Monday, May 29, 2017

The Canadian Rockies

Image result for cougar in jasper national park

I'm back on level ground after spending the past few days in the Canadian Rockies. I traveled with three families including the family at whose home I reside while here in Canada. One of the doctors in our party has a time share. i was given a private room with a private bath in exchange for about four hours of babysitting for one of the couples traveling with us who has a three-month-old infant girl. In truth, I would have paid for the privilege of playing with their baby for the time she was in my care. They really didn't have to comp my room.

We're pretty far north and at a decent altitude, so it wasn't exactly balmy, but I had suitable attire for the weather. With the latitude comes somewhat late dawn and early dusk prior to the summer solstice even after the vernal equinox. We were warned about grizzly sightings. No one in our party was fortunate (?) enough to see a grizzly or even a black bear. I didn't venture far enough into the woods to have much of a chance of sighting Ursus arctos horribilis or whatever his scientific name is. A family staying near us in the lodge started a hike a bit earlier than was prudent one morning and came face to face with a cougar that reportedly looked something like the one pictured here. There were five hikers and three of the five quite tall; the mountain lion gave them a second look but decided they weren't worth the risk. A teenage girl in the party had a severe asthma attack immediately after the cougar retreated. She didn't have an inhaler with her. They rushed her back to semi-civilization, where a rescue inhaler was provided.  As a word of caution, rescue inhalers are handy devices to carry while hiking if one suffers from even occasional asthma.

It was a nice diversion and a nice long weekend.  Memorial Day isn't celebrated in Canada, but Victoria Day was celebrated last Monday. I worked that day, so I was comped today. The other hospital and medical school personnel with me are essentially high enough on the food chain that they may choose their days off.

I will soon be leaving the Great White North, which isn't so white as when I arrived here.  I have limited power at best to foretell future events, but I may return in the not-too-distant future if circumstances work out in such a way as to permit it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alaska Pride: Online Vigilantes Mob Anchorage Mom Jessica Beagle...

<<Let us leave judgment unto those to whom it's appointed.>>

How typically Mormon. God did not or does not speak in the English of King James yet Mormons must pretend that he did and must carry on the tradition.  " . . . Leave the judgment unto those . . ."   Give me a freaking break! Can't you just say "leave the judgment to those" and let go of the pretentiousness?

A New Scandal, Starring . . . ME!

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I moved to the place in which I currently reside at a time that could be described, unbeknownst to me,  as tumultuous to the others living on the premises. I had assumed the people living in the large house attached to the garage apartment I had leased to be a typically happy-most-of-the-time-though-not always-because-that-would-be-creepy, but mostly just a routine-to-the-point-of-being-boring family, sort of like the one in which I grew up.  Appearances, however, especially those of the initial, in-passing variety, can be quite misleading. 

It was in a most abrupt way that I found out just how misled I had been by my own initial and rather na├»ve assumptions about the family whose adjoining apartment I was scheduled to lease through the duration of my visiting clerkship.  I returned to the apartment one Thursday [at least I think it was Thursday; the days blur together and become indistinguishable from one another after having spent several consecutive unscheduled twenty-four hour blocks on duty] willing myself up the inside staircase [for which I tacitly thank the architect of the building each night or morning I must ascend or descend those stairs when the temperature is below zero degrees Celsius; the Gods who prevent accidents do not look kindly on me], wanting only to decontaminate myself briefly in a hot shower just enough that I wouldn't be carrying MRSA or whatever other nasty hospital pathogens might have adhered to my skin into my pristine bed, when I hear a roar coming from the direction of that very bed.
The creature from which the guttural sounds emanated appeared as though MRSA was probably the very least of his issues. I screamed, reached for my phone, backed out of the apartment , and dialed 911.

By this time, the my landlady appeared, demanding to know what I was doing there. "I leased this apartment,' I shrieked at her. "I fumbled through a drawer under a built-in desk near the apartment's entryway.  I found the papers for which I was looking and held them up to her. "This is my copy of the lease, signed by both me and you!"

"Things have changed since then, " she explained, "My nephew now needs the apartment," she explained.

At this point, law enforcement appeared, their sirens destroying the pre-dawn tranquility of the normally placid upscale residential development, with the revolving police lighting turning the dusting of snow on the lawns into various hues of red, blue, and purple. The officer took a look at the lease I handed him, then turned to my landlady.  "A lease is a contract, you know, " he told her. "Unless there's something in it specifying that the terms are null and void if your nephew or any other relative shows up, she has a right to assume that her apartment will be vacant and that her bed will be empty whenever she shows up."

"But it's my NEPHEW, you see, and my husband -er-boyfriend [this was my first clue that the man and lady of the house were living there without any sanction from God or the government of Canada] will not allow my nephew to sleep in our actual home because of something that happened when he spent another night here. It's cold out there, as you can clearly see. I couldn't leave my nephew to brave this weather on his own."

One of the officers responded with, "But you could leave this young lady, who is probably half his size and ten years younger than he is,  out there to brave the cold weather on her own. . ."

The land lady smiled. "You understand!"

The officers both frowned. "No, we really don't," one of them responded.

"Are you the legal owner of this home?" one of the officers asked my landlady.

"For all purposes," she answered.

"But are you the LEGAL owner," the officer pursued.

"No," she conceded.

