Enriching the Lives of Children Through the YMCA

Image: The Henry W. Coe Amphitheater, Courtesy of YMCA Camp Ingersoll on Facebook

Welcome to Live-It-Uary, a place to celebrate life while we live it. Live-It-Uary honors people who show kindness, people who create and inspire, people who do good deeds. Thank you for making the world a better place.

Enriching Lives with the YMCA

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) started back in 1844 and is found in 125 countries. The United States alone boasts more than 2,700 locations nationwide and engages 21 million people each and every year. With a goal to bolster “body, mind, and spirit”, the YMCA inspires communities to live better lives.

Today, YMCAs offer everything from child care to cooking classes to fitness programs. Children and teens can take advantage of summer camps, tutoring, and even mentoring programs while people of all ages can participate in community service and volunteer projects.

Henry W Coe
Image: Henry W. Coe, Courtesy of YMCA Camp Ingersoll on Facebook

I have been fortunate to have the YMCA in my life. My kids go to summer camp at the Y, and they look forward to it all year long. Instead of being bound to screens, they spend time outdoors where they build self-esteem and confidence, where they are active and engaged in new skills and challenges. Better yet, they build lasting friendships and learn the value of teamwork.

The YMCA makes a difference.

The Heart of Camp Ingersoll

It takes someone extra special to take an already great program and make it even greater. That apparently is no problem for Henry Coe who lies at the very heart of Camp Ingersoll in Portland, Connecticut.

Henry, born in 1935, has been involved with the YMCA since 1959. After years of experience with 4H and the Boy Scouts, he took his first camp director role with the Y after graduating from New Haven State Teachers College, now Southern Connecticut University. His years as the director of YMCA Camp Hacen in Chester, CT were no doubt memorable, but his legacy is marked by his contributions as YMCA Camp Ingersoll’s director starting in the 1970s.

At the time, Camp Ingersoll had separate camps for boys and girls, and he was tasked with uniting the camp into a co-ed program. In a transition year that challenged the traditions of the camp, Henry succeeded in bringing people together. It wouldn’t be the first time.

In the 1980s, state inspectors required CPR certification for the staff nurse and water-front directors only. Henry worked with his staff nurse, Eva States, and EMT’s Loraine Coe (his super awesome wife), Dusty Desmusis, and Maureen Turcotte to certify all camp staff in the life-saving resuscitation effort. Setting the standard for what could and should be accomplished, it was not long before all Connecticut state workers were required to be certified in CPR.

inspirational message
Image: Courtesy of YMCA Camp Ingersoll on Facebook

In the 1990s and beyond, Henry introduced novel ideas and programs that not only benefitted his own camp but YMCA camps nationwide. When enrollment appeared to be declining due to a birth of recreational and sports camps in the area, Camp Ingersoll initiated its own specialty camp program, offering half day programs in sports like soccer or golf in conjunction with a half day in traditional camp. Not only that, Henry established a reading program to promote literacy in his campers as well as a scholarship program for staff members working each year. Each of these program initiatives took to the national stage.

YMCA camps all around the country owe you one, Henry!

Building Character Through Camp

Enrolling 94 kids that first co-ed year to more than 600 kids this past year, Camp Ingersoll has grown leaps and bounds, and that could not have happened without the endearing support of its fearless leader. Henry retired as director in 2000, but he remains a staple at the camp. He assists camp directors and remains an active fund raiser volunteer.

It is no wonder that Henry has been honored for his contributions at YMCA Camp Ingersoll. The Henry W. Coe Amphitheater had its dedication ceremony on October 15, 2016, and stands as a tribute to all the good this dedicated teacher has done for children over 50+ years of service.

When I asked Henry what his greatest accomplishment is his quick wit answers “surviving” but then he laughs the reply away with his usual charm. Instead, he says “taking a camp that was very traditional almost to the point of never changing to becoming a state-wide premier YMCA camp for the state of Connecticut”.

One of his greatest joys is seeing how former campers and counselors have found success today. Whether they have become leaders in industry, inventors, teachers, you name it, he knows that camp builds character, that camp provides a foundation for growth and self-betterment. He is proud to have been a part of it.

Oddly enough, Henry almost seems uncomfortable with the accolades. “I was just doing my job. I wasn’t doing this for recognition. I saw a place with great potential and did what I could to expand it.” If I must say so, Henry, if everyone put half the time, effort, and energy you put into everything you do, the world would be a far better place.

Thank you for your service.

The YMCA offers financial aid programs so that kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds can go to summer camp. All children deserve the opportunity to grow and learn. Be sure to check them out!

