Monday, May 30, 2011

Nutcases on Judge Alex Friday

Where I am because we have something beyond basic cable, we get to see two episodes of "Judge Alex" each day. I know this is not unusual, and that some places see him even more than two half hours. It's just that the basic cable service here provides only one half hour. I believe both our episodes on Friday may have beeen repeats, although I'm not certain. There have been times when I watched cases while under the influence of Klonopin; for all I know, those episodes could have been about pee Wee Herman suing Judge Judy.
(I heard Judge Judy had a recent health scare, by the way; I hope she's fine.)

In one cases, a thirty-eight-year-old woman and a twenty-teo-year-old woman were fighting over a man who, of course, was not present for the case. it would have been nice to judge for myself whether or not I thought he was worth the fight. It culminated in someone's (the older fighter's, I believe)car being "rocked" or "keyed," depending upon whom one chose to believe. The judge didn't seem to care all that much which scenario was true.

The other case I saw was much sadder, and involved a sister who bought furniture from her sister, then threw her out into the street (actually into a homeless shelter, but it was "a really nice one") without paying for the furniture. The judge ordered the non-paying sister to pay up.

I know it's nothing new to our American version of English, but can anyone tell me precisely when "Baby Mama" and "Baby Daddy" became legitimate words in our language? The terms have been around for as long as I can remember. My mom says they weren't in use in her teens, but after that, she had her head so far into books that she couldn't begin to devise any sort of pop culture timeline for language or for anything else. So who knows how and when they made it into the vernacular? Please tell me that this aberration is limited to American English, and that the Queen's English does not recognize such terminology. What about the Aussies? Do they use the terms?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Perverts, Yellow Ribbons, and Massacre of the English Language: Truly Abominable Songs That I HATE

Dave Barry once wrote a book about songs he strongly disliked called Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs, or something very similar. He solicited the opinions of readers, which he used along with his own personal takes on various works of music. He employed certain criteria, most of which I don't remember. One criterion I do recall is that the song had to have attained at least a modicum of popularity or radio play time for consideration. Another was that the song could not have been presumably written as a joke. For example, at some point in the late sixties or early seventies, a song entitled "Muh Nuh Muh Nuh" actually received airtime and possibly even achieved top forties status, yet was not considered among Barry's "bad songs" because it must have been intended as a joke of some sort, albeit not a very funny one, except to the composer and recording artists, who laughed their way to the bank.

Barry had e few memorable takes on the songs he discussed. I remember Dan Hill's recording of "Sometimes When We Touch" described as sounding as though it was sung by someone as he was receiving a prostate exam from Captain Hook. barry also took shots at songs I actually like, such as "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitgerald." I can't remember exactly what offended him about that particular song; it may have been the line "As big freighters go, it was bigger than most, with a crew and a captain well-seasoned." I'll concede that the line wasn't one of Lightfoot's most profound. The man has a catalogue of thousands of works, with some truly poetic language ["Triangle, triangle, oh see my ship dangle" happens to be one of my personal favorites, but there are great lines from scads of Lightfoot's songs from which to choose.] In any event, I feel that Barry found one mediocre line out of a very long ballad and declared a better-than-average song bad based solely on that one line. In any event, it's OK. Dave Barry certainly doesn't need to seek my permission before criticizing a song. Besides, I don't think I was even born when he wrote his book.

I have neither the knowledge nor the stature among literari or in life in general to compose such a book of my own. Nothing, however, stops me from writing a blog on the topic of songs I hate with every bit as much intensity as I hate child pornography.

Song Number five on my list would never have made it on Barry's list because Dave Barry only used pop songs. This one's a hymn, and an obscure one at that. It's called "Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses." It's uniquely Mormon in origin and use, and is so bad that many Mormons don't even know it exists. My grandfather, however, LOVES the song, and sings it to the family at every family gathering. You'll probably never hear this song, and so you'll have to take my word for it that even if you love hymns, this is one you would NOT love, and if you hate hymns, hearing this one could cause you to want to drive nails through your own eardrums.

Song number four on my list is sort of the "song to hate" du jour. "Friday," by Rebecca Black, is particularly unpopular among people my age, as well as those older and younger. The lyrics sound like a poetry assignment scratched out in a hallway thirty seconds before the tardy bell by a seventh-grader who was a C-student at best. The melody sounds like a Music Composition I assignment attempted by a student randomly plucked from the home economics department.

Song number three is not exactly a hymn; it's a church song for Mormon children. It's not actually in any church songbook as far as I know, but it was written by an LDS composer. The title alone is insulting to the intelligence of the profoundly retarded. It's occasionally sung by Mormon children for special performances, and refusing to sing it once caused me to be taken out of a church building and beaten by an evil aunt. The song is called, "I Did and I Does and I Do." Need I say more?

Song number two, sung by Roberta Flack and written by I have no idea who, is "Killing Me Softly With His Song." If he's really killing her with his song, why doesn't she just die and get it over with? Leave the rest of us out of the process, please. It's like a person who commits suicide but isn't content merely to kill himself or herself, but must take an entire busload of people along with him or her. My mother knows how much I hate this song. She insists that she will sing it at my wedding. I've told her it's in no way appropriate to be sung at anyone's wedding. Some songs, such as "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands," are not wedding songs. "Killing Me Softly With His Song" falls into that category, in addition to being a really grating song. I've told my mom that the moment she stands up and sings one note or word of that song at my wedding, I will grab my groom by the collar and drag him down the aisle, and we'll complete our nuptials at an undisclosed location. I hope she knows I MEAN it.

Song number One is from the seventies. "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" is the title, and I'd hate to have lived through its prime. Just hearing it on oldies stations when my parents force them on me in the car is enough to cause me to beg for anti-nausea medication. The melody alone is vexing beyond belief. Once when my Bluebirds group went to visit a Senior Citizens' Center, some old geezer was playing it on an organ there, and it was all I could do even at the age of six to keep from running out of the building to avoid hearing more of that awful melody, and that was without the words. Add the words, and it would have caused Ghandi to advocate nuclear war. The song is about a guy who was in prison. He didn't know whether the woman he loved before he did his time in the pokey wanted him back after his release. The signal she was to leave as to whether she still desired his services was a yellow ribbon, which was to be tied around "the old oak tree." Wherever the hell that was, it must have been somewhere right along the bus route, because the ex-con asked the bus driver to look for the yellow ribbon because he (the ex-con) could not bear to look for himself. Of course the yellow ribbon was there; in fact, not just one ribbon, but a hundred yellow ribbons were tied around the freaking tree. You know how it went, I'm sure, with whole damn bus cheering and all. We'll leave the analysis of the melody to some musicologist, who, I'm fairly certain would rip it to shreds, while we merely analyze the plot. Obviously some form of mail existed, because the ex-con wrote his woman to tell her how to indicate her desire. Why couldn't the woman just write him back and tell him "Yes, I can't wait to be in your arms again," or "I don't ever want to see your perverted face again, you sucking wad of stachbotrys mold!"? (The song never revealed why the guy was incarcerated, but I've always assumed it must have been a sex crime of some sort.) Any average freshman English student could tell you in analysis of the plot that there should have been clues somewhere along the way. Did the woman ever visit the guy in prison? Did she scrawl "Return to Sender" on every piece of mail he sent to her and have them delivered back to him, or did she respond with her own letters of endearment? If an eight-grader submitted this plot in story form, depending upon the mechanics of the writing, either a "D" or and "F" would be boldly written in red at the top of the paper. It's almost as trite as the classic, "And I woke up and it was all just a dream" ending, which hardly any teacher past first grade accepts.

If I thought about it for longer, I'm sure I'd come up with more truly abhorrent songs, but I've probably already caused nightmares just with what I've writen. Feel free to share your own list of truly abominable songs in the "comments" section.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

One Down, One to Go

My parents prefer for security reasons that I don't post actual dates and locations of events in advance. I think they're a bit paranoid, but I humor them. In any event, I've finished my high school diving career early this week with the state meet. I finished second. Some pople might be disappointed at not having come out on top, but i was positively thrilled with finishing second. If enyone had told me when I first started diving as a freshman that I would one day be the second-highest finisher in the state, I would have wondered what mind-altering substance the person had taken. It was cause for major celebration.

Sectional hurdling competition was today. i finished first in two event iand third in one event. We finished second in our realy there. I was approached by thhree university coaches. I haven't committed to my university, but I'm firmly committed to it. if I participate in any sport in college, I'd like it to be because I want to, and not because it's my way of finincing my education. Then I could walk away from it at any point if it became too much of an overload. Still, I was flattered that in this age of eliminating college sports (more men's than women's sports for Title IX reasons)any university coach wanted to speak to me regarding my participating in his program.

It was interesting to hear each coach's take. One coach thought I should abandon hurdles and concentrate on the 400 meter run. Another coach thoughtI should stick with hurdles but should run the shortest distances possible to take advantage of my legs, which are shorter than those of most of the competition, have a faster take=off time.

The third coach said that I'm defying the laws of physics by hurdling well -- that nothing about my body type, with the possible exception of my long legs in porporion to total body length -- would indicate that I should have success in hurdling. Then he asked if i had been a dancer or gymnast. I told him I had been a gymnast until I was ten. He asked what level I was when I quit. I told him level ten, approaching elite. He asked why I had stopped if I was that good when I was so young. I gave him the condensed version of my rooftop gymnastics stunt. He said I didn't have the bulky shoulders and neck that most gymnasts have and probably would have peaked early. He said the porportional length of legs and the lengthy stride as a result of early gymnastics training explained my success in hurdling, and that the lack of upper-body bulk was an asset in running and hurdling, where it would have been a detriment in gymnastics. He asked to look at my teeth, then asked a couple of question that were mildly personal but hthat I anwered since he didn't seem pedophilic. My parens were nearby lestening but pretending not to be. He asked if those were my parents, then changed his question, asking if that was my biological father, because it was obvious the woman was my mother. Our resemblance was strong. He said physical maturation ruins many running and hurdling careers, but that my parents both had runners' builds, so the additional height I should gain will outweight the bulk and slight widening of hips that will occur. My mother's hips aren't wide enough to allow passage of a two-pound baby, so mine probably won't be a great deal wider.