The officer turned to me. "Do you have the resources to get a decent hotel room for the next few days?" he asked me. I nodded affirmatively. "I suggest that you do that while this situation gets straightened out. I cannot promise you this, but my department will do what it can to see that you are reimbursed for you hotel expenses." Then he asked, "Do you have a way of contacting the legal homeowner, ideally as soon as possible?" I shared with them that he was a professor at the medical school at which I was serving a guest clerkship, and that I could catch him during his office hours during the day after getting some rest. The officer encouraged me to do so as soon as was practical, and gave me two copies of his card, one for my own use and one to share with the legal homeowner.

I checked into a cushy hotel for sleep, then dragged myself off to the medical school campus for what I expected would be an ugly confrontation. Instead, the landlord was, if anything, more appalled that I had been by what had transpired. He told me that he and the lady of the house were splitting. She would be leaving, as it had been  his house for nearly twenty years. The woman merely moved in with him. The landlord insisted upon paying my full hotel bill, which would be for three nights. He also suggested that I would want to order new bedding rather than relying on the cleaning process to rid the bedding of the intruder's germs. He said he would have the mattress and sofa steam-cleaned, and that everything would be spotless when I returned on Sunday. I was skeptical of his offers of generosity, but when I checked out of my hotel room late on Sunday, I found that everything had been paid in full, and an envelope was handed to me. When I opened it, I found that I had been reimbursed for tips to the maids and servers.  New bedding and towels  - similar in color and style but of higher quality that what I had originally purchased, was in place where the old stuff had been.

I later learned that the landlord had lost his wife to pancreatic cancer about ten years earlier. The three kids -- two who were away at college and one who still lived at home -- were the product of him and his late wife. The woman had a daughter who lived in Australia somewhere, but had not visited in the two years the doctor and his housemate -- also a doctor -- had been together.

The doctor's two older children ( a 22-year-old daughter and a 24-year-old son) returned home the weekend following their father's girlfriend's departure. Their time home was mostly family time, from which I attempted to keep a discreet distance.  Their father had a hospital-related social obligation on Saturday night, however, and the three children took advantage of their father's absence to throw a "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Gone!" celebration, to which I was invited. It was a relatively quiet affair as drunken revelries go, but it was clear from all three of them that there was no sadness in them in connection with the quasi-stepmother's departure.  I had no idea. Everyone was so civil that I had no clue they weren't a biological family, much less a blended-without-the-sanctity-of-marriage family.

I stayed in my apartment, with occasional visits for meals or to play their Steinway grand piano, until I worked far too many consecutive hours and developed staphylococcal pneumonia, which led to a pneumothorax, at which time, following my release from the hospital, I was moved into the main part of their house. I was on my way back to the apartment when the father and seventeen-year-old son came down with massive cases of food-borne illness following ingestion of Thai food. The kid's illness was significantly worse than was his father's. Following that, I again exceeded allowable work hours by 100%, which resulted in my pneumothorax recurring. It was easier for the nurses hired to care for us to accomplish what they needed to do if I was in the main house.

Idle minds sometimes cannot handle the idea that a twenty-two--year-oold medical school student is sleeping in a separate bedroom in a house with a forty-six-year-old medical professor and his seventeen-year-old son.  It cannot be simply because medical care is facilitated if the sick people are all in one place.  And even if such were not the reason for all three remaining under one roof, whatever the reason were, it would clearly have to involve the female having sex with at least one of the males, and more likely, with both of them. Logically, as it would be more efficient for it to happen in such a manner, the three have their sexual frolics at the same time. Wouldn't it make sense?

The most interesting aspect to these rumors, to me anyway, and of I only recently became aware, is that it is not the hospital community spreading the information back and forth, but the mothers of students and the staff of a neighborhood elementary school. Our immediate neighbors seem not to be involved in this spread of misinformation (it's misinformation at this point, anyway; who knows what the future holds?), though we cannot know that for certain. It seems that those who are most concerned live blocks away from us.

I'm not certain why adults are so taken with what others who are of age in this matter (the age of consent in Canada is seventeen) are doing or are not doing with their private lives. They'll get an eye-full tomorrow, however, as the local high school's prom happens then. Evan, the seventeen-year-old son of the doctor from whom I am renting, was unceremoniously dumped by his prom date less than two weeks ago when a more prestigious offer came along. Evan's dad suggested that the two of us could make a date of it. I'm all for ensuring that the little hussy who dumped Evan should see him having a good time at his prom, so I said yes to the proposition. I'm not looking my very best at the moment, but I look at least as good as most of the dweeby high school seniors. I can hold my own.

But can the town biddies hold their tongues? My guess is no, they cannot.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Names are sometimes changed to protect the innocent . . . but not always.

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I go to reasonable though not extreme lengths to preserve my anonymity in this blog. i don't advertise to supervisors, professors, or other medical school personnel that I blog here, but I know I cannot safely assume that none of them are aware of this blog or of my connection to it.  Many names of acquaintances, past or present, I change, often only slightly.  Where family is concerned, other than omitting surnames, I usually don't disguise much. Most of the first names are real. My number one defense in all of this is that the truth will set anyone free who didn't commit an offense for which one can be incarcerated. It's not libel if it's true. The bottom line is that I probably have more on all of the relatives than any of them have on me. If they really wanted to out me, I suppose they could, but I would come out of the encounter smelling far rosier than the outing relative would. Still, only the family and very close friends have any idea who I'm talking about when I write about a relative.

