Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My student loans are now a thing of the past!

Finally... after sixteen years.

Something exciting happened yesterday.  I noticed Bill's latest paycheck hit the bank account.  I told Bill I would be paying off my student loans as soon as possible.  He agreed that the sooner we paid, the less money we'd be paying on interest.  So, yesterday afternoon, when I saw that we had the money, I made the payment.  I am now 100% debt free.  I never thought it would happen and don't expect it to last forever.  But for now, I'm going to enjoy the freedom.

Bill has a little bit of credit card debt to pay off.  Once he does, he will also be debt free.  That's quite an accomplishment, given where we were when we were first married.  He went through bankruptcy and foreclosure with his ex wife.  He endured years of carrying credit cards with oppressive interest rates and having no savings to speak of.  With me, it's been just the opposite.  When Bill went to Iraq, I started making big changes in our finances and, after eleven years, it's finally come to fruition.

What really worked for me was snowballing my payments.  In 2007, I started by paying a mere $20 more a month on my loans.  As time passed, I increased the amount, which had the effect of chipping away at the principal.  As the principal shrunk, so did the interest.  By the end of the loan period, I was way ahead on payments and paying more than $2000 per month voluntarily.  My scheduled payment was about $389.  Not everybody can do what we did, but most people can spare an extra $10 or $20.  If you're paying on a big loan, see if you can do what I did.  You might be surprised by the end effect.  You probably won't miss that extra $10 or $20, either.

Another thing that motivated me was reading horror stories about people who defaulted.  Every time I read a story about someone who was drowning in debt, I added more money to my payment.  It got to the point at which I was getting letters from my lender, telling me payments weren't necessary.  I paid anyway, just to be out from under the debt.  I was especially nervous when Bill retired from the Army, although by that time, I was a few years ahead on my payments.  It was comforting to know that if there was a period of extended unemployment, at least those bills were covered.

Originally, my loans were due to be paid off in 2027.  It's only 2018, so that means we paid them off nine years ahead of time.  Actually, if I recall correctly, July 31, 2002 was the day I consolidated all my student loans, so technically, it took just under sixteen years to pay off a 25 year loan.  In July 2002, I was only two months into my six month grace period, but consolidating meant starting the repayment process immediately.  I remember my payments for the first nine years were $180.06.  That basically covered interest.  It wasn't until I "woke up" in 2007 and started paying more that I realized how expensive loans are, even though my interest rate was not that high (3.75%).  Adding just a little bit to that amount put us ahead and lowered interest, which made paying off the principal easier.

I realize not everyone is in a position to do what we've done.  I just want to be a cheerleader for those who want to try... and to show that it can be done.  Take baby steps.  Then, as you progress, you can take bigger steps to get rid of that debt.  It really is a comfort when you get ahead on loans.  Just be sure to check to see that the extra money goes to the principal of your most expensive loans and doesn't go to interest.  That's the way to chip away at that big debt.

I'll probably be back to write another one of my rants or stories, but I just wanted to share this for anyone who needs a little inspiration to retire debt.  Now, if I could only get motivated to lose weight...

Monday, July 30, 2018

Dog days... and how Facebook can ruin your life.

I hate the weather this time of year, particularly in a country where there is no air conditioning.  It's been several nights since I've been able to sleep comfortably because it's been so hot.  By American standards, it's not that hot in Germany, but the house we live in retains heat, which makes the inside of the house really toasty.  That's great when it's cold outside, but not so great in July and August.

I suppose it could be worse, though.  At least it's not like it was in mid 1990s Armenia.  In those days, it would get to over 100 degrees during the day and there was no electricity.  So even if I'd had a fan, it wouldn't have worked.  I remember being so hot in my apartment there that I'd have to sit around in my underwear whenever I was at home.  At least here in Germany, I can use a fan or even turn on the AC in my one room that has it.  I wish we'd bought one for the bedroom, although they're so noisy I'd probably have trouble sleeping because of that, too.

Having lived in Texas for a year and the South for most of my life, it does seem crazy that I would complain about Germany's heat.  But in Texas, we had the pool and air conditioning was everywhere.  Here, it's just fucking hot...  and the pools are overflowing with people.  On the other hand, German public pools are pretty epic.

The other day, I read a horrifying story about a woman who posted a comment on a news article that set off the ire of a Jewish woman who was addicted to meth.  Monika Glennon, of Huntsville, Alabama, is a native of Poland who married a Marine.  She has two grown children who are in the military and Glennon now works as a real estate agent.  

In 2014, Glennon made a comment on a news article about a fourteen year old girl who took what some thought was an "inappropriate" selfie at Auschwitz.  Glennon was defending the teen, who was caught smiling at a place where many thousands of innocent people were slaughtered.  Glennon noted that at least the girl visited.  Her comment offended a woman named Mollie Rosenblum, who identified herself as of Jewish descent.  She said Auschwitz should be a place of "quiet reflection" and people didn't seem to grasp the magnitude of the Holocaust.  Glennon responded that Auschwitz belongs to the people and the type of "mob mentality" we so often see on the Internet these days is what led to the Holocaust in the first place.  The heated discussion eventually ended, as they all do eventually, and Glennon forgot about it.  

Then, in September 2015, Glennon got a phone call from one of her colleagues at Re/Max.  Someone had posted something horrible on Re/Max's Facebook page.  At first, Glennon thought maybe someone had posted a bad review.  It was actually much worse than that.  A user named "Ryan Baxter" posted a link to a Web site called "She's a Homewrecker" that was a fabricated story about Monika Glennon getting caught having sex with the husband of a client.  The link was not only shared on the Re/Max page, but was also sent to all of Glennon's Facebook contacts, including her husband, friends, family members, and many of her professional contacts.

It turned out in August 2014, Rosenblum made up the story about Glennon and submitted it to the "She's a Homewrecker" site.  There, it sat for over a year, until the Web site was sold to another company.  A month after the site was sold, the false story about Glennon was published.  Then, "Ryan Baxter" disseminated it among the masses.  Baxter, who was later identified as "Hannah Lupian" of Oxnard, California, was a regular reader of the site and seemingly enjoyed making sure some of the stories got exposure to the masses.  Although Baxter didn't know Glennon and was not involved in the discussion about Auschwitz, s/he gets off on compounding the damage wrought by sites like "She's a Homewrecker".

In Glennon's case, the damage was substantial, and took a lot of time, money, and effort to resolve.  Although the story about her was completely made up, it cost Glennon a lot of business.  She wrote to the sites that had posted the fake story, but none of them would take down the link.  She later pursued the matter in court, which cost her over $100,000, although the culprits of the attack were found and had judgments levied against them.  Unfortunately, the people who attacked Glennon have no money, so Glennon will likely never see a cent of what she should be paid for their attack on her character and business.

I'm glad that Monika Glennon sued the people involved and managed to win her case.  It's very troubling to see how simply stating one's opinion can cause others to become unhinged enough to try to ruin the lives of perfect strangers.  What seems like fun and games to troublemakers like Hannah Lupian and Mollie Rosenblum can have some serious real world effects.  This is why I get so upset by the Internet justice warriors who go on a rampage trying to destroy people's lives.  Sometimes the court of public opinion gets things wrong.  Monika Glennon was absolutely right to point out that "mob justice" mentality is what led to the Holocaust in the first place.  People get blinded by rage and decide it's up to them to go on the rampage and destroy another person's livelihood.  They don't seem to understand the third and fourth order effects of such destructive actions.

