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The ridiculously terrible mother-daughter camping trip that taught me when to let go.

One woman's Mother's Day tribute to her strong, nonconforming mom.

The ridiculously terrible mother-daughter camping trip that taught me when to let go.
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Mothers Everywhere

I’m not sure if it was my idea to join Girl Scouts or if it was my mother’s.

In September 1998, I was starting fourth grade in a new school, and I was really looking forward to rebranding myself. Small and shy, I had enjoyed origami club at my old school, and I spent my weekends reading "Little House on the Prairie." But faced with a whole new peer group to befriend, I determined that I should be less of a "weirdo."

I quickly picked up that in our new town, playing sports was the quickest route to popularity and a sense of belonging. But given my size and aversion to running, I quickly ruled that out as a viable option. Some of the cool girls were joining Girl Scouts, though, and I loved nature.


Image via iStock.

My mother is an artist and a wholly sophisticated person.

Before my brother and I arrived, she worked in fashion: living in Greenwich Village and flying to Paris and Milan for runway shows. While she raised us, she designed and painted textiles from our home, taking the train into Brooklyn for painting seminars on the weekends.

My mother’s studio in 1996. Photo by the author, used with permission.

I spent most of my early years playing on the floor of her studio, surrounded by art supplies from Pearl Paint (RIP), rummaging through her sketchbooks and fabric swatches.

For my mother, and for me, fitting into our new suburban town did not come naturally.

It seemed like everyone else’s dad worked on Wall Street, and everyone else’s mom drove a Chevy Suburban. The town had three separate soccer leagues: one recreational, one school-run, and one competitive. Later, in my angsty teenage years, I would not be able to imagine why my parents chose to move to such a homogenous, boring place.

Of course, I know now that every single thing my parents did between 1985 and 2010 was for my benefit. My mother saw the good schools and the safe neighborhoods and resigned herself to coexisting with J.Crew-clad peers for the next decade. But at 9 years old, I was determined to fit in — come hell or high water.

The first official Girl Scout trip of the 1998-1999 school year was to Hershey, Pennsylvania.

We were going to visit the amusement park, see how Hershey kisses were made, and most importantly, camp next to an actual river. I had lucked into bunking with three extremely popular girls, and my excitement level was high. If my mom was less enthused about the trip, she didn’t let on, but she was concerned about the weather — there was heavy rain predicted all weekend.


Photo via iStock.

While the three other girls packed their sleeping bags into my mom’s car, she talked to the troop leader about the impending downpour headed our way and got the brush off: We weren’t worried about a little rain! We were Girl Scouts. We would tough it out. Not wanting to be alarmist, my mother decided to go with the flow.

I don’t remember much about the amusement park or how Hershey kisses are made, but I do remember what a lime green Girl Scouts of America tent looks like as it gets washed away in a flash flood.

The campsite “next to a river” turned out to be in a literal river basin. By day two of our trip, it became apparent that the rain was going to be a little more than we’d bargained for. After a soggy lunch on the second day, we returned to find the campsite in very different conditions than when we’d left. The peaceful green river was now muddy and brown, surging, and full of debris.

Photo via iStock.

The water in our camp was knee-high, and as everyone scrambled to move their possessions to higher ground, my mother registered two things: The river was already lapping over the sides of the only bridge out of there and the campsite closest to it was completely underwater.

She made an executive decision: We were done going with the flow; the flow was now a whitewater rapid.

As a tent from the campsite next-door bobbed away downriver, my mom threw me and my backpack into her car and peeled out of the parking lot in her Swedish sports car.

Somewhere in her rearview mirror, a group of blonde women in Hunter boots and North Face fleeces continued “toughing it out.”

They all survived, of course. Apparently camps were assembled in a nearby parking lot, and it amuses me now to imagine what the rest of the trip must’ve looked like. I picture 20 soggy 9-year-olds camping between SUVs, their mothers resolutely singing the Girl Scout smile song over the sounds of a raging river, never conceding defeat.

I spent another four years trying to get mean girls who played sports to like me before I transitioned seamlessly into the aforementioned angsty teenager phase.

But I’m fairly certain that for my mother the charade ended in that very moment, while dragging a 10-year-old and her pink sleeping bag through knee-deep amusement park water.

She was just plain out, and she gave not one thought to the opinions of others in that moment.

It took me another decade or so of growing up to understand the real lesson in my mother's decision during that camping trip.

We’re always taught to never give up — “don’t be a quitter” — but honestly, what does “not giving up” look like in a flash flood?

When you’re slogging it out, giving something your all, don’t you ever stop and think, "Even if I could eventually break through this brick wall with my bare hands, do I really want to spend the next five years clawing at it?"

I suppose it depends on what’s on the other side, but sometimes I really think it takes a stronger person to back up, redirect, and choose a new goal. It’s something my mother does well and something I wish I did better.

These days, when I’m staring at the proverbial brick wall, trying to figure out why it still doesn’t like me, I try to recall the look on my mother’s face as she watched that tent float away downriver.

And I laugh, and remember that sometimes it’s just not worth it.

Pre trick-or-treating 1998, just after realizing that everyone else was going as a Spice Girl. Hand-made costume by my mother, of course.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."