When I write about people unrelated to me from my past, the people sometimes have professional connections to my parents. To keep my parents happy when writing about such people, I do change names and identifying details. Acquaintances of my parents will never find themselves in my blog, or find my blog, period, by googling their own names. The names I substitute for their actual names are usually similar both in ethnic origin and overall sound. The people I will discuss momentarily, will, likewise, be represented by a different surname than is the one they use legally. I will, however, use the actual first names of the twin sons from the family featured in this late-night edition of my blog. Even using my widest imagination, I could never invent any names so bizarre as were the ones actually thought of  and used by the parents.

In the community in which my family resided before our most recent move lived (and still lives) a urologist, his registered dietitian wife, and their twin sons who were maybe three years younger than my brother and I  but at least four years behind us in school. The urologist, who shall be known here as Dr. Warnock, was a legend among the medical community for his wild hair, his unkempt beard, and his suspenders, which featured Sponge Bob and Patrick from the Sponge Bob Square Pants animated series.  I don't know if the man owned just one pair of suspenders and wore them daily, whether to work, to church, or to mow his lawn during the roughly three times each year that the family lawn was mowed (neighbor complained that the Warnock home looked as though it was inhabited by the Addams Family of the 1960's TV series), or if he owned several identical sets of suspenders. I don't suppose it really matters. 

The Warnock family attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation in the community in which we all lived back then. (I have no idea if the  Warnocks still attend that church or any church.) Dr. Warnock's beard came into play in regard to his church participation because his Lutheran congregation had traditionally followed the practice of taking communion from a communal cup. Many church members were put off to some degree by having to drink wine or grape juice or whatever it was they used to represent the blood of our Lord and Savior that had been contaminated by bits of Dr. Warnock's breakfast or perhaps even dinner the night before that was embedded in his beard until it washed away into the communal cup. If my memory serves me correctly, the congregation very nearly divided over the issue. In the end, a compromise was reached in which the wine or grape juice would be served both in the communal cup and in individual cups. The compromise did not achieve total harmony, as among those who believed the communal cup to be Jesus' way of serving or partaking of communion was Dr. Warnock, and many of the other religiously like-minded parishioners were put off by Dr. Warnock's weekly tainting of the communal cup. This, however, was mostly a matter of curiosity for my family. We weren't Lutherans, and it didn't impact us in any way. The Catholics, of which my family considered and still to some degree consider ourselves a part, solve that particular quandary by having just the priest partake of the wine. He can have either the cleanest or the nastiest beard in the hemisphere or no facial hair at all, but he contaminates only his own drinking supply. Everyone else goes out and buys their own wine and consumes it in whatever sanitary or unsanitary fashion they so choose. This is, I would have to guess, the way God would have it. I say this not just because I'm Catholic but because it makes perfect sense. It's bad enough for the parishioners to support the priest's alcohol habit. Why should the membership pay for everyone else's wine addiction as well?

As urology practices go, Dr. Warnock's was not the busiest one in the area. Sponge Bob suspenders might have offered an advantage in terms of promoting rapport with patients had Dr. Warnock been a pediatrician. With a clientele consisting primarily (though not exclusively) adult males, however,  the idea of having one's intimate body parts probed by a creature who bore more than a passing resemblance to Charles Manson and who proclaimed his individuality by constantly wearing the Sponge Bob suspenders was not highly conducive to the development of a thriving urology practice. Once, at one of the few sleep-over birthday parties I was allowed by my parents to attend, the group of ninth-grade party-goers of which I was a part chose, among other houses, the home of the Warnocks for a game of door-bell-ditch. I  know from personally having rung his doorbell and having witnessed it as he made his way through the dim lighting of the house in the wee hours, that Dr. Warnock wore the suspenders [and nothing else] to bed, though it is an image that will permanently scar my mind. I didn't dare tell my parents why I woke up screaming in the middle of almost every night for the next three weeks.  After all these years, I cannot for the life of me figure out how Dr. Warnock kept the suspenders on his body with no other clothing onto which to attach them. Perhaps he hooked them to something on his body.  Eeewwww!  Just thinking about it nine years later gives my brain a serious case of the creepy crawlies.

Doctor Warnock's wife's single largest source of notoriety or eccentricity -- independent of the simple notoriety associated with being conjugally joined with a man who possessed unkempt hair, a particle-laden beard, and constantly wore Sponge Bob suspenders, was the manner in which she insisted upon being addressed.  I'm not sure even her sister-in-law, who lived across the street from her, was permitted to call her by her first name of Marlene. Neither, though, would a simple "Mrs. Warnock" suffice. Her sister-in-law was also "Mrs. Warnock," but her sister-in-law was married to an attorney, and Dr. Warnock's wife had no desire for there to be any confusion as to which woman was married to whom. Dr. Warnock's wife insisted upon being addressed b everyone in our community as Mrs. Dr. Warnoff.

Mrs. Dr. Warnock had been a registered dietician with the local hospital  until she reached roughly the third month of her pregnancy with her twin boys. It was at that point that she found she could no longer stand, upright or otherwise, without physically supporting with her hands the weight of her twins in utero. This is what was told to me, anyway. I haven't the foggiest notion as to what would have happened to the twins or to Mrs. Dr. Warnock or to her uterus or abdomen had she simply let go. Would the twins have fallen to the floor, stretching the skin of Mrs. Dr. Warnock's abdomen as the babies made their descent? Would the twins have made their descent the more conventional way and have been born very, very early? Would Mrs. Dr. Warnock have fallen forward with the weight of the babies, although if such would have been the case, it's hard to fathom how supporting the twins' weight would have kept that from happening?