In other news, there is a very active political thread going on in the Duggar group and Trump loyalists are showing their asses to the masses.  They keep arguing about Hillary Clinton and comparing her to Trump.  You know, I'm not a fan of Mrs. Clinton's, but she definitely would have been a better president than Trump is.  And I was not a fan of Bill Clinton's, but again-- way better than Trump.  At least Clinton wasn't constantly spewing his nonsense to the masses on Twitter and pissing off all our allies.

I will never understand how so many people have been duped by Trump.  It's very sad to see.  Indeed, this story about Monika Glennon kind of has a parallel to the Trump era.  Maybe there aren't any concentration camps set up on the scale of what was around in 1940s Europe, but the same kind of ignorance is definitely there.  The other day, I watched a very moving video documentary about a woman who survived Auschwitz.  If you have time to watch it, I highly recommend making the effort.

So worth the time.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

And I am telling you...

I didn't sleep well last night.  It's been really hot in Germany lately, and while the temperatures are nowhere as oppressive here as they are in the United States, our house retains heat.  Consequently, it's nicer outside than it is in the house.

Early this morning, I woke up to the smell of dog crap.  I turned on the light and, sure enough, there was a lone turd hanging out of Arran's ass.  For some reason, he sometimes poops in his sleep.  It's always just one little dry nugget and it doesn't happen often enough for us to ban him from our bed.  Anyway, Bill woke up and took Arran outside.  Zane decided to follow, sauntering down the steps like a movie star.

The dogs went outside and did their business.  Then, Bill brought them back inside and started to head back to bed.  Zane sat down on the little rug where he eats his meals and gave Bill a defiant look that said, "And I am telling you, I am NOT going."

Bill chuckled and said, "Okay, Effie." and got Zane's breakfast.

An hour or so later, Zane was in the hall whining because the door to the living room was closed and he wanted to drink water and lay down on the loveseat.  We keep that door closed.  So Bill let Zane into the living room, which is marginally cooler than the upstairs.

A couple of hours later, we ate our breakfast.  Zane and Arran waited patiently for us to share some with them.  Then, as we finished our coffee, Zane did his usual whining, imploring us to hurry up and finish so he could take his special weekend walk with Daddy.  Bill walks them during the weekends and I walk them during the week.  Most of the time, during the week, Arran is the one who will pry me from my computer and beg for a walk.  On the weekends, it's Zane.  

Zane is an adorable, lovable dog, but he sure has us well-trained.  His predecessor, Flea, was a lot like him, although he was less benevolent.  Flea used to sneak up behind me when I was working on the computer and bark, never failing to startle and annoy me.  Then, every day at about 10:00am, he would come in and whine for his walk.  He did this even when he was dying of prostate cancer.  Every morning, he would wake up, bark as if to announce his presence, and come down the stairs as if he was king of the world.  He was a beagle with a lot of personality.  All five of our rescue beagles have been that way.  

I adore my dogs.  They keep me sane, and they are better company than most people are.  However, I don't think I could ever truthfully say I own them.  I think it's more likely that they own me.

These boys want for nothing.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Speaking of shameless shaming...

It's not a crime. (picture is public domain)

I would be remiss if I didn't post about this news story I read last night about a Mormon woman who was shamed by her bishop and stake president for breastfeeding.  According to KUTV, an unidentified LDS mom of four from northern Utah lost her temple recommend because she decided to breastfeed uncovered while she was in the foyer of her church.  Temple recommends are basically cards that identify worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  One must have a valid temple recommend in order to visit the church's temples, where "sacred" and secret religious ordinances, including many weddings, take place.  Temple recommends are very important to faithful Mormons.

A few weeks ago, the mother had gone to see her bishop about getting her temple recommend updated and signed.  The bishop told her that church members had complained about her openly breastfeeding her 18 month old baby.  LDS churches have "mothers' rooms" where breastfeeding moms can go to privately feed their babies.  The bishop said she should either use the mothers' room or cover up, since her decision to openly breastfeed might cause the men in the church to have "sexual thoughts".  The bishop refused to sign the temple recommend and she had to get it signed by the first counselor instead.

Later, the mom visited her stake president so he could also sign her temple recommend.  The stake president also brought up the breastfeeding issue and quoted from a church pamphlet about the importance of modesty.  The pamphlet, "For the Strength of Youth", is well-known to LDS church members and provides guidelines about how church members are to present themselves.

The mother said that she got very upset during the meeting and had to leave the room several times to calm down.  The woman's husband, who was also in attendance during the meeting, was told that he needed to "control his wife".  The husband was also told that if he supported his wife's decision to publicly breastfeed without a cover, he would also lose his temple recommend.

Some people may wonder why the woman didn't simply use the mothers' room.  Apparently, the room is off of the bathroom and this mother claims it's too isolating for her.  Also, she says she can't hear the service in the mothers' room.  The mom warns that even after her child is weaned, she doesn't plan to back down on this issue.  She correctly states that breastfeeding is not a sexual act and publicly feeding her child is not wrong.  She wants the church to be more accepting and sensitive toward mothers who choose to breastfeed in public.

As I read this story, I was, at first, very irritated on the mom's behalf.  Fellas, if you're turned on by a woman's breasts, that is your problem.  It's not up to women to protect you from your sexual thoughts.  You need to exercise more self control and realize that breasts are, first and foremost, intended to feed babies.  I realize that public breastfeeding is a somewhat new phenomenon in that until recently, many women would feel uncomfortable exposing their breasts in public to feed their babies.  But dammit, breasts are not primarily for titillation.  They have a purpose.  A man's sexual reactions to seeing a woman's breasts are secondary to that very important purpose.  When it comes to embarrassment about breastfeeding, it's the men who need to get over themselves, not the women.

Then, after reading about how this mom was treated by church leaders, I was irritated by her reaction.  I understand that the LDS church is the type of organization where membership is very important, particularly within family circles.  It's not like it is in my family, where people attend different churches.  Most of my family members are protestants, but they aren't all Presbyterians.  I have an aunt who is Episcopalian and a sister who is an atheist.  My mom played organ in Baptist and Methodist churches for most of my life.  Yes, many of my family members go to church, but there is no pressure to attend a specific church or practice a particular religion.  This is not necessarily true for Mormons.  To them, family participation is essential and in devout families, there is intense pressure to be Mormon and participate fully in the church.  Leaving the church can lead to a host of unpleasant consequences.

And yet... here is this nice couple doing absolutely nothing wrong, sitting there listening to church officials berate them for doing something totally natural and threatening them with eternal damnation for not conforming to their stupid rules about modesty.  I realize I'm not Mormon and never have been, but it's inconceivable to me that these people tolerated those shameful remarks from church leaders.  They should have told both the bishop and the stake president to go fuck themselves (sorry, I'm in a mood this morning), gotten up, and walked out, vowing that their children would not grow up to be tithe payers.  I may be very cynical or even naive, but I think that's ultimately a response that would get church leaders to listen.  Seriously, fuck those guys.  They are just regular men put into positions of leadership in a manmade religious organization.  They only have as much power as their members are willing to give them.  As long as church members allow them to talk to them in that way, the abuse will continue.

I do think it's abusive to subject breastfeeding mothers to shame, scorn, or ridicule for daring to feed their babies in public.  If you think the church is right about this, the next time you have a meal, put a blanket over your head or go sit in the bathroom to eat.  Tell me, is that a pleasant way to dine?  Why should mothers and babies have to tolerate that?

