Saturday, December 31, 2016

So long, 2016...

It's been real...

May 2017 suck less.

Actually, I can't say it sucked that much for me personally.  It could have been worse.  I would say 2014 was worse in many ways.  Lots of great people died, though, and we still have the Kardashians.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Watching family members fight on Facebook...

I am blessed with a large and mostly wonderful family, especially on my dad's side.  My mom's family is very small.  She had one brother who had one daughter with his first wife.  His second wife had daughters with her first husband, but I don't think I ever met them.  I haven't seen my cousin on my mom's side since my wedding day back in 2002.

My dad, on the other had, had eight brothers and sisters, seven of which lived to adulthood and reproduced.  Consequently, I have many cousins, and a lot of them are my Facebook friends.  A lot of my cousins have cousins from their parents who married into my family.  It's always interesting to watch them interact with one another.

One thing I have noticed from my dad's side of the family is that most everyone is very friendly, loving, entertaining (lots of musical talent especially), funny, and, most of all, opinionated.  My dad's side of the family is overwhelmingly politically conservative and they tend to be very open to sharing their views.  Add the personality traits of my dad's side of the family to other influences and the end results can be very interesting to observe.

Take, for instance, my Uncle Ed.  His late wife was a very outspoken and opinionated woman.  She was a lot of fun and very good hearted.  She had a wonderful sense of humor.  But God help you if you ever got into a discussion or debate with her because she would get up in your face and argue with you non-stop.  She and my uncle had four sons, all of whom share that double dose of argumentativeness. I love my Uncle Ed's sons very much.  They have some wonderful qualities.  But I don't enjoy talking about politics with them because my beliefs are pretty much opposed to theirs.

One of Ed's sons recently got into a political disagreement with some folks from his mother's side of the family.  Having known his mom and remembering how very outspoken she was, it was kind of eerie watching her relatives-- people I have never met-- arguing with my cousin on Facebook.  It was getting pretty fierce and, in fact, was downright ugly toward the end.  Actually, for all I know, the fight might still be raging.

Watching the argument made me think about the people in my family and the traits we all share.  There is definitely something to genetics.  For instance, when I feel strongly about something, I don't mind discussing it.  I don't want to argue until someone "wins", though, because I mostly think it's a waste of time and energy.  My cousins from that particular branch of the family, on the other hand, love to argue to the death.  I can see why they are that way because I know both of their parents.  I am sure their kitchen family saw many debates that went on for hours, fueled by beer and bourbon.  They all love each other, but they will argue non-stop until someone "wins".

When Bill and I were in Ireland last month, one of my cousins from that part of the family tried to argue politics with me.  He is very much a Trump supporter and he and another family member took exception to some comments I made about the president-elect.  When I asked them not to condescend to me, my cousin accused me of equating a difference of opinion to "condescension".  Actually, I don't have a problem with differing perspectives.  I do have a problem with people who speak to me as if I'm intellectually disabled.  I don't think being overbearing and insulting is what wins arguments, but that's the fighting style I saw coming from both sides of my cousin's family.  It made me wonder what it's like when they get together for family gatherings.

Then I noticed one of my aunts weighing in with support for my cousin.  This particular aunt seems to dislike me.  The older I get, the more I realize that people in my family don't seem to like me very much anymore.  It could be because I have a different perspective than they do.  I don't live in the United States right now, but when I am living there, I don't necessarily go around waving the flag and crowing about how awesome the country is.  I will always love the United States because it's my home, but it has some very deep flaws.  There's a lot to love about the U.S.A, but there's also a lot to dislike about it.  Living abroad several times in my life has taught me that.

It must be nice to be so sure about one's beliefs that it feels comfortable to just steamroll over anyone who disagrees.  I will give my cousin credit for keeping his responses mostly calm, while his relative was a lot more emotional in her comments.  But overall, neither of their responses didn't seem very friendly or loving the way family should be toward each other.  Worst of all, they were doing this on Facebook for everyone to see.

When I was growing up, my immediate family members used to fight somewhat often.  Because I was in the family, I was involved in some of the fights.  I don't miss those days.  I don't enjoy conflict much, although I realize that sometimes it's necessary.  I'm just glad I live a lifestyle that doesn't force me to fight a lot with people... especially on forums like Facebook.  It just seems like there are more productive ways to spend the limited time we have on Earth than getting into pointless arguments, especially about politics.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The 2016 death spiral continues... RIP Debbie Reynolds

I can't say I know a whole lot about Debbie Reynolds, other than her status as Carrie Fisher's mother and her turn in Singin' In The Rain (another film I haven't seen, but know the references).  I remember thinking last night, as Bill and I ate pizza and pasta, that no one had died.  It was getting late and I thought I'd manage to get to bed before there was an announcement.  I did, in fact, manage to get in bed before hearing about Debbie Reynolds' sudden death at age 84, just one day after her daughter's demise.  I did read that she'd been rushed to the hospital.

Zane woke us up at 3:45am, needing a potty break.  I grabbed my iPad and saw the news...  Many people wonder if she died of a broken heart.  I suppose the stress of suddenly losing your daughter, especially when you're 84 years old, could lead to a stroke.  I feel sad for Carrie Fisher's daughter, Billie, and her brother, Todd, who are now left to mourn their mothers.

There's been a lot of joking about Betty White, who is in her 90s.  Some people worry that she may be next, simply due to her age.  Bill has said he doesn't think Queen Elizabeth is long for the world, also because she's very elderly and was reported to be very sick with a cold.  We'll see...  I don't want to tempt fate by speculating much more.

Some people ask why people get so upset over celebrities who die.  They rightly remind everyone that people have friends and family members who should mean more to them than a celebrity.  I agree, many people are lucky enough to have people close to them and when those people die, it ought to be more upsetting.  But celebrities offer people a common thread.  Their work is available to everyone and offers people a common frame of reference.  Furthermore, people who don't have anyone might feel a connection to the celebrity's performance that means something to them.

I know when James Taylor dies, if I'm not already dead myself, I will be very sad.  I don't know James Taylor, but his music has gotten me through some tough times.  So although I'm not one of his friends, his music has touched my life.  And when he dies, I'm sure I will feel like I lost someone important to me.

When George Carlin died, I experienced loss.  Although I am a big Carlin fan (literally and figuratively), I never knew him personally.  But his work influenced me and affected my life.  I was sad when he died.  My mom, showing unusual empathy, actually expressed condolences to me when Carlin died.  She knew he was important to me and, like James Taylor, got me through some hard times with his humor.

So I don't think it's stupid, wrong, or disingenuous to mourn celebrities.  Many (but not all) celebrities are in the public eye for a good reason.  If they manage to stay in the spotlight, it's often (but not always) for a good reason.  There's nothing wrong in acknowledging them when they die.  Perhaps some people mention the deaths only to give other people something to talk about, especially on social media outlets like Facebook.  I don't know about you, but I think I'd rather talk about a newly dead celebrity's life than politics.

Anyway... two days left in 2016.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the celebrities at risk of perishing before the New Year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 is not going without a fight...

We've lost more people since my last post.  Carrie Fisher died yesterday.  I found out about it as I was resting in bed, contemplating whether or not I'm getting sick.  I wasn't that surprised to hear that she'd died, since I had read about her heart attack on her flight.  I had a bad feeling that it wasn't going to end well for her, given the conditions she was under at the time.  She was another one too young to die.

I will confess that I haven't seen Star Wars, or at least I haven't seen all of it.  I know about the characters because I grew up in the 70s and 80s and Star Wars was all the rage back then.  Lots of my friends collected the action figures and other paraphernalia.  I probably saw a few scenes too, since we had HBO and it seems like that movie was always running.  Suffice to say, Star Wars was never a passion of mine.

I did, however, read Carrie Fisher's book, Wishful Drinking.  I remember finding it very funny and witty and I appreciated her candor about her issues with mental illness.  I especially remember her story about how her parents were kind of the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of the day... or was her mother more like Jennifer Anniston?  I don't know.

Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, also died yesterday.  As a child of the 70s and 80s, I read his book and saw the movie.  He was 96 years old, though, so it was probably his time to exit.

