Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jan Crouch is crouching with the pink haired angels, along with her husband...

So, I heard a couple of hours ago that Jan Crouch died.  Jan Crouch, for those who don't know, was the co-founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network.  She wore shitloads of makeup and had big pink hair.  I wasn't really a fan of hers, though I did occasionally watch TBN for fun.  The Crouches were so weird it was surreal and back when Bill and I first got married and were broke, they were a cheap source of entertainment.

Paul Crouch died in November 2013 at the age of 79.  He had heart disease.  I hear Jan Crouch died today at the age of 78.  She had a massive stroke a few days ago and was unable to recover.  

Although I am sure a lot of people took the Crouches seriously, to me, they were strictly entertainers. And I did find them great fun to watch.  I'm sure there are people out there in the world who will mourn Jan Crouch, but I prefer to remember her lighter side.



And my personal favorite...

I kind of wish I were in the States so I could watch the tributes on TBN.  I'm sure they are going to be memorable and quotable.

RIP Jan Crouch.

Bashed with a baseball bat...

Yesterday, while riding home from Salzburg, I was passing time on Facebook when I noticed a friend had posted an outraged status.  Until yesterday, she and I had a mutual friend, an older woman who is very proud of her southern heritage.  Said mutual friend had posted a picture of the Confederate flag on her Facebook page with the comment that she "hoped the South would rise again."

My friend was upset by the picture and the comment about the South "rising" again.  She got pissed off and posted her own status update.  A minor argument ensued that resulted in unfriending.  Personally, I don't give a shit about the Confederate flag.  It doesn't bother me.  I see it as a symbol, one of many, that was used in the past.  The flag itself is not evil; it's just a symbol and symbols only have the power given to them by people.  Some people behind the flag committed evil acts by enslaving others.  Unfortunately, slavery is a part of American history.  Still, some people want to use the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride.  Having grown up in the South, I can see why some people are proud of the South.  There are things to love about the American South.  There are other things that, I think, make the South a lot less lovable.  

I can certainly see why some people are offended by the Confederate flag.  I don't think it's a symbol that will ever totally go away, but there is a segment of society that seems to be trying really hard to get rid of it.  A lot of people would like to forget about America's painful checkered past and whitewash all things Confederate.  They are so distressed by it and conscious of racism that they want to suppress other people who mention it.  And so, if someone posts a picture of the Confederate flag on their Facebook page, they run the risk of being called out by outraged folks.

Actually, yesterday, as we were driving back home, we passed a guy in a cowboy hat driving a huge pickup.  There was a Confederate flag on his window and a bumper sticker of Texas with the Confederate flag on it.  I don't know if the guy was American.  He probably was, although I've seen the Confederate flag displayed in Italy.  For some reasons, some Italians seem to identify with it as a symbol.  They display it and probably get little flak for it.  To many of them, it's just a "cool looking" flag.

In a similar vein, one of the first things I read this morning was an article about a "hate preacher" who got bashed in the head with a baseball bat for holding up a sign that read "You deserve rape." and preaching hate speech about gays and lesbians.  19 year old Tabitha Brubaker apparently got good and pissed when Dean Saxton of Glendale, Arizona started "preaching" about the evils of homosexuality.  She hit Saxton upside the head with a baseball bat and was arrested for felony assault and marijuana possession.  Saxton left the scene with a bloody head, but now Brubaker's got legal problems.  I have to wonder if hitting him was worth what it will cost.

Seriously, though, this guy is an asshole...  

At first blush, these two situations may have little to do with one another.  One is about two Facebook friends splitting up over a disagreement about the South and the Confederate flag.  The other is about a guy who got busted upside the head with a baseball bat for preaching about the so-called evils of homosexuality.  When I think about it, though, it seems like these two things have more in common than meets the eye.  They both involve people trying to take a moral highground and telling someone else what they can or can't say.

A lot of people think Saxton deserved to be hit with the baseball bat.  It's true, I have zero sympathy for the guy.  However, we can't go around hitting people with bats whenever they say offensive things.  It would have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression.  Many people would agree that Saxton's comments were distasteful and would agree with shutting him up.  But if we shut him up, doesn't it stand to reason that people could theoretically shut up anyone who voices an opinion outside the norm?  And is it really okay to use violence to do that?

I don't think Saxton is worth going to jail over, even if I wouldn't be surprised if Brubaker ended up with a light sentence.  I just think that those who applaud his being hit with the bat are missing the big picture.  If we let people be violent over "offensive" comments, what's to stop everyone from being violent over any comment?

The same goes with my friends arguing over the Confederate flag.  One friend is southern and proud of it.  She doesn't see the Confederate flag as a symbol of hatred.  A lot of people don't see it as a symbol of hatred, though a more vocal group thinks it's about nothing but slavery and racism.  I guess I see it as more of a gray area and, even if I were offended by the flag, would not want to see freedom of expression squelched in the name of political correctness.  I think people should communicate and not be cowed by baseball bats or Facebook arguments.

Ah hell... this probably doesn't make a lot of sense.  I'm still pretty tired from our travel.  Suffice to say, I'm for freedom of expression, even if it's stuff most of us don't want to hear.  


Monday, May 30, 2016

Facebook spats...

The other day, I shared this blog post entitled "Dear Offended Christian, From a Very Tired Christian".  I shared it because I thought it was a good read.  I didn't necessarily agree with everything the author wrote.  I just thought it offered food for thought.  So I shared it with the comment "A good read".  I never thought my decision to share that post would turn into a Facebook spat.  But then, one of my friends, a guy named John, posted this.

Sounds to me like this guy is the "offended Christian" complete with a litany of strawman arguments and misrepresentation of alternate points of view.

But don't mark me as offended at his ignorance. He is free to feel he owns some imaginary moral authority. Funny...sort of the vey thing he seems to be railing at.

Glad this tripe doesn't make me tired.

My response was, "It's still a good read."

I thought we were done.  Then my friend Elizabeth came along and posted this.

I didn't see much in the way of ignorance, actually. And if we remain tolerant of intolerance, then aren't we just as bad? I don't know the exact quote but it's something along the lines of "All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." The anti-LGBT rhetoric amongst rabid Christians has to stop. The bigotry has to stop. The hate has to stop. That's not what Christianity is about. And until the Christians who are practicing Jesus' Christianity (acceptance, love, kindness, generosity) start calling the bigoted Christians out on their rhetoric and horrible behavior, then we're as culpable in this mass movement of hatred as they are.

I thought Elizabeth's comment was pretty reasonable and even-handed.  She's fairly liberal, but I have known her since we were teenagers.  We both grew up in the same southern town where people tend to have conservative values.  Her mother was one of my teachers.  As Elizabeth has gotten older, she's become more left leaning.  Nothing wrong with that...  I used to be more conservative than I am, too.

John couldn't let Elizabeth's comment go.  So he retorted.

You make many false assumptions which is why you don't understand my use of the term ignorance. It begins with rooting your understanding in bigotry and not other reasonable arguments like public safety, common sense and alternative solutions.

John's comment set Elizabeth off, as I figured it would.  She responded.

Uh huh. Got it. You know it all. We are all wrong. And we couldn't possibly be smart enough to contradict you. Good to know.

I couldn't resist.  So I wrote:

Uh oh... John, you're giving my middle finger a massive erection!

