blog news, family, social media, stupid people, technology

I’ve got new DNA results!

I believe the featured photo is of my mom’s father’s family tartan…

Bless Ancestry. com and 23andMe. I was having some trouble coming up with a topic to write about today, mainly because I don’t feel like complaining about Trump, and he’s making up a lot of the news lately. But since both Ancestry and 23andMe just updated their DNA results, and my results changed a bit, I can now write about that! And it will be soooo interesting, too. To me, anyway.

According to Ancestry.com, I’m now even more Scottish than I thought. The updated results now have me at 58 percent Scot. That would probably make Ex green with envy, since she fancies herself a Scot. The rest of the results were also interesting, as according to Ancestry, now I’m only 28 percent English and otherwise northwestern European. They also report that I have 3 percent Welsh ancestry, which I can certainly believe, given how many of my ancestors were from the British isles and Ireland. Ancestry.com also reports that I still have Scandinavian ancestry– Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. Again, that’s totally believable. I am as white as they come.

Interesting… and probably pretty accurate.

Now, my 23andMe results are a bit more surprising. I did the 23andMe test before I did Ancestry’s, so it’s changed a few times since I first got results in 2017. Overall, 23andMe agrees with Ancestry that I’m mostly from the British Isles and Ireland. But they added some spice to my heritage, which is also believable. Behold…

23andMe classify their results somewhat differently, grouping Scotland, England, and Ireland together. They used to report Norwegian DNA, but replaced it with Finnish. And Ancestry doesn’t report Finnish DNA, but does report Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian.

Some might be surprised to see the Spanish and Portuguese results, but to me, they make perfect sense. I probably picked up that DNA thanks to the Spanish Armada. Some people from that dramatic event in the 1500s inevitably got together with Irish and Scottish people, forever changing their DNA. I was glad to see French and German again, since I know for a fact that I have some German heritage, and likely have French, too, somewhere deep in my genes. I also know that there were a few Native Americans from Virginia who got with my family, since they appear in my family tree. I was surprised to see the Levantine result, which has origins in Jordan, Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. But, I guess if we go back far enough, that makes some sense, too. Most people probably have some genes from the Middle East. I got a kick out of the photo 23andMe uses for the French and German section. It’s actually a photo of Hallstatt, Austria.

This is a screenshot from 23andMe’s Web site. I’ve been to this town and have my own photo of this view. It’s unmistakable as a famous Austrian town, where many Chinese tourists visit and wear dirndls and lederhosen.

What’s funny is, I just talked to my mom about our ancestry. She really doesn’t know much about her family of origin– especially on her mother’s side. I’ve told her a lot that she didn’t know, mainly because of these DNA tests and interacting with distant relatives. She never knew her maternal grandparents, since they died within three months of each other, before her second birthday. She was surprised when I told her I went on FindAGrave.com and found photos of her grandparents’ graves, as well as an entry for my dad, which was not put up by a family member. My Uncle Ed, who died just over a month ago, has an entry already, although no one but family is allowed to develop it until a year has passed. I think FindAGrave is kind of freaky, but it does provide interesting information about my long lost relatives.

Like my mom, I never got to know my maternal grandparents. My grandmother died when I was five, and we were living in England at the time. My grandfather died when I was six, and he was extremely senile and didn’t know who any of us were. I do remember living in his house briefly, back in the summer of 1978, because we had just come back from England, and my parents were purchasing a home in Northern Virginia, where we lived for just two years. He died months later, after having been court ordered to move into a facility, because he could no longer take care of himself.

The only grandparent I really knew was my father’s mother, who was affectionately known as “Granny” to just about everyone, even those who weren’t in the family. She lived to be almost 101 years old. My father died only seven years after she died. He was 81 years old, and had only lived without a parent for seven years. That is astonishing to me. Granny was mostly a wonderful lady, although she wasn’t as perfect as some people made her out to be. She had a mean streak. But mostly, she was full of stories, and made wonderful bread. I am glad Bill got to meet her and knew her for five years before she finally passed.

I find genealogy fascinating, especially since I grew up not really knowing my mom’s family too well. I knew my Uncle Glenn, who died in 2015, and I knew his daughter, although I haven’t seen her since my wedding day in 2002. She and I have the same blue eyes, inherited from our grandmother. Well… she got hers from Glenn, too. He had beautiful blue eyes. My eyes are probably my best feature.

Anyway… I’m glad to see the update from both DNA registries, even if Bill’s results are more interesting than mine are. He has African heritage.

