Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 2013 has been a hell of a month...

I'm glad it's the last day of the month.  For one thing, January 2013 has been very expensive.  First we had to buy more contact lenses for me so I can see.  That cost over $300.  Then we had to pay the rest of MacGregor's outstanding vet bill from NC State.  That was $257.  Then we got Arran... another $250.  Granted we didn't have to get him-- but I wanted him.  Then we paid off our cruise, which we had been saving for, but still that was another $5100 or so.  Then we booked air, another $1880, which got put on my credit card and actually represented $300 less than we would have spent, had I not redeemed some credit card points.  Then Zane had to go to the vet because he got an eye infection... $80 more.  Fortunately, we have been able to pay for everything.  In years past, this January would have been a challenge.

I'm also glad January is ending because it's been kind of a hard month.  It was the first month since April 2004 that we haven't had MacGregor around.  I still find myself calling Zane MacGregor, even though he doesn't look anything like MacGregor.  I love having Arran.  He's a great dog.  But MacGregor was really special.

This is a video I made when we lived in Germany.  MacGregor is the noisy one; Flea is the other dog.  We lost Flea in November 2009 to prostate cancer.  He was my baby.

Switching subjects... I just saw a commercial that pisses me off.

I hate this ad, because it just perpetuates how fathers get pushed out of their children's lives when Mom moves on to someone new.  I know sometimes attentive stepfathers are a God send... It still pisses me off when mothers replace their children's fathers after divorce.  If the situation were reversed and it was a stepmother presenting jewelry or some equivalent gift to her stepson in an attempt to replace his mother, people would be all up in arms.  Stepmom would be accused of stepping on the natural mother's toes.

Once again... I wish people would be more careful about choosing their mates.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Two hours well spent...

Last night, I started reading a great book that I've had on my Kindle for probably two years.  I remember reading a review of a book called States of Confusion and thinking it sounded like a fun read.  So I bought it and then promptly got hung up reading a bunch of other books.  Almost two years later, I'm finally at a point at which I can dive into this book by Paul Jury and I'll be damned, it's very entertaining.

So this afternoon, I figured I'd spend a couple of hours reading about Jury's jaunt around the United States.  Yes, basically this book is about a guy who, feeling lost and directionless after college, decided to try to drive to each of the 48 continental states.  I laid down on my bed, joined by Zane and Arran, and dove into Jury's anecdotes about life in the United States while experienced when sleeping in one's car and eating endless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I'm about halfway through the book and will probably have it finished within the next day or so...

I finally hauled my ass off the bed about twenty minutes ago, took the dogs out for a pee break, where I was confronted by the neighbor's chickens.  The chickens seem to be more and more emboldened these days, creeping into our yard.  Not that I really care so much about that, except that we have two overgrown beagles who would probably enjoy chasing the chickens if they weren't restrained on leashes.

I sat down at my desk, the one I inherited from my German landlord after our all too brief two year stint in Deutschland, and Zane immediately started whining.  He always does that when he wants to get in my lap.  As soon as he gets the chance, he jumps into it, whether or not I'm prepared to receive him.  I wanted to get a picture of Arran at the door.  He jumps about three feet straight up into the air when he wants to go outside, yet he has trouble jumping on the bed on into my lap.

In other news, Arran finally chewed the legs off our Michael Vick chew toy that I originally purchased for Zane.  I might have to try to replace this toy once Arran's done having his way with it...  Zane is far too gentle with some of his toys.

Also... this is my 500th post on this blog!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Just because I am who I am...

I'm actually thinking about purchasing a pad of these...

Too bad I don't have much of an occasion to use them in real life.  My husband is terribly grown up and loving and very few other people are exposed to me.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Adoptions gone wrong...

I have never had any desire to adopt a child, even when it became clear that my husband would not be able to get me pregnant without medical intervention.  I have a lot of reasons for feeling the way I do about adoption.  Those who want to do it have my admiration, as long as they're doing it honorably and with the right intentions.

I have noticed that a lot of people who are interested in adopting children are very religious.  In fact, there's a woman who hangs out on the Recovery from Mormonism forum who has several adopted children.  She freely admits that she adopted them because she thought she was leading them to the gospel, never mind that two of them turned out to be severely affected by reactive attachment disorder and visited complete chaos on her home.  

Last night, I read with interest an update about the case of Sergeant Terry Achane, an Army drill sergeant whose ex wife had his daughter in Utah and gave her up for adoption without his consent.  The child was adopted by the Frei family, who already had five children and were hoping to find a black child to be a companion to their adopted black son.  When Achane found out about the illegal adoption, he took steps to get his daughter back.  The Freis fought back; consequently, 22 month old Teleah is just now with her rightful father instead of the people who have raised her since her birth.  

I first heard about the Achane/Frei case back in December, when someone posted a news article about it on RfM.  Here's a quote from that story...

On a blog about the case, where the Freis have raised more than $20,000 to help with legal bills, they vow to appeal McDade’s decision, describing the arrival of Achane’s daughter in their lives "a righteous desire blessed to fruition by God."

"We have not lost our conviction that we are in the right!!!!!!" Kristi Frei wrote after McDade’s Nov. 20 ruling dismissed their adoption petition. "We have only ever wanted to do right by Leah, and have always felt we have been acting in her best interest to keep her with our family and raise her as our own. Our hearts have demanded it — there has never been any question to us that she is OURS!!!"

I visited the Freis' blog last night and noticed that it appears to be cut down to one page. I imagine they got a lot of negative comments about their plans to raise the child they call Leah, mainly because a lot of people recognized that they had no right to raise her. She has a perfectly good father who wanted to be in her life and legally had the right to raise her. However, the Freis believe that they had the divine right to have the little girl... I imagine they think they were anointed by God.

Changing gears, another story that has gotten a lot of press is that of Kendra Skaggs, a woman who started a blog about her attempt to adopt a Russian orphan named Polina. Polina is disabled. Kendra Skaggs and her husband are devout Christians and they decided they wanted Polina. They jumped through many hoops to get her and were almost ready to be approved when they fell into the cracks of a new law proposed by Russia's president, Vladmir Putin, prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children.

Many Russians are very upset about this legislation, since so many orphans languish in Russia-- especially ones like Polina who are physically disabled. Looking at the Skaggs' blog this morning, it appears that they will get their new daughter. That's a happy ending, I think. It's better for Polina to have a family that wants her than grow up institutionalized.

About ten years ago, there was a lot of press about Anna He, a Chinese girl who was sort of "stolen" from her Chinese parents, who thought they were giving her up temporarily to an American couple. Her biological parents and adoptive parents fought for years over who would raise her. She ended up going to China when she was a young girl, not knowing the language or the culture and totally missing her American parents, who had apparently gotten her under some shady conditions.

I remember when Anna He was still very young and thinking her adoptive parents should let her biological parents have her before it was too late. As it turned out, by the time she got to China to live with her biological family, after her parents had split up, Anna He was a stranger in a strange land. I think she ultimately got a raw deal. She did get to visit her former foster parents in 2011, though.

Finally, there's the case of Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who legally adopted a little girl named Veronica in 2009. When it came to light that Veronica had Cherokee Indian blood, the adoption was challenged by Veronica's biological father, Dusten Brown, a registered member of Cherokee Nation. Brown had apparently initially agreed to allow the girl to be adopted, but later changed his mind.

In 1978, The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed as a means to stop abuse that had been going on for decades, which separated Native American children from their families and heritage through adoptions. From what I read on CNN, Dusten Brown thought the mother intended to raise the child herself, so he said he would relinquish his parental rights in order to avoid paying child support. But when he found out she intended to put the girl up for adoption, he decided he wanted to raise her himself.

The Capobiancos have had a very difficult time in their quest to become parents. They had gone through several IVF treatments that all failed. Adoption appeared to be their only chance at having children. I can't even imagine their devastation at having this happen, even as I also have empathy for biological fathers who are denied rights to their kids when the mothers decide to give them up for adoption.

Had my husband not had a vasectomy when he was with his ex wife, we probably would have had kids. I always wanted to be a mother. But all these stories about adoptions going wrong (and there are even more of them out there) makes the prospect of adoption very unappealing to me. And I figure if adoption doesn't appeal to me, it's probably better if I don't become a mother. The urge isn't strong enough to withstand that kind of heartache.

