Friday, June 29, 2018

"I'd love to go down on you..."

I could write about how pissed off I am at Donald Trump right now... but that's kind of an ongoing condition that waxes and wanes but never completely goes away.  No... after yesterday's moody post, I think today, I'm going to try to be funny.  I'll probably fail, although I'm fairly likely to offend.  Oh well.

Yesterday, I decided to make some music on SingSnap.  It was my first day back after a ten day hiatus that was started, in part, because I was getting hit on by some guy who tried to flatter me by telling me he thinks I'm "hot"...  probably says that about every female with a pulse.  Another reason why I decided not to do any music is because for the past ten days or so, there have been road workers tearing up our street.  I don't like to make music when there are people outside the window.  It makes me self-conscious.  Also, I don't like the sound of jackhammers on my recordings.

The street isn't even in particularly bad condition, but Germans repair everything on a timeline.  It's time to repave the street, so that's what they're doing right now.  For the past two days, there's been a trench at the end of our driveway.  Good thing I didn't need to drive anywhere.  They did fix it last night.

Anyway, the construction workers weren't around for most of yesterday, so I decided it was time to make some music.  I recorded a whole bunch of songs.  And as I was scrolling through the featured country songs yesterday, I happened to read too fast.  I saw Conway Twitty's song, "I'd Love to Lay You Down" followed by Shenandoah's "I'll Go Down Loving You".  I looked at the two titles too quickly and did a double take, because it looked like there was a song on the list called "I'd Love to Go Down On You".  I know song titles are more risque these days, but that seemed pretty over the top.  Then, I had a good laugh... because can you imagine the lyrics?  Naturally, I next saw that as a challenge.

Bill took our dogs to Uncle Max's because we're going to stay in downtown Stuttgart this weekend.  The Rolling Stones are playing tomorrow night and we have tickets on the 13th row.  I have a feeling that by the end of the show, we will not be in any condition to drive home.  We decided to make a "staycation" weekend out of it.  We'll go out to dinner tonight, see the concert tomorrow, and come home on Sunday.

Meanwhile, I have to find some way to occupy my time before Bill finishes work and fetches me for our weekend in the big city...  So, with that in mind, I think I'll write another one of my famous song parodies.  Here goes.

Here are the original lyrics to Adam Sandler's masterpiece...

I wanna make you smile whenever you're sad
Carry you around when your arthritis is bad
All I wanna do is grow old with you

I'll get your medicine when your tummy aches
Build you a fire if the furnace breaks
Oh, it could be so nice, growing old with you

I'll miss you
Kiss you
Give you my coat when you are cold

Need you
Feed you
Even let you hold the remote control

So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink
Put you to bed when you've had too much to drink
Oh, I could be the man who grows old with you
I wanna grow old with you

And here are my gross revamped lyrics... (Just so you know, I've never actually done this.  I'm about as conventional as they come when it comes to coming.)

I wanna make you grin when your balls are blue.
Help you sleep when there's too much to do.
All I wanna do... is go down on you.

I'll give you lots of love when your stress is high...
Sit back, relax, I'll unzip your fly...
Oh, it could be so nice, going down on you.

I'll bless you
Caress you
Massage you when your manhood's limp.

Tease you
Appease you
Even pretend that you're my pimp...

So let me climb across your sexy bod...
Bow down to your stiffened rod...
Oh I could be the girl... who goes down on you..
I'd love to go down on you.

And here is the finished product.

Bill's birthday is July 7th.  I suppose I could give him this for his birthday and make all his dreams *cum* true... (see what I did there?)  But knowing me, it'll be just another boring day in paradise.  Apologies to anyone who now needs brain bleach.  

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Help is on the way...

Last night, Bill and I were talking and I started feeling kind of low.  I guess I'm always going to have a problem with depression, and reading the news and hanging around on social media doesn't help much.  I read about people like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade taking their lives... and to be honest, I can't really blame them too much.  Why stick around?

Bill doesn't share my pessimism.  He has plenty to live for.  He has a job and is well-respected and well-liked.  He's rebuilding his relationship with one of his daughters and there's hope that he'll be able to get back in touch with his other daughter and former stepson.  And he has a grandson, too.  Me?  Well, I have Bill and two dogs and my writing and music, neither of which seems to amount to a lot.  I also have a real problem with depression.

I'm still really upset about that whole Permit Patty thing.  I can't resist reading the comments people are posting about her.  They're gleeful that she lost her job and is getting death threats.  So many people completely lack any empathy whatsoever for her.  I've read so many comments about how she should have worn earbuds or turned on music to drown out the sounds of the yelling outside of her window.  I read about how Alison Ettel (aka Permit Patty) tried to apologize to Erin Austin and her daughter and Austin refused to accept Ettel's apology and immediately accused Ettel of racism and bullying again. There is no graciousness or kindness in the situation, just lots of blaming and people wishing bad things on a woman who, to me, simply sounded like she was having a bad day.

This has little to do with my post... I just like Hee Haw.

I know a lot of people think this kind of mob justice is perfectly fine.  I will admit, there are times when I find myself agreeing with "karma", too.  However, I'd like to hope I never get to the point of seriously wishing death or violence on another person simply because I disagree with something they said, wrote, or did.  When I think of a person like Alison Ettel getting this kind of hatred from the world at large, I realize it could easily happen to me.  Honestly, if it ever did, I think it would send me into a deep depression.  I might get so down that I'll decide it's just not worth hanging around here anymore.

A week ago, Alison Ettel was gainfully employed as CEO and had deadlines to meet.  Now, simply because she lost her temper and confronted a couple of people who happened to be of a different racial background, she's no longer CEO and perfect strangers are wishing death and violence to her.  And they think it's perfectly fine to do this...  They don't even know her and they're sending hatred to her.  99.9% of the people who are wishing death to Alison Ettel weren't at the scene when she made her phone call to the police.  The vast majority don't know her personally and have no way of knowing what made her finally decide to act against the mother and daughter who were yelling outside of her window.

I'm writing about this and I know it's risky, because people may decide I'm a racist because I empathize with Alison Ettel.  Noise pollution is stressful.  I think Ettel had the right to speak up about it.  I understand how risky calling the police is in a situation like this, but I also don't believe people should have to suffer in silence when someone is disrupting their peace.  It takes courage to speak up, because whatever you say can be used against you.  Even sometimes in this blog, I get nasty comments from people who make assumptions about my character because I don't think they way they do.  Although it hasn't happened often, I have had people send me emails and private messages inviting me to die.  Ha ha... what they don't know is that I often wish it were that easy.  I think the world, by and large, sucks and is getting worse by the day.  I'd love to "go die"... as someone recently wished for me because he was offended by my pro-choice beliefs.

I know it's childish, but there are times when my brain gets so screwy that I'd like to actually take the haters' advice and out them as the horrible people they are for sending hate mail.  I'd like to turn a little mob justice on them, take their advice, and publicize their hateful messages and identities so they might get a taste of their own vile mob justice medicine.  But that's not productive, of course, and I'm not so fucked in the head that I'd do it.  For one thing, I could only do it once.  For another, that's the kind of action that can really backfire if you don't do it the right way.  I may fantasize about checking out, but I don't want to end up a vegetable.  I also don't like pain, and I realize that taking that kind of impulsive action is manipulative and cruel to the few people who want me to stick around.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted, though.

Anyway... I was talking about this with Bill last night and I started to get really teary.  Because I also realized in the back of my head that I have no "right" to feel like this.  I have a pretty easy life and am blessed in so many ways.  And yet, I still think it sucks here.  I think people who send hate mail, even to unpopular folks like Permit Patty or BBQ Becky, are awful.  I wish they'd think longer about it before they hit "send".  That kind of thoughtless bullshit can lead to real consequences.