Mrs. Dr. Warnock wore some sort of a brace that helped to support the weight of her twins for a brief time, though it didn't stop her from constantly carrying her midsection with her hands as though she were a typical Walmart shopper who had stowed away roughly thirty cans of sardines inside the front of her top or dress in order to better take advantage of the ultimate discount. By the fourth month of her pregnancy, whether due to medical necessity or because the obstetrician could no longer bear the look of Mrs. Dr. Warnock staggering into the office each month manually propping up her intestines, excess skin, babies, placentae, and anything else that might have been in there, Dr. April Ketterman put Mrs. Warnock on bedrest. She was allowed to get up as needed to take care of personal business, and she was required to shower daily, as what was growing on the inside of Mrs. Warnock was sufficient concern to Dr. Ketterman without compounding the problem by creating nests of flora and fauna in various external crevices. 

The twins grew to almost-but-not-quite record proportions before Dr. Ketterman used subterfuge to schedule the C-section against the wishes of Dr. and Mrs. Warnock. Dr. Ketterman had Mrs. Warnock check into the hospital for an ultrasound, noted that there was insufficient amniotic fluid, and announced, "VOILA! There happens to be a surgical suite, complete with staff, available at this very minute. What a coincidence!" This took place in late July of 1997.

Mrs. Dr. Warnock in particular was insistent that the babies could not have been conceived until February at the very earliest, as the wedding hadn't taken place until February 22.  Mother nature was indicating something entirely different, though, as weddings and conceptions do not necessarily occur in all cases in that order. Furthermore, twins usually don't go the full distance of forty weeks. If Dr. Ketterman didn't get those twin caribou out ASAP, there wasn't going to be an operating table to be found that was sturdy enough to support the weight of all three of them. One epidural, which worked on only one side of Mrs. Warnock's body, one attempted spinal (which couldn't be completed because Mrs. Warnock, even though she was feeling no contractions, couldn't hold her body still enough for the anesthesiologist to insert the needle into the proper location, which may also have been part of the problem with the epidural as well), and one whopping dose of milk of amnesia later, the twins joined the world as independent beings -- sort of.

Though ultrasound examination had shown no hint of any issue of the sort, the initial fear of the obstetrician and assisting surgeon upon first seeing the twins was that  they were conjoined at the head, in a condition known in less  culturally sensitive times as "Siamese twins," correctable -- if at all -- only by major surgery. Upon further inspection, however, Dr. Ketterman discovered that Twin #1 had Twin #2 in an unusually binding headlock. She concluded after separating the two  that major surgery might have been simpler than prying the two  warring neonates apart.  Since then, parents and teachers have devoted considerable time to prying the two from gnarly headlocks and prying them off other unsuspecting children. At a summer recreation program, I was once ambushed by one of the twins -- I certainly couldn't tell you which one it was; the truth of the matter was most likely that the twins couldn't tell themselves apart --  because I refused to hand over my Capri Sun pouch when the twin thug demanded it.  I wasn't especially fond of Capri Sun, but the water fountains weren't working, and it was a 105-degree day. It took three of the teen employees nearly five minutes to free me from the grasp of the twin thug.

My parents still aren't certain which parent was responsible for the names given to the Warnock twins, as my parents didn't live in the community at the time the twins were born. After the fact, both parents were so proud of the creations with which the twins were saddled that they both took credit. I would have hid my head in shame when asked and might possibly have blamed the twin indiscretion on adverse reaction to anesthesia or even on a bad acid trip rather than to admit that I ever, in a state of lucidity, thought it was a good idea to give a pair of pet gophers such ludicrous names, much less my children, but there is no accounting for taste, particularly when it comes to naming one's offspring.

I shit you not: Dr. and Mrs. Warnock  named their twin sons Dodd and Todd. I personally have an issue with rhyming names, which are, in my opinion, confusing and cutesy to the point of sickeningness at best, and wholly obnoxious at worst. Todd by itself is a normal enough name, I suppose, although a parent needs to try to think of the possible ways children on a playground will manipulate a name to make fun of the unlucky child who has the name. Todd  unfortunately rhymes with odd, which is a factoid that will not be lost on Todd's classmates. (A children's book that would have been in print when Dodd and Todd were born is entitled Even Steven and Odd Todd.) Dodd, too, in addition to rhyming with Todd, rhymes with odd. But while Todd is, for the most part, a normal name, Dodd is not. Who in his or her right mind would stick a kid with Dodd for a first name whether the kid had a twin with the rhyming name of Todd or not? Purely and simply, the name sucks.

