Staff Morale During Training

This summer I was the Assistant Director at camp. To get the staff excited about each day of training, the Director (Snow White) and I came up with memes that were relevant to what we were doing and drew them on the white board. 

This wasn’t the first day, but the first meme a few days in to training
This one was to try and make cleaning not seem so bad
This one we used to encourage our staff to make friends with the other camp’s staff during combined training
This was used during our Outreach Day when we had campers just for the day
We had archery training this day
This was to celebrate the last day of training

The staff laughed and made fun of them, but I think they liked them overall. It was fun for us to come up with something new each day, especially because neither of us are all that familiar with memes to begin with. We decided to do it so we could be hip, cool, and down with the 4-1-1. 

In addition to the memes, we also had a countdown to campers that was updated every day, a riddle of the day, and a song of the day. We usually forgot to teach the song of the day, but the idea was to focus on one each day to help the new staff commit a few to memory.  The idea was good, but the execution lacked a bit. If I’m back next summer, I want to be sure to actually teach them! 

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#CampBestFriend

Kat. Katarina Stratford. Where do I even begin with her? I guess first of all, her name is just Kat. I just call her Katarina Stratford sometimes. Strangely, she wishes her name was Hippo. Second, she’s been my #campbestfriend for the last two summers and I pretty much talk to her everyday throughout the year, too.20664810_10213068521728706_2190684084914608050_n14358713_10209918291014907_2670099706190765430_n

We first met in 2015 during staff training. She worked at one camp and I worked at the other. Apparently, we had a fun little chat about rugby and rowing. I didn’t remember that until Kat reminded me like ten times and even then, it’s kind of fuzzy.

In 2016, I worked at her camp. There were only six of us on staff at the beginning of the summer. The other five of them had already known each other from the previous summer. I had known Snow White for years, Pi from CIT, and Coral from lifeguard training. So, Kat was one of two that I really didn’t know at all. She is small so she wasn’t that intimidating, but she also doesn’t smile or talk all that much so I didn’t think she liked me or wanted to be my friend.

 

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One day, while she was sleeping in a chair, I decided to scoop her and bring her to her bed. She seemed so peaceful and I didn’t want to wake her up. Well, she woke up and since we didn’t really know each other at that point, she was severely weirded out. I don’t know why I decided it would be okay to do it, but I’m glad I did because we’ve been friends since.

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This is literally when she was sleeping before I scooped her. I wonder how mad she’ll be that I posted this photo.

The rest of the summer, Kat, Pi, and I engaged in regular staircase hugs. That’s basically a hug between the three of us, but since we’re all different heights, it seems like a staircase. One of us (usually me) would just yell out “staircase hug!” and we would assemble. We had a few of these this summer, too, but not nearly as many.

After (or possibly during) a staff meeting last summer, I asked Kat to give me back Geoffrey (a small giraffe pillow pet keychain that I give to homesick campers) and for some reason she didn’t want to. So, I had to fight her to get it back. She also got vicious and threatened me with a Sharpie! Rude! However, this type of “violence” is typical in our relationship as I have tackled her multiple times. 

14257648_10209918313495469_9174922446402867479_oThroughout the school year, Kat let me call and text her all of the time. She is always available to listen to me complain, rant, share good news, and14249804_10209918313535470_3751224556051422881_o send gay memes and Tumblr posts. Although she isn’t gay (unfortunately), she still laughs at the things I send her and is my token straight friend (although most of my friends are also straight). I watched her college graduation via livestream since I couldn’t be there in person. Although she couldn’t hear me, I still cheered loud for her as a proud friend.

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Since Kat is obsessed with rugby, she  tried to teach me how to play during staff training. Needless to say, it did not go well. Apparently, I throw on the wrong side or something. I blame her coaching ability, but she blames my athletic ability. She is probably right, but I would never admit that to her.

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This is a photo from a game during staff training

This summer, Kat and I didn’t talk much after training. We were both upset about it and had a three-hour life chat to discuss everything the last week of camp. I’m pretty confident it would have been longer had it not been midnight when we ended. The few times that we did talk this summer usually involved me giving her a foot rub (after she changed into clean socks) or a hug. After our life chat, we also spent time cuddling and she let me fall asleep on her multiple times. She makes a nice pillow.

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Kat has also been my co-counselor during Camp CEO the past two summers. Not only does she get to listen to me complain about random things like normal, she also has to deal with me complaining about dress clothes. It probably doesn’t help that we are the only staff that week, so she can only talk to me or the campers. Last summer she was ready to kill me by Tuesday, but this summer we made it to Thursday before these feelings surfaced! It’s not all bad during CEO, though. Kat has helped my professional life by encouraging me to apply for a cool job, calming me down before my interview, and celebrating with me when I found out I got the gig. The best thing about CEO this summer was when more people than expected showed up for the luncheon, so our supervisor handed Kat the van keys and credit card, told us to “go, get lunch, and be back by one,” so we had ourselves a work lunch of Chipotle!

