Monday, April 18, 2011

Here's to you Buzzard

You were a spiritual father to me and one of the reasons I am serving God today. Thank you for believing in me when I didn't believe in myself and seeing in me things I didn't see. I pray to pass that gift to others. You taught me the song, "When I get to heaven gonna walk with Jesus," and now you are walking the golden streets with Him. Somewhere in heaven, there must be a big day camp field. I can't wait to get there and sing camp songs with you. Here's to you, Buzzard:

“Hey, Dale, do you have a minute?”

“Sure, Dot. Come here so I can poke you. Would that make you a poke-a-Dot?”
I laugh as my boss playfully reaches out his finger and jabs my arm. His face vanishes underneath a grin that would put the Cheshire cat to shame as he explodes through the door of the camp office onto the sidewalk.

“Walk with me.”

He revs like a speed boat jetting in the direction of Day Camp, where he is scheduled to lead songs in five minutes. The ground disappears under his worn tennis shoes. I’m left staring at the back of his staff t-shirt and the khaki cargo shorts. His name tag, which reads “Buzzard” is swinging from his neck; grasped in his worn hands are a guitar case and Bible. I take a few jogging strides and fall into step beside him.

“What’s up, Kiddo?” he asks eyebrows lifting and smile furrows deepening on his brow.

“Umm, I have a situation I am not quite sure how to deal with. Some counselors said they saw two of my junior counselors making out in a movie theater. I know I’m not their parent, but I'm not a big fan of 14-year-old staff members making out while they’re here at camp. Well, I don’t really want them making out period. How in the world do I handle this one?”

Dale pauses a moment and scratches the back of his head, once covered in locks of sandy blond hair. He strokes the spreading bald spot encased by tufts of gray.

“Well, have you thought about… can you hang on one sec?” We have already reached the Main Camp field in an impressive thirty seconds. Dale spies two boys on housekeeping staff swinging from an old rope tied to a stout oak tree. “Hey, boys, what are you doing?” shouts Dale.

“We are looking for Mike,” comes the sheepish reply.

“Well, why don’t you look over by his office? I don’t want to see you just standing around.”

I give him a moment to let his frustrations pass before continuing. “So, I was wondering what I should do about these two kids.”

“What do you think you should do?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I am asking you! I know that this goes a lot deeper than camp. I mean someone needs to sit down and talk with them about appropriate relationships. I don’t want to be their parent. But, really, making out in a movie theater? I’m not quite sure what step to take.”

“Well Dot, I think your next step is a house call. Get them on the phone and see if you can go for coffee. This absolutely affects their ministry at camp, and you need to be caring enough to talk to these two teens about their decisions.”

“But, I don’t want to. That’s scary.”

“You can do it, girl. I trust you.”

“Alright, I guess. Thanks, Dale.” I watch the man next to me. As the executive director of Canyonview Camp, Dale has seen everything Christian camping can bring. He has been at Canyonview for over thirty years. If you name it he’s done it. From counseling cabins full of boys, leading biking and boating trips, life guarding, pouring concrete, moving dirt with the backhoe, teaching Bible studies, helping in the kitchen, reporting child abuse, hiring and firing staff, getting business men to donate money, answering phones, giving advice about teenage hormones—there isn’t much in the way of Christian camping that Dale doesn’t know about.

Even after so many years of dedication, he’s still as spry as he was in his twenties when he gave up military life to command a troop of counselors, support staff, and hundreds of children on their adventures at summer camp. He may be in his fifties now, but he’s just as strong as ever. The man will hoist a fifty-pound hay bale over his shoulder as if it weighed no more than his two year old grandson.

We are approaching Day Camp now. The covered foot bridge spanning the creek comes into full view. “Any boys yet?” comes the familiar question.

“No, not yet.”

“How does a girl as cute as you not have a boyfriend yet? That just amazes me. But you’re picky.”

“Yep, picky and proud of it.”

