Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Crazy Beautiful Life

As I mentioned previously my job this summer was really really stressful. Besides orchestrating the daily happenings of the 80 campers, 32 employees, and countless volunteers on a weekly basis (as well as dealing with catastrophes on a daily basis, like the noro-virus being spread around, campers throwing up all over me, and campers screaming obscenities at my face while trying to hit me), I all of a sudden got caught into the politics of the business aspect of the job. I realized how lucky I was to get that job in Cleveland, a job that recognizes, appreciates, and values their employees. A job that I absolutely loved and even though there may have been hard days, I absolutely loved those babies and my co-workers. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss sharing stories with my friends around the lunch table. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss holding those babies and having toddler play group. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss joking with all of the people that I saw on a daily basis. I know that I made the choice to move here, and I know that I needed to be here in Utah for a reason and despite the hardships of my job it has taught me a lot... including the need to be happy at your job.... So there are some plans in the works.... it is too early in the planning stages to divulge any information but it will give me goals and a purpose for at least the next 4 years, and I am finally excited about something for the first time since I graduated college.
It has been a crazy, chaotic, unsettling, beautiful year... and I am excited to see what next year will bring me!!

Camping trips

I am not quite sure where the summer went. I can't believe the leaves have already started to change, football season has started, and it is finally time to pull those sweaters out of the back of the closet.

Despite all the stress this summer which has added a few wrinkles to my face and a few pounds to my physique, I walked away with quite a few great memories. I got to go camping at Strawberry reservoir, the Tetons in Idaho, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. Both trips were quite memorable (as any one who has gone camping with me will agree). I absolutely love camping and am so grateful for Steve, Melissa, and all my other spring summit friends who have taught me the beauty and art of camping. I have been able to pass the joys of "truth or dare" and how to efficiently do a steam roll onto a new generation...  GO Wild Stallions!!!

Of course it wouldn't be a camping trip without a few ridiculous stories... like the time the bird pooped on me, or the lake we swam in that gave me 170 bug bites which then itched so much that I decided to take benedrayl for the first time in my life which than induced an ability to move any muscle and made me so nauseated that all I can say was "this is the worst" about 175 times.

It isn't camping without a game of "truth or dare or steam roll"

A new pintrest recipe... I have made it ever single camping trip!!

Took the wrong trail down... and this is exactly how I feel about it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sweet Summertime

This morning I rolled out of bed, worked on a pinterest craft project for several hours, filed papers, went through pictures for work, deleted files from when my computer crashed 2 years ago, watched 3 movies, countless TV episodes, and never left my pj's, put on a bra, or brushed my teeth. Some may call that a "lazy" day or unproductive... I call it a much needed "Tiffanee" day. The last time I I had a day where I didn't have grown up responsibilities to attend to, family to visit, or social events that required my presence, was back in March (if not earlier!!). You might be wondering "what in the blazes have you been doing with your time"... and this blog post is precisely the answer to that question.

Summer camp season is in full swing. Supervising 29 staff members, 55-60 campers, life guarding, and facilitating the ropes course has taken over my life (in a very positive way). Despite all the politics and drama that goes on behind the scenes due to my administrative duties, I absolutely LOVE my job. There are countless examples of campers who have touched my heart with their smile and laughter as they participate in activities that the world tells them they are "unable to participate in." Seeing the potential of these sweet individuals is why I continue to work at a job that requires so much of my time and energy.

My only family in Utah moved to Montana last week (BOO!!!). So I spent a great deal of time in May and June soaking up every moment with this guy.

I took 2 of the interns to hike Mt. Olympus. I didn't think it was possible but I think I am in LESS shape than I was last year when I climbed it. I did not remember it being that hard.... but we made it (after a few freak out moments by everybody involved). 


I also ran a color 5K. YOLO right? Mel, Val, and Emmit drove down from Vernal just for this race.

And it wouldn't be summer if camping wasn't involved. I absolutely love camping, and I love the group that went (all staff from Camp K). So grateful for my adventures in Moab for a. teaching me how to camp, b. teaching me the joys of "truth or dare", and c. teaching me how to effectively steam roll people. (pictures to come).

