When my dreams became reality, so did suicide. 


*This blog post isn’t my most well written post, or my most funny, it is my story, it is a reminder that those programmed to keep going, often can’t and shouldn’t feel that have to due to judgment or scrutiny. That we need to break the stigmas and take each other for what we are. That mental illness and suicde are no longer words I will whisper or mumble but speak with confidence and strength. *

As I scrolled through my Timehop this morning I came across this picture. It was from a year ago, at the end of The Edinburgh Fringe Festival where my first professional writing gig finished its first, full run. My show. My words and my music making its way into the world. I was playing a dream role in our other show and all of this at one of the top ten performing schools in the world. As I lay in bed staring at this picture with its 16 comments and 111 likes I had this nagging urge to post about the reality behind this photo. 

At face value it says everything I should have been feeling. Excitement and joy with a pinch of nostalgia, folded into some pride and joy. My name was up there and it looks like it felt great. But this is where this nagging urge came in to talk about the stigma, to talk about what was really happening behind this picture. This photo was taken at, what seemed to be, the top of my game thus far. Excitement, joy, elation, all things you feel when you begin to succeed. 

I remember the day I found out Willy’s Bitches was going to Fringe. When I learned I was the first current student at the Conservatoire to ever have their show picked up and taken to Edinburgh with the MA class. I remember that day specifically, not because my over powering joy, but because after talking shop I left, got on the bus, got to my flat, crawled into my bed and slept for four hours. I had felt nothing. There was no spark of any kind of solid emotion for what was, to date, the best news of my life. It’s not that I didn’t care…I simply didn’t anything. I remember thinking as I curled up in bed what I wouldn’t give to feel even the slightest bit of anything. I would have taken blinding rage over this static, purgatorial float. 

On top of struggling with severe physical illness, my mental illness only got worse. What I thought was getting better was really treading water, keeping my mouth just above the water to slowly gulp the precious air. My anxiety grew to heights I didn’t know existed and my depression plummeted to shadows only spoken about in theory. As I tried to push through, friends became enemies. I became an enemy. I had been treading water so long I could keep up with the people who were lucky enough to to score life vests. There was a clear annoyance that I couldn’t stay a float. There was an epic divide between the class forced by passive aggressive attitudes and lack of empathy for one another.  My inability to feel any thing other than a dull body throb made me the worst person to be around. People would ask if I was excited about Fringe and I’d give a shrug, smile, say yes and walk away. My inability to function became a personality trait associate with being ungrateful. If I had been capable of gratuity at the time, believe me, I would have beamed with it. 

This picture was taken a year ago today. The time hop picture that isn’t shown was two weeks before that, when I had called out of a performance, which I had never done, to sit in my flat, alone, knowing most of my cast mates were having a right piss fit. I called out after two panic attacks onstage and three passive, toxic remarks from cast mates, adult cast mates, who I’m pretty sure we’re just as sick as me but had armied up instead of falling back, like myslef. I called out when feeling nothing turned into white, hot hate for people who could do nothing but be cruel. I called out because I remember thinking this’ll show them what their cruelty does to people. This’ll open their eyes. I called out to sit on the edge of my bed with a bottle of pills and the knowledge my roommate kept vodka in the fridge. I simply couldn’t continue. I didn’t want to feel only feel hate. I remember thinking I didn’t have a choice. I had reached out to every single possible outlet. The school counselor, the head of my program, my GP, medication, meditation, my friends. I had done all the things they tell people like me to do and still I knew at that moment I had stopped treading and was simply sinking, just waiting to take that final breathe in. I knew my mental illness, any mention of it, would constitute an eye roll instead of a hug or a kind word, an I simple could’t live like that. 

Luckily I thought to Skype my mum and sister, put the pills down the toilet and cry all day. I don’t remember what caused me to walk to the bathroom and choose life. All I remember thinking is people need to know how much of a choice this wasn’t. How, like any disease of an organ, the organ is going to decide when it’s time for you to go. The heartbreak behind mental illness is that the brain puts the gun to your head for you, telling you it’s the right thing. And we, the lucky ones, the ones who live to tell the tale, found some shred of something the pull us through. 

So, though this picture tells a tale of triumph in more ways than one, it is a clear and constant reminder that there was a time, just about a year ago, I almost died of suicide. I almost walked away to become an empty bedroom, a half-finished notebook, and hole in my family’s heart. The performing world is cruel and easily over looks mental illness because it’s easier than dealing with it. Be kind to each other. Don’t compare and raise each other on pedestals. Walk and feel the ground together knowing that one day you might trip and fall and I hope, with all of my everything, there is a hand to help you.

Paul LePage clearly suffering from PMS and/or other female hormonal embalances. 

With Paul LePage being in the national news again for his very calm and politically rational actions and remarks, I can’t help but notice the blind eye that’s been turned to the very clear answer to the current situation. There is only one explanation, really, for Mr. LePage’s recent actions. 

