CABIN SEASON, DAY 1: a story in pictures.

Opening day comes just once a year — usually a cold, rainy day in May. It’s a holiday for people like us; not just the beginning of summer but also like visiting a friend you haven’t seen for a really long time. You can’t wait to see her. And you wonder what she looks like. Does she look the same? Did she change her hair over the winter? You just don’t know because The North is deserted in winter and there’s no one to tell you what she’s been doing.

This is both surreal and stressful. This cabin exists on its own in the eight months between September and May. Animal families, squatters or fugitives could’ve found an open door and moved in, living there comfortably and playing gin with the cards they found in the drawer. Storms could’ve felled trees or damaged windows. Nature could’ve rearranged the landscape in that way that she does. All of this could’ve been happening while we obliviously went to work and drove the kid  and made dinner and watched Netflix just four hours to the south. How would we know? We might as well be on another planet.

As we drive north, we go backwards in time through temperatures you thought you had left behind in March. Sometimes it’s the fishing opener. Sometimes it’s Mother’s Day. But never is it warm. I dig out sweatshirts and sweaters that are too ugly to wear in civilization  — and I wear them all at once, layered one on top of the other, because the mindset of May made me forget to pack a jacket.

When we arrive, it is both surprising and comforting. She is still here. She did not burn down. There is just one small tree fallen across the driveway, easily cleared by hand. And there are things growing and blooming that I swear I have never seen before. It’s like she continued to live even though no one was here to witness it.

Here is the very mundane story, in pictures, of getting acquainted with the cabin we last saw in September of 2016:

As we drive up the long-ass driveway for the first time, I look in the woods and I see this little house. “What’s that?” I ask Mike.

“It’s an outhouse,” he says.

“Are you serious?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says.

“Is it ours?!” I ask.

“No,” he says.

And I’m kind of bummed. Not that I want an outhouse — I’m more of an inside toilet girl — but it would be kind of fun to discover an abandoned outhouse that was once used by the ghosts of your cabin. How is it that it took me three years to notice the ghost outhouse? All I can figure out is that the leaves of the trees have rendered it invisible in the past; but this year, I caught them unawares.

 

 

Further up the driveway, I also see a colony of yellow flowers, a whole carpet of them, winding in and around the birch trees. This is sort of like when your kindergartner comes home and uses a new, impressive word. It’s exciting but also unsettling. “Where did you hear that? I never taught you that!” But you forget that there are things happening even when you’re not around. How can these flowers exist in this space without my knowledge? I didn’t plant them — how did they get here? How does the world revolve without me?

 

 

We find Liam’s rowboat in place against the cabin, undisturbed by winter. Last year, we found it tipped over and full of a winter’s worth of melted snow. We (and by “we,” I mean “Mike”) take the canoe out of the crawl space and put it back in its summer spot.

When Mike goes to open the crawl space, he finds it open. Not just unlocked — but open. The padlock is taken off and the door is ajar. For how long, we have no idea. Could it have stood open all winter? If Mike left it open by accident, then the answer is yes. Or is it the fugitives, looking for buried treasure and life jackets? These are both very real possibilities. Either way, nothing is missing. So — you know what happens when your crawl space is open all winter? Nothing.

 

 

Inside the cabin, there is no bat poop. I repeat: THERE IS NO BAT POOP. This means we won. The bats have moved out permanently and found a more hospitable neighborhood. After checking for bat poop, I light a citrus-scented candle and spray copious amounts of Juniper Ridge Cabin Spray. Cabin spray — this is a real thing. Apparently, I am not the only one who can’t sit down when it smells like funk. Juniper Ridge Cabin Spray still smells like cabin but more like clean cabin. I love it. Liam holds his nose but that just makes me spray more.

 

 

I check on the groundcovers I planted last summer and they all came back, bright and limey and ready to choke out the weeds. I find what I think is deer poop down by the fire pit but Mike informs me that it’s actually moose poop. When a moose poops by your fire pit, you know you are in the real North. I almost feel privileged that he chose our fire pit to desecrate.

