Friday, October 31, 2014

Ever feel very contented?

This morning, I feel oddly contented.  I'm sitting here in my big room, drinking a cup of coffee.  It's not my preferred brand of coffee, but it's good enough.  I turned on Phil Coulter's heavenly Highland Cathedral album, which I discovered years ago on Napster.  The music is peaceful and includes a wonderful rendition of the title track.  I marched down the aisle to "Highland Cathedral" played on organ and bagpipes and that remains a wonderful memory for me.

The sun is out and it looks like I might be inspired to take the dogs for a walk in the beautiful nature near our current home.  Arran just came in here to say good morning and looked up at me with adoring eyes and a wagging tail.  It's Friday, and that means Mr. Bill will be home tomorrow.  Of course, tomorrow is also a holiday (All Saints Day), which means a lot of things will be closed.  But we can still have a nice day, right?

I'm sure later on, I'll find something to rant about, but for now I'm just enjoying the morning...  and I think it may be time to plan another trip to Scotland.  Two years ago, we went there for a couple of weeks and it changed my life.  My family has been in Virginia for a very long time...  no one has been fresh off the boat in ages.  And yet, when I went to Scotland, which I know is a place that figures prominently in my ancestry, I never felt more like I was at home.  I look like the people.  I like the food.  I like the scenery.  I like the way people speak and the way they are alternately profane and proper.  I even like the way it smells.

Actually, having been to Scotland, I can see why my family settled where it did.  Rockbridge County looks a lot like parts of Scotland.  Lots of low mountains, trees, wildlife, and, of course, a couple of rivers.  I remember walking around in the Benmore Botanic Garden near Dunoon, smelling the air, and thinking it reminded me so much of Granny's house in Natural Bridge, Virginia.  Ironically, we were there at around Thanksgiving, which is when our family traditionally gathers for a reunion.  While they were having Thanksgiving, I was in the motherland.  I know my mom's side of the family is very Scottish.  My dad's side is Scottish and Irish, but also English and German and I wouldn't be surprised if a Native American slipped in there somehow, too.

I ended up looking just like my mom's people.  Short and stout, pale skin, blue eyes (though my mom's eyes are green), and reddish blonde hair.  It used to be darker, but as I get older, it's turning silver which makes it go kind of blonde.  It's the strangest thing.  As a young child, I had blonde hair.  As I got older, it turned sort of a dishwater blondish-red, but I colored it because my mom liked it blonder.  I let it go natural when I was in my 20s and it was a brownish red with a few stray blonde highlights.  Then I started coloring it more red.  Now no matter what I do, it ends up blonde again.

Of course, I'm itching for a trip to Ireland, too... that's where most of Bill's people are from.  He has the map of Ireland on his face, too.

Anyway, I highly recommend Phil Coulter's majestic Highland Cathedral if you need a little Celtic inspiration.  I played this for my dad once and he loved it so much that he went out and got his own copy.  


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Duggar-Dillard nuptials...

Just a few thoughts on the latest episode of 19 Kids and Counting.  They are in no particular order.

1.  Erin Bates Paine's piano playing reminded me a bit of Liberace playing with broken fingers or Richard Carpenter at Christmas time.  It was a bit too fancy and overwrought for my taste... and too loud.

An example of Erin's playing.  She really likes to embellish.

  2.  I actually did get a bit choked up watching, though the build up to the ceremony was a bit tedious.  Weddings make me verklempt.  At the same time, I'm glad my wedding is long over with.

3.  WTF was Michelle Duggar wearing?  That dress was a monstrosity.

4.  I truly like Jill and Derick.  I hope they enjoy a long and happy marriage.  I used to think Jill was a bit of a Kool-Aid drinker, but she has really blossomed into a beautiful young woman.  And Derick doesn't seem like a dipshit.

5.  It'll be interesting to compare this wedding with Jessa's, which will happen on Saturday.

6.  Did JimBoob really lead Ben Seewald around by the tie as if he were a dog on a leash?  I think that's a sign of things to come.  Hope Ben's been to obedience school.

7.  I think it must be exhausting to be a Duggar.  They're forever doing shit... scavenger hunts and counseling and family meetings...

8.  I suspect the older kids are going to be married off apace now, but at a steady pace so that the ratings can be sustained.

9.  I'm dying for one of those Duggar kids to break loose and live life on their own terms.

10.  I think Jill borrowed one of Michelle's ugly button down blouses with the cap sleeves.

11.  Does Michelle have osteoporosis?  She looks really short.

12.  All in all, it was a nicer ceremony than Joshie's.

And these are unrelated, but I wanted to share them because they're kinda funny...

Sexy ebola nurses and a nurse who is "sick" over a forced quarantine...

Ebola is all over the news these days, thanks to the sudden and unwelcome presence of it in the United States.  Naturally, people's reactions to Ebola have varied.  Some have attempted a lame attempt at humor by turning the ebola scare into a money making Halloween opportunity.  I read at least one article yesterday about the so-called "sexy Ebola nurse" costume available for sale.  Some enterprising folks have combined a timely news story with sex and voila, controversy is born...  And I suspect that there have been a few sales of the costume, if not for those who'd actually wear it, then for those who can see that there may be a market for it when it's either banned or discontinued.

I'm not sure how I feel about the sexy Ebola nurse costume myself.  I don't tend to wear sexy clothes and donning something billed as "sexy" isn't really my style.  I doubt I could pull it off.  I guess I don't care if other people want to wear it.  While I don't think Ebola is a laughing matter, it doesn't offend me if others want to poke fun at it.  Maybe I'd feel differently if Ebola affected me personally... like it does nurse Kaci Hickox, who went to Sierra Leone for a month to help take care of Ebola patients.

Last week, Hickox came back to the United States after her West African adventure.  A forehead scanning thermometer in Newark indicated that she had a fever, so she was immediately quarantined in New Jersey.  The "tent" she was placed in was apparently very uncomfortable and unpleasant; moreover, she didn't actually have a fever.  Hickox raised a ruckus, so she was sent home to Maine, where she has been asked to stay inside her home.

Hickox maintains that she's not sick.  She tested negative for Ebola and says she doesn't have a fever. Therefore, she doesn't think she needs to stay cooped up in her house for three weeks.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I do think there's something to Hickox's claims that people are a bit hysterical about Ebola.  I can't really blame them for that, though.  It's a scary disease that kills quickly and most people have no idea how it's spread.  I have read that one can only get Ebola after contact with body fluids and it takes up to three weeks for the virus to incubate.  Public health officials are asking Kaci to stay put for safety's sake, but Kaci maintains that she shouldn't have to do that.

I'm guessing that Kaci Hickox probably isn't sick and a lot of what she says does make sense.  However, she may want to stay home for her own safety.  A lot of people are upset with her and think she's being selfish.

