Thursday, September 30, 2010

Surgery and court date tomorrow

I should know more about criminal legal proceedings since I plan to study law, but I admit to ignorance, especially where family/juvenile court is involved. All I know is I have to be there and the bad people will be there as well.

Then I'm hurrying off to the hospital to be hooked up to an IV and knocked out so that my hideous surgical scar can be made to look at bit less ghastly and so that an adjustment to a bone graft can be made.

I'm not totally sure which event scares me more at this point. I don't plan on sleeping terribly well tonight. I hope the night's TV reruns are sufficient to hold me attention. I hope the judge doesn't become over;y enraged and find me in contempt if IU fall asleep in court tomorrow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

School Career in Limbo

I'm not at all certain what I plan to do with the rest of the year. Anyone who read my most recent post is aware that a major problem came up. I left some fairly major aspects of the situation out just because I didn't feel I could share them. I still cannot, and probably never will be able to.

I now have to decide whether to go back to school, to go to another school, or to homeschool, which would be sort of a joke since I've already been accepted at every college for which I've applied on the basis of my performance up to this point, since I've already completed grad requirements including those recommended for UC and Stanford admittance. If I wanted to do the home study route with serious courses, my parents are qualified to provide the instruction, but I'm not sure what would be the point. If I went to another school, it would be a private school, since my migh school is the only decent public high school within many miles of here. The only private schools with anything resembling respectable reputations are Catholic schools. I thought I was through with the Catholic school experience, but one never knows for certain what the future holds.

Even though my parents are leaving the options to me, I don't think one of the options consists of sleeping until 11:00 a.m. each day, then watching TV for the remainder of the day. And actually, though it sounds appealing at the moment, I suspect it would get old before long. I have the option of transferring to the UC of my choice after Christmas break, but the admissions/guidance gurus there aren't crazy about it. They say that they're prepared to offer supervision to minors in the dorms, but that I probably need more support than they can provide after the incident that just happened. The university of my choice recommended another possibility that we're considering, but I'm not too happy about it. I may at least look at the place, but chances are I'm not going to go for it.

My surgery may have to be put on hold because of legal proceedings as a result of what happened. My lawyer is fighting it heavily, but I won't know how things will come out until after court tomorrow. I'm not going to court tomorrow for the arraignment just because the prosecution wants to make the point that the case against the criminals is so strong that it could be won easily without any appearance or testimony from me. When it goes to trial -- if it goes to trial -- I will be there, though.

I think my decision as to what to do regarding the rest of the year hinges largely on one of the studpidest things on which it could be based, which is my sports participation. If I can neither dive nor hurdle, I'm not sure what's the point of sticking around my school for the rest of the year.

There is the pesky matter of the prom. Some of my acquaintances know that my prom date was broken rather unceremoniously last spring; I probably wouldn't have wanted to go anyway, as I would have been relegated to a wheelchair and would have been very uncomfortable besides, but having the decision taken from my hands was painful. If I stay at this school, the possibility of attending a prom still exists. Still, I'm not even sure anyone will invite me, and it's not one of those girl-invites-boy things around here. No law keeps such from being the case, of course, but I don't really feel like pioneering some kind of a new tradition.

In the past, it's been an absolute requirement of my brother and me that we keep incredibly low profiles as far as the offices at our school are concerned. If we had been referred for something that hadn't even been our fault, even if we'd been exonerated, the very fact that we had been referred would have been sufficient reason for my parents to suspend most if not all of our civil rights. My mother is an assistant superintendent in our diatrict, and she has always expected us not only to remain out of trouble, but so far away from it that we could not be connected by the weakest possible link to anything that went wrong on any campus we attended. I was afraid initially of her and my father's response to this situation.

I was wrong to be apprehensive. My parents have been more supportive than I ever dreamed they would have been. Even though we're not litigous people by nature (doctors are sued so often that they have both a mistrust of the legal sytem and a general disinclination to sue anyone when they themselves so abhor being on the receving end of a lawsuit).

My parents blame the school in part for what happened to me because my mother had said that she needed to see that I got safely home before she headed off to what the superintendent said was a meeting that absolutely required her attendance for its entirety. The principal was charged with getting me home safely. When I was dismisssed to visit the bathroom, the plagiarist, who played an undisclosed role in my attack, was also dismissed, and no one watched to ensure that he did not follow me. Furthermore, no one investigated when neither of us returned after a resonable interval. Beyond that, my mother said that it was ludicrous to involve me in an accusation of plagiarism when I had turned the paper in more than a year earlier than the person who stole it turned it in, and it was even crazier to take seriously the idea that anyone with his writing skills could possibly have authored the composition.

My parents are insisting that the school district provide for my best interests, whether that involves their paying my tuition at a Catholic school if I don't feel safe at my present school, or even that they assign a security person to ensure my safety. The ditrict superintendent made what was probably a big mistake in suggesting that my mother's employment is at the will of the school board, and if she makes any extreme demands on my behalf, my mother may soon find herself unemployed. The superintendent had temporarily forgotten that he was speaking in the presence of lawyers and other witnesses when he said this. Even though what he said is true -- my mother serves at the will of the school board and, as such, has no real job security and can be terminated at any time -- suggesting that she would be fired in retaliation was probably the greatest job security with which anyone could ever have provided her. She'd practically have to physically harm a kid or embezzle from the district before she could be fired now.

My parents say they aren't looking for any huge compensation on my behalf (damn it!), but they say that anything I legitimately need as a result of this incident must be provided by the district. (I wish I could share more, but it falls under te category of "too much information" where both I and my readers are concerned.) Truat me. There are some things you just don't want to know.

So depending upon whether or not the judge says I must be in court on Friday, I may or may not be having surgery that day. The worst thing would be if surgery were to be scheduled for the afternoon. I wouldn't be allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight. I'd be nervous. I would be dehydrated, and I'd be hungry to the point of being nauseous. Extreme hunger does that to me. So I'd be sitting in the courtroom in the morning vomiting up what little I had in the amount of gastric juices into a plastic bag or trash can. While I might receive some sympathy from the judge, my attackers and their families would be having a field day with it. They'd probably be photographing me with their cell phones and posting images of me barfing onto Youtube. It's not a thought I relish.

I want this whole thing to go away. I want to wake up and find that I never had a hurdling accident and I never even had a prom date, much less one who broke it off with me by announcing it to a caferteria of students instead of telling me. I want my time spent in my aunt and uncle's attic just to have been a bad dream. I want my composition not to have been stolen, and I want no one to have followed me into a school restroom to retaliate against me for claiming the work of my composition was originally my own. I want to be able to sleep at night without the fear of another brick being propelled though my bedroom window. I don't want anymore threatening messages from payphones to be left on my parents' answering machine. I want to go back to the days when my biggest problem was whether or not my dad would force me to have the H1N1 vaccine.

