Friday, July 31, 2015

When sex offender registries are too harsh...

This morning, I read about 19 year old Zach Anderson of St. Joseph, Michigan.  For the next 25 years, Zach will be listed on a sex offender registry.  Why?  Because he had sex with a 14 year old girl last winter.

Zach met the 14 year old on a dating app called Hot or Not.  When they met, she told him she was 17.   She had also falsely registered on the adult section of the site-- seems to me the whole site should be for adults.  Unfortunately, Zach didn't think to ask his partner for proof of age-- now there's a romantic thought.

Zach was later arrested and ultimately sentenced to 90 days.  For the next five years, Zach is forbidden to own a smart phone or use the internet.  He must be home by eight o'clock.  He is not allowed to talk to anyone under age 17, unless they are immediate family.  He can't go to any establishment that serves alcohol.  And though Zach had wanted to study computer science, thanks to his punishment, that dream will have to be put on hold.  He has to live in a fixer upper house that his parents bought for him, because he's not allowed to live in their home.  It's too close to children.  Had Zach and his 14 year old friend been 20 minutes over the state line in Indiana, he would not be in trouble at all, since Indiana has a law that offers an automatic defense in situations where someone lies about their age.

Even Zach's "victim" and her mother think Zach should be off the hook.  They testified on his behalf at his court hearing.

I just don't see how putting this young man on the sex offender registry serves society.  Sex offender registries are supposed to protect people from sex offenders.  All Zach did was have consensual sex with someone who lied about her age.  He didn't rape her.

I don't condone what Zach did.  I think it's stupid to have sex with someone you've just met.  But he's 19 and at an age where sex is on the brain 24/7.  He met an attractive girl who consented to have sex with him, even though she couldn't do that legally.  Should he have gotten to know her better and gotten proof of her age?  Maybe.  But how many people in the heat of passion think to card their sex partners?

Zach is appealing his sentence.  With any luck, he will get the sentence reduced and go back to living a more normal life.

I know sex offender registries are supposed to be protective, but I think in some cases, they are too punitive.  I'd be in favor of allowing more discretion when it comes to sentencing people in sex offense cases.  Not everyone who technically commits a sex offense needs to be punished for decades.  Zach is only 19 years old and has his whole life ahead of him.  He shouldn't be burdened with this for the next 25 years.  

In other news, I took Arran in for a fine needle aspirate of a swelling I found on him the other day.  I am praying it's nothing.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What do lions have to do with being barefoot and pregnant?

Until this whole debacle surrounding Cecil the Lion, I would never have guessed that lions could be involved in the abortion argument.  And yet, thanks to Facebook, I see that even a rare, beautiful, protected lion that was mercilessly hunted down and killed by a bloodthirsty dentist can be involved in the abortion debate.


These are just two I saw after opening my eyes this morning...

Now, I have seen the damning videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal tissue to undercover abortion opponents.  Yes, I did find them somewhat disturbing to watch, though I think some of what was released to the public was taken out of context.  Moreover, while I personally find the idea of abortion repugnant, I support abortion rights because I think it's far worse to bring an unwanted child into the world than have an abortion.  No one I know remembers being in the womb and I have doubts that fetuses have any concept of what life is.  However, pregnant women can and do face significant risks and I think it should be entirely up to them to decide if they want to give birth.  

I don't think what someone else does with their body is my business and that includes forcing pregnant women to stay pregnant.  The United States is far too fucked up to be demanding that all pregnant women carry their babies to term.  There are too many people who don't have enough to survive and too many fucked up people who do have enough but shouldn't be parents.  When every citizen in the United States has access to affordable, accessible, and available health care and decent food and housing, maybe then I could get in line with the pro-life crowd.  But that will never happen in my lifetime.

I am a big proponent of personal responsibility.  I am not a fan of people having casual sex willy nilly.  I am a big fan of contraception and safety when it comes to sharing DNA.  I think abortion itself is vile and disgusting.  As for the tissue that results from an abortion, I can't see how it's more of an insult to that life for that tissue to be used for research than to be thrown in a trashcan or an incinerator.  If the fetus is dead anyway, what the hell difference does it make?  If that tissue can be used to further medical science that will eventually help already born men, women, and children, I think it may even be a noble thing that the tissue is sold rather than tossed away.  At least that tissue has served a purpose of some sort.

The people who are outraged over Planned Parenthood's abortion activities and the sale of fetal tissue aren't focusing at all on the good that can be done with the tissue that results from an abortion or a miscarriage.  They are focusing on how grisly, barbaric, and revolting an abortion is.  But, I will bet that if any of them ever suffers from or has a child with a rare medical disorder that can benefit from medical research, they might change their tune.

Another thing I notice is that a whole lot of the people who are crowing about Planned Parenthood right now are men.  That's right-- MALES... who, unless they are transgendered, will never be pregnant and won't ever have to deal with the risks or the aftermath of being pregnant.  Indeed, quite a few men don't even stick around to help raise the children they create with their seed.  Others, like my husband, end up paying for children they aren't even allowed to see or help raise, because they happened to have sex with a psycho who thinks her kids are extensions of her body.

I've seen a lot of posts from men about women having abortions and how wrong that is.  I can't help but wonder what that's all about.  One guy posted that he thinks abortions should only be allowed in cases of rape-- as if a child conceived in rape is any less innocent than a child conceived from carelessness is...  And does he realize that if we only allow abortions in certain situations, there will be a lot of lying going on?  There will also be a lot of women hurting and killing themselves in order to cause a miscarriage. It happened before, when abortion was outlawed.  Those who could afford it would just go to a place where abortion is legal.  I see a lot of men saying that adoption is a better alternative.  Does it occur to them how difficult it is for a woman to give up her child?  They make it sound like it's the simplest thing in the world.

Look... when it comes to parental rights, I am all for equality AFTER a child is born.  But when a child is still in utero, it is still part of the woman's body.  She bears the responsibility and the risks for growing that child in her body.  Whether or not she carries it should be entirely up to her.  Otherwise, why don't we just lock up pregnant women and treat them like incubators?  Feed them, walk them, give them a warm place to sleep and access to a doctor while they make more babies for the state... babies who will eventually grow up and not be able to move out of their parents' home, find a decent job, or make enough money to pay their bills.

As for Cecil, the Lion, I haven't said much about it because it just makes me sad to think that a dentist would spend so many thousands of dollars to go to Africa and hunt down a beautiful, wild creature so he can decapitate it and hang it on his wall.  I am nauseated by the idea that Dr. Walter Palmer is a healthcare worker who apparently enjoys bleaching his teeth.  I understand that he now "deeply regrets" what he did.  Yeah, right.  I doubt it mattered to him that Cecil was a much beloved, iconic lion.  It only matters because he is now the subject of a lot of public hatred and scorn.  His business is now suffering and I think he'll end up paying far more than $55,000 for killing that cat.  It seems like a huge waste of time and money.

I have seen too many pictures of dead wild animals, lately.  Frankly, I find trophy hunting photos just as disturbing as pictures of dead fetuses.  At the same time, I understand that I'm a hypocrite because I am a meat eater.  And I eat meat that comes from animals who have lived far worse lives than Cecil did.  That's just one of many things I need to work on in this lifetime.

I think Facebook is a cesspool of people pontificating about stuff they know little about and have not given much thought to.  Posting stupid memes comparing abortion and Planned Parenthood's sale of fetal tissue to Cecil the Lion's execution is just non-sensical and does absolutely nothing to effect real change for good.    

Aside from that, I think this world generally sucks... and I say this as someone who has a lot to be thankful for and is luckier than most people.  Life is way overrated. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dumb dresscode dilemma...

I need to do something to take my mind of canine cancer.  I found an article this morning that I posted on Facebook.  It has generated some discussion, so I'm going to write about it here.

