Sunday, 29 June 2008

Loss of Potential

I went to a Young Single Adult Fireside/Family Home Evening tonight. It's held once a month at 7.00 in the evening, hosted by a family in the Maldon Ward. They're a lovely couple, and have the patience of Saints to have 8-12 YSAs crash their living room once a month. Anyway, I was looking around at the mix of YSAs, and was thinking, this is shocking! There were 4 ladies there, including me, and 5 men. The ladies include a PhD Student/part time lecturer (me), High School Music Teacher, HR Director, and Social Worker. All of them are bright, capable, stunning (seriously, all 3 of the other ladies there are gorgeous!) and just generally stellar women. The men are much less impressive. They're all rather underachieving with little or no ambition. Well, one of them is a bit more impressive than that. He's just been signed by a major music label, and improving all the time. So one who's on the ball. However, the rest were shockingly lost. I also work with the Youth of the Church. In that capacity, I get to see the next generation in their formative years. The young men and women I see there are so impressive. They've got such shine and excitement and drive. And yet, I look around at Men just 10 years older and think, What happened? Where did the conviction, the drive, the enthusiasm go? These same men were once the rising generation. And I'm sure their leaders looked at them in the same way I look at the current generation. Somewhere along the line they got lost. Obviously not all the Young Men lose their shine. But my question is, where are they? I look around at the (so called) eligible men in any given ward and think, I wouldn't spend 10 minutes alone with any of these men, much less the rest of my life! I just keep thinking that Bonnie Tyler had the right question: Where have all the good men gone?

Friday, 27 June 2008

The Mom (And Dad) Song

Many of you have probably seen the first of these videos. Meet Anita Renfroe. She's a . . . actually, I'm not entirely sure what she does other than these two songs! But these songs are definately worth the 4 minutes to listen/watch. They're the essence of what Mothers (and then she later did one for Fathers) say to their kids in a single day. It's quite a scream. Enjoy!

And the Dad Song:

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Ok, So It's 6 Months Late . . .

For Lois' birthday, I promised I'd make a scrapbook for her of t he Morocco photos. So I'm already starting off to a bad start, since her birthday's in January, and we didn't go to Morocco till the end of March, and didn't get home till have way through April. Then I didn't do anything with them till the other week. I've now done several pages for her. Here's the best couple (so far):
Lucky me, though. As soon as I finish it off, I get to start over again. I'm also going to do one for my Grandmother. It's her birthday present, too.

Saturday, 21 June 2008


Don't you just love it when you get the entire week (or month or day) planned out and suddenly, wham, Life happens? Yeah, that was me this week, over and over. In fact, of the various activities I'd planned, only one went off according to plan.

I'd been planning on being up in York again this week, doing the next of the series of Conversation Analysis Training Workshops. So, since I'd have to be in York for Monday, noon, I figured, I'd really better go up on Sunday evening. And if I was going up Sunday, I could probably swing going up for Sunday all day, and catching Church in Sheffield. And if I was going to be up Sunday morning, I really ought to be up for Saturday. So I went to Sheffield Saturday morning (early) and spent Saturday and Sunday with Jill and Mark. Jill's my best friend from my Sheffield days. I don't get to see them nearly often enough. This visit was the only bit that went to plan.

Sunday evening I got a message from my adviser, Rebecca, telling me that . . . Celia (the woman running the course in York) had come down with bronchitis and tonsillitis, capped off with laryngitis. Clearly not her best week! So, that pretty well took out my entire week's plan. I was supposed to stay with my friend Christy again, but I couldn't get a hold of her to let her know of the cancellation and discuss how it was going to affect the rest of our week. So I had to drive up to York anyway.

I ended up staying the night Monday in York and having dinner with a good friend that I hadn't seen in nearly 2 years! It was great fun to hang with Rachel, and we had a marvelous Indian Dinner, too. Tuesday was an adventure of the Shopping Variety. Christy and I have been planning on attending the Ascot Races for months. She had found this great 1950's Vintage Dress to wear. I had a gorgeous 1950's Retro Inspired Dress. But Jan didn't have anything she really thought would be the most ideal. So she wanted to go shopping. We found several things over the course of the day that she thought would be ok, but wasn't really thrilled with any of it, until we got to M&S. There, she found a skirt and jacket that fit her style perfectly. We had some trouble getting the size skirt, though. Everything was just big enough to be worrisome. Shockingly, I found a fabulous skirt that I decided I couldn't live without. Yep, another unexpected event. I don't do my own shopping. I dislike shopping. Seriously. I often break down in tears. No kidding. Honest. Yes, I know I have great clothes. They're nearly all the result of my sister's relentless and tireless efforts to keep me stylishly attired. I feel fat and ugly when I go shopping. So me finding a skirt that I actually felt I needed to risk the water works for is quite a big surprise.

