A Wonder of Women (or, Confessions of a Girl Scout Dropout)

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My latest adventure centered on spending 2 days with these delightful women. 

For most of my life, I considered myself to be an anti-social loner, not a team player, prefering to avoid group situations at all possible costs. My mother made me join the Brownies, which was mostly okay. We had snacks and did arts and crafts and sang silly songs. I could deal with that, and if I immersed myself in the arts and crafts I could avoid the other girls and more importantly, the troop leader. She scared the life out of me. Then came Girl Scouts. Uh oh. I was clearly not Girl Scout material. Girl Scouts are expected to interact in the world, earning badges for awesome deeds and selling overpriced cookies to people who really don’t need or want them. And go camping. Hell no. I don’t do camping.

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If there was a badge in cat holding, I could’ve earned that one. And color coordinating outfits.

I pretended to go to Girl Scouts, showing up at the spot in front of the school where the car pool mom picked us up so as to be seen by the other girls. Then I’d go hide somewhere until the coast was clear, play on the school playground until it was time to go home, and then walk home, pretending when I got there that I’d had a great time. I didn’t get away with it for long. But my mother was understanding and let me leave the scouts. I was free! Free to spend my time with my books and my cats and my arts and crafts projects! Happy girl!

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I grew up. I was lonely, but still convinced I was not a people person. I sat at home alone a lot, drinking too much in front of Food Network shows.

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I needed a troup, a community, a network, I just didn’t know that’s what I needed. It was suggested that I needed to get out of the house and challenge myself. What?! But I tried. I signed up for cooking classes, mosaic making classes, knitting classes. But I didn’t make friends or try to fit in. It wasn’t because the women (yes, it was all women in these groups) didn’t try to befriend me. I resisted them, cultivating my misunderstood loner status.

But life has a way of kicking us in our butts when we need it. I needed it. I got my butt kicked. I got help. And I discovered that I am a nice person who thrives among friends and enjoys the company of others. Who knew?!

Call me a late bloomer if you will.

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It started with volunteering at an animal shelter, where I started to make friends and find a purpose in life. The animals were my bridge to connecting to people. Then I joined a book group. And had fun! I do things I would never have done 4 years ago, and they all involve other humans.

We have names for collectives of animals. A congregation of alligators, a battery of barracudas, an obstinancy of buffalo, a clowder of cats, a charm of finches, a rhumba of rattlesnakes, etc.

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We don’t have such creative names for groups of humans. Women in particular tend to reach out to other women for support and friendship. We need a name. I propose a wonder of women. I finally reached that point in my life where I have discovered that women who gather in groups don’t “cat fight” or backstab; okay, we might gossip a bit. But we help and support each other, offering good listening skills, advice if wanted, and understanding.

A study by Laura Klein and Shelley Taylor suggests that women are genetically hardwired to respond to stress by “seeking and befriending”. I most recently sought and befriended by attending the Ethelridge Road Knitting Salon, in upstate New York last week. What attracted me was the presence of one of my favorite writers, Alice Hoffman. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to spend 2 days in her company. I can knit, but it’s been a while. I was willing to dust off my needles and relearn casting on and purling in order to meet Alice Hoffman.

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I got to meet Alice Hoffman!

I recently wrote about having read her book Faithful and how I connected to the main character Shelby. Shelby would have loved our dog mascot for the weekend, Millie.

I had an amazing experience in so many ways. First of all, it really was an adventure for me. I went so far out of my comfort zone (which is admittedly fairly small), renting a car and driving around upstate New York, staying by myself in a bed and breakfast. I felt so grown up.

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All grown up and ready to join my life.

Was it worth it? Undoubtedly! Everyone was warm and welcoming, helpful and interested. We talked, we knitted, we listened to Alice read, we wrote, we ate well. Our hosts, including Millie, were welcoming and made us feel at home.

It was like Brownies, only better! Arts and crafts–check. Snacks–check. Scary troop leader–no way! And no camping!

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We all made amulets after listening to Alice read a lovely fairy tale, Amulet.
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Happily crafting away.

The only thing missing from my perspective–a cat.

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The B and B was just missing a cat. One would’ve made it perfect.

I’m home now, surrounded by cats, with new knitting projects, new friends to keep in touch with, and charmed memories. I plan to go again next year if all goes well.

My deepest thanks to everyone involved in making the experience so special. It means more to me than words can convey. And you didn’t make me sell cookies or camp!

Peace and hugs.

I’m finally headed to summer camp…

Not really, but I’m going to Maine for a week for a residency at the Institute for Humane Education in Surry, Maine for my doctoral program. Fourteen (yes, 14)  of us will be staying in a cabin with bunk beds and 1 (yes, one) bathroom. Am I excited? Anxious, more like.

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Surry, it’s there somewhere.
Surry Maine
Surry, Maine. Note the lobster traps. I don’t eat lobsters.

 

As a child, I NEVER wanted to go to summer camp. EVER. My siblings were of a more “joining” nature–sports, after school activities, student government, scouts (ugh). I was not of this nature. In the least. I much preferred the solitude of a good book in a quiet place ALONE.

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A child after my own heart.

Mom signed me up for Brownies. I was okay with that. Brownies is basically craft time with snacks, things I love (still).

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Arts and crafts, yes.

Then came Girl Scouts. I was an awful Girl Scout. Sell cookies and earn badges and make camp stoves out of tin cans? Exactly what were the tin can stoves for? CAMPING! I played hookey from troop meetings until Mom caught on and then she let me drop out. Thank you, Mom!

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Not me.

 

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Not interested if I have to actually work for them.

She know better than to propose summer camp. I spent my summersreading books, drawing pictures, and watching way too much television. I was so happy!

My vision of summer camp is of mean girls, being humiliated and probably drowning, awful food, and bug bites and sunburn. The word rustic should be applied to expensive artisanal foods, not living arrangements.

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What I see when you say rustic cabin.
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Rustic bread? Now you’re speaking my language!

When I was about 10 or 11, in an effort to get us out of the house, my stepfather gave my brother money to take me to the movies. He took me to see the double feature of Butterflies are Free and Bless the Beasts and the Children. Probably not appropriate for my age. Have you seen Bless the Beasts and the Children? (Get the Carpenters song out of your head.) Summer camp is not a nice place. People and animals DIE.

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How I imagine myself at summer camp:

me at camp

The letter I would write to my mother (soaked in tears):

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I am sure the house will be very nice and surprise me. The 14 of us will become good friends (we’ll for sure get to know each other), have a good time, and learn a lot from our instructors and mentors. That part I am excited about. I have a feeling I’ll be taking showers at weird hours and mostly avoiding the bathroom as much as possible. I will post updates, no worries about that! And if anyone pushes me in any body of water, maybe I’ll finally learn to swim.