book reviews, celebrities, family

Repost: There Was A Little Girl, by Brooke Shields… 

In the interest of augmenting today’s fresh content about Mother’s Day, here’s a repost of a book review I wrote in December 2014 about Brooke Shields’ famously complex relationship with her mom, Teri.

This morning, I finished Brooke Shields’ latest book, There Was A Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me.  Having grown up when I did, I well remember Brooke’s movies and her famously enmeshed relationship with her mother, Teri.  All I remembered about Teri Shields, who died at age 79 on Halloween in 2012, was that she was often called a notorious stage mom.  She raised Brooke as a single woman, since her marriage to Frank Shields didn’t last, and she was very involved in Brooke’s acting and modeling career.

Though she was well-known for being controlling and domineering, Teri Shields had a fun and flamboyant side to her, which Brooke Shields writes a lot about.  She also writes of her mother’s love of booze and how her mother’s drinking affected her as she came of age.  In her reflective memoir, Brooke reveals how co-dependent growing up with her mother made her.  As a young girl, Brooke declared to her mother, “If you die; I will die.”  She grew up thinking her mother was always right.

I was happy to read that Brooke enjoyed a good relationship with her father, his wife Didi, and her step and half siblings.  Her upbringing was mostly in New York, Newark, and New Jersey, but she was also exposed to her father’s wealthier side of the family in the Hamptons.  Brooke’s father, Frank Shields, would never watch Brooke’s films, but he did enjoy her show, Suddenly Susan, a sitcom I never got into but am now somewhat curious about.  And he no doubt remembers her infamous Calvin Klein ads, too.

Brooke actually discusses this ad in her book…  apparently it helped her in a science class.
And of course, this ad is very famous…

Some years ago, I read and reviewed Brooke’s book Down Came the Rain, which was about her experiences with postpartum depression.  She does touch a bit on that in There Was A Little Girl, since she outlines what it was like having her two daughters, Rowan and Grier.  She writes a little about being married to Andre Agassi and her current husband, Chris Henchy.  But really, this book is all about Brooke and her mom and their very complicated relationship.

I related a bit to Brooke’s story, since I also grew up with an alcoholic.  My parents were not divorced, but my mother was very co-dependent and put up with abuse because she either didn’t want to be raising her kids alone or didn’t think she’d be able to.  I also know she loved my dad very much, even though he could be infuriating and insufferable at times.  I get the sense that Brooke Shields also loved her mother very much and she even spells out how she felt like she wouldn’t be able to live without her.  And yet, she spent a lot of her youth taking care of her mother, even to the point of giving her a livelihood.  There is some bitterness that comes out in Brooke’s writing that indicates that it wasn’t easy to be Teri’s daughter.

I do think There Was A Little Girl probably could have been edited a bit.  It seemed to take forever to finish this book, despite several concentrated sessions.  On the other hand, I liked that Brooke seemed to come across as so normal and human.  Here she is, this famous, beautiful, wealthy woman who seems like she could be a next door neighbor.  And yet, she’s been in many movies, including The Blue Lagoon and Pretty Baby, movies that were controversial because of her age when she did them and the amount of nudity in them (she used body doubles).  There is a photo section at the end of the book that really show how much Brooke looks like her mother.

 I see on Amazon.com that There Was A Little Girl gets mixed reviews.  Some people seemed to love it, while others are quick to pan it.  I thought it was a decent effort and would probably give it about 3.5 stars.  I think I would have given it four stars if it hadn’t rambled on so much. 

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Ex, family, holidays

Mother’s Day isn’t always easy, is it?

Special thanks to my friend, Marguerite, for sharing today’s featured photo.

I didn’t post any fresh content on this blog yesterday. It was mostly because I spent a good portion of the morning writing new posts for my travel blog. Our trip to Italy was pretty intense. I took a lot of photos that needed to be uploaded, and I had stories that I wanted to share before I forget them. Adding photos on my WordPress travel blog is harder than it was on Blogger. Once I add pictures to a post, for some reason, it gets a lot harder and slower to add written content. It’s like the photos slow down the server, which they probably do. I’m definitely not a tech guru, though; so I can’t explain it.

My travel blog is a true labor of love. It currently gets very little traffic, even though there was a time when it was somewhat popular. But then I moved the blog to a new address and stopped promoting it so much. Then the pandemic happened, and we quit going places. A day after I spent all morning adding three posts, I see that I only have one or two hits– seriously– on my new posts. It’s a little depressing. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

I remind myself, though, that above all else, the travel blog is for Bill and me. There will likely come a day when travel will become much harder or even impossible. We’ll either lack the money to go places, or our health will make it difficult… or, more likely, both situations will occur simultaneously. Maybe the blog will someday even be a source of pain for that reason. But, for now, I like to share the stories from our trips and preserve the memories. If other people like to read it, that’s a bonus. That blog might be the only worthwhile thing I do with my life. 😉

Maybe Bill’s younger daughter will want to read the travel blog sometime. She often asks Bill questions about our travels. Unfortunately, her upbringing left her somewhat culturally stunted, so she doesn’t know as much as she could about places outside of the United States. The other day, she asked Bill about which side of the road people drive on in Europe. Bill got visibly upset, and expressed sadness that she was never taught about life beyond the US. If she had grown up with Bill, he would have taught her. She would have seen Europe for herself. Ex doesn’t have the excuse of not knowing about Europe herself. She lived in Germany with her first ex husband, and with Bill. Her eldest child was born in Germany.

