Thursday, December 31, 2009

My sister has breast cancer.

I'm sitting here pondering how to approach this subject.  I'm so conflicted about everything, I can't decide between wanting to pull my hair out or to just sit down and cry.

When I was little, I could never quite get my sister's name out right, instead of "Linda", she was "Nana".  Since then she's been "Nana Banana", "Banana Head", my father's favorite nickname for her, "Doodah", "Minnie Two" (I have no idea where that came from, so don't ask) and as of late, she and I have been calling each other "Turd".  It's normal sibling stuff.

When it comes to Linda, I think she's the most beautiful woman ever created.  Blue-green eyes, perfectly shaped eyebrows, full lips, a quick sense of humor, lots of common sense, just an all-around beautiful person.  She's got a great sense of fashion and she's given birth to the most prized person in my life, my nephew, Ryan. 

Growing up, she was the innovator that came up with a technique I call "Ice cream hush money".  Every Friday, she'd pick me up from middle school and we'd have the afternoon together at Polar Bear Ashburn's for Banana Splits, Turtles and all kinds of treats.  So that made me owing to her, so if she was going to get into trouble and she needed me to cover up for her, it was my job to make sure I covered for her best I could.  I sure did like those Fridays.  I never told that she forgot to pick me up from my piano lesson, or that she left me sitting in front of the school for 2 hours when she was supposed to pick me up.  For those rare moments when she messed up, I covered for her because she went out of her way to always take me along wherever she went.  Whether it was taking me to work with her at the waterpark or out with her friends, the old saying, "Where you wanted one, you got two" always seemed to be the case.  Amongst her friends, I was their little mascot.

When Linda was 18, she moved into an apartment with her best friend Lexie and they were thick as thieves.  But, it also meant that at 14, I had no one.  No one to go to Banana Splits with on Fridays, no one to check on me or steal the knobs out of the television set in my room to make sure I was doing my homework instead of watching television, playing with my Apple IIe computer or playing video games.  I didn't have many friends that were my age.  All my friends were her friends and well, since they had all graduated high school and left for college, it meant that I was alone and had to fend for myself against school bullies and the like.    As you can imagine, I felt pretty abandoned.   

In 1986, she married my ex-brother-in-law and moved to Missouri.  We didn't see her much in those 20 years until two years ago when her marriage disintegrated and she came out to live in Vegas with the rest of us.  After she got here, it wasn't long until she had a job, was working 50+ hours a week and living in her own apartment.  She grabbed hold of the future with both hands and made things happen for herself.  She met her boyfriend Carl and they've been together ever since. 

Two weeks ago, as I was heading into my Nevada School Law final I got a call from my sister to ask me for a favor.  The favor was small, nothing huge, just something quick.  When it comes to the people I love, if they ask for a favor, my immediate response is "Anything you'd like" and I leave it to them to tell me how I can help them.  So her favor was small, just a need to put me down as contact information for something, and that was it.  Easy peasy, nice and easy.

It wasn't until after I got home from my final that I called my sister and talked to her some more that the bomb was dropped into my lap.  "Sher," she said calmly, "I have breast cancer."  As soon as she said those four words, tears starting streaming down my cheeks.  You know, I wasn't quite ready for that.  My sister is the queen of healthy eating, she works out, she's always been really active.  Then boom.  Breast Cancer.  I didn't get it.  I still don't.  I don't understand how this could have happened to her. 

Let's set the way back clock for the early '80's.  We were competitive swimmers back then, and well, one afternoon at swim practice, doing relay drills, a boy dove into the pool directly on top of my sister.  Her body went from being a straight line to being a U, and it's not the proper way you're thinking of either, he bent her body into a U in the wrong direction, the front part of her stomach became the bottom of the U and her feet and hands made up the top parts.  Get the picture?  If you didn't cringe, there's something wrong with you.  Well, this is the point where her back problems started.  She suffered for months with stinging sensations, limb numbness, the whole nine yards, so finally, after multiple doctors visits and so forth, my parents took her to a specialist and upon x-raying her back and doing CAT scans and the lot, they put her into the hospital. One evening after reviewing test results, the doctor comes in and tells my mother, right in front of me, that my sister had cancer.  I was 10.  My sister was my idol and I was faced with the possibility that my sister had cancer.  That night at home, I wailed.  Tears streaming down my cheeks telling my mother, "I don't want Nan to lose her hair!  I want my Nana!!"  That's all I could think of, the girl who I thought was the most beautiful woman in the world and had the most beautiful, perfectly styled hair was going to have it all fall out because of chemotherapy.  I was freaked out and completely beside myself.  My mother held me and said, "No, she doesn't have cancer.  Let's just wait and see what happens, but you need to be strong for her, ok?"  I nodded and tried to hold myself together.

My mother is probably the best Dr. Mom you will ever meet in your life.  The next day, we went back to the hospital.  While I was playing video games with my sister on my Atari 2600 that had been moved to her hospital room so my sister had something to do, my mother went to talk to the doctor.  She looked at the doctor straight in the face and said, "I don't think she has cancer, let me see her x-ray."  The doctor took my mother into a room and put the films up on the wall and turned on the light to illuminate the x-ray.  In the middle of her back was a very large shadow, from what I recall, it was about four inches long.  The doctor points at it and says, "That's cancer."  My mother replies, "You don't know what the hell you're talking about, that's a blood clot."

As the story my mother tells goes, the morning Linda was going into surgery, she looked at my mother and asked, "Do I have cancer?"  My mother held her hand and said, "No baby, you don't."  As my mother tells the story, she said that there was a cross on the wall next to my sister's hospital bed.  She looked up at it and thought, "Don't you make a liar out of me."  The doctors came in shortly after, took my sister into the operating room, removed exactly what my mother said it was, a blood clot, and she was fine for years.  The cancer scare was over.  My Nana got to keep her hair and we returned to a normal life.

Until now.  Now I'm not sure if God made a liar out of my mother or not.  You could argue that the reference only pertained to that small, fragile 14-year-old laying in the hospital bed.  Or you could argue that God welched on the deal, that when my sister asked "Do I have cancer", His divine intervention and my mother's answer of no would have held true until Linda reached old age.

All I know is that twice is far too many times in your life to be told that your sister has cancer.  Especially when her approval and company is amongst the most prized things in your life.  My sister has had a very profound influence on me.  She was the one who taught me not to judge other people, to not spread rumors or talk behind people's backs and all of the common sense stuff I harp on all the time.  She was my idol for most of my adolescent life and into my early 20's.  She was the one who always had the nicest car to drive, the biggest house and all the trappings of success.  She was the cat's meow on so many fronts, it didn't matter what I did, she was the king of the hill so to speak.  It didn't get much higher than her.

So now, I'm sitting here writing in my blog because at this very moment (6 am) she's having her IV inserted before she goes in for her double mastectomy.

Growing up, my sister developed her breasts fairly early, I think it was around 13, but I could be wrong, but her chest filled up faster than a balloon on a helium tank.  The kids used to call her "Dolly Parton" because her chest was not quite proportional to the rest of her body.  The poor thing started wearing underwire at 14 or 15.  That's a lot for a young woman to hold up, but sufficed to say, her breasts have been a part of her identity for a long time.

All of the women in our family have large breasts.  There is not a single member of the IBTC (Itty bitty tittie committee) in our family.  It's just the status quo.  But, as a wonderful genetic gift from my mother's side of the family, we also have fibrocystic lumps in our breasts as well.  None of us has ever had problems with them.  Ever.

What my sister has is called DCIS - Ductal Carcinoma In Situ.  To quote Breastcancer.org, it says:

"Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. Ductal means that the cancer starts inside the milk ducts, carcinoma refers to any cancer that begins in the skin or other tissues (including breast tissue) that cover or line the internal organs, and in situ means "in its original place." DCIS is called "non-invasive" because it hasn’t spread beyond the milk duct into any normal surrounding breast tissue. DCIS isn’t life-threatening, but having DCIS can increase the risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later on."

When Linda showed us her x-rays and mammogram films, all over her right breast is peppered with cancer cells that show up as light spots on the x-ray.  They were everywhere.  It was the most mortifying sight I've ever seen.  It still didn't make sense to me.  I'm the smoker, I'm the one with the horrid eating habits that doesn't go to the gym half as often as I should and she's the one with breast cancer!  I don't get it!!

Part of me thinks that it's very unfair.  That it should have happened to me.  If anything happens to me, I'm not that big of a loss.  I'm just a career student who has no children, sits at the computer far too much and really has nothing to live for.  Linda, on the other hand, is a force to be reckoned with, she has her son, her boyfriend, her best friend, all of the other people who depend on her.  She's a major loss if anything goes wrong.  Why did it have to happen to her?

When I found out about her cancer, I called the ex.  He's the one who really showed me there was no God and that atheism isn't a bad word.  I railed at him.  I asked him, when you're as low as I am, abandoned, beat down, depressed and filled with the other fun filled drama that I have, who do you turn to?  Where is the comfort?  What the hell do you do when things get this far down the tubes?  Who did he lean on?  I wanted to know!  He's got his bitch that looks like a bassett hound and when things go to shit, he's got her!  Who do I have?  No one.  He had no answer for me.  Given the man I've found him to be, I'm not surprised in the least.  His attempt to comfort was useless.

Then I went to my usual source of friendship and camaraderie, my online worlds.  I've got tons upon tons of friends online, but there is not a single one of them nearby to hold me while I cry.  They've been holding me up while things have gone from bad to worse this year and with this latest round, they've shown their colors, being true friends to the last.  I can't say enough about my friends and guildmates in Klatoo Verata Niktoo in World of Warcraft, they've been my saving grace.

