Sunday, July 31, 2005

Do Protocol Officers in the Congo Get Married?

I wish I could find a way to express myself better sometimes. I have so many things on my mind right now. Why do things like this always happen when I am on a business trip? Is it just coincidences that big life changes start when I'm alone in a hotel room? Or is it just that when I'm off alone somewhere I actually have time to think about everything and start the changes? Either way, here I am, late at night, in a hotel, no place to go, no one to talk to. (So hey, why not put my deepest thoughts in a blog for the whole free world, and people in cities I have never heard of, to read?)

Its a dream come true to make it this far into the Foreign Service application process. So the big question now is- do I want to do this? Initially, yes! Of course! How can I not? Its a career position with the State Dept that allows me to travel the world, right? But what if it isn't? What if its a really boring job in a foreign country, where I have no friends, and I suck at the language? And I hate it? A boring job in a great amazing country where I can't wait to travel and experience the world is fine. I'll take the boring job if it means seeing the world. But let's talk about the next problem. It's boys in general (heh heh, it always is). I think working for the Foreign Service means saying that I'm never getting married. I have always said my marital status would never affect my career or financial decisions. And for the most part I have lived that way. I don't hold back on achieving my goals and dreams because I don't have a husband. But let's say I get a job as a protocol officer in Africa somewhere. I'm a single girl in the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania. Who am I going to date? Who am I going to marry? Yeah, I would have a cool life, traveling the world, etc. But I'm signing up for the life that says I'll be single for a good long time. Part of me thinks, hey, I'll be in Tanzania, climbing Kilimanjaro on weekends for fun. I'll adopt a little Tanzanian baby from a shelter. I'll see new parts of the world. It would be so cool! But I'll never get married. (there is also that scary memory of how much i hated being alone in prague putting a huge cloud on my sunny day.)

And I have a good life now. Yeah, money gets tight from time to time. The car breaks down. I dislike my landlord. Big deal. That's life, right? I have good friends to hang out with on weekends. I have great friends to call long distance. I like my life. I like knowing what I have. The Foreign Service means taking some huge risks, losing my retirement, and starting all over again. Should I really take that risk? Part of me is feeling the pressure on all of this now because if the answer is no, and I shouldn't take the job, I should tell them now, so that the very coveted spot in the oral exams can go to someone else. Otherwise, I'm just keeping someone else from making their dream come true sooner. And that isn't fair.

I'm happy with my life. Do I really want to rock the boat? Or do I want to follow a dream I have had for nearly 10 years?

And The Show Goes On

The trade show opened today. I have mixed feelings about this show. We look great, and our booth is the biggest deal on site, which is fun for us. But we have more wives coming in the booth, picking up one of everything, asking for more freebies, and leaving, then we do real police officers. Things like this always frustrate me. How much of my annual budget is about to end up in a hotel trash can? Today my favorite person was a lady that came in, took one of every flyer (didn't bother to see what they were for or about), picked up a pin (freebie) off the counter, and then asked if she could have a second one. "I have 2 grandchildren. I can't take home just one of them!" So my pins that are meant to generate customer loyalty, further our branding image, blah blah blah, is being taken home to a 5 yr old grandson named Adam who will probably lose it in five minutes, and never shoot a gun in his life. After that lady came in, I promptly took all the freebies off the counters, and hid them. We'll be handing them out to pre-qualified customers for the rest of the show. But the show is cool, and it is always fun to be the big great thing at a show. People love us, and we love to be loved. Again, the "scrubbed up" version of the show's events are on gunchick.blogspot.com .
In other traveler's news, Ann is fully corrupting me. We went out and got our henna tattooes together today. I'm still loving mine. Ann got the Celtic symbol for eternal happiness on her ankle.

The Deed Is Done

I have a lovely new question mark henna tattoo between my shoulder blades. I LOVE IT! Hopefully it will last until the Langley Water Party on Saturday.

Story of a Broken Heart

I find when I travel I get more time than usual to work on writing and my novel. So for those of you following the few snippets of "Way Beyond Perfection" that I am posting, here's a passage. I always love feedback, not just on the writing, but on the topic as well. Enjoy.


The trouble with the truth about a broken heart is that it hurts. It doesn’t just hurt when it gets broken, but it hurts when it heals. It hurts as the wound closes up. But that isn’t the right imagery at all. A broken heart is a muscle that has been torn and abused, and then paralyzed. There is no outside wound to look at, no way of seeing if it has healed properly or completely. But even after the injury occurs, it’s the new use of the damaged muscle that really hurts.
There is so much pain associated with the breaking of the heart. But the real pain comes when trying to use your heart again. Knowing when it is safe to use it again. The little practice tries of allowing small amounts of happiness and emotion in again. The desperate desires to feel something again, to be wanted, to be held. They are all contradicted by the terrorizing and paralyzing fear of pain and rejection again.
The more times the heart has been injured and broken, the harder it is to trust using it again.
How often do we hang our broken hearts out for others to see? How often do we were them on our sleeves, wanting another to see it, reach for it, take it? But when someone tries to reach out and touch it, we shut down, pull back, refuse to take the risk? We hold our hearts out there, waving it around, “look, I have a heart, it was broken, but it wants your attention!” But silently screaming on the inside, “Please don’t touch it too hard. Its known to go into spasms, contortions, and cause me horrible pain each time it starts to function again. Its not your fault, but I can’t let you get too close to it.”
The overwhelming desire to be loved, to feel again, to love another, to have someone to share all the little things and all the big things, and just to have someone to have. There are times when the need to have emotional contact with another can be so gripping and painful that it leaves you in tears. Especially when there is someone you want to let in, but the fear is still too paralyzing. Finding the ability to even be truthful and honest and open with someone you can only see wonderful things in. Or in other words, someone you may be tempted to trust and love, and therefore, someone who could hurt you.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

If It Can Go Wrong- I Can Make That Happen For You

It all started with bad thunderstorms in Atlanta. That was why Chris overslept and missed his flight. It was when I had to go back 4 hours later to pick up Chris at the airport that I forgot the keys. Which is why we were over an hour late getting to the convention center. And that is pretty directly related to why we were in a hurry when we parked the car. (We= me, Ann, Blake, Chris, and Paul was a small party to all of this as well.) The parking lot was mostly empty, and we did look for someone to pay, but no one was there. As I mentioned before, we're using the mobile showroom trailer for our booth. So we had our work cut out for us as we schlepped boxes, cases, guns, etc around. The first big surprise was the large, heavy case of 50 guns that we didn't know about. Where do you put a 6x5x4 case that weighs a few hundred pounds, especially when its full of guns? Its not like you can just hide it behind the show curtain... So that was the first obstacle, which we thought we solved easily enough. It was sent to the show lock up. We got the trailer set up, and ready for tomorrow. And then I got the bill from Geo Fern... We had estimated $400 for this show. The bill was for over $1300, and I stopped breathing. When we got back out to the car, sure enough, it was gone. Towed away... And while I am on the phone with the tow company, the trade show director was calling on the other line. The big case won't fit through the door. And they are charging me overtime labor charges until it gets fixed. And the towed car is going to cost $143 cash.
There's different ways to look at this. We can freak out, stress, anger, etc. OR just laugh it all off. I chose laughter. What was the point in stressing? It all got taken care of. But still... I'm looking at the bright side. The booth has not fallen down on us (a la SHOT Show), the guns are now secured legally and properly, all of our products arrived. I've been fed my dinner finally, and that helps considerably. Things can only go up from here. Right???