In any case, I am truly happy that Sergeant Achane got his daughter back. I hope they have a good life. I'm glad it looks like Kendra Skaggs will get Polina, because I think staying in a Russian orphanage will not serve the little girl. As for the Capobianco case, I'm not sure what to think...

Edited to add... This morning on RfM, someone posted this...

TBM niece "wants one of those" (black babies)...

A year or so ago one of our TBM nieces (with 5 kids of her own) and her DH adopted a black baby from Haiti. When she posted photos of the kids together, her TBM friends all "cooed" (quite patronizingly) about how adorable her family was, especially the new adoptee. One of our other nieces-also TBM with 3 kids posted "I so want one of those!" I was horrified but her comment was revealing of the general sense that adopting a little black child was the newest fad amongst this group of TBM Utahns.

I found it disturbing on a number of levels.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Starting yet another blog...

This one's for my travels.  I hope it will be less sordid than this blog is.  I just want a place to write about my travels that isn't sullied by my piss and vinegar posts about my husband's former wife and kids.

Here it is.

I've been to a lot of places, so I should have a lot to say.  Maybe there won't be as much swearing and smut, but I promise some nice photos and some cute anecdotes about the people we meet when we go away.

Catholic Church says life begins at conception...

but only so long as it doesn't cost them money.  Today, I was reading CNN and ran across a news story  about Jeremy Stodghill, father of a nine year old daughter named Libby.  On New Year's Day 2006, Stodghill's wife, Lori, was 28 weeks pregnant with their twin sons.  She showed up at the emergency room of St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colorado.  St. Thomas More Hospital is a Catholic owned institution.

Mrs. Stodghill ended up going into cardiac arrest while in the hospital's lobby.  She died, as did her twin boys.  Jeremy Stodghill was left to care for their daughter alone.  He subsequently sued the hospital's parent company, Catholic Health Initiatives, for the wrongful deaths of his wife and their unborn twins.

The hospital's lawyers argued that a fetus is not a person until it's born, a defense that shocked Stodghill.  That is contrary to the Catholic Church's official position that life begins at conception, although Colorado state law defines life as beginning at live birth.  Stodghill's sons were dead when they were removed from their deceased mother's womb.

The court agreed with the hospital's lawyers and Stodghill lost the case.  Catholic Health Initiatives then sued Mr. Stodghill for legal fees in excess of $118,000.  The hospital offered to drop the suit if Stodghill would drop his right to appeal.  Stodghill has declared bankruptcy to avoid paying the claim.

I was interested in this case because while I personally agree with Colorado's state law, I also see the hypocrisy Stodghill points to in his lawsuit.  The Catholic Church and so many other religious organizations like to dictate when life officially begins as long as it suits them.  If a woman wants an abortion or needs contraceptives, especially if she happens to work for the church and gets health insurance through them, they are happy to deny her that privilege.  But if a bereaved man who has lost his wife and unborn sons sues a Catholic owned hospital for wrongful death, they are quick to point to state law, which defines that a person's life doesn't begin until after a live birth.        

Stodghill, for his part, seems to be taking his loss very hard.  He has tattoos of his sons' feet on his chest.

It'll be interesting to see what happens with this case if it gets heard by the Colorado Supreme Court.  I can see both sides.

Breaking in our Roku...

Every Christmas, my husband gifts me with electronic gadgetry.  I suspect his gifts are often more about indulging his love for toys... and the fact that he doesn't know what to get for me.  I'm probably not very easy to shop for.  

Anyway, for Christmas 2012, he bought me a Roku, a device that streams stuff from the computer to the TV.  I was sort of familiar with the concept, since we bought an Apple TV when we lived in Germany and I used to buy TV shows and movies off iTunes to watch on our TV.  I didn't know that much about the Roku, though I heard people talking about it a lot.

I'm only just now playing with the Roku because our Internet speeds were way too slow to stream anything until maybe a week or two ago.  Today, we've been watching old Melrose Place episodes from the 90s.  This show is so over the top ridiculous... I kind of miss it, though.  I watched it a lot when I was in college.  It's also a treat to see Marcia Cross and Doug Savant on the first show they were on together before Desperate Housewives.  On the other hand, watching these shows makes me feel ancient.

My husband also gave me a Bose sound dock for Christmas.  It's actually really nice-- sounds great when I play my iPod.  He usually also gets me music, but this past year, he didn't.  Maybe when we move to Texas, I'll do away with TV again and just stick to the toys my husband buys for me.  It would spare me the angst of commercials, anyway.  Except I like being able to watch the news... it sort of gives me an insight into the local area...  So we'll see.    

A lot of the ice has melted, but that didn't stop my husband from falling on his ass when he took the dogs out.  They ran after a squirrel and he slipped on the ice on our front porch.  Poor guy.  Bet he'll be sore tomorrow.  I did something similar in Germany, only I fell on my ass while unpacking boxes.  I slipped on the wooden floor and landed hard on my tailbone.  It gave me a huge bruise and I still have a bump on my ass over five years later.

Well, I don't have a lot of anything of substance to write about today... 

Sure am looking forward to this in May, though...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snow? And more daddy bashing...

We got wintry weather today... probably for the first time since we moved to North Carolina in 2011.  Last year was very mild and we had no snow to speak of.  Today, there's been a "wintry mix" and I can see a few icicles outside.  This is so weird because I remember as a kid living in Virginia, we got snow at least a couple of times a year.  Maybe there really is something to all that talk about global warming.

I'm watching Dr. Phil right now and he's got drug addicted twins on there.  It seems they were adopted by their stepfather, who then divorced their mother.  He's being blamed for the way they turned out, even though they are grown women.  These women are slurring their words and have yucky skin and they're blaming their adopted dad/stepfather for the fact that they chose to use drugs.

And now they're talking to their mother and badmouthing their dad/stepdad/whatever the hell he is in a legal sense to these young women.  He has a ten year old daughter to think about.  Frankly, I can't blame him and his wife for not wanting twin heroin addicts hanging around their kid.  He apparently wants nothing to do with the twins.  Can't really blame him for that, either.  I do wonder, though, why he adopted them because it doesn't look like he thinks of them as his daughters anymore.  They seem to have no connection.

Mom is all patting her daughters on the back and it's a regular estrogen solidarity fest, with mom and daughters bonding as they trash their mother's ex husband.  Nobody brings up the fact that these young women became addicts on her watch.  And now they are saying her ex husband's wife fucked up his mind, because he didn't used to act that way.  Funny... I'm sure the same would be said about me because I don't encourage my husband to allow people to exploit and abuse him and treat him like a wallet.

Is their mother's ex husband responsible for the fact that he left them?  Yes, he is.  But it's hard to know exactly what led up to that decision and what happened once he did decide to leave.  Was Mom cooperative in co-parenting with him?  Or did she do her best to sabotage his efforts to stay involved with them?  Clearly, they didn't love each other anymore and were not happily married.  Would it have really been better if they had stayed together for their sake?

Besides, even if their dad did leave them, they made the choice to use drugs.  I don't know how life is for young folks today, but I remember all the anti-drug propaganda I was exposed to thirty years ago... The whole time I was in school, I was advised to "just say no".  I was shown why using recreational drugs is a bad thing to do.  Did they not get that message?  And was their dad there, sticking the needle in their arms?

In any case, it sounds like yet another poorly matched couple making poor decisions and splitting up.  These twins were in the middle of the mess.  There's plenty of blame to go around, though.  I take a dim view of adults who don't take responsibility for their decisions.  Whether their father left or not, they decided to use drugs.  They could have made a different decision.  I hope they do well, though.  They have their whole lives ahead of them.

As for Dr. Phil, I wish he'd stop pandering so much to women.  What he does is insulting to intelligent, independent women everywhere.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ode to Sniglets and other gifts from 80s era cable TV...

If you were around in the 1980s, you might have watched a lot of HBO.  I know I did, back in the day.  In the early 1980s, when I was probably too young to be watching it, HBO had a show called Not Necessarily The News.  It was basically a comedy show that spoofed the news.

Here's a sketch from that show that spoofed then President Ronald Reagan...

Another essential element of Not Necessarily The News (NNTN) was the concept of "Sniglets"... that is, "words that aren't in the dictionary, but should be".  Every week, Rich Hall would introduce new Sniglets to the viewing world until they became very popular and even spawned some books.

I never owned any of the books, but I did think Sniglets were clever.  I wasn't clever enough to come up with any of my own Sniglets, though.  If I had and it was aired, I would have won a t-shirt.  I wonder if I know anyone who scored one.

