Confessions of a Mostly Open Book

I’m not a huge fan of having secrets. I actually enjoy disclosing information about my life. Possibly to a fault. I am an open book—blog, rather. To clarify, that doesn’t mean I don’t keep secrets others confide in me. I keep cats in bag and ships unsunk like nobody’s business. Most of the secrets I have, I keep to protect other people. That being said, I’ve come up with a list of a few I can share without embarrassing anyone but myself. And possibly my family.

I wear men’s deodorant. If anyone has walked the hallways at school and questioned the source of the distant fragrance “Old Spice FRESH: High Endurance,” that would probably be me. It works so much better than most of the women’s brands I’ve tried. At least my confession wasn’t that I didn’t wear deodorant.

Sometimes I put a bunch of undergarments on the blades of my fan and watch them fly off when I flip the switch. Have I confessed that I alleviate boredom in strange ways yet? Because I do.

I know every word to “White and Nerdy.” I’m actually pretty proud of that. But I’m confessing it anyway so more people can know.

I often go 1-2 weeks without shaving my legs. Screw social conventions, man. As long as I can’t see the hairs flowing in the wind, I don’t mind. If you’ve seen me walking around in 102 degree heat with a pair of jeans glued to my body with perspiration, now you know why.

I played with toys until 6th grade. I had a special corner in my room dedicated to my tiny plastic figures and their dramatic lives. Toward the end of that stage in my childhood, I had a collection of monkey-shaped erasers that “lived” my own personal soap opera.

I filled out a mock “Teacher of the Month” slip for a teacher I strongly disliked. It basically praised the instructor for reminding me of my incompetence in front of my peers and really fostering that 1890 one room school house environment of public humiliation for academic shortcomings. I turned that slip in to the office, too. No regrets.

I’ve never been drunk or high. Part of that is due to the fact that I’m paranoid about how I would behave in any sort of altered state. The other part is my morals and all that jazz. But yes, contrary to the surprisingly popular belief, I have never smoked marijuana.

I’ve eaten more Craisins in the past two weeks than most do in their entire lives. What do you get when you overly process sugar and cranberries? Perfection. Beauty. The god above all dried fruit. In other, probably unrelated news, I’ve gained 3 pounds.

I could count on one hand the number of friends I had at any one time until I entered high school. That’s probably part of the reason I interacted so much with monkey-shaped erasers.

I would post more if other people cared less, but a blog post probably isn’t the best platform to disclose most of this sort of information, and I don’t have time to get permission from everybody.

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Barnabas on the Lake Review

With my trusty (but rather dilapidated) suitcase packed tightly with t-shirts unfit for the public eye and athletic shorts about  one inch short of the fingertip length requirement, I lumbered out of my parents’ car and joined my fellow youth groupers next to the faded, air-conditionless yellow school bus that would be our home for the next four-and-a-half hours. We were Camp Barnabas bound. Well, sort of.

Back story: Camp Barnabas is a Christian camp in Purdy, Missouri that offers the full church camp experience for people with disabilities. Each week-long term is geared toward a particular subset of disability–there’s a Down’s Syndrome week, a wheelchair week, etc. The term I attended was for adults with developmental delays. Each camper has his or her own teenage counselor, called a C.I.A. (Christian in Action), and each cabin has two or three college-aged staffers. Sometimes cabins with lower functioning campers have “floaters,” who are basically C.I.As without their own campers that double up to assist C.I.As with campers who need more attention than that which comes with the standard one-to-one ratio. Because of its unique mission, Barnabas’ waiting lists are longer than my early childhood Christmas wishlists–that means they’re very long. With its twentieth anniversary summer in full swing, Barnabas opened up a new location at Point 11, a Christian camp and retreat center near Shell Knob, Missouri. Its first term there was last week, and that’s where my group headed: Barnabas on the Lake.

From the moment they arrived, Barnabas veterans–myself included–looked around and realized Barnabas on the Lake was NOT Camp Barnabas in Purdy. Barnabas veterans–myself included–are very insightful about these things. Here is my review of Barnabas on the Lake.

Bathrooms: 2/10. If the toilet seat is down, don’t look. Do not look. No matter how badly you need to relieve yourself of the three glasses of orange juice you guzzled at breakfast, do not lift the lid. It’s not worth it. I believe there are colors so disgusting that even Crayola refused to include them in its 152-count box, and those colors can be found in the water underneath a closed toilet seat at Camp Barnabas on the Lake. Don’t look. You will never be able to eat again.