For starters, we have Odd Todd and Odd Dodd, who look so very much alike that they cannot even tell themselves apart.  In addition to resembling one another, Todd and Dodd bear a remarkable resemblance to Disney's version of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum from Alice in Wonderland. The Warnock twins' resemblance to the Disney pair was so obvious, so pronounced, and so well-known throughout the area that when The Enchanted Theatre, a regional community theatre organization devoted to putting on children's productions, chose Alice in Wonderland for its spring production one year, a representative of the organization called Mrs. Dr. Warner to invite the twins to be a part of the production.  Mrs. Dr. Warner lacked the knowledge of the reason her sons came to the minds of the production staff when casting the roles of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  Mrs. Dr. Warnock was so proud that her twins had been sought for the roles that she had purchased tickets for the boys'  extended family members within a week of initially having been contacted by the theatre company.  Her purchase was premature (just like she claimed her babies' births were); after the second of two initial consecutive rehearsals attended by Dodd and Todd ended in brawls that would have made The Undertaker or Pentagon Jr. proud, complete with a broken clavicle, a broken wrist, a dislocated elbow, a bloody nose,  and a very sore groin, (none suffered by the twins but all reportedly inflicted by them by them), the production staff held an emergency meeting at which it was decided that authenticity in the casting of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum would have to be secondary to civility; additionally, Dodd, and Todd were incapable of repeating, much less independently reciting, the most basic of lines. Dodd and Todd were replaced. Mrs. Dr. Warnock demanded a refund on the price of the nearly fifty tickets she had purchased, but the president of the Enchanted Playhouse told her that the money she paid for tickets would be needed to offset the rise in the theatre's insurance premiums.

My dad was on call for one of his monthly E.R. stints one Sunday afternoon when Dodd was brought in by ambulance after somehow falling on the side of a bicycle and impaling his abdomen on the pedal. An injury in which a person is impaled is never a good thing, but in this particular case, no vital organs were affected. skin and what little muscle was there absorbed the impact.  In initially attempting to assess the degree of shock present in the child, my dad asked the boy his name. "I'm either Dodd Warnock or Todd Warnock," the kid answered. "I think I'm Dodd. No, wait, I think maybe I'm Todd." 

My dad was concerned that both the blood loss and the shock were greater than what had been estimated. He suggested that supplies for transfusion be made available in the event that they were needed quickly. Then The kid's blood pressure was taken. It was 140/90, which is somewhat high, but appropriate fir a patient who is in pain. The reading would not have been indicative of major blood loss. It was then that one of the nurses, who had a daughter in one of the boys' classes and who volunteered weekly in her daughter's class, clued my dad in. "He's not in shock. That's not what caused him not to know his name. He really doesn't know whether he's Dodd or Todd. This kid's no rocket scientist."

My parents never intentionally socialized with Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Warnock but sometimes found themselves at the same hospital-related social functions. My dad disliked functions of those sorts, or at least that's the excuse he gives, and he needs to imbibe freely in order to make it through them. Consumption of alcohol reduces what little filter my dad has in the first place. If, at any of those functions, one of the Warnocks ended up anywhere near my dad, he would start in on the topic of what would possess someone to name their twins Dodd and Todd. "Dodd isn't evn an actual name," my dad would opine. Sometimes he would add, "Why didn't you name the other one God. God and Todd Warnock. Maybe it would be a bit blasphemous, but it's closer to a real name than Dodd is.Or you could spell Todd T-o-d. Or you could spell God G-o-d-d.  Or you could just not worry about matching the spellings. Or, better still, you could not even rhyme the names. You could have named them something like Eric and David. Then maybe they wouldn't be the dysfunctional little blobs that they're turning out to be." My mom would inevitably appear and pull my father away before violence erupted.

It's probably good that my parents moved away from that community when they did. Dr. Warnock may have more in common with Charles Manson than just the crazed appearance.

Intelligence, Sanity, and the Relativity of It All

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Today I spoke briefly by phone with a friend. He was aware that I had been ill, and asked if I was better. He spoke of the ups and downs or roller-coaster [I cannot recall his precise wording] or in some way made a reference to my rather yoyo-like existence. In the  course of the conversation he asked me if I'm bi-polar.

My initial answer was "No! Of course not!" I went on to explain that my emotions only go to extremes when I'm coming down with a physical ailment.

"That's still not normal, you know," he answered.

I thought for awhile about what he said, then called my mom. She and my dad are visiting my Aunt Cristelle and her family, including new baby Greenwich Marzipan Coriolis on the Isle of Man right now. I asked her point blank, "Am I bi-polar?"

She was less than forthcoming with an answer. She, as a licensed clinical psychologist, is theoretically qualified to make the diagnosis, but we all know that health practitioners of any sort, including mental health practitioners, should not diagnose or treat close family members.  Her answer was less than reassuring, but in the end was probably correct. She said that I've shown signs of emotional lability in the presence of physical illness since infancy. She could tell if I had an ear infection, which sometimes has no fever or observable symptoms,  as a baby because I would throw toys or bang them together or lie down and kick the floor. She said that, if anything, it's gotten worse since adolescent hormones became a part of the equation, though I no longer throw toys or bang them together or kick the floor. (I did threaten to smash my I-phone with a hammer or mallet, though.) Still, she said, if the problem goes away when the physical symptoms are treated, there's probably no point in a mental health diagnosis, much less treatment with mood-stabilizing drugs. In a worst-case scenario, she said, it would be bipolar disorder secondary to physical pathology. My dad, who was listening in her end of the conversation, chimed in that my body is screwed up enough as it is; adding Prozac or anything like it to the mix would almost certainly have made things worse for me.

I'm crazy, but only when I'm sick. And, even when symptomatic, I'm neither suicidal nor homicidal.  this would be great if I were sick less often.

