About Erica

I work as a Special Education Teacher & Reading Specialist with fourth & fifth grade students. Evenings, it's being a mom and working at Gabriella's Consignment Boutique, our family-owned shop of trinkets and treasures. I'm looking forward to warmer weather so I can be outside in the garden and going for walks with the dogs.
Jun 26

Flipping Burgers in First Grade

A tiny burger sizzles over the pilot light of the stove.  I’m a chef frying up a mini burger for my baby doll, Sheila.  A cake is baking for dessert in the Easy Bake Oven.  Our family dog, Nicky, stands by hoping he’ll get to dine with Sheila.  Nicky looks up at me expectantly licking his chops; I agree this burger is taking too long.  As I turn the knob on the stove, the blue flame bursts out under the pan, and the burger cooks faster spitting oil at me.  A few moments later, I hear big footsteps coming toward the kitchen; I quickly turn the gas off.  My dad enters the kitchen.

“You turn the gas on?” My dad peers over my shoulder at my mini burger.

“No,” I lie.

“I smell it.  Keep the gas off.”  Big footsteps walk away back into the living room.

Continue reading

May 19

Eyes Open

So your ETL, forgets his homework – more than a few times.  Should you help him organize his locker?  Email  teachers and ask for assignments to be sent to you?  Check agenda for fourth time?

Or, there’s  problems with  friends.  Should you check Face Book to see what’s going on?  Should you call parents?

Even worse, your ETL is an adolescent and finds himself in trouble with the law.  Should you help him get a lawyer?  Should you help navigate the consequences or help with fines? Continue reading

Dec 27

Life & Times of a Caregiver

The saying between a rock and a hard place couldn’t be truer than when you’re trying to help someone with mental illness, addiction and/or another condition.  You’ve got your loved one’s irrationals thoughts and need for help and on the other side the bureaucratic red tape of agencies and HIPPA rules alongside of that.  The situation can become so muddled you can feel like you’re watching an episode of “The Three Stooges”, but no, this is your life – the reality of it all.      

A mental health agency’s recorded message states to make an appointment call between 8:00 AM and 10:30 on Wednesdays.  The future client calls – and then calls.  After a time, a new message tells the client appointments have been filled – have to try again next Wednesday.  On the third Wednesday, the client gets through to a person, a real live one, who tells him to make an appointment, he first has to have a referral from a doctor and a physical (because it’s been some time since he’s been seen by a doctor).

The client then tries to find a doctor.  He begins calling a local clinic.  I try to help by calling them first to see if they accept the type of insurance and if they’re accepting patients.  They are taking new patients, and the receptionists says the future client can call the office.  He calls the office; The receptionist says the persons who takes new appointments isn’t there and to call back at 11:00 the next day.  The future client tries for two more days with the same result.  I call the office back and the receptionist explains that appointments for that day have been filled and the future client just has to try back each day. Continue reading

Sep 03

Summer’s End

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot

      

The summer has come to an end, and it’s back to the classroom for me.  While I’ll miss the time I spent with my daughter, and in the flower garden and the extra time I devoted to our animals, I’m looking forward to putting some “forced” structure back into my day.  The summer gives me time work on so many projects, especially cleaning up and creative things that I just don’t get the chance to do during the school year, but for a person with ADHD having each summer day to just get things done is completely exhausting.

            I don’t set good limits for myself about what projects are possible and get myself involved with too many things.  By the end of the night, I’m so tired, I can’t see straight.  When I’m working, I have an evening schedule with a routine and a bedtime.  And, I justify keeping it so I can feel good the next day.  With the summer schedule, I just go and go and tell myself, “Well, I don’t have to work at school tomorrow so I can just finish this up.”

            When you have kids, animals, an old farmhouse and consignment shop – the list of things to do never ends.  This is a full-time job in itself.  A couple times I tried to make lists or write down a schedule, which did help but I still let myself get carried away.  Further, I’m guilty of not consistently taking my medication over the summer.  Again, with the change of schedule and routine – I’d say, “I’ll do that in a minute.”  And, the minute never came.  With that, decreased attention caused me to make numerous mistakes and become angry with myself.  So, why don’t I just do what I’m supposed to do?