 

 

I go for a walk to see if anything has changed. I find this cabin that I don’t think I’ve seen before. I must have walked by it dozens of times. But it doesn’t speak very loudly; it looks like it could’ve been sitting there, unused, unvisited, for decades. This happens sometimes. Families grow and move away but no one wants to sell. So they just keep it and not go. And it just waits, patiently, while its paint slowly peels.

 

IMG_0806

I pass my favorite outhouse, sitting at the top of handmade stone stairs.

 

 

The floating sauna is pulled out of the lake, waiting for repairs. Someday, I will make friends with these people so I can use their floating sauna.

 

 

Walking further, I see an unsightly septic tank and it reminds me of the difficulty of living so far from town. We have no city sewer system. We are responsible for the disposal of our own excrement. Some people have outhouses and some people have septic tanks. With a septic tank, there’s more talk about poop and toilet paper in your daily conversation than there would be at home. Bat poop, moose poop, people poop — these are all acceptable conversations at the cabin.

 

IMG_0790

I cut through the fishing resort; some boats are in the water. Some look like they, too, are waiting for someone to arrive and give them a purpose again.

 

IMG_0833

I take a photo of this boat because of the paddle; a paddle makes everything more picturesque.

 

 

I find the remains of a crawfish down by the water.

 

 

We play cards and Monopoly. And in the Monopoly game, I find this handwritten replacement for Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s not my writing. It’s not Mike’s writing. It’s not grandma’s writing. We go through the list of everyone who has ever played that game of Monopoly. Not one of them matches the writing of the handmade deed. Where did this come from? What happened to the deed for Pennsylvania Avenue? And all I can figure out is that fugitives really did live in our cabin over the winter, and they played Monopoly, and they accidentally misplaced Pennsylvania Avenue. But they were good fugitives because they were conscientious enough to make us a new one.

 

 

Before I go, I take a video of the waves lapping at the rocks on the beach. I must have a hundred videos like this from shores all over the world. But it never it gets old.

And I’m always trying to take it home with me.

Let’s Read About Cabins and Win A Free Book

Boston Mills Press and Firefly Books have recently released a new edition of their quasi-classic The Cottage Bible. And they’ve graciously gifted me a copy to give away to a lucky Cabin Crush reader.

There are a lot of great cabin books in my house. Like this one . . .

51OdOUo8gOL._AC_US160_

Cabin Porn: Inspiration For Your Quiet Place Somewhere

 

And this one . . .

61p2VP+-INL._AC_US160_

Hide and Seek: The Architecture of Cabins and Hideouts

 

And this one . . .

61nmLr7G1HL._SX473_BO1,204,203,200_

Back to the Cabin: More Inspiration for the Classic American Getaway

 

And, of course, there’s this one . . .

518MbdqD32L._SX473_BO1,204,203,200_

The Cabin: Inspiration for the Classic American Getaway

(if you want to read about how I geeked out all over myself when I met the author of the last two books, aka how cabin architecture relates to Shaun Cassidy, you can click here.)

 

But The Cottage Bible is different. This is a nuts and bolts manual for the pragmatic cabin owner who doesn’t shop for the perfect salt and pepper shakers or cry every time they hear a loon. This is for people like Mike, who has a new part-time job at Let’s-Worry-About-The-Cabin-R-Us. When I’m wrestling with throw pillows to find out which ones are squishiest, he’s daydreaming about the Home Depot bucket he’s going to MacGyver into a mousetrap. Tomayto, Tomahto. The point is that there’s stuff you can do to avert and/or deal with cabin calamities and thus maximize the enjoyment of your cabin time.

According to the blurb, it’s “an all-in-one compendium of vacation-home knowledge . . . an essential collection of troubleshooting and problem-solving tips, a reliable guide to all manner of flora and fauna, and an indispensable manual for getting the most out of your home-away-from-home.”

