Wednesday, November 21, 2018

My husband hates the song "Dream Weaver"...

Word to the wise.  This post is going to be TMI and probably kind of inappropriate.  If you are easily offended, kindly move on to your next Internet station.

Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends shared this video of the song "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright.

This song was made famous in 1976, when I was a wee lass of about 3 or 4 years old.

In 1976, my dad was the base engineer at Mildenhall Air Force Base in England.  This song was popular, along with a lot of other great songs from the 70s.  I've always liked it, although I was a small child when it was a hit.  It still sounds pretty good in 2018, at least to my ears.  I also like Wright's other big song, "Love Is Alive."

This video includes the version of "Dream Weaver" I know best.  It says this song comes from 1972, but that's incorrect.  It was released in 1975 and was a hit the following year.

When Bill and I met, he told me there are a few songs he hates.  For instance, he doesn't like the songs "Strong Enough" by Sheryl Crow or "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" by Bryan Adams, mainly because his ex used to play them as a means of demonstrating to Bill what kind of man she thought he should be.  

If you know my husband (and a few readers do), you know that he is one of those people who bends over backwards to please others.  He's got a really kind heart and does whatever he can to make other people happy.  To hear that his best efforts weren't enough for his ex wife was shattering.  The fact that she used music to drive home that point was especially cruel.  She ruined some good music and a lot of children's books that way.  She was also fond of using books by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to make her points about Bill's alleged shortcomings.

So, although I do like "Strong Enough", I never play it when Bill is around, because I know it reminds him of dark times.  Fortunately, I don't really like Bryan Adams' love ode, so we have no problems, there.  For a long time, I avoided playing anything by The Muppets or Kenny Loggins' wonderful children's album around Bill because I knew they would make him sad.

Another song Bill hates is "Dream Weaver", but that's because of another person in his life-- his first stepfather.  When Bill was about ten years old, his mother decided to remarry.  I think remarriage of a parent is hard enough for most youngsters, but it's especially difficult when the new spouse turns out to be abusive.  The guy Bill's mom married was a very handsome fellow and talented artist I'll call B.J.  Actually, B.J. was the name he went by.  Come to think of it, it was probably an inspired nickname.

At least on the surface, B.J. had a lot going for him.  He was tall, blond, athletic and handsome, and he was legitimately blessed with artistic gifts.  Although I never met the man myself, I have seen a beautiful portrait he did of my mother-in-law.  She kept the artwork, although the marriage was mercifully brief.  Bill and B.J. didn't really hit it off very well.  Evidently, B.J. used to do things like blow cigarette smoke in Bill's face and tell him that he was "emotionally unavailable".  B.J. once said that talking to Bill was like talking to a brick wall.  Bill really took that comment to heart and it made him feel shame.

B.J. was a big fan of Gary Wright's music, and he especially liked the song "Dream Weaver".  He used to play that song a lot.  B.J. also liked wearing women's clothing and, in fact, was probably transgendered.  The reason B.J. wanted to be married was because he was hoping to learn how to be a woman.  This was not something B.J. had disclosed before he and my mother-in-law tied the knot.  Once she found out what his agenda actually was, she got a divorce.  My mother-in-law and B.J. lost touch after that.

I try to be open-minded about most things.  I don't know anything about what it's like to be transgendered.  I can only imagine that it's extremely difficult even today, and was almost certainly much more so in the 1970s, when people had less understanding and consideration for those who are different.  I'm sure B.J. had some traumatic issues that caused him to be the way he was... not necessarily transgendered, but mean and abusive.  There was some reason B.J. found pleasure in being disrespectful to Bill and saying cruel things that he knew would upset him.  Hurting people tend to be hurtful to others.  It's a vicious cycle. 

I didn't know B.J., although I've heard some stories about him over the years.  He wasn't Bill's stepfather for very long, which is a good thing.  However, even though B.J. was Bill's stepfather for only a few years, he did leave a lingering calling card, besides that beautiful portrait of Bill's mother.  Now, whenever the song "Dream Weaver" plays, Bill is reminded of that guy-- a man he hasn't seen in over forty years.  And although I never knew the man myself, when I hear it, now I'm reminded of the stories I've heard about him.

It's amazing how the most innocuous things can leave a lasting impression.  It might be a piece of music or art.  It might be certain foods or smells.  I have written a few times about how much I hate mushrooms.  I have always hated them.  When I was a child, I was literally phobic of them.  I'm still a bit phobic of mushrooms, though not nearly like I was when I was a young child in England.  In those days, whenever I saw a mushroom growing in the yard, I would freeze and start screaming hysterically.  Today, I still kind of cringe when I see them, but I don't scream anymore.

My sisters were kind of mean spirited teenagers at that time.  In our English backyard, there were a lot of toadstools that grew wild.  Sometimes, my sisters would pick them and chase me with them, all the while laughing hysterically at me as I screamed and ran away.  One of my sisters went as far as reinforcing the phobia by drawing mean faces and shark teeth on any mushrooms in my coloring books.  To this day, when someone posts a picture of a dish with mushrooms on social media or I smell them cooking, I'm reminded of that time when I was a child.  It makes me cringe, even though it's been years since anyone chased me with a mushroom (one of my cousins did years later, to the same effect).  Those experiences are imprinted on my brain, much like certain songs are imprinted on Bill's.  

I thought I was alone in my hatred of mushrooms until one day, I was watching the Montel Williams show and the topic was phobias.  Montel had a guest who was phobic of mushrooms.  I watched in amazement as she reacted the very same way I used to when I was very young.  To be honest, if someone tried to force me to eat a mushroom or touch one, I'd probably react the same way I did when I was a child.  I wrote an article about mycophobia on Associated Content.  It generated a lot of hits and was even noticed by the woman who was on Montel Williams.  She sent me an email about her experience on the show.  Although Montel did get her to touch one and, in fact, kissed her with one between his lips (that would not have worked for me), she said she's still a bit phobic.

I once entertained the idea of becoming a chef, but abandoned that notion when I realized I couldn't be a chef and have a mushroom phobia.  Maybe I could have been a pastry chef, but even then, I'd probably still have problems.  And then I worked at a restaurant for awhile and realized that lifestyle wasn't one I wanted for the rest of my life.  It's too stressful.

I understand why Bill hates the song "Dream Weaver", although I like it and probably always will.  He understands why I hate mushrooms, although he loves them and truffles and always will.  He respects my idiosyncrasies and I respect his.  When Bill is around, our house is a Gary Wright free zone.  And when we go out to dinner or eat at someone's house, Bill is supportive when I have to explain why mushrooms are verboten.  I'm sure more than a couple of waiters have filed away memorable stories about me telling them about my irrational fears.  I guess these things make us more interesting people.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

It's crunch time...

As much as I'd like to bask in what was a lovely four night break in Baden-Baden, it's now crunch time.  This is Bill's last "week" at work in the Stuttgart area.  He took yesterday off and, of course, gets Thursday off.  Then on Monday of next week, the packers will arrive.  The dogs will go to Max's for the week.  We'll spend a night in a hotel in Nagold.  Tuesday, they'll load up the truck and we'll drive to Wiesbaden, where we'll spend another night in a hotel.  Then Wednesday, the movers deliver our stuff there.  Thursday, I'll start putting stuff away while Bill finishes closing out down here in Stuttgart.  He'll probably spend the night in Stuttgart, finish closing out, and pick up the dogs on Friday.  By next weekend, we should be somewhat settled, although I don't know if I'll have the Internet.

