education, music, musings

Repost: There’s life beyond your senior year… confessions of a C student

Here’s a repost from the original blog, written March 28, 2018. It appears as/is. I know it’s not currently college application season, but I think this post could be useful for some people.

Yesterday, my alma mater did a fundraising drive called #LoveYourLongwood.  This is apparently a new development.  For many years after my graduation in 1994, Longwood University was rather relaxed about fundraising efforts.  I’d say in the past ten years or so, they have become much more assertive about pushing alums to donate money.  I usually ignore the pleas, although I did donate during the holiday season.

I probably would have made a donation yesterday, had I not looked at our rather paltry bank balance.  March still has three days left in it.  Still, as I get older and our finances have improved, I have given some thought to donating more money to my college.  The truth is, I owe a lot to Longwood.  Maybe my time there didn’t lead to a smashing career, but it did leave me with a lot of intangible gifts like wonderful friends, some excellent experiences, and the opportunity to study music simply because I love it.  It was a warm, nurturing place to go to college.  Today, almost 24 years after I graduated, I still reap the benefits of my four years there.

I have written about my college admissions experiences before, but I’m going to briefly repeat the tale for anyone out there in Internet land who is currently experiencing the pain of rejection from college.  I’m inspired to write about this after reading an article in the Boston Globe about the immense pressure high school seniors are dealing with at this time of year.  It takes me back to the spring of 1990, when I was myself trying to find a place to go to school.

I may call myself “The Overeducated Housewife”, but the simple truth is, I was a very ordinary student.  I didn’t earn great grades in high school and didn’t have super high SAT scores.  I did do well on standardized tests, particularly in writing.  However, I was a singularly unimpressive student in high school, even in English class.  I would get praises for my writing, but I didn’t care enough about the books we were reading to put a lot of effort into my papers.  Consequently, I earned average grades.

My parents, who had already raised my three sisters, didn’t really care too much about my performance.  I got through high school pretty much on my own efforts, with lots of Bs and Cs and the occasional D.  I remember working hard in school, particularly in my math and science classes, but not as hard as I probably should have.  I didn’t have any extra help, nor did I have anyone pushing me to excel.  I was also completely unmedicated, which isn’t a bad thing, but I think if I had grown up ten years later, I probably would have taken meds for depression or perhaps ADD.  I was encouraged to get good grades, but it was entirely up to me to accomplish that.  I didn’t really know how. 

In high school, I spent most of my free time riding horses.  I did do well in that activity, although I wasn’t particularly talented.  My success in riding was mainly due to my fabulous pony, Rusty, a dedicated riding coach, and a lot of dogged hard work.  I was definitely not “born in the saddle”.

When it came time to decide on a college, I had sort of a beer budget and champagne tastes on every level.  I didn’t have the money to consider attending private schools.  I didn’t have the grades or impressive resume to consider trying to get scholarships or applying to super competitive schools.  My mother, ever the pragmatist, told me I shouldn’t bother applying to the one school I really wanted to attend.  She didn’t think I’d get in there.  She was right.  In fact, Longwood was the ONLY school out of the four I applied to that accepted me.

Looking back on it, I think I would have had more choices if I had applied to a couple more schools.  The other three that I’d applied to, besides Longwood, were in a slightly higher league– too high for me at the time.  I do think I would have ultimately succeeded if I had gotten into any of the other three schools, but they were very popular choices among my peers.  My crummy grades and mediocre test scores were simply not competitive enough and I got the dreaded rejection letters.  Even Longwood accepted me conditionally, mainly because I was struggling in math.  Fortunately, I had a wonderful math teacher my senior year who made sure I got through with the required C.

My trend of mediocre academic performances mostly continued at Longwood.  I never once made the Dean’s List; however, I did blossom in other ways.  It was at Longwood that I finally started doing what I was probably born to do.

People who knew me when I was growing up didn’t know that I could sing.  My mom knew that I had absolute (perfect) pitch, because I took piano lessons when I was very young.  My piano teacher noticed I could name pitches without a reference note.  But I would never sing in front of anyone because I was (and still am) very sensitive to bad singing.  I knew I could sing on key, but didn’t think I sounded particularly good.  So I wouldn’t sing in front of other people, and was never encouraged to try.  My parents were both musicians, though, so it makes sense that I’d have a knack for music. 

