Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sunny Days

This week has been crazy!  Among the usual busyness, I had to go back to my plastic surgeon this week because the keloids I had removed in May have returned.  I really thought the radiation treatments were helping, but I ended up back in my doctor's office on Tuesday.  I got 10 steroid injections in one ear and 1 in the other.  The shots definitely made for a rough day and a difficult time sleeping Tuesday night.  I have to go back next week to get fitted for a pair of compression clips to inhibit keloid growth. 

I visited the library this week and checked out some new summer reading material and (don't make fun of me!) found "Gossip Girl:  Season 4" on DVD!  It's my favorite TV show and I haven't been able to find the fourth season for a decent price anywhere, so I checked it out and have been watching it every free moment I get. 

I found a short teen book called Would You and checked it out because I liked the description on the back.  The book turned out to be exactly what I needed at the moment.  The book chronicles the main character's (Natalie) feelings and struggles after her sister (Claire) is hit by a car and is in the hospital in a coma.  The way the author describes Natalie's journey in and out of the hospital and the way she tries to continue to live a normal life even though her world is falling apart is so real to me.  I honestly think it's helped me understand and process some of the things I went through with my own father six years ago and in 2011.  He was in a serious accident six years ago that resulted in a broken neck, a broken back, and traumatic head injury, and a coma.  Last year, he developed epilepsy as a result of his accident and re-broke his back.  He ended up back in the hospital and a rehabilitation center for almost a month.  Would You may be written for teens, but I couldn't have written a more realistic account of what it's like to go through illness/injury with a loved one.  I think I'll probably read it over again once I'm finished.

This week marks the second week of Recess and it has been a hot week.  Today, the temperature was in the 100s, so we kept the kids inside the church most of the day.  My heart is breaking for several of the kids in my group.  It's so clear that they come from broken homes where they are missing out on so much and I wish I could do more for them.  There is one boy in particular in my group that I'm struggling to reach.  He doesn't respond well to adults, yet so obviously needs the respect of an adult in his life.  My new goal for the summer is to somehow get through to him and let him know that he is special and loved by God. 

Today was a long day, but a good day.  After dismissing my Recess kids, the staff members ate ice cream together at the church and we talked about our day at camp.  Meredith and I took one of our volunteers home and then I helped her prep for Recess tomorrow and we enjoyed good conversation over dinner.  Tomorrow is supposed to be another hot day.  I hear there are going to be lots of water games!

Monday, June 25, 2012

For the Love of Summer

The second week of being a camp counselor has begun!  Camp has definitely had it's ups and downs already.  It's sad to know that some of these kids come from difficult backgrounds and there is only so much we can do for them, but showing them God's love is a great first step!

Today was one of the more rough days I've had with the kids.  Today seemed to be filled with me constantly trying to talk over the kids, telling them twenty times to stop throwing rocks during group time, and reminding them that I don't deal with "girl drama."  Oh, the girl drama.  Sometimes I feel like I hear "she's talking about me" and "she doesn't want to be my friend" about one hundred times a day!  So our number one rule right now in the White Tigers (my group name for my lively bunch of second graders) is no girl drama!  (Unfortunately, the two boys I have in my group get to hear this over and over every day!)

Even after being a counselor at Recess last summer, I forgot how exhausting it can be.  Today was probably the coolest day we've had at camp so far, yet the kids still reminded me all day how hot they all were.  I didn't have the heart to tell them that it's supposed to be 104 degrees later this week!

While playing games today, I realized my kids must not learn about geography in school after they explained they had been out of the United States by going to Washington DC, California, and Tennessee.  At least one of my girls said that she had been to Mexico -- I guess I'm bringing a map to utilize during game time from now on!

I love working as a Recess counselor and being able to make an impact in these kids' lives every day for Jesus.  Now to figure out how we're going to keep from melting later this week with the outrageous heat index...!?

