book reviews, domestic violence, modern problems, true crime

Reposted book review: Social Taboo: A Male Victim of Domestic Violence Speaks…

Here’s another reposted book review from the original Overeducated Housewife blog. This one was written in July 2017 and appears as/is. I had completely forgotten about this book, but it’s definitely one that belongs on my blog.

Sad story plus wretched writing equals missed opportunities…

Ever since I started reading it, I have been itching to write my review of Social Taboo: A Male Victim of Domestic Violence Speaks.  I finally finished reading Richard Cassalata’s 2016 book about twenty minutes ago after struggling with it and thinking it would never end.  I didn’t realize it when I started reading this book, but Social Taboo is 578 painful pages in length.  I would guess at least 150 of those pages could have been omitted.  Add in the fact that Mr. Cassalata apparently never had this book edited or even read by a literate friend before he published it, and you have a recipe for a former English major’s nightmare.   

As you might guess from this book’s title, Social Taboo is a non-fiction account of a man’s experience with an abusive woman. The author, who refers to himself as Rick, writes that in early January 2011, he had been looking online for a relationship with a woman. Rick is a divorced father of three boys, and as of 2016, he lives in Arizona. He has not had much luck with online personal ads. Evidently, many of the responses he gets are porn solicitations.

One night, Rick gets an email from an attractive woman named Amy.  Amy lives in Eloy, which is evidently a crime infested, yet very rural, area.  She’s a teacher in her mid to late 30s at the time, having earned teaching certifications in Ohio and Arizona.  She invites Rick over and asks him to bring with him a bottle of Grey Goose vodka.

Although Rick is not much of a drinker, he complies with Amy’s request and drives out to Eloy.  He and Amy hit it off immediately, although Rick is slightly alarmed when Amy pours herself a generous measure of vodka mixed with cranberry juice.  Although he says nothing to her at the time, it soon becomes apparent that Amy has a serious drinking problem.    

Rick, who is in the midst of earning his teaching credentials, finds that he and Amy are able to talk shop.  However, besides talking about their work, Amy also talks about her past relationships.  If you know anything about women with cluster B personality disorders, you know that there are already a couple of red flags popping up during this couple’s first meeting.  

Rick describes Amy as witty, charming, sweet, friendly, and very attractive.  He writes that they “clicked” from the get go.  And while it may not be the smartest thing for him to have done, during that first date, Rick and Amy are consummating their brand new relationship between the sheets on Amy’s bed.  Unfortunately, Amy neglects to tell Rick that she has contracted oral herpes, which Rick incorrectly identifies as a sexually transmitted disease.  Yes, it can be transmitted sexually, but what Rick is referring to is the same virus that causes cold sores.  In truth, most people have been exposed to the virus that causes oral herpes by the time they are adults.

Things move quickly, as they often do in relationships with women who have cluster B personality disorders.  Pretty soon, Rick and Amy are inseparable.  Rick gets approval to work with Amy– she actually becomes his supervisor as he’s picking up training hours at Amy’s school.  Yet another red flag is raised, but Rick is apparently oblivious to it.  Soon, they’re talking about marriage and it’s not long before Rick moves in to Amy’s home.  When he’s living with her, Rick discovers that Amy’s drinking problem is a lot more serious than he’d first realized.  Aside from that, she is extremely possessive and resents it when Rick plays racquetball with his buddies on Saturday mornings.  He comes back from the court to find Amy completely obliterated after she’s consumed way too much Grey Goose vodka.

Rick soon finds himself deeply entrenched in his relationship with Amy, who seems to be having a hard time letting go of her ex husband, Jim.  She claims that they need to see each other because they are filing their taxes.  Rick isn’t happy about Amy’s continued visits with her ex, but he tolerates it until it becomes clear that Amy is doing a lot more than discussing taxes with Jim.  But when Rick confronts Amy, she goes batshit crazy.  It’s not long before Amy enlists local law enforcement in her bid to control Rick.  She even talks him into handing over his paychecks to her.  Again… a classic red flag of an abuser.  

It turns out that Amy is also kinky.  She has a collection of sex toys and wants Rick to use them on her and be her “Dom”, that is, sexual dominant.  She uses sex to make up with Rick after their epic fights.  All I can say is that Amy must have been one hell of a lover.  Rick falls for her tricks over and over again, just like Charlie Brown does when Lucy Van Pelt offers to hold the football for him.  I don’t actually have anything against kink.  However, it’s pretty clear that Amy uses kink as a means to control her men.

Throughout the book, Rick refers to the interesting array of jobs he’s held in the helping profession.  He claims to have been a law enforcement officer, a social worker, and a teacher, both at the college and school levels.  However, Rick doesn’t really give readers a full accounting of his academic pedigree.  This was one of my many complaints about Social Taboo.  As I was reading Rick’s story, he would mention his academic background, but in vague terms.  I myself have master’s degrees in social work and public health, so he caught my attention when he wrote about his sociology degree, but then referred to himself as a “former social worker”.  

First off, social work and sociology are not the same thing.  Secondly, while Rick may have worked for child protective services at one point, that would not make him a social worker.  Social work is not synonymous with child welfare work.  Moreover, having earned my degree in social work, I know what goes into getting that education.  I was perplexed by Rick’s vast array of careers.  He’s supposedly only 35 years old at one point in this book.  It takes time and money to become a qualified social worker or teacher, particularly at the college level.  And yet, Rick has apparently been a social worker, a teacher, a professor, and a law enforcement officer.  I question how much experience he would have had in those fields and how he managed to earn the appropriate credentials.  I’m not saying he’s outright lying, but it would have been helpful if he had explained that a bit more.

