Waking up in Shenandoah National Park

Camp Cook Chronicles: Make it and B...

I'm not technically at camp, right now. We're staying with another homeschooling family in Rhode Island, 1250 miles from our Georgia home. My plan, to...

Fantastic Fall Hikes Near Atlanta - Indian Seats

Fantastic Fall Hikes Near Atlanta: ...

Sawnee Mountain Preserve, in Cumming, is a great place to explore with the kids. Named for a local Cherokee Indian, Sawnee, you'll find an historicall...

Teton Sports Oasis1200 Hydration Backpack Details

Gear Guide: Teton Sports Oasis1200 ...

Over the summer, we definitely stepped up our hiking game. We've been hiking with more regularity and discovering many new places to hike around our l...

Power Hour PowWow Oct 1-3, 2014

This week marked the first #HikeOnHumpDay and #GeorgiaMom Power Hours. I'm doing things a little different from September. You can read about October...

Travel & Adventure

Waking up in Shenandoah National Park

Camp Cook Chronicles: Make it and Break it, Road Trip Reality

I'm not technically at camp, right now. We're staying with another homeschooling family in Rhode Island, 1250 miles from our Georgia home. My plan, to break the trip into three overnight camps, technically worked beautifully. However, menta...

Power Hour PowWow Oct 1-3, 2014

This week marked the first #HikeOnHumpDay and #GeorgiaMom Power Hours. I'm doing things a little different from September. You can read about October's Power Hours, here. Fantastic Fall Hikes near Atlanta, #HikeOnHumpDay Wednesdays, All ...

Grief Beyond Belief

Me & My Crazy Horse

Whatever you do, whatever decisions you make during this incredibly surreal and agonizing experience… It’s survival, pure and primal.

As a widow, I belong to several virtual support groups for the bereaved. While I seldom post anything, I often read and relate to the voices of utter despair from the darkest corners of their lives. Yesterday, I read an account that particularly resonated with me, from an agnostic widow after suddenly losing her husband of 20 years. Her experience was posted by a closed grief support group moderated by Grief Beyond Belief on Facebook.

Reading her experience, I was reminded how our different belief systems can leave grieving and hurting people without the support we really think we’re offering to them during difficult times such as losing a loved one. Most of us just want to help, in some way. But, these are moments of turmoil in the lives of those directly affected. They may cling tighter to their faith or question everything about it and the comments we make regarding our own beliefs, or what we perceive are their beliefs, can leave them feeling more isolated and lonelier than ever before. Best practice, in my opinion, is to listen to them carefully and refrain from offering faith-based sentiment as comfort unless we’re certain that what we are saying correlates with their own sentiment in that exact moment.

This self-described agnostic widow shared her husband’s uncertainty in faith and the afterlife. She explained that was a factor in why she chose to have his body cremated and forgo an obituary, memorial or funeral service. She then proceeded to question her decision, “Am I disrespectful?”

In short, No, you’re not disrespectful. You’re human. I understand the crushing need to completely ignore the entirety of the world and their needs surrounding the death of such a beloved life companion. I understand the overwhelming desire to shut down any such gatherings of people in relation to my husband’s death and grieve privately and without ceremony. These things are huge… and overbearing and demanding on someone who has just lost a cornerstone of their life. I’ve been told that they are necessary for closure.. But, frankly, I don’t give a damn and I don’t agree.

When my husband died, I knew his wishes were for his loved ones to perform whatever ceremony and burial they needed to feel at peace. I didn’t hesitate in relinquishing all of the decision-making to the person it would matter to the most: his mother. Whatever she wanted so that she could move through the whole process easier is what would happen. Period. Otherwise, I would have likely handled things similar to the grief-stricken widow who questioned the respect of her decisions in a facebook post to strangers. No obituary. No funeral or service. A cremation and a ceremony-free dusting of ashes in the forest.

My mother died quietly, five years before my husband. There was no announcement, obituary or otherwise. There was no service or funeral.. just a plastic box full of ashes that I stored in my closet until I finally put it in the casket with my husband and buried it. I didn’t know what else to do with it. I guess I could have spread the ashes somewhere… But, where and why? It seemed fine enough tucked away behind the coats in the dark. It kept her near.. yet, still so far away.

I experienced that death and the afterlife as a grieving child the same as I experienced the death of my husband and the afterlife as a grieving wife. Neither was any easier than the other because of how we handled our mournful afterlife as people who’d experienced the death of a loved one. The gathering of people paying respects to my husband, nor his fancy blue casket, gave me anything more than the absence of those things for my mother. I was still struck with the deepest blackest emptiness that humans know. The darkness and agony still came keening in waves carried by the wind across the earth. I reeled in disbelief and stared down this new reality, bewildered and scared and alone.

