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 job 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  I used to write 13 page letters to my best friend on a regular basis before snail mail became outdated.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. 


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 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. 

O Canada

I met a Canadian today.  On Canada Day.  And he talked about what they do during their holiday, including using the word “oot”.  It was pretty awesome, and I haven’t stopped geeking out over it all day.
I’m not really sure why I became so obsessed with Canada, but I vaguely remember how it started, and that I wasn’t alone.
My memory isn’t the greatest, but I believe that my best friend Shannon traveled to Canada with her high school orchestra. Maybe? I just remember that in one of her letters to me, she told me about their accents, and somehow, a phrase was coined: “Let’s go oot and aboot and play hockey with the mooses.”  Yes mooses.  I don’t care that I’m a teacher and know better.  There are just some words that are funner when used ungrammatically. 
From this letter of hers spurned subsequent letter envelopes decorated with red maple leaves and our Canadian phrase.  Before I knew what was happening, I had a collection of mooses and moose related items all throughout my room.  Also, it wasn’t uncommon for Shannon to receive some sort of moose related gift or card from me.  Still isn’t.

I carried this obsession through college, proudly displaying a few of my stuffed mooses upon my bookshelf.  Somewhere in that time frame, I was gifted with an enormous Canadian flag that I hung proudly, and prominently above my bed in my dorm room.  People that visited my dorm started questioning my nationality, and to amuse myself, I decided to start affirming their beliefs of me being a Canadian.  Should they delve further, I had fabricated an entire backstory of living in Alberta, going to one of the figure skating competitions with my mom during the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics, and sadly, moving to California at the age of 10.

I am a terrible liar, and am pretty much forced to tell the truth all the time due to the blush that starts forming on my face through my dishonesties.  However, my desire to be Canadian must have been strong, because I think I truly started to believe my backstory, and told it with a straight face every time.  People usually called me out on it as they got to know me better, and if they were really close friends who asked, I pretty much would finish my story, then laugh in their face about how gullible they were. (Which is hypocritical of me because I’m the most gullible person there ever was.  Just yesterday, my brother told me a dude’s name was Fletcher with a ‘ph’ and I totally believed him.)
Anyway, throughout the rest of college, most people understood that I just had a crazy obsession with Canada and mooses, and I eventually let the Canadian story drop.  However, the correlation between Canada and me never faded, and one friend, David, even nicknamed me Canada.  He NEVER referred to me as Erica, and I honestly doubt he even knew what my real name was.  After I graduated college, I went back to visit my youngest brother (who also happened to attend ULV) and I ran into David.  Instinctively, he said, “Hey Canada! Long time no see.”  We shared formalities until someone asked him, “Why do you call her Canada?” To which he responded, “Because that’s where she’s from.”  Someone around started laughing and quickly informed him that I was not, in fact, Canadian.  The look of incredulity on his face cannot be wiped from my memory.
Despite the fact that I felt horrible, and kept professing that I thought he knew it was a joke, I’m pretty sure David took it to be the ultimate betrayal.  And even though I still feel guilty about it, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that it also felt pretty good: someone really thought I was Canadian.