For the "other" version of our week here in New Orleans, the more professional, marketing approved, version of this trip, check out my other blog at gunchick.blogspot.com (don't you just love that name?!)

A Day In The Life of a Busy Traveler

Business travel has its ups and downs, as does personal travel, I suppose. There are rewards to being on the road, the little thrills of business success, plus the fun of exploring new cities, and sampling new cuisine. There are the downsides to road work as well, such as being alone when big things happen, no one to hang out with, airports, traveler's woes, and that small detail of having to work all the time.
The positive story for the day is that I can't wait for the show to open up. We are exhibiting at the Fraternal Order of Police Show in New Orleans, LA. A few months ago I got it into my head that I wanted to "claim" a show, to really make a mark at a show. I picked two big shows, and this is the first big effort. And so far it looks like my plan is working. Our "booth" is our mobile showroom, a large 18 wheeler trailer, with drop down back end, hardwood floors, and gunsmith's station. It even has a golf cart inside of it, that I will take for a few spins around the show floor tomorrow, just because I can. So far we dwarf the competition, and that is a great thing! Our rival, G, is directly across the aisle from us in a small little 10x10, looking small and pathetic. I can't wait for the show to open, just so we can enjoy the thunderous applause we've earned this year. Let's hope the attendance meets the promises.
We do have our work cut out for us tomorrow though. Unlike other shows, set up will probably take us several hours, in a largely un-air-conditioned convention center. Oh the joys of trade show work...
I have been looking forward to coming to New Orleans for a year now. And I have to tell you, I am seriously disappointed. We are right on Bourbon Street, right in the heart of the French Quarter, which sounds fun and all. But its not. Its gross, its dodgy, its smelly, and the public drunkeness never ends. I walked down the street at 3 pm, in broad daylight, and felt horribly vulnerable and unsafe. I think I will stick to nice safe places for the rest of my trip here.
Today had a great high point, and a low point. Low point- the airline losing my luggage. Somehow my suitcase took a little sidetrip to Pittsburgh, Memphis, and then to New Orleans. I think I should get the frequent flyer miles earned by my luggage today. It only seems fair, considering I had to wait 12 hours to get my bags. I think I will petition the airlines on this idea!
The high point of my day was in the form of an email. I got a little letter from the State Dept telling me I passed the Foreign Service Written Exam. I am very happy!! I took the test on a whim a few months ago, and honestly haven't given it one thought since. So now I have lots of romantic thoughts running through my head about which countries I want to sign up for. How far remote and exotic do I want to go? I'm completely open to suggestion, so feel free to offer up your thoughts! Right now I am obsessed with Africa and the South Pacific. Can you see me processing visas in the Congo? Or am I better suited for interviews in Fiji?
Please drop me a note while I am in exile out here in the Big Easy!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Lots of new pics

I have so many pics of current and old friends to post, that I finally caved and did the webshots thing. You can check out all of my albums at http://community.webshots.com/user/erinannie

Give me a few days to get them all posted. But for now, a very old Langley ward activity photo session is up there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Places Your Daughter (Sister) Has Been


Here's a few fun pictures I got back today from various hiking trips over the last month (and from last year in the same places). Not all of me, obviously (someone has to hold the camera).

This is supposed to be one of the prettiest views from Old Rag. Umm... Can you say heat, humidity and FOG??

Parker and Joy (old rag)

Monkey Boy

Old Rag - Jason, Joy, Me (love the big old knee brace)

Crane Vista

My proof that I made it to the top of Crane Mountain.

Beautiful trees!

Cool tree on Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive (last October)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hot Summer Nights


Its 11:37 pm, and the temperature is 86F both inside and outside of my apartment right now. The later gets and the less the temperature drops in our pathetically air conditioned apartment, the more apparent it becomes that I will not be getting any sleep anytime soon. So here I am sitting about 10 feet away from the a/c unit, sweltering, and watching "Bride and Prejudice." I still think it is one of the best movies ever! LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!

Monday, July 25, 2005

My name is Erin, and I steal pics from other blogs


Stolen from Sherpa/Ruby G's site. From left- Jason, Carli, Joy, Paul, me.

Words from the Weekend- in no particular order

Two hotties, too funny
Two dinners?
Two babies!!
Two’s company, but three’s not a crowd
Too long in the car.
2:00 p.m.
2:00 a.m.

Sunny skies
Surf boards
Suburban
Sunburn
Saddest tan line ever!

Carli
Paul
Burke
Jason
Joy
Yenny

D&C 122:8
D&C 121:7-8
2 Nephi 2:2
Jacob 7:5

Bev’s back
BBQ for 70
But I’m a 10!

Big hugs

Good friends
Good talks

Good to know you’re not alone

Friday, July 22, 2005

Girls Camp Rocks

Its been another fun and energy filled week. I spent the last 3 nights at Girls Camp as the Fourth Level leader, which means I had 23 14 yr old girls to certify in camp skills and hang out with. My girls were great, and I wish I could have more time to get to know each of them better. I think the best part of the week was getting to focus on important details with the girls, and emphasize our theme, “Remember Your PJS (PJS= Prayers, Journals, Scriptures.)J” My girls were anxious to talk to me about the scriptures our level focused on. And my favorite question was, “what does girls camp have to do with the gospel?” So we talked about how GC gives us a chance to stop worrying what others thing of us, and to not think about the outside world for a few days. My teaching is style is to not preach, but raise more questions, and encourage the girls to answer them out loud and discuss them with me and each other. So I asked the girls if they really thought they could change their lives in just one week getting dirty and hanging out at GC? I was so proud of them when they decided that no, you can’t change your life at GC, but you can at least change your way of thinking at GC, and it is up to them to think with integrity. Their words, not mine! For that one brief moment, realizing that I got through to the girls, and that hopefully they will remember that lesson, the whole trip was worth it. I couldn’t be happier.
It wouldn’t be Girls Camp without one or two crazy stories. My favorite story from the week was during the second year hike. (My girls had a service project that day, so I went along to assist on the second level hike- a 5 mile loop, and really NOT strenuous. Don’t tell the girls though, they think they climbed Everest.) After we got the girls up the 2.5 mile trail in record time (less than 1 hour), hung around at the top for 1 hour, had one girls slip, fall, and hurt her ankle significantly, we started back down the trail. These were the 12 year old girls, and please keep in mind they have been in the woods for 2 days, hiking, and well, not looking their cutest at all. And they know nothing about hiking etiquette. So we’re coming down the hill, and suddenly we see a troop of about 20 10 year old boys coming towards us. Instead of doing the obvious smart thing of moving into a single file line on the right to pass, my girls actually stop dead in their tracks, all standing in a big clump, and spontaneously burst into song. But not just any song, they had to sing the worst song ever. “THE CUTEST BOY… I EVER SAW…. WAS SIPPING CIIIIIIIIDER…” etc, etc, etc. These little boys look like they don’t’ know what just hit them. And our girls just keep screeching away the stupidest song ever written. The boys all have to walk around the girls, (because they have yet to yield to the on-coming trail traffic, in spite of my yelling- GET TO THE RIGHT!), and just stare at the stupidity therein. Now, you would think that would be the end of it, but no, once that song was through, my girls keep on singing, “I LOVE MY MORMON BOY, HE IS MY PRIDE AND JOY!” Possibly the second worst song ever written. And the little 10 year old boys keep on walking by… Unreal. Oh, and did I mention they were all Jewish? The “Hebrew Day School” shirts, and yarmulkes gave it away. I am almost afraid to say it, but I really hope I wasn’t that silly and stupid when I was their age…

