tragedies, true crime

Death of a coward…

At about this time last year, I was reading and reviewing a lot of books about the state of U.S. women’s gymnastics. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might know that about three years ago, former U.S. gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar, was outed for the abusive pervert he is. He’s currently sitting in a prison cell for sexually abusing hundreds of female athletes over the course of his career.

Yesterday, I became aware that high powered elite gymnastics coach, 63 year old John Geddert, who had once called Larry Nassar a friend and a colleague, was charged with a couple dozen felonies. Mr. Geddert was supposed to turn himself in for arraignment at a sheriff’s office yesterday. When he failed to show up for his 2:15pm appointment, police went looking for him. They found his dead body at 3:24pm ET at a rest stop in Grand Ledge, Michigan. The cause of death was suicide.

I guess he couldn’t face the music.

John Geddert was a successful coach, having been the coach of the 2012 women’s gymnastics Olympic team. But he was also notoriously abusive to his athletes. According to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel:

“John Geddert used force, fraud and coercion against the young athletes that came to him for gymnastics training for financial benefit to him,”

“The victims suffer from disordered eating, including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and self-harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault. Many of these victims still carry these scars from his behavior to this day.”

Indeed, in a number of the books I read about Larry Nassar and the huge sex abuse bombshell that was dropped on U.S. women’s gymnastics, John Geddert’s name came up frequently. He was described as the type of coach who would scream, throw things, and punish his gymnasts. Larry Nassar, by contrast, was described as quiet, gentle, and caring. The two men were said to be best friends, and Larry Nassar worked out of Geddert’s Twistars gym where he would minister to the injured girls. They would come to him looking for kindness and caring, having been beaten down by Geddert’s physically abusive tactics. It created the perfect storm for Nassar’s sexual abuse, which went under the radar for decades.

As the abuse was made public, attention shifted to John Geddert, who lied to police when he was questioned about Larry Nassar. Michigan Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark said, “Mr. Geddert knew that Nassar was sexual abusing these patients and that he failed to take action. And that when he was asked about it by police officers during the 2016 investigation into Nassar, he lied about that.”

I’m not all that surprised that Geddert killed himself. He no doubt paid close attention to what happened to Larry Nassar. He probably also paid attention to what happened to Jeffrey Epstein, the fabulously wealthy bastard who victimized and trafficked scores of girls for the pleasures of wealthy and perverted men. Epstein was about to go on trial for his crimes when he was found dead of suicide in his jail cell. There was speculation that Epstein was murdered by those who didn’t want him to talk, but the official cause of death was suicide. I think either scenario is plausible, and I’m sure Epstein felt suicide was better than a lifetime in prison. John Geddert clearly felt the same way.

Gymnasts thought of Geddert and Nassar as a “dynamic duo”.

I’m sure there’s a lot of sadness regarding this death. Many of Geddert’s victims no doubt wanted to testify in court about what happened to them. Geddert cheated them out of justice. But Geddert probably also had friends and loved ones who are legitimately shocked by all of this. I feel sad for all of them. I’ve noticed a lot of comments chastising people who express empathy for Geddert’s friends and loved ones. I won’t do that, because I think those people deserve consideration, too. As awful as abusers can be, they usually do have some people in their lives who have no idea or love them regardless… and when the abuse does come to light, they suffer, but get little empathy. So I want to go on record that I empathize with everyone personally affected by Geddert’s suicide, regardless of how and why they are affected.

I feel sad for all of the parents, too. They no doubt thought they were doing a great thing for their daughters, enrolling them in gymnastics. They put their trust in John Geddert and Larry Nassar, paying them a lot of money for the training and medical care… only to find out that they abused their gymnasts, using them for their own pleasure. I know that I would be extremely pissed off if I had a child who was abused by someone. But then to realize that I spent thousands of dollars for my child to be abused and permanently harmed– I think it would send me over the edge.

So… I send my good thoughts out to those who are upset by Geddert’s cowardly decision to take himself out. I think it’s pretty clear that he was guilty as hell. At least he won’t be hurting anyone else. But that may be small comfort for those who were hoping to see him held accountable.

Standard
Ex, mental health, politics

When QAnon brings estranged family members together…

Yesterday, I read a sad article in The Washington Post about how people have lost family members to QAnon. It began with a compelling description about how 24 year old Tyler watched as his mom stocked up for an imagined armageddon. She brought home ammunition, a water purifier, camping gear, and shelf stable food. She started wearing a holstered pistol just walking around her house, believing that there would be days of power outages and civil unrest.

Tyler’s mom told him that on March 4, 2021, there would be massive chaos. That would be when Donald Trump would return to power. March 4, for your edification, is the original Inauguration Day prior to the passage of the 20th Amendment in 1932.

