Friday, July 31, 2009

The Jiggle Story

July 19-24 Happenings:

Fact: a kid left me a Happy Fun Bag note that simply said: "Twins suck, Yankees rule!"

Fact: one of the boys sleeping rooms smelled like feet all week; it was seriously like having Ron Artest's playoff sneakers tied around your face like a mask, and then breathing, and then trying to sleep or be alive.

Fact: one morning when Lisa and I were standing near the boys bathroom, a kid ran hollering in pain down the stairs and, when he saw that someone was cleaning the bathroom, he fell to the ground and kicked his legs and rolled around and wailed.

Fact: when we told him he could still go in, he yelled, "No! They'll peek at me!"

Fact: one of the leaders left a GPS on the windshield of his van, so during the night somebody (not from any of our groups, we think...) busted out the passenger window and nabbed it.

Fact: on the first night, I went into the smelly boys sleep room only to find its occupants playing "Manball," a game in which one player lofts a tennis ball up and tries to land it in another player's nether regions; the recipient cannot move or flinch.*

Fact: Ben, Wesley, and I told a bedtime story wherein four site staff members had been raised by bats in a bat cave; when asked why Stockton had an accent and the rest of us didn't, Ben told them that Stockton had been raised by southern bats.

Fact: we also told a gruesome story about how the Niagara Falls YouthWorks! staff used to have twelve staff members instead of four.

Fact: during the pre-wash drinking competition, Lisa finished her cup before I did.

Fact: one of the youth leaders told us this story from 'Bama. Before telling it, the kids in his youth group spent three days hyping up this, "The Jiggle Story." and singing its praises. The pastor did not let us down. The tale: he and his crew of youngsters were working at a garage sale in the South. At said garage sale were two young women who were wearing less-than-modest attire. What was exposed was distracting everyone there, so after a while the pastor politely approached the two young women and asked them if they could done clothes that caused less stumbling. One of the girls complied; the other staunchly refused and argued that none of the guys should be looking. The conflict became heated and the pastor ended up standing on a chair, pulling his shirt up over his head, and jiggling around all that he had, all the while yelling, "Don't look! Don't look!" His punchline was that the young woman still did not get it.

Fact: rain poured down most of the afternoon on Thursday. It let up around 3 PM. Weather.com told us that between 5:45 PM and 6:45 PM, there was a 95% chance of heavy thunderstorms; i.e. there'd be lightning and we'd have to cancel our cookout at Hyde Park. I threw caution to the wind and decided we'd go anyway, come hell or high water. The Lord shined his face upon us; though we watched some of the most grim thunderheads of our time rear up near us, no rain came. The clouds skirted us to the left, and to the right. At two different times during club, someone mentioned the sweet weather that we'd been given, and the whole staff ran onto the stage and went absolutely berserk. Yea, God!

Fact: Wesley decided that if we sold more than $800 of YE merchandise, he would dye his hair. The kids busted out $812, but, though he turned Niagara Falls upside down, young Wessels could not conjure up any hair dye. Ben saved the day by concocting a hair-dyeing recipe obtained from the internet; the contents were mayonnaise and red Kool-Aid. Observe (these are almost all stolen and are compliments...or something...of Facebook and a trip leader from Jersey):









There are some other pictures of Lisa with a knife and Wesley hanging over a railing as if dead. P'rhaps those will make it to this site at some point; until then, here are some other visual demonstrations of the week. Most/all of these are stolen as well.

...the so-called Greek Skit...





..."The" so-called "Moose Song"...



...the so-called "Lady, Hunter, Gorilla" jubilee...





...the whole mob of pretty stinkin' sweet kids and old fogies...



...Tie-Day Friday. The Batman "tie" that Ben is wearing is compliments of fashion genius Kari Smith, who has been known to turn mere men into demigods by not only clothing them in wildness but also by supplying them with borderline illegal firearms. That morn was no different...



...Friday morning mid-clean dance party, started by the area director of the world...









...nothing new...



..."The Picnic That Ne'er Should Have Happened"...



...Ben and an esteemed trip leader, who happens to minister at the very church that Ben's fiance attends...



...you know it...



...the Bronco...