In bizarre news, Zsa Zsa Gabor's adopted son, Oliver, also died just days after Zsa Zsa finally entered the great beyond.  I think he was in an accident.

I apologize for sounding a bit flippant in this post, but the endless stream of celebrity deaths this year has gotten absolutely ridiculous.  It's almost like if I didn't laugh about it, wryly, of course, I might have to cry.  I am so ready for 2016 to be history... but even as I write that, I realize that 2017 may well be much worse.

In other news...

Yesterday, I took Zane to get his monthly allergy shot.  There was a bit of a twist to yesterday's visit, though, because Zane got exposed to a tiny amount of tea tree oil.  He was drooling a lot, which made me worry that he might have a mild case of poisoning.  When I told the vet about it, she almost laughed at me.  Granted, Zane was only salivating a lot and sometimes he does that for no apparent reason.  Yesterday could have coincidentally been one of those times.

Anyway, she gave him his injection and some shampoo for his itchy paws that he licks and chews non-stop.  We made plans to see each other again after their holiday next week (they close for three days) so she can check his paws and draw blood for a PCR, to see if Zane needs meds for ehrlichiosis.  He just came in here looking pleasant and contented and has now plopped down on his side by the Christmas tree.

I am feeling a little under the weather myself, so I might go back to bed and do some reading.  Hopefully, whatever has me feeling a little icky will pass quickly and not ruin the New Year's festivities (which mainly consist of staying home and drinking bubbly). 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Goodbye Donnie...

Just as I was about to go to sleep last night, I got the news that a dear friend of my family's had suddenly passed away on Christmas Day.  Donnie lived in the town where my mother grew up.  He was a professional musician, who played saxophone and sang lead in a band with my uncle for about six decades.  Donnie and my uncle were the entertainment at my wedding reception.  I used to get up and sing with Donnie when he and my uncle played at the hotel where my uncle used to be the general manager.

Donnie had been dealing with some health problems recently.  He'd had pneumonia and his heart was giving him trouble.  Indeed, a massive heart attack was what killed him as he and his wife were headed to his wife's twin sister's house for dinner.

I don't know many more details about how Donnie died, but I do remember how he lived.  He truly was one of the kindest, friendliest, most good-natured people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  He was a wonderful musician and a devoted friend, especially to my uncle, but also to the rest of my family.  He genuinely cared very deeply about people and because of that, people cared about him.

He will be missed, not just in his community, but also in the hearts of so many of the people he entertained over the years.  I was not a blood relative of Donnie's, but he might as well have been one of my uncles.  While I'm glad to know that his earthly work is done, I will think of him fondly every time I go home to Virginia.  My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and the rest of his many friends and family, who are left to cherish his memory.

Rest in peace, Donnie.   

Monday, December 26, 2016

Bill the sneaky snake...

I used to love watching MadTV back in the day.

That is such a sneaky snake!

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post called Figurative Flamethrowers.  In that post, I alluded to a little plan my husband hatched to deal with his ex daughter.  As he was thinking of what to do, he said "I've decided on Christmas day, I'm gonna be a 'sneaky snake' and leave a message for my daughter on Facebook."

Now... this is nothing that should cause most people concern.  Bill is a perfectly respectable person who happens to share a mutual friend with his ex daughter.  Nothing he wrote was rude or offensive to the average person.

However, ex daughter refuses to speak to Bill and has made her hatred of him well-known, even though she didn't block him on Facebook.  So Bill decided to leave her a nice Christmas greeting and sign it "your father".  He did so publicly, so anyone who reads that thread will see Bill refer to himself as her father.  

If ex daughter hasn't told her husband the whole scoop and has misrepresented her stepfather as her real dad, this could potentially be a bombshell for him.  Or maybe it won't, because it's very likely her husband won't see Bill's message, but instead will experience the aftermath of it when she gets really upset.  Or maybe it'll be a non-issue and she won't care.  Who knows?

Before he posted the message, Bill referred to it as "dropping the mic."  I had to laugh at that, mainly because it's ridiculous that posting an innocuous Facebook greeting to one's child should cause such angst.  I'm kind of hoping Bill's ballsy comment prompts ex daughter to block him, but maybe it won't.  Maybe she'll respond in kind, which could open up a host of new problems for us.  Maybe it will show Bill's stepmother why I decided to block her a few years ago... because I could easily foresee this very thing eventually happening.

Some of you reading this post may think that I'm making too much of a big deal over this.  I'd actually agree with you.  I'd like for this not to be an issue.  But, as I have mentioned in other posts on this subject, we have been on the receiving end of a lot of these types of messages during the holiday season.  It's tiresome and disruptive and it's time the repeat offenders got a little taste of it themselves.

Hopefully, nothing dramatic will happen, but if something does, I'll probably write about it.  

2016 needs to die already...

Yet another celebrity has gained wings and gone off to Heaven.  Or... perhaps the edge of Heaven...

So long, George Michael...

It was an unpleasant shock this morning to read that former Wham! frontman and solo artist George Michael died in his Oxfordshire home yesterday.  He was just 53 years old.

It seems like 2016 has been an uncommonly terrible year to be a celebrity with health problems.  So many great artists have died since last January.  And while I know 2016 would like to remind us all that there are still a few days left by killing off relatively young guys like George Michael, I'm beginning to wonder who else is destined not to escape 2016 alive.

In a way, I kind of wonder if maybe some of these folks are dying because the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket.  A lot of people are lacking hope.  

My earliest memories of George Michael are in 1984, when he and his Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley made it big with their song, "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go".  It was a hopelessly catchy song with a peppy video.  Every time I hear it, I am reminded of 80s era Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.  

Most of my teen memories involve a song or two by George Michael, as well as his smash hit album Faith, which came out in 1987.  I was fifteen and I loved the title song from that album, which again was so catchy.  It was more sophisticated than the stuff he did with Wham!  I can't say he was my favorite singer, but I did enjoy a lot of what he did back in the day.  He was way too young to die.

So... I'm thinking 2016 has taken enough artists and performers.  It's time for this year to be over.  I don't know that 2017 will be better, but at least the ever lengthening celebrity death roll for 2016 can finally be put to bed, so to speak.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

So let's cut the stupid cake...

I might have to watch this later.

When I was growing up, I loved Christmas.  The food was delicious.  My sisters would come home and we'd exchange presents.  I didn't enjoy going to church, but I probably liked the Christmas Eve service more than the regular ones I was forced to sit through every Sunday.  Of course, sometimes Christmas fell on a Sunday, as it did this year.  We'd have to go to church and then come back and open presents.

As I got older, Christmas became less fun.  It was more of an obligation than something enjoyable.  And then there were repeated dramas that made the holiday season really much less fun.  It got to the point at which I finally swore off spending holidays with family members other than Bill and his mom.  I'd probably spend it with my mom, but only if it was just her.  

Bill and I mostly do our best to enjoy our holidays together.  We usually have a nice breakfast, listen to Christmas music (probably the one day of the year we do), and open presents.  Then we sit around the house, drink booze, and watch funny movies.  That's what we'll probably do today.  It's all cloudy and depressing outside anyway.  Besides, Germany pretty much shuts down completely for Christmas.  Nothing will be open again until Tuesday.

I know it's a movie about a wedding singer, but this kinda sums things up for me.

God bless us... every one!

In all seriousness, I hope everyone reading this has a fabulous, drama free, stress free, delicious day, no matter what you celebrate.  Some people might be celebrating a big dump.  I know I will.

Edited to add...  for all my readers.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Been watching Leah Remini's Scientology series...

It's currently airing on A&E, though we downloaded it from iTunes.  All I have to say is that it should be required viewing for anyone tempted by Scientology.  It's shocking what people involved in Scientology go through.  I think her new series is in many ways better than her book.

As much as I dislike Mormonism...  I think Scientology is far worse.

But I probably shouldn't say much more than this, since Scientologists like to sue people.  It's really a good show, though.  Well worth watching.

Dear Math Maven...

