Monday, July 31, 2017

Silly FB games... and leggo my ego...

Because I have way too much time on my hands, I often end up playing Facebook games.  Most of the games I play are on my iPad.  That way, I can kill time almost anywhere.  Right now, I'm hooked on Cooking Dash, Covet, and a new game I discovered last week called Choices.

Choices is obviously intended for much younger women than I am.  Basically, in this game, you are a female college student who is placed in certain scenarios.  Your choices as to what you should do determine how the story ends.  I saw this game advertised and thought it looked intriguing.  Then I started playing it and realized that all it does is make me feel ancient.

I gave the character my name-- which is what you're supposed to do.  Then, as I started playing, I realized the choices involved basically encompassed all of the worst stereotypes of going to college.  So far, my character has rushed and failed to join a sorority, gotten involved in an interracial relationship, dated a football player. met a gay guy, been kissed by a lesbian, and gotten a job with a snotty professor who has cancer and an estranged daughter.

The game developers make their money by offering interactions and/or outfits that require payment.  You earn currency every time you finish a chapter in the book, but the accumulation is not fast enough to buy a lot of the premium stuff.  So if you get hooked on the game, you may find yourself spending real money on it.  Personally, I think the game is kind of silly and, clearly, I am way too old for it, so I doubt I'll play it for much longer.

I'd rather play Cooking Dash, which requires some skill, or Covet, which is more appealing to my inner Barbie doll fan.  Besides, I was not the stereotypical college student portrayed in Choices.  I wasn't a wanna be sorority girl who was hooking up with football players.  We didn't even have a football team at my college.

I think Choices would be a better game if the developers allowed a bit more flexibility in the type of character in the game itself.  But I guess that would be a harder game to develop and likely would cost more.  I miss the days when you could buy a game, pay for it once, and enjoy it for many hours without having to constantly pump money into it.

Moving on to a different kind of silly FB game...

A couple of months ago, I posted about a guy I knew in college who unfriended me over a disagreement we had over a silly FB post about Melania Trump.  The other day, in the wake of our mutual college friend's sudden death, he sent me a private message.  Apparently, he had forgotten why we are no longer friends.  I explained to him that he unfriended me a few weeks ago, but I didn't rehash the (really stupid) incident that caused the unfriending.

He came back and said that I must have really upset him, since he never unfriends people.  Clearly it's my fault we're no longer friends, even though I didn't hit the unfriend button.  Especially since he doesn't remember why he unfriended me.  I suppose he just confirmed that losing him as a FB friend is not a big loss.  It was a very awkward exchange and, frankly, kind of embarrassing.

I also lost two likes on the Overeducated Housewife FB page.  I'm actually thinking about taking down the FB page, because it sort of causes me unnecessary angst.  I initially put it up so people would have an easy way of finding posts and/or commenting if they want to.  It has been a somewhat decent vehicle for that.  But it also serves as something to obsess over and worry about unnecessarily.  Yes, I admit it.  I have a fragile ego.

The hot, sticky weather is back... just in time for August.  Thanks to Zane and his tummy issues, I've been up since 4:15am and I'm already tired.  I hate Mondays.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Racism at the pool...

Today, Bill and I visited a public pool in Nagold, which is a nice town near us.  Nagold happens to have a really awesome public pool.  As we were sitting there marveling at how nice the pool is and how you don't have to buy a membership to swim there, I remembered the public pools I belonged to as a kid.

One was the Sideburn Pool in Fairfax, Virginia.  By late 70s standards, that was a pretty nice place to swim.  It had a diving area, lanes for laps, and a kids' area.  I remember my mom used to just drop me off there and I'd stay all afternoon.  I took swimming lessons there and some of my friends were on the swimming team.  I inherited my next door neighbor's bathing suit.  Suburban Fairfax County is a fairly wealthy community, so we had nice "stuff" there.  But even as nice as the Sideburn Pool was in the late 70s, compared to the German pools, it pretty much sucks.

When we moved to Gloucester, Virginia, there wasn't a decent pool in the county.  What we had was the American Legion pool, which wasn't nearly as nice as the Sideburn Pool was.  It was basically a medium sized pool with a deep end and a low diving board.  I used to spend a lot of time there as a kid.  I remember that besides being kind of sucky, the American Legion Pool also had horrible shower houses that were just flat out gross.  You definitely wouldn't want to pee there, which probably meant people were peeing in the pool.  I probably was, anyway.    

I remember it was super cheap to be a member of that pool.  It was maybe $150 for a membership and 25 cents admission per visit.  I knew the lady who was the manager.  She was a member of my church and was the pool manager at the American Legion for 37 years.  She had an Irish Setter named Molly who used to come with her to the pool.  The lifeguard was the mother of one of my friends.  She used to sing duets with my dad at the Presbyterian church we attended.  Sadly, she died suddenly of a heart attack in 1995, when I was living in Armenia.

What I didn't know back then was that the pool had racist policies.  Since it was privately run, the American Legion Pool was free to exclude black members.  I never knew about that until years after I quit going there.  I was taking a speech class my senior year of high school and a classmate was trying to make a case for why the county needed a public pool.  She cited the American Legion's then racist policy of forbidding black members as one major reason why the county should build a public pool.  I'm pretty sure Gloucester did get a pool, if only because my high school now has a swim team, which they didn't have when I went there.

I remember being pretty shocked that the American Legion Pool omitted black members, but then years later, there was a discussion on Facebook.  I remember one guy I knew from my class angrily posting about how he and his brothers weren't allowed to swim there because they're black.  Another friend made a comment that came across as flippant... clearly she hadn't known about the policy, either.  And our classmate was a bit snippy as he chastised her for laughing about the pool.  She apologized profusely.  I guess it's just hard for us to believe that even in the 80s, there were organizations with very openly racist policies.

When I was a teenager and could drive, my friends and I would visit the two sand pools at Fort Eustis.  Unfortunately, those pools no longer exist.  They closed one years ago.  The other was closed in 2007 after a small child drowned.  It's a shame, because they were like big lakes, complete with sand, and the water was frigid, which was great during Virginia's steamy summers.

Anyway...  Bill and I were very impressed by Nagold's awesome pool.  It's not expensive to visit.  It is very civilized, with lockers, clean changing areas and toilets, a lovely biergarten (try finding that at a typical American pool), and lots of fun stuff like awesome slides.  And you know what?  I'm pretty sure that nice facility is at least partly paid for by taxes.

One thing I love about living in Germany is that people are so community minded.  There's a great work/fun balance.  Sundays are for family time.  And many communities have great assets that are available to everyone.  Just last night, Bill and I visited two farms and picked up fresh eggs and milk. We were on our honor to pay for the eggs, while the milk came from a vending machine.  You'd never see this in the USA.

Yeah... I think it's safe to stay that I'll happily live here as long as they let me.  God bless Deutschland.

Next time we visit, I'm trying the slide.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Yet another friend has died...

July is historically a shitty month for me, particularly when it comes to people dying.  Ten years ago, I lost my beloved grandmother in July.  She was 100 years old, though, and about six weeks from her next birthday.  It was sad to lose her, but she had made it clear that she was ready to go.

Three years ago, I lost my father in July.  Again, he was elderly and had been very sick.  Although it was sad to see him go, I also felt relieved that his suffering was finally over.

This week, three people I was either friends with or knew of died.  Two of the deaths I wrote about the other day.  One of those deaths was rather expected, as the woman had been ill for some time and it had a very serious type of brain cancer.  One death was much less expected, although the woman had had cancer.  She had just told us three weeks ago that it was back.  Less than three weeks passed before she was gone.

