Thursday, April 30, 2015

Definition of a cult...

A few days ago I was reading an article by a Mormon blogger.  The gist of the post was about how she is treated by members of the LDS church for being 38 years old, unmarried, and childless.  Her Facebook feed is constantly flooded with pictures of babies and happy couples.  In a world where family is king, she sticks out like a sore thumb.  I empathized with her, though I'm not LDS.  I got married at 30 and don't have kids.  I'm sure the pressure was much worse for her, though.

After I read the article, I checked out the comments.  Someone wrote:

"It's a cult bent on breeding followers."

Another poster, obviously a devout Mormon, wrote this:

"Can you expound on why it is a cult?

The Church believes that the family is central to God's plan. We are encouraged to get married in the temple and have children, but if you can't it's okay. My young women leader is in her 50's and is unmarried. No one judges her or feels sorry for her; we love her and look up to her.

We're not "bent on breeding followers" like you say. I am not a follower of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am a member. Not because my parents are, but because I believe in this gospel. I wasn't born a member. I chose to be. If I didn't believe with all my heart that it was true, I would not be a member.

I apologize to anyone who has ever been judged by members of my church. We are taught to love everyone and not to judge. However, we are not perfect; in fact, far from it. Everyone has flaws, including our leaders.
Everyone is constantly trying to put the Mormon Church down and prove that its doctrine is false. When have we ever done that to anyone else? Our missionaries' opening statement is "Hello, we have a message from Jesus Christ." Not "Your church is false because of this ...........".

I'm sorry that we come across to you as a cult. If you want more information about cults, look up radical Islam."

To that poster, I'd like to explain exactly what constitutes a cult and why so many people think Mormons are cult members.  First off, here's the definition of a cult according to

1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.

2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.

3. the object of such devotion.

4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.

5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

6. a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.

7. the members of such a religion or sect.

8. any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.

Based on the first definition alone, the LDS church and most other religious organizations fall under the definition of "cult".  However, when most people think of cults, they think of harmful organizations with extreme "fringe" beliefs.  Mormons are offended by being referred to as "cult members".  They believe their church is "true", after all.  

Let's take a look at what a harmful cult does and we'll see how closely the LDS church follows the cult model.  According to Rick Ross's Cult Education Institute, the following are ten warning signs of a cult.  

1.  Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.  

In this video, a man speaks out about Proposition 8 during a church meeting.  Watch what happens.

3.  No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.  

4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.  If you leave the church, bad things will happen to you.  Conversely, there are many stories of how temple garments have saved lives.
5.  There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.  You just want to sin, are offended, or didn't pray enough.

6.  Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.

7.  There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.

8.  Followers feel they can never be "good enough".  

A special song for young women...

9.  The group/leader is always right.  "I don't know where I'd be without the church..."

10.  The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.  Except for when the prophet is "speaking as a man".  I suspect that happens only when the prophet does what all humans do and says something stupid or unflattering.

What happens when you ask a devout Mormon about the church?  They tell you to visit a Mormon authorized Web site or speak to a missionary.  They tell you to avoid so-called "anti" sources of information.  Anything that puts the church in a negative light must be wrong or the context of the information must be twisted.  If you say anything critical about the church, you are accused of being offended or "confused".    

Rick Ross goes on to list the warning signs of people involved in a toxic group.

1.  Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.

2.  Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.

3.  Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".  See above Facebook comment.

4.  Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.  There is an unofficial Mormon dress code.  No immodest clothing.  White shirts and black suits for the men.  No spaghetti straps or hemlines above the knees.  There's also an unofficial Mormon lingo.  I refer to it as "Mormonese".    

5.  Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.  If you have a problem, see your bishop.  

6.  Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.  How many young people interrupt their educations to go on a mission and get married?

7.  A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.

8.  Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.

9.  Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.

10.  Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.
I can personally attest from Bill's experiences leaving the LDS church that 7, 8, and 10 were true in his situation.  I will admit that had his ex wife and kids not converted, he still would have been ostracized; but the church made it much easier to alienate the children.  His younger daughter in particular completely lost her sense of humor and critical thinking skills.  She called my husband "prideful" for turning away from Mormonism.  

The LDS church keeps its members very busy with church activities.  Members are in church three hours every Sunday.  Mondays are for family home evening.  They make time for home and visiting teaching.  Teenagers go to "seminary" in the early mornings, then many of them serve missions.  Saturdays are generally a free day, except when members are asked to clean the church.  Members allow the leaders to dictate what they wear, what substances they ingest (No coffee, tea, or alcohol.  No smoking.), and with whom and how they have sex (only with members of the opposite gender after marriage).  Mormons are expected to refrain from masturbation and to confess to their bishop if they indulge.  

In an excellent article from The Atlantic, there's yet another list of warning signs of a cult.  

1. Opposing critical thinking.  How many members with questions are told to stop trying to think their way out of the church?  How many are told to put their concerns on the proverbial shelf?

2. Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving.  How many exMormons no longer have relations with their family and church friends?  How many people have been disowned for leaving the church?  Check out this passage from the book Suddenly Strangers.

Brad Morin quotes a brother as saying the following when he found out about Morin's decision to leave the LDS church:

I am going to be honest with you. I don't ever want to talk to you again. I don't want to see you again. I don't want any letters or e-mail from you. If you write a letter for the family newsletter, I will not send it out. I don't want you coming to visit on the nineteenth. I still love you, but I don't ever want to see you again.

More from the same book:

A brother wrote the following to both Brad and Chris:

The thing that scares me most is your current beliefs. Those beliefs have the capability to destroy me and my family, and anyone who subscribes to those beliefs... You must not say anything to my wife or children about Joseph Smith or any prophet of the church, or any church leader or any church writings, or any church history... We read scriptures in our house. We say prayers in our house. If you visit us you will observe at least one of those maybe both. If we visit your houses we expect to be able to give thanks for the food and to read scriptures even if in our bedroom... If you cannot make this promise to me or if you make this promise to me and break it, my family will not associate (Face to face) with yours... Is this drastic? You bet it is. I have everything I have ever wanted, to loose [lose], if I am deceived. (139)

3. Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture.  Book of Mormon anyone?  Not to mention all the other supporting works.

4. Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders.  See the recent stir at General Conference when a few people dared to voice opposition to the leadership.  It made national news.  

5. Dishonoring the family unit.  People who leave the church are frequently ostracized.  

6. Crossing Biblical boundaries of behavior (versus sexual purity and personal ownership).  Not sure how to interpret this one.

7. Separation from the Church.  Or this one.

In fairness, many religious organizations are cult-like and certainly there are some that are even more restrictive and intrusive than the LDS church is.  Personally, while I strongly dislike Mormonism because it has negatively affected my life, I have no problems with those who love the church and want to stay in it.  I think people should do what works for them and makes them happy, as long as it doesn't infringe on other people's rights.  But yes, I do think the LDS church is a cult.  That doesn't mean there aren't good things or good people within the church.  Indeed, exMormons are some of my favorite people.     

Maybe the church is not as extreme as this video depicts... but...

"Milk before meat"
"Fast and testimony" (emotional public talks given while hungry)
"Special messages"
"Secret ceremonies"

Yes...  it's a cult.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I just lost another uncle...

My father's sister, Nancy, was married to a big hearted guy named Kenneth.  They spent about 60 years together and raised a beautiful family.  Kenneth died yesterday in his home.  He was elderly and, I understand, had been ill recently.  I last saw him at Thanksgiving, when I went to the United States to attend my dad's memorial.  That's also where I saw my Uncle Carl, who died in January.

