Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What the Rag Means to Me: TJ & Polly

Here is the second installment f answers from your fellow CFA friends. I have asked the same questions to various Raggers - if I didn't ask you, please feel free to Facebook or email me your answers.

First up is TJ, long time CFA camper.

1. What Rag are you currently challenging? I currently have my Gold rag and doing well in my goals

2. Why are you a Ragger? I am a Ragger because it helps me consentrate on the things that need to be prioritized in my life. My goals help me remember what needs to be done and choose what is right.

3. How has it changed your life? Raggers has impacted my life in such a strong way, it allows for me to be more focused, mature, and responsible. And when you get to the core of the system you realize that it helps you focus on the five core values.

4. Are you able to keep challenging the Rag outside of camp and if yes, how do you stay focused? I am in fact able to keep my goals going, as I told some of my friends at Raggers point before I left camp, i hang it along with all my other rags to show the journey I went on to get my current rag and how though it may be difficult I seem to keep my train of thought on the matter at hand long enough to achieve my goal.

Finally, how do I stay focused... To me it is about setting your priorities, once i do that the task at hand becomes easy, if anyone does that it becomes easy, if your goals in life are really the ones that anyone puts down on that paper than the difficulties should just drift away and allow you to just do what comes naturally and get the important things in your life done.

My journey has been difficult but possibly one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. and honestly if I can do it so can anyone else, because I know a lot of y'all and all of y'all would never allow yourself to give up on something that is as important and life
changing as Raggers.

Up next is Polly, CFA professional staff member.

1. What Rag are you currently challenging? Currently challenging the Silver rag.

2. Why are you a Ragger? It is a way for me to challenge myself and have the chance to have a dialog with someone on different ways to do this.

3. How has it changed your life? The Ragger program has given me a tool and a direction for my life. I made my Ragger goals so they weren't work-related. I saw and felt in June that my personal life was lacking. I believe I am headed in the right direction, though not their yet.

4. Are you able to keep challenging the Rag outside of camp and if yes, how do you stay focused? I want to make a spot in my house where I can post my goals and my rag. I currently just have my rag hanging on my light stand.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Smaller Animals at Camp

So we have big animals out here at camp (the horses) that you get to ride and have fun with but we have a smaller herd of animals here at camp that make a big difference in our lives as well.

CFA has 5 dogs and a few cats on the property that come out and play as well help kids feel like home. Several times whenever a camper gets homesick or is just feeling down I bring my dog (Kansas) over to hang out for a while. The camper usually opens up and starts to feel better. Kansas doesn't talk to him or her. He just smiles, licks and lets the kid pet him. Just like your pet at home.

CFA is a better place because of our dog pack and cat herd. I can't think of camp without them. Here are some benefits of owning a pet:

  • Pets can improve your mood
  • Pets encourage you to get outside and exercise
  • Pets stave off loneliness and provide unconditional love
  • Pets can reduce your stress and blood pressure
Here are some of our favorite animal mascots out here at CFA

Atticus Finch sitting where he would if he was a human.

The calmest and most mature dog we have Hop.

The dog that is as big as a horse, Tuck. His personality matches also.

Betty Davis hunting something

Becky's (our retreat director) cat named See-Wah wondering what the heck is going on.

Remi being the usual wet self that she usually is. She even went swimming when it was 17 degrees outside.

Princess Sophia Sparkles is ready for Valentine's Day.

My favorite picture of Kansas as a puppy. He was and still is beyond awesome.

Hope these pictures remind you of camp and how awesome it is. 

As always remember to live, laugh, Love and look up.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It Only Takes a Dream

This past weekend, Bill and I had the privilege to help an idea spark into life. long time Camper Tessa, had the dream of there being a Rag site in her neighborhood. She bravely called camp to inquire about this idea. With a little research, we were able to locate a beautiful location at her neighborhood YMCA, the Mays Family YMCA off Blanco Rd in San Antonio.

Then, on Saturday, Feb 12, 2011, we set out to clear the site, collect large rocks, construct a cross and create serenity. With help from campers Tessa, Franki and Kayle, Tessa's and Franki's Father, plus Bill and I, we spent 2 hours working on that dream. Now, there is a majestic, serene location for all to sit and reflect on their goals, feel the presence of God and be in Nature. It is a little bit of camp brought to San Antonio.

But how exactly do ideas become reality? We all know for a fact that to make ideas happen it takes a lot more than just the idea itself.Let's take a moment to talk about putting ideas into actions. There are several steps you must follow in order to be successful.