...just another Tuesday at Wrobel Towers. The young buck in the front row knows what to do with it...



...Dan and Sue, I hope you are proud...



So this is getting to be pretty long. If you share these sentiments, bummer, because there is more. Lisa set up this photo shoot and we did it, right there, in front of God and everybody, Friday morning. Here are all the pictures. I think that it truly captures the souls of each staff member.











If you thought that an impromptu staff photo shoot, wait until you read this next sentence: it happened again the next week. Count it, sons.

*Give yourself a thousand chocolate stars if you have ever played any variant of this game.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ding Ding

What can I say about this week that hasn't been said about the first nine seasons of Albert Pujols' career? Dang near perfect. Who did we victimize? There were the usual Philadelphians and the typical Pittsburgese-ivianisms, but there also was an LSU-lovin' crew from Alabama. Not only did they come to escape the heat in the South; they came to bring the pain.

What can I say about the adult leaders this week that hasn't been said about the rolling hills of southern Iowa? Absolutely breath-taking and utterly astounding! Never mind the fact that one of them was a Yankees fan, enough of a Yankees fan to cheer for them in the middle of club. You want the honest truth? Every time there has been a fan of a team I hate at any of the YouthWorks! sites that I've been at, we've had a good ol' time, dating back to the week last summer that Brent B. left me a Happy Fun Bag Note that simply said, "Dear Rueben*: the Twins suck!" But. I digress. These leaders were understanding, interactive, funny, gallant, brave, and daring...understanding, interactive, funny, gallant, brave, and daring enough to stay up with us one or two nights and play Rick James.

"Rick James? Isn't he eatin' the dirt sandwich?" you may be asking yourself from the safety of your home or dorm room, or cave. Well. I'm not going to paint the whole picture for you, but this game originated from the hearts and minds of two young men, young men whom I will refer to as Mike Moravec and Cody Meyer. The rules of the game are simple: each player receives a card. Each player flips his or her card. The player with the card of the lowest value gets slapped in the face by all the other players. The slaps come in various degrees of intensity, but the game usually escalates pretty quickly, especially if Ray Lewis or Latrell Sprewell are playing.

I will briefly describe our dance with Rick James. We played maybe ten rounds the first evening. Wesley did not hold back; on the first play of the game, he decimated one leader's face. Preposterously low evaluation scores danced before my eyes. We kept going. To my delight, I found that I never got any low cards, so I did what any twenty-three-year-old in his or her right mind would do: I started talking smack, and hitting people [read: Lisa] harder. Needless to say, the game ended when I did finally end up getting the lowest card, only to have my face demolished at the hands of my staff. I will sum up the experience by saying that a) we played the next night, too b) a leader shaved his previously-grizzled face for that second night c) I haven't laughed as hard as I did the first evening at any point this summer...save perhaps after we initially defeated the bat.

Lord knows there were other sweet things about the grown-ups who were here this week. Each staff member gets a day to sleep in during the week and on my day to sleep in, I woke up in my room on the third floor because I heard Lisa in the kitchen yelling, "Wooo! Yeah!" and then this army sergeant adult leader yelling, "Boo-yah!" These are commonly-hollered phrases at a YouthWorks! site, I think. I have no idea what in the world they were yelling about, but, somehow, it made me happy. I think I love that a lot of yelling goes on at the Potter's House. At another point there were two kids carrying this huge bin of dirty dishes to the vans from the cookout, and a chaperone tried to land a football in the bin from about seventy-five yards out. He was wide to the right about three feet, which is pretty dang close, but both of the boys looked back and laughed but then walked the bin right into a tree. At a third point, one very near the departure of the groups, Wesley went in for a hug on one leader, and the leader slapped him good and hard, right in front of God and everybody. And if all of that wasn't good enough, I was sending in the money we made from selling t-shirts, and I looked at a check that a leader had filled out, and it was a Twix-themed check. Somebody please count it.

