Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Let me "do me"...

Apologies in advance.  First off, I hate the expression "You 'do you'" because oftentimes, when people suggest it, they're being facetious.  So I apologize for using that expression as this afternoon's blog post title.

I'm going to Hell. (Special thanks to the person who made this comic.  Let me know if you want me to remove it or credit it.)

Secondly, I apologize in advance to "Wondering Why", because I am about to direct a rant toward her (or him).  I know some people don't like it when I do this, but I think if you leave a negative comment on my personal blog that inspires me, you're fair game for a rant.  Especially when I see no evidence that you're a regular reader.  Don't want me to write a post about you?  Think before you comment.

And thirdly, I apologize to all who have been enduring my miserable writing for so long, just waiting for me to be "positive"...  I imagine it must be hard to voluntarily read someone else's extremely TMI writing about their personal experiences. I have to wonder what led some of these sad people to my blog in the first place.

This afternoon, I received this comment from "Wondering Why"...

Oh dear...  

I have ranted about this topic a few times in the past, but I feel the need to address it again for those who have come in after the opening credits.  This is a personal blog.  Most mornings, I don't know what I'm going to blog about when I sit down to write.  Regular readers know that my posts run the gamut.  Sometimes I write about daily life.  Sometimes I write book reviews.  Sometimes I write about current events, politics, and religion.  I've been known to write stories and song parodies and have even included some of my own music, which most people don't bother to check out.  And yes, sometimes I rant about my husband's ex wife and his kids.  It's actually a lot less often now than it used to be, so I think I've made some significant progress over the years.

I realize that some people who read this blog don't know my backstory and many people don't care about it.  That's fine.  In most cases, we're total strangers anyway.  If you don't like my writing, you are free to go somewhere else.  I won't be offended.  I mostly write on this blog to process my feelings.  Some of what I write is very personal and some people think it's "TMI".  That's fine, too.  Everyone is entitled to opinions, although I think expecting me to know what is your personal standard of "TMI" is a bit much to ask. 

Here's what's not going to happen, though.  I am not going to change my writing for random anonymous people who leave me negative comments.  This blog is really more for me than anyone else.  It's public because I know there are people out there who can relate to what Bill and I have been through.  They need to know they aren't alone, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Personally, I don't think today's earlier post was really that harsh, although I know people have different perspectives.  But I can't possibly know what is going to appeal to every reader and, again, this blog is more for me than it is for you.  If you're offended or upset by what I write, you're certainly entitled to those feelings.  But they're your problem, not mine.

Tell me.  If I did suddenly change my style and started writing nothing but positive, edifying, uplifting posts that contained no dirty laundry or TMI, would you read and appreciate them?  Would you bother to let me know that you appreciated them?  My guess is that you wouldn't.  In fact, I have a feeling that most people would find an extremely positive version of me inauthentic and boring, and still more people would find reasons to criticize what I do.  Besides, that simply wouldn't be me, and it's not worth my time or effort to change simply because someone leaves me a negative comment.  I realize that a lot of people don't like me, and that's alright.  But I have to be who I am, "snotty, petty, bitchy, bitter, and negative" as I may seem. 

Despite how things might appear to the casual reader, what Bill and I have been through has been very hard.  I realize it's not been as painful as it could have been.  There are plenty of people who have had it much worse than I have, and I would never dispute that.  But trust me, dealing with a malignant narcissist is extremely difficult.  I want to write about my experiences on my space.  Can you deal with that?  Does it affect you personally that I write about it?  If my posts affect you personally and you can explain how they affect you, I'm willing to hear what you have to say and might even edit.  If not, feel free to fuck off.      

I don't write this blog to be popular or get hits.  I'm not getting paid to write this stuff, so I don't consider my readers "customers" or anything.  Writing this blog is actually a form of therapy for me, and it doesn't even get that much traffic.  

I have two other blogs that are generally positive most of the time.  If you truly want to see a generally more positive, less TMI version of my writing, you're welcome to check out my music blog or my travel blog.  You can easily find them on my profile.  But no one is forcing you to read this blog, and frankly, it matters not a whit to me that you think I'm "snotty, petty, and bitter."  I don't even know you, and won't know the difference if you think I'm a bitch.  The fact is, I know the truth about who I am and so do the people who love and care about me... and there are still a few out there who think I'm alright.  So, thanks for the "constructive" criticism, but really... no thanks.

Jeez... it's at times like these, I really appreciate my dogs.   

The Ex is much like Wile E. Coyote...

I watched a lot of cartoons when I was growing up.  In the 70s and 80s, they were always on TV.  We didn't have the Internet or other high-tech gadgets, other than electronic games.  If we weren't outside playing, we watched TV.  I liked Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, so I also managed to see a lot of Road Runner cartoons.  Although I never really liked the Road Runner cartoons as much as I liked Bugs Bunny, I saw quite a number of them during my childhood.

The Road Runner was a master at foiling his nemesis, Wile E. Coyote.  The coyote was "smart" and billed himself as a "genius", but he'd always come up with harebrained ideas that never worked.  Then, whatever his plans were would inevitably blow up in his face.

"I believe I can fly..."  Alas, no, you can't. 

Sometimes I compare my husband's ex wife to Wile E. Coyote.  She reminds me a lot of him, actually.  She's not a "dumb" woman in a traditional sense.  I've certainly met people who are more stupid than she is.  But she does some really dumb things and tries to employ unfeasible ideas... things that eventually blow up in her face, much like they always do in any Road Runner cartoon when Wile E. Coyote comes up with a "brilliant plan."

I don't know why this topic is coming up today.  It's not like I spend a lot of time dealing with Ex lately.  I think maybe it's because Bill recently talked to his daughter and it occurred to me that Ex's big plans didn't pan out the way she assumed they would.  Take, for instance, Ex's decision to join the LDS church.  This was a choice she kind of made unilaterally.  Bill, being a dutiful husband at the time, went along with her decision.  He figured it was easier to be Mormon and conform to the many lifestyle rules associated with that religion, than say no to his Ex's latest stupidity.

So they went through the process of becoming Mormons.  Bill gave up drinking coffee and alcohol, two of his favorite beverages.  He started attending many church meetings and accepting "callings", which ate up what little free time he had.  He talked frankly to church leaders about his "sins", and started giving 10% of his gross income to the church, even though they could ill afford to tithe.  He watched as his former stepson and two daughters became indoctrinated in religious dogma and allowed it, without complaint or dissent.

None of it was enough...  and when Bill decided he needed to go back into the Army and make some decent money with excellent benefits, Ex threw down the divorce gauntlet.  She later admitted she did this as a means of "forcing Bill to rock bottom".  She claimed this was her way of showing what he'd be missing if he didn't straighten up.  She admitted that she'd never actually wanted a divorce.  It was just her way of maintaining control.


But instead of humbling herself and admitting that she'd tried to manipulate Bill, Ex very stubbornly decided to go through with the divorce (and thank GOD for that).  To punish Bill, she came up with a divorce settlement that would keep him financially crippled for years.  Then, she set to work at alienating his daughters to the point at which they refused to have anything to do with him for years.  She also tried to damage his relationship with his family of origin, including his own mother.  Her plan was to force him to come groveling back to her, preferably on his knees, begging her to take him back into the family fold.  I remember she told him that "he'd always know where his family was."  Actually, he had to find them by employing the Internet.

It never occurred to Ex that another woman would want Bill.  She stupidly assumed other women would think he'd have too much baggage.  She naively figured that another woman might not see that the future would be brighter and he could recover from his years with her.  If it hadn't been me, it would have been someone else.  It might have even been someone even more fucked up than Ex is.  Trust me, when I met Bill, there were other women vying for his attentions.

She went forward with her "big idea", and it repeatedly blew up in her face.  Even her decision to join the LDS church turned out to be a bad idea.  It was the church that helped younger daughter escape Ex's control.  Church people helped Bill's daughter move across the country, go on a mission, and enter college.  Once younger daughter was away from Ex, her perspective became clearer.  She started to hang around other people and learned that her mother's version of reality was very skewed.  She probably began to feel better, too... much like getting away from toxic gas.

