Friday, December 31, 2010

And the last day of 2010 is shaping up to be weird...

This morning, I had a very vivid dream.  I still remember a lot of it, so I'm going to write it down for future reference.

The dream starts in a busy restaurant that has several floors.  I'm there with my husband and we're eating really greasy cheeseburgers and fries on the second floor.  The place is crawling with college students, many of whom seemed familiar to me from my days as a student.  At one point, my husband gets up to do something and I'm sitting alone.  A young boy, maybe seven or eight years old, approaches and starts to harass me.  For some reason, I have a handful of granulated sugar that has been dyed dark green.  I throw it at him and yell at him to leave me alone.   Next thing I know, the boy's father, a very young looking guy, angrily threatens me with bodily harm for throwing green sugar at his son.  I get very angry and tell the guy I'm about to cry rape.  He immediately backs off, but everyone in the restaurant turns on me and becomes very hostile.

I get up to go to the bathroom, which is actually some kind of fru fru sorority looking bedroom with a toilet in it.  I go in there and take a big dump.  Then I leave and look for my husband, who was supposed to be on the restaurant's third floor.  He's not there.  I'm feeling pissed off and abandoned.

I leave the restaurant and find that almost everyone I bump into has turned against me.  I can't find my husband and my iPhone isn't working.  Suddenly, I find myself at this beautiful ornately decorated museum that's supposed to be a replica of George W. Bush's home.  It's really lovely, decorated in vivid greens and dark yellows, and looks very Mediterranean.  I want to stop and take pictures, but I'm too busy looking for my husband and trying to call him on the phone.

Suddenly, I'm standing in an area that is supposed to be like an oasis of the city.  If you're standing there, you know you're not far from the center.  Realizing this, I feel relieved and start heading for the college campus, where I bump into this very pretty sorority girl.  I have never been in a sorority, yet she seems to be acting as some kind of advocate for me.  We don't say much as someone approaches us with two slips of paper inviting us to some kind of "court", where I'll be tried for whatever it was I did to make everyone so hostile.  As I was waking up, I was deciding how to respond and, I think, leaning toward just leaving the area.

I told my husband about this dream as we were waking up.  It's the most vivid dream I've had in a long while.  Then I took the dogs out for a walk.  We found what appeared to be a decapitated squirrel in our driveway.  I didn't get too close because I didn't want the dogs to take it in their mouths.  I didn't know where it had been and I figured if they got ahold of it, I'd never get them to release it.  For all I know, some wacko left it there, laced with poison.

Then I sat down to my computer and found a snarky comment on a champagne review I wrote last summer.  The comment was supposedly from my husband's ex-wife, but it was too well-written to be by her and it was also under a topic that I highly doubt she'd read about.  The person wrote "one woman's trash is another woman's treasure, homewrecker."  Hmm... given the fact that I didn't meet my husband until a year after they divorced, I don't see how I could be called a homewrecker.  And even if I actually could be considered a homewrecker, that home in particular is one I'd be proud to wreck.

It's just odd that something like that would pop up on New Year's Eve after two other weird things happened.  I deleted the comment.  I didn't feel it had anything to do with the review, though it does make me wonder about people.  Did someone leave it there to be funny or hostile?  Did my innocuous comment make them feel bitter about their own situation?  All I know is that comment, whether it was meant as a joke or not, says a lot more about the person who left it than it does about me.

Anyway, we'll see what the rest of New Year's Eve 2010 has in store for me... this could turn out to be a day I blog more than once.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Weird things in my life at the end of 2010...

I originally posted this on Epinions, but I figure it belongs here, too...

I don't often feel the urge to write in Writer's Corner these days, but I've really had an odd week.  When you're a stay at home Army wife with no kids, odd weeks can be hard to come by.  Besides, I feel like writing, but don't quite have anything ready to review... so here goes.  

It's funny how things can change at the drop of a hat.  Last Monday, I was anticipating Christmas.  My husband was enjoying a fairly quiet week at work, finishing up the last tasks of 2010.  I was collecting stuff from FedEx, UPS, and the mailman, wrapping them up, and trying to shoo my beagle from unwrapping them before Christmas morning.  In one case, I failed and we exchanged one present to each other the week before the big day.


We knew we were going to be moving again in 2011, because the Army installation where my husband works is closing down.  But I wasn't quite prepared when dear spouse came home on Tuesday and told me that we were going to be moving in April... to North Carolina.  This is odd, not because we didn't, on some level, expect to move to Bragg, but because we currently live in a city by the same name in Georgia.  I also wasn't expecting to have to go in April.  I guess it's not a bad thing.  I prefer NC to DC... and maybe, just maybe, this will be the last time we have to move before my spouse retires.  But I ain't gonna bet on it.


The next weird thing that happened is that this week, my husband, who has consistently gotten excellent evaluations from his direct supervisors and recently made the DA select list to be promoted to Colonel, got some kind of *bs* evaluation letter from some board that obviously doesn't know him.  For some very strange reason, as of July 2010, this board had ranked my husband in the bottom third of all of the other people in his rank.  I wouldn't be mentioning this at all if I felt there were any merit whatsoever to this ranking.  All it proves to me is that there's at least one absolutely worthless level of the evaluation process for people in the military, especially since last year, the same board had placed dear spouse in the top tier.  That letter certainly makes the fact that we have had to move four times in the last four years--including overseas and back-- all the more embittering.  It really makes no sense at all, especially since the evaluation was done in July and he's just finding out about it December...  Merry Christmas, indeed.  Maybe it's a sign.


The next weird thing that happened has to do with Christmas.  I bought my husband a six quart Le Creuset stockpot to help him with his budding cooking skills.  When the box came from Cooking.com, it appeared to be very large for a stockpot.  But for some reason, I didn't open it to see what was inside.  I just wrapped it up and stuck it under the tree.  On Christmas morning, my husband unwrapped his gift and opened the box... and we found that instead of sending me one stockpot, Cooking.com sent me a case of stockpots.  Three of my friends will be the lucky recipients of the three surplus stockpots.


Then, on Christmas night, Georgia got snow.  Though I have lived abroad three times in places where a white Christmas would be expected, this year was, in fact, my very first white Christmas.  And it happened in Georgia, of all places!  The snow is an even bigger shock to me, given the fact that it was downright warm and humid just three days prior to the snow. 


And the final weird event of 2010 is that yesterday afternoon, my Aunt Nance died.  Nance was my dad's brother's wife.  She had been ill with Alzheimer's Disease and had grown frail and demented.  However, she was still living at home with her husband and one of her sons.  I saw her at Thanksgiving and she was wandering around the party, looking like she was having a pretty good time.  She stood next to me at one point and I commented that she was one of the very few people in the world I'm taller than.  She looked at me and said she was also skinnier than me, though "not by much".  Sadly, Nance had indeed grown very skinny at that point, but no one had bought her any smaller clothes.  They hung on her as if she were a hanger.  I had a feeling this might be the last time I'd see Nance alive, but I didn't guess she'd be leaving us in a matter of weeks.


