Saturday, August 27, 2005

My Personal Naked Ladies

Just so you know, I do intend to finish up the summer. BUT I started typing up the next week and the computer crashed, and I haven't yet been able to muster up the energy to redo it. For now, though, I am going to do a little thing I found on a friend's website. It goes like this: you pick a band, and then you answer questions about yourself using only the titles of songs by the band. And I bet you can guess which band I chose.

My Personal Spree

Choose a band / artist and answer ONLY in titles of their songs:

1. Barenaked Ladies

2. Are you male or female: Good Boy

3. Describe yourself: Shoebox of Lies

4. How do some people feel about you: Just a Toy

5. How do you feel about yourself: The Wrong Man was Convicted; Am I the Only One?

6. Describe your ex boyfriend / girlfriend: Maybe Katie

7. Describe current boyfriend / girlfriend: Have you Seen my Love?

8. Describe where you want to be: Off the Hook

9. Describe how you live: Life in a Nutshell: Testing, 1,2,3

10. Describe how you love: Never Do Anything; Too Little, Too Late; Never is Enough

11. What would you ask for if you had just one wish: If I had $1,000,000

12. Share a few words of Wisdom: Who Needs Sleep?

13. Now say goodbye: Leave; Go Home

Monday, August 22, 2005

Scripture Study

Why is it so hard for me to read my scriptures? I know I am blessed when I do. But every time I pick them up and read them, it's the most tedious chore. I'm just so burnt out on them. I still read them. I clug through them, but it never gets better. I love to read practically anything else: books, magazines, cereal boxes, road signs. But my scriptures, man. I don't know what it is. My reading system is lurch, wander, and stray. I keep thinking if I keep doing it it'll click. But it doesn't. I try different ways of studying. I try reading straight through like a book, or stopping at each verse and following footnotes, or following up one topic. Anyway, I'm sure I'll get a flurry of "helpful" suggestions now. So bring it on, I guess. I could use the help.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Latest and Greatest

I started to talk about my next two weeks of efy, but then the window closed and I lost all I had typed. So I will get to it, but it may be a bit. Meanwhile, the incomparable BAWB has somehow made a terrific change to my blog that you've probably already noticed: there's music now! Over there on the side you will see the controls where you can stop the music if you'd like. There are three songs in the little playlist, so you can change it if you'd like. I thought I'd start out with one of my favorite Barenaked Ladies songs, followed by a Portuguese/English hybrid by Nelly Furtado that just makes me happy, and finally, a cover by my favorite a capella group, the Brown Derbies. I'll be changing these songs every time I update, so hopefully you can all get some exposure to music I think is great. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Summer of Love

Week 2.5?:

After business meeting on Saturday of that last week, I decided to get up and announce that I needed a ride back to SLC. Before I could get up there, though, my co-counselor (whom I couldn't stand) offered to give me a ride home. It was a bummer, but she was effectively muzzled when I put in the soundtrack to Les Miserable. "You'd better sing along if you're going to put that in," she commanded. "But of course," I acquiesced. "It's WAY better than talking to you," I imagined myself saying. The timing was perfect, and by the time we got to the Gateway Mall, Val Jean was just dying.

The Ring Bearer was there. He took me to California. We stayed at my brother Ouija's house. We found my friend Hero and he hung out with us a bunch. We did the San Francisco thing, Toured the Jelly Belly Factory ("'Best Factory Tour in the USA' --Readers' Digest 2005" boasts the sign), and watched season one of 24 all the way through with breaks only for the bathroom. That's officially my new favorite TV show. At some point I offended Flavor's best friend by inadvertantly calling her "ho." Whoops. I really need to watch that. I went to institute, and a girl there was all, "Hey, do you want a car?" and I said "Heck yes I do," so she gave me one. A brown Cadillac Sedan Deville that runs great! I was so glad. I drove the car back to Ouija and Flavor's house and in the morning left for the airport with the Ring Bearer. Threw up in the airport. I always seem to do that. On the other end Kevin and Kylee, our coordinators, picked me up. I was the first BC to arrive.

