New Beginnings

When I first started this blog, I was unemployed and bored.  I’d always loved writing, and figured that a blog would be a great way for me to keep up my intellectual sharpness, and give me something meaningful to accomplish during my days.  Also, I’m not a big talker in person.  I’m the type that’ll chime in with the necessary remarks, but very rarely tell my own stories.  I do have them.  Stories.  So this blog became my platform to share them.

Well, life seems to have gotten in the way of my blogging as of late.  I spent a year planning my wedding, I started a part-time job that I thought I would love, but is just sucking the life out of me, and most recently, I’ve moved into my first rental home with my new husband, Greg.  I haven’t learned how to juggle writing with the rest of my growing life, but I do know I miss it tremendously.

I feel that I owe you, my loyal readers, a reason for my absence from the blogging world, and a guarantee that I will be making my comeback soon.  I’m beginning to accept that I won’t be able to write as much as I did during my unemployed days, but this zero-writing habit I’ve fallen into needs to be broken—for you, but also for my sanity.  Now that my house is unpacked enough to be fairly functional, I will allocate time for writing and reading blogs.

Despite how somber this entry feels, I’m actually pretty excited for the possibilities before me in the near future.  Greg and I are living in a two-bedroom house!  We even have a garage and backyard!  Our first purchase for our new home was a buttload of sturdy bookshelves to hold our poor books that were previously piled together on one jankity bookshelf or stashed in boxes in my storage unit.  It felt like Christmas, rediscovering each of our precious books as we proudly set them on their new shelves.

And our house is just so darn cute and quaint!  We’re renting from my old piano teacher who owns a few lots on her street, so not only am I living in a very nostalgic location, but I also have a great landlord!  Our neighbors are incredibly nice too!  We’ve already received a dozen fresh eggs from one neighbor’s hens, and some homemade cupcakes to go with them, and another neighbor gave us a candle, some honey, and a plant so that our marriage will always have light, sweetness, and life.  Super cute, right?  We still live in “The Friendly City” of Lomita, so I shouldn’t be so surprised to have such nice neighbors, but I am.  I guess the Leave it to Beaver era hasn’t ended everywhere.

That said, I’m excited for the new life Greg and I will be building together over the next few years here.  I’m also eager (and a bit apprehensive) to take care of my own needs.  Getting back to blogging is one step, but I’m also putting things in motion to better my opportunity to land a full-time teaching position in the Fall.  That part is a bit risky, but it’s a risk that I need to take.  Additionally, I’m putting my recently acquired medical insurance to use so that I can get my ankle checked out and hopefully be back running again soon.  So yay to 2014!  Here’s to new opportunities and a re-sparking of my blog!

I’ve missed you!

Our new home.  I love how cute it is!

Our new home. I love how cute it is!

Now Presenting, Mrs. Brown

I miss it here.  Planning a wedding and starting a new job took me away, and I’m so sorry.  Sorry for you, sorry for me.  But I’m back, and I don’t see why I can’t get back to the same routine now that I’m more familiar with my job, and even more importantly, MARRIED!!  Yup, no more butchering of my last name, I’m Erica Brown now!

Seriously, I’ve never had my name butchered like this until the day before my wedding.  My last name went out with a bang!

Seriously, I’ve never had my name butchered like this until the day before my wedding. My last name went out with a bang!

I enjoyed every second of my wedding day!  For the ceremony, I thought I’d be nervous and bashful at being the center of attention, but once I was up there with Greg, I felt safe, loved, and honestly, I kind of went into tunnel vision.  It was just me and him doing our thing.  The reception was a blast, and numerous people have told us how much fun they had.  Like genuinely; not in the obligatory polite way.

But seeing as though I abandoned you for this wedding, I thought I’d share some of the reasons why.  I love crafting, so I stupidly brilliantly decided to tack on some DIY projects to my wedding planning.

I started with these burlap sacks filled with Autumn Spice flavored coffee for our guests.

We adapted ours from this site.

We adapted ours from this site.

Cute, huh?  Not so cute when you have to string twine through 125 of them!  However, I shouldn’t complain, and need to give my mom a special shout-out.  We were both supposed to sew the bags, but I decided to catch pneumonia, so she willingly sewed every single one of them all by herself!  And the labels?  All credit to Greg and his vision of coffee cup stains.

