FRO-BACK FRIDAY: My Husband, the Camper



Yesterday my husband, Richard, neatly folded his clothes and then packed them in his duffle in accordance with the color wheel from left to right. I’m sure his whites were packed in their own Ziploc. He left for Minocqua, Wisconsin for the weekend to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Camp Kawaga for Boys with Braves of the Kawaga Nation of all ages.

Years ago he’d board a bus for the eight-hour drive, but he’s had a driver’s license for 37 years, so I let him take a car.

Some people, especially people from camp, don’t know his name is Richard because they’ve only known him by his nickname, “Murray.” So, to avoid confusion, I’ll just refer to him as Murray from this point on.

Leslie and Murray c. 1975, just before Murray left for camp that summer
Leslie and Murray c. 1975, just before Murray left for camp that summer

I’ve been Mrs. Murray for nearly 28 years but have known him since we were 14 years old. Throughout high school we dated during the school year, and then he’d leave for camp. Our relationship was on the same schedule as my parents’ plumber: It would heat up in the fall when he came to check the boiler, and cool off in the summer when he’d check the air conditioning.   

It took years for me to understand his love of camp because my camp experiences resembled a stay at Alcatraz.


“The Rock”

Murray was a camper, then a CIT (counselor in training), who eventually became a counselor. I, too, was once a camper, then a CWST (camper-with-strep-throat) who, after spending two summers at two different camps, eventually convinced her parents that she was not a happy camper.

Murray enjoyed learning new skills such as archery, riflery, canoeing, and waterskiing. I enjoyed writing home to Mom and Dad, begging them to take me home.

Murray learned to become a real man at camp, earning and receiving a sacred Indian name. I learned what it was like to have breasts at an early age when no one else had them.

Murray swam the bay. I broke out into hives from the lake water.

Murray credits his camp experiences with helping him become the honest, self-assured, organized person he is today. I credit camp with giving me my first panic attack.

Murray lives by the principles he learned at camp. Camp instilled in him good values, a keen sense of fairness, and unrivaled sliver-removal techniques. I guess there were a few things camp taught me, as well, such as always have money in your canteen account for candy bars, jumping on the trampoline is fun, and going home was the best day of my life.

camp kawagan



While most of the Kawaga Braves will spend this weekend in cabins on the campgrounds,




Kids having fun outside their rustic cabins









Murray, and a few other campers-of-a-certain-age will be in a cabin at The Beacons Lakefront Resort and Suites. They will be roughing it though, when they walk into and out of camp each day.

Beacons cabin
A cabin at The Beacons


Beacons room_n
Inside view of a cabin at The Beacons





beacons pool_n
The indoor pool at The Beacons

Murray used to love roughing it. Now he prefers roughage. His brother tries to get him to go on a camping trip with their cousins every year, going as far as finding a campground with a port-a-potty. He told his brother, “I don’t care if there’s a port-a-Hilton. I’m not going.”

My, how things have changed. But some haven’t. Murray still gets a thrill when doing cabin inspections. He carries a clipboard and wears a whistle around his neck every Saturday morning at 0800, but the kids and I will have none of it. We don’t care if we earn an ice cream cone for having the cleanest room; we can go get our own.

He found a letter that had been sent to his parents, written by his counselor, that said, “While not a gifted athlete, he tries hard and is rewarded for his efforts. He is brilliant at organizing and running a cabin.” He was 11.  Since I don’t have the letter in front of me, I’m hoping he’ll comment with the exact wording because it’s priceless, and so true.

I hope the Kawaga Braves are having a great time together, celebrating this truly unique, and amazing milestone in history. I also hope Murray brought what his mother refers to as “his $5,000 Kawaga jacket” because it can get cold at night in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

But I don’t know why I’d give his gear a second thought; after all, he’s the one who makes packing lists for our family when we go out of town. And, rumor has it, he made the packing list for his fellow Braves for this weekend.

Happy anniversary, Kawaga! Men, have fun this weekend, but remember how old you are, and be careful during your activities. I can’t help it! I’m a Jewish mother. And, Murray, the kids and I will do our best to make sure you come home to a cabin inspection worthy of an ice cream cone.


For the history of Camp Kawaga, please click this link:





You Must be Joking

`photoI know. It’s April Fool’s Day so you’re probably sick of jokes, pranks, and being on the receiving end of a donkey while holding a shovel.

