Sunday, 18 December 2011

Merry Christmas Comeback

I discovered something else that makes me feel happy inside: people saying "Merry Christmas". I've been hearing it quite a bit lately.

It's surprising, actually. My friends and people at church quite naturally say "Merry Christmas" a lot, but I'm hearing it everywhere. Customers at Timmy's are saying it, and they're not merely responding to me but beating me to the punch. The clerks at Shopper's yesterday also wished me several Merry Christmases. But the one that really had me scratching my head was the little coffee newspaper that's distributed for free at various fast-food stops. It's a one page deal, half-full of advertising. Of the remaining space, approximately 1/3 of it is taken up with horoscopes. But there, in bold type, just beneath the horoscopes, this little paper proudly asserted:

"Merry Christmas! Celebrate Jesus, the reason for the season."

Something is happening, here. Perhaps Calgary as a whole has gotten fed up with the political correctness of the past few Decembers and having rejected that, is embracing tradition again. And it is tradition; although there are other festivals celebrated at this time, they have little history in Canada and are observed by far fewer people here. By the predominance of "Merry Christmas", it seems that the population may be admitting that fact, after trying vainly to be inclusive with "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" for the last few years.

Thus far, I don't remember a single "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" this month. They're out there, yes, but mostly in print (and not in all printed things, obviously!) People aren't saying them to each other; at least they haven't been to me. It's Christmas, and we're not ashamed of it! That makes me very happy.

"I'm not politically incorrect, I'm just euphemistically challenged." Gilbert E. Detillieux

Friday, 16 December 2011

Who, What, Where?

Sigh. It happened again. Except this time, it was much worse. And this time my supervisor heard.

It was the middle of the afternoon at the Distress Centre and perfectly quiet. Well, mostly quiet. I was reading. The other three volunteers were doing something or other to keep themselves amused. Then the clocks struck three o'clock.

I'm telling you, some really incredible TV show must have ended at three o'clock or something, because the lines went from perfectly calm to insano-nutso in a matter of a couple minutes. Next thing you know, all four of us were on calls. Next thing you know after that, all four of us were juggling calls. Then we started forgetting where we parked each call and we still had more calls coming in.

It was during this mayhem, as my mind was trying to keep track of multiple things simultaneously (and I'm not particularly good with multi-tasking) that I made my error. Part of my brain switched off and fell back onto that tried, true, and over-used greeting:

"Hi there, welcome to Tim Horton's. My name is Carla; what can I get for you?"

Yes, the caller got confused. So did I, because I didn't actually remember what I had said, and was wondering how the caller knew my name. I generally use an alias and don't offer it up in the first breath. So I briefly debated denying what I thought maybe I said then opted instead to ask the caller what I had said my name was. Eventually I admitted that I was named Carla, but I'm not sure the caller believed me at that point because I sounded so uncertain. I mean, I was pretty sure by now that I had my name correct, but I was still hoping vainly that I hadn't also said this was Tim Horton's.

Trying to recover, I asked the caller how I could help them. Came the reply:

"You're the one who needs help if you can't even remember your own name."

Perhaps they're right. I seem to be having trouble remembering where I am and to whom I'm speaking lately. At Timmy's this morning I took the order of a customer at the counter and told her, "That'll be six-forty-five at the window."

She just gave me a look and replied that she could throw the money at the window if I wanted, but that she sure wasn't going outside in this weather.

Bah. At any rate, after I got off the phone at the DC, I turned around and asked my supervisor if he had heard how I started that call, as I still wasn't quite sure how badly I'd messed up. My supervisor seemed a bit uncertain at first, too, but when I admitted that I thought I may have used my Timmy's greeting, he immediately broke out into laughter.

"Yes!" he exclaimed, waving animatedly. "You did! I heard it, but I thought, 'No, she couldn't have said that!' But you did! You did!" By this point he was holding his stomach and definitely not helping anyone focus on their tasks at hand. And it was no less funny when, two hours later, my shift finished and he doubled-over in laughter all over again.

I don't know whether I'm reassured or not that several other volunteers then told me that they occasionally answer their cell phones with "Hello, Distress Centre."

Ah, me. Whoever said that the Distress Centre is all serious?

Just goes to demonstrate that you don't need to worry overly much about saying the wrong thing to a suicidal person. I'm pretty sure my blunder didn't kill anyone, though I may have died a bit on the inside, myself.

“I'm not saying anything. I didn't say anything then, and I'm not saying anything now.” Dukhat from Babylon 5

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Executive Directors and Spontaneous Combustion

I got a job thingy at the Distress Centre for a few days this month. Like, I actually get paid. A bit. Nevermind that that it is mind-numbingly dull. But this job does have a few upsides:

1. I get to see and feel a bit about how the paid DC runs, as opposed to the volunteer side of things, which I'm already used to. Put faces to names and jobs to faces and such.

2. Perhaps, just maybe, I get my foot in the door a little bit?

3. I get to sit all day at the Executive Director's desk, in the large Executive Director's office.

She's gone on holidays or something, so no one's using it, and her computer is one of the few that's been set up with the database program I'm working with.

Over lunch, one of the staffers who works in the phone room and knows I'm just a lowly volunteer mentioned that she had walked by the office earlier that morning.

"Wow," she quipped, "Carla's sure moved up!"

And at one point a pick-up/delivery boy stopped in to pick up a couple of chairs. My supervisor showed him to the office and pointed out the chairs, but when he pulled out his clipboard to be signed, he offered it first to me. Ha!

Yes! Power trip! Executive Director at 22? And no! I'm not grown up enough! Do I look grown up enough to be that important?

Ah, well. I should enjoy it while it lasts.

And it has nothing to do with anything, but I was reading A Christmas Carol this week - the real, unabridged, Charles Dickens version - and ran across this quote. It has got to be one of the most awesome quotes from an old, dead author ever:

"[Scrooge] was sometimes apprehensive that he might be at that very moment an interesting case of spontaneous combustion, without having the consolation of knowing it."

I can't imagine how awful it would be to spontaneously combust without realizing it.

My sister was choking once, and my brother was getting concerned. "Don't die, Brianna! Because that would be really sad!" he exclaimed. Then he added after a pause, "But if you do die, could you at least spontaneously combust? Because that would be really cool."

Thankfully, she didn't do either.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

BBC's Merlin

I have been watching BBC's Merlin series and figure it's time for a review post.

First season - great!
Second season - intense!
Third season - interesting...
Fourth season - ....not so much.

Basically, it started out strong. The first season was new and exciting and for the most part, tasteful. Some of the "special effects" made me cringe, but the story itself seemed pretty carefully crafted. Morgana's dresses were beautiful and Gwen looked like a servant girl.

The cut of Guinevere's dresses and Arthur's shirtless escapades in the second season made me roll my eyes, but other than that, season two had some interesting character developments. The last few episodes in particular were wham episodes and the story itself was progressing.

It felt like the ball was dropped with Morgana in season three, and the blockheadedness of Arthur (and Uther, but especially Arthur) was starting to get hard to ignore. Gwen's dress was about the same as season two, but Morgana's dresses got (literally) breathtakingly tight. Arthur was parading around topless even more. Still, there was enough new stuff and developments to keep things interesting.

But season four? Despite the supposed changes and new (or promoted) characters, the status quo has remained the same. Unfortunately that status quo doesn't work anymore. The entire first three seasons were full of "When Arthur is king, things will be different and Merlin can reveal his magic to him". Yet Arthur is king and Merlin is still keeping secrets. In fact, he's keeping an awful lot of secrets that really seem pretty counter-productive to keep. It's just dumb.

Morgana is the main antagonist, and she's lost the character complexity that first made her interesting (though I am interested in why she bothers with the green eyeshadow every day). Agravain is boring, mysteriously lacking a motive, and not even handsome. Having supermodel characters seems ridiculous in some contexts (eg. Morgana/Morgause scenes) but if the character has nothing else going for him, at least make him nice to look at. In addition, this season is featuring more identifiably occult magic with which I am not comfortable.

Arthur's knights are interesting (Gwain is my favourite), and the reappearances of old-guy Merlin are as funny as his debut in season three, but it's not enough to redeem the nonsensicality and repetitiveness of the rest of the show.

The writers are clearly pandering to the goofy fanbase that wants Merlin and Arthur to be a couple, as evidenced by the number of "awkward" situations between the two of them. Gwen's dresses are so low and tight she's lost her "wholesome girl-next-door" credibility. If I'm not mistaken, next episode will feature Gwen in something like a crop top. Arthur's shirtless scene repertoire is through the roof (and the knights are joining him) and we actually had one episode where's he's completely naked.

