Friday, December 31, 2010


The reason I am writing today is because I made a commitment (to myself) to publish a minimum of two entries each month, and today just so happens to be the last day of the month, not to mention the last day of the year. I've been contemplating this entry for a few weeks, but still I have nothing particularly significant to share. Instead, I will revert to my typical ramblings about what's been up over the last few weeks. (Sorry, no witty witty banter to follow.)

The week before I left for home, it snowed in Raleigh!! Granted, there wasn't much to show for it in my neck of the woods, but it sure made my day!! In fact, that week, it didn't get up to 40 degrees until four days later, and even then it was still pretty frigid. Balmy 75 degree temperatures welcomed me home on December 11th, yet it snowed again in Raleigh only a few days later. While temps here in Louisiana have followed the extremes (record breaking lows followed days later by almost 80 degree temperatures), Raleigh lucked out with a near blizzard the day after Christmas which resulted in 7 inches of fluffy white stuff on my sweet little Cajun-yota. B-)

Here goes an update on "the feces," or "thesis baby," whatever the mood mood of choice may happen to be. Thanks to all of you who put in a few requests to the god of survey research, because it sure paid off. I sent out one "last-ditch" effort and received several responses soon thereafter. By the skin of my teeth, I think I managed to grab a 40% response rate.

Since school let out, I spent much of my time working on the thesis. Several comments were made about how I should be enjoying my time or doing something fun, but the reality of it is that being home in Cajun Country, working (like crazy) at my leisure, while sitting on the couch in pajamas all day, yet still having time to watch (cable!) tv and read and visit with family...that IS enjoying my time. No complaints, really.

Thus far, I put together a 29 page draft of my Chapter 4, which I gleefully submitted to my professor on Christmas Eve (Merry Christmas, JB!)! Just as I made it about half-way through the first draft of Chapter 5, I received revisions for #4. (The ball sure is rolling...) I hope to finish Chapter 5 sometime today or at least by Monday, so that I can get moving on revisions to Chapter 4 and put together a draft of my submission for a conference in Idaho this spring. The deadline for that is January 14th, but my chair would like a draft of it by the 7th. So, we all know what Lauren will be doing to celebrate her last week at home, ha.

Never fear, I have done a few things other than work on "the feces." As typical of this season, I've spent a lot of time with family--both my immediate family (parentals and brother), and a bit of the extended bunch, as well. Some of my favorite times this holiday have been spent with the three lovely bundles--better known as the Danenberg triplets!

On two back to back weeks, I was asked to stay a night at the Danenberg home. Of course(!), I happily obliged. Even while doing other chores around the home, there is just something magical about being in the presence of three well-behaved, happy, beautiful, and fun babies! I was also able to observe an evaluation by representatives from the LA Early Steps program, and go along with the babies to their physical therapy session one afternoon. The following week, I went with them on an outing to Baton Rouge to see a pediatric opthamologist. It was the first time I was really able to experience the looks and questions that seem to follow the babies wherever they go. Either way, these babies are still the most well-behaved group of children I have encountered in a long time, and there is something special to be said for each of their unique, developing smiles and personalities. I could just eat 'em up!

Peer socialization has been pretty much non-existant since I've been home. Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of online and text interaction with friends from across the country (per usual), but I haven't done anything with friends here. There's always that small glimmer of possibility that things will work out for me to visit with some of my local friends or even the college roommates, but it never quite seems to work. I'm hoping this will change whenever I get really settled into a new life sometime next fall. Plus, by then, I should have access to my car again. (It stayed in NC for this trip.)

As I close out this entry (and the year), I must say I have several things to look forward to in the coming months. We are exactly 3 months away from our due date for the "thesis babies," and I have finally started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The bulk of the dirty work has been done, so I can't wait to see it all start coming together very soon!! Discussions have begun with one of my travel buddies; we're hoping for a few fabulous adventures dispersed throughout the semester. I plan to be back in Louisiana in just 9 weeks, ready and fully prepared to celebrate the defense of my "feces" along with the birthdays of myself and my grandmother, and even cooler, the lovely Louisiana holiday of Mardi Gras (which also happens to be my favorite holiday, in general).

With that, I wish you all the best. Cheers to another new year...


Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Little Bit of Winter Cheer

As the end of the semester draws near, it seems like a good time to give an update on all things thesis-y. Usually, my stories about graduate school involve some type of rant or negativity. However, tonight I'm here to write about some (perhaps rare) positive moments I've experienced recently.

About a week and a half ago, I may or may not have enjoyed a bottle of wine over the successful submission of Chapters 1-3 just a few days before our joyful American holiday of Thanksgiving. While it was a quiet week in the office (as most students scattered home for the holiday), I committed to working as if it were any other week. Although I did not make much progress on my actuall assistantship work, I did make good headway with organizing thesis data and putting together a major project which consisted of an educational program plan (20 pages). When that was done, I started on an essay exam. In other words, I had a productive week despite the holiday.

[It should be noted that I am grateful for a lovely friend of mine who adopted me into her family and welcomed me home for Turkey Day. In the three years I have been away for Thanksgiving, I must admit that I have been very blessed to have warm, hospitable friends who have graciously welcomed me into their family homes on this special day. Next year, however, I am committed to being at home with my own family on this holiday--no matter what.]

Back to positive moments a la graduate school...On Monday after Thanksgiving, my three chapters were returned with MINIMAL revisions! No major overhauls, reorganizations, cuts, or additions. It was a miracle! How I put together a decent lit review (despite aches and pains generally associated with such portions), I will never know. Either way, I'm not complaining. Au contraire, I am rejoicing!

On Tuesday, I sent out a third round of reminders to participants in my study. One participant returned the e-mail with an interesting request. A 4-H program leader in [unnamed] state asked permission to use my instrument (survey) as an internal self-assessment tool for their camping programs. He asked how the instrument was designed and whether it was based on "best practices." For those of you who are unfamiliar with the "research world," a request for someone else to use your instrument is kind of a big deal.

According to my professor, it's rare for doctoral students to design their own instruments, much less master's students. (Many of the Master's students in our dept. design their own instruments, so I never thought much of it.) Someone asking to use your instrument is one of the biggest honors a researcher can receive. Needless to say, I was super giddy and excited about it all. So, if any of you come across a journal article (or research presentation/printed materials) with my name as a reference for the survey instrument, be sure to let me know!

Also this week, several of us in the office reviewed posters for an upcoming professional conference. One of our profesors is in charge of the poster submissions, so she enlisted our help during the reviewal process. While I contributed to a poster proposal for last year's conference, I'd never had the experience of reviewing others' professional work in this capacity. At first, I felt unqualified to do the job, but as I worked through it, it actually turned out okay. Basically, it ended up being a review on all the research methodology and reporting techniques that I've learned over the past year and a half. In a way, it was kind of like reviewing for the final in my advanced research methods course (which is good, considering I'll probably wait 'til the last minute to actually do that, lol). In any case, reviewing posters was a fun experience. :)

As with all things studious, it can't all be roses and chocolate. To date, my response rate rests around 35%, which is not near the 70% my advisor would like, or even the 60% she insists is necessary for publication. I've made about 60 phone calls, probably speaking with a real person in about 1/3 of those calls, hoping...begging...for people to respond to the survey. We're going to reevaluate the situation on Tuesday when my advisor and I meet with our department head to give it a practice go at analayzing the data. For me, it's not a question of whether I'm going to graduate ('cuz you can bet that I will graduate, regardless), but it is a matter of putting together a quality piece that is worth all of this work. Plus, people need this research. It's important, and therefore, I need to do a good job of it. So, if you all could pray to the god of survey research, that would be great. (If you choose to stick with just one god for now, that's okay too. *wink*)

Rather than go on about other academic obligations regarding the remainder of the semester, I'm going to leave you with this:

(I am officially addicted to phdcomics, so expect more "funnies" in the near future!)

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow*!

*It's snowed here in Raleigh yesterday!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Haphazard Celabratory Wino

I want to write. Seriously? Yes, seriously. Despite the fact that I spend every "free" moment of my life these days writing, I still desire to put the pen to the paper--or fingers to the keys--if you will. However, I don't feel like I've got anything substantial or organized to write about, so I'm going to ramble as I happily sip on a delightful glass of wine...

Love is in the Air
It's been over a month now since Victoria and Seth's wedding, so maybe I should start there. Now we all know that weddings and general are beautiful, but this wedding was just plain exceptional. From the start, I was honored to spend the day with the lovely bride as she prepared for the big ceremony. Dawn and I were with Victoria, her mom, and sister for most of the day as we all got our hair and makeup done. As for the ceremony, it was the most holy, blessed wedding I have ever attended, and probably will ever attend. Seven, yes SEVEN, priests served as concelebrants, which just really helped to demonstrate the sanctity of this sacred sacrament. You also could have sworn that everyone in south Louisiana was in attendance; so many guests were honored to witness the unity of this most blessed couple. If there's one thing I learned about Victoria and Seth is that they are loved...loved my many, loved by all. That's pretty darn special, if you ask me.

Skip forward a bit, and I attended another wedding recently--just yesterday, in fact. Jessica (better known as J-Smith), one of my officemates, married the love of her life, Jason. It was my second-ever outdoor wedding, and first-ever Baptist wedding. Not that I didn't expect there to be cultural differences, but there were a few traditions and dances, etc. that were completely new to me. It was definitely a learning experience. As all brides are, J-Smith was beautiful indeed, and her wonderful soon-to-be-husband was in awe of her glory. It was so sweet. One thing I took away from this celebration was the beauty in making a wedding all your own. Every bit of this wedding oozed personality of the happy couple. From the silly faces and hand-picked cotton decorations, to the unity soil, to the grand exit via John Deere, Jessica and Jason's personalities shined through. If I ever get married, I want it to be that way. I want to share food and traditions that are rooted deep in my being with all of the people who mean the most to me. That, to me, is one of the purest ways to honor the couple and their God that the designed them so.