As for my Mom and Dad, we're all seven ways from Sunday about the whole deal so that's not really much to go off of either.  My mom's not exactly Miss Sensitivity or Miss Congeniality.  Last night, while she was making my father's birthday enchiladas, she broke down and cried, telling me how scared she was.  My father is just hanging back and waiting to see what happens.  I don't even know how to talk about this with my family because we've got no common ground to work from.  I'm a liberal atheist while my family are a bunch of conservative Christians.  Ok, you can't find a common ground on that one, no matter how hard you try.  Even when I do express how I feel about things they are called "screwed up" or "we just don't talk about those things".  What I want to know is what kind of God would allow this to happen to my sister?  What kind of sadistic bonehead deity would give her a life filled with so much bullshit that she's broken because of it?? 

This whole time, I've kept my distance from my family.  For lots of reasons.  I'm the one who has had to be strong for everyone else.  I don't want to crack in front of them because that's not their job really to comfort me.  I know we're supposed to lean on each other, but that's not how my family works really.  I don't trust them to comfort me when I need it.  Usually when I'm upset, I get dismissed or laughed at or some other insensitive response.  I can't take that.  I shouldn't have to really, so I keep my distance, alone and really trying to make sure I keep up a strong front, leaving my weaker moments for time between me and the four walls of my apartment.

Since the news of the cancer has come down, my sister has gone from "don't tell anyone" to "tell everyone".  The sad part, I found out later on, is that I was the last one to be told about her cancer.  She had told all of her friends in Missouri, her boyfriend, her best friend, the ladies that work at the school my mom goes to, which by the way, when my sister informed my mother she had breast cancer, she told her "don't tell anyone", the next day, she's sitting at school and someone who works at the school, basically a perfect stranger to our family, walks up and tells my mother how sorry she is Linda had breast cancer.  The whole world knew and the only person who didn't was me.  I was the last to know.  How am I supposed to feel about that?  Was she trying to save my feelings or was it that she didn't care for me to know until it was inevitable that I would find out anyways?  What the hell is that?  My mother found out only hours before I had.    If that had been me, the only 3 people in the world that would have known I was sick would have been my mother, father and sister.  Then I would have told everyone else when I was ready.

For the last 2 weeks we've been inundated by her Cancer Bag, her cancer ribbons, her cancer this, that and the other.  X-rays, mammogram films and all of the other stuff so she could "educate" us on it.  Pressure to get a mammogram was heaped on us, which I agree, self-exams and mammograms are good things, but to have it shoved down your throat?  Not comfortable when you're facing the fact that my sister has cancer and I really don't know what to do.  I feel helpless.

People rely on me to fix things.  I'm the one who comes up with solutions when there are problems.  But I don't have a solution for this.  I can't lay on the table for my sister while a part of her identity is stripped from her body!  I don't understand how someone so beautiful could be hacked into pieces like this!  I don't know what to do!  I don't know what to say!  Worse part of it is that I know my sister doesn't believe in me enough to let me help take care of her when that's all I want to do!

What do you do in moments like this?  Do you cry, do you scream, do you look up at an imaginary deity and scream WHY?????? Knowing that there will be no answer, only silence as the surgeon's knife slices into her body to remove the cancer.

I'm trying my best to remember the banana splits, the childhood moment she and I were in her new car and trying to get up a steep hill when she started up the hill in third gear, only to stall in the middle.  I'm trying to figure out what I can do for her when her best friend is already in town as what I see as a clear sign that her flesh and blood family are too incompetent to take care of her.

I'm angry.  I'm sad.  I'm crying.  I don't know what to do.  My sister has breast cancer, but it's the most highly curable form.  And at 9am the surgeons are going to cut up my big sister and I can't do anything about it.

WHY!!!??!?!?!?!?!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's Complicated and I'm traumatized.

I spent the day with my nephew.  The apple of my eye and the most wonderful young man ever created.  I adore that boy.  I'm so happy I have him as my nephew, I couldn't asked for better.

After a day of wine shopping, taking in the new City Center here in Vegas, my family decided at dinner for us to see the film "It's Complicated."

Now, let's go over the story really fast:

Meryl Streep's character Jane has been divorced for 10 years.  She's a successful bakery owner, she's got all her ducks in a row and one evening, during a trip to New York to see their son graduate college, she has a fling with her ex, Jake (played by Alec Baldwin).  However, in the meantime, she meets her architect, Adam (played by Steve Martin), and starts digging on him while she's sleeping with her ex.  Like the film title says, 'It's Complicated'.

Come to find out, Jake had an affair which ended his and Jane's marriage. I sat there mortified when I found that out...ok, NOT the right movie for me to see.

My sister sat and laughed through the film.  I guess it was easy for her to take because she has a boyfriend and her life is very focused right now.  Mine, however, is filled with still coping with the lying, cheating, SOB that screwed me up to high heaven, added onto the fact that the guy I really want lives 2500 miles away and I can't even reach out and touch him.  (Groan with me please, I need the sympathy at this point.)

Worse is that when Jane sleeps with Jake, well, there's Alec Baldwin laying there with a chest full of fur, so bad that it looks like a cat had an enormous hairball and threw up on his chest...very similar to my ex (and he was a furry bastard from hell as well.)

The entire film, I went from moments of covering my face in agony, saying to my nephew sitting next to me, "I need a drink" and writhing in my seat like my pants were on fire.  I didn't want to be there to say the least.  The film had some great laughs in it, but it didn't make up for the fact that every time Jake came onto the screen I wanted to scream "GET RID OF HIM!  THROW HIM OUT!!!"  It was horrifying to see Jane get sucked in by that cheating low-life.  It was traumatic to say the least.

Directly after the film I came home to hear the one voice that would make that nightmare end.  Now, in the past, I've written about my friend KP and how much I love his kids and everything, but the truth is, I'm crazy in the head for the man, and I've never even met him in real life.  Ok, now let's give the scoop on him:

When my ex hit the door, or rather when I threw him out, the one guy that mopped me up and let me cry on his "shoulder" was my pal KP.  He's been in the exact same situation I'm in.  His wife cheated on him and he ended that, bonus was that he got 3 fantastic kids out of the deal.  When I hit rock bottom, there was KP ready to lift me up.  He taught me the phrase, "Build a bridge and get over it" when I thought that the world was going to end and I had no hope in sight.  In the year plus I've known him, he's never lied to me and he's always been really wonderful to me.

The other neat thing about KP is that, well, we've had very similar life experiences.  The famous people, the undervalued skill sets, the great intelligence, the quick wit, you name it, KP and I have it in common.  We even finish each other's sentences sometimes.  I doubt if I'll ever know if he feels the same way about me that I feel about him, but if nothing else, he's one guy I want to have as my friend for the rest of my life.  He's just that special.

So, I come in from the movie, change clothes and all the while, I'm talking to myself about the film, thinking about my ex and if I'd ever have an affair with him, and I kept going "NO!  NO!  Never!  I want him away from me!  NO!"  Traumatized and at my wits end with anxiety, I logged onto World of Warcraft, turn on the voice-over-IP software "Ventrillo" and what do I find?  My pals Chance, Amy and KP all sitting in Vent.  First question out of my mouth after I described the film and how traumatized I was, I asked KP, "Would you ever go back to your ex?"  He replied a VERY fast, "NO."  I breathed a sigh of relief, because all truth be told, I want KP for myself, I'm greedy like that, he's all that and a plate of cookies along with being more beautiful inside than he is externally and his exterior?  OMG...HOT!  He's beautiful in fifteen million ways, but his heart is the most beautiful part of him.  However, his response to the question made me feel better because it reinforced what I believe as well, that a cheating ex should NEVER be taken back.  I followed up the question to KP with "If you were ever in a relationship again, would you ever cheat?"  He replied a very fast, "NO WAY."  I guess it's because both KP and I have been through the very bitter betrayals of being cheated on, it's unfathomable to either of us to ever cheat on our partners.

After I relayed how traumatized I was by the film, my friend Amy told me that it would be equivalent to putting someone with cancer in front of the film "Terms of Endearment".

At that point, I was still traumatized, so I went to the kitchen poured myself a fairly large portion of a Sp├Ątlese that was chilling in my fridge and came back to my desk.  I took a long drink of the wine and convinced myself it was far past overdue for me to "build a bridge and get over it", even though with how my heart was racing and anxiety was getting the better of me, I made myself concentrate on KP's voice and remember how over the last nine months it's been his voice that has been the most reassuring to me in the darkest of hours.  I guess he's my Steve Martin character from the film.  He's the one guy I think the crowd is cheering for me to meet.  lol.

The whole film thing, even though it had funny parts just was NOT the right film for me to see.  Amy pointed out that I should have seen Sherlock Holmes instead, which I wholeheartedly agreed with because that was the film I WANTED to see.  I hadn't even heard of "It's Complicated".  It doesn't hurt that KP is that same kind of dark and handsome gorgeous that Robert Downey Jr. is, at least for my $10 I could have sat and had eye-candy and walk out of the theater laughing instead of sitting here traumatized and even more willing than I already am to give my right arm for a plane ticket to Hawaii.

So, what did I get out of this evening?  A blog post that tells recently abandoned divorcees to NOT see "It's Complicated".  It's a funny film.  It's really good, but not the right content for the recently betrayed.  Trust me, if you're in my shoes, you're not ready for it.  Heal, take time to give yourself some love, but for goodness sake, stay OUT of the movie theater that it's playing in.  See "It's Complicated" when you've healed a good bit and for now, go see something that will make you laugh and spend time with people that you love and love you in return.