When Bill left his ex wife, he went through some very trying times.  But even as he sat in a drafty apartment in Kansas with little more than the clothes on his back, he felt better.  His self-esteem improved.  He befriended me and, after several months of chatting, told me what was going on in his personal life.  I will never forget the long email he sent, telling me that he and his wife had separated and would probably divorce.  I didn't think we'd ever meet offline, let alone get married.  Yet, here we are... in seventeen days, we will be celebrating sixteen wonderful years of marriage.

I'm not saying we're perfect.  I have my moments sometimes.  But Bill's situation steadily improved and his career began to take off.  Meanwhile, from what we've heard, Ex's three eldest children are realizing what they missed out on, thanks to their mother.  Two have already put significant distance between themselves and their mom.  One stays behind because Ex has her convinced she can't make it on her own and she's pretty much taken over raising the youngest child, a boy who will soon turn twelve.  It won't be long before the last two kids are grown and Ex will be on her own with her third husband, who is probably also sick of her shit.

I've heard Ex's legs sort of resemble these...

I still don't like the Road Runner cartoons.  I always found them kind of frustrating rather than funny.  I  could probably laugh at Ex's ridiculous attempts to control people, but I really just find it sad and pathetic.  It makes me sad that her five kids had to grow up with someone who was less interested in being a real mother to them and more interested in using them for her own harebrained purposes.  Why is it that the most fucked up people on the planet can so easily breed?  It boggles the mind.

Anyway, as much as I dislike Ex and the way she uses people, I don't take pleasure in seeing her do this dumb stuff and watching it inevitably explode in her face.  I wish she were more mature, if not for her sake, then for the sake of her children and grandchildren.  I wish Bill hadn't had to spend years undoing the financial and psychological damage he suffered at his ex wife's hands.  But I am gratified that I could be here to help him, as much as it was possible.  If he hadn't met me, I'm sure he would have met another woman.  Maybe she would have been a better wife than I am.  Or maybe she would have left him years ago.  

I'm grateful to be with Bill.  He's a wonderful husband, and would have been an outstanding dad, given the chance.  I think his daughter is seeing that he wasn't the one with the lion's share of the problems, back when he and his ex wife broke up.  Bill's mistake is getting involved with Ex in the first place and not valuing his own sanity and self-preservation sooner than he did.  At least he's learned the lesson, though.  His daughter, likewise, has recognized the toxic cycle that needs to be broken, once and for all.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Writers' ripoff...

A friend of mine has been looking for a full time job for quite some time.  She really needs the work, since she's the main breadwinner in her family.  Her husband has a serious disability and she has a young daughter.  Money is tight, and a full-time salaried position with benefits is what she really wants and requires.

Imagine how excited she was a couple of weeks ago when she was invited to interview for the kind of job she needs!  She sailed through a phone interview, then submitted a writing sample to the company.  They liked the sample, and invited her in for a face to face interview, which she said went well.  On the morning of the interview, she dressed professionally and applied makeup, then braved the traffic and burned the gas to meet the interviewers in person.  She was told that she'd hear about whether or not she got the job sometime this week.

At this writing, I don't know if she's going to be hired.  However, I do know that the company evidently really liked her writing sample, of which she'd enlisted several friends on social media to critique and help edit.  How do I know this?  Because her sample was used for an ad on LinkedIn.  She was neither credited for the work, nor paid for it, nor has she been offered the job.

I, myself, haven't looked for a "real job" in a long time, but evidently this is a new trend in American companies wanting to hire people for their writing skills.  They assign potential employees writing assignments under the guise of wanting to test their abilities.  The assignments typically require some work.  Sometimes the work required is substantial.  Most of the time, the companies expect the applicants to do the work free of charge.  While I see nothing wrong with testing applicants to make sure they can write before hiring them, I do think it's wrong to use someone's writing sample without crediting and paying them for it.

Based on comments on my friend's post, it sounds like this practice is becoming more and more common.  While I can see that many companies like to get free labor, it seems unethical to rip off a job applicant's work.  Most people job hunt because they need the money.  I have to admit, reading about this practice leaves a bad taste in my mouth, too.  My friend is college educated and intelligent.  She has good skills and deserves to be compensated for her time and effort.  I thought the US got rid of slavery in the 19th century!

I'm sure my friend will let us know if she gets an offer.  If she does get one, she'll probably take the job, since she really does need the money.  Unfortunately, the fact that these folks used her work without permission or compensation is a hint of how they will treat her once she's on the job, if they deign to hire her.  I think it's unprofessional, unethical, and it makes me think working there would be a nightmare.  I wish my friend luck and hope that if she gets this job, it will lead to something a whole lot better.

Monday, October 29, 2018

No longer homeless...

I'm happy to report that we found a house in Wiesbaden.  It's going to cost a lot of money, but it's a better house than what we have now.  I only have a couple of complaints about it, rather than a list of complaints.  The most major worry is living next door to our new landlords... but they may turn out to be awesome folks.  Besides, the people that lived there before were there for seven years.  The house is large enough, but not humongous, and it has a fenced backyard... and, best of all, no awnings!

I wrote about our house hunt on my travel blog, so I'm just putting this here for those who don't follow that blog.  We should be out of this house we're in now in about a month.  In total, we looked at seven houses in the Wiesbaden area, more than any we've ever looked at before any of our previous moves.  We probably could have seen more, had we worked with a German real estate agent, but the one Bill contacted never responded.  We're running out of time, so we had to make a decision.  Hopefully, it'll work out for the best, even if it costs a lot of money.  If it doesn't, well... it's only temporary.

I also bought us tickets to see Mark Knopfler in Leipzig next summer.  I have been wanting to see him play for years now and we've never been to Leipzig before, so this should be a good time.  So now we have an Irish concert on Halloween, the Scottish Music parade in Wiesbaden in December, Elton John in Stuttgart in May, The Eagles in Cologne in May, and now, Mark Knopfler in Leipzig in July.  Our year of concerts is turning into two years of concerts.

Speaking of concerts, yesterday, I discovered yet another weird celebrity connection.  Some of you might remember that on June 30th of this year, Bill and I saw The Rolling Stones play.  It was our first Stones concert and we were both blown away by the experience.  Consequently, I've been following Mick Jagger's career a bit more lately.

Well... Mick Jagger's youngest son, Dev, is also the son of Melanie Hamrick, a ballerina for American Ballet Theater.  It turns out Melanie Hamrick was born and raised in Williamsburg, Virginia, which is very close to where I also grew up.  About nineteen years ago, I studied voice at Eastern Virginia School for the Performing Arts under Ron Boucher.  Ron's wife, Sandra Balestracci, is an extremely well regarded ballet teacher and performer.  It turns out that Melanie also studied at EVSPA, as a ballet student.  She might have even been studying there when I was, since she would have been about twelve at the time.  She later attended a very exclusive boarding school for ballet dancers in Washington, DC.  I don't think I ever met her when she studied at EVSPA.  I see she and Ron are Facebook buddies.

I studied voice with Ron as something for myself.  I was suffering from depression at the time and singing comes very easily to me.  Ron helped me get over depression by having me develop one of my natural talents.  Of course, my dad kind of ruined it for me by also deciding to study under Ron at the same time.  But I will never forget how much I enjoyed those classes.  I wish I could continue them now.

Before EVSPA existed, my eldest sister Betsy, who studied ballet for many years, was in Williamsburg's Chamber Ballet.  Betsy was a very accomplished dancer who studied at the Royal Ballet School when we lived in England.  She later went to the College of William & Mary, which is in Williamsburg, and took ballet while she was a student.  Melanie Hamrick was also in the Chamber Ballet.

I have had a number of loose celebrity affiliations.  I used to be in a choir with actress Kristin Davis's mother.  When I was in grad school, I joined a local choir and Kristin's mom, who also worked in the School of Public Health, of which I was a student, also was a member.