Here's hoping things turn around pretty fast, because if Merlin continues on this trajectory, season five will feature Gwen strutting around cleaning the castle in a bikini top and Arthur will just decide that clothes are for cowards and doff his shirt permanently. Merlin will be functionally mute, despite all the rapport and trust he's earned from Arthur previously. Honestly, I'm losing interest. As of now, I'm hoping season four wraps up the series because I don't want a season five like this one.

Famous Merlin quote from episode one:

Arthur: I should warn you, I've been trained to kill since birth.
Merlin: How long have you been training to be a prat?
Arthur: You can't address me like that!
Merlin: Sorry. How long have you been training to be a prat, my lord?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Makes Me Happy

It's so easy to be cynical, but every now and again something happens that makes me warm and happy inside. Most recently it was a little fuzzy moose Christmas ornament I bought that holds a sign saying "Merry Chrismoose". And sometimes the things that make me happy are a little more significant.

Tim Horton's requires you to record the drive-thru window times during the peak hours every day. Designated for this purpose at my little Esso location is a white-board tracking sheet thingy. We do use it to track drive-thru times, but we also occasionally leave each other notes. They stay up for a while, then get erased to make the place look clean.

On my last shift before I left for camp this summer, I wrote "Have a great summer, everyone! Love Carla". I then left for camp and promptly forgot about it. Yet when I showed up for work again come the fall, my note was still up there. Apparently my well-wishes were important enough that nobody wanted to erase it until the summer was over. After I had worked a few shifts, it finally disappeared. It made me happy that they had left it up the whole time I was gone. I think it probably won second prize for note longevity.

But it's the first prize winner that makes me happy inside. One of my Timmy's coworkers suffered a personal tragedy. I'll change her name for privacy's sake, but someone wrote on the board to encourage her, "Bianca rocks!" and decorated it with a smiley face and hearts. Then I added "We love her!" and someone else wrote, "She is super-woman!" Following this, someone-who-shall-remain-nameless *cough* Madeleine *cough* wrote "Bianca is my lover," but I promptly erased that one.

That was almost two years ago. Bianca still sees it every time she comes in to work, and despite the numerous people who work at the Esso, it's never been touched. It's like it's become sacrosanct. It's an unspoken agreement; we didn't all get together and decide to leave it up forever. Nobody wrote "P.L.O." beside it. We erase around it and touch it up if a part accidentally gets scratched out. And it stays there. I don't know if Bianca still feels encouraged every time she sees it, but I do. Some people do care. For a long time. And I'm glad to work with them.

“Because while I do not know who the enemy is any longer, I do know who my friends are, and that I have not done as well by them as I should. I hope to change that. I hope to do better.” Londo from Babylon 5, which is probably my favourite show ever.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hello Hewlitt-Packard

I finally bought a new computer this October.

My old one will be in the trash as soon as we bother to film its farewell video. Don't buy Dell; it's cheap junk. The scroll bar stopped working, the touch-sensitive keys along the top stopped working, the left mouse clicker stopped working. The real mouse plug-in stopped reading. The monitor kept flickering, eventually degenerating into a black screen of nothingness. Due to the cheap build and my constant fiddling with the monitor to make it work, the hinges broke and exposed the wiring. The battery failed completely, so the power cord always had to be duct-taped in (It was about this point in time that I covered the Dell logo on the machine with duct tape and a drawing of a barfy-face). It was barely three years old.

Also, it ran with Vista, which I wasn't a fan of, but that's hardly Dell's fault. And it got several viruses, but that arguably wasn't Dell's fault, either. Probably my own.

Suffice to say, it was time to switch to something that didn't make me want to huck it out the top floor window every time I tried to use it. So I have a new one, an HP. So far, things are better. I mean, the DVD drive didn't work, so I had to have that replaced, but at least it was covered by warranty.

I spent over an hour on the phone telling the HP techie that there was a hardware problem with the disc drive. His thick Indian accent contributed to the length of the call, with one or the other of us asking "Pardon me?" after almost each sentence. And I don't know how long it can possibly take to write "CUSTOMER IS CALLING AND STATING ODD IS NOT READING DISC. CHECKED WITH DIFFERENT DISC STILL SAME ISSUE. RESEATED THE ODD STILL SAME ISSUE. HENCE SHIPPING THE ODD," but apparently it can take the better part of 15 minutes. Even the "hardware supervisor" seemed surprised by how long I'd been on the line by the time it was transferred to him. Oh, well. They did send me the replacement part in the end, which works just fine. And it shipped here in just over a day (almost less time than the call itself!)

Though I'm laughing that they STILL spelled my name wrong, despite my using the NATO alphabet multiple times to spell it for them over the phone. Yay Indian accents and computer help lines!

"It is difficult not to wonder whether that combination of elements which produces a machine for labor does not create also a soul of sorts, a dull resentful metallic will, which can rebel at times." Pearl S. Buck

Monday, 21 November 2011

Castle on a Keg

I've wanted to write a life-changing novel for a long time. Today I tried to outline the plot. Instead, this happened. No, I have no idea what it is. And no, I don't fancy that it has a deeper meaning. It's just weird.

* * * * *

“You mustn't ever light a fire here,” says Sergeant Quinn. “In fact,” he clarifies, “You musn't ever light a fire within a league of here. And pick up your feet when you walk. Don't drag them along the carpet, now.”

Sound advice, when the imperial palace is perched on top of a powder keg. Ingo, son of Monterick, picks up his feet and carefully crosses over the shag carpeting of the gatehouse. Most people from other nations, upon hearing that the Krossinger Palace is sitting atop a powder keg, assume that the political situation is an extremely tense one, and that the slightest misstep could result in a massive war of some kind. They find it rather odd when they are informed that actually, the political climate is rather warm, it's not a metaphor, and that the palace is literally built upon a massive barrel of black powder.

All Krossingese castles and palaces have been built on explosive foundations since King Ulim-Hankor six hundred years ago. Some of the more modern castles have been built on sticks of TNT or nitroglycerin tubs instead of black powder, and the law requires that one in every five new castles use a propane tank as the base. And the infamous renegade King Pommosam build his country villa on a stink bomb. Most castles, however, are still built on black powder.

Ingo is glad this is the case. All the statistical analyses say that black powder foundations result in fewer explosions than the other bases. His friend Jingo had gone to perform for some troops at Hopstead Fort. Hopstead had been built on propane, and it exploded when Jingo came in wearing a new sweater made of pashmina goat hair. Pashmina goat hair sweaters had since been outlawed in all of Krossinger due to their static-electric properties, but it was too late for Hopstead and for Jingo.

Another one of Ingo's friends, or distant relatives, rather, a messenger boy, had been sent to the northern border, where most of the TNT and nitroglycerin foundations exist. Had he arrived any earlier, he would have died, but he had been lucky. The castle to which he had been headed exploded without any apparent reason when he was but a stone's throw away. Some scientists attributed it to the natural instability of nitroglycerin, and though the government has issued several statements assuring everyone that nitroglycerin is just as safe as black powder, Ingo has his doubts.

“Well, Sergeant Quinn, sir,” Ingo says, glancing quickly about the guardhouse. For today, the flint rock doorstops hold the steel doors open wide, a safety precaution. He's heard stories about how sometimes when the doors are closed, people fling them open too fast, thereby striking the doors against the flint rock doorstops that are haphazardly left lying around behind them. Ingo feels a little more secure knowing that pains have been taken to make sure the doors stay open to preclude this possibility. “I'm a professional dancer, sir, and I'm looking for Prince Rangulf. I've got these summons, see?”

“So you do,” says the sergeant. “I wonder what all this is about. I'd be careful if I were you. Everywhere he goes seems to crackle with tension lately.”

“Yes sir, thank you,” says Ingo. He walks in the direction Sergeant Quinn has pointed. It's a beautifully illuminated corridor, decorated with thin tissue-paper like drapery and numerous strings of incandescent lights. A few doors down, he comes to a giant ballroom, tiled entirely with more flint rock.

“Ah!” says Prince Rangulf, looking up from where he is seated on the ground. “Are you Ingo, son of Monterick?”

“I am, sire. How can I be of assistance to you?”

“Have you ever learned to tap dance, Ingo?”

Ingo has, in fact, learned to tap dance, but he prefers the artistic quality of ballet. Nevertheless, he responds to the prince that yes, he has learned to tap dance.

“Wonderful!” says the prince. “My betrothed wishes me to learn for her, but I have had poor luck in locating a teacher. A captain of a friend of a patron of a merchant that goes through your town said that you might be able to help me.”

“You wish me to give you tap dancing lessons, sire?”

“I do,” says Rangulf. “I fear that she may break the engagement if I cannot tap an impressive jig in short order. I've had this dance floor specially made, but it's of little use if I can't use it.”

Choosing not to comment on the prince's tautology, Ingo puts on the best smile his gritted teeth will allow and agrees to teach the prince to tap dance. As they put on their steel-toed tap shoes, Ingo smells bleach and notices that the ballroom is indeed newly constructed, and being adjacent to the main wing of the palace, is not sitting on top of the powder keg, after all. It's made in the new style, sitting atop of TATP, instead.

