Tuesday, August 21, 2012

MCBC 2012 (Part 3); or, Why I Go to Camp

Do me a favor and read these in order, even though it's showing this one at the top. :D

So, why do I go to camp? It's taking a week away from my husband and kids. It's taking care of someone else's kids and dealing with their issues. It is HARD. It means dealing with homesickness from the campers, the other counselors, and myself. It means eating kosher camp food for a week...yikes. It is exhausting.

I go because of what camp means to me. I attended camp for 3 years as a camper, starting when I was 16, because that's when I found out about it. How I wish I had been able to go sooner! It was so good for me to be around other kids who had been burned. I always had Chandra, but she dealt with her scars so differently. I was always self-conscious, even when I tried so hard not to be. I was bullied for years, teased from my first day of kindergarten through my freshman year of COLLEGE.

Camp let me see other burned kids. It let me see a variety of them, especially kids who were okay with who they were. It helped me learn to be okay with who I am, and to see that while my scars are a part of who I am, they don't define me. They were an injury--I am not an injured person. 

I am NOT a victim. I am a survivor. Camp taught me that.

And that's why I go to camp now. Because the other campers and the counselors had such an impact on me as a teenager. Because as corny as it sounds, camp changed my life and my perspective. And somewhere out there, there is probably at least one kid who feels like I did. Someone who is going through what I went through. Someone who is embarrassed, who is teased, and who constantly feels self-conscious. And maybe, just maybe, I can have that same impact on them.

Because life DOES go on. I remember being told in 2nd grade by the popular boy I had a crush on that I would never get married, because no one could possibly love me since I was so ugly because of my scars. I still remember that, although it doesn't hurt me anymore. I remember exactly where we were, the tone of his voice, the look on his face, and the laughter of his friends. But it's not true. Burn scars don't mean your life is over. They don't make you unlovable. They don't prevent you from doing anything you set your mind to doing.

Linda Hansen, the executive director of BRSG, and until this year the camp director, refers to me as one of camp's "success stories". And I am!  

I am proud of who I am. And I want every child who comes to burn camp to be proud of who they are, too.

MCBC 2012 (Part 2)

Continuing with some more activities the Ponies did....

The water slide, which is new since the last time I was at camp. I will readily admit, I was scared to go down this slide. It's steep, and long, and when you shoot out the bottom, you've about a 5-foot drop to the water. And it is FAST. But, I did it.

So, some shots of Ponies on the slide. Looking at the top, where you grab those yellow diamond-looking handlebars to hurl yourself over the ledge and onto the slide:

A shot of one of the boys starting out at the top, I was trying to let you see how big the slide is, but it's not quite capturing it:

And someone (I think Nikki maybe?) hurtling out the bottom:

Yeah. Scary.  So, what else did we do? There was archery, and low ropes courses (which are team-building exercises), the pool, water toys, tubing, and a nature exhibit from the department of conservation. It was a really awesome week! Plus we had evening activities, which included the opening campfire, a pool party, clown night, a cookout, the talent show, and the world-famous dance. So much stuff! Here are a few more random pictures.

Me driving a gold cart (yes, me). It's a long story, really. But, despite Uncle Larry, the camp director, taking us on a horribly frightening route over some awful terrain, I did not overturn or otherwise damage the golf cart or the 2 new counselors unlucky enough to be in my cart:

Me with Galen, a Pony boy's counselor, and Denae, the girl's Pony Group Leader:

Me with Chris Houska, a longtime friend, and now a fellow counselor:

It was really a blast. I had a great time, and so did my girls.

But why do I go? Stay tuned!

MCBC 2012 (Part 1)

So, as I've mentioned, I went to Missouri Children's Burn Camp this summer to volunteer as a counselor. The last time I went was in 2007, just after Brett and I were married. It was definitely tough to leave Brett and the kids for a whole week, and I struggled with homesickness, mainly at night when I wanted to be home rocking Amy and cuddling her before bed. Fortunately, my in-laws made themselves available to come stay with Brett and the kids, which was great for a variety of reasons. I know I've said it before (and probably will many times in the future), but my in-laws are such amazing people, and I am so blessed to have them in my life.

