Surname Association

I was just upstairs with Matt as he was reading the paper and spotted someone with the surname Erickson. “You have relatives in Australia, sweets!” he told me, continuing with “It’s even spelled your way!”

This is rare – Erickson, as a surname, is probably not the most uncommon you will hear. However oftentime it’s spelled Ericcson, Ericsson or Erikson, deriving from – you guessed it – Eric/k’s Son in the good ol’ days.

I went on to tell Matt, though, that this isn’t actually my blood surname, even though I have some of the physical traits associated with Scandinavian surnames, such as Erickson. Because my paternal grandfather was adopted by his stepfather, we acquired the name Erickson. In actuality, the surname in our family is only a few generations old and not likely to continue past myself and my cousins since none of us are poppin’ out baby boys (unless, of course, my dad’s cousin’s daughters have kids that keep the Erickson name alive) and bucking the tradition of giving them their dad’s surname.

In fact, I should be a Meyers. My paternal grandfather was born Charles R Meyers, and my great-grandfather was Charles H Meyers. While I’m still digging into my ancestry online, what came to my mind when I was talking to Matt was this:

How much of my life has been inadvertently decided for me because of my last name? In grade school, we were often seated or organized alphabetically, so I got to know the Ds, Es, Fs and Gs around me (including the infamous R. Gladstone who drove me bonkers for many years; may he rest in peace). Did I befriend these people because they were close? Would I have had a completely different set of friends/acquaintances if my grandfather had never adopted his step-father’s name?

This may seem like a random subject, but it has made me think about how life could have turned out differently with an alternate name. Would my first name still be Joslyn – does it work as well with Meyers? Would I have the same middle name? Would I have gone through the world as a Chelsea or a Mackenzie or a Tina? Do names influence personalities, character traits, preferences? Would I have travelled? Would I still have felt a bond with Mika, Alaya, Raihana and others with similarly unique names?

Am I the person I am today because of my last name?

Such a big thought from a small comment.

Let me know what you think! Much love and many hugs,
Joslyn Mariah Erickson

 

White Ribbon Day and Domestic Violence

There has been a lot said about domestic violence recently and I feel the urge to add my two cents. The first is that domestic violence is not just physical; it is mental, emotional, sexual and physical, and can exist in every realm possible.

You can’t look at someone and recognize the abuse if it’s not physical. And you can’t assess someone who is out of such a relationship and ask them why they stayed, or how they stayed. It’s what they knew. It’s what they grew accustomed to. And, oftentimes, that person who was in the relationship is a far cry from the person you are asking. Time can heal and scar and disguise old wounds.

Just because a person stays with their abusive partner doesn’t mean they’re *only* afraid or *only* weak or any of the other simple descriptors others might apply to them. There is a lack of general understanding on how these people feel internally – oftentimes the abusive partner has worn them down to the point where they are utterly brainwashed.

They feel they have no friends, no one to turn to. It doesn’t matter if they’re intelligent and can recognize the detrimental space they’re in, and it doesn’t matter if their friends try and coerce them to leave. It doesn’t even matter if their friends stand in their face and shout “I’m here for you!” because until the victim is ready to, they will not leave an abusive relationship.

For all of you out there supporting someone in an abusive relationship, all I can say is: Do Not Give Up. There will be the day they are ready to leave, and they will need you. They need to know that their abuser isn’t right and that they aren’t worthless and that they do still have friends. It might be a week, a month, a year or a decade, but whenever that person is ready they will be terrified of taking a step. For a long time they have probably been convinced no one likes them anymore, so for you to come forward and offer your continued friendship is the biggest and best thing you can do.

Yes, programs are important. Domestic violence networks, toll free numbers, shelters and therapy groups are crucial. Education, respect, understanding and compassion are also crucial. But knowing you have at least one friend who will come and pick you up at 3am when you’ve had enough, hold your hand and feed you ice cream is the most important thing someone leaving an abusive relationship needs.

To those who helped me through those darkest moments, thank you for never giving up. And to my soulmate, who loves me even though my demons rear their ugly heads sometimes, you have given me the strength to put it all behind me and I love you siempre.