Allow me to go on record to say that I wish Alison Ettel well.  I hope that despite the negative publicity her business is getting, she can keep supporting herself.  I hope there are people out there who care about her and don't want to see her dead or raped.  I hope there are loving, gracious, decent people in her life who aren't calling her a racist or a bully and have some understanding for her, even if they don't agree with her actions last Friday.  I hope she has people in her life who have empathy and will help her through what is no doubt a very difficult period in her life.  No, I don't think she's a racist... and even if she were a racist, I don't think she'd deserve to suffer death or rape because of it.

I feel like the world is going crazy and we're quickly falling into a dystopian nightmare.  Yes, it really depresses me.  Yes, it makes me think about beaming myself out of this existence.  No, I'm not planning to do it...  not at this point in time.

Which brings me to the reason I titled this post "Help is on the way..."

Last night, Bill told me about an email he got from his younger daughter.  For a long time, I was convinced she was the spawn of Satan.  She sent Bill hateful emails, as did her brother and sister.  She slapped him across the face when she was nine and acted like he wasn't "good enough" to be in her life.  I was appalled by her comments and her behavior.

I now realize that she's not who she seemed to be for so long.  I'm glad I've stuck around long enough to see this side of her.  I have some hope that she and Bill can reconnect.  In fact, Bill told her that he'd be willing to help older daughter move out of her mother's house.  Apparently, she is thriving in Arizona with Bill's ex stepson.  But she hesitates to move because she is apparently the primary caregiver for Ex's youngest child, an eleven year old boy.  Even though older daughter has her own life to live and will soon turn 27 years old, she's raising Ex's child.

In the course of this exchange, Bill also told his younger daughter that he would be willing to speak to his ex stepson again.  For many years, he considered ex stepson his son.  Ex stepson, thanks to his mother's toxic bullshit, tossed away the one true father figure he had.  Luckily, Bill is kind and empathetic and understands that his ex wife is crazy and toxic.  There may come a day when they all reunite.  Apparently, ex stepson is up for it, too.

Will I be a part of this?  I don't know.  I have no relationship with them.  I don't really trust them, although I'd like to.  I do have empathy for their situation, but I can't deny that their actions really hurt me.  I've been hurt by a lot of people and it makes me reluctant to trust others.  I don't even try to make local friends anymore because too many of them have turned out to be fake.  I've been left heartbroken too many times.  But at this point, I do wish Bill's kids well and I hope they can reconnect with their dad.  Maybe next year, if the kids are still speaking to Bill, he'll fly out and visit them.  He has a reason to stick around, if only because he has a grandson now... and because he can help them.  I don't feel that helpful or hopeful, most of the time.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

When religious television isn't that wholesome...

Yesterday, as I was waiting for Bill to pick me up for our dentist appointments in downtown Stuttgart, I was perusing RfM and noticed a thread about a church in Virginia that encourages members to shun their children.  Since I'm originally from Virginia, I opened the thread and found a Washington Post article about Calvary Temple, a Sterling based Pentecostal church led by Star R. Scott.  I immediately, recognized the pastor's name, and not just because it's unusual.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about WYAH, an independent Christian television channel that was owned by Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, and operated in southeastern Virginia.  WYAH no longer exists today, but it thrived in the era of over the air and basic cable television.  I grew up in the 80s and watched too much TV.  I often watched WYAH, not because of its wholesome and/or sanitized programs, many of which were religious, but because despite being a religious channel, they did air some funny sitcoms.  I remember WYAH played shows like Diff'rent Strokes, WKRP in Cincinnati, Benson, The Jeffersons, and my personal favorite, The Brady Bunch.  They also aired some of my favorite cartoons in the afternoons. When I wasn't riding my horse, I'd tune in.  The censors would dutifully blank out any swear words.  Can't be listening to any cussing if you're a good Christian, right?

Another thing that WYAH had plenty of were religious ads.  In my last post about the network, I included some clips of ads that aired regularly on WYAH.  The videos I shared included some folks I had completely forgotten about, including Star R. Scott.  His ad for Calvary Temple and the weekly television show that used to air on WYAH on Sunday nights at 11:00pm had a memorable musical track that stuck in my head.

This is the show that aired on WYAH.  This particular episode is from 1986.  Check out Star R. Scott's hair.

Skip to 4:26 and you can see the ad for Star R. Scott's show, "Sword of the Spirit".  It uses a vital, energetic soundtrack.  The music suggests the show will change your life for the positive.  The graphics suggest space... the future...  Listen to this message and your future will be vital and powerful.

In 1989, WYAH was sold and the programming turned secular.  The call letters are now WGNT and the channel no longer bears any resemblance to what it was during my childhood.  I'm actually kind of sad about that.  I like independently run TV channels.  They're more interesting than channels that are part of a huge conglomerate and show the same programming.

I read the article in the Washington Post about Star R. Scott's church, Calvary Temple, which was regularly advertised on WYAH.  To be honest, although I didn't know about weird religions when I was a kid and wasn't raised in a weird religion myself, I always kind of got creepy vibes from some the religious shows WYAH broadcasted.  Sometimes I used to watch The Rock Church Proclaims, which aired at about 10:00pm every Saturday night.  The church was kind of local, since it was based in Virginia Beach and run by Anne and the late John Gimenez.  The pastors used to sing and dance behind the pulpit to the music, which included a lot electric instruments... nothing like the organ and piano used at my very conservative Presbyterian church.  For some reason, it gave me the willies.

A clip of a service at the Rock Church from 1990, which is kind of like what WYAH used to air.  Lots of speaking in tongues, swaying to music, and dancing.  I've never heard anything bad about the Rock Church.

According to the Washington Post's article about Calvary Temple, Star R. Scott's church is quite abusive.  The story, written by journalist Britt Peterson, follows the experiences of several former members of Calvary Temple.  Ex churchgoers report that they were expected to shun anyone in their family, including children, who left the church.  In one case, a mother was ordered to send her 15 year old non-believing daughter away from the home because church leaders feared she would influence her 13 year old sister.  In another case, a mother decided to leave the church and four of her five children shunned her.

Scott is also accused of other kinds of abuses.  Former members report that they were required to send their children to Calvary Temple's privately run school.  Although corporal punishment in public schools was banned in Virginia back in 1989, it is apparently still alive and well at Calvary Temple's school.  Cynthia Azat, whose mother shipped her off to live with her grandmother at the behest of church leaders, reports that when she was attending the school in the 1990s, she would be paddled regularly.  At one point, she'd be paddled as often as daily.  Sometimes, she didn't even know why she was being punished.  The paddlings were painful and humiliating; if a student moved during the strikes, he or she would get more.  Moreover, parents were expected to sign legal paperwork that would allow church leaders to discipline their children whenever they wanted to.

Here's a Washington Post article about Calvary Temple from 2008 with more detail about Scott's leadership.  Ten years ago, people were calling him toxic and dictatorial.  Below is a snippet from the 2008 article, detailing more abuses by Calvary Temple leaders.

About 400 members remain and are at the church most days for services or activities including fellowship breakfasts and student basketball games, former members said. Families are expected to send their children to Calvary's school, which has classes from kindergarten through high school.

...others who attended the school say punishments ranged from spankings with a thick wooden paddle to spending the day outside digging, filling and redigging holes.

Charm Kern, a nursing student and mother, says she was traumatized by Calvary teachers telling her in her early adolescence that she was too overweight to be on the cheerleading squad. As punishment for being a "glutton," said Kern, who is 20, she was tied by a rope to faster children and pulled during runs. She and her brother, who was also overweight, would be required to run while other children ate lunch, she said. By ninth grade, she was rebelling against her teachers, and pastors tried to place her and her brother with another family. Her parents pulled the family out of Calvary.

