In early August, I spent an amazing week immersed in music and creativity at SummerSongs, the annual retreat/camp that literally and completely changed my life 12 years ago.

That year, in 2004, I had to be convinced by several people that it was okay to give myself a week in the woods celebrating creativity. My Dad had just died two weeks before, and I was held together by an invisible string. I certainly didn’t feel strong enough to dive into a room of 100 strangers. And, for those of you who know me well, you’ll know that I don’t often go anywhere with the word “camp” in the title. I’m a Marriott gal! But, how could I have known at the time the beautiful gifts that SummerSongs would give me because I was open to a new experience?

Love and music rushed in to fill the hollow places carved out by sorrow. I’ve made lifelong friends from attending that camp, friends who have become my extended family. I’ve honed my songwriting chops. I am easier on myself, finding the ability to find humor in stressful or challenging situations.

This year, I was honored to be a mentor and coach at this amazing songwriting camp, founded by my dear friend Penny Nichols. I loved the new location at Stony Point Center, with its many programs that focus on interfaith and several young people from different cultures who live there and share dialog, all working for peace and understanding.