Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ch 6

A camp story

When you're choosing which week of the summer to come to camp you usually plan around family vacations and sports camps. What you may not realize is that each week of the summer has its own traits that set it apart because of what is happening at Tecumseh. Week 1 is full of energy- the counselors have just finished staff training and are amped to get their first group of campers. Week 4 is the 4th of July- the all camp parade and fireworks over the lake provide a change of pace. Week 9 is the end- counselors are nostalgic and often just as teary eyed as the Torchbearers at closing campfire. Every week has its own reason it is the best week ever.

Session 3 of CILTs is in the middle of the 9-week summer but is the final session for the CILT counselors. When it comes down to the end these counselors put creative spins on their routines, they may skip a night off to spend more time on the Longhouse porch, and throw in a few surprises.

Thursday night, with only two days left of camp, all 30 girls returned to the Longhouse from their adopt-a-cabins. This time of the night is regularly noted as a high of the day. With no real schedule, except to get ready for bed, the girls run from Choctaw to Hopi and into Abnaki to sit on their friends' bunks. They tell stories about their own little campers, share how the devotion they led went, and help each other with five-braid friendship bracelets. Ipods play from all three cabins and if you stand in the middle hallways right by the love tank you'll be able to hear Lovesick, Farwell, and You Belong With Me all at once. Counselors occasionally shout out how many minutes are left till devotions and girls run to the bathroom in the last few minutes to brush their teeth. Circles of girls cram onto bunks sharing boxes of Goldfish and bags of Sour Patch kids. Eleven days into the session everyone is close.

I got back to the Longhouse from my night off just after 10 and walked into the camper filled building. Tonight we had an early bedtime because of staying up late the night before and I helped herd all the girls into Choctaw for devotions. We turned off the light and the girls lowered their volume. 30 girls and 6 counselors is a lot of people to participate in devotions but we make it work every night.

Around the circle they summarized their day in word, because we had to hurry after all, and then Kaitlin spoke. "Ok girls, we have to go to bed early tonight. Since you already did devotions with your cabin we're just going to pray. Grab hands and bow your head. Dear God, Thank you so much for these girls..."

While Kaitlin prayed I snuck out to the front porch and Shannon held the door for me. I carried a stack of Pizza Hut boxes back into the cabin where Kaitlin was still praying the extra long prayer we'd planned. All of the girl counselors had chipped in to do something out of the ordinary tonight. I thought the girls might smell the pepperoni but all their heads stayed down. "And thank you for things like devotions, and Colleen's birthday tomorrow, and pizza. Amen," she finished. The girls raised their heads as all the counselors yelled, "SURPRISE!"

Screaming erupted. I don't know if any group of people has ever been so excited for pizza. They each devoured their two pieces of pizza in just a few minutes, still in the darkness of devotions. Occasionally a camera flash would illuminate the room, documenting this rare event. Counselors can't bring home pizza every week but it made that night extra special.

The empty pizza boxes were stacked by the door and we all sang Happy Birthday to Colleen. The girls stopped in the bathroom to brush their teeth one more time before heading off to bed. Only one full day left of CILTs.

I like Spring Break. I like wearing tye-dye. I like singing in the car with Sar and getting frozen yogurt.

The start of Spring Break deserves a jumping picture.

With so many kids heading out of town on Spring Break early I thought that the girls that were still here for FBC should have a party. So we brought cookies, brownies, Mt. Dew, and Carpi-Suns. Rachel didn't have any icing so she decorated the brownies with food coloring, "This is the song Katy and I sing- FBC don't leave me."

Isa on the phone to her mom, "Hi, I'm just clubbing... Yeah, Friendship Bracelet Club."

Before. This was in Jenna's old house and she was just going to take it to Goodwill but Sar and I thought we'd get crafty.

After. Inspired by Ellen's tissue paper art and one of our fav songs, Dream Big by Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand.

How lucky can I get? Skyping with all 3 Evoy sisters at once. I love this family. I'm so excited they'll all be at CampT this summer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ch 5

A camp story

As a Senior in High School I was given the chance to be a mentor to middle school girls in my youth group. My youth pastor Sheila, who had been my leader for years, encouraged me and a small group of my friends to start leading these younger girls. Jordan and Morgan quickly became my girls when we all got paired up but really the whole group belonged to each other. We were the mentor girls.

That year we planned lock-ins, made a music video, saw Superchic[k] in concert, wore skirts over our jeans like Superchic[k], ate a progressive dinner, competed in Wal-mart cart races, camped out and slept in a tent, had devotions in the youth room, played ultimate challenge in the church parking lot, and sang together in the balcony on Sunday mornings. When I graduated and left for Hope College saying good-bye to those girls was one of the hardest parts of leaving.

Being a role model for someone else had been a transformative experience. It taught me that life isn't all about me. It was a paradox that I would benefit from giving away my time and energy. I started to see value in living my life for someone else.

