Category Archives: Family

Disjointed

The doctor’s office estimated nine weeks, but I knew I was in my seventh. I’d done my research, and had well charted out and planned this pregnancy. So when, at the first ultrasound, my husband and I were told that the quick, cursor-like flashing could not be absolutely confirmed as a heartbeat, I was on guard, but hadn’t lost all hope. It was still early.

The day before my second ultrasound, I was given a call. My pregnancy hormones were rising; this was a good sign. I let out the breath I had been holding for a week and instinctively rested my hand on the location of our child. (Lower left side of my abdomen.) You’re going to be all right, little buddy.

On the wall, a big screen TV displayed the ultrasound image as the measurements were taken: 7 weeks 3 days, 7 weeks 2 days. I knew it. The tech performed her trade wordlessly. Mouse clicks and the gentle, vibrating hum of the mini printer capturing each image of our baby contested the heavy silence of the room. As my husband and I were escorted to the front of the office to await the doctor, I swallowed the lump in my throat.

The ultrasound confirmed a missed miscarriage. Our fetus had died, but my body was still holding onto it. No explanation was given for how they knew our child was dead. Instead, we were immediately directed into a discussion of options for how to get rid of it. Being a Friday afternoon, the D&C procedure was scheduled for Monday morning.

My eyelids stung, raw and red, when I awoke with the sun on Saturday morning. The two of us slipped quietly out of bed and into the room that would now remain an office for a bit longer than anticipated. Silent tears trickled down my face as I revisited the texts and messages of encouragement from friends and family. I could stay strong with such a great support system.

The nurses at the hospital were exceptional. After my experience with my OBGYN, I wasn’t expecting much compassion on the day of my procedure, but my expectations couldn’t have been further from reality, and for that, I am grateful. Their empathy and tenderness made that dreadful morning much more bearable.

In the days following, there were occasional sharp, blueberry-sized stabs of pain in the lower left side of my abdomen. A physical reminder of where our child was pulled from my body. Each jab left me longing to rewrite the past, but I knew I needed to keep looking forward. Just as the bodily pain fades, so will the grief.

I miss you little buddy.

My dearest friend sent me this on Mother’s Day. Truer words…

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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!

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.

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 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.

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!

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

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

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:

 

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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’ existences 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.

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Unemployment Benefits

When my school district first laid me off, my initial thought was that a Director of Education position at Sylvan would be a suitable alternative, so you can imagine my excitement, last week, upon finding a similar opening at a center nearby. The day before I left for camp, I sent them my resume, and on Monday, I had a phone interview with the Sylvan franchise owner that went extremely well. I was told that the next step would be another Sylvan employee contacting me within 24 hours to schedule a one-on-one meeting/interview. I was never contacted. After the first day passed without a call, I initially felt myself sinking into my worthless funk, but now that a few days have passed, I’m actually starting to feel relieved.

I understand that if I really want the job, I should call the franchise owner again to follow up, but honestly, I’m not sure that I want to. While that job will bring me around $100 less per month than my unemployment gives me, it comes with benefits and the potential to turn into a salaried position as the economy improves. And yet, I don’t feel the need to fight for this job. This could be due to my passive nature, but I really feel that it is due to the fact that I want to teach. Period.

I’m fairly certain I could excel at Sylvan; even with the managerial demands the position entails. I might even find some happiness working there; especially once the afternoon hits and the kids arrive. But ultimately, I know my heart will be longing for that teaching void that this job would not fill.

And honestly? Besides the waves of worthlessness that wash over me every now and again, I’m actually kind of enjoying my unemployment. Due to all this free time, I was able to start this blog last June. For as long as I can remember, writing has been gratifying to me. I have volumes upon volumes of journals that span from 5th grade to my college years. I used to write 13 page letters to my best friend on a regular basis before snail mail became outdated. Writing calms me, and fills me with a sense of accomplishment. If I hadn’t lost my job, I don’t think I would have found the time to start this blog, and I think that’s what worries me. I don’t mind putting my writing on a backburner for teaching. Working with children is my number one passion, and I look forward to the time when I can be back in the classroom. But to give up my love of writing, for a job that is not where I ultimately want to end up in life, does not sound like an enjoyable alternative.

