Friday, June 26, 2020

Happy Camping: Part 2

So we discussed the why so lets talk about logistics!

When you can! And the weather is nice enough.  I'd start with 2 nights for a first trip. One night is also doable, but since you usually have to leave the site around 11am, you its a LOT of set up for not much time. Make sure you arrive with enough daylight hours to put up the tent and get oriented. And also to get a fire going and get people fed. We've arrived at night before and it kinda sucked, though we'd stopped for fast food so at least no hangry-ness to add to the mix. 

The fun part! Decide how far you want to drive, and then find parks and look up amenities and reviews. We went to a place within an hour away for our first couple of times, since I was nervous, and knowing we could just come home if things went sideways helped me feel better. We look for water nearby in the summer, hiking/biking trails, etc... Think about what you want to do and make sure they have it. Some sites have fishing, boat rentals, pools. And I ALWAYS read reviews about cleanliness, maintenance of trails, noise levels. If you want to bring a dog, make sure there are pet-friendly sites (there are less, and tend to fill up faster---if you bring a dog, you can't leave her alone, so someone may need to hang back from swimming/biking so plan that carefully. I did not enjoy missing out on the pool on a super hot day last summer to babysit the dog). Look closely at the map of sites and pick where you want to be (not near the dumpsters, for example, or closer to the water). Site sizes vary greatly---even within the same campground---so if you need more space because you are going with friends or have a large family, pick a bigger site. 

You need a tent and places to sleep. We started off with a hand-me-down 4 person tent, and have since bought a 6 person tent to have a little more room. 4 person=exactly that and we couldn't fit our dog in their with the 4 of us. We sleep on sleeping bags over pads (you NEED pads, or you will feel every rock!) but you can have air mattresses if you are fancy! Bring pillows of course. 
We also have a rain cover for the tent. We have since gotten fancy and bought a tarp and shelter (netted on the sides, solid plastic on top, for rain/mosquitos).
Other big things we have: propane stove and folding table for the stove/cooking, chairs, a big cooler for food. 

This is the hard part because you need to bring EVERYTHING you will need with you. Plan out your meals/snacks and bring all food and implements needed to cook and eat/drink, including water. So dishes utensils, soap/sponge, something to carry dirty dishes to the sink with, etc... Implements for starting the fire (firestarter, wood, kindling, lighter),  trash bags, toiletries, games/entertainment, flashlights or headlamps, first aid, towels, clothes. We have 3 "camp boxes" and keep things that are solely for camping so we don't need to hunt for them each time. Make a list. Check it three times. 

keep it as simple as you can to start with. for our last trip we did: burgers, hot dogs, quesadillas (on the stove), toast, cereal, bacon & eggs. We've made nachos in a camping dutch oven over the fire before and want to try dutch oven pizza. If you don't have a stove, you need to obviously stick with things you can make on a grill over the fire (and be confident in your fire building skills). We bring fruit. LOTS of snack food---you never know when the fire might take hours to start! S'mores ingredients (duh!) and lots of water, as well as juice, and booze. 

I...think that's it. Questions welcome! 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Happy Camping: Part 1

OMDG requested a post about camping, and its a much more cheerful topic than anything else that is currently on my mind, so I'll attempt one. As a disclaimer, we are pretty new to camping--neither of us grew up camping (not a thing our family EVER considered, just not an Indian-people thing, I guess). I'd gone a few times with Girl Scouts and in college, but G had literally never been until he got talked into a father-kids trip with a bunch of other guys from the kids' school in 2018. They all had so much fun and wanted me to experience it too, so we then did a "moms too" group with a few other families. I honestly thought I would hate it, but I was pleasantly surprised. Since then we've been camping pretty much once/month during the warm months (May-October); our longest trip so far was 4 nights in Vermont last summer. We have ONLY been car camping---we aren't lugging our gear through the forest to a remote site. I'm not sure I'm interested in that.

This post is getting super long, so part 1 is an "why", and part 2 will have more of the "how"

My favorite parts of camping:

  • being disconnected and truly off. I can't work or feel like I need to work, and the kids don't have their screens. That is PRICELESS. 
  • speaking of priceless---camping is extremely frugal for a get-away. You pay for the tent site, but its like $50 bucks on average, and then you bring all your own food, and most activities are free. 
  • ability to be more "free range" than we can be in the city. With older kids, there can be a LOT of freedom. They can just take off and ride their bikes around the loop or walk to the lake or playground or whatever is around. (we have had friends join us with toddlers and it is VERY DIFFERENT. I do not recommend! Wait until age 4 or even 5, I'd say---if you don't have to help them in the bathroom, even better!)
  • being outside (duh). I like hiking, biking, swimming in a lake, seeing the stars etc... and you can spend the whole day doing it
  • nothing to DO. Yes there are chores, but they are limited. This may be my favorite part, the not having a long list of errands and to-dos. Plenty of time to read, play games, chat, stare at the fire
My least favorite parts:
  • bathrooms. Sharing public bathrooms, even when relatively clean, not my fave
  • Sleeping. I'm totally comfortable sleeping on the ground, but when its super hot its hard to sleep. And when you are in a campground you will sometimes hear babies crying, or people up too late or too early (there are "quiet hours" but obviously not 100% enforced)
Part 2 will cover planning, gear, packing, and food. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


I took an unplanned break from this space. Other priorities got in the way. Work is busier than ever; I feel like I've got 3 jobs that are constantly competing for my time/attention. Keeping the kids occupied is EVEN HARDER when they don't have the structure of school (and they fought like mad over continuing to do learning activities during the summer, I've given up). A family member (my favorite uncle) passed away, and that took a lot of my emotional energy last week. 