Although I was sad to hear the news about Kenneth, I can't say I was totally surprised.  In fact, I observed to Bill before we went to Virginia in November that this would likely be the last time I saw some of my relatives.  My aunts and uncles are in their 70s and 80s now and that's when people start to die.  Of course, the family matriarch, my granny, lived to be 100 years old and would have been 101 had she lived another six weeks or so.

At this point, I don't have much information about Ken's passing.  All I know is that he was at home and it was morning.  Clearly, I won't be able to attend his memorial.  It's at times like this that I appreciate Facebook.  It makes it easier to connect with family members.

I didn't know Ken as well as I do some of my other aunts and uncles.  I remember him being a lover of golf and having strong opinions that he wasn't afraid to voice.  One time, I was visiting my Uncle Ed and his late wife, Nance, a former nurse who was a smoker and had no fear of getting in peoples' faces and voicing her views.  Nance and another aunt, Betty, were enjoying a cigarette in Nance's kitchen just before dinner.  Ken said, "I can't believe two nurses are smoking."

Betty piped up, "Do you have any idea the stress level that nurses deal with?"

A brief uncomfortable silence followed and then we ate... and drank.  

Another time, Ken heard me criticizing golf and was quick to take me to task when I said it reminded me of watching flies fuck.  I have since changed my mind about golf.  I'm older and more evolved now.  At the time I made that comment, I was unaware of how many golfers are in my family, nor was I particularly aware that we have a lot of Celtic ties.

But mostly, I remember Kenneth to be an affectionate man.  He was a like a big teddy bear and wouldn't hesitate to give big bear hugs.  He was kind and friendly and he joined right in at our huge family reunions.  I didn't think of him as my aunt's husband.  I thought of him as my uncle.  I imagine my dad and Uncle Carl were there to welcome him as he passed.

Godspeed, Uncle Ken.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Making a point with a mattress...

A few days ago, I was sitting in my hotel room in Vienna when a Facebook friend posted this article.  She wrote something to the effect of, "Don't rape if you don't want to become a pariah."  My friend was very sympathetic to Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, who claims she was sexually assaulted by her ex boyfriend, Paul Nungesser, back in 2012.  Sulkowicz was dissatisfied with the way Columbia University handled her allegations that she had been raped.  So, as her senior art thesis (she's a visual arts major), Sulkowicz took to hauling her fifty pound mattress around campus.  She's doing this for school credit, calling the project "Carry that Weight".

Though Paul Nungesser was cleared of all charges and Sulkowicz doesn't name him, many people on campus knew that he was the one Sulkowicz accused of rape.  They treated him like a pariah, avoiding talking to him and denouncing him on fliers and at rallies.  Mr. Nungesser also claims that he's missed out on jobs because of this campaign.  So he's decided to sue Columbia University, its board of trustees, its president, and a professor because he claims the university failed to protect him against harassment.

I posted the same article on Facebook with the comment that I wasn't surprised he's suing.  He's German and I have learned that reputation is a big deal in his culture.  Germans are much more sensitive about public defamation than Americans are.  I have run into at least one American here in Germany who was threatened with a lawsuit by a dentist who didn't like her review of his services.  Germans also don't seem to hesitate to bring civil matters to court.  I thought we were the same way in the United States, but I've gotten the impression that Germans are even more litigious.  So it makes sense to me that Nungesser would take this matter to court.

I will also go on record that I think he has a good case.  Obviously, he could have sued Emma Sulkowicz, too, but given that she's a college student, that would probably be a waste of time.  The university has deeper pockets and ultimately, they allowed this spectacle to take place.

What is more interesting to me than the story are the comments from the peanut gallery.  A whole lot of people believe Emma Sulkowicz, who apparently did not seek medical attention or go to the police after the alleged sexual assault incident took place.  In fact, she did not report the "assault" until many months after it happened.  By the time she reported the attack, there was no concrete evidence that the assault occurred, or so the university disciplinary council found, so Mr. Nungesser was not punished.  Other women also accused Nungesser of assaulting them; but again, their cases were also unfounded.  In this article, there is an account of what Sulkowicz claims Nungesser did to her.  It sounds like he really hurt her.  And yet, Sulkowicz apparently did not seek medical attention or go to the police.  Why not?

I am a believer in the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty.  Moreover, while I certainly empathize with sexual assault victims and I agree that rape is an underreported crime, I strongly believe that if a person has been found innocent, they should be left alone.  If they are truly criminals, that will come out in time.  Granted, my time with Bill has shaped this attitude.  He was abused by his ex wife and did not report it because he felt he would be disbelieved and laughed at.  So it's his word against hers-- but I have lived with Bill for even longer than she did and I know he's being very truthful about his account.  Many people would and did believe his ex wife simply because she's a woman.  They would listen to her account over Bill's because our society seems to have the collective opinion that all men are out of control brutes.

One of my Facebook friends supported Emma Sulkowicz and tried to tell me that in general, women are usually disbelieved over men.  I haven't found that to be true, certainly not when it comes to sexual abuse and rape cases.  I think that many people nowadays are sensitive about not being empathetic to victims, so they may fully believe and not question any potential victim's claims, even if they are ultimately untrue.  Moreover, I don't think it's wise to automatically side with alleged female victims just because historically women were disbelieved over men.  Some women will take advantage of the fact that many people are more sympathetic to them now.  While the sympathy is a good thing, empathy is an even better thing.  We should never let sympathy cloud empathy and obscure facts.

Did Paul Nungesser really sexually assault Emma Sulkowicz?  I have no idea.  At this point, it all comes down to her word against his.  But whether or not the incident actually happened is not really my point.  The fact is, by the time she made a complaint-- seven months after the alleged assault--, the evidence was no longer strong enough to support her accusations.  Paul Nungesser was declared not guilty of the crime.  So, no, Emma Sulkowicz did not have the right to sully his reputation with her art project.  Columbia University should not have endorsed or allowed it.  It's not okay to publicly smear someone, especially in a way that is so incredibly visible.  It does constitute harassment, in my opinion.

Sexual assault is a crime that could easily land a person in prison.  While many would like to think people who allege that they have been raped or assaulted aren't lying, the fact is, false reports can and do happen.  When the consequences for such a crime mean that a person can lose their liberty, I think we have to err on the side of caution.  A person who goes to prison has a lot to lose-- everything from their health to their finances to family and friends.  I shudder when I think about what it would be like to go to prison.  I know many have survived and even thrived in prison.  I don't think I'd be one of those people.  I wouldn't want to end up there due to a miscarriage of justice and I have empathy for those who do end up behind bars by mistake.  How does one apologize for something like that?

To those who have been sexually assaulted, I say please go to a hospital to get examined and contact the authorities as soon as possible after the attack.  Get the physical evidence of the attack documented.  I know it's traumatic and horrible to undergo such an ordeal, but it's the only way you can have a prayer of getting justice.  I fully support sexual assault victims who want to pursue justice.  I don't want rapists running around on the loose any more than anyone else does.  At the same time, I don't like the idea that a person can be imprisoned or have their reputation ruined simply because someone makes a claim about them that can't be substantiated.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Back home...

And I will be blogging on my travel blog about our trip.  I also have a few burning issues I'm itching to rant about.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ah yes...

