Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"I listened to Cowboy Take Me Away three times on the way to game night."

Far too often you hear people say that Junior High was the worst. If only they had gone to Junior High in the Clubhouse-- because this place is the best. Seriously. I get random pictures on my phone from these kids, Lauren calls me Queen Wright, we have a DC meeting Friday, I get to hang with FBC tomorrow afternoon and random rock star kids come say hello every passing period. Junior High is the place to be. 

Smelko texted me this past weekend and said, "Adventure this week?" I still wasn't sure what we would be doing when she texted me this afternoon. 


We decided that the only places we had ever eaten corn dogs was at State Fairs and Summer Camps. But we were on a mission to find a corn dog for Katie Smelko. 

Cassidy suggested GFS, Target and Marsh but we didn't want a frozen corn dog. We wanted the real thing-- a fresh, fried corn dog.

We walked into Culver's and asked Jessie at the cashier, "Excuse me sir, do you have corn dogs?"
Jessie smile, "I eat 'em every day!"
"Wow!" we both said, "Are they good?!"
Jessie smiled again, "I eat 'em every day!"


The corn dogs were magical. So magical that we filled out the survey on the receipt to get a free scoop of custard with our next purchase and then immediately purchased corn dogs round 2! CORN DOGS FOR EVERYONE AGAIN!

This Unintentional Dream Day didn't stop here. Oh no, because we're in Fishers, IN and there are man-made mountains to climb. PEAK DAY! GAME DAY! Welcome to Flat Fork Creek Park my adventuring friends. 

You better believe Smelko made us run all the way up to the very top to catch that sunset. 

Next Smelko drove us to the Halkyard's for Wyld Life Campaigners. Smelko is the KCraig of Carmel (aka the Wyld Life Director) so she was doing some "research" for the night. Good thing the research included hanging out with Maddie, shooting hoops in the basement, singing the Laundry song with Jesse and seeing KCraig in action. 

Caroline shared some of her testimony with Wyld Life kids tonight and it was a beautiful thing. I love that our HS kids have the opportunity to invest and lead in this ministry. In our small groups one of the verses we talked about was a favorite of mine,

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

 There was a mini-crisis at the end of the night. My favorite black Patagonia coat that I wear every single day was missing. We searched the Halkyard's house high and low but it was nowhere to be found.

Did you guess? It was in Smelko's car! And because she's the coolest she not only brought my coat to school on Wednesday she also showed up with Chipotle Burrito Bowls because DREAM DAY EVERY DAY! She's an MVP my friends.

The November Varsity Project: The Friendship Project

Varsity FBC is in year three of advanced friendship bracelet making. Our team includes 43 girls from around HSE and across the Midwest. One of our goals is to provide opportunities for these girls to partner together to do small things with great love. Each month I'm going to give them a project where they can make bracelets for a cause. Together we can make a bigger impact than if we were trying to do it on our own.

I first met my friend Mollie Krone when she was a camper years ago at Camp Tecumseh. Mollie is full of enthusiasm for life, compassion for her friends and an eagerness to embrace every opportunity for fun. Mollie lives out the I'm 3rd Motto all year round by putting God first, Others second and herself third. Last year Mollie told me that she was starting something called The Friendship Project. This past month, Varsity FBC made bracelets to help support Mollie's club. 

Mollie told me, "The Friendship Project is something I do for children in hospitals who are going through a hard time. I want to let them know that they will always have a friend. I decided to start The Friendship Project because so many people kept telling me to sell my bracelets. I didn't like the idea of selling them, but my parents helped me come up with the idea of giving the bracelets away for free to make kids happy.

Over the summer I went to Camp Riley. I met a woman named Olivia who has given me so many opportunities to give away bracelets. When I went to Camp Riley I remember teaching some of the kids how to make bracelets. I won't forget the looks on their faces and how happy they were when I gave them each their own bracelet."

I'm so excited for Mollie to deliver these bracelets to more kids like the ones she met at Camp Riley last summer. She is putting love in action and giving kids a physical reminder that they matter, that they are noticed and that they are loved. 

Bracelets this month were made by Brooke Ratliff, Mallory Myers, Sophie Sams, Erin Dickett, Sarah Wright, Ellyn Hessong, Olivia Phillips, Carolyn Nohren, Grace Eckhardt and Ellen Baker. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"This video makes me want to come back. I would feel really left out if I didn't go."

