book reviews, celebrities

Reposted review of God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem, by Darrell Hammond

This review was originally written for Epinions.com on January 29, 2012 and appears here as/is. I was in the United States when I wrote this. Seems crazy now!

A few weeks ago, actor and comedian Darrell Hammond was on an episode of Dr. Phil,talking about his new book, God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem.  I usually scream at the TV when Dr. Phil is on, but I have to admit I enjoyed the episode starring Darrell Hammond, who is probably best known for being on Saturday Night Live for an amazing fourteen years, doing impressions of Bill Clinton and other political figures.  I quit watching SNL many years ago, so I didn’t actually recognize Hammond on Dr. Phil’s stage.  But when I saw him do a hilarious impression of Dr. Phil himself, I decided I wanted to buy his book.  Off I went to Amazon.com, where it was being offered in print and for the Kindle.

Who is Darrell Hammond?

Darrell Hammond is a comedian and actor.  He’s also an addict.  The reason he was on Dr. Phil was because he’s spent some time in rehab, recovering from his attempts to self-medicate the pain resulting from a very painful childhood.  Hammond reveals that his parents were very abusive.  Growing up in Melbourne, Florida, Darrell Hammond was the son of a World War II veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an abusive mother who happened to be very good at mimickry.  Hammond reveals that he got his comedic gifts from his mother, the same woman who tortured him when he was coming of age.

Such an upbringing does not come without a price.  Though he is a very successful comedian, Darrell used to drink constantly and abused cocaine and crack.  He was also a “cutter”, slicing his skin to relieve his psychic pain.  In a laid back, personable writing style, Hammond reveals everything as if he’s sitting next to you in your living room.  He writes about the good– getting to work as a professional comedian with some of the biggest people in show business– and the bad– sinking to the depths of addiction and being arrested in the Bahamas.  Hammond also includes pictures and they show up very clearly on the Kindle. 

My thoughts
It took me awhile to get through Hammond’s book.  That’s not because it wasn’t a good read.  His story is a lot to digest.  Even though his parents were abusive people, I can tell he still loves them.  Toward the end of the book, he writes about visiting his dying father, who passed away in 2007 of cancer.  As his dad lie in bed, missing an ear that was removed in an attempt to stop the cancer, Hammond sat by his side, remembering the good times he had with him.  He has less to say about his mother, who died a couple of years ago.  And yet, even though she put him through hell, his tone is never bitter.  In fact, toward the end of the book, he offers some insight as to what people must do to get past anger.  And his solution has nothing to do with justice or payback and everything to do with letting go. 

I have noticed that a lot of really funny people usually have personal demons and trauma in their past.  Some of the most hilarious people suffer from depression or addictions or both.  Hammond is not bitter when he writes his story, because he’s expressed that bitterness in different ways… by abusing himself.  And now he’s written about those times in a very compelling memoir. 

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be on SNL, you might also want to read Hammond’s book.  He reveals a lot about what it was like to be discovered and how it was working with Tina Fey!

Overall

This is a good book for anyone struggling with addictions, either personally or through watching a loved one or a friend.  I give it five stars.

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healthcare, mental health, musings

Death of a head shrinker…

A few days ago, I read an article in The New York Times about new drugs that can help treat obesity and perhaps “end the stigma” of being overweight. I’m old enough to have seen a lot of so-called magic bullet obesity drugs on the market. I remember in the late 90s, there was Meridia, which used to be advertised on TV all the time. This ad showed pleasingly plump women in loud prints, breezily lumbering along with smiles on their faces… The ads promised that the drug would help fat people control their appetites and lose weight. Then it was voluntarily withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2010, because it was shown to increase risk of heart attacks and strokes.

I remember this ad so well…

In the 1990s, there was also the Fen-Phen combo of drugs, which was said to be very effective in helping people lose weight. Bill says his ex wife took that combination for awhile. Apparently, she was very upset when it was taken off the market. I remember that combination of Fenfluramine and Phentermine was removed because it supposedly caused heart valve problems as well as high blood pressure. Ex, indeed, reportedly had issues with her heart, other than the fact that it’s so small. She had to have surgery at some point.

And then there was the drug my former psychiatrist gave me. For some reason, my former shrink felt besides the antidepressants I definitely needed, I should also take Topamax to help me lose weight. Topamax is a drug that is used for stopping seizures, curing migraines, and treating bipolar disorder. My shrink didn’t give it to me for those purposes, though. He prescribed it because one of the side effects of Topamax is decreased appetite. He felt I was too fat, and Topamax would help me lose weight.