Then I just had to have hanging mason jars down the ceremony aisle.  But not just plain jars, no.  They had to be wrapped with burlap, and then donned with lacy ribbon.  Not to mention the fact that they had to hang, so I quickly became familiar with pliers and wire cutters in order to create a base for the twine to loop through.

This was my test-look with left-over fake flowers from flower girl basket project (not pictured).

This was my test-look with left-over fake flowers from a flower girl basket project (not pictured).

And because I’m a fan of itchy, sore hands and non-stop sneezing, I decided to decorate two strings of lights with my go-to material: burlap (and a more forgiving purple lace and purple fabric).  Thanks, Ambrosia for the awesome idea!  I strung those lights around a big chalkboard, and sat down to write the names of all our guests with chalkboard markers to serve as a seating chart.

seating chart

Yes, our table numbers were also labeled in binary.

I can’t take credit for this, but an amazing gal with an Etsy shop made this fantastic cake topper for us!

Jenny and Marjorie would be so proud!

Jenny and Marjorie would be so proud!

And I guess I’ll share a few pics of my new husband and me!

Photo credit to my good friend, Cortney Colbert.

Our first dance.  Photo credit to my good friend, Cortney Colbert.

I'm the luckiest to have this man has my husband!

I am so lucky to have this man as my husband!

If you want to see some live-action, my brother made us this awesome wedding video!  Our videographer is going to be hard-pressed to beat this:


Why I Should Work With Children

Going on two years of unemployment had me looking for an alternate job opportunity while I waited out this rut in education.  I’d been scraping by with a little freelance proofreading and private tutoring, but I needed something a bit more stable so that I could reclaim my self-worth, as well as bring home some decent money to contribute to the life I’m building with Greg.  I was beginning to seek out hourly filing jobs in our nearby hospital, when I was called to substitute for a week as a teacher in a child development center (CDC) summer program.  One week turned into five weeks, and those weeks turned into landing me an interview for a permanent teaching position within the CDC during the school year.  I aced the interview and was offered the position.  While it’s only part-time, I figure, it’s better than no-time, and it has a high possibility of becoming a stepping stone to landing a full-time teaching position next Fall.  Plus, I’m meant to work with kids; not standing in a back room filing charts.

The moment I knew I had to give up looking into menial part-time jobs and continue to pursue my quest to work in the education field, happened a week ago while subbing at the CDC.  Working at a school located a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, we would frequently walk the kids to the beach for a free field trip.  I was doing caboose duty on one of the walks back from the beach.  This happens to be one of the most tiring positions, as you have to continually encourage the tired, slower children to “use their quick feet” and “take big, dinosaur steps” in order to keep up with the rest of the group.

When we were within sight of the school, I heard a soft shuffling behind me.  I didn’t think much of it until I heard it again.  The thought of a person walking right behind us sent chills up and down my back, so I quickly turned around to face the perpetrator and dare him/her to try and steal one of our children.  ‘Cause that’s totally what any person walking in a public neighborhood is planning to do.  In any case, when I turned around, no one was there.  Instead, I noticed the sound came from dry leaves sliding across the sidewalk due to the gentle ocean breeze.

This caused my mind to rationally think, “What would I do if zombies were behind us?”  The thought made me physically scared, and as I glanced behind me one more time to make sure there really weren’t zombies, I initially decided that I’d push past the kids and get to the safety of the school.  I was at the end of the line with the most fatigued kids, so the zombies would be content with them, giving the larger group, and myself, a chance to get inside the school and set up a barricade.

However, as I calmed down, I realized I couldn’t do that.  I took a good look at the tired kiddos around me, and just knew that I couldn’t let them die.  I imagined myself grabbing the tiny 2nd grader, who was dragging his feet next to me, like a sack of potatoes and running him to safety, all the while shuffling the other kids along.  I recognized that I would rather sacrifice myself than let them get eaten.

