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Make shift kitchen in the garage

A place in the sun

Hail to Camp – – – –
Hail to her colors true
Oh, cherished Camp – – – –
Our thought is all for you

Going to an all-girl camp that was founded in 1908 on the shore of a lake up in the mountainous woods of the Northeast is like joining a sisterhood that stretches back over a hundred years with very deep roots and wide far reaching branches, and also a little bit like joining a cult.

There are ceremonies of initiation, with special handshakes and mythological stories. The girls are inducted into one of two teams, which they will stay a member of for life. There is even a totem animal, the turtle.

Every morning Z and her five cabin mates had Cabin Inspections, which they were graded on. Besides the normal keeping the bathroom and cabin clean and tidy they had to make their beds with square corners and line up their shoes using a straight edge. The girls traded off jobs each day. Apparently lining up the shoes was the hardest thing. (I am going to have to make Zoe demonstrate this for me, because I just don’t see how lining up shoes could be that difficult.)

Actually, the one thing harder than lining up shoes were the warm-up laps at the beginning of each daily swim. Zoe, who is spoiled by the crystal clear waters of our heated pool, found the lake waters to be “gross” and “cold.” To warm the girls up they had to swim laps: freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke.

They built a lot of routine into camp life. The girls got up to the sound of a bugle horn at seven a.m. every morning, except Sundays. After breakfast and inspections they all met in the Lodge for assembly where they would sing camp songs, celebrate birthdays and listen to important announcements.

Then they had three activities before lunch, two were assigned but the third was their own choice. There is climbing tower, archery, camping skills, art and crafts, cooking, tennis, volleyball, kickball, soccer, hiking, field hockey, mountain biking, and yoga to choose from. Being on a lake there were also tons of waterfront sports like swimming, water-skiing, sailing, canoeing, paddleboarding, taking rides on the sea wasp or jumping on the water trampoline. Zoe’s favorites were the sea wasp, water trampoline, archery, and sailing.

After lunch in the lodge-like dining hall there was a built in rest hour. For the first half hour the girls had to stay silent and on their bunks in their cabin, the second half they were allowed to talk. Zoe seemed to treasure this time to read and write in her journal.

The afternoon had three more assigned activities, one of which was always swimming. Zoe is such a strong swimmer now and she is brown as a little nut.

At quarter to five it is time for the counselors to get a break and go swimming and the girls all run for the showers because there isn’t enough hot water for everyone. Zoe told me that only a third of her showers had hot water. It was not something she complained too much about though. Makes me wonder if she wasn’t really taking that many showers…

After supper was something different every night, like camp wide capture the flag, trivia contests, the masquerade, crafts, canoeing out for a sunset ride. They also had their plays, talent shows, and campfires.

Before the early taps the girls were all fed a bedtime snack of milk and cookies at the Milkline. Zoe and the other youngest girls had Milkline at the Crow’s Nest overlooking the river. Every night, somewhere not too far away on the lake, fireworks flashed and banged as the girls tried to fall asleep in their lakeside cabins.

I chose this camp after much research. There were many camps where Zoe might flourish. Theatre camp, French camp, music composition camp, math camp, science camp, CSI camp, circus camp and more. But Zoe devotes a lot of time during the school year to those things and I wanted her to have a different experience this summer. My main goal was for Zoe to experience independence, to get outdoors, and to get a sense of and grow in her capabilities. I decided a traditional outdoor camp was the place. This camp doesn’t have a state of the art gym or Olympic swimming pool. It has a trees and a lake. Not only do they not have computers, they don’t allow them, or cellphones or iPads, or anything that can get you online. The cabins aren’t air-conditioned, the lake isn’t heated, and the music you hear you are making yourself. It is life unplugged.

One of the things I think this camp did extremely well was to create a sense of belonging  and camaraderie. The history is thick and palatable and it gives the girls the feeling that they are joining something special. There are so many traditions, like signing the walls and ceiling of the cabins, the pageant, songs with hand gestures, and the milkline . There was also the experience of being at a camp where all the decision makers are girls, and all the winners are girls. There was plenty of competition but Zoe said it was friendly, with a lot of fun being had dressing up in your teams colors and cheering for your side. She also said that the losing team didn’t feel bad because the whole thing was just too much fun. But it wasn’t all lighthearted. Zoe pushed herself hard to qualify for and move up to higher levels in various sports. She was testing herself, literally, proving she could tread water, work the tiller on the sailboat, tie knots and light a campfire.

