Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Got Milk?

Living on campus while attending college forced me to overcome my shyness and opened me up to a ton of new experiences.  Dorm life, in itself, was a separate way of living that I still fondly look back on.  When I wasn’t in class, I was at the dorms either walking up and down the hall looking for friends, or sitting on my bed with the door open waiting for friends to find me.  Once a few of us would gather, we’d come up with ways to entertain ourselves.  While blaring and singing Wheatus’s rendition of “A Little Respect” at the top of our lungs (and I mean TOP OF OUR LUNGS) was a fun way to pass time, it did get tiring on the throat, and other alternatives were needed. 

One such alternative was The Gallon Milk Challenge.  I was hanging out with Delarie, Denisse, and Chrissy one day during my junior year, and somehow, the conversation turned to a fact someone had heard:  it was impossible to drink a gallon of milk in an hour.  Being the overoptimistic college students we were, we felt we could easily prove that theory wrong.  Seriously, how hard could it be to drink a gallon of milk?

We packed into my van to buy 4 gallons of milk and a jar of peanut butter to keep our quench going throughout our endeavor.  Upon returning, and clothed in comfy pajama pants (aka regular college attire), we sat circled around the peanut butter in Chrissy’s room, having a great time, and quickly downing that milk.  We were having so much fun and were so confident of our success, that we used my mini polaroid camera to take pictures of ourselves chugging our ice cold gallons.  I can’t remember how far we got, or who was able to drink the most, but after at least finishing half our gallons, we were way too full and our tummies not too happy. 

Soon enough, most (if not all) of us had to traverse across the hall to the restroom where we stood stall-to-stall puking every last bit of our milk into those toilets.  I, for one, was amused and laughing in between vomits because the milk was still cold!!  In case you’ve never had the opportunity, puking up cold liquids is actually not so horrible.

So, lesson learned, we never tried that again.  However, I can’t help but still be curious if anyone has ever been able to achieve such a feat.  If you’re up for the challenge and accomplish it, lemme know, yeah?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nobody Like(s) Us!

Camp La Verne, located a tad below Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains, is a place I hold dear to my heart. 

When I first began going to camp, it was extremely rustic; it's much more modern now.  Back then, the 4-bunk, simply constructed cabins each had a half-door that swung shut with a spring, and the siding of the walls stopped two thirds of the way up, all the way around, with no windowpanes.  Some of the nicer cabins had wooden pieces that could be swung down to cover the “windows” at night.  As far as bathrooms went, there were pit toilets near the cabins (which I’d always have to pretend to hate the smell of).  The water basin was down the trail from the potties, and it literally was a water basin covered with screen to keep out the tree droppings.  It had a few spouts hooked up above for hand/face washing.  As far as showers went, we would gather together under a few spigots in our bathing suits, surrounded by aluminum siding and nothing but the open sunshine above us.  Our water was heated in a tank by a rusty pufferbelly that was kept going with fire while we went swimming at the lake.  If our cabin was last for showers that day, we were pretty much guaranteed to end our cleaning with a shocking blast of cold water.  We ate all our meals outdoors on bright green picnic tables right outside the kitchen, and would take turns doing dishes in the small, 3-sink washhouse.  You might think all this sounds crazy and horrible, but that’s what I loved most about camp.  It actually felt like camping. 

Along with the joys of the rustic camping experience, I enjoyed meeting new friends and looked forward to seeing them again summer after summer.  Many of the people I am still close with today, I met while at camp; including my best friend, Shannon.  It was at Camp La Verne that most of my precious memories were made.  I often think back to various times at camp and find myself giggling or smiling fondly.  Although I have always been shy, it was there that I felt the most comfortable, and there that I truly felt that I could be myself and let loose.

When Shannon and I became old enough, we decided that we wanted to work a week at the Junior Camp being CIT’s (Counselors in Training).  Really, what this meant was we got a winterized cabin down by the kitchen all to ourselves (along with another friend our age who happened to CIT that week) where we helped with random maintenance and/or kitchen needs and bonded with the kiddos during different activity times.  The fun and freedom we experienced that week, led us down the path of being counselors for the Jr. High Camp the following summer.

All through high school, I’d attend my own camp, while also counseling at least one other group of younger campers.  I continued this tradition throughout college, counseling for all the camps each summer.  One of my favorite, and probably not the most responsible counseling times, was when I was too old, and no longer eligible to attend the High School Camp, while many of my core friends (only a year or two younger than me) were.  So I came back that summer as their counselor; even better yet, I had Shannon in my cabin!  It pretty much felt like I was a camper again, but with a small amount of responsibility.  I’m sure I wasn’t too much of a help that summer, but I don’t think that I added any difficulties to the week.  Quite unlike the time us counselors decided we’d let the CITs be in charge of our sleeping Jr. High campers while we snuck out to a winterized cabin to listen to CD’s and gorge ourselves on candy and hamburgers brought in to us from down the mountain.  Yeah, our dumb asses got caught. 