I was trying to be funny, but John escalated things more with this response...

I'm not the one pretending to know it all. I didn't call anyone names to make my point either.

Actually, I don't think Elizabeth called John a name.  She said he "knows it all".  There is a difference, but maybe he doesn't see it that way.  So I posted this.  I must admit, I don't like arguing with John because he doesn't seem able to accept other people's views without getting wound up.

No, you just accuse people of being ignorant because they disagree and dismiss liberal viewpoints as "tripe". You don't expressly name call, but you imply that those who don't agree with conservative rhetoric are too dumb to understand you.

He continued with this...

I've never implied that. Calling something tripe that assumes moral authority by misrepresenting the opposing viewpoint is tripe. Sorry if that offends you. It is t meant to offend.

My use of the word ignorance is also contextual. Ignorance means uninformed. And his opinion is uninformed. He is telling me WHY I believe what I believe. And he is wrong. That makes him ignorant.

Your middle finger needed some exercise. Glad I could oblige you.

Things continued to escalate between Elizabeth and John for a few more posts until I finally asked them to "knock it off".  That's one thing John is good about doing.  He will "knock it off" if you ask him to.  The thread started to die.  Then ...tom... had to chime in...

Not to pick up John's baton . . .but...

"red coffee cup" ..." the gospel of Fox News." ..." blaming gay people for 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and ISIS and child obesity."

Throw everything out there . . .something will stick.



What did John say earlier..??

" Calling something tripe that assumes moral authority by misrepresenting the opposing viewpoint is tripe. "

Sounds right to me..


I usually simply tell ...tom... to fuck off, but today I was feeling unusually jaunty.  So I wrote this.

Kindly pick up John's baton and shove it up your ass.  ;-)

I don't enjoy debating with John, but at least he will quit when you ask him to.  That thread was dead for well over a day before ...tom... had to try to instigate another argument.  I have decided to respond to ...tom... with profanity whenever he does anything the slightest bit annoying on my Facebook page.  For some reason, he seems to enjoy it and keeps coming back for more.

I don't actually enjoy being rude to people.  I know some people find it hard to believe, but I'm not a mean person and I don't like cussing at others unless I'm just kidding around.  I guess when it comes to ...tom..., I am just kidding around.  I don't take him the slightest bit seriously.  I still don't necessarily like telling him to fuck off, but I guess it's good practice.  

I don't like people who are passive aggressive.  I also don't like people who act like all knowers.  I really ought to unfriend some people, but that seems like it wouldn't be very nice.  ;-)

We're home now...

I've been busy doing all the stuff I usually do when I get back from trips.  We really had a good time, but it's good to be home, if only so I can do my laundry and see my boys.  I missed them a lot.  If they were somewhat better behaved, I might be tempted to take them with us, though that would just make things more complicated.  Dogs can go a lot of places in Europe, but not everywhere.

But yeah, I really did miss them...  and maybe now I can find some stuff to blog about besides traveling.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Now in Salzburg...

Just going to be here one night, resting up for the drive home tomorrow.  I look forward to seeing my boys and having clean laundry.  We've had a great trip.  In fact, Bill says this was one of his favorite vacations so far.  Slovenia was a big hit.  I hope we'll get a chance to go back.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Gilding the lily...

ETA:  I discovered that the "university studies" major is exactly what it sounds like and can be done entirely online.  Sounds like a waste of time and money, but what do I know?  ;)

This morning, as I was reading the latest on RfM, I came across a post about Brigham Young University and how hard it is to get in there.  Bill had told me his younger ex daughter was attending BYU on scholarship.  I am not overly impressed by BYU for a lot of reasons, but I had heard that it was difficult to be admitted there.  On today's RfM post, someone wrote that to get accepted to BYU, you have to have great grades, excellent test scores, and connections.  I thought about Bill's younger ex daughter and said, "You know, I have a feeling that your daughter is lying about going to BYU."

It turns out, I was sort of right.  She does attend a BYU school, but it's BYU-Idaho, not Provo.  For some time, she's apparently been presenting herself as if she goes to the big BYU and not a satellite school.  I guess saying you go to BYU when you attend BYU-Idaho isn't technically a lie, but it is sort of deceptive.  On the other hand, I guess I can't blame her.  Many people like to gild the lily and make themselves appear to be more impressive than they really are.

Next, Bill told me that he'd found his ex kids on LinkedIn.  Older ex daughter bills herself as an illustrator in the greater Boston area.  Younger ex daughter is majoring in "University Studies"... whatever that means.  I remember at one time, she made a comment about having learned to play the piano and that she was planning to major in music.  I guess that didn't pan out for her.

There was a time when ex stepson and ex younger daughter both had aspirations of being in show business.  They both spoke of being in the movies.  I can sort of see that, since their mother's entire existence is a fabrication akin to a novel or a movie.  They are constantly trying to appear to be something they're not.  Anyway, knowing what I know about the study of music, my guess is that ex daughter never became proficient enough in piano to major in music.  And even if she had, she went off on a mission for a year and a half, which would mean she'd be missing out on the practice time such a major would require.

Still, I have to wonder what the hell "university studies" is...  Is it like the "liberal studies" degree their high school dropout mother supposedly earned before she allegedly went to graduate school to get a master's degree in education?  I can believe Ex got the liberal studies degree.  But I do wonder about ex kid, since she has always presented herself as super smart and directed.  Why would someone so smart and 21 years old be in college to earn a "university studies" degree, whatever that is...  I wonder how much of what ex kid blogs about is a fabrication. On the other hand, I'm not the one who reads the blog.  Bill does and then reports about it to me.

Anyway, it's probably not worth my time to blog about this.  She's really just another stranger to me, even if she does share DNA with my husband.  I shouldn't care about the lies she tells and the stories she believes.  I guess I'm just surprised that my suspicions about her were apparently dead on.  It must be hard to live a life that is nothing but tall tales and bullshit.  I should probably feel sorry for her, but I kinda don't.  Hope she wises up someday.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Apparently, I'm a bigot...

I'm taking a few moments from my busy holiday schedule to write a quick post about a comment I found yesterday.  About a year ago, I wrote a book review about the case of Dr. Martin MacNeill, a doctor, lawyer, former Mormon bishop, and murderer.  Dr. MacNeill was a convert to the LDS church and, on the surface, must have seemed like a stand up guy.  He married a beautiful Mormon woman, had a thriving career, and led fellow Mormons.  He was looked up to as an example to many.  Under the surface, though, he was a criminal.

In my review, I wrote this:

"I can't help but realize that the LDS church seems to attract converts from the ranks of the seriously troubled."

I followed up with commentary about my husband's ex wife, who is also a convert and a very troubled individual.  I could have also provided examples of the many stories I've read about missionaries and their more serious conversion prospects, but I chose not to.  I was reviewing a book and really only added that bit as an aside.  Since this is a personal blog and not a publication people pay to read, I felt free to do that.

I got a comment from a former Mormon bishop who assumes after reading exactly one post on this blog that I am an uninformed bigot.  He encouraged me to go out and talk to more Mormons and stop painting an entire group of people with one "ugly broad brush".  I found that comment very amusing, especially since I can tell by Statcounter that the visitor claiming to be a former Mormon bishop had not taken the time to get to know me.  Granted, I can understand why he wouldn't want to get to know me.  I wrote something that offended him, so I must be a bad person.  Of course, I don't think he took a minute to consider that his comment was also offensive to me and his invitation to meet more Mormons rang a bit hollow after he basically called me a bigot.  I mean, he wasn't exactly setting a good example for his people.  