Let’s take a look at said actions, shall we? Of recent, our “governor” has been seen storming off, yelling at reporters, leaving extremely offensive, threatening, and degrading phone messages to his fellow lawmakers, spitting, swearing, raging, crying, and mentioning he’d like to kill his accusers. Phew. Okay. Now that we’ve compiled a short list of his recent offenses let’s talk about why. There has to be a reason for this, right? Of course, right! 

Paul has his period! He’s menstrual! Congratulations, Paul, you’re a woman now. 

It’s the only logical explanation for this kind of behavior. The mood swings, the anger, the irrational outbursts. There are two helpful tools one can use when they find themselves within the clutches of Eve’s Bloody Apple Curse; Calm Down and pop a Midol. Seeing as Mr. LePage has been so intensely emotional for so long, I’m surprised his colleges havent offered up these suggestions sooner. Calming down allows Mr. LePage to stop talking and understand that his place in office is legal but he needs to rethink his delivery of passionate opinions. Midol is great when Mr. LePage is feeling extremely passionate or angry about a situation. It will help calm the governors blinding, period rage with a subtle mix of painkillers and caffeine. 

My question to the public, and to Mr. LePage himself, is; is Paul LePage too emotional, too menstrual to be our Governor? It’s certainly a strong argument driven towards the pro-Trump campaign. Old Lady Hillary’s hormonal imbalance and post-menopausal mood swings would make it impossible for her to do her job with a clear mind. Imagine if she got a hot flash and threw some nukes at the Middle East. It’s scientifically proven that when women stop menstruating they start nuclear wars. (Fact check: no.) 

So why is it that Paul, please-unbutton-my-top-shirt-button-before-my-head-explodes -LePage is still fit to lead our state, even with all of these unchecked emotions and mood swings? He very clearly stated his actions were driven by his emotions yet no one has told him to calm down. No one has told him to relax and go take a nap and no one has told him he’s simply PMSing too hard to do his job properly. 

Well, Mr. Paul LePage, it’s simply. You’re just too angry to do your job. You are so far beyond any menstrual or hormonal symptom I have ever seen that you’ve gone from bitchy boss to abusive dad. The amount of birth control and pamprin it would take to calm you down would put Walter White to shame. The amount of anger and vocabularic drivel that has exited your trap should have been shushed at the threshold of your lips years ago, but with your race, your gender and your current class on your side, you’ve been able to ride the emotional roller coaster for as long as you’ve wanted. Time to get off, the ride, Mr. LePage. 

Get your emotions in check, Mr. LePage. 

We ladies find that a good cry, a good cuddle, and chocolate seems to help. Therapy is another known suggestion for hormonal insecurity. Also a large glass of wine and a resignation from a job you’re not suited for always dampens the mood swings. 

Trump or Plus Size Bathing Suit Shopping: The Lesser Of Two Evils 


As the end of the summer approaches and summer inventory begins to make its way towards the clearance racks, most people are Back-to-School shopping. Sifting through racks for all the unnecessary school clothes that, yet again, stress out the poor parents, seems to be the August passed time. However, I like to think of August as bathing suit month. Time to buy that swim costume that three months ago would have cost me eight months rent and my first born child. Time to drive around three towns and twelve different stores to try and find some sort of swimwear that doesn’t look like it would double as an eye patch. Time to watch as the inner tube of confidence I’ve floated on for weeks, maybe months, begins the slow hiss of terminal doom. The holes have been punched and as I’m in the middle of my lovely summer float, I don’t have the tools to patch them up. 

I began my bathing suit shopping expedition online, which was fine, except for the fact that 90% of plus size swimwear is marketed towards covering up. Get passed a size 8 and, oh shit, here come the massive crocheted beach ponchos. Lovely. Yes, because while all the thin girls are being celebrated in their lovely swatches of oversexualization, I am in the surf with curious onlookers wonder if someone’s blanket has blown into the water and is drowning that poor, chubby woman who for some reason looks angry and oppressed. The lack of feel good, skin baring, “cute” bathing suits for fat women is appalling. If I’m not being sold a bathing suit suited for my great Aunt complete with parachute shorts or an oversized tennis skort, I’m trying to find one that doesn’t look like that pattern was lifted from a drunk Scottish mans vomit pile. 