Website: Camp Ingersoll, https://www.campingersoll.org/

Don’t Show Up Late to Your Own Life

Image: © stuart (Fotolia.com)

Chronically Late to the Party

The White Rabbit always seemed to be running late for something, and Alice, well, she wasn’t too far off herself. Only she never really knew where she was going.

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.”

You may know someone just like that, and let’s face it, you may even be that person. The person who is given a much earlier time for Aunt Susie’s wedding in the hopes that they will actually make it to the ceremony. The person who is so perpetually behind schedule that daylight savings time still exists to give them an extra hour to get where they need to go.

Unless they are real masochists, people are not late on purpose.

Sometimes there are bonafide reasons that someone is late:

  • Their child got appendicitis, and they had to rush him to the hospital.
  • Their dog barfed all over their bag as they were walking out the door.
  • Their plane was delayed on the runway.

Hopefully, if you are picking someone up at the airport, you have the common sense to check the airline arrival times first.

If it happens once, twice, or even three times (three strikes you’re out?), you could give someone the benefit of the doubt. When lateness becomes a habit though, when someone is always late for things that matter to you even after you tell them so, it means something. Sorry to say, it might just be that you are not a priority in their life.

100 Times at Band Camp

My dad was notoriously late. In fact, he was often so late sometimes he didn’t show up at all. I do not mean that he intentionally forgot about me, but they, both my parents, pretty much left me to my own devices a large chunk of the time. I assume that means they trusted me, but growing up, it made me feel less than important.

Take marching band, for example. I was a band geek in high school. I played clarinet and yes, woodwinds are awesome, and no, I do not know anyone who used a piccolo in quite that way.

We had band camp in the late summer, and in the fall we had several practices during the week and competitions on the weekends. Band was not only a serious time commitment, it was my second family. The connections I made with people, the team building, the drive for improvement each and every day, it helped make me the person I am today.

My point is that I loved to be there, even when those practices and competitions kept me out into the wee hours of the night. The problem with not having your own car in high school, outside of the coolness factor, was that I had to rely on my dad to pick me up. More often than not, I would find myself walking the 1.2 miles past a cemetery, a funeral home, a park, and a bar to get home in the pitch of night.

Sure, friends and even my instructors would offer me rides home, but my dad was late to pick me up so often I did not want people to think I was taking advantage of them. I did not want them to feel responsible for me or to eventually resent me or look at me as “that poor girl”. Independent and strong-willed, I usually walked home instead, even if I looked over my shoulder every step of the way.

One time a strange man tried to pull me into his car. I got away and learned a valuable lesson. You have to make yourself a priority, even when others don’t. I accepted more rides from friends after that.

On Time for Your Own Party

My father and I were different people with different priorities. It can be disheartening to see where I landed in those priorities, but I have come to accept it, even as I see how it has affected my view of the world.

For me, being late is hurtful. It is an insult to whoever or whatever you made a promise to. Being on time is a commitment to what really matters to you. If you are so easily distracted, if the satisfaction monkeys that keep you from getting somewhere on time are more important, then where you are going is not really your priority. You made your choice.

Sometimes people will be late. Simply put, there are some things that are out of our control. That appendicitis example? That was my baby brother. He was rushed to the hospital, and my dad forgot to pick me up. Life and death were at stake; I get it.

It is the chronic lateness that raises a question mark. An article actually came out recently that gave praise to chronically late people, calling them hopeful optimists. The author was clearly biased. Refusing to be constrained by timetables, he said these late folks believe they can fit more into less time and they tend to take the time to stop and smell the roses.

What the author failed to remember is what it is like to be on the receiving end of that lateness. While the person who is late may sometimes feel regret or guilt for being late (although there are plenty of people who don’t), there can be consequences for other people.

It is not always about you even when you think it is all about you.

Trust me, I am far from perfect. I am not always on time, although I try my best to be. If I say I am going to be somewhere, I am going to do whatever it takes to be there, satisfaction monkeys be damned. I do not believe that people should be made to feel “less than” because I could not be there for them when I said I would. When I fall behind schedule, when I make mistakes, please know that I tried.

The White Rabbit did not want to be late for a very important date and neither do I.

Work Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Image: Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), Miramax.com

My July 2017 Resolution Stats

(See my original resolutionsJanuaryFebruaryMarchApril, May, and June stats here)

  • Averaged 210+ minutes of exercise per week (v. good, above goal)
  • 2 recipes tried this month (v. good, at goal)
  • 8,000+ written words for the month (v. good, above my 5,000+ goal for all writing projects combined but still not quite at goal for my top secret writing project.)

