blog news, musings, nostalgia, YouTube

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I don’t have much to write…

I just wrote a post for the travel blog that I was going to put on this blog… but then I realized that the content fits better with that blog than this one. The travel blog needs a little love, because most weeks I only update it a couple of times, rather than every day, like I do this blog. So I moved the original post that I was working on for this blog to that blog, and now I’m sitting here wondering what interesting things I might write today.

I see this New Year’s Eve writer’s block thing is kind of a chronic problem, as last year I did a “cross post”. That means I put the same content on both blogs, which I do on occasion. Not everyone who reads this blog reads that one, and vice versa. I’m hoping that in 2023, I can get the travel blog up a bit in hits, so I don’t reach cash out status for my ad revenue after I’m dead. As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, I don’t make big bucks writing these things. 😉

I could probably do a cross post this year, too, and this year’s post is more interesting than last year’s was. Or, at least I think it is. But I’ve got nothing better to do than write this stuff today… Otherwise, maybe I’d play Sims 4, which I don’t do very often anymore, even though I keep buying all the content. Or I’d read more of Jamie Lynn Spears’ book and cringe. She’s definitely no Paulina Porizkova, or even Matthew Perry, in the memoir writing department.

I see that last year, like this year, I’ve been doing chores today. I don’t know what it is about New Year’s Eve that makes me want to do household chores. Last year, I finally managed to get rid of the horrible chalky limescale in our bathrooms. Citric acid works wonders, not just for descaling the taps and the backs of the toilets, but it’s also great for cleaning the coffee maker. I notice that last year, I also hauled my ass up on the stepladder and knocked the scales off the shower head. I think I’ll do that today, too, as it needs to be done. Getting rid of the chalky limescale makes for a nicer showering experience, as there’s nothing to block the jets or cause the water to spray awkwardly.

I guess I do this cleaning because it feels like I should do it for a fresh start. Tomorrow is the beginning of a brand new year. It will bring with it the usual challenges, victories, and disappointments. I usually start the new year with some optimism, even though January and February are, weather wise, the most depressing times of the year, in my opinion. Up here in Hessen, it stays pretty wet and cloudy, and sometimes it gets cold. I would mind it less if we got more snow here, although even snow can get tiresome after it hangs around for weeks and gets all saturated with dog pee and frozen poop. I try to keep the poop cleaned up, but it gets buried, and then it gets all mashed up with the soil.

One thing I do look forward to this year is the prospect of more travel. Hopefully, we’ll go to more interesting places. Fingers are crossed, anyway. Maybe I’ll even take a trip “home” to the United States and see my mom, who hasn’t seen me since 2015. There are some places I haven’t yet been to that I would like to visit… and of course, I would love to go back to Armenia, just so I can show Bill where I used to live, half a lifetime ago.

I see from last year’s post that I hoped for a better year in 2022. Personally, I think I got that, but that’s just me. We did find out that our beloved Arran has lymphoma, but this year, for the FIRST time ever, we were able to do something about it. I know we will lose Arran eventually, but man, it’s such a good feeling to be able to do something, for once, when one of our boys gets cancer. It’s been a learning experience for us, and those of my friends who have been following our experiences.

I have no doubt whatsoever that if we hadn’t done chemo, Arran would be long gone by now. But right now, he’s downstairs snuggling with his favorite person, Mr. Bill. I know that some critics would say that chemo only delays the inevitable, and that the cancer will probably come back with a vengeance… but the alternative would have been that we would have lost him weeks ago. What’s the difference between treating cancer and treating a disease like diabetes? If it can be treated, isn’t too expensive, and isn’t too traumatic, why not? But, I also know that in the United States, this would have been a harder decision to make, because healthcare for people and pets is so goddamned expensive! And it really shouldn’t be. Affordable healthcare should be a right, at least for human beings. Living in Germany has taught me that Americans have gotten this policy so wrong. I hope the onerous high cost of healthcare for Americans can be rectified someday before I’m dead.

I also see that last year, I mentioned my guitar skills. Well, this year, they are better than they were a year ago. I still don’t play super well, but I did manage to post a few songs on YouTube with me on guitar. I’m still a much better singer than guitar player, but in 2019, I couldn’t play guitar at all. So that’s a good thing… I try to practice most days every week, although I do usually take off the weekends, unless I get inspired.

This year, I finally got brave and sang on camera on my YouTube videos, which I never did before. I get very camera shy, and I don’t like putting on makeup or getting dressed. I also don’t want to read rude comments from haters. I have to admit, though, people have been very kind. I get more engagement when I sing on camera, even though I’m not as beautiful as some of the places we’ve visited. And I’ve tried some songs I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, too. I’m hoping for more of that in the new year. Even if no one pays attention to my channel, I do enjoy the process of making the videos. Or, at least making the musical part. I often find myself wishing I’d started when I was much younger than I was. Ah well. Maybe someday, I’ll be reincarnated and get the chance for a do over… except maybe the new me won’t have a knack for music. Maybe I’ll be a soccer player, instead. 😉

My latest… it’s a good song for the New Year. Cheers!