To earn a bachelor of arts degree at Longwood, I needed to take a course in one of the fine arts.  I chose music appreciation and a one credit voice class.  I ended up excelling in the voice class and my teacher invited me to study privately.  Before I knew it, I had joined Longwood’s Camerata Singers, which required an audition.  I was soon singing with people who had been in choirs all through high school.  That experience was truly life changing for me.  Making music is now something I do most days, even if not many people hear my efforts.  It’s made me a much happier person.

It may seem like a minor thing now, but that one voice class opened up a whole new world to me.  I only wish I had taken it sooner.  I might have majored in music instead of English.  I both excelled in and loved my music classes.  I got straight As in them, with the lone exception of that one music appreciation class I took.  By contrast, I was a mediocre English major, except when I took writing classes.  In my writing classes, I excelled like I did in music.

It was an adjunct music professor at Longwood who cared enough about me to encourage me to study music, even if she couldn’t persuade me to change my major. I can’t help but wonder if I would have gotten the same attention at any of the other schools I had considered.  Looking back on it, it seems as if I was destined to go to Longwood.  Maybe I wasn’t a superstar student, but I think I flourished there.  Even today, I communicate with professors who knew me in the 90s.  My husband, Bill, attended much more prestigious American University and he hasn’t seen or spoken to any of his former professors since the 80s.  Sometimes, the less famous college offers a better value.  I know I’ve often mused about how much more I got out of my time at Longwood than I did the University of South Carolina.

After Longwood, I joined the Peace Corps kind of on a whim.  I was soon exposed to people from other parts of the country and then the Republic of Armenia, a place that had been mostly off limits to Americans only four years prior to my arrival. I used my music skills a lot in Armenia.  Then I went to graduate school and earned those two master’s degrees that I don’t use… which became the reason I call myself “overeducated”.  Still, I recognize that I was able to compete with people who went to “better” schools, both as a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student.  I don’t regret any of those experiences now, but sometimes I wonder how in the world I ended up here.  In some ways, I have been extraordinarily lucky.  I often feel kind of like a fraud, but I know deep down that I’m not one.   

I empathize with high school seniors who are now dealing with the hell of trying to get into college.  I don’t envy them at all.  They’re dealing with so many things that I didn’t have to deal with.  Life has gotten super competitive on many levels.  I thought it was bad in 1990, but my generation had nothing on their generation. 

It’s harder and more expensive to go to college these days.  So many young people are racking up huge debts, and competition for well-paid work is stiff.  Young people are having to worry about gun toting lunatics invading their schools and killing random people.  We have a total buffoon in the White House who doesn’t care about anything but making rich people even richer (ETA: Remember, I am writing about Trump, not Biden). 

I don’t envy you young folks at all, although I am very impressed by how young people are standing up and making their voices heard.  And young people today are doing such incredible things… things that perfectly average, mediocre people can’t conceive of doing.  I would imagine that the pressure to stand out must be insane… and yet it gets harder and harder every year.

I’m impressed by that insane drive to succeed that some young people have, but I have a heart for those who were perfectly average folks like me.  It’s true that life is not a dress rehearsal, but most people end up okay, even if they aren’t stars.  These years on the brink of adulthood can be tough going, but eventually, most people come to a place where grades and test scores no longer matter.  So take heart.  There’s life beyond the spring of your senior year.  You just have to get through it and keep your eyes on the prize.

A musical project I completed at the time I wrote this piece. Lately, I’ve focused more on playing guitar than singing. I’m better at singing than guitar playing, though.
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healthcare, history, nostalgia

Repost: Remembering David Vetter, the boy in the plastic bubble…

This post originally appeared on January 31, 2016. I am reposting it as/is today because it accompanies a book review I will repost after this.

The 70s and 80s were an interesting time to grow up.  They don’t seem like they were that long ago to me, but now that I’ve reached middle age, I can say with honesty that they were.  One story that intrigued millions of people when I was growing up was the story of David Vetter. 

David Phillip Vetter was born on September 21, 1971, about the time my parents conceived me.  He was from Conroe, Texas, a suburb of Houston.  He had an older brother, David Joseph Vetter III, who died the year prior to his birth.  Both David and his brother had a genetic disease called SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency).  It meant that they were born without immune systems that could effectively fight off infections.  The slightest illness could be fatal to someone with SCID.