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I Love the Mountains, I Love the Rolling Hills, I Love the Firesides, When All the Lights are Low

Another fun weekend out in the mountains, climbing up and down things has come to an end. Joy, Jason, Parker and I took a turn about Old Rag on Saturday. While it was a fun trip (how could it not be in such entertaining company?) I think next time I will-
a) arrive at an unknown campsite before dark
b) get a map of unknown campgrounds, regardless of arriving there before or after dark, and actually read it
c) actually camp
d) not use my knee (whether it be the good or bad one) to push myself up on a rock
e) check weather reports to see how hot it will be at 7 am
f) bring a better camera
g) bring Joy ear plugs so she doesn't have to listen to the incessant arguing


Fun trip! Thanks guys!

This will conclude my blogging for the week. I have procured my own copy of Harry Potter, and will be holed up reading all 650 pages for as long as it takes. And then tomorrow I leave for Girls Camp where blogging will be impossible, but at least I'll get to sing campfire songs. I'm sure when I return on Friday I will have plenty of great Girls Camp stories to share with the free world. In the meantime, I open up the comments section for my friends to use to entertain each other, and embarrass me in my absence.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Cure for Boredom

http://www.worldoflongmire.com/features/romance_novels/

More fun from the Adirondacks

Here's a few more pictures from the Adirondacks. These were all taken by Burke, who it turns out is a pretty good photographer! I'm still looking forward to getting a few more shots from Rae's camera soon too.


The lovely Miss Angela


Everyone but me and Rae on top of Crane. What? They couldn't wait just 5 more minutes to take pictures? From left- Jason, Eric, Yenny, Walter, Angela, Burke.


Crane Mountain Vista


The big question is "does smoke follow age or the ugly?" Either way...


Notice how the smoke is still following Walter...


Burke is a pretty decent photographer! I liked this shot of shoes on the shore at Schroon Lake. (almost a tongue twister- shot of shoes on the shore at schroon)


Lake Placid High School- also the home of the 1980 Olympics. Sure doesn't look like the prison that was Oakton HS.


Sailboat on Lake Placid



Into every trip a little subterfuge must fall. While in Lake Placid we found a beautiful resort, snuck in (wasn't that difficult), and enjoyed the scenery.

DC Fireworks

I didn't actually go downtown this year to see the fireworks. But Burke took some great shots of the action, so I thought I'd post them. (I did get to see the tallest fireworks from the comfort of my own living room.)

Ever wonder what the DC 4th of July is like? This picture captures it all! Crowds, sweat, and chaos everywhere.

Things that go BOOM!

Fireworks

Last but not least, the infamous DC purple skyline. I live somewhere behind all of that. This is my favorite picture. (Burke, its even my wallpaper right now.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Still Trying to See the Bright Side (and possibly failing)

I had big plans for productivity this week. But they have all gone horribly awry. But instead of complaining about them (including no internet at home for 3 days, my car in the shop again, crooked landlords, and a bum knee-again), I am questioning myself. Why is it I feel completely worthless without a car and internet? I feel completely shut off from the entire world. I have no internet at home, my knee is so swollen I can't walk anywhere, and my car is back in the shop. I nearly went stir crazy feeling isolated and pathetic. I finally decided to just give in and walk to the library. Granted its a good mile and a half walk, but I was desperate. Besides, the a/c is still so weak in our apartment, that I'd rather be outside than cooped up in there. So bum knee and all, I walked. Conveniently I thought to take my checkbook with me, just in case my car was done at the mechanics. You are supposed to express your gratitude when you feel it, right? Well, I could not be more grateful for the kind customer service I got there today. (and how often do you say that about your mechanic?) When I got there my car was ready, but I realized I had a checkbook with me, but no ID. They took my check anyway. "You come in here all the time, girl. We trust you." So with a car, I was able to drive to the library so I can work on Girls Camp stuff. (Which reminds me, if anyone has any brilliant activities, plans, or ideas on how to teach "caring for the environment" to 23 teenage girls, I'm all ears.) And of course, now that I am at the library, I'm online. I feel nearly human again. I'll feel a little better when the internet and cable are back and working at my house on Friday. I feel like I am living in the dark ages over there.
But when did my life become so dependent on my laptop for entertainment? Why is I can't figure out how to do book research anymore? I tried for 30 mins to find books on my camp topics, but finally gave in and googled them on the computer. Am I really so addicted??
What am I suposed to do when I am trapped in the house with no way out? Can't walk anywhere, can't drive, nothing to eat, etc. Mayor J humbly suggested I call up the nearest Romeo and ask to be rescued. I suppose its just a testament to my stubbornness that I refuse to admit I need rescuing. It is also entirely possible that my pride will keep me from ever asking a boy for help. (All of which Mayor J points out are contributing to my singlehood. I have a feeling that Natalie, when she reads this, will agree. Oh well.) In the meantime, I am feeling very urban sitting in the library in the middle of the city. Granted it would have been more urban of me to walk over here. Guess I can't win!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Childhood Summer Memories

Tonight I endulged in a classic childhood summertime activity. To cheer myself up after a classic crappy day, I went for a little sunset walk to the nearest convenience store to buy an ice cream cone and soda. In honor of my childhood, I picked out a big chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich and a strawberry soda. (If the adult me had been picking it out I clearly would have bought a tub of Ben and Jerry's Fudge Brownie and a Diet Coke.) Just a nice little walk and sugar infusion can do wonders for an attitude adjustment. Part of me really needed the pick-me-up. If I were still in a bad mood I would point out that I had to walk because my car is back in the shop, and I wanted ice cream because its so freaking hot in my apartment that I couldn't think straight anymore. But the attitude adjustment is working, and instead, this was a great nostalgic evening. And it brought back great memories of walking to 7-11 and spending what felt like hours picking out just the right treat.
What was your childhood endulgence? What activity do you miss?