My next complaint about this book is that it is way too long.  I see an earlier paperback version of this book comes in at over 700 pages.  This edition, which has a different title, is almost 600 pages.  A lot of those pages should have been edited out because much of it is repetitive minutiae.  At one point in the book, I was sure I had to be at least halfway through it.  I was dismayed to see I had only read about 25%.  I eventually found myself skimming because it was very repetitive and taking much too long to finish.

And finally, my biggest complaint about this book is the shitty writing.  Cassalata has a rather conversational style that could be engaging if not for all of the typographical errors, awkward sentence constructions, dangling participles, and wrong word choices.  Seriously, there were some errors that were almost laughable.  For the sake of this review, I’m going to find a few of the more memorable ones.

“After leaving my house, I purchased a big cup of coffee at a nearby convince store.”

“They’re just did not seem to be a happy medium in any decision concerning her in weeks.”

“Ferrous, I walked out of the classroom without acknowledging Amy’s existence.”

“I fucking hate you for that… you sun of a bitch!”

“Since you are freeloading off me and living in my house you will respect me you sorry sun of a bitch.”

“Arriving home, Amy was gone and it was a welcome relief.”

“Noticing the sun setting we walked out of the restaurant and Amy held my hand out the door.”

The book is absolutely saturated with mistakes like the ones I’ve posted.  When you have to get through 600 pages, it becomes very tiresome to run across so many errors.  More than once, I contemplated giving up on the book.  I also had to fight the urge to rant about it before I managed to finish.  Imagine… this man, like his psycho ex, Amy, are teachers.  No wonder so many people homeschool.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s good that Mr. Cassalata was willing to share his story.  I wish more male victims of relationship abuse would speak out; that way, people like Bill’s ex wife might brought to justice for the havoc they wreak.  I just think that if you’re going to go to the trouble of writing a book about your experiences, particularly the very personal experiences the author writes of, you should make sure the writing is of good quality.  It’s asking a lot to ask readers to wade through almost 600 pages of explicit writing about abuse.  The least that author could do is make the writing worth the effort and as easy as possible for the reader– particularly given that readers often have paid for the book.  I see Cassalata’s paperback version is selling for about $25.  I would be pissed if I’d spent $25 on this book as it’s written.

Anyway, make no mistake about it.  Rick Cassalata got himself entangled with a psycho.  I empathize with him.  A lot of what he wrote about Amy is eerily similar to stories I’ve heard about Bill’s ex wife, right down to the weird sex, financial abuse, and irrational rages.  Bill was fortunate in that his ex wife had a fear of government interference, so she never called the police on him.  However, she did do a lot of the other things Amy did… and, oddly enough, Bill’s ex used to live in Arizona.  I hope things are better for Rick now.  I see at the end of his book, he’s got links to men’s rights organizations.  I, personally, have no issue with that, but I would imagine that if a lot of women read this book, they might.

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ethics, healthcare, law, modern problems, poor judgment

Medical freedom… or medical freedumb?

Today I reposted a 2017 era article from my original Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife blog. That post was written in a time of blissful ignorance of what awaited the world just three years later. In 2017, I was inspired by reading about young people who were critically ill and forced to accept medical care decisions thrust upon them by older people. Most of the cases of the youngsters in that post suffered from cancers of some kind, but a couple of them had other medical problems.

In several cases, the young patients’ parents were religious or wanted to try a more “natural” approach to healthcare. The parents were taken to task by medical professionals who wanted to override their decisions. In one case, the patient was a 17 year old young man who was deemed mature. He didn’t like the chemotherapy that was prescribed to treat his Hodgkin’s Disease, so he tried to refuse it. Doctors sought to force submission by legal means. In the end, the young man’s case was the inspiration for “Abraham’s Law” in Virginia, which allows older teenagers and their parents to refuse medical care or choose alternative therapies.

It amazes me now to read about these controversial cases involving young people, especially given that COVID-19 wasn’t on the radar at the time. Nowadays, the term “medical freedom” is a hot topic, as people fight over whether or not vaccinations against the coronavirus should be mandatory for all who can safely take it. On one hand, there’s a group of people who want to be able to make all medical and healthcare choices for themselves, although a lot of the people in the anti-vaccine group curiously draw the line at abortions for other people. On the other hand, there’s a large group of people who fear the rapidly spreading COVID virus that has, so far, killed over 650,000 Americans and well over four million people worldwide. That group believes that people should be required to get vaccinated.

Although I am all for vaccination and I do believe that the vaccines are saving lives, there is a part of me that empathizes with those who don’t want to be forced to take it. I don’t think it’s smart to skip the vaccines. Many of the arguments I’ve heard against the vaccines seem to be mostly based on misinformation and conspiracy theories. A lot of people worry that there will be terrible side effects to the vaccines. Or they know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy whose balls shriveled up and fell off after the first shot. Personally, I think those arguments are pretty lame. But I also genuinely don’t like the idea of forcing people to do things. I wish those kinds of rules weren’t necessary, and more people would cooperate simply because it’s the right thing to do.

I’ve read many stories of people who took a “wait and see” approach to COVID-19 and are now dead. Some of the saddest stories involve people who had young children or newborn babies. I’ve read at least three tragic stories about parents who have left large broods orphaned because of COVID. I’ve also read a lot of sad stories about people who are sorry they didn’t get vaccinated.

And I’ve also read about many conservative radio talk show hosts who have either gotten very sick from COVID or have actually died. There was a news story just this morning about a conservative talk show host named Bob Enyart, who had spread false information about COVID-19. He got sick and died. Enyart was vehemently against vaccine and mask mandates, and last year, he successfully sued the state of Colorado over mask mandates and capacity limits in churches. Enyart was all about making choices for his own health, but as a very vocal opponent of abortion, he apparently didn’t mind making healthcare choices for other people.

