Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kids These Days

Well I’m locked out of my room so I guess I finally have time to blog again…My team and I just got back from Michigan yesterday and it’s nice to be back at home in Vinton except for it was definitely 0 degrees when I went out for dinner last night which wasn’t very pleasant. These next few days we’ll just be finishing up odds and ends, presenting our project debrief where we talk about the project we just finished and then I’m packing up and flying back to Washington, PRAISE JESUS. All I want to be doing right now is to be curled up by the fire in Sisters, nibbling on some wine bread with my Bing Crosby doll serenading me in the background as I read me some Twilight because ever since I saw New Moon I’ve been dying to read the third book.

So the past two weeks of life have been a whole lot of crazy because someone thought it would be a good idea for me to be a cabin leader to 5th grade boys. After spending two weeks with them I have a new found respect for teachers and a much greater appreciation for Ritalin because seriously that ish should be served to every child by 7 am thus making my life a lot easier.

Starting Nov. 30 my team was assigned the kids that we would have in our cabins and then after that we were given slips of paper detailing medical backgrounds on the kids that might be worth knowing. Most people got maybe one or two sheets and then of course I’m given the mother load of 7 sheets of paper. I was scurred. I found out that my cabin consisted of two asthmatics who couldn’t even power walk without an inhaler, one bed wetter who woke me up at 5 in the morning to tell me he had drunk a lot of water before going to bed but that he had cleaned it all up with paper towels, one sleep walker who I wouldn’t let sleep on the top bunk for obvious safety reason, a kid with ADD who gave me the stink eye for three hours straight on the day he didn’t take his meds, and finally a kid with Aspergers. To put it lightly, I had my hands full.

The week was full of hilarious things because 5th graders are ridiculous and unfortunately as the adult I was forced to try to hide my laughter during certain situations. Some of my fav moments from week are as follows:
1. When a kid named Dorian got stuck on the top bunk because he had an intense fear of heights. Why he picked the top bunk is still a complete mystery. So for ten minutes he couldn’t figure out how to get down and had a panic attack and started crying. This all took place within the first 10 minutes of us moving into the cabin. It took all my strength to keep from dying laughing.
2. When one of the horses farted and coughed at the same time and 30 kids couldn’t stop laughing for 5 minutes. I’ll admit. It was pretty hilarious.
3. When one of my really really hyper kids ran around the cabin in his whitie tighties screaming, “boys just wanna have fun!” over and over.
4. When I tried to convince a group of kids at my dinner table that I was dating Demi Levato and that I had a small part in Camp Rock and then having them tell me that I’m obviously too old for Demi and if I was dating someone famous it would probably be Taylor Swift. I totally went along with it until some smarty-pants blabbed that she’s dating Tayler Laughtner who plays Jacob in Twilight. How could I compete with that???
5.Realizing that the fifth graders that always saved a seat for me at meals were the really popular kids. I’m not gonna lie, it made me feel pretty cool.

Throughout the week that kids attended outdoor environmental classes such as Star Lab where we crawled into a blow up planetarium with a projector that showed us the constellations. It was a great place for naps. The kids also learned how to build fires, look at microscopic organisms under a microscope, how to build a shelter in the wilderness, and how to use a compass. The favorite class for most of the kids was Horse Sense where we learned about horses and then got to ride them. My horse was named Lou and he was the sweetest horse ever. He loved to be petted and he would always put his head against my chest when I’d come up to him. An interesting fact about Lou was that he was known throughout camp as the horse that spontaneously passes out. Once I finally mounted him it was the most stressful horseback ride of my life as I was constantly looking for an emergency exit because if that thing was going down there was no way I could abandon ship fast enough.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Week 1 in Michigan

We just finished our first workweek in Michigan and we’re all excited about the weekend because New Moon comes out! Don’t worry, we already have our tickets. The team left Vinton, Iowa on Monday at an ungodly hour and it’s a miracle we were able to shut the doors with all the luggage we had crammed into the 15 passenger. Some of the team wasn’t too keen on sitting next to each other for 10 hours of travelling; we’re just not there yet, so instead of taking out the back bench seat and putting our the luggage in its place we left it and placed the bags in every nook and cranny we could find. It took us roughly 10 minutes to get in and out of the van at each stop but most people had their own bubble even if it meant everyone kept losing their cell phones, shoes, and knitting needles.