Meet Sylva Stoel of Sioux Falls, South Dakota (try saying that three times fast).  She's seventeen, slim, and stylin'.  And while she used to have a job at J.C. Penney, she no longer does.  After just two weeks on the job, she quit on the spot when her boss reprimanded her for dressing inappropriately.

If you click the link above, you can see the outfit she was wearing.  It's a sleeveless, low cut blue top and a pair of red linen shorts with flip flop sandals.  While I probably wouldn't have chosen to wear the red and blue together the way she did, I will say that she has a cute figure and the outfit looks okay on her.  With her very blonde hair, she has sort of a primary color theme going on.  It looks like something she could wear while out with her friends or something.  For work at J.C. Penney's?  Not so much.

The kicker is, Sylva says she bought the shorts in J.C. Penney's career style section.  So, if the shorts were, in fact, in the right section of the store, someone on Penney's fashion buyer team apparently thinks they look professional enough to wear on the job.  Sylva also claims that no one told her the shorts were against the dress code.

After quitting her job, Sylva took to Twitter, where she called out her former employer for its "body shaming" policies.  She says she agrees with some dress codes, ones that aren't "gender specific".  But she's tired of policies that target women.  J.C. Penney, for its part, says that shorts of any length are forbidden for both male and female associates.

Here's the thing.  I get that a lot of younger folks today think dress codes are oppressive and sexist.  I have seen the memes about not sexualizing female bodies.  If a woman wears a pair of shorts, it's for her comfort, not your viewing pleasure.  But, when you decide to work somewhere and you're in a position that puts you in contact with the public, it's perfectly reasonable for employers to put a standard on what is and what is not appropriate attire.

What Sylva is wearing clearly covers all her private parts.  It even looks nice on her.  She could probably do her job wearing that outfit.  But it doesn't represent J.C. Penney's corporate image.  I'm sure you could find a lot of clothing in their career wear section that might be alright in some work settings.  What matters is what your employer deems appropriate.

Some of my friends think Sylva may be trying for fifteen minutes of fame.  That may be true.  She claims to be a feminist and this may have just been a stunt to get her name out there in feminist circles.  Maybe she wants to be a lobbyist or something.  Actually, for her sake, I hope that's the deal.  Putting her name out there on social media could have negative consequences if future potential employers look her up.

I made the comment that, back when I was seventeen, if someone made a wardrobe error like this one, they'd just go home and change and modify their work wardrobe habits accordingly.  I think many of today's youngsters seem to think they have the right to buck authority at all costs.  And maybe they do.  Some of them may not understand the longterm repercussions that can come from being too outspoken.  You absolutely have the right to free speech and expression.  Just understand that there may be unintended and unforeseen consequences to the things you say and do.  In a year or two, Sylva may not want this to be the hill she died on.  On the other hand, one would hope this kind of thing would blow over by then-- but then, since we have social media and prospective bosses feel free to check it out, maybe not.

Damn, I sound like a crotchety old hag.  As an aside, the woman presenting this story on The Today Show ought to get in trouble for violating the dress code.  She's wearing a floral sleeveless dress with a hideous black criss cross strap thing across her chest and around her waist.  It looks like she's wearing an X4 seatbelt.

My dogs are driving me crazy...

I worry about them so much.

Last night, I was running my hands over Arran and I found another lump.  It's very soft and long and seems to be in the subcutaneous fatty tissue under the skin.  It feels like a fatty tumor, but it could be another mast cell tumor.  I will watch it and if it changes before our next vet appointment, we'll go in and have it checked.

Right after I found the lump, Bill took the dogs out for a potty and play break.  Zane was pestering Arran, who was preoccupied with the grill because Bill cooked steaks last night.  They ended up in a fight.  I had to help Bill break it up and Zane got bitten a couple of times on the ears.

I was suddenly very depressed about my dogs.  I love them and I know I won't have them forever.  I just dread another round of sickness.  It hasn't been long enough since the last one.  I told Bill that maybe it's time I quit rescuing dogs.  He, of course, disagrees.  I probably do, too.  I'm just frustrated.

I decided to order some Orijen dog food.  It's supposedly the best on the market.  We'll try it and see how the dogs like it.  It may make no difference, but it may end up being just what they need.  We'll have to see.  It's expensive food, though... and supposedly low carb, which is better for cancer.  

I just took them for a walk a little while ago and they were doing fine until they saw a pug in the distance.  Then, they started barking and carrying on, resulting in dirty looks from Germans.  Sometimes, I wonder if having dogs is more trouble than it's worth.  On the other hand, I prefer their company to most humans', even if I do have to clean up their poop.

I hate July.  I hate it with a fiery passion.  Fuck it right in the face.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The sordid story of Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander...

Reposting this review of Shanna Hogan's Picture Perfect: The True Story of a Beautiful Photographer, Her Mormon Lover, and a Deadly Obsession.  This review was originally posted on

  • The sordid story of Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander...

    Review by knotheadusc
     in Books, Music, Hotels & Travel 
      January, 09 2014
  • Pros: Well-written and informative for those who didn't follow the trial.
    Cons: Not very objective.  A few editing glitches.
    Like the rest of America, I probably got my fill of seeing convicted murderer Jodi Arias on television in 2013.  However, I didn't follow her exhausting court case like some people did.  Since I am both interested in Mormonism and true crime, I read Shanna Hogan's 2013 book, Picture Perfect: The True Story of a Beautiful Photographer, Her Mormon Lover, and a Deadly Obsession.  I came across this book after having watched a Lifetime TV movie about Jodi Arias and her murder of Travis Alexander, a former Mormon missionary and up and coming businessman in Mesa, Arizona.

    The tragic story...

    Travis Alexander was the last person anyone would have guessed would one day be a murder victim.  He had grown up poor in California, one of eight kids his unreliable parents had brought into the world.  Raised by his Mormon grandmother, Travis Alexander had embraced the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' teachings from a young age.  He served a Mormon mission in Denver, Colorado, didn't drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, and went to church every Sunday.  He had many friends, was popular with women, and, at the time he met Jodi Ann Arias, was an up and coming performer at the multi-level marketing company, Prepaid Legal Services.  He was also a popular motivational speaker.  Most people who knew Travis seemed to like him.  He appeared to have a bright future ahead of him.  Though Travis Alexander had started his career in California, he eventually decided to move to Mesa, Arizona, to take advantage of the untapped and heavily Mormon populated market where he figured he could sell more Prepaid Legal Services.

    Jodi Ann Arias had also grown up in California.  Three years younger than Travis Alexander, she was very beautiful, but seemed to have trouble making friends and launching herself into a suitable career.  She drifted from job to job, until one day she decided to try her hand at multi-level marketing.  In September 2006, Arias attended a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada offered by Prepaid Legal Services.  That's when she first saw Travis Alexander, a man who would soon be the object of her obsessions.

    Although Travis Alexander was supposedly a devout Mormon, a religion that strongly discourages premarital sex and casual dating, he apparently had a weakness for women.  He met and was charmed by Jodi Arias and the two had a one night stand.  Jodi was smitten with Travis Alexander, but Travis apparently didn't feel the same way about her.  However, he didn't mind seeing her, since she wasn't LDS and was willing to have sex with him.  Meanwhile, Travis Alexander realized he wasn't getting any younger and needed to find a good Mormon wife.  A good Mormon wife would be wholesome, pretty, young, and most importantly, a virgin.

    Jodi Arias realized that Travis Alexander wanted to get married and start a family.  She also realized that as a proper Mormon man, he would want a proper Mormon wife.  So she decided to take missionary discussions and convert to Mormonism.  Converting to Mormonism is not a simple thing; it requires adhering to strict lifestyle standards, attending church regularly, and paying tithing, among other things.  But Jodi was determined to win over Travis, even though he had already moved on to dating women who would be more suitable Mormon wives.