The most recent death came out of the blue.  A friend of mine from college died in his sleep of a heart attack.  This friend, well known on campus for his musical and theatrical talents, had been living in extreme poverty for the past eight years or so.  His elderly aunt lives in the coal mining country of Virginia.  She has a decrepit house and there was no one to take care of her.  So my friend, Scott, moved back to his hometown to look after his aunt, who had raised him.

Scott had some unique challenges.  For one thing, he was very flamboyantly gay and living in a place where people didn't have much love or respect for him.  He was constantly looking for work and was limited in what he was able to do, since he had health problems that made it impossible for him to stand for long periods of time.  Although he was a very talented writer, singer, photographer, costumer, actor, and makeup artist, there weren't any places in his town where those talents were useful.  Consequently, he made ends meet doing jobs beneath his skills and talents.  He was also substitute teaching and attending an online graduate school through Liberty University.

There were a couple of times when Scott thought he might try to open his own business.  I donated money to him a couple of times.  But his plans to launch a business seemed to dissipate as quickly as they formed as the reality of just getting by would hit him.  I'm pretty sure the money I donated was used on food or medications for his aunt.  Or perhaps car care or home repairs.  It's hard to tell.  He had so many problems and was always looking for solutions that didn't involve moving himself and his aunt out of that black hole of a town they were in.  Even as I post that, I realize that he was pretty stuck.  It takes money to move and money was something he didn't have.

Just this past week, Scott posted that he had two job offers.  I was thinking things might finally be turning around for him.  Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.

I knew Scott had been under a lot of stress and I surmised that he wasn't taking care of himself.  He was only 44 years old, though.  Just a few days ago, he posted about the death of his geometry teacher in high school, who had only been 18 years older.  I wonder if Scott had a clue that his own end was rapidly approaching.  On Wednesday, Scott posted about 45's tweet about no longer allowing transgendered people in the military.  He was disgusted by it.  That was the last thing from him.  He went to bed and was gone.

I found out about Scott's death on Facebook.  I was about to eat dinner at a restaurant and a mutual friend posted about a friend who died.  I commented that I'd lost a couple this week, too.  My friend said he wasn't sure if I knew Scott.  I guess he didn't realize that Scott was in the music department a lot, too.  I was pretty flabbergasted at first... but then I remembered his comments about his ailments and realized that they must have all caught up with him, just when things were seemingly better.

Those of us who knew Scott in college, and there were many people, including a theater professor who seemed to love the theater majors as if they were her own kids, were pretty shocked by his sudden passing.  I am shocked, but not totally surprised.  Lately, he'd been posting a lot of hopeless stuff.  I suspect that he might have been feeling pretty broken, although he managed to maintain a sense of humor most of the time.

I wasn't that close to Scott.  He had a lot of friends who knew him much better than I did.  I wasn't involved in theater, although I did take a minor in speech and that department was part of the theater department.  I used to think the theater folks were an interesting lot.  I had friends who were involved... and they ran the gamut.  It was kind of like the cast of Glee.  There were some really beautiful people and some people who were misfits.  The theater group seemed to take all comers.  It was attractive to me, but I never summoned the desire to get on the stage with them.  I stuck with music, which had its own interesting characters within it... and was decidedly more straightlaced.

Anyway... this may not make a lot of sense.  I guess I'm just feeling like life is really short and you never know when your last day will be.  I hope wherever Scott is now, he's finally at peace.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Yes... this is "normal"...

This morning, I stumbled across another "body positive" post by The Today Show.  This time, it was about how Sports Illustrated used plus sized models to model swimwear.  Apparently, the fleshier models were well received and hailed as "body positive".  Some people reportedly "burst into tears" over the sight of the curvy women wearing Sports Illustrated's own brand of swimwear.

I looked at the swimsuits and didn't like them.  It wasn't because of the models, though.  I thought the models were beautiful and normal looking, for the most part.  I just didn't like the styles of swimsuits they were wearing.  I don't find them flattering.  Too many of them appeared to be giving the models wedgies, which is neither an attractive or comfortable look at any size.  Moreover, I think swimsuits should be functional and the ones advertised in this article did not appear to be.

That being said, I was taken aback by this comment...

Might have to play the bad guy here... We're not showing these models off in an attempt to show them as "normal" are we? Almost no one that looks like that was born to look that way. It's not normal. Of course we're all beautiful in our own way, especially on the inside. But I'm kind of over women (and men) looking like this and asking me to think it's okay. I'm about 50 pounds overweight right now and do you know why? Because I eat a crappy diet and don't work out at all lately. I would definitely never go out in the streets and be like "hey, you should accept me this way, it's normal and it's okay I'm still beautiful."

Uh...  I hate to break it to you, dude, but those women are certainly "normal".  The vast majority of women do not look like stereotypical fashion models.  Most successful fashion models are abnormal in their appearance, which is why they get paid the big bucks.  Most women are not almost six feet tall, weighing 120 pounds with striking features that translate in a photograph or on the runway.  Most women are shorter and heavier, especially as they get older.  Those women need swimwear, too.  Therefore, I'd say the women used in Sports Illustrated's fashion show are very normal, even if they aren't what some people would define as "model material".    

What is the definition of normal? defines it thusly:

This is actually just a partial definition.  I left off the ones that aren't pertinent to this discussion.

If the majority of people in a particular group look a certain way, we could say that was common, standard, usual, or regular, right?  So while people who are considered overweight may or may not be "healthy" (which is another rather abstract and relative term), if they are like most of the other people within a group, we could call them normal.  

I, for one, don't understand why the fashion industry prefers models who aren't like regular women.  Isn't the purpose of having fashion models to sell clothes?  Perhaps it's easier to make fashions look good on tall, thin women, but those women aren't the norm.  Show me a designer who can make a short, dumpy woman with flabby arms look beautiful and I'll show you a huge success.  

Ah... but people who design haute couture clothes are artists and have a vision.  Fine.  So the designs that are intended to be "art" that won't ever be worn by regular people may call for freakishly tall and thin models.  But clothes sold by mainstream retailers are intended for the masses.  Therefore, to me, it makes much more sense to see those clothes modeled by people who would actually be wearing them.  Moreover, it's not a bad thing to see a plus sized woman wearing a swimsuit.  Who knows?  Maybe that woman will be getting in the water to swim and, I don't know, get in better shape or even lose weight (if she wants to).

I get so tired of reading comments, particularly by visually oriented males who are only concerned with what makes them horny, lamenting about how "unhealthy" so-called "plus sized" women are.  The truth is, not a one of them could ever know someone's health status simply by looking at them.  Moreover, it's none of their damned business.  I could be wrong, but it seems to me that, generally speaking, men are usually much more interested in sex than women are.  So a fat woman doesn't turn a lot of men on.  That doesn't mean they won't take the opportunity to have sex with a fat woman if the mood strikes.  And yet they often have the attitude that women should look "hot" for them.  Have they heard the expression that "beggars can't be choosers"?

In any case... yes, the women in the Sports Illustrated swimwear are totally normal.  They have bodies that are much more normal compared to most models' bodies.  They look the way a lot of us American women look.  That's what "normal" means, Bub.  Now, I do think the swimsuits are pretty horrible-- especially the Sports Illustrated "lifeguard" bikini.  They aren't particularly flattering.  However, the models are normal, beautiful, big, strong, and yes, probably pretty healthy.  Don't like the way they look?  That's your prerogative.  They probably don't want to fuck you, either. 