As a counselor for the oldest girls in camp I wanted to give my campers a mini-version of the same experience-- setting them up to have the chance to be a role model and leader.

My friend Rachel was a counselor for 9-year-olds that summer and we decided to schedule weekly buddy cabin sleepovers. One memorable sleepover was in the beginning of the summer. My girls had just finished the Pathfinder night swim. The last activity period of the night we had been diving and playing water polo as the sun started to disappear. The girls had brought along their pajamas to change into and brushed their teeth in the pool house sinks. Out on the lawn we each picked up our sleeping bags and pillows from the pile we'd left behind. We walked around the curve of the gravel road to the tennis court. Rachel and her Creek girls were already there running round with their flashlights excited that tonight was a special night.

The first five minutes of each sleepover was always the same. Both groups would be uncharacteristically quiet and shy as they approached the unfamiliar age group. Rachel and I would pair the girls off. Noelle from Teton meet Kelly from Creek. Lizzie from Teton meet Maggie from Creek. Each pair would find a spot on the court to sit and talk. After the first few minutes a bond was formed and the girls couldn't stop talking to their new friend. They suddenly had so many stories to tell each other and all thought that their partner was the best one.

When it was time for devotions we arranged our sleeping bags in a giant star shape, everyone next to their new buddy. Rachel started off highs and lows. We went around the circle filling each other in on our days. That night we also asked each girl to name their favorite chapel song. There was an overwhelming number of votes for Prince of Peace with a few Light the Fire, Pharaoh Pharaoh, and Blessed Be Your Names thrown into the mix.

Together we sang the familiar words of Prince of Peace- a mix of the little girls voices that sang extra loud on the words they remembered and these veteran campers that were used to years of chapel and songfest. I put out a list of the names we sing in the chorus, "Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Lord of Everything, Emmanuel, Lamb, Messiah, Redeemer..." We see God embody these names during different parts of our life. What name is he in your life right now?

Each girl shared how God is their friend or their Alpha and Omega or Mighty God right now. As we listened to each girl we heard the perspectives of different ages that we usually miss out on during devotions. Although these girls are six years apart they can still connect and learn from each other in this conversation.

It is a late night for everyone and when their heads hit the pillows they are ready to sleep. I walk laps around and through the circle telling a cloud journey, an old camp tradition, under a sky bright with stars until I hear their heavy breathing.

I woke up on the tennis courts to water dripping on my face. I hit a button the side of my watch and the numbers 4:28 glowed in the dark. Rain. In the middle of the night. I shook Rachel. We both looked up at the dark clouds rolling in over the moon.

Together we woke up all of the girls. "It's starting to rain," we said, "Grab your stuff, we've got to get back to the cabin. Hurry girls." Sleepy campers are difficult to wake up at 7am but they're even groggier in the middle of the night. With sleep still in their eyes, they struggled to crawl out of their blankets, find their flip-flops, bundle everything up and start walking in the direction of the cabin.

I heard the first crack of thunder as I was picking up Anna's stuff along with my own. She had developed a reputation in our cabin for being impossible to wake up and I knew this was going to be a challenge. We had a five minute walk through the rain back up the hill to our cabin in Lake Village. The rest of our cabin was speed walking by now and I told them to go ahead. As the rain fell harder they sprinted back to the cabins, back to their beds, back to where it was dry and warm.

The rain started to fall harder and there was water on my face but I didn't have a free hand to wipe it off. It was a five minute walk through the rain back up the hill to our cabin in Lake Village. Anna would pull herself up from the ground to walk for about a minute before collapsing on the gravel road. She would curl up in a little ball and somehow drift into sleep. Each time I would stoop down beside her, careful not to drop any of our blankets or pillows, and say, "Come on Anna, you can do it, we're almost there. You've got to get up. Let's go. Keep walking." She stopped to sleep on the ground by Irving, in the middle of the lake hill, and in the middle of the long road in the woods. One of the times I was trying to wake her up she growled at me before hiding her face again.

I was near the end of my rope- exhausted, cold, and tired when Anna suddenly got a miraculous burst of energy in the Oak Forest and sprinted back to the cabin. I came through the door a minute after her and dropped the armload of soaked overnight stuff in the middle of the floor.

All of the girls were already in their beds back to sleep. Anna was on her bare mattress fast asleep as though nothing was wrong. I was thankful that my own bed was still made up with sheets and quilts. I crawled between the warm layers to fall back asleep until breakfast.

The rest of the week whenever Creek and Teton crossed paths the girls would run to their buddies. They sat together during one chapel, were partners at the Lake, and yelled to each other across Main Field. When I got a letter from Noelle a couple weeks after she returned home she wrote, "I was walking in downtown La Grange yesterday when I heard someone yell my name. I turned around it was Kelly, my Creek buddy! She ran over to me and we talked about camp for awhile. She takes guitar lessons at the same place as my brother so I might get to see her next week. It was so cool to see her again."

"Miss Wright I won't be at school tomorrow. I'm going to Cabo."

