Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sister Moment #3: Birthdays

My Dear Reader,

It's a strange thing when your younger sister has a birthday that's only ten days before yours. After all, you came here first, so shouldn't you have priority? If you were twins, like two of my brothers happen to be, I could understand sharing a birthday, but birthdays are by nature a very personal and selfish thing. You don't really want to share with someone else because it takes the attention away from you. It's a fairly natural feeling, which, like most other natural feelings, is self-centered and makes no sense.

Okay, so maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration. It's not like we all think we're the Queen of Sheba or anything. And yet, next to Christmas, I'd bet that most people think that their birthdays are pretty high up there on the list of favorite holidays.* I mean, any day is made a whole lot better when it contains presents, ice cream, and cake. Free desserts at restaurants aren't that bad either. So I have to admit that I always get a little depressed when Petite Soeur's birthday rolls around, because I've always felt that she sucks all of the birthday out of the month so there is none left for me. And I don't care what you say, I still swear that she gets better presents. Everybody loves the baby in the family, and since she's the youngest daughter I can't help but feel like I'm like VHS tapes; put out to pasture because there's a newer model.

I remember that I got really confused sometime around first grade about how it was even possible that my younger sister could have her birthday before I did, because I had just been taught that when a person has a birthday that falls before yours it makes him or her older than you. Of course, I completely forgot the big picture, meaning the three years minus ten days that I had spent on the earth as the youngest child, but I was approximately five years old and therefore perfectly excusable. But when I went to talk to Padre and have him sort out the whole mess, he thought my misunderstanding about birthdays and ages was quite a hoot. He told me that I had really been born on Petite Soeur's birthday and vice versa, but they had switched us a few years back for kicks. And of course, being five, I believed him, and I still remember the confused look on my first grade teacher's face when I tried to explain it to her. To this day, I'm still a bit embarrassed, and have decided that I'm not going to fill my future children's heads with hilarious falsehoods and set them loose on the world, no matter how stupid they are.

Anyway, it still happens to be that the worst day of my life falls annually on PetiteSoeur's special day. I try to have a good time. I really do. But every year it somehow happens that I start out being happy and I end up hating the universe by the time they dish out the cake and ice cream. This year, however, since the two of us have grown up and become friends, she actually noticed that I looked like death and asked me what was wrong, and being the honest and open person I was raised to be, I told her everything. It was like one of those sharing moments that they have in Full House where you've got what I call "the flying music" playing in the background and everybody's just so close to tears you want to throw up, but we didn't. Instead, PetiteSoeur told me that she hates my birthday too, since the start of mine means the definite end of hers, like New Year's for Christmas. (I'm pretty sure that's why everyone ends up so smashed.) Anyway, it was an interesting experience as we sat there and confessed our mutual birthday hatred and agreed that it was okay to keep on hating. It's moments like these that I think she's not so bad after all.

I still say that when I have children I'm going plan things a little better.

Regards, best wishes, and general stupidity,

-Cecily Jane

*Of course, there are always those people who hate the fact that time keeps moving forward no matter what we do. These people are old. The way I see it, you're not old until you're embarrassed of the time you have spent here and the experience you have gained, or in a cliché, you're only as old as you feel. People seem to be stuck in this great irony where we hate how old we are and yet diminish those who have less experience than we do. Maybe someday we'll all just grow up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Beef with Peanut Butter

My Dear Reader,


Those who know me well know that I dislike peanut butter. Dislike is a good word for it; hate is what I feel for uncooked onions and loathe is what I feel for ranch dressing. To illustrate, if I were at a social gathering and someone set me before a nice salad ruined by ranch, the smell would make me sick and I'd immediately push it away. I wouldn't care who was looking. If I was at a fancy restaurant where I was required to wear a dress I have yet to buy, I'd tell my server to take it back, something I ordinarily wouldn't do. With onions, on the other hand, I would probably just pick them out, no matter where I was and no matter who I'm with. I'm not eating that. If I was served something with peanut butter, however, I would swallow my pride along with the concoction, in the interest of being polite. By now, Gentle Reader, I hope you understand my full intent when I use the word dislike in this context.