Job-ly Juggles
Another thing that seems to be in the air these days is job juggling. One of my roommates, Courtney, recently got accepted for a managerial position at the NC State Vet School. She just left her job at the NC State Employees Credit Union and will be starting at the vet school next week. Another roommate of mine, Emily, went on a job interview for an Agricultural Education teacher position way out east near the coast. (She hasn't heard back yet.) Several of my classmates are actively (and not so actively) pursuing the job front. Jess is applying for Extension Agent (4-H & Livestock) positions across the state. It seems as though Justine and Elizabeth may just get lucky and have a couple of AgEd jobs fall right into their laps at just the right moment.

As for me, I don't think I mentioned that I applied for a Program Coordinator position at Victory Junction Gang Camp way back in September. About 6 weeks later I heard they were really behind in the process, and that we should assume we did not get the job if we didn't hear from them by Nov. 17. Well, last I checked, today is Nov. 22, and I've yet to hear anything so I'm going to assume that I didn't get the job or they decided not to fill the position (I heard that too.). I'm totally cool with that because, this way, I have all the time in the world to commit to writing... In any case, I have been thinking a lot about camp lately, which means that I really hope the stars align for me to spend a fourth summer at my home away from home. Now that, is a recipe for heart happiness. <3 br="">
-Rascal Flatts' newest cd came out last week and once again I am pleasantly pleased...or in love...however you want to look at it! Just like I did 19 months earlier, I listened to the cd four consecutive times in the first few hours after acquiring the album. Two things were different this go round: my dearest Nicholas was not present to press "repeat," yet my lovely Lendy patiently relished in my obsessive anticipation of the awesomeness that is a new RF cd! Let's just say it was a good day. (I should note that I'm currently listening to the album for oh...about the 12th time...tehe.)
-Today I turned in the first three chapters of my thesis to my committee chair. (Yes, I am celebrating by drinking a whole bottle of wine by myself.) AHH!! Wahoooooooo!! (Ontomotopias continue.) Granted, my Chair has revised Chapters 1 and 3 about three times by now, but it was my first go at Chapter 2. Hopefully, I won't have to make too many revisions this go 'round, and instead I can focus more on data collection and formatting the chapters that I do have, before I start writing again in a few weeks. The plan is to finish data collection and analysis mid-December, have Chapters 4 and 5 as well as a conference paper submitted by mid January, a presentation designed by mid February, my defense March 2nd, the manuscript submitted by April 1, and a journal article accepted for publication by the end of May. So much to do! I have to say, birthing a thesis is much like birthing a child--exciting, and scary, and proud, and overwhelming all at once. Thank goodness I've got my rocks to care for me along the way...and share in the silliness while we're at it. 8-)
--All this talk about submissions can only mean one thing...the semester is almost over!! I'll save much of those details for perhaps another day, but let's just all get excited because we're one month, and one semester closer to the enddd. While we may spend the holidays writing, it will be worth for all the days in sweatpants and nights curled up watching movies on the couch. I may not be the most jovial at this time of the year, but I will admit that there are some definite perks to the season.

I must say, although the wine is delightful, if I don't stop now, things may get interesting. Forgive me for the lack of cohesiveness in this here entry; maybe I'll find something better to write about soon. That, or I'll just open another bottle and return again shortly, jk...maybe?


Ta-ta for now, folks!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Life Lesson #57826

With all this talk about anxiety that is life (or grad school), I felt like it might be a good time to talk about another type of stress relief--vacation! While music is a great coping mechanism, especially in the "immediate" and the "short-term," everyone needs a break from time to time. For most of us, we may have experienced Fall Break only a few short weeks ago, and the holiday season will soon be upon us (Thanksgiving in a little over 2 weeks, Christmas in 6?!). But what about in between the holidays...those weeks that we seem to just exist, mindlessly, turning in one paper after another, or floating from one day to the next, never really knowing what came before or what comes next?

To put it simply, we need a vacation! I know, I know, you're thinking, "Lauren, vacations cost money, and quite frankly, I cannot afford (both financially and schedule-wise) to get away for a week (or even a few days)!" Despite the fact that some of you may think I don't actually do any schoolwork, I do understand financial and scheduling constraints associated with vacationing.

In regard to financial constraints, I'm not sure if any of you have heard, but there is a new phenomenon gaining popularity--staycations. According to the ever-resourceful, a staycation involves, "Staying at home during your vacation instead of traveling to a pleasure destination. This can be caused by high gas prices, or just a shortage of money." The idea of a staycation sounds pretty cool; stay home and play games with the family, cook, watch movies, read books...or be a tourist in your own hometown, looking at the city with rose-colored glasses and exploring sites you've always said you're "too busy" to visit.

I hear staycations can be pretty fun. In fact, one of my good friends said her family did a staycation as a way of saving money for an upcoming wedding they were planning. They all seemed to really enjoy it, and it severed to be a great excuse for family bonding time. Who can argue with that?

And yet another alternative to the vacation is...the daycation! Again, our friend the defines daycation as, "A short trip out of town for only a day. Leave in the am and return in the pm." Daycations encourage the exploration of new or different locations, but typically don't break the bank or put a wrench in your schedule or standing commitments. So, for the mid-range financially burdened one, or the busy-yet-needing-a-break one, daycations may be the answer.

Daycations are probably the most challenging for me to wrap my brain around because I'm such the concrete/sequential individual who isn't entirely adept at changing plans on a whim. However, the daycation seems most properly excecuted as a last minute decision to have a daylong adventure. Thankfully, I have a bit of a diverse group of friends, many of which challenge me to step out of my comfort zone every once in a while. ;-)

That being said, I'm finally getting to the true inspiration for this entry. Yesterday, Lendy and I went on a daycation! What started out as the idea of an opportunity to visit the mountains of Virginia for photographing the beauty that is fall foliage turned into a day filled with interesting sights and sounds, as well as a lesson in spontaneity.

Recovering from an interesting night of playing "gallon" (ha!), we didn't get on the road quite as early as we might have anticipated. But hey--it was just the first of many ways I learned to accept the "plan to not plan" for a day. Leaving Wake Forest, we headed northish, making our way up to Caswell County and our first stop in Danville, VA. Lendy showed me her childhood stomping grounds, including the schools she attended and a true southern style general store before stoping to have lunch with her mom and younger brother.

From there, we headed northeast toward the mountains of southern Virginia. On the way up, we drove through Martinsville (home of Martinsville Speedway, for all of you NASCAR fans out there). Out of appreciation for my family, I asked Lendy if she minded a quick detour to take a picture of a sign at the speedway. Being the all-accommodating-and-awesome Lendy that she is, she selflessly agreed to take me to the speedway. After grabbing a quick snapshot of the sign at the main entry, she offered to drive down closer to the track in hopes of getting more pictures. As it turned out, some very nice lady was out near the entrance to the track, and when we asked her if we could walk up to take pictures, she offered us the opportunity to drive Mike's (Lendy's husband) truck out onto the track to get a better look at to take better pictures. Umm...excuse me? Yes, I did just say that. We walked out on the track, and drove a complete lap around the speedway!?!? AHHH! I literally thought I was going to hyperventillate. It was A-MAZING! My family is so jealous, lol. What a freak occurance! ...And thisss is why sometimes, I have got to learn to be more spontaneous!

After a quick pit stop (ha!) at the little Dunkin' Donuts express, where Lendy made her own iced coffee (don't tell Ravi!), we continued our journey. As we began our ascent, the trees got prettier and the roads got windier. At the top of the mountain, we came to Chateau Morsiette, a beautiful restaurant and winery. Lendy and I walked around a bit and took part in their (very busy) wine tasting experience. On the way down, we stopped at Maybry's Mill, an old grismill (whatever that is). There, we had the most awesome photo shoot, though I guess that's being a bit boastful because most of the pictures are of me acting a fool...aka having my very own ANTM photo shoot. lol. I tried to be artistic by taking some creative/artsy photos, and of course, I captured a few of the lovely lady, even though she swears she's not worthy of being featured in the shoot. (In the words of my crazy roommate, "WRONG!")

Eventually, we made our way back down to *Pelham, NC, Lendy's hometown, for dinner with her mother and brother. Our experience at Frank's Italian just might have involved way too many french fries and fried pickles, but it was well worth the experience. We ended the night with a dive through a Lendy-titled episode of "Hoarders," looking for the treasure that would become our office Christmas tree. Lendy's mother welcomed us into her lovely home, and I was able to dig through some not-so-embarassing photos and childhood memorabilia. Tehe.

Our daycation came to an end only 13 hours later, as we arrived back in Raleigh just after 11 p.m...which finally gets me to the point I have been trying to make all along. Even when we think that we're too busy, we don't have enough money, or there just isn't the time, we all need to take breaks. Whether it's a full fledged week at the ski resort over thanksgiving, or a day trip to the beach, or even an afternoon playing games and watching movies, vacations are inevitiable--and necessary. I'm not saying we should keep procrastinating or spend hours on Facebook (heck--I, and you, will do that no matter what), but I am saying that we have to treat ourselves every now and again. Thank you, Lendy love, for teaching me Life Lesson #57826. <3 br="">
Guess I really am getting an education after all..

~Oh and...I saw my first shooting star! :-D

Monday, October 25, 2010

Music Speaks to the Soul

Began 10/25/10:
Most of you are fully aware that life has taken me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, a ride that has lasted much longer than I anticipated. While this ride will probably last long into the future, I do hope that I develop better coping mechanisms, preferably sooner rather than later.