I finally got multifocal contact lenses, too… which I had been needing for ages. I still don’t have bifocal glasses, but I think those are coming, if I don’t have surgery. Next year might be the year I’ll finally visit a doctor… German or otherwise. I haven’t seen one for medical reasons since 2010. That could change in 2023. We’ll see. I am getting old, after all. My body doesn’t seem to recover as quickly as it used to. German healthcare isn’t expensive, so I don’t even have that as an excuse. It’s just that– well– thanks to a terrible Air Force doctor from my younger days, I am a bit phobic of doctors. The older I get, the less I think it matters… except I know Bill would miss me if I weren’t around to make him laugh.

Maybe in 2023, I’ll try something else on YouTube. Maybe I’ll v-log. But again, I hate being on camera, and I like to write more than I like to speak. I also like to watch other v-loggers. If I become one myself, I’ll have less time to watch people like Beau of the Fifth Column, Farron Balanced, or even Trevor Coult, with whom I often disagree politically, but I find hilarious, thanks to his thick Northern Irish accent. I also think I’d go a bit nuts trying to make videos where I speak, because I would invariably mess up, which would mean do-overs, which take a lot of time. I’m kind of a perfectionist, too, so that would be a problem. I suspect my channel will mostly stick to music. At least I don’t attract as many rude comments when I make music. 😉 Perhaps this year, I’ll finally write an original song and sing it on YouTube. That would be something different. A year from now, maybe I’ll be writing about that. Who knows?

Well, it’s time to wrap this up… It’s about 1:45 PM and time for lunch… the very last one of 2022. So, I will now close, and wish you all a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year. Let’s cut this cake and take this year home… so I can take down the fucking Christmas decorations. 😉

See you tomorrow!

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dogs, music, YouTube

Shirley Horn and Paulina Porizkova are both inspiring me today…

Today’s featured photo is of the new Toilight I got for Bill as a stocking stuffer. It lights the toilet at night, which we both find very handy… it also makes the water look really cool as it gets flushed. We gotta have our fun wherever we can find it.

Yesterday’s post was surprisingly popular, for my blog, anyway. I think sometimes people love a good rant, even if it’s petty and kind of stupid. I actually had fun writing that post. It gave me a lot to think about. I ended up doing a few edits after the initial posting, because I spotted some things that needed clarification, along with the usual typos. But anyway… I do love it when someone gives me a topic for my blog by way of inspiration.

This morning, I’m somewhat less inspired. Yes, I could write about how Donald Trump’s legal woes are getting worse by the day, and he’s being exposed as the crook that he is. But I don’t feel like writing about that today. The end of the year is looming, and that means it’ll soon be 2023. I realize I’m getting older and certain things just don’t matter the way they used to.

I just started reading Paulina Porizkova’s latest book. So far, it’s kind of a page turner. I liked her when she was on America’s Next Top Model and was annoyed when Tyra Banks fired her from the show. That was about when it became unwatchable for me. I think I hung in there for a couple more “cycles”, but soon gave up on it. I though Paulina was awesome on that show. In fact, I think she should have her own show. She’s very intelligent, and I like how plain spoken she is… but not in an obnoxious, narcissistic way, like Tyra is. Tyra Banks, I’m afraid, went from being a relatively pleasant host to an over-the-top nightmare.

I woke up at about 3:00 AM, thanks to Arran’s need for a potty break and demands for food. Bill took care of that, while I took a bathroom break myself. By the time I got back in the bed, I was wide awake. My stomach was annoying me, too. So, since I wasn’t going back to sleep for at least another hour or so, I opened Paulina’s book and started reading. I predict (but can’t promise) I’ll finish it quickly, and will be ready to review it by the end of the week.

I also got an alert from my favorite backing tracks Web site that Shirley Horn’s luminous version of “Here’s to Life” was available for download. I love that song, and to date, have recorded it three times. I don’t expect people to know it, but I fell in love with it in 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina. The Jordan Family did a very poignant version of the song for a fundraiser. At the time of their performance, they were still missing their father from the storm. I would actually love to record their version of the song– with the same key and arrangement. Shirley Horn’s comes closer to that than either Barbra Streisand’s and Bob Stewart’s versions do. So that’s why I decided to do the song one more time, but in a different manner. I prefer the jazzier style to the more Broadway interpretations I did before.

I couldn’t think of a pressing topic for this morning, So I spent about two hours recording Shirley Horn’s “Here’s to Life” in two different keys. I tried her original key, then went a step up. I think the higher key is better for me, so that’s the one I put on YouTube. I think both turned out pretty well, although it’s kind of a challenge to get the video right. I’m struggling with coughing, a runny nose, and an itch, too… not from a viral illness, but probably more from allergies or my lack of attention to dusting.

