A couple weeks ago, I went on a silent retreat, and it was a surprise to me that camp kept coming up. I think it had something to do with being on such beautiful grounds, on a lake, where you can hear the birds, and you’re far away enough from the cities to see the stars.
Summer of 2014 I was blessed to work at Catholic Youth Camp, or CYC in McGregor, Minnesota. It is a place where everyone can grow closer to God in His Creation. A lot of people ask me why I loved working at camp so much. I wanted to write this in hopes that I answer that question. I hope it encourages people to apply to work there. I hope it encourages people to send their kids there. I hope it encourages people to donate or tithe there.
I am so pumped to share the good ol’ short-hair.
You are outside basically the entire summer.
I was inside only to eat, to shower, to use the bathroom, and on my breaks. We slept in cabins, and sure they had roofs and a lightbulb, but the windows were just screens and no matter what you say you were basically outside. It’s just to protect you from the rain and wind. It was amazing that every morning, like clockwork, I’d hear the mother loon sing, and if were had a cabin with insulation or a real door or windows, I wouldn’t hear that. I can’t explain how beautiful it is to wake up to that. Also, you know you were outside the entire summer when at the end of summer you come home and have shin splints just from walking on hard surfaces such as sidewalks again.
It is beautiful.
There is something so refreshing and life-giving when it comes to the sun. Sure it gets hot in the middle of the day, but it is still so beautiful seeing it shine through the trees or reflect off the lake. The sunrise makes the lake sparkle with diamonds. The sunset makes the sky catch on fire and you see every color known to mankind.
I fully understood how beautiful God’s creation is because of camp. The sun, the trees, the stars, the animals, everything.
The stars. Up in McGregor, it actually gets dark at night. If you don’t have a flashlight, you’re going to have a really hard time finding your cabin. If you’re by the lake you can follow the light of the moon, but that’s about it. The main paths at camp are lit at night, such as for emergency bathroom breaks, but you can’t guarantee the power won’t go out, so I’d bring a flashlight.
I could actually tell the difference in smell when going back home to St. Paul. Growing up in St. Paul I had no idea. Air smelled like air. After three months at camp, getting back home smelled gross. It smells like car exhaust and garbage outside. I got over it and can hardly tell now, but my nose knows.
I wasn’t even trying and I was toned by the end of the summer. We are just almost always in motion, walking from place to place, not using any vigorous energy (but you definitely could if you desired). But where else are you going to have three months of daily activities consisting of archery, throwing tomahawks, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming?
You actually get a fairly decent amount of sleep. Sure you don’t get as much sleep as the campers, but even including the nightmares and other nighttime adventures, most of the time you get enough sleep. And if you don’t one night, you can nap on your break no prob, or probably convince your co-counselor to let you sleep during an activity if you really need it.
After breakfast and after dinner was a time for praise and worship. Everyone’s spirituality is different, but this was really impactful for me, especially because it was not only once a day, but twice a day. It was great to begin and end my day that way.
It usually took the girls in my cabin 15-30 minutes to all finally fall asleep. You don’t have to sit up and wait for them to fall asleep, but you can’t necessarily go straight to sleep yourself. You’ll hear them roll over for a while, and you’ll have a couple campers get up and ask to use the bathroom (again). This chunk of time was the perfect amount for me to pray a Rosary. If there were still two or three campers not asleep yet, then a Chaplet of Divine Mercy would do the trick.
Devos. Before bed in each cabin, we all sat in a circle in our pajamas with our stuffed animals. We usually read a passage from the Bible, answered questions and talked about it, then finished with an Our Father or Hail Mary. I can’t explain why this was one of my favorite things, but it was beautiful seeing the campers open up and talk about this stuff and sharing their lives and troubles, and seeing hope.
Skillz for lyfe
You live out of a locker. It’s more like two or three lockers actually, but you don’t have a room. I had cubbies for different types of clothes, shirts, pants, underwear. And I have two cubbies for miscellaneous things like sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, books, bandaids, laptop, phone, and whatnot. In our bunk in the cabin we had a cubby too where I kept a flashlight, water, Rosary, Bible, and journal. Then on top of all of that, I have my beloved clipboard and fanny pak. (Fanny pak not required but encouraged.)
You learn to take fast showers. The counselors’ girls’ bathroom has two showers. The campers’ girls’ bathroom have like 10. In the time it takes your 12 campers to shower and brush their teeth before bed, that is how much time you have between you and your co-counselor to hop in the shower. So we have about five minutes each. I had a timer on my waterproof watch, 2 minutes to shampoo, 3 minutes for everything else. Towel dry, brush teeth, answer texts on phone.
You become cows. You know how cows can supposedly predict the weather? I figured out why. It’s because they are always outside and recognize the patterns. We eventually were able to recognize almost exactly when it would rain (and thus when it was time to pick up and get inside).
FIRRE. I have to brag that I became really good at not only making a strong campfire, but with just one match too. I take a lot of pride in that.
|look at that beauty|
|and more smores|
Because I was trying to be a good role model for the campers, I automatically started drinking more water and eating healthier, (besides all the smores).
You will be okay with messy. It’s summer. It’s in the woods a couple hours from the cities. You will be sweaty and there are dirt paths. It’s not super gross, it’s just different. You wore what was practical. I wore a t-shirt and basketball shorts every day.
If it was chilly or windier, I’d add a flannel or a long sleeve t-shirt. If it was cold (first thing in the morning or when it gets dark), then sweatpants and a hoodie. I wore Chaocs 99% of the time unless it was going to rain, then I’d wear rain boots. I brought tennis shoes, but I always preferred my Chacos.
