mental health, movies, music, musings, Song parodies

Suicide is not painless, particularly for those left behind… (partial repost)

When I was a child, the old sitcom M*A*S*H was still airing on television. I remember the instrumental version of the show’s theme song, which was titled “Suicide Is Painless”. The song’s lyrics went:

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
So this is all I have to say

Suicide is painless (suicide)
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger, watch it grin

Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
“Is it to be or not to be?”
And I replied, “Oh, why ask me?”

Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

And you can do the same thing
If you please

The story goes that this song was written for the 1970 film version of M*A*S*H, and in the film, the song was sung by The Ron Hicklin Singers. The song’s composer is Johnny Mandel, and the film’s director, Robert Altman, wanted it to be the “stupidest song ever written.” Altman, then in his mid 40s, attempted to come up with “stupid” lyrics, but found that he couldn’t come up with any that were “stupid enough”. So he asked his then 14 year old son, Mike, to write the words to the song, which Mike was able to do in just a few minutes. The funny thing is, Altman only earned about $70,000 for directing the movie, but his son has reportedly made over $1 million for co-writing the “stupidest” song ever written. Absurd, isn’t it?

In May 2018, when I was still posting on my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife, I used the melody for “Suicide Is Painless” for my own lyrics. I renamed the song “Parenthood is Pricey”, which was inspired by the 2018 era sad news that births are declining in the United States, mainly because it’s EXPENSIVE to raise children today. Below are the words I wrote. I also recorded the song on SingSnap.

My early 20s
I could see
Visions of my life to be.
The costs that were laid out for me
I realized what I can’t be…

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
And the job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb remains empty.

The game of life 
is full of chance.
So much is left to circumstance.
There’s so much that is up to fate.
So childbirth, I’ll procrastinate.

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb remained empty.

Painful student loans
will last…
It doesn’t hurt ’til time
has passed.
By then, too many years have gone
For me to take parenthood on…

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb is so empty.

A brave reporter once asked me
“Why haven’t you made a mini me?
 Don’t you want your own family?”
And I replied
“How can it be?”

Cuz parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb is still empty.

And my friends are mostly
doing the same thing…

I remember the urge to make the parody popped into my head randomly. It was a flicker of inspiration that I decided to feed, after I wrote a blog post about reasons why people aren’t having so many kids these days. Of course, in 2018, we had no idea of the epic shitshow that awaited us in 2020, 2021, and 2022. I had written a lengthy and revelatory post about why Bill and I never sought reproductive assistance when it became apparent that his vasectomy reversal wasn’t going to be enough to make us parents. When I was still fertile, we were broke. We aren’t broke anymore, but I just turned 50 and pregnancy would probably either kill me or make me sick, if by some miracle it could even happen. And now, I don’t want kids anymore, because of the epic shitshow I mentioned. So maybe we were lucky things worked out how they did.

I’m not sure if the birth rate is still declining. That’s not really the point of this post. I just remembered the song, and how I rewrote the lyrics. I used to enjoy making song parodies, writing fiction, and engaging in other creative pursuits. But thanks to a former blog follower who mocked my efforts, I’ve lost a lot of the desire to do the funny, creative stuff I used to love doing. It’s like there’s a block there, because I really just want to get through this life with as few altercations as possible.

Ironically enough, that person is now dead, because she committed suicide. I don’t know why she took that action, and I don’t rejoice in her decision, especially since I have seen evidence that many people who were left behind are now hurting. She had two children who have now lost their mother forever, and will always have to deal with that huge loss for the rest of their lives. It will affect other people, too. People they’ve not even met yet, who will have to shoulder the baggage that came from that tragic decision. Suicide is definitely not painless for those who are left in the wake of it. I suspect it isn’t painless for the people who do it, either, even when it’s done quickly and violently.

A few months ago, I wrote about how several people in Bill’s and my world had made the choice to kill themselves. We weren’t particularly close to any of them– they were mainly just people on the peripheries of our lives. Still, we were affected by the fact that they made that choice and it was publicized. There’s always this sense of shock and wonder when someone takes their own life. What made them do it? What was the final straw that pushed them to make that decision? Bill was so shaken by it, he even searched Google for links about it while he was at work. That decision was discovered by the IT guys at his job, and he ended up getting a talking to by his boss, who was concerned that Bill might be contemplating suicide. See how suicide has ripple effects, even toward people who aren’t involved? The three people who ended their lives by suicide affected us enough to talk about it and search for information on the Internet. And then other people– completely uninvolved– felt compelled to talk to us about it, in case we were thinking of doing it ourselves.

