Category Archives: High School

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 at that time, 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.

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

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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 3/4″, 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!

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.

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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 is 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

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