I’m not saying all this for praises, or to brag that I’m a saint.  I’m not.  It’s just that this was a moment of clarity for me.  I realized how sincerely I actually care for kids that are of no relation to myself.  I love those innocent, albeit sometimes tiresome, little humans.  Zombies scare the living crap out of me, and if I would allow myself to get caught by a zombie hoard just to save their little lives, then I need to be working with kids.  If I were to be answering phones in an air-conditioned cubicle, who would save the children?

A Sunrise in the Mountains

This week, I was supposed to be recovering from directing a high school age camp with my youngest brother, but sadly, camp never happened.  Weeks of planning, and nailing down counselors over a month in advance (a rare treat) went down the drain as Kevin and I discovered that only four boys signed up for our camp.  We had no choice but to cancel at the last minute.  I initially thought that maybe the kiddos didn’t like me and decided not to return this year.  But no, even though I’m an awkward wallflower that makes lets Kevin take the stage while addressing the group, there’s no way that I scared them away.  Turns out, it was primarily summer school that killed the fun.

While it is a complete bummer to miss out on spending a week in the mountains, the plus side to it all is that we have camp all planned out for next summer!  It might not seem like a lot of work: (just let the kids run around and go canoeing in the afternoon), but there are a lot of hours to fill in a day, and too much downtime can lead to trouble.  My brother and I are very low-key and go-with-the-flow kinds of people, but we do like to have some sort of structure.  Plus, it’s fun to plan a random activity and think of all the whines and complaints we’ll get from the kids once they hear about it.  I think whining is a teenager’s favorite pastime.  It reminds me of my own youth, and one of my favorite, grouchy camp memories.

I was around 16 years old.  I wasn’t a cool, hip, sixteen-year-old, but rather a plain, ratty haired, grossly undersized, dork.  That said, I still encompassed the innate traits of a normal teenager: the love of my Discman, sarcasm, and sleep.  So when our camp director informed us that we would be waking up at the butt crack of dawn to watch the sunrise, I was none too thrilled.  Most of us campers begged and pleaded for her to make it an optional activity, but she staunchly refused.

Not only were we going to have this sunrise adventure, we would also be made to hike a quarter of a mile to the nearby lake in order to fully enjoy it.  I know, wah, wah, wah, a whole quarter mile!  But seriously!  When one could be snuggled warmly in a sleeping bag, but is instead forced to hike in high altitude before dawn, it makes that distance so much more daunting.  In any case, before 5am the next morning, we begrudgingly rolled out of bed, and gathered to prepare for our hike.  Thick with sleep, we mumbled and grumbled our good-mornings, and began quiet chatter amongst ourselves in an attempt to wake up.  This is when a caveat was sprung upon us: We were not to speak the entire walk to the lake, nor while at the lake, until the sun had risen.

With one sentence, our director had removed any minute piece of fun that activity could have possessed.  I swear it was like the cartoons: steam rising from our heads with the amount of teenage rage boiling within us.  But, being the good, respectful, kids that we were, we didn’t challenge our oppressor and began our silent trek to the lake.  Upon arriving, and taking a seat on the benches circled around the little wooden pier, we pulled our hoodies tighter around our faces and huddled together for warmth as we soundlessly implored the sun to rise.

After what felt like eternity, the golden rays exploded over the treetops, and caused us to cower, and shield our eyes from the intensity that was much too bright to enjoy at that early an hour.  When our eyes finally adjusted to the glow, we glanced over at our director.  There she was, eyes closed, chin raised high, meeting the sun with a big, Muppet grin splashed across her face.  I’ll never forget that image, or the dichotomy displayed on that pier.

Now, as a director myself, I understand the gift she wanted to share with us.  While I can’t say that I particularly appreciated the sunrise, I do know that she left me with a lasting memory that I still chuckle about.  However, as much as I inwardly plead with my campers to lower their noise level, and as rare as it is to be able to see a sunrise in the mountains, I can tell you candidly, that a silent sunrise hike was not in our plans for our campers this summer.

Not from Jenks Lake, but close enough to give you an idea.

It burns, it burns! (this is not our lake, but close enough)


Why Free Clinics Are Free

I should have known I was in for a ride when the medical assistant standing in front of me mumbled incoherently, and the only reasonable response that I could come up with was a scrunching of my nose and a quizzical, “Huh?”