What can I say about the young folk that came to our site this week that hasn't been said about my area directors from both this summer and last? They were super engaged! The dead give-a-way was Sunday evening, right after everyone arrived, which is a great time for a dead give-a-way. Everyone sits down for supper and the staff greets everyone. Usually a couple kids and one or two enthused chaperons yell, "Hi!" back, but this week everyone cheered and yelled and hollered and stamped their li'l feet. They were excited to be there! Awesome kids. There was a counterpart to this instance that occurred at the end of the week. Lisa was doing what are commonly referred to as "Double Dings," which is basically a time of complimenting others on cool things that they did during the day. On the last night one...what are the right words?...huge stud of an adult leader raised her hand and said, "Double dings to the YouthWorks! staff for bein' awesome!" And then she rushed the stage and took Lisa's bat and bell (don't act like you haven't smacked a bell with a big whiffle ball bat and yelled, "Ding! Ding!") and did the Double Ding, and then all the kids just cheered for seriously at least a minute, and we had to come out there and not know what to do, and they kept cheering. And then Stockton rapped, to wrap that part of club up. But. It was humbling. I challenge you to find a group of thirty-seven young people who would be as encouraging and driven when working in the community, as upbeat and enthusiastic in the face of our uproarious schedule, as efficient and compliant when cooking or cleaning, as in-tune and harmonious when singing, or as interactive and sweet as this herd of kids was this week. Double Dings? More like Triple Dings. Come back.

Case study number one: there was a this girl who helped me grill hot dogs. She told it like it was ("You've done this for twelve weeks and you still don't know what you are doing!") but, oh! How she made sure those dogs got off the grill at just the right instant. Lisa was praying, loudly, and I stood there with my head bowed, and in the middle of the prayer, this girl pointed at one of the hot dogs and nodded to indicate to me that it was done and that I should remove it from the grill. Whoever you are, don't come between a hungry ninth-grade cook and her grilled entrees.

Case study number two: there was this girl who decided that my Iowa flag was awful and every time she walked by me at the cookout where I was wearing the flag, she would yell, "Ewww!"

Case study number three:
Me: "So what college do you want to go to?"
Middle school girl: "I'm twelve."

Case study number four:
There is this dude at Murphy's Orchard who dresses like a soldier and has a large sword and, as I understand it, is generally considered to be a good-looking person. Each week he can be seen surrounded by a platoon of middle school girls who thinks he is hot.



Now. This guy has been in and has worked to produce many movies; he is an expert on the Civil War and the military in that era. As I understand it, at least. So he tells people that he has been in a couple war movies, because that's a sweet conversational piece. This week (or maybe he does this every week...I hope so) we were riding back to the church, and the driver asked her girls what their favorite part of the orchard was. One girl said that it was Lt. Williams, and that he had been in a ton of movies. So the driver asked which movies. So the girl said, "He was in 'Transformers.'" The driver looked back at me in the rearview mirror and said, "Really? What else?" And the girl said, "Yeah! He was in 'Indiana Jones,' too!"

Case study number five:
There was this dude whose mom brought him late to the site because he was in a baseball tournament, which already sets him apart for greatness. But I was coming down the stairs that first night and saw this kid scamper by in a wrestling singlet. Turns out that that is what he sleeps in. I also went in and turned the lights on in the guys sleeping room one morning, and said, "Welcome to the day, boys!" and this kid sat up abruptly in his bed, threw up his fists, and yelled, "Yeeeah!" as loudly and as enthusiastically as he could. He was pumped for the day, sons. There was also this six-year-old girl at one of the ministry sites who said she liked his butt.

Case study number six: as I have mentioned before, we do that age-old skit in which a number of items are placed on a table and covered with a bin or something, with the catch being that I hide under the table and stick my head, however possible, under one of the bins. Then a couple kids have to come up and are told to remove the bin, touch and identify the object, and replace the bin. Usually, one or two of them freaks out when they see me under the third bin. This week some girl did freak out, and then the next morning she told us that she'd had nightmares about it. I hoped it would come up on an evaluation at the end of the week.

Case study number seven:
Alright. There were kids who were awesome without making a big deal about it, kids who just got pumped to see us every time and who wanted to high-five all day long and who had rainbow-colored shoe laces to give out and who were having everyone sign their hats or shirts and who were just juiced to be alive. Count it, count it, count it.

