• Posted on August 25, 2016 11:26 am
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    10am. My sweet Lola is curled up in my lap as I write. In a few hours, I will give her a final hug and kiss. My precious baby, my first baby. Her body is tired and I can't bear to watch her suffer anymore. Even Lilly, our bulldog, knows it is time. She is mushed so close to me, facing outward as if protecting her big sister for what is to come. She gently turns her head every minute or so, checking on both Lola and me. We are still here...for now. Dogs are funny that way. They can always sense our emotions and foresee things we can't. Lola has been next to me through my darkest days, witnessing me suffer more pain first hand than anyone else. Born on Jordan's birthday, July 10, Lola came into our lives 2005. My mom and GaGa picked Lola up from the breeder in the midst of Hurricane Rita. When GaGa first laid eyes on Lola, she knew she was mine. GaGa scooped her up in the pink fleece blanket she had sewn the night before. The same pink blanket she is wrapped in now. Jordan convinced my mom and dad to get me a dog because he knew I was lonely. He was on the road playing professional golf and I was working in Jacksonville, Florida. My social life was non-existent because of my intense work hours as a production assistant at the PGA Tour. But unbeknownst to Jordan and everyone else, what was really crushing my social calendar was my eating disorder and deep depression.  Lola bounced into our condo and into our hearts in September 2005. She was ours and we loved her so. We celebrated her first Christmas and birthday just like we did our two legged babies. Lola basked in our love and gave it all back ten fold. In those dark moments of my life, when I didn't want to exist anymore, Lola would curl up next to me, licking my face, reminding me how loved I was. Whether slumped on the bathroom floor or in a puddle of tears in my closet, Lola was always there. She was the only one I would allow in to see me, to see the real me...the hurt, the pain, the despair. And when I returned from treatment, there she was...climbing and kissing all over me as if to tell me how proud she was of me. She and Lilly joined me on every afternoon walk and gave me the courage to stay steadfast on the path of recovery. From our wedding day to babies to every move in between, our Lola has been the mascot through it all. While Lilly receives much attention for her hilarious antics, Lola is boss lady. Lilly always acquiesced when Lola went to steal her food. There is no doubt Lola is the queen of our house. She will forever be the queen. My mom just called and squeaked out through her tears how hard it is to have a dog because you know you will inevitably have to say goodbye. She lost her dog Zoe years ago and vowed never to get another pet, the loss was too great. I disagree. What is the cliche saying, "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." Pretty fitting for today. I would care for, clean and tell Lola goodbye a thousand times over, if it means I get another eleven amazing years with her. Lola took a turn for the worse in June. We thought we were going to have to put her down then. After a lengthy discussion with my best friend's mom (who recently put down two of her fur babies) and my vet, we decided to try one last Hail Mary. The steroids worked and gave us nearly two good months with her. But now it is time. Today, I did not have to call and ask questions or Google, "How to know when it is time to put your dog down." I knew because Lola told me so. Lola has not eaten in days. She no longer has control of her bowels. And most of all, her breath is labored. As I gave her another bath this morning, she looked me in the eyes and told me it was time. She is tired. I scooped her out of the bath, wrapped her in a warm blanket and said, "Okay. I hear you this time. Thank you for keeping this crazy zoo in line. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. You will always be mine. This is not goodbye. I love you always and forever." 1pm. She is now gone. My sweet Lola left this earth wrapped in the blanket Gaga first scooped her up in. She left feeling the warm touch of Jordan and me and hearing us tell her how much we love her. She left in peace. Before we left for the vet, I knelt down to let Lilly give Lola one last sniff and kiss. But rather than focus on Lola, Lilly looked up and gave me a big kiss as if to say, "It is okay, Momma, you're doing the right thing. She is tired. It is time." Lola always loved riding with her head out the window. Today she was too weak to lift up, so I held her up just like she's held me up throughout the years. The sunshine beamed down on her precious face and the wind blew her hair. One last ride with my LolaBean. Dogs are worth every expense, chewed shoe, house mess and heart ache. They know our souls, our spirits and love us unconditionally. You really don't know love unless you've known the love of a furry companion. It is a love like none other. I thank God for giving me so many wonderful years and memories with Lola. I write this in shock that she is gone. Her empty bed next to my desk. While my heart is absolutely shattered, I am at peace knowing Lola is no longer in pain. And most of all, I find solace in knowing that all dogs go to heaven. Fly high my sweet Lolabean. Love you always and forever.