Since Christy and I had the week free, we decided we'd like to do something a bit different. We looked around and finally settled on going to a spa for a facial and massage. Well, we looked at so many different spas, we got a bit confused. We thought we'd settled on one out in North Kent, which is close-ish to where I live in Colchester. We checked the address, though, and found that in fact, it was in Surry! Just a bit further west than we thought. In fact, so much so that we rang them as we were getting ready to head down to mine to find out if they had room for us to stay the night. We didn't really fancy getting up at 6.00 am for a relaxing day at a spa! They did, but again, was a bit different from the original plan.

So Wednesday we spent the day at the Spa. Lovely fun. Not much else to be said, though.

Thursday we were going to go into town and look for a handbag for me to go with my dress. Then we'd sort of planned to take a walk out in one of the country parks around Colchester. Except that Christy didn't wake up until sometime past 3.00 pm! So I got the grass mowed and tidied up the garden generally. We did have dinner with Sarah, she came round, but we had oven trouble, so it did not go particularly smoothly. Jan was delayed a bit on her train down from York, but not overly. I'd more or less planned on getting into bed around 10.30, but it was gone 12.30 by the time we settled into our respective beds!

Friday was supposed to be the highlight of my week, for several reasons. One: Ascot Race Day! I'd planned on getting up at 8.00 am. Christy was going to be getting up at 7.30 so that she could get her hair washed. Her alarm didn't go off. Mine did, but I was so exhausted that I didn't hear it. I managed to turn it off, but not make it out of bed. Fortunately, Christy spontaneously awoke at 8.00, and asked me if I was awake at 8.30. Oops. Never mind. I threw my clothes on faster than I have in a long time. Then I put my hair up, and called Christy to come so I could do her's. What most people don't realise is, when wearing hats, one must always do one's hair. It is not sufficient to plunk a hat down on some unkempt pile, as if it were a cover to mask the chaos. This is one reason why so many women opt for the enormous envelopments that completely obscure the hair. Unfortunately, this also results in a top heavy appearance and no artistry or elegant lines. Thus the importance of doing our hair. Unfortunately, we'd run out of time. I didn't get a chance to do Jan's hair, or my makeup. So I grabbed my makeup bag and a bunch of bobby (kirby) pins for Jan's hair. We drove to Ascot, even managing to get there on time, even though we left half an hour late, and got stuck in traffic.

Upon arrival at Ascot, we finished getting ready.
It was red lipstick and fancy frocks all the way.

Once we went inside, the people watching took on Olympic Sport conditions. There was so much going on that you literally could not see it all. I'd see something and say, 'Oh wow, look at that _____' and the others would turn, and find something which fit the description which I had not seen. It was amazing. Definitely a people watchers paradise.

The first thing we did was head off to the paddock where they were warming the horses up. Before each Race they walk the horses around. This prevents the horses from sustaining injury during the race, obviously, but also gives bettors a chance to check out the paces. This particular horse was the favourite for the first race.

Then we went out to the track. Christy decided she wanted the full experience, including losing a bit of money on a long shot. So she and I went back out and she placed the minimum bet on horse #6 for the First Race. We got it placed seconds before the Race was due to start, and rushed back to where we'd left Jan, arriving just in time to see the horses come rushing by. Unfortunately, it's a rather blurry photo, since I didn't have time to get set up properly beforehand. I'm just pleased I got one at all! And the result? #7! Sorry, Christy.

After the First Race, we decided to walk around a bit. We went down to the grass at the edge of the track. We'd been on our feet for quite a while by this point, so we took a seat on the green. The races are separated by some 30-45 minutes. So we had a bit of time to relax. The dress code for the 'Royal Enclosure' is for men: Morning Suit (what most Americans refer to as Top Hat and Tails, though not the black tails. Grey ones.) and women: dress, which must not come more than two inches above the knee, and must have at least a 2 inch strap on the shoulders. They must also wear a hat. These dress rules are relaxed somewhat for the general admission. They become more guidelines than rules. The men only have to wear a shirt and tie. The woman don't have to wear a hat, though most do, nor even a dress, though again, most do. They are supposed to be smart, though, even if it's a trouser suit instead of a skirt. However, the rules are clearly not as strictly enforced in the general admission. Whilst most woman were wearing tasteful skirts and jackets or blouses, there were a lot of women who were wearing completely strapless numbers. And a lot of women misunderstand the directive for formal/smart day wear, and instead come in formal evening wear. There is a difference. Unfortunately, these sadly deluded women were not the worst of the lot. Neither were those who were sadly misguided in their assumption that tiny skirts, bare shoulders and plunging necklines (all combined) are anything other than tartish. Now, I agree that singly these elements can be done tastefully, but these overwhelmingly were not. And yet, they were not the shocking site of the day. That award belonged to the woman who wore this lovely delicate lace dress that ordinarily I'd have lauded. Unfortunately, the lace (Remember I said delicate? Read sheer.) was all she was wearing (on top. She had on a lovely skirt!) That includes bra. So, all intents and purposes, she was naked from the waist up!

