Thursday, December 31, 2015

Marie Osmond sure likes to brag...

Happy New Year's Eve, everybody.  2016 is just hours away.  This year flew by fast and, for the most part, it was a good year for me.

I don't know why, but yesterday I started watching Osmond videos on YouTube.  I saw a concert the whole family did in 2008 in Salt Lake City.  The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was there and they sang the beginning of "I'm a Little Bit Country", which was just as dreadful as you might imagine.  I had to get up and go to the bathroom.  While I was in there, an interview with Marie Osmond started playing.  She made sure to tell everyone multiple times that she'd been performing for five decades.  She talked about all of her many accomplishments, all the while cracking jokes.

I remember when Marie was the hottest ticket on TV.  She was fresh and pretty and lots of young men thought she was a hottie.  She's in her 50s now and a grandmother.  She looks great for her age especially after going through so many personal tragedies.  But she's also pretty full of herself, as are her brothers.

Marie wears a blonde wig.  

That being said, I like Marie better than most of the brothers.  She has a sharp sense of humor and comes off as plucky.  It couldn't have been easy, growing up the only girl in such a large family.

I'm sitting here right now watching a 1982 movie starring Marie playing her mother...  It's a bit sanitized, I think.

Marie does her mom.

I don't know that acting is Marie's strong suit.  But if someone had to play her mother, I suppose she was the best one for the job.  At least she doesn't sell phone calls, like her brother Merrill does.

We don't have any big plans for tonight.  I think we'll stay home and watch the fireworks.  It's going to be a crazy night, as long as there's no rain.  Germans love their New Year's festivities.  Last year, we had snow and it barely put a damper on the fireworks.

I don't really feel like doing anything today.  The weather is cold and nasty.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Young Marines can't smoke in Hawaii...

Well, look at this!  Yesterday, I had nothing on my mind.  Today, I feel compelled to write a second blog post.  The Internet has me all fired up today, all because of what I read last night. reports that as of January 1, 2016, the state of Hawaii will have a new law in effect.  The smoking age will be raised to 21.  That means that people under age 21 will not be legally allowed to purchase, possess, or consume tobacco products.

As someone with an advanced degree in public health, I can see why this law was passed.  I won't be surprised if more states eventually pass it.  We Americans like our nanny laws, right?  Research shows that people who choose to smoke usually do so when they are young.  Raising the smoking age is the government's attempt to protect young people from themselves and prevent them from picking up a nasty habit that will result in higher healthcare costs, not to mention air pollution and litter.  Sounds good, right?

Well, I might agree that the law isn't a "bad" idea in terms of public health policy.  However, the article I read was about Marines being compelled to abide by the law.  Before anyone points out the obvious, of course I understand that Marines and other servicemembers must abide by local laws.  My issue is that Marines and other servicemembers are legal adults involved in a profession that could easily get them killed.  They are old enough to marry, to vote, and to sign the dotted line.  If they want to smoke a cigarette or have a beer, who are politicians to tell them they can't?

I am not a big fan of the two tiered "adult" system we have in place in the USA.  A teenager who commits murder can be tried and convicted as an adult, even if he or she is under age 18.  A teenager can legally marry or join the military with parental consent.  At age 18, he or she is considered an adult and can legally do a lot of things.  But we ban alcoholic beverages for that age group and Hawaii is now leading the initiative to ban smoking, too.

Look, I am well aware of the societal and physical ills brought on by smoking and drinking alcohol.  However, I also think nannyism is wrong.  It shouldn't be up to the government to protect legal adults from themselves.  Besides, while the law may make it more difficult for minors to legally buy forbidden substances, they can still get their hands on them if they are determined.  And do we really want servicemembers having nic fits while handling weapons?    

Personally, I think a better idea is to raise the driving age.  Driving is inherently dangerous and requires maturity and good judgment.  Here in Germany, one must be eighteen to drive and those who aren't affiliated with the US government somehow must go through very extensive training and testing to get licensed.  The process is expensive and there is a great public transportation system here.  For that reason, fewer young people drive.  But they can enjoy their cigarettes and alcohol at age sixteen.  And if, for any reason, they do choose to drink alcohol and drive a car and they get caught or have an accident, the penalties are very severe.  The legal limit for drunkenness is significantly lower here, too.

I think the people of the United States ought to decide once and for all an age at which someone is considered an adult.  If it's 18, then let 18 year olds make their own decisions.  If it's 21, then allow people under age 21 to enjoy the same protections afforded to children.  Enough of this ninnyism regarding when someone is old enough to make life altering decisions.  Shit or get off the pot already.

Annoying Upworthy posts...

2015 is down to its bitter end.  And yet, I still manage to find things to make me feel bitter.

Yesterday, I read an extremely annoying piece on Upworthy.  It was entitled "5 incredibly delicious chain restaurants you should never, ever eat at and 1 you should but can't".  Written by Eric March and published in June of this year, this article is all about fast food/casual dining restaurants that March and others deem to be morally bankrupt.  For that reason, March apparently thinks you and I should choose not to eat there.

I have to say, after reading the guy's article, I couldn't help but be irritated.  It's not that I don't think people should boycott places that are corrupt.  I think it's perfectly justifiable not to eat at, say, Chick-fil-A, because you disagree with the company's right wing Christian policies.  Hell, I haven't shopped at Walmart in years, partly because I object to some of their corporate policies and partly because shopping there is a perpetual exercise in sensory overload.  I don't fly Southwest Airlines for the same reason.  And I swore off IKEA last year, too, mainly because I had such a horrible shopping experience there that the idea of going back in one of their stores fills me with panic and dread.  

It's just that I don't need some half-witted millennial telling me where I should and should not spend my money, based on his or her own left leaning ethics.  I have my own ethics, thank you.  And when you attempt to sway me to your viewpoint by insulting my intelligence, I am inclined to dig my heels in and resist.  

Eric March claims that he visited several different restaurants in order to "research" his article.  He writes that the places where he chose to eat: Papa John's, Cracker Barrel, Wendy's, Sonic, and Chick-fil-A are "so, so, so, so, so, so delicious" but "you can't eat there.  You just can't."  Really?  And why not?  Because he says so?  Mr. March goes on to list his "reasons" why he thinks people should boycott dining at certain places.  His reasons are all based on his own ethics and beliefs.  March explains that some corporations are greedier than others and we shouldn't support them with our hard earned cash.  He's trying very hard to be persuasive and attempts to use humor to achieve that end.  

Listen, pal, I don't need you to tell me about corporate greed or bigotry.  You don't need to help me find a moral compass.  I sure don't need to read drivel written on the level of a brain dead frat boy to change the way I feel about things.  And if I want to eat a fucking Wendy's single cheeseburger, I'll eat one. You can just shut up about it and leave me alone.

I am not influenced when I read patronizing twaddle written by someone who is trying much too hard to be funny.  I don't need some stranger who's probably half my age to tell me what I should or should not be doing.  You can present facts to me if you want to.  I will read and consider them.  Then I may decide to make up my mind.  You don't tell me "I can't" do something.  I alone make that decision.

There is one fast food restaurant Eric March claims is okay, and that's In and Out.  Alas, most people probably can't eat there because In and Out is only available in a few states.  I have to admit, I am curious about In and Out.  I have heard they serve good burgers there.  Bill claims they aren't as good as Five Guys.  I may never know.  I don't know when we'll be back in the States and even if we do get back there, I doubt we'll be out West.  And, someone like me probably shouldn't be eating any fast food.  That stuff is really bad for you and my ass already gets enough presents.  But I can make the choice where I want to eat.  If you're trying to convince me otherwise, I'm going to require much more than a lame article written on the level of a hormonally charged tenth grade boy.  