    Jodi Arias became obsessed with Travis Alexander.  She would show up uninvited at his home in Mesa, Arizona and, once she determined she wanted to be his wife, eventually moved there herself.  She called and texted him incessantly and violated Travis's privacy by hacking into his social media accounts and reading his text messages, many of which came from other women.  Jodi's lack of respect seemed to get on Travis's nerves, but apparently not enough that he stopped allowing her to visit for trysts.  The two traveled together and were even planning to go on a Prepaid Legal Services business trip to Cancun, Mexico, before their relationship hit the skids.  

    On June 4, 2008, days before Travis was going to go to Mexico with another woman he had been dating, Jodi stopped by his house.  They had fun with Travis's digital camera.  There were photos of Jodi naked, her hair in braids, apparently just after the two had sex together. Later, Travis took a shower and Jodi had a look at his cell phone again.  She realized he would never accept her as anything more than a sex partner.  Travis's last act before Jodi murdered him was to pose for photos as he showered, several of which were taken just minutes before Jodi savagely attacked him with a knife and shot him in the head.  He was found naked in his shower days later by his very concerned friends.

    Though Jodi Arias was at Travis Alexander's memorial service and acted like just another grieving friend, she was soon arrested on suspicions that she had murdered him.  Many of Travis Alexander's friends suspected she'd had something to do with the murder, but Jodi Arias actually sealed her own fate because she took photos of her crime.  She had claimed to be nowhere near Arizona when Travis Alexander died, but the photos she had taken put her at the scene of the crime on the day the murder occurred.  And there were plenty of Travis's friends who would testify that she was obsessed with him.  

    In May of 2013, Jodi Arias was convicted of Travis Alexander's murder, but jurors could not come to a unanimous agreement as to whether she should be put to death or spend the rest of her life in prison.  Her fate remains unknown as she prepares for a do-over of the penalty phase of her trial.

    My thoughts on Shanna Hogan's book  

    Shanna Hogan is an award winning journalist who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.  She is a graduate of Arizona State University's journalism school.  With a pedigree like Hogan's, I would have expected a really good book about Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias.  For the most part, I think Picture Perfect delivers on that promise.  Shanna Hogan writes well and I didn't have too much trouble staying focused on the sordid tale of the returned Mormon missionary and his friend with benefits.

    I did notice a few editing glitches as I read Hogan's writing.  At one point, she refers to the "tenants" of Mormonism.  I think she meant "tenets".  There were some typos and a few confusing parts that seemed like they needed a round with an editor.  At one point, she describes Alexander as "religious" as if it was a virtue.  But in my experience, simply being religious doesn't make a person good or bad.  In fact, a lot of crimes have been committed in the name of religion.

    I also noticed that Hogan seemed to buy into Travis Alexander's legend, just as his friends did.  On the surface, Alexander seemed like a really good guy.  He was handsome, hard working, successful, and earnest.  However, looking deeper, it's not too hard for me to see that Travis Alexander was also a jerk.  He put on a good show of being a good Mormon man, but in reality, he was a liar who basically used Jodi Arias for sex.  Of course Alexander didn't deserve to be brutally murdered for being a womanizing jerk, but I felt like Shanna Hogan was too generous when she described his character.  She makes him out to be this really fine person, but his actions suggested otherwise.  Hogan did not seem to be very objective in her description of Travis Alexander.

    Moreover, Shanna Hogan presents a lot of what Arias said as "truth", when it's pretty clear that Arias isn't a very reliable witness.  I would hesitate to guess which personality disorders Arias has, though based on her actions, I'm pretty sure she's got at least a couple on the Cluster B spectrum.  And people who suffer from personality disorders are notoriously good at stretching or even obliterating the truth to further their own agendas.  On the subject of Travis Alexander and his relationship with her, Jodi Arias is not very objective, either.

    Hogan does a pretty good job of covering Arias' murder trial, though she doesn't spend as much time on that aspect of the story as she does Jodi's and Travis's trysts.  I'm actually okay with that, though; I generally find reading about what goes on in court less interesting than reading about what actions lead to the courtroom.  Hogan includes some photos, though many of them were ones I had seen before on the Internet.  


    If you're interested in reading more about Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander and their tragic relationship, I think Picture Perfect is worth reading.  Hogan is a competent author and if you didn't watch the trial (and I mostly didn't), you will learn what happened.  However, I don't think this book is very objective, so it should be read with a grain of salt.

    For more information:  

Rest in peace, Ann Rule...

Ann Rule is famous for her book The Stranger Beside Me, which was all about her time knowing and working with serial killer Ted Bundy.  For decades, former Seattle policewoman Ann Rule has been thrilling readers with her books about true crime.  I have been a big fan of hers since I was in high school.  Her books led me to read other true crime books, which I have reviewed, and inspired me do my own research of true crime cases.  I notice a lot of people find this blog thanks to my interest in true crime.

Last night, I happened to see a Facebook post from true crime author Kathryn Casey about Ann Rule, who had been hospitalized for a host of health problems.  Sunday night, Ann Rule died.  She was 83.  She leaves behind several children and many devoted fans who eagerly awaited her newest books.

While the last few books I've read by Ann Rule haven't been as compelling to me as her earlier works were, I always found her stories well-written, well-researched, compassionate, and usually pretty fascinating.   I will miss reading new work by her, as I have read pretty much every true crime book she's ever written.  Some of her books are worth re-reading.  For instance, I have read Bitter Harvest, her book about Dr. Debora Green, several times.  I have also read Small Sacrifices, Rule's account of narcissist Diane Downes, more than once.

I generally like her book length stories better than the anthologies of shorter stories she tended to put in her later works.  As she was growing older and had more health issues, I can understand why the stories were not as comprehensive.  It takes a lot of legwork to write a good true crime story.

Kathryn Casey got the chance to meet Ann Rule and she said she was a lovely woman.  While I never met her, I do remember looking at her official Web site.  She seemed like such a warm, kind person who was eager to reach out to the people who enjoyed her work.

I have often regarded Kathryn Casey as sort of the Texas version of Ann Rule, who usually wrote about crimes in the Pacific Northwest.  I am glad we still have Kathryn Casey around to write great true crime.  I can't deny that I will really miss Ann Rule's books, though.  I hope she is at peace.  I wish peace to her family and friends, too.


William Coburn's The Spanking Room... A Child's Eye View of the Jehovah's Witnesses

Last night, I finished William Coburn's 2008 book, The Spanking Room: A Child's Eye View of the Jehovah's Witnesses.  Since it is not available on Kindle, I actually read a physical copy of the book.  Perhaps that's why I was able to breeze through it in a matter of days.  Maybe it's time I got back to reading real books instead of my iPad, which distracts me with apps and Facebook posts.

I read Coburn's book because I am interested in so-called "fringe" religions.  Those who read this blog regularly may already know that my husband was a Mormon convert for awhile.  I also have a few relatives who used to be Jehovah's Witnesses, though they have since given up the faith.  I won't lie.  I also found the title of the book rather provocative.  The JWs are a group that constantly reach out to their communities through door to door harassment.  I have been visited by them in almost every place I have ever lived, including abroad.  I have always been suspicious of them and intrigued by their mystery.  I couldn't resist a title like The Spanking Room.

Coburn's book is about what it was like to grow up the son of a Jehovah's Witness.  His mother was (and apparently still is) a very devoted convert member of the JWs.  His father, who was around for most of his growing up years, is not.  Coburn also has an older brother, Joe, who managed to escape more of the JW indoctrination due to being older and involved in sports.