When they started getting set up for the Second Race, we moved up to the fence to await the start. Means we got an exceptional view of the final bit of the race.

It really was quite exciting to hear and feel the thunder of the hooves as the horses pounded past our post.

I managed to get a bit of footage from the Third Race.

But after the Third Race, it started to threaten a bit of rain. Not much of a threat, just a few drops, but enough that it dropped the temperature, and we decided we didn't want to risk it. So we headed back to the car.

Now, my original plan for the day was that Christy and I would go to the Reading YSA Dance after the race. I'd promised my Stake YSA friends that I'd meet them there. But I did all that before Christy told me that Jan was coming along. Jan's not really into the YSA Dance scene (partly because she's not a YSA!) so obviously wasn't much interested in hanging about. So, we had to figure something else out. The thing was, it's just too far for me to have driven them home, then come all the way back to within 15 minutes of where we'd been all day! So we ended up having dinner together at a pub, then I rang my next door neighbour and arranged for her to give my spare key to Christy when they got in. Then I went on to the dance. Yet another not planned event.

The dance contained another unplanned event. Remember my date from the other week? Well, we'd arranged to meet over the weekend in Sheffield. That date went well, and we'd arranged to meet again at the Reading Dance. But, he never showed. Never got a text, or anything, either. I didn't find out till Sunday night what the deal was. He got a girlfriend. Only, he never told me. Instead he posted his new relationship status on Facebook. I was so not impressed. Sure, it's disappointing that he chose someone else he'd prefer to pursue a further relationship with. But it's disrespectful of him not to tell me that he'd decided to be exclusive with someone else. Guys, never do this to a woman! Have more respect for a woman than to just disappear. It's not ok to just ditch her. That's completely rude and disrespectful. Posting that you're 'In a Relationship' with someone is a way of telling your friends you've started dating someone seriously. It's not an appropriate way to let the other women you've been dating that you're no longer going to be asking them out. All I can say? Lucky escape! I don't want a boyfriend/husband who would treat anyone like that. And the worst part is? He's the second guy to have done that to me in the last 3 months. Happened at the end of March, too. On my birthday. I'm disappointed that I'm (yet again) not the chosen one. But I'm angry and disgusted that he treated me so poorly.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Happy Father's Day!

Hi Dad,

Sorry this is late. I've been out of town, as you know. And anyway, I take great consolation in knowing you probably won't read this till you get internet at the new house, Mom checks my blog, and tells you it's here ;)

I'm always reminded of a song from the I'm a Mormon collection by Janeen Brady way back in the early 1980's called, My Dad. It details how wonderful the singer's father is.

My Dad's the biggest guy,
And my Dad's the strongest guy,
And my Dad's the nicest guy of any guy in town.
He can do anything,
He'll fix your bike or fly your kite,
Cause my Dad, my Dad's the greatest guy around.

He can throw a ball so high you think it's gonna break the sky;
He knows the name of every kind of jet; (vroooooooom)
He can add up any sum;
He always has money for bubble gum.
I haven't figured how he does it yet.

My Dad's the smartest guy,
And my Dad's the bravest guy,
And my Dad's the neatest guy.
It's positively so.

Maybe I'll introduce you,
Then you'll know that it's the truth that
My Dad, my Dad's the greatest guy you know.

Ok, so you never really threw a ball so high I thought it was going to touch the sky, and you didn't know the name of every kind (or any kind!) of Jet.


My Dad's still the greatest guy in town!

And you did teach me to fly a kite. I remember it went so high that the string broke.

And, famously, you through ME so high Mom thought you'd break the sky. Or at least break your daughter.

I love you.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Loving My Calling!

Ok, in my church we don't have any paid clergy. Everything, from the Bishop right on down, is done on volunteer basis. But you don't get to volunteer for whatever you want. You're asked to do a specific assignment. The assignment is known as a calling. My current calling is 1st Counselor in the Young Women's Presidency. What's that mean? Well, the Youth Programme is organised into 2 groups: Young Women and Young Men. Both groups are for youth 12-18. Each group is headed by a Presidency. Each Presidency consists of a President and 2 Counselors. Hopefully there's also a Secretary, but not always (like in my ward. We don't have a Secretary at the moment). Each member of the Presidency is responsible for part of the group, divided by age. The YW groups are: 2nd Counselor and the Beehives (12-13 years), 1st Counselor and the Mia Maids (14-15 years), and President and the Laurals (16-18 years). What does it involve? Normally, every Sunday we'd meet as a big group for opening exercises, then split into individual groups. But, we only have 5 girls in our ward, so we stay together for the class. So, I only have to teach a class every 3 weeks. We also have Tuesday activities. Ordinarily we'd also split for this quite a bit. But again, it's just more fun to be all together. So we only have to run 1 activity, rather than 3 every week. It means that when it's someone else's turn to run the activity, I just get to chill out with the girls. It's fabulous.