She seemed very unsure of herself, but I answered her questions confidently, and did as I was told.  I was made to stand way too long on the digital scale for her to record my weight, but being pleasantly surprised that I had lost some pounds, I wasn’t as embarrassed nor feeling as impatient to step off as I usually am.  I didn’t become fully concerned until it came time for the testing of my blood pressure.

She delicately wrapped the black band around my arm, making sure all the pressure tubes were lying parallel and not crossing over each other.  As she put on her stethoscope, she seemed to have trouble placing in her ear buds, as if she was discovering her ears for the first time.  She placed the cool round end of the stethoscope on my inner elbow, adjusting it into the perfect position, and listened for a good ten seconds without pumping the cuff.  Eventually, she realized she would need to pump it, and boy did she pump it!  Every now and again, I’ll get an attendant who pumps the band way too much, to the point of almost crying, but within seconds, they give a twist of the valve and save me from unbearable discomfort.  Not this time.

She pumped it the fullest I’ve EVER had it, and kept on trying to listen without releasing any of the pressure.  She finally decided that maybe she should change the position of the stethoscope.  Of course, that didn’t work.  By this time, my tingling fingers began going numb.  She adjusted her ear buds, and placed the scope down again.  My arm, now having lost all feeling to it, remained perfectly still.  The crushing pain in my bicep was the only way I knew that I still had an arm.  That, and I could see my lifeless fingers dangling out in front of me.  I willed them to move, but to no avail.  Just when I thought I might pass out from the mix of pain and numbness, she released the valve the teensiest of bits.  I thought, “Finally!  My blood is sure to come rushing back in, and she’ll surely hear a pulse!”  But no, she merely wanted to reposition the scope, and within nanoseconds, it was pumped to the brim once again.

At this point, my entire arm hurt and tingled, as it was briefly given life, and then cruelly taken away.  Fortunately (unfortunately?) it took her forever and a half this second time, and my arm soon returned to a numb state.  After, at least, a minute and a half from when she began, she released the valve for good, and gently removed the armband.  I immediately clutched my hand to my chest, massaging and moving my fingers.  I looked down at my upper arm: It was so red that it looked like a horrific sunburn, not to mention that the indentations of the cuff remained on my arm for the rest of my visit.

She then wrote my name on a sterile urination cup, handed it over to me, and informed me that she needed to take my weight before I went and did my business.  I questioned, “Again?”  “Oh, I mean, your height,” she responded.  I followed her to the height rod affixed to the wall.  I stood straight and felt the soft pressure of the bar resting against my head.  She started uttering, “uhhs” and “umms,” so assuming she was trying to find a polite way to tell me to take off my sandals, I offered, “Should I take off my chanclas?”  She said yes, and we resumed with the measuring.  Again, I heard “uhhs” and “umms” emanating from her lips.  Then she asked me, “How tall are you?  This is saying 65.”  She lifted the bar from my measured position, and I stepped out from under it.  She pointed to the 65 and said, “This is where I think you measured.  I don’t get it.  It says 65, and the other side says 165.  How tall are you?”  This was when I went into teacher mode, pointing out the inches side and the centimeters side, and letting her know that I usually measure 5’4 ¾”, and that the 65 she is looking at is part of the inches, which is the equivalent to 5’5”, which is essentially my height.  I even took the time to show her that 60” is five feet, so she could just count up from there for future height measurements.  I guess all that went over her head, ‘cause instead of acknowledging that she understood any part of what I said, she mentioned, “This is a new measuring tool, so I’m not used to it.  I don’t understand the 165.  So how tall are you? Five-five?”  To that, I just nodded and conceded, “Yes, five-five.”

I can see how this could be so confusing...NOT!

I can see how this could be so confusing…NOT!