Usually, at this time of year, I'm decorating for Christmas and doing some shopping.  This year, we're moving, which is a real pain in the ass.  I do look forward to the new house, though, even though I'll miss country living.  I think a change of scenery will do us good.  

We visited the dentist yesterday after we got back from Baden-Baden.  It was a month before we were due, but it seemed better to just go ahead and get the cleanings done.  I don't know if it was really more convenient, though, since we had to go get the dogs from Max's and then got stuck in nightmarish Stuttgart traffic.  I have heard traffic isn't quite so bad in the Wiesbaden area, although having seen how crowded it is up there, I kind of wonder.  Seriously, almost all of the neighborhoods we looked at were packed with homes.  Our new house pretty much has a zero lot, which isn't bad, since I'll be doing the lawn work.

I keep looking around the house, wondering what chores I can take care of before we really get busy. Even as Bill and I were lamenting about this hated process of moving, we realize that this move will probably be somewhat easy as moves go.  It won't be as major as our last move, which was from Texas to Stuttgart.  There won't be a month spent in a tiny apartment, for instance, or masses of veterinary paperwork.  We won't be driving a rental car for a month, either.  This move is probably the shortest distance we've ever done, unless you count our move within Fort Belvoir, which doesn't really seem like it should count.  I mean, yes, we had to pack everything and move it, but that was pretty much the extent of the pain.

It doesn't seem real that we're about to leave Unterjettingen, which has been home for four years and two months... the longest we have spent in one place as a married couple.  Bill was actually tearing up as he was talking about it yesterday.  But if you think about it, for most people, every home is temporary.  This is especially true if you are perpetual renters, like we are.  I had always expected I'd own a home by this point in my life.  We're at a point at which we could buy one.  But now, it just doesn't seem smart to buy a house, because having a house ties you down.  Neither Bill nor I want to be anyone's landlords.  On the other hand, I am ready not to have landlords.

I don't know if I'll ever own a house.  I'm getting too old to think about it seriously.

Our next house is going to cost almost twice as much as this one does.  We can afford it, but it was nice having so much disposable income for a couple of months.  It seems like whenever I pay off a debt or get close to paying one off, we have to move.  I paid off my student loans this year, so we can't stay in this cheap house.  The same thing happened last time we lived in Germany.  I got within $300 of paying off my credit cards and we had to move back to the States.  It wasn't until we came back to Germany that I was able to pay that card off, since we had to make some major purchases.

Oh well...  When we get settled in Wiesbaden, I'll get back to work on rebuilding our cash pile.  I saved several thousand dollars in a CD that happened to mature this month.  I gave it to Bill.  It's a damn good thing we had it, because that money has come in handy.  We had to buy heating oil for this house and we have to buy it for the next house, although when we move out of the next house, we don't have to fill the tank for the next tenants.  We had to pay a huge Kaution (deposit), while the one we paid for this house won't come back to us until after we leave.  Bill's company is covering a lot of the move, but it's a situation in which he pays upfront and gets reimbursed.  

Such is life.

Maybe later, I'll come back and write about current events or something.  For now, I think I'll scrub the bathroom.  That's one more chore I can cross off my list of things to do.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A day of nakedness...

Hey y'all.  We're on our last night in Baden-Baden and will be heading back to our soon to be former house tomorrow.  We've had an unbelievable trip.  I will start writing about it on the travel blog tomorrow, once we're home.  I was kind of thinking I might blog tonight, but I think I need a night to recover from today.  We visited two spas and I found out how exhausting it can be to relax.  Especially when you're American and you spend a lot of the day nude in front of total strangers.

I must say, this will go down as one of my favorite trips thus far.  It's hard to believe that we've lived so close to Baden-Baden for over four years and this is our first visit.  I hope it won't be our last.  We really had a wonderful time... and we spent a lot of euros.

It's even harder to believe that we're going to be leaving the Stuttgart area again.  I'm not as upset this time, since I know we're going to be living somewhat close and can visit.  But it really does feel a lot like home.  In 16 years of marriage, we've spent six years in the Stuttgart area.  It does feel like home to me, even if I still cant speak German worth a damn.

Ah... things to work on, I guess.  So glad I have Bill at my side as I learn.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Happy 16th to us...

We are currently chilling out in Baden-Baden, enjoying a four night trip to regain our senses before our big move and celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary.  It's, so far, been a magical trip.  We were upgraded to a junior suite from the deluxe room I booked.  Yes, it's bloody expensive, but we really needed a break.  16 years ago, the idea of a weekend like this was unthinkable.

My husband is my very best friend.  Sorry, I know that's a very Duggar thing to say, but it's the truth.  I still pinch myself every day when I realize what a wonderful life we have built together.  As much as I despise his ex wife (and will continue to trash her mercilessly), I remain very grateful to her for the gift she gave me when she decided to divorce Bill.  He was very loyal to her, despite everything.  As hard as their split was for him, ultimately, the divorce was a kindness on her part, and it came at just the right time.

Bill is my soulmate, and I adore him.  We have an incredible partnership.  He is the one person I never tire of being with.  I miss him when he’s gone, and enjoy every minute we’re together.

I realize that by posting this, I may open myself up to crappy comments from the ignorant.  One time, someone even posted "One woman's trash is another woman's treasure, home wrecker."  I am not a home wrecker, because I didn't even know Bill when he was getting divorced.  We met in person for the first time about a year after his divorce was final.  I don’t know...  we just clicked...  probably while trading fart jokes.

However, I have been around for the aftermath and the extensive cleanup he's had to do in the wake of his first marriage.  I had nothing to do with his divorce (and yes, some people are rude enough to ask), but I like to think I've had everything to do with his current reality, which is pretty freakin’ nice.  Even one of his daughters is coming around and realizing that her dad is pretty damned awesome.  I’m so glad we found each other.  He’s an absolute joy in my life.

Anyway... here's to my Mr. Bill... and to sixteen more years or more of wedded bliss.  We make a great team.  And for those of you who are regular readers and understand the angst I write of, here's to you, too.  Thank you for reading!

I haven't been a bad wife.  For one thing, I have introduced him to the wonders of spa culture.  We'll be heading to the nearest nude spa by the time the weekend is done.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Marine shows his ass at Disney World...

A couple of months ago, I discovered the genius of J.D. Simkins, a reporter for the Military Times, when I read his hilarious account of an Air Force Colonel who got drunk at a Boy George concert and wound up arrested.  Ever since then, whenever I see his byline on a military related article, I know I can count on getting a few laughs while I get the scoop.

This time, Simkins writes about Marine veteran Dion Cini, who recently paid a visit to Walt Disney World and decided to hold up a sign that read "Trump 2020" as his log flume took its final slide.  Cini was aboard the popular attraction Splash Mountain when he decided to make his political views known.  This was not the first time Cini showed his ass at a Disney park.  A few weeks ago, Cini did something similar at Magic Kingdom, when he hung a re-elect Trump banner there.  Cini also hung a pro Trump banner at Yankee Stadium last July.

Park officials had put Cini's annual pass on hold after the first incident, but then decided to ban him from Disney parks for life after the second one.  It seems the ex Marine ran afoul of the rules at Disney parks, which prohibit “Unauthorized events, demonstrations or speeches, or the usage of any flag, banner or sign for commercial purposes, or to incite a crowd”.

Simkins cleverly weaves Disney references into his account of the story, noting that Cini lamented on Facebook about the ban.  He quotes:

“Banned for life from Walt Disney World for the 2nd time in a month," Cini vented on Facebook in response. "They hate my signs, or the President? Maybe both?”