Many may look at this decision as selfish, or even idiotic. Believe me, I wrestle with feelings of guilt and laziness over being unemployed on a daily basis, and not aggressively going after this Sylvan job is taking it’s toll on me (the chewed, pink, raw skin around my thumbs are physical proof of that). And while my intentions do have a dash of selfishness thrown in, I know I have to make happiness my number one priority. If I start working a job that ultimately, does not leave me happy, and prevents me from continuing to write, I think I will only live to regret it.

I’ve always strived to look for the positive in things, and I truly feel that my unemployment was a blessing. Besides the fact that it gave me the opportunity to write and express myself, it allowed me to move in with Greg, and realize that, despite always being around each other, we still have the most amazing, rock-solid relationship. It is a love and respect that I’ve never experienced before, and I’m so grateful to live with him and experience what a loving relationship is supposed to feel like. Moving back to my hometown after twelve years away also strengthened and renewed my relationships with my immediate and extended family. I’ve always been close with my family, but this proximity has been pleasant and uplifting for me. I’m thankful for the chance to pop in and visit my grandma in the early afternoon hours, or to meet up on Saturdays at the park for a game of Ultimate Frisbee with my siblings, cousins, and friends. If I were still teaching in Adelanto, none of this would be possible.

Judge my decisions if you want, but until I’m teaching again, I’m going to make the most of my unemployment and push my guilty feelings aside.

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The Things You Never Want to Lose

I noticed a juice that supports brain health sitting on the floor of my parents’ kitchen. It could be coincidence that they bought that specific juice, especially since my dad is known for buying intriguing juice flavors, but I think it might be due to a growing concern of developing dementia.

My grandfather, who just passed away in May, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He was such a quiet and peaceful man that the effects really weren’t too noticeable. His wife, my grandmother, has various forms of dementia, and due to her inquisitive and caring nature, it’s been noticeable for years. At first, it was saddening to answer the same questions every few minutes, but eventually, it became second nature and I grew to answer each question with the same amount of enthusiasm and without a trace of sorrow. For the most part, my grandma usually remembered who I was, and she was interested in my life so much that our conversations were mostly filled with questions about me. That was the way our relationship was, and I found solace in the fact that she cared so much about me, so it didn’t matter that I constantly had the same dialogue with her.

However, the angst that I was able to overcome has crept back into my heart over these past two months. Many of us were fortunate enough to surround my grandfather during his last moments, and when he passed, the grief took a stronger hold on all of us. But what broke my heart into little pieces was my grandmother constantly reliving that crushing moment of grief over the news of her husband’s death.

Even now, she still doesn’t always remember, and while her disbelief and devastation is not as intense as those first two weeks, it really doesn’t get any easier to remind her. I find myself constantly grieving for her, and wishing that she could hold on to her memory. On days that she remembers on her own, I optimistically think that it is a sign that she’ll begin to keep this memory. However, science knocks me back to reality, and I regretfully acknowledge that Alzheimer’s and dementia do not get better, but rather worsen over time.

While I feel selfish for contemplating it during this period, I can’t help but wonder if Alzheimer’s will be my fate as well. I’ve noticed that I’ve been forgetting things more than usual lately, and I’m not sure if it’s my typical memory loss, or if I’m just more in tune to it because of my paranoia over developing symptoms. I’m only 31 years old, and as far as I know, early-onset Alzheimer’s does not run in my family, so I take some consolation in that. Regardless, I installed a chess app on my phone to keep my mind sharp, and have been wanting, and forgetting, to get a few crossword books. I’ve put a lot of thought into increasing my antioxidant intake, and that’s why the pomegranate blueberry juice in my parents’ kitchen grabbed my attention the other day. Maybe I’m not the only one.