I’m glad I don’t look like I’m climaxing in this still.

When I last sang “Here’s to Life”, I wrote a post about it on this blog. I wrote a bit about who composed the song, as well as some personal philosophies and other assorted stuff. It’s not a super exciting post, because I also wrote about a Facebook argument I had some time back with a cop friend of mine, and Amy Duggar King, who had just given birth at the time. And I wrote about sweet Zane, who had, at that writing, been gone from our lives for a matter of weeks. I was missing him a lot then. I still miss him, especially when I see old pictures and videos that remind me of what a sweet soul he was. I truly do hope the Rainbow Bridge is a real thing, and I can see him again someday after I’ve departed the mortal coil myself. I noticed that I wrote that post on October 10, 2019, which also happened to be the 16th anniversary of the loss of our first rescue beagle mix, CuCullain, who had bright blue eyes. He was a special soul, too. Sometimes, he seems to visit us through Noyzi.

Our very first beagle rescue, CuCullain (C.C.)… He was a really cool dog.

I don’t even have those things to write about today. My dogs are impatiently waiting for me to finish up and take them for a walk. They’ve learned that when I quit doing music, it’s walk time. Usually, I play guitar before we walk, but today it was singing… which I tend to do much better. I did learn to play the rhythm version of “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart yesterday. It was surprisingly easy, with open chords that are fairly easy to tease out, even with fingers as unpracticed as mine are.

I suppose I could write about the cop videos I watched yesterday, which were surprisingly outrageous. I never understand people who get loud and belligerent with cops and expect them to cut them a break. I’ve also noticed that American cops aren’t as professional as German cops appear to be. Here, you can get a huge fine if you cuss at the cops. In the United States, people say whatever… even threaten cops and their families. The lady in yesterday’s video told one cop she hoped his wife got raped. Horrible! And then she moaned and cried because she was in handcuffs and about to be charged with a felony.

Um… you shouldn’t involve yourself in things that are none of your business…

The other video involved a very bellicose drunk driver who cussed non-stop. He actually made ME blush… and I cuss like a sailor! I feel sorry for the people in this man’s life. He’s a mess. He’s got a very foul mouth, too… and if I’m saying that, it means something.

“What are you talking about, dude?” Enjoy your Christmas in the jug, guy.

But really, I think I just want to walk the dogs before they have a fit… and then maybe go back to reading my latest book. I wish I felt more inspired to write something compelling, but I think recording a song kind of took it out of me. Maybe I’ll be back later… but I probably won’t. So have a happy hump day.

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book reviews, religion

A review of Locked in: My Imprisoned Years in a Destructive Cult, by John Huddle…

Amazon.com tells me that I bought John Huddle’s book, Locked in: My Imprisoned Years in a Destructive Cult, on June 17, 2021. I don’t remember what prompted me to buy this book. I think it might have been a successful “suggestive selling” effort, as in I was already buying another book about cults and this one was also suggested. I’m assuming this because, before I read this book, I had never heard of the cult that is highlighted in Mr. Huddle’s story. Huddle and his ex wife and children were members of the Word of Faith Fellowship, otherwise known as WOFF. This “church” is based in Spindale, North Carolina, and is led by Jane Whaley, and her husband, Sam.

WOFF is a Protestant, non-denominational church. It began in 1979, when the Whaleys converted a former steakhouse into a place of worship. Ms. Whaley was a math teacher, while her husband sold used cars. Although neither had formal training in divinity, Jane Whaley was known as a powerful and charismatic speaker and a compelling leader. Since 1979, she’s seen her cult grow from its humble beginnings consisting of a few people to a couple thousand followers in countries around the world– Brazil, Scotland, and Sweden among them. According to Huddle, Jane Whaley claimed to be a conduit to God, and she made up a long list of “do’s and don’ts” for members. Those who violated the rules were punished with Jane’s wrath. Huddle writes of loud praying, loud screaming, and physical, emotional, and mental abuse delivered by church leaders.

A news story about WOFF followers who left the church due to abuse.

In functional, stoic prose, Huddle explains how he and his ex wife, Martha, met, married, and fell under Jane Whaley’s spell. While I wouldn’t describe Huddle’s writing as particularly dynamic or exciting, I was definitely interested in his story. Of course I find reading about restrictive cults interesting, but I was also compelled to read because, like me, he is a Virginia native who eventually lived in the Carolinas. I recognized a lot of the places he mentions in his book, since I went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina, and later lived in North Carolina with my husband. My husband is an ex Mormon, and I have a cousin who was a Jehovah’s Witness for years, so I have a personal connection to “culty” religious beliefs. And I really had no idea that WOFF existed before I read Locked In.