“Good, that’s what I like to hear.” Dale turns to look at me, his eyes full of father like adore. He reaches his arm across my shoulders and pulls me into a firm side hug. “You know what, I appreciate you. I really do. And I’m proud of you, Kiddo.” I smile up at him as he releases me, and we clomp over the bridge.

As the Day Camp field comes into view, we are greeted by the shriek of a screaming first grade boy with a bloodied right knee.

“What did you do this poor boy?” Dale inquires jokingly of the counselor leading the camper towards the staff room.

“He fell down on a rock," replies the frazzled counselor.

“Let me see your muscles,” Dale says to the injured child. The boy, hesitant to forget his tears, slowly displays a scrawny looking bicep. Dale reaches down to squeeze his flexed arm. “Looking good Muscles,” he says. One last big sniffle, a little snob, and the boy's tears are gone. We continue on our fast paced adventure.

The Day Camp Director has spotted us now. Dale takes a quick moment to look at his watch.

The young man looks at him nervously. “I wasn’t sure if you were going to show up.”

“What, I’m only one minute late,” says Dale.

The Day Camp Director introduces the Executive Director to the tarp of children who are gazing up with awe at the man in the staff shirt.

“Hey kids, this is Buzzard, and he is here to help us sing some songs.”

Dale takes center stage and whips out a guitar from the case he has been carrying. Checking to see if the instrument is in tune, he addresses his captive audience. “Hey kids, do you know what a buzzard is? A buzzard is a big, old, ugly, balding bird that eats dead stuff.” He points to the top of his shiny head. Campers and staff alike can’t help but laugh.

As I walk away, the melodic notes of guitar chords and child-like voices resonate through the field. I remember when I was the child sitting on the tarp staring up at the man. I reach the bridge; the sound of his tenor voice echoes in my ears. I look back. His eyes are cast towards Heaven as sings “Oh God, you are my God. . . I will learn to walk in your ways, and step by step you’ll lead me, and I will follow you all of my days.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Northern California Day 9: Flying Southwest, Again

Well, I'm sitting in the Sacramento airport waiting for my flight that is now delayed 2 hours and 20 minutes. So far, flying Southwest has been a strike out.

I went to church this morning in Sacramento. Ironically, the sermon notes down to the power point were from a sermon Pastor Frank taught some months ago. It was kind of cool to be so far from home but to see the impact City Bible has had on other churches. I just love my church.

The fair today was great. I'm so ready to come home, but it was kind of sad to say goodbye to friends I've met on the road. We've all been together pretty much 24-7 for the past week. The admissions world has some top-notch people. One counselor and I are taking the same flight back to Portland. We're both glad of the company concerning the delay.

Thank you to all who have followed my great Northern California adventure. I'll be home soon...I hope.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Northern California Day 8: One More Night

I'm sitting in front of the TV at my hotel and have just finished eating my weight in Thai take out. Today was a great fair, with a lot of good interest. I even met a student who knows one of our interns. Saint Mary's College is a beautiful old campus that looks like it may have been a Spanish monastery at one point. It's hidden amongst the hills of Moraga, California. I almost enrolled for a second bachelor's degree today.

I'm now in Sacramento and in my last hotel of the trip. One more college fair tomorrow and then, fly me home Southwest Airlines!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Northern California Day 7: Best Day Yet

First, I'll start by saying, I'm not sure what day of the week it is...Friday, I think. I've just checked into my fourth hotel of this trip with one more to go, but fairs don't begin until 1pm tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a relaxing morning.

Today was my favorite day yet. For the lunch break, I drove into San Francisco to meet an old college friend who happens to work in the restaurant biz. We met up at one of his favorite lunch spots called the Naked Lunch. Can I tell you, brie sandwiches with thinly sliced apples and arugula really should be served more often. And, whoever thought to lace coconut milk with lime over the rocks has my highest regards.

We finished up lunch with cake and cappuccino from a nearby cafe. San Francisco is truly magical.