Just Can't Win

After paying over $400 to get my car fixed last week, it has broken down again today. I can't win. I can't take this anymore!! Someone steal my car - please!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Exhausted Procrastination

Its nearly 10 pm on Sunday and I have reinvented exhaustion. But this weekend its all my own fault. I played as hard as a girl can play, and now I'm paying the price. Friday night I got to meet more of my Girls Camp girls, and learn more about what I will be responsible for up there. I've got a lot of work to do this week to get ready for camp. I don't want to let the girls down. There are 55 girls attending the overall camp. I am responsible for 23 of them! Somehow we just have that many more fourth years attending than any other age group this year. I'll have my hands full, but I'm excited for it.
Saturday morning I went hiking on the Whiteoak Canyon trail outside of Sperryville with 2 friends. Its a nice trail, well maintained, lots of switchbacks. We saw 2 bears on the hike. I've never seen a bear that up close and personal before (by up close and personal I mean about 50 feet away- but still- there was no electric fence between us). Very cool.
I did manage to get my mother out to the Toby Keith concert at Nissan Pavillion. I'm not the biggest Toby Keith fan ever, but I do like a few of his songs. Getting to see my mother tap her toe and clap along to "Who's Your Daddy," was priceless. That is one memory that will stay with my forever. Whether or not you like country, or Toby Keith (his own brand of country to say the least), you have to give it to him. It was one well done, very upbeat show. Fireworks, confetti, special effects, and oh yeah, great music. Very fun!
Now I'm just sitting here procrastinating writing the column for this week. I'm feeling a little too opinionated, and have a lot I want to say about the Church's program regarding singles. Or should I say the LACK of a program for singles? Until I'm not so riled up on the subject I won't be able to get my thoughts out clearly. (I keep trying to clean the apartment up, but that just makes me more mad. When will I be a rich established author that can afford a cleaning service??)
I probably won't have a lot of free time for blogging again this week. Between planning the girls camp lessons, attending TS2, another hiking/camping trip (Old Rag), and the regular routine of just staying one step ahead of the jailer, I expect to be exhausted all week. This Friday I'll take off for Old Rag, come back Saturday night, Sunday- same old, Monday is a Nats game, and then drive from there to girls camp, and then 3 days at girls camp, coming back late Thursday night, work on Friday, sleep? on Saturday, work like crazy Mon-Thurs, because on Friday I'm leaving for New Orleans for 8 days. No rest for the wicked, right? Oh, and I forgot the little part about writing a 3 part series for Meridian on the Defending the Family conference. Who needs sleep? It just takes up too much time anyway.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Weekend of Insanity

As usual I have managed to pack 500 things into my weekend, when 499 would have sufficed. Starting in just a few minutes, I have a girls camp meeting and then a movie with Rachel. Then bright and early tomorrow morning, its off to go hiking again. (I must get in as much hiking as possible while I can. Heaven knows that my free time is limited this summer.) I do believe tomorrow's hike will be Whiteoak Canyon in the Shenandoahs, but I'm not entirely clear on that. Tomorrow night I am [hopefully] going with my mom to her first ever country music concert. She wants to go see Toby Keith tomorrow night at Nissan Pavillion, and I may have helped push her into buying the tickets. I can't wait to see my mother's reaction to all the zealously drunk rednecks singing patriotic country songs. "We'll put a boot in your a**, its the American way!"
And then there is Sunday. I have a 6:30 am meeting, 7:30 am meeting, 9:15 am meeting, church actually at 1, and then another meeting at 4:30. Unbelievable! Why so many in one Sunday? Why? Why?
I feel a pre-emptive nap coming on.
Oh and in case you have been too busy to read the hilariously wonderful column Juli and I write every week, I highly recommend you read us this week. Its truly one of our best pieces yet. "Miss Manners for Mormons." We are also working on a book by the same name. We have had a good 30 responses to our column already this week, and I'm sure they will keep on coming in. For the most part everyone agrees with us. We did have 2 dissenters though. Because one of them is so classic (she's defending her use of Jello salads), I had to post it verbatim here.
"Just because the two of you don't like jello doesn't mean that others hate it, too. I wouldn't serve it at a wedding, but I have served a wonderful lemon, 7 up jello salad for guests and I didn't see any of them gag and wish I'd have left it off the menu! PS: I also know how to make marvelous green salads, potato salads, green bean salads, pasta salads -- you name it, but I think you went overboard on the jello angle!"

It may be a first, but someone has actually defended the use of Jello salads with green bean salads. Someone take that woman to a fancy restaurant and introduce her to real food!

Check us out this week if you get a chance- www.ldsmag.com/singlethought
We rock!
(just for you Juli!)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Stat Counter Sees All

A few weeks ago I installed a stat-counter on this blog. It took me a few weeks to figure out how to use it. But now that I have learned how to read it, I am greatly entertained by it. I have no idea who it is that reads my blog in New Zealand, and yet, there it is. And of course, there are a few dozen hits in Arlington, VA each day. But this is all I know. So, just for fun, I thought I'd invite everyone to identify themselves to me. I'm getting a good 30 hits a day, and for the life of me I don't know who they are. So if you don't care if I know that you are reading this, click the comments button, and say hi. I'm just curious!
And of course, I always welcome feedback. I'd love to read your comments!

Reliving 9/11 All Over Again

9/11 affected me in many ways. I was a volunteer fire fighter at the time, living outside of DC, where I spent day after day in the aftermath. I still clearly remember that entire awful day, standing around the station, feeling entirely useless and helpless, watching guys I had trained with, recognized, and knew, fighting the fires at the Pentagon. While the rest of the world watched the Towers fall, I couldn't stop watching one particular blue helmet at the Pentagon. He was a good friend of mine that I wasn't on speaking terms with at the time. And throughout all of the awful things that happened that day, I couldn't stop worrying about him. I will never forget how much I cried when he finally walked back into the station.

I had my fair share of responsibilities over the next few weeks and months, and lived in the nightmare that all of America felt. I worked zealously at the station, wishing that somehow my sleepless nights were somehow helping. I was so grateful for the opportunity to serve as a fire fighter at the time. I knew my contribution didn't mean too much (after all it was Arcola, VA, not exactly a terrorist target, with the exception of that pesky State Dept mail facility), but at least I felt needed.

Now the war has come back to slap us all in the face. Bombs have gone off in the London Tubes. I can't help but stop and wonder about everytime I have complained about the extra security measures in DC. If those same measures had been in place (or were they in place?) in London, would this have happened? Would I be sitting here feeling completely useless in the face of terrorism again?

The first thought I had today after I heard about the attacks was about the safety of a few friends attending school there. I've worried about them all day. My second thought was that I want to call my old station and re-activate. I wish I could somehow be more helpful, feel more involved. My Naval officer aspirations didn't work out (back in 2001), but I've always wondered where I would be now if things had worked out. What if I hadn't blown out my hip? Where would I be stationed now? I have loved the last few years of my life (okay, I admit I could have done without some of the more awful experiences in 2003-2004), but I still wish I could have become an officer. Its strange how things turn out sometimes.

The war is back, not that it was ever gone. And all I want to know now is how to not feel so useless?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Mt. Marcy- I didn't get to do this hike. But the picture shows you how beautiful the Adirondacks really are!!

Jason, Angela, Yenny, and Parker at the base of a ladder on Crane. Look at the top to see what I am assuming is Walter at the top of the ladder.