A review of Survival In Auschwitz by Primo Levi...

Here's yet another review of another book about the Holocaust that took place during World War II.  I am finished reading about the Holocaust for now.  Too much reading about the mass murders that went on less than one hundred years ago is depressing and there's plenty to be depressed about today, without reading history.

Survival in Auschwitz, originally published in Italy under the name If This Is A Man, was written by an Italian Jew named Primo Levi, who was incarcerated at Auschwitz from February 1944 until the camp was liberated on January 27, 1945.  Levi was deported from Turin, Italy, having been arrested as a member of an Italian resistance group.  At the time of his arrest, Levi was a 25 year old chemist.

The original title of Levi's book seems to be better than the English title bestowed upon it.  This book is basically about what happens to good people when they are beaten, starved, and placed in an environment where only the fittest and luckiest survive.  With a dry wit and an almost dispassionate tone, Levi writes about the cut throat environment of Auschwitz, as well as the small threads of humanity and even humor.  If This Is A Man was originally published in Italian in 1947, when Levi was still a young man and Auschwitz was still a fresh memory to many people.  However, reading it today seventy years later, it still maintained a gripping hold on me.  At just 172 pages, this book packs a lot of meaning into a brief manuscript.  It was published in English for the first time in 1959.

Levi describes the whole dehumanizing experience of his time at Auschwitz with starkness and clarity.  He writes of how families were torn apart upon their arrival at the camp.  They were stripped of their clothes; their heads were shaved; tattooed numbers on the ones who were not immediately gassed; and treated as mere objects to be used.  The men who were incarcerated with Levi came from different countries.  They all spoke different languages and many did not understand German, save for a few words like Jawohl (a strong affirmative, roughly equivalent to "Yes Sir or Ma'am").

The prisoners who survived their arrival at Auschwitz were given ill fitting clothes that would never keep them warm, shoes that were full of holes, and the minimum amount of food-- soup and bread.  Levi writes about how prisoners would use their food rations as currency and, sometimes, come up with ingenious ways to make themselves slightly more comfortable.  Naturally, trying to make things better was not allowed; prisoners who were caught were made an example of as they were publicly executed.  Levi witnessed many people killed before his very eyes.  He describes the executions, again with a minimum of emotion, yet with grace and clarity.

Every prisoner learned never to trust anyone.  The smart ones never left bowls, spoons, shoes, or anything else unguarded, or it would be stolen.  The prisoners worked hard every day.  Under normal circumstances, those who could not work would eventually be killed.  Ironically, the ones who eventually survived Auschwitz post liberation were the sick ones.  Levi happened to be among them when the Russians liberated the camp.  The so-called "healthy" prisoners who were "evacuated" ahead of the Russians' arrival did not survive.  Sadly, one of Levi's friends was among those who left and was not heard from again.

Levi explains that prisoners who were docile and compliant were not the ones who survived.  The survivors were physically powerful, shrewd, or had a skill the Germans coveted.  Since Levi was a chemist, he was of use to the Germans.  That was why he managed to live ten months.  Many, many other prisoners never made it that long.  Some of the ones who seemed like they would be of value to the Germans were murdered, while some who were sickly lived for awhile.  It was as if the selections were arbitrary and careless.

It's really hard for me to reconcile the mostly good people I've come to know here in Germany as coming from the same people who could be so incredibly cruel to others.  I know now that this part of history is still a source of great shame to Germans and they have taken steps to make amends to the groups of people who were persecuted and murdered during World War II.  I am continually amazed when I consider that the Holocaust occurred during my parents' lifetimes.  I was born not even thirty years after these atrocities occurred.  It seems incredible to me.

But then I look at our world today and realize that these same horrors are going on in other parts of the world.  The battle is still raging, just with different players.  Maybe that's why I think it's so important to read about World War II and the Holocaust, depressing as it is.

In any case, this book is fascinating and extremely well written.  I think it's a worthwhile read for anyone researching the Holocaust and what it was actually like to be at Auschwitz.  Levi is very matter-of-fact in his writing, which seems fitting given how casually and arbitrarily human lives were disposed of during World War II.  I highly recommend Survival in Auschwitz (If This Is A Man) to all people who are concerned about where we could be heading if our world leaders don't pull their heads out of their collective asses soon.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A less polite version of "Get offa my lawn!"

Yesterday was an interesting day.  In the wake of my online acquaintances' deaths and the unseasonably cold weather, I watched as a helicopter landed in the field behind our house.  It was a medical helicopter.  I don't know that it was a "life flight" per se.  Bill says it was too small to be used to transport a patient.  Instead, I think it might have been delivering the doctor.  Here in Germany, if you call for emergency medical help in the way of an ambulance, you'll also get a doctor.

I don't think the guy by the helicopter was specifically giving me the stinkeye.  I was in my house.  There were other people approaching the chopper from the ground.

Anyway, that was kind of exciting to see.  I didn't hang out to see if they brought a patient.  I figure whomever it was deserved privacy.  I just thought the helicopter was cool.  

Bill then prepared a nice dinner of duck, green beans, and mashed potatoes, washed down with a lovely syrah from South Africa.  Just as I was about to tuck in to dinner, a couple of pre-teen kids (maybe aged 12 or 13) were walking past our yard.  As they always do, our dogs went ape shit and started barking like crazy.  It always annoys me when the dogs do that, but on the plus side, I never have to worry about missing the doorbell.  At least they've stopped barking at the landlords.

Anyway, these two kids, like just about everyone else who passes our yard and gets our dogs barking, just stood there and gawked.  I usually just sit quietly and stew while these people linger and stare through our windows and watch my dogs going nuts.  Last night, I was already a little frazzled, since I had just gotten them to calm down after our neighbor rang our doorbell wanting to know if we were missing any Tupperware.  I was also hungry, wearing my nightie, and just wanting peace and quiet.

Next thing I knew, I blurted out, "Fuck off!" and shook my fist at them.  The kids must have heard it, because one of them started laughing and walked away.

I swear, Germany must be rubbing off on me.  I'm starting to become like those cranky folks who don't hesitate to yell at strangers doing something that is verboten.  That is a very common thing in Germany.  It's happened to most people, especially clueless Americans who don't know they're doing something "wrong".  I don't understand enough German to know if people swear at me, but they're usually so worked up and the language sounds so guttural that they might as well be.  

Naturally, spontaneously swearing at the two boys made me laugh, and I spent the next couple of hours cracking up over the scenario that kept replaying in my head.  The laughing made me start coughing uncontrollably, since I'm still not over the cough that came with my recent cold.  I have a really offbeat sense of humor and enjoy profanity.  Also, it reminded me of an incident from the summer of 1993.

In 1993, I was 21 years old and working at a church camp.  On Saturdays, I'd go visit my aunt and uncle at their home a few hours from camp.  I had a shitty Nissan small pickup truck my dad let me borrow.  It was ugly as hell, but got great pick up and was pretty reliable.  Anyway, my cousin was in the truck with me one day and we passed a construction site near her house.  I must have been driving too fast because one of the highway workers yelled, "Slow down!" at me.

Although I generally don't make it a practice to speed, especially nowadays, I do have a hair trigger temper sometimes that makes me blurt things out.  I try not to yell out swear words, but sometimes I fail.  Before I knew it, I'd yelled back "Fuck off!" at the guy.  And then my cousin and I laughed our asses off.