He sighs. This is either going to be the longest day of his life, or the shortest.


* * * * *

Don't ask. I really have no idea.

“The problem with having a cat is that if you die and no one checks on you for four days, your cat will eat you.” Miranda Lamoreux

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

On the Contrary

Certain religions and philosophies really open themselves up to jokes, or at least raised eyebrows, due to their inconsistent views. For example, relativism's ostensibly true claim that there this is no such thing as truth - that's a joke in and of itself. And tolerance's cry that we must tolerate everything... but jump viciously at the throats of anything hinting of intolerance? It's laughable, certainly. Extreme feminism, which advocates women's right to abort unwanted pregnancies, simultaneously heralds the importance of educating and keeping safe little girls in developing countries. When atheists talk about morality, my head starts spinning because their entire monologue collapses on itself.

Islam really makes a show of being inconsistent. Remember the incident where a nun was murdered by some Muslims because the pope offended them? By saying that Islam shouldn't be violent? Oh, that makes sense. Prove you have the right to be offended by proving the pope's point exactly? I've heard many Muslims claim that Islam is a religion of peace, but the killing the people who disagree doesn't exactly help their case.

Now, I know that not everyone who identifies as an atheist or Muslim falls prey to these issues. Some atheists acknowledge that ethics and atheism cannot coexist. And some Muslims are really nice and share many of the same principles I do. And, though I try to avoid it, I'm sure that some of my beliefs are at odds with each other, too. Or at least appear to be.

This summer, for the first time, I actually heard the words to a popular Christian kids' song that I've been singing for at least a decade:

"And the God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet."

What?! Are we seriously tripping up on this? Is this actually a quote from the Bible? Sounds like it should be from the Qu'ran, if you ask me.

No, not really. I don't actually consider this a contradiction. "Peace" in Biblical terms doesn't quite mean "lack of fighting", but a wholeness, a oneness with God. Basically, it means peace with God, not a ceasefire with evil. And Satan is just that - evil, certainly not another human being. We can take non-human chickens, grind them into little pieces between our teeth and most people don't consider that an act of violence. If God grinds non-human Satan to dust beneath our feet, what's different from the chicken scenario? First, we won't eat Satan, though his death will still serve a very functional purpose, and second, Satan is purposefully evil rather than good-and-evil-less. Oh, and third, feet vs. teeth, but that's just getting pernickety.

Still, I can see how an "outsider" would think this is utterly ridiculous. And my chicken comparison and rationalization may not be the most rigorous defense, but I don't feel like writing a theological treatise at the moment.

Suffice to say, the main point of this post, which may have gotten lost, is that Christians say some pretty goofy-sounding things sometimes. We shouldn't think we're beyond that. And perhaps some of the goofy contradictions in other belief sets aren't quite so goofy when you understand them more fully.

Mark Twain seems to suffer from the opposite problem: “The more you explain it, the more I don't understand it.”

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Hit List

The number of things you can fix with a good smack is pretty impressive. At Tim Horton's, if the sugar machine gives you too much sugar, you hit it. If it's not giving you enough sugar, you hit it. If the hot cap machine gets clogged, you hit it. If the pin pad goes blank, you hit it. With all the corrective hitting going on among Tim's employees, I suspect we could make a notorious mercenary group. With all the aggression going on it's almost a wonder we haven't tried.

Elsewhere, if your blue Dell laptop computer monitor is on the blink, you hit it. Gently first, then more angrily as it becomes increasingly useless. If a remote control isn't working, you hit it. If your flashlight stops shining, you hit it. If you get water in your ear swimming, you hit it (or slap yourself across the face, if you happen to be my sister).

Most people seem to think that if your microphone isn't working, you hit it, but I wouldn't recommend that one. Anyway, I believe my point is made.

"Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft." Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, 28 October 2011

Dream Life

Last night I dreamed that I was stuck in an elevator. It was throwing me and tossing me around its interior, but I wasn't actually going anywhere. Several floors beneath me, where I had embarked, I had accidentally left my purse behind. Several floors above me, where I was trying to go, was a convention full of various displays and sales I wanted to view. As the useless elevator continued to flip me around, I eventually hit the panic alarm button.

And what an incredible metaphor for my life it is just now. I wonder if my dream is trying to tell me something.

I consider working a loathsome 9-5 job just for the sake of making money "beneath me" and not something I want at all. And there's a wide variety of things I would be interested in doing and seeing, but don't really have the means to do them or see them. I'm neither here nor there. I'm a lump around the house and not going anywhere, and it's getting more distressing.

There was, of course, more to the dream that I'm not quite sure how to understand. My work supervisor, my siblings, and a random guy from church all showed up and started morphing into each other. We had a conversation about Christianity and science and "Toph machines", which by the way, are something my subconscious brain made up. Plus, after I hit the panic button a voice came over the intercom to talk to me (and eventually a drop-down video monitor so I could see him). The guy on the other end was the minister from the British political sitcom "Yes, Minister", except during my dream I thought he was from a show called "Top Gun", which my brain also made up. Yet when I woke up, it was definitely the elevator part I remembered best.

Finally I got out of the army barracks where the convention was and went to leave for home. I promptly got lost... though with a bit of logical thinking I was able to remember the route out. At least the dream ended on a happy note. Giving the metaphorical nature it seems to hold, I find that encouraging.

"All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams." Elias Canetti

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dinosaur Hunt

Happy birthday, Justin! I am glad to have you for my brother.

Changing gears, one of the questions I was asked most often at Dallas Valley by my campers was, "Well, if all this stuff is true, what about dinosaurs?" Please note that hardly anyone asked about Evolution. They just wanted to know about dinosaurs. Anyway, I would answer that there are various popular views on this:

1. Dinosaurs are a hoax (generally not a good stand to take).
2. Dinosaurs and people coexisted. People survived the Great Flood, dinosaurs did not.
3. The days of creation weren't actually 24 hours days, but long eras. The dinosaurs lived in the "day" they were created and were dead by the time people were created.

In all these cases, dinosaurs are now dead, because textbooks tell us that they went extinct. I wish to propound to you now a different idea. Maybe dinosaurs AREN'T DEAD. And no, this is not a round-about way of insinuating that my brother is a monster.

My cousin brought up an interesting point on the loooong drive from Regina to Sylvan Lake. If iguanas were extinct today, we'd call them dinosaurs. Little herbivorous dinosaurs, maybe, but that's not the problem. The problem is that iguanas are still alive. Dinosaurs are bones in rock strata. Ergo, iguanas cannot be dinosaurs - at least, not until we kill them all. But if a dinosaur is just a "terrible lizard", dead OR alive, then an iguana pretty much qualifies as a dinosaur. Look at them:



And let's not forget about our friends the Komodo Dragons - given the way they devour their still-conscious prey, if anyone qualifies as a "terrible lizard", wouldn't it be them?

Well, maybe that wasn't the most terrifying picture. But you get the idea.

But let's shift gears again. If we assume that dinosaurs are not dead by definition, then do we have any evidence of living 70-million-years-ago-style dinosaurs, like the t-rex or triceratops? Brontosaurus, stegosaurus, plesiosaur, pterodactyl?

Well, yes. Granted, there's nothing undeniable. There have been claims of "dragon" sightings all throughout human history, well before the term "dinosaur" was coined and paleontologists told the world that giant lizard things ever existed. The Bible talks about the leviathan and the behemoth. Chinese history claims that their land had to be cleansed of "dragons" so that they could live there without fear of being eaten. Though apparently the inhabitants drank dragon fluids and such from time to time themselves. Fantastic myth or actual history? Their neighbours the Japanese caught what appeared to be a plesiosaur carcass about thirty years ago. However, there's supposedly a lot of evidence that it was just a decomposing shark. And nobody has proven the existence of either Nessie or the Ogopogo, or the many other purported lake monsters all over the world.

Dinosaur sightings and footprints in Africa don't seem to be exceedingly rare, but photographs of them are. Plus it just seems a little odd that animals the size of Mokele-mbembe could live without leaving more of a trail. And how long could a lake monster survive by itself? Wouldn't there have to be a whole family in there to keep themselves from dying out? Could a single lake really house that many without giving up any proof of them?

Or maybe there is proof, and it's just hidden away by the scientific community. When the line has been that dinosaurs all went extinct millions of years ago, it would be a blow to the ego to have to say "we were wrong". Not to mention, since dinosaurs are already extinct, no one tries to hunt them illegally, so cryptozoologists have motivation for keeping it all a myth.

