Sunday, July 23, 2017

Girl's Camp 2017: A Journal

                                                                Day 1

            I don’t know if I’ve ever been so ready to go to the mountains for a few days.  I’ve got my girl’s camp baseball hat on, my sack lunch in my back pack and I’m excited.  I love riding to Cinnamon Creek with Cindy.  This is our fourth girl’s camp together. We chat along the way and listen to the rumble of the trailer hitched up behind us.  As we come up on the extraordinary blue vista of Porcupine Reservoir, it makes me chuckle to think of the first time I came to Cinnamon Creek three years ago.  “Wait a minute, when did all of this water get here?” I had asked, confounded that I had been living not even an hour away from this oasis for 10 years and been totally unaware of its existence.  Eventually we pull into Cinnamon Creek campgrounds and it feels good to be back.  The next little while is devoted to unloading the trailer and pitching tents.  There is always something fun about the smell of a tent that I associate with having a good time.  Cindy and Louise are my tent buddies this year, and when Shelly gets here, I imagine she’ll be joining us.  Michelle, who gets my vote as the greatest camp director of all time, gives us an orientation and I am glad I didn’t know much about the day to day activities scheduled this year because it is fun to be surprised.  The theme this year is pirates.  We are “treasure-seekers.”  Michelle has brought with her four pairs of wooden stilts, and right away the girls are delighted by this fun novelty.  Stilt competitions between girls and leaders alike start happening and I know the clap of wood against the concrete floor of the pavilion is something I will hear a lot in the next four days.

            Early in the evening we have our photo shoot.  We take a picture of all of us together and then divide into classes.  This is my first year belonging to a class as earlier in the year I was released as the secretary in the presidency and called as the Mia Maid advisor.  I love posing with all the Mia Maids and then laughing as we take our “silly” picture.  Later that evening is our dutch oven bake-off.  One of the things I love so much about our girl’s camps is the fact that we have so many traditions we do every year: the dutch-oven bake-off, the ugly pants contest, Dan’s homemade bread for a snack, and many others.  I love all of our fun traditions.  Cindy and I are in charge of the bake-off again this year and the teams are Beehives, Mia Maids, Laurels, and leaders.  It is fun to watch as everyone joins in to prepare their creation.  Even those girls who are sometimes reluctant participants eventually join in the fun.  The dutch ovens go on the fire and there is a scripture scavenger hunt to pass the time.  Eventually the treats are done, and everyone is to vote on which dessert they like the best.  Cindy and I count the votes as the dishes are cleared away, and I make a joke that people are going to think we stacked the votes because the Mia Maids win by a landslide with their “extreme brownie.” Later on, Takiah and Destinee, two of our Girl Scouts lead us all in songs around the camp fire.  Some of the cute songs I’ve never heard before, some melodies come quickly back from the girl’s camps of my childhood.  I love watching the two sisters together.  It is Destinee’s first girl’s camp and likely Takiah’s last. I miss McKayla, the third Nish sister who graduated last year.  It is clear Destinee will bring the same steadiness and leadership that her older sisters have graced us with. 
            Eventually the stars come out, the evening gets chilly, and it is time for bed.  As Cindy, Louise and I all settle down in our sleeping bags, we hear ripples of giggles as well as the ripples of the water of the creek.  I smile at it all and close my eyes to go to sleep.  But…sleep will not come.  That is my girl’s camp curse. I don’t sleep well at night.  It’s not really that I’m cold or uncomfortable, I just can’t sleep.  I drift off for a while but not very deeply and for the majority of the night I am staring at the moon-shadows on the wall of the tent.  Melatonin has no effect.  A soothing audio book has no effect.  Even prayers for rest have no effect.  Eventually I look up towards the sky and pray for something else. “Is there something that you need to tell me?” I ask.  “If there is, I’m listening.”  The next thing I remember is waking up and at last seeing morning light.

