Tuesday, January 15, 2019

#469 Camp Land and Peter Pan

In the deep mid-winter, let’s close our eyes and think back to last summer when all was sunny and warm. 

My first stop is The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.  This was my sixth year as a volunteer counselor (see Post Nos. 351, 382, 405, 428 and 440). 

Over my six years at camp, my thoughts  have ranged from, “I’m never doing this again.” to “I’ll do it one more year.” to “I’ll do it five years to get my tote bag.” 

When I’m away from camp, I think about how great the kids are and how fun it is.  The first couple days of camp, which consist of going through volunteer orientation and meeting the other counselors, are long, uncomfortable and a little stressful.  Once the kids arrive, all of that fades and the magic of camp takes over. 

My main reason for wanting to stop after five years was my vacation days.  There are a lot of other places I’d like to go and I figured five years was a good run and it was time for me to use those five to six days to do other things.  At the beginning of 2018 my workplace combined our sick and vacation days, giving us way more days to use.  One “problem” solved. 

Another thought was to stop going to Hole In The Wall after five years, and to try getting into a SeriousFun camp closer to my home.  It’s not cheap to fly to Connecticut, and there are two in the Midwest within driving distance – Flying Horse Farms in Gilead, Ohio and North Star Reach in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Sounds good in theory, but after five years, I know the ropes at Hole In The Wall.  I am familiar with the staff and the full-time counselors (who often repeat).  I’m at a place where I frequently see campers (and even volunteer counselors) from past years.  Yes, I could start over and eventually have that at a camp closer to home.  But Hole In The Wall is the original.  Like its founder, Paul Newman. 

Signs listing the distances to all the SeriousFun camps.
My new goal for camp is 10 years.  Until then I’ll take it one year at-a-time and re-evaluate.    

The Summer 2018 theme was Camp Land and Peter Pan.  These kids desperately need a week of feeling like Peter Pan.  Yes, they are kids, but they live with one foot in an adult world, thinking about hospitals, doctors, treatments, medication, and how they are different from other kids.  What a gift to be a part of Camp Land, a place that lets them put those adult thought aside and just be Peter Pan for a week.  They can stay up later, eat what they want (this still makes me cringe, but I go with the flow), and do things they are unable to do at home, like swimming and zip-lining.  They gain confidence, friends and that “raise a little hell” spirit.  And hopefully, that feeling will last long after they return home. 

I was hoping I would continue my streak and get a boy’s cabin for a third year in-a-row, but was back with the girls (age 12-13).  I did have a “scare” and initially was told I would stay in a cabin this year.  After unpacking, they told me they made a mistake and I was in Lu Lu’s Lodge.  Whew!  That streak stayed intact. 

I loved being in a girl’s cabin again and they were a great group.  Every year I feel like I’ve lucked out with an easy cabin.  No big issues.  Everyone got along.  They were a joy! 

Two of my girls made a lot of cupcakes in the Cooking Zone for the July 4 Carnivarty.  
At X-Pro, one of my campers and I watched the clouds while lying on our backs.

It was a scorcher of a week at camp – so hot that some of the outdoor activities were kept indoors (opening night campfire and Carnivarty). 

I “sacrificed” my July 4 to be at camp, and thought it would be cool to be there during the holiday.  It was fun (Carnivarty was that night) and they had a parade around Cabin Circle, but no fireworks.  There were some kids who had adverse reactions to loud noises, so ixnay on the ireworksfay. 

July 4 camp parade.
During my morning off I got up a little early to the volunteer tower.  The last time I did the tower it was my first year.  I heard they improved the tower so wanted to do it again.  After climbing the wall, I zip lined down.  An exhilarating way to start the day! 

New and improved tower.
Tow of my girls scaling the wall.  Way to go!  

Another camper on the zip line.  Weeeeeeee!  

On the ropes!  

The girls and counselors would pull one girl to one side and then after she said she was ready,
she'd be let loose to swing.  V cool!  
After that I drove a borrowed car to Watch Hill, Rhode Island.  I asked around camp for suggestions and that was one that kept popping up.  Its well known in the area that Taylor Swift has a house there.  I walked along the long, lovely beach and browsed the shops.  V pretty!  Watch Hill is a 90-minute drive each way, so that took up quite a bit of my time off (I had to be back to camp by 3 p.m. for the afternoon session).  I will have to do more extensive research to come up with a place a little closer so I can spend more time actually sightseeing/exploring and less time driving. 

Watch Hill beach

If you have never volunteered, I urge you to find something you enjoy, or a cause you believe in, and give it a try.  Getting outside of your comfort zone is scary, but totally worth it.  It helps to put the focus on who you are helping, and not on yourself. 

