• Posted on April 2, 2017 3:31 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    Lorelei splashed in the tub as I gently washed the shampoo from her curly hair. She is the first born of one of my dearest and oldest friends, Katherine. I spent the week with them during my Chattanooga speaking tour. "My curls are tiny!" Five-year old Lorelei exclaimed. "Some people have bigger curls and some people don't have curls." "You are absolutely right," I said. "I used to have tiny curls like you, Lorelei! They are so beautiful and they make you so special." She nodded in agreement and we went on to talk about other things that make us different. "My friend has dark skin and doesn't need sunscreen, but my skin is really white and needs lots of sunscreen," she said proudly. We talked about tall/short, curly/straight, dark/light, large/small...all things that make us each uniquely different and beautiful. After bath, Lorelei, her mom and I snuggled in bed watching a quick cartoon before bedtime. Lorelei happily chomped away at her night snack before her mom turned off the TV. She kissed me goodnight and headed upstairs for her final bedtime routine. I went into the living room and began thinking about my night with Lorelei. Suddenly, my heart sank. In a few years, Lorelei will start questioning all of those wonderful things that make her uniquely beautiful. The world is going to tell her that her hair should be straighter, longer. Her skin should be tanner. Her body taller, smaller. While we can't rid the world of these messages, I know we can and will do everything to protect Lorelei's ears from these unwanted messages. Luckily, Lorelei was born into an extraordinary tribe of women. First off, her mama is one of the most ferocious, compassionate, sensitive and bright women I have ever met. Her aunt, Charlotte, is always there, along with her tribe of Green Cove aunts - ready to remind Lorelei that what she hears from the outside world is noise and we don't listen to it. We measure our worth by what is inside and how we treat others. My time in Chattanooga was closely followed by my annual camp reunion weekend. A weekend filled with yoga pants (no yoga, just the pants), wine, cheese and mountain sunsets. It is a weekend where my tribe comes together to laugh and refuel our tired spirits. We are all so very different, living in every corner of the US. We love different partners, we believe in different faiths, we are tall, short, big, small, dark, light, curly and straight. No matter how different we are, we stand together, lift each other up and support each other through life's trials. I'm fairly confident I would not be alive today without these women. Established in the 1980s, our bond runs deep. In a few years, our children will run and hike the same paths we did as children. Marjorie, Lorelei, Cecilia, Kate, Harper, Woods, Ramsay and many others will find their tribe. Marjorie and Lorelei will remind each other that their curly hair rocks and they can be girly AND strong. So while my heart momentarily broke for Lorelei, I quickly realized my heart should rejoice. Because Lorelei will be forming her tribe soon that will help her tune out that outside noise. Lorelei will forever know and be reminded that tiny curls are amazing and porcelain skin is beautiful. We are all beautiful, in every way, every color, every body. So to my sweet Lorelei, never listen to the haters - find your tribe and know you are beautiful and amazing just as you are. It is never too early to start talking to your little ones about what makes us different. Knowing that we come in all different colors, faiths, bodies is a wonderful thing. Start embracing these differences before they hear the world tell them otherwise! Who knows, you might learn something! Sometimes our biggest lessons come from the tiniest messengers.  

    Body Image, Motherhood
  • Posted on July 20, 2016 10:19 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    ...they sat down, ordered a beer and started reminiscing on the good ole days. This was last weekend for me, at the wedding of one of my dearest and oldest camp friends. Camp Green Cove has connected me with the most extraordinary people on earth. We come from different walks of life and wear different labels. But we are blind to labels, we only see the exquisite person underneath. We have so many labels that define us, whether self or society inflicted. My time at Green Cove stripped away all labels. There was no fat/thin, black/white, Jewish/Christian, gay/straight. We were all kids, loving life and loving each other no matter how different we were because we really didn't even know we were considered different. I was probably 17 before I realized my best friend was Jewish. After that, the two of us would stay up for hours talking about Catholicism, Judaism and the meaning of life in general. This past weekend was a beautiful reminder of what life can be like when we forget the labels and just be. After the fantastic welcome party in downtown Asheville, a group of us walked to another bar. Some straight, some gay and some transgender. We sat at a table, met partners and shared life stories. The next day was much of the same: laughter, rosé, new and old friends. Alden and Olivia's ceremony was the most beautiful and unique wedding I have ever witnessed. The heavens literally opened up, rain poured down, but the mood was not dampened. The entire wedding danced the night away and toasted to the beautiful couple. What really left a mark on me was the post wedding day activity: tubing down the French Broad. Everyone met in the parking lot with excitement (and post wedding headaches). We laughed at previous night shenanigans, lathered up with sunscreen and rented our tubes. As we plopped oh so elegantly into the river, there was one topic I never heard: fat talk. There was not a single mention about body parts. No "I'm so fat" or "OMG my muffin top". Nothing. It was body silent - just laughter and belly laughs at everyone's float mount. The Green Cove tribe tied our tubes together for our slow float down the river. In the two hour float, not a single minute was passed in silence or talking about bodies. I was blown away, but not shocked. I would not be here today without Camp Green Cove. It was my sanctuary every summer. It was the one place where I could really be me: witty, empathetic, goofy, sensitive and kind. No one ever picked apart my body at camp and there were no body competitions. Diet talk and fat talk simply did not exist when you entered the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I dismounted my float (actually, I ended up floating in the tiny cooler float because my float hit a rock...shocking, I know), I smiled. Well, I smiled because I just spent the last hour in the world's smallest float, but mostly I smiled because I was back with my tribe. My people. My place in the world where it doesn't matter if my belly rolls when I sit or if I say something silly. A place where I get to meet the most incredible people and reunite with my favorites. We are all who we are. Some of us have more bruises and scars in the journey of self-discovery. Some of us have endured ridicule and bullying for our sexual orientation. Some of us have destroyed our bodies only to build them back up again. At the end of the day, when we reunite, we are still the kids who climbed the mountains without fat talk, laughed without labels and loved without boundaries. May all of us aspire to be Green Cove girls - to love one another in a world filled with so much dark. May our light and love shine outward. May we never judge based on labels. May we always be kind to one another. And above all else, may we always be kind to ourselves. It doesn't matter what label you wear at the bar or in life...as long as you wear it with pride and love. Because at the end of the day, we all know this one simple truth... LOVE (always, always) WINS.                       Cheers!  