A program about David Vetter.

Because David had this disease at a time before there was a treatment for it, he was forced to spend all but two weeks of his life in a plastic bubble.  I distinctly remember hearing and reading about David.  I also remember the 1976 film John Travolta, Robert Reed, and Diana Hyland famously starred in called The Boy in The Plastic Bubble.  I saw the movie many times when I was growing up.  It was based on the real life story of Ted DeVita, a teenager who had severe aplastic anemia.  Ted DeVita lived in a sterile hospital room for over eight years.  DeVita’s and Vetter’s experiences were fascinating to people all over the world.  DeVita died in 1980 of iron overload, caused by too many blood transfusions.

A preview of John Travolta’s movie loosely based on David Vetter’s case. At this writing, you can see the whole thing on YouTube.

I’m reminded of David’s story this morning.  There was a link to a New York Times retro report on my Facebook feed.  Though I hadn’t thought about David Vetter in a very long time, I quickly found myself recalling him as I watched the 12 minute video and read the accompanying article.   

Had he lived, David would be my age.  He had a bone marrow transplant that initially worked.  Unfortunately, the marrow had a dormant strain of the Epstein Barr virus in it.  The virus activated and David ended up with a virulent cancer that overwhelmed his body.  He died on February 22, 1984.

On David’s grave, the epitaph reads “He never touched the world… but the world was touched by him.”  Even now, knowing that children with SCID are no longer kept in plastic bubbles, I can’t help but wonder what life would have been like for David had he managed to become an adult.  Though he was able to accomplish a lot in his twelve years and provided science and medicine with new knowledge about a rare disease, there were so many things he couldn’t do.

A New York Times video about David Vetter.

NASA made David a space suit, which he wore a handful of times.  The suit allowed him to emerge from the bubble, though he remained tethered to it by an eight foot long cloth tube.  He never felt his mother’s kiss until he emerged from the bubble for the bone marrow transplant.  He never would have been able to have sex.  I even wonder if he ever saw a dentist… though, I guess if you live in a sterile environment, bacteria is not an issue.  Doctors worried what life would be like for David if he made it to teenhood or even adulthood.  Would he be able to tolerate life in the plastic bubble for en entire normal lifespan?

I am amazed by what David Vetter’s twelve years on earth did for the advancement of science, ethics, and medicine.  I am also amazed at how old I am now.  It seems like yesterday, I was just a youngster.  I look at those photos and videos of David Vetter in his germ free environment, knowing that was state of the art medicine for the 1970s and 80s.  What happened to him then would never work today. Nowadays, kids who are identified with SCID before they get sick are given bone marrow transplants.  In fact, in the video posted with the New York Times story, there is even a story about a woman whose son had SCID identified in utero.  He had a bone marrow transplant before he was even born.

When I was in high school, one of the most popular guys school developed aplastic anemia.  He ended up going to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where he died just weeks later.  The day Mike Haury died was coincidentally also the day 55,000 Armenians died in a massive earthquake… December 7, 1988.  I have read that aplastic anemia is now much more successfully treated than it was in the 80s.  Again, it just doesn’t seem like it was that long ago.  I guess it was.

Edited to add: Although I know that COVID-19 life is nothing like it must have been for David Vetter, in a weird way, the constant focus on contagion and masking kind of reminds me of him. I’m looking forward to having the next vaccine.

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education, poor judgment, stupid people, true crime

I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record!

Good morning, y’all… It’s my third Wednesday as a pseudo single person. Bill is supposed to come home sometime between tomorrow night and Friday night. Originally, the plan was for him to come back Friday night, but he needs to get a new ID card or he can’t work. Our cards expire on the 23rd, even though we just updated them in September. Bill is now on a new contract and that means new cards. Come to think of it, before long, I’ll also need a new regular military ID– the one I’d use in the USA if we were there.