The girls are so wonderful. It's very intimidating working with the Youth. You're helping to shape the next generation. During those years where they're much more prone to rebellion. But they're so loving, as well. Nothing beats walking into the room and being bowled over by girls pouncing for their hug. I come home from church or Tuesday activity flying high. Working with these girls is such a rush.

This week we joined the Deacons (12-13 year old Young Men) on a service project. We went out to a local woods to help the forestry service strip the sheaths off the saplings and build creepy crawly critter homes. It was fun. We YW got to do all the tree maintenance. One of the really cool things we discovered that ants had turned the sheaths into homes. They'd filled the sheaths with mud and created these huge colonies. The girls really freaked out about it, because they don't like ants. So we came to an agreement. They'd slit the sheaths, Vanessa (President) and I would come along behind and pull off the sheaths, then the girls would follow again to knock off the mud colonies. If they didn't get knocked down, the tree would rot.

After the activity we walked back to the cars. There was a fence right there, so I suggested a few photos. Here's the whole group warts (read: Deacons) and all:
Unfortunately, not all the girls (or even all the leaders) could be there. Very sad. But it's still a great photo.

I'm afraid that I'm not the perfect example of adulthood that I maybe ought to be. See, there was this mud puddle. And I'm awfully fond of mud puddles . . . you do the math. Or just look at the photo. Sadly, the photo is blurry. It's awfully hard to get a good shot of something like this. It's still a fun shot! Thanks to Vanessa for taking it!

And see? The girls are very much monkey see monkey do. Aren't they fabulous? Wish Lucy and Luise could have joined us. And it would have been great if Claire (2nd Counselor) and Vanessa could have been in the shot. But Claire was off with allergies, and someone had to take the photo!

Fortunately, we're not standing there in sneakers. We've all got wellies (wellington boots: rubber rain/garden/mud boots) on. Yes, I know, if I'd stuffed the jeans down the tops of the wellies, it would have cut down on the mess. But my wellies are quite snug up at the top, so it was more work than it was worth. I just came home, stripped, and stuck the jeans in the washer. Sorted!

So, that's my life! Love my calling. Love the girls. Life is good.
The Colchester Young Women (minus Lucy, Louise and Claire).

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Ha Ha . . . Wait, That's Not Funny!

Many of you are probably already familiar with the great timewaster that is I Can Has Cheezburger. If not, I do apologize for introducing you to it. It's very cleaver and funny. But also rather pointless. Except, of course, for the laugh factor.

Anyway, in today's new photo batch I came across this gem:


At first I laughed. It was cleaver. Then I said, 'Wait! That happened to me! Twice!!' During both my MA Dissertations, my computer crashed. Couldn't handle the strain and stress that is PostGraduate work.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Temporary Laps of Sanity

Well, hopefully my temporary laps of sanity has come to conclusion. I've had another rather hectic week, squeezing everything possible into my week. Now, don't get me wrong, I really enjoy my insane life . . . but I think I'm ready for a few weeks of quiet to get caught up! Then the chaos can resume.

Thursday was the SocioLinguist Essex Conference, or SLX. It was the 13th conference of Postgraduate work in Sociolinguistics at the University of Essex. As a Master's Student I, along with 2 other PostGrads, had been an organiser for SLX 12. Since they needed at least one carry-over organiser from last year, I got sucked into the abyss of Conference Organisation again (so did Jenny). This year there were 4 of us organising it. Jenny and I from last year, then 2 MA students. We'd been organising things since January, so had a pretty good grip on things by this week. However, it's always a bit chaotic during the last few days.

Monday I was still suffering from the relapse of the cold I've been fighting for so long. But I had to get up and onto campus for my usual data session. I had to spend the rest of the day running between one thing and another to get last minute things sorted, and finally met up with the 2 MA students for our pre-conference shopping expedition. We got the food bought and delivered to Campus. Then I met up with several other PostGrads in the Top Bar (so-called because it's the top floor of the building) at Uni for a drink. Jenny had been invited by one of the members of staff at the Blues Cafe, who's just a bit sweet on her, to come listen to his band play. She didn't want to go alone, so we came along for moral support. But I was feeling pretty rough and very tired, so I only stayed for a few minutes, then came come and crashed.

Tuesday was spent doing errands and Young Women's activities. We did some scrapbooking at YW. I've been taking loads of photos at our activities, so it was time to do something with them. We didn't get them all done, but made a good start. We'll have to do another week of it, soon.