As far as she could tell Zoe was the only PG girl, the only home schooled girl, the only geeky girl, and the only Jewish girl. But this W.A.S.P.y sisterhood was more than welcoming. When we came to pick her up on Saturday she took us on a tour of the camp and everywhere we went girls, her age and older, and counselors were calling out “Zoe!”, “Hi Zoe!” “Zoooooeeeee!” I asked, “How does everyone know you??” and she answered, with a wink, “I’m kind of a big deal.” LOL! She was joking. Probably. She has gotten pretty good at those pop-culture referencing one-liners.

She taught her cabin mates Pink Fluffy Unicorns and they taught her The Sprinkler and Motorcycle Cat. She bonded with a geeky counselor from Britain over Doctor Who, Firefly, and Buffy. She got a little homesick, especially when she and the other youngest girls spent the night in an old creepy house on Lake Wallenpaupack the night the derecho storm blew through Pennsylvania. The Spyglass house had no electricity, only a fireplace to offer a sense of protection from the hair-raising thunder and lightning.

Zoe was happy to see us and come home after two weeks, but she already asked if she can go back for three weeks next year. I’d love to send her and maybe that will be the best place for her to go, year after year. But I can’t say for sure at this point. Summer is an exciting time to try new things.  Or maybe it’s a time for traditions and seeing old friends.

Remember beside the campfire
Beneath the mountains blue
That you’re part of Camp – – – –
And it is part of you.

This was a triumph.

I guess everyone knew it was going to be harder for me when Zoe went to sleep-away summer camp for two weeks than it was going to be for her. Not that Zoe isn’t adorably attached to me, we are still as we have ever been, the closest companions. But going away on an exciting adventure is fun and diverting in a way that being left behind usually isn’t. Except it was.

The initial five days were easy. Brian and I had our first alone-for-longer-than-a-weekend vacation  in years and years. We slept in every morning. We spent some part of each day outside, hiking up to waterfalls, riding zip lines, or ski-dooing around the lake. Every evening we ate and drank at a fine French restaurant. It was decadent.

And the next week, all alone during the day, my time was my own. I could go when and where I wanted, eat where and when I wanted, watch British movies on Netflix, read, write, and nap. And that felt even more decadent!

I was totally prepared to miss Zoe fiercely and painfully. Her summer camp doesn’t allow cellphones or email. I thought I might only hear from her two or three times and, in between, I would be worried and wondering if she was happy and safe. But her camp has this cool system where I can send her an email and they print it out and give it to her and she hand writes me a letter and they fax it to me. My dear girl sent me nine letters in two weeks. They were short but long enough to let me know she was happy and having loads of fun. So there was nothing to worry about.

So, this little experiment of mine, has been a success, at least on my side, and by all accounts, for Zoe as well. I decided to celebrate this last afternoon of my vacation with a slice of cake. I’m not celebrating Zoe’s absence or her return, but the not small triumph of things turning out better than you thought they would.

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1. If he grows up to be a writer he should watch movies written by women, movies with female protagonists, and movies that tell women’s stories so that he will also be able to write complex realistic female characters because that is just better writing.

2. If he grows up to be a video game designer he will be able to design games that have cross-over appeal, tapping into a larger market, making games that are accessible to the other half of the population, or at least people his games with females that are there for more than just their T&A.

3. If he is a teacher or coach he will be able to understand his female students better. He will be more comfortable and effective teaching to them.

4. If he is a manager he will see the value in hiring women and paying them equally to what he pays men. He will create and uphold a professional environment where women are treated with respect and given equal opportunities.

5. If he grows up and falls in love women won’t seem so mysterious. He will have some understanding of what makes them tick. He will be more comfortable with her needs and feelings, because they won’t be foreign. He will be a better husband.

6. If he has a daughter he can be more to her. She will feel like she can share her interests, likes, loves, and feelings with him and he will be better able to advise, comfort and support her. He can help her dream big and reach those dreams. He will be a better father.

7. The more accurate representations of females that he sees in the media the more he will see women as real people, equals and peers. He will be able to be a more fully developed person and a better man.

Seeing Brave wont accomplish all this, but it is a start. Here are some other movies I recommend you watch with your son,the earlier you start the better:

Spirited Away by Miyazaki
Howl’s Moving Castle by Miyazaki
Ponyo by Miyazaki
Nausicca by Miyazaki
My Neighbor Totoro by Miyazaki
Kiki’s Delivery Service by Miyazaki

Pippi Longstocking

The Secret of Nymh
Whale Rider

And when they get older pretty much anything by Joss Whedon.