Here’s to my seventh year at camp! 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

#468 Wedding March

When I last left you, my niece had a bridal shower.  A lot has happened over the summer so I’ll do my best to recap the high points and get back on the blog track.

Megan and Taylor tied the knot in June at The Sycamore at Mallow Run.  All of Megan's planning culminated in a beautiful day and ceremony.  

Weddings are such a wonderful time to gather family and friends together in celebration.  It was great to see family and friends I don’t get to see often, along with catching up with Megan’s friends from Purdue.    

Not much more to say, except that I am so happy for them and wish them God’s blessing on their marriage.  Cheers to Mr. and Mrs. March!

Gorgeous dress!

Loved the setting.  Simple and elegant.  

Mr. & Mrs. March

I took this pic.  One of my favs. 

Love this family shot

Friday, June 22, 2018

#467 Final Four Four

Austin side trip, San Antonio 2018
This past March/April I experienced a fun weekend in San Antonio attending the NCAA Men’s Final Four.  For some, this is a “bucket list” event, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I don’t mean for this to sound smug or as if I’m bragging, but this past Final Four was my 16th time attending this extravaganza.  It never gets old.

Most people get their Final Four tickets through the lottery system.  How have I been so “lucky” all these years?  It’s not the luck you think it is – I have access to tickets through my job.  We are told every year, “It’s a privilege, not a right.   I take that very seriously. 

My first experience was in 2000 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.  I was able to get two tickets and took my dad.  We sat in the upper level on a baseline side and we were so far away I couldn’t tell who the players were.  I could see the jersey colors, so I could tell the teams apart, but no faces or numbers.  Thank goodness I brought binoculars.   

Since then, I have attended nearly every year.

2000    Indianapolis
2002    Atlanta
2003    New Orleans
2005    St. Louis
2006    Indianapolis
2007    Atlanta
2008    San Antonio
2009    Detroit
2010    Indianapolis
2011    Houston
2012    New Orleans
2013    Atlanta
2014    Dallas
2015    Indianapolis
2017    Phoenix
2018    San Antonio

My usual crew consists of two of my high school friends (Julie and Krista) and Krista’s husband, Kenny.  A couple times people have swapped out (Alyce and Tammy), but our core group has remained consistent.  I think of it as my little Spring Break.  And as the years go by, it seems that we four are more sporadic with the time we spend together in Indy, so it’s a nice time to regroup and spend quality time together. 

with Jim Harbaugh, New Orleans, 2003

Julie and Krista with Sugarland, Atlanta, 2007
in our Carolina gear, San Antonio, 2008

with Ty and The Duck, Detroit, 2009

the girls, New Orleans, 2012

National Anthem, Atlanta, 2013
I'm BIG, Dallas, 2014
Salute Presentation, Indianapolis, 2015

We share one hotel room on these trips.  Two double beds, with the married couple in one bed and Julie and me in the other.  I mentioned this arrangement to a male friend before this year’s trip and he was shocked.  “You stay in one room?”  He said he would have to have his own room.  We’ve been friends for so long, it’s no big deal.  We are familiar with each other’s travel habits and know who takes longest to get ready in the morning.  Kenny gets his alone time by getting up early and having his coffee/reading the paper in the hotel lobby while we get ready.  We change clothes while he’s away or in the bathroom.  We’re adults and it’s never been an issue.  I do remember to bring ear plugs for Kenny’s snoring. 

Sure, we have our moments of indecisiveness (where to eat or what to do next) and getting “hangry”.  We don’t get lost too often (Julie is our navigator).  We’re on the same page sleep-wise (we like it and don’t normally stay out too late).  All-in-all, it’s the perfect set-up. 

I feel lucky that I have friends who want to go to the Final Four every year.  We all played basketball at one point in our lives.  And despite me playing the longest, Krista is way more knowledgeable than I am when it comes to players and coaches.  Especially those from her favorite team – North Carolina. 

During the years I’ve skipped (for reasons ranging from “it’s too far/expensive” to “I don’t want to go back to Houston” to "I'll stay home and go to the women's Final Four"), I enjoy seeing the TV broadcasts, complete with the compelling stories and game commentary.  But nothing compares to being there.  And due to my seniority, my seats are much better than they were way back in 2000. 

Here’s to many more years of fun adventures with my Final Four Four! 

Friday, May 25, 2018

#466 Shower The People

Over the years I’ve joked that my niece better not get married before I do.  I started saying it when she was a kid.  She’s now 25.  And she’s getting married in a week. 