Along with Sniglets and "news", this show also made commercial parodies.  They were fun in the 1980s, since commercials back then were better than they are today...  at least in my humble opinion.

It's true we had a lot fewer channels in the 80s, but it seemed like there were better shows...  And TBS aired things at five minutes after the hour, probably to keep people from changing the channel, since shows on all the other channels would already be in progress...

I miss the 80s, but I don't think I'd want to be a kid again.  For one thing, I wouldn't want to have to hear Audra Lee of Kid's Beat again...  Most annoying!

Or In The News, which used to air during commercials during Saturday morning cartoons...

Awesome... (actually, seems to me that "awesome" became especially popular in the 80s)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Weird graffiti...

I'm determined not to write about anything serious today.  Back in May, my husband and I went to Germany on a military hop.  While we were there, I went around taking photos of all the weird stuff people post on signposts and spray paint on walls and such...  Here are a few photos from that trip.

My husband gave me the lowdown on Joseph Kony...

Make you want to run right out and join a gym, right?

The warnings on cigarette boxes are hilarious, especially when they're plastered all over the box...

Someone in Luxembourg isn't an Obama fan.

If you fuck the wrong person, you will most definitely be buying more.

I don't speak German... 

I would add more, but Blogger seems to mess up my photos when I try to upload them.  I was lucky to get these...  I actually have a lot of funny photos, though, all taken during our trips through Europe.  My husband thinks I should turn the photos into a book.  Someone's probably already done it anyway.

Anyway, maybe I'll write more later.  Right now, I'm going to go read Epinions and see how pissed off everybody seems to be about the new income share policy, which stops paying on reviews older than 5 years.  Some of my most successful reviews are old ones, so this may mean an income stream will be drying up.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Going viral... Or... why my husband didn't fight for his kids

About a week ago, a couple of people left me shitty comments on my post about Jessica McCord.  I wrote that post about a year ago, after my husband and I saw a particularly scary episode of Snapped, a show about women who "snap" and kill their husbands or lovers.  The episode that had scared me was about Jessica McCord and her first husband, Alan Bates.  They had a very contentious divorce after a disastrous marriage.  Jessica and her second husband, Jeff McCord, eventually murdered Bates and his second wife, Terra, when Bates was awarded custody of his two daughters with Jessica.

As I watched that episode of Snapped, I couldn't help but notice that Alan Bates and my husband suffered through similar relationship problems.  I also wondered if my husband could have suffered a similar fate had he and his ex wife done battle through the court system.  I dared to write that in my blog post and that invited several comments from people who think my husband is an asshole for not "fighting for his kids".  Better yet, they think I'm "crazy" too... because I happen to be married to a guy who didn't fight for his kids.

I've noticed that post has gotten a lot of hits.  Initially, I was surprised by its popularity, especially since so many other folks hit my blog because I posted about Michael Leland, the Hoveround guy.  But now I think I get it.  People love to hate, especially when an "evil stepmother" is involved.  A lot of people are children of divorce and resent their stepparents.  So I guess someone like me is an easy target, since I'm rather blunt and outspoken and I don't think the world should revolve around children.

I've noticed that over the past week, even more people have been hitting that post and some have even posted it to Facebook.  Wow...  It dawned on me this morning that my Jessica McCord post could actually end up going viral and I might end up with a bunch of unwanted attention just because I posted about seeing similarities between Jessica McCord and my husband's ex wife and wondered aloud if she might be capable of murder if my husband had fought for his kids in court.  When my husband and his ex were married, she allegedly threatened his life on more than one occasion.  Whether or not she was serious about her threats, I have no way of knowing.  However, I do know that my husband was abused in that marriage.  I've seen the after effects.

I guess I can understand why a few readers were "outraged" by that post... The three of them were female and I think many females feel like they have to be "mama bears" where children are concerned.  Of course, these same people would probably lambast my husband for taking the kids from their mother if he had tried to fight for them.  And as I explained in another post, my husband was left financially strapped after his divorce.  He was paying a lot of child support-- $2550 a month for three kids, only two of which were legally his responsibility.  He and his ex wife had a lot of financial problems during their marriage that he was recovering from.  It wasn't financially or logistically feasible for him to go to court and fight for his daughters.  Even if he had fought, it's likely he would have lost.  He's a man in the Army and his daughters would not have wanted to live with us anyway.

Being a practical sort with a healthy sense of self-preservation, my husband chose to let his daughters go.  It took a few years for him to come to that conclusion and it wasn't without a lot of thought or tears.  But there comes a point at which fighting truly becomes futile.  In any case, both of his daughters are adults now and, from what we can discern, are at least physically healthy.  They claim their mother's current husband is their "daddy".  If he's really such a great dad, perhaps they ought to be thanking their bio dad for backing off and letting him raise them.  But they're still pissed at their dad, so I guess their current "daddy" is really not as great as they claim he is.  Obviously, my husband hasn't just walked away without a second thought.  If he had, I wouldn't be writing about his kids.

I've written this before, but I'll write it again for those who are coming in late.  I don't see how most men can win when it comes to child custody, especially if they happen to be divorcing someone who has a cluster B personality disorder.  If the man fights for his kids in court, he's looked at as a jerk for taking the kids from their mother, who obviously must be the better parent because she has a uterus.  If the man doesn't fight for his kids, he's a jerk for abandoning them.  If the man gets remarried, his next spouse is obviously a homewrecker and a whore who broke up a happy family.  If the woman gets remarried, most people wish her luck and hope she's finally found her knight in shining armor.  And they praise her next husband for acting as a daddy figure in the absentee bio dad's stead, while the next wife is looked at with scorn for marrying a man who has children with another woman.

Honestly, when I met and married my husband, I had no idea that this stuff would happen.  I had never encountered someone like my husband's ex wife.  Regardless, I'm just my husband's wife.  I'm not the mother of his children and I have no legal rights to his kids.  Shit, by now, he may not even be their legal father anymore.  We have no way of knowing because no one has told us.  

My husband could have tried to fight for his kids, but he would have had to do it pro se, because he literally had no money when he first divorced.  When I met him, he was literally living on $600 a month.  His ex wife lived in Arizona and we were in Virginia, so going to court would have meant a lot of traveling and time away from his job.  And how could he pay that $2550 a month in child support if he was constantly in Arizona, fighting his ex wife in court?  And if he had won custody and his ex wife actually did go on a murderous rampage, would he be admired for being dead?  If that had happened, the ex would be in prison and the kids might have ended up in foster care.  Apparently, that's far better, of course, than having a dad who didn't go to court to fight for them.  Yes, I'm being facetious.

So I understand why people are judgmental and outraged.  On the surface, it looks like an outrageous situation with an easy solution.  But I defy some of the people who are outraged by my thoughts about Jessica McCord and how similar she is to my husband's ex to do better than we did under the circumstances we were in at the time.  At least we still have a happy marriage and my husband's daughters made it to adulthood with neither bio parent in prison or dead.

Monday, January 21, 2013

You get more flies with honey than vinegar... and another sickly dog

A few years ago, I regularly wrote articles for a content mill.  I stopped writing for the content mill over a year ago because I felt that the people who ran the site were unprofessional and I was wasting my time with my efforts there.  Anyway, every once in awhile, I still get emails from people who read my articles on that site.  On this particular site, the comments tend to be critical, which is pretty laughable since I don't know anyone that goes there just to read.

Today, I got a poorly written email from someone claiming to be an LPN with 17 years of experience.  She took exception with some health related article I wrote ages ago and long ago forgot about.  I didn't really read her email carefully, because from the get go I could tell it was insulting, belittling, and disrespectful.  It was also hard to read.

This person claims that the facts in my article (which all came from reputable sources) were incorrect and that I "needed to get my facts straight".  She was "upset" about my article and hoped I would correct it. To be honest, I was pretty turned off by her comments and simply deleted the email.

A number of things ran through my mind as I skimmed what this woman had written.  First off, why the shitty attitude?  Does she think I deliberately wrote that article with the intention of misleading or misinforming people?  Does she think that sending me a "nastygram" is going to make me want to jump into action to fix the mistakes she claims I made?  Generally speaking, when someone does send me an email or make a comment that points out a mistake I've made, I may initially be irritated.  But usually within seconds after that, I'm grateful for the correction and willingly fix it.

