Thursday, May 27, 2010

Idiot convention...

Every so often, I get a perfect storm of idiotic comments from people on places where I write.  Today, I got two different communications from two separate sources.  Both of them made me laugh for different reasons, though they both indicated one of the things that is wrong with a lot of Americans today... a lack of decent communication skills.

The first communication I got was from StudentsReview.com.  A college student wrote me the following note...

hi,am already in collage and am thinking of doing public health communication,i would like to know if the pay is good and also why you left the feild

I did not edit this email in the slightest.  This is the actual message I got from a college student who wishes to work in communications.  I wrote back and advised this student to bone up on their writing skills, since working in communications of any sort would require at the minimum the ability to write a proper sentence.  On another note, it shocks me that a person in college would write this way, even if they were doing so by text.  I don't envy college professors.

The second communication was regarding an article I wrote on Associated Content about DirectBuy.  I had written an article about DirectBuy back in 2006.  It got a lot of hits and comments, so I decided to follow up with an article about a book written by the company's founder, James L. Gagan.  While I think DirectBuy is a big scam, I did actually enjoy Gagan's book.  I thought it was well written and interesting and said so in my review. 

Invariably, I get scathing comments from people who have some affiliation with DirectBuy and it's clear that they didn't bother to read the article.  When it got really bad a couple of years ago, I deleted some comments.  I kind of regret doing that now.  But today, I found the following comment written by one of DirectBuy's prizewinning employees...

I'm sorry that you can not see the value in this oppourtunity, and clearly thinking outside of the norm is not for everyone. Direct Buy has provided me with an amazing job for years now, and I have had nothing but positive experiences from the staff and the members. The only time there it negativity is when I encounter people like you, who go around complaining about t6hings they don't know. It sounds like you have done a bit of research, and good for you. That still doesn't make you guru on the subject and before you go posting negativity about someone's business they have created from the ground up you should honestly know what you are talking about. Direct Buy DOES pass on those discounts to it's members in what's called Club Exclusives, and shipping times being delayed is a problem from the manufacturers. (since that is afetr all where the members are purchasing from.) Anyways, I am done wasting my energy on you and your misinformed website. And perhaps you can be helped in the fut

Again, I did not edit this comment in any way.  Again, this comment shows a real lack of communication and reading comprehension skills, not to mention an inability to write effectively.  I happened to get this comment before I'd had my coffee and I was feeling a bit pissy, so I responded thusly...

Hey, it's pretty obvious to me that you didn't even read this article. If you had read it, you'd see that it's actually a positive review of a book written by James Gagan, the guy who founded the company you're so proud of. I did write another article on AC that was about my experiences with the company. Your comment would fit better there. It's great that you've found such an "amazing job" with Direct Buy. I'm sure people would love to read about your positive experiences. Why don't you write your own article on AC? You can even get paid for it. By the way... I never claimed to be a "guru" on anything. This article is about James Gagan's book, nothing more, nothing less. Why don't you waste some of that energy reading before you comment? You're not doing your company much good going off half-cocked about an article you didn't even bother to read. Have a nice life. 

Seriously. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Planning a road trip...

I used to enjoy a good road trip.  Maybe I still will on Thursday, when the spouse and I start heading northward to pick up my mom's old piano.  We'll be stopping along the way to see my dad in the hospital.  I haven't seen him or my mom in three years.  He's being hospitalized near where my sister lives in North Carolina. 

I have kind of a complicated history with my dad.  We didn't get along for much of my childhood for a lot of reasons.  One of the biggest ones is that he's an alcoholic who grew up during the Depression era.  Consequently, he often treated me like a farm animal.  He often didn't have a lot of respect for me as a person... although there were times when he showed some glimmers of pride in who I was.  But most of the time, he treated me kind of badly. 

Maybe that's part of the reason why I get so upset with my husband's estranged daughters.  They have a loving dad who would have done almost anything to have a relationship with them... at least until they became so incredibly alienated that they wouldn't so much as speak to him.  I guess I should feel sorry for them, since they are missing out on a wonderful father, courtesy of their mother's selfishness and crazymaking.  But while I'm very angry at their mother, I'm also angry at those girls-- even as I understand the difficult situation they're in.

In any case, I guess I can credit my dad with always being around and being a decent provider.  He has some redeeming qualities.  He did honorably serve his country for 22 years.  Many people like him, even if I haven't always.

It will be bittersweet to see the house I grew up in, pretty much empty.  I never actually liked the house that much, but it is where I spent most of my youth.  This may be the last time I ever go up that way for a long time...     

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend from hell...


Okay, maybe that's an overstatement.  I guess I have had worse weekends than the one that's about to end.  But this one was the worst one I've had in awhile.

Friday night, I was in a good mood because I got an unexpected surprise from SeaDream Yacht Club.  They sent us a beautiful hardbound book about the SeaDream experience.  I wasn't expecting that, so it was very cool.  But then, things went downhill fast.

