Friends


I was recently asked to describe in one word a place that has been a big part of my life for more than 30 years. I didn’t have to think too hard before answering, “Friends.” But now that I’ve had more time to think, I realize there are so many excellent words to describe Camp Tockwogh. I know—it may sound silly to have such a connection to a summer camp but I’m guessing you are thinking about your own camping experience as a kid and saying, yeah, I remember how fun that was.

Last weekend I attended a 75th anniversary alumni weekend at Camp Tockwogh. It’s a beautiful 309-acre YMCA camp on the Northeastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. I saw some old friends, counselors, and campers I haven’t seen in awhile. The age differences between some of us may have meant a lot back in the day, but the wrinkles and grey hair were spread pretty evenly among most of the group of alumni staff at the reunion.

One of our group members is a professional cameraman and brought his equipment to film our stories. It  got pretty emotional for many of us—tears from good memories and thoughts of friends who aren’t with us anymore flowed as much as the laughter. It got me to thinking…

Tockwogh is quite a magical place. It’s beautiful and the activities are fun, but there’s more to it than the physical space. There is a special bond formed between the people who have experienced camp. Regardless of when you worked there or even if you went there as a camper, you can count on being part of a wonderful, talented, kind and fun group of people for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen your friends for days, months, or many years, you pick up right where you left off.  You see, the songs may change, new buildings go up, new boats replace the old, activities change, and new staff come on board, but the essence of camp remains.

Everyone who goes to camp, young or old, can expect to find acceptance, kindness, encouragement, and support from the people there. And they can build new skills, grow their self esteem, and make life-long friends like mine.

There are a few things I think camp could improve—the beds are a bit hard on my back and the food is okay but I miss the old chicken slop and grilled cheese the way Rosalie made it—but here are a few things I’m glad have lasted and are perfect the way they are:

  • My first roommate Wendy. When I was a Junior Counselor I asked my village chief if I could live with Wendy for the summer because she was so fun and easy going. I am blessed to have Wendy as one of my best friends because every single time I see her she never fails to make me laugh. There’s a lot of other stuff too…
  • My first boss (my village chief), Amy, is also still one of my BFFs. With all due respect to his holiness, Amy is more popular than the Pope and looks better in a dress. I am amazed at her unlimited energy and glad she’s a fighter so we can have her around for many, many more years.
  • My first (one of) counselor, Kathy. Kathy has become one of my best friends and we still laugh at the fact that I was her camper and we used to sing Michael Jackson songs loud and without embarrassment. Kathy knows everyone in Delaware and if she ran for governor today, would win in a landslide.
  • All the other wonderful women I have become close with—some were adopted into the clan and others had my back when I needed to relieve myself in a cornfield—are amazing in their own rights. I am blessed to call them my friends and my sisters.
  • As for the men, sometimes I call them my boys but they are true men. I have always had a tiny crush on each one of them and have also considered them my brothers. These men were exceptional role models for the kids they guided, taught, played with, and protected. I saw them in roles of big brothers and dads before they were mature enough to think that way, and always knew they would be great fathers one day. Some days they teased me and brought me to tears but most days they protected and supported me, accepted me as their friend, and helped me become a better woman. I will always love them and each time they found love, became a parent, accomplished a milestone, or were rewarded for something great, I was overjoyed.

One word? I don’t think so. Here are some other descriptors I heard friends say in their interviews:

Family
Friendship
Love
Priceless

Tockwogh.

Before I leave you with this  poem that one of our alumni read at the campfire to honor our lost friends, I want to say that I’m going to write a book and include the stories I heard this weekend. Some of what was overheard included,

  • “And his hand was in a cast after he punched the horse the second time.”
  • “I had to think for a second, what do you wear to a fire?”

Oh yea, best seller for sure.

“So many things have happened
Since they were called away.
So many things to share with them
Had they been left to stay.
And now on this reunion day,
Memories do come our way.
Though absent, they are ever near,
Still missed, remembered, always dear.”
—Author unknown

This is a song that one of our alumni sang at the campfire. It was a beautiful honor to our friends.

And on to the evidence! Beautiful people, wonderful friends…

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My baby girl kitty cat is missing. I don’t know where she is or if she’s even alive. Some of you may not understand the love and bond you can feel with an animal, but if you do, you know that our little furry companions are part of our families. And when they are lost, it’s a BIG deal.

My little Karma got out of the house last weekend and instead of jumping over to my neighbor’s deck for an hour to sunbathe and stare at their dog through the safety of the glass window, she got lost and has not returned. I don’t know if Greg the owl got her, or if she got hurt in a fight and crawled somewhere to die, or if some kind-hearted person took her in and is feeding her. What I do know is that even with my other pets around, my house feels empty and I miss her very, very much.