I, for one, am of a mixed mind about it.  I can certainly understand how a quarantine might be inconvenient, depressing, and annoying, especially for one who isn't actually ill.  And I do worry that this health scare going on right now may lead to people's civil rights being violated for frivolous reasons.  I think enforced quarantines can lead to a slippery slope that can cause a lot of problems.  At the same time, as a health worker, I think Kaci Hickox should have more empathy for the masses.  Most people aren't particularly knowledgable about how diseases are spread.  Ebola is a scary viral illness with a high mortality rate.  Three weeks may seem like forever if one is confined, but the reality is, it's not a long time.  If it were me, I'd probably just stay home and be glad I wasn't forced to be in a hospital.  But then, I stay home a lot of the time anyway.

Kaci Hickox says she's going to sue over this quarantine business.  I suspect by the time it gets to court, we'll know whether or not the authorities were right to "detain" her.  I guess I don't blame Kaci for being upset.  At the hospital in New Jersey, the least they could have done was give her some items to make the two day stay more comfortable rather than just forcing her to stay in a tent with nothing to read. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A review of Sacred Road: My Journey Through Abuse, Leaving the Mormons, and Embracing Spirituality...

Those of you who regularly read this blog-- and I know there are a few of you-- know that I enjoy reading "ex Mormon lit".  I have a couple of huge lists of books I've already read and reviewed which I'll link to at the end of this post.  I can't say that every book about leaving Mormonism tempts me, but many of them do.  I especially enjoy reading books about missionary experiences since I was myself a Peace Corps Volunteer.  While the Peace Corps and a Mormon mission are not really the same things, strange experiences in exotic countries can be somewhat universally appealing.

Anyway, I just finished reading Todd Maxwell Preston's 2013 book, Sacred Road: My Journey Through Abuse, Leaving the Mormons, and Embracing Spirituality.  This book was not about a Mormon mission experience.  I still found it interesting in a "Peace Corps" kind of way because Preston is not American.  He hails from New Zealand, a place I've been wanting to visit for a long time for the scenery and the wine alone!

At the beginning of his book, Preston explains that his parents were not born Mormon; they were converts.  Preston was born March 7, 1973 in Hamilton, New Zealand, the fourth of ten children.  When he was six years old, his family moved to Utah for the first time.  As he grew up in his large Mormon Kiwi family, they would move back and forth from New Zealand to Utah several times.  As I read about the major moves Preston's huge family made, I couldn't help but think about the logistics of it.

I have lived abroad four times in my life.  The first time, when my dad was transferred to England with the Air Force, I was too young to remember what went into making the move.  The next time, I went to Armenia-- just me and a couple of suitcases.  Then there were two moves to Germany.  Each overseas move has been complicated and somewhat difficult, despite the fact that each time, there was a job to go to and logistical and financial support.  From what I gathered, Todd Preston's family didn't have that.  Perhaps it makes a difference if you have family to help you, but the cost alone would be daunting for family of Preston's size.  And add in the fact that Preston and his siblings were school aged, I imagine it was a lot of upheaval and confusion for them, especially since one move to Utah lasted only a couple of months!

Making matters worse was the fact that Preston's father was very abusive and Preston apparently wasn't one of his favored children.  Consequently, he was treated very badly by his dad, who insisted that Preston adhere to the many strict tenets of Mormonism and used abusive methods to make sure he did.  I got the sense that Preston was a bit of a free spirit being forced to be a square peg in a round hole.

Preston went to school in Texas to become a chiropractor.  He was not the only one in his family to take this route.  Two brothers joined the profession before Preston did and they had a practice together in Utah.  Preston writes of marrying a good Mormon woman and quickly starting to have kids, perhaps before they were really ready for the job.  Though I got the sense that he dearly loves the four daughters he had with his first wife, I also got the sense that going to school, trying to establish a practice, and living with Mormonism was very difficult and stressful for Preston.  It was so difficult, that Preston finally had to let go of the church, along with his marriage and even his career.

My thoughts

For the most part, I enjoyed reading Sacred Road.  Given that Mormonism is such an American religion, I was curious as to why it would be embraced by people who come from New Zealand.  I'm not sure Preston answered that question for me, but I did appreciate his very personal story of what growing up Mormon and Kiwi was like.  I wish Todd Preston had spent more time writing about his coming of age years and explained more as to why there were so many moves back and forth to New Zealand.

Preston's book seems to be mostly about his relationship with his father and how it affected him and less about Mormonism, although I do believe that Preston's father used the church to abuse his son.  The fact that the church can be used in such a manner is why I dislike Mormonism as much as I do.  I know that many churches can be used in a similarly destructive way, but the Mormon church happened to personally affect me and, more importantly, my husband.  So I have a lot of empathy for people who have been damaged by it, even as I understand that many people grow up Mormon just fine and happily continue to embrace the belief system.  I think it's great when people find a belief system that works for them, but I know that not every belief system works for every person... and I appreciate people who are brave enough to write about their experiences, especially when what they have to say isn't positive.

I notice that some reviewers have panned Sacred Road because they think Preston confuses his father's abuse with church abuse.  It's true that even if he hadn't grown up Mormon, Preston very likely would have been abused by his father.  However, Mormonism made an effective tool for abuse, particularly since Preston's dad seemed hellbent on rising through the ranks and attaining status and power within the church.

While I've never been LDS, I have discovered through several different sources that it's really hard to rise to the higher echelons of the church if you're a convert, which Preston's parents were.  But that doesn't stop people from trying.  Mormons are expected to do a lot, give a lot, and pray, pay, and obey a lot.  Those who can't or won't get with the program are definitely subjected to pressure.  Add that to the stress of living with an abusive parent and you have a very difficult situation which leads to trouble down the road.  And indeed, Preston does write about his trouble-- a failed marriage, a crisis of faith, temporarily losing his career and the financial stability that comes with that, and, I suspect, damaged relationships with his children and other family members.  The book ends before readers find out what's at the end of Preston's "sacred road", though a note at the end of the book reads that he moved back to New Zealand, remarried, and had at least a couple more children.

I think Sacred Road could have been better than it is, but that doesn't mean I didn't like the book or get anything of value from Preston's story.  I think it helps to know something about Mormonism before you read this, since I don't think Preston really explains much about what Mormons believe, nor do I think he explains enough about why being Mormon factored into his journey.  Overall, I would recommend this book to interested readers.


Ex Mormon lit list part one

Ex Mormon lit list part two

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bill's interesting comparison of dealing with ISIS and treating heartworms...

Last night over dinner, Bill was talking about a conversation he had with someone about how ISIS needs to be dealt with.  He thinks dealing with ISIS should be akin to ridding a dog of heartworms.

Bill and I have actual experience with heartworm treatment.  In 2003, we adopted a purebred beagle named Flea.  Flea was heartworm positive when he was rescued.  The lady who picked him up had him treated, but due to money issues and perhaps time issues (she also had other pets, jobs, and a small child), she never took Flea back for the second, much milder part of the treatment.  Consequently, Flea's heartworms were never cured.

We adopted Flea thinking that he had been completely treated and was clean.  However, because I was nervous about the heartworms, we had him tested again.  The test came back positive.  We were pretty poor at the time and we lived in northern Virginia, where everything is more expensive.  The vet thought that maybe the test was a false positive, since Flea had recently had the first half of the treatment.