Will have great stories to write in Germany on Monday.  Once again, we've had a great trip.  Tomorrow we plan to go to Bratislava for the day...  But I wish I had my laptop.  I am ready to write now,

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Vienna waits for me...

So, my posts will probably be scarce until Monday because I'm going to Vienna for a few days and have no plans to bring my laptop.  I'm sure we'll have an interesting time.  I look forward to the change of scenery, the prospect of taking new photos, and doing some fun things.

Perhaps my attitude will improve, too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

These dreams...

Well, just when you thought your news feed was free of prego Duggar photos, along comes Jessa to confirm what so many of us have figured.  She's pregnant and due November 1.  Click here for a photo of Anna, Jill, and Jessa pregnant at the same time!  Whoo!  Ever notice how the press refers to the married Duggar daughters by their maiden name but call Anna by her married name?  As if we all need reminding who these people are.

Seriously, I guess I'm happy for Jessa.  It's her first child, after all.  I hope she has a nice pregnancy.  I also hope she doesn't show up on my news feed every week with a vacant smile and bump picture.

Bill and I are heading to Vienna tomorrow.  We'll be gone until Monday.  I look forward to the change of scenery, even if we are flying Germanwings to get there.  The flight is only about an hour, though, so hopefully it'll be a minor blip in the day.  We've had gorgeous weather here the past few days so hopefully our luck will hold and we'll continue to have nice weather this weekend.  There's a train strike in Stuttgart today and tomorrow, so it's good that we're flying.

Last night, Bill told me he had another dream about one of his daughters.  He usually dreams about the older (somewhat kinder) one and the other night was no exception.  He said he looked her up online and she's now in some kind of art college, probably still living with twatbag, even though she's almost 24 years old.  As his eyes filled with tears yet again for what happened to his relationship with his kids, I was left with even more rage toward his ex wife and ex kids.  They threw away a wonderful dad.

I had been doing pretty well lately, not thinking, talking, or writing about those hideous people who put Bill through hell.  I will admit, it made me angry that he brought them up again.  Every time he does this, he tells me he's sorry and won't do it again, but I know he will.  I can't blame him for wanting to talk about those kids with me, but it still makes me absolutely furious because I know they are abusive people and I see how much they've hurt Bill.  They've also hurt me, albeit in a less direct way, and my capacity for taking abuse is not nearly what it used to be.

When he starts talking about his daughters, I respond in a very negative way and say things that are mean and hurtful.  I'd like to say I don't mean what I say about them.  I wish I were more empathetic toward them and could see them more as the victims they probably are.  But then I look at the anguish they put Bill through and me by proxy and I just want to strangle them.  As much as I hate hearing about them and think they deserve to be banished from our lives forever, I would be worried if Bill didn't care at all.  Part of what makes him so wonderful is his great capacity to care about other people.

I really don't care to hear about Bill's daughters.  I don't care what they're doing and don't want to know them.  Frankly, I wish them ill.  I figure it's my right to feel this way.  If he wants to look them up and think about them, more power to him...  I wish he'd get a shrink, though, and talk this stuff out with a more neutral person.  I don't think my animosity is helpful to him, yet I can't really control it.  

I'm sure anyone reading this will think I'm a horrible person for being so angry and having so much hatred in my heart toward my husband's ex wife and former daughters.  If I were someone looking at me, I'd probably feel that way to some extent.  But in my defense, I have spent the last thirteen years watching Bill be mindfucked, abused, and exploited by these people.  I sacrificed a lot for this relationship.  Fortunately, it's been worth it.

Well, this post took an unfortunate turn toward the serious.  I didn't mean for it to.  Bill kind of blindsided me with this discussion last night, though, and I felt the need to write about it in my personal blog.  It's my way of processing things.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bill's very first speeding ticket...

A few weeks ago, Bill and I were driving near the city of Tuebingen when Bill drove past a speed camera.  It flashed.  Yesterday, Bill got the ticket.  He was going nine kilometers an hour over the limit and was fined ten euros.  It was his very first speeding ticket, ever.

I got a speeding ticket in 1992 for speeding on a back road in Gloucester, Virginia.  It cost me $71 at a time when I didn't have $71 to spare.  The incident occurred while I was house sitting for my former best friend's parents while they were visiting France.  I was on my way to work and was within days of going back to college sans car.  But I was in my mom's Buick Park Avenue, which is like driving your living room.  It's easy to speed because the car is so smooth.

Ten euros for a speeding ticket is nothing.  Unlike the USA, Germans are very open about where they have their speed cameras.  You can drive with your GPS and it will tell you when there's a camera nearby.  In Virginia, radar detectors are illegal.  I don't know about GPSes that tell you when you're about to be busted.

I finally got the bill for my table yesterday after reassuring the people twice that I wanted it and was willing to pay the 400 euros for it.  The table is worth it.  It's well-made and will probably last a lifetime.  It sure was a pain in the ass to buy it, though.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Should people be able to sue buttinskys?

This morning, I read yet another article about a mother who had the cops called on her because she made the decision to leave her child alone in the car for a few minutes.  The article highlighted several cases of parents being harassed by police and "buttinskys" who disagree with their decisions.  Having grown up in the 70s and 80s in a place where I was allowed to run amok freely and blissfully without parental supervision, I can't imagine how stressful it must be to try to raise kids in today's society.  Everybody has a cellphone and they aren't afraid to whip it out and use it.

I think it's very sad and scary that people are so ready to police their neighbors for doing things that their parents did when they were growing up.  And when you think about what happens to the parents who have the cops called on them, it does seem like there should be some kind of legal remedy for this kind of harassment.

Of course, in writing this, I know I may get some comments from people who'll say, "But what if no one calls the cops and something bad happens?  Won't people be asking why no one did anything to 'protect' the child from the strangers lurking around, eager to snatch them?"

The police shouldn't be focused on a mom who leaves her 9 year old kid alone in the car for a few minutes while she picks up a loaf of bread.  They should be looking for people that are actually breaking the law.  If there really are a bunch of sicko perverts in every neighborhood looking to abduct and molest children, why not focus on catching them instead of criminalizing parents for making decisions that their own parents made with no interference from the public?

Could a child get hurt if he or she is left alone for a few minutes?  Yes.  But so could an adult.  Accidents happen and that's a lesson that all people have to learn as they mature.  Kids have to learn how to be self-sufficient.  Parents are not always going to be there to protect their offspring, so kids need to have the opportunity to take care of themselves.  I think parents should be allowed to make the decisions as to when that kind of training happens.  The vast majority of parents truly want what is best for their kids and are in a much better position to know when their child is old enough to do something.  A stranger observing for a few minutes can't know and has no right to disrupt a person's life by wantonly calling the cops at the drop of a hat.

I started thinking about how I would react if I were in a situation like the women in the Salon article I read today.  I thought about how outraged I would be if some passer by dared to stick their nose into my business and call the police on me over a non-issue.  What about the damage to my reputation, loss of income due to having to attend court dates or parenting classes, invasion of privacy, or even just the assault on my civil rights?

I know that suing Good Samaritans could have a chilling effect on society.  If we start suing people who are "only trying to help", won't that make people less inclined to help others?  It probably would.  At the same time, I think about all the people being harassed by law enforcement, the judicial system, and child protective services and I feel like they should have a way to defend themselves or even fight back against troublemaking do gooders.