We’re loving our new home in Michigan which we share with a small rodent that leapt down our staircase after Stephon saw him and screamed bloody murder. We’re only 20 minutes from a Wal-Mart, we get to eat all our meals at a cafeteria, and aside from Jhaki we’ve all taken up knitting or crocheting so friends and family of Cedar 1 should be expecting some great stocking stuffers come Christmas time.

Most of our first week was spent taking out invasive species around the YMCA camp. All decked out in our coveralls, earplugs, gloves, and protective goggles we had several kids come up to us asking us if we worked for NASA. Oh fifth graders, they say the darndest things. A local paper stopped by on Wednesday to interview our team and take pictures of us cutting down Buckthorn and spraying herbicide so we’re a pretty big deal now in rural Michigan. The story made front page and people won’t stop coming up to us asking for autographs…ok not really. But give it time. (

Actually a group of us were at the local family establishment/sports bar last night and somehow word was getting around the bar that the AmeriCorps people from the paper were there so we had several people come up to us and talk to us. My favorite was a 53 year old Scottish guy named George who’d only been in the US for 5 years who cursed like a sailor and was telling us about how he’s going for the highest bejeweled record on Facebook which he plays on his blackberry. Why he has internet on his phone and I don’t is still a complete mystery to me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

24 and counting...

It’s been another crazy busy week here in Iowa there was a lot to get done because most of us are going to be away on our SPIKE projects for the next month.

I spent the early part of this week competing in the AmeriOympics, which was a day of athletic competition between the two campus units, which are Oak and Cedar. I’m on the Cedar Unit, which I quickly learned is made up mainly of drama kids, band geeks, animal lovers, vegans, knitters, etc… AKA the kids that were always picked last in gym class. Oak on the other hand is made up of all the jocks of campus because two of the teams are the fire teams who had to complete an intense physical fitness test to even be considered for the team. So from the start it really wasn’t going to be a fair competition and I mean no disrespect but it was literally like someone thought combining the special Olympics and the regular Olympics together would be a good idea and that people might still be surprised by who takes bronze, silver, and gold. We didn’t stand a chance and my team lost all of the 7 competitions we competed in except for kickball, which we tied so it wasn’t even a legit win.

Needless to say my teams moral was bruised and battered but luckily we were about to have our own chance to shine because on Thursday we were competing in the coffeehouse/talent show. Originally I had come up with this awesome idea that our team should do a dance to a popular pop song so I suggested Party in the U.S.A by Miley Cyrus. I was quickly vocalized that no one was very jazzed about the idea even though I volunteered to take one for the team and play the part of Miley. So we decided on We’re All In This Together from High School Musical which I don’t really see how that is any less embarrassing but we all agreed to do it (although there were several times where people threatened to leave because they felt we were just going to embarrass ourselves). After weeks of rehearsal we got our chance to perform it and there had been quite a bit of anticipation throughout campus on how it would turn out because a lot of people were a little skeptical of grown adults dancing along to HSM. Understandable. We were given the coveted finale slot on the program and we totally rocked everybody’s socks off and people thought it was really funny because we incorporated a lot of NCCC jokes that referenced campus jokes or training we had learned such as the gyrating CPR move which I will take credit for coming up with. Let’s just say our coolness points went way and people are constantly asking us to do the dance for them to which I fake modesty and tell them I couldn’t possibly….then I hit the music and bust a move like Zac Efron. Anyways you can see for yourself if you check out the link.

