Happiness vs. Joy

Happiness vs. Joy

If you didn’t already know, I’ve been struggling this summer. I’ve gotten easily frustrated and fed up with processes that work too slow, and wind up feeling defeated and deflated. Here’s an excerpt from something I jotted down while in a serious decline:

“What am I doing? I feel like I ask myself this question a lot. At the moment, I’m a photographer for Camp Sandy Cove. While I love being back at camp, I’ve found myself already in a rut of “in-between”. What is an “in-between” rut? Well, sit back, grab a drink, and I’ll tell you. An “in-between” rut is when you hate everything. You shouldn’t, but for a split second that makes absolutely no sense, everything is useless including yourself. You hate the grass and the pavement and your own shoes and people in general. You mostly hate yourself though, because everything seems to have come from nowhere and it makes you tired and sad for no reason. It makes you question everything you do. Those of you who might confuse this with depression would be wrong. Depression would be when you question your very existence and when this feeling continues for longer than a few hours. A rut usually only lasts anywhere from 60 minutes to 24 hours.

I’m tired. So incredibly tired. The kind of tired that seeps in through your lungs and grabs you and rips you to shreds. I have no problem admitting any of this. I’m tired. But it’s not that kind of physical exhaustion you get from running around all day and taking pictures of small children. And pretending to have the energy of ten people that you obviously haven’t had in quite a while.

It’s a mental and spiritual exhaustion. A soul exhaustion that feels like everything good has just been completely wiped from the planet. All you can hope for and all you can pray for is just to make it back to your bed. I’m at a point where I just don’t care. And caring usually keeps me alive. I want to lay down in the wet grass of the soccer field and just be. Who knew I would miss the freedom that comes with being able to even do that much? Working six days a week at camp doesn’t really allow that behavior, because even on your off day, camp is thrumming with children. Compete with their whining and their screams and their “you’re in my personal space” banter.

Maybe the sun is sucking it all away. Maybe the heat and the exhaustion mix to form a messy cocktail of emotions that leave me tired and aching for something else. I keep waiting for the eminent breakdown, with tears and some horrible mental break that drives me off the edge. It hasn’t come yet. The waiting is almost as bad as the break.”

If that doesn’t give you a hint of where I’ve been at this summer, I don’t know what will. Feeling exhausted even after a good 8-9 hours of sleep, waiting for impending break down. As the summer has sprawled on, my emotional state hasn’t gotten better.

Since Chesh is my boss, that means he walks and talks me through my mid-summer evaluation. Over-all, his comments were that I was doing well at my job but needed some tweaking in certain areas. One of those things was my attitude. His comment was that while around the campers I was high energy and high smile; a good attitude and engaging. As soon as the office door closed, though, I became a grumpy, sassy, complaining person that was downright depressing.

“We need to work on that.” He said.

“I’m exhausted,” I admitted, grumbling my way into a slouch on the armchair. “And I don’t want to do this anymore. I feel worked to my limit and even though we get a day off, it never feels restful. I don’t feel re-charged. I keep waking up tired.”

“That’s what I mean. We need to work on finding something that makes you more than just happy, but gives you the re-charge you need to get through the summer.”

After a while of contemplation about this (I ended up being placed on the shuttle that Sunday, which meant a solid 8 hours as co-pilot to think things through and mull over possible ideas), I figured out it was my joy. I was certainly happy on my day off, and happy when the wifi worked, and happy when I got to use a golf cart to get around camp, but there wasn’t joy. I suppose I should say there still isn’t joy, since as I write this, I’m still working it through myself.

What brings me joy? I’ve been trying to figure it out. I think there’s a difference between those “little happys” and true joy. A little happy would be a surprise oreo cookie, or a late night trip to IHOP. These are beautiful things in and of themselves, but they offer a happy relief that usually doesn’t last very long. I need to find out what brings me joy and not just happiness.

If you have any ideas, let me know. This is a journey, after all!

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The Reinhard Chronicles: Just a House

The Reinhard Chronicles: Just a House

I think in some strange way, a couple’s first house together is a scup of tea leaves in the telling of their future together. Somehow, that first apartment, house, or tent, is a testament to who they are and how their relationship will be. As per usual, the extent of my knowledge is purely based on my own personal experiences, thoughts, assumptions, and expectations.

