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Anne Jordan’s Love – You Want To Pass It On

Posted by on July 30, 2019

by Alice Lurain (shared at Anne Jordan’s memorial service on March 18, 2018, and again at a remembrance for Mrs. J as part of Woodland’s 50th Anniversary Celebration on July 13, 2019)

Grab a tissue!

A survey of the framed photos on my bedroom dresser reveals the faces of the people who have touched me most deeply and persistently over the course of my lifetime. You will find my parents, my sister, my two dearest friends from childhood, one of whom – The Other Alice – many of you know, and you will find Anne Jordan.

Mrs. Jordan first entered my life in 1985 when I was a 9-year-old camper in Silver Birch. I loved everything about camp – sleeping in a cabin, constant activity, skits, songs, attention from older girls who seemed so cool, and the fact that I could wear my favorite blue velour sweatshirt every day, and no one cared. Despite this, at some point in that summer, around week 4, I sent my parents the following letter, which I found last spring in their basement. It reads: “Dear Mom and Dad, I like camp but I miss you too much to stay. Please come get me or ask Gramma and Grampa to. This isn’t a joke. Love, Alice.” Apparently, my parents called Mrs. Jordan when they received this dire rescue request, because I also found the wonderfully thoughtful response that she wrote, reassuring them that this was normal and not cause for alarm, that she had checked on me and found me having a wonderful time. She wrote, “I can assure you that she will not be sorry that she completed the season.” This was the first of many times when Mrs. Jordan knew me better than I knew myself.The following summer, I was a 10-year-old Treetopper. One day, on the way back to the cabin after lunch, I was talking to another girl about one of our cabinmates in that mean, catty way only pubescent girls can, when Mrs. Jordan walked up behind us. She said my name in a calm, quiet way that stopped me in my tracks and made clear I was about to be required to account for my actions. I still remember the feeling of absolute mortification I felt as I turned to face her. With her steely gaze upon me, she said simply, “That wasn’t very nice.” I stammered out some sort of apology; it seemed as though she let me go on in flustered agony forever. Then she said, “Alice, you need to think about what kind of person you want to be in the world. What do you want people to say about you when they talk behind your back?” Over three decades later, that question still echoes in my head during moments when I am tempted to do something petty, ignore someone’s feelings, or just take the easy way out of a situation.

Throughout my childhood, into young adulthood, and well beyond, Mrs. J always brought out my better self because she let me know that she expected that self to show up, and I never wanted to disappoint her. I still don’t. Patient, unflappable, and insistently calm under fire, nothing ever seemed to surprise her. She let us know that she would still love us when we inevitably screwed up, but she would also hold us accountable. With Mrs. J, there was always a second chance, but never a free pass.

She believed that what young people most needed and wanted were limits and a safe space in which to test those limits, surrounded by adults who supported their growth with grace and humor. She taught me that the children are always watching us and made me believe that working with young people was both an incredible gift and responsibility. I’ve been a high school chemistry teacher for nearly 20 years, and if I trace back along the winding road that led me to the classroom, I find Anne Jordan at the beginning. Both consciously and unconsciously, I have, in many ways, modeled myself as a teacher after her. I enjoy knowing, for example, that students find me both hilarious and terrifying in equal measure, and I work very hard to let them know that I care deeply about who they are as people, that I see them.

Also in my parents’ basement, I found my notes, written in my 17-year-old handwriting, which shows slight improvement over the 9-year-old handwriting, from Mrs. Jordan’s lesson to the staff on “guidance techniques.” Among these pearls of wisdom are: tell them what you want or expect; don’t lose your cool – stay calm; when things are not going well, stop and start over, and a perennial favorite, don’t just do something, stand there. In my most challenging moments with students, I channel her calm; I say, “Maybe you didn’t hear me…”

I often wonder, as I’m sure many of you do, what my life would have been like if I had never found my way to Camp Woodland and Mrs. J’s watchful presence. What kind of person would I have been? So profound is the impact on my character that I am not able to imagine what that alternate Alice would look like. Through Mrs. J and Camp Woodland, I learned that actions have consequences, that sometimes it doesn’t matter what YOU want, and that you really ought to clean up after yourself, because that job wheel keeps turning, and eventually “clutter” is going to end up on your name.