Is this really asking so much?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"High School" Crisis- Pseudo Aunt Jillian don't read because you hate hearing about high school

This mornng I was called into the principal's office immediately after the opening announcements were read. Also arriving at the same time was a boy with whom I am marginally acquainted at best. He's a defensive back on our school's football team and does not take honors classes as far as I know. He was a shot-putter on the track team on which I was a hurdler, but the runners often have little contact with those participating in filed events at practice and at meets. I'm fairly certain we've never actually been in the same section of a course. I was curious as to why I had been summoned to the office, but the idea that my business there had anything to do with his didn't even cross my mind.

When the principal's secretary returned my greeting with, "Sit down and shut up," I began to suspect that trouble was headed my way. This is unusual for me. When I was a freshman, there was the unfortunate incident involving the Internet, the potential child predator, and the FBI. It really didn't have anything to do with the school, as no contact was made during school time or using school computer equipment. I was contacted by the FBI at the school because my parents both work, and the only way the feds could contact all of us during the day (God forbid that they should have to work one minute past 5:00 p.m.) was to have me called into the school office and to have my parents contacted during the day at work and summoned to the school. I had one other incident involving a teacher complaining to my parents that I refused to volunteer to answer questions in class, but this was handled by the teacher contacting my parents. The office was in no way involved, and no record of the incident exists in my file. (There are advantages, though few, and though far outweighed by the disadvantages, to having one's parent be a high-ranking official in the school district one attends.)

If the truth were to be known, I played a prime role in two incidents of mischief that, were my school administration to be aware, they would possibly seek retribution even though no laws were broken and no real harm was done, and despite the fact that under any non-Draconian system, the statute of limitations would have long since expired. When I turn eighteen, am in college, and have been granted whatever scholarships, high school diplomas, or honors I'm ever going to receive from this antiquated institution in which I'm presently enrolled, I may choose to divulge the details of my two past indiscretions. Until then, however, it would require stupidity beyond which I am capable to give out any details even in a forum as anonymous as this one.

Despite the uncivil greeting from the secretary being an indication that something unfavorable to me was in the works, I doubted that it was in any way connected to my indiscretions from previous years. I still had no real clue that the boy seated across from me was in any way connected to the issue, although his disinclination to make eye contact with me should have been an indication.

The two of us sat in the uncomfortable plastic chairs for well over an hour with the secretary, who was busy typing and occasionally answering the phone, although she paused from her duties to glare at each of us from time to time. I was at the time unaware of the circumstances surrounding our total waste of time sitting in the hard plastic chairs accomplishing absolutely nothing. The reason, I later learned, was that parents were to be involved in the discussion of this situation. As my mother would be considered a direct supervisor of the site administrators handling the matter, it would be a conflict of interest for her to be there acting as my parent. My father was and still is in Los Angeles. My mother refused to ask him to fly back to our city to act as my parent in this situation.

When I first learned of the nature of the situation and of my mother's refusal to involve my father, I thought it was the typical "He's not coming back here because Alexis isn't worthy of our time" sort of response that has been given on my behalf before, which greatly angered me. It was only later that I understood that the matter was so inane that my mother refused either to incur the expenditure of plane fare or to interrupt my father's work for a situation that should never have involved me in the first place, except perhaps as the recipient of an apology.

The next choice was to have the matter handled by the district superintendent instead of the site principal. My mother was in favor of this option, as it would not involve interrupting the daily routines of any of our relatives to act on behalf of me. Furthermore, she said, even if the principal were dealing with a relative of mine instead of with her, a conflict of interest could be perceived because I am still her daughter, which could result in either ill will on her part if she disagreed with the way the situation was handled or could result in reverse discrimination by the principal bending over too far backward to be fair to the student whose parent was not his job superior. Both the principal and the father of the other student disagreed with this solution. The principal's primary motive for disagreeing was presumably that he didn't want the superintendent interfering in what he considered to be his domain. It was tentatively decided that the principal would adjudicate the matter with my Aunt Heather acting as my advocate. Then the district superintendent attempted to contact my mother in her office and was unable to reach her. He demanded to know where she was and what was happening, and then appointed himself as the official in charge of the matter.


The whole incident, as I didn't learn until after hours of sitting in the principal's outer office under the watchful eye of the Rottweiler-turned-secretary, centered on a paper I had authored in my sophomore year of high school for my required U. S. History course, for which I took the Advanced Placement option in order to earn college credits. The title of the paper was, "The Cold War, McCarthyism, and Accusations of Communism Inflitration." As my compositions go, it was somewhat unremarkable. It was technically and factually sound, and met the requirements for an Advanced Placement-calibre paper, but wasn't one of my more creative efforts. Considering the topic, it probably shouldn't have been one of my more creative efforts, anyway.

The intructor for my course had a policy of photocopying all "A" papers, filing them by topic, and keeping them for at least ten years so that in the event that a paper seemed familiar as he was grading it, he could consult his file to see if the paper had been recycled from a previous author and submission. The file cabinet in which the papers were kept was usually locked, but there were occasions in which it wasn't secured. The student seated across from me in the office had been my U. S. history's teacher's assistant for a Freshman Studies course the next year. At some point the file cabinet containing "A" papers was apparently unsecured and unsupervised for just long enough for him to go through the cabinet and purloin my paper.

The moron was so lazy that he didn't even bother re-typing the paper in its entirety. He merely retyped the title page, then whited out and retyped the header on each page, ignoring the differences in formats required. Because I wrote the paper for a social science cource, the APA format was used. English courses almost exclusively require MLA formatted papers. The essence of this was lost on my peer.

The plagiarism would have gone undetected except that my plagiarist's English teacher was so incredibly inmpressed by her student's work, as it was far beyond anything he had ever done, that she submitted it for a liberal arts honor. The committee charged with deciding upon the winner of this honor happened to consist of both the English teacher who submitted the student's paper and my U. S. History teacher, who had originally received the paper. My teacher recognized it immediately. The English teacher disagreed vehemently and accused me of being the plagiarist even though I had turned the paper in a year before the actual plagiarist had submitted it. The English teacher, who offers proof positive that not all English teachers are of even average intellect, offered ss evidence the plagiarist's originally submitted paper, with the title page and headings not even in the same font as the body of the paper, then showed how she had helped him to retype into the correct format.

The argument soon made its way into the principal's office, where it immediately became a disciplinary matter. The principal was unimpresed by either the lack of match in font of the title page and page headers to the body of the paper to the overall lack of pertinence of the topic of McCarthyism and communism to American literature. Parents, too, were involved in the dispute. The plagiarist's father, a prominent local banker, argued that even if his son had plagiarized the paper from me, I, too, must have plagiarized it from some other source, as the paper could not have been authored by a high school student. My mom pointed out that my SAT writing score had been a perfect 800. The banker didn't understand that. His son hadn't taken the SAT, and the writing portion did not yet exist in the olden days when he himself took the test. Thank God the superintendent took over.