First of all, thank you very much for reading my blog and for writing that I seem like a lovely person. That was very kind of you. Many times when people leave me comments, especially about this particular subject, they aren't very nice.  So I appreciate the fact that you not only took the time to write to me, but did so with compassion and consideration.

Things have gotten a bit dark on this blog lately for several reasons. The holiday season is always difficult for me. This year has been a little more difficult, mainly because I've been so worried about my dog, Zane. Zane is mostly fine, but he did have a cancerous tumor removed recently. Four years ago, I lost another dog right before Christmas. It's irrational to worry that Zane would end up in the same situation as my other dog did, since they had completely different types of cancer.  Since the anniversary has already passed, I know Zane probably won't die in 2016. But unfortunately, my anxiety level has still been very high this month, and I admit it's affected everything lately, especially my writing.

I don't know how long you've been reading this blog or if you've read the whole, very complicated backstory to this situation we're in. Just so you know, there have been many times over the years that I've been willing and even wanted to give my husband's daughters the "benefit of the doubt". It's true that I don't know them well.  I have only met them once. It was back in 2003, when they and their older brother came for one visit that lasted less than 48 hours.

My husband's ex family converted to Mormonism. Bill was LDS when I met him, but has since left the faith. I have never been LDS.  My husband's daughters, especially the younger one, have always been extremely devoted to Mormonism and were so even as young kids.  Younger daughter may have relaxed a bit since those days, since Bill did spot her wearing a strapless wedding gown.  But she goes to a Mormon owned university, went on a mission, and has a blog that indicates that she was, at least at one time, a very radical Mormon.

The older daughter, who had seemed to be the most anxious about meeting me, was about to turn twelve. Her mother told Bill that she'd been "difficult" lately and we should "promise not to hate her" for her behavior. I remember when I met that child, the very first thing she did was apologize to me for being "shy". She visibly relaxed when I told her I didn't have to get to know her in one day (if only I'd known what was in the future). We went on to have a nice visit. She spent most of her time with Bill, but at one point she spontaneously gave me a hug and even called me her other mother. Although Bill has not seen her since 2004 and she sent a letter disowning him in 2006, I am much less pissed off at her than I am her younger sister. Sadly, I think she's in a situation where she feels like she has to go along to get along, even though she's now 25 years old.

Younger daughter was nine when we met for the first and only time.  During the visit, she peeked into our refrigerator and spotted two beers there.  She went absolutely ballistic. I watched in shock as that kid slapped my husband across the face in his own living room and chastised him for being "a drunk". Since I had just met her and Bill and I had only been married for about six months, I was unsure of what to do.  Bill just sat there and looked really sad. We did explain to her that not everyone is Mormon and not everyone who drinks beer is an alcoholic. Things calmed down until she told her mother about it. You can imagine what transpired after that.  I mention this, not because I don't understand that she was a kid at the time, but because it was very strange behavior.  Not many nine year old girls would have the nerve to strike an adult.  She clearly wasn't afraid of Bill and felt perfectly entitled to hit him.  It's not something most kids would dare do, especially to a parent.

Like her sister, younger daughter also sent Bill a letter disowning him. The last time he saw her in person was in 2004... Christmas time, to be exact. I have written about that Christmas in 2004 many times on this blog and the story is easy to find if you want to search for it. I don't have it in me to write it again in this post. Younger daughter's letter was very short, cold, and hateful and it was devastating to Bill. It also arrived just in time for his birthday.

For several years, my husband's father and stepmother did not hear from their granddaughters or Bill's ex stepson.  They were devastated, because all they ever wanted was to have a relationship with all three kids.  To that end, they bent over backwards to accommodate their mother, who had a habit of simply showing up on their doorstep whenever she felt like it-- driving from Arizona to Tennessee without even so much as calling ahead to see if it would be okay.  My husband's parents always welcomed her and said nothing as she berated them for being Catholic and let her younger kids with her third husband run amok in their home.  They would take up residence there for several days and then leave, not to be heard from again until a need arose.  Meanwhile, my father-in-law and his wife would give Bill grief for not calling them enough or visiting.  When he did visit, he'd have to hear about his ex wife and kids for days.

In 2006, we heard from Bill's ex stepson, who was at that time regarded as Bill's "son", even though he was never formally adopted. He had decided to move out of his mother's house and wanted to make sure Bill would keep paying child support to him. Bill was happy to do it and gave him his love and support. Ex stepson and his girlfriend (now wife) even visited us at Fort Belvoir for Thanksgiving. About three years later, it became very clear that ex stepson was simply using Bill for money and had plans to ditch him once the gravy train ended. That story is also in this blog.  He hasn't spoken to Bill since 2009, after begging for one last payment of $500.  He was 21 years old at the time.  He's now 29 and apparently a new father (more news that I didn't want or need to hear).

I'm not sure how much you know about narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder. I believe that like alcoholism, it's often a family disease that affects everyone, even people that are ordinarily decent and kind. People who wouldn't ordinarily purposely cause other people pain end up as instruments at the hands of the narcissist, who manipulates them into doing their dirty work. We have seen this happen many times over the years in ways I could explain, but that would make this post even longer than it is.  Moreover, narcissists love to mess up special days.  It's one of their trademarks.

I think narcissism can be a trait passed down among family members, if not by nature then through nurture. My husband's ex wife was adopted, but her mother reportedly treats people in the same inconsiderate and hateful way my husband's ex wife does. We've also seen that behavior in Bill's former stepson. While I have not spent any time with my husband's younger daughter in many years, I've also seen that behavior in her actions over time. What she does always gets back to us. Personally, I believe that's part of the plan. It was probably spearheaded by my husband's ex wife, but I'm sure there's a part of younger daughter who wants us to know what she's doing and probably enjoys the idea that it causes Bill pain that she won't speak to him and excludes him from life events like weddings.  It's no accident that she didn't use her own block settings on Facebook because she has apparently blocked me (and I am absolutely fine with that).

I don't think there is anything wrong with cutting toxic and abusive people out of your life. In fact, that is one piece of advice that victims of narcissists are often given. You have to go "no contact" to maintain your sanity.   I am all too happy to go "no contact" with my husband's daughters.  I really don't want to think about them or write about them.  My husband does love his kids and probably would see them if they ever asked. I wouldn't stop him from doing that, though it would take a whole lot for me to ever trust them.  It does cross my mind that Bill's younger daughter could have turned out to be a decent person.  However, she is also now an adult and responsible for her actions.  She should be held accountable and, so far, she really hasn't been.  In fact, she's been rewarded with complete forgiveness by my husband's parents, even though she disowned them and changed her last name.  They're just happy to talk to her again, despite her shitty behavior.

I would never tell my husband's father and stepmother who they should be friends with.  However, I do think it would be nice if they would show their son the slightest consideration that they regularly bend over backwards to show Bill's younger daughter.  They could, for instance, ask her not to say disrespectful things about Bill when they talk to her (which they then pass on to Bill).  Bill has never been anything but an excellent son to them, but he has been repeatedly expected to swallow abuse from his ex wife and accept the abuse they deliver on her behalf.

Bill mainly does stay off Facebook. He doesn't have very many Facebook friends and works a lot, so he doesn't hang out there the way I do. I have blocked my husband's ex, the people affiliated with her, and Bill's stepmother on Facebook.  I did so because I really don't want to be exposed to information that will disrupt my peace.  Bill mostly doesn't go looking for information about his kids anymore, either.  This time, he discovered his daughter completely by accident when we were in Ireland, celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary.  She was listed on Facebook as a "person he might know".  How is that for a kick in the teeth?  We have spoken at length to Bill's father and stepmother about how we don't want to hear about the ex or the kids (see my posts on Christmas 2012 for the backstory on that).  Unfortunately, they don't seem capable of respecting those boundaries.

I deliberately did not go into specifics yesterday with what my husband is planning, but you can rest assured that there's absolutely nothing diabolical about it. In fact, what he plans to do is something any decent father, or really any decent person, should feel perfectly comfortable in doing to another person.  I do think it will cause shockwaves, though, because Bill has been simultaneously painted as both a chump and a villain for many years.  They will wonder where he got the nerve and probably assume it was my doing, just like they assumed it was my doing when Bill finally stopped letting his ex wife and former stepson extort money from him.  It may lead to a resolution one way or another, though, and that's really what I'm hoping for.

