Friday, June 30, 2017

Random driving test memory...

Picture it.  The year is 1988.  I turned 16 that year and that meant getting my driver's license.

In those days, I actually enjoyed driving.  I remember my dad took me to the high school parking lot and taught me how to drive his Chevy Astro van, which had an automatic transmission.  Then he let me drive around Gloucester Courthouse, which was no small thing, since many people have crashed into the brick wall surrounding the original courthouse area.  Seriously... I can't find a photo of a recent crash at the moment, but there is a wall that surrounds the buildings which date from several hundred years ago.  It's been hit many times by folks who were either unaware or drunk.

In 1988, kids in Virginia were allowed to get their learner's permits when they were 15 years 8 months old.  So in February of that year, after having passed driver's ed, I took the written test and barely passed it, if I recall correctly.  I got my permit and spent the next four months learning to drive.  In May, I was fortunate enough to score a spot in the after school driving range.  I want to say it cost $75 for about four weeks of on the road instruction.  I remember the kids who were in that class with me.  One of them is a friend today.  We spent time learning maneuvers like parallel parking, which I still haven't really mastered.  Then we drove in the countryside.  I remember getting dinged for driving too slowly.

Unlike some of my classmates, I was able to finish the range part of driver's ed before my sixteenth birthday.  So when I was sixteen, I was able to take the road test, which basically consisted of a drive around a block or two in the Gloucester Courthouse area.  It was super easy.  Didn't involve anything like parallel parking or even backing up.

Last night, I was reminded that in Virginia, kids who are newly licensed have to go to court.  My court date must have been before my birthday, because I distinctly remember getting my actual license on the day I turned 16.  And I also remember the day after I got my license, I drove to a horse show and on my way home in the dark, hit a deer.  I did about $700 worth of damage to my dad's van and I was sure I'd be in big trouble.  Actually, my parents were pretty reasonable.  I remember they even comforted me when I showed them the damage.  I was sure they wouldn't let me drive anymore, but it was pretty obvious that I hit a deer.  There was hair in the grill.  Incidentally, to date that has been my most serious accident.

Anyway... about that court date.  People in our local Facebook group were surprised that in Virginia, kids have to go to court before they can get their license.  I remember having to dress up, showing up for the session, and rising for the judge, who proceeded to give us a lecture about obeying traffic laws.  I remember him talking about the speedometer and paying attention to it.  He said that if your speedometer isn't broken, you should know exactly what your speed is.

It wasn't a long session.  Basically it was just a reminder to drive safely.  I don't know if the judge's talk really does much to make teens drive better.  It seems like just another hoop to jump through, as some parents who are moving to Germany with teenagers are finding out.  One mom in our local Facebook group says her daughter has done everything she needs to do to get her license, but the court date is in three months.  By that time, they will be in Germany.  And here in Germany, you have to be 18 to drive, although some people are saying that American kids with licenses are able to get the DoD permit.

It was funny to remember that "driver's license ceremony".  I was surprised they still did it.  I had forgotten all about it.  And then it occurred to me that next year, I will have been a licensed driver for 30 fucking years!

Damn, I'm getting old.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Stalking my old crushes...

I really need to find something to do with my extra free time.  I suppose I could do some reading or write some fiction.  Maybe I could learn a new skill, like car repair.  Unfortunately, I was blessed with a very curious mind and a long memory.

When I was growing up, I had an enormous crush on this guy.  I'll call him Wes.  It's not his name, although there was a Wes in my high school class.  A lot of people liked *that* Wes.  I didn't.  Always thought he had unattractively big lips.  Also, he was really mean to me when we were kids and that permanently turned me off of him.

The guy I'm calling "Wes" was not actually a Wes.  He went by his middle name, which was a popular name in the 70s and 80s.  He now goes by his formal given name and is a doctor in a state far from where we grew up.  I haven't seen or talked to him in years.

Sometimes, as is my habit, I read the obituaries in the newspaper where I grew up.  Today, I saw that Wes's father recently died.  I wouldn't have necessarily known it was his dad, except for the last name.  It happens to be a fairly common last name in that part of Virginia.  Hell, there's even a famous 70s and 80s era drama bearing his last name.  I'm not sure why he decided to eschew his former nickname.  Maybe it's because it kind of went out of style.

Anyway, when I first laid eyes on this guy, I had a huge crush on him.  He had beautiful reddish chestnut hair and big brown eyes.  He was always dressed in style-- for the 80s, anyway.  I later found out I wasn't the only one who thought he was really cute.

My ex best friend also liked Wes, but later stopped liking him in favor of another cute, shy, very thin dude who eventually did time for drug dealing.  Actually, that guy, who was very smart and had parents who were pillars of the community, was selling marijuana.  He probably did it for the money, but there's no denying pot improves the lives of many.  I may have thought he was a loser for going to prison, but now that I'm older and wiser, I think he might have been ahead of his time.  But enough about him.  That's for another blog post.

So anyway... about Wes.  We spent about eight years in the same classes with each other.  I distinctly remember one time, Wes told me he would never be "caught dead" with me.  That memory never left me.  Nor did another one three years later, when he made his disdain for me cruelly obvious.  As we got older, he got nicer.  By the time we were seniors, he was actually friendly.  I remember we took a speech class together and he told me he hoped to become an eye doctor someday.  He was also in the high school choir, which he admitted he had joined simply to buff his high school record.  The funny thing is, I wasn't involved in music in high school at all.  Music later became a huge part of my life and is undeniably one of my gifts.

I remember coming home from college once or twice and running into him at the "wellness center", which was a gym that opened in 1989.  Everybody who was anyone was a member.  My family was among the first to sign up.  I remember seeing him as a college freshman and thinking he was quite the hottie.  He went to the university where I had wanted to go-- albeit for admittedly stupid reasons.  I probably would have liked going to that school, but fate has shown that it wasn't the place for me.  Had I gone to his school, I probably wouldn't have developed my gifts for music.  I needed to go to a small, nurturing school to accomplish that previously unknown life goal, and Wes's school was not the place to do it (although they do have a fantastic music program-- I doubt they would have given me the time of day, despite my natural talent for music).

Years later, I saw Wes on Facebook and noticed that he had gone to medical school at the University of South Carolina, which is where I earned my advanced degrees.  We had a brief private chat on Facebook and that was basically it.  He kind of dropped off the face of the Earth.  I later found out that he had become a gerontologist and moved to a state far from Virginia.

So... today I saw his dad's obit, just a few weeks after another school friend lost her dad.  I noticed he had a wife and two kids, as well as another on the way.  I know how old he is because we're the same age.  And, thanks to my ridiculous long memory, I even remember his birthday.  His kids are really young... and it looks like his wife is, too.

It didn't take much to find her.  When I looked at her picture, I thought to myself, "She's got to be at least ten years younger than he is."  Sure enough, I was right.  She's ten years his junior, very pretty, looks like a southern bell-- actually, she looks every bit the respectable southern doctor's wife, although I don't think they live in the South right now.  I look at him and he still has those big brown eyes.  But he's grown a beard and has a lot of wrinkles and grey hair.  He looks older than I do-- indeed, one person commented that he was looking "healthier".  That comment makes me wonder.  He and his wife look happy, though, and they have cute kids.  Good for them.

I looked at his picture for a long while and realized that Wes was right.  He shouldn't have been caught dead with me.  I'm a whole lot better off with Bill, who not only appreciates and loves me for who I am, but is much more attractive to me on many different levels.  Also, we get to live in Europe.

I love it when this happens, by the way.  When I look up guys I used to have a crush on, 99.9% of the time, I'm delighted I didn't end up with them.  I'm sure Wes is a good guy.  He's probably a decent doctor, especially since I know he was in his mid 30s when he went to medical school.  He had the benefit of maturity when he was in school and he must have really wanted to go.  Med school is not for the faint of heart.  I knew some med school students when I was at USC.  It's not an easy gig, even when you're in your 20s and full of energy.