In many ways, WOFF’s beliefs and rules reminded me of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, with some twists. Whaley didn’t want her followers to celebrate holidays or birthdays. She didn’t even want them to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, although they were welcome to eat it any other time of the year. She didn’t want them to celebrate Halloween, but it was okay to buy the discounted candy on November 1. When Huddle needed heart surgery, he told his doctor that he didn’t want the anesthesia, Versed, nor was the surgeon allowed to play music during the procedure. But it was okay to give him a blood transfusion, which the JWs would have vetoed. He made these stipulations because of Jane Whaley’s rules.

Huddle also had to get approval for any jobs he took. Huddle’s work was mostly in banking, specifically with credit unions. But Jane Whaley and other leaders in the church wanted him to work with church affiliated businesses, even if they didn’t pay enough to meet his financial needs or weren’t the kind of work he wanted to do. When Huddle was caught interviewing for, and moonlighting at, a non-approved job, he got in “trouble” with Jane, and was fired from his church approved job. But of course, his boss had expected Huddle to get right with God and come groveling back to work. He hadn’t expected that Huddle would finally realize that he was in a cult.

Another story about the WOFF.

Making the realization that WOFF is a cult cost Huddle his family, as they weren’t at the same level of awareness that Huddle was. That’s one of the saddest repercussions I’ve seen of people getting involved in culty belief systems. Many times, people fall into cults because they’re seeking solidarity and connection with others. But then, when the rules are too weird and restrictive, and one or two people can’t bear it anymore, they end up being ostracized by their loved ones. I saw it happen to my own husband, although one of his daughters eventually came around and stopped shunning him. I think the LDS church is also trying to be less “weird”, as they want to be seen as mainstream, even if a lot of what they do and some of their beliefs and practices are decidedly “culty”. Watch the news videos, though, and you actually hear Whaley scream, and hear in their voices what happened. They were literally screamed at and abused by Jane Whaley, whom they were supposed to call “Grandmother”.

And another story about the WOFF’s abuses toward members.
A continuation.

I got quite a jolt from the long list of rules Huddle described in the WOFF church. The main rule was this:

Members were required to live life as if Jane Whaley was the ONLY true source of the knowledge of God or God’s will.

Huddle, John. Locked in: My Imprisoned Years in a Destructive Cult (p. 129). Survivor Publishing, LLC. Kindle Edition.

And Jane had a very long and specific list of the way she expected her followers to behave. Here’s a list of 144 “don’ts” from Mr. Huddle’s book. As you can see, some of the rules aren’t that unreasonable, but some are totally intrusive and ridiculous:

I first started posting about the “WOFF Don’t” list in February of 2010. Some rules on this list are now obsolete. WOFF Don’t list Don’ts – (this is a partial “living” list, at times, it takes on a life of its own, continuing to grow…)

Don’t drink alcohol (includes beer, wine or liquor)

Don’t cook with alcohol.

Don’t eat at places that serve alcohol.

Don’t drink root beer.

Don’t drink Cheerwine®.

Don’t drink diet Cheerwine®.

Don’t drink ginger ale.

Don’t smoke cigarettes.

Don’t dip snuff.

Don’t use chewing tobacco.

Don’t associate willingly with those that do use tobacco.

Don’t watch movies (unless Jane gives approval).

Don’t watch videos in your cars.

Don’t enter a movie theater (unless Jane gives approval).

Don’t read newspapers not even the headlines.

Don’t listen to the radio.

Don’t read or handle magazines.

Don’t watch television (except when allowed at church).

Don’t read books that are not approved by leadership.

Don’t read your Bible too much (Amplified version is acceptable).

Don’t take notes during the services. Only record scripture references.

Don’t forget to go to bathroom before the service.

Don’t get up to go to bathroom during a service.

Don’t bring knives of ANY type on church property.

Don’t be late for a service or function.

Don’t park alongside the left side of the sanctuary unless you are approved to do so.

Don’t park in the spaces closest to the back steps. Those are reserved for parents with infants.

Don’t park in the first spot along the front sidewalk. That is reserved for those on watch.

Don’t park along the street. Use the field only when not raining.

Don’t park on the drive to the school (unless approved for that service).

Don’t park in the first handicap space unless approved.

Don’t park under the awning and leave your car running.

Don’t speed when driving around the church.

Don’t go opposite to the accepted traffic flow of counterclockwise. It causes confusion.

Don’t be on your cell phone when approaching the school.

Don’t drive your car with expired tags. You will be reminded.

Men: Don’t wear a color of dress shirt except white or light blue.

Women: Don’t get your heart set on a dress until you check with others to see if anyone else has that dress. You may need to return yours.

Don’t “check out” during the singing.

Don’t look around at others when you are supposed to be singing.

Don’t close your eyes when singing. You could give over to a “religious devil.”

Don’t stare at visitors.

Don’t bring your cell phone into a service. Exceptions are rare and you will be told when you can bring your phone into the service.

Don’t take pictures during a regular service.

Don’t make your own recording of a service.

Don’t bring visitors unless you tell someone in the office so they can tell Jane.

