complaints, family, holidays

That “damned ham”, and our crappy Thanksgiving… Things are looking better today, though.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was not much better than Charlie Brown’s… This post is probably going to be depressing, so I offer fair warning.

I hope everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving had a good day yesterday. Our Thanksgiving, quite frankly, kind of sucked. It’s partly my fault, I guess. Bill and I just never got around to making any concrete plans for what we were going to make for the holiday. He bought a two pound raw ham, because it’s just us, and we don’t have tons of refrigerator space. Then, as the afternoon got later, I reminded Bill that it was Thanksgiving, and he said he’d bought the ham. This was “special”, because we almost never have ham that wasn’t sliced for sandwiches at the deli. Other than that, we had our usual mashed potatoes and peas, and no rolls, gravy, special dessert or anything.

That “damned ham” wasn’t that great. It had kind of a gray look to it, which gave me the willies. I’m used to ham that is pink. But it turned out the ham wasn’t spoiled or anything. I’m just not used to having one that isn’t cured. It was a bit dry and tasteless. I would have preferred roasted duck or chicken, I guess. Oh well.

Last year, we ordered our Thanksgiving dinner from a local restaurant that caters to Americans. This year, we didn’t see their ad for the dinner until it was too late to order. I also remember that last year, we had leftovers forever. Even half a turkey is too much for us to finish on our own, and it came with a bunch of sides. The food was delicious, but way more than enough for us.

I used to really enjoy cooking and was good at it, but Bill kind of took over that task some years ago. And he’s been working a lot and, I guess, was kind of tired and didn’t think to do anything particularly special yesterday. Neither of us really thought about what we should do for the holiday. He looked so tired last night that I suggested ordering sushi or something, but he said he wanted to cook the ham. So he did… At least the wine was good. We had an Amarone from Tuscany.

And we later had a talk that was kind of like this… Bill will probably never live down that “damned ham”, which wasn’t salty at all…

Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. I used to love visiting my extended family in Virginia, hanging out with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and beloved Granny. Now, a number of aunts and uncles and my Granny are dead, and we have a pandemic going on that’s gotten worse. A number of Christmas markets were set to start and had even gotten their kiosks set up, only to be canceled at the last minute thanks to COVID-19… and then our Thanksgiving meal was like any other meal on any other night.

It’s not even so much the lack of special food that was disappointing… I guess what disappointed me was that it was like any other day. I miss seeing people and doing fun things, like going out to eat in restaurants. Things had been slightly more normal in the warmer months, but now that winter is approaching, the weather is grey, damp, and depressing; it’s cold; and everywhere in Europe is locking down again.

We thought about going to lunch, but we were waiting for a package to get here, and German delivery drivers don’t often just leave packages like they do in the States. Then, Bill was supposed to have a session with his therapist, but the therapist canceled because he was sick. So we just hung out at home, like we would on any other Thursday. All my friends were posting pictures of their family gatherings and food on Facebook. And there we were with that “damned ham”.

Here in Germany, authorities are starting to implement a new system that requires even vaccinated people to get tested before they can go anywhere. It seems like too much of a pain in the ass to me, so we just skip it and stay home. And well… it just kind of sucks. The 2G+ system isn’t required everywhere– yet… but we’re also getting to the end of our vaccination efficacy, and some of Bill’s co-workers are getting boosters. I guess we’ll be getting ours soon, too.

To look on the bright side, at least we didn’t eat too much, didn’t get indigestion, don’t have tons of leftovers, and had a minimal mess to clean up. We won’t be gaining any weight. It was also nice to be with Bill yesterday, as it always is. He’s my favorite person. I was just kind of disappointed, I guess. Thanksgiving really is just another day in Germany. I think I’m missing home a little bit, too, even though holidays with my family can turn into an emotional minefield.

In 2014, I went to Virginia for what has, so far, been my last Thanksgiving at home. We went because my dad died that year, and we had a memorial for him. While we were there, I talked to my Uncle Carl, who sadly passed away about six weeks later. He had leukemia. But during that visit, he was still alive and we talked about a tenant who was living in a spare apartment he owned. He was talking about how he was trying to help him. As we were talking, my Uncle Bill approached and said to Carl, “That guy who is living in your apartment is a P.O.W.”

I looked up at Uncle Bill in confusion and he said, “Piece of work.” Apparently, the tenant who was living in my uncle’s spare apartment was not paying rent. However, he kept the apartment spotless. Carl wanted to help him because the tenant had a girlfriend who was pregnant. She was getting welfare assistance, so they couldn’t live together. Carl’s wife, Betty, couldn’t stand the tenant and was barely civil to him. Betty, also, has sadly passed on, as she was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease at the time. Carl had been taking care of her until he got cancer. I’m so glad I was able to go home that year. Carl spoke at my dad’s memorial service. But it wasn’t much longer before Carl had a memorial service of his own, which of course I couldn’t attend.

I remember thinking, the last time I was “home” for Thanksgiving, that that would be the last time I saw some of the people who attended that year. I was right about that. In 2015 alone, I lost three uncles. By 2019, I’d lost an aunt and another uncle. Last year, I lost a cousin and my father-in-law. And in 2020, there was no Thanksgiving shindig, thanks to COVID-19, which continues to fuck things up in 2021, even though we have vaccines and new medications.

