattin’ Cathy

doll Chatty CathyI subscribe to a few blogs where the author has broken out of their silent shell, finally finding a voice that is sparkling and true.  It’s not easy sharing something as personal as one’s self ― especially if that “self” has been suppressed for longer than one can imagine. I appreciate their efforts to finally let the world know who they are.

I, on the other hand, suffer from Italktoomuchitis.

I don’t remember when I contracted this disease.  It certainly wasn’t in grade school (too ugly), nor high school (too busy trying to get pinned). I worked in downtown Chicago for a PR department, but trust me, it was far from glamorous…or talkative ( I was rather submissive in those days). Found love, got married and had babies. I didn’t think of myself as overly verbal back then. But now I wonder — when did I become so…chatty?

Chatty is a relative word. Those of us old enough can remember the “Chatty Cathy” doll.  Pull her string and she’d say a half dozen things. What a novel idea at the time. For those of you a bit younger, this phenomenon was a highlight in Steve Martin’s tirade in Planes, Trains and Automobiles: “It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would. Gnah..gnah…” Well, I’m beginning to think I’m that doll — and I’m the one pulling the string.

These last few years I think I’ve carried the chatty thing a bit too far. One question and everybody knows what I had for dinner last night, why I think my cousin’s child is out of control, the cramps I had this morning, and how much my dentist charged for root canal. I spill my son’s secrets to his wife, and tell my customers not to buy today for it goes on sale tomorrow. What is wrong with me? Since when have I become this effervescent fount of non-interesting information? I find I want to respond to everything. I have an answer for everything. Whether or not it’s informed. I find I have little patience for opinions other than mine, and need to comment on every and all things that come my way. I try and keep my mouth shut most of the time, but believe me, sometimes it’s a struggle.

I wonder if it’s that old person syndrome. You know ― the older you get, the less you care about what others think.  That seemed like such a cliché when I was younger. All those old fogies saying what they want to, not caring if they offend this person or that.  Most over 70 were a little crotchety and unreasonable, but hey, maybe they just weren’t thinking straight. Pre-Alzheimer’s and such.

As I got older I started to get where they were coming from. Now that I’m teasing the 60 mark, I’m finding those outspoken 70-year-olds weren’t so far off the mark after all.  Having spent a lifetime trying to get my thoughts and opinions across to others, I can see why caution is thrown to the wind and oldies say just what they think. I’ve been questioned and second-guessed more times than you can count; I’ve been unsure of my choices and bothered by the choices of others. I sometimes wonder if I should have turned right instead of left, if I would have made a difference, if I should have said something back then.

And I have gotten to the point where I’m tired of not being listened to.

I’m not saying that my opinion is any better than anyone else’s. We know the world by what we’ve experienced. I have kept my thoughts and opinions respectful and private. But in suppressing the nonsense that runs constantly through my head, I find myself talking and sharing more than when I was 20. It’s like the filter is broken. And I wonder — is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Through this need to reveal more than the neighborhood stripper, I find myself volunteering information that no one is interested in. Well, maybe they are, but in a superficial sort of way. I think we all do that — we listen to others babble their life stories, their grocery store nightmares, their crazy family history or their list of illnesses. We listen because we really do care. Not that we can do anything about their stories, but because we know that sometimes others just need someone to listen.

Often the babble that comes out of other mouths has nothing to do with what’s really going on inside. Maybe the storyteller suffers from insecurities, or illness, or loneliness. Maybe sharing the story of their kid’s accomplishments is a way to assure them that they did a good job as a mother or father. Maybe all they want is to be noticed. To be cared about. To be liked.

Many things fuel our chatter — or lack of. Where we’ve come from is not nearly as important as where we are headed.  If chit chatting about great recipes or the knucklehead in the cubicle down the hall gives us a little clearer sense of self, I’m all for it. We all need to get the chit out of our heads so we can think clearer and feel stronger. And as long as the chat is not destructive, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of babble at the bubbler.

Alas, sometimes I think my only solution is to wire my jaws shut.