I am simply tired of having the holidays screwed up by intrusions from people who have repeatedly told us that they'll never speak to us again.  Once or twice could be considered an accident, but this happens very regularly and usually at the most stressful times of the year.  I think if they want to be "no contact" with us, they should actually go "no contact".  It's the kindest and probably the healthiest thing to do.  Moreover, they might want to consider that before too long, there will be funerals to attend.  Unless he predeceases him, Bill will be at his father's funeral.  And if Bill's daughters also plan to be there, they might want to get over themselves.

Math Maven, I appreciate the fact that you took the time to comment and shared your story.  I actually think your comments make sense.  If we were dealing with normal people, what you wrote would be perfectly logical.  These folks are not normal people.  There's a lot to this situation to include extreme religious beliefs, malignant narcissism, and a variety of repeated abuses.  I don't expect the people who read this blog to understand it.  I mainly write about it because it helps me process things and because I know that there are others in similar situations who may be comforted in knowing that they aren't alone.  You'd probably have to know the people involved to understand where we're coming from.  You'd also have to know me, because I have my own baggage that has nothing to do with Bill's situation but affects things nonetheless.

You're not the first person to give me the advice you have.  I understand why people give it; although frankly I think I have the right to be butthurt on my personal blog if I want to be.  This situation has been heartbreaking for Bill and for me.  Writing about it is helpful for me.  I understand if other people find it painful and dark, though, and feel the need to "armchair quarterback".  You say we should "cut her some slack".  I think Bill's daughter should cut Bill some slack, be an adult, and either do her part to heal the rift or simply go away for good.  Aside from that, I've seen no indication that she wants me to cut her any slack.  In fact, I've seen no indication that she has any thought for anyone but herself.  She appears to be oblivious to the pain she's caused other people, which I think is the saddest part of all of this.     

Anyway... sorry for the length of this and to make you the focus of a post.  I just wanted to be clear, and preemptively respond to other people who might wonder if my husband's daughter has turned into a "different person than she used to be".  She may have, for all we know.  She's never given Bill a chance to find out, though.  

I hope you enjoy your holidays!  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Figurative flamethrowers...

My husband, Bill, is a very kind, caring, and patient man.  Although the Shrink4Men would probably not approve of how much he spoils and coddles me, I appreciate all he does to keep me happy.  I want nothing but the best for him and do all I can to help him live a good life.  That's why I push him to stand up for himself when he's been wronged.

If you've been reading this blog recently, you might have read about how my husband's ex wife and ex kids seem to passively drop into our lives on occasion.  I notice that their "visits" seem to happen around the holidays-- Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and this year, our anniversary.  I know they know when our anniversary is, because it happens to be on Bill's ex stepson's birthday.  I did not know it was his birthday when I set the date.  If I had known at the time, I would have chosen a different date out of respect for him.  Now I would have chosen a different date because I wouldn't want to share our anniversary with Bill's ex stepson's birthday.

There have been multiple intrusions over the years.  Ex goes underground for awhile, then resurfaces in a passive aggressive way to show us that she's still around.  She never engages Bill directly anymore, since the last time she did, she didn't get the passive response she was used to.  I think if she thought he and I had split up, she'd try again.  She's so narcissistic that she thinks she knows Bill intimately and probably figures I'm behind the more assertive way he behaves now.  It doesn't occur to her that he's simply gotten healthier now that he's no longer breathing her toxic fumes.  

Ex used to rattle her saber herself, but I've noticed that over the past few years, she's been getting her spawn to do it.  They are much more likely to be accepted than she is.  At first, former stepson was engaging.  Now it's younger ex daughter, and she doesn't engage us-- she engages Bill's father and stepmother, who are easier targets than we are.

Make no mistake about it, though.  It's really Bill she wants.  She's happy to have a connection with his dad and stepmom, but when it comes down to it, what she really wants is her original source of narcissistic supply.  And that's Bill.  I wouldn't say she necessarily wants to get back together.  She doesn't love him.  In fact, she doesn't love anyone.  She sees people as possessions and Bill is simply a piece of property that she once discarded.  He is now healthy, happy, and largely recovered.  My guess is that she knows it and it drives her crazy.  She just wants her toy back so she can play with it and eventually break it again.

One thing to know about people who have NPD is that they never let anyone go completely.  They may give you the silent treatment or engage in shunning, but they always eventually come back, like a stubborn cancer.  They are always looking for narcissistic supply.  My theory is that ex decided to get the kids to disown Bill and, for awhile, she got them to disown their grandparents.  But now they're coming back, just as I once predicted they would.  It would seem to me that if Bill was really the terrible person they claim he is-- so terrible that he needs to be banished from their lives-- they wouldn't want to risk being in contact with the rest of his family, whom they know still talk to him.  But we know they don't really feel that way about Bill.  They expect to reconnect with him at some point, somehow.  Not because they love and miss him, but because he has things they want.  I should say-- he has things Ex and ex younger daughter want.  Older ex daughter truly does leave us alone and I would probably be much more inclined to trust her.  She has a personality more like Bill's.

I know that Bill's ex younger daughter has seen Bill on Facebook.  She doesn't have him blocked, although she did tell Bill's father a few years ago that she didn't want to know about him.  Bill's dad, being a bit too softhearted and addlebrained for his own good, went along with that.  He was absolutely thrilled to talk to his granddaughter again, which was exactly what Ex was counting on.  Because Bill has a connection with his father and Ex knows he won't go no contact with his dad, she uses the kids to maintain a connection to Bill.  I'm pretty sure that's what's happening now.  All narcissists employ "flying monkeys" to do their dirty work.  Ex is no exception and that's what her kids have become, as have others in Bill's family.

Well... my sweet husband told me last night that he had a vivid dream the other day that has inspired him.  He had the dream after we had a bit of a spirited discussion about this situation that keeps coming up during the most stressful time of the year.  He said that this year, he's going to take action.  For the first time, I saw a very naughty, deliciously sexy expression on my husband's face... it was an expression of confidence.  He is someone who, when it comes to his children, has nothing at all to lose.  Bill is a very smart guy who is very benign.  But lurking beneath that gentle exterior is someone who is a lot tougher and craftier than most people give him credit for.

What he does will be like a figurative flamethrower.  We may not have the satisfaction of actually seeing the direct results, but there will be results.  If I were a betting woman, I would bet that the results will be acutely experienced by everyone in Ex's sphere and it will send a powerful message to them.  And, for once, they will have an unwelcome intrusion from him at Christmas time.

Any confirmation of the end results of this will likely come from someone in Bill's family.  Again, if I'm guessing, I'd say Bill's stepmother will send us a nastygram of some sort.  Or if he calls them on Christmas, he'll hear about it.  Who knows?  But it's high time something was done to put an end to the bullshit, once and for all.  Either you're in the family, or you're out.  Families can be together forever, right?  

Oh... and by the way...  once all of this goes down, you can bet that I'll get the blame for it.  Because Bill used to be a lot more cooperative in taking shit from his ex wife and that made things "easier" for everyone else.  Now that he's no longer so willing to take abuse, they end up having to take it.  And they think that I'm the cause of the change.  Maybe I did influence him somewhat, but ultimately this is Bill's plan and it will be Bill who takes action, not me.  I don't control him.  I support him.  It's time they got yet another powerful message from Bill.  Maybe this time, it will sink in and things will finally change for the better.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I do what I want...

It's true... most of the time, I do what I want...

This t-shirt was on my Facebook feed.  I'm kind of tempted to buy it, but I never end up wearing these shirts when I do buy them.  I used to love wearing t-shirts with funny sayings on them, but I don't seem to like them as much now that I'm older.  They've become a waste of money and take up too much space in my overflowing dresser.

The days are creeping by toward Christmas.  I was afraid Bill wouldn't get any extra time off this year because Christmas is on Sunday, but it turns out he does get a day off next week and the week after.  That's good.