And further, from the same 2008 article,

Michelle Freeman, 48, left in December 2007 after church leaders and other members urged her to reject her son and her husband, who was not a member. Her son, Channing, had left Calvary as a high school sophomore, setting off heated debates between his parents, leading to their separation.

Channing, 18, wrote an essay this year at his public school describing terrifying dreams about God and Satan he had while in the church. Calvary, he wrote, has "stolen so much of my life. For eleven years I've been devoid of a real life. I don't know what it's like to live."

Now, Michelle Freeman is among more than two dozen former members who gather for support. At a Loudoun Starbucks recently, Freeman cried as those around her talked about their wounded families.

In 2002, Star R. Scott's wife, Janet, was dying.  Rather than mourn for his partner, Scott remarried two weeks after her death.  His new bride was a 20 year old woman named Greer Parker.  Scott was 55 years old and had told his congregation that the book of Leviticus forbade “high priests” to mourn; instead, they were to “take a wife in her virginity.”  He brought Parker up from the congregation after he finished delivering his sermon.

Six years later, there was another scandal within the church, when Scott's son, Star R. Scott, Jr., and his then-wife sent an email to Scott Sr. accusing him of molesting his two nieces.  The email was circulated among church members.  Other allegations of Scott's sexual proclivities toward young girls came out, although there were never any criminal charges brought against him.  Although Scott has claimed that the email was full of inaccuracies and "gossip", he never expressly denied the accusations.

Star Scott is also not above wringing money out of his congregants.  Not only are they expected to tithe ten percent, they are also expected to give money to other projects, some of which never materialized, even when they're barely able to scrape by.  Meanwhile, Scott owns several expensive cars and motorcycles, which he shows off regularly.  According to Peterson,

Scott started a racecar ministry that, to this day, holds shows to display his collection of expensive cars and motorcycles. Around the same time, he led the church leadership to vote for independence from Assemblies of God, which had required that pastors tithe to the umbrella organization. Scott then rewrote the Calvary constitution to eliminate the traditional voting process and end financial transparency, according to several former members.

I could go on about what was in the Post's article, but I think it's best for people to read it for themselves.  I did find a few interesting YouTube videos about the church, including one posted by someone who is mentioned in Britt Peterson's article.  Below, you'll hear Pastor Scott preaching, sounding very belligerent as he refers to Mormonism as a cult...

"Okay, we're a cult.  Now go on with your life.  What's your problem?  What is your problem?  Go grab a Mormon and hassle him!"  

Pot... meet kettle!  Although to Scott's credit, he does admit that his church is a cult.  Then he says that Christianity is a cult.  

I find cults fascinating.  There's always a charismatic leader who convinces people to submit to strict rules and makes high demands of the cult members.  Those demands keep the members busy and prevent them from thinking about what they're doing and how they're being sucked dry and abused.  

This is an excellent video about cults.  I highly recommend taking the time to watch it because it very clearly illustrates what cults are and how they damage people. 

I guess the hinky feelings I used to get while watching WYAH were genuine.  For all of their sanitizing of sex and profanity from their programming, they were actually encouraging abusive cult leaders like Star R. Scott.  But since that channel was owned by Pat Robertson, I guess I can't be too surprised.  Robertson himself is a bit of a nut.

You might get AIDS in Kenya...

And demons attach themselves to clothes...

Anyway, I'm grateful that I survived a childhood watching Channel 27 without being sucked into a cult.  But then, I did marry a man who was sucked into Mormonism, so there you go...

Another video about Star R. Scott and how his church has damaged families...  Be careful about the church you join.  It might be a cult.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

My take on "Permit Patty" and mob justice...

Today's post might be a bit controversial.  Some people might decide they no longer "like" me after reading this.  That's alright with me.  I feel the need to put this out there, popular opinion be damned.  I'm grateful that I live far away from the United States, where people might feel emboldened to send me death threats and rape wishes after I express what might be an unpopular view.

Last night, I read a Washington Post article about the saga of "Permit Patty", otherwise known as Alison Ettel, and her neighbors, Erin and Jordan Austin.  The three live in an apartment building in San Francisco, near the AT&T Park.  Those of you who are familiar with San Francisco might have an idea of what the area is like.  I have not been to San Francisco myself, so I can only guess that it probably gets noisy there.  

It seems that Erin Austin had recently lost her job and money was tight.  Her eight year old daughter, Jordan, who is black, was clamoring for a trip to Disneyland.  Erin very commendably told Jordan that they would go to Disneyland if Jordan helped raised the money for the tickets.  Jordan agreed, so mother and daughter grabbed an ice filled cooler and some bottles of water and went outside to sell them to people passing the building.  Rather than simply posting a sign and waiting for customers, or walking around the neighborhood with the cooler in tow, the two were standing in one spot, loudly yelling that they had water for sale.

Meanwhile, Alison Ettel, who is white, was in her apartment trying to work.  Ettel is [ETA: as of June 27th, Ettel has resigned her post] the CEO of Treatwell Tinctures, a company that makes cannabis based products for people and pets.  She had her window open and Erin and Jordan were apparently standing under it, hawking their water.  I don't know why the window was open.  San Francisco is an expensive city.  Maybe Ettel doesn't have air conditioning or doesn't want to run it unless it's absolutely necessary.  Maybe she prefers fresh air.  Who knows?  The shouting was getting on her nerves, though, and affecting her ability to get things done.

Ettel claims she called building security about the pair, but her complaint went nowhere.  So then, Ettel claims she asked the pair to quiet down.  Erin Austin counterclaims that Ettel never asked them to be quiet; instead, she allegedly came out and started harassing them.  Austin concluded that Ettel thought she could use her "white privilege" to shut them up and "it didn't work".

Ettel has said that she was "stern", but polite.  In fairness, "stern" and "polite" mean different things to different people.  What may have seemed polite to Ettel may have come across as over-the-top rude to Austin.  Everyone has different perceptions of tone.

Things escalated when Ettel confronted the pair, and she eventually made a comment about the Austins selling water without a permit.  Austin allegedly said, "On my property.", to which Ettel corrected that it wasn't her property.  I have to agree; if the three are living in apartments, it really isn't Austin's or Ettel's property.  It's part of their community, for which they pay rent and presumably have equal access.

Apparently, Ettel then took out her phone and called the police, supposedly to find out if there was a law against what the Austins were doing.  Meanwhile, Austin also took out her phone and recorded Ettel, who at that point probably realized she was about to go viral.  Indeed, Erin Austin did post the video on Instagram with the comment "Make this bitch go viral."

Leagues of outraged people saw and shared the post and called for Ettel's head on a platter.  Ettel claims she's gotten death threats as well as many messages from people who wish violence upon her.  Companies have started disassociating with Ettel and she could very well suffer significant financial loss due to this incident.

I made the mistake of reading the comments people left on the Post article.  Many people were squarely on the side of the mother and daughter trying to sell water under Ettel's window.  Only a few people seemed to think that Ettel had a right to be annoyed about the noise.  I also noticed that many Americans don't know that cannabis products for pets is a burgeoning business.  A lot of people were commenting that Ettel's business is "illegal" because it involves cannabis.  Some were saying she should enjoy some of her own products and "chill out".

I'll admit, at first I was mostly annoyed by the ignorant comments about cannabis products.  I give my dogs cannabis products.  They are perfectly legal because they don't contain any THC.  Right now, my dogs get CBD oil made in Colorado.  It's done wonders for them.  It doesn't make them high because the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is removed.  Moreover, I believe cannabis is legal in California, anyway.

Then I started reading the hateful comments left by people who are convinced that Ettel is a racist simply because she lost her temper.  I was shocked that so many people, none of whom were in attendance when this incident occurred, think they know what kind of a person Alison Ettel is.  A significant number of people apparently feel it's perfectly fine for Ettel to lose her livelihood and even be murdered, raped, or physically attacked.  I was also dismayed that more people didn't see this as an opportunity to teach a young child about having consideration for other people.  I think it's a lot easier to teach civility and consideration to an eight year old than an eighteen year old.