When the phone rang yesterday at about 2:00pm, I could see it was another one of my aunts calling and I was surprised.  This particular aunt is more likely to email than pick up the phone.    Anyway, she told me that Aunt Nance had collapsed at home in her bathroom and was taken to a local hospital.  Her vital signs plunged in the early afternoon and she passed away at 1:00pm  Her death was not unexpected, but it was very sudden.  I found myself tasked with having to call my parents and sisters to give them the news.  My mom already knew about it, but my sisters were as surprised as I was.  I'm really going to miss my Aunt Nance.  She was definitely what you'd call a "character".  


I'm almost afraid to find out what kind of "WTF" moments the last week of 2010 has in store for me...  Maybe I'll end up pregnant... but that would be more like a miracle than a weird event

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vasectomies and family politics...

I know it's two days before Christmas and I should probably be writing about the holiday season, but I've got something on my mind this morning.  Yesterday, I was on a messageboard for recovering Mormons and someone asked for thoughts about vasectomies.  It seems that she and her husband had recently fallen away from the LDS church and, having already had two children, no longer felt the need to have a huge family.  Her husband had grown up in a big family and didn't really want to have more children.  She, on the other hand, wasn't sure if she was "done" having kids.

The topic of vasectomies always hits me close to home.  My husband had a vasectomy when he was married to his ex wife.  He did so because she apparently had a lot of problems being pregnant... it was "hard" on her.  They had two daughters plus her son from another marriage.  They were poor and the military would do the surgery for free.  So even though he wasn't even 30 years old, my husband got snipped.  Just a few years later, they divorced and he married me, a woman in her 30s with no children.  My husband's ex wife, on the other hand, married a younger man and has since had two more kids.  So much for pregnancy being too "hard" on her.

I've always wanted to be a mother and had always assumed I would be.  But the man I fell in love with had surrendered to family politics and went under the knife.  When we got married, I knew my dreams of motherhood might never come true, especially since we started our marriage pretty poor.  Luckily, two years after we tied the knot, an Army doctor reversed my husband's vasectomy free of charge.  It was technically successful, but we still don't have kids.  At this point, I'm okay with that.  I'm getting too old for kids anyway.  Besides, beagles are easier to live with.

The topic of vasectomies and the relentless pressure some people put on men to have them is still one of my hot button issues.  In the wake of our experience, I've come to a few conclusions.  First off, I recognize that it's basically a harmless, painless procedure.  However, I also recognize that like any medical procedure, a vasectomy can pose risks.  In the thread I was reading about vasectomies, one man commented that his sex drive had changed noticeably for the worse after he'd gotten snipped.  A regular female poster on the board commented that the poster obviously didn't know what he was talking about.  In very simple terms, she described what the vasectomy procedure entails and said that obviously, his issues couldn't stem from having had a vasectomy.

At that point, I jumped in and said that I'd found a Web site  called Don't Fix It, created by a man who had undergone a vasectomy and regretted it.  I commented that I wasn't necessarily agreeing with the man who had created the Don't Fix It site and written an accompanying book, but I thought he presented a viewpoint worth considering.  I came back later to find that the poster had dismissed the man's experiences, claiming that he's ignorant about physiology and spreading lies about a perfectly "harmless" procedure.

Well... that comment pissed me right off.  Even if Mr. Don't Fix It is ignorant about physiology, he obviously had a vasectomy and regretted it.  Even if most men have vasectomies and never look back, that's not indicative of every man's experience.  And the men who have not had a good time of it after getting snipped deserve to be heard as much as the men who are satisfied with their results.  After doing a perfunctory search last night, I found more anecdotes written by men who had experienced physical problems and pain after having been snipped.  Is it the norm?  Probably not, but I think anyone who is considering having surgery, particularly an entirely elective one like a vasectomy, should do their homework and make sure they know about all the risks, even the highly unlikely ones.

Secondly, I think a lot of men have vasectomies because they feel pressured by family politics.  The woman decides she's done having kids.  She doesn't want to fool with birth control anymore.  It's cheaper and easier for the man to be sterilized than the woman, so naturally, he should be the one to "man up", as it were, and get himself fixed, right?  But hold on a minute.  A vasectomy is a surgical procedure carried out on a man's most private parts.  What woman wouldn't be offended if her spouse told her he expected her to have an elective procedure on her private parts?  I gather most women would be horrified if a man demanded that she get a tubal ligation.  And yet, a lot of women think nothing at all about demanding that her husband get snipped.  Some of them hold up the prospect of not having sexual intercourse as the "carrot" to get the man to comply.

I think the decision whether or not to have a vasectomy should be entirely the man's decision.  We women get very upset when a man dares to demand that a woman have an abortion.  What makes us think we have the right to demand something just as personal of our men?  It's the man's body and ultimately, the man has to live with the results.  He may be very happy with them or he may not.  But if things don't turn out okay and he felt coerced into having the procedure, don't think he won't feel some resentment for having been pressured.  Maybe you don't care about his feelings... but some other woman probably will.

Thirdly, it really annoys me when someone presumes to know how other people think or feel.  We all get one body and one mind.  Not even the world's most gifted physician can know what it feels like to be me.  And I have no earthly idea what it feels like to be someone else.  I only know my body, but I know it better than anyone else on the planet.  Likewise, a man who has had a vasectomy and experiences pain or a lowered sex drive would know better than anyone what that feels like for him.  Just because the vast majority of men don't have that experience, that doesn't invalidate the experience of the man who does.  I think that thought could apply to anyone in any situation.  I know how I feel when I eat chocolate or see the color blue.  My experience is valid, but so is that of the person sitting next to me.

The bottom line is that any man who is considering having an elective surgical procedure like a vasectomy should absolutely be the one who makes the final decision to do so.  And he should make that decision after learning the facts.  I know many men who have had a vasectomy and never regretted it.  I've also known several men who have had vasectomies and later had them reversed... and the reversal surgery is a lot more complicated and expensive than a vasectomy is, not to mention less successful.  And yes, there are also a few men out there who have had vasectomies and are pleased to be sterile, but now have to deal with pain and an altered sex drive.

Ladies, let your men be the ones who decide whether or not they get snipped.  You'd want him to give you the same courtesy.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hollyoaks...

It's one of my habits to spend a lot of time on YouTube when I'm an especially bored overeducated housewife.  The other day, I started watching a made for TV film called Kate's Secret, which was originally aired back in 1986.  I remember that film well.  It stars Meredith Baxter, Ed Asner, and Tracy Nelson, three actors who were still kind of well-known in the 1980s.  Actually, anyone from my generation would know Meredith Baxter because of the hit sitcom, Family Ties.  It's a film about bulimia and came out during a golden age for "movies of the week".  Young Summer Phoenix, sister of River, Joaquin, and the rest of the Phoenix clan, is also in Kate's Secret.

Bulimia and other eating disorders were not all that well studied in the 80s.  Like a lot of young people, I was fascinated by eating disorders... in my youthful stupidity, I actually hoped to develop one.  I flirted with them for years and engaged in some bad habits that could have messed me up for life.  But though I did a lot of meal skipping, exercising, and starving back in the day, my mind stayed rooted in reality and now I'm a real fatass who's pushing 40.

Anyway, after I was done watching Kate's Secret in all its bulimic glory, I started looking for other things to watch.  I noticed a bunch of YouTube videos entitled "Hannah's Story".  I clicked on one and suddenly found myself totally engrossed in a British soap opera called Hollyoaks.  I was kind of enchanted by the show, with its very passionate, young, attractive, and barely intelligible British actors (to an American, anyway) from the northern part of England.