I used to be friends with Katrina Bowden's grandmother, although "Granniemose" has since passed on.

I am friends with Joan Jett's manager.  I met her and her famous songwriting husband, Kenny Laguna, on a cruise.  I met famous interior designer, Michael Moloney, on the same cruise, although I didn't know who he was at the time and didn't get friendly with him.

And now, I know someone who's friends with someone who had a baby with Mick Jagger...  :D

Seriously, I know this isn't a big deal.  I just think it's funny, because I often run into people who know people I know or are people I used to know or work with.  More than once, I've met people I used to know randomly, even if I haven't seen them in decades, or I'll run into total strangers who know people I know.  Or my friends will have some kind of an unexpected connection to other friends.  I guess that applies to celebrities, too.  Someone told me I have a "weird magnetism".  Maybe that's true.  

I could be venting about a lot of things that are currently upsetting, but I think instead, I will go do some reading.  You can read about shootings and bombs in the mail on CNN.  I doubt you need to read my opinions about such horrors.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A review of American Sweetheart: Still Not Making the Team by Chiufang Hwang M.D.

I notice a lot of people find this blog due to my posts about the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and their hit reality show on CMT, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.  I have also written at least one review of a book written by former "DCCs".  Since I am a sucker for trash, and I love a good true story, I decided to read American Sweetheart: Still Not Making the Team, by Taiwanese Dallas based psychiatrist Chiufang Hwang.  I paid $4.99 to download her book, which was published in November 2016.

Hwang, who by now is in her 50s, has tried out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders multiple times, starting in 1999. She has yet to progress beyond the first audition.  Still, she continues to show up every year for the grueling try outs.  She takes dance classes, in addition to being a wife, a mother of two grown sons, and a psychiatrist who runs a clinic.  Hwang apparently doesn't care that she never makes it beyond the first round of auditions.  She says she loves competition.

American Sweetheart, then, might make for a good book about chasing a dream... even one that, realistically, will never come true.  Except this book isn't just about trying out to become a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.  It's also about growing up with immigrant parents.  Hwang is the eldest of three children.  She had a younger brother and a younger sister.  Her sister was afflicted with acute lymphocytic leukemia and was very ill from a young age.  Hwang's father was studying to get his Ph.D. in mathematics, then computer science.  He entered several doctoral programs around the country and, more than once, failed at achieving his dream of becoming a Ph.D.

Hwang's mother is described as needy and extremely demanding.  She gave Chiufang a lot of responsibility from a young age, requiring her to do everything from parenting her siblings to reading and interpreting apartment leases and paying bills.  Hwang's mother wanted her daughter to excel in school, and she did.  However, the mother chose where Hwang would be attending school, what her major would be, and would even show up on campus and force her daughter to eat the same dinner every night in the family car.  Hwang writes that her mother always cooked rice, and it was served at every meal.

Reading about Hwang's family dynamics was a lot more interesting than reading about Hwang's quest to become a DCC.  I think her story is more in her unique family situation than it is her diet, dance, and exercise tips.  I mean... Hwang hasn't yet succeeded in becoming a cheerleader, so I'm not sure why she thinks anyone would follow her advice on how to successfully audition for DCC.  She does include a couple of interviews from former cheerleaders, as well as some information about what it's like to audition, but to me, DCC is not what this book is ultimately about. If anything, it's a side note... and Hwang probably used her affiliation with DCC as a hook to get more readers.  I don't see many reviews on Amazon yet, so people like me are "hooked"... not that I mind, since it wasn't an expensive download.

Hwang is a pretty decent and engaging writer, although I really think her book could have used an editor.  For one thing, in her manuscript, she includes things like news articles and speeches she's given.  They aren't photographs of clippings.  They're basically articles and speeches copied into the text.  I, for one, skipped over most of it, as it seemed a bit like padding.

Hwang is slim and attractive and looks very good, particularly for her age.  She mentions more than once that besides her headshrinker gig, she's also done some modeling and ad work in Texas.  She was even recruited to try out for DCC, although it seems that might have been a gimmick.  In 1999, she was in her 30s, which is still kind of too old for a realistic shot at DCC.  She also mentioned her size a lot.  Hwang is not quite five feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds, although she says 100 pounds on her frame looks overweight.  Although DCC claims that there is no height requirement, it seems to me that someone that tiny might stick out like a sore thumb.

I thought it was interesting to read Hwang's thoughts on negative feedback she's gotten from co-workers and other peers.  It seems that a lot of people don't appreciate her DCC quest.  Some of her colleagues have even shamed her for "debasing herself" and women as a whole by trying out for the DCC.  I could kind of relate, since I get shit from people all the time about things like writing or making music.  A lot of people just want to watch the world burn and crap all over anyone who has ambition, especially for something they don't think is deserved.  I liked that she encourages her readers to go for their dreams, even though she herself admits that thanks to being "hangry", she's been quite unpleasant to people she works with.  She went so far as to dress down one of her employees who asked for a raise.  I know that cheerleaders for the Cowboys are expected to be unfailingly nice to everyone, so Hwang may have some challenges with that requirement if she ever did have a realistic shot at being a cheerleader.  Also, I can't quite picture her calling Kelli Finglass and Judy Trammell "ma'am".

I don't think this is a bad book, per se.  I just think Hwang's focus was kind of off.  Yes, the DCC adds mystique to the book and may get some people to read it who wouldn't otherwise.  However, I think some readers will feel like they've been baited and switched, since this book certainly isn't just about becoming a DCC.  Frankly, I think Hwang has an interesting story that merits a book.  I think she should work with an editor to write a book that is more about her journey and less about her attempts to become something she will likely never be.

I'd say this book might be worth a read for the curious, but do not read it thinking it will only be about the cheerleaders.  I think the cheerleaders are just a minimal part of the story.

Too drunk to tip...

I saw this posted on the Angry Bartender's Facebook page today...

This struck me as non-sensical...

As some of you might know, I used to wait tables.  I'm actually not a big fan of the tipping system.  That being said, I do know that in America especially, people who wait tables or work as bartenders make their money through tips.  So, although tipping is technically optional, it's really shitty when people don't tip.  If you opt not to tip, you really ought to have a better reason that being "to [sic] buzzed".  The reason you're buzzed is because the bartender was doing his or her job.  And I dare say most people would rather not work for free.

I read the comments and one woman suggested getting the person's license plate number and calling the cops, telling them the person left the bar too drunk to drive.  Another commenter left an irate shaming comment about how jacked up it is to "fuck up someone's life" just because they didn't tip.  But think about this for a minute.  This person was too drunk to do math.  If he or she was so intoxicated that tipping properly was too much of a challenge, he or she was certainly too intoxicated to drive.  And people who are that drunk have no right to "fuck up" or end an innocent person's life by driving drunk.

I continue to be amazed by some people's sense of entitlement.  I read an article by the New York Times this morning and some guy left an irate comment that it was behind a paywall...  

Why do you post this if only subscribers can read it? You should create a close group only for subscribers.

Lots of people pointed out that if the guy read so many articles that he was hitting the paywall, he needed to pay for a subscription.  Journalists write for money.  They have bills to pay.  You want to read what they write?  You need to pay.

But the guy who left the above comment had nothing but nasty spew for the people who told him he needed to pay.  Apparently, he doesn't think journalism is a real job that deserves a paycheck.  Personally, I think good journalism is worth paying for.  I subscribe to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Irish Times.  

House hunting is kind of frustrating.  So far, we've seen three houses.  Two were humongous... way bigger than what we need.  One was the right size, but I'm not sure if our furniture would work because of the sloped ceilings.  Also, we have an Eckbank Gruppe and the main living room only has one corner where we could feasibly put it.  And it's not in the area that was obviously designated to be the dining area.  

We have two more houses to see before we go to our current home, which will not be home a month or so from now.  I hate this process so much.  Can't wait for it to be over.  However, it's been interesting to see the houses up here.  We will definitely have a different lifestyle here.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Wiesbaden again...