A few weeks ago I realized that it had been a while since I really connected with a song on the radio. Even though I'm not very in-tuned with music and all things related, I really enjoy country music and I feel as though it has some weird way of reaching deep down into my soul and connecting with both the "really awesome" and the "really tough" parts of life. [Maybe I can blame Rascal Flatts' lack of new material for all this introspection, ha.] But really, I've been aching and searching for a song with which I could really connect.

Flashing forward a bit, it looks like this week is shaping up to be a tough one emotionally...less for me and more for my friends, but still. Two of my really good friends here in Raleigh are going through a very tough time right now. It's strange how much I, too, am hurt by their pain. I'm not really sure why this is, but something about their situations is really weighing on my heart right now.

As usual, there are the ups and downs that come along with "birthing" a thesis, too. I am so thankful for the support we all have for each other in our little office/class cohort. The "rock collector" parable (have I talked about that here yet?) really has stuck with us, just as we stick with each other through all of the challenges that we seem to face on a daily basis. (At this point, I'm beginning to think that in order to get a Master's degree, your computer has to die at least once, you have to lose at least one data set or document/file, and you've got to think your capstone project is absolutely worthless at some point...just to earn that darn piece of paper.)

Continued 10/31/10:
I say all of this because in my search for "the" song of the moment, I realized it would be difficult to find something that really applied to me, and even more specificially, to the things going on in mine and my friends' lives. It's not every day you find songs about grad school, losing a child, making a tough decision, shattering your dreams, etc. I mean, sure, talk to T-Swift about heartbreak, and Good Ole Kenny can help ya with daydreaming about life on the beach, but those other things...they just don't sound so eloquent in a country song.

Last week, one of my co-workers/classmates (rock ladies, if you will) came into the office bursting at the seams wanting to play a song for us. As it turned out, the song was Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," and she was so right when she said it fit our group quite well. Really the parts that apply to us are...
//We gotta hold on to what we've got
It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not
We got each other and that's a lot...
//...Oh, we're half way there
Oh oh, livin' on a prayer
Take my hand, we'll make it I swear
Oh oh, Livin' on a prayer!
In our case, we DO have each other, and that IS a lot. We ARE (more than) half way there. Together, we WILL make it. And really, we are lucky, blessed even, to have what we do. I truly believe that I would never make it through this challenge that is grad school without the support, encouragement, and understanding from those around me. And I know I can speak for all of us when saying, we really are "livin' on a prayer."

Only one day earlier than our little "Livin' on a Prayer" moment, the lovely Mrs. Pandora presented with me with my own version of "the song," yes, the exact song I had been waiting for all along. While I really hate to make this blog even longer than it is, most of you are well aware that I tend to post lengthy entries, and I don't think it would do the song justice to not include the lyrics, so please bear with me. Here it is:

One Day You Will - Lady Antebellum
(Click the link to watch a lyric video on YouTube.)
You feel like you're falling backwards
Like you're slippin' through the cracks
Like no one would even notice
If you left this town and never came back
You walk outside and all you see is rain
You look inside and all you feel is pain
And you can't see it now

But down the road the sun is shining
In every cloud there's a silver lining
Just keep holding on (just keep holding on)
And every heartache makes you stronger
But it won't be much longer
You'll find love, you'll find peace
And the you you're meant to be
I know right now that's not the way you feel
But one day you will

You wake up every morning and ask yourself
What am I doing here anyway
With the weight of all those disappointments
Whispering in your ear
You're just barely hanging by a thread
You wanna scream but you're down to your last breath
And you don't know it yet

[Repeat Chorus]

Find the strength to rise above
You will
Find just what you're made of, you're made of

[Repeat Chorus]

One day you will
Oh one day you will

Honestly, I don't really even know where to begin discussing this song. The Lovely Lady A somehow put out a song that reaches down into the depths of my heart and puts into words every bit of what I have felt, feel, and (probably) will feel. It's no secret that graduate school has been a struggle for me, and while I don't mean to sound depressed here, they really just say it quite perfectly. The beauty about this song, though, is not even about how I relate to it in my own life, but rather its universality.

For the friend who knows what she wants, but is scared she won't get it, or for the friend who has no idea what's next. For the friend who hurt someone or the one who was hurt. For the friend who lost everything, and the friend who lost just one thing. ...One day you (we) will.

One day we will have insight and understanding. One day all of the pain will be gone. One day we will be blessed with exactly what it is that we need.

We will find love. We will find peace. We will find the us we're meant to be. Right now, that's not the way it feels, but one day we will.

Wow. All I can say is wow. No amount of words or reflection here can really do this song justice in my heart. I guess, I really just wanted to include it here because I feel like it's a really profound set of insight for those of us who have daily struggles (hey--doesn't everyone?). We have to remember that "down the road the sun is shining, and in every cloud there's a silver lining."

On a lighter note, I think we should compile a GSG (Grad School Girls) soundtrack. It should be complete with a collection of empowering, reflective, motivating tunes. And just like us, this "Tune Rock" will pull us through, because...

One day we will.


PS: I haven't forgotten about the promise I made in my tweet-blog, nor that I need to write about the LeBlanc-Richard wedding, among other more-thought provoking topics.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall-in' Upside Down

It seems as though I can never write a blog with one single topic, and tonight is no different. Usually, it takes me forever to write because either (a) I have too much going on, or, (b) there isn't anything interesting to write about. I figured my next post would be about this special week in October, but now I've got something else I really need to get off of my chest, so it seems that tonight is the night.

As I just alluded, this has been a very special week for me. Fall Break at NC State was last Thursday and Friday (Oct. 7 & 8), and if you absolutely anything about me, I'm sure it would come as no surprise for you to hear that Fall Break was the perfect excuse for a good excursion. (Heck--do I even NEED excuses to travel? Uh, not really.) It actually worked out quite perfectly because I needed to be in Louisiana for two weekends in a row (more about that in a second). So, why not go all out and make it an extended vacation? Now that sounds more like it!

[I would also like to note that this is the first time since before 2007 that I have not been in Idaho during this week in October. It's a sad day because of this.]

The reason I needed to be in Louisiana is because two of my very good, long-time friends are getting married tomorrow. Victoria LeBlanc and Seth Richard are finally tying the knot after six long years of dating. In fact, I still remember the day I returned from French immersion in Canada in 2004; Victoria called to tell me she'd gone on a date the night before...and the rest is history. Sorry, I digress. Anyway, they're getting married tomorrow, and I have graciously accepted the offer to serve as a bridesmaid for all of the festivities. Thankfully, Fall Break--literally--fell into place, with the rehersal, dinner, and bridal luncheon all planned for last weekend, and of course, the big day is tomorrow. This way, I was able to extend my vacation and take a whole week to be at home with my family in Louisiana. What a nice deal.

Also, another one of my dearest friends, Dawn, was asked to serve in the wedding, too. She (and another bridesmaid) are traveling back and forth from Texas for the festivities. Since Dawn was so gracious to spend 18 hours in a car with me last summer on one of my cross-country drives, I felt it was only fitting for me to offer a similar gift to her. With the extended holiday, I went ahead and flew to meet her in Austin, Texas on Wednesday night (Oct. 6). On Thursday morning, we visited a military museum at a local base, and did a little hiking at Mount Bonnabell. It was a good little half-day tourist experience. That afternoon, I was able to get some work done before bringing Dawn "dinner" at the hospital where she is doing her internship. She showed me around the beautiful facilities, and I did a little more work while she finished up for the evening. On Friday morning, we hit the road nice and early, making it to Abbeville in the early afternoon. (Dawn continued onto Baton Rouge, for she had a different wedding rehersal and dinner to attend to that evening.)

Fortunately, my early arrival allowed for a few hours worth of extra time to spend with a very cute, happy, and fun set of triplets! In fact, I got to play with not one, but TWO sets of triplets!! Laurie made friends with another triplet mom while in the hospital, and the two planned to have a play date Friday afternoon. It was so fun to see six babies all in one room! I'm gonna ressurect the Rosie O'Donnell here and say--cutie patooties!

Friday night, I was able to see yet another group of family members at my cousin Ross's high school football game. Ross is a senior quarterback for his team, which happened to be 5-0 up until then. Sadly, I had never received the opportunity to watch him play, so again, it worked out perfectly for me to be there. It really sucked that they lost the game, and Ross got hurt right at the end, but I am so grateful to have had the chance to be there, with our whole entire family, supporting him. I hope it meant as much to him as it did to me...

Saturday was another full day; I spent the morning shopping for dresses to all the wedding events. The rehersal festivities began with 5 p.m. Mass in Delcambre, and then went straight into the practice. With a huge wedding party and 7 con-celebrants (priests), it will be quite a feat to orchestrate. Afterwards, we all gathered for a delicious homecooked meal--Cajun style, of course! There was seafood and chicken/sausage gumbo, potato salad, bread, and dessert. Yumm. Good food and good times.

Sunday, Hilary (bridesmaid attending grad school in Houston for dietetics) and her mom hosted a beautiful bridal luncheon. Again, the food was great, company was wonderful, and the cake pull was a blast! I pulled the engagement ring...we'll see how that works out. lol. Later, I spent the afternoon playing with my cousins again. Man, I really miss our Sunday really.

Since have been home all week, people are constantly asking what I am up to. I guess most people can't quite fathom what a girl would with her time while sitting at home alone all day. Don't worry, I have enjoyed it thoroughly. It is so nice to have the house to myself, to work at my own pace, and get things done. Because I set my alarm to be up at a decent time, and worked pretty consistently all day long, every day this week, I am completely content with my time this week. I feel very okay with the progress I have made, simply because I know that I gave it my all and I could not have fit anything else into my days of productivity. It would have been nice to have all of my thesis writing materials at my disposal, to have totally completed the work for my professor, or to have even done a little extra academic work, but I figure that since I used my time wisely and did make some progress, that I've just got to be okay with it. I also figured that since I never have the opportunity to just "be" with my family, when the parents came home, it was time to put the books away. There is nothing in life more important than the people you love, and my Master's degree can go to the hot place if it means spending the whole week with my nose in a computer instead of with them. Plus, I think they really do miss me, and loved to have me home for such an extended period of time.