Tyler had been living with his mother since he graduated college in 2019. They were located about an hour north of Minneapolis. As the 2020 elections approached, Tyler watched as his mom became more and more entrenched in baseless conspiracy theories and outright lies. Based on the WaPo’s article, I can assume that she turned into someone he no longer knew. Complicating matters was the presence of Tyler’s stepfather, who is apparently just as entrenched in QAnon.

The confusion in the household and worry Tyler experienced prompted him to seek help online. Last month, Tyler found the Reddit group, QAnonCasualties, which was founded by people who had watched their families fracture over the political climate in the United States. He explained to the moderators of the group that his mother and stepfather have a lot of weapons and are convinced that World War III is about to commence.

Making matters worse is the fact that Tyler hasn’t been working. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a mild form of autism, Tyler had graduated from a local university with a degree in manufacturing engineering. He quit his job in early January because he hoped to find work that would make use of his newly minted degree. As of yet, he hasn’t found new work. As Inauguration Day approached, he watched his mom grow ever more unhinged.

An old friend had stopped by with a wedding present, since Tyler’s mom had just remarried. Noticing the pistol, the friend asked Tyler’s mom if she planned to shoot anyone that day. And Tyler’s mom reportedly replied, “You never know what’s going to happen with the Democrats. They stole the election.” The friend told WaPo reporters that Tyler’s mom had once been a “wonderful” person who had invited her over for tea and gone kayaking with her. But now, it seems she’s gone completely off the deep end. According to the article:

To protect his family’s anonymity, The Washington Post is only using Tyler’s first name. In an email, his mother blamed her son for the tension in the house, writing that he was disrespectful and refused to look for work after leaving his job earlier this year. She added that she “never even heard of Qanon until very recently” and doesn’t “follow it,” but declined to discuss why she had begun purchasing survival gear and whether she believed Trump would return to the White House in March. “My beliefs about Trump are actually none of your business,” she wrote.

Tyler said he and his mother discussed QAnon one time; a bizarre conversation in which his mother insisted that QAnon prophecies were the product of artificial intelligence. He described an atmosphere of growing conspiracy and fear that pervaded his home. “It started a month before the election,” Tyler said in an interview, “and it kept growing until it felt like she was preaching the Bible to me.”

At first she insisted that Trump, not Biden, would be inaugurated on Jan. 20, and for a while Tyler held out hope that Biden’s swearing-in would jolt his mother back into reality. She would put away her gun and life would return to normal. But, the ceremony in Washington seemed to make little difference at his house in Minnesota.

Tyler truly hoped his mom would be more normal once Biden was inaugurated. He even posted online that she had seemed more “normal” on January 21st. But very soon, she went back to her old ways, insisting that Trump would be back in the White House. So Tyler decided to confront his mom, and that confrontation ultimately led to his being ejected from her home. She even threatened to have her new husband “hurt” Tyler.

Which brings me to the title of today’s post… up until this point, it sounds like Tyler’s family fell apart due to QAnon. But he found help from his other parent– his biological father and stepmother. Tyler had lost contact with his dad when he was a child and they had only recently reconnected. And Tyler’s dad and stepmother were willing to take him in, once Tyler’s unhinged mom tossed him and his belongings out of her house. On February 3, 2021, Tyler texted his stepmother, Heather, and told her that he’d confronted his mom, telling her that he didn’t believe in QAnon or any of his mom’s whackadoodle theories.

Half an hour later, Heather picked up Tyler, who was waiting in the front yard. When he got into Heather’s car, Tyler started to cry. Tyler is now sleeping in his 7 year old half sister’s bedroom. She sleeps in her parents’ room. Not long after the confrontation with Tyler’s mom, Tyler was contacted by his new stepfather, who wrote “When your daddy gets sick of you living there (and he will) don’t bother calling us.”

Those of you who regularly follow my blog might already know that my husband lost contact with his daughters after he and his ex wife divorced. A few years ago, one of Bill’s daughters finally reconnected with him. The other one remains estranged, and is apparently hopelessly entrenched in her mother’s sick, culty world. Last year, just before COVID-19 shut everything down, Bill visited his younger daughter for the first time since Christmas 2004. When she opened the door, Bill said the two of them stood there and shared a long overdue hug. And then they spent the whole two days of Bill’s visit debriefing each other about the events of the fifteen years they had spent apart.

I don’t know anything about Tyler’s mom, but although Tyler’s mom’s friend describes her as a “wonderful” person, I have a feeling that she’s another one of those people who hates her exes more than she loves her children. I come to that conclusion, not just because she fell into the QAnon cult, but because of a comment Tyler made to his stepmother. When he texted Heather that his mom had threatened to have his new stepfather “hurt” him, he also explained that he wasn’t actually worried about his safety. He wrote, “I’ve been dealing with this for years. It’s normal for me.

When Bill and his daughter met last year, Bill heard in more detail what it was like to grow up with Ex. There were many threats and promises made. There was a lot of “culty” thinking, not just in terms of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which Ex had insisted on joining a few years before she and Bill split, but also in terms of her own mini narcissistic cult. The girls were forced to write Bill letters disowning him and demanding that he allow their stepfather, Ex’s third husband, to adopt them. Ex had reportedly stood over them and made them write the letters, which she sent Bill just in time for his 42nd birthday.