Don’t take pictures of Jane or other members unless you are given permission.

Don’t be loose with your camera at any time.

Don’t put large amounts of cash in the offering unless it is in an envelope.

Don’t complain when the offering plates are passed more than once.

Don’t allow your toddlers to eat in the sanctuary.

Don’t bring snacks or dark drinks or chocolate.

Don’t chew gum in the sanctuary.

Don’t fall asleep during the services. If you get tired, take your Bible and stand up in the back of the sanctuary.

Don’t wear muddy shoes or boots into the sanctuary, leave them at the door-outside.

Don’t leave your tissues after services. Place them in the trash.

Don’t leave coats, Bibles or personal belongings in the sanctuary. It gets locked after each service.

Don’t touch the thermostats in the church unless you are approved.

Don’t wear jeans (exception may be for construction work…maybe).

Don’t wear shorts.

Don’t wear sleeveless dresses or tops.

Don’t wear dresses above the knees.

Don’t wear a bathing suit without having it covered with long shorts (below the knees) and a dark t-shirt.

Don’t wear cargo pants.

Don’t wear or own anything with Nike® on it. Nothing.

Don’t wear black tennis shoes.

Don’t wear high-cut, boot-like tennis shoes.

Men: don’t wear solid white tennis shoes.

Don’t wear a baseball cap sideways or backwards.

Don’t wear t-shirts with slogans or pictures.

Don’t wear “muscle t-shirts.” Men:

Don’t leave the house without a white t-shirt on under your top shirt.

Don’t go swimming with boys and girls together.

Don’t leave the pool toys out when you are done using the pool.

Don’t go outside without sunscreen (daily).

Men: Don’t allow facial hair to grow. No beards, of any type. No “pork chop” sideburns.

Men: Don’t let your hair get long or unkempt.

Don’t interview for a job unless it is “under authority.”

Don’t accept a job unless you check it out with authority.

Don’t make plans for college unless you have Jane check it out.

Don’t sign-up for classes unless Jane Whaley or leadership checks out your schedule.

Don’t buy a house unless Jane Whaley can check it out. Don’t even make an offer on a house unless Jane can “check out” and “get a feel” for the neighborhood.

Don’t decorate your house unless Jane or her helper can help you.

Don’t buy a car without checking with Sam first.

Don’t sell a car or truck without checking with Sam first.

Don’t get major repairs done without checking with Sam.

Don’t buy insurance without checking with the approved church source person for insurance.

Don’t plan a vacation or time away with your family unless you check it out with Jane.

Don’t assume you can go to the funeral or a wedding of a family member without checking it out and/or someone from the church is going with you.

Don’t celebrate Christmas.

Don’t give gifts to others unless you are “under authority.”

Don’t celebrate Easter.

Don’t celebrate other holidays.

Don’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Don’t celebrate your birthday or others in your family or group of friends or co-workers.

Don’t celebrate wedding anniversaries.

Don’t go hunting. Don’t go fishing (well unless it is on an approved “ministry” trip).

Don’t hunt or fish just for sport.

Don’t have bumper stickers on your car (Political season is an exception).

Don’t have “dingle dangles” hanging from your rearview mirror.

Don’t have a slogan license plate on the front of your car.

Don’t buy or drive a “race car” looking car.

Don’t play games on your computer. Erase/delete the games.

Don’t play games on your cell phone. Erase/delete them.

Don’t own or use a “game boy” or other hand held electronic game device.

Don’t play with regular playing cards.

Don’t play hide and go seek.

Don’t play Monopoly®.

Don’t play football.

Don’t ride in the back of a pick-up truck.

Don’t play ping pong.

Don’t play pool.

Don’t play or imitate an “air guitar.”

Don’t play music without singing the words.

Don’t whistle.

Don’t let WOFF children play with children outside of WOFF.

Don’t let children make animal sounds (maybe).

Don’t let children play toy musical instruments (maybe).

Don’t forget to read your Bible before you go to bed.

Don’t let children play with camping toys.

Don’t let children play with “play tools.”

Don’t let children have Bibles with stories and pictures of Jesus (maybe…).

Don’t be late for anything. Be early.

Don’t iron double creases in your pants.

Men: Don’t use urinals that are not enclosed.

Don’t store personal garments unless they are folded neatly in the drawer.

Don’t go to tanning beds.

Don’t ride motorcycles.

Don’t ride ATV’s or dirt bikes.

Men: African American- Don’t shave your head bald.

Don’t start a relationship without checking it out with Jane Whaley.

Don’t decide who you will marry without checking it out with Jane.

Don’t talk to the other person who you are in relationship with unless someone is listening and “guarding the conversation.”

Don’t talk loose and joke around.

Don’t be foolish.

Don’t complain about the list of “don’ts.”

Don’t place the toilet paper on the roll unless it rolls over the top.

Don’t speak to those who have left WOFF unless you ask Jane.