A couple of days ago, I learned that yet another person in my sphere took their own life. Apparently, this person decided to exit life on their own terms because of a chronic illness that was causing them a lot of pain and disability. I looked at their most recent posts on social media, and realize that in the days before their exit, there weren’t really any obvious hints of what was coming. A couple of memes are there– they seem prescient now, but wouldn’t have seemed like that at the time they were posted. And now, there are so many tributes to this person about what a wonderful, kind, caring, awesome person they were, and how much they are already missed. I wonder how many of them said that before the suicide happened. I wonder what the point of saying it now is, although I know that many people believe in life after death, and assume that perhaps the person is looking down from Heaven… or maybe up from Hell? I don’t know.

My husband had a near death experience when he was a teenager. I know not everyone believes in those, but I have read enough books about people who have been clinically dead and came “back” from the beyond that I think there might be something to them. I think the experience changed Bill on many levels. Even if what he experienced was nothing but a massive discharge of endorphins as life briefly ebbed away from him, it still gives me comfort. A few months ago, an Epinions friend passed away from cancer, and I remember one of her last posts was that we shouldn’t fear dying. She said that it doesn’t hurt… you just slip away. But what if your death is unnatural? What if you weren’t meant to die? Is suicide that painless? Maybe after it happens, it’s painless. No one’s “home” anymore. It’s not painless for the people who remain in their Earthly existences. A lot of them are left with endless questions, guilt, and grief, as they try to make sense of what may seem senseless to them.

We really are all affected by each other. I used to love to write things that were “creative”. I lost the urge to write creative stuff after that huge mess caused by a woman who shamed me for doing it. That woman is now dead, because she decided to exit life on her own terms. I’m still left the aftereffects of her last words to me. They were her last words, because I blocked her from contacting me a few years before she died. Maybe all isn’t lost, though. That flicker could come back to life, as if it experienced a near death experience or resurrection.

The other day, when I was in the shower, thinking about the whole abortion debate, I had another flicker of inspiration as an idea for a satire piece came into my head. For a moment, I was excited about it. I thought maybe I’d sit down and write something. I wouldn’t be doing it for anything but satisfying my own urges to write and express myself in an interesting way. But then the doubt came back, put there by someone who couldn’t simply leave me alone, and I pushed it out of my head. Still, it was a flicker of inspiration… and maybe it’s time I got back down to business. Because I really do believe that expression can be one way to avoid committing suicide. Even if it’s just expressing oneself to someone who cares and might offer another perspective… one that offers a different reality that the person whose mind is muddied with thoughts of suicide can’t consider at the time.

And now, I am going to repost the article I wrote that birthed the song parody I wrote above. This was written on May 18, 2018, and I’m going to leave it “as/is”. Maybe the flicker will come back again.

My fat ass itches… (I’m sure this is one of the posts I wrote that the former “spy” disapproved of.)

Today’s blog post comes courtesy of my old buddy, Ken Turetzky, who wrote and sang a hilarious song of the same name.  I “met” Ken online about ten years ago, when I wrote a review of a compilation album done by comedian/musician Red Peters.  I discovered Red Peters when Bill and I went to a karaoke night at Fort Belvoir’s Officers’ Club and the hosts played Peters’ infamous “Closing Song” to finish the evening.  I thought it was hilarious, so I bought Peters’ two available albums and became a fan. 

Years later, Red Peters got into promoting other comedic musicians.  Turetzky’s hit song, “Her Shit Don’t Stink” was among the songs on Peters’ compilation, which I purchased the last time we were living in Germany.  To this day, I can’t listen to some songs on that album and not have idyllic memories of our first Germany tour.  Anyway, Turetzky happened to find my Epinions review and engaged me in the comments section.  Now we’re Facebook friends.

“Her Shit Don’t Stink”… I always dedicate this to Ex.
Ken shows off his blues chops.