As a child, William Coburn went by the name Billy.  His mother would call him that.  She also called him an "awful, horrible, rotten child" because he was sinful.  As a toddler, Billy sat in a meeting at the local Kingdom Hall.  A microphone was passed around to members.  Billy's mother took the microphone and spoke, magnifying her voice.  Young Billy was fascinated by the microphone and when it was passed to another person, he said "Bye, Microphone."

That is the type of cute kid thing that usually makes people smile and say "Awww..."  Billy's mother, however, saw her son's goodbye as a slap in the face to the members of her church.  She grabbed Billy and took him to the women's restroom, where she proceeded to spank the living daylights out of him.

According to Coburn, when he was growing up in the 1970s, members of the Jehovah's Witnesses were encouraged to engage in corporal punishment whenever their children did something to warrant it.  Children were expected to be attentive and silent during meetings, even though they would last for hours and met several times a week.  Any child who disrupted a meeting in any way was expected to be spanked.

About a year after his mother became a Witness, the local Kingdom Hall was renovated.  During the renovation, a new room was added next to the women's bathroom.  It was called "The Spanking Room".  The room included an audio system that would allow parents disciplining their children to hear what was being said in the meeting.  It was also stocked with tools the mothers could use for spanking their children, everything from paddles to belts to rolled up newspapers.  There was a coffee table with couches and copies of Awake! and The Watchtower magazines.

Coburn writes that his mother was intent on getting her sons to become devoted JWs.  She would take them to meetings whenever she could, although her husband objected and would sometimes thwart her attempts to indoctrinate the boys.  While their father was sometimes able to protect Joe and Billy from his wife's religious fanaticism, he apparently did little to stop her from employing her excessive discipline methods.  Billy was especially subjected to them on a regular basis.

Coburn offers a very interesting look at what it's like to grow up JW.  He includes anecdotes about going door to door, dealing with kids at school who teased him for being different, information about what JWs believe and why they hold those beliefs, and how his upbringing has affected him as an adult.  Because Billy was a JW, he couldn't celebrate holidays or birthdays.  He couldn't recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag.  Once, when his mother took him door to door, he got violently ill because he was in a neighborhood on his bus route.  He was afraid his classmates would see him and make fun.  Once his mother realized her son wasn't actually sick from a virus, she slapped him upside the head and yelled at him for being ashamed of being a Witness.  

Coburn now makes his living as a technical recruiter and public speaker.  He originally wanted to be a doctor, but did not take college preparatory classes because his mother told him that when the "New System" began, the world wouldn't need doctors.  They would need people who could build houses.  She told him that nothing he learned in school was useful, yet she would punish him when he didn't do well.  Once, she offered to take a week off his grounding if he got 100% on a spelling test.  He got the 100% from one teacher, but another one gave him a 95 because of his handwriting.  He was beside himself and told her it was his birthday.  The teacher later gave him the 100, but she wrote "Happy birthday!" on his test.  He couldn't show that to his mother, because he wasn't supposed to celebrate his birthday.  She would beat him for it.  So he stayed grounded.  Anecdotes like these offer readers a glance at why being JW as a child can be complicated.  

Thinking about it, the teacher probably should have known better.  Coburn writes that every school year, his mother would speak to school officials about the family's religious beliefs.  She always brought pamphlets because, like any good Witness, she saw speaking to the school officials as an opportunity to convert them.  She believed that everyone wanted to be a Witness; they were just stymied by the devil.  The more vehement their response against the religion, the more the Witnesses thought the person wanted to be a Witness.  Coburn explicitly explains how people can get the Witnesses to leave them alone, which may be worth the price of the book.

Coburn's writing is very conversational.  At first, I thought his style was a little unpolished and whiney.  But then, as I got into the book, I started to enjoy his writing style more.  He demonstrates a snarky sense of humor that I liked.  Also, I thought the book was easy to read, both in terms of writing style and font.  The type is comfortably large.

While I don't think a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses will appreciate this book, I do think it's a good read for the curious.  I would bear in mind that Billy's mother's actions may have had little to do with the religion, even though Coburn claims Witnesses are encouraged to discipline their children physically. Frankly, his mother sounds a bit like my husband's ex wife, except Billy's mother was more willing to use physical punishment to get her way.  When she eventually divorced Billy's father, she engaged in a lot of the same destructive parental alienation techniques my husband's ex wife did, although she did at least allow the boys to see their dad and his second wife.

I will admit that I still don't know a lot about the JWs.  I have read some books and known a few, but I've never sat down and talked to anyone about what being a Witness is like.  My cousin who was a Witness only told me that the religion pervades everything in one's life and that others discriminated against him and his family for being members.  According to Coburn, many Witnesses believe that if you are enjoying your life, you're living the wrong way.  He explains that only things related to being a JW should make one happy.  If you take pleasure in something else, you're too worldly.  I felt sad for Coburn as I read about that.  It sounds like a horrible way to go through life, which is certainly tough enough as it is.  Coburn offers some evidence that growing up JW can be very difficult.  I recommend his book, The Spanking Room.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dear Abby advises bride to omit her father from wedding festivities...

I think Dear Abby has gone downhill since the death of the original Abby.  I still read her column sometimes, though.  Sometimes, the letters people send give me some food for thought.

Today's column includes a letter written by a 32 year old woman who is getting married.  Her biological father is a Spanish man who was not involved in her life until she was 20 years old.  She found him and his wife while studying in Spain.  She has kept in touch with her bio father, although she was legally adopted by her mother's now ex-husband.

The letter writer wishes to invite her father and his wife to her wedding.  Unfortunately, her mother is against the idea because she claims bio dad showed no interest in knowing or financially supporting his daughter when she was growing up.  Bio dad has no animosity toward the letter writer's mother and has never been to the United States.  The letter writer's mother says that she has no business inviting her bio dad to the wedding.  She doesn't want to see him and is upset that her daughter is considering inviting him.  So letter writer wants to know what to do.

Not surprisingly, Dear Abby says letter writer shouldn't invite her bio dad because it will upset her mother.  She says if bio dad hasn't "earned" the right to be at the wedding, he shouldn't be invited.  Instead, letter writer should entertain him at a later date.

Naturally, I disagree with Abby on this one.  I checked the comments and was surprised to see that many others also agreed with me that Abby is wrong.

First off, it's not like this guy just popped back into his daughter's life.  She was interested in him and found him herself.  Apparently, he willingly met her and they struck up a relationship.  They have been communicating for twelve years.  While he wasn't around when she was a child, there may have been very good reasons for that.  He lived halfway around the world and it wasn't during a time when communication was as easy as it is now.  Back in those days, to make contact with someone in another country, you had to make expensive phone calls involving different time zones, take expensive flights abroad, or send letters that could take weeks to arrive.  It would have been difficult for this man to be involved with his daughter's upbringing, unless he just uprooted himself and moved to the United States.  That's easier said than done for a lot of people.  It might have been easier for the mother to move to Spain.

Secondly, it doesn't sound like this guy is a bad person.  She doesn't mention him showing up, pretending to remorseful while looking for favors or money.  It sounds like they managed to develop a relationship based on something other than what they could do for each other.  That's a rare and beautiful thing.

Thirdly, unless Mom is footing the bill for the entire celebration, it's not up to her who should be invited.  A wedding is about the people getting married.  Sure, it would be best not to upset Mom if that can be avoided.  But Mom apparently had casual sex with a Spanish man in a country not usually her home.  She ended up getting pregnant.  I can only guess that she chose to have sex; it wasn't a rape.

I would hope that someone old enough to be having sex while traveling in Spain knows how babies are made.  She is partially responsible for the fact that this man fathered her daughter.  If she loves her daughter, she should be somewhat grateful for that contribution, even if he really should have done more to support her.  Hell, if the man hadn't fathered her and was simply a good friend (which is what he now is, legally speaking), would mom be upset about the invitation?  Is she really upset that this Spanish man gave her an apparently sensitive and kind-hearted daughter to love?  She wouldn't have her daughter if not for him, even if he didn't raise her.  And mom managed to replace bio dad with her now ex husband, anyway.  

