book reviews, healthcare, love, marriage

A review of Amy Bloom’s beautiful love story, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss…

Amy Bloom is not the most conventional person, but I do notice that we have a few things in common. Like me, she is educated as a social worker. Unlike me, she actually practiced social work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who does psychotherapy. Like me, Amy Bloom is a writer. Unlike me, she’s written books that actually got published and have landed her on best seller lists. I have not read any of Bloom’s other books, but maybe I will, now that I’ve finished her beautiful love story about losing her husband, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss.

Although I like to write book reviews, it’s not so often anymore that I read them written by others. I tend to buy and read books based on recommendations in news stories or certain groups I follow. I like true stories, though, so when I saw Amy Bloom’s latest book, a true story, reviewed in both The New York Times and the Washington Post, I took notice. I’m pretty sure it was The New York Times‘ review that I read first, and I downloaded the book as soon as I read the review. I was that certain I was going to like the book. And now that I’ve finished reading Bloom’s heartbreaking story about saying goodbye to her husband, Brian Ameche, I know that my instincts were right.

Amy Bloom and her late husband, Brian Ameche, came together after both had been in unhappy relationships. Bloom’s first marriage produced three children, while Ameche never had children of his own. Bloom is Jewish, while Ameche had been raised Catholic and later attended a Unitarian Universalist Church for awhile. The two met in 2005 and started out as friends. Bloom hadn’t even been all that impressed with Brian at first. But then she realized that he reminded her of the best father figure she’d ever had, a ninth grade teacher who managed to inspire scores of people. In 2007, the couple wed, and Ameche soon went from never having had children to being a “grandpa” to four granddaughters.

As Bloom writes it, she and Brian had a pretty comfortable lifestyle with many friends, dinners out, and travels. But then Brian, who had been a football player at Yale in his younger years, started having problems at work. He had been an architect and spent his working life creating beautiful, useful buildings. But his work soon became unreliable and he couldn’t finish projects on time. He bought bizarre gifts and clothing, including a $500 sweatshirt. His handwriting changed, as did his habits, which became more odd as the days passed. Soon, all he wanted to talk about was his glory days playing football at Yale.

A neurologist broke the devastating news that Brian had early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. After talking to the doctor, the couple went out and bought “Goodbye, I Love You” stationery, so Brian could write notes to his loved ones before his mind became too addled. And then he told his wife and that long goodbye was not for him. He wanted to depart this life before Alzheimer’s stripped him of his dignity and self-determination.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the concept of a “right to die” is still emerging. Although there are states where euthanasia is possible, they all have rules that would make it difficult in Brian’s case. Most states, for example, require that the patient be a resident, and have doctors certify that death will occur within six months. There are strict rules about how much “help” a person who wishes to die on their own terms can receive from other people. Violating those rules could land Amy or anyone else who helped Brian in legal jeopardy. Then there were the ways that people tend to commit suicide when they aren’t considering a medical intervention. Again… they were potentially risky, messy, or dangerous, and there was always the chance that the method would fail and Brian would be left alive, but helpless.

Amy Bloom eventually found an answer in a Swiss organization called Dignitas, located in a suburb of Zurich, Switzerland. There, Brian could die peacefully, provided the couple paid the organization’s fee (about $10,000), and Brian passed all of the requirements that would secure approval. For instance, Brian had to prove that he wasn’t suffering from clinical depression, and that had to be verified by a physician. He had to be interviewed extensively and convince Dignitas staff that he was serious about his desire to die and there wasn’t any coercion, financial gain, or intimidation behind his request.

In Love is the story about how Amy and Brian came to their decision to end Brian’s life on Brian’s terms. As I read this lovingly composed book, I got a sense that I would enjoy knowing Amy and Brian. It almost made me wish we were in the States, living in Connecticut. Amy seems to me to be a very intriguing person. She even consults a tarot card reader as she makes the decision when to go to Switzerland. I don’t have any experience with tarot cards myself, but my husband, Bill, is interested in them. I found it eerie when Amy wrote that her trusted reader told her that Brian’s decision to end his life was fine, but they must take the first date open to them. The reader, who was very insightful, said that she saw difficulties ahead if they didn’t take care of business immediately. As Amy Bloom was coming home from Zurich after watching her husband die, the very first COVID-19 cases were being discovered in the United States. Brian died January 30, 2020. Less than two months later, the world would lock down.