I actually do know some Mormons and quite a few ex Mormons.  My husband was LDS when we met.  I had absolutely no issues with Mormons or their religion until I did meet a few of them and saw how they treated my husband after his divorce and decision to leave the church.  I have spent years reading about Mormonism and exposing myself to the church's teachings.  After all this study, I have come to the conclusion that I don't like Mormonism.  Mind you, that is NOT the same as disliking Mormon people.  If it were, I wouldn't have come within ten feet of Bill, let alone married him.  The main thing is that I came to this decision after educating myself, which is what Mormons always implore people to do whenever anyone has anything negative to say about them.  I have educated myself and that's why I don't like Mormonism.  I had no opinion of Mormonism, negative or positive, before I "got educated".  

I think it's really funny when I get indignant comments from religious people, Mormon or otherwise, who read one contentious post by me and automatically assume I'm an asshole.  You may spend some time with me and come to that conclusion and that would be fair enough.  But to accuse me of bigotry for "painting a group with an ugly broad brush", especially when it's clear that you're doing the same thing, does nothing to earn my respect.  If you're going to call me a bigot or assume I'm an asshole and implore me to educate myself, you can at least do the same thing and educate yourself.  Otherwise, you're nothing but a hypocrite.

I don't think my dislike of Mormonism makes me a bigot.  I also don't really care what other people's religious beliefs are, as long as they don't try to impose them on other people.  In other words, if you're a decent person and don't try to call me to repentance for expressing myself on my personal blog, I won't be offended by what you believe.  The fact is, I really don't care.  

As for my observations about Mormons attracting many troubled people as converts, I think I'm pretty much spot on.  Aside from so-called "hormonal converts" who join the church because they're in love, I can't think of a reason why anyone would go through all the church demands of people unless there's some kind of a payoff.  And by that, I mean there must be a carrot at the end of the stick other than the vague promise of potentially going to the Celestial Kingdom, which frankly sounds like a terribly boring place to be, anyway.

My husband joined the church with his troubled ex wife in a bid to save his marriage.  He and his ex wife were having a lot of problems and their relationship was sinking fast into an abyss of debt, underemployment, and domestic violence (perpetrated by her).  He thought the church might make things better.  For awhile, it did.  He focused on the church instead of his miserable marriage.  But three years later, despite all the promises of blessings brought on by the truth of the gospel, the marriage fell apart.  And thank God for that, because now he's married to me and we're living a great life without Mormonism.

So, while I appreciate it when people take the time to read my blog and even leave me chastising comments, I would caution them to take a moment to think before posting out of emotion or offense.  I have all the time in the world to come back at you with logic and reason.  I have thought long and hard about the way I feel and the reasons why I feel that way.  Can you say the same? 

This is pretty close to Heaven in my book... and I got to experience it with my exMormon husband whose life is supposed to suck now that he gave up the "one true church"...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Overdoing it...

Today, Bill and I decided to walk from Lake Bled to the Vintgar Gorge.  We thought the walk would only take an hour, but we ended up making a wrong turn.  I will be blogging about today in detail on the travel blog, but suffice to say that I used the f-word quite a few times...  And I told Bill we would be taking a taxi back to the hotel.

When all was said and done, we walked well over nine and a half miles today.  I may be a fattie, but I'm fitter than I look.

The pain was worth it, too...  Here are a few photos until I can do a proper write up on the travel blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Onward to Lake Bled...

We spent yesterday in Trieste, then went joyriding in Croatia where we picked up some local wines.  Had dinner in Slovenia at a restaurant that had really good food and a ladies room that smelled of stale urine.  It was like being in Armenia again.

I look forward to our four nights in Slovenia.  I am hoping we find lots to do.  We will definitely need to come back to Croatia.  It's beautiful there.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Now in Italy...

The last twenty minutes of our trip here were nerve-wracking, but we made it without wrecking.

The mood is definitely different.  I love Italy, but driving here is a nightmare.  I'm glad Bill is willing to do it.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I heart Austria...

And I already have new stories to write..,

Today, we walked around Hallstatt and explored salt mines.  Walked maybe six miles among many Asian tourists in lederhosen and dirndls.  It was a trip.  I am now chillin' with a lukewarm beer.

It's nice to get away.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Auf Wiedersehen...

We're off to Austria this morning.  After two nights there, we will go to Italy for a couple of nights.  Then we'll be in Slovenia.  Then Austria again.  Then we'll be home.

I'm bringing my computer with me, so hopefully there will be blogging.  I am guessing a lot of the blogging will be travel related.  Of course, it all depends on how shitty the WiFi signals are.

Incidentally, one of my most popular travel posts was written yesterday.  I excited a lot of Americans in the German community by posting about how to unlock the door.  Many German doors lock automatically and are just secure enough to keep people out of their houses, but not secure enough to deter thieves.  :D

Just one quick rant before I go.  Yesterday, I read about Krystal Lake, a 22 year old black woman who works at Home Depot.  Ms. Lake decided to make a political statement by getting a hat made that says "America was never great."  It was intended as a retort to Donald J. Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.  She wore the hat to work and someone took a photo.  It ended up on social media and now she's getting death threats.

I posted the article on my Facebook and promptly got a rant from someone who was offended by the hat.  The commenter said the 22 year old woman was a know nothing who can simply leave America if she doesn't like it there.  My response is that it doesn't matter that she's 22 years old.  She has a right to her opinion and a right to express herself.  I may or may not agree with her statements, but I defend her right to make them.  Moreover, it's utterly ridiculous that in the "land of the free", Krystal Lake is getting death threats for expressing herself.

I think she has just as much right to wear a baseball cap as Donald Trump does.  Moreover, America is her home, so she has every right to complain about it.  One would hope she'd do her part to make America a better place, but that's a responsibility that falls to everyone.

The comments on my Facebook have been fairly civil.  The ones on YouTube are pretty shameful.  It amazes me that Republicans, who so often bleat about big government and their "rights" are calling for Krystal Lake to be shut down over a stupid baseball cap.  If you believe in freedom, you must believe in freedom for everybody.

I don't know that Krystal was smart to wear the hat on the job.  Apparently, her boss didn't have a problem with it, though.  According to the NY Times article, Home Depot does have a policy about employees making political statements, though it must not have been enforced.  My guess is that she'll end up getting fired.  Nice going.  That'll be one more person out of work, although Lake is apparently about to graduate from college and is seeking higher level employment anyway.  Given that she's a media studies major, this situation could actually work in her favor... or not.

Anyway, I'll go on record in saying that I think Krystal Lake has a right to wear her ball cap if she wants to.  And people should not be threatening to kill her over it, especially in a country that reveres basic freedom of expression.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Repost of my review of Bringing Elizabeth Home...

I noticed someone reading this old review I wrote of Bringing Elizabeth Home.  I had originally posted it on Epinions.com, but that site is dead and my old reviews are disappearing.  So I am reposting it here for those who are interested.  Bear in mind that this review is 12 years old!

  • The Smarts don't share much intelligence...