It's not that I don't value simplicity.  There is great value in effectively writing something in simple terms that even a kindergartner can understand.  Eric March didn't even manage to do that.  To get to the point of his article, I had to wade through a bunch of gimmicky writing, photos, juvenile commentary, and cutesy wisecracks.  I found March's techniques obnoxious and vaguely insulting to my intelligence.  I think I might have been more accepting of his ideas had he approached me using "I" language.  Instead of declaring, "You can't eat there!", he should have written, "I don't eat there and this is why."  When you tell someone they "can't" do something, it has a tendency to bring out their inner rebel.  Most competent adults don't want to be told what they can and can't do.

So... when a guy like Eric March writes "You can't eat there.  You just can't.", I am inclined to say, "Yes, I can eat there and I will if I want to.  You're not the boss of me.  Shut up and color, Junior.  The adults are talking."  And I know that mentioning this means that I'm somewhat guilty of group think, but based on the comments left on Facebook, I can see that I am not alone in my opinions about Eric March's article.  Upworthy obviously liked it.  Maybe it's time I unsubscribed from Upworthy and its annoying quest to make me a "better" human.  Fuck that.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Confessions of a Teen Idol...

This was a reality show that aired about six or seven years ago.  I think, anyway... I remember watching it when we lived in Georgia and that was five years ago.  I downloaded it off iTunes and had completely forgotten about it.  Someone reminded me of the show today because I remembered there was a guy on there who drank his own urine.

I couldn't find a clip of the guy and his urine follies, so I started watching the show again.  I gotta say, it's really boring and stupid.  Basically, it's about a bunch of has been teen idols... guys who were popular 20-30 years ago.  They are trying to become "famous" again.

The show stars Adrian Zmed, Billy Hufsey (who ironically was on Fame), Jamie Walters, Jeremy Jackson (of Baywatch), Christopher Atkins, and a couple of other people whose names escape me right now.  Jason Herve, who was in Back To The Future and The Wonder Years is the "host".  Scott Baio makes more than one appearance.

Here I sit, watching it anyway...  It's dumb and boring and I can see why it only lasted a season.  The guy who won obviously didn't become famous again.  I suspect most of them did this shit for the paycheck, which I guess isn't such a terrible reason to do something.

I walked the dogs this afternoon and it was pretty much torture.  My feet were killing me because the shoes I was wearing are a little too narrow.  Not enough that I can't wear the shoes, but just enough that they make me ache.  It goes up my legs to my knees and lower back.  I do have a pair that are more comfortable, but I hate to walk in the mud in them.  Naturally, the dogs got on a scent and made a racket, dragging me behind them.  Since my feet hurt, that was unpleasant.  I refused to move until they shut up.  They finally got the point and started behaving.

I could be writing about something interesting, but I have nothing interesting on my mind right now.  I did start a new book, though, that I think will make for an interesting review once I am finished reading...

I'll be glad when the holidays are over, although the time between January and March is pretty much boring, too.  Sheesh.

At least we have nice weather today.  Lots of sun and mild temperatures.  It's not like the snowy days we had last year post Christmas.

Maybe later, I'll be back with exciting ranting and/or whatever else.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Being orthorexic... A review of Jordan Younger's Breaking Vegan...

Okay, first thing's first.  I don't know the first thing about veganism.  I have a couple of acquaintances who are vegans, but many more of my non meat eating friends are vegetarians.  The vegan lifestyle doesn't appeal to me, though I kind of admire people who don't consume animal products.  I don't think I could do it, but more power to those who can.

While I eat meat and will continue to do so for the foreseeable time being, I am interested in other lifestyles and true stories.  I also find eating disorders kind of fascinating.  That's why I downloaded Jordan Younger's recently published book, Breaking Vegan.  I read an article about Younger and her claim of being "orthorexic".

For those who have not heard of the term, orthorexia refers to the condition of being obsessed with "healthy" and "clean" eating.  The term was coined in 1997 by Dr. Steven Bratman, an organic farmer from upstate New York whose career began in the late 1970s.  Dr. Bratman later went to medical school and focused his practice on alternative medicine.  He now practices preventive/occupational medicine in the San Francisco Bay area.

I had heard of orthorexia before I read Ms. Younger's book.  I'm not sure where I heard it.  I want to say the first time I heard it was when I was in graduate school, taking a course in health promotion... the class where we had to write four papers about bulimia and developing a campaign to combat it.  I ended up learning a whole lot about eating disorders that semester to the point at which I was pretty sick of reading about it.  I took that class in 2000, though, and it was mainly about getting people to jump on a health promotion bandwagon, rather than treating bulimia or other eating disorders.  As an aside, I thought that class would never end and was so glad when it finally did.

Anyway, Jordan Younger had always had problems with her stomach and was always interested in healthy eating.  At age eleven, she swore off "unhealthy" foods.  By high school, she quit eating red meat.  Eventually, she became a vegan and started writing a very popular blog called The Blonde Vegan.  She eventually renamed it The Balanced Blonde after she determined that being a vegan no longer worked for her.  That's basically what Breaking Vegan is about.

Younger claims that her vegan lifestyle had become unhealthy for her.  She developed food obsessions and restricted compulsively until she started to suffer physical and mental health problems.  She was the type of person who would eat before she attended social events or bring her own food.  She brooded over what she ate and how much, whether or not something made her feel "too full" or fat, and whether or not it was healthy enough to be consumed.

Younger's obsession was great for her blogging.  She spent her days creating, developing, and testing original vegan recipes.  She took pictures of her creations and put them on her blog, along with juice cleanses.  She sold merchandise, too.  Younger eventually became very popular and her blog was enormously successful.  But then she stopped having periods.  She decided that she needed to add some animal protein back to her diet.  She started with salmon and eventually progressed back into being an omnivore.

I wasn't all that surprised or upset about Younger's decision to change her diet.  I figure that's a very personal thing.  I was surprised by how upset her followers became.  Would you believe that Younger got death threats for deciding to eat food from animal sources?  Who knew that vegans could be such a militant lot!  Or so Younger claims, anyway.

I see that Amazon reviewers have mostly given Younger low ratings and terrible reviews and blame her for making veganism look unhealthy.  As I mentioned before, I am not a vegan and don't know much about veganism.  I do think, however, that a person's health is a personal thing.  Perhaps for Younger, eating meat really was healthier.  I don't see how anyone could deny her that truth if she's the one who experienced it.  At the same time, I know that many people are able to be vegans and thrive on that lifestyle.  That's okay, too.

I don't think it's wrong that Younger wrote about her experiences going back to eating animal products.  I can see why many of her followers were disappointed, but I also think that the mature perspective is to understand that everyone is different, tastes differ, and we all have our own lives to lead.  I will comment, though, that I found Younger's book a bit self-indulgent.  Throughout the book, she includes pictures of herself in all her blondness, posing with vegetables, friends, and looking ethereal.  It doesn't add that much to the substance of the book.  She also has a bunch of unnecessary self-quotes in her book.  I'd read a passage and then see it rewritten in a cutesy font, as if it was some kind of sage sermon that I should take to heart.  After seeing a couple of those, I'd skip over them, annoyed.  They seemed extraneous and self-important.

I also thought this book took a little too long to end.  I thought I was done with her story, then there would be another chapter or two... along with appendices.  Some might appreciate the vegan recipes she includes.  Maybe I would, too, though I have to admit that I kind of skimmed the very end because I just wanted to finish.

My rating will not be as harsh as the ratings she got from other readers.  At this writing, Jordan Younger's book has an overall star rating of one-and-a-half stars on Amazon.  84% of reviewers awarded just one star.  14% awarded five stars.  No one, so far, has awarded three stars...  at least not on Amazon.  I will be the one person who gives Younger a three star rating.  I thought her book was mostly interesting enough and decently written.  I appreciate that it was her story about her experiences.  I can't speak to whether or not she's spreading "false information" or writing things that are "dangerous".  I am simply commenting as a reader who has studied eating disorders.