1. Set Goals

The first and most important thing to do once you have an idea is to set goals. Goal setting doesn’t mean reaching for the sky at once. A goal is what you want to achieve in the future, within a certain time frame. Set goals that you can attain, goals that when accomplished will make you proud and want to reach for more. Goals that will allow you to learn in the process, goals that will make you want to aim higher and know you can do it.

Set reasonable goals while starting out with an idea. Don’t try to run right away, learn to walk first.

2. Don’t Rush

Imagine if Tessa had this idea to build a Rag site in San Antonio and just done it in a random location? What would that have accomplished? Not much for anyone else. Or what if Bill and I would have said, "great idea, lets do it today." That would not have allowed us to think through the location, gain proper permission, collect the appropriate tools and I think most importantly, have our own idea to cut the cross timbers from trees at CFA, used climbing rope for the cross, and to collect special rocks from camp for the center cross and 4 corners of the square. By taking our time, we let our goals develop, other ideas add to the magic and where able to create a wonderful, CFA inspired Rag site.

3. Learn From Other People’s Mistakes

This might sound wrong but if your idea has already been implemented by somebody, don’t worry, learn from who did it first and try to learn from their mistakes, what they did wrong. If you analyze the mistakes and find out what others did wrong you will know what not to do.

I have built several Rag sites in my 15 years as a Ragger. I learned that you need certain tools, that rocks are REALLY heavy and if the spot doesn't feel right before you begin, it will never feel right. Tessa listened well when I shared some in site and was not worried that I was taking over.

4. Be Positive, Stay Focused

If you think “ What if it doesn’t work?” Guess what? It most probably won’t. You are past the thought process since that’s how you got the idea. It’s time to put that idea into action and for something to succeed you need to have a positive attitude. Just think if Tessa hadn't contacted camp because she was worried we would not listen or just say no? Or if she thought, "well, I am just a teenagers, they won't listen to me." We would not today have this site to talk about.

Another most important thing to keep in mind while executing your idea is to stay focused. You will have enough barriers to stir you away from reaching that final goal. Be strong, be focused and you will pass any hurdle thrown at you.

Don’t be a sunken ship. Stay focused and you and your idea will get to the shore, together.

5. Creating Hype

If you have already reached this stage, let me first congratulate you, Congratulation! You must have set goals, learned from others, let your idea grow and stayed focus during your implementation process.

Once your idea becomes a product or service, the next thing to do is market. Without marketing your idea is nothing but, well, just an idea that took shape but achieved nothing. There is a difference between marketing and creating hype. When you try and create hype it’s pretty much like over marketing. You are shouting at the top of your lungs to your target customers “ Come on, we have got what you need and nobody can offer this to you but us “, are you sure? Create hype only if you can live up to it.

When you create that much buzz around something, there will be anticipation and excitement in the market and although your idea has shaped into a worthwhile product or service if it doesn’t live up to the expectations, you have just dug yourself a hole. Start out slow and market slowly. If you can take the time to let your idea grow then you certainly have the patience to let the final outcome grow with time as well.

Now we don't need to create hype about this Rag site or try to sell anything, but if you create a product, then you will need to focus on this step.

How about you? What are you ideas? What stage is your idea in? Who do you need to contact to learn more, get the ball rolling and to implement your idea?

This site before we started.

The site! Kayle, Allison, Bill (Laine), Larry, Tessa, Franki

Get out there and pursue your dreams. It only takes a spark to get a fire burning. Thank you Tessa for your spark and thank you Kayla, Larry and Franki for your hard work.

In the Spirit of Camp,


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What the Rag Means to Me - Taylor & Alex

For the next few weeks, I am going to share words from your fellow counselors, Ragger leaders, campers and beyond. I have asked the same questions to various Raggers - if I didn't ask you, please feel free to Facebook or email me your answers.

First up is Taylor, 2010 Counselor and Co-Ragger Coordinator. She is pictured with her Ragger Counselor and long time CFA staff, Garrett.

1. What Rag are you currently challenging? The Gold Rag

2. Why are you a Ragger?
I’m a Ragger because since I was thirteen years old, I’ve been able to stay on the right track because of this program. It’s kept things in perspective for me and always reminded me that I have higher expectations of myself. It reminds me that I am able to be a better person, and it reminds me that there is always someone there that cares about me and wants me to succeed in my goals.