Aside from being at camp everyday, I am REALLY enjoying my free evenings!  During the school year, I never had the opportunity to leisurely read or work on art projects between coming up with decent poetry/fiction pieces and writing extensive papers on the religious implications of Moby Dick.  But I have been visiting the library weekly, checking out cheesy teen novels and reading like crazy and throwing together fun art pieces at my overloaded art desk.  I've also been thinking about what to include on my syllabus for my college composition class I'm teaching in the fall -- oh, and working on my personally designed wedding programs and other wedding related items!

I am LOVING this summer!  I get to hang out with kiddos and do what I do best -- read, write, create art!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Waiting for October

So amongst working, going to school full-time, and spending my summer as a camp counselor, I am planning a wedding!  I feel like Justin and I have been trying to get to this point for a long time.  Despite talking about marriage early on in our relationship, we were together for three years before we got engaged.  We met my sophomore year of college at a Bible study and I tell him to this day that I knew he was the one the moment I laid eyes on him.  I knew he was the one God had set aside just for me.

I will always cherish the college years that Justin and I spent together.  Our journey has been filled with so much!  Together, I think we have changed our majors six times -- Justin finally decided on psychology and I switched from pre-med to English literature and creative writing after three years.  We spent many nights walking the IU South Bend campus, laughing and sitting by the fountain on campus and talking about our lives and getting to know one another.  We've journeyed through illness together as Justin had five surgeries at the same time my junior year of college.  We've truly learned what it means to love and I thank God everyday for what we have.

So here we are -- we've been engaged for 10 months and our wedding is now 4 months away.  When we got engaged last August, I thought our wedding seemed like it was a long way off, and now it's almost here.  When I look at Justin and when I think about how long we've waited for our wedding day, I can't help but get those same butterflies in my stomach that I got when I first saw him at that Bible study four years ago.  I am so proud to call him my fiance and my soon-to-be husband. 

My dad was very sick toward the end of last year and the beginning of this year, and I never would have made it through without Justin.  He stepped up beyond my expectations and drove me the two hours to the hospital almost everyday.  He would stay up late into the night, laughing with me and my brothers until we forgot everything that was going on around us and get up early the next morning to go to school and work.  I have never seen someone have such love.  I am so grateful for everything he has been for my family this year. 

So as our wedding day approaches, I'm trying to focus less on all of the stressful planning and more on what this means for Justin and I.  He is the love of my life and it seems like we have waited so long for this!  I can't wait until the moment I become Justin's wife and we can spend the rest of our lives together as Mr. and Mrs. Samson. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Always Learning, Always Growing

We just finished our third day of Recess!  So far I haven't had to send any of my kids to the Apple Room (for bad behavior), but I'm pretty sure I've set a record for the most injury reports in one day.  My kids were having one of those accident prone kind of days -- many of them ended up injuring themselves from the sharp corners of the benches at the lunch tent.  My kids managed to get attacked by the lunch benches, get injured fingers from wet sponges, get dirt in their eyes from playing "water ball," and fall on the slippery floor of The Pit (the youth building).  Yep, I'd say this is definitely shaping up to be a typical summer at Recess!  Only my kids could manage to pull this off.  Luckily, summer camp is all about getting dirty and messy!  (And my group definitely took this to heart today during "science" time -- we played with food coloring and shaving cream and then they decided to start throwing it at each other!)

I am having a blast so far with my group and with my fellow staff members.  It's great to see everyone interacting with the kids and even better to hear the kids say that they can't wait to come back the next day.  My group even made it a point today to tell me how much they enjoyed the food they were served for lunch.  What!!!???  That is definitely not something we would have heard from them last summer as they picked at their week-old cafeteria food.  Praise God for some amazing changes and improvements this summer!

My wonderful group of kids on their first day of Recess during lunchtime.  Photo courtesy of Living Stones Church.

