communication, family, holidays, karma

Thanksgiving thoughts… or, why I like holidays in Germany.

Here’s another too personal, introspective story about my psyche, and why I am the way I am. It’s probably not very interesting, but it’s what’s on my mind. The featured photo is of me in 1979, visiting Granny’s house. It was probably for my maternal grandfather’s funeral. I see there’s snow on the ground, but I’m not wearing a jacket. Seems pretty much par for the course. 😉

Traditionally, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. I grew up going to my Granny’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia, where my dad and his brothers and sisters were raised in a cool farmhouse by two creeks and surrounded by mountains. Granny died in 2007, but my Uncle Brownlee and Aunt Gayle have kept the tradition going. We lost Brownlee in 2019, which was very sad for me. Brownlee was probably my favorite relative. Gayle and my cousins are still throwing the annual shindig, which will no doubt include good food, dancing, singing, live music, and card playing… and probably some beer drinking. I wish I could be there, but for obvious reasons, I can’t… And actually, given the politics that are going on right now, maybe it’s for the best. I come from a long line of Trump admirers. 😉

Today, we’ve been invited to go to one of Bill’s co-worker’s homes for Thanksgiving. This guy is kind of special, because he’s someone Bill knew when they were both in the Army back in the late 80s. They served in Germany together, back when they were young and single. Now they work together again, and get along great. It was because of Bill’s co-worker that we were able to spend our 20th anniversary together in France and seeing James Taylor perform. Otherwise, Bill would have been in Las Vegas at a conference.

Bill will repay the favor to his friend for Christmas, since we almost never go anywhere for the holidays. The lone exception was 2019, when my hometown friend, Audra, invited us to France. She lives there, but we met in Gloucester, Virginia, when we were in high school. I have another hometown friend who lives in Stuttgart now. We met in the third grade at Botetourt Elementary School, in Gloucester. Sometimes I wonder if my hometown friends moved to Europe for the same reasons I did. I suspect at least one of them did. 😉

The funny thing is, I think we only spent one Thanksgiving in Gloucester out of the 19 years I lived there (Mom and Dad lived there for about 29 years). The rest were spent at Granny’s house… except for one year I went to a former friend’s house. I was 17 years old at the time. I remember my dad gave me a ration of shit for staying home that year, even though there were many times when he acted like, and even outright stated, that he couldn’t stand me. He was mostly concerned about what other people would say, worried that he would “look bad”.

I called my mom yesterday. She sounded terrible. She said she thought she had a cold, having been out with some friends of hers. She said she tested for COVID and the result was negative. Frankly, I suspect she didn’t wait long enough, especially since she said she had no energy. But aside from having a scratchy voice, she didn’t sound super sick. And she said she would be making herself a Thanksgiving dinner and eating it alone, since she doesn’t know what illness she has. She has plans to go to my sister’s house for Christmas next month.

We mostly had a good talk. She said she enjoyed my song for Bill… the one I did last month, not the more recent “Secret O’ Life”. Then, as I was about to sign off, she said she would like to see me. But then she said, “I know that won’t happen, though.”

I said, “I never said I wouldn’t come home. I said I didn’t know when we could come.” She hasn’t specifically asked me to come home, either… although maybe she asked my sister to invite me to Christmas. I had to decline because of Arran’s chemo, and because boarding the dogs at this late date would be a challenge.

Mom said she loved me and to take care of Bill and the dogs. Then we ended the call.

When our call ended, I kind of sat there dumbfounded. My mom isn’t usually one to pull guilt trips. It’s one of the things I like about her. She’s very pragmatic. I have explained to her that I find family gatherings very stressful and overwhelming. But I also remember how, when I needed understanding and support as a young woman with crippling anxiety and depression, she kept telling me she wanted me to leave. I actually wanted to leave, too. No one wanted me to move out more than I wanted to be gone. But she was very vocal and impatient about it. Now, that I’m gone, she wants me to come back again.

I am grateful that she and my dad let me stay in their home when I needed treatment for depression and anxiety… although I probably could have used that treatment when I was still a minor. A lot of it was caused by growing up in a very dysfunctional, alcoholic home, and having parents who made it clear to me that I had disappointed them. I know they love(d) me in their own ways… but breaking out of that place was very hard to do, and one of the best things I’ve ever done.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized a lot of things… maybe I’ve just become pragmatic like my mom is. I realize people are often disappointing on many levels. One of the great things about being an adult is that you don’t have to stick around or show up for disappointing people. I don’t like being around people who can’t accept me for who I am. My mom is probably more willing to accept me now, since we’re both a lot older… and I’m happily married and no longer a burden to her. I’m still a little traumatized by the past, even though it’s been 8 years since I was last “home”. I don’t want to spend hours on a plane to go back into a toxic situation. That’s less likely with my mom than it would be with my mom and my sisters together. But there’s still a risk.

I would like to see some of my family members. Some of them would probably like to see me. I would like to see my mom, too. I know I’m running out of time. But it’s kind of like making an appointment to see a doctor. Sometimes, it’s what you have to do for your own good, even if it might be unpleasant. I could probably use a doctor’s appointment, too. I have never been one for taking care of my physical health, because it wasn’t really a priority back when I was a child. It’s easier to stay where I am and just ignore everything…

Anyway… I’m sure we’ll have a good time with Bill’s friend. He lives in a beautiful home, and I remember him to be a lot of fun. Hopefully, Arran won’t get into any trouble while we’re out. I’ll still miss my family today. I do love them. Maybe someday, I can go home again. It’s not going to happen this year, though.