    Review by knotheadusc
     in Books, Music, Hotels & Travel 
      August, 30 2004
  • Pros: Some nice pictures. Interesting background information about Ed and Lois Smart.
    Cons: Awkward writing. Lots of preaching. Not much new information.
    The first time I saw Ed and Lois Smart's 2003 book Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, I was tempted to purchase it. Their beautiful fourteen year old daughter Elizabeth was kidnapped from their Salt Lake City, Utah home on June 5, 2002. The Smarts' other daughter, nine year old Mary Katherine, witnessed the abduction and alerted Ed and Lois Smart after Elizabeth and the kidnappers, later revealed to be Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, were gone.

    I remembered how the summer of 2002 was a summer plagued by a rash of child abductions. A couple of those abductions had ended tragically-- five year old Samantha Runnion was killed soon after she was taken, but not before she was brutally molested by her captor. Elizabeth Smart had, against all odds, survived her abduction, reuniting with her family in mid March 2003. And Elizabeth Smart's story is a bizarre one indeed. Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee were revealed to be believers of a fundamentalist branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. According to news reports, Brian David Mitchell meant to make Elizabeth one of his wives.

    The Smart family fascinated me. On the front cover of Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope there is a lovely picture of Elizabeth and her parents, and on the back cover, the whole family of eight is pictured. The Smarts seem to espouse the epitome of the American Dream. Ed and Lois Smart are well off financially, and they have six beautiful children. I wanted to know what lingered beneath the surface of the Smart family's attractive facade. Nevertheless, I had read negative reviews about Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, so I passed up the book.

    Then last week, my husband went out of town for a meeting and I found myself with some extra time to do some reading. It wasn't long before I found myself purchasing Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope. I finished the book in a few days and am left with my own feelings of ambivalence about the Smart story. On one hand, Ed and Lois Smart are not professional writers and they were telling the heartwrenching story of their daughter's abduction. On the other hand, Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope was ghost written by Laura Morton, who, according to information on the book jacket, has written a total of eighteen books, six of which were New York Times bestsellers. Unfortunately, I would have expected more from someone who has had such an auspicious career in writing.

    While at times, I found Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope to be a warm, touching story, the writing is sometimes awkward and repetitive. Also, although the book is supposed to be written entirely from the Smarts' point of view, the authors don't seem to be very selective about their usage of pronouns. For instance, the chapters that are supposedly written by Ed or Lois as individuals read like personal narratives and employ the pronoun "I". In other chapters, "we" is used, but so is "Ed and Lois", as if the story is being told from a different point of view. It makes for awkward reading.

    This book doesn't shed a lot of light on the case, either. Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope doesn't offer many more details than what was already printed in the news or portrayed in the television movie that was made about Elizabeth and broadcasted last fall. There are, however, a couple of interesting chapters about Ed and Lois Smart's extended family. There's also a lot written about Elizabeth's love for playing her harp. Mary Katherine also plays the harp. I don't know of any kids who play harp, so it was interesting to read about that. The book also offers some very nice pictures of the family. Again, however, it seems like I had already seen some of them in magazines.

    The thing I liked the least about Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope was the "preachy" tone in the book. Yes, I understand that the Smarts' faith had a lot to do with keeping them sane while Elizabeth was missing, but the book, particularly at the beginning, is very heavy on quoting scriptures from the Book of Mormon and the D&C (Doctrine and Covenants), which is another LDS document. If readers aren't members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they might not understand some of the significance of the quotes. Speaking of quotes, the Smarts start most chapters off with one, and they are generally from LDS sources-- either the Book of Mormon, or the D&C, or perhaps from a well known LDS leader like church president Gordon B. Hinckley. Again, it seems to me that the Smarts might have forgotten that they might have readers who have no understanding of the LDS Church. On the other hand, the inclusion of the LDS quotes may have been by design-- to get more people to investigate the church. All one has to do is contact LDS missionaries and they can start learning about the church and possibly become a member. In any case, it seems to me that some folks might find all the LDS stuff included in this book off putting, particularly if they don't believe in God or going to church. That said, I will also mention that before I picked up Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, I figured I would be reading something about the Smarts' faith, so this aspect of the book didn't surprise me much.

    The Smarts continually contend that they want to protect Elizabeth's privacy, and I respect that. On the other hand, I do find it curious that they published Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope, if they truly wanted to protect Elizabeth's privacy. They write that they were hoping to put some of the false information to rest. It seems to me that the Smarts' book is really more about how Ed and Lois Smart dealt with Elizabeth's absence than Elizabeth's ordeal, and to the Smarts' credit, they do seem to convey that idea in the book. However, they had to know that people would buy this book expecting to read about what really happened to Elizabeth. The Smarts include a few details, but those who want to buy Bringing Elizabeth Home should realize that they won't get the whole scoop.

    I don't think that Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope is a terrible book. It's just that it doesn't reveal that much more than what the public already knows about the Smart case. The writing is not as strong as it should be and there's some preaching in this book that might turn some people off. Nevertheless, the Smart case is fascinating and if you want to know everything that's out there about the Smart family, you might find reading this book worthwhile. On the whole, however, I think that most people would probably do well to skip it.

Living the dream...

I think it must be human nature not to be satisfied.  By many peoples' yardsticks, I have lived a pretty awesome life thus far.  I'm not satisfied, though.  I'm constantly comparing my life to other peoples' lives and measuring myself.  I know I'm not the only one who does this.  It seems like everybody is watching other people and judging them.

There's a lady on my Facebook friends list who's stunningly pretty.  I don't know her personally.  I think I "met" her through RfM.  She lives in England and, I think, has either just finished university or is about to.  She constantly posts about her work situation, usually in a negative light.  Recently, she posted that it would cost 30,000 GBP for her to get a master's degree.  I helpfully quipped that I got two master's degrees and am now an Overeducated Housewife.  Her response was that I'm literally "living the dream".

That wasn't the first time she'd told me that, either.  On more than one occasion, she expressed awe at my lifestyle, which I'm sure to people on Facebook, appears to be pretty awesome.  At least for right now, I don't have to sit in traffic, change diapers, deal with teen angst or shitty bosses, or worry about my finances.  I also travel a lot.

On the other hand, I worry all the time about things.  I'm turing 44 next month and afraid to see a doctor for health screenings.  I'm not going to have children and Bill's ex kids hate us, so when I'm old, I may end up with no one to help me.  I worry about Bill losing his job, getting hurt, or dying.  I worry about my dogs.  I constantly worry about the future, even though the present is going very well.

There is also a lingering disappointment that I put a lot of effort into being self-sufficient and ended up not being self-sufficient.  Fortunately, my husband is a very kind, loving, and generous soul and he doesn't mind that he has an overeducated hausfrau to take care of.  I would be lying if I said this ridiculous lifestyle wasn't an insult to my pride, though.  Also, it just seems like time has flown by so fast.  It doesn't seem like it was that long ago that I was young and hopeful.  Now I'm middle aged and jaded.

Do people not realize that Facebook is a distorted lens?  What you see on Facebook are generally the high and low points of someone's life.  They've actually done studies on how Facebook can cause depression.  You see someone's vacation pictures or photos of their happy family.  Maybe they'll post the occasional mundane status update, but people tend to frown on boring posts.  So what you see are the highlights and lowlights of someone's life.  That may cause you to look at your life, busting your hump at an unsatisfying job or struggling through a disastrous marriage and wonder why you can't be as happy and successful as your "friends" are.  Your friends have all this stuff out there on their Facebook page that makes it seem like they are "living the dream".  But they're really not.  No one is.   Dreams are not reality.  Facebook also caters to narcissists, who are definitely depressing to be around.