We also don't know when or if mom told the guy about the baby and what options she gave him to stay involved with their daughter.  It's easy for mom to say that he knocked her up and left her high and dry.  That may even be the truth.  However, it can also be a way to justify punishing the father for a nasty breakup.  God knows, Bill's kids think he abandoned them, even though he actually was around to change their diapers and pay their bills.  

Bottom line, I think Abby's advice was wrong in this case.  It's admirable that the daughter is thinking of her mother's feelings.  I think it's even more admirable that she's thinking of her father's feelings and wants to include him.  She is a grown woman and it's HER wedding.  She should have the right to invite whomever she pleases, as well as the right to decide who has and who has not earned the right to be there.  I think if her mother has a problem with that, she should suck it up and get over it.  After all, she is the reason bio dad is even in the picture.  She could have kept her legs closed and chosen to have a baby with someone who would be around to help her raise the child.  I think she should be grateful that the guy was just absent, rather than a complete psycho.

Sorry to be so crass in putting it that way, but I really do strongly believe that people need to be much more careful about the people with whom they choose to have sex.  Sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancy, even when birth control is used.  Granted.... Spanish dad also should have closed his legs, but that's all water under the bridge now.  They created a child and now she's getting married.  It sounds like the letter writer is a very empathetic person.  Mom should take a lesson from her daughter and try some empathy.  The letter writer has the right to celebrate her marriage with whomever she chooses.  Her mother should be the bigger person and get over herself.

I feel fortunate that this is an issue that will never affect me.  

Bobbi Kristina has finally joined her mother...

It's been very sad watching the whole Bobbi Kristina Brown story unfold.  Almost six months ago, she was found face down in her bathtub, in a situation bizarrely similar to her mother's, Whitney Houston, back in February 2012.  Unlike Whitney, someone got to Bobbi Kristina in time to get her to a hospital.  There, she has lingered in a coma for months on end.

For months, I have read about the squabbling between Bobbi's dad, Bobby Brown, and Bobbi's aunt and grandmother, Pat and Cissy Houston.  I have also read about Nick Gordon, Bobbi's allegedly abusive boyfriend and sorta brother, whom Whitney had taken in when he was a child.

It's so hard to fathom all of this because I was a child in 1985, when Whitney Houston's career was white hot.  I owned a copy of her self-titled debut album, which I used to listen to all the time.  As I got older, I grew less enamored of Whitney's pipes.  By the time she was famously making the soundtrack for The Bodyguard, I had pretty much lost interest in her.  I really got sick of that soundtrack, which was everywhere in 1992 and 93.

Of course, I also remember Bobby Brown's career with New Edition and as a solo artist.  And his turn on reality TV with the likes of Maureen McCormick and Carnie Wilson.

I actually watched their show, "Goin' Country".  It was pretty bad.  I was living in Germany at the time, though, and was starved for choice.  I also love bad TV.

As time went on, rumors of Bobby's and Whitney's drug abuse and bad behavior was all over the news.  Bobbi Kristina was their only child, the child of two very talented parents.  She should have had a sterling future ahead of her.  Unfortunately, it never seemed to get off the ground.  Now she's dead.

To be honest, I am sad that such a young woman has died.  But I am also kind of relieved for her, because she hasn't really been alive since January.  I can't even imagine what it has been like for her family, watching her slowly deteriorate for the past few months.

Anyway, I hope Bobbi Kristina is able to rest in peace.  If there is such a thing as an afterlife, I hope she's found her mom and they are together.  Sadly, I think the next news we'll hear about the Browns and the Houstons will involve who gets all of Whitney's money.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Grammatical pet peeves...

I have a lot of them.  Just this morning, I read an article about Amy "famewhore" Duggar, who is about to get married to her man, recently posted about how TLC will not be filming their nuptials.  Her betrothed, Dillon King, writes "Amy and myself apologize that we will not be able to share our special day with you all on the TLC network.”  That is a prime example of reflexive pronoun abuse.

I hate it when people write or say "myself" when they really mean "I" or "me".  It's usually people who think they sound more intelligent when they say something like, "Please give your answer to John or myself." instead of "Please give your answer to John or me."  If you took John out of the equation, you wouldn't say "Please give your answer to myself."  That doesn't make sense.  You would say, "Please give your answer to me." or, better still, use the active voice and write "Please give me your answer."  So you should be saying, "Please give John or me your answer."  Reflexive pronouns should not be used as subjects.  They should only be used as objects.

But, I guess it's too much to ask Amy and "Dill" to speak and write English.  They certainly aren't the only ones who fuck up this fine grammatical point, either.  Reflexive pronoun abuse is rife among English speakers.

Amy writes "It's an exciting time for Dill and I."  I want to say, "Hey Amy!  Do you always refer to yourself as 'I'?"  Do you think she goes around saying things like "This dress fits I perfectly."  Or "That gift is for I."  No, I doubt she does.  In those situations, she has probably learned to use the pronoun "me".  So, no Amy.  It's not an exciting time for "Dill and I".  It's an exciting time for "Dill and me."

I know learning proper English is a challenge for many people.  I have been struggling with German and finally ended up starting a language hiatus a month ago.  I need to get back on the language wagon and try to enhance my skills a bit.  That way, if anyone bitches Bill or me out when we visit a restaurant, I will have the appropriate language skills to respond in kind instead of just relying on bitchface.      

We didn't go anywhere yesterday.  I was feeling too sad and the wind was blowing like crazy.  It was actually really nice outside and I probably should have enjoyed it.  I decided not to.  Drank some wine instead and listened to music.  Today, we may visit a fest and go to the commissary... Whoopee!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

We're going to Scotland again...

I should probably post this on my travel blog and I probably will later, but it's news here too, I guess.  My mom had such a great time on her Hebridean Royal Crown river cruises that I have a renewed lust for cruising myself.  I haven't been on a ship since May 2013, when Bill and I saw Italy and Greece SeaDream Yacht Club style.  The series of moves and career changes he's been enduring put our cruising on a temporary hiatus.

The other day, I got the most recent cruise directory from Hebridean.  It's quite a beautiful book.  And in the back of the book, there was a piece of paper with several early booking offers we could take advantage of.  If we booked by July 31st, we'd get 10% off.  If we booked one of four specific cruises, we'd get another 5%.  If we booked two cruises by July 31st, we'd get another 5% off the lower priced cruise.  I know this doesn't seem like a huge price break, but when you're paying four figures, it can make a difference.

We spotted a cruise we liked-- March 15th's Spirit of Scotland tour-- and decided to go for it.  It's a whisky based cruise, though other activities will be available to those who prefer them.  Bill and I have seen a few of the places already, but they were places we'd want to see again, like Sanda Island and the Arran and Springbank distilleries.  The price was right, too.

In other news, yesterday, Arran ate some poop while we were walking in the field behind our house.  He managed to grab some coming and going.  A few hours later, he threw up.  It was very nasty and stinky, of course.  He ate his dinner, then about seven hours later, he threw up again.  We were just about to go to bed when it happened.  I had taken out my contacts and couldn't see very well and he made a huge mess.  Fortunately, the vomit wasn't bloody or anything... and it also smelled better than the first round.

Of course, vomiting is part of mast cell cancer, so now I'm paranoid that the tumor has invaded his vital organs and I'm about to be dealing with another very sick dog.  I was pretty depressed at 2:30 this morning, when I woke up and started thinking about Arran and how much we love him, despite his idiosyncrasies.  I don't think I can bear to lose another dog so soon after MacGregor (it's been 2.5 years).