Altogether, my day?  Painful.  Breaking in new Cherry Red Doc Marten's with 13 hours plus of walking then tack on a fairly crappy meal AND a traumatizing movie with it is not the way to go.  Lesson learned, don't put new shoes and a traumatizing movie together on the same day.

I'm just going to put band-aids on blistered feet, build a bridge over the trauma of the film and just get over it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Semester Wrap-Up

I'm sitting here going over the last 5 months.  They've gone by really fast.  From getting admitted into UNLV, registering for classes, meeting new people, being woken up from a marriage-induced coma, to dealing with the ex, reconnecting with old friends, making my own rules and finally giving myself some love, the last five months have really been, for the most part, an extraordinary journey.

Today, I found out I got a B+ for my final grade in Nevada School Law.  Given that the course was one that I'm not sure I was prepared for by my life experiences, I still think it's really good.  Ok, to put it another way, since I flunked out of the University of Central Florida because I didn't have the proper guidance to choose the right courses combined with working nights at Disney, I think my first grade at college for the second time being a B+ isn't half bad.  I'm a little disappointed, but it's not the end of the world.

I'll be honest, a lot of the materials in NV School Law flew over my head.  I found that during the semester, I didn't really get an opportunity to really participate in the discussions because I really didn't understand the relevance of the materials or what the logic was behind them.  But as one of my fellow students put it, the course was really not about memorizing facts, it was about understanding the relevance of the cases in a work situation.  Outside of teaching my classes in an online world, my experiences put me in a position where I really didn't understand what my professor was driving at.  So a B+, I'm not surprised.  It is what it is, I passed it, I'm moving on.

I have not gotten back my final grade for my Comp II class yet.  I'm waiting patiently for it because right now, my Comp II professor, on top of all of his other classes, is having to read twenty-three 7 to 10 page papers.  I'm under the impression "he asked for it, he got it". So because I do feel the pain of having to read all of those, I'm just going to sit back and wait for my grade and not grouse about it.

My final draft of my paper, "Centerfield", ended up being exactly 10 pages long.  I walked in on Tuesday, handed it to him and said one word.  "Ten."  He smiled at me and said "I'm proud of you."  As you recall, I've been having length issues all semester long.  My paper went from 12 pages to 16, back down to 12 then finally to 10 pages.  It was something my professor told me that struck home: When you write, you are your own deity.  You control what you put in there, but you've got to have the guts and audacity to be able to kill your favorite sentences and artfully crafted sentiments if needs be.  Oh, and I did.  During the final hours of editing, I killed some of my darlings.  I looked at them and said, "I'm sorry, but you're not necessary, so I'm going to save you for another time.", then hit delete.  Doing something like that is very heartbreaking when you're like me.  You have such gorgeous little tidbits, but you MUST for the sake of meaning, sense and clarity be able to weed them out.  It killed me to do it, but I swallowed the bullet and in the end, it taught me that to do justice to my work, I have to be courageous enough to hack and slash, showing no mercy for the sake of having a wonderfully crafted paper.  Outside of throwing my ex out, hacking down my paper was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

I really loved my Comp II class.  I got to engage in the arguments, I got to take part in things and really immerse myself in it.  That sense of engagement to the material was really rewarding, and as I've read over the last 5 months of entries, I've noticed that my writing style has changed quite the little bit.  Kudos to my Comp II professor for helping me do that.   Comp II really assisted in waking me up from my coma.  It made me reach out, challenge myself and grow.  Those are all good things that wouldn't have been possible had I not taken that class.  It really was a life-changing experience.

Every day on the way to my Comp II class, I made sure to listen to a song by John Mayer called "Say" that was written for the film "The Bucket List".  If you've not seen "The Bucket List", go rent it.  It's worth it.  It's the story of two men with cancer who are told they only have six months to a year to live and they make a list of all the things they want to do before they "kick the bucket".  It's a journey of two men finally giving themselves love.  I can't think of a more relevant movie to parallel with the last 5 months.  But, to the song for the ending credits, "Say", well, take a listen...


Here are the lyrics:

Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put 'em in quotations

Say what you need to say [x8]

Walking like a one man army
Fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you'd be better off instead,
If you could only . . .

Say what you need to say [x8]

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You'd better know that in the end
Its better to say too much
Then never say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

Say what you need to say [x24] 


Looking at the song in the perspective of Comp II, it's the simple phrase "Say what you need to say" that was the most poignant to me.   In a world where I use too much detail, it is easiest to think of things in terms of saying what is necessary, but no more than that.  A single sentence should be strong enough to make the point without further embellishment.

The rest of the song has little jewels along the way.

"Take all of your wasted honor":  The departure of my ex.
"Every little past frustration": Anger at being ignored and feeling ineffectual.
"Take all of your so-called problems; Better put 'em in quotations": The life experiences that I was able to put in context, learn from them and use all those things as a reason to keep moving forward, along with putting them all in my writing so that maybe I could help someone else along with helping myself.


"Walking like a one man army": Living on my own, making my own rules, being alone without anyone to fall back on, yet still pushing forward.
"Fighting with the shadows in your head": Fighting against all of my self-doubt, the imposed feelings of inadequacy, memories of all the neglect and hopelessness.
"Living out the same old moment": The long days of complacency and allowing people to hurt me.
"Knowing you'd be better off instead, If you could only say what you need to say":  Standing up and doing what needed to be done.  Waking up and yelling at the top of my lungs that I'm here and I won't be diminished by the drama that the selfish people around me see fit to impose on me.

"Have no fear for giving in": To have moments of asking for help when it's not in my nature to.
"Have no fear for giving over": To allow people to be close to me.
"You'd better know that in the end; It's better to say too much; Then never say what you need to say again.":  That I have to speak up and make myself known, because no one else will do it for me. 


"Even if your hands are shaking": Even though I've been broken down and beaten,
"And your faith is broken":  When I feel that I can't trust anyone,
"Even as the eyes are closing; Do it with a heart wide open":  No matter what's happened to me, when it comes down to it all, I have to make sure I'm giving love to everyone around me.  That I'm better than all the things people have done to me.  That I'll rise above it all and be better than those that would drag me down.

That sums up the semester.  I'm saying what I need to say, no more, no less.  Thanks Doc T.

I'd like to thank everyone who's gone on the journey with me this semester.  My pal Kathy, my sister, my awesome nephew, my friends Barry and Chris, my surrogate mom squad, Susan, Dana, Lisa and Jeannie.  To Doc T, whom I owe so much, Becky and the rest of the great people in Comp II, y'all are awesome.  And a special shout out to my number one reader Gail, thanks for believing in me.

I'll be back with more entries for the holidays and I'll be keeping y'all abreast of what's happening going into the spring semester.

If you haven't today, reach out and tell someone you love them.  It's good for your heart.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Can't. Go. On.

A trip to the library - 8 books.
Time spent writing rough draft - 16 hours.
Time spent in revisions and editing - 14 hours.
One finished research paper that went from 16 pages to 12 pages to 10. -  Priceless.

Comp II, it's everywhere you want to go to write an argumentative research paper from hell.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I really wish I had nothing to say.

Sitting for 8 hours pounding on revisions for my Comp II is not my idea of a fun night.  I'm not sure anyone else would think it was fun either.

My Comp II professor, a while back, told me something that he said he would never, ever tell another student, that I don't need to write so very much.  That in essence, I've got almost too much detail.  He said, "where other students struggle to have something to say, you don't."  He went on to say he wished more people had my ability and took the class as seriously as I do.

Sitting through 8 hours of revisions made me grateful I went out last night to see a show.  My paper, if you recall, was supposed to be between 7-10 pages.  I ended up with 16.  When you're really passionate and have really researched your subject matter, 10 pages go by really freaking fast.  So I've been just weeding out.  Ok, weeding out is an understatement, I took the weed whacker to the thing.  I did one version of the paper which ended up being 12 pages, 4 pages shorter than the original version and what I term as "Diet Sheri: great taste, half the detail."  Which in the paper we're supposed to be very detailed in our arguments, so it's left me at an impasse that I've written my professor about.  Hopefully I'll hear from him sometime tomorrow as to what to do about the paper.

But, you know what, these are the moments where I would love nothing more than to have nothing to say.  But, it is my curse and between not being able to say what is on my mind and being able to write about things in my style but be a bit long, I'll go long.  It's worth it.  My quantity has quality.  My guildies in WoW say that my Walls 'o' text critically strike and kill people.  But more often than not, I'm told I'm a great read.

So let's get on to the good read!

After class on Thursday, I drove over to the MGM Grand and did something I should have done long ago.  Give myself some love.  I found out that Robin Williams was coming to Vegas on December 5th back in October and I about nearly had a heart attack of my own when I found out.  Robin?  Here?  OMG! 

So two months later, just this past Thursday afternoon, I stopped at the MGM Grand, bought my ticket with cash money I had earned by tutoring my mom on her computer and giggled like a little girl on the way back out to the car.  I had a ticket to see my life-long all-time favorite comedian and actor.  Had my ex and I still have been together, I seriously doubt I would have been treated to the absolute joy of seeing Robin Williams last night.  Upon asking about going to the show, he would have told me "we'll look into that", his usual dismissal when I asked for things I really wanted which would have meant "NO".  But, I didn't have that on Thursday afternoon.  Nope!  I had the money, I walked up to the box office, I bought the ticket and I took myself to the show.  I went alone.  I have no shame in saying that!  I had a BALL!  It was on my terms and my time and that was something I felt was truly rewarding myself for getting through the last 7 months alone in the apartment, all of the crap my ex put me through and getting awesome grades at school.