The U. S. History teacher left to consult his file, but found my paper missing, even though it was indexed. He came to the outer office to ask if I still had a copy. I keep all of my papers. I told my mother exactly where she could find it in my room. She was back twenty minutes later with the original paper, complete with title page and date, which matched the index maintained by my hitory teacher. The text and font matched the plagiarist's original document before his teacher retyped it (which was, incidentally, against the rules for papers submitted for the particular honor). Furthermore, the topic was well-matched to my assigned topic of mid 1900's politics, as opposed to the plagiarist's topic of late 1800's American literature.

The plagiarist's father was still unconvinced. The superintendent told him that it didn't really require his assent to decide in my favor, but, just to prove the point, each of us would be called into the inner office to answer questions about the composition's content. Following that, we would each be assigned a five-paragraph essay on a given topic, which would need to be completed in the inner office in the presence of parents and administrators, after which the essays would be analyzed for writing style. The superintendent even conceded that the topic would be one about which the plagiarist had presumably more background information than I.

I answered each question asked, in each case elaborating beyond what was expected. The plagiarist apparently had no answer for most of the questions. The original plan for the essays was that they would be written by hand, but the plagiarist's father complained that his son had problems with spelling and would be at a disadvantage if computer use were not allowed. The agreement was that the use of spell-check and grammar-check would be permitted, but that no Internet usage would be allowed and that we would be closely monitored for such. We were given a seventy-five minute limit for our essays. The the topic was announced. The topic was "Advantages and Disavantages of the BCS System in Determining the NCAA Football Championship." I'm far from an expert on this topic, but I evidently have more knowledge of the system than does my plagiarist. I focused upon the lack of objectivity in determining who gets into the major bowl games in the first place, the disadvantage created by an early loss by an otherwise superior team, and the lack of a playoff system in determining who makes it into the actual bowl game that is determined to be the championship game. I conceded that the BCS system is arguably superior to the old poll system with sports writers and coaches determining the national champions (sometimes without consensus) but insisted that the current system needs major overhaul before it can be deemed acceptable. My plagiasrist didn't even complete asingle paragraph.

So I spend almost an entire day helping adults who should have known better to decide that I did not plagiarize a composition. Most of the day was wasted, although, since part of the day was spent writing, that portion could not be considered a total waste of time. The next half hour was devoted to an argument concerning whether my plagiarist and I would be required, or even allowed, to make up the work that ws missed. In an extremely rare show of support for me, my mother said that if the district wanted me to continue enrollment in the district, I would be given full credit for any daily assignments missed in the day's classes. Any portions of the classes that were devoted to projects, she said, should be my responsibility to make up. The plagiarist's father insited that his son be granted the same privilege. The superintendent told him that his son's privileges and consequences would be discussed in private shortly. At that point, the school day was over.

The head varsity football coach had heard of the situation and had made his way to the office, demanding to know what was happening. The superintendent dismissed him and told him he would be notified as soon as any decision that affected his team had been made.

This should have been the end of the whole matter, but it wasn't. I had been stuck in an office all day with no food or bathroom privileges. Although I was hungry, I was even more in need of a bathroom visit. I hurried as fast as my crutches would allow me to a bathroom just down the hall from the principal's office before heading home. I heard the outer bathroom door open as I was in the stall, but thought nothing of it. When I emerged from the stall to wash my hands, I saw two girls standing idly. Girls sometimes stand idly in bathrooms, so I still though little of it.
Then one of them said to me, "Just what the fu@& did you think you were doing?" I recognized her as the plagiarist's latest hook-up.

"Using the bathroom," I answered.

She slapped my face with sufficient force that I fell against the wall. Fortunately I was using the sink located against the far wall, so I fell against the wall instead of onto the floor.

The other girl said, "That's not what she meant, and you know it,
b!t@&."

I still have my baby cell phone. It dials my home, my parents' cell phones, my mom's work numbers, my Uncle Steve's and Aunt Heather's phones and home, and 911. A quick mental assessment told me that 911 would be my best bet, especially since it's the top button on the phone. The phone was in the pocket of my jacket, which I had been wearing all day because the principal's thermostat was set at about 65. I talked loudly, hoping that the 911 operator could get information about my whereabouts from my conversation. I didn't know it, but my phone also has a GPS-like device on it, so the 911 operator was able to locate me. I decided that the best thing was to keep the girls talking as much as possible. I lied to them about how I had tried to take the blame but that the superintendent wasn't buying it. It told them that I deliberately blew my essay, but that the plagiarist had blown it worse. When it became plain that they weren't buying any of my lines, I tried pleading to their senses of dignity, asking them if they really felt right about two relatively tall and normal-sized girls double-teaming someone who weighs 77. (I still haven't gained back all the weight since I was hurt and sick.) Eventually the talking ceased to stop them; one of them pushed me to the floor, the other one crawled on top of me and put her hands around my neck.

At that point, a security officer came in and the girls ran out, but were stopped by a teacher and an administrator. Law enforcement officials arrived a few minutes later. The perps were carted off, presumably to juvey, although I don't know if either one is eighteen or not.

The fall didn't hurt me. I have a slight red mark on my neck, but it will go away. My mom says that she and dad will push for expulsion and will press charges.

The public school system in California is truly exemplary. That's the reason, I assume, that our governor's children attend private schools.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Surgery That Didn't Happen Yet

I think it's reached the point that I have little to lose by telling what happened in relation to my surgery. Furthermore, I don't think even my parents or friends are reading my blog anymore. It's more of a personal journal in which I'm slightly risking exposure when I write anything too personal, but the likelihood of such happening is somewhere between slim and nonexistent.

Before my cast came off, I was forewarned that the skin on my leg would not be a thing of beauty. The doctors were not exaggerating. Lesions from a semi-serious infection left pitted scars all over my right leg, from the foot to the upper thigh. These, I was told, would fade over time with proper care, meaning avoidance of sun and liberal use of Mederma or a similar scar-fading cream. The worst parts, however, were the surgical scars. In past years, surgical scars generally resembled railroad tracks all over the affected body part. Since then, techniques have improved to the degree that one is not necessarily doomed to have an operated-upon body part look like the intersection of the Pennsylvaina, Shortline, B & O, and Reading Railroad lines. If a serious infection happens to occur inside an incision line, however, all bets are off in terms of the appearance of the incision or incisions. I screamed when I first looked at the incision as soon as the cast was removed, and I am decidedly not a person who views herself as a potential beauty pageant contestant. It really looked that bad.

As soon as the initial shock of the appearance of my affected leg wore off, the doctors mentioned that surgery was a possibility down the road. The time frame discussed was between six month and a year. Later, the date was moved up to as early as late fall so that if the healing of the bones went suitably well I would able to complete in spring sports without my season being interrupted by surgery. That was the last I heard about it.