Moving on…

A couple of days ago, I wrote about an irate private message I got from someone who was angry about an eight year old blog entry I reposted regarding an extremely violent murder in their family. This person was threatening, and complained that I had mentioned the name of one of the victim’s children, who is still a minor. They acted as if I had invaded their privacy to find out the child’s name, and threatened legal action against me. It was not a nice thing to wake up to on a Saturday morning. In my post, I was pretty sure I had only included information that was already openly reported in the news, circa 2014.

I did some sleuthing yesterday, mainly because I wanted to block this person from ever contacting me again on Facebook (or anywhere else). I managed to find the person’s profile(s) and block them. However, in the course of doing so, I found out some new things.

I discovered that my memory was correct. The child’s name was included in several newspaper articles, most of which are online today. Furthermore, I found a wide open Web site, where what looked like some of the child’s schoolwork was openly posted for all to see. There was an essay there, revealing the names of the child’s parents, birth date, birth place, and the names of many family members, to include other minors. I even learned what kinds of food the child likes to eat, what the child’s career goals were at the time the essay was written, and where the child lives. So much for maintaining the online privacy of a minor.

I would suggest, to the person who contacted me, that before they issue legal threats regarding privacy of a minor, they might want to do some more Googling of the child’s unusual name. I learned a lot more about this child than I ever wanted or needed to know, simply by typing the name into a basic search engine. I suspect that their claims that I invaded their privacy would go nowhere, mostly due to this fact, but also because of the First Amendment, and the right to freedom of expression, which all Americans still enjoy, at least for now. If you want to come at me because I posted your minor relative’s name, you might also want to have a go at the reporters who originally covered the case. Because that is where the child’s name was originally shared, and that content is still freely available eight years later. And I had nothing to do with that.

In spite of being quite pissed off about that hostile PM, to the point at which I am deleting the blog’s Facebook page, I have removed the offending content as a courtesy to the person who contacted me. I did so because, frankly, no one else was reading that post anyway. Also, I removed it because, in spite of their false accusations toward me, I’m not a terrible person who is just out to make money by blogging. Likewise, I don’t want to cause people unnecessary distress. But even if I were just trying to make a buck, what would be wrong with that? There’s no crime against earning a living, right? Writing is a perfectly respectable career choice, even if some people don’t like the things that get written.

This blog isn’t a source of significant income for me. It’s more something I do because I enjoy writing. Moreover, I didn’t do anything wrong, and the claims that I violated anyone’s privacy are baseless and false. There is no law against writing or opining about things that are in the mainstream news. I do understand that people get upset when people talk or write about true crimes that affect them personally, but I don’t think that threatening to trying to censor people is the answer.

Finally… something a little ridiculous…

This graphic of stereotypes was posted in the Duggar Family News group…

Apparently, the above photo is circulating in certain parts of social media. It’s pretty disgusting. I would also say that it’s not very accurate. I’m not sure fundie women keep their figures when they’re eating things like tater tot casserole and barbecued tuna fish. I’ve also seen quite a few fundie women sporting heavy makeup, colored hair, and ridiculous perms. Moreover, I don’t think Jesus Christ would approve of the judgmental and negative attitude displayed regarding “The Godly Tradwife”. Jesus supposedly loved everyone, and helped those in need. It makes me sick that genuine Christian values have been co-opted and bastardized by hypocritical Republicans, who just want to quash anyone who isn’t like them, and doesn’t want to keep white, conservative men in power.

I might write more about this later… or maybe not. Hope y’all have a good Wednesday. Time to pick up my guitar.

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family, healthcare, memories, obits

I’ve finally joined the COVID Club… and saying goodbye to my Uncle Ed…

I swear, on Friday, I thought I was feeling better. I was feeling well enough that I thought maybe we could go to a wine fest this weekend. But yesterday, I realized that I felt tired, and didn’t really want to walk around in the hot sun. We stayed home and hung out. This morning, I woke up early, then fell asleep until 9:00 am, which is unusual for me these days. Remembering that COVID tests can end up being positive a couple of days after a negative test, I took a test this morning. Sure enough, it came up positive. See the featured photo for proof.

Bill has no symptoms of COVID. He has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so he’s going to test. I’ll be surprised if he’s negative, but he hasn’t been sick. I can think of a few places where I might have picked up this germ, even though we haven’t done much in the past couple of weeks. I probably got it at the wine stand, since we ran into a fellow American who said that COVID had visited their house and her partner was still sick with it.

