Friday, September 28, 2012

"...and you're out!"

...that means, "STRIKE THREE!"...for those of you who haven't been paying attention.  I really didn't intend to leave this whole camping thing in limbo...it's just been a typical "Carr" week, so time didn't allow for the sit down it would require...hence the delay.  I wish I could say something wonderful and witty like, "Third time's a charm!"...but my momma taught me not to lie.

I will say we had wonderful company, had a fun trip to the ice cream place, and played some fun games...but wait...none of those things have anything to do with camping! Drat.

You might be wondering why in the world we would ever have gone again considering our shady camping past.  Well, I blame the rest of you people.  "Camping is so wonderful...please try it again!" "You must've just gone with some boring people before!" (All my friends from the previous post are offended by you new friends now.) "You just haven't picked the right place to camp...that's it!"  And on and on it went...until we finally gave in.  Trust me, I put it off as long as humanly possible, short of never going again in my lifetime..which is, by the way, my current plan.

SO...roughly 3 years ago...I'm fuzzy on exact dates because I've happily allowed the details to blur...we agreed to yet another camping adventure.  We had all 4 kids at this point, and we joined some longtime family friends with 5 kids, Tim and Michelle Svoboda.  Just take a minute and ponder the level of sanity involved in such a decision...not very high. Oh yea...and both families had new puppies that we had to bring along.  Let's just say they didn't appreciate sharing the spotlight.

I just need to insert here that I had gone to extreme measures not to pass on my own hatred of all-things-camping to my children.  I pretended to be super excited when buying daddy an awesome tent for Father's Day...I can assure you it was NOT a 2-man tent. I gathered multiple sleeping bags from family and friends...although there wasn't a chance of me getting into one of those death traps. I even planned this fun adventure with our friends to show that I was a bigger person for doing something that I detested for the greater joy of the family!  See?!? Extreme measures.

Not to be outwitted by the camping powers-that-be, we met every problem head on! We would camp at the Svoboda family farm where Tim's grandparents lived...within walking distance to the house...which contained the bathrooms...and beds, if  I couldn't hack it.  The boys would sleep in a massive tent; the girls would sleep in a "pop up." We brought plenty of food to cover all the meals so no one would get hurt.  We would be camping at the edge of civility...just enough to "enjoy" the adventure but not lose our minds.  At least that was the plan.

You can imagine the drama and nonsense of keeping all 9 children and 2 dogs in line, out of the house, off of the tractors, etc, etc. It was the full-time activity of the weekend. The hike was too long...the hike was too boring...the hike lost a kid or two...blah, blah, blah. No, you can't swing the dog by the tail to see what happens...no, you can't hit your brother in the head with the football...no, we can't go back home (that one may or may not have been said to a child)...yada, yada, yada.

I wasn't kidding that the ice cream was a major highlight...very yummo! It was also fun spending time with Tim's grandparents...two very special people that are enjoying their new mansions with Jesus now...was blessed to have had the privilege to make some memories with them! Incidentally, there's NO CAMPING IN HEAVEN!!! Mansions, people...not tents! C'mon!!! Sorry...moving on...

In spite of all the chaos, we really did enjoy our time together...partly out of sheer determination! :) When we split for the night, Michelle, Landry, and I decided we wanted to play games while the younger girls fell asleep.  This proved to be more than a little tricky as the game of choice was Farkle (dice); we were in a small pop up with curtains dividing our little areas; and we had to use flashlights to light up the "game table." We made it fun but spent the majority of the time trying to get the other 3 girls asleep. We gave up finally after one too many, "...but I can still see your little light, Mommy...what IS that little light, Mommy...can I see your light, Mommy..."

I can't explain, or even comprehend, the temperature shift that happened, but let me tell you...very little sleeping went on in the pop up! The wind was blowing so violently, the noise was ridiculous! We swayed back and forth so much, I really thought we would tip eventually. And the chill...oh my...it. was. cold. All of that got even better when someone had to go potty in the middle of the night....outside...in the cold...with a "don't let the boys see!!!" shrieking....and my favorite, "where's the toilet paper, mommy?".

...mommy's not here right now...she's sitting in a hot tub...in a HOTEL...call back later.