As was the case last summer, I am continuing to grow everyday along with these kids.  My patience is constantly tested and I'm always being forced to think and act in creative ways in order to keep my group engaged and constantly learning.  So far this week, I've had to completely hose down a kid that fell in a mud puddle, duct tape a trash bag over a cast during pool time, learn several different schedules, memorize a ton of new names, and always stay enthusiastic and joyful even when it's incredibly hot and I'm feeling tired and lethargic. 

After Recess today, I enjoyed some cool-down time with Justin, Josh (Recess counselor), and Meredith (Recess director).  I love the fellowship that comes along with being a part of Recess and the awesome relationships that form.  God is truly at work at our camp!

As a side note, I went to IU South Bend yesterday for a brief orientation about my new position in the fall and chose my textbooks for my composition class I will be teaching!  I can't wait to start teaching at the college level in the fall. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sun Tans & Hot Days

What a busy weekend/beginning to the week!  Last Friday, Justin and I spent the day in the hot sun training for Recess and then he had to go to work at his other job afterward.  When he got off at 11pm, he picked me up and we headed to Toledo, Ohio, to visit his family for his mom's birthday and Father's Day.  We didn't get to Toledo until 2am -- not a good start to a busy weekend!

Saturday was filled with baseball games, lounging in the pool, playing volleyball, eating awesome food, and enjoying good company.  Unfortunately, Justin had to be back to play worship at church early on Sunday morning, so we were on the road again Saturday night.  We kept each other awake the whole time with good conversation and some lovely caffeinated drinks.

Sunday was a day spent almost entirely at church.  Justin played drums during worship for all three services and we both went on stage at one point during each service so the church elders could pray for us since Recess started on Monday!  It felt great to have so many people praying for us and the kids and for an amazing summer!  In between services, I managed to handout programs and help my friend, Meredith (also the Recess director), print off coloring sheets, dot-to-dots, and word searches for camp.

We also inspected one of the tents we had set up for Recess the previous Friday -- it had blown over in a storm and all but one of the poles were bent.  Recess is always a challenge!  After helping with some last minute camp preparation, Justin and I enjoyed a nice lunch with our friends, Meredith and Jennae.

And today was the first day of Recess!  I must say, this year was much better than last.  Last year after the first day, I went home and cried to my roommate and told Justin I couldn't spend my whole summer like that.  Needless to say, I ended up going back to Recess and it got better everyday.  I started to get to know the kids and they stopped testing their boundaries (as much).

My group of kids were so awesome today.  I have mostly second graders and today we had seven girls and two boys!  They were all full of energy and enjoyed all of the activities.  One of the girls even asked if she could stay at camp all day.  While pick-up time was slightly chaotic, most of the kids told me they couldn't wait to come back tomorrow.  All in all, it was an amazing day and an awesome start to the summer.

Now if I can only get past the heat!  It was 91 degrees today and it's only supposed to be worse tomorrow!  Fortunately, I heard rumors that the sprinklers are coming out tomorrow.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Summer at Camp

The past couple days have been spent preparing for Recess at my church!  This is my second year as a counselor for the Recess summer day camp program and I'm so excited to be a part of it.  Yesterday was an overview of what to expect at Recess for all staff members and volunteers and today was set aside as training for the staff members.  We worked together to assemble tents and set up tables and benches and I definitely found myself wondering how I managed to survive the heat last summer!

It was a HOT morning!

I enjoyed getting to know our two new counselors who attended the training this morning and hearing what changes were made for the program this year.  (Luckily, we will be making our own food this year!  No more slimy cafeteria food!)  I'm so glad my fiance is a part of Recess this summer as a staff member -- he will have a blast with the kids and see what an impact they can have on us as counselors.

Last summer was truly a life-changing experience for me.  The kids were a blast to get to know and spend time with and the staff members all became as close as a family.  God was truly at work with the Recess program in 2011 and I can't wait to see what He has in store this year!

