Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nice Diversion

Pseudo-Aunt and Uncle are in my area for the weekend for doctor's appointments and job interviews. Pseudo-Aunt has adult-diagnosed cystic fibrosis, and, because she and Pseudo-Uncle will likely move to somewhere in the southern California area when Pseudo-Uncle begins his residency this summer, she chose to begin treatment here since she had so little remaining time in Utah. Pseudo-Uncle had two interviews for residency positions. They're staying here for the weekend because one interview was Friday and the other is Monday morning.

Pseudo-Aunt's appointment was OK. It's not as though there appears to be sufficient lung damage since she was last seen about six weeks ago. The problem is that the doctor really wanted her to gain weight, and she lost two pounds even with drinking four bottles of water before she weighed in. She was sick twice in the past six weeks, which undid any hope of even maintaining weight.

Pseudo-Aunt and Pseudo-Uncle were both in slighly bad moods last night, she because the doctor ragged on her so much, and he because the doctor told him it was his responsibility to do whatever he had to do to make her gain weight. So he nagged her throughout dinner about not eating enough. I attempted to make things better by eating less than she did in order to make it seem like she was eating an acceptable amount by comparison, but that only caused Pseudo-Uncle to nag at her more, saying she was a poor example for me. Then he started hassling me about my eating habits and how I needed to gain even more weight than Pseudo-Aunt.

Today we walked around the campus I'm likely to attend next year. The director of my facility had obtained permission for me run hurdles and to dive at the facilities there. We all ran hurdles. Pseudo-Aunt is really good considering she'd never done it before. She's short but long-legged, as I am. Long legs are a decided asset in hurdling. We were both better than Pseudo-Uncle. Pseudo-Uncle dove with me. He has some natural diving ability and no apparent fear, but he looks somewhat like an ape in the air when he's diving.

It was my turn to pick the restaurant at dinner. i picked a "===== ========
rewing Company," which is a local restaurant I've been to with the director of my facility and his family. His daughter -- the one who's a complete brat and is supposedly a younger version of me even though I don't see the resemblance -- likes the restaurant because it appeals to picky eaters, which I also am. The Pseudos liked it well enough, although we had the same arguments as at dinner the night before. This time I wasn't even trying to pick at my food.

I'm staying with the Pseudos at their hotel for the next two nights.(I checked for bedbugs, as I always do at hotels. I've never been in a hotel with bedbigs as far as I know, but one can never be too careful in that regard.) When we got back to the hotel room, Pseudo-Uncle sat on one of the beds and asked Pseudo-Aunt and me which of us wanted to be beaten first. It was a bit unsettling to me, but Pseudo-Aunt whispered, "On the count of two, run right at him. We can take him." Even the two of us together couldn't take him (he weighs a few pounds more than the combined weights of the two of us), but he didn't beat us. He was joking.

We're watching an episode of "House." A velociraptor is crashing through the glass of the hospital lobby and attacking the people. More correctly, a patient is hallucinating that it is happening. We're actually semi-watching, and all of us are on our laptops. Pseudo-Uncle is remaining in the room under protest while "House" is on the TV. He hates all medical programs, as do all doctors, my dad included, which means that I have to love all medical shows. Being oppositional is hard work at times. Pseudo-Uncle especially hates "House," but Pseudo-Aunt likes it because she thinks the doctor who plays the character of "Chase" looks like Pseudo-Uncle.

Tomorrow we're sleeping late, eating brunch, going to the beach, and eating a take-out lunch there, then eating dinner. Pseudo-Uncle says that the effort of getting Pseudo-Aunt and me to gain weight is turning him into a manatee. I'm staying with the Pseudos until Monday morning, when they will return me to my facility before Pseudo-Uncle has his last interview. I'm going to fly to Utah to visit them in about two weeks.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Red Asphalt Dreams and Lots of Hail Marys

One major source of anxiety for me lately has been driving. Despite the fact that I'm seventeen, for reasons connected both to my parents' overprotective tendencies and to misfortunes that have befallen me personally, I didn't even acquire a learner's permit until late fall. I have taken my required driving lessons with a professional instructor. What remains is for me to drive with a licensed adult driver until at least six months after the date I first received my learner's permit.

Driving with a parent is an enthralling adventure for everyone involved. I am willing to go on the record as saying that riding with me is not a peaceful and relaxing experience for anyone who has the misfortune of being in a car with me while I am behind the wheel. Most people my age have had actual driving experience, albeit illegal, long before they actually undertake the formal and informal instruction leading to a driver's license. My only prior driving experience was behind the wheel of the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe that my brother and I co-owned before we were even old enough for pre-school. Some of the skills that are needed to successfully navigate a vehicle through traffic to a destination come only with experience, which I do not have in my favor. (Since my brother already has his license, there's probably no longer much real risk in divulging that he's been operating motor vehicles on my uncle's dairy since he was about eight years old. What my parents thought was a boy taking to driving much as a duck takes to water was more correctly the fruit of many hours behind the wheels of pickup trucks and miscellaneous farm vehicles. Whether it was because of his male chauvinism or common sense, my uncle never extended the same privilege to me.)

I completed my driving lessons with a professional instructor more or less without incident. Then came the time for me to drive with Mom or Dad. The first parent to have the white-knuckle experience of riding with me was my mom. She recounted the ordeal, sparing no detail, to my dad, who concluded that she must surely have been exaggerating. My dad then volunteered to serve as my driving supervisor. It took about ten minutes for him to conclude that my mother had grossly understated the ineptitude of my driving ability in order to delude him into agreeing to take over my driving instruction. My parents then arrived at the solution of both parents riding in the car while I drove. They soon realized that, under this plan of action, three-quarters of our nuclear family could easily be eradicated from the face of the planet in one fell swoop, leaving my brother Matthew to fend for himself with admirable driving skills but with an otherwise dim wit.