The next morning, the boys all but called us liars when we talked about the temperature and the wind...somehow we froze, and they were sweating the whole night.  Go figure.

So that, my friends, was the end of this girl's camping adventures.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Strike 2!!! (i.e. camping mistake #2)

Fast-forward 2 years...Chris is leading the college and career class at church, we are expecting our first baby, and we've enjoyed 24 blissful months with nary a mention of anything camping-related. ("Blissful" might be an overstatement...just maybe...but it helps make what happened next all the more horrifying.)  It probably should be restated that Chris and I were the only married people involved in this expedition because only single people would knowingly embark on such a suicide mission.

Overkill? Sorry...call me jaded.

SO...our friend Dusty (yes, we're still friends...no, I've never forgiven her) was in charge of activity planning. Imagine my disgust when she announced that we'd be taking a trip to Georgia for a weekend camping adventure at Stone Mountain. I thought we were friends...I was clearly mistaken. The trip included a Braves game among other fun activities, but she lost me at "camping." However, in an effort to not be "that girl," I agreed to go along with the plan. I arrogantly thought I'd plan so well this time, it would eliminate previously made errors. ***Yea...go ahead and start laughing now.

My plan included plenty of food and an air mattress...both of which would've vastly improved my previous "adventure."  (We agreed to leave the sleeping bag and tent part to the guys with loads of camping gear.)  Of course, I should mention that my previous camping trip was not taken while 8 months pregnant...in August...in Georgia.  I know...I know...all I can say is that I'm stubborn enough to think I could WILL it to go well.  ***Insert second gut laughter here.

We arrived at the campsite Friday evening, full of excitement and joy...you can probably guess where this is headed...

I went about my administrative duties...as any good wife of the leader would do (hold the applause till the end please)...checking in groups and making sure everyone had what they needed and were accounted for...while "the guys" (you know who you are) set up our tent for us, including the much-needed air mattress.

By the time we got back to our site, it was getting pretty dark so we tried to get settled quickly.  (Again I must mention the sweltering heat and my very pregnant self...picture it...it's the key to the tragedy.)  I refused to let myself complain to the rest of the group...everyone kept questioning whether I would be able to do the trip because of the pregnancy...and I tried to do the same with my hubby. I tried.

The guys had set up a 2 man tent ("because there's 2 of you"), blown up the air mattress, and placed it snuggly inside the tent.  So thoughtful.  The problem was, we were more like 2 3/4 people, and the air mattress left very little room for moving...or breathing.  I couldn't crawl into the tent so I had to shimmy myself in, inch by ridiculous inch, on top of the mattress.  Imagine, if you will, a reverse army crawl...in the dark...climbing into a cave...on an incline...dripping sweat...balancing a beach ball, no - a boulder, on your stomach...yea, that's about it.  After much effort, I found my sweaty self sandwiched...backside on the mattress...belly touching the top of the tent. Oh. my. word.

I had taken my contacts out and switched to glasses before all this started...so between my gargantuan effort to get in the tent and the August heat, my glasses were completely fogged so that I could see nothing.  I was reluctant to take them off at this point, though, because I was convinced there were things crawling on the mattress! I was left with the only option...take off glasses, wipe on anything dry (which continually grew difficult to find), return to sweaty face...repeat until you're brain is mush and you need to be admitted. (And let me tell you, I would've gone gladly anywhere there was an indoor bed at that point.)

Remember...belly on top of tent, husband also in tent, pouring sweat, glasses fogging/wiping, husband actually chuckling about the visual picture and saying, "C'mon...you gotta admit it's kind of funny!", pregnant women crying while struggling to breathe and stay positive...and sane.  There's only so much a person can take...and when I found myself shoving my head out of the tent to catch a breath...the dam broke. It got ugly real fast.  I remember shimming backwards out of that tent, falling out onto the ground, happy to breathe again. No way was I getting back in that sardine can.  By this time, everyone had long fallen asleep and knowing it wouldn't accomplish anything to wake them up anyway, we slept in the church van.  You know the one with the vinyl seats?  It was so hot, your skin would stick and then peel away every time you moved. So...mostly I just tried to be still...not easy for a preggo.  But it was so much better than that tent, I really was grateful.