Despite all of my contentness with the work I accomplished this week, tonight I received a fairly decent blow to the progress on my thesis. As of Saturday (two days from now?), my pilot study will have been out for 3 weeks. I was supposed to close it on Monday (the one that just passed), but because I only had about half of the responses I was aiming for, I had to leave it open a little longer. Still, we hoped to have the pilot data analyzed by mid-week, so that changes could be made to the instrument before I send it out to the actual sample sometime in the near future. However, I received the not-great news this afternoon, from a colleague at Texas A&M who is pseudo serving on my committee as the stats person.

He said that he won't even touch my data until I have at least 25-30 responses. How many do I have now? 13. You got it, I need 17 more before reliability tests would be anywhere near accurate. Since I've spent the last 3 weeks bugging people via e-mail, and all this week calling camps via phone, I can't for the life of me fathom how I will convince 17 more people to take part in my pilot study. Said committee person offered a few suggestions for how to proceed from here, but it really is quite discouraging to hear that I'm nowhere near completing the process of my pilot study. I'm pretty sure I'm already behind the schedule that my advisor laid out in August, so heaven knows what that means for the rest of our plans.

I guess the bottom line is that there is nothing I could have done differently to make things go a better way in this situation. I did everything that I was supposed to, and I have been on top of it all from the very beginning of the semester. I don't even want to know how I would feel right now if that were not the case. The work has to get done no matter what, and I'm pretty sure my advisor isn't going to let me drop out, so I suppose I have to pull it all together, wipe the tears, and move on. Thankfully, I will be taking the next few days off for the wedding (and recuperation, lol), so I'll revisit the situation when I get back to Raleigh on Monday. We'll fix it, we'll make it work, and I WILL graduate in May. (In fact, Justine noted tonight that we graduate in exactly 7 months. This first trimester has proved to be a challenge, so who knows what the next two will do to us. Regardless, we're "due" in only 7 months! There is a light...)

It's times like these I really wish we had our little grad school blog up and running. Kinks in the plan seem to be inevitable when it comes to grad school and thesis writing. While it's no walk in the park, I suppose it makes us better...somehow...and the rocks we collect along the way go far in building a strong foundation for our future.

In any case, despite this setback, I feel very blessed to have experienced this week at home. My anxiety level is way down, and I just feel so much comfort for being at home in the familiarity that is home. I am sorry that I have not been able to be there (both physically and emotionally) to those I left behind, but I hope they will understand that this is just something that I had to do. And, maybe they'll even consider coming along next time...Mardi Gras 2011 is around the corner, and you can bet that I'll be here to celebrate!

In fact, it's only fitting to end with this...
Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Change Happens.

Change happens.

This small sentence is shaping up to be the basis of my next entry, as well as a concept I'm trying to train myself to accept. As much as one might assume I'm really good at adapting to change (given the status of my gyspy lifestyle), that really isn't the case. Actually, I feel like I'm really bad with change. Decision-making is terribly difficult for me, and I really do have to contemplate something or prepare myself for change with a considerable amount of thought and debate in order to feel secure with it. Even then, I always second guess myself and tend to get really attached to people and circumstances, especially whenever I transition from one situation or experience to the next.

With that being said, my transition from camp to home was better than expected. It was a good two weeks with a very nice balance of super awesome relaxation and family time. I spent a lot of time with my daddy (who had minor surgery right after I got back), and I saw the triplets a few times too. It was really nice. There was even some friend stuff in there; Victoria's bachelorette party was a great success. Lots of ladies, and lots of fun. Lendy flew in from NC to "catch a Cajun," aka, retrieve me and drag me back to the great state of NC. Though her trip was quite short, it was very sweet...literally. We saw an extraordinary amount of Louisiana in 24 short hours, before driving 17 hours straight back to NC. I didn't believe we'd make it (in one piece at least), but we did. Thanks again, Love.

A few highlights of the first five and a half weeks of school:

-I spent two very wonderful weekends with Lendy in the forest of wake--ahem--Wake Forest. We ate too much, played a lot of uno (er, deux?), and enjoyed some very tastey spirits courtesy of the Duplin family. Tehe.
-I attended my first ever NC State football game, as well as the CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) tailgate. Note: I even hung out at the CFFA booth with Ms. Kara Miller. Yes, I really did.
-Speaking of NC State football, we're currently 4-0, for the first time in 8 years. It's kind of ridiculous, but I'm super thrilled about all the school spirit and cool events because of it. (Also, my LSU and BSU are rocking it out with an undefeated record thus far! Saints aren't quite there, but still...I'm learning to like football?!)
-Tomorrow continues my trek across the entire state of NC with Liz, as we travel to do focus groups for her thesis. Should be an interesting--and hopefully productive--ride! Look out, the GSG ladies are coming to an ag program near you!

Back to this idea of change...As regular readers are well aware, I tend to live in the past. I hang onto my adventures long after they are complete. Usually, I don't really think of it as a bad thing, but it does tend to leave me in a terribly emotional state. I mean, you've all seen camp entries lasted well into September, despite the fact that I left Arkansas at the beginning of August. If it were up to me, I would write nostalgic entries on a regular basis. (Maybe that's where I need to go with this forum, lol.) Where am I going with this...

On Thursday, Nick (yes, ressurecting the WaHa family again! yay.) flew into Raleigh from Rhode Island. He, myself, and Justine met up with my three roommates to see Lady Antebellum perform at the Koka Booth in Cary. Lady A was great, but the venue was not. The 90+ degree heat (at night, in September--gross!) didn't help either. Friday morning, we explored NC State a bit, including the Free Expression Tunnel, and then headed north for the WaHa Spring '09 Reunion in DC.

For those of you who may be new to my blogging stories, WaHa translates to "Warren Hall," which is where I lived while I was a tour guide in Washington, DC for 4 months in Spring 2009. Warren Hall is located at the National 4-H Conference Center, in the bougie neighborhood of Chevy Chase, MD, 1 mile outside of the city. There, I lived with 3 other tour guides, and 5 other people doing various things in and around the area. Though I had seen 5 of the 8 people I lived with since I moved out, there had been no real group reunion since we left 16 months ago. However, it worked out for most of us to get together this weekend, so we planned a reunion of sorts. Marcie flew in from California, Nick and I drove up from Raleigh, Christy from Ohio, and Colin from Virginia. Amanda still lives in DC; Justin and Brian (who also live in the area) planned to meet us there, too.

Friday afternoon, Nick, Christy, and I visited with our former bosses, Molly and Freeman. It was fun to catch up with them. Later, Colin came over to the compound; we visited with Chef Z and had a tasty meal at the Clover Cafe. While waiting for Marcie and Amanda to show up, the four of us played The Farming Game (if you've never heard of it--check it out). The bobsey twins arrived around 10, and we all stayed up hanging out until almost 2. The girls had pillow talk until much, much later.

We slept in on Saturday, brought Amanda over to see Chef Z, and had another glorious meal at the Cafe. We also took our only total group picture which will contain the caption, "Virginia, Wyoming, Louisiana, Ohio, California, and Maine," depicting our respective states. (Love that.) Colin left us there, and the rest of us decided to go into the city. At the National Mall, there was a huge event--the National Book Festival? It was super cool with huge tents for each genre of literature, authors speaking all day, fun events for the kids, etc. We spent some time sitting with our feet in the fountain at the Sculpture Garden, and then took Amanda and Nick up to the top of the Old Post Office Pavillion (their first time). We walked through all of Chinatown, which included an amazing pitt stop at Fro.Zen.Yo and a little rest at Marcie's friend's apartment. From there, we metroed back to Bethesda, and walked the entire neighborhood before settling down to dinner at an Irish pub. After that, it was a short ride back to WaHa for another late night. Note: Nathan provided us with some wonderful entertainment...all the way from Seattle, Washington. Bahaha.

This morning, Christy took us to a hole in the wall diner a few blocks up Taylor St. (across Connecticut). What a find! I wish we'd known it was there while we lived there; it's so close, and so cheap! After, we moseyed back to the Center, and everyone said their goodbyes. I took Nick to the metro in Bethesda (where he later ran into the rest of the group--crazy), and the other's stayed behind to prepare for and continue their DC experience.

Not to be whiney, but it was a miserable drive back to NC. Aside from the ridiculous traffic and gross weather, I was an emotional basketcase. Thankfully, I know I'm not the only one who had a tough time with the goodbyes and transitions back to "reality," but this is why I say I don't do well with change. This weekend was amazing; I wouldn't trade the reunion and my time with these people for anything in the world. It was so natural. Everything fell back into place, and it was just perfect. Perhaps things would be easier if we had all drifted apart or there was some sense of awkwardness, or even if we didn't get along nearly as well as before. But, it wasn't like that. It was as if we had never left, and our house was still our home. (I suppose the fact that we increased the current number of people in the house by 125% did help a bit, lol.) What's the problem, you ask?

For me, I've had several opportunities to create bonds such as these over the last few years. It's indescribable the experiences I have had, and again, I wouldn't trade them for anything. I would think nothing of taking on another one of these experiences if the opportunity were to arise again. However, I will say that it truly does take an emotional toll on a person. When you live with people, work with people, bond with people, in the way that we have, it is impossible to break away from that bond. Impossible. There will always be something between us whether we like it or not.