After I said goodbye, I pointed my rental car north towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Though on a time crunch, I was able to park right next to the bridge and walk about a fifth of the way across. What a magnificent piece of architecture surrounded by a dramatic landscape. There really is a lot of beauty down here.

However, my favorite part of the day was the morning session of the fair. We were at CSU East Bay's Hayward campus. Hundred of students in the same situation as my Stitches kids came through. It was my privileged to ask them one simple question, "What do you want to be when you grow up." They responded with some big dreams.

I talked to a girl passionate about imigration and wanting to be a lawyer in order to make a difference for her people. One young gentleman says he's interested in counseling because people say he's good at it. He's a 16-year-old making a difference. Another young woman desires to become an actress but was looking at psychology additionally. There were pediatricians in the crowd, engineers, teachers, social workers, and a lot of teenagers reaching for the stars standing in the face of all of those who say they can't. They can, and they will. Every student I spoke with today had the GPA to back that up.

These students truly inspire awe in me. The room was electric as we spoke, and I could feel God shaping destinies right there in the East Bat gymnasium. People ask where the hope for America is. I say look no farther than the high-schoolers of Hayward, California. The next generation is going to do great things, and I am thankful to play even a tiny part.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Northern California Day 6: The Perfect Cappucino

I'm back at the hotel after a morning and evening fair. Thankfully, I believe the little bunny rabbits next door are gone.

I had some time to kill between the morning and evening session of today's fair, so where does an obsessed coffee snob head? Santa Cruz for the perfect cappuccino at the Verve. My sister Natalie and her boyfriend Eric, both ex-Starbucks employees, introduced me when we came to visit Monterrey in October. Smooth roast and perfectly frothed milk from top to bottom--no sweetener necessary. Worth every second of the road trip. Don't worry, I brought back a bag of beans.

Thank you Santa Cruz for sweet caffeination.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Northern Californai Day 5 Addition: Fail

Fair fail: George Fox University leads- 10. George Washington University leads- 100. True, Herbert Hoover lived two blocks from George Fox. However, every U.S. president has lived two blocks from George Washington.

Hotel fail: Opened the door to my room for the next four nights just to overhear the room next to me makin' whoopie. Thank God for tv's.

Northern Californai Day 5: Discovering Sonoma

Currently, I'm sitting in the garden at the Sunflower Caffe in Sonoma, California sipping some great coffee and emailing students. Although, I am thankful for more cubicle, nothing beats an open air office beneath a vine-laced trellis and a desk that seat beneath a tree next to a pond and fountain. Northern California is beautiful, and is the first place I've visited outside of Oregon that I could seriously see myself moving to.

There are bird chirping while jazz music plays softly in the background, and the waitress may be the friendliest person I've met on this trip thus far. I discovered the Sunflower Caffe when watching Diners Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network with the Franklins. I decided immediately to place it on my list of Northern California destinations and have not been dissappointed. What can be better than a duck sandwich for lunch (especially when you are a Beaver fan--they could make a killing in Corvallis)?

I wasn't sure what I was going to do between the necessary 11am hotel checkout and the 4:30 check in to the college fair. However, I just got a ton of work done, and am enjoying a lovely afternoon. Thank you Justin Hudec for letting me take your trip. Northern California, I love you! Now, off to walk around downtown Sonoma. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Northern California Day 4: Quick Highlights

I'm super tired so tonight's entry is quick highlights...

1) Found amazing coffee at a place in Novato called Dr. Insomniacs. I won instant cool point with the barista for being from Portland. Every good barista knows impeccable coffee belongs to Portland, Oregon. Discovered a life changing baked good called a scuffin. You guessed it, a scone and muffin mix of pure deliciousness.

2) Had a Maria moment. Went and wandered the pastureland once more, but this time brought books. I almost found myself twirling around on the top of a hill in my nun garb while singing.

3) Went for a run, this time without the catcalls.

4) The food at tonight's fair was epic: bruschetta, grilled vegetables, meatballs, and all sorts of palatable goodies.