A few months later, we were going to have Flea's teeth cleaned.  A sharp eyed vet tech looked through Flea's records and noticed the positive heartworm test.  She called the hospital that supposedly treated him and discovered that while Flea had undergone the rough first part of the treatment, he was never brought back for the second part... the part where the baby worms are killed off.  And so the infestation was never fully cleared and by the time he got treated again, he was really infested with heartworms.  Fortunately, we got him treated and he was completely healthy after about six weeks.  Then we got him a sidekick, our beloved MacGregor.  Flea and MacGregor are now at the Rainbow Bridge.



So Bill thinks the way we deal with members of ISIS should be the same.  They need to be obliterated, including the young ones.  I was a little surprised by this revelation from him, since Bill is usually a fairly gentle guy, despite his military service.  I'm not so sure how easy it's going to be to obliterate ISIS anyway.  I just read on CNN about Jordan Mattson, a former soldier who decided to go to Syria to fight ISIS.  

And I have also read about three two Colorado teens who tried to join ISIS.  And the girls from Vienna who went to join the cause, too...

With all these civilians jumping into the fray on either side of the fight, things are bound to get very complicated.  A lot of people are going to die... and a lot of them will die in a gruesome way.

I'm really glad Bill is not in the Army anymore, though as a retiree, he is subject to recall for the next 20 years.  The chances of him being recalled are slim, but there's always a chance.  Of course, the company he works for is sending him to Africa, though not to places where Ebola is prevalent.  That's yet another scourge that needs obliterating.  

Repost of my review of Escape from Camp 14

I went through a phase a few years ago and read a bunch of books about North Korea.  This morning, I read an article on CNN written by Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known person to grow up in and escape a North Korean prison camp.  He has been labeled "human scum" by North Korea's leaders.  They claim that his description of what life is like in a North Korean prison camp is a pack of lies.

I found Escape from Camp 14, Shin Dong-hyuk's book, extremely fascinating.  Aside from having an amazing story to tell, Shin Dong-hyuk is a talented artist.  You can see some of his drawings on the CNN article, though I must warn that they are basically artistic depictions of how prisoners are treated in North Korea.  Some people may find them disturbing.  I did find them a bit graphic, yet I also marveled at Shin Dong-hyuk's talents and I'm glad he is now free to share them with the rest of the world.

Growing up and escaping North Korea's Camp 14...
Jul 12, 2012 (Updated Jul 13, 2012)

Review by knotheadusc in Books

Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Fascinating story. Horrifying. Haunting drawings.

Cons:Horrifying. Occasionally depressing.
The Bottom Line: Be grateful you don't have to escape Camp 14.

For the past few years, I've been fascinated with stories about North Korea, one of the world's most opaque countries. That's why I felt compelled to read journalist Blaine Harden's new book, Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West (2012). This book is the true story of a young man named Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born and raised in Camp 14, an oppressive North Korean political prison and later managed to escape. Though I had a feeling that parts of Escape from Camp 14 would probably depress me, I figured that ultimately the story would end on a somewhat triumphant note. And again, I think oppressive regimes are oddly fascinating.

Who is Shin Dong-hyuk and why was he raised in prison?

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in 1982, the second son of parents who had somehow managed to be allowed to get married. Shin's parents didn't marry because they loved each other. They married because they were being rewarded for doing something good. Sex between inmates at Camp 14 was forbidden, except between married couples. After their wedding, the happy couple was allowed five nights together; then they were separated and Shin's father was allowed to visit periodically. Shin's older brother was born in 1974 and by the time Shin was old enough to remember much, he had already been sent to live in a boy's dormitory. When Shin was still a very young boy, he too was sent to live in a dorm. It wasn't too big of a deal, though, since Shin didn't have much of a bond with his mother, anyway. They were too busy working to form a bond.

In North Korea, people who commit crimes against the state are severely punished. So are their families. A person who gets caught doing something illegal will go to prison and so will his or her parents, siblings, and any children. The whole family pays for one person's actions; consequently, there's a lot of peer pressure to be on one's best behavior. Shin was born in the prison and never knew any other life, mainly because two uncles tried to escape North Korea back in 1951. Shin's childhood was spent working, starving, and being beaten and indoctrinated. He spent those years fearing for his life; for the punishment for disobedience was being shot on the spot. When Shin accidentally broke a sewing machine, he paid for it by sacrificing part of a finger.

When Shin was 13, his mother and brother attempted to escape Camp 14. Shin overheard their plans. Like any good North Korean prisoner, Shin felt compelled to alert the authorities. Not alerting the authorities of an escape attempt meant being shot. The guards were able to stop the escape attempt and Shin was rewarded by being tortured and interrogated. Then, he and his father were forced to watch as his mother and brother were executed. He was not sad to see them die. He thought they were selfish for putting him in the position to have to tell on them.

It took Shin months to recover from the injuries he suffered while he was being tortured. During that time, he met a man who told him about life outside of the camp. Shin was fascinated that there was a world beyond the electrified fence. But he also knew that the fence was deadly and would kill him if he tried to flee. And if he was caught even thinking about escaping, he would be shot.

Years later, Shin met another man who told him more about the world outside the fence. Shin found himself obsessed with the notion of escaping. With his new friend's help, Shin hatched an escape plan and successfully escaped the political prison in 2005. Harden relates Shin's amazing story of breaking out of the North Korean camp and eventually making it to South Korea, then the United States.

My thoughts

Whenever I start to feel badly about my own life, all I have to do is remember what Shin Dong-hyuk has already endured in his 30 years on the planet. He grew up starving, friendless, and without much of a family, imprisoned for crimes he had nothing to do with. Against all odds, he broke free to go to a new country that for most of his life, he had no idea even existed. Adjusting to that new life in rich, opulent South Korea was extremely difficult. And then when he went to the United States to tell other people about his life in Camp 14, he had a hard time adjusting... and relating to other people.

Harden's done a great job with Shin's story, maintaining an objective yet compassionate tone as he describes the atrocities Shin and other prisoners endured. It makes any problems I face seem trivial. This book took a long time to read and was, at times, a bit depressing. It's not pleasant to read about innocent people being starved, beaten, and brainwashed. However, I have to admire Shin's courage for escaping, even as he experienced guilt knowing that his father would certainly be punished for his escape... and the man who came with him on his break for freedom ultimately ended up being killed by the electric fence. Shin used the man's body to insulate him against the electricity-- without that dead body, Shin never would have made it to freedom. He's paid a price, though, through constant nagging guilt. At this writing, Shin Dong-hyuk is the only person known to have managed to escape prison and defect from North Korea.

At the end of this book, Harden includes drawings Shin did that depict the horrors of Camp 14. I found the crude drawings haunting and horrifying. There are also photos.


I would definitely recommend Escape from Camp 14 to anyone who is interested in North Korea or likes true stories about overcoming adversity. This is not a happy book, but I found it fascinating to read and I definitely rooted for Shin Dong-hyuk.

Recommend this product? Yes

Monday, October 27, 2014

Blast from the past...

