thirty day chip

Thirty days ago I posted my last status on Facebook.

I then drove my family three hours from our home in the city to a remote cabin in south central Pennsylvania for an off-the-grid weekend in the wilderness. For seventy-two hours I lived in complete ignorance of the world beyond our tiny house in the woods. There was no cell service, no internet, no social media, no functioning toilets. As someone who enjoys the conveniences of the modern world, to say nothing of proper indoor plumbing, this was roughing it.

But I survived.

Actually I did more than just survive, I thrived. For the first time in a very long time I was not distracted by phone calls or texts or the siren call of social media. With nothing left to steal my focus I was forced to live in the moment. I participated. I was engaged. I listened to my children play and rather than dismiss their exuberance as “just noise” I heard their words and I understood their language. I celebrated their creativity. I laughed and I smiled and I saw my kids again for the first time.

I’m not saying three days without Wi-Fi and suddenly I was Father of the Year, but in the days and weeks since that weekend I believe I’ve morphed into a solid second runner-up. The truth is even without the distractions of the modern world I struggle to be fully engaged every minute of every day. Sometimes I phone it in. I want to be Super Dad, but by the time the end of the day or the weekend rolls around I’m so exhausted and done with it all that I’ll settle for being the out-of-shape lazy-ass beer-drinking sidekick to Super Dad.

But then even being the fat drunk Robin is easier once you make the decision to unplug.

The world is a strange place without Facebook. I have no idea what people are doing or feeling. I don’t know what they ate for dinner last night or what movie they watched on Netflix last weekend or how they plan to vote in some distant primary. I don’t know what issue to hashtag or if black lives still matter or if that clerk from Kentucky is still a thing.

Even worse, since I can no longer use memes and shared links from Reddit as a barometer for one’s level of mental illness I’m forced to trust that every person I meet on the street is perfectly normal even though I know deep down they’re all fucking crazy.

I’m a stranger in a strange land.

I’m not complaining. Life is simpler without social media. I’m less concerned with things that have nothing to do with me. I spend more time enjoying all of the amazing things I have in my life and less time telling people about all the amazing things I have in my life. I’m not concerned with reliving the moment five minutes from now because I’m living the moment now. And while choosing to disconnect in a connected world can make you feel isolated I find that I enjoy living in a bubble.

It’s very quiet.


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.

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.