Apparently, Cini isn't going to take the ban lying down.  He says he's going to fight Disney's decision in court.  Personally, I think Cini would be better off re-evaluating his priorities in life.  I truly don't understand people who support Donald Trump as president.  Why do people admire a man who is so rude, offensive, undiplomatic, and ignorant?  It's not even about his being a Republican.  This is a man who openly mocks the disabled, brags about molesting women, praises racists, stiffs his contractors, alienates other world leaders, and acts like he wants to be a dictator.  

And yet, Cini thinks Trump is awesome.  According to the Washington Post:

Cini said he knew the photos showing him with pro-Trump banners would go viral — and he was counting on it, saying it was his way to contribute to the campaign. He said he believes that Trump is “doing a better job than any president I’ve ever seen.”

“I do things differently,” he said. “I do things that will go viral to support the president. I’m trying to let other Trump supporters know that you don’t have to go to rallies. You can do this on your own.”

“One person can have a bigger voice than a thousand people,” he added.

After his recent photo-ops, Cini said he has gotten a wide response from people — some expressing appreciation and some sending death threats.

I think people who find Trump's behavior admirable must be closely related to cretins.  I look forward to the day when Trump leaves office.  I'll probably throw a goddamn party when he drops dead.  I don't think Cini is very intelligent, although I also don't think he should be getting death threats for his idiotic hijinks.  I would prefer to simply vote the stupid orange fucker out of office.  But I do think Disney was well within its rights to deny Cini access to its parks, which are on private property.  People don't spend shitloads of money to go to Disney parks to be assaulted by political bullshit, particularly when it's promoting a disrespectful moron like Trump.  Moreover, Cini could have seriously injured someone if he'd lost his grip on that sign.  It might have hit someone in the face.  

As for J.D. Simkins, I hope he sticks around at the Military Times for awhile.  His entertaining style of journalism is a breath of fresh air, even if it doesn't show much decorum.  It's not so often that a news article about the president makes me laugh, especially in these dark Trump days.    

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Don't let your dick run your life..."

Many years ago, for the very first time, I watched a comedy film starring Mr. T.  The film, which was made in 1983, was called D.C. Cab, and it was about a group of misfit cab drivers in Washington, D.C.  It was a mostly forgettable movie, but it did have a few funny lines in it.  For that reason alone, I bought it on DVD and still watch it when I need a cheap laugh.  One of my favorite lines in D.C. Cab comes at the very beginning.  The late actor Whitman Mayo, who plays a character called "Mr. Rhythm", says to the camera, "Don't let your dick run your life."

Sage advice from Mr. Rhythm, and cheap, too!

This topic comes up after I spent about an hour yesterday watching videos on YouTube starring Chris Hansen of "To Catch a Predator" fame.  I remember back in 2007, when Bill was in Iraq, sitting at home on weekday evenings watching Hansen busting would be perverts who were caught trying to meet teenaged girls they met on the Internet.  These guys were chatting and sending dick pics to people they thought were young girls, but were actually young looking police officers posing as teens.

A few months later, Bill and I moved to Germany the first time, and I lost track of Hansen's show, which I think was eventually canceled.  But then yesterday, I discovered that Hansen was back with a newer show called Hansen vs. Predator, which aired in 2016.  Someone uploaded a bunch of videos from that show on YouTube.  Below is the first one I encountered.

32 year old math tutor Mike Manzi, who goes by the handle "Mike Thrilla" online, arrives at a house intending to "chill out" with a thirteen year old girl while he smokes marijuana.  Instead, he meets Chris Hansen and gets busted.  Then, amazingly enough, he argues with Hansen when Hansen tells him who he is.

Before he visits the "girl", Manzi admits that he shouldn't be talking to her.  He has suspicions that he could be walking into a trap.  And yet, he takes the risk anyway... obviously not having seen D.C. Cab and heard Mr. Rhythm's excellent advice.  Hansen asks Manzi what he's doing at the girl's house, and Manzi claims he came over just to make sure "everything was okay."  Yeah... I don't think so.  Don't let your dick run your life, buddy.

Mr. Rhythm also says "That what makes you can also break you."  Given that the origin of life is at the end of a man's penis, I think that's also good advice.  After all, without a man's contribution, a woman can't get pregnant.  So don't let your dick run-- or ruin-- your life.

Contrary to his big plans for the day, Mr. Manzi doesn't spend the afternoon smoking weed with a young girl.  He begs Hansen to let him go.  Hansen says "no" and Manzi goes to jail.  But he's not the only one who gets caught in Hansen's web.

Here's a guy from Boston who brings pizza to meet a 13 year old girl... and offers Hansen a slice just before Hansen drops the hammer.

I sat there yesterday and thought to myself that the sex drive in some men must be extremely irresistible if they're taking these kinds of chances.  Obviously, these dudes have seen Chris Hansen on TV.  They know what's going to happen if they run into Chris Hansen.  And yet, when they are trapped in Hansen's clutches, they try to wriggle out of them in a most pathetic way.  If only they'd listened to Mr. Rhythm.  His advice is so good.  

Come to think of it, Mr. T.'s speech is worth listening to, as well.  Dignity, self-respect, and pride... all well worth maintaining.  And if you're chatting with adolescents on the Internet with the intention of getting busy with them, you have no dignity, self-respect, pride, decency, pot, or pizza...  What you have is a criminal record and public humiliation as you get publicly busted on primetime TV and/or YouTube.

Adults, male or female, have no business "chatting up" teenagers on the Internet, particularly when it comes to anything sexual.  And they have no business going to a child's house in search of companionship or to make sure they're "okay", especially after they've been caught having explicit chats with them online.    

Here's Jesse Velez, 28 years old, and looking for companionship with a boy he thought had only just turned 13, but was actually a young looking 19 year old actor.  Velez had actually been chatting with Lori, a police officer.  When Hansen confronts Velez about sending the "boy" a picture of his private parts, the guy tries to deny it.  How embarrassing!

I'm glad all three of these guys were busted and didn't actually harm anyone.  I don't envy today's parents.  I'm sure it must be a challenge to constantly monitor their children's Internet activity, as well as the adults with whom they come into contact.  On the other hand, there was no Internet during my childhood and I still managed to run into a pervert.  

I guess it just goes to show that it pays to be vigilant, and make sure you're thinking with the right head.  If you let your dick run your life, you may find it impossible to talk your way out of the mess.  So remember Mr. Rhythm whenever you get the urge to make rhythm with someone inappropriate.  Remember, that what makes you can also break you. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The NRA says, "Stay in your lane," to physicians...

For most of my life, I haven't really thought too much about gun control.  I grew up in a rural county in Virginia, where a lot of people hunt and fish.  The people of my hometown are "salt of the earth" types.  Many of them vote Republican and love their firearms.  A lot of people from Gloucester, Virginia are veterans and are very comfortable around guns.  When I was in sixth grade, every child took a hunter safety course.  It was not unusual to see people bringing their guns to school so they could go hunting after class.  I distinctly remember seeing full gun racks on the back windows of pickup trucks.

I suppose that given my rural upbringing, I was desensitized to how dangerous guns are.  It wasn't until April 1999, when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris went on a school shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado that I even started to think about the issue of gun violence.  Much to my shame, it took many more years before I actively started thinking that we in the United States need to do something about gun violence.  Just four years ago, I had a very different opinion about gun laws.  In looking at my blog posts, I see I was not in favor of gun control in 2014.  In 2018, I have changed my mind.  I still don't favor disarming people completely.  I don't think we could even do that.  I just think there needs to be a lot more restriction.