In any case, Bill tried to get a new card made at an installation somewhat close to where he is right now, but that office ran out of ID cards on the day he was going to go. The other ID office near his current location is closed until the 29th. So then Bill said maybe he’d come home on Thursday night and get new cards made in Wiesbaden. I assume he’d be taking me, too, since I also need a new card, not that I spend any time on the installation during the COVID-19 mess. But then last night, he said getting one in Wiesbaden is also not possible. So now he says he will try to get one in Hohenfels, which was his original plan. Maybe they have a restock of IDs by now. If he does that, he says maybe he’ll be home Friday morning. That would be good.

It occurs to me how lucky we are to like each other so much. Yes, we love each other, but we also LIKE each other a lot. And we miss each other when we aren’t together. Bill’s business trips are boring for both of us. Sometimes I go with him, but then I end up hanging out by myself all day in a hotel room or wandering aimlessly. I am actually glad I got to go with him to Poland in November 2019, though. That was a pretty interesting trip. It would have been even better if we could have driven ourselves there rather than flown.

Anyway… on to today’s topic. I cannot, for the life of me, understand the mentality of some people– mothers especially– who feel the need to commit crimes on behalf of their children. Especially crimes that are more about their egos than preserving life or limb. I mean, I can understand a woman going all “mama bear” on someone who literally threatens or hurts her child somehow. But what about the moms who feel like they need to engage in fraud, harassment, or computer crimes to make sure her little darling(s) is/are on top of the heap? We’ve spent the last two years hearing about Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin committing fraud and cheating to get their daughters into good schools. But more ordinary moms of more modest means also commit these crimes on behalf of their children.

I ran across two such stories yesterday involving meddlesome moms who are now in legal trouble because they couldn’t or wouldn’t let their daughters achieve things on their own. In one case, the mom and daughter were both involved and BOTH of them got arrested. I’m sure that will look good on the girl’s permanent record.

Case #1

Meet Raffaela Spone, a 50 year old mom from Chalfont, Pennsylvania. She is currently facing misdemeanor charges for producing “deep fake” nudes of her daughters’ rivals on her high school cheerleading team. Ms. Spone was arrested on March 5, having been charged with three counts of cyber harassment of a child and three counts of harassment. In her mug shot, she stares blank faced at the camera, her heavily lined eyes glaring, her thin, maroon lips pursed into a line. She wears a chartreuse colored top and a necklace, indicating that fashion and looking snappy is important to her.

Ms. Spone allegedly doctored photos of her daughters’ rivals on a Doylestown area cheerleading team, creating realistic looking images that make it look like the girls were photographed nude, vaping, or drinking beer in bikinis. She sent these fake photos to cheerleading coaches in an effort to get the girls kicked off their team. She also texted the photos to the girls themselves and suggested that at least one of them should kill herself. The three victimized girls were all on the same team as Spone’s daughter, but investigators don’t think she had anything to do with the harassment or was aware of what her mother was doing.

A case like this has all the trappings of a Lifetime movie. In fact, back in the 1993, HBO made a satirical movie about Wanda Holloway, a mother in Texas who actually hired a hitman to kill her daughter’s cheerleading rival. Fortunately, the would be hitman turned Wanda in and the plot failed. In that film rendition, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, Holly Hunter played Wanda Holloway. In 1992, ABC also made a movie about Wanda Holloway, Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story, with Lesley Ann Warren playing Wanda. I haven’t seen either film. Maybe I’ll seek them out today.

I wonder if Raffaela Spone thinks someone might portray her on film someday. I’m sure Lifetime would be all over it. At least in this case, no one was physically hurt and murder was never on the table. If she is convicted, Raffaela Spone could spend six months to a year in prison. Mitigating matters is the fact that in one of the doctored photos that was supposed to appear to be a nude, Spone had digitally removed the bikini in the photo and overlaid flesh colored bars that gave the photo a “Barbie doll” effect, with no genitalia showing. Had anything private been showing, Spone would be facing much more serious charges.

Meanwhile, I’m sure everyone in their town now knows who Spone’s daughter is, even though she wasn’t implicated in the case. In her quest to cheat for her daughter, Spone has made things much worse for her. Even though the daughter wasn’t involved, her permanent record now has a blight. Hopefully, the people of that community are empathetic. I can only imagine Spone is probably a nightmare when she’s behind closed doors, particularly if she’s willing to go to these lengths to cheat for her daughter.