This year I'm the counselor for the 1st and 2nd grade kids!  Recess starts at 10:00 on Monday and goes for eight weeks.

It's going to be a long, hot summer requiring lots of patience and perseverance, but it's so worth it.

Some Recess 2011 staff enjoying an evening at the beach after a long day at camp.  Jennae, me, Meredith (Recess director), and Michael (one of the counselor's kids).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Freedom of Summer

Since I've had some time off from school, I've been working on art projects like crazy!  I've had many people tell me that creating art is too expensive, but I've definitely got some tips for getting in touch with your creative side on a small budget.

When I'm in the creative mood, I often take trips to Goodwill and Dollar Tree.  Art can be made out of anything and I can often be found scouring all of the Goodwill stores around Michiana for anything that can be used in my collage art sketchbooks or elsewhere.  I recently picked up some old records from Goodwill for 25 cents a piece, threw a little paint on them, and made a fun/retro wall piece.

Just a little acrylic paint, art sponges, yarn, and super glue.
Dollar Tree is a host of wonderful art project ideas.  I just picked up some multi-colored foam picture frames, alphabet stickers, colored cardstock sheets, and pre-cut pieces of wood -- and each thing is only a dollar.  It might look kind of kid-ish, but I took a few different colored foam frames and taped some of my favorite photographs to them.  I finished them off with some fun stickers and some stick-on magnets I bought at Walmart for 97 cents.  They look cute on my fridge!

I'm getting very excited about my upcoming wedding and Justin and I beginning our lives together.  I decided to make a little sign for our new apartment we are moving to in October.  I bought a pre-cut wood piece and alphabet stickers from Dollar Tree and some ribbon from Walmart combined with my collection of acrylic paints.  Can't wait to hang it on our door!

Soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Samson.
I also had the chance to work on some photography this week when my brother came to visit.  Justin and I took Tyler fishing at River Walk and I got a good photography session in.  It was an absolutely beautiful day outside -- a great day to spend with my brother and fiance and work on my photography skills with my Canon Rebel.

Capturing the river rocks in my lenses.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Growing Up

As I mentioned before, up until now I spent my Mondays and Wednesdays as a nanny for my friends, Joe and Tonya.  Yesterday was my last day with Caileigh, Channon, and Colette (I occasionally watched their school-aged brother, Connor) since RECESS is just around the corner.  Tonya came home from work yesterday and took the girls and I for ice cream (and truffles!) at the Chocolate Cafe downtown.  It was a fun outing and I enjoyed catching up with Tonya and watching the girls play.  I am going to miss them!  Luckily, Miss Caileigh is the flower girl for our wedding, so I know we will be going dress shopping very soon for her!

I get to spend the next couple days with a little boy that I love very much.  And when I say little, I mean my fifteen-year-old, high school sophomore little brother, Tyler.  He is eleven years younger than my older brother, Brandon, and eight years younger than me.  Even though he has grown up into a great young man that I am extremely proud of, I will always picture him as that squirmy newborn that I gave a bath to in the hospital nursery, counting all his fingers and toes to make sure there were ten of each.  He was and always will be my best friend.  I gave my parents a hard time when they said they were expecting another baby because I had been the "baby" of the family for so long (and the only girl).  My mind completely changed once I saw Tyler for the first time and he's captured my heart everyday since.  Siblings are an amazing thing -- they are truly a piece of home that never leaves you.

Me with my two brothers on Brandon's 24th birthday (two years ago).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Fresh Start to Summer

I'm so happy summer is here!  During the spring semester, I worked Mondays and Wednesdays as a nanny for three awesome little girls and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I worked as a graduate research assistant in the Masters of Social Work Program at IUSB.  As a research assistant, I spent the majority of the semester at Family & Children's Center working on "data redaction" for a research project the Social Work Program was starting.  Basically, I went through client files and removed every bit of identifying information so that it could be used for research purposes and not violate privacy laws.