The storyline I fell into was about Hannah Ashworth, a pretty blonde girl who starts hanging out with an anorexic model named Melissa.  I should mention that Hannah had already started developing her eating disorder before Melissa came along; Melissa just happened to notice that Hannah was engaging in disordered eating and offered to help her be less conspicuous.

I have to admit, I was pretty captivated by the story, although not as much as I would have been when I was a teenager.  Back in those days, I really was fascinated by anorexia nervosa.  Nowadays, I'm not nearly as interested as I once was, mainly because being a successful anorexic requires an attention to detail and level of discipline that can be incredibly difficult and boring.  But I do enjoy watching dramatizations involving anorexia, mainly on shows like Hollyoaks, the story is told in such a caring way... with caring parents, loving siblings, concerned friends, and a medical system that cares.  As a teenager, that all looks very appealing... but when you're an adult, you realize that it's never that simple.  You can end up with anorexia and no one will give a damn.

People tend to develop eating disorders because something isn't right in their lives.  There are all kinds of theories as to why people become eating disordered.  Some people think people get anorexia or bulimia because they crave control, yet lack it.  Some people believe eating disorders are caused by negative role models or abnormally thin people on television or in the movies.  Many people think eating disorders are a game people play to get attention from others.  Still others believe people become eating disordered because their parents failed them.

Personally, I think an awful lot of eating disorders get started because of loneliness.  What distressed me about watching Hollyoaks, as attractive and appealing is it is, is that there were so many comments left by young girls who admired Hannah and Melissa.  So many girls out there wished they had a friend like Melissa, teaching them how to have an eating disorder.  And having once been one of those girls, I think they do it because they don't feel cherished by someone.  They want someone to care... anyone at all.  When you start to develop an eating disorder, concern from another person can be like crack.  If someone notices you're not eating, you're losing weight, or you look sick, they show that they care about you in some way.  The trouble is, if a true eating disorder takes root, that concern is less of a comfort and more of an annoyance as the mind starts to become preoccupied with the relentless pursuit of being just a little bit thinner.

I haven't even touched on the eating disorders that make people get fat.  A person with binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating disorder may also be in serious trouble.  But we never see movies of the week about BED or COD because they're not as glamourous.  An emaciated waif of a woman with dry, stringy hair and a bitchy personality is a lot more interesting to watch than a large woman who compulsively binges on fast food.  Of course, there are probably more binge eaters out there than anorexics.

Anyway... I meant for this post to be kind of fun, but it took a bit of a serious turn.  After I was finished watching the Hollyoaks 2007 storyline about anorexia, I ended up watching more of it, mainly because I got a kick out of the actors' accents.  And I have to admit, I think a couple of the guys on that show are very cute, even though they're way too young for me.  *Sigh*  Where has the time gone?

  
Here's a link to right in the middle of Hannah's Story...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Proverbs 20:1...

So, today a good friend of mine who knew me when I was battling depression mentioned on Facebook that she picked a bad time to come off her meds.  Apparently, everybody and their brother are annoying her right now.  So I said that I find good wine a nice alternative to meds.


Next thing I know, some Bible thumper chimes in with "Proverbs 20:1 (I don't)."  I'm definitely no Bible scholar, but I had a feeling he was referring to my love of fermented grapes.  I looked it up (yes, I do own a Bible) and sure enough, Proverbs 20:1 states thusly... "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise."


I responded that I must not be very wise because I find wine very relaxing... and a hell of a lot less expensive than psychiatric medications.  Wine and other alcohols have valid uses to many people.  The trick is not to get drunk or, if you do get drunk, not to get in a fight.  Sometimes fights and other shit happen, even if you're stone cold sober.    


So kindly give me my wine and get the fuck out of my way.  


See?  I just dropped the f-bomb and I haven't had a drop to drink all morning.  




This stuff is particularly soothing to the soul... ^
                                                                          

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bed, TV, and red wine...

Yesterday, it was so cold and miserable outside that I decided to go back to bed at about 1:30pm and watch episodes of the old show Privileged that I had downloaded on iTunes and burned to DVDs.  Privileged was cancelled in 2009, despite the fact that it had a following.  I guess the folks on the CW felt it just wasn't working out.

I will admit, I don't usually go for fluffy comedy-dramas about spoiled teenaged girls, but there was something really appealing about that show.  In fact, I liked it so much that I read the book it was based upon, How To Teach Filthy Rich Girls by Zoey Dean.  Let's just say that the book is a bit racier than the show was, although the show was racy enough.

Anyway, I watched all day yesterday, drank lots of wine, ate cookies and chocolate, and basically acted like a hermit.  It was a delightful way to spend an afternoon.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Voice of Reason strikes again...

Remember this post?

Well, Ms. Overly Helpful took it upon herself to open her big trap again.  A couple of days ago, I posted this...  We had a few days of animated discussion, then the thread had pretty much died down.  We were moving on to new topics when the Voice of Reason chimes in with (paraphrased)

knotty, it's understandable that you see this situation through the eyes of your husband's second wife.  Not all women are like his ex wife.  Many women are disadvantaged in a divorce.  For those women, Balance Point is a valuable service.

Well... that comment pissed me right the fuck off.  It's insulting on so many different levels.  First of all, I have never met Ms. Overly Helpful in person, so it surprises me that she thinks she can read my mind.  How does she know my opinion is solely based on the fact that I'm my husband's second wife?  And even if my opinion was based on that fact (for the record, it isn't), so what?  Secondly, I am pushing 40 years old.  If I don't know by now that not all women are like my husband's ex wife, I must not deserve the three college degrees I've earned.  Thirdly, of course I understand that sometimes women are disadvantaged in a divorce.  And the last statement is Ms. Overly Helpful's opinion and she's entitled to it.  Is there some reason why I'm not entitled to my opinion, even if it's not a popular viewpoint?

I had an interesting reaction to Ms. Overly Helpful's comments.  At first, I was pissed.  I was about to post a scathing remark, but then stopped and reconsidered.  The last time an incident like this occurred, I got pissy and sarcastic and Ms. Overly Helpful chastised me, then accused me of insulting her.  So this time, I turned my response into a joke.

To her comment about Balance Point being a valuable service, I said "You're certainly entitled to your opinion."

To the rest of her comment, I said, "And not only do you express your opinions clearly, you also express mine!  Wow!  It's nice to know there's someone on this messageboard who knows me so well that she can explain how and why I form opinions.  That's quite an impressive skill. ;-)"

And then I added, "BTW, thank you for telling me that not all women are like my husband's ex wife.  I will sleep better tonight knowing that."

I haven't bothered to go back to the board to see if she's responded.  Actually, I'm beginning to think maybe it's time I found some other place to spend my time... or maybe I should just find something better to do than have online conversations with insecure, condescending twatbags who feel the need to one up people all the time.  If I wanted to be treated like that, I'd call one of my sisters.

Fuck her.  Next time I want any more shit out of her, I'll squeeze her head.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A continuation of "evening the playing field"...