He said he knew I wouldn't be attending his university but gave me the name and number of an excercise physiologist working with the university I plan to attend. he asked my parents for mermission to give their number to the exercise physiologist. His reasoning was that it would be interesting to have an expert's analysis on whether my body was better suited to running, hurdling, or dibing. That didn't mean I had to choose the sport the expert recommended, or even that I had to choose any sport, but that the information provided would be good information to have. My parents gave him their numbers. I'll wait to see if the guy ever calls or if anything ever comes of it.

The state track meet is next weekend. Anyone who is really up on such matters knows where it will be held, but my parents wouldn't be all that happy with me for announcing it here.

Graduation will be the following week. I do get the distinction of having the highest gPA in the class. I think the principal might have fought it more -- because most of my work this year has been done off campus -- but my brother would have received the distinction had it not been I. My brother will give the valedictorian's address -- a chore typically but not always associated with having the highest GPA. I normally would revel in the idea of being able to say more or less whatever I wanted to say in front of a large captive audience, but the events of the past year or so have tkaen something from me. I would be afraid to speal in front of such a large group. I'm grateful to my brother for taking over the task.

After graduation I will spend most of the next two months at the facility. While there, i'll take twleve units at the university. My parents have bought a home in the general area but won't move until remodeling is complete -- probably in about September. I'm excited to see what my room will look like there. My aunt has worked with an architect, and says it will be even nicer than my current room, and will be done in the same motif.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Catholic Cat and Protestant Pooch

I had written my last blog this afternoon but just got around to posting it. I'm having major digestive upsets. Chairman Mao has overruled the fascists who man the night shift here at the loony bin and has allowed me access to a tv and computer. He says if I have to be awake and miserable, I should be allowed to entertain myself with something other than just my own thoughts or counting blotches in the oblique patterns on the 1980's-mode floor. Often if someeone is ill, medication to help the person sleep is prescribed, but the nature of my digestive upset is such that I'm having problems in more than one area. The drugs that would wipe out my nausea would also knock me out, which might not be the wisest course of action under present circumstances. Remember Confucius' saying that it is unwise to take a laxative and a sleeping pill simultaneously? The same principle applies here. So I am being medicated, but not with the most effective drugs on the planets. This, too shall pass (no pun intended).

I was just thinking about my kindergarten days. One of my two years of Catholic school was in kindergarten. It was a matter of convenience for the relative who was babysitting my brother and me. Her children attended the local Catholic school, and it was easier if she didn't have to drive to separate schools at separate times to pick up my mother's children and her own.

The kindergarten curriculum was pretty basic for me. I had been reading for years by then, and I don't think anyone had actually formally taught any math to me, but I had picked up many of the basics somewhere along the way. Because my twin brother and I were born on the deadline and would not have been allowed to enter kindergarten that year had we made our way into the world an hour late, because I was extremely small for my age, and because kindergarten was a very appropriate placement for my twin brother (school officials tend to favor keeping twins in the same grade whenever feasible), the decision was made not to acccelerate me to a higher grade. I did the kindergarten work, and then was expected to use the remainder of my time productively.

Some of my extra timw was spent reading. If the teacher's assistant accompanying the choirs happened to be absent, I usually filled in for her. The main focus of my extra time in kindergarten, however, was my comic book creation: "Catholic Cat and Protestant Pooch." Before entering Catholic kindergarten, I was unaware of the significance of Catholicism as opposed to any other faith. I just knew that we went to mass on most Sundays, that the priest did his thing, a few people read from the Gospels, a bad choir sometimes sang, and there were very high ceilings and stained glass windows. My mother talked with us about God and Jesus, but I had no clue that anyone else perceived any aspect of religion differently than my own family did.

Then came Catholic kindergarten, with its formal religious instruction. I learned all sorts of things I'd never before known regarding evil and different kinds of sin and religious sacraments amd what was to me perhaps the most important thing: "us" versus "them": the Catholics against the Protestants. As i saw it, the battle was being fought world-wide, and in our very nieghborhoods; it certainly wasn't limited to Northern Ireland. I needed an outlet for this newly-found knowledge and new obsession. Thus began "Catholic Cat and Protestant Pooch."

One problem with my creating a comic book was that most comic book artists have some ability to draw. No one in the history of my family has possessed the slightest skill at drawing, painting, sculpting, or anything of the like. I am no exception; if anything, I'm more lacking in artistic ability than the average member of my family. Even Matthew can draw a monkey or a sheep and have it vaguely resemble the animal it's supposed to be. Catholic Cat and Protestant Pooch could be differentiated only because of the halo above the cat's head and the horns atop the head of the dog.

Each day I would finish my work, read a bit from the limited selection of books for students to peruse, then pick up a stack of unlined newsprint and begin working on the day's edition of "Catholic Cat and Protestant Pooch."
Other children were interested in what I was doing, and so at first I would read my creations to them each day as soon as I finised. The teacher moved me to a table away from the other shildren after a few days, telling me that my reading of my comic books was distracting the other children and keeping them from completing their work. I suspect she just didn't want to deal with angry phone callls from parents complaining that I was corrupting their children's minds and ditorting their views of religion. Still, my teaxher allowed me to continue with my comic book series. She collected each of my compositions before lunch. I never gave much thought to what she was doing with them, She probably was more concerned with being in trouble with the principal than with anything else. Still, I learned later that she made copies for herself and gave the originals to my parents.

My parents have my entire original "Catholic Cat and Protestant Pooch" comic book series hidden away somewhere very secretive. I didn't have any idea they knew anything about it until one night when my Uncle Steve was at our house for dinner a year or so ago. He brought up a plot of one of the comic books. The subject was transubstantiation -- essentially the literal transformation of the Eucharistic Host and wine into the body and blood of Christ. In one chapter of the continuing saga, some carelsss parishioner at a mass inadvertantly dropped a piece of communion wafer on the floor. Protestant Pooch, being the typical chowhound that most dogs are, raced over to eat it. Catholic Cat knew just how wrong this would be on so many levels, but mainly because A) Protestant Pooch had not yet been through the Initial Rite of Reconciliation; amd B) dogs, in the minds of cats, are essentially sinful and contemptible creatures who are doomed for Hell or worse, and to grant them even the slightest or most inadvertent access to the Host would be blasphemous at the very least. A horrible row ensued, throughly disrupting mass, but Catholic Cat saved the day, and the gluttonous Protestant Pooch was succesfully thwarted in his attempt to devour the dropped portion of the Holy Communion wafer. Horrible rows between the two ensued in all editions, with the two tearing all over the naves, sanctuaries, and even the altar because they, predictably, fought "like cats and dogs." Protestant Pooch would knock down HolY Relics of Saints, thinking they were bones to be chewed, but Catholic Cat consistently prevailed, rescuing the relics or whatever else on which Protestant Pooch got his paws or teeth. Catholic Cat also had her paws full keeping Protestand Pooch from lifting his leg and desecrating Stations of the Cross as any other dog would a fire hydrant or tree at whatever church the two animals happened to be. The Churches in which the two would wage their Holy Wars ranged from Saint Joseph's parish in lowly Firebaugh, California, to such esteemed locales as Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City. No church was too humble nor too celebrated to be desecrated by the antics of Catholic Cat and Protestant Pooch.

Catholic Cat, as I recall, told Protestant Pooch he was going to Hell in every issue, mincing no words. Catholic Cat was sort of like the Catholic feline version of Saturday Night Live's "Church Lady," while Protestant Pooch was every guest "Church Lady" ever hosted. Catholic Cat didn't do a victory dance or anything; instead, she just prayed the Rosary (I didn't write out the entire Rosary, of course) changing the words of the Hail Mary to "Pray for THOSE sinners now and at the hour of THEIR deaths; Amen" at the conclusion of each edition. Any resemblance between "Church lady" and "Catholic Cat" would have to have been purely coincidental, as I had never seen any portion of SNL at that age.

I remember authoring the comic books, of course, and I remember snippets of plots, but had no idea anyone had saved any of the comic books, much less the complete series. If I'd given the matter any thought, I probably would have assumed that my kindergarten teacher had shredded every single issue. I asked my parents to see the comic books. They said someday . . .maybe. If I play my cards right, they said, they might possibly will them to me instead of to Matthew. Damn, I would love to get my hands on the whole series. I might create my own Catholic School version of The Weekly Reader , a weekly child-themed newsmagazine that my parents read in school when they were schoolchildren, and "Catholic Cat and Protestant Pooch" could be featured in every issue. I might never have to do an honest day's work in my life.

The medicine is finally working.

Good night.

Note to Matt: I could, and would if the price were right, extend my journalistic contribution to world of English-speaking schoolchildren to the Salt Lake City region. This edition would feature the antics of "Siamese Saint versus The Great and Abominable Greyhound" as the particular duo chased each other through temples and McTemples across the world. The Great and Abominable Greyhound might lap up the water from the baptismal fonts supported upon the backs to the twelve golden oxen, pee on the walls with the virtual [i.e. "painted on"] trees in the Creation Room because they are so realistic, or perhaps attempt to unceremoniously take a dump on the carpet in the Celestial Room. The possibilities are practically endless. A reality-based saga featuring the continued misadventures of Emma and Eliza R., as they took turns slinging barbs and aiming misdeeds at one another, might help to hold the interest of the young girls of Zion as they perfected their reading skills while learning of the Church in its early days. The possibilities are almost limitless.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Back with the Crazies, Where I Supposedly Belong

After a busy four or so days in Utah, where I saw my Uncle Scott's Medical School Commencement -- three hours of pure torture that I would not have endured for anyone but my Uncle Scott. I've already put my twin brother on notice that if he ever does actually make it into medical school, much less all the way through it (which is highly dubious to say the least), he should not count on me to be present at his commencement ceremony. I'll bake cupcakes and attend the after-party, but as for the commencement ceremony itself, Billy Joel would have to be performing live before I'd even consider attending, and chances are that Billy Joel will no longer be around when or if my brother graduates from medical school.

I already wrote about the Utah prom, so I won't belabor the point except to say that I found it almost rolling-on-the-floor hilarious that they served us the basic equivalent of Happy Meals minus the toys that typically accompany Happy Meals. Can you even imagine such a thing? The suburbs in which I have lived were not exactly the equivalent to Beverly Hills or Newport, Rhode Island, but Happy Meals at a prom? How can the Utah Prom Committee possibly top this year's offerings next year?

