On Retreat

Leaving beautiful NYC today.


I need a minute to unwind with a magazine or a walk or a good long conversation with a friend. (Or even the discovery of a cozy quiet corner to go back to work on my big project.)

When my kids were little, my friend K.P. told me that every year she tried to get away for a retreat – I think she mentioned Kirpalu. But the expense!

When I was on salary as a staff writer, biz trips served as a retreat in a way. I could focus solely on work. I didn’t have to cook meals or clean up.

I don’t really travel for work anymore, living the freelance life. So I’ve joined the lovely St. Paul and St. Andrew community for a day apart.

Here are some pics from Quinipet on Shelter Island.





Camping on Fire Island

Why can’t life be more like camping?

I took the darlings camping to Fire Island this weekend. We got there via subway, commuter rail, a ferry ride and a long walk.

We left NYC on a crowded, rush-hour Long Island

finding shade

Railroad. Four hours later, we were sitting around a picnic table near our tents, listening to singing birds in a bush and roasting S’mores.

As I pushed our canvas cart through Penn Station, (Deliver me not into Penn Station!) balancing backpack and toppling cooler , one of my darlings said, “You look like a homeless woman.” Knowing Lorenza Andrade Smith who is beautiful, kind and homeless, I took this remark to be a badge of honor.

In my own defense, we used or ate every single thing we brought. Admittedly, the journey to the campsite was not as much fun as the experience at the campsite.

Once there, the best parts were:

  • the empty early morning beach
  • watching my son go for a run on the beach
  • diving into the frigid Atlantic on a steamy day. And once in the wave, having that momentary panic of not knowing which way was up!
  • a cold shower in the communal bathhouse
  • seeing the antlers of a deer emerge under the boardwalk
  • in the shine of our flashlight, catching a glimpse of a fox running from our site
  • on the middle-of-the-night bathroom run, meeting a father and son with lanterns who followed a toad wherever it led
The worst parts were:
  • mosquitoes
  • mosquitoes
  • mosquitoes
My take-aways:
  • Nature is incredible
  • Find shade
  • You don’t need your iPhone to be happy (the kids left their phones at home!)
  • My kids are awesome
  • We need each other
  • We can lean on each other

The whole camping experience had an Outward-Bound bonding experience for the four of us. We were resourceful. Of course, the kids bickered, which usually drives me crazy, but they also engaged in long conversations and activities, such as counting one another’s mosquito bites, which I think, numbered 72. Seriously. (And we were using strong insect repellent!)

As usal, we couldn’t have done it without our friends.

  • The aforementioned Lorenza Andrade Smith who inspired us to camp
  • Our church’s Boy Scout troop and the Scout Mistress Louisa Anderson who lent us the three tents
  • Joanna Parson who encouraged us and was going to join us but instead got theater work and gave us her campsite (So we had bedrooms and a dining room/kitchen)

Maybe life is like camping — a lot of work, a lot of fun, and too much sun.

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Why Was Our Senator at the Beach today?

I was suggesting the girls take one last trip to the women’s room before we drove home from Jones Beach. That’s when I spotted the senator on the boardwalk. I was thrilled.

“Hey, that’s our guy,” I said to my husband Chris. “What’s his name again?”

“Chuck Schumer,” Chris said.

“Right. Kids, let’s meet our senator — Chuck Schumer.”

We shook hands. I snapped a picture. He asked, “What’s your name?

“Catherine Jones.”

“And is this Mrs. Jones?” he asked me.

“Actually, it’s Ms. Coudal, but whatever.” I mumbled.

“Nice to meet you.”

Then we moved on. I commented that he was taller in person. We stopped at the bathroom. We spun some wheel to get a free pair of sunglasses at a bank give-away.

We left the boardwalk and then saw the senator again. How did he get ahead of us? He was chatting with another family. Now there were  young men standing near him holding up signs, “Meet Senator Schumer.”

“Oh we love him. He’s our guy,” I told the young men.

We went and said, “Hi!” again to Senator Schumer. I blurted out. “Hey, we love the president. And we love you.” I totally interrupted his schmooze-fest with this other family. He was saying the family’s name — it was an Italian name — and he knew someone that they were related to. If you’re a politician, I guess you know people.

He turned his attention to us. “Hey the Joneses! You’ve got an easy name.” We snapped another picture.

I will try to remember our senator’s name next time I see him. Just like he remembered mine — while not mine exactly. But my family’s name.