Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fat shaming kids on Halloween!

The shameful fat shaming trend continues.  Yesterday, I posted an article on Facebook about a very nice man who paid for a struggling mom's meal at Pizza Hut as he observed her dealing with her three kids, one of which was coming down off ADHD meds.  One of my friends liked the article, but then passed along an article about a woman in North Dakota with plans to give fat shaming letters to kids that she thinks are too fat…

This judgmental woman claims that "it takes a village" to raise a child and she has noticed too many kids in her neighborhood that are too fat for her liking.  So while she apparently plans to give candy to the kids whom she deems are "thin enough", the fat ones will be going home with a letter explaining that they shouldn't be eating candy because busybody neighbor lady says "in my opinion, your child is moderately obese".  Seriously?  What a bitch!  And who the hell asked her?

Then, to make matters worse, she continues with "… my hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween, not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits."  Wow… that's gonna make her very popular in her neighborhood!  Every parent wants some sanctimonious buttinsky telling them how to raise their children, right?  

This woman says that "the whole community is going to be paying for [obese kids]."  So she thinks Halloween is a prime time to call parents and their kids to task.  While I don't disagree the obesity is an issue in the United States and other developed countries, I do think that handing out these letters on Halloween is asking for trouble.  The lady runs the risk of getting egged or TP'd at the very least.  Maybe someone will leave a flaming bag of poo on her porch.  Perhaps some parents will simply write rebuttals that call out all the noticeable flaws this pushy woman has.  I know I would be tempted to.

On the other hand, the North Dakota woman's fat shaming plans have already enticed others to follow her example in another way.  One man in Florida responded with his own note, which reads

"Happy Halloween and Happy Holidays, Neighbor!

Your kid is awesome and so are you!  Take some candy."

The Florida man has lost lots of weight and knows what it's like to be fat.  He knows firsthand how it feels to be a heavy kid, too.  But he also recognizes that kids hear and internalize messages that wreak havoc on their self-image.  Halloween is not a night kids should have to worry about being judged by their appearances.

No kid wants to be called out for being fat.  It's bad enough that some school systems are sending home "fat letters" to call their parents' attention to their child's weight problems.  Why should your neighbor spoil Halloween with these holier than thou notes on a night that is supposed to be all about fun?  It may seem like a prime opportunity to confront these people in terms of convenience-- after all, they are coming to the door and asking for treats-- but was it really this bitch's intention to spoil Halloween for her neighbors' children?  The older ones already know they have a weight problem.  They don't need a news flash from a misguided neighbor who thinks she's a member of the fat police.

If she is so concerned about potentially contributing to childhood obesity by passing out candy to kids she thinks are "moderately obese" on Halloween, it seems to me she has many other options.  She could hand out small toys like rubber balls or yo-yos or healthy pre-wrapped snacks.  How about sugarless gum?  It's actually good for the teeth and low in calories!  Or she could simply keep her porch light turned off and not hand out anything at all.

Instead of judging and singling people out by giving certain kids shaming letters for their parents to read, she could write an article on a blog or a letter to the editor that doesn't call out specific people.  Or she could work with other concerned people to come up with some kind of fun, but healthy, activity for her community's kids.  The point is, there are so many other things she could be doing to promote the healthy kids cause… things that have nothing to do with humiliating little kids and their parents on a night that is supposed to be fun!

She says it takes a village to raise kids (trite much)?  Then put your money where your mouth is, you self-righteous meanie, and come up with real solutions that are sustainable and may actually do some good!  Do something constructive that requires more time, creativity, and positive energy than passing out a passive-aggressive fat shaming letter that ruins one of the most fun nights of the year for kids!    

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Crime blasts from the past...

In early June 1992, I was about to turn 20 years old.  I worked at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia and was a rising junior at college.  I remember being shocked like so many other people in my community when a suicidal fifteen year old girl, her boyfriend, and another boy decided that they were going to kill her family and take off for California.

Jennifer Kszepka was supposedly angry with her father, 42 year old Jerome Kszepka, because he didn't approve of her boyfriend, Dominic Hendrix.  So, on the evening of June 7, 1992, they murdered him and Jennifer's sister, 21 year old Ranae.  When Jennifer's mother, Sieglinde, came home to the murder scene, they tried to kill her, too.  Their weapon jammed, so Michael Gaumer, a mutual friend of the teen couple's, clubbed Sieglinde Kszepka on the head with a metal pipe, fracturing her skull.  Sieglinde Kszepka ultimately survived the attack.  But her husband and older daughter had been murdered by her younger daughter…  what a horrible thing to have to live with.

Jennifer Kszepka could have faced the death penalty, but she ended up getting life plus 90 years in prison.  Parole in Virginia was abolished in 1995, but Kszepka and her male friends committed their crimes prior to then.  Consequently, all three are eligible to be considered for parole.  Kszepka just had a hearing and was denied parole.  The next time she will be considered will be in 2016.

I remember all too well when this happened.  I had only recently graduated from the high school where Kszepka and her partners in crime attended.  My boss at Busch Gardens had known Ranae Kszepka, because she had once worked at Busch Gardens.  I remember reading the newspaper every day as Kszepka and her friends drove her mother's car west.  They hoped to get to California and made it as far as Eureka, Nevada, where they were stopped for a routine traffic violation.  Their identities were discovered and they were shipped back to Virginia to face their crimes.

Jennifer Kszepka is incarcerated at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, which is the same place where Erin McCay George is imprisoned.  I note that both Jennifer Kszepka and Erin McCay George are involved with dog training… or at least they were ten years ago.  It appears that she has tried to straighten up and fly right.

Another case I remember from the 90s involved a guy named Frederick West Greene.  A friend of mine from college had grown up in tiny Franklin, Virginia.  She had a cute male friend named West who attended Virginia Military Institute.  My friend had the hots for this guy and was positively giddy when he visited her at our college.

Later, it came out that he and a friend had murdered a classmate over an insult.  They killed the young man and buried him, leaving his family and friends to wonder what happened to him for about two years.  I remember how distraught my friend was over finding out that this cute, popular, handsome friend of hers was actually a murderer.  She was very upset and kept asking, "How could he do that?"

I was reminded of West a few weeks ago and started looking for more information about his case.  I had to do some digging before I found an old article about him and his friend and the terrible crime they committed.  I imagine that they are now about to be eligible for parole.  Actually, Michael M. Jervey, who was the accomplice in this case, may already be out of prison.

I remember back in July 1993, a woman I knew when we were both little kids living on Mildenhall Air Force Base in England was murdered.  Her name was Lisa N. Bryant, and she had grown up to be a remarkable young woman with a bright future.  A graduate of Princeton University and a 2nd lieutenant in the Army, Bryant was about to go on her first assignment to Germany when fate put her in the path of her murderer, SGT 1st class Ervin Graves, a ROTC instructor who was staying in the same dormitory at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Graves apparently meant to rape Bryant but, when she struggled, he shot her.

Lisa Bryant is in a photo taken at my fifth birthday party in the base housing at Mildenhall where we lived at the time.  After England, we both moved to Fairfax County in Virginia and I saw her one last time at her birthday party in the Burke area of Fairfax.  Had we stayed in Fairfax, I would have gone to the same high school she attended and excelled at.

I remember when she was murdered.  My mom called me at school to tell me about an article she'd read about it in People Magazine several months after the murder.  I remembered what she'd looked like when we were kids and was shocked that at age 21, her life had been callously snuffed out.

It's always creepy and unnerving when you realize how close true crime is to you…  

Not interested in Halloween...