Highs of the day:
1. Talking to Michelle on the phone and hearing her talk about the Sisters from her trip to NYC.
2. When someone in my class tonight said, "Hey friendship bracelet girl... I don't even know your name."
3. Hearing Taylor's voice, filling each other in, asking each other to pray and dreaming big dreams.
4. Texting with Fitzie about plans for next week!
5. Getting the perfect letter from Annie. She knows me so well it's amazing.

Ok, let's see how you did on the game yesterday.

This is our smoke detector. One of the two that went off when we were boiling four pots of water.

Water boiling at the bottom of a pan.

Chik-fil-a chicken tender.

Envelope colored by Saba.

Top of a snow cone machine.

The machine (and Jake) look like this.

Plain white v-neck.

My Spring sweatshirt.

Top of my Steno notebook.

Shirt ready to be tye-dyed.

Did you get them all?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ch 4

A camp story

Our feet pound down the black paved hill. Carrying towels, we wore shorts over our one piece swimsuits and crocs over socks. An early afternoon float trip called us to the river with the 15-year-old men of Arapaho cabin.

Most of the girls were talking about who they wanted to be in a canoe with when Grace spotted something in the grass beside the road. She reached between the weeds and pulled out an old red ball, the size of a tennis ball, scratched, worn, and possibly chewed by the camp dog. Grace carried the ball the rest of the walk and buckled him into her lifejacket, protecting him from drowning in the Tippecanoe River during the float trip.

Around the time we were getting pop stop in River Village Grace decided the ball needed a name. The girls sat on the steps of the porch and threw out ideas, "How 'bout Myrtle?, Fred...Edgar?...Maybe Veronica...Petunia!...It should be Pablo..." until Grace decided the ball would henceforth be known as Gerard X the III.

Gerard became the 11th member of Teton that week. The girls rotated custody and Gerard experienced the best of Camp T: a ride on the zipline over the lake, hip-hop clinic, ultimate frisbee clinic, performing in closing campfire, completing the Roger Murphy swim, going on a train ride, yelling cheers at lunch, receiving multiple friendship bracelets, serenading the boys' cabins, and even spending the night in Buffalo when he was kidnapped.

Saturday when the girls packed up their plastic drawers and Vera Bradley duffle bags they left Gerard X behind to meet the next group of Teton campers. For the rest of the summer stay-overs explained Gerard and his history to the new girls who quickly got excited about becoming a part of the game. Week after week Gerard traveled with Teton from clinic to activities, from Lake to River and back again.

The amazing thing was that when the girls went home they didn't forget about Gerard. Only a few days after the first group left they created a Facebook profile for him and started tagging him in pictures from the week. Mary mailed a Brebeuf sweatshirt, originally meant for a Beanie Babie, that he got used to wearing along with a mini towel headband. During the last week of camp Gerard got a package in the mail after lunch. We ripped open the brown paper wrapping to find a shoebox inside from Paige, Page, and Emily-three best friends that had come to camp together the previous week. The outside of the box was a collage of pictures from their week, stickers, quotes, and song lyrics. The inside of the box was a "home" for Gerard. On the walls they had pasted pictures of our cabin and Hannah Montana as framed art. There was even a bean bag and TV for Gerard.

When the summer ended we decided that Gerard should visit as many of Teton girls as possible. Traveling in his shoebox he started from Hope College, traveled to Carmel, multiple Chicago suburbs, Indianapolis, Champaign, and went on Spring Break being mailed from girl to girl. A photo album stayed inside the box and when he came to your address you had to add a photograph of his visit and a note documenting his adventure. By the time the next summer arrived Gerard's box was becoming well worn and the album was almost full.

The girls graduated to the CILT program in the Longhouse that summer and so did Gerard. He spent most of his time inside in the air conditioning that summer until Brave girls moved in the last couple weeks. They loved the story of Gerard and immediately adopted him as their own. Those girls left notes on all of the Lake Village cabins during a LV invasion signed from Gerard. With sidewalk chalk they drew "Gerard Land" in front of the Trading Post with scale drawings of this imaginary world.

The next year Gerard continued to travel but with less urgency. He went back to Chicago and visited a few of the CILT girls that had never been in Teton. More items got added to his box and we started a second photo album.

I'm not sure who has Gerard today but it doesn't really matter anymore. Gerard represents two of things I love most about camp.

Creativity and silliness. Nowhere else could you convince so many 15-year-old girls to care about a red rubber ball not just for a week but for years. Liking Gerard wasn't cool until they decided that this goofiness was what they all wanted to be about. They made a home for him, took him everywhere, and included him in cheers- it was weird but gosh it was so great. I think a good amount of creativity and silliness is always good for the soul no matter where you are or how old you are.

Staying connected. I love that camp brings people together and helps them to stay connected. Grace's idea for Gerard first connected girls during that single week. Then Gerard X became a theme of the summer. After camp ended in August he helped so many of the girls stay in touch that entire next year. Being connected and staying in touch with people takes a lot of effort from everyone involved but having a support system of people you trust and respect is invaluable.