    Eating Disorder, Family, Live Life
  • Posted on January 13, 2016 3:38 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Yesterday, in between work emails and changing diapers, I received a text message that stopped me dead in my tracks: "I'm being admitted Thursday at 10:30...relieved but scared." An admission date and time was finally bestowed upon a sweet young woman I've been helping. Reading her text brought back those same emotions I felt on when I admitted to the Carolina House over five years ago. Fear, relief, sadness, excitement. So many emotions, too many to sort through. You just want to get there and get started. I remember my admission day like it was yesterday. Thanks to Delta's stellar service, I missed my connecting flight in Atlanta. The delay did not put me into Raleigh until after 5pm, which was too late to start the admission process. The domino effect was devastating, I was put up in a hotel (where I would later stay on partial) and spent the night alone. My two bags weighed more than me and I had to lug them around the hotel and up a flight of stairs. Dinner seemed pointless. Why make an effort? I'm going to eating disorder treatment tomorrow, I should at least live up to the part. I decided to try my luck at popcorn. I burned through two bags, before giving up and just nibbling around the black pieces. I got into my pajamas and tried FaceTiming with Jordan. Immediately, we both started to cry so we hung up and decided to spend our night talking on the phone. Hours later, my anxiety still hadn't received the memo that it was time for bed. I laid awake all night, staring at the glow of the TV: Jay Leno, Friends reruns, CNN and even infomercials. There was no need to set an alarm. I was already up when the sun rose that morning. The dusty white mini-van pulled into the hotel's driveway. The cold winter air took my breath away as I stepped out of the hotel lobby. I heaved my luggage out the door and thought, "This is it. I'm finally doing this. Here goes nothing." I had my 'first day of treatment' outfit on. Yes, I methodically planned my first day outfit. I was still of the disordered mindset that I had to appear pulled together. I even held a confident and engaging conversation with the van driver on our way to the Carolina House as if she and I were long time friends. On the outside, I appeared as if nothing was wrong. Of course, I wasn't going to treatment for what was on the outside. It was my inside that was dying. Eventually, the mini-van pulled down a small two lane road and then turned right onto a long gravel driveway. There it was, the Carolina House, a beautiful yellow farmhouse sitting peacefully in the woods. My anxiety turned on and my heart began to race, as I was led to the office for admission paperwork and too many HIPPA forms to count. "Oh shit, this is real," I thought to myself. "Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. What have I done." My panic turned into fear as they guided me to the kitchen for lunchtime. It was buzzing with women preparing lunches and staff checking off exchanges and approving portions. I actually thought that I could 'opt out' of lunch. Yes, this would be my mind set for the first week or so: "Oh, thank you, but I'll pass on this meal...Thanks, but I don't 'do' group therapy...Thanks so much for this opportunity, but I'm going home now." No such luck. I was not able to opt-out of lunch that day. I picked apart my safe, dry turkey sandwich with one slice of cheese. I wanted to run. And I actually tried to. A few hours after lunch, I was informed there was a group outing that afternoon. Once again, I tried to opt-out, telling the staff I should really stay back alone and unpack. Apparently, I thought I had checked into the Holiday Inn. Most fear dessert day when they go to treatment, I feared art therapy. And as fate would have it that was exactly what I had to do on my first day of treatment. It was an art therapy outing to the Scrap Exchange, a place in downtown Durham that offers a variety of crap, I mean scrap for you to use for art projects. We loaded into  the fifteen passenger van and all I could think of is that scene from Girl Interrupted, where they all go out for ice cream into town. I suddenly realized I was living out my fear: I was the crazy girl in the van from the looney bin. We are those crazy people going to town, I thought. What have I gotten myself into and how can I get myself out. What the staff didn't know at the time, is that I still had my cell phone. I was clutching on to it for dear life in the deep pockets of my bright red pea coat. I snuck my phone out and text Jordan this was a mistake and not to worry because I was going to fix it. I always had a plan. Enter: Southwest