Gratitude Celebration 41: Quality Experience

I could get most of my groceries in one monthly trip while living in Evansville, Indiana from 1988-2000. That’s because I was a member and coordinator of The Quality Buying Club, a group of five to a few dozen women and men who pooled monthly bulk orders and received delivery together from the Federation of Ohio River Co-ops (F.O.R.C.)

I could buy pretty much everything we ate from the Co-op except fresh vegetables, which John and I would buy at Schnuck’s, a four-mile bike ride away. We had a bike trailer called a Bugger that could haul up to 100 lbs of kids or stuff. Evansville was laid out in a grid of straight streets, allowing us to ride side streets.  Often, we could leave our car parked in our driveway for a week at a time and still get everywhere we wanted to go. The monthly trips to the Patchwork Central Ministry where the buying club met would be my main use of the car to get groceries.

The Quality Buying Club provided an economical way to get good quality groceries. Not only that, it made food shopping a community activity! When I joined the Co-op, I was given a member number. Mine was #33. That number was written on every product that I bought. Soon after I joined, #34 was given to Lee Lamey. That’s the most members this club ever had until it faded about 7 years later.

On our monthly Co-op day, we would all gather, hopefully before the semi-truck arrived, to unload and sort our order. Our group would purchase a couple thousand dollars worth of food packed in wholesale quantities. We would work together to divide it up into the individual parcels that we had each ordered.

F.O.R.C. had an ordering system that included detailed print-outs of each order, with extensions on quantity, price, and total, making the division process go smoothly – well most of the time! In its heyday, we would be dividing up big blocks of cheese and Amish butter, gallons of maple syrup and 25 lb bags of beans and whole grains or flour. We would set up tables and haul out an old grocer’s scale and repackage the food in plastic bags, marked with our member numbers.

Two members served as bookkeepers, checking each order, taking checks, resolving errors, and keeping the financial records. Usually, the orders went without a hitch, but sometimes there were glitches like missing products or misprinted order sheets. Then, the bookkeepers’ job could be harried.

I made a good group of friends in the Quality Buying Club and smile when I remember how we worked together and learned how to go with the flow of each delivery, each one a singular event! Although I would only see most of them just once a month, I could depend on them to be there and help. We could lean on each other for support in our life’s ups and downs as well.

Today, I remember the Quality Buying Club members with gratitude. I’m grateful for Susan, Linda, Susie, another Susan, Judi, Clark, Teri, and a number of women whose faces I just can’t recall today!

In the end, the last few years of the Quality Buying Club consisted of sporadic orders by just a handful of buyers who helped me reach the minimum order. My own household orders of full cases of jam, tortillas, cheese, beans, rice, crackers, and rice cakes would be 80% of the order and the truck would come to my house!  Hurray for F.O.R.C. and the Quality Buying Club!

Please comment below on this or other posts in my Sixty Years of Gratitude series. I’m writing 60 essays of gratitude to celebrate my sixtieth birthday!



Gratitude Celebration 40: Womens’ Sacred Work

“We need to get this baby out now. OK. Regina, I need you to push.” Kate’s knowledge and her calming sureness, saved Adam’s life, I believe. She was there for my second homebirth, the day after Fourth of July in Metro Washington, D.C. “It’s great that he waited until today. Yesterday, I would not have been able to get here with all the holiday traffic.”

Adam, who didn’t get his name until his third day out of the womb, was arriving fast.  Three hours before, I was in a swimming pool feeling mild contractions, but enjoying how the water was relaxing me.  I probably lingered too long because by the time I got home and realized that my baby was being born that day, my calls to the midwife, Kate, and assistant, Julie, didn’t give them much time to get there.  And when they did, the birth was well underway.

As soon as she arrived, she knew the birth was imminent and got right to work monitoring me and the baby. That’s how she knew that the baby was under stress with a low heartbeat and needed outside air. The womb was not supporting him anymore.  With firmness and not panic, she guided me to quickly push him out. Moments later we celebrated our second child’s birth.