This morning, as I was waking up, I read a news article about how the U.S. Fertility Rate Fell to a Record Low for the Second Straight Year.  Actually, the title of this article is misleading.  It’s not that Americans are infertile.  It’s that they aren’t having as many babies.  Frankly, I think that’s a good thing.  Our country is well and truly fucked right now and plenty of people are having trouble simply supporting themselves.  The Trump administration seems to be doing its level best to erase any protections for American citizens.  The whole country appears to be in a shambles.  So I don’t blame young people for not wanting to reproduce right now.  Besides, we’ve got PLENTY of people as it is.

But seriously, though.  Think about what young people are up against.  Young people today are leaving college saddled with massive student loans.  Student loans can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy.  And well paying jobs, which would make use of those hard won degrees, are in short supply.  Now… one doesn’t necessarily have to go to college in order to make a good living.  Some people are able to learn trades or are gifted athletes or musicians.  Some people luck into money or are born into wealth.  But, for a lot of people, college is the gateway to a decent career.  There are a lot of jobs that require a degree and, in America, it’s expensive to get a degree.  So lots of young folks start off their best fertility years ladened with debt.  That makes it a lot less appealing for young people to make babies.

I will be turning 46 next month and by September, I expect to have my student loans completely paid.  I will be accomplishing this goal about nine years ahead of schedule.  When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing, especially since Bill and I started our marriage completely broke.  That “broke” period lasted about five years, as Bill recovered from financial disasters wrought in his first marriage and paid massive child support.  It finally turned around when Bill went to Iraq and started earning combat pay.  I used the extra money to get rid of some debt and start paying ahead on my student loans.  I started by paying an extra $20 a month and snowballed it for years.  

For awhile, I got letters from my student loan service letting me know the extra money wasn’t necessary.  Like hell it wasn’t.  When I consolidated my loans, I owed $57,000 and that was before the interest.  Of course, I have three degrees.  However, I don’t currently use my college degrees to make a big paycheck.  Life did not go in a direction where that would have been possible for me.  I happened to marry a kind, generous man who was willing to help me.  Not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been.  Plenty of young people are now leaving college with as much debt as I once had, and they only have one degree.

When you have to pay a lot of money for your student loans and your job isn’t necessarily secure, it might make you think twice about buying a home.  It might make you think twice about getting married or having children.  And then, once you have those children, you have to worry about all of the things that come from having them… not the least of which is how much it costs.  Kids are expensive.  Even if your child is healthy, they cost a lot of money.  If your child isn’t healthy, then there are other expenses to consider.  

And then, as you have your kids– maybe when you’re in your thirties, prime earning years– your parents might start having medical issues.  In my case, I was blessed with healthy, independent folks.  My dad had full medical coverage courtesy of being a retired Air Force officer.  My mom is very healthy and independent and has a good head for money.  So she’s doing fine.  Bill’s dad and stepmother, likewise, seem to be doing okay.  Bill’s mom needs help, but Bill is lucky enough to make good money right now.  At any point, that reality could change and screw things up.  If your parents aren’t healthy and can’t afford to take care of themselves, then you might be tasked with helping them.  And that takes money.  Sure, you can tell your parents to bugger off if you’re really selfish or sociopathic, but most people aren’t like that.

So… I can see why a lot of younger folks are holding off on having children.  Those who wait until they have money might have a harder time reproducing.  Fertility declines as a person ages.  Yes, there are women out there who can get pregnant naturally when they are in their mid 40s.  Women who decide to wait for their kids until they’ve become settled in their careers might find themselves pondering spending thousands on fertility treatments.  Some might decide to go to another country for cheaper fertility treatments.  If anything goes wrong, though, their health insurance probably won’t pay for anything related to care they received out of the country.  That’s if they can afford to have health insurance in the first place.    

I have no idea how fertile I am, since our fertility issues were probably caused by Bill’s vasectomy and subsequent reversal.  I never bothered to get thoroughly checked out because when I was in my 30s, we were still broke.  Any kind of fertility treatment would have cost money we didn’t have, even if we could have gotten that treatment at a substantial discount, thanks to the military.  I didn’t want to stay broke, so I focused on getting rid of debt instead of having children.  