Don’t ask anyone but Jane about those who lately have not been seen in services.

Don’t go in the sanctuary with “sin in your heart,” deal with it before service.

Don’t expect someone else to clean-up your mess.

Don’t back-talk or give excuses for your sin.

Don’t “attack” those in authority.

Don’t question Jane’s authority to run WOFF.

Huddle, John. Locked in: My Imprisoned Years in a Destructive Cult (pp. 118-124). Survivor Publishing, LLC. Kindle Edition.

I appreciated reading Locked In, because I honestly had never heard of this cult before, and I enjoyed reading about Huddle’s experiences in places that were familiar to me. But, if I’m honest, I think this book would have been better if it had been written by someone with more of a flair for writing. Huddle’s writing isn’t terrible, but it’s not very exciting to read. And there was one particular phrase he used twice that made me cringe. At the beginning– prelude– to the book, he writes:

The first awareness of a strange breeze blowing occurred when I saw my wife standing outside the office door in the fellowship hall. She was as nervous as a bridled filly waiting to jump and run. Her nervousness should have sounded a loud alarm, but I missed it.

Huddle, John. Locked in: My Imprisoned Years in a Destructive Cult . Survivor Publishing, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Then, at the end of the book, he includes the same passage:

The first awareness of a strange breeze blowing occurred when I saw my wife standing outside the office door in the fellowship hall. She was as nervous as a bridled filly waiting to jump and run. Her nervousness should have sounded a loud alarm, but I missed it.

Huddle, John. Locked in: My Imprisoned Years in a Destructive Cult (p. 165). Survivor Publishing, LLC. Kindle Edition.

I get the sense that he was trying to be very descriptive about his wife’s strange and unordinary behavior. The trouble is, he doesn’t use these kinds of phrases throughout the book, so it sort of sticks out like a sore thumb and becomes a little contrived. Most of the book is written in a more mundane style, without any fancy similes. I’m not trying to say I would have wanted more descriptions like the one above, which struck me as a little bit over the top. I’m saying that a more relaxed, conversational style might have made the simile work better, and seem less out of place. But I don’t think the book is poorly written. I just think the language is a little bit stiff, which may make the book less interesting and harder to read for some readers.

Personally, I’m glad I took the time to read Locked In. I learned something new from this book, although I highly doubt I ever would have been tempted to join the faith. I’m glad to know about it, just the same, and I think some people will be very interested in Mr. Huddle’s story. I give it three and a half stars out of five, in spite of my misgivings about the writing style. I think the topic is original and fascinating, and the story offers valuable information and a warning to others, which makes it well worth reading. But I also think it’s worth watching the news videos about this church, which really drive home how very abusive and dangerous this cult is.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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blog news, book reviews, celebrities, LDS, mental health

Then again, maybe I won’t… at least not today.

At the end of yesterday’s post, I shared two videos by Mr. Atheist. On those videos, Jimmy Snow, aka Mr. Atheist, reacted to videos put out by anti-abortion activist, Kristan Hawkins. I watched the videos and cringed pretty hard. I thought maybe I would offer my own thoughts on them today, but I think that maybe I’ll postpone that plan. I had written I would comment on them if people were interested. It seems that no one was… or, at least no one is at this point in time. And frankly, I just don’t feel like writing about Kristan Hawkins today. I don’t think I can stomach listening to her talk about why abortions should be outlawed in all cases. Besides, Jimmy already does a pretty good job of explaining why Kristan’s opinions are wrong.

Nope. Today, I think I’d rather write about the book I’m reading right now. I’m finding it much more compelling than I did my previous book, The Case for Heaven, which really didn’t interest me much at all. I was glad to finish Lee Strobel’s book about what comes after death. I moved on to my favorite type of book– a celebrity memoir. I’m currently reading Jennette McCurdy’s new book, I’m Glad My Mom Died. The title alone is very compelling, isn’t it? You just KNOW there’s gonna be a trainwreck.

Meet Jennette McCurdy… she is fascinating.

I’m not quite ready to review this book yet, as I’m only about halfway through it. What I will say for now is that Jennette McCurdy’s story reminds me a little of Melissa Francis’s book, Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir. Melissa Francis is, of course, much older than Jennette McCurdy is, but the two have a lot in common. They both suffered stage mothers from hell. Both were actresses, not necessarily because they wanted to be, but because their mothers wanted them to be. Both suffered extreme abuse on all levels. I think Melissa’s mom was more sadistic, while Jennette’s mom was more manipulative and emotionally abusive. Also, to my knowledge, Melissa’s mom is still living, while Jennette’s mom succumbed to breast cancer in 2013.

