America, Animals, Canada, Family, Funny, Travel

Bear With Me

Can we just gloss over the fact that I haven’t written in what seems like forever? Can we also skip over the part where I wrote a post about our fishing excursion to Canada that we took in September, and then I promptly did not post it when we got home? Okay, good, moving forward, here’s my synopsis.

Never have I thought of so many good names for a post. Brittney and the Bear, Hodge Podge Lodge (my personal favorite), Dish Soap Daze, or What’s That Noise on my Front Porch? (never really in the running, but it does pull you in a bit, doesn’t it?)

Did you know that you can use Dawn dish soap as shampoo? Did you also know that packing for a trip is not really my forte’?

You can, in fact, use dish soap as shampoo. I know my mother is cringing to read this, but I also know that this will come as no surprise to her.

I never really pack any sort of toiletries when I travel. There are two reasons for this: 1) everyone always packs toiletries (except for, apparently, my dad) so I feel like it’s a waste to not just share 2) generally where I end up at, there will be some toiletries provided.

At a fish camp, the provision included only dish soap. Which was sitting by the kitchen sink and totally only assumed for such a use. However, for me, it’s doubling as shampoo.

Actually, ladies, it really is not half bad.

I feel like I am most in my element at a fish camp. I pretty much started fishing as soon as I could hold a fishing pole. There’s a precious picture of me and my grandpa when I was about 4 years old, down at our farm creek, and I’d caught* a little fish. (*I’m not sure if it counts as catching if someone else baits your hook, casts for you, gets the fish on the line, and lets you reel it in, but I was proud of my trophy, nonetheless). I also feel like I may have written about this before, so if I have and it’s somewhere back in the archives, I do apologize. I try hard not to repeat my stories, so if I ever do this in person, just tell me to tell you a different story and I can move on to something new. But, since I’m writing, you can’t tell me that, so you’ll just have to bear with me.

Speaking of bears, we met a couple on our 15 hour drive up to Canada that had hit an 80 lb bear cub that was precariously trying to cross the road. So, in case you were wondering what Canada is like, yes, it’s everything you’re imagining. Bears, pines, lakes, the whole nine yards.

My dad and I have been known for seeing wildlife while we’ve been in Canada the past few summers. We’ve seen moose and bears, but mostly just along the roads on the drive up there. We’ve never seen anything up close.

Until now.

On our final night in camp, we had a visitor. I woke up to a loud noise in the main room of our cabin and yelled at my dad in the next room to wake up. I was fairly certain someone was trying to break in and wasn’t sure what to do. But, my dad yelled back that it was probably just a bear. He went out to see what the commotion was and looked out the front window, on to the deck that overlooked the lake.

As it was the middle of the night and obviously dark, he couldn’t see anything and turned on the porch light, assuming that the noise maker would scurry as soon as the light came on. Little did he know, upon turning on the light, he would be standing face to face with a wild bear, who had clawed through the window screen and had its nose on the window glass, wanting to be let in.

He did run off, after my dad banged on the front door to scare him. Subsequently also scaring me. And making me want to run off. Never a dull moment with me and thanks to the dish soap, never a dull complexion. I may adopt dish soap into my daily routine after all.

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America, Culture, Family, Missions, Religion, Summer

WWJD? 

My grandma can now text. This is quite a novelty, seeing as how she was the type who swore she would never send a message when she could call. She finally came around and now she’s got an iPhone and an iPad, both of which she can competently send me messages from. Wanna know what I was doing on Wednesday night at 9:30 pm? Texting my grandma about a jello recipe and the merits of different paint brands. Welcome to the 21st century!

Unfortunately, someone updated her phone for her, wreaking havoc on her new texting skills. This resulted in a phone call that went something like “there’s all these little cartoon faces and I don’t know how to make them go away.” Those are called emojis, Grandma. 

One of the most recent texts I got from my grandma said: Brittney, I keep checking your blog and nothing! Please post more.

I have a bunch of posts written that I have lagged in posting. So, now, they’re not as timely as they once were, but still applicable. This was one I wrote after I got back from church camp at the very end of July. So, here you go, Grandma, enjoy! 

I’m unashamedly a 90s kid. I think everyone is at this point, seeing as how the 90s seem to be very “in”. But, I got the good part of the 90s. I was born in 1991, so most of my childhood was in that era. I knew every word to every Spice Girls song. I had a Skip It, a Tamagotchi, inflatable furniture, and a beaded curtain on my bedroom door (which was originally from the 70s, but made a brief comeback).