I have to say, I prematurely rewarded myself for my hard work during the semester by taking myself to see Robin Williams at the MGM Grand last night.  I'm sitting in sweats and my t-shirt from the concert that says "Robin Williams:  Weapons of Self Destruction".  I never laughed so hard in my life.  I watched the show again tonight on HBO that they recorded in Washington DC and I have to say, seeing Robin live has been one of my lifelong dreams, but when you see him live, there is an energy that courses through the room that makes him 100 times funnier than he is on TV.  I never dreamed it was possible that he could actually be funnier than he is already.  He's my favorite actor/comic and he's my teaching idol.

What put me into stitches is the fact that he covered basically the last 4 months of my life in that hour and a half show.

First off, he talked about GPS devices.  You remember me, Mom and Dad on the road from the Kansas City airport to Blackwater?  Robin lit that experience up with massive stadium lights.  He's ranting about the GPS voice and I'm nearly pissing myself I was laughing so very hard.  I had tears rolling down the sides of my face and my abs were screaming for mercy as he just kept piling it on.

Then, he talks about Intelligent Design.  As you recall, my Comp II paper is about Evolution vs. Intelligent Design.  Oh holy gods...the description of the Intelligent Design of male and female genitalia had me holding onto my sides again, going into coughing fits and cursing the day I became a smoker because I was laughing so hard.  Garnish and Curtains.  That's all I have to say.  hahahahahahahaha.

Then he talks about marriage and men who mess around.  I nearly about peed again when he basically just tore into guys who cheat.  It struck close to home, but that's the thing about comedy, you have to resonate with the tragedy to really see the funny parts of it.

Then, he talks about alcoholism and addiction.  Been there and done that with the addiction thing, not going there again, don't ask.  I've got 9 years of sobriety and I am NOT going to get sucked back into that.  But how he talked about the different drugs, holding onto the armrests of the chair was all I could do to not fall out of my seat.

But then came the cherry on the cake.  Directory assistance.  Now, as you recall, I found out about the concert on the way to school back in October.  I drive past the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Tropicana every time I go down to school.  There, up on the billboard for the MGM Grand was ROBIN WILLIAMS: LIVE DECEMBER 5TH.  TICKETS AVAILABLE AT THE MGM BOX OFFICE.  Now, I never use my cell phone and drive if I can avoid it.  It took every last ounce of willpower not to snatch that phone out of the bag and call the MGM.  I waited until I parked and was walking to class.  I call Directory Assistance.  It was just as Robin described in his section of the show, the computerized voice coming on and saying "Directory assistance, what city and state?"

Me:  Las Vegas, Nevada.

Directory Assistance:  "What listing please"

Me: MGM Grand Box Office.

Directory Assistance: "Did you say MGM Grand?"

Me:  Yes.
The phone goes out.  The call hangs up.

Me:  DAMMIT!
I take a few more steps towards the building where my class is at.
I dial 411 again.

"Directory assistance, what city and state?"

Me:  Las Vegas, NV.

Directory Assistance:  "What listing please"

Me: MGM Grand Box Office.

Directory Assistance: "Did you say MGM Grand?"

Me: Yes.

Directory Assistance: "The number is xxx-xxxx, if you'd like the number repeated, please press 1 or I'll connect you at no additional charge."

Me:  Fuck!  Just connect the call already.

I look at the phone, "Remember me?  Gotta go to class?  I want my ticket to Robin...hurry the fuck up!"

The call connects "Hello and thank you for calling the MGM, this is Betty how may I direct your...
[THE PHONE GOES OUT AGAIN, THE CALL DISCONNECTS].

I have a Robin moment from The Birdcage where he's serving dinner and yells at Agador "who sets the table without looking at the bowls", and goes into a tirade of "goddamn you, goddamn you, goddamn you!" Hysterically yelling at Val, "Go Go Go!"

I was staring at the phone doing the goddamn you, goddamn you! part.  Thinking to myself "Go Go Go!  Go to class, call from inside!"  Becky had to hold onto me as I jumped up and down, nearly hyperventilating at the fact that Robin Williams was coming to town, that I had to find out how much tickets were and apologized profusely for using my cell phone before class started on a Tuesday trying desperately to connect with the MGM Grand Box Office to find out how much tickets were.

I dial 411 again.

Directory Assistance:  "What listing please"

Me: MGM Grand Box Office.

Directory Assistance: "Did you say MGM Grand?"

Me: Yes.

Directory Assistance: "The number is xxx-xxxx, if you'd like the number repeated, please press 1 or I'll connect you at no additional charge."

Me:  Goddamnit!  Just connect the freaking call before I get disconnected again.

The call connects "Hello and thank you for calling the MGM, this is Betty how may I direct your call?

Me:  I'd like to get tickets for the Robin Williams show on December 5th.  Can you connect me to the box office?

MGM PBX Operator: "Oh the concierge can help you with that.  One moment please, I'll connect you."

I look at the clock, it's 12:50, class starts at 1.  I'm sitting there, cussing at the phone, repeating 'goddamnit, goddamnit' in Robin's voice as I'm waiting for the concierge to pick up.

Finally at 12:55, the concierge lady picks up, I get the ticket prices and hang up the phone, just as my professor starts class. 

How Robin put it is:

You dial directory assistance,

"What city and state please"

"Las Vegas, Nevada"

"What listing?"

"MGM Grand"

"Did you say Mirage"

"No."

"What listing?"

"MGM Grand"

"Did you say Bellagio?"

"NO!"

"If you would like to speak to a representative please press 1"

"Boop"

"For English, please press 2"

"Boop"

"If you're sure you don't want Spanish, press 3"

"Boop"

and he goes through all the numbers to finally get to Zero and what does he get?

An operator from India.

That sums it up right there.

But I'm thrilled to death I got to see Robin.  He's the bomb.  Plus, I've edited my paper.  Now all that's left is the School Law final tonight at 6 and turning in my paper and writing my final exam essay at 1pm on Tuesday.

I'll be back with another entry to wrap up the semester on Wednesday.

Peace, Love and Have a blast out there!!!
The rules you live by are the ones you make for yourself.

Sheri

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Magnolias, Bluebonnets and resilience.



I just got done watching the film "Steel Magnolias".  Oh, it is a favorite of mine.  Over the years, I've put lines from that film into my every day conversations, things like "You are evil and must be destroyed".  There are so many wonderful moments in that film, and being as I am Southern raised, a lot of it makes a lot of sense.

Personally, a lot of the film reminds me of my aunts growing up, but more than that, it reminds me of my sister a whole lot.  You would have to see my sister to know what I'm talking about.  5'4, perfect skin, the most beautiful eyes you've ever seen and a fashion sense that would make any designer sit up and take notes.  Growing up, all I ever wanted to look like was my sister, she was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen.  I still think that too, after all, she's been my idol all my life.  In the looks department, I think she's got me beat, hands down.  Next to my sister, I look like I have all the fashion sense of a warthog.  But I'll just go with saying that our styles are very different.  To be honest, I wouldn't know what my style was if it reached up and bit me in the ass, so at least if I want to see good fashion on someone who looks fairly similar to me, I just look at my sister. 

Like Shelby (Julia Roberts character in the film), my sister had a huge Southern wedding, the church decked out with flowers, me in a lilac colored bridesmaids dress (I was 14).  The one thing I remember best about my sister's wedding is that my sister was gorgeous and I got to carry a huge orchid as my bridesmaids bouquet.  The rest is basically a blur, after all, it was 20 + years ago.  All I remember is that the film came out just about at the same time as her wedding, so it was easy to draw similarities down the line.  Like Shelby, we even come equipped with the mother that always pushes and the easy-going laid back father, who sounded just like Tom Skerritt in the movie, when he gave my sister away, that southern twang going, "Her muther an' eye dew". 

Watching the film tonight, I could have sworn I was back at Central Baptist Church going through it all over again.  The thing is, that after it was all said and done, we had the same type of tragedy because her marriage wasn't meant to last.  Neither was mine.

However, when I look at the resilience factor built into both my sister and I, I keep thinking that well, maybe things like that are supposed to happen.  They make us stronger.  Maybe there's a reason for it.  When I look at my sister and myself now, after both of us came out of being married, I guess our survival instincts kicked in and helped us get back up on our feet on our own.  My sister and I don't talk about our marriages in terms of failure.  If we talk about them at all, we talk about them in terms of lessons learned.  Somehow I think that's the best coping mechanism of them all, the ability to dissect the situation and learn from your mistakes.  But that's always me, always trying to learn something on top of picking yourself up by your bootstraps and keep on walking.  Bonus to all of it, my sister has the world's coolest boyfriend.  I really do like him a lot.

Then there was the part of the movie that struck me the most of WHY I understand it so well.  It's Southern.  Someone from the Northeast, I don't think, would understand quite as well what the people in the film were saying and how they said it.  It's the cantor of the speech, it's how it's phrased, and I have to give props to all of the non-southern people who had to learn our dialect to really be believable in the film.  Trust me, the south is hard.  It's a rough place to grow up because between the sugar shock you have to go through for the saccharine sweet ones and the brass tacks that throw you under the bus of the not so sweet ones, you've got to be on your toes 24/7. 

You've got to be fast when it comes to conversation when you're from the south, because sure enough, you're going to get a zinger thrown your way and you've got to catch it and send it back going the same speed or faster than how it came to you.  You want to talk quick wit? My sister is faster than anyone I've ever seen. Wow, she'll knock your head clean off before you've got a chance to catch the joke and throw it back.  I grew up constantly trying to become faster.  Hi, I'm book smart, I've got common sense for shit, so I'm not really good at being fast, but to these folks on the West Coast, being just a hair slower than my sister pays off because most West Coasters are slow as Christmas in comparison.  I think it's funny to me when I throw a fast joke and it just whizzes right by some folks out here.