For 15 years Karma has made me mad with her scratching up my paperwork, messed up my computer by sitting on it, stuck her paw in my water glass, meowed in my ear when I was sleeping, punched out the dog she resents, and thrown up in my bed. But, over the course of the last horrible year as I cried and cried over the loss of my family, she comforted me. Is she gone for good? I don’t know. It’s like Schrödinger’s cat. (Look it up if you’re not a Big Bang Theory fan or a physicist.)

What I really was moved to write about today is the profound support and help I’ve been getting from my friends and neighbors. My HOA board sent out a blast email for me to alert neighbors about Karma. Other neighbors have physically gone out looking for her and talked to their neighbors to see if they’ve seen anything. I’ve gotten half a dozen phones calls and lots of prayers and support from work colleagues and other friends.

Ten years ago when I moved into this house I thought I’d be here maybe five years then would go on to bigger and nicer digs. Well, obviously life and the economy got in the way of that. And I’m glad. I’ve refinanced twice and am finally fixing up the place because (and I’m just saying God—don’t make this a test or anything) I’m staying. I’ve never lived around such nice, friendly, caring people before. As I get to know more and more of my neighbors (the place is a townhome community with about 500 units), the more I am amazed at what a great place this is and it’s all because of the people here. I don’t know what the magic formula is. We are a mixed bag of races, religions, and ages. There are singles, families, blue and white collar workers, and long-and short-term transplants and locals. Of course there are occasionally the disagreements and issues here and there but I have to give a shout out to my peeps in Amberleigh—there’s lots of “good Karma” in the hood.

So, Karma is still missing and in between my bouts of tears I am getting by because of the amazing and wonderful caring support of my neighborhood family. How blessed am I? Well, God is putting me through some trials this year but he’s also giving me a great support system to survive the storm.

Oh, and if you see my baby, please give me a shout.

Karma, tuxedo cat missing since March 16.

Karma, tuxedo cat missing since March 16.

Karma, sweet kitty hanging on the neighbors deck.

Karma, sweet kitty hanging on the neighbors deck.

Karma boxing with the Grendel dog.

Karma boxing with the Grendel dog.

Karma on her throne. Have cushion, will sleep. Anywhere.

Karma on her throne. Have cushion, will sleep. Anywhere.

The great thing about a personal blog is you can write what you want and how you want. After being passively-aggressively told by a certain person who shall be nameless but who can barely spell that my writing wasn’t compelling enough, I thought I’d give myself a boost and catch up on the ol’ Grendel’s mom blog. There have been so many interesting things happening in the world and funny jokes to share, but oddly enough I’m sitting here with nothing to write about. Hmmm, let’s see what’s been going on…

I went to a fantastic B2B marketing conference in Boston. I’m writing blog posts at work about all the new technology and trends out there. The kitty wanted to come—she got herself all cleaned up and was packing herself in there but alas, she had to stay at home.

 

Iz cleanin the coat before packing it!

My beach house managed to survive Sandy. One of God’s continuous blessings is that our house is in this bubble of safety—it’s kind of like the opposite of the Bermuda triangle. Maybe we should call it the Bethany Rhomboid. I have an Aunt named Sandy. The similarities are striking and I was imagining her sons, whom she lovingly refers to as “little shit” and “pagan,” teasing her relentlessly as the news media talked nonstop of the impending doom from Frankenstorm. Of course my heart and prayers go out to the people who were devastated by the storm and don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for my blessings and luck.

What else. Well, my brother’s birthday (and mine) came and went and that was kind of sad. However, it was Halloween and the plethora of Luigi, princess, and spiderman costumes were enough to bring smiles throughout the evening. I even won a contest at work for best pumpkin.

Turkey pumpkin

But now in the Virginia Crowe household, it’s time for a purge. Whenever I get to the point where I feel I’m bursting at the seams (yes I am trying to work out, but in this instance I mean my house), and I start thinking about how I need to buy some storage item or furniture to contain the mess, I know it’s time for a purge. So I’ve been going through all the closets, drawers, and shelves and tossing. Eight trash bags so far to the dump (those floppy discs, VCR tapes, manuals for appliances long gone, and Internet for Dummy’s books have worn out their welcome). In addition to the trash and recycling, I’ve got another huge pile for a yard sale I’m sure will never happen. If anyone wants a fish tank, wet suit, new lampshade, baby scale, giant teddy bear, or a VCR, come on over.

Bear can go. Cat stays.

It’s also been fun going through all the letters and photos I keep. The art work from my nieces when they were little, the young me—thinner, with longer eyelashes and tight skin—forever captured on film, the diary of a kid who was a boy-crazy and a stupid brat (that would be an even younger me), and notes from loved ones were a delight to go through. That pile was kept for the next purge when I need another reminder of what’s important to hold on to. So while the beautiful leaves on my street have to go each year…

…good friends stick around!