Most of my day is spent trying to build myself up. Society teaches women that the way we look defines our worth, and the only way to fix that is to compare ourselves to other women and break each other down. So I had to stop being a total bitch and and start liking myself. Oh, the revolution. This was, however, the first hole in the inner tube. Looking at bathing suits online means you have to look at other models. It’s extremely comforting when you don’t see your body type represented because that means you’re truly one of a kind and everyone loves you. False. It in fact reminds you that your body, your oversized thighs, arms, neck, stomach, and back are still so abnormal to public view it is culture shock. Fat bodies are never seen, therefore when they’re shown, everyone stares, everyone whispers and everyone’s a little freaked out. It’s like the new black family in a small southern town; we’ve never seen one, but we’ve been told not to like it. I also quickly regressed into a childlike state of “whys” and “how comes”. “How come she’s considered healthy and I’m not? How come no one questions her health because she’s got a goddamn thigh gap? Why does skin and bones represent beauty and I represent the burning hell fires of Satan’s Anus-Realm?” The frustration of immediate judgment of health due to weight stuck in my chest like a thin mint gone wrong. These thigh gap wonders could be sick, and hurting like me, but no one would even think or care to ask, just like for someone like me, no one really cares to hear. 

Soon I moved from the iPad to the actual stores where I could physically touch the bathingsuits. It becomes a real tactile journey through time, space and social anxiety. Upside: I didn’t have to see other women in the suits. Annoying downside I thought I’d remedied with the inflation of my self esteem inner tube: I had to see myself in the suits. So much for body confidence. The second leak had been sprung. One pieces are usually out of the question because I’ve been blessed with rare small boobs, at least in comparison with my body. Newsflash cheap labor exploiters: not all fat women have Alpine tits. Size 26 doesn’t mean 40HH so calm down. The end result is I’m either pickin’ wedges from here until November because the bottoms are too small, or I’ve strange crater like breasts that just sort of float around in cups two sizes too big. Two pieces are far better, except for the the unbelievable, asinine, sexist, genderist, stunt these God damned companies pull by selling the top and bottom separately but both are the same flippin’ price of the single one piece. No. I’m over that noise faster than a baby at a parade. 

Nothing fit, nothing worked, even my regular size was too small. The inner tube of fun and fabulous was so diminished the my white, bubble ass was now scraping the rocks at the bottom of the river. I tried not to be angry, it wasn’t easy, so I stopped trying. I cried in my car because again, nothing fit. Everything was created for thin women who were big not fat women whose bodies did not match the norm. It’s impossible not to feel useless, ugly, unworthy of love, flirtation and sex, disgusting, forgotten, forced to be remembered, and worst of all, guilty when nothing, out of the millions of clothes, in the hundreds of stores, could represent you and your ish. 

I still don’t have a god damned bathing suit. A lot of people who read articles like this are quick to direct a fat person who complains clothes don’t fit them to fix it to the gym or Weight Watchers or any other way they can change themselves. So here is a fun metaphor to wrap up this brilliant, long-winded rant. 

Trucks have become stupid big in America. I have a tiny car. Parking is easy. I chose a tiny car for this reason. I like a tiny car. Apparently some people like big trucks but when they couldn’t fit their big trucks into the small spaces, they complained. It doesn’t fit, we need to widen them to accommodate our trucks! Well, I thought, if they don’t like that they can’t fit, change it, buy a smaller car. That’s not fair, they’d say, we like our big trucks! 

Well, I like my fat ass, so start designing for fat, not just curvy and give us the damn bathing suit options our sexy, worthy selves deserve! 

How to Protect You and Your Family in A Public Restroom. 


With the recent debacle in North Carolina and the sudden materialization of these “transgenders”, it is important that people are aware of how to properly protect themselves when in a public bathroom. Now that predators are on the loose (becuase they’ve never exsisted before), using whatever bathrooms they want Willy-nilly, we have to make sure we protect ourselves from these perverts who want to use normal bathrooms. 

  1. Wear appropriate clothes. Don’t wear anything that might antagonize or ask for it, men especially.  

2. Wear Trans repellent. It’s sold at almost every drug store and is made from the spit of homophobic and gender phobic politicians.
 

3. Wear Trans goggles. These are an amazing invention that allows you to see everyone’s genitals as they walk into the bathroom. Just slide on the glasses (they look like real glasses) and stare intensely at everyone’s crotch. 

4. Don’t drink! Too much alcohol can impair you or your children’s judgment. This will allow anyone to have their way with you, especially Trans humans. 

5. If you’re being approached inappropriately, just say no, they should stop.  (Note: A person’s sexuality, race and gender all dictate motivations for attack. A Muslim-tran is more likely to attack than a white, all-man.) 

6. Carry a gun. Shoot anyone who looks like they might attack you. Especially if they’re black or Trans, then you have probable cause. 

7. Be a white, adult male. Being a white, adult male makes you statically safer in any bathroom or life situation. 

8. Find a Catholic Priest. Priests will gladly use their ticket with God to take your children into any bathroom and keep them safe. Especially from those pesky Trans folk. If you can’t find a Priest, there is a registered list from the government of men and women who are familiar with children in public bathrooms. 

9. Wrap yourself in an American Flag. Doing this while spinning in a circle three times and chanting “I don’t believe in human rights unless they’re mine!” will keep all predators at bay. 

