You Just Never Know…

Yesterday I visited my second home, Camp Crestridge,  for a little bit – to see old friends, hug some necks, breathe the mountain air, and introduce Noah to camp for the first time. We weren’t there but an hour or so and in that short time, amazingly, the part of my soul where my camp memories will always be near and dear was stirred and touched, and it was totally unexpected.

In my five summers on staff I met lots of folks, loved on a lot of campers, invested time and emotions I hardly knew I was capable of, became a part of the story for girls in difficult situations trying to figure out who they are and what they have to give, played hard, laughed a lot, cried a lot, and grew more as a young woman in those short summers because of who these girls revealed to me that I was and could be through relationships with them.

A handful of them I still keep in touch with – they call on me when in need of advice or someone to listen (and sometimes when I need them for the same) and I am always eager to hear about their adventures and what they are up to. A lot of my girls I loosely keep up with via Facebook or blog – checking in from time to time to see them happy in life, embracing their challenges, and overcoming obstacles I would never wish on anyone. There are even a couple that have left this world far, far too early. Regardless of the consistency of conversation, I think about them daily. Pray for them often. And am ever thankful for their place in my life – even if from a very far distance nowadays.

Which brings me back to yesterday.

As I was standing outside the chapel listening to someone lead the most beautiful worship I’ve heard in that chapel I just had to poke my head around to see if I knew who it was – not likely since I haven’t worked in four summers. The song coming from her mouth and her guitar was giving me chills – sure  enough she was one of my former campers, ten at the time, who definitely has left a mark on me. And if you ask her, I left a mark too when I “pushed” her down in the gravel during an intense game of Underground Railroad. Clearly I never pushed a child, but that’s our thing – our bond.  And she has been blessed with an incredible gift of music and she loves Jesus with all her heart. She will do great things in her life- she already is – and she’s only eighteen. (Katie falls in the “check in on from time to time” category, and it’s been a year or so since we last talked. She has sisters, Sarah and Caroline, who I keep up with somewhat regularly – they attended our wedding and Krystal’s last fall. Team Knowles, as I lovingly refer to them. And they are the best huggers ever. Period.)

Then another former camper comes strolling out of the chapel, squeals in excitement to see us standing there, and throws her arms around us both. It’s been since 2005 since I last saw or spoke with her – she I check in on from time to time, but at a distance. This is her first time she’s been back to camp in that long as well – it does my heart so good to see her.

And then she says this, in so many words:

I should have told you this a long time ago, but thank you for talking to me and encouraging me my last summer here. I probably wouldn’t be at Florida State right now if it weren’t for you telling me to go. You said I would find friends and good people there even though the school is crazy – and I have and love it so much. I remember sitting on the Cherokee bridge with you and you said “Just find some friends and go climb trees on campus!” – and that’s where I spent most of my freshman year!   On Landis Green climbing trees! God has blessed me so much and has done so much in my life it’s just amazing. I was a hot-mess, like a hot messy mess, that summer and you helped me so much and I just love you so much.

My eyes are teary as I type this.

She quoted me.

Word for word.

From six years ago.

Six. Years. Ago.

How many conversations can you do the same for that you had last week, much less six years?

The meaning that those words spoken yesterday carried far more weight than simply strolling down memory lane – and far more than she could have ever imagined. It’s for kids like her that I do what I do. The one in a hundred who really hear what you say and trust your words and then do something with them. The kids who may be harder to love – really love –  but are so full of love and laughter and joy, they just have to find the faith within to believe in themselves. The kids who,six years later, will be pouring themselves into teenage girls, just like you once did – and you know she will be blessed by them as she has blessed you. Kids who will keep in touch or come out of the blue to tell you that you meant something to them – even if it was a conversation about climbing trees.

I share all of that to say this – hug your campers/kids/child in your life ever single day, tell them that you love them – there’s never a time too many, help them believe in themselves by believing in them first, let them mess up and be there to listen when they end up hurt, hold the mirror up for them to see their beauty, show them the simple joys like climbing trees, acknowledge that they are children and let them be – childhood is too fleeting as it is.