Still clutching my empty, sterile urination cup, she led me to a line to take a vision test.  As I began, a nurse walked by, and politely placed me on the correct line, about ten feet further back.  The medical assistant resumed my test by telling me to start on the chart wherever I wanted.  So, I chose a line, covered one eye, and began reading, with no guidance from her at all.  I got to a line where I knew I was screwing up horribly, and missed more than the allotted amount, so I removed my hand and told her it was too fuzzy.  Instead of moving on to the next eye, she urged me to continue squinting and guessing for the remainder of that line and the following line.  I just went with it.  After each individual eye was done, she started to walk away, and I inquired, “Don’t you want me to read them with both eyes now?”  To which she responded with a shake of her head, and a leading of me to a nearby restroom to give them a urine sample.

As I walked into the bathroom and looked down at the cup, this is what I saw:

"Schatz" is easy.  It's the "Erica" that throws people off.

“Schatz” is easy. It’s the “Erica” that throws people off.


This Teacher’s Lesson

I’ve been feeling in a rut over my chosen profession.  Two school years have gone by, and I have yet to be employed as a full-time teacher; not for lack of trying.  At each summer’s end, I’ve gone to at least two interviews.  It’s always the same scenario: 30+ candidates vying for that one open position.  When I began this process, I was exuding self-confidence, sure that I would be among the top candidates.  However, as each subsequent apologetic denial came, my confidence weaned exponentially. Maybe my reserved, awkward demeanor overpowered my smiling kindness and turned the hiring committees off to me?  Or maybe I wasn’t as great a teacher as I thought?

And that, my friends, is where my mind has been for the last year.  I’ve been subbing sporadically, and whenever I get handed a troublesome classroom, my confidence in teaching wanes a little bit more.  I pride myself on my classroom management skills in my own class, but taking on another teacher’s group is a whole other beast.  Not being familiar with their routines, and not developing the respect and rapport that comes with having a group of children from Day 1, brings upon a challenge that I don’t particularly care for.  At the end of the day, I usually end up feeling defeated and sure that I’m losing my skills as a teacher.  Stung with the hurt of denial, and yearning for steady financial independence, I’ve begun searching out alternative, rewarding careers for my skill-set.  I’ve got nothing, so if you’ve got some ideas, shoot ‘em over!

The nice thing about not being employed full-time is my freedom of making plans at any time, on any day.  So last Friday, I drove two hours to Adelanto to watch the 8th grade promotion ceremony at my last school of employment.  When I left Bradach School, I had just finished a year of teaching a 5th/6th grade combo class.  I also taught Writing to the other full 6th grade class every morning, so I was able to develop a relationship with all 55 6th graders in our little Middle School Academy.  The students and parents had my personal cell phone number for school-related questions, and while it was rarely used during the school year, I was surprised with texts from two of my former girls at the start of their new 7th grade year.  They wanted to share with me their progress and worries, and I kept in appropriate touch with them; always allowing them to text me first, and replying fittingly.

When they began 8th grade, they immediately asked me to attend their graduation at the end of the year, and checked in with me periodically throughout the year to make sure I wouldn’t revoke my promise.  So last week, I made the trek out to see them graduate.  Interestingly enough, my best friend from college, Chris, worked at Bradach for the end of this school year, so I was able to travel up with him and establish a “home base” in his classroom during my visit there.  Seeing all my old students so grown up and ready to embark on a new adventure struck an emotional chord in me, and made me tear up upon sight of them.  I basically lost all my composure when my ex-principal invited me to come up to be a part of the receiving line as the students received their diplomas.  It was an incredibly special moment for me to be a part of their final minutes at Bradach.  Their graduation seemed to serve as the end to a chapter in my life as well.

That said; it was so great being back!  All my old colleagues warmly welcomed me, and throughout the day, they continued to speak highly of me; expressing how much they missed me, and what a shame it was that today’s kids were missing out on such a great teacher.  I left Adelanto with a renewed sense of self-worth.  I no longer feel as though I don’t deserve to be in the classroom.  It’s where I belong, and I know that once this economy gets back on its feet, some school is going to be lucky to have me!  Take that, depression!

My Bradach Girls

My Bradach Girls

Minty Badness

I finally broke down and paid the big bucks to see a doctor over my digestive issues.  He said it’s most likely a virus, and I’m doing all the right things, but to start taking Imodium.  I’d been taking Pepto, but I guess Imodium’s different in that it helps slow things down and bring everything together, if you know what I’m talking about.  In the last few days that I’ve been Imodiuming it up, I’ve found that it also makes my butt minty fresh; a feeling that I do not quite enjoy.  I have a love-hate relationship with mint that leans heavily on the hate side.