It seems to me that this mom is very faithful to her beliefs.  She is exactly the kind of member the LDS church would not want to lose.  She cares enough about the church to want to hear what is said during meetings, even when she's nursing her child.  While I personally think Mormonism is bullshit, she clearly doesn't.  I don't think she's the kind of church member they'd want to alienate, since she has clearly had several children who will one day pay tithes... that is, if the church doesn't one day drive them out with their outdated and anti-woman policies.

Churches are definitely losing members lately.  Nowadays, many people are abandoning religion or attending churches that offer more in the way of personal enrichment or entertainment.  I have never attended a Mormon church service, but Bill has.  He tells me they are extremely boring, except perhaps on fast and testimony days, when members get up to testify that the church is true.  I have heard that a number of colorful testimonies have been offered on those Sundays, although in order to enjoy them, you have to be fasting...  I'm not sure that's a good tradeoff.

I'm sure the church is very important to this mother and her husband.  It's a pity she didn't just tell her leaders that she'd find a church where breastfeeding mothers are more respected and men are taught that they need to control their lust.  The onus should not be on women to protect men from "falling".  The men should be taught to self-regulate.

And... for the last time, breastfeeding babies isn't sexual.  If you think it is, you're the one with a problem.

A scammer tries to threaten the Overeducated Housewife...


Picture it.  You've just opened your eyes for the first time of the day.  You're scanning your email messages, most of which are either from mailing lists or just plain junk.  Your eyes hit a message entitled, "Alert!", followed by part of your email address and one of your passwords.

You scan the message and it's basically full of threats and accusations, followed by a demand for money paid in bitcoin.  The scammer claims he or she has infected your computer with malware that can turn on your webcam and has filmed you doing nasty things as you view porn.  If you don't pay up, the scammer is going to send a sex video of you to your online contacts.

I got a message like that this morning.  There I was, sitting on the toilet, doing my morning constitutionals and deleting most of the worthless spam that collects in my email accounts every night.  I got an email from a chap calling himself "Elton Delaney"... (almost certainly not his or her real name).  For the purposes of this blog post, I will refer to "Elton" as male, even though it's just as likely that the culprit is female.  Here is a screenshot of what Elton sent me last night as I was going to sleep.

I confess to being a little startled by this message... 

I'll admit, my first reaction to this email was shock and alarm.  I was barely awake and, the fact is, Elton did have one of my passwords. It's a very old and weak one that I used on a regular basis maybe 15 years ago.  I have long since upgraded my passwords to more secure ones.  The password Elton has won't grant access to much now.  

Elton had sent the message to my newest email account, one that I don't use for emails to friends and family.  Clearly, my email was in a database that got hacked and sold to scuzzy lowlife bottom feeders like Elton and his ilk.  Still, in my sleepy condition, I was initially taken aback by this message.  Poorly written as it is, it was designed to provoke a panicked response, prompting victims to act before thinking.  I surmise that some people must have taken the bait and paid up.  Fortunately, I am not among the duped.  My brain kicked in and I realized that Elton is full of shit.

Elton wants me to pay him almost $4000 to keep Bill and a bunch of online retailers from seeing intimate videos of me.  It's not happening.  Actually, Bill would probably enjoy seeing such a video.  It's a shame one doesn't exist.

Despite Elton's ominous threats, I deleted the message without sending him a .5 bitcoin payment, finished my morning rituals, stripped the sheets off the bed for the wash, and then went down to the living room, where Bill had already set out my morning coffee.  I told Bill about Elton's threat.  Not long ago, Bill finished his second master's degree in cybersecurity.  I thought he'd get a kick out of hearing about the threatening scam email I received.  I joked to Bill that Elton might send him a video of me doing what he's seen me do live thousands of times since we've been married.  Believe me, it's just not that exciting.  

Then I did a quick Google search and found that this particular email scam, which has evidently been around for years, has recently resurged.  Of all of the email phishing scams I've seen, this one is probably one of the most infuriating.  It employs shame and the threat of humiliation to blackmail and extort money from the unaware.  While I know what Elton claims to have on me would not be very interesting to my email contacts, plenty of people are looking at things online that might damage their reputations or upset their friends and loved ones.  Those people, eager to keep their embarrassing online habits under wraps, are most likely to give in to demands for payment.  Unfortunately, our culture promotes shame, especially regarding sexual matters.

Although some people have been swindled by these emails, the scammers themselves are often quite stupid.  Here's a link to a story out of Miami where a woman named Briyana Valls tried to extort money using threatening text messages.  She texted a guy who had briefly left his phone unattended at a bar, and threatened to tell his wife he was cheating on her unless he paid Valls $500.  For all of her threats, Valls didn't prove to be very savvy.  She agreed to be paid in person, and that's when she got nabbed by the police. Valls is now cooling her heels in jail, where she faces extortion and grand theft charges.  The FBI also recently issued a warning about these email scams. 

Sure, I've looked at porn on the Internet.  I expect a whole lot of people have.  It's not something I do very often, though, because frankly, I find most porn videos boring and kind of gross.  I am much more inclined to read dirty stories, and most of the free ones on the Internet are terrible.  I'd do better to write them myself.  There was even a period in my life when I wrote erotica just to pass the time.  It's part of what attracted Bill to me.  Given that fact, Elton's threats mean very little, especially since I don't have a boss and my mother doesn't use the Internet.  If she did, I doubt she'd care that her married 46 year old daughter is finally sexually active.    

But even if I was watching a lot of porn and Elton's threats were somehow credible, there is just no way Elton got any videos of me doing nasty things.  It simply didn't happen.  There is no way it could have.  If Elton did send all of my contacts a "sex video" of me, it would probably either bore them to tears or make them laugh.  Besides, most of the people who would be getting the videos would be spammers like him and burned out online retailers who might welcome the distraction.  I don't use that particular email address for communicating with most of my loved ones.  The lone exception is Bill, who is well aware of my tastes for sexually explicit stuff.

I was also pretty put off by Elton's nasty and threatening tone.  Some of the scammers who send out these emails are at least decent enough to be funny.  Elton's email requesting money comes across as very rude.  It definitely wasn't something I wanted to read first thing in the morning.  Hey Elton, you get more flies with honey than vinegar, you feckless fuckstick.  The next time you send me a threatening email, have the decency to say "please" and "thank you".  Maybe if you did that more often, your life's mission wouldn't be reduced to sending pathetic scam emails to uninteresting and unsexy overeducated housewives like me.

So... if you happen to get one of these emails yourself, just toss it into the round file.  Don't worry.  It's a scam.  If any of you happen to get a video of me doing nasty things, I hope you enjoy it.  And Elton, if you ever read this post, please go fuck yourself... and be sure to video it and send it to all of your friends and loved ones.

Edited to add:  Bill says the people behind this scam have already collected over $250,000.  Don't fall for it!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

More utter nonsense...

Yesterday, I posted about my first cousin once removed sharing a debunked meme about late term abortions, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton.  I wasn't surprised this morning when I saw that my cousin and his father, "Timmy" (not his real name), posted a response.  Below are the comments on that particular thread.  Most everyone else had the same reaction I did.

My comment was the one below the link about Hillary's fetus murdering ways...  I did click on the link and it appeared to be right wing drivel.  Looking more closely, I see that the link is from a news aggregator and that particular article is from the National Review, which is a notoriously conservative publication.

I gave some thought to posting more, but decided I don't want to spend the day arguing with my cousins or people from their mother's side of the family (Timmy's dad is my late father's brother).  It's hot and sticky here in Germany and I could be doing more productive things with my time, like washing my hair.

