Category: Alumni News

Homesickness – A crash course from a Woodland “Veteran”

Posted by on July 19, 2018

by Susan Austin Short, Woodland alum and parent

We all know our children will get homesick. Six weeks is a long time to be away from home. It’s only natural that they will miss us, the comforts of home, and the routine and known entities about being home. (Not to mention missing their connection to electronics -most kids probably go through withdrawals as they detox from their phones or other electronic devices.)

I was no exception when I attended camp. I still remember crying on the porch of Silver Birch- what seemed like every night – after dinner and before evening activity. That was my worst time of day. But, on the flip side, I also remember being comforted. My own homesickness didn’t curtail me returning to camp for eleven summers. I loved camp like it was a part of me, probably because it was. Homesickness was just part of the deal.

Then why did I panic when my own 12 year-old daughter started telling me she was homesick much more this summer, didn’t know why, and wanted to come home? She had changed her mind and could I come visit after all? (She had told me multiple times leading up to camp that she did not want me to visit her this summer. She wrote me a letter the first week of camp confirming, “You can cancel your reservation. I don’t want you to visit.”)

Okay, Okay, I get it. Honor she’s growing up and just cancel the darn reservation. This is what we want for our kids! Become more independent! Rely on the friends and counselors to help you through the tough times! Mommy isn’t going to be there for every challenge or setback to help you through! This is a part of what being at camp for the whole summer is about, right?

I embraced her independence as best I could and canceled the reservation. Case closed.

Then the letters started coming about how homesick she was. I started doubting the choice to cancel the visit. I worried she would feel abandoned if I didn’t come. I wondered if there was something more serious going on that she couldn’t tell me about in a letter -that only seeing her would make the difference. But, I also knew from my own experience that when parents leave after a visit, the kids usually dip even more. It can be helpful and reassuring to be with them, but when they leave again, it can feel worse. Was this to the point that that temporary setback was worth it?

Her sadness was in between comments like, “The aquatramp was really fun!” or “I passed out of level 4 in swimming,” but I was still stunned and worried. This communication was from a girl who barely wrote letters her previous summers, and now I was getting 4 or 5 a week.

I checked in with camp leadership to ask the counselors if they thought it would be better or worse if I came. The feedback was to visit – that this could help her over the hump for the last 3 weeks.

I found a hotel! I reorganized responsibilities with my family and work at home! I was going to see my baby and make everything alright again! I was needed! Mom to the rescue! (Easy Ego)

That first hug was amazing. Of course. And, it was so good for me to see my daughter in the flesh, confirm she was safe and sound, and see her in a few of her activities. To listen to her tell me about some of the wonderful occurrences and some challenges was only further confirmation that indeed all was well. In fact, I’d even say she was thriving.

As I said to JoAnne after spending some time with my daughter the first day: “She is beyond fine.”

She was going through typical challenges at camp. It’s just the way it is. I was with her for 2 activities on Friday, and 3 Saturday morning. We stayed in the camp environment, and I left quickly after a last hug. We had our time to talk. I had time to see her in her world. And, ironically, it was just enough time for me to begin to annoy her; thus reminding her of one of the many reasons why she was counting down the days until camp all year: to get away from Mom. 😊

Would she have been okay if I hadn’t visited? ABSOLUTELY. I may have even robbed her of some additional learning and growth by coming. I’ll have to live with that possibility. But, I would have spent the rest of the summer wondering if I had let her down by not coming. This time, I don’t regret my decision.

If there’s a next time, though, I just might make a different choice.

The Joy We’ve Had in Knowing You!

Posted by on March 23, 2018

Anne Jordan (1931-2018)

As many of you may remember, one of Anne’s special gifts was to write toasts for camp birthday honoring campers and staff reaching 5- and 10-year milestones and at banquet to recognize the growth that occurred and achievements made over the course of the summer. To pay tribute to a truly remarkable lady, we would like to celebrate Anne through a special toast.  We will miss you!

For some of the old timers, she was known as Commander Anne;

For all of us, there were no “I Can’ts”; it was only “I Can.”

Driving down the Woodland Road brings a smile to each and every one;

Mrs. J was loved by all for turning camp into a summer home.

Friends from around the globe she would welcome each June;

Washington Waddle and more, she could harmonize many a tune.

We will remember her infectious laugh and telling a joke or two;

She added much needed humor to carry us through.

For guiding campers and staff she was like no other.

We loved to see her dress up for the highly anticipated, “Mother, Mother.”

Cooking was a favorite, and Anne could do it well.

How many donuts or biscuits were downed, we will never tell.

She liked to visit activities, but at tennis she was an ace.

If it was TLC you needed, going to Mrs. J was always the right place.