When we woke up the next morning, a group of puzzled "happy campers" were knocking on the van windows, trying to figure out what was going on. We explained...I apologized for not being able to make it work in their tent...we assured them we were just fine. (didn't want to complain and all...)

Imagine...just imagine...my face when they responded, "Why didn't you just come get us?  We have much bigger tents in the trailer...we could've just set up a new one for you!  Should we do that?"

Excuse me, what??? (Remember...single guys...good hearts...but...) I bit my tongue...there's still a scar...while Chris said, "Sure...that'd be great...thanks!)

That night we had a tent so large, we had it divided into rooms. No joke. I went from touching the roof of the tent with my belly to not being able to touch it when jumping! Oh those boys....

Yep...should've stuck with the princess angle...I can assure I'm quicker to give my camping opinion 14 years later!

Strike Two!



Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Strike 1"

"...so you guys wanna go on a camping/canoeing trip with us..."

That's how it all began.  Sounds innocent enough.  It was, in fact, a death march straight to the pit of despair.

But in our naivety...or stupidity, you pick...we agreed to accept the challenge. 3 couples, 13 miles by canoe, camping under the stars...idiots.

To protect the innocent...well, actually the guilty in this case...my lips are sealed as to the identity of the fellow campers.  Let me assure you, by the end of the journey, there were no "happy campers."

We agreed to hand over $20/person for food and drinks, to the camper who claimed the most experience in planning such an expedition.  This would prove to be the first of many mistakes.  This weekend may actually be what started the whole "gotta have control thing" with me...because I can assure you, I was determined never to let this happen again.

Upon arrival at the launch site, we quickly realized how out of control we truly were.  Unfortunately, someone failed to mention the dress code to our event planner as the guys had to constantly find noteworthy landmarks along the riverbed in order to avoid looking in the direction of the lead canoe. Ugh.

Oh...remember the distance required? 13 miles. So imagine our surprise when it was suggested that we end day 1 at MILE 3! Uh...seriously?!? The whole thing would have been comical if she wasn't serious. We played nice for a brief conversation, then basically said, "We'll see you up river!"...and paddled away.  For sake of clarity and full disclosure, I should mention that the 13 mile canoe trip was really more like 26...didn't really get the paddling together thing down until much later in day 2...by then, Chris had forced me to stop rowing so we'd be able to move forward on a consistent basis. Needless to say, everyone knows the second leg of the trip is going to be much harder than the first...so stopping at mile 3 was met with a resounding "NO!"

When we did finally stop to camp, the only available spot was a sandbar. I've never looked at a sandbar the same way since...pretty sure I've not stepped foot on one since either. Scarred, I tell you. By the time we got to this halfway mark, it was difficult to pick up anything with my arms...by the next morning, I needed to be rolled into the canoe. (It didn't help to be reminded that a perfectly acceptable spot was to be had back at mile 3...yea, not helpful.)

If memory serves, I was given a hot dog and small bag of chips to eat for dinner...hot dog...not a fan on a good day...really not a fan to eat...plain...after canoeing 7 miles. And the chips...po-ta-to...those remained unopened...just in case, we weren't going to make it out alive, I figured they would be better than eating one of my fellow campers.  I then turned in early for the night when a late night swim was suggested by the one already dressed for such an occasion. I wish I was kidding.

As far as I'm concerned, that sandbar should be renamed, "Grim Reaper," because I truly felt like my time on this earth was quickly drawing to an end that night. I was forced to sleep on an incline, in the extreme heat, stomach growling, bugs flying up my nose, laying on a patch of ground that was rock hard and had more bumps than a bed of legos, all the while praying the murderous thoughts would be gone by morning.

All I can remember about the next morning is pain...just pain.  All the fight in me had evaporated by 4 am, and I was left with the sheer determination to simply survive. I've blocked out breakfast, but I remember the incredible PB&J and can of DP I was rationed for lunch...expensive sandwich...but life-saving for all those around me at the time.

In case you're wondering, we all made it out of there alive...barely, but we did.

Lots of lessons were learned on that "adventure."  I wish, "Never go camping again," would've been one of them....


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Not A Happy Camper

That term just cracks me up...happy camper. Is there really such a person?!? Not this girl.