Facebook can really make a person feel blue.  I'm glad it wasn't around when I was suffering from depression.  I remember feeling singularly unsuccessful in those days.  It seemed like everyone was judging me.  Of course, depression also causes distorted thinking.  It never occurred to me that most people are too focused on their own lives to care too much about another person's struggles or successes.

I like Facebook because it's good company.  Because I live in an overseas military community, there are a lot of people who share my plight.  Most of them don't have a lifestyle like mine because the vast majority of them are younger and have kids around.  But I've still managed to make a few friends and they can relate to this lifestyle, at least temporarily.  I don't know how long we're going to live like this, so I might as well enjoy it.

I don't like Facebook because it can cause a lot of hard feelings.  For instance, I feel pretty sure that most of my family ignores me.  I guess that's okay.  They have that right.  A lot of them are "friends", but we never interact.  It kind of makes me feel depressed because they're my family.  On the other hand, it would probably be worse if they told me what they think of me.  At this point, I can only assume what they're thinking and be grateful that there's an ocean that separates us.      

For those who grew up in a time before the Internet, this hyperreality seems surreal.  Or, at least it does to me.  I'm not sure if it's better or worse.  I do think online living can have a deleterious effect on the quality of a person's relationships.  On one hand, you may "meet" people you'd never otherwise meet.  On the other hand, many of the people you "know" on Facebook are probably still technically strangers, unless you've really interacted with them a lot.  There was a time not so long ago when this kind of relationship was mostly impossible.  Now it's becoming the norm.  Pretty soon, people won't even need to meet people face to face.

Anyway, tomorrow we leave on yet another vacation, and there will no doubt be plenty of pictures and posts about our wonderful experiences that will fool people into thinking I'm "living the dream".  So I leave you with this awesomely obscure Prince song.  I highly recommend checking it out if you've never heard it before.  The lyrics are all about this phenomenon of "computer relations" and seeking a better life...

Prince (with help from Kate Bush) sings "My Computer".  This song was released in 1996 and was way ahead of its time...  Yes, this is how it is now, isn't it? 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Good can come out of anything...

I've often said that good things can come out of any situation.  Yesterday, I read about two American men in their 90s who were soldiers during World War II.  The first man I read about, William Phelps, was a 19 year old first sergeant when he was a gunner in World War II.  Now 90 years old, he remembers what it was like when he and two dozen other soldiers entered Mauthausen Concentration Camp outside of Linz, Austria.  There, he saw stacks of dead people.  Those who were still living were emaciated, sick, and exhausted.  Phelps and his comrades helped liberate the camp and Phelps went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam, later retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Phelps recently went to Poland and Israel with a group called Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), which is a non-profit group that was formed by Holocaust survivors in 1981.  Mauthausen was not one of the camps the group visited on their most recent tour.

I was impressed enough by Phelps' story until I saw another one.  94 year old Sid Shafner also journeyed to Poland and Israel, where he was honored for helping to liberate about 30,000 prisoners from Dachau Concentration Camp in 1945.  Included with Shafner's story was an extremely moving video.

Shafner met Marcel Levy for the first time when Levy was 19 years old.  Marcel convinced Shafner and his comrades to divert from their route to help the prisoners, which they did.  In the course of the rescue, Shafner and Levy formed an instant bond and became good friends.  

The above video was shot last week at an Israeli military base.  I couldn't help but tear up as I watched it.  These two men from different worlds were brought together by a terrible war.  They came through that experience as dear friends whose obvious love for each other endures over 70 years after they first met.  It's beautiful to see their love captured on video.  Had it not been for World War II, this amazing scene probably wouldn't exist.  

War is a horrible thing.  It's destructive.  And yet, good things can come out of a war.  Many people die during wars, but many people are also born.  Wars force cultures to clash, but they also provide a means for people to come together and promote understanding.  Wars result in grievous injuries to people, but they also allow for innovation, especially in medical care.  As we've seen in the video above, war can also lead to wonderful friendships.      

Hell, even Bill's disastrous first marriage led to good things.  Because of Bill's ex wife, I have gotten to learn about Mormonism.  I have educated myself and met some fantastic people.  I doubt I would have explored Mormonism had it not been for my husband's situation.  That would be a shame because I probably wouldn't have "met" Alexis, my number one reader.  

So... I guess today's thought is that even if you're faced with something horrific, there may be something good that comes out of the experience.  It's all in your perspective.  But I know it's hard to keep something like that in mind when things get really tough.   

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I got called "willfully ignorant" yesterday...

And it was all over a stupid meme my cousin posted.

My cousin posted this yesterday and it led to an online battle with a humorless anus.

When I saw this photo, I decided I had to comment.  I wrote that Sammy looks great and Bill Clinton went vegan and looks like he's been dead for a couple of years already.  It was just a joke.  I am aware that the photos are probably shopped.  Besides, people poke fun at politicians and rock stars all the time.  

I doubt this was intended to be anything controversial anyway.  The point my rock star cousin was trying to make is that rock stars are healthier than politicians.  I doubt he was being serious, though.  It was supposed to be funny.

Everything was cool until this dude came along and posted this...

Geez, people. The picture of Bill Clinton has been seriously photoshopped. Every photo on the internet is not necessarily real.

I was feeling my oats, so I called him a "party pooper".  He got pissy and said I was a "lie teller".  Then I posted the "party pooper" song.  


So then he said I was "willfully ignorant".  I just said I thought that was very funny.  So he added, "And amazingly accurate."  It's amazing, alright.  Especially since this guy doesn't know me.  I'm not sure what crawled up his ass.  Was he upset that we were poking fun at Bill Clinton?  What prompted him to leave a pissy comment about the veracity of photos on the Internet?  The funny thing is, I'm not a conservative.  I just have a sense of humor.  Then the guy got all pissed off and I felt like handing him a tube of this...

But something tells me this would make his butt hurt even more...

I'm beginning to lose faith in humanity.  No one can take a joke anymore.  I guess in all fairness, I shouldn't have called that guy a "party pooper".  For all I know, he's a laugh riot at parties.  But then, I'm neither a lie teller nor willfully ignorant.  I just like to joke around and have fun without some jerk lecturing me about Photoshop.  

For some reason, this incident made me feel depressed.  It's sad that my relatives have friends who are such tools.  Every time something like this happens, I feel more and more like I just want to stay in Europe.  I can't be myself around anyone without someone taking offense and getting all shitty.  Ah well...

Three days until I get out of here for my next adventure.  

Fat shaming and dental floss...

This morning, as I was waking up at the ass crack of dawn, I started thinking about random stuff.  One thought that crossed my mind was how fat shamers like to get up on a moral high horse and whine about how obese people cost their fellow Americans so much money.

Fat people are "unhealthy", they reason.  They have to go to the doctor more often for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and all the other illnesses that are exacerbated by excess weight.  That costs money and all the skinny "healthy" people are paying for that!  So, they reason, fat people deserve shame heaped upon them as a way to get them to lose weight.