10. Remember who the bad people are. Remember this is a NEW epidemic. People weren’t being hurt or sexually assaulted in bathrooms until Trans people randomly showed up in 2015 demanding human rights. Remember who the bad people are and, even if they don’t act bad, harmful, or violent against you, they might fling their lady-wieners at you at any second. 

The fear of sexual assault in public bathrooms is all too real now. Protect yourselves and your loved ones from monsters who suddenly walk this planet. 

-This article is brought tot you  by Ignoramuses United. Hating and out casting since slaves.-

The Road 

  
I want to be on that road with you.
The road to nowhere or somewhere
Blue and green with purple skies 
And the rain dries gold and floats atop the water. 
I want a cinematic shot of the sun on your face 
And your smile laced with laughter as you drive faster and faster,
And your eyes will be shaded but I am not jaded on you. 
I know that behind that tinted lens are gray eyes,
Shy. 
Aged to gentle perfection.
I want to be on that road with you.
The road that brushes the ocean,
Curling and clinging
The curves of a woman singing your praises
Because you handle the turns so well. 
And though to you a drive may simple
To me it is not. 
For the thought of sitting next to you,
seeing just me, is enough to make the melody of the sea weak with envy.

Glance at me softly.
Lift my hand to your lips. 
I want to be on that road with you
And see all the ships. 

The journey may end
And it’ll all be the past. 
Let me be on that road with you
For as long as it lasts. 

Camp Vega at 80 Years: A Reflection on a Letter by Vega’s Founder

  
It didn’t seem like a letter I’d opened in a PDF file. The moment I began reading the bouncing words of Ruth Cohen, founder of Camp Vega, I was no longer at my desk, but in a screened in porch, alongside a lake in the middle of Maine with a cup of tea and an old friend. The blocky, typewriter print fed me a spoonful of nostalgia for a time I had never experienced. Her humor, strung together with the most elegant choice of words made it impossible for me not to imagine this woman as a maternal force to be reckoned with. Her letter entitled “So You Want to Run A Camp, or, How I Got Into and Out of Trouble in No Easy Steps” is an inspiring read filled with the ups and downs of camp life. Not just any camp life, however, but the infant and toddler years of camp life. Though eighty years have passed, and the world has changed tremendously, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities bridging the Camp Vega of today with Camp Vega of yesteryear. 

In 1934, Ruth Cohen, a social worker at the time, set out on a remarkable and extremely ambitious journey to begin a new career in private camping. Summer camps, though in existence at the time, were still new, still growing and still finding ways to aid in the efforts of specific religions, races and other social groups. Her drive to find a successful career in camping was the “only idea that wasn’t utterly wild and wooly” after the search to become family financier was imminent due to a serious turn of health regarding her husband. After a year co-directing a private camp in New Hampshire, having no previous experience, Ruth was confident in the fact that she had to be crazy. 

“There were enough left in me of the trauma of my childhood and adolescence, when I had been the despairing youngest member of a highly literate, super-charged family, to cause that list of beginning gambles to seem unending…In continuing trepidation I set out. I had nothing to lose but what self-confidence I had accumulated in and since college, plus all of our small capital and the equally small sum we had borrowed.” 

Guts. It is a refreshing thing to know that a woman on a flotation device of humility, bobbing about in a sea of self-doubt still managed to set forward. We must also be reminded that this was a time when America was deep into the Great Depression. Financial investments were carried out with extreme caution; not to mentioned carried out with extreme caution by a woman. It comes as no surprise that the traits of Vega’s founding mother are mirrored in her campers and counselors today. Strong, intelligent, forward thinking women begin as girls and finish their journey as leaders Vega is proud to send into the world. Though her doubts were many, if she were to start a camp she would need land and a name. 

“There must first be an entity existing on the good earth, and a name for it. The locale was to be Maine, with its heaven-sent combination of lakes, rivers, sea coasts, forest, hills, and mountains.” 

There are camps built and stationed all over rural and urban America. Camping has become a true American tradition. There are other camps spattered here and there throughout the world but none like in the states, and none like in the state of Maine. Every year campers and staff alike return to Vega because of the beauty of Maine. Naming the camp was equally as important as finding the right location. Weeks were spent pouring over Maine’s native tribes, folklore, mythology and most of the thesaurus. Ruth finally decided on Vega, “chosen for its brevity, and the undoubted fact that it is the brightest star in the summer sky.” She was also well aware that starting a camp in Maine meant addressing its economic state in the midst of the Great Depression. 

 “We must all be conscious of the poverty of Maine’s people, our neighbors, and give a portion of these two months, however small, toward helping.”