Driving the golf cart around, Anne was certainly on the go.

She played the piano and accompanied songs for the co-ed show.

Through her music Anne was positive and upbeat;

At camp we like to stay on the “Sunny Side of the Street”.

For generations of girls, this strong woman helped find their happy;

Through Anne’s children and grandchildren, special it will always be.

A fond memory is hearing the wind blowing off Sand Lake creating a gentle breeze;

Linking hands right over left, Anne passed on the traditional friendship squeeze.

Each campfire lights anew, the flame of friendship true;

The joy we’ve had in knowing you, Mrs. J, will last our whole life through!

Translating Working at Camp to the Real World – Part 1

We have started a new format for connecting with staff this year and are holding monthly meetings via Zoom as a way to see each other (think mini-reunion!) and discuss pertinent topics of interest relating to camp.  Recently we asked 4 alums to join us and share their insight on how working as a counselor at Woodland or Towering Pines has benefited their career (and life!) success.  Let me just say that we were BLOWN AWAY by what our panelists shared – each person had very specific skills and experiences learned at camp that transferred to the ‘real world’, be it in the workplace or at home and raising a family.

Let me introduce you to Becky Coady Langton (on right in above photo), a former camper/staff member and now camp parent, who was one of two Camp Woodland representatives on the panel.  Becky was a camper for one year as a CIT in 1988 and worked several summers as a cabin counselor teaching gymnastics and anything that involved “jumping around.”  She is an exercise physiologist and currently works as an instructor in the Health and Fitness Science Division of Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Becky’s two kids, Sydney and Sam, attended camp for the first time this past summer!

Becky recalls gaining confidence and the ability to publicly speak as skill sets that were most developed during her time as a staff member.  She feels that this pushed her ahead of her peers, many of whom today have an intense fear of speaking in front of others.  Becky finds that having the ability to work with diverse experience and talent levels and massaging that atmosphere in way so that everyone is having fun (even if all you have is a paper bag!) were some of the biggest takeaways from her camp experience.  Camp certainly is the stage for learning how to make the best of every situation!

Becky teaches about the positive effects of exercise and a healthy lifestyle on longevity and chronic disease prevention.  One of the things that speaks to Becky the most about her experience at camp is being active and always doing something.  In the health world, physical activity rounds out and provides balance along with the emotional, social, environmental, intellectual, spiritual, financial and occupational dimensions of the wellness model.  Becky allows how all of these areas melded together describe the camp experience on steroids!  She attributes being at camp on her own without her tribe and THRIVING was a catalyst for her to seek out a career in health science and promotion.  So cool!

When talking about different aspects of applying for a job, Becky reminded us how important the first phone call can be because this is when the applicant has the opportunity to engage in a conversation with a potential employer and share about themselves.  According to Becky, the candidates who do this best find their voice, find their WHY and know in their gut what they want to do and are connected to it.  Being able to then verbalize who they are in a way so that the person conducting the interview can FEEL the energy and passion is what helps a person stand out from the masses of job candidates.  Becky believes the “amazingness” within each person that fuels this energy and passion grows at camp.  Being leaders of crazy and fun and being children ourselves as camp counselors fosters that amazingness!  So true!

Becky also pointed out how being able to communicate well verbally, utilize active listening and motivational interviewing, and understand nuances such as making eye contact and offering a firm handshake count as social collateral in a world where people are lacking in these areas.  This is another chance for job applicants with work experience at camp to shine because face-to-face interactions and being unplugged are the norm and not the exception.  Working at camp nourishes the exact skills that make for a strong candidate in just about any career field!

Next up – meet Rachel Davidson in Part 2 of how working at camp translates to the real world!

Why I Choose Woodland!

Posted by on April 21, 2017

Waterfront Director 1987-1997

Because I moved on from Woodland/Towering Pines after a 12-year stint as counselor, program director, waterfront director, and eventually assistant director, and then returned after a 14 year hiatus, I am often asked by fellow alumni why I chose to come back.  In the time I was away, I was the associate director at a much larger all-girls camp in the mountains of Western North Carolina full-time for 8 years. There are 60+ camps in three neighboring counties in that part of the US alone!

  Tamarack Cabin Counselor 1986-1991

A little over 10 years ago, I started my own camp consulting business and present at multiple camp and youth development conferences every year and work with camps to provide top-notch staff training and programming experiences.  I have been back at Woodland/Towering Pines every summer since 2011 spending a month sleeping on a top bunk and being truly immersed in camp life.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else!