My only plans today are to vacuum the house and maybe walk the dogs.  But the ground is covered with thick frost and it's positively frigid outside, even though the sun is shining.  I know walking is good for me and the dogs, but I hate freezing cold weather unless there's snow.  Although Facebook says there's rain in the forecast, I don't see any evidence of it thus far.

I ate a banana this morning.  The first half of it made me throw up for some reason.  It wasn't overripe, though.  Maybe it was too starchy?  After I puked, I managed to finish the rest uneventfully.  Me and my early morning tummy troubles.  I'm as bad as our old dog, MacGregor, who used to regularly throw up bile in the mornings.

Anyway... here's to another post about nothing.  Maybe I'll be back later.  I did manage to write something of substance on my travel blog, at least.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Osmonds sing to America, Zane's blood test, Richard Marx, and kids won't be marching for Trump...

Are they really singing "Dixie"?  

Because it's Christmas time, I shared a video of the Osmonds singing Christmas carols from around the world with a group I'm in.  One of my friends in the group made a comment about Jimmy Osmond, prompting me to find a video of him and his family singing in church.  The follow up video was the one I posted above.  Looks like all the Osmonds and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing with them.  I couldn't really stomach watching the whole thing, so I skipped through it...  but I thought it might be fun viewing for my exMormon readers.

Last week, the vet told us that all of Zane's bloodwork came back normal, except for the ehrlichiosis test.  We knew that one would be positive, since he did have it a few years ago.  Now she wants to draw more blood and do a more sensitive test to see if he's been reinfected.  My guess is that he won't have a new infection.  But if he does, the vet will probably be very impressed with me.  Bwahahaaha.  Zane is still doing fine, for the most part.  He's still not as perky as he used to be, but he's not obviously sick.  He loves his walks, naps, and food.  Actually, since I put him on Tagamet, his appetite has been better than it's ever been.

I read that Richard Marx, now married to former MTV VJ Daisy Fuentes, saved the day on a flight to South Korea.  I posted it on Facebook and there were endless Marx jokes.  I was then reminded of an article I read a few years ago about how Marx harassed a blogger for writing snarky things about him on his blog.  For me, the biggest surprise was that Richard Marx married Daisy Fuentes.  Crazy.

And finally, last night I ran across a news article about how, for the first time in 20 years, high schools in the Washington, DC area are declining to send their marching bands to perform in the inaugural parade.  One of my friends decided to make a snarky remark about how kids today are "special snowflakes".  I wrote this in response.

I doubt that. Actually, I'm sure there are some band students who are disappointed that they won't be marching in the inaugural parade. And others, particularly the ones in DC high schools, probably want no part of it. I wouldn't assume the students are "snowflakes", though, because it probably wasn't their decision not to participate. And most of them didn't vote, anyway.

My friend didn't read very closely and wrote that it would be an "honor" to march in the inaugural parade, no matter your political beliefs.  I asked him to re-read what I wrote.  

Kids in high school may or may not be interested in politics.  I wasn't at all interested in politics when I was a teenager.  Times have changed since the 1980s and kids are exposed to a lot more than we were in my day, but they probably haven't changed that much.  Regardless, the kids who might have been marching, by and large, are not even old enough to vote.  And none of them would have personally been responsible for deciding not to march.  That was a decision made by their leaders.  Some of them might be disappointed that they don't get to march in the parade.  A lot of them, I figure, will be just as happy to fuck off for the day.  Depending on Trump's legacy, they may or may not be sad that they weren't allowed to march.

What I found most interesting about the article were the many thousands of comments, a lot of which were apparently written by idiots.  Trump is apparently the least popular president-elect in history, but plenty of people want to scream about "disrespect".  Was Trump respectful when he spoke about grabbing women by the pussy?

I don't think even George W. Bush had this much opposition before he took office.  A lot of people are feeling very scared about the future.  And given that Washington, DC is a very liberal place and many of the residents are people of color, it makes sense that the local high schools would rather not perform for Trump (who apparently doesn't even want to live in the White House).  Indeed, some of the kids' parents might even fear for their children's safety at such an event.  There could be violence.

So there you have it.  The chimney sweep is coming today.  In Germany, the law says you have to have your chimney swept every year, even if you don't have a fireplace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The most depressing film ever...

For some reason, I decided yesterday I wanted to see a movie from 1983 called Testament.  Testament  is the fictional story of a town that gets hit with nuclear fallout.  The town, called Hamelin, California, is supposedly within commuting distance of San Francisco, which got the brunt of the blast.

This film stars Jane Alexander and William Devane, along with Roxana Zal, Rossie Harris, and a young Lukas Haas.  They are the Wetherly family and, up until that fateful day of the nuclear blast, they were a perfectly normal family.  After the explosion, people in the town begin to get sick and die.  There's no more gas, no more electricity, and no more contact with the outside world.

Testament is also notable because two future movie stars were in minor roles within it.  Kevin Costner and Rebecca DeMornay play a young married couple with a baby girl who dies because of the radiation sickness.

Although the story is haunting and the acting is superb, Testament is one of those films I can barely stand to see more than once in a decade.  It's a profoundly depressing movie that came out at the height of the Cold War, when many people were worried about world leaders hitting the red button.

Actually, given that Donald Trump is about to be our president, this film may be closer to reality than we might think.  Really, it seems like every day, something new and shitty happens.  Like, for instance, yet another incident here in Germany.  Yesterday, a tractor trailer drove into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing twelve people and injuring many more.  It's looking like that was a terrorist attack.  Berlin is one city Bill and I still haven't seen.  We're making plans to visit eventually.  I'm glad we weren't there for this...

I am feeling fearful about our future.  Anyway, if you need the shit scared out of you, I recommend Testament.  It is a good film, but it'll probably depress the hell out of you.

Sex vs. violence...

Sometimes the discussions in our local Facebook groups get especially interesting, particularly when they center around what's appropriate for kids.  The other day, a mother asked members of the community when she should let her daughter watch R rated movies.  Naturally, she got lots of responses from her fellow Americans.

I mostly sat by and watched, because I don't have children and my own parents pretty much didn't care what I watched on cable.  I don't think I went to my first R rated movie in a theater until I was about fifteen, but that was more about my never going to the movies than my parents forbidding it.  Case in point.  I haven't been to a movie theater in over five years; that was to see Midnight In Paris in Portland, Maine.

One thing I did notice in most of the responses I saw was that many Americans were more concerned about their kids seeing sex scenes than hearing filthy language or gratuitous violence.  In Europe, it seems that parents have the opposite concern.  They'd rather their kids see people having sex than blowing each other away.

For the past several weeks, I've been making myself busy watching episodes of Wonder Woman.  That show was rife with kink, but there wasn't a lot of sex.  Yeah, we'd see Lynda Carter running around half naked in her "satin tights".  Her character Diana Prince was regularly tied up and gagged, which no doubt fueled the fantasies of many who watched faithfully (and watching faithfully is a struggle, since it really went downhill in the third season).  But you never saw her with a boyfriend.

Violence, on the other hand, was more prevalent in Wonder Woman.  The superheroine would often be shot at and she would deflect the bullets with her magic bracelets.  Guys would grab her and she'd throw them into a heap.  Steve Trevor would get in fist fights with the bad guys.  This was considered pretty clean entertainment back in the day.  Compared to now, it's still pretty damn clean.

If you think about it, violence probably ought to disturb us much more than nudity does.  Everyone is born nude.  Most of us got here because two people engaged in sexual intercourse.  While not all sex is loving, I can't say that violence is ever loving.  So why aren't parents more worried about their kids seeing someone being shot, beaten up, or thrown off a cliff than they are two people fucking?  Is it because people who are brutalized in film usually aren't left to linger in agony, showing children what happens after they've been shot or beaten?

I think in Europe, most parents would rather expose their kids to sex than violence.  One lady in the local group said that she was listening to a song on a local radio station and there was a line in it about someone bringing a gun to school.  The word "gun" was edited out, but the rest of the song, which was full of what many Americans would deem "objectionable language" was left intact.  Also, it's not uncommon to see naked people on European television.  I remember being in Spain a few years ago and seeing a commercial that featured a naked man running.  I don't remember if his genitals were blurred because I was in a bar at the time, but I do remember the ad and being surprised by it.