BC stands for "Building Counselor," though I always told the kids it was "Boss Counselor." That's "building" as in edifying, not edifice. The differences between being a BC and being a counselor are many. BCs are counselors over the counselors. Rather than have a group of teenagers (we call them participants), I had a group of counselors every week. It was my responsibility to sit in on their lessons and devotionals and make sure they were teaching well and appropriately, teach them my own lessons every morning before the kids wake up and every afternoon during free time, deal with heavy discipline issues, and also run the individual activities and duties of the camp, i.e. the dances, service project, slide show, musical program, lunch duty, etc. We had six lists of all the BC duties, and rotated through all of them during our six weeks.

EFY Week 3: Galke

Brother Galke was our session director this week. I had him last year, too, and he was my least favorite. Now, everybody else loved him. Everybody. But he really rubbed me the wrong way last year. This year he didn't do any of the specifics that drove me so nuts last year, which was good.

I should take a moment to tell you about all the other BCs, since these are the people my summer pretty much revolved around.

Jon: Jon was actually my roommate last year at efy. He's one of the funniest people I know. We play off each other very well. He and I had agreed to write a book about a fictional sister missionary called "We Had a Miracle Today!" I'll have to remember to write in here about when we were in charge of the service project. Anyway, he also sings like Josh Groban, so we heard him singing a lot this summer. I'm a big fan of this guy.

Shelley: Shelley was the sporty, outdoorsy BC. She's a humongous Disneyland nut, I grew very close to her. She's one of the funniest girls I know. Every week she would go to a youth testimony meeting and then come back and report all the funniest parts, and it was always a highlight of my week. She and Jon hooked up immediately, a move I totally support.

Jessica: Jessica is a cute-as-a-button girl who makes me laugh a lot. She confided in me her crushes. We always had great discussions. She was really good at her job, too, which I appreciated. We joke about the idea that we'll be co-coordinators next year, since we're the only northern Californian BCs from this year.

Michelle: Michelle often made me feel like my opinions were invalid or inappropriate. She would dismiss me to other people like, "Oh, that's just him." She really did add a calming influence to everything, though, and the week she took off I definitely missed her. As of this writing, she's gotten married.

Jonathan: Jonathan was one of the most fascinating things to happen to me this summer. This kid had the most bizarre opinions about things. And they aligned with my own almost invariably. From our quirky taste in music to the fact that neither of us says the pledge of allegiance, we kept surprising each other with the parallels in our personalities and lives. He's overcome ridiculous trials to be where he is. It was a huge blessing for me to find someone who was so eerily similar to myself.

My BC weeks were pretty run-of the mill every time, but I'll share the things that were different about each.

I had a counselor whom we'll call Jared, since that was his name, who was really, really bad. He hadn't read his manual, he was teaching his own freaky opinions as doctrine, he yelled at his kids for no reason, and he was Asian. That last one wasn't really related to the other ones, but I thought it would be funny to list it like that. Anyway, his kids were miserable, and I knew right away that the guy would soon have to go. I observed his Monday-night devotional, which was ostensibly about faith. Instead, he challenged his boys to approach girls who were dressed immodestly and inform them that nobody appreciated when they dressed like that. I had talk after talk with the coordinators about his progress. I recommended that he be terminated, but they wanted to give him an ultimatum, which I did. I saw improvement in the areas about which I talked with him, but the problem was that there were just too many problems to be able to correct them all in the six weeks he'd be with us. Anyway, more on Jared later.

I'm going to stop talking about this week, except to say that I was surprised at the poor quality of the counselors I had. I was wondering if I was being to harsh on them, but subsequent weeks proved that the good ones were indeed there, and that by some fluke I had been assigned all the problem counselors for these first two weeks. Oh, and also, I'm really proud of the slide show I put together of that week. I wish I still had it.