It’s okay to not have all the answers, I surely didn’t at 21, but to love a child right where they are, in there hot messy messiness, is right where you need to be.

And right where they need you to be.

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Dog Days of Summer

Wouldn’t it be nice every now and again to trade your own routine and worries with your favorite hound?

A camp dog’s life is the best dog’s life.

 

Imagine if your biggest challenge of the day was picking out the best fetching stick or the kid that looks like they can throw the furthest. Where should I take my dip in the lake? How about this shade tree to cool off under? Why, rub my belly and nuzzle my ears – don’t mind if you do.

Life is rough when you’re a chocolate lab.

Sheesh.

Carolina On My Mind

It’s wild to think that it’s been four years since I was packing the car to head to Ridgecrest for my last summer on the mountain. It’s even harder to believe that it’s been ten summers since my first on staff – and eighteen since my first summer as a camper.  Man, time flies.

But I sure am thankful for the friends that I didn’t have to leave on the mountain.

Four short (or long?) years – weddings, births, adventures, moves cross country – later and here we are, still the best of friends:

…enjoying being a newlywed…
…having, holding, & loving babies…

 

Can’t wait to see ya’ll on the other side of the mountain… hopefully soon.

When It Rains

Turns out camping gear isn’t only for the wilderness – especially here lately.

“Roughing it” through the power outage…

 

The rain has been sporadic at best – say once every three weeks – but when it rains it pours. Quite literally. And with that rain comes a couple of power outages, usually for an hour or more at a time. But we aren’t worried – we’re prepared. Like boy scouts – minus the red socks and dorky shorts.

And I’m not complaining, for the record. I like when my rain barrel is full, my plants are watered, there are puddles to splash in, and the tomato plants grow a foot over night.

Late July

When the Bo’s were here a couple of weeks back we ventured into Earth Fare to stock up on a few things after picking up our CSA. Mom stumbled upon these amazing chips that are a little party in your mouth with every bite – Noah thinks so, too.

But, wait! That’s not all! Chris discovered the best part of all (because he does things like read labels): with every purchase of a bag of chips, 10% of the sale goes to sending a kid to camp through ACA’s Send a Child to Camp Fund.

Buy a bag of chips, kids go to camp. Yes, please.

 

Amazing. And I’m not just saying that because I am the wife of a camp director, thought that does help a little.

Camp will change your life – the independence, faith in yourself and your higher being, lifelong friendships, adolescent hardships, life lessons, wads of memories that you will inevitably gain in a couple of weeks away each summer will intertwine into the very fabric of your being. Every kid should be afforded to opportunity of camp.

If you have kids of your own, neighbors, grandkids, friends, friends with kids, coach a team of kids, etc. that are camp age encourage them to go to camp.  Everyone knows at least one “qualified” kid, even if  only by proxy – buy a bag of chips or two and spread the word.

And enjoy a tasty snack. Everyone wins.

Spring.Sprang.Sprung.

Sprung – the way one feels after several weeks of staff training, environmental ed teaching, toddler chasing, garden planting, chicken coop constructing (more “supervising” than building on my part), table revitalizing (again, more consulting), chick raising, homesteading craziness.

Don’t get me wrong, I love every minute of it – but I have to say greeting the sunshine from my pillow this morning around 10:03am was quite refreshing.

As you may have noticed, blogging was left off the list above, but I plan to remedy that here in the next few days. Here’s what you can look forward to:

  • Winner of the 2nd round of Arthur Alligood‘s new album I Have Not Seen the Wind giveaway!
  • Deconstruction, construction, & completion of the greatest chicken house ever. Ever.
  • Introductions with our newest family members – six brand new Rhode Island Reds
  • Noah & the Bo’s
  • Trash to Pleasure: Herb Garden

And to hold you over until the big reveals:

All hands on deck – even little ones in cute pants his mama made him.
These boots are made for walking – or chicken tending.
The master and her pieces.
Tickle monster is on the loose…
Oh no! It got me – hahahahahaha!
They work hard for their money…

Stay tuned…

Ten

For sake of not having an emotional breakdown over the fact that my little baby has hit the double digits in months, I am going to skip the cutesy antics and conversation I typically have with the next month and get right to the list.