I found this book interesting for a lot of reasons. Personally, I think that people should have the ability to end their lives humanely if they want to do that. I don’t think it’s wrong for people who wish to be euthanized to be carefully interviewed and screened, but I absolutely believe that there are times when it is appropriate to allow people to commit suicide. I have felt this way since I was a teenager… Once, I even got compared to Hitler by my high school speech teacher because I misspoke, as teens do, and put my thoughts in a way that didn’t translate the way they should have. I just don’t believe that people should have to linger when death is inevitable, and waiting for it to come “naturally” will be painful, undignified, and exorbitantly expensive. We all have to die someday, and while I don’t condone suicide for “selfish” or manipulative reasons, I do think sometimes it is appropriate to choose one’s own exit, so to speak.

I also found this book interesting because, besides having a few things in common with Amy Bloom, I enjoyed reading about her trip to Zurich. Bill and I went there last year for the first time, even though we’ve lived a relatively short distance from there for years. I had always heard Zurich was a “boring” city, but we didn’t find it that way at all, probably because Bill is now studying Carl Jung, and Jung lived in Zurich. So does Tina Turner. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I did get a charge when Bloom wrote about visiting Marc Chagall’s famous windows in the Frauenkirche. Bill and I have been there, too. Also, I thought it was touching when Brian tells his wife that she must write his story… and she obliges, with this very sensitive and loving memoir.

Anyway, I’m glad I read Amy Bloom’s beautiful tribute to the love she shared with her husband. She was there when he needed her, and they spared each other the long, cruel, undignified goodbye that comes as Alzheimer’s Disease inevitably progresses. Maybe Brian Ameche’s exit wasn’t for everyone, but I think there will be some people who are helped by reading In Love. And some people will just be very moved by it, as I was.

Highly recommended.

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

Standard
condescending twatbags, controversies, ethics, travel

“I’m not one of the people you should be pissed at, Luna Moona…”

This morning, I noticed a headline from The New York Times about Denmark’s decision to drop COVID-19 rules and restrictions. Bill and I were recently talking about taking a trip to Denmark, precisely because we’re fed up with the ever changing COVID rules in Germany. We’re both triple vaxxed, and we’ve both been “good soldiers”, and we want to spend some money. Of course, lots of people were commenting on the article, many of whom probably didn’t bother to read it. I’ve included the link above, and because I’m a subscriber, I can “gift” it. If you click the link, you should be able to read it for free.

One of the comments that caught my eye was posted by a Dane named Lars Pedersen. He wrote this:

Right on, Lars!

Plenty of people responded to Lars. Some “laughed” at him. Some gave him ugly orange “angry” reactions. One lady really went off the batshit deep end and was citing ridiculous right wing conspiracy theories as she made fun of Lars for encouraging vaccines. She left all kinds of derisive comments about how the vaccines don’t work. A number of very intelligent Danes came on to inform the American commenter about why there are so many people with COVID-19 in Danish hospitals. More than a few pointed out that the people who are in hospitals with COVID are not there because of COVID. They are there with COVID.

I got excited and, against my better judgment, left a comment for Lars. Naturally, I got responses, too…

At this writing, one person, calling themselves “Luna Moona”, left me an orange reaction. I wrote what I think is a very reasonable response. It’s included in the screenshot above, but here it is for those who don’t want to click on the picture.

Funny that one person is “angry” that I’m considering a trip to Denmark. Why be angry? I’ve been good. I’ve gotten my shots. I’ve worn masks when they’re required. I pretty much stay home all the time, and only interact with my husband and dogs. I literally haven’t left my neighborhood in a month. It’s not because I’m scared. It’s because going places isn’t enjoyable. The rules keep changing, and vary by state… and while I have always liked going into town and having a meal at a restaurant, it’s too much of a hassle. So I mostly stay home. I’m not one of the people you should be pissed at, Luna Moona. 

If you follow me, you know that Bill and I have already done some traveling during the pandemic. We haven’t done as much traveling as we normally would. For instance, in the years before COVID-19, we would take long weekends whenever we had a chance. But 2020 was the last year we took advantage of MLK weekend and President’s Day weekend. Last year, everything was locked down. This year, it just seems pointless and fraught with annoyances. As other countries start to open up a bit, Germany seems determined to remain restricted, with ever more requirements for “better” face masks, COVID testing, and rules about who is allowed to frequent businesses and be on public transportation. I don’t want this to be a permanent fixture of society, so I choose not to participate.