Naturally, due to the nature of the work most Americans in this part of Germany are doing, it makes sense that parents would be less bothered by violence.  Military service requires some tolerance for violence.  Family members who love someone serving in the military often adopt the same or a similar mindset to the servicemember.  Perhaps if I were watching a different Facebook group full of crunchy Americans, I might come away with a different impression.

Anyway... I just thought that was an interesting thing.  For more reading on this subject, have a look at this article from Time Magazine, which was published just last year.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Squashed grapes...

"Just like grape..."

I remember watching The Karate Kid in the mid 1980s.  Ralph Macchio was playing 16 year old Daniel Laruso, an east coast son of a single mother who moves to Los Angeles.  Daniel was regularly beaten up by local bullies until he meets Mr. Miyagi, played by the late Pat Morita, who teaches him karate.  At one point in the film, Mr. Miyagi explains to Daniel that he needs to choose to make a commitment to karate or quit.  A middle of the road attitude would get him squashed, "just like grape."

I think this bit of advice works in many situations.  Fence sitters who are afraid to pick a side often end up being screwed over by people with more conviction.  I hate to write about my husband's toxic ex family again, but it came up last night.  He was mooning over his ex daughter on Facebook and I asked him why in the world he didn't spare himself and me the agony and take a stand.  Either confront her or block her, but quit allowing her to intrude and take up mental space and energy that could be used more productively elsewhere.

I, for one, wish Bill would confront his daughter.  I wish he would tell her that her treatment of him was uncalled for and wrong.  I wish he would tell his father and stepmother that it's hurtful to him that they apparently can't or won't hold her accountable for being cruel and hateful.  He doesn't want to do it, though, because he has trouble being confrontational.  It's easier for him to just continue to allow the abuse to happen.  He hates having people angry with him.

If he were single, this would simply be a sad situation.  He's not single, though, and he shares this stuff with me, which makes me react.  I suppose I could try to choose not to react or even just tell him I don't want to hear about it.  But I always end up hearing about it anyway and it never fails to piss me off.  I have a lot of hostility and animosity toward Bill's family because they continue to enable abusive behavior.  These issues also seem to come up at the worst possible times, too...  I have lost count of how many times there's been an intrusion during the holidays and I don't want to go through the rest of my life dealing with this shit.

Bill's daughters are adults and they are entitled to live life as they see fit.  If they want to disown Bill because he divorced their abusive, narcissistic mother, that's their prerogative.  I just don't see why we should continue to be flogged for that hurtful decision.  They have every right to bury their heads in the sand and avoid the truth.  Don't we have the right not to have to be reminded of them all the time?  I just wish the fence sitting would stop before we get squashed like grapes.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Two more weeks to go until 2016 is history...

Seems like the year has flown by, too.

I'm feeling fairly unmotivated this afternoon.  The weather is depressing and cold, so I decided to watch The History of the Eagles, which is a long documentary.  I also watched The Muppet Movie this morning.

Arran has been keeping me company.  Zane is in the bed, napping like he always does.  Bill is in the kitchen fixing lunch.  I'm thinking about constructive things I could be doing and not really feeling like doing them.

Hard to believe it's a week before Christmas.  I wish I felt like doing something, but I don't... including writing a post that inspires thought.

It is Sunday, though... day of rest.  I guess that's what I'll do.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Busted down a few ranks...

A few months ago, I wrote about Major General David B. Haight, a two star general who was, until last spring, the director of operations at the United States European Command.  Haight was caught swinging and it turned out he'd been engaging in extramarital affairs, a no no if you're in the military and certainly if you're Mormon, which Haight evidently is.  Aside from revealing a serious lack of moral character, Haight made himself vulnerable to blackmail.

I noticed yesterday that my post got lots and lots of hits.  I see it's because Haight has been busted down a few ranks.  A board of Haight's peers have decided that he should be demoted to lieutenant colonel, which means he'll get about $43,000 less a year in retirement pay.  The board decided Haight last performed satisfactorily when he was a lieutenant colonel.  Actually, he was probably swinging long before then, but I guess they didn't want to be too punitive.

Granted, my husband retired as a lieutenant colonel, as did my father.  Retirement pay, even as an O5, is a great thing to have.  It definitely enhances our lifestyle.  And Haight will probably still end up with a good job somewhere.

I feel sorry for his wife and family, who will also have to deal with the fallout from this situation.  It's embarrassing and humiliating, not just for Haight, who'd enjoyed a great career, but also for the people close to him.  I also think it's very sad that good people who serve honorably but maybe aren't as flashy and narcissistic, end up being passed over in favor of people like Haight.  Makes me glad Bill is retired and this shit no longer directly affects him.

At Liberty University, you are free to shoot first...

Yesterday, I read an article from the Daily Press about how Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia is planning to build a state of the art shooting range.  I shared the article on Facebook with the comment "Good Lord."  I chose not to make any definitive statements when I posted because, truthfully, I kind of have mixed feelings about the idea.

Like, for instance, I don't have a problem with people learning about gun safety.  I don't have a problem with target practice or hunting.  I don't even have a problem with people carrying weapons for personal safety reasons, as long as they've been thoroughly trained and aren't crazy or criminals.  I do take some issue with Liberty University's pro-gun stance for several reasons.  On the other hand, it's a private university and what they do on their property is their business, I guess.  As long as it's legal.  I don't have to go to school there.  I'm sure many people like the idea and will even choose to attend Liberty so they can pack some heat in peace.

Anyway, a lively discussion began on my Facebook page with a couple of pro-gun enthusiasts chiming in against several pacifist types.  A couple of us wondered what guns have to do with Christianity, especially since Jesus Christ was the "Prince of Peace" and this idea doesn't seem to be very peaceful.  One of the gun supporters commented that the shooting range has nothing to do with religion.  He says it's about second amendment rights.

However, I remembered last year after the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. gave a speech that included these words...

“It just blows my mind that the president of the United States [says] that the answer to circumstances like that is more gun control,” he said to applause.

“If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now …,” he said while being interrupted by louder cheers and clapping. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he said, chuckling.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”

“I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

In his speech, Mr. Falwell does not call out your garden variety psycho who shoots up a school.  He specifies Muslims.  While Muslims are responsible for terrorist events around the world, they aren't the only ones doing it.  Given that Liberty University was founded by a Christian televangelist and its president pointedly mentions "ending Muslims", I'm left with the idea that this new shooting range idea is not just about second amendment rights.  It's also about fighting against Islam and promoting religious intolerance against Islamic people.  Again... not very Christlike in my view.

Besides that, I don't think Americans really need more people carrying guns.  Even if your argument is that "good people" with guns might stop terrorists, there is still a huge risk that someone could be hurt accidentally.  A quick Google of the search terms "toddler shoots mom" brings up multiple news stories of children getting their hands on firearms with tragic results.  Moreover, not everyone who attends a religious university is a "good person".  In fact, in my experience, quite a lot of very religious people are crazy and/or completely rigid in their thinking.  Seems to me that mixing guns with zealotry could be a very bad idea.

On the other hand, at least students at Liberty University are unlikely to be using illegal drugs or alcohol.  So there is probably less of a chance that students at that school would be drunk or high and have access to weapons.  That is one bright side, I guess.

Anyway... the discussion was fairly interesting.  Bill and I continued it offline.  We both grew up in areas where guns were a very common sight.  When I was in high school, it was not unusual to see guys with loaded gun racks in their trucks.  No one said a word.  In fact, when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, everyone took a hunter safety class.  I don't think they still do that in my hometown, but they did when I was a kid.  It wasn't a bad thing to learn, given the rural nature of the place.  If Liberty University is bent on teaching gun safety, that's not a bad thing.  But I just don't think the United States needs more armed people.  That's just my opinion.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Pat Conroy's last words...