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Bill, mental health, Reality TV

A tale of two big CRASHES!!!!

Mornin’ folks. It’s a foggy morning here in Wiesbaden. The air is chilly and damp, and although it’s almost 8:00am, it’s still kind of dark outside. Yep… time for the time to change back to standard time. Bill came home yesterday, and this morning, when he went to work, I wished him a “good night.” Then I realized, it’s morning, and we still have the whole day in front of us. But, at least it’s Friday.

Arran had his second chemo treatment yesterday. I’m going to write the details of it on my other blog, but I will happily report that he tolerated the treatment just fine. While he’s not in remission yet– not that I was expecting him to be– his blood test results indicate that his body is fighting the cancer. And he is MUCH better this week than he was last Wednesday, the day before we started chemo. He was very happy to see Bill, too.

I was also happy to see Bill, because after two nights of very abbreviated sleep, I REALLY needed a full night’s rest. And that’s what prompted today’s blog post title, along with some news I read this morning. But first, I have to write about the “big crash”, because it’s kind of funny.

As some of my regular readers might know, Bill has been seeing a Jungian therapist for the past year or so. I can’t remember exactly when he started seeing his therapist, but the journey has been fascinating for both of us. Jungian therapy focuses a lot on dreams, which has always been an interest for Bill. And so, his work with his therapist includes a lot of talk about dreams and what they mean.

Because Arran has been on prednisolone for a week, he’s been suffering the side effects. And because he’s been suffering the side effects, so have I. The drug is wonderful in terms of how it helps him with his lymphoma, but it also makes him pee a lot and feel ravenous. So, during the two nights before Bill came home, Arran repeatedly woke me up to let him go outside, and for food. After I woke up the first time, I couldn’t fall asleep again. I was hoping for a nap yesterday, after we visited the vet for another dose of Vincristine, but there was no such luck. Just as I was about to doze off, Bill came home, and there was a joyful reunion between him and the dogs. I had to witness it.

Last night before bed, Bill told me he had some ZzzQuil, and maybe I should take some so I could get some rest. I often take an Advil PM before bed, but I ran out of them before Bill came home. I took a couple of those Zzzquil and, sure as shit, they knocked me out cold. At about 4:30am, Arran woke us up. I was in the middle of a very vivid dream that, apparently, had something to do with pastries and breads. I do remember trying to talk to Bill about the dream, which I thought was real. I was talking about a spinning wheel, made of breads with a bread handle on it. Even as I was mumbling about it, I knew on some level that I was talking about a dream, and yet it seemed very real at the time. I could not get the right words out to explain, despite trying several times.

Finally, I heard Bill say, “I think you’re coming out of a dream.”

I said, “I know… I’m not making any sense right now, am I?”

I tried a couple more times to explain what I was talking about, but then I went back to sleep and was out cold for another two hours. I woke up again at 6:20 when Arran flapped his ears. I know that I had a whole lot of dreams last night, most of which I don’t remember at all. But this is what happens when you finally sleep after not getting enough rest.

After I got up, I went down to the kitchen and Bill gave me some coffee that was vastly superior to what I made for myself while he was gone. He said he measures the beans by weight, rather than tablespoons. We talked a little more about what I had been trying to tell him about as I was recovering from my “big crash”. Then I looked at the news, and read the news about Kim Plath of Welcome to Plathville and her apparent “big crash”.

I’ve written about Kim Plath a couple of times. She’s the matriarch of the Plath family on TLC’s Welcome to Plathville, mother of nine living children, and owner of a dance studio in Cairo, Georgia, which is very close to the Florida border. I didn’t start watching Welcome to Plathville until it had been on for at least a season or two. I think I watched it because of pandemic boredom, and because huge, hyper-religious families are fascinating to me.

Anyway, in watching that show, I heard about how Kim had grown up with a neglectful alcoholic mother and, when she was in college, she partied way too much. Later, she met and married Barry Plath, who is very much a teetotaler. She then became sort of a fundie and, I guess, lost herself in being a wife and mother. During the most recent season of Welcome to Plathville, Kim announced that she and Barry were going to be ending their marriage. She opened a dance studio, then started drinking. I remember in one episode, she’s shown doing tequila shots with her model son, Micah. This was after years of abstinence.

The U.S. Sun was the first paper to report on Kim’s arrest for driving under the influence, property damage, and personal injury on October 20, 2022. She turned herself in at the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office in Crawfordville, Florida at 2:08 am. The U.S. Sun reports that Mrskickstand on Tik Tok was the first to report of the arrest, which is not Kim’s first for an alcohol related offense. On April 7, 1991, Kim was busted for having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. Sadly, it appears that she’s back to her old habits, but this time, someone got hurt.