And that’s the reality: No matter how many people show up, no matter what they say or do… No matter what decisions you make in afterlife arrangements.. You’re going to feel alone. You’re going to make choices based on that. It’s for your own survival.

Camp Cook Chronicles: Make it and Break it, Road Trip Reality

Waking up in Shenandoah National ParkI’m not technically at camp, right now. We’re staying with another homeschooling family in Rhode Island, 1250 miles from our Georgia home. My plan, to break the trip into three overnight camps, technically worked beautifully. However, mentally, it was a fierce dragon breathing winter down my neck.

This is my first really long road trip with an actual destination and arrival time in mind. Back in December, I tagged along with Val on a mission to deliver her children to grandparents in South Florida. For me and my boys, there was no real destination – other than returning home a week later after circumnavigating the state of Florida. I had no deadlines, no time to arrive and I basically followed Val around with no plans of my own. It was fantastic and easy. However, for this trip, I had deadlines to meet: reservations I made along the way and a night of camping with the family we’d be visiting.

Make It & Break It

My plans included car camping as our only accommodations. This left me on a strict, technically perfect, routine: drive most of the day, make camp, feed children, explore the area with whatever sunlight is left, sleep in a tent, make breakfast, break camp, pack it all in and hit the road for another day of driving to our next destination to do it all over.

By the time I reached Big Meadows Campground at Shenandoah National Park for our second night of camping, I was exhausted and wired and hungry. To top it off, I hopped out of the Envoy and was hit by a blast of arctic wind. I was freezing. I looked around, in the fading afternoon light, at this parking lot full of tents they call a campground and I broke down. Not the car. Me. I broke down. Tears filled my eyes and I wanted to be at home – all the hundreds of miles home where I’m not parked among hundreds of other people in the middle of nowhere, staring down this unrelenting wind tunnel and racing the sun to give my kids a warm shelter for the night.

But, more than anything, I felt like I’d failed. The sun was setting and I still had to make camp and feed everybody before we could explore the reason we were here: The Appalachian Trail. I was sure there was no way I could accomplish that in time. But, Crazy Horse lent me some of his calm resolve… reminding me that we definitely won’t make it if I don’t pull together and get to work. So, I did.

Go ahead…Put on some of those puffy gloves and try setting up a 20 yr old tent with worn out shock cords in the frigid, gusting wind after driving for 5.5 hours with only a quick gas pitstop. Pull out the two burner camp stove and get a dinner going. Don’t forget to move as quickly as you can, because we’re in a race to beat nightfall. Fill a bowl for everyone, eat as fast as possible and then set off on a 2 mile hike to explore the Appalachian Trail before the sun disappears.

We made it. We did it. And we were rewarded with beautiful sunset scenes from overlooks on one of the most iconic trails on planet Earth.

The next day, we would break camp in the biting wind and make it again 7 hours north in New York.

Appalachian Trail at Shenandoah National Park

 

Power Hour PowWow Oct 6-10, 2014

I’m on the road! I drove over 1000 miles from my home in Georgia to a friend’s place in Rhode Island. But, I didn’t let that stop me from compiling this week’s Power Hours. If you missed the Family Travel, Outdoor Families, or Georgia Mom Power Hours you can recap right here!

Family Travel Power Hour

During October, I’m highlighting ONE great family travel blog during each weekly Power Hour. This week it was Gone With The Family. Tune in this Monday at 10am est to find out the star of this week! Meanwhile, check out some of the fantastic reasons why I featured Gone With The Family!

Outdoor Families Power Hour

This week, I featured the adventures of this fantastic dad and his family from Moosefish.com before moving along to some other great posts I read this week. You can join in the Outdoor Families Power Hour on Tuesdays at 4:30 am est or chat it up in the #OutFam Twitter Chat every Wednesday at the same time.

Georgia Family / Georgia Mom Power Hour

I met Samantha, blogger at Rich Single Momma, during the Type A Parent Blogger Conference this past September. I just loved talking to her because she’s very inspiring, empowering and full of grace and strength. So, I featured her blog – which aims to empower kids and women with an independent and financially secure spirit! Tune in to #GeorgiaMom Power Hour every Thursday at 5pm est!

