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A week in Maine with Camp Kesem

I’m not even sure where to begin with this blog. This has been one of the most amazing summers I have ever had and ended on such a great note. On Brian’s birthday I was contacted by Camp Kesem Maine because they were looking for a nurse and I had came highly recommended by the camp advisor from Camp Kesem Washington University that I had done the week prior. Since I had no plans last week I said sure why not and so the regional coordinator booked my flight to Maine and back. I really had no idea where I was going, where camp was or who was picking me up from the airport. This is probably one of the most spontaneous things I have ever done. I am normally a planner and want to know every single detail ahead of time.

I landed in Bangor Maine and Sunny came and picked me up. We chatted in the car like we had known each other all our lives. She reminded me so much of a former resident (Dr. Addante) that I pretty much liked her immediately. She would spend the first two days at our camp and then move onto two more camps she was director for. This was University of Maine’s first ever camp. I met the other nurse Moppy pretty much right away. She had just finished seven weeks of boys camp somewhere in New England. She was older than me which was a real blessing not to be the oldest person at camp like the previous one. This camp was held at Camp Jordan which was sponsored by the YMCA and money donated by Steven King. It turned out I was in Steven Kings home town. Before I had Emily, I read all of his stuff and was wishing I had stayed an extra day because one can drive by his house, see the place where the accident in Pet Cemetery was filmed as well as the weird water tower from It. I was excited to see this in the Dining Hall.

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It was a great week. There were only fourteen campers and only one had medicine. This meant Nurse Red could play all week with the kids and have a great time and I did. There were a few kids that walked in with huge attitudes. It was apparent that they did not want to be there and they were determined to have a horrible time. However this group of young people are amazing.

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Their energy from the minute the parents left was mind blowing. Our very first game we played was one person stands in the middle of the circle and says something about themselves. I of course sad my favorite color is orange. So everyone that agreed runs into the circle and then finds an empty spot, leaving a new person in the middle. It was a good way to get to know a little about each other and I think it was a game changer. By breakfast the next morning all the campers were smiling and having a great time. I went to arts and crafts and made this. The caterpillars name is Carl and he’s the Camp Kesem mascot. The rest of the kids were making decorations for their cabins. I had a good time.

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The rest of the week was a lot of fun but just like the last camp my favorite was messy games. The administration team let the kids cover them in paint and then all the counselors did as well. After that it was pretty much a free for all with slapping paint on each other. Everyone was great sports and it was so much fun!

My husband likes to tease me that I am trying to pick up a boyfriend. Actually I am scouting for son in law material. I just want to say every single one of the counselors and admin team are daughter in law and son in law material. To be a counselor for camp Kesem, one has to interview and then it is weekly meetings the entire school year. It is all volunteer so these kids are passionate and dedicated to both the cause and the camp. It’s just difficult to even put into words. All of them amazed me all week with how selfless and giving they were. There is no way I want to miss either camp next year and am planning on being back. I guess it will be another “summer of vacations” according to my husband.

 

Mole Moral ~ Life begins where your comfort zone ends!