Smooney texted me this afternoon, "Have you seen camp's new video yet? Go watch it right now."

Tecumseh always produces great media-- but this one may be the very best one yet. This is a message that makes me so proud to call camp home, proud that I'm part of the staff, proud that I get to be part of something that is changing the world. For any one who doubts the importance of camp-- here is your proof that nothing is more important. Watch the video here.

Why We Need Summer Camp

Summer camp is fun. It's a chance for kids to try things like water trampolines, slides, climbing, crafts and more. We hear from kids and counselors how much fun they had. It's one of the first questions a parent asks when they pick up their kids, "Did you have fun?" And I feel like I can say the answer is almost always, "Yes." We're good at fun. But if we're basing everything around fun, we can't win on fun. 

Fun is important. But it's not why we exist. Fun isn't our business. Our business is growth. The growth that we're seeking isn't about the number of acres we have or the buildings we walk into. The growth that we strive for every day is personal, individual growth. Every activity, every event, every location is specifically designed to help kids and counselors grow. Because this growth is what our world needs.

We need people who will learn respect. We need people who can get along with someone who is different. We need people who can talk, who can communicate and who can compromise. We need people who will one day go on to work in government and realize it's not about black versus white, or red versus blue. 

We need people who have grown in trust-- who do what they say they are going to do because they know others are counting on them.

Our world needs people who know what initiative looks like. Who aren't afraid to work hard even when no one is looking. Who don't expect everything to be handed to them and don't give up when it's not easy.

We need people who invest in friends and strive to make new ones. People who don't just talk to people who look, act and sound like them. People who show empathy and caring and working with others and realize they have more in common with the people around them then they have differences.

Our country needs joyful people. Not people who smile for the selfie so everyone thinks they have it all together. But people who strive to bring joy and happiness to a situation when it's easier to grumble. People who talk well of others when they aren't there instead of gossiping and slandering. 

And our world needs people who have faith. Not faith that divides and segregates, but faith that God loves them and wants them to love others. Faith that a relationship with God is more important than all the money in the world. And people who believe that no matter how much we mess up God is standing there to forgive and nothing can separate us from Him. 

Without sounding too arrogant, we're pretty good at this. Campers even go out and raise money so that other campers can experience the same thing. Parents tell us how camp changes their kids, how their kids grow during that week or two every summer. This is why we need summer. This is why we do what we do. We are building kids and adults who go into the world showing trust, respect, initiative, friendship, joy and faith. And that's why we have to get better at doing what we do. Our world can't handle us settling, giving in or giving up. We are on a mission of great importance.

I couldn't believe in that message more.

I still haven't figured out how to be a summer camp counselor year round, so I'm taking camp with me out into the rest of the world. Monday morning I met with my girls. These 8th graders are world changers. They believe in kindness, in silliness, in making decisions they can be proud of. They're growing in their faith, growing in friendships, growing in responsibility. They're amazing.

And these HS girls, my party people, are five of the greatest people I've ever known. They are changing the world around them by living a better story-- being someone that others go to when they need help, seeking out people who need a friend, choosing to invest their time and energy into things that might seem silly to the rest of the world. I'm so proud of them.

I recently got invited to join a Book Club and just finished December's pick-- Small, Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I've always been a fan of this author but this book is so important. When it comes to controversial subjects, I think we can always learn the most about ourselves and what we believe by hearing a story and giving a name and a face to the conflict. This book dives deep into the racial split that has been filling our country with fear, shame, judgment, defensiveness and misunderstanding. It's a lot. And it wasn't a comfortable read. But it's important.

"As Christina held my hand and Ms. Mina held Mama's there was a moment-- one heartbeat, one breath-- where all the differences in schooling and money and skin color evaporated like mirages in the desert. Where everyone was equal, and it was just one woman helping another. That miracle, I've spent thirty-nine years waiting to see again."

The countdown is getting serious. We are only 11 days away from the greatest event of the year-- the 8th Annual Winter CILT Reunion. Nearly 100 of last summer's CILTs will return to our home away from home for 25 hours of pure magic, whimsy and friendship.

