wilderness girls

Well, we did it. We successfully lived off the grid for 48 hours. We abandoned our cell phones and left behind the modern conveniences of internet access and flushing toilets. We embraced the simple peace and deafening quiet of crippling solitude. We were tested, and even though we passed the test, we quickly learned that we would never survive the zombie apocalypse. Still, we took comfort in the knowledge that if we were to be eaten by undead cannibals at least we would be eaten together.

I may never be a true wilderness girl in the vein of Shelly Long but our weekend in the woods taught me many things:

  1. I can make fire! A few hours after arriving at our cabin we cooked hot dogs…over a fire that I made. It’s true. See, I took this photo and photos don’t lie.
    FullSizeRender (3)Okay…photos do lie or at least they don’t tell the whole story. The truth is the owner of the cabin built the fire for us. He chopped the wood and laid the foundation of newspaper and cardboard beneath the logs…but make no mistake, I lit the match which started the fire which cooked the hot dogs.
  2. Swimming in a pond somewhere in south central Pennsylvania is a fish wearing my son’s glasses. It took approximately 16 hours from the time we arrived at the cabin for Chris to lose his glasses. He didn’t so much lose his glasses as Elijah knocked them off his face and into the pond while they were playing a game of Let’s Throw Rocks at Each Other! Todd and I were in the cabin when we heard Chris screaming. I ran out the front door thinking Elijah had fallen into the pond, a fear that was only encouraged by the sight of Chris, hysterical and crying, running towards me screaming, “Elijah!” I was about to jump into the pond to save my youngest child when Chris continued, “…knocked my glasses into the water!” After sending the boys up to the cabin for a much needed timeout, Todd and I – okay fine, Todd – spent the next forty-five minutes feeling around the bottom of the freezing cold pond searching in vain for Chris’s glasses while I lounged in the hammock drinking a mid-morning beer and muttering, “Whose fucking idea was it to go camping!?”
  3. It’s okay to fight. My family fights. We are four incredibly stubborn, strong-willed and opinionated people. Especially Elijah. We’ve had some epic showdowns. I always feel a little guilty after we fight, like we’re failing some test and maybe we don’t like each other enough because families that like each other never fight. This weekend I realized we fight so much because we like each other. We’re comfortable with ourselves and our flaws and because of that we’re not afraid to be the horrible, awful, terrible people we are.
  4. I require indoor plumbing. The cabin had a composting toilet. For those of you not in the know, this is a composting toilet. It ain’t pretty. It’s like a scene from one of those Saw movies. I hate using communal toilets – outside of the toilet in my own home which I sanitize hourly – so the thought of using a slightly more fancy Port-A-John does not appeal to me at all. I refused to use it for a full 24 hours. When I started having severe abdominal cramps I took a few deep breaths and opened a beer. Eventually I gave in and used the “toilet”, but only because I wanted to eat some more s’mores.
  5. S’mores be crazy good, yo. I had never eaten a s’more before this weekend. I’m not sure how it is I went forty years before experiencing the winning combination of burnt marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. I was in heaven. The only thing better than eating s’mores was Elijah calling them s’nores. He’s so damn cute.
  6. Social Media is unnecessary. My love affair with social media has been waning ever since I joined the virtual garbage dump that is twitter. My affection for Facebook has been in jeopardy because of memes like this: meme(Um, yes I do.)  The problem with Facebook is that you get to know too much about people and the more you know about people sometimes the less you like them. It’s sort of how I used to really like Angelina Jolie but then she married Brad Pitt and wouldn’t shut up about everything and now I have no desire to see her movies because instead of enjoying her performance I’m distracted by the fact that she’s a wealthy, privileged weirdo. And I hate that. I hate that Facebook is turning into Angelina Jolie. I just want to look at photos of people’s kids and read funny, self-deprecating updates. I don’t care what cause you’re hashtagging to death or what injustice with a 24 hour life cycle you’re squawking about or how you have feelings about everything. It’s just so much noise and I can’t be the only person who is going deaf.

This weekend taught me that I spend too much time thinking about and, worse, reacting to those causes and injustices and feelings. It’s time spent away from my family. So I have decided to unplug from the social medias for a bit. I know I’ll miss out on a lot of Minion memes and political opinions and feelings about everything, but I suspect I’ll survive.

Life will go on just as it did this weekend because as I learned, even though I couldn’t post a photo of the boys making s’mores, they still made s’mores.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

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off the grid

This weekend we are taking the boys camping. I love the word camping, it makes me sound so masculine. I tell people, I’m going camping, and immediately their brain is flooded with images of me draped from head-to-toe in a flannel Michael Kors onesie walking through the woods with a rifle slung over my shoulder hunting and gathering my supper before retiring to my tent for a night of wild romance with my accommodating lady friend.

No one actually thinks that because everyone knows I’m not the kind of guy who does that kind of camping with that kind of lady. The truth is I am staying in a cabin with running water and a toilet, the only flannel I own are bed sheets from Macys, I don’t like guns, my hunting and gathering skills are limited to Saturday morning donut runs to the neighborhood bakery, and my accommodating lady friend has a beard.

When people admonish me and tell me that I’m “missing out”, that I should go “real camping” and sleep in a tent and take my bath in a stream and squat over a hole in the ground I think, Are you fucking crazy? Why would I do that? It’s 2015. Who voluntarily shits in a hole?

I thank God every day that I live in a time of high-speed Internet, cable TV and indoor plumbing. I do not want to kill my supper or figure out which mushrooms will make me hallucinate. After all, isn’t that why we have Giant Eagles and drug dealers?

Not that I’m a total Phyllis Nefler. (By the way if you understood that reference, congratulations, you are a homosexual!) Our cabin is off the grid. This means it is self-sustaining. There is a small garden and chickens to provide vegetables and eggs for us to eat, it is run wholly on solar power, rain water is collected in a cistern, and as there is no septic system the cabin has a composting toilet which is basically one step up from an outhouse and two steps up from a hole in the ground.

Also, there are no Law & Order re-runs mostly due to the (gasp!) lack of cable TV.

In short, and by my standards, we are roughing it.

Not that I’m worried. I’ve been through worse. I used to direct community theater. I once shared a house with a violent lunatic. I accidentally saw someone much older than me naked.

Living off the grid I can handle.

The best part of our weekend away (for me) is that our cabin was advertised as a tiny house. This means it has less than 400 square feet of livable space, the kitchen is in the living room and there are sleeping lofts for the boys.

Of course I know from the hundreds of hours I’ve spent watching tiny house TV shows that the real reason our cabin has been classified as a tiny house is because of the composting toilet. Those tiny house freaks love a composting toilet.

I will admit to having an ulterior motive (beyond the eating of s’mores) for this camping trip. I’m using it a test run in the event of the zombie apocalypse or President Donald Trump. In either case I think my family will need a place to escape and start over while the rest of civilization crumbles.

I’m not worried about Todd who could make a ball gown out of chewing gum and bread ties or Elijah who can run really fast or even me because I can be absolutely ruthless, but I do fear for Chris. He’s pretty and easily distracted and I’m fairly certain that he’d be the first person to get picked off by a reanimated corpse, I mean conservative republican.

This trip will be just the thing to toughen him up, to turn him from a Beth into a Daryl, and just as soon as I finish fashioning these flannel sheets into a ready-to-wear onesie I’m going to drop that boy off in the middle of the woods with a bottle of Miralax and a shovel.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.