It's not that I think suing people is a good thing.  It's just that people take shit too far.  If you see someone beating the hell out of their child or a kid is in a hot car, by all means call the law.  But if a child is sitting alone peacefully, playing a game on their iPad and minding their own business, just fuck off already and leave them in peace.  Calling the police will only scare the child and cause grief to the parents and it will take the cops away from their real job, which is to catch criminals.  Calling CPS over a parent leaving their child alone for five minutes ensures that caseworkers have an even larger workload, which leads to burnout and less time available to deal with real cases of abuse and neglect.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Daddy's home! And scaring off pregnant women at doctor's offices...

Bill came home yesterday by noon.  He was exhausted, but after a nap, he put together my new bench.  Here he is, enjoying it and the new, but as yet unpaid for, table.

I like how Bill's shirt matches Zane's collar.

Last night, we sat at the table, drank beer, listened to music, and ate cold cuts and pretzel bread.  While we were sitting there, I shared this photo which randomly popped up on my Facebook feed.  A woman I knew in school had posted it with the comment "You've been warned.  No excuses."

I knew this would generate a discussion and it did...

I understand the idea behind this sign and I comprehend why a lot of people are behind its sentiment.  However, while I get why people agree with it, I think it's counterproductive to threaten patients before they've even been seen.  All a sign like this does is tell the pregnant mom who might be using drugs that the doctor would prefer them to go somewhere else for their prenatal care.  I get that could be why the sign was posted.  OB-GYNs typically pay a lot in malpractice insurance and a woman with drug issues could potentially have a riskier pregnancy.  Of course, a druggie mom who is really bad off probably wouldn't bother with prenatal care anyway. 

Those that use drugs recreationally might see a doctor, but if the doctor flat out tells them they will call the law on them, they will very likely go somewhere else.  That may be fine and dandy for the doctor who doesn't have to deal with them, but what about the unborn child?  The sign seems to be advocating for the welfare of the unborn baby, but if the doctor scares off the mother, what good does that do?  And doesn't that sort of conflict with what doctors are supposed to be doing, which is providing healthcare to people who need it?

I happen to be pro-choice, but I couldn't help but notice.  As long as abortion is legal in the United States, it seems kind of ridiculous to take this sort of attitude, anyway.  I mean, the mother to be can kill her unborn child if she wants to.  Using illegal drugs is against the law, anyway.  Why turn it into a crime against an unborn child?  Why does the fact that the mom to be is pregnant even come into it?  She's breaking the law, so deal with her. 

At this point, we don't force people to see their doctors.  People have a hard enough time accessing appropriate medical care for reasons other than being threatened and alienated.  This attitude of needing to police private citizens is creepy to me, and in the long run, I don't think it makes things better for anybody.  Of course a pregnant woman shouldn't be using drugs and something should be done if she comes up positive on a drug screen.  I think the attitude toward her should be more supportive and helpful, not threatening.    

Besides...  a woman whose newborn baby comes up positive on a drug screen at the hospital is going to be referred to CPS anyway.  All that does is encourage the mother to give birth in an alley.

Here's another thought.  For most medical procedures, physicians must get informed consent before they go ahead with it.  I suppose a sign like this informs patients that the doctor(s) at this practice will do random drug screens and gives them the option of going elsewhere.  But what about health care professionals that do screenings without the patient's knowledge or consent?  Isn't that a violation of their rights?

I know there have been cases in which mothers have been arrested for having positive drug screens and have gone to court.  In South Carolina, there was a big case involving pregnant women who were tested for drugs without their knowledge or consent.  It went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the search in question was unreasonable, especially since the searches had the potential to land someone in jail.

In any case, while I certainly wouldn't condone a pregnant woman using drugs and I agree something should be done to help or dissuade drug abusing pregnant women, I don't think taking an adversarial, threatening attitude is in the best interest of patients.  The goal shouldn't be to sell mom down the river; it should be to get her appropriate help so she can successfully raise her child.  I think it would be hard to do that by getting the police and child protective services involved from the get go.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dead field mice...

So today, I have even more reason to be worried...  I took the dogs out for a walk and Arran got ahold of something.  I think it was a dead field mouse, but the whole thing happened so quickly that I don't know for sure.  So far, his only ill effects are rancid farts, a very stinky dump, and constant licking of his anal area (but that could be due to anal sacs).  I worry about whether or not that mouse was dead and how it died.  Was it killed by one of the many roving cats or birds of prey around here?  Or did it get ahold of some poison?  Or was it trapped and dumped in the field?

If it ate poison and Arran ate the mouse, there's a chance he could get very sick.  However, judging by the number of cats that wander freely around here, I'm guessing poison isn't a big killer of field mice in these parts.  Otherwise, there would be a lot of dead cats and hawks.  I did find a dead pigeon a month ago, but I don't know that pigeons eat rodents.  If they did, they'd be more welcome in cities.

I also worry about Zane, who has been having occasional barfing episodes and, I think, may have had a couple of accidents in the house.  Of course, Arran also occasionally pees inappropriately.  I look at Zane and wonder if he's okay...  He just called me downstairs because he wanted more food.  Arran ate part of his breakfast.  I put it down and they started fighting.  I had to break it up, which I hate doing because there's always the chance that I'll get caught in the crossfire.

Chances are good that both dogs are fine, but I have all this free, quiet time to think about things that could happen.  My stress level rises and I start feeling very nervous.

Bill will be home this morning, thank God.  I have missed him this week and he has a way of soothing my anxieties.

Friday, April 17, 2015

C-sections and shame...

I have never had a baby myself, so maybe I have no right to write about this topic.  Still, for the life of me, I don't understand the shame some women have in having a Cesarian section.  This topic comes up in the wake of Jill Dillard's recent birthing experience.  Apparently, that poor woman labored for 70 hours before she went to the hospital.  Then, she supposedly told her doctor to make sure he stitched her up really well so she could birth vaginally the next time.

I guess if your mom has had 19 kids and you are expected to perform similarly, maybe it is important not to get C-sections.  But good Lord, there is no shame in having a C-section.  She obviously tried hard to give birth the natural way.  It's a damn good thing C-sections are available, too.  Otherwise, she and her baby could have been in serious trouble.

To his credit, Derick Dillard is quoted as saying that there is no shame in a C-section.  Really, though, that's a statement that should go without saying.  Besides, whether a mother gives birth naturally or has a C-section is nobody's business.  I think a lot of people got a look at baby Israel's head, noticed it was very perfect looking, and figured out Jill had a C-section.  Who cares?  And I'm not just writing about Jill Dillard, either.

I understand on a basic level that many women want to give birth naturally because that's the way the body was designed to give birth.  I understand that sometimes giving birth that way isn't possible.  I just don't understand why someone would be ashamed about it.  I can understand disappointment...  I don't blame Jill for wanting to give birth at home instead of in a medical setting.  I'm sure she envisioned the way she wanted to bring her son into the world.  But shame?  Why would you even mention that?  I just don't get it.  

Of course, now there are rumors floating around that Jessa's pregnant, so we may soon be dealing with yet another arduous account of a pregnancy from the Duggar family soon.

Yesterday, I had lunch with some local ladies and a gentleman.  We had a good time.  The only thing that sucked about it was the traffic on the way home.  It was backed up pretty badly.

The furniture company still hasn't gotten in touch with me about this billing snafu.  I've decided I'm not going to worry about it.  If and when they want their money, they'll get in touch.