When someone shames me, comments in a rude, unpleasant, or sarcastic way, or is just disrespectful, I am not as eager to listen to what they have to say.  Indeed, my initial reaction to this person's email was just to simply delete it unanswered.  My second reaction, which I thankfully didn't give in to, was to send her a nasty retort along with an invitation to go screw herself.

At this point, I'm not too motivated to address this person's concerns.  If she writes back to me, I'll invite her to go write her own article since she's so knowledgeable.  I honestly don't care if the content mill deletes the article nor do I, at this point, really care if that person who wrote to me is "upset".  I figure it's her problem.

In other news...

Zane had red, inflamed eyelids last night and I noticed he had lost some hair around them.  My husband took Zane to the vet who noticed that last year, he was diagnosed with ehrlichiosis.  We ran him through several weeks of antibiotics and he seemed fine... he had never gotten "sick" in the first place.  So the vet, noticing that Zane had ehrlichiosis, did another test (taking care of his heartworm test in the process), and determined that Zane's eye problems are related to ehrlichiosis.  So now he's on antibiotics and antibiotic eye ointment.

I'm pretty concerned about the ehrlichiosis, since it can turn chronic and lead to lifelong health problems and even death.  I know all my dogs will die at some point, but we just lost MacGregor last month and I don't think I can deal with another sick dog right now.  I'm probably borrowing trouble, though... Zane is otherwise fine, aside from the irritated eyes.

Arran is due for a vet visit on Saturday.  Hopefully, nothing will be wrong with him.

Wow... this week has gotten off to a rotten start.

Wax on... wax OFF, dammit!

My husband does most of the cooking at our house.  It's not because I don't like cooking.  I'm actually a pretty good cook.  When we first got married, I did most of the cooking at our house.  At some point when we lived in Germany, my husband took over because I never knew when he'd be home; I didn't like our landlord's convection oven; and I had forgotten how to do temperature conversion.  Several years later, he's still cooking and I'm still eating, as evidenced by my zaftig figure...

Tonight, he's making a Persian dish called Khoresht-e fesenjan.  It's a Persian dish that calls for pomegranate molasses, onions, walnuts and chicken.  It's actually very tasty, but it's the second night in a row he's gotten adventurous.  So tonight, he posts this on Facebook...

Khoresht-e fesenjan (Chicken with walnuts and pomegranate stew) on the menu tonight!

And my response is...

Tomorrow, you will cook something American, right? 

And he says...

Ok, pardon me while I wax Persian, ok.

And I say...

Wax on.... wax off, dammit!

A couple that Facebooks together, stays together...  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The domestic violence double standard...

Years ago, I wrote an article called The Domestic Violence Double Standard.  It was published on Associated Content and got a lot of comments.  I was always a little fearful at getting comments on that particular article because there are so many "feminazis" out there who insist that domestic violence is a problem that only affects women.  They like to point to the statistics, which overwhelmingly point to women as victims.

I will agree that women are very likely more often victimized by abusive men than the other way around.  However, having been married to my husband for over ten years and having seen firsthand the aftereffects of his first marriage, I know that women can be abusive too.  And I, for one, am pretty sick and tired of the sexist attitudes regarding domestic violence, right down to being annoyed that we have a "Violence Against Women" act.  Why don't we have a "Violence Against PEOPLE" act instead?

Some time ago, I ran across a blog post written on Shrink4Men about reactions people have when men are abused in public.  Check out this video...

When a woman is being abused, bystanders are quick to get involved and show empathy.  When a man is being abused, their reactions are quite different... and I think, quite shameful.  A lot of people seem to  think a man should be able to "take care of himself".  But what happens if a man dares to defend himself against a female?  It's likely that he'll end up in the county lockup.  If he's lucky, he'll just be laughed at and dismissed instead.

In 2011, there was a blog post on Shrink4Men about a man who had videotaped his ex wife during several of her tirades.  I shared the videos with a group of women I used to hang out with on a message board.  Much to my astonishment, at least a couple of those women thought the man had brought the abuse on himself or had somehow painted the woman as a villain... even though he had her on film coming at him with a hammer while screaming at him!  In several of the videos, the wife was carrying on her tirade in front of the couple's two young children using language that would make a sailor blush.

And yet, despite the videotaped evidence, these women still blamed the man.  Granted, he does come across as a bit of a jerk in some of the videos.  Frankly, I have to admire him for showing restraint.  I wouldn't expect him to be super nice to his ex wife when she's carrying on the way she is.  I'm not sure what they thought his reaction should have been.  I doubt they would have reacted similarly if their husband or boyfriend was approaching them with a hammer in his hand.

The bottom line is that domestic violence affects everyone.  It's not just a woman's problem; it's a human problem.  It's not funny when a man gets abused and it's not okay to bash an entire gender.  No one deserves to be in an abusive relationship and anyone who is in one deserves empathy, respect, and above all, assistance in escaping the situation if that's what they want to do.  And people who wallow in victimhood rather than striving for survival should not be rewarded with pity and attention.      


Friday, January 18, 2013

Estranged parents on Say Yes To The Dress... and Taylor Swift!

So I'm sitting here watching Say Yes To The Dress with my spouse.  A young lady is in the showroom with her parents, who happen to be separated.  The parents obviously don't get along and the salesladies are commenting about how they're sniping at each other, disagreeing about the dress...

As I was sitting here watching it, listening  to the disapproving salesladies, it dawned on me that at least these two parents can be in the same room together.  Yeah, they're bickering and putting their daughter in the middle.  But clearly, if the daughter has both parents there and still has a loving relationship with BOTH of them, they must have done something right.  They must be decent folks.

It would be nice if all divorced or separated parents got along.  But if they can't get along, I think they deserve credit if they don't poison their shared children against the other parent.  On the other hand, maybe this young lady is lucky that she's an adult now.

On to Taylor Swift...

I didn't want to write more about her, except today I happened to catch an article about Taylor Swift and Sam Fox, Michael J. Fox's 23 year old son.  Apparently, Michael J. Fox knows nothing about Taylor Swift, except that she writes a lot of songs about her exes.  He pretty much says that Taylor needs to back off his son... not that she's ever expressed an interest in him.  As someone who grew up with Michael J. Fox and his super star presence in the 1980s, all I can say is I hope Sam takes his dad's advice.

I posted about this on Facebook and one of my friends said... "She's such a damn whore!"  After all the news regarding her love life, I quite agree.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Shopping for hotels in Italy and Greece...

My husband and I are taking a cruise from Rome to Athens this May.  We will be on SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream I.  It'll be our third time on this ship-- our first two cruises were in the Caribbean.  It's all inclusive, carries no more than 112 guests at a time, and has a fantastic staff.  SeaDream I also never fails to make me throw up.  I have a tendency to get seasick on the smaller ships.

Anyway, because my husband has never been to Venice or Florence and who knows what the future holds, we're going to fly in early and spend a night in Venice, two nights in Florence, and two nights in Rome.  Then, on the other side of the cruise, we will spend three nights in or around Athens.  It'll be my first time in Rome or Athens or any of the other cities on the trip except Venice and Florence.  And when I went to Venice and Florence, I was BROKE and stayed in hostels.  That was almost 16 years ago.

So tonight, I'm looking for reasonably priced hotels and... OUCH.  But I think it'll be worth it.  I wish we had another night in Venice.  I hate the thought of getting there exhausted and only having 24 hours to recover until we move on to our next stop.

Also, I'm looking forward to SeaDream again.  It's not as all inclusive as Hebridean Princess is, but what a wonderful staff!


Macaroni and cheese is the devil...

I love a good mac n' cheese.  I shouldn't eat it, of course.  It's loaded with carbs, fat, salt, and gooeyness that makes me soft and flabby.  But I tell you, a well prepared mac n' cheese is like nectar of the gods for me.  Here in North Carolina, it's been cold and misty... and kinda miserable.  Yesterday, I got a hankering to make mac n' cheese, which I proceeded to do.

This is not my mac n' cheese.  This mac n' cheese was enjoyed at a pub in Edinburgh, Scotland...  I daresay, it wasn't as good as mine is.

Sometimes I try to make my favorite comfort food somewhat healthier by adding vegetables.  Yesterday, all I added were some scallions that were about to wither away.  I also added some leftover ham.  It was yummy.

And if I get near a Trader Joe's, watch out!  Their frozen macaroni and cheese is positively sinful.  I should not eat it.  I actually refer to it as "crackaroni and cheese" because it's easy to eat way too much of it and add layers to my ass.  Thankfully, Trader Joe's is a stout drive from where we live, so it's a rare treat.