                                                             Day 2

            It’s hike day, up to the old mine, and I’m a little nervous.  Hiking up hill has never been really easy for me, and after a second bout of pleurisy this year, I’m really not sure if I’ll be able to do this but I want to try.  I stand at the head of the trail and in my heart I hear the whisper of the Spirit. “Just take it slow.”  And so I do.   There have been so many times in my life when I have been told by people with frustrated and impatient eyes that I am too slow and that has always hurt a little.   Because of that I’ve always tried to go at a quicker pace, to never be the last one in the group.  But these girls have healed so much of the hurt inside of me and I feel the freedom of just going at my own pace.  There are so many sounds of birds and buzzing insects.  There are so many big and beautiful pine trees to delight my Oregonian heart.  I love walking with my friends.  Cindy turns and offers me a steadying hand as we climb a high bank or walk across the stream.  I make it to the mine just fine and sit at the bench at the top feeling strengthened. I enjoy hearing the girls’ tales as they climb out of the mine after having gone exploring. Not for me, but I enjoy living vicariously through them.   On the way down, I chat with Julie, another leader who is also taking it slow because of her knee.  I love talking with her.

            Just before lunch Amy arrives, wearing her traditional cowboy girl’s camp hat.   I’m so glad she’s here.  It’s not the same without her.   Lunch also marks the start of the Ugly Pants contest and girls are immerging from their tents wearing the most hideous DI pants they could find. But the star of the day is Melissa who struts her stuff wearing a rainbow-colored jumpsuit she (wait for it) crocheted herself.  The afternoon is almost unbearably hot, but Michelle has a duck race planned.  The girls decorate rubber duckies with sharpies and then race them in the creek.  Julie the master craftsman also has us decorating wooden treasure boxes. Later on it’s time for the afternoon snack, Dan’s freshly baked artisan bread.   The air smells so good.  There is homemade raspberry jam as well as bowls of balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil for the savory breads.  It is so good having Dan here as our camp chef.  Last year he said he was going to “retire” and I’m so grateful he decided to come one more year. I’m glad Eric is here again this year too.  Mike Howle came up today too with his funny jokes and big hearty laugh.

            Tonight is our pirate pageant and the girls are all doing a talent, a pirate walk, and answering a question.  It is so delightful to watch them.  I marvel at their talent.  I laugh at their cleverness.  Our three newest Beehives sing a sweet trio of “True Colors.” Lizzie does a fabulous dance.  Kennedy limbos under her sister’s arm.  But London brings the crowd to their feet as she walks up to the stage in a Napoleon Dynamite costume and wig and proceeds to (with a completely straight face) do the Napoleon Dynamite dance.  Every four or five girls, there is “commercial” provided by the leaders.  It is great fun to watch and participate as my friends act out the little skits I wrote weeks ago.  It is hard to pick between the Star Wars and the Geico commercial as my favorite.  As we walk back to camp, I see that Shelly has come, bringing with her ice and all of her wonderful Shellyness.

            Later on, we gather at the campfire and I teach the girls how to play “In the Manner of the Adverb.”  I love watching the fun as they catch on.  I love seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing the giggles.  Shelby and Annika surprise me as they are excellent little actresses.  We play round after round, stopping to make s’mores and roast starbursts.  Sweet Ashley has made everyone a purple beaded bracelet to remind of us of integrity as a pillow gift.  As we settle in again, this time with Shelly in our tent, I once again realize it is going to be a long night.  There are a lot of things on my mind, things I wanted to leave at home but won’t stay there.  Somewhere around 2:00, Shelly and Cindy get up to walk to the bathroom and I go with them.  The moon is shining so brightly, we almost don’t need Cindy’s lantern.  As we walk I think about how grateful I am for these two and how they steady me in my life. Louise joins us soon and we all giggle as the suggestion is made that when we get back to the tent we should talk and laugh for a while and keep the girls up for a change. 
                                                             Day 3

            Tracy comes in the morning and it makes me smile to hear her laughter ring out as she hears stories from the week.  I sure do love my president.  After breakfast there is certification with a matching game and a knot tying class using Twizzlers pull-apart licorice. (Did I mention we have the best camp directors ever?)  Then it’s over to the field for a pirate obstacle course, put together by Shelly and Melissa, or as they are affectionately known, “The Morties.” These two Beehive leaders are extraordinary on their own, but together…they are superheroes.   We are all back at the pavilion later on and there is a card game and a game of Telestrations going.  Some girls are coloring and of course the stilts are in use.  I look up from my coloring page to see that our dear Michelle is in tears.  She has been going to check her phone every day and today she got word that her sister-in-law had passed away from cancer.  It is an expected passing, but none-the-less hard.  Michelle is the picture of grace as she explains to all of the leaders what is supposed to happen next and then says a tearful goodbye to the girls.  It is hard to see her go, but we are all so grateful for this wonderful gift she’s given us of so many beautiful and precious memories this week.