"I've seen Zombies tye-dye better than you."

Let's play a game.

All of these things were a part of my day.

Can you figure out what they are?










Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy Monday everyone

Remember the old TV show Trading Spaces? For the next six weeks I'm playing Trading Classrooms. Because of laptops for ISTEP I'm now switching rooms with one of our English teachers until the first week of May. So all of my posters, decorations, books, and life stayed behind and I took a box of everyday kind of supplies and my favorite stool down the hall today. It was kind of strange but fun to do something different.

After school I got to Skype with Mags. I really love this girl and her questions and stories and how she's gets so excited about things. I can't wait to work with her this summer.

At the beginning of leadership I asked David if he would help me with something. After making sure he wouldn't have to lift anything heavy, I don't know why he asked that, he agreed to go with me to put air in my tires. I'm against gender stereotyping but still felt the necessity to have a guy come along even though I ended up knowing more about the process than David.

Loved laughing at leadership. Loved singing at Campaigners. Love sitting and talking to Sar and Jenna right now.

Ch 3

Emma didn't like camp. Her parents made her come for two weeks every summer. The first year I met her she tripped another counselor in Gold Rush on purpose. Five years later that counselor still has a scar. Emma went to sleep early every night to avoid devotions. She wouldn't wake up in the morning till the sixth time I cautiously approached the bunk ready to dodge the M & Ms she would throw at me. Emma tested my patience.

In the second week of the CILT (Camper In Leadership Training) program each camper leads a devotion for their adopt-a-cabin. We have a planning session in the morning to brainstorm topics, find applicable bible verses, and choose songs. We bounce ideas off of each other and by lunchtime everyone has a plan of what they're going to do.

After lunch during Emma's session we headed back to the cabin for a much needed rest hour. The kids were tired and it was a hot and humid day. We walked into the air conditioning and everyone headed straight for their beds. Emma stomped to her bunk, kicked off her black boots, and threw down her binder on a pile of dirty clothes. "This is stupid. I hate this," she mumbled.

"Hey Emma, I'll help you finish your devotion if you want," Grace said from her top bunk.

Grace is one of those kids you wish could stay in your cabin all summer long. She is constantly positive and energetic. This was the 3rd summer she had been my camper and dozens of my favorite memories as a counselor involved her- creating Gerard X, leading serenades, sharing in devotions, and competing in an interpretive dance competition. Grace loved camp and life with every bit of her strawberry blonde hair to her freckled feet.

Emma looked across the room at Grace who was waving her over to her bunk. She tentatively crossed the space and climbed up beside Grace who was holding her Bible.

I sat on my bed and watched the pair whispering instead of falling asleep. I heard Grace patiently explain how books, chapters, and verses work. She showed Emma how to find verses in the index. The amazing, beautiful thing was that Emma listened. She soaked it up. She asked questions. The girl that had told us she wanted nothing to do with God was engaged in this conversation. I couldn't stop watching them.

On the last night of camp each camper says what they're going to take away from camp usually listing new experiences, renewed faith, and best friends. When it was Emma's turn she said, "Uh, this year I think I changed a lot. I guess I might want to try this God thing."

Emma spent multiple summers sitting through chapels and devotions but for her none of them significantly changed what she thought about Christianity like the rest hour with Grace. There is no doubt in my mind that the time Grace spent talking with Emma on that bunk made a huge difference in her life. It would have been easy to ignore Emma's frustration that afternoon- she was always in a bad mood. Instead Grace chose to be patient and kind. She reached out to Emma who desperately needed a friend and the choice to put her faith in action made all the difference in Emma's life.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Yeah, this is so cool.

Inspired by another craft found via blog Sar and I got to work this afternoon.



Saturday, March 26, 2011

"I think I'm going to go home and sleep." -Darian, 7:15am

The annual Wyld Life All-nighter- 108 kids, 6 destinations, 8pm-7am. 

The leaders were ready for the black-out.

Stop 1- Bounce U

In two rooms of bouncy obstacle courses, slides, rooms, and games the kids went crazy. The tower with six layers of stretchy spider webs was my favorite. I ran around with Carly, Saba, and Natalie tackling all of the bouncy attractions in 5:04. I was exhausted.

Stop 2- The Fieldhouse

We devoured stacks of pizza before having club on one of the basketball courts.

Bagel dodgeball was a highlight. Great idea in theory, it kind of hurt to get slammed by an everything bagel.

We sang everything from Justin Bieber to "Lay My Burdens Down". Kids came up front for games with pantyhouse, we stomped on balloons, and Quinn talked about passion and how God uses that in our lives.

Stop 3- Bowling

Occasionally using silly styles of bowling we hit strikes and spares until it was time to move on to the next destination.

This is, "act like you really love your friends" picture.