Wednesday I ran around like an absolute maniac. During the morning I cooked and made last minute preparations for the conference. In the afternoon I drove out to Mersea Island to collect food from Jenny. Whilst there, I begged her to do my nails all pretty for me. Bless her, she said yes. After we were done, I rushed off with all the food and took it out to Enam's house. Enam's a member of the teaching staff, and had volunteered to host the post-conference social. We had it at her house last year, as well, and it was a resounding success. So I went out and made sure she had everything she needed, as well as dropping off the frozen meats to her. As soon as I did that I rushed off to the city centre to meet up with a couple friends to see the new Indiana Jones Movie. Not as good as the original 3, but a fun flick just the same. One of the girls who came along for the film was Caroline. She's a PhD student at the Uni, but lives in Brighton. So she doesn't get in to campus every day. She was the other co-organiser of the SLX 12 last year, so I know her reasonably well. She needed a place to stay the night Wednesday, in order to make the conference Thursday. She was also presenting. I love Caroline. She's a lot of fun. So we got home and had a bit of a catchup, then went to bed.

Thursday I got up far too early (for me): 7.00 am! Caroline and I got out the door about 7.45 and collected Heather (another PhD student who lives down the road from me) on our way to campus. Heather and Jenny were the first presenters at the conference, so she didn't mind having to get there an hour early. All the organisers got there early, and with the assistance of Caroline and Heather, finished up the last bits and pieces of preparations. The conference itself went reasonably smoothly, with only minor hitches. All the feedback I've had has been that it was well organised with interesting topics. Several people even commented that the professionalism was exceptional for an intradepartmental conference, and that they've been to large and well known conferences that have been less successful. So, people enjoyed the conference itself. As soon as the conference concluded Jenny and I cleared the conference room, packed my car up and headed off to Enam's to help prepare for the social. We got the bbq going and set the salads and things out. People started arriving about a quarter to 7, and the first food was coming off the grill around half 7. I'm afraid I don't know much else past that point, though, because I had to leave. I've heard that the social was successful, though we apparently had far too much food. Better too much than too little, though!

And why did I leave early? Well, I had to drive across the country! And why did I have to drive across the country? Because I was going to Alton Towers Friday. It's about a 4 hour drive from Colchester to Alton Towers, so it worked out best if I drove over the night before. Otherwise I'd have had to get up at some insane hour of the morning to get there on time. Why was I going to Alton Towers? I'd been asked out on a date! (Hey, no fainting!)

I had a fantastic time at Alton Towers. My date was excellent company. His friends (there were 10 or 11 of us total) were great fun. The park was relatively empty, so we didn't have to wait in queues for ages for every ride. The rides themselves were great. It was great fun. If you're going, I highly recommend Air, Oblivion, Nemesis and Rita. The rides are all good fun, but those were my favourite. Air is particularly amazing. You climb into the seat and pull the harness down over your head. As you do that, it also locks your legs in. Ok, that's different! You know at that point (even if you hadn't been watching from the queue) that this was going to be a serious ride. As the floor drops down before the carriage takes off, the seat pivots up, so that you're now parallel with the ground, hanging above it. So, you literally fly along the track with nothing between you and the ground except that harness. Absolutely fantastic! Oblivion drops you down 200 feet, which is quite a rush. What makes it even more fun? You're facing the ground as you go. So you see nothing in front of you as you plummet. Quite a rush. Apparently you also pull 4.5G's. I so should have been a fighter pilot. Loved it!

Upon the return from the park I debated about staying another night. But I decided to come on home for several reasons. One, it meant I could sleep in this morning without worrying about having to drive home. Two, it meant I could sleep in this morning without worrying about being an imposition on anyone else. Three, it meant that my date and his family didn't have to entertain me for another day. So I made my farewells and headed home. Got plenty of suggestions that I return, though :) Including from my date.

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Accidental Counsellor

I had a crazy weekend. It was loads of fun, but nothing like what I'd planned.

A week ago last Thursday I got a frantic text message from our Stake Young Women's President (the Stake is made up of a bunch of local church congregations) asking if anyone knew anyone who could teach Waltz. Well, after all the dance classes I've had, I ought to know how to teach it. So I texted back that yes, I did, and would be willing to teach 3 groups of 60 youth to waltz during the first day of the Multi Stake Youth Conference: Steadfast & Immovable. I must have been possessed by something.

Anyway, I told the Ward Young Women's President that I'd be willing to drive some of the youth up, as I had to go, anyway. I just figured I'd take along the Final Exam Scripts to mark between check-in and waltzing. I took 2 of my lovely girls up to Bury St-Edmunds, which is where the boarding school campus is. Upon arrival the Stake Young Women's President grabbed me and said that one of their counsellors had come down ill that morning, and would it be possible, maybe, please, please for me to stay for the whole weekend? So I said, yes. By this point the insanity had obviously taken complete control of my brain. Anyway, I said yes, but I'd need to run home to grab some clothes. So I stayed for long enough to meet the Tribe (Tribe of Israel was how the groups were named. We were Judah!)