I was also influenced by a woman I met while living at Fort Belvoir.  Like me, she had trouble conceiving.  She got fertility treatments and eventually had a son.  Sadly, he was born with multiple devastating birth defects.  He needed round the clock care.  She went from being a wife in a comfortable financial situation with two dogs, to a woman who spent all of her time trying to take care of her very medically fragile baby boy.  I remember very clearly when she warned me that if I had fertility treatments, I could end up in the situation she was in.  She seemed bitter about it.  I have to admit that I had a lot of empathy for her.  All she wanted was to simply be a mother.  She was lucky, though, in that she had access to military healthcare and housing.  Still, caring for her baby meant she needed extra help.  And that also costs serious money.

These are just a few reasons why women aren’t having babies.  I haven’t even touched on the fact that a lot of men who might be decent fathers are scared of commitment.  Frankly, I can’t blame them for that.  If a marriage fails, and many of them do, it can cost a lot of money.  Men, more often often than women, wind up being on the hook for child support for years.  It happened to Bill.  It was a long stretch of being nearly broke while working his ass off, while his first wife denied him access to his daughters, and his second wife struggled to find work.  Trust me, it’s not fun, although Bill and I were lucky enough to be able to survive and thrive.  Not everyone is as lucky as we’ve been.

I also didn’t even get into people who are involved in religions that demand a lot of tithing.  When I met Bill, he was still a Mormon and obliged to give ten percent of his gross income to the church.  That was so he could be “temple worthy”… which meant he was allowed to wear the special underwear and enter the temple and participate in culty religious ordinances that were either very bizarre or very boring.  Again, ten percent of one’s income, especially when the income isn’t quite enough, is a lot of money.  It tends to discourage reproduction, even as church leaders are encouraging it.

Anyway, I posted the article by The New York Times on my Facebook page and it immediately attracted comments.  A few comments came from my old online comedian friend, Ken Turetzky.  I remembered his silly song, “My Fat Ass Itches” and its bluesy hooks.  I suggested to Ken that maybe he ought to write a blues song inspired by the article I posted.  But, you know what?  Maybe I’ll do it myself.  I have all day.  I have no job.  I have no other purpose other than to comment on the news.  And, by some miracle, I managed to get to middle age without defaulting on any loans.  But I have no descendants or dependents… and when I die, the mold will be broken.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  

Yeah… I’ll think about it.  If I come up with a blues song, maybe I’ll post it later (see above).  If I don’t come up with one or otherwise get distracted, I’ll just write another meaningless blog post about the state of life today.

Standard
condescending twatbags, musings, social media, stupid people, YouTube

Next up on bizarro Twitter: The great Rice Krispies Treat Debacle!

A few days ago, I changed the settings on my Twitter account. I felt the need to take those steps because I was getting inundated with disrespectful, mean-spirited comments from right wing trolls. I don’t have a problem with people who disagree with my opinions. The world would be a be a very dull place if everyone was in agreement all the time. But, even if some people find me obnoxious, I don’t deserve to be called vile names by strangers on the Internet.

I’m certainly not an idiot, but I was repeatedly called that by strangers on Twitter. People made fun of my handle, too, claiming that I am an actual “knothead”, simply because I’m not a conservative and I believe that women should be able to determine whether or not they wish to be pregnant. No, I’m not a “knothead”. That was what my abusive dad used to call me, after he called me “fat”, “retarded”, and “bitchy”. I use it as a nickname, because it’s my way of reclaiming a pejorative. But I am actually pretty far from being a “knothead”, and I’m certainly not a “knothead” simply because I support a woman’s right to choose.

I wonder if this is how these people are offline, when they are face to face with others. Do they routinely call other people “stupid”, “idiotic”, or “dumb”? Do they radiate smug, self-righteous, hateful behavior toward random folks they meet on the street? I think the Internet has made a lot of people uncivilized and mean. Even though these people are complete strangers whose opinions shouldn’t matter in the slightest, my mental health takes a beating when people spew that toxic shit at me. Yes, I know they’re only words, but life is tough enough without unhinged, clueless, and just plain awful people invading my space and insulting me simply for expressing myself. I refuse to give them an audience, or consider their words, when they are nothing but garbage insults.