I made the mistake of leaving my purse on the floor next to my computer.  Normally, I don't do that, because my dogs are curious beagles.  I'd rather not have my leather purse turn into a chew toy.  But I got distracted and left the bag on the floor.  I was talking to my dear spouse when I noticed that one of my dogs had a tube of Vasilene Lip Therapy between his paws and had started chewing on it.  I relieved him of the lip ointment and went down to my office, where I discovered that one or both of my little canine hoodlums had raided my purse.

They chewed up several items in my purse, including a couple of perfectly good maxi pads.  But most concerning was the bottle of ibuprofen that one of them had managed to open by chewing off the child resistant cap.  There were pills on the floor that had obviously been chewed on or licked.  I have no idea if any of them got eaten, but ibuprofen is toxic in dogs.

We figured Zane, the younger dog, was the culprit.  He's still in his chewing phase and is very curious.  However, MacGregor might have also gotten into the pills.  I have no idea.  Dear hubby took Zane to the emergency vet, where they induced vomiting and gave him fluids and activated charcoal.  After four hours in the clinic, they got home at about 1:00 in the morning.  I waited up for them with MacGregor and a bottle of wine as a companion.  The vet cost $365, which is actually sort of a bargain.  When we used to live near Washington, DC, emergency vet services were much more expensive.

I woke up several hours later from a deep sleep.  Apparently, Zane had kept hubby up all night, wanting to go outside.  The wine didn't agree too well with me, plus I was dealing with allergies that made me cough a lot.  I started my day off puking with so much force that my eyes are still bloodshot.  Then I developed a cold sore, which has already erupted and hurts.  It goes nicely with the zit on my chin, a reminder that Aunt Flow is coming soon.

Dearest had to get a trailer hitch put on our SUV for a trip to my parents' house next weekend.  He was gone for several hours and it ended up costing several hundred dollars.  Then I had to take Zane to our vet for more charcoal... another $108 down the tubes.  Car taxes are due just before my birthday next month, too.

Spouse and I felt like crap all day yesterday and we both took naps.  Interspersed between our naps, I started reading Killing Willis, a new bio written by Todd Bridges and a ghost writer.  For those of you who don't know, Todd Bridges starred on the 80s sitcom, Diff'rent Strokes.  He later became a criminal and claims that he's now turned his life around... not from what I could tell in his book.  Anyway, I didn't like the book, but I finished it because I'd already paid for it and it had sort of a compelling trainwreck quality to it.  If you're curious, check the link above.  Not everyone disliked this book as much as I did.

Anyway, today is better than yesterday, but I still have bloody eyes and a cold sore.  Here's hoping Monday is a better day.

ETA... how odd it is that Gary Coleman died just a few days after I reviewed his former co-star's book.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

An interesting email I got this morning...

Some time after I got out of graduate school, I joined a site called StudentsReview.  Every once in awhile, I get emails from prospective college or graduate students, people who are either interested in attending my alma mater or studying the same subjects I did.  This morning, I got an email from a young man who is about to start his college career at the "other USC".  He noted that I'm a technical writer-- or, at least I've worked as one-- and he wanted to know what being a technical writer entailed. 

The young man explained that he has a knack for writing and has done well on standardized tests of his writing skills, but didn't want to give in to studying English because he doesn't want to be a teacher, principal, or writer, etc.  Instead, he wants the career opportunities and salaries afforded to people who study engineering or economics.  Alas, he's not very good at math and science... a weakness that I also share and with which I can empathize.  He was wondering if technical writing was a combination of writing and technology.

Well... this guy's email charmed the dickens out of me, so I wrote him a nice response.  First off, I have to give him credit for taking the time to ask, rather than just making an assumption about what technical writing actually is.  A lot of people don't make that effort and end up getting into fields they know nothing about.  I was an English major back in the day, mainly because I like writing and am good at it.  But if I had it to do over again, I might have considered another field... and not been so afraid of math and science classes.  I also let this fellow know that just because someone studies English or any other field as an undergraduate, that doesn't mean that he or she is locked into that as a career.  English degrees, for example, make excellent foundations for preparing for other professions like law or business.  A degree in English may not be obviously marketable, but it does teach one a certain way of thinking and communicating that is valuable in most fields.

One thing I learned in all of my schooling is that an ability to write and communicate well is always appreciated by professors and bosses alike.  There are plenty of people with technical knowledge, but there aren't so many people who can easily communicate what they know or things that need to be taught to others in a way that others can easily understand. 

As far as the money question goes... well, technical writing, especially when it's combined with consulting, can be quite lucrative in some situations.  In other situations, it can be less financially rewarding.  Sometimes the work is not very steady and it's a field that is often competitive.  I like it because it satisfies my desire to learn new things and assignements tend to be short term and project oriented.  I get bored easily and relish my freedom.  I am also lucky enough to have a spouse who is less constrained by full time work that requires commuting to an office every day.