Curiously enough, Enyart was a Christian pastor, and he once gleefully read the names and obituaries of people who had died of AIDS while he played “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. What a charming man… huh? As Mr. Enyart was the 5th conservative radio talk show host to die of COVID in the past six weeks, perhaps the Queen song is appropriate theme for him and his ilk.

This morning, I ran across an interesting thread in the Duggar Family News Group. Someone, yet again, compared the COVID vaccine and mask mandates to seatbelt laws.

I disagree with this comparison. I also am old enough to remember when the seatbelt laws went into effect. At the time, I was pissed off about them. Don’t be too hard on me, though. I was a teenager.

I have mentioned before that I don’t think the COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates are the same as seatbelt laws. I mean, yes, I can see how people would make the comparison, but I don’t think it’s a very accurate one. When I was a child, I hated seatbelts and would only wear them if I was forced to… and generally that only happened when my dad was feeling controlling. In those days, a lot of people didn’t wear seatbelts. They weren’t as comfortable as they are today. Thankfully, as time has passed, the technology behind them has improved. I doubt we will ever be rid of the damned things. In any case, seatbelts are kind of different from masks and vaccines, as they don’t involve being injected into someone’s body, nor do they impact normal living and communicating as much as face masks do. You only wear them in the car. They don’t interfere with speaking, hearing, seeing, eating, or breathing.

And before anyone tries to tell me that masks don’t impede breathing, let me just stop you right there. I know they don’t. But some people do find wearing them oppressive, and the anxiety that comes from that might impede breathing. There are some people who can’t wear them for whatever reason… not too many, I will admit, but there are some. Likewise, some people can’t wear seatbelts for whatever reason. A lot of times, the reason has to do with being very obese, but sometimes it’s because of an injury or an occupation.

The point is, I don’t think seatbelts will ever go away. However, many of us hope the masks will go away, if and when the pandemic ends. Personally, I don’t see the pandemic ending happening unless a lot more people get vaccinated. But even though I think vaccines are an excellent idea and I would strongly encourage people to get the shot(s), I also feel uncomfortable with government mandates on things like medical care. Because, there are people who can’t or shouldn’t get vaccinations, for whatever reason. I also understand that some people are genuinely concerned about government overreach. Their concern isn’t entirely unfounded, although some of the arguments I’ve read are pretty ridiculous.

One thing I don’t think is helpful, though, is being rude and insulting to those who disagree. I don’t like the dogpile approach to trying to change minds, either. The above photo was shared in the Duggar Family News group, and it did invite contention. One woman posted this:

I remember when this page was about snarking on fundamentalist Christian families on television rather than promoting the divide of human kind based on personal choices they make for what they put in their own bodies.

That comment led to this response…

Even though I understand the frustration behind this response, I don’t think it was helpful.

The original poster was offended by the image. She expressed her dismay that a total stranger would wish death on her. Then, a big, long thread of comments ensued, with the vast majority of people name-calling, hurling insults, being sarcastic, and typing “all knowing” responses at the original poster. Her response, rather than being convinced, was to dig in her heels and respond in kind. Then, she either got booted from the group, or left on her own accord.

The last comment ends with the person telling the OP not to go to the hospital because she doesn’t believe in science. I disagree with that attitude, too. If someone gets sick with COVID, I don’t want them out on the street, infecting others. I’d rather see them getting treatment.

So… what exactly was accomplished by this contentious exchange? Not much, that I can see. I think a more respectful and friendly dialogue might have done more to foster group harmony. Maybe no one’s mind would have changed, but at least there would be listening and constructive communication going on, rather than flaming and hair flip rage exits. No matter what, I don’t think it’s appropriate to wish death on people simply because they disagree with you. On the other hand, I do understand the sentiment and the frustration behind such responses. I will also admit to occasionally being a hypocrite when I get pushed too far. I’m human, after all. I do try not to start out with abuse and insults, though.

I have never liked “nannyism”, especially in laws. However, I understand why “nanny” laws are often necessary. Many people, when left to their own devices, will not do things that are in their own or the public’s best interests. I have always hated wearing seatbelts myself, but I do understand why they’re necessary. I also have a husband who will turn into Pat Boone if I don’t wear one. So I do comply with that rule.

Even though I fucking hate face masks, I comply with that rule, too. However, I hope someday it will no longer be necessary. And I had no issues whatsoever with getting vaccinated against COVID, because as a student of public health, I know the theories behind vaccines and have seen concrete evidence that most of them work. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to learning new information, nor does it mean I’m not aware of potential risks from certain vaccines.

Below is advice given to people during the Spanish Flu pandemic. I agree with most of it, although I don’t think it matters whether or not someone “obeys cheerfully”, as long as they are compliant.

From 2018, when the Spanish Flu was killing people. They used masks then, and the masks eventually went away. I hope the same for COVID-19.

My late beagle, Zane, was a prime example of a dog who didn’t do well with vaccines. He had mast cell cancer (immune system cancer) that eventually progressed to lymphoma. He was allergic to at least one vaccination, and would get tumors when he had others. I actually think some people over-vaccinate their pets, and some of the encouragement to vaccinate is due to the revenue vaccines generate. Dogs with mast cell tumors should not get any unnecessary vaccines. I’m a little concerned about Arran, because he is due for a rabies shot next month, and the rabies shots can stimulate mast cell tumors. Arran has also had mast cell tumors, though not to the same severity Zane had. Because of Zane, I have some sympathy for people who are against vaccines, even though I think their reasoning is wrong in most instances. We don’t vaccinate people like we do pets, anyway. We certainly don’t get as many shots as they do.