Twenty-four years later, that story still comes up at family reunions.  Not that I want to go to any anytime soon, since I now live thousands of miles away from my family and most of them annoy me with their blind Trump support.  Seriously, right now, one of my many cousins is posting on Facebook about why Trump is right to ban transgendered people from the military.  He says it's because the military is a "killing machine".  Jeez.

When I laugh, I sound kind of like Spongebob...  It drove my dad crazy.  He probably wanted to tell me to fuck off.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fucking cancer! And guys who use Words With Friends to pick up chicks...

Sorry about the f-word in the title, but I'm feeling really upset.

Yesterday, two online acquaintances died of cancer.  Both were women who were much loved and will be missed very much by their friends and family.  I didn't know either woman personally, though we had interacted online.  One was a Facebook friend I first "met" on a support site for second wives and stepmothers about fourteen years ago.  I knew her story and she knew mine.  We both went through steplife hell, although her husband never lost contact with his son from his first marriage.  Bill lost contact with his daughters and we sort of faded out of that particular brand of hell and entered into a different one.

A couple of years ago, Pam found a huge lump in her breast that popped up very suddenly.  She went to a doctor who was very worried.  She had a very rare form of metastatic breast cancer-- a type that occurs in less than 1% of all cases.  After chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, she got another two years.  Nineteen days ago, she announced on Facebook that the cancer had come back with a vengeance and had spread to her lungs, liver, ribs, and shoulders, among other places.

She went into the hospital, where fluid was drained from her lungs.  She said it didn't help much and she was absolutely exhausted... so exhausted she couldn't even walk across the room.  She tried a round of chemotherapy, but it made her too sick to continue.  Yesterday, it was announced that she was going on hospice.  She lasted less than a day.

Last month, Pam posted pictures of herself with two of her three kids at graduations.  One just finished college and the other finished high school.  She was a very loving mother and often posted about her children and how much she loved and missed the ones in college.  It's hard to believe she was well enough to attend graduations just last month and now she's gone.

The other person who died was a fellow Epinions writer.  Beth and I weren't Facebook friends, probably because she found me too raw for her tastes (she was very Christian, but a peaceful kind-- not one to be pious).  She was friends with a number of my friends, though, so I became aware of her situation through them.  One of her best friends is a Facebook friend of mine.  For the last couple of weeks, our mutual friend has been writing beautiful, poignant, heartfelt messages about Beth and I've wished I'd had the chance to get to know her.  This particular mutual friend also has had cancer.  She's young and has a beautiful spirit, but she was stricken by ovarian cancer and plunged into menopause while still in her 30s.  

I didn't know Beth very well, other than through her writing and through other people's love for her.  I can see that she's left behind so many people who will miss her dearly.  They've been leaving messages of hope and love and it was much too early for her to die.

Both of these women died yesterday.  And other friends of mine have announced their own diagnoses with cancer.  One friend, someone I met at a karaoke show, is having part of her tongue removed this week.  She had already had some removed several years ago, but the cancer came back.  Another friend, whom I also met while singing karaoke songs, has been diagnosed with lymphoma.  Another musical friend has melanoma.  And both of my dogs have had cancerous masses removed.  My dog Zane is having two more taken off next month.  I don't know if they're cancerous.  They probably are.

I know it's been said many times, but I'm saying it again.  Cancer sucks.  I hate it.  I didn't really know either of these women who died... but I can see how much they mattered to other people and how much pain losing them will cause their loved ones.  I know their families will be burdened by all that comes from death, especially after extensive medical treatment.  I am grateful that neither Pam nor Beth will suffer anymore, but angry that they died way before their times.  My heart is with their families... especially their spouses and children.

That's about all I want to say about this right now, lest I get very depressed...  so...

Moving on to a less serious topic...   

Yesterday, I was watching The Karate Kid on Netflix, marveling at both the fact that the weather here is unseasonably cold and the fact that I remember seeing The Karate Kid in the movie theater when I was 12.  Once again, it struck me how damn old I am...  33 years went by fast.

Anyway, I was also playing Words With Friends when I got a request for a new game.  The other player was someone I don't know.  I am always up for a round of Words With Friends, so I accepted the game request.  As soon as I played my word, I got a message from the dude.

He started with the usual pleasantries, then made some odd comments that suggested he was either hitting on me or fishing for information.  I was already annoyed when he went beyond the usual "Hi, how are you." and wanted to know other information.  He might have gotten farther if he'd been playing words as he chatted, but he just seemed interested in a chat and wasn't playing his turn.

I thought he might fuck off when I told him I was married, but he just asked how my husband was.  I said he was "great".  Then he told me he's a single father and is currently in Afghanistan on a secret peacekeeping mission.  I immediately suspected that was bullshit, especially when he didn't seem to pick up on the fact that I'm an American in Germany.  If he's really military, that should have been a clue not to bullshit me.

Anyway, when Bill got home, I showed him the messages.  While I was showing Bill the messages, the guy sent another message about "trust".  I'm thinking to myself, "all I want to do is play Words With Friends" and you're wanting to actually make friends.  Which would be fine if the approach weren't so "hinky"-- but the comments he was making were making me nervous.  Anyway, I sent him to the block list.  I'm disappointed, because I really just wanted to play the game.

And finally, some hopeful news...    

Bill recently sent his younger daughter an email letting her know that his email address was changing due to his new job.  In his email, he didn't let on that he's been stalking her blog.  Instead, he said he'd noticed that her attitude had changed a lot since she went on her LDS mission.  He did ask her about the mission and apparently younger daughter's eyes were opened a bit.  She said she felt she had no right to judge, since people come from all kinds of circumstances.

I don't know if she's made the leap to realizing that her statement also applies to Bill.  Maybe there's more of him in her than we realized.  I hope so.  Anyway, she never brings up her mother or anyone else in the family except for her husband.  Bill says she's remarkably mature.  Maybe, in her case, a Mormon mission was a blessing.  

It's amazing how healing her contact with Bill has been for me, even if I don't really trust her.  The anger I felt toward her just a few months ago has largely dissipated.  I hope she turns out to be real, but I hesitate to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Time will tell, I guess.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Repost of my review of The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph over Cystic Fibrosis

Here's another reposted book review.  This time it's about twin sisters who grew up with cystic fibrosis at a time when most kids with it didn't make it to adulthood.  I actually really liked this book and would love to read it again.  Unfortunately, it's in storage.

Pros: Beautifully written story of twins who conquered cystic fibrosis.
Cons: Swearing and sexual situations may offend some readers (but not me).
Like a lot of Americans, I've been keeping up with America's Got Talent this summer. I had previously gotten hooked on NBC's talent contest three years ago, but had missed it over the two years my husband Bill and I spent in Germany. I was eager to see what kinds of people would be showing off their talents, or lack thereof. This year, Christina and Ali, two singing sisters from Idaho Falls, Idaho, peformed for America and shared that they were two of four siblings who suffer from the genetic disease, cystic fibrosis (CF). Cystic fibrosis is a devastating illness that affects all facets of life, from breathing to digesting food to eliminating waste. Christina and Ali had been told they would never be able to sing, since CF damages the lungs of those who suffer from it. But sing they did, and while I have heard better singers, the fact that they were able to perform as well as they did was astonishing to me.