Sometimes I wonder, though, is it possible to love more people? What capacity do we have for constantly making new bonds, taking on new experiences, ones with the depth and intensity of these? From time to time, I think it's time I settle down just so that I have the capacity for maintaining the ties I have already made, without shredding some just in order to build new ones. I'm content with what I've got. New and more would be nice, but not at the expense of the ones I already have. What does this mean for practicality's sake? I haven't the slightest clue. I suppose it's just something to contemplate...

What I do know is that I find it terribly hard to say goodbye, and even harder to be the friend that I wish I could be whenever I am so far away. It's just tough. After this weekend, I'm all torn up about leaving behind people that mean so much to me. Sadly, it will probably only take a few days for the emotions to wane...but that will last only as long as our distance is in place. We'll come back together again someday, and it will happen all over again. I feel like, if I were better at change, this wouldn't bother me as much as it does. It wouldn't stick with me for so long.

With all of this, I don't mean to say that this group of individuals is the only one that brings out such emotion in me. That's not the case. There are several groups, situations, and even individuals that invoke the same emotions. Maybe it's a character flaw of mine, or maybe it's special that I'm so sensitive. I'm not sure which. Regardless, I will continue to give away my heart just the way that I always have, and I hope life continues to reward me just as it always has.

I'll let you know how that goes.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

They are the Roses

By now, I'm pretty sure all of you are sick and tired of me going on and on, and on...about camp. However, there are few more things I want to say before I close the "camp" chapter for a while. Be forewarned, however, this entry is going to be a bit of a rant--just some things that have been weighing on my mind that I feel the blogging world may benefit (?) to hear.

First things first, I'm not the type to walk around correcting people's grammar all the time...goodness knows this combination of crazy dialects I've got going on means nothing less than frequent improper use of words, as well as those words I create myself. I will say, though, there are are a few phrases or spellings of words that drive me absolutely bananas. Here's one of my biggest pet peeves:

Using phrases like--the handicapped, special needs kids/people (as demonstrated in a variety of ways: diabetic kids, autistic kids, etc.), the poor, and the list goes on. When people say these phrases I want to yell, "HAVEN'T YOU HEARD OF PEOPLE-FIRST LANGUAGE??" For those of you who don't know, "people-first language" is a concept, if you will, featured in federal legislation concerning individuals with special needs. [Not stating the exact act here because I'd rather not post something unless I'm positive it's the correct one, so ask if you're interested.]

To What does "people-first language" translate? It means that federal law mandates us to empasize that someone WITH disabilities is a PERSON FIRST. What's the difference, you might ask? It's the difference between "special needs kids" and "kids WITH special needs," or "He is autistic" and "He HAS autism." Note the emphasis is on the person WITH a disability. Individuals are people first; they enjoy the same things we do, love the same way (often times even deeper) we do, and --forgive the side rant here-- were created in the likeness and image of God, just like us! For this, we owe them the decency to recognize that they are indeed people, not freaks of nature we have to "just deal with" in society.

Now, I realize that most people do this without even thinking about it. It's what we hear in everyday conversation. Saying the words, "She is dyslexic" versus "She has dyslexia," takes but ONE extra letter! Is it really that much extra work to place value on a person for who they are, not what they have? These habits are tough to break, I know it. People-first language was brought to my attention years ago, and sometimes I stll catch myself saying something wrong. But, I feel like once I learned to understand the concept, my eyes and ears were put on high alert, and now I notice it all the time.

It's crazy to me how often phrases like these are misused in our everday life. Media use it all the time, and it drives me nuts. These are the people who set the bar for terms we use in life, because it is often the first time we hear about these concepts. For an industry that prides itself on being "politically correct," they do a very poor job of showing it when it comes to people with disabilities. I wish someone would slap them on the head and enroll every last one of them in a disabilities awareness course. Maybe then, the rest of America would come to understand how to show respect and awareness for a large group of its citizens that are all too often ignored and pushed under the rug.

And while we're on the subject of syntax, I've got another little peeve for you. 4-H is spelled just like that: 4 (dash) H, or, 4-H. 4-H is not the same as "4H." Stop being lazy or ignorant and use the dash, please. Why is it such a big deal? Would you want YOUR name spelled wrong all the time? No, 4-H isn't a person, but it is legitimate organization with a name and emblem that literally has the same type of federal protection as the U.S. Presidential seal. Oh--and--it's just "4-H" not "the 4-H." For some reason, people seem to make this mistake all the time too. Anyway, could we please give 4-H the respect and identity that it deserves? Mkay, thanks. (Don't say I didn't warn you ahead of time about the rants, haha.)

Switching back to the camp thing, there is something else I have been wanting to write about. Most people are intrigued whenever I tell them that I work at a camp for children with special needs. They're even more facinated whenever I get into the nitty-gritty details about the type of care we as counselors provide for our campers. The intense personal and medical care that we give becomes second nature to those of us who do it day in and day out, but many folks find it to be strange that we are (1) allowed/trained to give this type of care and (2) that we are willing to give care that would make most people very uncomfortable.

Often times, when someone learns about the intensity that is camp, a myriad of questions arise. These range from, "Tell me more," to, "Why did you decide to work there?" Sometimes, people say things like, "That must be a really tough job," or "You are such an angel for those kids; you make a huge difference in those kids' lives; bless your heart for being so good to those children." I realize that most of the time, people are genuninely interested and really want to express their support for what we do whenever they say these things. However, I always feel a little tug at my innards whenever the comments make me feel as though the person has pitty on me, or even on the campers, for the situations in which we are faced. Sometimes, it's as if that person has placed me (and the counselors in general) on this pedastol for the job that we do, because it's something that many people don't understand or could not picture themselves doing. It is implied that the children are so lucky to have us in their lives, or to have people who are willing to care for them and provide a "normal" camp experience.

If anyone were to ask the campers or their parents about their camp experience, it is likely that many of them would say the counselors make a world of difference in their week at camp. However, my fellow counselors and I have had many discussions about how we are so grateful that parents are willing to trust us with the care of their children for a whole week; that is no easy task for them. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with some of the best kids on the face of this planet. We are the lucky ones. Every week, we develop such love and attachment to these kids that they may as well be our own--we think of them as OUR kids--and treat them as such. The life of a counselor is changed for all of eternity after just one summer at such a special place. We counselors beg and pine and dream for 9 months, looking forward to the following summer of reuniting with our kids, and the camp family that has woven itself so deeply into our hearts.

So while I understand that when people make comments about how lucky campers are, they are truly just trying to show support for what we do, I wish they were able to understand that I am the one who is lucky here. I'm the one who benefits from having the privlege to work with such wonderful kids. I'm on the receiving end of the deal, no matter what people want to think.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess, it really is a full-circle sort of thing; everyone wins--the campers, their parents, aaand the camp staff. And people wonder what brings us back, year after year. Speaking of which, if anyone wants to develop a time machine that would set the calendar to be summertime all year round, please let me know. What I wouldn't give to live in the camp bubble forever...

Anyway, I apologize for such a long post. Please don't take it as though I wrote this rant in a bad mood or with negative feelings; I know some of it probably comes off that way. What I really mean with all of this is that there were some thoughts weighing on my mind that I really needed to get out. None of what I wrote is a personal attack against anyone in particular, so if you happen to fit the bill for anything mentioned in my rants, please don't think it's my passive-aggressiveness trying to call you out. Blogs are for expression, and I did just that.

With that all being said, I plan to refrain from making this an "all things camp" blog for a while. Maybe I'll ressurect the subject again in a few months, when I'm feeling particularly sad about missing camp. For now though, start to expect some more current topics, such as this fresh new year of grad school and all things North Carolinian. It's already shaping up to be an interesting one, so I hope everyone stays tuned!

And I guess your final installment of summer reading fell perfectly on Labor Day weekend. Congratulations, it's officially time to celebrate the Fall season! Yay!


PS: Reflecting on my rants (while trying to think of a title for this entry), I am reminded of song by Jessica Andrews, "They are the Roses." Check it out; you'll see why.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Tweet" Summertime

I've had quite a bit of time on my hands in these two weeks that I've been at home in Louisiana. Don't worry, though, I've stayed occupied...with a book, Season 3 of LOST, playing nurse/housewife, and a wholeee lot of relaxing. It's been incredible, haha. In this time, I have also spent a decent amount of time reflecting over the summer, and thinking forward to the upcoming school year.

Throughout my reflection, I've come to believe that the few posts I made this summer, though thorough, don't do it justice. Instead, I feel like my tweets ( do a much better job of illustrating the events of my summer. My tweets were snapshots of what I was doing or feeling at any given point. Not only did I tweet frequently, but the statements were a whole lot more "raw" than most of what I wrote in a blogs, mostly because they were published in the heat of the moment, not weeks later when I had time to "clean it up" or even forget the small details as time lapsed.

For this reason, I decided to do a blog "in tweets." What does that mean? Well, it's my creative way of giving you, the reader, an opportunity to have a more intimate glimpse into my world. Here, you will find tweets submitted from the time I left for camp on June 5th, through the day I returned home to Louisiana, on August 2nd. They're organized by month, and also by week or event, as appropriate. Oh, I should note that some of the tweets have dates/timestamps included; those without such information weren't indicated--use your imagination.

Here ya go!

June 2010
-packed for 2 weddings, bachelorette, & conference all at once! North bound today!
8:27 AM Jun 5th via mobile web
-lunch in shreveport. Back on the road now. ps: 41 mpg. Booya!
12:46 PM Jun 5th via mobile web
-made it to my favorite neighborhood in arkansas! Leingeree shopping for ash's party next fri then off to the counselor reunion at boys' apt!
5:51 PM Jun 5th via mobile web

Staff Training Week: June 6-11, 2010
-staff training starts today!
9:46 AM Jun 6th via mobile web
-miserably hot already! 95* heat index 98*
4:03 PM Jun 6th via mobile web
-1st go at being tribe chief and we rock the chant competition!! Go quapaw! 3 year streak to protect!
-highlight of my day: ability awareness training from a guy at the ntl inclusion project, which happens to be based in raleigh. Small world
11:36 PM Jun 7th via mobile web
-stoked about the lime cabin's skit at flag this morning! Trust fall!
7:56 AM Jun 9th via mobile web
-I am FOX-WORTHY. Totally pumped about all the awesomeness at archery this summer!
11:56 PM Jun 9th via mobile web
-40 hours off!!! Woot. Ashley's bachelorette shindig tonight!
-they're building a five guy's in little rock!? I hope its done before I leave in august!