@mrskickstand Replying to @aroszkuz #greenscreen #fyp #plathville #plathfamily #welcometoplathville #plathvilletiktok #plath #plaths #tlc #plathvillefamily #plathfamily #tlctv ♬ original sound – The Irrelevant Teen Mom

A link to the Tik Tok about this…

I don’t know a lot about what happened in this case. I haven’t had the chance to read much about it at this point, and I’m sure that people who care a lot more about this will write much more about it than I will. I do want to say that I feel kind of bad for Kim, not because I think there’s any excuse for driving drunk or that she shouldn’t be punished, but because I think she has a lot of internal baggage that she’s never dealt with. I am Kim’s age, and like Kim, I grew up with an alcoholic parent. I have an inkling of what that might have been like for her, although in her case, it was her mom who was the drunk. If memory serves, her father wasn’t around, so she had to rely on her mother to take care of her. And then, after some time being “crazy” during her college years, she hooked up with a man who promoted a lifestyle that would not be alcoholic.

Alcoholism is an illness that leads to a lifestyle that vacillates between control issues and complete chaos. My father was often a very controlling person. He was also very neglectful and abusive at times, and sometimes he didn’t give a shit about things that were very important. When you’re a kid growing up with a parent like that, it’s painful, because while their behavior has nothing to do with you, you’re a child, and you internalize the bad things they say and do. You think there is something wrong with YOU, when really it’s your parent who has the issues and is passing them on to you. I know this firsthand.

This is what happened to me and my sisters. I have seen and heard about it from other people with alcoholic parents. I’m sure there are some exceptions, but I think the vast majority of us with alcoholic parents can agree that this is a common pattern. And it doesn’t really matter if the parent abstains from drinking, if they never actually explore the issues that come from that lifestyle. They still engage in the destructive behavior patterns that a drinker does.

I think it’s possible that Kim was a “dry drunk” for decades, which may account for some of her extreme control issues. But that’s just a wild guess from me, coming from what little I know from her reality show. I think the money from the TV show opened up some possibilities that she never thought she’d have. She dove in, head first, and is now finding that she’s been missing out on a lot. Unfortunately, she has a genetic link to drinking, and it appears that she has gone a bit off the deep end. I hope she gets the help she needs, and people show her some mercy. Because, while I don’t excuse what she did, I see this as a sign that she really needs help. She is clearly in distress. And she still has kids who need her to be around for them.

Lots of people who don’t know me well have negative opinions about me. For a long time, it bothered me a lot. Now that I’m 50, I’m not as bothered about it as I used to be, because I know the truth, and the people who matter to me, know the truth. But I would be lying if I said there aren’t residual effects from growing up in a family system where one of my family members treated me like I had little to no value. I think being raised like that can cause people to turn to negative behaviors that they somehow think will make them feel better. Or maybe it’s just easier to engage in dysfunction than be honest with themselves and face the pain and humiliation of having a parent who is abusive and neglectful, and chooses alcohol over their own flesh and blood.

I’m sure a lot of Kim’s issues stem from this neglect and abuse that she probably endured as a child… and she tried to make people who would accept and love her unconditionally. Sadly, one of Kim’s own beautiful children died due to her own negligence. And obviously, that loss still weighs heavily on her. She probably drinks because of that loss– and the loss of her marriage, as well as her son, Ethan’s, estrangement. She’s trying to find new ways to feel better. Booze is very sexy, but it’s not a way out of that pain. I know this, and write this, even though I drink booze, too.

I suspect Kim is one of those people that has a lot of detractors. I know how she feels, in that regard. It hurts. Anyway, I hope this situation doesn’t result in her having to go to prison for a long time. I think she’d be much better off in a residential rehab, with serious work with a mental health professional who can help her unpack the huge burdens she’s been carrying since childhood. Yes, she absolutely needs to be held accountable for what happened, but it shouldn’t ruin her life. Just my take. Sometimes crashes are beautiful things. When they lead to much needed sleep, or much needed therapy and accountability, they can be life changing for the better.

Well, that about does it for today’s post. I think I will write about Arran’s chemo on the travel blog… then maybe, if the weather stays yucky, record a new song, even if Noyzi demands a walk, like he did yesterday. Have a nice Friday, y’all.

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family, memories, mental health

WaPo advice column reminds me of mealtime meltdowns of yesteryear…

Today in the Washington Post, I read an advice column in which a letter writer asked if it’s “wrong” to force a child to eat. The writer explained that he or she was born in 1952, and their mother used to compel them to finish everything on their plate. She would either force the person to sit at the table for hours until everything was eaten, or she would use a fifteen minute timer and warn that if the food wasn’t finished, the child would be spanked and sent to bed early. The writer later found out that they have food allergies.

Yes… I think it is very damaging.

The advice columnist, Meghan Leahy, wrote that she thinks the letter writer is traumatized. She points to the level of detail included in the letter, so many years later, and explains that remembering that much about the experiences indicated psychological damage. Leahy comments:

There are three main activities one person cannot force another to do without inflicting some pretty serious harm: sleep, eat and use the toilet. These are driven by deep impulses, and each human runs on their own internal clock. When parents take draconian measures to control their children’s eating, it is about more than just getting them to finish their chicken. The parent is saying or sending messages such as: “I don’t care about your feelings or impulses. I control them.” “You don’t get to say when you eat. I do.” “I will withhold love and affection until you eat.” “Not eating or not making me happy will make me hurt you, physically and emotionally.”