A guy I met as I was leaving Peace Corps service seventeen years ago is now working for the government.  Last week, he contacted me on Facebook to ask where in Germany Bill and I live.  I told him and it turned out that he and Bill are both going to a conference this week.

Aside from marveling that my past professional life is now mingling with Bill's present professional life, I was just amazed at yet another opportunity to see an old friend.  I actually didn't get to know Erik really well, because as I was leaving Armenia, he was just getting there.  But while he was in training, we did hang out a bit.  He said he thought I was funny!

We met for lunch yesterday and talked for a couple of hours.  Hopefully, we'll get to hang out again as the week progresses.

I don't know what it is about me, but I have an uncanny knack for running into people I used to know or people who know someone I know.  It's very strange, because it's not like I was ever a very popular person.  But it's happened to me more times than I can count... I'll see someone I haven't seen in years in some random place or I'll bump into someone and we'll start talking and realize we have a mutual friend or something.

This visit with Erik was planned, since we knew he was coming to Germany.  It was still a lot of fun. I love catching up on gossip.

In other news, the other day, Bill thought he heard one of the neighbors tell him in German to take our dogs with him while he was running errands.  I wouldn't be surprised.  There's a guy who lives near us who thinks we leave them alone all the time.  We don't.  I'm with them about 90% of the time.  They do bark, but their barking isn't excessive.  They bark if they see an animal or people they don't know, or if someone rings the doorbell.  They sometimes bark when they play.  That's about it.  Their sessions seldom last longer than a minute or two, unless we're out in the woods and they're on a scent.

The neighbor guy can kiss my ass.

Perhaps I should leave one of these on his lawn.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I know how this feels...

I used to feel like this a lot... still do sometimes.

I grew up with three much older sisters.  I remember seeing them obsess over their figures when they were teenagers.  They used to go jogging all the time and always talked about dieting.  I can remember being in second grade and being lectured about my body by one of my older sisters, telling me that I needed to get into the habit of exercising and dieting so I wouldn't be fat.  I remember her telling me that I'd never been the optimal skinny size...

Me at twelve...

Me at five...
I can remember being obsessed with my body and weight from the time I was about eleven.  I was not obsessive enough to develop a full blown eating disorder, though I sure tried for a long time.  It took many years to stop trying so hard to be someone I wasn't.  But I would be lying if I said I didn't fantasize about simply cutting away the fat.  I know it wouldn't work with a pair of scissors... but I often wish it were that easy.  I used to starve myself all the time, sometimes to the point of passing out.  I can't do that anymore.

Last night, I was looking at the comments from a video posted by  It was a video about a beautiful woman who doesn't have the body size preferred by most people.

She's pretty and healthy, but people still feel free to comment on her size...

There's always some jerk who assumes that because someone is a certain size, they are "unhealthy".  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  There is no way one person can know anything about another person's health status unless they happen to be their doctor.  And even if they are a doctor and have examined the patient, it would still be hard to know.

I think what's really going on is that people are offended by someone who is overweight.  They see it as slovenly and lazy and they feel justified in criticizing that person for not "working hard" to fit a certain aesthetic appeal.  The issue is not concern for a person's health.  The issue is that they just want fat people to go away and stop offending them.  But they can't just tell someone that they look disgusting, so they couch it in "concern" for the person's health.  The reality is, they have no way of knowing what that person's health status is.  

I have been overweight for many years.  Yet I have never been hospitalized.  I've never had surgery.  I have not taken any prescription drugs of any kind since February 2004... and those were antidepressants, which I took in part because I was depressed over who I was.  I can walk for miles.  I rarely get sick and when I do, I usually bounce back quickly.  Sure, I avoid doctors and if I went to one, he or she would probably lecture me and maybe even give me some pills to take so I might present numbers that are more within their definition of a "healthy" realm.  You can't tell me that I cost someone money due to my body size.  At this point, I almost never use the health care system.  

Yes, it's true that I may soon end up with a chronic disease of some sort that could be related to being heavier than I should be.  However, I am already entering the second half of my life, when many people develop chronic diseases or health issues.  I'm no different than any other person in their 40s.  I may live to be 100.  My granny did and she was a size 14.  Or I may die at 81 like my alcoholic father did.  Or I may die sooner than that for any number of reasons.  The point is, some yahoo on the street doesn't know if I am healthy or not.  They only know if they find me appealing to look at.

I think it's sad that people feel that way and think they have the right to be cruel to others.  I think it's sad that the girl in the picture above wants to use scissors to cut away the extra flesh.  I know how it feels.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My chipper mother...

Last night, Bill and I went out to eat at our favorite Greek restaurant.  But before we went, I talked to my mom.  She was in a good mood and was about to head to the pool for an exercise class.  She said she'd gotten tickets to the symphony and even managed to renew her passport.  She said she was hoping to take a river cruise, maybe even in Germany.  And if she does, she said she'd like to visit us.  I told her we have a spare king sized bed and a fold out futon that she and Bill's mom have a standing invitation to use.

Mom still hasn't gotten the religious music CD that I made for her.  Things can take ages to get to and from the U.S. using the APO system.  She said if she likes anything on the CD and wants me to change my selection for dad's memorial service, she'd get my sister to get in touch with me.  Apparently, when she plays the other CD I made, she cries.  I imagine the religious one will make her cry even more.

It would be easy for my mom to get in touch with me herself, except my mom doesn't use computers.  She never learned how and never had any desire to use one, even now that my dad is dead and can no longer bug her about teaching him how to send an email.

That was something my dad drove everyone nuts over.  We'd show him how to send email and access the Internet over and over again and he'd always forget.  Sometimes he'd send me an email begging for help sending email, not realizing that he had just successfully sent one without help.  He even hired a local computer guy to come over and teach him, but it never stuck.  Before long, the guy stopped answering my dad's calls.

Mom said there was a package waiting for her that she needed to pick up.  She said it was either the CD I made for her or her prosthetic boob.  I was amazed as she very casually told me that she wears things that are "puffy" now, to hide her missing breast.  But with the prosthetic boob, she wouldn't have to do that anymore.

I guess if you're going to get breast cancer, it's not so bad to get it at age 76, right after your husband dies.  I'm certain my mom would have preferred to avoid the whole experience altogether, but she sure is maintaining an upbeat pragmatic attitude about the whole thing.

Anyway, I hope she's able to come see us in Germany.  I don't think my mom has ever really been here, except for when she was in transit somewhere else.  I think she'd like it here.

What's not to love?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Arran and his tummy troubles...

Yesterday, as I was washing the linens in our bedroom, our dog Arran threw up his breakfast all over my nice feather duvet.  I was annoyed as I cleaned it up because Arran had also had an accident in the basement.  Though he was supposedly potty trained when we got him and is generally good about peeing outside, he still has trouble pooping on the leash.

In Texas, this wasn't as much of a problem because he could go outside in the fenced yard and relieve himself at his leisure.  Here in Germany, he can't do that.  Also, previous tenants in this house have had pets who have soiled in the house, which gives Arran the idea that it's appropriate to go inside.  Fortunately, he's mostly confining his soiling to the basement, which has no carpeting.