Muscular Dystrophy Week: June 13-18, 2010
-camp! Camp! Camp! Kiddos arrive today!
-all here and accounted for: 6 counselors, 5 volunteers, & 7 campers in my cabin. I'm Quapaw chief again. Sounds like a good week ahead!
-one camper down... Only this place would have a 2 to 1 ratio with counselors in the majority. Lol
-archery was rocking today!
-wishing safe travels to @nahun and the idahoans! Be prepared, the LA humidity is ready and waiting with open arms.
-I heart archery!
-I'm up wayyyy to early, but hey--i'm going to louisiana today (after a morning of teaching archery, that is)!

Medine-Peters Wedding Weekend in Louisiana: June 17-19, 2010
-at LIT. First plane delayed already. Hope I don't have the stomach virus that has struck lime cabin...
-delayed again. Why?
-boarded for LIT - DFW.
-landed at DFW! I feel like such a traitor--flying American and sitting next to an Apple employee. Eek.
-boarded for DFW - BTR! Louisiana, I'm coming home (briefly)!
-twittering fail = friend fail: happy 20th birthday, @Mainer8! You're not a teenager anymore!
-baton rouge today! Going to joy's swim meet this morning! Swim fast!
-I found my wedding dress--now where's the lucky guy? ;-)
-on our way to @josiahpeters wedding with @sunriseiscool! Can't wait to see @Nahun, @jasondurand & everyone else!
-party!!! Why'd u have to end??? Boo!
-a going away and birthday party today! Louisiana is the place for celebrations!
-bummed I'm not getting to hang with the idahoans tonight, but feeling blessed to spend some time with dawn and annie. Its been too long.

Milwaukee Trip (for ALE Conference): June 20-24, 2010
-safe and early arrival in chicago. Heard my professor and fellow grad student are stuck between rdu and det. j, s, & I will make it...
-ord - mke!
-exactly 17 minutes later, we're in milwaukee!!
-67 degrees out this morning--welcome to milwaukee!
-touring the miller brewery--be jealous!
-I'm convinced that people in this state don't sweat. Ever.
-progressive dinner with milwaukee food tour. ... I'll always have a special place in my heart for tour guides!
-I see lake michigan!!
-no power at the hotel today, how interesting. But hey--i had perkins for breakfast!
-i dont wanna go to bed but i'm getting up for a flight in 5 hours. bah. it's so weird to be alone for the first time in weeks.
-boarded for MKE to ATL. Delta is great!
-ATL to LIT! headed back to my home away from home!

Return Weekend in Little Rock: June 25-26, 2010
-what a day: closing ceremonies for spina bifida week at camp, some relaxation, and toy story 3 in Imax 3D!
-@sunriseiscool it was so good! (coming from the girl who hates animated films)
-@mainer8 @Christyclary the five guys here in little rock opened sometime while I was gone last week! Can't wait to hit it up!
-headed out to Morrilton, ar for Ashley's wedding! Yay for another party!
-I've decided weddings are beautiful and fun, especially those for friends. Camp par-tay!
-@sunriseiscool @josiahpeters @nahun ''my wish'' by rascal flatts is the mother/son dance at this wedding!

Kota I Week: June 27-July 2, 2010
-kota 1 starts today! Will I be working with boys or girls??? still a mystery.
-they say ''kota'' translates to ''friends;'' I'm convinced it really means ''crazy''
-boys yesterday.. Girls today?
-um so the boy cabin I was in just lost a camper.....
-cajun spaghetti night at the apartment for 5-hour was a great success!
-making a list of counselor must-haves. So far: head lamp, memory foam mattress, mp3 w/ nature sounds...the list will go on.
-aaaand the rainy days at aldersgate begin... On the day my co-archer is sick. Staff dropping like flies.
-took two girls to five guys little rock tonight! yumm! @christyclary @mainer8
-today I learned: ''x.y.z.'' eXamine. Your. Zipper. Thank you, camp.
-july already?
-when I am here, I am the best me that I can be.
-got asked to work a daycamp for kids who are ventilator dependent! It shortens my week off but should be tons o fun! Yay.
-heading up an all-counselor lunch at 5 guys!! Its most of their first times!

July 2010

Break Week: July 3-9, 2010

-just a small town girl...
-girls' night with amber in Morrilton and first night in weeks I don't have to set an alarm, ftw.
-I do NOT want to get out of this bed. How strange it feels to be in a normal house, bedroom, and comfy bed...
-i saw Eclipse today!
-@mainer8 j'ai donne les bissous de quel'qun ce soir. C'etait pas une bonnet idee.
-I started watching LOST today...
-slept in, watched My Girl & 6 hrs of LOST, fireworks in LR, donuts, jason's deli. Lazy independence day = smiles for me!
-@mainer8 porquoi est-ce que je fais ca?
-@mainer8 C'etait un ami avec des... beinfaits?
-what are the consequences of refusing to write more of the thesis until august? i'm serious here, can i go be on strike?
-5 hours and 9 shopping stops later, we're all set with items for this 3-day, 15 ppl camp trip 2 MO. Now to cook dinner & prep 4 2morrow!
-8 visitors to the apartment tonight and another LOST disc down! Now time to rest for our big adventure!
-15 camp counselors all packed in 5 cars and on the road. Missouri or bust! (and meeting up to 5 more ppl there!)
-3 hours and several games/ conversations later...we're in misery! Missouri state line!
-heading out on the current river today! Leaving the phone at the campsite so don't freak out people
-safe return to the campsite. It was a glorious day for rafting!
-out for pizza tonight. Real food, air conditioning, and toilets! We're in heaven!
-on the road again! heading south toward little rock!
-@sunriseiscool I'm wearing the child life shirt today!
-finally, I showered for the first time since monday. YuM.
-I just did something u shouldn't have
-its 3 in the morning and we're STARTING a LOST episode. Now that takes some dedication.
-''kicked out'' of the apartment. Watching LOST at camp, 3 hours before I have to report for work.
-staff dinner and meeting lasted a whole hour, now off to play ladder golf at a park before tonights slumber party and fort building! :)
-had to pause the Lost season 1 finale in place of bedtime. That show is crack.

Vent Camp/Diabetes Week: July 10-16, 2010
-vent camp today!
-sushi belly.
-my blood glucose level: 100. hope you're looking forward to regular updates--its diabetes week!
-just tp'd the cabin for a camper's birthday surprise. About to do a midnight blood sugar check then up for more at 2 am.
-doing 2 am checks again tonight. This time I'm gonna watch LOST while waiting for the clock to chime. Party at the lime cabin!
-almost and hour after starting, checks are done. 2 alerts: one camper at 59 (low) and another at 360 (high). Docs came; all is good. Bedtime
-it's tie dye tuesday!
-just another whacky hair wednesday... With a little dash of iron chef america!
-tonight's blood sugar rate: 105. guess my pancreas is on top of things!
-oh hey! I used my child life skills during site changes (for insulin pumps) today!
-just did 2 am checks alone. Bad idea. The nurses had to come back 3 times. fail.
-I'm wearing a pump today! Carb counting, here we go!
-hit triple digit temps today. with you know something is wrong when it ''feels like'' 92 at midnight.
-stayed behind to clean and pack the cabin this morning... My pump told me that I missed breakfast. Good job, Candy!
-I got pickles today! Yay, @lendylou
-anyone felt the dc earthquake? How about u, @sunriseiscool?

CAK (Cardiac, Arthritis, Kidney) Week: July 18-23, 2010
-it's CAK (Cardiac, arthritis, kidney) week! we've got the youngest girls & probably the most medically fragile, Woot.
-oh, 2 am's once again. Night encore.
-I got my first silly band! It's a unicorn that glows in the dark! Plus, two mermaids. Baller.
-officially done with season 2, disc 2 of LOST! Only 4 more to go of this season.
-so instead of 2 am's tonight, we're gonna try a 1 am and 4 am ostomy bag emptying. Yay camp.
-it's a coffee kind of morning (this is a big deal). If we don't get some real sleep soon, I might just have to shoot someone. not pretty.
-my most medically fragile camper MIGHT receive a kidney transplant tonight--please pray that it's a match!! I'll let you know what happens!
-kidney was a No-go. I just took a sleeping pill (aka drowsy allergy) but I Gotta get up for the 4 am shift. Should be interesting.
-guH. Want sleep.
-word to the wise: don't take 2 tylenol and a benadryl 2 hours before u get off of work. functioning levels drop fast.
-yay, it's thursday!
-I sure am going to miss being ''in the club''...These kids touch your heart like none other.
-rubber ducky regatta at wild river country to benefit camp aldersgate!
-had a great time at the regatta. saw lots of camp family members--kids, parents, staff, etc! "we are family!"

Kota II Week: July 25-30, 2010
-doing Kota II for the first time; it's gonna be a wild ride
-it's my final week at
-fun story of the day: camper peed outside in front of everyone at archery...and that's just scratching the surface of kota crazy.
-camper quote from yesterday: ''what the barbie shit?!''
-a night filled with LOST, a clean shower, yummy dessert and minus crazy children? Yes please.
-just heard a camper ate sunscreen tonight, requiring an incident report. Oh kota.
-archery quote: kid, ''u better shoot or I'm gonna roll over u ;'' me, ''hey that's not nice;'' k, ''relax it's all psychological!''
-tonight, for the first time since I can remember, I had a conversation with fellow counselors that was unrelated to camp.
-goodbye bullseyes. :(
-emotional last night At camp; solved by 2 hours of good convo while laying in a hammock under the cabin. Heart happiness.
-closing complete. Chi released. Less than 48 hours left at this home...
-@justinecamille1 oh but i am so happy here. i hope you enjoy home.