My parents' next strategy was to take turns riding along as I honed my driving skills. My dad always took me to the over-sized parking lot of a former mega-church whose pastor had scandalously carried on an extra-marital affair with the church's Director of Christian Education. The end result was a church parking lot that my dad would have felt practically safe riding through with me at the wheel at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. My dad hedged his bets even further by driving with me on weekday afternoons, when not a soul could be found in the parking lot or on the premises. My mom -- always the bolder or at least the more fatalistic of the two -- ventured onto public roadways, but only while tightly clutching her rosary and mumbling inaudible Hail Mary's anytime she wasn't shrieking at me.

My parents would probably tell you that my problem wasn't a lack of caution. Too much caution can make a driver every bit as dangerous as blind overconfidence combined with reckless abandon. My natural tendency is to be so concerned about the dog, child, or cement mixer a quarter-mile ahead of me that I don't notice the stop sign immediately in front of me. My previously youthful-appearing (appearances can be deceiving; they're in their late forties) parents were aging before my eyes.

The driving situation, in addition to everything else that plagues me at this juncture of my life, was causing me incredible anxiety. I recognize that I cannot achieve full independence from my parents without the ability to drive. The way my mind deals with this is to cause me to have horrific "red asphalt" dreams. For this reason, the staff at my facility chose to address the problem.

The first course of action was to order additional professional lessons for me. I took sixteen lessons beyond the original six I was required to complete. The next step was for me to drive with the director of the facility. I've driven with him four times. When my dad heard about this, he said the director, who is a friend of his from the dinosaur days when they were in medical school together, is clearly insane; it's a classic case, my dad said, of shrinks being every bit as wacked as the people they purport to treat. Because the director is male, it would be highly imprudent for him to be in a car with me by ourselves, so even though it is expanding the axis of endangerment by fifty per cent, a third individual, an adult female, must be included in the operation.

I am actually learning to drive this way. My new driving instructor says that I will be ready for the behind-the-wheel exam by mid-spring. Just thinking about it inspires a whole new slate of "red asphalt" dreams, but some things in life must be done. For me, driving is one of those things.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Anxiety Attacks

I haven't shared a great deal about the primary reason I am playing hooky for a substantial portion of my senior year of high school to be treated in a residential facility. I did provide sketchy details of an attack and a somewhat threatening follow-up to that attack, which was delivered with the presumed intent of intimidating me and/or my family. The attempt at intimidation was not particularly successful. I suppose it was successful in part, because it intimidateed the he!! out of me. My parents, on the other hand, were not intimidated in the least. It made them, if anything, even more determined to follow through with the legal recourses available.I still can't share more of the specifics of the attack or its resolution because the legal aspects have yet to be finalized, but I can share a few details about my own outcome.

Shortly after the attack, I developed symptoms consistent with a condition known as "acute stress disorder." My symptoms were estreme sleep difficulty because the attack tended to happen again almost everytime I drifted into sleep. Then I developed problems associated with sleep deprivation. My doctors were more concerned with my lack of sleep than they might have been with the average patient because I still was not fully healed from my more serious fracture from last spring, and I still have growth that's supposed to happen. I'm just under 5' 1" (a measurement done laat spring was either done or recorded inaccurately), and my pediatric endocrinologit had hopes that I would reach 5'3". Both healing and growth happen during sleep.

Additionally, I began to experience anciety attacks. For each person who experiences anxiety or panic attacks, the experience is somewhat unique, but it may involve heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, light-headedness, hot flashes, cold flashes,nausea, hyperventilation, tunnel vision, and many other potential manifestations. For me, the panic attacks usually feature tachycardia, trembling, clammy skin, tunnel vision, and nausea with vomiting. They come at times when something has reminded me of the attack, but they occur at other times more randomly.

When the one-month anniversary of my violent attack came and went without any marked improvement of symptoms, my condition was reclassified from "acute stress disorder" to "posttraumatic stress disorder." In my particular case nothing changed; just the fact that a month passed and nothing changed caused the change in diagnoses.

My pediatrician and a pediatric/adolescent psychiatrist who were managing my case decided that aggressive treatment was needed in order to combat this thing. My treatment is in part pharmacological, but mostly consists of forms of cognitive therapy with some desensitization therapy. The goal is that anti-anxiety medication will not need to be a long-term part of my life.

So that, in a nutshell, is why I am in a loony bin. My next post will be at least a little bit more cheerful.

Friday, January 21, 2011

They Came to Take Me Away

I returned to my loony bin today. The flight was uneventful as my flights go. I tossed three baskets of cookies, which has become more or less par for the course for me. One of my friends told me that I should take Dramamine or one of those other motion sickness medications. I could take one, I suppose, but it wouldn't help. I don't have motion sickness. It's some sort of anxiety reaction. I can't really explain why I now have anxiety associated with airplane flights, but I do. it's just one of those unexplained lingering side effects following my unfortunate incident of September 2010. Fortunately for me and for my fellow passengers, I can barf very quietly. I bury my face in one of the barf bags provided by the airline, then I quickly and quietly empty the comments of my stomach. Most of the time no one other than my dad has any idea what happened.

When my dad and I reached my facility, he carried my suitcase up to my floor, as he always does. I always try to talk him out of accompanying me up the elevator, but he always does anyway. Maybe he has to sign me in.