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Anyone Can Whistle

I had fun at my voice lesson today. Those are words I never thought I would say.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m taking a beginner’s voice class at my local community college in order to satisfy my last requirement to earn a Music Supplement to my teaching credential. Learning, and trying to master my singing voice never held a shred of interest to me. The thought of taking a voice class seemed absolutely terrifying, so when I discovered that there was no way to get my supplement without it, I made my brother, Kevin, take it with me.

I left each of the first three class sessions knowing in my heart that I would never come back. I even thanked Kevin for trying with me, but told him I would understand if he wanted out. I just could not see myself actually singing to my classmates at the front of the classroom, not to mention singing solo in the concert hall for three recitals. Nope, there was no way I would do it. That is, until I heard others sing.

Most of the students in my class could hold a decent tone; but no one was amazing. Some people sang soft or pitchy, and others were just flat out bad. If anything, I knew I wouldn’t be the worst singer in the class.

A friend I met during my Peace Team adventure back in ‘03 nicknamed me “Horse Whisperer” because while goofing off and singing out of a hymnal book we’d found, she noticed that although I was whispering out my songs, I was actually singing pretty well. I never took her compliment to heart until I entered this class. I started thinking that maybe her words were more than just a friendly opinion, since I knew I could sing better than a handful of the kids in my class.

The first day that I bit the bullet and sang in front of my peers, I was shaking so much I thought for sure everyone could hear it in my voice. However, I was told that I sounded good, I got some decent feedback from my teacher, and most importantly, once I was done, I felt relieved because I knew without a doubt that I would be able to handle the rest of the semester.

The class sessions have since become enjoyable for me, and I’m learning more about my voice and pushing it to places that I never thought it could go. I’m also finding it easier and easier to sing in front of my class. While the nerves will never dissipate completely, I don’t let them fill me with terror like they used to. I’ve already sung successfully in one recital, and my second recital will be on Monday. After today’s individual voice lesson, I’m feeling confident, prepared, and actually eager to sing. Who would’ve thought?

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There Was a Time (Fictional)

“Gee, my husband is old,” she muttered aloud to no one in particular.

She briefly wondered when time had slipped past them, but let that thought drift as she decidedly focused on their current situation. One of them was going to need to get a job soon. Bills don’t pay themselves.

Why did she stop working anyway?

Light footsteps, and hushed chattering from the other room interrupted her thoughts. Someone else is here! As in response to her curiosity, her grandson appeared in the doorway.

Oh, she loved her grandchildren so much! They all turned into such wonderful young adults. He gently gave her a kiss and took a seat to her left. The small talk they shared brightened up her dreary afternoon.

When the conversation lulled, she took a moment to gaze off in silent reflection. Suddenly, she remembered that she hadn’t spoken to her mother in quite some time. She really should call her before the day ended.

Looking for the phone, she glanced to her right and noticed her husband lazily napping the day away.

Shaking her head, still searching for the phone, and musing over her husband’s sudden aging, she turned her head leftward.

Noticing a young man sitting in the worn armchair beside her, she uttered to him, “Gee, my husband is old.”

***I wrote this very short story as a coping tool to help process my current thoughts and feelings. This one just wouldn’t leave my brain, so I quickly typed it out this morning. Having no official creative writing background, I have no intention of editing or expanding on it. Being that it’s a form of writing, and it’s been a while since I updated my blog, I figured I’d just share it here, rather than keep it tucked away in my computer files.***

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Mr. Schatz’s Daughter

A week or so before school started, I was asking my youngest cousin how she felt about beginning 6th grade at a middle school. She was so nonchalant about it despite the fact that she had missed orientation, had no idea what classes she would be taking, and knew she’d be changing middle schools this year or next. I marveled at her relaxed demeanor because the summer before I entered junior high as a 7th grader, I was a wreck!

The newness and uncertainty of what I would encounter at Fleming Jr. High stressed the shit out of me! Nowadays, they acclimate kids to switching teachers and classrooms. Back then, my classmates and I went from a self-contained K-6 education to being thrown into a three building, multi-storied school with six different periods for each of our classes, all fit between passing periods with tardy bells. Not to mention I would have to learn how to open a locker; which was the scariest part for me.