Another part is that an old friend of mine really got on my case the other night because of my accent.  Mine is slippery as all get out, I guess it always has been.  I remember growing up and kids getting on me because my accent was so thick (we lived in San Antonio and my dad's family is from Bryan/College Station).  In Texas, you have to understand that you can tell almost exactly what part of the state a Texan is from just by their accent.  East Texas is Sugar Sweet with crisp diction, West Texas sounds likeallthewordsinthesentencesareallputtogether.  (Yes, I just did that on purpose.)  Try it, I'm serious!  Run all the words together in a mumble with a southern accent and you've got West Texas!  Now if you talk to someone from around San Antonio, that accent is more neutral than anything else.  They can get away with sounding very middle of the road, no idiosyncrasies, just a bit of twang, not a lot though.  So being that I was surrounded mainly by the Sugar Sweet of East Texas, I ended up sounding more like my family than the kids at school.  The kids always gave me such a rough time about it, that I learned how to hide it as best I could to fit in.

Plus, at 18, I worked at Disneyworld.  When you're talking to a whole room full of people, you have to make sure that your diction is precise and you sound like the lady on NPR or on the local "easy listening" station.  It's a voice that is sure to put you to sleep like nobody's business.  A couple of sentences and you're out like a light.  But, for the sake of clarity to folks who came to Disney from all over the world, having an accent became more of a liability, if people couldn't understand you, how could they follow your instructions?  So I learned how to bury my accent even further.  I taught myself how to talk with no accent whatsoever.  I gave myself a "radio voice" that most people just get the fattest kick out of when they hear me relaxed.  I guess that is what, in the end, gave me the ability to do different voices, from my 105 year-old Grandfather "hellow mah little sweetie", my Aunt who refers to her husband by his middle name "Eugene" (which comes out U-geene) when he's in trouble, my aunt who after a few sentences and asking you "what do you want for brek-faast" will put you into sugar shock, to even my sister with her crisp diction that asks, "Did you wash your hands" to when she doesn't want to talk about things "let's.  just.  droppit".  Heck, I can even do the body language for most of them.  I can do the voice of Mickey Mouse, I even came up with one for the stuffed-up (or nasally-challenged) dragon "Elmer" for a fairy-tale play I wrote called "The Littlest Dragon", the story of a dragon who just didn't fit in with his kinfolks (He liked to eat Burritos while the rest of the family ate Jelly Beans.  Well, I won't go on with the rest of the story except to say that well, Elmer's family blew fire out of their mouths, Elmer blew fire out of his backside. Long story there, but I'm not going to go into it.  Sufficed to say the play was written for a group of actors on what's called a "Hoverboat" in There.com.)  The thing with Elmer and the Littlest Dragon is that I was the Narrator AND the Voice of Elmer, so I literally had to switch voices at the drop of a hat, neither one being my "real voice".  It was jumping from my "radio voice" to "Elmer". It was tough stuff and my throat got a little sore after 3 days worth of performances.  However, give me time and I can master most people's speech patterns and get a similar accent going.  I can do PERFECTLY the female draenei and female gnome voices from World of Warcraft, you should hear the laughter when I tell the Draenei joke/flirt, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  Good.  Bring ample supply of butter and Goblin Jumper-cables" and "Stop and ask for directions I said, but NO "It's inter-dimensional" he says, "What can go wrong?"  (Inside joke, the Draenei crashed into a planet.)

Gnome...


Draenei




But like I said, my accent is slippery.  When I know I'm having to talk to a bunch of people and I need them to understand me clearly, unconsciously, the accent drops away.  BUT when I'm relaxed, pissed off or just around my father, my accent comes out in full bloom.  You should have seen the people up in Montreal when I had to live in that frozen hell, they understood English, but they had a hell of a time understanding me because of the speed at which I spoke combined with my southern drawl.  They stood mystified a whole lot of times.  You should have seen the looks on their faces when I used sayings like, "Didn't know their ass from a hole in the ground" or "couldn't hit the broad side of a barn".  I mean, things like that are normal to me, but you put them in a culture that says "Didn't know their ass from their elbow", yeah, they had trouble with it, so at that point, I had to really hide my accent.  But, I took the time to really get to know theirs so now I can do not only a French accent but a French-Canadian one too.  One of the biggest reasons that I think I hide my accent now is because I'm afraid people will think I'm ignorant or won't take me seriously because of it. 

This takes me back to when I went out with my friend yesterday for drinks.  After I had finally gotten to a point where I was relaxed (no, I wasn't drunk, so don't even go there.  What most people don't know is that I have a lot of anxiety in social situations and I'm really very shy and worried about people's perception of me, so it takes me a bit to wind down and feel comfortable enough to be myself, even around family).  Unconsciously, my true voice came out.  My buddy looked at me and said, "where the hell did that come from" and I realized at that moment that he was hearing ME, not a produced voice that I'd worked years on to hide my accent.  He stopped me dead in the middle of a sentence and pointed it out, and he said, "Sheri, I've known you for 10 years, and never have I heard the real you until right now.  I appreciate you being able to be around me as yourself, not as what you want people to see or hear."  He went on to tell me that if he ever caught me hiding my accent again, he was really going to give me a hard time.  He said that I sounded more genuine than I already was and that it was a feat he didn't think was possible.

I guess it's all a coping mechanism, a way to camouflage myself so I'm like everyone else.  But, the one thing I got out of it all is that I'm a Steel Magnolia in my own right, except I'd have to be a Steel Bluebonnet instead.  I know how to pick myself up by my bootstraps and keep on walking, and I'm sure that I can fit in with most accents from anywhere in the world.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Norman the Doorman

I took a break from creating my Powerpoint presentation for Comp II by spending a little time going over my gear for my beautiful Relyimah, my Level 80 Night Elf Druid in World of Warcraft.  It looks like the next set of armor I'll be getting will be turning me into Norman the Doorman, the Mister Lincoln Rosebush that sat next to the front door of my childhood home.


Just as a note, the toon in the preview for the armor is a human male, which is very different from my Night Elf.  Here's the gear set she's in now (my toon looks like the one on the right), except, I don't do skirts, so I am not wearing the T9 chest piece, I opted for the Cuirass of Calamitous Fate, which matches the rest of the armor, except I don't have to wear a dress.  (Thank goodness.)



But with the era of Tier 9 armor coming to an end, it's time to face facts, I'm going to be a rosebush in the battle for Icecrown Citadel.  Reminiscing about Norman, I guess it's not a terrible prospect to have my toon look like him, and there are several great reasons why: he was our guardian, he showed us beauty and was an all around great thing to admire.

Norman was our doorman, he grew just outside our front landing on the right hand side of the front door.  He was a silent sentinel that KNEW when someone was a good person and when they were horrible.  If the person coming to our door was a decent individual, Norman left them alone, BUT, if they were someone who was going to bring us trouble, Norman would literally grab them, his thorns and branches would inevitably grab hold of their clothing and they would get tangled up in him.  I'm positive that Norman was sentient and aware of everyone around him.  Now that may sound a little crazy, but really, considering that plants are living organisms, you really have to sit back and wonder.

I remember when my ex-brother-in-law first started visiting our house.  Norman didn't like him one bit, but neither did our cat, Whiskers.  Norman, on first viewing of the man, grabbed him up, and I'll never forget the mystified look on my ex-brother-in-law's face as even as he was entering the house, Norman wouldn't give him up very easily.  Let's face it though, Norman didn't like very many people, so my parents always managed to hack Norman back for small stretches of time and he'd grow again, and first thing he would do is return to his duties as our doorman.  Only few people got past his inspection, and after he grew out again, his judgment would be known.  Norman grabbed up the kids that grew up on the street with us, I'm convinced he was none too pleased with their treatment of me.  But, in almost 17 years, Norman stood there, through hot summer days and blustery winter nights and kept watch over us.  I can remember many people with scratches on their skin from Norman trying to forcibly evict them from our front porch. When I knew the individuals that visited our house weren't top notch, I'd go outside and cheer Norman on, saying "Good call Norman, I don't like them either."

But then, coming home from a hard day of being bullied at school, I'd walk down the front walkway of the house, and instead of his thorns, he'd offer up a beautiful bloom at face level to enjoy as a reminder that there was beauty in the world.  Norman really did know how to cheer me up, because with each blossom that he would offer me, it gave me hope that I could get through whatever would come my way.  But Norman didn't cut me any slack, when I wasn't doing things quite right, he'd brandish a branch at me and remind me to straighten up, but he never grabbed me like he did other people.  He gave a solemn reminder to be good, nothing more.



So I guess having my toon look like Norman the Doorman won't be so bad, maybe I'll learn to brandish my thorns at bad people and offer up beauty and love to the good ones.  Either way, come next month, my gear will change from being a bird to a rosebush thanks to the talented artists at Blizzard.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

UC protests

Every Sunday, I take a look at the news to get abreast of what's happening in the world, and of course, to see if there is anything I can contribute to the Monday Evening discussion of law and schools for my Nevada School Law Course.

Tonight, I flipped on CNN.com to find that California has raised tuition to all of their public universities by 32%.

My question is:

How in hell are we supposed to get an education if we can't afford it?

The UC protests are close to home.  It only takes 5 hours to drive from my apartment in Vegas to the campus of UCLA.  If the tuition increase stands in Cali, how are students in Nevada supposed to relax knowing that they just may be next?