My dad rang the bell for admittance to my wing, and someone buzzed us into the wing. I told my dad I could carry my suitcase into my room. He said he would carry it because he needed to talk to me before he left. This made me nervous. I was afraid I would get a long, drawn out, and really mean lecture about how I had wasted all the time in my facility up to this point and how I only had about two months more to take care of my problems or be stuck with them forever. When my dad is angry, he is capable of speaking in a way that upsets people much older and bigger than I am. I told him I didn't want to talk to him right then. He insisted that he needed to talk to me. We were standing in the corridor arguing when one of the interns came up and asked if he could help. My dad told him he could get either the suitcase or the kid. He picked up the suitcase and my dad picked up me. While he was dragging me into my room, he said, "Honestly, Alexis, if I were going to beat you, wouldn't I have done it at home?"

So my dad dropped me on my bed and sat down on it next to me. He was actually out of breath. I'm really not all that heavy, and I didn't struggle that much. I hope he's just out of shape and not having heart probblems or something. He did sort of talk about what I thought he would, although he didn't say I had wasted the time in the hospital up to this point. He mostly just said that it would be really good for me to be as healthy as possible by the time I go to college, and so it was OK to have fun, but I also need to listen to the doctors. he also wanted to talk about college. We've had almost a month to talk about college, yet he never once brought it up at home. That's the way my dad is. Something is so unimportant that he doesn't talk about it once in four week. Then he suddenly thinks it's so incredublky important that henmaske a huge scene, dragging me into my hospital room in front of God and about a thousand witnesses to talk about it.

He really wanted to put in one more plug for the local university. In all honesty, I would be seriously receptive to the idea of enrolling there for a year or two. My problem with the place is mainly the place. I have more problems with anxiety near home than I do elsewhere because what happened was in my city of residence. I don't really need to be away from mom and dad, but I need to be away from that city. If I could pack my parents in my suitcase and take them with me to college, I probably would.
Such is not practical, however, as they have their own lives besides being my parents.

My dad came back this evening after work. There weren't really any planned activities, so people were in one of the lounges playing one or another of the lame games they like to play. I wasn't playing, but I went in there to be social. A girl who's fifteen came in and sat next to my dad. I'm not totally sure what her issues are -- she may be one of the drug addicts who's pretty farinto her recover-- but she has a serious issue with being overly fond of everyone's father, but she's even fonder of my dad than she is of the others. Most of the other dads are really scared of her, so my dad is one of the few who will give her the time of day. She sat ridiculously close to him. He just smiled at her and patted her on the head. He said if he ever found himslef alone in a room with her he'd cry "rape," but he's not all that worried about her in public. She kept hanging on him. He's far more patient than I would be.

At home I have a certain amount of leverage in dealing with girls who find my dad attractive. If they say any such thing in my presence, I refuse to be around them except in class when I have no choice. Here I have no such control. One girl with agoraphobia is convinced that my dad is a dead ringer for the character "Wilson" on "House." "Wilson" has brown eyes. my dad's eyes are blue. How can my dad be a dead ringer for someone with brown eyes when his eyes are blue? I think the girl has a lot more than agoraphobia working agsinst her, but I'm not a doctor and therefore not qualified to determine such things. the others are more sensitive to my feelings and don't say as much, but they always want to hang around whenever my dad is there.

Once a guy there whom I really like made a comment that my mom is totally hot. I was momentarily rendered speechless. Hefore I could recover my powers of speech, he said, "I'm just kidding!" He said he was going to say it about my dad just to see what my reaction would be, but the last thing he needed was for members of the staff to start questioning him about his sexuality in counseling sessions on the assumption that the fear of coming out might be adding to his anxisety and depression. I laughed with him, but to me it's really not a laughing matter. My parents, and particularly my dad, are NOT hot. They're my parents. They're not allowed to be both.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Final Day

Since it is officially Wednesday even though I have not yet been asleep for the night, this is my final day of vacation before returning to the booby hatch. I can't say that I'm eagerly anticipating my return, but I'll make the best of it. My dad and I will catch a plane out of here sometime tomorrow morning. At some point in the future I will probably be allowed to travel alone, but because I haven't stopped throwing up on planes since the infamous incident in fall of this school year, someone, who has usually been my dad, travels with me. I'm not sure if my parents think I haven't figured out the technical how-to's of hurling into a barf bag or if they just worry about being perceived as incompetent or uncaring parents by the airline industry and worry about having a potentally awkward encounter with the CEO of United at a cocktail party. They probably honestly believe the CEO would say something to the effect of, "Oh. You're the parents of that mentally ill child who is allowed to fly unaccompanied even though she vomits non-stop from the moment the plane leaves the runway until it touches down." This is, of course, an exaggeration; on my last flight, I had very minimal medication and still threw up only twice. Furthermore, I have thoroughly mastered the subtle nuances of the barf bag and am quite adept at upchucking in such a way as to create minimal disturbance for my fellow passengers. Further still, since we usually take the same flights to and from our home, the airline personnel have begun to recognize us. If there is an availiblity for an upgrade into first class, it usually goes to us because of my gastric tendencies.

I won't do anything terribly exciting today. My mom isn't yet driving following her surgery, so we're basically confined to the house. My brother, who has a driver's license, offered to stay home from school for the day so that he could serve as our chaffeur, but my parents wouldn't give him the day off. I'll do laundry for myself and everyone else in the house, and my mom and I will have our choice from the many scintillating offerings daytime television provides. Other than "Judge Alex," nothing will be all that exciting.

Yesterday's "Judge Alex" case featured a dispute over a driver having to slam on her brakes because a small dog wandered into the street in front of her, causing the dog riding in her front passenger seat to strike and crack her windshield. The "Judge Alex" Facebook page was filled with irate posters clamoring about the negligent care the dog received by virtue of being allowed to ride in the front seat of a car. I have a golden retriever that I love at least as much as I love most members of my family, but I do feel that these would-be animal rights advocates are taking things a bit too far. Flame me for being an uncaring #%^*@ if you must, but we're only two generations removed from babies being able to sit unrestrained in the front passenger seat. The notion that a dog must have special restraint to ride in a car is just a bit much for me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Uncle Mahonri

My dad asked me if I could write about something besides my immediate family for a change. In order to comply with his wishes, I have chosen to write about someone in my extended family on Dad's side. The subject of today's blog is, in case you missed my title, my dear, sweet Uncle Mahonri.