Case study number eight:
I hauled He Who Shall Remain Nameless around for a bit one night, and one middle girl liked him a ton. On Thursday, right when everyone was leaving for the day, she came up to me and said, "Reuben, can you do me a huge favor?" I said, "Probably, what is it?" And she said, "Can you bring the inflatable Reuben to my work site today?" So I did. And right before she left, this girl again pulled me aside and said, "Say good-bye to the inflatable Reuben for me." So that is what I did, I unzipped my backpack and told the doll good-bye and then zipped it back up, and that is where he is right now.

So if you've been awake at all during all of this, you probably understand by now that we had a neat time with these chaps. Come Friday morning, it was pretty obvious that all four of the YouthWorks! staff members had really enjoyed the week and had laughed a lot and were pretty satisfied. But little did we realize that there was one more hurdle that this week's crop of kids was about to clear in a riveting and awful way: YE merchandise sales.

To make a long story short, we told everyone that if a certain amount of American dollars were spent on Youth Enterprise merchandise, Wesley and I would shave our legs. YE sales exceeded the specified amount by over $100.







The butt-kickers themselves, in all their glory:



What can be said about the YouthWorks! site staff in Niagara Falls this summer that hasn't been said about Mariusz Pudzianowski? They work in such a blind, incoherent flurry that, when given the choice between taking a nap and "doing whatever they wanted" (i.e. work), what do you think they chose? When given the choice between showering or playing four square, what do you think went down? When given the choice between taking a break and eating lunch or plowing through and ignoring the pleas of the flesh, what do you think they did? When given the choice between sticking rigidly to the schedule or taking a minute or two extra to listen to some kid's trivial story from his or her work site, what do you think happened next? No one ever went home and said, "The mission trip? Well. Dinner was two minutes late one night. I'll stay home next year." When given the choice between sweatily changing a wounded tire or shrugging it off and saying ten extra "Bless Me, Fathers," what course of action do you think they made theirs? When given the choice between David Archuletta or Chris Brown, which artist do you think they tied to a stake in the desert? Double Dings to the site staff, for making it happen. I wish I could be as they are.

In relatively unrelated news:

Last week this adult leader told some kids and I this wild story of how her sister was at this dude's apartment for a party. The sister, Blake the host, and Mr. Mar (I think) were out on the porch of the second story apartment. Mr. Mar was grilling. The three of them were discussing the architectural quality of the apartment, and Blake said, "I wonder exactly how much weight this porch can hold," when suddenly the porch actually gave way and collapsed. Somehow, Blake leaped and grabbed onto the bottom of the doorway of the apartment. The sister and Mr. Mar ended up on the ground, and the grill ended up on the sister. Mr. Mar walked away unhurt, but the sister ended up in the hospital. The woman telling the story was alerted of this event by receiving a voicemail that said, "Hey, are you at the hospital yet? We're on our way."

In a similar violent vein, this girl told us about how her brother was on an escalator and got his pinky finger stuck in the stairs on the escalator and part of the finger got sliced off.

Stockton told me about this exchange she had with Thrift Master Flex in the kitchen during our second week of chaos. There was leftover turkey that had to be put away. As most large-scale eating establishments do, we write the date and name of the leftover product on the bag or Tupperware container in which it is placed. Thrift Master was storing some lunch meat; he wrote "Butt Nasty Turkey" on the container and gave it to Stockton to put away. She read it and just looked at it, and then at him. Thrift Master Flex said, "Fine," crossed out "Butt Nasty Turkey," and wrote, "Sam's Turkey." You can probably guess where we shop.

Someone told me at RAMP (YouthWorks! staff training week) that somewhere within the University of Minnesota Facebook network, someone had decided to form a group called "Campus Crusade for Jesus." Soon after, someone formed a group called "Campus Jihad for Allah."

Another RAMP story: My supervisor Ben is from Ohio and went to high school at a school that played the high school that LeBron James attended. He said King James would drop sixty in a night without much effort and that the press would be all over each game. Another supervisor, an older one, said that he had taught Joe Mauer in western civ in high school. He said that Mauer would sit all over in the lunch room and eat with many different students and groups. So this supervisor said to be like Mauer, so I heard someone muttering about how we were supposed to bat .450 and drive in 120 runs that summer.

