Log Cabin Livin’

We’re back after a couple of spring break days away in heavenly Hocking Hills. Oh man, what a perfect getaway! Not enough time….just not enough time to enjoy it all!

We took the scenic route – three hours – from northeast Ohio to southeast Ohio, which I don’t recommend if you have kids in the backseat prone to car-sickness. Too many rolling hills and turns for that sort of thing! Our navigation roulette took us through the towns of Granville and Lancaster, Ohio, both of which looked charming enough to deserve more than a drive through.

Our little family rented a cabin for our stay. It was tucked away on a gravel road, up on a hillside, completely nestled among the trees. From the outside it didn’t look all that grand, but from the inside it was beautiful. An immediate sense of calm overwhelmed me from the moment we stepped inside.

The kids were blown away by the setting. Three bedrooms, three levels with the upstairs as a skylit loft, 3.5 baths, a nice kitchen, a couple of TVs, indoor and outdoor fireplace, jacuzzi, wrap-around porch, and hammock. Every one had a nook or cranny they could hang out. We used the jacuzzi each night, watching the moon rise and the stars twinkle in the evening sky.

My oldest was struck by the total quiet. I even forget how he put it but it was something like, “Why is it so quiet?” Well, uh….you’re on a hillside surrounded by nothing but trees. There is no street traffic, no neighbors, no TVs blaring, nothing but birds. It’s not like we live in a city, either. We live in a perfectly suburban neighborhood but even our teen realized that we had escaped mainstream living.

The name of the cabin was Gökotta, apparently a relatively untranslatable Swedish word for “arising in the early morning to hear the birds sing.” I loved it. The cabin was punctuated with bird decor, little touches that made you smile instead of feeling overwhelmed.

The cabin was so sun-shiney! And of course, it had this warm glow from the timbers and wood everywhere. The loft was one of my favorite places to chill, bright and cheery from a couple of skylights and altogether inviting with a giant bean bag by a triangle window, perfect for reading and snoozing. At one point, all three kids came to snuggle with me there.

My cabin pictures aren’t the best – I didn’t get an exterior shot – but you get the idea…

 

On our second day, we all donned our boots and drove out to Ash Cave to hike. It’s a very easy walk to the cave from the parking lot. The kids were amazed at the size of the cave itself. We climbed some wooden steps to the upper rim and took pictures which don’t give you a sense of the size at all. Maybe you can see the tiny people in the photo below.

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From the top, the kids announced they were game to hike the 2+ miles to Cedar Falls so off we went. The trail was muddy for most of the trek but we didn’t care since we had our boots on. Frankly, we all had more fun because of it! Every now and then we washed our boots off in the meandering nearby stream and then punched through the mud some more. We never did make it to Cedar Falls but found our way to the 80′ Ash Cave Lookout Tower which the kids climbed for the view.

 

The hike was both exhilarating and a case of family-induced attention deficit disorder. I’m sure other moms can appreciate how every 30 seconds one of the kids was asking me a question about something on the hike or altogether random. They would take turns running off into the distance, holding my hand, falling behind, splashing through the mud puddles, or pairing up with each other.

At some point four of us tried playing Red Rover to see if the fifth could run through our clasped hands.

“Hey, no shoulder butting allowed! Since when is it ok to shoulder butt in Red Rover? Huh? Huh?”

IMG_6973One of the kids found this painted rock, and on the flip side there is a tag that said to post your finding to the Dayton Rocks Facebook page. We took it home with us and promise to release it on our next hike. The kids and I just might paint a few rocks of our own this spring and release them to the wild! Or maybe we’ll try our hand at geocaching.

And oh yes, there will be a next hike. We only attempted Ash Cave on this trip but there are so many others to explore in Hocking Hills. We returned to the car after maybe 2.5 hours of hiking and all of us felt pretty good. I felt completely exhilarated. Maybe it was the fresh, cool, tree-scented air, maybe it was the pure exercise. It felt like every cell in my body had been pumped full of oxygen – I was literally tingling with energy. My muscles felt used, not overworked. I could have kept going for another couple of hours, I suspect. I honestly didn’t want it to end, but the last thing we needed was for anyone to poop out half way through the trek.