Go Where You Are Appreciated

One of the highlights in Bridget Jones’s Diary takes place when our heroine quits her job — and her lying, cheating boss (never have an affair at the office!) — to start down another career path. It takes courage to let go and start over. That’s why her resignation speech resonates with us all, women and men alike.

PERPETUA (the trusty co-worker): I want to listen to this because if she gives one inch I’m going to fire her tiny little bottom anyway for being totally spineless.

DANIEL (the manipulative boss): Well, I think you should know there are lots of prospects here for a talented person … lots of prospects for a person who, you know, perhaps for personal reasons, has been slightly overlooked professionally.

BRIDGET (our feisty friend): Thank you, Daniel. That is good to know, but if staying here means working within 10 yards of you, frankly, I’d rather have a job wiping Saddam Hussein’s ass.

If only we could have all addressed an unpleasant boss or two like that in our time. The same goes for any toxic relationship. Tell those users and abusers to go where the sun doesn’t shine.

Some of you may have done just that. Good for you!

Speaking Up for Yourself

Speaking up for ourselves is not always easy. Sometimes we sit back because we think we would get in trouble or that we are failing to live up to expectations. Worse, we think we are not worth more or that we cannot do better.

It’s time to let that sort of thinking go.

One of the great things about Bridget throwing her middle finger up to Daniel Cleaver is the sheer symbolism of it. In that moment, she transitions her career from written media to television. She is literally going to speak out and speak up. She finally has a voice.

In the spirit of Bridget, I have tried my hand at vlogging on Facebook Live these past few months. Okay, to be honest, a friend mentioned the idea to me first, thinking it might be a good way for me to spread my wings. I admit I was hesitant at first, but it has been quite the learning experience.

Don’t get me wrong. Writing is the medium for me, and that’s why my videos are all about the craft of writing. Writing is where I feel free to delve deep into my own thoughts and develop new ideas, where I learn the most about myself. The written word gives me a voice, but sometimes it is nice to pull out a bullhorn to make sure people are listening.

We all deserve to be heard.

Work Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Watching myself on screen is bizarre. People tell me I do “great”, that I look natural and comfortable, but to me, I look about as awkward as awkward can be. My heart races at the speed of light during these videos, and I lose track of my talking points at least once or twice. Toss in a garbled word or two and a few quirky mannerisms, and it may even look like I am drunk.

I can assure you, I drink at most 5-6 drinks a year.

It’s funny because I do plenty of public speaking  — if you are near Windham, New Hampshire on October 4, feel free to check out my free Medicare seminar at the Nesmith Library — and I thrive in front of a crowd. I feed off the energy of people and how they respond to my words. Truth be told, I usually try to rile them up a bit with an interesting factoid. I want them to be as passionate about what I am saying as I am. I want them to take home something new.

For me, there is something magical about a live audience — the eye contact and the reactions. Maybe vlogging is emotionally harder for me, more intimidating, because I cannot see how people are responding to me in the moment. Not knowing if I am hitting or missing makes me anxious. Loss of control and I do not really go hand in hand.

Vlogging is not going to make me a super star, but it continues to push me outside of my comfort zone. It is helping me to grow in new and exciting ways, building my confidence and new skill sets. I may have a lot of room to go but like Bridget, at least I am speaking out.

Will you join me?

Are You Living on Tomorrow Logic?

Image: Ann Reinking and Aileen Quinn in Annie (1982), Columbia Pictures

The Promise of Tomorrow

I grew up on the 1982 film Annie. Like any little girl that year, I learned every lyric and acted out every scene. More floors were probably scrubbed than ever before after that theatrical release! Although the comic strip was created in the 1920s, followed by a radio show and two films in the 1930s, a Broadway musical in the 1970s, and a 2010s film reboot, this iteration is the one nearest and dearest to my heart.

Sorry, Jamie Foxx (Will Stacks, aka “Daddy Warbucks”, in the 2014 film), but I do love Beat Shazam! That show is my jam, but we will save that for another post.

How can you not rally behind a girl who has everything taken from her but finds a way to get the most out of life. Her parents die in a tragic accident, her caregiver abuses her, and criminals manipulate her emotions to make a quick buck. Yet despite it all, she maintains hope that things will get better. She puts on a smile and tackles whatever comes her way.

One of the best scenes in the movie takes place when the poor little orphan with the hard knock life sings “Tomorrow” to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Just thinkin’ about
Clears away the cobwebs
And the sorrow
‘Til there’s none!

In a politically charged room, Annie manages to open minds. She inspires people to work together to change lives for a better tomorrow. I don’t think that would happen today. There is too much partisanship. Not all Presidents care to listen to the struggles of the downtrodden.

Live for Today

Not everyone shares Annie’s perspective, or they interpret what she says the wrong way.

