Public Articles Home » Browse Public Articles » An Interview with Andee and Tom from Serenity Mountain Retreat

An Interview with Andee and Tom from Serenity Mountain Retreat

Article

As part of ANW's want to enhance understanding and appreciation of naturism we are sharing a selection of articles and interviews with ANW members exploring naturism around the world. ANW believes in safeguarding naturism with a genuine, healthy and respectful approach to social nudity and in doing so has an ever growing membership of friendly and appropriate users.

We also believe that naturism unites us and connects us. Beyond national boundaries, age, gender, religion sexual orientation and culture. These articles aim to show our connect through our mutual respect and understanding of social nudity. Inspiring people to get involved with naturism and the various naturist opportunities the world has to offer. 

We welcome Andee and Tom from Serenity Mountain Retreat, Oregon, United States.

 

 
 
1. Share a bit about your backgrounds, your local club and your positions/experience in naturism and the AANR.
 

Tom and Andee live 40 miles outside of Portland, OR. USA at their home club of Serenity Mountain Retreat. They’ve been members there for around eight years and have a 600 sq. ft. cabin there. Tom is Grounds Chair and spends many long days taking care of any projects that need done from road care to rebuilding cabins. He works on electrical issues to all kinds of other building projects like our community deck and a bocce ball court. Basically when he is there, if something needs done, he does it. His next endeavor is to build a wood-fired pizza oven for the community to use. Andee served on the board first as a member-at-large, then vice president and eventually taking over as president for the last four years. We were asked several years ago to be SMR’s delegate for AANR Northwest. Andee became the official delegate with voting rights but Tom is also able to give any input or suggestions he would like during meetings. AANR Northwest is where we really learned about just what AANR is all about and felt so strongly about what they are doing for the naturist that we have been happy to serve in several capacities since. Together we have created a few flyers that provide information about AANR, AANR NW and all of the Northwest clubs. Andee also created, in collaboration with many other women, a body positivity brochure that has been distributed widely throughout the clubs. 

 
 2. Tell me about last year's WOW campaign.
 
Excited and terrified were my first reactions when Mitch appointed me as WINR Chair last year. The idea of helping women, across the entire country, was beyond exciting, but I couldn't fathom how to support all those women. For months I worried about accomplishing that task. The voice in my head told me I would be a miserable failure. Then while watching one of my favorite movies, Calendar Girls, I thought, “Well heck yes; we can take that even one step further. As nudists, we don’t have to stand creatively behind fruit or cinnamon buns. We can be fully nude if we choose.” With that in mind, the WOW (Women One Word) concept was born. 
 
The idea was to take a photo of yourself and add a word somewhere on your body describing what being a nudist has done for you. I asked the WINR chairs to pitch the idea in their regions and see if we could gather some brave women to launch the campaign. Linda Weber was the first to jump on board as was Kathy Watzel, all while on the Bare Necessities Cruise. To get the project started I took several photos standing in four inches of snow at my home club, Serenity Mountain Retreat, just outside Estacada, Oregon. On the first day of March, I posted my photo with the word Advocate painted on my side. I also wrote a short story explaining its meaning. It went out across social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, A Naturist Hub, A Naturist World, MeWe, and onto the website womeninnuderecreation.com. I posted another photo and story each day as submissions came in. Some very powerful and heartbreaking stories came out of this project and the more stories that were featured, the more women decided they wanted to participate. There were so many submissions I had to extend the campaign beyond March. I even had one submission from Anna, who hosts A Naturist World, and lives in England. How amazing that the campaign was reaching people on a different continent. Another fun fact, Anna’s photo is the silhouette on the front cover of the calendar. Well over half a million engagements were made during the March campaign. That number steadily continues to climb as more and more people read and react to the photos and stories.
 
Once the daily work of posting the WOW photos was nearly complete, I began organizing the photos into a calendar. At the spring board meeting in the Northwest I shared how well the campaign was going and that I’d started creating a calendar. I wasn’t sure how to make that venture come to life but really wanted to continue sharing these powerful messages. Margie Cantlon asked me, “Andee, do you feel this calendar would continue to educate people and empower women?” “Absolutely,” I replied. “Then apply for an Education Foundation Grant,” which is exactly what I did. They considered my idea and unanimously supported it. In fact Al Gilewicz, Education Foundation Chair, was one of the first ones to say he’d buy one. Fun fact, he wound up buying 20. 
 