It's getting to the point at which going to the store, a concert, a movie, school, or even church, is taking one's life in one's hands.  Every day, I read another story about someone who died just going about their daily business.  And I've noticed that certain lobbying groups are more vocal now than ever, promoting their violent agenda over the good of all people.

Recently, the National Rifle Association (NRA) mocked physicians on Twitter.  They were criticizing the American College of Physicians' position on gun control, which was recently presented in a paper.  The paper outlines its public health approach to reducing deaths and injuries from firearms.

Seriously?  Someone should tell the NRA that it's not smart to argue with physicians...

Physicians responded to the NRA by posting graphic photos of injuries they've struggled to repair in hectic emergency rooms.  Some shared photos of where they sit when they tell a family that a loved one has been killed by gunfire.  A few shared photos of bullets removed from their patients.  One haunting photo was of a bullet that a physician removed from a six month old baby's brain.  Another physician invited the author of the tweet to join her at the hospital when she takes care of a child who was hurt or killed by someone's improperly stored gun.  A new hashtag was born, too...  #ThisIsOurLane.

Do people in the NRA have loved ones?  Do they not understand that flying bullets don't discriminate?  Does it not occur to NRA members that their child could be mortally wounded by someone's stray bullets?  

I think many people in the NRA must be both brain dead and soul dead.  They clearly care more about their guns than they do about people.  And since so many people in the NRA vote Republican, they also don't give much of a shit about affordable healthcare or even access to healthcare.  It's disgusting.

For years, the NRA has done its best to prevent the Centers for Disease Control from researching gun violence.  Since 1996, there's even been a law that specifically outlaws using funds for injury control and prevention to advocate for gun control.  I can't help but think this must be entirely about money, since I can't think of another reason why sensible people wouldn't want to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries caused by gun violence.  I know many gun enthusiasts talk about owning guns to protect themselves.  I also know there are a lot of gun owners who are serious about safety and handle their firearms appropriately.

But I can't help but notice that every day, there's a new story about people being killed, either by gun toting lunatics or freak accidents.  It's especially heartbreaking when a child gets his or her hands on a gun and it discharges.  So many children have been killed that way or have accidentally killed someone else.  Just one year ago, I shared this story on Facebook about a Tennessee man whose three year old accidentally shot his one year old daughter with his gun.  I've read so many other stories about babies who have accidentally shot their parents, siblings, or selves with unsecured weapons.  Clearly something needs to be done about this.  

I've heard many Republicans claim that they are "pro-life".  They mean they are against abortion.  They want to force women to give birth.  But they don't give a damn about what happens to the babies after they are born.  They are perfectly fine with innocent babies being killed by gun freaks or negligent parents who don't practice gun safety.  They are perfectly fine with families going bankrupt after they seek medical care for gunshot wounds.  It matters not a whit to them that gun violence both ends and ruins lives.  The people who are left behind after gun violence must cope with the aftermath and to hell with them.       

I am so ready for politicians who actually care about people.  I am so ready to get rid of power and money hungry creeps who are more interested in fattening their bank accounts than improving the quality of life for all Americans. 

I'm not saying that people shouldn't have access to guns.  I'm saying that we need more gun control.  Too many stupid people have them.  Too many hateful people are using them.  And way too many innocent people, particularly babies and children that Republicans claim to care so much about when they are still in utero, are dying because there are too many guns and too many people who don't respect what they can do.

Monday, November 12, 2018

I just saw Bohemian Rhapsody...

This is kind of a big deal, too, because I never go to the movies.  Prior to yesterday, the last time I saw a film in a cinema was in June 2011.  I like to watch movies, but I'd prefer to watch them at home.  That way, I can pause them when I want to and wear whatever I want.  I don't have to deal with tall people sitting in front of me, kids kicking my seat and/or talking during the show, or any other annoying behavior.  It's also cheaper to watch movies at home.

We decided to see Bohemian Rhapsody because a number of my friends were talking about how good it was.  I also happen to love Queen.  I think Freddie Mercury was a genius.

There's a movie theater in Vaihingen, a suburb of Stuttgart, that has an international movie theater.  The movies are shown in their original languages, sometimes with English or German subtitles.  Bohemian Rhapsody was presented as it's being presented in the United States, with no subtitles.

It's basically the story of how Freddie Mercury (played by Rami Malek), whose original name was Faroukh Bulsara, grew up the son of conservative Parsi parents.  He was born in Zanzibar and grew up in Tanzania and India before his parents moved to England during his teen years.  Freddie was working as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport when he encountered the guys who would become his bandmates in Queen.  As luck would have it, by the film's account, Brian May and Roger Taylor were playing in a band one night at a bar and the lead singer quit.  Freddie Mercury offered his services to the two crestfallen guys, who initially said "no" because of his pronounced overbite and large teeth.  Then Freddie let loose with some of his trademark vocal chops and he was soon in the band.

I think I'm a fan of Rami Malek's now.  He did a great job of portraying Freddie Mercury.  I know it couldn't have been easy!

For several years, Freddie Mercury had a girlfriend named Mary Austin.  He had wanted to marry Mary, but she was wise to the fact that Freddie wasn't attracted to women.  Nevertheless, she remained a lifetime friend and confidant.  Mercury was inspired to write beautiful music for and about Mary, including the love ballad "Love Of My Life".

Meanwhile, the film shows Queen creating their brand of music, which has an unmistakable and indelible sound.  Mercury composed the six minute masterpiece, "Bohemian Rhapsody", which a record company executive refused to promote as a single.  The band walked, and later, he was shown looking devastated that he didn't trust the band's wisdom and missed out on their success.

As it happens when a person finds great success, Freddie attracted his share of swindlers.  In the film, the biggest snake of all is portrayed as Paul, his personal manager, who exploits him for his money and fame.  Freddie mistakenly thinks his lawyer is cheating him and fires him, not realizing that his personal manager, Paul, had set him up.  It would take several years before Freddie would realize that Paul was a snake.  Paul's treachery was one of the main reasons Freddie's relationship with his bandmates soured.  Freddie was offered $4 million to go solo, which greatly offended the rest of Queen.  They temporarily disbanded.

At one of Freddie's lavish parties, he meets and falls in love with a gay waiter named Jim Hutton, who threatens to beat him up after Freddie touches him inappropriately.  The two have a long chat, then Hutton tells Freddie to come find him when he's learned to love himself.  Toward the end of the film, Freddie finds Jim and introduces him to his very conservative parents and sister.  Then, he takes Jim, Mary, and Mary's husband to the Live Aid concert, where Queen triumphantly plays together again after several years apart.

I can see by reading up about Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody kind of glosses over a lot of the true story.  The band's history is presented as much simpler than it was in reality.  However, Bohemian Rhapsody runs for at least two hours, so I'm not sure adding more to it would have been a good idea.  The basic story is covered very well, although there's not much about Freddie's youth or his illness.  Sadly, Freddie Mercury died in November 1991.  He contracted AIDS, which killed so many bright, talented legends.  I imagine the film didn't dwell on Mercury's sickness because Mercury had never wanted to be a "poster child" for AIDS.  He famously didn't make it public that he was ill until the day before he died.

I was moved by Freddie's story and charmed by the many comic elements that were added.  Mike Myers was a nice touch as the record executive who missed out on Queen's fame.  Besides the witty dialogue that made me laugh and cry, I also really enjoyed the soundtrack.  Queen is a band like no other and Freddie Mercury was a one of a kind frontman.  I was thoroughly entertained by the film, even if it's not an entirely accurate presentation of Queen's history.  I definitely want to learn more about the band and listen to more of their music.  Ultimately, that's probably the goal of making the film in the first place.

