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  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 got upset over the use of that word, I took a moment to look it up on  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 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

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.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I don't know why, but for some reason this morning, I feel like writing about my experiences with depression.  Maybe it's because it's a cold, rainy, November day and the day kind of got off to a yucky start.  For one thing, I had a nightmare this morning about my husband's former stepson.  Until recently, my husband thought of him as his son... but then the kid showed his true colors and betrayed him, making it clear that all my husband was to him was a source of cash.  It would be so nice if we could just write the whole thing off and forget about him and his sisters, but that's pretty much impossible.  So I still have bad dreams about all three of them.

I got up this morning and saw that it was raining outside, knowing that would be bad news for my dogs.  I took them out to do their business and neither one of them seemed particularly interested in staying out longer than a minute or two.  The older one managed to do all he needed to do, but the younger one laid a big stinky dump in the kitchen.  So I had to clean that up, and when I went to get some toilet paper to pick up the shit, it turned out the bathroom was low on toilet paper.  Oh well... at least it wasn't out of toilet paper...

Then I went to the refrigerator to get out the half and half because I figured a morning like this one called for a pot of hot coffee.  I spilled the water as I tried to put it in the coffeemaker.  Then, when I went to get the half and half, I realized my husband had put a piece of roast beef in the fridge wrapped up in foil, but he neglected to put a plate under it.  So there was a bloody mess all over the shelf in the fridge that I had to clean up.

And ol' Zane, the younger pooch, keeps whining at me because he wants my attention for one reason or another...  I guess it's nice to know that at least someone out there needs me around.  Actually, I know my husband does and I know he loves me.  Twelve years ago, I didn't have that kind of love.  In fact, I was very depressed, crying all the time, and thinking of suicide.

Twelve years ago...  it was November 1998 and I had been home from my Peace Corps assignment for about a year.  I was 26 years old and living with my parents.  That was hell on earth for me and for them.  My father is an alcoholic and, at this point, suffers from dementia.  I'm sure he's much worse now than he was back then, but he was bad enough then.  And I was pretty paralyzed with depression and having a hard time launching... that, coupled with verbal abuse, made it pretty hard for me to function properly.

I had a stressful job waiting tables at a restaurant, where I routinely got abused by co-workers and customers.  I had been seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist for three months and was taking antidepressants that were making things worse rather than better.

I remember November 1998 as one of the worst times of my life.  I felt like a loser and started thinking that the world might be better off without me in it.  I'm sure there were people around me back then who would have agreed with me.  Things came to a head one day in mid November when I had a meltdown at work and had to leave.  One of my co-workers called my shrinks for me and I ended up going in to see them.  I admitted to feeling suicidal, but assured them I wasn't planning to kill myself.

I remember my therapist asking me what I planned to do with the rest of my day.  I told him I was going home to read a book.  He said, "You're not going to read Sylvia Plath, are you?"  Looking back, that was a pretty funny comment... but I didn't have much of a sense of humor that day.  My psychiatrist told me to start taking three Prozacs a day, which is a huge dose.  That made things even worse.  Prozac didn't really seem to help me very much, although the shrink told me I'd had a "partial response" to it.  All I remember it doing was making me completely lose any interest in sex, which wasn't a bad thing, given the fact that I had no love life anyway.  But even masturbation was a lost cause.

I remember Thanksgiving sucked.  I spent it with my extended family a couple hundred miles away, then rushed home to go to work that Saturday night.  I couldn't do anything right and one of my partners yelled at me.  I was very close to being at my wits end.

Finally, in early December 1998, my psychiatrist switched my antidepressant to Wellbutrin SR.  I remember taking the first dose of one of those purple pills at a restaurant.  Things changed very suddenly.  Within a few days, I was feeling much better.  I started making plans for the future.  I decided to go to graduate school.

While in graduate school the following November, I met my husband online.  Three Novembers after that, we got married.  And now, we've spent eight Novembers married... or at least it will be eight years on the 16th.  Incidentally, our anniversary is also my husband's former stepson's birthday.  I didn't know it was his birthday when I chose the date.  I just wanted a fall wedding and that was the most convenient time to get married.  But if I had known, I certainly would have chosen a different day... because I'm sure the fact that we got married on former stepson's birthday was somehow spun into something diabolical in my husband's kids' world.  It rained on our wedding day, anyway.

It occurs to me that my stepdaughters probably would have preferred it if I had followed my instincts toward self-destruction in November 1998.  I have a feeling they blame me for everything that's happened to them.  The reality is, I met their dad online in 1999, after he had been kicked out of his house by their mother.  I didn't even know he was married until several months later, and never thought I'd actually meet him in the flesh.  When I did finally meet him in person in 2001, he had been divorced for about a year.  Their dad never even so much as flirted with me until the day his divorce became final.  Meanwhile, their mother was shacking up with future husband #3.

My husband is truly my first and only true love.  I never dated much before I met him.  It always seemed like the guys I liked didn't like me.  And the guys who liked me didn't interest me.  I've always had a lot of male friends, but they mostly seemed to think of me as a sister or "one of the guys".  So, the last thing I am is a homewrecker or a whore.  In fact, I lost my virginity to my husband at age 30, two weeks after our wedding day.  Cue the theme song for "Lowered Expectations..."


Eh...  I guess it doesn't matter what they think, anyway.  They're going to think what they're gonna think.  And there's no reason for me to feel guilty when I know I did nothing wrong.  It's a shame that they're missing out on their father, though.  He's a wonderful man and a good part of the reason why I'm not depressed anymore.

In fact, it's been a long time since I was last good and depressed.  I stopped taking Wellbutrin in 2004 and I mostly haven't missed it.  The only thing I miss about Wellbutrin is the way it helped me keep my weight down.  I don't miss the regimen of remembering the pills or visiting the shrink.  I miss my therapist somewhat, but he later became a Facebook friend, so it's all good.  In fact, life is pretty good now.  I'm glad I'm not dead.

Those of you out there who are dealing with depression, I'm here to tell you that it's worth treating.  It's a real problem and you deserve to feel better.  I felt like warmed over shit for many years.  Today, I feel much better.  But it does seem like every November, I remember the time when I just wanted to be beamed away somewhere else... and I felt like everyone around me wanted me to be beamed away, too.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Just say f**k it...

I just finished reading an interesting book called F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way by John C. Parkin.  Parkin is an Englishman who lives in Italy.  He's somewhat of an expert on Eastern philosophies and believes that many of us would be a lot healthier if we just learned to say "fuck it" to most of our problems.    I can admit to being the type of person who stresses too much over things I can't change or control.  It's hard to just say "fuck it", though... That's not how I was raised.

Anyway, this book was surprisingly insightful and fun to read.  I passed it along to my husband, who really could stand to say "fuck it" more often than he does.  He cares way too much about what other people think of him and takes their comments and criticisms entirely too much to heart.  On the other hand, so do I.

What Parkin reminds his readers is that when it comes down to it, most things simply don't matter that much.  In the grand scheme of things, all you'll get from worrying and trying to control things is a headache and a troubled psyche.  It really is best to just relax and enjoy the ride as much as possible.  I guess that's why I shouldn't get so worked up over my husband's past... especially since that will never change.  All we can do is focus on the future.  I have a feeling it will be a sweet one for us.

Incidentally, Parkin actually runs week long seminars at his holistic center in Italy.  Maybe someday we'll get to pay him a visit.