Although I did read that many places in Germany are dropping the “plus” from the 2G + rule– that is, being fully vaccinated and either being boosted, or having a brand new negative COVID test– some places are doing 2G ++, meaning you have to be fully vaccinated, boosted, AND have a negative test, just for the “privilege” of entering and spending money. The 2G ++ places, I’ve read, are mainly healthcare facilities. Still, the rules are annoying and onerous, and although I like going out, I don’t enjoy going out enough to put up with irritating rules. I can stay home and drink in my nightgown, and I get to listen to my own cool mix of eclectic music. I’m sure that’s NOT what business owners and restauranteurs want me to do, though. They’d rather I get dressed, dutifully and obediently put on a FFP2 mask (ugh), and spend money in their establishment.

I used to be a very enthusiastic patron of restaurants and bars, and I would write articles about them on my travel blog. I’m not doing that, these days. Bill is becoming an ever better cook and bartender, so why do I need to support restaurants? Especially when I’m going to be confronted at the door about what kind of mask I’m wearing, and proof that I’ve done everything “right”. Again, for the record, I have been compliant. But if another country is going to stop the nonsense, I want to reward them and put some money in their economy. Incidentally, the official tourism site for Denmark reminds everyone that masks and vaccines may still be required by some Danish businesses. And those who want to frequent those businesses should be respectful. That sounds reasonable to me.

Life has to go on at some point. Moreover, since I live in Europe, I have already been able to travel a bit, although I am eschewing flights for the same reason I haven’t been going to restaurants. Who wants to sit on a plane, in tight quarters, with hyper-anal, stressed-out people, watching everyone like a fucking hall monitor to see if they’re complying, to the letter, with mask mandates? That doesn’t sound like a fun time for me. Why spend time and money on that experience, when we can drive to plenty of cool places, and not have to worry about aggressive passengers, seat recliners, power tripping airline employees, baggage fees, security lines, uncomfortable face masks, and the chance of a plane crash? If I have to fly somewhere, of course I’ll comply with the rules. But I am NOT volunteering for it. I’m sure the more local establishments will be grateful for that. It’ll also be somewhat better for the environment, although if we’re driving, we’re still dirtying the air, I guess.

A lot of people are angry these days. Some people are angry about the rules. Some people are angry that people are flouting the rules. And some people apparently think they need to be “angry” when someone says they want to –legally– visit a place where COVID restrictions are going to be relaxed, and have some fun. Why should it matter to them? I’m an adult, and probably more educated than a lot of folks about disease transmission, since I have a fucking master’s degree in public health. I’ve been very compliant and relatively patient the whole time COVID has been an issue. I only got reprimanded ONCE about face mask usage, and that was because I was wearing a medical mask instead of a FFP2. The rules had changed the day before, and the person who chastised me was also wearing a medical mask. She was allowed, since she was an employee. Go figure Bavaria’s rules, which were not the same as Hesse’s at the time.

Bill says Hesse is getting stricter about mask type, too, which means I am not going to go out to eat or shop in any places. Because, fuck that. And fuck the ever changing RULES. I wish they would just come up with a set and make them more uniform, so we know what to expect and what to do. Another reason I don’t want to go out is because I hate confrontations. And the prospect of being hassled about my mask or vaccine paperwork is enough to induce anxiety and stress, even though I am fully vaxxed and boosted and always carry one of the dreaded FFP2s in my purse.

I do not want to go through the rest of my life wearing a coffee filter on my face. I’ll wear the mask if I must– and I will be visiting the dentist next month, so I guess I’ll put one on for that experience. But I will not willingly spend time or money in places where the heavier masks are required. Incidentally, last night, I booked a hotel in France for after our visit to the dentist in Stuttgart. I was originally planning to go to the Black Forest again, like we did in August last year, after seeing our dentist for the first time since 2019. We were going to go to a different area– one that we loved visiting when we lived near the Black Forest and could go there on day trips. But then it occurred to me that Baden-Wรผrttemberg has enacted stricter mask rules, while France has loosened them somewhat. Bill and I both love France, and we haven’t been there in two years. Yes, masks are still compulsory there, but at least it’s a different place. And the places I was considering visiting in Germany are only about twenty minutes away, anyway. I picked a hotel that is about as far east in France as a person can get and not be in the Rhein River. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m sure some people will have a “problem” with my “bad attitude” about “better” masks. They might think I’m being reckless or cavalier, or maybe they’re just jealous. To those people, I would say, you live your life, and I will live mine. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of us will eventually get COVID-19 at some point. I’ve had three shots and I live a pretty solitary lifestyle. I figure my risk is very low. And if I do get sick and end up dying, at least I will have enjoyed one last experience outside of my bedroom one last time. Everybody has to die at some point, anyway. My liver is probably going to crap out because I’ve been drinking more… mainly because I’m BORED and sick of living like a shut in. Moreover, no one depends on me. Not even Bill. He just likes having me around for the “yuks” and to walk the dogs. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I got a smile this morning from one of the Danes who were commenting on the New York Times’ article. He shared a link to a funny German song about the fucking COVID rules… It’s going to be in my head for the rest of the day!