Before I share A Few Good Jokes (how different would that movie have been if that were the title?) I thought I’d share one of my most embarrassing moments, and there are many.

Richard was an Assistant Director at Camp Kawaga for Boys, where he had previously been a camper, CIT, counselor, and later a founding member of the Alumni Association. All four of us went to camp for most of the summer once or twice until it became obvious that Richard’s plan to be an assistant director did not involve being there with an assistant family.

But, I did get to hang out with his camp buddies, who I love, when they’d come up to camp for a weekend here or there. And, yes, I still love you, Woogie, even after I totally believed you when you told me, “They took the word ‘gullible’ out of the dictionary because it was too hard for people to spell.”

That’s enough humiliation at my expense for one day. Let the blogging commence:

I unloaded paper towels, toilet paper, granola, and two three-pound bags of Gummy Bears from my cart onto the conveyor belt at Target one night. Then I handed the checkout woman, Loretta, a Mountain Dew, and a chocolate chip Clif Bar and told her, “I’ll just take these with me to go. Ya know, it’s the Dinner of Champions.”

Loretta laughed and said, “You’re funny!”

I hadn’t had a particularly fun day, nor was I in a particularly funny mood, but Loretta made my day not because she said I was funny, but because she could tell I needed to hear a few jokes.

She told me she had just heard these jokes from her daughter. After she told me the first joke I asked how old her daughter was, thinking she was probably six. She said that she was 21, which caused us each to expel a few chortles.

As if on cue, her daughter who also worked at Target, walked up to the cash register and said, “Mom, you’re not telling those jokes, are you?” Loretta and I burst out laughing.

After her daughter left and Loretta was bagging up my purchases she told me the other two jokes, but could barely get them out because she was laughing so hard she was having trouble talking.

Loretta and I laughed out loud after each joke, and I had to wipe tears from my eyes by the time she was finished. I thanked her for brightening my day and told her if I couldn’t remember the jokes I’d be back so she could repeat them so I could write them down.

I left the store in a much better mood than when I got there but as I loaded up my car I realized I could only remember one of the jokes. I really wanted to know all three jokes so I decided to go right back in the store instead of coming back another day hoping to find Loretta.

I locked the car and pushed the “notes” icon on my trusty iPhone as I walked back into the store. Whenever someone says something I want to remember, which happens at least three times a day, I write it down and keep it saved for just the right moment.

When my friend Liz used the phrase “she had a bitchy resting face” to describe a saleswoman at a shoe store, I said, “Wait! Wait! Don’t say another word until I write that down!”

See? Aren’t you glad to know that phrase?

Anyway, I walked back into the store and saw a long line of people waiting to checkout in Loretta’s aisle. I just kind of slid in and waited at the end of the checkout lane next-door to hers so as not to interrupt her while she was working. But she saw me behind her and immediately laughed so hard she bent over and grabbed some Kleenex to wipe the tears streaming down her cheeks. “I can’t believe you came back,” she said between giggles.

I told her I didn’t want to disturb her while she was working. The last thing I wanted was for Loretta to get in trouble either with customers or her supervisor. I was very aware that it was nine o’clock on a Wednesday night and the people in line probably just wanted to buy their paper towels, toilet paper, granola, Gummy Bears, and go home.

Like two spies speaking in code, she bagged up the items people had purchased and I kept an eye out for anyone who seemed to be getting impatient. When the coast seemed clear she quickly and quietly repeated the jokes and I tapped them into my iPhone. No one seemed to notice or was bothered by our covert operation. I got the goods, thanked her, and left. I heard her laughing as I exited the store.

So, without further ado, or not telling you at all and playing a really crummy April Fool’s joke on you, here are the jokes:

1. How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?

10 tickles.

2. What does a nosy pepper do?

It gets jalapeño business.

3. What do you call a fake noodle?

An impasta.

Maybe those aren’t the funniest jokes ever, but they sure got me laughing and kept me laughing for days as I repeated them. Of course I had to check my iPhone notes because I couldn’t remember them, but that’s nothing new. I forget things all the time.

But, I’ll never forget that the word “gullible” is still in the dictionary because I looked it up back then at camp…and again tonight, just to be sure.

Have a great day, and don’t believe everything you hear!