Life is pretty much as it was at the funny farm before I left. I'll be here until Thursday evening. I have a track competition on Friday and a diving meet on Saturday. Both are considered "State" competitions, which means that competition will be stiff. I can't expect to place terribky highly, but I'd like to maintain and/or improve on my times and scores.
My track coach told me I'm the only athlete in recent history at our school to represent the school at two different State competitions in a single season. Of course, since these are considered "minor" sports, the distinction won't result in any sort of formal recognition, but it's still nice to know.

Dr. Jeff is recommending the "Guinness" plan to my parents. He has slightly modified the plan I came up with on my own during my mom's St. Patricks' Day party where she encouraged everyone to help themselves to beer and didn't in any way indicate the invitation was not open to me as well. His adaptation is that I drink four ounces of Guinness, eat a huge bowl of ice cream, drink four more ounces, then brush my teeth and go to sleep immediately. My dad is more than happy to keep the last four ounces of Guinness from going to waste. Oddly enough to some, my hurdling times improved after the St. Paddy's Day experiment; Dr. Jeff's version actually improved my times even more. He says it's a combination of high-quality sleep and a little extra nutrition beyond what I would normally take in. The bonus is that it's legal because it's on a prescription pad of a licesnsed physician.

I need to come up with something to liven up the humdrum existence of the psych ward. It hurt me to be so brutally honest with my fellow lunatics, but I told them that for a pack of truly insane people, we're awfully boring and need to do something about it. Hopefully by morning someone will have come up with an idea. It usually falls upon me, so I suppose I'll have to be the one to think of something this time as well. Maybe we should have a Utah-style prom in the psych ward, complete with modest clothing that covers us from head to toe (perhaps we should even wear burkas) and Happy Meals (with or without toys) for the entree. We can't afford a live band, but we can use someone's computer to play hackneyed music from the 90's. Hopefully I or someone else will come up with something more original before morning.

Bon soir!

Monday, May 23, 2011

No, I Did NOT Buy My Prom Dress at Victoria's Secret

Some of the stuff I'm writing now may lack coherence. I'm sleep deprived, and while I'm accustomed to writing in a semi-stuporous (NOT stupid, you semi-literate cousins who wouldn't know the difference) sleep-deprived state, I do sometimes have to go back later and edit parts that sound a bit silly in the light of day. I may not be available to edit tomorrow, so what is written tonight may stand for forty-eight hours or so before I have the opportunity to come back and make sense of that which is hard to follow. By the way, last night's posts, while they may have been hard to follow, were not without substance and did actually have at their core an essence, which was that in addition to all the other nonsense related to last year's prom, my family, which had been Catholic for generations, was excommunicated from the Holy Roman Catholic Church over fallout from the prom. We eventually found our way back into a state of grace through the back door, but it was just one more example of just how disastrous last year's prom was for me and how, if I really believed in such shit, I'd pay my own money to have myself hypnotized in order to have the entire cataclysm permanently removed from my consciousness.

Alas, I'm too much of a skeptic to believe that hypnosis could really accomplish such a thing, although I did see the "Dr. Chase" character on "House" hypnotize one of the other characters -- I think it was "House" himself -- and if Jesse Spencer, the actor who plays Dr. Chase, were to perform the hypnotism on me, it might possibly succeed. There's something about the presence of a drop-dead-gorgeous Aussie that makes a thing seem within the realm of possibility that otherwise would not even be conceivable. If I'm ever life-threateningly ill in the next eighteen months or so and the "Make a Wish" Foundation shows up at my hospital bedside wanting to know what they could possibly do to brighten my otherwise bleak and unfortunately short-term existence, tell them for me if I'm not able that my wish will be for Jesse Spencer, AKA Dr. Chase, to hypnotize me in order to erase that first prom catastrophe from my consciousness forever, however abbreviated forever might be for me under such circumstances.

Anyway, I must return to the topic of the Utah prom I attended. I cannot know for certain that the prom I attended was typical even for Utah County, much less for the state as a whole --- I'd have to assume those proms in the Colorado City/Hilldale region, if they even happen, take on a slightly different form -- but those who were there at the prom with me assured me that what I was seeing and experiencing was fairly traditional for the region. Some of the very wealthiest sections of the Salt Lake City and surrounding suburban area may find a way to make a few upgrades, but, by and large, the prom I attended was much like any other in the more civilized portions of Utah. (Saying "the more civilized portions of Utah" is akin to saying "one of the more intelligent profoundly retarded individuals" or "one of the clearer areas in a hoarder's home," but I assume the point has been made.)

When I arrived at the prom with my date, Jared, some sort of controversy surrounded our entrance. We weren't exactly blocked from entering the main portion of the gym, but neither were we ushered in. I pretended not to hear, as did Jared, various snippets of hushed conversation between what appeared to be a couple of administrators or counselors, a teacher, and a woman who carried herself with the authority of a PTA President.

"She doesn't LOOK old enough to be even in middle school."
"She's Dr. [Jared's father's] son's date; I can't imagine Dr. [Jared's father] allowing his son to bring a sixth grader grader to the prom." "But just LOOK at her." "The dress . . ." "We didn't specify that straps were mandatory." "With our weather, we didn't think we had to." "She does have a matching shawl. Maybe we could just tell her to keep it on at all times." "Or maybe we could not, because we didn't make a rule banning strapless gowns." "We've always assumed 'temple-standard' prom dresses." "But we've never said that. And it's not even low-cut." "It's not as though she's got much there to display, anyway," the PTA Preident-type commented loudly enough that it was apparently intended for my ears. [That one, I must admit, stung just a bit. Jared squeezed my hand.] "It just shows her skinny little shoulders," someone else said. "How can we be SURE she's old enough to be here? We don't want to start any sort of a precedent." In the end, they asked me to show them my ID. They looked back and forth at the picture and at my face, carefully comparing several times, then paused to scrutinize the age on the ID. They asked me my date of birth, checking to see that it matched what was on the ID.

After what seemed like the length of half of a basketball game, Jared and I were allowed to enter the gymnasium, which had been decorated with mid-sized fake potted trees strung with tiny white lights. Tiny white lights also adorned the basketball hoops and nets. Mormons are masterful at decorating and disguising basketball hoops for slightly more formal occasions. White table cloths covered round tables, each of which was surrounded by ten chairs. Place cards designated seats for couples.

This was a departure from my own tradition. At my high school prom, couples made their own dinner arrangements, and then arrived at the prom afterward. Drinks and very light refreshments were served, but a meal was not part of the school-provided festivities. Jared and I found our seats. Shortly thereafter, men --apparently fathers of the attendees -- dressed in black pants, white long-sleeved dress shirts, and ties, appeared carrying trays loaded with McDonald's cheeseburgers and fries. Had it been up to me, I would've added to the ambience by dressing the waiters as Mayor McCheese, Hamburglar, Ronald McDonald, and other McDonaldLand characters, but perhaps there's a good reason I'm not in charge of such things. Furthermore, it wasn't MY prom; I was merely Jared's guest. The drink was McDonald's Orange Hi C. For those who didn't want Orange Hi C, drinking fountains were available at various points at the perimeter of the gymnasium. The litle toys that come with Happy Meals weren't given to us. Perhaps they were given to children at a homeless shelter or distributed at a children's hospital.

I'm not a food snob. I ate a cheeseburger after carefully using a napkin to scrape off all the onions, pickles, mustard, ketchup, and whateer else was on the burger besides the meat, cheese, and bun. I don't eat condiments; I only eat totally plain hamburgers. I didn't eat any fries. It's not that I have anything against McDonald's fries; I just don't really like french fries, period. They're not on my Donner Party list, but when there's enough other food around, I choose not to eat fries. Dessert wss those rectangular-shaped apple pies. I knew I wouldn't be able to eat an entire one and didn't want to be accused of wasting food, so I carefully cut one across the center and ate half of it. Jared ate the remaning half, as well as his own. Our table seemed quieter than the surrounding tables, and the other couples appeared to be paying particularly close attention to us. I tried to chew with my mouth closed, keep my napkin in my lap, and to observe all of the Emily Post rules of etiquette that I knew.

A girl seated directly across from me said, "You're from California, aren't you?" She wasn't looking directly at me, so I looked to my right and to my left, then made direct eye contact with her before assuming it was I she was questioning.

"Yes, I am," I answered her, attempting to smile politely.

"Do you know how I knew?" she asked, not making it clear that this particular question was directed at me.

Following a moment of silence, a boy seated across the table who was not her date responded somewhat condescendingly, "No, JoLynn, we don't know how you knew, but you're probably going to tell us, aren't you?"

"It's the dress, "Jo Lynn announced, smiling. "No one around here wears dresses like THAT!" She pointed at my carnation-pink satin dress, strapless but otherwise unremarkable in regard to the amount of skin it showed as opposed to the dresses worn by any of the other girls seated at our table.

"Where'd you get it, anyway?" JoLynn asked. "From Victoria's Secret?"

"Actually I got it in Salt Lake City at ZCMI," I lied. ZCMI (Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Incorporated) is a popular moderate-to-upscale chain clothing store in Utah that was originally owned and operated by the LDS church and at one time held a monopoly on clothing of its kind. A lie is a lie, and unless it's done to spare someone's feelings, which this one was clearly not, there's no way to put a positive spin on it, but I felt mildly justified in having told the untruth because just the day before, I had spotted a dress almost identical in style to mine but turquoise in color in the window of the ZCMI just across from Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

"I think your dress is beautiful," another girl commented, and the two girls at the table besides JoLynn agreed.

"I never said I didn't LIKE your dress," JoLynn attempted in damage control. "It's just a little immodest for this area."

"Meow," one of the boys at the table said.

"It's apparently not all that immodest if they sell it at ZCMI," another boy chimed in. I felt slightly guilty for my lie,

Then the conversation moved along more naturally. All the kids were curious as to my age -- they found it hard to believe I'm sixteen, and were curious as to why I was graduating a year early. They were interested in my schooling situation. I looked at Jared and explained to the others that I spent part of each week at a special accelerated school on the coast, and the remainder of the week at my home school. We both felt justified in not disclosing that I'm a patient in a psych ward,

Eventually the Happy Meal portion of the prom ended. Tables were moved back so that seating was still available but so that adequate space would be provided for dancing. The band played songs more like a band in California might have played several years ago. They seemed to rely heavily on hits from Nirvana, Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters, Cold Play, and The Smashing Pumpkins. I've heard higher-quality bands, but this band was clearly better than the band at the California prom I attended recently. Things went along smoothly enough throughout the dancing portion of the prom. Once the meal was over, I never saw JoLynn again. Several girls complimented me on my dress. I complimented them on theirs as well.