Something tells me that Tyler’s current stepfather is not his first, since he wrote to Heather that this was not a new thing. Tyler’s mom evidently has a history of coming unglued, and probably sees Tyler as an extension of herself. And when Tyler didn’t want to fall in with her QAnon fantasy, she cast him out… the same way Ex does to anyone who won’t play along with her fantasies. I don’t know enough about Tyler’s mom to say I think she’s a narcissist, but my guess is that she has a “high conflict personality”. And as Bill and I have observed with his ex wife, who also has a high conflict personality, these types of people often get sucked into things as they blame everyone else for their issues. With Ex, it was everything from multi-level marketing scams to the LDS church. Granted, the Mormons didn’t turn out to be all bad. They did help Bill’s daughter escape her mother. But the church doesn’t give things without strings attached.

Younger daughter no doubt feels indebted to the church, and believe me, it’s not unlike the leadership to capitalize on that human need for reciprocity— that is, feeling obligated to reciprocate “kind actions”. There’s nothing wrong with that on its surface. Sometimes, however, “reciprocity” can be abused, and people wind up trapped by the need to pay back a solid, even long after the “emotional debt” has been repaid. This is how groups get control over people and stop them from living their own lives and thinking for themselves. Pretty soon, the lovebombing that occurs at the beginning of the relationship can turn into something sinister and toxic.

I have long believed that my husband’s ex wife runs her life like a mini cult. Anyone in her sphere has to accept whatever her conditions are, no matter how nutty or destructive they are. She’s allowed to do anything she wants, even if it’s criminal, because she had a shitty childhood and no one recognized how “special” she is. She’s allowed to abuse her husbands and her children because she was abused, and she’s allowed to take that abuse as far as she wants with no repercussions, whatsoever. Meanwhile, those of us who have been affected by her behavior and dare to speak out about it get raked over the coals and smeared. She went as far as to alienate Bill’s children, but she also did her best to try to destroy his relationships with his own parents!

Like Tyler, Ex has at least a couple of children who are on the autism spectrum, which makes them more vulnerable to her toxicity. Bill’s older daughter supposedly has Asperger’s Syndrome, and younger daughter has said that Ex’s youngest child, a fourteen year old son, is non-verbal due to autism. Bill’s older daughter, who will turn 30 this summer, still lives with Ex and has supposedly devoted her life to caring for her brother, who will likely never be able to live on his own. Meanwhile, whenever Ex gets pissed off at older daughter, she threatens to throw her out of the house, even though older daughter does the heavy lifting involved with caring for Ex’s son. Sounds a lot like what Tyler went through with his mom.

Incidentally, Tyler went back to his mom’s house about a week after he moved out to pick up his stuff. All of his belongings were thrown out on the front lawn, where they soon became covered with snow. He still hopes that his mother’s Trump fervor will fade and he will eventually be able to reconcile with her. He said, “I just don’t see the humanity in this. I wanted my family back, not this hatred.”

For Tyler’s sake, I truly hope he can reconnect with his mom. I hope she is, deep down, a reasonable and decent person who can grow up and wise up, and see what she stands to lose by continuing to submit to the QAnon bullshit. I don’t know what made her fall down the rabbit hole, but it would not surprise me if Tyler’s mom had some trauma in her life that somehow made her feel ostracized and persecuted. And the siren call of QAnon, which is full of butthurt delusional people must have been much too hard to resist– so hard that she’s willing to kick her own son out of her life.

It’s not that I don’t empathize with the abused. I have no doubt in my mind that my husband’s ex wife was severely abused by many people when she was a child. I can understand why she’s so traumatized. What I can’t abide is her habit of throwing away family members and forcing her children and husbands to disconnect with those of whom she doesn’t approve. It’s possible, or even probable, that Tyler’s new stepfather is partly to blame for Tyler’s mother’s actions. However, reading that he has only now reconnected with his father and his father and stepmother, who have apparently been together long enough to have a seven year old daughter, have welcomed him into their home, gives me a feeling that Tyler’s mom has some serious issues. And those issues, like Ex’s, make her vulnerable to falling into cults from which they never escape.

Sadly, more often than not, the best thing to do in such a situation is go no contact and cut all ties. I don’t think younger daughter has gone completely no contact yet, but she has definitely come out of the F.O.G. since she moved away from Ex. As hard as that is, and as sad as it initially was, in the long run, it’s the only way to find peace, autonomy, and freedom from chaos and drama.

Standard
complaints, Duggars, language

Stinkin’ heck!