My ex bestie, who used to crush on him as hard as I did, declared her disdain for him because she claimed he had done some cheating in their English class.  I don't know if that's true.  I wasn't there.  I also know that my ex bestie talks shit about anyone who rejects her.  My guess is that she hates me now, which is fine with me.  I never had any reason to believe he ever cheated, although I do know that he became very ambitious when we were in high school.  He made it known when we were 17 that he wanted to be a doctor and, by God, twenty years later, he became one.

It's amazing what happens when you get older.  I think you become a lot more interesting.  When we were kids, I thought Wes was so gorgeous.  He's still reasonably good looking, although I don't feel the old familiar pangs of lust I used to when I see his picture today.  I'm glad for that.  I don't know if this happens for everyone, but somehow I ended up with the person I should have been with all along.  It's as if fates aligned for us.  Maybe it was dumb luck, but I am delighted that I ran into Bill out there on the Information Superhighway... while I was at USC, of all places.  I am glad Bill is my husband and not Wes.

Wes probably had some dealings with people I used to work with when I was in school a few years before he went to USC.  There may come a day when we run into each other again, since I have a knack for that kind of thing.  I seem to have odd connections with people.  Or maybe I'm just more aware of them than other people are.

By the way, I'm about 85% recovered from my sickness.  Just some residual coughing now.  I should be fine by Saturday.      

She's baaaaaaack...

For most of yesterday, I had a slight fever.  It broke just after dinner and I started sweating like a whore in church.  Then I proceeded to sleep soundly all night.  I also slept for a good part of yesterday afternoon.  This cold is unusual.  Besides the usual runny nose, sneezing, and aches and pains, it's also given me the runs and made me very tired.  But I am feeling significantly better this morning.  My nose is stuffy, but not so runny.  I have more energy.  And if my freakin' ear would pop, I'd be batting 500.

I did some reading about colds and I think maybe mine was caused by an enterovirus.  Supposedly, they tend to strike more often in the summer and fall and hit harder than the garden variety rhinovirus that usually cause winter colds.  Also, I think I got this cold because I went to the caves.  There were many small kids in one of the caves I visited.  In another cave, I really overdid it physically and was really sore.  It was probably a perfect storm.  I went to the tougher cave first and was worn out the next day, when I visited the caves that had a bunch of kids in them.

Anyway... I do feel somewhat better.  Maybe by the weekend, I'll be well again.  Hopefully, Bill won't get sick, too.

Speaking of Bill, last night he told me he heard from his younger daughter.  Amazingly enough, my anger toward her-- which I have had for years-- has mostly dissipated.  She wrote Bill an email, addressed him as "Dad", and even wished him a happy belated Father's Day.  I'm sure he was touched by that, since it's probably the first time she's done that since she was very small.

She wrote that she and her husband live in Utah.  She's not working at the moment, though he's in school getting a degree in accounting.  She says she's going to write to Bill monthly.  I should mention that I didn't actually see the email.  He just told me that she wrote to him.  

I'm glad she's writing to him, although I really don't trust her.  I wish I could allow myself to believe that she's writing to him simply because she wants to.  I know that could actually be the case.  She might really want to reconnect with him because she wants a relationship with her dad.  But... we have seen this pattern before.  Her brother reconnected with Bill and then shitcanned him when we busted him trying to use Bill for money.  Her mother has a long history of making up and breaking up with various family members.  And although she has Bill's DNA, she also has her mother's DNA and she was actually raised by her.

Maybe it's not fair to assume that Bill's kids are like the rest of their family.  They could end up surprising us.  I don't know...  Again, I am trying to stay out of it as much as possible.  I didn't ask about her; Bill brought it up.  I find that I no longer have a need to talk about the ex or the kids.  Nowadays, when we talk about them, it's because Bill has said something.  

Maybe his daughter has matured.  I do have a feeling that one day, they will see each other face to face.  One day, she may even read this blog and it will cause hard feelings.  I won't apologize for what I've written, though, because those were my thoughts at the time.  The truth is, I have been very angry with her for many years.  I am much less angry now, but I still don't trust her.  She was raised by an excellent manipulator and has become a person that Bill doesn't know anymore.  We've already been burned.  Maybe it's not fair to judge her based on the actions of others, but it's also not fair that Bill has been repeatedly exploited and abused by these people.

I may feel well enough to do my usual Thursday chore.  I hate vacuuming, but I didn't do it last week because we weren't home.  Now there's lots of dog hair that needs to be cleaned up.  I do have a slight burst of energy that I could waste on housework.  Guess I'll get to it.  

It's a bit rainy this morning.  I hope it stays that way all day.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cursed disease...

Yeah... I definitely have a dreaded summer cold.  I was really hurting last night.  Had to break out an ice pack for my head because of all the sinus pressure.  I don't usually have sinus problems, so that was kind of a different experience.  Before bed last night, I loaded myself up with drugs.  I took Zyrtec, Advil PM, and Delsym, and sprayed my nose with Afrin for good measure.  Bill made me homemade chicken soup and hot tea and no booze.  I tried to go to bed early and managed to fall asleep at just past ten o'clock, despite the two hour nap I took earlier in the day.

Folks... I am definitely sick.  But I am actually feeling a slight second wind this morning.  There's a little bit of energy percolating under the surface.  Maybe I'll make it through this blog post before I need to crash for a nap.

I have been reading The Handmaid's Tale.  I feel ashamed that I only just learned about this book, which was originally published in 1985.  I actually discovered it from a very compelling essay I read on  I don't read a lot on Medium, even though they send me emails every day.  I'm not even sure how I ended up with an account.  But I do know that the essay I read about The Handmaid's Tale was fascinating enough to compel me to download it.

How the hell could I have been an English major and missed this book?  I was thirteen when it was published.  I know they wouldn't have included it in a high school curriculum-- certainly not in my southern, conservative, Virginia county.  I am surprised I didn't hear about it in college, though...  and I'm kind of surprised I didn't hear about it after college.  Now it's a TV show on Hulu, I believe.  I can't get Hulu because they got all shitty about VPNs.

I'll admit that I don't read a lot of novels anymore.  I think having to read as much as I did as an undergraduate kind of killed my desire.  I prefer non-fiction books to fiction.  I will admit, though, that The Handmaid's Tale now has me hooked.  It's very relevant, especially given the way religious zealots are now running amok.

Last night, I read one part about how the protagonist gets fucked.  That's how she puts it-- "fucked".  An old commander is doing the duty as she is fully clothed about the waist.  A more senior woman is behind her, holding her hands.  And they are doing this deed entirely so that the protagonist will get pregnant.  There is no love involved.  It's just a mechanical action intended to bring another soul into the world.  Kind of reminds me of the Duggars.  It's hard to believe their huge family didn't yet exist when this book was published.

Anyway... I'll probably be finished with the book soon.  I will probably write a review of it.  I think it's important reading and I'm sorry I didn't discover it until just now.  I probably should read more novels now that I've been out of college for 23 years.

Hopefully, this cold will go away quickly, too.  I hate being sick, especially in June.

Another funny thing that happened yesterday is that our German neighbors invited us to a BBQ next month.  They left us an invite in German with a post it note in English saying they would love it if we joined them.  It's a good thing we're not moving to Italy, since the BBQ is scheduled for the day before Bill starts his new job with his new company.  We've been here three years and this was the first invite, which is totally normal for Germany.  Last time we lived here, my German neighbor said she'd lived in our old town for twelve years and she knew no one.  It takes awhile for people to warm up in these parts.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Babies in classrooms...