I left the theater kind of awestruck... then I started wondering what Freddie could have done if he'd only lived longer.  Mercury is depicted as having a deep soul and a big heart... a love for art and music and cats, and real friends who loved and cared about him deeply.  It's tragic that he lived such a short life, but he left a wonderful legacy.

I have heard that critics haven't liked Bohemian Rhapsody, but I count myself among those who found the film very entertaining.  I will definitely add it to our personal library so I can watch it at will.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Death of an Osmond...

Yesterday, someone on the Recovery from Mormonism site posted that Merrill Osmond's son, Troy (popularly known as Dean), had died.  He was just 33 years old and was never married.  The cause of Troy's death hasn't yet been announced and may never be.  Some people are speculating about it, because 33 is quite old for a Mormon to be unmarried, especially if you come from a famous family like the Osmonds.  A couple of people posted that they hoped it wasn't a situation like the one that affected Marie Osmond's son, Michael, who committed suicide back in 2010.  Another poster wrote that the family has some congenital health problems and one of Troy's sisters had claimed that he died in his sleep of natural causes.  Here is his obituary.

Now... I want to make it clear that I am not among those who are speculating about why Mr. Osmond died.  I don't know anything about Troy Osmond.  The only thing I did manage to find out about him yesterday is that he was a very accomplished musician who taught music and had served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I also noted from a photo of him that he really inherited that classic Osmond look.  He had dark hair, dark eyes, and the same facial features I see in Jimmy, Marie, and Alan.  He seems to have taken after his late grandmother, Olive Osmond.

I also notice that a certain prolific RfM poster insisted more than once that Troy was married.  She based this assertion on a blurb she read about him on a site called "My Life".  A poster named "rainbow1" repeatedly corrected the insistent poster, saying that Troy wasn't married.  Finally, rainbow1 identified him or herself as a friend of the family's.  Given how tight knit the LDS church community can be, particularly in Utah, I believe people in the ex Mormon community when they say they know someone.  Even celebrities in the LDS church seem to be somewhat accessible, given the nature of the church.

"MyLife" is basically a Web site that scours public records and creates profiles for people.  I would never trust "My Life" as a source for information about anyone.  Why?  Because about ten years ago, I found a profile for Bill's ex wife on that site.  She was using Bill's younger daughter's name as her own, but the rest of the information was Ex's.  I don't know if she posted the profile, the younger daughter did, or if it was based on a fraudulent profile Ex made, but the information was clearly inaccurate.

I thought it was interesting that the poster on RfM kept reiterating that Troy Osmond must have been married, solely based on what she read on that site.  Even looking at it today, it appears to be scammy with entries that seem "auto-generated".  Indeed, "My Life" has had some legal issues because it was engaging in deceptive practices to get people pay for information, which turned out to be bogus.  Similar to, which sent emails to people baiting them to pay for access to the site to see "who was looking for them", MyLife was duping folks into paying for nothing and engaging in deceptive billing practices to boot.  You can also see that this site gets very low ratings on a site called ConsumerAffairs.

Anyway, it looks like the official news is out about this.  Merrill broke the news on Facebook, as did his brother, Jay.  And it looks like others are posting about it, too.  I'm sorry to read about Troy Osmond's death.  He sounds like a man I might have enjoyed knowing, if only because we shared a love of music.  I wish his family peace and comfort during this difficult time.

Troy Osmond played the organ.  He was very gifted.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A review of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free by Linda Kay Klein

Some time ago, I joined Duggar Family News: Life is not all pickles and hairspray, a Facebook group  that is mostly dedicated to discussing the Duggar family, but also delves into other topics of religion and conservative politics.  I don't participate in that group very often.  Mostly, I just lurk.  Sometimes, I find good book recommendations there.

I'm not sure if I found Linda Kay Klein's 2018 book, Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, in the Duggar group.  I might have found it after downloading a similar book about American evangelicals and the purity movement.  In any case, I just finished reading this very substantial book this morning.  It took me longer than I expected to get through it, although it wasn't because I didn't find the subject matter interesting.  It was more that Klein included so much information about young women who grow up going to evangelical churches, submitting to extreme rules and social mores about their sexuality.  To be frank, that kind of upbringing has a way of really messing up people.

Linda Kay Klein, who was raised in an evangelical Christian household, spent years interviewing other women like her.  These were the products of the white, evangelical Christian culture that really came to a head in the 1990s.  When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, I don't remember ever hearing about events like "purity balls", where young girls attend fancy dances with their fathers and pledge their sexuality to their dads until they transfer it to their husbands on their wedding days.  I don't remember purity rings being a thing.  I did know some of my peers were religious, but most of them were the garden variety protestant types.  There were only a few who attended the local Assembly of God church and literally wore their Christianity on their sleeves in the form of religious t-shirts.

When she was in high school, Klein broke up with a boyfriend because she thought God wanted her to and she feared being labeled a Jezebel.  The youth pastor at Klein's church was convicted of sexual enticement of a minor-- a girl who was just twelve years old.  It was then that Klein began to question her church and its teachings about purity, morality, and shame.  She started to think about her experiences growing up in a culture where girls are taught that it's their responsibility not to tempt boys.  She spent over ten years interviewing women, compiling their stories, and turning it into a groundbreaking book about the purity movement.

Religion is more polarizing than ever these days.  I know a lot more atheists today than I knew in the 80s.  I also know a lot more religious zealot types.  In her book, Klein explores how growing up in a hyper Christian culture affects young women.  She includes a lot of stories, some of which are pretty graphic and involve frank discussions of sex.  She writes heartbreaking anecdotes of young women who felt deep shame for being sexual and having sexual feelings.  Some of her subjects discovered that they were lesbians or transgendered, and struggled with the aftereffects of that in a very religious culture shrouded in secrecy.  While God should have been a comfort to these young women, the church represented an authority that made them fear for their very souls.

I am not a very religious person myself.  I grew up a mainstream Presbyterian in a church that was pretty low key, religiously speaking.  My dad was in the choir and my mom was the church organist, either at the church I grew up in, or at another church that had hired her.  My sisters were grown by the time I was in middle school, so I often sat by the wife of one of my dad's choir member friends.  Although my pastors knew me, I never had to answer to them about my purity or anything else.  I hated church, but my church didn't scar me... except for putting me in contact with a few bullies, that I also knew from school.

Given that I had that upbringing, I'm not personally familiar with the "purity culture".  I am, however, married to a man who is an ex Mormon.  He and his ex wife joined together and my husband's daughters were raised Mormon, largely without his influence.  I don't really know my husband's daughters and I have spent a number of years actively disliking them, mainly due to the way their religion and their mother's toxic influence has caused them to behave toward my husband.  It's because of them that I started to explore Mormonism, another culture that prizes sexual purity, particularly among its young women.  I have met some wonderful ex Mormons and read some hair raising stories about what it's like to grow up Mormon.

Klein does include some commentary about Mormonism in her book, mostly in passing.  For instance, she writes about Elizabeth Smart, who was taught as a young LDS girl the importance of saving her virtue for her husband.  Like many young LDS women, Smart was given an object lesson involving a treat that was somehow defiled and then offered to another person.  They message was that no one wants a "licked cupcake" or a "chewed up piece of gum".  When Smart was repeatedly raped by Brian David Mitchell, the man who kidnapped her and forced her to "marry" him", she began to think that no one would value her because she was now akin to a chewed up piece of gum.  It was a damaging lesson she had learned in her church.