I shared the post on Facebook, along with my own comments.  I wasn't surprised when a couple of people came out against me.  In fact, I'm surprised more people haven't heaped shame on me for daring to even appear to take Ettel's side.

First thing's first.  I don't think calling the police over a situation like this is appropriate, especially given the number of tragic incidents that have happened recently involving black people and the police.  The police have better things to do than mediate what should have been a minor squabble between neighbors.  Too many promising, unarmed, young people of color have gotten killed over situations that should have been trivial.  However, in Ettel's defense, she tried to get a non police authority involved.  She called security, and they wouldn't address the problem.  When Ettel confronted Erin and Jordan Austin herself, Ms. Austin was uncooperative.  Instead, Erin Austin evidently reacted with hostility over what seems to me to be a valid complaint.

Edited to add:  According to CNN,

A seller's permit is required in San Francisco if someone plans to sell something for a temporary period or something that would be subject to sales tax at a store, according to the city's business portal.

I would imagine that applies to bottles of water.

All I know about this case is what I've read in the media.  I don't know what the environment around Ettel's apartment building is like.  I would imagine it gets noisy there because apartments are usually full of kids and kids make noise.  I don't know the parties involved.  However, Ettel has the right to peaceful enjoyment of her apartment.  She claims that the Austins were yelling for a couple of hours and it was affecting her ability to work.  One of the reasons vendors have to get permits is so that they don't disturb the peace.  It sounds like this situation occurred in a residential area, outside of people's homes, where people expect to have a sanctuary.

I used to live in apartments when I was younger.  I remember having to endure the noise from my neighbors.  Most of the time, I simply ignored it, but there were a few times I complained.  The black law student who lived next to me was very civilized and kindly quieted down when she saw that her loud music had awakened me.  The Turkish neighbors above me reacted with hostility when I pointed out that their decision to let their kids play soccer in their apartment over mine was negatively affecting my ability to study.

One time, when I lived at the University of South Carolina, I did call campus police on my neighbors.  It was a group of guys from India who were throwing a very loud party that went on until 3:00am.  They lived down the hall from me, but I could easily hear the noise from their gathering.  I had to get up to go to work three hours later and had endured their music, hallway antics, and shouting for hours.

My complaints never had a thing to do with race.  Your rights end where mine begin.  We were all paying rent and entitled to peaceful enjoyment of the premises.  Moreover, it can be very stressful and frustrating to be forced to listen to other people's noise, especially when one is trying to work, study, or sleep.

I currently live in a country where no one would bat at eye at confronting people who make excessive noise, particularly on a Sunday.  Actually, my neighborhood is pretty laid back.  My next door neighbor was vacuuming this past Sunday and no one said anything.  But in many German neighborhoods, mowing the lawn, drilling, running a vacuum cleaner, or playing loud music during "quiet hours" will get you a stern talking to from your neighbors.  If you react with belligerence, they won't hesitate to call the police.

While it can be annoying not to be able to do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it, these rules, overall, do make life a lot more pleasant.  When I pointed this out last night, a friend asked me if maybe I wasn't a little "insulated" because I live in Germany.  No, of course I'm not "insulated".  I've only been in Germany for a few years.  If anything, I'd say living in Germany gives me a more objective perspective.  I don't automatically assume a person is racist because they have a dispute with a person who isn't the same color they are.  Moreover, I certainly haven't forgotten what life in the United States is like, although I will admit that I much prefer Germany, mainly because of situations like this that get blown out of proportion and end up as front page news.

I realize that the United States is not Germany.  I don't expect the United States will ever be like Germany, and that's fine.  But I do think it's a shame that these neighbors couldn't work out this issue among themselves rather than turn it into a viral news story.  I also think it's absolutely ridiculous that people are wishing death, rape, and financial ruin on Alison Ettel simply because she dared to say something about the noise outside of her apartment.  What was she supposed to do?  Suffer in silence for as long as the mother/daughter duo wanted to hawk their wares?

Does it really serve society for Ettel to become infamous and lose her job because of her noise complaint?  Where will that lead?  Another person needing public assistance or even becoming so broke and despondent that she commits suicide?  If that happens, will people be posting about her on Facebook, asking why she never "reached out" for help?  Publicly assassinating a person's character has real life consequences.  While the idea that Ettel might one day commit suicide over this may seem extreme, I want to point out that seemingly minor situations, particularly ones that involve mob justice, sometimes turn into a downward spiral that leads to tragedy.

Based on what I've read about Ettel, I can't automatically conclude that she's a racist.  To me, she simply sounded fed up and pissed off.  She has admitted that she didn't handle this situation in the best way.  It's too bad Ms. Austin can't admit that she was wrong, too.  Sadly, I doubt that will ever happen.  Erin and Jordan Austin have even been rewarded for this incident.  Someone purchased four tickets to Disneyland for the family, so Jordan Austin can forget the trauma of having been confronted by Alison Ettel.  I do hope that somewhere along the way, she and her mother learn to have more respect for their neighbors.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The things I see and hear when I visit the textile free area...

Yesterday, Bill and I went to the Mineraltherme, which is a spa not far from where we live.  The Mineraltherme is not like a day spa.  You don't go there for pedicures, manicures, or facials, although they do offer massages.  Basically, it's a complex that has a bunch of pools of varying temperatures, saunas, steam rooms, and lounges.

I love going to spas, but Bill is not really a fan.  He doesn't like to be seen in his bathing suit.  He especially dislikes the "textile free" areas, which require everyone to be nude.  I mean, yes, you can wear a robe or a towel when you're sitting on a lounger.  In fact, the staff prefers it that way.  But when you're in the sauna, steam room, or pool, you have to lose your bathing suit.  Bill is bashful about going naked, but we both admit that once you do it, it's no big deal...  Or is it?

Yesterday, I wrote about our visit to the spa.  That piece was mostly about lunch and how annoyed I was that there were grade school aged kids in the textile free area.  I mean, I know it's Europe and people are freer about their naked bodies here.  I guess it just surprises me that people want their kids looking at some of the junk on display down there.  And it also surprises me that the people who are hanging out in the spa want rugrats running around while they're trying to catch some rays.

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that I saw one guy with a large metal ring hanging off the end of his junk.  I saw it even though the guy was trying to conceal the jewelry on his family jewels.  Bill and I were sitting at the foot baths, which isn't far from the turnstile where one enters the textile free area.  It's six euros to come in and that allows you to frolic in the buff to your heart's content.  So we're sitting there, soaking our feet, wrapped in our bathrobes and enjoying the lingering effects of wine.

A tall man passed by.  He had a towel wrapped around his middle, but it didn't quite cover everything.  As he passed, I could see his schlong.  I was about to avert my eyes when I noticed a large shiny object at the end of his penis.  I could see that it was a thick, heavy, silver colored hoop.  It kind of looked like a very wide banded wedding ring.  I cringed and wondered if it hurt to wear it as he casually strolled outside.  Then I wondered how much it had hurt to have that part of his body pierced.

Then I turned away and noticed three young kids milling around.  I was under the impression that people under 18 weren't allowed in that area, but it turns out they can be there with adults.  It suddenly occurred to me that in the United States, people would be having a conniption about kids hanging around adults in the nude.  It was just one of those odd cultural moments, I guess.  I didn't see any Germans acting inappropriately, other than the few who were making out in the pool.  I did, however, see a few American teens acting inappropriately.