Today, I’m celebrating my gratitude for all the women, and a couple of men, who helped me have three healthy and safe home births. The first was the midwife at my sister’s second birth at home. My husband and I had traveled to the back woods of northern Idaho to help out around the house for a few weeks around the birth.  We had been talking about having our own children, having been married for a couple of years.

We were sitting with the midwife, sipping tea, saying, “We’ll probably have our first baby in the hospital, just to be safe.” Her instant response was, “Why sacrifice your first one? That might be all you have!” That question stuck in our minds, and exactly one year later, we had our first child at home. Kate was there for that one too.

My assistant for that birth was Laura, who had become a dear friend during the six months we had lived in Arlington before the birth. I don’t remember how I met her. Perhaps it was through the midwife team of Joyce, Alice, and Kate who monitored my pregnancy. They may have suggested Laura’s prenatal classes which John and I took enthusiastically. Between classes, I would visit Laura and her own children, grateful for her companionship in my new home.  She came when David was born, helping from before dawn until he was born later that day, with massage and breathing.

Three years later, our third child was due to be born in Evansville, Indiana. I was eager to find a midwife right away because we had moved there in my fourth month of pregnancy. The first person John had met in Evansville was Danny Knight, who had invited John over to his house during their first conversation about the vegetarian community in Evansville. I was impressed with how friendly and welcoming he had been! His wife, Missie, told us about Linda and Karen, the local midwives.

They were equally warm, confident, and professional as Joyce, Alice, and Kate had been in Arlington.  I was doing well and everything looked good for the late March birth. Politics, however, interfered with our plan!

Two weeks before my due date, Linda and Karen assisted at a birth which required transport of the baby to the hospital. The baby needed medical assistance. They even loaned the medics their newborn oxygen mask and tank because they didn’t have one. The baby was fine.

The county prosecutor, however, threatened to indict them because in the State of Indiana, midwifery is not legally recognized. Linda and Karen were being indicted for practicing medicine without a license. They were scared to get arrested.

Linda called and told me that they didn’t feel safe to assist me at the upcoming birth. I was stuck!  I had not been seeing a doctor because the midwives had been monitoring me. John and I went to the nearest hospital, to set up a last minute doctor visit. When asked about our reason for waiting until a week before the baby was born to seek medical assistance, John brilliantly said in his reporter’s voice, “You don’t want to hear our whole story. We’re here today. Can we come here to have this baby?”  The doctor agreed.

John focused on the juiciness of this story of midwife meets prosecutor. I went home disheartened about having a hospital birth. I meditated, prayed, and rested, going inward to be open to the best experience for me and the baby, trusting in God to guide us.  Having a home birth was really important to me, spiritually. I didn’t want to give up that easily!

My prayer was answered, and a few days later, Linda and Karen called to say that they felt called to be there at the birth. “We can’t just abandon you like this! We have been called to serve as midwives and trust that we will be cared for.”

The birth day started early, just as John was leaving for work. “I think this is the day, so maybe you should stay home,” I requested. He called Linda, and she arrived a few hours later. Missie, our new friend, came too, having said that she could help in Linda and Karen’s place. She had assisted at births in India years before and knew that she could help. Danny, her husband, was there too with his professional photography skills.

Simon’s birth was a wonderfully spiritual experience. The day unfolded peacefully, then powerfully when the birth occurred in the mid-afternoon.  I think everyone there – John, Danny, Missie, Linda, and Karen all took turns supporting me as I let my body take over and birth the baby. Ten minutes after he finally popped out, a thunderstorm and deluge rocked the city. I felt safe and blessed inside my own room at home, astounded at the miracle of birth.

So, today, I open my heart in gratitude to these women who give themselves over to the wonder of birth, risking their own political safety to providing women, babies, and families with safe and spiritual home births.

Joyce, Alice, Kate, Laura, Julie, Linda, Karen, and Missie, I thank you!  And John and Danny too, men who aren’t afraid of womens’ sacred work!