Now that we live in a subdivision, I suppose we should get some candy to have on hand for the trick or treaters who will no doubt be prowling the streets tomorrow night.  There was a time when I liked having them come to the door.  Now that I'm older and grumpier, the prospect of having kids ring my doorbell kind of fills me with annoyance.  If we didn't have dogs, I might feel differently.  But I know they are going to go nuts wanting to greet everyone.

When we lived in North Carolina, it was a sure bet no one would be trick or treating at our house.  We lived in a very rural area with no neighbors particularly close to us.  It was the same thing when we lived in Georgia.  Our driveway was about a half mile long.  In Germany, we did get a couple of trick or treaters, but since we didn't know if people in Germany celebrated Halloween, we weren't prepared. Actually, not that many people do celebrate it there…  The first year, we were in a hotel on Halloween.

So this means that for the first time since 2006, we will probably have a number of trick or treaters coming by.  Or maybe not…  In any case, I told Bill to get some candy so we won't be the cranks who aren't prepared. And if no one comes to the house, we can always save the candy for when Aunt Flow visits.

Or maybe we should just go out to dinner instead.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Confrontational jackasses...

I'm not sure how I'd react if this woman started yelling at me.  I might either drive away or call the police.  Or maybe I'd match her in her confrontation skills…


This guy is on his way to the big house.

Getting legit.

The past two days, Bill and I have been working on getting our cars and driver's licenses straightened out.  Four years ago, we got licenses in Georgia when we moved back to the States after our time in Germany.  Our German licenses, by the way, only just expired a year ago.  We got them in 2007.  When we moved to North Carolina in 2011, we didn't bother getting new licenses because as military folks, we didn't have to…  and in North Carolina, they make you take a written test.  We did get new license plates, though, which we just replaced with Texas plates yesterday.

Our experience getting licensed in Texas is ongoing.  I managed to succeed to complete the process, but Bill has to go back because he lacked an official document bearing his Social Security number.  All government issued IDs have done away with Social Security numbers, so you have to bring the card or an acceptable document with the number on it.  By sheer luck, as I was going through all the shit we moved to Texas, I managed to find my Social Security cards and put them in my purse.  I am still looking for my college diplomas, by the way…

So you have to have a passport (or some other official document that verifies your citizenship), utility bills (or some other official document that verifies that you live in Texas), a document with your Social Security number on it, so they can make you sure don't owe child support or haven't dodged Selective Service, and proof of insurance.  Because we are military, there were a couple of documents we didn't have to produce…  but really, it was pretty exhaustive and exhausting!  Texas has quite the bureaucracy going on.

The lady who issued my license was very nice, though I could see her lacy black bra poking out through her polo shirt.  She managed to get a really pretty photo of me for the license, which will be mailed to me in the next week to ten days.

Bill still has to go back to the driver's license office to get his made.  He's leaving me at home.  I have to say, it was very interesting to hang out in the lobby of the office.  A whole lot of people came in and out… people from every walk of life.  There were a lot of young people in there, getting their very first licenses.  Some of them had interesting hairstyles and made weird fashion statements.  There was a guy in front of me who had a four inch afro and pants falling off his ass.

Looks like the Texas driver's license exam involves doing a driving test with a cop.  That would make me nervous.  In Virginia, an old guy rode in the front seat with me and had me drive around the block.  I don't think I even had to parallel park.  But I did have to go to court and get lectured by a judge about speeding (it was required of all new drivers).

It's good to have a license and tags that match my state of residence.  It was weird to have a Georgia license, North Carolina tags, and a Texas address.


In other news, yesterday, I found evidence that this house has a rodent problem.  I found droppings by the grill.  That's just fucking great.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Last night, Bill and I went to North Star Mall and had dinner with his mom at The Cheesecake Factory.    I don't usually enjoy chain restaurants in malls, but I had a hankering for cheesecake and that is one thing The Cheesecake Factory does well.  I have only eaten at The Cheesecake Factory three times in my lifetime and the food has always been good.  However, all three times I've gone, it's been very noisy and crowded.  Last night, the noise level in that restaurant was insane.  There were two large parties seated near us and two screaming babies on the other side of us.  We did get good service, though, from a very friendly waiter.

I started with a blueberry mojito… Curiously, it was prepared with Stoli vodka instead of rum.  It tasted pretty good, though.

Then I had chicken…  I finished the asparagus, half of the potatoes, and one of the pieces of chicken.  It was good, but I wanted dessert.

Bill also had chicken… his dish was Moroccan inspired.

Mother-in-law stuck with a crab cake appetizer, which she pronounced very good.

30th anniversary cheesecake… This was sinful and I still have some for today.

Bill went with Godiva chocolate cheesecake...

Mother-in-law had dulce de leche cheesecake, which was surprisingly good.  

Bill and Mother-in-law started chatting about people and things that I knew nothing about because they involved people I don't know.  I was pretty quiet until the end of the meal, when I gave Bill a nudge.  Bill's mom laughed and apologized for going on and on about stuff that happened way before I came into the picture, then said that Ex once told her that she and Bill should go take a long walk and do all their talking then.  That way, she wouldn't feel like a third wheel.

I laughed wickedly and said, "It would have been funny if you'd fixed your eyes on her large ass and thunder thighs and said, 'I have a better idea.  You need exercise and fresh air much more than we do.  Why don't YOU go take a long walk instead?  Preferably off a short pier or a building!'"

Then, when Ex inevitably got pissed off by MIL's rude comment (which would have been in response to Ex's rude comment), MIL could have said, "Oh, I see you're angry now and have lots of energy!  What better reason to go take a walk! Go burn off some of that baby weight!"

Bill was pretty appalled when MIL told him that his ex wife had suggested that they go take a walk.  There were a lot of things Ex said to Bill's mother that she never told him about because she was too polite.  They are coming to light now, 13 years after Bill's marriage to his Ex ended.  MIL is a lot nicer than I am.  I would have told Ex to go fuck herself.  But I'm classy that way.

Anyway, we had a good time.  Tonight, we're going out to dinner with one of Bill's old friends from high school.  We went out with them a couple of months ago.  They're a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

First memory of my drunk dad...

Last night, I was chatting with a new friend who had converted to Mormonism when she was young.  She has since left the church and is very happy about her decision.  But one side effect of having been Mormon for a long time is that she doesn't really know how to drink alcohol.  She said to me, "You grew up in a normal family with a normal relationship to alcohol."

That comment struck me as almost funny and I said so.  You see, I grew up in an alcoholic household.  I didn't realize my father was an alcoholic until I was about 17 years old.  My mother did a great job shielding me from the truth most of the time and my dad was always very functional… except for the times he wasn't.

The night I found out about my dad's condition, I was 17 years old.  It was my senior year of high school and I had just been accepted to college.  I was feeling excited about the new chapter in my life and had started thinking about the things I would need to purchase before school started.  My dad was sitting in the kitchen drinking a Gibson (a vodka cocktail with onions) and trying to eat some weird dish with artichokes that my oldest sister had made and left in the fridge.  I asked him about some items I thought we had and I might be able to take with me to school in the fall.  I remember that it seemed to be a struggle for him to speak.  He said something along the lines of "It don't work too good."

My dad was never one to use improper grammar.  He's usually pretty formal.  His eyes were a bit glazed, too.  But I had seen him many times in the kitchen drinking vodka.  I thought nothing of it and went back to my room.

A little while later, I heard my mom yelling.  I ran back downstairs and stopped about halfway down.  My dad was in the living room, staggering around.  My mom, who is plump but petite, was standing next to him absolutely fuming.  She actually hit my dad, but didn't even come close to hurting him.