Final Weekend: July 30-August 2, 2010
-last big shindig in the rock--going out to my first gay bar!?
-purple cow for the morning after! :)
-cooking at the apartment, apples to apples and a movie. Last night with the camp family. :(
-I'm convinced I've gained 5 pounds since yesterday. Gluttony. and we're under a
-was ''on a roll here in Little Rock'' but now I must go. Goodbye camp family, I will miss you...
-lovely louisiana!
-6.5 hours later (yes, my father is a speed demon), I'm home in cajun country!

I'd really like your feedback about the structure of this entry. Please comment with your thoughts about the idea to do a blog in tweets, as well as the structure or any other feedback you have for me about it. Also, I'd love to know of your favorite tweet or quote from the summer. (In fact, I'll promise to share my favorite one in my next entry, if you pick to share your favorite one with me!) So leave me some messages; I'd love to hear what you think!

Leave me something,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kota Krazy, Round II

As promised, I'm writing again...this time about my final week in Little Rock. But before I begin, I want to apologize for the numerous spelling and grammatical mistakes in my last entry. I composed much of that entry in the hustle and bustle of hanging out with camp friends on my last night in Arkansas. I also want to apologize to Miss Lendy Grayce Yeaman Johnson; the reason you've waited so long for the letter I started writing weeks ago, is because I'm using an excerpt of your letter to describe part of my last week. Please forgive me? With that being said, sit back and enjoy one of the last entries in your summer reading program. (Ha.)

As written on July 25th:
Today we began Kota II, the second session for kids of all abilities and diagnoses. Everyone is short-staffed because some counselors have quit and for varying reasons, not enough replacements were found. In any case, I have 8 campers: 4 typical kids, 2 with some kind of Autism, 1 with Cerebral Palsy (CP), and 1 with some degree of Mental Retardation (MR). One of the girls with Autism has had some major suicidal/mental health issues for the last year, and two other campers feed off of each other's negative behaviors, so this will make for some interesting cabin dynamics. Other cabins are just as crazy with the mix of typical kids and those with CP or Down Syndrome. "Kota crazy," as they say.

It's actually pretty funny to observe activities because none of the counselors ever get to sit (kids run--fast!) and if they do, feet are strategically placed behind chair legs to prevent quick get-aways. Plus, there is an average of 1-2 kids running from an activity at any given time, so it's just really hilarious to watch it all play out. In fact, one fellow counselor made a comment about how interesting it would be to sit as a "fly on the wall" during Kota weeks, because everyone's physically there together, but no one's actually doing the same thing at once. I guess it's just one of those unique things about camp that one can only understand through experience.

Flashing forward, I'm going to continue describing Kota II by listing a few comical camper stories from the week. Since I spent most of my time at archery, two of my stories come from there. The first story took place Monday morning with one of our first groups out at archery for the week. An 8-year-old little boy who has a cochlear implant (not sure of his full diagnosis) and has been coming to camp for three years, decided to pee outside. Now, when I say he peed outside, I don't mean that he hid behind the archery pavillion or in a bush, and did his business. No, when I say he peed at archery, I mean, he peed at archery. This kid walked over to the edge of the cement, right next to the bow stations, pulled down his pants, and know the rest. Everyone was right in the middle of "going get arrows," so Melissa and I were supervising this process, whenever I noticed one of the campers making a surprised face as he looked toward the seating area. I thought he was surprised at something else, but a few seconds later, I turned around and made the connection between the campers' surprise and my own sudden surprised as I noticed what was happening. By that point, there wasn't much we could do besides let the camper finish what he'd started and provide some distraction for the rest of the group--quickly redirecting from the behavior back to the appropriate tasks at hand.

Some of these kids are so intelligent; often times I wish "typical" people (including myself) gave them the credit they deserve. A day or two after our first "situation" at archery, one of the older campers made a really funny comment that I will never forget. This particular camper is one of those "old pros" we tend to get every now and again. He's super passionate about camp, and Aldersgate means the world to him. In fact, this camper was voted by the counselors to receive our camper of the week award this year. The best thing about this camper is his wise-cracking, though smart-aleck, hilarious remarks. A proud Quapaw, the camper cheered on his cabinmates as they shot for tribe points. In the spirit of friendly competition, the camper (who is uses an electric wheelchair because his CP makes muscle control difficult) yelled out, "You better hit the target, or I'm gonna roll over you!" Surprised by the threat, I turned around and gave some "Did you really just say that?" eyes, to which he responded, "Relax--it's all psychological!" After he said that, I had to turn away so he wouldn't see me laughing my guts off. These kids are great!! I can't say that enough, lol.

And the final story I'll share took place on Tuesday night during my 5-hour break. Myself, Kyle, Blain, and a few other people were all on the same break that week. Per usual, Blain and I spent most of the night watching LOST. (Hey, we were trying to make it through the end of Season 2 before I left!) During our last episode of the night, Kyle came in and interrupted us to read aloud a text that he'd received from a counselor in his cabin. It said: "Shower party, lost a tooth, swallowed toothpaste, tooth connected to braces, call dad in morning, ran around naked, mopped floor, was uncomfortable with, showering campers, peed while dressing him...all things from the past hour you missed." I'm not sure there's much I can say about this one. I will say that a set of boy counselors in another cabin had to fill out an incident report regarding the consumption of sunscreen the day before. Use your imagination to fill in the rest.

I could sit here all day and try to describe Kota Camp, but there really is no way to do it justice...

A little about my final 48 hours in Arkansas... Between Friday and Saturday afternoon, Blain and I finished the last 5 hours worth of LOST, Season 2! I felt so accomplished, haha. On Friday night, a bunch of us (probably close to 20) celebrated Kelsey's, a new counselor's, birthday. It was a late night, but some good times with the gang. Per my request, we had a late lunch at the Purple Cow, one of my most favorite restaurants in Little Rock (clearly, for the atmosphere) on Saturday. Following a lazy Saturday, seven of us (Kyle, Blain, Me, Sydney, Morgan, Ashleigh, and Kevin) cooked a tastyyy meal of Cajun stuffed chicken, baked maccaroni, Caesar salad, and garlic bread. As usual, it was a lovely group/family effort. We ended the night with a viewing of Shutter Island. The next morning, I left just as everyone began showering, packing, and getting ready for their second to last week of camp (Oncology, then Asthma).

Goodbyes were easier than I expected this year, especially since I would be driving southbound alone for the first time since starting at Aldersgate in 2008. Without Allie, my Summer Sister, I was sure the drive would be even more lonely, sad, and depressing. However, I kept myself occupied by rotating through several cds, and my daddy met me in Alexandria, about 5 hours into the trip for the remaining drive home, so it wasn't too bad.

I've been home for 8 days now. My major professor at NC State said for me to go ahead and enjoy my final days of summer, so I've been doing just that. At some point, I'll write about my August in Louisiana, but for now I'm going to wait on that. First, I want to take some time to do a little more reflecting over the summer and my time at camp. Until then, though, I have a bit of a flash back for you. I want to encourage you to visit this link to an entry describing my first arrival at Aldersgate, two summers ago, in 2008. I thought some of you new readers might find it interesting to see pictures of the camp facilities--maybe matching a setting to all of these stories you've been reading over the last few months. If you're really bored, you may find subsequent camp entries from that summer to be of interest, as well.

And with that, I'm done.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sleepy Southern Sentiments

Here I am, trying to get in another entry before we cross over the threshold into August and what will soon become the start of another school year. Since today is the last day of July, I'd say I cut it pretty close, but at least I made it. These last few weeks have been fairly sleepless, whether it be late nights on the float trip, 2 a.m. blood sugar checks, or 1 and 4 a.m. ostomy bag emptying experiences. Needless to say, the title of this entry sums up the month of July for myself and several fellow counselors. There's so much to say in recap of the last month, but I'll try my best to get it all in.

Beginning where I left off, a bunch of us counselors went camping in Missouri for two days during our break. We drove 3 hours to Donihpan, Missouri where 19 of us camped at the Rocky River Resort right on the Current River. We stayed in 7 tents on 3 camp sites, and floated the river on 4 rafts (2 tied together). It was my first time to Missorui, so I was thrilled about the opportunity to cross my 24th state off the list. Woot. Our group was diverse as far as old and new counselors were concerned. Everyone seemed to have fun, and there were no real mishaps other than two girls who got sick on the trip. However, traveling with 20 of your closest friends who happen to be medical camp counselors ensures that you are in good hands, lol.

I helped with "Vent Camp" on July 10th. About 10 of us (counselors and supervisors) from camp worked at this small one-day event, serving children and families who are ventilator-dependent. Friday evening, we headed out to camp for a short meeting and yummy pizza, planning for the following day's events. Eleven children were signed up to attend the event, yet only 5 showed up on Saturday. By the end of the day, we had only about 3 kids who were interested/able to participate in camp activities, so the staff had a pretty relaxing time and providing the camp experience. Despite the small turnout, the kids who came were great. They had great personalities and seemed to really enjoy their day at camp.

The next day, we kicked off the second part of the summer with Diabetes Camp. I was Senior Counselor tht week, which was fun and scary all at once, since I'd never worked Diabetes Week before. It all worked out great; the other experienced counselor really taught me a lot, and we all learned pretty fast. 2 a.m. blood sugar checks were finally checked off of my camp bucket list, and they lived up to much of what I'd heard them to be. I now feel like a pro at managing (Type I) diabetes now! Our girl were wonderful, we had an amazing time, and Diabetes Week is now officially one of my favorite camp weeks!