I’m not very sick. I’m just kind of tired and a little crankier than usual. I have a productive cough, some nasal congestion, and a low grade fever. It honestly feels like the back end of a cold. I think last month’s sickness was a cold, because I had a really runny nose that was so bad that my skin got raw. This time, I didn’t get a runny nose, but I do have a slight fever, which I didn’t get last month. Anyway, I am no longer a “COVID virgin”. I figured this was bound to happen sooner or later, though. I’m glad I got vaccinated, because this isn’t much fun, but it’s nothing deadly. At least not at this point.

Speaking of deadly… I got confirmation this morning that my Uncle Ed, has, in fact, crossed over to the other side. I don’t know the details, other than it happened in the morning. I chatted with my sister yesterday, and she said that Ed had a mass on his lung that he decided not to treat. She said he also had a skin condition, along with pneumonia. The man was 85 years old, so it was probably time for him to go. I don’t feel sad that he died, but I do wish our last conversation hadn’t been the way it was.

I have a lot of good memories of my uncle. When I was about ten years old, he took a bunch of us cousins to the James River and we went fishing with homemade fishing poles and worms. Another time, he took us to Tank Hollow, a swimming hole near my Granny’s house. We all rode in the back of my uncle’s pickup truck… ahh, the things we could get away with in the late 70s and early 80s! I remember jumping off the waterfall into the frigid mountain water, having the time of my life.

In later years, Ed was a lot of fun at our family reunions every Thanksgiving. I remember dancing with him once and cutting a really nasty fart. He laughed at me and said, “YOU FARTED!” And I remember sharing moonshine with him, as he told funny stories about my dad, his older brother. As they got older, my dad and Ed looked like twins. Dad was four years older, though, and died four years younger than Ed has. Both of them died in July… Dad on the 9th, and Ed on the 23rd. Two weeks apart, and Ed’s death is a day after the fifteenth anniversary of Granny’s death.

Unfortunately, Dad and Ed also had alcoholism in common, and they were both abusive when they drank too much. Actually, my dad was usually kind of melancholy when he drank, but sometimes he’d go into violent rages. I don’t know how Ed was on a normal “bender”, but I was once on the receiving end of one of his tirades… in fact, that was the last time we communicated. I can’t abide verbal abuse anymore. I’ve been too saturated with it, and now when someone goes “off” on me, that’s pretty much the death knell for the relationship. I make exceptions for a few people, but I’ve found that people who feel emboldened enough to be verbally abusive don’t tend to learn from their mistakes.

Ed was mostly a lot of fun, though. He was, overall, a great uncle to me. I like to think of him going to his late wife, Nance, who died in 2010 after having had Alzheimer’s Disease and a heart attack. Together, they were boisterous and opinionated, and they had a lot of spirited debates fueled by Wild Turkey and Busch beer. They were both very politically conservative, but I think Nance was more liberal about some things than Ed was.

I remember Nance having a very spirited debate with my late cousin, Karen. Karen was a devout Christian and very pro life. She was wearing a pro-life t-shirt. Nance took her to task over it, because she had been a nurse for Planned Parenthood, and she had seen scared girls who sought abortions. It changed her opinion about abortion. And Nance was the kind of “in your face” person who would get into arguments at the drop of a hat. She confronted Karen about her shirt, and the two of them had a discussion about abortion in my grandmother’s kitchen. Karen was going on about how abortion was an affront to God, and it was wrong to destroy God’s creations. And Nance was all about the practical, having been a nurse, and knowing that sometimes having an abortion is the most responsible and compassionate action a person can take. It was an interesting conversation. I didn’t enjoy getting into arguments with either of them myself, but it was kind of fun being a spectator when they debated.

It’s strange to think that Nance, Karen, and Ed are all gone now, but if there is a Heaven, they’re probably all rejoicing at the reunion. I like to think of them as all healthy, vital, and having spirited debates with all the Wild Turkey they want… although I don’t think Karen was a fan of boozing.

Anyway… I hope Ed is at peace and has reunited with the ones who went before him. And I hope I get over this sickness soon. It’s been cramping my style for six days now. I’m so glad I didn’t go anywhere this week, except for a walk. I guess I’ll keep taking it easy, and hopefully will be on the mend very soon. I’m tired of my style being cramped. I want to make some music again. Guess I’ll have to stick to guitar until all this snot goes away.