I mentioned Christina and Ali on a messageboard I frequent, also mentioning that I had also read Frank Deford's incredibly touching book Alex: The Life of a Child. Deford's daughter, Alexandra, had died of CF in 1980 at age 8. She was almost a year older than me and I found her story very moving. One of the posters on the messageboard then recommended that I read The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph over Cystic Fibrosis (2007). Written by twins Isabel Stenzel Byrnes and Anabel Stenzel, the book offered a more recent account of living with CF. Now that I have finished the book, I can say that I was richly rewarded by the experience.

Isa and Ana

Like Alexandra Deford and me, Isabel (Isa) and Anabel (Ana) Stenzel were children of the 1970s. The twins were born in January 1972 in Hollywood, California to a Japanese mother and a German father and an older brother named Ryuta. It's hard to imagine it, but those were the days before ultrasounds and genetic tests. Hatsuko and Reiner Stenzel didn't even know they were having twins. Reiner Stenzel was a world-reknowned physicist and was out of town when his wife went into labor. She gave birth alone.

Days later, Ana had not yet passed her first meconium and required surgery to unblock her intestines. A doctor realized that meconium ileus was a sign of cystic fibrosis. Although cystic fibrosis is extremely rare in Asians, the doctor ordered a "sweat test" for both girls. The sweat test measured the amount of sodium chloride (salt) in the girls' sweat. Both tests came back with abnormally high levels of salt, which confirmed that the twins had cystic fibrosis. The doctor informed Reiner and Hatsuko Stenzel that their daughters had CF, ultimately a fatal disease that would probably claim their lives during early childhood.

Thirty-eight years later, both twins are still living and working in Palo Alto, California.  They are both graduates of Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.  One twin is married. Both have satisfying careers, one as a genetic counselor and the other as a social worker. Both have traveled extensively and both have had lung transplants that later allowed them to compete in the Transplant Games. Together, they beat the long odds that were stacked against them at birth.

My thoughts

I think this is an amazing book on many different levels. First off, The Power of Two appeals to me because I'm about six months younger than the twins are. Isa and Ana take turns writing chapters and they start at the very beginning of their lives. Although I don't have CF, I am a child of the 70s and 80s, so I understood a lot of the cultural references they made and felt like I could relate to them as peers.

I was fascinated by the story of how their parents, two immigrants who came from very different places, met in America and became a couple. Both Hatsuko and Reiner Stenzel were very much affected by the horrors of World War II. They left their homelands for something better in the United States and ended up getting married. The odds that they would both carry the defective gene for cystic fibrosis were very slim. CF is almost unheard of in Asians. When the twins' mother, Hatsuko, called her own mother in Tokyo to enquire about her heritage, she was assured that the defective gene must have come from her father, who had died in Siberia as a prisoner. Somewhere along the line, Hatsuko's father must have had a Caucasian relative.

Twins are fascinating to read about anyway, since they often have their own languages and ability to relate to each other. Isa and Ana were very close to each other for another reason; they relied on each other for the vital percussive therapy that allowed them to keep their lungs clear of the deadly mucous that collects in the lungs of CF patients.

And, as it turns out, Isabel Stenzel and I have something in common. We both earned dual master's degrees in social work and public health. And while I am not primarily of German descent, I did just spend two years living in the twins' father's homeland.

Isabel and Anabel are excellent writers. They don't hold back as they describe what it's like to have cystic fibrosis. They very honestly convey the frustration they felt at always being sick, yet they also strived to not allow their illness to hold them back from chasing their dreams. I found myself marveling at all they were able to do as youngsters. I also admired how much they value their lives, even as they admitted to how much suffering they endured due to their disease.

I will warn that those with delicate sensibilities regarding language may not like that the twins liberally use profanity. Personally, I thought the profanity was certainly justified, given their situation. It also gave their voices a touch of realism and made them seem very human. But if swearing offends you, be advised that they don't hold back at all. They also include some frank discussion about sex. Again, I liked this aspect of the book, but realize that some readers might not appreciate it.

The Power of Two includes a photo section. One of the most riveting photos in this book is that of Isabel post lung transplant, saying goodbye to the scarred, diseased, terribly damaged lungs that had miraculously sustained her for over thirty years. These women had spent their lives watching their friends die of cystic fibrosis. They knew that having a transplant was also no guarantee that things would get better. People who have transplants must suppress their immune systems to prevent rejection of the new organ. They knew that they were trading one health problem for another and, in fact, had seen several friends with CF die after their lung transplants. And yet, their healthy new lungs did give them new lives, and allowed them the opportunity to educate others about this disease and give them hope.


I definitely recommend The Power of Two because it's a fascinating story on so many levels. Certainly, it's good reading for anyone whose life has been touched by cystic fibrosis. It's also a good book for those who are interested in a story of how World War II impacted lives. And people who are twins may also like this book because of the insight these women give into their experiences as twins with CF.

This is a powerful, inspirational book. It gets five big stars from me.

I just discovered yet another mega family...

As the world ponders how Jill Dillard is doing in the wake of her second son's birth, I discovered another gigantic family yesterday.  It happened when I was watching Netflix yesterday afternoon and I saw a show called Megafamilies.  Three huge families were profiled, including one in India with 161 people in it and the Maher family of Ireland.

The family that caught my attention, though, was the Cason family.  At the time the show was filmed, they were a family of 18, living in California.  Christi Cason had sixteen children; her two eldest were from a different relationship and the following fourteen were from her marriage to Dave Cason. This enormous family was living in a three bedroom home.  As the camera panned around the residence, I could see that the house appeared to be in poor repair.  One of the kids lamented about having just one bathroom.  More than once, she said it "sucks".

The Cason family eventually moved to a larger home with five bedrooms and three bathrooms.  I'm guessing the new house was in California, since it looked like they moved themselves and had to make a couple of trips.  But I have since read that they moved to Indiana, where living expenses are lower.  Christi Cason stays at home with the children while her husband works.

This report is about the Casons' 17th child.  They have since had another.

Since the show aired, the Casons have had two more kids and are apparently trying for another.  Christi Cason even used Clomid to get pregnant with her 17th child.  I hesitate to tell people how many children they should have.  In fact, I found the Casons kind of refreshing in that they aren't really religious folks like the Duggars.  On the other hand, I gather Christi is about my age and I can't even begin to fathom what would make someone have so many kids.  I mean, I know some people really love children and enjoy being parents, but it just seems like so much work.  I like peace and quiet, and while I'm not the cleanest person in the world, I do like things to be somewhat clean.

Several of the kids were asked if they wanted to have huge families themselves and they all said "no" with resounding conviction.  It sounds like the Casons aren't pushing their kids to live their lifestyle, which is commendable.  Not everyone should have a huge family.  Some people don't have the temperament for it.  Some people are not physically capable of it.  And very few people can legitimately afford it.

Anyway, I don't know much about the Cason family.  They seem like nice enough people.  I don't get having enormous families, but it's not my life.  I do think it's kind of crazy to take Clomid when you've already got sixteen kids.  Then again, it's not my life or my body.  Who am I to judge?  But it does seem exhausting to me.  I wouldn't want to do it.

I don't know what's going on with Jill Dillard right now, but there is speculation that her second birth may have been fraught with complications.  Some people are saying that Jill might have tried to labor at home for too long and suffered medical issues that might make having more kids dangerous or even impossible.  I'm definitely not saying I know what went wrong, because I don't.  I'm only saying that the Dillards are strangely quiet...  I remember when Jill was pregnant with her first child, Israel, and there was a new baby bump picture every day.  She was much quieter with Sam and there's been mostly radio silence from the Dillards since he entered the world on July 8th.