Topics include Boating, Maintaining Canoes and Kayaks, Winterizing Your Boat and Motor, Swimming Safety, The ins and outs of Fishing, Campfires and Campfire Foods, Building a Birdhouse or a DIY Sauna. There’s an elaborate section on critters but, strangely, not much info on how to get rid of critters which is really how I approach critters and please don’t send me hate mail, PETA. You can read about the various snakes at your cabin – which I did not do. Instead, I closed my eyes and turned those pages super fast.

I learned that worrying about a monster living at the bottom of the lake who will rise up and terrorize you is a common phobia (note to self: cancel therapy appointment). And even better, they provide an explanation of lake anatomy that proves that monsters can’t survive at the bottom of the lake. And science would never lie to me. So I feel better about that.

Most helpful are the checklists for opening and closing the cabin because, dang, that is a huge job for Mike and I just show up with the chips. That probably isn’t fair.

 

To win a copy of The Cottage Bible, just tell me in the comments section where you you’d like your dream cabin to be. Lake Superior? The Pacific Northwest? An island in the Baltic Sea? This is for dreaming big so don’t be shy. I’ll randomly choose one comment and pop your prize in the mail.

 

A Voice…From Inside the Cabin Shouts “GET OUT!”

Mike and I arrive at the cabin by ourselves for a much needed couples-only respite while Liam is away at camp. It feels special. Grown up. Like we are finally mature enough to have a child who can go to overnight camp for a very long time. And we are also mature enough to feel secure leaving town while he does it. I’m looking forward to forty-eight hours of real and true solitude uninterrupted by the constant begging for Pringles.

We put the Jeep in four wheel drive and drive up the long-ass driveway, bumping over boulders and ducking under branches that scrape over our roof, cresting the hill with some effort, and finally parking at the rear of the cabin. Mike goes to unlock the cabin and take a look around, as is his habit, while I open the tailgate and begin the unloading process. I leave the cooler, which I like to call the “cold chest” so I sound campy and old-fashioned, and grab something much lighter for the first trip. Like chips.

And just when I approach the large bank of windows on the side of the cabin….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…..I hear Mike shout “GET OUT!”

Followed by a door slamming.

I run to the window and look inside, my chin just reaching the bottom of the sill. Where is he?! What’s happening?!

As my eyes scan the interior of the cabin through the glass, I’m paralyzed with indecision; should I run to the car and lock myself in? Or stand here and witness the demise of my husband so I can ID the perp in court? It never occurs to me to go inside. That just seems foolish. Like opening the basement door when the spooky music is playing.

Because I’m already paralyzed, I go with standing at the window and ID’ing the perp.

That’s when Mike comes running out of the back bedroom, slamming the door again, and when he reaches the living room, I watch as he abruptly stops running and begins doing squats. Not a full set — just a few, like he’s warming up. It looks like he’s ducking from an invisible light sabre.

My nose isn’t pressed against the glass because it’s way too dirty but I really, really want to — as if that somehow helps you see better. What the H is he doing?

After a pause, Mike does one more squat —  and then runs out the front door, slamming it hard behind him. My head turns in the opposite direction, waiting for the perp to give chase. But instead, a big black bat comes swooping toward my window, close enough to make me do a couple squats — even though I am outside and he is in.

Mike opens the windows and doors on the porch and yells to me “Kristin! I’m going back in! I need you to watch for the bat!”

Because this is not our first rodeo, we know how to get a bat out of the house. I know because I googled it from the safety of my bathtub/bed while Mike was “out there” looking for a tennis raquet.

Bats like fresh air. And they will innately fly toward the fresh air which is hopefully coming from your open front door. But it’s not a perfect system so you might have to do a couple sets of squats before he finds it. Unless, of course, you’re sleeping in the tub.

So after opening windows and screen doors, Mike is going to open the front door and then make a run for the refuge of the bathroom. It’s my job to watch the bat and yell for Mike to come out and slam the front door behind Mr. Bat.