Bill has to leave in a few days to work distantly for three weeks. Meanwhile, I’m a bit worried about Arran, who doesn’t seem like himself. This is the third year Bill has had an extended TDY at this time of year. It seems like every year, something causes angst. A couple of years ago, Arran had worms that were causing some similar symptoms that he’s experiencing now– gas, intermittent vomiting, and lethargy. He recently has had a mast cell tumor removed and sometimes they can cause stomach upset. Of course, he might also have worms. So, on top of everything else that has to be done before Bill leaves on Saturday, we have to get him to the vet for a checkup.

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing to watch Growing Pains and I am convinced that at least one of the writers had a prejudice against overweight people. Not only were there many fat jokes directed at Tracey Gold’s character, Carol Seaver, but there were also a lot of fat jokes in general. For instance, yesterday, I was watching an episode in which Alan Thicke’s character was giving therapy to a guy whose wife had decided to go back to work and that was upsetting to him. He asks the guy what had changed in five years and the patient says, “She got fat.” Then, later in the episode, he says something about how she “waddled” home from work.

Another thing I noticed is that post Kirk Cameron’s conversion to Christianity (alliteration extraordinaire!), the word “hell” was used very seldom. Instead, they all say “heck”. I could probably turn it into a drinking game. “What the heck is this?” “What the heck is going on here!” “Heck no!” And all of the characters speak like this. They also all say “stinkin'” a lot. Indeed, there is a minor character named “Stinky Sullivan” who apparently farts a lot or wears dirty underwear. In real life, people wouldn’t all speak the same way like that, which makes me think the writers were getting a bit lazy. I mean, I could see someone say “stinkin'” as a habit, but an entire cast? One person must have been doing all of the writing or editing, or something.

And finally, Growing Pains was obviously ABC’s answer to NBC’s Family Ties. And Kirk Cameron was supposed to be their answer to Michael J. Fox, who gets mentioned a time or two on the show. However, instead of making Kirk’s character smart, like Fox’s Alex P. Keaton was, they make him a poor student. And instead of making Carol Seaver “dumb” like Justine Bateman’s “Mallory” was, they make her super smart. Ben, like Jennifer Keaton, is kind of lovable and offbeat. And then they had the bonus change of life baby, only on Family Ties, it was partly because Meredith Baxter was pregnant in real life. She had a boy, and Joanna Kerns’ character, Maggie Seaver, had a girl.

I realize I’m expending a lot of mental power on an 80s era sitcom. Growing Pains was a show I thought I didn’t like that much. I remember losing interest in it before it ended in 1992. I think I do prefer Family Ties for a lot of reasons. But it has been interesting to watch the show again. It’s better written than I remembered it, but not as well-written as Family Ties is. And all the misogynistic jokes about looks and weight are kind of disturbing, especially given that Tracey Gold did end up with a pretty serious eating disorder.

As is my habit, I’ll watch the rest of the episodes and move on to my next binge watching marathon. Hopefully, that will help while away the time I’ll be alone, worrying about Arran. He is about twelve now, so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that he’s sick with something scary. On the other hand, he’s not been totally debilitated. He’s still eating, playing, sleeping, and taking walks, for instance. But his behavior is still a bit odd.

I’m pretty irritated that Bill has to go TDY, especially since Germany is supposedly in another wave of COVID-19. I will be completely alone, except for the dogs. In another era, I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the older I get, the more this kind of stuff bothers me. And I have to admit, I’m worried that Arran is not well.

And finally… I wrote yesterday about how Kendra Duggar was still pregnant. Well, it turns out she had her baby girl on February 19, 2021. The new baby is named Brooklyn Praise. I guess we should be glad she didn’t name her Saint or Psalm. However, when I think of the name “Praise”, it makes me think of this…

Yikes… it does look like fun!

The Duggars now have 20 grandchildren and half the kids aren’t married yet. That is one hell of a quiverfull of Republican fundies they’ve got there.

Standard
book reviews, funny stories, memories

Repost: My very brief flirtation with multi-level marketing…

Here’s a repost about my experience with multi-level marking schemes. I posted it on my old blog in March 2015 and am reposting it because I just wrote about Plexus. Enjoy.

Though I’m sure I could find plenty of things to write about that might piss people off today, I’ve decided I’d rather share a memory from 1994.  It was late August and I was a brand new college graduate.  I had spent the summer working at a Presbyterian church camp, living in a platform tent.  Then I went back to my small hometown and lived with my parents, who were none too pleased to have me back in their house.

I needed to find a job.  I wanted a job that would pay enough for me to move, but I definitely needed a job that would allow me to pay my bills.  Back in 1994, we didn’t have Internet.  While I had taken part in job search seminars and job fairs, nothing had panned out.  I was armed with a degree in English with minors in speech and communications.  I wanted to find a job that would allow me to use my writing skills, but I didn’t know where to start.  And my parents were really piling on the pressure for me to GTFO.

