Love


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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On June 8, 2013 two of my favorite people in the entire world celebrate a rare and wonderful  milestone. My parents, Greg and Carol have been married for 50 years!

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These two people have blessed me with a fun, exciting, and loving upbringing. To this day, they still help me with the basics of growing up. They share their wisdom, patience, love, and kindness with me and the rest of our extended family as well as a plethora of friends around the globe. They deserve much happiness and love from all of us.

So what does it take to be married to someone for 50 years? Who knows. I’m not sure there is a formula—except the basics like love, trust, generosity, kindness, laughter, joy, forgiveness. You know what that sounds like to me? The fruit of the Spirit. These two souls have God’s Spirit working in them and through them and it shows.

My dad and my mom probably have some other words of wisdom on how they’ve stayed together for so long. Maybe some selective hearing, some earplugs, some giving up of the remote control and so forth. All I know is that I love them and I am so glad they are taking care of each other.

Congratulations mom and dad!!

Below are some photos from their wedding. I can see some of my cousins in there plus and aunt and uncle and some grandparents. The wedding photographer was a friend  who took some shots for them and the getaway hot rod mobile is there—the thing that made dad look “cool” back then, I’m sure.

Aunt Elaine and Uncle Johnny and cousins with Mom.

Aunt Elaine and Uncle Johnny and cousins with Mom.

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Mom with grandpa Crowe

Mom with grandpa Crowe

The Wedding Party.

The Wedding Party.

The explaining starts today, the selective hearing starts tomorrow

The explaining starts today, the selective hearing starts tomorrow

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The new Mrs Carol and Mr. Greg Crowe

The new Mrs Carol and Mr. Greg Crowe

With Grandma Andrews.

With Grandma Andrews.

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The hot ride!

The hot ride!

Mom and grandpa Crowe

Mom and grandpa Crowe

There once was a little girl who loved to sing and dance and play with her brothers and sisters. She was the fourth of five children and always a favorite among her family. Her early life started out in Indiana but then the family moved to the west side of Cleveland where her father worked in the Presbyterian church. Every summer they packed up the family car and drove way up north to an exceptionally beautiful lake in Michigan. It was on Walloon Lake that she learned how to sail and swim and made many friends.

As a young women she spread her joy and love to the kids who attended the local camp on the lake where she worked as a counselor. Singing, dancing and playing games with kids continued through her summers and then on to her years in college.

A very generous aunt and uncle saw the potential in her and sent her to Wooster where she made more friends and spread her joy and love to the people she met there. An adventurous one, she moved to New Mexico after college to work there for awhile before heading to New York where she lived with her older sister and her nephews and nieces. She earned a master’s degree and then got a job at Cornell University.

It was at Cornell that this young woman met the love of her life and then went on to spend the next 50 years with him. This beautiful young woman took care of her husband and soon had a little baby boy. This special boy was born while she lived with her husband on base in Munich, Germany. The army nurses weren’t exactly helpful to this new mother as they dumped sheets on her bed and told her to make her own bed (right after giving birth). She was a tough one this young woman!

More adventures ensued as they took little baby Greg on the road while they climbed mountains and toured Europe. Back to the states they went and soon had a little girl to round out the family. This young mother stayed home raising these two children, spreading her joy and love to them and everyone she met.

This woman grew in her faith, continued to always be a supportive and loving person, and to this day is the most wonderful mom a girl could ask for. This woman is now a grandmother, spreading her joy and love to four of the luckiest kids in the world. They get to call this woman grandma and know that they are loved and prayed for every day.

Thanks mom. I love you and your story will live on through me and your always grateful family. You have been through many trials in your life and continue to come through them with grace and style. You are a great role model and I’m glad you’re my mom!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Love,

Your kid.

I am guilty of not completely appreciating gifts that have been given to me freely and sit visibly in front of me as I stare past them thinking about something meaningless. It’s like when I go walking down the beach and I look at all the huge beautiful houses and think how cool it would be to live there. Then I chastise myself and turn the other direction and remember that the most beautiful thing in my view is the vast ocean, sky, and beach. The houses are going to get knocked down some day but the gifts of warm sand and cool water and dolphins jumping—those are God’s gifts—all free and all perfectly lovely.

I’m thinking about gifts today because last year on this day—a seemingly normal uncelebrated day on the calendar—my brother invited me up to his house in MD to spend the day with him and the kids. Why? No reason, we just hadn’t seen each other in awhile and wanted to spend some time together. There was no agenda and no special events planned. So I went up there and cooked a rice krispy house with the boys that turned out so bad we laughed, took some photos, and proclaimed it a “krispy fail. “

Later we decided to go to a movie. The Lorax was playing and after we laughed at how the kids could memorize every line in the movie but couldn’t remember their homework assignments for the next day. As Greg put it, “If only they would use their powers for good.”

I remember that normal, lazy but fun day very well because it was a gift from God. God gave me that last day with my brother before he died the next week. We spent the day talking about a lot of things and just enjoying our friendship and our family. I will always cherish the memories of that day and thank God for letting me have those precious moments with Greg and the kids.