Even as I feel this “ennui”– which is pretty normal for me, because I often get a little depressed and nutty during the holiday season– I realize that I probably shouldn’t feel this way, since we are actually pretty fortunate. We did, after all, just have a fabulous trip to Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia, and we managed to do it before everything started shutting down again. But then I remind myself that feelings are just feelings. They usually pass. It’s not helpful to feel guilty for being sad.

We went to bed at our usual time last night. I had a vivid dream that involved an online friend of mine and occasional blog reader and commenter named Andrew. I dreamt that Bill and I took over a mini amusement park Andrew and his wife started. It was built into the side of a mountain, and there were train tracks around it. They had also lived in the park, which was all indoors. I remember that as Bill and I took it over, I had resolved to start slowly, building one attraction at a time, so we wouldn’t get overwhelmed. We had just built the carousel when I woke up.

Then, this morning, Bill gave me some news about his daughter. A couple of months ago, he remarked that she was “glowing” during their Skype session. I made an offhand comment that she was probably pregnant. Well… last night, they made the announcement. It’s funny, since I have only met her in person once, and didn’t actually see her on that Skype session where she was “glowing”. I usually don’t hang around when they chat. But when Bill mentioned the glowing look in September, I had a feeling she was about to expand her family. Guess my instincts were dead on again. Then, Bill gave me a cup of coffee and a Berliner that he got from the local bakery. That was better than that damned ham…

Anyway… enough of my whinging. Bill is working from home today. I am washing all the bedding, which is always a treat at bedtime. I love having fresh, clean sheets on a bed. And we do have much to be grateful for, like the fact that we have each other, plenty of food, and the means to put fresh sheets on the bed. At least we’re not in prison, right? There’s fresh hope for 2022, as Bill looks forward to becoming a grandfather again. And we can always have a special meal. Maybe we’ll go out for one this weekend, or even make one at home. Bill likes cooking with me… but I don’t like cooking with him. I’m not much of a team player. 😉

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divorce, Ex, family, love, marriage

Proud to be a “good strong woman”…

Keb’ Mo’ has a new album coming out. I love his music, so I’ve preordered it. So far, two songs have been released. One is a remake of the Bill Withers’ classic, “Lean on Me.” The other is a song that features Darius Rucker. It’s called “Good Strong Woman”. I listened to that song this morning after having breakfast with Bill. He’s staying home again today, because he’s taking a couple more online classes at the Jung Institute in Zurich. Bill’s chance to study Jung directly from the source is one great thing that has come out of living in Germany. It’s really something he enjoys doing, which is as gratifying for me to see as it is for him to experience.

Below is the video for Keb’ Mo’s new song.

I love this song and its message. I try to be a “good strong woman” for Bill.

Our breakfast conversation was about a letter to advice columnist Carolyn Hax that was printed in today’s edition of The Washington Post. The letter writer is having a disagreement with her father over her treatment of his wife. Below is the letter in question:

Wow… my first thoughts? What a brat!

Regular readers probably know why this letter gave me pause. Technically, I am the stepmother to Bill’s two daughters. I’ve only met them in person one time. For many years, they were estranged from their dad, mainly because their mother is extremely toxic and immature and she was more interested in punishing Bill for not letting her continue to abuse him, than being a kind and attentive mother and a “good strong woman” to her current husband. There is ABSOLUTELY no reason why Bill and his daughters should have been kept apart, other than their mother’s warped and extremely petty vindictiveness. And if I sound bitter and snotty, so be it. I know Bill, and unfortunately, I know enough about his ex wife. I am definitely not the whole problem in our case.

Fortunately, Bill’s younger daughter has come around, and it’s plain that she’s not like her mother. So when Bill and his daughter Skype, I’m happy about it. Usually, unless I happen to be sitting in the room when they Skype, I give them their privacy. Almost two years ago, Bill finally got to see his daughter in person, after 15 years of separation. He met his grandchildren. They had plenty of time to talk privately, because when he was in Utah seeing his daughter, I was in Germany, hanging out with Arran. I encouraged this gathering, and was gratified when it went well. Bill’s older daughter remains estranged, but she’s 30 years old and has to make her own choices. So be it.

It should come as no surprise to my readers that I empathize with the letter writer’s stepmother. On the other hand, I also recognize that there isn’t a lot of information here. We don’t know how old the letter writer was when his dad married his second wife. We don’t know the circumstances of his split from the letter writer’s mother. All we know is that stepmom is only ten years older than her stepdaughter, and unlike my stepdaughters and me, this stepdaughter and her stepmom actually have a relationship. It sounds like their relationship, for whatever reason, isn’t a particularly good one.

I appreciated Carolyn’s response to this writer. I think she hit the nail on the head, too. Below is her take on this situation.

Stepdaughter: If the “so much more” resembles this, then you do owe your stepmother/dad’s wife/24-year family member that apology.

