Thursday, July 30, 2015

Happy Anniversary to Me and the Boys!

One year ago today, the boys came home to live with me.
Nothing special planned for today, as they are very picky about their treats.
No cake or watermelon.
Only apples and pretzels.
They helped me clean their paddock this morning, as they do every time I get out the wheelbarrow and muck rake.

Bill is sure to check the wheelbarrow for items that he doesn't approve of being removed (small sticks, mostly). 
Ted just takes the opportunity to chew on the handles.

Neither one offers to help actually scoop up manure, but that's okay. 
 Not having thumbs makes that a bit difficult.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Are You Ready to Fly

SPECTACULAR: Spectacular is a camp dedicated to creating a safe, Christ-centered community where teens can discover God, their inherent worth, and share their giftednes.

July 17-26

2,386.4 miles
5 Twelve-passenger vans.
43 campers
10 staff members
2 tag-a-longs
1 small dog
4.5 days on the road
7 days at camp
6 nights at camp
2 nights sleeping on church floors 
1 flat tire
0 air conditioners in the dorms

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and finally Iowa.
A week of classes, games, music, art, competition, laughter, tears, disappointment and elation.
A week that was exhausting for me both physically and emotionally.
Breakfast was between 6:30 and 7:30.
Lights Out was at 12:15
Emotionally, I invested too much in how Quinn was doing at camp.
I was also concerned and hurt by a young man that I took under my wing last year.  It was obvious that this trip was just a personal vacation for him and that he had no interest in participating in anything that might ease the pain of his life outside of camp.
In hindsight, I should not have taken any of his actions personally.
You cannot rescue someone that does not want to be rescued.
I can only pray for him at this point.
Mostly, I'm just sad

I believe that with time, I will have feelings of affection about this trip.
There were 3 amazing guest speakers. 
 Two stellar bands and a freakin' ferris wheel!
There were paper lanterns and fireworks.

People worked very hard to make it a memorable week.
My memories right now are jaded by emotion.
This is a video that was played at the closing service.
It is really what took place last week.
I hope and pray that most all of my campers got to fly last week. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Chicken! Chicken!

 Not what you were thinking this post would be about, huh?
This is a recipe post.
An easy, peasy, DELICIOUS recipe.

When our family went to Grand Cayman several years ago, Trip Advisor reviewers said that we should most definitely eat at this little hole in the wall eatery.
Holy cow were they ever right!  We ate there twice, we loved it so much!
I was so enamored with the the luscious, heavily herbed, lemony chicken that it became my mission to duplicate it at home.  
I believe that I have mastered it minus one ingredient---wood firing.  
They slow roast theirs over a wood fired spit.  I don't have one.
 However, my version is pretty darn close! 

6 to 8 bone in/skin-on Chicken Thighs
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Montreal Seasoning
1 whole head of Garlic, peeled
3 large Lemons, juiced (save the peel)
1 large bunch each of Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary

Cut the lemon peel into quarters.
Add all the ingredients to a Gallon Size zip bag.  
Mash the ingredients together a bit and store in refrigerator overnight or a minimum of 2 hours. You want to break up the herbs to release their oils.
If you think of it, turn it a couple times to redistribute the ingredients.

Preheat oven to 300* (slow cooking! Makes all the difference!)
 Line a 13x9 pan with heavy duty foil.  (otherwise clean up will be a booger)
Add all the contents from the bag.
Bake for 3 hours.  Baste chicken with juices a couple times.
For the last 15 minutes, turn the oven up to 400 degrees to get a nice brown color on everything.

 Remove everything in the pan to a serving dish/bowl.  
Pour the juices in something because you are most definitely going to want them to dip your chicken in.  We serve this dish with rice.  The drippings are an obvious choice to pour over rice as well.
1. You can definitely do this in a slow cooker on Low.  It won't be as pretty, but it will still taste amazing.
2. I have tried this recipe with Chicken Breasts.  It's just not the same.  The chicken gets dried out and the missing fattiness of the thighs leaves much to be desired.
3. On the subject of fattiness, I do trim most of the obvious fat from the chicken thighs before I mix them with the other ingredients.  Some fat is tasty, too much fat is just icky.
4. Good golly this makes amazing chicken salad the next day if you have any leftovers!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

For the Kids, Always for the Kids

photo credit: flicker sapphire4443

This is a post about learning.
A post about people.
A post about passion and fear and disappointment.
A post about me pushing through something I'd rather not push through.
A post about knowing what has to be done and doing it.

