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.