We are back in Wiesbaden, looking for a new home.  I think we have four showings planned so far.  I booked us an apartment for the weekend.  It got deceptively bad reviews.  I am glad I didn’t study Trip Advisor too long before I booked it, because it’s much better than staying in a hotel would have been.  

I brought my computer this time, so I may end up writing more later.  

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Family Reserve continued...

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about my family in Virginia.  It was inspired by my Uncle Carl, but became more about the whole family and music that reminds me of our story.  I don't know if the person from Raleigh who read my original tribute to Carl was a family member or what...  Maybe they found my post from January 2015 because they knew Carl's wife, my Aunt Betty, was dying.

This morning, I got the news that Aunt Betty passed yesterday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.  It came in the form of an email from my sister, Sarah.  I had awakened at 4:40am, having had a vivid dream about househunting and cleaning.  I needed to answer the call of nature, so I used my iPad for light and checked my email at the same time.  It's not so often anymore that I get emails that aren't about sales, so I immediately noticed Sarah's name and the subject line... "Sad news".  What followed was a very brief message reporting Betty's demise.

I sent an even shorter reply thanking Sarah for letting me know.  Then I left a message for my cousin, Lori, who also reported Betty's death on social media.  Betty was Lori's mom.

I didn't have an especially close relationship with Betty.  I always remember her as a no nonsense nurse who had a bit of a quick temper.  In fact, my most vivid memory of her was being yelled at when I was about eleven or twelve.  I don't remember exactly what happened.  All I recall is playing with Lori and another cousin, Suzanne, and I guess-- being four years older and bossy-- I must have told Lori she had to go into a closet.  Lori apparently didn't want to go into the closet.  She told Betty, and Betty yelled at me.  I distinctly remember her snapping at me in a harsh tone, "Lori doesn't have to go in the closet if she doesn't want to."  I felt hurt and embarrassed in the wake of that rebuke.  

After that incident, I remember thinking less of Betty for a long time.  She just seemed kind of mean to me, so I tried to avoid her as much as possible.  But I also know that she was very career oriented and worked hard as a nurse for many years. As I got older, I started to appreciate her more.  I remember she and some of my other aunts very kindly hosted my wedding rehearsal dinner.  I had originally asked another aunt if I could have a potluck dinner or something at the family homestead and they decided to host a buffet for us at the local country club.  It was a very kind and generous gift from my aunts that I will never forget.

I have a great picture of Betty at my wedding reception.  Her head is on Bill's shoulder as he watches me sing.  Bill looks very moved, and Betty looks like she's sharing the moment with him.  It's a really sweet photo that shows my aunt's soft side.  I wish it wasn't in storage.

I also remember that Betty and another aunt, my late Aunt Nance, who was also a nurse, both sprang into action just before Bill and I recited our wedding vows.  My father-in-law, who was Bill's best man, had locked his knees and was about to faint.  Both of my aunts noticed and managed to help him before he hit the floor.  We stopped the wedding for about twenty minutes while Bill's dad recovered.  Our weird wedding photographer went into combat mode and got pictures of the whole incident.

Sadly, just a few years later, both Nance and Betty would have dementia brought on by Alzheimer's.  Nance died in 2010 of a heart attack.  I managed to see her less than a month before she passed away and I'll never forget how she looked.  She'd lost a lot of weight and was kind of wandering around.  Less than a month later, just after Christmas, she was suddenly gone.

I remember telling Bill on more than one occasion that as I got older, I started to see my relatives in more realistic terms.  In most cases, that meant I saw more negative aspects of their personalities.  It used to be that they could do no wrong.  As I became an adult, I saw them in a more realistic sense.  In Betty's case, my impressions of her became more positive.  I stopped seeing her as someone who was "mean" and "strict" and started seeing her more as someone who was ambitious, driven, and basically very good at heart.  She was a loving mom to her two children and, from what I could tell, she was a sweet grandmother to her five grandchildren.  I know they'll miss her.

The last time I saw Betty was in November 2014.  She and Carl were at our usual family Thanksgiving party, which I was attending because we were having a memorial for my dad.  Betty had Alzheimer's at that time, but didn't seem that sick to me.  I learned from talking to Carl, who passed just a few weeks later, that Betty's illness was becoming pretty bad.  I'm sure the last few years have been hard for Lori and her older brother, Jeff, and their families.  I know they'll miss their mom and grandmother, but I'm also sure they're grateful that Betty is no longer tormented by dementia.

Anyway... it now makes sense why people were reading about Carl a couple of days ago.  I guess Betty was on a downward spiral.  My cousin said she pictured Betty being welcomed to Heaven by Carl and that the two of them waltzing past the pearly gates.  I don't know if that's what really happens when a person dies, but it's a nice image, and one I think I'll keep.

Moving on...

We're going to Wiesbaden this weekend to look at houses.  I think we have five showings scheduled so far.  In preparation for our move, I started doing some cleaning.  I am not the world's best housewife, but sometimes I stumble across some good tips.  I think I'll share one I found yesterday.  Of course, most people already know about this...

Last night, Bill was trying to figure out how we're going to coordinate everything.  I found myself getting irritated, because a lot depends on whether or not we have a new address after we pack up the old house.  I have pretty high hopes that we'll find something this weekend, but you never know.  I know Bill is stressed out because we have a month to make this happen.  We've had worse moves, though.  We'll get through this, even though it's going to suck in the interim.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A miscarriage of workplace justice...

I've recently gotten back into watching Netflix after a long hiatus.  German Netflix continues to improve to the point at which I can often find interesting documentaries and foreign films in English.  I've even started watching some Netflix produced films.  The other day, against my better judgment, I watched Reversing Roe, which is a Netflix production.

A trailer for Reversing Roe, which shows how abortion is slowly being stamped out by self-righteous and greedy politicians who are in bed with religious zealots.

It is a well-done film, even if watching it made my blood boil.  It's no secret that I'm very much for supporting a woman's right to have an abortion.  It pisses me off to listen to religious people, particularly lobbyists and politicians, pontificating about the "sanctity of life".  Many of these folks have aligned themselves with the Republican party, which preaches about family values, but does little in the way of promoting family friendly policies, particularly when it comes to workers.  And a lot of the women who choose to have an abortion are working women, some of whom are struggling simply to support themselves.

The other day, I read an article in the New York Times about women who miscarried while they were on the job.  These women wanted their babies, but had the misfortune of working in jobs that were physically taxing.  The article described the working conditions some of these women were faced with-- un-air conditioned warehouses in the South where they spent long shifts lifting and dragging heavy boxes full of gadgets.  In January 2014, then 23 year old Erica Hayes worked an eight hour shift at a warehouse operated by a contractor on behalf of Verizon.  At the end of her shift, Hayes went to the bathroom, where her jeans were soaked with blood.  She had been in her second trimester and she had miscarried while on the job.  Hayes had repeatedly begged her boss to let her do less physically strenuous work and her boss had refused her requests.

Hayes lost her baby, and she wasn't alone.  Three of her co-workers also miscarried while on the job.  They had all asked for lighter duty.  Three of the four women had even brought doctors' notes, which their supervisors ignored.  

According to the article, pregnancy discrimination in the U.S. workplace is rampant.  Some companies deny pregnant women promotions and raises.  Some companies find ways not to hire pregnant women.  Some fire pregnant women before they can take maternity leave.  And some force pregnant women to keep working physically taxing jobs that end up causing the women to miscarry.

I happened to read the New York Times article before I saw Reversing Roe.  I think having read about how some pregnant women are treated in American workplaces made my reaction to that documentary even more visceral.  I listened to smarmy conservative politicians preach about religion as they explain why they think they should have the right to force women to be pregnant.  And yet, I didn't hear many of them talk about how they would support women like Erica Hayes, who was probably not working at the Verizon warehouse because it was a lifelong career goal of hers.