If I were going to respond, I would appeal to Timmy's sense of logic.  First of all, late term abortions are often very expensive, as is all medical care in the United States.  The procedure itself will cost in the thousands and may or may not be covered by health insurance.  The exact cost depends on where the pregnant woman is living, since hospitals in the United States vary in how much they charge and not all states allow access to late term abortions, which would mean the woman would have to travel.  

Second trimester abortions usually require a procedure called dilation and evacuation, or D&E.  This procedure is usually done in a hospital and takes about thirty minutes, but generally doesn't require an overnight stay.  D&Es are one method of second trimester abortions, but they are sometimes also done after miscarriages.  

A woman who lives in, say, California, might have an easier time of accessing a late term abortion than someone from Alabama or Mississippi.  California, Oregon, and New York require nearly all insurance plans to cover abortion.  Of course, not everyone has health insurance and, even if everyone did, twenty-six states do not allow health insurance providers to cover abortion.  Two states-- Louisiana and Tennessee-- do not allow abortion coverage even if the woman's life is in danger.  And nine states don't allow abortion coverage in cases of rape.  For more information on this, click the link

So, let's say our hypothetical pregnant woman's fetus is in its 21st week of gestation.  She decides, for whatever reason, to have a D&E.  Let's say she lives in Tennessee, where last year, Governor Bill Haslam signed a strict late term abortion ban.  In order to get the abortion procedure done, she has to go to another state.  That involves travel costs, time off of work, and hotel costs, as well as the cost of the procedure, since her Tennessee health insurance won't cover the procedure and it likely wouldn't be considered "in network" if she traveled elsewhere, even if it did cover abortion.

Now... consider that our hypothetical woman has already been pregnant for 21 weeks.  She's mostly done with morning sickness and isn't feeling that horrible.  We can assume that she knows she's pregnant and isn't someone who is in denial, which does sometimes happen.  Why would this woman suddenly decide at 21 weeks that, nah, she doesn't want to have a baby after all?  Are we really going to believe that most women are arbitrarily deciding in their second trimesters that pregnancy is too inconvenient for them and they'd rather just get rid of the fetus?  Why would they suddenly do that at 21 weeks of pregnancy or beyond?

You see, I can't imagine that the vast majority of women think that way.  I don't believe most women would prefer to wait until they are that far along to have an abortion, unless they have a very good reason.  Not only is the D&E procedure a lot more complicated and expensive than a D&C is, it's also much less convenient.  Consider the reasons why a woman would choose to have an abortion.  I would think the ones who are doing it for financial reasons would rather do it when the costs are less and the procedure is less invasive.  

Now... my cousin's link was slanted and obviously opinion based.  Yesterday, I quoted that the percentage of abortions done after the 21st week was, in 2013, about 1.3%.  My cousin's link from the National Review points out: 

The Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that in 2011, 1.06 million abortions were performed in the U.S. Using the 1.5 percent estimate would mean that there were 15,900 abortions after the 20th week.  AGI also reported (as noted here) that there were 2,200 partial-birth abortions in 2000, when it was generally legal.  Are these numbers small?  Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee once pointed out that if a new virus was killing 2,200 premature infants in neonatal wards each year, it would be on the evening news every week.  Note also that this estimate of the number of abortions after the 20th week exceeds the number of gun deaths in the U.S. last year.  Does it seem to you that the press typically treats this as a small number?

Let's say that back in 2011, those 1.06 million abortions never happened.  Let's say that over the next seven years, abortions weren't happening and most of those pregnancies resulted in live births.  Does it seem to you that that's a whole lot of new people with needs that might not be fulfilled?  2011 was seven years ago, so that means over 7 million babies needing to be fed, clothed, educated, housed, and given healthcare.  Do we have enough to provide for the people who have already been born?  Actually, we probably do...  if you consider all of the resources that are out there.  I don't know how long we would be able to sustain a million or more babies being born every year and, at this time of the morning, I'm not going to try to figure it out.  

It seems to me that many Republicans, who are generally the ones so outspoken against abortion, don't want to make those vital resources available to everyone.  So that means a lot of those cute hypothetical babies who are born rather than aborted would probably not be getting what they need to thrive.  Moreover, it also seems to me that many Republicans are hypocrites.  They speak of family values, but they aren't in favor of laws that are family friendly and they don't have a broad view of what a family is.  And in Donald Trump, the Republican Party presented the United States and the rest of the world a president who brags about sexually assaulting women.  

As we know, unprotected sexual contact is what causes pregnancy in the first place.  Indeed, Timmy's teenaged son found that out firsthand when he presumably had unprotected sex with his teenaged girlfriend and they had their baby before they had even finished high school.  It seems like Timmy's grandson's situation is turning out okay.  The boy's very young parents are fortunate enough to have supportive family members who are helping them.  But I can tell you, having worked as a social worker, not every woman who finds herself pregnant has that support.  

Sometimes, older women opt for abortions because they've already had a bunch of kids and can't take care of another.  I just watched an episode of Call the Midwife that was about a woman who'd had eight children and found herself pregnant with her ninth at age 41.  She was portrayed as a caring mother who was up to her eyeballs taking care of her children.  She loved her children, but was stretched too thin.  Sure, she could have her baby and give it up for adoption.  But this is a mother who loves her children.  Does it ever occur to people how difficult it is for a mother to give up her baby?  Adoption is often touted as the moral solution, but adoption has its own issues.  Case in point, the videos below, which I stumbled upon last week...

To be clear, Laura Berg is not sad she was born.  She was adopted by loving parents.  However, she was also left feeling "giveawayable"...

More information in this video... I commend Laura Berg for being as open-minded and understanding as she is.  Her ability to be objective regarding her birth family is remarkable.

To be clear, adoption is absolutely a great option for those who want to do it.  Adoption does present issues that can complicate a person's life.  I think nowadays, adoptions are not usually "closed" as they were when Laura was adopted.  I also think adoptable babies are in much shorter supply than they used to be, since women do currently have the choice to terminate if they wish.  Some women are fine with knowing their baby is being raised by someone else, but my guess is that it also causes them a lot of grief.  And when an adopted child grows up and decides to search for his or her birth family, which so many of them do, there can be more pain as a result.  

I know several people who were adopted, and almost all of them have searched for their birth families.  Often the reunions are joyful or at least interesting, but sometimes they result in what Laura experienced.  This doesn't mean I think adoption is a bad idea, per se.  It's just that I think too many people suggest it without fully considering what it might mean for the people involved.  

Which brings me to the last point... abstinence.  Many pro lifers point out that people who don't want to have babies should not be having sex.  The more progressive pro lifers point out that people who don't want to have babies can have protected sex, thereby preventing pregnancy.  Well... I happen to agree with that view.  I refrained from having sex myself until I was married for two weeks.  And my husband was sterilized when he was with his ex wife, so that meant in the early years of my marriage, I wasn't going to be having any "oopses".  However, I know that most people aren't like me.  People often decide to have sex impulsively.  They may not be using protection, and that's when pregnancy can occur.  Personally, I don't understand that kind of a sex drive... I haven't experienced it myself.  Obviously, it happens, though.  When it happens, I think it should be up to the people who are personally involved to decide what to do.  

Anyway... I don't think most women would opt to make abortion their number one method of birth control, and certainly not late term abortion.  I do think getting birth control or even getting sterilized can be more difficult and expensive than it should be.  I could ramble on more about that, but the sun is shining in my face and Zane and Arran need to be walked.  So I'll stop here and hope that some of the people who take the time to read this will have some food for thought.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Utter nonsense...