I have also had many "moments" the last couple months. Life in Utah has not been a walk in the park, especially thanks to my job. I have often wondered "why", why did I have to move here if things weren't going to be easier, why did I have to move from such a stable job that I loved, to such an unstable job that is much more demanding, and the million dollar question- when is it going to feel like I am not swimming upstream with bricks around me neck anymore. It feels like ever since the moment my car/belongings were stolen I have had to go through struggle after struggle after struggle. It's hard to read comments on my facebook pictures like, "you look so happy", or "that is the Tiffanee that I remember," because at times I still feel as empty, lost, and alone as I did in Cleveland. But I also love reading those comments as well because at times I feel like me again, the me that would act silly in front of others, the me that would make witty, sarcastic remarks, the me that was confident and didn't care what others thought. I pinned these two quotes on pinterest that I felt like really encapsulated my feelings (and I hope with every fiber of my being that they are true):

Several weeks ago I was ready to pick up and move to the next adventure, trying to delude myself into thinking that things would be different, that I would have more friends, a better job, it would be less work to go to church, etc... Luckily I have an amazing friend here that has known me for 7 years. He has been there for me from the time my car has gotten stolen to just a few days ago when I had a breakdown after a major catastrophe happened at work. Two weeks ago I was driving past his house on my way home from work and I felt like I should stop and say "hi." The lights were off at his house so I continued to drive, telling myself it was a stupid idea, he was probably in bed, and if he wasn't in bed he definitely wouldn't want to talk to me that late at night. I quickly stopped the negative self talk and called him- figuring that he would say "no" if he didn't want to see me. He obviously invited me in and what ensued was a 2 hour unplanned conversation where he helped me see the flaws in some of my cognitive framework. He helped me realize that moving is not a band-aid for my troubles. Yes, it will work for a few weeks but after that I will still feel lonely, I will still have hard days at my job, I will still feel unsettled. The best thing to do at this point in my life is to stay in one place, try to make new friends, reach out to others, and make the best of the situation that you are in. So whether you like it or not Utah, I am here, through the good days and bad. Through the days I feel like I have a million friends, and the days I feel like I have none. Until I feel a huge push from the Lord to move else where I am here to became a better version of the "Tiffanee" I remember from college. And I am making good progress, just look at the pictures above. Although you won't see the emotional wounds that haven't healed yet, the pain and loneliness left by years of hurt from those closest to me, the wounds of insecurity and fear. You will see the happiness in my smile, the happiness that comes from having a roommate that is always there for me, friends who accept me for who I am and not who I should be, and a job that helps me become more confident every day and leaves me with so much joy in my heart there are days that I feel like my life cannot get any better.  


I am coming up on my 1 year anniversary of moving to Utah... and what a journey it has been! I found this quote that sums it up the best:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Urban Scavenger Hunt

I am still not ready to write about what I have learned the past year. But I am ready to tell you how wonderful Utah is. I am so grateful for the wonderful friends I have met and the amazing roommate that I have. I still have a lot of area to grow and learn, and I still miss Ohio and all of the people who I may not have appreciated while I was there. But for right now I am happy, I am making changes to better my life, I am taking control of my life and it feels good.
This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a race with some of my dearest friends in Utah. Props to Jake for joining us last minute with a costume. Go Team Honey-Boo-Boo! We got 26 out of over 200. We missed the national qualifications by one spot! I loved my costume, I didn't love it so much when we were running on North Temple 1 hour before conference started... hope nobody I know saw me.

 Here are some pictures from the event....

**Love you Rachie Boo Boo, Ashey Boo Boo, and Jakey Boo Boo!***

We went out for milkshakes afterword at The Training Table. I was obviously really excited to be ordering our food from a telephone.

Disney Land 2013

Holy cow, I can't believe that it is already April!! Was it only a year ago that I randomly looked online, found a job opening for a year round camp in Utah, applied, interviewed, and accepted the job. I am astonished at the lessons I have learned in the past year, but that is another post for another day. I had a BUSY March, full of fun memories, lots of laughter, and a reminder of how special those I work with are to our loving Heavenly Father.