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Beaker

Sometime back in April my good friend Laura told me about a job website called indeed. So I downloaded it to my phone and starting looking at what types of jobs were available in the area. I hadn’t looked anywhere outside of the hospital I worked at in almost thirty years. This is foreshadowing so pay attention. Within the first week a job popped up with Washington University looking for a volunteer camp nurse in August. The camp was called Camp Kesem and it is for kids whose parents have or had cancer. It would be held in Burbon Missouri.
After doing a little internet research, I felt called to apply for the position. However the last time I did a resume was in 1998 when I applied for the school nurse position at Abiding Savior Lutheran School. That was before I even owned a computer so it would have been typed on my electric typewriter. So I called upon my friend Liz to help me out. I filled in the blanks on this resume template and Liz worked her magic. After I finished reading it, I said to myself even I would hire me.
After submitting my resume, I heard back within an hour or two and as long as I passed the background check, camp was game on. It gave me something new to look forward to over the summer.
Camp is run by volunteer college students. The camp also only uses Nicknames. I got to pick mine so being the original weirdo I am, I came up with nurse Red. (At least it wasn’t rachrn34, my other go to name.) This makes being able to blog even better because my readers will not know anyone’s real names. So Beaker is the kid in charge. I haven’t asked him where he got his name from. I assumed it was from the Muppets but after our conversation yesterday, I probably just dated myself again.
It took me two days to finally figure out who beaker reminds me of. Brad from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He’s the one who worked at the burger joint. Now that movie is a cult classic in my house. Do you think Beaker had even heard of it? Heck no. He had to google it. I told him he should watch it at some point in his life. Beaker is an awesome young man and it’s been a great week and he’s doing an amazing job.
Mole moral ~ There comes a point in ones life when you might feel irrelevant or out of date. I’m fighting this until the day I go and meet Jesus.
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Vacation Adventures Part Three

Due to the unplanned flat tire adventure the night before, I discovered we were only thirty minutes away from Joshua Tree National Park. Now I had wanted to visit it four years ago on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary but it wasn’t anywhere near Death Valley or the Grand Canyon. So I talked the other three into taking a side trip. Little did I know that it was thirty minutes the wrong direction and then forty-five minutes across the park and then another forty-five back and then back thirty minutes. I guess I really shouldn’t plan vacations. But I was very excited to see it.

We stopped in and talked to the park ranger. He told us to see the cactus area but if there were bees swarming to jump out and take a couple of pictures and leave. Luckily, they were not, so we were able to walk around. They had just finished blooming. They were kind of sad looking though.

 

Somehow we managed to end up on the other side of the park and totally missed the biggest tree in the park. When we asked the ranger at the other end she acted like we were insane and had never heard of such a thing. Apparently it is not marked or anything. The prettiest part of the park had this

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Of course the day I show up the bees decide to move to a new hive. This is the story of my life. However this is where most of the trees were located so we took a few pictures and then we headed to Salvation Mountain.

 

It was then time for the six hour detour to see the four corners. Now Emily seems to have forgotten she ever said she wanted to see it but she did. I did some reading about the four corners before we arrived including yelp reviews. The biggest thing that stuck out was the lack of bathrooms. So I made sure we stopped at the gas station before it. When we arrived they did have the type of bathrooms that national parks have. So then Brian was like see they have bathrooms. Someone opened a door and the wind blew the smell our way and it was a hundred times worse than the nastiest nursing home. A short while later I watched a mom and daughter open the doors to all four of them and then head out behind a tent.

I also knew from reading this was nothing but a tourist trap but I didn’t mind. There were native american’s selling hand made crafts. I wish I would have bought the one painting I just loved. If it was flat and would have fit in this one frame, I would have. You have to stand in line to take your picture standing on the four corners. There is a sign that says “limit three pictures per family”. Apparently, no one knows how to read anymore. One family took about twenty while we stood in the blazing sun in 100 degree weather just so mama mole could say she saw it and have our picture taken. I stood in New Mexico because of Shiprock New Mexico. When Brian saw the sign for it, he said “Shelprock New Mexico, home of the Big Red.”

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The rest of the trip was spent driving. We made it into Texas before calling it a night. There was a really bad thunderstorm and Micheal was getting nervous about a tornado. Emily texted me and asked if we would have one. I said no and she relayed it to Micheal and he said very quietly “Schleprock”.

 

Mole Moral ~ Embrace your nickname if you have one. It makes life so much more fun.

 

 

 

 

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Vacation Adventures Part Two

The next morning we got up and were headed towards Salvation Mountain. We were taking the southern route back home since Emily and I took the northern route two years ago when she moved to California.

We were driving along in the desert for miles. Emily and I were in one car and Micheal and Brian in the other. They were ahead of us by about thirty minutes because we stopped to eat at In and Out burger.