But, in spite of Ex’s platitudes about loving Scotland and humanity in general, the reality is, her kids were very sheltered. They were denied a lot of normal experiences that most kids in America experience. At the same time, they were often expected to deal with things that children should not have to deal with at all. It’s a real pity… but, on the bright side, at least younger daughter can talk to Bill whenever she wants to now. And he can now teach her some things she should have learned about years ago.

I think younger daughter would probably enjoy reading my travel blog more than this blog, anyway. It seems that I’m always trashing her mom. I do realize that while younger daughter may totally agree with a lot of my points, it’s still her mom that I regularly trash. I know that reading some of my passages might be painful for her. Or, maybe she might feel vindicated. She’s about to have her third baby. Bill said that his new grandson will be born sometime this month. I wonder how she feels about Mother’s Day, now that she’s a mom herself.

When Bill finally went to see younger daughter in March of 2020, they talked for two days straight. It had been 15 years since they were last in each other’s presence, and there was so much to discuss. There still is. Younger daughter has proven to be very astute in her observations. She is very clearly Bill’s child on many levels.

During the course of that visit, younger daughter observed that Bill voluntarily helped her in the kitchen. While they were washing dishes, she said, “Let me guess. When you and my mom were married, you did most of the work, didn’t you?”

Bill answered in the affirmative.

“When my mom comes here to visit, she just sits on the couch with her phone and complains. She never helps in the kitchen.” younger daughter continued. For some reason, she never calls her mother “mom”. She refers to her as “my mother” or “my mom”. She has also said that she doesn’t call her “mom” in front of her children. Instead, she calls her by her first name, and tries not to mention her.

She later told Bill that when she was growing up, she and older daughter were expected to do all of the housework, while Ex sat on her can. Ex’s daughter with her third husband apparently rarely helped them, either. One time, Bill’s daughters did the laundry and brought it into Ex’s bedroom. Ex said, “This is all well and good, but you should be putting the laundry away for me, too.” When she turned 18, younger daughter decided she had to get away from her mother. So, with help from some good people in the LDS church, she made her escape.

To younger daughter’s immense credit, I have observed the way she interacts with her own children. She’s a wonderful mom. The other day, she sent Bill a video from a park where the kids were playing. Her son, who will be five this year, could be heard off camera saying, “I had an accident.”

A lot of moms might have been annoyed by the interruption. I’m pretty sure my own mom would have been put out at having to clean up an “accident” at a park. But Bill said his daughter said, in a gentle tone of voice, “That’s okay. Let’s go find a bathroom and take care of that. No, don’t take your pants off here!” (giggle) And then she ended the video, so she could take care of her son.

Meanwhile, her little daughter was mugging for the camera, showing off her toy cell phones, and literally “shooing” away another kid who was bothering her. It’s just so obvious to me that Bill’s daughter is a wonderful, caring, involved mom. She’s made a point out of not being like her own mother, who would tell anyone who would listen how involved and devoted she is, telling her children to “follow their dreams”. The trouble is, Ex makes it impossible for her children to follow their dreams, and she tries to deny them access to people who can help them achieve their own desires for their lives. She expects them to stay close, and help her achieve HER wants and needs.

I know Mother’s Day isn’t easy for a lot of people. My own mom was never much into the role of motherhood. She would be the first to admit it, which is one thing I admire about her. You can say what you want about my mom, but she’s brutally honest and pragmatic, even with herself. I called her yesterday, and we had a brief chat, because she had promised her friend that she would have brunch with her. As we were about to ring off, my mom said, “Well, I wish we were closer, but we’re not… so…”

I think she meant “physically closer”, since I live on another continent, and we haven’t seen each other in person in almost seven years. But I think it could also mean “emotionally closer”. I saw a lot of people posting beautiful tributes to their mothers yesterday. I posted a few for my mom, too, because she is genuinely worthy of a mention. My mom is very, very creative, smart, and talented. She was a church organist for over fifty years, and she makes incredible and intricate creations with needles and threads. She ran a successful business for twenty-five years, without benefit of a bachelor’s degree. She spent 56 years married to my father, who was not an easy man to live with. And she raised four daughters who have basically turned out fine. Through it all, she managed to stay beautiful and youthful, and basically healthy and functional.

When I was growing up, she could be harsh and aloof, and I was expected to take care of myself. She was not a mom who would spoon feed me medicine when I was sick, double check my homework, or comfort me when I was sad. She was not maternal like that. However, she would be the first to admit that she wasn’t very gifted at motherhood. She used to tell me that my sisters and I grew up okay “in spite of” her. Wow. Talk about self-reflection.

This picture pretty much sums up our family…

When my father died in 2014, I watched my mom turn into a different person. I think she’s a lot happier. She’s definitely a lot easier to talk to now. I know she loved my dad, but like I said, he wasn’t easy to live with. She didn’t always have all of the choices she might have had if she had married someone else. Now that she’s a single person, she can do as she likes. She only has to worry about herself. That’s very freeing, and I’ve noticed that her disposition is much nicer now. We have had a lot of nice conversations on Skype… which, weirdly, makes me feel closer to her now, than I felt when I saw her on a daily basis.