I guess we'll see what happens.  Jill is the same person who asked poor Jinger if she was pregnant mere weeks after her wedding.  I will never forget the look of utter shock on Jinger's face at that.  So if Jill is done having babies, it'll probably be pretty awful for her.  I can't say I'm a Duggar fan, per se, but I don't wish any of them ill.

Incidentally, I watched Jesus Camp again yesterday and was disturbed anew.  It's hard to believe that documentary was new in 2006.  The years are flying by.  And extreme religion is still flourishing.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Stories like this one make me so glad I don't work...

I just read a completely ridiculous story about a woman whose co-worker reported her to human resources.  Her sin?  She was using a hot water bottle to ease menstrual cramps that weren't being helped by naproxen (personally, I use ibuprofen when I have cramps and it seems to work better than naproxen).

As the story goes, the woman had the hot water bottle against her abdomen when her "sort of" supervisor comes up and asks her if she's cold.  She says she's not; she's using the hot water bottle for pain relief.  The guy looks horrified, then walks away.  Next thing she knows, she's getting a message from human resources wanting to know if she's sick.

After explaining that she has menstrual cramps, the HR worker tells her she shouldn't disclose medical problems to her co-workers because it's "unprofessional".  Next she gets told that if she needs a hot water bottle for pain relief, she should go home.

I'm guessing by the language in this piece that this story is taking place in either England or Australia.  It's actually pretty shocking to me that in this day and age, some guy doesn't understand that healthy women of childbearing age have periods and sometimes they hurt.  Heat helps reduce cramping.  So does masturbation, although engaging in that on the job would be far less professional than simply using a hot water bottle.

What was even more shocking were the comments posted on George Takei's post about this...  All of these were made by men.

Pissing blood?  Uh... no.  And she didn't tell him about the period until he asked what was wrong.  God forbid we expect men to be grown up enough to handle the truth.

All she was doing was sitting at her desk, doing her work.  If the guy hadn't asked her about the water bottle, he would have been spared hearing about her *gasp* menstrual cramps!

No comment.

Manspreading?  Yeah, that's totally the same as a period.  Idiot.

Several other people claimed that menstrual cramps are a "myth".  I can assure any men reading this post that cramps are a thing and they do hurt.  They hurt some women worse than others.  I've been lucky in that mine are not usually too bad.  I am grateful for over the counter availability of ibuprofen, which knocks those prostaglandins on their asses.  Other women are not so lucky and they have pain that is actually crippling and makes them vomit.  I had one friend who ended up in bed every month due to severe cramps caused by endometriosis.  

Evidently, the woman's co-worker is himself a bit of a wuss when it comes to pain.  He's been known to lie on his back during meetings due to back pain.  And he's uncomfortable because his female co-worker uses a hot water bottle to ease her cramps?  I presume she was sitting at her desk and not making a spectacle out of herself.  Seems to me that the co-worker could have just minded his own damn business and none of this would have happened, including his "discomfort" at hearing about her period.  I tend to be against misandry, but I can totally see why women think men are stupid about this stuff. 

No wonder we have so many moronic euphemisms for periods.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Depression doesn't discriminate...

I have to write a quick vent right now, while this thought is in my head.  Depression doesn't discriminate.  Suicide may seem selfish, but so is expecting someone to suffer with the pain and stigma mental illness so you don't have to feel guilty.

This topic comes up in the wake of Linkin Park's lead singer Chester Bennington's suicide.  Someone I know thinks Bennington is "selfish" for killing himself.  Furthermore, he complains that people are so distraught over Bennington's suicide, yet they don't care about all of the veteran suicides.

First off, allow me to say this...  People who are depressed enough to kill themselves are generally clinically depressed.  Clinical depression is a legitimate illness, same as any other physical malady.  A person who commits suicide, by and large, isn't doing it be an asshole.  Suicide is often a desperate act of someone who hopes to escape tremendous pain.  It may seem suicide is "selfish", but the reality is, a person who commits suicide won't be around to see the aftereffect that action has on others.  They just want the pain to stop.  And those who say they are being selfish probably haven't done a damned thing to help them.

Secondly, anyone can get depressed.  Someone like Chester Bennington, who was a celebrity and presumably had a comfortable life, certainly can get depressed.  Imagine what it must be like to be a very talented musician who is fortunate enough to be able to make that talent pay enough to live on.  Now consider that musicians are artists.  Many artists are introverted.  Maybe it seems like it's cool to be famous, but consider that if you are a private person who is inwardly focused, it might actually be exhausting to be so well-known.  A famous person doesn't have the luxury of being able to go out and be a normal person without being recognized.  A famous person has to worry about security and privacy.  A person with a lot of money has to worry about being ripped off.  That person may need help and will likely have to hire someone... and that requires being able to trust them.  A famous person is vulnerable in ways that regular people are not.

Now... this isn't to take away from the serious problem regarding military personnel who kill themselves.  People should be concerned about veterans who come home mentally ill.  We should be doing more to help them.  I simply want to point out that depression doesn't discriminate.  Everyone has problems.  Diminishing someone's problems because they happen to be rich and/or famous is short-sighted.

Life is hard.  It's harder for some people than it is for others.  Still, it's hard to know what will drive someone to desperation.  Everyone has a threshold and everyone has limits.

I don't know Chester Bennington that well, but I have been clinically depressed before and I have been suicidal.  Depression messes up your thinking and skews your perceptions.  It's mentally, emotionally, and physically painful and it gets precious little respect from the general public.  If you are tempted to say someone is "selfish"for killing themselves, particularly if it's not a friend or a family member, ask yourself if you did anything to help them.  My guess is that you haven't, and you have no right to judge.  

I look at suicide caused by depression as a negative end result of an illness.  It's not so different than someone dying of cancer.

You never know what will trigger people...

The other day, I was watching YouTube videos and I came across this one featuring a young Kristie Phillips doing a floor exercise routine.

This video is from 1986, when Kristie was about 14 and everyone thought she was the next Mary Lou Retton.

Kristie Phillips is my age.  I used to watch her do gymnastics on TV all the time, even though I can't so much as turn a cartwheel myself.  It's weird to see this video from '86 and notice how poor the quality of the picture is.  It doesn't seem like 1986 was that long ago.  Beware kids; time really flies.  I am, by the way, still a fan of Kristie's.  Check her out on YouTube.  She's still doing gymnastics.

Anyway, someone commented on YouTube that Kristie looked kind of naked in the video.  I hadn't noticed before I saw that comment, but sure enough, she kind of does look nude when the camera pans out and you see a shadow between her legs suggesting pubes.  The greyish-white leotard against her really pale skin, coupled with the fuzzy picture from the poor video, does kind of make her look like she's not wearing anything.

I shared the video and commented that Kristie looks a bit naked.  She probably didn't look naked when the video was clear, but a little snow on the screen can distort things.  Next thing I know, I've been unfriended by someone.  It was not someone I have a lot of dealings with; in fact, I just now figured out who did it.

A few years ago, I got added by a bunch of ex Mormons on Facebook.  Gradually, as the years have passed, some of these people have fallen off my friends list.  Usually, they ditch me, but sometimes I drop them.  It happens.  You realize you have nothing in common.  Or you just decide to downsize your list of friends for whatever reason.  Or someone says or does something offensive or is too religious or political and you just can't abide it anymore...