I would work myself into a fit of tears over the stress of owning a locker. I was extremely short for my age, so I was concerned I’d be assigned a top locker and not be able to see the combination lock. And oh man was the combination lock a whole other mess in itself! Being the nerd that I am, I was super stressed that I wouldn’t be able to master the complex task of working a combo lock. Thus came Daddy to the rescue!

My dad was, and still is, the highly respected Athletic Director for San Pedro High School. Besides bestowing upon my brothers and me the love of sports and athleticism, he also would come home with all sorts of fun sports and school related paraphernalia, and for this tragic time in my life, he brought me home a few combination locks to practice on. After mastering those locks, I felt way more secure about using a locker at school, and a huge chunk of my worries dissipated.

I don’t remember where my first locker was situated, but I do recall that I was tall enough to see the dial clearly, and with my summer of practice, was able to open it easily. Since I came from Lomita Magnet and qualified for Honors courses, I had elementary school friends in every single one of my classes. And to make everything even better, due to the fortunate proximity of my classrooms, there was plenty of time during the passing periods to get from one class to the next. That is, unless you’re a shy, awkward, scatterbrained nerd, like me.

After giving us newbies a week or so of free passes to being tardy, the school started implementing the Tardy Sweep. If you didn’t make it to class by the time the tardy bell rang, you were required to sit in a detention room all period. Of course, even though I knew I had more than enough time to get to each of my classes, I still felt nervous about this new rule and would pack up quickly, never lingering to chat with friends at the end of class to make sure I was not caught in that sweep.

One day after 3rd period English, it took me longer than usual to put the papers away in my notebook and I noticed that my friend Carrie left for 4th period History without me. I was a bit bummed, but understood, since I, myself, got nervous waiting for slow friends to pack up their belongings between periods. I quickly gathered my things and rushed out the door to catch up. I saw her and a few other friends ahead of me, but they were walking in an unfamiliar direction. I figured our teacher must’ve moved class for the day and I missed the announcement the day before. Being shy, awkward, and embarrassed to approach them, I just kept a few paces behind them instead of jumping in and inquiring where they were going. I followed them all the way across the campus right into a class with a teacher I had never seen before, and classmates I didn’t know. That’s when it dawned on me that it wasn’t time for History! My 4th period was Leadership, which was located directly downstairs from my 3rd period room and ALL the way back across campus.

I quickly bolted from that room and walked as fast as I could to my class (running was against the rules). The tardy bell rang when I was only a few doors away from my class. Despite the bell, I walked in the doorway, pausing to face my teacher who was sitting across the room at her desk, and I explained, “I thought it was a different period and I walked to the wrong class.” To which she replied, “Sorry Erica, but you’re tardy. You need to go to Detention.” Knot in my throat and tears welling in my eyes, I swallowed, blinked away those tears, and began my walk of doom to the detention room. Halfway there, I ran into our Vice Principal who questioned my being out of class. I explained my situation and then he asked me my name.

“Schatz?” he asked with a sense of familiarity. “Any relation to Bob Schatz at San Pedro?”

“Yes, he’s my dad,” I meekly answered.

“I know your father,” he retorted. “Good guy. Come on, I’ll take care of this.”

That man accompanied me back to my classroom where, without an explanation, insisted my teacher let me stay in class despite my tardiness. As I took my seat, she shot me a dirty look, as if I went running to tattle on her and got her in trouble. I couldn’t help but smile sheepishly all the while turning a deep crimson.

After those first few weeks of Junior High School, I was comfortable and accustomed to the new routine, and I loved every bit of my time there. I was glad to know being Bob Schatz’s daughter gave me some leverage, but I never had to use it again. Besides having the perks of my dad’s status throughout my school years, he was, and still is, a great father. From something as small and touching as bringing home combination locks, to being a non-judging, unconditionally loving rock of support when I finally found the courage to end a six year abusive relationship a few years ago, he has given me so much of the confidence that I have today. Having Mr. Schatz as my dad may have saved me in Junior High, but him just being my daddy has saved me in life.

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