In any case, I was impressed by this guy's initiative.  Most people his age aren't necessarily thinking about what happens after graduation.  Of course, if I were there with him, I'd tell him that he shouldn't engrave anything about his future in stone, either.  Things change... and a lot can change in the four to six years it will take him to earn his degree.  He may feel very differently about his career aspirations when he's older and, in fact, would be wise to be both flexible and versatile.  But it's a good thing to think ahead, too.  And it was my pleasure to send him a little insight... even if I am just an overeducated housewife. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

TDY...

So today, my dear spouse is on his way to a meeting in another city.  I'm sitting here alone, waiting for a shipment of new martini glasses that I ordered from Novica.com.  Novica has become one of my favorite cash drains, besides Amazon of course.  Run by National Geographic, Novica offers cool artsy stuff from artisans from all over the world.  I've already bought some stuff from them... stuff that I may or may not have needed, but like just the same.

I just vacuumed and steam cleaned the carpets, wrote a couple of articles, and frantically ate some lunch in an attempt to get my blood sugar up.  I used to be able to go a long time without eating, but now that I'm getting older, I notice I get very shaky and lightheaded if I get too hungry.

This reminds me of an incident on the SeaDream.  I was confused about when we would get dinner because we took an evening excursion.  Some guy made a stupid remark about not missing meals... I guess I could have been a bitch and said I can't skip meals because of a medical condition.  I may actually have one, though I refuse to see a doctor to find out for sure.  Smart, huh?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday blues...

Last night, just before bed, I heard my dear spouse scolding one of the pooches.  Turned out the pooch had apparently peed on our down comforter on hubby's side of the bed.  I ended up washing the cover and we slept with the uncovered comforter, which I had treated with an enzymatic detergent. 

In the wee hours of the morning, dear spouse woke me up because he thought he had a tick attached to his ass.  He needed my help identifying it.  I dragged my substantial butt out of bed and checked him over, finding nothing but a small skin tag. 

Went back to bed and had a vivid dream about living on a military base in an apartment, only to be awakened again by my other dog, who evidently needed to take a crap out in the rain.  It was still early, so I went back to bed again after feeding the dogs, knowing that if I didn't feed them, they'd wake me up again.

I drifted off into dreamland again, this time enjoying a marvelous dream about being back on the SeaDream I.  I swear, that cruise line has totally hooked me.  I've had a lot of SeaDreams since we disembarked.  But some guilty part of me woke me up.  I got up, went into the bathroom, and found a tiny, disgusting little tick attached to my pubis.  Talk about feeling a little sickened... I sure was.

The rest of today has sort of passed like a dream... nice enough weather, but not much going on.  Hopefully, Tuesday will be a nicer day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A fucked up view of perfection...

This morning, husband and I were talking over breakfast and he mentioned a recent blog entry he'd read, posted by his long lost daughter... a girl completely entrenched and indoctrinated in Mormonism.  I will admit that I didn't read the passage in question, mainly because reading the blog makes me angry.  But anyway, hubby does confide in me every so often and today, he talked about something his daughter wrote about striving for perfection.

This girl is 16 years old and completely enraptured by her religion.  Apparently, she thinks that by avoiding all wrongdoing and trying to be perfect, she will get closer to God.  She strives for righteousness and purity.  We've heard from a reliable source that she often acts like a cop to those around her, calling them to repentance whenever she feels they've stepped out of line.  This is her idea of striving for perfection and getting closer to God and a place in the tippy top tier of heaven.

She conveniently ignores the fact that she and her sister have treated their father and grandparents in a very judgmental and unChristlike way.  They've been downright cruel, particularly to their grandfather, who has never been anything but kind and loving to them.  A couple of years ago, they pretty much disowned him without giving it a second thought.  Apparently, he's not good enough for them anymore.

I'm betting she's treated others with the same kind of contempt, knowing that her ideas are the truth and smugly demanding that other people agree with her way of thinking.  I'm sure that she's overestimated her self worth to the point of being almost intolerable to be around.  And unfortunately, most people are far too nice and polite to tell her to go take a flying leap.

My husband was dismayed by this blog entry he read.  I asked him if he thought his daughter was the kind of person who lit up a room when she entered it.  Is she the kind of person who is a friend to everyone, no matter what?  Does she have a smile that makes other people smile?  Does she treat people with fairness and decency?  Is she kind and loving?

Or is she the type of person who scrutinizes other people, searching for ways they fall short?  Does she judge other people for being human?  Does she exclude them when she feels they don't meet her standards in some way? 

When she was 12 years old, my husband got a letter from her, accusing him of being "prideful"as she drop kicked him out of her life.  At that point, I sort of got an idea of what kind of person she was becoming.  When my husband shares snippets about her blog, particularly when she boasts about her righteous lifestyle and modest clothing choices, I can see that she doesn't know the first thing about perfection and behaving as Christ would.  Incidently, that hateful letter she sent several years ago is the last communication my husband ever got from her.  I'm thinking we've been spared a lot of bullshit over the past few years.