2016 has been a horrible year to be famous.  So many great people have died, including Pat Conroy, who was (and still is) one of my favorite authors.  As much as I loved his novels, I probably enjoyed his non-fiction works much more.  In the wake of Conroy's death last March, his latest book 
A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life, was published in late October.  I have been reading this last work and remembering Conroy.

A Lowcountry Heart is basically a collection of Conroy's blog posts, speeches, interviews and even letters he wrote.  It also includes tributes from friends, as well as his wife, Cassandra King, and the eulogy delivered at his funeral, which was open to the public.  I was one of his blog subscribers, so I had read some of the ones that were included in his last book.  Still, it was good to have the posts all in one volume.  I also appreciated the other aspects of this book, the speeches and letters Conroy penned.  I was particularly impressed by a letter to the editor Conroy wrote to a newspaper in Charleston, West Virginia after he received word that two of his books, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, had been banned by a high school.  A high school student had written to him in great distress and he went to bat for her.

During his lifetime, it wasn't uncommon for Pat Conroy to take up a cause.  I remember in the mid 1990s, when female college student Shannon Faulkner was forcing Conroy's alma mater, The Citadel, to admit women.  She faced scorn and derision from many people.  Conroy very publicly and enthusiastically supported her.  Ultimately, Faulkner was unable to hack it at The Citadel, but she did help make history and change the long single sex traditions at both The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute.

While I can't say that books of essays and writings usually thrill me, knowing that these are Conroy's last remarks make this final book worthy reading.  A Lowcountry Heart will not be my favorite Conroy book.  I think that honor goes to My Losing Season or perhaps The Death of Santini.  But it will remain a treasured part of my library as I remember one of the few fiction authors who never failed to make me laugh and appreciate the beauty of language.  What A Lowcountry Heart offers is yet another intimate look at the man behind the lush, vivid, colorful language so prevalent in Conroy's novels.  

Some of the blog posts included in this book are particularly entertaining.  I enjoyed reading about how he became acquainted with his personal trainer, Mina, a Japanese woman who spoke little English and did her best to help Conroy reclaim his body.  Sadly, pancreatic cancer took him anyway, but Mina no doubt helped make those last months healthier.

I was lucky enough to get to hear Conroy speak when I was a student at the University of South Carolina.  He was actually filling in for Kurt Vonnegut, another favorite author of mine, who had just had a house fire and wasn't able to attend.  Vonnegut died not long after I heard Conroy speak in his place.  I remember I had a healthcare finance exam the next day, which I ended up getting a D on.  I probably would have gotten a D anyway, so it was worth going to see Pat Conroy.  I will always treasure that memory, even if I didn't get to meet the man in person.  He was every bit as real as he seems in his words.

I think I'd give this last volume four out of five stars, mainly because it feels a bit unfinished.  I recognize A Lowcountry Heart as one last gift to Conroy's admirers.  I am grateful to have it available as a last goodbye from one of the South's best writers.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Donald Trump's inaugural entertainment...

Yesterday, I discovered that 16 year old America's Got Talent competitor, Jackie Evancho, is going to be performing at Donald Trump's inauguration next month.  I well remember watching Jackie on AGT.  She is very talented.  And it does seem rather fitting that Trump would use a reality/game show contestant to sing on his big day.  On the other hand, it doesn't sound like Trump had a whole lot of people vying for the job.

I will admit that I haven't followed Jackie Evancho since her AGT days, when she was ten years old.  Although I like classical music, there are other singers I'd rather listen to than her.  It's not because I don't think she's talented.  She certainly is.  It's just that I think a lot of her notoriety comes from the fact that she's very good for being so young.  She's not unlike Charlotte Church was back in the 1990s.

Anyway, I'm sure Jackie is excited and it is a big honor to get to perform for a president.  This will be her second time, since she's also sung for Obama.  And since she's only 16, it's not like she voted for Trump, anyway.  I just hope no one grabs her by the pussy.  She has grown into a very beautiful young woman and Trump loves beautiful young women.

I read that one of Jackie Evancho's siblings is transgendered, which makes this decision all the more interesting.  Glad I'm in Germany and lack TV access.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Carly Simon's Boys in the Trees...

I have long admired singer-songwriter Carly Simon.  Having been born in the early 1970s, her music, and that of her ex husband's, James Taylor, has been a part of my personal soundtrack for many years.  I also enjoy reading life stories, especially by people I admire.  I downloaded Carly Simon's 2015 memoir on the day it was released, but I've only just read it.  I tend to download a lot of stuff that interests me and it sits in the queue until the mood strikes for me to read it.  There was a time when I would have greedily devoured this book days after its release, but I guess I'm slowing down in my old age.

Anyway, Carly's book is entitled Boys in the Trees: A Memoir.  I like the book's title, since it references the title song from her 1978 album, which I remember almost wearing out during Christmas break 1991.  I had a month at home with my parents and had always loved the song "You Belong To Me".  I bought the CD and played it non-stop.  It was a comfort during those bleak winter days when I was 19 years old and hating the semester break at home from college.

Simon's book starts with her story of growing up in New York, the daughter of Richard Simon, one of the founders of the Simon & Schuster publishing company.  She had a privileged upbringing, surrounded by family and friends.  Her two older sisters were beautiful and talented.  Her brother, Peter, was younger and the son her father had wanted.  Carly writes that she was supposed to have been a boy named Carl, but when she came out female, her father simply added a "y" to the name.  Carly Simon's father evidently didn't mesh that well with his third child.  He was the first of many men to disappoint her.

As Simon grew older, her father grew frail.  Sidelined by strokes, he was eventually convinced to sell his interest in Simon & Schuster.  Carly's mother, Andrea, fell out of love with her husband and had an affair with a much younger man named Ronny.  Starting at age 7, Carly also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a visiting teenager who had seen porn and wanted to replicate it.

As a teenager, Carly Simon lived in Martha's Vineyard.  James Taylor's family also had a home there and that was where the two of them met, when they were adolescents.  In November 1972, they would marry at City Hall, wearing wedding bands they purchased for each other at a Middle Eastern tourist kiosk for $17.95 each.  The rings weren't even the ones that had been on sale.  Simon had been involved with other men, notably Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty.  Taylor had been seeing Joni Mitchell before he hooked up with Carly.  But they were destined to be together and make two children, Sally and Ben.

Boys in the Trees is divided into three books.  I think Simon was wise to divide the book that way, since her story is not one that necessarily lends itself to seamlessness.  The last book is about her marriage to James Taylor, a man she clearly deeply admires and probably still even loves.  Sadly, James Taylor was apparently not a very good husband in the 1970s.  He had a pretty serious drug and alcohol problem, which Simon references, as well as a penchant for affairs with other women.  They were together when their careers were both smoking hot and, though they were able to make beautiful music together, it wasn't enough to forge a commitment.  Simon writes that things really went to hell after she'd become a mother.  Suddenly, the children were more important and she could no longer turn a blind eye to Taylor's dalliances.  I got the sense that perhaps James Taylor resented that.  In any case, she basically makes James Taylor of the 1970s out to be a selfish ass.  Whether or not he still is, I don't know.

Naturally, whenever I read about another person's relationship, I wonder a bit about the other sides of the story.  And there always are other sides to include the truth.  I don't think Carly Simon is lying about what happened and I do think she admits to being difficult herself.  But naturally, this book skews toward her perspective...  not that I think cheating and drug abuse is necessarily acceptable behavior.  Simon writes that she still lives in the house they lived in and much of it still bears Taylor's design marks, some of which were not as inspired as his songwriting.

I think Carly Simon would have made a fine author had she not been a musician.  Her writing is elegant and interesting and I enjoyed reading about the many inspirations behind songs I've loved for years.  When she was married to Taylor, the two collaborated a lot on their albums.  It was cool to read about how Carly Simon came up with the ending coda for "Terra Nova", a gorgeous collaboration on Taylor's 1977 JT.  I well remember the hit song "Jesse" from the early 80s, which she reveals was actually inspired by her son, Ben.