            We have a service project in the afternoon, taking deadwood down off of a hill and to a place where it can be used for fires.  The girls are troopers and I am so proud.  There is no need to tell these girls that they can do hard things.  They simply do them.  The sweltering afternoon heat bears down during afternoon free time.  I use a washcloth with some ice wrapped up inside for relief until Cindy takes me down to the creek for a while to stick our feet in the water.  Oh my, that feels good.  I find balm in both the water and the company as we sit and talk for a good half-hour.   Later on it is time for another one of my favorite traditions, the letters from home and the personal scripture time.  This year the girls receive a “message in a bottle,” a painted black bottle with their name in gold letters and their letter wrapped up inside.  I decide to take advantage of the quiet time and do a little scripture reading of my own.  I am unzipping the tent when a fragment of scripture suddenly comes to my mind.  My prayer a few nights ago comes back to me and I know that this is no random thought.  I know I am receiving communication from God.   I take my scriptures and find a quiet place.  I know where the scripture in my heart right now comes from and I turn there.  As I do, I read the scriptures ahead of it and I am amazed.  I hope I never stop being amazed at this miraculous process, no matter how many times it happens in my life.  The entire passage is a direct answer to the prayer I have been pleading for weeks.  As I sit there I am filled with light, clarity, and strength.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude. 

            Marty and Bonnie Reeder, our guest speakers arrive in time for dinner, along with the bishop and his wife and Brother Miskin and his wife Joyce. Joyce is my mom’s best friend in the ward and she has a delivery for me.  My own sweet mom has written me a treasured letter from home and I steal away for a few minutes to read her letter on my own.   Unfortunately I miss Bonnie and Marty’s talk because one of the girls isn’t feeling well but we make it back just as Marty is tearfully telling the end of his story of a time when he faced danger while sailing.  I watch the girls’ faces as he bears testimony of Christ being an anchor in our lives.  I hear that God used the sky as a visual aid as Marty was telling his story.  I wish I could have seen that.  We all go back to pavilion for wonderful dutch oven cobblers, one of the best camping comfort foods ever.  The cold and sweet vanilla ice cream is wonderfully delicious as it melts against the crispy buttery topping and the warm fruit.  We head to gather at the fire and play a few more rounds of “In the Manner of the Adverb” I love seeing the smiles.  I love seeing the friendships. 

            Tracy starts off testimony meeting with an inspiring testimony as usual.  The world is still as we listen to the fire crackling and the water rushing.  The sisterhood between us all, girl and leader alike runs deep as we get up and share our stories.  One girl shares about how she misses her older sister, who died when she was young, and when she sees a pair of sisters up here together it makes her sad.  But when she sees the type of butterfly up here her sister loved, she knows that her sister is indeed with her.   Another speaks of depression struggles she’s been having and the peace she’s found.  Another talks about how she asked herself at the beginning of the year if she was going to church for herself or for her parents and she realized she was going for her parents but would continue to go.  Now she says she knows she goes for herself.  Girl after beloved girl, story after story, I don’t want it to end.  It is extraordinary to me as I watch and listen to the beautiful youth leaders who have grown so much and give so much leadership to the younger girls.  Wasn’t it just last year that they were first years themselves? One day little Lizzie, Annika and Destinee will be the youth leaders giving treasured words of wisdom.  And…how is it possible that it was so long ago that I was once one of these girls, crying with my friends as we all felt the Spirit together? But that is the great beautiful circle of Young Women.  There will always be a little piece of my beloved Young Women leaders in me and there will always be a little piece of me in my girls.  One day, some of them will be sitting around a campfire, filled with a love of God and their girls.  And so the legacy goes on and on and on.  After testimony meeting is completed, there comes the part that I love almost as much.  Everyone hugs each other as we say goodnight.  My mother heart that longs to give affection is very happy as I hold the girls close and feel the blessed feeling of daughter-like love.  I think sleep will come a little easier tonight.  And it indeed does.
                                                            Day 4