I do have a tendency to borrow trouble, though, and there is a chance that the vomiting was entirely coincidental.  And, the truth is, we will lose our dogs and each other because that is a part of life.  I just don't want it to be now.

I ordered a couple of dog cancer books.  Maybe there are things we can do to make things better for our pooches.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Yep, July still sucks...

I just posted on my travel blog about my dog Arran and the growth that was removed two weeks ago.  Unfortunately, my intuition about the growth was accurate.  It was a mast cell tumor.  Hopefully, the whole thing was removed.  The vet said the margins were clean and there was no sign that the cancer had spread.  I will have to watch Arran closely and bring him in if I see anything new pop up.

I can't say I was surprised that we got this news, since July is historically a shitty month.  On the other hand, this July hasn't been as bad as last July was.  Every day, Timehop and Facebook's "On this day" app remind me of how terrible Julys in the past have been for me.  So far, the only bad thing this year has been Arran's veterinary drama.  And that wasn't that bad, all things considered.  I'd rather hear that Arran has a mast cell tumor than prostate cancer, for instance.  Something can be done for mast cell tumors.  A prostate cancer diagnosis in a dog, however, pretty much means the dog is a goner.

I did get a new game in the mail yesterday.  I ordered it on a whim.

I need to make more local friends so we can play this game...  

Urban Dictionary is one of my favorite Web sites because it's a very irreverent source of funny definitions for slang terms and phrases.  It's also surprisingly accurate.  Behold, the definition of "getting lazy".  That's actually fairly tame for Urban Dictionary.  Would you believe there's a definition for "Body by Mattel"?

Anyway, you need three people to play this game properly.  Bill and I are not party people and we rarely entertain, so I don't know when we'll get the chance to try this game.  It still looked like too much fun not to order it.

In other news, I'm reading about the Duggars and their threat to sue the City of Springdale, Arkansas over the release of documents about Josh Duggar's sexual escapades.  Frankly, I don't see how the Duggars would have a prayer of winning.  Yes, what happened is embarrassing and it ultimately ruined their livelihood.  But the reports were made after Josh was 18 and, from what I understand, they were released legally.  Josh was never brought up on charges for his crimes because the statute of limitations had already expired by the time the police were made aware of them.  Moreover, most of the victims were his relatives.

I read about this one day after reading accusations that JimBoob Duggar nixed the idea of having a show starring just Jessa and Jill.  If that's what really happened, I am not at all surprised about it.  Of course Boob doesn't want his daughters starring in a show that doesn't involve him.  Of course he doesn't want them earning their own money and directing their own show biz careers.  I just think it's tragic that they didn't tell him to go take a flying leap, given that he did little to protect them from their brother's perverse behavior.

I see the Duggars are struggling to remain relevant, too.  They are still putting out videos and keeping their fans up to date about their family.  It could turn out they weather this storm and end up like the Osmonds or the Jacksons.  But somehow, I kind of doubt it.  They don't have any compelling talents, other than spewing out babies.  And it looks like that well has also dried up.  What a pity.  The more I see of Boob and his wife, Michelle, the more I respect their friends the Bates, who are not nearly as fame whoring and seem much more humble and real.  

I also read about a family who took in four girls whose mother died.  The mother's best friend, already mom to two girls, had promised to raise her friend's children.  There was no mention of a father in the article I read.  Naturally, people wondered where dad was and many folks assumed the girls' father is an asshole.

I know why people make such comments.  A lot of times, fathers do turn out to be jerks who abandon their families.  On the other hand, a lot of times, fathers get pushed out of their kids' lives through no choice of their own.  I've seen that happen firsthand.  So I had to respond.  I noticed that several people liked what I had to say.  Why?  Because they've seen it firsthand, too.  Not all women are saints.  Not all men are sinners.  The world is full of many different types of people.  I don't know what happened in this particular case, but I do wish the Ruffino family well.  It does sound like they very generously stepped up to help those girls in their time of need.  I am sure it was a comfort to their mother to know that they would be cared for as she vacated this life.

Well... that's about it for now.  I think I'll waste some time doing something completely worthless.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stuff I never knew...

This post is not all that light-hearted, so if you don't want to read about creepy people, you may want to move on to your next station on the Web.

While my mom was visiting, she told me some stories about our lives in Gloucester, Virginia.  I was a  young child when we moved there.  I never really liked living there.  I have since found out that my mom mostly shared my sentiments.  As I've grown up, I can see why some people love Gloucester because it does have its charms.  It did eventually become more of a home to me, though it's one of those places where there are many people who have lived their whole lives there.  Those who move in, even if they were young kids at the time, are never really accepted as locals.

I guess I probably would have been thought of as more of a local than my parents were.  They grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  Frankly, that's more like my real home than Tidewater ever was, even though I was born and mostly raised there.  I am related to many people in Rockbridge County, but my personal origins are on the eastern side of the state.  Even today, I feel a strange gravitational pull to the water.  Maybe it's because I grew up there.  Maybe it's because my mom is also a lover of beaches.

Anyway, Mom told me the story about how she and my dad came to own their business in Gloucester.  Dad had retired from the Air Force and was working in a job that didn't interest him.  We lived in northern Virginia, which was congested even back in the late 1970s.  I liked living there well enough, but I didn't know any better.  Now that I've lived there as an adult, I can see why my parents wanted to move.

Back in 1980, Mom and Dad had friends who lived in Hampton and they told my parents about a home and a business in Gloucester that was for sale.  Originally, these friends had planned to go in business with my parents.  Looking back, I can't imagine how that would have worked out.  These people lived in Hampton, which is not that close to Gloucester, and the husband had some rather serious health issues.  They evidently weren't planning to move to Gloucester because Hampton was their home.  They later decided they didn't want to join my dad in business, mainly because the male half of the couple really needed his health insurance coverage.  I remember he later ended up having heart surgery.  It would have been a disaster if they'd joined my parents in their business venture.

Even though the other couple pulled out of the business deal, my parents decided to buy the house and accompanying business in Gloucester.  They really knew nothing about running the business-- which was custom picture framing and art sales.  My mom later opened a knitting and needlework shop.  Back then, she did know about knitting, needlework, and other needle related arts.  But she had never been a businesswoman.  She had once had a part time job working in a knitting supply store and it's my guess that was where she started figuring out how to run her business.

The guy who sold them their house was a crook.  I remember him very well.  He did everything on the cheap.  I remember that he and his equally tacky wife shared the small bedroom on the first floor of my parents' home, probably because it had a private bathroom.  There was a large mirror on the sliding door of the closet.  It covered the entire door, so you couldn't avoid seeing yourself in it, even if you preferred not to.  The homeowner had positioned another mirror on top of the mirrored closet, angling it downwards, most likely so that he could watch himself fuck his wife.  The bathroom in that room was also done in mirrors and had a shit brown, plastic, padded toilet seat that stuck to your ass and made a flatulent sound when you sat on it.

I remember my mom redid that bathroom almost immediately after we moved in.  The mirror over the bed also quickly disappeared.  I inherited a tiny room upstairs that was accessed via shutters from another small bedroom.  The ceiling was sloped, sort of in a Dutch barn style.  It was not air conditioned and would get unbearably hot in the summer.  I covered the walls with posters and pictures of horses, along with the many ribbons I won at horse shows over my eight years in the show ring.  That tiny room was mine until all my sisters were out of the house; then I moved to the larger room that connected the tiny room.

Mom said the guy who sold them their house in Gloucester was going to live in his camper and teach my dad the business.  Naturally, he quickly reneged on the deal and left my parents high and dry.  He also made off with some of the stuff that was supposedly part of the sale.  It was no big loss.  He and my parents had very different philosophies about how they wanted to do business.  I was sad when he moved his jukebox out of the house, though.  I had fun playing with it.