"You smell like a damn bar!" she snarled as my dad stood there looking a little sheepish.

My eyes widened at the sight and I said, "Mom, is he DRUNK?"

"Yes!" she bellowed.  Then she turned to my dad and said, "She is 17 years old!  I am NOT going to hide the truth from her anymore!"

I ran back upstairs, aghast at what I had just seen and realizing that I had actually seen my dad drunk many times.  This time was the first really obvious time, though.  It was like my eyes opened.  I am amazed that it took so long.

A little later, my mom called me to go outside and turn off my dad's grill (she didn't know how).  I went outside and turned it off, noting the large steak he had been trying to cook.  Evidently, he had started cooking the steak and then forgot about it.  The large piece of meat was coal black about three quarters of the way through and leathery well-done on top.  I brought it inside and my mom said, "Just leave it in the sink!  Maybe he'll see it tomorrow."

I left it there and went to bed.

Over the next few years, I saw my dad drunk many more times.  One time, he was trying to burn trash while drinking and forgot about the fire, which came dangerously close to the buildings on his property.  Another time, I came home late from work and found him in his picture framing shop, passed out on his work table.  The doors were all open; the lights were all on; and he had the radio and TV blaring.  My dad was sound asleep, his head on some lady's beautiful embroidery that she had brought in to be framed.  I thought about leaving him there, but realized that the lady had spent a lot of time on that work and I didn't want him to ruin it.  So I woke him up and got him to go inside.

He is in the current state he's in now, in part, because he was drinking heavily before back surgery and had a bad reaction to the anesthesia that left him in a coma on a respirator for weeks.  Honestly, I don't know how my mom dealt with the stress of that situation.  They had the surgery done near my sister's home in North Carolina instead of near their home in Virginia.  Mom ended up staying in North Carolina for a long time, waiting for my dad to rejoin the land of the conscious.

The very first time I heard whisperings about my dad's problem was when I was 13.  Two of the my three sisters were young adults trying to launch.  My oldest sister was in the Peace Corps in Morocco.  My sisters and I and our parents were clashing a lot.  There was a lot of fighting going on.  Someone determined that we needed to attend family counseling.  I remember our counselor was a master's level psychologist named Nancy.

I deeply resented going to the therapist.  I wanted to be home watching TV.  I remember being really tense and anxious during the few sessions I attended before my mom mercifully let me quit going.  My sisters talked frankly about my dad and what they thought was a drinking problem.  I heard what they were saying, but didn't realize how true it was until I was older and saw my mom and dad in that living room scene.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Read a really sad story on RfM...

This morning, I read this thread on RfM...

I found it too late to make a comment myself.  Even if I had found it in time to comment, I'm not sure what I would say.  The post is about a man who is married to a devout Mormon.  He doesn't attend church anymore, but welcomes missionaries into his home so they can relax a bit and have a good meal.  They know he's not going back to church and as long as they don't try to bear their testimonies, he's okay with having them around.

One of the missionaries was a young Tongan man from American Samoa.  He's 20 months into the mission.  His mother just died a few days ago.  He hadn't seen her in seven years, mainly because he was in the States before he went on the mission.

This poor young man got the news about his mother from mission leaders, who then told him that his family wanted him to stay on the mission and continue to "serve honorably" for the next four months.  Of course he wanted to go home and attend his mother's funeral, but church leaders told him he needed to stick it out.  Naturally, he didn't get that information from anyone who is actually related to him.  He got it from people in the church.  And, from what I've read, it's not even like missionary work is all that fulfilling.  Most people read up on the church on the Internet and aren't easily convinced to join.  Consequently, a lot of time gets wasted.

The man who wrote the post I linked to had himself lost a relative when he served a mission and was told his "family wanted him to stay".  It was his beloved sister who had died.  He has lived with the guilt and regret of not going home for many years.  Because of that, he felt compelled to talk to the mission authorities on this missionary's behalf.  They, of course, thanked him for his opinion.  Later, the mission president called the exMormon back and said that if the missionary was prompted by the spirit and wanted to go home, he could get in touch with him.  But the mission president asked the exMormon not to influence the bereaved missionary in any way.  Something tells me that if the missionary approached the mission president about going home to his mother's funeral, the mission president would not respect his own admonishment to the exMormon to not "influence him" in any way.

Interestingly enough, I hear that many church members spin testimony stories about how God puts people in their lives to show them the right way to go.  I bet none of the most devout members of the LDS church would consider that  maybe there's a reason why the Tongan missionary met an exMormon who had himself lost his sister during his mission and still regretted not attending her funeral over 30 years later.  Perhaps God used the exMormon to intercede on the Tongan missionary's behalf.  Faith promoting stories are only told when they support the church's official position.  They are almost never told when the church's position is challenged.

I think it's barbaric that missionaries are discouraged from going home to their families when someone close to them dies.  When I was in the Peace Corps, a colleague of mine lost his father.  The Peace Corps paid for him to go home and attend the funeral.  He came back and finished his service.  The military often sends servicemembers home from abroad if there's a family emergency and it's possible for the servicemember to get away.  Sometimes even people in prison can get permission to attend funerals.  Mormon missions, really, are no more important than the military or the Peace Corps.  In fact, if you read this blog, you already know that I think they are largely a huge waste of time and money.

Granted, my opinion is just mine and others may disagree.  But stories like this make me really glad I never joined the LDS church.  There is just no reason in the world why this missionary should have to miss his mother's funeral.  It's a heartless policy and church authorities should be ashamed of themselves for coercing these young people to stay on a pointless task knocking on doors when they could be getting closure after a loved one's death.

Unexpected windfall...

A few weeks ago, Bill got a letter from an appliance manufacturer.  He worked for them briefly in the 1990s when he was married to his ex wife.  While he worked for this company, he was enrolled in a financial incentive program.  The company sent Bill a letter to inform him that they were going to send him the money he had earned while enrolled in that program.

Bill had no idea how much the amount would be.  Since he worked there for under a year, he figured it wouldn't be much.  

Yesterday, he got a packet in the mail explaining more about the money.  It turns out the amount they had for him was a lot more than a couple hundred bucks.  It's not a huge amount, but it's enough to invest.  Oddly enough, I was actually thinking about starting a new mutual fund account the other day, but then realized that I want to move to a different house next year and we will need cash for that.

This money was totally unexpected and comes at a time when we don't really need it to pay for anything pressing.  Ten years ago, it would have really come in handy because we were relatively poor.  But we are not really poor right now.  A year from now, that may not be the case.  It makes sense to park it somewhere, hopefully tax sheltered.  Bill is going to stop by our trusty USAA branch and have a chat with them about the best way to stash those unexpected funds.

What really makes this unexpected windfall pretty cool is that the ex doesn't get a dime of it.  Back when she and Bill separated, Bill went into the Army and this company sent him a $1200 bonus.  Ex took it and spent it all; meanwhile, Bill was struggling to get by on $600 a month as Ex took most of his paycheck in child support, alimony, and the house payment Bill was compelled to make for her.  She leeched money from him for years and was way overpaid in the ensuing years of their divorce.  So she gets none of this little windfall, not that it's really that much anyway.

Sometimes the universe comes through for you just when you least expect it.        

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bill's latest training...

Bill just spent the last two days getting trained to become a casualty assistance officer.  He could have gotten this training at any time in his career, but he's just getting it now, at the tail end of his Army years.  Now that he's been trained, he can be called out to inform or assist family members when they lose a loved one at war.