One of the things I love most about my mom is that she’s happy to let me live my life. She doesn’t expect me to live my life on her terms. She isn’t emotionally manipulative to me. I don’t get guilty emails or phone calls from her, shaming me for living so far away. For a long time, I thought she didn’t care much about me. But now I think she is just content to live independently, and is happy to let me do the same. As I’ve gotten older, my appreciation and respect for my mom has grown a lot. She’s a remarkable person, even if she’s not the most maternal woman in the world. I’ve learned a lot from her. I’m grateful that my feelings about my mom have improved as I’ve gotten older. She’s very honest about who she is, and that’s a good thing. I much prefer my very honest and painfully pragmatic mom, to Ex’s bullshit facade that she puts on for everyone who shouldn’t be important in her life. Above all, my mom is, deep down, a good person. She’s not a great mother, but she’s a very good person. Now that I’m a middle aged person myself, I appreciate that about my mom.

This is a weird post. I know it might not go over very well. I’ve never been very good at presenting the best image. Maybe I just inherited my mom’s pragmatism and bluntness.

Anyway, I hope those of you who celebrated Mother’s Day had a great day. And if Mother’s Day is painful for you, for ANY reason, I wish you peace and comfort. Mother’s Day isn’t always easy.

Time to end this post and move on to my travel blog. I still have several more days to write about…

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family, money, musings, work

Repost: You’ll never make more than minimum wage…

Here’s a repost from January 16, 2016. I am reposting it because it sort of relates to today’s fresh content, right down to my sharing of Ron Block’s beautiful song, “Someone”.

Today’s post is going to be some personal, self-indulgent, introspective drivel that may not interest everyone…  apologies in advance.

Yesterday, a guy I used to work with who is now a Facebook friend posted a tribute to a retired Air Force colonel who recently died.  The colonel, whose name was Luke, had been a manager at the restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia where my friend and I used to work.  I never knew Luke, but I heard many stories about him.  He was one of those people who became legendary everywhere he went. 

My friend’s tribute to Luke was very moving and inspiring.  Luke knew my friend when he was very young and broke.  He stood up for my friend when others were against him.  He helped him become who he is today.  Luke was a few years younger than my dad and may have even run in the same circles with him a time or two.  He retired from the Air Force six years after my dad did; but he was a full colonel, while my dad retired as a lieutenant colonel.

The restaurant where my friend and I used to work was notorious in Williamsburg.  It had a great reputation as a place to eat, and a horrible reputation as a place to work.  The chef, who was also one of the owners, was rather famous because he’d been on television and written a lot of cookbooks.  He was also a Marine.  Having worked in his restaurant, I definitely picked up the military style that was used there to keep things running.  That didn’t mean there wasn’t chaos from time to time.  In fact, when I worked at that restaurant, my life felt like it was totally chaotic.  I was suffering from depression and anxiety and felt like I’d never amount to anything.  At that time, I was also living with my parents.  I was in my mid 20s and had a college degree and international work experience.  But I still felt like a big loser and was unable to find work that would help me launch. 

I remember the day in March 1998 that I decided to apply to work at that restaurant.  I’d had a huge fight with my father.  He told me he thought I was a very arrogant person and that I’d never succeed at anything in life.  He said, “You’ll never make more than minimum wage!”  At the same time, he and my mother were putting tremendous pressure on me to move out on my own.  I was paralyzed by depression and anxiety at the time, and their demands made me feel panicky, helpless, and hopeless.  I was also very angry about a lot of things, particularly that my parents seemed to be ashamed of me and didn’t seem to recognize that I really was trying to become a full fledged adult.

Immediately prior to working at the restaurant, I had been temping at the College of William & Mary.  I was there for several weeks, working in their admissions office, as well as several other places on campus.  I spent the longest time at the admissions office, where I filed away report cards, SAT scores, personal essays, and all of the other stuff hopeful high school kids sent with their bids to achieve admittance.  Having worked in the admissions office and in other places around the campus, I could see why people wanted to go there.  It’s an excellent and prestigious school.  Looking at all the stellar academic records and flawless personal statements written by potential students, I felt a bit sad for myself.  I was a college graduate working as a temp, filing endless reams of papers.  It was mind numbing work that didn’t pay well.

My sister is a William & Mary graduate.  She’s done very well for herself.  They never would have accepted me.  I didn’t measure up to my sister’s greatness, although I do have some things in common with her.  We are both returned Peace Corps Volunteers; we both have advanced degrees in public health; and we both worked at that same restaurant in Williamsburg.  She worked there when it first opened, and I worked there eighteen years later, when I decided I would make more than minimum wage and get on with my life. 

I remember being very determined on that day in March when I applied for the job at the restaurant.  It was my first time waiting tables, though I had worked with food in other capacities.  I had even been a cook.  I enjoyed working with food and thought I could be successful.  It also wasn’t lost on me that the skills one learns waiting tables can be applied to many of life’s trials.

As I sat for the interview, I thought of my dad and how pissed off he made me… and how much I wanted to get out from under his thumb.  It was my second attempt at getting a job at that restaurant.  I didn’t mention my initial unsuccessful attempt to the captain or the manager who interviewed me.  I knew if I got hired, I’d make money and be able to get away from my dad and his belittling comments.  I would someday prove myself.  I set my mind to it and got the job.  I’m still friends with the man who hired me.