I found myself nodding as I read her comments. Suddenly, I remembered my own traumatic experiences at the dinner table when I was a very young child. My father and I had a difficult relationship. He was an alcoholic who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. He could be very controlling and demanding at times. Other times, he acted like he didn’t care at all about things. Sometimes, he was even kind and reasonable. Unfortunately, I never knew which version of my dad I was going to get.

When I was very young, I was a rather picky eater. There were, and still are, a lot of things I don’t eat. My mom was a pretty good cook, but she wasn’t above using processed convenience foods. I didn’t mind eating canned things. I loved Franco-American Macaroni and Cheese, for instance. I remember eating a lot of Campbell’s Soup– especially Bean with Bacon or Chicken Noodle. Sometimes I’d have frozen chicken pot pies that, of course, I would heat up before eating. These days, Bill and I make most things from scratch. He doesn’t like eating food from boxes and cans.

But then there were times when my mom would make things I didn’t like. My dad would get on a power trip and try to force me to eat things. I’d sit at the table and cry as he yelled at and threatened me.

The one thing I could never eat under any circumstances was mushrooms. As I have mentioned before in this blog, I have a phobia of them. When I was very young, I was literally petrified of wild mushrooms growing in the yard. I would freeze up and panic when I saw them. I think it stemmed from being told, when I was very young, that they were very poisonous and I must never touch them. I took the directive very seriously. I also had sisters who enjoyed tormenting me by chasing me with the mushrooms or drawing mushrooms with ugly frowns and shark teeth in my coloring books.

So one time, my dad, who was quite exasperated about my phobia, decided he was going to force me to eat a mushroom. My mom had made meat pie, and it had mushrooms in it. I remember him standing over me– I was maybe nine or ten years old– screaming at me to eat the pie. He had to go to choir practice that night, so I was under pressure. I was crying uncontrollably as he demanded that I obey him. I think I did eat some of the pie, but I never forgot that experience… or another one we had at a chain restaurant called Mountain Jack’s. My parents took me there one night and ordered sauteed mushrooms as an appetizer. My dad tried to make me eat one in the restaurant, and I started crying. My mom snarled at him to leave me alone, which he grudgingly did. But he would often get on these control freak power plays, sometimes in public. And yes, it was humiliating and traumatic.

As I read that article about forcing kids to eat things in the WaPo today, I was suddenly reminded of all the times my father bullied, harassed, and belittled me over things like food, body image, or even the way I laugh. Like several of my family members, my dad hated my laugh, and claimed I sounded like a witch. By the time I was eleven, I was very preoccupied with my body image and weight. For years, I struggled with disordered eating, although I never fell into a diagnosable eating disorder. Nowadays, instead of being obsessive about my weight and body image, I drink too much alcohol.

I looked at some of the comments people left on this article. One reader left what I thought was a really good comment. I took a screenshot of it; it was so good.

I wish all commenters were as wise as this person is.

Someone else left this comment, which made me feel really sad…

Eating should be a pleasurable activity. But this person’s mother turned it into a battle.

Below is one rather contentious comment thread on Facebook regarding this advice column. “Mike” obviously thinks that being controlling about food is a good approach to child raising… and now he’s raising his grandchild.

When I was growing up, I could not eat the hot lunches served in the school cafeteria. In those days, the food was actually cooked on site, but the smell of it usually disgusted me. There were certain items that smelled so bad that I would get nauseous if someone sat next to me eating it. I seem to remember being completely revolted by the smell of the vegetable soup, which was always served with a big piece of government cheese. I always wondered how it was that the cafeteria ladies could make ordinary food so unappetizing in appearance and aroma. I used to skip lunch during school, partly because I was always dieting, and partly because the whole experience of eating lunch at school was so traumatizing. I think it must be worse today, as schools now police what children are allowed to eat more than they did in the 80s, and food is not always cooked on site.

I remember practically starving myself in the summer of 1982, when I went to 4-H camp. The food there was even worse than what was served in school. The smell of it turned my stomach. I never went back to 4-H camp, mainly because I could not abide powdered eggs and the other barely edible stuff served there. I was fortunate in the the food served at my college was mostly very good, but I remember going to 4-H Congress at Virginia Tech and being grossed out by the food there, too.

I’ve probably shared this before, but it bears repeating. I agree with George, and his take on “fussy eating” is funnier than this post is. 😉

To this day, there are a lot of foods that some people find wonderful, like cheese, that I don’t enjoy. I don’t eat a lot of cheeses, myself. There are maybe half a dozen I will eat, and they have to be melted. Bill, on the other hand, loves stinky cheeses. He will not think twice about buying cheese that, to me, smells like dirty feet, and enjoying it with wine. I can always smell the cheese through the refrigerator door. On the other hand, I do like fish, which I know a lot of people can’t abide.