Thursday was a bit odd for me, therefore, since all I did with the tribe was walk down to the main hall from dinner then walk back and send the girls to get ready for bed. As soon as we got to the main hall I had to split off and go to the waltz room. My Tribe was in the first group to come learn waltz. I had an absolute ball (no pun intended). And amazingly, the youth got it! All of them! They might not ever turn into world class waltzers, but they got the basic pattern of a running waltz (as opposed to box step, which I think is harder) and an arch. The last group picked it up so fast (or maybe I just got better at teaching it) that they learnt the loop as well. I was so pleased. Had no voice whatsoever by the end of it. Fortunately I know how to do a nice loud two finger whistle. That saved me from having to yell over the top of them every two seconds.

Thursday night was hard work. We got back to the dorms, and I made my girls meet me in the lounge at the end of the hall so we could have a Tribe Prayer. Then I sent them off to do PJS (Prayer, Journal and Scripture Study) on their own. They were more worried about getting a shower than getting the PJS done, so I decided that we'd do it as a group the next day. I'd warned them that lights out was going to be 11.00. Not quite sure they believed me. But at 11 I went around and flipped off all the lights on the floor. I was sharing my room with the most fabulous girl ever, Sarah. She was the Tribe Leader for Issachar. We had both our girls on our floor, plus the spill over from the floor above for two other Tribes. That made our job a little trickier. We had to get our 18 to bed, and keep the other 6 or 8 girls from different Tribes in bed as well. Only, the girls from the other Tribes didn't respect us as their leaders. So all night long we were chasing girls back up stairs to their rooms, and dragging our girls back down. It was well after 2 before we finally got to go to bed. At one point I went into one of the rooms and just stood there till they realised I was there. Then one of them (ashamed to say it was one of my girls who was out of her room) said, 'Would you like a sweet?' I said, 'I'd like you to sweetly go back to your rooms.' The infiltrators (including the ones from upstairs) scurried back to their rooms, and I confiscated a mobile phone (which they were allowed to use, but shouldn't be using at 1 in the morning!) and an ipod (which they were not supposed to have brought at all). Finally, they settled down to the point that Sarah and I felt it was safe to go off to sleep. Then, at 5.30 in the morning we started hearing girls laughing and chatting in the (very echo-y) bathroom! 5.30! How on earth did they have the energy to get up at 5.30 when they'd only gone to sleep around 2? Sarah actually thought that it was 6.30, and that we'd missed my alarm going off. So she started getting up, and couldn't figure out why I wasn't. Finally she figured out that she was off by an hour. She crawled back in bed.

At 6.30 we dragged ourselves out of bed, not entirely unwillingly. We were not in a normal dorm room, but rather in a small room with games and videos and puzzles where they'd set up a couple camp type beds. Not exactly the most comfortable things on the face of the planet. So it wasn't entirely objectionable to be up and moving. We got dressed and herded our girls into the relevant rooms for morning devotional. It was supposed to be on prayer. But one of my girls (the one caught out in the middle of the night) blew up at me for having chased her out of the other girl's rooms and having taken her phone off her. I told her if she had a problem with me, she could come talk to me individually, and we'd work it out, but this was not the time or the place for it. So I tried to get the devotional back on track, but it was hard going. After devotional we made sure the girls got down to breakfast whilst we went to our Counsellor meeting. Then we headed off to breakfast as well. I even ate some! I know, me. Don't faint.

After breakfast we headed down to the sports fields. We'd set up several different games that the Tribes would rotate through. They were team sports, mostly, like Volleyball, Football (Soccer!), Frisbee (which I ran) and this really crazy thing called Kabadee. Never heard of it before, but seems like the kids loved. As noted above, I was in charge of the Frisbee game, so did not rotate through all the games with my Tribe. My fantastic co-Counsellor, Sam, took Judah round on his own, bless him. I had fun with the Frisbee, though :) And Judah did beat Issachar in their match. Through no manipulation on my part, honest!