Smell in Cabins: 3/10. In my very conservative estimate, about eighty percent of all campers at Camp Barnabas or Barnabas on the Lake can’t quite hold their bladders through the night. Even though a great person called a “Cabin Mom” or a “Cabin Dad” washes sheets each morning, the stench of urine still lingers throughout the day. I think that if Extreme Home Makeover decides to come to Barnabas on the Lake like they did in 2007 at the original Camp Barnabas, bettering the ventilation of cabins should be a top priority.

Mattresses: 3/10.  Lying in bed, listening to bugs and the occasional camper yell into the night, one can’t help but think about the mattress beneath herself. Part of this has to do with the bed-wetting situation. Before Barnabas bought the camp, thousands of kids had already used the facilities. I know that camp mattresses are supposed to be gross and uncomfortable, and these met and perhaps exceeded those expectations, but the number of times the mattresses have been peed on and left out to dry in the sun amplifies the grossness and discomfort.

Modest is Hottest Policy: 4/10. I’m not going to get into my thoughts on the dress code, but I would agree that modest is definitely hottest from a temperature standpoint. To coin the phrasing of the popular Doge meme: Very Clothes. Much sun. Wow.

Smell in Dining Hall: 8/10. The food smelled amazing. Unfortunately, most of the main courses and desserts had some form of wheat in them so I didn’t get to indulge in much of the mainstream food because I’m allergic. It smelled really, really fabulous though. I’m sure it tasted good, too.

Salad: 9/10. So I’m allergic to wheat, and there is a special diet option that ensures the special dietary needs of campers, C.I.A.s and staffers alike are met. However, such an option has a $50 fee, which no one in my family wished to cough up, so I ended up eating a ton of salad. But, it was quality stuff. For example, they had a whole bowl full of Craisins at the salad bar every meal, and I wouldn’t say I ate an abnormal amount, but I got close to that point.

Lake Activities: 9/10. Barnabas on the Lake has pretty fantastic lake-related activities, as one would hope.

Pool Activities: 6/10. Let’s just say that Barnabas on the Lake compensates for its mediocre pool activities with its pretty fantastic lake activities.

Campers: 10/10. Everything at Barnabas on the Lake and Camp Barnabas at Purdy is about the campers, and rightly so. Barnabas gives kids with special needs the opportunity to be “normal” for a week, a chance just to be kids being kids. Many of them relish the opportunity, and their vibrant, joyful attitudes melt even the coldest of hearts. I’m not saying every camper is thrilled to be there, but I don’t think a camper has ever gone home without having fun at least once during their stay.

Staffers/C.I.As: 10/10. In part due to such a shocking number of other summer camps getting shut down in recent years because of sexual misconduct, Barnabas takes extra precaution when hiring staffers or selecting C.I.A.s, especially since its camper base is particularly vulnerable.  All Barnabas camps have a zero-tolerance policy when dealing with “the dark side of camp,” and multiple measures are in place to keep everyone safe. As a result, staffers and C.I.A.s at Barnabas are some of the most incredible and genuine people one could ever hope to meet. Each is purely and fully dedicated to making the campers’ stay as enjoyable as possible, and each is willing to sacrifice his or her personal comfort for that of a camper’s.

Despite the alarming Daddy Longlegs infestation, I give Barnabas on the Lake a 10/10 for positive experience. In the words of every staffer and C.I.A. before me, “God taught me patience.” I plan to go back next year. I might even apply to be a full time staffer if I can muster up the selflessness.

Our Last Year

I interviewed my oldest and dearest friend in an airport yesterday for fun, and I typed up part of the transcript from that. The giggling, some gate change announcements over the loudspeaker, a couple boring stories and a few awkward pauses have been edited out.

The interview was at the airport because we were coming home from our families' vacation in Florida. I almost fell and died.

The interview was at the airport because we were coming home from this. I almost fell and died.

 

Kyra: In conducting this interview, I am going to pretend that you are a stranger because I feel like that would be a more interesting way for readers to get to know you. Could you state and spell your name for me, please? 

Lacey: Lacey Billings. L-A-C-E-Y B-I-L-L-I-N-G-S.

K: Good work. You’ve passed the first test. So, how long have we known each other?

L: About 12 years.

K: That’s ridiculous. It’s been a long time. This whole stranger thing is going to be difficult. Actually probably impossible. It felt like a good idea no more than five minutes ago. Anyway, what’s the story of how we met?

L: It was the first day of first grade. We were out on the playground and you were up on the top of the slide, and you said, “Do you want to see me jump off this?” And I was like, “Uh, yes.” And you were like, “Well, I’m not gonna do it.” And then you ran away. And then I was so excited that I made a new friend.