The Great Meadow of Schroon Lake

Parker, Burke, Angela, Jason, and Walter on top of Crane. (Rachel and I got there a few minutes later.)

The darling Yenny atop Crane Mountain.

The first night in Lackawanna. (L-R) Parker (standing), Burke, Angeal, Rachel, me, Walter (front), Yenny.

The Other 3 Nights I Dwelt in a Tent (Adirondacks Trip) EDITED VERSION

You know what I like? Second chances and having my own blog. I can say what I want, and if I change my mind, I can just hit 'edit' and do it all over again. After reading my blog on the Adirondacks trip, I realized that my writing sucked, and that my first rendition gave off the entirely wrong impression about the trip. I am a much better writer than that (not that some of my posts here don't question why it is I get paid to write).

One of the greatest things in life is getting the chance to break out of the normal routine of life, and experience something out your comfort zone. My typical comfort zone involves books, my laptop, a couch, and my car. There are many things that I love to try, love to do, but they are slightly out of my comfort zone, and I just don't get to do them that often. Camping and hiking are some of those things. I also tend to hide behind the same friends and not break out and meet new people very often. So every once in a while when the opportunity arises to break out of all comfort zones at once, I take it. My own personal moments of attempted bravery.

I've always wanted to be more athletic and graceful at sports. At age 30, I suppose its time to give up hope of making the first round draft pick. But I've always loved camping and hiking, mostly because they don't require a whole lot of grace or athleticism. Of course, some physical fitness is involved in hiking, but I learned long ago you can just wing that. If you can't keep up, just fake a full bladder and escape into the trees for a quick breather! Of course, camping also involves two of my favorite things- fire and star-gazing.

All of which brings me to how I ended up in the Adirondacks staring up at the Milky Way, having one of the best weekends ever. We left Friday night and drove up to Lackawanna, Pennsylvania (half way point) to camp for the first night. There were 8 of us there, and we spent the first night getting to know each other, and laughing at a particular snoring companion. (There's something about a bad snorer that always brings humor to a situation. No matter how bad the camping, you can always look bad and laugh at snoring.) In typical fashion, all 4 girls shared my tent. We used to think it was a 4 man tent, but we have now decided its more like a 3 man. But that never stops girls. We just got in their sardine style and went to sleep. Each of the guys however brought their own tent and went solo. So 8 people go hiking, and we used 5 tents. Go figure.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting to make new friends. And this trip was full of opportunities to get to know casual acquaintances better. There were 8 of us on the trip, of which I knew 5 relatively well. Parker and I have known each other since we were little kids. And Angela has been a good friend for a year now. But Yenny, Walter, Jason, and Rachel were all just acquaintances. I didn't even meet Burke until we got in the car. Normally, hanging out with people outside of my circle is not my favorite thing to do. But every once in a while its a healthy thing to just get out and meet new people. Its never easy for me, especially when I'm not in control of the situation, but this proved to be a good experience. Before this trip I would never have expected that I could be friends with some of my fellow campers. The few encounters I have had with them in the past just told me that we were opposites and I would be hard pressed to find common ground. I even wondered if I should even go on the trip, since I'm so different from them that maybe I'm "not their type" and therefore, possibly not welcome. And it is a strike against me that I'm not the greatest hiker in the world. (Which doesn't change the fact that I love to do it.) But instead of feeling like I wasn't good enough for the group, I ended up making new friends. Each person brought unique talents and a fun outlook to the group. Just for the new found friendships, I am glad I went!

Saturday we drove up to the Adirondacks. I had heard it was pretty up there, but truly was not prepared for such a beautiful sight. The mountains are beautiful and green, and the ample glacier lakes are crystal clear. Crane Mountain is absolutely beautiful. The trail is not very well kept, and is very, very rocky, but its beautiful. Rachel and I got separated from the rest of the group at the beginning. (We were looking for a "Ladies' Tree.") So we were about 30 minutes behind the rest till we got to the summit. We took some amazing shots of the Adirondacks while hiking. (Which I am posting as I get them.) At one point we passed several different hikers who let us know that our friends were waiting above for us. My favorite part was when a little girl that couldn't be more than 7 or 8, not carrying any gear, came down the mountain, put her hands on her hips, and said in the most authoritative voice a 7 yr old can muster, "Are you Erin? There's boys waiting for you up there!" I felt like I should apologize to her and run faster. We did eventually get to the top, after smelling a few roses along the way. We joined the rest of the group, and started on the down trail. I love hiking, but honestly, I hate the down trails. My quads just never seem up to the job, no matter how well prepared I am. The trip down was fun with the rest of the group.

Saturday night we went to a completely unmarked campground off the side of the road pretty late at night. (We asked a waitress for a campsite recommendation. Always ask a local for advice!) We quickly discovered that all of the regular campsites were occupied by some locals were were, um, well, stoned. There is no other way to put it. We stayed as far away from them as possible and camped out in the middle of this gigantic meadow. We had a view of Schroon Lake, a few trees, and several acres all to ourselves. Ever since I was a little girl I have loved to watch the stars. I used to watch the movie, "Space Camp," and memorize every move they made, just in case I ever got my chance to go to camp and accidentally get launched into space. I also took astronomy during college, which was a complete disaster. I still can't pick out the North Star! But none of that has ever stopped me from loving to lay out in the dark and just stare endlessly into space. One of the most memorable experiences for me from this trip will be getting to see the Milky Way. I have never seen it before, and always wondered what it would look like. There were more stars than I have ever even imagined before. I was in awe. I couldn't stop looking. So I pulled out my pad and stayed out under the stars for as long as possible to watch. I just looked and looked for hours at the sky. It was amazing to me. It was so beautiful and dark and rich with so many bright stars (I could see all of the planets for the first time as well), that I just wanted to reach out and touch them. Us city girls just don't see things like that often enough. Seeing the sheer majesty of the stars was by far my most favorite experience this weekend. I'm already making plans in my head to go back and see them again. But next time there will be a warm body to snuggle with while watching them.

Again I shared a tent with Rachel, Angela, and Yenny, with the guys in their respective tents nearby. The Snorer was so bad at one point that Ang got out of the tent and went over and shook his to make him get quiet. It worked for a few minutes. At least long enough for me to fall asleep finally. I did hear that the snoring came back rather soon thereafter though. ;-) In the morning we had already all agreed to not go to Church. We had meant to, but at this point we didn't even know where in the woods we were. We had no facilities to get cleaned up and dressed in either. And quite frankly, we were rather gross and smelly. We hadn't used any modern facilities since Friday morning. So instead we chose to stay where we were and enjoy God's beautiful creations for a few hours. When we finally saw daylight we discovered how close to the lake we really were and a few of us went down to jump in a "rinse off" a little bit. But our lake access was quite frankly, a little yucky and not fun for playing in. Now I'm all for getting out of a comfort zone and experiencing something new, but I don't do well when my feet are sucked so deep into the mud that I can't see them anymore. So we went back up to the camp to find that Angela had found a much better area to enter the water. So everyone took off for that. I decided to stay behind and read and relax alone for a little while. We had been enjoying quite a bit of group together time at that point, and I needed a little solo time. I should stop and explain here that throughout the trip I had been getting to know Jason better. I can't tell the story of the weekend without mentioning my surprise at getting to know him. From the minute we all joined up on Friday, Jason and I had started in with a little healthy teasing, and a lot of "debates." Going into this trip, all I knew about him is that we stand on the opposite end of the political spectrum, and very loudly so. But throughout the weekend it was fun for me to get to know him and understand where he's coming from, and why we are so different. But the more I got to know him, the more I realized how similar we really are. He doesn't realize it (until he reads this of course), but giving me the chance to hear his side of the story, and why he believes the way he does, was a very important experience for me. I realize that I need to have a more open mind and compassion for others. Things are not always as they seem, and different can be good. These were all the lessons I learned on Sunday morning, while everyone else was down at the water, and Jason and I were up at the camp still. I'm not saying I'll never argue with him again. In fact, I can guarantee I will argue with him the next time I see him probably. But I'll also give him a fighting chance to change my mind, if that is even possible.

