Saturday, July 27, 2013

silly gals

The trip to Mexico was for and about the girls. Lisa and I followed along and simply enjoyed the company of five great teenaged girls who handled themselves with poised maturity. Lisa and I were able to relax and, well, get silly at times. More silly than might befit women our age.

Again, I'll let some photos tell the story. I ain't proud! And Lisa, I hope you aren't, either.

Not even in focus, but this makes me laugh!

On the turi-bus in Mexico City

It rained. And was windy. We bought ponchos for pesos.
Lisa being a sport.
 What a blast. Last post: at the pyramids and heading home!

Friday, July 26, 2013


A stay at Our Cabana is more than sightseeing. Each troop who visits prepares for a service project to carry out while there. We helped with a one-day event with about 75 children in a program called Vamos. The children come by bus to the Cabana for the day and enjoy games, crafts, lunch and playtime with the Girl Scouts and Guides.

the children arrive!

I don't think my words can describe the experience better than my photos, so I'll let them speak. Even with a language barrier, our girls spent an amazing day serving these disadvantaged children.


Sam helping a little girl make a peace bracelet.

Emily and friend

Game time

The swings were popular: many children had never been on one.

Saying goodbye with tears

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

more of Mexico

Five amazing girls: Katie, Hannah, Lindsay, Emily, Sam,
at the cathedral in Cuernavaca
Our second full day in Mexico we toured the bustling city of Cuernvaca. It had grown to over a million people and, in fact, Our Cabana is now inside the city. Thirty years ago, it sat at the edge of town. We toured the 500-year-old cathedral, wandered the markets and enjoyed cafe con leche together at a cafe.

Love, love Taxco (pronounced tahs-co), a silver-mining center way up in the mountains.

touring beautiful Taxco

This wasn't just a trip: preparation was everything. We worked for nearly two years with the girls in our troop who committed to the Cabana trip. I have a notebook filled with proof of their hard work. They planned their uniforms and tie-dyed special t-shirts. They planned crafts for service projects, practiced Spanish, and role played with each other. And of course they earned lots of money. Since none of the girls had extensive, if any, international travel experience, I shared with them the importance of representing themselves, their country and Girl Scouting to their very best. And wow did they come through! 

My co-leader Lisa and I were so proud of our girls. They made friends. They laughed, they embraced every new experience: food, bargaining in the markets, serving disadvantaged children, long bus rides, and climbing pyramids. They didn't whine or grumble. They just soaked it all in and rolled with the punches.

Sam and Katie in Tepotzlan
Cabana's craft house: popular spot!
This "perfect, 5 seats!" in the back of the bus created a bit of
motion sickness!

I gazed down this hallway for a minute. In 1976, I walked it many times a day ... my room was about halfway down: a simple dorm-type room where I lived that summer. Lots of memories and
lots of years between then and now.

More to come ...

Monday, July 22, 2013

vamos a México! - 2

In January 1976, my junior year of college, I applied for a summer job at Our Cabaña. When the letter of acceptance arrived (no e-mail then of course), I excitedly began planning for three months in Mexico as waterfront director at Our Cabaña.. I was 21 and before me lay a summer of incredible learning and growing.

In 1976, the Cabaña was nearing her 20th anniversary. As I stepped through the Chief's door with my girls thirty years later, I marveled at the Cabaña's timeless beauty and architecture, a testament to the foresight of those who designed her. The dormitories, (above), dining hall, Mixcoacalli (gathering spot for programs) and gardens were still lovingly well-kept.

see Lisa waving?

The craft house, a popular spot where girls and adults can work on Mexican crafts such as amate (bark) painting.