The funny thing is that it didn't used to be that way. Growing up, I was the tomboy who spent her recesses catching grasshoppers and her suppertime devouring whatever happened to be on the plate. Sure, there were things I liked better than others, but food was food, and I had to eat it all before Madre would let me go and ride my bike. It was the same at lunch time, where the faster you ate, the faster Mrs. C would let you go out and play. I was a messy eater, but I'm what Madre calls a Pokey Puppy and that's what it took to keep up with the other kids.

The peanut butter thing didn't start until at least seventh grade. Madre was raising six kids at the time, and two were twins and one was a toddler. So of course, the budget was tight, and of course that meant than when she made lunches she went with whatever happened to be a mixture of cheap and easy. For Madre, that meant peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Every single day. When Madre was feeling like making us something special, she'd make us peanut butter and honey, and once in a blue moon we'd get tuna. So by this time, peanut butter consisted of a large part of my diet, as it had ever since I was in kindergarten. I guess it just kind of got old.

At first, it was just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I begged for peanut butter and honey, but that got old, too. I started begging for tuna, but there was no way my Madre was going to make me a tuna sandwich every day.

Then something strange happened. I stopped liking peanut butter in everything. While that kid on TV was trying to figure out how to eat a Reese's, I was trading the Reese's I got for Halloween with Smarties, Hershey Kisses, or whatever I could get my hands on. The same went for every special occasion, and I honestly believe that my dislike for peanut butter has decreased my enjoyment of pretty much every holiday, because there's always a Reese's tree in your Christmas stocking or a Reese's egg in your Easter basket. There's no hiding from a Reese's.

Eventually, I started hating peanuts. Madre had to keep me out of the large jars of trail mix because I would go through and eat the M&M's . . . and nothing else (except the occasional date). Then, I stopped liking Butterfingers, which was pretty tragic because at the time it was my favorite candy bar. By the time I got to college, I could only eat Almond Snickers.

The funny thing is that most people put peanut butter in just about anything and don't even conceive of the possibility that someone might not be a fan. So here I am, standing up and saying that I, Cecily Jane, am not a fan in the slightest. And I know I'm not alone. I once met a man who tells people that he's allergic just to avoid the guilt trips. That's what I call desperate. But now, my Gentle Reader, you have been enlightened. Good for you.

Regards, best wishes, and dislike,

-Cecily Jane

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Friends, Ruts, and the Nature of College Life

Dear Reader,

It is inevitable, I suppose, that a person between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be ultimately confronted with the challenges that accompany the frantic and fluid lifestyle that persons in this age group tend to lead. I wonder if it's harder for those of us who are less fluid than others.

I've lived in the same apartment for three years, my fourth year started at the beginning of August. I like my complex, the people, the location, and I have a pretty sweet setup as far as rent is concerned. This means, though, that since my situation is so extraordinarily unusual, I am constantly subjected to watching people leave me and move on with their lives. This means that I am also constantly subjected to people who accuse me of living in a rut.

The truth is that as far as ruts are concerned, to a college student they are generally unsustainable for a period of four months. College ruts change with every semester, every new job, and every new friend, and we have a lot of those. Even a person like me can't really have a rut when my entire complex changes from one month to the next. My friends graduate, go on missions, get married, or transfer. I haven't even had a roommate for two years in a row (HermanaMayor is beating the competition by at least three months, though). So since I am forced to constantly make new friends and adjust to new circumstances, I just don't see how anyone could accuse me of living in a rut.

I suppose, though, that I am in a relative rut. After all, I have been sleeping in the same bed for three years, and I probably could get home from campus blindfolded. I just don't see why there's a downside to that. I don't like having to move, or paying more for rent, or dealing with forwarding mail, and there are a thousand tedious things that I completely avoid by staying in the same place, a place that is really only the same in regards to its physical location. But yeah, I guess I don't pack up and leave every nine months or so, so here I am, completely in a rut and miserable with my life. Or something.

It's hard to see people leave while I stay in the same place, and it's hard to have to continue to make new friends in old apartments, but I'm here because I choose to be, and I believe that the greatest joys in life come from making good choices. Still, it's difficult to be here and not feel like I'm being abandoned every December, April, and August while people move on to pursue their own fluid lives, but I suppose that's just the nature of being in the environment I am in. I guess it's the same for people in the military and what not. You don't ever really get used to it, though.

Regards, best wishes, and new frontiers,

-Cecily Jane

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sister Moment #2: "Will you stop THROWING things?"