    Authentic, Body Image, Eating Disorder
  • Posted on April 4, 2016 9:56 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    December 2010 "McCall, breathe with me. Breathe in 2...3...4...out...2...3...4" I could hear the words being spoken to me, but couldn't catch my breath. I sobbed and shook uncontrollably, my body curled tightly in a ball on the stiff therapy couch. I was in treatment and having my first panic/anxiety/emotional tidal wave attack. Without my eating disorder to numb out my emotions, they all hit me at once. My emotional tidal wave had been rising for days and on that cold day in December it crashed and I began to drown under its surge. My ED mind kept telling me to "Get your shit together. Stop crying. What is wrong with you?" But I had no control. I could not stop. "McCall, breathe with me. Look up, tell me where is that one place you can go in your mind that brings you peace." April 3, 2016 The grass crunched beneath my feet and the brisk morning air pierced my face. I slowly walked to the top of Otie's Knob, my happy place. I was on my way back home after what was another epic weekend with my people, my Green Cove camp tribe. But before I could drive down the mountain, I had to return to Otie's Knob. But I had to do it alone. I had to go back and say thank you. Thank you to the people and place that make up my escape. The place that is always there in my heart and available when I close my eyes. It had been years since I stood atop this mountain by myself. Even though my friends and I had hiked up the day before, it was drastically different being there alone. The air was quiet, except for the wind rustling through the trees below. No chatter or laughter. Just me and my happy place. I folded my arms around my body and began to cry. This place, this view and the spirit of this mountain has been my sanctuary my entire life. Green Cove is a camp in every sense of the word. There is not a pool or fancy cabins. You will never hear a bugle call the end of an activity period because that is not what Green Cove is about. Green Cove was created to empower and cultivate every child to be her own guide. It helps campers find their strengths and develop real skills. Green Cove teaches that while we might be different, we all deserve love and kindness. Our circle of camp friends came from every walk of life. We embraced each other, our awkwardness, our strengths and weaknesses. There was no judging - just laughter and play. As a child, camp was my escape from middle school cattiness and feeling like an outcast. No one was an outcast at camp, not even me. In fact, Green Cove was the place I spread my wings and discovered many of my natural gifts: empathy, intuitiveness, leadership and creativity. I never felt judged or cast aside. As the years went on and my eating disorder began to take over, camp was still my escape. While the eating disorder raged in my mind, symptom use drastically lessened in the summers. Camp Green Cove saved me every year giving my body and mind the rest it needed beneath the starry North Carolina skies. This past weekend, I held back tears on more than one occasion as I looked around at the extraordinary women surrounding me. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, moms, entrepreneurs and every career in between. We are liberal, conservative, rich, not so rich. We've shared graduations, weddings, births, divorces and death. And through it all, we support, love and accept one another. Every year or so, no matter how matter how far apart we are, we return to Green Cove, the place that made us the women we are - strong, empathetic, brave and loving. In these last two years of heartache and grief, I have gone to my happy place more occasions than I can count. And when I was too weak to go there in my mind, my girls would bring camp to me with messages, calls, an epic video and love. The day after Marjorie was diagnosed with cancer, I had a long talk with her. I sternly told Marjorie there was a new pink room waiting for her at home. She had to come home because I have plans for her, the world has plans for her. I told her she was going to beat cancer because she is a Green Cove girl. It is in her blood. Her pale body weakly gasped for air as I gently rocked her singing our camp song, "Angels Watching Over Me." I described to her the magical place in the mountains that was waiting for her. There was a campfire seat with her name on it, camp songs waiting to be learned and mountains ready to be hiked.  I told her there was a happy place in the Western North Carolina mountains that I would take her one day. "Yes, my dear Marjorie, you WILL heal and hike up that mountain one day and your momma and her Green Cove tribe will be by your side." Yesterday as I stood quietly atop the mountain, I whispered, "Thank you." Thank you to Green Cove for giving me my happy place, my sanctuary, my tribe. I slowly walked off Otie's, tears still streaming down my face. I hated leaving this place, but I know that it is always with me. Camp Green Cove is just a dream away and my Green Cove girls are always one phone call or massive text chain away.   To my Green Cove tribe, Thank you for loving me all these years. Thank you for loving me even when I couldn't love myself. Thank you for carrying me to Otie's when I was too weak to climb. Thank you for reminding me of my strength within. Thank you for never letting me give up. Thank you for always, always making me laugh and reminding me that love (and killer dance moves) conquers all. And most of all, thank you for being my happy place. God be with you until we meet again...    

