Tuesday, June 28, 2011

And How Was Your Day?

Today,  I:
  • taught Young Grasshoppa how to drive the mule.  Welcome to a lifetime of hauling water and running errands and worrying that you're going to run out of gas in back daycamp.
  • left to take an ESL certification test.  This was my un-fun 3 hours of the day.
  • ordered 18 slushes at Sonic Happy Hour, and made some counselors coming off the hill from horseback very, very happy.  Their happiness cost me $0.65 each.  Totally worth it.  Even with the mean stares from the 3 carhops who had to bring them out to me.
  • went to free swim with the camp dog, a labrador retriever that doesn't like to swim and hates gunfire.  He's an epic failure at being a retriever but a compete success at being a camp dog.
  • made myself a "princess" dress out of paper towels, duct tape, and spray glitter.  I also wore a cow head bonnet.  It's a long and weird story.
  • wore Bubba Teeth for most of the evening.  I went almost 80 minutes until I got the perfect 8 year old double take.  God bless her polite attitude, but her face was absolutely priceless.
  • sang camp songs - lounge singer style - on the mule with one of my all-time favorite, laugh-a-minute friends, Alison.
  • sat in the cabin floor, playing cards with a camper when I should've been doing rounds.
  • listened to the same camper tell me that yesterday, she hated it here.  Now, she never wants to leave.  One day.  That's all it takes sometimes.  Screw rounds. 
  • got peeped on by Big Momma Raccoon who so desperately wanted to join the party at Ikerd L that she was pressed up against the glass door like some sort of animated suction cup Garfield cat.  A raccoon in search of Skittles and Ring Pops.
  • searched for a canoe full of the CIT's bedding somewhere in the middle of an extremely dark lake.  Better luck in the morning, boys.
  • fed the camp dog half my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I am a sucker for the camp dog.  He is a sucker for pb&j.
  • laughed my ass off with some of my cutie-pie staff in the office on time-off.  They make me smile.  I hope they continue that trend all summer.  Please.  Please let them continue to make me smile.
So that was my day.
And people wonder why I still do this job.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Take My Advice

Illogical anger is pretty much always simmering on the back burner for me.  Like a pot of forgotten stew.  Not necessarily the worst thing in the world.  Until it boils over and stinks up the joint.

Sometimes there is some logic behind it, but mostly it's set off by things that are beyond my control.  Stupid people, stupid rules, stupid situations.  I guess you could say that stupidity is one of my hot-button issues.

So here's my advice, world.  Stop being stupid.  It will save me so much rage. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When Life Hands You a Trashbag Full of Rotting Spaghetti Sauce...

Yesterday, as stated before, didn't start out so hot.  And by the time I reached camp, problems just kept arising.  Here's a quick recap:
  • A huge windstorm blew down several trees (and their myriad of branches) around camp.
  • The electricity was knocked out at half the cabins and the dining hall. 
  • That dining hall bit is important later.
  • The infirmary had a huge tree down and with it came a power line.
  • So, if you went to close to the infirmary, you just might need the infirmary's services.
  • We had to call our maintenance and facility director.  On Father's Day.  Whereupon he worked all day.  On Father's Day.  He loves us, but still...
  • No internet = no access to server spot or printer = Deana having to handwrite all rosters and schedules.
  • Deana hand writing rosters and schedules = amazement by all counselors who can't remember a time without the internet or computers.  I think they expected me to take out my dentures for my next trick.
  • No electricity in the dining hall = no way to cook.
  • 36 Domino's pizzas cost $247.50.  In case you were wondering.
  • 36 Domino's pizzas = happy kids.
  • 40 mile per hour winds = no campfire at the point.
  • Counselor getting a shock in the shower = nobody showers and everyone brushes their teeth from the igloo cooler we placed in your cabin.
  • Electric company showing up = power shut off everywhere.
  • Hello, 9:30 bedtime.  Maybe we should cut power off every Sunday night.
  • A trip to check the dining hall reveals a power line sparking in a tree.
  • Hey, Oncor.  You just thought you were done.
  • Remember the no power in the dining hall?  That includes the walk-in fridge AND the freezer.
  • Thousands of dollars of food in the freezer in peril.  Hundreds of dollars of food in the walk-in sitting at 60 degrees.
  • Walk-in clean-out = a trashbag of spagetti sauce and berry cobbler leaking down my leg and a showdown with the dumpster raccoons.
  • It also meant dealing with these two characters.
I know it looks like a scene from "Dexter", but it's not.

All in all, most would count it as a lousy day, full of emergencies and mishaps.  But most would also have checked out as soon as they found out the internet was down.  Not us.  We worked hard, and our counselors handled each obstacle with grace and patience.  I just say that it's another day at camp.   When life hands you a trashbag full of rotting spaghetti sauce, the only choice is to roll your sleeves up, cover your nose, and hope it doesn't break as you shot put it into the dumpster. 

And remind yourself, "Rotten sauce or not... this is still way better than working in a cubicle."

Monday, June 20, 2011

For My Daddy Dean

Holidays depress me. I'm not even talking the birth of Christ here. Or the pilgrimage away from our British oppressors. I'm kind of hard on even the sort of made-up ones.