I award three stars because I felt Breaking Vegan could use some editing and I found it a bit repetitive and self-indulgent.  A little concision would have been ideal, at least in my opinion.  And, in the interest of brevity, I will leave my remarks at that.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Repost of my review of The Sins of Brother Curtis...

Here's a repost of a book review I wrote of The Sins of Brother Curtis, the sordid story of a Mormon convert who molested a number of young boys.  It was not a comfortable read for me, but it was a well-written and fascinating book.  I gave it five stars.

Pros: Well-written and researched.  Very comprehensive reporting.
Cons: Will make some readers defensive and uncomfortable.
Because my husband is a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), I have done a lot of reading about Mormonism.  I also have an interest in true crime.  Some weeks ago, someone on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site posted about a book called The Sins of Brother Curtis: A Story of Betrayal, Conviction, and the Mormon Church (2011).  The poster made the book sound compelling, so off I went to to download it for my Kindle.

The premise

Written by Lisa Davis, a veteran journalist who once wrote for Village Voice Media, The Sins of Brother Curtis is about a man named Franklyn Curtis and the many young boys he molested while a member of the LDS church.  In 1991, Curtis molested a 12 year old boy named Jeremiah Scott.  In 1997, Scott sued the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, alleging that the church knew of Curtis's penchant for child molestation and did nothing to protect him or other boys in the church from Curtis.  Moreover, Curtis had a long rap sheet acquired before he had become a Mormon and got involved with various church callings that allowed him to charm families and ingratiate his way into sexual relationships with boys.

Scott's Seattle based lawyers, Tim Kosnoff and Joel Salmi, had a hell of a job on their hands.  The church's lawyers fought back vehemently against the allegations against the LDS church's involvement in Curtis's crimes.  Scott's lawyers tracked down over twenty different men who, as children, were victimized by Frank Curtis, who held church callings that put him into contact with boys, even though he had been excommunicated three times, twice for infractions that were related to his penchant for molesting children.  Curtis's crimes against children stretched back decades and across several state lines.

In her well-written expose, Davis unravels the complex story of a man whose perversions ruined lives and the church that apparently covered it up.  She also explains in detail the convoluted and challenging process Scott's lawyers navigated to try to get justice for their client.  Franklyn Curtis was not involved in the civil suit or prosecuted for his crimes because he died in 1995 at the age of 92.

My thoughts

It took awhile to get through this book.  That's not because it wasn't interesting; it's more because the subject matter is very disturbing.  Davis writes in an engaging style that is easy to read and follow, but she includes information that is frankly pretty nauseating.  I don't fault her for including the information, but will warn to squeamish types that the sins of Brother Curtis may make their skin crawl.

Davis includes photos, pictures of legal documents, and even a picture of a blank disciplinary form used to document church members' infractions of church rules and disciplinary actions taken.  The LDS church was forced to reveal its records of disciplinary actions taken against Frank Curtis, though it fought hard to keep those records confidential.

Davis reveals that the lawyers involved in this landmark case were somewhat disappointed in the outcome, even though it led to a sizeable financial settlement for their client, Jeremiah Scott.  The lawyers were eventually approached by other victims who had suffered in silence and they have gone on to bring suits against the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Catholic church, Boy Scouts of America, and the Salvation Army.  There have also been other attempts to sue the LDS church for covering up sexual abuse toward minors.  I couldn't help but feel a bit unnerved and skeeved out reading about how so many young people are abused by adults involved in religious organizations.  The young people no doubt trusted these people because they were members of their church.

I suspect that this book will be very uncomfortable reading for devout members of the LDS church.  Some might feel defensive as they read about this case.  Indeed, Lisa Davis once worked with the late Deborah Laake, a former member of the LDS church and a vocal opponent of it.  Laake wrote a book called Secret Ceremonies, which was published in the 1990s.  It was a scathing account of her time in the church and was widely criticized by outraged Mormons.  However, I have read that book with my husband and he has verified that it's not full of lies.  In her acknowlegements in The Sins of Brother Curtis, Davis thanks Deborah Laake for her bravery and for leading her to write her own book.  Lisa Davis is not now and has never been Mormon, so I imagine some readers will claim that her viewpoint is skewed.  I found her reporting fair and thorough, though it definitely does not cast the church in a flattering light.

Overall   While The Sins of Brother Curtis is ultimately a book about unspeakable crimes commited by an elderly pervert that will be unpleasant reading for many people, I think it's an important book.  I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about true crime, especially those involving religious organizations.  I would also recommend it to anyone researching legal cases involving religious organizations and sexual abuse.

Me and my negative attitude...

Except when it is...

Yesterday, I decided to post a link to my Overeducated Housewife Facebook page to a group I'm a member of.  My decision to do that was impulsive.  A lot of the people in the group are affiliated with the military, and while a lot of people in the military have no issues with drama or swearing, many are also devout Christians who write about their faith, being a parent, or dieting/keeping in shape.

What do I write about?  Well, looking at my most recent posts on this particular blog, I write a lot of stuff that's kind of negative and bitchy.  I swear a lot.  I write about crime and criminal behavior.  I liberally sprinkle the word "fuck" in my posts.  I also write about my husband's ex wife and my distaste for Mormonism.  To the casual observer, my blog is pretty negative and I probably look like an embittered, crazy woman.

When I share my blogs among military folks, I usually only share the travel blog.  I do get a little salty in that blog, but I swear a lot less and the material is less controversial and personal.  This blog, which is definitely my most popular one, tends to be rawer, more profane, and more personal.  I originally started it as a place for me to vent my spleen.  I used to keep it pretty secret, too.  I never shared my posts on Facebook or anywhere else.  I figured people who were interested in what I wrote would Google and find me that way.

A couple of years ago, when my other writing outlets all died simultaneously, I decided to be more public with my blogs.  I tried making them more niche oriented.  At one point, I had four blogs of my own and contributed to a fifth.  I finally dismantled the fourth blog because it wasn't holding my attention and it was too embarrassing to share it (it was an "adult oriented" blog).  I have a music blog that's mine, but after three years, it's kind of played out and the only topic people are interested in is Mindi Carpenter (Richard Carpenter's daughter who is probably forever compared to her famous Aunt Karen).  I don't update it as often anymore, except when I run across something I want to preserve for posterity.  Most of my music posts are about karaoke and obscure songs from the 70s and 80s.

The travel blog has picked up a lot of steam lately because of my military affiliated readers in Germany.  However, I am constantly trying not to be too blunt or profane.  I know some people like the travel blog because it's not all cutesy hearts and flowers with pictures of kids and puppies.  But I have to remember my audience and not be too raunchy because I don't want to alienate readers, especially since that blog is supposed to be useful instead of just my rantings and opinions.

I always did admire Mark Twain's wit...

On this blog, I really like to let 'er rip.  Since it's the most popular of my blogs, that's the one the Facebook page is named for.  I post links to almost all of my  blog posts on that one Facebook page.  Naturally, the few people  from the military blogging group who just decided to like my page are now going to see all of my links, including the ones that make me look nuts.  That means I probably shouldn't cuss as much or be so unfiltered.  On the other hand, if I did that, I think this blog would be less interesting, less real, and less "me".

A lot of people don't like me.  That's been true my whole life.  I don't even think my parents liked me all that much, at least not until I became an adult.  And even then, I'm pretty sure my dad wasn't too fond of me.  Conversely, I have a lot of friends who love that I'm not afraid to be expressive and say what's on my mind.  Most of them don't care that I use a lot of profanity.  Those who know me well, know why I write the things I do about my husband's ex wife and Mormonism.  Those who bother to read more than a couple of posts may, over time, learn why I write what I do.  I don't expect everyone to understand me, but I do realize that some people may get a bad impression of me due to my messy word vomit and occasionally negative attitude.