             Good question.  One I can’t answer.  I guess I just become very overwhelmed.  To add insult to injury, bees attacked me while I was mowing and the mower got stuck on while I was trying to escape, and the venom caused a severe reaction.  While weeding the flowers, I got poison ivy that went inside needing medication to calm it down. 

            Then, the most terrible, terrible thing happened.  My best friend, my cattle dog, Zane and I came up from the barn after chores.  That dog’s only goal in life was to be by my side.  Lately, a stranger had been waiting for the local bus on my property.  Zane wasn’t a natural guard dog, but I hadn’t introduced him to the guy, and he didn’t like him on our property all the time.  One day, he’d had enough and went after him.  I called, yelled and chased.   A truck came around the corner.  I then ran for the truck – waving and yelling.  I was only a few feet away, but the guy in the truck wouldn’t look at me and hit Zane – hard.  Zane ran back to me, confused.  Sad, knowing he was in trouble.  He ran up to the house and died 5 minutes later.  Just like that, my best friend was gone from my life. 

            The house was so empty.  I didn’t have little feet following my every move.  I still can’t believe he’s gone or that I couldn’t get his attention to stop.  He was such a good boy – so smart and obedient.  He was 2 ½ years old.  He was my therapy. 

            I still had other animals to take care of and my Dwarf Nigerian Goat, Albert, was acting funny.  When I came down the hill to feed him, he didn’t run out to me like usual.  He hid, sometimes with his face in the corner like he was in time-out.  He began standing funny with his legs stretched out.  I went back to the breeder to ask questions, but he didn’t have any ideas.  I called a vet, but apparently the goat world in veterinary medicine isn’t so big.  The vet thought maybe he hurt his neck and gave him an anti-inflammatory, but a week later he began to get worse.  I called a different vet; she guessed bladder stones.  The bladder fills with stones, and the goat is unable to urinate.  Eventually, the bladder will explode.  We did blood tests and Albert’s kidneys were nearly shut down.  We made a decision to put him to sleep.   It was over so quickly.

            Then came the job of taking care of Albert and deciding where on the property to build a place of rest.  My husband found a dry and quiet area.  The reality of owning animals is a tough thing.  They can get sick or hurt and die.  We’ll make a stone for him and plant some perennials.  We had my pup, Zane, cremated.  Not happy topics, but things we had to work through this summer.

            So, going back to the classroom?  I’m totally good with it.  I look forward to seeing the kids and getting back into the curriculum and schedule.

            My ETL guy?  Well, did I say it’s been quite a summer?  I’ll respect his privacy, but say it’s been a hell of an emotional and difficult summer.  The cycles and patterns continue.  I pray, meditate and try to take care of myself.  The craziness of life can get me off track, but I’m stopping for a few moments to contemplate before moving on to the next season in the year. 

            I wish everyone a happy fall season, and hope as the busy schedules creep up on you; you can stop and take a few moments for yourself.

“New York is strange in the summer. Life goes on as usual but it’s not, it’s like everyone is just pretending, as if everyone has been cast as the star in a movie about their life, so they’re one step removed from it. And then in September it all gets normal again.”
Peter Cameron, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
Apr 12

Crisis Strikes

When your ETL child becomes a young adult and some of your worst fears happen (severe cycling, job issues, legal issues, relationship issues, drug issues), what do you do?  How do you cope?  While I haven’t discovered the “real” answer to questions like these, I think the most basic and real answer is that you just keep going.  You live. 

“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”
Oprah Winfrey

 It’s hard to separate yourself enough from bipolar disorder and addiction (or other special needs) to accept that regardless of the issues, there’s a reality check of joining the adult world that can’t be avoided.  The law is still the law.  Bills are still bills.  Responsibilities are still responsibilities regardless of whether a person is going through the manic stage, the depressed stage or using a substance again. 

 So, crisis strikes.  As a caregiver, you’re sad.  You’re depressed.  You’re angry and then – disappointed.  Helpless.  Hopeless.  And, maybe moments of hopefulness.  Who knows?  The grief cycle can send a caregiver loopy – all that denial, negotiation, anger and blah blah blah. 

 You have to live.  Take care of yourself.  Stop and take a few breaths.  Let yourself have a few moments of quiet to think before just reacting.  Accept that it’s alright for natural consequences to occur even when they suck. 