5) Had a junior lean way to close into my fair table for comfort and ask me, "So, are there lots of ladies at this school?" Apparently potential to get a girlfriend was on the top of his college compatibility list.

6) In and Out for dinner. And with that, I'm out...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Northern California Day 3: Pure Bliss

Few landscapes bring me more joy than the sight of gently rolling hills cloaked in green grass and sprinkled with deciduous trees. Such was the scene I happened upon in Novato, California this evening while hunting for dinner. I drove downtown to see a beautiful green peak blocking half the sky, and drove neighborhood streets until I found a path opening to the mountain. With the sun sinking lower in the sky and a sweet spring breeze brushing past, I perched on a rock on a hill's crest, surrounded by nothing but green. I think I could get use to Novato.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Northern Californai Day 2: Tracking Numbers

The day got off to a panicky start. When I checked with the front desk to claim the 6 boxes I had shipped to the hotel with fair materials, the girl told me she's seen no such boxes. My UPS tracking code confirmed that the boxes had been received, but still, the girl said she could find nothing. Refusing to despair completely, I drove 5 minutes down the road to church where I tried to concentrated on worship while formulating a plan to not enter every college fair after today's empty handed. Harlan, the door greeter who must be in his seventies gave me a grand-fatherly hug on the way in and out of church which helped calm me a little. The boxes had to be somewhere.

I headed to the Stockton fair and made acquaintance with reps from Liberty and Gonzaga. Everything started slow, but then I began to see a steady stream of students, most with interests in pre-med and engineering. This was ideal being how George Fox has top-notch science programs. Half-way through a conversation, the announcer came over the loud-speaker letting us know the fair would be closing 45 minutes early. Apparently, they felt the attendance was so poor the fair didn't merit the full 3 hour duration. I laughed to myself thinking of how many transfer fairs they would have canceled. This fair was hopping compared to Oregon Transfer Days. Things must move faster in California.

After the fair, I went for a run. I'm not a fan of running in Manteca. Cat-calling and honking apparently are appropriate forms of expression towards female runners. Not so cool.

Dinner tonight was in Modesto with two counselors from Liberty and one from Penn State. Apparently, George Fox is a small school compared to Liberty's 20,000 and Penn State's 80,000. Still, I think we're pretty amazing. Our waiter was a funny guy, telling cheesy or inappropriate jokes, and I think very disappointed none of us ordered alcohol. I would love to write a character sketch on him someday, but I think it would be irreverent.

Finally, at 10pm, I decided to bug the front desk one more time. Ask and it shall be given. The boxes were in a back closet all this time. I'm thanking the Lord there will be no panicked phone call to the office tomorrow morning asking for overnight shipping. I almost hugged the girl at the front desk--literally.

Tomorrow brings a 7:30am check in at CSU Santislaus and then a two hour drive to the bay area. Manteca's been great, but I'm ready for some water! More to come...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Northern California Day 1: Flying Southwest

I arrived at the airport about an hour and a half before my flight, thinking that would be plenty of time to check my bags, get through security, and find my gate. Little did I know that Southwest had grounded several planes earlier in the day due to a tear in a jet's skin mid-flight from Phoneix to Sacramento. Apparently passangers could see the sky while at 30,000. Don't worry, I flew into Sacramento.

I made it to my flight on time, got my luggage and headed to the rental car counter where I was great by Ryan, my friendly Enterprise agent. He "discreetly" mentioned he's 30, gave me a free upgrade and left a message on my phone later in the evening letting me know he forgot to write down my lisence plate number. Apparently he was "distracted" and was hoping I could please call him back. Hey, I'm happy to take the Hyundai Elantra over the Chevy Aveo I was supposed to be driving.

Currently, I'm sitting in my hotel researching ways to get my ears to pop. Words to the wise: don't fly with a cold unless you want to be deaf in one ear. Hopefully tomorrow brings relief and some great interactions with students at the first college fair.