Once the plan is in motion, I start yelling at the bat: “Go! Go!” I scream, like I’m cheering on the bat from my bleacher seat at the window. “Go, Bat!” And when he finds his way to the porch, I shout “Do it! Do it!” As if the bat knows English and just needs a little encouragement.

That night, when the bats are out terrorizing y’alls neighborhood, we begin a bat eradication process that we foolishly thought had been done by the Finnish Carpenter. It involves a highly toxic expanding foam that makes superglue look like Elmer’s. Mike uses the Jeep to climb up on the roof and spray the foam into the supposed entry points.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He walks around up there all Easy Reader-like and I turn away so I don’t have to imagine my life as a widow. I calculate how long it would take an ambulance to get to this remote location and I decide that we will never have any emergencies here. We can only have emergencies at home where the fire station is actually on our street.

Sadly, there are clearly some bats who decided not to go out that night; we hear them panicking when they go to their regular door and it is no longer available. I swear, it sounds like they are actually conversing, frantically, in a language I don’t understand. I imagine someone flapping their wings and screeching “I TOLD YOU WE SHOULD’VE GONE OUT TONIGHT!” It makes me so very uncomfortable but I just keep repeating my mantra, “This is the natural order of things. This is the natural order of things. This is the natural order of things.”

The following weekend, post-bat eradication, we open the cabin only to find finely crafted pyramids of bat poop on the floor. I look up and do a warm-up squat. Mike shakes his fist and revisits the roof that night.

Each time we come back, we find the finely crafted pyramids of poop and respond by spraying more toxic foam into smaller and smaller openings, most of them no bigger than a crack. I’m starting to think that the bats are supernatural and just pass through walls.

On two separate occasions, we fight bats in the middle of the night, while our guests sleep. And on one occasion, our movie night is interrupted by a flutter and a mysterious breeze. “Ghosts!” I think. Until Liam calmly says “Oh….hello bat.”

Suffice it to say that hilarity ensued.

This particular visitor was a dive bomber — don’t let anyone tell you that bats don’t do that – my thighs are still burning from what was definitely the most rigorous set of squats I’ve ever done. Mike sets the plan in motion once again, running out to the porch with Batty hot on his heels, and deftly closes the door behind him, trapping the two of them on the porch. That’s taking one the the team, am I right?

Just as I’m straightening up from my squat, Liam lunges for the door so he can join Mike out on the porch.

“NOOOO!” I scream, throwing my weight against the door.

And Liam screams back at me, “I WANT TO BE A PART OF THIS!!!!”

I hold him back while Mike battles the bat on the porch — seriously, I actually have to physically restrain him so he won’t run out there and sabotage the whole operation because god knows he’s never shut a door in his whole gd life.

Five minutes later, we repeat this same exact scene when another bat dive-bombs our movie. Except this time, I shoo Liam out the door after Mike so he doesn’t miss out on any of the bat-dodging fun.
The next step in bat eradication is radical. And it hurts me because I am the one who’s taken great pains to make our cabin pretty. Our next step is to spray the highly toxic expanding foam on the INSIDE of our cabin. In the rafters, around doors, around windows, in places that we hang out every day — not like the roof. Do what you want to the roof, I don’t care. The only one who’s going to see what the roof looks like is the guy who goes up there to spray highly toxic expanding foam.

When you spray even the tiniest bit, it quickly grows like some sort of sea monkey, and hardens into a puss-colored mushroom cloud. It looks like the spongey material of a booth from a ’70- era fast food restaurant, the kind that always had chunks bitten out by some toddler. And if you don’t act quickly and carefully, with your hands and arms fully covered, it will either drop on you and fuse to your skin forever or it will hang in perpetuity like puss-colored cabin stalactites.

But I don’t care.

Because the next time we visit the cabin, there are no finely crafted pyramids of bat poop on the floor.