Although I do believe in vaccine efficacy, I am not one to run out and demand the latest and greatest shots, nor do I get every vaccine available. For instance, I’ve never in my life had a flu shot. I would get them if I spent more time around other people, though. COVID-19 is different, at least right now. There’s hope that the virus will eventually weaken and become less dangerous, as flu mostly did. But at this point, it’s not getting better. Many people are getting sick and dying, and from what I’ve read, COVID-19 is a pretty nasty way to go.

I do think sometimes we need laws to protect ourselves and each other from those who lack insight, perspective, and wisdom. On the other hand, I agree that people should be free to make choices, whenever possible. Either way, medical freedom doesn’t do a damned bit of good to anyone who is dead. So I do hope that those who are against vaccines will wise up and get with the program. I understand wanting to wait and see how other people do with the shots, but time is running out… I have read too many sad stories about people who waited too long and got sick. There are too many stories about orphaned children, and bereaved spouses, siblings, and parents. And too many people are becoming downright mean and NASTY toward total strangers. I wish we’d all remember that when it comes down to it, we’re in a community. And being in a healthy community requires compassion, responsibility, and solidarity.

That being said… sometimes people DO need protection from crazy beliefs. Case in point, an old Mr. Atheist video I came across yesterday. Religion and politics make people do stupid things, even to their children. So while I am mindful of the so-called slippery slope when it comes to government overreach, I also think some people need to be saved from “freedumb” ideas.

JWs are just one group that have beliefs that can harm others… especially their own followers.
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family, modern problems, politics

Nothing says “I love you” like a thirteen year old falsely attributed email forward…

I still have a bit of writer’s block today… Well, maybe I don’t have writer’s block per se. There’s a lot I could write about. I just don’t feel like getting into what’s on everyone’s minds right now. I would rather complain about something else. Today’s topic is not as much of a problem as it once was. In some ways it’s a relief. In other ways, it’s kinda sad. The title of today’s post is recycled, but the content is mostly fresh.

I grew up with a large, extended family on my dad’s side. I have three sisters, and we all have the same parents. My sisters are much older than I am, though, so in some ways, they seemed more like my aunts. My father had eight brothers and sisters, and seven of them made it to adulthood. My aunts and uncles each had either 2 or 4 children, so there are 22 grandchildren– 11 males and 11 females.

When I was growing up, I thought I had a really awesome family. And, I guess I do… except for the fact that I feel like I no longer belong. Looking back on it, though, I realize that I probably never really belonged. I used to fight with my younger cousins a lot. Now that we’re adults, I’ve found that I’m a lot more liberal than most of my family members are. I didn’t used to be this way. I used to identify as a Republican. I now realize that was because I didn’t know a thing about politics or politicians. I simply voted the way my family and a lot of my friends did. It took leaving the nest to find my own views. And it’s taken several more years for me to have the conviction and confidence to defend my opinions. Sadly, I think that’s taken a toll on some of my relationships.

At least I’m not getting so many of these anymore. Even my more enlightened family members sometimes sent these.

Today’s blog post title was originally used on a post I wrote in 2016 about certain members of my extended family mindlessly sending me falsely attributed emails that parroted their conservative views. On the original post, I wrote about how one of my favorite relatives, now sadly deceased, had sent me an email supposedly written by the late Andy Rooney. I grew up watching Mr. Rooney on 60 Minutes. He was famously cranky, curmudgeonly, and witty. Sometimes, he had controversial opinions. Still, I couldn’t believe that Andy Rooney would have written an email that espoused the racist views in the email sent to me by my relatives. I checked Snopes, and sure enough, my hunch was correct.

In my 2016 post, I wrote that I was sad for a couple of reasons that I had received that forwarded email. Rooney was a talented writer and expressed himself gracefully.  Would he have really written something along the lines of “It doesn’t take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid and smack their little ass when necessary and say ‘NO.’?” And even if Andy Rooney had written the email and did agree with its sentiments, why on earth would people in my family think I would appreciate or agree with that tripe? I figured they must not know me very well. I wrote:

I could sit here and dissect that email forward for its very hateful messages.  Instead, I’m just going to make a comment to the people who actually know me and follow this blog (or the other two).  First of all, I am not a political conservative.  I don’t agree with a lot of conservative views.  I am probably more of a centrist than anything else.  While I am generally not a fan of political correctness being forced down people’s throats and I place a high value on the freedom of expression, I also appreciate civility and empathy.  I try really hard not to be cruel to people, even when I feel angry enough to be cruel.  While I would never say that I’m a bleeding heart liberal, neither am I a crusty conservative.  And I would never align myself with the attitude presented in the email forward I received last night.

What really surprises me is that the people who forwarded that email to me are a couple of my favorite relatives.  They have always been good to me… probably even better to me than my own parents ever were.  They are genuinely kind to everyone.  I hesitate to send a negative response to them, even in a loving tone, because despite hating the constant forwarded emails, I do love them very much and don’t want to offend them, even though they’ve offended me.  I respect them as my elders and as people who helped make me who I am. 

I ended my post wondering what I should do. I didn’t want to be offensive, but that email was offensive to me. It didn’t speak to me. And while I’m sure I could have crafted a kind response to them and a request not to mindlessly forward conservative political bullshit to me, I’m not sure that would have been received in a spirit of fun or goodwill. I wrote this in my 2016 post:

Part of me thinks it’s easiest to just ignore and delete the emails.  Another part of me feels like I should say something about them.  I’m torn between not wanting to upset people and feeling like I need to call bullshit.  I wonder if it’s worth the hassle and if my saying anything would change anything.  It’s not that I don’t want to hear from my family members.  It’s just that 99.9% of the forwards, even if they aren’t hateful and racist, are just plain useless and/or stupid.