Working at that restaurant was one of the most difficult experiences of my life.  It was even harder than being a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The work itself was very demanding and stressful.  It was physically and mentally challenging.  I remember coming in every day, when I first started working there, and feeling like I was going to throw up.  I lost a lot of weight and learned how to wait tables.  I made good money.  I was also sick a lot during those 18 months.  I saw a lot of people quit and a lot of people get fired.  I was incompetent as hell at first and worried that I, too, would get fired.  One time, I accidentally spilled beer on a customer.  My dad sneered when he heard about it and asked if I still had a job.  I did.  I learned that if you were reliable, worked hard, and were honest, you wouldn’t get fired.  And eventually, I became competent and even good at the job.   

I was promoted a couple of times and made enough money to cover all my bills.  Living with my parents allowed me to save up for the next step I needed to take.  I sought help for the anxiety and depression I had been suffering from my whole life.  That process, too, was very difficult for me.  I came to some tough realizations about people I cared about and trusted.  After a brush with insanity and suicidal ideation, I finally felt a lot better and made the decision to go back to school. I took the GRE and applied to graduate school and was accepted.  I haven’t had to look back.  It was my final escape from Gloucester County after several dramatic attempts, one of which being my decision to join the Peace Corps.

Going back to school was a life changing experience for me… as much as the Peace Corps was.  But, I have to admit, working at that restaurant with people who knew and loved Luke, was equally earth shattering in the grand scheme of things.  I never knew Luke, but seventeen years after quitting, I am still friends with many of the people I knew in the late 90s when I was working at that job.  I have read their tributes and comments about Luke.  I can see that they all think of him as a comrade or even family…  Maybe they even think of me that way.  I hated the job when I was doing it, but now I’m honored to be in that group of people.  We were the ones who didn’t quit and had achieved some success.

This morning over breakfast, I was talking to Bill about all this stuff on my mind.  I remembered how my dad had told me I’d never make more than minimum wage and would ultimately amount to nothing.  Back then, that comment was devastating to me.  I was in my 20s, and unsure of what to do with my life.  I felt like I was really struggling, even though others surely struggled more than I ever have.  I kept doing all of these things that I thought would help me succeed, yet nothing seemed to lead anywhere.  But now I think of my friend who wrote the tribute to Luke; he actually slept outside a couple of nights because he lived far so away from the restaurant and had to take buses to and from work.  He’d missed the last one and couldn’t afford a motel.  He did what he had to do to succeed in the job and survived.  Now he’s thriving, living in Washington, DC and enjoying what appears to be a very good life.

Thanks to my parents, I never had to sleep outside.  But I felt like I was never going to launch.  Now, I look back on what my dad said and realize that he had no reason to be ashamed of me.  While I may not be the highest achieving person on the planet, I’ve done alright.  And I have made more than minimum wage more than once.  Maybe I didn’t end up being as successful and awesome as my sisters have, but at least I found someone to love, who loves me back.  I haven’t done anything really shameful or embarrassing.  In fact, aside from being overeducated and too fat for my Dad’s tastes, I’m even living an enviable life.  Maybe that was part of his problem with me.  Maybe he felt like I didn’t deserve what I have.  He probably thought I wasn’t living up to his idea of what my potential was… or maybe he was just projecting some of his psychic shit on me.  Who knows? 

Anyway, though I can’t say working at that restaurant was a whole lot of fun most of the time, I did learn a lot and met some fine people.  The skills I picked up have served me well in life.  In fact, I’d say in many significant ways, I ended up rather rich.  Reading my friend’s tribute to Luke made me realize something important.  Ripple effects can be positive.  Luke inspired and influenced my friend and my friend, in turn, inspired and influenced me.  I’d say that’s worth as much or more than minimum wage.  And I don’t have to be “someone” to be worthwhile.

This isn’t the way I feel about my dad, but it is kind of how I feel about success…  This song is called “Someone”.  It’s by Ron Block, a musician who has earned my admiration and gratitude.  The words are very wise and meaningful to me.  I think this song could be a theme for my life. (And at the time I wrote this post, Ron hadn’t shared a video of “Someone”, so I made one myself.)

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family, LDS, music, social media

My life is incredibly absurd…

This is going to be another one of my much too long personal postings… Some people might think it’s “inappropriate” to write this, but it’s what’s on my mind today. This blog is, really, more for me than anyone else. And maybe a few of you out there can either relate, or maybe there are even some “curious” people out there who wonder WTF when they read my posts.

I got a bit upset last night. I didn’t mean to get upset. In fact, the evening had started out relatively well. Bill came home from work with five boxes that were waiting for us after our trip. One of the boxes that came was from Bill’s younger daughter. In March, Bill sent her a box of gifts from our trip to France. Bill’s younger daughter, Catherine, who will be giving birth to her third child within the coming weeks, decided to send us a box from Utah.