Another RAMP-related tale: on the morning we left from Philadelphia for Niagara Falls, a grab 'n' go breakfast was provided. Stockton was grabbing a Capri Sun to go, but the straw fell off the one that she grabbed, so she grabbed the straw off a different Capri Sun that was in the box. Then we hit the road. An hour into the trip, we discovered that the Capri Sun that I'd grabbed didn't have a straw on it.

Last one. I was trying to get to sleep one night at RAMP and some dudes were up talking; one told this story about how when he was a little kid, two of his older siblings had hog-tied him with duct tape and thrown him onto their parents waterbed. Then they shaken the bed so that he flopped up and down and up and down and eventually thrown up all over, and then flopped up and down and up and down in the vomit. And then they'd put duct tape over his mouth and he'd thrown up more and had had to swallow it. And then they left him for an hour or so and had gone and done other stuff.

*Brent also intentionally spelled my name wrong, because the week before that, I'd broken my name tag in an intense round of Body-Part Roulette, which is as fun as it sounds, and I'd received a new name tag at the beginning of the week that Brent was at our site. The catch was that my name was spelled "Rueben" on this new name tag, and that week I'd griped about it in the adult leader meeting. This guy Brent was brighter than the average White Sox fan, I might add: that week my staff had this competition each day. We'd pick a category (Monday: meats, Tuesday: states, Wednesday: Shaq Diesel quotes, Thursday: swear words) and see who could make the most verbal use of each category during club. We kept score in our staff room, which was where the adult leader meeting was held. Brent figured it out and wanted a score update each night.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pleasing Is the Fragrance of Your Perfumes

On Sunday, June 28th, I took a shower at the Red Carpet Inn before church. Without hot water, I might add. I showered again on Wednesday morning, and again the next Sunday, July 5. And then again Wednesday night. And Friday night. It is Saturday evening right now. I will probably squeeze one in before church tomorrow morning, and then, well, it's all up in the air after that.

This is not about seeing how long I can go without showering. It is about something else, something I have not quite put my finger on, but something that I had a discussion about with my task master, Ben. We exchanged stories about not showering (don't pretend that you've never done this) for a while, and I have continued thinking about it.

Something about not being clean cut and well kept appeals to me. This is not the walk of life that I am planning on taking in the next couple years...the teaching business generally demands some sort of professional appearance. But right now, and at various other points in my life, I think I enjoy just letting go of all of that. Just a little bit.

The times during which my hair was tangled and greasy and my feet were gray and dusty linger in my mind as enjoyable times. One especially vivid memory is of driving from Spirit Lake, Iowa, to Rock Rapids in the Celebrity. The entire scene reeks of vacation. The Celeb was covered in dust from being parked next to a gravel back road. I rode with both windows down and some decrepit punk band playing. All I wore was a swimsuit. The part that sticks with me the most, strangely, is how my bare feet felt against the gas and brake pedal. I had no responsibility; I was just haulin' through the country on a hot, sunny, Iowa day, smelling like the lake.

Experiences at my grandparents' cabin on Spirit Lake could fill a book on their own, but were I to make a graph depicting days spent there to days showered there, the difference would be the largest per capita, I promise. Entire days could be spent there in the same swimsuit, without stepping foot in the bathroom, never once having put a shirt on. Bathing? If one had to, one could jump in the lake and shampoo the hair there, although it was common knowledge that you would basically exit Spirit Lake grosser than when you entered.

It's laid back! I think the lot that I occupy in life lends itself that sort of lifestyle as well. During the YouthWorks! summer, staff members rise early and hit the hay late. There are oodles of things that need to be accomplished, and, being the type A, schedule-driven, task-oriented individual that my upbringing has molded me into, the first thing to get cut from my to-do list is showering. Especially during cooler weeks. So really this is the opposite of being at the lake in that I am too busy to take time for personal hygiene.