Ruth was fully aware the impact the Great Depression was having on rural Americans. Mainers were strong in farming and agriculture but the need for jobs had sent young men away from their fathers farms, causing lack of workers and severe hardship. Vega’s helping hands made quite an outreach in the early days of the camp. Senior campers would help the local communities by painting churches or school houses while the junior campers built pens and housed orphaned deer who had been picked up by state game keepers. Not only did the campers enjoy the benefits of preparing the food and bottle feeding the deer, they were privileged with watching them grow and, when time, released back into the wild. Ruth knew her campers, coming from “well-to-do families”, would benefit from understanding the world through all perspectives, and helping a community that welcomed them every summer seemed the right educational tool. Ruth also hired local farmers to help with maintenance, some who would stay with the camp for years after. 

Every camp has its list of trials, tribulations, and lessons learned through trial and error. Ruth Cohen was no exception. Her stories span two pages of her typed letter and each more amusing than the next. Her ability to lighten the heart of any hardship is impeccable. The list begins with her decision to take ten boys as campers in their first summer open. “I had a couple of surprises coming: the ten [boys] could make far more noise and preempt far more attention than could the 40 girls!” Camp Vega remains an all girls camp to this day. Her lists are endless. From legal matters regarding camper health, to homesickness to the max, to driving around the lake multiple times to sway a disgruntled cook from quitting mid summer, Ruth was certainly a pioneer in making Camp Vega what it is today. 

When it came time to sell the camp, when Ruth knew retirement and a new marriage were in her future, she did so with a great heaviness as she said it felt “like placing my third child for adoption.” It was a financial matter but it was also a very emotional matter as well, knowing there would come a time when she would visit and her face would no longer be recognized. After careful deliberation, and eighteen years as captain, she signed the camp over to a kind couple she had known from her social work years. Matt and Mary Penn would continue to mold Vega until 1975 when Dick and Linda Courtiss would take the reigns. Eighty years later and a second generation of Courtiss’ stands at the helm. Kyle and Emily Courtiss continue Ruth’s vision on a daily basis as they work through the year to engage and meet new campers around the world. Did Ruth know that eighty years from the start that her legacy would live on and be hailed as one of the top girls camps in the country? One would hope that, through all of her doubts, she knew she was creating something great. 

“Indeed, on a bright Maine day, with the infirmary empty of serious concerns, the sense of my huge family, busy and content in the cool sun and shade of the grounds, or on the blue, pine-fringed lake, could produce in me a euphoria that was in large part sheer thankfulness.” 

Visit the Camp Vega blog. 

Review: Noam Pikelny: One Man, One Banjo, One Joke

     

        It comes as no surprise that a solo show performed by one of the greatest banjo players alive sold out One Longfellow Square, here, in the cobblestone, brick street, ally ways of Portland, Maine. It was a cold night, the snow had just fallen, the beards were out in droves, the man buns were reflected in the lenses of thick rimmed glasses and the flannel was on fleek. The age demographic was a clear majority of audience members ages 40s-60’s. There were, however, a few of us nerdy, fresh-faced twenty year olds warming the seats among the woodland elders of the Maine wilderness, and it’s musical heads of state.  

        No matter the ages in the room, there is always a specific buzz in the air, a magnetic energy when a musician of the highest standard is anticipated. There is an excitement as the genre lovers meet with the musicians who speak about their skill, acquired instruments and peek curiously at the strings on stage, much like children window shopping at Christmas. Sometimes this energy is grabbed and run with. Like the Olympic torch it is a beacon, giving purpose to its holder. Other times it’s dropped in a puddle and we, the onlookers, simply watch as an onstage tragedy unfolds. 

        Noam Pikelny did not disappoint as our long distance, torch bearing, banjo picking, front runner. From the moment he walked onto the intimate stage of Longfellow Square the crowd was hooked. With his black suit somewhat worn and his purple tie slightly askew he looked like a normal person and absolutly fantastic. Now, that may sound trivial, but it is when a normal looking person does extraordinary acts that the unexplainable is witnessed and experienced. From the first picks of the strings Mr. Pikelny owned his stage with an unapologetic uncomfortableness. He was endearing, charming and refreshing as he spoke openly of his performing insecurities, this being his first solo tour. His mix of humility and humor kept any awkwardness, that is known to plague first time solo performers, far behind, lost in the dust. 

        Bottom line, he was down right hilarious. The expectation was, of course, exceptional banjo music and maybe some chat in between songs. Instead, the audience was delivered exceptional banjo music and sore abs from side-splitting material consisting of Doritos and how the pedal steel guitar should be a new installment to the NYPD’s suicide talk down procedure. He seemed fearless, addressing mistakes as they happened and breezing through them like he’d been doing this for years. His natural light on stage makes it impossible not to like and support his every move. 

        His ability to connect with an audience puts Mr. Pikelny on a level that many solo instrumentalist fail to obtain as it is not in their usual training. This natural gift allows the audience to feel welcome and cared for. It also creates a relationship where in nothing is more beautiful than watching Mr. Pikelny close his eyes and relax on a musical cloud nine as his fingers fly effortlessly across the strings.