I have heard people say that when you get a forwarded email from someone, you should take it as a sign they were thinking of you.  If that’s true, how am I supposed to take it when I get an email that really doesn’t connect with my beliefs or world view at all?  And it’s not even something my relative wrote from the heart– it’s ripped off crap written by some anonymous identity thieving hack.  If I had received an original email from a family member that contained the same sentiments in the so-called Andy Rooney hack job, I probably still wouldn’t appreciate it much.  But at least I’d know the email was somewhat original and written for me.  I would at least have a sign that the family member was communicating with me personally and not just poking me with rehashed crap that has already been spread to the masses.  What the hell is the point of forwarding shit that has been forwarded ad nauseam for over a decade and identified as not being authentic?

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’ve been trained to be “nice”. I grew up with a father who believed in “smacking my ‘little’ ass” whenever he felt it was warranted. Of course, when he did that, he was usually angry and sometimes intoxicated. So his judgment about whether or not physical discipline was required was probably a bit skewed. The end result was that when my father died in 2014, I was kind of ambivalent. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I don’t miss him very much, even though I thought I loved him when he was alive.

Yesterday, Bill and I were talking about his dad, who died last November. I never got a chance to know my father-in-law well. I saw him in person a handful of times. I always thought he was a nice man, albeit a little bit simple. I say “simple”, but that doesn’t mean I think he was “simple-minded”. He was just not one to fuss with complexities. He had a tendency to be nice to a fault, and he let people steamroll him… to include Bill’s ex wife. He didn’t know Bill that well, because he and Bill’s mom divorced when Bill was very young. Bill visited his dad, but due to the nature of visitation, it was hard for them to bond or have a relationship in which there was more than a “vacation” mindset. Then Bill’s mom moved to Arizona and later, Texas, while Bill’s dad lived in Tennessee. So that made it even harder for them to really bond.

Bill missed his father’s funeral, thanks to COVID-19. He did manage to tell him he loved him, thanks to Skype. Bill’s dad’s last words were a request for Bill to be kind to his wife, Bill’s stepmother. The one thing Bill’s dad said to me, during the few times I met him, was that Bill had exceeded his expectations. He said that he hadn’t thought Bill was tough enough to be in the Army. But Bill had proven him wrong. I think he meant it as an expression of pride, but it was actually kind of a backhanded compliment. But at least Bill’s dad wasn’t a believer in physical violence to get his point across, as my father was. I wish they had known each other better before time ran out.

Ain’t it the truth… and it sometimes takes awhile before people get the message.

Nowadays, I don’t get those forwards from my relatives. What ended up happening is that another relative went way too far. And I got really mad and cussed him out. It happened in February 2017, when Bill and I were vacationing in France. My uncle sent a pro Trump/Pence forward to me. Feeling a bit saucy, and more than a little fed up by the constant political bullshit, I sent a polite response. Seriously, it initially WAS polite. I simply wrote back that I wasn’t impressed with either Trump or Pence and thought they both needed to go. In a blog post from that time, I wrote this:

My uncle came back and accused me of being a “nut case”.  He said that in two years, I’ll be “cheering” for Trump.  He assumes I voted for Hillary Clinton.  I didn’t vote for Mrs. Clinton, but I would much prefer her to Trump.  At least she’s competent and knows enough not to act like a goddamn psychopath on Twitter. 

So anyway, being called a nutcase by my uncle pissed me the fuck right off.  So I wrote back to him and said, “No, Ed, I really will not [be cheering].  You need to stop sending me this crap.  Unless you want a verbal ass kicking, you’ll take me off your email list.” 

My sister saw what I wrote and said, “Oh no, now you’ve done it.”  I explained to her that I’m rapidly reaching a point at which I am about to disassociate with people who resort to mean spirited personal insults over politics, even if it’s a family member.  She implored me to calm down, probably realizing that since I live overseas and don’t miss anyone, it would be all too easy for me to simply drop out of the family fold altogether.

He responded and once again called me crazy.  He also said “GET OVER IT!”  Just like that.

I wonder, does he really expect me to just “get over it”?  He knows where I come from.  I have a lot of the same qualities he has.  In fact, being outspoken is what makes me a family member of his. 

Anyway… I wrote back and said, “Ed, I’m warning you.  Leave me alone.  Stop sending me political bullshit.”

He may write back today, after he’s had a few belts.  If he does, I will probably shred him.

As I recall, Ed did send me a few more political emails, but there were fewer of them. And now I don’t get so many anymore, partly because some of the worst offenders are now dead. And partly because I finally got angry and told the still living ones to knock it off. But now I don’t really hear much from them anymore…

Yesterday, I told Bill that I still love my family, but I don’t feel like I can go home again. I don’t think I want to spend a holiday with them like I used to, when I was younger and more pliant. The political forwards weren’t always bad, though. Sometimes, they inspired me to be creative. My uncle sent me the below forwarded poem back in January 2018. Try not to gag (even though of COURSE I honor our vets– I am married to one).

Re: Fwd: Fw: A TERRIFIC POEM /Our Vets.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to pass this well-written poem along.

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?

Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY.”

PLEASE,
If you are proud of our Vets, then pass this on.

I was so tired of my uncle’s conservative political forwards that I decided to rewrite this “well-written” poem… I don’t remember if I sent it to him. I probably didn’t, since I was trained to be “nice”.

He was getting old and senile
And his mind was failing fast,
Uncle Ed sat by his computer,
Sending emails from the past.
 