After the conclusion of the prom at the predetermined hour of midnight, Jared and I had permission to go to a local restaurant with one other couple for ice cream. We each had sundaes. We ate them slowly but not too slowly, as my curfew was 1:00a.m., and consequences would have been imposed had I been late. Jared and I made it inside Scott and Jillian's door, where I would be spending the night, with two minutes to spare.

My parents were spending the night at Scott's parents' home, but they had come over to Scott's and Jillian's place to visit with Jillian's parents and to hear about how the prom went. Jillian's brother Timmy took more pictures of me (pictures had been taken before the prom as well). My mom asked how things had gone. I told her about the lengthy screening process that was about like what a Muslim could have expected at an airport in New York City were racial profiling allowed. My dad just laughed and said, "That's one of the many reasons why we don't live in Utah."

I told my mom and Jillian's mom, whom I call "Aunt Ilianna," about what JoLynn said about how she could tell I was from California because of my immodest dress. I also admitted to the lie I told in response. Both my mom and Aunt Ilianna felt that I was perfectly justified in having said what I did.

Scott and Jillian came home at about 2:00 a.m. Jillian had been driving because Scott was in no condition to sucessfully maneuver a Hot Wheels car along a track, much less operate an actual motor vehicle. Uncle Scott hugged me and told me that I looked beautiful. I don't know whether or nor he remembered that he had seen me before the prom. He'd had a big day. My parents left, and Jillian's parents and Timmy went to bed. Timmy wanted to sleep on the couch and let me have the daybed in the downstairs office, but Uncle Jerry has a thing about safety, anf he felt that I was safer on the upstairs loveseat closer to others rather than downstairs.

Jillian helped Scott to bed, then had me get into my pj's and brought me up to her room to talk. We got in her bed and talked because Scott was sleeping so soundly that we could have jumped on the bed and screamed the "Hallelujah Chorus" without waking him.

I told Aunt Jillian about JoLynn. Jillian said that, having gone through BYU as a non-Mormon, she dealt with girls like that on a daily basis, She said that Karma has a way of getting even with them -- that they're never quite as happy as they would have been if they'd a bit been nicer to people along the way. I also told her about the PTA President lady who had made the comment about my lack of breast development. She promised to find out who the lady was and to have one of her brothers- or sisters-in-law call the woman on her rudeness. She said it was totally unnecessary and out of place.

Even though this wasn't MY prom, so to speak, it was probably more like a real prom experience for me because I didn't carry into it all the baggage that I took along to my prom. I'm glad I went to both, but despite a few awkward moments, I had a better time at this one.

I'm now tucked under sheets and blankets on a loveseat that is just my size in an alcove outisde the two upstairs bedrooms. If Danny Kretchmer or any other evil force shows up to abduct me, Uncle Jerry will be only about five steps away.

Good night!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Part Two of prom-related stuff, which thoroughly goes off on tangents, but there is a point to most of it, or at least I think there is

My mother's mother immigrated from a Catholic part of Ireland in her teens. My mother's father was the son of two Irish-Catholic immigrants. On both sides of that half of the family, one would have to conduct a genealogical search all the way back to the Druids or something similar to find anyone in my direct line of ancestry who was not Roman Catholic. My people were probably among the first to be converted by Saint Patrick, and they were likely such a scruffy lot that Patrick had a tough time deciding whether to convert them or to drive them off the island along with the snakes that he made disappear.

My father's family on both sides is of French Canadian descent. One was born somewhere in Ontario, while the other was born in Quebec. I can never keep straight which was born where. For all the attention they pay to me, it's only a tribute to my inability to rid my mind of useless information that I even remember that both of them were born in Canada. My father was born in Massachusetss, but the first language he spoke was French. My father's side of the family traces its roots to France in the three to four generations before my grandparents came along. Exhaustive genealogical records (which we now possess because that portion of the family is now Mormon, and Mormons make it their business to know such things)indicate that our relatives as far back as can be traced on that side of the family were Roman Catholic as well.

My father's religious pedigree veered off its course temporarily when his parents converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When such a conversion takes place, the parents typically drag their children along into the conversion with them. Such was the case with my father. He went along with what he was told to do, but for the first twelve years he was deeply indoctrinated in the Catholic faith. Though he was ordained to the LDS priesthood and served a two-year mission for the Mormon church, he was, himself, never totally sold on the idea, and made it a point not to sell anyone else on it while on his mission. He may have been one of the least successful missionaries in the history of the LDS mission program if you discount the missionaries who visited brothels, abused substances, or took off on unauthorized vacations in church-owned vehicles to catch the Olympics or other such events. My father didn't break any major rules. He just made it a point not to convert anyone to a religion he wasn't sure he believed in himself.

Once my father finished the the undergraduate portion of his education, he ceased church attendance. This greatly distressed his parents. Then he met the girl of his dreams (my mom), who was Catholic. When he decided to marry her, he made the choice to return to the Roman Catholic Church, though not without a degree of cynicism where religion in general was concerned. He just felt that it would be best for the family he would eventually have if the family were to attend church together.

In my paternal grandparents' eyes, my mother became the the snake who persuaded Eve to taste of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. (They actually used this analogy, which, if my mom was the snake and my dad was Eve, begs all sorts of questions regarding God having created "Adam and Eve," not "Adam and Steve," but for now, we'll ignore them and stick to the topic at hand.) It was all my mother's fault as far as my grandparents were concerned, though both she and my father say she said or did nothing to encourage him to return to his original faith.

My grandparents drove, with my father in the car, to what was supposed to be a wedding reception. As the car continued to travel further and further from civilization, my father began to wonder where they were really headed. Their intended destination was actually a cabin, where several of my grandfather's priesthood-holding friends and my father's sister's husband, Mahonri, were waiting with their scriptures and consecrated oil. This was a planned intervention/ deprogramming. After more than a week, it became evident to the men and to my grandmother that they could not hold my father there against his will forever, and, even worse, they were all facing possible kidnapping charges. They finally gave in and drove my father back to Salt Lake City, where he promptly hopped on the very next train to California.

At some point in the timeline, my grandparents filed a suit against my father for the cost of his undergraduate education and for the cost of his mission. My grandparents' offer was that they would drop their suit if my father would drop my mother and return to the fold. My father's counter-offer was that, even though the suit had no merit because there was no agreement, oral or otherwise, that the payment of his college or mission exoenses was contingent upon continued membership in their church, he would be willing to forgo pressing kidnapping charges against all who participated in detaining him against his will at the cabin if the lawsuit were dropped. My father, who had already contacted the local district attorney just before leaving for California, gave my parents one week to make their decision. Less than twenty-four hours later, he heard from them that the lawsuit would be dropped. That was the last time for several years that he heard anything from them.

The only relatives on my dad'a side of the family who attended my parents' wedding were his aunt and her husband (his uncle by marriage; DUH!) from Massachusetts, who were motified that their sister and brother-in-law would stand their own son up at his wedding over religious differences. Also present was my father's youngest brother Steve, who, at the age of fourteen, defied his parents and accepted a plane ticket to Nebraska, where the wedding was held, to serve as my dad's best man.

There were various attempts to make Mormons out of all of us along the way, but, as they're not germane to the story, I'll leave them for another day. The point here is that my parents were more-or-less practicing Catholics (the "more" refers to my mom and the "less" refers to my dad) since they were married and since long before my brother and I were born.

We relocated several times in my early years. Each time we moved to a different city, we quickly located the nearest Catholic parish and began attending regularly. When I was nine, we moved to the house where we presently live. We again located the nearest Catholic Church and had been quite active participants in the parish.

Then came the hurdling accident that cost me my prom date and very nearlly cost me my leg.

I wasn't allowed to receive visitors in the hospital for most of the time I was a patient because my tibia/fibula fracture was a compound (open) one, and the risk of infection was great. I was allowed visits from the Monsignor, who brought Holy Communion to me on Sunday. With the third surgery and the subsequent application of a hard plaster cast, my leg was deemed safe enough to withstand the potential germs of visitors. I only had two more days to remain in the hospital at that point, but many friends came to visit, with quite a few bearing gifts. My friend Krista brought me a sort of hand-made gift when she visited me in the hospital on Saturday. She had taken a Dollar Tree dart board and had glued a picture of John on it. I hadn't even opened the package of darts because you can't throw darts in a hospital room.

In a seemingly unrelated matter, John's family belonged to the the same Catholic parish my family attends, where I also play the organ and piano, or at least I did when I had two hands that worked.

When it was time for me to be released from the hospital, my parents gathered the gifts, including the dartboard, and loaded them into the car as they loaded me in. When we arrived home, my father carried me inside and upstairs to my bedroom. My mother carried in the gifts that were given to me. She set them on a bench in the entryway to our home until she had time to store them in appropriate places.

The day I was released was a Sunday, and the Monsignor had been to the hospital to deliver Holy Communion to me. Soon after I got home from the hospital, the Monsignor came to give me communion. Often lay members deliver communion to parish members too ill to come to church for communion. He was mildly miffed at having just missed me and thus having to make the trip to our home, and was in a slightly foul mood as a result.
I was to receive communion from the Monsignor himself because I, the organist, was a prominent member of our church, but evidently not as prominent as was John. When the Monsignor saw the dart board with John's picture on the bench in our entryway, he refused to give me communion. My mother tried to explain to the Monsignor than it wasn't my fault, because the dart board had been a gift that I couldn't leave at the hospital, and that I had no intention of throwing darts at John's image. The Monignor wasn't so easily assuaged. He told my mother that none of my family should have communion until we repented. My mother, the devout Catholic, was yelling at a Monsignor. I didn't know this before, but sources have since told me that John's parents donate very generously to the parish and to the Monsignor's pet causes.

I always thought the money my parents donated was substantial, but they're not in any position, apparently, to match the donations of a family whose wealth comes from agriculture in this area. (Nor should they care to be. Charity or giving to one's church should never be about competition or out-giving someone else.) While I don't wish to paint all farmers and dairymen with the same brush, many farmers and dairymen in our area live extravagantly regardless of their financial situation. Bankruptcy may be right around the corner, but they continue to live as though the world really was going to end on May 21. Then they declare bankruptcy when they cannot possibly meet their balloon payments, mortgages, and other bills. Miraculously, within a few years, these families are often just as weathy as they were before.