I have to admit that yesterday, after I shared my blog's Facebook page, I kind of regretted it.  Because when I share the page and get a few likes, inevitably, people will come to realize that it was mistake to "like" the page.  I start to feel insecure and depressed.  I start wondering if I should change what I write and soften my approach a bit.  I hear my dad's disapproving voice in my head saying, "Jenny, pretty is as pretty does."  I wonder if I should have tried to be more the way he wanted me to be rather than the way I actually am.  But then I realize that trying to be someone I'm not is exhausting, more trouble than it's worth, and doesn't really make me more likable.  Aside from that, life is short enough as it is.

Well... fuck it.  I am actually pretty okay.  I am a basically good person, even though I cuss and openly admit that I hate Mormonism (which is NOT the same as hating Mormon people).  I'm not a whore or a homewrecker because I am my husband's second wife.  I am not the cause of his kids disowning him or his ex wife being crazy and vindictive.  The fact that I need to write about those things doesn't make me immature.  As a matter of fact, I watch the stats for this page.  One of the most popular and shared posts from this blog is the open letter I wrote to angry adult stepchildren.   I have a feeling that that post was very helpful for many people.  Of course, it's also not full of profanity.  

Oh, fuck off...

But I do understand that when it comes to blogging, people tend to go by their initial impressions.  I probably ought to remember to consider my audience more.  Maybe, at some point in the future, I will make a separate Facebook page just for the travel blog.  That way, I can share that among military groups and not have a stab of regret when I realize that some people may see my more scathing postings and determine that I'm crazy.  But since the page I have going now is not that popular and I don't promote it that much or very often, it's probably not a big deal one way or the other.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


As you know, yesterday was Christmas.  Last night, I was hanging out on Facebook when I noticed an "open letter" posted on a friend's page.  The note indicated that the friend had overdosed on pills in a bid to commit suicide.  She had written that this was not a "suicide note", but rather an explanation of sorts.  It turned out the attempt was unsuccessful and the person had ended up in the psych ward of a hospital.

Over the past few months, this person has been dealing with a bunch of dramas.  Back in the summer, her husband died suddenly.  Since then, she's been dealing with the aftereffects of the death, as well as doing a lot of traveling and moving to a new place.  She claimed that she was going to let a Syrian refugee move in with her, but that didn't pan out.  Now she's saying that some Serbian guy who is taking care of her in the psych ward may move in with her.

I have actually met this woman in person before on a few occasions.  She's very charming.  She's also manipulative.  Like me, she currently lives in Europe.  

As I was sitting here on Christmas night, reading about her hospital adventures, it struck me that the psych ward announcement, if it was true, probably could have waited until today.  I mean, this shit was posted on Christmas Eve and the drama continued through Christmas Day... right into prime time present opening and meal eating hours.  But waiting until today would mean less drama for my friend, who seems to be basking in the afterglow of all the Facebook attention right now.

I don't wish for anything bad to happen to this person.  I just think that she's full of shit.  Moreover, I think it's bullshit to post a bunch of dramatics on Facebook in time for Christmas.  I shouldn't be surprised, I guess.  Last year, when her husband was still living, she posted about wanting to go to Belgium or Switzerland and be humanely euthanized.  That talk stopped after her husband suddenly died.  I have known this woman for about as long as I've been married to Bill and I have seen her go through multiple dramas.  She craves attention.

I really ought to unfriend her, but I have to admit, her dramatics are fascinating even if they do make me roll my eyes pretty hard.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Yet another unexpected invasion...

Earlier today, I wrote about Christmases past and made mention of how, back in 2012, Bill's ex wife ended up invading our holidays.  Well, I am sad to say that she sort of did again this afternoon, though today's invasion is more of an annoyance than a drama.

I was looking at our bank account, making sure I had properly scheduled credit card payments.  I have to log into Bill's account to do this, since that's where our bill paying is done.  I noticed he had an alert.  I clicked on it and I see that it's to make sure his contact information is correct.

I looked over the information and noticed a strange woman's name listed under family members.  I had a feeling it was Ex's sister, whose first name happens to be the same as mine.  I called up Bill and he looked at it and said the last name was misspelled, but it was Ex's sister, alright.

Bill hasn't seen this ex sister-in-law in many years.  For awhile, when he was still married to his ex wife, she and her little daughter lived with them.  Like Ex, she was unemployed and not contributing anything to the household, so Bill alone was supporting seven people on his meager $22K salary from the toy factory where he was working at the time.  That was the only work he could find in the shitty Arkansas town where Ex insisted on living.

A few years ago, Bill had his ex kids removed from our account because it appeared that Ex may have had them legally adopted by her current victim.  We never hear from them and they don't use his name anymore, so they aren't family.  Since they've declared themselves no longer family, we had their names taken off the USAA accounts.  Now this long lost ex sister-in-law shows up out of the blue...  It could be a simple error or there could be something to it.  But now Bill has to call up USAA and have her taken off our records.  That is a pain in the ass to have to do from Germany.  What I don't understand is how and why she got linked to him in the first place.  She was never a close enough relative to be linked to Bill's bank account.

This is less upsetting than the last time she popped up unexpectedly, but it's aggravating nonetheless.

Merry Christmas from Germany...

It's shaping up alright so far.  I woke up with Arran's foul breath in my nostrils and his toenails in my back.  I got up, did my morning routine, and came back to bed.  Bill was awake and rubbing Arran's belly, as he'd rolled on his back to beg for it.

We got up after discussing Arran's rancid breath.  I wanted to open presents, but Bill is intent on making breakfast first.  Damn priorities.  Actually, I am a little hungry this morning, so a nice breakfast is a good thing.

I got one of my presents last night... a brand new office chair.  The one I had we bought in the spring of 2013 and I beat the hell out of it by sitting on it all the time.  The hydraulic eventually started slipping.  It's not in terrible shape, but it was just a matter of time before the thing became unbearable to sit in.  So Bill and I bought the new chair a few weeks ago and I am now enjoying it.  It's made for people who weigh up to 350 pounds, so hopefully it won't wear out too soon, even if it was made in China.

I have purchased a number of practical gifts for Bill.  I have a feeling he has purchased fewer presents for me, but they are probably higher dollar items.  He usually gifts me with music and often does a pretty good job picking stuff out, even though I tend to like what I like.  He gave me a Robert Plant album last year that I liked, but rarely play.

I should probably go read RfM today.  Usually at this time of year, the board is rife with dramatic stories about Mormons during the holidays.  I find myself less interested in Mormonism now than I have been in years past, though.  Just like the Duggar family, the LDS church has experienced a somewhat tumultuous year, revealing them to be less awesome than some people think.  Maybe I'm also more interested in more pressing things... like all the acts of violence that seem to be increasing as years pass.  In the grand scheme of things, what Mormons do seems to matter less.

By the same token, things my husband's ex and kids do are also less important.  I read On this Day again today and was reminded of an unfortunate incident from 2012 involving ex and her stupid spawn.  Basically, it was about Bill's younger ex daughter calling Bill's dad during the holidays.  Bill later called his dad to wish him a Merry Christmas and got the news about his long lost kid calling, along with the news that she still hates Bill.  It got Bill all upset and ultimately affected me, his mom, my sisters, niece, brother in law, and everybody else who saw us that day after the phone call.  The end result was Bill having a heart to heart with his dad about needing to keep this kind of stuff to himself... especially on major holidays like Christmas.

It's been a reasonably decent year.  I hope next year is decent, too.  It's amazing how quickly they pass the older you get.

Have a lovely holiday, if you can...  This one is shaping up to be better than some in the past have been!

Our Christmas tree as it was in Texas in 2013...  I'll try to get a more updated one later.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Forced to spend the holidays with Madonna...

Not me.  Madonna would never spend Christmas with the likes of me.