As an aside, as she was telling me this story, my mom mentioned the creepy neighbor guy who lived across the street and used to show me pornography.  Apparently, he knew before my parents did that the homeowner was a crook.  Mom doesn't know that our neighbor was inappropriate with me.  I mentioned it in an oblique way once and she gave me a startled deer in the headlights look, so I haven't brought it up again.  I get the sense that ignorance is probably bliss at this point, especially since the creepy neighbor has been dead for years.  Of course, I can't think of him and not remember Burger King's old slogan, "Home of the Whopper."  That was how our neighbor referred to himself.

My dad got training in high end professional picture framing and eventually established a good reputation.  They were in business for about 25 years and became well known and somewhat respected in the community.

Besides being known for his work, my dad was also well known in local music circles.  He was a member of many singing groups.  My mom told me a disturbing story about how one woman in one of the music groups, a woman she called Linda, was much younger than my dad and was supposedly married to a guy with Alzheimer's Disease.  For some reason, Linda took a strange liking to my dad, even when he was suffering from dementia.  Linda was attractive and very talented.  She could sing, play violin, and enjoyed bike riding, which was a sport my dad got involved with in the 1980s.  She may have seemed like a tempting distraction to him.  On the other hand, my father once enjoyed a birthday meal at a Hooter's and was completely oblivious to the women in orange spandex shorts.

My dad and Hooters girls... He's obviously more into the food.

At one point during his last years of life, my dad had to temporarily spend some time in a nursing home to recover from surgery.  While he was there, Linda would visit.  She'd park herself in his room and stay all day.  She'd even get updates from medical staff about his condition.  They were under the impression that Linda was my dad's daughter.  I, of course, knew nothing about this when it was going on.  I wasn't living in the area and my mom never mentioned it to me.  My dad wasn't in the nursing home for long; I think it may have been less than a month.

Mom said one time, she and a friend had gone to see my dad.  He wasn't in his room, so Mom asked where he was.  A nurse said his "daughter" had taken him out to the courtyard.  Mom and her friend looked out the window and there was Linda, sitting with my dad.   She had his face in her hands and was staring intently into his eyes, speaking lovingly to him, her face close to his.  I can't imagine what her motives were, especially since my father was not in his right mind.

I think if it had been me in that situation, I would have barged out there in the courtyard and made a nasty scene.  Linda would have left the nursing home courtyard sporting a new gaping asshole.  But my mom is not like that.  She doesn't like to make a scene and, at that point, might not have felt like she needed to directly confront the weirdo hussy who was so brazenly hitting on her husband.  She never said or did anything directly to address Linda's actions, though she did pass the word along that Linda shouldn't be hanging out with my dad so much.  Soon after that incident, Dad was able to come home.

It later came out that Linda's husband did not have Alzheimer's Disease.

Some time later, my Mom was invited to a get together with some of my dad's old singing buddies.  Mom asked if "Linda" was going to be there.  Because if she was, Mom wanted no part of it.

I was pretty aghast at hearing this story.  I wonder if Linda thought she was going to break up my parents' marriage.  Maybe she thought my dad had money.  Maybe she just has a thing for sick, elderly men.  

I don't know if my life will ever take me to a place where I'll spend decades and become well known in the community.  I will say that the more I hear about life in Gloucester, the more I realize how weird it can be to live in a small town where everybody knows your business...  literally.  There are a  lot of great people in Gloucester and I look back on it with more fondness than one might expect.  On the other hand, maybe my parents should have shopped around a bit longer before they bought that house.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mom just left...

So my mom finished her visit this morning and is now on her way back to Virginia.  It was good to see her and there was a minimum of awkwardness, relatively speaking.  I only felt my blood pressure rise a couple of times.  Like I said before, as relatives go, my mom is somewhat low impact. This has been especially true since my dad passed away and she no longer has to worry about anyone but herself.

Mom and I had a very long talk yesterday and I told her most of the story about how Bill and I came to be together.  I left out a couple of the more embarrassing/salacious details, although truthfully, I doubt it would have mattered to her.  She hadn't heard the whole story and I wanted to tell her once and for all why I am so sensitive about people telling me to "get over it".  My mom has a tendency to say that to me a lot.  She needed to know that telling me to "get over it" is not helpful or even realistic.  Although Bill and I have had a great marriage so far, it hasn't been without a lot of needless trauma caused by his ex wife.

When I explained some of the story to her, I could tell that a lightbulb sort of went off in her head.  Suddenly, it became clearer to her about Bill's situation with his kids.  She saw and experienced firsthand his skills as a provider.  She even told him what a wonderful husband he is.

I don't know if it means she'll ever stop telling me to "get over it", but at least I feel better for having spoken my mind.  I love my mom, but sometimes she can be rather flippant about some things.

I haven't had the chance to do much thinking about stuff other than my mom's visit.  It was short and sweet.  Now it's time to focus on whatever's next.  I have a feeling it will involve finally seeing the dentist again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reading about Jessica Lynch last night...

2003 doesn't seem like it was that long ago, yet it was.  I remember that year very well because it was the first full year I was married to Bill.  It was a difficult time for us because I was struggling to find a job; we lived in a yucky apartment; and the wars were raging.  Last night, I read about Jessica Lynch on

I remember March 23, 2003, when PFC Jessica Lynch was captured in Iraq.  The initial news reports about her made the West Virginia native sound like some kind of badass avenging angel who went down fighting.  The reality was that she never managed to fire a shot.  She was badly injured when her humvee crashed.  She spent days in an Iraqi hospital until the elite U.S. forces rescued her.  Since then, she has suffered from PTSD and undergone 22 surgeries to correct damage done when her feet and legs were crushed.  But she's also become a mother and earned bachelor's and master's degrees qualifying her to be a teacher.

I remember the early years after Lynch's ordeal.  She was hailed as a heroine by many people, while others scoffed at her for even being in the Army.  There was a book written about her.  Author Rick Bragg wrote I Am A Soldier Too, which I read and reviewed years ago.  There was also a television movie, which aired the same night as a movie about another famous blonde victim named Elizabeth Smart.

A lot of people made comments about how Lynch and Smart were pretty blondes, so they got media attention.  SPC Shoshana Johnson, a young black woman who was also captured, along with several other male soldiers, got a lot less air time.  But then, Johnson also wasn't nearly as badly injured as Lynch was.  Johnson and her comrades were in captivity for 22 days.  She too, has written a book.  I haven't read it yet.    

The media went a bit crazy over Jessica Lynch and was in the news all the time for well over a year.  Then, finally, she faded into obscurity and began living her quiet life in her hometown of Elizabeth, West Virginia.

I have always been kind of impressed by Jessica Lynch, who still honors her old friend, Lori Piestewa.  Piestewa was killed during the ambush.  She and Lynch were best friends, having met in boot camp.  Jessica gave her daughter, Dakota, Lori's middle name of Ann.  Jessica Lynch strikes me as a person with integrity and great strength.  No, she wasn't the heroine painted by early media reports.  She still has a lot more bravery and substance than a lot of people have.  And she has to live with the aftereffects of joining the Army and being a prisoner of war.

This is from 2010.  I am amazed at her poise and ability to talk about this without totally freaking out.

From 2007.
It's amazing all that has happened since 2003.  I think Jessica Lynch has earned peace and prosperity.  I am glad to see she's made some of her dreams come true and is living a good life with her family in West Virginia.  I only wish she hadn't had to sacrifice so much for what she has now.

Monday, July 20, 2015

More political bullshit...