There were three young guys next to us in the pool.  They were Americans, two of whom spoke fluent Spanish.  At first, I wondered if they were in the Army.  They looked like they could be old enough to enlist... just barely.  But then I realized that two of them had hair that was too long and one guy was a bit too heavy.  The heavy guy was covered in ink and was going around squirting water with his hands like an oyster.  He had his hands together, fingers laced, and would close them to force water through.  I began to suspect these guys were military dependents.  The only other time I've ever seen anyone do the "oyster squirt" at a pool is on military installations.  The heavy set guy appeared to be the ring leader of the three.  He was talking about bringing a date to the textile free area of the Mineraltherme.  I kind of wondered what his mother might think about that.

The Mineraltherme is located very close to Panzer Kaserne, which is one of the four US military installations in the area.  One of the reasons I had kind of hoped Bill wouldn't want to go there yesterday is because you never know who you might run into.  I don't think a lot of Americans use the Mineraltherme, but enough do that you might find yourself looking at your husband's boss's junk... or that of your stairwell neighbor's.  There are other spas in the area that aren't so frequented by Americans.  However, the Mineraltherme is slightly better for American sensibilities, since there are areas where you wear your bathing suit.  Germany does have a lot of spas that aren't all textile free, but there are some where bathing suits are pretty much outlawed.  Americans are kind of leery of that.  I'll admit I was too, at first.  But I think I'm probably a natural nudist.  I find skinny dipping kind of liberating.

Because I write a somewhat popular blog, I do kind of worry that I might be spotted in the buff by someone who's read my stuff.  It's happened before.  Last year, we went to the annual Weindorf, which is an event held to celebrate the area's many locally produced wines.  Someone came up to me and said, "You're Jenny, aren't you?"  Sure enough, it was someone who follows my travel blog.  It stands to reason that I could be sitting in the textile free area buck naked and someone will come over to ask me about my blog.  I guess that's not such a big deal, except for the naked part.  I mean, I know I often bare my soul on my blog, but baring my body might be more than I, or anyone else, can stand.  The lovely thing about Germans, though, is that they truly don't care what you look like under your clothes.  If you hang out in certain areas, you're liable to find out, whether you want to or not.

After awhile, I got tired of listening to the English and Spanish yammering of the young lads who were thinking of bringing a date to the Mineraltherme.  Bill and I emerged from the pool and went into a sauna.  Saunas are a serious thing here.  There's a whole culture and etiquette practiced.  We went in and sat down... and Bill forgot to arrange his towel so that his bare feet weren't on the wooden bench.  I noticed a few disapproving glares from Germans and discreetly whispered to him to fix his towel, which he did.  I don't usually like sitting in saunas, but I will admit that it felt good yesterday.  Ten minutes later, we emerged from the sauna, I took a quick shower, and then there was this wonderful rush of endorphins that came over me like a comfortable blanket.  I smiled.  I'm sure it was a beatific smile, though I can't say for certain it was.  That feeling is why I come to the spa...  And with that, our visit was done.

Later, I got Bill to use his foot to work some out some of the knots in my lower back.  Because I sit on my can a lot, I always have sore back muscles.  He doesn't really like doing that, but he'll indulge me because although it hurts when he presses, afterwards I get a rush of pleasure.  Pressure against sore muscles feels great.  I guess it's because all the crap trapped in the muscle fibers is forced out as blood rushes into the tissue.  Someday, I will invest in a massage chair so Bill won't have to use his feet on my back anymore.  And maybe someday we'll have our own pool, so we can go naked without having to see Prince Albert piercings or listen to teenagers talk about molesting their dates...  I can dream, can't I?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets "86'd"

Robbie Rist, aka "Cousin Oliver" from The Brady Bunch was the first to break the news to me about what happened in Lexington, Virginia on Friday night.  He posted a tweet by Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Facebook about how she was asked to leave The Red Hen, a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.  I was immediately interested, mainly because I know Lexington.  I have a lot of family and friends in the area.  My dad went to college there, and it's also where I got married.  I've been visiting that town for most of my life and I know it well.

Poor thing... had to go hungry on a Friday night.

I was pretty surprised to hear that Ms. Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant there.  Lexington is the kind of place where country life meets city life.  It's a very southern town with plenty of residents proudly waving Confederate flags.  However, there are also two colleges sitting side by side in Lexington and plenty of folks identify as liberal, too.

I have never eaten at The Red Hen.  I think we considered dining there during our last visit in 2014 but, for some reason, opted not to.  I will make a point of booking a table next time I go "home", whenever that is.  The owner of the restaurant, Stephanie Wilkinson, explained why she asked Ms. Sanders to leave her restaurant.  While I ordinarily wouldn't agree with outright discriminating against a person because of who they are, Ms. Wilkinson sounds like someone I would be proud to work for, if I could stand the idea of waiting tables again.

I shared the news about Ms. Sanders' being asked to leave The Red Hen and it attracted a lot of divisive comments.  My own initial comment was this.

For the record, I think business owners should have the right to refuse service, as long as they're working in the private sector and whatever their business is doesn't put other people's lives on the line.  I would not be okay with a doctor or a police officer refusing to respond to an emergency because of who a person is.  I would not be okay with a teacher in a public school not teaching a student because the student is transgendered or mixed race.  I'm not okay with pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions to which they have moral objections.  But in those situations, the work being done is essential to a person's overall well-being.  I don't think the same can be said for a person running a private retail or restaurant business.

In other words, I don't think bakers should be forced to bake cakes.  It's not because I support being homophobic, though.  It's because I think there are times when it should be okay to refuse service to someone, as long as it doesn't mean the person will die or suffer some other life changing calamity.  I think people should be allowed to exercise their "free agency" and suffer the consequences, be they positive or negative.  I don't agree with trying to legislate morality.  To me, morality is personal and something that should come from within.  

If I support Ms. Wilkinson in denying Ms. Sanders service, then logically, I would have to support a baker's decision not to bake a cake.  I strongly agree with letting people vote with their wallets.  If you're dumb enough to be a racist or a homophobe in this day and age and you're in business, then so be it.  Let the public decide if that's acceptable.  I'd rather not make it a law that a baker is forced to bake.  Call it a throwback to my more conservative days.  Also, I would much rather know if someone preparing my food is a hater so I can ask someone else to prepare it.  I wouldn't want spit or any other nasty substance in my wedding cake.

Ms. Wilkinson has a number of gay employees in her employ and they have been directly affected by Donald Trump's divisive policies.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders defends Donald Trump's policies; it's her job.  But those policies have real consequences for everyday people.  Ms. Sanders has made the choice to be on Trump's team.  The restaurant owner asked her employees what they'd like her to do.  They said they wanted Ms. Sanders to leave.  So Ms. Wilkinson decided that she would take a stand for her employees and ask Ms. Sanders to go.  I commend her for having the courage to do that.  It's not like she did it to be hateful.  She did it in solidarity with her employees.  Having worked in restaurants myself, I know that in the better ones, the cooks and servers can become like family.

It seems to me that Sarah Huckabee Sanders has just experienced the other side to allowing discrimination.  You applaud a baker's right not to bake a cake for a gay wedding because it's "immoral"?  Well, if you allow the baker to discriminate on the basis of gay marriage being "immoral", then you have to allow the restaurant owner to discriminate when she decides to take a stand against what she considers immoral.  You can't have it both ways.  

Anyway, by Ms. Wilkinson's account, it sounds like she was polite about inviting Ms. Sanders to leave.  She didn't throw out their whole party, although the whole party did leave.  She didn't charge them for the wine and cheese they had already consumed.  She spoke to Ms. Sanders privately rather than publicly demanding that she leave.  

As for The Red Hen, I think it will survive this incident just fine.  Although many local people in Rockbridge County strongly support Donald Trump, the city of Lexington voted overwhelmingly against him.  Moreover, plenty of "liberal" people from up north visit Lexington.  It's kind of a cute jewel in the middle of the rural Shenandoah Valley.  I have a feeling more people will make the trip to Lexington now.  That may be a boon for all of the businesses in the area, not just The Red Hen.  I don't know when I'll be back in Lexington, but next time I go, I'll try to stop by... if the restaurant is still operational at that time. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A review of With God in Russia, by Walter Ciszek and Daniel Flaherty

This meme got me to read a book.