The first big trip of the month was to Disneyland!!! Although I have had a hard time giving up working with babies everyday in Ohio, this trip to Disneyland was exactly what I needed to remind me that I am in the right place, at the right job. This was only the second time our company has taken people to Disneyland, and I was excited for the opportunity to go, considering the fact that the last time I was in this magical place was when I was 8 years old (See picture below... SO glad I grew out of the thick bangs, with character shirts and colored spandex shorts.)
 I spent months and months planning this trip for 10 campers with cognitive and physical disabilities, and 3 other staff. I organized the hotel rooms, the plane tickets, the meals, the transportation, and the itinerary. Trust me, it would be no small feat organizing a trip for 14 people without disabilities, but add on lack of impulse control, medical complexities, developmental delays, and you have a trip that requires more planning and patience than should be required from anybody. However out of all of my travels to Hawaii, China, Washington D.C., and Ohio,  this was, by far the best trip I have ever been on. Disney truly is such a magical place. They do an amazing job at making the atmosphere very kid and disability friendly. We received easy access passes which allowed us to jump to the front of any line (trust me this is the way to go!) We were able to ride all the rides we wanted to without having to wait in lines for hours and hours. I challenged myself to go on all most of the rides, despite my fear of falling (the only ride I didn't go on was the one that does a little curly q, I don't go upside down on the roller coasters). We spent one day at California Adventure, and one day at Disneyland. The first day was a little rough, we had 2 boy staff and 2 girl staff, none of which who had worked together before, and me who is still trying to figure out what my role is when I am a supervisor and a staff. Plus it was cold a raining, courtesy of a pacific storm that rolled in the night before. There were some high emotions, and stressful moments, but my staff are so amazing that we were able to take everything that didn't work and change it so that Saturday in Disneyland was AMAZING. Words can't describe how peaceful and satisfying it was to be able to go on every ride, buy every souvenir, and see every site that all the campers wanted to see (which is pretty impressive for having 5 different people wanting to do 5 different things.)
Here are some of my favorite memories: **Just as a disclaimer: I know that it looks like I am narcissistic but I can't post pictures of any of the campers.**

1. The rides were pretty fun and not as scary as I originally thought.... all of the rides except the swinging Ferris wheel that is. . I really enjoyed the Tower of Terror (despite my screaming "I'M DONE, I'M FINISHED" half way through.) I REALLY enjoyed Soarin' Over California, where they make you feel like you are in a plane flying over California. I enjoyed Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indian Jones. but I DID NOT like the swinging Ferris Wheel. Here are a couple pictures to describe how much I liked it:

**Unfortunately I can't share the video that one of the campers snapped during the event.  It is truly a gem.**

2. I absolutely LOVED the light shows. Friday we stayed to watch the World of Color light/water show. AMAZING, doesn't even begin to cover it. Videos and pictures won't do it justice. They went through different scenes from the Disney movies and projected them onto the water, then choreographed the water and lights to music. During Pirate's of the Caribbean they actually shot out fire (see picture below). I loved seeing how much the participants enjoyed it. At one point when the the cute down syndrome boy that was standing next to me realized that the music belonged to Pocahontas, he opened up his arms really wide and exclaimed, "It's my people.... no really I am part Indian". He was HILARIOUS. Saturday we stayed for the fireworks and Fantasia light show (I felt like such a bad leader Saturday, I feed everyone lunch at 3pm and dinner at 8pm and then kept them out until 1am... shhh.. don't tell anyone). The fireworks were amazing and the light show was ok (at least compared to the World of Color). Overall it was just so magical!
3. I absolutely loved working with the four people below. During the day we split into 2 different groups. Aaron (the boy in blue) and myself took 5 people while the other 2 staff, Phil and Rachel, took the other 5. I loved our group, we had a good mix of cognitive and physical abilities. We had a few down's syndrome individuals, a TBI, and a girl who had pretty severe CP, and celiac's disease. Aaron I became so good at transferring her in and out of the rides, and I became one of the only ones who could understand her and translate for her. All of them were so funny, and willing to go on ANY ride. Like I mentioned earlier California Adventure was a little rough, partly because of the weather, but mostly because we were just learning how to work with each other. Which made Saturday in Disneyland so much better. One of my favorite pictures comes for Splash Mountain. They cute people in my group thought it would be so funny to put me in the front, they really wanted to see me get wet. Little did they know they would get a wonderful picture from it was well.... I hope you enjoy the face! Aaron was such a trooper and while he would have preferred to go to Space Mountain, he stopped to let us girls see the princesses!! Thanks Aaron!!

4. I have never laughed so much in my life. These campers that I work with are HILARIOUS. While I can't recount every memory that makes me laugh, I would like to share this one. There were two down syndrome boys, we will call one Bob and one Jack. Bob (who happens to be the one who made me laugh at the world of color light show) was flirting with me, so Jack says, "Bob, stop flirting with the counselors" When I told Jack I heard he was a ladies man he goes, "Yes, but I don't puff up my masculinity for them. I just be myself. All you need is appropriate social skills." I then told him that he needs to come and talk to my guy friends, he says, "It's amazing how those without disabilites still need to work on the same things that those with disabilities do."

Overall it was a much needed trip. I needed to feel that unconditional love I often don't get from my family. I needed the opportunity to act silly in public and not care what anybody thought of me. I needed a reminder of how damn good I am at my job, and how much I can make a difference, even if I am not holding babies everyday. I have one of the best jobs in the world and these pictures prove it!