Go Scooter! I get a kick out of Europeans.

Yeah. It’s time to have some fun again. I have been as responsible as I can possibly be. If I croak, I croak. So Luna Moona, if you want to be mad at someone, be mad at the unmasked and unvaccinated idiots who attend Greg Locke’s book burnings and “church” services in Tennessee. Don’t be mad at the Overeducated Housewife who lives like a fucking nun, right down to the wine drinking… I call this “responsible rebellion”. If I’m gonna bust out and be rebellious, why not do it with fellow blond people who enjoy profanity as much as I do? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I think it’ll be okay.

Standard
complaints, disasters, healthcare, music, politics, poor judgment, rants

I’d like to propose a toast– to difficult and unpopular decisions…

This version of “Ladies Who Lunch” suits my mood today…
And so does this one…

In contrast to my bubbly mood yesterday, today I’m feeling kind of flat and bitter. I think the constant barrage of bad news is getting me down. So are mean spirited Trump supporters.

Last night, I got a comment from someone who didn’t enjoy a post I wrote in November 2020. The person wrote that I made stupid people seem smart. I checked StatCounter to see how long he or she spent on my blog. It was a grand total of about two minutes. Nevertheless, the person was moved enough to send me an insulting comment. I’ll admit, it irritated me. I did not publish the comment. I trashed it, after sending the person a very short and profane emailed response.

I actually wish I hadn’t done that. My temper got the better of me, as it sometimes does. The wine helped. I should have just ignored the comment and been grateful for the hit, especially since the person obviously doesn’t know me and was just lashing out. Next time, I’ll try to do better.

I did give some thought to turning off comments, though, just because I’m tired of dealing with the type of person who screams about personal freedom, but can’t respect my personal freedom and perfect right to express an opinion on my space. Oh well… I guess I touched a nerve. Obviously, that person isn’t very confident in their support of the orange turd if something I wrote moved them to take the time to call me “stupid”.

I’ve been reading a lot of comments about Afghanistan. A lot of people are blaming Joe Biden for what appears to have been a disastrous departure from a country the United States has occupied for twenty years. I, for one, don’t blame Mr. Biden. We were there for twenty years. At some point, we had to leave. Biden merely carried out actions initiated by Trump, whom I seem to recall wanted us out of Afghanistan last year. I suspect Biden will be a one term president, so he’s doing a lot of unpopular but necessary stuff. Like any good and caring leader, he’s making difficult and unpopular decisions. I prefer Biden’s method to Donald Trump’s “seat of the pants drunken uncle” approach to solving problems.

Leaving Afghanistan was necessary. I doubt most of the people who are armchair quarterbacking could do better, anyway. And… for the record, I KNOW Trump would not have done better. But I will concede that mistakes were definitely made, and some statements by both Trump and Biden have aged like milk. It’s very interesting to me, however, that so many Trump supporters are upset about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the heartbreaking images on video, but they still don’t give a flying fuck about the crisis at our southern border involving people who are fleeing violence and oppression in their homelands. Also, I don’t see many of those people cheering that some Afghans actually were spirited out of the country by our military. I guess a lot of those folks are fine with empathizing with people who have brown skin, as long as they come from distant countries.

The Afghanistan news was paired with news about COVID-19. My grad school alma mater, The University of South Carolina, currently has an interim president in Dr. Harris Pastides. Dr. Pastides was formerly president of the university, as well as a professor in the Arnold School of Public Health, of which I am a graduate. This morning, I read the news that he is going to require face masks in buildings. People are really pissed, even though Dr. Pastides, who is an epidemiologist by training, is eminently qualified to make this call. I read many comments from people who wished they hadn’t written a tuition check. All I can do is shake my head at the stupidity. I hate the masks, too, and would certainly hate them in South Carolina in August. BUT… since many people still refuse to get vaccinated, I can see why Dr. Pastides made this particular difficult, and unpopular, decision.

This news didn’t go over well with a lot of people. There was much non-sensical bitching going on. I think it’s very sad when you can tell a person’s political leanings by their responses to public health mandates. That being said, I do sympathize. I’m glad I am done with school, and anything else that would require me to wear a mask all day. They do legitimately suck, even if they help control the spread of sickness.