Stop 4- Orange Leaf

This was every child's dream. There was no limit to what they could put in their cups and they were filled the brim with frozen yogurt, cookie dough bits, candy, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, exploding juice balls, fruit, and cookies. The surprising part was that most of them finished what they took.

Sam dressed up like a CILT for the night. She kept coming up to me and saying things like, "Theta Kappa Lambda," and "totes magotes," and giving me Yurt-5s.

Stop 5- X-cite Laser Tag

At about 3:45 in the morning you'd be surprised you feel after running around shooting people with a lazer gun, hiding behind walls, and finding secret spots. The red team dominated and I played 3 rounds with Nat, Saba, and Carly.

Stop 6- Regal Theatre

The kids sluggishly plopped down in seats to watch "Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2." I might have fallen asleep on a row of seats about 15 minutes into the movie.

At 6:55 am the theatre lights came back on and we woke up most of the kids that had fallen asleep.


We put donuts and camp fliers into the kids hands as they walked out the door.

I was in bed by 7:45am. Sleep has never sounded so great.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ch 2

If I were to write a book about camp this would be a part of it.

"Katie stepped on a pitchfork," he told me to explain why the Mingo counselor wouldn't be at camp that night. It was Monday which meant time for the Women's Journey. All of the Pathfinder girl cabins would be traveling together down the mud hike hill in the Oak Forest and up the path to the Green Cathedral. There we would spend time sharing counselor testimonies, talking in small groups, and finally spreading out on the benches and listening to songs related to the night.

It would be easy enough to have the Mingo girls come along in the big group. By the time we finished the Journey in the chapel and making s'mores afterwards there would be a relief counselor there to take Katie's spot. But the Journey came and went and our fingers were sticky with melted marshmallows. Still no one came.

We hiked back up through the woods to Lake Village for night meds. I led the way with a crate of graham cracker wrappers followed by a parade of twenty very hyper 14 and 15-year-old girls. The sun was already gone when we got to the lodge. I borrowed the nurse's radio and asked what I should do with this extra cabin of girls. It was time for showers and devotions.

The radio crackled back, "Uh, we're still trying to find someone. We'll send a counselor to get the girls from your cabin in a little bit. Just keep them entertained till then." I took a deep breath. Camp is fun but as a counselor you work hard all day long. This job is both physically and emotionally draining and by this time of the night I was ready to wind down, not to take on an extra cabin by myself.

I called to the two cabins of girls, mine and the orphans, and led them back to Teton. Inside the four cabin walls it was if they multiplied. Laughing and shrieking bounced around the room along with the strains of Hannah Montana's "Best of Both Words." It was late. I was tired. I needed reinforcements. Fast.

The girls didn't even notice when I slipped out the door. I ran across the back porch and into Shoshone. Sarah, the counselor, looked up from where she was sitting in a circle with her calm, peaceful, friendship bracelet knotting campers. "I need your help," I said.

I explained the situation to Sarah and we devised a plan. She brought all of her campers over to make a grand total of 30 teenage girls crammed into one cabin. Together we could handle this. We paused the iPod to get their attention, "Ok girls. We're going to play Catch Phrase," Sarah yelled over them. "We need to clear out the middle of the floor and sit down in a giant circle."

These suntanned girls with their hair in messy buns and dressed in every color of Abercrombie camis squeezed into a circle that took the form of the perimeter of the cabin. Sarah and I handed out two disk players and numbered the girls off into two teams. Their screaming guesses were so loud they couldn't hear the beeping countdown. Sarah and I sat Indian style in the center of the circle bent down with our ears close to the timer. At the buzz we would scream, "STOP!" over the girls' chaotic noise and adjust the score. I love order and this was nothing resembling anything close structure.

Sarah and I ate goldfish and twizzlers from campers' junk food stashes, laughed at the insanity of the situation and exchanged worried looks as the clock ticked past 10:45. Would someone ever come to take these extra campers back to their own cabin?

We took back the Catch Phrase disks and turned off the lights to transition to devotion time. When we did our highs and lows each girl was limited to speaking only five words because there were so many of them to share. Illuminated by a flashlight, I read a chapter from Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. It was the first one I turned to, about penguin love and how they always know where to find their mate year after year. As I read I remember thinking the devotion wasn't that great but for tonight it would be just fine.

The girls were spread out sitting in front of bunks, lying on the floor and leaning against their friends. During devotions every night the craziness of the day dissipates and is replaced by the sounds of steady breathing, the whirring ensemble of fans and my voice reading. Even with three cabins combined their reliable calm covered all of us. As I turned to the final page the door opened and the silhouette of a counselor walked in and sat at the picnic table that had been shoved up against the door. Sarah closed in prayer and the voices of all the girls joined in, "Amen."

When the overhead light flipped on Amy said, "Hi guys. I'm here to get the Mingo girls." She was just in time. We might have had camp's largest sleep-over next. Amy introduced herself to the younger girls who were very relieved they "wouldn't be forgotten forever." They filed out of our cabin and made their way home to the other side of the village. Sarah took the Shoshone girls back across the porch.