CEO 2016:

CEO 2017 (I guess you could say we’ve matured):

Although the likelihood of either of us returning to camp next summer is slim due to needing big kid jobs, I know Kat isn’t going to be out of my life. She is always going to be there cheering me on, getting annoyed over the same things as me, and ready to listen. Strangely enough, we never actually hang out outside of camp because Kat claims that I live too far away, even when I offer to drive to her. But, even if we never see each other again (which is highly unlikely), I have a feeling that we’re never going to lose our friendship due to all of the texting that we do.IMG_3778

As I’ve been writing this, I keep asking myself “why?” IMG_3697Why does anyone care about my friendship with Kat? Sure, she has changed my life, but how can anyone else relate? And I’ve concluded that it’s because this is how many camp friendships form. Two strangers that eventually get to know each other and become #campbestfriends. But, then, the lucky ones continue those friendships after camp and #campbestfriends turn into just #bestfriends because their relationship is so much more than just camp. And, I am proud to say that Kat is my #bestfriend and I can’t wait for our children to be friends, too.

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Saying goodbye in 2016

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Saying goodbye in 2017

Our “Friend”

During staff training, Bacon, Sully, and I were cleaning out the boathouse. It was going fine as we started to take everything out until Bacon picked up a life jacket and a mouse jumped out of it. It almost crawled on my foot. I still get the heebie jeebies when I think of it. I screamed and ran out of the boathouse. I can do spiders. I can do snakes. But I don’t do mice. No.

The mouse eventually went off. But it came back. Sully decided it would be a good idea to catch him. I really don’t know why. She caught him and then asked Bacon and I to go with her to release him. I couldn’t do it. I tried to take pictures but every time I saw movement, I ran. She managed to release him and all was fine for a little while.

Still can’t believe she caught it!

Then, one day, a few weeks later, Bacon and I were at the pond for Camper’s Choice. I got there first and started to get out three kayaks for the three waiting campers. I sensed doom. I got the first two out, no problem. As I lifted the third one, our “friend” ran out. I dropped the kayak and stepped out of the boathouse. I promised myself that I would not scream in front of campers so after a few deep breaths, I braved the boathouse again. I started reaching for a different kayak, and my campers asked, “why not that one? Why did you drop it? Is there an animal in there? Can I come in and see?” I told them the kayak was too heavy so I had dropped it on accident. They didn’t believe me. Luckily, Bacon walked up then and she took over for me. She told the girls the kayak was dirty and needed to be cleaned. They believed her. Thank goodness. I was able to walk away and take some breaths while she handled the situation. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I don’t think I ever saw him again. Thankfully. I really hope somebody else can take care of him next summer so I don’t have to deal with it.

The Mud Pit

Well, I did it. This summer I got in the mud pit! And it was seriously the best thing. Before the mud pit, my girls had to solve the case of “Who Stole the Gaga Ball?” by completing a scavenger hunt of sorts. At the end, they were sent to the mud pit to find eggs with the name of the person who stole the Gaga Ball. And you guessed it, it was me! By the time I got to the mud pit (with the Gaga Ball tucked safely in my backpack), the girls were ready to give me a talking to for stealing their precious ball.

Before revealing that the ball was in my backpack, I tried to belly slide into the mud pit. Unfortunately, it was more of a flop than a slide. It kind of hurt, but it was worth it. We all became covered in mud. It was so heavy! Especially on my head! But that didn’t stop me from playing Gaga Ball in the mud pit. It was a hot mess. My girls were sliding all over, the ball didn’t bounce and mud was on my glasses. But it all worked out. We ended up having so much fun playing Gaga Ball, Ship to Shore, and just mud fighting that we wound up being late for lunch! Whoops!

Cleaning off afterwards was a hot mess. Or rather a freezing cold one. Before showering, we had to hose off. Hosing off the girls was fun because they would run away from the chilly water but I would continue to spray them. Trying to get mud out of the girls’ hair was rough though. When it was my turn to “man up” and be rinsed off, I was a pansy. Kandy Kane, Aqua, and Jitterbug all tried hosing me off and then Twiggy tried. But I just kept running away. It was so cold! Marvin had to come out and do it. And then she told me that we needed to take out my hair to get all the mud out. Which was really unfortunate. It was a hot mess. But I’m so glad that I finally hit the mud pit. I regret absolutely nothing and I can’t wait for next summer. Note to self: I will be wearing a shower cap to keep the mud out of my hair! If I remember…

Gaga Ball

Gaga Ball was new at my camp this past summer. When I first heard about it they told me it was a combination of dodgeball and foursquare. I was not excited. However, after playing the first game, I got competitive and intense. It was actually fun (minus the sand that would fill my shoes).

The Gaga Pit! And the super amazing Gaga Ball!

The object of the game is to hit the ball with an open hand to get all other players out. To accomplish this, the ball must hit the other player’s knee or below. The ball can’t be hit by the same player twice in a row unless the ball bounces off the wall or off of another player.

I’m a fairly competitive person so I always went hard. My goal was always to win, even though I was playing against campers. One week, Fifi told me that I needed to let the campers win. But I didn’t think so. It was more fun for them to have to try to get me out. They all loved to gang up on me to try and get me out. And let me tell you, one versus twenty is very exhausting! Anyone and everyone that was already out would chant “Get Chatter out! Get Chatter out!” repeatedly. Sometimes, not even from the Gaga Pit, they would be across the field. Even the one week that I was not at camp, the counselors started the chant and the campers followed. Sometimes when I would walk by with my group, I would hear campers chanting “Get Chatter in!” to try and get me to join their game.