Granted, I wanted to lose weight… and I was tired of hearing him harp on my body when I went to see him for prescription refills. So I tried Topamax for awhile. I often got the third degree from pharmacists, since I was also taking Wellbutrin, which is said to cause seizures in some people (but not me). Pharmacists would become alarmed at the drug combination and question me, and I would have to tell them that I wasn’t taking Topamax because I have seizures. It was embarrassing.

The Topamax did kill my appetite, which Bill didn’t like, because I didn’t want to cook or eat dinner. It also made carbonated beverages taste terrible, which wasn’t a bad thing, since I was addicted to Diet Pepsi at the time. But even with health insurance, the drugs were expensive, especially since I was also taking name brand Wellbutrin (the generic version didn’t yet exist). I also didn’t lose a lot of weight, much to the psychiatrist’s dismay. He wondered if I had a slow thyroid.

I remember feeling really horrible about his comments. At the time I was seeing him, I had actually lost a lot of weight because I was waiting tables and didn’t have time to eat or sit down. The pounds came off pretty easily and most people thought I looked pretty good. However, I was constantly sick during that time, partly because I was fresh from the Peace Corps and kept getting skin infections and also because I was run down because I was always working. I developed a distinct disdain for that shrink because even though I suffered greatly from body image issues, eating disorder issues, anxiety and depression, this guy kept harassing me about my figure… even after I was happily married to Bill, who didn’t care that I wasn’t skinny.

I was reminded of this shrink the other day, as i read the article in The New York Times the “new” magic bullet drugs that could help people shed pounds and the scorn and harassment that comes from being overweight. I shared the article on Facebook and my former therapist, who is now a friend, commented that the article is interesting. I wrote that I thought his “friend”, the psychiatrist, should see it. My former therapist wrote, “Yes, but he’s dead.”

I hadn’t known the former head shrinker had died. I went looking for his obituary, and lo and behold, there it was. He actually died two years ago. I had no idea. Several people had left kind comments about his memory. If I’m honest, I could see how they came to their conclusions about him. On the surface, the former head shrinker was “nice” enough. I remember thinking he had kind of a gentle, steady air about him. But he also really pissed me off on a regular basis by calling me “kid” when I was a grown and married woman, making comments that were belittling, and giving me a hard time about not being thin when I already had terrible issues with self esteem. I got the impression that he had a personal bias. I also didn’t like it when he acted in a paternalistic way. He was very much an old school kind of doctor who treated me like a child. It wasn’t very helpful at a time when I was trying to launch.

Fortunately, I only went to see that doctor for medication. I saw my therapist, a younger, hipper, and more empathetic guy, for psychotherapy. I will give the head shrinker credit, too. He was a competent psychiatrist in that he found the right drug for me. Wellbutrin changed and maybe even saved my life. Within just a few days of taking it, I felt like a completely different person. After taking it for several years and then getting off the drug, I still haven’t gone back to the awful way I used to feel every day… the way that was normal for me, but made other people think I was legitimately crazy. People used to ask me if I was bipolar all the time. They don’t anymore, although I don’t spend much time around other people anymore.

In 2007, before we moved to Germany the first time, I requested my records from the shrinks. I needed them because the Army required all of my medical records so I could be evaluated for the EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program). This was supposedly a must before they would send us to Germany, but as it turned out, the National Guard (Bill’s official employer– he was a full time “federalized” Guardsman) didn’t give a fuck about my EFMP status the way the regular Army would have. I was forced to join the EFMP, but it turned out that I could have skipped the whole process and the National Guard wouldn’t have been the wiser. It would have been nice if I had known that, since the whole EFMP screening process was traumatic for me on many levels. I won’t get into that now, though. I think I reposted about my experience with the whole EFMP business. Thank God Bill is retired.

Unwisely enough, I read the notes my shrinks wrote about me. My cool therapist wrote positive, affirming notes. The dead head shrinker wrote things that upset me… like, for instance, I had a “garish” appearance. I was a bit taken aback by that. People have described me in a lot of ways, but never “garish”. That implies that I looked tacky, gaudy, or like a clown. And I didn’t see what my choices in makeup and clothing had to do with my mental well-being. Isn’t it better if someone with depression isn’t wearing black? He also made comments about my weight in his notes… and on more than one occasion, seemed a bit frustrated that his chemical cures weren’t slimming me down. I know very well that I’m not a thin person… but he made it sound like I was just disgustingly obese. When I was seeing him regularly, I wore a size 14 or 16… which is pretty average among American women, even if it’s not ideal in terms of most women’s most attractive body size.