All told, we were only in Hocking Hills for 48 hours but I must go back. I mean, I was online the night we returned home, trying to figure out how to finance the building of a log cabin for retirement. Crazy, I know. But it is unmistakable the feeling of peace and calm that washes over me in the woods. This is only my third trip overall and second staying in a log cabin, but this decidedly indoor kind of woman feels quite at home there.

In the meantime, I’m going to make a lot more effort to get the five of us out hiking far more often this year. Besides, taking them to Yosemite one of these days is on my bucket list and I want them to appreciate the beauty of what they will see there.

The thing that gets me the most is how much the kids loved this trip. Maybe it was the cabin. Maybe it was the hiking. I can’t tell. What I do know is how we’ve taken our kids everywhere. By everywhere, I mean our oldest, 14-years-old, has been to 38 states already, and our youngest, almost 8, has been to 22. But all three loved this trip the most. I think we’re onto something here.

Lovin’ that log cabin life….

Road Trip to Hocking Hills

bryan-minear-315814-unsplashI can barely contain my excitement: before long we will be hitting the road for a little mini spring break with the kids. I took today off of work to run errands and take care of a few things around the house but tomorrow we hit the road headed south.

Initially I had planned some time for us at one of the water park hotels near Lake Erie but stories about bedbugs and an accident at the pool a few weeks ago made me change my mind. I don’t know…visions of an overcrowded hotel and young families with spring fever flashed through my head like a nightmare. You know you should always listen to your gut!

Besides, my body is itching to move and get outdoors. It’s finally spring, glorious spring, and the weather will be a perfect 60° to enjoy.

We are driving in-state but in the opposite direction, to an area in southeast Ohio called Hocking Hills. It’s still very early spring here so the trees won’t start blooming for another few weeks but I can’t wait to go. This area reminds me of where I grew up: woodsy, hilly, and a little bit more on the country side versus urban or suburban. There are several parks and nature preserves with a variety of hiking trails within a few miles drive of that area.

We’re renting a cabin for the five of us. It has a nice wrap-around porch, an outdoor hot tub, lots of windows, indoor fireplace, three bedrooms, three baths, and a loft. Hopefully some good, quality family time inside.

And when we aren’t hanging in the cabin, we’ll hike to Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, and maybe a few others. My husband and oldest will have just returned from an exhausting week-long trip to Disney with the marching band, so they may be a little road weary but the three of us at home are raring to go!

It’s the first time we will take the kids to Hocking Hills. I hope they like it and like living in a cabin. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive for us which makes it a pretty nice getaway….far enough but not too far.

I thought we’d make our way down there all the time now that I live in Ohio again, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Last visit was already seven years ago when my husband and I booked our 10th anniversary trip. We stayed for a long weekend but it was so nice, I cried when we left. Even though it was November and the leaves had fallen off the trees, the setting was so lovely, so calming. Trees were outside every window. We will need to make this trip again in the summer when you are surrounded in cool greenery and can hear the breeze whistle through the leaves.


We didn’t have “spring break” when I was growing up in public school. At the time, it was something exclusively for college kids. You see, in the US, college kids typically get a week off in the spring and many of them carpool to Florida or somewhere beach-bound and party all week long.

However I didn’t get to enjoy the classic spring break experience like many other college students. I didn’t have the money to take a trip and asking my parents for it was out of the question.

For me, spring break was a week where I could work full-time and save up money to pay for my next semester of tuition. Those were the years of barely getting by…and I wasn’t very resourceful or creative in finding ways to travel back then. Talk about a missed opportunity! I have a handful of regrets in life and finding ways to travel and explore in college is one of them. That’s the perfect time to bond with others and discover what brings you joy….and I didn’t know how to make that happen. Given how much I loved travel even then, in retrospect it’s surprising to me that I didn’t search for ways to make it a reality.

And this is one of the ways we try to guide our kids differently so they either have or make those opportunities.

I count my blessings that things have changed altogether for the positive since then and we are fortunate enough to take our entire family on our trips. I want them to see and experience the same places I have over the years, and foster that love of adventure.