As someone who has studied public health, I don't disagree that obesity can be unhealthy for most people.  I can't say that a person who is obese is automatically unhealthy, though, because I think it's hard to really define what a state of good health actually is.  I mean, if you're able to function and never need to see a doctor, how can I say you're unhealthy even if you're clearly overweight?  And honestly, why is it my business?

Anyway... it occurred to me this morning that almost everybody is guilty of being "unhealthy" at times.  One example that immediately comes to mind is dental health.  A lot of people never visit the dentist for cleanings or exams.  They figure if they aren't having any pain, why bother with the expense?  Quite a few people, some of whom are not overweight, don't bother to floss their teeth.  That's a real pity since flossing regularly or using an oral irrigator is very important to your overall health, not to mention your hygiene.

When I first met Bill, I noticed that although he was within normal weight standards, he had often had bad breath.  I asked him point blank if he flossed.  He admitted that he didn't.  Since I was in graduate school at the time, I explained to him that poor dental hygiene is linked to heart disease, complications of diabetes, respiratory ailments, and even dementia.   Besides that, brushing alone doesn't remove enough plaque.  If you don't floss, you'll end up with plaque and other nasty stuff stuck between your teeth.  After awhile, that shit starts to ferment and your whole mouth stinks.  I have a very sensitive nose, so halitosis is a huge turn off for me.

To drive home my point, I told Bill to get some plain dental floss and run it between a couple of his teeth.  Then I asked him to smell the used part of the floss.  I laughed when I saw him grimace.  The floss smelled horrible.  "That's what your breath smells like." I said.

After that experiment, Bill became a devoted flosser and brusher.  I am proud to report that since he's been married to me, Bill's oral hygiene has really improved.  This is a man whose had many dental dramas over the years.   Now he rarely has trouble at his checkups.  His breath smells a lot better, too.

Most people could be doing more to protect and promote good health.  Even those who are doing all they can to be "healthy" run the risk of becoming unhealthy at any time.  All it takes is a little bad luck or a slip into complacency and good health can become a thing of the past.  People who are unfortunate enough to be sick need help and empathy more than they need condemnation.  A person who is overweight doesn't need to be shamed.  It won't help them lose weight, nor does it do anything positive for their health.  It's just mean.  

I don't think fat shaming is really about concern for a person's health, anyway.  It's about people who are disgusted by another person's appearance and feel the need to comment about it.  Since it's rude to fat shame, these intolerant folks couch their shaming into "concern".  I think the next time I run into a fat shamer, I'll ask them when they last flossed.  And if I'm face to face with them, I'll probably be able to tell if they're lying.  Peeeeeyou!

They want to fat shame?  Fine.  I will floss shame.  Dude... how did you let your teeth get like that?  Don't you use dental floss?  That's disgusting!  Your lack of attention to your oral health is costing ME money and making me want to throw up!  Hey!  Why don't you hang around?  If I have to smell your breath, maybe it'll help me lose weight!  That rank smell doesn't do anything for my appetite.  See?  It's a win/win situation!  They'll be shamed into improving their oral health and getting rid of bad breath, and I'll be too nauseated to eat.

What's that you say?  Not all fat shamers have poor oral health?  Okay, I'll shame them about some other aspect of their self care or lack thereof.  Do you see how ridiculous this mindset is?  Why do we need to concern troll or shame people about their health?  Why is another person's health anyone's business?

Nobody's perfect, and we all have our own lives to live. Everyone is struggling with a burden of some sort.  Seems like a better idea to just be kind and considerate whenever possible.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Scholar talks about being excommunicated from the LDS church...

This is an old clip, but it's worth watching...

Margaret Toscano's Excommunication From The... von samueltheutahnite

Margaret Toscano speaks about what it was like for her when she was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

If you read this blog, you may know how I feel about Mormonism.  I don't like the LDS church.  I have a lot of good reasons for feeling the way I do.  I have spelled them out repeatedly in many posts on this blog.  I have never been a Mormon myself, though, so I have never personally experienced what it's like to be a church member.  I also don't know what it's like to be "exed".

One thing I don't like about Mormonism is the way church officials seek to silence intellectuals who seek to spread the truth.  Margaret Toscano is a sixth generation Mormon.  She is also an intellectual and a feminist.  When she started to speak out about the patriarchal nature of the Latter-day Saints, she was called into a "court of love".  

In the above clip, you can hear her speak about what it was like to be "tried" for her "crimes".  Basically, it was her against sixteen men in a courtroom like environment.  She tried to back up her statements with doctrine, only to be told that she would not be permitted to "lecture" the elders.  So basically, it sounds like Toscano was forced to sit there quietly while church officials decided her fate.  And she was kicked out of the church, which caused a huge rift in her family.

I thought it was interesting that Toscano talked about how "nice" the men were as they were separating her from the church.  After they excommunicated her, they all wanted to shake her hand.  What they had just done effectively barred Toscano from the upper leagues of Heaven and separated her from her family.  But the men all wanted to tell her how impressed they were by her as they also told her that she was an apostate.  Apostates are not well thought of in Mormon culture.  

When Toscano's younger sister died of cancer, she felt that intense family disapproval acutely when her brother-in-law refused to let her and another sister tend to their deceased sister by dressing her in temple clothes.  That rejection was devastating and something Toscano said she'd never gotten over and probably never would.

Toscano explains her early years and how the church made her feel...  

If you watch the above video, you will hear Toscano talk about how the church expects members to be "perfect".  She explains how many members focus on following the rules and not falling into "disapproved" activities.  As I listen to her, I hear how very intellectual she is.  I think truly intelligent people must experience extreme cognitive dissonance within the church.   How frustrating it must be, especially for intellectual women, to have that cognitive dissonance and be unable to express themselves without being told to "shut up and color".   

I don't respect any institution that suppresses the truth.  Despite their many and repeated claims that the LDS church is the "one true church", from what I've seen, it's really just a power hungry organization whose members are discouraged from seeking truth.  I don't see how intelligent people can stay in that organization and be happy.  But that's just me, of course...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Are art teachers stupid?

Just to be clear, I don't think anyone who teaches art or any other humanities class is stupid.  I think a good art teacher can be a lifesaver to some kids.  However, I know there are "practical" minded people out there who think anyone who chooses to teach art or music or any other course that isn't an "essential subject" must be an idiot.  

The real question is, how stupid do you have to be to pay for a degree to teach art? Financially doesn't add up.

This was posted in a Facebook group I frequent.

Some people who read this blog may know that I am a graduate of Longwood University.  Longwood is well known in Virginia for turning out great teachers.  I didn't become a teacher myself, but I do have a lot of friends and one relative who earned teaching endorsements at Longwood.  I'm not sure what the laws in Virginia are now, but I do remember that the year I entered Longwood, the "elementary education" major was discontinued.  Everyone who wanted to be an elementary school teacher had to major in a subject and then take additional education courses.  And while some of the subjects seemed fun, they were also a lot of hard work.  I can't count the number of times I watched my friends laboring over colorful projects involving contact paper.  You'd think it would be fun to make teaching aids and bulletin boards, but those projects required time, patience, creativity, and most of all, money.  They weren't fun and games. 