As a kid, I really didn’t care for traditional candy canes.  I’d eat them when my friends were eating them in order to fit in, or I’d eat them in the days leading up to Christmas when they were the only candy option and I wanted a sugar fix.  Come Christmas morning, Santa would leave fruity candy canes on the tree to save me from my peppermint hell.  Altoids came out when I was in high school, and one day at lunch, my cousin’s friend pulled out the little red tin and told us that they were the strongest mints she’s ever had, and would we like to try one?  I didn’t, but I also didn’t want to look like a loser, so I grabbed one of the chalky mints and popped it into my mouth.  I immediately wanted to spit it out, but I sucked it up as it burned a hole into my tongue and tears welled in my eyes.  When no one was looking, I spit it out into the bushes.

I have no transition into this paragraph: I have thick, wavy hair, and as a youngster, it ran down to my butt.  While it was fun to have Rapunzel-ish hair, it also grew like a weed and had to be trimmed fairly often.  To save on costs, my mom would do this herself in our bathroom.  It took forever, and because it was so long, I was made to stand throughout the entire process so that she could reach down to cut it.  Despite trying not to, every single time, I’d lock my knees, and half-way through the haircut, would suddenly be filled with the overwhelming sensation of smelling mint (which is weird on its own, but even weirder considering that I have no sense of smell).  As soon as mint entered my nostrils, my vision would become blotchy, or come to a pinpoint, and I’d meekly tell my mom that I was about to faint.  I have never actually fainted all the way, but without fail, I always “smell” mint in the moments leading up to a potential passing out.  I’ve never met anyone else who’s had that sensation, so I’m not sure why it happens to me.  Must be my brain creating, what it thinks is, the worst possible scent in a moment of despair.

Here comes the part where I love mint.  I had just graduated from 8th grade and was at a farm in Savannah, Georgia.  We were taking a tour of the grounds, and stopped by a row of mint plants.  The leader told us to pick a leaf, dig our nails into it, and take a smell.  Despite my anosmia, I went through the motions so as not to be rude.  However, as I brought the small leaf up to my nose and inhaled, I actually did smell mint!  I was elated, and carried that leaf with me throughout the rest of the tour, taking whiffs along the way.  Within minutes, my nose remembered that it wasn’t supposed to work, and I could no longer smell that leaf no matter how hard I tried.  I have no idea why I was able to smell at that exact moment, but I will forever cherish that memory and the feeling of smelling.

For that gift I was given 18 years ago, I am eternally grateful to mint.  I guess I can put up with a little tingle after a poop for a few more days.

Why a company thinks "mint flavor" is a good thing is beyond me.  Photo Source.

Why a company thinks “mint flavor” is a good thing is beyond me. Photo Source




Cruisin’ Cousins

I spent most of last weekend in Northern California with my family.  My cousin, Ashley, is getting married in Portland next month, so my mom and I went up for her bridal shower and to spend some time catching up with our kin.  Ashley’s actually my third cousin (I think?).  Our moms are first cousins.  As a child, I’d known of most of my third cousins’ existence on that family branch, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2007 that I really became close with Ashley, along with her first cousins (my third cousins?), Nicole and Danielle.  Now that you’re thoroughly confused, I’ll continue.

This past weekend was the first time the four of us were all back together in six years.  The days were full of good food, tons of alcohol, and a lot of laughs.  It was also full of a poor digestive system on my part.  I had had some issues before we headed up there, but it definitely wasn’t clearing up.  I’m sure downing margaritas with every meal didn’t help either.  Despite the annoyance of it, I had to chuckle to myself, because the last time my cousins and I were all together, it had ended with me being best buds with my toilet.  Maybe they’re poisoning me?

In August of 2007, I went on a family cruise to the Mediterranean to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of my Great Aunt and Uncle (Ashley, Nicole, and Danielle’s grandparents).  During the days, I was sightseeing with my mom, but back on the ship at night, I was hitting the bars with my cousins.  Our final docking point was Barcelona, and we all decided to stay there a few days before heading back home.  During this time in Spain, my mom and I spent more of the daytime with our family, since we were no longer obligated to attend the separate tours that each of us had signed up for during the cruise.