After I got a shit ton of very personal insults from perfect strangers, I decided that I needed to sharply reduce the noise from Twitter. I turned off the multiple daily emails I seemed to be getting. I limited who can reply to me. For the past few days, it’s been pretty calm… almost too calm, actually. Twitter could be a great place to find things to write about, think about, or even share humor. But it sure is a bizarre place at times. Some people are better at dealing with the craziness than I will ever be.

For instance, Mama Doctor Jones (MDJ) has been getting a lot of heat lately. I admire the way she handles it, even as she’s in a challenging career that is being assailed by the right wing zealots in the United States who want to interfere with how OB-GYNs do their jobs.

I originally only followed MDJ on YouTube, but discovered her on Twitter when I started using my Twitter account more. I am impressed on many levels by what she does, but I can also see that there’s a significant downside to being popular on the Internet. She has to deal with so many hateful people! Take, for instance, the below tweet she shared…

MDJ lives in New Zealand, having moved there some months ago. She’s presumably settling in with her neighbors, sharing a well known American snack with them. It went well, and she chose to share her pleasant experience with her followers. There’s nothing at all about the above tweet that should have been the slightest bit controversial. And yet, it STILL went south, and not because of a pro-birth American conservative taking aim at her. This time, it was a freakin’ kiwi who came at her!

I’m with Katlin. Monty seemed to be a bit prickly toward Mama Doctor Jones.

Granted, MDJ was a teensy bit snarky in her response, probably because it’s frustrating and irritating when someone just wants to share something nice and gets attacked with negativity.

Wow… what the hell?

Then it gets even more bizarre… Keep in mind, this nasty exchange began with a happy tweet about Rice Krispies Treats! What the fuck! I’m surprised MDJ gave this person the time of day.

Twitter is a STRANGE place indeed.

It got even worse, as the conversation went from Rice Krispies Treats to Monty accusing MDJ of “abandoning” the country that gave her “opportunities”. But, as MDJ is from Texas, her ability to do her job without the threat of incarceration for treating her patients properly is in peril. I can’t blame her for moving to New Zealand. Not only is it a beautiful country, but it’s also a place where MOST people seem to be kind, compassionate, and sensible. “Most” is the operative word, of course, as Monty continues to show that there are rude and disrespectful people everywhere.

I totally agree with MDJ, although I didn’t leave the USA because I necessarily thought of it as a “shit show”. When we left for Germany, it was mainly because it was the only place where Bill was being offered work in a timely manner. He retired from the Army with no job lined up, and we had bills to pay. The contractor in Stuttgart came through with work, and we were fine with moving, because we loved living in Germany the first time. We also wanted to get back the year we lost having to leave Germany early, thanks to Bill’s narcissistic wartime boss who got us yanked out early to satisfy his own selfish needs.

We neither expected nor planned to be here for as long as we’ve been here. We certainly never thought we’d be going on eight years of life outside of the States. When we left, Obama was still the president, and things were a lot more normal than they are now. Granted, there were still too many shootings and too many anti-choice religious zealots who worship the conservative viewpoint no matter what… but I never could have imagined in 2014 that the United States would turn into what it is now.

I think, if I had children, I would NOT want them to be raised in the current version of the United States. It’s become a place I don’t recognize anymore. So we’re happy to stay out of the USA, for now. I’d love to go back sometime, if it was a place where I felt safe and respected, and I thought we could live as well there as we do here. But I don’t feel that it’s like that anymore. It sounds like MDJ has come to a similar conclusion. She’s still somewhat gentle with Monty, who is very hateful to her…

She just keeps on keeping on… Obviously MDJ has more energy and patience than I do. She also has more patients. 😉 I admire her very much for her level headedness and good humor.

Keep fighting the good fight, Dr. Jones. Many of us are with you. And, as a fellow expat, I hear you.
Yup. No wonder people flee their homelands. Even some of us Americans! I can relate to people who want to move to the USA, but I can also relate to those of us who walked away, or even ran away from it.

I know there are people from my past who can’t relate to me anymore. All I can tell them is that being in other places changes your perspective. Living in other countries is so life changing and educational… it expands boundaries and broadens mindsets. More people– especially Americans– should do it. Maybe if they did, America would somehow become the fantastic place it’s hyped to be. But I’m afraid the American Dream will always be just a mirage to me. So… while I don’t know if I’ll be gone from there forever, I don’t mind being gone for now.