My Dear Reader,

As the middle sister sandwiched between two very different women (namely, HermanaMayor and PetiteSoeur), I feel this particular situation lends some experiences on my part that you, Gentle Reader, may not share. Thus, I would like to periodically relate certain anecdotes of a hilarious or otherwise meaningful nature in order to communicate the nuances of my rather unique situation. I will begin with a story involving myself and PetiteSoeur:

A few months ago, Padre called us sisters up and surprised us by telling us that he had booked a cruise to the Caribbean for the whole family. We're not a family that can afford to go on expensive trips all the time, but this year my parents are going to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, and that added to the fact that Padre is afraid that one of the girls will get married at any moment meant that they wanted to go on a cruise and they wanted to take us. Anyway, PetiteSoeur and I ended up sharing a cabin together, which was just fine by the two of us. We get along fairly well, which I believe is mainly due to the fact that we've fought so much in the past that contention has become tiresome. Once our hair-pulling days were firmly in the past, we discovered that PetiteSoeur was actually interested in a lot of the things I was and not just copying me in an attempt at irritation, as I had originally suspected. So in the same room we were placed, grateful that we didn't have to share a room with the boys, because despite all their redeeming qualities, they still smell awful.

In fact, sharing a room is something that PetiteSoeur and I have done for the majority of our lives, and that means that we know each other well enough to know how to respond to the quirks of the other. For example, PetiteSoeur talks in her sleep. Generally it's a kind of unintelligible mumbling, but with a little luck and the right stimuli, she can be the unconscious life of the party. I, on the other hand, don't talk in my sleep as much as I talk in the stage directly in between sleeping and being awake. And in contrast to PetiteSoeur's grumbles, I generally shout, and by that I mean yell nonsense phrases heavily influenced by whatever I was dreaming, whatever is happening in the land of the awake, and the confusion induced by an infusion of the two. My shouting generally comes in the form of a demand regarding random subject such as grammar, hygiene, or pancakes, so you can imagine the kind of ruckus it creates by the time I know what I'm doing.

So on the first morning at sea, PetiteSoeur and I arranged that she get up, take a shower, and then wake me up so that I can shower. If I hurry, we end up getting ready at about the same time, so it's a good system. This morning, however, I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep and was suffering from jet lag, which meant I was in the optimal conditions for Cecily's Half-Awake Shouting Syndrome, CHASS for short. On this particular morning, we experienced the roughest part of the trip, and as the boat rocked back and forth, I heard some loud noises that grabbed me from dreamland the way a teenage boy grabs the handle of the refrigerator. It was a very irritating experience, since I was not yet used to waking up in the place that I was, much less waking up as I was swaying from side to side.

The noises were a loud, sudden kind of thump, and I'm not exactly sure what I had been dreaming at the time, but my guess is that it led me to believe PetiteSoeur was to blame, and in my less-than-conscious state I thought that she was probably throwing something at a wall. Now, I was so tired at the time that I completely ignored the fact that I can't even recall the last time I saw her throw anything.

Anyway, I tried to be as patient as possible, especially since the cabin walls were fairly thin and I didn't want to be imposing on others. So I tried really hard, and managed to get a little closer to going back to sleep when the thumping got louder. I just couldn't stand it anymore.

"Will you stop THROWING things?" I finally said.

And then I defiantly went back to sleep for good. I'll show her who's waking me up.

Later, when I was good and ready, I woke up for the day and found out that the thumping had not gone away, and I was still a bit irritated.

"Hey, will you PLEASE stop throwing things?" I said again. By this time I realized that my patient efforts to continue sleeping were completely useless, and I gave up trying. I opened my eyes to find PetitieSoeur standing a couple of feet away from me, brushing her hair and wearing an expression that was a strange mix of curiosity and horror.

"Why were you throwing things?" I asked, "I was sleeping, and everyone around us probably was, too."

"I wasn't throwing things, Cec," she said, pointing to the dresser drawers a couple of feet from my head. I turned to see them violently opening and closing all on their own, victims of the turning and tossing of the sea.

"Oh." I felt pretty stupid by this point.

"Yeah," she said, "You've been waking up every five to ten minutes for the past hour and a half screaming at me. I kept telling you that I wasn't throwing anything, but you wouldn't listen."

And then I felt really, really stupid. CHASS strikes again, I guess.

Regards, best wishes, and restraint,

-Cecily Jane