          It is hard to say goodbye.  After breakfast we have the fun of awards and the secret sister reveal.  Thanks to cute little Kennedy, my secret sister, I now have a new love of cocoa butter lotion.  Then it is down to the business of packing up and breaking camp.   Again the girls are troopers as bathrooms are cleaned, tents are taken down and bags are brought back down to the trailer.  I’m grateful for the chance to care of the land we’ve been blessed to stay on for a little while.  I hope the next group enjoys their stay as much as we have.  Soon the cars are loaded and it is time to head out.  I am checking on something with another leader as Cindy pulls out, ready to start the caravan.  I stick my thumb out to hitch a ride and then climb in.  As we pull away and Girl’s Camp 2017 comes to an end, I think about something someone said to me a few weeks ago.  They asked if I was still in Young Women and if that was how I got “roped into” going to camp again. They don’t understand.  I can’t believe I’ve been so lucky.  I can’t believe I’ve been so blessed.   I doubt any pirate, real or imagined, could ever find a treasure as precious as mine. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My 39th Year

Hey friends!

I've had fun making plans for what I want to accomplish this year! Thank you for all the support for my goals and plans this last year!

My 39 before 40 cooking list 

I didn't do too well on my cooking/baking list this past year.  I am super excited for this year's list though! I plan to get started right away!

1) Back in the Day Bakery chocolate mint cookies
2) Lemon sugar crusted cake
3) Back porch lemonade
4) Million dollar pasta bake
5) Root beer float caramels
6) Magical hot cereal
7) Caramel corn hot chocolate
8) Sea salt caramel toasted coconut chips
9) Summer fruit pizza
10) Orange sugar ginger cookies
11) Snickerdoodle granola bars
12) Corn muffin coffee cake
13) Sister Layton's monkey bread
14) Mormon strawberry ice cream
15) Softest sugar cookies of your life
16) Cinnamon chip blondies with pecan streusal
17) Luscious strawberry punch
18) California dreamin cookies
19) Orange Italian cream drink
20) 7 up up and away cake
21) Pizza Hut creamy chicken alfredo
22) Fudgsicle granita
23) Noodles and Co copycat mac and cheese
24) Bear Lake raspberry shake
25) Strawberry julius
26) Orange dreamsicle popcorn
27) Bavarian mints
28) Sugar cookie hot vanilla
29) Orange flavored pie-dough cookies
30) Caramel cream vanilla pudding cups
31) Caramel apple pretzel salad
32) Fresh peach sorbet
33) The best darn lasagna on earth
34) Mexican vanilla gelato
35) Idaho potato waffles
36) Buttered raspberry jam
37) Caramel cinnamon rolls
38) Simply sinful cinnamon muffins
39) Buttery fudge popsicles

Stay tuned for pictures and recipes!

My Challenge for the Year 

I absolutely loved my temple challenge this past year.  What a wonderful blessing it was! This year I am accepting President Russell M. Nelson's challenge to read and underline each of the scriptures having to do with Jesus Christ listed in the Topical Guide.  If I finish before the year is up, I will read as many conference talks about the Savior as I can before my next birthday.  I am so excited this year to learn more about the Savior.  I will share what I've learned along the way!

A Year of Learning 

My 38th year was my "year of gratitude." After my last birthday, I made a list of 52 people who have made a difference in my life and I cut the list up and put the names in a jar.  Each week I would draw one name out and then send that person a thank you note to let them know how much I appreciate them.  I absolutely loved my year of gratitude and having a chance to express my thanks to so many people I love.  This year will be my "year of learning." I made a list of 12 subjects I want to learn more about and cut up that list for my little jar. At the start of each month, I will draw out one subject and spend the month studying it. I'll share what I learn on this blog as well.

It's going to be a GREAT year!