Clearly, dinosaurs do not exist today in the numbers they once did, if they exist at all. But it does seem possible. The grandfather of a friend of mine was a trapper (or was it a hunter?) in BC. One can assume that he probably has quite a bit of knowledge regarding animal skeletons and carcasses. Yet, when, as a young man, he found a fresh but headless skeleton deep in the bush, he had no idea what it was. He did, however, find himself spooked enough that he told a ranger and tells people about it even now. Apparently it had plates all along its spine. And he's certainly not the only one in the BC/Alaska area to report unfossilized skeletons of what appear to be dinosaurs. Wouldn't that count as evidence?

While I myself have not seen a living dinosaur, I have found what I am convinced would be a wonderful dragon cave. I love dragons.


As a final aside, though some believe it would, I do NOT believe that the existence of dinosaurs today would in any way disprove or be evidence against modern scientific dating techniques. Finding living dinosaurs would not cast doubt on an old earth, only on the honesty of the scientific community in reporting all dinosaur finds. A few living dinosaurs now does not mean that a whole lot of them didn't die around the time scientists say they did.

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him." J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fate of the Blue Jay and Mormons

It turns out that the dead little blue jay was killed by pneumonia. But fear not, I myself do not yet feel like keeling over and heaving my last breath - in fact, I think I'm almost better. Maybe it's due to the yogurt. In addition to antibiotics, I now have to consume large quantities of yogurt on a daily basis, or else fear the wrath of a "growth in my gut". At least I've finally learned how to swallow pills.

Anyway, now that you know all about the state of my personal health (didn't you want to know?) I can move on to other topics. Like....

After several weeks of watching TV and generally lying around being a blob, I pulled a bunch of books out of my closet and spent time browsing. One of the books I pulled out happened to be the Book of Mormon, which some missionaries dutifully made sure I had. I didn't actually spend much time reading it, but it got me thinking again about the similarities and differences between what I believe and what those in the LDS church believe.

For the most part, there's a lot of agreement between "standard" Protestants and Mormons. There's a lot of variance in the details, sure, and the Mormons add a lot of extra stuff, but there's a lot of variance in the details between different Protestant denominations, too. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think God really cares if you mess up with the doctrinal details. Does it really matter if you believe that God is literally three-in-one or just one with two good buddies? I used to think it mattered. Maybe I was right then and wrong now, but currently I think that the main thing is how you react to God, not what you know about Him. Yes, it would be very nice to have all the details correct, but I can believe that the Mormons really don't know what they're talking about, and still not be concerned that they're good as doomed for all eternity.

Doctrine will forever be a point of contention, but I don't see that it should be much of an issue unless it affects the way you serve God. And that's where the fundamental difference between Mormonism and other "brands" of Christianity exists. I believe that the main point, the main goal, of following Jesus is love. Yes, we avoid condemnation and we obtain our freedom through grace, but if the basic point of someone's testimony is "I'm a Christian because I don't want to go to hell," well, that concerns me. It's not about doing whatever you have to in order to obtain a get-out-of-hell-free card. We were created to love and worship God, and sin came between us to rupture that relationship. By God's grace, we are restored to a place of communion with God, able to and called to love God and to love others as God loves us. And that's the main point. By God's grace, we can be filled with selfless love. God saves us because He loves us, and we follow Him because we love Him.

So far as I can tell, the main point of Mormonism isn't love, but ambition. Ambition, to me, is an ugly word. It brings to mind arrogant university presidents, psychopathic empire builders, and the traditional story of Satan desiring to be better than God and getting kicked out of heaven for it. Hear me out, I am not implying that Mormons are basically Satan. All I am saying is that I have a healthy distrust of ambition. Now, so far as I understand it, Mormons are completely on board with the idea that their own ambition won't get them very far. It's only through Christ's sacrifice that anyone can receive salvation, and Christ's sacrifice isn't something they earn. They are called to love and serve and probably do love God, but that's not the end goal. The end goal is their own godhood, their own deification. Thanks to Christ's sacrifice, they can maneuver their way into the Celestial Kingdom and eventually be granted planets of their own to be gods over.

In both cases, reaching the end goal requires grace, but it seems to me that the reasons someone would want to accept that grace are really quite different. Grace so that you can become more like God, in that you become more and more filled with love? Or grace so that you can literally become God and be elevated to a place of enormous power? The end goals are basically opposites. Why does someone ultimately want the grace? And won't that affect the way they relate to God? It seems to me this is the most basic, fundamental difference between Mormonism and what I consider to be the truth.

I'm sure this isn't a totally fair assessment. I know that plenty of generic "Christians" don't think of their relationship with God in such a manner as I described. The whole "safe from hell" thing is pretty popular. And I suspect that a lot, if not most, of Mormons focus more on their relationship with God than on becoming gods themselves, but if you look at the theologies and not the followers, the difference is there. Is it important? Honestly, I kinda hope not, but if any difference in theologies and doctrines does matter, I think this would be it.

And back to being sick, which I am sick of being, I found a sick quote that pretty much agrees with me:

"I reckon being ill as one of the great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work till one is better." Samuel Butler

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Work, Work, Work

Now that the summer is over and I once again have no fulfilling paid job (but I do have several bills, including the newly-instigated rent), I must once again do this thing called "job hunting". Which, admittedly, I have not really done before. Job hunting for me, in the past, has consisted of me telling people I need a job and then waiting for someone to offer me something. I have had 5 formal, legally recognized jobs in my life. Plus loads and loads of babysitting, though that was mostly before this blog.

My first job (which, almost sadly, I still have), was Tim Hortons. The former owners who hired me are family friends. I didn't even have to sit an interview. He just saw it was me and said "Welcome Aboard!"

The summer after Peru, I was hired by our church to plan and run day camps for kids. The position was basically offered to me when I mentioned I needed a job. I did beat out some competition, though. What swung the decision in my favour? I regularly attend that particular church, while the other applicants did not.

The summer following that, I was a respite worker for a family with a special needs kid. I got that job because I mentioned to a particular woman that I needed a job, and this particular family mentioned to the same lady that they needed a respite worker. The deal was pretty much sealed.

Then I skipped a year of summer jobs because I guess I felt like being lazy. But then this summer rolled around and I worked at Dallas Valley. This one happened because I mentioned to my cousin that I might be interested in working at the camp where he lives. The following week, the camp director called me up and asked me to come out and work for him. Yeah!

Come to think of it, there is only one job I ever got on my own merit. Even my babysitting got a kick-start because I was the child of the woman teaching everyone's kids. Mom would send the siblings of the kids she was teaching upstairs to be watched (sometimes poorly) by me. And the parents would pay me for it. I never once had to advertise that I babysat. Word-of-mouth, all the way.

But yes, I did get ONE job based on what I knew and how I presented myself, rather than on whom I happened to know. That's right. My own merit and skill. I was an enumerator for Census Canada this summer. You know, before I went off to camp.

I had to apply and pass a (basic) test and have an interview (consisting of four easy questions). I didn't know anybody. And yet I still got the job - and when all was said and done, my supervisor wrote that I "exceeded expectations", which is pretty cool, because I personally had been feeling guilty for not putting in more hours and accomplishing more than I had. Yay homeschooler work-ethic carries the day!

But now, if I want to be choosy about what jobs I take, it looks like I might have to stop waiting for them to fall into my lap. Sigh. So much spent energy and rejection to look forward to...

On a perkier note, I ran my first "role-play" yesterday at the Distress Centre. It was weird, having those people hang on my every word and directing all their concerns and questions to me. I was definitely the youngest in the room. If I were a power-junkie, I'd be on a high right now. As it is, I just feel oddly satisfied. That means I haven't been swayed by the dark side yet... right?

Speaking of work-ethic:
"Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest." Mark Twain

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A Blue Jay Died

Of the whooping cough.
Well, it whooped so hard,
And it whooped soooo long,
That it whooped its tail
And its head right off.

I'm pretty sure I'm that that blue jay right now. Except for the death thing. I think that's still coming.

I never realized that silly camp songs were meant to be applicable to real-life situations, but no sooner do I arrive back from Saskatchewan than I start hacking like an insomniac blue jay. For two straight weeks, good grief! Body, it's time to get healthy again - seriously!

“You're in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.” Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Show Reins, Main Camp, Week X

I'm beginning to notice a preponderance of cabin names that begin with the letter S.

We had only four hours to book it from Conestoga back to main camp, get all set up and ready to go for the final junior week. Or rather, half-week, which was nice. It would be tough to do two straight weeks with only a four hour "break". Happily, at the last moment the PD realized there was an extra LIT available, and she gave her to me, saying I was going to need all the help I could get with my particular group of kids. I was too busy glorying in the fact that for the first time this summer I had a REAL MATTRESS on my bed to be overly concerned about having seven sponsored, first-time campers to deal with.

And I didn't need to worry. They were all from a tiny but great Christian school and were probably the most "Christiany" of all the campers I've had. I could have handled them all myself. However, I was very glad for my LIT, if only for two reasons - A) The girls all loved Krista to pieces and B) Night times got a bit scary.