So when I signed up for NCCC I thought it was going to be like college without the homework. I was horribly mistaken. Every person on my team has a rep role such as peer helper, photographer, VST(Van Safety and Tools), capper, etc…We all kinda got to pick our roles and I chose yearbook and Media Rep. Yearbook I picked because it will probably be the only thing this year that I will make that I could possibly add to my portfolio for future jobs. The Media Rep I only took because someone threw out the name Anderson Cooper, maybe you’ve heard of him, and said that last year he did a story on one of the teams and some lucky media rep got to correspond him. Or at least that’s what I was told, with my luck I’d probably be stuck talking with his personal assistant but all I’m saying is don’t be surprised if you’re flipping channels and see me on CNN 360 chatting it up with Anderson or possibly conversing with Barbra Walters on 20/20 about my love for my country. Dare to dream. The position has turned out to be a little more intense than I thought it would be and I’m really regretting dropping out of AP English after sophomore year in high school because I’m already running out of interesting adjectives. Last week I spent several hours with my co Media Rep Alissa writing my first press release and sent them out to papers in the local area describing the current job my team is working. Tomorrow we’ll be leaving at 6:30 in the morning and heading North to Jackson, Michigan (which happens to be the birth place of the Ritz Cracker and I’m praying there’s a factory where I can go see how they squeeze the peanut butter between the two baby crackers). I’m going to be working at a YMCA environmental camp as a cabin leader where we’ll be leading mainly 5th and 6th graders from Toledo, Illinois. It should be interesting dealing with kids who are just entering puberty and I’m sure many hilarious stories will ensue.

On Friday I turned the big 24 and this was the first time I’ve celebrated a birthday outside of Washington so that was strange but a fun new experience. On the morning of my birthday I got up in front of the Friday community meeting to announce when and where the knitting club would be meeting this week and then someone shouted out that it was my birthday and lead nearly 200 people into singing happy birthday which was ridiculously awkward and I never know what expression to show on my face when people are singing happy birthday to me so I probably went through 20 facial expressions before finding one that felt natural. Later that day I found out that girl on campus named Victoria was celebrating an 11/13/85 b-day which excited me because I’ve never met someone with the same birthday and I let her know I was upset that she didn’t come stand with me during the mass happy birthday sing along and that I felt bad for snagging all the birthday attention away from her. I asked her a lot of questions about the day she was born just to see how similarly our lives began and I found out that while I was born in Walla Walla General Hospital she was birthed on the toilette seat in her parent’s home in Maryland. I thought that was kinda weird but went along with it and played it off like it’s a totally normal thing to be born on the crapper…

P.S. Thanks to everyone for the letters, packages, phone calls, texts, wall posts, etc. on my birthday. It meant a lot and I'm so lucky to have you as friends!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I Heart Toms

Dearest Jessica Marie Miller,
Thank you ever so much for the Toms shoes that i received in the mail this morning. Once again my team leader gave them to me before class and everyone was ooooohing and aaaaaahing over them and now i look super socially conscious which is also a major plus.. I've wanted a pair for so long. You know me too well. They fit like a glove and they perfectly accent my AmeriCorps uniform. You're the best BFFEL. EVER.

Friday, November 6, 2009

TGIF even without Boy Meets World

TGIF. The sun is shining, I have the day off, I’m in the only coffee shop in Vinton, and I am strategically seated next to a group of 6 elderly women who are chatting about all the town gossip. They just finished talking about all their theories on why ‘Vivien’ wasn’t at church on Sunday and how she used to be Lutheran. I’m eating this up.