If and when he gets chosen to carry out this duty, he will have to take his dress uniform to work and be prepared for the whole week to go out and work with families whose loved ones in the military get killed for whatever reason.  He could have to do it if someone dies on post doing something routine or it could happen when someone local dies in Afghanistan or elsewhere overseas.

Bill posted about the training on Facebook and some of his buddies piped up about it.  One guy said he would hope he could do it for a friend.  He wouldn't want his wife and kids finding out about him getting killed from strangers.  My response to that is that it would probably be a lot more difficult to carry out that duty to friends.  You would have to be very composed when delivering news like that and prepared for the fall out, which could include lashing out from the people on the receiving end of the news.  I would think it would be much harder to deal with those issues with friends.

The guy whose place Bill took when he went to Iraq lost his boss when his boss's helicopter was shot down.  Since this man had personally arranged for the flight that killed his boss, he felt somewhat responsible to his boss's wife.  When he came back to the States, he paid her a visit.  It did not go well.  The late colonel had two young sons who were left fatherless just a couple of weeks before their father was due to come home from the war.

I remember when Bill told me about that crash and how he and the colonel who ultimately abused him for six months in Iraq and caused us to leave Germany early would be taking the fallen colonel's place. He dreaded telling me, since he figured it would make me worry more about him.  I remember saying that I knew it was unlikely that he and his boss would be killed in Iraq and I didn't think the risks were higher just because of what happened to his boss's predecessor, tragic as it was.

Bill tells me that this area does a lot for the families of fallen troops.  He said that if he died tomorrow, I would be very well taken care of by the local military community.  That's good to know.  They do help everyone in the military community, including retirees and their families.  I hope Bill never has to deliver that news to anyone, although I do know he would carry out that duty with compassion.  He was on the edge of tears as he told me about the training and said they had changed the process a lot in the last ten years.  They brought in a "Gold Star Mother" whose son was killed.  Bill said listening to her speak was very moving and informative.

It's hard to believe that a year from now, he will probably be a retiree.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

This has been a rough month...

October is almost over and the weather has finally gotten really nice here in the San Antonio area.  The sun is shining a lot and the temperatures have become very pleasant.  And yet, last night before I fell asleep, I was feeling anxious and worried about the future.  I know worrying is probably a waste of time and energy.  I get caught up in thoughts about how my life is going and worry about how it's going to go.  It's really pointless and ultimately self-defeating.

This month, I got a dental crown and a denial from my dental insurance carrier.  I got an insulting and threatening letter from the property managers who take our rent along with an unexpected bill.  I finally dumped my "best friend" of 33 years, who wasn't really a friend after all.  All the while, Bill's retirement looms in the near future, which worries me.  I think he will find a good job, but I worry that it won't be easy and there will be a lot of stress and uncertainty.  And I worry that if I had to, I wouldn't be able to find a decent job either.

I never planned to be a housewife.  You don't go to college for seven years to keep house.  I figured I'd be a spinster when I hadn't gotten laid before I turned 30.  Bill came into my life and that has been an overwhelmingly positive thing.  He has allowed me to do what I love, though it's hard to make enough money to live on doing what I do.  I probably could make more money if I tried harder and started doing things like writing grant proposals.  I just feel like I've been out of the loop forever.

Texas has been a mixed bag.  I was really pissed off the other day and I will admit that I am not a particularly laid back person about a lot of things.  But really, Texas has its positives... I'm going through yet another rough patch and my rough patch is not really all that rough.  I have dealt with worse.  I think that's the problem.  I dread dealing with worse again.  It's taken a long time to get to the point at which I don't feel depressed all the time.

Most people who know me superficially would never know that I have a tendency to get depressed.  I tend to crack jokes a lot and I laugh often.  But really, it's a defense mechanism.  Under all the jokes is someone who is insecure and feels easily defeated.  I learned to overcome that by getting angry and going off.  I wish I had been less pissed when I called the property managers.  It might have been better to send them an email or a letter rather than call them.  I tend to express myself more calmly in writing.  On the other hand, as annoyed as I was the other day, I'm sure the property managers have heard much worse from other tenants.  Still, I don't enjoy yelling at people, even though sometimes they deserve it.

I hate feeling over the hill at age 41, but the truth is, when I was 21 I felt like it was a mistake that I was born.  I felt like a misfit.  It wasn't until I was older that I started to feel more comfortable in my own skin and more assertive instead of aggressive.  But the fear that I will go back to the place I came from lingers and sometimes that makes me feel anxious and depressed.  I should learn to do what the Mormons do...

I feel too much sometimes and it takes me to dark places.  On the other hand, the property manager is finally sending someone over to check out our garage door.  Maybe it will get fixed, now that I've lost my temper.  Not holding my breath, though...

At least we have nine months to plan the next move, right?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Planning our next move...

Yes, I am.  I am actually planning our next move not three months after our last move.  I have several reasons for already wanting to move.

1.  I hate the property managers.  Before we moved to San Antonio, I read about the company that manages this property.  They got horrible reviews.  I tried hard not to rent a house through them and we signed a lease with a different company.  Unfortunately, two weeks into our brand new lease, we got a letter informing us that all the rental accounts with the manager we signed with were acquired by this shitty property management company with terrible reviews.  So we got stuck with them sort of against our will and now we see why people complain about them.

They are very unprofessional in many ways.  I think the one way they are unprofessional that pisses me off the most is the way they address Bill and me... using our formal given names as if we had ever given them permission to do so, and writing very condescending letters, emails, and "tenant guides".

Yesterday, we got a bill for the plumber who visited us six weeks ago because we thought we had no hot water in the kitchen.  We came to this conclusion after letting the water run for several minutes and not getting hot water.  The plumber thought the cartridge in the faucet was broken, but actually it just takes forever to get hot water.  I guess that's a lesson for us to let the water run for five minutes before we assume something is wrong.  Meanwhile, we'll waste precious water and run up our bill.

The property managers sent us a shitty letter telling us it was "our responsibility to check".  We did check.  I have just never lived anywhere where it takes fucking three minutes to get hot water in the kitchen.  Anyway, now we have to pay $80... and that's just a sign of more nickel and diming to come, I'm sure.  Also, the garage door was supposed to be fixed for us, but now it looks like it never will be.  We were told they would fix it, but the property managers say that the owner has an option NOT to fix it.  And he probably won't.

2.  I hate the neighborhood we live in.  Maybe "hate" is too strong a word.  It's not the worst place I've ever lived, but it's kind of a shitty neighborhood.  There's a house a few doors down where it looks like a bunch of transients live.  It's trashed and there are cars everywhere and trash all over the place.  I hate the fact that all the houses look the same and there are no trees.  I hate having neighbors on either side of us and constantly worrying about our dogs or speaking too loudly in the backyard.  Yes, we have a pool, but it's surrounded by nasty rubber mulch.  I miss having trees and PRIVACY.

3. I hate this house.  Again, I have lived in worse places, but this house has nasty carpets and walls.  The people who lived here before us trashed the place and it wasn't very well cleaned before we moved in...

The condition of the air filters when we moved in in August...

Bill took a lot of photos of the condition of the house when we moved in.  I have a feeling we will need them, because the property managers managing this house are notorious for screwing people out of their security deposits and this house has a lot of problems.

The people who lived here before us and got evicted were apparently shitheads.  They never turned on the gas and when we asked the property managers who to call, they sent us to the wrong company.  When we finally found the right one, we were told the gas in this house had not been turned on in a couple of years.  So when we actually moved into this house, we had NO hot water at all, nor could the managers tell us where to go to get hot water.  We had to figure that out for ourselves.  I guess the shitheads who lived here before us bathed in the pool.  We did see a lot of evidence that they ate microwavable food a lot.  There were many microwave pizza containers tossed in the backyard as well as aluminum foil and paper plates.