Let's face it.  A lot of people are working in jobs simply because they must work to support themselves.  Although there might be people in the world whose dreams include working in a sweltering warehouse, my guess is most of those folks have other dreams they'd rather pursue.  They are working there simply for the money.  And making money is the main thing that drives supervisors to push pregnant women so hard that they miscarry.

I'm not saying there aren't money hungry Democrats out there.  I know there are liberals who are all about the almighty dollar.  But Democrats, by and large, seem to have more respect for working people.  They also seem more interested in making sure that people have access to affordable and available healthcare.  They are also a lot more interested in leaving decisions about whether or not to stay pregnant up to the women involved instead of politicians and religious leaders.

I shared the New York Times article on my Facebook page and got a comment from a friend who is extremely pro-life.  I had made this comment...

She responded with this comment:

Oh. 😢 Please don’t lump the two together. I am so adamantly pro-life. That is not limited to the unborn. It breaks my heart to think that someone would suffer like this woman. Those I know who support life also care for women who have had miscarriages, abortions, drug addiction, etc. there are those of us who truly love our fellow man/woman.

For the record, I do believe this friend when she writes that she loves her fellow man/woman.  My issue is with greedy politicians who spout off about how immoral abortion is, but have no qualms about allowing employers to act like slave drivers while denying affordable healthcare to American citizens.  What the hell is the point of saving the lives of unborn babies if there's no support for their mothers when their fetuses are in utero or for the newborn babies after they've been born?!  It really infuriates me, even if I'm soon going to be too old to be personally affected by pregnancy.  But, as my friend points out, it's not just about unborn babies.  Really, it's about everyone.  Every man, woman, or child in the United States needs access to affordable healthcare and humane working conditions that don't unduly put their health and safety at risk.

Anyway... I probably shouldn't watch documentaries about abortion, because every time I see some bearded dickhead in a suit preaching about the Bible and the sanctity of life, then saying and doing NOTHING to help poor women who can barely support themselves, let alone a baby, I want to throw things.  It's probably not good for my blood pressure.  The fact is, in the United States, we have a culture that is entirely about money, everything else be damned.

Many conservative politicians want to force women to stay pregnant, but they are not interested in providing any support for pregnant women or new mothers.  When the mother says she can't afford to have a baby, their solution is suggesting adoption, following a lecture about how she shouldn't have gotten pregnant if she couldn't support a child.  Meanwhile, these same folks also do their best to limit access to affordable contraception and sex education that isn't entirely about abstinence.  

Adoption may be a wonderful idea for some women, but I can't help but wonder how many women gave up their babies simply because they couldn't afford to take care of them?  How many women spent the rest of their lives anguishing about that decision, which may have been made entirely out of financial necessity?  And how many women, like Erica Hayes, kept working in physically taxing jobs while they were pregnant, simply because they had to in order to survive?  

I certainly don't cheer for abortions, but I think they must stay legal for so many reasons.  One of the main ones is that I think we simply have a shitty quality of life in the United States.  Maybe that's not everyone's opinion, but it's definitely my opinion.  So, aside from any medical or psychological reasons why an abortion might be "necessary", I also think that they should be allowed for financial reasons.  As Reversing Roe points out, the vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester, anyway.  Those that take place later are usually due to medical issues in the mother or developing fetus.  

What's worse?  Allowing a woman to seek competent medical help to end a pregnancy in its early stages, or forcing a pregnant woman in her second trimester to work so hard that she miscarries?  Either way, the end result is a dead fetus, right?  Why is it so much worse for a woman to have an abortion than an employer to work a pregnant woman to the point at which her unborn baby dies?

We need more humane people in our government who truly support a woman's right to choose-- both the woman who wants to terminate her pregnancy, and the woman who wants to stay pregnant and have a healthy baby.  In a country that is as supposedly "great" as the United States allegedly is, this is an issue that should get a lot more attention than it does.          

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Mario Lopez has his say...

I just finished another book yesterday.  Since my last book review was on a rather heavy topic, I decided to read something a little lighter.  In honor of my recent Saved By The Bell binge, I bought and read Mario Lopez's 2014 book, Just Between Us.  I think I decided to read it when I read a quote from the book about actor Dustin Diamond.  Lopez apparently got along with the guy who famously played Screech, but evidently Diamond had a habit of leaving Polaroids of his genitals on the set.  I knew I had to read the book when I saw that quote.

In 2014, Lopez turned 41, and I guess he decided it was high time he wrote his mid-life story.  Mario Lopez hasn't played A.C. Slater in many years, but he's still well-known for the role.  Realizing that Saved By The Bell both put Lopez on the map and may have caused some typecasting, Lopez has expanded his brand.  In a surprisingly formal style, he writes about his upbringing in Chula Vista, California and his many talents... everything from drumming to wrestling to dancing and hosting.  He's not just a pretty face and he repeatedly reminds readers of that fact.

I have to admit, I think Lopez wrote a pretty good book.  Yes, he comes off as a little cocky at times, despite his assurances of how humble he is.  But he also clearly loves his family, especially his mom.  He writes about good decisions he made, as well as notably poor ones.  Lopez is now married to Courtney Mazza, and together they have a son and a daughter.  But before he was married to Mazza, he was also married to Ali Landry, who found out that he lied to her about a bachelor's trip he took before their wedding.  They decided to annul their marriage just two weeks later.

Lopez also got involved in an ill advised business deal in Mexico when he invested $65,000 in a bar that lost a lot of money.  He writes that his practical mother, Elvia, had told him to invest in rental properties instead.  He did take his mother's advice and bought houses that he rents out.  But he also invested in the bar because he thought it would be fun.  He did not get a return on his investment.  He did have fun owning a bar, but didn't make any money.

These days, it seems Lopez thinks of himself as more of a host than anything else.  Yes, he was on Dancing With The Stars, wowing everyone with his partner, Karina Smirnoff.  Yes, he's acted on shows other than Saved By The Bell.  But Lopez says hosting is now his "thing" and, more importantly (to him, anyway), not everyone can be a host.  In fact, a lot of actors make poor hosts, Lopez says, because they have been conditioned to be "self-centered".  Actors make everything about themselves because they are constantly having to sell themselves.  Lopez says that as a host, he had to learn how to listen to other people and ask them about themselves.

As I mentioned before, this book is written in a bit more formal style than I was expecting.  The writing could use a little more personality-- maybe some of the personality Lopez shows when he acts.  However, the writing is mostly of decent quality, even if it could use a little pizzazz.  Mario's on screen charisma doesn't translate as well in his writing.  Consequently, it took me a little longer than I would have expected to finish reading his book.

I should also warn those who are looking for a lot of information on Saved By The Bell.  Remember, this is a book about Mario Lopez.  Saved By The Bell represents just a few years of his life.  I'm sure, when he was writing this book, he wanted to remind people that there's more to him than his career as a child actor.  If you think you might want to read this to learn more about Slater, you might want to give this book a pass.  Lopez has done more than Saved By The Bell, and this book reflects that.

Overall, I think I'd give it 3.5 stars out of five.


The Family Reserve...

This morning, I noticed a visitor from Raleigh, North Carolina visiting a memorial I wrote for my Uncle Carl back in January 2015.  I had just seen Carl a few months earlier, when I last went home to Virginia for Thanksgiving and a memorial we had for my dad, who died in July 2014.

Carl had leukemia.  I don't know how long he had it, but I do remember when I last saw him, he was pale and said that he exhausted easily.  Other than that, he seemed mostly like himself.  I remember having a nice long chat with him over that visit.  I knew it would probably be the last time I saw him alive, but I'm not sure I knew he'd be gone within weeks of our last conversation.  I'm so glad we made the effort to go to Virginia, since I lost three uncles in 2015.  I managed to see two of them during that last visit in 2014.