I remember the person who most recently unfriended me had mentioned that she had been abused as a child and is very sensitive to certain subject matter.  Indeed, she was once in my Random Bullshit group on Facebook and left abruptly when I posted this...

Kermit the Frog is in Lego jail...

Apparently, a picture of a Kermit the Frog stuffed toy held down by Legos was too triggering for her and she had to leave our group.  I hesitate to judge the lady for being disturbed by this, though.  I am, after all, disturbed by pictures of mushrooms.  Incidentally, some mushrooms also look kind of obscene.

See what I mean?

Well, after she left my group, we remained "friends" for a bit longer.  I'd say it's been at least a year or so.  And then with a random poor quality video of teenaged Kristie Phillips doing gymnastics in a pale leotard and my comment that Kristie looks naked, she'd finally had enough and vanished.  

I'm not really offended, actually, since it wasn't someone I knew personally.  I have no idea what was in her past that makes her feel so skeeved out over this stuff.  I'm sorry I inadvertently triggered her.  It certainly wasn't intentional.  On the other hand, you have to do what is best for yourself.  There's no doubt that I would have triggered her again at some point, so it's probably for the best that she removed herself from my list.  

Once again, I wish Facebook would let people hide their friend count from themselves.  I don't need to know exactly how many "friends" are on my list or when they've finally had enough of me.  

I noticed yesterday, after I posted my TMI story about Bill's and my "failure to connect", someone unliked my Facebook page for this blog.  It kind of made me feel bad, even though I understand it's not really personal.  Once again, I recognize that my humor isn't for everyone and plenty of people don't like me.  On the other hand, once again, I'm reminded that real friends... the kind who actually know you and your history... are hard to come by these days.  I think social media has made them even harder to find.

At one time, when you made a friend, you usually made them the old fashioned way.  You'd often have to meet them face to face.  Sure, people had pen pals back in the day and some people kept in touch with phone calls and letters after a long distance move.  But, for the most part, having friends meant staying geographically nearby and seeing them face to face on a regular basis.  

Now that we have Facebook, we can be "friends" with people we've never actually met and don't really know.  I do have a few people on my list that I haven't met but still feel like a real friendship has developed.  I have a few friends I knew at an earlier time but feel like I don't know anymore.  And I also have some friends I knew casually twenty years ago, but feel more connected to now.  As always, there are also some people on my Facebook friends list who are now and will probably always be strangers to me.

I don't know what happened to this woman in her past that makes pictures of Kermit the Frog in bondage so upsetting.  There's no way I could know because we didn't actually have a friendship.  On the other hand, I have another friend that I got to know well when we were Peace Corps Volunteers.  We're still friends today.  Once, I upset her by playing George Carlin's routine about rape and his idea that a person can joke about anything.  At the time, I agreed with George.  As I've gotten older, a few topics have come up that are not funny to me, but are to other people.  I suppose I can't expect other people to know what will be upsetting to me, just as I can't know what triggers any one person.

In any case, for any readers who are annoyed or triggered by things I write, please know that I'm really not trying to trigger anyone.  Most of what I write here is spew cranked out by my sometimes unconventional thought patterns.  You can check out any time you like.  I'll probably notice and might feel bad about it for a few minutes.  It's doubtful I'll change, though.  I'm weird for life.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Morning love interrupted by morning love...

Way TMI.  Sorry.

Yesterday, I decided to make a couple of music videos for Joni Mitchell songs I covered.  Early this morning, someone left me a comment saying they loved the video (but they didn't bother to like it and probably didn't view it).  And would I mind following them on Instagram?  I deleted the comment because it was spammy and I don't use Instagram, anyway.

That's how things started off this morning...  kind of on the wrong foot.  The dogs got up and went downstairs and I took the opportunity to snuggle with Bill, despite the fact that it's hot out right now and snuggling is not that comfortable.  We don't often get to be in the bed without the dogs.  They're like chaperones.

After a little snuggling, I said, "Hey Bill... you want to fuck me or what?"

Bill answered affirmatively.  It's been awhile, though, so we had to work up to it.  Just as we were about to commence fucking, our adorable beagle, Zane, decided to jump up on the bed.  He looked so cute and friendly as he came near us, sniffing.  It was as if he was saying, "Thank goodness I got here just in the nick of time!"

Undaunted, Bill continued to try to woo me, but Zane was insistent.  And then Arran showed up, and it was a party.

Bill rolled away.  The mood had obviously passed.  So I said, "Do you want to try this later?"

"Yeah.  Sorry." he responded.

"It's alright.  I'll wash the sheets so they'll be nice and clean and free of dog hair."

Yeah, this is my life.  It's full of blunt comments and unfortunate interruptions... and ridiculous scenarios.  I tend to get a lot of Murphy's Law types of things happening to me.  Like, I meet the guy of my dreams, but can't have kids with him the natural way because he got snipped for his ex wife.

I had parents who never divorced and were always home for me, but not really present. And my mom would say to my dad, things like "Bill (my dad was also a Bill), I've started my period and I need to be near a bathroom!" when he'd want to go somewhere.  But then she'd get annoyed with me for being overly blunt and wondering why I don't have any class.

Fortunately, I've always had a really good sense of humor.  I can usually laugh about these things.

Bill's younger daughter responded when Bill sent her an email letting her know that he was losing his company email address.  She wished him a belated happy birthday.  I was surprised she knew when it was.  She wanted to know if he got any good presents.  Bill told her that I gave him a really nice new Japanese Santoku knife.

I asked him if he added that I wasn't afraid he was going to gut me with the knife.  Of course he didn't do that.  I'm sure his daughter knows nothing about the knife drama between Bill and his ex.  I probably wrote about it here in an earlier post, but what the hell.  I have nothing better to do.

When Bill was in the Army, he had a special Bowie knife that was part of his uniform for when he was serving with the Arkansas National Guard.  It was a rather scary looking knife, but it was an official part of the uniform in those days.

When they were having severe marital problems and headed for divorce, Ex decided that the Bowie knife was scary.  She asked Bill to give it to her for safe keeping.  Not wanting his ex wife to be afraid of him, Bill willingly complied with her request to give him the knife.  She later showed it to her church friends as "proof" that Bill was a violent person.  She said she was afraid he was going to gut her like a deer.  This is from a woman who is capable and actually guilty of sexual assault.  Of course, her church buddies believed her.  Pretty soon, Bill was a pariah.

And then I came along and married this "monster"... and even gifted him with a beautiful new knife for his birthday.  I'm sure Bill was looking forward to our roll in the sack this morning, but we were rudely interrupted by our surrogate four legged kids.  Oh well.  Maybe we'll get around to it later.

But anyway... that kind of shit is the story of my life.  Glad I can laugh about it.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Don't tell mom you don't want to go on a mission...

especially if you're in Bryce Canyon with your TBM mom and stepfather.

LDS Living posted this "testimony" on their site.  They have since taken it down, thanks to the negative feedback.  Here's a link to the cache.

This guy, who has a Mormon mother and a Muslim father, decided he didn't want to be a missionary in Virginia.  He and his family were on a trip to Bryce Canyon and he told his stepfather he didn't want to go on the mission.  Stepdad made him tell his mom, who then promptly dumped his suitcases out of the family van and fucking left him there.

He spent the night and then next day, his grandfather came and talked to him.  Granddad asked him to try the mission and the guy decided to go.  Now he's bearing his testimony.  I guess he's happy to be a mishie now, but I think his mother's response sucks.  She basically forced him into it.