Cute Child

Gratitude Celebration 39: Diversity Appreciated

Cute Child

Little Angel

I cried when it was time to leave Arlington VA after living there for 6 years. The thought of not having China (pronounced “cheena”) to watch David, my five year old son, drew a blank. Five years of delightful friendship and child care swapping had created a sturdy foundation for mothering that I feared would be hard to rebuild way out in Indiana where we were moving., I had tried to match the time that David had played over at their house with having Elena play with us, but I’m sure he was there more! I give myself credit for taking them out on “adventures” like exploring the creek at Lubber Run Park, that I had hoped would balance the indoor play and television viewing they did in China’s care.
It was a good trade, because David and Elena played well together!

Elena was our landlady’s daughter, born just a few weeks before our first child, six months after we had moved to Arlington. John had gotten a job at the Washington bureau of the Scripps-Howard News service. It was prestigious to be a reporter in Washington when Ronald Reagan had just started his first term in office.

The day we left our half-remodeled house in covington KY was the sub-zero day that a jetliner plummeted into the frigid Potomac River, too heavily laden with ice to lift off. John arrived on the job with everyone’s attention riveted to that story, threatening to eclipse Reagan’s inauguration.

For me, though, having a good place to live was more important than either of those stories. I was four months pregnant for the first time, just beginning to “show”. I was grateful for having taken my sister’s suggestion to honor myself with the purchase of a beautiful down coat and leather boots from L.L. Bean just a month or so earlier. They kept me warm and well dressed during that cold snap of Janauary, 1982.

I was also grateful that John’s cousin, Jessica, had introduced us to Sue Campbell, the friend of her co-worker,Jacomina, at The World Bank. In early December , when we had made a quick visit to the area to locate a place to live, Sue was the one who showed us the white bungalow on Lincoln Avenue, just two blocks from the Virginia Square Metro station. I don’t even remember looking at other places because this place seemed perfect! It was a cute, two bedroom house with a yard and a garage in close proximity to easy public transit to John’s work.

Sue handled all the rental details because the owner, Jacomina (yahk-o-meena), a Dutch woman who had recently married and moved to a new house, was working abroad during our househunting visit. In fact, it was a full month or so before we met her.

Sue was our contact concerning the house, and we saw her regularly because she parked her car in the driveway and walked over to the Metro station on her way to George Washington University where she worked. Parking there saved her a lot of money and gave Jacomina a housesitter! Her brief morning and evening greetings, with occasional conversations to field my questions about my new home, were welcome as I got comfortable with the area.

When Jacomina returned, we discovered we would both be delivering our babies at about the same time! We were quite different, however, in our lifestyles, giving me the opportunity to honor diversity. Sometimes that was a challenge for me because I wanted my way to be right, but Jacomina was so friendly and open that I soon discovered that our different ways could co-exist.

While I was exlploring the local services for homebirths, playgroups, and macrobiotic classes, Jacomina was researching hospitals, breast pumps, and nannies. At one point, I even entertained the idea of offering childcare myself, but couldn’t compromise my unwavering belief in the superority of the stay-at-home mom for the optimum care of newborns.

That belief did not keep me from happily meeting China when she started working for Jacomina and her husband, Don, shortly after baby Elena arrived! I watched with intrigue how they created a tri-lingual household, each speaking their native tongues. Elena heard only Dutch from Jacomina, English from Don, and Spanish from China. Elena didn’t speak much until she was about four, but when she did, she was fluent in all three languages! I was impressed!

For the next five years while David and Elena became playmates and both greeted younger brothers, I continued to appreciate the generosity and friendship of Jacomina, Don, and China, despite our differences in opinion about childrearing. Jacomina gave me the chance to honor people in their unique self-expression, starting with myself.

There was another time that tears flowed in my friendship with Jacomina. It was 20 years and another relocation later that I received a letter from her. She had sought out my address from my cousin so she could thank me for having been true to my beliefs all those years back in Arlington. In her letter, she was describing how her beloved Don had finally been released from his life-ending fight with cancer that had been made much more tolerable with the macrobiotic diet he had adopted. “It was your modeling that inspired us to pursue that way, and I wanted to thank you for leading the way.”