Then on Wednesday I needed to print a couple of project proposals. I have asked on numerous occasions for permission to use my own funds to purchase my own printer so that I would not be dependent upon the use of my parents' printer. The answer has always been no. My parents have always told me that I have carte blanche to use their printer ay any time I desire to use it without the necessity of asking their permission beforehand. I was doing just that - using my parents' printer to print my assignment -- when I removed a document that had been left in the output section of the printer so that it would not be mixed up with my own pages. My intention was not to snoop, but I happened to notice my name on the top page of the document, so I read it.

What I found in my parent's printer and read was a surgical consent form for me, complete with a list of all possible side effects of the surgical procedure and of the general anaesthesia that would be necessary in order for the procedure to be performed. Then I noticed the date that the surgery was to take place: Friday, September 17. My surgery was scheduled in two days, and no one had thought it appropriate to call it to my attention. I had several thoughts as to how best to handle this oversight on the part of my parents. I considered shredding the consent form and deleting the email with the attached file that contained the surgical consent form, which would in effect thwart my parents' ability to sign the forms and return them according to the required timeline. I also considered confronting my parents and refusing to go along with the surgery as planned. After thinking for a few moments, I came up with a more cerebral plan.

I left the surgical consent forms exactly where I had found them. I went into my room and into the bathroom that is entered from inside my room. I turned on the shower, locked the door while it was open, then closed the door. The lock is so flimsy that it can be unlocked with a paper clip, but my parents don't know this because they've never tried it. I climbed out my upstairs window to a tree, then scaled it to the ground. I jogged*** three blocks to Walgreen's, picked up a bottle of aspirin, and purchased it. I jogged*** back home, scaled the tree back into my room, picked the lock to the bathroom, shut the shower off, and put on my pajamas. I took two aspirin before I went to bed, then took one more when I woke up a t 4:00 a.m. The next day I took three aspirin tablets, spaced out fairly evenly. Aspirin can be a bit hard on one's stomach and intestinal lining, and it was on mine, but I considered it a small price to pay.

On Thursday night, just before I went to bed, my father mentioned to me that I would need to refrain from eating or drinking anything after midnight because I was scheduled for surgery the next day. To avoid giving away that I was already aware of the surgery, I acted mildly miffed that I hadn't been informed earlier. In the course of the mock argument, it was disclosed that it wouldn't be merely a skin-deep procedure, as I had previously been told, but that a bone adjustment would be done while the leg was open. Again, I acted just upset enough to avoid tipping my parents off. My mother made it clear that she had been totally opposed to keeping me in the dark as far as the planned surgery went. Since there are no guns in our home, I don't exactly understand how my father forced her not to tell, me, but, at the same time, I appreciated the idea that she felt that I was old enough to handle the idea of upcoming surgery more than nine hours in advance, even though there was nothing concrete preventing her from apprising me of the situation. Still, since she is the one who is married to my father and will presumably have to live with him long after I have moved on to greener pastures, I will cut her some slack.

I went to bed at about 11:00, but had difficulty sleeping. Since I was awake anyway, I took another aspirin at 3:00 a.m. just for good measure. At 5:30, my father came in and "woke me up" (I had not been asleep, but pretended to have been) to tell me that we would need to leave for the hospital in forty-five minutes. I showered, dressed, and stood around watching while my parents ate breakfast in front of me, which, rude as it was, didn't bother me all that much, as I knew I'd be eating soon enough, anyway.

We made the ten-minute trip to the hospital essentially in silence. My father made a few attempts at small talk, which were met by silence from both me and my mother. We went through the usual redundant check-in procedure. Neither my birthdate nor my social security number had changed since I was last treated there three weeks ago, but the data still needed to be re-entered mutiple times.

Eventually I reached the pre-operative station. The nurse was surprised at how quickly my blood flowed when she inserted the IV and took the required samples before switching over to the drip. Then came the exciting part. The nurse prepping me started to ask about what medications I had taken recently. When she realized that, despite my twelve-year-old appearance, I am actually over sixteen, she asked if I would be more comfortable answering questions without my parents present. I chose to take her up on the offer. This caught the nurse somewhat by surprise, as the answers kids don't want their parents to hear typically pertain to oral contraceptives or illicit drug use. I was obviously not a candidate for oral contraceptives, and it seemed unlikely that I was using methamphetamines or any like substances on the side, but rules are rules, and adolescents (which I'm technically not even though I'm of the age) have to be given the pewrogative to answer questions out of earshot of their parents. My father started to protest, but my mother steered him down the hall and through the door to the waiting area.

This is the point at which I explaained to the preoperative nurse that I had been suffering from unexplained headaches and had been taking aspirin to fight the headaches. The nurse turned pale. She asked if my parents knew about this. I told her no. She asked if I understood that aspirin is an anticoagulant that cannot be consumed before non-emergency surgery. I explained that I wasn't informed that I was to have surgery until late the night before. She left me in my cubicle and went to the nurse's station. I could see that she was using the telephone. She apparently didn't reach the party or parties that she had attempted to reach, because I soon heard the names of both my surgeon and my anaesthesiologist being paged. Within moments both were present. My parents were soon invited back into the preoperative area as well.

Everyone was speaking in quiet but hostile voices to one another except to me. I was still left out of the conversation at this point. My dad said, "I didn't give her the aspirin."

My mom said, "I didn't give it to her, either. She never said a word about having a headache."

The surgeon asked why I was taking aspirin in the first place, because I'm still theoretically at risk for a condition known as Reye Syndrome, which has been linked to use of aspirin in combination with viral infection. Then the surgeon asked if anyone had told me not to take aspirin, which even if I was physically advanced enough to take without risk of Reye Syndrome, I should not have taken within ten days of my surgery date.

Then I piped up and told the surgeon that I didn't even know that I was having surgery until bedtime the night before.

The surgeon turned to my parents and said, "That's how you handle it when a three-year-old is having hernia surgery and you see no point in worrying him before the fact. A sixteen-year-old deserves to know in advance when she's having surgery. What were you thinking?"

My mom said, "I wanted to tell her. It was his idea (pointing at my dad) to keep her in the dark."

My dad responded with, "I knew she's get herself all worked uo and get sick if we told her before."

The anaesthesiologist siad, "Instead, she took aspirin, and we can't operate on her at all. That was really good thinking."

The nurse unhooked my IV. Blood spurted across the cubicle before she could apply the gauze pad to the IV site. I bled through three gauze pads even with my dad applying pressure to the wound. Eventually the bleeding stopped.

The surgeon got out his Blackberry and the scheduling nurse went to her computer. They came up with another date for my surgery. I'm now scheduled for October 1. As he was leaving, the surgeon said, "No aspirin for you under any circumstances! Do you understand?"