So many times with so many stories, things can go either way, depending on all the details I don’t have. And maybe this one still can, too; I obviously have little to work with.

But then, ooh, I get the Magic Aside, the throwaway scrap in a question that’s the comprehension equivalent of fumbling around in the dark and accidentally bumping a light switch.

“She’s only 10 years older than me.”

Ah.

How dare he.

Form a lasting partnership with someone younger than he is.

Right?

Think for a moment. If you had fallen in love with someone, a fellow adult, and your father was giving you grief because your partner was 20 years younger, would you be okay with that? I doubt you’d appreciate his being in a 24-year huff over it, and still imposing his huff on your family’s guest lists.

Could your stepmother have let this go? Maybe. But, 24 years. That’s how long she’s been part of your family, and you’re still pressuring others (successfully!) to treat her as an interloper. If you want backup for excluding someone from a gathering, then you need proof of malice on her part. Ookie age proximity or old wounds or not being your mom won’t cut it.

No, of course, you “shouldn’t be forced.” But your conscience, your better self, your love for your dad, your enduring peace of mind and your humanity are all inner voices that are overdue to exert some force.

Again, unless there’s malice — and I mean evident stepmotherly ill intent, not just missteps in a time of awkward transition — I urge you to hear the pleas, please, of your better angels for you to swallow your pride, let go, and respect her rightful place.

I know a lot of people who don’t know our story might want to “come at me”. I’ve heard many times over the years about how I should “be the bigger person” and “recognize that I’m an ‘interloper’ in an established relationship” and, even worse, some have even asked me if I broke up Bill’s first marriage. The answer to that question is a resounding “NO”. I didn’t even meet Bill in person until almost a year after his divorce.

In four days, Bill and I will have been married for 19 years. He’s almost eight years older than I am. If had been the mother of his daughters, I would have been a very young mom. But, at this point, Bill and I have been together about twice as long as he was with his ex wife. We are extremely compatible, which makes me very happy, because when I was in college, I went through seven roommates… and even that was with two semesters of living alone.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. One of those roommates basically kicked me out of the room after our first week of freshman year so she could bunk with the party girl across the hall. One moved in for part of a semester because she got kicked out of her room for being busted with pot. That roommate later got kicked out of school for not going to class. And another was a student teacher, who was only at school for a few weeks until she went home to student teach. I got along fine with three roommates, and barely tolerated a fourth. We simply weren’t compatible.

There are always extenuating circumstances, and things aren’t always as they seem at face value. Still, I had friends who found their besties during freshman year and roomed together the whole time we were in college. Some of them are now divorced, even if they’re still buddies with their former roommates. I, on the other hand, couldn’t find a really compatible roommate, but I did find a husband who is just about perfect for me. So what if I came second? Bill and I are married. We love each other. I am now part of his family, and he’s part of mine. And because we love each other and are family, neither of us has to be alone as we get older. I’m so glad that Bill’s younger daughter understands that, and supports it.

When I read the letter in Carolyn Hax’s column today, what really stood out to me was just how self-centered and petty the writer came across. The line about her father’s wife being “only 10 years older” reveals what I think is one of many bones of contention this lady has with her dad and his wife. She mentions there is “so much more to the story”, but chooses to mention the age difference instead of some other reason why she and stepmom aren’t friends. That, to me, is very telling. The age difference obviously really bugs her.

However, if stepmom was a legal adult when she and the letter writer’s dad got married, the age difference shouldn’t matter, especially since they have been married for 24 years. A marriage that has lasted that long probably works well on some level. If stepmom wasn’t a legal adult when she got married, then she was a victim, and shouldn’t be blamed. Either way, it sounds like dad and stepmom love and respect each other, and letter writer should, in turn, understand that, and grow the fuck up.

The fact that the letter writer’s dad is supporting his wife’s complaints about his daughter’s apparent toxic, petty behavior reveal that this isn’t a marriage strictly of convenience. I do know there are marriages that are like that– people get married solely for money, security, or some other commodity. For example, I suspect Ex and her husband have a loveless marriage, based on what I know about her first two husbands and the way she reportedly treats #3. But, based on the letter above, I don’t think that’s the situation for the letter writer’s dad and his wife. It sounds like the dad is supporting his wife. He has his wife’s back, not his daughter’s.

Oooh… now this would be exciting.

The daughter sounds like she is trying to dictate to her father the terms of their relationship. She’s trying to force him to choose between his wife and his daughter. It doesn’t sound like she’s considered the fact that he gets a vote, too. He may very well decide that his relationship with his wife, the woman with whom he shares a home, and presumably, a bed, is more important than a relationship with his grown daughter, who, at least in this letter, comes off as really petty and obnoxious. Like it or not, her dad has chosen to marry someone other than her mother. She should be grateful that he’s found love and isn’t alone. And yes, she should show some basic respect to her stepmother, just as she should to most people. Otherwise, why not simply go no contact?

The comments on this post are pretty interesting. Lots of people are on “team stepmom”. Lots of people are supporting the letter writer. It’s true that the dad/husband is responsible for the fact that his daughter exists. Many people feel that a person’s children should always come first. Personally, I disagree with that, since children usually grow up to be adults, and they need to learn that the world doesn’t always revolve around them.

