Tuesday, July 11, 2006

WE GOTTA GET OUTTA THIS PLACE...if it's the last thing we ever do

Done and done!! Find me here: http://wordgirl5.typepad.com/half_of_the_sky/

Monday, July 10, 2006

Some thoughts about camp...and also about knowing who you are

"Self Knowledge Brings Happiness"

Years ago I remember reading in People magazine about celebrities who were helping to run a pediatric AIDS program in memory of the late Elizabeth Glaser. One day each year Hollywood devoted a day to fun and games where sick kids were allowed to get their faces painted by Madonna or kids played dodgeball with Kevin Bacon. All in all...a good thing.

But it bugged me that the photos all featured famous people wearing baseball hats printed with the word "Hero" on it while the kid with AIDS went without. I mean...isn't that a little strange that the concept of heroism was, at the time, only applied to the rich moviestar who donated a few hours for photo ops...and not to the kid whose life had been severely compromised by a disease??

Someone must have tipped them off that the thing with the hats was in the poorest of taste because I haven't seen anyone wearing them lately. But the whole thing made me think about last week at cancer camp. It would be the understatement of the year to say that I've learned a lot about cancer in the last few years. I've also learned a lot about myself and it's not all good news.

More than once this week I've had to ask myself just whan in HELL I was doing there with kids who need a sensitive and warm/fuzzy person to teach them art/crafts. Who do I think I am? Granted, Mr. Half and I give a lot of our time to "causes", but we're no "do-gooders" and despite the way I vote, I can be as intolerant as anyone else. It took me years of folks hammering at me before I came aboard to be associated with this camp, and when I did it was only to fill the space as Arts & Crafts teacher. I had no desire then--or now--to be glued 24-7 to a cabin of kids. And I think I've done a good job. When I devise an activity or order the materials for it, I approach it like an artist, but once I'm with the kids I approach it like a teacher. I can honestly say that I've raised the bar in making the A&C program better than it's ever been. No more paper plates glued together with pinto beans inside to make a giant tambourine. B-O-R-I-N-G! That said, I must also admit that my methods don't completely take into account the many different kinds of kids who pass through the art building. That became obvious to me in the past few days and I'm not entirely happy about it.

In conversations with my middle sister where we're asked to categorize ourselves as being "justice-oriented" or "mercy-oriented" people, we've both had to admit that we both fall in with the former group. That's not to say that I don't get a lump in my throat when I see little bald kids slumped over in their wheelchairs. What it means is that I question how much a camper with asthma, leukemia, rampant excema and Down's Syndrome is going to get out of an hour in my class. Can I really count it as therapeutic or is it just babysitting? If it's just babysitting, then why am I there?

And because I question whether or not that kid is getting anything out of it, I wonder if my goals are being met. That leads me to ask myself if my personal goals are getting in the way of a "child-focused program"...which is something we're supposed to be. Being "justice-oriented" means that, cancer or not, I still get hacked off when kids waste materials or ask to be granted special favors. I sometimes can't tell the difference between a kid whose brain has been scrambled by umpteen rounds of chemo and a kid who would be a total ass even if he/she had never been compromised by something like cancer.

We, none of us, are heroes. The volunteers who show up summer after summer and toil equally hard at the helm of the camp's board are just trying to make a good thing out of a bad situation. We're teachers and firefighters and radio dj's and restaurant owners. Everyone of us has our limits. But I don't see the limits of others as well as I see my own. I can't decide if I'm supposed to constantly keep in mind the idea that these campers are cancer patients, or if I'm supposed to immerse them in an attitude of "normal" and treat them the way I should treat anyone else. One scenario demands that I have no expectations and the other requires me to have many. I think the answer is in the gray area and that's a place I have a hard time staying in...let alone locating.

So the whole "self-knowledge" thing is, according to the Chinese saying, supposed to bring happiness. For me, it often brings more self-doubt. The more I go to camp, the more I learn about others as well as myself. So when people ask me how camp went this summer, I have to pause. I think it went okay, but I can't tell if I'm supposed to use my own experiences as the template for a good time. Or if I'm supposed to remember the smile on the face of the kid clutching a shapeless, fist-sized sculpture made from four bar$(!!) of Sculpey polymer clay after I said to only use a tiny bit. You tell me.

Laundry Day...and then some

We're back. All of us. The youngest boy is back from scout camp. The two older ones have returned from five weeks of staffing (and living outdoors) at scout camp plus one week of intensive Aquatic School training (also outdoors) which qualifies them to be lifeguards as well as instructors. And I have returned from cancer camp. (More on that later) All of us have been living in the same house for over 24 hours. The last time this happened it was May 25th.

And now...the laundry. I'm tempted to simply aim a flamethrower in the general direction of the older boys' trunks which contained an astonishing tangle of sheets and blankets which had not been washed in six weeks. Awesome!! And the damp towels! And crusty, crusty socks! (oh...the humanity!!) The washer has been going non-stop since early this morning and we're still not finished.

On top of that, that house has been (*cought*) a tad neglected in my absence. What with work and keeping up with the youngest (non-driving) son and also helping him with his pet-sitting job that involved twice-per-day visits to feed and attend two dogs and four cats...well...let's just say that the beautiful bouquet of yellow roses on the kitchen table didn't completely disguise the devastation that was so obvious throughout the rest of our abode. After passing out in front of the humidifier (to relieve the headache brought on by a sinus infection), I feel more like a human being and am tackling the cobwebs and dust while Mr. Half is making like Edward Scissorhands in the front yard.

We...all of us...feel as though we'd spent some time on another planet (I've lost a few heat shields upon re-entry) and we're trying to adjust to living together. So far...so good. The week ahead promises not to be too busy and Wednesday night Mr. Half and I will drive to Dallas to see Steely Dan in concert. I can't wait for that and I can't wait to check in with everyone and see what's up. I've missed you guys!!


Dear Blogger,

Your days are numbered here at Faber --er--Half House. I spit on you and your outages! I'm enraged at the idea that a free service translates into occasional loss of text and every attempt to fix your Stone Age technology wipes out my entire blogroll. This very evening, I plan to make the switch to Typepad. I know we've both seen this coming. The horrible snafus. The horrendous templates which cause me to rely on constant background color changes which cause some readers to suffer temporary blindness (sorry, Nilbo) or question the possiblity that I suffer from multiple personality disorder. Like the Godfather says, "It's not personal...it's just business". Well...maybe it's personal, too. I break with thee now and forever.


Sunday, July 09, 2006


What's going on