During the last week at lunch, everyone in the dining hall chanted “Get Chatter out!” until Skippy and Thorn got me from my seat and threw me out. In the middle of lunch! Can you believe it?! But then eventually they would start chanting “Get Chatter in!” That happened twice that week. It was actually kind of cool even though I was hungry.

Gaga Ball has become my new favorite sport. I definitely have some withdrawals. I had so many sand burns by the end of the summer, but I regret nothing. The campers adored that I went so hardcore. I honestly can’t wait to play more Gaga Ball next summer! I know quite a few of my campers have goals to beat me. And to them, I say “BRING IT ON!”

The Cutest Camper I Ever Saw

The last week of camp I had an amazing camper. Well actually, she wasn’t mine but she was in my same unit. She was the cutest thing. I’ll call her Suzy. Suzy Camper missed home the first night. Because my girls were already asleep, I talked her through it, read her a story, and lent her one of my books to read in her bed in the hopes that she would fall asleep. It worked. This went on every night and most days during Me Time. On Wednesday night, I came back from my break and as soon as Suzy saw me, she ran out of her cabin and gave me a big hug and was crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “I just missed you. You were gone a long time and I didn’t know if you were coming back.” It broke my heart. The following night was closing campfire. The final closing campfire of the summer. By the end of it, I was crying (as was most of the staff) but we composed ourselves. It all went downhill when I got back to my unit and Suzy came up to me and said, “I forgot what my mom looks like because every time I try to think of her, I think of you.” Of course I started crying again at that because it was just so adorable. I really didn’t want her to leave or for camp to be over. She looked up at me then and said, ” I’m going to read you a story because whenever I’m sad, you read to me and make me feel better.” She proceeded to read to me and then gave me a hug. It was precious. I was very sad to see her go but it was awesome to see her reunite with her mom and sister. I have a very good feeling that she will be back next summer because she had so much fun. Right before pickup, she told me that she didn’t want to go home. I know I impacted her life and she certainly impacted mine.

A Growing Friendship

Swish! The water splashed down upon Skittles and me as Smiles poured a bucket over our heads. It was 2011, Skittles and I were still CITs. It was the first day we had met Smiles and we were assigned to help her at water games. We hadn’t wanted to get wet because we were visiting her camp and didn’t have extra clothes. We were really mad. I didn’t think I would ever forgive Smiles. I hold grudges for a long time.

The next year at camp Smiles wasn’t there. The following year, however, she was Day Camp Director. I didn’t really work with her much because I tended to help the resident camp groups instead. During one of the closing campfires, Skittles and I decided to get Smiles back from the traumatizing event from two years previous. We enlisted the other CITs’ help and we performed the centa skit.

Fifi was the owner of the centa- which was Skittles, Flip, Snickers, and I under a sheet. She asked for volunteers- one by one- for us to step over. Smiles was the third and final person for us to walk over. On our way over her, we dumped an entire bottle of water on her and as we did, Fifi exclaimed, “OH! MY CENTA PEED!” Such a classic skit. I was surprised Smiles hadn’t seen it done before. It is probably one of my favorites. But that time was probably THE best it has ever been done because we finally got Smiles back. After that, we called a truce. I started to like her then. Although she did tell me that I was cool but that I was too young to be her friend. That kinda hurt, but I figured that was as good as I was going to get. But no!

In 2014, my first year on staff, Smiles came to visit for one of the campfires during staff training. When I greeted her, she screamed “you’re real now!” and gave me a big hug. That was pretty cool. Maybe we could be friends. This year we were both on staff and I can honestly say Smiles is one of my closest friends now. Our truce kinda stood. We had a few instances of dumping water on each other but for the most part, we behaved.

I had the honor of being her cocounselor for Camp CEO- which is a camp for high school aged girls to learn professional skills in a business environment. We stayed in a hotel for the week and Smiles and I shared a room. We really bonded that week from failing at ironing clothes to singing Cheerleader with our girls and changing our life courses (and by our, I mean my). Smiles helped me make the decision to transfer schools and change my major. She had just graduated and she told me all about the clubs and things I would really enjoy. She helped me make a pros and cons list of transferring and listened to all my uncertainty and stress–Thanks Smiley 🙂

Since she was a CIT Director and I am a former CIT, I told her everything I liked and everything I disliked about my three CIT Directors and programs. I think she really appreciated that. She even let me sleep in the tent unit with her and her CITs the week I was on Day Camp. That was also the night she woke me up to take her to the bathroom. Good thing I don’t mind getting up for a quick bathroom trip.

One awesome thing about Smiles was when we shared a cabin, she would let me talk until I fell asleep because she found my voice to be soothing.

Saying goodbye to her was hard. She left a week early and I definitely missed her presence. I’m so glad she is one of my friends and that I got to know her better this summer. I have a feeling we will be friends for a long time.

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