I cried, realizing that I had no idea at the time that being true to my own convictions, even when they seemed so different from others, would inspire someone!

Today, I’m grateful for Sue, China, Don, and Jacomina for blessing my life, and those of my sons David and Adam, with generosity, humility, and respect for others! They taught me to embrace cultural diversity in real life!

Your turn!

Do you have a time in your life when something you believed or did seemed so different, even contentioius, from others but they later thanked you for it! Let me know in the comments, below!

Gratitude Celebration 38: You Can Do This

“You can do this. It’s not that hard to install a window.”

I’m grateful, today, that Larry Niemiec opened that window in my life! He was right too, as Larry generally is about construction because that’s his mastery. In fact, he managed the construction one of the skyscrapers in Atlanta, Georgia! What a blessing it was for me to have his friendship when my new husband and I had moved in to an old house.

We thought it would only need touching up and redecorating. We were wrong about that! When we scraped the wallpaper off the dining room wall, the plaster fell off with it. Once the plaster was off, Larry, and other “rehabbers” in Covington, KY, advised us to remove the wooden lath as well. With the lath removed, it was logical to install insulation. And with the walls reduced to studs, it made sense to relocate and update the windows…… and move walls for better traffic flow………….. and rewire the house……………… and update the plumbing.

It was like that poem “this is the house that Jack built”. One thing led to another! When we sold it when John got a better job in Washington, D.C. that little house up on a hill on Garrard Street had been practically rebuilt, one layer at a time. We did a lot of it by ourselves through consultations with Larry!

And it all started with the kitchen window. “You can do this. I’ll talk you through it.”

I’ve visited the house a few times since the sub-zero day we drove away to Arlington, VA. The water was off because it had frozen at the meter.  On my visits, I’ve smiled at the improvement our work brought to the neighborhood. The sunny yellow house beams down from the hilltop and reminds me that I can do it! when it comes to house remodeling! Larry Niemiec played a big part in that.


Gratitude Celebration 37: Deepest Riches

“Give yourself to Love, if love is what you’re after.” I put this quote from Kate Wolfe’s song in an embroidered picture for  John Reiter, whom I want to thank with all my heart today. He didn’t want gifts for his birthday or holidays. “Every day should be special, if any day is special.”

This Gratitude Celebration post is my most challenging so far, not because I can’t get to gratitude, but because the depth of gratitude is so huge that it’s hard to say it clearly. So, I can dance around it a bit with the facts.

John was my husband for 34 years. We both thought he would be my husband until we died, but my affair while hiking the Appalachian Trail during year 28 put a wall of pain, anger, and resentment between us that could not be breached, dismantled, or circumvented, at least with the skills or beliefs that either of us had.

It’s easy to list John’s lovable behaviors. I’m grateful for John’s playfulness, especially when he let it come out. I’m grateful for his constancy as the breadwinner for our family. I’m grateful for his gardening and landscaping passion that filled our various yards with beauty and order. I’m grateful for his intelligence keenly developed with voracious reading. I’m grateful for his masterful command of language, grammar, and composition that blesses everyone whose writing receives his view.

I’m grateful for his courage to support me with all three of our sons’ home births. I’m grateful for his patience while I practiced my narrow view of Macrobiotics, which is really meant to be a philosophy of life that takes a “large view”.

But, my examination of Gratitude concerning John Reiter only leads me to a broad view of life, a spiritual view. If I just stop at the gratitude for all the nice, behaviorally kind things he did for me, then I am missing the rich and deep ocean of the ways that John helped me grow by giving me opportunities to transform assumptions and beliefs that I had about lots of things!

