Camp character building

Pre-post introduction:

We were camping this weekend.

On Friday we had pre-arranged to meet a friend Damien met via the internet, John Sifferman and his wife. They met us at our campsite and we hit it off right away, that part of the day was great. What wasn't so great was the 3 mile (?) hike in the steady rain torrential downpour.

For reasons still unclear to me Damien led us on an "easy" hike from the campground since the day wouldn't be good weather for hiking the mountain we had planned to. He misjudged the distance and the weather. Our new friends were adventurous but no doubt drenched under their ponchos.

I lost my good humor, if I ever had it, when I was soaked to the core trudging through trails turned streams. The next day I wrote this.

I thought camping couldn't get much worse than this. I was wrong.

Yesterday, once again pointed out how different my husband and I are and how hard we have to work to find that middle ground. I had that scary "I want out of this" feeling. I don't mean marriage, I'm committed to this man till I die.

But I want out of always working on something, always figuring out, always subjecting my needs and wants for the family good (I'm not saying he doesn't - he does plenty). Sometimes it seems we both compromise so much for the sake of keeping us all together that we lose pieces of ourselves.

I know when we lose ourselves we often find someone of lasting character and fortitude. Losing yourself to find yourself; maybe this is what Jesus was talking about. But right now I'm just afraid of losing me and in return getting what?? Smelly wet clothes and sore feet?

I don't want to tame the adventure loving/challenge-myself-in-the-elements streak from my husband but I doubt my ability to fully embrace going along.

Just when I think I'm doing well; showering in the woods, using a glorified plastic bag to wash dishes and sleeping in a tent we go for a hike in the pouring rain. And in addition to feeling sopping wet I feel defeated, inadequate and simply miserable.

I'm tired of character building on my "vacations" (I actually have ceased to call camping a vacation). I just want to be. To sit on a porch swing drinking iced tea or an Adirondack chair at a lakeside cabin, sipping coffee and watching the sunset over a lake. I don't want to be trekking through woods so wet my underwear is dripping.

And yet... This next day of shining sun warms my spirits. What is this softening of my heart? I'm reminding myself to not forget yesterday's misery and certainly don't let Damien forget it.

On today's dry hike I am ahead on the trail when I overhear the words so tenderly spoken by my 10 year old (child becoming young woman) to her father "I LOVE you Daddy", and their endless trail chatter. Orienteering lessons, explanation of the internet and learning how to pee in the woods. To hear her relate to her father in ways only possible away from home, from mother's domain.

And now next to the fire, after a supper my husband served and a cold micro-brew in my hand, life is ok again. A day of sunshine does wonders to lift my spirits. I'm not such a bad person after all for liking life dry and predictable, that just makes me normal.

And because I need to make sense of the past 48 hours I'm writing a little list of things I've learned, and in some cases been reminded of, this weekend:

  • A single beer can have a very positive effect on my disposition.
  • I LOVE the sun, sun worshiper perhaps? Rain makes me cranky.
  • I need a bit more time for me in this relationship called family. A weekend day once in awhile to sew, craft and create. To accomplish something other than character development.
  • I need to plan a family vacation, maybe not this summer but definitely next - a cabin on a lake, with a beach and a chair. A place to be.
  • My husband is doing his best (and an incredible job I'll add) to build a loving, solid relationship with his children and they thrive in the outdoors with him.
  • My husband is full of vision and courage and desires something more than the norm for our family, and I love him for this though it scares the soaking wet pants off me.
  • I need to be open to change, tough as it may be, but gentle on myself in the process.
  • I am a good mother and good wife and even a mostly happy camper in this adventure of life.
  • Sleeping in our tent, on the side of a mountain, close to my husband and children is one my favorite places on earth.
  • If today is really crappy, tomorrow will probably be better.

Presently, I'm back home and life indeed is much better.

But now I miss the woods, I miss tenting in the rain (did I just say that), I miss the singular focus of being with my family in the outdoors.

When I'm outdoors - either hiking, at the ocean or camping I don't think about home. I don't think about gardening, tenants, calendars or twitter. Maybe that counts as a vacation after all. But I'm still holding out for a cabin by a lake...

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  • nicola

    nicola on Aug. 4, 2009, 4:01 a.m.

    oh, renee, what an eloquent, heart felt, honest, post. thank you for sharing all of that with the blog world. does it help at all to know that i love camping and the outdoors, too, but i am with you on the rain. it just isn't fun to be soaking wet and stuck out there, never to dry out. AND responsible for wet kids to boot. and i am with you on needing a vacation to just be. and i am with you on carving time out for yourself. huge hugs. what a powerful, wet string of lessons you learned this weekend. now take them and fly in a dry direction! nicola

    nicola's last blog post... weekend


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 4, 2009, 9:32 p.m.

      In all fairness and honesty - our clothes were dry by the late afternoon, quick dry clothing is amazing. And we were staying at an upscale state park campground with... a dryer! So by the end of night two all wets were dry. I'm just a bit of a whiner is all.


  • Annette

    Annette on Aug. 4, 2009, 12:50 p.m.

    So often when I come to your blog I find words that help explain me to myself. I am glad you are brave enough to put it all out is so nice to cross paths (even inernet paths) with someone I just know understands the framework through which I view this world of ours. Please keep writing and sharing and photographing!!!