Thank you Directors: Jeff Brehmeyer, Jeff Pence, and Ron Hart for being so laid back and trusting despite my teenage antics.  And Janet Hart, if you’re reading this, I was WAY more responsible with your Junior Camp…I wasn’t completely stupid.  I’ve been a member of the CLV board for years now, and although I like helping behind the scenes, there’s nothing better than being at camp, and I’ve always wanted to direct my own.  Last year, I was given the opportunity to co-direct the Jr. and Sr. High Winter Camp with my brother, Kevin.  It’s so different as a director, but still just as enjoyable.  The main difference is that while I still have the young heart inside me, I have to keep up the act of being a grown up.  For example, as a camper, and even more so as a counselor, I participated in many pranks (the best one still being the time we hung Blair Witch figures everywhere and made most of the Jr. High girls cry all night long).  This year, when a few pranks got out of hand during Winter Camp, although my insides were cracking up at the creativity, the external words coming out of my mouth were about respecting property and financial reasons why their pranks were not appreciated.  I’d see the rolls of some campers’ eyes and smile, remembering my cousin Marissa and I sharing similar glances as teenagers when we felt an adult was being too serious and “ruining camp.”  I get them.  They don’t know it, but I do.  It all comes full circle, and I can’t wait to see what else Camp La Verne will offer me as the years go on.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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 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, 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 really has saved me in life.   

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bunion, perhaps?

Until a few days ago, I’d never really known what bunions were.  I correlated bunions with wrinkly old lady feet jammed into uncomfortable leather slip on shoes.  I also knew bunions could be relieved with spongy, donut shaped stickers.  But what were they exactly?  I never really cared to know, until recently.

About a week and a half ago, I realized that I’d injured my right foot while running.  The pain ran from the top of my foot at the base of my pinky toe down along the outer side of my foot, stopping just before my ankle.  Instead of giving myself a break from running, I threw on my sturdy Asics in lieu of my 5 Finger Vibrams in hopes that the stability would ease the pain.  And it did; however, my injury never got better.  Being unemployed, uninsured, and concerned over the increasing pain, I had no choice but to use Google to diagnose this injury myself.  I found many people with the same problem, but never any solid answers.  After days of searching, I came across a thread where one of the commenters gave five words of support.  These words ultimately did not solve my injury, but still managed to turn my world upside down: “Sounds like a Tailor’s Bunion.”

Of course, the first thing I did, was Google “Tailor’s Bunion,” and I was shocked to discover my “6th toe” disfiguration ALL over the internet!  (No, I don’t really have a 6th toe, and before you go and Google it yourself and start thinking that I have those horribly disfigured feet that you see plastered all across your screen, do me a favor and please click HERE first to see a picture of what mine looks similar to.)  Also referred to as a Bunionette, this gem of a disfigurement is basically the 5th metatarsal bone jutting out while the rest of the toe bends inward.  Supposedly it’s really painful, but I’ve never had any problems.  That’s probably due to the fact that mine doesn’t stick out as much as those you see in pictures.
As subtle as it was, I never really saw it as a disfigurement, and I played it off as another thing my little brothers could make fun of me for, and thus, my “6th toe” became a joke among us.  I think I was in a state of shock when I discovered it was an actual disorder!  I couldn’t stop laughing and feeling taken aback.  After living thirty years thinking one way, and then discovering everything you thought was wrong, is the weirdest, and creepiest feeling ever! 

Despite the internet making it extremely clear that I have a Tailor's Bunion on both my feet, I still don't think of myself as someone with a bunion.  Even though I now know better, I can't drop my preconceived notion that bunions=old lady feet.  I don't have any of the problems associated with Bunionettes, so I prefer to just push the thought from my mind.  Besides, they're the feet I've always had.  They're my 6th toe jokes.  They're my feet.  And they're not a disfigurement.  So there!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


This week, as I donated money to a friend’s charity for clean water in Ethiopia, I started to feel a little guilty.  Someone feeling guilt over making a donation to help drill for water in Africa may seem strange, but it’s perfectly normal when that person despises drinking water herself! 

I should be grateful that I could turn on a faucet and get a sip of clean water whenever I want, but to be honest, I’m not as appreciative as I should be.  I usually prefer thirst to drinking a glass of water.  It has absolutely no taste to it, and it rarely satisfies me (unless I’m outdoors in 90° plus weather, the water is ice cold, and there is no available option of anything else to drink). 