I'm about to say some shit about my family that may not be very flattering...  It won't be the first time I've done this and it probably won't be the last.  If any of my family members happen to read this, I apologize for being so blunt.  I just don't understand how I wound up in the same gene pool as some of these people.

So... this morning, my cousin "Timmy's" (not his real name) 19 year old son shared this ridiculous post from a Facebook page called "Liberal Logic 101".

And this was my reaction...

For real!

I don't usually comment on political posts by others unless I agree with them.  It's just not worth it for me to get into arguments on other people's Facebook pages.  However, I simply could not let that one go without a comment.  So I posted "That is utter nonsense."  Seriously, I was dumb when I was 19, but I don't think I was that dumb.  Snopes also agrees that this claim is bullshit.

Listen... I get that a lot of my family members are Republicans.  I get that a lot of them are pro-life.  I understand that they don't like Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.  But how in the hell can they seriously believe that any politician would ever advocate for arbitrary abortion cut off dates at 36 weeks?  Late term abortions do happen sometimes, but they are extraordinarily expensive and difficult to get.  They are usually done in cases when the fetus is extremely sick or malformed.  It's already a challenge to get an early abortion in the United States.  Getting one done late in a pregnancy often requires the mother to travel far away to a facility and clinician willing and qualified to do the procedure.  What's more, as of 2013, the number of abortions done beyond 21 weeks was about 1.3%.  At that rate, the chances that one would be done at 36 weeks is virtually non-existent, and no politician in their right mind would ever advocate for that publicly-- certainly not someone as politically experienced as Hillary Clinton is.

Even if it were true that Bernie and Hillary were advocating for abortions to be done up until 36 weeks, they would be next to impossible to get.  Most fetuses are viable at that point and would be delivered rather than aborted.  The ones that aren't viable at 36 weeks probably wouldn't survive birth anyway.  While many people are against late term abortions because fetuses can supposedly feel pain, a doctor at the University of California at San Francisco recently boiled down the facts regarding fetuses and pain.  

I would trust a respected physician's opinion regarding this issue over a politician's.  But even if I didn't, how can we even know what a fetus experiences?  Have you ever met anyone who remembers being in the womb?  I think there's a good reason you don't remember.  It's because you aren't conscious.

I'm not that surprised that my cousin's son-- my first cousin once removed-- thinks that this nonsense from Liberal Logic 101 is true and didn't bother to research it.  He's 19, and like a lot of 19 year olds, thinks he knows more than he does.  Hell, he's even a dad himself.  He became a father when he was about 16.  I'm assuming he knew how babies were made at that age, but instead of taking precautions and preventing teen pregnancy, he got busy with his girlfriend and is now a busy dad at barely the age of majority.  I commend him for being an involved dad.  He has a job and sees his son.  He's lucky, because he has family members who are cooperative and support him and his son's mother.  His son's mother (don't think they are still dating) is also good about letting him be involved.  A lot of people are not so lucky.  

We have a president who wants to force women to give birth, but doesn't want to provide any help to women who might not be prepared to give birth.  He's fine with spending $775 a day to incarcerate each child of a migrant in a private detention center, but he doesn't want to safeguard programs like WIC or SNAP so that lactating mothers, babies, and children can eat nutritious food.  He doesn't want to push breastfeeding because that takes away money from the rich companies that make infant formula, yet he won't support programs that make formula accessible to people who otherwise couldn't afford it. He doesn't want to make sure they have adequate and affordable healthcare or education.

I don't cheer for abortions.  I have not been pregnant myself, but if I ever had gotten pregnant, I would have very likely wanted the baby.  Even if I didn't want the baby, I doubt I would have opted for abortion.  I understand why so many people are opposed to abortion.  I still think the decision should be between a woman and her physician.  That's right... I don't think the father has a say.  It's not his body, his health, or his life on the line.  When the baby is born, yes-- absolutely equal rights to both parents.  Until then, it must be the woman's choice.  It's her body.  Unless you plan to incarcerate her and force her to eat right, get medical care, and refrain from doing anything that might put the fetus at risk, and you are willing to pay for it all, you have NO right to comment.  There are worse things than death.  And... as we all know, we do still have civil rights in the United States.  For now, anyway...  as long as your skin isn't a shade of brown (/sarcasm).  

Looking at the comments on the Liberal Logic 101's post, I see a lot of men commenting that women should be forced to stay pregnant, since men can't opt out of fatherhood.  Or, at least they can't opt out of paying child support (although some parents-- fathers AND mothers-- do get away with not paying).  

Lots of ignorant comments here.  Seems like a lot of guys just want to punish women for being able to give birth and put them on the hook for paying child support.  

My cousin and his son are avid gun enthusiasts.  In fact, one time Bill and I went home for Thanksgiving and Timmy and some of my other cousins were outside trying out his latest acquisition, a firearm known as "The Judge".  I remember watching Bill cringe as Timmy waved that thing around, with very little attention paid to where he was pointing it.  Bill is well-versed in gun safety, having been in the Army for 30 years.  He was shocked at what my cousin was doing.  He easily could have ruined someone's day or even ended their life that day, so careless was he with his gun.  However, while my cousin may be very relaxed about gun safety, he's quite militant about forcing women to have babies they either don't want or can't support.  And he evidently never taught his teenaged son about the safe and responsible use of the "gun" hanging between his legs.  There's something really fucked up about that.

Anyway... I blocked Liberal Logic 101 so I don't have to see this kind of nonsense anymore.  As time goes on, I may start removing more of my family members from my midst.  I don't consider myself liberal or conservative.  I am for common sense.  This kind of lunacy is not common sense.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Syncope... and third grade bullies...

A friend of mine recently had her first vasovagal syncopal episode.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with that term, it means she fainted due to a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart rate caused by overstimulation of the vagus nerve.  People overstimulate their vagus nerve in any number of ways.  For me, it usually happens when I'm in sudden and severe pain, but for some people it happens after extreme shock, fear, emotional distress or seeing something scary or unpleasant, like blood.  Other people pass out due to heat exhaustion, extreme hunger or dehydration.  

This friend is in her 40s and, when this happened to her, she had her little daughter with her.  I think the kid is maybe six years old.  The girl had to call her dad, who is disabled due to a traumatic brain injury.  Dad called my friend's older sister, who was my original friend.  Older sister and I met in college, while I have never actually met in person the friend who passed out.

Knowing my friend's older sister, I know that she rushed over there and took care of her sister after she had her sinking spell.  Unfortunately, I myself have fainted a lot of times due to this very common phenomenon.  Most of the time, no one has been there after it's happened.  It used to happen a lot more often than it does these days.  I probably don't faint as much because my blood pressure is likely higher than it used to be.  I don't track my blood pressure, but I do know my mom and my grandmother both had hypertension.  I probably have it too, but I can't be arsed to find out.

I don't miss those random passing out sessions at all.  In my case, they usually occurred after extreme pain or hunger.  I remember the first time it happened to me, I was in the third grade.  It was 1980 or 1981, and we had just recently moved to Gloucester, Virginia.  People thought I was weird.  People still think I'm weird, but more of them seem to think my eccentricities are more endearing than annoying.  I remember that year was very hard for me because I was the new kid in a place where people live for generations and I had an outspoken and obnoxious personality.  After a few weeks in my new school, I was moved to the so-called "gifted" class, due to my being a more advanced reader.  Half of the class consisted of "smart" kids, one of which I supposedly was.  The other half consisted of much slower kids.