Case #2

We now move south to Florida, where a 17 year old high school student and her mother, Laura Rose Carroll, who also happens to be an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School, have been arrested for hacking the school’s computer system. Ms. Carroll is alleged to have logged into the school’s computer system and casted 246 votes for her daughter, who was on the Homecoming Court. Ms. Carroll’s efforts, had they not been discovered, would have resulted in her daughter winning the contest under false pretenses.

The list of charges against Laura Rose Carroll and her daughter is long. According to The Hill, “the mother and daughter will be charged with offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices, unlawful use of a two-way communications device, criminal use of personally identifiable information and conspiracy to commit these offenses.” Arrest records also indicate that Ms. Carroll’s daughter also had improper access to her mother’s “FOCUS” account. I’m assuming that FOCUS is some kind of school computer system that has all of the permanent records of the students in the school system. Naturally, that would include personal information that should not be accessible to anyone who doesn’t specifically need access to such personal and confidential information. A witness claims that the daughter had access to the FOCUS account for a long time and use it frequently to get information about test scores and grades. The daughter also allegedly divulged private information about other students to her friends.

Given who Ms. Carroll is, it’s highly likely that everyone knows who her daughter is, despite her name not being printed in the media due to her age. Not knowing anything at all about this duo and not finding the news articles about them particularly illuminating, I wonder what the conditions were that led to this mother-daughter crime spree. Which one of them is the more toxically ambitious of the two? Is it mom who wants to see her daughter crowned in a means to stroke her own ego and, perhaps, vicariously live through her daughter’s achievements, even if they were ill gotten? Or is it the daughter who convinced her mother to help her cheat? It will be interesting to see if the media reveals any more details about this case.

I suspect Ms. Carroll is now unemployed. If she’s not unemployed yet, she probably will be very soon. Her bond was set at $8500, while her daughter was carted off to juvenile hall. I wonder if it was worth it to them.

These cases make me appreciate my mom more. I mean, hell, my mom won a beauty contest when she was 16 years old. I’m sure she would have loved it if I had been pretty and popular instead of outspoken and obnoxious. Fortunately, my mom is not ambitious for anyone but herself, and she pretty much stayed out of my life once I was at puberty. She stuck to paying the bills and encouraging me to get a job and GTFO on my own. She sure as hell wasn’t involved in my horse shows, which was what I was doing when I was a teen. She didn’t even look at my report cards. At the time, I thought that made her uncaring, but now I think she did me a solid. Anything I achieved, I did so legitimately and mostly on my own. At least neither of us were ever arrested for cheating or harassment or any other embarrassing misdeed that would have wound up on my permanent record. I have the satisfaction of knowing I can do things on my own… which I’ve been unhappily proving for almost three weeks now.

On another note… for some reason, as I type this, I am reminded of this classic song by Violent Femmes… the album this song comes from never ages, even though the lead singer can’t sing. What he has is vocal charisma. I’m sure it’s served him well over the years.

“I hope you know that this will go down on your PERMANENT RECORD!” Oh yeah?
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memories, mental health, true crime

I wouldn’t want to go back to high school… would you?

Yesterday, I was binge watching the third season of Cobra Kai. It was a YouTube Premium show, but now it’s on Netflix, which makes it nice for me. Now, I don’t have to wait for it to show up on iTunes. Watching the third season of Cobra Kai led to my having some rather vivid dreams this morning, but happily, they weren’t nightmares. I was actually kind of afraid I would have bad dreams, because the last episode had many snakes in it. I don’t hate snakes… I think they’re misunderstood. But I would not want to fall into a snake pit, either. Yikes!

Anyway, as I was watching Cobra Kai, I noticed an article that was being re-shared by The Atlantic magazine. It was originally posted July 6, 2016 by Jeff Maysh, and it was titled “Why One Woman Pretended to Be a High-School Cheerleader“. I was intrigued, especially since in 2016, we neither had Donald Trump as president nor any worries about COVID-19. I figured it was the perfect thing to read as the headlines grow more alarming.

Maysh’s story was about a woman named Wendy Brown, who in 2008, decided to pose as a high school student at Ashwaubenon High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Although many of us would like to forget our high school years, Wendy Brown had wanted a do-over ever since she’d quit school in the early 1990s.