 This doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a caregiver.  It’s not your job to make decisions for other people.  Then what?  Going through a crisis is different for everyone.  I’ve tried all the different positions on the continuum including enabling and tough love, neither, of which is any great place to be.  I try for the middle road.  I still have love, and I think it’s ok to say so.  I have anger.  I can express that too.  I can set boundaries. 

 I can allow myself an evening of walking the dogs alone or drinking tea to let the swirl of thoughts that’s a tornado in my mind to settle.  I don’t have to react.  I don’t have to do.  If you’re thinking of doing something, and you have a sick feeling in your stomach about doing it, I’d rethink it. Ponder it.  Pray on it.  Meditate.  Whatever works and get some perspective.   Doing nothing at the moment doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing.  Taking time is a choice.  Time can bring clarity and peace. 

Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”  – Oprah Winfrey
Dec 28

Peter Pan and his Lost Boy

Playing Dress-Up

My dog, Leo, is sick.  He’s dying.  The doctor thinks it’s spinal cancer.  His legs have stopped working.  Not willing to just let him go, we try to carry him outside to go to the bathroom with towels wrapped around his middle.  This is no easy feat with a 100-pound Doberman.  But my daughter pins me with an accusing stare and says, “You’re going to put him down?”

Leo was an easy to love but hard to raise puppy.  He was so big and moved through the house like a bull in a China cabinet.  The night before a family camping trip, he pounced through the house and came skidding into the bathroom – knocked over the wrought iron toilet-paper holder.  His momentum kept him and the toilet-paper holder moving spearing the toilet bowl right in half.  Continue reading

Sep 24

Star of the day, YOU….

Over the past few weeks, I’ve continued on my journey of experiencing yoga and acupuncture.  When I woke this morning, parts of my back were creaky and tight.  A few poses came to mind that would help me to stretch tight angry muscles.  Awareness of myself creeps in as thoughts of what would make me feel better float into my mind.  When you’re a caregiver, thinking of what you need can get lost in the day trying to maintain the schedule and do things for other family members.  Typically, thinking of our own needs is last on our list.

Initially, when I began going to yoga and acupuncture, I was just going through the motions putting them on my schedule as one more thing to do.  Without realizing it, some of the practices began to stick and become more than just items on my to do list.  When a stressful moment occurs, I’ve taken deep breaths and let go of repetitive negative thoughts that can replay like a broken record that make it hard for me to “hear” what’s going on in the moment.

Continue reading

Aug 05

Care for the Caregiver

I missed my fist acupuncture appointment yesterday.  I double booked myself with another appointment and remembered to late.  Typical me.  Still, I  noticed some changes with attention and my ability to handle stress.  The effects of acupuncture are subtle but when I’m aware, quite amazing.  There is a calmness about it.  The appointments are relaxing.  After the needles are put into place, which don’t hurt at all, you just relax for a while.  At my practitioner’s officer, electricity is hooked up to gently relax knots and tight muscles.  The room is quiet and I can close my eyes for a few moments.

Continue reading

Jul 06

Without Hope

A close friend of mine has an ETL teen in great need. They’ve lost their health insurance because their family business is struggling in this economy and, the teen is without medication and counseling. Now, his behavior is plummeting into not only causing family havoc but also other areas of the community.

Even when he was receiving medication and counseling, he struggled at home and his mother was frequently called to come and get him at school because his behavior was out of control making the his current school placement come into question. If this is the right placement for this child, why isn’t he having success?

Behavior and emotional disruptions occurred to the point the mother was unable to fulfill her responsibilities at the family business causing more family turmoil. This put additional stress on the father as he attempts to fulfill the daily needs of the business on his own. His own health needs are cast aside. Worrying about it isn’t even reasonable as there is no help available – even though he has a pace maker which now will go unmonitored.

The mother is on the phone with counselors, teachers and other professionals constantly along with taking the teen to various appointments and trying to set up supervision to monitor the teen. The other family members feel they’re held hostage in their own home never knowing when an outburst will occur.