Anyway, having cleaned up Arran's mess, I went on about my day.  However, as the afternoon progressed, it became pretty clear that Arran wasn't feeling very well.  He kept to himself for much of the day and looked uncomfortable.  When I gave him his dinner, he threw it up on my clean duvet cover, which I ended up washing again.

By dinner time, I was truly worried.  Arran really looked like he was uncomfortable.  He was shivering and didn't even want a bite of our dinner.  I found myself looking at Web sites about dogs vomiting and tried to figure out if Arran had puked or merely regurgitated.  It was hard to tell.  I read horror stories about dogs vomiting that turned out to be really sick puppies in the literal sense of the expression.

Arran finally came to bed at about 10:30pm and slept soundly all night.  This morning, he ate about half of his breakfast (Bill didn't give him his whole ration).  He took a nasty dump, then seemed completely normal again.  I fed him the rest of his breakfast one morsel at a time and he's back to his old self.  He definitely wanted the food and it hasn't reappeared at this point.  That's a relief.

I always worry so much about my dogs because they can't tell me when they feel sick or are in pain.  And I've lost three of them to devastating illnesses before they really got old.  I'm hoping this episode of sickness is past us now.

I'm sure I'll post about something less mundane later.  I just love my dogs.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Little girls using the f bomb...

FCKH8: Princesses from Jose Ho-Guanipa on Vimeo.

The above video was featured on Upworthy yesterday.  Basically, it's a bunch of little girls in princess costumes dropping the f-bomb and other so-called "bad words" in order to get across their points about how poorly women are treated.  While I don't generally have a problem with the f-bomb, I didn't like this video.  I found it pretty obnoxious.  I also wonder how much these cute little girls really know about what they are saying.

I shared it on Facebook, though, and got into an interesting discussion with a woman I met through back in 2003.  She lives in Virginia and her husband used to work with my aunt's brother, Ralph, a former Virginia State Trooper.  Ralph is also a former Kansas Guardsman, so he ran into Bill at a conference before we met in person.  Ralph checked out Bill for me, to make sure he wasn't a psycho.  Anyway, that's not really relevant, other than to establish how else I know this lady other than from Facebook and Epinions.

My friend said she hated the video for the same reasons I do.  She found it obnoxious and exploitative.  The video turned me off because it had a bit of a male bashing tone to it.  For instance, at one point, the girls say "Stop telling girls how to dress and start teaching boys not to rape."  Uh... how many men are really rapists?  And why assume that rape automatically has to do with dressing slutty?  Rape is about power, violence, and shame, not sex.  

While I know that women have historically had to deal with sexism and being thought of as "less than" because of gender, I don't think that having a bunch of little girls use the "f" word is the way to change that reality.  In fact, I don't think this video does much more than shock and offend.  I'm sure a lot of people think it's cute and novel, but I doubt the people who like it will be the ones who can create change.  The people who will like this video will be people who think the egregious use of the f-word is cute, funny, or clever and that little girls using it is somehow cool.

Some may say that the point of the video is that people care more about little girls using the word "fuck" than they do the message, which is that women deserve equal treatment and the right to feel safe when they are walking to their cars.  I don't deny that the message is important.  Women do deserve equal pay for equal work and they should be able to feel safe at all times.  But the message that comes across to me in this video also seems to be that all men are bad, treat women unfairly, misogynistic, potential rapists, etc.  What these girls are describing are assholes.  Assholes come in both genders.  An "in your face" video about how badly women and girls are treated in the United States rings pretty hollow, too, when you consider that there are many places in the world where women truly have no public voice at all, let alone one that can utter the word "fuck" at will on a video.

As I wrote before, I don't have a problem with the word "fuck" or even so much that the kids are using that word.  In fact, I use it all the time.  But there is a time and a place for that word.  Of course, the name of the organization that made this video is FCKH8, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. also shared Monica Lewinsky's recent speech about cyberbullying.  I don't know about you, but I was kind of shocked by how fast the years have passed.  Seems like yesterday, people were talking about how she gave Bill Clinton a blow job.  While I don't condone Monica's actions, I do have some empathy for her.  She was very young and starstruck when she was involved with Clinton.  Yes, he was a married man and she knew that, but ultimately, he's the one who strayed from his commitment.  And I don't think Monica Lewinsky should spend the rest of her life paying for her mistake in judgment... although it really was a whopper.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life and death...

Yesterday, I posted this on Facebook.  I got a bunch of "likes".  A friend of mine left a thoughtful comment basically stating what I think, that a person's exit from this life is personal and should be up to them and their families.  And honestly, I'd take it a step further and say that death should be an individual's decision, as long as they are competent enough to make it for themselves.

I've actually been kind of surprised that there hasn't been more controversy about Brittany Maynard's decision to end her life on November 1.  Sure, there have been religious folks trying to appeal to that decision.  They argue that Brittany isn't letting God decide when she should draw her last breath.  They say she's not giving her family and friends the chance to be used by God in service to her.  And I guess those arguments are fine if you happen to be religious and have people around you who are both willing and able to be of service.  

But not everyone believes in God.  Not everyone sees this kind of catastrophic illness as an opportunity to serve someone else.  Not everyone is lucky enough to have loving friends and relatives who want to help or financial resources to pay those whose job it is to help.  And not everyone can cope with the pain and misery that comes from a devastating disease that robs them of their ability to function independently and with dignity.  

From what I've read, Brittany's cancer causes her extreme pain.  She has a very large brain tumor, which as it grows, puts pressure on brain and causes major headaches.  She has seizures and fatigue.  While I don't know the specifics of Brittany Maynard's illness, I would imagine a brain tumor would eventually start to take away important body functions.  She would probably eventually lose her ability to see... to hear... to speak... to move...  all of the things that make life pleasant would slip away, one by one.  

Once those things start to go, she loses power over her faculties and then other people would have to tend to her.  Then it becomes a lot harder to make decisions because the person making the decisions isn't the one who is actually living with the results.  It may be a burden to have to physically care for a person who is terminally ill, but I think it's an even greater burden and responsibility to make life or death decisions for them.  I think it's much better when a competent adult is able to make those decisions for themselves.  Once a person loses competence, they lose self-determination. 

I think people have the right to believe in whatever religion they want to-- or no religion at all.  They have the right to live life as they see fit.  I don't think religious people have the right to impose their religious beliefs on other people.  You think it's a sin to commit suicide?  Then don't commit suicide.  You think God should decide whether you live or die?  That's fine.  But don't try to make that determination for someone else. 

Of course, a lot of the "right to life" folks don't talk about the fact that left to their own, a lot of people who are terminally ill or grievously injured would die without lingering for months.  It's medical support that keeps them going... support that didn't exist until somewhat recently.  One hundred years ago, we didn't have high tech computers and mechanical equipment that kept people's bodies going indefinitely.  When a person's time came, it was time to go.  And they went...  There was no ethical dilemma because there was no technology available that could forestall death.  