Uncle Mahonri is married to my dad's younger sister. Despite this, Uncle Mahonri is about eight years older than my dad. I've tried to figure out the timeline for this and the reasons for the age gap between Mahonri and his wife. I've yet to com up with a credible explanation.

The LDS church likes for men to marry shortly after returning from their two-year missions -- ideally within six months. Mahonri waited something like six years and six months before marrying my aunt. I've been told by people who should know that there were no earlier marriages for Mahonri. Furthermore, if one of the head honchos of the LDS church told Mahonri to Krazy Glue a purple Easter egg to the top of his head, he would almost certainly do it without thinking twice, which renders the idea that he simply ignored his church leaders' directive to marry soon after escaping from his mission a virtual impossibility. The only possibility left is that it took Mahonri six years and six months to get a girl -- any girl -- to say yes to his proposal of marriage.

Unfortunately for everyone in our extended family, my aunt was the one girl foolish enough to accept Mahonri's marriage proposal. She was roughly a week past her eighteenth birthday when she officially became engaged to him. She was not yet eighteen-and-one-half when the marriage took place.
My dad was on another continent serving his mission when the dirty deed took place. He says now that if he had known what as a$$ his sister was marrying, he would have tried to prevent the marriage either ny kidnapping his sister or by getting Mahonri really drunk and putting him on a train headed for someplace very distant.

My dad says that his first glimpse of Mahonri was at the airport in Salt Lake City (dad's parents had lived in Florida but moved to Utah while my dad was on his mission). My dad had to visit the bathroom shortly after getting off his plane. While he was in the men's room, he noticed a fat guy taking large handfuls of toilet paper and putting it into a bag, which he then carried out of the men's room. A few minutes later at the baggage carousel, my aunt introduced my dad to the fat toilet paper thief as her husband. Now everyone in the family hides their extra rolls of toilet paper whenever Mahonri is coming to visit because they know he will steal any toilet paper that is not nailed down. He also liberally helps himself to salt, pepper, and other condiments when the hosts or restaurant wait staff are not looking. He pours the stuff into Ziploc bags that he keeps in his pockets. He figures that he has saved himself and his immediate family thousands of dollars through this practice. He has trained his children to do the same. They're all a bunch of cheapskate kleptomaniac crazies. I may be the one who spends most of my time in a lockup facility, but trust me, I have far crazier relatives than I running loose.

Mahonri's eccentricity isn't limited to his frugality and sticky fingers. He also claims to receive personal revelation regarding everyone in the extended family. His revelations concerning me have mostly been along the lines of why I'm too skinny, and how purchasing vitamins that his wife sells will solve all my problems. Oh, and once he had a revelation that my father needs beat me more frequently. That happened right after I put Saran Wrap under the seat and over the bowl of a toilet in my grandparents' house. It is very fortunate for me that my dad does not place much stock in Mahonri's revelations.

Mahonri has some very peculiar beilefs concerning the lost tribes from the Old Testament. He claims to know where they are. He places his hands on a globe and prays, then he says that the globe becomes hot in certain spots where the lost tribes are located. So far, he's identified the Basque region bordering France and Spain, the Isle of Man, the northern Scandinavian Lapland region, the Azores, some place in Appalachia, and Greenland as the hot spots. He also says that the tribe of Levi is actually in the center of the Earth near its core. They're wearing special suits designed to protect them from the intense heat.

The last time Mahonri was at my parents' home, he even stole the toothpaste from all the bathrooms. I told my parents that they should buy a case of toothpaste for his family for Christmas so that he doesn't have to steal it anymore. They did, and my Uncle steve and his wife gave Mahonri's family a case of toilet paper. Mahonri was allegedly disappointed when the presents were unwrapped. He probably feels that it is a waste to receive s Christmas gift of something that he can very easily steal.

My grandparents turn a totally blind eye to Mahonri's blatant disregard for the Eighth* Commandment. They think their daughter found a real catch.
The rest of the family -- even the devout Mormons, which are most of the family -- is seriously afraid that whatever ails Mahonri has might be contagious.

My parents wish for me to add that I am speaking for myself and not for the rest of my immediate family. They neither confirm nor deny their assent. Their official comment is "no comment." My brother wishes to add that I am speaking for him.

*Catholics number the commandments differently, but I believe "Thou shalt not steal" is nuber eight according to the LDS system.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Still in a Mood

I'm not quite past what is bothering me but I am at least able to meet up with another human being without glaring at the person or crying. My dad came into my room yesterday afternoon and said he was taking me to a movie. I said I didn't want to go. He carried me and some un-matching clothes he got out of my closet into my parents' bedroom so my mom could dress me and comb my hair, and then forced me into his car. I told him he was being a bit extreme, but he didn't care.

We saw "Green Hornet." It sucked in my humble opinion, but my dad thought it was sublime. Midlife-crisis-aged men have atrocious taste in movies. He kept shoving popcorn into my mouth throughout the whole movie. At one point I told him that if he shoved another piece of popcorn into my mouth I would spit it onto the floor. He said, "Don't you dare," but he quit shoving popcorn into my mouth.

We stopped at some gross restaurant that my dad really likes for dinner.
He offereed me a sip of his wine. Gawd, that stuff tastes gross. I can't fathom how anyone could become an alcoholic. It tastes almost as bad as cough syrup.