My girls brushed their teeth, took out their contacts and crawled into their sleeping bags. I went from bunk to bunk giving hugs and high 5s before whispering, "Good night girls" into the darkness and falling into my own bed.

The day hadn't ended like I expected. I thought it would be a calm night, at least calm by camp standards, but instead I sat in a circle of teenage insanity and figured out how to survive with Sarah. We had to be flexible because that's just what we needed to do right then. There wasn't another option.

Life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes you have to adjust what you expected. Accept that maybe you need to live outside of your comfort zone.

When I tell the story of that night I remember how crazy it was but more importantly I remember Sarah sitting right beside me in the midst of all that screaming. She was the friend I depended on that night and that summer. I never would have planned our Monday night to be like that but I think it turned out pretty perfectly.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I've Got A Golden Ticket!

A couple weeks ago I got a gel-pen written letter from Olivia, one of my Blazer campers. She asked, "Ok, I know this is really far-fetched, but I was wondering if you could come to our Drama play? It's known as Willy Wonka." 

Obviously I was not going to miss a production of Willy Wonka and Molly quickly agreed to come too. She's always up for a good drama production.

We walked in to the dark theater minutes after the show began and found seats right up front. I was immediately overcome with joy and excitement when I saw Oksana, yes Oksana from the Ch 1 post, on stage singing about Willy Wonka in her neon outfit nailing the choreographed routine.

Soon Oksana came out as Augustus Gloop, the boy who loves to eat all day long. She mastered being a boy, fat, and German--very impressive. I love her goofy mannerisms and comedic reactions.

About half way through Olivia spotted me in the audience and I may have waved and did a "Sarah Wright" smile and Molls told me I was distracting her and Olivia was breaking character on stage. The look of excitement on her face was totally worth it.

As soon as the girls took their final bows they ran down the stairs and across the room to attack us. I love reunions and am so glad I got to see these girls up on stage loving the spotlight.

It was so fun to tell the girls how great they were up there. When Molly told Oksana she was the best oompa loompa she flipped a pony-tail over her shoulder and said, "Yeah, I know." They introduced us to their parents and took us to get the celebratory mini-cupcakes and grapes. The girls told us about their friends and school. When they started talking about coming back to camp next summer Olivia, Oksana, and Molly all started jumping up and down. Literally. For a good 30 seconds. That is joy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What is your dream wedding?

I asked one of the girls in my first period class what our writing prompt option should be today. "We should write about our dream weddings!" she said. Who am I to argue with creative genuis?

Excerpts of the girls' dream weddings:

My wedding will be perfect.
He's going to have to be cooperative. It's always been my dream to be proposed to on a Ferris Wheel, in Kenya of course. We'll get married in a giant tree house in Australia.
We'll have an open bar so people don't get mad.
My husband would be Ashton Kutcher.
Vera Wang will personally make and deliver my dress with a million crystals on it.
It would be happy and bright and everyone would be smiling. We would eat and go sailing the rest of the night.
After the wedding everyone would go to Disney World and go on every ride.
The only thing I know for sure is I'm not going to wear a dress or anything like a dress.
I want it to be laid back and chill. There is a bed and breakfast in Portland, Oregon where we'll have the ceremony up on a hill. I won't wear heels in fear they'll get stuck in the mud but wear my Sperry Topsiders.
Instead of flower girls I'll have shell girls that throw shells down on the path.
It will be in a chapel of stained glass windows and high ceilings.
We'll have a cake made by Buddy from Cake Boss.
I've honestly never thought about my wedding before. But I guess I do have some ideas. It would be a barefoot wedding. No one can wear shoes.

Excerpts of the boys' dream weddings:

I would be dressed in all white and so would everyone else. We would be in a giant submarine underwater and everyone would bring us presents.
The wedding would have ninjas, tigers, and ten woodsmen with chain saws.
Instead of regular flowers we would have duct tape flowers.
We would eat giant bowls of Apple Jacks and gummy bears.
I would marry Kim Kardashian in my backyard and then we'd all go eat at McDonalds.
I would have a Power Ranger cake.
The ceremony would be in a beautiful meadow in Jamaica.
After the ceremony we'll go make giant sand castles.
It will be in a swamp. We'll be on camels. Kanye West will rap.
The wedding will be on a beach with white sand and crystal clear water. After the wedding I would go fishing. I would catch an eel and mount it on the wall of my cabin.
We would do the thing with the flowers and the thing with the thing that goes to the Single Pringle boys. I know what it's called but I refuse to say it.
Dolphins would jump out of the water and soar over our heads chittering happily.
There would need to be a lot of snacks.
There would be a 70's disco ball and a dance floor. A 20 ft buffet table would keep the fun going.
I want to get married on one of those plans that flies up and down so there's 0 gravity. There would be a live feed down to our guests.
I would have a dolphin trained to say, "Congratulations." It would be nice if swans made the shape of heart when we said, "I do." Chuck Norris would be my best man.
This follow the number one rule of surviving- the woman is always right.