Bill will be home tomorrow.  I can hardly wait to see him.  And Zane woke me up at 3:30am because he needed to puke.  That's the worst sound... a retching dog in the wee hours of the morning, especially since Zane sounds like his insides are being plunged when he throws up.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I hate memes like this...

If you've read this blog, you know why.  Bill was a great "daddy", but when he got divorced, his ex wife refused to let him finish the job.  What's a guy like him supposed to think about this meme?  I know people share them thinking it's a good message.  It's not, though.  

I hate these kinds of holier than thou memes on Facebook.  What is the purpose of them?  To shame dads who, for whatever reason, aren't in their kids' lives anymore?  Sometimes dads walk away because they're irresponsible and don't care.  Sometimes they are pushed away by vindictive exes or kids who, for whatever reason, don't want them in their lives anymore.

Fathers who truly don't care about their offspring won't care about this meme.  Fathers who do care will likely feel guilty.  

I was going to leave a response to this, which was shared by a "friend", but I decided to just hide the post instead.  No need to stress myself out more than I have to over something dumb like this.  Still, I really do hate these kinds of memes.

I wish so much that Bill could have had a child with me.  He would have been a wonderful daddy if he'd had them with a woman who is a decent mother... or hell, even just a decent person.  Unfortunately, his first wife is a shithead who cares more about hurting people than doing right by her kids.  I hope all five of her kids abandon her the way she's forced them to abandon their biological fathers.

I need a chill pill...

I wish I were a calmer person.  For as long as I can remember, I've had problems with anxiety.  It used to be much worse than it is now.  I have many memories of hyperventilating and needing a bag to breathe into.  That usually happened when I was having arguments with my parents, though it sometimes also happened when I worked.  I have a terrible memory of hyperventilating in front of my boss when I was a graduate assistant in South Carolina.  She thought I was going to throw up when I asked for a bag.  She handed me a trash can instead.  I had to tell her that I needed to breathe into a bag to blow off some of the excess oxygen that was making me dizzy and lightheaded.

I haven't hyperventilated in a long time.  Life with Bill is pretty tranquil most of the time.  But I do still have a lot of anxiety.  I get anxious over dumb things, too.  Like, for instance, this week I got my new Eckbank Gruppe.  I thought I had ordered the whole set, but I actually only ordered the bench.  The company sent the whole set, then sent a bunch of frantic emails that made no sense about needing to pick up extra packages.  It took two days for them to explain that I still need to pay for the table.

So I spent a few hours yesterday trying to get in touch with the person who needs to send me a bill for the rest of the set.  I called twice, sent several emails, even got a German friend to send an email in German.  This will be sorted out.  I know in my head it will.  The store wants to sell me the table, right?  And it's already in my possession.  If they don't sell it to me, they have to sell it to someone else.  It's just that I'm all anxious about how this will get worked out.  It's stupid to be anxious because all I have to do is pay.  Yet, here I sit, stressing over stupid shit.

I worry about everything, yet I tell Bill not to worry.  Today, I am going to have lunch with the ladies.  All I have to do is drive to the restaurant, which I've now been to three times.  I've been driving since 1988 and have never had an accident.  I rarely get lost.  And yet, I'm still feeling nervous.  I know I'll have a good time.  I always have fun hanging out with others.  The anxiety happens anyway.

Perhaps I should take up yoga or meditation.  Maybe I should start smoking weed.  I should definitely get more exercise.  The good weather we've been having has finally made it possible to walk the dogs.  I will do that today.  Maybe I need more sex.  I definitely need to calm down and relax...  or, as George Carlin would say, "Calm down.  Have some dip."


Wednesday, April 15, 2015


It's Wednesday, which means we're halfway through the week.  I'm glad of it.  Although it's been nice having the bed to myself, I almost don't notice it because the dogs snuggle next to me and push me toward the edge of the bed anyway.  The one thing I notice is that the sheets don't get rumpled as quickly as they do when Bill is home.  When only one person sleeps in the bed, it's not as necessary to keep fixing the fitted sheet when the corner pops off.

I am really looking forward to our trip to Vienna.  I need a change of scenery in the worst way.  Our last trip was to Regensburg about two months ago.  That was fun, but it was still Germany.  I'm glad to be going out of the country again.

Our neighbor seems to be concerned with how I spend my time.  The other day, I took the dogs outside.  I had bare feet because I hate wearing shoes.  She gently chastised me in German, saying something about the "stones" on the terrace.  We don't actually have anything that would hurt my feet out there except for when it's cold outside.  I usually wear Keen sandals when I venture into the yard. As the weather warms some more, I'll be wearing them all the time because they are very comfortable.

Yesterday, someone on the local Facebook group posted an article about dependapotamus hunters.  I thought it was a pretty good article, actually.  It was mostly about how there are groups on Facebook that live to make fun of so-called dependapotamuses.  I'm not going to get into what that term means, because I've ranted about it several times on this blog.  Anyway, it turned into a bit of a debate, with a couple of the more abrasive folks explaining why it's appropriate to make fun of so-called dependas.

I am fully aware that there are military wives out there who get married solely for government benefits.  I know that some wives cheat when their husbands are deployed.  I know that some try to wear their husband's rank, too.  I don't agree with any of these behaviors.  I also don't think there's anything wrong with poking fun at entitled people.  I do it myself.  In fact, sometimes I'm guilty of acting entitled myself.

My issue is when some of the dependa hunters rip off peoples' personal photos and make fun of them.  Last year, while I was vacationing in Germany and France, I happened to see a picture of an overweight woman wearing a bikini that got lifted from her Facebook page and shared on a "dependa hunter" site, where it was turned into a disgusting meme.  The comments leveled at this woman's photo were vile.

I also think some of the people who make fun of "dependas" are downright mean.  Sometimes, they go beyond simply making fun and actually get cruel.

I will admit some of what gets posted is legitimately funny.  Some people really do post some stupid shit on the Internet that begs to be made fun of.  I don't make a habit of hanging out on the "dependa hunter" sites, but I have heard that they do try to do some good, which is very commendable.

I have actually been on the receiving end of abusive comments in one of these groups.  Fortunately, I have a thick enough skin that I can take it.  I made the comment that I don't like being referred to as a "dependent".  I don't.  I know it's a government term that isn't going away.  I know that the fact that I don't like being referred to as a dependent doesn't matter.  I just think it's a shitty term and it contributes to the "dependent" attitude that some spouses have.  One time I dared to express this sentiment, and a whole shitload of people piled on me like they were rabid dogs and I was fresh meat.  It was very disturbing.

Think about it.  What does the word "dependent" mean?  By definition, a dependent is someone who "depends" on another person or organization for support.  In military parlance, a dependent is a spouse or a child.  Children, I would expect to be actual dependents.  Spouses are not always in that role and shouldn't automatically be relegated to it.  Some spouses are employed, have their own health insurance, their own transportation, and can live perfectly well on their own without their "sponsor".  But if you marry a person in the military, you will automatically be referred to as a "dependent".  I know this will not change in my lifetime.

If you dare to act like a dependent too publicly and you are female, you will likely be labeled a "dependapotamus".  This is especially true if you happen to be fat.