My pesudo-aunt called after I got home. She's the one who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis just a month or so ago at the age of twenty-three. She had to quit her teaching job, but she's finishing law school. One of her law school professors was a real jerk and tried to cause major trouble for her, but she fought him and won. She wants me to come visit her in Utah on my next vacation from the facility. I may go.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Brother: Part Three

I shouldn't have left the last poat up as the final word on my brother for so long, because he now has a new persona, which is the "grown up" Matthew.
He texts me when I'm at my facility when he doesn't actually have any message to communicate. He read my last blog and wasn't even angry at me. He offers to turn the family room TV channel to the "Judge Alex" station for me even if he was watching something first. He tries to get me to eat my food --especially my vegetables--- and drink my milk even when our parents aren't looking. He tries to explain why it's important for me to take my medicine and that my parents are trying to help me by giving it to me. Holy Mother of All Stupidity! I know that I need to eat vegetables and drink milk and that my parents want me to take medicine because they think it will help me to get better! He opens my door if he's sees light under it in the middle of the night and tells me I need to go to sleep. I don't actually need Matthew to tell me these things.

I can't quite figure out from where he's coming. He seems at least somewhat sincere. He acts like he's now my older brother. When or why did he become so mature? He's practically no fun anymore, not that he was all that much fun to me when he was picking on me or doing his best Eddie Haskell imitation, either. Sometimes I would like to tell him that the Stanford admissions officers can't see inside our house, so he doesn't have to keep up his charade here anymore. (He really wants to go to Stanford, but he doesn't even act jealous that I was accepted last year and don't want to go there.)

We started out as more or less equal. He was bigger and stronger, but I was smarter. Then when adolescence hit him and bypassed me, any equilibrium that may have maintained itself between the two of us suddenly ceased to exist. He was popular and I wasn't. Nothing else really mattered. To anyone. At the begining of this school year I overheard one of my teachers quietly telling her student teacher that I was Matthew's twin sister. The student teacher uttered an apparent response of incredulity inadubible to me. Then the teacher continued with, "I know. I wouldn't believe it either if I didn't know the family." The teacher taught a class in which I had by far the highest grade; I was very polite and quiet in the class, but answered questions and participated when it was appropriate to do so. My point is that this teacher was not seeing the obnoxious behavior from me that my parents sometimes see. Matthew was in another section of the course and barely had an A. So why did this teacher think she should be comparing me so unfavorably to my brother? Because he's good-looking and popular, and I'm a little nobody.

Now he's not just bettter-looking and better-liked; he's more mature as well. This new behavior is such a departure from the norm that I'm not entirely sure how to respond. So far I just smile and nod my head. I don't know what to say. I can't even be certain it's not a masquerade of some sort. Perhaps at some point in the not-too-distant future he'll suddenly start laughing at me and will say, "I can't believe you were stupid enough to fall for me being nice to you. Why would someone like me be nice to someone like you?"

Paranoia is not my mental health diagnosis, but my brother is making me paranoid. If he had known he could make me so confused just by being nice to me, he probably would have been nice to me a long time ago.

I have a really nice room. It has everything I really need except food, and there are even ways I could keep an emergency food supply in here. I don't need much because I don't really even like food. I want to stay in my room forever.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Younger Brother, Part Two

People ask me why I persist in referring to Matthew as my younger brother when we are twins. The answer is (besides the obvious answer that I am actually about one minute older) probably that it bothers him when I say he's younger. If he would quit being upset by it, I would have no reason it say it; the joke would get old very fast. Saying and doing things for the sole purpose of irritation is something siblings do to each other better than anyone else. Matthew has things he says just to irritate me as well. I'm not sharing them here because doing so would irritate me. Furthermore, this is my blog. If Matthew wants to start a blog of his own where he writes things to annoy me, he is free to do so, but I'm not going to write those annoying things for him. Why should I annoy myself?

Matthew and I maintained a reasonably normal brother/sister relationship in childhood. We didn't have any of the twin telepathy or secret twin language that I've read about others having. I'm not sure how much I believe it anyway. The secret twin language thing is something I think only seriously exists when the children in question have some sort of a language deficit and compensate by devising alternate means of communication. I've never actually studied the topic, but if I get bored enough at the loony bin, I might eventually look into it. In any event, the secret twin language sounds pretty far-fetched to me as far as the "normal" population is concerned.

With the outlook and overall objectives of boys and girls usually so dissimilar, and the inherent competition for resources and attention between siblings so strong, it would be almost unnatural for conflict not to be present fairly often. There was nothing "unnatural" about the relationship between my brother and me in this regard. We knew and still know better than anyone else how to push each other's buttons. Early, our fighting occasionally escalated to the point it became physical, but our parents were not tolerant of fighting between us, so the desire to cause pain to each other had to be weighed against the pain we would get from our father if we were caught hitting, kicking, or anything else of the sort. Besides that, I was smart enough to know that Matthew would prevail in any physical fight; he had too much of a size advantage even from infancy. (He was over six pounds at birth while I was under two-and-one-half; I never came close to closing the gap.) Most of our altercations involved my doing something to irritate Matthew and his retaliating physically. Of course, in order to retaliate physically, he would have to catch me first. That is possibly why I am, or was anyway before my hurdling injury last spring, such a fast runner.

Now that we are both seventeen, I'm smarter, but Matthew is better-looking, is a better athlete, and is more popular. His popularity with adults is interesting. There was a really old television sitcom called "Leave It to Beaver." Some of you may be old enough to remember it, while others may have seen it on TV Land. "Leave It to Beaver" had a snake-like, insincere, sycophantic character named "Eddie Haskell." I could say my brother is the real-life incsrnation of Eddie Haskell, but that would only be partly true. It would perhaps be more correct to say that Matthew is a much better Eddie Haskell than Eddie could ever have hoped to be. Adults actually buy his insincerity, and other kids like him in spite of it, or maybe even like him more because of it. My parents -- especially my mom -- have a hard time believing anything Matthew might ever do could be motivated by ill will. His actions aren't always motivated by ill will, but they can be.