We moved into this home because the first one we applied for, managed by another company, was rented to another couple who probably didn't have dogs.  We didn't have the chance to do a lot of house hunting, despite our week here in July.  Even if we stay in San Antonio and continue to rent, we'd rather live in a different part of town in a house that is smaller, more economical, and most importantly, managed by someone else.

4. I didn't plan to live in this house longer than a year anyway.  At this point, we don't know if we are staying in San Antonio after Bill retires.  I probably wouldn't mind staying in this city, but I am tired of being a tenant and would like to live in my own house.  However, given a choice, there are other places Bill and I would rather live.  If he can get a job in Europe, we are definitely there.  I don't want to be a landlord myself, so I don't want to make plans to buy a home until we know we'll be staying awhile.  But if we can leave, I'd be all for it.  I'd rather live somewhere that has four true seasons.  I also prefer a neighborhood that isn't a cookie cutter subdivision.

5. I was livid when I got that bill...  And I called up the property managers and went off.  But I realize now that in the grand scheme of things, it's $80.  We'll pay the bill and just start making plans to get out of here in nine months while trying hard not to make any repair requests.  It's liable to be an aggravating nine months, but it's not the end of the world.  At least the Army will move us one last time and we have time to get our shit together and GTFO.  And really, as pissed as the bill and the accompanying condescending letter got me, there are worse things in life.  This, too, will pass.

Just more of an incentive to write more.  ETA:  I just joined the Texas Tenant Union.  It's $30 for a year, but if they can help us protect ourselves, it'll be money well spent.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

British school just now bans smoking on campus for kids 11-16...

Just read an article about Elmete Central School in Roundhay, Leeds in the U.K.  The school, which is for kids who have educational or behavioral problems, had been allowing children as young as 11 to smoke cigarettes during breaks.  Recently, the policy was challenged and smoking was subsequently banned on campus.  On the surface, this seems like a sensible thing to do.  It is illegal in Great Britain for people under age 18 to smoke, so why would it ever be allowed on a school campus?

As I read this article, it occurred to me how things change.  When I was a freshman in high school back in 1986, students who had their parents' permission were allowed to smoke in the courtyards during lunch.  The courtyards, now since filled in and turned into office space, were outdoor areas surrounded by the school building.  Kids who smoked could go out there and light up, alleviating their nic fits while leaving the restrooms free and accessible for those who actually needed to take a piss.

By the time I was a sophomore in 1987, the smoking privileges were stripped away and students were no longer allowed to smoke in the courtyard.  The smokers, now needing a new place to indulge their habit, simply moved to the bathrooms and smoked in the stalls.  Those of us who needed to pee were out of luck, even though we had a mere five minutes to get from one part of the school to another between classes.

I remember thinking that if they were going to take smoking out of the schools, they ought to at least enforce the rule by preventing people from smoking in the bathrooms.  But hell, a lot of the girls were smoking in the bathroom right across from the main office.  I distinctly remember dreading needing to use the bathroom after lunch.  There was always a big cloud of smoke and I'd go in there smelling somewhat fresh and come out smelling like a tobacco factory.

I look at this smoking ban in Britain in a similar way.  The kids were allowed to smoke in an effort to keep them in school and prevent them from being truant.  Eleven year old kids should certainly not be smoking... and really, it's an unhealthy habit for anyone.  But what's worse?  Letting kids smoke and getting them to go to school?  Or taking away their cigarettes and risking that they won't go to school?  This is an honest question.  Kids often don't know how decisions they make when they are very young and immature will affect them.  A lot of people start smoking when they are very young, which leads to a lifetime of smoking and all the adverse affects smoking has on one's body... not to mention the way it negatively affects other people.

A smoking habit, besides being expensive and unhealthy, will eventually become inconvenient.  Many people don't like being around smokers and don't want to share public space with them.  Go on CruiseCritic and read the many threads dedicated to smoking on cruise ships and how it affects and annoys other people.

On the other hand, it is potentially damaging to children when they drop out of school or otherwise fail to become educated.  And children having nic fits are potentially disruptive to others.  We could go all hard core and say that kids need to understand that education is both necessary and something of a privilege.  Those who can't conform to the rules should not be allowed to screw things up for others.  But then, we also have to keep in mind that young people are often foolish and don't know how their past decisions may affect their futures.

Personally, I am not a smoker.  I think it's a nasty, dirty, expensive habit... I wouldn't want it around any child of mine.  But there are still many places in the world where smoking is embraced and part of the culture.  I don't know that it's wise to let such young kids smoke and definitely not in school.  But if smoking keeps your potentially troublesome students calm and focused, well... what do you do?  And which is the bigger evil?


Yesterday, President Barack Obama "saved" some diabetic pregnant woman as she was about to collapse during his speech.  While I don't want to come out and say that incident was staged, I do think it was a rather strategic event as he was speaking about Obamacare and how it is a good thing for people who need insurance and couldn't get it (or change it) in the past.  I mean, what better way to drive home the point about how important healthcare access is than to have a pregnant diabetic woman standing behind the president as he talks about a new healthcare incentive?  She starts to pass out, alarming the audience, and Obama suddenly turns around at just the right time to "steady her".  He looks good; she's "saved", and suddenly we get why health insurance is so important.

Obama barely touches her; the people behind her probably deserve more credit for "catching her" than Obama does.  And how did he know she was fainting if his back was to her?  How lucky it was that she was standing right behind him, too.

Yeah... I think that incident probably was staged, although I personally am somewhat in favor of the president's healthcare act.  I know why people don't like it.  I know it seems like an infringement on people's rights and, believe me, I am usually a big proponent in individual rights and freedom.  However, I firmly believe that all people need access to affordable healthcare and everyone needs to have some type of insurance in place for when accidents happen.  If you won't voluntarily sign up for it for your own good-- and that of everyone else's who ends up having to pay your bad debts when your sudden medical bills are too much to handle-- then perhaps there should be a law that forces you to sign up.    

People like the young diabetic, pregnant woman standing behind President Obama do need access to healthcare that they are able to pay for.  So does the baby she is carrying.  What would you have her do?  Not treat her illness and end up collapsed in the street somewhere?  Then she'll be carted off to a hospital in worse shape than she might have been had she been able to get to a doctor on a regular basis.  Emergency rooms and ambulances are notoriously the most expensive places to get medical treatment, but that's where so many people go when they aren't insured.  And when they don't pay their bills, those expenses are added to the tabs of those who CAN pay.

It will be some time before the kinks in this system are ironed out.  It may not happen in my lifetime.  But I do think that it's time the United States did something about its outrageously expensive healthcare system that treats poor people and sticks it to those who have insurance or the means to pay.  Healthcare in Europe is not free, but you won't end up in the poorhouse after a couple of days in the hospital there.  Yeah, you'll pay more taxes and that sucks... but you also get more time off to enjoy your life.  Europeans seem to value life outside of work a lot more than Americans do.

The more I think about it, the more I think my ancestors never should have left Europe...  Europe does have its problems, but I think I'm much more suited to life over there.

As to the title of this post, I was going to comment on the number of times I have fainted in my lifetime...  It's happened to me a lot of times.  I seem to have a sensitive vasovagal reflex, which causes me to pass out when it gets overstimulated.  I have fainted from not eating, swallowing something too hard to the point that it hurts, mashing my fingers in a door, cutting my finger with a knife, and having some twit with a hypodermic needle trying to find my veins.  I have also fainted while taking a painful dump.  I actually wrote an article about defecation syncope on Yahoo! Voices... It was a surprisingly popular article.  Apparently, that's one of those medical conditions that many people experience, but few people ever write about.