As for the women who participated, this experience has been one they will not soon forget. Jenny told me, “Personally, this experience pushed me to engage in some intense self- reflection, searching for a word that not only resonated with me but also captured the essence of my innermost self.” "Being included as one of the women represented in the WOW campaign meant a lot to me, personally. As the only transgender woman depicted in the WOW campaign, what struck me the most was the feeling of inclusion and acceptance.
Being allowed to participate reassured me that AANR is indeed a safe space for LGBTQ people such as myself ... and it made me feel more comfortable with simply 'being myself'”, said a thankful Ceera explaining her participation in the project shared that, “Being a part of the WOW campaign really gave me an opportunity to slow down and drop in deeply within to ask myself to truly be vulnerable and see how empowering that can actually be. So I asked the little girl, the young lady, the teenager, the young adult, the healer/soldier/warrior, the mother in me, and the woman I am today what each wanted/needed from me or hoped to get out of the empoweringly vulnerable act of being fully nude without apology or fear of harm. Many answers came from each part of me but overall and resoundingly from each part of my being was the need to feel that I have sovereignty over my own body and can claim it as my own. Everyday I have felt and continue to feel little parts of me believe and then know that that this body is mine and no others. For I am the sovereign being who animates this magnificently imperfect, perfectly in process, and still learning human that I am today and can be tomorrow.``
 
My goal was empowering and encouraging women, across the nation, to love themselves just as they are with the focus on women only but as Salina pointed out, “This campaign is also helpful for men to understand the struggles and accomplishments a woman goes through when she is completely vulnerable to the world, her family and most importantly, herself.” I hadn’t considered how the calendar would impact men.
However, on a recent trip to Lake Bronson Club Family Nudist Park in the Northwest, one gentleman thanked me for the calendar. He showed it to a female friend who has a prominent scar from sternum to belly button. She has been hesitant to go nude because of
it. As she looked through the pages and saw the women of all shapes, ages, races, and especially those with scars, she looked at him and said, “I am going to rock this scar.” Tears flowed immediately down my face and as he hugged me tightly, he thanked me again for what the calendar is doing for women.
 
 
3. Tell us about the tour and what you wanted to achieve.
 
Tom and I talked about getting out of the snow and rain in Portland, OR., and traveling South for the winter. We wanted to visit as many other clubs in the AANR community as we could. I said, “How amazing would it be if I could speak at the clubs we visited.” And so the concept was born. I ran it by the WINR group I meet with regularly and they thought it sounded like a great idea. Community, Camaraderie, Connection - By sharing my story, I hope to connect on many levels with women who have gone through similar experiences as mine.
My entire life I’ve never felt good enough; I was always lacking. I was told I was ugly and worthless. Surprisingly, becoming a nudist helped me love myself and attain a mental well- being I never thought possible. When we share our stories, in essence baring our souls, we create a connection which creates a community of women who have strong bonds. We also have a great time getting to know each other which is where the camaraderie comes in.
Additionally, I am asking each club we visit to establish a WINR group, many of which existed in years past. My hope is to revive that practice for two important reasons. First, to get women together to encourage each other on a regular basis. This builds connection
through camaraderie. As more groups are added I’ll list them on the womeninnuderecreation.com website and create an email thread and/or Google doc where we can share ideas of different things to do together: walking, painting, water aerobics, wine, knowledge, and always conversation. As I hear about other already established WINR groups, I’ll add them to the website.
 