EFY Week 4: Music

I was in charge of the singers this week. That was cool. In every fireside, the session director has a counselor sing a song from the EFY CD. It's mostly very poppy poopy music, but we counselors still clamour for the opportunity to get up in front of all those kids and share the spirit through our talents.

Our session director this week was a timorous man who'd brought along his wife. She was definitely more outgoing and fun, though she hit a wall near Tuseday night and was NOT fun to be around for a few days in there. Anyway, she's a singer, so she got very involved in the selction process with me and also with Jonathan's musical program. That was all right with me, I guess. This is more like my journal people, with reminders for myself of what happened rather than making it interesting for everyone else, so sorry if this is more boring than my usual entries.

Thursday nights after the big devotionals on the atonement and testimony meetings, we would all (BCs, coordinators, session director and wife, health counselors) get together for whatever sort of activity the session director wanted. When it was Brother Galke's turn the week before, he used this as a chance to let his hair (and standards) down. I think he was trying to show us that he was cool and wasn't efy all the time. He told off-color jokes. Most of us were insulted. There was an attitude of "Okay, the kids are gone, now we can drop the whole spiritual act.

It was the exact opposite this next week. The session director had an attiude of "okay, the kids are gone, now we can get into the deeper doctrines." I really liked that. I learned a lot about the enabling power of the aonement from him, and how Christ doesn't just make bad men good, but good men better. I set some goals that week.

There was a mural in the building where we did all our dances and classes and things that depicted a lot of naked people standing in a circle naked. The university offered to cover it up for $100/day. We declined their generous offer. I took a picture of us BCs standing in front of it in the same pose for the slideshow. I set it as the desktop for our efy computer and offered to change it for just $100/day. That should say something about how cool the people I worked with were. Most counselors would have been offended, but my bosses and co-workers all thought it was great.

Independence Day was on that Monday, and we gathered all the kids on the roof of a nearby parking garage for the fireworks. It was really cool.

This week my favorite counselor, Seth, left us, and instead we got a new one named Aaron, who was even more of a handful than Jared. He was continually sleeping through meetings, keeping his boys up WAY past bed time, and I even walked in on him passing around dirty jokes that he's printed online. There were gay, sexist, bestiality, and racist jokes in there. I couldn't believe it. His devotionals were long and boring. The next week he was off to Flagstaff, so I sent a message ahead of him for his BC and coordinators there to keep an eye on him. More on him later, too.

In fact, more on all of this later. Time for In-N-Out and In-Sti-Tute. Chao Pescados.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Summer Of the Monkeys

Okay, that's a pretty arbitrary name for my summer, but I like it.

Time for the update, huh? Well, here’s a play-by-play of the whole time I’ve been gone.

Week 0: Colorado

We went to visit Mom and the maggot. Originally I had remembered so many hilarious things that happened then, but I’ve kinda forgotten all the things I was supposed to remember. Sorry, guys. I went with the Ring Bearer, Wiggle, Ronnie, Racherella, and Pinetree. It was a really good group to be there with. We went to Estes Park and saw these little shoppes and had delicious chocolate. We went to the Dam Store and bought t-shirts, toured the statue parks, did the whole Denver thing with their 6th Street mall. Ok, funny part: We ate at this restaurant there to wait for the rain to stop so we could go to Six Flags. While we were there Hyrum engaged us in a story about a friend who has a medical problem that grants him a bloody nose instead of an erection whenever he becomes sexually aroused. At this moment there were peals of laughter from the table behind us. We realized there was a young couple who’s been listening the whole time. We felt sheepish, but the couple said it was fine and engaged us in conversation. We went to Six Flags’ Elitch Gardens and went straight to the waterslides. We rode one and were headed for the wave pool before it stated hailing and we all had to huddle in the musty locker rooms with all the other freezing people. There was an incident with the locker that took some time and was a large part of the reason that we only had time for one slide. And there was some kind of WalMart drama, too, but I don’t remember the details. The moral of the locker part of the story is that Ronnie was able to strut over and get us immediate help from some guy. In fact, she was able to do that at every point during the trip. We decided it’s definitely to our advantage to have such a hot girl with us always. We went on roller coasters after that for a while, except for the Ring Bearer, who was having a major personal crisis and went to Denver by himself. While waiting in line for a roller coaster, the girls started discussing the symmetry of the boys’ nipples when we heard a familiar laugh. Next to us in line was that same couple from the restaurant. We ended up having about a dozen such encounters with them. Also in Colorado, Mom made porcupines (my favorite food), we played rodeo with the adorable maggot, and things were all-around great. That was a pleasant and relaxing week all around.