My Uncle Ralph was telling me of a farmer we both know who owns a house that makes the comfortable home in which my family lives resemble a single tenement unit. The father drives both an expensive pickup and a Lexus. The mother drives a new Cadillac Escalade each year, and the daughter drives some sort of customized pink jeep creation with pink leopard skin-lined interior made to look just like a vehicle that Paris Hilton used to own. Yet this farmer has already successfuly filed for bankruptcy three times, and he's not yet fifty years old. Even if my parents gave 90% of their income to the Church and to other worthy causes and expected us to wear Deseret Industries clothing and subsist on Ramen noodles, they couldn't begin to keep up with the financial contributions famiies such as this family are able to make. I will say in my parents' defense, though, that whatever money they donate is actually their own money and not money that should have been paid to a creditor.

After the Monsignor left, I was moaning about having been excommunicated. My dad told me to stop being a drama queen because I wasn't excommunicated; the priest just wouldn't let me have communion. I asked him what he thought excommunication meant. He laughed and answered, "Not being allowed to take communion."

My mom said, "We're all excommunicated." If the priest doesn't come to his senses, she said, we'll find another priest.

"In the Mormon Church," my dad said, "if you're excommunicated, you're excommunicated! It doesn't matter where you go. Those records will catch up with you sooner or later even if you move to Pago Pago or Point Barrows, Alaska." He paused. "That's what I love about the Catholic Church. If you don't like what one priest says, you can always look for another one."

After that, my dad gave me a Vicodin, so I didn't really care all that much about communion or anything else.

I already blogged about this year's California prom, and I'll take on the Utah prom after I've had some sleep, but I can tell you that nothing half as exciting as my entire family being excommunicated happened at either prom this year.

Postscript: I thought Judge Alex was entirely too generoua when he awarded that girl, Jessica, I think her name was, $1,500.00 for her prom expenses.
Five hundred dollars would have been generous. That's what I paid for two proms, and I paid my share of the tickets and meals as well.

Part One of prom-related stuff, which thoroughly goes off on tangents, but there is a point to most of it, or at least I think there is

If it seems a though you've heard some of this before, it's probably because you've read parts of it in other sections of my blog. You will notice, I hope, that the tone is decidedly less self-pitying. I'm over anything prom-related. There are other issues with which I'm still dealing, but a prom is a prom -- nothing more and nothing less. I'm breaking this saga into separate blogs because I fear it will become unwieldly if write continuously.

My prom experience last year was something of a debacle. I was confined to a wheelchair at the time because of clavicle and tibia/fibula fractures. My date decided it wasn't in his best interest to be seen in the company of what he termed a "cripple" in his official announcement of the breaking off of our prom date to the lunch crowd in the cafeteria. He never got around to making the announcement to me personally, which turned out to be unnecessary anyway, because, before the sun had set that very day, the girl he invited to the prom in my stead made it a point to visit me in the hospital to be sure I heard it straight from the horse's mouth and not through the rumor mill. I'm certain that was her intention. She couldn't have had any other motivation for her actions, could she? (Sarcasm can be difficult to discern in print. If you're wondering if you detect the slightest mocking tone in my words, the answer is yes, you do.)

Anyway, that's all ancient history. Realistically, the fabric from the dress I chose for last year's prom probably would have been severely damaged before the prom was half over by my leg cast no matter how well I tried to wrap my cast with ace bandages. It would've taken great effort to wrap my shoulder / clavicle / upper arm sufficiently well to safely fit it into the dress. Then my clavicle et al would've needed to be wrapped again in gauze and ace bandages once I was wearing the dress. Tres chic are not words that come to mind in describing how I imagine my appearance would've been that evening. Whatever method I used to style the bandaging, the only cover I might have been fit for was Modern Crippled Vogue if there were such a magazine.

Then there was the whole issue of the wheelchair. What does one do at a dance when confined to a wheelchair? Does one's date wheel the wheelchair-bound girl onto the dance floor and ludicrously pretend he's dancing with her wheelchair? Does the date sit idly with the cripple while other couples dance? Does the date dance with other girls as the wheelchair-bound cripple watches enviously? Does the wheelchair-bound date attempt just one dance out of the wheelcahir, assuming her date is strong enough to support her weight, and then be dropped on the dance floor, possibly reinjuring herself in the fall, but, at the very least, thoroughly humiliating herself in the process? Furthermore, by the time the prom day actually came around, I was capable of sitting up in my wheelchair or in any other chair for only thirty minutes at a time. Was someone supposed to roll me off the dance floor every thirty minutes and place me on one of those fainting couches that used to be strategically placed just for such instances?

The reasons I should have skipped out on last year's prom abound. The bottom line is that I could not have attended last year's prom, nor would I have even wanted to do so. The entire issue was the unceremonious revocation of my invitation to the prom. I wasn't yet entirely out from under the effects of general anaesthesia following what was my third surgery of the week when my prom replacement showed up at my bedside to let me know of the change in my prom plans. At that point, I wasn't even allowed visitors other than my parents and medical personnel. The girl was only able to make it into my room because her mother is an R. N. who at the time worked on the orthopedic surgical ward; when the girl appeared in the wing, if anyone noticed her at all, it was probably assumed she was there to see her mother for some reason or another. The girl easily slipped into my hospital room unnoticed. I won't go into all the details of what happened in the hospital during and following her visit. Instead, let us fast-forward to the exciting part where my entire family was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Doctor Appointment: The Uncomfortable Sort - Thanks to God for Relative Anonymity in Blogging

I HATE doctor's appointments. I don't have to visit doctors for really routine matters, because either my dad treats me for whatever the problem is, or my Uncle Steve, who's cfficially my pediatrician, comes by our house before or after his office hours. I don't often visit his office.

The appointment I'll have tomorrow, which at least happens right in the middle of my school day, forcing something vaguely positive to come of the ordeal, is the sort that involves at least some disrobing and uncomfortable poking and prodding. I'm not yet physcially mature enough for the all-out gynecological exam, THANK GOD!!!, but this one will be entirely too close to the real thing. My parents will both be there. I don't know that their presence will make it any better, but my mom says I'm young enough that no exam involving even partial nudity should take place without the presence of at least one parent or a stand-in guardian. Hell, why don't they just invite in the press corps as was done in the middle ages in cases of royal births in order to prove the lines of secession? My parents have read a little too much about the LaVar Withers cases in Rexburg, Idaho, I suppose. The parental accompaniment thing will probably change either when I hit forty-one or when my parents' old-folks' homes will no longer grant them leave for the privilege of attending my medical appointments.

I eagerly anticipate the day I am old enough to decide, if, when, why, where, or anything else related to my doctor's office visits. I'm sixteen now, and, without intending to boast, I possess at least the average level of intelligence for a sixteen-year-old. Why, then, do I not have the final say as to whether or not a doctor, male or female (it hardly matters) gazes at and occasionally even touches parts of my body that I prefer to keep clothed and untouched?

My exams haven't, for the most part, reached that horrible "penetration" stage, although there was one time when a doctor thought I might have appendicitis. I won't burden you with the gruesome details. Let us merely stipulate that the process was not anything resembling one of those formerly termed "E Ticket" rides at Disneyland. (For the record, since I've been old enough to visit the Disney parks, tickets were a relic, but I've heard of the olden days when one only got so many opportunities on the really good rides and had to spend the rest of their rides on "It's a Small World" or the "Monorail."

By the way, I was intensely disappointed when I learned that the "Monorail" did not travel at the speed of a roller coaster but was, instead, merely an elevated if futuristic-appearing train. This revelation regarding the speed at which the Monorail travels ranks right up there as one of life's greatest disappointments for me. [I'm deliberately omitting prom no-shows, sexual and physical assaults, and bricks being thrown trhough my window, as in my opinion they transcend the level of life's disappointments into a whole other realm.] The other monumental disappointment occurred on an Easter morning when I was five at my paternal grandparents' home. My mom was receiving a cancer treatment and Dad was with her, and the Easter Bunny did a complete no-show: no chocolate eggs, no jelly beans, not even a card. Stupid as it sounds, I had believed up to that point. From then on, I ceased to believe in anything, including leprechauns (my mom, being Irish, had gone to great lengths in maintaining the illusion that the little creatures showed up and created mischief in our house in the wee hours of St. Patrick' Day), Santa Claus, and the tooth fairy (although I did greedily hold on to the money my parents slipped and continue to slip under my pillow, as I'm a physcial late-bloomer and still lose a tooth on occasion). Even my faith in God was shaken, but following several lengthy conversations with a priest during my confirmation year, I've come to terms with that. I still haven't come to terms with my grandparents' miserly refusal to spring for even a ninety-nine cent bag bag of jelly beans for their grandchildren whose parents were too sick or preoccupied to think if it themselves. I don't think it even bothered anyone on that side of the family when other grandchildren showed up for the after-church dinner that day carrying huge candy-and-toy-laden baskets. This, I hope, gives my few readers one more glimpse into our relationship, if one could even call the connection between myself and my paternal grandparents a relationship.

Anyway, Monorail and Easter Bunny disappointments notwithstanding, I'm most uncomfortable when doctors look at and touch my body. My mom told me to get ued to it, because when I have babies, what's happened to me up to this point during the course of medical appointments will seem like one of those "E Ticket" rides by comparison. My answer to this is that I will not have any children. I'll adopt or do without. There's plenty of time between now and then to decide. (If I do adopt one or more children, I'll NEVER leave them in the care of anyone who would refuse to go along with the Easter Bunny charade while the children were still young enough to be in kindergarten.)

One reason I'm poked and prodded more than that with which I am comfortable is that my growth and development has been slower than the slow limit of normal. Last year at about this time, I was measured and was given a rating of being no longer growth-deficient, and was told I wouldn't need to return to the pediatric endocrimologist. Not long afterward, my parents received a letter explaining that because much of the data was obtained by a new employee, who apparently lacked the skills to weigh and measure a chocolate Easter Bunny, much less a human. The point of that letter was that, despite earlier proclamations to the contrary, I'm not yet out of the growth-deficient rage. I have serious hopes of reaching that milestone at this tear's visit, although my hopes are not so strong that it causes me not to dread the appointment.

