Thursday, July 23, 2020

2001 – A Reason For The Rules

Movies we saw in 2001
(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

When my family and I lived "up the hill" at camp (1998-2002), we very seldom went to the movies. Every now and again, I would take my two older kids *Brian was yet to be born) to see a movie on a weekend when we did not have a group in camp. It was a 38-mile trip each way, so these occasions were special and I wanted them to be memorable.


Lord of the Rings, Shrek, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Spy Kids, Cats and Dogs, Atlantis were all movies we saw that year.

We went to a multiplex in Redlands, California and Saturday afternoons filled with families some of whom attended camp during the summer or outdoor education season.

We would watch the movies and often, Alec and Kelly (my two older kids) would want to see another movie. Our early afternoon could turn into an early evening and often times did. I make this point only to make sure that I wanted my children to understand right and wrong. So, when we would watch a second movie, I would walk them out of the theater and we would get tickets for the additional movie. Often times, the kids would complain about having to do that as they watched other people walk out of one theater screen and into another.

I have always felt that when you begin to break the rules with children (and adults), they will start to determine that they have an exemption or a pass. Therefore, they can pick and choose the rules/laws that they want to follow. After all, they are special since that time that dad (or mom) allowed them to break that rule.

My kids always knew (from me) that they had to respect the rules even more so than any other children in camp did. I have to admit that none of us is perfect and all of us made mistakes or asked for something that may have stretched the rules. I think for my older kids and looking at their second and third grade faces during those outings I tried to provide for them, boundaries. I cannot say that my children always followed the rules or that they sometimes tried to get away with “their dad is the boss” routine.

I saw a post recently on a camp community social media site from someone (a camp director) mentioning how they sometimes take “director’s privilege” with the rules at their camp. As the director, I often thought about how my family and I were literally in the picture window of camp. At that time, our home was just 32 steps from the dining hall and our front window from our dining room faced the pool area at camp.

I believe, (having learned over and over from camp examples) that we all do better when we live with boundaries in our lives. How do young brains process which rules are okay to have and which are okay to exempt ourselves?


Learning to set boundaries is a great skill and I believe that camp is a great place to do so. What better incubator than a 750 square foot cabin with 7 campers and two leaders.

Here are just a few examples. Campers and staff often learn emotional boundaries around inappropriate topics, dismissing emotions or emotional dumping. Time and energy boundaries about adhering to a schedule, lateness, or timeliness to activities and meals. Physical boundaries with proximity, touch, unwanted comments about life style and choices. Mental boundaries and the belief that one can have their own thoughts, values, and opinions. Material boundaries around stuff that each brings to camp and sharing.

I believe, like my mentor John Maxwell, that “a leader who knows the way, goes the way and SHOWS THE WAY.” You can do so by setting good boundaries for everyone you influence.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

1980 - Day Camp Days

Temple City YMCA (Circa 1980-81) My Day Camp Group

(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

On July 11, 1980 I walked into the Temple City YMCA (a branch of the Pasadena YMCA). Imagine a suburban neighborhood 2 bedroom house with a backyard pool. That was our YMCA in Temple City.

It was this day that I met with the day camp staff for the first Friday afternoon meeting in preparation for the coming week and my first day as an employee of the YMCA. I was 15 (a few weeks from 16) and had gotten the job because my sister, Jackie, was working with her friend Sandy Nordin, whose mom (Maxine) was the Program Director for that YMCA. It was truly who you know. In attendance was Tony Del Negro, Lisa Russell, Jackie, Sandy, Maxine, Julie Tindall and several other staff.

Later I would meet  Dave Hagen, Bill Gagliardi, Bob Montes, Ron Perry, Wally Wirick, Sam Brown, Auggie Mayne, George Finnerty, Ron Clear, Art & Barbara Wetton, Don Olsen, Marcel Schwantes, Ken Stein, Robin Stein, Patty Hart, EJ Lugo, Brian Kelly, Peggy Conklin, Matt Shea, Josh Greene, Megan Kelly, Paul Cary, Steve Waterman, Julie Czochara, Michael Garcia, 100s of volunteers, over 2000 staff and nearly 53,400 campers that have helped me become a better servant leader and human.

It was and has been the greatest learning experience and I had no idea that it has allowed me on a path to be a Servant Leader over the last four decades of my life. There have been friendships forged that have lasted that long and helped me develop of sense of creating community. It is servant leadership at five different agencies (6 camps) and in the Youth Development Leadership field.

I’ve found that my best days are the ones where peace has emerged from struggle. It is in this struggle that each day has ended and like most camps, we have had difficult moments. It is in that strife that emerges the love and respect as well as all those leadership opportunities.