The church I belong to owns a campground in Bandera, Texas.
There are 28 congregations that feed into this one campground. 
All from Texas. 
Those congregations are held together by 2 Mission Center Presidents (the state is split in two) and 1 Financial Officer that works for both Mission Centers.

Each summer there are 4 large youth camps and 3 family camps.

I am the Chair, Director, Sounding Board, Punching Bag of the Camping Committee.
The Camping Committee oversees staffing, educational content, and financial concerns for each of the 7 camps. 
We also deal with parents and pastors and pretty much anyone with a voice that wants to be heard.
A balancing act of the most precarious kind.


Every single camp is staffed by volunteers.  
People that give up precious vacation time to spend time with children that don't belong to them. 
Families they often don't see eye to eye with.
 It is an act of love and selflessness on the highest order.

However, like all good human beings, disagreements are likely. 
Expected even.
How folks deal with their anger, frustration, concern, and disappointment often comes to a boil and I am expected to step in and put a lid on it before it boils over.  
Sometimes those negative feelings are directed solely at me because of decision I made regarding (fill in the blank).

Did I mention that I am a volunteer as well?
This summer has been one of constant triage. It began in earnest in late February and has continued episode after episode.  Getting staff for each camp has been a challenge, but it always is.  Getting staff that is qualified to do the job (especially with kids) has been especially taxing this year.
Getting adults/parents to make a decision in a timely manner about whether their kids are coming to camp has been maddening.  
We cannot staff a camp without knowing how many kids are going to be there.  

Why not put a deadline on campers?  We'd all breathe a lot easier for sure.
We don't work that way.
We want any child who wants to come to camp to be able to come.
And so, we hold our breath and hope for the best.

On the other end of the camping season is the inevitable discussion about how we can make cuts next year so we can be in the black instead of the red for each camp.
How we can entice more kids to come.
How we can have camp but not raise rates.
How we can get them to sign up in a timely manner.  The 'late charge' doesn't seem to be a deterrent for many folks.
And then there is the discussion about what went right and what went wrong with each camp.  What staff really didn't do so well with the kids. 
Finally, we come to the "Who should we ask for next year".

This summer has been trying for me.  
I am a planner.

I like all my ducks to be neatly in a row.
Thankfully, I have 2 Presidents and 1 Financial Officer to deal with and we all work as a great team.

BUT-------next year that all changes.

Those folks have lost their jobs due to budget cuts at my church headquarters in Missouri.
Next year there will be 3 Mission Center Presidents in the state of Texas and 3 Financial Officers in the state of Texas.  All volunteers who have full-time jobs doing other things.

How will this work next year?  Who will I answer to?  Having one financial officer to talk with about camping budgets, money we have and don't have and so on has been a saving grace.
How on earth will the camping program work if I have 3 that I have to deal with.  
Three that may not agree on what is happening at camp and what they will/will not contribute.

My brain and heart are tired and I still have one more camp to go.
The largest camp and it's a traveling camp.
45 high school kids and 10 adults (me included) and 5 vans.
One road trip to and from Iowa.  

Can you see why I might be feeling a bit frazzled?

Why do I do it?
Because of the kids.
For so very, very many of them, camp is a week long escape from their lives.
Lives full of worry and hurt and anger and pain.
Lives that children should not have to live.
Many of the kids are lucky (like mine), and they provide a quiet friendship for the kids that need the down time from their lives.  

Next year will be hard for me.  
I think about quitting every day.
God provides me a boost almost every day to remind me that this job, this volunteer job,  is necessary.
I'm good at it.  I'm passionate about it.
I don't like disagreeing with people.  I'd rather have dental work without anesthesia than have someone angry at me.  
Eric is my foundation and stronghold in those personal storms.  
He has taught me that "people just want to be heard".  I remember that when someone is railing at me because they think I've made the wrong decision.  

I will make this work.  
There's a saying that goes "God never said it would be easy".
If I can trudge through this job, feel uneasy for a while, so that children can come to camp and have a week free of drama, then it is all worth it.

My hair may be on fire sometimes.
I may be grouchy and wish for November when camp is on the backburner for a bit.
However, I have people around me who make my job easier.
I will lean on them, as I always do.
I will lean on God when I am out of options and at my wits end.

For the kids.
Always for the kids.