After Tribe Sports we collected our scriptures (and I gathered my Final Exam Scripts) and headed down to the classes. They had workshops on various topics, Spiritual as well as Fun. One of them was on self-defense, and I admit that the allure of it was too compelling and overthrew my intentions to continue to mark Exams. I went in for self-defense and also for the singing class, two of the three classes my group did in the morning. As soon as we'd finished the 3rd class we headed out to lunch. That was a bit of a disaster, not because the food was bad, but because I had a row with one of the other counsellors. He was letting some of the young men jump the queue. When they'd first come up, I'd told them no, and get back to the end of the queue like everyone else. But this other Counsellor was saying how he had been told to look after these kids by their mum and that he remembered what it was like to be their age . . . etc. Ooooh boy did that rile me. First I was offended that he would undermine my authority as a Counsellor by letting them jump the queue when they'd been told to get back. Second, he was not looking after them by letting them jump the queue, he was teaching them that it was ok to cheat and be dishonest and disrespectful to me as a leader, and all the people in the queue behind them. Third, I was livid at the implication that I didn't remember what it was like to be their age, when in fact I do remember what it was like. I remember exactly what it was like to be their age, standing in the queue, and watch as a bunch of young men cut in front. I also remember how hurt I was that none of the leaders stood up for me and made them get to the back! And then, when he said, 'If you have a problem with me, go talk to a member of the Stake Presidency, and they'll come talk to me. All you've done is shown these kids two Counsellors fighting,' I nearly lost it. First of all, that was incredibly rude. All I'd been doing was my job. He was the one showing the youth Counsellors fighting. Secondly, it was absolutely against the teachings of the church. I should never have to appeal to the Priesthood to sort out a disagreement. He knew it was wrong to let the kids jump the queue. He disrespected me as a leader and himself as a Priesthood holder. I kept thinking of Doctrine & Covenants 121:39 'We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.' I was so angry that I had to leave. I didn't storm out, I slipped out and went back to my dorm. I was tired, offended, hurt, angry, humiliated and just about everything else possible. And to make matters worse, when I got back to my room, I burst into tears. I don't cry easily. Nor do I enjoy crying. In fact, it really annoys me on those occasions when I do lose control and cry. Just made me even more angry. I stayed in my room all of lunch trying to get myself under control. Finally I had to go off to the next round of classes with my Tribe. This whole time I'm thinking, have I been out of line? Was I wrong to send those boys back to the end of the queue? Should I have just let it go? But then I remembered how hurt I was as a youth when the leaders didn't say anything to the ones who were cheating. But I was really upset still. I made it through the afternoon classes (fortunately my marking gave me an excuse to stay off by myself. And I got 8 done!) After classes it was free sport. I wandered the grounds for a while, helping get the youth off to the various activities they'd signed up for. Then, once they were all happily engaged in their events, I went back to my room for a nap. I only slept for maybe 10 minutes, but it was enough to help me separate from the events of lunchtime. However, Sarah came in towards the end of the free sport period. She could tell something was wrong, and got me to tell her what had happened. She was offended for me! Bless her :) That actually helped quite a lot. It was validation that I had actually done the right thing in sending the kids back (oh, and because the other Counsellor let the two boys in, 6 more came up and jumped in as well, because my authority had been completely destroyed.) She asked me if I wanted her to say anything to the head of the camp. I said no, what was the point. She headed off to dinner, and I said I'd be down in a bit. I didn't fancy waiting through the long queue, and didn't want to run into this particular Counsellor again. Eventually I did go down to dinner (I was starving. Hadn't had lunch, remember?) and the Stake YW President came up and whispered in my ear that I had in fact acted completely appropriately, and that this other Counsellor had been spoken to because he was totally out of line. That made me feel a lot better. Lifted the weight of second guessing off my shoulders. Sarah confessed to me later that she'd told the leaders what had happened. Apparently it was not the first offense committed by this particular individual, but it gave them enough to be able to say, 'Look, you're out of line. Shape up.' Sarah was worried that I'd be upset with her for passing the event along. I wasn't. In fact, I was rather touched that she would care enough to risk upsetting me.

Anyway, that unpleasant event aside, the day was a success. I still had some trouble with that one girl. She messed about during the post-dinner preparation hour. They were supposed to get ready for the dance during that time, but she and her friends from home messed about. We were supposed to all go down as a Tribe together. Partly that was for security (so no one was off doing naughty things) but also partly for safety (so no one got hurt etc . . .) So here I was with 8 girls ready to go, and 1 who hadn't even started. What was I supposed to do? And this 1 girl was saying she'd been 'ill' during the preparation time. Ha ha. How stupid do I look? (Don't answer that!) I wish now I'd either made her come as she was, or maybe better yet sent her to the medic, since she'd been 'ill'. But I wasn't that fast on my feet. I blame the sleep deprived neurons for misfiring. I got one of the other Counsellors who had several girls not ready to bring mine with hers. Don't know if it was the best solution, but it was all I could come up with at the time. The dance plus all the sports during the day must have worn the girls out, though, because once we got back to the dorm, and I got them gathered for PJS (which at first they resisted quite a lot, then actually really got into) and then sent them off to get ready for bed, they actually climbed in bed reasonably quickly. Sarah and I sat out in the corridor on chairs for an hour, or so, till the giggling calmed down (not died away, just calmed to the point we felt it unlikely they'd try going off the floor) and were in bed by around 12.30! And they didn't get up at 5.30 the next morning, either! In fact, at a quarter to 7 we had to go down the corridor yelling, '15 minutes to devotional!' to get them out of bed.