I absolutely don’t deny that masks are a pain in the ass. They’re inconvenient, unpleasant, and uncomfortable, and they need to be ditched, pronto. I won’t even insult people by saying that wearing them is “no big deal”. Obviously, to a lot of people, having to wear them is a big deal. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be putting up such a fuss. And I absolutely agree that people should have the right to express their negative opinions about the masks. In this situation, it’s more important to me that people simply cooperate and comply than have a good attitude. Having a shitty attitude is understandable, under these conditions. I’ll drink to that!

I’m also as tired as anyone is of all the virtue signaling and constant bragging about adherence to the rules. But we can’t ditch the masks until the virus is under control. And the more people protest and refuse to cooperate, the longer it’s going to take, and the crankier and bitchier I’m going to be. If that means people think I’m stupid, so be it. I think telling a truly stupid person that they’re “stupid” is also pretty stupid, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

I read that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for COVID-19. As an official Texas resident, this is relevant to me. Abbott says he feels fine for now. He’s vaccinated and is getting treatment– Regeneron, which is what Trump got last year when he got the virus. It’s designed to keep people from getting really sick. But he’s been doing his best to keep allowing Texans to spread the virus as he also denies women the right to have abortions. I look forward to voting against him in the next governor run.

Ironically, here in Germany, things actually are getting to be more normal. Yesterday, there was a notice in our local Facebook group that our village is going to have its first wine stand since March 2020. Bill and I loved attending the wine stands during the spring and summer of 2019. We missed them last year. It’s awesome to see that they will be returning this week, although everyone has to bring proof of vaccination, testing, or recovery from the illness. But see, what I love about Germany, is that people seem to be more community minded and cooperative. And when people work together, things are better overall. This summer, we’ve enjoyed things that we missed last year. I’m glad to be in a place where people have compassion and common sense. It means we can dine out, travel to neighboring countries, drink wine in public, and maybe take in a concert or visit a museum. Those are activities that make life worth living.

I relate… what a lovely song this is! Right down to the glasses of wine and bathrobes! These are my kind of ladies.

I suppose the return of the wine stand is reason enough for me to be less crabby. I do like “Ladies Who Lunch”, though. I may try to learn that song today. The first time I heard it was when I was taking voice lessons. An older woman was learning it and our teacher, Ron, was advising her to be more of a “bitch” as she sang it. Now that I’m a legitimately bitchy middle aged woman who lounges in caftans and enjoys cocktails, it may be time for me to give it a go. Edited to add: Here it is– your own knotty singing this song.

I completely forgot about “Ladies Who Lunch” until I saw it performed in the awesome film, Camp. I first watched Camp when we lived in Germany the first time. I downloaded it off iTunes just for shits and giggles. Now, it’s one of my guilty pleasure films, whenever I need a pick-me-up. Actually, I get a little wistful watching it, wishing I could be young again and go to a musical theater camp. Ah well. Maybe reincarnation is a thing. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to come back to this world.

Anyway… if I had any friends, maybe I would be a lady who lunches. I don’t have any friends. I just have dogs who adore me. They’re probably better company, anyway. They don’t mind that I have and express opinions, and they don’t care how profane I get. I hope the person who was offended by my “stupidity” is happy with his or her choices in life. I’m glad I’m not where they are, at least. And I hope I never encounter them again, since they think I’m so stupid. One wonders why a person would feel the need to leave a comment on such a “stupid” blog, anyway.

So here’s to making difficult and unpopular decisions. I’ll drink to that! I’ll drink to most things, especially nowadays.

This was shared by a Trump supporting friend. I am tempted to respond that I do, and I did, … and I am somewhat happier for it. I’m definitely healthier for it. But I don’t want to deal with people from my hometown who are still pining for Donald Trump. Seriously… I get being conservative, but Trump is a fucking moron.
If you haven’t seen Camp, you’re missing out.

Ooh… Edited to add! Here’s a response from Steve, the anal drip who called me stupid yesterday. He’s charming AND articulate, isn’t he? I definitely don’t think I’m the stupid one, so I think I will send his response to the round file.

Steve Jenkins6:21 AM (3 hours ago)
to me

Hey fuckhead…I was hoping one of you dumbfucks would respond…I forgot to save your site.

Since you are a fuck up, how does one fuck oneself?  I know you’re an expert even for a dumbfuck.

On Tuesday, August 17, 2021, 08:07:28 AM HST, I wrote:

Stay off my blog.

Go fuck yourself.

Standard