Today's post may or may not be brief.  I am feeling a bit under the weather today.  I think I might have picked up a virus in one of the caves we visited.  I've got a scratchy throat, slightly productive cough, and I'm tired.  I will probably go back to bed in a little while and do some reading.  Hopefully, I won't fall asleep like I did yesterday and have a nightmare about moving back to Texas and renting from someone horrible.

Anyway... on with today's topic.  This morning, I read an article from about a professor who encouraged her student to bring her baby to class.  21 year old single mom Morgan King found herself short on childcare one day and had to miss her human development class.  She emailed her professor to explain her absence and the professor, Sally Hunter, told her to bring the baby to class.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Professor Hunter encouraged King to bring her baby.  Hunter teaches at Tennessee's Department of Child and Family Studies.  I would expect her to have empathy for King's situation.  It sounds like three month old baby Korbyn was well-behaved, too.  She reportedly fell asleep as the professor held her.

Still, as I read the article, my hackles rose a bit.  You see, when I was in graduate school, I took a course in environmental health.  It was not an easy class for me and it was made even more difficult because one of the students regularly brought her infant daughter to class.  The baby would invariably cry while the professor was lecturing.  It was very distracting.  Aside from that, I resented the fact that I was paying a lot of money to be in that class and had to share it with someone whose baby regularly disrupted it.

To me, it seems like a no-brainer to realize that babies don't belong in most classrooms, just as they usually have no place at someone's workplace.  Yes, I understand that shit happens sometimes, but I don't think it's right to impose your shit on other people.  I don't blame Morgan King, though.  She tried to do the right thing.  Her professor is the one who opened the door to imposing on the other students.  

This may not seem like a big deal to some readers.  It takes a village, right?  But what if other single parents, emboldened by the baby's presence in class, decided to bring their babies?  What if, instead of just one infant in the classroom, there are two or three?  And what happens when they start crying?  King's baby is only three months old, so she probably sleeps a lot.  No big deal.  But as babies get older, they become more active.  Would it be appropriate for a student to bring their active two or three year old to class?  How about a five or six year old?  Those kids need child care, too.  But can they sit quietly while the class is in progress or will they need attention?  Is it fair to force your classmates to tolerate your children in an environment where people are trying to concentrate?

I totally get that the professor's heart was in the right place.  Given the subject she teaches, it does seem right that she'd invite the baby to class.  However, when you invite one baby to class, you open the door for other single parents to take advantage.  And then, you don't have a classroom; you have a nursery.  It was nice of the professor to show kindness and empathy toward her student.  I would just hope she'd show the same consideration to other students who have paid to be in school and expect to be in an environment that is conducive to learning.  

I was surprised by the comments on this article.  One woman, whose opinion was much the same as mine, repeatedly got called a bitch and an asshole for pointing out what, to me, seems to be to be very obvious.  Many people said the commenter, who was sticking up for childless students trying to get what they paid for, was lacking in empathy.  One commenter even said "Jesus definitely thinks you're an asshole." to her, as she also accused of her abusing her "privilege".  I was heartened to see that the commenter stuck to her guns, even after the commenter who called her a bitch also wrote this...

Christ alfuckingmighty. Thank god you're ancient and you'll be dead soon. Yikes.

Triggered af by the mere mention of the word privilege.

I mean, wow... Are today's young people really so entitled that they can't see why bringing a baby to class might be an inconvenience and imposition to others?  And if you disagree with someone's assertion that bringing a baby to class is inconsiderate, is it really appropriate to make a comment like the one above?  For someone screaming about empathy, the above commenter doesn't seem to have much herself.  If you want to climb up on a high horse about being kind to unwed mothers, I think your point is much better made when your comments are somewhat respectful and don't include a death wish toward another person.

It's too bad the college apparently doesn't offer childcare facilities for parents in King's situation.  Perhaps that is something Professor Hunter can address.  Wouldn't it be better to create a facility where students can leave their children while they are studying?  Hell, it could even be a "lab".

College is not cheap.  People go to college to learn new skills so they can launch into a career.  There is a dearth of affordable and accessible childcare facilities in the United States.  It would be nice if our society addressed that situation so that students like King would not have to bring their babies to class and other students would not have to accommodate their needs.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Lady Stetson...

Back in the 80s, we had some fun commercials.  This morning, I was reminded of an 80s era women's cologne called Lady Stetson.  It was the feminine version of a man's cologne called Stetson.

This is a chick who does it all and has it all...  The music for the ad sounds like it was inspired by the song "Walk of Life" by Dire Straits.

For some reason, I had a bottle of this cologne when I was a teenager.  I remember it smelled alright, kind of like musk oil.  My mom probably got it as a gift for being an organist and gave it to me.  That's how I got a lot of stuff when I was growing up.

These days, I don't wear perfume very often.  When I do wear it, I stick with stuff I wouldn't be able to find at Walmart.  But I have to admit, the ads of the 80s take me back.  I remember when they were more creative and you'd see a thin, successful, sexy woman in her red sportscar.  She's just gotten home from work, lives in a beautiful home with her cute little daughter and dog.  I'm sure her husband is good at banging her, too.

Incidentally, the ads for Stetson were equally funny...

Sure, that man's cologne is what made the woman want him...

Oh lordy... I remember this one!  That's a pretty catchy jingle!

Most DJs have faces for radio.

I suppose I should be writing about something more substantive today, but I've already had to deal with getting a two euro coin out of the washing machine, walking the dogs in the heat, and washing a bunch of linens that will take forever to dry thanks to said two euro coin.  I need to tell Bill to check his pockets more thoroughly before he puts his pants in the dirty clothes hamper.

I was in a lot of pain last night after our very active weekend checking out caves.  We ended up watching a couple of movies last night, including Mr. Church, starring Eddie Murphy.  I think I was attracted to that film from seeing a preview on a DVD.  That's probably the first time I've ever ordered a DVD based on suggestive selling on a different DVD.  Anyway, if you haven't seen the movie, I recommend it.  It's very well done and even made Bill cry.  Of course, it also made me feel old.  If you watch the film, you'll understand why I felt old.

Maybe later, something will inspire me.  For now, I'm going to check on the laundry.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A review of Jessica Bradshaw's You're Not Alone: Exit Journeys of Former Mormons

As many regular blog readers know, I frequently hang out on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard, although I have never myself been a Mormon.  I started hanging out on that site because my husband, Bill, used to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He and his ex wife were converts at the end of their disastrous marriage.

Bill was once a fairly enthusiastic Mormon; when I met him, he still claimed to believe.  I think he had high hopes that the church would help him save his first marriage.  But over time, it became clear that the church would not save his family and, in fact, made his situation much worse than it might have been.  Unfortunately, Bill's two daughters became devout members of the LDS church and he pretty much lost them when he divorced their mother and later decided to resign from the church.

It is certainly no secret that I despise my husband's ex wife for many reasons-- many of which have nothing to do with the LDS church.  The truth is, what happened to Bill would have happened whether or not they had been Mormon converts.  My husband's ex wife delivered the same despicable treatment to her first ex husband.  She effectively influenced her eldest son to reject his father.  She did the same to Bill's daughters.  She will likely engage the same method if and when she leaves her third husband, with whom she has another son and daughter.  That is simply what she does because she's an abusive person who thinks her children are extensions of herself and uses them as weapons.

However, although I don't believe the church was the main cause of my husband's split from his now adult daughters, it's been my observation that the LDS church is an excellent parental alienation tool.  The importance of the church and its ridiculous lifestyle tenets-- its insistence on being privy to the most private aspects of a person's life and focus on perfect families-- made it much easier for my husband's young, impressionable daughters to reject their perfectly good dad as "unsuitable" and "undeserving" of them.  To be honest, I agree that Bill doesn't deserve his daughters.  In my opinion, they aren't good enough for HIM.  Fortunately for them, Bill is a lot more forgiving about his daughters' decision to reject him than I am.  He once had a very close relationship with them.  He is their father and will always love them, while I have only met them in person once.  I have no connection to them and I think their behavior is unreasonable and just plain stupid.