A camp life I have had the blessing to share (and be supported by) my wife Lee Anne, and our children, Alec, Kelly, and Brian.

Today’s marks 40 years in service. Happy 40 years to all those whom I have had the privilege to work and to serve.





Friday, July 10, 2020

2015 – Is it time yet?


Support Staff Team Pictured is not the person (s) described in the article.

(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

Several summers back, we had a new staff member that joined our directing team (known as Support Staff for the camps I have served) who had never been part of our team. As part of our staff training and orientation – we do a campfire skit called “Is It Time Yet?”

The basic structure of the skit is a line of folks with their legs crossed and each one in turn asks the next person, “Is it time yet?” (For the full skit, look below at the end of this story for the script.)

I decided to sit next to our newest staff person, and she decided to share how this skit worked with me. As she muttered the directions of what was happening under her breath to me. Her enthusiasm for the skit was contagious and it seemed she believed I had never seen this one before.

In John Maxwell’s book, How To Lead When Your Boss Can’t (Or Won’t), I recalled the section on catching your boss’s enthusiasm. John wrote, “It’s much easier to work with someone when you share an enthusiasm.”

There is no doubt that I am and have always been wholly enthusiastic about campfire. I sign with all the songs. I laugh at all the jokes, even if it is the same “carrot joke” that I have told nearly 1000 times. I believe campfire is a great program in camp and it allows those of us with the least talent to have our “Rock Star” moments.

Campers who have never gotten in front of their family let alone any outside group have blossomed and thrived from the experience. I have had dozens of parents who call me after summer and ask me about a song or skit that their child tried to share in front of a family gathering when they had never done anything like that in their life. The parents often ask, “What is the punch line for that joke” or “is that song lyric really about little kids losing their pants as the Titanic sank?”

My point in sharing this is that there a few and far between songs, skits or stories from camp, that I have never heard or seen. For 6 years, one of the camps I served had campfire programs nearly every night of the week.

So, back to our new staff person that season. In that Maxwell book, John asserts that “Good leadership is where you are challenging leaders above you to continue growing.” I saw that she was contributing to the team and if given the opportunity, she would continue to share that at every level of camp.

Her energy about helping lead was endearing and I knew that she would do well helping lead others in her new role at camp. It was clear that she was not afraid of leading her new “boss” and my high school drama teacher always told me that I took direction well.

I had a decision to make - Do I reinforce that I have done this skit at least 100 times or was it better for her to help “lead up” and just stay out of her way to teach what she was clearly happy and proud of knowing.

“It’s okay to stay out of someone’s way while they decide to teach, lead, share, or direct a skit.”

IS IT TIME YET (SCRIPT)

5-8 Actors standing, sitting (or laying) with left foot crossed over right and right arm crossed over left.

First Person in line turns to the second person and asks: "IS IT TIME YET?" Second person responds, “I’ll check.”

Second Person turns to third and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Third person responds, “I’ll check.”

Third Person turns to third and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Fourth person responds, “I’ll check.”

Fourth Person turns to fifth and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Fifth person responds, “I’ll check.”

Fifth Person turns to sixth and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Sixth person responds, “I’ll check.”

And so on for the total number of actors participating.

Last Person says: "NO" And the word is passed back to the first person, one actor at a time

After a lonnnnnnnng pause,

First Person in line turns to the second person and asks: "IS IT TIME YET?" Second person responds, “I’ll check.”

Second Person turns to third and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Third person responds, “I’ll check.”

Third Person turns to third and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Fourth person responds, “I’ll check.”

Fourth Person turns to fifth and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Fifth person responds, “I’ll check.”

Fifth Person turns to sixth and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Sixth person responds, “I’ll check.”

And so on for the total number of actors participating.

Last Person says: "NO" And the word is passed back to the first person, one actor at a time

After a lonnnnnnnng pause,

First Person in line turns to the second person and asks: "IS IT TIME YET?" Second person responds, “I’ll check.”

Second Person turns to third and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Third person responds, “I’ll check.”

Third Person turns to third and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Fourth person responds, “I’ll check.”

Fourth Person turns to fifth and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Fifth person responds, “I’ll check.”

Fifth Person turns to sixth and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Sixth person responds, “I’ll check.”

And so on for the total number of actors participating.

Last Person says: "NO" And the word is passed back to the first person, one actor at a time

After a another FINAL lonnnnnnnng pause,

First Person in line turns to the second person and asks: "IS IT TIME YET?" Second person responds, “I’ll check.”

Second Person turns to third and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Third person responds, “I’ll check.”