Friends are Family

It’s incredible to think how friendships form. I’m currently watching “Eat, Pray, Love” for the first time (I read the book years ago but this is the first time seeing the movie) and marvel how, in foreign places when you know no one and get lost doing the simplest things, a social group can develop and create the security and love you need – always when you least expect it.

In the movie, Liz meets her friend Sophie as she attempts to order a cappuccino in a busy café, and from there she is introduced to a language teacher and his friends and quickly becomes part of an existing group, even signalling her departure by cooking a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. All I can think of when I see this is my immersion into Cuzco, a place I never intended to stay long in. Funny how fate works though, isn’t it?

Nathan and I had been travelling when we met Ed; after all deciding to share a room in Cuzco upon arrival (with his friend Tommy, aka Boat Head), I promptly got extremely sick. This really threw off my plans, which were – of course – to visit Machu Picchu and explore the Sacred Valley. While the boys went off on their adventures, I stayed in the room feeling sorry for myself and pushing myself to walk the ½ block down the hill for tea and toast at the local café. Once I began to recover I dragged the boys with me for live music and cheap beers in the evenings, until, one day, they were all gone.

In grammatically correct Spanish, the kind that no one in Peru actually speaks, I got to know the local guy serving breakfasts at Km.0, Lalo, who introduced me to la mamá, a short, stout indigenous Peruvian woman who treated my ailments with local herbs and tinctures. One day while we were talking, Gladys came rushing in like a hurricane; she had locked herself out of her room while brushing her teeth so could she leave her toothbrush and toothpaste at the bar until the landlord let her back in but in the meantime she had to go to work? After a quick introduction, she was off.

Later that day I met her again, and through her I met Pepe. That night, during live music and drinks, the intros kept flowing: Dani, Miguel, José Manuel and Guillermina, Alberto (Hecht), Phuru… I can’t remember everyone who was there that night and who entered my world later (Fede, Fabricio, Walter, Luís, Barbie, Carlos, etc. etc. etc.), but in these few days my base of friends had been solidified. Joslyn, even in Spanish, proved too difficult for many to get their tongues around so I quickly became gringa, a derogatory-nickname-turned-term-of-endearment and one that stuck for my 2 years there.

The Latin people aren’t ones that take friendship lightly; once you’re friends, you’re family. There’s no sense of “we only just met”, it’s a sensation of jumping in feet first and letting the current determine your destiny. The very first day I met Gladys and Pepe we went for a walk up to Saqsaywaman and Zona X, and within weeks Gladys and I lived down the hall from each other; from there it was an easy step to rent our own place and shop for kitchen utensils, and she was my anchor during my time in Cuzco.

My family expanded to include Carlos and Eli, Vanessa and Bubi, Eloy, Nick, Doug, Colm and John and Bryan, Kris, Sebastian, Tessa, Mayte and Michel. People – locals – recognized me and began treating me like a local (except the Massage? Massage? ladies), offering me the local price on food instead of the turista cost for things and sincerely welcoming me into the fold. There were barbecues, more late nights than I can count, drag queen shows, van rides to the country to eat cuy, laughter and tears, concerts in the Plaza, poker nights, sunrises…just writing about it brings the memories flooding back.

But this isn’t about memories: it’s about people. It’s about surrounding yourself with people you love and those who love you wherever you are in the world, in your personal journey, in your life. It’s about finding family when you’re halfway across the world from the one you’ve grown up with, and it’s about letting them know how important they are to you.

I certainly never expected to find a family outside of Matt and Samara here in Australia, but after 5 years it’s starting to happen. Drinking wine in the park last night with Thais and Coralie reminded me that there are people who are still willing to open themselves up to new friends and to create new family. I can’t thank them enough, just like I can never express my love and appreciation to all my non-blood-related family in my life: I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without your love, support and encouragement. So…. Thanks!

Much love and many hugs,
Joslyn

A Decade Passed

Ten years ago my grandmother passed away. She was an amazing woman who I got to know very well; my dad and I lived with her for over 12 years and she was – and still is – an important part of my life: she had an immeasurable impact on who I am today. She could be strict, she was always witty and she was terrible at hiding chocolate, and I miss her every day. I’ve been composing this post in my head for days, and I can’t remember any of it now; all I can think of now are memories and instances where her full personality shone through.

