Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Last Skeeter

I survived Skeeter 2007 and what a great last year!

Secretly, all spring long I'd been dreading taking my girls to Skeeter. We've had a rough year full personality conflicts and non-committal teenagers. In fact, it got to the point that I wasn't having fun anymore, and since Guiding has been a big part of my life for 20 years now, that's saying something. I'd decided this would be my last year in Guiding, and I was counting down the days.

The girls, of course, have been anxiously awaiting Skeeter since 'Rovent', the last social camp that took place in Manning Park in February. With good food, 2 dances, jello wrestling, a casino, tons of free time and hundreds of teenage boys, what girl wouldn't be excited to go?

I looked for any possible way out of going, but I'd promised to take them, so I was stuck. The packing adventure began.

The weatherman said it was going to pour, so into the car went the extra tarps, rope & poles. Camp staff said the water might not be potable, so into the car went jug upon jug of water. There were some personality conflicts before camp ("I HATE you!!!" "I HATE you MORE!!") so into the car went an extra 2-man tent. My girl with a blood sugar disorder was coming to camp, so into the car went an extra box of fruit leathers. My girls with life-threatening anaphylactic allergies were coming to camp, so into the car went extra epi-pens. Pam was coming, and Pam's a Princess, so into the car went the biggest bloody camp cot the world has ever seen. Insert a few choice words of frustration, a cup of tea and we were ready to carve out enough room for the driver and passenger. We were away!

Heather, my very young and crazy friend (also known as un-Bridesmaid # 3) was my passenger. She was also looking forward to camp, but was starting to worry that she might be too old (she's 19) to find herself any hot guys that weekend. That brought be back to the last year I went to Skeeter before I became a Leader. I was also 19 and I was walking around camp the first night with a couple of girlfriends, checking things (and guys, of course) out. A guy came up to us and started chatting us up. He talked a bit with my two friends then seemed to zero-in on me. We only chatted a bit (I thought he was kinda weird) then he asked me how old I was. I said I was nineteen and he screamed "EeeeeeWwwwwww! you're OLD" and literally ran away. I warned Heather she might be hanging out with Me and the 'Old People' tonight.

Heather and I, despite not having ferry reservations on a long weekend, got right onto the ferry and made it to camp before lunch. Camp Caillet- the home of Skeeter, is just outside Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. We registered our group, caught up with Staff members and Scouters we knew, then both feeling like She-Ra Princess of Power, we hauled all the group gear to the spot we always camp in. We've been camping in the same spot for about 5 years now; right in between the field, the jello wrestling pit and the dance area. It is undeniably the loudest place at camp, so we always fit right in.

Having nothing better to do (you know, because we're so OLD) we decided to put up our tent, tarp it, set up the kitchen area and shelter, tarp a 'living room' for the girls and flag off an area for the girls' tent. When the girls got there several hours later, like the mean Leader I am, I made them set up their tent and tarp it right away. Good thing too, because as soon as we were in bed that night, it POURED.

The rain was torrential. I usually sleep through anything. I sleep through blizzards and lightning storms. I sleep through dances and armed raccoon reconnaissance missions. But I woke up when these rains came and wondered if the Yanks were bombing the local army base. It was that bad. But then of course I fell back asleep, and come morning it was beautiful and sunny, and we were all bone dry (thanks to me being a 'mean Leader').

The girls had a great time all weekend doing everything from playing cards and volleyball to jello wrestling each other and sucking face with random pimply-faced scouts. I fed them and all their many male groupies who learn really quickly that if they want to hang around they're welcome so long as they are respectful to the girls and to the Guiders.

A few years back, while going over the rules for co-ed camps, one of the kids was giving me some lip. The rule was "Buddy System at all times" and the boy asked if he counted as a buddy. I replied that the buddy needed to be a girl. He asked if he could be a buddy if he wore a wig. I said "No, you have a penis; you can't be a buddy". This prompted the eventual reworking of the 'Official Co-ed Camp Rules' featured below, for your enjoyment.

1) Buddy System at all times.
2) Your Buddy cannot have a penis.
3) Check-in at meals, after the dance, and before curfew.
4) Miss curfew and you win an exciting evening with the 'Old People'
5) No drugs or alcohol period.
6) No touchy touchy below the eyebrows. (AKA: hands where I can see 'em)
7) No visiting in tents.