Annie is not pushing things off until tomorrow. That is what I like to call “tomorrow logic”. Tomorrow logic is a slippery slope that can get you into trouble because it delays you from taking action in the present. Worse, it lets you focus on something that has not happened yet and to think that somehow it will come to pass. Tomorrow logic is magical thinking that says everything is going to be okay, everything is going to turn out the way you want, even if you sit back and accept things as they are today.

When you procrastinate, that’s tomorrow logic. When you wallow without taking steps to change your situation, that is tomorrow logic. Why should any of us accept a situation that is less than ideal? This sort of thinking allows for complacency in bad times. It can lead to a life that is unsatisfying, and worse yet, hopeless.

When I’m stuck with a day
That’s gray and lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And grin and say,

That is not what Annie is saying at all.

Annie instead chooses to get down and dirty, and I don’t mean with her chores. She comforts a young orphan by singing to her; she rescues a dog from a group of mean boys; she uses her locket to search for her birth parents; she gets a curmudgeonly old man to open his heart. When she sings to the President about Tomorrow, she is taking charge.

She not only hopes for a better future, she makes a point to do something about it NOW.

Today Is Yesterday’s Tomorrow

If today isn’t what you hoped it would be, it is likely your tomorrow logic failed you. When will you take action to get what you want? In what version of the future — today, tomorrow, next week — will you finally step up?

Hint: Today is always the best day to start.

The sun’ll come out
So ya gotta hang on
‘Til tomorrow
Come what may.

The world is an unpredictable place, and how you react sets the stage for success. Annie succeeds because she lives in the moment and uses that moment to build a better future.

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya, Tomorrow!
You’re only a day away!

Tomorrow has every opportunity to be great, but only if you make it happen. When you live an intentional life, you can color the world any way you please. Today, tomorrow, and always.

Running Down a Dream in Your 90s

Image: Harriette Thompson at the 2017 San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (Paul Nestor/Competitor Group)

Welcome to Live-It-Uary, a place to celebrate life while we live it. Live-It-Uary honors people who show kindness, people who create and inspire, people who do good deeds. Thank you for making the world a better place.

Beating the Odds

There are people who dream and people who do. Harriette Thompson falls into the latter group.

The now 94-year-old woman is a force of nature. A former concert pianist, she performed at Carnegie Hall three times. She knows what it takes to dedicate herself to a craft. She knows the endless hours of practice, the hard work, the sheer determination it takes to get the job done.

She also knows what it takes to survive. Diagnosed with cancer of the palate in 1987, she beat the disease. She has since faced a second cancer diagnosis, this one of the skin, requiring a slew of radiation treatments.

Don’t think this stopped her from taking regular exercise classes and walking up to 4 miles daily. Instead of focusing on her own illness, Harriette uses her time and energy to do something more courageous. She runs for charity. She runs to fight leukemia and lymphoma.

Running for a Cause, Not Applause

In 1999, Harriette found herself at the starting line of the San Diego Rock N’ Roll Marathon. At 76 years old, that would be her first marathon, and she did it on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. At first, she thought she would “walk” a marathon for charity, but in true Harriette fashion, her enthusiasm took over. She would run 15 marathons between 1999 and 2015.

That last one was a world record breaker. At 92 years old, not only was she the oldest woman to ever complete a marathon, she finished the marathon in 7 hours, 7 minutes, and 42 seconds, shattering the world record time for a woman 90 years or older. The old record? It was set by Gladys”Gladyator” Burrill at the 2010 Honolulu Marathon at 9 hours, 53 minutes, and 16 seconds.

Not only did Harriette break the world record by more than 2 hours and 45 minutes, she did it after undergoing radiation treatment for her cancer just 4 weeks before the race.

At 94 years old, Harriette is no longer running marathons, but she still puts on those running shoes. On June 4, she was the oldest woman to complete a half marathon, again in San Diego. She finished the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in 3 hours, 42 minutes, and 56 seconds, and to date, she has raised more than $115,000 for her charity.

It’s Never Too Late to Start

Harriette Thompson is a true inspiration. She has found something she enjoys in life, and she uses that enthusiasm to better herself and the lives of others. Through sheer fortitude and grit, she takes life one mile at a time, and let’s face it, more likely than not, she outruns many people you know.

It goes to show that age is just a number. What you can achieve is not limited by your birth year or even your health in many cases. What drives us is the mental stamina to get things done. It is a mindset that you can accomplish anything, that you can reach your goals, step by precious step.

What we need to do is take advantage of our talents and live life to the fullest.

Make the world a better place.

Thank you, Harriette Thompson, for teaching us that valuable life lesson.