Third Person turns to third and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Fourth person responds, “I’ll check.”

Fourth Person turns to fifth and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Fifth person responds, “I’ll check.”

Fifth Person turns to sixth and asks, "IS IT TIME YET?" Sixth person responds, “I’ll check.”

And so on for the total number of actors participating.

Last Person says: "It’s Time" And the words “It’s Time” is passed back to the first person, one actor at a time

Just after the first Actor gets the word “It’s time”, they all switch to right foot over left and left arm over right.


THE END


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

1984 - 26 Miles Across The Sea (The Myth of Kumbaya - Part 3)


Catalina Island Trail and backpacker
Catalina Island, California and backpacker on trail.


26 Miles Across The Sea

(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

As far back as 1971, I was camping with my family. We had been in the United States less than 3 years and our family friends Jerry and Suzanne Watts had invited our family to their annual summer vacation where they camped on the beach near Ensenada, Mexico.

I have spent all (and parts of) every summer since 1980 at camp (day and overnight). I have also had camp with leadership lessons throughout the year.

In 1984 was a long and wet winter where I recall Southern California had had a particularly low altitude snow. That means that we had those crisp nights and the grass was always dewy to the frost point.

I can recall running on many mornings where the snow on the San Gabriel Mountains seemed to be just above Altadena (maybe 1500 feet above sea level) and as you traveled east, Mount Baldy (4193’) had that great pure white snowy look with clouds in the fore ground.

My friend Chris and I decided that our schedule at Cal Poly Pomona could take on a one credit backpacking class that we had been talking about for the past two years.

“Coach,” as we called him met with the class for 8 weeks followed by a spring trip that was (scheduled for four days) out on Catalina Island. A long weekend where we had the opportunity to apply the cumulative lesson’s we had discussed and studied during the first 8 weeks of the class.

As each week wore on, we discussed the different styles of equipment and gear that where appropriate to backpacking. Coach and his wife, Mrs. Coach, would share stories about their family trips with their two sons and their Peace Corps experiences in China. Mrs. Coach always had some awkward story about life in China and was very old fashioned in her tales that often shifted to culturally inappropriate.

There were in fact two different classes that met on backpacking and the trip was a combined group at the end of the quarter (Cal Poly being a 10 week and finals quarter school).

We met in San Pedro one early Thursday morning to catch the ferry out to the island. As the song goes; 26 miles across the sea and the ferry took under two hours.

The group consisted of 17 students and the 2 coaches and of course, Mrs. Coach. We boarded the ferry and Mr. Coach and wife took off on their own boat to Two Harbors. I am not entirely sure, why we had not all stayed together and traveled on their boat.

It was early, it was crisp, and we headed to Catalina Island to backpack. Smiles and the scent of new back packing equipment emanated from our group. Chris and I had invested in a new two-man tent or as we called it “the condo with the Jacuzzi suite.” I, of course, was the pack mule for “the condo.”

The trip was uneventful in that we arrived, hiked out, and set up camp on a cove facing the mainland. Coach trudged along and applied the stories and lessons as the group moved up the coast. Mrs. Coach continued to over share some of her stories and was now on the third version of a woman who gave birth to her son while working in a rice patty.

It was not until Saturday evening that the campfire talk turned to Sunday mornings hike back to Two Harbors and the weather. As the other infamous island songs goes; the weather was due to begin “getting rough” the next day.

The El Nino pattern (that had begun to move northward that spring, had turned back south and we were due for another late spring event), would shower the southland and make sure that the snows were just above Altadena again.

The other coach and his son decided to hike back that evening to Two Harbors and bring Coach’s boat up to the cove where we were.

That morning, we woke and Evan (one of our classmates) had released the goat. Did I mention the goat? Early on the second day, we had climbed to the top of the peak at the northern end of the island and looked out on the Pacific Ocean; towards China. Mrs. Coach was not with us on that excursion however someone made mention that in the distance babies were being born on rice patty’s somewhere in the distance.

Did I mention the baby goat?

We began our trek down towards our cove and began a steady pace that picked up steam over the flat rocks and terrain. Evan, who was in the lead setting the pace started to dart towards a group of rocks and what appeared to be goats in the distance.  He leapt from flat to rounded rocks the size of a Volkswagen and I know I attempted to keep up.

As we approached the wild goatherd, he headed straight into the grouping, in a bounding motion, swept up a baby goat, and kept moving without slowing whatsoever.

It was a few minutes before we all caught up to him. We finally caught up where he stopped at the trail-head that took us back to our campsite cove. We were all impressed with Evan’s speed and agility and even more impressed with his goat scoping agility. He announced that he would keep the baby goat while its mother bawled in the distance calling for its release.