America really isn’t that great. It was never great… and it’s gotten much worse in the eight years since I was last there. It seems like the shittiness that spews from there is spreading in terms of violence, and just plain rude, uncivilized behavior, and discourse. And every time I have an unpleasant interaction with someone from my homeland, I’m reminded why I’m glad to be out of there… for now, anyway. I do think that MDJ’s Rice Krispie Treat Twitter altercation is a reminder, though, that mean, inconsiderate people are everywhere… and if they could fly, Twitter would be an airport.

Standard
music, musings

50 years and counting… Belgian style!

Well, I have officially made it to my 50th birthday. Technically, I entered the world at 11:40am eastern daylight time, having been born at the now defunct Dixie Hospital in Hampton, Virginia on June 20, 1972. I turned 40 in Hampton, since Bill had business trip, and we lived in North Carolina at the time. We visited my parents, and I got to see an old high school friend of mine, who treated me to lunch at a pub. I turned 45 in Alveringem, Belgium, and now I’m turning 50 in Antwerp. Antwerp has turned out to be an awesome place to celebrate.

This morning, I was surprised with a delicious mascarpone strawberry tart and champagne, coffee, an orange juice, and absolutely no room for anything else. Half the tart is being saved for later. Bill just handed me a birthday card. I usually get a mushy one from him, but this time, it was a funny card.

As I sit here looking at Bill, I thank God all of the crushes I had in my earlier years never worked out. I can’t imagine a more perfect man in my life. A lot of women dread turning 50, but I have to say, it’s not such a bad thing… at least not yet. I feel pretty good, and I have most of what I would ever want or need… and I get along great with Bill. So life is pretty okay right now, in spite of everything that’s happened since… well, since birth.

I may not be as young and pretty as I used to be… not that I was ever particularly pretty… but I did used to have a nice figure, smoother skin, and better eyesight. I do think I’m saner than I used to be. Things don’t upset me as much as they used to. I don’t have panic attacks anymore, and I don’t often have crying jags, unless it’s because I’m listening to beautiful music or watching a particularly moving scene in a movie, or something. It’s usually music that makes me cry, though. Especially live music. That’s better than crying because someone was mean to me or I’m overwhelmed by something.

And I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed with basic good sense and better health. I’m especially grateful that when I met Bill, even with all the challenges he was facing at the time, I knew he was the right person for me to spend my life with. I never thought I’d be that lucky, given that I don’t have tons of friends and never dated much. And yet, there he was, just when I thought I was going to be single. He’s perfect for me, and the best gift I could ever have.

As we were sitting at breakfast this morning, enjoying the strawberry tart and bubbles, I mused once again about how I somehow found the right person in the least likely place, ever. I have never met anyone who makes me feel more comfortable and at ease. The miracle is, I think he’d say the same thing about me.

Belgium has wonderful strawberries!

This point was driven home over breakfast, when another couple showed up. They barely spoke to each other and seemed dissatisfied and unfriendly. Here we are in one of Antwerp’s best hotels. The staff is super friendly and helpful. And the lady is complaining about the coffee and cutting the crusts off her bread. She sent the coffee back twice, then the two of them sat at the table in silence, making it seem awkward for conversation even among ourselves. Who knows what was going on, though. God knows, I have my days, too. It was just something we both noticed. Maybe they’re both just very introverted… or they have the Monday blues.

Anyway… I’m sure the day will be full of surprises. Time to get off the computer and celebrate. Going to go home tomorrow and write up our visit, which has been a lot more fun than I was expecting. Antwerp truly is an awesome town… as long as you aren’t driving. 😉

By the way… just discovered this album. If you like jazz and Sesame Street, it’s fun!

Fun birthday find!

I think we’re going to do some shopping today… and probably more beer drinking. I can’t think of a better way to spend my first day of being 50. Nor can I think of a better person to spend it with.

Standard
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.)

Standard
musings, social media

My thoughts on so-called “insufferable posters” on Facebook…

Our vacation is winding down… we are now in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. It took several hours to get here from Florence, which gave me plenty of time to look at Facebook. One of my friends shared a post from 2015. It was from qz.com and was titled “There is a good chance that you are the ‘friend’ that everyone finds insufferable on Facebook”.