And, I had a WWJD bracelet. I’m not sure when these made their first debut, but if you were a Christian kid in America in the 90s, you had one. 

What Would Jesus Do? 

These bracelets were to serve as a reminder, when faced with day to day decisions, to ask yourself that question. 

Even though I don’t still wear my bracelet, I do still find myself asking that question quite a bit. It’s straightforward. And when I was young, I think it was a little bit easier to answer. 

Fighting with your brother? What would Jesus do? Um, well, I’m not sure Jesus would be fighting over who got to ride in the front seat of the car this time. But, I’m guessing if He were, He’d probably be nice and let His brother have it. 

Today, though, I asked myself that question. WWJD? Just what would Jesus do? Or better yet, what does Jesus want me to do? And you know what my answer was? Laundry. 

Laundry isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I also don’t hate it. The worst kind of laundry is the “I sweat in these clothes, then stuffed them in a bag and forgot about them” type, which is what I was faced with today.

There was a mix up on bags when we left camp and some of our bags got loaded with another church and to make a long story short, I was the one who was designated to sort it all out. Thus, the week old camp laundry that I’m now doing.


To be honest, I wasn’t even going to do the laundry. I was going to deliver it back to it’s owner in the condition I’d received it in and let someone else take care of it. But, a thought flashed through my mind. What would Jesus do? 

I know the owner of these clothes. I know the conditions she lives in, what her home life is like. And I know it may be difficult for her to access a washer and dryer. I also know that I have a washer and dryer at my disposal to use whenever I want to. I know that this is a fact I take for granted every single day of my life. I’ve never really stopped to think about what a blessing it is to have clean clothes. 

So, I’m doing laundry. 

Someone else’s laundry. Not because it’s what I want to do. But, because I know it’s what Jesus would do. 

I pray to be more like Him. I pray to be used by Him. But, I often look for the big things. “God, what do you want me to do? I want to serve You, I want to be a reflection of You.” These are the sentiments I often pray. And I envision God doing mighty works. 

What if all God is asking of me is to do laundry? What if He’s saying: “slow down, listen to me, look around, see how blessed you are, bless others in that same way”? 

We are all called to serve. But, we were never told what that service would look like. There were days that Jesus raised people from the dead. And there were other days that Jesus washed people’s feet. 

I don’t always know what my life’s calling is. All I know is that today, my calling was to wash clothes. 

“Whoever is faithful in little things will be faithful in much.” Luke 16:10

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Food, Missions, Religion, Summer

Popcorn Patience

Have you ever been standing in the shower and thought, I’d love to have some popcorn right now? Yeah, me either. 
Privacy becomes non-existent where kids are involved. I thought taking a shower would be my mini-escape. Not so. As I was taking a shower, one of the little girls was standing right outside my shower curtain, talking to me the whole time. No problem, talk away. She kept getting impatient, though, asking when I’d be done. Finally, she left, then yelled at me to get out because someone had made some very delicious popcorn. I thought this would be a great distraction for her and I’d get a little peace and quiet. Wrong again. Two seconds later, a little hand reaches into the shower, full of popcorn. “You were taking too long, so I brought the popcorn to you.” 
Aside from a few minor babysitting stints when I was a teenager, I’ve never really been around kids for an extended period of time. I do a couple hours at a time and then go back to my own life. Being at camp with them for a week was a test of endurance. 

 

A few of my favorite crazy kids

 
Right before I left, my mom said, why don’t you take some fruit for the girls to eat? They’d like that. And I said they wouldn’t eat it. But, because we have had so many cantaloupes from the garden this summer, I decided to take a couple. Sure enough, as soon as I started cutting them up, the girls flocked like moths to a light. 
Apparently, mom knows best. I called her and the next day she brought over a dozen more. So for my birthday, we had a front porch cantaloupe cutting party. This may have been my best birthday yet. 

  
I asked the Lord to show me how to better serve Him. I didn’t quite expect that shower popcorn and cabin cantaloupe would be His answer. But, for this week, it was and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We don’t get to pick and choose who we serve or how we serve, but every place the Lord calls us to is a mission field all its own. So, get your popcorn ready and get settled in because it’s guaranteed to be quite a show. 