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family, politics, rants, sexism, slut shamers

“Sweater hams” and a new kid in town…

This morning, I was reading an article about a very busty, but tiny, nurse who has gotten a lot of complaints about the way she wears her scrubs. She made a video for Tik Tok, and it went viral. I’m nowhere close to being as tiny as she is, but I’m about her height with huge boobs. I know the pain. I’ve had big “sweater hams” my whole life. I worry about them a lot, since I’m 50 and hate visiting doctors for things like mammograms. I have had back issues, though I’m sure my back pain isn’t anything like hers.

A crappy video about the woman’s Tik Tok.

I could relate to the nurse’s comments about people sexualizing her, telling her that her body shape was a problem for them. They told her she looked “inappropriate”. The top of her scrubs made her look too sexy. Honestly, if you’re really sick, are you going to care what your nurse’s scrubs look like? Short of getting surgery, which this nurse may one day decide to do just to alleviate the back pain, I don’t know what she’s supposed to do. Sizing up might not be a good solution, since the scrubs might not fit the rest of her properly. Maybe she could have them tailored, but that would be expensive and time consuming. Her body is covered. I figure that’s what should matter.

I did have a laugh in the comments on God’s page about this story. One commenter wrote:

I’ve been told by teachers I was “dressed inappropriately” while wearing a sweater… Look it’s not my fault I have big sweater hams. It is however the ADULT TEACHER’S fault that they are looking at a minor with inappropriate thoughts.

Everybody went nuts at the term “sweater hams”. I think I’ve heard that before, but it’s not a very common euphemism for big tits. In any case, I can relate. I have big boobs, too. This time of year, they aren’t much fun to deal with, because it’s hot outside. Naturally, there was a mansplainer, who wrote this:

I want to roast some serious ham. Just because I think the phrase “big sweater hams” is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. You don’t have meat. You are not meat. You are a person. Ham is delicious. Women are not meat.

Um… she was just being funny, guy. Read the room. Most everyone thinks the concept of “sweater hams” is hilarious. This is not the time for you to be giving someone a hard time for saying something unconventional. Why do people have to confront others for expressing themselves?

Amy Klobuchar is a very vocal liberal. Conservatives like to hang out on her social media and harass people.

Yesterday, I was reading Amy Klobuchar’s Facebook page, and she posted about Steve Bannon’s guilty verdict in court. It was the end of a long day, and I wrote that I wouldn’t be happy until he was behind bars. And two obvious conservatives, a man and a woman, decided to leave me crappy comments, which I ignored. Why do people do that? Why harass strangers over sharing their opinions? These folks don’t even like Amy Klobuchar’s politics. Do they just want to spread misery and rudeness to strangers? I don’t see the appeal. It would be one thing if it was a news story. This is a liberal politician. They aren’t gonna vote for her. They just want to be assholes to people who support her work. I don’t understand the motivation. That behavior doesn’t change hearts and minds. I won’t be voting for a conservative politician because two random Trumpies confronted me on Facebook.

And finally, I got some news this morning from one of my cousins. My Uncle Ed, a man with whom my last conversation occurred in 2017, and ended on a very bad note, is apparently on his deathbed. He’s 85 years old; and last month, he suffered a bout of pneumonia. Apparently, he’s been struggling the whole time, and is now probably on the verge of death, if he hasn’t already crossed the bar. My cousin, who is a gay man, sent me a DM last night, while I was asleep. He lamented that his brother, who is a colossal Trump supporter, chose that time to argue about politics. It got ugly.

People can get really weird when someone close to them is about to die. I mean, my cousin– the infamous “Timmy”, whom I’ve written about before in this blog (and whose name isn’t actually Timmy)– is not acting strange when he argues about politics. He does that all the time. It’s just that he’s choosing to do it now, when his father is at death’s door. Instead of coming together with his brothers, including the one who wrote to me, Timmy is acting like an asshole. I suspect it’s because it’s his way of coping.

In July 2014, when my dad was dying, one of my sisters similarly acted like a huge asshole. I never confronted her about it. I wanted to at the time, because what she did was extremely inappropriate. My dad was in the hospital and had to be put on a ventilator. My sister, who has a habit of minimizing and discounting other people’s opinions and painful experiences, had (and maybe still has) a chip on her shoulder about the fact that I don’t hang out with my family much anymore. I specifically didn’t hang out with my dad much, because my dad was a source of a lot of pain. He regularly humiliated me, insulted me, and when I was younger, physically struck me. I finally got to a point at which I didn’t want to endure that treatment anymore, so I withdrew. And having sisters diminish that, and basically tell me that it was up to me to swallow more shit, made me want to withdraw from them, too. I’m happier and healthier for it.

