Camp Fuller by The Sea

“Summer camp is an essential part of a well-rounded, All-American upbringing,” said a child life specialist somewhere at some point in time.

I was #blessed to be able to attend sleep-away camp during the summer after 5th grade. Nestled in a small town outside Providence, Rhode Island, the camp was called Camp Fuller, but I remember it best as “Camp Fuller by The Sea.” If you’re interested in learning more about Camp Fuller, be sure to check out this super informative and sorely unedited Urban Dictionary entry written by a former camper – let’s call her Katie. If you don’t read it for her fascinating take on the camp’s social hierarchy, read it to see Katie misspell basic words like “attention,” “counselor,” and “division.”

Until Camp Fuller I’d only gone to day camp. I excelled as a day camper…crushed it at typical camp activities like drip drip drop, Popsicle stick art, talent shows, sports, and of course, beach day. Beach day was my favorite day with the exception of that one time when I spent the entire day sitting on a towel in order to conceal a tear in my bathing suit. But other than that minor but traumatizing mishap I was a model camper – the kind that you only read about in books.

While I was perfectly content as a day camper, sleep-away camp beckoned me like the last slice of pizza. At the ready age of 10, being on my own sounded thrilling to me. So it was settled. I would be attending Camp Fuller for one 2-week session. I pictured myself paddling a kayak while the sun sets, sitting around a roaring bonfire while Chad, the sensitive counselor, plays the guitar, meeting my long lost twin after an aggressively over-acted fencing match.

I remember a lot about Camp Fuller, and not just because I was sober the whole time, but because I enjoyed most of it. Being sober certainly did help though. I remember waking up to Britney Spears’ first CD. I remember being asked by someone waiting for the shower if I had peed in the shower right after I did in fact pee in the shower. I looked at her strangely and said ‘no’, but she and I both knew that I did it. I remember every girl in my cabin, especially the chick who slept above me. I guess that made us bunk mates. She had hair down her back and brushed it everyday for about an hour. She also had fully developed breasts which supported my “Never Been Kissed” theory that she was actually much older and posing as a 11 year-old to fulfill childhood dream of her’s. We had two counselors living in a room attached to our cabin. One was named Cassandra, and the other, a British woman named Lucy. Between her British flag shirt, her blonde hair, Lucy reminded me of Baby Spice, making it extremely difficult to dislike her. The other counselor, Cassandra, was American, but royally screwed herself when she divulged her greatest fear to the cabin. It started as a harmless conversation about our fears until Cassandra grabbed hold of the flashlight and shared that her biggest fear was being raped. Lucy did nothing to lighten the situation. She said her fear was being buried alive. If I remember correctly, I think I said mine was sharks. My fears have taken a much darker turn since then, now it’s guys my age who wear Abercrombie and Hollister and think it’s ok and hangovers lasting longer than 12 hours.

I remember a lot of the girls at camp, but none better than Ksenia…or maybe it was Xenia. Either way, she had a silent letter tacked on the beginning of her name. I mean at least the ‘X’ in my name stands for something. For the record, I believe silent letters are as cool as that new cropped pant trend. I was convinced she was part human part cat after watching her climb the rock wall. I’ve never seen anyone climb a rock wall with such grace and speed. She even climbed it blindfolded and with her feet tied. Fucking Ksenia and her silent K and her Russian gymnast strength and discipline. I think every guy was in love with her (this was before they watched me stuff three marsh mallows in my mouth). There was one black kid at the camp. His name was Lance. he wore classic Timberland boots and had braids like Lil’ Wayne. All the girls loved him, including myself. He was in my water skiing class but he never actually went water skiing, he just skipped rocks all of class and said things like “Shit,” “Damn” and “That is wack.”

Although I did not return to Camp Fuller, I will forever cherish the memories I made there. Like the song goes, “To thee Camp Fuller by the sea, we will always faithful be.”

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Shitty Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most celebrated American traditions. I mean what could be more American than football, beer, and sitting on your ass for four+ hours, mindlessly consuming delicious finger foods like pigs in a blanket and wings the whole way through. Oh wait, that’s literally what I do every day. This year I was #blessed to be traveling on Super Bowl Sunday. I was supposed to go on a business trip to Orlando. This is how my day unfolded from start to finish.