I almost fainted once while showing a pony at a horse show.  It was very hot outside and I was dressed in horse show attire... breeches, boots, a wool jacket, and a black velvet hunt cap.  I was dehydrated because my mom wasn't around to make sure I drank water (I was about ten years old).  Thankfully, it was a fitting and showmanship class, which meant that I was dismounted.  As we lined up for judging, I started to stagger and got very pale.  My riding teacher got me out of the ring and gave me lots of water.  I was fine twenty minutes later.

I have also fainted after having the wind knocked out of me.  That has happened more times than I can count.  And one time, I fainted at the Olive Garden when I got a sudden serious stomachache.  It was hot that day, too.  There's no telling what prompted the stomachache, but next thing I knew, I was coming to on the floor and someone was yelling that I must be an epileptic (I'm not).      

I'm always bewildered after I faint.  It's like waking up from a very deep sleep, except instead of feeling refreshed, you feel weak and kind of sick.  I usually feel like shit after I faint.  It hasn't happened in public too many times, but the times it has, it's been embarrassing.  I'm guessing that lady who got "lightheaded" is glad she didn't actually faint in public.

Anyway, it's good that Obama was there to "catch" that lady standing behind him.  I have every confidence that incident was totally staged, but it does drive home an important point that a lot of people may not think about.  If you were a young, pregnant, diabetic woman, wouldn't you hope for decent medical care that was affordable and accessible?  Yes, if you're young and healthy, it's liable to cost more to get less coverage.  But not every young person is healthy and sometimes they can't help being in that situation.  Shouldn't they be able to pay their bills too?

Monday, October 21, 2013

My mother's irrational fear of ATM cards...

First thing's first.  Facebook seems to be fucked up this morning, so I can't waste time with that right now.  I may blog a few times today and even get some housework done.

A comment I made on Alexis's blog yesterday brought yet another memory from the past flooding back.  It was the fall of 1990 and I was a freshman at what is now Longwood University.  My mom and dad had helped me move into my dorm and my mom took me into downtown Farmville (which you could easily walk to from campus) to set up my very first checking account.  Though I'd had jobs when I was in high school, I never had a checking account until I was in college.  In fact, I never had a savings account, either.  My mom, bless her heart,  couldn't be bothered to nag me to get one and being a dumb teen, it never occurred to me.

At 18, I was blissfully uneducated about finance, though I was ultimately pretty good about not overdrawing my account.  My mom, having come of age at a time when all banking was done in person, did not know anything about automatic teller machines.  In fact, I doubt she has EVER used one, even today.  Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I used one, either; but that's beside the point.

Anyway, there we were sitting at a desk at the bank and the lady asked me about whether or not I wanted an ATM card.  My mom, apparently thinking that an ATM card is the same thing as a credit card, piped up that she didn't want me to have an ATM card.  The lady who was helping us didn't bother to correct her and I was too dumb to comment, so we left the bank with a checking account and no ATM card.

For some reason, I never bothered to get an ATM card the whole four years I was in school.  Consequently, whenever I needed cash, I had to get it at a local convenience store called Par-Bil's.  Par-Bil's has since gone out of business, but for many years, it was THE place Longwood students went for beer, candy, and disgusting hot dogs (which I never tasted but heard were deadly).  It was located just across the street from campus, next to Pino's Italian restaurant and, I think, a laundromat.  The years have clouded my memory somewhat.

Par-Bil's would let you write a check for over the amount of your purchase.  Of course, I'd always end up buying crap I didn't need and that ultimately became like an outrageous ATM fee that gave me a bigger ass.  It was usually candy or soda I was buying, not useful stuff...  not that Par-Bil's actually sold a lot of useful stuff.

The guy that ran the store was quite a character.  He used to banter with the students and yes, a lot of them got into trouble for bouncing checks at his store, which sold lots of beer and horrible, cheap wine like Cisco and Mad Dog 20/20... or other *odd* drinks like Purple Passion or Crazy Horse Malt Liquor. On a Friday or Saturday night, it was a sure bet that Par-Bil's was doing brisk business selling alcohol... sometimes to minors.  There were times when I wondered if the guy wasn't drunk or high on something, but he was always friendly and his store, nasty as it was, had character.  It remains quite the colorful memory of my college days.

I took voice lessons when I was in college and always had to pay my accompanists in cash.  I'm sure they were paid in cash for several reasons...  college students were notoriously bad about bouncing checks and if you are just an accompanist, it's hard to charge a returned check fee...  Getting paid in cash made it harder to trace income, which meant a cheaper tax bill...  Getting paid in cash meant less trips to the bank.  So every month, I would trudge over to Par-Bil's to get money for my piano player.  I would also go there when I had a midnight snack attack... or when I wanted money to play video games in the student union.  Who uses checks anymore, though?  I mean, I probably write one or two a year when I used to go through a whole box of them.

I remember in those days, I also didn't have a car...  not until my senior year, anyway.  So I usually had to walk to most places.  Fortunately, Farmville is a very compact place and walking to many places was very doable.  They also had a bus that we college students referred to as the FART (Farmville Area Rapid Transit).  I finally got a Discover credit card toward the last couple of months of college.  I didn't keep it for long, though, because it was a ripoff.

Looking back, I realize it was a simpler time.  I cherish those memories now, though I did sort of stay naive longer because I went to school there.  Had I gone to a school in a bigger town, I probably would have gotten an ATM card and a car... and, for that matter, a JOB!  And I probably wouldn't have lived in a dormitory for four years.  However, I also probably wouldn't be Facebooking with former professors, either... including one who used to be my accompanist and for whom I had to visit Par-Bil's in order to get cash.  So, I guess those memories are worth it, even if it would have been cheaper, easier, and much more convenient to get an ATM card, despite my mother's irrational fears.  

Every time I think of Par-Bil's, I think of this song...


Another visit from mother-in-law...

I invited her over yesterday via Facebook.  She showed up at about 3:00 and we had a delightful afternoon and evening talking, eating, and drinking.  She spent the night and the pooches slept with her, giving Bill and me a welcome night of sleep in a less crowded bed.  We slept in until about 8:15am and then had breakfast together.

At one point a couple of hours after she left, I decided I wanted a big, greasy cheeseburger.  I don't know why.  It was just one of those uncontrollable cravings...  I also felt like having something to put on my travel blog.  So Bill and I had lunch at Chester's Hamburgers, which is a local chain.  I must say it was quite tasty.  Though we didn't drink alcohol at lunch, they do have a nice selection of beers.  You can read about it and see photos on my travel blog.

The weather is gorgeous today, so we sat outside and enjoyed it for awhile.  I wish I had something more interesting to write about... or maybe not.  Last week, I got to write about my "oldest" friend showing her ass.  This week, I have beautiful weather and family visits to write about.  That's not a bad thing... And hey, they government is working again, too!

Watching Who the Bleep Did I Marry on TLC.  So far, there have been at least two episodes featuring deceitful Mormons.

Mormon Madoff...

Thad Roberts...

And this right after those idiot guys who knocked over the ancient rock formation in Utah... after one of them claimed that he had been seriously injured in a car accident four years ago and instigated a personal injury lawsuit...  Interesting theme.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The significance of "whatever"...