The week is super full, but I think it really comes to a point on Friday. Thursday night is usually the latest of the week, and Friday morning is always the earliest. From 6:30 to 9 AM we bust butt to get the youth groups to be gone, and then we are supposed to take a mandatory nap. I do not usually take that nap. The rest of the day is spent shopping and doing paperwork and whatever else you have to do to be done for the weekend and enter into relaxation. To me, Friday is a blur done on fumes of little sleep and no lunch, and, if those things don't get a priority, you know a shower is not going to be taken. This is made more horrible by the fact that there is no dumpster at the Potter's House, so we have to transport every ounce of waste that we produce via the Bronco to Community Mission. And you know what? Sometimes the garbage bags don't hold, and scrappy leftovers that have been sitting and boiling in the sun since Sunday run out onto the arms and torso during these garbage runs.

One Friday morning last summer in Sault Ste. Marie, I went to AT&T to get more minutes on the work phone. I went in and sat down at the desk where these two younger women were working. I was all ready to place my order, but these two women just gave me this strange look. Then one of them asked, "Did you get drunk last night?" I realized that I had shown up in sandals, sweatpants, and a t-shirt that I'd grilled in the evening before. Additionally, my hair was caked with human head grease, my wrists had announcements that I had to make written on them, my arms had been tattooed by middle school girls, and I had neither shaved nor showered since the Tuesday before.

I think I like the idea that at YouthWorks!, we work too hard to take time shower. But that explanation is only plausible for so long. Life at the lake is the opposite of life at YouthWorks! What do they have in common? Some sort of disregard for the normal standards of appearance in our society, or not worrying about what one looks like, I suppose. All I can say is that I could handle more livin' like this, but it will all come to an awful end in four weeks.

And, I suppose, that posting this is like kissing dating good-bye.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Midway

I like to plan and I like to organize. What follows is not going to fall into either of those categories. At my fingertips lies the keyboard. In my brain lies many a thought on this week. On my lips lies a Blow Pop. We will see what that abominable combination can produce.

After everyone left last week and that atrocious fax debacle occurred, Lisa's mom Lori showed up and everything was alright. It is always interesting getting to know an individual and then meeting their parents and seeing where it all came from, eh? No exceptions. The days between YouthWorks! church groups were spent roaming Niagara Falls State Park, finally watching baseball at some bar and grill, viewing fireworks over the falls as some observation of patriotism, playing soccer until Wesley and I were about to throw up/be lame, and eat burgers that were about as big as Nasty's biceps.

A bride and groom at the falls on their wedding day. Someday that will be Anne Hatheway and me.



Wesley napping at the falls. Our stand-in optometrist Ben diagnosed him with Athlete's Eye later.



Take heed, you slackers out there. This is Lisa calling fools to see if we can come and paint their houses on her day off at Niagara Falls, a place where people come from all over the globe to worship.



Get in my mouth.



This li'l guy had the audacity to scamper across the wall in front of us all. He paid with his life. Then we burned down his home and canceled all his wife's credit cards.



But, as it has done so often in the past, time rolled on, and soon more youth groups were arriving at the Potter's House. One arrived on time, two arrived within five minutes each other but two hours after we needed them to be there. Ironically enough, our boss's boss Heather, who is in charge of sixteen sites and basically the entire eastern YouthWorks! seaboard, happened to swing out for the night. Needless to say, I soiled myself several times, for several reasons (fear, frustration, Stockton jumping out of dark rooms and startling me), but we got through the evening as seamlessly as possible, given the tardiness that ran rampant here.

Insert sweet transition.

Fail. Anyway, so far this summer, many a laugh and many a conversation had been had with several a fellow, but it was safe to say that I hadn't really connected with anyone the way I was hoping to. So, to put it all in context and to make a serious sidenote out of it, relationships are super important to me, and while the YouthWorks! summer is America's number one event at which to get to know people, I don't think it had lived up to the hype before this week. I am pretty sure that it was my fault; my concentration had been real focused on logistics and details and makin' things flow nicely, the way I am obsessed with. And I can't even say there weren't times when I wasn't overcome by OCD this week.