So, the last time I blogged, I wrote about Stacey Napp, the attorney who has made divorce an even bigger business than it already is.  I posted about this subject on one of my many messageboards and ended up getting into an argument with another poster, who maintains that I should cheer on Stacey Napp for her genius business idea.  Actually, a lot of women on that board were admiring Stacey Napp for what she's doing to help the wealthy divorcees of Beverly Hills.  I continue to be the only holdout and said I thought that if Stacey Napp is only helping women divorcing guys in a certain income bracket, she's just as greedy as the allegedly sleazy guys she helps sue.

This is how our discussion went.  The quotes come from a fellow poster on our messageboard.




Quote:
There should be fairness & equity.
Exactly...

Which is why we shouldn't automatically assume this...
Quote:
The mother shouldn't get screwed & not have a means to provide for her kids.


It takes two people to make kids. Most of the time, two people made the decision to have kids, and usually, both parents decide whether or not one of them is going to be a stay at home parent. In most modern marriages, both partners have a choice as to whether or not they want to raise kids, have a career, or both. Granted, there are going to be some exceptions to that rule. But in every case, if two people make children and raise them together, then the children aren't just "hers"; they're "theirs".

If we believe there should be fairness and equity in a divorce proceeding, then a person's gender shouldn't automatically enter into the question of who deserves more help in a divorce case, nor should we always assume the mother is the more appropriate parent for children involved in a divorce. If women really want to be treated with fairness and equity, then we need to stop asking for special treatment based on gender. We can't have it both ways. And as long as women continue to view themselves as downtrodden and in need of special help (even if, in fact, that really is the case), we can never be on equal footing with men.

Judging by that article, Napp's business seems to perpetuate the idea that women always need more help than men do. I've seen firsthand that that's not always the case. She's obviously got a successful business model going and a lot of people probably respect her and think she's awesome for coming up with her idea. Good for her. But I don't have to approve of it or cheer her on.

Quote:
Why does making a living make her sleazy? If her tactics are not underhanded & deceitful, her motives don't really matter.


I never said the lawyer was sleazy for making a living. I said that if her motives for doing what she's doing are purely based on the pursuit of profit, she's not much better than the allegedly sleazy men she helps sue. The article makes Mrs. Pont's husband out to be an avaricious dirtbag who sought to screw over his soon-to-be ex wife and their kids. Conversely, Ms. Napp's company is portrayed as heroic for swooping in to save the underdog, Mrs. Pont, from her greedy husband and get her the money that is allegedly rightfully hers. But then the article says that so far, Ms. Napp only helps women who are divorcing guys in a certain income bracket. Why? Because helping women divorcing less wealthy men is not cost effective, even if those women might be even bigger underdogs who are even more in need of her services. If Ms. Napp is only going to help women divorcing men in a certain income bracket, let's not kid ourselves that she's really "rooting for the underdog" and wanting to "level the playing field". She just wants to make money, plain and simple. And that's certainly her right, but that doesn't necessarily make her more worthy of my respect.

So, is she an avenging angel, a shrewd businesswoman, or both? Seems to me that if she's only in business to make money and not to help people (both male and female) or effect change, then she's just as greedy as many of the men she helps her clients sue. To me, she's a very shrewd businesswoman, but not particularly deserving of my admiration except for the fact that she came up with a profitable idea. Moreover, if this article had been written about a man named Mr. Napp who had started a business to help a stay-at-home dad get hidden assets from his entrepreneurial soon-to-be ex wife, I'm sure a lot of people would be calling Napp a greedy dirtbag instead of admiring his business acumen... and they would be calling the stay-at-home dad a lazy bum.

I do, of course, understand that the only information I have is in this rather biased article and my perceptions could be entirely wrong.

I did go to Balance Point's Web site and it, at least, appears to be gender neutral.  Maybe I was just put off by the way that article was written and my beef is less with Stacey Napp and more with the person who wrote the article.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A lawyer seeks to "even the playing field" in divorce...

So yesterday, I read this article on Yahoo about a lawyer named Stacey Napp who started a business to help women who are divorcing wealthy men.  Napp's business seeks to aid people who can't afford to pay the astronomical costs of paying for lawyers, but want to split from their spouses.  According to the article, most of Napp's clients are women who have been stay at home moms while their husbands have made it big in the business world.

When I first read the article, I found myself turned off by what Napp is doing... even as the practical side of me understands that there are a lot of women who need her services.  Probably what turned me off the most is that she only helps a small percentage of the population-- women... the majority of whom are white and wealthy... and are hoping to stick it to their spouses.  Instead of forcing the women to pay their lawyers by the hour, Napp foots the money for their lawyers upfront and takes a percentage of their winnings... kind of like a personal injury lawyer would.  She doesn't reveal how much she takes, but offers that it's less than what many would expect.

Now... I'm all for equality and I agree that if a spouse helps launch a business, he or she should benefit from its success.  However, I cringe at the idea that women need "special help".  I have several reasons for feeling the way I do.  As a woman, I don't like to feel second class simply because I don't have a penis.  I think that women who bitch about a lack of equality do themselves a disservice when they ask for special treatment.  We can't achieve equality if we get special breaks and as long as we insist on being part of a special protected class, we will always be downtrodden.

According to the article, Napp's clients have all been women... the privileged spouses of wealthy men who are splitting up.  Naturally, women who stay at home to raise children are less likely to be able to afford good lawyers.  However, women tend to get more in divorce proceedings and they also tend to initiate them.  While I can understand why some women want to get their husbands where it hurts-- their wallets-- I also find it distasteful when women go after men in this way, especially in an age when a woman could choose to work if she really wanted to.

I also find it distasteful that Stacey Napp only works with women who are arguing over assets in the $2million to $15million range.  Granted, she's a shrewd businesswoman and it's not financially feasible to offer this kind of arrangement for smaller settlements, but it still seems icky to me.  It's all about the money and making a profit.  I guess I just hate to see the dissolution of marriage come down to just dollars and cents and arguing over who gets what.  Maybe that makes me an old softy.

It's easy to see now why so many people insist on pre-nuptial agreements or not getting married at all.  Divorce is ugly and it's a big, distasteful business.  I hope I never have to go through it, but if I do, at least I know I'll probably be too poor to warrant Stacey Napp's services.  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

White Wine in the Sun...

If you've been reading my blog, you may already know that my husband is an ExMormon.  For that reason, I often hang out on the Recovery From Mormonism Web site.  Even if I weren't the wife of an ExMo, I would probably enjoy that site, just because the stories there are fascinating and they're basically a bunch of really good people, many of whom are hurting because of bad experiences with religion.

In any case, last Christmas, someone on the RfM board posted a YouTube video of a performance by the brilliant British born Australian singer songwriter Tim Minchin...  The song, entitled "White Wine In The Sun", is basically a secular Christmas song.  The lyrics are poignant and Tim Minchin sings it with such heart.  I'm not quite an atheist, but this song touches me every time I hear it.  So I figured it makes sense to blog about it.  I think Tim Minchin is a star who deserves a lot more air time.



Today, as I was choking up, listening to this beautiful song about the importance of family and the good things about the holiday season, I looked to see if Tim Minchin had any other brilliant songs on offer.  Lo and behold, I found one.  This one, called "Not Perfect", is yet another insightful song about how we all struggle with the painful feelings of inadequacy.  Looking at Tim Minchin, I get the feeling that he must have gone through his share of hard times to be able to come up with such poignant music.  I think hard times can be a refining process for some people, not unlike putting a beautiful but rough stone through the process of cutting, polishing, and setting before it turns into something gorgeous and valuable.



