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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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…

It’s been hard to write lately. When you are dealing with something bad in your life whether it’s the loss of a loved one, sickness, heartbreak, financial distress, or the hordes of maladies that seem to strike people of all ages, races, religions, it feels like time slows down. I guess that cliché that time flies when you’re having fun has a polar effect in the universe.

Maybe God gives us that time so we don’t hurry into bad choices or so that we can really lean on Him for support. He wants us to remember Him in all things and when we start focusing on Him and His Word that’s when He starts to work the healing process and the clock starts up again—a new day.

Gifts from the Father

God has given me many gifts and they have been gratefully received and cherished—more so in the past three months than ever before. Those gifts are His Word, His love, and the people He has placed in my life. My family and my friends. He also gave me Grendel and the cats to keep me company and I thank Him for the creatures of the world as well.

“When we consider the blessings of God—the gifts that add beauty and joy to our lives, that enable us to keep going through stretches of boredom and even suffering—friendship is very near the top.” —Donald W. McCullough, Mastering Personal Growth

But I want to just talk for a moment about friends and trust and faith. My last entry was an outpouring of grief. Yikes, such a public display of my hurt and feelings—so embarrassing. But I needed it and God helped me by sending some peeps to listen to my tear-soaked memories of Greg and my concerns about his kids and their grief. I was comforted by so many loving and caring people—including my parents who were also hurting. What a blessing to have such wonderful parents and friends and family.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9–12

Doubt and Hope

I also want to say to anyone who is also hurting and not sure about their prayers or what God is doing—please, I beg you, please do not lose faith. It hurts, I know. We don’t understand why our loved ones have to be sick or hurt or why we have to go through trials and pain. There are some things that will take time and some things that will have to wait until we join our Father in heaven. The answers will be there, just have faith. God is for us. The hurts we feel come from man-made sin, not God. God sends us friends and family to help us through the tough times and He wants us to come to him and tell him our feelings and ask Him for His help. He loves you and He loves me.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

I found this wonderful article online by a guy named Jack Zavada. He discusses prayer and how sometimes if feels like our prayers aren’t being answered and it can be frustrating. He says we need to submit and trust God—hopefully before we hit rock bottom. It’s good reading—check it out: The Turning Point in Prayer.

There is this one scripture passage that always had me a bit, well, confused. Like—really? I can actually move a mountain if I really believe? Not sure about that one.

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.“ Mark 11:23

But then I realized that the word ‘mountain’ doesn’t have to be taken literally. It can mean a massive huge obstacle or problem or hurt or anything that is keeping you paralyzed and in pain. If you really put your heart to God and believe that He will take care of you better than you can ever do on your own—the mountain will move.

His Love Takes on Many Forms

I know He loves me because He has created so much beauty in the world around me. In the smile of my nieces and nephews, in the towering mountains, in the crystal blue lakes, in the saliva-dripping Grendel dog, in the purr of my cat, in the laughs of my friends, in the arms of my mother and father, in the giggle of the three-year old neighbor, in the soft grass, in the rain and sun, and in the loving words He has given us to guide us in all things.

Where You Go, I Will Go.

Thank you God. Thank you friends. Thank you all my “Ruths” out there who have been so loving and supportive. And to all my dear loved ones—in your own troubled thoughts and feelings, please don’t give up hope. Keep your faith. Give up your pain and control to God—He is better equipped to handle it. And love each other. And let me be there for you when you need someone. You are my people.

So in honor of my brother who was an amazing father, I will conclude this post with some thoughts from our heavenly Father as we near Father’s Day.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-19

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. “ Romans 15:13

“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

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!