Birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts

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As a journalist, one of the first tricks I learned was to listen closely when people start to whisper.

This served me well at the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low yesterday.

Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low died childless and unmarried of breast cancer.

But what they don’t tell you is WHY she died alone and childless. That she was practically divorced.

I overheard the tour guide telling another couple… Well let me tell you the official story first. The family friendly version.

Juliette was a talented artist… she made sculptures and paintings and ceramics. Her parents didn’t approve of her suitor. Took them three years to believe he could take proper care of her.

She married, moved to England to be with her husband, and several years later her husband started having an affair. Eventually he filed for divorce.

But while the divorce was being arranged, he died. He had written Juliette out of his will in favor of his mistress.

She returned to the States with nothing. Lived in her parents’ house as her brothers helped her fight for her share of her husband’s estate. She ended up with her father-in-law’s house in Savannah, the Andrew Low house.

She died there. And founded Girl Scouts there.

One Hour Until DC

We had the kids in the car and some munchkins on hand by 7:20. My daughter has already had about a dozen munchkins and has started on candy.

We have taken I-95 through Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. We should be in Washington DC before 11.

My friend and traveling companion on my overseas journeys, M, has purchased a house in DC. We will be touring it and having lunch with him and some Indian friends. Yeah for homemade Indian food!

We have no real plans for the week. Gayle has made no reservations. Except for having to be in Savannah in Wednesday to be at Juliette Gordon Low’s house. We have reservations for that.

Road Trip Preparations

My good friend Gayle and I love to have adventures, usually day trips or hikes or going to a trampoline park on my 40th birthday.

Gayle loves a good road trip.

Gayle is a lifelong Girl Scout.

Gayle’s great-niece, Frances, and my daughter, Eva, are in the same Girl Scout troop. Both girls have a birthday next week. Frances will be 16 (ack!) and my girl will be 14 (double ack!). Their girl scouting days are coming to a close and Gayle wanted to take them to see the birthplace of Girl Scout founder, Juliette Gordon Low, in Savannah, Georgia.

We leave on Sunday.

The human experience of the Thin Mint Sprint

I have anticipated this 5K for a long time. My training started in November, paused for the Holidays, resumed in mid-January, paused in February for an illness caught from my daughter and then in March I dropped a 15-lb dumbbell on my toe, which is still a little sore and definitely swollen.

So last week, I could finally resume training, but new routines at work have made that difficult too. And my training partner and other half for this run is my almost-fourteen-year-old daughter who gave up on running weeks ago.

Three years ago, I swore I would get in shape before my fortieth birthday. And I did. At that time, I had explored some walk-run 5K events with my friend Gayle and found the Yuengling Lager Jogger. After the first year running for beer, I vowed to try and run my next one.

And two years ago (April 11) I finished the Lager Jogger is 44-minutes something.

Now, the Girl Scouts have hosted a fitness series of three events. I attended the orienteering style one at Camp Laughing Waters with Gayle and her niece and my daughter. My daughter planned to attend the second event, a walk-run through the camp, but she ended up with bronchitis and I wouldn’t let her attend the race in the race with a troublesome set of lungs.

Then Gayle registered me, the girls, and her nephew for the Thin Mint Sprint in Wissahicken/Fairmont Park outside Philadelphia. The sign “Welcome to Philadelphia” is on park grounds.

I have always wanted to run a 5K, and run it. It didn’t happen today, but I did shave two minutes off previous times for a new personal best. Well, except for the times in training that I came in at 38-39 minutes. That was when training was working.

But I want to tell some stories from the day.

And maybe start with some quick asides:

  1. The portapotties were nastier and covered with more human feces than anything I ever saw in Africa, and that includes facilities with no running water.
  2. Parking was awful but the park was so gorgeous it is quickly forgotten.
  3. There is a rustic coffee house IN the park.
  4. I’m sorry, but strollers do not belong in 5Ks.

So onto MY experience…

I love how other runners will say kind things to you.

The first half mile was physically easy but breathing was difficult. At mile marker one, I would have traded my first born for water.

I reached the road (that actually had cars on it) that the race route crossed WHILE TRAFFIC WAS STOPPED. The cars were waiting for us and backed up for what seemed like miles and I was part of that initial horde for whom officials stopped traffic. That was awesome.

I thought the first half was all downhill, so I expected, since the race was an out-and-back, the second half would be uphill. It also seemed to be downhill. How was this possible?

I had a lot of what I call “little disappointments.” I couldn’t get my new iPhone X to start MapMyFitness so I had no idea “how I was doing.” I felt most of the way, that I wasn’t performing as well as I had wanted myself to perform. I had to let go of those thoughts.