Yeah, it’s me. We are all moved into our new house and looking forward to visits from our friends. I know the promise of spending time with me is enough of a reason to make the trip. But Philadelphia has more to offer than my charm and wit.

Philadelphia has a wealth of history and historical sites. You could easily spend your days learning about the American Revolution where it actually happened. We have the Liberty Bell, Betsey Ross’s House, Independence Hall, The Constitution Center, Elfreth’s Alley, Valley Forge, and many more sites of historical significance.

Depending on when you come you might even get to experience a live action reenactment. They are having them somewhere around here all the time. There is also areas of civil war history and underground railroad history sites and reenactments.

Yep, Philadelphia really loves and appreciates it’s history. But we also have a pretty cool modern city too.

This is the view from B’s homebase in the Comcast Building, the tallest building in the city. I’m so jealous that he gets to work in the city and be near all the great shops and restaurants.

Downtown Philly is great for sight seeing, especially if you like art and architecture. This Swann Memorial Fountain symbolizes Philadelphia’s three major waterways, The Delaware, The Schuykill and the Wissahickon.

We also have Christ Church, City Hall, Eastern State Penitentiary and and many buildings by Frank Furness. Here is more info about the architecture of Philadelphia.

I love the old architecture of the city and surrounding areas. Building’s like this are common place.

This was someone’s house. Now it is a Catholic Home for Children.

An example of Victorian Architecture in Wyncote.

There are several castle type buildings in the area. This one of Chestnut Hill College.

Here is a list of 19 Beautiful Castles in Pennsylvania, many of these are close to where I live.

If you are also into art The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the United States.  Many great artists are represented; Monet, Picasso, Dali, Rubens, Renoir, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, etc.

The museum also has sculpture, tapestries, and other decorative arts as well as the second-largest collection of arms and armor in the United States.

For more art, you could visit the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Barnes, and The Rodin Museum.

It’s not Broadway but Philadelphia also has some great theaters, orchestras, and operas. All the big name bands and the small “alt rock” groups come here too. It’s a great place to catch a live show.

Besides being home to the first public library, post office, savings bank, university, and hospital in the United States, Philadelphia also had the first zoo. There is also an aquarium (um… over the river in New Jersey, but close enough). For kids there is also the Please Touch Museum.

For science lovers will love The Franklin Institute where Zoe and friend are pictured here, riding inside a flight simulator. The Academy of Natural Sciences right down the boulevard has collections containing more than 17 million specimens. There are several botanical gardens and arboretums to visit, as well as sites along with rivers, like the Seaport Museum.

If you are looking for something a little more unusual Philadelphia has that too. One of my favorites is the Mutter Museum which contains a collection of medical oddities. It is really gross but quite unique.

Laurel Hills Cemetery is a huge, grand cemetery overlooking the Schuylkill River, with over 33,000 monuments. It is really an amazing place to visit.

Literature buffs would like The Edgar Allen Poe House, The Rosenbach Museum & Library (which has the largest collection of the late, great Maurice Sendak’s illustrations and manuscripts), and The Free Library, who’s Rare Book Department features a Charles Dickens collections with first editions, personal letters, and Dickens’s stuffed pet raven, Grip.

The historic Eastern State Penitentiary is also open for tours and has an amazing Halloween event.

Other places of interest in the city are The Comcast Center, with it’s 2000 sqft television screen, Chinatown, the Reading Terminal Market (a truly fantastic farmer’s market), Rittenhouse Square and Franklin Square.

Philly is also fun for foodies. Every kind of food is represented, at every price point. Max Brenner is a favorite of ours. It is a chocolate restaurant and that is a chocolate hamburger with marshmallow mayo, raspberry ketchup, and white chocolate mustard and it is even better tasting than it looks.

If you know me then you know that my favorite place in Philadelphia is the Wissahickon Creek and the parkland that surrounds it.

It is kinda of ridiculously cool. The path along it is called Forbidden Drive. It has a cave that an early American mystic lived in. There is Devil’s Pool, Hermit’s Lane Bridge, Lover’s Leap, Ma Rinker’s Rock, a 15ft sculpture of a Lenape Indian warrior, many bridges, trails and ruins of old mills.

Forbidden Drive

Devil’s Pool

I think it is so amazing that you can just be walking on a trail and come to something like this. What is more amazing is that this huge wooded place is right in the city.