Sometimes Facebook can be a great place to find books, even from memes posted by long, lost co-workers from twenty years ago.  That's how I happened to read Father Walter Ciszek's harrowing story of being held prisoner the Soviet Union for twenty years.  My friend, Courtney, is a devout Catholic and she shared a meme featuring one of Ciszek's quotes.  Not being Catholic myself, I had never heard of the man.  I do find books about the Soviet Union and the prison experience fascinating, though, so I decided to download Father Ciszek's book, With God in Russia: The Inspiring Classic Account of a Catholic Priest's Twenty-three Years in Soviet Prisons and Labor Camps.

With God in Russia was originally published in 1964, but it has been republished several times.  I read the version that was released in June 2017.  The price was right at just $1.99.  The book is Father Ciszek's story written by ghostwriter Daniel Flaherty.  It includes an afterword by James Martin. Father Ciszek, who died in 1984, has been considered for possible beatification or canonization since 1990.  His current title is Servant of God.  

Who was Walter Ciszek?

Walter Ciszek was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in November 1904.  His parents were Polish immigrants who had come to the United States in the 1890s.  When he was a young man, Ciszek belonged to a gang.  He later surprised his family when he decided to become a priest.  At age 24, Ciszek entered the Jesuit Novitiate in Poughkeepsie, New York.  

In 1929, Ciszek volunteered to serve as a missionary to Russia, which had become part of the Soviet Union in 1917.  At that time in Russia, there was a real need for Ciszek's services.  Religious rights for most citizens were curtailed and those who were religious suffered from persecution.  There weren't many priests around to offer religious services to believers.    

In 1934, Ciszek went to Rome to study the Russian language, history, and liturgy, as well as theology.  He was ordained a priest in the Byzantine Rite and took the name Vladimir.  Just as an aside, not being Catholic myself, I don't understand the practice of taking different names for religious reasons. I was a little confused as I was reading the book and Ciszek was referred to as Vladimir.

In 1938, Ciszek went to eastern Poland to do his missionary work.  The following year, the Soviet Union invaded Poland and forced Ciszek to close his mission.  At that point, Ciszek decided to go east, into the Soviet Union, under the assumed name Władymyr Łypynski.  He and two others journeyed 1500 miles to the logging town of Chusovoy, where he worked as a logger and provided religious services on the side.  

In 1941, Ciszek was arrested and accused of spying for the Vatican.  He was sent to Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, where he spent five years, most of which were in solitary confinement.  During his time at Lubyanka Prison, Ciszek was drugged and tortured.  After enduring severe torture, he signed a confession.  Convicted of espionage, Ciszek was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in the GULAG.  He spent four more years at Lubyanka, then was sent to Siberia, where he worked in mines.  Throughout his many years imprisoned in the Soviet Union, Ciszek maintained his deep faith in God and provided religious services to other prisoners.

In 1955, Ciszek was released from prison and was finally able to write to his family, who had assumed he was dead.  He lived in the city of Norilsk with restrictions.  He wrote of how local authorities tried to get him to take a permanent Russian passport, which he refused to do.  Three years after his initial release, the KGB forced Ciszek to move to Krasnoyarsk, where he secretly established missionary parishes.  When the KGB learned of what he was doing, they required Ciszek to move again, this time to Abakan, a town about 100 miles south.  There, he worked as an auto mechanic for four more years.  

In 1963, he received his first letter from his sisters.  A few months later, the Soviet Union exchanged Ciszek for two Soviet agents who had been held by the United States.  He did not know he was going to be exchanged until he was handed over to a State Department representative, who told him that he was still an American citizen.  He left Russia in October 1963.

From 1965 onwards, Father Ciszek continued his missionary work in the United States, working and lecturing at Fordham University and providing counseling and spiritual guidance until he died in December 1984.  He published two more books, one of which was released posthumously, and has left an impressive legacy to Catholics.

My thoughts

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I'm not Catholic and I don't know that much about Catholicism.  I didn't read this book because of who Ciszek was in a religious sense.  I read it because I am interested in the Soviet Union and what life was like for people who were imprisoned there.  I spent two years in the former Soviet Union just after it fell apart.  

Although Armenia isn't Russia and it wasn't part of the Soviet Union when I was there, the Soviet Union had only just fallen.  Some aspects of Ciszek's descriptions of life there rang very familiar to me.  I'm sure Armenia still maintains some remnants of that time even now, although I can see from pictures and Facebook posts from Armenian friends that the country has changed since I knew it.

Ciszek's story is very engaging.  Flaherty did a good job making it read as if it came directly from Father Ciszek himself.  He describes the monotony of daily prison life, particularly when he was in Lubyanka and basically sat in solitary confinement for years.  He writes of the struggles of staying nourished while he was at hard labor.  I was particularly fascinated by his descriptions of meal times, when prisoners would bring out a large pot of soup and dish it out to all the prisoners.  The ones who were served first got the thinnest and least satisfying helpings and would demand that the soup be stirred before it was served to them.

In Ciszek's voice, Flaherty wrote of special duties that would score prisoners extra rations.  For instance, the prisoner that would dump the bucket used for toileting would get another bowl of soup.  The prisoners would be so hungry that some were eager to take on that duty.  Naturally, because it was a prison, a lot of the people Ciszek did time with were actual criminals.  He wrote a lot about the "thieves" who would try to trick other prisoners out of their rations in Machiavellian ways.  

I was impressed by Ciszek's devotion to God, even when it seemed like he couldn't get a fair shake.  Make no mistake about it, Ciszek's time in prison wasn't fun.  I remember how Ciszek was given extra rations one day, not told that it was to last him for two days he'd spend riding on a train to another prison.  There he sat with his Russian handlers, who had plenty to eat and didn't share with him.  When a piece of buttered bread fell to the floor on the train, he tried to get it with his foot without attracting the attention of one of his guards.  The guard eventually did catch him in the act, but Ciszek pleaded with him to let him eat the dirty piece of buttered bread.  The guard was indifferent, so he got the bread.  There is something about the desperation of that story that sticks with me.  Ciszek appealed to the guard's humanity to ease his suffering just a tiny bit and it worked.

Although I am not a very religious person, I am fascinated by people who are committed to their faith, particularly when their commitment is genuine and not motivated by greed or a desire for power (although those people are also interesting for other reasons).  Father Ciszek was able to maintain faith, hope, and courage in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.  He did not become a bitter shell of a man who hated God or blamed God for the twenty plus years he spent incarcerated in Russia.  Instead, he turned that situation into an incredible life story, full of adventure and hope.  He sets an example of a man who did not give up or give in to self-pity or doubt.  A lot of religious people, particularly the leaders, could learn from Father Ciszek's example.

In any case, I highly recommend With God in Russia, particularly to Catholics who aren't already familiar with his story.  I found it a very interesting and inspiring book.  I suppose the very fact that I read it proves that not all Facebook memes are useless.

Friday, June 22, 2018

What was she thinking?

A few days ago, Bill and I were in the car on the way to visit Herrenberg's cool new observation tower.  We were listening to my eclectic collection of tunes on my iPod.  An old song by Christine Lavin came on called "What Was I Thinking?".  Originally recorded during Lavin's prime back in the 1980s, the song is absolutely hysterical.  Bill and I were cracking up as she kept setting up funny verses about unfortunate situations that inevitably lead to the question, "What was I thinking?".  The song is funny because it's very relatable.  I think all of us have asked ourselves that question more than a few times.

There are many versions of this song and they are all funny.

A version she did in 2013, when Mitt Romney was the least of our Republican troubles.