My neighbor John and “mini me” Carter.

With that I say adieu. To you and you and you. To all my friends—I will be scanning some of those old photos and letters and posting them on facebook for the benefit of me getting to laugh at you 20 or so years later. Oh what the heck, here are a few…

I’m in the mood to laugh. And I want to thank my many facebook friends for helping me in this simplistic goal of the moment. I also want to give a shout out to some new friends who are also enabling my favorite pastime.

Laughter is so therapeutic. When you have lovely, charming, fun, joyful people in your life it can lift you out of the darkest places and into a new world. The other night I got a wonderful gift from my two-year old neighbor. I was out walking Grendel and was feeling serious pain in my heel and knee and was ready to plop down and call it a day. As I saw some friends coming out of their home, their son was standing at the door, so I smiled and waved and said “Hi Nate!” I thought for sure he would turn on his heel and head for the hills since the last time I saw him I was pretending to be a monster and scared the living crap out of him. But instead of taking off or giving me a look that said, “Who are you again?” he smiled and yelled out, “HEY DAWN!”

Wow! I just love it! His dad and I laughed because we didn’t think he knew my name. Then the gift got bigger as his three-year old sister chimed in as well. Children are so cute, especially at that age. Hearing them call my name and say hi is just so sweet and charming—and it made me forget about my pain for awhile. Many of you who have children may understand what I’m saying, or maybe you’re wondering why I think it’s so special. I love kids—mainly because they don’t live with me and I can see them when they are acting cute and fun and leave when the crying starts. In any case, I am blessed to have a bunch of them living near me and saying hello when I need a good smile.

As for the grown up friends. I’d like to share some more funny photos I’ve copied from them and others around our lovely Internet. If it’s your photo and you haven’t gotten credit for it, let me know and I’ll make a note of it. Thanks for the laughs guys—keep ‘em coming so I can stop taking pain medication!

 “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21

I think my brother did this to me once.

 
And I’m pretty sure my brother did this once as well.
 

So I’m on my way to my next life goal which is to get fit and healthy. I’m healing and exercising with the hope that in about a year I will have lost enough weight and will feel strong enough that I can celebrate with a trip to Peru. So that’s been keeping me busy. And I’ve also been writing a lot. Not here obviously because my blog posts have become as sporadic as as the number of snow storms we get here in DC which to my taste is not enough. Now don’t be a hater. Snow is pretty and yes, you can learn to drive in it so you won’t need to overstock your house with supplies at  the slightest hint of weather.

Okay, moving on. Seriously folks, I’m working on a book. Yes, you heard me. Or rather, yes, you READ that write. I mean right. Thank God for spell check. Out of all of His inventions, spell check is one of my favorites. Now if God could just gift someone with a talent that allows for a cheap robot to clean my bathrooms and the litter box, that would be awesome as well.

Still not moving on. I got nothing folks. I’m reading a book called the Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. I’ll be blogging about that soon. Cool stuff. So far I’ve gotten the back story about a dude named Honi who drew a circle in the sand and prayed to God for rain. And God answered. I’ll be asking you for your stories—where you have seen God answering your prayers, so think about it and share it. We really shouldn’t be shy about sharing those beautiful stories of answered prayers. Or you can send me your prayers and I’ll add them to my journal of prayers. I’ve started one and I’m liking it a lot. 

So to recap, I’ve been writing prayers. Writing a book. Wrote a bunch of holiday cards that took awhile. And not writing in this blog. But I have been collecting super funny photos from my facebook friends’ posts. That’s really what I started out to do until you just let me blab on and on and on. Okay, so here are some of the most recent ones. Laughter. I think that is one of my all time favorite God blessings. Enjoy.

 

As usual, the Christmas season is bustling with activity. It started early this year because our team at work is providing Christmas gifts for a local family in need. This is something I cherish doing each year. I know we should be looking out for these families and children all year long, but at least we can make some kids smile on the morning of Christmas. I can see their faces in my mind—eyes wide open and smiles from ear to ear. And the parents must have a tug on their hearts as they see their kids enjoying presents like other American kids.

So in order to get presents for these kids, I needed to go to Toys R Us before Thanksgiving. Holy hell. A Saturday afternoon spent at that place in the holiday season is my version of what eternity in hell would be like. And to make things fun, God had a great laugh by making me go back to exchange both the gifts I got—on two different occasions. But I’ll tell you. It didn’t take away one bit from the absolute joy it is to give a gift to someone else. Especially a kid in need.