Recently, an exmo I know on Facebook wanted my recipe.  At this point, I don't really use a recipe anymore.  I make a thin white sauce, boil some pasta, then layer real cheese on top and bottom of the pan.  I pour the pasta on top, then add the sauce, then the top layer of cheese, and bake.

I figure today's post is nice and innocuous and shouldn't attract too much attention...  however, because there are leftovers from yesterday's mac n' cheese, it should attract more fat layers to my ass.  Indeed, when I make mac n' cheese from scratch, I refer to it as giving my ass a "present".

Thankfully, my husband doesn't seem to mind.  I guess it really is true that a way to a man's heart is his stomach.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Save Your Do, dammit!

Here's the latest ad for yet another product we can't live without...  Save Your Do is basically a headband/do-rag being pimped as an "amazing product" that prevents hair weaves and such from getting yucky during a work out.   Messed up hair has apparently become an excuse for skipping exercise, so this product removes that excuse.

Actually, far be it for me to make fun of women who want to preserve their hairstyles.  I notice the women in this ad are women of color and having had two black roommates in college, I have some understanding and empathy for their situation.  One of my roommates had tiny braids that wound around her head like a beehive.  She used to cover her hair every night to protect the braids.  So I imagine if you work out a lot and you have high maintenance hair, sweat can be a problem...

Still, as a caucasian who washes her hair every day, it never would have occurred to me that someone would need a product like this.

Another ad that cracks me up is the one for "Trendy Tops".  This is basically a band you can wear to extend your shirts so they don't show off your muffin tops and plumber cracks...

I suppose if you have low rise jeans and a high rise top, you run the risk of showing off a part of your body you don't want on display.  Of course, another option would be to buy clothes that actually fit.

In all seriousness, I know it can be hard to find jeans that aren't low rise.  When you have a massive beer gut like mine, low rise jeans can be a nightmare.  I still wouldn't wear Trendy Tops, though.    


Seems appropriate today...

Belgian Twins Euthanized...

I ran across an interesting news article regarding human euthanasia tonight.  On December 14, 2012, unnamed 45 year old Belgian twins who had been born deaf decided to be euthanized because they were going blind and wouldn't be able to see each other.

The men were legally euthanized by their doctor at Brussels University Hospital in Jette.  They had coffee and said goodbye to their family, then apparently had a very serene departure from this life.  

Belgium allows doctor assisted euthanasia for humans who are "suffering".  The twins were unique in that they were not terminally ill; they were euthanized because they feared that with the loss of their sight, they would also lose their quality of life.

Having just put MacGregor down and witnessing how peaceful his passing was, I couldn't help but realize that we're a lot kinder and more sensible when it comes to ending a pet's suffering than we are with human beings.  I will admit that when I read this story, I found it a little bit disturbing... but really, the feeling went almost as quickly as it came.  

Not surprisingly, a lot of people are shocked and horrified that these twins were "euthanized".  I'm sure a lot of people feel like allowing euthanasia opens us up to a "slippery slope".  Some people are no doubt afraid doctors might abuse the right to kill patients who want to die.  Some people consider euthanasia for humans akin to "playing God", never mind that one could argue that providing some of medical interventions we do today could also be akin to "playing God". 

For me, it really does come down to quality of life and my belief that every person has a right to determine what quality of life means to them.  It's easy to talk about how wonderful life is if you have no health problems or significant disabilities.  And these twins in Belgium had spent their whole lives deaf, which surely isolated them to some extent.  They did have each other, though.  The ability to see the one other person in the world who understands so well what it's like to live in silence must have been of utmost importance to them.

I don't know how it feels to be deaf or blind, but I do know that if someone told me I would eventually lose either one of those senses, it would at least be temporarily devastating.  If I were already deaf or blind and was told that I was going to lose another major sense that would further isolate me, I would be even more devastated.  I may not have been able to fathom a life in silence and darkness...  Maybe it would have eventually been okay for me, but then again, maybe it wouldn't have.

If they had chosen to live, the twins would have been left with three senses... tasting, touching, and smelling.  Maybe for some people, that would be enough.  But I'm guessing that a lot of people would not relish the prospect of a silent, dark world for the rest of their lives.  And I don't think it's up to someone else to determine what my quality of life is...  I would never want to presume I know what quality of life means to another person, either.

One unavoidable fact of life is that we all must die at some point.  Many of us don't force animals who are suffering to endure if we can end their suffering.  While I understand the concerns that a "privilege" to euthanize might be abused, the fact is, in 2011 over 1000 people in Belgium had chosen to end their lives with the help of a doctor.  Most of them were people who were terminally ill anyway and in a lot of pain.

In America, we complain a lot about spiraling healthcare costs and overpopulation, yet when someone wants to make a practical decision to end their lives and they are of sound mind, we have a tendency to go a little nutty.  We want to break out the mental health specialists and offer them "therapy".  Sorry.  For a lot of people, life really isn't pleasant and it has nothing to do with their having a bout of clinical depression. It simply sucks and there are few prospects of it getting better.  This isn't to say that I think those people should necessarily kill themselves.  It's just that I don't think it's up to another person to determine what their neighbor's quality of life is or should be.  I think we should all have the right to determine that for ourselves.  I also think it makes sense for human beings to have access to a dignified exit if that's what they choose for themselves.

Frankly, I think the Belgian twins were lucky that they could make this choice for themselves.  It sounds like they had a very comforting and dignified exit.  I doubt we will ever have the total freedom to euthanize humans in the United States, at least not in my lifetime.  I know in Oregon and Washington, there is a law that allows people to be euthanized in certain situations, but so far the other states have not gone there.  And I realize why people worry that euthanasia for people could be a "slippery slope"... but I think people should have the right to self-determination and a person who really wants to die will probably find a way to do it regardless.  Obviously, it's not appropriate to euthanize people who are clearly very depressed, but for those who are rational, I don't think it's necessarily a bad decision.  At the very least, I don't think it's up to me to oppose another person's rational decision to end their own life.

Monday, January 14, 2013

This is not the sunshine blog...

I'll admit, my blog is not full of sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops.  I've been writing this blog since 2010 and a large portion of it is dedicated to posts about my husband's ex wife and ex daughters.  I have a lot of unresolved angst about that subject and writing helps me process it somewhat.  Also, it really does boggle my mind that my husband has gone through what he has...

I must have been very sheltered growing up.  I never knew anyone who was estranged from a parent to the point at which they never spoke to them.  I did have friends whose parents were divorced, though most of them were products of parents who had divorced before they were born.  My own parents have been together since December 1957.  Growing up, I was happily unaware of parental alienation syndrome.

Since becoming my husband's second wife in 2002, I have been exposed to a really nasty fact of life.  Some adults are really teenagers who have never evolved beyond adolescence.  These people look like adults and may even be able to fool other people into thinking they're mature.  But when the shit comes down, they turn out to be incredibly selfish, mean-spirited, cruel people who are more interested in sticking it to their exes than doing what's best for the children or taking responsibility for their mistakes.

Today, I ran across a couple of comments left for me by two different people who read my post about Jessica McCord.  When I wrote that post last winter, I had no way of knowing it would end up being the most popular post on my blog.  Most people read it and move on; however, three people have read it and decided to turn the comment section into a place to shame me for what happened to my husband's relationship with his kids...

It always shocks me in an unpleasant way when I come face to face with people who lack empathy.  Very often, these people post on the Internet and show the world just how stupid and heartless they really are.  I wish some of these people wouldn't end up on my blog... I guess I've been lucky that there have been very few of them so far.  Still, it's very disheartening to see, even though I'm pretty sure most of these folks are just hurting because they were children of divorce.  

To those people, I will say I am truly sorry...  I know divorce sucks, not because I've been a child of divorce, but because I've been a second wife and stepmother.  I'm sure your pain is real and valid.  That being said, your perspective as a child of divorce is not the only one that matters, especially if you are now an adult.  You may not make yourself feel better by leaving derogatory comments here.  Do not assume you know my situation better than I do, even if you are a child of divorce.  Do not engage in name calling or personal attacks.  Do not engage in shaming, because karma can really be a bitch.

This is MY BLOG.  I'm not willing to put up with any more shaming comments on the subject of my husband's divorce on my blog.  Comments that are shaming will either be deleted or responded to... but if I do choose to respond, it will probably be in a way that will make you wish you'd never even seen my blog.