If the dad decides that he’s willing to continue a relationship with his daughter without his wife’s involvement, that might work out fine. However, based on the way the dad reacted to his daughter’s behavior, it sounds like he’s putting his wife and marriage first. And that’s probably the best thing to do, in the long run. His daughter is grown up, now, so he should focus on living his life, making himself happy, and staying healthy. His daughter can fend for herself. If she doesn’t grow up and stop being so selfish, she may have to do that.

Divorce can really suck. It’s often expensive, painful, complicated, and heartbreaking. However, sometimes divorce is absolutely necessary. It was definitely necessary in Bill’s case. He couldn’t stay with his ex wife without risking his health, or even his life. And he should not have been expected to, especially not for the convenience of someone else– and certainly not for someone who is an adult. Bill’s stepmother had “issues” with Bill’s divorce, because it made it harder for her to see his kids, who technically aren’t even her grandchildren. She doesn’t know the whole story about everything that went wrong, or the most egregiously awful parts of the story, but she also didn’t have to live in that hellish situation. Bill did.

Maybe the letter writer had a legitimate gripe if she was a child when the divorce happened, and the stepmom was legitimately abusive to her in some way. She’s now a grown woman, though, and she probably needs to get over herself and accept her stepmother as a full member of the family. If she can’t or won’t do that, then maybe it’s time she went no contact. Of course, going no contact is a big decision, and it can come with significant consequences. But sometimes it really is the healthy thing to do for everyone involved. Either way, it sounds like dad is sticking with his wife, and she’s going to have to accept that.

I don’t know what went wrong in the relationship between the letter writer’s parents, but obviously, they couldn’t be together. Her dad has now found someone to love, and they’ve been together for a long time, in spite of the daughter’s disdain and disrespect toward their marriage. If the letter writer loves her dad, she should understand and respect that, and stop trying to divide the family with petty foolishness. It sounds like he’s found himself a “good strong woman”, and she should simply be happy for him and try to co-exist with her. I’m sure the letter writer’s dad would want the same kind of strong and supportive partner for her.

Below are the lyrics to Keb’ Mo’s new song, “Good Strong Woman”.

Mama said, “Son, listen to me
That girl is T-R-O-U-B-L-E
So watch out, I know you love her but she’s not your friend
She’ll only be there long as you got money to spend”

Life can be kinda hard on a man

You’re gonna need a good strong woman that’s got your back
Fill you back up when you’re outta gas
A good strong woman goes a long, long way
Makes the right now better than the yesterday
I’m talking ’bout a good strong woman (strong woman)
A good strong woman (strong woman)
A good strong woman (strong woman)
Hm, a good strong woman (strong woman)

She will never leave you if you treat her right
She’ll be there in the morning till the late of night
She’s the kind that’s never gonna let you down
Makes you put the bricks on the world around

Life can be kinda hard on a man

You’re gonna need a good strong woman that’s got your back
Fill you back up when you’re outta gas
A good strong woman goes a long, long way
Makes the right now better than the yesterday
I’m talking ’bout a good strong woman (strong woman)
A good strong woman (strong woman)
A good strong woman (strong woman)
A good strong woman (strong woman)

If you wanna make the bad times better
Make a good thing last forever

Life can be kinda hard on a man

You’re gonna need a good strong woman that’s got your back
Fill you back up when you’re outta gas
A good strong woman goes a long, long way
Makes the right now better than the yesterday

You’re gonna need a good strong woman that’s got your back
Fill you back up when you’re outta gas
A good strong woman goes a long, long way
Makes the right now better than the yesterday

I’m talking ’bout a good strong woman (strong woman)
A good strong woman (strong woman)
A good strong woman (strong woman)
Yeah, I’ll be a good strong woman

Oh, a good strong woman
She’s got your back, strong woman
Talking ’bout a good strong woman
(Good strong woman)

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family, healthcare, musings

COVID-19 has made some people MEAN… but one tragic story has given me the gift of perspective today.

I have been trying to make an effort to rant less about COVID-19, even though cases are rising in Germany again. I haven’t been in Germany since October 26th. We’re headed back there tomorrow. I look forward to going home and starting my travel series. I also look forward to seeing our dogs, whom I’ve really been missing… I think dogs are much better companions than most people are. At least they don’t judge people for getting sick, or parents for losing their children.

A few days ago, I read a post on the Recovery from Mormonism message board. It was posted by a popular board participant named Dave the Atheist. I’ve noticed that he’s been posting many articles about COVID-19, even though they’re technically off-topic. I don’t engage with Dave the Atheist much, although I’ve noticed he has a tendency to be kind of “salty”.

In any case, the story Dave posted was about a Texas mother named Amber McDaniel, who had to make the heartbreaking choice between having her 10 year old son, Zyrin Foots’s, arms and legs amputated, and an eye removed, or letting him pass away. Amber’s sister, Ashley Engmann, explained on a GoFundMe page that Zyrin contracted COVID, which weakened his immune system and made him vulnerable to other illnesses. Zyrin then contracted another virus, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and experienced a rare and devastating COVID related complication called MIS-C, or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, that caused inflammation in his heart.