  Lena’s Helper with 1989 Birthday Cake

I have worked with and been to many different camps (100+) since my career path took me in another direction in 1997.  This includes single sex, co-ed, for-profit, not-for-profit, agency, religiously affiliated, specialty, traditional, all sizes, various geographic locations and a few other qualifiers that I’m sure I am leaving off the list.  Coming back to Woodland/Towering Pines was choice I made because of how strongly I believe the the experience both camps have to offer kids today who need camp now more than ever!  While there are many great camps out there, I would have no hesitation choosing Woodland and Towering Pines for the following reasons:

 Fair Day sign still in tact 30 years later!

Size: Small & personalized. Every staff member (including the directors) knows every camper!   Campers know each other (younger and older) and that truly makes us a camp FAMILY.

Purposeful Play/Creativity: We are technology free! We focus on what really matters – growth as individuals and as a group.   Through purposeful and “unplugged” play, kids use their imagination and creativity to make their own fun.

Program Philosophy: Our 2-week themes of ACCLIMATE – ACCELERATE – CELEBRATE provide a framework for campers to thrive and grow. Mr. Jordan (founder & 5th grade teacher for 30 years) knew what he was doing when he created the mix of activities and the flow of the summer.

Staff: The owners/directors really know the staff because the majority have been campers themselves and have come up through our Counselor-In-Training leadership program. Staff training is on-going and includes a week prior to camper arrival.  We take our work seriously!

Length: Kids need the opportunity to work through their differences and face challenges!  The real value of camp plays out AFTER the first two weeks of experience. The 6 Week Advantage and time spent “all in” is the reason the end is so fun and impactful.

Diversity: Campers experience a variety of cultures and make new friends from all around the US and world. Camp is a great equalizer!

Level of Competition: There is healthy competition at appropriate times in the summer with a focus on sportsmanship and teamwork. Everybody plays!

Consistency: This is a hard one to explain, but I feel that it is important to “walk the talk” by being true to what is portrayed in marketing efforts and then staying congruent with that message throughout the entire camp experience.  What you see is what you get at Woodland/TP!

Food: Meals are mostly made from scratch (very little processed food) with healthy options available during snack times.  Plus, the time spent eating 3-meals together contributes greatly to the feeling of being family!

Price: “All-inclusive” (no extra fees) and competitive with other camps our size and duration. It’s hard to put a price tag on a quality experience!

So, there you have it…some of the reasons why I truly believe the camp experience that Woodland and Towering Pines provides to kids is exactly what they need for each unique stage of development.  And, that is coming from someone who lives, sleeps, eats, breathes, and LOVES camp every single day!   I look forward to seeing you and your camper this summer!

You Are Not Alone! There are MILLIONS of camp parents…

Posted by on June 28, 2016
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Alum Moms Send Daughters to Woodland!
(Rachel & Tess, Susan & Maya, Liz & Molly, Emy & Viv)
As the 2016 camp season begins, I have to say that it is SO cool that campers of mine from 30ish years ago are sending their daughters to camp for the very first time (far left and right in photo above)!  In communicating with these alum Moms via email, they shared with me that they were unprepared for the mixed feelings they would have during the drop-off process this past weekend.  Both admitted to tearing up even though they know that camp is such a good thing for their girls.  I assured them that it is almost always hardest on the parents (of course!).  And, I’m fairly certain that their parents felt the very same way in summers past when they said their own good-byes!
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 Woodland welcomes new campers!
The first weekend is packed full of action and fun, but there is nothing like the first day of activities to help campers feel like they are settling into the flow of camp.  By mid-week your daughters will be pros with the routines of the camp day.  They will anticipate the ring of the Woodland bell to signal moving from one exciting activity to another.  They will know all about “hopping” and the “job wheel” and will have had enjoyed getting “canteen” in the afternoons at the end of Rec Swim or Sailing.  They will have joined in signing the “Ship Titanic” and the “Woodland Song” after dinner.
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Campers give log-rolling a try!
Monday night is cabin night, so that time is good for continuing the process of cabin unity and bonding and making camp feel more like “home”.  Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday are evening activities (always fun choices!), and Wednesday is Campfire Night where your camper will be working with her cabin to prepare a song or skit (and write that first “official” letter home!).  The first week will FLY BY in no time!
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Sand Lake is oh-so refreshing!
In the words of another former camper of mine (Alice Lurain) – YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  There are MILLIONS of parents (just like you!) who have mixed emotions on Opening Weekend!  Many parents shed tears this weekend and felt their heartstrings pull tight after giving one last hug.  We know that you love your daughters very much and that you will miss them while they are with us!  Thank you for giving them the gift of camp!
p.s. Here are more Alum Mother-Daughter photos…a big shout out to those who were unable to be photographed this weekend!  We hope to feature you in another post!
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 Judy & Lou
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Angie & Emilie
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Sam & Renee