Today is Father's Day. And it totally depressed me.

My father and his struggle with Parkinson's disease puts me on the floor each time I think of it. Simply because the man I know know now, while still my dad, is just not my Daddy Dean anymore. And a simple call home left me wailing in the car, cursing at God and His injustices.

Because see this is where my spirituality begins to break

But as the day wore on, I tried to pull myself together because my daddy would not be okay with the fall-apart. Not when there are people depending on you. So instead of thinking about all the ways I feel like I am losing my dad, I tried to remember how many ways he lives within me. Like needing to carry on when things won't stop moving. Or my love of laughing until I can no longer breathe.

I think about the Christmas Eve that my dad left at midnight to fill an old lady's propane tank. And the fact that she never paid him. And he didn't care. I smile at the story my grandfather used to tell... that when my dad, as a child would walk home from school, he'd leave a trail of his leftover sandwich to feed any stray animals he saw.

I think of the Christmas he surprised us with a new VCR and a station wagon with a big bow. He was more excited than any of us. I feel his love of old country music, games, and being right.

There are a hundred faults that we share, but today, I forced myself to ignore them. And to remember that I am a stray collector, with a penchant for Waylon Jennings and dominoes, a kind heart, and the love of a good laugh.

And as I hauled 10 trash bags of rotting food at midnight with two of my dearest friends, laughing our asses off at the absurdity of me scaring off the raccoon mafia with a couple of pebbles and sheer defiance, I hope I made my Daddy Dean proud of his little girl.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Whatcha Want?

All my life, I have struggled with going after what I want.  Because I am a people-pleaser by nature, my needs and wants typically take a backseat to everyone else's.  Add to that the fact that my drug of choice is the need to be needed, and you have yourself a woman who has a list of things that she wants to accomplish but hasn't taken the time to.  I'm constantly making excuses as to how or why I can't do the things that I want; I can talk myself out of practically anything.

Which, when I stop to give thought to this, totally depresses me and makes me feel like a failure at life.


I've been thinking lately about if I could do anything, what I would do.  Here's a list of just a few things that I want but have never had the time or money or guts to go for. 
  1. Travel to a foreign country.  Or several foreign countries.
  2. Swim in the ocean.  I know.  It's sad.
  3. Own a convertible.  To complete #10.
  4. Buy a house.  I'm a financial commitment-phobe.
  5. See a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.  Ivy covered walls and decade long failures entice me.
  6. Be a mom.  But not by myself.
  7. Take a yoga class.  Even though the thought makes me quite nervous.
  8. Be even within 15 pounds of my high school weight.  I wish I was as fat as I thought I was then.
  9. See a Broadway play.  Of course, this requires a trip to New York first.
  10. Drive across the country.  In a convertible.  With funny friends.
  11. Place a bet in a Vegas casino.   And drink all their free drinks.  And then get married by Elvis.  On second thought, maybe I should re-think Vegas.
  12. See a Final Four game in person.  And if Duke were in it, then that's just a bonus.
  13. Go on a cruise.  They just look fun.
  14. Visit the Smithsonian.  I don't know why.  I just really, really like museums.
  15. Take a creative writing class.  I'm not sure why I've never done this.
  16. Go white water rafting.  Creekwalking at camp just didn't cut it.
  17. See the Grand Canyon (again).  I saw it when I was like 4.  I remember nothing.
  18. Take a year off to just do volunteer work.  It hits the "being needed" addiction head on.
Not a great list.  Not even a complete list.  Maybe I'll add to it occasionally.  But there it is.  In writing.  Not to be ignored.

What about you?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Separation and Suffocation

Tonight a little row of 5 year old teeth grinned a big grin at me.  Tonight, I watched ten little 5 year old fingers grip an arrow and break it in half.  An arrow that meant that she was good enough - that she was loved.  Tonight, I watched twenty adults melt into the ground as she skipped back to her seat.  Tonight, I saw two little 5 year old eyes look upon her counselor with love and concern.  Tonight, I watched that counselor face the unfairness of only loving someone for six days, and I could not help.

Because by tomorrow, that 5 year old smile, those 5 year old fingers, those 5 year old eyes will be gone. We will never know for sure where her journey will take her, and the not knowing scares me to death.

Sometimes the unfairness of the world suffocates me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Tiniest Glimpse...

Yesterday was kind of one long, crazy, what-the-hell-just-happened kind of day.

Lots of things made me happy, but some things made me terribly sad.

And a couple of things made me downright, mother-effing, rage-a-riffic.

In investigating one of the terribly sad, rage-a-riffic items on the "never dealt with that before" list, I found myself shutting up for once, sitting back, and watching my dear friend work his magic on this kid.  This wondrous little boy with a lifetime of worry already on his seven year-old shoulders.  It was just the smallest of things... a smile, a brush of the hair, a pat on the back, a silly expression, a tenderness not usually shown... but it was just the tiniest glimpse.  A glimpse of where this friend's been.  A glimpse of what he'll be one day.

And all the rage was gone.  Gone in the tiniest glimpse.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No Words...

