Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Meaning of My Life

     We all have a desire to understand the meaning of our lives and why we are here on Earth; whether we ponder it occasionally or are on a quest. This month my book group read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen writes about her year long quest to set and follow a series of resolutions to find more happiness, "to change her life without changing it". While I applaud her for fulfilling her quest, I don't agree with her method. Many of her resolutions were about improving her relationships with family, friends and people, while others were about broadening her "self". From my perspective, it often felt forced and unnatural. I found myself asking "why?" many times. After all, it was her life and not mine; I was just a voyeur. However, she helped me think about a few things, like my own "Twelve Commandments". Things I know to be true about living my life. I had never thought about these subconscious principles but they flashed like photographs at different times over the last month. I came up with ten.

  1. No complaining; only solutions.
  2. Perseverance and hard work pay off.
  3. Can't change people; I am the only change agent.
  4. Being good at what I do requires a desire to learn.
  5. Challenge creates nervousness but adrenaline and exhilaration.
  6. Just do it.
  7. I want to do everything but it often creates stress; therefore, I must choose.
  8. The glass is half full.
  9. What you give is what you get.
  10. It's easy to be distracted and hard to remain focused.
    The subject of happiness became a theme this month; not intentionally but I noticed a Diane Rehm podcast of her recent interview with Sonja Lyubomirsky about her book The Myth of Happiness and a January article in The Atlantic entitled "There is More to Life Than Being Happy." This article in particular made me think more critically about The Happiness Project and happiness' role in my life. The article compares and contrasts seeking happiness as an American cultural "meism" to developing meaning and purpose that "transcends and endues" ones lifetime. Meaning enables happiness. 

     I know my purpose - a teacher and a mother. This is why I am present on Earth and which gives my life meaning. I am here to model, guide and facilitate my students and children to discover, question and engage with the natural world, to help them create a relationship with nature and to encourage their stewardship of the environment. This is my passion. This is what sustains me. This is my purpose. This is my happiness.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Questions to Ask When Planning a National Park Vacation

Great Sand Dunes NP
        I have mentioned a few times in my blog that one of my lifetime goals is to visit at least one new national park each year with my children. I started this goal three years ago when my kids were nine and five. At five years old, my son had stopped napping, could sustain attention, had a lot of energy and could do more outdoor activities without constant adult intervention (like being carried in a backpack while hiking). Each year, I choose a new park or two and amp up the adventure scale. In 2010, we played on the sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park; in 2011, we camped, rock scrambled, hiked and biked in Acadia National Park; and last summer, we camped, kayaked, rafted and did long hikes in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.     It's winter; tis the season to be thinking about the opposite season, summer, and planning our family's next national park adventure. This year, we are road tripping to camp in Sleeping Dunes and Isle of Royale National Parks in Michigan. So as I begin my internet search for information to formulate a plan, I thought I would develop a list of questions that I need answered.
  1. What is the travel distance from home to each destination?
  2. How do we get to each destination? 
  3. What is the cost of getting there? 
  4. What is the transportation schedule?
  5. How long does it take?
  6. What is the park entrance fee?
  7. How many campgrounds does the park have?
  8. Where are the campgrounds located?
  9. How does the location of the campgrounds compare to the proximity of activities available in the park?
  10. What is the cost of a campsite?
  11. Is there a minimum night stay?
  12. How do I reserve a campsite? First-come, first-serve?
  13. If first-come, first-serve, how fast do the campgrounds fill?
  14. What facilities are offered at the campgrounds: flush toilets, pit toilets, showers, water pumps, firewood, tent pad, picnic table, fire ring and bear boxes?
  15. Where is the closest store for food and supplies?
  16. What activities are available in the park: boat rentals (kayak, canoe, row, small motor), fishing, outfitters, horseback riding, tours, ranger programs, mountain biking, rock climbing, rafting, hiking, backpacking and swimming?
  17. How do I obtain a backcountry permit to backpack?
  18. What are the bear regulations? Can I rent a bear canister ?
  19. Where do I buy camping fuel?
  20. Grand Teton NP
  21. What are the campfire regulations?
     Of course these are general questions. Depending on your destination, you will develop more specific questions related to your family's needs and goals. Planning though is necessary to ensure your family's safety during its outdoor adventures, to decrease your impact on the natural environment and to increase the fun-factor for your family vacation.