Mrs. J and Camp gave me the chance to be unreservedly silly. By the time you’ve proudly worn underwear on your head or a bathing suit over your clothes for reasons that have been lost to time, led rousing renditions of the Ricket-an-doo (now what is that?!), and written and performed camp-themed lyrics to Billy Joel songs while dressed in a polyester bell-bottom jump suit, you’ve discovered that pride and self-respect do not preclude you from acting like an idiot and enjoying it.

Mrs. J and Camp gave me the gift of understanding that serious work and serious fun should be the cornerstones of a joyous and meaningful life. Long after I left Woodland, Mrs. Jordan remained a consistent presence in my life through the regular exchange of letters. I wrote to her about moments of success, failure, self-doubt, and learning. At some point, she could no longer write back, but I still felt a certain happiness and comfort in telling her my stories and imagining how she would respond.

I know for certain that Mrs. Jordan lives on in me, and I work every day to pass on the gifts she gave me to the young people in my life. As all of you know, it only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with Mrs. J’s love, once you’ve experienced it; you want to pass it on.

Camp Woodland: A Place of Belonging

Posted by on July 26, 2019

It’s not too difficult to see that the girls at Woodland this summer are having a great time. If you visit camp, all the action is what you first notice: the horseback riding at the barn, tennis on the courts, forward rolls in gymnastics, arrows and bullets hitting the target, the dipping of paddles and hoisting of sails, and busy hands in arts and crafts. Likewise, your first glance at the photo gallery leaves the same impression. The girls are engaged in so many ways, happily active, smiling and chatting with each other.That’s all good stuff, but on another level, there’s something remarkable also going on. It’s the culture of Woodland. It’s the way the girls treat each other, the assumptions and values that subtly guide them. It’s how it feels to be at Woodland, living and playing together in this tight-knit community.

It’s tricky describing this culture because it’s certainly multifaceted and complicated, but one aspect worth noting is the sense of belonging girls enjoy at Woodland. Almost immediately after they arrive, girls are comfortably in groups around camp, paying attention to each other, including each other no matter what’s going on. Cabin groups provide the backbone of this feeling, but it’s present everywhere and is on steroids now that the awareness of how little time is left is beginning to sink in.

Free from the competitive social and academic pressures of school, this all-girls environment is devoted foremost to the quality relationships we have with each other. Simply put, the culture of Woodland, and by extension what it means to be a “Woodland Girl,” begins with being “kind” to each other.

The culture here at Woodland is one of optimism, respect, love, and altruism. The amount of kindness is astounding; people are always seeking out ways to brighten someone else’s day in any manner. Girls are encouraged to stand up for what is right, to be their best selves no matter who is watching (or not watching), and to aim towards making the camp community even better than it already is. It allows us to feel a sense of support unlike anything else. Campers are more than willing to take opportunities to “do a little good” by writing a friend a sweet note, picking up a piece of litter on the ground, or walking a younger camper to her activity. Everyday at camp is filled with these small, powerful moments.

Woodland is a place where girls feel they belong, where who they really are (and not who they think they’re supposed to be) matters. At camp, there’s mutual caring. It’s a place where we all value and rely on each other without any reference to our age, our intellect, or our looks. Nobody has to say it, but for these girls, Woodland is “a place of their own” where they feel safe and happy.  And that feeling becomes the foundation for all of our relationships at camp, the root of the friendships, and the spark for personal growth.

More than ever these days, young people need certain experiences to overcome the forces of abstraction and isolation they face. Just think, for example, how all that screen time impacts their ability to communicate face-to-face, to engage the inevitable imperfections of the real world (compared to the edited and filtered online version of things), and to be actively creative and confidently engaged. They need a place of belonging where they can practice being more connected to those around them, where they can play, encounter new challenging experiences, and grow.

Thankfully, Woodland is such a place.

Inspired by RBC of North Carolina.