Due to all of these medical complications, Zyrin’s heart was unable to pump blood adequately to the rest of his body. He developed gangrene in his legs. Doctors eventually told Zyrin’s mother that the only thing they could do for her child was amputate his legs, one of his arms, and remove an eye. Even if they did that, Zyrin only had a 25 percent chance of living. But if they didn’t amputate, Zyrin would surely die.

After considering what it would be like for Zyrin’s recovery, if she decided to allow the surgeries, Amber decided to let her son die. Zyrin Foots passed on October 13, 2021, having been on life support since September 30th.

I don’t know a thing about this family, other than what I’ve read in the news and the GoFundMe campaign. I know a lot of people are jaded about fundraisers. I guess I can’t blame them for that. However, I was shocked and dismayed when I read a comment from someone on RfM that was something along the lines of “the mom will be fine” and “she still won’t get vaccinated.”

I don’t usually respond to those kinds of comments, especially on RfM. But, for some reason, I couldn’t help myself. I wrote a comment pointing out that based only on the article linked in the post, there’s no way to know how Zyrin got the virus. He lived in Huntsville, Texas, where mask and vaccine mandates aren’t popular. I did find another article that went more in depth into Zyrin’s story, written by journalist, Peter Holley. Actually, after reading the more in depth story in Texas Monthly magazine, I feel even more compassion for Amber McDaniel and her family, no matter what her stance is on COVID-19 and vaccines.

Making this situation even more heartbreaking is the fact that Zyrin was not Amber McDaniel’s first loss. Eight years ago, when she was 26 years old and six months pregnant with her third son, Zekiah, Amber was hit by a truck. Amber lost Zekiah, and she was left permanently disabled and unable to work. In that accident, Amber lost the use of her right hand and was left with one leg shorter than the other. For months, she was fed through a tube. She can’t drive, although she walks everywhere she can. She now only has one living son, nine year old Zaiden, and no insurance coverage to help pay for the massive medical and funeral bills.

I know people are tired of COVID-19, and they’re fed up with entitled attitudes from people who refuse to get vaccinated and deny the existence of the pandemic. I understand that it’s frustrating when people won’t cooperate to arrest this sickness so we can all go back to a more normal life. I just don’t understand why someone would respond to this story with so much anger and vitriol toward someone they presumably don’t even know… someone who had already suffered tremendous loss and tragedy even before COVID-19 existed.

Pastor Philip A. Hagans, a father of four, has been supporting McDaniels and her family as they cope with losing Zyrin in such a horrifying way. He’s mentioned in the Texas Monthly article I linked. From Peter Holley’s article:

A few days after Zyrin’s passing, Hagans, a father of four boys who range from seven to seventeen years old, told me he was struggling with the child’s death, not just because he was sad, but also because he was frustrated. Huntsville had always been the kind of place, he said, where people looked out for one another. But that same thoughtfulness didn’t seem to extend to concerns about COVID-19, even though Walker County has experienced nearly 12,000 cases and lost 181 residents to the virus. Some Huntsville residents were still not masking around vulnerable neighbors and family members. Others, he said, were sending kids to school with COVID-19 symptoms because it was more convenient than keeping them at home. That selfish behavior, he said, may have gotten Zyrin killed, and Hagans couldn’t understand it. “I chose to keep my kids home when they tested positive for COVID, and yes, it interrupted my schedule and my wife’s schedule,” Hagans said. “But I’d rather do that than allow them to get someone else sick whose body can’t bounce back and they end up losing their life like Zyrin—all because I didn’t want to miss work? That’s a disgrace.” 

It’s not just in Huntsville, Texas where people have become mean-spirited, disrespectful, and selfish. This attitude has been spreading for the past several years, but it seems to have gotten worse in the Trump era. Perfect strangers assume the worst about someone based on things like their political beliefs or tragedies that affect them. Social media makes it worse, of course. It’s so much easier now to read a story about someone and make assumptions about their choices or their characters. Everybody does it, including me.

Reading about Zyrin Foots has made me wish for a time when it was much harder to get bad news. On the other hand, his story has also made me stop and ponder my own attitudes about things. In fact, just now, Bill came back from picking up croissants at the grocery store. He discovered that there aren’t any napkins or paper towels in the kitchen of our guest house, and was grumbling about using toilet paper instead. It struck me as ridiculous that he was complaining about that, even though Bill is generally a much kinder and more considerate person than I am. So I just explained to him that, right now, having read this story about Amber McDaniel and the horrifying choice she had to make, I wasn’t in a place in which I could really complain about a lack of paper towels. The fact is, we’ve been on a marvelous vacation together, and we are so lucky on so many levels.

In any case, it’s hard for me to imagine that so much tragedy was in the cards for someone… but I have known other people who have dealt with similarly tragic and horrible events in their lives. I often forget their stories when I’m faced with inconveniences or annoyances, or when I am feeling depressed or anxious. But even as I write this, I realize that it’s probably fleeting insight. Because I know that I might soon forget this story and complain about traffic, or a lack of paper towels, or the fact that I hate to vacuum. When it comes down to it, petty annoyances are just that.