Of politicians he agreed with
And decisions they had made,
Of their exploits within Washington;
Slashing Social Security and Medicaid.
 
And ‘tho to some of his relatives
Ed’s emails were mostly bunk,
They resolved to just ignore them
Cuz’ they figured he was drunk.
 
Sometimes the emails are racist
and often they offend,
And my mood’s a little poorer
when Uncle Ed hits “send”.

He’s worked and raised a family,
And managed his travails;
Yet on the day he passes,
I’ll only recall his emails.
 
Although I’ve always loved him,
his children, and his wife.
I tire of his political bullshit;
which often causes strife.

For many politicians are selfish,
And people think they’re fake,
Others forecast their passing,
And the policies they’ll make.
 
The media tells how their choices
Badly affect the old and the young,
And the way they screw the veterans
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
 
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
An uncle who sends political emails
And disturbs his fellow man?
 
Or the ordinary housewife
Whose nerves are worn and frayed,
Fighting hard to still the impulse
that make her words cut like blades?
 
The hapless housewife’s stipend
And the style in which she lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the lack of a shit she gives.
 
About her uncle’s politics,
Republican and all,
His insights regarding morality,
And how America will fall.
 
It is not the lowly relative
With patience, grace, and poise,
Who wins respect and gratitude
When her drunken uncle annoys.
 
Should she find herself angry,
The latest missive on her screen,
Wouldn’t she like to respond,
To his ever-venting spleen?
 
Or would she just sit quietly
Again holding her piece,
As her dad, Ed’s big brother Bill,
Taught Ed’s very clever niece.
 
She’s just a common cousin,
Daughter, sister, niece, and female,
But her life is worth just enough–
To receive masses of forwarded email.
 
For when old men are online,
In the darkest hours of the night,
One never knows what bullshit
They’ll send via kilobyte.

She cannot block his postings
And he will not volunteer,
To stop forwarding ridiculous emails,
That won’t inspire cheer…

Perhaps in a simple reprimand
her response will someday be:
“I’M TIRED OF YOUR FORWARDS.
STOP SENDING THAT CRAP TO ME.”

PLEASE…
If you are sick of mindless email forwards full of conservative politics, then pass this on.

Maybe it’s kind of mean to be rewriting this classic piece of poetry that so touched my uncle’s heart.  However, I think I’ve historically generally been pretty patient with him. At the time I posted this, I asked him to stop sending me this shit a year prior, and yet he persisted.  I might as well have a little fun with it.  After all, a gift for words is something passed down from his side of the family. It’s like being related to a bunch of southern styled Archie Bunkers.

Ah well… We’ll see if and when I ever go home again. Maybe I’m better off over here with Bill. Maybe it’s a lucky thing that I see things more clearly now than I used to, even if my eyes get more myopic and astigmatic by the day. It’s probably true that you can never really go home again. And sometimes, even your relatives don’t really know you.

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mental health, modern problems, true crime

Americans are both awesome and awful people…

There has been quite an interesting array of news stories lately. Last night, I read a truly heartwarming story about a young man in Alabama who showed up to work the morning shift at a Waffle House on his graduation day. He’d had the day scheduled off, but his mom had to work and couldn’t take him to the ceremony, and he is not in touch with his dad. So he went to work, instead.

The 18 year old, whose name is Timothy Harrison, wanted to walk across the stage to get that diploma he’d worked so hard to earn. But since there was no way to make it happen, he resigned himself to going to work and making some money, instead. Timothy’s boss, Cedric Hampton, wasn’t having it. He and the assistant manager, as well as other co-workers and a couple of customers banded together to see to it that Timothy could have that rite of passage experience that is so important for so many.

By the time I’d finished reading this uplifting story, I had tears welling in my eyes. I was truly moved to read this story about good people doing great things. Americans love to help an underdog, and they are capable of great support and largesse for people who have a good story. Timothy Harrison’s story was so good that he also got a full scholarship from Lawson State Community College, whose faculty members got wind of his work ethic. Now, instead of following his plan continuing to wait tables at the Waffle House and, perhaps, later joining the military (which isn’t actually a bad plan for many people), Harrison will be going to college to study business and computer science.

As you know, I have nothing against people who join the military. It’s a great career for plenty of folks, my husband included. BUT– it’s not for everyone… and thanks to the kindness of Timothy Harrison’s “Waffle House work family”, Harrison will have another choice that could potentially change his life’s course forever. And that change could have significant ripple effects for other people in Timothy’s life. Thinking about that made me feel great and hopeful for the future.

But then I woke up this morning and read another sad and senseless story about violence over face masks… I was reminded that Americans can be awesome. They can also be awful!

Although a lot of people are ditching the masks as COVID-19 infections are waning among the vaccinated, not all areas are yet finished with the mask requirements. Such is the case in Decatur, Georgia, where Victor Lee Tucker, age 30, had stopped to pick up groceries at a Big Bear Supermarket. Mr. Tucker was not properly wearing a mask when he approached the cashier (now identified by police as Laquitta Willis, 41) to pay for his items. Tucker and the cashier got into an argument about how he was wearing his mask (according to the Washington Post, Tucker was wearing a mask, but not correctly). He got pissed off and left without buying the items. But then he immediately came back and shot the cashier, killing her.

Tucker also shot 54 year old Danny Jordan, the off duty police officer who was moonlighting as a security guard at the store. Fortunately, Jordan was wearing a bulletproof vest, which probably saved his life. Another cashier was slightly wounded by a bullet that grazed her. She was treated at the scene, while the cashier and Tucker, who was shot by the guard, were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. Tucker is listed in stable condition. Deputy Jordan, who was shot twice, went to Atlanta Medical Center, where he is also listed in stable condition.