Besides doing a lot of interviewing, Klein also did a lot of reading.  She mentions Jessica Valenti's book, The Purity Myth, a book I also read about ten years ago.  Valenti's book was a shorter, less interview heavy, and more caustic and rabidly feminist version of Klein's book.  I remember appreciating and valuing the message, but not enjoying Valenti's book very much, mainly due to Valenti's tone.  However, Valenti's book was somewhat groundbreaking in 2009 and I think Klein was right to reference it in her own work, which seems to show more of the aftermath of having been raised in the purity culture.

I'm not sure if the purity culture is as popular today as it was ten years ago.  A lot has changed since those days.  In 2009, the Duggar family was respected by a lot of people.  I remember a lot of my friends, themselves lighter weight Christians, really admiring the Duggars and their enormous family.  But then, in 2015, that very wholesome Christian facade split violently when it came out that Josh Duggar, the oldest child in the massive Duggar brood, had molested several of his sisters and a babysitter.  And then, to add insult to injury, it came out that Josh had also cheated on his wife, Anna, multiple times.  However, even if the culture is less popular now (and I don't know that it is), there is still a generation of young women who grew up in that culture and are dealing with the aftermath.
What I like about Klein's book is that the overall tone is hopeful and comforting.  Yes, it took me a long time to get through every part of this book, but the writing is engaging, kind, and informative.  I could tell that she was gentle and empathetic with her subjects, some of whom revealed very personal and heartbreaking stories to her.  I think, for some readers, this book could be very healing.  I definitely recommend it to those who are interested in this topic.  I think it would also be good reading for a book club, particularly because Klein includes resources for club discussions.

If I were rating this on a five star scale, I think I'd award five.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Billy is at it again...

Several months ago, I discovered jessie 31's hilarious YouTube channel, which is dedicated to the antics of her neighbor, Billy.  Ordinarily, I might feel badly about someone recording the crazy shit their obviously mentally ill neighbor does, but I can't help but feel sorry for Jessie.  I think if I had to live next to Billy, I'd go nuts.  Kudos to Jessie for being so calm and maintaining a sense of humor, even if it is at the expense of her batshit neighbor.

Billy reminds me of my dog, Arran, when he sees a bird.  He's instinctually compelled to try to catch it, even though it's pretty much impossible.

Many people wonder if this channel is staged.  I will go on record to say that I don't think it is.  There are people out there who get this upset and try to chase drones...  I'm not sure what is wrong with Billy.  Does she have a problem with substance abuse or is she just mentally ill?  It's hard to tell.  Either way, she's not getting any help for her issues, so her neighbors have to deal with her nonsense. God bless them for staying calm.  I don't think I could do it.

I had another topic in mind to write about this morning, but it's Friday and I don't feel like being serious today.  And yet I am going to be serious... 

I found out last night that a Facebook friend I "met" four years ago in a local group is coming back to Stuttgart.  She was here when we first arrived, and left for Hawaii in 2015.  Now she's coming back to Stuttgart and will arrive just weeks after our move to Wiesbaden.  We were chatting about how this area has a tendency to have repeaters.  I won't be surprised if Bill and I come back to Stuttgart or move to Hawaii, since both areas have stuff for Bill to do.

In fact, the guy that took Bill's job when we left in 2009 eventually moved to Wiesbaden, then went on to Hawaii.  I don't know if they're still there.  I think he became a government employee.  He wasn't well liked when he was Bill's replacement, so I don't think he did three years in Stuttgart.  Anyway, the point is, he did similar work and that was his trajectory-- Stuttgart, Wiesbaden, and then Hawaii.  We could also go to Italy at some point... 

I probably shouldn't speculate too much, though.  All of this depends on whether or not Trump causes a major worldwide upset.  I still can't believe this man is the president and people still support what he does.  My guess is that they're more focused on money than decency.  I have a friend who, on Election Day, posted a status that read: "Vote as if your tax refund depends on it."  Frankly, I think that's a pretty sad outlook.  I would rather pay a bit more in taxes and have a leader who doesn't remind me of Hitler on the daily.  

I have another friend who insists that Trump isn't like Hitler.  She's a bit younger than I am and probably hasn't read as much about Hitler as I have.  To me, the comparisons are pretty obvious.  Both Trump and Hitler get people so inflamed that they do the killing for them.  They encourage people to hate those who aren't like them.  They convince people that a certain group is inherently "evil" and must be exterminated. 

Just think about it...  recently, someone shot up a synagogue in Pittsburgh, shouting "All Jews must die!"  Yesterday, a man in California stormed into a bar and murdered twelve people, then died himself.  There have been countless hateful comments about our southern border and how Americans shouldn't be expected to help asylum seekers.  Trump even tried to give soldiers stationed at the border the right to shoot people who throw rocks.  Some people in a Florida yoga studio were murdered by a man who had made racist and misogynist comments.  Two black people were recently killed at a Kroger in a Kentucky by a man who had just tried to enter a predominantly black church. 

All of these incidents occurred within the past couple of weeks.  A lot of people have been killed, often by angry white men.  Why are these men acting now?  It seems that they're feeling emboldened.  

No, we don't have death camps or mass genocide... at least not yet.  We just have detention camps where families are separated from their children.  But if people don't wise up, I'm afraid that's where we're headed.  Those of us who have been around awhile, to include my mom, who was alive when Hitler was in power, definitely can see how Trump is like Hitler.  I truly hope the otherwise decent people who voted for Trump will open their eyes.  We can't keep tolerating this hatred.

Anyway, for now, another week is gone and we're closer to our next town.  I keep doing what I can to make the final days less painful.  This move is already better than our last, though, in so many ways.  For one thing, we're not being bombarded with showings and no one in my family is on their death bed.  And we won't spend a month in a temporary apartment, waiting for our furniture to arrive.  Those things, in and of themselves, make this a vastly superior move.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Yes, I'm a "cusser"...

Sorry to use this photo again.  It's just too perfect for today's topic.  Maybe it would be better if Bill got a picture of me while I'm ranting... preferably after I've had a few stiff drinks and have a raging case of PMS.  I'm ashamed to say this, but swearing is one of my many shortcomings as a human.  I cuss like a sailor.  Always have, and probably always will, although I've mellowed somewhat in my old age.  Although deep down, I am a lady, to most people, I come off as crusty as a crabcake.  I don't even like crabcakes. 

Despite my cranky, bitter, and petty demeanor, I still have quite a few true friends who have known me for many years.  I made a lot of those friends in my freewheeling college days.  College was a pretty good time for me, although I spent those years fairly hampered by social anxiety and depression.  I still managed to have a great time at Longwood, despite those handicaps.  I left that school with lifelong friends and mostly good memories.  It was a really nice place to go to school.

One of my friends is a woman I met during the very first week of our freshman year.  In those days, Longwood College (as it was then called), had its bookstore in the basement of the much venerated Ruffner building.  The bookstore wasn't that big, so one often had to stand in line to get in there at the beginning of each semester.  It was a chore that could take awhile.

I was standing in line, waiting for my turn to load up on overpriced textbooks, and somehow struck up a conversation with the striking redhead standing next to me.  She was a fellow freshman, dressed in denim shorts, a t-shirt, and a beautiful cardigan, which was very stylish in 1990, although curiously, I would imagine it would have been hot as hell to wear that during a typical Virginia August.  It's also possible that my memory of what she was wearing isn't quite accurate, although I do know she loved colorful cardigans and pearl necklaces.  What I do remember very clearly is that I noticed the redhead's well-coordinated, stylish outfit and her brilliant red hair.  She was friendly, confident, and funny.  Her name was-- and still is-- Donna, a fitting name for her that means "lady".  Donna is very ladylike and hilarious, to boot. 