As for Amber McDaniel and the choice she made, I think ultimately, she did the kindest and most humane thing should could do in this situation. In the unlikely event that her son had lived, he would have spent the rest of his life battling horrific health problems. And those problems, I’m sad to say, would have been a tremendous burden to his already highly burdened family, as well as to Zyrin himself.

Imagine being ten years old, having been perfectly healthy and brimming with promise, with dreams of one day being a great chef. Then, thanks to a novel virus, you’re left unable to walk, use your arms, see clearly, or go to the restroom without help. Think about the effect that would have had on every aspect of that child’s life, and his future. I know not everyone would see it the way I do… plenty of people have these lofty ideas that people with such severe and devastating disabilities can somehow overcome them and be an inspiration to others. I know that sometimes, that does happen. But the chances of it happening were definitely not in this child’s favor. Either way, death was in Zyrin’s future, just as it is in every person’s future.

Add in the fact that Amber McDaniel is herself significantly disabled and lacks resources… and she lives in a state where people aren’t all that interested in helping the poor and unlucky. Texas is also a grotesquely pro life state, to the point at which it has even forced a pregnant woman in a coma to be kept on life support, though the developing fetus was significantly deformed and would not have survived, even if he had been delivered.

It must have seemed like a heart-wrenching decision for Amber McDaniel to let her beloved son go. And yet, practically speaking, it probably was the best decision she could make. Because if Zyrin had lived, life would have been significantly more difficult for him, and everyone in his sphere, including his nine year old brother. Sometimes, death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Anyway… I decided to write about this story because I had read that nasty comment on RfM. As someone who has a tendency toward depression, it really disheartens me to read flippant comments from people who make the worst assumptions about those who have suffered loss or misfortune. It seems like so many people want to assume that anyone who is unlucky somehow deserves it. I even saw that attitude last year, when Jonny, our would-be new dog, escaped his pet taxi and got hit by a car. I never even had a chance to pet him before he was gone. People judged me personally for making that comment, and for the fact that he escaped. They didn’t know the facts, nor did they know me. They just judged… although, to the credit of the German people, once I explained things more fully to the ones who were blaming Bill and me, they came around.

I would like to hope that people might come around in this case and not judge Amber McDaniel for anything. Whatever her opinions were about COVID-19 before this happened, I’m sure they are forever changed now. And regardless, she has suffered profound losses that the vast majority of us will never have to try to fathom. I think she deserves all of the grace in the world, especially right now. I wish her nothing but peace and comfort.

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dogs, family, Germany, YouTube

Our “Noyzi” year…

The featured photo was taken the day we adopted Noyzi– October 4, 2020.

Looks like it’s going to be another sedate Sunday here in Germany. Today is German Unity Day. It’s also Sunday, which means everything’s closed, anyway. Looks like rain is in the forecast, too. I have a feeling we’ll be chilling at home. Maybe we’ll watch a movie or get hooked on a Netflix show or something…

For now, though, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the past year. It was a special year for many reasons, mostly because of challenges related to COVID-19, and because some people who were friends and relatives have moved on to the next world. It’s also special because this year, we’ve had Noyzi.

Bill and I adopted Noyzi last year after we lost our sweet beagle, Zane, to lymphoma. We had tried to adopt a dog from a local rescue, but it was during the first days of the pandemic. We weren’t allowed to travel to get him ourselves, so the rescue arranged for a pet taxi to bring him to us. The pet taxi driver who drove him from up north neglected to secure him properly before she took him out of the car. He escaped, and was killed on the Autobahn.

I was heartbroken after both of those dogs died. One day, I mentioned on Facebook that I really wanted another dog. My friend Mary happened to know an American woman who rehomes rescue dogs from Kosovo. Mary put me in touch with Meg, Noyzi’s savior, and we embarked on our journey to bring Noyzi home. It took about six months to get everything set.

First, we had to get a blood test for Noyzi to make sure he was rabies free. Then we had to wait for the borders to open, making travel to Kosovo possible for Meg. Then we had to arrange a weekend when we could meet her halfway and pick up the dog. I chronicled that trip on my travel blog, which you can find here.

Prior to picking up Noyzi in Kranjska Gora, a border resort town in northwestern Slovenia, we had never seen him in person. All I knew about him was what I had seen in pictures and videos of him. A lot of the photos and videos I had seen were of when he was a puppy. Consequently, I didn’t know how big he was before we picked him up. It’s a damned good thing we have a SUV. He had to ride in the back cargo area, because Arran was not too happy about having a new canine pal. The backseat also isn’t quite big enough for Noyzi, either.

Noyzi was petrified when we brought him into our house. He was confused by the glass doors, and bumped into them a few times, thinking that since he could see through the glass, he could just go outside. And when he first went outside, he wanted to stay there. I’m guessing it was because that was what he was used to. In Kosovo, he lived outside with a bunch of other dogs. They had shelter, but they didn’t spend all of their time in the shelter.