I have not made it a secret that I despise the face masks. I think that while they are helpful in preventing the spread of virus particles, they also cause a lot of problems for many people. For that reason, it’s my hope that they go away soon. Too many people are being inconvenienced by the masks, but more troublingly, people are also DYING over enforcing their use. Imagine trying to avoid getting COVID-19 and dying anyway because you asked someone to wear a mask properly and they shot you! Edited to add, June 16th– the indoor mask mandate was in effect in Decatur, Georgia on Monday, when Willis was killed. It’s due to expire next week.

But people definitely shouldn’t be killing and dying over the face mask issue. Of course Tucker was absolutely wrong to kill the cashier over something so utterly stupid. He probably shot her because he felt the need to “protect his freedoms”. Maybe he felt like the mask was oppressive and was finally fed up with being “oppressed”. Maybe that was why he felt justified in killing an innocent person. But that was an erroneous notion on his part. And now, he will lose his freedom and be forced to wear a prison uniform and, it’s very likely, a face mask, along with all the other stuff prisoners are forced to wear.

In all seriousness, it does make me sad to think about Tucker going to prison over this. He’s a 30 year old man, who had his whole life ahead of him. I don’t know what kind of a person he is when he isn’t losing his cool and blowing hourly wage earning cashiers away over face mask rage. I’d like to hope he’s not all bad, as I don’t think most people are all bad. But it’s hard to understand why someone would be so unhinged that he’d just callously snuff out some innocent lady’s life because of a face mask. It’s tragic and ridiculous on so many levels.

Personally, I think if I were in the States, I wouldn’t confront anyone over the masks. It’s just not worth it. Our culture is so strange– people are encouraged to be “nice”, and we hate confrontations and conflict. And yet, so many of us are carrying weapons! And so many are apparently on the edge of insanity! Would Tucker have killed anyone two years ago, before COVID-19 face mask requirements was a thing? I honestly think that the risk of getting the virus may be lower than the risk of being shot in some parts of the USA. There have been so many stories about people killing and dying over face masks! It’s crazy! It baffles me that so many Americans seem to enjoy busting people over the masks. The New York Times called it a “new American pastime.” I think I’d be too scared to say anything to someone about the masks. I’d rather just get away from them.

I don’t know if the cashier was required to enforce the mask policy or she just decided to on her own. I would certainly never say that she shouldn’t feel free to enforce the mask requirements in a private business. BUT… there is a real danger in doing so, as her story, as well as so many others, have shown. I hope there will come a day soon when the mask requirements go away so this particular issue won’t be something people continue to die over.

And that makes me think of something else… does it seem to you like America has gotten way more extreme? It seems like fewer people are moderate nowadays. I feel like I run into more extremely “woke” people and extremely conservative people than I used to. I still tend to be pretty middle of the road– leaning a bit more left lately, but not extremely so. But the past five years, which I have not spent in the States, make me a little scared to go back home. I feel like today’s America is not the America I knew.

According to the Washington Post, 2020 was the deadliest year for shootings and, so far, 2021 is even worse. Within the first five months of 2021, 8100 people in the United States lost their lives to gun violence. Much of the violence seems to come from frustration and anger over the pandemic situation and all of the problems that are affiliated with it. The Washington Post reports that the violence started to edge upwards from April 2020, when the virus started to become a real problem. I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to “normal”… but it sure is sad to me that a deadly virus killed so many people and so many citizens are also dying because of gun violence… or they’re being hit and run, like my old friend Matt was last month. The week Matt died, another person was also killed in a hit and run in the same area. It’s also a problem on the rise, perhaps caused by very angry people who have no regard for other people.

Well… at least I was able to start this post with a feel good story. I wish Timothy Harrison much luck as he embarks on what could be a very bright future. I hope he avoids gun violence and the virus. I hope he goes to school and sets the world on fire as he puts his promising work ethic to the test in a tough world. I, for one, would not want to be young again for anything! But I have high hopes for Harrison and his Waffle House family. His story, coupled with the cashier’s story, really show how awesome and awful Americans can be.

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complaints, modern problems

The obligatory disclaimer…

I have noticed in recent years, that people are becoming less willing to make a statement without adding a qualifying disclaimer. This trend has become especially noticeable in the wake of the pandemic. Someone shares a fun experience they had with friends, for instance, and they add “but we were all masked and ‘socially distanced’, of course!” Or, say someone goes on a vacation and shares pictures, adding “these were all taken before COVID-19”. There are other examples that don’t involve the virus, but since that’s on most everyone’s minds these days, they’re the examples that stand out the most to me.

To be honest, I find these “disclaimers” irritating, although I understand why people add them. It’s because they don’t want someone to get the wrong idea and leave a nasty comment. Or they don’t want to come off as irresponsible or uncaring. The most expedient way to avoid being dressed down by a busybody is to preemptively state the conditions that led to situation that may somehow seem wrong or illegal.

Because I can be contrary and stubborn, I sometimes feel the need to buck this trend. I say “sometimes”, because there are times when I do add a disclaimer, particularly when I’m blogging. Sometimes I write about things that might be distressing or triggering, or I’m in an especially foul mood and have included more profanity in a post than usual. At that point, you might find a disclaimer that warns you to move on from my blog if you can’t deal with it. Despite what some people seem to think, I really don’t want to offend people.

But when it’s someone who’s on Facebook or Twitter, and they’ve shared a photo with friends at the beach, sitting at a cafe, or riding in the car, where not everyone is behaving “safely”, I must admit it’s annoying to read a preemptive disclaimer. And it’s annoying not so much because the person posted the explanation, but more because there’s always one in every crowd– that person who feels the need to take people to task for simply living their lives. Sometimes, the buttinsky is nice about calling the person out, but in many cases they’re rude, and have jumped to conclusions.