I woke up half-drunk and drenched in my own sweat at around 8 AM. The night before I managed to come home and microwave some chicken poppers, but forgot to charge my phone. So here I am, about to leave for the airport with a dying phone and a rapidly approaching hangover. Already, the tone was set for the rest of the day. My flight was scheduled to leave at 10:50, so I rushed to gather my things and ran out the door. There was snow everywhere, and I thought that for sure my flight would be delayed or even canceled. As I trudged down the sidewalk with about 50 lbs of baggage in tow, the drunken stupor began to fade and the hangover began to set in. This was an aggressive hangover and, like the majority of my hangovers, I had a feeling it would be enduring. I rode the blue line to O’hare and upon arrival, found out that my flight was delayed an hour. Ok, great. I will use that extra hour to pull myself together, have some coffee and a protein shake bagel. I also found a charging station, so things were starting to look up. The snow continued to fall, and the number of canceled flights grew. Not ours though. We boarded the plane at 1 PM and sat at the gate for about an hour while the crew worked to deice the plane. Then after about an hour the pilot came on and announced that the flight would be “permanently delayed.” So we deplaned and went back to the gate only to find out that there had been a miscommunication between air traffic control and the pilot….and the flight was back on. So for the second time we boarded the plane, said hello to the crew, went back to our seats and watched the safety video. The captain even briefed us on the weather in Orlando, again. Then once the plance was de-iced (again), we rode around on the taxiways for what seemed like hours. Everyone was silent, waiting expectantly every time the engine would rev. But an hour later we were still on the ground. The captain came on and told us that the weather was not subsiding and that it was not safe to fly. Yeah, no shit. It was a full on blizzard out there. It was after 4 PM at this point, so I had officially been at the airport for 7 hours and had spent 2 of those hours sitting on a grounded plane. I didn’t care how hungover I was, now more than ever I needed a stiff drink. So I got back on the L, rode for an hour, walked back to my apartment, and planted my ass on the couch to watch the Super Bowl with the rest of America. It was a nice ending to a shitty day.

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Bible Camp

Do you guys watch Keeping Up with The Duggars? It’s really called 19 Kids and Counting, but we may as well call it The Relentless Vagina, because that vagina is like John Giambi: 43 years old, used up and should have retired a while ago. And no, I do not know who John Giambi is – I just googled “athletes who should retire.”

Hello, and welcome to the first post of 2015. I promise there will be no more mention of vaginas from here on. Today’s post is about my stint in rehab Bible Camp! At the ripe age of 10, my parents decided to enroll me in Vacation Bible School. At this point, my knowledge of The Good Book was all acquired from a TV show called VeggieTales. The show follows a band of singing vegetables as they tell stories and and sing songs about the Bible and arbitrary things like not being able to find your hairbrush(my favorite song sung by Larry…I could relate most to Larry the Cucumber because he was silly, energetic, and shaped like a cucumber.

Jokes aside, my first experience as a Bible Camper I enjoyed wholeheartedly. It was just like any other summer camp, consisting of days spent playing games, singing songs, and arts and crafts. The only difference was that at Bible camp said activities had a Biblical reference or theme attached to them. I made new friends or “disciples” as I referred to them and learned some neat things about the man upstairs along the way. Clearly I did not take the 10 Commandments seriously because I continued to lie compulsively even during Bible camp. I went to Bible Camp for a couple summers.

I decided to take my talents to the big leagues: a Bible camp for the elite called AWANA. AWANA which stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed is a evangelical nonprofit organization whose mission is to help “churches and parents worldwide raise children and youth to know, love and serve Christ” (Wikipedia). This was essentially a Bible Boot Camp. It took place after school for a couple hours. “AWANA” know how many days I lasted? One. I spent the entire first day struggling to pass the first level which was to memorize a single Bible scripture. I could barely read and this chick wants me to memorize a Bible scripture word for word? It was at least ten lines long and contained a lot of archaic words like and a hast, hath and unto, and whenever I messed up the woman quizzing me made me start from the beginning. This went on for two hours until I was forced to sit through an awards ceremony for the amazingly gifted kids who had advanced to a higher level. I felt like SUCH a failure. “I’m never going back to AWANA, NEVER!!” is what I wish I had yelled, Billy Madison style, when the ceremony ended.