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America, Funny, Religion, Summer

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Why are there animal crackers in my bed? I shouldn’t even have to ask this question. Are they mine? No. Apparently we operate on a what’s mine is yours mentality around here and that goes for my bed. And everything else I brought. I don’t know why my bunk is the chosen cool spot for all the eight year olds to hang out but I think we need to change that.
Cool Kids

Cool Kids

So, let me just give you a glimpse of what my day has been like. I had to wake 9 little girls up at 6:30 in the morning and get them to breakfast by 7:15. It was pouring down rain. Everyone wants to hold my hand. I have a rain jacket (which I am wearing) and no umbrella. We have a ten minute walk in aforementioned rain. By the time we get there, everyone is soaked. We sit down for breakfast and one of our little boys taps me on the shoulder to tell me he spilled his cereal and milk, which turned out to be all over the floor of the cafeteria. I tell him to go get napkins and he brings back four, which is not going to come close to cleaning it all up. We finally get everyone cleaned up and fed. As we’re walking back to our cabin to make our beds, our littlest girl comes up carrying one of her sandals and tells me it’s broken. I told her to put on another pair. To which she replied, these are the only shoes I brought. So, I walk into the cabin to figure out what other little girls have shoes (preferably dry, but at this point I’m not planning on being picky) she could borrow. And I’m greeted at the door by one of our older girls, telling me that someone left a Popsicle in the refrigerator instead of the freezer and it melted everywhere. To which my only response was: what color was it?
Camp, I gotta love ya!
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America, Culture, Family, Religion

Ready or Not

I’m packing up for church camp and I feel like I should be calling all my friends and deciding who’s bunking with who and what we’re all wearing and what cute boys will be there. But instead, I’m trying to figure out if I have everyone’s forms and if I called in the right numbers so that all the kids have beds and if anyone has any weird medical conditions that I need to be aware of. And I’m wondering, when did I become an adult in this situation?  My aunt (pictured with me below) took us all to camp for years and it was so much fun. I started going the year I turned 9 and some of my best summer memories have been made there. And, so now I take kids to the same camp I went to, so they can have those same memories. Actually, if we want to get down to the facts, I never stopped going. I turned 9 my first year I went and I’m turning 24 this week. So, I think that’s 15 years (someone might want to check my math). My birthday always falls during camp week too, which is an added bonus. And, I forgot to mention that Sherri and I share a birthday, so this is us on our birthday last year at camp.     Not only am I taking our kids to camp, but I have been appointed as the activities director for our week. I don’t know if I look active, but let me say this now: there is nothing about me that qualifies me for this position. I’m not super athletic or graceful or even that well organized. What happened was that I was supposed to be helping with activities a few years ago and then the lead position fell to me. And they keep asking me to do it again. I don’t know how to ref basketball games or set up brackets, but they have me running the basketball tournaments. I don’t know how to play or score tether ball, but why not appoint me to manage a tetherball tournament? I don’t know anything about horseshoes, but throw in a horseshoe tournament. You get the picture. One thing I am good at: delegating. Which is the only reason why I manage to handle any of this.  Church camp is fun. It’s completely exhausting, running on a little sleep and a lot of coffee, early mornings and afternoon meltdowns. More than that though, it is one time in my life that I can point to that helped me begin to discover who I was. Not only who I was as a person, but who I was in Christ, my spiritual identity. Because of Him, I am loved. I am blameless. I am free from sin and guilt and shame. His mercy and grace make me new. I want to share that experience with these girls. I want them to begin their journey here.

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Culture, Food, Travel

Clean Cut

I think it should be noted that I’m writing this standing in front of the open oven door, seeing as how it is currently colder in our cabin than it is outside. 44 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. Which doesn’t seem that cold to anyone else, apparently. But, I won’t see temperatures like these til Fall. I don’t know how one place can go from freezing cold to hot in such a short amount of time. I wake up in the morning and I’m camping out in front of the oven, eating cereal, in sweats and a hoodie. I come in for the afternoon and camp out on the front porch, in shorts and a t-shirt, because it’s warm and stuffy in the cabin. I’ve noticed that layers seem to be the key here.

Layered up in rain gear

Layered up in rain gear

Being in a fish camp is so funny. Everyone wants to know where everyone else has been, what they’ve seen, what they’ve caught. How deep? How many? What bait? What did the water look like? What direction was the wind blowing? Weeds? No weeds?

I let the guys talk those things over, while I go through my list of concerns. Do we have enough coffee to last us through the morning? Will I need two jackets or will one be okay? Do I want an apple or a banana as a snack today? You know, the truly important things.