Here's the thing, though.  A lot of military spouses are unable to have legitimate careers because they get moved all the time.  Some spouses choose not to move with their "sponsors", but why be married if you have to live apart?  For many military families, living apart is a given already, due to deployments.  So the spouses who don't have "real jobs" end up with a lot of time on their hands.  Some of them try to form an identity by cleaving to whatever it is their spouse does.  That's wrong behavior; but in a way, I can't really blame them for it.  It really can be hard to carve out your own niche if you never have time to form one.

Sometimes people rail against spouses who don't have jobs and sit on their asses all day, yet whine about how hard it is to be a military spouse.  I agree, there are many out there who embrace that pathetic role.  I think there are even more, though, who simply have nothing else.  So they have kids, gain weight, and shop a lot and, maybe, get overly involved in their husbands' careers.

Dependas get made fun of for being uneducated and trashy.  And yet, people like me also get made fun of.  My public health/social work career never got off the ground, so I started writing, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.  And I sometimes get shit from military folks for doing that, even though I have made money as a writer, which technically makes me a professional.  I have also been accused of "lording my education" over other people.  Hah!  If they only knew.  Having this education in this environment is not a blessing... in fact, it's kind of a waste.

I guess what upsets me the most is the hatred and vitriol leveled at people by perfect strangers.  Check out this comment from the article I linked to...

I have been the soldier, and the spouse at home. Being a spouse at home is NOT hard, it is NOT something to continually beg for pity and attention and special treatment over. The entitled attitude of spouses is disgusting. If you want the “benefits” of military service, stop indiscriminately reproducing for five seconds and join up yourself. Otherwise, get an education, get a real job, and stop being an embarrassment to the entire military community.

Military families are highly visible, and dependas are absolutely ruining the image of the military. Their lack of self-respect and desecration of the uniform under the guise of “patriotism” or “pride” is inexcusable! They consistently put their noses where it doesn’t belong, whether in their neighbor’s business or contacting their husband’s chain of command. In no other profession on earth would this be acceptable behavior, and I have no idea why dependas think they are entitled to act that way. The majority of military wives are such an embarrassment that soldiers and veterans refuse to interact with them at all. The only spouses with whom I associate are all veterans too, with the exception of a few. Get off your high horse. Being a military brat tag chaser does NOT mean you know anything about serving in the military. Military spouses need a serious reality check. 

The author of the above comment says being a spouse isn't "hard" and spouses should either "join up" or get an education and a real job.  Well, for me, she's right; being an Army wife wasn't that hard.  I got married when I was thirty, already educated, and very well-traveled.  I had spent time away from my family and had tasted life on my own.  For other women, it is hard.  They may be young, undereducated, and perhaps saddled with kids.  They may be separated from their families or their husbands and living in a place they don't like and would have never chosen to live in.  Yes, they could have made the decision not to marry a military guy, but most people don't think about that kind of stuff when they're "in love".  True "dependas" probably don't marry for love, but I'm guessing that most Americans do... or at least they think they are in love.

No one would ever say that I am not educated.  I got my education before I got married, too, so it's not even like I used my husband's GI bill to get what turned out to be my "worthless" degrees.  I tried to get a "real job" outside of the home for several years, but it didn't work out for me, partly because of the shitty economy and partly because of multiple moves.  There is no way I could have done what I went to school to do and still live the military spouse lifestyle with my husband.  Maybe if I had been a nurse I could have done it... or maybe if I had been a clinical social worker, though I would have somehow needed to get licensed and the necessary documented supervision before the next move.  We've had a couple that occurred in less than two years, though.  It would have been very hard.

She goes on to write about how "the majority of military wives" are an embarrassment.  Really?  And she says she only associates with spouses who are also veterans.  Okay... well, if you only associate with spouses who are veterans, how can you know what the majority of military wives are like?  Perhaps if the above poster broadened her horizons and stepped beyond her comfort zone, she might find out that spouses run the gamut.  Some of them are pretty goddamn respectable, yet they still get called "dependents" and have to put up with hateful broad brushing comments from like the one above.

See, it's attitudes like the one expressed above that upset me.  The military is a huge organization with people from all walks of life within it.  Military spouses are often expected to be a part of the organization-- to show up for ceremonies and parties and sometimes live on military installations.  Spouses are definitely interwoven within the fabric of the military lifestyle.  And yet, many service members want to constantly harp on how spouses are generally civilians and know *nothing* about military service, add *nothing* to their spouses's career, and are basically a waste of space.

They are constantly being told to remember their place, yet they are also expected to tolerate a lot of bullshit that comes with being married to a servicemember.  For instance, last time we moved to Germany, I had to submit to a physical exam and go through an EFMP screening which involved having a non-involved doctor look at very personal records regarding therapy I got for anxiety and depression.  It was a violation of my privacy, but I went along with it so I could move with Bill.  If he'd had most any other job, I would not have been expected to tolerate such an intrusion.  The fact is, wives are often expected to take one for the team and not make any waves.  They are expected to have a good sense of humor and not complain when someone is abusive or belittling.  And while they are told they should "get a job", they should also be willing to gracefully give up that job without complaint if there's a move in the works and, if they happen to be successful or accomplished, not to talk about that success or accomplishment.  Otherwise, they're "too big for their britches".  

Of course I don't condone the behavior of some of the spouses who take advantage of government benefits.  On the other hand, the fact is, the military lifestyle is legitimately hard for many people, even those who are merely "dependents".  It may not be hard in terms of being shot at or putting up with abusive leaders, but it is hard in terms of your husband's job always coming first and always having to adapt to new situations.

I guess this is the same thing a lot stepparents have to deal with.  They get told they "knew what they were getting into", but a lot of them really don't until they are actually in it.  They marry someone with kids and get told the kid is "none of their business", yet they are still expected to support and even love the kid, no matter how he or she behaves.  The child always comes first, just like the military does.  And just like many stepmothers get painted with a broad brush, so do many military wives.

Yeah.... I think that's why I get so annoyed about so-called "dependa hunters".  Because they remind me of the people who trash women who marry men who've been married before.  Since I am both a second wife and a former Army wife, I have been subjected to this kind of treatment and it gets really old.  I have found that it's hard to win, so it's better to just withdraw.  I will say, however, that my experience as an Army wife was not that difficult.  I'd never say it was.  And since Bill's ex got his kids to disown him, I haven't had an especially difficult time as a stepmother, either.  I have been lucky, but not everyone has.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bill and the boys...

Yes, this is my psychopathic husband who hates women.  Notice how the dogs are terrified of him and can't wait for him to leave.

Another Duggar romance?

Well... now that two daughters and a son have been married off, it looks like yet another Duggar may be preparing for courtship.  According to this article, 18 year old Josiah Duggar has his eye on 17 year old Marjorie Jackson.  One one hand, I'm not surprised to read this news.  Josiah is only 18, but he strikes me as being one of the more sensitive and progressive of the Duggar clan.  It's likely that he wants to escape into adulthood.  I get the sense the Boob wants him married off to keep him out of trouble and get him busy making babies.

On another hand, I'm a little worried about Josiah marrying a woman.  You see, he has always kind of made my gaydar go off.  I am not the only one, either.  Back when Television Without Pity still operated, the forums often buzzed about Josiah and how he didn't seem like the rest of the boys.  He was supposedly sent off to ALERT Academy for some time.  I remember when Michelle announced her pregnancy with baby Jubilee (whom she eventually miscarried).  Josiah was visibly upset.  After the commercial break, he was holding his arm as if perhaps he'd had a good talking to.  Maybe he's just really in touch with his feminine side, though.