Last weekend was of course Halloween and if you’ve seen my Facebook profile lately you’d know that I did indeed dress up as a Care Bear. Tender Heart Bear to be more specific. We also had Cheer Bear, Lucky Bear, Bedtime Bear, Grumpy Bear, and Share Bear. I really wanted to be Secret Bear but Wal-Mart was out of yellow sweat suits. I guess there’s always next year? A big group of us went to the local roller-skating rink, which was super fun except I’ve had a slight burning sensation in my feet ever since so I might have the onset of athlete’s foot. After the novelty of roller-skating wore off, most of us headed over to one of the two bars in town called Mickey’s and it was a little like walking onto the set of Cheer’s where everybody knows your name. AmeriCorps had definitely taken over and the locals seemed a little overwhelmed. They had a costume contest and we Care Bears were totally snubbed but somehow Ketchup and Mustard placed 3rd. The judge said he thought the condiments were really original and he had never seen that done before and I really wanted to ask him when the was the last time he had seen 6 Care Bears in a bar!!!?? Once again, pick your battles. So me and my friend Janene were dancing the night away and we get this simultaneous craving for the song Buttons by the Pussycat Dolls so we went up to the DJ and requested it and for some strange reason he asked for our names which we kindly gave him. Long story short, an hour later as Janene and I are grabbing our coats to leave we hear our names announced and to my horror find out we had signed up for Karaoke. I was mortified. The only other time I have done Karaoke was in a foreign country and the only other people in the bar were drunk and spoke only Dutch. There was no escaping so Janene and I go up to the stage and I quickly realized that the only part of buttons I know is the chorus because I only listen to the remix which is 20 times faster than the original and most of the verses are cut out entirely. It wasn’t pretty and I had hoped to make my US Karaoke debut dressed as something other than every little girls favorite 80’s cartoon character.

The past week has been a whirlwind of crazy so this is the first chance I’ve had to blog. Last Friday my team started our first 3-day project where we worked on cleaning up an old trail that was once an abandoned railroad and was turned into a nature trail in 2000. No government money has been used on it so it’s all been volunteer work and donation so we were asked to help out. Armed with my safety goggles, leather gloves and a bow saw I spent three days walking approximately 7 miles of trail while cutting back trees and bushes that were too close to the trail and could harm runners, bikers, or old men on John Deer’s who might be out on a Sunday ride. Our sponsor on the project was a retired schoolteacher named Nancy Baldwin and she was just the sweetest old woman ever. Every day we worked she brought us homemade oatmeal cookies and rice crispy treats along with orange Kool-aid packets to put in our water bottles. On Halloween a group of us went to trick or treat at Nancy and her husband Ron’s house and she gave us all popcorn balls that nearly chipped off all my front teeth with the first bite. She said she used melted caramel corn to make them but she must have had those things in storage for the past ten years. I guess it’s the thought that counts. The next day on the work site she had some more for us to eat during our morning break but I opted out for a rice crispy instead.

On Tuesday we had another project an hour away where we removed the inside cardboard panels and insulation of a roof in what used to be a dining hall at a church camp ground. We were all really excited to do some demolition and to wear our new outfits. If you imagine the construction worker from the Village People that’s basically what my work outfit looked like except without the cutoffs but let me tell you I put up a fight to wear my cutoffs but they said it was impractical and that I needed to wear my coveralls. Whatever. Pick your battles.

With all of my long work days filled with nothing more than hard labor the one thing that really kept me going was my weekly Wednesday night GLEE so I’ve been a lil bit upset these past two weeks where there’s been nothing but a rerun and something called the World Series?? Whatever that is? I mean who do these Yankees think they are?? Why couldn’t they have played a day earlier or aired their game on LIFETIME??? All I’m saying is if this happens again next week I will be writing a letter to someone important like Tyra who could do something about it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Dear Meghan, Heather, and Jess,
Thanks SO much for the letters and packages. I got them all two days ago and my leader gave them to me during a team meeting so everyone now thinks I'm super popular. You gals are the best.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two weeks and still going strong!

Once again I’m sitting around waiting for the Tuesday night room inspection, which finally gives me time to blog. The past days have been so busy but I’ve been productive which has been good.

Today my team and I went and did a ropes course so its was a very early morning. I was up by seven and of course the first day I volunteer to drive the van we have our first morning frost so I had to bust out the ice-scraper which is quite the undertaking when you’re scraping down the windows of a 15 passenger van without gloves. Thankfully Iowa has a great pop music station so while everybody slept on the hour drive I rocked out to my Miley, Pink, and Kelly. It was actually the first time I found Iowa really beautiful. As I was driving the sun was coming up over all the cornfields that were covered in ice and a thin fog. Not a bad way to start the day. I’m actually surprised that AmeriCorps is even letting me drive the vans considering that during my driving test I hit the gas and was partway out of the parking lot before I realized that my instructor was half way through the door and the other passenger didn’t even have her seatbelt on….but I mean we all makes mistakes.