I discovered Christine Lavin during the summer of 1993, when I worked at a Presbyterian church camp.  One of the staffers, a guy who was very smart and liked cerebral stuff, had brought one of her tapes (remember, it was 1993).  The song he played was called "Sensitive New Age Guys".  I thought it was hilarious, so I eventually sought out Lavin's music when I had more money.

Christine Lavin is pretty active on social media and she is clearly not a Trump fan.  She's written several songs about our current Cheeto in chief and posted them online.  I couldn't help but think of Christine and her funny classic hit when I read about Melania Trump's latest fashion choice.  Last night, as Bill and I were finishing dinner, I saw a news article about Mrs. Trump's $40 jacket.  On the back, it says "I really don't care, do U?".

I posted about it on Facebook and went to bed.  When I woke up, I saw the post had many comments from aghast friends of mine.  I also noticed that other versions of the article I had posted had sprung up by all of the major news outlets.  Incredibly, Mrs. Trump's publicist, Stephanie Grisham said,

"I’d hope you guys would want to cover her visit with children today. It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe."

As I read that statement, I couldn't help but remember other times Mrs. Trump's wardrobe choices have sparked conversation.  Actually, if you think about it, it's what she's been doing for most of her adult life.  She's a former model, after all.  Models make waves by being seen, but not necessarily "heard"... at least not in the literal sense.

Remember back in 2016, when Donald Trump was still just a presidential candidate?  In the fall of that year, a recording of Mr. Trump's comments about "grabbing women by the pussy" was made public.  And what did Mrs. Trump wear to the presidential debate on October 9, 2016?  She wore a bright fuchsia "pussy bow" blouse.  Heads turned, and the press took notice.

In an article for Vanity Fair, journalist Lauren Le Vine wrote,

"Melania Trump probably thought she was picking a vibrant outfit for the debate. Unfortunately she failed to see the irony in wearing a style of shirt with “pussy” in the name. The Internet was quick to point it out, though."

Now... lots of people have pointed out how "intelligent" Mrs. Trump is.  I really don't know how intelligent she is because she doesn't really say much and a lot of her verbal statements and "campaigns" have been, at best, bizarre, and at worst, ripped off from a previous first lady.  However, she was a model, so I'm sure she knows what a "pussy bow" blouse is.  I have a hunch that she picked that blouse on purpose.  It was her own way of making a statement...  a rather ambiguous one, of course.  But that's kind of what models do.  They wear things that get people talking.

In September 2017, Mrs. Trump once again set tongues to wagging when she decided to wear a pair of black Manolo Blahnik stiletto heels on the way to a post hurricane disaster scene in Texas.  Plenty of people, myself included, felt that her decision to wear the ridiculous shoes was a slap in the face to people who were suffering in the wake of a natural disaster.  And plenty of people claimed they were just shoes and we should be grateful Mrs. Trump was doing her job as "FLOTUS".  Incidentally, she wore a "FLOTUS" baseball cap on that trip, too.  When Mrs. Trump got off the plane, she was wearing brand new, sparkling white tennis shoes.  They were a slightly less offensive choice than the heels, but they still kind of made a statement.  This is a woman who doesn't have to wear shoes that have been worked in.  This is a woman who wouldn't choose to wear obviously worn shoes as a show of solidarity.  This is a woman who doesn't really give a shit... or so it seems.

So now, Mrs. Trump is in the news again with her $40 "I really don't care, do U?" jacket.  I just spoke to my mom last night.  She lives in Virginia and said that lately, it's been averaging about 90-95 degrees there.  Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, which is where Mrs. Trump boarded her aircraft to Texas, is not far from Virginia.  I question why Mrs. Trump really needed the jacket in the first place, unless she really does want to make a statement to the American people and everyone else in the world.

"What was she thinking?" The New York Times asks.  I think she was thinking.  I think this was a calculated choice and she relies on her status as a naturalized American to get away with it.  People assume she doesn't understand our culture and that's why she makes these "fashion missteps".  I say her choices are "crazy like a fox."  

Mrs. Trump probably does this on purpose.  She makes very specific wardrobe choices to send a message to everyone watching her.  I can't know what her life is like and why she chose to marry Donald Trump.  It's clear to me that Trump is a narcissist.  My husband was married to a narcissist for almost ten years.  They really aren't fun to be around, at least not after the "honeymoon" phase.  I have always gotten the impression that Melania Trump doesn't enjoy being FLOTUS.  She probably doesn't enjoy being Donald Trump's wife, either.  In fact, if you watch her body language when she's standing near him, it's pretty clear that she can't stand him.  Unless, of course, her body language lies.  

Watch carefully as she turns her smile upside down...

Watch her dance with Donald...  Not a very comfy scene...

Melania slaps Trump's hand away in Israel...

And here she is in that jacket, on her way to Texas to visit detention centers for immigrants.

All the while, Melania is camera ready.  She doesn't actually say anything, but the clear message of disdain is still there.  Some time ago, I posted a lengthy rant about "passive aggressive behavior".  Actually, I've probably posted a few rants about passive aggression because people often accuse others of it without actually knowing what it means.  

I think Melania Trump is a brilliant study in passive aggression.  She smiles for the cameras and grudgingly shows up in Texas to do her job as FLOTUS. But if you pay attention to her subtle and not so subtle non-verbal messages, from which a significant portion of communication derives, you'll see that she's actually saying plenty.  The main thing I get is that, like so many of the rest of us, she is miserable about her husband's presidential "service" and would just as soon go back to her life as a private citizen in New York City.  

I also get the sense that Mrs. Trump would like to go back to being single, but since her husband is currently one of the most powerful men on the planet, she's stuck... just as stuck as the rest of the world is with her turd husband as president.  Barron Trump still has a few years to go before he's a legal adult.  So she continues to grudgingly do her FLOTUS duties with a smile pasted on her face as she wears fashions that make her statements for her.  I get the feeling that she prays every night that Mr. Trump will leave office sooner rather than later.  If she does pray for that, she's not alone.  I pray for it, too.  

When Melania thinks of her wedding day to Donald Trump, she probably also wonders... "What was I thinking?"  No amount of money is worth the kind of misery that exists in a marriage to a narcissist.  

I don't know if Mrs. Trump's publicist, Stephanie Grisham, really believes that this was "just a jacket".  I would hope she's not actually that dumb.  But then, given the quality of people on Trump's staff, I can't be sure that she's not.  I think Mrs. Trump was voicing her opinion loud and clear when she chose to wear that jacket.  Watch any episode of America's Next Top Model and you'll hear Tyra Banks talk about how successful models put thought into what they wear... or don't wear.  I think Melania Trump is smart enough to know that what she was wearing wasn't "just a jacket".  

"What was she thinking?"  I think she was thinking that this is all bullshit; but just like most of the rest of us, she's powerless to stop it.  And she's probably very depressed about that... like so many of the rest of us are.  

Edited to add:  Some people are speculating that Mrs. Trump wore the jacket simply so people would talk about that rather than what's going on at the border.  It's possible that's the case.  However, I don't think Trump and his minions are smart enough to come up with that scenario.  I'm in the camp who thinks Mrs. Trump chooses her clothes and the messages they convey.  But I could be wrong.  Time will tell.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Love Potion #9...

One more birthday is now down the tubes...  We had a wonderful time last night, which you can read about here.  It's experiences like last night's dinner that make me really love living in Europe.  I know all things must change and nothing is forever, but it's really a delight to be here in Germany.  I think long after we've left here, I will still have a very special place in my heart for this country.

Bill continues to communicate with his daughter.  She wrote him another long email, which got to him last night.  I haven't read the email myself and Bill said he needs to read it more carefully.  But the gist of it was a description of what it was like to grow up with Ex as her mother.