It was a little strange reading about this man’s death. I mean, I know it had to happen… he was old enough, although he was several years younger than my father was when he died. I noticed the obituary didn’t mention a wife. I remember he was married when I saw him. I’d heard she was his third wife, and she had been about my age, while the shrink was old enough to be my dad. He’d had a young daughter back in the late 90s, which would mean she’s a young adult now. He also had four other children. I remember thinking that I hoped his youngest daughter didn’t have weight issues when she was growing up. I had a feeling he would ride her about them. And I guess, just based on his obituary, that his wife was no longer married to him when he passed a couple of years ago. He was a tall, somewhat handsome man, and he didn’t have a weight problem. But that didn’t stop him from having problems of his own.

I don’t like seeing doctors. I haven’t seen one since 2010, when Bill made me go because we thought my gallbladder might need to come out. It turned out it wasn’t bad enough to be yanked. One of the reasons I don’t like seeing doctors is because of that shrink… as well as the horrible OB-GYN who did my very first (of only two) gynecological exams. She physically and mentally hurt me so bad and shamed me so much that I became a bit phobic of medical people, even though I have a background in healthcare. Now I don’t go to doctors unless I’m about to die.

But maybe I shouldn’t blame these doctors for turning me off of their services so much… They’re only human, right? I’m sure they had my best interests in mind when they fat shamed me. The OB-GYN wrongly predicted I would get very fat in Armenia. I actually lost a lot of weight there. I did gain it back, but then I came home and waited tables and lost even more weight. And then I gained it back when I quit waiting tables… which was a good move for my overall health– especially my mental health– even if I didn’t have as pretty a package for people to look at. I’m glad to hear about the new drugs that might help people lose weight. I think it’s a good thing to think of obesity as a medical problem rather than a character flaw. However, this is not the first time I’ve heard about drugs that can help with weight loss… and so many of them turn out to be harmful.

Well… one more week to go before Bill is home. I continue to try to keep the faith. Last night, I was thinking about places I might like to visit when we’re finally able to travel again. Funnily enough, I’m planning based on whichever place is the least likely to give me a hard time rather than where I’d really like to spend time. One of the many luxuries of living in Germany is that there are plenty of places to see, and a lot of them are not so hard to drive to. Last night, I was thinking about visiting Krakow, Poland. It’s about a 9 hour drive from where we live. Maybe we can go there this year… after my second vaccine next month.

Also… I guess I’ve now arrived. Yesterday, I was made aware of someone having made a cloned account from my Facebook profile. It had one of my photos from last year, a cover photo using a picture I took in Rothenburg in 2018, and claimed I was a Mexican living in Nashville. I reported the profile, but Facebook naturally says they can’t do anything about it because it “doesn’t violate standards”. Meanwhile, they can give me bullshit warnings because they claim one of my comments was racist hate speech when it was really a criticism of a racist game being pitched on Facebook. They really need to get some real people evaluating these reports again. Facebook sucks, and is becoming more of a joke by the day. Anyway, I left several more complaints, along with a profane comment on the cloned profile. I doubt it will amount to anything. I changed my passwords, just in case.

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book reviews

Repost: A review of Dave Itzkoff’s Robin

I posted this review on my original Blogspot version of this blog on August 30, 2018. It appears here exactly as it was posted then.

Sorry about the lengthy intro to this review.  If you just want the review, skip down a few paragraphs.

In August 2014, Bill and I had just returned to Germany so he could start a new job as a government contractor.  That summer was one of the most stressful and horrifying of my life so far.  Weeks before our international move, my father died somewhat suddenly.  And just after our return to Germany, I got the news that my mom had breast cancer (she had surgery and is fine now). 

Robin Williams’ suicide on August 11, 2014 was just one of many traumas during the summer of 2014.  I remember being absolutely shocked to hear about this man, who had been such a big part of my young life, had suddenly killed himself.  From his time as Mork, the gentle alien, on Mork & Mindy to his standup routines featured on HBO, to his many wonderful movies, I had so many memories of watching Williams be a genius.  And now he was suddenly gone.  He was 63 years old.

Robin Williams as Mork.

I seem to have a knack for being in Europe when legends die.  I was in Europe when Princess Diana was killed.  I was also here when Michael Jackson died.  I lived in Europe during 2016, which was when a whole host of legends passed away, and last week, we lost Aretha Franklin.  Still, I was pretty blown away when I heard about Williams’ suicide.  At the time of the announcement, many people thought he had simply been an addict suffering from depression.  Quite a few people were angry about the suicide; some even went as far as to call Williams a coward.  They didn’t know the truth.  Robin Williams suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, the same neurological disease my father suffered from during his final years.  Having seen it firsthand, I really can’t blame Williams for what he did.  It’s a horrible way to live, and ultimately die.