Having said that, Cheshire and I arrived at Camp Sandy Cove in May, a freshly married couple, prepped and ready for a summer experience like never before. We arrived late and tired, just wanting to get to our trailer for the summer, and collapse into bed. What we beheld was bleak, even for the two of us who would have had no trouble camping in a tent all summer. A single room trailer that consisted of a lot more hallway than anything else. The full size mattress was tolerable, but the airplane sized bathroom was an absolute disaster.

“Well,” said Chesh, testing the water in the sink, “At least any place after this will be a step up!”

Even though a friend had told us that the trailer had been cleaned before our arrival, the shower was covered in black mold. We had also forgotten bedding, and staring at a bare mattress at 11:30 pm with pouring rain outside, was NOT an encouraging start. Chesh’s hair grazed the roof of our trailer and there was next to no closet space. After ten hours in the car, I was done. I sat on the couch and sniffed. My head was aching and I was already exhausted. This was going to be a long summer.

As the days passed, we found ourselves stuffing various clothing articles in various drawers. Some bleach powder, a scrubbie, elbow grease, and an hour and a half later, I had worked through the shower.

We had hot water…at first. But a week later it all went cold, and we learned our first lesson of trailer-living. Tad, the camp’s handyman, offered to fill up our gas tank, and we were back to hot showers again. Not that Chesh could actually FIT in the shower. He usually drove down to the guy staff cabin to shower in there.

We found a mini fridge in the basement of the office that we were given permission to use, and so it took up residence on our “dining room table”. I hesitate to even call it that. I think it might have been the fridge that finally made it feel like home. Drinking cold soda with our evening movies was fun. It felt normal.

It was on our day off that we decided to check out the trailer next door.

“I just want to see what it looks like inside,” I told Chesh, skipping down the steps and around the side.

One look told me we had gotten the short straw in regards to trailers. This one was bigger with steps that went up to the living room with a built in fridge and an actual bathroom with a functional bathtub. The bedroom had an actual sliding door to close it off from the rest of the trailer, but contained a single bed frame and mattress that was placed at an odd angle. The bed had obviously been added later and there was a large enough space for a queen or even king sized bed in its place. Cheshire and I only shared a short look before driving up to the office to ask for a switch.

With a quick warning about a minor leak in the living room, and permission to remove the single bed and replace it with a queen, we were off. That night we were sleeping in our new trailer. Like all trailers, we had to figure out the little nuances of “home #2”. The fridge had it’s own layer of black mold, and I found myself once again scrubbing away until it was gleaming white again. It was a good feeling, settling into our new place less than ten feet from our old one.

But no place is perfect, right?

A couple of days later it rained. No, it POURED. And that “little leak” we had been told about was a little more than a “little” leak. The living room got rearranged with a pot, an Ariel mug, and a plate to collect the drips. An orchestra played while we slept, a hilarity that I thought only happened in movies. At least we were dry.

For now.

I awoke in the middle of the night by two things. One, my feet were soaked. Two, so was my head. I woke up Chesh, and we realize the water was pouring in from the wall above our heads as well. Actually, it was more like MY head, soaking my side of the bed while Cheshire’s side remained dry. We slept the rest of the night on the couch.

We have since learned how to avoid certain mishaps like this, putting a tarp on the roof, pushing the bed into the middle of the floor, and carefully arranging our pots and pans. Looking at it now, I laugh. A test, I suppose, of just how functional we can be. I’d like to think we’ll survive through rain and low ceilings, mini fridges and no closet space.

Calling All Mermaids and Camp Counselors!

Calling All Mermaids and Camp Counselors!

The same way an ink spill pools over everything it touches, hair dying does the same. I came to camp this summer sporting beautiful locks of bubble gum pink hair.  Halfway through training week, I was approached by not one, not two, not three, but nine people who wanted me to help them dye their hair. Everything from natural blonde and auburn with black tips, to purple streaks, to flaming red, to purple with orange tips, to peacock ombre. I was excited to say the least. If there’s something I love to do, it’s dye hair. Let me repeat: I LOVE DYING HAIR! I think that using your hair as a canvas is an extremely fun way to show off your personality. Getting to transform your hair into something exciting, is a way for me to be a part of that “unveiling”.