I’m sure my dad’s tendency to hypercontrol at the dinner table, back when we ate dinners together, was formulated in part because he was a child of the Depression era. He had eight siblings, and the family wasn’t wealthy at all, so food was a precious commodity. My dad was also an Air Force officer, so sometimes he would use that identity to make demands of his daughters. Sometimes, he could be strict, but his method of punishment was, in my opinion, quite cowardly. He used physical and corporal punishments to get what he wanted. Imagine, being a grown man taking out your frustrations on a little girl by walloping her whenever she challenged you. That was my dad. And, sorry to say, he did traumatize me with that treatment. Maybe that’s why I am so fucked up today. 😉

I did love my dad, when he was still living. I think a lot of his issues stemmed from his own abusive childhood, in which he was the eldest son of a violent alcoholic. I think a lot of the things he said to me were things that he heard from his dad. In fact, although I never knew Pappy, because he died when I was two, I have heard a lot of stories about him. Some of the stories are funny, but most pointed to the fact that he was an angry bully and a tyrant, and he had a biting, sarcastic sense of humor that could be devastating. I know that, on some level, my dad hated his father. He didn’t like to talk about him. When he did, it was usually after he’d been drinking. And sometimes, he told me things that sounded pretty awful.

Anyway… I don’t know what made me fall down this rabbit hole. But reading that advice column today really reminded me of those days when I was younger, and eating was traumatic and stressful. It’s too bad that we couldn’t have peace in those days. And it’s too bad my parents weren’t more careful about making a baby they didn’t really want.

Bill just left to go back to Bavaria for the next few days. It was good that he came home. Arran is doing well on the chemo. He’s eating well, enjoying his walks and snuggles with us, and doesn’t have huge lymph nodes right now. I don’t know how long the chemo will keep him feeling better, but I’m grateful for the extra time. I was very worried about Arran a couple of days ago, and I think if we hadn’t started treatment, we might have had to say goodbye this weekend or soon thereafter. As it stands now, he’s mostly back to normal, save for the rancid farts, need to pee, and increased appetite caused by steroids.

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book reviews, mental health, narcissists, psychology

A review of Fullness: A Memoir, by Azure Moyna…

This morning, I did something I haven’t been able to do in a long time. I read an entire book in one sitting. Amazon.com tells me I downloaded Azure Moyna’s 2020 book, Fullness: A Memoir, in April of this year. But I only just got around to reading it. I started reading it a few days ago, but fell asleep before I got through the first chapter. That’s not because of the writing, but more because, lately, I tend to fall asleep when I try to read.

I woke up at about 3:30am this morning, partly because I needed to use the bathroom, and partly because I’ve been upset about a few things. I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. So I started reading Moyna’s story about her issues with compulsive overeating disorder. I soon realized it was one I could relate to on many levels. I kept reading and, six and a half hours later, I was finished with the book. I found it very compelling and well-written.

Who is Azure Moyna?

Azure Moyna grew up in the 1990s in the Bay Area of California. She has a younger brother named Jake, and until she was twelve years old, Azure’s parents were unhappily married. In descriptive, engaging prose, Azure describes the hell of being raised by her parents. Azure’s mother is described as manipulative and neglectful, the victim of domestic violence perpetrated by Azure’s father. Azure’s father is described as super intelligent, the recipient of dual doctorates in engineering. He was also the worst kind of bastard– an alcoholic, malignant narcissist who treated his ex wife and children with utter contempt. As a child, Azure and Jake were sent to “watch TV” while Azure’s father beat the shit out of her mother. Meanwhile, Azure’s father would say the most vulgar, demeaning, insulting things to his family members, especially Azure, who struggled with her weight from an early age.

Making matters worse was the fact that Azure’s mom and brother were able to eat whatever they wanted and stay thin naturally. But Azure took after her father, a man who had once been fat, but somehow lost the extra weight. Azure was never able to get thin enough, in spite of dieting and exercising. She had an addiction to food, and would eat to soothe herself after witnessing the horrific abuse her father perpetrated toward her brother and mother, or experiencing it herself. She was constantly shamed, belittled, and humiliated by her father, who would buttress his abuse with threats against her life. Once, when she was a child, police officers came to Azure’s school to ask her about her homelife, as Jake had told a mandated reporter that he was being abused. When the cops asked Azure about her experiences at home, she lied to them. They knew she was lying, but she wouldn’t crack and tell on her father. The risks were too great.

Because of her weight– and probably because she lived in California– Azure experienced a number of truly mortifying incidents due to being “fat”. As someone who has also struggled with my weight, I could relate to her pain, although mercifully, I was never treated nearly as badly as she was. What made things especially bad was that she would get horrifying comments from total strangers or people she was paying for services. She never mentions what her highest weight was, although she does mention a few sizes. Again, I’m sure that because she was living in California, where people seem to be especially concerned about their body images, it was probably much worse than it might have been somewhere else.

In spite of being fat, Azure managed to marry a nice man named Sean. Sean is cute, of Filipino heritage, and Azure says people couldn’t believe she was married to him, because he was good looking. I relate to that commentary, as a couple of my relatives told me that they were surprised by how cute Bill is. Pro tip– that is a really shitty thing to say to someone. Although he’s straightened out by the time Azure connects with him, Sean has a history of abusing drugs and was once in a car accident that almost took his life. He had been driving under the influence. Apparently, that brush with death prompted Sean to ditch drugs, although he does continue to drink alcohol.

The book’s format

Azure Moyna titles each chapter of Fullness with a food that has caused her significant angst in one way or another. The chapters are short and engaging, with a story involving the chapters food title. The stories are set at different times in Azure’s life, childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood, with some vignettes flashing back to earlier times. For example, in a chapter titled “Mr. Goodbar”, Azure relates the heartbreaking story of visiting her grandmother’s house and not being allowed to enjoy the treats freely offered to her brother. Grandma, who is petite, tells Azure that she doesn’t take after her side of the family, and she should stop complaining and enjoy a piece of grapefruit while Jake eats donuts.