Of course, I could be totally wrong about Josiah.  I don't know him personally and have no idea if he struggles with same sex attraction (as the Mormons would put it).  He may be straight as an arrow and just head over heels in love with this young girl.  It's happened before.  However, it seems to me that this courtship is a convenient way to boost the ratings and potentially get Josiah out on his own before he messes up the Duggar franchise.

The Duggars aren't LDS, but I bet one or two of them might relate to this song...

Statistically speaking, it's very likely that at least one of the Duggar kids is gay.  I know they don't believe that a person could be born gay.  They also believe that the Earth is only 6000 years old.  Personally, I think it's unfair to expect homosexuals to pretend to be straight and get married.  It's not fair to them or the person they marry.  Once again, I draw on many stories I've read on RfM about people who either felt pressured to get married and be "straight" when they were gay or people who ended up marrying someone who was gay.  While I have read one or two stories where an arrangement like this worked out, more often than not, it was a misery for everyone involved.

Imagine being forced to be married to someone to whom you are not sexually attracted.  Or worse, imagine being someone whose spouse is not attracted.  You may even be great friends and have a good time together, but when it comes to intimacy, that lack of attraction can be devastating.  It can ruin a person's self-esteem and breed resentment.  Life is so short and it seems sad to live with that kind of issue your whole life.  I know a lot of people do it, but they shouldn't.

Whether Josiah is gay or not, I think it would be beneficial for him especially if he had the chance to get out into the world and experience life.  He just doesn't strike me as being the type of person who would enjoy working in construction his whole life.  He seems more like a city slicker.  Whether he is or isn't, I think it would be nice if Boob let his children make more of their own decisions.  I hope as they get older, the kids start taking more control over their lives.

I still have yet to watch last week's thrilling episode of 19 Kids and Counting.  I can't bring myself to do it.  Maybe I'll get to it today.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The number 69 is dirty... and 65 year old German mother of 13 pregnant with quadruplets...

Some days, I can't think of anything to write about.  Other days, I get topics coming at me from all directions.  This morning, I have at least two things to discuss here on my trusty blog.  First, I need to write about the ridiculous news story I read this morning out of Utah.

Vietnam War veteran Arnold Breitenbach of St. George, Utah was hoping to get special license plates commemorating the Combat Infantryman Badge he was awarded when he was serving in the Army.  Back in 1969, Mr. Breitenbach was wounded while at a gun turret on an Army personnel carrier.  Rocket-propelled grenades struck the turret and Breitenbach ended up temporarily blinded and suffered damage to his hearing.  For that, he was awarded a Purple Heart.

Mr. Breitenbach applied for a license plate bearing the Purple Heart and the letters CIB-69.  He was surprised to find out that in Utah, the use of the number 69 is banned by the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles because "69" has "sexual connotations".  To this, I say Utah government needs to get its collective mind out of the gutter and head out of its ass.  Seriously?  The state is full of Mormons, many of whom probably have no idea what a "69" is.  But even if it was something that was common knowledge among all people, this situation falls into the category of people not using common sense when it comes to language.

I have ranted about this before.  I am not a fan of burying language that is deemed "offensive".  You won't find me trying to get the words "retard" "fag" or even "nigger" banned from the English language.  Why?  Because despite the fact that they've caused a lot of pain to many people, there are some situations in which they are appropriate.  Try reading a slave narrative or any African American literature without the so-called n-bomb in it.  I think it would be hard to capture any hint of the essence of what the black experience was like before the Civil Rights era if we suddenly decided to strike that word.

This is not to say that I could even KNOW what it's like to be black, just that the word has a certain negative power that is worth studying.  Listen to Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City", a song about a black man who gets falsely arrested when he visits New York City for the first time.  He gets sentenced to ten years and thrown in prison, where a guard dismissively refers to him as a nigger.  No, it's not pleasant, but it definitely adds a shade of meaning to the music.

To bury that word is to deny history.  I don't agree that people should be running around deliberately using language that demeans, offends, or hurts other people, but I also don't agree that we should deny people the right to express themselves freely.  We need to let people be responsible for themselves and their language; at the same time, we need to expect people to be adults with common sense, too.

In the case of the term "69", we're talking about oral sex.  Oral sex supposedly gives people a lot of pleasure.  It's just deemed gross or inappropriate or sinful in certain circles.  So, instead of expecting people to be grown ups who can tell the difference between the number 69 denoting the year when a man earned a Purple Heart and CIB, we have to ban it because some people might be reminded of slang term denoting oral sex?  It's ludicrous, and we should expect more from adults than that.  Arnold Breitenbach and others who were in Vietnam in 1969 shouldn't have to omit or change the year they got their CIBs simply because some people in Utah (and elsewhere, apparently) don't want to remind people of simultaneous oral sex.

Moving on...

Yesterday, I read about Annegret Raunigk, a 65 year old woman from Berlin who has 13 children.  Apparently, Ms. Raunigk's youngest child, a daughter born nine years ago, wants a little brother or sister.  So Ms. Raunigk sought help from a fertility specialist and is now pregnant with quadruplets at age 65.

I posted about this on Facebook and to my surprise and chagrin, one friend said he didn't feel it was "wrong", but "risky, careless, and irresponsible".  I highly disagree with the word "careless" used in this instance.  This was NOT a careless act.  This was a very calculated and deliberate act of extreme stupidity and selfishness.  This woman is 65 years old.  If she manages to have those four babies, she will be 80 when they are still young teenagers.  That means it's likely their siblings will end up being responsible for them.  They could also end up being responsible for their mother.  And if they don't take responsibility, the good people of Germany will be expected to.

Shame on the doctor who implanted this woman with embryos.  There is a reason nature puts women through menopause.  At some point, having more children doesn't make any sense.  This is definitely one of those cases.  Hopefully, it's a joke... but I don't think it is.

And... on a side note, I hope Michelle Duggar doesn't get any bright ideas to force God into giving her more "gifts".


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Superstar kids who get into all 8 Ivies...

I just read yet another news article about a kid who got into all eight Ivy League schools, along with quite a few other excellent universities.  The first kid I read about who had achieved an eight for eight Ivy League acceptance rate was Nigerian born New York teen Harold Ekeh, who along with having outstanding grades and test scores had also founded a college mentoring program at his school.  Ekeh also got into five other excellent universities, but is leaning toward attending Yale, where he will be surrounded by others with brains and ambitions as large as his.

The second kid I read about is Pooja Chandrashekar, daughter of Indian immigrants and graduating senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia.  Having come from Virginia, I know about this school.  In fact, since I used to do temporary work at the College of William & Mary, I have even met a few graduates.  It's impressive enough to go there, but then I see that this young lady has founded a national non-profit that encourages middle school aged girls to participate in math, science, technology, and engineering.  She's also developed an app that predicts with 96% accuracy whether or not someone has Parkinson's Disease.  And she's only 17 years old.

I have to wonder what it feels like to be so incredibly intelligent and talented and achieving such huge things at such a young age.  I have always felt like a fairly average person myself in most everything.  I have a few talents that some might think are notable.  But I'm 25 years older than these two young people and they have already accomplished more than I ever could in a lifetime.  How does it feel to have the ability to achieve such marvelous things, especially at such a young age?

I wonder if these kids feel enormous pressure to keep performing or if they simply have an incredible drive.  Do they feel like they have a duty to improve life for other people or is it just something they want to do because they are just blessed with incredible brain power?  I wonder how others their age treat them.  Do they have many friends who understand their genius?  I would imagine that even at a school like TJ, Pooja is probably way smart.