Before she sent the box, she wondered what to include in it. Bill requested for her to send us things exclusively from Utah. He meant things like “fry sauce”, or maybe certain types of candy or locally produced products that are specific to Utahn culture. Catherine, who is a devout Mormon, joked that Utah is best known for sugar. We had a laugh at that, since we know how true it is. Since Utah’s population is heavy with people of the Latter-day Saint persuasion, sugar is the one vice in which many people freely indulge.

Sure enough, the box younger daughter sent, addressed to both of us, was full of sugary treats. She did send us a bottle of fry sauce, too. I’m eager to try it, since I’ve heard how good fry sauce supposedly is. Also included within the box of goodies was a Book of Mormon. In fact, when Bill saw the book, he said “We got BoM’ed” (pronounced “bombed”). He was amused, especially since Catherine served a mission for the LDS church and has clearly not stopped being a missionary.

I shared the below photos on Facebook.

The comment I made with this post was pretty banal. I wrote “Bill’s daughter sent us a care package from Utah… complete with a BoM.” I don’t think that comment indicated that I was upset about or threatened by the gift. On the surface, my comment was rather matter-of-fact, but I probably should have clearly indicated that I’m happy to share in receiving this box. The reality is, I am delighted that Catherine is talking to Bill and sharing with him.

It’s true that I don’t like Mormonism, but I understand why Catherine is grateful for her faith. I know that people in the church helped her when Bill couldn’t. And no, I don’t mind that she shared a BoM with Bill, especially since she underlined passages that she finds comforting. This is a way for her to connect with her father, a man whose company she was denied for so many years. He can read those passages and relate to her. They will help him understand her more. I have no concerns that he’ll go back to Mormonism. Even if he did go back to the church, I’d still love him, as long as he didn’t try to convert me, too. I have no interest in being LDS.

Reactions to the post ran the gamut. A lot of people don’t know the intricacies of our story, which is pretty convoluted and, frankly, absurd. I think some folks might have thought I was offended by Catherine’s gift of a BoM. One person wrote, “Well, it was a nice gesture.” I assume it’s because a lot of people would be turned off by getting a Book of Mormon.

Another person wrote “You have to try to look at it as someone sending you their favorite book for you to read. You might not enjoy it as much as they did, but it’s the thought.”

I was initially somewhat puzzled by these comments, but I realize they come from people who either don’t know the whole story, or know full well that I don’t like Mormonism, and figured this gift would be objectionable to me. I think I have good reasons for not liking the LDS church. BUT– I absolutely do understand that there are some good things in the LDS church, and there are also very fine people within the organization. I don’t have to like Mormonism to appreciate Catherine’s gift. I’m just thrilled that she’s reconnected with Bill before it’s too late.

I fear Catherine’s older sister will miss the opportunity to really know her extraordinary dad. I’m torn between feeling compassion for older daughter, and anger that she’s already thrown away so many years with her father. I know this is a choice that older daughter has to make and live with. I still think it’s an incredibly stupid move on her part. It would be one thing if Bill were the kind of guy who didn’t care about other people, but Bill is an extraordinary man. He is so kind hearted, unselfish, and forgiving. He is loving, thoughtful, and brave. I haven’t met many people like Bill in my lifetime. Very few people trigger protective impulses in me. Bill does. He is a rare specimen who, sadly, tends to attract predators who take advantage of his decency.

It’s been heartbreaking to watch the fallout from the dissolution of Bill’s first marriage, even though Catherine, at least, had the good sense to reconnect with her dad. I wish older daughter would wise up, but that’s something she has to choose to do. Once again, I find myself cursing about the fact that Bill spent more than five minutes with his ex wife, who wasn’t fit to wash the shit stains out of Bill’s shorts. That may seem harsh, but it’s the God’s honest truth. Ex is a sick woman who has done some really vile things in the name of avenging her “shitty” childhood. She makes other people pay for her tragic past. Her actions have had devastating ripple effects on so many people, many of whom seem to be blind to the damages she’s wrought until it’s too late.

Last night, as I was pondering the comments left regarding Catherine’s gift to Bill, I chatted with my sister, who reminded me of my own “fucked up” childhood. On the surface, we had pretty normal and fortunate upbringings. My parents were married for 56 years. They came from families where there was no divorce. In my dad’s case, there were many other siblings who loved and cared about each other. My parents always had work, and we never had truly serious worries about finances. I had a pretty privileged lifestyle as a child. I owned a horse, and attended horse shows and fox hunts. I had a car to drive. My parents were even home all the time, because they owned and operated a business out of our house.

And yet, there was so much dysfunction… my sister wrote that she’d sent our mom a Mother’s Day card with a unicorn on it that read, “Keep on doing ‘mom’ things. You’re so good at them.” I knew she was being passive aggressive and sarcastic, because our very talented and beautiful mom was famously not into being a mom when we were growing up. Our mom wasn’t the type of mom who doted on her children, or her friends’ children, or served as a role model to others. She couldn’t wait for us to grow up and get out of the nest. She should not have had four children. But she did have us, and here we are… all four of us dysfunctional and neurotic, in spite of the many privileges we enjoyed when we were growing up.