One of the truths that Camp T is so good at teaching? It's this...

Hopefully that's a message we all carry home with us and share with our people. Not everyone gets Maddie and Cass, but that's totally ok. I love seeing the two of them become friends this year, an unlikely pair, and embrace one another's quirks and goofiness. They are my kind of people.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Do you like my piranha tattoo? I've had it on for four days."

After being away most of the week, it was so good to just be home today. I got to sleep in, go to church, see friends, do laundry and vacuum,  get ready for the week, blog and start rewatching Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life.

Hools and Kaylee-- I love getting to share life every week with this pair. These two have been such a big part of my life since their Junior High days and have become great friends of mine. On the Wilderness trail, Kaylee and I talked about coming back to Fishers and having regular pizza party and Diet Coke dates. I'm so glad today was one of those days.

Taylor Porter-- We only got to live in the same place for 1 year but we've been friends for 8 at this point. Between hand-written letters and catching up in person once or twice a year we've stayed close. This is a girl who I never run out of things to talk about with, who always makes me smile so big, who knows how to share in someone else's joys and sorrows, who listens like what you're saying is the most important thing going on, who loves other people like Jesus loves them. Taylor is the greatest. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"I love this show. There has to be more seasons. There has to be. Otherwise life cannot go on."

"Over the Midwest and through security, to grandmother's house we go..."

This Thanksgiving I got to fly to New Hampshire to celebrate the holiday with my parents and my grandma Keeley. (Any time I go to the Indy airport I have to give a moment of appreciation at B13 for the day I set up camp there with Mr. Hodgin and 23 8th graders when our flight got delayed for an entire day on the way to Washington D.C.)

Grandma has lived in Hanover, home to Dartmouth College, since I was 4 years old. When I was in HS I went to the Dartmouth Summer Camp for two years and stayed in this dorm. We've got so many favorite spots in this small New England town that it feels like coming home.

But of course the best part of the entire trip was getting to spend time with my grandma Mary. She's 96 years old and just as awesome as ever. I loved having four days to get to spend time together-- a rare treat when we live so far apart. 

When you come visit Gram at Kendal at Hanover there are some highlights you just can't miss...

Blueberry pancakes during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade...

Visiting the "Attic" down on the 1st floor to search through the treasures...

Making the trek down to ping-pong at the end of the furthest hall...

A round of 5 Crowns-- the official Wright family card game...

Lunch at Lui Lui for the best Zeppo (aka pepperoni) pizza in the ENTIRE world...

I don't know if you've been in hiding and missed it, but Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life was released on November 25th. I took a night nap to rest up, set my alarm for midnight, discovered it came out at 3am EST, went back to sleep, woke up at 3am and hit play on 4 new episodes, 6 glorious hours, with my favorite girls Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. I have been waiting for this for what feels like forever and they did not disappoint.

And the one liners are still just as perfect as ever (don't worry, no spoilers):

"I like my pajamas on the chair, all crinkled up, not folded up and suffocating in a drawer."

"People might say drinking coffee in the middle of the night could hinder your sleep. People are dumb."

"She's not saving the world, she just finding a way to never shave her legs again."

"I have so much fun. Look at all the chairs I get to put on tables."

"I'm so excited I'm doing this. I was going to do Eat, Pray, Love but my miles were blacked out."

"You taught me what safe feels like."

I flew back to Indy on Saturday and enjoyed a magical 3-hour layover in Baltimore. You just can't beat Chipotle, reading a Jodi Picoult book and friendship braceleting all at the very same time.

And the icing on top of this Thanksgiving break-- I've surpassed the stockpile quota for Summer 2017 on Thanksgiving Day (a new record). I can officially start giving out friendship bracelets the rest of the year as fast as I churn them out. The flight attendants on all of the planes loved my work.

Monday, November 21, 2016

"She told me she would be wearing a turtleneck too and then she shows up looking like that."

These 8th grade girls and my HS WL Party People are always at the top of the list of peole I'm thankful for. This morning we looked at what God says about thankfulness and gratitude.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds for the testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:2-3

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

Then we worked on lists of thankfulness for but I gave them certain categories as we wrote:
things, activities, people, things you wanted but never ended up getting, bad things that ended up being good, moments you've seen God and favorite places

It's Thanksgiving week which means college kids are coming back to town. I'm the luckiest because Grace, Abby and Katy came to school to eat lunch with me in my classroom just like they did when they were 7th graders. Nearly 6 years later I'm still such a fan of these girls and the women they're becoming.