Among the staff you saw Chacos, tennis shoes, crocs, and the like. You showered to get the worst off, but I’m going to tell you now, no matter how much you scrub, your feet will stay dirty until September. Because I taught campfire cooking almost every day, I had ash on my feet all the time. Some people have a problem with this. I couldn’t care less. I felt alive.
|Obviously I am dressed as an angel.|
|and another angel|
EMBRACE THE MESSY, you can shower that night. Feeling clean after a shower every night was so refreshing. But, you can’t compare the feeling of post-shower when you jumped in a pit of mud that day. It feels better than after a shower on *just* a typical camp day.
|Yes we are covered in mud. Yes she’s wearing a dress from the theatre closet.|
You may not have realized this, but camp helps you consider parenthood and gain skills if you are going to be a parent! Being with 12 campers for basically 24 hours for five days (besides your breaks) will do that.
Free time. I spent a lot of mine either scrolling through the internet, or in the art barn. You are not forced to do crafts, but I dove in head first. Friendship bracelets and lanyards for dayz. There is an entire barn full of arts and crafts, and it’s where I spent a lot of my free time. I truly learned the importance of free time. You learn what is important to you, and what you need at the moment. When given the opportunity to do whatever you want, and you choose to nap, you learn that you are tired. Maybe you need more than 7 hours of sleep. If you choose to read on Sunset Beach, maybe you are looking for quiet, or alone time, or even prayer time. If you choose to scroll through the internet, maybe you are looking for attention, or you want to feel loved.
You find your voice and your moves. Even if you can’t sing, you can sing. Ass Buddy the Elf said, “It’s like singing, but longer!” Even if you don’t have the moves, you do now. I can’t explain how freeing it was to just be able to sing, whether it be silly songs, to praise the Lord, or whatever was on the radio. I never thought I could dance, and I still can’t, but I learned that I am able to move to a beat. Even if I look dumb, at least I am having fun, and I look cooler than the person sitting on the side just watching.
This may seem super random, but I really liked the schedule we had, and I think no matter what stage of life we are in, we should have one loosely similar to this. It is open to interpretation.
- Wake up.
- Jump in the lake (or stretch or exercise).
- Get ready for the day.
- Eat breakfast.
- Activities (or work or school).
- Recess (or free time go on a walk or do you. I usually was in the art barn during this).
- Rest/read. After lunch there is time to rest. Some campers take a nap, some write a letter home, most read or make a friendship bracelet. This is automatic quiet time for you to read and decompress too!
- Clean cabin (or your humble abode, or go through emails, or declutter/organize your life in some way/shape/form)
- More activities (back to work, homework, etc.)
- Recess, AGAIN! Free time or leisure is so important. Netflix doesn’t count in my book.
- Pray, again! Start and end your day roughly with this. Prayer is the hinges of your day. Like a hinge allows a door to open and close, prayer allows your day to open and close.
- Some kind of night activity. We either played a game, had smores at a campfire, had a dance party, or a talent show.
- Get ready for bed.
- Pray, oh yeah, one more time.
- Read if you’d like.
I wish I didn’t use the internet as much on my breaks. I wish I spent more time on the lake, in the chapel, praying, practicing archery, and maybe even working out.
We have an option at camp to jump in the lake first thing in the morning. Yes, we did call it the polar plunge in July, but when it’s 60 at night, the lake is not the ideal temperature first thing in the morning. The polar plunge is not required, but the kids love it. I probably did it once a week because they loved it so much. I actually wish I did it more. It’s refreshing, but obviously cold. After you hopped in, you were able to say that the first thing you did that morning (besides maybe pee) was jump in a lake.
That’s all for now.
It’s an amazing place, where tie dye is acceptable to wear on a daily basis. Fun fact: if I wasn’t pregnant, I could wear a different tie dye shirt for every day of the week.
If you’d like to learn more about camp, click here. You can apply, send your kids there, or donate!
It has been quite a while since I’ve posted. A lot has happened!
We found out we are having a girl! I am so excited to have a daughter. I had a hunch it was a girl. I guess there is such thing as a mother’s instinct. I’m not super pumped about the pink. I like purple. I like orange or green. I wish we could do blue, but I know that gets really confusing.
Peter has had the flu, but we’re still trying to embrace life with a positive attitude.
|Peter with flu. Me being huge.|
Baby Girl dances SO much. It’s almost constant. I can see her head much around on my left side, and her feet push and push on my right side. She is getting so big and strong! I’m thankful she doesn’t wiggle at night. I know a lot of mamas experience that.
I’ve been behind in school, with throwing up in the morning again, and I just can’t seem to get rid of the headaches. Picking up drinking 8 glasses of water a day hasn’t made any noticeable changes. I’m excited for Baby Girl to arrive so that the Hyperemesis can leave.
I now go to a chiropractor, who is AWESOME. It’s already made such a difference. It was actually exactly what I needed. My back, neck, and hips feels much better. I’m all about natural health and wellness and making at home changes rather than turning straight to medicine. I go here. She is Catholic, and went to St. Thomas. She specializes in athletes and families, which includes PREGNANT WOMEN. I go to her weekly now, in hopes that this helps with the delivery, and that I can continue to stay sane with the back and hip pain.
Tuesday marked 7 months of Marriage for us. It’s been going well. Honestly the worst part is being sick, and besides the fact that I’m sick because I’m pregnant, and pregnant because I’m married, I can’t complain.
Yesterday started week 32, only 8 more to go! We’re almost there! This beautiful weather has brought so much life to the world. The grass is turning green. I hear birds. People actually hang out outside. I’ve been able to wear my Chacos and just a hoodie outside. This weather makes me feel so alive. No wonder people think of babies when they think of spring. April showers bring May babies, and flowers.
|Mama Bear still growing|