In the spring of 1998, I had the "privilege" of working temporarily in William & Mary's admissions office.  William & Mary is a very prestigious school; the second oldest in the country.  My sister is a graduate, as is my former best friend.  I knew about the school from them, but learned even more about it when I worked during the height of application season.  I spent most of my time filing transcripts, essays, and other supporting documents.  It was a massive job, though at times it was interesting.  Sometimes I saw the names of people I knew.  Sometimes I took the time to read essays, some of which were really excellent.  I saw a lot of report cards from amazing private schools like Phillips Exeter Academy and well known public schools like New York's Stuyvesant High School.

Some people were really desperate.  I saw one application in which a girl's parents had sent letters on their daughter's behalf, begging for acceptance.  I remember the father was a police officer and the mother was a nurse.  She had sent a copy of her nursing license and the father had written a letter explaining that he and his wife planned to move to Williamsburg to support their daughter.  There was a picture of the young lady standing in front of the Wren Building as a youngster.  You could tell she had her heart set on attending...  Alas, she was not accepted.

I remember another application that included an essay that still makes me laugh 17 years later.  The young man who had written it happened to have the last name "Swets".  It was pronounced "sweats".  I remember one line in the essay was about how his name was a simple sentence and not a very pleasant one at that.  I see by checking Facebook that Mr. Swets was successful in his bid to attend William & Mary.  He doesn't know that I, as a lowly temp, read his essay and still remember it so many years later.  Another applicant wrote a hilarious essay about a disgusting Christmas log that was customarily trotted out every holiday season.  I don't know how her application turned out, but her essay made me laugh out loud.

Most applicants were pretty regular folks, though generally with excellent grades and test scores.  For many of them, that was simply not enough to win admission to William & Mary.  I imagine for many of those kids, getting the rejection letter was devastating on a personal level.  I understand how that feels.

I got rejected by three of the four schools I applied to and ended up at what I considered my safety school.  It turned out to be a great place for me to go to college, not because it led me to a great career, but because it simply was a caring and nurturing place.  In fact, that nurturing environment continues even twenty years later, even though the school has grown.  Yesterday, my college's president addressed the student body because a student who had disappeared over spring break was found dead.  Last year, my college arranged for a student whose father was within days of dying to have a special graduation ceremony so he would be able to see his daughter graduate.  I wasn't all that proud to be going to my college in 1990, but I am so proud to be a graduate today... even though it's far from an Ivy League school and my life has so far not amounted to a whole lot... at least not when compared to these superstar kids.
I have no idea what it must be like to be so smart and accomplished at such a young age.  I imagine at times it's very frustrating.  I'm sure it's hard to find appropriate mentors and educators who are capable of teaching them at the level they require.  I'm sure their parents also feel pressure to do right by their kids and get them in the right schools and activities.  On the other hand, the two I've written about here may have actually raised themselves.  That, too, may have cause challenges for their elders and maybe any siblings, too.

All I know is that these young people are likely expected to achieve incredible things.  I am sure they will rise to the challenge, but it must be really interesting to be like them.  My mundane lifestyle would probably bore them to tears.
Bill leaves for Senegal today.  Hopefully the week will pass quickly.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Typical German compassion...

Yesterday, I got an email from Germanwings.  I thought it was for our upcoming flight to Vienna, but in fact, it was about the crash last month.  Like I wanted to be reminded!  I looked into flying a different airline, but all of the other options meant spending significantly more money or time getting to Vienna.  As our flight is only about an hour or so, I figured I'd throw caution to the wind.

I have a feeling Germanwings is now on high alert for safety, so we should be fine.  I would be lying if I said we hadn't looked into taking the train, though.  If it wouldn't take all day and weren't a lot more expensive, I think we would have planned to do just that.  The idea of flying is a little scary in the wake of the recent airline crashes and disappearances.  Of course, Europe remains one of the safest places in the world to fly.

I mentioned the email in a local Facebook group and someone snarked, "Typical German compassion."  Actually, the email wasn't really lacking in compassion.  It was a typical public relations gimmick to get people to trust Germanwings again.  But in my case, all it did was remind me of the horrible crash on what should have been a totally routine flight.

Zane seems mostly back to himself now.  He didn't wake us in the middle of the night with farts last night, so I think his stomach has calmed down for now.  My table will get here on Monday and the faulty Expedia charge is gone now...  I just wish Bill weren't going to be gone all week next week.  I hate it when he goes away.  It's going to be a boring week.

Then when he gets back, he visits the urologist and we will make plans to get rid of this tooth that has been troubling me.  We will also go to Vienna and I will start planning our next big trip...

I have lots to look forward to.

Perhaps later, I will be back to rant for a bit.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Suspected swingers at the bowling alley...

No, I can't bowl like Fred Flintstone...

If there's one thing every military installation seems to have, it's bowling alleys.  They all seem to look the same, too.  I don't know why bowling is so popular among military folks.  I'm not very good at it myself, though Bill and I have gone a few times.  We both tend to bowl better when we drink.

This morning, I am reminded of an incident that occurred at Fort Belvoir's bowling alley maybe ten or so years ago.  Back then, Bill and I were broke and we needed to find cheap ways of entertaining ourselves.  We happened to live on Fort Belvoir, so there was a bowling alley that we could conceivably walk to if we wanted.  One Sunday afternoon, we were bored and decided we wanted to go bowling.

Bowling alleys on military posts tend to be full of kids.  They're noisy, boisterous places where one can enjoy a greasy cheeseburger, cheap beer, and other assorted fattening snacks.  But we just couldn't take another afternoon of watching TV.  

There was an interracial couple in the lane next to ours.  They were very good bowlers.  The male half, a handsome black man, was especially good.  I couldn't help but watch him as he gracefully and effortlessly sent bowling ball after bowling ball down the lane, getting strikes more often than not.  

At one point, he noticed me noticing him.  I was truly only admiring his bowling prowess, but I think he might have gotten the idea that perhaps I was admiring him.  He was a good looking guy, but I am happily married and he appeared to be as well.  Or, at least it was obvious he was part of a couple.

Anyway, this guy started watching me bowl.  It's not too exciting to watch me at the bowling alley because I suck.  But I noticed him watching me.  I caught his eye and he gave me a flirtatious grin.  I immediately felt uncomfortable.  I've never been much of a flirt and, again, I'm married and not looking for another man in my life.

The couple finished their game before we did.  I was a little relieved and hoped a mom and kids would show up to take over their lane.  But then they hung around for a bit, watching us...  I finally said something to Bill, who glanced at the guy.  He seemed to take the hint and left.

Later, we went home and I took to the Internet.  At that time, I had no blog and Facebook wasn't yet a household name.  I asked some friends who were members of a second wives and stepmoms group what they thought was going on.  They all said they thought the guy and his wife were probably swingers.

Thank God that thought did not occur to me as we were bowling.  I don't know what the guy and his woman were thinking of, but it never crossed my mind that they could be looking for sex partners...  especially in an ungraceful bowler like me.  But maybe the man just enjoyed watching us fumble with our balls.  Clearly, that's a problem he never has.

Here's a bizarre game show that was on TV in the 70s...  The Bradys bowl better than I do.  Props to "Marcia" and "Jan" for not wearing bras.