I said yes. The doctors other than my dad left. I got dressed and left with my mom and dad. The ride home was similar to the ride to the hospital, except it was my mom attempting to make small talk to no avail this time. My mom suggested taking me to school. My dad said I couldn't go because my blood was so thin that the slightest injury could be really dangerous.

When we got home, I asked if I could eat something. My mom said yes at the same time my dad said no. The my mom said, "John, I don't care how mad you are at her. She has to eat." I ate instant oatmeal while they went into their room to argue.

When they finally emerged, my dad wanted to know how I knew about the surgery before they told me. I played totally dumb, but he didn't buy it. I eventually confessed to finding the surgical consent form in the printer.
My dad started off on a diatribe about how I had no right to search through anyone else's private papers when my mom unexpectedly came to my defense. She told my dad that I was allowed to use the printer, and that if he was careless enough to leave papers he considered private right there in plain sight, he couldn't blame me. What I could be blamed for, my mother said, was buying and taking medication without their consent. I argued that if it was legal for me to buy and take it, doing so could not have been all that wrong.

My parents argued for several minutes about whether or not I was too old to be hit, then about whether or not grounding would be appropriate. My mother ended up winning both arguments. I was neither hit nor grounded. I did have to promise never to buy or take any medications, including vitamins or herbal supplements, without the express consent of my parents until the day I turned eighteen. My parents also promised never to schedule surgery for me without telling me. My dad told me I'd better not get sick right before the surgery on October 1, because if I did, I would prove his point.

I can tell that my dad is still angry with me even though he says it is not the case. My mom and dad aren't mad at each other any longer. My mom says that this is one of those things that my dad will laugh about eventually, but that it will take some time before he reaches that stage.

I won't even bother asking the opinion of Judge Alex about this one because, even if he were not to ignore me, he would side with my dad. The bottom line, though, is that he would ignore me, and I have a real problem with being ignored.

Thus ends one more exciting chapter in the life of a modern-day dysfunctional family.

***Jogging is a relative term when one is still dependent upon crutches to walk or jog.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

All Is Not Well

I cannot give too many details, because doing so would only serve to incriminate myself. It all involves a surgery I was supposed to have yesterday but didn't because no one bothered to inform me of it in a timely manner even though it was scheduled three week ago. So far I am still allowed most of the basic freedoms provided by the U. S. Constitution, but if I say more, such may no longer be the case. I'll give more details when it is prudent for me to do so.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Brother's New Girlfriend

My brother has a new girlfriend. For once, my parents and I agree on something, which is that my brother's girlfriend is in a persistent vegetative state. If one does not count my brother's prom date, who was never a bona fide girlfriend as they neither actually spent time together on campus nor went anywhere together off campus, my brother has had three prior girlfriends. The first one, though not in my immediate circle of friends, was someone I would have picked for him except that I would have thought his chances with her were marginal at best. She was (and still is if he ever comes to his senses) attractive, personable, and intelligent. Girlfriend #2 maintained a GPA of above 3.5 with just a few honors courses thrown into the mix -- a step down intellectually, but still respectable --but equally attractive. Girlfriend #3 maintained under a B average with a less than impressive academic course load. Her appearance was, predictably, quite stunning.

My mother, as an assistant superintendent in our district, has access to all student records. She and my father are not always as careful as they should be when they discuss things that they consider private. If they happen to be near the bathrrom that is attached to their bedroom, the vent leads directly to a small half-bath located close to our entryway. I've learned many interesting things there that, were I loose lipped, could have resulted in my mother losing her job. Fortunately for her, I am not loose-lipped. Even in the relative anonymity of this blog, I will not repeat anything here that is not common knowledge, as her income, while small in comparison to what my father brings in, is still substantial enough that its absence would impact my ability to attend the university of my choosing. Furthermore, repeating the information I picked up recently by listening in would be unkind. I'm not a mean person. (I am aware that by divulging in this obscure space that I can hear conversations my parents have in or near their bathroom, my source of information will dry up as soon as either they, who are infrequent readers, or one of their spies, who are numerous and are frequent readers, learn of my access. C'est la vie. I've probably already heard everything I need to hear of their private conversations.)

My parents, while they have dealt with me stupidly on occasion, are masterful in dealing with my brother. They know that if they say anything remotely negative about Girfriend #4, they will increase exponentially the chances that my brother will attend a college or university in this immediate vicinity in order to continue the relationship with this cognitively-challenged-but visually-appealing-to-my-brother woman. (She's already eighteen. She repeated first grade.)

One of my mother's doctoral research projects dealt with kindergarten entrance age and grade level retention. In her research, she learned that students who are older first-time kindergartners experience the greatest academic success. Those who start young and repeat kindergarten fare less well. Those who move on to first grade and then repeat that grade do even less well. Those who are not in the youngest segment of age ability and who repeat first grade experience even more academic dysfunction. The rationale is that if the problem is developmental immaturity presumably caused by young age in relation to a student's grade level peers, at least some of the difficulty can be remedied by having the student repeat a grade, thus removing the age disadvantage the student previously had. What is odd in her research and in other related research is that students who begin kindergarten at age four, then repeat kindergarten again at age five, do less well than students who remain at home or in preschool until they are five, then enroll in kindergarten. Common sense would dictate that the extra year of kindergarten would be more beneficial to a student than remaining at home or in preschool for an additional year, but such is not the case. This finding holds when controlled for education of parents, socioeconomic status, and other factors. Identical twins of similar birthweights, pre-tested to determine that the subjects' cognitive discrepancies were insignificant, have been used in the study.

Depending on the district and the school, kindergarten teachers can only request that so many of their students repeat kindergarten without damaging their own credibility. They reserve most of their retention requests for students, often boys because they typically mature at a slower rate, who are young in relation to their peers. Research has shown that the repetition of a year in school, or grade level retention, is most often successful when it occurs in kindergarten because an otherwise intelligent child is younger developmentally and chronologically than his grade level peers. (Most academic problems have no simple remedy. If a child's problem is simply that he is younger and less mature than his classmates, holding the child back for a year is a relatively easy fix.) In California, the present cut-off date for kindergarten is December 2. School begins in California as early as near the beginning of August. A student may begin kindergarten as young as four years, eight months in California. Thus, the bulk of students recommended for grade level retention in California are students born in August or later. Most of those children whose parents are reasonably intelligent will act on this recommendation and keep their children in kindergarten for an additional year.

