It’s Christmas Eve 2020, and the holiday spirit pervades. It’s evening; email is slow, as is common on holiday weeks, and I’m sitting my couch zoning out when I hear my phone ding with a late-night note from one Mr. Joel Friedman. It’s seemingly benign; very sweet. It says the following:
“My wife Stefanie has gone to your camp a few times. She loves it. The reason I am reaching out will sound funny, but Stefanie has a green Campowerment mug that I broke and she’s really bummed out. Is there a way I can buy another one?”
Of course I know his wife. I also know which mug he’s talking about. I use it so often that the Campowerment logo has almost worn off. Unfortunately, we don’t have mugs in stock right now, and while I get why he thinks his request sounds silly, I know better. Because I really do know Stef: she’s sentimental, and if she cares about this token of her time at camp enough for her husband to be reaching out to replace her mug, we’ll need to find a solution.
And so together, joel and i (and stef’s bunkmate kelli vieweg!) embarked on a goofy adventure to make Stef a mug that’s extra special in her late mug’s place…
We’ll let her tell the story via the email she sent us on her birthday in January, when Joel presented her the custom replacement. From Stefanie:
My husband was emptying the dishwasher. I heard something crash to the counter. I knew what it was. I just knew. I felt it. My beloved, green speckled Campowerment mug from my first camp in Malibu. Joel (the culprit), my kids and I were all within eye range of one another. We all looked at Joel — my eyes wide — waiting for confirmation — his face filled with fear, shock, remorse, guilt. And we all shouted simultaneously some variation of, “no! Oh no! NO!!! OH MY GOD!!!!” (The last one was me).
My family knows what Campowerment means to me and how I LOVE MY MUG! No one was allowed to use it. I washed it out every day to reuse it the next day. (I know! It’s just a mug! Or is it?).
Within seconds my daughter ran over to me, put her hand on my heart and in an effort to make me laugh, said in an overly dramatic voice, “Campowerment isn’t an object! It’s in here! You always have it with you!” And although she said it to lighten the mood, how right she was!
I have pens and journals and stickers as visual reminders of the connection to camp.
Over the years, I’ve grabbed something from camp when I needed to feel brave, uplifted, comforted. Before any oncology check up I throw on my my camp sweatshirt or fill up my camp water bottle. I take the power of camp with me.
My job is a beast. I have to mentally prepare myself to sit at my desk and get started. My morning routine consists of deep breaths, walking to the cupboard and pouring myself a cup of courage. I see my little Campowerment mug and I’m reminded I’ve got this!
Well, as you know, I don’t have that mug anymore. But it’s ok! (Really!) And although these objects are tangible reminders of the joys and power of camp, the most important connection I have IS spiritual – being connected to so many beautiful women is the real gift….Feeling their presence when I take deep breaths, or hearing them in my thoughts when my inner critic is being an awful bitch.
Back to the mug…Just when I made peace with having to use my Hello Kitty mug, what a surprise I got on my birthday! This replacement is so awesome! It made me laugh! (You should use it for promotional purposes.)
See how happy I look?! I love you for doing this for me.
I was so incredibly touched by what you did for Joel to help with this. And when I asked him how this came to be, he was like, WTF?! He felt HORRIBLE he broke it. So he put out a call for help and was blown away by the support from the Campowerment crew. He got a taste of what it feels like to be part of this loving community. He was floored by the response and the action by a group of women who get shit done. I was so pleased he witnessed it first hand. I had an “I told you so” moment!
Mug or no mug, camp is in my heart forever. My camp sisters are a blessing I never could have imagined. I am able to grow at my own pace, cry when I need to, laugh when I probably shouldn’t and they keep me accountable when it would be much easier to shrink away and hide. No judgement. No fear. Just love. That’s all there is. Love.
I am the mug and they (you all!) fill me up!
I love you all and can’t wait to all be together again soon.
All my love,
. . . .
This community: she makes things happen. Joel: good on you for betting on it 😉