The tinfoil hat that girl is wearing goes well with the Kool-Aid stains all over her modest wardrobe.  I really hope for her sake she gets her head out of her ass someday.  Unless she stays in that rapidly diminishing religious bubble she's in, the real world will be an unpleasant reality check for her.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My review of Carole King and James Taylor Live at the Troubadour...

I originally posted this on Epinions.com, but I doubt many people will see it.  It's an excellent album, so I'm going to repost my review here...

As a bonafide child of the 70s and 80s, I've enjoyed music by Carole King and James Taylor for as long as I can remember. I have all of their earliest albums which, as any fan of theirs knows, were often collaborative efforts. Carole King played on a lot of James Taylor's early albums and James Taylor, in turn, helped out Carole King on some of her early hits. Back in November 2007, the two got back together for a concert at The Troubadour, a famous L.A. club where many of the most legendary artists of the 1970s got their start. James Taylor and Carole King originally played at the Troubadour from 1971 to early 1972. At their November 2007 Troubadour concert, they were joined by fellow band members Russell Kunkel, Leland Sklar, and Danny Kortchmar (Kootch). That concert ended with a lot of smiles, tears, and a hell of a CD/DVD set called Live at The Troubadour (2010).

When I came home from my recent vacation, I had an email from James Taylor's Web site alerting me to the album's existence. Naturally, being the Carole King and James Taylor fan that I am, I had to check it out. For $13.99, I could get the CD/DVD set and an MP3 digital download of the CD. It was the MP3 download that made me bite on the deal, since the CD/DVD was just released on May 4th. It wasn't shipping at the time of my purchase and I was eager to hear the album.

The CD/Digital Download

The audio recording of Live at the Troubadour consists of fifteen songs and runs for an hour and three minutes. More than half of the songs were either written or made famous by James Taylor; there are five that are strictly Carole King numbers and one song that was written by Carole King and made famous by both King and Taylor.

The songs

The concert kicks off with "Blossom", a song James Taylor wrote and recorded for his 1970 album, Sweet Baby James. Taylor sings this classic in a lower key, accompanying himself on guitar while Carole King plays piano. I've always really liked this song and it's nice to have an updated version of it. I like Taylor's mellowed out rendition, too... I think I prefer it to the original. The crowd likes it too.

Carole King takes the lead for "So Far Away", a song she wrote and made famous back in 1971 for her amazing album, Tapestry. Carole King still sounds pretty good, considering she's now in her 60s. She plays this elegant song in its original key, reaches for the high notes, and manages to hit them fairly convincingly. While her vocals are not quite as clear as they were in the 70s, they're still impressively strong.

Danny Kortchmar, who wrote "Machine Gun Kelly" for Taylor's 1971 album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, takes the stage to play guitar on an updated rendition of this song. Taylor introduces him along with Leland Sklar on drums and Russell Kunkel on bass. Originally, this song was kind of folksy. Here, it's been turned into a rock song, played in a lower key with powerful guitar rifts by Kootch himself. I think it's an improvement, though I also like the original. The song is fun to listen to anyway, with its warning about listening too closely to the Mrs.

Next comes a stirring version of Taylor's "Carolina In My Mind", a song that Taylor has said is among his favorites. It's one of my favorites too. Taylor's vocals are beautiful on this classic, which is augmented by his masterful acoustic guitar and Carole King's rich piano playing. I think this rendition is one of the best I've ever heard.

Carole King takes the mic again for a very true to form version of "It's Too Late", another huge hit from Tapestry. This song is timeless, with its lyrics about a couple on the verge of breaking up. King plays it in a way that will be very familiar to her fans. Again, I'm impressed by her strong vocals. Kootch, Kunkel, and Sklar give the song a little beef with their plugged instruments and Taylor sings harmony. Kootch replaces the sax solo from the original with a bluesy guitar solo and King follows up with a piano solo. The song is updated nicely, not that it needed it.

King continues with "Smackwater Jack", an uptempo number from Tapestry about an outlaw with a shotgun in his hand. I really like this song and it's a nice change of pace for the album, too. It sounds like the audience might even be clapping along. Listening to the lyrics, I'm reminded of how much simpler things were in the 70s. It's basically a song about a guy who went postal and shot down a congregation. And yet, the melody is kind of bouncy and comic.

Taylor brings down the tempo with "Something In The Way She Moves", a song that he explains got him a record deal with Apple Records, a label owned by The Beatles. Taylor explains that he wrote the song in 1967 and played it for producer, Peter Asher, who is in attendance at the Troubadour concert. This song remains timeless and gorgeous.

"Will You Love Me Tomorrow" is a song that Carole King and ex husband Gerry Goffin wrote together. It was originally made famous by the Shirelles, but I've always preferred King's slower, more heartfelt rendition from Tapestry, which she recreates here with help from James Taylor. The way Carole King plays this song never fails to bring a lump to my throat. It's just beautiful.

James Taylor is back with "Country Road", another well-known song from his 1970 album Sweet Baby James. Danny Kortchmar gives it a facelift with a few subtle strokes of his guitar.