Within a couple of days, Noyzi realized that being inside was a good thing. So then he didn’t want to go outside, because it was like he was afraid we were going to make him stay out there all the time. He was afraid of both Bill and me, but he was less afraid of me. He wouldn’t let Bill pet him at first, and then he would only let him pet him if he was lying on his bedding. He would also submissively urinate when Bill made sudden moves, like taking off his belt or a jacket.

After a week, Noyzi got his own bed. It was his safe space. He would stay there about 95 percent of the time, never venturing beyond the immediate area around the bed.

Noyzi also did not know how to walk on a leash. I had to teach him that the harness and leash were his friends. After a few lessons, we trusted him enough to take a walk through the neighborhood. It was quite a thrill when he finally got the hang of it. And now, a year later, he demands walks every day. If I don’t take him out, he’ll bug me. He’ll even bark at me until I get up. Then, while I get dressed, he’ll goose me in the butt.

A few months ago, Noyzi abandoned the bed in the living room, where he’d been spending most of his time. Instead, he gradually moved himself upstairs, finally installing himself on some old bedding in my office. When it became clear that Noyzi wasn’t going to be sleeping downstairs anymore, I moved his big dog bed to my office. He now hangs out there most of the time, but he’s not averse to going to other rooms. He used to be afraid to leave his bed at all.

This is the first video we have of Noyzi. It was made a few minutes after we got him home. He was pretty scared.
This video was made almost a year ago. This is Noyzi’s very first bath, ever, in his lifetime. Notice that he seems to love it.
This video was made in early November 2020. Noyzi had finally learned how to walk on the leash.

Noyzi made friends with our next door neighbor’s Labrador, Tommi, who is very young and playful. For awhile, it looked like Tommi might crawl under the fence for a play session!

Sadly, Tommi doesn’t visit under the fence anymore.

In the spring, we put up a new fly screen, because the one we had was all torn up and Noyzi had destroyed it even further by pawing at it. Noyzi didn’t know what to make of it. He still comes bounding through it in a panic most days, but it no longer deters him from coming in or going outside.

It’s time I made a new music video…
Noyzi now tells me what he needs. He barks at me when he wants a walk.

As I’m writing this, Noyzi just came over for a pat on the head. He’s become such a loving, goofy, funny family member. He’s also remarkably well-behaved. I never even had to house train him. He somehow knew from the beginning not to pee in the house. I’ve only had to clean up a couple of messy accidents caused by dietary indiscretions. He does, on the other hand, shed a lot. Every week, I sweep and vacuum lots of hairy evidence that he’s in our lives.

I have never had a dog like Noyzi. Actually, I could say that about any of our dogs, but I can especially say it about Noyzi. He’s completely different from any dog I’ve ever had. He’s the biggest dog I’ve ever had, and the only one that wasn’t American. Most of my dogs have been hounds. We had a couple of dogs when I was a child who weren’t hounds, but they were small dogs that were easy to handle and move. Noyzi probably weighs about 70 pounds. Thankfully, he’s taught himself to jump into the back of the Volvo, which spares my back.

Noyzi on the day he left Kosovo… Two other lucky dogs also made their way to new homes that day.

Noyzi has really made a lot of progress from the shy, terrified, pariah dog he was a year ago. Now, he’s much more confident and happy to be part of a family. He’s even made some progress with his fear of men. He will come up to Bill for snacks, and when the plumber was here a few days ago, Noyzi bowed down to be petted. Just a few weeks ago, he would not have done that. It’s so rewarding to watch him evolve, and let go of all of those fears he’s had for so long. I think we were meant to have him… and having him has taught us so much.

Below are some photos that show Noyzi’s journey…

I’m so glad we adopted Noyzi. I have never regretted taking in any of our dogs, but having him has been especially rewarding and educational, on so many levels. He’s taught us so much about survival, trust, love, and Kosovo, which I will admit is a country I knew almost nothing about before we met Noyzi and Meg. He really is a wonderful family member. Even ol’ Arran is coming around to loving him as much as Bill and I do.

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Duggars, family, healthcare, law, marriage

Another day, another tacky Duggar pregnancy announcement…

Happy Labor Day, y’all. We had a really lovely weekend, as the weather was absolutely glorious! I love this time of year, especially in Germany, where the seasons still change. It would have been nice if we could have taken another short trip somewhere, since it was a holiday weekend. But, as I noted in yesterday’s travel post, there’s something to be said for staying home and enjoying what’s local. Yesterday, our sweet Noyzi and Arran got to hang out at one of the many awesome Freibads here in Germany! And then they came home and crashed!

So… let’s get down to business. Once again, I’m struggling not to focus on the grimmest news of the day, which includes the scary resemblance Texas is showing toward Gilead, and people on the left seem to want to cram COVID-19 awareness down our throats. Seriously… I get how serious COVID is. I’ve even been watching some heartbreaking videos on YouTube, showing seriously ill people who have died. It’s important to note that COVID is serious, but we can’t let fear take over our lives. I’m for taking precautions, of course, but some people seem to be pretty obsessed.