This is where Matthew and I differ, and it is a major source of conflict between the two of us as well as between my parents and me. I've done and gotten away with a few really sneaky acts in my lifetime. I won't divulge them because even at the age of seventeen, I would be punished beyond belief if my parents knew. (Eat your hearts out, Mom and Dad. You have, in my own words, an admission of guilt, which is so incredibly vague that even you cannot conscientiously punish me for the unknown misdeeds!) The difference between Matthew in me is this: I've done maybe three really sneaky and bad things IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. Matthew does maybe three sneaky and bad things roughly every week of his life.

If I have a problem with a rule or policy my parents have instituted, I debate the policy, often to the point of being punished. Sometimes my hard work and personal sacrifice bring about change, as my parents occasionally realize that their draconian policies are either tyrannical or simply not worth enforcing. When this happens, the rules don't change just for me, of course, even though I was the one who fought for the change. To me, it's much like a system, such as a union, where members of the union go to considerable effort and expense to bargain for better working conditions and a higher salary. Then, when these benefits are finally realized, all workers derive the benefits of the union members' efforts even though the non-union workers contributed nothing in the campaign to achieve the gains. (Please don't interpret this as some sort of rousing endorsement of labor unions on my part. The verdict is not yet in regarding what I actually think about the subject. I'm merely making an analogy that my brother achieves a lot of gain through my pain.)

Matthew, on the other hand, says or does nothing to get himself into trouble when the disputes between myself and my parents inevitably occur. He just quietly goes out and does whatever he pleases, waiting in the meantime for Alexis' strike tactics to liberate him.

Matthew, you can be angry with me, but I told nothing specific about you, just as I've never ratted you out for anything else you've done.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Younger Brother. Part One

No one in the world has the identical experience of anyone else in life. Even in regard to family and upbringing this is true. even if two people have the same parents, their parents were in most cases at differing points in thier own lives when they were raising each of their children, which would, in smoe ways, make the parents in some ways different people when they were raising each of their children. The only siblings who do not deal with their parents at different stages than fo their siblings are children born of multiple-birth pregnancies. While even twins, triplets, and those born in larger litters can have different experiences because parents relate differently to even to children conceived and born at more or less the same time, no one in a person's life will have as many shared experienced as children who shared womb space prior to birth.

I have a twin brother. No one who doesn't know us believes we're twins when they see the two of us together. My brother is about 6'1", weights about one-hundred-sixty pounds, and looks approximately the seventeen years of age that he is. He shaves every few days. I, on the other hand, am just over five feet and, due to a number of factors, am engaged in a battle to beef up to my former weight of eighty-seven pounds. (On a good day I tip the scales at just below eighty.) My brother is an athlete who is sought-afte by members of the opposite sex. Any boy --- even one a year or two younger than I -- who looks twice at me risks being labeled a pedophile.

My brother has had what most would considere to be the consummate high school experience. Most people like him. Every girl he ever asked to date probably went out with him; in many instances he didn't even have to do the asking. Girls have always liked him. While he's not as smart as either of our parents or even as I am, maintaining a GPA above 4.0 hasn't caused undue difficulty for him. He's spent more time playing his chosen sports (basketball and baseball; he would have liked to play football, but he's on the lanky side even for the leaner football positions) than he has spent on any bench in actual competition. He has friends of his own gender, and no one seems out to get him for any reason. One might say he's led a charmed life.

I, on the other hand, have struggled in some areas in which he coasted. The one advantage I have over him is in academic and cognitive skills. School and its related tasks have come more easily to me than to him.
In every other area that matters much, he has the edge. He's more popular with peers and teachers than I am. He's a more gifted athlete. I used to play tennis, but I had to work far too hard to keep pace with other players whose fundamentals were not even close to as solid as mine. I'm too small to be even a great high school player no matter how much I practice. Gymnastics -- the one sport where my small size would have been an advantage -- was taken from me one autumn afternoon when I engaged in an unsafe gymnastics-related activity. I hurdle and dive, but those are minor sports, to which less glory is affixed than to the more esteemed major sports of football, boys' basketball, and baseball. (More glory is associated with male sports in general. Males don't usually drool over the opportunaity to be seen with the captain of the girls' volleyball team or of any other girls' sport.)

I've never been as popular as my brother. I won't say that life has been terribly difficult for me in this regard, as I've always had friends whose company I've enjoyed, and for the most part I haven't been targeted by bullies or anything of the sort with one very noteable exception. Still, Matthew was the Homecoming King. I wasn't the Homecoming Queen, although that's not necessarily the distinction for which I'd care to be known, anyway.

On a few occasions my brother and I have been in the same section of a class at school. My parents have pulled strings to keep this from happening whenever they could, but there have been times when we had to be enrolled in the exact same class. My brother was always irritated when he had to be in the same class as I. He said it was because he did not want to be associated with me because it embarrassed him for others around him to realize what a complete dork his sister is, but in truth, that's not the total reason for his displeasure at being in classes with me. He really despises it because he has no chance of having the highest grade in any class in which I'm also enrolled. I'm sometimes lazy and willing to take the very lowest A+ I can get, but not if my brother is also in the class. If we're both in a class, I will outscore him. He knows that I'll pull out all the stops if he's in the class with me. It bothers him for his friends to see that I'm cognitively his superior. I can't honestly say that it bothers me that he is bothered.

to be continued

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mormons Eat Hormons

If my title for this blog entry seems a bit nonsensical to you, please be aware that it seems that way to me as well. I did not actually come up with it on my own. Credit belongs to someone who once spray-painted the arcane phrase on the driveway of an LDS family living down the street and around the corner from my home. The only way to get to my house, other than climbing over or plowing down people's backyard fences, is to drive or walk directly in front of this house. The people who inhabit the house either were not particularly enamored of home improvement or were concurrent with the sentiment expressed by the forest-green spray-painted message, thus giving me the better part of a year to mull over the cryptic bit of graffiti.