We stayed friends throughout college and shared a suite during my traumatic sophomore year of school.  We were both English majors; she also majored in Spanish.  She joined Sigma Alpha Iota, the honorary music fraternity, and I was her big sister.  We were both members of Camerata Singers, which was Longwood's auditioned choir that included a lot of liturgical, classical, and Broadway music.

I lost touch with my friend after we graduated.  Then, one day in 2006, I got an email from her.  It was out of the blue.  She had included an adorable picture of her then three year old daughter, who was pretty much her clone.  Donna's daughter has the same flaming red hair her mother has.  Not long after that, Facebook became a thing, and we reconnected that way.

Yesterday, I was reminded of a funny memory from 2012 involving Donna's daughter, who was about nine years old at the time...

This still cracks me up, six years later.  She's a very observant child.

In 2014, just a few months after Bill and I moved back to Germany, we flew to Virginia for Thanksgiving.  My family has a big Thanksgiving party every year in Natural Bridge, Virginia.  I used to be a regular attendee, but these days, I don't live conveniently close.  The only reason we attended in 2014 was because my father had died in July of that year and we were having a memorial for him in November.  That was so a lot of family could attend.  That's the same reason I got married in November, although in retrospect, I probably should have chosen a different month.  I couldn't get married at our venue during Thanksgiving, because I got married at Virginia Military Institute, and the college was closed.

During that trip, I met up with Donna, her husband, her adorable daughter, and our friend Joann, who is also a graduate of Longwood and lives very close to my relatives.  I finally got to meet the girl who had labeled me a cusser.  She was just as cute as she could be!  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her.  As we were about to finish our visit, I said "Do you really think I'm a cusser?"

Donna's daughter, then about eleven years old, blushed scarlet and hung her head in shame.  I laughed and asked for a hug, which she willingly gave me.  That day was probably my favorite of the whole visit, since it had been so long since I'd last seen Donna and Joann, and it was the first time I got to meet Donna's husband and daughter and they got to meet Bill.  Sometimes I think if I lived in Virginia again, I might even have some semblance of a normal social life.  On the other hand, maybe I wouldn't, because I'm kind of a recluse most of the time.

It's getting close to Thanksgiving again.  I just got an email from my aunt announcing the annual shindig, which she blasts to everyone in our humongous family every year.  Although I complain a lot about my family, they're mostly very good people.  I don't agree with most of them politically-- quite a lot of them are diehard Trump fans and conservative Christians.  But they're fun to see when there's a wedding, reunion, or funeral.  Despite being a huge family, we're somewhat close, thanks to the annual reunion at Thanksgiving.  Some family members are closer than others.  

Lately, I've felt kind of like an outcast, but then I live pretty far away now, and have altered my views on religion and politics.  I no longer have the patience for longwinded arguments that I used to have, particularly with southern white men who are convinced that liberal politics are the pathway to Soviet Union style socialism.  I might have agreed with them if I hadn't spent so many years in Europe, which does have some socialist policies that work pretty well and doesn't resemble the former Soviet Union in the slightest.  Having lived in the former Soviet Union just a couple of years after it fell apart, I feel as though I can speak with some authority about what it was like there.  Europe is not like that at all.  Since we are related, we all seem to have inherited a penchant for arguing to the death.  And some are more insistent about it than others.

I discovered this hilarious song by Paul Thorn in July 2014, as my dad was dying.  It's a really perfect description of how I think of some family members.   I love them, but I can't spend a lot of time with them... and yet, I'd like to see them for an evening, maybe... as long as we don't talk politics and religion.  Ah-- never mind.  It won't happen.  But I still wish them well.

Many of my relatives who would argue with me are people who have not been outside of the southern United States, let alone "across the pond".  They don't respect my experiences or education and stubbornly insist that they're exactly right, no matter what, refusing to even acknowledge a perspective that differs from their own.  They don't seem to understand that even though I'm a woman who is a bit younger than they are, I'm not stupid, inexperienced, uneducated, or in need of "special help".  I simply have a different viewpoint.  I find it frustrating to engage in conversations with a lot of them, so I keep my distance.  But that doesn't mean I'm not fond of most of my family members.  I wish them well and would happily break bread with them, if I was in a place where that was easy to do.  Maybe there will come a time when that's the case again.

Anyway... it might be worth it to go to Virginia again, if only to see a few friends and eat some genuine American style junk food.  Seriously... I was looking at the menus of some of my favorite crappy chain restaurants in the States... places where there's nothing at all healthy on the menu.  I certainly don't need to be eating any of that stuff, but I still kind of miss it sometimes.  But then, when I get like this, it usually means I'm about to enjoy a visit from Aunt Flow.  I hope she comes this weekend, so next weekend in Baden-Baden won't be ruined.  The couple of zits on my face offer fresh hope that a visit is imminent and will be long over by next week.  That's when we'll head to Brenners Park Hotel and spend way too much money.  Then we'll come back and move.

November always makes me think of being home in Virginia.  I do sometimes miss being "home".  I haven't seen most of my friends and loved ones in years.  I think it's having an effect on me.  I also miss really good southern fried food that will send me into a diabetic coma.  *Sigh*...  guess I'll have to settle for Michelin starred cuisine next weekend.  I'd rather have fried chicken, American style pizza, or ribs.  It's probably just the hormones talking, though.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go have a good cry...  

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Black Tuesday...

Yesterday was a pretty crappy day for me.  It started off with my needing to vomit, thanks to a violent coughing fit.  Since it was just after I got up, I was basically dry heaving, which is never fun.  Next, we had the busted toilet seat bumper I wrote about in yesterday's post.

Then I took Zane to the vet for his dental cleaning.  His teeth were in worse shape than Arran's were, so it took a bit longer.  Then the vet told me she found a tumor behind Zane's teeth.  She said she was pretty sure it was a benign growth called an epulis, but she couldn't be absolutely certain without sending it to a pathologist.  She showed it to me and asked me if I wanted to have it analyzed.

Pathology, by the way, is much cheaper in Germany than it is in the USA.  I remember in 2012, being quoted $300 in North Carolina to have a growth removed from my dog, MacGregor, analyzed by a pathologist.  I opted not to do it, and MacGregor did end up having cancer, which took his life nine months later.  I'm not sure if the skin growth I had removed from the back of his neck was related to the spinal tumor he had...  What happened to MacGregor was kind of mysterious.  He had a very aggressive, malignant tumor invading his spinal column.  It could have come from that growth, or it could have been totally unrelated.

Here, it would have cost 37 euros to have Zane's growth examined by a pathologist.  I decided not to do it, though, because even if he does have oral cancer, he's ten years old and has lumps all over him.  I don't think we'd want him to go through extensive treatment for cancer-- certainly no radical surgeries like jaw removal or anything like that.  And I don't want to spend the next ten days worrying about that sample, bracing myself for bad news.  This month is going to be stressful enough.  In ten days, we'll be in Baden-Baden, celebrating our anniversary.  The last thing I want to do is worry about a pathologist's report when I'm trying to relax.