A bully in my class, who was a member of the slower group, punched me hard in my stomach and knocked the wind out of me.  I seem to remember he punched me while we were doing some kind of dance, perhaps for P.E. class.  I probably said something that pissed him off.  His reaction was to hit me in the stomach.  We were eight years old, but his reaction was swift and painful.  Actually, now that I think about it, I guess he must have had abusive parents who did that to each other often enough for him to model it.  I hope he's gotten a hold of his anger since those days.

I remember coming to with a fat lip and blood all over my face because I faceplanted and hit the hard tile floor.  As I opened my eyes, I saw all my classmates standing around me, gawking.  I realized I had blood all over my face and immediately burst into tears.  I remember going to the nurse's office and the principal coming in to talk to me.  He said the boy who had hit me would be punished.  I don't remember if he was, but I do remember never forgetting what he did.

Later that year, my mom threw me a roller skating party for my 9th birthday.  She told me to invite the whole class, even though I didn't like everyone in the class.  I didn't want to invite that guy, but I got talked into it by another girl in the class who told me that just because this kid had hurt me, I shouldn't exclude him from my party.  That was pretty ridiculous reasoning on her part, although we're Facebook friends today.  I remember he actually wanted to come, too, because who didn't like roller skating parties in 1981?

Unfortunately, my mom neglected to buy proper party invitations.  I was left to making them myself and they looked awful.  Consequently, almost no one came to the party.  I'm sure all the moms thought the invite was a joke or something.  And some of the kids just plain didn't like me, although most of them came around as we grew up together.  I think this party is partly why I almost never entertain now.  The memory is kind of humiliating and painful and I assume most people don't want to hang out with me.

While I remember the lack of party guests being very embarrassing at first, we did have a good time.  I'm grateful there were only a few pictures from that day.  Later, I ran into the girl who had convinced me to invite the bully.  We were at our racist neighborhood swimming pool.  She asked me how the party had gone.  At that time, we weren't friends.  She was trying to fit in with the "cool kids" and I definitely wasn't one of them.  I told her we had fun.  It was the truth.  However, of course I had wanted more people to show up.

In retrospect, I blame my mom for not buying party invites that other mothers would believe.  I love my mom, but she was pretty neglectful about a lot of things when I was a child.  I was her fourth child and she had not made any pretenses about being happy I was around, at least when I was very young.  I know she's glad I'm here now, but in those days, she was happy to foist me on more involved and enthusiastic moms.  Consequently, I was "raised" by a whole lot of adults who were kind to me, including one who was a pedophile.

I was once knocked out due to being hit by a regulation sized soccer ball kicked by my fourth grade teacher.

My many other fainting episodes were mostly not as poignant.  I have already written about the time my fourth grade teacher knocked the wind out of me when he kicked a soccer ball that hit me in the stomach.  After that, I'd usually faint when I'd experience severe, sharp, and sudden pain.  Like, for instance, when I was cutting cheese with a dull knife.  I still have a deep scar and a numb spot on my finger from that incident.  I remember it happened suddenly and I started screaming, then passed out cold.  I woke up to my mom yelling in my ear because she was afraid I was going to hit the floor.  I had managed to get to a barstool before I lost consciousness.

Other times, I'd faint after swallowing soda too hard on an empty stomach, mashing my fingers in the door, after a really bad stomach pain, having heat exhaustion, or during an especially painful bowel movement.  Actually, the bowel movement scenario has happened to me more than a couple of times.  I even wrote a well-received article about it a few years ago that got a lot of comments.  That particular phenomenon is known as "defecation syncope".  I have a feeling that's what happened to the friend who inspired today's post.

I've also fainted during medical procedures.  On my last day as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I fainted when the medical officer tried to draw blood and missed my vein.  Rather than pulling the needle out and trying again, she dug around for the vein.  It hurt, and freaked me out, so I fainted.  When I came to, she told me to get my blood drawn in the States, which I never bothered to do.

I hate the way I feel after fainting.  It's like waking from a very deep sleep, but instead of feeling rested, you feel extremely weak, dizzy, and nauseated.  I hate looking at my face after I faint because if I haven't managed to bloody my nose or lip, I'm usually white as a sheet.  It's not a very attractive look.

Anyway... this post went in an unexpected direction.  I hope my friend is feeling better.  Kudos to her child for knowing how to call her dad and not panicking.  I hope her future fainting episodes are few and far between.    

Monday, July 23, 2018

The clothes on her back...

When I first met Bill online, back in 1999, he was fresh from separating from his ex wife.  I never had the chance to see his first apartment, but he did describe it to me as a tiny, cheap, drafty place.  Ex had not allowed Bill to take much more than the clothes on his back.  For two years, he got by on about $600 a month.  He sent the rest to Ex, who apparently squandered it on junk.  Bill told me stories of her collections of "depression glass", Disney plates (which she claimed she could later sell and make a lot of money from eager collectors), and fake designer handbags.

By contrast, the first time I visited Bill's studio apartment, after he'd moved and over a year after his divorce was final, he still had maybe a bowl, a plate, a single set of silverware, a cheap futon bed and couch, and a wok.  I remember insisting that we take a trip to Target to get him some basic kitchen supplies.  We bought a cheap set of dishes.  Later, we realized why they were so cheap.  The dishes had a metallic band on them that made them unsuitable for microwaving.  We also got him a few baking dishes, some of which we still own seventeen years later.  I remember he had a futon for sleeping on (really more like a wooden crate with a mattress on it) and a futon couch.  I told Bill to take the mattress from the futon bed and put it on top of the couch, which folded out into a bed.  He was amazed at how much more comfortable it was.

Those old memories sprang forth again recently, when Bill was Skyping with his daughter and she told him her mother hoards things.  She talked about the piles of junk at home that Ex refuses to part with or even useful items that she won't give to her adult children, who could actually use them.  Apparently, when younger daughter asked if she could have a few plates to take with her to college, Ex said no.

It was a reminder of when Bill left home.  Ex wouldn't physically stop him, but she would make leaving as unpleasant, inconvenient, and uncomfortable as possible.  And then, when he refused to do her bidding and went back on active duty, Ex divorced him.  Then she blamed him for the divorce.

We're hearing history repeating itself as Ex's adult children move out.  Younger daughter showed up at college with nothing... not even sheets for her bed.  She had no money for books.  She had to ask for help from her church.  Fortunately, there were people who were willing to help her.

Yesterday, I was remembering how angry I was (and still am) at Ex and (to a lesser extent) her kids.  Still, as angry as I was at the time, if one of the kids had called and needed help, I would not have objected to helping them.  Because while my writings in this blog may make me seem hard-hearted and uncaring, the fact is, they were more based on my perception of what was happening than reality.  Underneath that facade of hatred the kids were showing toward Bill was the naked truth.  Those kids have been caught in a mini cult formed by their mother.  Leaving any cult is, by design, very difficult to do and Ex was determined to make it painful for them.  Part of her plan was alienating anyone else in the family who could help the kids get out on their own.

Younger daughter described being "browbeaten" into parroting whatever hateful things her mother said.  She was punished when she deviated from that path and started using her own mind.  When she broke away from the mini cult, she was pressured by two of the three siblings still at home to acquiesce.  Her mother pulled out all the stops to try to suck her back into the home, including attempting suicide.  It's not until one escapes such a situation that it becomes clear that it's better outside of the sick system.  Yes, you can not only live outside of the cult; you can thrive.  A lot of healthy people who are willing and able to help you if you just ask.