Today also happens to be the third anniversary of my Uncle Glenn's death.  Glenn was about 90 years old when he died, and he'd had health problems for a long time.  He was my mother's only brother, and was 13 years older than she is.  I didn't know him as well as I did my dad's siblings.  I do remember Glenn to be an adventurous guy with a special knack for electronics.  Glenn, his daughter Sue, and I also all inherited my grandmother's blue eyes.  In 2015, I lost Carl, my uncle Kenneth (married to my dad's sister, Nancy), and Glenn.

Lately, I've felt kind of disconnected from my family of origin.  I used to love going home for Thanksgiving, but the last time I was there, I almost felt like a stranger.  My dad's side of the family is huge, so the Thanksgiving gathering has become a party with a lot of attendees I don't know.  Also, I have different political and religious beliefs than most of my family members have.  Being in Germany makes going home more difficult and expensive, but even if I were in Virginia, it would probably feel weird to be there now.

Nevertheless, sometimes I'm reminded of my roots, especially at this time of year.  The visitor who read my tribute to Carl, who truly was a wonderful man, inspired me to re-read what I wrote back in 2015.  I included a couple of music videos in that post.  One was a piece I had completely forgotten about.  I almost wonder if it was a "drunken download".  Just an aside-- I've been known to drink wine and go on iTunes downloading sprees sometimes.  I get bored and start listening to music, find stuff I like, and the next thing I know, it's in my collection.  Bill doesn't mind when I do this, since he thinks I have excellent taste in music and loves a lot of the stuff I buy.

The first video I included in that post was one I stumbled upon and forgot about, but yet it's so fitting. The uploader had set a musical version of "Psalm 23" to the mountains and lakes of Scotland.  Both sides of my family have very deep British, Scottish, and Irish roots.  The video reminded me a bit of Rockbridge County in Virginia, which is pretty much the origin of my parents.  Dad was from Natural Bridge and my mom is from Buena Vista, which is its own city.

The second video was an awesome mashup of bluegrass and Dixieland jazz-- "I'll Fly Away", which was one of the songs in my dad's memorial.  I watched it again this morning and found myself getting emotional.  It's not unusual for me to cry over music that is well played.  Bill relates, since he tends to get overwhelmed by art.  I'm sure if we'd had a child, he or she would have been a total sap over music and art.

After I stopped listening to the music videos in Carl's memorial post, I was reminded of a song by Lyle Lovett called "Family Reserve".  It was, in fact, the second song I ever heard by him, and one of my favorites of his.  I will never forget the day I heard it for the first time.  I was in Armenia, visiting a Mormon couple who happened to be serving in the Peace Corps with me.  They were playing Lovett's 1992 album, Joshua Judges Ruth.  My ears caught the chorus of Lovett's song, "Since the Last Time"-- probably tied for my favorite Lovett tune...

"Since the Last Time" reminds me a lot of my family...  I love this song for so many reasons.

I asked my colleagues what they were playing, and they told me it was Lyle Lovett.  I only mention that these two were LDS because they were really cool people-- probably the first Mormons I ever really got to know before I met Bill, who was LDS when we first started dating.  I no longer keep in touch with this couple, but they were pretty extraordinary people-- a good example of exemplary LDS church members.  They were the kind of people who would have helped Bill's daughter, Catherine, as she broke away from her mother.  I have also found that many Mormons (or really, ex Mormons) have excellent taste in music and books, even if the belief system itself is pretty fucked (in my most irreverent opinion, anyway).  

The song "Baltimore" played next, then it was time for "Family Reserve".  Although it wasn't quite as quirky or uplifting as "Since the Last Time" is, there was something about "Family Reserve" that just captured my heart.  I suddenly found myself with a new musical obsession.

I decided I had to have that album we were listening to at my Mormon colleagues' apartment in Armenia, but I wasn't able to get it until I got back to the States, back in 1997.  And then, I didn't ask my friends which album they were playing, so I ended up buying all of Lovett's CDs until I finally found those songs that had become an obsession.  I did the same thing with Stevie Wonder at around the same time.  I was on a quest to find his song, "As", and didn't have regular access to the Internet.  Consequently, I now own a whole lot of Stevie Wonder's albums.  I also own pretty much all of Lovett's catalog.  It's not unusual for me to get hooked on a song and hunt it down, even if it takes years.  Good thing my husband doesn't mind. 

Anyway, "Since the Last Time" is track seven on Joshua Judges Ruth.  "The Family Reserve" is track nine.  While "Since the Last Time" is kind of quirky and gospel tinged, "The Family Reserve" is solemn and poignant.  For some reason, as I read my thoughts on Carl, I was reminded of it...

I relate to the backstory of this song so well.  I hate having my picture taken.  But Lyle reminds us that life is fleeting and memories are important.

These are the lyrics to "The Family Reserve", which are stuck in my head this morning.

When I saw the ambulance
Screaming down main street
I didn't give it a thought
But it was my Uncle Eugene
He died on October the second 1981

And my Uncle Wilbert
They all called him Skinner
They said for his younger ways
He'd get drunk in the morning
And show me the rolls of fifties and hundreds
He kept in the glove box of his old gray Impala

And we're all gonna be here forever
So Mama don't you make such a stir
Now put down that camera
And come on and join up
The last of the family reserve

Now my second cousin
His name was Callaway
He died when he'd barely turned two
It was peanut butter and jelly that did it
The help she didn't know what to do
She just stood there and watched him turn blue

And we're all gonna be here forever
So Mama don't you make such a stir
Just put down that camera
And come on and join up
The last of the family reserve

And my friend Brian Temple
He thought he could make it
So from the third story he jumped
He missed the swimming pool
Only by inches
And everyone said he was drunk

Now there was great uncle Julius
And Aunt Annie Mueller
And Mary and Granddaddy Paul
And there was Hanna and Ella
And Alvin and Alec
He owned his own funeral hall

And there are more I remember
And more I could mention
Than words I could write in a song
But I feel them watching
And I see them laughing
And I hear them singing along

We're all gonna be here forever
So Mama don't you make such a stir
Just put down that camera
And come on and join up
The last of the family reserve

This time of year always makes me remember my family, even though I'm many miles away.  For a lot of reasons, thinking about family is difficult for me.  As amazing as they are, they are also the source of a lot of painful memories.  Sometimes I feel like we've already lost each other.  But then I am reminded of our common bonds.  In my case, it's music, storytelling, a love of booze, humor, and an affinity for mountains, lakes, creeks, and rivers.  Those things are a part of me that I share with my relatives, even if they are very religious Trump fans and I'm... not.

A trip home might do me some good... or maybe not.  I don't know.  For now, I have to find our next temporary home in Germany.  Germany isn't home, but it's starting to feel like home.  It's probably time I learned the language. 

Gift from my family.  I need to learn to play guitar, too.  Maybe I'll redo this video and add some harmony.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Death of a stranger...

I woke up this morning to the news that one of my longtime Facebook friends died yesterday.  I didn't actually know this man at all.  I became friends with him maybe ten years ago because we both played Mafia Wars.  In those days, you had to be friends with people in your Mafia, so I ended up friending total strangers.

Most of those people are now no longer friends, but I did keep a couple of them around.  One is a very nice lady from Missouri who plays violin and was once in the Army.  One is a woman who lives in North Carolina and is of Dutch descent.  She has dyslexia, so despite the fact that she's very intelligent, her posts are often written in a way that make me want to break out a red pen.  Another was this guy named Brian, who lived in Ohio and was a very successful businessman before he got cancer.

I didn't know Brian offline at all, and I rarely commented on his posts.  I didn't even know him from another online entity, which is where I picked up a lot of friends I don't know offline.  I don't know that Brian ever commented on my posts, either.  I kept him as a friend, though, because he was an unusually inspirational person.  Most days, he would post uplifting status updates or comment on current events.  Sometimes he'd post pictures, which were sometimes kind of sad because I could easily see how healthy he once was and how sick he had become.  He was ill with cancer the whole time we were "friends", so that was at least ten years of significant suffering for him.  But he always kept an upbeat attitude and his love for his friends and family was obvious.  He wrote beautiful, insightful posts that provided food for thought.  I could also tell he was a fighter with a strong will to live.