When I got back to Provo we had a farewell party during which we watched Into the Woods. My friends did not seem to appreciate it. Losers.

EFY Week 1: Problems

My first two weeks this year I was a counselor, and I must say I’ve never experienced so much crap in one week of efy. I had a poindexter boy with an eating disorder, a tiny manically depressed boy who threw a fit during testimony meeting (“This is so boring! They’re all just saying the same things!” and then throwing hymn books at the girls), a kid who showed up at one in the morning, a kid who did nothing but brag about all the girls’ boobs he’d felt up and all the gay kids he was going to sneak out to go beat up, etc. One boy was very nice and spiritually advanced but hadn’t yet been taught about deodorant. So I made my little guy come with me to a class about inner beauty and sat with him at meals, sat and read the scriptures with the manically depressed kid and let him sleep extra each morning, assigned some girls to make sure the late boy felt included in everything, had a special talk with all the boys about how we treat women and gay people, and then an extra special talk with the boy who’s been talking so tough about how I wasn’t going to let him ruin the week for everyone else. I bought several sticks of deodorant and told the kids that I had deodorant to get them all spiffed up for the dances and things, and was pleased to see that a few of them took them. That was the beginning.

Tuesday night I awoke to the tattoo of small knuckles on my door. It took me several moments to orient myself and open the door. There stood my little anorexic boy (he was the smallest kid at efy by far and had only turned 14 the day before efy started).

“Something’s wrong with my room.” His words came to me through a thick haze of sleep.

“What?” I said, in a squinty voice.


When the smoke alarm went off in my room, the kid had my full attention. I jumped out of bed and went into the hall. I hate this story.

So down the hall at the kid’s room were his other three roommates, wrapped in blankets and peering in through their doorway, from which prodigious tufts of blue smoke were billowing and filling the hall. I ran down there and looked into the room, but it was so full of the blue smoke that I couldn’t even see the back wall. I ran and awakened the other counselors and together we evacuated the hall. The police were summoned, huge fans were brought in to clear the place of smoke, and the Head Resident played bad guy for about an hour trying to get information from the boys. It turns out someone had slipped a brick-sized smoke bomb through the kids’ window. My boys all smelled like smoke for the rest of the week. The walls of their room had to be repainted, the carpets cleaned, and special chemicals brought in to rid the place of the miasma. Nobody knows why my smoke alarm down the hall was the only one to issue the clarion call.

Wednesday evening one of my kids lost his wristband and I had to go with him to the office to get him a new one. Naturally, the office was closed when we got there, so as we were on our way back to our company (group in efyspeak), we passed two curmudgeonly police officers.

“Hey, you work for efy, I need to find a So-and-So and a So-and-So.”