When I tell Mike that the next Cabin Crush post will be about the bats, he says proudly, “I’M BATMAN!”
And I do believe he’s earned it.

These Are My Cabin Pants

Why would someone need cabin pants?

Maybe because you’ve contracted Lyme Disease twice and you think there might be little targets on your ankles saying “Deer ticks: bite here.”

And cabin pants wrap tight elastic around your ankles and your waist, blocking entry to biting carriers. And if there was a cabin jumpsuit that added tight elastic around your wrists and your neck, you might buy that, too.

I’m very lucky.

So many people with Lyme Disease are really, really sick. They are in a lot of pain. They can’t get out of bed. They can’t go to work.

Fortunately, I’m not like that. My pain has been annoying at most and I get a little dizzy sometimes. My hands and feet get numb. I’m a little tired.

This is what I tell myself.

And for a long time, I kept doing whatever I wanted to do; early morning parenting plus a marathon trip to Target and the grocery store followed by a stop at Home Depot, then racing home for some office time and a workout (can’t skip the workout), then after-school management including pick-ups and drop-offs and homework (with a little screaming and shouting thrown in), topped off by dinnertime, nighttime parenting and, if necessary, working on a writing project late into the night.

Was I tired? Of course. Everybody’s tired. But these things needed to be done so I just pushed until they were done. I assumed that everyone was as tired as I was and we were all taking it on the chin because that is what life requires. And if I can do all this with Lyme Disease, I thought, then I must be okay.

But I was weak. In fact, it was a gym trainer who sent me to the doctor in the first place; she had been working with me for six months with absolutely no signs of increased strength — “how is that even possible?” she asked. And the mildly annoying pain in my knees and hips didn’t present in a normal fashion.  She was concerned. Shortly thereafter, a wise doctor pushed down on my knee and, when I couldn’t push back, she said, “I think we should test you for Lyme Disease.”

The test was positive, showing I’d had it for a year or more.

I did what I was told and stopped eating everything that I loved and took lots of pills and even stopped exercising in order to heal my overburdened adrenal system. I paid attention when I was tired and turned for home even when my to-do list was undone. I listened carefully to my body so I could heed its messages; and I was a little startled by how often the message of fatigue surfaced. I wondered if I was getting more fatigued or if I had previously been seriously gifted in the art of denial.

The mildly annoying pain and the daily fatigue didn’t keep me from my weekly dance class, though. It was only once a week and it was my primary physical and creative outlet. It was, as they say, my thang, my jam, the only thing I had been doing since childhood that I never grew out of. I would just hold back a little bit and it would be fine; I still secretly thought everyone else was as tired as me so surely I could manage one carefully executed dance class. My dancing was lackluster and uninspired but it was still fun.

Until it wasn’t anymore.

Eventually I had to stop and grab the barre if I changed directions too quickly. I got a head rush going from plié to relevé; and very little dancing involves staying totally upright and facing forward all the time. I got injured easily and old injuries resurfaced for no reason, refusing to heal. And, most notably, when class time rolled around in the early evening, I only had enough energy left for the couch and the TV. So I stopped going. “I’ll be back!” I said. “Maybe by Christmas! Or after spring break! For sure by the recital in this summer! I’ll certainly be better by then!”  It was embarrassing.

I thought my excuses and promises were covering up my embarrassing weakness (they weren’t). And I feared that everyone thought I was either lying or lazy (they didn’t). And when I finally publicly admit that I will not be back, I publicly cry like it isn’t just a hobby we all do on Thursday nights. I cry like I’m a member of the Dance Theater of Harlem and my feet just got chopped off. It’s still the one and only time I’ve cried over this stupid, annoying disease.

So it’s really no big deal.

I’m really very lucky.

But,

for the time being,

I can’t go to my dance class and I can’t ride a bike and I can’t walk with friends who go too fast and I can’t go to Target and Home Depot in the same day and sometimes I wonder if my driving is okay (I’ve never spoken that out loud). I can’t do the things that all the other people do.