My nieces then asked a huge favor from me. They wanted to go shopping on Black Friday. I told them they owed me big. That was the day we were supposed to sleep in (or fake it while Grandma finds a way to make enough noise to bring the entire house out of bed). But no. I went shopping. On Black Friday. Kill me now.

After that I was beginning to have enough (not completely but near enough) of the material side of Christmas. That night we went to Longwood Gardens to see the Christmas displays. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. It’s so beautiful and the horticulturists who work there are master artists. Not just the display of lights but the various trees and flowers as well as the gingerbread houses and trains—oh my, it’s just so incredibly fun and breathtaking. I was so inspired I went out and bought more crap to decorate my house. Okay, so I wasn’t quite done.

But now, today, after spending a really fun dinner last night with friends and their adorable three-year olds, I started really thinking about the advent. I listened to a sermon online tonight about God’s will and plan for us and how we need to be ready and open for opportunities and to always seek His council before making decisions. So now I’m inspired for the right things. God. And preparing for this season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I’m going to light my advent wreath candle tomorrow and say a prayer. Something like this (note, this is something I got online from this Web site and it’s by Victor Hoagland, C.P.—the beginning part, the other part is by God via the prophet Isaiah):

As our nights grow longer and our days grow short,
we look on these earthly signs—light and green branches—
and remember God’s promise to our world:
Christ, our Light and our Hope, will come.
Listen to the words of Isaiah the prophet:

The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those who lived in a land as dark as death
a light has dawned.
You have increased their joy
and given them gladness;
They rejoice in your presence
as those who rejoice at harvest,
as warriors exult when dividing spoil. Is. 9:1-2

Then all pray:

O God,
rejoicing,
we remember the promise of your Son.
As the light from this candle,
may the blessing of Christ come upon us,
brightening our way
and guiding us by his truth.
May Christ our Savior bring life
into the darkness of our world,
and to us, as we wait for his coming.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

So I thank you God for pressing upon my heart the true reason for Christmas. I pray for all of you reading this that you have a joyous Christmas filled with love and mercy and time spent with loved ones. Especially those wonderful children who bring so much joy to our life.

Now please don’t go without enjoying a little laugh from an old sitcom, Laverne and Shirley. This is Lenny and Squiggy singing a powerful message about the holiday!

When life gets busy I tend to ignore things I need to do. Like posting to this blog. I can’t seem to find time to write and do all the things I want to do. Having been on the losing side of the recession, I am always very grateful to be employed, but too much of a good thing can have its downside. Like stress and fatigue. Add on to that physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, getting back into exercising, paying more attention to the Grendel dog who is showing his displeasure at being shunned by peeing in my basement, cleaning up after said incidents, and scrapbooking the past two and half years, and you’ve got reasons galore to not write on the blog.

I always say that people make priorities with their time. When you haven’t seen someone in awhile and you say you should get together (you know what I’m talking about), the truth is, you can see them—you just need to make it a priority. That’s not to say that all my wonderful friends are not priorities—they definitely get lots of “mind time”—that is I think of them often. And luckily I have been able to see some good friends recently—at the beach and up in Pennsylvania, here at home, and occasionally during the week. But I have to say that spending time with my family last weekend was a highlight. It was a cold, rainy day but we managed to have loads of fun. As much fun as I have with friends and co-workers, there was something really fun about our family time together. It’s precious and I thank God for the blessings he has bestowed on us. I’ve been thinking even more about that lately as several friends have lost loved ones in the past week or two.

One of the things I really like about my nieces and nephews is how they can enjoy time with us without having to play video games or spend a lot of money. We spent a small sum on some pumpkins and then the creativity of these junior artists took over as they carved their masterpieces. Each one of them had something funny and creative in mind for their Halloween projects. My little neighbor Cayden and his mama Tracie stopped by to help me carve my Cyclops pumpkin.

It’s the small things that count. The time spent with loved ones is precious. Through all the stress, the leg pain, the errands and chores, and travel for work, what I remember of this fall season are the days I’ve been able to spend with family and friends. A walk today with a friend, a block party, a weekend shopping with the girls, carving pumpkins, sitting on the sand getting the last of the summer rays—it’s been great.

Now that I’ve managed to get the neighborhood kids to toss my pumpkin in the woods (with great fanfare), it’s on to winter. What will the next adventure be? Don’t know yet but I’m sure something fun will happen with all these wonderful friends and family members!

I’m almost done scrapbooking, so maybe some interesting blog posts will crop up. Or maybe I need to get busy writing that novel. Or, maybe actually watching the dang Netflix video that’s been sitting on my TV for three weeks. Hmmm, so much to do, so little time. What’s keeping you busy these days? How do you decide what to do and what not to do? Anyone want to come clean my house? No? Okay, just come over and we’ll get started on the gingerbread house and holiday cookies! Happy fall!

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