Ch 1

Someday I will write a book about camp. I always say someday because I don't know how to begin but I know I would want to include stories like this.

After the Blazer night swim at the pool our tribe of towel wrapped girls ran back to the cabin. They kicked off their flip-flops on the porch before heading inside to check that night's shower order. With only two showers for ten campers it takes awhile for everyone to cycle through. Shannon, my co-counselor, and I sat on our beds writing letters and talking to the girls waiting for their turn.

Oksana was one of the first ones finished that night. She walked over to my bed, now in pajamas instead of her chlorine soaked swimsuit, holding a hairbrush that was tangled in her dripping hair. At 10-years-old she could handle putting on suntan lotion, remember to brush her teeth and keep her bunk area clean but brushing her hair was a struggle. "Can you help me?" she asked.

I had her sit in front of me on the bunk and I gently pulled out her brush. Oksana's thick red hair reaches half way down her back and it was in a giant knot. "Did you brush your hair last night?" I asked her.
She turned to look at me, "Kind of, I tried."

I told her we'd get it out and handed Shannon a comb so she could help. We used half a bottle of spray-in detangler as we worked through her hair section by tiny section. Never have I seen a whole head of hug so tangled. All of our tugging and pulling made Oksana start to cry because it hurt her little head even though we tried to be gentle.

The rest of the girls finished their showers and still we worked pulling out those knots. Olivia led her cabin-mates in a game of jellyfish yo-yo baseball and we stayed on the bunk for 45 minutes working through that red hair. Finally we finished the last chunk and wiped a few more tears from Oksana's cheeks. I told her I would french braid her hair to avoid knots the next day but she wanted to wait till after devotions because her head hurt so badly.

Behind schedule, we sat down in a circle on the carpeted floor. Shannon lit the candles and Olivia turned off the overhead light. I took a deep breath. "Ok, highs and lows girls. Who wants to go first?"

We went around the circle and each girl told us a story of the high and low part of their day recalling cheers at lunch and blobbing in the lake. When we got to Oksana she was sitting criss-cross applesauce and biting her fingernail. "Um..." she started quietly, "My high was when Sarah and Shannon brushed my hair."

"What!" I reacted. "Oksana, you just cried because it hurt so badly. That was the best part of your entire day?"

She sat up straighter, "Yeah, because I get to sit and talk to both of you for so long."

That night Oksana reminded me that as a counselor my job is not to provide these girls with days full of crazy activities, epic cheers, and funny adventures. Sure, all of those things are important to camp but what these campers want and need from their counselors is our time and our attention. I thought I was just helping a little girl get the knots out of her hair. More importantly I was given the opportunity to spend time talking about her day and making her feel special. The rest of the week I looked forward to brushing Oksana's hair, especially when it was full of knots.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why write?

I believe that writing is like exercise or playing an instrument or learning a foreign language--to improve and really love it you've got to do it everyday. You've got to make yourself sit down and do the hard work of writing. Get something, anything down on paper. Writing is an art form and has the power to impact people in profound ways.

Cold Tangerines inspires me, Hunger Games make my cheer for Katniss, I threw down Scorch Trials, Don't Waster Your Cancer makes me cry. Reading and writing go hand in hand. You can't really understand one without exercising the other.

I believe that writing is valuable as a record and a tool for change. Writing is valuable when the writer is honest--in both students' papers and campers' letters I've seen things revealed they've never said aloud.

-W590 Response

Monday, March 21, 2011

Today I...

Today I ran on the Monon. I was still sore from all of the screaming, running, jumping of the reunion and couldn't pass up being outside on such a beautiful day. I love people watching on the Monon and today was no exception. 

I heard about this man last year that was going to ride the entire Monon trail that goes from way up in Westfield all the way South through Indianapolis WHILE playing the guitar to raise money for some charity. Today I thought I could hear guitar music through the Kesha playing on my iPod and all of a sudden I realize I was just passed by the guitar playing bicycle rider!

Today I sat in a circle at leadership and laughed while we introduced everyone. Tyler was joining our group for the night and instead of telling him about ourselves the traditional way we all chimed in and told everyone else's bios. So we would all talk about David and how he loves social justice, writing Flip The Tape Deck, Butler Basketball, Common Ground, saying, "Shore, Shore," and he's really into crossfit right now among other things. It was hilarious hearing everyone's contributions-- Jake and Mark are both dating 17 year olds and the Friendship Bracelet Club has apparently gone global.

We also talked about James 3 and what it means to control the tongue. We decided three good questions to ask before you speak are: Is it the truth? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

Today I got to wait outside before Campaigners began because it's the first day of Spring. Ellyn and Sarah tried middle parts to prove that they're not coming back.

Ellyn and Sam showed us a weird arm trick and Sar tried it too.