We also planned & successfully executed our first 2020 camping trip. Camping requires a LOT of planning & packing, not to mention all the work when you get there to set up and break down the site. But it was worth it, even if just for 2 nights. Other than the torrential rain that arrived JUST as we finished putting up the tent the first day, we had good weather and were so glad we didn't pack up and go home (we were scared it would torrentially rain the entire time and that would've sucked). We had one full day---which happened to be the longest day of the year, and we packed everything into those hours.We hiked, swam, biked, played games, made fires, ate a lot of junk food, and--best of all--no one whined about screen time the entire day*. 

It was so great to get away that we're doing it again next weekend (the 4th). Further away and for 3 nights this time. We are not sure our trip to Maine is going to happen in August (they require a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival for out of state visitors---where can completely asymptomatic people get a test that results that quickly?). 

And on July 6th, camp starts! Hooray! Structure and routine, outdoor play and creativity, instead of finding my kids still in PJs slumped over their laptop at lunchtime, glassy eyed and grumpy to be interrupted. 

*I could, and may, do an entire rant about my kids and screen time. While initially a lifesaver, the screens have now become a matter of contention and constant nagging/yelling and I kinda want to throw them all out the window (or maybe just hide them in the closet for a few weeks for a detox)!  

Thursday, June 11, 2020


(yes, recent events, and the greater reckoning of understanding all of our my own part in institutionalized racism is still very much on my mind. We are going to a demonstration with the children today, and I have a call set up to discuss racial disparities in medical care in the clinic I am leading)

But also, there is COVID, and the fact that we are now in the "yellow zone" (despite not exactly meeting criteria for the yellow zone) and things are...opening up.

Our camp sent out emails this week re: starting in July. My initial thought was "No way". It took one hour of listening to my kids fight and tell me they are bored while I was trying to lead a contentious staff meeting (plus a nudge from my therapist to at least consider that it may be good for all of us) to change my mind. School isn't officially over until tomorrow but the teachers stopped assigning work so "school" is just a daily zoom meeting with the class and some "optional" art projects which my kids have no interest in.

They are going to camp. When we told them they moaned and groaned for...<1 minute. And then that night B asked if it starts next week and they moaned and groaned when I said "not 'til July".  The camp is 9-3, they are assigning kids into groups of 5 for the whole 6 weeks. Counselors will be masked, kids are "high encouraged" to wear masks, and they will do outdoor activities as long as weather permits, or be inside the rec center, one group per room. We may just keep them at home on horribly rainy days.

That still leaves us 2 weeks in June and 1 week in August they'll be rattling around the house but I can deal with that. (please please please let school open this fall)

Our ramp up continues for outpatient clinic. We are now being told to plan for 50/50 in-person vs. virtual for July/August, but its looking more like 70/30 for me, based on the patients I already have scheduled and don't want to reschedule--many that I put off seeing in person really need to come in this summer. If it weren't for the backlog, 50/50 would actually be the right amount for my speciality, like, forever. I hope we can continue some degree of telemedicine because patients really like it and I've grown to enjoy my sunny bedroom office more than the dark dingy crowded clinic spaces.

OK, back to preparing a talk I'm giving next week. I don't want to work this weekend, it looks not-to-hot and not-too-rainy and I'd like to be outside after the sauna-like weather we've had this week. My run this morning was so painful and slow. 75 degrees, humid, wearing a mask, and sore legs from beach body yesterday is not a great combo.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020


I struggled to write here, not because I didn't want to, but because I didn't think my writing skills could accurately convey what I'm thinking and feeling. But time has not necessarily helped me gain clarity so I'll muddle through. 

Our country is burning. I wouldn't say its "falling apart" because that would imply it was previously intact. Clearly it never has been. There have been massive cracks and holes we have papered over and the paper has been ripped open and burned to ash and we all have to look and do the hard work of fixing those wrongs before we can build again.

I feel guilt about how little I can do. I have a duty to my family and my patients and I can't be protesting where there is tear gas and rubber bullets and random arrests of peaceful citizens and journalists. And yet...part of me longed to be there, to rage and shout, and fight on the right side of justice, damn the consequence. 

I rage-donate instead. Equal justice initiative, and ACLU and our city's bailout funds. And I read and listen to the words of truthful and intelligent men and women. I talk to my children about what is happening, and I hope to keep the conversation going. I'm writing letters to our city officials about diverting our meager budget towards schools and housing and food for people vs. arming the police. Of course, I voted in the primary today (by mail) and I am looking into organizations I can join to help influence in November. I can't do much but I can write some texts and postcards. 

I am also thinking about discrimination and implicit bias in medicine, and taking time to think through each patient interaction afterward and how it may have been influenced by prejudice in any way. I know it happens, I'm sure I've done it, but I want to be aware and do better. I think of the many many ways the privileged hold on to that privilege over generations, even in advocating for their family's health care. How can I help those that don't feel comfortable, or even realize the need, to speak up and be the squeaky wheel? 

Its not enough, but its a start. I've stopped thinking "I can't wait for things to get back to normal" because normal is NOT ENOUGH.