By the time I reached the finish line, pushing down that final hill, running… I saw the clock at 42-minutes something and I was overwhelmed. Not with any discernible emotion, just overwhelmed. Hot. (It was 80 degrees and I have never run in temperatures over 70). Dehydrated. (I drank 25 ounces of water before the race and the cup in the middle.) Tired. Proud. Disappointed. Happy. Crying. Smiling.

Thin Mint Sprint results posted…

Today we tackled the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania Thin Mint Sprint at one of the prettiest parks I have ever seen.

I refused to let myself think too much about the competitive aspects of the race as this winter has knocked me out: first illness, than a 15 lb dumbbell falling from the sky and physical exhaustion from changes at work.

And I’m 40-something with my own health issues. And I can’t get motivated to do anything when it’s cold.

I did an average pace of 13:48 minute mile. Far cry from the 8 and 10 minute miles of the serious runners but at 42:49.5 it was my fastest 5k to date.

It was an amazing family event with so many good snacks from Whole Foods and such enthusiasm from the event staff.

My goal was to break 40 minutes. I didn’t get there; but I did improve my time compared to my performance at the Lager Jogger two years ago. I was 44-minutes something then.

Reflections on Camp Mosey Wood

Yesterday, Camp Mosey Wood celebrated its 75th Anniversary. Camp Mosey Wood is one of the remaining Girl Scout camps belonging to Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, tracing its roots to the Lehigh County Girl Scouts, Bethlehem Steel and the mother of a “mature Girl Scout” who happens to share a mutual acquaintance with me.

I registered because I thought it would be nice to spend the day with my daughter at the same camp where she does her summer resident camp every year. She’s ten years old now, and we calculated that she’s done four summer sessions (one half week program, one “Baker’s Bunch” themed week, one “detective” week, and this year geocaching which ended a mere two weeks ago) and two winter sessions.

I attended camp Mosey Wood several times as a child, various weekends with my local troop including one in the winter where I clearly remember my adventures cross country skiing. I never had the opportunity to attend summer resident camp, and part of me always wondered what magic happens there.

Yesterday, I experienced a glimpse of it. The day surpassed my every expectation and like any good Girl Scout program it pushed me past my expectations. I am overwhelmed, proud and exhausted today as I think about the memories my daughter and I made.

Four of us arrived together for the day program. We carpooled with the daughter of one of the camp founders, camp name Bunny, and our mutual acquaintance. Bunny’s daughter is now near approaching seventy-five years old herself as her mother worked for the Girl Scouts before marrying. She stayed at the dining hall and the central green for most of the day, visiting with old friends and making new ones.

That left my friend, my daughter and I to have our camp adventures. Somewhere around ten a.m. we had already reached the archery course. My daughter worked with the actual archery instructor to make sure we knew exactly what we were doing. We all hit the targets! I forget exactly where mine landed but photos shall come…

What happened next is the usual conglomeration of crafts, tie-dye (my first time!), hiking, boating, eating, dining hall games… All items that gave me a glimpse into the life my daughter has when she’s at Girl Scout camp. Who can resist picking fresh wild blueberries off the bushes? Who can’t help but feel inspired by hiking paths created for gold projects? Who wouldn’t get excited by the prospect of a NEW ZIP LINE across the LAKE!

I watched in awe of my daughter as she kept checking on the older people, bringing Bunny’s daughter blueberries and helping them from place to place. I had never seen my tween so kind, considerate and empathetic.

I watched in awe of my daughter on the “s’up” board (stand-up paddle board). My friend and I struggled with a rowboat like a couple of drunken sailors as she zipped by us on her board, reaching the far side of the lake. When she eventually headed to shore, she ended up helping others get started because we were still in the middle of the lake spinning in circles… When we docked, I stood there and listened.

I suddenly knew I had to put on the bathing suit that hadn’t seen the light of day in eight years and go paddle boarding with her. I said as much to my friend and she replied, “Go ahead, if you want to.” And I didn’t want to, as much as my maternal instincts said this was a moment to share something with her that had nothing to do with what I wanted.

I changed, put on borrowed “lake shoes,” handed over my glasses and followed my daughter into the water. If you know me, you know I have balance issues thanks to cerebral palsy and my legs aren’t always reliable. Well, here I was, out on a lake, my daughter racing and gleefully barking orders. I can’t see. My depth perception is off. Kayaks, other paddle boarders, and rowboats surround me. I manage. I enjoy it. But in the end, I fell off (in part because my paddle was not adjusted to my height and because I never learned to use my paddle as a “third leg” for balance). That yoga has paid off because I did balance, but the line at the shore for the boards was getting longer so I headed to the dock. But I did it!

As soon as we got out of the water, my daughter threw clothes over her wet bathing suit and ran to the climbing wall. I watched in awe of my daughter on the climbing wall (and later the high ropes). My daughter climbed each of the three walls, the harder ones multiple times. I made it up the first two difficulties, no small task but again when I lacked in grace and coordination I compensated for with sheer stubborn will power. This was not enough for my petite thrill seeker so we headed to the high ropes course.

