Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Not-So-Great Outdoors

Today we went back to the splash park with my friend and her kids. No teenage smackdowns today...

We are planning to go to my annual family reunion over Labor Day weekend this year. We try to go as often as we can. But, we have always just driven down for the day and come back that night. I'm not sure why we did that when I was a kid, but I know as a married adult, the reason for six of those years, was that I had to deliver newspapers 365 days a year, so I had to be back for the Sunday paper. Last year, I had quit the paper before that time, but I don't think we had planned for going and it came up on us so suddenly that I had forgotten about it. This year, however, we have decided to camp for three nights. This is a big deal. I haven't been camping since I was a toddler. My parents used to have a camper on my dad's truck and they went quite a bit, but I don't remember it. They have pictures of me as a baby playing in the camper or old movie reels of me swimming in the lake with my mom and of me and my cousin, one year my senior, sneaking around stealing drinks of pop from the adults when they weren't watching. So, I have zero experience with camping. I've been to summer camps as a teen, but that's nowhere near the same.

Furthermore, I am not a high-maintenance kind of woman, but I have never really been an outdoors-y sort of person. I'm not the type to strap on hiking boots and head out for a nature walk. Although I like gardens, I have a hard time getting motivated to go outside and work on one. Although the IDEA of sitting outside on a nice evening appeals to me, when it comes down to it, I'd rather sit in the house. If left to my own devices, I don't think I would even voluntarily go to parks.

So, the other day, I began to contemplate the reason for this aversion to the outdoors. I think part of it has to do with the bugs. The last two places we have lived have had wasp problems. I haven't been stung, but Chris, Arrena, and Kimmy all have. I hate being bitten by mosquitoes. I know, you can spray junk all over you or burn stinky candles, etc., but what's the point of sitting outside if you have to smell such stinky stuff? My opinion is that the chemicals don't repel the bugs, the bugs just can't stand the way you smell, so they steer clear!

Really the biggest reason, I think, is that I am soft. I have gotten so used to technology and modern convenience that I prefer it. My biggest can't-live-without item is air conditioning. I think that originates from when we lived in Germany. I don't know how it is now, but when we were there, air conditioning was unheard of. Probably rich people had it, but from what I understood, normal people did not. We lived in the fifth floor of an American housing unit. Since it was the top floor, we had slanted ceilings and skylights instead of regular windows. The lower floors had these "shades", which more closely resembled some sort of armor that slid over the outside of the windows. We didn't have that. We had to pin up sheets to keep the sun out, which really didn't work well because you couldn't keep it totally fastened if you wanted to open your window. And you had to open them or it became stifling in there. The climate there wasn't SO bad. Not like Kansas. It was unbearably hot maybe one week out of the summer, as I recall. The rest of the summer was hot, but somewhat tolerable. Especially if you became accustomed to it. That one week, I would sit in the hallway, away from the heat of the sun through the windows, or I would sit in the stairwell--cold marble steps, no windows on that level. There were also no screens on our windows and we got bees in our apartment all the time. At the time, I was really afraid of them, so if one flew in, I would shut the door to that room and not enter it again until Chris came home to kill it. There were a few times, when I ran out of rooms that were "bee-free" and ended up sitting in the hallway until he got home. He often laughed at me. After that, I swore I would never again go without air conditioning.

Another experience that made me dependent on air conditioning was being pregnant in the Kansas summer. YIKES! When I was pregnant with Arrena, my first, I gained a horrible 45 pounds and we moved back to Kansas when I was four months pregnant. She was due September 28 and for three months of the summer, I don't think the high was below 100 degrees. I remember some dumb person asked me when I was due and when I replied, he said, "Oh man, you mean you have to be pregnant for the whole summer?" I said, "No, I think I'll have her removed for the summer and then put her back when it's over!" And of course, we had our first frost the weekend AFTER she was born--up to then, it was hot, hot, HOT! Anyways, late in my pregnancy, I had to ride somewhere with Chris' aunt in her car. The air conditioning didn't work, but that wasn't all! Three of the windows wouldn't roll down and the fourth would only roll down a little. About the only thing that worked on that car was the internal thermometer, which said it was 128 degrees in the car!

When I was a teenager, I volunteered for a hospital as a candy striper. One of the tasks they chose me for was to dress up with another girl as Raggedy Ann & Andy and visit the children's ward. It was really fun to help the kids, but those suits (the big padded ones with the huge heads of chicken wire and paper mache were heavy and HOT. I read somewhere that those suits can get up to 125 degrees inside. We would visit a few children, then go to an empty room, shed the costume and cool off, then suit up and head out again. We repeated the role at the Safety First Kids Expo. There were several rows of tables set up in the expo hall. We would make a lap around the two middle rows, then head upstairs to a cordoned-off area, strip down, and sit on top of the a/c vents for a while before repeating the process.


And here, it's not just the heat...(altogether now) it's the humidity (it's a mantra that every Kansan worth his salt knows by heart)! My best friend has often said (and from my three trips out there, I agree with her) that it's hotter to her here when it's in the 80s range than when she is in Arizona and it's 110 degrees. Oklahoma's climate is not that far off our own--that's where the family reunion is.

But, I am game. I don't know what it will be like to camp for three days in a tent (our new one pictured here--Chris and the kids had to put it up in the front yard to see what it looked like), but I will try it for my family's sake {me pointing my finger skyward, triumphantly}! Of course, my husband is trying to secure a portable air conditioner unit for our tent and other various amenities that will make it less "roughing it." Of course, now that I think of it, I wonder if he is doing this for me or for himself.... Hmmm....

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