One of my Facebook friends asked what the word "whatever" means in her friends' hometowns.  My friend is presently in Oregon, visiting her husband who is there on business.  Her husband said "whatever" to someone out there and they were very offended.  My friend and her husband are from the Philadelphia area and in Philly, saying "whatever" is not that rude.  I mean, yeah it's kind of snarky and dismissive, but it's not the kind of thing that would bring that much offense to most normal people.

The responses to my friend's query were interesting.  Most of her friends said it was a little disrespectful, but not "fuck off and die" territory.  A couple of folks commented that it would depend on the tone and the context.  One mother said she would wash her kid's mouth out with soap if she ever heard her say it.  Apparently, out on the left coast, "whatever" is highly offensive and actually is akin to saying "fuck off and die".  Someone can correct me if my friend's impression is wrong.

Anyway, I was suddenly reminded of an incident that occurred back in 1998 or 99... can't remember exactly when.  I was working as a waitress at a nice restaurant.  It was dinner time and someone in my section had ordered a cheeseburger, an item on the dinner cafe menu, while everyone else was having food off the regular dinner menu.  The crappy computer at the restaurant had a course numbering system that usually worked fine.  However, for some reason, burgers were not automatically designated second or main courses.  You had to enter it manually.

In my haste to take the order, I forgot to designate the burger as a main course; so I had to go back and talk to the chef.  I went to the kitchen and explained that I had forgotten to course sequence the cheeseburger and that I wanted to note that it was intended to be a main course.  The chef was very rude about it and made some nasty or sarcastic comment to me.  I no longer remember what he said, but it was offensive.  And I said in response, "whatever".  Actually, given my emotional state in those days, he's lucky all I said was "whatever".  At that time, I was trying to find the right antidepressant and was even edgier than usual.

Well... the chef got pissed and complained to the manager that I had been "rude" and disrespectful to him.  So she cornered me and bitched me out, which got me really upset.  I was pretty non-functional for about an hour.  I'm kind of surprised I never got fired from that job, actually...  though I was generally a hard and dependable worker.  Once I got my meds straightened out, I was a lot more even tempered.  For some reason, a couple of the managers actually seemed to like me and kept me around.  Also, they were chronically understaffed.  Anyone with a high enough tolerance for abuse and decent work ethic could work there as long as they wanted to.

Later, I told my shrinks about what happened.  The psychiatrist, who was a bit of an ass and used to patronize me by calling me "kid" and harassing me about my weight, asked me if I had apologized to the chef.  And my response was that the chef should have apologized to me.  I had made a simple error and immediately went back to fix it.  I was polite when I approached him.  He got shitty with me first.  It wasn't even like the error was a big deal.  All the chef had to do was make a note of it on the order chit, but instead, he decided to start shit with me when neither of us had time for the drama.

My psychologist, whom I suspect was not really all that impressed with the drug pushing psychiatrist, applauded me for being so assertive and said the chef was acting like a prima donna!  A couple of years later, his daughter worked at the same restaurant.  I'm sure he heard even more horror stories from her.

Restaurant work is hectic and frustrating and, if you work in a nice place, it's likely you'll have to deal with egomaniacal chefs who act like assholes...  and that chef who was rude to me was a major asshole who thankfully rarely worked on the line because he had been promoted to "executive chef".  I vividly remember the few times he did work on the line and he would throw tantrums that, if you were sitting in a dining area close enough to the kitchen, you could easily hear.  He was very unprofessional and would often get weeded because he was out of practice and easily overwhelmed.  And when he messed up, he took it out on the staff, who were forced to address him as "sir".  No, I'm not still bitter...  ;-)

I actually hated that job, but I'm very grateful for the experience.  I learned so much there and it did propel me to a better life.  I made several good friends working at that restaurant, too.  Some of them are still friends today.  Indeed, 17 months of misery in fine dining literally changed my life for the better and, I think, made me a much higher quality person.  At the very least, I learned to have respect for people who work in the service industry.  I will never purposely stiff someone who works as a server, unless their behavior is so egregiously rude and unprofessional that they make it obvious they don't care if I tip them.

That restaurant experience also gave me a lot of stories... and taught me a bit about fine food and wine. It helped me find a very easy and decently paying job when I moved to South Carolina and needed something that wouldn't interfere too much with grad school.  I ended up working at a country club where I didn't have to rely on tips, had flexible hours, and they would let me take home leftovers.  I also learned to try new things and enjoy really good food instead of processed boxed crap or casual dining chains.  I may not be skinny, but at least I get fat on the good stuff.

These men are IDIOTS...

These jerkoff Boy Scouts Masters decided to vandalize an ancient rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah under the guise of "protecting" kids from the chance the top would fall and "hurt someone".  It took millions of years for that structure to form and they ruined it in less than a minute.  Looks to me like they just wanted to trash something and have a bonding moment.  Here's an article about what they did.

Didn't they learn to leave nature the way they found it?  Asswipes!  I hope they get charged and have to pay a big fine for fucking up the park.


Bill's meme is funnier than mine is...

And... the plot thickens.  These guys now complain that they are getting death threats.  And the one that pushed the rock supposedly filed a personal injury lawsuit a few weeks ago, claiming disability.  They need a good smiting.  This asshole obviously wasn't hurt that badly.

Friday, October 18, 2013

More on Maria Kang... "What's your excuse?"

A couple of days ago, I posted about Maria Kang.  When I wrote that post, I had no idea how much her Facebook post was going to erupt into a viral sensation.  Lots of people have hit this blog because of the post I wrote.  CNN posted a column about it, which attracted a slew of comments.  Many of the comments are not what I would call "civil".  There are a lot of people being rude and sarcastic as they argue about whether or not Maria Kang's photo was "fat shaming" or bullying.

I don't think Maria Kang is a bully.  To me, it looks like she posted her photo as a means of drumming up business.  The caption "What's your excuse" is probably what got people pissed off.  The photo itself is cute.  Maria Kang is pretty and she has a nice figure.  Her sons are cute.  But "What's your excuse" is sort of an "in your face" confrontation that begs a response.  For some people, it's kind of like waving a red cape in front of a bull.  I've said it before.  For many people, body image is a sensitive issue and confronting people about their bodies is potentially offensive.  Since she did it online and people feel safe behind their computers, there will be a lot of responses, some of which are rude.  Seems to me that Kang should have expected a backlash... but she's also making a name for herself and may soon be laughing all the way to the bank.  

Frankly, I'm much less troubled by Kang's photo than I am by the mean spirited comments so many people post.  I don't understand why it matters to some random stranger on the street what another random stranger looks like.  Unless you are stuck sitting next to them on an airplane and their ass is taking up half the seat you've paid for or they are in some other way directly affecting you, I don't see what difference it should make to you if your neighbor is fat.  And I don't see why, if you don't know the person, you feel like you can call them weak, lazy, slovenly, ugly, stupid, jealous, hateful, unhealthy...  etc.  You can assume you know why the person looks the way they do and make a guess at how healthy they are.  I don't see why it's your business, though.  Don't you have your own life to attend to?

We don't tolerate these kinds of openly hostile judgments toward people based on other aspects of their appearance.  For example, it would be socially unacceptable to assume and say out loud that someone is weak, lazy, stupid, or slovenly because they are black or Asian or Hispanic... or because they are Mormon or Muslim.  Someone who is overweight can be beautiful or brilliant or even technically healthy.  Someone who is at a normal weight or thin can be ugly, unhealthy, and stupid.  These conditions are all mutually exclusive... and they are all also very subjective.  As I wrote before, health is a relative thing and so is physical attractiveness.  Seems to me we should all be focusing more on ourselves and our own "health" than being concerned about someone else and their "health".  