Plus, water burns my throat.  Everyone laughs or gives me quizzical stares when I tell them this, but it’s the truth!  It doesn’t happen all the time, but it especially happens when the water is room temperature!  Now, it doesn’t burn right away; it’s more of an “after-burn” that sets a minute or two after taking a drink.  It’s similar to the feeling one gets when the beginnings of a sore throat kicks in.  The pain is felt in the very back and extends up towards the nasal passage.  I’ve no idea how long it lasts, but evidently it lasts long enough for me to know that I don’t like to take the risk of having it happen again. 

In an attempt to be healthier and drop a few pounds around the waist, a few years ago, I started bringing a water bottle to work that I refilled throughout the day.  Every once and a while, I’d finish my desired 64 oz, but usually, I failed.  This was mostly due in part to the fact that my ice would melt after my first bottleful, and after filling it with lukewarm tap water, it would sit untouched the rest of the day.  However, the excuse I like to go with is my lack of potty breaks while teaching. 

Being able to pee anytime is a luxury that teachers do not get.  As a middle school teacher, I only had 2 chances to pee during school hours: morning break and lunch.  Usually, my morning break was filled with helping students with academic questions and/or life mentoring, so really, I had one shot at lunch to relieve myself.  During my 64oz days, I’d have no choice but to shoo the kids out during break and get rid of the water I’d been downing.  In extreme circumstances, during instructional time, I’d have to open the connecting doors to my team teacher’s room and ask that they watch my class.  Since I disliked water anyway, I found that it was much easier not to drink water altogether.  A win-win situation.

Now that I’m unemployed, there really is no good reason for me not to drink 8 glasses a day.  Especially now that I’ve been reminded of the many people who die of diseases from unhealthy drinking water.  I’ll certainly start being more grateful for the access I have to my water, but I already know, there’s no way I’m ever going to enjoy the tasteless, burning feeling that water gives me. 

**If you want to help get clean water to those in need, you can donate and assist my friend in reaching her goal by clicking HERE.  (Donations can be made anonymously.) 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Marathon Woes

I ran my first, and possibly last, marathon on March 21, 2010.  Running the LA Marathon had been a dream of mine since high school, but being a competitive athlete, there was no way I could take off the weeks needed for recovery afterwards; the race is always held in the heart of Track season.  After a college injury and advice from my trainers, I reluctantly stopped competitive running altogether.  Without the motivation to race, I gradually discontinued any sort of training.  I still ran here and there, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2009 that I decided to get back into races. 

I use the word “races” as a term, not literally.  I was not willing to re-injure myself and do any all-out competitions; I just wanted to get out there with other people who shared my passion and run the best that I could.  So that October, I got my cousin Marissa, her husband Alex, and my friend Danny to join me in our first half-marathon.  With limited time for training, and all of us just getting back into running, it was surprising how easy the 13.1 miles were!  When I finished, I felt like I could have easily kept going.  This spurred our interest in a full-length marathon, and we quickly began a training program. 

Despite numerous long training runs (the last four Saturday runs being 16-22 miles each), I still managed to hit that wall during the actual marathon, and I hit it at mile 16.  Basically, the thought of going another 10 miles was messing with my head, and I started to feel discouraged.  Luckily, I had my cousin by my side, and with Marissa’s support, I was able to get over that mental block.  We were doing this together, dammit, and nothing was going to stop us! 

Then something happened that I was completely unprepared for.  Somewhere during mile 19, I peed my pants.  Yes, you read that right.  I straight peed on myself, and I couldn’t stop it!  I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even tell Marissa what was happening to me.  It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever had to endure while running.  Small squirts of urine would seep out regardless of how hard I tried to keep it in.  Those who know me well, know I don’t drink a lot of water, even on runs, and I think that was my saving grace.  While my dark blue shorts slowly became saturated, nothing ran down my legs, and for that, I was grateful.  But the thought of having a dark spot in the crotch of my shorts gave me further motivation to finish the race.

My new goal was to quickly get to each water station so that I could create a fa├žade of cooling myself by dumping water all over my front in an attempt to hide the ever-growing patch on my shorts.  And it worked!  When I was emailed my marathon photos, the first thing I looked for was my pee stain.  Fortunately, not even a hint of it could be seen!  Although I was mortified when it started, and worried that there would be photographic evidence, by the time I hit mile 22, I didn’t care if onlookers could tell.  I was the one butchering my body to complete 26.2 miles and they were just standing on the sidelines; judge away!

After 5 hours 4 minutes and 50 seconds, I crossed that finish line (relatively dry) with Marissa and Danny by my side, and it was one of the most intense feelings I have ever experienced.  Tears of pride, pain, and relief streamed down my face as I hugged Marissa and Danny.  We did it!  Will I do it again?  “Hell no!” was my immediate response for a long time.  However, lately, I’ve been contemplating running another.  Each time I think about it though, there’s a big question looming in my mind: Is it worth the possibility of urinating on myself to get a time under 5 hours? 

It just might be.