Perhaps my brief rundown of my personal experiences with the church will offer some insight as to why I read so much about Mormonism-- particularly about those who choose to abandon it.  Since I've been with Bill, I have come to know a number of impressive ex-Mormons.  It takes a lot of strength of character to go against the grain and reject one's family religion, especially when it's a very demanding belief system like Mormonism.  I have found that many ex-Mormons are very intelligent, sensitive, and open-minded.  I truly like them as a group of people.  For that, as well as for her decision to divorce Bill, I will always be grateful to Bill's ex wife.  Her decision to go LDS and Bill's decision to leave the church indirectly influenced my life in many positive ways.  Of course, had she not divorced Bill, I might not have gotten to be his wife.

It's indirectly because of my husband's ex wife that I "met" Jessica Bradshaw, who just published You're Not Alone: Exit Journeys of Former Mormons.  I read her first book, I'm (No Longer) a Mormon: A Confessional, which she wrote under the pseudonym Regina Samuelson.  I enjoyed the book and reviewed it and Bradshaw and I became Facebook friends.  I was delighted when Bradshaw announced her second book, which would be published under her real name.  She also solicited stories from her ex-Mormon friends and acquaintances.  I wanted to get Bill to submit his story, but he never got around to writing it.

Over the past almost fifteen years of marriage, I have seen firsthand what can happen when a person decides to leave a high commitment religion like Mormonism.  Some Mormon families truly believe in "free agency" and are okay with family members deciding for themselves what to believe.  There are many more families that can make leaving the church extremely difficult.  Some ex-Mormons wind up getting divorced, being shunned by family members and friends, and even losing their jobs or getting kicked out of college over deciding that Mormonism doesn't work for them.  Deciding to leave Mormonism was a huge decision for many past members; it can be overwhelming and terrifying.  Many ex members feel that they are alone as they make this monumental decision for their own lives.

Bradshaw's latest book is a compilation of stories by former church members who left.  Each story is very well edited and offers valuable insight into what makes a person decide to leave Mormonism.  I was amazed as I read about how each person's eyes were opened to the world beyond the church.  It was gratifying to read how many of these ex church members began to develop insight, empathy, and an expanded perspective of the world around them, even as many of them found themselves ostracized from their families and friends.

One contributor wrote about how, as a Mormon missionary in Japan, he experienced extreme cognitive dissonance.  He observed how happy, moral, and loyal the Japanese people were to their families and employers.  They were able to be this way even without the direction and interference of a church's oppressive lifestyle restrictions or strict "moral" code.  As the years passed, the contributor experienced a series of life events that led him from being an "acting Bishop" of a huge ward in Salt Lake City to a convicted felon who temporarily lost his license to practice optometry.  This was a decent person-- a good guy who was having a crisis of faith and could not talk to his wife, other family members, or friends about his feelings.  He started playing racquetball, took his new passion too far, eventually got seriously hurt, and was put on opium based painkillers.  He developed an addiction to the painkillers, started calling in his own prescriptions, and soon lost everything.

Many church members would look at that story and determine that it was the man's decision to abandon the church that led him to such disastrous consequences.  Indeed, when church members resign, a lot of active members think it's because they want to sin, are too lazy or weak to live by the church's rules, or were somehow offended.  Active members tend to avoid those with weak testimonies because they fear they will lose their own testimonies.  It occurs to me that active members who fear those who are losing their testimonies must also have weak testimonies, because if their testimonies were strong, someone else's doubts would not be a threat.

A person leaving the church often feels very much alone and may turn to habits that can turn out to be destructive.  In the case of the contributor I just wrote about, he turned to racquetball.  Racquetball is not a destructive habit in and of itself, but if one plays to the point of becoming seriously injured and needs pain pills, that can lead to a serious disruption of one's life.  Perhaps if the man could have talked honestly to his wife or church leaders about his doubts, he might not have experienced such a calamity.  Maybe he would have eased up on the racquetball and not gotten seriously hurt.  Or maybe the positive feelings he got from the drugs would not have been as seductive, since he might have been able to get a sense of normalcy and calm without needing medication.

Unfortunately, for many people, the church does not lend itself to open discussion or honesty.  Married couples must cope with less intimacy because the church is a not so silent partner in their relationships.  Important decisions about things like religious beliefs are not left up to the married couple.  The church must be involved.  And the church's involvement means there will be less privacy, pressure, and the potential for punishment and humiliation.  Many people who have doubts about the church don't speak about them openly.  Instead, they simply fake it.  They lead lifestyles that are not authentic.  They miss out on a lot of wonderful life experiences and freedom due to fear of disaster and abandonment.  Being "fake" is also psychologically unhealthy and can ultimately lead to unhappiness.

I have only described one story in You're Not Alone, but rest assured that the book is full of enlightenment about why people leave the LDS church and encouragement that there is life after Mormonism.  While the immediate consequences of leaving the church can be heartbreaking and devastating, most people are able to pick up the pieces and live better, more authentic lifestyles.  They make their own decisions and can accept their successes and failures as their own.

I've seen firsthand how liberating leaving the LDS church can be as I've watched Bill.  When I met him, he was living on $600 a month and thought his life was ruined.  He thought God hated him.  What a blessing it's been to have watched him blossom into a self-confident man who loves freely and enjoys his life.  He has plenty of money (not paying 10% gross to the church is a great thing), gets to travel, wears whatever underwear he prefers, and drinks whatever he pleases.  He is not afraid of being exposed to other people's experiences and no longer has a testimony that must be protected at all costs.  And although he was abandoned by his daughters, Bill has found out that his life is still very much worth living and he is free to do it on his own terms.  I'm pretty sure that is what Jessica Bradshaw's contributors have also discovered.

Naturally, I recommend You're Not Alone, especially to anyone who has been thinking about leaving the LDS church, but also to those who are in any belief system that has them in metaphorical chains.  I also think You're Not Alone is a great read even if you aren't LDS, although it probably does help to know something about the church before you read it.  I also recommend Jessica's first book, I'm (No Longer) a Mormon.  Five stars from me.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Don't hold your breath for breatharianism...

Over the past couple of weeks or so, a number of news outlets have reported on a couple that claims that they and their children live solely on air.  This practice, known as "breatharianism", involves getting energy from the universe.  I had heard of breatharianism before, but it always seemed a bit like bullshit to me.

The most recent news item about breatharianism comes from Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castello, a young American couple with two children.  They say they have barely eaten anything since 2008 and Camila was supposedly able to maintain a healthy pregnancy without eating.  Of course, this story also turned out to be bullshit.  The couple had told their story to a British content creation company, which then sold it to several major media outlets.  Ricardo and Castello have a business that teaches people how to live solely on air and apparently that was the motivation to give the interview.

According to the article I linked:

In their eight-day programs and four-week online video courses, which cost from around $200 for a video course to more than $1,700 for an eight-day session in San Francisco, the couple claims they teach people to "increment the energy" they receive through conscious breathing techniques and other exercises.

Later, they clarified that they do eat sometimes.  But they claim they just eat fruit or vegetable broth every once in awhile.  Not sure I'm buying that, since they both look pretty healthy.  And eating the odd fruit and bowl of vegetable broth for eight years would likely cause them to become emaciated.

This couple promotes breatharianism as a way to save money for travel and/or promote good health.  They allegedly went from being vegetarians to vegans and then became breatharians after a 21 day process.  The first week, they supposedly took nothing-- no food or water.  The second week, they had water and diluted juice.  The third week, diluted juice and water.  And now, they supposedly get most of their energy from the sun.  Ricardo and Castello say they don't make their children practice breatharianism.  Their kids eat what they want... for now.