Woodland’s Breakfast Club: Reflections of a Camp Alum and Parent

Posted by on July 22, 2019

by Becky Coady Langton

For those that remember the movies of the 80’s, there is a final scene in Breakfast Club where Jud Nelson reminisces on the day of detention he endured with the most untypical group of students from his high school. Over the process of the detention day, they break down their personal walls and expose who they truly are. Due to those brave acts, they walk away learning so much about each other and themselves. This classic film describes something very similar about my experiences as both a camper at Camp Woodland in ’88 and as a current parent of campers at both Woodland and Towering Pines.

I was a sophomore in high school in 1988. It was a year where I had begun to hang with the “wrong” crowd, and at 15 my parents decided to send me to camp in order to remove me from that environment. I was mortified to be “punished” by being sent to camp. What was I going to do without all my comforts of home and rowdy friends? My sister, Sarah, had gone to Woodland the summer of ’87, but she was ten that summer and in my 15-year-old mind was less connected to her life at home; therefore, she had nothing to lose.

Reluctantly, I began to accept I would be going. Shortly after the decision had been made, JoAnne assigned me a camp sister named Maureen. She had attended camp for several years and was going to be in my cabin – Aquarius (which in my mind was going to look like the song out of the musical Hair I’d seen at Great America my freshman year in high school). We wrote back and forth for a few months (we still have the letters), and I began to feel more connected to leaving my life and heading up to the Northwoods for the summer.

That summer turned out to be the most magical and personal growth oriented summer of my life. I learned how to shoot a rifle and an arrow, how to ski and sail (EN Forever!!), and I got to participate in the best CO-ED show ever! All of these activities I never would have experienced without getting out of my comfort zone just by saying YES.

Activities aside, the most impactful take away from that summer were the friendships. BEST friendships. Friends that I am still deeply connected to today, friends that know the real me and love me anyway. Friends that will tell me my butt looks bad in “those” jeans and friends that make me laugh so hard that I actually pee those same jeans. I just can’t imagine what my life would be like without these people. Camp for me was life changing…life lifting… and personal growth oriented. In no small part I believe I am the person I am today because of that love and caring I received all those summers ago.

Today my kids are at camp having those same experiences (for the 3rd year in a row – lucky ducks!). Syd and Sammy, you are both so fortunate to have the opportunity to do this earlier than I did. I can’t go back in time and attend camp any more years than I had, but you get to do all of what I did and more. I know the impact it’s had on my life, and I know your life will be enriched in a way that you’ll never know any differently. You are getting outside your comfort zones, learning personal communication skills, how to play well with others, how to be goofy and how to be caring and sincere. You’re eating yummy food, working hard at your activities, being a good friend, using your imaginations, setting goals, sleeping hard, and growing into the people that you’ll become. My hope is that one day you will send your kids and make it a 3-generation tradition.

In closing, I will say that each of my camp experiences aided in my gaining a deeper sense of who I was. I left camp that summer and made some different decisions on the friends I would hang with. I began to make better decisions which let to greater personal accomplishment and focus in school. I’m so thankful that my parents insisted I go to camp, my own Breakfast Club experience. It was the opposite of punishment, it was one of the greatest gifts of my life. It was the unexpected. The gloves are off, the emotions are flowing, my heart is open, and I am so deeply grateful for Camp Woodland and Towering Pines…here’s to another 50 years!

The Precious Present

Posted by on July 18, 2019

 

One of my favorite camp traditions is listening to the story that JoAnne reads each week at the end of campfire. The mood transitions from one of silliness and laughter to a more quiet and reflective tone. Girls get comfy in their spot around the fire as the red and orange flames give way to embers glowing yellow and white. A recent message from The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson encapsulates the essence of what camp is all about.

A young boy listens to an old man and learns about the best present of all, The Precious Present. Such a gift brings happiness forever to the receiver. Of course, the boy spends a lot of time searching for what could make him eternally happy and is frustrated as he grows into a man and is still unable to put his fingers on it. He becomes frightened that he will never figure out how to be happy.