On one such day, we all sat down to a delicious seafood lunch of clams and mussels.  We then decided to walk the shore and share pitchers of sangria at a dockside restaurant.  Afterwards, most of the family decided to catch a ride back to the hotel, but Nicole, Danielle and I, just getting our buzz on, opted instead to walk back home and grab a beer or two along the way.  We stopped at the first bar we saw and ordered a beer each.  They were so cheap, that I remember only throwing down a few coins, which covered the drink and tip.  Armed with this knowledge, we made a pact right then and there that we would stop at every bar we encountered along the way home to have a beer.

We did.

And I lost count.

But I do recall being at one of the last stops, and feeling the urge to vomit.  I’d figured I had finally met my limit.  The restrooms in that bar turned out to be downstairs in a dank, blueish-green basement, which was not easy to stumble down in my toasty disposition.  Somehow, I made it down unharmed, did my business, felt better, and continued on with our journey, not letting on that I puked.  When we returned to the hotel, we made plans to sleep off our drunk and meet back up for dinner and dancing in the nearby clubs.  Sleeping would have been lovely, if only my stomach would have allowed it.  I quickly realized that my vomiting from earlier was surprisingly not, in fact, due to the copious amounts of beer I had consumed, but rather, to food poisoning.  I was constantly running to the toilet, and it wasn’t to puke.  Suffice it to say, I skipped out on dinner, and sadly, missed the nightlife I had heard so much about.

Regardless of my intestinal issues, that trip was one of the best of my life, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to bond with my cousins.  The four of us are scattered across California, and it’s a shame we can’t all be together more often, but I cherish the times that we are.  It’s always a blast for me!  Figuratively and literally.

The cruise photographer took her job way too seriously and refused to put us in a funny pose.  After we came up with this, she made us take a nice one.  We all bought this one.

The cruise photographer took her job way too seriously and refused to put us in a funny pose. After we came up with this, she made us take a nice one. We all bought this one.

What’s In A Name?

I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t feel a twinge of sadness in losing my last name when I marry Greg this October.  For 32 years, I’ve been a Schatz.  That’s a pretty substantial amount of time!  Yeah, my last name gets butchered all the time, but it’s fairly unique, speaks to my heritage, and is a big part of my identity.  I’ve also got a pretty big feminist streak that makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong in taking Greg’s last name of Brown.

The thing is, as strong as a woman I am, and as attached to my last name that I am, I still have a streak of traditionalness running through me.  (And yes, I know that “tradionalness” isn’t a word, but I really think it should be, so I’m using it!)  I plan to spawn a few minions with Greg, and I’d like us to be a family unit with the same last name.  Hyphenation could solve this issue, but the thing is, I actually, kinda, sorta, don’t like hyphenated last names. I’m pretty sure my hippie card is being revoked at this moment.  For one, if Greg and I were to hyphenate our names, we’d be the Schatz-Brown family.  Let that sink in for a moment, pronouncing it the way most people do: “Shats.”  Reversed isn’t any better.

While I like the unity of the two names, and even IF we had compatible last names, I just feel that it would then leave my future offspring (especially a female) in a conundrum when they got married.  Growing up in a family of blended names, they might want to blend their names too.  So would we be breeding a Schatz-Brown-Johnson for instance?  I doubt anyone would want to have 3 last names, so we’d basically be forcing our female child to either keep her name and be different from the rest of her own family, or give up her name completely; something her mom (me) was trying to avoid.  It just doesn’t seem fair that I would get the choice to blend my name, but my daughter wouldn’t.

I know, I think too much.

Besides, Brown is a nice, traditional name.  If I ever get to teach again, I won’t constantly be asked how to spell Schatz, or get a note from a parent with some letters missing from my last name.  Brown was a first grade spelling word, so I can imagine the kids would LOVE the freebie for the spelling test, assuming I taught first grade again.  And I’ve gotta admit, I’m actually kinda giddy over the whole becoming a Missus thing.  I love Greg with all of my being, and I’m so excited that we are going to become one and start our own little Brown family.