Madonna's 15 year old son, Rocco Ritchie, who has been spending time with his father in London, refused to board a flight going back to New York City.  So Madonna went to court and got a judge to order him to go back to her home for the holidays.  

Naturally, I don't know what goes on in Madonna's home or what Rocco's relationship with her is.  The comments on the Yahoo! article are pretty interesting, though.  Lots of people are opining.  Lots of men are also chiming in, saying that maybe Rocco just wants to spend time with his dad.  Who knows...

What I'm thinking about is how Christmas will go with a teenager who has been court ordered to go home for the big day.  I imagine things must have been very serious if Madonna had to go to court to force him to comply with her wishes.  Madonna has three other children whose holiday will no doubt be affected by this drama.

Judge Deborah Kaplan of the Manhattan Supreme Court ruled that Rocco must go home and "talk" to his mother before making a permanent decision as to where he wants to live.  In the meantime, I predict that all the roasted chestnuts in the world aren't going to warm up that house for Santa...

I spent last night watching the Three's Company box set and drinking wine.  I loved that show as a kid and it never gets old, even though I've seen every episode dozens of times.  Bill is off today, so I guess we'll get ready for tomorrow.  Everything is going to shut down for the next few days...

I'll probably watch a lot of TV and drink a lot of wine.  But I won't be listening to Madonna or watching any of her movies or videos.  I won't be forced to spend the holidays with her.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"I'm sorry you're feeling annoyed." No, you're not, butt nugget!

Ah... once again, Facebook's "On this day" feature has given me something to write about.  I was looking back through my old posts and found one from 2010.  I wrote this.

"... very annoyed by people who presume to know how other people think and feel."

I don't remember why I wrote this or who it was directed to.  In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have posted it.  But I did get a comment from the woman I used to refer to as the "Voice of Reason/Ms. Overly Helpful."  Her response was this.

"I'm sorry you're feeling annoyed."

It's my guess that she wrote that thinking my status update was directed at her.  She'd be right to suspect that; especially since back in 2010, I still endured her stupid bullshit on a daily basis.  She's just one of those people who rubs me the wrong way.  One of her needs is to feel superior to others and put them down with thinly veiled condescending remarks that are supposed to look caring and concerned.  She doesn't seem to do it to everyone... just certain "lucky" people for whom she has no respect.  Apparently, I was one of those lucky people.

As I recall, that comment wasn't about her, but someone else not even on my Facebook friends list.  Edited to add, now I remember because I blogged about it... I was right.  She hadn't been involved in that particular incident.  But she obviously identified with it and decided to chime in with her non-helpful, insincere, moronic comment.  I didn't want to give her the satisfaction of a snotty response, so I responded with this...

"It's nothing a little Christmas cheer won't fix. I'm sure I'll get over it."

Now, I wish I had simply told her to fuck off and die.

And maybe thrown in a little Bender for good measure...

This memory was an unpleasant surprise to me this morning, since I blocked Ms. Overly Helpful a year ago for finally delivering the snarky dig that broke the camel's back.  If you read my rant about the incident last year, you may recall that I predicted that the Voice of Reason would send me a "concerned" email about being blocked.  Sure enough, I was right.

She was surprised and "dismayed" that I blocked her and wanted to know what she had done to deserve such cruelty.  I was surprised and dismayed that I hadn't done it years sooner.  I must say, not having to read her shit anymore has made my life a lot nicer.  It's my guess that she was only dismayed over the fact that she could no longer get her jollies by passive aggressively lobbing digs at me and watching my reactions.

I really tried to be patient with her.  I mainly tolerated her because we were once part of an online community and had to "work" together.  So I tried to stay civil and understanding for as long as possible.  One day, I just snapped.

My reaction was not unlike this lady's...

Since our online community fell apart a few years ago, I felt just fine ousting her from my Facebook fiefdom.  This past year not having to deal with her has been blissful... so it makes me pretty sad that Facebook still shows comments from people I've chosen to block.  I still see occasional old comments from my ex best friend, too... a person I'd really like to forget about.

I guess what this means is that I shouldn't read Facebook's "On this day" anymore.  Or I should just stick to Time Hop or something...  or just get off Facebook altogether.  There are far too many annoying people out there wanting to rent space in my head.  On another note, how sad is it that I'm 43 years old and writing about a fucking Facebook incident from five years ago... (I do have a gift for alliteration, don't I?)  I could be using my time more wisely by working as a corporate flunkie somewhere.  Or waiting tables...

Now that I've gotten this out of my system, I will confess that I did end up watching Counting On with Jill and Jessa yesterday.  It was such a quiet afternoon and I needed something to do other than blog, sing karaoke, and practice German.  Let me just say that the two episodes I watched did little to liven up my day.  They were pretty boring.  I actually found myself missing Boob and Michelle because at least they say things that make me want to blog.  Jessa is too full of herself, mugging for the camera and tossing her long, luxurious hair, talking about her big pregnant belly.  Jill is too fucking sweet and caring.  And both of their husbands are mini Boobs, though they are different kinds of Boob than Boob is.  

Sibling after sibling talked about Josh Duggar and threw him under the bus, telling everyone how ashamed they were of him.  The sisters all talked about how hurt they were that Josh's fondling and cheating antics were revealed to the masses and had re-victimized them.  I can see why they were feeling hurt about that. The revelations really fucked things up for their wholesome family franchise.  What they don't seem to understand is that their brother is a massive hypocrite who had the nerve to preach about family, God, and "living right".  If you do that when you are yourself being egregiously sinful, you will eventually be exposed.  The risk was always there and they knew full well about it.  I would say their community showed them a lot of respect by not revealing them much sooner than they did.  They got years of fame and fortune with this skeleton in their collective closet.  They should be grateful and just go away gracefully.

But, like Ms. Overly Helpful, going away gracefully is not something that comes naturally to the Duggar family.  I will say one thing about Jill and Jessa and their new show.  I noticed that a woman holding Meredith was wearing pants.  I was hoping it was Anna, but it apparently wasn't...  too bad.  I know she wants to stay married and endure through this trial with Josh.  Maybe he can be reformed.  The odds are against it, though.  For more on why, check out Dr. Tara Palmatier's most recent post about relationships with narcissists.  I'm pretty sure that's the type of person Anna is dealing with... and there will likely be more affairs and more embarrassing scandals in the future.  Anna will either have to put up with them or go her own way.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Miss Universe sparks racist remarks...

Yesterday, I ran across a Yahoo! article about Steve Harvey's now infamous Miss Universe mistake.  He accidentally announced Miss Colombia as the winner when the real victor was Miss Philippines.  While many people seemed to take the incident as just a human error, some people were outraged enough to bomb the Internet with racist epithets.

It seems that most of the racist barbs were hurled by people rooting for Miss Colombia.  I have heard that many South Americans take their beauty pageants very seriously, hence the number of winners from that region.  I'm sure it was an unpleasant shock to many people when it turned out the wrong person was named winner.  Still, is that any reason to refer to Mr. Harvey by the so-called "n word"?

I guess that article just goes to show that racism truly is a scourge of the whole world.  It's not just people from the United States who have issues with skin tones.  Hell, I've seen racism in Europe, too, though it seems that people here try to behave as if they are more evolved somehow.  The truth is, everyone is a little racist.  There's even a song about it.

I have got to see this show...

Having admitted that racism is a worldwide problem, it does make me cringe to read such hate filled comments about Steve Harvey.  He made a mistake, but his mistake has not been an entirely bad thing.  For one thing, as I predicted yesterday, Donald Trump is taking advantage of the publicity the gaffe has generated.  Until recently, he owned the Miss Universe pageant, so naturally his name has been connected with this fiasco.  It's given him something to talk about.

Also, a lot of people lost interest in beauty pageants ages ago.  Steve Harvey made Miss Universe news.  People are talking about the pageant and watching clips.  Some may even view a delayed broadcast and opt to watch it next year, if they still remember this incident twelve months from now (which they probably won't).