And I also know that if I weren’t a stay-at-home/work-at-home parent, I wouldn’t have been able to play this charade of “I’m so lucky, it’s really not so bad.” Because if I had to be showered and dressed and sharp for a meeting with kids out the door at 8am, my denial couldn’t have survived very long.

Will I get better? Maybe. But’s it’s been a long time and I never seem to be symptom free.

I’ve followed every protocol for Lyme Disease from both Western and alternative practitioners; short course of antibiotics, long course of antibiotics, infrared sauna detox, intravenous vitamin C treatments, herbal supplements, vitamin and mineral supplements, detox protocols, epsom salt baths, anti-inflammatory diet (gluten free, dairy free, grain free, sugar free, caffeine free, alcohol free, nightshade vegetable free – there’s very little else to eat). Despite all that, I still don’t get to function like other people.

The moral of the story is that it’s tick season; many of you (and your children) have a higher susceptibility to the dreaded bite of the deer tick that delivers Lyme Disease. Some of you will be bitten, probably have been bitten, and nothing will happen. Others will get a bullseye rash and go to the doctor for a round of antibiotics and be done with it. And some of you will have mystery symptoms that go undiagnosed for years until you finally have to quit your job and lie down on the couch for a living.

Be prepared and do your homework. Seek out the rates of Lyme Disease in your area or the areas you’re visiting; if you’re near deer habitats — including urban and suburban environments — use a tick repellent and do a tick check when you come in. There are lots of designer and all-natural bug spray options but, just like sunscreen, the best insect repellent is the one you’ll use. Stay on trails and avoid areas with tall grass. Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat after being outdoors. Take a shower and scrub your body with a loofah sponge and peppermint soap (Dr. Bronner’s is good). And I hate to break this to you but tucking your pants into your socks is a good idea. I’ve gotten around this fashion faux pas by wearing cabin pants – joggers with elastic ankles and then applying tick repellent to said ankles.

It sucks that I have to be afraid. I should be able to enjoy God’s green earth without fearing it. But I guess I wouldn’t go for a swim in shark-infested waters based on the conviction that earth is a gift to be enjoyed without fear.

My Secret Anxiety (hint: it has to do with Gloria Estefan. I’m totally serious.)

One night last June, I woke in the middle of night surrounded by the calamity of a shell that was trying to become our cabin. I was awake from 3am to 6am, that time when it starts to get light and you squeeze your eyes shut and whisper cuss words, willing yourself to sleep,  trying to bring on what is now known as “last night.” I hear people talk about this phenomenon, this not being able to sleep thing, and I always nod my head with absolutely no understanding of it and all I can think is “Damn, you’ve got a lot on your mind.”

Something was tormenting me.

When Mike told me he wanted to get a boat, I was like “Yay! I like boats! Boats are awesome!” What I didn’t foresee was the collision between my excitement about boats and water and my short history of worry that my child will die a watery death.

On our inaugural boat ride at our new cabin, I can’t relax and enjoy it the way I used to. Liam jumps and flits from one side of the boat to the other until I scream “LIFE JACKETS!” He lays down on the bench in back, near the 90 horsepower motor, and I worry that he’ll roll out and get chopped up in the propeller like that guy that died underneath Gloria Estefan’s boat. I see other boats on the horizon and  picture them aiming straight for us unless somebody DOES SOMETHING! LIKE NOW! I wonder why lakes don’t have lanes and traffic lights and police officers directing traffic. I wish the speed limit was ten miles per hour.

And when Mike installs Liam at the wheel, I start engraving all our tombstones, especially when he gets distracted by a birdie and absent-mindedly turns the wheel in the direction of his eyes. Dead. All of us dead.