I have no idea why I ever thought high ropes would be something I should do. I did it. It was grueling in spots, but I never even stopped to catch my breath. I decided it would be easier to barrel forward than to stop and think about what we were doing. My daughter went first. I went second. When I reached the final platform when you jump, I looked to her on the ground. I reminded her that this was what Girl Scouts was about, pushing yourself and proving you could do it. And I jumped. I became a human piñata as the staff batted my ankles to stop me and put me on the ladder.

I laughed at my daughter as she bolted after grace from our spot in the back of the dining hall to the kitchen, performing her duty as hopper with the utmost efficiency and speed. She may have even gained a bit of a reputation for her skills.

At the end of the day, when my daughter had grown moody with disappointment that we couldn’t keep doing activities indefinitely, she turned to me and said, “Mom, I’m pretty sure you did at least three activities outside your comfort zone.”

I asked her to tell me which ones. She listed the “s’up boards,” the climbing wall and the ropes. She was very right. Maybe I inspired her as much as she inspired me.

The whole day reminded me why Girl Scouts means so much to me. I see my daughter meeting challenges and interacting with others of multiple generations and I can’t help but cry.

I spent a great deal of my youth being told what I could and couldn’t do and being teased for my limp and physical difference. I was about my daughter’s age when my junior Girl Scout leader saw me standing at the railing at our roller skating event. I didn’t have skates and I probably looked forlorn leaning on the edge of the rink. She asked me why I didn’t have skates.

I said I couldn’t skate. That I had never skated because of my legs.

I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I know within a few minutes I had my rental skates and I was now clinging to the same wall from the other side because I had wheels on my feet. I imagine some adult must have held my hand and coaxed me out, because eventually I hugged the wall and made a lap of the rink. I spent most of my time “practicing” on the carpeted area where people put on their skates. But I had roller skates! And I hadn’t broken my neck!

My daughter may never know half my struggles, but thanks to Girl Scouts, she can learn the same lessons.

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Parenting: Camp Mosey Wood never changes, always exciting, always emotional

Yesterday my husband and I took our nine-year-old daughter to summer camp at Mosey Wood. This will be her fourth residential camping experience, as she so confidently told us as we old people fought to recall in the car. She spent two years at Stone Wood unit, the first was for half-week camp (fairies in the forest, was it?) and last year was full week (Baker’s Bunch). Plus there was winter camp between the two, a very soggy experience that led to a moldy cough for several weeks after.

We have the packing down pat. It doesn’t hurt that I am a master of arranging the suitcase. I’ve also learned a few things from more experienced campers. The most brilliant helpful hint is to pack each individual outfit in gallon size Ziploc baggies. That way child can simply grab a bag and wear its contents, plus whatever remains unworn stays clean. I packed her dining supplies in her small backpack, which I placed in a larger backpack with her bedding and toiletries.

So she left with three pieces of “luggage”: One carryone suitcase, one backpack and one sleeping bag with bedroll. We loaded the car and headed to Target for the one item we forgot, bug repellent. Normally bugs don’t touch her, but in the woods… Well, those bugs are vicious. She attempted a ruse of hunger at Target café by claiming she was hungry when she just had lunch. I bought a picnic pack. They have grapes, apples, dried cranberries, cheese, almonds, crackers and a piece of dark Ghirardelli chocolate.

Now, when we left Target, my husband claimed to know only the back way to camp. Since Google Maps confirmed the distance as equal to the main highway, we took route 115. I had to hold my breath for most of the journey because it’s a “race weekend” at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, which is a few miles from the camp. Somehow we not only avoided race traffic, but we arrived at the race track when they didn’t have any of the detours in effect. They often make 115 one way to accommodate race traffic.

Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania run Camp Moseywood, and it’s the same camp that I attended for weekend troop camping. I never went to week-long resident camp, but I have strong memories about the place nonetheless. My girlfriends and even acquaintances have similar feelings.

We wound our way down the narrow road that led into the camp. It’s nestled amid state parks, a ski resort and a golf course. The first checkpoint resembled a wooden bus shelter. From it, a young woman with a clipboard and a smile emerged. She requested my daughter’s name, checked her list and announced that child would spend the week in Deer Wood.

Next stop was the parking lot outside the main pavilion.

My daughter approaching Fowler Pavilion at Mosey Wood

My daughter approaching Fowler Pavilion at Mosey Wood

We took child over to the first stop, the feet and head check. While daughter’s extremities are examined, I went to the medical table (and no allergy meds this year! No ear tubes to restrict swimming! Woo hoo!). Husband brought our pile of letters to the mail crates labeled the days of the week.