This morning, I'm reading some of the many comments people have left for Brian.  It really makes me realize that you never know who you'll touch.  Brian touched so many people that he never had the opportunity to meet in person.  It's really amazing to think about it.

Sometimes, I feel kind of sad because I feel like I haven't amounted to a lot.  I'm at least halfway through my life and yet I have yet to pass milestones that most people do.  I never had children and never held a job that offered legitimate benefits.  You might say I have a bad attitude at times.  I don't know if that's just my personality or it's a simple facet of clinical depression and anxiety.  Depression has an awful way of distorting the way a person sees the world.

Every once in awhile, I get reminded that I have affected people in a positive way.  For instance, a couple of days ago, I wrote a very successful blog post about places near Stuttgart that we're glad we visited.  I know that at least a couple of people will visit places they might not have known about if they hadn't read my post.  That will give them memories that will last a lifetime.  In that way, yes, I had an effect.  There are definite ripple effects for most anything a person does.  My life hasn't been that conventional, but I can't say I didn't have an effect.  Even if I've only affected Bill, that's still something, right?  Everyone touches someone in some way.  Even shit makes the flowers grow.

I didn't know Brian, but he touched my life.  I know he struggled for a long time and was very ill, but I also know that many people will miss him.  I'll miss his uplifting posts on Facebook and his unique world view.  You might also say that his example is one reason why I keep writing.  I will write even when people give me negative feedback.  I will write even when what I communicate is negative or depressing.  I'll write, because even though there are people in the world who dislike me or hate what I do, there will be someone out there who will "get it".  Besides that, writing helps keep me from going crazy.  In a few weeks, things will probably get legitimately crazy for at least the rest of 2018.

This morning, I discovered that the fancy house we looked at last weekend got rented.  I'm not surprised. It was a nice house and I noticed the landlord came down 200 euros a month on his asking price.  I would have wanted it more if it had been in a less busy and less crowded neighborhood.  Unfortunately, I think it would have driven me nuts to live there, as great as the kitchen was and as intrigued as I was by the washlet toilet the landlord installed.  I'm not sure I want to have a landlord installed washlet, anyway.  Who knows whose and how many assholes have been cleaned with that thing?  But I think the noise in the neighborhood would have been problematic.

It wasn't meant to be...  I'll try to stay upbeat, though.  We'll find a place somewhere.  Besides, in December, I scored us tickets to see the Scottish Music Parade in Wiesbaden...  I'll be sticking around for that!

It's my wedding march... I just teared up listening to this.

Anyway... Godspeed to Brian.  May peace be with his many friends and family members who knew him well and will miss him.  I didn't know him, but he touched my life.  His work is done now and his suffering is over.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Good people will show you the way out of Hell...

I've been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now.  It's about a topic Bill and I have been discussing, regarding his younger daughter who now speaks to him after many years of silence.

Last weekend, while we were in Wiesbaden enjoying a nice Italian meal, we started talking about Bill's younger daughter.  Bill recently decided to open a 529 college fund for his grandson, who recently turned one year old.  He hasn't seen his daughter in person since 2004, and she was extremely alienated until 2017.  But now they talk somewhat regularly on Skype and they email.  Bill missed out on being able to help his children when they were in college; consequently, it's been more of a struggle for them than it needed to be.

Bill's ex wife has a way of punishing the people in her life when they don't conform to her whims.  Younger daughter decided to go out west for college.  Ex did what she could to make her pay for that choice.  She refused to help her daughter out financially, and the young lady had to turn to her church for assistance.  I don't like Mormonism at all, but I am very grateful to the good people in the LDS church who helped Catherine escape her mother's clutches when Bill and I couldn't.  It was because of church people that Catherine managed to get out on her own, which was what she really needed to do.

I predicted a long time ago that Catherine would be one who wouldn't stick around and tolerate her mother's abuse.  I only met her once, but it wasn't hard to see that she has a mind of her own and is very strong willed.  Sure enough, she told Bill that she couldn't tolerate being at home beyond age 18.  She went to Provo with nothing but the clothes on her back.  It was much the same way for Bill when he returned to full time active duty with the Army.  He decided to come back in after a four year break.  Ex didn't support his decision to reclaim a good job with benefits and better pay, so he wound up in a very cheap apartment with the barest minimum of provisions.  She let him go with nothing more than the clothes on his back.  He was still living that way two years later, when we met in person for the first time.

For so long, I have been extremely angry at Bill's daughters.  On one level, I understood why they were so alienated and hateful.  They were fed a lot of lies and were misled by fractured facts.  On another level, I did not understand how they could be so hateful to Bill, who is truly a wonderful man who simply couldn't stand living with his ex wife anymore.  What's more, she divorced him-- he didn't divorce her.  And then she punished him for his decision.  I saw the children as weapons she used to hurt him and other people, and I resented her for it.  I also resented the children, as much as I tried to tell myself they couldn't help themselves.  I expected them to be smarter.

Since Bill has been talking to his daughter, I think she's been learning a lot of truths.  I wonder how it must feel for her to know that this very kind, generous, above board man was kept away from her and her sister for so many years.  Although my instincts for so long were to be cold and resistant, I've come to realize that the best thing to do is be kind to Bill's daughters and show them empathy.

I haven't spoken to Catherine yet.  If I do, I will be upfront with her and tell her that for a very long time, I was beyond pissed off at her and her sister.  I will also tell her that I felt very justified in feeling the way I did.  It was based on their behavior and what I knew at the time.  However, I also realize that her mother has a very nasty way of triangulating people.  She acts as a conduit to information and diverts the truth until it looks different than it is.  Consequently, people become divided based on faulty information filtered through Bill's ex wife.  Once the people involved share notes, the truth becomes obvious.

Bill is a naturally good, kind person.  He loves his daughters and always has, so it's not a problem for him to offer his grandson a college fund, especially now that he can easily afford it.  He would have happily helped his daughters more if they had been in contact with him and treated him with the most basic level of respect.  As it is now, Catherine is seeing what she missed out on... and that is going to be very damaging to her relationship with her mother.  From what I understand, that relationship is already a bit sour.  Ex expects total devotion and loyalty, but she won't reciprocate.  Other people are mere objects or extensions of her.  When they don't perform properly, she casts them out and expects everyone else in her sphere to do the same.  She's already gotten Catherine's sisters to harass her for leaving the nest and living her own life outside of Ex's control.

Last night, as we were enjoying a very beautiful five star meal at Stuttgart's Airport (seriously), I once again remarked how much cheaper I am compared to Ex.  Yes, it's true that my husband paid for most of my student loans.  It's true that I contribute little to the money flow.  However, with me, Bill is free to do what he does best.  He has a job that he does well and enjoys and lives in a country he loves.  He's rewarded with a good salary, some of which I invest.  We are now essentially debt free.  When Bill lived with his ex wife, he shopped for clothes at garage sales, ate meals prepared out of boxes, and experienced both bankruptcy and foreclosure.  He lived in a money pit house he couldn't afford in a town where he couldn't find adequate work.  His ex wife spent any surplus money on Disney plates, Swiss Colony snacks, depression glass, medical bills, and trips to the nearest LDS temple.  She would forego paying the mortgage or the credit card bills for these things.

Bill said that when he was married to his first wife, he was frequently left with a few dollars in the checking account before each new paycheck.  Ex insisted on handling the finances and she was not good at the job.  Confronting her would lead to a massive meltdown, so he went along with it.  I know Bill very well, though, and I know that having these debts weighed heavily on him.  He enjoys fine experiences, but not at the cost of being broke.  Ex had the attitude that she had to have everything right away.  I was willing to take time to build up to the sweet life.  For now, we're able to enjoy it with little problem and we have enough leftover to help Bill's grandson have a better life.