I often hear people talking about how art, music, dance, and theater are "fun" majors that are ultimately useless.  They have no respect for people who study the arts because they perceive those subjects to be easy.  What some people don't seem to understand is that it takes actual talent to major in those areas.  Moreover, the arts make the world a better place.  They stimulate creativity, which leads to innovation and discussion.  Arts of all kinds get people talking and thinking and make the world more exciting.  People who teach artistic subjects inspire young people and, in some cases, can actually be lifesavers.

When I was in school, the local school system employed a husband and wife who taught art.  The wife taught art to 7th and 8th graders and her husband taught at the high school.  Mr. and Mrs. Bergh were definitely "artsy" people.  In 7th grade, I took Mrs. Bergh's class.  I had always enjoyed art and thought her class would be fun.  I actually found Mrs. Bergh's class difficult.  I will never forget trying to draw a perfect sphere, my hand, or my shoe.  It was really hard.  I don't think I got higher than a B in that class.  But I did learn something from Mrs. Bergh.  She taught me to "draw what I see", and that changed my whole perspective.  

Before I took Mrs. Bergh's art class, I would only draw what I thought I saw.  I wouldn't actually look at something and try to create it on paper.  I would just create something from my thoughts, never even observing the thing I was trying to draw.  While a lot of great art comes from imagination, there is a lot to be said for taking a minute to look at reality and recording it accurately, as you actually see it with your eyes.  Mrs. Bergh taught me to look closely at an object and draw what my eyes were actually seeing, not what I thought I was seeing.  I must admit, learning to draw what I see was a difficult skill to master, but it changed my world view.  I could apply that lesson to more than just art.  Mrs. Bergh taught me to look at things objectively rather than subjectively.  That's a skill that transcends all subjects.

I never took any of Mr. Bergh's art classes.  I am not a particularly talented artist and I found his wife's class to be enough of a challenge.  However, many of my friends took Mr. Bergh's classes.  He was a popular teacher who managed to make a career in art even though he had one prosthetic eye.  Some of my friends were struggling with adolescence.  At least a couple of them were not doing so well in their academic classes, but they excelled in art.  Mr. Bergh's class gave them a place to express themselves and may have even prevented a couple of them from committing suicide.  He was a good teacher, but he was also a valued friend to most of his students.  He made high school more bearable for a lot of kids.  

My sister majored in art.  She is not a teacher (thank God), but she is a very talented artist.  She's always been employed, generally in her field.  Years after she completed her art degree, she went on to earn a master's degree in journalism.  The two areas of study complement each other.  Though she probably could have majored in something others would consider "practical" like accounting or nursing, my sister would have been mediocre and miserable in those fields.  She's an artist and her work has value.  She got to where she is because people in her past chose to be art teachers.  It's because someone taught art that my sister isn't torturing some poor soul in the hospital with a cold bed pan or fucking up someone's taxes. 

Today's post was inspired by a rant one of my friends posted about an art teacher calling her daughter stupid.  My friend was understandably upset about the teacher's conduct.  Another friend said the music teacher had also behaved unprofessionally.  There was a lot of talk about how difficult it is to be fired from the government system and that's why these teachers were getting away with behaving so badly.  As the discussion continued, someone mentioned that art teachers are usually not very good teachers because their field is not in high demand or they couldn't hack a "real" subject like English or math.  There may be some truth to that idea.  It could also be that some of the people teaching art and music would rather be creating art and music.  They became teachers because they thought they had to in order to make a living.  Maybe they're burned out or not suited to teaching. 

I think a lot of people go into teaching because they simply want to be employable.  I almost did that myself.  Originally, I planned to get a teaching endorsement to be a high school English teacher, even though I had no desire to teach.  Having taught English as Peace Corps Volunteer, I now know that it would have been a mistake for me to be a professional teacher.  But even as an 18 year old, I knew that I wanted to be able to find a job.  Not being a particularly worldly 18 year old, I thought teaching was the obvious practical skill to fall back on should I ever find myself faced with the prospect of living in a van by the river.    

I majored in English because I love writing, but I believed it was unlikely I would be able to write for a living.  So, being a somewhat practical sort, I figured I could teach.  I know I'm not the only one who's done that.  Fortunately, I wised up and abandoned my plans to teach.  It would have been a mistake for me to be an English teacher.  I would not have been very good at the job.  Had I decided to be a teacher, some poor kid would probably be telling their parents about me.  Or maybe I would have been fired and still ended up in a van by the river.  

Too many Americans have the mindset that they have to follow a set path.  Yes, it's important to have solid skills that lead to gainful employment.  We do need people in fields that require a specific skill set.  But the world also needs creators and dreamers and people who think outside of the proverbial box.  People who mentor the world's dreamers have an important job.  Art, music, dance, and theater are very important, especially to young people who are developing their critical thinking skills and their creativity.  We should have more respect for those who choose a career in the arts and those who are brave enough to teach in the arts.

The world doesn't need more mediocre scientists, nurses, accountants or teachers.  I know some people think studying the arts with the intention of launching a career is a "stupid idea", but I would submit that it's actually stupid to expect everyone to go down the same narrow path.  If you broaden your mindset, you may find that any course of study can be useful and worthwhile.  Moreover, it's often the creative types who find ways to use arts training to make the world better while they earn a living.  Limited thinkers are those who believe wholesale that art teachers are inherently "stupid" or "can't hack teaching a 'real' subject" simply because they choose to teach art.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

"Kiddo" makes me cringe...

Here's a random thought.  I hate the word "kiddo".  It gives me the creeps.

The other day, when I posted about the woman who took a photo of her husband comforting their son in the shower, I noticed these two quotes...

"it is okay to get naked with your son and nurture him ... the important thing is really taking care of your kiddos."

"[Thomas] has a really strong bond with all of his kiddos."

I have to admit, I kind of cringed.  I hate that word like some people hate the word "moist".  

I think my hatred of the word "kiddo" stems from my childhood, when I used to watch Guiding Light every day.  Back in the early 80s, there was a character named Bradley Raines played by the late James Rebhorn.  Bradley was a bad dude who was portrayed brilliantly as an abuser.  Bradley was married to Lillian Raines, a pretty blonde nurse who had a teenaged daughter named Beth.  Because he was a scumbag, Bradley abused Beth and eventually raped her.  And he always called her "kiddo".

Rick tells his dad about how strict Bradley Raines is...

Bradley rapes Beth...

Every time I hear someone call their kids "kiddos", I think of Bradley Raines and how creepy he was.  It's silly, isn't it?  The strangest things can cause an association in our minds.  Or maybe I'm just a weirdo.  Here's an odd thought.  I don't mind the word "weirdo", but I hate the word "kiddo".  Try to figure that one out.  James Rebhorn was a great actor, though.  He was very believable as a creepy stepdad.  And now I've been watching Army Wives on iTunes and I notice they use "kiddo" a lot on that show, too.  Yecch.

Our little party went well last night.  It was fun seeing our friends.  After we hung out for awhile, we went out to dinner with our buddies.  We'll have to do that more often.  That way, I won't have to think about the word "kiddo".    

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Upper deckers...

This is going to be kind of a gross post, so if you have a weak stomach, move on...

I recently learned of a nasty prank called an "upper decker".  I had never heard of it before I ran into this guy on Facebook who kept talking about it.  I finally got curious enough to find out what it is.  Urban Dictionary saves the day again!