As a funny little aside, several girls from various Scout groups (and even a couple of staff) came to camp this year with strollers wielding 3 month old babies... you do the math.

I also had a great weekend. I got to catch up with all the guys that I grew up with- my 'Landsville' boys (they were all from Landzville). I met these guys at my very first co-ed when I was 14 (they appeared out of a bush while I was cooking pancakes) and we've been buddies ever since. Some of them are still on the island, some of them are married, and a couple even have kids. It was great meeting wives/kids and reliving the past. I told them all that I was in fact engaged and soon to be married and they were very happy and very surprised! I think it was Steve who said it best: "Dizzy's finally settling down!". Watch out Sean! I'm apparently a handful!

Apart from that, I helped the girls get de-jello-ed, and visited with various Scouters I've become acquainted with. I'm always happy to see Scouter Gary around- a genuinely friendly man always there to help when something goes sideways. My pride usually prevents me from seeking help, but two years ago at Rovent it was -30 below and I couldn't get the white gas stove to light. Propane doesn't work past -20ish but white gas does, but not that day. I was just about ready to cry when Gary came by and we sent all the kids away and proceeded to set the stove on fire (that's right, the torched the sucker) to get the assembly warm enough that it would vaporize the liquid fuel. This was also Gary's last year as a Scouter (so he says) since his eldest son Colin was in a car accident at Christmas and is now a paraplegic. (More about Colin in another post)

At the end of camp, we all pitched in and had everything packed up in 1 hr- a new record. The girls were really fantastic this camp, and it's good to see them friends with some good Scouts- the same ones year after year. I've come to call them 'my boys' and they know they can come our way for second breakfasts and dessert.

Oooh dessert. I should mention I baked my world famous camp cakes (in the dutch oven) and Meghan came by Sunday night with ice cream. I can't think of a better way to end a camp.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wet & Whiny Weekend

This weekend I'll be taking my group of teen-aged Girl Guides to a big co-ed camp (400+ people) on the island. I've been going to this camp for more than 10 years now, and so while I certainly have better things to do, I'm also looking forward to it, if only for old-times sake.

I'll be going with one of my best friends; Pam, and the girls that are coming are pretty good ones. I've spent the morning packing up all the group gear (I own most of it), and I'm pretty sure we'll 'be prepared'. I love my 'Camping Cupboard'. It's full of all my most used camping stuff; all I have to do is haul it out and cram it all together. I have a good reputation for being ridiculously prepared (while still packing fairly light), and I find it sort of funny that my outdoor recreation is the only sphere of my life that I'm ever able to organize.

Sean has his own plans this weekend, and I'm going to miss him. We don't spend a lot of time away from each other, so it's always a surprise to wake up and remember he won't be there. :(

Well, wish me luck! We'll (both) be back Monday!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Recipe for a Bad Day

1) Wake up on the wrong side of the bed, ready to greet the world with your grouchy badness.
2) Wash your hair a second time by accident instead of using conditioner to ensure you have a bad hair day.
3) Add Soy milk, protein powder, strawberries and flax meal and mix well in blender until it explodes all over your kitchen.
4) Leave for work hungry and pissed off.
5) Turn around and go home to get your tea (because if you don't have that little bit of caffeine you'll disembowel your first customer).
6) Run out of gas coasting into the parking lot.
7) Be late for work.
8) Realise you have a great big stain on the front of your blouse.
9) Leave your lunch sitting in the sun in your car until it will probably give you botchulism.
10) Eat it anyway because you already missed breakfast.

Strangely enough, I feel much better now!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Max's Mid-life Crisis

With the new addition to our family (Leo), our 3-year old cat Max is feeling the pressure to appear fun and youthful. Instead, he just looks really silly (but gets extra hugs for trying).

Max has never been a very adventurous cat. He is afraid of the vacuum, garbage bags, loud noises, forced air (breezes, fan, hairdryer, etc.), small spaces, the elevator, people with hats and in general, anything unexpected. He often enjoys forays out into 'the wild' (ie. the hallway) but boots it back to the apartment if anyone sees him or makes noises. Recently, he'd developed an irrational fear of his scratching post/penthouse and would not go anywhere near it.

Max, to put it nicely, is also not a very small cat. In fact, he is gigantic. He probably weighs a good 18lbs and he's tall enough to stand on his hind legs with his front paws on the counter. When he wants to be held, I have to sling his front half over my shoulder and cradle his bottom half with both arms.