I don’t mean this as a slam on my mom. Actually, I have generally gotten along fine with her, in spite of acknowledging that she was often pretty negligent and had some screwed up priorities. In my case, it was my dad with whom I had significant issues. He once told me I would never make more than minimum wage. He was an abusive alcoholic, although he was probably more into being a parent than my mom was. He and I didn’t mesh for a lot of reasons, but I do think he was the more caring of my parents. Of course, he also wasn’t doing the “heavy lifting” of parenting. That was a task that fell to my mom, who really wasn’t into the job. In a different era, I’m sure my mom would have made different choices, but she grew up at a time when women were expected to get married and have kids. So that’s what she did. In spite of my seemingly negative comments, I do think she did the best she could, under the circumstances. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that my memories of growing up mostly aren’t idyllic.

So I had a bit of a meltdown last night. Bill came down to me, having just spent an hour talking to his analyst. I was drinking red wine, wondering how I ended up in this bizarre situation I’m in. My life is incredibly absurd. To people on the surface, it seems like I live a “dream”. I don’t work outside the home. I don’t have children. I get to travel a lot to some pretty lovely places. That would seem like a fabulous lifestyle to many people. In fact, last week, a long time friend of mine told me that she envies my life. I didn’t know how to respond to that. She really has no idea… and yet, I absolutely CAN understand that most of my problems are of the first world variety. I do see why some people might feel envious of me. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I feel like so many people don’t like me.

Unlike Bill, I don’t feel the need to try to please others in order to get them to like me. I figure that if people don’t like me, that’s their choice to make, just like it’s older daughter’s choice to throw away her wonderful dad without ever taking the time to try to understand why he had to leave her when she was little. He had to leave, because staying with Ex would have meant dying… perhaps literally, but almost certainly metaphorically. He could not live with his ex wife anymore. If he had been a woman and Ex had been a man, absolutely no one would begrudge him for leaving. Ex is a domestic abuser. Even Catherine realizes that. She even went as far as to send Bill a link to an article for victims of domestic violence, which makes me wonder what she’s witnessed in her mother’s relationship with #3.

Maybe some people don’t see this when they talk to me, but I really am a good person. I am a decent, loving, kind person. I’m not always “nice”, but I am, deep down, “good”. I come by these qualities honestly. I try to do the right thing whenever possible, even if it doesn’t seem “nice”. Last night, I was frustrated, telling Bill about how my life has gone completely off the rails of what I thought it would be before we met. I meant to have a career and children of my own. That ordinary lifestyle was what I had planned for my whole life. But instead, here I am, writing blog posts in Europe, watching my friends and family members with regular jobs, children, and grandchildren… wondering how this happened, and if I make a difference to anyone besides my husband. It’s not a bad life at all, but it’s not what I planned. I also know that some people probably think negatively of me because of it. A few years ago, I was interviewed for my university’s alumni magazine. The person who interviewed me approached me because of an extraordinary experience I had when I was in college. But when he heard the reality of my life, he must have figured there was no story there worth putting in the alumni magazine. I didn’t become “someone”. I am just an “overeducated housewife” with an absurd lifestyle.

I do know that I serve a huge purpose in Bill’s life. But sometimes I wonder if that’s the only reason I managed to be born. Was I just born to keep predatory people like Ex and former landlady away from Bill? Was I born just to encourage him to have fun and travel? How is it that I’ve managed to land in this weird existence, where I feel envious of people with careers and children to worry about, as some of them envy me for my supposed “good life”? It’s absurd, isn’t it? Especially if you know just how totally FUBAR and totally bizarre Bill’s life has been. Even the way we met was very strange and kind of hard to specifically talk about with other people.

This morning, just before I started writing this post, I watched the funeral service for my cousin’s wife, Chris, who passed away last month after a lengthy cancer battle. I didn’t know Chris as well as I would have liked to, especially having heard several well-spoken people sing her praises. Chris was a very beautiful, vibrant, creative woman, who obviously touched many people’s lives. She was much beloved by friends and family, and so many people had stories of how she’d blessed them with her happy, warm, and thoughtful presence. Chris was a devout Christian, as are many of her bereaved friends and family members. I don’t know who she voted for in 2016, but I’d be willing to bet lots of cash that she voted for Donald Trump. I know for a fact her husband, my cousin, did.

I don’t understand how decent people can’t see who Donald Trump is, and why he’s so bad for the country. I know my family members were raised with conservative Christian values, and that means they feel they must always vote Republican. I can respect that on some level. I used to feel the same way. But how can a Christian ever cast a vote for Trump or anyone like him? How can they not see how truly awful and inhumane he is?

I listened to several people extol Chris’s many wonderful qualities as they spoke about her. I know they were a small sampling of many people who were touched by Chris. And please don’t get me wrong. Chris genuinely deserved every one of those accolades. She was a very special person. But I know, that as nice as those people are, they aren’t always as good as they seem to be. They are good to acceptable people within their own communities. I’m not sure they’re as good to people who are in trouble and need help. I don’t mean designing a room or catering a party. I mean offering real help to people who have very serious problems, sometimes arising from so-called “bad choices” they might have made. I mean people who might have done things that crowd would find immoral. As good as my relatives are, they probably think I’m immoral for swearing, drinking wine, and voting against Trump. Some of them might feel like I abandoned my family. I feel like very few of them miss me. If I died tomorrow, my funeral would probably be a pretty lonely affair. I know I haven’t touched people in the way that Chris did. I also know that my extraordinary husband is much better off with me in his life, even though a lot of people probably wonder what he’s doing with me. They don’t see the big picture. I guess I don’t see it either, at least as it pertains to older daughter.