Then first grade happens, and recommendations again are made. The students with the best chance of success in repeating a grade have already repeated the grade. Those who are recommended for retention in first grade generally are recommended for reasons related to difficulty in grasping academic concepts. Often grade level retention is not the answer to these students' problems, but is the only option short of special education placement. Grade level retention is frequently viewed as less harmful to a student's self-esteem than is special education placement, so the student is retained and repeats first grade. The student at first may appear to be succeeding in that initial year of retention, as he or she has seen all the material one time before. That initial advantage, however, even if it holds through the year in which the grade is repeated, usually soon disappears. By second grade, the child is being presented with new material, and the same academic difficulties that manifested themselves in first grade reappear. If the child could spend two years in every grade, it might conceivably work out, but at that rate, the kid would be twenty-nine and no longer a kid by the time he or she finished high school. Almost no one is willing to stick with school for twenty-four years or so before dropping out, and the system isn't designed to deal with students for that long or of that age, anyway. Sometimes the child will eventually be diagnosed as having a learning disability. This indicates that the child is in possession of average (or higher) cognitve potential, but that some neurological process is interfering with the child's ability to acquire, retain, or make sense of information as it is presented. When that happens, usually some sort of special education intervention is attempted, sometimes with success and sometimes not.

Girlfriend #4 has an early March birthdate. She started school at the age of five-and-one-half. She was retained in first grade. She is not placed in any sort of program for those with learning disabilities. Her grade point average dropped so low in her sophomore year that she was no longer eligible to particpate in cheerleading. The cheer squad isn't filled to the brim with budding Einsteins. I'll leave you to form your own conclusions.

Brother hasn't brought Girlfriend #4 to our home. She'd actually have to bring herself, I suppose, because brother still has almost two months before he can take the test to get his driver's license, and even then will not be legally allowed to transport another driver under twenty-one (I think) until he has been a licensed driver for a full year.*** My parents don't really encourage that sort of thing anyway, because they think it would give him reason to take the relationship more seriously than it should be taken at his age. (I've learned a great deal from the strategic placement of the vents in our home.) Even if our parents did encourage him to bring her to dinner, though, I doubt he would. He knows, whether or not he's willing to admit it, that the attraction is essentially physical, and that it would be embarrassing to be faced with her shortcomings in the area of intelligent conversation in the presence of his family. In addition to the physical attraction aspect of their relationship, I suspect there may be a bit of a Pygmalion thing, where he thinks he can take a diamond in the rough and transform her, and she must make him feel cognitively superior, which is a feeling he doesn't get at home because he knows, even if he's unwilling to admit it, that he's the least intelligent of the four of us living in in our house.

Maybe that's the answer. If the rest of us would all act stupid, perhaps it would give him the sense of superiority he must so desperately crave. I'll ask my parents, but I doubt they're willing to start speaking in double negatives and generally appearing dull-witted for any length of time. That leaves me. Am I willing to be an ignoramus by myself if it will
eliminate Girlfriend #4 from the picture? Furthermore, will it remove her from the picture? I'm not sure, but in the meantime, I bought a package of condoms and put them where my brother will find them. It's bad enough to have my brother dating a cretin. Were they to reproduce, the results could be disastrous.

*** Girlfriend #4 cannot legally bring herself to our house, either, unless it is on foot, on rollerblades, or by scooter, skatebord, horse, or bicycle, because she is no longer in possession of a valid California driver's license due to having been found at fault in six separate auto collisions.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Academic Honesty: Is There any Such Thing?

No, this is not the topic with which I will bore readers for the duration of this blog. It is, instead, is the topic of my entire year's research and writing for my Advanced Placement Advanced Inpedendent Studies course. My intent is to demonstrate that failure to allow students to re-submit previously self-authored works is a violation of the students' First Amendment rights. In past years, I would have practically completed my project by this point in the year. I haven't even begun this project, and I really don't know where to begin. Logic and precedent are the areas I will embrace or ignore, depending upon what I find in the course of conducting reseaarch.

I don't plan to use this topic for all of my classes this semster. I will use the statistical information from this or from another of my projects for my statistical analysis, but such is actually allowed under the present regime (only because the statistics instructor is not a complete imbecile). I have pre-declared that watching each episode of "Judge Alex" that airs between now and the due date for the project is essential to the successful completion of my project. If the truth were to be known, in all likelihood, not a single episode of "Judge Alex" will pertain even indirectly to my proposed topic, but I cannot be expected to know that until I watch the episodes and determine that to be the case.

On Thursday I watched "Judge Alex" at school for the first time. I've mentioned before that Judge Alex Ferrer is in the "just under fifty" age bracket. I would be admitting to virtual sexual deviancy here were I to say I found the man physically attractive. I'm not saying that I think he's ugly. I just don't think about men in that age bracket in that way.
The women who work at my school do not share my sense of restraint, if the ones who ended up in my area while I was watching on Thursday are any kind of random sampling, although most of them are enough older than I that
it is not akin to admission of mental illness to find attraction in someone in his age range. When I began watching "Judge Alex," I was seated by myself on a sofa in one of the media areas of the course's expansive workroom. Within five minutes, one of the three instructors (a female) assigned to APAIS had joined me. Before another five minutes had passed, a secretary from the counseling department (also female) had joined us. Before the first half hour of the program was complete, two other secretaries and one teacher in prep time (all female) were watching with us. Each woman present was heard to make at least one favorable comment pertaining to the judge's physical appearance.

All this means to me is that I won't actually get anything done for my project or for any other class in the assigned room. (It isn't against the rules to study for another class during an APAIS period, which is consistent, since virtually no other activity except sex and illicit drug use is against the rules.) I am a proficient multi-tasker, and usually do my best work while watching TV, reading, and doing at least one other thing simultaneously. Even my skills, nonetheless, have their limits. I cannot concentrate on what I am writing with buzzards all around me playing chopsticks on an out-of-tune piano (I haven't been able to reach the piano technician yet), throwing basketballs in the immedaite vicinity of my head, and moaning about how hot Judge Alex is. Even I have limits to what I can do under such circumstances.

In any event, I plan to establish, through some combination of logic and precedent, that one should be able to use his or her own previously authored works to which one has not given up the rights as one chooses. Furthermore, submitting an assignment for credit does not, I will argue, constitute giving up the rights to the work.

This issue isn't personal for me. I write incessantly just for fun. A written assignment is to me a captive audience: someone actually has to read what I wrote or risk giving me credit for having written something totally bogus. People who like to write crave an audience for their writing. I am no exception. Thus, it is not I who desires to complete fewer written assignments. I have disks filled with papers I've written but never turned in, given away to friends, or sold.

Instead, I'm contributing to society's overall good by making this the focus of my research. My mother says my head is filled with delusions of grandeur. (She has a doctorate in psychology and loves to spout psychobabble.) She's wrong; I'm not taking myself or the assignment that seriously. Still, I don't think my topic is without merit. If course intructors cannot be bothered to come up with assigned topics that are orignial, why should students be required to complete original work to fulfill such assignments? I intend to answer that question and many others in the course of my research.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Useless vs. Functional Baccalaureate Degrees

This blog deviates from my usual blogging style in that I am, for once, not crusading for a particular cause. Most often when I write, I am doing so in hope of garnering support for one ideal or another, even if I didn't think of it until I started typing on the particular blog. Tonight's blog is different. My goal for tonight's blog is to gather information. Allow me to explain.