app. Fantastic! There is a flight out tonight. I can catch a cab to the airport from this scrap place. Peace out. Mistake fixed. Problem solved. We piled out of the van and walked into the Scrap Exchange. My anxiety was rapidly rising in my chest. I turned to the RPA and told her I needed a minute alone and asked her if I could step outside. I walked ran outside, hoping for just a minute alone, but the RPA was hot on my tail. I spun around when we got outside and said, "Can I puh-lease just have a minute by myself?" No such luck. I then put on my Corporate America working woman face and said, "Thank you so very much for this opportunity. The Carolina House and their staff have been fantastic, but there has been a mistake. You see, I'm not that bad. I really don't need this level of care like the women inside. I need to go now." The kind RPA, Mary, saw past my front and began to speak in her calm, soft voice. She questioned why I came, if I didn't need this help? I told her I came for my husband. And she said that recovery would be worth this journey and hardship. I softened a little and somewhere deep down I believed her. I knew I needed this help and I knew I deserved recovery. I released the death grip on my phone in my pocket and walked back inside to dreaded art therapy. The fear that ran through my veins that first day is still palpable today. I felt like such a failure that day. Twenty-nine years old, no job and admitting myself to treatment for an eating disorder that didn't seem 'bad' enough to be in treatment for in the first place. What I didn't know five years ago that I know today, is how extraordinarily brave I was to walk through the doors of the Carolina House. While yesterday's text message brought me back to that first day, baby squeals and dinner duties brought me back to my present life. Cooking dinner once seemed like a foreign concept, having food in the house was frightening. The life I have created for myself today is something I never believed was possible for me. I thought I was destined to hate my body and always be at war with food. Little did I know that person I thought was a failure, was so brave in taking that massive leap of faith that has led her to the extraordinary reality I live in today. So to my precious friend who will walk through the Carolina House doors tomorrow, I say this: Do not walk with fear because you are not alone. Trust the extraordinary team around you. Do not be afraid to be sad, anxious or angry. You are safe. Let yourself feel. Let out your burdens and hand them over. Open your heart to the help and gift of recovery. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. And most of all, be kind to yourself. The path to recovery is long and bumpy, but the ride is glorious and filled with beautiful color. I am so incredibly proud of you. Sending you lots of hope and love, McCall And don't forget to vote for Loving Imperfection as the Best Health Blog of 2015. It takes ONE SECOND and does not post to your Facebook, I promise! My blog is in first, but needs your vote every day! First place gets $1,000, which will all go to Southern Smash. Help us raise money and continue our efforts to spread positive body image and eating disorder education! Thank you for your continued love and support - I send it all right back to you <3

    About, Body Image, Carolina House
  • Posted on December 29, 2015 8:09 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    shitting rainbows It's my favorite saying. If you've ever heard me speak about my journey to recovery and life thereafter then you've heard me say it plenty. Unless there were teachers in the room, then I try to clean up my act for school kiddies. So what does it mean? Exactly what you think. My recovery and life is about being authentic and real. It is not about candy coating my story to be anything but what it really is. I strive to never shit rainbows, paint a smile on my face and pretend like everything is fantastic. I am conscious in my writing and my work to be real and authentic - whatever it may be. So as 2015 comes to a close, what do I think about this year? Ugh. Poetic, I know, but it is all I've got right now. It has been a hell of a year to say the least and tonight finds me in a pretty bitter mood. There is no doubt each of you know how absolutely grateful my heart is for the love and prayers this year, but let's call a spade a spade - cancer sucks...and pediatric cancer, well, you can insert your own four letter word here. And truth is, we were lucky when it came to cancer and our prognosis. But when people tell me that we got a 'good' cancer diagnosis, I want to punch them in the face and ask: Do you want your child to be 'lucky' with cancer or would you rather your child not