Except he didn’t say “So-and-So,” he said the names of two of my boys. They had me get in the cop car and ride with them to the spot where the rest of our company was preparing their cheer. They made the two kids get into the back of the cop car. The more vociferous of the two didn’t let anybody forget that it was his birthday that day. Anyway, I had to accompany the boys to the dorms, where the cops interrogated them for about an hour. The boys’ parents were summoned, the coordinators and session director and my BC were all involved, but nobody was letting us talk to the boys. In the end we found out that they had been mistakenly singled out as the suspects in the smoke bomb incident instead of being filed as “persons of interest,” the cops had nothing on them, and they were free to rejoin the group. It was a pretty traumatic incident for all involved, though, (Staci had to tell the cops off, which was great), and the two boys exhibited a newfound spirit of contriteness for the remainder of the week. Birthday boy was the selfsame braggart who’d been lauding his past transgressions all week, so the whole miscommunication with the police had come to be a blessing. Besides the minor fight that broke out later that week, nothing else really happened that fateful week. Oh, yeah, except for all the NORMAL activities and crap that I had to do as part of my job. Friday for the banquet I got out my hair glue and took all my little dweebs and did their hair all spiky and let them borrow my clothes. They were studs. My anorexic hobbledehoy was asked to dance every single slow song. All in all, the week was a success.

Brother Johnson, our session director had encouraged us to focus on needing the Savior every hour on the first day he’d been there. “I need thee every hour” became my mantra. I know it’s because of the help I got from the Savior that week (really I was only helping Him, and feebly) that I was able to survive at all. The “every hour” part took on a new meaning when it seemed that literally every hour presented a new humongous problem, and the hour was any hour at all, all through the day and well into each night. That whole week was a great way to consecrate myself for the weeks to come.

EFY Week 2: Bond

I have less to say about the weeks where everything went right. This was one of those. Maybe I’ll just tell the story of Chris for this week.

Chris was a quiet Mexican kid. He had a beanie that covered his long hair, and he wore it everywhere. He never smiled, and always wore a flat, lugubrious expression on his sallow face. But there was something different about Chris. When we were in devotionals, he always knew exactly where I was going with the lesson. He could explain advanced gospel principles with lucidity, and invariably drove home the application of the lesson for each of the other boys. The other boys quickly grew to revere him. My only question was, “why the demeanor?” Thursday evening I decided to just ask him.

“What’s happened to you in your life, Chris?” I asked after another set of stunningly perspicuous explications (this time on the atonement).

He just looked at me lachrymosely for a few moments, then began to explain that his dad and grandmother had both recently died, and now he, at 14, had been consigned responsibility for his mother and little brother. My heart broke as I listened. When he finished, I told him that I was favorably impressed by him. I told him about my Aunt Laura, who used the terrible things that happened to her as an excuse to perpetuate the mess her life was in. I commended him for turning instead to the Lord.

The next day, Chris displayed a much more sanguine disposition. He told us that he’d been sick all week and hadn’t wanted to cause problems by telling anyone. He also confided in me that he had a goal to save up enough money when he got home to go get a haircut so he wouldn’t have to wear that nasty beanie anymore. He’d worn the beanie out of shame about his long hair.

Meanwhile, the boys in my group formed a stronger bond than I’ve ever seen in a group. All of them were leaders, all of them committed to living a more excellent way. I’m teary-eyed on my end here while I remember those boys. My Friday devotional was the best I’ve ever taught. I asked only one question: “What are your goals for when you get home?” The boys extrapolated on that topic for half an hour, challenging each other to reach the rank of Eagle Scout and get their Duty to God awards, obey their parents, read their scriptures daily, pray and serve more meaningfully, seve missions, and follow up with each other. They shared scriptures and insights and bore testimony. All the boys were crying like it was Girls’ Camp or something. There was a definite Spirit of Brotherhood there, brotherhood as an actual force, and it strengthened my testimony of priesthood and our preexistence.

I had a neat prayer for those boys when it was time to send them home. I was sobbing, terrified at the prospect of sending them back out into the world to face the inevitable abuses of life, and at my own inability to shield them further. I was given a whelming reassurance and reminder that they already have Someone far more qualified to take away their pains and succor them in their trials. I know those kids are all right, wherever they are.

This grows too long. More tomorrow.