Sorry... this is absolutely absurd.  And the fact that they have children and are supposedly promoting this lifestyle is concerning, especially since a Belgian couple was convicted last week after their seven month old baby died of malnourishment due to the parents' insistence on feeding him nothing but vegetable milk.  Baby Lucas was only about 9.5 pounds when he died; only a kilogram more than he weighed at birth.  His organs were half the size they should have been.

This isn't to say that I have anything against veganism, especially for adults who can choose it for themselves.  I don't think there's anything wrong with vegetarianism, either.  But babies need total nourishment from a variety of food sources.  The Belgian couple did not consult a doctor before they put their son, Lucas, on his diet.  They got their information from the Internet and people who shopped in their "health food" store.  And when Lucas clearly wasn't growing, they continued the diet until he died.

Breatharians, who claim they only subsist on energy from the sun, could be promoting similarly dangerous ideas to parents of infants, who need solid nutrition in order to grow.  And then there are people in the world who can't afford to eat and may see this ridiculous practice as a way to live without a major expense.

Even if breatharianism wasn't total bullshit, I can't imagine why anyone would want to forego eating simply to save time or money.  I can understand why people with eating disorders do it-- but why do it for any other reason?  Eating is pleasurable.  Good food is one of life's best treats.  I enjoy traveling myself, but part of the experience is the food.  Why go to a foreign place and simply subsist on sunlight when you could be enjoying the local cuisine?   

Seems to me that just the first week of the breatharian transition could be fatal.  Human beings can't live for long without water.  And yes, people who have tried to become breatharians have actually died.  I hope anyone reading this is smart enough to know better than to try to live like a plant.  

Friday, June 23, 2017

Marrying your stepchildren... part three

I probably shouldn't write about this again, since it tends to attract people who feel the need to chastise me for my opinions.  I'm going to do it anyway because it's on my mind.  And since this is my blog, I feel alright in writing my thoughts here.

Yesterday, the Today Show featured yet another story about a man who "proposed" to his girlfriend's daughter.  Some readers may remember that I'm not a fan of guys who "propose" to their potential stepchildren.  For some reason, it's always men doing this to women with little girls.  Although I'm sure there are cases where potential stepmoms "propose" to their potential stepsons (or stepdaughters), I have yet to see a case like that featured on a media outlet like the Today Show.  I have also never seen a potential stepfather proposing to a potential stepson.  Edited to add: 7/26, I found an article about a stepmom reading vows to her four year old stepson.

Anyway, this time it's Grant Tribbett doing the proposing to his girlfriend, Cassandra Reschar, and Cassandra's 5 year old daughter, Adrianna.  According to Reschar's account on The Knot's How He Asked, after popping the question to Cassandra,

“Grant got back down to propose to my daughter,” Reschar wrote. “He said, ‘Adrianna, can I be your daddy, to promise to love and protect you for the rest of your life?'"

Meanwhile, Cassandra's friend, a professional photographer, took pictures of the touching event.  Cassandra shared the photos on The Knot and then the Today Show picked up the story.

Not surprisingly, there was a flood of comments on the Today Show's Facebook page from people thinking this was "the sweetest thing, ever".  There were lots of memes and gifs depicting happy tears.  People were posting that this is what a "real man" does.  I understand why people think this is very touching, although I personally don't agree.

I've noticed these "proposals" to kids usually involve jewelry or a special gift of some sort. What little girl wouldn't want a new necklace or ring, especially if it's "special"? It certainly makes it easier to excite the child and get her on board with the new family dynamic, right?  It also strikes me as being more than a little bit manipulative.

But my main beef with this trend is that it promotes a fairytale "happy ending".  Fairytales generally have no basis in reality.  Let's face it-- unfortunately, a lot of marriages don't end up lasting.  I'm not saying Cassandra and Grant won't stay together.  I'm simply saying that it's definitely not a given.  There could come a time in the future when they'll split up.  If they split, what will become of Grant's promise to Adrianna?

Perhaps Grant intends to legally adopt Adrianna.  If he does, then maybe he really can keep his promise to love and protect her forever.  If he doesn't adopt her and this couple splits, there's a good chance he won't be able to keep his promise because he won't have any rights to a relationship with her.  Hell, even if he does adopt her, there's a chance he won't be able to keep his promise, although with the legal rights that come with adoption, he stands a much better chance than he would without them.

I shared this post on Facebook with the comment that I must be one of the few people in the world who thinks this annoying trend of men proposing to their stepdaughters-to-be is a bad idea.  I also commented that I didn't dare share my feelings about this on the Today Show's post, because I knew it would only invite a hailstorm of people shaming me for not being caught up in the romance of the moment.  But-- here's the thing.  A parental relationship, especially one involving steps, is not the same thing as a marriage.  Moreover, a man asking for a child's permission to marry the child's mother and/or "be their daddy" is disingenuous, especially when it involves special jewelry or another type of gift.  

What if the child says "No, I don't want you to marry Mommy."?  Will the couple really take the child's feelings into account?  Will the adults actually allow a child to overrule their decision to get married?  Although sometimes kids are absolutely right when they have misgivings about their parents' choices in partners, the fact is, it's not the child's decision.  In the vast majority of cases, they have no control or say over the situation and it's wrong to make them think they do.  

This particular story makes me think that Adrianna's biological father is not in Adrianna's life now.  If he's not in the picture and Cassandra and Grant are serious about letting Grant "be the daddy", I hope they plan to make it legal.  If Grant is truly going to be Adrianna's daddy, then he will need the legal authority that comes with that responsibility.  That way, if the couple later splits (and I'm not saying they will-- just saying that divorce is VERY common), Grant will have legal rights and responsibilities toward the child.  He has a better chance of being able to honor his commitment.

Besides the obvious legal and logistical issues that could arise from "proposing" to one's stepchildren, I think using symbols that are traditionally intended for marriage as a way of including a stepchild is inappropriate.  I wrote this in my second post about this trend:

Marriage is not the same thing as step-parenthood. Marriage is a different relationship that involves sexual relations and a type of intimacy that is hopefully very different than the relationship a stepparent has with a stepchild. A marriage proposal is supposed to be a serious thing and one that most people hope will be special and come once in a lifetime. Stepfathers who present rings to their stepdaughters, in a way, kind of pre-empt that special moment that may come later in the child's life, when she is a grown woman. Some people might argue that these types of proposals aren't really serious. If that's the case, why film them and put them on the Internet? In fact, why do them at all?

I also think that publicizing these proposals is a bad idea because, again, there could come a day when the relationship falls apart.  Since a lot of stuff stays on the Internet forever, these types of proposals can one day lead to a lot of hurt.  

Personally, I am a lot more impressed with stepparents who commit to taking care of their stepchildren on a daily basis with no expectation of accolades or attention.  I also think that it's best when stepparents have a basic modicum of respect for the child's other natural parent, even if that person isn't necessarily a good person.  The fact is, half of the child's DNA comes from the other parent and that is a very strong bond.  Many people want to deny that DNA matters, but I have seen that it often really does, for good or ill.  

I know that people are going to do what they're going to do.  My ranting about this practice won't change anyone's mind, nor will it change the Today Show's practice of glorifying this trend.  And, for all I know, this proposal will lead to a long and happy marriage.  I do hope that Grant and Cassandra have a good life together and Adrianna gets to call Grant "Daddy" for the rest of his life (or hers, depending on who dies first).  

I hope this romantic "proposal" works out for them and doesn't eventually lead to heartbreak.  But I also think that more people should consider the potentially negative scenarios that can come up later.  What seems like a sweet, romantic, heartfelt gesture can later turn into something heartbreaking, like betrayal.  When kids are involved, I think it's best to stay grounded in reality and not indulge fairytale endings.  Adults have a responsibility to look after the best interests of the children in their care.  That means keeping it real and being honest.  These "proposals" to kids are, to me, not always honest and they're usually more for the adults than the kids.  