Steve Harvey made an error that anyone could have made.  It had nothing at all to do with his race.  Anyone mentioning his skin color as they berate him for screwing up the Miss Universe crowning is ignorant.  Fortunately, most people are not as ignorant as these trolls are.  I'd like to think that we're more evolved now than we've been in the past, but every once in awhile, something like this reminds me that we all have a long way to go.  Frankly, my guess is that Steve Harvey got confused by all the gorgeous women walking around... but that would probably be an unfair assumption on my part.  He probably just had a brainfart.

We have nice weather this morning, though it's a little cold and blustery.  I may even venture out with the dogs and give them a chance to stretch their legs and mine.  That is, of course, if I manage to get dressed, which I haven't yet.  Winter weather is laziness inducing.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Debating whether or not I should watch the Duggar sisters' special...

I see Counting On with Jill and Jessa offered on iTunes.  It's only five bucks and might give me lots to snark about.  On the other hand, it grieves me to think that any money I spend on that will probably go straight to Boob and his wife.  Aside from that, I don't actually find the Duggars that interesting, except when they say and do things that are snarkworthy.  So maybe I won't succumb to the temptation to download... especially since my computer has precious little hard drive space as it is.  On the other hand, if I have enough booze, I may end up drinking and downloading.  It wouldn't surprise me.

The weather this morning is drizzly.  I'm supposed to take Zane back to the vet for his allergy shot that I had hoped to get for him a couple of weeks ago.  I don't really feel like going.  It would be a gift to me if Bill came home early and took care of that little task for me.  I don't actually feel that great this morning.  I ate something that didn't agree with me and earlier paid the price for by way of the toilet...  I won't elaborate further.  I'm sure you know what I mean.

It's good to be home after our trip.  I enjoyed traveling and we got to see some impressive mountains. I think I was expecting more snow, but it hasn't been especially cold lately.  It was cold in Austria and I'm glad I brought my big parka with me.  But otherwise, the temperatures were mild.  When we got back here last night, I noticed the weather was also very temperate.  Last year, I recall similar weather... then it started snowing on December 26th and we got a big pile of white stuff.  I doubt we'll have a similar phenomenon this year.

I am kind of ready for Christmas to be over.  Now that I'm an old fogey, I am less interested in/impressed by the holiday season.  The one good thing about it is that Bill gets more time off.  I like having him around for many reasons, not the least of which that he's a great bartender who enjoys spoiling me.  Now that's he's finished with school, he has more time and energy to do just that.

I haven't had much time to read the news lately, though I did see the piece about Family Feud host Steve Harvey messing up announcing the winner of the Miss Universe pageant.  As a youngster, I used to love watching beauty pageants.  They bore me now, though I might have gotten a kick out of Harvey's gaffe.  I think he's pretty funny anyway.  Poor Miss Colombia.  That must have been devastating for her, to lose the crown so quickly after "winning" it.  I hope Steve Harvey doesn't end up with a Cuban necktie.

Beauty contests have always been boring.  They were even boring when I was a kid and enjoyed watching them... I liked them for the glamorous dresses and hairstyles, but the interviews and talent portions were usually pretty yawnworthy.  Donald Trump's Vegas style revamp hasn't helped matters that much.  Still, having Harvey host was a stroke of genius.  I bet Trump trumped up the drama deliberately...

Anyway... this is my third blog post today, the other two being posted on my travel blog.  I suppose I'll quit and do something else for awhile.

P.S.  For some reason, videos aren't showing up on Blogger.  I assume this is a temporary problem and they'll show up later.  If not, I'll edit.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Back home in Germany now...

And I will finish blogging about our trip to Austria, Italy, and Switzerland.  Later, I may be back with one of my pointless rants.  Heh... Germany does feel like home.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Remembering MacGregor... three years later

MacGregor loved rawhides.  Today, I probably wouldn't let him have them... but he loved them back in the day.

I could write about something more substantial today.  Someone posted an article on Facebook that I could totally go off about... and maybe I will later.  For now, I feel like remembering MacGregor.

For those who don't know, MacGregor was our third rescue beagle (mix).  We adopted him from BREW in April 2004.  He was our third and, so far, last BREW beagle.  The folks at BREW knew very little about him.  He was being boarded in a vet hospital in Bel Air, Maryland.  Bill and I had to drive a couple of hours from Fort Belvoir, Virginia to pick him up.  We had our other beagle, Flea, with us.  Flea was pretty much the reason we got MacGregor.  He was an extremely alpha dog who desperately needed a sidekick.

Our initial meeting was tentative at best.  Flea was pissed that we got another dog.  MacGregor was terrified of most people, especially men.  I sat in the back seat of my car with MacGregor, while Flea sat up front with Bill.  MacGregor wrapped his paws around my forearm and leaned across me to look out the window.  He was still pretty much a puppy and not house trained.  Initially, he drove Flea nuts and Flea retaliated by chasing him and terrorizing him.  They eventually became best friends and MacGregor made Flea much easier to deal with.

Flea and MacGregor with Bill.

Over the years, MacGregor's adorable personality emerged more and more.  If he knew and trusted you, he loved you with all his heart.  I can't tell you how many times he bitched us out if we stayed out longer than he expected.  He was so smart.  If he needed something, he had this way of telling us. We'd run through the list of his possible needs and he would get excited when we got it right.  But before he got to that point, I had to replace many cords, books, and other items that he chewed up.

He figured out how to move his bed closer to my desk, so he could watch me work on the computer.  He knew how to put himself in the crate and eventually became very domesticated.  The one thing he never did quite outgrow was his distrust of strangers.  He wouldn't let people he didn't know pet him. Curiously enough, he liked vets.  I'm certain that besides beagle, MacGregor also had a bit of basset hound in his ancestry.  That basset influence gave him an awesomely bossy personality which would come out when he was with people he loved.

MacGregor loved being on camera and would put on a show whenever I pulled one out.  Because he and the camera loved each other so much, I have some great videos documenting his life with us.  Our dog, Flea, was a lot more vain than MacGregor was, but hated having his picture taken.  Consequently, we have far fewer pictures and videos of him.

When we lost Flea in 2009, we thought about letting MacGregor be an only dog.  But then we realized that MacGregor had a tendency to howl when left alone.  And when I say howl, I mean HOWL.  He'd put his head in the recycle bin and let 'er rip and the acoustics of the bin would make him even louder.

Zane and MacGregor... buddies.

That's when we decided to adopt Zane from Atlanta Beagle Rescue.  Zane was also a puppy when we got him.  Like MacGregor was in 2004, Zane was very destructive at first.  He had to be taught how to behave.  MacGregor was a wonderful, patient teacher.  He endured nips from Zane over food and rambunctious invitations to play.  As he got older, MacGregor had to deal with Zane's penchant for mischief.  But they, too, became good friends and when MacGregor got sick at the end of his life, Zane did his best to comfort him.

I don't like to think about the weeks before we lost MacGregor.  We didn't know what was wrong with him.  When I noticed him leaning when he sat, I took him to the vet.  They assumed he had arthritis and gave us pain meds.  His condition didn't change for a couple of years.  Then, in the fall of 2012, we noticed that his foreleg was starting to atrophy.  He stopped using it and would knuckle when he walked.

Our vet thought he had disc disease.  She put him on Prednisone.  We went to Scotland to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  While we were gone, MacGregor was weaned off the Prednisone.  That's when he took a sudden turn for the worse.  While we were in Scotland, we had to deal with frantic emails from the pet resort where he was staying.  Bill finally had to call our vet, who explained what was going on.  He said MacGregor had cancer and needed to be euthanized.  That pretty much ruined the end of our vacation, though we made the best of it.  I will always be grateful to Sandhills Pet Resort in Vass, North Carolina for taking such excellent care of him until we could get back to the States.  They truly loved him like he was their own.