How much arguing was there? I think one of the funniest things said on the entire trip was when Yenny and Walter came back up to the campsite and Yenny said, "Wow, look, they're not fighting anymore!"

Eventually we packed up camp again, and drove further north. We stopped for lunch in a little town with a name I'll never recall at a cafe I'll never forget. It was an organic restaurant with all sorts of fun things inside. We stayed there and enjoyed the beautiful day for a while and then took off to Lake Placid. In Lake Placid our two cars had to part ways though, as the other car was headed to Mt Marcy for a 15 mile hike, and my car was headed for nowhere in partcular. So Angela, Burke, Rachel and I drove around Lake Placid, and completely fell in love with it. Its just a beautiful town- quite a bit like Park City. We saw some of the old Olympics sites, and some of the current training facilities. But my favorite part was just the lake itself. Its huge, beautiful, and clean. We spent a few minutes just enjoying the scenery, and decided to get a head start on driving home. The trip was nearly 10 hours, so we figured we would put a good sized dent in the trip, so that Monday wouldn't be so bad. We had been driving about 3 hours when we realized that we didn't really know where we were going, except south. I think we all agreed (in our car) that the funniest thing said on this trip, was by a toll booth attendant when I asked him where I-83 was. He looked at me kind of funny (he's probably my age) and said in one of the thickest Canadian accents ever heard, "That ain't no road!" He thought I was making a joke out of it, and didn't believe me that I wanted that road. So we called my dad for directions instead. It turns out we wanted I-88. We had a few more fun adventures trying to find a campsite outside of Oneonta, NY. My favorite story involves a very large drunk redneck crowd at a state park. The park ranger even told us we didn't want to stay there. So we found a KOA instead. The funny part about that was that the offices were closed (after 11 pm). The park looked full, but we were desperate, so we just drove around till we found an empty spot, and camped there for the night. We were gone by 6 this morning. The office was still closed, and therefore we were evil little children and didn't pay for our spot. (And on a Sunday! We're going straight to hell!)

If it weren't for these random opportunities to go out and do something different, I'd go crazy sitting at a desk figuring out drayage and shipping for 8 hours a day. I look forward to the rest of Girls Camp in a few weeks, where hopefully I can pass on to the girls just a little bit of my love for experiencing things out of their general comfort zone. A little dirt on your shins and a few bug bites on your arms are good for making you feel alive. When I told my girls that I love sleeping in a tent and would be going with friends to do it for fun over the weekend, one of them very seriously looked at me and said, "You do this for fun? You like this stuff?" Of course, she doesn't realize that I love escaping the city lights where I can see the Milky Way, and that most camping doesn't involve coal trains at 2 am. But I really do love sleeping in a tent with the fly off and staring up at the sky for hours on end, while listening to my friends softly sleeping near me. I'm not so crazy about thinking I was sleeping on a rock, and then discovering it was just a headlamp I could have moved all night! But even then, how many of my friends at work or church or home wore a headlamp and went scurrying for wood in the middle of the night this week so they could build a fire in the middle of a meadow?

One last thought about camping, but this time from the book, "About a Boy" by Nick Hornby (my reading material for the weekend). Marcus, the boy in the book, is lamenting the break up of his mother and her boyfriend, that he's become friends with. The book's narrator says, "He'd once shared a toilet with Roger, when they were both busting for a pee after a car journey. You'd think that if you'd peed with someone you ought to keep in touch with them somehow." I suppose that isn't unlike my thoughts on camping and hiking. After you have shared so much together- the car rides, the meals, the camping, swimming, hiking, and mutual solo time, you have a friendship and bond. After you have "watered" the same trees, you keep in touch somehow.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Other 3 Nights I Dwelt in a Tent (Adirondacks Trip)

Funny thing about having a blog. Its my blog and my story. And yet, somehow, my friends all like to tell me what I should and shouldn't say on here. Not everyone agreed with my rendition of the Adirondacks trip. So I have now revised the story a little bit. And who are we kidding? The first version was way too long. Hope this meets with everyone's approval a little better.



On Friday afternoon we took off for the Adirondacks for a very fun filled weekend. Due to the demise of the big blue beast, we rented a car from Avis for the occasion. In my car we took me, Burke, Angela, and Rachel. It was my first time meeting Burke, who is a friend of Angela. In the other car (that drove up seperately) there was Walter (the main organizer, Parker (or Eric, depending on what we feel like calling him at the moment), Yenny, and Jason. I have known Eric since we were very small children, and I've known Yenny and Walter for about 8 years, but only have become better friends with them in the past year- all because of weekend hiking adventures. Angela and I have been girlfriends for about a year now, and Rachel and I met a few months ago, and have become good friends. Jason and I have only met briefly twice prior to this, but almost all of us (minus Ang and Burke) are on a listserve together where we discuss all sorts of topics. Frequently we discuss politics, and I frequently find myself in the conservative, vast-right wing conspiracy minority on that list. This listserve is primarily how I know Yenny, Walter, Rachel, and Jason.

We had all decided that it was just way too far to drive all the way up to the Adirondacks on Friday night, plus we couldn't get a campsite up there. So we only went as far as Lackawanna, Penn. We set up our tents there for the night, and all started to get to know each other. Within minutes Jason and I were fighting, while Rachel, Burke, Ang, and Eric all actually got to meet each other. (The story will from this point on include the phrase "Jason and I were fighting" on a frequent basis. And by fighting I mean constantly arguing some political point with each other. At one point he actually blamed the entire Iraq war on me and "my type." I had no idea I was so influential.)

In typical fashion, all 4 girls shared my tent. We used to think it was a 4 man tent, but we have now decided its more like a 3 man. But that never stops girls. We just got in their sardine style and went to sleep. Each of the guys however brought their own tent and went solo. So 8 people go hiking, and we used 5 tents. Go figure. It took almost no time at all to discover we had a snorer among us. I won't divulge which one it was, but lets just say he kept us up all night long.