But, Eleven, I’m watching you.

1. Noah’s parents aren’t the only ones with the watersports bug, he got his start this month on the boat as well. Dennis and Stephanie took the Ford Family out on our own tour of WBL and I think Noah enjoyed it as much as the rest of us… Once more and he might be as good of a skier as his paternal grandpa.

Noah lulled in the arms of Mrs. Stephanie.

Can’t tell who is enjoying it more.

As soon as we docked he woke right up.

2. Our home has been like a daggum revolving door this summer with folks coming to and fro, in and out, just stopping in or passing through. We’ve had parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends – lifelong and new, and a partridge in a pear tree. And I love it. It gives me an excuse for my house being dirty.

Abigail was able to come and spend almost two whole weeks being “Mama Helper” while her brother and sister were at camp in North Cackalacky. We played, swam, skied, ate ice cream, crafted, watched movies, and loved on Noah. You would never guess the amount of help an almost-six-year-old could be, but I could definitely handle a little helper more often.

Pretty girl at the marina for dinner.
She made her hair flower.
Also among those visitors were the Chanceys, Chris’ mom’s side of the family, who had never been here before. Their visit was too short, but we managed to pack a lot in. Oh, and I am pretty sure Noah was likely the draw that brought them across the mountains. I mean, who can resist him?
Aunt Meg, Chris, Jamie, Shelley, and Uncle Roy on the two-cent camp tour. Jamie helping Noah enjoy his newly crafted JD tractor,
an early birthday present from the Chancey family.
Can you believe he’s to the point where he can be receiving “early birthday” presents?
3. Grits has learned that it’s to her benefit to have a baby in the house, now that he knows how to feed her. You see, instead of leaving it on his tray or in hiw bowl, Noah thinks it’s a good idea to pitch his food on the floor when he’s done. The instant gratification to watch the pup gobble it up makes it even better. Once our computer is released from the Geek Squad, I will share a video of this lovely pasttime. Until then, this will have to do.

These two are quickly becoming partners-in-crime.

4. Camp was, is, and always will be part of the interwoven fabric of my being, Chris’ too. (We became one when we married, so do we just have one fabric now, or are we looking a little more like stonewash denim?) So naturally, being born into our family, brought home to a camp house, Noah’s fabric is already tie-dyed with splashes of camp…which is why it’s incredibly special for us that he has gotten to meet a whole slew of Crestridge folks, and his first Crestridge baby friend.

Ashley/Templeton came to see us the first weekend of July,
thus winning the prize for meeting our little guy first.

We jet-setted to Boone for a few days, meeting Krystal and her family for the first time.

Capping off the month with a Bridal Shower, Noah was pleased to meet Kristi & Carver…

Picture to come.

As well as Debbye and Nancy who joined us for the shower in Black Mountain.

5. Noah and I spent what seems like half of July in the mountains, either in Balsam or Boone. He’s explored mountains, streams, wildflowers, abandoned houses, blackberry bushes, wild ponies, rock climbers, mountain peaks, and more…all from the comfort of my back. He likes to hike, looking around to take it all in. Of course, I would probably love it even more if I got to ride on someone’s back. Any takers?

Hiking around with my mom and dad on their first visit to YASNY.Hiking up to see the original homestead on the mountain.

6. Teeth numbers five, six, and seven are poking there way on through. I am fairly certain these little boogers have been the most painful for him, even still, he takes it like a champ. These little white specks are constant reminders that he will never stop growing, never stop changing – no matter how hard I try to convince myself otherwise. I find myself wishing he could just keep the four little charming chompers he has now… we do live in East Tennessee, that’s a lot by some standards.