Bill is probably like Chris in a lot of ways. He’s generous, thoughtful, loving, caring, kind, and incredibly smart. I can’t believe he married me. I would love to be more like him, because I admire how decent he is. However, this morning, when we were talking about last night’s little “meltdown”, Bill pointed out to me something I said during my rantings. He said, “you pointed out that you offer a counterbalance to my overly generous, people pleasing nature. If we were both people pleasers, we would be sitting ducks for predators.” And that’s true. If Ex thought she could drive a wedge between us, she would definitely try to do it. But she knows I can see who she is. And she knows not to fuck with Bill, because she will be fucking with me… and I am not nearly as “nice” as Bill is. But I would like to be nice. I would like to be thought of as a light in people’s lives, as my cousin’s wife, Chris, was. I don’t like to be annoying. I certainly never aspired to be a stepmother, or even an “overeducated housewife”. But here I am… obnoxious as the day is long.

I probably will address this video later, because there’s a lot I can say about it.

Which brings me to another point… One of the bones of contention people have with me is that I refer to myself as “overeducated”. I know a lot of people in the military community think I look down on them because of my education. If they got to know me, they might find out that part of the reason I call myself “overeducated” is because I literally am overeducated for what I do. That doesn’t mean I disparage others for not having degrees. In fact, if I had known this was going to be my life, I would not have gone to graduate school. But then, I probably wouldn’t have met Bill, and he was obviously meant to be in my life. I think education is very important, and I am grateful that I had the chance to go to school. The way our country is going, I worry that females may find themselves marginalized as they were in the not too distant past. I realize, again, that I’m fortunate. I just wish I could have used my education in a way that feels more significant. I was taught by my family that I needed to “be someone” and do something important. And I feel like I haven’t, in spite of multiple efforts… even though I know that I have made a huge difference in Bill’s life. But was this the only thing I was meant for? Was I, the daughter of parents who really didn’t seem to want me, and even told me on many occasions, only meant to help Bill evolve into someone who values himself more?

I love this song so much. I relate to it on many levels… although I did manage to find love.

Anyway… as Beau says in the video above, “it’s just a thought”. I would like to close this mishmash of a blog post with the beautiful lyrics to Ron Block’s song, “Someone”. If you ever wonder WTF when you talk to me or read my posts, you might consider these words and apply the context. I really need to hear this song every day. I hope someone reading this post will take the time to listen to this song. Maybe these are words you need to hear, too.

My father was an old man, he worked so hard and long
He asked me to believe that he had all that he could want
Holding up his hands he said, ‘These hands have bled for you
Lord knows you’ve been worth it, too’

He smiled at me sadly as I walked out of his door
I told him once again, just like time and time before
I know that you’re contented but before my life is done
I am gonna be someone’

I set out on my own to find the life I planned for me
I was longing for a high and lonely destiny
Spending all my days on the debt of my tomorrows
Looking for some love but I found none, ’cause I was gonna be someone

It took me years of pain to find what he already knew
Contentment doesn’t come from what you say or what you do
Peace just like a river comes by resting in the sun
And I don’t have to be someone

I set out on my own to find the life I planned for me
I was longing for a high and lonely destiny
Spending all my days on the debt of my tomorrows
Living comes from resting in the sun and I don’t have to be someone

Peace just like a river comes by resting in the sun
And I don’t have to be someone

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Duggars, family, history, lessons learned

Embracing my “unpopularity”… and a Duggar named “True”…

Hello to everyone. I am now back in Germany, ready to plunge back into my pseudo occupation of writing. Bill and I got home from our vacation yesterday afternoon. We were confronted by piles of dirty laundry in our luggage and high grass in the backyard. It must have rained a lot while we were out of town. I had to turn on the lawn mowing robot three times and use the weed whacker to get the backyard back to a reasonable state. I still need to let the mower run again, but it’s raining today. It’s kind of satisfying to see the grass cut. I wish all chores were like that.

After I write this post, I will move to my travel blog and write about our latest travel adventures in Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. My travel blog used to be somewhat popular, but it’s not so much anymore. After this latest trip, I realize that maybe not being popular is a good thing. There was a time when I cared more about getting people to read my stuff. Now, I think it might be better that I stay anonymous. It’s easier to be honest when I’m less “popular”.

This morning, I was looking at my Facebook memories. I found a post from 2014 that I wrote one night when I was feeling despondent and alone. We were living in Texas at the time, and Bill was visiting his dad in Tennessee. I had stayed home from that trip for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I stayed in Texas because we lived in a rental with a pool, and a pipe had busted. I had to be there to turn the water off when the automatic pool system came on. At the time, Texas was in the middle of a terrible drought, so we couldn’t waste the water. As far as I know, Texas is still in a drought situation today. But there were other reasons why I stayed home.

Bill was also about to retire from the military, and we had to save money. Going to Tennessee with Bill meant more expenses for us at a time when we weren’t sure about his future employment prospects. As it turned out, he got a job offer a month later… on my birthday, no less. Within a couple of months, we’d moved to Germany, where I came face to face with the military community. Ironically, when we lived in Stuttgart, I had more exposure to the military than I ever did as an actual “Army wife”. That includes the time we lived in Army housing on Fort Belvoir. But at the time Bill visited his dad, we didn’t know what the future would hold. It was a pretty scary time, actually.