Naturally, Taylor has to perform "Fire and Rain", probably one of his most famous and popular songs. To be honest, there are Taylor songs that I prefer to this one, but I can always appreciate his dramatic lyrics and the sensitive melody. And Taylor's vocals are wonderful and warm on this version.

Taylor kicks off "Sweet Baby James" with the story of how he came to compose the song on a highway. He was on his way home to see his family and his older brother, Alex, was a new father. Taylor wanted to sing a lullaby for the infant, whose name was also James. So he came up with the cowboy inspired song, "Sweet Baby James", a song that has really grown on me over the years. Taylor tells the story with his trademark laidback humor, then sings the song with his equally trademark love and tenderness. King sings harmony and sounds suspiciously like Taylor's first ex wife, Carly Simon.

It's time for a tempo change and King delivers it with a rollicking version of "I Feel The Earth Move". This song brings the house down, as King thunders on her piano. The crowd loves it and so do I. King sounds a little vocally tired at this point, but she gamely carries on with plenty of energy on the piano. I love the updated arrangement, too.

Carole King and James Taylor are both famous for their versions of King's gorgeous ballad, "You've Got A Friend". This song appeared on both Tapestry and Mud Slide Slim. As much as I love James Taylor's music, I actually prefer King's version of this song. But here, it sounds like they combined to make a new collaboration. The style is more like Taylor's version, with a little updating. They harmonize beautifully together and I'm betting that those who were lucky enough to hear this live had tears in their eyes when it was over. I love Carole King's adlib at the end, too.

The collaborative effort continues with "Up On The Roof", another Gerry Goffin-Carole King composition made famous both singers. Carole King and James Taylor team up and sing it in mash up form. They start with Carole King's sunny, hopeful rendition from Tapestry, then switch to Taylor's darker, more romantic version from his 1979 album Flag. I like Taylor's version better, but it's definitely cool the way they arranged this for fans of both, switching back and forth as if one might switch radio stations.

The concert ends with Taylor's sweetly romantic "You Can Close Your Eyes", a song from Mud Slide Slim that was never a hit, but remains a favorite. Taylor begins with an intricate guitar solo and he and King sound beautiful together. Once again, King sounds a lot like Carly Simon when she harmonizes. Imagine if Carly were on stage, too... wow!

The DVD

The DVD that comes with this set is basically a film of the concert, which is a real treat to watch. Carole King and James Taylor both look fabulous, as do Kortchmar, Kunkel, and Sklar. It's great to see how the band interacts with each other after all the time that's passed. There's a little background information included about the Troubadour club, which has apparently stayed the same for as long as it's been around. King and Taylor describe it as a very nurturing place for musicians. I can imagine it must have been magic to play there and to catch a performance.

Booklet

This CD/DVD set comes with a booklet with pictures of the artists as well as memories contributed by Carole King and James Taylor.

Overall

I think this set is a must have for people who love music by Carole King, James Taylor, or both. Even though most of these songs have been played, revamped, recorded, and repackaged a number of times over the years, somehow Taylor and King managed to make them fresh again with this recording. And it really is a magical thing to see and hear these two legends playing together again. Fortunately, this concert was so successful that Taylor and King have taken their act to the road and are touring this summer. Until you can get to a venue to see them, I recommend getting a taste by purchasing Live at the Troubadour.

For more information: http://troubadour-reunion.com/
Obligatory Amazon.com plug... It really is worth buying, though you can get it cheaper at the above link.

Varmints in the garden!

My dear husband and I decided to take advantage of the fine southern weather by planting a garden.  We've been growing plants since February; started with some of them inside and then moved 'em outside.  We've kept a few plants on our deck because there are tons of deer in the area who would love to make a snack out of them.  Some of the other stuff, we moved to a plot behind the house.

I went down to the garden today to find it in a sorry state.  Some critter raided it within the last night or two and chewed all the tops off my green bean plants and sugar snap peas.

This is what my garden looks like right now...


Pretty sorry, huh?  Right now, the only thing that's really taken off are the radishes... something we don't eat a whole lot of these days.  Still, it's fun to watch the yard for new visitors.  Here are a few we've seen in these parts...







Pretty soon, I'm sure I'll be snapping photos of snakes, too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sooo... Krista won Top Model

Being out here in BFE means that I have to watch TV on the Internet or iTunes.  I didn't get to see America's Next Top Model's Cycle 14 finale until this morning.  Not that I really needed to watch...

For the past few weeks, Krista, the 25 year old who's apparently tried out for 12 cycles or more, won the title.  I could have predicted she'd win, a la Cycle 8's winner, Jaslene Gonzalez.  Tyra Banks loves it when people give her a tongue bath and talk about how much they want to be the next top model.  She loves to crown former rejects. 

Krista is interesting looking, mind you, but she's hardly the type of person I'd think of pitching Cover Girl makeup or Seventeen magazine.  For one thing, she's too old.  For another thing, she just doesn't look like the type of person teenaged girls would get excited over.  Tyra and company gushed about how high fashion Krista is.  But Cover Girl cosmetics on a high fashion model?  I don't think so.