Oh, there were several other cool aspects of Diabetes Week. 1) We had several media and guest appearances throughout the wee, including George Canyon, a Canadian Country music sensation, as well as Amy, the American Diabetes Advocate. 2) Myself and a few other counselors had the opportunity to wear an insulin pump filled with saline for a day. It was really interesting to experience the life of a diabetic who uses an insulin pump. I really appreciated that opportunity and feel like it may come in handy in my future work, perhaps as a Child Life Specialist.

Two weeks ago, we hosted CAK Week (Cardiac, Arthritis, Kidney). Because of my roots at Heart Camp, this week will always have a special place in my own heart. It's also pretty interesting because we had some pretty fragile kids--transplants, dialysis, etc. Or, in my one camper's case--dialysis, g-tube, diabetes (insulin pump), and ostomy bag. Plus, many kids with Down Syndrome have heart conditions, so we had a few of those, and there are always the random ADD, etc. kids who pop up every week. CAK week is the one week where we dispense more meds than any other week, maybe even all the weeks combined! Honestly though, I love the medical kids, so despite the non-existent sleep (rotating between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. shifts), I was quite a happy duck.

A special story about CAK Week: My most fragile camper (the one with all of those diagnoses/needs that I mentioned) had a very unique way of showing her appreciation for people, especially the counselors and volunteers. She would rub our ear lobes and smile, saying "You're in the club, I love you." The first time it happened, we were confused and asked what the ear rub meant. Then she explained, and our hearts melted. It was such a special week, especially to feel that love expressed so freely by such a gracious and wonderful child. It's amazing how children cope with their challenges in life and the little ways they learn to express their appreciation for your time with them. I will remember this little girl and "the club" for always.

This past week was the second Kota session for the summer, which happened to be my last week at camp. We finished it yesterday, and I have been hanging out, enjoying my final moments with everyone before I leave for Louisiana in the morning. I'll take some time next week to write about my final days in Little Rock, but for now I'm going to stop here and get back to hanging out with friends. We're cooking at the apartment again tonight and I just really want to cherish these last moments. So, for now...


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Kota Krazy.

~Happy Birthday, USA!~

Can you believe I'm back so soon?! I've got a bit of extra time right now so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to sit and write. Before I get ahead of myself, I want to go back and say something I forgot to mention last time.

While I was off trapeezing across the Central Time Zone, there were some big events going on in other friends' lives. First, 4-H University (formerly known as Short Course), the state competition for high schoolers across the state of Louisiana, was held at LSU on June 22-24. As usual, the delegation from Vermilion Parish was very well represented with more than 100 people in attendance (including delegates and chaperones). We brought home more than 70 Ribbons, with 14 State Winners, 15 1st Alternate Winners, and 40+ Blue Ribbon Winners. In case you haven't done the math, that's something like a 78% of our delegates receiving state awards. In the words of a certain friend of mine, "Hollar Baller!"

I also want to do a special shoutout to my brother, Austin, and his teammate, Matt Repp, who were selected as 1st Alternates in the Environmental Threat Resolution competition. Fortunately or unfortunately (however you see it), they lost to Dawn's younger sister Joy. What a shame, haha.

Also that week (same days, I think), the North Carolina State FFA Convention was held in Raleigh. I feel like I should take a few sentences to include this event since it's such a big deal to my counterparts back at school. I had several friends involved with the execution of the convention, and even an acquaintance who was elected to State Office. For that I say, Congratulations, all!

Now, back to my world. Ashley, a friend from camp, got married on June 26th (last Saturday). Several people from camp headed out to Morrilton for the wedding. Jay drove Matt, Wakie, and I, where we met up with Daniel, Ben, Madison, Kika, Cody, and Kyle Bost--all counselors or former counselors at camp. Ali and Bobo, also counselors, and Amber, Ashley's twin sister, were in the wedding. Needless to say, there was a very large showing of camp people which made for a very fun afternoon and evening of dancing at the reception. The wedding was beautiful; Ashley was a gorgeous bride, and everything was put together so nicely. We all had a fun time and I can't wait to catch up with Ashley once things settle down for her and Manvill's new life. Yay for the Allens!

This past week at camp was Kota I. In the Quawpaw Native American language, Kota means "friend." In this way, the Kota sessions at camp are designed for children of all abilities. Many of the children who attend camp this week have diagnoses such as Asperger's/Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrom, or other behavioral disorders. In addition, several campers with diagnoses bring along siblings or friends. With that being said, I'm sure some of you can imagine how insane a week filled with kids who have varying abilities and personalities that are even more diverse than usual, would be an interesting experience.

More specifically, I'll tell you what the week really looked like for me. Originally, I was assigned to work with the middle age group of girls (12-13, 17). However, on Sunday, my boss approached me to ask that I spend the day working with the middle age group of boys (11-13, 15) because one of the counselors was sick and they needed me to fill in for a bit. At first, I was crazy overwhelmed by the insanity that is a boys' cabin during Kota. There were two runners (meaning they would run from the cabin and disappear at the drop of a hat if they weren't under constant watch), a very enthusiastic, happy, artistic, sweet boy, and several other interesting personalities in the group. By Monday morning, I'd become accustomed to the group, and was sad to be reassigned to my original cabin at lunchtime that afternoon. In fact, I felt really disconnected when the cabin lost one of the runners during lunch time and I couldn't be there to help with the situation. (Don't worry, they found him hiding in the Commons building!) In the end, I enjoyed the opportunity to make friends with two cabins, and the girls really were a sweet group.

In any case, we were all thrilled when camp ended on Friday afternoon--not only because most of us were exhausted from several weeks at camp, but also because we're now "half-way" through the summer! This means...wait for it...WE'VE GOT A WEEK OFF!! Yay! To celebrate, a bunch of us went to the new 5 Guys (!!) that just opened here in Little Rock! I was thrilled to indoctrine everyone, since 5 Guys is a DC chain, and most people had never heard of it, much less eaten there.

Friday night, I met Amber and her friend Jennifer in Conway; together we rode to Morrilton to housesit for Amber's parents who were out of town. We had a nice, chill, girls' night. Amber and Jennifer stayed up pretty late, but by 2 am, I couldn't go anymore and collapsed into Ashley's divinely comfy bed. For the first time in weeks (a month?), I didn't have to set an alarm--it was a-mazing!

On Saturday, we had a lazy morning, but then Amber and I drove back to Little Rock (1 hr.) via Conway (30 min.) to meet her sister, Amy, at the movies to see Eclipse. Just like the book, the third Twilight movie wasn't my favorite, but I'm very much looking forward to the 4th movie, which will be even crazier than the previous three. After the movie, Amber and I went to Mass at Christ the King, then parted ways, as Amber returned home, and I came on over to "the apartment." Blain, Kyle, and I chilled out for a bit. Then Kyle went to meet up with some of his MedSchool friends, and Blain and I ended up watching School of Rock, followed by a bunch of random stuff before hitting they hay around 1 a.m.

Today, Sunday, has been the best day of all. I slept in (til 10 am, when Kyle got home), and then lazied around all day. Kyle brought home donuts, so although it's almost 6 p.m., all I've eaten today is three donuts and the leftovers from a little salad. (Yes, it's a fatty day, haha.) Also, I didn't even get dressed in real clothes until about an hour ago, lol. To add to the laziness, Blain and I watched My Girl this morning, and then he got me started on the LOST series. We made it through the first disc of Season 1 and now I'm hoping to make it at least through the first season before I go back to work next week. If not, I've got til August 1 to get as far into the series as possible. We'll see what I can do.

Tonight, Kyle has already left to hang out with his friends at a barbecue and the festival in downtown Little Rock. Blain went to Conway to visit his parents who are in town for the day, but when he gets back, we're going to go downtown to see the fireworks too. It's kind of a boring Independence Day, but I'm perfectly content. In fact, I'm pretty darn happy about it. :)

With the rest of my week off, I plan(ned) to do some thesis writing, but watching LOST and being lazy sounds way, way better! Plus, a bunch of folks from camp are planning a camping/rafting trip on a river in Missouri for Tuesday through Thursday. I kind of want to go on the trip, so that I can add Missouri to the list of states I've visited, lol. A bit selfish, perhaps. But really, who wants to write during their one and only week of relaxation from 6 weeks of working 125 hours each week? Really now. (This is a cue for you, the reader, to say..."No, Lauren, it's time to start writing! You can do it!")

Anywhoo, just in case I don't write again for a while, I'll look ahead for ya too. Camp is officially closed until next Sunday, when everyone returns for Diabetes Week. However, there is going to be a short day-camp for kids who are ventilator dependent on the Saturday before Diabetes. For that, only a few counselors were asked to work, and as of Friday, I'm one of them! Yay. I'm not really sure what the camp is going to look like (schedule, ages, abilities, needs, etc), but I'm super excited about this opportunity to work with a new group of campers. Staff who are working have to report to camp on Friday at 6 p.m. for an information session, then the camp will take place during the day on Saturday, and Diabetes training and camp begins Sunday morning at 9 a.m. Needless to say, I think it's going to be a long week back at camp, but I'm super excited about it all.

Everything looks like it's shaping up to be a great second half of the summer. Despite the fact that I wrote only about 10 days ago, I seem to have written yet another novella. I hope you all enjoy these entries in your summer reading experience, lol. Now, I am going to leave you with a quote from a letter that I wrote to Lendy last week. It has become my mantra for the summer and my time here in Little Rock...

"I will love every bit of fatigue and unpredictability...take in every laugh, joke, and smile--to cherish and hold, forever and always."