camp | ups and downs: not just for trampolines.

Part of me has always wanted to be a camp counsellor. Two summers ago, I spent a week at camp as a one-to-one support provider. And there’s a part of me that, yes, was right before going into that: there is a lot of emotional stamina needed to invest in the kids you are leading 24-hours-a-day, and sometimes, it is hard to have that stamina all day. To be able to pour into campers in a meaningful, patient, intentional way all.day.long.

When I saw a posting for a “camp coach” position at a sports day camp for ten-to-fourteen-year-olds with autism, I didn’t hesitate much to apply. I quickly heard back, chatted with the camp director on the phone, we met to talk (remember, my interviews never really end up being interviews properly) at a Tim Horton’s, and here we are a few weeks later, the night before the last day of camp.

Day camp is way more my thing, probably, than overnight camp. I shadow-ish a camper all day, I rotate campers every day, and we have fun. Mostly. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had successes, sometimes I feel like I do not know nearly enough to do this job. I’m learning. I alternate between “it’s only a week” and “I can’t believe there’s only one day left, it’s gone so fast”. The week was packed. I think today might have been the least packed day and really not even because we went to the trampoline park this morning.

I played dodgeball on a trampoline today. I bowled with the other coaches and totally lost with a 91. With bumpers. My camper from day 1 ended up being my camper for half of day 2, and proceeded to call me a monster both days, except he also hugged me because he was so excited about how awesome the bowling alley was. My camper today resisted a lot and then suddenly became a whirlwind of engagement towards the end of the day. I’ve argued. I don’t really argue in a way that is convincing, probably. Come into the gym for two minutes and see what’s going on, just two minutes. You have another minute left to play Lego. I played laser tag for the first time (I was 28 out of 29. I’m a professional). I’ve high fived campers for giving compliments to one another unassisted. One of my Special Olympics athletes is a camper this week, and I’ve had the joy of seeing him smile as he calls “Hi Kerri!” to me whenever I walk by. I played beanbag toss with my camper today for a long time after he tried so hard to get another camper to play with him, they just weren’t interested (it’s really challenging when all the kids have all these goals they want to/should complete and yet are supposed to engage with other campers to check the stuff off their lists. I’ve watched campers practice asking one another to play, practice complimenting each other, help prepare lunch, and test themselves. I’ve watched them be happy and sad and angry and jealous. Food has been thrown and hits have been thrown—and not just in Tae Kwon Do yesterday—and toys have been thrown and things that are meant to be thrown have been thrown. My camper on Monday was surprisingly fond of Shapes (the fitness centre). Camp songs have been sung. Hello, my name is Joe, and I work in a button factory. I’ve got a wife, two kids and a dog, woof. One day my boss says “Joe, are you busy man,” I say “No, man,” He said “Push this button with your right hand. Non camp songs have been sung. Call Me Maybe?! My team got second place in a cup stacking/design tournament and we talked about good sportsmanship again. I’ve felt connected and disconnected and frustrated and elated.

And I still don’t know if it’s for me, but you know what? I’ll never know if I don’t try and I’ll never learn how to be better if I don’t try either. So, one more day, I’ll keep trying. It could be the least or most challenging day yet. And I won’t find out until I jump in there one more time, and give’r. Because hopefully this week teaches the campers a handful of the things it’s teaching me.

At least tomorrow my camper is not taller than me. Unless he grows a foot overnight, anyways—and I might not even allow myself to be surprised by that. Guess it’s called Adventure Camp for a reason. Oh, and if there’s a place to forget to take my Concerta, I guess a camp is a pretty good place—even better when your brain can switch gears as quickly as the campers’.

A camper also told me the pink space car I made out of Lego looked like it was out of Cloud Cuckoo Land from The Lego Movie.

http://i1.wp.com/farm4.staticflickr.com/3690/20132442396_c4e0f7569c.jpg?resize=375%2C500&ssl=1

I’m not sure I see it anywhere:

But hey, it seems fitting. Pink fun and all.

Also I found this kind of disturbing .gif. While I’ll leave you with. Because WTF.

dinosaur and ronald mcdonald beat up batman, lego version. underneath caption reads

celebrating what is coming

The past is important in telling our stories, to understand where we’re at and why we’re there.

But tonight, I am not celebrating what’s ending . . . i am celebrating what is coming.  I don’t “do” new year’s resolutions, because a resolution is simply a goal–and goals need to be set and re-set frequently to make progress.

Today I closed off 2011 with my friend and former coworker, Sara, just one of many amazing people I experienced the joy of meeting in 2011.  We ate too many crepes and had an amazing time, and were ironically wearing the same Hollister hoodie in different colours, pink t-shirts underneath and brown jackets!  [I took mine off for the picture].

sara and i!

After making a final pharmacy trip for the year (gotta love breathing, yeah?), I came home to do a final workout to hit 800 kilometers for 2011.  To give some perspective on how much I’ve grown in regard to exercise and fitness in 2011, my total on December 31st, 2010 was a tiny 100 kilometers [which was upped to a legitimate 106 as I found later on that I had forgotten to count an April race in there].