K: And we’ve been friends ever since. Transitions are hard, so I’m not even going to try. How many days has it been since our last nonsense?

L: That’s a good question. I’ve been trying to remember our last nonsense, but I can’t think of any recent nonsense we’ve conducted.

K: What a boring friendship. We can’t even remember our last nonsense. The only nonsense I can remember is when we went into your sister’s room… Would you like to tell that story?

L: The pony story? Well, she was playing with her ponies, in her room, by herself, and we were in her closet, spying on her.

K and L(in unison): Of course.

L: And when she left, we put a bunch of dinosaurs and spiders and monsters on the ponies and made it look like they were eating them. It was pretty cool.

When we talked yesterday, we seemed to have forgotten this little late elementary nonsense.

When we talked yesterday, we seemed to have forgotten this little late elementary nonsense.

K: So it’s been like, nine-and-a-half years since our last nonsense?

L: Yeah, not too bad. Not too shabby.

K: We follow our No Nonsense policy a little too well. So, what’s your fondest memory of when we were going to school together?

L: Out of all the years?

K: Yeah, out of all eight of ’em.

L: Well, I’m trying to remember things that happened. I remember you threw up one time in first grade. And you cried. And then you were running out of the room to find Mrs. ____. That wasn’t a fond memory though. I’m just brainstorming here… That was really sad.

K: Yeah, it kind of was. But my homework–it was the letter writing worksheet for the letter Q–fell into my puke so Mrs. ____ didn’t make me do it. It was the best day ever. I wish school worked like that now. If you can’t think of any of our fond memories we’ve made, you could just describe the outfits you wore in third and fourth grade. Those are my fondest memories.

L: Okay, I can do that. In fourth grade mostly, I was really into gauchos, and I was really into Crocs. And some days, I wore gauchos with Crocs. And knee socks. But don’t tell anyone. Knee socks, Kyra.

K: Were you into turtlenecks, or was that just me?

L: No, that was just you. I was never really into turtlenecks. That was one of the strong points I had. I was really in to those leather clunk shoes–you know the ones with the buckles?

K: Yes, I had those awesome ones with the little charms on the ends.

L: Ugh, yeah. I was so jealous of yours.

K: I know. They were probably the best leather shoes I’ve ever owned. Private school probs.

L: Oh, I do remember something! Remember those poles underneath the slide? We used to spin around them. We called it “flying,” but it was basically pole dancing.

K: Yeah, I remember. You were really good. I guess you could go into that as a career if you need a back-up.

L: Probably, but anyway I was “flying” around the pole and wearing those leather shoes and the creek was right behind us and both my shoes flew off into the creek. And so my mom had to bring me new shoes. She brought my tan felt shoes. Those were my first favorite shoes. I had them every single year. You could get them in three colors, too: They came in tan, burgundy and navy blue.

K: Sexy.

L: But I was so mad. My mom would only let me get the tan ones. I wanted the burgundy ones so bad. I mean, burgundy’s like the best thing ever. Especially on those felt duck shoes. I don’t even know what to call them.

K: Yes, felt duck shoes are the best kind. Okay, so one more question. Why do you think we’ve been friends for so long? What is our secret? Seriously, I really want to know. Why are we still friends?

L: Hey! That’s kinda rude!

K: Hey, I’m not trying to be rude, I’m just curious. What’s our secret?

L: Um, well, first of all, we’ve known each other for like, 12 years, and we were in the same small class for eight of those years. Our familys are good friends. We vacation all the time together. And we like each other, I think?

K: Haha, yes we do. I think also we like the same television shows.

L: Yes, yes! That seriously has a lot to do with it! It’s been a huge part of our friendship. Psych, Monk, Wonder Years, Raising Hope, The Office, all the others.

Imma fruit fly. Imma cup fly. Another one of our favorite shows was Hannah Montana

Imma fruit fly. Imma cup fly. Another one of our favorite shows was Hannah Montana

K: Star Wars, although you were a lot more into it.

L: Hey, hey now. That was a long time ago.

K: True. But anyway, we’re going to be friends forever, right?

L: Yeah, but after we graduate we won’t really see each other. This is going to be our last year, Kyra.

K: Wow, thanks for reminding me. Bye, bye, childhood. It’s been a good run.

L: There it goes, down the drain.

K: What a bummer thing to end the interview on: “And then, our childhood ended.”

L: And we went our separate ways.

K: And we never saw each other again. End recording.

Our 12 year friendship, summarized.

Our 12 year friendship, summarized.