I picked up the newspaper and saw a couple of ads for “public relations” jobs in Richmond, Virginia, which was about 90 miles from where my parents lived.  The ads were kind of vague, but I was desperate.  I picked up the phone and called and scored two interviews, one at 9:00am and the other at 1:00pm.  Happy about my success, I went out and bought a new suit (it was red and black) and a pair of heels.  It didn’t occur to me to be suspicious about the “jobs” I was applying for, even though the first guy I spoke to said he wanted me to come in and meet him so “we could see if we liked each other”.  The second guy told me to make sure I told the receptionist that “Kevin” had sent me.

Bright and early the next morning, I got in the ugly beige pickup truck my dad let me drive.  It was a hideous Nissan with a camper shell and a non-functioning cassette/radio, but it ran surprisingly well.  I drove to the first appointment.  The place was an outfit called United Consumer Club (UCC) and it was located in a strip mall.  I had never heard of UCC before and went into the showroom like an innocent lamb.  Unfortunately, I was about 15 minutes early.  The proprietor, a slim built man with dark, beady eyes, and a receding hairline invited me to leave and come back at 9:00.  He didn’t seem very friendly.  That probably should have been my first clue. 

DirectBuy… seemed shady in 1994, when it was called United Consumer Club.

I came back at 9:00 and was given a standard job application to fill out.  Looking around, I could see there were a number of other people there for an “interview” for the “public relations” job that paid $22,000 a year.  There were whiteboards everywhere.  I started to get suspicious.

We were all invited to sit at a table, where we watched a video about United Consumer Club.  You may know this business better as DirectBuy– a few years ago, their ads were all over TV.  In the cheaply produced video, we listened to people talk about how much they loved being members of UCC, where they could pay several thousand dollars for the privilege of buying furniture and building supplies at wholesale prices.  I noticed a couple of people got up and left while the video was running, but I had driven 90 miles and needed a job.  I was also curious.

After the video, the proprietor gave us a spiel about UCC and talked about the position he sought to fill.  Basically, it would be the successful candidate’s job to schmooze with potential club members, trying to get them to sign up.  The entire presentation was about money.  I didn’t like the proprietor and had a feeling I wouldn’t want to work for him because he seemed sleazy.  But I stuck around for the actual interview, anyway.

When I finally sat down across from him, he shook my hand, looked me in the eye with his beady little peepers and asked, “Why should I hire you?”

Feeling uncomfortable, I asked “Uh, before we get started, is this some kind of hard sell operation?”

The guy immediately got pissy and said “I REALLY don’t have time to answer your questions right now.  Do you want to interview for this position or not?”

I said, “I really would like to ask a couple of questions first.”

He said, “Well, based on what I’m seeing, you won’t be a good fit for this job.”

“I guess you’re right.” I said as I got up to leave, thinking I had just totally wasted my time.  Years later, I realize that it wasn’t actually a total waste of time, since I learned something from the experience and came away with a good story.  I forgot all about UCC until years later when I saw all the DirectBuy ads on TV.  Back in 1994, UCC prided itself on not using advertising.  I guess they changed their minds.

Glad I didn’t get the job.

I went to a local mall to pass the time before my 1:00 “interview”.  I was feeling bewildered and a little stung.  Little did I know that the morning interview would seem positively normal compared to what was in store for me that afternoon.

The “interview” I was attending was for a multi-level marketing firm called Equinox International.  Equinox has long since been out of business, but back in the 1990s, it was a burgeoning company that had celebrities like Kenny Loggins and Ted Danson shilling for it.  Of course, I didn’t know this when I arrived at the very respectable looking high rise office building for my “interview”.

I walked into the posh looking office and told the receptionist that Kevin had sent me.  She invited me to sign in and take a seat.  Once again, I noticed that others were there to be interviewed, too.

Kevin came out to meet me.  He was tall, handsome, and very Nordic looking.  I noticed he wore an expensive looking suit.   He asked how much money I hoped to make.  I said “Low 20’s.”  Remember, this was 1994.  Kevin just smiled at me as he led me to a room where there were rows of chairs set up.

At 1:00, Kevin and his very attractive partner, Karen, got up to make their presentation.  I noticed that Kevin and Karen were both really good looking and well spoken as they talked about Equinox, a company that made environmentally safe cleaning products and water filters.  They expertly explained why products one could buy in the store were unsafe. 

First came the water filter demonstration. Kevin showed us two containers of tap water, one filled with ordinary water and the other filled with water that had been run through an Equinox water filter. Kevin put a chemical in the ordinary tap water that turned it yellow, while the filtered water stayed clear. I had to admit it was an impressive display. Kevin told us that we were poisoning ourselves everyday with ordinary substances like tap water. Equinox had products that would keep us and our loved ones safe. And we could help save humanity by making the products available to the world! Who wouldn’t want that job?

Then Karen took the helm. She sprayed ordinary breath spray into a lighter.  The alcohol in the spray caused the flame to torch out impressively.  Then she did the same thing with water-based breath spray made by Equinox.  The flame was doused in a second.  Hmmm… not quite as cool as Kevin’s presentation, but still worth looking at.