That. Is. Huge.  The big change in 2011 came in September through the amazingness that was Physical Activity: Promotion and Adherence, definitely my favourite university class thus far, and really gaining the understanding that the SMALL things make a BIG difference!  Though an unintentional success attributed to making small changes and regulating physical activity, since mid-September [at my highest ever weight which may have been some sort of weird fluke] I have lost a total of 17 pounds.  I can’t say I felt “bad” before or anything, but comparatively, I feel totally awesome both physically and emotionally with the GOOD changes that have happened!

I’ve walked 213 km, stationary biked 143, and racked up hundreds of kilometers in commutes. I walked one race, went on a few short hikes, went on an adventure rock climbing this past week.  I played hockey both in my skates and in my Sauconies and skated down rivers.  I’ve played in concrete jungles and playgrounds.  This has been the most active year of my life, and I plan to strip that title away from 2011 and give it to 2012.

This year, I have reached farther than I thought I could, pushed my lungs and my body in bigger ways.  I started thinking about things differently, relationships changed and growing happened.  I did things I couldn’t believe I would or could succeed at.  
I got a new job at an amazing daycare.  I worked one-on-one at camp for a week, which was one of the biggest challenges and biggest joys simultaneously.  I have met so many amazing people in “real life” and online.  One of my best guy friends for a time became my first boyfriend and even though it mutually didn’t work out, it definitely did not damage our friendship, which was the most important thing to us.  I returned to Chicago.  I watched one of the girls I do inclusion with grow so much in where she’s at, while simultaneously realizing the growth in myself through her.  I have fallen more and more in love with the subject that is applied health.  I have changed my perspectives on health advocacy, become more involved, and continued to learn how to OWN my asthma and encourage others to do the same.  I have learned to better live with what I’ve been handed.  I have learned more deeply that health and wellness is a choice.  I have learned to see things differently, engage differently, and not just make goals, but meet goals and ENGAGE in these goals to use them as learning experiences.

I want to continue that next year.  Continue moving forward, continue proving myself wrong, continuing to grow and learn and thrive, not simply survive.

There is more goodness coming.  There is a year of hope, joy, change, growth, learning, and love ahead.

Bring it on 2012. GOOD THINGS!

12 of 12 – november ’11!

On the 12th of each month, a bunch of bloggers from around the world take 12 pictures throughout the day.  Here are my pictures for November 12th, 2011!

November is the time of year for my church’s annual youth retreat to a bible camp about two hours outside of the city.  I fall under the interesting category of “inclusion leader”, so I was one-on-one with a seventh grader [hereafter known as “the girlie”].  We met for the first time at last year’s retreat, but I also went to camp with her in the summer, so the two nights were a piece of cake and super fun!

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12:21 am – cabin room. The girlie is asleep on the top bunk, the bottom is mine [I moved on night two though, since the girlie and I had the room to ourselves!]

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7:50 am – cabin. One of those days — winter + my asthma = out for me.  Giving the girlie a few more minutes to sleep before waking her up a little before our 8 am wake-up time [since I know it will take her at least five minutes to actually get out of bed!]

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8:21 am – outside. Yeah, that’s what you want to see right when you get up.

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9:52 am – chapel. OH MY GOODNESS. ELISA AND I MATCH!! :]  COORDINATED LEADERNESS!  [Also, if you need an interior designer and you live near me, please hire her so she does not have to go back to Vancouver, as I will miss her if she does!]

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9:57 am – chapel. The grossest youth game ever.  In which an onion was passed like a hot potato, and participants had to take a bite of the onion when it stopped on them, or they had to sit down. Disgusting.

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1:40 pm – on the rocks. “Creation reveals Your majesty — from the colours of fall to the fragrance of spring, every creature unique in the song that it sings . . ” —Indescribable, Chris Tomlin

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3:12 – dining hall. Yeah, I can play Apples to Apples and Sorry! at the same time.  No big deal.  [Also, yet another 12 where I’m playing Apples to Apples!]

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3:57 pm – dining hall. The official design of the youth retreat.  Our church’s graphic designer is super talented and amazing!

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4:32 pm – cabin. Ready for the Awards Dinner.  This is my semi-rockstar outfit.  Because I don’t do formal.  The girls all looked amazing and all took like an hour and a half to get ready, it was super adorable.

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5:46 pm – dining hall. And the dinner prayer went “God, thank You for pizza.  Amen.”. [Probably some other stuff, too, but mostly it was about the pizza.]  Veggie pizza — I made a new vegetarian friend on the retreat, we met at a workshop on haters and some guy in his small group was jokingly making fun of him for not eating ribs, and he and I exchanged several high fives over how tofu sucks.

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10:23 pm – cabin. The girlie and I came back from chapel [way] early as she was just totally wiped out.  She fell asleep around 9:30, so I had like two-plus hours before I went to bed by myself.  So, i tweeted of my boredom, and Bob came to the rescue! :]

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10:46 pm – cabin. Since the girlie was asleep and I couldn’t leave for snack, the lovely Elisa brought me cookies back! <3  Camp makes super good cookies, these ones were white chocolate, Friday night’s were chocolate chunk.

12 of 12 was created by Chad Darnell.  Check out his blog to see a list of all September 12 of 12s.  Thanks, Chad, for dreaming up this awesome idea to connect people around the world, and for allowing us to infiltrate your blog space for another year!