Last October, Jason Aldean got a bunch of shit for posting a picture of his family at Walt Disney World. The singer and his wife, Brittany, took their son Memphis, and daughters, Kendyl, Keeley, and Navy to the park to have some pandemic style fun. Aldean captioned the photo with “There is Nothing like seeing ur kids faces when u walk in that place.” Frankly, I am a lot more annoyed by the poorly constructed sentence than the maskless faces that appeared in the photo.

Lots of fans felt the need to comment and shame, based on that picture. One lady wrote, “Wtf are your masks? Everyone is required to wear them? WTH who do you think you are? I’ll never buy your music ever!!!” she wrote.

Seriously… why would she assume Aldean wasn’t following the rules, just based on a photo? Aldean, to his credit responded with, “Chill out lady. They are in our pocket. We took them off for 5 seconds to take the pic. Believe me, Disney didn’t give us a ‘free pass’ not to wear them. We had them on all day just like everybody else.”

Aldean then wrote “just enjoy the picture” and to “stop over analyzing.” The photo and comments were deleted, but it was mentioned in the article that Aldean’s second-oldest daughter, Kendyl, was clutching a mask.

But you see? That’s exactly the behavior I mean. Celebrities, in particular, get a lot of flak for not setting the right example. So, when they do something normal, like hit a Disney park for some rest and relaxation, they have to be careful to share photos in which they appear to be following the rules. Otherwise, they get confronted by busybodies who like nothing better than taking them to task. But again– it’s the busybodies who prompt people to issue disclaimers.

Aldean obviously didn’t think he needed to explain what was normal behavior in early 2020. He probably never dreamed someone would lose their shit over his decision to take a photo without a mask. But people do, and that means people feel the need to preemptively explain themselves. Indeed, Aldean’s wife shared the same photo, but added the disclaimer “Only took masks off for pic.”

Personally, I think people should give others the benefit of the doubt. I would assume, for instance, that people who share a photo from 2021 in which no one is masked, simply took the mask off for the photo. Some people don’t want to be masked when they’re having a picture taken; they want to be able to see faces. I don’t think they should feel the need to explain themselves for having that wish. I like to assume most of the people I know are adults who are capable of living their lives without my input. I would hope they’d feel the same way about me. I shouldn’t have to don a face mask in a photo just to show everyone else how compliant I am and avoid being given a ration of shit online. Why take a smiling photo if your face is going to be covered? This isn’t America’s Next Top Model, and I don’t have a gift for “smizing”. And I don’t necessarily need someone else’s input about what I do in a photo during a pandemic.

I’ll bet Tyra Banks would love to do a face mask challenge today.

I think the other situation that calls for “disclaimers” is when parents share pictures of their kids doing something. It seems the most troublesome photos are the ones of kids in cars. Someone is always going to be scrutinizing how the kid is situated and noting whether or not he or she is properly restrained in a car seat. Or kids riding bikes without helmets or whatever safety equipment is popular… or kids staying home alone, or wearing makeup or heels or whatever. Someone is going to have some kind of comment or criticism. The poster has to either include an explanation or deal with the fallout.

I noticed the “disclaimer” habit a long time ago, but the pandemic has made that practice exponentially more common. Fortunately, I hate having my picture taken, so I almost never post photos of myself with or without a mask. And again, I spend most of my time at home, away from anyone who could post a picture of me not doing “the right thing”.

I’m finding that as time goes on, I have less and less patience for strangers and their opinions. For example, last night, a long-time friend of mine from college posted a picture of Trump with the caption “Miss me yet?” He posted that he did miss Trump. I responded that Trump is a rapist and a malignant narcissist who makes my skin crawl. A friend of his gave me a laughing emoji, which told me all I needed to know about her. I decided to block her. Maybe that seems extreme, but I realized that she obviously thinks sexual assault by men in power is funny, and therefore isn’t worthy of my attention. Donald Trump has repeatedly and freely admitted to assaulting and molesting women. He’s even BRAGGED about it, for Christ’s sake. And countless women have come forward to reveal what a depraved, dishonorable, and disgusting person he is. I believe their stories, because Trump himself has outright stated how he feels about women. I think his unabashed, public comments about how he treats women were reason enough to make him unsuitable to be president.

A woman who finds it humorous that another woman thinks Trump is repulsive for harassing women is not someone I want to get to know. That doesn’t mean I wish her ill, or anything. She could be a wonderful person. I’m sure my friend has a good reason for being friends with her. But the chances that I’ll ever meet her in person are practically nil, and she’s made it plain that she likes Trump no matter what, and doesn’t want to hear why people like me can’t stand him. So we don’t need to interact on social media. She doesn’t need to read my “hilarious” comments, and I don’t need to see her inappropriate reactions. Neither of us needs the raised blood pressure readings.

Sadly, although I’ve known our mutual friend for over 30 years, I’m beginning to lose patience with him, too. He doesn’t have a problem voting for a man who would happily molest his sister, his niece, or a female friend of his. Thinking Trump’s terrible behavior is okay says a lot about a person’s character, or lack thereof. I made a promise to myself not to break up friendships solely due to politics. I truly do think people should vote their consciences. But my problems with Trump have little to do with his being a member of the Republican Party (which is not the Republican Party of my youth). They have to do with him being a vile, contemptible, human being who takes pleasure in degrading and debasing other people. I think people who wholeheartedly support that, politics aside, are probably folks with whom I should think twice about associating.

But for now, we’re still friends. I’m just not following him anymore.



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