Before I bought her book, I didn’t even know who Jennette McCurdy is. I’m well beyond the years of watching new Nickelodeon shows– not that the show she was famous for is all that new anymore. Jennette was on iCarly, but she also did guest roles on other shows, commercials, and other stuff. McCurdy’s story is also interesting to me because, besides being raised LDS, she also had problems with eating disorders (which her mother enthusiastically encouraged), anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder. The chapters are very short, so even though I’m only halfway through the book, I’ve already gotten to chapter 44 or so. And each chapter is more shocking than the last, as McCurdy shares the sheer nuttiness of her mother, the craziness of being a child actress, her mental health issues, and the religion aspect that complicates everything. The crazy thing is, she NEVER even wanted to be an actress. She just happens to have a talent for acting, and her narcissistic mother exploited it to the hilt.

I have never been LDS myself, but Bill was LDS for awhile. His daughter is still a very active church member, and the LDS church– which was Ex’s idea– has had an impact on my life. I know a lot about the church, its practices, and what its members believe. However, I have never been a member, nor would I ever be one. McCurdy seems to have gotten a lot of comfort from church when she was growing up. I relate to that, because I know Bill’s daughter has also gotten comfort from the church when things were especially crazy as she was growing up. In some ways, I also see a lot of similarities between the way Ex behaves, and the way Jennette’s mother did. She is extremely manipulative, possessive, controlling, and just plain weird. But I’ll get more into that when I review the book, which at the rate I’m going, should be within the next few days. I’m finding the book a real page turner, but in kind of a trainwreck sort of way. I’m simultaneously fascinated by the story and horrified by what this poor young woman had to cope with when she was a child.

I know some people will take issue with the title… It sounds horrible. However, I can totally understand why she used that title. Her mother sounds like she was true nightmare to have to deal with. For just an example– imagine your mother sending you dozens of emails, text messages, and voice messages after she’s seen pictures of you on TMZ, taken by a paparazzo. You are an adult, in Hawaii with your boyfriend, but you feel you have to lie to your mother about where you are. You come up with a ruse to trick her, only to have it foiled by a photographer, hungry for a sale. Your mom sends you all manner of abuse, accusing you of giving her cancer, bringing her shame, and calling you things like “filthy whore” and “all used up”. Then, as she signs off with “love”, she adds a P.S.– “Please send money for a fridge. Ours broke, and the yogurt is going sour.”

Imagine your mother explaining how to engage in eating disordered behaviors when you’re still a child, in the midst of becoming a woman. Imagine being fourteen years old and still sitting in a booster seat in the car. Imagine your mother insisting on showering you when you’re sixteen, sometimes also with your brother; her excuse is that she’s a former beautician and wants to make sure you wash your hair “correctly”, so it will impress a casting director. Imagine your mom using your money to pay the mortgage, and being forced to sleep on a mat in the dining room, because the bed you purchased for yourself is covered in your mother’s miscellaneous crap.

I know that Melissa Francis and Jennette McCurdy aren’t the only ones with stage mothers from hell. Wil Wheaton has also spoken openly about his own abusive, money hungry, fame whoring parents, who forced him to act when he didn’t want to do it. I’ll probably read his book next, since it’s been in the queue for awhile, and it will probably dovetail nicely with I’m Glad My Mom Died. I love a good tell all memoir, especially when it involves questionable parenting. Shirley MacLaine’s daughter, Sachi Parker, wrote a pretty good one some years ago. It seems the kids who grew up in show business had it the worst, especially in the days before child welfare advocacy was less of a thing than it is today. If a parent was also a celebrity, then the chances for massive dysfunction go up exponentially. Christina Crawford started it when she wrote Mommie Dearest, but there have been some real whoppers since her book was published in 1978. Gary Crosby wrote a pretty shocking book, too.

Anyway… I am looking forward to finishing the book and writing a review of it. I think it will be interesting on many levels to several of my regular readers, as well as new ones who haven’t found my blog yet. So stay tuned. I’ll sign off now and get back to reading.

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communication, family, mental health, psychology

Once more with feeling…. “Get down off the cross, SMIL!”

I could certainly write more about my banking woes today, especially since I just read news that indicates that my misgivings with USAA are not unwarranted. They just got hit with huge fines “for failing to timely report thousands of suspicious transactions by its customers.” I don’t know that this incident has much to do with my current issues with USAA, which mainly have to do with them erroneously flagging my account for fraud, but then missing actual fraud… and then when I shifted payment methods because I don’t have access to the violated account, I got another false fraud alert. I called about that, and spoke to a very rude customer service guy who basically treated me like he wanted me to “keep sweet”. I had some fun tweeting at USAA last night, noting that I wasn’t the only one who is pissed off at them. Anyway, Bill and I are now hunting for a new place to do business. I think we found one, so today’s business will be to get the ball rolling with that, so at least I can start the process of divorcing USAA. I am done drinking the Kool-Aid.

Now… on to today’s topic. This one is about family, so if you find my “family” posts inappropriate, you best move on to the next Internet station. I’m in the mood to vent.