Karen and Kevin took turns telling us about how we’d make money signing up other people, and how they’d make money signing up people.  I distinctly remember them telling us it wasn’t a pyramid scheme.  Only it was.  Equinox has been shut down and was sued by more than six states for being an illegal pryramid scheme.  Virginia is among those states. 

Next came the videos.  First, we learned about Bill Gouldd, the company’s multi-millionaire founder.  He lived in a huge mansion, drove expensive cars, spent time with beautiful women… and all of this and more was within reach if we sold his products.  Gouldd himself had started out as a lowly salesman who had found the secret to success.  We could learn the secrets by taking (and paying big bucks for) his seminars.  The American dream could be ours by believing in the program and investing our money in Equinox.

Next, there was a video by Kenny Loggins, who told us of his now ex wife and her many medical problems that were alleviated by alternative medicine, a healthy environment, and all natural products like those peddled by Equinox distributors.  I have always enjoyed Kenny Loggins’ music, but I have no idea why he got tangled up with this organization.  It kind of makes me wonder what kind of person he is.  Still, I have to admit that at the time I was really impressed… but still skeptical.  I knew they were going to ask me for money and money was something I REALLY didn’t have.

Kenny Loggins pitches Equinox.

I noticed there were people laughing at all the “right” times.  It became clear to me after the video that there were, indeed, Equinox people interspersed in the audience to “help” the facilitators.  The meeting was getting very long and bizarre… and towards the end, it seemed almost cultish.  There were even a few people jumping up and dancing around, cheering, singing the praises of Equinox… very weird.  Other distributors approached me and asked me what I thought.  They were friendly– too friendly– and most of them were attractive.  I liked it and found myself trying to think of a way I could come up with the $500 I would need to get started by “renting a desk” (people paid $500 simply to be allowed to rent a desk in the office).  Thank God I have common sense, and that there was a healthy measure of it on hand that day.  I could have landed in some real trouble.  Equinox is the only “job” I’ve ever considered that actually required applicants to pay a $20 “application fee”.   

As I was leaving, Kevin asked me if I wanted to sign up.  He was very charismatic and I have to admit, I was still thinking about it. But that’s exactly what I told him.  I said I had to think about it.  He winked at me, as if he just knew he was God’s gift to women. 

Then he said, “Well, if I don’t hear from you in a couple of weeks, I’ll give you a call…” As if perhaps I’d be waiting by the phone for the sound of his voice.

Thankfully, he never called and I was too afraid to risk borrowing money to get involved in Equinox.  I hate selling things anyway, and the idea of trying to get people to join that program left me cold.  But I have to admit, it was a sexy organization and the presentation was very seductive.  I could have been sucked in.  I can see how people might leave $60,000 jobs to go to work for multi-level marketing firms.

Years later, I researched Equinox International online and came to realize what a big bullet I dodged by not getting involved.  People lost their shirts.

In 2003, I read and reviewed Robert Morgan Styler’s book Spellbound: My Journey Through a Tangled Web of Success.  I am reposting part of that review below for your edification.

Part of a book review…

Rob Styler, like me, is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. At the beginning of this book, he had just come back from his stint in Guatemala, where he met and married his first wife, Marina. Styler had come back to the States with his wife with the intention of earning more money so that he could move back to Guatemala, because he had bought fifty acres of land there. However, Marina had some medical problems that required two surgeries. Because the couple had no health insurance, they quickly found themselves $25,000 in debt. One of Marina’s medical problems would be improved if she got pregnant, which she quickly did. But pregnancy required prenatal care and Marina’s OB-GYN refused to take care of her because she lacked health insurance. Styler decided that he needed quick cash. Like me, Styler consulted the want ads. Like me, Styler saw several ads that looked promising. He called and left a message. Later, he was invited to an evening meeting for his “interview” at an international environmental marketing firm. 

Styler showed up for his interview with long hair, a beard, wearing Birkenstocks and his best Peace Corps T-shirt. He was confused when he saw about sixty other people milling around the reception area, also there to be interviewed. But then they were all ushered into a big room where they were told they would be given a group interview. A jovial man stood up and gave an impressive demonstration of some of the products the “firm” sells. He also explained the concept of the pyramid scheme (although the man is careful to emphasize that this is NOT a pyramid scheme). 

By the way, for those of you who don’t know what a pyramid scheme is, here is dictionary.com’s definition of the term: 

Pyramid Scheme 

A fraudulent money-making scheme in which people are recruited to make payments to others above them in a hierarchy while expecting to receive payments from people recruited below them. Eventually the number of new recruits fails to sustain the payment structure, and the scheme collapses with most people losing the money they paid in. 

“Multi-level marketing” seems to be the more politically correct term for the pyramid scheme nowadays. After reading Styler’s account of what happened to him– he was recruited to join the company and asked to pay a huge amount of money– and what he did to others– asked others to join the company and pay huge amounts of money– I would conclude that Equinox International most certainly did qualify as a pyramid scheme! 