So tomorrow I'll once again remove my clothing and don a flimsy examination gown so that I can be weighed, measured in all sorts of capacities, and again have my lack of "breast budding" noted. Why must anyone look at my nude chest to know this? I could tell the endocrinologist, his assistants, or anyone who is remotely interested that not a G#%-damned thing is yet happening to me in that department. This particular measure of development seems to be all-encompassing. The pundits on the topic aeem convinced that menstruation typically occurs eighteeb months practically to the day that "breast budding" first begins. To save them time and to save me humiliation, why can't I just dropt them a postcard when my breasts start to bud? Hell. I'd even be willing to provide photographic evidence, and even to toss another card into the mail on the day that the crimson tide makes its initial appearance into my life. I could spare us all a lot of trouble by using either the U. S. mail or email to keep them informed of my slow-but-still-apparently-moving-along primary and secondary sexual characteristic development.

My mom is not without sympathy. She was an Air Force brat, and Air Force doctors were and presumably still are typically more concerned with sewing a patient's intestines inside his abdominal cavity following a bombing or helicopter crash than with obsessing over an adolescent girl's breast budding or lack thereof. Still, it was enough a a topic of dicussion among the adults in my mom's life, including school nurses, that Mom can somewhat relate to my agony, although not so much that she fails to go along with my dad and Uncle Steve in their endeavor to leave no medical stone unturned.

Some readers -- relatives in particular, including the various cousins who showed up at my grandparents' home on that infamous Easter bearing elaborate Easter baskets filled to the brim with mouth-watering confections and who did not offer to share with me as much as a Peep (nor did their parents require them to do so) -- will say I'm being the typically ungrateful brat that I am. Perhaps they're right on some counts, but at this point I'm either going to grow a bit more, am going to develop physically as my mother did even having been in a boat very similar to the one I'm presently rowing, and will eventually reach that landmark achievement of breast budding, or I am going to remain tiny, thin, and with a chest roughly as flat as the surface of a snare drum. I fail to understand how humiliating medical appointments will change anytihng in this regard.

Postscript: I have a 5:00 a.m. diving practice in the morning and a track meet this afternoon. I really need to be sleeping right now, but the thought of having my body peered at and prodded is rendering sleep an impossibiity for me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Prom: I Made it There and Home Unscathed

I'll write more about the prom at a later time. Right now I'm so exhausted that I cannot even pretend to be coherent.

My dress was bright (but not "hot") pink. My date wore a black tux with a tie that matched my dress. He gave me a sweet pink rose wrist corsage, and the bouttonniere I gave him matched my corsage. We looked like a junior bridesmaid and a junior usher who had been matched up for wedding photos. Last year, however, had I been able to attend and had he been my date, we would have looked like the flower girl and ring bearer, so I should be grateful for progress, however little there has been. (Had I attended the prom last year with my original date, wheelchair, sling, and cast or not, my date and I would have looked like pedophile and victim. Maybe it was divine intervention that the other runner and her hurdle came flying into my lane to injure me. Memories are only what we make of them, but photographs are forever, or at least as long as anyone possesses them. Perhaps that aspect of my time spent in purgatory worked out for the best.)

We went out for dinner at a restaurant my date could afford. He didn't want me paying more than my share. I have disposable income because I used to be a church organist and still fill in occasionally, and I work for my school district as a choir accompanist. I receive disability payment (75% of my salary) for any session I miss when I'm in the loony bin. The state of California may be going bankrupt one disability check at a time, but damn, I paid into the fund, and I'm collecting now that I'm eligible. My parents make me bank 80% of all money I earn, and I must tithe or give to charity another ten per cent, but the remaining ten per cent isn't a bad disposable income for someone my age.

We stayed at the prom for almost two hours. Then we boarded the limo that we shared with three other couples and headed to my house. My parents arranged activities for twelve couple, including my brother's friends and mine, some of whom overlap. My parents heated our pool. It has the capacity to be heated, but it's almost never actually heated because doing so is too expensive. A few years ago my rich uncle paid to have our pool deepened and diving boards added so that I could practice diving at home. Nonetheless, a "no diving except for simple dives and cannonballs" rule was placed in effect for the night so that no untrained person would do anything stupid that resulted in paralysis or loss of life, or in my Uncle Scott actually having to venture into the water to rescue anyone. I was kicked out of the pool for the rest of the night after my first dive by my Uncle Scott, who was acting as lifeguard for that particular shift. He did let me get into the jacuzzi as long as I promised not to try any dives while I was in there (Duh! It's like four feet at its very deepest) but that got old after awhile. I told my date he could still swim if he wanted, but he chose the chivalrous route of playing ping pong and pool with me. After awhile, my date fell asleep in a recliner and I konked out on a loveseat. I have no clue what anyone else did until my mom woke me up at 6:00 for breakfast.

By seven a.m. everyone was gone. I tried to help with the cleanup, but my parents sent me to bed.

Conclusion: The prom was in no way monumental. (The band was pathetic, and sounded less talented than that group from The Ringer who sang "I See Pretty Girls Everywhere I Go." At one point I requested the song, as it seemed as though it would have befitted the talent level possessed by the group, but the front man for the group said that they had tried to learn the song, but it was too difficult for them to master, which wasn't hard to believe. I'm all for hiring the handicapped, but I don't think this group was handicapped in any way except musically. However much the group was paid was too much.) If I had not gone, however, I would have spent my whole life wondering what I had missed. My fifteen-year-old date is a junior, so he still has one more prom opportunity, but he said he doesn't know if there will be anyone at our school next year who looks young enough for him to accompany without looking like a little boy there with his nanny, so he's glad he took the opportunity to attend this year.

To all those who either encouraged me to go or who gave ne strategies for making an informed decision, I thank you. Your advice was sound and wise.

Next week it's off to a prom in Utah for me. I'm going as the date of my-sort-of-aunt's nephew. (We're not related. Put away your dueling banjoes.) I already knew I was attending this prom, but going would not have addressed the issues of facing down my own demons or battling my own dragons or however one might express the idea of facing life's unpleasantries head-on.

To my dearest Aunt Becky, my Aunt Maria from Sweden, and anyone else who cares to claim me as a close or extended relative (let me know if you wish to go on record as such and I will add you to my list), I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I also thank my mommy and daddy, Uncle Steve and Aunt Heather, and PseudoUncle Scott and PseudoAunt Jillian for making the event as pain-free as it could possibly have been. (A small dose of Klonopin helped, by the way.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Happy Menstruation to You" (not to ME, by the way) WARNING: PG-11 at least

A thirteen-year-old at my loony bin today achieved a major physical milestone. I'll be crude and announce it, since she did: she had her very first menstrual period.

Maybe I'm just jealous because I'm fifteen and am not all that close to achieving that particular milestone. Still,is it customary in our society to make a public announcement of such a development? Her mother had formal announcement cards printed immediately and mailed to friends and family, much as if she'd graduated from college or had gotten married. Her mom posted one of the announcements on the bulletin in our lobby. The message on the card was printed in dark red. Whether intentional or unintentionally ironic, this, to me, made it all the more disgusting.

The girl's mom had a large sheet cake delivered to the ward. At least it was neither red velvet nor frosted in red, although I suspect that had either the girl or her mom thought of it, they would have chosen one or the other. The girl expected everyone, including male patients and staff, to congratulate her.

I'm happy for her, since I'm so far behind in that department that my endocrinologist would be majorly concerned except that my mother's physical development was identical. Still, expecting to be congratulated seems a bit much. I know we congratulate little kids when they lose their first one or two teeth, but they're little. They expect to be congratulated when they get new shoes as well, and will call a person on it if the person fails to notice the new shoes.

Maybe that's why God made it where girls don't usually begin menstruating at the tender ages of four or five. They'd announce it to the world and expect people to clap for them just as two-year-olds do when they go poo poo or pee pee in the potty. God probably believes that such things are of a more private nature. He miscalculated where this girl is concerned. If God had made her wait until she was about twenty-five before granting her the gift of menstruation (which some say is far from a gift) maybe she would have had the decorum not to make such a public production of it. Then again, her mom is a lot older than twenty-five, and she thought nothing of publicizing the big event in virtually every way short of alerting their local media. Then again, maybe her mother did alert their local media. They're from a small town with a weekly newspaper. There has to be a way to check it out. Maybe I'll take bets on it. I may as well make some money off the crassness of these people.

My uncle Scott came into our ward today because my friend Erin got the cotton part of a generic Q-tip in her ear. (Don't use generic Q-tips. You're really not supposed to put them inside your ear canal, but almost everyone does.)The honoree of the day ran up to my Uncle Scott and proudly announced her status as a new woman. I've never seen my uncle either red-faced or speechless. He declined the offer of cake. As he walked away, he muttered that the girl's mother needed to be locked up in a psych ward every bit as much as the girl did.

My dad bought KFC with side orders for all the residents tonight. The girl's mom wanted everyone to sing, "Happy Menstruation to You," to the tune of "Happy Birthday," but my mom convinced her mom that it would embarrass her daughter. I seriously doubt it would have embarrassed the girl, and I suspect my mom knew it. She was merely performing a public service.

My Aunt Jillian was laughing so hard that she started coughing and couldn't stop, and had to have a steroid injection and a breathing treatment. As much as she hates shots, she said the whole thing was so funny that it was worth it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Prom is this Weekend

My prom is this weekend. I'm going. I have my dress and shoes. My Aunt Heather is doing my hair and nails because she's just as good as a professional and she doesn't charge me anything. I had to buy a junior bridesmaid dress, but at least it wasn't a flower girl dress. THAt would've been adding insult to injury.

My grandmother, who hates me anyway and already thinks I am doomed to spend eternity in outer darkness with Satan and his minions, wanted me, of all things, to buy a white prom dress that could double as my temple wedding dress in a few years. Helooooo!!!! I'm not even a Mormon. Even if they allowed me to be dunked into theit church, they probably wouldn't let me inside one of their sacred temples for marriage or for any other reason. Beyond that, my mom and dad couldn't attend my wedding if I were wed in a Mormon temple. As angry as I sometimes am at my parents, I would never hold my wedding at a place where my parents weren't allowed. It would have been akin to playing in the Master's if one had an adoptive African-American parent back in the days that blacks were banned from the premises.
In any event, have you ever heard of choosing a prom dress so that it can double as your temple wedding dress? Heaven forbid I might actually grow boobs before I get married.

For the record, my dress and shoes are bright pink -- not hot pink, but neither a pale shade.