The family then goes to Sizzler, where Azure’s cousins and uncle make fun of a morbidly obese woman they see carrying a full plate of food. They warn Azure that she will suffer the same fate if she doesn’t lose weight. After the humiliating dinner, which Azure wasn’t able to eat, they visit a dollar store. Azure impulsively steals a Mr. Goodbar, stuffing it into her pants and sneaking it out of the store. She eats the candy in the bathroom, hiding the wrapper in the trash. She thought she’d gotten away with it, but then her mother demands to see her clothes, where she discovers the telltale melted chocolate stains. Soon, Azure is marched back to the store to confess her crime and pay the cashier, who then lectures her about stealing in front of other customers.

Other chapters are similar, with stories that left me furious for Azure, and the many adults in her life who failed her when she was a child. She doesn’t shy away from using the language she probably heard, especially from her father, who was truly a vicious, vile, contemptible man who was good at charming people. Behind closed doors, he terrorized his daughter and abused her in so many ways. Food was the one substance that comforted her, as everyone around her treated her like she was defective and totally undesirable.

Recovery

One day, Azure learns about compulsive overeating disorder and sees herself in the symptoms. She seeks out a therapist and finds one online, a licensed counselor named Sylvie who specializes in eating disorders. Sylvie actually seems pretty competent to me, and I was surprised to read about how successful their work was, at least at first. Sylvie pushes Azure to stand up for herself and recommends antidepressants and Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meetings. Azure doesn’t agree with either of those treatment modalities.

I was a little surprised by Azure’s attitude regarding antidepressants. When I was in my 20s, I took antidepressants for several years, and once I found the right one, it was life changing for me. But according to Fullness, Azure tried one dose of Prozac and quit. I can speak from personal experience that Prozac isn’t a wonder drug for everyone. In my case, Wellbutrin was the right medicine. I’m surprised she wasn’t encouraged to try other antidepressants. I was also a little dismayed to read that she got a prescription from a family doctor instead of a psychiatrist. I think a psychiatrist would have been a lot more helpful in this instance.

As for OA, I can understand why the 12 step modality wasn’t necessarily helpful for Azure. I used to attend ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings, and they were only a little bit helpful for me. I also had the unfortunate experience of meeting an abusive creep in those meetings. I’ve written about that situation in this blog, so I won’t describe it again here. Suffice to say, that situation kind of turned me off of 12 step meetings.

The therapist also recommended an inpatient program, which Azure didn’t think she could do because of her job. I can understand that, as well, as the program that therapist suggested was three months in duration. However, because Azure wasn’t willing to take any of Sylvie’s recommendations, she basically got “fired” as a client. I’m sure that was very disappointing for Azure.

Overall

I found Fullness very compelling reading. Azure Moyna writes well, and her story is very relatable to a lot of Americans– especially the parts about what it’s like to be overweight in a culture that reveres thinness and encourages people to see being thin as the only measure of a person’s worth or beauty. Azure is clearly younger than I am, so she hasn’t reached that stage of life at which people stop judging her “hotness”. What seemed to really help Azure was becoming a mother and losing her father. She had spent her whole life trying to satisfy a man who would never be satisfied. It’s a shame that apparently no one told her to simply go no contact with him, because he had absolutely nothing positive to offer her. Like all narcissists, he used her and targeted her for abuse, gaining fuel by targeting his ugliness at her.

I think this book would have been stronger if Azure had written more about how she managed to overcome her problems. Most of the book is about the horrific abuse and humiliating situations she found herself in due to her dysfunctional family and her problems with food. I think a couple, or even a few, more chapters would have been useful in explaining how she got better. She is now working as a “coach” herself, but she doesn’t really offer any insight as to how she got to that place.

I just checked Amazon’s reviews. At this writing, there is a single one star review, supposedly written by her brother, who claims his real name is Ryan. He says she has maliciously maligned their family, and unfairly painted their father in a bad light. His writing is pretty poor, but if there’s any truth to what he wrote, there is obviously more to the story. I also raised my eyebrows when Azure describes herself as “HUGE” because she needs a size 16. That is not a small size, but it’s certainly not huge. But again, she lives in California, where maybe a lot of people do see size 16 as huge. I would invite Azure to go spend some time in Missouri or Mississippi, though… because the cultures there are very different.

I do think this is a very interesting book. It’s basically well-written, and some of the stories are jaw dropping. Quite a few of them pissed me off and reminded me of similar experiences I’ve had. I think a lot of readers will like this book. However, as I’m sitting here thinking about it, I think she should have written a few more chapters and included more about how she got better… and how that serves her today. It seems like a lopsided, incomplete book, even though I found it hard to put down.

On the positive side, I think it’s great that Azure Moyna has written about compulsive overeating disorder. It IS a real eating disorder that affects many people. It doesn’t get enough press. And I do think there will be a lot of people who will feel recognized by reading this book. But I also think this book could be better. On a scale of one to five stars, I think I would award four– because it was so hard to put down, and because it’s a memoir on an eating disorder that needs more coverage. I will warn that this book could be pretty triggering for some readers, especially those who can’t handle vile language and descriptions of abuse.