The second reason for having a WINR group at your club is to encourage women traveling alone to visit. I have heard many times that they are hesitant to visit because they fear unwanted attention, or they have already had a bad experience and do not wish to repeat it.
‚Äč
Having that connection with another woman will hopefully alleviate any anxiety of visiting and being on their own. With this connection, they actually won’t be. The ImPerfect speech starts with my story and the powerful impact that words have had on me my entire life. During my youth, the words were very painful and stayed with me for much of my life. Words like you are ugly, stupid, homely, worthless, unwanted. I believed what I was told and it took becoming a nudist to finally let those words go. The narrative changed and now the words are all positive and empowering. It wasn’t until I connected with women in the nudist community that I finally began to accept myself for who I was. That connection has empowered me to become the strong, amazing woman that I am today. Find women to connect with, make new friends, build each other up. I’ve made friends that I know will be life-long relationships.
 

The reasons you are doing it?

What I am hoping every woman walks away with is the duality of the word ImPerfect. Society tells us we are imperfect, never good enough, not worthy, and so many other negative things about ourselves. But when you capitalize the i and the p, what happens is something incredible. When we change that word to something positive and I tell myself ImPerfect, I am given the power. Or maybe its permission, permission to tell myself I AM good enough, I AM worthy.

My friend Diane chose the word for the 2023 WOW campaign. She has always been an incredible inspiration to me. It’s her word that inspired me to name this tour the ImPerfect Tour. I hope women feel that way after having been to the workshop. No matter how much I’ve grown to love myself, that voice creeps in from time to time. I give some strategies for combating that negative voice. Name the voice in your head- talk to it, out loud if needed. Journal our thoughts. In your journal write down three positive things about your day. Put a picture of yourself as a little girl in the front of your journal. Or a photo of your daughter, niece, maybe a friend. Would you say the things you're telling yourself to those people? No we would not. So why do we do that to ourselves? It’s an exercise to redirect negative thoughts. Encourage the women in your life with cards or small notecards. My friend and I hide a bunch around each other's houses from time to time. It often takes two months to find all the hidden cards.

My hope and goal is for women to hear the words that they can let go of all the negative things they’ve heard about their bodies their entire life. Don’t let the voice in your head take over. Embrace what your body is and has done for you. Like Diane from the WOW campaign says, “These legs-they dance, these arms-they hug, these stretch marks remind me of my children. Whatever it is about your body that you are not in love with, figure out what will change that narrative from hate to love. I don’t love my smile, never have. But I am looking at it through the hundreds of pictures I’m taking for this tour, and I am starting to really love it, especially when I smile real big. It’s almost a laugh and that is beautiful.

Diane also wrote something that I share in every session: FORGIVENESS “After years of battling with our body image, We must learn to forgive negative feelings. Acknowledge them and realize they don’t have to identify us. LET THEM GO Replace them with positive images. Not of what we wish we could be, But of where we are right now, this moment. Know that it’s absolutely okay to be who we are.” I love the idea of forgiving ourselves for all the way we feel about and talk to ourselves. I’ve never really thought of how toxic that is. But it really is. Tell yourself something long enough, and you start to believe it. One quote that has had a huge impact on me is by Nayyirah Wayheed who says, , “and I said to my body softly, I want to be your friend. It took a long breath and replied, I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.”

 

What issues women are facing from themselves, from male naturists, from the rest of society. 

Wherever I go I talk about being a naturist. At the doctor’s office, grocery store, and surprisingly a great many conversations in restaurant bathrooms. I strike up a conversation with a woman and we end up talking for 20 minutes. Tom will ask another woman to check on me as I’ve been in there so long. What I hear most often is, “I can’t go to a place like that until I lose weight.” I explain that no one cares what your body looks like, we want to get to know you. That is a hard hurdle to get over for a lot of women. I know because I was one of them. 

Tom meets with the men while the women are in the workshop. They discuss whatever is on their minds. One thing Tom talked about was men’s treatment of women on a visit to a club/event/venue. He said that women returning to the club is up to the men and how they treat women at the club. At our home clubs, when a single woman visits, we try to make sure the women are their main contact to make them feel comfortable. It’s okay to say, “Hi, how are you doing?” 1 or 2 questions are fine but then move on. You don’t want to overwhelm them. Don't follow them around. If she wants to continue the conversation, she will. If we see men at the clubs bothering a woman and making her uncomfortable, we ask him to stop and give him a warning. In the clubs, people watch out for each other.