I am happy to respond to respectful comments or questions.  I may even respond civilly to indignant comments, as long as they are presented in a sincere way.  But I will not tolerate assholes who come on MY BLOG to shame, belittle, or sit in self-righteous judgment of a situation that they know absolutely nothing about and doesn't affect them personally.  Enough is enough.  If you can't be civil, DO NOT COMMENT.    

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Miss America... fuck yeah!

When I was growing up, I enjoyed watching beauty pageants.  I'm not sure exactly why I liked them.  I think I liked the glamour... the colorful gowns and seeing women from different states or countries, as the case might be.  I actually liked the Miss Universe pageant the most, because I liked seeing women from other countries.  And if they needed an interpreter, they scored extra points as far as I was concerned!

When I was a recent college graduate in 1994, a former college classmate competed in the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City and was first runner up to Heather Whitestone, who was Miss America 1995.  I remember this particular classmate, since she knew one of my best friends.  They both took French classes at our alma mater and then the classmate won the now defunct pageant held at our college.  I was surprised and impressed that she did so well in her bid to win Miss America.

Sometime after the turn of the millennium, I lost interest in pageants.  Maybe I finally realized that they were basically stupid.  I mean... the Miss America pageant provides a lot of scholarship money to beautiful, talented, wholesome women... but the way they go about it, by making the women parade around in bathing suits and perform 90 second talent routines, is kind of stupid.

I did happen to catch Miss America last night, mainly because a woman I went to high school with wanted me to snark on it with her on Facebook.  I happened to start watching the newer streamlined version of Miss America, which is now held in Las Vegas.  Actually, it makes perfect sense that this contest is no longer held in Atlantic City.  It really is a Vegas show.

The talent competition featured several singers who couldn't sing, a couple of pretty good piano players, a baton twirler, and curiously enough, three tap dancers.  One of the tap dancers was crowned the winner.

I like the song she used... James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing".  The outfit is weird.  It looks like the pants should be crotchless and assless like chaps.

Oddly enough, I liked Miss South Carolina's piano rendition of "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5.

It was cheesy, but entertaining...

Our funky tap dancer won...

All in all, it seems Miss America doesn't take itself as seriously as it used to, when Vanessa Williams got stripped of her crown.  I notice that now that Vanessa Williams is very famous, Miss America wants to claim her again as one of its winners...

Wow... that pageant has come a very long way... though I'm not sure if it's gone in the right direction.  At least it's no longer being aired on obscure cable channels.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Zane and Arran

Zane is on the left, Arran (formerly CD) is on the right...

They hit it off brilliantly and are now beagle brothers!  Zane will have his boyish figure back in no time.  Hopefully, Arran will help me lose some weight too.  We named Arran after my favorite (so far) Scottish island.  It seems fitting, since we loved Scotland even though that's where we first learned we'd be losing MacGregor.  If we hadn't lost MacGregor, we wouldn't have Arran.

Aren't they adorable?

Friday, January 11, 2013

More on Taylor Swift...

Taylor Swift told Seventeen magazine that her parents taught her "never to judge others based on whom they love, what color their skin is, or their religion".

But... what about those who belong to a religion that oppresses people because of whom they love?  Does she still choose not to be judgmental then?  Saying you don't judge someone due to their religious beliefs is a very politically correct thing to say, but if you really think about it, it's not as simple as it seems.  It doesn't make sense to say you are against discrimination toward gays and lesbians, yet you also don't judge people who whose faiths call homosexuality an abomination that dooms them to Hell or is grounds for them to be murdered.

And yes, there are quite a few religious beliefs that promote that thinking.  Just off the top of my head-- Muslims, Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day- Adventists, and Catholics all have at least teachings that homosexuality is a sin and that anyone who is gay will end up in Hell.  My husband's stepmother is a devout Catholic whose adopted daughter is a lesbian.  She told my husband that she loves her daughter, even though she is destined to go to Hell for being gay.  That's a warm thought, isn't it?  By the way, the list above is just off the top of my head...  I know other faiths teach that homosexuality is, at the very least, sinful.

Aside from not judging people by their religious beliefs, even if the religions sort of promote hatred, what does Taylor mean when she says she doesn't judge people based on whom they love?  She's okay with straight people and gay people... but is she okay with people who have a romantic love for kids?  Animals?  The elderly?  Teenagers?  Groups of pygmies?  That's a pretty broad statement, to say you don't judge people based on whom they love.  I suspect what she means is that she doesn't judge people who love those who fall in the socially acceptable groups-- heterosexuals for sure, and homosexuals sometimes.  But if you have romantic feelings for an elephant that you hope to requite, I'm guessing Taylor wouldn't be okay with it.  I don't expect her to be a spokesperson for NAMBLA, anyway, despite her self-reported open-mindedness.

It wouldn't do for a "nice" public figure like Taylor Swift to publicly say she's against anything or anyone, for that would only alienate her from her fans.  She apparently has a lot of fans, too.  Swift is the daughter of business people who have apparently taught her well about how to market herself to the masses.  So she doesn't say things that are controversial, except when she writes her songs about her exes.  And since so many people think men are automatically the guilty ones when a relationship fails, a lot of people never really stop to think about the incongruent nature of what Taylor Swift says versus what she does.

Incidentally, Taylor Swift was pictured on Yahoo! today wearing a slinky white dress with a plunging neckline, which looked very sexy indeed.  It was a far cry from her usual goody-two shoes get ups.  Oddly enough, I also noticed that people who commented on Taylor's outfit, had noticed that she seemed a little psycho.  A few folks commented that the first few songs about her boyfriends made it seem like they might have been jerks.  And now they're thinking maybe Taylor has the problem.  Maybe... or maybe she really is just laughing all the way to the bank with the songs she writes that appeal to so many.  Maybe underneath that wide-eyed, innocent facade, she's just a shrewd businesswoman, giving people what they want.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Looks like we'll have a new family member soon...

Last night, we were visited by a couple who fosters beagles for Triangle Beagle Rescue.  We had expressed an interest in one of the dogs who had been living with them, so they brought him over to meet Zane and to see if we could offer an appropriate home for him.  The dog's name is CD and he and Zane hit it off immediately.  They spent about 90 minutes playing with each other while we talked with the volunteers from the rescue.

This morning, we were approved to adopt, though I'm not sure if we will be adopting CD or not.  We would happily take him if he was offered to us, though there is another person who is also interested in him.  I have a feeling we'll get him, though, because she has a new baby and he would be the only dog.  Here, he would have Zane to hang out with.  I rarely go anywhere, so he wouldn't be left alone a lot.  Apparently, he has some issues with separation anxiety.

This weekend, there is an adopt-a-thon, which we were planning to go to.  CD will be there, along with quite a few other dogs.  I'd love it if he came home with us.  It's been way too quiet here without a second dog.

In other doggie news, my husband got a voicemail from the vet at NC State who took care of MacGregor.  He sent me an email...

Hey Darling,

There was a voicemail from Dr. Crook waiting for me when I got in this morning. She said that the microscopic results are still pending, but they found a significantly large mass adjacent to and invading the nerve root at the point where it emerged from his seventh vertebrae. All consistent with the impression from the MRI. They also said that from inspection with the naked eye, it appeared to be very malignant. She didn't say this, but my thoughts are we definitely did the right thing when we did. Chemo/Radiation wouldn't have done much more than make him comfortable for a very short time.

She also thanked us for the card and said not to hesitate to call her again if we had more questions.
Love you.

I don't like that MacGregor had a very malignant tumor, but at least we know we made the right decision.  I really miss him.  He was a very special little dog.

And... in other news, my husband and his father had a talk the other day about the ex-daughter and her sudden exit from the woodwork.  They talked for over an hour about a letter my husband sent taking him to task for not holding his younger daughter accountable for being so horrible to the family.

Evidently, father-in-law was initially upset about the letter my husband sent, but then admired him for having the courage to send it.  Father-in-law once told me that he didn't think his son had much nerve, even though he's made a career in the Army.  This was the first time he had ever taken a "tone" with him and father-in-law was happy to see that his son has a "set of balls" and is able to stand up for what he believes in.