What happens in Cali affects us.  When the Northridge Earthquake hit Los Angeles in 1994, we felt the tremors here in Vegas.  I remember being at a friends house when the apartment started to shake.  We turned on the news the next day to find whole sections of the 10 and 5 freeways laying in rubble on the ground.  The movies "Speed" and "Lethal Weapon 3" all had scenes in them that were missing sections of freeway because of the quake.  Almost overnight, the population of Las Vegas went from 620,000 to over 1.2 million.  The city doubled in size because of the quake.  Now tell me that what happens in Cali doesn't affect Nevada.

UCLA, UC Berkley, etc, they all have tremendous reputations for turning out some of the finest students.  Are they now just reserved for the rich elite that can afford exorbitant tuition fees because of the depth of their parents pocketbooks? 

Now with the rising tuition costs, who says that Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, the man who loves to gut and cut education in Nevada every chance he can get, won't do the same?

It's bad enough that the public education system in Nevada ranks 48th in the nation.  Let's add a whole new list of problems that will arise from students leaving California schools to go to universities like UNR (Reno) and UNLV so that they can stay close to home, IF they can even afford tuition here at all with the out-of-state tuition fees.  What about Oregon and Arizona as well?  Arizona is the only state who is WORSE than Nevada on the national list for the standard of education, but with rising costs, where else are these students going to go?

What's worse is how it will affect campuses like UNLV.  Undoubtedly, we will see an increase in enrollment, an increased demand for campus housing and other services provided by the UNLV.  How are we supposed to hold the influx of students that will come from this latest case of bureaucratic idiocy? It's bad enough we have highway congestion that has resulted from Californians moving 5 hours up the road to Vegas, taking highways that were built for 620,000 that now have to service 2 million.  What about water?  Vegas is in the desert.  It's bad enough that we have idiots running the Las Vegas Valley Water District, but worst of it all is that we have no rights to the water that runs down the Colorado River.  California took it all, doling out small portions to neighboring states in quantities that we can no longer survive on.  Ranch lands in Northern Nevada are being purchased wholesale, because of the water that lies beneath them, by people who have not a single solitary clue how to run a ranch or know diddly squat about cattle, yet California takes our water, then expects us to house, water and feed their residents because of the deterioration of their state.

It's not Nevada's fault that California can't take care of itself.  Cali only has some of the richest people in the world living there, but they can't cough up and help out their state?  How self-absorbed and pathetic. 

You know, it appalls me to no end that the U.S. Government wants us to stay on the cutting edge of technology and have the finest minds in the world, but the states forbid us from the education we seek and desire because of their own problems or greed.  It's not the students fault that California is in a financial bind, so why should THEY have to pay for it?  Those students are trying to obtain an education that will allow them to get out into the workforce to make sure California doesn't go under, but they can't do that with rising tuition costs that make it impossible to go to school.

You know, it's disgusting to think about education in America.  In Nevada, teachers start at $36,000 a year, and with the costs associated with living in Las Vegas, it is impossible to make ends meet on that kind of money.  We, as teachers, affect the world when we teach our students, we're giving them the tools to succeed and be successful in life, but we are paid close to nothing to do a job that innately ensures the survival of our species.

In the end, this latest round of idiotic behavior by bureaucrats who have no earthly idea what it's like to live in the real world, are going to end up screwing us ALL once again.  How sad. 

Keep protesting UC students!  I'm with you 100%!  Do NOT let them up your tuition!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Recovering.

Get out your kleenex boxes, make sure you pee before you get started, this entry is a long one.  It might actually be considered my first "Bill Bryson" type of short story.

I just spent four days in Missouri.  'Misery' is more like it though because I gave up on trying to understand small town America a long time ago.  When you grow up in a small town and all you are inside is big city, there is no car, train or plane that can get you out of small towns fast enough.  But, going to a small town for a visit is a great reminder to make sure you're looking at the big picture, especially when you have to go for an event like my nephew's wedding. 

On Thursday, November 12th, I was trying my best to make the most out of my travel day, but the whole reason that I left two days behind my parents to head to Missouri was because I had to take my CAAP exam for English 102.  So, the night before, I packed my suitcase, put together all of my necessities and readied myself for the day.  I got up, went to school, took my exam (don't ask, it was horrible), then politely drove across the street from UNLV to McCarran International Airport to fly out to Missouri.  I won't go into how much I hate Southwest Airlines.  Being shipped like cattle across the country was never to my liking, but sufficed to say, the airplane that was to take me to Denver was delayed, then some poor schmuck had some kind of medical problem on the plane which delayed us even further, resulting in me having to run the length of a football field to catch my connecting flight to Kansas City as it was pulling away from the gate.  My name was being called over the intercom in the Denver airport as I held up my ticket to the attendant at the gate and yelled "Wait for me!!!!" as the attendant took my ticket, I ran down the jet-way, only to find myself seated between Bessie the Cow and Shamu.  Oh yeah, the flight itself to Kansas City was an adventure in itself.

After landing in KC, I ducked out the doors really fast for my first cigarette in close to 8 hours.  I had run out of Nicorette gum half way through the trip, so I was ready to knock the head off of the next poor fool that crossed me the wrong way.  As I lit up, I looked around and realized, my parents weren't there.  So, after taking about 8 minutes to enjoy my cigarette, I gathered up my belongings and headed for baggage claim, all the while, looking for my parents.

After finding my bag and pulling it off of the baggage claim belt, my mother found me and what gripped me with terror straight off the bat is that she told me they were at the airport alone.  Ok, first thing, my parents live in Vegas too.  They have not the dimmest, dullest notion of the roads in Missouri, so I got ticked straight away:  who in their right minds would allow my 68 and 66 year old Father and Mother out on unfamiliar roadways in the middle of the night?  My flight landed at 9:30pm!  How in the hell are they supposed to know where they are going!?  That's dangerous, and given my parents, VERY dangerous.  Some genius decided to give my parents one of those GPS devices, which by the way, are excruciatingly confusing, not to mention, annoying.  The one that my parents were equipped with had a female British voice that sounded like she had just smoked a half-ton of marijuana.  The chick sounded STONED, I kid you not!  After helping my dad put my suitcase in the trunk, I sat in the backseat of the car with my head in my hands thinking of a moment out of the movie "Twister" where the character 'Rabbit' played by Alan Ruck (the guy who played Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) ... says "We're going to take a walk in the woods", followed by Helen Hunt's and Bill Paxton's characters saying "Dear God...".

Of course, after a day of travel, me on a plane and my parents on the highway, we were all famished.  So we stopped before we commenced the long drive at an IHOP for steak and eggs which were not of Vegas quality to say the least *shudder*.  But, thankfully, we did stop because there was not an ounce of food or drink to be had until the next morning.

So, we finally got on the freeway that would take 2 hours to get us to Backwash, um, I mean Blackwater, Mo. As we drove along, I looked out of the windows and up at the sky.  The one thing that struck me immediately was all of the stars.  It had been years since I had seen so many!  From my apartment balcony, I can maybe make out a constellation or two, but nothing on the scope or scale that I saw out of the car window that night.  Stars that I had all but forgotten were there.  My mother asked me a passing question after I had noted to them about what I was seeing and I pointed out to her the constellation Orion.  In all my years of stargazing I never knew my mother had never known the constellation Orion, nor the Orion nebula.  So I helped her find it in the sky.  She remarked about it later on in the week that she had learned that, which was so sweet, she relishes new knowledge like a child with a brand new toy. I can't help but be proud that that is one of my mom's greatest qualities. 

But then the car started to swerve.  "Lordy!", I hollered from the backseat.  My father was falling asleep at the wheel.  That tore it for me, I was severely pissed off that some jerk put my parents and I in a dangerous situation by not getting off their lazy ass to drive them in to pick me up or someone not being blunt enough to say, "Sheri, rent a car."  I could have gotten there on my own, but nooooo, they just had to pick me up.  So, with the swerve and several jerks of the wheel by my dad, I looked at my parents and said, "Enough!  I'm driving.  Daddy, pull over."  So, Dad pulled over and I got behind the wheel.  Not two seconds after I got behind the wheel and Daddy was tucked into the backseat, what do I hear?  Daddy snoring.  Good thing I pulled us over and took the wheel because that sweet man would have killed us had he driven a moment longer.  As I started to drive, I realized that it was no small wonder the man was passing out, there is nothing to look at on that road!  It's literally making your eyes search for the next mile marker on the freeway, because that's all there is!  No roadway lighting, no signs, billboards, NOTHING.  I mean this is some serious nowhere happening.  Not even the slightest bit of light pollution.  It's pitch black.  My eyes immediately started to hurt and dared to have me go cross-eyed as I drove.  You have to make your eyes search the landscape for anything to keep you aware and awake.  I even teetered on passing out behind the wheel, and in my 22 years of driving on the planet, I've never fallen asleep behind the wheel.  It's impossible for me, so that says a lot that I was falling asleep too.

But, before the Missouri Sandman could get me, there it was, Exit 89 that would take us to Blackwater on a road called "K".  Now, the other thing about being in the sticks...they don't have numbers on their roads!  It's letters!  I saw a road called "Y", another one called "DD" not to be confused with just "D" or the cup size of a bra.  There was an entire alphabet before my eyes.  I thought at that moment that my beloved Momeraths from Lewis Carrol had come to get me.  I was positive that I had fallen down the rabbit hole that headed straight for Wonderland, and given the four days that would follow, I wasn't far wrong.

So, we finally arrived in Blackwater.  I had told my sister's boyfriend, Carl, about Blackwater and summed it up concisely as, "Imagine a road in the middle of nowhere.  Now, put 5 or 6 buildings on either side of the street that are all connected, and you've got Blackwater."  My description is deadly accurate.  