When I saw that Dave Itzkoff had written an exhaustive biography about Robin Williams, I decided I wanted to read it.  I downloaded Robin in May of 2018 and just finished it last night.  It’s taken me a few weeks to get through Itzkoff’s book, mainly because it’s quite long and detailed.  Also, I don’t have the attention span I used to have.  Back when I read real books, I’d whiz through them in a matter of days.  Now, I read most things on my iPad and get distracted by social media, games, or email.  Add in the fact that I usually read in bed and you might guess that sleep often also interrupts my reading sessions.

I see that I bought Robin just five days after it was released.  It was also just weeks before celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain killed himself.  When Bourdain died, many people compared his situation to Williams’ situation.  Although they may seem similar on the surface, I truly believe Robin Williams’ decision to commit suicide was caused by a very real neurological illness.  I have seen Lewy Body Dementia in person.  It really brings the “crazy”.  Not only do sufferers lose their physical faculties, they also have hallucinations, experience paranoia, and lose the ability to articulate their memories, even though they still have access to them.  It really is a special kind of hell. 

I don’t know if Williams killed himself because of acute symptoms of the disease or because he got a glimpse of what was coming.  What I do know is that I can hardly blame him.  In fact, his death was probably a blessing, not just for him, but also for those who love him.  I can speak firsthand about how hard it is to see someone you love turn into a stranger who has lost all ability to take care of themselves.

Anyway… about the book

Robin is an extremely detailed accounting of Robin Williams’ life.  Itzkoff knew Williams, having interviewed him for the New York Times.  I get the sense that they were friendly, if not outright friends.  At the end of the book, Itzkoff reveals that he and Williams shared a love of comics and Williams had even invited him to go shopping for collectibles.  The author notes that many celebrities, hoping that the reporter will be kind to them, will try to ingratiate themselves.  In Williams’ case, the offer to go shopping was genuine and based on a real desire to get to know the man who shared his love for comics.

In Robin, Itzkoff starts at the very beginning, detailing Williams upper class but lonely lifestyle.  His parents each had sons from other relationships– two half brothers, with whom Robin was close.  However, Williams himself grew up by himself, playing in attics in empty mansions and attending private schools.  It was during those years that Williams found his voice as a comedian, which he later parlayed into standup routines at open mics in the San Francisco area.

Williams’ big break came in the form of Mork & Mindy, an adorable sitcom that aired in the late 70s and early 80s.  I was a young child in those days and I loved that show, which also starred Pam Dawber.  Williams played Mork from Ork, a kind-hearted, gentle alien who had come to Earth to learn about the ways of mortals.  Every week, at the end of each episode, Mork would communicate with Orson, his boss on Ork.  He’d deliver that week’s theme mallet/moral, often with witty aplomb. 

During and after Mork & Mindy, Williams started making films.  The first one I remember seeing him in was Popeye, which was released in 1980.  I actually remember seeing that one, probably in the theater.  Itzkoff writes that Popeye was one of a number of films Williams did that wasn’t all that popular.  But when Williams hit the right project, there was magic.  I want to say it started with 1989’s Dead Poet’s Society, which was a huge hit.  He went on to make a string of other good movies, as well as a few that flopped.  Itzkoff offers some good analysis about the vehicles that worked, as well as the ones that were less successful.

Williams had three wives.  His first wife, Valerie Velardi, bore their son, Zak.  While Williams was married to Valerie, he hired Marsha Garces as a personal assistant.  They ended up falling in love and Williams divorced Velardi and married Garces in 1989.  Garces had a knack for helping Williams pick out projects.  She kept him stimulated and organized his life.  She also had his daughter, Zelda, and son, Cody.  Twenty years after he married Garces, the marriage fell apart.  Williams’ last wife was Susan Schneider, an artist and fellow alcoholic who had sort of a healing effect on Williams.  He married her in October 2011. 

As lovable as Robin Williams was to so many of his fans, he did suffer from many demons.  Williams struggled with drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, and anxiety.  When he was sober, Williams was unstoppable.  When he was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or mental illness, he crashed into misery.  Williams would use his experiences in his comedy routines and characters, making him likable and relatable to many more ordinary people who had struggled with the same things.  I appreciated that Itzkoff took the time to explain Williams’ demons and why they helped make him a better performer, even if they also tortured him.

Another important message from Mork…  I have to admit, Mork was probably my favorite incarnation of Robin Williams.