Lest anyone think I don't know what I'm writing about, let me remind everyone that Bill "adopted" his former stepson (non-legally).  He promised to be "Dad" to former stepson and even paid child support for him after the divorce.  That decision ended up leading to a lot of heartbreak for Bill when it became clear the relationship was entirely about money and stepson went back to calling his long absent bio father "Dad".  Now that Bill's daughters are adults (who may or may not have been legally adopted by #3), they remember that Bill is their dad.  One has even made tentative steps toward reconnection.  So much for their "everyday daddy", right?  I can't help but have this cynical perspective about these scenarios because I've seen up close and personal what can actually happen in these situations.

Remembering Lisa Steinberg...

For some strange reason, I was reminded of a song from my youth yesterday.  I've already blogged about "Dear Mr. Jesus" on my music blog, but that was a pretty short entry.  I think it was short because besides being associated with very depressing case of horrific child abuse, "Dear Mr. Jesus" is an overtly religious song that kind of gives me the creeps.

Someone set this song to the Sims 2...  The group is called PowerSource and the soloist is six year old Sharon Batts.  They were from Bedford, Texas.

Anyway, "Dear Mr. Jesus" was popular in 1987 or 88, although it was originally recorded in 1985.  I used to hear it on morning radio right around Christmas 1987.  It was constantly played around the time that six year old Elizabeth "Lisa" Steinberg was in the news.  Her illegally adoptive father, disbarred former criminal defense attorney, Joel Steinberg, had beaten her on November 1, 1987.  Steinberg was under the influence of crack cocaine when he struck the little girl.  For hours, Lisa was left in the care of Steinberg's live in partner, Hedda Nussbaum, who finally sought medical help for the girl when Joel Steinberg went out to party with some friends.

Lisa spent days languishing in Saint Vincent's Hospital before she died of her injuries on November 5, 1987.  Officials noticed that both Nussbaum and another illegally adopted child, Mitchell, both had signs of physical abuse.  Nussbaum was not prosecuted for the events leading to Lisa's death because she agreed to testify against Joel Steinberg, who was convicted of first-degree manslaughter.  He spent about sixteen years in New York's Southport Correctional Facility, a "supermax" prison, because it was presumed he was at risk of other inmates attacking him.

Joel Steinberg was paroled in June 2004.  His illegally adopted son, Mitchell, was returned to his biological mother.  In 2007, a judge upheld an order for Steinberg to pay Michele Launders, Lisa's birth mother, $15 million.  Launders had initially hired Steinberg to find an adoptive family for Lisa, but he chose to keep the girl and raise her as his own.  He never filed paperwork to adopt Lisa or Mitchell, so he was not legally their father.  As of 2006, Steinberg had moved to Harlem and was working in construction.  He still claims his innocence.

I was a teenager when this case was in the news; and it was in the news every day for weeks.  The tragic child abuse case made "Dear Mr. Jesus" an especially timely entry to popular music.  Americans seem to have a high tolerance for schlock, especially if there are religious overtones.  That song was very syrupy and it struck people right in the heartstrings.  I cringe when I hear it now, although it does force me to remember this very tragic and high profile case. 

Hedda Nussbaum was a former book editor who was well-educated.  She and Steinberg were considered upper-middle class.  And yet, she took his abuse, which was so severe that she needed extensive plastic surgery to repair damage to her nose.  When she called for medical help, she initially claimed that Lisa had choked on food and her bruises had come from falling while skating.  It was later determined that the child had been lying on the bathroom floor for at least ten hours before Nussbaum called for an ambulance.  

It's hard to believe that this fall, Lisa Steinberg will have been dead for thirty years.  I remember when this case was news, seeing Hedda Nussbaum's tired, defeated face in magazines and on television.  Nussbaum's plight brought new attention to "battered women's syndrome" and domestic violence.  I also remember seeing Lisa's picture.  She was tiny, unkempt, and looked so scared and traumatized.  How awful it is that her short life was filled with so much trauma.

The details of this case are shocking and depressing.  It's hard to believe this couple was so easily hidden behind the veneer of respectability.  And yet the two innocent kids illegally adopted by them were living in filth and regularly being subjected to Steinberg's monstrous abuse.  I really think it's too bad Steinberg was released from prison.  At least Mitchell, now known by a different name, was able to escape Lisa's fate.  I read that in 2004, around the time Mr. Steinberg was released from prison, he was headed for college.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


I was so blonde in 1979!

My mom sent me a birthday card.  In it, was a Valentine's Day "card" I made for one of my dad's old Air Force buddies.  I drew it in blue ink on legal paper, which is now faded.  I can't say much for my artistic talents or handwriting... or even my spelling.  But I did glue the above picture to the "card" and my dad's buddy kept it all these years.  When my mom went to visit him and his wife, they gave it to her and she sent it to me for my birthday.  

In the picture above, I was seven years old and sported quite the bowl cut.  Back in those days, Dorothy Hamill's hair was all the rage.  I actually hated my hair like this, but my mom made me get my hair cut short.  Looks like I'm missing my front teeth, too.

I see I'm wearing a dress that belonged to my neighbor, Sarah, who lived next door to me when I was six and seven years old.  Sarah is Canadian and now lives in British Columbia.  A few years ago, I found her on Facebook and we reconnected.  I remember when I was a kid, I inherited a bunch of clothes that belonged to her, including one of her old swim team bathing suits.  I remember it was a red tank suit with white racing stripes down the sides.

Sarah's clothes were probably my only "hand-me-downs" because my sisters are so much older than me.  When I was born in 1972, they were 8, 11, and 13 years old.  So even though I was the youngest kid, I got most of my own clothes.  Some of my clothes ended up in my cousin's closet.  She grew up to be a lot taller than I am, though.  

As you can see, I really liked Dave a lot!

It doesn't seem like it was that long ago that I was seven.  Now I'm a lot older than seven.  Time really flies.  It's funny to see this innocent side of me now.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I lied...

Yesterday, I promised that today's topic would be lighter.  I totally meant to write a lighter post today. But then I saw the footage of Philando Castile being shot while stopped for a routine traffic violation last summer.  Supposedly, Philando Castile also matched the description of someone who was wanted for a crime.  It turned my stomach.

One of my Facebook friends is a police officer and he has a lot of opinions.  I actually really like him although we often disagree.  I wasn't surprised when my friend defended Jeronimo Yanez for killing Philando Castile.  For some reason, the jury acquitted this police officer for his outrageous actions.  There must be some evidence that isn't being made public because from what I saw in the videos, that cop really fucked up badly.

Mr. Castile did have a weapon.  He did inform the officer that he had the weapon and he was licensed to carry it.  Seconds after Mr. Castile told the cop that he had a weapon, we hear Yanez shout at him not to reach for it as he simultaneously fires seven rounds into Mr. Castile, right in front of his little daughter.

Amazingly enough, Yanez justifies his actions with this beaut of a quote:

“I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front-seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me?”

This so-called police officer was concerned about Castile's daughter's health because Castile was allegedly high on marijuana (which, I understand, doesn't tend to make people violent as a general rule).  So then he blows her father away with seven shots?  And she's sitting there watching it.  I wonder what kind of lasting damage witnessing that act of violence will do to that poor girl.

This video is clearly biased toward Mr. Castile and it's graphic.  

The girlfriend is obviously in more control than the so-called cop is.

And here is dashcam footage.

The cop totally freaks out.

Intellectually, I can understand that police officers have a difficult job and they put their lives on the line every day.  I still think this particular cop fell way short in what he was entrusted to do.  One of the things I like about living in Germany is that there's not as much violence here.  That includes the police.  Bill and I have witnessed them in action.  They do a lot of talking and de-escalating.  I'm sure that is mainly because most people don't own firearms.  To get a gun in this country, you have to undergo a lot of training and expense.  It takes time and effort.  This is certainly not the case in the United States.