I can’t recall how long he kept the baby goat and for the sake of my story, some conflict emerged as we all encouraged him to return it to its mother. He held tight for a while. As we walked back into camp, Mrs. Coach caught wind of the baby goat and its noises. And again, a Peace Corps story. There seemed to be some unrest about the entire situation. Two of the other students confronted Evan about the goat; they mentioned issues on the hike in; they also brought up cooking duties and clean-up issues. It was general strife and conflict.

It was not until Mrs. Coach intervened that hands were shook, smiles emerged, and the baby goat returned to the hillside with mom. The baby goat kept turning back towards our camp and shrilled at Evan almost longingly.  The goats stayed around for most of the afternoon and into the evening only disappearing from sight as darkness settled on the cove.

My point in sharing this is that conflict happened on a short weekend school sanctioned backpacking trip and most of us would most likely never see each other again sometime after graduation. In addition, this conflict was just a small example of the eruptions that occurred throughout the course of the class and trip and often times in any camp setting.

The Sunday morning, we departed was amazingly clear towards the sunrise over the mainland. Looking towards the ocean side of the island that clued what the rest of the day would turn out to be.

We broke down the campsite and I returned the “condo with the Jacuzzi suite” back on to the frame of my secondhand Scout backpack that had I acquired from a neighbor. I had saved up for it and the entire trip from tips that I made having delivered flowers (in those days Flower Delivery could be profitable for college students) on the previous Valentine’s Day.

As we finished packing the boat was coming into the cove and anchored several hundred feet off the shore. We could see the other coach and his son hauling a dingy on deck and launching it into the water. We were all in our bathing suits shuttling items down near the surf, which at this point was gently lapping and surprisingly calmer than the night before.

We had planned how best to shuttle items out using the inflatable dingy and essentially having all the participants swim out in groups. Essentially, we planned an amphibious withdrawal from an island on what would be a tumultuously stormy afternoon and night.

The groups were assembled by 4 or 5 individuals and was predicated by the size of the dingy and how much weight as well as space for the equipment. We waded into the water with our packs above our heads just past the surf where the other coach’s son was holding the dingy in place. Shark jokes ensued until one of the other participants felt what we all believed to be a jellyfish and a panicked yell led to a collective seriousness.

As we neared the boat and the ground was no longer just below the surf, I felt the lapping begin to roll and I remember thinking to myself, I did not want to lose my pack that I had spent two days of flower delivery tips to purchase. That is when the rolling wave went over my head, I lunged towards the dingy, and the person next to me steadied my shoulder with their hand. I realized in that moment that Evan had a remarkably calming grip and perhaps that is why the baby goat had not strayed far.

By the time the last group made it onto the boat, I had already made my way into the pilot’s area to offer my assistance. I spent the bulk of the trip back at the helm and felt a sense of belonging to a group that just a few short weeks prior had no connection.

This is what happens in every group, team, or organization? 

A)    A previously unknown group with some semblance of topical knowledge brought together. (Forming)

B)        They strive towards a collective goal as knowledge gets passed back and forth. (Norming)

C)  Manufactured or arbitrary strife emerges within the team. (Storming)

D)     The team comes back together to overcome the difficult situation (re-forming to hold hands)

Moreover, the team (if healthy) moves on through the subsequent struggles or goals to perform and perhaps re-form. (Five of us did take another backpacking class the following year and conquered the Sierras where I took a cold dip into a stream during spring thaw and Evan used his calming grip and managed to catch a rabbit.)

As we stood on the cement pier in San Pedro not far from where we had started out a few days prior, no one seemed to want to leave. We had circled up and talked about the jelly, the goat, Mrs. Coach’s stories, and ultimately our successful amphibious withdrawal from an island, pride achieved with the unplanned storming (figuratively and literally).

I believe that we would have stood there for a bit longer to linger and have our moment to hold hands and sing Kumbaya had the actual storm finally turn from misty to pelting rain.

We all long to come together in our groups and tribes and achieve our collective goals. It seems an innate part of the human experience. I imagine our predecessors who roamed parts of the world and collectively survive. How those groups must have managed to camp each night, look up, hold hands, and give thanks for whatever protected them.

I thought to myself, “righteous treasure and knowledge that emerged from wise praise indeed.”


1975 - Mrs. Fox - Lessons from a Teacher Who Loved the Dodgers

  (50 Nifty Years in United States Series) You always remember that teacher who looked and smelled great. As an 11 year old, in 5 th grade,...