One night, when I was probably 9 or 10 years old, my dad was out – a cartoonist meeting perhaps, or a date? – and I stayed home with my grandma. Her “adopted” granddaughter, my best friend Mika, was sleeping over that night, and the three of us sat on the floor of the living room (I know it was before the remodel because I can clearly see and feel that ugly brownish-gold carpet) eating pizza and Oreos, drinking Pepsi and playing a board game. We laughed so hard that night, and though we may have tried to recreate the energy it was a magical night that was never repeated.

She picked up the phone at 2am when I was drunkenly calling home from a party during my senior year; I can only imagine she was furious. Pre-cellphones, we had an upstairs phone and a downstairs phone, and the upstairs phone sat on a wooden side-table between dad’s and grandma’s rooms – I think she beat him to the draw those wee hours and I could hear the desire in her voice to reach down the receiver and throttle me. Needless to say, I got a ride home from dad.

Always welcoming, my grandma would help anyone and gave everyone a chance. When I met Jesika and brought her to meet my family, she was unlike any friend I’d had before. And my grandma didn’t bat an eyelid; she would take you in as part of the family no matter if you were green, orange, had three eyes or two heads – as long as you were a good person with a decent heart she would show you warmth and affection. I don’t think I had a single friend that felt uncomfortable or unwelcome with my grandma, which is one of the reasons that losing her was hard for many.

Devilled eggs were one of her specialties; I spent hours at the kitchen counter helping her peel boiled eggs and smooshing the yolks up with mayo and mustard to then scoop into the copper piping tool and squeeze stars into the middle of hard-boiled egg whites. I can still feel her when I make devilled eggs, like she’s keeping an eye on me. The first time I made them after she left us I put the eggs on to boil and promptly forgot about them; I remember clearly feeling a supernatural shove that reminded me to check on them. I have never made more perfect hard boiled eggs.

My duty was smashing bananas during banana bread creation; perfectly laying out tator tots to top her infamous casserole; getting out of the kitchen as she swore while making pie crusts – “I don’t know why the saying is ‘easy as pie!’”, she’d yell out, “Pie crusts should be easy to make but they never work for me! Never!”; and most significant were the hundreds of Hersey Kisses I unwrapped over the years. The tattoo of a Hershey Kiss on my ankle is to represent this; while my grandmother was, among other things, a devoted chocoholic, the kiss means more than that. To me it’s an everlasting reminder of our time together in the kitchen, baking cookies for Christmas and my role in that tradition.

She called me a ragamuffin and sang me awake “Wake up sleepyhead; get up, get out of bed!”; she’d rail on me to wash my hair; she put my holey jeans in the trash when I was at school after I had already pulled them out once; she said silly things like “greasy grimy gopher guts”; she would make me laugh and I’m sure there were many times that I – unknowingly, unfairly and unapologetically – made her cry. Sorry for those moments, Grandma.

There are so many things I’m sad she’s missed out on in my life. She died the summer before I moved to Peru and there is so much I wish she could have been a part of. She didn’t get to hoot and holler during our second run of PGB; never got to hear of my adventures or see the splendid scenery of where I lived and travelled; sometimes I’m glad she missed some of the traumatic events that took place in those coming years, however I’m sure she would have knocked some sense into me if she’d been physically present, and I think she would have been the first to visit me in my new surroundings; she didn’t hear my exploits working as a Tour Leader in Central America and most importantly she hasn’t had the chance to meet Matt and Samara.

I remember finding her most current diary shortly after she died; curled up with Autumn and Jesika in the guest bed downstairs, eating pepperoni and pineapple pizza (and slightly drunk, I recall), I shared with them the final time she mentioned me: I had come over (dad and I were living in SE Portland at the time and I wasn’t around as often) to borrow an old, wooden-handled magnifying glass that was my great-grandmother’s. I stayed for a short while but remember being hurried so didn’t catch up as much as I should have (or, in hind sight, would have liked to), taking my leave with a hug and a “thank you”. She commented on this encounter by saying that I only made the time to see her when I wanted something. I’ve never felt so guilty in all my life as when I read that comment.