I can't believe this was the response from his mother.  Your child doesn't want to be a missionary?  Dump him in the wilderness.  She's lucky he's still speaking to her.

I see LDS Living has made a new version.  What a crock of shit.

Bill's last day at work...

Well, today is the day Bill stops working for the company that brought us back to Germany.  On Monday, he goes back to the same office, but will wear a new lanyard.  I'm hoping Bill enjoys the new company, which is larger, better known, and pays more money.

This morning, Bill was wearing a polo shirt he got a couple of months ago from his current (until 5:00pm) employer.  They also gave him a really nice windbreaker.  Lately, he's been wearing that shirt on Fridays because it's the only one he has that is short sleeved, has a collar, and isn't a dress shirt.  On Fridays, he's allowed to dress down.  With the new company, I think that will become a thing of the past.  I have heard everybody wears suits or at least ties.

We have to get new ID cards next week.  That's always a pleasure.

Bill enjoys morning coffee, news on the iPad, and Zane on his last day...

The new company also only pays once a month.  He'll get a larger paycheck, but he'll have to wait until the end of next month to get it.  So August may be a little leaner for us.  But in September, things will be pretty rosy because the new job includes a substantial raise.  That will be good, since I will be going to Scotland.  I hope Bill can come with me, but I have my doubts it'll work out that way.

Change is always hard.  Hopefully, this change will work out for the best.  But... at least we didn't have to move, right?  This time of year, Facebook always shows me my posts about moving.  I am happy to stay in one place for a few years while we figure out what to do next.

I suppose I could have written about O.J. Simpson getting paroled or Linkin Park's lead singer, Chester Bennington, committing suicide.  But, truth be told, I am not a fan of either.  Bill was actually upset about Chester's death.  He was especially upset when Chris Cornell killed himself.  It's not my genre of music.  I'd rather listen to Joni Mitchell circa 1971.  I did that yesterday so I could learn the song below.

This needs a little work... but it's worth it.  Maybe I'll do more today.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Phobias are not funny...

Have you ever met someone with whom you immediately clash?  I think that happened to me last night.  Despite my rather funny personality, I don't actually like parties very much.  I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes, especially when I'm in the company of certain types of people.  Not everyone can take my sense of humor and I don't enjoy offending people.  Sometimes I do, despite my best efforts.

Last year, the guy who hired Bill moved on to a new job in Hawaii.  He left behind a huge collection of euro coins, which he donated to everyone he worked with.  The coins were all counted and it came to the euro equivalent of about $800, which was used to pay for last night's gathering at a biergarten (and, in fact, not all of the money was spent).  It was a farewell dinner of sorts, since the company Bill has been working for lost its contract and many of the people who have been working with Bill are moving on to new jobs and/or locations.

We arrived too late to sit at the table that was already started, so we sat at a second table that had been reserved.  Soon we were joined by another couple, the male half of whom will continue to be Bill's co-worker because they were both hired by the new company that is taking over.  The first thing that happened was the guy came up, looked at me, and said "Who do you belong to?"

I answered that I am Bill's wife.  He then made some crack about my being the daughter of the other guy sitting across from me.  I'm not really sure what that was all about.  Bill had told me a bit about this guy being a bit obnoxious and full of himself, so I wasn't that surprised at his comment.  This guy also referred to me as "Jen", when I introduced myself as "Jenny".  That also happens to be a pet peeve of mine, when someone takes it upon themselves to change my name, especially when they've just met me.

I noticed his wife sitting in the corner with their son, whom I had met before.  He is a very bright kid for his age and already speaks German pretty well.  I could tell he is the apple of his mother's eye.  She was doting on him quite a bit.

As the evening wore on, Bill and I found ourselves talking about different subjects, including one of the Space A "hops" we took a few years ago.  Bill told everyone about how we landed in Georgia after an overseas flight from Germany.  We were really jet lagged.  He'd gone out to get us some dinner.  I would have been just fine with something from the nearby Wendy's, but Bill decided to go the extra mile.  He noticed a restaurant across the street and ordered take out.  He brought back steaks, not realizing that they had been smothered with mushrooms.

If you've been reading this blog, you may already know that I do not eat mushrooms.  In fact, I have a phobia of them.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's the truth.

So anyway, I opened the carton he handed me and was immediately confronted by this piece of meat covered with 'shrooms.  They were totally grossing me out.  I was pretty exasperated because I was exhausted and hungry.  All I'd really wanted was a sandwich, and if Bill had just gotten something at Wendy's, I could have had a sandwich and gone to bed.  Instead, I was sitting there with what could have been a nice dinner that was rendered completely unappetizing due to the fungus.  Aside from that, I was annoyed that a restaurant would put mushrooms on a steak without advertising that they were going to do so.

Bill was telling this story and people were wondering why I didn't just scrape off the mushrooms.  And that's where the whole mushroom phobia story came in.  Phobias are, by nature, ridiculous, irrational, and perhaps even funny.  However, if you actually have a phobia, it's not really a laughing matter.

My whole life, I've been laughed at for having a fear of mushrooms.  When I was a kid, family members even chased me with them and yukked it up when I reacted with fear.  I can mostly laugh about it now... and the phobia is not nearly as bad as it used to be.  For instance, I no longer scream when I am confronted with mushrooms.  I don't like having them on my plate and I refuse to touch them or eat them, but I won't freak out or anything.  I still have a phobia, though.

I used to think I was the only person with this problem, but then I wrote an article about mycophobia (fear of mushrooms).  In my article, I even referenced an episode of The Montel Williams Show that was about phobias.  There was a woman on that show who was afraid of mushrooms and reacted the very same way I did when I was much younger.  She actually saw my article and sent me an email.  I got so many comments and emails from people who have unusual phobias and happened to read my article.  In fact, a quick YouTube search turns up a number of videos about mycophobia (mushroom phobia).

I was trying to explain this last night.  I will admit, a phobia of something weird like mushrooms sounds hilarious if you don't make an effort to understand what having a phobia is like.  I have been in some embarrassing and annoying situations due to this problem, but I can see why some people think it's funny.

Of course, Bill's co-worker thought my mushroom phobia was totally hilarious.  He was cracking jokes and hysterically laughing at me, as was his son.  I was trying to explain the origins of the phobia, which started when I was a little kid, and he was just having a knee slapper of a time laughing.  I had been drinking beer, so I was feeling my oats.  And I let loose with some really far out insults involving his testicles being covered with fungus.  I'm sure whatever I said was shocking and disgusting.  Sometimes, I have no filter, especially if I've been drinking.

I could tell the guy's wife was horrified and it looked like she was trying to shield her son from the insults springing forth from me.  I wasn't sure if she was horrified by my comments, her husband's comments, or the whole scene in general.  But anyway, they made a hasty retreat.  I'm sure they think I'm an asshole, now.  On the other hand, I thought the guy was being an asshole for outwardly laughing at me and lacking empathy.

Meh... I really think sometimes I should not go to these kinds of parties with Bill.  I'm sure a lot of his co-workers think I'm nuts.  On the plus side, we did talk to a really nice lady last night.  Too bad she and her husband (and their fabulous dog) will be leaving soon.  Also, I gave our waitress the stink eye because she told me that putting a wine bottle upside down in a galvanized bucket full of melted ice is "nasty".  That sounded a bit like bullshit to me, but what do I know?  She was happy when we left, though, because she was tipped handsomely.

Apparently, putting an empty wine bottle upside down in this bucket is "nasty"...