This is my final year of high school, which means that, barring disaster or in absence of a president of a major and accredited university in the U. S. deciding that I am so brilliant and accomplished that I deserve to receive a four-year degree without ever having attended the university, I will attend college next year. My educational and career goal is to complete a bachelor's degree so that I will be accepted into law school. In a very brief online discourse with the Honorable Judge Alex Ferrer, the topic of undergraduate majors was broached. Judge Ferrer worked full-time as a police officer while he was in the process of completing his undergraduate education. Sometimes his shift as a police officer would change, which meant that course offerings available to him would change as well. Since he knew that he wanted to attend law school, the quickest, easiest, and least expensive course of action had been to complete the course of study leading to a liberal arts degree. Though it had ultimately worked out for him, he didn't recommend it to others because if he had found that law school wasn't what he wanted to pursue, the liberal arts degree by itself would have been relatively worthless. At least I think that's what he would have said had it been an actual conversation and not a brief Twitter exchange. (I've actually attributed to him a lot of words that he never actually said.)

In this time educational inflation, where often it seems as though virtually everyone working and some people who are not are in possession of degrees, one might have cause to contemplate the value of a degree. What good is a bachelor's degree by itself? Not all degrees are created equal or hold equal value.

A four-year degree in nursing is either helpful or essential to working as a nurse, depending upon the hospital. (Registered nursing certification can be obtained in two- and three-year programs as well.) A four-year engineering degree will entitle one to work as an engineer. A bachelor's degree in accounting, along with passage of a state's required exam, will earn one the title of Certified Public Accountant. These are all worthy pursuits as long as one wants to be a nurse, engineer, or accountant.

What degree satisfies requirements for admission to law school, yet also holds merit on its own? In the event that a person entered law school and discovered that the legal profession was not an optimal fit for himself or herself, what four-year-degree would provide something of a "safety net" (Judge Ferrer actually did say this) in terms of job opportunities, either by providing eligibility for temporary or semi-permanent employment possibilities? For that matter, what degree does the same with regard to medical school?

My dad told me that in the olden days, doctors first majored in math or science of some kind, while lawyers typically majored in a social science, accounting, or possibly English for undergraduate studies. Since the olden days, law and medical schools have broadened to accept what they consider worthy candidates studying in much more diverse fields. Music majors have been admitted into medical schools with sufficiently high MSAT scores and a large number of math and scince courses. (I don't wish to disrespect music majors or anyone else, but I think, with all other factors being equal, that I would have a slight preference for the doctor performing open heart surgery on me to have studied one of the sciences versus visual or performing arts, but that's just my own prejudice.) Virtually no legitimate four-year degree wouldn't give a student at least consideration for acceptance into a law school with a high enough LSAT and grade point average.

Is there a perfect degree? What degree gains one acceptance into the law (or medical; I may as well keep all options open, though I think I dislike doctors too much to ever become one of them) school of one's choice, yet also provides reasonable possibility of degree-related employment so that one does not have to resort to substitute teaching or flipping burgers if the graduate program one had selected does not work out for him or her?

Lastly and importantly, though not terribly pertinently, I would like to go on record as explicitly stating that no disrespect toward teachers or the teaching profession is intended with this blog. Quite the contrary is true. Teaching is a noble vocation that should be undertaken only by those who feel called into the profession; the profession should never be entered into by default. At this point into my life I have not been called by anything or anyone to teach. Those who are not called should not teach. Period. I will say no more about it.

So what is the consensus? Are bachelor's degrees, other than in those areas of nursing, engineering, and accounting, practically prerequisites for life in the adult world, and otherwise worth very little in and of themselves? Any reader who has an opinion regarding undergraduate majors and their relative worth should post their opinions in the "comments" section.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Downside of Attending a (self-)"Designated Academic High School"

I completed all of the courses required for graduation and University of California admission just over two semesters ago. If I had normal parents, right now I could either attend college or work until time for college. Anyone who is not a new reader is already aware that my parents are anything but normal. If I were attending a normal high school, I could take whatever courses I desired to take since I have finished the courses required for graduation. Unfortunately for me, I've not only been stuck with parents who are abnormal, subnormal, peculiar, or whatever label one would desire to ascribe to them; I also have the misfortune of attending a high school that is non-mainstream.

My school is a (self-)"Designated Academic High School." One of my teachers who has worked at the school since roughly the Eisenhower administration told me that in the early days of its reigning administrators' delusions of grandeur, my school tried to bill itself as a "college preparatory school" and set fairly rigorous requirements for admission and continued enrollment, but that the State of California found these requirements consistent with the practice of "tracking," or placing students into inflexible groups according to ability. The State of California allows tracking only on an exremely limited basis in its public schools. An entire public school cannot be on a fast track to university acceptance while one across the city in the same district is on a fast track for gang membership acceptance in the Golden State. Even if one establishes a charter school, which lifts some of the requirements to which the state holds all public secondary schools, measures are taken to ensure that children of the wealthy and educated aren't given a more academically advantageous education than those from less privileged backgrounds. (The state's primary method of accomplishing this is to ensure that education for the children of the welathy and educated is every bit as screwed up as is that for the lass privileged, but this will have to be a subject for another day's blog.)

Hence the (self-)"Designated Academic High School." My high school has designated itself as such so that if any student requests to do anything out of the ordinary by way of attendance, course undertakings, or anything else, the response is always, "This is a (self-)'Designated Academic High School.' ------ is not allowed here." The bottom line is that students with reasonable parents who are in situations similar to mine opt out and attend Gang Central or another high school so that they can take the courses of study they would choose to take for the remaining semesters (my parents are incredibly fixated on high school being an eight-semester experience) while I am, instead, having the academic experience of my life at my (self-)"Designated Academic High School."

I've completed or challenged every English course that a non-remedial student would ever need or want here, yet I'm required to be enrolled in an English course each semester of enrollment. I've completed civics and economics, as well as all other social science courses offered here, but I'm required to enroll in a social science course in each semester of attendance. I'm also required to enroll in one science and one math course during each semester of enrollment, although greater course offerings are available in these areas, and I would have chosen to take the courses I'm taking even if enrollment in such academic areas were not required.

The bottom line is that I'm taking one independent study course for English and one for social science. This is in addition to APAIS (Advanced Placement Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies), in which I am to choose and complete at least one project spanning at least two academic areas. Communication between staff members isn't a given at my school, but I can't count on getting away with completing one identical project that would suffice for all three courses. It would be interesting to try, and theoretically anyway, if I came up with a topic that fit the bill for English and social science, the project would by definition be sufficiently broad for APAIS.

