I Once Was A Tiny Being

There’s something many of you readers might not know about me: I saw my pediatrician until I was 20.  No, I’m not a freak (well, yeah, I kind of am), but there’s a valid reason for this: I stopped growing at a young age, and if not for modern medicine, I’d still be child-like in stature.  Yep, my body decided to stop producing growth hormone, so I was technically a dwarf.  Okay, that’s not totally true. If I’m going to be honest, my growth hormone deficiency can be referred to as pituitary dwarfism due to the pituitary gland being a lazy asshole, but all I see in that name is “dwarf,” so I’m running with it.  Wouldn’t you?  I think I’ll call myself Quirky.

In any case, in 10th grade at the age of 15, being only 4’10” and well below the average line for height and weight, I began growth hormone injections twice a day.  I was told that I’d be lucky if I reached 5’1”, dashing my hopes of being an airline stewardess.  I didn’t really want to be a flight attendant, but when I was a dwarf, one of the medical professionals, in an attempt to shed some positive light to enduring multiple shots per day, pointed out that certain jobs had height requirements, and her example has always stuck with me.  I didn’t need coercing to start the therapy, but one factor that scared me into wanting to begin immediately was when my pediatrician told me I needed the shots if I wanted have children in the future; which I did.  Gentlemen, you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph.  But hoorah alas, I was fifteen and had yet to start my period.  I cheered and loathed the day it came two years later at age 17.

Even with the late onset of puberty, I still had a ways to go with my injections.  A quick x-ray of my wrist allowed my doctor to see how much further I could grow.  Apparently, our joints show how much room is left for growing because they fuse together once we’ve reached our maximum growth potential, and as long as mine had space and weren’t fusing, I could still grow.  Armed with this knowledge, I placed a $10 bet with my cousin’s future husband (who’s really short, but was taller than me at the time) that I would be taller than him by his graduation day.  Not knowing I was taking shots, he agreed.  I totally won that bet, but didn’t see him after graduation and never got paid…that is, until almost 10 years later when he began dating my cousin and reunited with me with a $10 bill in his hand!

I took my needles and medicine with me to college, where it was a bit harder to hide from others.  Living in the dorms and actually being social, it was common for friends and acquaintances to witness me injecting myself.  Once I was out of high school, I was more comfortable with putting my true self out there for people to accept or not, so people knowing about it wasn’t as big a deal to me anymore.  By my sophomore year of college, I was still growing, and my x-ray showed that I had the potential to continue to do so.  At that time, I was 5’ 4 ¾” and a healthy 120 pounds.  My goal for beginning the therapy was to reach puberty and reach an acceptable height of at least 5’1”, which I had more than surpassed.  By 20 years old, I was taller than most of my friends, but not towering over them.  If anything, I was finally “average.”  My doctor was honest with me and said that my joints showed room for growth, but that it would be safe to stop the injections now, and my joints would fuse together at this height with no problems.  It was my decision, and despite being an indecisive individual, it was an easy one for me.  After four plus years of twice daily shots, I was done.  As expected from a non-functioning pituitary gland, I grew no more, I am currently the same height as the day I stopped the injections, and I have no regrets.  I was born to be this height!  Well, not literally, but in my head, I was born to be of this stature and feel incredibly lucky to be standing where I’m at today.

Me, my cousins and BFFs at ages 13 and 14.  I'm the one on the left in the dorky pink hat: the shortest and oldest of us all.

Me, my cousins and BFFs at ages 13 and 14. I’m the one on the left in the dorky pink hat: the shortest and oldest of us all.

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Running Over Robert

I’ve kept a secret from my parents for 10 years:  I ran over my brother with the family car.  But don’t worry, Mommy, he survived.

One summer, when I was home from college, I was out running errands with my two younger brothers Robert and Kevin.  Being the eldest child, I took over the driver’s seat for the entire summer.  As with most days, we were going to be hanging out with Kevin’s best friend Danny, but he needed to be picked up.  Robert requested that he be dropped off at home first, so that he could do whatever it was he needed to do before we all went out for the night.

Robert was sitting in the back seat behind me, and as we turned down our street, one of us came up with the brilliant idea of me bringing the car to a slow roll, and Robert jumping out of the moving vehicle a la Indiana Jones style.  I think, in our heads, we all imagined this perfect tuck and roll while Kevin and I continued driving off.  Of course, we were all on board with this plan, so as I approached the house, I brought our little maroon ’88 Toyota Corolla to a snail paced roll.  As Robert opened the car door and watched the ground moving beneath him, he must have had second thoughts, ‘cause as he exited the vehicle and Kevin and I began to laugh and cheer, I suddenly realized that he was still holding on to the door.  I gently pressed the brakes a little more firmly and urged him to let go!  He quickly released his grip from the car, took a few running steps up and onto the curb, and Kevin and I gleefully cheered as we prepared to drive away.  Success!