It was so unenjoyable that I actually think “Maybe I should pop an Adavan before coming to the cabin. Perhaps then I won’t die.” I can put it in the first aid kit with the tea tree oil and the cat’s claw and the milk thistle and the Free & Easy Wanderer pills and all the other pure and natural remedies that reveal my distaste for synthetic pharmaceuticals. I don’t even know if Adavan works on an “as needed” basis but, if it does, I would throw all my hippie alternative ways out the window and pop those pills like Tic Tacs.

What rich irony is this? That I need to be medicated to relax at the place where I go to relax?

I understand the nature of anxiety and I try not to give in to it’s pull. I tell the voices in my head to fuck off. I watch Mike and follow his lead; I’m like the person with no rhythm at the concert, watching everyone else’s hands so they can clap on the beat. I copy his level of response (or lack of response) and I trust his judgement. It’s his child, too, right? If he’s not nervous then I should calm the shit down. So when I see Liam driving the boat — without crashing — I am both scared….and proud. So proud I can hardly stand it. I take pictures to document this moment, the moment he becomes a boatman, so I can show the boatmen (and women) that came before him that their boating genes have been activated.

And then I throw up.

Over time, with repeated exposure, I’ve gotten a little more comfortable. I don’t feel like throwing up anymore. I now know that Gloria Estefan’s boat was much bigger than mine. I even watched while we dragged Liam behind us on a tube, at top speeds, while he clung to a skinny rope and bounced over wakes like a rag doll in an earthquake. I didn’t protest and I didn’t ask to slow down. Instead, I looked at Mike and said, “People fly off these things all the time, right? That’s normal, right?” He laughed and nodded his head like “duh, that’s kind of the point.” 

But I must be blunt. “What I mean is, they don’t die when they fly off, right?”

“No. They don’t die.”

You’d better be right, I think to myself, or I will totally kick your ass.

I know I’m not alone. I know that many people, including some of you, have some crazy-ass anxieties about totally stupid stuff  (and seriously, if you could share them with me, that would help my mental health immensely. Maybe you are crazier than me and that would be awesome!!!). I also know that this is a first-world problem that I am lucky to have. But leisure is not just a luxury, it is also a necessity for wellbeing, regardless of privilege,  and if my leisure is inhibited by this singular anxiety than I’m in a real pickle. And this cabin experiment could be seriously tarnished.

My self-imposed treatment plan will be to collect other people’s irrational anxieties and surround myself with them in order to both expose the ridiculousness and feel better by comparison. So bring it on, crazies. Let’s put this shit to bed.

Help Me! TV or No TV at the Cabin???

Can you find the TV in this cabin?

Do we need a TV at our cabin? 

If you have a TV at your cabin, how do you use it? If you don’t have a cabin, does your (G rated) cabin fantasy include a TV?

I need to know because……

After Janie Our Real-tore hands us the keys to our new cabin, Liam proclaims loudly “We are NOT getting a TV at our cabin!”

To say that this takes me by surprise is a huge understatement. There are so many things a mother longs to hear from her children….things like “Will you read to me?” and “I don’t mind being seen with you” and “Do you mind if I do my homework right now? I know it’s not due until next week but I really like to get a head start on things.”  But this one means more to me than all of those things combined. This one restores my faith in his potential to be a contributing member of society and removes every worry I’ve ever had about my inability to engage him in worthwhile, enriching childhood activities. Maybe he does like nature and maybe he can find something creative to do and maybe he even likes spending time with us! Really? Can I be this lucky?!

And I’m not saying this to brag, like “Oh Liam doesn’t really care for sweets…”

Okay, fine, I’m totally bragging. And I deserve it because I’ve spent the last twelve years trying to get him to do something, anything, that is not TV.  He will sit for hours and watch pretty much anything unless, of course, it’s something I would like to watch. God forbid you should spend just a few minutes watching “So You Think You Can Dance” with your mother. It would make her so happy.