Well, as my dad was dying, my sister somehow got the idea that I wouldn’t be coming to see him in the hospital. She kept sending me emotional blackmailing emails. In one email, she sent a picture of my dad in his hospital bed, wearing a huge CPAP mask. I knew this was not a photo my dad would have consented to. I doubted our mom would have approved, either. She had sent it to be manipulative, and to shame me into doing what she felt was “right”.

What really pissed me off, though, was that she absolutely didn’t need to do that. I was going to go see him, even though we were in the middle of trying to move from Texas to Germany. It wasn’t necessary for her to make the situation more painful than it already was. And even if I had decided NOT to go, that would have been my privilege. I am an adult, and I make decisions for myself. I was really tempted to lash out at her, but I decided that would make things worse than they needed to be. So I “thanked” her for the information, and Bill and I went to see my dad for the last time. He died two days later. I remained pretty upset about the photo my sister sent. It was inappropriate, unnecessary, and totally disrespectful. She wonders why I don’t want to go home and spend time with the family? It’s because of shit like THAT! I just want to live my life in peace.

So, when I read my cousin’s comments about his brother’s behavior, it made me think of my sister’s behavior. It’s not uncommon for “Timmy” to behave like a political blowhard. He traded booze for religion and politics, and has turned into an insufferable turd. But I know, deep down, he’s not really like that. I know that he’s a good person, underneath that MAGA facade. I assume most of the jerks I run into online are also, deep down, not terrible people. They say these things because they’re afraid. They think their lives are going to change, and they can’t control it. So they lash out with hate. It’s bad enough when that negativity is directed at a stranger, but it’s heartbreaking when it’s toward a supposed loved one.

Right now, my cousins need each other. They are sharing the experience of losing a parent. They are understandably under stress. I’m sure that arguing politics is one way to stop thinking about the huge loss they are about to endure. I love my uncle very much, even though the last time we communicated, he called me a “liberal nutjob”, and reminded me so much of my dad when he was on one of his worst benders. I know that overall, like my dad, his brother, my uncle is a decent person. But, like so many of us, he’s lost the plot and fallen into the abyss of political and religious bullshit. And it’s taken a huge toll on family relations, which is a real shame.

Which brings me to the “new kid in town” part of this post…

It occurs to me that my Uncle Ed may, if he hasn’t already, be crossing into the great beyond. I imagine my dad, his brothers, Carl and Brownlee, and his sisters, Jeanne, and Susan, his wife, Nancy, and his parents, Pappy and Granny, will all be waiting there to usher him into Heaven. That’s if Heaven exists, of course… and if they all went there. All of them were devout Christians. Ed will be the next “new kid” in town. And as I ponder that, I ponder this awesome album I downloaded by J.D. Souther, who helped write the song made famous by The Eagles. Below is a link for your consideration…

This whole album is gorgeous. I love J.D. Souther’s music. He’s underrated. This particular version of “New Kid in Town” is just sublime.

Well… I don’t know if Uncle Ed is gone yet. I do know that his mother, my Granny, died fifteen years ago yesterday. So if he has passed, it’s kind of an interesting time to go. My love goes out to my family who will miss him. I have many great memories of him, and the fun we had at family events. Before Trump changed him, he was one of my favorite people. I hope he finds much joy and peace as he becomes the newest family member to join the party in Heaven.

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dogs, funny stories, lessons learned, love, technology

Something to live for… awkward conversations about life and death…

Yesterday was a pretty busy day. I wrote three fresh blog posts. Two were about Josh Duggar, and one was a review of Naomi Judd’s book, River of Time, which was about her struggles with depression and anxiety. Interspersed within all the writing, there was also the news about the people who died in Uvalde, Texas… nineteen children and two teachers. I read last night that Joe Garcia, the husband of Irma Garcia, who was killed during the school shooting massacre, died of a heart attack just a couple of days after losing his wife of 24 years. This morning, I read a ridiculous tin foil hat comment from someone who thought Garcia’s sudden heart attack was part of a conspiracy, since the police department in Uvalde were apparently unprepared to deal with a school shooting.

People are still arguing about COVID, abortion rights, gun rights, school safety, and all of the other political hot button issues that will probably never be settled in my lifetime. All I can do is shake my head. The world is really fucked… and yet, sometimes there are little flickers of beauty, humor, and wonder that make me think it’s worth trying to stick around for however much time I have left.