Sometimes you have to go through tough times and painful circumstances to come out stronger and more extraordinary...  When I listen to Tim Minchin's music, I'm always reminded of that.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gimpy dog...

My dog MacGregor is about seven years old and has started to show his age.  A couple of months ago, I took him to the vet because it looked like he was limping a bit.  The vet did a simple test and decided to give him anti-inflammatory tablets.  The tablets worked a little, but by the next month, he still seemed gimpy.  I had another vet look at him and she said she thought maybe his problem was in his shoulder.  She gave me more anti-inflammatory tablets, which seemed to work...

We went away twice last month and both times when I've come back, the limp has been worse.  There could be any number of reasons why MacGregor is lame, but I still worry that it might be something really serious, like cancer.  We lost a dog to prostate cancer last year and it was so sad...  I hate to see MacGregor in pain, but I truly hope he's just getting old and creaky.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thankful for Thanksgiving...

My husband and I just got back from our Thanksgiving holiday.  For most of my life, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday.  I love it because, historically, it's been when my whole family gathers for a few days of fun, food, and fellowship.  Everybody travels to Virginia and gathers at my late grandmother's house and we all catch up with each other.  Then, on Friday night, we usually have live music so people can sing and dance.

Until I got married, I was a diehard Thanksgiving attendee.  I routinely drove up on Wednesday night, then stayed until Sunday, enjoying every minute with my extended family.  But then when I got married, things changed.  At the beginning of my marriage, we were pretty poor and couldn't afford to board our dogs and stay in a hotel for Thanksgiving.  Then one year, my husband's ex stepson came with his girlfriend and celebrated with us.  For the next two years, we were living out of the country... then last year, we had just moved back and our dog had just died of cancer.  We had been able to attend other family events...  my grandmother's 100th birthday and her funeral the following year... but Thanksgiving was off the table, so to speak.

So finally, seven years after our last Thanksgiving with my family, my husband and I were asked if we would be able to attend this year.  I wasn't sure at first.  To be honest, I've started to grow fond of the simple, quiet gatherings we had been enjoying over the years.  But my favorite aunt laid on the charm and it wasn't long before I was agreeing to make the long drive to my home state.  And now, I'm so glad I went up there...  I don't regret the time I spent hanging out with aunts, uncles, cousins, and one of my sisters and her family.

The only casualty this weekend was my Kindle, which accidentally got dropped and damaged.  But I got to sing with a bluegrass band, fire a couple of guns, and watch my niece dance herself silly with one of my cousins.  I also got to order a new coat of arms for our home... wherever it ends up being.

All in all, I'd say the celebration was a success.  

I think this water tower resembles a well spanked ass...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A troubled mommy on Dr. Phil...

I don't usually get to watch Dr. Phil because I don't get television where I live.  Well... actually, we could get satellite TV, but the conditions for getting satellite service were too restrictive, so my husband and I chose to do without it.

Anyway, I probably wouldn't watch Dr. Phil on a regular basis because I don't like talk shows.  But I was alerted to a recent episode on a messageboard I frequent.  The episode, which aired November 17th, is about an Alaska woman with six kids, two of whom are seven year old twins from Russia.  The mom, whose name is Jessica, is shown on a shocking video disciplining her son for allegedly lying to her.  Jessica's methods are pouring hot sauce on the boy's tongue for lying and making him swish it around in his mouth, then putting the boy under a cold shower, all the while yelling at him while he screams.

To Jessica's credit, she is clearly a busy mom.  Her youngest child has Down's Syndrome and she did adopt her twin boys when they were older and perhaps had issues stemming from many things.  Besides the fact that they are older kids, they are also from another country where child welfare is not particularly high on the list of priorities.  It's quite possible that Kristoff, the young man who is the subject of the video, really is a handful.

Still, I can't help but be extremely shocked by what I saw in that video.  And I'm even more shocked that she allowed the video to be made and put on Dr. Phil.  If that's a true representation of what goes on in her home, I have to wonder what goes on behind closed doors and off camera.  My husband actually cried when I showed him that video.

Apparently, Jessica is at her wit's end with her child and doesn't know what to do with him.  Dr. Phil tells her that if she really is at her wit's end, she needs to give the child up...  I don't know if giving him up would truly be the best thing to do, but she clearly needs help dealing with that child and her own anger.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I love travel...

I really get a lot out of taking trips.  Going to new places seems to recharge my batteries and get me in a more optimistic frame of mind.  When spouse and I lived abroad, we traveled a lot... but not as much as we would have liked to.  Now that we're back in America, traveling is getting to be more difficult, both from a practical and financial standpoint.

When we lived in Europe, the government gave us money to pay for our utilities.  We never needed as much money as they paid us, so that surplus cash was used for our trips.  Europe also happens to be chock full of places to see that are close enough to drive to.  In America, you often have to fly to get somewhere different.  America is such a big country comparatively speaking... it's big, but not that culturally different, really.  In fact, it seems like things that used to be regional, like stores, television channels, restaurants, and music, have become nationalized.  America is getting to the point at which a lot of places seem to be the same.

That being said... we did have a wonderful time last week when we went to Asheville, NC.  I bought some new art; we visited the Biltmore Estate; we tasted wine and spouse ate elk.  And Asheville is really pretty... I could see us moving there if we ever have the chance to decide for ourselves where we want to live.  It's a very nice area with a thriving beer culture.


This is one of the many pictures I took last week...  wish I were still there right now, even if it's to look at gingerbread houses...



Or dirty stickers stuck on storefronts...


Or irreverent art...



Travel is so good for the heart, soul, and mind, don't you think?

Friday, November 19, 2010

More evangelical manipulation...

Remember this post?  Well, I got so worked up over LithodidMan's video that I posted about it on ExMormon.org.  The reason I decided to post about LithodidMan's experiences with a manipulative neighbor was because I thought a lot of the folks on that board could relate to it.  But, as it turned out, that post attracted someone who, interestingly enough, ended up incorporating the same techniques as LithodidMan's neighbor did.

First, this person took issue with the fact that I used the word "accosted" to describe LithodidMan's encounter with his neighbor.  When the poster on ExMormon.org got upset over the use of that word, I took a moment to look it up on dictionary.com.  Indeed, the very first definition of the word "accosted" was "to confront boldly".  As LithodidMan was minding his own business in his driveway and the uninvited neighbor approached him, I think the word "accosted" fits pretty well.

Next, the poster accused LithodidMan of having a potty mouth that he found offensive.  I directed the poster to my initial post, which included a warning about the swearing.  In fact, LithodidMan doesn't actually cuss until 7 minutes into the ten minute video, when he refers to his intrusive neighbor as a motherfucker.  Up until that point, all LithodidMan does is relate the story.

The poster later claims that LithodidMan bashes Christians.  But LithodidMan doesn't actually bash Christians.  He bashes the manipulative techniques his evangelical neighbor uses in order to get him to listen to his message.  In fact, the poster on ExMormon.org engages in an attack when he accuses me of "being from Utah", an obvious assumption that I grew up Mormon (which I didn't) and am thus, closed-minded.  And yet, he accuses LithodidMan of bashing an evangelical Christian simply because LithodidMan wasn't interested in hearing the Christian's message.  Interesting...    