Then we talked about Andee's workshop which focuses on mental well-being and being strong. If she has 1 person out of that group that was helped, and 1 lady feels better about themselves, then it was a success. What she is trying to do is instill confidence in women. Another question was why the groups have to separate. They felt men needed to hear what Andee was talking about. I explained that’s why I’m talking about it to them. Women need time to get together without men there because if a man is in the room, some women will not talk. Men need to be together as men to build each other up. Women need to edify each other and make deeper meaningful connections. These separated times together make us stronger when we are all together. One question that keeps coming up is, “What does AANR do for me? Why should I continue my membership?” Tom explains how AANR is advocating for our rights on a continual basis. There is legislation across the country that is always trying to take our rights to be nude away. He explains that it’s the best insurance policy you could purchase to secure those rights. He also encourages each club to send an AANR representative to the regional meetings. In order to know what’s going on, you must send a delegate. It’s a win win for the person going who will learn about AANR but also meet some pretty amazing people. It’s also the best way for your regional AANR board to know what your club is needing. Other times they just have a great time talking about how much they love naturism and this way of life. And of course the same question keeps coming up at each stop, “How do we get younger people to join?” What their discussions garnered were the fact that young people are raising families, have jobs, and not much free time. So when they do come to a club or go to an event, they are not interested in joining, yet. Perhaps sometime down the road they will be. For now, there must be something geared toward enticing them in: pickleball, fitness, pool, yoga, something unique to draw them in. 

Tom has had just as many men in his meet and greet session as Andee does in hers. It tells us that men are equally needing to get together and talk or just spend time together as guys. Tom and I are available during our entire visit to talk with anyone wandering by or while we’re out walking. We fly three flags outside our RV so people know we are there. Many stop and look at the signs which give us an opportunity to strike up a conversation.

 
4. What involvement has there been from the AANR?
 

Tom and I proposed the trip at our Northwest regional board meeting. Their response was overwhelming. They voted to give $2,500 from the NW to the endeavor and their absolute support for the trip. We have used that generous gift to pay for our gas. I also asked AANR national if we could have money from my WINR budget, which is usually $1,000. They gave us $3,000. We are using those funds for our places to stay whether at the clubs or those in between campgrounds while traveling from one club to another. One amazing benefactor donated $2,000 of additional funds for whatever we would need during this trip. We’ve spent this money on RV repairs and maintenance as well as the drinks and charcuterie we provide for each stop.

Finally, AANR’s Director of Marketing & Communication, Jeff Baldasarre, created a QR code people could use to donate to the tour and sent that out in an email blast to all AANR members. That raised an additional $250. Before leaving our home club, several members gave us financial gifts as well. We feel very supported financially and extremely grateful for the generosity of people.

 
5. The venues. How did you choose them? 
 

I started by looking on the AANR West website and wrote out all of the clubs that have physical locations. I then wrote an email and made phone calls to introduce myself and what Tom and I offer during our stay. All clubs in the West region signed up to have us visit their clubs. Additionally three non-landed clubs asked us to visit them as well. Non-landed clubs are groups that meet together, but essentially have no permanent place to get together. What they do is meet in each other’s homes. Of course this summer we will visit as many clubs in the Northwest region as we can. I am excited to also travel to Western Canada and speak at AANR clubs there.

 
6. How many venues are you visiting, over which states?
 

To date we have visited 16 clubs, both landed and non-landed with at least five or six more to go. We traveled through seven states: Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington. We left February 1st and got back to Serenity on April 20th after traveling just over 4,000 miles. That doesn’t account for all the miles we got lost and had to backtrack. 

 
7. How have you been received?
 

At each of the places we have visited, we are always warmly received. Some places more so than others. At a few clubs we were welcomed before we even set foot out of the motorhome. That made us feel so welcome and greatly encouraged us after a long day of travel. At each club we went out and were especially mindful to talk to anyone on the grounds and strike up a conversation

 
Has it achieved all you have wanted?
 

I wanted to talk with women at each stop and encourage them. Tom wanted to have conversations with men and get to know them. With those goals in mind, we did achieve what we set out to do. At each location I had meaningful conversations with women whether there were three or thirty present. That was valuable. We’ve found many amazing people who enjoy this way of life and made many new friends.