Except, instead of going into the house, Robert seemed to be walking around, disoriented, and then he took a seat onto our front lawn, legs sprawled out in front of him.  I think he smiled and gave us some sign of reassurance, like a victorious fist pump, but the dude was sitting on the grass, and I knew something wasn’t right, so I quickly pulled into our driveway.  As I parked, Robert went from sitting, to laying out spread eagle on the lawn.  Kevin and I jumped out of the car, and hovered over our brother, whose eyes were rolling into the back of his head while his eyelids fluttered.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been so scared in my life!  We kept calling his name and gently poking him until he became conscious.  When he came to (which was probably less than 30 seconds, but felt like 30 minutes) he informed us that his foot had been run over.  We were shocked to discover this as we felt no bump in the car, but sure enough, there were asphalt and tire tracks on his shoe.

Together, Kevin and I helped him hobble into the house where we laid him on the family room couch.  We got him some ibuprofen and an ice pack, and then debated what to do next.  His toes had just been crushed by the Toyota’s rear tire, and we had just witnessed him pass out in our front yard, so needless to say, I was freaked, and wanted nothing more than to take him to the doctor, but Robert kept reassuring us that he was fine.  Stubbornness is a strong trait among us Schatz kids, and Robert held strong, convincing us that he was okay.  When I saw that he could wiggle his toes and no bruising or swelling had occurred, I reluctantly backed off.  Robert insisted that it was just the shock of being run over that knocked him out, and that we should leave him to go pick up Danny.

I was worried to leave him alone, fearful that he’d pass out again with no one home to wake him back up.  Kevin and I were seriously terrified that we’d come back home to a dead brother!  Or, an equally worse scenario (to my adolescent mind):  I knew that our mom would be home from work soon, and I worried that she’d come home to find Robert passed out on the couch, and then I’d be in deep donkey doo-doo.

So Kevin and I stayed home long enough with Robert to feel confident that he’d remain conscious and be up and walking within a few minutes.  We unanimously agreed that this little adventure of ours must be kept secret no matter what.  Well, as long as Robert remained healthy.  If his toes started swelling or he passed out again, then we’d fess up, but why risk getting yelled at and getting our car privileges taken away if Robert was A-Okay?

And he was.  A-Okay, I mean.  Kevin and I got Danny and we continued on with our night as if nothing ever happened.  None of us ever tried jumping out of the car again, and we never told our parents…until now.

I hope I don’t get grounded.

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.       

Anyone can whistle, that's what they say–easy

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 my 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 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? 

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?

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.

The Day I Realized I Was A Nerd

Growing up, I was never really lacking in friends.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was popular, but I was known well enough to win both my 6th and 8th grade presidential elections. (maybe that should’ve been my “nerd” tip off)  So although it was intimidating going away to a college where I’d know not a single person, I wasn’t all too surprised when I became a part of a group within my first few days at La Verne.
The person I attribute to holding the whole group together was David*.  Poor David was 18 years old, but looked like a 35 year old man.  His brown hair was clean cut, combed, and parted on the side.  He had a deep voice that boomed with self-confidence, and his stride was that of a man on a mission.  His pants were tapered and flooded the tiniest bit over his almost high-top-like black tennis shoes.  And to top it all off, he only listened to Jazz.
David introduced me to a few guys from his hall.  First, Sam: a tall, overweight kid, who kind of leaned over in a hunchback fashion and had a squinted look to his face.  He was a quiet kid, but when he spoke, his lispy, soft voice didn’t seem to match his body type.  The other guy, Tommy, was an average sized guy who had a Native American look to him; although that could be contributed to the touristy t-shirts he would wear that depicted rattlesnakes from Arizona and coyotes from New Mexico. 
I, in turn, introduced the group to a couple of girls I’d met.  June, my dorm roommate was the first person I brought around.   She was the tiniest Vietnamese girl I had ever laid eyes on.  She wasn’t born in America and had a very Asian style to her; noticeably, her bowl cut hair.  And if you think I’m quiet, then you’ve never met June.  She usually answered questions in one-word responses.  When she would talk, I was just so amazed and focused on hearing her crackly voice that it was almost impossible to pay attention to what she was saying.  My other friend, Amy, was a tall, broad, girl from the backcountry of Montana and clearly looked it.  Her thin blonde hair lay long and straggly, and no matter what she wore, Teva’s were stuck to her feet.  
Now I wasn’t a cookie cutter La Verne girl either.  I hid my petite figure under loose fitting t-shirts and non form-flattering jeans.  If I wore any make-up at all, it was a quick brush of light blue eye shadow and mascara.  To top off my plain look, I had long, thick, wavy dirty blonde hair that knew nothing of the benefits of mousse.  I combed out those waves every single day to produce a large mass of frizzy goodness falling in one even layer down my back.
Sitting in the dining hall with my friends one day, I glanced around at the other tables.  There were the football jocks, the girls dressed for clubbing, the stoners, etc.  Then I looked around at the faces of my table.  That’s when the realization hit me: Oh my god!  I’m sitting at the nerd table!  I’m a nerd!
And you know what?  I was then, I am now, and I’m damn proud of it!   
*Names have been changed to spare the feelings of friends who may not have had the same realization as me.