After the explanation of how individuals “make money”, the group watched videos highlighting the company’s president, Bill Gouldd (the extra d is for dollars- he added it on the advice of a psychic). Styler noticed the energy and excitement in the room and caught it himself. After the presentation, he wanted to know how to sign up. Then he was told it cost twenty dollars to apply for the “job” and $5000 to start out as a “Manager” with a lot of product or $500 to be a “Dealer”. Styler said…”But I don’t have any money.” The enthusiastic people at Equinox International say, “That’s okay, Rob. You’ve got OPM.” That’s other people’s money. The company encouraged enrollees to hit up family members, take out loans, max out credit cards… do whatever they had to do to get that money. 

Styler got the money and went into business. He found a couple of Spanish speaking guys to hit the Spanish speaking market and, after a great deal of concentrated effort and lots of OPM, ended up being among the rare people who actually made money at Equinox. But along the way, he saw people lose their shirts. He also pulled some amazing financial stunts himself, especially considering his terrible credit. Equinox encouraged its people to exude the illusion of wealth, even if they were days away from eviction from their apartments, they had no idea where their next meal was coming from, and their cars were running on fumes. 

People working at Equinox rented their desks for $500 a month, paid for their own newspaper ads, and paid for their own phone lines. Those who opened up offices had to pay for the leases themselves; nothing was covered by the company. Moreover, enrollees had to attend and pay for training seminars put on by Bill Gouldd. Bill Gouldd was frequently abusive to Equinox enrollees, never hesitating to humiliate them publicly. Styler himself was the victim of Gouldd’s abusive barbs several times. I was shocked reading what this man endured. And yet, here he was, writing about how he was an academic all star, former athlete, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, the son of a doctor and stepson of a professor, and now he was in this huge mess. 

Styler divorced Marina and married another Equinox enrollee. Bill Gouldd performed the ceremony. Styler sent $50 to the Universal Life Church so that Gouldd could become an ordained minister.  Gouldd was late for the ceremony and treated Styler with contempt on his wedding day. The second marriage lasted about six months; however, Styler managed to remain friends with both his first and second wives. At one point, he lives with both of his ex wives, his first ex wife’s new husband, his son, and his son’s half-brother. Very weird, in my opinion, but great for them if they can be friendly enough to live together. 

Gouldd also made a point of sleeping with the female significant others of top earners within the company. When anyone questioned Gouldd’s abusive tactics, Gouldd would immediately cut them down. Like an overly controlling lover, Gouldd was quick to keep his people in line. As a reader I was both fascinated and horrified by Gouldd’s abusive treatment of fellow human beings. I was also shocked that people would allow him to treat them that way… and PAY for the privilege! Then I was eternally grateful that I didn’t get involved with this outfit myself. 

Styler fortunately managed to pull out of Equinox before its big downfall. When he informed Gouldd of his decision, he stated that the business plan was too hard for most people to make any money. Also, Styler was sent to Mexico to start an Equinox program there; however the chances of the program succeeding there were nil since the economy in Mexico was so weak. Gouldd was expecting Mexicans to purchase company products at the same prices they were selling for in the United States and he had similar expectations of distributors. 

In 2000, Equinox International was sued in at least eight states for illegal pyramid scheme operation. Bill Gouldd has been barred from ever having anything to do with a multi-level marketing business in the United States again. 

I found this book very interesting and timely. How many of us have looked in the employment section and seen those vaguely worded ads for jobs that say “Wild and crazy, rock and roll atmosphere! Need twenty-five people today!” and wondered what they were for? I read the book in about two nights; since I actually went through an “interview” with Equinox, I could relate to Styler’s initial experience. In fact, I remember being very impressed with the slick presentation I saw. Thank God I had a healthy measure of common sense on hand that day as I sat through the Equinox presentation and didn’t get involved with with that scam. Instead, I got out of my parents’ house by joining the Peace Corps! 

It’s pretty obvious to me that this book was published inexpensively. The font used is large, the paper is cheap, and the artwork is kind of cheesy. It looks like maybe Styler self-published the book– not such a bad thing, but obvious that he’s not an established writer. However, the book is well-written and his story serves as a great warning about multi-level marketing schemes. It’s definitely a revealing book on a subject you might not otherwise think to read about.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission on sales made through my site.

Standard
celebrities, complaints, Duggars, religion

Nurie Keller’s got one in the oven…

Lately, I’ve noticed a bunch of hits on a post I wrote about Nurie Keller in October 2020. I wrote that post in reaction to speculation that Nurie Keller, wife of Nathan Keller, might have been pregnant. People in the Duggar Family News Facebook Group were thinking that Nurie, who in October, had just been married a few months, might have one in the oven. One person wrote that Nurie was “pregnant as all get out”. I was amused by that comment, so I used it as a blog post title. If you read what I wrote, though, you’ll find that I don’t actually care if Nurie is having sex. I would expect her to, since she’s a young woman who is married and follows a fundamentalist Christian faith. And I don’t actually care much about the status of her womb, either. I mean, I hope she has a healthy and happy pregnancy, but I would wish that for any pregnant person. I don’t go out of my way looking for information about her life.