Now, this is a photo of the hotel my nephew runs and where I stayed for my adventure.  It's called The Iron Horse.  Now, what you don't see, is that if the photographer would have turned 180 degrees to photograph what is behind him, you'd be looking at a set of railroad tracks and beyond that, corn and soy fields as far as the eye can see.  Yes.  I said RAILROAD TRACKS.  And oh are they busy.

We arrived in Blackwater around 2am Missouri time because of our pit stop for food.  Getting out of the car and being grateful that the drive was over, Dad and I carried my suitcase up the stairs of the Iron Horse and I flopped down on the bed of my room for just a moment to take a breather.  Afterwards, I opened my suitcase, put on my pajamas, hung my clothes for the wedding and curled up with a little bit of Kenyon to ease my mind to sleep.

Like a scene out of "My Cousin Vinny", the warning lights and bells at the railroad tracks next to the hotel started to flash and ding and I watched in disbelief as the fringe on the bedside lampshade started to gently sway.  A train, with it's horn blaring, roared past the hotel at 3am.  I couldn't help but cover my face with the book and just laugh.  I was truly in the sticks and I was going to be stuck there for another 3 days.  Oh and don't worry, the train thing?  Yeah, it's an all the time thing, trains come roaring past that place at all hours of the day and night.  It's not so bad really, when they renovated the hotel in the '90's they were smart enough to add padding to the walls so you didn't feel like you were physically on the train when it came rumbling past.  However, the lamps still shake a bit.  So yeah, there's Sheri in the middle of a scene from My Cousin Vinny with a book over my face laughing hysterically.  I was in hell.

So, I finally managed to get to sleep.  If another train came by, I would have never known it, I was dead to the world until, at around 7am Vegas time (which is 9am Missouri time), a small set of feet, stomping around in the dining room below, woke me up.  7am?!?!!??!  7 fricking AM?!  I don't move before 9am if not 11am!  I laid there going, "what the hell is going on!"  Knowing that I had to take my levothyroxine, I slowly moved from the bed, put on my fleece jacket and went on a search for some kind of juice to take my pill with.  For the first time in a year, I stumbled upon my nephew.  With hair that looked like I had put my finger in an electrical socket and grumbling the word "juice", I hugged my sweet boy.  Don't worry, he's used to seeing me like that and knows full well that mornings don't agree with me in the least.  He had been sitting at the breakfast table with my sister and a few other folks, and my sister, with a little too much happiness in her voice from seeing me in such a disheveled state said, "Sher, you going to join us for breakfast?"  At that point, all that ran through my head was, "F. U. lady." Then I gained a slight bit of coherency as I thought, "Breakfast? Yeah right, cigarette first, more sleep, then I'll consider food after my pill has been absorbed into my system."  But instead of saying what was exactly on my mind, I just simply replied, "Sorry Nan, gotta let my pill go down before I can eat."  So I took my pill, stumbled out onto the back veranda for my cigarette then plunged myself back into the bed for another hour.  Well, at least I tried to sleep.  With the constant footsteps of a youngster stomping at the ground like he was on a patch of fire ants, I knew I wasn't going to sleep again, but damn if I didn't try.  After gaining some more coherency, I went to the bathroom to bathe.

OK, now the one thing about staying in an antique hotel is that you have to be ready for the antiques, and oh boy did I get saddled with one.  The bathroom, well, let's just use the phrase Indoor Outhouse, which is harsh in the extreme, but the closest thing I can describe the nature of the bathroom, and by the looks of it, that bathroom was aching to be the bane of my existence.  It had a lovely marble sink in the corner, but the bathtub was a whole other issue.  It was one of those beautiful old porcelain tubs with ornate feet, but beauty aside, the problem lied within the fact that the thing was only about 3 feet long. The first thing I said when I saw the beautiful brass fixtures along with a beautiful saddle for the shower-head attached to a brass hose was, "Where's the shower curtain?"  Nope, no shower curtain.  So how the hell was I supposed to bathe in this 19th century jalopy without hosing down the whole bathroom?!   To sit in it, yep, you guessed it, I knew with my 34" inseam, the only way I could possibly fit would be to have my knees at my chin practically.  I looked at the tub and said, "Oh, this is going to be fun."  But, I needed to bathe and this old jalopy was going to get me clean come hell or high water! So, I started by battling it out with the drain plug which didn't seem to want to fit and kept popping out, then to submerge my head to be able to wash my hair?  First, you'd probably ask, why didn't you use the shower head?  Oh that was real easy, it had about as much water pressure as a weak squirt gun.  It would have taken an hour just to get my head wet and I wasn't about to spend 2 hours in a porcelain prison.  So, the only other alternative I had was to submerge my head under water in the tub.  But, being that the tub was so small, I had to scootch my butt all the way to the end of the tub and with feet in the air, finally got my head under water.  Let's just say that I had to use all of my creativity to get clean and leave it at that.

Clean and feeling oddly limber, I headed downstairs to face the family.  Oh yes, four fun-filled days with people who enjoy belittling you.  That's my idea of fun!  *rolleyes*   But, for the sake of The Boy, I was going to handle it.  I've got great survival skills and weeks like those are the ones where they pay off the most.  It wasn't long until the negativity started flying, and that's the beauty of families like mine, they never fail to disappoint when they immediately start in on the smallest details that they don't like.  I'm just as bad as they are sometimes too, as you've seen with the bathroom adventure, but I try to see the comedy in things while they take negativity to a whole new level.  So with that in mind, I crossed the street to the small apartment my parents were being housed in.  Lucky for me, a nice girl who works for my nephew had brought over a wonderful breakfast of eggs, bacon and hash browns, so I got to eat breakfast and spend some time with my Dad.  We had a lovely talk, he filled me in on all the goods that had been happening since their arrival on Tuesday up until my arrival Thursday night.  The tales of my sister and mother cleaning the Iron Horse and how filthy things were (according to them) and so forth came from my Dad, and he did what I did, shrugged and said, "Well, that's them" and just took things at their face value, not bothering to upset ourselves with details that just didn't need to be observed or much less worried about.  That's what I love about my father, he's so easy going, he doesn't sweat the small stuff when the whole point to the trip was to see my nephew.

After breakfast, it was time to head into Columbia to get nails done.  Now, what's funny about this is that I like to be prepared, it makes no difference if it's for school, raiding in World of Warcraft, being organized at the apartment, I live by a simple ethos:  Be prepared and pee before you leave.  I mean that's as simple as it gets, so before I stepped toe one on the plane, my nails were done, my eyebrows and lip were waxed, my clothes were ready and I was prepared for battle.  My sister asked if I needed to have my nails done and I held up my freshly manicured nails and said, "Nope, I came prepared, flasked and buffed too."  Now, those who don't play WoW will never get that reference in a million years.  The flask and buff reference is one that comes from 2 years of raiding in World of Warcraft.  Flasks are special potions that your character drinks that give you extra stats to help you win the day.  Buffs are like flasks, but they're spells instead of consumables.  So it was my way of saying that I got on the plane prepared, that I needed no extra things to get me through the week.  So, as my Mom, Dad, Sister and my sister's best friend Lexie headed into the nail salon, I promptly made my way outside for a cigarette and a stop at the bookstore.

Being as I had almost finished the Kenyon that I had started just 2 days previous, I knew I was going to need a new one to get me home, so I purchased Vane and Bride's story "Night Play" plus a little black journal to write notes for my blog.  Afterwards, I headed back to the nail salon to find my family still being primped and preened for the wedding the next day, so I sat outside the salon scribbling notes in my new journal and reading a few passages out of the book I had just purchased.  Just then, the lack of sleep was getting to me, I nearly fell asleep in the chair reading, so I got up to check on everyone.  Linda and Lexie were under the nail dryers and Mom and Dad were being finished up.  With a new coat of clear on his nails, my father pranced around and in a high falsetto voice went "Wooo!  Look at me girls!"  Fighting the urge to put my palm over my face, I laughed and just moved on.  I sat on a pedicure chair next to my sister, letting their conversations become a fuzzy white noise in the background.  All I wanted at that moment was my new chair, my desk and a cigarette because it was getting painful.  But, that wouldn't be for another two days, so I put it out of my mind and followed the herd into JC Penney's for accessories shopping.

So, with nails done and accessories in tow, it was time to head back to get ready for the rehearsal dinner.  Not one but two trains rolled past the hotel and shook me back into coherency as I changed clothes, lobbed a piece of Nicorette in my mouth and prepared for the impending battle ahead. 

"Why was it a battle Sheri?" you may ask.  Ok, let's set it up.  We know full well what happened with me and my ex.  Go back 2 years and it's the same story for my sister.  We both caught our husbands texting on their cell phones to their new girlfriends.  Both men cheated on us several times and finally we separated from them.  There's more dirty laundry in it than that, but I'm not going to go into further details, it's just not worth it.  So sufficed to say, my sister was going to have to deal with her ex-husband and new wife.  Ok, let me just say this, my ex-brother-in-law's new wife...oh my gods!  Haggis.  Now, I use the term "haggis" because, one, the bitch just looked like a hag, and second she reminded me of the scottish dish Haggis.  Ok, it's sheep's stomach kids...get the visual?  Ok, let's move on.  Eeek...oh that woman takes ugly to a whole new level, but what's worse of all is that she's the town whore...she's broken up six marriages, then she lands my ex-brother-in-law.  You know, if I've said it once, I've said it 1000 times, "The human race never fails to disappoint me."  The guy I wanted to have as my big brother and who I thought was a pretty cool guy goes and steps on his whatevers.  Meanwhile, all of the people who know my sister are just flocking to her like she's the second coming of Christ and the whole time I'm sitting there going, "Alcohol.  I need alcohol.  Now."  So, we go through the rehearsal, dirty looks fly back and forth, snide remarks, the whole shebang...I just wanted to slit my wrists and get out of there, but then, as I was making my preparations for hari-kari, there he was, the absolute reason for my existence and the redeeming nutritional value of the whole trip, my nephew.   Standing against a wall with the same pained look I had, I knew that my sweet boy was in as much pain as I was and at that moment I couldn't hold him to tell him it was going to be all better.  He didn't look happy at all and that is what broke my heart the most. 