Wendy had two children, Joey and Jaimi. At the time of Wendy’s strange trip back to high school in Wisconsin, her children were enrolled in a high school in Nevada, where they were being cared for by Brown’s parents, Joe and Judith. Joey, named after Wendy’s dad, was conceived when Wendy Brown was a high school student at Harold L. Richards High School in Illinois, where she was on the track team. When Wendy started throwing up after races, her mother suspected she was pregnant. Sure enough, she was, and she delivered her son on her 17th birthday. Her son’s father abandoned them both, and Wendy’s school career abruptly stalled.

Three months later, Wendy got pregnant again, this time by another boy. Her daughter, Jaimi, was born nine months later. High school had been a misery for Wendy, and she’d never managed to finish. Besides being pregnant when she was a teen, Wendy also had a speech impediment that caused her to mispronounce words her r’s. Instead of saying “rabbit”, she’d say “wabbit”. Other kids made fun of her.

Making matters worse was the fact that Wendy had siblings who did comparatively well in school. She had a younger sister named Jennifer, who was a social butterfly and a cheerleader. She had an older brother who was a football player. Both got through high school unscathed, while Wendy floundered. She was very jealous of Jennifer, who got to wear the school’s black and gold colors on her cheerleading uniform and seemed to have a great life.

Throughout her 20s, Wendy drifted through dead end jobs at discount stores like Walmart and K-Mart. She waited tables and worked in fast food places. She’d even worked as a stripper as she migrated from state to state. Stripping turned out to be her longest lasting paying gig.

Freshly married in June 2006, Wendy and her new husband went six months before domestic violence became a problem. In Cass County, Illinois, where Wendy was living when she was first married, the police were frequently called to their home to break up their fights. Wendy’s husband would lose his temper and knock out all of the windows in the home.

In 2008, the pair moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, while Wendy’s kids moved to Nevada. Wendy had an old friend who lived there and she thought maybe she and her husband could make a fresh start. They rented a small apartment near Ashwaubenon High School. Wendy could hear the football team practice. She was sad that her children weren’t living with her anymore, and was feeling hopeless. That’s when she got the idea to go back to high school, posing as a fifteen year old kid and prospective cheerleader.

Wendy was a very petite woman who could pass for fifteen. She weighed just 103 pounds and easily fit into junior sized clothes. She put on a girlish speaking voice, styled her hair the way kids in 2008 did, and bought herself a new bookbag. She enrolled in school by herself, telling the guidance counselor that her name was Jaimi and her mom was “hard to reach” when she was at work. The counselor apparently took Wendy (posing as Jaimi) at her word, and for a several weeks, Wendy went to classes and even tried out for the cheerleading team, which she made. She also got into a choral group, in which the teacher noted her unusually “mature” singing voice. It was hard for Wendy to get used to being called by her daughter’s name, Jaimi. One time, a teacher called on Wendy three times before she realized she was being addressed. The teacher chalked it up to Wendy “daydreaming” because she was new.

Wendy Brown’s ruse was destined to fail. She got busted for truancy when she didn’t return to school after her first day. One of the principals called the school where Wendy had noted she had studied previously– the school in Nevada where her daughter, Jaimi, was a student. The staff there informed Ashwaubenon High School’s associate principal that Jaimi was in school in Nevada. The principal called the real Jaimi’s grandmother, who explained that her daughter, Wendy, had a history of committing identity thefts. Meanwhile, Wendy had posed as the manager at her apartment building and ripped off a security deposit from a prospective renter.

In the end, Wendy wound up being found not guilty “by reason of mental disease or defect” to a charge of identity theft. She was subsequently committed to the Winnebago mental health facility in Wisconsin for three years, having been diagnosed with bi-polar II disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and two personality disorders. While she was locked up, Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent chemotherapy and two surgeries, all alone. She also divorced her husband and earned her G.E.D., but was not able to get her certificate until after she was released from the psychiatric hospital where she was incarcerated.

Apparently, all she’d really wanted was a “do-over” of her high school years. And although this case was very embarrassing to the staff at Ashwaubenon High School, no real harm had been done. No one at the school wanted to speak to Jeff Maysh about this case, though. Sadly, Wendy’s children were also estranged from her, as of 2016, and Wendy had yet to meet her grandchild.