Fantastic Fall Hikes Near Atlanta: Sawnee Mountain Preserve

Sawnee Mountain Preserve OverlookSawnee Mountain Preserve, in Cumming, is a great place to explore with the kids. Named for a local Cherokee Indian, Sawnee, you’ll find an historically sacred space on the Indian Seats Trail. The forest setting and scenic overlook offer an excellent opportunity to view the changing colors of fall.

Hike This Mountain Near Atlanta…

The trail system at Sawnee makes hiking easy for families by offering several intersecting trails to lengthen or shorten a hike. We hiked the 3.5 mile Indian Seats trail with our friends from 365 Atlanta Family. The trail was wide, clearly marked and relatively easy to hike. Upon reaching the Indian Seats and Observation Deck, it’s easy to recognize why this space was held in high regard by local Cherokee Indians.

Make a day trip out of your fall hike by packing a picnic for the playground and checking out the visitor center before leaving. For the more adventurous hikers, Sawnee Mtn Preserve also issues permits to rock climbers to make use of a designated area near the Indian Seats.

Read about last week’s Fantastic Fall Hikes, Pine Mountain Trail in Cartersville.

Gear Guide: Teton Sports Oasis1200 Hydration Backpack

J Bear, wearing his Teton Hydration Backpack on the Appalachian TrailOver the summer, we definitely stepped up our hiking game. We’ve been hiking with more regularity and discovering many new places to hike around our local area. We already take turns carrying a 3 liter hydration pack that can also accommodate some trail snacks. But, with J Bear becoming interested in the Appalachian Trail, I knew it was time for him to start carrying his own pack on every hike.. So, I went with the Teton Sports Oasis1200 Hydration Backpack for his 11th birthday!

He’s not quite ready to tackle an AT thru-hike. But, we field tested his new pack on our 1000+ mile road trip from Georgia to New York exploring different sections of the Appalachian Trail. This new fully loaded hydration pack gave him more confidence, independence and pride. It was great to see him showing off the features to passersby.

Disclosure: We received complimentary merchandise to aide us in providing this review to readers. The review is based on our own opinion of this merchandise and it’s performance in our field testing.

What we like about Teton Sports Oasis1200 Hydration Backpack…

I’m going to help J Bear shoot a video to highlight some features of his new backpack! But, first, let me tell you what I like about it. The comfort, flexibility and the 3 liter water capacity is important when we’re on a short hike with the family and only need one pack.

Teton Sports Oasis1200 Hydration Backpack DetailsOne of the first things I noticed was the durable construction and super lightweight material. It is well-padded in all the right places and is fully adjustable to allow anyone in our family to carry it comfortably.  The quality zippers slide easily and the buckles, although lightweight, are secure and sturdy.

I love that it holds 3 liters of water with plenty of extra space and roomy pockets for supplies. We can easily pack a change of clothes, first aid kit, trail food and other important things. The water bladder is contained in a special pouch of the main compartment which makes it super quick and easy for him to remove and refill on his own. The bite valve is different from ones we’ve used in the past. At first, it was awkward. But, as we have begun using it more and more I love this design. The bite valve is extra soft and doesn’t require as much pressure to open as other designs we’ve used.

One of the reasons I wanted him to have his own pack is that he’s becoming more and more independent, blazing the trail ahead of us. A couple really awesome features that I love for him to have, with this pack, are the attached emergency whistle and rainfly. The emergency whistle gives him a way to call out to us and let us know his location or if he needs help. The rainfly is built-in to a pocket on the underside of the pack. While we haven’t yet had to use this particular feature, I can’t count how many times we’ve been caught out in the rain scrambling to protect our more sensitive gear.

To learn more and get the technical specifications, visit the Oasis1200 page at the Teton Sports website. Now, here’s my @happytrailblazr pointing out his fave features on the Teton Oasis 1200.

What we don’t like about Teton Sports Oasis1200 Hydration Backpack…

There are only a couple things, here. While the location of the hydration bladder does make it easier for quick removal and re-filling, it concerns me a little about the other gear stored in the main compartment being compromised by an accidentally punctured bladder. I also love side pouches, but if I’m being picky, I like them better padded. My son, however, has no such complaint about them.

Gear Gauge: Teton Sports Oasis1200 Hydration BackpackGear Gauge

Over all, I love this pack and it has gained a permanent place as our pack for shorter family hikes and as my son’s own personal pack for longer hikes and overnight gear. We field tested it on a few family outings and on our current expedition exploring different portions of the Appalachian Trail.

This comfortable, versatile pack is perfect for the purpose it serves. It goes above and beyond most other hydration backpacks with its lightweight design and cool features like the built-in rainfly.

To learn more and get the technical specifications, visit the Oasis1200 page at the Teton Sports website.