In the morning we drove from Lackawanna (a word I never tire of saying) to Crane Mountain, somewhere way far north in NY. Its somewhere between Lake George and Lake Placid. I'll probably never be able to find it on a map. Even using maps and having printed directions, it took us forever to find the place. We probably only spent 1.5 hours seriously lost in mountains. But they were beautiful mountains to say the least. Just for fun we switched up the occupants of the cars a little bit, and Parker and I swapped places. Giving me 5 hours in the car to fight with Jason some more. Yenny (from the backseat) even had to ask at one point if we were getting tired of it. At which point we had to argue over whether or not it was getting old yet. To Yenny and Walter, I hope we didn't entirely annoy you with our "discussions."

In a little nothing town called Warrensburg we stopped for one of the worst lunches I have ever had. We pulled into a little roadside diner that appeared charming on the outside. On the inside we discovered that locals apparently don't like tourists and that not all waitresses actually want a tip. We were horribly overcharged for a pathetically small meal, that we had to wait over an hour for. (She somehow managed to take all 8 orders at one time, but serve 4 of the meals an entire hour behind the first 4, and never once filled our drinks. And its not like they were busy in there!) We then kept on going up the mountain where I will spare you the details of how cranky we were all getting as we got more and more lost. We did finally find a road that said something about a trail head, and followed it uphill. We found a pothole in the road big enough for a coffin I think. Thank goodness we had full insurance on the rental car. We plowed on through, found the base of the trail, and started walking (after nearly 7 hours of sitting).

Crane Mountain is absolutely beautiful. The trail is not very well kept, and is very, very rocky, but its beautiful. Rachel and I got seperated from the rest of the group at the beginning. (We were looking for a "Ladies' Tree.") So we were about 30 minutes behind the rest till we got to the summit. I can't wait for our pictures to get developed. We took some amazing shots of the Adirondacks while hiking. At one point we passed several different hikers who let us know that our friends were waiting above for us. My favorite part was when a little girl that couldn't be more than 7 or 8, not carrying any gear, came down the mountain, put her hands on her hips, and said in the most authoritative voice a 7 yr old can muster, "Are you Erin? There's boys waiting for you up there!" I felt like I should apologize to her and run faster. We did eventually get to the top, after smelling a few roses along the way. We joined the rest of the group, and started on the down trail. I love hiking, but honestly, I hate the down trails. My quads just never seem up to the job, no matter how well prepared I am. The trip down was fun with the rest of the group. And, oh yeah, Jason and I argued the entire way down. Can't remember what the subject matter was.

We went to dinner at a place called the Black Bear Restaurant, in a town with a name I'll never remember. We met a very nice waitress there (it was her second day on the job) who told us where the locals go to camp. She sent us off to Schroon Manor/Lake very well fed. The prices were a little high for average food, but at least we ate enough to fill up. I sat with Rachel, Eric, and Jason, and oh yeah, fought with him some more there. Its amazing that we can carry over an argument from a listserve for 3 days and still keep on arguing.

We got to a completely unmarked campground off the side of the road pretty late at night. We discovered that all of the regular campsites (this was state property, but unpatrolled) were occupied by some locals were were, um, well, stoned. There is no other way to put it. We stayed as far away from them as possible and camped out in the middle of this gigantic meadow. We had a view of Schroon Lake, a few trees, and several acres all to ourselves. My favorite part was the most unexpected part for me. The stars. I have never seen the Milky Way before. Where we were at, in the middle of nowhere NY, there were no other lights we could see. There were more stars than I have ever even imagined before. I was in awe. I couldn't stop looking. So I pulled out my pad and stayed out under the stars for as long as possible to watch. I couldn't even pick out any constellations, because I couldn't recognize them with so many more stars. But the Milky Way is what amazed me the most. I just looked and looked for hours at the sky. It was amazing to me. It was so beautiful and dark and rich with so many bright stars (I could see all of the planets for the first time as well), that I just wanted to reach out and touch them. Us city girls just don't see things like that often enough. Seeing the sheer majesty of the stars was by far my most favorite experience this weekend. I'm already making plans in my head to go back and see them again. But next time there will be a warm body to snuggle with while watching them.

Again I shared a tent with Rachel, Angela, and Yenny, with the guys in their respective tents nearby. The Snorer was so bad at one point that Ang got out of the tent and went over and shook his to make him get quiet. It worked for a few minutes. At least long enough for me to fall asleep finally. I did hear that the snoring came back rather soon thereafter though. ;-)

In the morning we had already all agreed to not go to Church. We had meant to, but at this point we didn't even know where in the woods we were. We had no facilities to get cleaned up and dressed in either. And quite frankly, we were rather gross and smelly. We hadn't used any modern facilities since Friday morning. So instead we chose to stay where we were and enjoy God's beautiful creations for a few hours. When we finally saw daylight we discovered how close to the lake we really were and a few of us went down to jump in a "rinse off" a little bit. But our lake access was quite frankly, a little yucky and not fun for playing in. So we went back up to the camp to find that Angela had found a much better area. So everyone took off for that. I decided to stay behind and read and relax alone for a little while. We had been enjoying quite a bit of group together time at that point, and I needed a little solo time. I never even got my book out of my bag though. Jason stayed behind as well, and much to everyone's surprise, we didn't fight the whole time. There was, of course, some arguing (over gay rights), but we finally found a little more common ground to work with there, and now can hold a legitimate conversation with each other. I think one of the funniest things said on the entire trip was when Yenny and Walter came back up to the campsite and Yenny said, "Wow, look, they're not fighting anymore!"

Eventually we packed up camp again, and drove further north. We stopped for lunch in a little town with a name I'll never recall at a cafe I'll never forget. It was an organic restaurant with all sorts of fun things inside. We stayed there and enjoyed the beautiful day for a while and then took off to Lake Placid. In Lake Placid our two cars had to part ways though, as the other car was headed to Mt Marcy for a 15 mile hike, and my car was headed for nowhere in partcular. So Angela, Burke, Rachel and I drove around Lake Placid, and completely fell in love with it. Its just a beautiful town- quite a bit like Park City. We saw some of the old Olympics sites, and some of the current training facilities. But my favorite part was just the lake itself. Its huge, beautiful, and clean. We spent a few minutes just enjoying the scenery, and decided to get a head start on driving home. The trip was nearly 10 hours, so we figured we would put a good sized dent in the trip, so that Monday wouldn't be so bad.

We had been driving about 3 hours when we realized that we didn't really know where we were going, except south. I think we all agreed (in our car) that the funniest thing said on this trip, was by a toll booth attendant when I asked him where I-83 was. He looked at me kind of funny (he's probably my age) and said in one of the thickest Canadian accents ever heard, "That ain't no road!" He thought I was making a joke out of it, and didn't believe me that I wanted that road. So we called my dad for directions instead. It turns out we wanted I-88. We had a few more fun adventures trying to find a campsite outside of Oneonta, NY. My favorite story involves a very large drunk redneck crowd at a state park. The park ranger even told us we didn't want to stay there. So we found a KOA instead. The funny part about that was that the offices were closed (after 11 pm). The park looked full, but we were desperate, so we just drove around till we found an empty spot, and camped there for the night. We were gone by 6 this morning. The office was still closed, and therefore we were evil little children and didn't pay for our spot. (And on a Sunday! We're going straight to hell!)