My heart is full. 

Two parents came to speak to our staff tonight about the topic of parental expectations when they drop their precious children off for camp.  Our counselors, both rookie and veteran, asked insightful and appropriate questions.  They listened.  They smiled.  They risked asking questions that might result in an answer they wouldn't like but still needed to hear.  They rocked.  Completely.

I was like a proud mom.  Seriously, I was a little bit giddy.

But these parents.  These parents really got me.  I've known each of their families for almost 8 years, and I truly appreciate them, but tonight I was blown away.  They spoke about what camp does for their children.  What it has taught them.  The independence it's helped to create.  The relationships that they've formed as a result.  How it's brought joy into the lives of all their family members.  They put to rest some concerns of our newer staff members and validated the hard work and dedication of our returners. 

All in all, it was probably only about a 35 minute session.  But it was some of the most rewarding 35 minutes I've ever spent.  To see a child grow up before you is an amazing gift, but to hear someone thank and praise those counselors and staff members who played such a hand in their growth and then to express their faith and belief in our program... that's even more incredible. 

To thank someone, sincerely and without expectation, is a kindness that has no equal.  I literally can't find the words to express how I feel except that:

My heart is full. 

And I hope that yours is as well.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

On Being "Camp Tired"

My body has yet to adjust to "camp time". Even without kids in camp, the days go on forever, and the work never stops. Even a "fun night" requires planning, shopping, set-up, clean-up. Totally worth it, but also totally time-consuming.

So, no, my body is not handling the transition well. My knee hurts. My ankles are swollen. But more than anything, I'm just sleepy.

So sleepy that I dozed off in the Jack in the Box drive thru line.

At 10:45.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sometimes... Maybe... Definitely...

Sometimes you have to just shut your mouth.  And bide your time.

Maybe you escape.  Try to let it out.

Definitely let it go.

But sometimes you just need to smile.  And laugh.  Laugh hard.

Maybe silly dance in the dark.  Try to stop.  You can't.

Definitely laugh some more.

Sometimes, all you can do is find the funny.  Point it out to someone else. 

Maybe you will revel.  Hopefully you will dance and laugh. 

Definitely forgive. 

Or at least forget.

Because life's definitely too short to let the shitty moments win.

Growing Up Camp

Tonight, while at dinner, I was quizzing two of my new camp staff about the "real world" version of one of my "veteran" staff members.  He told me that I could probably have more fun revealing the "camp" version of him to these two real world buddies.  Especially since I've known him for practically half of his life.

And... whoa... I have.

Tomorrow, at our first day of staff training, there will be former campers who were 10 when I started working at this camp.  And they will be on staff.  Working.  Being responsible.  It's a little weird.

Other former campers of mine are lawyers, teachers, generally career-havin' adults.  They are wives and husbands.  They are moms and dads.

And they're good at it.

I thought, yet again, that I would double over as old age came around the corner and whacked me upside the head, but I didn't.  Instead, I just sat and marveled for a moment at how cool my summertime career is.  At school, I track progress for a couple of years.  Once they leave my classroom, they are mostly gone forever. 

But at camp, there's a really good chance that10 year old, who sat on the front porch with me, having a popsicle and shooting the breeze, will one day have my job.  And even better?  I'll have trained them to do it really well.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Toddler Math and Cake-Cake Extortion

When you're about to be away from the real world for the summer, it's important to get some quality time with the funniest people you know.

For me, that means dinner with Elliott and some snuggle time with his baby sister, Brooklyn. Here's the conversation that ensued when Courtney told her darling son that his loving Aunt Deana was coming for a visit.

Court: Guess who's coming to see us? Deana! Deana is coming to see us!
Elliott: CAKE-CAKE! (with a deliriously happy face, I would imagine.)

Hmmm... the last 3 times I've spent serious time with my home skillet, Ell, has been for:  Heather's adoption shower, Heather's birthday party, and Baby Brooklyn's shower.

Here's math, according to a two-year old.

Showers and birthdays = cake-cake.

Therefore, DEANA = cake-cake.

So, when Courtney texted me this conversation, I had to strongly fight the urge to stop and buy my buddy a slice of cake-cake. But I resisted. Because his mother would kill me. And because Aunt Deana is neither made of money or cake-cake.

As I coaxed some green peas down the kid (and had to stomach a few of my own), I tried to get some video of my latest venture with E. Here's my attempt (Pardon the cackling at the end -- for everyone who listens to me on a daily basis, I'm really very sorry. I had no idea.)

Attempt #2 only served to attract Glammy's attention, and you'd better believe that ain't nobody better than Glammy.  Except maybe Poppy.  But Poppy wasn't there to chime in.  Too bad, Poppy.

I'm not quite sure what the Ell-Man says at the end, but his eyes tell the whole story.  "Uh-oh... Glammy heard me.  I'd better change my story and look extra cute."

So, here's what I learned tonight:
A.  Green Peas actually aren't too bad if they're fresh.  And coated with lots and lots of butter.
2.  You gotta bring the cake-cake if you want a chance to overthrow the Reign of Glammy.