I think I read this article some time ago, but I was reminded of it anew today as we sped north toward Modena. The post, which was written by a guy named Tim Urban, was originally shared in November 2015. It was all about how people on Facebook annoy their friends, family members, and acquaintances because they indulge their egos, seek attention, or try to make people jealous.

The friend who shared this post wrote that she thought it was a great read, as did some of her friends. A few others, myself among them, thought the writer was an asshole. I know I do my fair share of complaining about Facebook comments. Actually, it’s really mainly comments that annoy me, not status updates, or things that people mostly share on their own pages. I don’t like it when people go on other people’s pages and act like jerks. They can do whatever they want on their own pages. If it really bugs me, I’ll unfriend or unfollow. But I don’t think of those people as “insufferable”. If I did, I would probably go ahead and disassociate myself. I know I’m not everyone’s shot of tequila or whatever…

Mr. Urban’s post consisted of a list of seven types of posts people share that tend to be annoying… to him, I guess, but maybe to others, too. In Urban’s view, to “not” be annoying, a status update must either be interesting or informative, or it has to be entertaining somehow. All other posts– to include any about one’s blessings in life, “cries for help” (from loneliness), meaningful quotes from well-known sages, or humble bragging– are apparently irritating by Mr. Urban’s yardstick.

I’ll admit that I can see some of his points. I do have a few current and former Facebook friends who share quotes. It makes me wonder if they talk to their friends that way offline. Do they go up to their pals and say things like “laugh and the whole world laughs with you”? Somehow, I doubt it… but hell, it’s their Facebook page. I don’t have to respond to it.

And some people probably hate that I share my blog. As a matter of fact, during our Italy trip, I met a few people who live in Stuttgart. One was a couple who had been there since 2015, and the female half knew about my blog. I had a feeling she didn’t like it, or me, and that was before she’d ever met me. Whatever… c’est la vie. Lots of people don’t like me after never having read my writing, just as some people think they know (and don’t like) me after reading a couple of posts. I think that’s a pretty limited way to go through life, especially since I’m not really so bad once you get to know me.

I know there are a lot of people– especially in the military community– who HATE that I have the nerve to call myself “overeducated” and think I’m an asshole for my blog title alone. But I also realize that some people actually enjoy the blog, and don’t think I’m a pretentious asshole. Later, after I parted company with those folks, Bill and I went to another hotel, and met a couple of really nice American couples who were excited to be in Italy. We had a very pleasant conversation, unmarred by any preconceived thoughts about my activities on social media or this blog. 😉

Mostly, though, Tim Urban’s post made me think that I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with HIM. I like sharing my friends’ joy. When they share their proud parenting moments, news about their achievements, pictures of their trips, or even mushy posts about their spouses or other family members, I’m genuinely happy for them. I think anyone who would find those kinds of posts offensive, obnoxious, or annoying, probably aren’t much fun at parties. I would also like to know who make Tim Urban judge and jury for what people ought to post on Facebook. Especially since he’s not one of MY friends. 😉

Personally, there are a lot of days when I’m sorry I signed up for Facebook. However, I realize that it’s pretty hard not to be on some kind of social media, if you’re not in your 80s and completely removed from the Internet, like my mom is. I do hope a better alternative will come along, though. Or, maybe I’ll just lose interest in it, like I do most things.

Anyway… I gotta be me. Part of who I am may come off as profane, vulgar, and obnoxious. I own it. But I can’t be someone else, especially for people who don’t even care enough to try to get to know me before they pass judgment. For most users, Facebook isn’t a place for developing real relationships, even though I know some have developed there. And so, I think people ought to post what they want to, on their own pages. It’s when they’re shitty on other people’s pages and posts that I take notice and feel negative. I think people who are rude to strangers on news sites are the most insufferable Facebook posters of all.

Well, tomorrow, we will enjoy Vaduz, and then Wednesday morning, we’ll make our way home to Wiesbaden. I am looking forward to it, to be very honest. I look forward to doing laundry and seeing the dogs, and writing up all of these adventures… and I’m even more hopeful that the swelling in my ankles will go down. We had a very busy vacation and it was a lot of fun, but it’s time to get back to business.

Still… it will be hard to leave this view from our current hotel… and if that’s bragging, so be it.

Standard