I must confess that after I looked up the term upper decker, I spent the next few minutes laughing.  I mean, it's a really childish and disgusting thing to do to someone.  It's also funny as hell, as long as you aren't on the receiving end.  I enjoy practical jokes... and this one would be a mother of one to pull off.

I will also confess that after I learned what an upper decker is, I thought about how much fun it would have been to do it at Bill's ex wife's house the year she invited us to have Thanksgiving there.  That's right!  Back in 2004, Ex was going through the motions of trying to appear cooperative in letting Bill see his children.  Bill wanted to have a visit with them without his ex wife's interference.  She refused to cooperate and that was what led him to spend a disastrous Christmas with her in 2004, four years after their divorce.

Before they decided on Christmas, Ex invited us to spend Thanksgiving with her in Arizona.  We lived in Virginia and had very little money because most of Bill's salary was going to support Ex and her brood.

A song by my friend Wilbur...  Given that Ex and Bill divorced in Arkansas, this song really seems to fit...

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday and I had no desire whatsoever to spend it at Ex's house in Arizona.  I especially didn't want to go there since I knew I'd be drinking Kool-Aid or some other shit.  I mean, most people in Ex's sphere drink figurative Kool-Aid because one has to do that in order to be able to tolerate her. But since she's also a fecund Mormon who's tacky and devoid of refinement, I knew there would be plenty of kids and no wine at the table.  So we probably literally would have had Kool-Aid.  She probably would have served it in plastic goblets or maybe a plastic Flintstone's cup.  She'd fill it up to Dino's eyeballs for me.

Anyway, because we were broke and I didn't want to break bread with Bill's ex wife, we vetoed Thanksgiving in Arizona.  It was probably the smart thing to do.  But, now that I know what an upper decker is, I take special delight in fantasizing about leaving Ex a memento of my presence at her home for a large meal.  

Of course, I'd never do something like that.  First off, it's risky.  Secondly, it's disgusting.  Thirdly, I doubt my body would cooperate.  I usually tend to that sort of business first thing in the morning.  But it's kind of fun to think about it for a minute or two...

I never claimed to be very mature.  

Well, I suppose it's time I got dressed.  It's five hours until party time.

A gathering at my house...

I rarely entertain at my house.  The last time I threw a party was Christmas 2005.  I think the party basically went okay, but then I had an awkward interaction with one of Bill's friends.  We later became friends... but now we're kind of not anymore because he's sexist and recently found Jesus.  Hanging around with that guy would be difficult now because he lives in the States.  If it were easier to visit with him, we probably wouldn't.  I'm afraid we'd end up arguing about abortion and politics.

It's been about ten years since my last house party.  I like people.  I like to cook and drink, but I've never really felt comfortable throwing parties.  A lot of times, I don't feel comfortable attending parties, either.  Bill wanted to have a gathering today, though.  So far, I am expecting one couple.  Another person said she wanted to come, but I'm not sure if she will.  I would love it if she did, but she has a tendency to flake out sometimes.  So if she comes, she comes.  If she doesn't, we may just end up going out to dinner somewhere.

Either way, there will be drinking.  We have a big cart full of libations that need to be enjoyed by people other than us.  Hopefully, it'll turn out to be fun.  I have to admit, it's a lot more fun hanging out with people other than military officers.

A week from now, we're going on another trip.  I look forward to getting out of here.  Then when we get back, I can go back to being my usual neurotic self.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mom shares photo of husband and sick son in the shower... Internet goes berserk.

As I sit at my desk this morning, sipping coffee in my nightgown, I'm reading the story of Heather and Thomas Whitten, parents of Lillian, Leena, and twins, Fox and Persephone.  Back in November 2014, Heather Whitten snapped a controversial photo of Thomas and then almost one year old Fox.  Fox had been suffering from vomiting and diarrhea for hours, so Thomas stripped down and sat in the shower with the boy in an attempt to soothe him.  Moved by her husband's loving care toward their son, Heather took a candid snapshot of them and shared the photo with others.

Later, Heather showed the photo in a class and people immediately thought it was sexual.  The post soon went viral.  Now it's being shared by the Today Show.

I will admit to being a fairly typical American.  I am not as comfortable with nudity as a lot of people in Germany are.  I still have yet to visit a textile free spa or a nude beach, though it's definitely on the list.  However, in reading some of the comments about the Whittens on the Today Show's Facebook page, I can't help but think Americans are very hung up about sex and nudity.  I look at the photo and can see why Heather Whitten took it.  It's very intimate and sweet.  At the same time, because it's so intimate and personal, I think it would have been best to save it for people who can best appreciate it. In my opinion, that would include family and close friends.  Maybe when the child is older and can consent, I might show it to strangers.

I probably would not have shared the photo of Thomas Whitten comforting his son in the shower precisely because too many people would think it was sexual and I wouldn't want to deal with the ensuing drama.  Moreover, I have pretty strong feelings about not putting naked kid pics on the Internet, even if the photos are cute or sweet and don't show anything private.  Kids aren't really able to consent to having their images shared with the masses and don't understand what the future ramifications of having their private photos circulated could be. 

On the other hand, if you look at Whitten's photo of her husband and son, there's nothing "private" actually showing.  You'd see the same amount of nudity at a public pool or beach.  Thomas Whitten's "junk" is covered by his son's body.  Whitten's hands cover the boy's private parts.  There's more than one comment about how Mr. Whitten should have suited up before posing for the picture.  Hmm... well, if I had a one year old child who was repeatedly puking and shitting, I doubt I'd be thinking about wearing a bathing suit in the shower.    

Good photographers are opportunists, looking for a special instant to be captured.  Heather Whitten took a spontaneous shot of her husband comforting his son.  It wouldn't have worked if he'd been wearing a bathing suit.  Besides, who wears a bathing suit in the shower at home? 

I think there is a huge double standard when it comes to parenting.  If Whitten had posted a picture of a mother soothing her child in the shower, there would probably be less controversy.  People tend to be less suspicious of women, even if there are a lot of scary women in the world.  A photo of a naked mother comforting her child in the shower might draw comments from people who think women's breasts must always be covered (even if they are actually covered by the child's body), but I doubt anyone would think the photo was perverse.  There would be a lot fewer comments about pedophiles and child molesters.  More people would be touched by the bond between mother and son and not screaming about inappropriateness.  

As someone who creates, I know why photographers want to promote their work.  Artists want to share what they create.  Good art should be controversial.  That's what gets people talking and learning.  Heather Whitten no doubt realized this photo showed a side of humanity that would get people talking.  I think her artistic instincts are good.  

Frankly, as much as I wouldn't want to share pictures of naked kid pics on the Internet, I do think we need to see more pictures of good dads taking care of their kids.  There are too many people out there who demonize men, assume they are violent or perverted, and act like fathers are worthless or useless.  Besides, everyone is naked under their clothes.  Why are people so freaked out by the sight of a naked man?  You almost never see a man's genitals in American popular movies, but you'll frequently see a woman's full frontal nudity.  In Europe, people have a lot fewer hangups about being naked.  I think that's one of many reasons why Europe doesn't seem as weird to me as America does these days.

 Anyway... those are my thoughts on this issue.  I am not a fan of sharing naked kid pics, but I don't think Heather Whitten's photo deserves all the heat it's getting.  Clearly, her husband is a good dad.  We need to see more examples like his.  Fathers can be loving, nurturing, and kind, too.  More people need to realize and understand that fact.