There’s more to this story, of course, and you can read it for yourself. I was left kind of flabbergasted when I read it. I suppose there are times when I kind of miss high school a little. Those were simpler days, and I spent a lot of them hanging out with my horse. On the other hand, they weren’t the happiest of times for me, and I didn’t have a particularly enjoyable experience in high school. I mean, on one hand, it’s kind of exciting because that’s when you start making plans for your future. You have your whole life ahead of you. On the other hand, it’s also when a lot of youngsters are insecure and immature, and if you’re not “popular”, it can be a lonely time.

Me in high school, aged 17… That hair is killer.

I also would not want to go back to living with my parents. Wendy Brown didn’t do that, of course. She would fake being a teen by day, then go home to her depressing apartment and be a wife to her abusive husband. But the idea of going back to high school, even if I could do it as an actual teen, doesn’t really appeal to me much. The only thing I might have done differently was take some different courses and study music. But if I had done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Things might have turned out very differently. Maybe they would have been better. Maybe they would have been worse.

Anyway… I don’t know why The Atlantic is currently sharing these old stories on Facebook. I’m glad they did share that one, though, because it was a nice distraction from politics yesterday, and I’ve only been a subscriber for about a year. And it gave me a reminder that I’d rather be 48 than 15 again, even though it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I was in high school. I think today’s students have it a hell of a lot worse than I did. For one thing, we didn’t have school shootings. For another, COVID-19 wasn’t a thing, either. Neither was social media, for that matter. I think Facebook probably makes high school much worse.

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silliness

You can’t lick our Cocks…

This morning, as I was sitting here thinking about what I wanted to write about today, I remembered a post I wrote for my original blog back in March 2015. At that point, we had only been in Stuttgart for about nine months. I was a member of way too many local Facebook groups. There was a lot of drama in those groups… drama that I haven’t seen up here in Wiesbaden. In many ways, I enjoy the lack of drama because I don’t end up nearly as annoyed or upset as I regularly did in Stuttgart. On the other hand, I almost never lacked for topics to write about.

Back in March 2015, the American high school for the children of military and government service members, Patch High School, was still located on Patch Barracks. The Stuttgart area high school has since moved to Panzer Kaserne, as a brand new facility was built and opened in the fall of 2015. The new high school’s mascot is the Panther, as it was for Patch High School. However, the community sports team’s mascot was the stallion, as is the mascot for Patch Elementary School.

A flag with the famous Stuttgart stallion on it.

The choice of a stallion as a mascot was locally significant, since Stuttgart’s coat of arms has a stallion on it. Car buffs might also notice that Porsche, which is a sports car brand made and based in Stuttgart, also has a horse on its logo. Sometime in the past, when it came time to name the local sports team’s mascot, someone decided on the stallion. The teams for the female athletes were known as “Lady Stallions”. Back in March 2015, the local sports team coordinators were looking for people to join the “Lady Stallions” softball team.

I am a lover of words. I’m also a lover of horses. A stallion is, by definition, an uncastrated male horse. Because I was feeling saucy, I mentioned this fact in a snarky Facebook group I used to be part of back in the day. Some brave soul decided to share my thoughts with the sports team coordinator, who wrote this cranky response:

I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume that Ms. ****** has no prior experience or dealings with OCONUS community level sports. We did not name ourselves Stallions. That is the mascot for the Stuttgart community, therefore we don’t have the authority nor the desire to change it simply because a stallion is a male horse. Every community level sport here has a men’s team and a women’s team, both of which are Stallions. Just like any other community… Lady Rams, Sabres, Mustangs, Generals, etc. So, if there is more concern about what we are called than actually playing the sport, that is not someone who we are looking to add to the team. 

Well excuuuuuuseeee ME!!!

I was amused by the bitchy response, which wasn’t directed to me personally, but to the woman who had decided to comment that stallions are, in fact, male horses by definition. But then I started thinking about it some more. I wrote this in my original blog:

Okay, fair enough…  but have they considered what makes a stallion a stallion?  I used to judge horses and I’ve seen quite a few sets of stallion genitalia.  They have balls the size of grapefruits.  They have very impressive penises, too.  I was thinking about including a photo for reference, but given that apparently a lot of people like to use horses for their own twisted fantasies, I decided against it.  