What used to be my anger towards my husband's younger daughter has turned into compassion.  I now realize that as long as there is breath in her mother's body, younger daughter will be subjected to Ex's attempts to control and manipulate.  When younger daughter decides to give her mother another chance, she will be disappointed.  Having a narcissistic mother is a study in constant disappointment and selfish behavior.  Younger daughter had to find her grandfather's phone number on the Internet because her mother wouldn't give it to her.  She looked up his name and started calling the numbers she found until she finally reached him.  It would take another five years and a tentative outreach from Bill before she would feel she could reconnect with her other parent.

Ex had no right to deny her children access to their family.  In fact, she is the one who chose them to be her two daughters' family.   I suspect, though, that she couldn't bear the idea that they might prefer us to her.  I mean, as much as it might suck to live with one's stepmother, at least I wouldn't have made her give up her bed to a supposedly needier church family or give up her Christmas money to buy diapers for her little sister.  

I must admit, there's some poetic justice in seeing Ex grow old and desperate.  I had a feeling this would eventually happen.  Kids eventually grow up.  If your whole existence and identity revolves around being a mother, you will eventually lose your reason for being.  While she will always be their mother, her role is now diminished and she can no longer exert the control she used to have on them.  It was inevitable, but I guess she wasn't ready for it.

Some people who visit this blog may wonder why I seem paranoid and call out people from "Mesa, Arizona" for lurking.  It's not just because I'm crazy or bitchy.  It's because my husband used to be married to a person who is capable of great destruction.  There have been plenty of times during our marriage that Ex has sprung nasty surprises on us.  I have reason to believe her situation is becoming desperate and I know she will stoop to great lows to achieve her sick goals.  While I would like to think she's incapable of murder, I have seen enough episodes of Snapped to know that it's not outside the realm of possibility that she could kill.  She's already supposedly attempted suicide.  Is it really that far of a stretch that her rage might cause her to lash out at other people?  I'd hope she isn't that desperate, but I have seen some incredibly low behavior from this woman.

Also... I know from researching narcissists that they typically employ "flying monkeys".  They dupe innocent people into doing their dirty work.  They usually accomplish this by telling them sad stories about someone who has done them wrong.  I recently watched an episode of Locked Up, and a guy was featured who had committed murder because his girlfriend had convinced him that the man he killed, apparently an ex boyfriend and the father of her child, was a child molester.  The inmate did not know the other guy personally, he was just himself a child abuse victim who had enough rage toward molesters that he was capable of killing.  His girlfriend had told him a sob story and he had believed her without checking the facts.  It turned out the guy he murdered was not a child abuser.  The girlfriend had simply wanted him out of her life so she wouldn't have to share custody of their child.  Now, she's out of the murderer's life and he's rotting in prison.  Read true crime stories and you will find that plenty of otherwise decent people wind up in prison because they were duped into doing someone else's dirty work.

I don't know that Ex would go as far as murder, but I have noticed she shares characteristics with the likes of convicted murderers like Jessica McCord.  My husband's daughters are now adults, so she can't use them to control him anymore.  Instead, I see she's now using her children against each other.  I had a feeling this would happen.  She is a master of triangulation, pitting two people against each other and serving as their main conduit of information.  She's already trying to do it with me and younger daughter.  I know Ex has read this blog-- or at least parts of it.  I know she has told her daughter about it and said there were "terrible things" written about her in the blog.

If younger daughter were to ask me, I would tell her the blog is open and she's free to read it for herself.  Yes, it's true that I was furious with her, her sister, and her brother for years.  I won't deny that or change my blogs to imply anything different.  The truth is, I was pissed as recently as last year.  I resented having these ghost adult children in the background, waiting to spring out at any moment.  I figured the initial confrontation, and I knew there would be a confrontation, would be unpleasant and cause upheaval.  After all these years of marriage and dealing with extreme parental alienation, I simply wanted them to go away and leave us alone.  But I was never closed to a respectful confrontation.  I just deduced that it would be disrespectful, based on past experiences.  Even if I can come off as a hardass sometimes, the truth is, I am a pretty sensitive person.  I do have empathy.

If I could have helped younger daughter when she went to college, I would have.  I would have expected and encouraged Bill to help her, too.  As long as the request for help is basically respectful, I have no problem with it.  We are now in a position at which we can help, and that has been true for years.  What I can't abide is able bodied adult children demanding and expecting help, especially on their own terms.  So far, younger daughter hasn't done that.

If younger daughter had called us when she was 18 and asked for sheets or book money or anything else, we would have done our best to help her.  It would have been our pleasure.  It's so sad that those kids have grown up believing that they didn't have what was right in front of them.

Those of you who have come late to the party and wonder why I'm picking on "Mesa, Arizona", it's because of someone in our lives that will always loom over us for as long as she's living.  I have no way of knowing if Mesa is one of Ex's "flying monkeys" or just someone who is extremely curious about my earliest posts and wants to read for hours without making a comment of some sort.  He or she is a complete stranger to me, so I don't know why my old blog posts are so interesting.  I'm pretty sure s/he has seen my call outs because the stalking behavior has changed somewhat.  It seems to me that someone who is innocent would simply leave a comment or go away completely.  But, much like tenacious wasps intent on infesting, s/he keeps coming back.  This person reads every single post and spends more time on posts about certain subjects than others.  That makes me suspicious.

If you've come here after finding me in an obvious place like Cruise Critic, Facebook, or RfM, you don't have to worry.  I look for very specific behavior before I get suspicious.  Mesa's behavior is suspicious, and happens to be occurring at a time when I expect threats from the Ex.  Let's face it.  I have a lot of time on my hands, but no time for stupid bullshit.  So I do pay attention to who's reading what and for how long, mainly out of self-preservation.  I wish I didn't have to be so vigilant, but I don't want to end up the victim on an episode of Snapped.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Mesa is back again...

Seriously... don't you have a life you could be living?

Transformed Wife vs. The Transformed Wife...

I have to write another quick post to opine about a situation that has developed in blogger land.  Though the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray group, I've become aware of several very successful "Christian" bloggers.  One blogger that gets mentioned a lot is Lori Alexander, author of "The Transformed Wife".  I don't really read a lot of Lori's stuff because it's usually poorly written and stupid, even though she's published a book that evidently a lot of people have read.  She does have a Facebook page, too, and sometimes I see stuff from it posted in the Duggar group, mainly for people to snark on.  Somehow, despite writing poorly and centering all of her posts, she has thousands of followers.  Maybe I should start writing badly and include a lot of religion in my posts, too.  On the other hand, that's a bad idea.  Sometimes it's better to be anonymous.

Anyway, Lori recently wrote an extremely moronic post about how "Godly" men prefer debt free virgins without tattoos.  It went viral for all the wrong reasons.  I originally saw it in the Duggar group, but pretty soon, it was picked up by people like God and a bunch of bloggers wrote thoughtful rebuttals, like this one.  In the wake of this mess, there was another blogger who got caught in the crossfire.  Not just another blogger, mind you... this one, name of Rachel, is Transformed Wife.

Apparently, Rachel was Transformed Wife before Lori was The Transformed Wife.  Rachel writes in a recent post that Lori had sent her an email to tell her she was changing the original name of her blog to the one Rachel had already claimed.  And because both women are popular bloggers, there has been some confusion about the controversial blog post that upset many thousands of people.  Rachel claims that it's gotten so bad that she had to make a public statement telling everyone that she and Lori are not the same person and they have different beliefs.