    About, Cancer, Carolina House
  • Posted on June 14, 2014 2:17 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    1

    Tuxedo, North Carolina. Camp Green Cove. My happy place. Camp Green Cove shaped me into the person I am today.  The people of Green Cove, and our brother camp Mondamin, are and will always be my family. There is not a doubt in my mind that I am alive because of this place and my camp family. Camp was my yearly retreat from the mean kids at school and later in life, from the voices in my head. In a world where I rarely felt safe in my own skin, there was always camp. Once a year for six glorious weeks, I was able to escape and be free. I was more than free, I was myself. But it wasn't just my escape. From the oldest counselor to the youngest camper, it was all of our escape. Camp was a magical place where you laughed until it hurt on a daily basis and the only tears cried were on the final days when our parents drove up to take us home. No one ever wanted to leave those special cabins in the woods. We were family. But on Thursday, June 12, our happy place was shattered by an unexpected and tragic accident, taking the life of one of our own. The news popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. A fatal and freak accident on the shore of Lake Summit. It couldn't be. Surely, I was reading it all wrong. A counselor, just 30-years-old with a heart of gold, taken too soon at the place he loved most in this world. I did not know Simon Everett personally, but I know his spirit. He was my family. We walked the same docks and danced the same square dance in the Mondamin gym that inevitably always reeked of little boys, onions and molded shoes. We sailed the same boats and flew down the same zip line. We sang the same campfire songs and loved the same place and every person there. As I read more about Simon's extraordinarily giving and energetic spirit, I can't help but smile. There is no doubt he was the person who lit up the groggy breakfast table and perked the campers up at assembly when no one was in the mood to sing. There were always those really special and unique counselors who seemed to have endless energy. And from the sounds of it, Simon was that counselor. Anyone who loved Puff the Magic Dragon enough to yell it, is definitely THAT counselor that every camper absolutely adored. My heart is broken. Broken for Simon's family and friends. Broken for his campers. Broken for his fellow counselors. Broken for my former campers who were his dearest friends. But even in the wake of this horrible tragedy, I am reminded why I still call this place my home and happy place. Our camp family both past and present, have come together to show support, love and gratitude to the counselors and staff who are doing a phenomenal job helping camp and its campers in this sad hour.  This is also a beautiful reminder to us all that it is okay to grieve and be joyful at once, to be brave and scared at the same time - that no two emotions are 'incompatible.' Mondamin's long time Program Director and my friend, Robert Danos, said it best in a letter today: To all of the friends and family who have sent love and prayers this way over the last few days, please know it is deeply felt and appreciated. I appreciate you understanding that I have very little time to respond to messages. My own real grief time has to wait a while... I hear you from the "outside" and it is appreciated even while my staff I need to keep our focus on managing the 190 boys hour by hour. The strength, loyalty and support shown by our campers, staff, parents and alums has been more than I ever could have imagined - and, yes, I have of course imagined what this would be like all of my 24 years doing this job. The reality has been both more hellish and more inspiring than I was ever able to conceive. This is our first camper or counselor fatality in our 93 year history, but I believe that some day our folks from this summer will look back on this as Mondamin's finest hour even if it was a test of what we teach that we never wanted. Press vultures aside, the number of people who have risen to the occasion even while knowing their own campers here were hurting has been incredible. We are trying to role model for the boys that honoring someone like Simon means both being sad but also going out and enjoying every drop of the camp he loved dearly. And, yes, with me that of course includes some joking which included an imitation of him at assembly screaming "Puff the Magic Dragon" as an example of how pain and joy are not incompatible. All of us needed permission to be able to laugh again and that included me. It warms my heart to know camp is marching on because that is what Simon would have wanted. That is what we all would want if the tables were turned. Camp is our place of serenity, joy and self-discovery. And what better place to honor someone's memory than by continuing to live with joy and remembrance each and everyday. It warms my heart to know camp is marching on because that is what Simon would have wanted. That is what we all would want if the tables were turned. Camp is our place of serenity, joy and self-discovery. And what better place to honor someone’s memory than by continuing to live with joy and remembrance in his beloved happy place, Camp Mondamin.  In my mind I'm going to Carolina. Can't you see the sunshine, can't you just feel the moonshine? Ain't it just like a friend of mine to hit me from behind? Yes, I'm gone to Carolina in my mind. Gotta make it back home again soon, gotta make it back on home again soon, gotta make it back to Carolina soon, can't hang around, no babe, gotta make it back home again, gotta make it back to Carolina soon...  

    Authentic, Inspiration, Relationships