        Noam Pikelny may have started his career as a side man and become an award winning instrumentalist, but we now know he is more than capable of holding his own at that center stage microphone. For a guy who’s been told he can’t sing, his rich, bass voice is a refreshing and welcomed commodity in a contemporary tenor world. The rich lyrics of old songs are brought to a deeper level of beauty and honesty when they are paired with the slight insecurity felt by a new singer. Mr. Pikelny is the package deal; with his quick wit, oaky bass voice and world renowned picking, being his audience member was an honor and an absolute privilege.

6 Ways to Stay Sane as a Camp Counselor in the Woods of Maine (and at other camps in the middle of no where) 

  

   

So, you’ve decided to work at a summer camp in Maine. The pictures are beautiful, the people you’ve spoken to sound congenial and welcoming, and all in all it’s an adventure you can’t wait to set out on. You fly the planes and ride the trains and the closer you get the more you realize how far into the woods you are. You realize that the last peice of civilization you saw was a cow chewing on grass, staring at a tree stump. Maybe there was a country store somewhere but you can’t remember becuase you’ve been in this van for nearly an hour, your feet are asleep and the jet lag or travel sickness is creeping it’s way toward code hangry. Finally you arrive. The people you expected are as welcoming as you assumed and your cot has never felt more like heaven. A few days go by, the jet lag and travel sickness wears off, you’ve met the surrounding counselors, the uppers and the support staff. You’re still in awe of how beautiful the lake is. You’re still not sure how you’re here. Then a slight reality hits. You’re here here. You don’t have a car, and this isn’t Europe so there are no busses or trains for 40 miles and the nearest store is farther than that. You want so badly to talk to family but you only get one break and you have to go somewhere else to use Internet. You don’t know when your days off are and all you know is you need shampoo and peanut butter and there’s no way out! 
  
These feelings are normal. Especially at camp. Nothing feels worse than feeling stuck and out of control of yourself and your own situation. Chances are everyone who has worked at a rural summer camp has had, or is having, similar feelings. Okay, so the initial fear is over. If that tiny ball of anxiety is still in your tummy, go drink some water, or milk, or ribena, and come back. This all might sound scary but these yummy, little tidbits of info are tools many of us wish we’d known when we started. If you know how to navigate the negatives you’re in for an amazing summer. 

1. Breathe

Maine air is fresh, clean and welcomes your stress. When your feeling trapped or overwhelmed step outside and breathe. The air is sweet and can help you calm so you can continue to stay the person you want to be, and the person other people want to be around. This takes no time at all. Stepping outside for three big breaths takes twenty seconds. This can be done between activity periods, on your way to the toilets or showers, as you’re walking to breakfast, etc. Little moments like this can help keep the big moments managable and, well, not so big. 

2. Sleep

Get all the sleep you possibly can. Anyone who has worked at a summer camp understands the desire, even the need, to have fun and be social within the parameters of certain activities. Play responsibly. Always remember that you are responsible for lives and how those lives function, mentally and physically, on a day to day basis. Lack of sleep will quickly become the invisible culprate of everything that’s going wrong. Your sleep patterns and exsertion to rest ratio will be tested inside the camp environment as it is, do your best to make good choices and know your body well enough to be a responsible socialite and counselor at the same time.

3. Communicate

Communication with your fellow counselors, heads of departments and any other camp collegues can make or break your camp expierence. Keeping your troubles, concerns, even your own pet peeves bottled up can effect, not only you and your cohort, but your campers as well. It’s good to communicate and stay open minded with yourself and other counselors who you have to work in close proximity with. If you want people to hear you you have to try to hear them. Compromise, understanding and empathy for yourself and others means that small communications when needed can help defuse massive, explosive situations in the long run. It is not always easy, and if you have trouble, ask an age leader or a non counselor you trust to help mediate. 

4. Conquer Homesickness 

Many camps will use the world “home missing” as it isn’t, technically, a sickness. There are, and might be times, however, when it’ll make you feel sick, uncomfortable and downright awful to be far away from home. Homesickness is as common as leaves on a tree. It is normal, doesn’t decriminate and can be easily worked with. This is where open communication is extremely helpful. Many camps have doctors, nurses and head counselors who will sit down and talk with you about it. If they laugh at you then you’re at a terrible camp, leave now. There are amazing tools to help battle the pesky homesickness bug and no one knows them better than camp people. 

5. Transportation 

This is something that many counslors struggle with when at a raural camp; especially counselors who hail from countries with impeccable transportation systems. First things first, stay calm. There will be times when you feel like you’re never ever getting out. You are and you will and it is best to know that this is one of the trickery negatives to navigate in a camp envoirnment but it can be done.    