P.S. My mom says my aunt's new adopted baby looks like a female infant version of Bruno Mars, which would indicate that her ethnicity may be anything from Puerto Rican to Filipino to Ashkenazi to Martian.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Antarctica Meringue and Blitzen Manx are Proud to Announce . . .

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Perhaps my new cousin looks somewhat like this baby.

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My new cousin may, instead, look somewhat like this baby.

Along with my young cousins Blitzen Manx and Antarctica Meringue, I am proud to announce the addition of a new first cousin to my family. After delivering her first two babies via Caesarean section, the parents chose this time to allow the stork to deliver the baby to them. Aunt Cristelle and Uncle Mendel are not telling us where the stork found the little cherub, though they assure us that the process was legal. I could easily see Cristelle  slyly dislodging a suckling neonate from its mother's teat in some random marketplace in Zimbabwe, so I hope they're being truthful about the legality of the adoption. 

Most of the family will have to visit in order to see this female version of the Christ Child, which means she will remain a stranger to most of the family. Cristelle's  marginally-if-at-all-in-the-black, cheap, and lazy siblings, along with their spouses and spawn, would not spring for the cost of air fare even if they could, and my grandfather isn't about to subsidize anyone's travel for this purpose with his frequent flyer miles for the cause of his descendants visiting a baby of likely third-world origin, nor is my grandfather going to get off his lazy butt and use his frequent flyer miles to personally visit his new  grandchild. (Wait! Wasn't Jesus born technically under third-world conditions? Never mind. My grandfather  doesn't accept that as fact, either. He more likely thinks Jesus made his first appearance to this world in LDS Hospital in downtown Salt Lake City.)

His wife, the baby's grandmother, will travel to the Isle of Man to see the baby only because my parents are paying for her to make the trip with them. Any excitement on the part of the  baby's grandmother regarding the addition of this new baby to our family is modest to say the least, but my mom is convinced that at some point in the child's life, it might possibly make a difference in the mind of the child that her grandmother made the five-thousand mile trek just to see her when she was a brand-new baby. It's a bit of a fairy tale, but sometimes fairy tales are what children most want to hear. 

Fortunately for my brother and for me, Mendel and Cristelle understand just how inflexible our medical school schedules are, and they will charter a flight and travel to California so that we may meet the new baby in late June and spend time with her older siblings as well. Meanwhile, my parents, my Uncle Michael and Aunt Joanne, and my Uncle Steve and Aunt Heather will stagger their visits to the Isle of Man so that they might actually be a source of help rather than a burden to the young family. Cristelle is at least not recovering from surgery following this arrival, but there is always more work than would be expected in adding a newborn to a family regardless of how she arrived.  Any routine chores and paying of attention to older siblings frees up parents to bond with the new baby.

Considering that the siblings' names are Blitzen Manx and Antarctica Meringue, much speculation has taken place regarding the name for this baby. My grandfather couldn't care less and considers it a demon child. My grandmother would like for the baby girl to be named Eliza R. My mom would be happy as long as  the child were not named for Eva Peron or Grace Jones. my dad, even though he never calls Cristelle's children by their given names, seems to thrive on the bizarreness of them. My Uncle Steve just shakes his head. My uncle Michael's wife Aunt Joanne finds a different unusual baby name book to send to Cristelle each time a baby is forthcoming. The names in Aunt Joanne's books are idiosyncratic at the very least, but still, Cristelle and Mendel seem to out-weird even the most outlandish names in Aunt Joanne's books.

This baby's name, is -- if it isn't changed; Antarctica Meringue's's original name, which I no longer remember, didn't make it off the chopping block -- is to be Greenwich Marzipan Coriolis.  Coriolis isn't the baby's surname. She just gets an extra middle name.  

I can hardly wait to meet her.

I do not own this video. It is my hope that the owner of this video will graciously allow its inclusion in my welcome to my little cousin.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Duggars, Mean Kids, Aborted Fetuses, and Children with Embryonic Facial Features

This is Josie Duggar. She  looks very much like I did until I was nearly three and first began to outgrow my under-developed appearance.

I recently came across a toddler picture of myself. I cannot share the picture at this space for security reasons, but it dredged up many old memories, most of which were not entirely pleasant. As much as I am loathe to admit it, the picture showed me looking all too much like Josie Duggar.  It probably wasn't just a fluke particular to that photograph alone, either. I probably did, as a very young child, resemble Josie. The two of us didn't share much DNA beyond that which is shared by the human population at large, but we both had the preemie thing going on. Josie was born at approximately 25 weeks of gestation, weighing in at one pound, six ounces. No one knows my precise gestational age at birth, since I was presumably conceived after my mother was already pregnant with my brother; my birth weight, according to my official county-issued birth certificate, and according to what a nurse in the O.R. told my mom, was two pounds, two ounces. While I was a full twelve ounces larger at birth than Josie Duggar was, the two of us shared the underdeveloped features that many preemies maintain into toddlerhood. Josie is well beyond toddlerhood and still caries the look. I hope the same is no longer true of me.

On my father's side of the family, I was the eleventh grandchild. A few of the preceding ten were close enough in age to me as to not possess enough of a developmental advantage with regard to picking on one's younger relatives and with regard to meanness in general. Those who were old enough to take advantage of the age difference to be mean to me, however, did so with a vengeance.  Usually all it takes is one to start something, and if no one else in the group is in possession of a conscience or a spine, the rest will follow along. Such was the case with my older paternal cousins.