Beware of biting baby…I recommend visually counting the teeth.

7. All along our sweet guy has been extremely laid-back and very low-maintenance, rarely putting up a fuss for much of anything. And now he’s discovered all the new things his voice can do – and boy, does he use them. He has learned/taught himself/concocted this high-pitched-nails-down-a-chalkboard-make-your-hair-stand-up-glass-shattering scream that physically makes my body hurt when he does it. This cry is reserved for when he is not getting his way, say at naptime when he thinks naps are for babies (I’ve got news for you, kid) or at mealtime when brocolli just ain’t cutting it. It makes me want to leave the room – and if he is adequately supervised (some days Grits counts) I may just walk away.

Don’t let those big blue eyes fool you.

8. Alas, our child is no longer a vegetarian. Unless he chooses to go Veg some other time in his life, he can always say he was until he was ten months old. And the first meat of choice? An all-natural beef frank – yep, a hot dog. He devoured it piece by piece and probably would have gone back for more. His face is all shiny and his little fingers are slick with all-natural grease (ha) when he finishes. I wonder if my strange hankering for hot dogs when I was six months pregnant could have been Noah letting me in on his preferences while in the womb? I wouldn’t have touched a hot dog for nothing before then…


Noah says, “Thanks, Aunt KD, for my first (of many) scrumptious hot dogs.”

9. Noah has learned the wave. Not the sportsfan phenomenon of people standing and sitting in repetition as the “wave” moves across the stadium, though that would be impressive. He’s telling people “bah-buh” while awkardly waving his limp hand in the air. He doesn’t really have the timing down yet, so he will likely kick visitors out of our house or try to depart early from places, but it’s so darn cute you can hardly stand it. He uses “bah-buh” for greetings and salutations accompanied with a wave so far… though he does say “ayeee” which is definitely his hello.

Hola. Aloha. Bonjour. Hiya. Hello there. Hey y’all.

10. And last but absolutely not least, our little one has found his M’s and has been working on his “ma-mas” all month. Melts my heart, yes it does. Does he call me mama? Well, no – anything can be “ma-ma” at this point, but it’s started, and that’s all that matters.

Loving on his mama before we floated down the river.

So yes, time flies when you are having fun and even sometimes when you aren’t (see number seven). We are looking forward to lots of fun things in months eleven and twelve, but it’s okay if they take time getting here.



Sidenote/Apology:

There are LOTS of pictures and videos that go along with this update, but our computer has been captured by the Geek Squad, so they will have to wait. I thought I ought to finish the post itself before I got fired. From life.



Upcoming on the blog: More of my thoughts and opinions on life, love, saving the planet, changes, and things I find consuming my time these days. Stay tuned.

Wet Behind the Ears

Literally and figuratively.

I made sure to do my research on the origins of “wet behind the ears” as to not offend anyone or group of people. As a southern-grown kid I think I probably throw around a lot of phrases and old addages that if their origins were to be traced I would likely be calling someone’s mama fat or their kids unintelligent. And we don’t want that, so I turned to my dear friend, Google, and this is what he had to say (sidenote: I made sure to put the phrase into parantheses for fear of what obscene things would potentially surface if not…just a google tip, free of charge.):

Meaning: Naive

Origin: The allusion is to the inexperience of a baby, so recently born as to still be wet.

The phrase was in circulation in the USA as early as the twentieth century – twenty years before it was first recorded elsewhere. The converse of the phrase – “dry back of the ears” – was also known in the USA from around the same date. [Taken from www.phrases.org]

So there you have it. Now you know when I am refering to my father-in-law as “wet behind the ears” I am not insulting his intelligence or questioning his mother’s gerth, just calling him naive. And that’s acceptable, right?

In this case it will have to be. Because the phrase is punny. You will see.