It wasn’t until my oldest started public school that I really experienced spring break for the first time. Our school district allocates a week in late March for this purpose. Now every year we take advantage of the week to either escape the generally colder weather here or just to have a change of scenery. We’ve gone to Florida, Washington DC, Sandusky (OH), and Traverse City (MI) in years past. It’s usually the first excursion of a few within the year, but this year I am particularly eager to get out of the house.

Can’t wait to go go go…

 

Photo credit: Bryan Minear on Unsplash

 

 

#5: Move That Body!

Part of a series of ten segments, checking the progress of my 2017 New Year Resolutions.

You could say I’m more of an indoorsy person. Growing up, you’d find me curled up with a book – like any given volume of an encyclopedia – instead of running or climbing trees outside.

I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 12 when a new friend taught me in a neighborhood that wasn’t my own, where no one could see me finally learning a skill many kids pick up at a fraction of that age. You see, throughout grade school, all the other kids had age-appropriate bikes with banana seats, streamers on the handlebars, and training wheels to help them learn. We had an early 1960s, turquoise green, adult-size bike with no training wheels. I couldn’t even lift the thing, let alone have the strength to pedal it and stay upright, but that didn’t matter because no one really took the time to teach me. It just wasn’t important in our family. Besides, I wouldn’t be caught dead riding something that you could have seen on an episode of Happy Days.

I didn’t learn to swim until 13, and I purposefully braved the water in a place far from home for the same reason. This was after a year of laying backwards in the bathtub, nose poking out enough to breathe, just to get used to the feel and muffled sound of water in my ears. Of course, this assumes you can call it swimming, what I do in the water. I can’t really submerge my head without water shooting up my nose no matter how much they tell me to “blow out”. Even if I take a big gulp of air and blow out as instructed, I feel like I’ve exhausted what’s in my lungs, and there’s nothing left to sustain me while I’m submerged. I panic and feel my heart beating outside of my chest. Water and swimming are so unnerving, even to this day.

Growing up, I could not name a single person in my immediate or huge extended family who pursued athletics of any kind, except my brother. It was not our thing as a family. Today I have nieces and nephews and cousins 13+ years younger than me who provide a far better example by running 5ks and half marathons, but as a child, there were virtually no role models for me to turn to. Frankly, my parents scoffed at people who used their leisure time for “play” versus working for real, working at home, or spending time with family.

You can imagine, then, that Phys Ed was not my favorite class in school. Not by a long shot. I was often the slowest kid, severely winded when I ran, a bit uncoordinated when it came to team sports, and not very strong. Now for whatever reason, I was great on a trampoline and with any activity that resembled yoga, but I never connected those to anything I could or should do as an adult. No, I couldn’t wait for public school education to end because in my mind that meant I’d never have to take a gym class again! Woo hoo.

Nobody told me then that life IS gym class. Gosh darn it!

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We humans are body, mind, and soul yet I’ve been perfectly content focusing on the latter two for most of my life.

It isn’t like I haven’t tried as an adult. I’ve had countless gym memberships. I’ve tried running, power walking, weight lifting, Jazzercise, ballet, biking, yoga, dancing, hiking, swimming, basketball, volleyball, and even rowing where I was on a team that actually won a medal. Downright amazing if you ask me!

Of all those activities, only four really stick with me: dancing, hiking, biking, and yoga. Three of those I did as a kid, and one I tried as an adult. Ok, maybe you can count power walking, but I do that just so I’m doing something. I can’t say I love it. I feel great when I’m done, but I don’t love it.

I have loved dancing since I was a little girl. We attended countless weddings while I was growing up, many held at the former St. Joseph’s Elementary School gymnasium in Wolfhurst, Ohio, and I wouldn’t leave the dance floor. I’d be a sweaty mess by night’s end but I loved every second of it. If there was a couples type of dancing, I was game: didn’t matter if it was disco, polka, jitterbug, or whatever. I invited a dancer friend of mine to a Polish wedding in Pittsburgh, and he whipped me around the dance floor in several polkas. It was such a thrill. And I can go to my grave satisfied for having danced a tango once with another semi-professional dancer who had his choice of a roomful of women to ask, but he asked me. It was pretty freaking awesome, let me tell you.