3. How has it changed your life?
The Ragger program has changed my life in so many different ways. As a camper, it made me see that there was more to camp than just having fun and hanging out with your friends. There was a strong spiritual aspect that wasn’t necessarily exclusive to Raggers, but they got to see it in a different light than the rest of the camp did. As an LIT, CIT and eventually when I became Raggers Co-Coordinator my first year as a counselor, it changed me in a sense that I knew that Raggers was the backbone of CFA. Every Friday night, whether it was two teary eyes or fifteen, it changed my heart and humbled me more than I can even describe. It’s a program that keeps you on your toes and really makes you reflect on the person that you are becoming. When I look at my Gold rag, I’m reminded that I’ve set a goal for myself, and that puts me back on track even in the hardest of situations.

4. Are you able to keep challenging the Rag outside of camp and if yes, how do you stay focused?
Yes, I continue to challenge my Ragger goals outside of camp. I think the hardest part of the program is being able to stay on the right track even when your counselor or your coordinator aren’t around to push you in the right direction. Staying focused on your particular goals is never easy when you’ve got all of the pressure of the real world on your shoulders. The way I try to think about it is: There’s a small, tight Raggers family that’s out there, in this big world, that genuinely cares about whether or not I reach my goals. I don’t want to let them down, and I don’t want to let myself down. When you remember that you’re not alone in challenging these goals, it helps to alleviate some of the stress from school, work, or other hardships that you may be facing outside of camp.

Next up is Alex, 2010 Counselor and Co-Ragger Coordinator:

1. What Rag are you currently challenging? I've been challenging my Red Rag for the last two years.

2. Why are you a Ragger? I became a Ragger when the program was just re-starting at CFA as a young camper, I wanted to better myself and becoming a Ragger has been a great way to do so.

3. How has it changed your life? Being a Ragger has changed my life by enabling me to set goals that seemed difficulty to do, that at the time I didn't think I would be able to do, and going out and accomplishing those goals. Being a Ragger has taught me to never give up on something that I want to do.

4. Are you able to keep challenging the Rag outside of camp and if yes, how do you stay focused?Staying focused on your Ragger goals outside of camp can be a difficult thing to do, I'll admit that I've had difficulty accomplishing my goals over the last few years, but if it's something that you truly want to improve on, you should have no problem staying focused.

The way that I stay focused on my Rag is putting it on my door knob, that way I'll see it everyday and be reminded of the goals I've set. I told every Ragger and the end of the ceremony to put it somewhere that you'll see and be reminded of your goals.

I miss camp :( Hope all is well with y'all

So remember to keep your Rag at the top of your priority list. If you want to submit your answers, please send them to Allison.

1. What Rag are you currently challenging?
2. Why are you a Ragger?
3. How has it changed your life?
4. Are you able to keep challenging the Rag outside of camp and if yes, how do you stay focused?

In the Spirit of Camp,


Monday, February 7, 2011

A Healthy Spirit, Mind and Body

Having a healthy spirit, mind and body seems like a cliche of some sort and something that isn't too serious, but for me it has provided a quality of life that is filled with happiness and Love. I am so thankful for it.

If you don't know the YMCA's mission it is to put Judeo-Christian principals into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. This is something that I didn't take seriously until I started working for the YMCA 6 summers ago at YMCA Camp Grady Spruce. I was all for keeping the body healthy. I was active. I exercised. The problem with me though I wasn't active with my spirit and mind as well. It led down a path that was a lot bumpier than I wanted it to be.

I got terrible grades me first semester at college. I can still see my parents' disappointed faces. I remember really struggling with respecting myself and the person I was, which in led me not respecting others. While I struggled spiritually and mentally, I thought my body would be ok. Well, it slipped to illness and part of that is that I stopped taking care of myself because I wasn't happy. I got pneumonia lost 13 lbs and if you knew me now and back then 13 pounds is a significant amount. 

After my sophomore year of college I learn about the YMCA mission and it took a while and I still do struggle with it but I have strived to find that balance between spirit, mind and body. It has a made a world of difference in my life. I am not saying my life is perfect and I am happy all the time, but I have a belief system to fall back on that helps me get out of those holes instead of staying in them.

I found my faith in something more than myself (Love and loving others). I focused on my education and taking an active role in it (I have a print journalism degree and wrote for the student newspaper). It took me sitting down and really focusing what I needed to do. Not mention I had some help from others.

Something that has always been there for me though has been my family. Without support from them and helping along that life path I would have never been able to find that set of beliefs that I have now. Even though I have struggled being a good son, my parents have been there for me and have always been there for me. Something that helps my spirit probably more than anything.