I watch the show for the drama, anyway.  I don't give a shit about fashion and you can definitely tell that to look at me.  But I think this show is a bit of a joke and has been for some time.  The fact that it took so long to get rid of skanky Angelea is a pretty good indication of what that show is all about.

I guess I should be ashamed that I watch such schlock, but it's kind of like a trainwreck.  Watching ANTM reminds me of how young I'm not anymore and how that's not such a terrible thing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dusting off the ole resume...

So... my dear spouse mentioned my background to a guy he works with who is employed by a government contractor.  The guy asked for a copy of my CV, which until this morning, hadn't been updated in years.  I pulled it up today and added what little I could to it.

I'm left with some conflicting feelings about looking for work.  On one hand, I'd love to be earning a paycheck again.  It's been too long since I made money on a regular basis.  On the other hand, I relish my freedom and I'm feeling a little down on what I have to offer.

Actually, I can offer a lot.  It's just packaging it that's hard, particularly since I've been out of a regular job for so long.  I have talent, experience, and education, but it's not in an official capacity.

But, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  So I'll dust it off and pass it around and hope it leads to something.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shower The People...

One of my favorite James Taylor songs is "Shower The People".  It's a song about showing the ones you love how much and how deep your love is for them.  James sings "things are gonna be much better if you only will..." But most people never do.

The one exception to this rule, at least in my life, is my husband.  When I get an email from him, he signs off with an affectionate "love you".  When we talk on the phone, he tells me he loves me.  Before he leaves for work in the morning, he kisses me goodbye.  He showers me with love and affection every day.  Don't think I don't realize how lucky I am.

I've come to realize that if you have one person in your life who really loves you and shows it, things really are much better.  And I'm just as happy to shower my man with love and affection... he makes it easy. 

Come to think of it... James Taylor has another song called "You Make It Easy", which is all about temptation to cheat.  But I have no temptation to cheat, not that anyone would oblige me anyway. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day...

Mother's Day doesn't mean too much to me because I don't have kids.  I do have a mother, though.  I called her yesterday.  She was in my dad's hospital room.  He had back surgery the other day-- the same kind he had two years ago.  It was pretty scary because he really hasn't been the same mentally since that first surgery.  The surgery he just had Friday seemed to go well enough, but again, he's having trouble recovering. 

So I called my mom to say Happy Mother's Day.  She's never been particularly sentimental and wasn't really in the mood to talk, other than to tell me that my dad was having some complications.  This wasn't unexpected, really.  We figured he would have complications.

Other than that, I spent my morning vacuuming and steam cleaning the carpets, doing laundry, and gardening.  Then I got some beagle love from my two furbabies.  My dear husband was also onhand. 

I watched a little Ernest Angley, which I often do when I need a laugh.  The musicians on that show crack me up.  It's like Lawrence Welk meets Hee Haw with crappier musicians.  I usually watch a few minutes each week, just to see the musicians.  I wonder how many of them are trained professionals who just play on the show because it's a paying gig... or at least I assume it's a paying gig.  Too funny.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Advice columns...

Did you ever spend any time reading an advice column?  When I was young, I used to read Dear Abby and Ann Landers religiously.  Then, as I got older and stopped reading print newspapers, I would catch an advice column or two in magazines or on the Internet. 

Slate.com has an advice column called Dear Prudence.  It's authored by Emily Yoffe, a writer I am familiar with because I read her book, What the Dog Did.  Like me, she adopted beagles from BREW (Beagle Resource Education and Welfare), so I had to read her book.

Anyway, I often enjoy Dear Prudence, because it seems like the editors pick the quirkiest letters for Prudie to answer.  I like the column, but I don't always agree with Prudie's advice, particularly when it comes to stepmoms.  Don't get me wrong... I barely qualify as a stepmom as it is.  But I have a lot of friends who are stepmoms and have daily dealings with their husbands' children from a prior relationship.  And, well, that's just made me feel pretty protective toward stepmoms as a group.  I think they're too often maligned and misunderstood, even though some of them deserve the derision they get.

Prudie seems to think that stepmoms should a): treat and love their stepchildren as if they were their own and b): never interfere in their stepchildren's relationship with their father.  And I want to tell Prudie that clearly she's never been a stepmom and probably has no clue what it's like.

In a perfect world, it would be possible for stepmothers to love and care for their husband's kids as if they were their own.  In a perfect world, bio moms and stepmoms would always work together to see that the children's interests always come first.  Fathers would take care of their kids and never ask their second (or third or fourth) wife to look after the child without giving her authority to discipline them.  Fathers would never allow guilt to dictate how they treat their kids and their wives when the kids are around.  Stepchildren and stepmoms would get along and respect each other; everyone would always be able to maintain perspective of where the other person is coming from.  No one would expect the stepmom to take any responsibility when she has no authority.  No one would ever step on anyone else's toes.

But the world isn't perfect and that's not reality.