The arrival of Leo has turned poor Max's life upside-down. He now has competition for our attention, and has concluded that to be 'top-cat' he needs to be a kitten. In the last 2 weeks I've witnessed the following completely out of character 'Max-moments':

1) He's re-asserted his ownership of his kitty-penthouse and sleeps there most afternoons.
2) He's crammed his giant cat body into a tiny play box with only one hole.
3) He's learned to climb things by chasing Leo up the rolled up carpet.
4) He's spent 10 minutes trying to squish himself underneath the sofa because he sees Leo do it. (NB. He made it halfway but then got stuck and almost couldn't drag himself out)

It's actually a wonderful change we've seen in Max; he's really starting to mellow. Leo on the other hand...

BOB points: 8

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Just Like Me.

Today, I had a little girl tell me she wanted to be just like me.

I wasn't quite sure why, but upon further contemplation, I think it must have been for two very important reasons:

1) I can see over the counter without a stool.
2) I have the power to stamp the hands of children (and sometimes adults) who've behaved in the library.

She's headed for big things.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Burn the Books!!!

It never ceases to amaze me how sentimental people get about their books. I’ve been reminded of this these past few days as patrons have been dropping off donations for our upcoming booksale.

Because of the volume of donations that have been arriving, I’ve been tasked with checking the donations before we accept them. Why me? Well, as Sharie my co-worker said; “You’re a hard-ass, you’ll tell them where to go! We’re (indicating she and Nancy) just too nice.”

You don’t even want to know what I’ve been finding in these boxes. As an example of the book-y-badness, last year I got to the bottom of a particularly nasty box of old books to find a collection of old used Kleenex and a bedpan. Lovely. I also had an older couple come in with a heavy medium sized box. They set it down on the counter explaining they were done with the books and left before I could check the box. I opened it to find a massive collection of sex books from the 1970’s to present. Of course, we had to thoroughly examine them before deciding what to do with them. ;) In case you were wondering, body hair was definitely ‘in’ in the ‘70’s.

For the most part, people just come in with boxes upon boxes of really old books they’ve cleaned out of their basements. They pack up these boxes and think (cue thought bubble) “What should I do with these wonderful books I’ve known and loved these past 20 years?” Then it hits them: “The Library! The library has books!” and they bring them to us. They come through our front door and proudly proclaim “I’ve brought you some donations!” and they smile (they’re so please with themselves). Not only have they managed to clean out their garage, but they’ve found a new home for their beloved books. Because you can’t just throw out a book! Bad people throw out books! Fascists, Communists and Nazis throw out books!! No, no, you just can’t throw out a book.

I meet them at the counter (hard-ass in tow) and sweetly thank them for their consideration, but explain that we need to take a look at the offerings before we accept them. “Oh.” they say, taken aback. “Well they’re all really good books.”. I explain that we can only accept items that are in very good condition and fairly recently printed. They start to shift their feet. “There’s some beautiful encyclopedias in there- I’m sure someone would want them! My little Susie used them all the time when she was a kid. She’s a Doctor now!”

And so I pour over the boxes, and make two very big piles. Actually, I should say I make two piles and one is very big. That would be the pile full of encyclopedias, 10 year old textbooks, tech support manuals from 1996, coffee table books commemorating the marriage of Prince Charles to Princess Diana and ratty old tomes so faded they have a better tan than I do.

They gaze upon this paper tower of piza and I brake the news that we cannot take these items. The arguing ensues. "But this Atlas is still good! It's topographical- AND colour coded!" "Unfortunately," I reply "it contains a few pages we just can't use- namely the ones with the U.S.S.R, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia to name a few." They continue "But the National Geographics are still good- look at all the pictures!" I have to let them down by saying that we just don't have alot of call for magazines older than our Librarians.

I let them argue. I counter their arguments. If they still object to my objections I give them one final option...

"Well," I say "I can clearly see you want to get rid of these quite badly. Tell you what; I'll throw 'em out for you."

"*gasp* Throw them OUT? You mean, like, in the... GARBAGE?!"

"Actually, I can probably put most of these in our recycling bin."

Red-faced and eyes brimming with tears they quietly pack up their musty, dingy, crappy old books and continue on their quest to find them a new home. Godspeed.