Saturday, August 31, 2013

Happy Campers

I was beginning to think that I was never going to blog again.  Which would be sad.  I just haven't been able to carve out the time to do it.  And although there are any number of more pressing matters that I should be handling at the moment, I've decided that today, I just don't care.  I'm going to blog. 
It's  not that I especially love the process of blogging, per se.  But I really love having blogged.  A state that I can never reach if I don't trudge through the act of blogging. 
So here we go.  Camp.  Which happened waaaay back in the beginning of June.  Timely, right?  I don't know what it is about this post that has caused me to shy away from it time and time again.  Oh, wait, maybe it's because I took over a thousand pictures at camp and I was having a terrible time narrowing it down to just a handful to post here.
Yeah, that's probably it.  Note to self: don't take so many stinking pictures!
But it's hard to resist when you get to spend time camping with 24 beautiful, enthusiastic (most of the time) teenage girls.  Plus a handful of amazing women who were running the whole experience.
For the sake of honesty, I was not terribly excited to go to camp.  I haven't been to girls camp since I was 17.  It didn't help that I was sick.  And stressed.  Or that my neck had just slipped out of alignment.  I didn't want to pack, or sleep on the ground.  It was hot and humid.  And mosquitos absolutely love me. 
But somewhere during this experience, I caught the vision of what girls camp is all about.  And from here on out, when given the choice to stay or go, I will always choose to go.  Because it was amazing. 
Although . . . I'm pretty sure that we would have died that first day if we hadn't had the lake to help keep us cool.
I shudder to think where we would have camped if it weren't for this lake house which belongs to an awesome member of our ward.  He let us set up our tents right in his front yard, and use all of his lake toys which were in his back yard.  He didn't even act annoyed (or if he was, he totally didn't show it) when he discovered that all the girls had invaded his living room and were passed out over every square inch of his carpet.  (More on that in a bit.)  When I grow up, I want to be like him.   
One of the biggest highlights of camp was playing on the lake.  Riding the boat.  Riding the tube.  Riding the surf board.
Until the boat broke down.  :(
Thereafter, everybody had fun riding the tube AND the jet ski.  :)

And our awesome benefactor had entirely too much fun catching the girls off guard by gunning the engine.
 But it was the slower speeds that created the opportunities for nose dives.
Now it's starting to make sense that I took so many pictures, isn't it?  I couldn't resist.  It was too much fun trying to catch those perfect moments.

We didn't exactly have sailing on our camp schedule, but it's just not something that you can turn down when somebody's dad shows up with a sailboat.  So everybody took turns riding on that, too.
Sometimes it's easier to pull a sailboat to the dock than to sail it there.  Or so I've heard. 

When we weren't playing on the lake, we were busy doing more traditional girls camp type things.
Certification.  Journal writing.  Scripture study.
Advanced braiding.
Playing games while waiting for the mother-of-all storms to decide to either hit us, or go around.  (Mercifully, it went around.  More or less.  We still had a whole mess of soaked sleeping bags to contend with.)
Cookin' breakfast.
Doing crazy, silly skits.
Roasting marshmallows.
Eating taco salad in a bag.  Ok, maybe not so traditional, but brilliant and delish.
Fireside devotionals.
Hanging out and sharing snacks from home.
Reading letters from home before a devotional and testimony meeting.
Oh, and CAMPING! 

Even though we didn't do quite as much of that as planned.  The first day was so hot and muggy, which made the tents terribly hot and stuffy.  Somebody threw up (but triumphantly, she made it out of her tent!  SO grateful for the little things!), then there was widespread panic when the girls thought someone was having an allergic reaction.  Which, if it had turned out to be an actual allergic reaction, would have been grounds for panic because we have several girls with life threatening allergies.  Fortunately for all of us, it wasn't.  The girls couldn't find the leaders in their tent (because we were sitting in the front yard trying to avoid our stifling tent), and so commenced to run around yelling.  Perfectly natural reaction, right?  All that yelling woke everybody else up and they came spilling out of their sauna-like tents.  Which led to multiple complaints of stomach ailments.  Everybody was sick with worry or just plain sick as we gathered together in the house with it's AMAZING air conditioning while we sorted out the fact that our little beehive wasn't having an allergic reaction, but just had a bad stomach ache.  I'm not sure I've ever felt so relieved that someone near me had an upset stomach.

With all the tears and worry and stomach problems, we decided it might be best to just sprawl out on the floor.  The girls were overjoyed by that decision.  I can't say that it was all that upsetting for me, either.  I wish I had a picture of those wall-to-wall sleeping girls.  But I was too busy being sick to think about my camera.  I was up most of the night.  Which totally spoiled the beautiful A/C and mattress that I had access to.  Bummer.