Robin Williams was also a good friend.  Itzkoff includes a very informative section on Williams’ relationship with the late Christopher Reeve, who was his roommate at Juilliard.  The two made a pact that they would always be there for each other.  When Reeves had his horseback riding accident in May 1995, Robin and his second wife, Marsha, where there for him immediately.  Robin even dressed up like a Russian doctor and made Reeves laugh at a time when laughter seemed impossible. Williams was also friends with Billy Crystal, who would call him on the phone impersonating people like Ronald Reagan.  He was friends with Bobcat Goldthwait, too, and appeared in a couple of Goldthwait’s movies.  Williams would go to open mics, even when he was very famous, and hang out with young comedians just getting their start.  He’d be one of the guys.

Robin is basically well written and loaded with details and information, as well as pictures and an extensive reading list.  I really think Itzkoff did a good job capturing who Robin Williams was, reminding me that Williams was a warm, funny, real person who was incredibly unique and irreplaceable.  But he also reminded me that Williams was fallible and did have his disappointments and failures.  As amazing as Williams’ talent was, he was still a man. 

Some readers have pointed out that this book has some factual errors.  I’m sure an obsessive Williams fan would be able to point these out better than I can.  I liked Robin Williams, but I wasn’t someone who studied his life on that level. 

A criticism I could personally make is that this book is very long– to the point of being exhaustive.  It took me considerable time and effort to finish this book, and I’m usually a pretty speedy reader.  If you prefer brevity, Robin may not be the best book for you.  I see on Amazon.com, many people had the same complaint I have.  This book could have used a talented editor to help pare it down just a bit.  440 pages is a long haul, even if a book is enormously fascinating.  On the other hand, as a writer myself, I can understand how easy it is to get bogged down in minutiae.

Overall, I liked Robin.  I learned new things reading this book and got an appreciation for who Robin Williams was.  If I were going to assign a rating, I’d probably give it 3.5 stars out of five.  If it had been maybe 100 pages less, I’d bump it to four stars.

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complaints, mental health, Military, modern problems

Melting down over mission first…

There was a time in my life when I was like Velveeta, melting down at the slightest sign of heat. I’ve always been sensitive, but for the first thirty years of my life, I would get easily overwhelmed. I had problems with anxiety and would hyperventilate in panic attacks. Sometimes the attacks would happen in very embarrassing places. One time, I melted down in front of my boss, who was a nurse. Oddly enough, she thought I needed a trash can because she assumed I was going to vomit. I managed to croak out that I needed a bag to breathe into. She gave me one and I soon calmed down enough to talk to her. You’d think a nurse would know what to do for hyperventilation.

My panic attacks used to happen fairly frequently. For a long time, I didn’t know how to stop them. I’d get so upset that I’d find myself tingly with carbon dioxide overload, panting in a fight or flight reaction to whatever had me so bothered. Many times, it was fighting with my parents or some other authority figure that would get me in those states. For awhile, I even had Klonopin prescribed to me. It did nothing for me. I’m surprised people get hooked on it, to be very honest.

I don’t remember the last time I had a panic attack. It’s been many years. I have had a few meltdowns, but they aren’t like they used to be. Now, I get angry rather than panicky. Sometimes I cry a little bit, but I can’t even muster tears much anymore. In some ways, I’m glad crying is harder for me now. I was embarrassed by public crying jags more times than I’d like to remember. Some people legitimately thought I was crazy when I was younger. Others wondered if I was bipolar (I’m not).

Then there are times when I miss having a good cry. Crying can be very cathartic. I remember the rush of endorphins that would inevitably come after I released my emotions all over the place. I kind of miss being able to do that. Now, when I cry, it doesn’t last long and isn’t very intense. I’m sure some of it has to do with getting older and hormonal changes that come with that. Some of it is because I just don’t physically feel like I used to. I haven’t felt the way I felt as a young person since I started taking antidepressants in 1998.

Good plan.

I took psych meds for about five and a half years– first Prozac, then Wellbutrin, which turned out to be a much better fit for me than Prozac was. I also took Topamax, which is a mood stabilizer/migraine med/anti seizure med. My doctor prescribed it for me because he wanted me to lose weight. It did effectively kill my appetite and made drinking anything carbonated unpleasant. I didn’t lose weight, either, which disappointed my psychiatrist, who seemed to think my weight was the root of my problems. Bill didn’t like me on Topamax, so I got off of it. Beer began being fun to drink again. Looking back on it, I think the shrink was irresponsible to give me Topamax for that purpose. He prescribed it not because I had medical issues due to being overweight, but because I think he preferred thinner women himself and figured that being thinner would make me happier.

I had a slight meltdown last night. It turned out Bill couldn’t leave early and, in fact, probably won’t be home until late. I got pissed off when he sent me an email telling me about his issues getting home. It’s not because he’s not getting off early. It’s because, once again, he got my hopes up and dashed them. It’s not the first time he’s done it and this time, I’m having a particularly hard time dealing with life.