The family’s friends make less and less social calls to them feeling uncomfortable about the uncertainty and the level of stress in the home. Bills pile up as legal issues roll in that parents are still responsible for as their teen gets into more and more trouble. At one point, they even try to use the legal system to at least set limits and put some type of structure into the situation knowing the behavior can’t be allowed even though the teen’s needs aren’t being met, but because the teen is a minor – they’re then told they’re responsible for legal fees. More stress and more bills.

The ETL teen feels angry, isolated and lost. The family feels the same. The family reaches out to try to get services to treat the child but is then audited. How could their business lose so much money in one year? If the audit is not found in their favor, they won’t receive any health care and service organizations will not see the teen without coverage.

The teen talks of suicide. Sits on the roof overlooking a farmer’s field. The mother watches helplessly caught in the midst of chaos of the system, her teen and the rest of the family. She tells the counselors what is going on. She tells her teen she loves him, but his behavior is unacceptable. She tries to spend time with her other kids and manage the house. Inside during a quiet moment, she too wonders if she fell asleep and didn’t wake up if there’d finally be some peace. She knows that’s not the way. Where can she go? What can she do? Sometimes, it feels there is no help at all for certain children and families and the more you try to get help, the more you get buried. Hopeless. Lost.

I wrote previously about my own experience with this situation. I feel for this family, and would never want to go through that again. It was many years ago that I struggled with health insurance and getting services. What a sad reality that for many nothing has improved.

Jun 09

Quest To Reduce Stress

As summer approaches, flowers in the garden begin to bloom.  Many of the perennials have matured looking full and green – buds ready to pop.  My anticipation for summer increases as I consider  the many things I’d like to do – a few of my friends might like me to drop off some Irises and Purple Coneflowers and have a glass of iced tea with them.  I rarely have the opportunity to visit with friends.  Most have stopped asking me to go shopping or hang out with them.  Truthfully, I feel uncomfortable stopping to take the time to do social things.  That feeling of I know there’s something I’m supposed to be doing hovers over me like a dark cloud making it hard for me to relax. 

And truthfully, there’s a lot of me that just enjoys working.  I find it hard to just “be”.  But I’d have to admit there’s some work I prefer to do more than others.  While my body doesn’t particularly enjoy it, especially my back, I like just being in the garden.  It’s a peaceful place.  The plants seem to like me, particularly when I water them.   The garden weaves soothing energy providing a mini respite.  Frustrations of the day get “worked” out as I pull weeds, add plants and move flowers.  And, flowers generally just make everything look better.

As a teen, there was an old flower bed next to the porch in the apartment where I grew up.  Weeds grew at all different lengths and the only flowers were dandelions.  I looked at the haphazard bed of weeds each day I climbed the steps to the porch.

One day I went to the nursery and bought several flats of petunias in pinks, purples and white.  I’m sure the money could have been better spent, but I’d just had enough of what I don’t think I knew.  I lugged a big bag of manure and dropped it by the bed.  Many of the neighbors who’d complained about the length of our lawn for years stood on their own porches watching. Handful by handful the weeds began to disappear.  I mixed shovels of manure into the soil, and planted the flowers.  The little rows of color stood neatly and tall.  When you change something that has looked so bad for so long and make it better, the difference can’t be ignored. 

The neighbors thought it was good.  But I knew it was.  Each day, I climbed the steps to the porch and stopped to look at the flowers.  The lawn was probably still too high, and the paint on the apartment house was still chipped, but the bed of flowers lived, so simple but such a difference.  

From then on my mom planted the flowers in the bed by the porch along with another old bed along the house.  People remarked how pretty they were, and asked her what she’d planted.

Many years have passed since that bed of petunias occupied their rows.  The landlord sold the apartment house many years ago, and my mom moved in with us.  She and I continue to plant flowers, and now, some vegetables too. 

The Irises, Black-Eyed Susans and Purple Cone flowers have spread and need to be thinned.   In my quest to relieve stress, I hope to slow some things down, get myself to focus more – maybe let myself learn to feel comfortable just “being”.  The garden moves and changes slowly with big results.  Maybe I don’t have to be moving constantly to accomplish the jobs I need to do. 

In my garden, there is a large place for sentiment.  My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.  My thoughts grow as freely as the flowers – and the dreams are as beautiful.  – Abram L. Urban

 

You must weed your mind as you would weed your garden. –Astrid Alauda