I must have had an intuition about this because my self-written vow said, “I have come to understand that love in marriage is more than a feeling. It’s a decision.” At the time, I thought that meant that to be a good spouse meant to ignore my feelings of hurt, anger, disappointment, or disagreement and simply get along. I had the sense to know that at some time in the rest of my life that all of those feelings would undoubtedly occur, but believed that we could just overpower them with reason and by virtue of the “promise” we were making to just BE married. What happened was that all the unexpressed and stuffed feelings didn’t leave. They got packed like chinking in a wall between us.  Eventually, what we did accept and enjoy about each other was masked behind the impenetrable wall of what we couldn’t share, what we couldn’t talk about, what we couldn’t accept about each other.

A weekend in August, 2005 opened a door in that wall for me. That was when I participated in Colin Tipping’s Miracles Weekend retreat. He introduced me to the idea that feelings are important! Feelings are a signal that there’s something to transform, something to look at, something to use for building material in a relationship! I was stunned. I was also scared to let the mine of unexpressed feelings, stuffed down for decades, out. It would just explode like a volcano, not trickle out like water!

With the help of his Radical Forgiveness tools, however, I was able to gradually release the pent up feelings and see that John had been a mirror for my own self-hatred and denial of my true self-expression in the world.  As I worked with this idea, I came to see John as my healing angel, playing a role of mirror for my self-doubt and fear.

The way I’m seeing our relationship now, from the perspective that we have been healing angels for each other, although I really don’t know exactly how. One thing I feel pretty sure about is that my relationship with John Reiter has given me the chance to feel shame. He maintained his accusation of betrayal until our divorce, and as far as I know, he still does.

So, if Colin Tipping’s view of relationships as opportunities to feel separation is accurate, then John has been the perfect partner for me to feel shame! I definitely created that feeling with him!  Loving myself even having been unfaithful has been the richest gift of my years with John, and for that I am grateful at the highest spiritual level.

Now, if we’re talking “human level gratitude”, it would have to be this: he’s the best Scrabble player I know!


If you want to see for yourself what I’m talking about with all this “spiritual” and “human” level stuff and work out for yourself if someone might be a “healing angel” for you, then check out Colin Tipping’s books, especially Expanding into Love. His books are all very practical, which works for me!

Buy Expanding Into Love by Colin Tipping

This link takes you to the Radical Forgiveness eStore where you can find Expanding Into Love in the “Books” tab.

Relationships have a spiritual purpose!

Relationships have a spiritual purpose!














Gratitude Celebration 36: Healing Dance

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I’m writing 60 essays of gratitude for people who have helped me along my path, at least in a way that stand out! Today, I’m remembering Jean, who was a perfect mirror for on of those Limiting Beliefs that I had about how my life was and would always be! Read on and see if you can relate!

Jean Butterbaugh was my apartment mate for a year when I worked at Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center in southern Ohio. The camp board had decided that year to have staff live off the camp property, and found a NEW apartment complex in the tiny town of Peebles, about nine miles south of the camp. They proposed that I share a brand new apartment with Jean, the volunteer office manager for the camp. The best thing about that was that Jean was NOT one of the staff I supervised!

Jean was truly a very easy-going, unassuming person. She took people at face value and looked for the best in everyone. That’s how I know that MY view of her as a housemate was fabricated out of my own belief systems and projections. By projections, I mean those opinions, criticisms and assumptions I lay out on other people that are really parts of myself that I don’t like and can’t love.

Soon after we moved into the two-bedroom apartment, I started feeling very self-conscious about keeping ALL of my stuff in my bedroom, even though some items would have been good decoration or compatible with a welcoming ambience for our living room.

I had a beautiful basket of woolen yarn I had spun and dyed in a rainbow of natural colors. I loved having it nearby to remind me of the colors of the fields and forest where the dye plants had been gathered. And my small stereo system could have benefitted both of us! But, I remember having a distinct voice in my head saying, “Only HER stuff is worthy to be out in the living room!” And it was! Jean had books and other things out in plain sight. I don’t even remember if we had artwork on the wall, even though I owned a couple of beautiful pastels of local birds done by a local artist!