The drive home was for the most part, entirely unadventurous. Which is a good thing. I am grateful to be home and sleeping in my own bed tonight. I did learn quite a bit this weekend though. I got my true love for camping back. I will never be the most athletic or physically fit person unfortunately, but that will never stop me from doing the things I love the most. In the past week I have biked 15 miles, canoe-d 8 miles, and hiked about 5. If it weren't for these random opportunities to go out and do something different, I'd go crazy sitting at a desk figuring out drayage and shipping for 8 hours a day. I look forward to the rest of Girls Camp in a few weeks, where hopefully I can pass on to the girls just a little bit of my love for experiencing things out of their general comfort zone. A little dirt on your shins and a few bug bites on your arms are good for making you feel alive. When I told my girls that I love sleeping in a tent and would be going with friends to do it for fun over the weekend, one of them very seriously looked at me and said, "You do this for fun? You like this stuff?" Of course, she doesn't realize that I love escaping the city lights where I can see the Milky Way, and that most camping doesn't involve coal trains at 2 am. But most of all I love getting to know new people, make connections I wouldn't normally seek out, and experience something different. I'm not a very good "Granola Girl." I like my soft bed and expensive shoes. But I really do love sleeping in a tent with the fly off and staring up at the sky for hours on end, while listening to my friends softly sleeping near me. I'm not so crazy about thinking I was sleeping on a rock, and then discovering it was just a headlamp I could have moved all night! But even then, how many of my friends at work or church or home wore a headlamp and went scurrying for wood in the middle of the night this week so they could build a fire in the middle of a meadow? (which actually didn't happen until the morning) How many people fought all weekend with an acquaintance just to find out that you are more alike than different in the end? And then had to upgrade said aquaintance to friend?

One last thought about camping, but this time from the book, "About a Boy" by Nick Hornby (my reading material for the weekend). Marcus, the boy in the book, is lamenting the break up of his mother and her boyfriend, that he's become friends with. The book's narrator says, "He'd once shared a toilet with Roger, when they were both busting for a pee after a car journey. You'd think that if you'd peed with someone you ought to keep in touch with them somehow." I suppose that isn't unlike my thoughts on camping and hiking. After you have shared so much together- the car rides, the meals, the camping, swimming, hiking, and mutual solo time, you have a friendship and bond. After you have "watered" the same trees, you keep in touch somehow.

I'll post some pictures soon!



The First 2 Nights I Dwelt in a Tent

As mentioned, I have been camping like crazy this past week. So much has been going on that I'm not sure how I'm going to blog it effectively. We'll start with Girls Camp High Adventure (GCHA), and move on to the Adirondacks trip. And fill it in with car trouble and more fun and excitement!
GCHA was Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. I am the 4th Camp Leader. At regular camp (in a few weeks) I will have 23 girls. But for high adventure I only had 10, and 3 other leaders to help. (When we get to regular camp I am on a 1:23 ratio however!) We took the girls up to Harpers Ferry, WV for a 15 mile bike ride, campout, and 8 mile canoe trip. The girls were fantastic. I was shocked to find out that these girls had managed to make it to their 4th year and had never slept in a tent. I found myself saying, "Back when I was your age..." way too many times on the trip. But suffice it to say, back when I was their age (15) we camped in tents and cooked over fires for most meals. These girls were getting their first and only experience at that at GCHA. But there were fantastic. There was almost no complaining, beyond the initial shock of throwing their foil dinners into the coals and ashes. "It goes where?!" And I made the girls set up their own tents, which they did perfectly.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I've skipped all the good parts. First, the bike ride. 15 miles. I haven't been on a bike in, um, probably 15 years easily. But thankfully it was nearly all flat. My knees held up for the most part, and the girls did great. After all, camp is all about the girls, right? Taylor, a sweetheart of a girl who brought multiple books for a one night trip, and wore a pink underarmor shirt (I have dubbed her mini-me. how could i not love a blond haired girl who asked me for a list of my favorite books and wants to work for an NGO in Eastern Europe when she grows up?), was our one causalty. She took a little trip over her handlebars, and pulled a great deal of skin off her knee. So I got to brush of my EMT skills and play para-doctor in the woods. I didn't have the heart to tell her at the time, (but she found out later at the ER), but she pulled off so much skin in the accident that I was looking at her knee cap. But this fantastic little trooper got back on her bike and finished the last 5 miles of the trip without crying or complaining. I was so amazed!
We got the girls back to the so-called campground and found ourselves in for a big surprise. It wasn't what most people would call a campground by any stretch of the imagination. A sideyard on a main road adjacent to the train tracks would be a much more accurate description. This little tiny side yard, complete with brand new port-a-potty, had a fire ring, but that would be the extent of its "campy-ness." We set up camp, and then discovered the train. We could see the tracks. They were no more than 50 feet away from our tents. And then we got to see the train(s)- at 7:30, 10:30, 2:30 a.m., 5:30, etc. I think one of my favorite parts of camp was watching the girls run towards the train pumping their arms up and down like kids do to make truck drivers honk. I don't think they realized that the trains always honk when entering a station. Station? Did I just say station? Oh yes, I did! This wasn't just a train crossing! This was a transfer station for the trains! So the trains don't just pass us by, they stop and stay awhile. And then change cars and make the loudest BANG sound I have ever heard in the process. (ask me how many times i heard that noise!) Now guess how many West Virginian rednecks will pull up to a train crossing where there is a 30 car train sitting across the road, and honk at it as if that will make it move!? And now many times a night they will do that?!
Needless to say, I got about 2 hours of sleep that night. But it was a fun adventure that the girls will likely never forget. And like I said, its all about the girls.
The next day we broke camp (I did nothing- I made the girls do everything for me) and then went canoeing down the Potomac. The water level was so low that we could see the bottom the entire time I think. I also discovered that I am possibly the worst canoer ever. And as usual, I got sunburned, in spite of copious amounts of sunblock. And my blond hair is practically white. Thankfully the day was for the most part unadventurous on the river.
On the way home, I had 2 girls in my car to deliver back to their mothers. (both girls well tanned and burned and sore as well) I think we drove over 100 miles when my car starting acting funny. Just a block from my apartment I started to smell something burning and saw the smoke coming from the engine. My car (the big blue beast) has been at the mechanics ever since. My family has been kind enough to lend me their Camry in the meantime. All of this caused a huge damper on my weekend plans. I was worried about money and transportation obviously. Car troubles are one of my biggest stresses in life, and I never do handle them well. I am far too dependent on my car. I feel useless without it. My original estimate on the car was $800+, hence the freaking out. (The car is only worth $2000 if that.) But thanks to junkyard parts, its being repaired for $400 instead. What a blessing!
The upcoming weekend plans were to go camping in the Adirondacks with some friends. But with no car, and a considerably tighter budget than usual now, I wasn't sure if I should go. BUt after talking to some friends, and working things out, I chose to go. And I am so glad I did. Read the blog above for the details on that!

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