How long would Brittany Maynard live if she had no medical support?  It's hard to tell.  Left alone, the process of death might be faster, but pretty intolerable to experience and to watch.  But make no mistake about it, she is going to die.  Unless there is some kind of a miracle or a new treatment for her disease becomes available before she voluntarily ends her life-- presumably on November 1, 2014-- she is going to perish, as we all will someday.

In the past month, a lot of words have been written about Brittany Maynard.  A lot of those words have been beautiful and complimentary.  Some have not been very kind.  Some have been condescending and some have been supportive and admiring.  Whatever happens to Brittany Maynard, I wish her and her family peace.  It's tragic that she's likely going to die before she turns 30, but from what I've read about her, she's already lived a life fuller than many people ever do.           

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Indoctrination starts young... Mormon mommy videos

Maybe a couple of years ago, I was messing around on YouTube watching videos of kids throwing tantrums in cars.  Don't ask me why I was doing that... maybe it was because I was comforting myself that I never became a mom.  Anyway, I came across one video that intrigued me.  A little boy was sitting in the middle seat of a car.  His sister was sitting next to him, properly strapped into a carseat.  Another child could be heard crying.  The boy was in the middle, wearing a seatbelt without a booster.  He was too short for the shoulder belt, so it was cutting across his neck, touching his ear.  This distressed the boy, so he was screaming at the top of his lungs about it.  Mom was apparently filming this spectacle for the masses instead of fixing the situation somehow.

Now, I actually hate seatbelts.  I always have.  I wear them because if I don't, Bill turns into Pat Boone.  Also, because if you don't wear them in Germany, there's a huge fine.  By now, I've gotten used to them, anyway.  I do remember being a small child, though, and sitting in the front seat of my parents' cars (back when it was legal for kids to sit up there).  They'd sometimes make me wear a seatbelt and I was too short.  It was uncomfortable, so the damn thing would cut me across the neck.  I'd usually just put the shoulder part behind my back.  Of course, nowadays, you can't do that.  Most cars don't just have lap belts anymore, either.  So kids need booster seats if they can't sit in a carseat anymore.  Actually, this kid was small enough that he probably could have been in a carseat for larger kids, but he had two little sisters who needed them more than he did and there was no room for another carseat.

A couple of days ago, I came across the carseat tantrum video again.  Not having a lot to do, I started looking at other ones posted by the kids' mother.  She's now up to four small kids.  It wasn't long before I noticed that this family is very Mormon.  The kids are really cute, so mom has posted all sorts of videos.  There's one of the boy and older girl in bathing suits in the bathtub.  Actually, I was glad to see that, since someone actually encouraged the mom to film them nude (pedophiles, people!!!).

There's one video where mom is in a rushing river of some sort.  She takes her oldest daughter (at the time the video was shot, maybe 3 years old) under a log in cold water.  Mom writes that the water is usually about 55 degrees.  The girl doesn't cry, which mom comments on... amazed.  Honestly, if you think your child might cry and scream in cold water, why would you even attempt to swim with them under a log until they're older and can decide for themselves?

In another video, she shows an even younger daughter eating raw onion.  Apparently, the kid really likes it.  There's no accounting for taste, I guess.  It does surprise me a bit, though.  That girl must have interesting taste buds for being so little.

The one video that really caught my attention was one of her three year old girl giving a "church talk" for the first time.  This kid is basically unintelligible, so mom has helpfully provided a transcript in the video description.  She's not actually speaking in church-- looks like maybe it was a dress rehearsal of some sort and they're in a classroom.  But she's saying things mom feeds to her, like "Thomas S. Monson is the prophet" and "When I follow the prophet, I am happy".  She holds up signs as she says these things, surely not really knowing what she's saying, but pleasing her mother, who is also filming her for all to see.  Her brother, the same one who was screeching about wearing a seatbelt incorrectly, is clearly bored and can be heard commenting throughout the video as mom tries to keep him contained while filming her barely verbal daughter giving a "talk" that she clearly doesn't yet comprehend.  And freakily enough, what the child is saying reminds me a little bit of what North Koreans say about their "dear leader".

A North Korean girl sings praises to the "Dear Leader".

I shared the video with some people in the know... and I noticed one person came back and took mom to task for it.  She basically invited him to watch Meet the Mormons, a new documentary now showing in movie theaters near you.  Naturally, it's all about Mormons.  This lady figured her commenter was "confused" and didn't know about how great the Mormons are.  But, as it turned out, he was a former missionary who did time in Peru trying to convert people.  So then she apologized that he was "offended", which is another common assumption many church members have about people who don't like their church.  Frankly, I don't think that's a bad reason to dislike Mormonism.  If enough of the people in the church are so yucky that you'd completely abandon your religious belief system, there must be something wrong with the church.  But no, the commenter claimed that he left because of doctrine.

After watching one more video featuring her youngest child in the womb, two days before he was born, I decided to stop watching.  I was alternately amazed and weirded out by the sight of this woman's gyrating pregnant belly.  In some ways it was pretty cool... in other ways, it was a little too personal.

3 year olds giving "talks" in church is a little creepy.  I know that many church members think this is the way to bring their kids up right.  Some probably think it's cute.  But having an adult feed you the right things to say in front of a church crowd is not really so much developing a belief system as it is submitting to indoctrination and being rewarded with parental approval.  Maybe a case could be made that it teaches kids how to speak in public... but it seems to me that kids ought to be physically able to speak, have rational thoughts of their own, and make some sense before they are expected to give a "talk" anywhere.  If not for the child's well-being, the comfort and well-being of onlookers should be considered.  It's true that some people find kids adorable and enchanting and think whatever they do is cute.  Other people tolerate kids.  Some people actively dislike them and won't think hearing their "canned testimonies" hand fed by their parents is all that interesting.

I do like kids.  I do think this mom is fortunate to have four adorable and apparently very healthy kids.  She obviously loves them enough to record a lot of their moments on video and put them on public YouTube videos.  I'm not sure she enjoys the negative response some of the videos have received, but I give her credit for not deleting the comments or becoming belligerent.  I do wonder what her motives are, though.  Why put your kids on YouTube for strangers to see?  Why invite criticism?  Are you doing it because you want to be an example to everyone else?  The videos are interesting, but perhaps not in the way mom intended them to be.              

Monday, October 20, 2014

Woman gets stuck in would-be boyfriend's chimney...

Just saw a video about a woman who got stuck in the chimney of a Thousand Oaks, California home. The woman, Genoveva Nunez-Figueroa, had met the homeowner online and they went on a date or two.  I guess things didn't work out from the man's perspective and he started to distance himself.  Apparently, she wasn't ready to let go of the relationship.  She was on his roof once and he called the police.  Then she came back and tried to break into the house via the chimney.  Fortunately for her, a neighbor heard her yelling and texted the neighbor, who then called the cops.  The chimney was dismantled and the woman was removed, taken to the hospital, and placed in police custody.  Now the homeowner has to pay to get his chimney fixed, but at least she didn't die.