                          Camp Transportaion: Many camps have vans or busses that transport people to town a few times a week. Do your best to get signed up if you need to get out. If you don’t get there in time, it’s not the end of the world, though it may feel like it. Ask someone on the list to get you what you need, you’ll find people quickly willing to help. These vans and busses sometimes need drivers. If you can drive, camp insurance allows it, you’ve passed your test and your legal to drive in this country, volunteer to be a driver. Administration, counselors and campers love their drivers so it’s not a bad gig if you’re willing. 

                           Personal Vehicles: Find a pal with a personal vehicle, one they are either willing to let you borrow or let you tag along in. Respect is key in these situations. Not everyone will be willing to lend out their car and not everyone will want fifty people with them when they go out. If people are going out, ask if they can pick something up for you. (People with vehicles, be prepared that you will be very popular for your car, always say no if you’re feeling uncomfortable and never be afraid to say no to anyone who asks.)

                           Days Off: Days off can be a doozy. If your camp has vans and vehicles for counselor use it really depends on the availability from camp. This means 13 of you could have planned to go hiking but there are no vans available. Always try to plan days off around transportation. If 13 of you want to go hiking, this trip needs to be planned weeks in advance if you want a camp van. If you’re all taking personal cars, great, don’t drink and drive and have fun. What if you don’t get in on that group? What if you’re left behind? Well, that happens. If you can’t find someone to tag along with or you’re too shy to ask, (that happens, too) look around and see what’s possible at or around camp. Are there bikes that maybe you could take out, bike around the lake? Are there kayaks or conoes you’d be allowed to borrow, explore the lake, take a picnic? This all goes back to staying calm, breathing, and remembering to control what you can in your own camp situations. 

6. Have fun, y’all. 

Finding the fun through the stress can be difficult, to say the least. Camp can be stressful, it would be a lie to tell you any different. But believe when I say the highest stress levels come from the tension created when one doesn’t commit fully and fall into camp life completely. If you’ve never really been good at sports it is a chance to dig in and cheer for the people who breathe athletics. If the idea of being on stage actually gives you the flu, then this is your chance to sit in that audience and beam with pride as the show goes on with people who thrive as the curtain goes up. Let a 10 year old teach you how to make a bracelet, or a 12 year old show you how to properly wear your riding helmet. Let your team become your coach as they teach you a new way to get the ball through the hoop. Find the balance between having fun and goofing off. Find the joy between brushing hair and making sure your campers have actually washed while in the shower. When you haven’t slept, and your ready to scream at a loon, talk to someone and tell them how you feel. Who knows, they might just be able to bring the fun back into your day with a simply moment of their time.

 So, you’ve decided to work at a summer camp in Maine. The pictures are beautiful, the people you’ve spoken to sound congenial and welcoming, and all in all it’s an adventure you can’t wait to set out on. An adventure that will not only help define you, but mold you, evolve you and astound you. Good luck. 
Welcome to Maine, the way life should be. 

Weekly Fun Prompt: A Horse Wants to Hibernate In a Fancy Restaurant for the Summer. 

  
Broadway had never been so bright, thought Horse as he made his way down the long, illuminated street. Infamous, one might say, for it’s theatres and pavement, Broadway had always been a place Horse wanted to stay forever. No one wanted a horse as their usher or their box office manager, let alone the lead in their musical. War Horse was his only castable show but apparently those horses were puppets. Puppets and computer generated animation had been cutting into the equine job market for years and was really slowing own Horse’s audition schedule.  He had tried. He had his resume printed, a professional, yet friendly headshot taken. He’d networked and smoozed and still no one wanted him. He didn’t have to be a performer, even though he could think of nothing better than creating art in the brightest city in the world. No, he would settle for any job, even a janitor. He’d clean broadway toilets if he had to. 

The soft clop of his shoed hooves echoed in his ears as he strolled casually down the streets of Manhattan, questions swirling inside his head. How could he stay here? How would he make his mark? He found himself gazing out the large window of a small corner coffee shop he frequented, the high stool allowing for an eye level gaze of the persons rushing by. His crossed legs bounced with annoying impatience as a pondered his future and sipped the steaming mug of brew. Maybe he could get a job as a hair model or a stunt horse. The dreams were nice, you might even call them goals, but with no experience and a reocurring left leg injury it wouldn’t be so easy. Horse checked his watch. Half past two. He was meant to meet Honey Badger in the park at three. He left a half eaten carrot and a sugar cube for the coffee and headed back into the bustling, Manhattan streets. 
“Hey bro.”

“Hey.” Honey Badger nodded his head in greeting as Horse strolled up to the newly painted park bench he sat on. Notebook in hand, Honey Badger scribbled a last line of genius, closed the book and acknowledged his friend. 

“How’s it going?” Horse asked.

“Same old shit.” Honey Badger replied, his gaze looking out over the happy park goers. 

“That good, huh?” Horse didn’t know if he was prepared to take on Honey Badger’s problems. He had his own survival to deal with, his own jobs to find and art to make. How good of a friend could he be at the moment?