In Philly you can be driving in the city or a close suburb and suddenly find yourself in a rural scene, like a Revolution era barn, or a ruined structure of Wissahickon schist. Sometimes the wildlife comes right up to your door, like these deer in the front yard of a suburban neighborhood, or the red fox that was on our doorstep last night.

Speaking of our doorstep, come inside Gnarlwood and let us entertain you. B loves cooking for company and I love it when he does. You will too.

Right outside the back door we have the Coop/Scoop where we serve food off the grill and ice cream, as well the hot tub, and the pool. Come on in, the water is fine.

Out and About

Some of you already know this. Some of you aren’t going to want to hear this. Some of you probably just don’t care, and that is fine too. But here it is anyway. I’m bisexual. And this is me officially coming out as a bisexual person.

Why now, you might ask? What does it really matter what a 38yo married woman’s sexual orientation is? Well, the problem is that it does matter to some people. It hurts me when I read about gay people being discriminated against and hated. It makes me sick to my stomach and shaky to know there are people out there who would hate me and possibly want to hurt me just for who I am able to love.

Of course I realize that coming out as an bisexual female isn’t that big of a deal. It’s been trendy for awhile. Be that as it may, it is still something I have been too scared to admit almost my entire life. I even kept it secret from the men I’ve been in serious relationships with, until I started dating B. I was twenty-seven then and I said, “This is who I am. I hope you can be okay with that.” And he was.

Now I am thirty-eight. Forty is looming large ahead. After all I have been through I feel strong enough to say, “This is who I am. I hope you can be okay with that.” And if you are not, well, at least we know who we are.

Okay. That is that. You can be done reading if you want. Or you can continue and read one person’s opinion regarding some myths about bisexuals.
1.There is no such thing as bisexual.

The people who think this are not always the same people who think that homosexuality is a choice. But I really really want to tell you that bisexuals exist. I have a theory that there are a lot more of us than you’d think.

I think sexuality is on a continuum and some people are all the way straight and some are all the way gay and some are mostly straight or mostly gay but aren’t totally opposed to the idea of trying out the other side. And some, like me, just love people and are sexually attracted to people, and gender doesn’t matter. And maybe sexual orientation isn’t set in stone. Maybe some people “experiment” in college, and that’s it. And maybe some people loosen up when they get older. I don’t know. To me it makes total sense that we can love and be attracted to anyone, because love is amazing and sexual chemistry is mysterious.

2.Bisexuals are sluts.

Heh. You wish. No really, according to some studies (so says wikipedia) bisexuals do have more sexual fantasies and bi women have a higher sex drive. But, being bi doesn’t mean you can’t be faithful or content. Bisexual people can be as happy in a committed monogamous relationship as any other person.

3.If you are a woman you should be careful around me, because I might try to make out with you.

I’m sorry but no. Personally, I am attracted to intelligence, sense of humor, and a kind of quirky personality. Also, like many people, I find people who are attracted to me to be more attractive (it’s that sexual chemistry thing). So, I’m not going to try to jump on any straight women. Actually, I’m not going to jump on any women, because, um… I’m married!  😛 (p.s. you are still free to fantasize about me trying to kiss you, if you are into that. And wikipedia says that most people are. ;))

4. Bisexuals want to engage in threesomes.

I’m sure some do. So do straight and gay people. Who cares really? Whatever floats the boat of three (or more) consenting adults, right?

5. Everyone is bisexual.

No. But these people are: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Drew Barrymore, Leonard Bernstein, David Bowie, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marlene Dietrich, Ani DeFranco, Lady Gaga, Greta Garbo, Frida Kahlo, Anna Paquin, Cole Porter, Michael Stipe, and a lot more people you know and love.

(so were Caligula and Aleister Crowley, but… whatever.)

I’ve been bisexual for as long as I have been any kind of sexual. For the most part I hid my feelings and my orientation because I was afraid. But I don’t feel like I should have to hide anymore. Nobody should have to.

I am saying this now because I know it has helped me to feel safe, understood, and accepted to witness other people come out as bi, gay, lesbian or transgendered. I think we will overcome  discrimination through love and understanding, and while I don’t assume this blog post will change anyone’s mind, maybe people who loved and cared about me before this will decide they still love and care about me. If they don’t feel like that right now, then maybe someday in the future. If not, that is okay because I can see the world moving forward to a place where LGBT orientation is known to be normal, natural, and just another beautiful expression of love. (Kum-BI-ya My Lord, Kum-Bi-ya!) 😉