On the other hand, some people truly don’t give a shit. Take, for instance, the pregnancy announcement shared by Jed Duggar, and his new bride, Katey Nakatsu Duggar. These two got married in early April, just before big bro Josh got busted by the feds for downloading nefarious photos and videos of underaged children being abused. It’s now early September and Jed and Katey have some big news to share…

Aww… what a special surprise! They’ve been fruitfully fucking!

Now… I don’t usually watch videos by the Duggar family. I’m watching this one, though, because I wanted a screenshot of the sign they held up. It’s a sign that makes light of COVID-19. Can you read it? It says, “She tested positive, but not for COVID.”

Um… this is the very same kind of pregnancy announcement that was made by Nurie Keller, wife of Josh Duggar’s brother-in-law, Nathan Keller, and daughter of the always tacky Jill Rodrigues. Seriously… why are fundies making light of such a serious issue? What will happen if one, or both of them, or another close family member, gets sick with COVID and winds up dying? Will their future offspring think that sign is cute? I tend to think not…

One hopes they survive this pandemic era, so they can explain this reference to the little bean.

But at least Nurie and Nathan didn’t include a blow by blow video about how Nurie peed on a stick at Walmart. Or, if they did, I blessedly managed to miss it. Jed and Katey, by contrast, explain in great detail about how both of them needed to take a piss on their way home from Wednesday night church. They stopped by Walmart, bought a pregnancy test, and blessings! Katey got the news while at a discount store, that she’s on the mommy train, as Josh Duggar would put it.

Jed goes… “Whoo hoo!” as Katey tells him of her condition… and they talk about how Jed teared up at Walmart. My father once teared up too, when he went to Walmart. But it was because he was suffering from dementia and got lost. I can’t blame him for that. I haven’t been in a Walmart in probably twenty years, but when I have gone in one, I’ve always had sensory overload.

Anyway, next, the twosome go hunting for a generic wall for them to take pictures of themselves announcing their positive test result, as they hold up their sign assuring everyone that their positive test result is a good thing. How exciting. It amazes me how much importance people in the Duggar family put on announcing their weddings and pregnancies. Especially when most people are working hard to stay afloat. I mean, seriously… they get all dressed up, make a sign, and go looking for a place with an appropriate backdrop, just so they can tell strangers on the Internet that they’ve managed to conceive.

Next, Jed and Katey go to a baseball game with their church, where they’re going to announce their special news to everyone as they eat hot dogs. More “whoo hooing” from Jed. Yippee! You can barely hear the announcement, and Jed and Katey seem slightly disappointed that not everyone heard their news over the loudspeaker.

I will grant that pregnancy is exciting for many people… the ones who actually want to be pregnant, that is, or for whom pregnancy is not physically dangerous. I can tell that Jed and Katey are excited about their new addition, and I hope the pregnancy goes well for them. I also hope they never feel embarrassed about their lighthearted COVID sign, because they’ve lost a friend or family member to the disease. Because I would be very surprised if they and their ilk have been vaccinated, you know… and the Duggars and the rest of the fundies of the world, aren’t exactly known for social distancing or wearing masks.

It’s barely 8:00am today, and I’ve already read two heartbreaking posts by women who had medically necessary abortions. They are bravely sharing their stories with the masses, just as this Duggar couple have. Unlike the tacky signs that allude to “testing positive”, but not for COVID, these women have written eloquent, searing posts about why it’s so important to keep abortion safe and legal for all women. Both of the women whose stories I read were women who wanted their babies, but tragic circumstances intervened.

She was too unhealthy to carry a baby. Pregnancy would have killed her.

Her baby girl had serious birth defects and would not have lived.

Both of these brave women had to endure going to abortion clinics, where they were, by law, forced to listen to information about abortion that was supposed to get them to change their minds. They had to do this, even though both of these women had medical reasons for having abortions. Both had to tolerate being yelled at by protesters, who had absolutely ZERO information about their personal circumstances.

Christy Ransom, author of the first post, wrote that the protesters screamed at her that they could help her keep her baby. But they had no idea, did they? And they had no right to harass her for a very private and personal decision she made to preserve her own life over that of her six week old fetus.

Susanna Roesel was planning a baby shower and celebrating being pregnant when she got the news that something terrible might be wrong with the pregnancy. When she had her abortion, at just under twenty weeks, she had to go in twice, once to be dilated, and once to deliver. Her milk came in. And then, when she got pregnant again, she suffered an early miscarriage.

I shudder to think what is going to happen to women in Texas who encounter situations like Christy’s and Susanna’s. But, at the same time, I get that Jed and Katey are excited to be expecting their new family member. I sincerely do hope it all goes well for them. And I also hope that in the course of the pregnancy, they both grow up a little bit and reconsider joking about COVID as they share their news. I’m sure that if COVID ever hits home for them personally, they’ll have the chance to see why their announcement is in such poor taste.

On the other hand, fundie Christians aren’t known for being insightful, sensitive, or thoughtful towards people who aren’t like them. It often takes something personal to get them to have an understanding… and even then, they say it was God’s will, or something like that. It’s a very convenient way to get out of shouldering responsibility, isn’t it? Just leave it up to God… and do whatever the pastor tells you. No thinking required.

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