My family wasn't and still isn't acquainted with the family occupying the "Mormons eat hormons" house, so I never got an opportunity to talk to anyone in that family about their oddly captioned driveway. My mom knew teachers who had taught some of the family's many children, and she said that, based on what her colleagues shared with her and considering the spelling used in the truism (or falsism, depending both upon one's point of view and one's interpretation), the children occupying the house most likely spray-painted "Mormons eat hormons" on their own driveway. They were apparently slightly wild and not terribly literate children.

I've often wondered, whether children from the house or unnamed Mormon-bashers were the authors/artists, just what was meant by the phrase.
Does anyone have any ideas? What might "Mormons eay hormons" actually imply? What should it mean? Please share your thoughts.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Odd Ways of Amusing Oneself

Have you every been really, really bored? So bored that you lie awake at night just trying to come up with things to think about the next day? That's the way the past five days or so have been for me. I thought a few classes I had in high school were incredibly mind-numbing, but those classes were the rough equivalent of a thrill ride at California Adventures compared to my last five days.

My mom had surgery on Monday. Things came out much better for her than we had anticipated, but she's still in the hospital until at least Wednesday. My Aunt Victoria was staying with me because I've been fighting evil respiratory demons since before Christmas and my mom could not rest easily if someone responsible were not taking care of me (cough, cough, Matthew and Kevin, you know who you are and what is your role in all of this).

Then my illness didn't go away as predicted. My dad was either working or at the hospital with my mom, so I had to stay at my Uncle Steve's house, because he is my pediatrician and his wife, my Aunt Heather, is a nurse. Uncle Steve decided I was too sick to use my laptop. Then the cable went out. There I was confined to bed with no company because my uncle thought it would make things worse.

I understand that some people currently inhabiting Earth did not have access to TV with or without cable or satellite, and also did not have the use of electronic technology at some point in their lives. For these people I have much admiration, but that does nothing to make me live the way they did. In their early day, two-pound-four-ouce babies, of which I was one, did not routinely survive. Likewise, I would not survive without modern technology.

While I was lying in bed with nothing but my own thoughts to occupy me, many bizarre thoughta crossed my mind that I will not share at this time because I hope to be permanently released from my loony bin before I turn eighteen, and that ain't gonna happen if I share my idle thoughts. (I'm neither suicidal nor homicidal, incidentally, for any spies who may be lurking.)

In my almost comatose state of boredom I also remembered something about which I have not thought for quite some time. My diving colleagues and I invented a sport(at least I don't know of anyone else who has ever done this, although I haven't conducted an exhaustive search). It is called "Baggage Carousel Surfing." To Baggage Carousel Surf, one must climb onto a moving baggage carousel in an airport and remain in a standing position while the carousel revolves.

At the risk of seeming boastful, I will share that I am quite good at Baggage Carousel Surfing. To evcel at Baggage carousel Surfing, it helps to have very small feet, as the floor of the baggage carousel has moving sections, reminiscent of rhe tectonic plates beneath the Earth's surface, that shift under or over each other. The less space required for a person's feet, the easier it is to avoid getting one's foot or feet caught between the shifting panels.

I might add that the best venue for Baggage Carousel Surfing is a small airport in the sticks (I highly recommend Bakersfield International Airport or whatever it is that the esteemed residents of Bakersfield are presently calling their airport, if it can even be called an airport. Bakersfield in and of itself is a worthy sub-topic under the umbrella of boredom, but it will have to wait for another night, because my computer will eventulally be confiscated tonight) in the middle of the night. I could never Baggage Carousel Surf if my parents were present in an airport where I planned to surf. Sleep-deprived coaches, on the other hand, don't usually supervise their charges nearly so vigilantly. Tired airport personnel are likewise not so likely to have prospective surfers arrested or detained, or even notice that anything is amiss.

I don't wish to be sued, so I cannot recommend that anyone who reads this engage in Baggage Carousel Surfing. Try it stricty at your own risk, and if you have feet anywhere near the size of an aircraft carrier, it won't be easy.

Matt, your idea about driving is brilliant. I wish to make it known that I would like to become the safest driver on the planet at whatever cost I must incur in order to do so. I do not wish to acquire Indy 500-calibre driving skills so that I can tear up the road and evade the law; I wish to drive safely.

Rebecca, it is good to hear from you. I hope you are getting stronger daily.

Hot sauce supporter, I hope you're still reading even though I haven't heard from you lately.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mom is good!

My mom came out of surgery this afternoon. She had a tiny cyst on her ovary. It was removed just in case it may be giving her discomfort, but it seemed too small to be a significant source of discomfort. The real culprit was an inflamed appendix, which ruptured probably not long before her surgery. It didn't appear enlarged or inflamed in CT scans or ultrasounds, and my mom's WBC was only mildly elevated. After the fact, my dad could see issues on her CT films. He didn't look at them before because he wasn't at the hospital where they were. Who knows if he would have caught it had he viewed the films himself? Neither the specialist nor the radiologist caught it. The OB-GYN was rightly very apologetic. My dad said he'll never trust anyone else to look at our X-rays again. It's unfortunate that my mom didn't have the surgery Thursday as she was supposed to, as the recovery would have been significantly shorter if the appendix had been removed before it ruptured. On the other hand, it's good that she didn't postpone today's procedure, as she had wanted to.