God is Love,

Rev Run and Tina

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Directionally Challenged

Whenever I visit my parent’s home in the suburbs I always read some of the several hundred magazines they subscribe to. One magazine I like is Fast Company. It’s a fresh and smart take on all things business and tech, and if you know one thing about me, it’s that I like to stay relevant as fuck and that I also use swear words like Lindsay Lohan uses coke: excessively and probably on the set of a Lifetime movie or with Stedman in Oprah’s guesthouse. Anyway, this past weekend I read the December issue of Fast Company which included a feature story on American DJ and Producer, Diplo. Did you know that Diplo is short for Diplodocus? That’s that really chill long-necked dinosaur, FYI.

I also read a story about fashion and technology, more specifically, the merging of the two industries to create fashion with technological capabilities. If you thought cargo pants that zip off into fashionable shorts were cool, just wait until you hear about some of the latest inventions in tech fashion. Designers are creating apparel, accessories and fitness wear that can do everything from monitor your heart rate to charge your smartphone. I’m a pretty practical person, and when it comes to fashion I like things to be uncomplicated and preferably made of 100 percent cashmere…but there was one invention that peaked my interest. It’s called “Navigate Jacket.” The jacket connects with a phone via bluetooth and uses light up/vibrating sleeves to notify the wearer when and which way to turn. I mean aside from looking like a complete jackass, the jacket does have some cool qualities that make it especially appealing to directionally challenged folks like me.

I use my GPS more than any other app with the exception of Tinder and Starbucks. I need to use it as often as I do because my own sense of direction has failed me too many times. At this point even Siri’s like “My Queen, do you really need directions to (insert place I’ve been 1,000 times)?” If I had any hope for my sense of direction, all hope was lost the time my parents came to visit me in Seville where I was studying abroad at the time. After living there for two months, they thought I knew the place like the back of my hand. They thought wrong. Long story short we got really really lost and my dad became really really mad. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found out about this coat. I immediately put it on my Christmas list – right under the Bacon Wave. Fingers crossed that both of those items are under the tree.

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The Mexican Food Diet

I recently started a new job working in the Premium Food Production Industry. And no, that’s not a joke, but go ahead and laugh if you want. But let me ask you this: do you get to be an extra in a TV show and sample 9 different salsas on a random Tuesday at your job?

I was thrilled to land this job because it pays well (by my standards) and the benefits are great. Since starting in early September I’ve not only managed to build up my credit score and my 401k, but my body mass index has also seen significant growth. There are two things I know for sure: as long as I work here, I will never go hungry, my roommate will most likely never go hungry, and I will never have to buy my own chips and salsa. Right now, I feel beyond #blessed but I also feel #gross. In the two months I’ve worked here I have consumed a disgusting amount of Mexican food. My expanding waistline agrees. Nowhere in the job description did it say “Able to be productive in an environment with an unlimited supply of natural stone-ground tortilla chips, fresh fire-roasted salsas, and delicious homemade Mexican meals” and yet, I find myself grabbing handfuls of chips in between pumping out spreadsheets. It’s gotten so bad that I now have a recurring dream where I am being chased by a giant burrito named Raul…that was a joke, but it’s funny to imagine in your head, right?

I’m embarrassed to admit that before working here I did not really know what Carnitas were. I assumed it was something Chipotle invented/a cool name for a Latina girl band. Now I can speak knowledgeably about such ethnic meats as carnitas and barbacoa. I’ve begun to consider myself a Mexican cuisine/restaurant connoisseur and I’ve been dubbed the go-to source for all things culinary by my friends(me and like one friend). I know all the latest Chicago restaurant openings and closings (Kitchen just opened on Clark St., the first SHAKE SHACK Chicago opens tomorrow (can I get an AMEN), Chilis is still open, and I’m still single). And you better believe I’m up on all the culinary trends….I still don’t understand all the hype surrounding noodles…but I guess I’ll never fully understand any hype about anything unless it’s main ingredients are cheese and tomato sauce and goes by the name of Pizza.