As for ex-daughter, she called during a long layover back to BYU.  Apparently, she's now thinking maybe she's not cut out to be a missionary.  She says she was attracted to the "humanitarian" side of missionary work, but I think she doesn't understand that if she's a Mormon missionary, most of what she will be doing will be trying to get people to join the church or leading them on tours of Mormon historical sites.  It's likely to be a waste of time and money.  Any service she does will be connected to attracting new converts or people who just use mishies to get their chores done.  Moreover, missionary service requires tough lifestyle adjustments that may not be very pleasant for ex-daughter or her companion.  There are other ways to do humanitarian service without living the oppressive mishie lifestyle.

Father-in-law also said that ex-daughter didn't know that her dad-- that is, my husband-- once lived in Arizona.  He told her he used to visit Arizona when my husband lived there as a boy.  Naturally, ex-daughter knew nothing about this, since her mother has done everything in her power to obliterate his memory from his daughters' heads.

I still don't like my husband's kids.  I don't trust them.  But now I feel a little sorry for them and maybe they really aren't as fucked up as they appear to be.  Maybe they did inherit some of their father's kindness.  Then again, maybe not.  In any case, I hope that ex-daughter doesn't do a mission.  It would only serve to further indoctrinate her, waste precious time and money, and pester people who don't need to be caught up in a cult.    

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why in the hell does anyone date Taylor Swift?

I am a music fan, but I'm not a big fan of Taylor Swift's.  That's not to say I don't think she's a star, though.  She's tall, blonde, and looks a lot like a Barbie doll.  Her music is a combination of pop and country that is obviously very appealing to a lot of Americans, given her star power these days.

Taylor Swift is well known for writing songs about mean people and ex-boyfriends... and mean ex-boyfriends.  Somehow, those songs end up resonating with folks... probably teenage girls... who thrive on lots of drama.  She's apparently made a mint writing about her failed love affairs.  At age 23, she's dated a lot of different guys...  There's even a Taylor Swift "wiki" that lists all of her former beaus.  Just today, there was an article about her latest breakup with 18 year old Harry Styles.  Before Styles, she dated Conor Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  And before that, she was linked to John Mayer, Taylor Lautner, Joe Jonas, Jake Gyllenhall, and several non famous guys who became fodder for her songs.

This song is from December 2009, apparently after Joe Jonas broke up with her on the phone and while she was dating Taylor Lautner, aka the Twilight werewolf, Edward...  Apparently, that little relationship didn't last long.  In fact, I'm guessing Lautner is long forgotten.

Even guys Taylor's never dated end up being the subjects of her music.  One guy named Drew, the inspiration for her song "Teardrops On My Guitar", had no idea she liked him.  He later showed up and asked her out.  She turned him down.  I bet she got a charge out of that.

It's true Taylor Swift is beautiful, rich, and talented, but she clearly has some issues.  I mean, it's not uncommon for young women to date extensively, but her breakups seem to be very dramatic and public.  

Here's a clip of her talking about how Joe Jonas dumped her by phone on Ellen.

I'm sure Taylor Swift's many breakups keep her relevant.  People love gossip and a good public breakup with a good looking, rich, and popular guy is good for that.  I wonder what happened to Taylor that makes her get a charge out of this kind of thing... It makes me think that maybe she wasn't very popular growing up and now she's getting revenge by publicly dissing good looking guys and making money off her breakups.

I suppose it works... at least until the guys start wising up and quit dating her.  Or maybe not.  Sometimes men really do think with the wrong head.  I think it would be very refreshing if Taylor Swift wrote a song called "Our Breakup Was My Fault".

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bad apples in social work...

Back in 2002, I earned master's degrees in social work and public health.  At this point, I've not really used them professionally.  In retrospect, it was probably not the best decision to go to graduate school to earn those degrees, especially since now I have to pay for them.  I truly did intend to become a professional public health social worker when I went to school, though.  My career aspirations eventually got overcome by events and truth be told, I'd probably not be that great a social worker anyway.

The first job I was offered out of school was working as a child welfare worker for DC Child and Families.  I ended up not taking the job.  There were a few reasons why I didn't take it.  I knew the job would be personally exhausting and difficult.  We were living far away from Washington, DC at the time, though we eventually moved a lot closer.  My husband didn't like the idea of me working for CPS.  I didn't like the idea of me working for CPS, either.  Anyway... there were a few years when I wondered if I'd made the wrong decision, but then I realized that I don't really have the right personality for the job.  Indeed, it seems a lot of people work for CPS who probably have no business working for CPS.

Over the past ten years, I've done a lot of reading about social workers who fucked things up.  Three cases immediately come to mind... and three cases are really enough to write about in a simple blog post.  The first case I can think of involves the "social worker" who escorted Charlie and Braden Powell to their father's house for visitation back in February of 2012.  Charlie and Braden Powell were the young sons of Josh Powell and his wife, Susan, who has been missing since December 2009.  Although Josh Powell was widely suspected as the culprit of her disappearance, he was never arrested because there was no solid proof that he had committed a crime.  Meanwhile, his father, Steve, turned out to be a pervert who enjoys looking at child pornography.

On the morning of February 5, 2012, a child welfare worker who was called a "social worker", but in fact lacked the credentials of an actual social worker, brought Josh Powell's kids to his house.  Powell then proceeded to kill himself and his sons.  Ann Rule's latest book, Fatal Friends, Deadly Neighbors, includes a write-up about the Powell case and she explains that the "social worker" who brought the children to see their father was actually a nice old lady doing child welfare work.  Child welfare workers are sometimes, but not always, people who have studied social work.  And yet, these folks are often described as social workers.  So when things go wrong, the profession gets a black eye.  Over the past ten years, legislation has been introduced to define exactly what a social worker is.  I, for one, am glad to see this.  After all, we wouldn't call an EMT a doctor simply because he or she is doing the same things a doctor might do in the case of an emergency.

This isn't to say that the Powell kids would still be alive if they had been given to their father by an actual social worker instead of a child welfare worker calling herself a social worker.  It's just that a lot of people blamed the "social worker" for the kids' deaths... when the truth is, the woman was not a licensed social worker.  Indeed, according to a news article about this case, the worker wasn't even someone employed by Washington State's child protective services, but a contract worker with a private agency that supervises visits for the state.

The next case that comes to mind is one involving a woman who was an actual social worker. I recently read a book entitled A Mother's Trial. Back in the 1970s, Priscilla Phillips was a master's level social worker living in California. She and her husband, Steve, had two sons, but Priscilla eventually had to have a hysterectomy. Feeling that her family wasn't complete, Steve and Priscilla decided to adopt a baby girl from Korea.

The baby, named Tia, turned out to have a lot of health problems. Priscilla was always there, attending to her child, feeding her, helping the nurses, and administering medication. Alas, despite Priscilla's careful attention, the child grew sicker and eventually died. A couple of years later, Priscilla and Steve adopted another little girl from Korea named Mindy. Mindy did not have any biological ties to Tia, but she developed the same troubling medical problems that landed her in the hospital. Before too long, Priscilla came under suspicion of deliberately poisoning her adopted babies. She was eventually found guilty of murdering Tia.

I wrote a review of A Mother's Trial and someone left me a comment indicating that Steve and Priscilla eventually moved back to South Carolina, where Priscilla had earned her bachelor's degree in social work. The commenter wrote that for a few scary years, Steve and Priscilla had actually worked as social workers for the local Department of Social Services office in their community. Priscilla had lied on her job application, omitting the fact that she had served an embarrassingly short stint in a California prison for murdering Tia and attempting to murder Mindy.

The third case involves a community very close to where I grew up.  For over 20 years, Arthur Bracke served as the sole social worker in Middlesex, Virginia.  He retired as the director of the local child welfare office.  This man made decisions about children every day and even adopted a few sons of his own.  He was also very much involved with Boy Scouts and had served as a foster parent.

But then in 2008, Bracke committed arson and attempted to kill one of his adopted sons, who happened to be sleeping in the house when he set it on fire.  Moreover, he was also convicted of six separate sex crimes involving an 11 year old boy, which occurred in November 2007.  

I remember when this case was fresh news.  I was living in Germany at the time and read with interest, not just because I have a degree in social work, but because I grew up in a community that is adjacent to Middlesex.  Arthur Bracke would have been in charge of child welfare services in that neighboring county when I was myself still a minor.  Though I never had any dealings with child welfare services as a kid, I realize that I could have... and it was only a stroke of luck that we were in a neighboring county instead of Middlesex.