This belief got in my way of talking easily with Jean, really getting to know her and talk about what really mattered to me and listening to what mattered to her! I was so preoccupied with making sure I never left anything out in the living room and thinking, “Watch out! Be sure none of your stuff is out here, Regina!” that I had no space to just BE there!

Whew!  It was a blessing, probably for Jean as much as myself, when I got to move back out to camp into a mobile home on the property where I lived by myself.  I surrounded myself with the crafts and artwork that I enjoyed – and Jean was off the hook for my energetic wall!  I unconsciously made sure that I didn’t get any HELP moving my things, too! I was so sure that no one would want to help me move that I didn’t even ask my co-workers!

Now that I can see this all in hindsight, and through the lens of Radical Forgiveness, that teaches me to look for the hidden beliefs that have created the drama in my life, it’s amusing how attached I was to that story that “I have to be INVISIBLE!  No one should have to see what I enjoy, what’s valuable or expressive to me. I have to keep my preferences and self-expression to myself.”

Well, thanks Jean, for being willing to play that role for me and for somehow stepping around my awkwardness!  Thanks for doing that healing dance with me. My soul is laughing with gratitude and letting go of that belief!


So, what do you think? Does this story of projecting my own limiting beliefs on my housemate ring any bells for you? Please leave your comments and stories below.

Read more about Projection and other mechanisms we unconsciously use to keep us separated from others in Radical Forgiveness, Making Room for the Miracle.

Radical Forgiveness



Gratitude Celebration 35: Smart Organization

One of my colleagues at Woodland Altars gave me a great chance to learn about “Projection”, although I didn’t know it at the time. Brad was the chemist turned maintenance director at the camp. I would often hear him from Roger, the Director’s, office, sighing and running down his list of maintenance tasks to do. That would bug me, and I would silently criticize, “He makes it sound like he has more to do than anyone and we should be pitying him for the unfinished projects, but that’s his job, so why do we have to hear about it.  If I were maintenance director, I would blah, blah, blah.”

But maybe unconsciously, I was feeling sorry for myself to, hating myself for not getting everything done in an organized and timely way. I was afraid to admit it, or get support for it.

It was easier to “project” my disapproval on him. What I was really doing was listening silently and echoing his sighs, which much later I learned could be seen as “cleansing breaths”, something very smart and healthy.

Brad was pretty smart, though, because he did get support by initiating staff-wide “Maintenance Checks” in which each of the ten staff members took weekly turns driving the camp and checking a detailed list of systems from plumbing and water at the camping circle, to the water filtration system and boiler at the main lodge to the security at the pool. Rather than criticize Brad any more for everything that wasn’t done, we started supporting him with help because we were invested and appreciative of how it all worked. I loved my early morning check drives and was fascinated with how all the systems operated and supported our teaching program. A thorough knowledge of how things worked even gave us teaching points as we walked the half-mile across camp in our two-hour Trail Times.

I also really admired Brad for working at a camp that needed constant maintenance, especially the water and heating systems, in lieu of a higher paying job as a chemist, for which he was qualified. He chose to move his family to the camp where they lived in various degrees of enjoyment for several years.

Besides that, he was very helpful to me with my car. It was Brad who counseled me in my short-lived fantasy of mastering the mechanics of my VW sedan, the first car I owned. When it needed servicing, he would be the first person I could ask about what might be going on. He always obliged my conversations, interpreting the language of the book I thought could turn me into a mechanic, some hippy-styled folio on how I could fix my own VW. When I exhausted my slim enthusiasm, he applauded me as well for taking it to a mechanic.

So, thanks Brad, for being there as a healing angel for my appreciation of myself and others doing complicated, inglorious jobs. I can see that now!



Have you “projected” your limiting beliefs on others? If  you want to learn more about this common way of unconsciously putting what we can’t love about ourselves outside rather than inside, read Colin Tipping’s book, Radical Forgiveness.

Check it  out here:
Radical Forgiveness


Gratitude Celebration 34: Confident Creativity

“But Roger, why did you tell that principal that we have that program? We haven’t done that before!”

