Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Red and White Party

Over in my professional life at my dear alma mater, I am in charge of throwing the end of year recognition and celebration for the students who contribute so much of their time and effort to the programs and volunteer opportunities offered through my department. At the end of April, we gather to give out awards, serve all the best in college cuisine (chicken fingers, loaded potato skins, ice cream sundaes), and let them dance like no one has final exams in three weeks.

The budget for this year's soirée was pretty tight and was exhausted between food and entertainment. Not being one to surrender glamour to a fixed budget (c.f. my fabulous wedding) I got crafty with office supplies and a spool of bakers twine.

My Pinterest-inspired vision saw a scheme of red and white (our school colors), balloons in varying heights, and pennant flag banners spanning the impressive 60 foot wide ballroom. Since purchasing good quality-looking versions of these flags would have cost as much as $250, I traced three triangles on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, photocopied it on stacks of red and white copy paper,  and went to town with a paper slicer and hole puncher.

The day of the event, my wonderful Graduate Assistants volunteered to help me all afternoon to deck out the room. Word of advice: in my apartment the night before, I tried stringing the flags on to one of the banners. Unfortunately my apartment is not 60 feet wide. Assembling one of these behemoth banners requires at least 2 people (better with 3 - two people feeding the flags on to each end and one person pulling the threaded pennants to the center) and is best completed in a space in which the entire length of your banner can be stretched out. In smaller spaces, you will wind up with a sad, tangled nightmare.

The four 60 footers lined the dance floor (strung up with little clear 3M hooks that worked perfectly) while smaller versions adorned doorways and staging tables.

The dinner tables featured alternating red and while linens provided by campus catering. At the center of each table stood one of these darling lanterns that I was able to borrow with a balloon tied to its handle, floating at varying heights around the room. The final element was a clear glass jar - filled with these fun paper straws - that picked up light from the tea candle in the lantern.

It was absolutely my vision come to life! I've already pinned some ideas for next year. Even if these projects took hours it was so worth it. The students had a great time and the room never looked better on so little funds.

...And yes, we took down and rolled up every one of those banners like they were the Dead Sea scrolls. They are in OA colors after all. Lodge banquet 2014 maybe? :)

Find the items used here:

Photo Credit: J. Nammour

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day Sixty One

As I hauled benches out from under the amphitheater stage at 10:00pm in the middle of the woods the night before, I only had one thought,

“Ready or not, here it comes.”

Quite a bit has been going on here in the house of Scouter’s Wife. It’s been nearly a year since I learned this new Order of the Arrow lodge was happening and that my husband, fresh from the Retired Lodge Adviser’s Club, was to once again be at the helm. I started to begin the process of bracing myself. I said good-bye to weekends and hello to the countless voices on the other end of the phone competing for my husband’s attention. As a seasoned Lodge Adviser's Girlfriend/Fiancée, I knew what I was in for, but this go around, it would be times fiveWe’re not the first to merge, but this wouldn't be like any other OA amalgamation. We’re truly pioneers in newly Chartered territories. 

You know what the most difficult part of this whole process has been from my wife-perspective? Not the scouts - the boys are phenomenal. They've been level-headed, considerate, and thoughtful. The biggest issue has been adults – scouters who can’t get past the past and embrace changes that are necessary for scouting to continue on for many generations to come. I get that it’s an emotional time. I understand that we’re talking about a century of history and memories and tradition. No one expected it to be an easy process but I know I certainly did not expect to witness so much selfishness and stubbornness. The past must be honored and preserved, but what good does it do when there is no one to pass that history on to? We’re at a crossroads right now in Scouting – a crossroads that requires boldness.

I've had a lot of people tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Well here’s what I do know:

"The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.

For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society."


"The mission of the Order of the Arrow is to fulfill its purpose as an integral part of the Boy Scouts of America through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults.

As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to: 

  • Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
  • Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
  • Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
  • Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others."

Sadly, many of these adults have so far proven themselves less than capable and anything but positive, willing, and cheerful.

My message to those adults: be willing to spend yourself serving others or get out of the way of those who are.

My prevailing hope in all of this has been the many leaders who have been kind and generous and optimistic and ready to roll up their sleeves and help my husband and our new lodge officers do something really special that will influence the youth of our nation for another hundred years to come. The spark is there.

The first ever gathering of the brand new lodge was a day we can all be proud of. After a late night of setting up, we drove into camp the next morning with hearts beating just a little faster at the prospect of this untested social experiment that was about to go down. Every lodge has its own cast of characters and this was going to be five casts of characters all attempting, for the first time, to play nice and work together in one room. It happened that Arrowmen reunited with brothers they haven’t seen in years and the boys crossed borough lines to play basketball and wall climb and navigate low COPE games. There were issues that realistically will take years to work out – the lingering “us and them” attitudes, the complexities of working through a chapter system, accepting that there are many functions yet one lodge. Yet at the end of the day when hundreds of Arrowmen joined hands to sing “Firm Bound In Brotherhood,” I could see it from behind a camera lens:

the gladness of a dawning, of a springtime, of beginning.