I don't plan to be at the prom for hours on end. My date and I will show up about fifteen minutes after it starts and will remain there for between one-and-a-half hours and one-hour-and-forty-five minutes. Afterwards we're returning to my house, along with quite a few other prom attendees. my Pseudore;atives will be there. PseudoAunt is still to sick to be of use, but PsuedoUncle, dad, and mom will split up chaperoning duties.No one will be allowed to leave until his or her parents comes for him or her, or the parent is called and warned that the kid is on his or her way home. I'm not quite sure why parents are so paranoid about prom night. They think we're going to either have alcohol-related auto accidents, get pregnant, or contract the dreaded herps.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jiminy Cricket Explains Menstruation: The Blind Leading the Blind (Herpes References)

My formal sex education, as in that provided by the schools I attended, was woefully lacking. This was partly because my parents told me the essentials before the school got around to it. What the school told us wasn't quite as funny as the "Coke douche" method of pregnancy prevention, but it was not without its own amusing moments.

In high school, sex eduxation consisted mostly of the biology course unit of "The Question Box." I suppose it freed the teacher up from having to actually plan lessons. Instead, he answered questions that the students anonymously slipped into "The Question Box." The object, as far as the students were concerned, was to pose the grossest, most bizarre, stupidest, or most difficult-to-answer questions. One question I recall pertained to exactly how Siamese twins went about sex and if privacy was possible.(To be perfectly honest, I've wondered more than once about the logistic of sex when Siamese twins are involved.) I don't remember submitting a lot of questions to the box, but I did write one asking the sigificance of the number 69 as it pertained to sex. The instructor wrote the number "69" on the while board, then told us to imagine that the circular end of each numeral represented the head of the human body and the other end represented the other end. A boy whose name I cannot recall summarized, "So '69' means people suck on each others' toes?" The next day someone asked in the question box if any non-numan members of the animal kingdom engaged in 69 or any other form of oral sex. The instructor's answer was that there IS no such thing as oral zex. ???????????? Perhaps our instructor was also former President Clinton's sex education teacher.

In middle school, we watched the menstruation movie, which fell largely under the category of "too little - too late" since probably more than half of the girls viewing the movie had probably already been visited by the crimson fairy. The week-long unit, including that movie and one or two others, was taught by the school nurse. At one point she ventured into the territory of sexually transmitted diseases. The discussion was rather one-sided, as middle-school girls aren't likely to contribute a whole lot to any sex-related discussion led by or even held in the presence of an adult.
It wasn't long before the school nurse introduced herpes into the lesson. The instructor had apparently only seen the word in print and had never heard it pronounced, or at least had never heard it pronouced correctly.

Being a true central California Okie, the nurse knew a silent e when she saw it. Conseequently, she pronounced the word /herps/. The first time she said it, only a few girls noticed, and the giggling was barely audible. The second time, it was picked up by more of us. By the third time she mispronounced the word, the auditorium erupted in laughter. The nurse was utterly clueless. She thought we all found something inherently humorous in the condition of herpes as opposed to her mispronunciation of it.She declared, "I jus can't understand what in the world you young ladies find funny in the least about 'herps.' " She began a lecture of the seriousness of "herps," and how easily it could be transmitted between sexual partners, and how greatly it would limit our chances of attracting decent husbands, or at least of keeping them. Any decent man in his right mind would divorce us or annul the marriage immediately once he found out we had given him "herps." By this time girls were practically falling out of their chairs laughing.

The school nurse did not have any clue as to how this situation could best be handled. She eventually burst into tears and ran out of the room, leaving almost three hundred girls in an auditorium unsupervised.

One of the bolder students among us approached the microphone and continued the lecture about "herps." She said that "herps" was something like a scourge or plague that God had cast upon the Earth in order to sucessfully separate the wheat from the tares, or the pure from the impure, or something of that sort. She asked us what if Adam or Eve had "herps"? if such had been the case every one of use would have been born with unsightly sores all over our faces and genitalia. She started to drawe a picture of what everyone would have looked like had our forebears been afflicted with "herps." Then the vice-principal walked in.

Our impromptu lecturer quickly took her seat as the vice-principal walked up to the microphone. He stood there silently for a moment, then said, "I don't know exactly what you girls said or did to upset Mrs. Upton to the degree that you did, but I've worked with her for three years, and I've never seen her angry, much less in tears. Can anyone explain this?"

We sat there silently for an uncomfortably long time that was probably only a few minutes. Eventually I grew tired of sitting in silence. I approached the vice-principal. I asked if I could speak to him away from the microphone so that nothing I said would be picked up.

He stepped to the side of the stage. I motioned for him to lean over to my level, as I didn't wish for anyone else to hear what I told him, and he was too tall otherwise for me to whisper in his ear. I told him in hushed tones that Mrs. Upton did not know the correct pronunciation of the word
herpes and that every time she said "herps," it became funnier. We grew more and more hysterical when she thought we were laughing because we thought herpes was such a funny disease. I told him the final straw had been when she said in parting as she stormed off the stage and out of the auditorium, "It would serve all of you right if every single girl in this room got herps."

The vice-principal couldn't entirely conceal his smile. He called the librarian, who brought in several approved movies -- all lame, but none as bad as the "Jiminy Cricket Explains Menstruation" video we had watched earlier. The next day was to be the final day of our family life education, but it was scrapped. We went back to our normal schedule.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Profile Picture: Its Significance in My History, and the Conscience-Lacking Relatives on Dad's Side Who Are Responsible

My parents will not allow an up=to-date picture of me because i'm supposed to be semianonymous in this blog. I'm not even granted access to any of my parents' equipmemt that can scan photos for posting. My dad asked me if I wanted a photo from when I was very young as a profile pic.I said, "Sure." Then he scanned one of me that was taken when I was about six months old and had my left index finger up my left nostril. If the timing was such that any of you saw it, PLEASE try to block the image from your mind. Permanently. I told him to take it down. He said he would, but he was taking his sweet time, so my mom took it down for him.

Dad found another picture. I agreed that it could be used because it's kind of funny. It's many of my relatives' favorite picture of me, though for different reasons. The circumstances surrounding the picture were that my mom was being treated for cancer at a hospital, presumably in Los Angeles. It was the week spanning Thanksgiving. My father needed to be with my mother. The logical aunt to take care of us was also battling cancer at the same time, and her own children were farmed out to other relatives, so my father's choice of child-care providers was limited. My brother and I were to stay with my paternal grandparents until my father and mother returned home. Situations had arisen years earlier that had caused my parents to vow that my brother and I would never again be placed in the care of our paternal grandparents, but an unforeseen complication such as cancer will sometimes cause people to take back their words.

It was an unplanned trip, so my dad had not packed carefully. He just opened up drawers and threw a few articles of clothing into a suitcase and put us on a plane from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. My dad had to produce my passport to prove my age, because the airline employees would not believe I was nearly six. At that time, for that particular airline, if I recall correctly, the minimum age for flying unaccompanied by an adult was five, and even for five- and six-year-olds, an extra fee was required for the additional supervision.

On Thanksgiving Day, when the picture was taken, I woke up after breakfast had been served, so I was told I couldn't have breakfast. No one had found the time to wash any of the few mismatched outfits my father had thrown together than I had worn, so my aunt brought over an outfit her daughter had outgrown that wasn't even in good enough condition for Deseret Industries or Goodwill to accept. I was probably wearing the same underwear as the day before (too much information) because I doubt anyone thought to bring any fresh ones for me. As you can clearly see, no one bothered to comb my hair.

Then my Uncle Mahonri had the nerve to produce a camera and tell me to smile. I did not yet know about the significance of extending one's middle finger to indicate disgust with a person. "The look" was the best I could come up with on a moment's notice. It has been preserved for prosperity.

My dad's family loves/hates/loves to hate the picture because they say that's the way I looked every waking moment of my childhood. I'd tend to concur if they would stipulate that was the way I looked every waking moment of my childhood in which I was denied food, given stained and ill-fitting clothing to wear, neither had my hair combed nor was even handed a brush and told to do the best I could with it myself, wasn't provided with clean underwear, and was separated by hundreds of miles from my very sick mother while being left in the care of relatives I didn't know well who clearly could not have cared much less for me than they did.

Every member of my mother's family, including the in-laws, which would include my father, absolutely detests my Uncle Mahonri. My Uncle Ralph, when he first saw the photo many years after it was taken, summed things up by saying that the look I was giving Uncle Mahonri in the picture so clearly represented how our entire branch of the family felt about him, and that if I'd had the knowledge of such things, I most certainly would have flipped him off.

A few years ago, my Uncle Steve was shopping for a Mother's Day card (for his wife, not for his mother; she hates him so much that if he sent her a card, she'd probably rip it into shreds, put it into another envelope, and sand it back to him) when he came across a card bearing that very photo. He bought it, brought it to my home, and asked my parents if they thought it was I. They apparently debated the topic for awhile before I came downstairs. When they showed it to me, I told them exactly where, when, and under what circumstances the photo was taken, and by whom.

The "when" is relatively apparent; just over a month after the photo was taken I became very sick because Uncle Mahonri's twenty-three-year-old sister, who was being paid very generously to babysit us while my mom was in the hospital in Los Angeles, was not feeding my brother or me. Matthew had a healthy enough appetite that he scrounged around until he found semi-nutritious things to eat, or else went begging to the neighbors' homes for food. I first tried to sustain myself on candy alone, but after a week or so, even candy ceased to have any appeal, so I basically stopped eating. One morning at school, I fell asleep at my desk, and my first grade teacher could not wake me. The ambulance was called, and Uncle Mahonri's sister was fired as babysitter. In any event, that picture my Uncle Mahonri took was probably the last picture of me showing a remotely full face. My face has been very thin since that time.

My mom and dad and Uncle Steve amd Aunt Heather debated the legality of selling a child's image to a greeting card company without a release, much less an offer of compensation. They agreed that none of them really knew anything about the law concerning such things. My mom did say something to Mahonri to the effect of,"We saw the picture of Alexis on a greeting card.
We would have been more than happy to sign any release and wouldn't have asked for any money, but it would have been nice if you had at least offered us a copy of the picture." It all went over Mahonri's head. He's been stealing toilet paper and toothpaste and all sorts of things for decades. Why would he think twice about stealing someone's image?

The picture exists whether I want to pretend it does or not. My attitude is the same as Uncle Ralph's. I AM giving them a look that implies "$%&# yourself. you mother$%&#ers!" If they're willing to publicize a photo showing how lax are their standards in the physical care of a child, what more proof would the court ever need in a case against any of them?