“Well,” he responded, “You could do it, right? You and your staff could offer that, couldn’t you? If that’s what it would take to have a new school come to Woodland Altars, why not say ‘Yes’ and then go put it together?”

I had not operated that way before, and yet, what he was saying made sense. It was that kind of thinking that helped me, in my two years as Program Director at the Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center in southern Ohio, book more schools for residential programs than had ever been there before.  With Roger Cruser’s encouragement, my new staff and I did all sorts of things we hadn’t done before, including host a weekend workshop for local teachers and do outreach programs for the local schools. The students loved our show-and-tell visits to their classrooms with a boa constrictor and a red-tailed hawk. Although animals were quite familiar to these rural kids, most of them had never met people who weren’t killing hawks and snakes, but revering them!

Roger was a fun and inspiring director to work for because he enjoyed, or at least acted like he enjoyed, us young, opinionated teacher-naturalists talking for hours about all our ideas for the camp. He had been hired as the first resident director of the 500-acre camp to breathe life into the programs and make the place a year-round asset for the Church of the Brethren who owned the property. He had so many ideas and the business sense to get things done.

One time that stands out for me that Roger gave me a new perspective was when two of my staff quit on the last day before Christmas break. They had been hired by the previous director and stayed to work with me. As I was just strengthening my spine as a director, they were challenging me on policies I had. One of those was to mix up the groups of three naturalists to do evening programs. Well, these two insisted that I always let them work together in the evenings so they could always have the same nights off. I wouldn’t do that.

As the Fall season developed, they grew a list of grievances they kept secret until that final day. Just before lunch, as we cleaned out the last mouse cage and stacked up the last worksheet, they handed me letters of resignation. I took it personally, and felt abandoned! “Now what would we do! That would leave us short-handed for the upcoming Spring season which I had so masterfully filled!”

I dashed into Roger’s office and gave him the news. His response, to my surprise, was, “That’s great! What good news!”  I stared, not understanding. “Let me take you to lunch in town, and we’ll talk about it,” he said confidently. Over lunch, he explained his perspective that their leaving opened space for two fresh staff whom I could choose myself. New people could bring new allegiance and openness to the way Woodland Altars currently functioned.  Certainly, it would add some work for my holiday break, but it could also be satisfying. As usual, he was right, and the two men named Dave who joined our staff the next month were delightful assets to the staff, the camp, and to my life!

There were many, many creative moments shared with Roger over the next couple of years until the most celebrated one when he officiated my wedding on the makeshift platform where Karla and Larry had been married the year before.  He gladly supported me and John Reiter in writing our own vows, and respectfully turned his head when my relatives brought beer to the woodland reception we hosted on the far side of the camp.

In the 30+ years of our marriage with John Reiter, he offered continued counsel and perspective to me and John. The last time the three of us sat together in his living room in the house he had built one mile from camp, Roger listened compassionately as John lobbied for me to renew our vows during a family reunion that had interrupted my 6-month walk of the Pacific Crest Trail. I believe that Roger could see that divorce was more imminent than either of us could admit, and he wisely withheld judgment or advice.

Roger’s creative, confident guidance has consistently served me, stretching my own limits for leadership. I’m grateful for that!


Gratitude Celebration 33: Naturalist Colleagues

My next Gratitude Post in my series of 60 essays for my 60th birthday, is dedicated to the first group of naturalists I worked with at Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center.

“Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” Well, really it sounded more like 8 hoots in the dark of night, but naturalists all say the Barred Owl asks that question about dinner!

My outdoor education group, timidly excited on their Thursday night hike, whispered, “There’s one” with eyes wide enough to be seen in the dark. I called back in my believably authentic owl call, honed and practiced during staff gatherings or doing dishes with the students.

A  matching answer broke the wooded silence. “It called back!” the ten night walkers breathed, standing still as statues, camouflaged against the trees. I let them believe the ruse, using the staged moment fill them with wonder, smiling inside with the delight of working with lighthearted colleagues. Later, after we had dismissed the children to their beds and dreams of owls in the night, the eight of us would laugh and figure out which of us heard the other from another trail in the deep forest.