The final reason I didn’t go is because I know my husband’s stepmother doesn’t like me. I don’t think we trust each other, either. Not that I blame her for not liking me. A lot of people don’t. But I don’t like to be in places where I’m not welcome, and I don’t like to interact with people who are simply tolerating me and my admittedly unconventional personality. I’d rather be at home. So I stayed home, and Bill visited his dad in May 2014. It turned out that was their last visit, as Bill’s dad passed away in November 2020. Thanks to COVID-19, Bill wasn’t able to go to his funeral.

In any case, in May 2014, I was obviously feeling kind of sad. I became one of those attention seeking “insufferable posters” I wrote about the other day, and posted this… which was probably a plea for attention from my own family of origin. I suspect I was drinking wine that night.

I think a lot of my family members disapprove of me… because I am a little on the odd side. But just so everyone knows, I will be weird until I croak. So if you hope I will change because you shun me, rest assured I don’t give much more than half a fuck. I’m weird and profane and will be that way until I kick the bucket… which honestly, I hope happens sooner rather than later. With friends and family like that, who needs enemies?

I still kind of feel like this, although I’ve kind of come to terms with it. After eight years in Germany, I kind of miss Virginia and some of my family members. But, in reality, I’m surprised by how much I don’t miss them. I feel like I’m completely out of touch with most of them. Living abroad can really change one’s perspectives. I used to be proud to be southern. I used to identify as a Republican. I was never a pro-lifer, but I had more sympathy for that view. But now, most of my opinions have changed, and I don’t think it’s wrong that they’ve changed. I have a hard time being around some of the more militant Trump supporters in my family, especially the ones who also claim to be Christians… which includes most of them.

The older I get, the more I find that I am who I am, and I’m not going to change into what other people want me to be. If that means people think I’m “insufferable”, and that makes me “unpopular”, so be it. With all of this talk about pro-life vs. pro-choice, one would think we’d have more regard for people’s differences. So many people seem to think that every potential life should be given a chance. But it seems that a lot of people really don’t… they want conformity and “niceness”, even if the niceness isn’t genuine. When you don’t conform to norms, sometimes you will experience pain in the form of rejection. I’ve been rejected by a lot of people… and for a long time, it made me pretty sad. It was saddest to me when my own family rejected me. In fact, one of the main reasons why I am so pro-choice is because I was repeatedly told that I was a “mistake” when I was a child. It would have been less hurtful to me if my mom had just aborted me, though that wasn’t legal at the time.

Of course, my mom doesn’t say stuff like that to me anymore, and my father is dead. I know my mom is glad I’m here now, since I don’t demand anything of her anymore. I also turned out reasonably okay. I just have a personality that people tend to love or hate. But I really think growing up unwanted had a big effect on my personality. It’s made me stubborn and contrary, and maybe some people think I’m an asshole for any number of reasons. Whatever… I’m going to be 50 soon, so I don’t think I’m going to change. It’s probably best to just lay low and enjoy being unpopular… It’s been my experience that the least popular people tend to be the most interesting. They don’t go with the flow. They don’t follow the crowd. They don’t go along to get along. 😉 What could be more interesting than that?

Moving on…

I noticed yesterday that I had a bunch of hits on a post I wrote last fall, when Jed and Katey Duggar shared their pregnancy announcement… apparently five minutes after they conceived. It turns out they were looking at that post because Jed and Katey’s son, Truett Oliver Duggar, was born on Monday, May 2. I heard that Katey had to be induced, so she gave birth in a hospital. May 2 was also Katey’s due date.

The bouncing baby boy was named Truett (which according to them, means “warrior for Christ”) and Oliver (which they said means “peace”)– and his initials are TOD, which someone in the Duggar Family News Facebook group noticed that those are the same initials for “time of death”. Some people were commenting that the baby’s name was the same as Chick Fil-A’s founder’s name. My only comment is that the names seem to be in conflict… and I’m also wondering if perhaps Jed and Katey aren’t promoting “fractured facts” in their explanation of what the names Truett and Oliver mean.

But anyway… the boy is here and he has a name, and he looks healthy and strong. Good for them! Obviously, he is very much wanted and loved. I like the name Truett, or even True, more than “Spurgeon”, anyway.

Katie Joy’s commentary on the new arrival.

What’s really creepy is that Jedidiah Duggar’s voice sounds so much like big brother Josh’s… and Josh, as we all know, is currently sitting in jail, awaiting his prison sentence for possessing and receiving child pornography. But at least Jed didn’t nap while his wife was in labor, and she didn’t give birth to him on a toilet. These are things that happened on Josh’s watch as his wife, Anna, was giving birth. And, as far as I know, Jed hasn’t been engaging in any illegal activities, although I am not at all in agreement with his political or religious views. Still, the world would be a dull place if we all agreed on everything. So congratulations to this particular branch of the Duggar family. I hope they enjoy this special time.

Well… now it’s time to get going on my travel blog. I hope someone will enjoy my efforts, but even if they don’t, that blog series will serve as a reminder of some of the great stuff Bill and I have managed to do, in spite of my “unpopularity” among the masses…

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