Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Brief Review of Girls Camp

I spent most of last week camping with a large bunch of teenage girls. Why? Well, they do it every year, and this year I happened to be the ward camp director. We went up into the foothills near Evanston, Wyoming, to a Boy Scouts High Adventure camp. For four days, we worked hard, played hard, and slept in near-freezing temps while gasping for air at 8,000 feet above sea level.

On the shooting range, I proved that I need glasses. How the heck is a middle-aged woman like me supposed to spot that tiny little black dot at the center of the target from 30 feet away?? I just aimed for the white paper instead. Elannah, on the other hand, did incredibly well. I'm pleased to report that neither of us suffered PTSD after shooting rifles.

During archery, Elannah managed to get a bullseye.

I, on the other hand, was really pleased to hit the target at all. During my second round, I got four of my five arrows into some part of the target. Watch out, Katniss Everdeen!

Here are my archery injuries. Until I figured out how to slightly bend my left arm, I got thwacked by the powerful string of my compound bow once on the forearm and twice above my elbow. I did not swear, but I did make a sort of loud strangled noise through my teeth because it HURT! I put on my long-sleeved hoodie after that. Nearly a week later, I still look like I've been beaten.

I hate sleeping in tents. Hate it. I am still catching up on lost sleep.

The good part was that there was very little girl drama. It was probably the least amount of drama I've ever experienced at a Girls Camp in my life. If you've ever hung out with any number of teenage girls for days on end, you know how much of a miracle that is.

Also, no bug bites. Always a bonus.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Uff Da! I Went to Minnesota and Back, Don'tcha Know!

"Oof-da" or "uff da" is a singular expression used by Minnesotans to express surprise, amazement, genial disbelief, or true dismay. Of Norwegian origin, as the vast majority of the original white settlers in the area were Norwegian, Swedish, or Finnish (thus explaining the preponderance of Sven and Ole jokes). Used in such sentences as, "Uffda! That's the 17th Lutheran church I've counted on this block alone!"

What a great trip! The whole thing went without a hitch (I did get pulled over in Montana for failing to change lanes before passing a cop car with its lights on on the side of the road; but though the officer was angry when he finally caught up to me, he kindly let me off with just a warning after I expressed deep regrets for my mistake). I enjoyed great scenery, great company, and lots of nostalgia.

Minnesota in summer is spectacular. I had forgotten how much my soul yearns for the lush and bounteous greenery of that area. I mean, the desert has its own beauty, but whenever I daydream about building my dream home, it always seems to be encircled by the kind of green you only find naturally in a place where water is abundant, where the only thing you really have to do to keep your lawn looking green and tidy is to mow it every couple weeks.

I had also forgotten just how nice people of the Northland actually are. Utahns are generally pretty pleasant to strangers, but Minnesotans take "nice" to a whole new level. I can see how Europeans or New Yorkers might think it was creepy--and possibly suspect--but once you get used to it, it's utterly charming. All kinds of strangers struck up conversations over nothing and took a genuine interest in the answers to questions they asked me. Now I remember why I'm a such an indiscriminate smiler: I learned it in Minnesota.

Yeah, I'd move back. I'd move back even though the splendor of the brief, green summer months are counterbalanced by nine months of cold and winter. I'd move to idyllic small-town Minnesota even though overnight parking lots include electric outlets so you can plug in your car's engine block heater when the temperatures drop to dozens of degrees below zero and you still have to get to work or school or the grocery store the next day, even if you could suffer frostbite on exposed skin in under three minutes.

(Wait. Maybe I'm just not strong enough to handle that kind of cold anymore. The solution is to keep a summer house in Minnesota and flee to dryer, warmer climes in winter.)

(And now I have officially become a theoretical snowbird.)

We arrived at my sister's apartment and enjoyed how happy she was to get her new, reliable car. Then she gave us a tour of the town, and we had lunch with some friends of hers at a restaurant that was crammed into the back of a tiny little Hispanic grocery store and run by a very congenial El Salvadoran woman whose chile rellenos and rice were to die for. When my mother ordered Mexican tamales, the woman insisted on also bringing us a sample of an El Salvadoran tamale, steamed to a pudding-like consistency in a banana leaf, just so we could taste the difference.

In the evening, we got to canoe on the river before dinner. The water was like glass, barely dimpled by tiny eddies in the shallows. A few men and women stood silently along the banks, fishing alone or companionably in pairs. As we pulled our paddles into the boat and just sat still for a while as the current gently moved us downstream, the only sounds we could hear were the calling of birds in the hundreds of trees around us. The sun was beginning to set, and the indirect light was golden and soft. I felt myself relax so deeply that I realized I hadn't truly felt that level of stillness and peace in myself for 20 years. It was a transcendent experience.

We wore my poor sister out despite how much we tried to alternate all our activities with down time, so it was probably a good thing we had to turn around and leave for home the next day so she could rest and regain her strength. As the three of us were now in one car, I offered to read The Fighting Littles by Booth Tarkington, one of the best books for read-alouds ever written (if you can do it without busting out laughing). Mom and my brother got so involved in the very amusing story that they insisted I start it up again after every rest stop, and I finished it entirely about eight hours later, hoarse and satisfied. I jobjam love sharing that book with others.

So now I'm home. My family survived my absence, and I'm having a very hard time wanting to return to the regular stressful routine of writing to deadlines. Such is the nature of vacations. I'm grateful I could go and satisfy some of my wanderlust. What a great way to do it.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Adding to My Road Trip Playlist

I'm going on a road trip next week with my mother and one of my brothers. We're heading to Minnesota to deliver a car my sister bought from The Big City. Long story short, she's got health problems that prevent her from coming out here and driving herself home, so, like the good family members that we are who absolutely love a long road trip, we'll head up there instead.

I won't be getting back to my old stomping grounds further north in the state. We're going to end up in a little town just across the North Dakota/Minnesota border, stay a day, and then head back home.

The week after we get back, I have to go to Girls Camp with the teen girls in our congregation. I'm still the ward camp director, so I'm kind of stuck with that--not like it's a big burden, except for the fact that I do not sleep well in the great outdoors. I have preternatural hearing, and I'm always up with the sun. Ugh. And it's been a very long time since I had to deal with the amount of girl drama that always comes up at camp. The fun part is that this is a Boy Scout high adventure camp, so we get to do the shooting range and archery and canoes and rowboats and stuff.

Husband was worried about my being gone for practically two weeks. "We'll starve!" he exclaimed. Then, after a while, he acknowledged that I probably could use a break. I'm hoping I regain some of my sense of humor during the time that I can ignore the constant stress of completing assignments from several clients while also being a full-time mom. That would be excellent.

Road trips mean you need new music. New music keeps you awake on those long stretches of highway when your driving companion(s) has fallen asleep or gone silent and the white lines on the road start to hypnotize you and tell you bizarre stories. I'm putting together a nice long playlist with some of my favorites from other playlists along with new finds.

Here's one I keep listening to:

Also this one, which is from the soundtrack to Chris Evans's movie Before You Go.

I guess I'm on a bit of an Indie Rock kick, cos there's also this one that I am always humming:

This one is pretty peppy and fun:

This guy's voice fascinates me.

What genre is this? Indie R&B? Who cares?