All of the other times he’s had long TDYs, we haven’t been in a pandemic situation. We’ve managed to have some fun somehow… going to a restaurant, taking a short trip, or doing something social. This time, we’ve been locked down for months. Seriously, Germany has been locked down in some way since November 2020. I haven’t been to downtown Wiesbaden in many months. By now, it’s probably been a year. I haven’t had a dental cleaning since May 2019. We did manage to take a trip last summer, but after we picked up Noyzi in early October, we were pretty much relegated to the neighborhood.

Germany was going to open a little bit this month, but the rising COVID-19 infections forced the lockdowns to extend. The AstraZeneca vaccine rollout has stalled, thanks to stories about a few people having rare blood clot reactions to it. We can be vaccinated on post, but we’re low on the priority scale. So while the United States is getting people the shot and things are becoming slightly more open over there, here it’s still isolated and weird. And it pissed me off that my husband had to go on a business trip for three solid weeks, even though travel is highly discouraged right now. I’ve been sitting at home alone, faithfully awaiting his invitation to chat, which always came when I was in the middle of watching a movie.

I don’t know what happened, but when he said he was going to be stuck there until late, I just got pissed. Because, what it comes down to is his job coming before me. I understand that his job will always come first. It’s that military “mission first” mentality that every recruit is indoctrinated with when they join one of the services. Intellectually, I get it. But after three weeks of boredom and loneliness and having my hopes raised, I was not very happy to hear that they were going to be dashed. I got so pissed that I even told Bill I didn’t want to chat with him and didn’t care when he comes home.

I probably should have kept my disappointment to myself. I should have found something to pour myself into, like I usually do. But I wrote on Facebook that I need a boyfriend. I was half kidding. Most people laughed. One person, who also spends a lot of time alone due to her husband’s work, opted to give me advice. To be honest, it kind of pissed me off that this person offered advice. Sometimes, people just want to vent. They aren’t looking for anyone to help them solve their problems. They just want to be heard and validated.

I understand that advice giving usually comes from a place of wanting to help, but she knows I’ve been a military wife for 18 years. This ain’t my first rodeo with being alone. Moreover, I’m not a kid. I don’t need someone to tell me to go out and “join” things. But even if I wanted to join things, I can’t right now. First off, it’s Germany, and not everyone speaks English. But even if I spoke perfect German and they spoke perfect English, the culture is different… and we are not allowed to congregate, anyway. It’s literally against the law right now. And, to be honest, I don’t necessarily want to hang out on post, either. For many reasons, I don’t fit in with most of the military wives. There are some exceptions, of course. Things are closed on post, too, but even if they weren’t, I wouldn’t want to hang out there.

I don’t need to be told to do something creative. I do that already. That’s why we have five guitars in our house when a year ago, we had none. That’s why I write a blog. I would write fiction, but a certain stalker let me know that she doesn’t appreciate my efforts or respect my privacy. So I’ve kind of lost the desire to write fiction for now, because someone might assume that I’ve written about them or get the wrong idea… or offer an uninvited critique. Even if I wrote it offline, I’ve just lost the urge.

I was just feeling low and wanted to express it. I still knew in my heart, someone would try to fix things and offer advice. And I would be put in the position of being a bitch and stating that I don’t want or particularly need any advice. I just want a virtual hug or something… hell, I don’t know what I want. I guess I just feel like I’ve wasted my life. I spend so much time waiting around for Bill. It’s not even so much that I want to join other people. I actually find a lot of people irritating… and they find me irritating and weird. I don’t want to get dressed and get in the car and go somewhere. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I chose this life. I know I did. I love Bill with all my heart, but I often feel like a loser. Just once, I’d like for him to have to wait at home alone for me. Or really, I don’t want either of us to have to wait at home alone. I just feel like I’ve already put in my time with this “mission first” lifestyle. For once, it would be nice not to have to put the mission first.

A few weeks ago, I fell and tore up both of my knees. Fortunately, I wasn’t badly hurt. My pride was injured and I had bruised, swollen, oozing, itchy knees for two solid weeks. The knees are mostly healed now, save for a bit of scarring and almost healed scabs. It occurred to me that I could have been badly hurt and no one would be any the wiser. When he goes on these trips, I might as well be single. I survived being alone as a single person just fine. I expected to be alone and coped with it. As a married person, it’s harder to cope. Especially when I can’t go hang out in a bar when things get too solitary.