A few years ago, I blogged about how my husband’s stepmother has a habit of sending manipulative private messages as a means of getting people to pay attention to her. Her late husband, Bill’s dad, also used to lay guilt trips in a bid for attention. Since my father-in-law is now dead, I’m just going to focus this rant on SMIL.

SMIL used to send manipulative messages to Bill, mostly about how his dad was “getting old” and wanted to see Bill. Bill would get really upset about the PMs, which were loaded with fear, obligation, and guilt. She finally quit sending them when Bill had a rather direct discussion with her about her guilt mongering ploys. He told her that if his dad wanted to see or talk to him, all he had to do was place a phone call, send an email, and make a mature, direct request, instead of sending passive aggressive text messages and private messages on Facebook.

SMIL has apparently been hosting Bill’s ex wife all week. At one point, SMIL (or perhaps Ex using SMIL’s phone) tried to call younger daughter. She decided not to answer the call, because she’s busy. And she also didn’t answer because when she does call SMIL back, SMIL doesn’t bother to answer the phone and “ghosts” her. Younger daughter, thankfully, is pretty smart and resilient, and she realizes that she doesn’t have to drop everything to attend to her step grandmother’s “needs”. But because she’s a decent, basically caring person, these texts are still upsetting and troublesome.

Younger daughter is pregnant and has two young children. Her husband has a demanding job, and they don’t have tons of money. But SMIL apparently doesn’t care… or maybe she just hasn’t considered what’s going on in younger daughter’s life right now. She still sends those maudlin text messages that are all about her. I just want to tell her to get down off the cross!

We are preparing a box of gifts for younger daughter, which we picked up in France a couple of weeks ago. In the box, I have included a well worn copy of Dr. Susan Forward’s excellent book, Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. I bought and read it years ago, when Bill and I were fairly newly married. It offered great insight into the emotional blackmail perpetrated by Ex, SMIL, and, on occasion, late FIL. I could just send younger daughter a new copy of that book, but I want to send her my copy because I see it as a sign of solidarity. Having watched Bill deal with these bullying tactics over the years, I have an idea of what she’s going through.

Last night, after I finished complaining about USAA, Bill and I talked about this situation. I suggested to Bill that maybe he should ask his daughter if she would be friends with someone who treated her in that way. Legally, SMIL is basically not much more than friend. Younger daughter doesn’t owe her anything. But because SMIL has known her for so long, she knows younger daughter cares about her and values their relationship. So SMIL uses that caring nature as a tool against younger daughter. SMIL is also the type to hold grudges and declare people “dead to her”. But honestly, who’s got the time for such nonsense? Especially when there’s so much else going on in the world?

I was prompted to write about this today because of an article I read in Carolyn Hax’s column in the Washington Post. A woman wrote in about how her sister-in-law loves ski trips and tries to guilt her and her husband into going on them with her. But, for many completely valid reasons, the letter writer doesn’t like ski trips. She writes that her sister-in-law is the type to get drunk and cry when people say no to her. She doesn’t want to be subjected to the guilt trip.

You know what my response is to that? “Just say no.” Seriously. That was Carolyn’s advice, too. If sister-in-law has a meltdown, that’s on her. Hang up the phone. Block her on social media. You don’t have to put up with that. It’s abuse. Or, if that seems much too harsh, just tell the sister-in-law, in a kind way, that you don’t like skiing. Then offer to participate in a different activity that you like better. If you know sister-in-law also enjoys it, so much the better.

Bill loved his father very much, but he didn’t enjoy calling him. Every time he did, his dad would lay tremendous guilt trips on him about not visiting more often or calling him. But then when Bill would call, his dad would be busy. Or he would lay a bunch of manipulative crap on him designed to make him feel bad. Who wants to be subjected to a bunch of guilt when they make a phone call? I know I don’t. Life is painful enough as it is. If a person’s aim is to get someone to call more often, shouldn’t they make the call a pleasant experience? Seems logical to me that that would be the goal.

I do understand that it’s hard not to be a victim of shaming. I’ve been there myself a lot of times. I have a sister who used to try to manipulate me in similar ways. It was uncomfortable and unpleasant to say no to her. But eventually, she came to realize that I make my own decisions. She finally quit with the emotional blackmail, and life has been relatively more peaceful ever since.

If you do give in to the shaming, chances are you’ll just feel resentment. If someone really loves and cares about you, they don’t want you to feel shame and resentment. A healthy relationship should be respectful, kind, and even loving. It shouldn’t be based on fear, obligation, and guilt. I know I can tell when someone resents me and is faking being nice. I’d rather be alone than be with someone who feels compelled to spend time with me.

Anyway… I know younger daughter does love SMIL. She cares very much about her. But these messages are not welcome or helpful in preserving the relationship. I also know that if younger daughter tells SMIL this, it probably won’t go over too well. But again… you can’t control how other people feel or react. If the relationship is really that important, SMIL can try to adapt. I doubt she’ll ever change, but she can certainly try… or suffer the consequences.

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