Now I'm about to start my second summer as a counselor for RECESS, a summer day camp offered through my church to the children of Miami Hills Apartments, a local subsidized complex characterized by great poverty.  Last summer I was the camp counselor for the pre-kindergarten kids and I had a group of mostly rough, adventure-loving boys!  It wasn't always easy, but teaching these children about the love of Jesus everyday was the best possible way I could have spent my summer.  I can't wait to get back out there again this summer and I have a feeling they'll end up impacting me just as much as I'm impacting them.

One thing I'm so excited to have out of the way in time for summer is surgery!  At the beginning of May, I had a surgery to remove keloids from both of my ears.  A keloid is kind of a "super scar" or rather an overwhelming scar tissue reaction at an injury site.  People with dark skin (I have a Mediterranean background) are prone to them and I happen to get them very easily.  Six years ago, I had my ears double pierced and small keloids formed on the backs of both of my ears.  A plastic surgeon removed them, but the tricky part with keloids is that they have a 50% chance of growing back if no other treatment method is used.  I ended up having steroid injections, but the keloids grew back three times larger than the first time.

I went back to my plastic surgeon who suggested I undergo radiation therapy, the same thing used to treat cancer.  So I went to the cancer center for a week prior to surgery to have me fitted for various items to be used during my radiation treatments and then had the surgery.

My right ear before surgery.
My right ear after.

Right after the surgery, I went to the cancer center to begin radiation and went everyday after that for a week.  On my last day of radiation, Justin surprised me with beautiful pink tulips, my favorite flower, right in the radiation room.  I was smiling from ear to ear.  Since the stitches have been out, I've been wearing "compression clips" on my ears (they look like really unfashionable earrings) because pressure has been shown to keep keloids from coming back.  Radiation has a 70-80% success rate on keeping keloids from coming back, and so far I'm keloid-free!  I'm praying that it stays that way!

Like I said, I'm so glad summer is here and I can enjoy a fresh start with summer camp and a summer away from school!  (This is the first time I haven't taken summer school in two years!)  I've been enjoying trips to the library, days set aside to just write and work on art projects, and spending time with my fiance!  God is good!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bringing it All Together

As a writer, I've always been told to practice writing wherever and whenever possible, blogging included.  I journal daily, jot poetry notes in my notebook with little multi-colored typewriters on the front, write tiny fiction pieces, but I've never blogged.  So here I am.

What is this blog about, you may ask?  I'm not sure.  My life, I suppose.  It's an opportunity for me to share what's going on in my brain and to practice my trade.  Sounds good to me.

About a week ago, I finished a memoir that I have been working on for the past two years.  (Not consecutively...I would work on it like crazy for two months and then not look at it for the next six).  But it's finally completed.  Almost six years ago (my senior year of high school), my father was involved in an accident that nearly took his life and the memoir recalls how our family dealt with the circumstances, how we watched my father come out of a coma and undergo rehabilitation, and how God ultimately healed him.  I'm giving the finished piece to my dad for Father's Day next Sunday.

The finished product!

Since my first year of graduate school ended in May (and I'm not taking summer classes, yay!) I've had more time to work on things that I love and enjoy.  (I definitely needed some peace after working full-time and working on my masters full-time during the spring semester).  Firstly, Justin and I are getting married in four months!!!  This means wedding plans are underway and it's starting to get down to the wire.  In the past couple weeks, Justin and I have gotten our invitations printed, labeled, and ready to be mailed out in August!  And did I mention I have my dress!?  I can't wait for October to get here.  I feel like we've waited forever for this and it's finally time to start our lives together as Mr. and Mrs. Samson.

But when August comes around, things are going to get busy.  I'm starting my new job in the fall teaching English composition at IU South Bend!  I can't wait!  Plus, I will be starting my second year of graduate school full-time and will be finishing up wedding plans and eventually going on my honeymoon.  It's going to be busy, but I'm loving it!  Wouldn't have it any other way.