Last night, Bill came home with kind of a sheepish look on his face. He said, “Well, today got started on a rather ‘awkward’ note.”

I looked up at him, noticing that he looked a little mischievous. “Do tell.” I encouraged.

He said, “I was in the bathroom, taking a shit, and when I came out, I was confronted by my boss, who said he needed to talk to me. So we sat down and my boss said, ‘Bill, I have to ask you… are you alright?'”

And I said, “He was asking you this because he heard you taking a shit? Or he smelled the remnants of it?”

“No…” Bill said, laughing. “The shitting part becomes important later in the story.”

“My imagination is going wild.” I said.

Bill continued, “So my boss says, ‘The guys in the IT department noticed a questionable search string coming from your computer. It got flagged. And I have to ask you, are you okay? Are you considering suicide?'”

Bill said, “No! Of course not!” Taking a deep breath, Bill explained to his boss, “I Googled ‘when someone you know commits suicide’, because recently, two acquaintances committed suicide. One was a guy I knew in high school, years ago. He was a good friend in those days, but we weren’t close recently. We were just Facebook friends. And one day last month, he posted ‘Guys, it’s been a slice,’ on Facebook, and that was it. Next thing I knew, people were announcing that he’d killed himself.”

Bill went on, “The other was the woman who previously lived in the house my wife and I rented near Stuttgart, before we moved to Wiesbaden. She had worked for our company, and one day I noticed that her name wasn’t on the company roster anymore. And because she had kind of been ‘cyberstalking’ my wife, the fact that she wasn’t on the roster caught my attention.”

Bill paused, then continued, “I told my wife, so she Googled her name, and discovered that she’d died. It was a shock, since she was so young. So she did more investigation, and found out that the woman had committed suicide. We were both really surprised by the news. She seemed to have everything going for her. These two recent suicides were just really surreal, and suicide was on my mind only for that reason. So I did a quick Google search, but even as I did it, I realized that it might get me in trouble.”

Then Bill concluded, saying “I have everything to live for. I just took a wonderful trip, and I’m planning another for my wife’s birthday next month. And my daughter is about to have my grandson, any day now. So no, I’m not thinking of killing myself. But thanks for asking.”

Bill said his boss sighed with deep relief and said, “Okay… I feel much better now. Don’t worry. This is not going to be on your permanent record, or anything.”

Then Bill said that one of his work buddies had been looking for him before that conversation took place. The boss had asked where Bill was, and of course, at the time, he was taking a shit. His work buddy had said, “Oh, Bill is probably ‘hanging out’ somewhere…”, which seems like kind of an unfortunate choice of words, under the circumstances.

We talked about it a little more, marveling at how people are always watching what we’re doing, although they don’t always take action before it’s too late. I’m sure the IT guys at Bill’s company don’t monitor every search string, but when someone Googles something weird while on the clock, it gets flagged. Obviously they take any mention of suicide seriously, which is comforting, I guess. Why would someone in Bill’s line of work be searching for articles about suicide? It would make sense for me, since I have a background in public health and social work. But it doesn’t make sense for a guy who does what Bill does for a living. If anything, this serves as a reminder to watch one’s Googling while on the job.

As we were laughing about that, Bill noticed a message from his daughter. He clicked on it, and we were introduced to Bill’s new grandson, who was born a couple of days ago… At the time the message was sent, he was just 13 hours old. He’s tiny and adorable, and he serves as another good reminder that life goes on, even when there’s crazy and terrible shit going on everywhere. Bill’s daughter looked so beautiful, too, as she held her little son. I managed to snap a photo of Bill looking at the video, so happy to be “Papa” to another soul. Yes, I would say he’s got plenty to live for…

Priceless boys…

As I write this, a gorgeous song by Janet Jackson is playing. Her song, “Together Again”, is special to us, because we kind of see it as a message from Heaven. In December 2012, our beloved “bagel”, MacGregor, died of spinal cancer. MacGregor was a very special dog, and Bill adored him. He was especially devastated when we lost him. Then a month later, we adopted our beloved Arran, who immediately bonded with Bill. Arran even did something MacGregor always did to show affection to Bill… you can see him on his hind legs in the photo below. MacGregor used to do the very same thing, putting his paws on us while standing on his hind legs. And as Arran was doing that for the first of many times, “Together Again” was playing. It meant something to us… like MacGregor was sending us a message through Arran. And now, as I write about life and death, here it is again… and it’s followed by “Psalm 23” by Eden’s Bridge, which I would love played at my funeral someday.