I can't say I'm totally surprised at the revelations in that email.  I have always suspected that Ex is abusive to everyone-- and I mean EVERYONE-- in her sphere.  Apparently, it wasn't just Bill and his family that the children were forced to shun.  It was anyone who pissed off Ex in some way.  Ex would stop speaking to someone and expect the kids to share her hatred.  If they didn't comply, there was hell to pay at home.

I don't know for certain, but I have a feeling that this caused problems at church.  Church is clearly very important to younger daughter.  In fact, as much as I dislike Mormonism, I am very grateful that the church was there for younger daughter and good people within it were willing to help her when her father and I couldn't.  I have always recognized that there are some amazing Mormons out there, but I'm still not a fan of the church's teachings.

Younger daughter further explained that her mother told her awful things about her first son's father, and of course horrible things about Bill.  Ex expected the children to rally behind her third and current husband, insisting that they call him "Dad".  Naturally, she did the same thing to her son when Bill was her husband, although her son was still pretty much a toddler when Bill married Ex.

Bill now realizes that it was wrong to allow his ex wife to force her son to bond to him as if Bill was his real dad.  Her son had a real father who wanted to be in his life, even if he did give up on the relationship after a few years.  But Bill believed his ex when she claimed that her first husband had abused her in unspeakable ways.  Bill wanted to protect Ex and he loved the little boy and wanted him to have a good dad.  It didn't occur to him back then, when he was still an inexperienced man in his 20s, that his ex wife was a bald faced liar and an abuser.

Even when my relationship with Bill was new, he had little bad to say about his ex.  I distinctly remember him telling me that he wished her no ill will and simply wanted to work with her so that he could keep seeing his children.  She made it impossible.  I don't know if he would have been quite as alienated if he hadn't married me.  She probably would have been slightly less contentious if he'd stayed single, if only because that would have made it easier to exploit him.  When he found a new wife, all bets were off.  And this would have been the case no matter who married Bill.

I have always had kind of mixed feelings about this situation.  I love Bill with all my heart and I can't believe I managed to marry someone who makes me so happy and with whom I am so compatible.  I was never much of a dater and had very few boyfriends before Bill.  I always figured I wasn't very attractive to men.  As I got older, I realized that wasn't necessarily the case.  Bill was the only man I ever really wanted to marry, though, and our marriage has been effortless, for the most part.  For that reason, I will always have a grateful spot in my heart for his ex wife, because she divorced him when he was willing to try to stay married (although I do think the divorce was inevitable).

Bill could have easily married a less compatible but basically decent woman and he probably would not have willingly divorced.  He would have probably had a perfectly serviceable marriage to another woman.  The fact that he was with his ex wife made it possible for him to be with me.  I think he now has a lot of joy in his life for many reasons.  I am grateful that I can share in the joy with him, even if I struggle with my own demons.

On the other hand, there is a little part of me that wonders why I couldn't have had a more average marriage... one that produced children and allowed me to have a regular job somewhere... be a homeowner and have friends.  How is it that all I wanted was a "normal" lifestyle and I ended up in the situation I'm in?

The older I get, the more I realize that everyone has a story.  This is my story and, right now, the plot has taken a major twist.  I can't say I didn't see this coming, although it's unfolding in a way I didn't really expect.  I will admit that many times in my marriage, I fantasized about Bill and his daughters reuniting.  There were many different scenarios, but the one that sticks in my head reminds me of an old film starring Sandra Bullock and Tate Donovan.  The 1992 movie, Love Potion #9, is about romantic love, which is not like the love shared between normal parents and children.

Sandra Bullock's character is a frumpy scientist who tests a love potion with another nerdy scientist played by Tate Donovan.  He falls in love with her, but she's under the spell of Love Potion #8 and only has eyes for an asshole who mistreats her.  It's like she's brainwashed.  At the end of the movie, Donovan's character takes a swig of Love Potion #9, which is a serum that works with true love.  Just as Bullock's character is about to marry the pig, Love Potion #9 kicks in and there's a happy ending.  Bullock's character comes out of the church and kisses her true love.  The live happily ever after.

Anne Bancroft as a fortune teller who explains love potions.

Thankfully, Bill and his daughters don't have a romantic relationship.  However, there was a time when I fantasized about the spell of parental alienation being broken, much like the spell of Love Potion #8 was broken, and Bill eventually embracing his daughters as they run away from their asshole mother, finally having discovered and accepted the truth of the situation.  

Then, as time passed, I observed the hateful way Bill's daughters behaved, even when they had become adults and were no longer under Ex's roof.  I started to think they were just like her.  There was a part of me that didn't want to believe that... but I guess it was just a form of self-protection, especially after Bill's former stepson treated him so badly.  If you expect the worst, it's less likely you'll be disappointed in the eventual outcome.  I, myself, have been pretty saturated by abusers and I don't have much tolerance for bad treatment anymore.  I'm not inclined to give abusers more than one or two chances before I shitcan them permanently.  

I saw Bill's father having contact with Bill's daughter, yet she didn't want to talk about or to Bill.  And Bill's dad and stepmother were fine with it, even though they knew Bill was being treated very badly.  It seemed unfair to me, so I reacted accordingly.  We now know that she didn't dare call Bill's dad until she was many miles away from her mother and could do it in secret.  Bill's ex wife maintains extreme control of people for as long as she can.  When she loses control, all hell breaks loose.  It's one thing if she's just some person in your life that you don't need and can easily be rid of.  It's quite another when she's your mother and you're still young and trying to launch.  Ex did her best to ruin the kids' relationships with people who could help them.  She made them afraid to ask for help.  It's classic narcissistic abuse.

With these new communications with younger daughter, it's starting to sound like the children were basically being terrorized.  And at the time when getting the girls away from their mother would have been the most successful, there was really no way we could feasibly do it.  It's not likely that any attempt would have worked, anyway, and if Bill had tried to fight for them, it's likely he would have lost his job.  The kind of abuse Ex delivers is not the kind that is easily proven... and unfortunately, a lot of people wouldn't have believed Bill, anyway, simply because he's a man.

So why did I stick around for this?  For so many years, this was an incredibly depressing and stressful situation and it didn't look like it would ever get better.  Well, I stuck around because Bill is worth it.  He's an amazing man with a huge, loving, generous, forgiving heart.  For some reason, he loves me as much as I love him.  So now, I get to see him reconnecting with his younger daughter, who says older daughter will eventually come around.  She just has trouble with change.

Even ex stepson is looking better to me lately.  Younger daughter said he was terrified what their mother would do when she found out he was talking to Bill.  And, when the truth did come to light and she realized she was losing control, she stooped to incredibly low levels to sever the relationship again.  It worked, although it wasn't because Bill wanted it to be that way.  There is a chance, though, that Bill could eventually reconcile with the young man he used to regard as his son.  

All of this started because back in 2016, Bill decided to send his daughter Christmas greetings.  I remember at the time, we thought it would make a bomb go off.  It did, but the aftermath of the explosion was much more positive than we ever could have expected.

I still don't love the way Bill's kids treated him, although I have more understanding about it now.  I have always known that their mother was behind it, but I can't condone hatefulness.  However, I understand now that there were extenuating circumstances.  They had to live with the bitch.  She's a miserable person who needs a lot of help that, sadly, I doubt she will ever get.  I don't know what the future holds for Bill's relations with his daughters, but I do know that he's survived the worst of it.  It's a privilege to be in his life to offer support.  Maybe that's even my purpose in life.  I continue to hope that love will eventually win.

On another note, I did upload a new selfie.  In the interest of full disclosure, here it is.  I'm a bit flushed because I took this picture after drinking a beer.  Those damned Celtic genes make me turn red when I drink.  My mom has the same trait.  All in all, my birthday was excellent.  I am truly blessed, despite everything.  

My former English prof is pleased.