Bruce-ski (Ha, that’s funny, too…just wait.) came to stay with us the last week of camp to help Chris in closing down for the summer. Chris put him to work with installing the remainder of the disc golf holes which is more involved than one would think. Digging holes, trimming trees, filling said holes with cement, hauling the cement to where it needs to go, building baskets, cleaning up… all in 100+ heat index. Yuck. He is from Florida, but so am I, and I hate to be hot and sweaty. I don’t hate getting hot and sweaty, just being.

After a long day slaving away, it’s only right to relax with water of some sort – in this situation, boating sports to be precise. If you’ve been reading all along since we started this blog last year (thanks, moms) you know that Chris was a novice at skiing last summer and now he can’t be stopped. I, if I do say so myself, have caught up to his ability after having to sit out last year being with child and all (I still don’t see why skiing isn’t an OB-approved activity). We’ve gone from two skis, to one (Chris only), to surfing the wake behind the boat… pretty fancy for a couple of Florida kids who have either rarely or never been pulled behind a boat.

Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (there I go with my sayings again), right?

Half right.

Bruce-ski (now you see the humor?) could not recall a time in his –ahem- more than half a century ever having skied. How is this possible? Two Florida boys and neither one can remember a point in their youth having participated in boating sports? Unacceptable. This must be changed. Pronto.

And so we did. Change it, that is, though slightly beyond his yesteryears of youth, and potentially a minor heart palpatation for his other half – if she knew before it happened. We didn’t let her in on it until we were all back on dry land, safe and sound, everyone in tact – minus a little pride for some of us.

I won’t say that he dazzled us with the natural (and sickening) athletic ability that his son possesses, but by golly, he had a blast trying. And I think he would do it again, maybe even in a bathing suit – he jumped in with his pleated Casual Friday khaki shorts on. It took him a few tries to stand up, and granted he is trying surfing before skiing so we will have a slight bit of mercy, but the Cheshire Cat grin from ear to ear when he held on and rode for a mighty ten seconds said it all. Determination and persistence this man o’ the cloth doth he not lack.

He looked pretty good doing it, too, if only for brief moments.

And figuratively, he is no longer “wet behind the ears”. Literally – well, you will have to judge for yourself:

Gearing up and getting “learned” on the board.

Not the start he hoped for.

A little friendly advice from the younger generation.Look at him go…10..9..8..7..6..

5..4..3..2..1.. So not the ending he imagined either.
But ten seconds of glory, nonetheless.
Apparently our internet has decided to take a break, photos will be added at a later time.

Oh the joys of living in the sticks – where the cows come home on the range, the rooster crows at dawn, and Comcast doesn’t reach.

Scenes of Summer: Part 2

I can hardly believe that we are in the last week of camp already. Sheesh.

It’s always been bittersweet for me to bring camp to a close, even now as a “camp widow”. Reflecting on the summer and the way God has shown up in hilarious ways, beat your hiney up and down the spiritual path, given you energy when you knew there was no way you were going to make it to the end of the week without stringing little Susie up by her pigtails, painted breathtaking sunsets on just the right days, and how he has given you and taught you more, way more than you could have ever imagined, maybe even more than the kids. And those kids sure as heck have you leaving with more life lessons than you gave them.

I love it. I crave it.

I am so glad when it’s over. For two reasons:

  1. I get my husband back (and now Noah gets his daddy back).
  2. We can start praying, thinking, talking, planning, bursting at the seams with excitement for next summer.

It’s a vicious cycle, this camp ministry stuff. Sometimes a love/hate relationship, but worth every bump and bruise…emotional bumps and bruises included.

I digress. (Is anyone surprised?)

I started this post to bring you Scenes of Summer, and that’s what I shall do:


Noah assisted the camp director with his staff meeting.

Bottom left: “Look at my stick, Ms. Tarah.”

Let’s talk about this face for a minute…melt.your.heart.

Well, I was trying to give you one more picture of the camp staff, but alas, the “internet cafe” in the far corner of our kitchen has decided it’s tired. I will try again later…

One more week, folks.

One.
More.
Week.