I’m not a huge Janet Jackson fan, but I love this song. It’s very special.
That organ… it just moves me.
January 13, 2013, the day we brought Arran home in North Carolina, and he made Bill his favorite person… Janet Jackson’s song was playing.
And last week… they are still extremely bonded. Arran would be DEVASTATED if Bill died.

We have been very fortunate to live a very good life together. Even when things seem absolutely bonkers in the world, we still have some happy news to share. I don’t know what life is going to be like for the newest grandchild, but I know he’s already much beloved by many people. And he has the most wonderful “Papa”, too. So no one should worry about Bill… “Papa” isn’t going to do anything drastic anytime soon. But thanks for asking!

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family, money, musings, work

Repost: You’ll never make more than minimum wage…

Here’s a repost from January 16, 2016. I am reposting it because it sort of relates to today’s fresh content, right down to my sharing of Ron Block’s beautiful song, “Someone”.

Today’s post is going to be some personal, self-indulgent, introspective drivel that may not interest everyone…  apologies in advance.

Yesterday, a guy I used to work with who is now a Facebook friend posted a tribute to a retired Air Force colonel who recently died.  The colonel, whose name was Luke, had been a manager at the restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia where my friend and I used to work.  I never knew Luke, but I heard many stories about him.  He was one of those people who became legendary everywhere he went. 

My friend’s tribute to Luke was very moving and inspiring.  Luke knew my friend when he was very young and broke.  He stood up for my friend when others were against him.  He helped him become who he is today.  Luke was a few years younger than my dad and may have even run in the same circles with him a time or two.  He retired from the Air Force six years after my dad did; but he was a full colonel, while my dad retired as a lieutenant colonel.

The restaurant where my friend and I used to work was notorious in Williamsburg.  It had a great reputation as a place to eat, and a horrible reputation as a place to work.  The chef, who was also one of the owners, was rather famous because he’d been on television and written a lot of cookbooks.  He was also a Marine.  Having worked in his restaurant, I definitely picked up the military style that was used there to keep things running.  That didn’t mean there wasn’t chaos from time to time.  In fact, when I worked at that restaurant, my life felt like it was totally chaotic.  I was suffering from depression and anxiety and felt like I’d never amount to anything.  At that time, I was also living with my parents.  I was in my mid 20s and had a college degree and international work experience.  But I still felt like a big loser and was unable to find work that would help me launch. 

I remember the day in March 1998 that I decided to apply to work at that restaurant.  I’d had a huge fight with my father.  He told me he thought I was a very arrogant person and that I’d never succeed at anything in life.  He said, “You’ll never make more than minimum wage!”  At the same time, he and my mother were putting tremendous pressure on me to move out on my own.  I was paralyzed by depression and anxiety at the time, and their demands made me feel panicky, helpless, and hopeless.  I was also very angry about a lot of things, particularly that my parents seemed to be ashamed of me and didn’t seem to recognize that I really was trying to become a full fledged adult.

Immediately prior to working at the restaurant, I had been temping at the College of William & Mary.  I was there for several weeks, working in their admissions office, as well as several other places on campus.  I spent the longest time at the admissions office, where I filed away report cards, SAT scores, personal essays, and all of the other stuff hopeful high school kids sent with their bids to achieve admittance.  Having worked in the admissions office and in other places around the campus, I could see why people wanted to go there.  It’s an excellent and prestigious school.  Looking at all the stellar academic records and flawless personal statements written by potential students, I felt a bit sad for myself.  I was a college graduate working as a temp, filing endless reams of papers.  It was mind numbing work that didn’t pay well.

My sister is a William & Mary graduate.  She’s done very well for herself.  They never would have accepted me.  I didn’t measure up to my sister’s greatness, although I do have some things in common with her.  We are both returned Peace Corps Volunteers; we both have advanced degrees in public health; and we both worked at that same restaurant in Williamsburg.  She worked there when it first opened, and I worked there eighteen years later, when I decided I would make more than minimum wage and get on with my life. 

I remember being very determined on that day in March when I applied for the job at the restaurant.  It was my first time waiting tables, though I had worked with food in other capacities.  I had even been a cook.  I enjoyed working with food and thought I could be successful.  It also wasn’t lost on me that the skills one learns waiting tables can be applied to many of life’s trials.