have cancer at all? And then I open Facebook to see another life lost to cancer, taken too soon. I see another mother posting a picture of her child, a child she had to bury. I look at Marjorie and count my blessings. Life is so unfair and so confusing. But I know one thing to be true: Comparison is the thief of joy - and emotions. I can't let another person's story or sadness take away from the hurt in my heart. And I don't. I have even had these honest conversations with mothers who have lost their children. I deserve to feel it all, no matter what the prognosis. Cancer sucks. And 2015 sucked too. AND (because life doesn't have to be one or the other) it was a great year in so many ways - a new house to finally call our own, Manning's milestones, Marjorie turning one and too many giggles, big laughs and family hugs to count. When I brought Manning to the doctor today, I knew it might be emotional. But he kept me laughing because he insisted to bring his "Lilly" aka stuffed puppy into the doctor. He was happy as a clam and I thought we were on the mend from a little bad cold.   Wrong again. RSV. Seriously? Thankfully, we are on the downswing of it so their isn't much worry for him, but then there is Marjorie. Oh my Marjorie. Let's stay away from this diagnosis shall we? We left the doctor with our shiny new 'puppy' nebulizer. Yes, it is in the shape of a puppy with a dinosaur mask to boot. It is as random as our lives so the puppy/dinosaur mask combo fits in perfectly. Have you ever tried giving an almost four year old a nebulizer that jacks him up and an antibiotic? I'm sure so many of you have and can empathize that it is the equivalent of putting a button up sweater vest on a lizard going through a crack withdrawal...who is also chasing a bug. Jordan and I begged, pleaded, bribed and threatened Manning to take his medicine. Pretty sure we offered him the deed to the house, but he still wouldn't take the antibiotic. Thankfully, the nebulizer went a tiny bit better and we eventually got the meds in him - God bless 'chocolate nilk' with A LOT of chocolate. My nerves were fried after today's medical escapades as I went to rock Marjorie to bed. I do it every night because it is my favorite thing. It calms me and puts me at ease. Tonight I needed it. What I didn't know is that tonight would be a tearful rock. As I hummed our song and listened to the whir of her sound machine, my medical-mom-mode cracked and the tears fell...and fell. I will never be able to wrap my mind around what the last year and a half has been. It is my job to protect my babies and some days it feels like the hits keep coming. Yes, I know Manning will be just fine, but it is another day, another diagnosis. Another medical device to learn and administer. Another reminder that no matter what I do, I can't put my babies in a bubble. But maybe that's not the goal? Maybe we aren't suppose to protect them, rather we are to teach them how to take care of themselves - even if that means wrestling a lizard to the ground to give him medicine. Yes, maybe that is what it is all about. Maybe the mommas who have children with chronic illness and special needs are meant to teach their babies and others what it is like to not just take care, but really love unconditionally. Maybe cancer happens to show us what good there is in the world and how amazing the human spirit is. Maybe children die so that we can hug our own babies tighter and inspire others to live more fully in honor of those who have been taken too soon. A few weeks ago, Kim Bowman posted about the fourth anniversary of her daughter, Bella, passing. I was blown away with her words: Today is the day the Lord received Bella back into His arms. At 6:22am 4 years ago Trey and I held Bella while she took her last breath.  I can still remember the feel of her warm body in my arms. We are not going to be sad today because we are going to think of all the wonderful things God has given us the past 4 years. He has allowed us to be the messenger to help so many families in honor of our sweet Bella. She is guiding us and showing our purpose here on Earth. Our prayers go out to all the families who have recently lost their children and pray that they have the strength to get through their first Christmas without their children. As I always say, hold your children tight, enjoy their presence and don't lose sight of how precious they are because these children are gifts from God and you never know what life has in store for you and your family. Kim's words sum it up beautifully. There is nothing left for me to say except to encourage you to embrace the storm clouds and whatever you feel in your heart. Don't compare your hurt to others. There is enough empathy and compassion to go around. And for goodness sake don't shit rainbows. Don't pretend -  own it, feel it, talk about it. Sending you lots of love and real rainbows... McCall