So then the poster accuses LithodidMan as being averse to a free exchange of ideas.  He calls him a "wimp".  I took issue with the poster's need to engage in name calling and ad hominem attacks.  The poster claims that he laughed at the fact that I considered his use of the pejorative term "wimp" name calling.  Then he uses sarcasm in a lame effort to diminish my point.

It dawned on me that this fellow was using a lot of the very same techniques on me that LithodidMan's neighbor used.  I'm not sure what his goal is...  does he think he's going to change my mind?  Does he think by claiming that I'm rude, closed-minded, and anti-Christian, I'm going to feel apologetic and acquiesce to his myopic viewpoint?

I finally told the guy that I thought I'd more than made my point.  If he doesn't get it now, he never will.  He's not going to change my mind and I don't really give a shit about changing his.  So I suggested that we "agree to disagree".   I don't know if that will get him to back off, but I've about had it with the Internet based nutcases this week.

ETA:... Unbelievably enough, the guy later came back and asked me to tell him how I share my faith...  Some people really do need a house to drop on their heads.  I told him I thought we'd beaten that dead horse long enough.
 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Petty Epinions drama continued...

I've been gone for most of the week, so I haven't had the chance to follow up my last blog post.  It ended up being even more dramatic than I first thought it would be...

So, the crazy revenge rater gave me bad ratings on about 40 reviews.  Then she revenge rated everybody who rated her after I did.  Some people were a lot more willing to try to argue with her than I was.  To me, she just seemed like a nut, so I didn't engage her after rating three reviews and commenting.  Other people either engaged her in a mean way or tried to be friendly with her.  One guy, whom I will call Don Quixote (DQ for short) apparently really identified with the nut case and tried to stick up for her, even though it was very obvious that he had no idea what was going on.  She didn't revenge rate him, but she also didn't seem interested in pursuing a friendship.

Apparently, the friendly comments really got under another well-respected Epinions member's skin, so she wrote an open letter to all the "bleeding hearts" of Epinions.  Some people understood her point.  Other people were offended by it.  DQ jumped into the fray and tried to take on everybody, insisting that we were all just too mean to the new member/revenge rater.  I knew the revenge rater wasn't long for the Epinions world, so I didn't get involved.

Indeed, the revenge rater was finally axed from Epinions, once the work week got started.  It was easy to see that she had cause quite the fray on the site over the weekend and there were many complaints about her to the Epinions powers that be.  They kicked her off the site first thing Monday morning, Pacific time.

When DQ refused to let the incident go, I finally decided to comment again, since I was the one who inadvertently upset the revenge rater in the first place.  I explained what happened... letting him know that his little conspiracy theory wasn't based on facts, but DQ seemed to dismiss it.  He said he didn't need an explanation from me and apparently still refused to believe/understand what had actually happened.  DQ seemed hell bent on making the point that the revenge rater was being unfairly persecuted, when, in fact, she was just being an unreasonable bitch.

I had explained in my original post that after I explained how the ratings on Epinions worked, I decided not to engage the revenge rater, because she seemed irrational.  When DQ continued to push his ridiculous theories, I wrote "Whatever you say...  Then I'm through engaging you, too."

Now, I sort of meant that comment as a subtle hint that I didn't feel like arguing anymore.  But DQ didn't get the message... it apparently went right over his head, while another well respected member caught my meaning and left a hilarious but rude comment for DQ, who evidently got very upset about it...

The last time I checked, DQ was still whining about how he'd been "called" both a bleeding heart and dumb.  Actually, nobody flat out called DQ a bleeding heart... he self-identified with that moniker.  And no one directly called him dumb, either.  Again, he self-identified and got all offended about it.

Anyway, this dude found me on Facebook and tried to friend me.  I decided to remember what I had last said to him on the Epinions messageboard... that I was "through engaging him".  I think he's a few sandwiches short of a picnic.  His uninvited contact with me also unnerved my spouse.

Who needs friends in "real life" when you have weirdoes on the Internet?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Petty idiots on Epinions

I write product reviews on Epinions. It started out as a hobby, but over the years it's become a fun and profitable pastime. To date, I've written well over a thousand reviews and earned almost $5000; I've also made lots of friends. I generally really enjoy Epinions, but one of the shitty aspects of that site is that we sometimes get nutcases that show up and try to spam the system with duplicate reviews and then get pissed when they get "not helpful" ratings.

Yesterday, my spouse presented me with a new digital camera in honor of our anniversary. I went to Epinions to see if anyone had reviewed the one he got for me. A couple of people had, including one woman who had written a review that was "off topic". Basically, she wrote a very short, poorly constructed review of a different model camera and then copied and pasted it under about a dozen Nikon product listings. Surprisingly enough, one well-known person on Epinions had rated this review as "helpful", which surprised me, since it was obviously off topic (she didn't even bother to change the model number). I rated it as "off topic" and wrote a quick explanation why. I rated a couple more reviews as "not helpful" because they were duplicates, also leaving a quick, but polite, explanation for the rating. I didn't bother to rate the rest of her reviews, most of which were the exact same review copied and pasted in one day last month and left unrated.

So this morning, I find that this person rated my most recent review as "not helpful" and left a comment that I was rude to her. I went back to her review and left a longer, but still polite, comment explaining that what she did is not allowed on Epinions and that, furthermore, it really is frowned upon to "revenge rate" people. I also told her that I might re-rate if she cared to update. I left it at that.

Next thing I know, this nutcase has gone through at least 40 of my reviews and rated them "not helpful" or "off topic". She also left the same comment on about six reviews saying that she thought I must be running a "scam", since so many of the same people had rated my reviews. There's no scam going on. I just happen to have a following of people because I've been on the site for almost eight years. Anyway, now she says she's gonna "report" me...  That doesn't worry me, since I'm not the one who broke the site's rules.

But that's not the worst of it. For some reason, two or three other people have now rated her reviews and given her "not helpful" ratings. She revenge rated all of them and claims that I sicced them on her.  The reality is, I have no idea how these people found her reviews. I'm not particularly friendly with any of them. Maybe they saw the nasty comment she left for me and decided to investigate on their own, but I didn't send them there to carry out some kind of vengeance.   

At first I was sort of irritated by this person, then amused, and now I think she must have some serious anger issues if a couple of "not helpful" ratings on Epinions provokes this kind of white hot narcissistic rage. I reported her to the powers that be on Epinions and blocked her so I can't see her comments or ratings anymore. I think she must be some kind of a freak in person.  People who revenge rate are just impotent little pests.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Online dramas on messageboards...

When you're an overeducated housewife with too much time on your hands, it's easy to get caught up in online dramas, especially if you frequent messageboards populated by women.  Because I am a second wife and, at least technically, a stepmother, I found myself in need of some support.  So, back in the early 2000s, when I was freshly married and brand new to step-life and second wife-hood, I joined a support site dedicated to helping women in my situation cope.  At the time, the support site I chose was a God send.  However, hanging out on that board brought with it a healthy dose of drama...  drama that was often kind of addictive.