I share this story, not because I want to gloat.  I share it because I know there are other people out there who are in the situation we were once in, years ago.  When I met Bill, we were both broke.  He had horrible credit cards with extremely high annual percentage rates.  I remember being horrified that one card charged over 20% interest on purchases.  I suppose he was lucky he even qualified, given his financial challenges of before.  Bill now has an excellent credit rating that is almost as high as mine is, and I've never missed a bill.

I write this story to show that if you stay with someone who drags you down and convinces you that you're nothing, you can't move on to a better life.  Abusive people are like dead weight.  You can't flourish when you're stuck with them.  They will not think twice about ruining your quality of life.

I promise that if Bill had stayed with his ex wife, he'd probably still be struggling financially.  He'd also be constantly browbeaten and told what a loser he is.  He would definitely not be making a six figure salary and, even if he were, he would not have the freedom to spend it on things he cares about, like education for his grandson or a wonderful gourmet meal.  Bill didn't have to help me with my loans, but that's the kind of man he is.  I will do my best to make sure the rest of his life is as comfortable as it can be.

The prettiest dish from last night.  Hard to believe it's goose liver.

Last night, I watched Bill's face light up as he enjoyed exotic flavors and beautiful, aesthetic presentations of high quality food.  He would not be able to have that experience in his first marriage because not only would he not have been able to afford it, his ex wife would not have wanted to go to such a place.  She's uncomfortable in fine dining environments.  Not being comfortable in fine restaurants is not what makes the Ex a bad person, though.  What makes her a bad person is that she would deny her husband the chance to enjoy what he loves.  What makes her a worse person is that after the relationship breaks up, she would do her best to destroy her ex husband's happiness for the rest of his life, even at the detriment of her own children's well-being and happiness.

Catherine is now seeing that her mother is a liar who cares only about her own interests.  If she's smart, she won't fall back into her mother's cesspool of bullshit.  She will let good people help her and leave that shit behind, where it belongs.  Catherine can have a great life... so can her siblings.  They just have to find and trust people who can and are willing to help them.  And there are so many out there who will.  That includes Bill and me.  The only price to be paid is basic respect and decency.  We don't ask for any other currency or loyalty.  That's what makes us better than Ex.  I have a feeling that Catherine will soon learn that.  It might make her angry at first, but then I hope she'll realize what she now has in her life again and she won't squander it anymore.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

YouTuber thinks Lynzy Lab's song is a lot of bollocks....

This morning, I found this video by a YouTuber named ABitofBritt.  She has a lot to say about Lynzy Lab's viral song, "A Scary Time For Boys".  I have linked to Lab's song in another blog post and you can easily find it yourself if you Google, but if you haven't heard it, you can also hear it dissected in Britt's video.

Britt appears to be a conservative who thinks we need to "vote out the Democrats"...

When I first started listening to Britt's video, I was tempted to shut it off and ignore what she had to say. But then I decided to hear her out.  I've been known to find feminists annoying myself, mainly because I agree that some of them can be a little too hysterical about the women's movement.  I do know firsthand that sometimes women lie about sexual assault.  I also agree that everyone-- male or female-- is entitled to due process, particularly when it comes to accusations that could put a person in prison.

I'm kind of glad I listened to Britt's thoughts on the whole "Scary Time For Boys" song.  She does make some good points and she's clearly intelligent, and mostly reasonable about how she expresses her comments.  For example, all of the things Lab sings that she "can't do" because she's female, I will agree with Britt that she probably could do and suffer no ill effect most of the time.  However, Britt does acknowledge that it's more risky for a woman to do a lot of those things than it is for a man to do them.  Yes, it's a bad idea to leave your drink unattended, regardless if you're male or female.  But the stakes are higher for women, at least statistically speaking.  And yes, there are some parts of the city no male or female should never venture to alone.  But statistically, it's riskier for a woman to go to certain dark alleys than it is for most men.

I think Lab's song resonated with me because it takes on Donald Trump's comment that it's a "very scary time in America for men."  Trump was referring to the fact that Brett Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court was being challenged by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who claims that when she and Kavanaugh were teenagers, he and a friend drunkenly sexually assaulted her at a party.  She did not report the assault at the time it happened, back in the early 1980s.  As Kavanaugh's past was scrutinized, other unsavory facts about his past began to surface.  Kavanaugh was soon depicted as a beer swilling frat boy with high powered political connections.  I know I was particularly disgusted when I saw that Kavanaugh was a member of a group called Renate Alumnius, which indicated that he was among a group of guys who'd had sex with a girl named Renate Schroeder.  As all of this information came out, support for him in the Supreme Court diminished to even less than what it originally was, especially when Kavanaugh didn't own up to his past or take any responsibility for what was clearly documented boorish behavior.

Now... let's think about this for a minute.  As I sit here typing this, Kavanaugh is now a confirmed Supreme Court justice.  Sure, a lot of people still think he's a violent drunk who hurts women, but he also still got his plum job.  He's not sitting in a prison cell.  He's not unemployed or in the middle of a nasty divorce in the wake of this stuff that's come to light.  As far as I can tell, Kavanaugh wasn't really harmed by Ford's accusations.  He's now a very powerful man who has friends in high (or low, depending on your viewpoint) places.  He's always going to have a job.  His appointment to the Supreme Court is for the rest of his life.  Were Kavanaugh's feelings hurt by Ford's accusations?  Possibly.  I have no idea what kind of person Brett Kavanaugh really is.  However, regardless of Ford's accusations, Brett Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court justice.  So it's not such a "scary time" for Kavanaugh, is it?

Then there's Brock Turner.  There he was, a star swimmer at Stanford University.  He got caught in the act of sexually assaulting a very intoxicated woman behind a Dumpster.  Is he sitting in prison right now?  Nope.  He got six months for his crime and he didn't even serve the whole six months!  And recently, he's been in the news because he tried to get his sexual assault conviction overturned (and thank God he failed).  This man was actually caught in the act of assaulting an unconscious woman, and yet he doesn't think he should be labeled as a sex offender.  Here he is, a reasonably attractive, young, privileged white man who blew off his education at Stanford University and the sterling future it promised... all because he couldn't help assaulting an unconscious young woman.  Not such a scary time for Brock either, is it?

Ditto for dickhead Donald Trump, who despite openly and proudly acknowledging that he sexually harasses women, still managed to become President of the United States of America!  Donald Trump is now arguably the most powerful man on Earth!  Lots of women love him, despite the fact that he's an obnoxious, idiotic, molesting asshole of the first order.  And yet he still has the audacity to complain about how "scary" it is for men today.  Seriously?  It's ludicrous nonsense.  That's why I liked the lyrical content of Lynzy Lab's song, although as a musical person, I must admit that the melody is a bit old hat; and, as a woman, I've never felt like I couldn't do all of the things she claims I can't do because I'm female.

Britt appears to be a young woman who sympathizes with conservatives.  When I was her age, I identified as a conservative, too.  At the time, I thought my thinking was fair and logical.  I once bought into a lot of the stuff she's selling, so I get it.  As I've gotten older, my thinking has changed, because my mind has been opened to other perspectives.  I think people tend to either become more liberal or conservative as they age.  Experience tends to alter a person's world view, particularly if they are intelligent and reasonable.

Britt is right that sometimes feminists go a little too far.  And, I will absolutely agree that sometimes men end up with the short end of the stick because of the feminist mantra that we must "believe all women".  I know that not all women are believable or reliable.  Having a vagina does not automatically make someone more gentle, more reasonable, or even physically weaker than someone who has a penis.  Assholes come in all shapes, sexes, sizes, genders, colors, and creeds.

But as far as people like Trump, Turner, and Kavanaugh complaining about how "scary" and unfair life is for men?  Well, that's just a bunch of bollocks!  And that idea is what a lot of women-- particularly older and wiser women-- are reacting to.  That's why Lynzy Lab's song went viral, not because it's a stroke of musical genius or even because the words are "so spot on".  It's ridiculous that high powered white people like Trump and Kavanaugh are bitching about how "scary" life is for men.  It simply isn't true.

I hope Britt wakes up and smells the "covfefe" soon...