It sounds cliché when people say things about living life to the fullest and appreciating the moments you have with loved ones, but nevertheless it is true. Just listening to jokes and stories, hanging out and enjoying some fresh air or a warm fire, taking a walk, watching a movie, or playing a game—it’s all precious time spent that lets us be present in each other’s lives. I wish I could spend more time with Greg’s kids like we used to but I’ll let God be in control of the timetable on that one.

In the meantime, I’ll remember that day always. Especially when I go into work each day. Last year my coworkers made these decorations that reminded me of the Lorax trees, and they hang all over our office. At first I was sad each morning when I walked in and saw them and was reminded of my loss. Now I just see the pretty paper flowers and remember the gift God gave me and I’m thankful.

"Rice Krispy Fail"

“Rice Krispy Fail”

I’m perfectly content being single. I love my life and my friends and their kids and my family. Would I like to find Mr. Right? Sure. But after seeing this video I’m reminded of my picky nature and I go back to happily controlling my remote and tossing the cat off the bed when I want it to myself.

Seriously, I think the guy in the viking hat is the most normal one. Who would you choose?

Milestones mark our time. I’m not sure why we mark time like that—maybe to organize our lives, remember important life-changing events, or because we need to put something in perspective? Sometimes that may be good—like giving parents a sense of how and what lessons to teach their children (e.g., financial responsibility in high school vs. when they are 40). Sometimes I think it’s not so good—expecting to achieve certain goals because you have reached a certain time in your life.

I’m just saying, time is weird and it’s “relative.” For me, the past six months have been sad and stressful. There have been moments of love and laughter and hope as well. But the time since my brother passed seems like an eternity and yesterday at the same time. As I arrive at a milestone, or pass by a place where we made a fun memory, or come to a day we celebrated during the year, the grief comes back like a truck that hits me all over again.

I’ve been told by many who have lost loved ones that this grief period goes on for quite awhile. I guess that’s so we remember how precious life is and how important our loved ones are. I really miss my family and the fun things we’d do together on weekends, but I hope with time that they (and me) can heal and remember Greg without crying too hard. Seriously, I really should buy stock in Kleenex.

Well, yesterday was an anniversary of September 11 and today I am thinking about my family and my brother, and my friends who are also grieving or facing a big challenge. But I don’t want you to leave this blog feeling all boo—yucky and pathetically sad. So, I’ll leave you with something to hopefully make you smile and know that “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (A Time for Everthing)

Now that Valentine’s Day has come and gone, I can talk about real love. I say that because I’m an anti-Valentine’s day kind of person. Now, hold your judgment for one minute while I explain. I actually love romance. I’m a hopeless romantic. But to me, stamping a date on a calendar that puts pressure on men to deliver something special takes the fun and the romance out of the equation. We’ve commercialized this romantic love into a special love-day package. Step one; make reservations at a restaurant where they have a special meal including dessert and wine at a neatly packaged price. Step two; buy a bouquet of flowers and some chocolate (or if you’re a lucky girl, some major bling). Step three; smile, and know that any responsibility or creativity in displaying your love and feelings for your wonderful girlfriend has been taken care of for you so any real intimate sentimentality or originality has been squashed.

Me? I want to know that my true Love is thinking about me at random times during the day when we are apart. I want him to show me that—in his own unique way—be it a text, a flower on a random day, a note that shows he’s been paying attention to what’s important to me, or maybe just a smile and a kiss when we are standing in line. Romance for me is that he knows I hate calling repairmen to come fix things so he does that for me without asking. That he knows I love to watch Downton Abby so he stays quiet during the episode and records it for me if I’m going to miss it. Or that he listens when I rant and doesn’t always try to fix what’s wrong, just supports me and lets me know he’s on my side and there for me. That’s love to me. That’s romance. Oh, and a quiet lovely vacation on a secluded beach “don’t stink much neether.”

But let’s talk about love in general—not just romantic love. Love has many meanings, both in the dictionary and to each individual. It is the most talked about subject on the planet and for good reason. Want to know why we are here? It’s to love. To love each other and to love our creator, God.

One of the things that made me know I was on the right track when I finally put my faith in Christ was that all the questions I was having about things I didn’t understand in the Bible and in the world were put aside as something that I could trust God about and that would be revealed to me later (or not). Why could I trust Him? Faith. But also because Jesus told us what we really need to remember.

“Love one another; just as I have loved you, you are to love one another.”

He said “love” three times in one sentence and since Jesus didn’t stutter, I’m pretty sure he was emphasizing the word, love.

All of us—Christians and non Christians alike could use a dose of this every morning. A daily reminder of how wonderful the world would be if we first chose to love.

I was listening to the radio the other day and the speaker I was listening to said we are living in an “I” world. There’s the iPhone, the iPad, iTunes…you get my drift. He said we need to get out of that thinking and start helping each other. Interesting thought.

So, how to start.

Well, for me, I’ll start by not getting upset at the other drivers on my way to work tomorrow morning. I’ll look in the eye of the guy with his hand out and give him at the very least my respect and concern. I’ll pray for the people who hurt me and my family and friends and boldly ask God to turn their hearts toward love. And I’ll keep looking for my allusive true Love. But in the meantime am very blessed and thankful for the love of my family and friends.

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