But deep down I know that my grandma knew how much I loved her and I know she loved me; I was young and didn’t appreciate that the time I had with her was precious, and she was stubborn and didn’t want to pester me so we could hang out more. I wish she had. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe what a caring woman she was, and there are never enough comparisons to draw regarding how much I miss her. I still feel her presence sometimes, and I like it when she visits me in dreams and seems happy, however in those moments I wake up and can’t believe there’s no way to see her again or give her a hug. Even as a logical person, there are still times where I cannot fathom that Matt will never get to meet her and experience her laughter, or that Samara will never meet this wonderful woman who had such a massive influence on me.

In the ten years since we lost the matriarch of our family, a lot has changed. We’ve all loved, we’ve all lost, we’ve travelled and we’ve come back home. But in those ten years since we lost you, Grandma, we’ve never stopped missing you.

PS “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” wasn’t as good as the original; you didn’t miss much.

PPS Where’s your car key?

Travel Whims and Wishes

There have been a few posts on FB recently reflecting opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to travel. One was along the lines of “Quit Asking Me How I Afford To Travel” and the other was “Why Giving Up Everything To Travel Is The Worst Advice Ever” – something like that. I skimmed both of these “newsworthy” pieces in hopes of finding something that spoke to me, but neither did.

The truth is, I think life can be all about travel if that’s what you want. And affording it is the same way many people don’t have healthcare but spend $4-10 on their daily coffee. It’s all choice, sacrifice and savings.

Matt and I are fortunate that we can travel, but we have made many decisions along the way to grant us this luxury. After 14 years working in the same industry, he decided to resign. I fully support this decision because he was unhappy and burnt out; taking time off work has allowed him to reconnect with both myself and Samara, as well as making him a generally happier person. Because of his hard work over a long period of time, he has been able to live off his holiday payout (because we get 4 weeks paid vacation every year here in Australia) as well as something called “long service leave” (you work 10+ years and you accrue extra holiday time; we used 10 weeks of it in the Caribbean last year but it’s prorated so he got another few weeks from his additional 4 years). This means that even though I’m hardly the major bread winner of the household, we are living like we normally do without sacrificing our trivia nights or a 6 pack of beer.

He has also been forgiving and supportive of me this past year while I’ve tried to figure out what it is I want to do. I have been back at Ignite for over a year again, albeit in a wide range of roles, and I’m uncertain of my future come October. I earn enough to scrape by, but understand that I need to carry more of my own weight in the future. (Having said that, I did win $7K in a game show, which has helped!)

Perhaps spending a few thousand dollars to hike around an unknown land may seem frivolous to some, but let’s not forget that we have no mortgage tying us down. We aren’t knee deep in bathroom renovations or a new kitchen; we can go away and know our property will be maintained by the building managers. We have traded one of life’s big commodities to pursue something essential to us both: travel. We met travelling; we feel free when we’re on the road together, exploring and discovering; we want to make those memories that last a lifetime. Others may deem it selfish: we have a beautiful daughter and dog who we are leaving behind to pursue our own destinies, while others praise the decision with the common catchphrase “you only live once”. We struggle with the decision to be away, but feel that not only are we better people and parents for it, it teaches Samara the importance of multi-culturalism and not being afraid to break out of one’s comfort zone.

And sadly it does have to do with life being too short. Every news program highlights a story of cancer striking down a healthy young man or woman or an unnecessary homicide due to domestic abuse. There are attacks around the world on foreigners and locals alike, and too often I am reminded of those from my past who are only around in spirit, gone because of a freak windstorm, a blind curve or icy roads. No one knows why or when or how.

So it comes down to choice. If your priorities are buying a new car and a house, I am not saying there is anything wrong with that, because we might be 80 and struggling to pay rent, kicking ourselves for not buying when the time was ripe. But our choice is to go and do. If something happens to us, we aren’t burdening our friends or relatives with debts or settlements or hassle; the biggest pain will be sifting through all of our digital photos for the party at the end.

Take the advice that speaks to you. Make your choices based on your heart (and your wallet), but most importantly: have fun doing it.

Much love and many hugs,
Joslyn

Are ya ‘chidna me?

I have so much to do. I’m like a child screaming they’re bored but they refuse to do anything useful or helpful. I want to curl up and read or go for a bike ride or be on the road, travelling with Matt. I want to be anywhere but stuck inside writing about gorgeous tropical destinations that I have never visited. Alas, that’s what I (currently) get paid to do.