I've been asked over and over again to join in on all the "fun" so I thought I'd give this little summary about my thoughts on camping...with my 3 camping expeditions to come in follow-up posts...think, "3 strikes and you're out!"

I'll let Jim Gaffigan take it from here...




hee, hee...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Silence is golden"...who comes up with this stuff?!?

Silence. 

Not a word I'm familiar with to any degree.  Don't live with it...don't experience it well...definitely don't exhibit it from myself.


But there it is again...taunting me...and you, for that matter. I'm sure you've been checking daily for any new tidbits of wisdom...or comedic exploits...from The Carr Ride!!! Right...


You may have wondered..."What's with the sudden silence?" 


To tell you the truth, I've had nothing to say...or more to the point, I didn't really want to share what I was actually feeling at the time. 2 weeks...nothing.  I kept thinking, "I should share this...maybe it would encourage someone who's struggling with the same things!" But my own selfishness won out, and I kept it all to myself. Super plan.


After finally breaking the silence with my own husband this past Monday, I feel like it's best to just get it on the table in order to move forward. SO...here we go...


SILENCE. That's what we've had concerning the adoption...that's what we've had concerning the house...that's what we've had concerning our continued struggles with adjusting to our move 9 months ago, and that's specifically what we had seeking direction with the kids, trying to raise Christ-followers.  So as Chris and I sat across the lunch table, I just laid it all out there. And you know what my husband...my life-long companion...my fellow team member...had the nerve to say to me?!?! 


"You just want to control all these things...and you can't...that's why this is so hard." Yea. He did. (gchriscarr@gmail.com)


Now before you start sending nasty messages...to him, or me, for that matter...I should update you on the proverbial straw that broke that camel's back. (I love using big words.)


In the last post, I told you all that we were finally in the hands of the federal government.  I guess that was kind of true...at least we thought that was true.  After 2 weeks...2 weeks of SILENCE...we got back a rejection letter with all of our documents saying there was no check (big one, I might add) included so they were returning the forms.  My husband, being the triple-checker that he is, knew with absolute certainty that the check had been included...we even had the duplicate check to show...but it didn't matter.


After a trip to the bank...where we had to pay to stop payment on the check (you heard me)...we sent the documents back to HS, with another check, to start again.  We know that one arrived in the proper hands because the check was cashed 2 days later.  4 days later, we received another envelope from them containing the first check, along with a letter stating that this check was found with no documentation attached so it's being returned, rejected. Ya think?!? (And on and on it goes...)


We've now been notified that our packet has been sent on through the accreditation process...don't call us...we'll call you.


The Enemy has also used this "downtime" to start a parade of "what-if's" through my heart. Oh, I cannot begin to tell you the heartache this has caused.  While we were cooking along, so to speak, it was easy to just keep focused on the end result: bringing these two little ones home! But it the SILENCE, Satan has plagued my heart with so many questions. Is this too overwhelming for our family? What about the medical care? We'll have to get them to doctors right away...what if they don't trust us then? Will they be too scared? What if the doctors can't help them? What if...after every surgery is done that can be done...what if she still dies? So much SILENCE...so much heartache.


SO...control, huh? Sure didn't like the sound of that...especially from my soul mate! (hahaha...sorry...couldn't even type that with a straight face!) 


But, as usual, he's probably right. (note the use of the conditional word there)  Because there's a huge part of me that really does not want to be in control...no thanks! 


But then there's that type A, default setting that is hard-wired in my DNA that feels as though that's the last grip on reality sometimes...a sense of control. How do I plan? How can I adequately care for my family? What if I'm not able to do enough...be enough...accomplish enough? 


And then SILENCE comes along and taunts my soul. It feels like a slap in the face...or a punch to the gut...or some bizarre rash that just keeps spreading and permeating the skin to where you can no longer think of anything else but the pain and irritation it is causing you. Sure you can go through the motions...keep up the facade of a healthy routine...but underneath it all, you're consumed with the realization that you cannot grasp any single thing tightly...not one thing. Not. One. Thing.


There you have it. 


Silence is not always golden, but sometimes it is necessary...for how else would we be still and know that he is God. 


It's what I needed. I long for the day when I will no longer need these constant reminders of who God is...who I am without him...and how he is able to fill every void of my heart with his presence. 

Until then...