She got engaged in December 2016, so I’ve had a lot of time to process it.  Immediately after it happened, I declared to a friend that I needed to get moving if I wanted to fulfill my prophesy.    

Last summer I tweaked my plan, as I thought I’d have a better chance to find a date for the wedding.  During a long bike ride (where I usually have best ideas) I came up with the concept of putting something on a dating site about finding a wedding date, and modeling it after the movie Wedding Date.  Something like, “Need a wedding date.  Must have a suit.  Must look good in said suit.  Must be a reasonably good dancer.  Must not get drunk at the reception.  Will not pay you $6,000, but dinner and drinks are included.  Sex is not included.  Not mandatory that you look like Dermot Mulroney, but must be reasonably handsome.  The only resemblance I have with Debra Messing is curly hair and a small chest.”  I have my full list somewhere.  I thought it was clever, although I realize most men would have no idea what I was referring to. 

I fully intended to post my idea, but…let’s just say something came up that precluded me from doing so.  Divine intervention?  Possibly.  And you know what?  I’m ok with all of this.  I think if I was in my 30s or early 40s I might have a different outlook.  Certainly still happy for Megan and Taylor.  But maybe a little sad about my personal situation(?)  At this stage in my life all I feel is excitement for them with zero thoughts of myself. 

Another cool aspect is that over the years, my friends have become friends with my brother and sister-in-law, so not only will it be a fun family affair, but my friends get to celebrate with us too. 

Earlier this year Megan asked me to host her bridal shower and I dove in head first.  I started OD’ing on Pinterest and found a photo that I wanted to re-create. 

I knew what I wanted it to look like, but I had no idea how to do it.  I started by walking around Hobby Lobby.  For an hour.  That was followed by trips to Michael's, JOANN Fabrics and a return trip to Hobby Lobby.  My first project was the sign banner.  I saw them online, but wanted to make them myself.  I bought poster board, twine, small bottles of gold glitter and black paint, letter stencils and foam “brushes.”  I cut 6”x 6” squares, painted the lettering on with black paint using the stencils, and then dabbed the gold glitter paint on the edges for effect.  Then I punched holes in the top to string the twine. 

My cousin Diane helped out with the ribbon banner.  I borrowed one from her son's wedding last summer and accented the various beige ribbons with lavender cloth strips.    

My pièce de résistance was the chair veil.  Again from the original photo.  I bought two yards each of lavender and white tulle and cut them lengthwise into two strips.  I then sewed them together on the long edge using a wide stitch.  I pulled on one of the thread strands, which made the tulle gather nicely.  I had the two lavender pieces on top, with the two white pieces underneath, so you got the fullness with just a hint of lavender.  I hand-sewed a thick, satin lavender ribbon to the tulle so I could tie it on the back of the chair.  On the side facing out, I hot-glued small, lavender artificial flowers.  So pretty! 

One of the shower games was “Words of Wisdom” where people write on a piece of paper, roll it up, and put it in a wine bottle.  The married couple then opens a bottle on each anniversary date specified.  I started out with anniversary years 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50.  When I mentioned this to my sister-in-law Lori, she said, “50?!  That’s a long time to keep track of a bottle!”  I reconsidered and cut it down to four bottles, stopping at 25.  I made my own labels and adhered them to the bottles with Mod Podge.

Our other games were to guess the bride’s age from a collage of pictures, and getting points for certain items you had in your purse.  Easy games they could complete while getting food and mingling.  

The last game was to set a timer when Megan started opening her presents.  When it went off (I re-set it every five minutes), whoever’s gift she was opening received the prize.  

My last touch was to use some leftover tulle to make a tiny veil for the pen I used to write down the gifts.  

The prizes we gave were personalized lip balm and a personalized candle tin.  So cute!  And Lori got the cutest party favors - baby whisks!  

The shower was in the afternoon, so we had desserts.  Lori made cake pops, tiny s’mores and chocolate peanut butter Ritz.  She also made a trifle.  I brought an assortment of fruits, nuts, and Megan’s co-maid of honor sent Shari’s Berries.  Our drinks were Blushing Bride Moscato strawberry lemonade (strawberry lemonade, Moscato wine and strawberry vodka), My Main Squeeze lemonade, and Sweet on You unsweetened iced tea. 

James Taylor’s song “Shower The People” states, “Shower the people you love with love.  Show them the way that you feel.”  I’m happy that I was able to shower Megan and our guests with a lovely day.  Here’s to Megan and Taylor and their upcoming nuptials.  I wish them a lifetime full of love and happiness.