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.

the week that was 2

The biggest news this week was that I finally told Chris where babies come from. Mostly. Since he is only eight years old and still refers to his penis as a weiner, I had trouble using technical terms like vagina and instead told Chris the baby came out of a birth hole. (To all the women reading this, I’m sorry. I panicked.)  At first Chris thought I was referring to the derrière, but when I explained that babies did not come out of a woman’s butt and that there was a second opening, he emitted a shriek of horror that pretty much guaranteed that if/when the day comes that he finally does see a vagina, he will either run screaming from the room or refer to it as a birth hole.

Also this week, Chris received his first report card of the year. Four B’s and six A’s, including an impossible 114% in Spanish. Which is funny since Chris cannot speak a word of Spanish and when telling me about the recently celebrated Dia de Los Muertos (or Day of the Dead), he told me it was the day “you put out cookies for all the dead kids so they could come back to life”.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not baking a bunch of cookies so that creepy ghost children can roam around my house like extras on the set of The Walking Dead.


The front steps of the church where I work is a popular meet-up spot for the city’s homeless. This past Tuesday we were hosting at least eight of Pittsburgh’s most notable grifters, including a couple making out in a manner that could only be described as voracious.  When I went out to clear the steps one of the guys told me to “fuck off”.  After I said that I would not fuck off, he muttered “faggot” under his breath. One-Legged Scooter Woman found this funny and laughed. I hate One-Legged Scooter Woman. Long after the others had left the steps she sat there glaring at me as if to say, “Go ahead. Tell the woman with one leg to move.”

She is part of a revolving cast of characters at the church that includes Crazy Black Lady with the Orange Shawl, Blanket Man, and Dirty Old White Woman with No Shoes. Crazy Black Lady with the Orange Shawl stops into my office several times a day to let me know that if I need anything she’s right out front on the steps. It’s a real comfort. Blanket Man is just that–a guy who haunts the streets of Pittsburgh wearing a blanket as if it were the finest of caftans.  I once saw him walking near my house (miles from the church) and I got so excited I took a picture of him from my moving car and then texted it to a friend.

Dirty Old White Woman with No Shoes is arguably the smartest of all the panhandlers. She straddles the property line between the church and the library, leaving each business to think that she’s the others problem. She is there every day, sitting on the pavement with no shoes, picking at her dirty feet with her hands, and then shoving those same hands into people’s faces as she asks for a quarter. The other day when I was leaving the church with Chris, she briefly stopped picking at her dirty feet to ask if Chris was my son. It was sweet and I would’ve been genuinely touched by the moment had I not been sent into a Purell panic when I noticed she had taken Chris’s hand asking him if he had a quarter.


Later today we are driving to Chicago for the weekend to see a friend in a play.  Eight hours in a minivan.  Myself, Todd, Chris, and our friends Tom and Jackie. I have known Tom since I first forced him to be my friend back in junior high school twenty-six years ago and Jackie since she played a cow (or was it a horse?) in a play my Dad wrote more than fifteen years ago. Together with our complex histories and unique personalities we make up the cast of a Horton Foote play…as written by Charles Busch.

Poor Chris. Like so many of our adventures this trip promises to keep him on the psychiatrist’s couch well into his first midlife crisis.