The amount of sleepwalking in this cabin was ridiculous. Every morning we'd wake up to find out that at least two girls had been up and about, abandoned their bunk on my side of the cabin and had plunked themselves down nearer to Krista. On the third night, we just slid all the mattresses toward Krista before we went to sleep, figuring that everyone was going to end up there, anyway. It was rather amusing.

The "night terrors" weren't so amusing. There was one on the second night, which woke up people in the next cabin over, and several "attempts" on the third night. I put night terrors in quotations because we're pretty sure there was a demonic element involved, rather than it being a standard sleep disorder. As it turned out, the mom of two of the girls was hanging out at camp as well, and on the third night she had woken up around midnight with a strong compulsion to pray for us. She told us that she had fallen back to sleep around two in the morning, which, interestingly, corresponds with the time period that I was up and praying and generally feeling that it was not a good idea to try sleeping. So much for putting that lovely mattress to good use.

If I have learned one thing this summer, it's the power of prayer and that God does actively intervene in the lives of people. And if you can't do anything else, pray for people and love them. Kids especially are love sponges.

The nights were perhaps less comfortable this week, but the days were great. I genuinely loved these girls, even if they didn't love my singing voice.

I woke them up one morning by singing "Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory." I was informed by one young lady that she had been dreaming, and in her dream, she had heard something and thought, "What is that awful noise?" at which point she woke up and discovered it was me. "Please don't wake us up with singing again," they politely requested.

And then, when camp was over, everyone went home. It felt weird. As the place emptied out, I gathered my stuff together and wandered aimlessly around giving people hugs. It's awful - as soon as I start getting attached to people we part ways and I'm never sure whether I'll ever see them again. It happened with Peru and it happened again. Sigh. At least I feel somewhat satisfied in knowing that my tears were catching and that I got some other people crying, too.

So how to end a series of posts on camp? I don't really know. It was a very good summer, for lack of a better word. I was there until the bittersweet end. Please pray for everyone I came into contact with these past few months. It would be much appreciated.

After camp, I went to my cousins' farm for a few days, which was awesome, then my sister came to pick me up and informed me that she now has a boyfriend. And now I'm home again, and once I unpack, I guess I can formally say that this summer is a wrap.

Camper, to a tired friend: This is camp, not nap school!

And these guys tally up to 59 campers under my care this summer.

Spindle, Conestoga, Week IX

I ended up being very glad that I came back to camp. Some kind of wall broke down this week. I feel like all of a sudden, the other staff went from being amiable coworkers to friends. I don't know why. But alas, given the schedule of camp, a week and a half doesn't give you enough time to really make strong enough connections to make it likely you'll retain your friendship from a province over. Hopefully I am proven wrong.

Week nine was another junior teen week at Conestoga. And yes, my wagon name was Spindle, not Spinster. And no, I don't know what "Spindle" means. Presumably it's some part of a wagon.

I crashed the popular group of kids this week. I'm not sure how. Usually I hang with the nerdy kids that lecture the others on the mythical lupine origins of ancient Rome, not with the flirty, crazy, coupled up groups. Yet this week I was aware of most of the interpersonal drama going on because the kids would voluntarily tell me and would include me in their crowded tables during meal times. My "popular" girls in the cabin seemed very open and happy to make conversation with me and one even expressed that she would miss me when she went home.

It was a rather eventful camp. One kid requested I give him a permanent marker "tattoo" all over his arm and the nurse left feminine hygiene gifts for all the girls on their pillows, which my girls were quite entertained to receive. Our wagon's front window was shattered and started spilling shards of glass all over the floor whenever we closed the door. One morning we paraded through the camp with pots and spoons and ululations declaring a "morning game" a full hour before our campers thought they had to wake up (they were mostly not impressed). We swapped guy and girl staff for "Kiss Me Dear", which was educational. I'm telling you, girls play dirty! We also had a most enjoyable dinner theatre, a game of human foosball, and a last minute, impromptu night game of "Star Tipping". And thank you, Jess, for the story about the man with the hook for an arm. Also, all the staff took turns giving their testimony, and we had a really powerful night at campfire where one of my girls rededicated her life to Christ. Plus, cabin devos were pretty good. Oh! And in thanks for all the hours I put in at the climbing wall this summer, I finally got to do one of the elements myself - I got to go rappelling! Yay!

There is one thing I really don't understand about camp. I can be there for two months, going hard every day, and I can have as much energy at the end of week nine as I had on the first day of week one. No doubt this has a lot to do with the prayers supporting the staff, but it never ceases to surprise me how teenagers can come with lots of energy and then be quite lame by day five. We go swimming every day at Conestoga, and by the middle of the week, there wasn't a single kid in the pool. They were all sunbathing or hanging beside the pool, while the staff pleaded with them to come swim. And at least one wide game ended because most of the kids were sitting out. So many didn't want to play that we had to make a rule that instead of running, you had to roll on the ground to your target. The field was too empty to simply run, as you'd be home free before your started. But the new rule pretty much just resulted in me and a few other staff and hardcore campers rolling and flopping around on the ground making strange wheezy noises while everyone else braided grass. Go figure. And the same goes for visiting the nurse. I didn't roll my ankle once all summer. How is it that without fail, at least half my cabin will have had ankle injuries by pick-up time? Oh, well.

This week had some up and downs, but it was probably my favourite of the summer. Rather pathetically, I forgot to take down any quotes from this week, meaning you get an old quote from my dad, which is something I would have liked to have told my campers:

“We are going to go outside to play and we will have fun whether you like it or not!” Art Heinrichs

I fail at Conestoga group shots, so here's one of me on the foosball field.

ETA: I took a bribe this week. An actual bribe. Is it bad that I don't feel ashamed?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Cabin, Sylvan Lake, Week VIII

Following the end of week 7, my cousins and I packed up and headed west for a mini family reunion. There were seven of us, two on motorcycles, the rest in a truck. I have no idea how we managed the luggage. We left at about 4 in the afternoon.

"We should be there by what, eleven?" said my uncle.

"See you around twelve," my dad texted.

We arrived around three-thirty. How did my family respond to seeing me after an absence of seven weeks? My dad woke up despite the hour, hauled himself out of bed, and came to give me a hug and help with the bags. My brother woke up despite the hour, hauled himself out of bed, and came to give me a hug. My sister woke up despite the hour, grunted hello, and gave me a blanket so I wouldn't freeze to death before morning, when she could properly greet me. My mom woke up and said, "SHHHHHH!" then went back to sleep. But in the morning she was happy to see me.

It was a good week, even if it does seem to be way colder in Alberta than in Saskatchewan. Much fun was had by all 19 of us (in one cabin), through various means such as tubing behind a jet ski, an awesome waterslide park, and a kids' Naruto scratch book my sister bought me in Quebec. :-)

I didn't want to go back to camp at the end of it all, but alas, prior commitments prevailed.

"Friends come and go, but relatives tend to accumulate." Anonymous

Saddle Strings, Main Camp, Week VII

I was supposed to have an LIT this week, seeing as I had charge of nine juniors, but shortly before camp began, I was informed that my LIT had been transferred elsewhere.

"Oh, well," said the sympathetic assistant program director, "You can hack it."

I'm not sure whether or not to be flattered by this vote of confidence.

However, I did managed to hack it okay, though the first night was a huge pain. I had two homesick criers, one potty run after midnight, and a whole bunch of complaints that sleep was impossible: too much "snoring", it's too hot, it's too dark (this complaint was enhanced with screaming). They were afraid that smoking, swearing boys from Conestoga would break into our cabin at night, and went into giggling hysterics every time someone farted. Several girls had to switch bunks with each other, or flip their head around to face the other way on their bed and it went on and on, well beyond the time when the PD and APD knocked on our door to tell us politely to shut up. I wonder if the APD still believed I could hack it.

I cleverly avoided this the following nights by pointedly ignoring every attempted interruption and complaint while reading them a chapter from a novel each night, until they fell asleep.

Of the nine girls in the cabin, I had some identical twins, several girls that farted in their sleep, one girl I actually still miss, and one girl that I definitely do not miss. Unfortunately, the speaker this week was not terribly good, at least in my opinion. He tended to speak down to the kids and read off a script for everything. It drove my girls (and me) nuts. Neither was his message very evangelistic. Still, we managed to have some good discussions in our cabin. All in all, it was a good week, even with the morning or two where I was trying to hide from my campers.

If you haven't gathered, there was a lot of farting going on, both with my campers and amongst staff. I would come across clusters of cabin leaders (female, no less) huddled together during night games, making farting noises in their elbows and arms. Given my somewhat more reserved nature, Jess Richter cheered the first time I joined in.

Camper #1: We've got a funny cabin!
Camper #2: We've got a gassy cabin!