One of things that I am very thankful for this year is the creation of a new program out at camp and it is called Camp Active. It is a program that encourage family time and a healthy spirit, mind and body. We will be having family run/walk days. I will go to a park in San Antonio and Austin and you can come out with your family and enjoy an evening or a day walking around outside and spending time with people that you love helping your body and spirit. There will also be a Camp Active worksheet for campers that if completed you can get a discount out at camp or a free 2-week gym membership at one of the San Antonio branches. It will be released after out first family walk on Feb. 23rd (if you come to the family walk you might get it a little early). Be on the look for an email with more information.

My goal with the program is not to get you or your family a 6-pack of abs but a balanced life that leads to happiness. Which is something that I think we all agree is something that everyone deserves.

Now I am going to leave you with a picture that helps my body relax, my mind be put at ease and makes my spirit on fire.

Mt. Vesper at YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow

Ryne Witt
Remember to live, laugh, Love and look up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The White Rag

In challenging the White Rag, you are accepting the challenge of dedication of your life to Christian Service.

As the Rag Program culminates in this seventh Rag, all the challenges you have faced in the previous six rags are brought together. You have learned to be goal oriented; to live a Christian life; to give to others and accept them fully; to put aside your needs and think of others; and to give of yourself in the best way possible even if you have to sacrifice your wants. To live in Christian Service is to give completely to others.

Let's define those two words:
Christian: adj "all that is noble, and good, and Christ-like."
While there are MANY definitions of Christian, I felt this definition summed it up nicely. Noble, Good, Christ-like - that is what the Rag program is all about.
Service: noun "an act of helpful activity; help; aid"
This is what is meant by service, not being a waiter, providing a service as in fixing something; but rather to bring something greater to someone else through your work, your giving.

I pulled the following from the White Rag Ceremony. It reviews the Raggers Creed and this is talking of humility:

Teach me to do the best I can,
To help and cheer our fellowmen;
Teach me to lose my selfish need,
And glory in the larger deed;
Which smooths the road and lights the day,
For all who chance to come my way.

Through the seven steps of the Rag, that is what you should have learned and directed yourself to be - lose your selfish ways, cheer on your fellowman, and smooth the way for others. As I look to challenge the White Rag this summer, I think of my life, my career and my path forward. I hope that in all I do as a YMCA employee, a School Board member, a mother and a friend, I am begin selfless, encouraging and smoothing the way for others. I pray that in each deed I do, I remember to give to others and not myself. I pray that I can put aside my selfish wants and put ahead others. What a hard task to live up to daily. But with the Rag, my peers and my friends, I know I can do this.
  • So where are you in your walk? Just starting your Rag journey to a better you? Three rags into it? Are you living up to the challenge?
  • Again, I ask you, how can you better yourself today in giving to others?
  • Where do you see the Rag program taking you?
  • How will you measure up when challenge calls?
  • Are you prepared to sacrifice selfish wants for others needs?
As you walk your journey, remember that there are those that care and to always live, laugh, love and lift.

In the Spirit of Camp,


Food for thought — camp style

Dear camp friends and families,

*Almost* wherever you are, if you are in the 'States today, it is c-o-l-d. Camp is drastically cold; pipes are freezing to buildings we didn't think they would (good thing Joseph is a call away to fix things as best he can.) While we go about our work, planning for both summer camp and the many groups who visit CFA and grow in our outdoors experience, the weather can be a nuisance and a distraction and it is sometimes hard to envision the lush green trees of summer and the shrieks and laughter of a hundred kids in motion. With that in mind, here's three little thoughts to share and some memories of seven months ago, in the spirit of camp.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
—Pablo Picasso

It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference.
—Tom Brokaw

The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.
— Henry David Thoreau

Stay warm, keep loving those around you, and see you next time!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reminding Songs...

There are some songs out there (mainstream and camp) that remind me of camp. Here are a few and why they remind me of camp:

Yeah, it is me singing it but this was the first real camp song I ever heard when I became a counselor at Camp Grady Spruce. At my camp where I went as a kid, we didn't sing songs like this.

The first time I ever saw it done this way I couldn't stop laughing. When I hear it at retreats I just want summer to happen.

We play this song at the end of the dance while the oldest cabin help us clean up. Sometimes after they got done cleaning, they put their arms over each other in a circle and sway. Some would look at each other and cry, while other would just smile because they knew they were with family.

When I was at Camp Grady Spruce we sang this at the end of every chapel. It has an amazing messages if you just let love in your life.

When I was a camper and then counselor at Camp Pike, a hiking camp, this song was played before we went the big hike, Pikes Peak. It gives me that anxious feeling still, which is a good thing in my mind.

Hope you enjoyed my music selection. They always put me into a good mood.