As someone who has experienced anxiety and depression, I appreciated Carly's revelations about her own issues with panic attacks.  She writes about one serious attack she suffered in Pittsburgh back in 1981, when she had to call upon the audience to help her.  She writes that she still gets letters from people who were at that concert, many of whom express a great deal of empathy for the situation she was in at the time.  Panic and anxiety kept Carly Simon off the public stage for several years.

Curiously, Simon's book ends basically with her split from Taylor.  She doesn't write about her second marriage to and divorce from poet Jim Hart, although she does mention him in her acknowledgments.  She doesn't write much about her breast cancer battle, nor does she write about how it felt to become a grandmother.  But perhaps those stories will come later.

In any case, I really enjoyed Carly Simon's memoir, Boys in the Trees.  I recommend it.


Starting the day off with Vitamin Booze...

So... I woke up this morning after sleeping relatively well on freshly laundered sheets.  I went down to the kitchen to get some coffee.  Bill couldn't find half and half at the store, so he bought some weird Chinese "whipping cream".  I'm not sure where he found this product.  I can't imagine he bought it at the local store, but whatever.  I go to pour the "cream" and nothing comes out.  It's supposed to be good until February, but it appears to be solid.  ETA: Actually, it expired in November.  It was packed in February.  Perhaps it's been shaken so much it turned into butter?  I don't know.  But I ended up using Bailey's Irish Cream instead of my usual cream and sugar.

Yesterday, I took Zane to the vet.  Arran came along for moral support.  The vet was puzzled as to why I was there.  I told her I wanted to talk to her about something.  I think she was surprised when I explained that I worried about Zane having picked up a tickborne illness.  I told her about how he'd had ehrlichiosis five years ago and was treated for it.  But over the past few months, he's seemed to have slowed down somewhat.  He still likes his walks, but sleeps more and almost seems a little bit lame at times.  He doesn't want to go down the stairs unless he has to.  Shifting lameness can be a sign of Lyme Disease.

The vet agreed, and also said it could be his thyroid.  I had another dog years ago who had a bum thyroid gland.  Zane doesn't act exactly like she did, but he does have some of the symptoms for hypothyroidism, too.  So she drew some blood and will do a full panel on him to see if he has any issues we can address with medication.  I showed her the small lump in Zane's flank.  She said it was under muscle and I should watch it.  Then she expressed amazement at how I'm able to find these things.  She also asked if I was a nurse.

No... I just happen to have advanced degrees in public health and social work, a background in epidemiology, and way too much time on my hands.  I wish I were less attentive because worrying over Zane is starting to cause me a lot of really serious anxiety that is manifesting in a physical way.

I mean it.  Yesterday, I started dry heaving upon waking.  My heart was racing for most of the afternoon.  I could barely eat, not that that's a serious problem.  I felt like crying but couldn't.  My back was all knotted with tension so bad it radiated to my right breast.  I used to experience these panic signs more often than I do now.  I can't say I'm glad to have them return.

Even as I was enduring these symptoms, I kept telling myself in my head that Zane isn't MacGregor and does not seem to be at death's door.  He's basically happy, eats well, sleeps well, poops and pees, and takes his walks, even if he's a bit slower than he was a few months ago.  And I am doing what I can to help him.  I still can't help but think about the other dogs I've had who have gotten sick and not with things that were easily taken care of.  Bill and I have had bad luck with relatively young dogs getting rare and devastating diseases, so now I'm on high alert.

I told the vet that I was sorry to be so neurotic.  She said it was okay.  I think it must be hard to be a vet sometimes.  I read a blog post yesterday by a vet who hated his work and finally quit.  It's scary to think about how much money people put into their educations only to find out that they hate what they do.  This guy sounded absolutely miserable as a veterinarian.  He even said he hates horses!  I can't even imagine that.

It's probably a good thing I never had any children.  I am the opposite of my mother, who was pretty much what I'd call "underprotective".  She pretty much let me do what I wanted and never really cared where I was or what I was doing.  I remember she'd take me to the doctor only if I had some annoying symptom like coughing for days.  I would see her worry about things, but it wasn't usually me who caused her to worry.  She worried more about my dad and their finances.

Honestly, as helpful as Facebook groups about mast cell cancer and holistic methods can be, I probably need to stop reading posts on them on a daily basis.  Every day, I see pictures of dogs with horrible tumors that are nothing like what my dogs have had.  I read horror stories from other people and think that maybe this is what's in store for us.  But it's not necessarily, and I need to stop freaking myself out with what might happen and live for today.  Also, there are some very opinionated people in those groups, as well as some that are so into supplements and essential oils that my head spins in confusion.  I have to keep things simple for my sanity's sake.

Yesterday, I also got a private message from an old friend of mine who is a minister.  My mother-in-law had been attending his church for awhile, but then abruptly stopped when he made an unfortunate comment about getting his numbers up for when his boss visited.  Mother-in-law was not amused, even if it's a fact that my friend's job depends on keeping butts in the pews.  She also said his church was a little more contemporary than what she likes.  He wanted to know if she was okay.  I told him she was and I'd pass his message to her the next time we Skype.  It was a little awkward, though.  I didn't tell him why she quit attending because I didn't figure it was my place.

Since I have nothing of import to do today, I think I might finish reading Carly Simon's book.  It will give me something to post about besides my dogs and anxiety.

Oh, and by the way... RIP Alan Thicke.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Yesterday, I learned that British candy is "inedible"...

This is according to a Facebook "friend" I know from my days on  I wrote that I wanted to binge on British candy.  Several like minded friends were opining.  Then along comes a lady with whom I rarely communicate.  This was her comment.

I never liked British candy and would take my own when traveling. Their chewing gum is awful, too.

For some reason, this comment annoyed me.  I didn't understand why she posted it.  So I wrote this:

Good to know.

I have taken to posting "Good to know." whenever someone says something negative about something I like.  It happened twice yesterday.  The first person I addressed with it was smart enough to back off.  The second one, unfortunately, was not and continued with the inane conversation posted below for your entertainment.

Then a British friend wrote this.

Chocolate: not strictly candy!

And my response was this.

I liked most of the candy I had... except maybe the licorice.

Not taking the hint, the British candy disser came back and wrote this.

Yes, chocolate and candy. Neither was edible.

That comment annoyed me further, so I added this...

In your opinion. I love British chocolate. Tastes differ.

My British friend came back and cheered me on for sticking up for British candy.  Another British friend added her two cents.  Some time passed and I though that was the end of it.  I was wrong.  British candy disser came back and wrote this.

Yes, in my opinion.

So I wrote this...

Just so long as you acknowledge it.

Which apparently got under the disser's skin...

Of course I do. Why wouldn't I? I don't think it's a big deal though but I can see where I probably should have kept my opinion to myself. Sorry about that.

So I wrote this...

I just think that if someone says they really like something and you say it's "inedible", you beg for a response. :) But then, I hate mushrooms, so there you go. I also have several British friends and they like their chocolate.

And the disser made yet another reply...

Yeah, my British and Scottish friends also like it but they "love" our American candy and chocolate the best. Different strokes for different folks. :o)

I was really tempted to remind her that Scottish people are, in fact, also British, but decided I'd had enough of the conversation and simply ended with an "Indeed."

This time of year always makes me even more uptight than usual and that's certainly the case this year.  I've been worried about the dog's health and my own health.  Consequently, I was a bit on edge.  

As Bill and I were getting ready to go to sleep, we had a silly argument.  He got upset and told me that the other day, his stepmother posted about her seventeen year old dog dying in her sleep.  Everyone was posting their condolences, including Bill's ex daughter and Bill himself.  He was upset about seeing his traitorous ex kid on his stepmother's feed, as well as the fact that they were so sad over a seventeen year old dog dying at home in her sleep (because we would love it if one of our dogs could be so lucky).  I told him I didn't understand why he didn't just spare himself (and me) the stress and block or at least unfriend the lot of them.  Bill doesn't like to confront people.  I can understand that.  I don't like confronting people either.  Sometimes it has to be done, though.

In any case... I still love my British chocolate and will enjoy it at any opportunity.  And I will be pretty glad when the holiday season is over.  This time of year makes me crazy.