We also wanted to visit as many clubs, both landed and non-landed, that we could during these months. We absolutely have accomplished that. We hoped our RV would make it the entire trip without issues. Thank goodness it ran like a dream.

 
Has it added new ideas and dimensions and had results that you never considered?
 

One thing I hadn’t expected was how many women would come up to me afterwards and tell me that I was telling their story. That is both heartbreaking and humbling. Since I speak to the abuses I went through as a child, I know they have suffered as well. What we carry with us for years, and sometimes decades, can profoundly affect our mental well-being. I felt privileged that they would share their past with me. It’s my hope that I helped them release some of those feelings. When we connect with other people who’ve gone through similar situations, it makes us stronger. That was entirely unexpected but so very much something I needed. 

 
8. WOW 2024. Tell us about that, your criteria and thoughts for this year.
 

The WOW campaign will continue this year with the idea of taking a photo with something that grounds you. What, where, or who do you need to get you back on track or keep you grounded. For example, one of my places of renewal is the ocean. I need to put my toes in the water, smell the air, and listen to the waves coming in and out. It soothes my soul and calms my mind. Another is Serenity Mountain Retreat, my home club. It gives me the solace and rest I need to recharge my batteries. Lastly, my girlfriends. Without my girlfriends I would not be as strong of a woman. They continually encourage me and build me up. The campaign starts May 1st and will continue until all submissions have been posted. I’ll continue to take submissions through the month of June. Hopefully, we will have enough ladies participate to create a 2025 calendar.

 
9. What next? Will you be doing a similar tour next year to other states/venues?
 

Next on the agenda is creating a directory of all the WINR groups that have been started during the tour. I want to create a directory women can refer to when they’re traveling posted on the WINR website. Many single women traveling alone can look up the directory and see what clubs have WINR representatives that will meet with them when first arriving at the club. I am hoping that will give some single women the extra safety net they need to explore nudism.

The tour with the RV was over in April, but we still have at least six clubs to visit during the summer and on into the fall months. We will do that in our car or on the motorcycle. Our very last presentation is in October. Possibly we could venture out again to other regions of the U.S., but first we need to rest and recharge. I feel a beach trip is very near in our future.

 
10. What can be learnt from the tour? Should the AANR be encouraging other such tours across the USA. Should there be tours with slightly different approaches - maybe looking at encouraging families into naturism?
 

I think it would be amazing if others could also do tours. I know that is a difficult thing to ask though. Traveling for nearly three months has been doable for us because we are retired, and we had support from AANR and other generous individuals who believe in what we are doing. I think tours with other approaches would be smart. Having something for both the women and the men on this tour was vital. Tom’s meetings have gleaned much information, given encouragement, and started some very poignant conversations.

I would very much like to see a tour geared towards encouraging families to enjoy naturism. Like I said earlier, families are busy. Busy with life, weekend sports, getting away for a few days on weekends that aren’t packed with chores. If we are lucky, one of those weekends would be a trip to a club or resort to see if naturism is right for them. How to get them there, well, that is the million dollar question. 

 

Thank you so much Andee and Tom for this wonderful interview and sharing your thoughts with ANW. We also wish you great luck on the rest of your trip. It has been inspiring.

Andee and Tom will be the guest speakers at the ANW Virtual Meet open for all Life and Annual Members. They will be speaking about their naturism, Serenity, AANR North-West, the WOW campaign and the ImPerfect tour. We hope you will join us for what promises to be a really fascinating hour. Join Us Tuesday 11 June 2024 18.00hrs BST to 19.00hrs BST - If you are a Life or Annual please head to Virtual Meets Login Page and join the chat.

ANW welcomes all who are respectful and interested in naturism and invite all genuine naturist organisations, clubs, events, venues and other opportunities to be part of the ANW community and work with us to encourage the growth and acceptance of naturism around the world. If you have any questions email Anna and Steve at [email protected]


© 2024  Andee and Tom and www.anaturistworld.com All Rights Reserved


Join ANW Today - Click Below