“Yea, well, Sangria dumped me for the ferret-faced opossum that lives in the apartment below us. Apparently he has prospects. What she doesn’t realize is by prospects he means drug deals and being promoted from fry-guy to cashier at Sandwich Sargent.”

“Oh, I’m sorry man.” Now Horse felt like a dick. “I didn’t realize she’d left. Why didn’t you call me?” 

“Happened this morning and I figured I’d see you anyway.”

“Yea, I guess. Sorry man. Really, that blows.” They sat in silence. “Any luck with the writing?” 

“I’ve got a meeting with a guy interested in my novel. He works for a small publishing company, they’re just starting out but what the hell. Harry Potter was turned down by a ton of publishers before getting picked up by a small, no name publishing company, now look at them.”

“Yea, that’s true. Good luck with that.”

“Thanks. I had another idea. Something I wanted to chat with you about.”

“Okay.” 

Honey Badger lit a cigarette, took a long drag, blew the smoke out and coughed. 

“So I have a producer for one of my contemporary performance pieces.” 

“Oh, nice! That’s amazing. Congrats.”

“Yea. It’s a thing. It’ll be great.” He takes another drag. “So here’s the deal, I originally wrote it for Giraffe. She’s exactly what I see the piece needing. She’s so different in today’s society. Everyone’s looking for cat’s and dogs, lions and tigers, but a long neck giraffe is rarely going to be seen for parts, you know? So I figured why not.” He took the last drag, throwing the butt to the ground, snuffing it out with his paw. “Well, the day I start talking to this producer she tells me she’s got some amazing summer gig in Tanzinia as a lounge singer. So I think, fuck there goes my show until I think, wait, Horse is here and he never works.”

“Oh, okay. Wow…uh…”

“Yea, that was harsh, sorry. Anyway, the pay is twelve grand for the summer if you want the gig.”

Horse laughed. 

Honey Badger didn’t. 

Horse stopped laughing. 

“Wait, are you serious?” Horse scoffed. 

“Yea. You want it?”

“Well, shit, yea, but what is it? I mean, I’m not going to have to hang naked by my dick everyday and let people paint old Native American symbols on me, am I?”

“What? No? Dude, you literally have to hibernate in Sardi’s all summer.”

There is a stillness that comes over two people when there is a complete and total misunderstanding. It’s as if the world stops because it too needs to think about what the hell was just said. 

“I need to hibernate in Sardi’s for the summer? That’s what you just said? Right? I heard you correctly?”

“Yea.”

“Horses don’t hibernate!” Horse laughed. 

“So?” Honey Badger shrugged, lighting up another cigarette. 

“So, we don’t hibernate. It’s not a thing. You know, now that I think about it, neither do giraffes.”

“Horse, buddy, it’s art. It’s a statement. It’s a commentary on our society and it’s need to put to sleep the beauty and artistic views of those who are different or abnormal. You would literally be sleeping in a box. All private matters would be private.”

Horse stood up, swinging his back end toward the park and facing Honey Badger. 

“Okay, let me get this straight.” He said, pinching the wide brim of his nose. “You’re telling me that for twelve thousand dollars all I need to do is sleep in Sardi’s…for the summer? Three months.”

“That’s it.”

“I don’t sleep that long!” 

“You sleep when you sleep, read when you don’t, I guess. You think bears don’t wake up in their caves half way through the winter, bored out of their god damn and think ‘shit I want a beer and some Stephen King.’” 

“And people just watch me?”

“Look do you want the gig or not, Horse?”

Horse looked around hoping to find the answer in the bright faces of children playing or the couples jogging. He found nothing. 

“Give me a few days to figure it out, yea?” 

“Horse…”

“I need some time to think about it. Give me until Wednesday.”

Honey Badger sighed, swung his side pack over his head, across his chest and stomped out another cigarette. “Fine. Wednesday. Keep it real dude.” He started to walk away. “Oh, and I’ve got a three toed sloth we’re thinking about so if I don’t hear from you by Wednesday I’ll extend an offer to her. Cool?”

“Yea, cool.”

“Great. See ya, bud.”

“See ya.”

Horse stood where he was, watching a baby bear fling himself from the top of a tree and land on his brother. He had things to think about. Twelve grand. That was a lot of fucking money. 

Top 15 Worst/Best Cat Names for 2016

  
If you’re thinking of a cat name for your new, adopted feline, maybe steer clear of these…or maybe not.

15. Boy Band 

14. Toddler 

13. Drywall Macgee 

12. Peninsula 

11. Tongue 

10. Constructive Cristism 

9. Blindfold 

8. Distinguished Sir Or Madam 

7. Plate 

6. To Whom It May Concern

5. Corpse

4. John Stamos 

3. Bumper Sticker 

2. Crack Pipe 

And last but not least: 

1. Venessa