In order to waste some time and clear my mind, there are a few things I’ve noticed lately:

1. Food is now allowed in theatres. I’m talking cheese and fruit platter in a live performance of Les Mis. As if cell phones, candy wrappers and irritating people aren’t enough, let’s add munching on some crackers and stinky cheese in the mix – awesome.

2. While we’re discussing the theatre, did you know it’s now acceptable (apparently) to come dressed in your workout gear? Gone are the days of making an effort and getting dressed up; thongs and running shorts? Come on in! If my grandmother had been buried, she’d have been tossing and turning in her grave.

3. People are idiots. They walk while looking down at their cellphones. They drive and try and text, even though there’s a passenger in the seat next to them. They stop at roundabouts when they clearly only need to yield. They drive 10km under the speed limit. In the fast lane. They buy plastic bottles filled with water to drink at home. They don’t recycle. Generally the human race – with a few exceptions – really irritates the crap out of me.

4. Kids don’t listen. I know parents out there are all yelling “DUH!” but seriously. Why do I have to tell her EVERY DAY – twice daily! – to put away her cup/plate/table/shoes/backpack? Why does she ask if she can have toast for breakfast after we just had a conversation of how we have no bread? And when she can’t have toast, she asks for a peanut butter sandwich. Why do we have to keep buying her shoelaces because she refuses to untie her shoes before removing them and therefore the laces keep breaking? WHY!?!?!?

5. Kids are monsters. Especially after a sleepover.

6. Life is better with fully functioning taste and smell senses. I’ve been congested for essentially an entire year before finally going to the doctor. Awaiting the results of my allergy tests but in the meantime I got some nasal spray and I can breathe again. It’s a miracle!

7. Nasal. What a terrible word.

8. Why hasn’t anyone decided it’s a good idea to pay Matt and I to travel and talk about beer? Seriously, who wouldn’t want to watch that TV show?

9. My dog’s the cutest. I know you think yours is, but you’re wrong: mine wins.

10. Why do bike tires seem to deflate faster when you haven’t ridden? I feel like I used to ride all the time and almost never have to pump up my bike tires; now it sits in the garage and they go flat in two weeks. Is there a scientific explanation of why this happens? It’s a pain, because then when I do get the inspiration to ride I’m halted in my tracks because that requires finding a place to pump up my bike. Which means I have to walk my bike somewhere. Which defeats the purpose of wanting to go on a bike ride if I have to walk half of it in the first place. And why doesn’t my hand pump actually work?

I’m still mentally blocked – maybe I’ll go make a coffee.

Have a fantastically successful and inspirational day!

Much love and many hugs,
J

Blogging goals

One of my 2015 goals is to create a space for myself to encourage writing. Inspired by Julie (who is inspiring in so many ways!), I realized it’s time to get my laptop off the dining room table and surround myself with fewer distractions. Sitting downstairs means there is TV, direct access to the kitchen (and coffee!) and domestic duties that seem to call my name when I’m meant to be focused on other, more important, things.

Having moved into an established family home when I came to Australia, it was the first time in my life I didn’t have “my room”. Even when I was working as a TL I had my few tokens that traveled with me everywhere, like the pocket-sized Buddha that was gifted to me prior to my first semester studying abroad. Yes, I have my bedside table with a few trinkets, but the walls are no longer decorated with random quotes and postcards but portraits and Samara drawings. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love. But it’s time I get a bit of my own, inspirational space back.

The plan forming in my mind is to rearrange our guest room, perhaps convincing Matt to sell the bed and invest in a good quality air mattress or futon (we have guests stay with us maybe 7 nights of the year) and set up a “Corner of Joslyn”. This will include cork boards on which I can hang pictures, post cards, quotes, ideas, suggestions, Venetian masks and the like, and I will also get myself a writing desk and comfy chair.

This morning I went to check out a vintage writing desk and the woman selling it was awesome. She is a blogger, vintage furniture maker and etsy seller. Speaking with her inspired me to take the time to write again. It might not be every day or even every week, but I truly feel that if I can dedicate space to myself I can also dedicate time to nurture and expand on my writing. I have a lot of goals for 2015 and feel like it’s going to be a strong, powerful year for me.

It all has to start somewhere.

Much love and many hugs,
Joslyn