However! There were a handful of kids who came to our site this fine week who were just easy to engage with. Kids with sweet senses of humor, great tastes in hair style, and passionate fervor for baseball. Yes. It's true. I sewed this Minnesota Twins emblem onto the back of my backpack, and one day I was leaving the shower facility when one girl said, in a completely appalled tone, "You like the Twins?" I stopped, took off my nametag and and bag, threw them to the ground, stomped over to her, and yelled at her long and loud enough for two security guys stepped out of their office nearby and said, "Who's got a problem out here?" I said that I did, that this girl was rippin' on baseball teams that had never and will never deserve an ill word spoken about them. The guy said that he hoped it was the Yankees and that he hated them, so we became instant friends. At supper that evening that girl and I talked about baseball for longer than I had with anyone who'd come to our site all summer, minus Ben, with whom I spent a good ten minutes listing off Cleveland Indians from 1995. Lofton, Vizquel, Baerga, Murray, Belle, Thome, pre-steroid Ramirez, Alomar, Jr., Sorrento, Hershiser, Nagy, Martinez, Mesa. Assenmacher. From memory, people. Anyway. We talked about how the Phillies had won the Series the year before and how the Twins actually did have some big-time studs and how Shane Victorino's helmet looked silly. Awesome!

So it was sweet having this conversation and several like it with this character. Other stuff that happened: I got dared to- how can I portray this in the least creepy way? -chew her gum, and so I did that, with both a vanilla-flavored and a cinnamon-flavored piece. This girl and her sister turned my head into more of a freak show than it had been:



They wore ties on Friday...no one has done that since a one Scott Hourigan did it at the end of February 2009. I was sort of at a loss; it felt weird to not have one on, even for a minute or two. Geez:



She also was nice enough to take a few pictures during club, which will appear later in this very post. Double ding, son. Double ding. And she helped us plug Youth Enterprise t-shirts up front. Brave soul.

So that was neat. Oh, that more folk like these would show up at N.F. There were other awesome people here this week. I had some sweet exchanges with different chaperones about faith and being related, in different ways, to pastors.

Other business that got taken care of:

Wesley wore this in order to sell more t-shirts. Draw your own conclusions.



Stockton wore this. There's no explanation, which is probably the best part.





Lisa didn't wear this. There is a lot going on in this picture.



I spotted this dude's hat. He is from Spring Lake Park and told me that Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan had been selected to the American League All-Star team; we talked more about how Kevin Slowey, who, at the time, was tied for having the most wins in the majors, did not get selected. Oh, the politics of professional sports. If only your dad was on the school board, Kevin...



This cat emerged from the underbrush at one of the work projects. This one's for you, Simon. I arrived on site to find this girl feeding the beast a ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich; fortunately the cat could not finish the whole thing, so despite not packing my own sandwich, the Lord provided me with some sort of lunch.









Lisa and I competing to see who can drink ice cream rinse the fastest.



This is our entire crew, pretending to make goat burgers. Sorry, all you vegetarians, that you had to see this.



This young buck donned the Iowa flag for a bit. Note the flock of women who have gathered around him, happy simply to be near the Iowa flag. My favorite is the girl on the far right holding the train aloof; I don't think she has any interest in Iowa at all and is there simply to take care of business.



This is what it looks like from up front, just before everyone's spirits get crushed Friday morning by the massive building cleaning assignments that get distributed. Note: there are two girls who are just to the right of the right vacuum. They are pulling their eyes way open. One of them was the one who the cat and I hung out with. But these two spent the entire week telling me that I closed my eyes too much when I spoke up front, and they did their very best to fix that problem. I will take any help I can get.



Lisa chases the vans as they careen away each week; this is her returning. Next week she is scheduled to sneak into a trunk, Ross William Enger-style, and travel with the group for a block or two before being sent packing.



This is what happens, people. This is what happens.



Finally, there was this handsome young adult leader who was the same age as Stockton, so obviously we (read: Lisa, Wesley, and I) decided that Stockton and this dude were destined to be together. Thus, we took as many pictures of them together as possible. Alas, the week ended with not a touch of purple.







Another one in the books. This weekend is the halfway point of the summer; four weeks have bitten our dust, and four await to be slaughtered. Next weekend, a one Sue Haggar is coming out here! Lock your doors and pull the shades, people. The weekend after that, I am planning on returning to the homeland to celebrate Orvis and Katie's wedlock. It's going to be fun.

Lastly: I stole this picture from Facebook, where a chaperon from last week posted it. It's from the cookout.