We joke that we’ll become a mixture of the two names: the Bratz family.  It MUST be said forcefully with a heavy German accent.  The more we laugh about it, the more normal the name sounds, but I have this thing about genealogy and it’d be a shame that my ancestors couldn’t find anyone before us because we created a whole new line.  That, and I’m sure we’d regret naming ourselves after big, fat, sausages.

When my mom married my dad, she made her maiden name her middle name, and I’d like to do that too.  Except, I want to go a step further.  I share a middle name with my Grandma, and I’d hate to lose that part of me, so I’m going to ask the state of California if I can have two middle names, and cross my fingers they don’t tell me I can only have two first names or two last names.  I’d like to be Erica Jane Schatz Brown.  It might be a pain in the ass to sign on legal documents, but really, it’s not that often that I have to sign my entire name.  On a trip up the coast a few years ago, I ran into this dude in a Santa Barbara thrift store:

If Fire Panda could do it, so should I.


Cold Showers

My friend just moved into a new place, and with nothing better to do on a Friday between noon and 4pm, I sat at his home to wait for the gas company to come relieve him of the last five days of cold showers.  I can’t imagine five consecutive days of cold showers!  If it were me, I’d just get some dry shampoo to help contain the grease accumulating in my hair, and use some baby wipes to clean up till the hot water came.  Maybe even get one of those baby wipe warmers.  Babies are so lucky nowadays.  No shock of a cold wipe on the bottom.  Spoiled.  But look who’s talking.  I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve had to take a cold shower at home, and it was never more than a day at a time.  Camp was a different story though.  I’ve taken many a cold shower at Camp.  Not to mention it was while standing on concrete with nothing but aluminum siding to separate me from the great outdoors.  Oh, and no roof.  Let me explain.

My beloved Camp La Verne now has updated shower facilities, but even up until my high school camping days, we had to shower outdoors with the pine trees and clouds looming overhead.  Our water was heated by a pufferbelly.  Basically, water was pumped into a large tank that was heated by a rusty, cylindrical wood burner.  Someone literally had to light a fire, and keep the fire going, in order for us to have hot water to shower with.  We could tell how much hot water was left by running our hands up the sides of the water tank.  The higher up we felt the warmth, the more hot water that remained.

The water was then drawn through the pipes attached in a square shape above our heads and along the side of our aluminum walls.  It was communal showering, so we all wore our swimsuits; except for the older adult counselors.  For some reason, those old women just loved to shower stark naked while we awkwardly adverted our eyes and cowered together under the furthest showerhead away from them.  I’m pretty sure that showering naked with minors is illegal nowadays, but times were simpler back then.

In any case, due to the small water tank, and the fact that us girls take forever to shower, cabins rotated each day for showering order.  On the day that my cabin was last, we were guaranteed to start off the shower warm, only to be suddenly hit with a blast of freezing ass cold mountain water that wouldn’t relent.  Once the hot water ran out of the tank, there was no more to be had.  If we still had suds in our hair, we had no choice but to let that cold water pelt our heads until we were fully rinsed.  And don’t forget that all this was going on while standing outdoors with the fresh mountain air whisping away any sort of steam we could have created.  We quickly learned that it was best to start our showers with shaving, since it is very much impossible to shave over goose bumps, then move to shampooing.  If we were lucky, we’d still have warm water to wash ourselves, but if not, at least we knew the earlier shampoo suds had rinsed down our bodies.

Unhygienic, yes, but it’s easier said than done to complete an entire shower routine in those chilly conditions.  Besides, as soon as we stepped into the adjoining dressing room, the bottoms of our feet were already covered with pine needles, and the trek back to our open-air cabins over the dusty dirt trails didn’t do much to keep our moist skin clean.  All that said though, I kinda miss those pufferbelly days.  On the occasions that the water stayed warm the entire time, it was actually quite the neat experience: showering while looking up at the clean, blue sky and hearing the birds chirp above.  As horrible as those cold showers were, I wouldn’t take those days back for anything.  Well, maybe the naked women part.

Imagine showering with this overhead.

Imagine showering with this overhead.