I am generally all for showing respect to police officers.  But I must say, watching these videos made me feel outrage I don't often feel.  I think the jurors got it wrong.  I don't say Yanez went to the car intending to kill Castile, but he was clearly not in control and he made a fatal mistake.  He should be punished with more than just being fired.

I can hear the police officer is totally freaking.  He should be freaking.  He should be haunted by what he did for the rest of his days.  And we should all learn from this.    

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review of Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz

Hello again!  I've just gotten back from our whirlwind long weekend in Belgium.  Today happens to be my 45th birthday.  I have spent all day in an aging SUV, hurtling down various high speed freeways and avoiding traffic jams as much as possible.  It was kind of hellish, trying to get back to Germany today.  However, as bad as today's journey was, it paled in comparison to the journey so many others took to and through Germany back in the 1940s.

I don't know why, but it seems like I always read about the Holocaust at this time of year.  I just recently read The Pharmacist, a book about an ethnic German Romanian pharmacist who was corrupted and became a Nazi.  A couple of days ago, I finished Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz (2013) by Shlomo Venezia (Venezia also includes an interesting commentary about why so many Jewish people have places as their last names).  This may seem like a very heavy topic to be writing about on my birthday, but I wanted to get my thoughts down before I forgot too much... although honestly, this book was so gripping that I'd be hard pressed to forget much about it.

I've read a lot of books about the Holocaust, but none that have quite the perspective that comes from Shlomo Venezia, an Italian Jew whose family was rounded up and deported from Athens, Greece and sent to Auschwitz.  Once they arrived, Venezia's mother and sisters disappeared, almost certainly gassed immediately.  In exchange for some extra bread, Shlomo Venezia agreed to be a member of the Sonderkommando.  He had no idea what he was signing up for when he agreed to this special duty; basically, it was his job to help remove the corpses from the gas chambers and burn them.

This book, written in interview style, covers what it was like for Venezia to carry out his grim duties. Although he had relative comfort compared to other prisoners, he was there to see fellow Jews sent into the gas chambers.  He heard their screams and saw what they looked like after they were murdered.  He watched his colleagues raid their bodies before they were dispatched to the crematoriums.  One guy lied about being a dentist and was tasked with removing gold teeth from the corpses.  He found the work relatively easy at first, but then it grew more difficult as the bodies stiffened.

There were times when Venezia would run into people he knew.  One time, an uncle grew too sick to work and was sent to the gas chamber.  Shlomo had the opportunity to talk to him before he died.  He reassured his uncle, knowing that he was lying, but trying to comfort him in his last moments.  He gave him an extra piece of bread.  And when he died, he and his colleagues were able to say a kaddish for him before he was cremated.

Venezia was also in a position to see some things that other survivors could not have seen.  He witnessed a baby that survived the gas chamber only to be shot in the neck by a Nazi.  He saw a mother and son evade the gas chamber for a couple of days, hiding in tall grass.  They were eventually found and murdered.  He saw some prisoners try to escape, unsuccessfully, of course.

As the war drew to an end, the members of the Sonderkommando became dangerous.  They had seen so much.  The SS wanted to exterminate them before they could reveal all they knew.  Venezia had to use his wits to escape the situation and survive so that he could tell the tale of the horrors of Auschwitz.  While it must be a living hell to have those memories, we are fortunate that he is able to share them with the world.  I think we still have a lot to learn from the horrors of the Holocaust.

I won't lie.  This book is pretty depressing and often shocking.  And yet, it's fascinating and unbelievable... unbelievable that I now happily live in the country that produced most of the monsters who were capable of such horrific acts.  One thing I have noticed about Germany, though, is that its citizens fully recognize what happened and are very ashamed of it.  I have had some interesting conversations with Germans in my two times living here and many times visiting.  I even met one guy who was a POW in the USA.  Still, even having had those conversations and read so many books, it's hard to even fathom the horrors that went on during World War II.

Shlomo Venezia's account is stark, unflinching, dispassionate... and it's often very depressing and horrifying.  I still think it's valuable reading.  We really do have a lot to learn from what happened in the 1940s, especially given what is going on in Washington, DC right now.

I highly recommend Inside the Gas Chambers.  Be prepared to be shocked at the cruelty people are capable of... and heartened by the smallest acts of kindness and humanity.

Tomorrow's post will be on a much lighter topic.  I promise!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

In Belgium!

It took all day to get to our present location of Alveringem.  I rented us a huge old house that dates from 1670.  The dogs were warmly welcomed after their long ride.  I awoke this morning to the smell of beer brewing and the sounds of chirping birds and hooting owls.  I hope to have some new travel posts up today or tomorrow, but for now, I just want to enjoy where we are.  This town isn't particularly notable-- at least that I know of.  I think I chose it because it's not far from the beach, Ghent, or Bruges.  

Still... as much as I can vegetate at home, I'm tempted to do it here, too.  While it's currently cool outside, this place has a swimming pond that is also home to two fish.  We may have to try it out.

I think it'll be nice turning 45 here.  I'm a little leery about July, since July often sucks.  But right now, it's June... and I'm sitting in a beautiful old house with good WiFi.  And we were even visited by a cute little critter.

Good thing the boys didn't see this bunny!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mormon girl, age 12, shares her testimony about being gay...

Edited to add:  Natually, the church leader who shut Savannah down is now complaining about his privacy.  And the guy who posted the video is getting threats of Mormon Hell for sharing this.

And, of course, she gets shut down.  I will give the leadership credit, though.  They let her say a lot before they excused her.

Way to go, Savannah.  You are very brave.

I have never been to a Mormon church service, so the constant din from babbling babies is a little strange for me.  At my church, parents put their very young kids in the nursery.  I used to help in the nursery, which I was glad to do if it got me out of a sermon.  In my church, we didn't have fast and testimony meetings.  People didn't get up and bare their souls.

I'm not sure what will happen to Savannah's testimony as the truth about Mormonism is revealed to her.  Perhaps she will stay in the church and try to change it.  Maybe she'll leave it.  I don't know.  I just wanted to publicly offer my support.  That is one very brave young lady and she deserves accolades for what she did.  She's bright and articulate and will go places, especially if she gives up the shackles of the LDS church.

I realize that recently I have some new readers.  I hope these words aren't too shocking for some of you.  For a long time, most of my readers were ex Mormons, who are only too happy to read what I have to say about the church.  My husband is an ex Mormon.  He's a wonderful guy, but was treated like shit by many church members when he and his abusive ex wife divorced.  Later, the church was used as a parental alienation tool.  The end result is that my husband is only now reconnecting with one of the two daughters he lost to divorce and the stupidity of Mormonism.  And sadly, we're not even certain that the daughter who contacted him is sincere.  

I don't like Mormonism.  But I must say it's awesome that Savannah had the opportunity to say what she said.  They should have let her finish, but I'm very impressed that they let her get as far as they did.  I am guessing it was sheer shock, but I'd like to think some progress has been made.  And it will have to be made if the church expects to survive.

Bravo, Savannah!  I hope you get all you dream of and more.  And, if you are as smart as you seem, you won't let a manmade creation like a church tell you whom you should love.  

Incidentally, this is not the first time a Mormon has been publicly silenced.  Behold... a guy who speaks out about Prop 8.

Again... the Mormons don't want to support gay marriage.  And they don't like to be criticized.

Racist white people who lack empathy...

Last night, I watched a movie I hadn't seen in probably thirty years or more.  The film was called Carbon Copy.  It was released in 1981 and starred George Segal and Susan St. James.  It also featured a young and talented Denzel Washington, who was making his film debut.  I used to watch that movie on HBO all the time when I was a kid, though I didn't understand it as well back then as I do today.

A trailer for the film, Carbon Copy...