Anyway, I clearly remember Christmas Day in 2003, when a certain member of the messageboard-- who I will refer to as "JiffyPop" announced that she had gone into labor with her first child.  JiffyPop was quite young and dating an older man whom she claimed was an alcoholic.  He was also the father of two kids from another relationship, one of which had special healthcare needs.  JiffyPop constantly complained about her boyfriend's drinking and the fact that they had no money.  After her baby boy was born, the other ladies on the messageboard advised her to get her ducks in a row, take the baby, and start anew somewhere else.

What JiffyPop decided to do was move with her alcoholic boyfriend to another state.  I well remember the dramatic saga of that move.  It took them several days to move from the Deep South to the Midwest.  Their car was falling apart and they were still very broke.  But they did eventually get to their new home up north.

Several months later, JiffyPop announces that she's pregnant with baby #2.  I remember how she timidly announced the pregnancy, acknowledging that so many women had advised her to get her life together and get away from her "drunk" boyfriend.  But alas, she had fallen pregnant again...  The ladies were mostly supportive, telling her they understood and advising her to get on some good birth control once this baby was born.

So, early the following year, JiffyPop has a baby girl.  Everyone congratulates her on her cute little family and, for a few weeks, all is well.  Then JiffyPop starts complaining about her boyfriend's abuse and alcoholism again.  She also whines about being poor and not being able to go to school or get a job because she has two little babies to take care of.  At some point in the middle of all of this, JiffyPop decides to marry her alcoholic boyfriend.  They tie the knot, and a few months later, JiffyPop is announcing her third pregnancy.

Baby #3 is born; it's another girl.  Two months after that birth, JiffyPop is pregnant with baby #4 and has that baby, another girl, before the year is over.  JiffyPop swears that she's done having kids, even though she's still fairly young and apparently isn't into using birth control.  She starts talking about going back to college.

The following fall, JiffyPop announces that she is pregnant with baby #5.  At this point, the ladies on the online support board aren't as enthusiastic about JiffyPop's amazing procreative talents.  They start to criticize her for being irresponsible, since she's constantly complaining about not having any money and being trapped with her alcoholic husband, who seems to be regularly moving in and out of the house due to their constant fights.  Meanwhile, the couple has declared bankruptcy and JiffyPop has taken out student loans for another attempt at finishing her college education.

Baby #5 is born.  It's another girl.  JiffyPop declares that she is DONE having children and claims that she got her tubes tied to prevent any more surprises.  Everyone congratulates her for making a wise decision.  JiffyPop goes back to school again, but never seems to make it to class because of her kids.  She joins a church and starts asking for donations so she can take a mission trip to Africa.  She crows about how this trip will do wonders for her marriage and she can take care of the poor African kids... never mind that she already has five kids at home who need her.

So now, it is November 2010... and JiffyPop has just made another announcement that... yes... she is once again pregnant.  This happened despite the fact that she supposedly had her tubes tied.  And instead of being upset about her tubal ligation not sticking, she is "praying" that the pregnancy isn't ectopic and that the baby is viable.  Then, in an offhand way, she comments that this will mean the trip to Africa will be off and she hopes her church can find someone else to go in her place...  which leads me to believe that she never got her tubes tied.  If she had, she wouldn't be so quick to assume she would be out of commission.  A pregnancy that results after a tubal ligation is likely ectopic.  If she'd had her tubes tied and got pregnant anyway, chances are good that she'd have to terminate the pregnancy.  Since she's already talking about names and hitting people up for baby clothes, I'm guessing there's a good chance this one is going to stick.

This is just one of the few online dramas I've come across over the years... it's almost better than reality TV.  Who needs cable when you can hang out on a messageboard and read about other peoples' lives...
  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Gift of Fear and Evangelical Manipulation techniques



The other day, I happened to watch Lithodid Man's video about Evangelical Manipulation.  In this video, Lithodid Man brings up the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.  Although I'm a fan of true crime and books about psychology as it relates to crime, I had not heard of this book.  I bought a copy on Kindle because of Lithodid Man's ringing endorsement of it.  I started reading it the other day and am very impressed with it...

This book is basically about how to predict violence and danger and reminding people, especially women, to listen to their instincts.  Even though I'm only about a quarter of the way into this book so far, like Lithodid Man, I see how these techniques can be applied to everyday situations... not just those that involve danger, but any situation that involves manipulation.

Lithodid Man talks about being accosted by an evangelical Christian neighbor who was hell-bent on proselytizing to him.  When Lithodid Man tried to politely extricate himself from the conversation, the neighbor continued to try to push.  Then the neighbor tried to get Lithodid Man to allow his kids to be involved with the Awanas.  I have no personal experience with the Awanas, but I have a couple of Christian friends whose kids are involved.  It's sort of a Christian scouting type group.  Lithodid Man explains that he used to be in the Awanas when he was a kid and he hated it.  He was very adamant that his kids were not to be approached about this.  And yet the neighbor continued to press on... finally forcing Lithodid Man to get rude.  And now the neighbor probably hates him, which isn't a very comfortable situation to be in.

It occurred to me that a lot of people hesitate to say "no" because they're afraid of looking rude.  But as Gavin de Becker points out, the word "no" should never be negotiable.  Anyone who doesn't take no for an answer is seeking to control.  If you leave room for negotiation, you open yourself up to being controlled.  Sometimes that's not the worst thing in the world; for example, you might be talked into buying a slightly more expensive car than you really need.  On the other hand, not being firm about "no" can also lead to disaster.  Take, for instance, a woman who is approached by some strange guy wanting to "help" her with her groceries.  She says no.  He insists.  She lets him help her and opens herself up to being attacked.

A few months ago, I had a strange encounter at the end of my driveway.  A forty-ish guy was parked by my mailbox talking on his cell phone.  I was on my way up to move our trash can back from the street and see if there was any mail.  The guy rang off from his phone call and immediately turned his attention to me.  I had never seen this man before.  He drove a gray truck with a big dog kennel in the back.  I had my two beagles with me.

He was overly friendly to me, explaining that his car had run out of gas and he was waiting for someone to bring him some fuel.  I nodded as I moved the trash can.  He admired my dogs and asked me why I didn't let them run so they could catch coyotes.  Eyeing the dog kennel in the back of his truck, I told him I never let my dogs run.  Anyone who knows anything about beagles knows why it's not smart to let them run loose.  They get on a scent and end up in the next county.

The conversation annoyed me at first.  But by the time I got back to the house, I was feeling decidedly uneasy about the guy in the gray truck.  I locked the door behind me.  Later, when I told my husband about this encounter, he was equally creeped out about it.  And now that I've been reading The Gift of Fear ,  I know why I was uneasy.


1. The guy didn't belong in the neighborhood-- He appeared to be in his 40s at least and claimed that he ran out of gas.  It seemed strange to me that a man that age would allow himself to run out of gas, especially in a rural area.  I would expect that of someone younger.

2.  The guy was too friendly-- I had never laid eyes on this man in my life, yet he approached me in a very friendly and somewhat forward way.  He asked a few questions of me... questions that seemed odd.  Like why didn't I let my dogs run...  I thought it was odd that a man with a kennel in the back of his truck would ask me why I didn't let my dogs run loose.

3.  The guy gave me too much information-- I didn't ask him why he was parked by my mailbox.  He volunteered the information, along with some extra information about the neighbors down the road... more people I don't know or care about.

Thankfully, I wasn't very friendly to him, so the conversation didn't go much beyond that.