Can one project topic relating to "Judge Alex" and other TV courtroom shows be tied in to English and social science as well? The social science tie-in is easy, as small-claims court, which most courtroom TV shows are or purport to be, represents a part of the judicial branch of government. The English connection is a little more difficult for which to find a link, beyond the obvious fact that the shows are in English and any project or presentation relating to such would certainly be written or spoken in English. My course supervisor for the independent study English course has expressed a preference for a literature-based project, but could possibly be persuaded to accept a more linguistically-oriented project. Perhaps a topic such as "The Disappearance of Standard English Syntax by Litigants in Daytime Courtroom Shows" would be accepted. If I used the same topic for social science, I could use the same research and some of the same writing for a paper detailing how those who use standard English syntax are or are not favored by the small claims court system. I could find a statistical angle and use it for the Statistics project as well. (My only other for-credit courses are Human Anatomy and Physical Education, neither of which requires or even offers projects as coursework options.) I'm liking the idea more and more as I type.

In this particular case, I would be using the same research to write different compositions (which mysteriously happened to contain large verbatim chunks in common), but still, it raises the question: Is it cheating for one to submit a paper that one has authored for more than one class? Both of my parents are of the opinion that it is, although they are vague when pressed for grounds on which re-submitting one's own work should be considered cheating. My conclusion is that unless a school has a specific rule against re-submission of previously authored and submitted compositions, doing so cannot be considered cheating. I haven't asked the opinions of my teachers about this, as asking such would be exposing oneself to greater scrutiny. Our regional newspaper has a syndicated ethics column. Perhaps I should submit a question relating to this topic to the author of the column, although odds are against the question being addressed in the column. In the meantime, I would love to hear others' opinions regarding this subject -- even those differing from the one I have expressed.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

No Inspiration Except Crazy Relatives

I don't have anything about which to blog right now. One of my relatives will almost for certain respond in the "comments" section by asking something like, "Why did you blog if you had nothing to blog about?" but that doesn't bother me. Actually, I find their comments to be a motivating factor, because I know for certain that someone is reading, even if that someone is a relative by blood or by marriage who strongly dislikes me. I do not moderate or censor the comments they make, but I do reserve the right to make unkind comments in return if I am so moved. So far I haven't done much of that, partly because others have risen to my defense, though not unkindly (Thanks, Matt!), but I am putting relatives on notice that I have no fear of anything my parents will do if I respond in whatever manner I choose. For that matter, as I type, this blog is turning into a reponse to my relatives.

Readers who don't know me may have gotten either the idea that I am a contentious b!tch (the verdict is not yet in, but most people who know me in real life, except for the relatives who don't like me, find me not terribly hard to tolerate) or that my family is highly dysfunctional. Regarding the second possibility -- the one about my family being highly dysfunctional -- that is more or less half true. My mother's family gets along fine with one another. My father's family, on the other hand, is straight out of the Book of Mormon, with brothers aligning with brothers to battle another brother, then changing alliances for the next battle. I assume in the Book of Mormon that the sisters were in some way involved in the battles, too, but just weren't considered to have sufficient status to merit mention. The sisters in my father's family, along with their husbands and offspring, are certainly involved in most of the arguments bordering mortal combat in my extended family.

My grandparents usually take sides in the feuding, although they are getting old enough that I personally don't hold it against them. Even though they're not fond of me and probably never have been, I'm choosing to believe that their recent hostility toward me is at least party as a result of age-related dementia and the resulting reliance upon information from questionable sources. I don't mean this in a sarcastic way. Really.


I won't go into all the details of the family feuds. Since we live in California while much of the family is in Utah, Idaho, or Nevada, we often don't even learn of the feuds unless they directly involve us. Often the feuds do involve either my parents or my Uncle Steve and Aunt Heather, so we eventually do learn of them. Why can't they just be angry with us from a distance and leave us blissfully ignorant of our status?

My father's youngest sister, Stephanie, is also sometimes lumped into the "evil" faction of the family along with us, even though we rarely see her, simply because she, along with my father and Uncle Steve, chose to not to continue with the family religion once she reached the age that she could make such decisions. She is an incredibly kind person who minds her own business and seldom utters a negative word about anyone, and certainly doesn't deserve the treatment that she receives from most of her family.
Because my grandparents refused to support her or finance most of her college education once she stopped believing as they did, which was their prerogative, my parents supported her finacially until she made in through college, which was, in turn, their prerogative. Simply by accepting money from my parents many years ago, my Aunt Stephanie became a bad person in the eyes of my grandparents. This is odd, as most of my father's siblings have asked for and received financial assistance from my parents.

Even though I said I wouldn't go into details about the frequent discord that makes my father's family what they so uniquely are, I will say at the risk of being shunned (I may as well face it: I'm already shunned. The only real risk here is that my parents may not like what I am writing) that most of the ill will aimed in our direction has come as a result of my parents' choosing not to financially sanction and support some of the relatives' activities or causes. The extended family has mostly followed their religion's practice of having very large families. This is perfectly fine for those who are able to support the number of offspring they actively choose to create or at least fail to prevent from being created. If, on the other hand, parents are unable to cover most monthly expenses with their families at status quo, it doesn't seem terribly responsible to have even more children. It would still be their own business if they didn't ask my parents for money, then become outrightly hostile when my parents decline the invitation to contribute financially to the intentional or neglectful overpopulation of the planet.

One feud that occurred in the late spring and early summer actively involved me. I wrote about it in early June, so I won't rehash the old news in great detail, but my parents paid relatives to care for me when I was sick and injured. The standard of care the relatives provided to me caused the child welfare department of the state in which this family lives to remove their own minor children from their care. These relatives have yet to regain custody of all of the children. Despite my weakened physical condition at the time, and that my actions were intended only to preserve my life in what was a dangerous situation, I have been blamed for breaking up this family. As much as I like to think of myself as being influential and powerful, such is obviously not the case. There was or is little I could do on my own to impact this family; anything unfortunate that happened to them was entirely of their own doing.

My grandparents are still so enraged by my role in the state becoming involved in this family's affairs that my grandparents have told my parents that if my parents visit the grandparents, my parents will need to find somewhere else for me to be, because I am not welcome in my grandparents' home. (This sentence is rather unwieldy, but there were too many antecedents to use personal pronouns without ambiguity.) Being unwelcome in their home is far from a new circumstance for me; I doubt I was truly welcome in their home even when I was a baby. The only difference now is that my unwelcomeness is explicit and official.

While first impressions might lead a person to believe otherwise, my father's half of my extended family is as dysfunctional as any family likely to appear on "Jerry Springer." It would be interesting to hear someone like Dr. Phil's or Dr. Drew's take on my dad's family. I would call one of the 800 numbers and apply for the family to go on some television intervention program except that I know the family is beyond help.

Mrs. Catherine, I'm sorry that this post has not been very positive. I promise that the next blog will have a more cheerful tone.