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book reviews, celebrities, LDS

But wait– there’s more! My review of Jennette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died…

Yesterday, I wrote my first post about Jennette McCurdy, a former Nickelodeon star who just wrote a book called I’m Glad My Mom Died. I bought that book on August 9th, and started reading it a few days ago. I just finished it a few minutes ago. Before August 9th, I didn’t know the first thing about Jennette McCurdy. Now, I feel like I know her. We have some things in common. Actually, if I’m honest, I think she has things in common with my husband and his younger daughter.

A couple of hours after I shared my first post about Jennette McCurdy on Facebook, an old friend commented that she looked forward to my review. She wrote that she had to read the book. Now that I’ve finished it, I agree with her. She should read it. I think she will relate to Jennette McCurdy’s story, too. I think a LOT of people will, in spite of the shocking title that some will feel is in poor taste. Some people think that anyone who gives birth is automatically some kind of angel. And some are just as quick to judge someone who has given birth. Our society tends to look at mothers as people who are always either way above reproach, or people who can be condemned to the depths of hell for making the simplest mistakes. A lot of us forget that moms are people, too. In fact, they are just people, first and foremost.

Jennette McCurdy grew up thinking that her mother was amazing in all ways. Debra McCurdy had a vision for her only daughter’s life. From the age of six, Jennette was expected to share in the dream, as her mom made her audition for commercials, take acting and dance classes, and be cute and charming for casting directors. Debra McCurdy had breast cancer; it was diagnosed with Jennette was two years old. Debra was not above using cancer to get sympathy and preferential treatment, either for herself, or her daughter. Jennette loved her mother, and she hated to disappoint the people she loved. She was a natural people pleaser, trained since early childhood to make other people happy, regardless of her own needs or desires. Later, when she became an adult, she became co-dependent, settling on bad relationships with toxic people instead of holding out for people who were better, and weren’t abusive to her.

So Jennette went along with her mother’s vision for her life. She smiled for casting directors, and put up with her mother’s intrusive and weird behaviors. She didn’t complain when her mother hoarded things, and forced her and her three brothers to sleep on mats. She wasn’t confrontational when her mother used the money she earned to pay her mortgage. And even though she didn’t like being an actress, she didn’t want to upset her sick mom. She she acted and became successful, portraying Sam Puckett on iCarly and Sam and Cat. It almost destroyed her. Life in show business is toxic. Add in a toxic mother, and you have a recipe for lifelong issues. People don’t realize it, but fame and money aren’t tickets to happiness. Some of the most miserable people are wealthy, famous people.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned a few of the more shocking things that happened when Jennette was growing up. Here’s a quick and dirty list.

  • At age six, Debra McCurdy forced her daughter to audition for agents. She had a knack for acting, but she hated it. Her mom made her act, anyway.
  • At age eleven, Jennette started growing breasts. Breasts weren’t good, because they made her look mature. Looking young was good for Jennette’s career, especially on Nickelodeon. So Debra taught her eleven year old daughter how to restrict calories. She noticed when Jennette gained weight and chastised her. She wouldn’t let her eat pineapple, because it was high in sugar.
  • As a young teenager, Jennette still sat in a booster seat in her mother’s car.
  • As a teenager, Jennette’s mother showered her, using her prior experience as a beautician as an excuse– to make sure her hair was pretty for the casting directors. Sometimes, one of her brothers would be forced to join her in the shower.
  • Jennette’s mother discouraged her from being a writer, because she said writers dress frumpy and get fat. She didn’t want Jennette’s “peach butt” to turn into a “watermelon butt”.
  • Jennette’s mother criticized Jennette’s father, Mark, for not working hard enough and being lazy. And she said it was hard for her to have to rely on a child to pay the bills.
  • Jennette’s mother sent her endless abusive text messages, emails, and voicemails calling her filthy names and accusing her of “giving her cancer”. Then, she signed off with “love”, and demanded money for a new refrigerator.
  • Jennette’s mother didn’t have an appreciation for her daughter’s likes and dislikes. She bought her inappropriate gifts and expected her to be delighted with them.
  • Jennette’s mother never told her who her “real” father was, or that the man she thought was her father, wasn’t actually her dad. She never told her that her biological dad had wanted to be in her life.
  • Jennette’s mother was a NARCISSIST.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I write a lot about narcissists. I strongly suspect my husband’s first wife is a narcissist. I’ve written many– some would say– inappropriate blog posts about my husband’s ex wife. I probably shouldn’t do that. It might put me at risk. But, I figure that there’s not much more she can do to us, since she deprived Bill of a relationship with his daughters for many years, and she tried hard to ruin his relationships with his family of origin. If I hadn’t immediately recognized her as the abuser she is, she probably would have tried to ruin our marriage. This is another thing that Jennette has in common with Bill and his daughters. You see, Jennette’s dad– Mark– was not actually her father. Debra McCurdy had an affair with a trombonist and he was the biological father of three of her four children. She never told her daughter. And, just as Ex did her best to sever the relationships her first two husbands had with Ex’s three eldest children, Debra McCurdy did the same to Jennette’s bio dad.