After Liam spends all of third grade within three inches of our 54″ TV (goddamn that thing!), we finally pull the plug on cable. I launch a raging campaign to get rid of those snotty Disney Channel kids that moved in and metaphorically ate all the food in my fridge without asking and then skipped away without cleaning up. It’s not enough that they put a hex on my child so he can’t stop watching TV, they also kidnapped his brain and made him sound like a perpetually indignant asshole. So they are no longer invited into my house. I don’t care if they come with a big Ed McMahon-sized check, they can sit on the step all day long but I am NOT letting them in.

After pulling the plug, Liam complains that there is nothing to watch – but that doesn’t stop him from consuming. He is no quitter. Instead, he watches hours and hours of the new “Let’s Make a Deal” with Wayne Brady (let’s see what’s behind curtain number one!). Which really doesn’t bother me because I’m so overjoyed that the vile Disney urchins are gone. And because Wayne Brady is a totally underutilized talent. (Did you know that “Let’s Make a Deal” is an hour-long show? Every day? That just seems like a lot but, like I said, totally underutilized talent).

But you know what cracks me up? It takes a year of “Let’s Make a Deal” for Liam to figure out that we have Netflix…

Can you say Trojan Horse??? For a whole year, I hold my breath every time he turns on the TV, knowing that the icon pops up automatically. I wait for him to say “What’s Netflix?”  I practice saying “It’s all the best educational programming in one place, sweetheart.” When it finally occurs to him to click on the icon I feel smug enough to let him go for it; and because the characters he finds on Netflix aren’t Hollywood High vixens/he-idiots who put TV hexes on him and teach him new ways to be disdainful, I’m okay with it. At least the guys on “Storage Wars” are doing math.

So you can see why I actually get choked up when he says he doesn’t want a TV at the cabin. I get momentarily verklempt, knowing that maybe he will aspire to a future outside our basement after all. And, more importantly, that the cabin represents something for him that is real and true and completely divorced from popular culture and the disease of hyper connectivity – something that will put hair on his chest and immerse him in the natural world and the comforting embrace of his family.

No judgement at all to those of you who enjoy TV at your cabins. And, if you do, I would love to hear your Cabin TV philosophy. I would love to hear all of your Cabin TV philosophies, both pro and con, because if there’s a way to successfully watch an occasional scary movie after dark, that could be really fun. Please share!

In the meantime, I will rest well knowing that this simple statement – “We are NOT getting a TV at the cabin!” – has assured me that this impulsive decision to buy a cabin may not have been a huge mistake. And that perhaps I’m doing something right……

Photo credit: Interior Collective

The Most Stressful Day of My Husband’s Life: Cabin Edition

images-2images-1

It’s the Hemnes queen sized bed, matching mattress, and Friheten sectional sofa/pullout bed with hidden storage!  This is our black market Ikea booty that we essentially stole by sweet-talking a sympathetic warehouse manager and convincing him that the unmarked/unclaimed pallet of goods that had been sitting in his warehouse for three weeks rightfully belonged to me, Random Caller.  And because there is goodness in the world, I talked him out of returning the unclaimed goods to Ikea and fully supported him when he offered to forge some documents and give it to me instead.  Huge smiley face.

As we drove away with our booty and headed for the north woods, this is what was happening at the cabin:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The saddest thing about this photo is that no one would sit on the toilet for me while I took the photo.  I was happy to sit there but then no one would take the photo of me sitting on the toilet.  And that is not the first time I’ve written those words, by the way.  I’ve seen lots of toilets on the curb or along the side of the road and no one will ever take my picture on them.  It’s one of my greatest disappointments in life.

The happiest thing about this photo is that the old kitchen/wildlife preserve is gone. The Finnish Carpenter and his band of SuperFinns have torn out the island that housed an unknown living thing, the leaning counter of Pisa and all of the Nixon-era herpes carpeting.  After “The Awakening”, in which I made a list of all the things that kept me awake at the cabin, I identified the herpes carpeting as Enemy #1.  If you can’t walk on it barefoot without catching a disease, it has to go.  How expensive could it be? Continue reading →