Tyler Bender, of the Tyler Bender Band as featured on iTunes, played guitar for us at Campaigners tonight. It kind of felt like we were getting a private concert. Our Campaigners group got on a great discussion about what living life to the full looks like.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Bye! You seem like a really nice girl."

Two weeks ago we decided that it was time for another CILT reunion because you can never have too much time with your friends or too much time at camp.

We quickly sent out letters and facebook messages to spread the news. A plan was devised and the excitement grew as the day grew closer.

Let me just tell you it turned out great. I loved all of it. It was a smaller group, 6 counselors and 31 CILTs, but I think that it was the perfect combination of people and that everyone was there for a reason.

I love that when friends come back together there is always screaming, running-and-jumping kind of hugs, and so much laughter.

Not CILT counselors but two of my favorite camp girls, Kata and Linsey are fun and hilarious and really get why camp is so great. They were not only excellent cardboard transporters and golf cart drivers but such awesome additions to the group.

I love that kids from different sessions get to meet and so quickly become friends. I don't think these two had even spoken a word to each other before they were stretching like this.

CT CILTs love the FBC.

We created a brand new game that involved every River Village cabin, because they were all open, and 98 hidden plastic bugs.

As the Mystical Unicorn, Codillas, Whombats, and Saber Tooth Lions searched for the prizes the counselors roamed around the village to collect bugs and tell them how much each one was worth.

Before they figured out the bugs were the prizes we were looking for we had many eager CILTs running up with Bibles, a kool-aid jammer, an ipod, trash, headphones, army men, and shampoo.

Let's say that this game was REALLY fun for the first half hour. Maybs we should have stopped then.

We scheduled in a lot of time to just be with each other. To hear people share their life stories. To tell old stories. To laugh with new friends. To hang out in the fellowship room. To play Psychiatrist.

Can I also just comment that I LOVED taking pictures both OUTSIDE and AT CAMP.

You can't see it but there is a swarm of gnats above these girls heads. They were troopers braving the bugs while listening to more life stories. We talked about 1- our family, 2- a challenge or major experience in our past, and 3- a goal or dream for our life.

Our dinner theme was Remember When This Was Cool?

Hoorah for concert T's, stretchy shirts, gauchos, crocs, fanny packs, and scrunchies.

These kids have impeccable style.

Dinner featured a playlist of used-to-be-cool songs which was enhanced by interpretive dancing, the bernie, crumping, and nostalgic singing.

After much anticipation we competed in a facebook stalking test.

Session 1 just beat out Session 3 by four points with a grand total of 104.

We screamed and stampeded when Soaps and Maddie arrived. It was good to have two more members of Team CILT arrive.

Soaps wrote another song for the reunion- this time to Katy Perry's Firework.

"We're back at Camp T again,
for our second reunion,
share songs and CILT session cheers,
we might even shed a couple tears."

Before devotions we hung out in the CAC. A little jump-roping, ping-pong, and talking.

During devotions I saw this group of incredible young people create a space where everyone felt they could be totally vulnerable. They shared what they're struggling with and hard things they've gone through. I saw friends reach out to each other when they needed to know someone cared.

We were reminded that we must "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." I love the chorus of a JJ Heller song, "Who will love me, for me? Not for what I have done or what I have become." As I looked around the circle at each of these kids I was overwhelmed by how God loves us unconditionally. It doesn't matter what we have achieved or what mistakes we have made. He doesn't care if we're smarter, skinnier, stronger, or funnier. He uniquely made each of us and loves us for just being us.

Love tanks are always one of my favorite things to do with this group. Everyone writes notes to everyone else to fill up their paper bag aka their love tank. I love when we sit around the cabin listening to Jake Ousley and Brett Dennen while writing and talking. It felt like we were home sitting in Choctaw.

The morning came early. We were tired.

We got to walk back-and-forth between River and Lake twice today. I love this walk. I love that you sing songs or tell stories as you go. Just walking is one of the things I really miss about camp.

Chapel continued our conversation from last night with songfest and cardboard testimonies. Seeing each person flip their cardboard gave me hope.

We played running charades, it totally beat the bugs game from yesterday.

Our lunch with a group from Peoria and a group of Girl Scouts was one of the most epic I have ever had at Camp T. Having fly battles, screaming almost every camp cheer, having the other groups add their own beats and swagger, and a crumping battle that made all of us get to our feet made it an unforgettable event.

Our last walk back to River I told my life story to Alli, Molls, Mary-Claire, Maggie, Colleen, and Annie and heard more about their lives. I love that these girls trust and care for each other with such acceptance.

I'm thankful that all of these CILTs could have a brief escape from things going on at home.

I'm thankful for the chance to spending time living life with these friends.

Yes, I realize I look exactly the same in all these pictures but I couldn't pick just one. I love all these girls and they're each so special.

Life is just better when you're sleeping on the floor, starving by 10:00, not showering, screaming till you lose your voice, searching for plastic bugs, and getting 4 hours of sleep.