Arthur Bracke has a personal Web site that he made on Angelfire some years ago.  It's still up and functional and makes for some very creepy but fascinating reading, especially considering where Arthur Bracke is right now.  On his Web site, Bracke calls himself the "pied piper".  He also self-published a book, Running Against the Wind, which is still available on or can be read for free on his Web site.  I skimmed through it.  I can't say I'd want to pay money for it, even if Bracke wasn't a pervert who committed crimes against society's most innocent people.  Thankfully, he was sentenced to a total of 39 years for his crimes and it's very unlikely that he will ever be a free man again.  ETA: Arthur Bracke is now dead.

So yeah... there have been some pretty bad apples in the social work field.  Maybe it's better that I'm an overeducated housewife instead...  Actually, children need better people working in the child welfare field.  I'm afraid that kind of work doesn't attract the best people, though... It doesn't pay well; it's very stressful; and you're nobody's hero when you have to break up a family.  

ETA:  Here's my review of Arthur Bracke's creepy book.

Creepy reading for more than one reason...

 Jan 8, 2013 (Updated Jan 10, 2013)
Review by    is a Top Reviewer on Epinions in Books
Rated a Very Helpful Review

    Pros:Interesting look at a sociopath who fooled a rural community for over 20 years. Free.

    Cons:Poorly written.  Self-serving.  Author is a fraud.

    The Bottom Line:Delighted that Arthur Bracke is finally behind bars.

    I grew up in Gloucester County, which is on the Middle Peninsula of Virginia.  Gloucester is a somewhat rural community, though it's not now as rural as it was when I was growing up.  Back in the 1980s, I was a teenager and blissfully unaware of child protective services and the people who make a living removing children from abusive home situations.  I did not know that in even more rural Middlesex County, which is adjacent to Gloucester to the north, a man named Arthur R. Bracke was the county's sole social worker whose job it was to investigate allegations of child abuse and remove children from abusive homes.

    Arthur Bracke held his job for over twenty years and had a hand in countless child abuse investigations.  This man did home studies and evaluated parents for the local court system.  He served as a mentor to local youths and was a Boy Scout Master.  He fancied himself a "role model", especially to troubled boys.  Indeed, he even adopted his three now grown sons, all of whom were once foster kids.  Bracke sounds like a hell of a guy, doesn't he?  Care to guess where he's sitting right now?

    In November 2008, Arthur Bracke, former pillar of Middlesex's community, adoptive father to three troubled young men, and retired social worker who worked for Middlesex County for over twenty years, was sentenced to 39 years in a Virginia prison.  He was found guilty of burning down his house while his youngest adopted son, Josh, was asleep inside (Josh managed to escape), and for six sex related crimes including two felony counts of aggravated sexual battery against an 11 year old boy.  It's a small comfort that Bracke will never again use his position to abuse any more children.  Given his age, it's likely that he will die in prison.

    Arthur Bracke, writer and story spinner

    Aside from being an ex-social worker and current felon, Arthur Bracke is also an author.  In 2001, he and his son, Robert, wrote the book Running Against the Wind.  Bracke explains that though the book is Robert's story, Robert is unable to read or write because he suffers from learning disabilities, including a form of dyslexia.  Consequently, Arthur Bracke is the actual author of Robert Bracke's story.

    Running Against the Wind is available for sale on, but you can also read it for free on Bracke's very creepy Angelfire Web site.  I didn't want to spend money to read Running Against the Wind, so I read it on Bracke's site.  It's basically the story of how his middle son, Robert, then 19, got involved with drugs and alcohol and ended up in jail.

    Bracke explains Robert Bracke's family of origin was abusive and neglectful; his mother abused drugs and alcohol and eventually abandoned Robert and his brother.  Robert's biological father was physically and emotionally abusive.  All of these issues may have caused Robert Bracke's troubles in school and society.  They led to his troubles with drugs, alcohol, and the law.

    Running Against the Wind is written in the first person as if it's coming from Robert Bracke.  Arthur Bracke is, however, the story's sole author and he has no trouble painting himself as sort of a hero to his son.  At the beginning of the book, Bracke writes about what happened to Robert when he was busted for speeding and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.  He describes the county jail in Middlesex, which I can imagine is not a pleasant place.  When Robert calls Arthur Bracke and asks him to help him bail out, Bracke refuses because he says Robert "knows better" than that.  Apparently, Bracke had told him not to ever ask him for help if he ever got involved with drugs or alcohol.  Arthur Bracke makes himself out to be a good parent exercising "tough love" tactics toward his son, who eventually is bailed out of jail.

    Robert Bracke, who had skills as a cook and worked at one of Tidewater's best restaurants, later became an informant for Virginia's Governor's Drug Task Force, where he worked undercover as an informant in exchange for "certain courtesies", as Bracke puts it.  In the midst of this, Robert falls in love with a 15 year old girl named Annette who was also a drug user.  Robert Bracke was eventually required to testify against some of his drug dealing contacts, which resulted in a $35,000 price tag being put on his head.  He and Annette fled Virginia and were eventually captured in Lousiana.  Toward the end of the book, Bracke writes about the court case, in which he was also required to testify.

    Why this book sickens me...

    Perhaps if less than ten years after this incident, Bracke wasn't himself incarcerated in a Virginia prison, he might come off as admirable.  But I have to admit, reading this account and knowing that Bracke committed crimes far worse than his adopted son ever did, kind of colors my opinions of him.  The tough love approach rings hollow in a parent who is now incarcerated for molesting society's most vulnerable members, especially while he was working in a position of trust.

    Aside from being a somewhat self-serving and sickening (try saying that three times fast) book that tries to make Arthur Bracke out to be someone he's clearly not, Running Against the Wind is not particularly well written.  Bracke's voice, when writing as his son, does not come off as very authentic.  It reads as if Bracke is trying to sound like a young man would sound, but is not quite meeting the mark, making his writing come across as contrived.  Moreover, there are some typos and grammatical errors that a few rounds with a proofreader should have caught.

    Ironically, in 2008, when Bracke was eventually tried for his crimes, his lawyer stated that Bracke himself has problems with substance abuse and his excessive drinking was what caused him to burn down his house, almost kill his youngest son, and molest an 11 year old boy.  And yet, despite apparently being an alcoholic, Bracke tried to be "tough" in dealing with his troubled middle son's own substance abuse issues.

    I was interested in this book for several reasons.  First off, I am by training a social worker, so the fact that Bracke worked as one was interesting to me.  Secondly, this book is set in a place I know very well, the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.  I was born and raised in Hampton Roads and have driven through Middlesex County many times.  I even once worked in the Williamsburg area restaurant where Robert Bracke once worked.  I don't think we were employed there at the same time, but I know the place very well.  And finally, I really do find sociopaths fascinating.  I believe that Arthur Bracke must be a sociopath to be able to live with himself.  

    I can't say I'd recommend Running Against the Wind, even though on his Web site, Bracke claims that "one critic suggested that Running Against the Wind should be available in all high school libraries and that it should be required reading for any teen who may be at risk for alcohol or drug abuse."  I bet if a critic really said that, he or she had no idea that the author of this book would one day be sitting in prison for molesting children, attempted murder, and arson.

    While I don't really recommend spending money on this book, I do think it's interesting reading for anyone who is interested in learning more about sociopaths.  Actually, for that purpose, I think Bracke's Web site is more informative that Running Against the Wind is.  What kind of a social worker refers to himself as "The Pied Piper"?  Look up Pied Piper and you'll find that it refers to a legend of a colorfully dressed ratcatcher hired to lead rats out of a town by playing his pipe.  When the townspeople don't pay the ratcatcher, he punishes them by leading the town's children away from their families, never to be seen or heard from again.  Given Bracke's career choice and his eventual crimes, it seems oddly appropriate and almost a warning to others.

    Read the "about me" section of his site and you'll learn that Bracke was himself a victim of molestation at the hands of one of his foster parents.  Incidentally, I notice that there are large age gaps between Bracke's three adopted sons.  I doubt they think of each other as brothers.  One of them is currently incarcerated and has probably never even met Josh, the youngest of Bracke's "kids".


    Running Against the Wind is not a good book.  However, it can be an interesting and revealing book if you're reading it to get insight about Arthur Bracke, rather than for his son Robert's story.  I have to wonder what made Bracke write this book.  He really must have been blinded by narcissism, which is especially apparent when he congratulates himself on his Web site and offers to send the book free to anyone interested in reading it.

    For more information:

    If you access this site, I recommend turning your speakers down.  The Web site plays some very annoying musical selections.