Me: What was your favourite part of camp?
Camper: I really like the puddle-thingy.
Me: Um, the dugout?
Camper: Yeah!

Probably my favourite complaint of the week:

Camper: "She's stealing my dance moves!"
Me: "It's fine. Your dance moves aren't copyrighted."
Camper: "But it's like the same thing!"

These are the Saddle Stringsters

Tilt, Conestoga, Week VI

You know you have spent too much time at camp when your idea of "showering" and "laundry" both involve a chlorinated pool and precious little else.

Coming off my week of glorious sleep, I was back in a wagon. Again, none of my kids had much, if any, Christian background. This seemed to be a theme with my kids each week. I wonder if God purposefully arranged it that way. Anyway, this was a fun week, even if it was discouraging how no one wanted to talk during cabin devotions.

There were a number of firsts this week. I had to file my first and only incident report this week. It's heartbreaking to learn about the home situations of some kids... On a much happier note, I saw the aurora borealis for the first time, too. It came while we were at campfire - so incredible!

Night games with junior teens are a lot of fun. My campers dragged me out of the bush and up a major hill during a game of "Counsellor Hunt", so I can honestly say that the behemoth-sized bruises I received in resisting them are battle wounds. And I hadn't yet quite got the hang of ripping off people's flags in "Kiss Me Dear", so I'd just hold out my arm and clothesline them instead. It didn't really work to collect flags, but it sure gave me another impressive bruise. A week after I got my beautiful markings, people were still gasping and inquiring concernedly how I had managed to get so beaten up. They were pretty big bruises.

This week, with the exception of my own girls, all of which I dubbed with Old Testament "E" names (and they called me "Esarhaddon"... or "Ear" when their memory failed them), I knew most kids by their last names only, as I was working the tuck shop window all week. And boys kept getting hurt on the floating dock in the dugout, so I'd have to check their wounds to decide whether to send them to shore or not. Without my glasses this effectively meant waving their feet around my nose. It made an odd picture, though not as odd as the one boy I helped off the barbed wire. He had flipped over it by mistake, and was stuck hanging on it upside-down and backwards. Silly children.

I liked all my girls this week, though not all of them liked the idea of being photographed. Several of my girls would whip up their shirts to flash me every time I tried to take a picture in the wagon, so I couldn't get anything usable. And they'd scream out what they were doing as they did it, so everyone from the fire pit to the boys' side was aware of their plan to sleep naked... Oh the joys of being asked by neighbouring cabin leaders if everything is under control.

Camper #1 to Camper #2: "I don't need your criticization!"
Camper #2: "You mean 'criticism'..."

Thankfully, we managed to get a group shot without anyone flashing the camera.

Grandma's House, Regina, Week V

Week off!! Blog post cancelled due to extensive sleep schedule.

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep." Robert Frost

Monday, 25 July 2011

Silver Spur II, Main Camp, Week IV

Week 4 and somehow I had the foresight to not haul all my stuff up out of the valley before finding out where I was going to be spending the next week. As it was, the powers that be liked me so well in Silver Spur that they just kept me there. And I didn't have to haul all my stuff back down to the exact same location.

Except this week, they threw me something new. An LIT. For you camp-lingo uninformed, LIT stands for "Leader In Training". Theoretically, your LIT is a younger staff member who will one day be a cabin leader, and who will currently act as a mature second-in-command to help lighten your work load while getting a taste of what's coming. In reality, according to a good number of the cabin leaders that I have spoken to, LITs just make you want to push them off the top of the iceberg. Happily, I had a very good LIT. She will make a good cabin leader.

Week 4 was Junior Week, meaning all my campers were nine or ten. And to make up for the one spare bed I had in all my cabins up to this point, Silver Spur was now overloaded so that my LIT had to sleep all week on the floor. She was a good sport.

Twelve girls living in one room. No bathroom. And still no locks on the outhouse doors. I am starting a campaign (and trekking to the Ranch House for hot showers). In addition to the twelve of us, at least three of the girls had a habit of transmogrifying into the "Sleeping Bag Monsters" Wushy, Bob-She-Mo, and Ducky every single time they had a hint of cabin free time.

I was starting to flag this week, so my LIT really proved to be a lifesaver. For some random reason, my left knee started aching and getting stiff and otherwise acting up, which is weird because I have never before injured it or suffered something like it. Yet for a day and a half I was wrapped up in a tensor bandage, wondering what went wrong. Then it got better (lots of people were praying). Then I got a sore throat and woke up all blah-like. I was sickish all day, but recovered well enough to still have fun with my girls. I wasn't the only one with health issues. On the last night, one of my girls said it was really hurting her to breathe. We took a couple trips to see the nurse, then I stayed up with her outside after lights out, talking with her about brothers, video games, stars, and poop until she felt it clearing up.

That night she dreamed about a rather tragic RollerCoaster Tycoon experience of mine I had told her about. I felt oddly flattered.

The weather was ridiculous. The first two days were humid and hovered around 40 degrees (celsius). The nights weren't any better. Our cabin was supposed to have a fan in it, but what a time to discover it was broken. We finally got to sleep on top of our bedding, half-naked, with the door open wide.

I am immensely proud that we managed to keep all our girls from getting heat stroke and/or sunburns. That is an accomplishment, if I may say so.

The days after that were all very cool (we spent some nights shivering) and interspersed with heavy rainstorms. The MUD! The horse corrals were almost knee deep with grossness in some places. Oddly enough, I was apparently one of the three non-riding staff with the brains to wear rain boots.

By this point, I think I have memorized the entire DVRC repertoire of wide games:

1. Sticks and Stones
2. Kiss Me, Dear
3. Capture the Flag
4. Catacombs

Plus, one "wide game" of free swim. Day after day for weeks without end. With younger kids we sometimes play "Going Bananas", and there's been the occasional new game that a program director will try, but they are few and far between.

The musical repertoire may be stuck on repeat, and the food menu is getting a little slim. I guess that's how camp works, though. Kids remember things from last year and want it the same way the following year. If you change things up too much, it may be fresh and appealing for the staff, but the kids will feel totally disoriented.

I liked all the girls in my cabin, and we had some great devo discussions. And *three!* girls made first-time commitments to Christ! I loved hearing them pray, and the different perspectives with which they understood things. They had so many questions on the technicalities of guilt and forgiveness.

Despite the rougher bits, I enjoyed this week quite a bit. I feel like my girls actually matured a bit through the week, which made me pretty proud of them. And I was super encouraged by the way they all treated my grandma, who was working at the DV kitchen that week. They went out of their way to wave hello to her, and were constantly commenting on how she's always smiling. It made me happy. All the same, I am glad to have this week off. I need the time to recover. Then, back to DVRC again for another 4 weeks!

If I don't post again until September, don't be surprised.

Camper, praying: God, it might sound weird, but thank you for letting Eve sin. It wouldn't have been any fun being like robots all the time.

Camper #2: I'm so glad I came to camp! I'm learning so much - I didn't know these things before! I want to be a counsellor one day!


Waiting for the hayride.

Silver Spur, Main Camp, Week III

Week 3, and I was back at main camp! Having broken my flip-flops the week previous, I spent my Sunday off boating with my cousins, then bummed a ride on the back of Randal's motorbike to go pick up sandals in the city.

But back to what actually happened during the week, I was this time banished to the boonies of main camp, at the furthest possible girls' cabin, Silver Spur. It's the last cabin at the tail end of the girls' path in the valley. It's a nice cabin, though, minus the fact that the showers you must use have no hot water and the outhouses HAVE NO LOCKS or even any way to hold them shut from inside. You are entirely reliant on every incoming kid to knock before they whip open the outhouse door. Either that, or you can sing loudly while you pee.

I had nine girls instead of my former six, and they were mostly Catholics. I was initially concerned, because I was once again getting a lot of thirteen-year-olds (and one eleven-year-old), but it seems that so long as the kids are at main camp, they understand they're still kids.

One was another sleepwalker (the eleven-year-old), but she made the girl from week one pale in comparison. Here's her sleepwalking schedule:

Monday night: Get up. Climb into the top bunk where best friend is sleeping. Get told by best friend to go back to bed. Fall off the ladder.

Tuesday night: Get up. Walk to next bunk. Grab and pull on the arm of the girl in the top bunk. Make her shriek as she almost falls out of bed. Poke other girl in the eye. Amble back to bed. Get up again. Fall out of bed. Tell cabin leader your pillow is missing when it is under your head.

Wednesday night: Stay in bed all night. Talk in sleep, instead. Sound terribly confused, make everyone amused.

Thursday night: Talk in sleep again. Announce loudly that you are a girl, not a boy. Fall noisily off bunk. Get up, frantically looking for something. Announce the need for a bathroom. Get sent back to bed, despite bed-wetting risk.

Friday morning: Discover huge gash on chin. Realize it must be from the tumble out of bed. See nurse. Be informed by nurse that it should have had stitches.