In my case, my husband's ex wife has thus far only let the children visit once-- for about 48 hours.  After that, she claimed I was a "bad influence" and tried to force my husband to see the children only when she was present.  One year, she even tried to force us all to spend Christmas together at my in laws' house.  Now... I have never actually met my husband's former wife in the flesh.  I've never really had the opportunity, because she lives thousands of miles away from us.  But she never approached me and asked me how I felt about this forced holiday gathering.  She just expected I'd be there.  Incidentally, she and her husband stayed at my in laws' house; my husband was relegated to a hotel room.  I chose to skip the event because I thought it would be a disaster and I had no desire to spend the holidays with my husband's ex wife.  Besides, we were broke at the time and couldn't afford an extra plane ticket or boarding for our dogs.  So I stayed home and caught some hell for it.

My husband said the gathering was a disaster.  His younger daughter refused to speak to him and his older daughter was depressed and anxious.  Ex's current husband acted like a complete asshole to my husband in his own father's house.  Had I been there, I'm sure there would have been a big cat fight, too.  We would have paid good money for this experience.

A couple of years after that incident, Ex's son decided to move away from home... probably because he was hoping to escape the pressure to do a mission for the LDS church.  Ex called my husband and demanded that he talk to the young man, put some sense into his head.  Hubby refused to do it.  Next thing we know, she's telling us how much the kids hate me.  These kids have only met me once.  When they were with me and their father, they obviously had a good time.  No one cried-- plus, I'm told by my husband's father and stepmother that they spoke positively about us incessantly after their visit (they stopped by the in laws' house on the way back to their home state).  Moreover, Ex had once expected them to spend Christmas with me and they haven't seen me since, so I'm not sure that I'm responsible for them hating me.  And then, to add insult to injury, she told my husband not to share that information with me... "to spare my feelings".

I finally wrote Ex a letter--my first and only communication with her to date-- giving her a good sized piece of my mind.  I was extremely pissed, mainly because she kept dragging me into her communications with my husband, claiming that my presence was, in part, what was wrong with the kids and why they didn't want to see their dad.  The only thing I have done is marry a man who was legally divorced.  I have never stood in the way of my husband's kids seeing or talking to their father.  I have never interfered with his ex wife's communications with him, either, though I have expressed an opinion when he has shared them with me.  I told her that we would not be the friends she had claimed she wanted us to be, because she hadn't shown me any respect whatsoever.  I told her that I thought she was selfish and abusive and that I predict one day, her kids would know what a whackaloon she is.

Some months later, just in time for hubby's birthday, we got a bunch of boxes of hubby's stuff that Ex had been holding onto for several years.  Along with the stuff, there was an itemized inventory and hateful letters from my husband's daughters demanding that he give them up for adoption to their stepfather (Ex's third husband).  Ex also wrote a shitty letter.  And she enclosed the necessary paperwork for adoption.

I have to say... for a split second, my husband was tempted to sign those papers.  He was devastated by the letters his formerly sweet daughters had written.  But, in the end, he didn't sign for several reasons.  First off, stepfather had not shown any indication that he wanted to adopt the girls.  Secondly, it was clear that the girls didn't know what adoption meant.  Thirdly, even if he'd signed them, Ex wouldn't have to file them.  And fourthly, he had hope that his daughters would one day come around.

That was in 2006.  He hasn't spoken to his daughters since.  In the ensuing years, my husband's former stepson has also betrayed him.  I have had to sit by and watch all of this unfold.

So... when Dear Prudence tells stepmoms that they should love their stepchildren as if they were their own... and that they should never interfere with their husband's relationships with their kids, I can tell that she's never been there, done that.  And for that reason, in my opinion, she tends to give crappy advice when it comes to blended family issues.

I never wanted to be anyone's wicked stepmother.  When I married my husband, I fully hoped I could at least have a cordial relationship with his kids.  But, I have to say, after seeing where they came from and observing their behavior, I don't want to have anything to do with them.  I don't want to act as if they're mine and I'm sure as hell not going to let them influence my husband without having something to say about it.  Hate stepmothers all you want, but we're people too and we have rights.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Disinheritance...

It never ceases to amaze me how some people feel entitled to their parents' money after said parents have passed on.  Things tend to get especially complicated when said parents are married to a new partner.  A lot of times adult children of divorce get their panties all in a wad over their inheritance.  Wouldn't want Ma or Pa to leave anything to the stepparent, now would we?

I have a friend who recently became a stepchild when her mother remarried after my friend's father died.  She actually told me that she feared her mother's new husband would steal her inheritance and, perhaps, pass it on to his own kids.  I guess that's a valid enough concern, except for the fact that whatever her mom has to pass on to her children belongs to her mom right now.  It's hers to do with whatever she wants.  That's a simple fact.  So why shouldn't mom feel okay about leaving everything to her spouse if she wants to?

By the way, my friend's mom does not strike me as the type of person who would neglect to leave anything to her children.  I have every confidence that she will have taken care of that detail... if not because she's usually on top of such things, then because my friend will have spoken to her repeatedly and at length about it.