I mentioned this situation on a message board I frequent and the resident "voice of reason" tried to explain why my impressions of the situation were wrong and I had probably misjudged.  She said that coyotes were common where she lives, so they must be common in my area.  And as a matter of fact, it turns out they are; but that's a minor point.

Then she said in rural areas, it's common to let dogs run.  No shit.  I grew up in a rural part of Virginia, so I realize this is true.  However, that guy had a kennel in his truck, which indicated that he probably knows something about dogs, particularly hounds.  And he was definitely admiring mine.  When I was a child, we lost a dog to a dognapper and I'm highly aware that pets can be used for bait in dog fights or as lab animals.

Then she said the kennel has probably sat in the back of his truck for ages.  Maybe... but why would he have one and specifically ask me why I don't let my dogs run... especially when my dogs are pretty obviously not used for hunting?

And finally, she said that anyone can run out of gas.  And that's true, of course, but it does seem unusual that a man of that guy's age would.  All of these things together made the situation seem very strange to me.  I now wish I had reported the guy to the police.  The last time I got a six sense like that, we called the cops and it turned out the guy we complained about was wanted.

I'm looking forward to finishing this book... and honing my skills of saying "no" and not being scared of appearing to be rude.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Internet... an endless source of mindless entertainment about everything...

I read an article this morning about how a lot of people are cutting off their cable TV subscriptions and watching stuff online.  Netflix and Hulu are providing people with the opportunity to be entertained without spending $100+ a month for hundreds of channels that may or may not offer anything interesting.  Actually, I'm not that surprised about this development.

Cable and satellite TV have been a rip off for many years.  There was a time when TV was free.  Then it got to the point at which it became very difficult to watch TV unless you had cable.  My parents got cable for the first time back in 1980, when we moved to a rural county in Virginia.  It was either pay for cable or forego TV.  And my parents liked TV too much to forego it, so they bought a cable subscription.  I grew up on cable and the superior programming it offered.  I watched HBO, USA, MTV, TBS (then called the Superstation), WGN from Chicago, Nickelodeon, CNN... etc.  In the 80s, it really was better.

But then sometime in the 1990s, TV started to become very generic.  Even the superstations, which offered people the chance to view "local" television from around the country became nationalized.  Cable stations played a lot of re-runs and reality TV.  Cable companies offered dozens of channels, but very few that offered anything worth watching.  HBO went from consisting of one channel to consisting of about five, yet the programming didn't seem that new or different.  Meanwhile, cable rates were going up.

Then, the world got hit by the Internet.  Suddenly we could interact with people around the world.  We could publish our thoughts on blog posts, meet people in chat rooms and messageboards, listen to music, and yes, watch TV.  So now the cable companies are surprised that Americans are turning to the Internet to be entertained?  Frankly, I'm surprised this phenomenon didn't happen five years ago.

My husband and I depend on Netflix and Hulu for our TV.  This isn't actually how we wanted it.  We live in a rural area and cable television service doesn't come out this way.  We could have gotten satellite service, but the local company wanted us to sign up for five years.  We knew we wouldn't be living in this area for five years, so we declined.  And now we're cable TV free, probably for the first time in many years.

To be honest, I don't miss TV that much.  Sometimes it would be nice to watch the local news or catch an episode of Judge Judy.  But a lot of the shows I like to watch are on iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, or the show's official Web site within a day of broadcast.  There's no reason for me to spend $100+ on TV.

Once we move, maybe we'll go back to subscribing to TV.  But it's nice to know we can live without it. For a long time, I didn't think that was possible.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Opinions are like assholes...

A Facebook friend of mine posted the following letter she found written by a Canadian on CNN.com...


I have never been so happy to NOT be an American as I am today. To expect that Obama can fix an economic devastation in TWO years when Bush and cie had 8 years to destroy it is utterly ridiculous. It's amazing the power of brainwashing going on by the mightiest and wealthiest on the poor uneducated.

Bash this Canadian all you want. Tonight, I go to bed with a good job, free if not perfect health care, 5 weeks vacation a year and a respect for my fellow Canadians (i.e. higher taxes but it works...).

The Republicans have sold the American Dream. 99% of you will not reach it. Good luck with all that.

In the meantime, COMMUNIST China (even WORSE that ... ouuuuhhh.. "socialism") has a red hot economy and will change the balance of power in the world. Some would say they already have.

The U.S.A. under a Democratic base is respected in the world. People who invent and have ideas should be rewarded. But anyone making a million a year or more can afford to pay 60% tax to help others and infrastructure and still be rich.

But, I'm sure you super smart Americans will continue your 1950s rhetoric. Astounding.

VOTE IN Sarah Palin !!! I beg of you!! That would be the BEST! Comedy like never before.





My response to my friend was that I'm glad that person isn't an American either.  Then my friend asked if it bothers me that most people outside of America feel this way about Americans.  I responded, no, it doesn't really, because I have lived abroad three times and traveled to over two dozen countries.  And my experience is that, actually, not everybody feels this way about Americans.  It's true that a vocal number of people do claim to have this disdain for the entire realm of American people, but I can't come to the conclusion that the whole world feels that way based on a random CNN comment or twelve.  And even if they did, I believe that everyone is entitled to have an opinion.  Opinions, after all, are like assholes.  Everybody's got one.


That being said, I do wonder why so many liberal minded folks are so eager to agree with what someone in Europe or Canada thinks about the United States.  Why do they feel the need to encourage occasionally disrespectful and derisive attitudes held by non-Americans by jumping up and down and shrieking about how much the world hates Americans?  Most of all, why is it that these liberal minded people, who are usually so quick to defend the downtrodden and eager to preach about equality, are so ready to accept what amounts to a racist attitude from other people?  Think about it.  If I went around talking about how idiotic and brainwashed all people from Uganda or Spain are, many people would call me an ignorant racist among other things.  So why is it okay when non-Americans direct that ignorant attitude toward all Americans?  And why are so many Americans ready to encourage and defend that ignorance by guiltily agreeing with people who post rants about Americans as a whole?


I can't help that I'm an American.  I am neither proud nor ashamed of my American nationality.  I am an American because some people in my ancestry decided to leave Europe and move to America.  I had no control over that decision.  It's not my fault I was born and grew up here, just like it's not someone else's fault that they happen to be Russian or French or Ethiopian.  I am an American by birth and by fate and that doesn't make me a bad person.


Furthermore, I can only do so much with my votes.  I can vote for the person the rest of the world thinks is the best candidate, or I can vote for the person I think is the best candidate.  Sometimes my vote will be in agreement with everyone else's vote.  Sometimes it won't.  But it's my vote to cast or not cast, and while the Canadians and the Europeans are certainly free to have their opinions, I am equally free to have mine.  I have that freedom because I am American.  I appreciate that fact, knowing that there are places in the world where people aren't free to vote as they see fit.


The best I can do is keep traveling and keep learning and try not to reinforce the stereotype that all Americans are a bunch of isolated, arrogant idiots.  I do think a lot of Americans would be well served if they traveled more, too.  But if you choose not to travel or your perspective is different than mine is, that doesn't make you someone who is worthy of scorn or ridicule.  There is no perfect place on Earth.  Every country has its issues... every country has its assholes.  The best we can all do is try not to be assholes about another country's issues.  


And I'm still glad that CNN letter writer is Canadian.