Zane in the place he likes best...  This was taken in Wiesbaden a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, that bit of news about Zane's growth was unexpected and upsetting...  but then, as I was waiting for Zane to recover enough from the anesthesia to go home, I got an email from Hello Fresh, letting me know that my payment failed.  Now... I was a member of Hello Fresh for almost two years.  But I canceled my account two years ago!  I hadn't so much as logged onto the site since 2016.  I did get a "welcome" email from them a week or so ago, but it was dated February 2015.  I figured it was a mistake-- which it was-- and it didn't occur to me that they would be sending me a food box.

Despite the fact that I didn't order a box, I'm going to be visited by UPS today and they will have a box for me.  I plan to refuse the shipment.  I've already sent a couple of nasty emails to Hello Fresh, and stopped future deliveries... and hopefully, this time it will stick.  I'm probably more pissed off about this than I should be.  It irks the hell out of me that I canceled something two years ago and now a "ghost" has somehow reactivated the account and is demanding payment.  I had assumed they deleted my account information after their customer service person affirmed that I'd canceled the service.  I guess not.

Zane looks better since the tumor was taken out.  For some time, he's had a slightly puffy appearance on the left side of his face.  I thought it was due to a tiny eye tumor that the vet had said he had.  I kept looking for the tumor in his eye, since his eye looked puffy, but I never found it.  It didn't occur to me that he might have a mass in his mouth.  It was way back behind his teeth, though, so even if I had looked for it, I don't think I would have been able to find it. 

I noticed that after he recovered from the anesthesia, that slightly puffy look around his eye was gone.  His face is back to being more or less symmetrical.  This actually kind of makes me feel bad, since I thought his breath was simply due to the fact that his teeth were covered with tartar.  His breath wasn't so bad that I would have suspected anything other than the usual doggy breath that happens when it's time for a cleaning.  On the other hand, I'm also glad he's looking better.

I'm feeling slightly less edgy today than I was yesterday.  I just sent another nastygram to Hello Fresh, demanding that they delete all of my account information.  We'll see if they do it... if not, I might have to get an attorney to write to them.

I'm going to try to have a better day today.  At least I don't have to spend it in the vet's office.  Zane is actually pretty frisky these days and even with that tumor, he's had a great appetite and energy.  So I'm going to focus on letting him enjoy his life without subjecting him to repeated surgeries, chemo, or anything like that.  Hopefully, he'll enjoy many more days.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Toilet troubles...

Here's another inappropriate, TMI post.  This morning, as I was cleaning the upstairs bathroom, and specifically under the toilet seat, I noticed one of the four plastic "bumpers" was completely busted.  It was like someone had taken a hammer and just smashed the hell out of it.  I noticed it cracked a few weeks ago and this morning, it just completely disintegrated.  The other three bumpers are, curiously, fine.

Until this morning, I didn't know what the little knobs under the toilet seat were called.  I took the broken part of the bumper off the seat because there was no hope of fixing it.  It was obliterated.

Regular readers might know that I hate the upstairs toilet in our current house.  It's an old fashioned "water saver" model that's supposed to save money by using less water.  However, in order to prevent clogs, one must hold down the lever until the tank is completely empty, defeating the purpose of the "water saver" function.  I don't know how old the toilet is, but it's definitely been around for awhile.  Before we learned not to use Charmin in this particular toilet, it clogged three times, resulting in flooding in the basement as the water backed up into my washing machine.  I had to endure a toilet flushing lesson from the landlord, which I found pretty annoying.  Angel Soft toilet paper works much better with this toilet, so we're no longer a Charmin household.  We also haven't had any more clogs.

As you can see, this toilet has seen a lot of ass...  Even if I used bleach, I don't think I could make under the lid sparkle.  The inside edges are peeling from years of use...  The hinges are somewhat corroded and have blue and green staining on them.  Apparently, that's caused by copper.

The water saver toilet is the bane of my existence.  Note the black lever on the side of the plastic toilet tank.  I have to hold that lever down until the tank is empty.  Otherwise, used toilet paper stays in the bottom of the toilet.  Sometimes it does that even if I empty the tank.  Then, I have to flush again.  So much for water conservation.

Before we lived in this house, I had never seen one of these old style water saver toilets, but I now know the Greek restaurant at the local sports complex also has them in their ladies room.  I'm pretty certain our new house in Wiesbaden has much newer toilets.  I sure hope it does.

The downstairs toilet in our current house is a lot better than this one, but I'm usually sitting upstairs, so the upstairs toilet gets more use.  Interestingly enough, this water saver toilet is not one of the infamous "shelf" toilets one sometimes encounters in Germany.  The bottom of our upstairs toilet was covered with lime and mildew when we first moved in, but I managed to get most of that peeled off so that the bottom is whiter now.  I can still see the brown gunk in the hole at the bottom of the bowl and, despite trying with several tools, have not been able to get that part as white.

Anyway, until this morning, I didn't know that the plastic knobs under the toilet seat are called "bumpers".  I even watched a tutorial on how to fix toilet bumpers with a product called Sugru.  Sugru is moldable plastic glue, a product I never knew existed until I watched this video.

This is actually a pretty cool hack.  Alas, I don't think it would work so well with our antiquated toilet seat.  The seat in this video appears to be newer fangled.

Although I don't know if Sugru can help us in this instance, I do think it's a pretty useful looking product.  I notice it's available in Germany, too.  I might have to hit the hardware store later and see if I can get some just to have around for minor fixes.  As for the broken bumper, I think I might be able to find a new one.  It won't look like the other three, but it will get the job done.  Personally, I think the next home improvement project our landlords undertake should be replacing that toilet with one that is more 21st century.  This is one throne I'm not going to miss at all.

In about an hour, I will rouse Zane from the bed and take him to get his teeth cleaned.  I'll be happy to have that chore done for now.  Then, in a couple of weeks, Bill and I will get our own teeth cleaned.  Hygiene is a virtue.

ETA:  It's been a yucky day.  The vet found a tumor in Zane's mouth.  She thinks it's benign, though.

ETA 2:  Bill just installed a new toilet seat!

Tada!  When he removed the old one, the screws were so corroded that one of them snapped clean off.

Monday, November 5, 2018

One doggy dental down... one to go...

I spent all morning at the vet's office with Arran.  It was time for him to get his teeth cleaned.  Tomorrow, I will take Zane to have his done, and Bill will have a better time with them in the car when we move later this month.  Zane, in particular, likes to stand between the front seats and pant.  When his breath is bad, that makes it less pleasant for the driver and front seat occupant.

I, of course, will be driving my own car to Wiesbaden.  I don't look forward to it, although it will mostly be on the Autobahn.  I haven't done a long drive in quite some time.  At least it's not a three day odyssey from North Carolina to Texas.  Driving in Germany is kind of nervewracking, but it's not as bad as driving in Italy or Spain.

I spent the time at the vet's office reading a book I've been trying to finish for awhile.  I hope to be ready to review it tomorrow, if I manage to complete it during tomorrow's doggy dental.  I'm going to miss our vets.  Over the past four years, they've gotten to know me pretty well, thanks to my having to bring Zane in for monthly allergy shots.  I hope we can find new vets we like as much up in Wiesbaden.

I'm really going to miss this area where I live, too.  I like country living.  However, the house in Wiesbaden is newer and wired for fiber optic Internet, so I shouldn't have to reboot the router as much as I do in this house.  Also, though it's in a more crowded area, I think the town itself is fairly nice.  I just won't have as many country views as I have where we are now.  But in the winter, the view matters less, anyway.  And we'll have a nice fireplace.

I'm trying to be more positive and less "TMI" with this post... but now I have nothing left to write about.  Maybe I'll be inspired again later.  If I am, it'll probably be inappropriate.