Notice that the person who responded lists examples of other “lady” teams as “proof” that Stuttgart is not the only area where a mascot is obviously male, yet has teams designated for the ladies.  But only one of her examples isn’t gender neutral.  One can be a female mustang or general, for instance, though I don’t think sabres actually have genders.  I do realize, though, that sexist mascots are very common. 

My high school’s mascot, the Duke of Gloucester– hence the Gloucester Dukes.

Now, at my high school, our mascot was “The Dukes”.  No, it wasn’t because of the Dukes of Hazzard; it was because of the Duke of Gloucester.  If you grow up near Yorktown, Virginia, you quickly become acquainted with the names of people who were important in the American Revolution.  And yes, we did have “Lady Dukes” instead of Duchesses.

Long, hard, and pointy… just like something else we all know…

After I graduated from Gloucester High School, I went to Longwood College– now known as Longwood University. Our mascot was, and still is, the Lancers. Back when I was a student, we didn’t have an actual mascot. Now, there’s Elwood, who is a horse. Longwood was an all women’s school until 1976. Still, we have a rather phallic looking symbol on our mascot…

Elwood the horse… He didn’t exist when I went to Longwood. I guess the sports teams have gotten better since the 90s.

It wasn’t lost on me that my college had a rather phallic mascot. I mean, the horse isn’t so much… except that I think Elwood is male, and if he’s a stallion, he’s got impressive genitalia. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of equine genitalia.

I used to have this sticker on my car. I had to remove it due to force protection rules.

So then I went to the University of South Carolina, where the mascot is the Gamecock. Gamecocks are fighting roosters. Roosters are males. I remember that the female athletes at my graduate school were not known as Hens, but Lady Gamecocks. And, in fact, they were all collectively referred to as “Cocks”. I have a Facebook friend who went to the University of South Carolina as an undergraduate. I like to tease him by writing “Go Cocks” on his posts.

I used to wear a garnet colored t-shirt that read, “You can’t lick our Cocks.” It looked just like today’s featured photo looks. Unfortunately, back at that time, it was just before Lou Holtz took over coaching the football team and, in fact, a whole lot of other teams “licked our Cocks” quite soundly. Like Lou Holtz, I started my time at USC in 1999, and Mr. Holtz was indeed able to turn the football team around. They became a very formidable force that year. Lou Holtz left USC in 2004, having vastly improved their stats.

I don’t actually follow football or any other sports. I just think it’s interesting that so many sports teams are named after male animals, and a lot of those names end up being shortened to references to genitalia. Especially when you consider what happens when when a male gets hit in that part of the body…

3:22… that was all she wrote for that fight. OUCH!
Sheesh! Game over!

Given this obvious weakness in a male’s anatomy, I wonder why we glorify a male’s genitals in sports contests and in naming sports teams.  What’s wrong with having a team called the Stuttgart Mares? Mares are pretty tough. And when they get hit in the genitals, it probably doesn’t hurt as much.

This mare looks like she can handle herself quite well.

Anyway… I’m glad that Stuttgart’s high school has adopted a gender neutral mascot in their Panthers. Here in Wiesbaden, the mascot is a nice, somewhat gender neutral Warrior. I guess there are female warriors out there, right? When I went looking to find the featured photo for today’s post, I found a picture of the t-shirt I used to own. I also found a lot of x-rated photos of the slang use of the word “cock”. It’s not just for male chickens, that’s for damned sure.

Actually, I’m reminded of something funny from my glory days in high school. Back then, Gloucester County still played in the AA league, which meant our school was considered “smaller”. It has since moved to the AAA league– I think that happened the year after my graduation. Teams were playing bigger schools in Hampton and Newport News and, unfortunately, getting soundly beaten a lot. But my senior year, we were still AA, and for Homecoming that year, we played the Bruton Panthers. Bruton is a small community in York County, near Williamsburg. Anyway… I distinctly remember my friends trying to come up with fight slogans for the floats in the Homecoming parade– you know, things like “Pierce the Panthers” or “Pop the Panthers”. One of my grosser male friends suggested “Panther Pap Smear”. Knowing my friends, I’m surprised no one suggested “Pork the Panthers”.

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