Devotional went much smoother, as well. No arguments or accusations (maybe because I brought chocolate to this one) and we got through the topic great. It was on Testimony, because of the Testimony meeting that evening. Many times in a Testimony meeting you get 'Thankamonies' or 'Shareamonies' or 'Travelogs'. So the leaders had asked us to discuss what a Testimony should consist of: witnesses of Christ and increases of faith through various spiritual experiences. It was ok to thank people for providing those experiences, but the focus should be on how your faith grew, and what your faith in Christ is. I managed to (unplanned, mind) come up with exactly the right number of scriptures for each girl to have one, all of which talk about testifying of Christ. The Scriptures, the Holy Ghost, the Prophets . . . everything/one. I ended it with Doctrine and Covenants 76:22 'And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!' I really love that scripture :)

After Devotional/breakfast/Counsellor meeting, we went back out for another round of sports (yep, still in charge of Frisbee) followed by more classes. I got back to work on my Exams. After 2 classes we headed off to lunch, and then returned to class. I even managed to get all but 4 of my 21 Exams marked! I was so proud of myself. I could have gotten them all done, but I was getting to the point where my brain was shutting down, and I was taking micro sleeps. I decided to wait and mark the last of them after I'd had some proper rest. After the final 2 classes we got everyone together to take a couple group photos, then we were turned loose. We had 2 hours to have some free time, clean the dorms, pack our bags and get changed for the Testimony meeting. Then we headed down to dinner (saw some boys trying to jump the queue getting told to get to the back of the line! :) And that was with nothing having been said to the Counsellors about what had happened the prior day! So, I'm not that strict! I really did do the right thing in sending the boys back!!) which was followed by an award ceremony. We'd been told to look out for various things that deserved awards, and come up with titles for them. During Frisbee, one of the members of my Tribe took a Frisbee to the head. It sliced open his skin, just above his right eye. Poor thing! Even worse, the boy who threw the Frisbee felt totally responsible, which was not true. It was an accident. So Sam and the other Tribe's Counsellor ran Sam (different Sam) to the Doc. I put Sam's name in for an award: Most Blood Shed in the Line of Duty. He got it :) One of the other kids won 'Snake Hips' for his dancing abilities. Camilla (one of my Colchester YW) won the 'Hairdresser Award' for doing all the girls hair on her floor before the dance. Someone else won the 'Officer and a Gentleman' award for how polite and kind he'd been all weekend. Another girl won the 'Fount of All Knowledge' for her participation in the classes. Things like that. Some fun, some spiritual.

After the awards we headed down to the main hall for the Testimony meeting. We sang the song we'd practiced in the music class. It's the EFY Anthem; As Sisters in Zion combined with Armies of Helaman. We sang it in parts, no music. It was amazing. The Area Authority for the Europe West Area (of which Britain is part) even requested that we change the closing hymn and sing it again! Then the kids got the oportunity to get up and share their Testimonies. It was fabulous. They got up and gave such strong Testimonies. I was so proud of them. Especially proud of the 3 girls from my Tribe who got up. They gave real Testimonies, not Thankamonies or Sharamonies. It was really wonderful. I was like, 'Yes! They actually listened.' You never know at 7 in the morning, when they're looking at you with glazed expressions and glassy eyes, if they can see you much less hear you! It was great. Really quite difficult not to get up and Testify myself! The girl that had given me such a lot of trouble was one of the ones who got up to Testify. I was really impressed with what she said. And afterwards she came up and gave me a big hug and apologised for her attitude all weekend. She even said she'd really had fun. I was shocked. I told her that as long as she'd had a good time and had learnt things, nothing else mattered. I was so pleased that she'd realised her attitude had been poor. Not because I wanted her to apolgise (though that was really nice) but rather because she missed out on so much of the fun because she refused to participate.

Then we went home. It was funny, because both Sarah and I had said on Friday that we didn't know if we'd last the day, and didn't know how anyone could do this for a week, much less the crazy people who do it all summer long working at all the EFYs in the States! But by Saturday we had actually adjusted, and so had the youth, and we decided that we were kind of disappointed not to be staying another day or two. But I learned a lot this weekend. Partly about how to handle youth en mass. Partly about motivation. Partly about what not to do/say when someone gives offense. I also learned about self-defense and music and other practical stuff. I also made several good friends and extended my general network into 2 other Stakes. I was so sorry that my friend Sara (turned out that the girl who'd been ill is a good friend of mine) missed out, but it was a huge blessing for me. I'm so pleased that I got to go.