    Cancer, Eating Disorder, Faith
  • Posted on March 16, 2015 11:56 am
    McCall Dempsey
    2

    Yesterday, I took my daughter to church for the first time to see (or rather to sleep through) her sweet friend's baptism. At the party afterwards I found myself choking back tears as I watched family friends parading Marjorie around. We were out of the house and doing something normal. I was finally able to freely share my precious daughter without constant fear or chasing people with Purel. The pieces of me that were once so shattered and pulled in so many different directions are finally coming back together. My spirit is returning. The past six months have been utter chaos. I have spent every day just trying to hang on. I have been in survival mode. People often ask me how I drove 160-miles every day to be with her in the NICU. How did I manage balancing it with life at home? Truth is: I didn't 'manage' anything. I survived. Just like any other mother would do - I survived for my children. I got up every morning, washed my face, poured my coffee and marched on. A few months ago I was talking with someone very special to me. I was filling her in on Marjorie's progress. She always made a point to ask about me and I explained how I felt lost. I told her that person I worked so hard through my recovery to find was gone and that I was just trying to survive. My biggest fear was that she was gone forever. She quickly said to me, "McCall, you will find yourself again. Normalcy will return. I promise." My initial reaction was to scoff at the comment. How could anything be normal again? How was I ever going to find time for myself again, let alone find my spirit? That seemed so far away and unimaginable. Looking back now, it was that same kind of foreign concept that recovery once was to me. My treatment team said recovery was possible and I always scoffed. How could I ever recover? How could I live in a house with food in the pantry? How could I ever go to the beach in a bathing suit without crash dieting? No, recovery did not seem possible, but deep down I trusted them. I knew I had to hang on to that hope that maybe, just maybe, I could recover. Her statement has stuck with me through this journey.  It was comforting replaying our conversation, reminding myself that I was not lost, I was just surviving. And that was okay. I found solace knowing one day I would return. I would find normal again. Sometimes we have to bear down, get through the day and hang on to that hope that one day we will return better than before. When Marjorie came home, my life did not return to normal. Exhaustion from daily drives and hospital stays turned into exhaustion from a brutal three hour feeding schedule, not to mention the constant state of panic I lived in. My mind raced 24/7 with fears that a germ might get on her or that she would get sick and return to the hospital. If I was not holding Marjorie, then I was holding a Lysol can and spraying off everything (and everyone) in my path. For the next three months, I remained in survival mode. My mind was so scattered, I could hardly finish a sentence, much less write or work. I was lucky to unload the dishwasher in one standing. I typically started one chore, got sidetracked with laundry, then bottle making and then to make sure Manning was still playing in the yard with all limbs intact. I felt like Gumby being pulled by every dirty dish, diaper and broken dump truck - a feeling most moms can relate to, preemie baby or not. But in the midst of that normal mom angst, were the raw emotions that sat unattended to. I would just crumble and cry as my mind would shift from feeding Marjorie to remembering that first time she was fed just 2mLs through her feeding tube. I would nuzzle my face into her soft cheek and cry, as I rocked her in our quiet house free from beeps and alarms. Even though she had been home for two months, it was still hard to believe that she was home, healthy and I could hold her forever. My recovery journey came with so many gifts and skills that I really drew upon to make it through this experience. Recovery taught me that there is no timeline when it comes to processing grief and emotions. There is no expiration date on when you are supposed to be 'over' something. My experience of having my daughter three months early and then watching her fight for her life was traumatic. There is no other way to say it. But I never had the time nor energy to process through those difficult feelings until recently. I have realized that in times of transition we have to give ourselves the gift of patience and time