Leaving the church to head for the rehearsal dinner, my nephew pulled up in his car and I hollered "It's the Roach!", the name of his Mazda 3.  He looked at me and said, "Wanna ride in the Roach?" and I happily jumped in the car with my sweet boy.  We talked on our way to the pizza parlor that was housing the rehearsal dinner and he related his disappointments and pain at what was happening, but that he was happy to see me and I grilled him on when he was going to come see me again, you know, the regular Aunt/Nephew discussions.  I asked him if he was happy with his bride to be and so forth and he told me he was the happiest he'd ever been in his life with her, and that was enough for me.  I already liked my new niece, she's spunky, has a lot of fire and just seems like a really good girl for my sweet boy.  So, she was anointed, if my nephew was my Sweet Boy, then his bride would be my Sweet Girl.  We arrived at the pizza parlor and visited a bit more while waiting for my parents to show up, you could tell he just wanted the whole fiasco over with and ready to get on with the rest of his life.

Entering the pizza parlor, my ex-brother-in-law and his new family were sitting on one side of the room, so my sister took it upon herself to put as much distance between them and us as possible, seating us on the furthest side of the room from them.  It broke my heart to see my nephew looking at that situation, having to choose sides in a battle that wasn't his fault to begin with, however, everyone was nice to each other, and everyone took turns traversing the room between the two of them.  My sweet girl came over and talked with me quite a bit.  We talked about the cake, the little details and I asked how she was.  I listened to her talk and hung on every word.  It was wonderful to get to spend time with my young people, they made a bee-line to me and gave me as much love as they could with the limited time we had together.  But, the night had to come to an end, and we all adjourned back to the Iron Horse for bed.

As usual, a train went rumbling by and heralded the day of the wedding.  Like a scene out of "Father of the Bride", I had a Steve Martin monologue going in my head, including the comedy of the bathtub again.  I sat down and wrote my nephew and bride's card, reminding them to savor every day together, you know the typical Aunt to children routine that is normal for me, and before I went to battle the tub, my sister poked her head in the door and asked me if I wanted to go have my hair done.  Now in my 38 years on the planet, except the one wedding where I was the bride, I don't trust my hair to someone I don't know.  So I declined the offer and knew that I would be fine.  I'm just the Aunt, I'm not the mother or the grandmother, I don't need all that frou-frou and rah-rah.  I was there for The Boy, my hair would be just fine with me doing it myself.  (And I have to admit, I did look great.)  By the time my sister got back from the salon, it was time to go to the church, and we had to be there obscenely early. Why?  Because they took the pictures BEFORE the ceremony!  Ok, stop.  Who does that?  Seeing the bride before the wedding?  I once again fought the urge to face palm.  But, this was The Boy's show.  If that's how he wanted it, who am I to say otherwise?  So, the pictures snapped on as I stood in uncomfortable shoes, chomping on Nicorette, repeating the mantra, "The Boy.  This is for The Boy."  I'll cut off my own arms before I ever see him disappointed or upset, so I kept my mouth shut and smiled.

I hate weddings.  Ever since I've been through marriage and came out on the other side, I detest weddings with a passion.  I could go on about the needlessness of marriage and the horrors that go with it, but, as I said, this was for The Boy's wedding, that's what he wanted, so I kept my eyerolling to myself, even though Haggis showed up in white.  You know, my family and I are kind of old-school when it comes to weddings.  If you're going to a wedding, any fop would know that if you're a woman, if you're not the bride, you DO NOT wear any sort of white, not white shoes, not a white belt and most certainly not a white ruffled shirt.  But there's my ex-brother-in-law's new wife wearing white so bright it'd blind you.  Oy veh!  How I wanted to face palm!  But, I focused on The Boy.

As we waited for the pictures to wrap up, I stood there wishing that I really was my Night Elf Druid "Relyimah".  I wished with all my heart that I could put my hands up over my head and cast "Gift of the Wild" on myself.






I would have enjoyed getting 750 extra armor, increased my intelligence, beauty and grace by 37 and had a bigger bullshit resistance for an hour.  Enough fantasy though, let's get back to the goods.

Then it came time to be seated.  Now here's the fun part sweethearts.  My nephew, in his wonderful wisdom, came up with a plan.  (Oh that child is so mine, I love him so much.) He figured out that if you put my ex-brother-in-law next to my sister, there was going to be ugliness.  He didn't trust them to keep their hands to themselves, so he came up with the idea of the "Buffer Zone", which consisted of his two Aunts.  Well, Lexie really isn't his aunt, but she is my sister's best friend, so she's an Aunt too.  He had my ex-brother-in-law and Haggis seated first, then Lexie (who he's known for the last 20 years) then me, then my sister's boyfriend, then my sister.  It was genius.  For it to get ugly, they would have had to go through me and Lexie to get to one another, so there was no chance of that, Lexie and I were like two sentinels ready to lay the smackdown on anyone who got any ideas in their heads.  Lucky for us though, everyone played nice, keeping their hands to themselves (although I did see my ex-brother-in-law sneaking a few longing glances at my sister).  But best part for me, it resulted in a front row seat.

As the ceremony began, the minister just had to throw in the "We know that according to the Bible, marriage is a union between a man and a woman." Lexie grabbed my hand as I popped my knuckles at politics in the middle of a wedding, besides the fact that I have tons of gay friends who would like to get married too and are better couples than most heterosexual couples I know.  But, on the ceremony went, prayers and all.  Now, everyone knows I'm athiest.  I sat there through the beseeching of the flying spaghetti monster to bless the two youngsters. Good wishes are one thing, but the whole religious thing made me want to puke.  But, I sat quietly, repeating my mantra, "The Boy. This is for The Boy." and just got through it.

The one thing that will stick to me about the whole wedding is when the vows came up.  The kids wrote their own.  My nephew was first up when he promised her that he'd work hard to provide for her, that he'd make sure she got an equal share of the covers and when she's sick he'd stir the chicken noodle soup for her.  He did his vows in his Aunt's style, with plenty of humor that beautified the seriousness of the vows he was taking.  Then my new niece said hers.  Now here's where you need to get out the tissue, because I can't think about it without tearing up.  That darling girl took out her piece of paper and as she started to speak, I heard myself.   She said, "Ryan, you taught me..." about the things I had taught my nephew as good life lessons that could have never possibly come out of anyone else on either side of his family except me.  How life needed to be savored, each moment cherished.  That through good and bad you have to be strong and have the will to see things through, how love is beautiful and worth sharing every day.  That sweet girl stood there and channeled me almost verbatim.  My words came pouring out of that sweet girl's mouth.  I started to cry because I realized that for all the times I never got to be with him, all the skinned knees I missed, all of the heartbreak that I wasn't there for because he lived so far away, that when I did get to speak to him, he heard and took to heart every little bit of wisdom I could give him.  I sat there realizing what an impact I've made on that young man's life and how much my darling boy loves me.  It's still overwhelming to think about, much less write about, because I knew that my sister had written me out of his life long ago because I was viewed by her as a bad influence and a horrible person.  But my sweet boy knew.  He heard me when I explained to him how some people, not by their own doing, are just broken and that he can't take their words to heart because he was having to fight their emotional baggage, not his own, and that he couldn't let it affect him.

After the wedding, I walked up to the boy and asked him, "Sweet Boy, I think I'm crazy."  He looked at me and said, "Why's that?", and I replied, "Because, I was sitting at the wedding, and I could have sworn that all of the words that came out of her mouth for her vows were mine."  He smiled broadly and said, "You're not crazy."  I almost collapsed into tears, but I didn't.  I held it together, grabbed my new niece and held her tight and said, "You're mine now."  I could tell that she was really happy I said that, because there is nothing more thrilling to a new bride than to have her groom's family welcome her with open arms and claim her as their own.  I like that girl.  Can you blame me?  I'm an old egotist I guess, but if those kids live by the words I gave them, I'll just be tickled pink and hope that each one serves them well.

During the reception, I took in a bit too much to drink and before I did anything that would require me to remove my foot from my mouth, I adjourned up to my room.  Besides, I felt really out of place because I really didn't know anyone and it was after all, the sweet couple's night and I didn't want to disturb it.  So, I went upstairs and passed out, hearing a train coming and giggling as the lampshade fringe swayed.

The final morning arrived, and barring the fact that I had finally "tamed the tub", I packed my suitcase and got ready to go.  In the hallway, standing together were my Sweet Boy and Sweet Girl.  I don't think I've ever had tighter hugs from either of them before.  You could tell that The Boy and I wanted to spend more time together, but we both knew it would have to wait for another time.  I let them know how proud I was of the both of them and that they are my beautiful children that would always have an endless supply of love from me.  As we said our goodbyes, I tried hard not to cry.  But, life keeps moving forward, and as a heavy rain started to fall on the awnings of the Iron Horse, we set out on the two hour drive that would finally get my family and I on a plane home, complete with a really annoying Garmin GPS unit who was bossier than hell.  "Turn right, turn left, do a U-turn."  Yep, that was the story of the week.

It's taken me an entire week, lots of sleep, 3 classes and a deep seated wish for Xanax to recover from my adventure, but oh, it is so good to be alive.