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We had come upon the Salton Sea and I was reading up on it and sharing with Emily. It was created by irrigation canals from the Colorado river in the early nineteen hundreds. It was a recreational area in the fifties and then due to pollution and increasing saltiness it started dying off. It is now almost a wasteland and smells from the amount of dead fish that wash up to the shore. It was very interesting, and Emily had just texted Micheal that she was getting nervous about the desert when this happened.

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We were driving along when we heard banging in the wheel well. We were like what was that? I said to Emily, you have a tire pressure light so if it doesn’t come on you know we are good. The words were barely out of my mouth when the tire pressure light came on. Luckily we were at a place in the road that had a huge place to pull off. It would be easy to change the tire. And then I had to make the fatal phone call to Brian to tell him we had a flat. Micheal swears he has no idea what Brian said after he hung up with me. I am sure it involved cursing. They had just gone through border patrol (we were super close to the real border) so coming back they were asked what they were doing. It was at this point I jumped out of the car and said I’m going to check out the Salton Sea. It looked super close. Please keep in mind I have never seen The Hills Have Eyes but the other three had. So Emilys anxiety is through the roof. She is texting me every two minutes to make sure I was ok. It was 107 degrees this day and I barely even sweated walking the one mile round trip. I didn’t get super close because it started smelling like mud and death.

 

By the time I walked back Brian and Micheal arrived and were changing the tire. It was around five in the evening so we had to attempt to find a tire place that was open. The first place I called did not have the tire and then the fun began. I could not keep straight what two towns we were between and Emily was ready to shoot me. I finally called AAA to see if they could locate a place when Emily found one. Of course it was thirty minutes back the way we had just came but they said they would stay open past six as long as we weren’t too much later than that. We arrived at five minutes until six and there were at least three families there that were still being helped. By the time they finished looking at our tire, putting a plug in it for free, airing up the spare (it had lost a lot of air on the ride over), and putting it back on it was after seven. I made the decision to stay where we were and go eat and have a couple of drinks and turn in early. We went to a restaurant that had just opened and their service and food were ok. However I had two gin and tonics and wasn’t feeling anything. The next day would be another adventure.

Mole Moral ~ Smart people do not watch scary movies!

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Vacation Adventures Part One

I am not sure why I ever attempt vacation because it rarely is a vacation but more of an adventure in the most crazy stuff that can happen.

This vacation started with Brian and flying into SanFrancisco. Emily was in New York at pelvic floor physical therapy course. The plan was for Brian and I to arrive around noon and she and Michael would fly in around eight thirty that evening. We would get up in the morning and drive up to Chico to meet Michael’s parents. Emily had the entire trip cross country back home planned out well. This was probably the first mistake.

Brian and I landed in SanFrancisco on time and then hopped onto the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) to head down to the wharf. We both just love not knowing where we are going and how things work but we managed to survive. Now I had arranged luggage storage the day before so imagine my surprise when the GPS took us here.

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Brian was convinced that I had lost my mind but the girl insisted yes, we were in the right place and took our luggage. We then had an awesome meal on the wharf and saw the sea otters and walked around quite a bit. We then had to take the BART back to a different stop and order an Uber. Well, of course at the location there was another transport system and we went there instead. Luckily a really nice worker said go to the other side. This little mishap took money off of our BART card so when we finally arrived at our station we had to add even more money. Oh and I forgot to mention we decided to jump on it right at rush hour. I have never seen so many people in my life.

By the time it was time to summons the Uber I had less than ten percent battery life. I was convinced my phone was going to die. Emily had been texting us and it was official they were not leaving New York as the weather was horrible. Not only that but they were put on a different flight out of Newark and were on their own to get over there. So three subway transfers, a ferry and an Uber and seventy bucks later they made it to their hotel in the pouring rain. I was reading this to our Uber driver and he was cracking up. We made it safely to our hotel and settled in for the night.