Jennette McCurdy doesn’t mention the word “narcissist” until the very end of the book. I was glad to see she recognizes that extreme behavior for what it is. But, as I read the book, even recognizing that she was a celebrity, I could relate so much. Not because I was raised by narcissists, but because I’ve been the second wife of a man whose ex wife is almost assuredly one. The behavior is VERY familiar. It’s also not hard to see where Debra McCurdy’s behavior came from, as Jennette writes about her equally narcissistic grandmother, whose levels of entitlement are off the charts.

A different interview than the one I shared yesterday about Jennette McCurdy and her explosive new book.

It may seem I’ve given a lot away in this post. Actually, the meat of the story really comes after Debra dies, in 2013. As I sit here, reflecting on that year, I realize that 2013 was some time ago. It doesn’t seem like it was nine years ago. I guess that’s what happens when you turn 50. Nine years doesn’t seem like it was so long ago. Jennette is now only 30. She lost her mom when she was just launching into true adulthood. Debra’s death came after many false alarms– “dress rehearsals”– as Jennette puts it. When her mother died, she was devastated. She still believed the fake version of her life story. It wasn’t until later that she got the truth, and that’s when Jennette’s life was endangered. She turned to bulimia, alcoholism, binge eating, and anorexia. She had lots of bad sex with inappropriate partners, and engaged in codependent behaviors. She abandoned Mormonism, for the most part. I wouldn’t necessarily think that was such a bad thing, except it was the one place where she got comfort as a child and had a few somewhat healthy role models (and knowing what I know about Mormonism, that is, in itself, a sad statement).

I think the part where I was the most stunned and gleaned the most insight was when Jennette’s very first therapist– an earth mother therapist/life coach named Laura– delivered a truth bomb that Jennette simply could not handle at the time. Laura was the first person to point out to Jennette that the idealized version of her mother– a fantasy version that did not exist– was fake. And that all of the things Jennette believed her mother did to “help” her, were in fact, toxic, abusive, and exploitive. Laura was right, of course, but even though she delivered the truth very gently, Jennette still couldn’t take it. It wasn’t until later that she was ready for therapy, this time with a male eating disorder specialist named Jeff. I think I would have liked Jeff more than Laura. Women who act like nurturing “earth mothers” usually annoy me. I seem to relate better to men… as long as they don’t try to control me.

I read a large portion of this book aloud to Bill. It spawned a very interesting and insightful conversation. I think his daughter should read I’m Glad My Mom Died, but I know she’s very busy with Mormonism and her young family. I also fear that reading this book could be triggering for her, because I suspect she will identify with a lot of it. I, for one, found this book very enlightening. I don’t share all of Jennette’s issues, but I relate to much of what she writes about eating disorders and alcoholism. And again… I’ve been married to a man whose Ex is a lot like Debra McCurdy on MANY levels. Ex wasn’t my spouse or my mom, but she’s affected my life, just the same. And it’s all so familiar. As I read this story to Bill, he agreed that it was all so very familiar.

One thing I liked about this book is that Jennette’s chapters are short, well-edited, and easy to digest. I think the short chapters are good, because she drops a lot of “bombshells” that could be shocking for many readers. Her writing is sometimes brutally honest. She uses profanity, and there are some very frank descriptions of sexual encounters, bulimia episodes, and alcoholic escapades. I would caution anyone who has suffered from eating disorders to be cautious about reading this book, because some of Jennette’s stories might be triggering.

My heart kind of broke for Jennette, as she wrote about giving her very first blow job as a consolation to a much older boyfriend, because she wasn’t ready for sex. It broke again as she wrote about her actual first experience with intercourse, with someone who didn’t deserve the honor. And then the guy with whom she had much chemistry turned out to be not so good, either. All I could do was think about how useful it would have been for Jennette to have had a good, stable, loving role model in her mother… or, at least someone who saw her as more than a wallet and status symbol. I’m sure that when the truth hit Jennette, she realized that she wasted a lot of time, money, and affection on someone else who didn’t deserve it… and how heartbreaking it is that the person who probably deserved her love the least, was the person who was responsible for her very existence.

Most of the Amazon reviewers have given I’m Glad My Mom Died good ratings. I’m glad to see that. I think we live in a time now when more people are seeing mothers as fallible, and we’re learning that they can be held accountable. However, I have a feeling there will people who will dislike this book only for the title. They will see it as disrespectful, mean, and shocking. It’s kind of “in your face”, not unlike the Reddit “Am I the Asshole” columns. I would urge anyone reading this book to forget that Debra McCurdy was Jennette’s mom and “deserves” respect and love simply for being her mom. Debra McCurdy was an abusive liar, grifter, and leech. And while she no doubt had mental health issues to go with her cancer, that’s no excuse for stealing her daughter’s childhood and encouraging her to be unhealthy and unhappy. Mothers, ideally, should always put their children ahead of themselves– at least as long as their children are actually children. Debra failed in her mission, and it’s a blessing that her daughter has recognized that she’s worthy of better while she’s still young and can recover her health.

I give I’m Glad My Mom Died a full five stars and a hearty recommendation. But please be advised… this story isn’t for the faint of heart. It can be triggering. It can be offensive. You will probably find yourself gasping in shock, surprise, and dismay a few times. And you will probably laugh a few times, too.

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