I’ve been working on finding constructive ways to pass the time here so me and my friends Lauren and Lyndsey started our own knitting club and let me tell you there is quite the waiting list waiting to join. Turns out there are way more closet knitters out there than even I had anticipated. Last weekend I was knitting a scarf on the sidelines of a flag football game and out of nowhere one of the players started approaching me. My first instinct was that of panic and to hide my lunch money but to my pleasant surprise he complimented me on my handiwork and asked me if I could teach him a basic stitch sometime. This never would have happened in high school I’ll tell ya that much.

Last Saturday I had my first Iowa bar experience and let’s just say it’s not really my scene. Turns out it was the night of a big Iowa vs. Michigan game and the bar was packed and people were yelling and screaming and hitting each other as a form of endearment. When Iowa pulled through and won the game in the lasts few seconds the place erupted into pandemonium. People were hugging and flinging into dog piles all over the place. Even the lady by me at the bar who was wearing mom jeans that probably fit a tad bit better back in 92’ took a running start and flung herself on top of the pile of men who had blocked all access to the ATM machine. The whole scene was fascinating.

Here in Vinton, AmeriCorps shares its facility with the Iowa Brail and Sight Saving School. It’s a big deal because it’s the second oldest school in Iowa and Mary Ingalls Wilder (Laura’s sister) went here back in the 1800’s. There used to be hundreds of blind kids that went here but now there are only eight students. These days they usually abbreviate the school name to I.B.S. because there’s not such things as sight saving so you’ll see people walking around the campus with IBS written on their shirts and I just can’t help but chuckle every time I see one because I’m just that immature. The other day I was walking by one of the students here at the school and just to be polite I said hello because we had been told that they have great voice recognition and if we meet them once they will most likely remember us later. Anyway apparently I sound an awful lot like some guy named Todd because this guy yelled back “HEY TODD!” and I didn’t know if I should pretend to be Todd and go with it or correct him but luckily one of the teachers was there to let him know I wasn’t Todd and he looked real disappointed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Eatin Up the Folk Music

So this may come as a shock to many who know me and my undying love for pop music, but in my attempt to blend in with my new surroundings I have started to develop a taste for folk music!!! It all began last week when a guy named John Craigie put on a show for us here and he was one of the funniest performers I've ever seen and actually had really good music. So good in fact that i even signed up for the mailing list and bought one of his cd's that had a song on it called Tacoma(turns out he does a lot of shows in the good ol' Pacific Northwest). He ended the show with a song that wasn't as folksy but we were all dying laughing when we heard it. It's a song thats a compilation of many of the Chuck Norris jokes and while I was apprehensive to hear the song since those jokes were funny like five years ago i actually think it's pretty great and i hope you like it too even though it's a lot better in person...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


So I’m sitting in room 209 and I just passed my first room inspection!!! Phew. I was a little worried. Especially when the guy checked for the dust on top of the dresser, which I had totally forgotten to wipe down. I was a little nervous but he said it was fine this time. Today I spent most of the day doing CPR and first aid training, which I hadn’t done since my mom made me take the babysitting class in 5th grade in which I was the only boy in the class. Those were awkward times but I’m hoping if I do end up doing CPR this year it will be on something more exciting than a 5 year old choking on a pretzel.

Last night I found out who my team will be for the next 10 months which is something I had been anticipating/dreading because you never know how it could turn out. It was kinda sad at first because I really liked the team I had been put in for the first week of training and we had already started bonding since we had been together from the beginning but I’m excited to get to know the new people in my group and see what happens this year! Some people literally started crying on the spot once they saw who their team was so I’m counting my blessings. Another disappointment was that by getting put in a new group I was assigned a new kitchen and I went from having the most pimped out Rachel Ray kitchen of campus to the spare room someone put a fridge and toaster oven in and decided that two George Forman Grills are the equivalence of a real oven. I beg to differ. Another source of stress these days are that we have to start cooking once a week for our team and I haven’t admitted to them yet that I’m completely useless in a kitchen without a crockpot. I mean maybe I could make it in the George Foreman and it would be so low fat but probably not as tender.

