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."