I would have no way of remembering how or when it started, but some of my earliest memories involved the big kids calling me Fetus. When things were sorted out much later, one of them said that I still looked underdeveloped and not yet ready to be born even though I was one (when it probably started) or two (when it escalated). Retrospectively, in looking at pictures of a very young me I can understand why they thought I looked fetal or even embryonic, which was probably a word even the oldest one had not yet added to her vocabulary, or embryo probably would have been the insult of choice hurled at me.

I have since both been a part of and have observed many groups of children in extended families -- both those formally related to me on my mom's side of the family, and those not related by blood or marriage but with whom my family has such close ties that we consider them relatives. In none of these groups have I ever observed an instance of a baby or young toddler (or anyone else, really) being consistently picked on or called unkind names by the older children of the group.  I'm not sure what it is in the culture of my father's side of the family that would foster this sort of behavior.  I intervened a few years ago at a reunion of my father's side of the family when several of my young cousins singled out the lone red-head in the pack, referring to her as "a ginger" and refusing to allow her to play with them. An uncle by marriage reprimanded me for getting involved because, in his words, "It's best to let the kids work these things out themselves. You need to stay out of it, Alexis." It was almost like watching the applicable part of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It was also almost like watching a flashback from my own childhood.

I must have become desensitized to being referred to or addressed as "Fetus." As a one-year-old I would have thought nothing of it. I wouldn't have known what it meant and, as I aged, would have sensed from the inflections in their voices when it was spoken that it was not meant to be a term of endearment, but even two-year-olds know to choose their battles. If I ran tattling to my parents about every slight, real or imagined,  I wouldn't have been taken seriously when it was serious.

Then one day at a reunion, one of the older ones -- Rilene [one of the Coke douche practitioners;  Coke douches were purported by that branch of the family to prevent pregnancy], the instigator of most meanness that went on within the group -- began to call me not just Fetus but Aborted Fetus. At the tender age of two, I should have possessed no knowledge whatsoever concerning abortions, but Rilene, delayed in nearly every other way but always precocious when it came to human reproduction and all too willing to share her precociousness with children much too young to know anything about such matters, sat several of the littlest children down and showed us pictures from pamphlets she and her parents had handed out at some recent Right-to-Life function. In looking at the ghastly pictures, Rilene made the connection between my not-fully-developed features and those of the aborted fetuses depicted on the pages of her brochures. That was the point at which I became not merely "Fetus," but "Aborted Fetus."

I'm still not sure I grasped the significance of the name my cousins were calling me (by this time even the ones my own age were learning to refer to me as such), but I knew it was associated with the grotesque images on the pages of the brochures Rilene showed us, I knew it was intended to hurt my feelings, and it did hurt my feelings. I responded in a very two-year-old way, which was to cry. That, of course, caused the cousins to taunt me with renewed vigor.

I should explain that child care workers were part of the package deal for the facilities my grandparents rented for the reunions. Neither of my grandparents, but especially not my grandfather, had any real interest in spending time with grandchildren. His purpose in hosting the reunions was to have a platform from which to pontificate to his offspring and their spouses. Having children underfoot would have been counterproductive to his attempt to have the undivided attention of the adults. Child-care workers,  euphemistically referred to as  "counselors," supervised the children. They did the bare minimum in the way of providing structured activities for the children. Essentially they kept a constant head count to insure that no child wandered away. As long as no child disappeared, was seriously injured, or interrupted the adults, the "counselors" were considered to be doing their jobs.

Matthew ran past the guards ("counselors") and entered the lodge of the facility that was rented for the reunion, where the adults were gathered, to find my parents. "Baby Lexus is crying," Matthew told my parents. "The big kids are calling her 'Aborted Fetus.' " Most of the adults present laughed, according to my mom. 

My mom ran down to the playground area, where she found me encircled by a group of older cousins calling out "Aborted Fetus" at me as I knelt in the dirt, sobbing. The "counselors" stood by as though it was an everyday occurrence. My mom grabbed me, calling out "You should all be ashamed of yourselves!"  as she carried me upstairs to our room to pack. My cousins Rilene and Marthalette followed my mother, explaining that it was only a game. "Does Alexis look as though she's having fun playing your game?" she spat at them as she slammed the door of our family's hotel room in their faces.

The other adults except for my grandparents, who were angry that their captive audience had escaped captivity, made their way to the area where the children were gathered.  Marthalene, Rilene's mother, was repeating "Kids will be kids" until another of the cousins, Richard,  called Rilene an aborted fetus. At that, Marthalene reached for her nephew's neck and screamed, "I'm going to wash your filthy mouth out with soap."

Angelie, the mother of Richard, the kid in Marthalene's grasp, reached for Rilene and said she would wash Rilene's mouth out with soap, then, because everyone knew Rilene started the whole thing.   

My parents packed up their van in the midst of the commotion and left dust in their wake long before the melee was over.  My Uncle Steve had come with us, so he left with us as well. My Aunt Cristelle had not come with us but left with us anyway.  We never heard the complete story of how or even if the issue was ever resolved.  

We eventually received numerous letters of apology. My mom said she's not big on forced apologies as she questions the sincerity of any apology that isn't given spontaneously, but that she wouldn't consider attending another function with that side of the family until we also received very specific and detailed letters of apology from every child over the age of five who was present for the fiasco. My mom kept track, and we didn't do any part of the Christmas holidays with my dad's family the following December because Rilene and her older sister Marthalette still hadn't apologized in any form. We eventually got the letters from Rilene and Marthalette, probably under coercion from the other cousins who recognized that the only decent Christmas presents they typically got were the ones my mom bought for them.