Friday and Saturday night: SLEEP SOUNDLY

This week was interesting. In addition to the entertaining nights, I had a couple of girls who ate next to nothing. I don't know that either had formal disorders, but it was concerning. Thankfully, I managed to get them both to eat considerably more than they had been, and both mentioned several times that they were eating way more than they did at home, but it was still barely enough food to satisfy a six-year-old.

There was also some boy/interpersonal drama going on. The favourite cabin pastime seemed to be straightening, crimping, and re-straightening hair, or drawing all over oneself with Sharpies. Part of my sanity this week came from one camper who thought they were all nuts but was still well-bred enough to be kind and thoughtful to them regardless. I considered the week a success when her parents informed me that she told them she was both happy but a bit teary to be leaving camp, as that had only happened to her once before.

I had some really good conversations with the girls and they asked some great questions, the topics ranging from dinosaurs, to priests, to how we know we're saved. I also overslept and was late for staff meeting for the first (and thus far, only) time. I was pretty much consigned to the high ropes/climbing wall during skill times for the third straight week, which I'm mostly okay with, though it was starting to get a bit tedious by the week's end.

All in all, though, as far as July goes, I think this was my favourite week.

Definitely the two best quotes from this week are as follows:

"Are you shaving?!" - one of my girls upon hearing and seeing me wave my mini-fan around my face.

And during a game of Capture the Flag, one of the boys asked me to join his flanking strike team to secretly approach through the trees and overwhelm the opposing side at the precise location of their flag. I was the only female in his group of 20+ people, cabin leader or not. As we followed him through the trees, we met up with two enemy groups, and he used the same line on both of them.

"Hey buddy," a couple of male cabin leaders said upon seeing Josh approaching them, "You better run."

"I don't think so," Josh replied, fully confident we had his back. "I brought an army."

Not entirely sure what we were doing here. Yay crazy Silver Spurrians!

Hoop, Conestoga, Week II

No sooner had I found my footing in main camp than they decided to ship me down the valley to DV's camp for older kids, Conestoga.

"Don't worry," said the program director, aware of my inexperience, "I gave you the cabin with the youngest kids, so it will be the most like main camp."

Uh, yeah. Let me tell you that those two years between eleven and thirteen make a huge difference!

First let's look at the main differences between Conestoga and Main Camp:

-Things dry at Main Camp. They stay damp forever at Conestoga.
-You have to walk long distances at Main Camp. You walk short distances with incredible slope gradients at Conestoga.
-You sleep in cabins at Main Camp. You sleep in "wagons" at Conestoga. If you're lucky, you get a bunk.

Now we can look at the differences between Main Camp and Conestoga campers:

-Main Camp kids are cute. Conestoga kids are pubescent.
-Main Camp kids naturally adore you. Conestoga kids give you attitude.
-Main Camp kids won't shower unless you threaten to hose them down. Conestoga kids ask if they can wake up at five in the morning so they can be ready in time for breakfast at 8:15.

Well, maybe this is a bit unfair. I had some great campers, and they don't all have attitude. And they sure gave up on the five in the morning thing pretty quickly. This week was actually pretty uneventful in comparison to Week I. Having been given a heads-up by a fellow "wagon leader" from the week before, I strategically slept near the wagon door every night to prevent my campers from making any midnight rendez-vous, but it seems to have been unnecessary. I did not need to tie my wrist to the door-knob or set up a tower of pop cans for further security, as the other wagon-leader had been required to do the week before.

Of my six campers, I would say that I became friends with three of them, and had no issue with two of the others. I managed to avoid any angry confrontation with the sixth. The speaker at Conestoga was great, and so was the nurse. As far as the month of July goes, these two were the best yet I've met. They were enthusiastic, entertaining, and made great efforts to get to know the kids and the staff. Oh, also, the speaker spoke about good stuff.

In case you can't tell, I certainly have preferred Main Camp to Conestoga so far, but it wasn't all bad. The cardboard boat race in particular was tons of fun (even though our girl didn't know how to paddle and then sank), and I was impressed by the maturity level of a fairly large number of the boys.

We have an inflatable iceberg at the dugout (which, to my amusement, many of the staff members commonly call a lake) which you can climb up and then slide down. At least, that's the idea. It took a good couple of minutes before I could figure out how to heave myself out of the water and onto the side, and I only figured it out because a helpful camper patiently explained to me where exactly to put my hands and feet. After thanking him for his advice, I managed to scale the rest of the wall up to the top, where I met another problem. It's a fourteen foot drop to the water, so the rule is to go down feet-first. We also have a rule that only six people are allowed on the iceberg at a time.

I was hopelessly tangled when I reached the top; it was certainly not my feet pointing to the water. As I flopped around in a frenzy like a dying fish, trying to realign myself without slipping off, the kids in the water started shouting up at me to let go so they could get on. It was another patient and slightly bemused male camper, perched near the top of the iceberg that yelled back down to them, "Yeah, she's not going anywhere for a while yet."

It was terribly embarrassing, but I remember it fondly.

I also got a reputation for being "smart" this week. During the first chapel, the speaker invited everyone to ask him questions to get to know him, so I asked him his opinion on pre-Adamic man. When, on the second night, he asked us who knew the definition of an allegory and I replied with a dictionary-like explanation, it seemed to seal the deal. Kids (and staff) would come up and quiz me.

Camper: What does "distinguished" mean?
Me: It's being well-known for being good at what you do.
Camper: Ok, what does DNA stand for?
Me: Deoxyribonucleic acid.
Camper: Uh, what does MS mean?
Me: Multiple sclerosis.
Camper: What about Ph. D? What does Ph. D stand for?
Me: Uh, it's Latin. I can't remember what exactly it is.
Camper: Hah! And I thought you were smart...

She made it halfway around the "lake" before the thing got too soggy and folded up on her.

P.S. I am surprised that Blogger hasn't told me "Conestoga" is spelled wrong. I've been trying to figure out what it means all month.

ETA: Apparently it's a type of broad-wheeled covered wagon, which makes sense, seeing as we sleep in wagons.

Martingale, Main Camp, Week I

First week of camp and first week ever as a cabin leader!

Martingale is a nice little cabin (the smallest at Dallas Valley Main Camp), complete with its own bathroom and shower. All my kids were aged ten or eleven. There was actually a fair bit of craziness this first week. In my cabin, I personally had to deal with:

-One camper who flew into hysterics at loud noises or anything that moves in the dark
-One sleepwalker
-One camper so homesick she refused to participate in activities
-Two physically sick campers (three, if you count the final morning)
-Two campers with rolled ankles
-One camper with a seasonal allergies flare-up
-Six campers from completely unchurched backgrounds
-One (point five?) bouts of interpersonal drama involving an overly sensitive camper

I only had six girls.

The camp as a whole also had to deal with:

-One poolside emergency (everything worked out fine)
-One crazy thunderstorm (remember my camper with hysterics?)

Plus various other dramas going on within different cabins. I also had to storm a noisy neighbouring cabin on the last night, telling them to please be quiet and apologize to us in the morning. I guess my surprise, stern appearance was intimidating enough that they complied with both requests (and the rather harried leader of the cabin actually thanked me for my intervention).

Suffice to say, it was nuts, but I actually enjoyed the challenge. One neat thing about having a cabin full of unchurched girls is that they know nothing, and all the Bible stories are new and exciting to them. You can tell them the story of Daniel and the Lions' Den without them yawning and grumbling that they've heard this a million times before in Sunday School. Every new Bible character that a staff member mentioned they wanted to hear about (and act out the story for with stuffed animals). They were all so eager to learn how to look up verses in their Bibles, and had tons of questions about God's nature.

I might also say that it was in this week that I was put in charge of leading FORC (which stands for Fun Outdoor Recreational Cooking). It could be accurately renamed Bush-Pie Hour. I'm not sure what possessed those in charge to give me this task, seeing as I had never before built a fire in my life, but I think I managed to hide my inexperience. I successfully set aflame a stack of wood (with one match, even!), and proceeded to make sure the kids were well-versed in the usage of hatchets and bush-pie makers.

Also, one of the campers (the homesick one, no less) told me that even though she had only known me a week, it felt like I was her big sister.

One of my favourite quotes from the week:

Camper: This may seem like a weird question, but are you a freakishly tall camper?

No, I am not.

My favourite game of the week was called "Going Bananas".

Jess, explaining the game: You are going bananas, and your campers are going to come sedate you.
Staff member: You mean, like, "Hey, baby..."?
Jess: Noooo.... "sedate"... not "seduce".

One of my campers, after the game is over: I want to play the opposite! Can you imagine what it would be like if the kids went crazy and the counsellors had to round them up?

No. We really have no idea what it would be like to round up crazy campers. Sounds like fun.