The next day, that mother-of-all-storms brought deliciously cooler weather after it's mad rain.  So we closed our ears to the hopeful questions about sleeping inside again, and took to our tents.  Which was nice for those of us with warm, dry sleeping bags.  Sadly, not all of our campers fell into that category. 

The other leaders ended up needing to help our benefactor with some granddaughter sleepover anxieties, so I found myself alone in my tent.  It felt wonderful to stretch out on my cardboard thin mattress, cozied up in my dry sleeping bag.  As I was drifting off to sleep, I kept thinking to myself how nice it would be to get some rest.  I don't know how long I was out.  5 minutes?  10 minutes?  Half an hour?  But I woke up to the sound of flip flops approaching my tent.  Then I heard a whispered, "Sister B?" followed by the zzziiiiiiiiipppp of the tent opening.  Somebody needed to use the port-a-potty, but they couldn't wake up their tent mates to be their buddy.  So I stumbled along to accompany her. 

A little while later, the process repeated itself.  Flip flop, flip flop.  Whispered name.  Zzziiiiip.  Same sounds, different girl.  Who was damp and shivering.  I went with her to change clothes, but her sleeping bag was still wet.  Since it was the middle of the night and my fellow leaders hadn't yet taken to their sleeping bags, I invited this girl to sleep in one of their spots.  Quickest route back to sleep.

Only to wake a little later to the same sounds.  Flip flop.  Whisper, whisper.  Zzzip.  Another cold, shivering girl.  Although her bedding was dry.  This time I didn't even get out of my sleeping bag.  I just sat up and told her to bring her stuff and get comfy on the cot next to me.

If there were any more issues that night, I slept right through them because I didn't wake up again until dawn.  And it was a good thing we were having bacon for breakfast that morning because cereal just wasn't going to cut it.

For our last night, I had heard a lot of hype about the tradition of staying up all night.  The other two leaders do it every year.  Some of the girls try to do it.  But I was so exhausted that I couldn't even bring myself to consider the idea.  I snuck off while everyone was watching a movie on a strung up sheet and curled up in my tent.  And I didn't wake up until dawn.  Beautiful.  I think it was my first whole night's sleep in a week. 
So what is it about girls camp that will keep me coming back?

It's not the lack of showers.  Or the bugs (mosquitos, chiggers, and ticks, oh my!).  I can do without the unpredictability of severe weather.  Humidity and I have never been pals.  And. I. Like. My. Bed.

So why does the Mormon church have girls camp every summer all over the world?  It's not to turn everyone into avid outdoorsmen (outdoorsgirls?).  It's because camp is a microcosm of life.  The nature of camping is uncertain.  It takes a lot of effort to prepare for it.  And even then, unpredictable challenges usually arise.  Things don't always go according to plan.  Girls get sick, or cold, or hurt.  They have to endure things they don't like.  They have to pull together and help each other.  They have to figure out where to turn for help.  And through it all, they have to hold onto the good and dismiss the bad.  To learn to see joy even when it doesn't come knocking on the front tent flap.

So much of life is the same way.  What do we do when we face challenges?  Where do we turn for help?  How often do we find joy in the journey even when the path is tough? 

For the record, I have to brag a little about these girls.  Because they really are amazing.  They were kind to one another.  They were respectful.  There was pretty much no drama, which is just the way I like it.  They were helpful--we would not have been able to run camp without the YCLs (youth camp leaders) who stepped up to lead and teach and nurture their assigned age groups.
Despite all the little nuisances, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience.  I think some credit for that must be given to our benefactor, who creates such a positive, welcoming atmosphere in and around his home that it's bound to be felt by all of his guests.  As a youth group, we were able to bond in a way that just isn't possible to do by meeting once or twice a week.
I loved these girls before I knew them.  I felt that love fill up my heart when I was asked to be a steward over them.  But that love has grown larger than that.  Now that I have laughed with them and helped them sweep the creepy spiders out of their tent.  Now that I've wrapped my arms around them when they were cold and helped comfort them when they were sick.  Now that I've seen the depth of their faithfulness and compassion, their capability to lead and organize.  Now that I've captured their moments of pure joy with my camera.

I wouldn't trade these memories for a month full of restful nights.
And I've found a deep, deep respect for these two women who have been running girls camp in this little corner of the world for many, many years.  They put in more time and lose more sleep than any of the girls and their families realize.  They make camp fun.  They have such an easy rapport with their own daughters, which spills over into their relationships with all of the girls.  Their laughter and willingness to serve make them completely enjoyable to be around.  If I can't grow up to be like our benefactor with my very own lake house to share, then I'd be happy to grow up to be like these ladies.
I'm pretty sure they are the happiest campers I've ever met.

1 comment:

Lynnie said...

Incredible write-up! You're making me so wish I could still go to camp. I know my time will come but I LOVE camp!! It looks and sounds like you guys had just the experiences you need at camp. So glad you were there to document. How did you ever wade through 1000 pictures???