When we lived in Stuttgart, it wasn’t as bad. I knew more people there. Of course, I much prefer where we are now to where we were then, but I don’t know Wiesbaden as well as I do the Stuttgart area. The past year hasn’t allowed for much exploration. I’m not that close to my family, which is probably a blessing, since they’re all thousands of miles away. I have the dogs and they are great company. But they’re dogs… and they require care more than anything else. I did get a kick out of Noyzi this morning, who asked for butt rubs and head scratches and expressed appreciation by rolling on his back with his legs in the air and smiling goofily at me. I wish I’d been able to get a picture. It was adorable.

I miss Zane a lot. He was high maintenance and worried me with his health issues. However, he loved to snuggle with me in bed and would burrow under the covers and curl up next to me. Arran only snuggles with me occasionally. He likes to snuggle, but not like Zane did. He’s more Bill’s dog than mine. And Noyzi isn’t going to snuggle in bed as long as Arran is around, because Arran doesn’t like him.

I miss physical contact and conversation… and I feel like I just wait all the time for something to happen. And I don’t need someone in the United States, who doesn’t understand the reality of life as a childless foreigner during a pandemic, telling me what I should do. I mean, I know she meant well… but she’s got children and grandchildren and a job… and lots of friends. And she lives in the USA in a familiar place. I don’t think things are locked down there like they are here. But in the USA, you can expect that most people can speak your language. Here, I can’t make that assumption, even if it’s often true.

I think I also have PMS. My skin is a mess… and it’s about time for Aunt Flow to show up. Just in time for Bill to get home, too. Wouldn’t you know it?

I do feel somewhat better today. I woke up at 2:15am and couldn’t get back to sleep. By 4:45am, I was chatting with a former co-worker who lives in Washington State. We had a very entertaining chat, not about my problems. He didn’t offer advice or try to fix my issues. He just talked to me and we gossiped about the old days. It was fun, and it made me feel better. He even said he liked me the minute he met me because I’m “authentic”. He’s not the first person to tell me that. Say what you want about my personality… it’s definitely mine and it’s real, even if not everyone likes it. And he told me he likes me the way I am, which was really nice. I probably should have chatted with him last night, but I ended up chatting with Bill, who apologized profusely.

I told Bill that I get it. The job will always come first. He has a “mission first” mentality that he won’t let go of, and frankly, that’s what makes him so employable. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if it would be a good thing for him to change jobs for my sake. I wasn’t asking him to do that. I simply don’t like it when someone raises my hopes and then disappoints me. It’s happened too many times. If he had just let me think he’d be home late tonight and never mentioned leaving early, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so irritated.

Also… people are finding that post I wrote about Adam and Darla and, apparently, want to correct my opinions on that. And those who are regular readers probably know how I feel about people who want to correct other people’s opinions. Right or wrong, I don’t like it when people aren’t allowed to express themselves unmolested and uncensored. Must be part of my “authenticity”. On the other hand, at least they care enough to comment.

Anyway… I will probably be happier later. If I know Bill, he’ll make it up to me. Or maybe he’ll disappoint me again. Either way, I probably won’t melt down, because I expect I’ll finally be ragging. I think I’ll make this morning a vocal morning. It’ll make me feel better.

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complaints, Germany, housekeeping tips

My new vacuum is a German speaker…

When Bill told me he was going away for three weeks, I said I was going to buy myself a “present”. Most women would buy themselves some earrings or something. What did I do? I bought a fucking vacuum cleaner. But it’s not your ordinary vacuum. This one is a dry/wet vacuum. It’s like a hybrid steam mop and vacuum. It has an app, and “speaks”. I didn’t decide to buy it for its ability to speak, though. I bought it because it’s cordless, upright, and lighter than my corded Dyson, which I’ve been dragging around for the past few years.

This guy did a review. He’s in America, though, so his vacuum speaks English.

Supposedly, I can change the language in the app, but I wasn’t able to access it yesterday, even after I registered and got an email confirming that I did. Somehow, I wasn’t able to click on anything that shows them I received their verification and would allow me to set a password.

Tineco is supposedly very responsive, but I left them a message on their Facebook page and, so far, nada. I also found it rather concerning that there was a sticker on the vacuum that asked consumers not to take the vacuum to the store, but to contact customer service. I’m not sure how to take that. But anyway, I haven’t tried it out yet. By the time it got to me, it was late afternoon, and it took some time to remove it from its box. Every part was wrapped in plastic and shrouded in cardboard. Since I’m still in pain from my recent spills, I’m moving slower than usual and was in no mood to mess with the new toy. Aside from that, it needed time to charge.