to heal. When we are in the tragedy, we are often surviving, not able to take it all in. It was not until after treatment and after Marjorie's homecoming, that the gravity of it all really sunk it. I had (and continue to) give myself the space to process through the events and feelings. Giving myself the gift of time and space to heal was the best thing I did. Allowing myself to feel the pain, freed me from being stuck in the sadness and helped me move forward to find a new rhythm in life. As Marjorie continued to thrive at home and as I continued to heal, I began to crave normalcy and my work. I missed doing the things that fueled my spirit and soul. I love my children and I love being a mom, but to be a good mom, I have to feel whole. And at the time, all I felt like was a cook, a maid, a garbage truck fixer, a nurse and a bottom wiper. The most important person in my life was missing from the equation: ME! So how do you find yourself again from months of being gone? My husband seemed to think the answer was letting me go the grocery store alone. I disagreed and went my own route. I slowly began carving out time for work, knowing I would not plow through the thousands of unanswered emails in one day. Every day I would sit at my desk with a cloudy mind, not knowing where to begin, but just grateful to be back sitting there. I set small, attainable goals and began ticking them off one by one. My life's motto rings so true here: "Progress! Not perfection." About a week ago, it was as if the fog really began to lift. My energy started to return and I am able to continue my passion for advocacy and helping others. I actually feel like doing things again: getting out of the house, shopping and calling old friends. Normal things that have sorely been missed in my life.  I can form sentences, write an entire blog and finish the task at hand before moving on to the next. Actually, I'm lying. The dishwasher is wide open and half emptied as I type. Okay, so we will mark that category as "Still Developing". Remember: Progress...not perfection ;) Marjorie is no longer the weak and tiny baby. She grows by the day (almost 11 pounds!) and is laughing and smiling more with each passing day. Manning started noticing his little sister in such a loving way that just melts my heart. I am finally able to lay off the Lysol (kind of) when he walks by her. Our three hour feeding schedule has relaxed and Jordan and I have begun to recoup full night's sleep. (Yay for Marjorie sleeping through the night!) It seems as though life is slowly starting to become, dare I say it...normal, a NEW (and better) normal. I am so thankful to feel like myself once again. I am thankful I survived such a difficult period, but my heart flows with gratitude for the normalcy I was so starved for. I gladly welcome sticky handprints and chaotic mornings of bottles and 'Nickey Nouse' over hospital beds and monitors. To once again have the ability and brain power to write and do the things that fuel my spirit is surreal. I can't help but think back on that drive home in December. "You will find yourself again." I did find McCall again. She was there all along, just focusing on life's task at hand. The human spirit simply amazes me. We can go through so much and still come out not just alive, but better than before. Not only has Marjorie pulled through, but I pulled through. I feel refreshed and renewed. I look to the future with eager anticipation and excitement to watch my children thrive and flourish. I can't wait to see what amazing people they become. And I really can't wait to see what life has in store for me next. If you're reading this and going through transition or hardship, remember this: you will survive and you will find yourself once again. Maybe you're like I was many years ago who never knew who I was to begin with. We all find recovery and ourselves in our own time. We all have different timelines when it comes to finding our new normal and processing the past. Give yourself space to heal and time to figure out how to manage this new aspect of your life. Sometimes we just have to survive in order to thrive again. I have nothing but gratitude in my heart for what I have been through. It has been far from easy, but it has shaped me into the woman and mother I am today. I can't imagine my life without my eating disorder or without those days spent in the NICU praying over my daughter. In both situations, I have never felt more lost. Some days I thought my spirit and self were gone forever. It humbles me to say that I am proof that no matter how lost you may feel, you can always be found. Remember that and never let go of hope.    

    Authentic, Eating Disorder, Faith
  • 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