As someone who dyes hair a lot, I have tried a lot of different brands and colors, compiling a lovely little list of what works best. I rate hair dye on vibrancy, fade, and bleed. Vibrancy is the color you get right after you dye it, fade is how your color fades over time as well as washes, and bleed is how much rubs off on clothing, pillow cases, and in the shower.

DISCLAIMER: The products mentioned are purchased (usually) through Sally Beauty Supply, which I am a huge fan of, and can easily be found in just about any town. I don’t receive any compensation for the products I recommend. I recommend them because they’re good products that I’ve tried that I love. If I haven’t tried a certain product, I’ll give no comment. There is a very long list of things I want to try that I just haven’t done yet. I promise that as I learn new things, I’ll edit this post, or maybe write a whole new one!

Moving on.

First, let’s talk Hannah’s hair.

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For me, the most important part of getting my hair to the color I want it, is bleach. I don’t mean the bleach you keep in your pantry. I mean hair bleach. I mix of powder and volume 30 developer. I use that combination because that’s what I’ve tried on my hair and what seems to work well for the level of lift I want.  (If you want some more info on bleaching, read this lovely article. Usually it takes me 2-3 bleach jobs to get the right amount of lift. As you can see from the picture above, my hair is a pretty white-ish blonde. Since I knew I was going for an orangey-pink color, I probably would have been fine with just once or twice instead of the three times it took me to get this.

Now onto color. In the second picture (the one with the strawberry vanilla caption), I used Ion Color Brilliance in the shade Flamingo. Now, I was really excited about Flamingo, because I was hoping it would give me the right kind of pink that I wanted. I didn’t want bubble gum pink, and I really didn’t want that bright Barbie hot pink either. Unfortunately, Flamingo came out more like melted ice cream, and since that WASN’T what I was looking for, I tried again.

Next I used Flamingo mixed with Ion Color Brilliance Brights in the shade Magenta. This gave me a little bit of an in-between that melted ice cream and Barbie pink.

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Thus, my third picture. I wasn’t sure about the fade, but so far I like it! The top fades first (since it’s closer to my scalp, and is what gets washed the most), and melds into a blonde color. Here is an example of that fade.

I really love the Ion brand, and have found it the most flexible in hair colors. They have a lot of options with not too much fade, and very minimum bleed. Also, one box/tube of Ion costs about $6, which is perfect for my price range. It takes about a tube and a half to do all my hair, which means I can redo my color for about ten dollars, which I redo every two weeks. The key to good fade is cool showers. If your color fades super quickly, and you’re so surprised that your hair is fading, understand that the hotter your shower is, the faster your color will fade. Now, in the summer, I don’t mind taking cool showers. But once we kick into fall and winter, all I want to do is slip into a hot steamy shower.

Another thing I want to mention is Overtone. Overtone is a conditioner that has color in it, and every time you wash your hair and use the product, it adds color back into your hair.

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I bought myself a bottle of daily conditioner in their Vibrant Pink and have been using it every time I shower. The best part is that they encourage you to shower with warm water instead of cold. YAY! After using the product (and hearing so much hub about it), I have to say I was a little disappointed. It kept the color even, which I appreciated, but didn’t keep the vibrancy. In the picture with the sunglasses, you can see the color is an even light pink (which is CUTE!) BUT I isn’t that bright pink I wanted. If you want a pastel color, this stuff is awesome! You can purchase the conditioner through their website, and the bottle is around $17 for 8oz. “Use our Daily Conditioner every time you would normally condition your hair in the shower, especially after shampooing. These mild formulas will deposit just the right amount of color while moisturising your hair to help it healthy. Some colors might stain your hands a little, so be sure to look for our “wear gloves” warning in the product description.” (Overtone.co)

As I’ve researched dye, I’ve developed a long list of colors to try next, and I’m “booked” for color all the way through next spring. As I try new products I’ll write about them and figure just WHAT works best in my opinion.

Farewell, my fellow mermaids!!!

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Love is…

Love is…

For the past two years I have worked at Camp Sandy Cove, a Christian camp nestled up in the mountains of West Virginia. My first summer there I worked as a Chief (the camp’s term for counselor), with the Squaws (the camp’s term for 13-15 year old girls). If you want to feel like a fully insane, fully tired, and fully joy-overloaded individual, I say work at a camp. There is no other place to act like a kid with the title of authority than at camp.