Anytime there's an article written about someone who doesn't have the perfect body image, there are all kinds of people bitching about "fat acceptance" and how we shouldn't tolerate it.  Most people would not actively choose to be fat.  In other words, if you asked someone if they would rather be fat or thin, most people would say they'd rather be thin, though a lot of them would rather eat a cheeseburger and watch TV than eat a salad and go jogging.  But if your neighbor would rather eat cheeseburgers and watch TV, what's it to you, unless you get stuck sitting next to them on the plane?  Is it just because you don't like looking at them because you think they're "gross"?  What if they said the same thing about you because they think you have an ugly face or a misshapen ass?  Or they think you're ugly because you have a shitty disposition?

By the way... Type 2 diabetes can be caused by issues other than being fat and lazy.  It's true that being overweight and sedentary are two big risk factors for type 2 diabetes, but it is very possible to be a normal weight and active and have type 2 diabetes.  There are other factors that can cause type 2 diabetes or heart disease or cancer.  Moreover, not everyone who is fat is on the verge of diabetes.  I don't see how you could even know what someone's actual health status is if you aren't their doctor.  And even if you are their doctor, there's a good chance you don't know.  Most doctors don't get to spend that much time with their patients, nor do they usually treat the whole body.  If something goes wrong with your kidneys, your internist or family practitioner will send you to a kidney specialist who specializes in kidneys.  And that doctor will focus on your kidneys and not your heart or liver, right?  If that's the case, how could your doctor know exactly how healthy you are?  

Here's an uncomfortable fact.  Good health is certainly a goal that everyone should strive for.  However, at some point, everybody's health goes bad.  If it didn't, you'd never die.  If your organs always worked perfectly and your cells always regenerated the way they are supposed to, you would go on forever like a Timex.  At some point, you will either get sick or suffer an injury that will cause your body to die.  We would be in serious trouble if everyone was optimally healthy.  If we all lived to be 100, there would be problems.  You want to talk about overpopulation?  We've already run into problems because our society is aging and people aren't dying as young as they used to... and that's even though more people are fat and becoming diabetic.  Fewer people are smoking, which means that instead of getting lung cancer, they are getting some other chronic disease like diabetes.

This was a topic that was frequently covered when I was earning my degree in public health.  As you age, it usually costs more to maintain your health.  You typically don't earn as much money because you can't work as hard or for as long... or despite our anti-ageist laws, some employer finds some reason not to give you a job and you have no way of earning your own money.  But you are still likely to keep accessing healthcare, which costs money.  You stop accessing healthcare when you die.  Does it make sense to do what you can to stay healthy longer?  Absolutely.  But if everyone stayed alive until they were very old, the burdens on our society would definitely increase, even if every single person did all they could to avoid risk factors that typically lead to disease.

Anyway, my point is that I think a lot of people just want to have a reason to be nasty.  You might look at a fat person and think, "They could choose not to be fat and diet and exercise. "  For most people, that's a true statement.  For other people, it's not.  They have some other reason for being heavy besides eating too much and not exercising.  They have a legitimate medical problem or they take some kind of medication that makes them fat, like some steroids or certain antidepressants.  You can't know why someone looks the way they do unless you happen to live with them or otherwise spend a lot of time with them.  So looking at some stranger on the street or the Internet and assuming that you know their health status is really pretty ignorant.  I think it makes a lot more sense to focus on your own problems and health status... and realize that the fat person who offends you probably would rather be thin but, for some reason, isn't.  Being mean to or judging that person is not going to make them suddenly shed 100 pounds.  In fact, it may make them want to eat chocolate mousse for a quick mood boost.

With that being said, I want one of these in the worst way right now...


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bitching out MetLife Dental...

Those fuckers at MetLife Dental, which provides insurance to TRICARE beneficiaries, decided that the crown I just got was "unnecessary".  I hate dealing with insurance people.  I think insurance is basically a racket with companies doing all they can to deny legitimate claims.  Yesterday, after coming home from the dentist with a very necessary new crown, I found a denial letter in my mailbox from MetLife.  I have just spent a month on this ordeal, which would have been more expensive and unpleasant had I waited until the tooth was worse.  Anyway, for your shits and giggles, this is the first letter I'm sending to MetLife Dental.  I suspect it will take more than this, but it's a start.

This is a very common situation when it comes to dental insurance companies and MetLife in particular.  It pisses me off that I have to spend time writing letters and on the phone in order to get this company to do what it is paid to do.  But as I am an overeducated housewife with plenty of time on my hands, I guess it's what I'll do.

To Whom It May Concern:

I just received an EOB for services I received September 18, 2013 at La Cantera Dental in San Antonio, Texas.  The claim for a crown porcelain-base metal and a core buildup was denied.  

The notes on the EOB explaining the denials were:

J-72: Based on the information submitted and reviewed by our consulting dentists, no benefits can be allowed for this procedure because there appears to be insufficient evidence of extensive loss of tooth structure due to decay or fracture.

M-8Q: Benefits for a core buildup are available only when the tooth qualifies for prosthetic crown benefits and there is insufficient anatomical crown remaining to provide retention for the crown.  The clinical information submitted and reviewed by our consulting dentists did not appear to meet these criteria.

I visited the dentist on September 11, 2013 because tooth #19, which is a large molar on the left bottom side of my mouth, was giving me significant pain and was sensitive to cold and sweet foods.  My dentist, Dr. Victoria L.G. Thompson, who is a graduate of both Northwestern University and the dental school at the University of Michigan, examined the tooth.  She then pulled out a mirror, which she used to show me the large crack on the outside of the tooth.  This dentist, whom I assume must be very competent since she is properly licensed in Texas and is a member of your preferred provider network, told me that to fix the crack and end the pain and sensitivity, I would need to get a crown.

I wasn’t thrilled to hear that I would need a crown.  I have another tooth that was crowned in 2006 and again in 2011, so I knew ahead of time what goes into getting a crown.  I assure you that had a less intensive option been available to me, I would have preferred it to getting injections that numbed my mouth, having my tooth ground into a nub, and wearing a temporary crown for weeks while the permanent crown was made for me.  However, both Dr. Thompson and a number of reputable dental Web sites advised me that in order to fix the tooth, I would need to have the crown done or the crack in the molar would get worse and I would eventually experience more pain.  Under the circumstances, it was an educated decision and indeed, since I have gotten the procedure, the pain and sensitivity have abated.  

I am not a dentist, so I had no way of knowing what kind of “cheaper treatment” I could have had done to save my tooth from further decay and damage.  I am, however, a prudent person and it seemed wisest to seek dental care when my tooth started bothering me.  Otherwise, I feared the tooth would eventually need root canal treatment, which would have been even more painful and costly.  Moreover, since Dr. Thompson is a competent and licensed dentist who has actually looked inside my mouth, I am inclined to trust her judgment over that of your “consulting dentists”.  It’s ridiculous that your “consulting dentists” apparently expect beneficiaries to wait until they are in severe pain to seek dental care, which will ultimately be more expensive and unpleasant for the patient.

My husband has spent about 30 years in the Army and will soon be retiring.  Every month, we faithfully pay $36 a month so I can have dental insurance through your company.  I have not needed any major procedures over the years.  Until now, your company has made money off of me.  In your brochure, it clearly states that the MetLife Dental Insurance policy covers 50% of a crown procedure.  I have paid for my part of this procedure and I expect your company to pay its share promptly and as promised.

If you continue to deny my legitimate claim, I am prepared to complain to the Texas Department of Insurance as well as to the appropriate department in the military that makes decisions about which dental insurance carriers should provide services to TRICARE beneficiaries.    

Please attend to this matter promptly.