We took MacGregor to our vet's colleague on December 6, 2012.  We were sure he'd need to go that day because he was in so much pain.  But she insisted that she thought he had disc disease.  She gave us more Prednisone, Tramadol, and Gabapentin.  That gave us another 11 days, before we could take him to North Carolina State for an MRI.  That's when they found the inoperable tumor in his spinal column.

We decided to send MacGregor to the Bridge on December 18, 2012.  In retrospect, we didn't have to put him down on that day.  But we knew he was in a lot of pain that the drugs were barely controlling.  It was heartbreaking to watch him.  I also didn't want him to be euthanized by the vet we were using at the time.  The guy who ultimately turned out to be right about MacGregor's condition (and could have saved us $2700 had we just listened to him), seemed to lack compassion.  His colleague had more compassion, but I sensed that she had bonded with MacGregor and I didn't want to ask her to put him down.

We had the young neurology resident who helped us at NC State do the deed.  She was wonderful.  Compassionate, kind, understanding... and she let me give her a hug afterwards.  Afterwards, she told us that they did a necropsy and it appeared that the tumor we thought had been slow growing  for years was actually very malignant and unrelated to what we thought was arthritis.  So it wasn't our fault after all.

When we lost MacGregor, we made some gains.  We ended up adopting Arran from Triangle Beagle Rescue, a quirky dog who has some beagle in him... and German shorthaired pointer and probably coonhound, too...  He's alternately sweet and grumpy.  Arran had been rejected at least twice before he came into our lives about three years ago.  When we first got him, it seemed like MacGregor had jumped into him.  As time has passed, I see less MacGregor and more Arran.

We also made some friends when we adopted Arran... good, quality, awesome friends who were involved with the beagle rescue and are still friends today.  Had we not lost MacGregor, that wouldn't have happened.  Arran has taught us a lot, too.  I only hope we have him for a long time.

MacGregor gave us so much more than we ever gave him.  I will never forget him.  I even made him a Facebook page.  I mostly use it for cute dog videos and pictures now, but I do it with MacGregor's plucky spirit.  Having him in our lives was such a wonderful, rewarding experience.

And a video...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Italy's "huge" military base...

A couple of days ago, I got into a discussion with an Italian friend of mine who is now a US citizen living in Germany.  I "met" him on, a now defunct product review site where I posted for about eleven years.  My friend, "Vic", used to read my reviews and leave snarky comments.  At first, I was offended by him, but then grew to appreciate him as we got to know each other better.  Make no mistake about it.  He's not a fan of the US military.  He enjoys disdaining it and other things about the United States.

I can't help but think it's a shame that Vic got naturalized, since he clearly doesn't love his "adopted" country and now has to pay taxes.  Aside from that Vic clearly identifies as an Italian, though he hasn't lived in Italy for years and often disdains Italy, too.  Indeed, Vic has said the only city that "works" in Italy is Bolzano.  I will agree, Bolzano is a beautiful city with a nice mix of Austrian and Italian.  I can see why that works well.

So anyway, I was commenting about my initial impressions of Vicenza, which, to be honest, aren't all that positive.  Granted, I haven't had the chance to see much of the city, since I've kind of been stuck at the hotel in the depressing outskirts this week.  What I did see looked charming, though crowded with aggressive drivers and dented vehicles and I was seeing it in the dark while highly annoyed with Bill.  The food, on the other hand, has been a real delight.

Vic agreed that Vicenza is not Italy's nicest city.  He mentioned that one of the main reasons it sucks is because of the "huge" US military installation there.  He says that as a US taxpayer, he doesn't like his taxes going to fund the US war machine.  As an Italian, he simply wants that "crap" out of his country.

I had to take exception to Vic's comments.  First off, if you want to talk size, the military installation in Vicenza is certainly not "huge".  It's about a quarter of the size of the one(s) in the Stuttgart area.  In fact, the United States has been downsizing its footprint in Europe over the past few years.  A couple of installations in Germany that were open when we lived in Europe last time are now defunct.  One in Italy used to be a full base, but is now just a "camp".  Little by little, the United States military is leaving Europe, though I doubt they will ever totally go away.  And while some people would like to see them leave, others are glad they are there.  Not only is the US military handy for defense purposes; it's also good for local businesses.  Aside from that, a lot of US citizens end up befriending or even marrying host country nationals.

But there's another side to this that I don't think people not affiliated with the military realize.  Americans ought to have the chance to live abroad.  Too many Americans never leave the United States.  Too few have passports and take the opportunity to travel.  People talk about how Americans have no concept of what life is like in other places and they don't have respect for other people.  One way to build respect and empathy for others is through exposure.  Taking vacations is all well and good, but it takes immersion to really get a feel for what another country is like.  It's true that a lot of Americans living abroad never bother to see anything beyond the gates of a military installation.  On the other hand, plenty of people take the time to see where they are and get exposed to new things.

To be honest, a lot of Americans in the US military come from places where they might not have otherwise had the chance to travel beyond the US.  Granted, that isn't true for everyone, but it is true for many people.  My dad, for instance, grew up poor and later became an Air Force officer.  His career afforded him a chance to see much of the world and develop a fascination for other cultures, an appreciation for which he passed on to his daughters.  We grew up more open minded than we might have, largely because we didn't grow up in one place.  In fact, though my dad was a staunch Republican, his daughters are way more liberal than he ever was.  Because we had been exposed to other people and other places, we didn't have that narrow perspective of someone who always stays within a comfort zone.

This is my fourth time living abroad.  Every time I move to another country, I learn new things and meet new people.  I try to be a good ambassador for my home country.  I understand why people have a negative opinion of the United States.  But if we quit living abroad and traveling, pretty soon all many people will know of us is what they see in movies or watch on the news.

I can appreciate that it's expensive to maintain military bases all over the world.  I understand that moving Americans to Europe or elsewhere costs a lot of money.  Vic wants to know why we need to do this.  Why does the military send people to live abroad and spend so much money on bases in places like Italy and Germany?  Well, I won't pretend to know all the reasons why.  It's a rather complex issue that has roots going back to way before I ever walked on Earth.

I doubt what I say to Vic will change his impressions of the military or the people within it.  I think if he met Bill in person, he would not see someone who is a knuckle dragger who likes blowing up things.  He's a kind, sensitive, intelligent man who loves what he does and loves his country... and loves Europe, too.  All I will say is that I'm glad that we have the chance to live in Europe.  I appreciate it.  It's changed my life and opened my eyes and made me a better person.  I can't be the only one who feels that way.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Charlotte Rae's life story...

Having grown up in the 70s and 80s, I watched a lot of TV.  One of my favorite shows was Diff'rent Strokes.  I also loved The Facts of Life.  Both shows starred Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Edna Garrett, a maternal, wise, loving woman who first served as a live in housekeeper, then became the cook/dietician/house mother at Eastland School for Girls.

What I didn't know was that Charlotte Rae's career encompassed so much more than just 80s era sitcoms.  I learned much more about her life when I read her book, The Facts of My Life, which she co-wrote with her son, Larry Strauss.

Charlotte Rae Lubotsky was born the middle of three daughters to Russian Jewish parents.  She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Born in 1926, Charlotte Rae was around to see the Great Depression and watch her parents and everyone else around her struggle to make ends meet.  Nevertheless, Rae and her sisters were musically talented and felt a pull toward show business.  After studying at Northwestern University among several other future stars, Rae moved to New York City and became active in the theater.

Having married John Strauss, Rae bore two sons.  Her older son, Andy, was severely autistic and spent most of his life institutionalized.  After a lifetime of health struggles, Andy passed away in 1999.  Her younger son, Larry, is a writer and teacher.  Rae writes about what it was like to work in the theater and later, Hollywood.  She and her husband battled alcoholism and later, Rae dealt with the fact that her husband preferred the company of males.  They managed to stay friends after their divorce.