Every year when child returns from her head and feet check, I make the same wisecrack. “Do you have feet? And a head?” And every year she fails to get the joke. This year, her father came from the mail station after I made my comment and he repeated the humor. He still got a funny look. You’d think by now she’d be prepared for it.

Next stop: trading post money and unit photo. Every year the tears well in my eyes and I choke on the lump in my throat. Camper Release form. Bear protocol agreement. Every year I laugh at my own ridiculousness. Behavior pledge. My daughter grabbed a chocolate chip cookie from the snack station.

“Mommy, it’s still warm!”

“Let me try a bite,” I requested.

She held the cookie out to my lips and I nibbled it. She was right. It was warm.

My husband also found the cookies. When he took a third one, I yelled at him.

“Those aren’t for you!”

I was over my almost emotional outburst.

Finally, luggage tags. You have to tie colored scraps of paper to your items. They toss them in the back of a pick-up truck and drive from unit to unit. Campers walk, but luckily baggage is delivered to the unit house. Though sometimes, watching stubborn little girls drag suitcases from the unit house to the tents, over rocks and tree roots and other assorted forest obstacles, generates a hearty amount of frustration for all involved.
Deer Wood

Deer Wood lies fairly far from the lake and dining hall. To get there, one has to travel a tunnel-like path where the trees have grown over to create the feeling of a burrow. The burrow is large enough to accommodate the height of an adult, but barely. Various tunnels lead to various places, but we followed the signs to Bunny Hollow, crossed a rickety footbridge past that unit and reached Deer Wood. The unit house at Deer Wood had that typical rustic cabin feel, spooky and almost deserted before the adventures of the week fill it with a dozen-plus pre-teen girls. There was a stone fireplace on the exterior of the building and a saw horse rotting to the side.

My daughter immediately grabbed a thick rotting stick and started smashing it against the saw horse, explaining that she had fairy tools to make. Many fairy houses needed constructing. Two other sets of parents and two British camp counselors sat at the picnic tables. One child in a brightly polka dotted sweatshirt was an experienced camper like my daughter. The other, waiting with her younger sister, father and her mother who I can’t understand because she mumbles, was new to camping and to this place and shifted her weight nervously from leg to leg.

I almost yelled at my daughter to stop needlessly smashing wood pieces when the nervous little girl joined her and also started smashing wood. Obviously, this was important work and I needed to keep my grown-up mouth shut. The truck arrived. My daughter ran forward to grab her sleeping bag and her backpack, an oversized green sac covered with patches from a previous Girl Scout. I could see that her suitcase remained on the truck and would be one of the last items unloaded. This made my daughter fret. Nothing like excitement to get a nine-year-old to act like an aggravated hornet.

She dragged her suitcase halfway across the unit, flipping it several times. My husband asked me where I had gotten the suitcase. You see, camp destroyed child’s previous suitcase. It came home so broken we had to use a knife to open it. She received a new one for Christmas, but there was no way I was letting her pack a brand new suitcase for this torture. The suitcase she had came from my husband’s grandmother who’s dying of cancer. She’s too week to leave her bedroom, so she won’t be needing a suitcase for her next trip.

My daughter finally relented and let us take the baggage to the tent. Tent seven. Child swore she knew which tent it was. First we stop at nine, then eight. Finally, we arrived at seven. We made her bed, with bed roll AND thick sleeping bag since August has started unseasonably cool. We reviewed the basics: sweatshirt under your pillow in case you get cold at night, spare flashlight batteries are here, empty backpacks for the day’s activities are here, this side of your suitcase has shorts, and this side of your suitcase has long pants.

Most importantly: Put your dirty socks and underwear in one of your empty Ziploc bags. Anything filthy and stinky, put in a different Ziploc before throwing into the laundry bag. It’s camp, so if it’s only a little dirty you may need to wear it again. You have three pairs of pants. If it’s cold, you may need to re-wear.

We meandered to the latrine and to the unit house. On the walk there, child revealed that she didn’t know if she was ready to stay here over night.

“Spare me the drama,” I told her. “You know how this works.”

We arrived at the unit house and I tell her that her father and I are leaving. She responded with a pout.

“Who’s going to walk me back to my tent?”

“Not us,” I told her. “The path is right here to go back and I’m going back.”

“But I have to have a partner,” she protested.

“I’ll go with you,” the experienced little camper said. I hadn’t even noticed she was there. She happens to be my daughter’s tent-mate. When we left the tent, I swore she was lying on her cot reading The Sisters Grimm.

They left. Seriously. No goodbye. No hug. Just gone.

“HEY!” I yelled. “See ya Friday?”

My daughter ran back to me and wrapped her arms around my waist and pressed her head against my belly.

“Bye, Mommy.”

That’s better.

It's not a good photo, but that's how quickly she left

It’s not a good photo, but that’s how quickly she left