Ah well… I’m sure I can learn the German phrases uttered by my new cleaning buddy. As long as I can figure out how to use the damned thing and it does what it’s supposed to, I’ll be happy. I think Dysons are overrated. I’ve had several of them, and they never quite live up to the hype. I decided to buy my current one only because the Dirt Devil I had when we first moved back to Germany fell apart after less than a year. The Dyson may not suck as well as it should, but at least it doesn’t fall apart. And at least it’s not designed so that when I round a corner and the machine brushes against the wall, it doesn’t accidentally hit the power button and shut off the vacuum. That happened many times with the Dirt Devil.

For some reason, upright vacuums are hard to find in Germany. Everybody seems to prefer canister vacs without powered heads. I find the canister vacuum cumbersome and annoying, and I hate using it. So hopefully, this new vacuum with be good for lighter jobs, especially since Noyzi deposits so much hair all over the place and tracks mud on the floors.

In other news, I also ordered a new laptop computer yesterday. I did so as I Skyped with my mom. I don’t really need a laptop that badly, as the one I have currently is mostly used for travel purposes and I’m not traveling nowadays. However, it’s also seven years old, and doesn’t move as smoothly or efficiently as it used to. Of course, I have a feeling that my fucking credit card company might have declined the charge, since I rarely charge things and this is a high dollar item. Usually, they text me to get my approval, but I never got a text last night, and the pending charge isn’t showing up on my bill anymore. So that will probably mean calling them, which is a pain in the ass, since I pretty much hate calling people. I might just say fuck it and either use another card or wait until I’m feeling impulsive again. Like I said, I don’t need a new computer so much as I want one.

I’m not as sore as I was yesterday, though I still have some pain from the bruises and actual wounds. My knees look even uglier than they did when I photographed them the other day. The left one has developed a light brown scab, while the right one has a dark red one. The bruises are slowly changing color. Last time I saw the one on my right knee, it was kind of greenish, while the one on the left is more bluish.

Arran continues to wake me up in the wee hours of the morning, but I am a lot more careful about going up and down the stairs now. Don’t want to have another accident. Next time, I might fall on my face, and I don’t need to be any uglier there.

My former student in Armenia, who now works for the Peace Corps, has asked me to make a very short video in honor of the 60th anniversary of the agency. That will mean putting on some makeup, which I haven’t done in weeks. Maybe I’ll make a new selfie, too. The one I’m using now is a year old, although I look kind of pretty in it. It was taken just before we went to France for the annual wine expo, which I believe was postponed this year. It’s a shock to see how much things have changed in just a year’s time. Now, Angela Merkel and her pals are talking about extending the fucking lockdown until March 28th. I suspect people will freak out.

I was feeling a bit depressed and sad for the future yesterday. I probably shouldn’t read so much doom porn in the papers. Every day, it’s more about COVID-19, and how new variants are popping up. I read comments from people who are all about living life the way it is now. I read articles about how the governors of Texas and Mississippi have decided to end the mask mandates and allow businesses to reopen. I hate the fucking face masks, and being forced to wear them is very depressing for me. However, I am not dumb enough to believe that it’s safe for everything to open up, especially in the United States.

At the same time, I’m tired of all of the hostility and disrespect people have for each other. Everyone is on edge, and there’s no room for differences of opinions. People who don’t want to take the vaccine are being harangued by honor graduates of the Google School of Public Health. To be sure, I have no issues getting vaccinated myself. As soon as I can get the shot, I probably will, mainly because Bill will turn into Pat Boone if I don’t. But I can understand why some people don’t want to be vaccinated. Some people are legitimately afraid of the vaccine, for whatever reason. It should be their decision, even if I don’t agree with it– as long as they aren’t directly working with vulnerable people. Being rude, derisive, and confrontational towards people who aren’t with the official program is not the way to change their minds. Same thing I’ve been saying about the fucking face masks. All that behavior does is polarize people even more.

But… as it is now, the fucking vaccine will take awhile to get to us. I am low on the priority list. And I suppose that is how it should be, since I’m not officially high risk and I live like a hermit anyway. It sucks, though… and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I don’t think about checking out on a daily basis. This is nothing new for me, as I have often felt like this even before COVID-19 was a thing. It doesn’t mean I’m planning to off myself, either. It’s more like I feel like I’m stuck at a never-ending party that isn’t fun anymore and I’d like to go home and go to bed. 🙂 And since I have no real purpose, other than to feed my dogs and make Bill laugh, I wonder what the point is of staying.

Anyway… at least the weather is getting somewhat better and the days are getting longer. I’m hoping the backyard will dry out some and we’ll get some grass back after Noyzi destroyed the lawn. At least we can sit outside and drink cocktails, right? And listen to music from a time when things were less bleak, exhausting, and downright annoying.

I guess I’ll go try out my new German speaking vacuum now… and maybe put on some makeup and make a video for Stepan. Have a special day.

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