Brett dropped me off at the pick-up location around 8:30am on Sunday morning (Aug. 5th). We drove down in a couple of 15-passenger vans (plus a couple of pickups and a huge trailer for all our junk), arriving at Camp Sabra around, oh, 11am-ish. We spent Sunday getting to know each other and the Sabra staff (or, the "A-team", meaning the staff in charge of the activities.). Camp Sabra supplies all the lifeguards, boat drivers, cooks/kitchen staff, etc.  After a bunch of icebreakers, we spent a while getting our cabins ready for our campers, which meant decorating! This year's camp theme was pirates, so there was a lot of pirate-y stuff...for lack of a better term.

The stage in the dining hall, redecorated:

Campers arrived at lunchtime on Monday, and from there, the week was a veritable whirlwind of activity. I was with the youngest age group, so I had 6 girls ages 6-9 (the "Pony" age), with 2 other counselors.

Left to right: Danae, the "Pony" girls' group leader, me, Nikki, and AJ

A picture of some of my girls (the only picture I can find of all of them is a hard copy and I don't have a scanner) at arts & crafts:

There were a few challenges throughout the week, but they really were a sweet bunch of girls. And fearless. Holy cow. Now, remember that these girls are, at the oldest, 9. We didn't have any 6-year-olds, so the youngest were 7. And these girls did EVERYTHING.

We're talking climbing the climbing wall (two of them, all the way to the top):

They, with the boys, are the only Pony group to ever do the zipline (which was moved this year, and is really, REALLY long and a little more nerve-wracking than before):

Also, Nikki, although a firefighter, is TERRIFIED of heights. I was so proud of her as she chose to do the zipline anyway! Go Nikki!

To be continued...

What do you do?

I know I've got a lot of catching up to do, what with Burn Camp and all, but there's something that's been on my mind for a few weeks that just has me completely flummoxed.

What do you do when someone you've been close with decides to cut ties? What do you do when you have no idea why? How do you respond when the email you get is completely bewildering?

For her sake, I won't name her. I'm not calling her out. I don't want mutual friends to start bugging her on my behalf. I just...need to get this out, to try to figure out my feelings.

Brett and I have been friends with this woman and her husband for most of our marriage. We love them! We spent a ton of time together. We were deeply involved in each other's lives. She was my best friend. And then she kind of....disappeared.

I called. And texted. And facebooked. And emailed. (Rinse, and repeat.) I finally stopped for couple of weeks because I thought maybe I was being obnoxious by trying so hard. I knew she'd gotten pregnant, and I was so excited for her! I wanted to drop off a gift for her, but knew she'd gotten a new job recently and so I didn't know when she'd be home. Eventually, I called and left another message inviting them over to celebrate Amy's birthday with us.

And in response, I got the most bewildering email I've ever gotten. I won't share it, because it's not really anyone else's business, but let's just say it created more questions than it answered. It made references to 'turning a blind eye to the path you have chosen' and that they 'hope you can make the best of your future.'

Almost a month later, and I still can't make heads or tails of 3/4 of the email. Regardless, I still have feelings about it. Mostly, hurt. I am just so hurt by it. First, because she chose to end our friendship, in my opinion out of the blue. I have always taken the loss of a friend extremely hard. I love my friends, and when I love someone, I love them deeply. Losing a friend (or two, in this case), especially under such puzzling circumstances, feels like I've been completely rejected and cast aside. It's incredibly painful.

Second, because I don't understand. It's difficult to accept something I don't understand. I know I don't have control over others, obviously, but it's painful when I'm left groping in the dark for answers that aren't there. I responded to her email, expressing my confusion. I don't expect to get a response. I doubt I'll ever really know why this has happened, and that really bothers me. I feel like I need closure, and for that to happen, I need answers. But that's really not in my power.

I miss her. She was my best friend for years. She and her husband are incredible, dedicated, fun, loving people. I'm sure they'll make fantastic parents, and I wish them all the best. I just wish I could still be a part of their lives...or at least know why I've been unceremoniously cast away.