It was this very spot where my emotions overcame me in 2006. Memories of the summer here washed over me: flying alone to Mexico and navigating Mexico City, learning to lead groups on excursions, quickly picking up some Spanish, battling homesickness, and doing all my laundry by hand in a tub with washboard. This, mixed with the realization of how the years had marched on and changed me: marriage, raising 4 children, and losing my mother (my biggest cheerleader to take the job) just three years after that summer. And travel fatigue ... oh I was a mess and my deep emotions took me by complete surprise. I think my daughter Katie was baffled by my tears!

dining hall and pool .... love this spot, unchanged in 30 years
Our first day was spent settling in, learning names and the ins and outs of Cabaña living, games, and meals. There's always plenty to do at Our Cabaña and just enough free time. Similar to Girl Scout camp back home, girls pitch in for "kapers," the jobs of community living: table setting, meal serving, flag ceremony, and keeping their living areas neat.

girls in a getting acquainted activity

fun with my patrol

 flag ceremony: held each morning and evening

I've discovered many forgotten details of the trip in the journal I kept.
Tomorrow: sightseeing!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

vamos a México!!

The trip took two years of planning: money-earning, planning weekends, and countless e-mails. Seven years ago this very moment, I was in Mexico with five teenaged Girl Scouts: Emily, Hannah, Katie, Lindsay and Sam, and my co-leader Lisa. Since this blog was still two years down the road, I got thinking about that trip and wanted to share with you.

Hannah, Katie and Emily on the flight to Mexico.
We flew to Mexico City via Charlotte on July 12, 2006. We met in my driveway at 4:00 a.m. all decked out in our Girl Scout uniforms. Perhaps not the first choice of teenaged girls, but they soon discovered their uniforms to be a passport in themselves.

Beginning at the Columbus airport, people noticed. The TSA worker commented on how great the girls looked. Two men in first class struck up a conversation as we boarded. Women in restrooms or waiting in line shared their fond Girl Scout memories. Flight attendants commented and asked the girls where we were headed.

I'm convinced that this attention while in uniform caused the girls to hold their heads high and be on their very best behavior. They ranged in age from 15 - 17 and they were awesome for the entire trip.

After a long day of travel, we arrived in Cuernavaca, Mexico at Our Cabaña, our home for the next ten days. Our Cabaña is an international program center for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Opened in 1957, she has welcomed thousands of girls and adults through her doors. Participants live dormitory-style with girls from around the world. They do everything together for their session: eat, do service projects, sightsee and learn about each other and Mexico's culture.

Posing by the pool at Our Cabana
As all visitors do, we entered Our Cabaña through the "Chief's door," emblazoned with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts' trefoil symbol in blue and gold. The moment I entered and stood overlooking the well-kept buildings and grounds, I burst into tears.

This was, after all, not my first visit to Our Cabaña. Exactly thirty years had passed since I had been here, and emotions overwhelmed me.

with daughter Katie at the Chief's door

mealtime at Our Cabaña
Next post ... sights, service and some silliness while in Mexico!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

century before last

It blows my mind that all my grandparents were born in the 1800's - the century BEFORE last! My paternal grandmother was born 118 years ago today in White County, Arkansas. Ona Kate Lanier, the 10th of 12 children born to John and Martha Lanier, grew up in Searcy, Arkansas and carved a career for herself.

My grandmother married a widower with two sons and had just one child, my father. She became a teacher, then a school principal and a stern one at that. From early on, I heard rumors that Ona Kate Lanier was as tough as they came in the world of school authorities. This knowledge put in me a little fear of my grandmother. That, added to her business-like nature, and I never felt a closeness to her.

But now I wish I'd asked "Memaw" about her young years in Arkansas. What she did for fun. How it was with so many siblings. What country life was like without cars, televisions, and electricity. How did she decide to go to college, and how did she afford it?

I know Memaw put a high value on education and was a great fan of  Mark Twain and Robert Frost. Once when she visited us in Connecticut, we took her to tour Mark Twain's home in Hartford. How that fascinated her. Perhaps it is from her that I  inherited a love of all things literary.

Memaw might have been stern, and undoubtedly applied firm discipline to my father, but lately he's been asking about his "mama," a term I never heard him use.

Happy birthday, Memaw. If only you could meet your great great-grandchildren via Skype!

Memaw with my son Dan in 1987.
She died a couple months later at age 91.