In conclusion, I don't care much for the Duggars. As a fellow fetal-appearing child, however, I really hope the family's online detractors refrain from criticizing Josie's appearance.

Monday, May 8, 2017

From a Guest Blogger: A Post From My New Friend Gemma

Please enjoy this post by Gemma Hunt as I put my feet up after an especially trying day.

Blogging is an interesting modern phenomenon. Some have accused bloggers (and vloggers, and social media users, and pretty much anyone who ever uses the word ‘I’) of bowing to narcissistic impulses. If you’re assuming that everyone in the world wants to read your published musings on your breakfast, then I guess there’s something in that. However, in general, I think that the people who accuse bloggers of narcissism are missing the point - perhaps even projecting some of their own more narcissistic qualities onto the blogger. Disagree? You may well be right in some cases. However, if you’ll just listen to me for a moment, I’ll explain my reasoning. You don’t have to listen, though. You can click away right now. And that’s part of my point:

Let’s have a quick peep at the psychological definition of ‘narcissism’:

“Extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.” (This is according to Google’s definitions, but a very short amount of cross-referencing backs this up - only not nearly so neatly and quotably!)

Working from this, it's easy to see why bloggers can be considered narcissistic by some. They are, after all, generally talking about themselves and their experiences. If you’re working on the assumption that everything you read on the internet is aimed at you, then reading about the minutiae of someone else’s day may well seem like a bit of a pointless endeavor. You may well question the motives of the writer. Why on earth would someone assume that you’re interested in their clashes with the Starbucks barista (or whatever)? They must be pretty self-obsessed, right?

Well, therein lies the rub: most bloggers AREN’T assuming that you’re interested in their lives. They’re not even writing for you. To believe that they are writing for you is a teeny bit narcissistic in and of itself, is it not?

Bloggers aren’t necessarily blogging for their audiences - they’re often blogging for themselves. Yes, it’s self-indulgent. But narcissistic? No. If other people want to read what the blogger is writing - well, that’s a bonus. But they don’t have to! A narcissist depends on an audience - they project their image of themselves outwards. Blogging may be self-indulgent, but it’s usually working inwards - helping the blogger themselves to make sense of their own life, rather than convey an impression to others. Unlike the narcissists in bars, who chew off everyone’s ears with interminable grandiose tales about themselves, bloggers aren’t demanding the attention of anyone who doesn’t want to give it. Many bloggers, when asked, will talk about the therapeutic and mental health benefits of what they’re doing - with nary a reference to potential audiences. Or they’ll simply say that they enjoy it. True narcissists, on the other hand, will wax lyrical about the number of followers they have, how great their blog is, how everyone loves it, etc etc.

Bloggers aren’t necessarily blogging for their audiences - they’re often blogging for themselves. Yes, it’s self-indulgent. But narcissistic? No. If other people want to read what the blogger is writing - well, that’s a bonus. But they don’t have to! A narcissist depends on an audience - they project their image of themselves outwards. Blogging may be self-indulgent, but it’s usually working inwards - helping the blogger themselves to make sense of their own life, rather than convey an impression to others. Unlike the narcissists in bars, who chew off everyone’s ears with interminable grandiose tales about themselves, bloggers aren’t demanding the attention of anyone who doesn’t want to give it. Many bloggers, when asked, will talk about the therapeutic and mental health benefits of what they’re doing - with nary a reference to potential audiences. Or they’ll simply say that they enjoy it. True narcissists, on the other hand, will wax lyrical about the number of followers they have, how great their blog is, how everyone loves it, etc etc.

What’s more, the more mundane and ostensibly ‘pointless’ blogs which everyone accuses of narcissism are, in fact, the very opposite. Narcissists tend to build elaborate myths around themselves - telling tall tales, elaborating details, and generally deifying themselves into ‘larger-than-life’ characters. The kind of blogs a narcissist would write would undeniably be self-obsessed, but they’d also be the kind of extravagant stories that people may WANT to read (although they probably wouldn’t want to meet the author in real life). Someone who writes a ‘boring’ blog about their breakfast is doing the opposite of what a narcissist does - they’re not building themselves up into something they’re not, they’re relating their life as it is
People have been making sense of their lives through writing for centuries. Does anyone accuse their diary-keeping maiden aunt of narcissism? No. Blogging is no more (and certainly no less!) than modern diarism.

Now, there are arguments to be made in terms of the self-absorption that blogging and diary-keeping can lead to. When a blog reaches a certain number of followers (or a blogger becomes obsessed with what they’re doing), that can lead to an artificially inflated sense of how ‘important’ one’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences are in the big scheme of things. And that’s veering a bit close to the narcissism line. The trick for bloggers, then, is to keep their introspections useful and beneficial, without losing a sense of wider perspective. That’s not always easy, but it is perfectly possible. If you can take criticism or a lack of followers on the chin, without feeling ‘thwarted’, or that the world ‘owes’ you its attention, you’re probably doing ok. If you’re starting to feel like a bit of a celeb - it’s time to take a step back and take a look at your place in the bigger picture.

P.S. I could nor get the formatting to cooperate when I cut and paste this.t