Last Sunday I got my first look at downtown Vinton and I was little let down after being spoiled by living in Seattle for 5 years. Even though it’s a really cute town and supposedly has a kick ass dollar store everything closes so early! For instance, the coffee shop is closed by 4pm during the week and 2pm on Sunday! Who’s even up before two on a Sunday?? I asked someone if there was a Starbucks in town and they just laughed and walked away. I’m starting to go through withdrawals. On Saturday I got so desperate for caffeine I walked ten minutes to Vinton’s only McDonalds which of course is connected to a gas station so it’s not even a legit one. I had my hopes set on a mocha from the McCafe but settled for drip frankly because that was the only option and they looked at me like I was crazy when I asked for a mocha.

Tonight was the first AmeriCHOIR meeting and I am super stoked. The only thing the choir does is sing the Star Spangled Banner at graduation next August so we’ll have plenty of time to work out the kinks. As usual there were only three guys including myself who came to the first meeting and of course we’re all tenors. They asked me if I would mind singing bass but that’s ain’t happening in this lifetime so hopefully some basses turn up soon. Later tonight a big group of us are having our first GLEE party for the year so it’s shaping up to be a good night.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

First week in Vinton, IA

Well I made it through the first week of training for NCCC. I was the last person to arrive on campus Wednesday out of 140 so I kinda missed a lot of the important meetings and mingling time but I’m quickly catching up. For some reason once I got to campus they had me sit in on the remaining part of the all girls floor meeting, which was kind of an awkward introduction and I was worried I might be assumed to be the token transsexual of campus. Most of the weeks training has been sitting through long sessions about policies and rules for the year but on Monday we get assigned to our team for the year and start learning skills needed for our projects.

It’s really strange feeling being almost 24 and moving back into the dorms. I feel like a freshman at SPU again awkwardly trying to make conversation with people so you don’t have to eat alone in the lunchroom. I thought doing this once was enough. I have one roommate and his name is T.J. and he’s from Jersey and is currently obsessed with the “Cats” soundtrack and loves Humphry Bogart movies so we get along just swimmingly. Most people hang out in the lounges and you’re always sure to find a game of apples to apples to jump in on or an episode of Flight of the Concords to watch. On my first night I met a girl named Emily who is just as obsessed with the show GLEE as I am which was a relief because one of my biggest fears in coming was that I would have no one to share my love for GLEE with.

Yesterday we all got our physicals at the local hospital, which turned out to me more fun than I thought it would be and it was a great place to meet people. I mean you grow pretty close to a person once you see them carrying a bottle of their own urine across the hall 3 minutes after meeting them. I was slightly concerned I wouldn’t pass the urine test considering all the drugs I’ve been taking to kill off my sinus infection and you just never know anymore if you’re taking an essential ingredient to meth these days but I totally passed and I’m still waiting hear back on the tuberculosis test so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The town of Vinton is quite small and there isn’t a whole lot to do but the people are ridiculously sweet and kind. On Friday night what I assumed is the local senior center invited all of us corps members over for Five Dollar Fish Fry Friday. It was definitely a party in the U.S.A and the walls were hung with oversized beach towels that had pictures of planes, warships, and flags all depicting scenes from the Air Force or Army. They really do love America here. Everyone there seemed to be pushing at least 70 and they all told us how happy they were to have us here in town and how they want us all to come back for Bingo night, which would be an absolute hoot.

This morning they had tryouts for the firefighting team, which in the beginning of the week sounded like a great idea to me but by yesterday I realized it probably wasn’t my calling. For the tryout you had to power walk 3 miles in under 45 minutes which may not sound that hard but most people told me they had no feeling below the waist by lap 4 so I’m thinking I made the right decision to sleep in.