Emily’s flight did not leave until five the next evening so Brian and I had another free day in SanFrancisco. Our hotel was one mile from where Emily and Micheal had been staying so we walked over there to use her car for the day. We were not about to deal with the BART again. Of course someone had not finished packing up her car because she planned on doing it when she got home. Her father and I attempted it and made it all wrong but it fit in there. I then said lets drive over to Oakland and see what we can find to do. I then remembered my mother in law telling me about how you can take a ferry over and not pay for parking in SanFrancisco. This sounded like a wonderful idea and a lot of fun…

Of course we arrived and parked five minutes after the last ferry left for lunch break. So we then had almost an hour and a half to kill before the next one came. So we just goofed off and walked around. At least there were a couple Pokemon Go stops.

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We had a nice day in the bay and then we went and picked up Emily and Micheal at the airport and went and fetched Micheal’s car as well. We were now twenty-four hours behind schedule and had to forgo meeting Micheal’s parents. Emily wanted to drive to Los Angeles but Brian vetoed driving until three in the morning. This was only the beginning of our cross country adventures.

 

Mole Moral ~ One risks their life taking Schleprock (me) on vacation!

 

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Salvation Mountain

I wish I could remember how I heard about Salvation Mountain but I don’t have a clue. I told Emily not only were we taking the Southern route home from California but we were dipping down so I could see it.

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I read up on it yesterday as we were suppose to visit it then, but yesterday’s flat tire made our plans change. Anyway the guy who created it accepted Jesus into his heart in 1967 while in Vermont. He decided he wanted to build a hot air balloon and worked on it for 14 years never getting it to fly. He then decided to stay one more week to make a monument and weeks turned into months and months into years. He started by taking things from the dump and then fill it with sand, cover it with cement and then painted it. A lot of the time he used too much sand and not enough cement. Therefore, after four years and fifty foot high, it came crashing to the ground. He however was not discouraged and started over with more smarts.
The second time he used adobe clay and straw. He would then paint it. The more coats of paint, the stronger it became. This also prevented erosion. After ten years the mountain had gained notoriety but the area was owned by the federal government. They had issues with a religious monument at the entrance to slab city so hired environmental specialists to run tests and declared it a toxic wasteland. The locals did not agree and donated money and he hired his own and there was zero toxic chemicals nor lead in paint. So the government left him alone.
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He lived on the mountain until the age of 79 in his truck.
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He lived a simple life with no electricity, running water, technology etc. He used all donated paints on the mountain using the ugly colors for the bottom coats and the pretty ones for the top coats. He went to be with the Lord in 2014 at the age of 82.
Mole Moral ~ The location may have been shaky but it was awesome. Look carefully and you can see me at the top behind the O in GOD. Emily’s idea!!
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My favorite camp moment

Every evening after session the kids have small groups with their leaders. I’m not that leader (rather a nurse leader as if that makes sense) so I always headed back to my room. This year Pastor Tom decided the adults should do small group as well. So we discussed our POD (picture of the day) and what we liked best. We also prayed over every kid that came down. Yes I prayed out loud. For those that don’t follow me on Facebook this is just another thing totally out of characteristic for me.

Last night was what was the best part of camp. For me it was the session in the morning. Three kids in their super early twenties shared their stories. One was a Big Stuf intern from our church, and intern from somewhere else and one of the obterns (Oak Bridge intern) that came with us to camp. Her story is similar to mine. Although she knows God and people love her, she has never felt it. I had just reposted my very first camp note last week and that was me. It was at Big Stuf that I finally felt love. Of course then they had to play How He Loves and I’m just crying like a baby, singing and begging God to let her feel his love right now. (Yes, I’m a multitasker). I don’t want her to have to wait forty one years to feel it. It’s so awesome.
Of course I wrote her a little note and shared this. She found me this morning and hugged me and I hugged back. When you share your story with others you soon realize people are just as screwed up as you. People can spend a lot of energy creating the persona they have it all together but it becomes exhausting. More camp talk later.
Mole Moral ~ Everybody doesn’t need to know everything but somebody needs to know everything.