Rae writes quite a lot about her family of origin and her career.  Her attitude is upbeat, even as she describes having to deal with sibling rivalry with her older sister, Beverly, who was an opera diva.  Younger sister, Mimi, was a great pianist.  Rae describes her voice as "bluesy", which is kind of hard for me to imagine, having seen her be Mrs. Garrett for so many years.  Apparently, she is quite an accomplished singer, besides a great actress.

Sister Beverly Ann became an opera singer, then married a wealthy doctor and became a socialite.  Sadly, she succumbed to pancreatic cancer.  Pancreatic cancer has since become a cause near and dear to Rae's heart.  

I never knew that Charlotte Rae struggled with alcoholism.  Apparently, she's been sober for about forty years.  She praises Alcoholics Anonymous and her AA buddies for helping her stay ahead of her addiction to booze.  I also didn't know that Rae was Jewish.  She shares some interesting anecdotes about what it was life to grow up Jewish in the United States.

Parts of this book were very witty.  Other parts were kind of sad.  Those who are looking for anecdotes about Diff'rent Strokes or The Facts of Life may come away somewhat disappointed; after all, this book is not just about those two shows, even if they did make her much more visible to the world.  But what she does share is enlightening and heartwarming.  We are reminded that Mrs. Garrett and Charlotte Rae are two different entities, as are the people who portrayed the characters with whom Rae starred.

I think this book will appeal most to people like me, who have enjoyed Charlotte Rae's talents.  As celebrity life stories go, it's pretty interesting.  I'd give it four stars.

Travel blogging has commenced...

For those who are interested in this week's travels.  When I'm done, I'll catch up on the news and write about something annoying on this blog.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

In Austria...

And I don't feel like setting up my computer, so here's a very quick note.  It's been a busy, stressful week.  I'm hoping for a nice trip.  It's off to a good start so far.  Will be blogging... Maybe after tomorrow's beer bath.  :)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Danger Will Robinson!

This morning, I read with interest an interesting discussion in a Facebook group.  The group is moderated by a very open-minded guy who lets in anyone who wants to join.  His role, as he puts it, is to keep out spammers.  I'm all for keeping out spammers.  I'm also for keeping out terrorists.

This group is mostly full of Americans from the local military community.  Most members have been well-versed in OPSEC (operation security).  Basically, it's about protecting the military mission by keeping details under wraps.

Anyway, yesterday, a Pakistani guy who lives in the area decided to join our group.  The administrator let him in.  All hell proceeded to break loose as suspicious group members checked out the guy's page.  He had a lot of stuff written in a language no one speaks.  He had videos and pictures of Osama bin Laden.  The group administrator had a friend translate and determined that the postings were not pro OBL.  Still, it made many people nervous.  An online fight ensued with people hurling insults to include the "c word" at each other.  One person said she hoped the admin's kids never had to see him beheaded.

Now...  I didn't get involved in the fray.  When the guy joined, I noticed, but I was too busy enjoying a jam session at Tommi's.  I did go ahead and block the guy after reading some of the comments.  I did it mainly because I don't know why he would want to join a group of Americans in a military community.  His native language isn't English.  He doesn't post in English.  I can't see why he'd want to be in a group with which he has so little in common, especially since the group is mainly consisted of people who bitch about a larger group that doesn't include him.  He may be totally harmless or he may not be.  But I don't see why we'd be friends, so I don't care to share my posts with him.

That being said, I can see why the administrator takes the stand he does.  There is a lot of fear mongering going on now, mostly fueled by the media.  It doesn't help spread peace.  Americans, as a whole, are often xenophobic.  I think it comes from not traveling enough.  So it's not a bad thing to be exposed to different people.  On the other hand, OPSEC is very important in our community.  People within it are doing dangerous work.  So I think it makes sense to be selective about who has access to Facebook groups within our community.  The people in the groups should have actual business with the American community and not just be some random guy.  If that makes me a xenophobic racist, so be it.

And... now it appears I have been kicked out of the group.  It's probably just as well.

Moving on...  

Yesterday, I read an article about a woman who claims having an affair made her a better mother.  In the article, she explains that she and her husband weren't really in love.  He had an affair early in their marriage.  It devastated her.  Years later, she had an affair with a married man.  They had known each other before and had a mutual attraction, which they acted upon.  The author claims that the affair taught her that she'd been missing out on her true self for years.  It apparently changed her life for the better.

I pointed out that the author of the article had a part in making another innocent woman feel the devastation she experienced when her husband had his affair.  I can see that the affair made her realize that she and her husband needed to divorce.  However, I don't condone cheating, even as I also think that the people who break promises to their spouses are more to blame for infidelity than single people sleeping with married people are.  Cheating can have serious long term effects to include communicable diseases that can be spread via sexual contact.  I'm not the jealous type, but if you care about someone, you don't put them at risk.

Naturally, someone had to come along and say they "couldn't judge" since life is "complicated".  It's true that life is complicated, however, I think everybody judges.  If you didn't judge, you'd end up in trouble rather quickly.  Moreover, if you truly don't want to judge, why make a comment?  It seems to me that by saying you "can't judge", you're kind of judging everybody else for having and expressing an opinion.

My response to the guy was simply "Good for you."  What else could I say?

Arran has a little dark pink patch on his nose that I just noticed today.  Naturally, I'm weirded out about it, especially since we're about to take a trip.  It doesn't look crusty or oozy.  In fact, it just looks like a tiny bit of mottled skin.  I wonder if it has anything to do with the vaccines or he's just getting old.  Either way, I've noticed it and now I feel neurotic.

I love my dogs, but they make me worry so much.  It's probably good that I don't have kids.  I think they would drive me to the nut house.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Back to the Future... making me feel ancient

Last night, I decided to watch Back to the Future.  Famously made in 1985, the Steven Spielberg flick made Michael J. Fox a bona-fide movie star.  I was 13 years old and I saw it in the movie theater with a lady who went to church with me.  She used to look after me during services.  Every summer, would take me out for a day.  Back then, it was a lot of fun.  Today, I wonder what made her decide to take me under her wing like that.  I wonder if she thought I was being neglected or something.

Anyway, in 1985, she took me to see Back to the Future.  I have never been one to go to the movies a lot.  I tend to prefer seeing them in my own home so I can get up and pee and not feeling I'm going to miss something.  But I do remember seeing the film and enjoying it immensely.  Thirty years later, it's still a very enjoyable movie and doesn't even seem that dated to me.  That's pretty crazy, since the premise of the film is that Marty McFly travels back to 1955, where he meets his parents and has to make them fall in love so he will exist.

I wasn't around in 1955, so I don't know if the film's depiction of what life was like back then is accurate.  I was around in 1985, though.  Seems like the time warp should be more obvious now that it's 2015.  I know we have technology now that we didn't have in the 1980s.  But when I watch Back to the Future, it seems like I should still be young.  The last thirty years have just flown by at warp speed.  Before I know it, I'll be an old geezer.

I hadn't planned to watch that movie last night.  I downloaded it on a whim in November, along with the two follow up movies that I didn't think were as good.  I may have to watch the one about what life is supposed to be like in 2015.  That may make me feel even more ancient.

This weekend, Bill and I are planning to go to Austria and Italy.  He has to work in Italy next week and I'm tagging along.  I had to take the dogs to the vet yesterday for shots.  Poor Zane got another rabies shot and has a nice, itchy swelling where it was administered.  He has a tendency to react to vaccines.  He had one in 2014 before we moved here, but for some reason, the vet gave him a one year shot (which I have read is identical to the three year shot).  I hated to give them more shots yesterday because there's always a risk that they'll have a reaction to them.

 I have to take Zane back tomorrow for an allergy shot.  Hopefully then, we'll be good to go for awhile.  The sun is out, so I think it's time to walk the dogs...