This morning, I read at least two lengthy diatribes about our lame duck president, Barack Obama.  In those diatribes, there was much pontificating about how Mr. Obama is a "disgrace to our nation" and a terrible excuse for a leader.  People have the right to their opinions, I guess.  But then I remember ten years ago, when George W. Bush was our president and I read much the same bullshit about him. People called him a war criminal, a murderer, and The Antichrist.

Folks, I don't really care one way or the other about your political leanings.  I understand people get frustrated and want to vent.  I understand that many people perceive that U.S. presidents have a lot of power that they abuse.  I know people think they have all the answers and get upset when the president makes decisions they don't agree with or think is dead wrong.  I get that.

I just don't think that posting shaming rants on Facebook does a lot.  I don't think the president gives a shit what your opinion is.  Most presidents are narcissists.  It's a requirement for the job.  Some are more narcissistic than others are, but they all have incredible brass balls and they all think highly enough of themselves to run for public office.  So your rants on Facebook or in emails (which I frequently get from certain conservative relatives) don't make a happy damn to them.  We have to have a president and, in order to be president, one has to be a bit of an asshole with a lot of self-confidence.  Regular folks with normal egos couldn't handle the job.

Now, I say this... and I know most people are probably painfully aware that most politicians don't give too much of a shit what the average person thinks.  And I know people like to blow off steam.  I do it myself all the time.  In fact, that's what this post is about.  I am sick and tired of political bullshit and I hope we can stay in Germany until at least 2017, because I really don't want to be around when the next presidential election is going on.  I don't want to see or hear the political ads.  It'll be bad enough hanging out on social media.

I bitch about a lot of things.  I have a lot of opinions I enjoy sharing on this blog especially.  I rarely complain about the president, though, because I don't see the president as having all that much power.  He is one man; he is one human being.  All human beings make mistakes.  No one can make everybody happy.  Someone is always going to get the short end of the stick and be dissatisfied.  I don't remember there ever being a president within my lifetime who was universally well liked and appreciated.  Not even Bill Clinton, who was fairly popular, enjoyed the admiration of most everyone.  My father, for example, despised Mr. Clinton with every fiber of his dyed in the wool conservative being.  He literally hated him and would get upset every time he'd see him on TV.  Then he'd have to go listen to Rush Limbaugh for awhile to calm down.

The way I see it, Barack Obama is soon going to be history.  He's going to ride off into the sunset and write books, give speeches, serve on committees, and maybe become a lovable grandpa.  Right now, he's focusing on his legacy.  It doesn't matter if you think he's an asshole.  He's not running for re-election.  He will go down in history as our first black president.  In 100 years, school kids will be learning about him, probably in a very positive light... the same way I learned about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln when I was in school.

I do hope Donald Trump doesn't end up as president because he is probably the biggest asshole of the bunch...  though I would probably choose him over Jeb Bush or Mike Huckabee (or any of the others of his ilk).  I do not want a religious nut job leading our nation.  Hillary Clinton certainly has experience and would bring her popular husband to the table as the first first man...  But I am damn sick of political dynasties and I would love to see someone new with brass balls come to the table.

If I do vote in our next election, I think I will do what I usually do and vote for someone who is neither Democrat nor Republican.  I know that person has no chance of winning, but I think president is a big enough job that we should have more of a choice as to which brand of narcissistic asshole should get the job.

Anyway... that's my vent of the day.  Fuck politics.  And fuck political bullshit.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Yet another lame intervention by law enforcement...

This morning, I read about a young mom of two who had taken her kids to a food court at a mall in Houston, Texas so she could attend a job interview.  Mom fed the kids McDonald's and kept them within sight as she interviewed for her job, which she was ultimately offered.  When she went back to her kids, she was arrested for "abandoning" them.

Laura Browder has a six year old daughter and two year old son.  She is a single mom and a college student who didn't have time to arrange for appropriate child care before the interview.  So she did what she could in order to make the situation work.  When she was arrested, the kids were no doubt taken by CPS, which probably upset and confused them.  A judge determined that Browder had done nothing wrong and released her and the kids.  CPS is still investigating, of course.

It's not that I think it's ideal for moms to take their kids to job interviews.  It's not that I think it's the best thing to let kids wait for their caregivers in public places like food courts.  We have a serious problem with availability, affordability, and accessibility to decent child care, though.  This mom was trying to improve her situation and not end up on the public dole.  What does she get for that?  Being arrested by the cops.  The arrest does nothing for Browder's ability to take care of her kids.

One thing to note about the news story is that Browder is quoted as saying the kids were within 30 yards of her.  The news story says 30 feet.  There's a difference between 30 yards and 30 feet, though they were apparently always within her sight.  Evidently, she didn't see the cops before they arrested her, though, which makes me wonder how well should could see them.

The other day, I happened to see this video on Upworthy.  Upworthy usually annoys me with its feel good videos, but sometimes they post stuff that really is worth sharing.

This woman makes some very good points about the many double standards and double messages women get today.

Laura Browder has two kids.  For some reason, she is a single mom.  She needs a job and was trying to get one when the police intervened.  Now she has to deal with law enforcement and CPS breathing down her neck.  I don't know what the law is in Houston.  Maybe the cops had to run her in.  It would be good if people were able to explain themselves and police could use discernment, though, before they end up in a jail cell.  This kind of stuff is a real drain on the system.

I swear... the more I read about these types of overreactions, the gladder I am to be childless.

Mom is here...

She had a wonderful time on the cruise and we had a very pleasant evening last night.  It's good to have her here.  The dogs agree.  Zane was especially enchanted by her.  I think he knows she's my mom.

Mom also gave me some mail that came to her apartment, apparently for me...

I don't know when I joined the Army... or became a master sergeant.  Bill congratulated me, though.

In all seriousness, if it had been appropriate for me to join the military, I most likely would have been an officer.  I have nothing against enlisted people at all.  They are the backbone of the military.  But I don't think I would have enjoyed the types of jobs done by enlisted people, unless they involved music (and some of them do).  I have no idea how this piece of mail got to my mom.  Maybe there's another person out there with my name who ended up with my mom's address.  I have never lived at my mom's apartment, have never been in the military, and probably never would have been a master sergeant even if I had enlisted.

In other news, yesterday, I purged myself from several Facebook groups, including the big local one that provides me with a lot of material and the one where I liked to "vent".  I did it for several reasons.  The main one is that the big local Facebook group was really getting on my nerves.  Since we have lived in Stuttgart before without needing Facebook, it was more of a distraction than anything else.  My husband is out of the military now and a lot of the tight assedness demonstrated by some military folks was rather grating to me.  I wasn't getting anything but annoyance out of being in that group.    

I left the Vents group having realized that if I wasn't in the Friends group, I would have much less to vent about.  Also, there were a couple of people within that group who seemed to be very annoyed by my presence and were making comments that were bringing me down.  So I decided to spare them from having to read my drivel (which obviously really bothered them) and myself from having to read their shitty comments.  Life is too short.  

At least one of the people who was making critical comments to me was using belittling language that I recognize from people I've been around in the past.  I have become good at spotting those types of people and have learned that it's best for me to avoid them.  They prey on nice people, are hypersensitive, passive aggressive, tend to be very jealous, and get offended when their friends inevitably make friends with other people.  I can't hang with that type of person anymore, mainly because I struggle with my own tendency to be negative and unhappy.  

It's my guess that if I were to call them on their behavior, they'd say I need to "lighten up" and "learn how to take a joke".  I can take a joke, but I don't tolerate being belittled by people anymore.  As I mentioned yesterday, I'm pretty "saturated" when it comes to abusive behavior.  I deserve better than that.      

I left Moving to Stuttgart because I moved here a year ago and have done my part to be helpful.  I rarely used that group.  I also left a yard sales group for the same reason.

I may be bored in the coming weeks, but something tells me that I'll eventually find somewhere else to hang out.  And I'm always scouring the news to look for things to bitch about.