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A Love Note to The Men of The L

To The Beautiful Men Riding The L,

You probably don’t know me, but I watch you from afar most mornings and evenings. Creepy enough for you? I’m just getting started.

Every weekday I board the L, usually disgruntled and in a state of dread about the 8-hour workday ahead of me. But once I get on that train my mood is instantly lifted, and it’s all because of you. While most commuters are deeply invested in their cell phones – playing candy crush or whatever the kids are playing now – I’m over there in the corner gazing at you in your business casual attire and picturing our life together. Sometimes if I stare long enough you look back at me and our gazes meet. If my eyes could talk they’d say, “Hey baby, let’s ride this offensive-smelling L train into the sunset or to a stop where we can get Chipotle.”

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get to stand really close to you, so close that when the train stops abruptly I can fall into your arms. I’m not a klutz I just want to be near you.

When the train pulls up to my station I get off and as I’m walking on the platform I pretend that you’re watching me, wondering what my name is or what color underwear I have on…

So thank you, men of the L, for gracing the otherwise unpleasant L train with your presence every morning and every night.

Love,

Me

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“The Thumbsucker”

Lately I’m all about the self-help books. Some people are just naturally good, while the rest of us have to use literature to remind and teach us what being a decent human looks like. Our habits play a big role in how we are perceived by others and our quality of life. Bad habits are just a part of life that we either continue doing or try to overcome. I recently read a book called “Making Habits, Breaking Habits,” and while it’s not the best beach read, I did learn a lot about the psychology of forming and breaking habits. The book made me want to develop new habits, like reading every night and drinking a glass of water between drinks. It also inspired me to break bad habits like overspending, overeating, forgetting to proofread my blog posts, and blowing homeless dudes. I’m not a psychologist, 97 percent sure I got a C+ in psychology, which is pretty disconcerting…but I do know that the key to making habits and breaking habits is repeating them (or gradually wading off of them). Once something is repeated a certain number of times it becomes habitual. It just takes a lot of persistence and willpower, and sometimes all it takes is time….

Most childhoods are characterized by one habit – it could have been nail-biting, lip smacking, being a pain in your parent’s ass, or thumb-sucking. Mine were the latter two. Even if you knew me in pre-k or kindergarten, we probably never talked because I was too consumed by the thumb in my mouth to even speak. For a while it wasn’t a concern, in fact it may have been irresistibly cute. I imagine a scene in my kitchen, my family in a half circle around my highchair, swooning over how Goddamn flawless I was. But while the average toddler looses interest in their thumb around the age of 5, I was still an active user beyond kindergarten. I could go all day without that thumb leaving my mouth. Upon exiting my mother’s vagina, the first decision I made as an infant was to suck my left thumb and not my right. Good call baby Tina. Even with my left thumb occupied, I could still use my right hand for every-day tasks such as writing, drawing and hailing cabs.

I continued to suck my thumb past kindergarten, but started to notice my parents scolding me whenever I tried to suck. I started to hide under blankets…but my parents – with their fancy college degrees – quickly realized what I was up to. Months turned to years and before you knew it I was learning fractions and still sucking my thumb. Seeing no sign of me stopping, my parents decided take matters into their own hands, or in this case, thumbs. Sorry I had to.

Anyway, they employed some pretty harsh methods to get me to stop. There was this gross nail polish that tasted like rubbing alcohol, but that wasn’t enough to stop me. I was also forced to wear heavily bandaged thumb brace, which really did wonders for my already slipping social standing, but much like Paris Hilton in a spelling bee, that thumb brace didn’t last long, and it didn’t stop me. I just took it off when I wanted to be intimate with my thumb and slyly slipped it back on whenever my parents or any of my parent’s spies were near. I must have thought my parents were the biggest morons. I eventually came to the much overdue realization that I was no longer a child, and if I ever wanted to be taken seriously as a violinist, I would have to quit. At the time I really wanted to start playing the violin…see it all came full circle: I broke a habit and started a new one. I played the violin for two years until I decided that my social life took precedence over everything.

Bottom line: if you put your mind to it, you can make and break habits. It may take a few tries, but as long as you keep trying, there’s a solid chance you’ll get there. I hope I’ve #inspired you guys today.

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