I was moved to purchase Carbon Copy because it had a very catchy theme song that I got stuck in my head.  With music by Bill Conti and lyrics by Paul Williams, the bouncy tune was definitely an ear worm, if not a bit dated.  Having watched the film last night, I can honestly say I enjoyed it.  It's basically a satirical look at racist white people and the stupid things they say and do.

The story begins with Walter Whitney (Segal) in bed with his frigid wife, Vivian (St. James).  She's not into him and he's frustrated.  He gets out of bed and we immediately see that he lives in a fabulous mansion in fictional San Marino, California.  Whitney is a wealthy ad executive and has all the trappings of success.  He has a pretty wife, a beautiful home, a well-paying job.  But money doesn't buy everything.

Walter's wife is a snob.  His stepdaughter, whom he apparently adopted, treats him with contempt.  His father-in-law is his boss and treats him with condescension.  Even his job was handed to him with strings attached.

One day, Walter gets a blast from the past.  A young black guy named Roger Porter (Washington) shows up at his office asking for him.  He mentions that he's the son of Lorraine.  Lorraine is a dear friend of Walter's, though he hadn't seen her in many years.  Walter's face lights up at the mention of her name.  He asks his secretary to send Roger in for a visit.  Roger comes in, parks his ass at Walter's desk and drops a bomb on him.  He's actually Walter's son!

At first, Walter doesn't believe him.  I wouldn't believe him, either, since Roger/Denzel doesn't look like he's biracial; but hey-- it's the movies, right?  Roger then convinces Walter than he is his long lost 17 year old son and his mother has just died.  Walter, being somewhat decent, decides he has to help Roger.  He brings him home after pitching the idea of hosting a black kid to his racist wife.

Both Walter and Vivian are extremely ignorant, condescending, and racist to the point of ridiculousness.  They wrongly assume Roger is a high school dropout who has no idea how civilized people live.  They serve him fried chicken and tell him he'll be attending the Presbyterian church, even though Roger says he's a Baptist.  They force him to stay in the garage instead of their home.

Then, when Walter and Vivian have an argument, Walter tells his wife he's really Roger's dad.  Vivian's reaction is extreme, to the point of needing a doctor and a minister.  In short order, Walter finds himself tossed out on the street with his son.  He's abandoned by his friends, his family, even his doctor, lawyer, and minister.

Walter and Roger move into a cheap motel, then a crappy apartment and Roger soon finds himself shoveling horse shit.  As he's knocked off his powerful white station in life, Walter supposedly learns something about what it's like to be black.  He realizes that his former life was a very fragile sham-- an illusion of decency and decorum.  Walter develops empathy and appreciation for his son.  He rejects his shallow existence and becomes a much better person.

Funny scene about assumptions some white people make about black people...

Carbon Copy is kind of a silly movie and it makes its points with over the top gags that require viewers to suspend their disbelief.  There were parts of the movie that were actually a little offensive to me today, although they probably wouldn't have been in the less politically correct early 80s.  And yet, after yesterday's post, I realize that it was kind of appropriate that I was watching that movie.  I realized that many white people still have a long way to go.

Yesterday, because I was curious about "Margaret", my very first roommate at Longwood College, I went into obsessed fan mode and looked up her brother.  I wondered if he was anything like her.  Granted, almost 27 years have passed since I was last in the same room with Margaret.  For all I know, she may have evolved into a decent person.  Still, her behavior in 1990 was very strange, even for a stupid 18 year old.  I went looking to find out if Margaret's brother-- also adopted-- was as big of an asshole as his sister was.

Looking at his Facebook page and the page made for their father's business, I can see that Margaret's brother works for their father.  He's got a bunch of public stuff on his Facebook page.  Some of it's fairly innocuous.  Like, for instance, I learned that Margaret's brother-- let's call him Chip-- is a proud father of four.  He's happily married and a Christian.  He loves being Southern and living in the South.

I also learned that Chip is a firm believer in Donald Trump's genius.  He thinks that transgendered people should be forced to use the bathroom corresponding to their genitalia.  He obviously considers himself a "gentleman" and promotes attitudes reflecting conservative values.  He's probably pretty sexist, too.

Further down the page, I find the following...

This one in particular struck me as idiotic...

Chip expresses some very ignorant and rather offensive views about the Civil War and the Confederacy.  I can see that he's clearly very proud of his Southern heritage and he's against the recent moves to get rid of Confederate war memorials.

Having lived in South Carolina myself, at a time when the stars and bars were still flying over the South Carolina Statehouse, I can see where these opinions formed.  To be honest, I am not a fan of trying to whitewash history.  The fact is, there was a Civil War.  The South lost, but that doesn't mean there weren't great leaders from the Confederacy.  Should we still be publicly celebrating them in 2017?  Perhaps not.  But I can understand why some Southerners want to hang onto their memorials, even if I don't agree with them.  They do have a right to their opinions, ignorant as I might think they are.

On the other hand, the Civil War has been over for a long time.  The South is a part of the United States, not an entity unto itself.  And while I'm sure Chip is "nice" to black people he sees face to face, I have a feeling that deep down, he's quite racist.  Maybe that doesn't matter to him.  Since I don't know him, I can only base an opinion on what I can see in the messages he broadcasts publicly on social media.

I read that Chip's father served on some board at UVa. that celebrates diversity.  He also served as a Peace Corps Country Director in Jamaica.  How does that jibe with his son's evidently racist views?  These attitudes don't form in a vacuum.  

I read up on Chip's mother, evidently a woman very proud of her Greek heritage.  She and her husband met on a blind date when she was working for Senator Strom Thurmond.  I happened to be living in South Carolina at the tail end of Thurmond's time in the South Carolina legislature.  Although he was much celebrated in South Carolina, Mr. Thurmond had some pretty racist views, especially in his early political days.  If Chip's mom worked for Mr. Thurmond in the 60s, she probably has some racist ideas, too.  I know that racist ideas often die hard, especially in older people.  On the other hand, maybe she's evolved.  Based on her Facebook page, which also celebrates Donald Trump, I doubt it.  

According to Wikipedia:

During his 1948 campaign, Thurmond said the following in a speech, being met with loud cheers by the assembled supporters: listen (help·info)

I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.[6]

There was a time when Chip's views weren't that strange to me.  I grew up in Virginia, which despite being geographically pretty far north, is a very Southern state.  I spent time with people like Chip, although I don't think most of the people I hung around with regularly were quite as drunk on the southern pride Kool-Aid as Chip appears to be.  But his attitudes are not unfamiliar to me.  When I was younger, I probably even agreed with them to some extent.  Then I left the country a few times and started getting to know people from other places.  My opinions began to change, hopefully for the better.  I like to think I have a broader mind now than I did twenty years ago, although I'm sure I still have a ways to go.  

It's funny that a silly comedy like Carbon Copy, which was made 36 years ago, is still relevant today. If you watch the film, you can see that it goes to extremes.  Walter Whitney tells his wife he's the father of a black son and, just like that, he gets ousted from his cushy lifestyle.  We all know that it wouldn't actually happen that way.  In reality, Walter's downfall would probably be a bit more like Dan Aykroyd's was in Trading Places, a 1983 film also starring Eddie Murphy.

Trading Places' plot was somewhat like that of Carbon Copy's.  Basically, a rich white guy gets knocked off his pedestal by a black guy.  He ends up living in a way he never thought he would, while the formerly broke black guy takes his place.  It's not quite the same execution, but the message is similar.  Many people have a lot to learn about empathy.  

Trading Places trailer.

Anyway, if you haven't seen Carbon Copy, I'd recommend it.  It's a bit dated and kind of silly, but it does drive home a point that is still valid over 35 years later.  And then, when you're done watching Carbon Copy, you can watch Trading Places, which was a more famous and successful film about the same thing.

As for Margaret and her dysfunctional clan, I think I'm done peeking into their lives.  My curiosity is now satisfied, probably for at least another 27 years.