Along the way he learns that:

  • The Precious Present has nothing to do with wishing.
  • When you have the Precious Present, you will be perfectly content to be where you are.
  • The richness of the Precious Present comes from its own source.
  • The Precious Present is not something that someone gives to you.
  • It is something you give yourself.

I have been back at camp just a little over a week now, and what I love about my return to Woodland every summer is to see how much this community truly embraces living in the present. While JoAnne was reading the story, I observed a camper tilt back in her crazy creek and gaze up at the sky. How often do we slow down enough to notice that which is in front of us or around us every single day?

I am reminded to be more observant as Chet shares the latest moth spotting with me; he recently saw a fairly large one hanging with unusual coloring out at the Blue Barn. I retaliated by noticing a much smaller white moth on a chair next to our table in the lodge. During last week’s campfire, we saw an eagle soar overhead and heard the loons calling to one another across the lake. As the waxing moon passed through various stages to reach its optimal fullness this month, we were able to mark its growth and expansion as it left a trail of light on Sand Lake several nights in a row.

The campers are happy. They are exactly where they need to be at this moment in time. They are truly content where they are. Technology has been out of the picture for several weeks now, and it is absolutely fabulous to see girls enjoying a leisurely conversation at the dinner table or strolling to the next activity while chatting with a friend or stopping to notice a unique pinecone on the path.

There is an awareness that camp days are numbered now, and it won’t be long before we head back to home and school and the hustle and bustle of our lives outside of the Northwoods. Each moment is even more precious and to be savored for this is the season that so many wait all year to return to. Woodland is the place where so many girls find their happy. A summer at camp IS the Precious Present for the happiness it forever brings to the receiver.

The Present Is What It Is…It Is Precious. Even if I do not know why. It is already just the way it is supposed to be. When I see the present, and experience the present, I am well, and I am happy.

 

 

Woodland’s Neighborhood Community

Posted by on July 15, 2019

I can remember coming home from school in my youth and heading outside first thing after grabbing a snack. Many neighborhood kids would congregate at our house as we lived in the middle of the block. We played kickball in our side yard and wore paths between bases until there was no more grass (much to my Dad’s chagrin). The only way we knew it was time to come in for dinner was to listen for the bell that my Mom would ring from the front steps. Ghosts in the Graveyard was a popular night time game that usually took place across several connected yards. We would play for hours upon hours until our parents would drag us inside (kicking and screaming, no doubt!).

Being at Woodland reminds me of that same neighborhood feel I remember so well from being a kid. The cabins are nestled in the trees and create their own neighborhood as they are in close proximity to each other (more in a clump than a straight line). Each cabin is slightly different in design yet offers a similar inviting appearance with a porch, clothesline, cabin flag, and flowers on the stoop. There is a flurry of activity in this neighborhood multiple times a day when campers return “home” from a busy morning or afternoon of activities or following a meal.

I love hearing doors open and close as campers come in and out of the cabin to share the highlights of a fun-filled camp day with each other and their counselors. Girls will hang out on the porch or make their way to the tether ball areas for a friendly pick-up game. In the mornings and evening, the spigot is a gathering place for mixed ages to gather for communal toothbrushing and shaving parties. There are several camp-wide games that utilize the cabin area because of the ability to sneak up on the opposing team while playing tag or Cortation Fugation (a popular end-of-summer game).

I am reminded by my good friend, Jolly Corley, that this neighborhood that camp provides is something that has has long since disappeared from our communities.  While neighborhoods may no longer exist in very many towns or cities around the country, we both believe they can be found at camp.

Camp is place where children interact with children of all ages, and the person in charge very likely may not be over twenty-one years old; a place where children can still make up the rules to a game they’ve just invented; a place where play is valued. For these reasons, going to camp is more important for children now than it ever has been! 

(Woodland) creates a safe neighborhood for children to become independent and confident in their own abilities to control themselves and to contribute in a way they may not be able to do in their neighborhood at home.

At Woodland, the camper of the day rings the bell to bring campers back to the neighborhood community we have created in the Northwoods!

Click HERE to see Jolly’s full article found in Camping Magazine (published in January of 2014).