My best friend growing up took all the dance lessons, every kind that was offered. I wanted to badly to do the same but never had the chance. Now I’m a little too self-conscious to hit the dance floor. It’s not like I don’t. I do…there just aren’t many opportunities anymore and I’m well aware of how I look, and I look like crazy middle-aged white lady ought to sit her butt down. Lol

Hiking was another love that I didn’t even realize I had. Again, my best friend growing up lived almost at the top of a big hill, and when the winter weather broke, we’d go for a hike up into the woods and this would go on in the spring, summer, and fall. I had no idea how far we traveled, or whose property we were on. The mere thought of two 10 year old girls hiking alone in the woods today is insanity but it seems you could pull those things off in the 1970s…. Anyway, I never realized how much I enjoyed the sun shining through the trees; the fresh, wet smell of spring; navigating over logs and streams; and just enjoying nature as-is. I enjoy hiking in the woods today even though I don’t have quite the stamina to pull it off.

Biking at 12 was my first real taste of freedom. Once I learned to ride a bike, I could roam all around our neighborhood and I did as often as I could. It seems that every February the weather would break just warm enough where we could whip out our bikes and ride. My friend Stephanie and I would race home after school, and spend what felt like two hours cleaning off the grime of storage and the prior year, inspecting and pumping some air in the tires, and off we went until sunset or dinner time. It was glorious. And I continued to love bike riding until I dated a fearless mountain biker who wanted me to race up and downhill in the woods, even though I didn’t have the strength, confidence, or desire he had. He just made me feel ashamed for being unable to keep up, as if my athletic ability was my most important trait as a human. That guy never appreciated all that I am, which is why he isn’t my husband today.

Which leaves me to yoga. Little did I realize that the hours I spent as a child on my living room floor in various positions was actually yoga but I did it and I loved it. I was getting to where I could do a headstand, and I probably did but I didn’t keep it up the practice much longer after this achievement. This may not sound like much to you, but this is coming from a kid with zero athletic ability. This is a big deal.

Somehow I got reintroduced to yoga as an adult, and loved the slow, quiet, calm, meditative environment that came along with it. There was a time I lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended Bikram Yoga classes for a few months until I became too pregnant to continue comfortably.  I could tell I was getting better – stronger and more flexible – with each successive session. Yoga gave me a sense of balance, figuratively and literally, and I surprise people today with the poses I can do.

Now you’d think after all of this self-searching I would have zoomed in on the few activities I actually enjoy and get to where I am strong, and fit, and excel in any of them, but no!  I have never been physically strong. Couple that with my relatively sedentary lifestyle, pseudo-chef husband, and nutrition ignorance, it unsurprisingly gets harder with each passing year.

I mentally know the importance of moving my body. Just move. We’ve heard how sitting is the new smoking, so I even asked for one of those standing desks at work and I’m building up the stamina to stand for a few hours each day. I even got rid of my wastebasket so I’d have to walk to the coffee station to throw away trash…every little bit to get more steps in. I have a hand-me-down Apple watch, and it tracks my steps and nudges me to move and breathe.

All of these little things help – they are me moving in the right direction but not enough and not fast enough. I can’t say that I’m biking, hiking, walking, or dancing more than I have before, and that disappoints me. I don’t want to look back wistfully on my life at all of the things this body was given the health and ability to do AND NOT DO IT.  From a spiritual perspective, that’s not using one of the gifts we’ve been given: a healthy body so our spirit knows what it feels like to USE it.

Now I did attend a couple of yoga sessions this year for the first time in more than a decade and it was amazing to get back into it but something always gets in the way. When I look back on 2017, I’ve got more work to do on this “move more” goal, and make it a priority.

One of my dear friends is a doctor and author who writes books and produces webcasts on being a master’s (over 40) athlete and how important and possible it is to stay active, healthy, and vital well into our senior years. She writes these books and I swear it’s like she’s writing them for ME. She doesn’t of course, but it feels that way. I am often ashamed and embarrassed at how little I follow her advice, and I feel like she knows it, so I’ve kinda sorta avoided her because I’m insecure that way! lol I want her to be proud of me for turning my physical health around, but more than that, I want to be proud of me. I want my husband and kids to be proud. I want to be around for them in 20-30-40 years and do stuff with them. All the stuff. I want to be strong, flexible, and more lean, with energy levels to the sky.

Look for more on this in 2018.