I guess I can understand why people are interested in this family, though. Jill Rodrigues is kind of fascinating in a train wreck kind of way. She wears a lot of makeup and sports an 80s era hairdo. She has many children and is often featuring them on social media, particularly the ones who are of marriageable age. Looking at YouTube, I see that a lot of videos have been made spoofing Jill. And Jill herself also has a channel and the camera thumbnails for her videos are often unintentionally hilarious.

Why do I hear the theme song for “Lowered Expectations” when I look at these two?
Seriously…

Well… Nurie’s mother, weirdorama mom of 13, Jill Rodrigues, apparently announced last night that her eldest child, married Nurie Keller, sister-in-law to Anna Keller, who is the wife of Josh Duggar, is now pregnant. She’s about seven weeks along– due October 12, 2021. Jill and her husband, who run a “printing press ministry”, made a nighttime video announcing Nurie’s womb status. It seems a little early to be announcing this, and it also seems like it shouldn’t necessarily be Jill’s news to share. But maybe Nurie’s okay with it.

Notice in the above video screenshot, Jill is wearing a Plexus hoodie. I keep hearing about Plexus, but not being a fan of multi-level marketing schemes, I don’t know a whole lot about it. A quick look at the Plexus Web site tells me that it’s a brand of products for weight management and nutrition. Religious folks seem to be very much into MLMs, but I’m pretty leery of them, mainly because of an experience I had in the mid 90s when I was looking for a job. I see that I haven’t reposted about that experience yet, so I’ll do that after I finish writing this post.

Yikes… almost like a caricature. I don’t really know or care that much about Jill, but candidly speaking, these stills are a bit sideshow-ish.

I don’t follow Jill Rodrigues at all. I only know about her because people in the Duggar group follow her and post about her all the time. A lot of people are fascinated by her, because she seems to be obsessed with self-promotion. I might be inclined to take a peek at her page, but I’ve heard she blocks anyone who either isn’t completely positive or reacts “inappropriately”. Like, for instance, anyone who uses a laugh emoji in a mocking way is liable to be blocked. In that sense, she’s not unlike Lori Alexander, aka The Transformed Wife, who similarly blocks anyone who doesn’t shit hearts and roses on her posts, many of which are pretty cringeworthy.

A screenshot of the big announcement. I think Nurie looks well. She has pretty hair.

Anyway, since I can see that people are looking for Nurie, here’s an obligatory post about her pregnancy. I guess now, she really is “pregnant as all get out” and has “one in the oven”. I hope she’s happy and healthy, and doesn’t get trotted out too much for the masses as she blossoms into motherhood. I really do mean that, by the way. I’m not a completely snarky asshole. I especially hope her mom hasn’t spoken too soon. I am glad, however, that they made the announcement without setting off any explosives. I read another tragic news story today about a man who died while trying to rig a “gender reveal” explosive. His is the second sad story I’ve read in a month about men who have killed themselves trying to celebrate a baby shower or reveal their unborn babies’ genitalia with a bang. I don’t laugh about these obvious Darwin Awards candidates because I know that the babies who will be born without ever knowing their fathers will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.

In other fundie news, Jessa Seewald is also pregnant with her fourth baby. She reportedly had a miscarriage, so this one will be a “rainbow baby”. I’m thinking it might be time for her and Ben to look for new digs. Their tiny hand-me-down house must be getting pretty tight by now. But as it’s not my womb or my family, I don’t actually care too much… I do think she and her husband, Ben, make beautiful babies, though. Also, Kendra Caldwell Duggar is about to pop any day with her third baby with Joe Duggar. And so is her 41 year old mom with Kendra’s next sibling! Sheesh!

I’m also continuing to watch Growing Pains… and yes, there have been even more fat jokes, even as Tracey Gold was obviously fading away. In one episode, Tracey’s character, Carol Seaver, gets asked by her on screen grandma about why she got so “svelte and sexy”. Her other grandma, played by tiny Jane Powell, makes a comment about being a size two. And Kirk Cameron, as Mike Seaver, tells Carol’s date that she will “turn into a porker at midnight”. No wonder Tracey had issues with anorexia!

I’m nursing some pain today, too, because I tried to take the dogs for a walk and Noyzi slipped out the front door. I made a grab for him, slipped, and skinned my knee, gave myself a big bruise, and tore off part of my thumbnail. I also had to sit on the floor for a few minutes, because the pain was enough to make me feel a bit faint. Then Arran threw up. Needless to say, I never got around to walking the dogs yesterday. I’ll try to do it today. Bill has to leave town on Saturday, and I’ll be alone for three fucking weeks. Sometimes, I hate his job…

Standard