Back in 2010, I remember reading about a doctor from Bakersfield, California who who tried to break into her boyfriend's home.  49 year old Dr. Jacqueline Kotarac first used a shovel to try to gain entry to her boyfriend's house.  When that didn't work, she used a ladder, then tried to slide down the chimney a la Santa Claus.  Unfortunately, Dr. Kotarac got stuck as the man she was pursuing slipped out of the house to avoid a confrontation.  Evidently, the boyfriend, William Moodie, then left town.  Her decomposing body was found three days later by a housesitter and her son, when she noticed a bad smell and fluids leaking into the fireplace.

As bad as it is that the doctor died in her pursuit, now the homeowner has to deal with the fact that someone died in his house.  I'm sure that won't make his home as attractive to potential buyers should he ever decide to move.  I read that Dr. Kotarac supposedly was a very compassionate physician.  It wouldn't surprise me if there was a little borderline personality disorder going on with her, but of course, I can't know that for sure.  She died a terrible death that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Yesterday, I became aware of yet another crazy woman.  Kristina Riddell from Longmont, Colorado who, back in July, left her child alone in the backseat of a car, should have been arraigned in court today.  Two people passing by saw the boy and called the police.  While one of them was on the phone with the cops, the mother of the boy appeared, decked the male half of the intervening couple.  She then got in her car, backed over the woman who called the police, crushing her leg, and drove off while the man was holding on to the car.  The man got cuts and bruises but the woman was in a wheelchair and may never walk normally again.

It's been an interesting day.  It's looked like it's going to rain all afternoon, but so far heavy clouds but no rain.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I don't like half the folks I love...

This song really sums it up...  Yeah, 'nuff said.

It's ironic that I discovered this song on the way home to Virginia in July when I was going to see my dad for the last time.  Now that the holidays are rapidly approaching, I think this song will become my theme.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Well you're a real humdinger with a fine pedigree...

I posted that as a Facebook status last night.  My friend Andrew commented.  "Of baking little tarts and lots of fine pastry."

I wrote back, "Way to go, Andrew!"  He had figured it out...

Pat Benatar sings "Hit Me With Your Best Shot".

Back in the early 1990s, there was a board game on the market called SongBurst.  My dad bought it for me for Christmas.  I didn't get a chance to play it very often because for best results, it required two groups.  Being rather unpopular, I never had any parties, hence, I never had any groups around who wanted to play.  It might have been a good game for our annual family reunion, but it never occurred to me to bring it.  I think I might even still have the game, though it's definitely in storage in the States if I do.

Anyway, when I first got that game for Christmas, I played it with my sister.  The object of the game was to come up with the right song lyrics.  She got Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", but she couldn't remember the opening line of the song.  So she came up with, "Well you're a real humdinger with a fine pedigree..."  It cracked me up and for some reason, I thought about it last night after I finished ranting about not being recognized as one of "the grandchildren".

It turns out Andrew, who is also a music buff, also had a copy of the game.  That had nothing to do with him figuring out what I was up to, though.  The funny thing is, I've "known" Andrew for about ten years, but only online.  I have met his wife in person when we both attended an Epinions meet and greet in Washington, DC back in 2005.  But Andrew and I have not yet met in the flesh.  We have, however, read each other's reviews, bantered on Facebook, and even sung duets together on SingSnap.  It's amazing what one can do online these days.

Me and Andrew making music together.

Amazon has SongBurst for sale, though I think the seller is asking too much for it.  The 50s and 60s edition for sale is a hell of a lot cheaper.

Maybe I should buy a BowLingual instead.

I think it's gonna be a goofy day.

Friday, October 17, 2014

There is nothing like being invited to a holiday event by a group you're supposedly a part of...

This afternoon, I got an email from "the grandchildren".  It was from two cousins and a cousin once removed.  They are in charge of our big Thanksgiving celebration this year.  I imagine it's for a number of reasons.  The ones who used to throw these shindigs are getting older and some are no longer in the best of health.  So the torch has been passed to these cousins.  I notice the main party planners have also started an actual party planning business of their own, so it's so much the better that these particular cousins host this thing...  except they may need a little refresher course in not alienating people by being thoughtless.

Now see, they sent me an invitation from "the grandchildren".  But I am also one of the grandchildren.  In fact, I am one of the original crop of 22 grandchildren.  Granted, it's been four years since my last visit.  That's partly because of our perpetual status of residential flux and partly because the older I get, the less I like certain family members.  In fact, I have some outright animosity toward a few of them.  Yes, I know it's juvenile and stupid and I should just let bygones be bygones, but a lot of my issues and pain stem from my family of origin.  And the older I get, the more I realize that, and the more I see some of them as insincere jerks.  I also understand that not all of them like me either, though because they are mostly Christians, they feel the need to include me... even during the year we memorialize my father.

So when I got that email from "the grandchildren", it kind of pissed me off.  I was tempted to shoot back a snarky response, but thought better of it.  I'm not really looking for drama.  On the other hand, if this is the way things are starting off, maybe it would be better for Bill and me to have dinner at a restaurant and then show up for the memorial.  Then maybe we should go back to DC and shop at Potomac Wines.

I sense that any toasting that goes on at our family gathering might go like this...  at least if I end up doing it, which I won't, because no one cares about what I have to say.

Actually, I plan to take it easy on the booze this year.  I really just want to put in my obligatory appearance and get the hell out of there, hopefully unscathed.

I realize that certain family members may actually see this blog post.  If they do and are offended, I don't really care.  I've about had it with this shit.  I feel a little like Groucho Marx...  I refuse to join any group that would have me as a member.


Ebola has everyone in a tizzy...

My husband now works for Africa Command, aka AFRICOM.  He says that Ebola is the number one topic at his job.  Here in Germany, a number of people are being treated for the deadly virus, though none that I know of are in the Stuttgart area.  And of course, back in Texas, Ebola is all over the news since Eric Thomas Duncan, a Liberian who showed up at a Dallas hospital infected with it, was hospitalized and later died.  Two nurses who cared for him have now tested positive with the virus and have been moved to hospitals in the United States better equipped to deal with them.

Seems like every generation has its disease du jour.  In the 80s, it was AIDS.  People were terrified of it.  I remember having to watch films about it in school, all about how it's transmitted and risky behaviors associated with contracting it.  There were some excellent movies of the week made about the AIDS epidemic.  Molly Ringwald even starred in one.

In the early 2000s, people were worried about anthrax, thanks to the efforts of certain bioterrorists.

Before AIDS, there was polio and tuberculosis and the plague...  Now we have Ebola, along with Marburg, deadly viruses that are killing many people in Africa.  Now the disease is spreading abroad and people in the United States are all up in arms about it.  You don't hear so much about AIDS anymore.

I thought this was a pretty funny graphic...

While I understand why people are afraid of Ebola, I think in the grand scheme of things, we have much bigger fish to fry.  The chances of getting Ebola are fairly slim, especially if you take precautions.  Still, I would probably be a little freaked out if I were on a plane with someone with Ebola...


These people on a U.S. Airways flight certainly were freaking...