The summer had been wrapping up, and I was on my last cabin of Operation Purple girls before heading back to SC for my senior year of college. Operation Purple was the best week of the summer, as the kids who came were from military families. It’s a great way for kids to be kids and build great relationships with other MKs as well. Since the program is funded by the government, we remove chapel from our schedule, and have a moment of silence before every meal instead of a prayer. We don’t have quit times or cabin devotions, but allow ourselves to be there should any of our kids want to talk about spiritual things. That way we can respect the fact that not all kids who come during OP are Christians.

My group of girls were fantastic! I had a great group that knew how to have fun, knew when they should all take a nap, and knew how to drive me insane. The week was coming to a close, and the girls and I had gotten pretty close (which is a personal goal of mine at camp). A rainy day rest hour had begun, and I was jumping in the shower while there was still some hot water, when I heard the girls talking.

“Love is crying into your pillow at night.”
“Love is wondering if he really does love you.”
“Love is getting your heart broken over and over again.”

Let me tell you, I jumped out of that shower so freaking fast.

“Hold on just a second!”

I stood in front of them in my towel, hair dripping from the three seconds it was under the water, and gave them my best “mom” look.

“Chief? Uh… You’re making a puddle.”

“Yes, thank you Rachel, I realize. I just needed to say something really quick.”

They gave me The Look. If you’re a mom with teenagers, I’m sure you see this look a lot. It’s the ‘oh-god-are-you-about-to-be-super-embarrassing??-yep-ok-here-she-goes’ look. Six of my girls were scattered through the room, laying on bunk beds and curled up under blankets as the rain poured outside.

“Love, my dears, should never be those things. There are emotions you can feel because of love, like feeling heartbroken or hurt, but they should never drive love. If your love is based on whether the other person returns it or not, maybe that isn’t the right kind of love.”

At this point, I wanted to pull out my bible and show them 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, but since no one had technically asked “what the Bible said about love”, I felt weird pulling it out. So instead I racked my brain and hoped I didn’t misquote.

“Love is supposed to be patient. It’s supposed to be kind. It doesn’t get jealous or bossy or demanding. Love is not hurting others to get what you want. Love focuses on the truth and doesn’t hold grudges. Love is protecting people and putting them above yourself.”

It was Rachel who said something first. “Chief…isn’t that from the Bible?”

Leave it to Rachel to know her Bible verses.

I smiled. “Yeah, I guess it is. But here’s my point: Real and true and honest love has absolutely nothing to do with the other person. There was someone I loved once who didn’t love me back. We were best friends and he was dating someone else. And you know what? That didn’t change the fact that I loved him and still to this day love him. Here’s the difference. The love changed. It went from romantic gushy love to a deep friendship love. I knew we would never be in a relationship and that wasn’t what drove me to love him. I love him because of who he is as a person and because of all the time we have spent together sharing our lives. Whether he loves me back has nothing to do with how I feel about him.”

The girls awed and “poor chief”-ed at me, but I stopped them.

“Guys, you’re missing the point. That wasn’t supposed to be a woe-is-me moment. All this happened a long time ago. My point is that love shouldn’t be “crying into your pillow at night”, because that means your love is dependent on their feelings as well. Should that really change the fact that you still love them? Is your love based on their returned affection, or is your love based on who they are as a person?”

After that I went and took my shower, and wondered if that had meant anything or made any sense to them. I’ve thought about that moment a lot, and it was only two months ago when I got another reminder. Cheshire and I were at a pre-marital retreat in Rome, GA called “Prepared to Last”. The retreat was excellent, and he ended up proposing on our last night there. Talk about perfect!

During a session, one of the speakers talked about how sometimes in marriage it can get really hard to love your spouse. They were talking about how the best marriages happen when each person is giving their un-selfish 100% towards the other person. She said, “Remember this: You are called, by God, to love him. But you are not called to be loved by him.” Talk about an ouchy, am I right? Everyone wants to be loved by their person. But when I think about it, whether or not Chesh loves me, shouldn’t change the fact that I love him 100%. And I do. When I marry him, I’m promising to love him through good things and bad things and loving him despite how he feels.

Romantic love changes over time. In fifty years, we are not going to be the same people we are now. But that’s ok. That’s the exciting bit to life. We are going to grow and change and (hopefully) mature. Most importantly we are going to do it together. And I can’t wait.

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P.S. If you’re interested on Chesh’s perspective, he wrote a (sort of) similar post here.