My Uncle Steve drove to my house after she was out of surgery to tell my aunt and me. When we saw him pull into the driveway through the living room window, I was convinced he was coming to tell us bad news because he thought it would be cold to break such news over the phone. I went into my room, locked the door, crawled into bed, and pulled the covers over my head. After my Uncle Steve explained the situation to my aunt, he came to tell me. He was, of course, locked out of my room, and I had no intention of letting him in, but the lock to my door doesn't even have a key of its own because it can be unlocked with literally any door key. My uncle picked my lock in about four seconds. he came in, pulled the covers off my head, and told me.

I don't have the words to describe the relief I felt. Then he told me the only thing my mom asked about was whether or not I had taken my medicine. I told him to bring it to me. I used an inhaler, took my antibiotic, took the disgusting s purple sludge cough syrup, and allowed myself to be injected with a steroid. It's a good thing my athletic season is not happening for a few months, because I'm not entirely sure I would pass a drug test, although they're not routinely given at my level of competition.

I slept for several hours, until just a few minutes ago. In a couple of minutes I will sleep again. The purple sludge doesn't help my croup but it knocks me out. I can afford to sleep now that I know my mom doesn't have anything terminal.

Waiting Is hard

My mommy went to the hospital this morning for a laparoscopic biopsy of her ovary or ovaries. (Most of my family is there with her. My aunt is here with me because I still have croup.) The tissue that is removed for biopsy will of course have to be tested in a lab, but, depending upon what her surgeon sees through his laparascope, she may be opened up for a full-blown surgery. I'm beginning to believe that must have happened since I haven't heard anything. If it were just I at home waiting, I'd think she's been out of surgery for hours and they're all sitting around eating popcorn or some such thing and not even thinking about calling me to let me know that everything's fine or it isn't, but since my Aunt Victoria, who's her sister, is here with me, my assumption is that my mom probably isn't out of surgery yet. Someone would have called my aunt even if they would have just left me hanging.

The surgical personnel might ordinarily have come out with updates for my father, but he and my uncle are watching from an observation spot. It was a tough choice for my dad to watch, but he thought not knowing would be worse. My uncle is just there with him for moral support.

The phone has rung five time since shortly after 11:00, when she entered the O. R. Two of the calls were wrong numbers. One was a solicitation from a charity. Two more were from concerned acquaintances of my mom's. Everytime the phone rings, I go into my room and put the pillow over my ears. I know it's cowardly to make my aunt deal with it, but, as much as I want to hear, I can't handle the possibility of bad news. Eventually the phone call is going to be a right number and it will be from someone at the hospital. Then I will have to face it. I'm scared of the phone call.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Same Old Same Auld Lang Syne

My mom was supposed to have a biopsy of her ovary on Thursday, but for some reason no one has bothered to share with me, the procedure was postponed until Monday. She's been very difficult to tolerate. I don't know if her problem is that she's worried about what's going on with her ovary or ovaries, or if she's grouchy because she's in pain or otherwise feeling generally lousy. As usual, in any event, I'm the one paying the heaviest price for whatever it is that is bothering her.

I won't go into specific details of my mom's actions, but when she tried to give me cough syrup yesterday, I started to cough just as she started to put the spoon full of purple sludge in my mouth. This caused the spoon to bump into my chin and spill. Her reaction to the accidental spill was roughly what I would have expected it to be if I had deliberately spat the cough syrup she had just spooned into my mouth right into her face. As it happened, the response that she had intended to be punitive was so unfitting both in terms of its age-inappropriateness and with regard to its rather benign antecedent that it was all my brother and I could do to keep straight faces, but laughing in the face of my mother's outrage would have been practically suicidal.

After my mom left the room, by brother gave me me sympathy, which is something I don't recall ever happeneing after my mother has blamed me for a nonexistent crime. "You know that wasn't really about the cough syrip spilling out out of her hand," he said to me.

I agreed with him that it wasn't really about the cough syrup, but complained that even when her anger isn't about what it seems to be about, it always seems to be directed at me. My brother said that my mom will come to her senses and apologize. I responded that I will forgive her just like I always do, but it would be really nice if for once she would take whatever is bothering her out on someone else other than I. The favorite child agreed with me.

I mentioned that I didn't know if it would be better to tell dad with the hope that I might explain what really happened and avoid getting into more trouble, or if I should leave well enough alone and hope she doesn't say anything to him, either. My brother said he would tell my dad as soon as he got home so I didn't have to risk getting accused of telling on mom on top of everything else.

There was nothing else to do, and I was feeling yucky on top of everything else, so I went to bed and slept the rest of the day. My parents woke me up at about three minutes before midnight so that I would be awake for the start of 2011. Someone checked my temperature with one of those face thermometers that a sales representative gave my dad. My temperature was 104. My dad gave me Tylenol and another shovelful of the purple sludge cough syrup, and injected me with some generic steroid. He and my mom made some sort of a tent over a roll-away bed and aimed a vaporizer so that it was blowing steam or vapor or something moist into the tented area above the bed. My dad helped me into the bed. My mom was saying something to him about how it really wasn't an excuse for my behavior, but that she didn't know I was worse, and that's what probably caused me to make her spill the cough syrup. My dad rolled his eyes when she said that, then patted me on the shoulder a few times, probably to let me know that he sympathized with me. There was nothing more to be done, so I conked out until about noon today. This made for a grand total of twenty-one hours and thirty-five minutes of sleep out of the past twenty-four hours.

I'm trying to keep this all in perspective. If it ends up that something is seriously wrong with my mom's ovary or ovaries, I will wish I could go back to the days when she was mad at me for causing her to spill a spoonful of cough syrup. If nothing is seriously wrong with my mom's ovary or ovaries, we will have reason to celebrate. Either way, all the cough syrup in the world won't matter after Monday.