To make matters more confusing, someone else is running a snark page called The Transformed Wife 2.0.  I joined that one myself and it's where I first learned of this controversy between two similarly named bloggers.

Neither of the Transformed Wives are women that I would listen to.  I actually don't really like the whole "life coach"-"guru" trend that has emerged.  I think it takes a whole lot of moxie to assume one is qualified to be someone's life coach.  To be honest, I think most people who feel they should work as life coaches are probably narcissistic assholes.  I mean, some people really are wise, but in general, I don't think it's wise to assume that dispensing your wisdom should be your career.  It's bound to backfire.

But then... here I am writing "The Overeducated Housewife", and God knows people have gotten a bad impression about the name of my blog.  I'm not the only Overeducated Housewife out there in blog land, nor was I the first.  However, I do seem to be the most prolific.

In any case, the war of the Transformed Wives has drawn out other people eager to leap into the fray. On The Transformed Wife 2.0, I learned of yet another "wise" blogger called The Joy Filled Wife... who is apparently Lori Alexander in a previous incarnation.  And yet, The Joy Filled Wife left Lori a note of encouragement because of the backlash she's gotten over her idiotic commentary about what kind of women men prefer.  I guess Lori split her personality so she could sock puppet an encouraging post.  Or maybe there really is a Joy Filled Wife out there who is Lori's friend.  I don't know.  I am so confused!

I'm with Eric.  I don't like slutty, inked out, olive oil with too many credit card bills and student loans.  I like my olive oil where it belongs... in the kitchen and only educated about making food.

I myself have no tattoos.  In about ten days, I will also have no debt, although I was up to my ass in it on my wedding day.  I was a virgin when I got married, but it wasn't because of God.  It was more because that's how it worked out.  Bill likes me fine.  He probably would have liked me if I had tattoos, too... or if I'd been with other men.  You see, Bill loves me for who I am, not for what I look like.  We have worked together to have the best life possible.  And while Bill isn't a churchgoer, I would say he's "Godly" in the best possible ways.

I don't know why so many people-- particularly conservative Christians-- feel the need to follow self-appointed gurus like Lori and Rachel.  In my experience, a lot of these "leaders" end up being very narcissistic and fallible.  Many of them eventually have embarrassing falls from grace that expose them for who and what they really are.  Unfortunately, people don't seem to learn from experience that folks like the Duggars and the Osteens and others like them usually turn out to be very charismatic charlatans who do a lot of damage, particularly to people who are honestly hurting and need help.

Not being a fundie Christian myself, I don't feel like I have any skin in this particular game.  It's kind of amusing and disturbing to watch it unfold, though.  I hope the people who read my blog don't think of me as a "guru" of any sort.  And the idea of my becoming a life coach is equally absurd.  It ain't happening.

Sometimes deliverance comes in the form of disaster...

This morning, I was reading a post on RfM about a woman whose 32 year old stepdaughter still lives with her husband and her.  The stepdaughter had gotten married at 18 and the marriage didn't work out.  Apparently, she was trying to escape having to work or go to college.  The stepmother had raised the young woman from her days in diapers and sometimes she would be acknowledged as the "mom", even though the bio mom was still in her daughter's life.

One day, stepdaughter and her dad had a spat and the woman's bio mom helped her move out of the house.  Now, it seems the row has gotten to the point at which the dad is going to change the locks once the rest of his daughter's stuff is gone.  A commenter made the observation that sometimes deliverance comes in the form of disaster.  I think that's a very wise insight.

I read the thread with interest because I could relate to it on several levels.  I lived with my parents for almost two years after I finished my time in the Peace Corps.  It was very difficult for all of us.  My parents were never divorced, so I don't have any stepparents.  However, when I married Bill, I became a "stepmother", albeit a completely unacknowledged one.  If I had been allowed the chance to be in my husband's daughters' lives, I would have done my best to be good to them.  I think part of being a parent is being unappreciated.  But it must be especially hurtful when you have a child or a stepchild who's only interested in a transactional relationship-- that is, only "loving" you when you give them what they want.

In 2009, Bill went through a similar phenomenon with his former stepson.  He discovered that the young man was really only talking to him because he was getting money from Bill.  It became very clear that once the money stopped, so would the relationship.  That was a very painful realization for Bill, whose love for his former stepson and his daughters was genuine and non-transactional.  Once he got over the initial shock, though, Bill was able to see the truth of the situation and developed empathy for his ex stepson's situation.

We recently heard that ex stepson had done some maturing and realized that he'd been shitty to Bill.  I don't know if he and Bill will ever talk, although I know Bill is willing and we've heard ex stepson is willing.  It would not be a bad thing for Bill's children, including ex stepson, to have a relationship with him again.  He can do nothing but help them.  They have to make that realization, though, and understand that relationships are two ways.  They can't simply be tied to what someone does for you or gives to you.

It occurs to me that a year ago, Bill started his job with the company he's now with.  I remember how stressed out we were in the three months leading up to the job change.  Not everyone got hired by the new company and competition was stiff, although in truth, I don't think Bill's position was ever in jeopardy.  He is very well-liked and extremely competent at what he does.  Not many people have the professional background he has.  It's like he was one of the rare people in the Army who wound up being specifically aimed in a career direction.

I remember telling Bill that this job shake up might be a blessing in disguise.  The other company wasn't paying Bill what he was worth, didn't offer benefits that were as good, and frankly, didn't treat their people very well.  As it turned out, months after they lost the contract, the division that Bill worked for was sold to another company anyway.  So even if the company hadn't lost the contract or Bill had stayed on working with them in a different office, he would have soon had another employer.

I was right about the new job being better.  Bill has good bosses and gets paid considerably more now than he was a year ago.  He gets better benefits, too.  In fact, the other day, he told me there were a couple of guys about to retire from the military and looking into jobs with his company.  If Bill refers them and they get hired, he gets a very generous bonus.  I don't know what the specific requirements for the bonus are, or how it would be taxed, but it's definitely substantial.

Look at the failure of Bill's first marriage, too.  At the time, he was devastated by the divorce and the loss of access to his daughters.  But then he married me, and very few people would describe us as miserable.  It took some time, but he turned that disaster into deliverance.

I often worry about the future, even though I've never been in a truly catastrophic situation and I've always been able to recover from setbacks.  I'm not sure why I often feel like I'm doomed, since I never really have been.  But experience has taught me that even when something goes terribly wrong, there's usually redemption.  Sometimes that process of recovery leads to better things.

Bill's disastrous first marriage was painful and had lingering effects, but ultimately, it led to something much better.  I have often considered what would have happened if he hadn't been married to his ex wife.  He probably would have married a nicer person.  It wouldn't have been hard to do that.  The other woman might not have been quite as perfect for him as I am, but she probably would have treated him better.  They might have stayed married and then he would have missed what we have today.  I would have missed it, too.

So... I guess today's theme is realizing that sometimes what seems to be awful isn't really that awful.  As for the stepmother who inspired this post, I think it's high time the 32 year old woman who doesn't see her as the "real mom" anymore got on with her life in her own apartment.  This development may seem painful now, but it may turn out to be the best thing that ever could have happened.

I keep telling myself the same thing about Donald Trump's presidency... every cloud has its silver lining.  Maybe this disaster will lead to better things.  I've seen how Germans have evolved for the better after the Holocaust.  Maybe Americans will also evolve.  But there will be pain to go through in the course of getting there... and that is the hardest part.  As Tom Petty famously sang, "the waiting is the hardest part."