My own parents are getting on in years.  My mom, being an endlessly pragmatic woman, has been giving stuff to me and my sisters for years now.  In fact, there's a piano sitting at her house that has my name on it.  I just have to find the time and few strong folks to go up to Virginia to get it.  Since I live in the deep south, that's not such an easy feat.  Anyway, by the time my parents are gone-- which may not be too much longer in my dad's case-- I expect that there won't be that much left to fight over.  My mom seems intent on sparing us from having to deal with that trauma.  But really, it would be okay if she weren't like that.  The point is, it's up to her to decide what she wants to do with her money and her stuff... sell it, leave it to somebody, burn it, or dump it in the trash.

As for my dear husband and me, we don't have anyone to leave anything to.  Since my husband's kids disowned him, for now, they have been disinherited.  It was hard for my husband to make that decision, but if they don't care enough about him to call him "dad" or spend five minutes on the phone with him, they probably don't care about his stuff.  We don't have a lot of stuff, anyway... at least nothing anyone would want that badly.  I guess the one exception is the life insurance policy.  But life insurance is intended to help those who will be paying the bills after a person's death.  That person will be me, not the kids.  And no, I don't think they should get a windfall in the unfortunate event of their biological father's demise. 

If, at some point, they exhibit a significant and sincere change of heart, we will revisit the subject of their inheritance.  Right now, they seem to think the man who helped create them, changed their diapers, fed them, and supported them all these years is nothing more than a sperm donor with a wallet who should pay reparations for the fact that they were born and their parents' marriage didn't work out. 

Anyway, the older I get, the more this subject and the attitude of entitlement intrigues me.  It will be interesting to see what the future holds, even if the coming events make me sick.  

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hating my computer...

It happens with every machine, doesn't it?  Eventually, they all get to the point of being too much of a pain in the ass to operate.  My computer is not even three years old yet and I think it's already reaching that point.  It craps out over the slightest searches.  It's slow and takes forever to boot up in the mornings.  It's time to invest in a new computer, but I think my next machine will be an Apple and that will take some funds.  So, for now, I'm putting up with my computer, hoping the hard drive doesn't conk out.

At least this time, when I plug in my new machine, I won't have to deal with a fried motherboard when the voltage doesn't work out.  We bought this computer in Germany and the first time I plugged it in, it was set to American voltage.  Needless to say, there was a small explosion when 220 volts hit it instead of 120 volts.

Creepy Mormons...

I may catch some flak for writing this post, but it's on my mind, so here goes...

My husband is an ex-Mormon.  His estranged kids are Mormons.  I am not and never have been a Mormon, but because of my husband's situation, I've learned a lot about the faith.

In the last couple of months, I've read news stories about a political star who, back in 1985, had "inapproriate sexual relations" with a 15 year old girl in a hot tub, then tried to cover it up with hush money.

A 20 year old male BYU student who was a home teacher to a 19 year old woman, lured her into a laundry room.  He tasered her in the arm and attempted to handcuff her and, it appears, stuff her in a box.  She bit his finger when he stupidly stuck it in her mouth.  Now he's facing some serious attempted kidnapping and assault charges over what he called an "April Fool's joke".

A 56 year old unemployed man who met a single woman in her 70s at an LDS singles dance.  He proceeded to swindle the woman out of her credit card, which he then used to run up over $20,000 in charges, $3600 of which were tickets to BYU football games and a Cougar Club membership...

Meanwhile, my husband's daughters have disowned him, in part, because he doesn't believe in their church which, incidentally, proclaims that "families are forever".  Their mother, who, after the kids met me once, said I was a "bad influence" is now married to husband #3 and has two more kids with her latest victim.

I'm all for religious freedom, but I'm also for freedom of opinion.  And it's my opinion that the Mormons aren't as squeaky clean as they'd have the rest of us "Gentiles" believe.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

You just never know who you'll meet...

So, in the aftermath of our vacation, I've discovered that we were rubbing elbows with a few minor celebrities.  Two people on our cruise are in the music business and have worked extensively with a certain well known 80s talent.  One person is a current reality TV star.  I didn't know who he was when we were onboard, though, because I don't get to watch much TV these days.  That's what we get for living out in the woods where cable doesn't reach.

Now that I've been off the boat for a week, I'm wanting to get back on.  And that's odd, because not only did I get seasick, I also got bored a few times.  I guess that says something about my everyday life, doesn't it?

One thing that always pops into my mind after meeting people is how I often wish I had a second chance to make a first impression.  I wish I were more laid back.  Of course, if that were the case, I wouldn't be me... I'd be somebody else.  Oh well... I'm weird.  I've always been weird and will likely always be weird.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The first day of May...

April flew by and now it's May.  Our yard is practically glowing with green plants and knee-high grass that needs to be cut.  We don't have lawnmower yet.  Guess that's something we'll have to buy this weekend.

A week ago, I was on a beautiful beach sipping champagne and eating caviar and barbecue.  Today, I've steam cleaned the carpets and picked up several piles of dog shit.  Reality bites.