Given that we have to fly to the United States next month, I'm wondering what kind of nightmare effect the Ebola virus is going to have on travel in the coming weeks.  Hopefully, it won't suck as much as it might.  Truth be told, I wish we could just stay in Germany.  Nevertheless, I'm sure I will have a lot to write about when we go back to the States.  Hopefully, I won't get so annoyed that I end up in trouble with the authorities.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

This isn't food! It's violence!

Imagine you're sitting in a restaurant, enjoying a tasty chicken sandwich or a delicious omelet.  Suddenly, a tearful young woman comes into the place and asks for your attention.  You look up and she launches into an emotional tirade about her little girl, Snow, who has been "horribly abused" her whole life.  As you sit there with your mouth dropped open, she tells you her "abused little girl" is actually a chicken.

Your attention effectively diverted from your lunch, you listen to this woman go on about how animals aren't food.  You lose your appetite, especially when after she's finished speaking, a group of other people surround her with signs that say "This isn't food!  It's violence!"

Can't imagine it?  

Check out this video...

To be frank, I do find it appalling how animals are processed into food.  If I spent much time on a farm, I'd probably end up a vegan.  On the other hand, there is a food chain and humans are at the top of it.  And if you think about it, even humans end up as hosts for other organisms.  Think of all the living beings that make a meal out of a person, living or dead.  Viruses?  Bacteria?  Fungus?  Worms once a person is in the process of decomposition?  Yup... it's the circle of life.

So this nutty lady, Kelly Atlas, probably can't turn me into a vegan.  In fact, I am surprised she was allowed to make her speech uninterrupted.  Maybe the manager of that restaurant was just too shocked to react.  I would be interested in knowing, though, if anyone who witnessed that spectacle changed their ways.

If you are interested in learning more about Kelly Atlas and her cause, click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ernest Angley's descent into scandal...

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I like to watch religious television programming sometimes.  It's not because my soul needs saving.  I just find it hilarious.  Now that I'm in Germany again and have no access to the religious channels that plague most American satellite and cable systems, I've gotten away from watching TBN and the BYU channel.  I can, however, still watch Ernest Angley, because his show is on the Internet and available everywhere.

To be honest, I find Angley a pretty dull speaker and his toupee is annoying.  I watch his show because of the shitty musicians.  I mean, they aren't bad musicians in terms of their skill.  It's just that the music is so corny and lame.  It's mostly country and bluegrass flavored and apparently written in house, no doubt so that Angely's ministry doesn't have to pay anyone royalties.  The songs are often kind of graphic, with lyrics about being "washed in the blood of Jesus", as if Jesus Christ's blood was some kind of heavy duty soul detergent.  Angley's ministry is extremely protective of its "intellectual property" (and I use that term very loosely).  You'll never find any critical videos of Angley on YouTube because they get copyright claimed at the drop of a hat.  But you can watch it on the Internet and cringe like I do.

An example of music on Angley's show...

And it looks like one of the soloists in the above clip is also quite engaging on camera...

Until yesterday, I mostly thought of this "ministry" as kind of cornball and stupid.  But then a Facebook friend posted an article about a huge scandal erupting at Angley's Cuyahoga Falls church in Ohio.  The article my friend posted was a rather slanted blog type thing, so I decided to go to the article it was based upon, one in a series on Angley's Grace Cathedral ministry posted in Akron's Beacon Journal.  Reporter Bob Dyer interviewed a number of people who had left the church, including a former pastor named Brock Miller who left the ministry on July 4th.  Miller contends that for seven years, Angley "violated" him by inappropriately touching him.  Angley claims he was giving the man a "special anointing".

Apparently, people who leave Angley's church are shunned and criticized by name during worship services.  Mr. Miller is being accused of being a drug addict and liar by Angley's associate pastor, Chris Machamer, who is a star of every telecast as a "guest host".  I can barely stand to listen to Machamer speak because he's so fake and plastic and has no charisma.  Angley himself claims that Miller is an adulterer.  Machamer claims that Miller just wants to take over the church once Angley finally kicks the bucket.

I don't know what the whole truth is, but there are enough stories by people claiming that Angley was doing bad stuff that I tend to believe the good televangelist and his henchmen are simply engaging in character assassination and trying to discredit the victims by claiming that they have serious character flaws.  Miller reportedly didn't initiate this expose of Grace Cathedral and its apparently toxic environment.  In fact, Bob Dyer writes that Miller repeatedly refused interview requests and had nothing to gain by accusing Angley of being highly inappropriate.  Think about it.  You're a man who believes in God and has been taught to keep your dirty laundry out of sight.  Why would a guy like Miller want to speak publicly about allowing another man to examine his genitals, especially if he's a conservative Christian?  I'm guessing that Mr. Miller is pretty humiliated by all of this, but finally felt he had to do something to preserve his dignity.  Indeed, Miller emphasizes that he's not accusing Angley of homosexual behavior, but of "violating" him.

Because Miller lived in church owned housing, after he went public with his story, he and his wife had to move.  Miller and his wife were both homeschooled and neither got education beyond that.  They don't have jobs or qualifications to work elsewhere.  Now they are living with another family member and this very embarrassing and personal news is being broadcast worldwide.  I think Brock Miller was brave to speak out.  It would have been easy to just wait it out until Angley finally croaks, but he couldn't take it anymore.  And good on him.  He shined a light on his abuser.  Indeed, he's not the first to say something.  Here's another person's account of what it was like to be raised in Angley's "church" for 12 years.

I can only guess that a lot of musicians attend Angley's church because he likely gives them work.  Jobs for musicians can be hard to find and churches can be good places to find steady, gainful employment.  Angley gives these folks plenty to do, too.  There's one guy who plays in the Gospel Five-- good looking guy-- who was probably a band geek in high school.  He plays drums and saxophone and sings pretty well, better than most of the other guys singing with him.  There's a good looking bass guitar player who can't sing very well, but plays his bass in the cornball rockabilly style Angley seems to favor.

I notice some nepotism, too.  Chris Machamer's relative (I assume she's his wife, but I don't know for certain), Maria, is a singer,  She's very small and meek looking and seems to try hard to sound like Alison Krauss.  And I believe another relative is also involved in the church.  I've seen her on camera talking about fundraising for "missions".

Angelia Oborne, a woman who was a member of the church with her husband, claims that Angley encouraged followers to have abortions and vasectomies.  My heart goes out to Oborne, since she and her husband can't have kids.  He had a vasectomy at Angley's urging and now she's 35 and doesn't think she can conceive.  Since my husband also had a vasectomy and it was later reversed, I understand her sorrow.  My husband's reversal was done for free and I was 31 years old at the time.  We didn't conceive, and I was sad about it for awhile.  Now that I'm older, it matters less.  But she's still young enough and it is heartbreaking that they made this poor decision while under the influence of cult thinking.  And now they have to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.  Angley claims the world is going to hell, so his followers are encouraged to avoid having children.    

I will be watching for updates on this story.  Seems like sooner or later, these televangelists get exposed somehow.  This has been a long time coming.