"Martingale Warriors" - our motto was "Mud on your face, not a disgrace"

Friday, 24 June 2011

Summer Leave

Today I head out to Saskatchewan for 2 whole months of wrangling cabins full of hyperactive, homesick kids. Yes, I am headed to camp. Already, my brain is leaking out my nose thanks to allergies and a bad cold. Here's hoping my sanity doesn't leave with it as the summer progresses.

How many minimum wage job contracts have you willingly signed which say, "I understand that I will be required to work overtime and weekends without pay." Perhaps my sanity is already gone. At any rate, due to the time commitment and the lack of computers, it's unlikely that I will be posting over the summer, with the possible exception of once or twice in July.

I'll see you on the flip side (assuming I survive).

“It is a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to. “ J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Vote of Confidence

Once upon a time, some friends and I were playing a game called "Imaginiff". One of the questions asked what I would do if someone at work propositioned asked me out. My friend Sarah said that I would probably con a meal out of him, then turn him down.

I was mildly affronted that she believed I would use him like that and take his food.

Recently at Timmy's, an Esso compatriot brought me flowers and said I was pretty. Even I, who generally believes people when they say they-aren't-crying-they've-just-got-something-in-their-eye, could tell that he was nervous to talk to me.

He seems nice (based on the 2 or 3 sentences I've exchanged with him in the past), but there is no chance at all that I am interested.

Yet, for several long moments, I contemplated whether I could just grab the flowers and run.

So, Sarah, I may stand corrected. How did you know I was a nut?

“The mere thought hadn't even begun to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing my mind.” Douglas Adams

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Rachel the Roomie

A couple posts ago, I introduced my pet frogs. I feel badly about introducing my pet frogs before introducing our roomie, Rachel. My family takes on boarders every now and again. Rachel has been here six months already - that's longer than the frogs, and she's probably more important.

23 things you need to know about Rachel:

1) She's 23. Hence the reason for a 23-point list.

2) You pronounce it ra-SHELL, not RAY-chel.

3) She's from Quebec but she's somehow not a separatist.

4) She likes seafood. This makes her sad, because we do not eat seafood in the Heinrichs house.

5) She has three brothers, one of which has kids with names from Star Wars, Superman, the Gilmore Girls, and his own heavy rock band.

6) She's studying for a Masters of Divinity at Ambrose

7) She speaks 3 languages fluently - English, French, and Spanish

8) We're related. Kind of. We're cousins-in-law.

9) She enjoys living in our basement so well (though she strongly dislikes the ants) that she passed up an opportunity to move out with a friend.

10) In her opinion: Music on Hot Rod beats the Movie Hot Rod beats NitroCircus. NitroCircus is not her friend.

11) She can't fly but she does periodically try (just to make sure; you never know when things will change)

12) She's crazy because she has three jobs and is also simultaneously a student. We're not sure if her schedule is a result of her craziness or the cause of it.

13) We wrote each other when we were kids. Here's 8-year-old me on the subject:

Hello! I have a pen pal! She's from Chicotimi, Quebec! Randles cosin! Her names Rachel. We Email to echother! I like her a lot. She nice.

The entry is decorated with a colour-me dinosaur sticker on which I had written "I'M YOUR PEN PAL"

14) She is part Lebanese, part Mennonite, part Pilgrim. She has no actual French blood (maybe that's why she's not separatist).

15) She hangs so much laundry to dry on the bath curtain rod that the whole thing collapses, time and time again.

16) She "still" plays StarCraft

17) She gets all huffy if you call her a "guest" (which is understandable now, but when she'd only been here 10 days?)

18) She doesn't like writing about herself, so I'm doing it for her.

19) She very well may have been to the mountains more in the last six months than I've been in the last six years.

20) Her last name is so long it doesn't fit on the census forms.

21) This is her (maybe she is a frog after all):


22) She's procrastinating her schoolwork by giving me items for this list.

23) She's all-around pretty awesome.

Now I feel confused and conflicted, as I've never formally introduced any of my actual family members. Hey, I barely even introduced myself. It just goes without saying that they're all a part of the household and terribly important.

"A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.” Bernard Meltzer

Saturday, 11 June 2011

GRADUATED!!!

As of June 8th, 2011, I am officially "Carla Muriel Heinrichs, B.A." I have a neat hat, a piece of incredibly important paper, and four point five years of classroom education, among other things.


***

Procrastinator that I am, I've been meaning to get my hair cut for at least six months. You know it's too long when it tries to strangle you while you swim and the first thing your cousins say upon seeing you for the first time in half-a-year is "Whoa! Your hair is long!" Figuring that I'd rather stop procrastinating than spend the rest of my life groaning and smacking my forehead every time I look at my graduation pictures, I finally picked up the phone and made an appointment for 3:45 pm the day before convocation.

When I got there for the appointment, the woman told me that they had mistakenly scheduled me for the next day, instead - which was after the ceremony.

"Uh, that won't work," I said, wondering if Supercuts is worth the risk. Would it be better to look like I have a half-eaten hay bale glued to my head, or to look like I purposely meant to be making a "cutting edge" fashion statement?

"How about 6:45 tonight?" the woman said. "It won't be the same stylist, but it's the first opening we have. I'm terribly sorry."

So I went back to work, came home, said hi to some out-of-town family, and promptly blew them off to go back to the salon. The new stylist was very good, though. I like my new hair. Should have done this ages ago.

***

I got a text from a male friend (the only other person I really knew in the group of 418 that were convocating with me):

One nice thing about this is being able to wear jeans and a t shirt cuz its all under the gown thing lol

I went to pick up my gown and degree before the ceremony, hoping I'd have time left over to get my pictures done before the actual event. Upon putting on the gown, I admired the way my cute shoes went with the outfit. Then I noticed the length of the gown. Knowing he was already on campus, I texted my friend back:

Yeah, the robes don't go down to your ankles, so you might want to roll up your jeans.

He responded rather quickly:

Lol nothing doing I don't want bare legs

Oh, yeah. Guys and girls are different that way.


***

Before we paraded in, the woman tasked with reading all our names (I have no idea how long she must have practiced!) came down the lines.

"Does anyone have a name they think I might have trouble with?" she asked.

"/'hɑjnɹıks/," I said, fearing a /'hεndɹıks/ or a /'hɑjnɹıtʃ/.

"/'hɑjnɹıks/?" she replied.

"Yes," I said, "H-E-I-N-R-I-C-H-S. /'hɑjnɹıks/."

"Ok. I had that one marked," she admitted as she moved on.

It was a class of 419 students, and the ceremony went a little over an hour and half. I somehow ended up being fourth in the academic procession, though I was certainly not fourth to cross the stage. Yet when I finally found myself up there, smiling for the photographer, the woman remembered my name.

"Carla Muriel /'hɑjnɹıks/," she announced, "With distinction." I was pleased and slightly surprised that she not only remembered Heinrichs, but also pronounced Muriel properly, as /'mjǝɹiǝl/, rather than with the seemingly standard but incorrect /'mʊɹiǝl/. University professors on the whole tend to do pretty well in the name pronunciation department.

And apparently the Chancellor was listening carefully to this woman while he was shaking hands and making small talk, or else he was good at reading the names on the degrees prominently displayed by the graduates gleefully crossing the stage toward him.

"Congratulations, Carla," he said as he shook my hand. "Are you relieved to be done?"

I can't remember what I replied, but I do remember there was a whole whack of other people lined up just off the stage to congratulate me... and the other graduates, of course.


***

The speaker gave a goofy speech about how important it is to be selfish and self-absorbed (she actually used those words) in order to change the world, but the rest of the ceremony was good. The mace-brandishing looked a bit silly, as did the higher-levels of academic dress, but tradition is tradition.

When it was over, we took pictures outside. I handed off my degree to someone for some of the shots. I then proceeded to freak out about five minutes later when I realized that I didn't know its precise location anymore.

"Where's my degree?" I exclaimed, "Who has my degree?!"

"I'm holding it," said my grandma, who had come down from Regina specifically for my (and my cousin's) convocation.

I looked to verify her statement just in time to see a glimmer in her eyes and a sly smile spread across her face.

"Say..." she mused, "I have a degree! It's not that hard to get a degree! I have a degree from the University of Calgary!"

At least she didn't mug me to get it.


***

Just thought I'd mention that mom also made my most favourite salad in the world to help celebrate when we got home - strawberry spinach!

All this to say that I am now an "alumni" of the U of C. It makes me feel distinguished, and perhaps just a tiny bit old. Not to mention a tad miffed that my access to their library is now considerably more restricted. But I'M GRADUATED! I'M GRADUATED! I'M GRADUATED!


For a while, anyway...

As cliche of a grad quote as it may be:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own and you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go.” Dr. Seuss

Assuming, of course, that God doesn't zot you with lightning to keep you from choosing incorrectly...