I loved Thursday nights with my Outdoor Ed colleagues. On those nights we would all work together, first taking our groups out for a night hike, then gather back at the lodge for singing and stories. We got pretty good at our routine, and sometimes would just keep on singing while the kids went off to the bunkrooms with their chaperones. I didn’t want those song sessions to end because I felt a bond of joy with the other naturalists.

I almost think of that group as a unit, rather than individual people because we worked together so much! Jim and Judy, Karla and Larry, Nan, Mark, and Dave. We hosted groups of 60 or so in weekly programs on the 500-acre Nature preserve of Woodland Altars in southern Ohio. The kids would arrive around noon on Tuesday and stay until after lunch on Friday. We had a fairly regular schedule that included sessions when each of us took the same group of ten, afternoon sessions when we mixed everyone up for special interest activities, and evening programs when the whole group played games. The schedule provided a good mix of teaching solo and with various teams of the other naturalists. I liked them all!

We even had good times with each other on our weekends. Often on Fridays, after our post-group cleanup was all done, we’d pile into Dave’s big blue van and trundle over to the Dairy Queen in Locust Grove, 5 miles away. Or, we’d ride all the way into Peebles, the little town 9 miles away that had a bank.

Many weekends saw us visiting with Jim and Judy, the couple who were Director and Head Naturalist, in their house in Peebles.  We’d make Judy’s favorite polish dish, noodles and cabbage, whose Polish name I can’t remember. Jim loved fishing and would talk all about that!

Karla and Larry were a couple too. Larry shared his passion for music, and introduced me to Bruce Springstein, although I preferred going home with my roommate, Nan, and putting on my Joni Mitchell on the “sound system” that Jim had helped me pick out at the Radio Shack in the big town of Hillsboro soon after I had started working at the camp.

Dave was a wildflower expert and would make sure that we saw each spring ephemeral, urging us to get out right away and see new flowers as they popped up in the Spring. Thanks to Dave, I first saw Goldenseal in the wild, way back in the “Wilderness” area of the camp.

And Mark Van Oss, originally from Minster, OH, near my dad’s birthplace in Coldwater, was my favorite for encouraging us all to learn the calls of the spring warblers. In late winter, he studied the calls and would quiz us on them while we were setting up the lodge for our next group on Monday afternoons.

Outdoor Education was a job with long hours and few breaks while the students were there, but having colleagues with whom I could work so smoothly made the weeks go by much too fast! It was just one short school year that this particular group worked together, then all but Dave, Karla, and Mark stayed for the next year when I took over as Program Director. I learned so much from all of them about Natural History, Pioneer crafts, and teamwork, doing my best to continue the spirit of camaraderie we had with my new staff the next Fall.

But, there was a certain chemistry among us that just can never be repeated, and I remember fondly this group of Naturalists who gave me my start in my most favorite profession!

Gratitude Celebration 32: “It’s a Zoo!”

It’s ironic that for the first time I’ve been writing my Gratitude Essays on the porch of a cabin in Maine, a camp adventure group with ten canoes is landing at the ramp nearby. How fitting that this is the day I’m writing about the woman who introduced me to my life’s favorite workplace – Woodland Altars Outdoor Education Center.

I had already met Maureen “Mo” Sullivan, a short, cheerful Nature lover with red hair to match her Irish surname, at Camp Blue Heron a couple of summers before. At camp, she was the long-time Dorm Counselor of the girls. She rarely went on the long canoe trips that I led because her job was to keep life flowing smoothly at the base camp in the backwoods of Ontario. And she did! With Nell, the Director, Belinda the Science Counselor, and the male Dorm Counselors Mike and Alec, she brought a consistent atmosphere of fun and exploration to the campers. Sometimes the outings to the swamp and the garnet quarry and the ice cream shop sounded like so much fun, I wanted to stay at camp so I could go too! Continue reading