Besides, even though it reminds me that, at that particular moment in time I was very sad, it really is a funny picture, and it is cute. There was nothing they could do to me that would make me not cute. That is a victory in itself.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Imperfect Mother: Is There Any Other Kind?

I won't get to see my mom on this Mother's Day because she had to travel a considerable distance, and traveling makes her tired. It seemed the best present I could give her was to allow her to rest for the remainder of the day. I'll see her tomorrow,anyway. Lest I come across as a miser, I did actually buy a present for her, which the director of my facility very kindly delivered to her hotel.

Since it is Mother's Day, I will use the opportunity to talk about my mother. This cannot be considered any part of my Mother's day gift, because my mom is never anything close to thrilled at being the subject of one of my missives. Novertheless, it's a timely topic, so here it goes.

I've been told many stories by many of my mother's siblings and siblings-in-law. If my grandparents on her side of the family were still here, they would surely have even more stories to contribute. None of these stories are the sort that a mother would choose to have her daughter hear. I won't give you a complete rundown on my mother's life of crime or near-crime -- she would want me to point out that she's never been apprehended or arrested for anything, even a speeding ticket. This does not mean in any way that my mother was a model citizen in her youth. Quite to the contrary, she was an expert at deflecting blame and generally avoiding the slightest suspicion when something sinister went down.

My mother was, if my sources are correct, as close to a "perfect chid" as one could be from about the age of three until she turned twelve. In her very early days, she was prone to throwing fits to get her way. As she aged and matured, she learned that she could get exactly what she wanted much more quickly by smiling sweetly than she could by throwing herself to the floor and screaming at the top of her lungs. Soon my mother was viewed by other teachers and parents as the child they wished other children would be, or at least imitate. For several years, my mother did exactly as she was expected and continued to be labeled with the "goody two shoes' reputation she had acquired, which made her popular with adults but not so much with her peers. Still, she continued to do the right things because they were the right things to do.

Not long before my mom turned twelve, her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. My grandmother had written off her persistent cough and shortness of breath to all sorts of things and had delayed medical treatment until the cancer was really too advanced for any treatment to be effective. She lived longer than the doctors predicted, but still only lasted until shortly after my mom's thirteenth birthday.

I won't share the details of my mom's escapades, because I've shared many already, and going into many details would take longer than you have time to read or I have time to write. I'll try to summarize by saying my mother had a lot of fun, made a not insignificant amount of money through running a sports gambling ring (she was sucessful in part because she fronted her operation with money she had earned and saved from serving as her local parish organist) and selling tests. She was and still is so incredibly brilliant that how little time she spent in class didn't even matter. She still came out of high school as an early-acceptance candidate at Stanford with a full scholarship despite no perceivable connections at an institution where connections are everything.

My mom must have gotten most of the mischief out of her system by the time she reached the university. She could have graduated from Stanford in three-and-one-half years with a double major of educational psychology and music performance with emphasis in piano, but chose to stick around for one additional semester in order to attach a vocal performance emphasis degree to her other two degrees. Her voice didn't mature enough for anyone to even consider her a viable candidate for the voice program until her final undergraduate year.

My mom went on to pick up a counseling credential and a teaching credential She doesn't feel that a school psychologist or a school counselor has any credibility unless he or she has spent at least a brief interval in full-time teaching; my mom taught first grade for one year and high school math for another. (She had taken enough higher-level math courses in college to qualify for a single-subject math credential.) She obtained master's degrees along with each of these credentials. She continued graduate school while teaching, and picked up a doctorate in psychology, along with a Marriage, Family and Child Counseling certification. The degree of which she is probably most proud is her doctorate in music performance with emphasis in piano. She completed this degree while she was working as a school psychologist, and fulfilling the requirements involved a level of organization of which I cannot comprehend. The hours of practice time alone required to receive a passing score on a doctoral recital are more than most of us could devote even if we were not working full-time.

My mom is a gifted musician with an incomparable voice. She has absolute pitch, as do my father, brother, and I as well. She once stood in for her cousin, who is a founding member of a vocal group well-known in Europe, for a single benefit concert. Both the musical director and other members of the ensemble commented afterward that the cousin's absence was noticeable if only for the fact that my mom's voice is stronger that is her cousin's, which necessitated adjustments from the sound technicians.

My mother's piano playing is, in my biased opinion, unparalleled. I can always tell when it is she who is playing just by the sound of the keys striking the hammers. My mother has a unique touch, whether playing fortissimo or pianissimo, that no one else can duplicate. Two of her sisters were music majors and are highly proficient pianists as well. They can play exactly the same notes as my mother, and perhaps even with the same level of technical proficiency, but it does not sound the same as when my mother plays the notes. My mother's touch on a piano keyboard cannot be duplicated even by me, and God knows how hard I try to achieve the sound. My mom tries to console me by telling me that I play better than she did at my age. I don't know if it's the truth or if she's doing the motherly thing of trying to help me maintain some level of self-esteem. My mother also plays organ masterfully, but her first love is and always will be the piano.

I sing (my dad's a singer, so musical genes come from both sides; my brother has a better voice than I do), but my voice has not yet come close to maturity. I have occasionally sung with my mom and her sisters for special performances. I hear them commenting almost wistfully amongst themselves, "Remember when we used to sound just like that." My mom says I should appreciate it because my voice will mature and it will never possess that same dolce quality it now has. The problem is that my mother's sisters sounded when they were eleven they way I sound now. My mom was probably fourteen when her voice was as is my voice now. Will my voice ever fully mature? I'm beginning to have my doubts. Patience is a virtue, but I don't want to sound like a little girl forever. For the record, my speaking voice is equally immature as my singing voice.

In addition to losing her mom to cancer as an early teen, my mother has endured hardships as an adult that include many work-related difficulties, seriously complicated relationships with my father's side of the family, Grave's Disease, kidney stones, thyroid eye diesase, leukemia, the loss of premature twins, and the birth of living twins, one of whom [me] was undersized and needed to spend five weeks in the hospital after being born.

My appearance in the household after my mother and brother had already established a routine and had bonded thoroughly created conflict in the family dynamics of our home. This was compounded by the idea that my mother was apprehensive about caring for such a tiny and fragile baby as I was. I believe I was barely four pounds when I was released from the hospital. My father would sometimes come home from work to find my mother holding my brother. He would ask where I was, and often my mom wouldn't have an answer. (Usually I was lying or sitting [depending upon my age] in my crib waiting for someone to get me up. While I do not know what ever happened behind closed doors, nor would I ever want to know, my guess would be that most of the arguments between my parents were about me. Somehow it all worked itself out, though. I survived and have a relationship with my mother.

My mother is not without her quirks. She despises mayonnaise roughly to the degree that I despise human flesh. (Her distate for mayo may have slightly more basis in actuality than does my distaste for human flesh, as she presumably has tasted mayonnaise at some point in her life, while, as many weird things as family has tried to force me to eat, sometimes under the guise that the food they were forcing on me was something other than it actually was, I would certainly hope that human flesh is not one of the foods the family has shoved into my mouth in disguise of rare veal or pickled pigs' feet.) Anyway, if my mother notices the thinnest white ribbon of mayonnaise curving its way through the yellow mustard, her ordinarily Ghandi-like passivity vaporizes as she goes absolutely ballistic, usually at me, which is ironic in that I eat neither mayonnaise nor mustard.

This past holiday season, my mother was in near-constant pain due to what was mis-diagnosed as an ovarian cyst (and possible ovariam cancer) but what was actually acute appendicitis. In the days preceding her surgery, she tried to go about her ordinary non-school-day routines, which included, at this particular time, giving medicine to me. I had been diagnosed with croup and had to take, in addition to antibiotics and steroids, a gosh-awful concoction I call Purple Sludge but is actually called Phenergan-Codeine cough syrup. I usually complained when the Purple Sludge was given to me, but I took it despite my complaints. One particular time she was giving me my the Purple Sludge, I happened to cough just as my mom was giving me the purple sludge. This caused my mom to hit my chin with the spoon containing Purple Sludge, which sent the Purple Sludge everywhere except into my mouth. My mom reacted as though I had spat the cough syrup directly into her face. She put down the empty spoon, sat down, pulled me over her knees, and whacked my bottom as hard as she could with her hand as though I was a three-year-old. Her hands are small, and she was in a weakened state, so it didn't actually hurt. Both my brother and I had difficulty not laughing. I really didn't want to laugh because I was nervous that she might call 9-1-1 and have me taken to juvey as a "beyond control" minor just for accidentally coughing while my mother was trying to give me liquid medicine. She now knows how out-of-control she was and laughs about it along with the reast of us.

It would be laughable to pretend that my mother is either a perfect person or a perfect mother. The various jobs she's held over the years have taken a heavy toll on her patience, which means that when she walks through our door, very little of her patience remains. For some reason, I am usually in the wrong place at the wrong time when my mother finds it necessary to explode. The very best of my mother's parenting has usually gone to my brother, while what's left over goes to me. Still, I think I'd rather have the left-overs, or the worst of my mom's parenting, than the very best any other mother could have given me. She's that good.

My mom is ordinarily among the most even-tempered people on the planet. Only two things have the potential of setting her off: anything anyone has done by way of mistreating either me or my brother, and me! I have the power to bring out instant PMS rage in my mother with the slightest roll of an eye, the softest sigh at the wrong time, or the nerve to have left dishes in the sink that my brother and his friends had put there after school. My brother, as you would know if you've read many of my blogs, is a bit thick-skulled. Nonetheless, he has a GPA that's above 4.0. He CAN learn to stack dishes into the dishwasher properly. He's merely playing dumber than he is, and my mother falls hook, line, and sinker for his inept act. I'm always standing in the direct line of fire when my mom happens to be ready to blow a head gasket. Sometimes it hurts my feelings, but at other times I'm able to let it bounce off me as though I were wearing an armored suit. My mother also has, when she chooses to use it, the ability to read my mind. Her brothers and sisters say it is because she was so much like me. All I know is that she can predict my actions with better than 90% accuracy.

I could never have kept track of the number of nights my mother and my father have taken turns sitting up with me when I was sick, injured, or had endured a particularly disturbing nightmare. Regardless of how angry my mom may have been at me an hour earlier, anytime I need her, she comes running to me. I don't plan to imitate every single aspect of my mother's child-rearing practices, but my basic role model in parenting will be my own mother.