  • kirwin

    kirwin on Aug. 4, 2009, 2:22 p.m.

    What a beautiful, honest, heart-felt post. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself.

    I think it's totally fair and understandable to want a "just be" vacation, with less character development. Children need to learn how to "do" that, too.

    (My turn to be honest) I sometimes wish my husband was a little more family-unit oriented, like Damien. I love him to pieces and know that he works so hard for us, but I guess I'd love to see him be a little more "in there" with the kids. Those snatches of conversation you overheard --on the trail-- I would love for some more of that to happen around these parts...maybe I need to plan a camping adventure for us?! ; )


  • Andie

    Andie on Aug. 4, 2009, 3:03 p.m.

    ha ha ha ha, omg this post made me crack up!!! So sorry to laugh at your miserable hike but my gosh, no woman alive would of been ok with dripping wet underwear, lol! You are the best and I love reading your mishaps just as much as reading all the amazing good you and your husband do together.

    Yes, plan yourself a relaxing holiday friend. You have EARNED it! xxoo, a. :)


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 5, 2009, 2:55 a.m.

      You're allowed to laugh. It's a funny story... now.

      Mishaps are fun to read. Life isn't perfect and it's refreshing and oddly encouraging to know it isn't for other people either.


  • John Sifferman

    John Sifferman on Aug. 4, 2009, 3:09 p.m.

    Renee, I wouldn't have even known that you were having such a hard day unless I had read about it here. You guys were excellent hosts for our day trip.

    We'll have to find a lakeside cabin to give you guys an excuse to come visit us :)

    John Sifferman's last blog post... There's Nothing Better Than Family, Fun, and Adventure: Meet the Tougas Family


  • Shannon

    Shannon on Aug. 4, 2009, 3:26 p.m.

    This reminds me of our tough conversation last night. At one point my husband said "Have you ever known in your spirit that you must do something, but your flesh only fights it?" It's the daily struggle, especially when we're so different.

    Have you ever read the book Created To Be His Helpmeet? I can't say that I agree with everything, but it is a good kick in the pants for us wives to give up ourselves daily.

    I completely understand just wanting to be for a while. My husband is a visionary and where he wants us to go is going to mean a lot of extra work, effort and changing on my part. It's scary.

    Shannon's last blog post... Adrenal Fatigue: Introduction and Definitions


  • steadymom

    steadymom on Aug. 4, 2009, 6:11 p.m.

    I'm having a crappy day here, so holding out hope that your last point is true and that tomorrow will probably be better! =)

    Love your honest reflections, as always.


    steadymom's last blog post... Sponsor Giveaway :: Tiny Sprouts


  • Kirsten

    Kirsten on Aug. 5, 2009, 1:42 a.m.

    Awww I'm sorry your trip was rough on you! Tent camping is not excatly relaxing...but cabin camping...hoorah! So fun! You are certainly a trooper for getting through the hike in the rain, though, LOL! It IS a pretty funny story!

    Kirsten's last blog post... Getting Crafty


  • kyndale

    kyndale on Aug. 6, 2009, 4:01 a.m.

    I think everyone said it all for me..I am so glad that you can express yourself so vividly so that I can understand myself a little better. I too feel like I want to be alone sometimes and be creative or just read. I feel like this mom job is so intense sometimes. I love it more than anything though. Thank you for a lovely and heartfelt post. Hugs, Kyndale


  • Ellen

    Ellen on Aug. 6, 2009, 7:34 p.m.

    I can't tell you how much I needed to read this today. It does me so much good to know that I am not the only one who has those kind of "get me out of this" feelings. And we are headed camping this very afternoon. I need to have your learning list tattooed on my forehead. :) Thank you.

    Ellen's last blog post... Unfaithful


  • Jody

    Jody on Aug. 11, 2009, 3 p.m. certainly has it's ups & downs. I have to say -- your adventures make me smile, they make me laugh, they spur an inner voice, that sighs and says, "Yes, that's it! That is how we are to engage life - to be open and honest, to feel it with our hearts, to gleen SOMETHING from EVERY day that we can carry with us for the rest of the journey." I love your eloquence of words -- making even the most dreary of days, sound beatiful at the center. Camping IS alot of work.....but at the end of the trip, I find myself wishing that it was the first day, and not the last. I find myself yearning for the sounds of nature....the loons, the owls, (I can pass on those dang early morning crows! LOL) the earthy scents of the trees & water. I will say, I do appreciate a nice HOT shower at the end of a toiling day....but, maybe I appreciate it a little bit more, once experiencing the lack there of. :>)
    Love & Hugs! Or perhaps, CHEERS are more appropriate! We need to sit and share one of my brother's micro brews he sent up from his brewery in Virginia. Shooting Creek Brewery, FLoyd, VA. is up & running, and very successfully so ;>) (I have to admitt, I am very proud of Brett & the team he has at the Farm).
    Here is his link for SHooting Creek Brewery:

    and in case I never sent it, the link to Five Penny Farm:


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 11, 2009, 10:19 p.m.

      Yes, yes and Yes. "Camping IS alot of work.....but at the end of the trip, I find myself wishing that it was the first day, and not the last." - me too.

      Let's share a cold one. Thanks again for visiting. Looking forward to getting together.


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