You know I've been a letter writer from the start, but there's a pen-pal revolution happening in Fishers these days. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Snail mail for everyone!

Monday nights at Young Life are also at the top of my thankfulness list. It's hard to sum up why this time together is so special. It's something I never want to miss.

I'm thankful for Cassidy's weird faces, Kaylee's excitement for others, Sydni's love for Joel Osteen, Gracie's singing, Anna Morgan's hugs, Elyse's waves from across the room and all the ways that God is speaking into our lives.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Would you be happy if I got you 6 cases of Diet Coke randomly one day?"

Friday morning I walked into school and found this 7th grade bible study sitting in the hall. From my classroom, I can hear their conversation before the day officially starts. I love that Caitlin is leading these girls so well and forming this community. "Don't put a limit on how big God is and how much he wants to be part of your life."

This is Chloe. She usually comes up to me at least once a day with this huge smile on her face and some story to tell me. Chloe always has a billion folders with papers popping out, an extra sweater tied around her waist, hair falling out of her ponytail or braid-- but she's always asking questions and making sure that her papers are turned in on time. I tell Chloe that when I have a kid someday she'll probably be just like her-- she'll have her stuff together but still be a smiling hot mess most of the time.

Day 3 of baby-sitting continued...
- Picking up all 3 of the Andritch kids from school
- Dinner at Steak n' Shake with all our favorite things (friendship bracelets, markers, coloring pages, book) at the table
- Meeting Alex and J at the Craig house to start that part of the adventure
- Dropping Jesse off at movie night in the monsoon that changed IN weather from a sunny 70 degress to a freezing winter weekend
- Showing up at Claire's birthday to join in on the camping fun for awhile
- Having a house party back at the Craig house with Ellyn, Alex and Jesse

Day 4 of baby-sitting week at the Craig house...
- Making blueberry bisquick pancakes!!!!
- Convincing Alex to do her math first thing to get it out of the way

- Ellyn, Jesse and Sar's adventure to McDonald's, Chipotle, String Land (aka Michael's)
- "L-A, L-A-U, L-A-U-N-D-R-Y, CRAIG HOUSE (clap, clap) LAUNDRY (clap, clap)" all day long, all day strong
- Jesse choosing to work on his math while also enthusiastically checking the remaining time on the washer and dryer for us

- Photo shoot in downtown Fishers with Alex, Hailey, Holden, Mallory and my sidekick Morgan (the one with the camera bag and binoculars)

- Dinner at the Myer's house-- noodles were coming out of the kids' noses and ears, everyone wanted a turn playing snake, Johnna and Brad are the coolest and we could have stayed all night
- Friendship braceleting, Gilmore Girls, canvas painting and Lifetime Christmas movies back at the Craig house party
- and don't forget more "L-A, L-A-U, L-A-U-N-D-R-Y, CRAIG HOUSE (clap, clap) LAUNDRY (clap, clap)"

Day 5, the final day of baby-sitting week...
- Church at Harvest Bible Chapel with the Myers' family and getting to sit between Mallory and Johnna
- Qdoba party for the Qdoba Queen Alex Craig
- Randomly running into Mary Kate Myer, an old Choctaw rock star-- Ellyn, MK and I just attacked each other in a pile of hugs
- Listening to House Party 5 times in a row on he way home
- Reuniting with KCraig back at home and getting to just sit in the living room together and tell stories of the weekend

- Hanging up my brand new Gilmore Girls inspired canvas from Mallory that I love-- only 4 more days until Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life is released!!!!
- The neat freak side of me was so happy to unpack, do laundry and get organized for the week ahead after being gone for 5 days

- Dinner with Maddie at her favorite Tengery Bistro and then listening to our favorite Christmas songs
- Surprising Grace and Abby, back from college for break, and getting to catch up on life, reminisce about their Junior High days and watch Grace's dog PowerPoint that took 5 hours to make

It was a lives-overlapping, showing up, house party kind of weekend-- the very best kind you can have.