As I sat for the interview, I thought of my dad and how pissed off he made me… and how much I wanted to get out from under his thumb.  It was my second attempt at getting a job at that restaurant.  I didn’t mention my initial unsuccessful attempt to the captain or the manager who interviewed me.  I knew if I got hired, I’d make money and be able to get away from my dad and his belittling comments.  I would someday prove myself.  I set my mind to it and got the job.  I’m still friends with the man who hired me.

Working at that restaurant was one of the most difficult experiences of my life.  It was even harder than being a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The work itself was very demanding and stressful.  It was physically and mentally challenging.  I remember coming in every day, when I first started working there, and feeling like I was going to throw up.  I lost a lot of weight and learned how to wait tables.  I made good money.  I was also sick a lot during those 18 months.  I saw a lot of people quit and a lot of people get fired.  I was incompetent as hell at first and worried that I, too, would get fired.  One time, I accidentally spilled beer on a customer.  My dad sneered when he heard about it and asked if I still had a job.  I did.  I learned that if you were reliable, worked hard, and were honest, you wouldn’t get fired.  And eventually, I became competent and even good at the job.   

I was promoted a couple of times and made enough money to cover all my bills.  Living with my parents allowed me to save up for the next step I needed to take.  I sought help for the anxiety and depression I had been suffering from my whole life.  That process, too, was very difficult for me.  I came to some tough realizations about people I cared about and trusted.  After a brush with insanity and suicidal ideation, I finally felt a lot better and made the decision to go back to school. I took the GRE and applied to graduate school and was accepted.  I haven’t had to look back.  It was my final escape from Gloucester County after several dramatic attempts, one of which being my decision to join the Peace Corps.

Going back to school was a life changing experience for me… as much as the Peace Corps was.  But, I have to admit, working at that restaurant with people who knew and loved Luke, was equally earth shattering in the grand scheme of things.  I never knew Luke, but seventeen years after quitting, I am still friends with many of the people I knew in the late 90s when I was working at that job.  I have read their tributes and comments about Luke.  I can see that they all think of him as a comrade or even family…  Maybe they even think of me that way.  I hated the job when I was doing it, but now I’m honored to be in that group of people.  We were the ones who didn’t quit and had achieved some success.

This morning over breakfast, I was talking to Bill about all this stuff on my mind.  I remembered how my dad had told me I’d never make more than minimum wage and would ultimately amount to nothing.  Back then, that comment was devastating to me.  I was in my 20s, and unsure of what to do with my life.  I felt like I was really struggling, even though others surely struggled more than I ever have.  I kept doing all of these things that I thought would help me succeed, yet nothing seemed to lead anywhere.  But now I think of my friend who wrote the tribute to Luke; he actually slept outside a couple of nights because he lived far so away from the restaurant and had to take buses to and from work.  He’d missed the last one and couldn’t afford a motel.  He did what he had to do to succeed in the job and survived.  Now he’s thriving, living in Washington, DC and enjoying what appears to be a very good life.

Thanks to my parents, I never had to sleep outside.  But I felt like I was never going to launch.  Now, I look back on what my dad said and realize that he had no reason to be ashamed of me.  While I may not be the highest achieving person on the planet, I’ve done alright.  And I have made more than minimum wage more than once.  Maybe I didn’t end up being as successful and awesome as my sisters have, but at least I found someone to love, who loves me back.  I haven’t done anything really shameful or embarrassing.  In fact, aside from being overeducated and too fat for my Dad’s tastes, I’m even living an enviable life.  Maybe that was part of his problem with me.  Maybe he felt like I didn’t deserve what I have.  He probably thought I wasn’t living up to his idea of what my potential was… or maybe he was just projecting some of his psychic shit on me.  Who knows? 

Anyway, though I can’t say working at that restaurant was a whole lot of fun most of the time, I did learn a lot and met some fine people.  The skills I picked up have served me well in life.  In fact, I’d say in many significant ways, I ended up rather rich.  Reading my friend’s tribute to Luke made me realize something important.  Ripple effects can be positive.  Luke inspired and influenced my friend and my friend, in turn, inspired and influenced me.  I’d say that’s worth as much or more than minimum wage.  And I don’t have to be “someone” to be worthwhile.

This isn’t the way I feel about my dad, but it is kind of how I feel about success…  This song is called “Someone”.  It’s by Ron Block, a musician who has earned my admiration and gratitude.  The words are very wise and meaningful to me.  I think this song could be a theme for my life. (And at the time I wrote this post, Ron hadn’t shared a video of “Someone”, so I made one myself.)

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