The best of the talk happens in what I refer to as the fish house. Jesse, the expert fish cleaner, was in there with piles of perfectly cut fillets. So, I decided rather than stand around and talk about the walleye spawn, I’d watch and learn something relevant. While observing, I learned what instrumentation was, heard about a Canadian cattle farmer who cut his thumb off with a saw, threw it in the trash, wrapped it and kept on going, talked about bungee jumping vs. skydiving, scars from childhood games of falling out of trees (Canadians seem like a tough bunch to me), the difference between Canadian and American Netflix (did you know there was a difference or am I the only one out of the loop on this?) and our similar taste in music (my favorite Johnny Cash song just happened to be playing while I was there). There, of course, were guys who came in to talk fishing and I made some mental notes about maps and bays and such. But, talking about life stories seems so much more interesting to me than depths and maps and figures.

Jesse making fish cleaning look easy

Jesse making fish cleaning look easy

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I was inspired and thought it would be fun to learn to properly clean a fish. This is a true Canadian experience, right? What made me decide this, I have no idea. The opportunity just presented itself. There is nothing in my current skill set that lends to the fact that I would be good at this. Unless you count the 3 million watermelon I’ve cut up in my lifetime. Which is a total exaggeration. And, which is nothing like cutting up a fish.

Jesse agreed to teach me (I would say he had no idea what he was getting himself into, but he actually probably did) and since he hadn’t cleaned my catch yet, he methodically went through all the cuts and showed me what to do on one of my fish, then let me try on the second one. As you can imagine, I was half paying attention, half chit-chatting. which, I know, is coming as a huge surprise to anyone who knows me.

I made the appropriate cuts and was very proud at the end of that venture. Mine looked a little rough, but nothing too terrible. It came up a huge storm and started pouring buckets with the loudest thunder that echoed off the water, so I got a little distracted while Jesse finished up.

Let me interpret this for you: I missed all the important steps at the end.

Stormy skies

Stormy skies

After this venture, I realized I had no pictures to document the proof of my newly established fish cleaning capabilities. I decided that I needed to clean one more in order to document it, plus I was absolutely sure I’d be better at it the second time around. This poor fish, he had no idea what was in store for him.

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(Let me make a side note that in the taking of this picture, I nearly fell out of the boat, then dropped the fish on my yellow rain jacket, covering it and me and the book I was reading, and everything else in my near vicinity in a layer of slimy mud.)
As I was walking to the fish house with him, my dad asked if I was going to cut the bones out. (Northern Pike have a row of Y bones that have to be cut out.) Only then did I realize that I hadn’t been privy to that lesson the day before and that I was going to need some “guidance”, at which Jesse walked up at the perfect moment for. So, I did filet the fish expertly (in my own opinion, probably not in anyone else’s), remembering everything he taught me, step by step from the day before.

Here’s the steps:

#1: whack it in the head. I’m not sure if this is an official step or not, but it seems necessary.

#2: cut right behind the gills, underneath the first fin, down until you hit the back bone. I was nervous about cutting through too far, but you actually have to push pretty hard because traction is difficult on a slimy fish.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.16.18 PM

#3: cut down his backbone making tiny, almost feathery motions, until you come to the end. You would think guys who cut up fish all day would be rough, but it’s a more delicate skill than it’s given credit for.

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#4: at the end, stick your knife all the way through to its lower back fin and cut off through the tail. Do this on both sides and you’ll have your filets.

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See, this is where I thought the process stopped. But, it was after this that the train completely derailed. So there are about 25 other steps and cuts after this, but I’ll shorten my experience for you.

#5: make a lot of really terrible cuts and effectively butcher it all to pieces.

Jesse was making me laugh at my awful cutting

Laughing at my awful cutting

You know, I thought fish cleaning was something you could be naturally inclined for. (I actually think this about a lot of things so I like to try everything because what if I’m naturally inclined for something random that I’ve never discovered before? Like playing the harmonica or something? You could go your whole life without knowing you’re excellent at something, and what a waste that would be, right?) But, no doubt, it is a skill, learned and honed by practice. I think it would take me 100 fish to learn to do one properly. Jesse even had this cool way to clean around the bones and get even more meat off the fish, which was impressive for my “waste not, want not” personality. He showed me the “easy” way. I wasn’t good at most of it (really any of it) but, I was good at skinning it. (He told me I was better at the whole process than most guys he had seen try to learn it, so I’m counting that as win, although I’m sure he was just being nice.)

I will say one thing about my fish cleaning escapade. You never learn anything if you don’t try and a willingness to learn new things will take you far in life. I just don’t think it’s gonna take me anywhere near a filet knife again.

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