controversies, Duggars, nostalgia, Russia, safety, silliness

I kept my kid rear facing until he was sixteen! Give me a cookie!

Now that the pandemic restrictions are slowly fading away, people are starting to go back to their old favorite soapboxes. I’m starting to see less lecturing about public health guidelines regarding viruses. And, after our glorious minimally COVID intrusive French break, I am feeling a lot better about some things.

I say “some things”, because I’m going to have to call up USAA again and bitch at them for wrongly blocking my debit card due to “suspicious activity”. They unceremoniously put a block on the card last night as I was trying to make a purchase from a vendor I use fairly often. I don’t know if it’s because I had a travel alert because we went away for a few days, or just because… but this happens to me fairly frequently, and I’m at the point now at which I’m thinking it’s time to consider finding a new bank. Perhaps we need one that is more local. I suggested that in 2014, but Bill didn’t agree. Anyway, I have to call them today, and I hate having to do that. It’s a pain in the ass. Edited to add: as I was writing this, I got an automated call from USAA, many hours after the fact, asking me to confirm the activity. Supposedly, my card is open… so maybe I can make my purchases now. I’ll give it a try later, when I can call USAA immediately and get help if it doesn’t work.

Now… on to today’s topic. I follow the Duggar Family News Group on Facebook. It’s often entertaining, and sometimes there are some great books recommended there. I also enjoy a lot of the snark regarding fundie Christian families such as the Duggars. I guess it was a natural progression, since I’m less interested in snarking on Mormons lately, even if I do still intensely dislike Mormonism (but not Mormons, in general).

This morning, someone posted one of their Facebook memories, in light of the recent car accident involving Nathan and Nurie (Rodrigues) Keller. I posted about the accident, myself, a few weeks ago. It seems that Nathan and Nurie, who have a baby boy, did not have their infant in a car seat at all. Nathan was cited.

Naturally, news of the accident generated a lot of chatter from other Duggar Family News followers, especially since Nurie’s parents, Jill and David Rodrigues, both have siblings who are permanently disabled due to serious car accidents. Jill’s sister has been a quadriplegic since 2015, while David’s brother is reportedly a paraplegic. I don’t know much about the specifics involving those accidents, but it would seem to me that, under those circumstances, car safety should be more of a priority in the Rodrigues family than it apparently is. But this post is less about how I think the Rodrigues and Keller families should be more cognizant of safety, than it is about the public ego stroking that goes on any time someone brings up the subject of car seats.

Someone posted that the below image came up in their memories the other day, and they decided to share it with the group:

Yikes!

This is the video referenced in the above image.

Blood flows red on the highway!

Now… I want to make it very clear that I am not against people being as safe as possible when they’re driving. It’s true that I have always hated wearing seatbelts, but I wear them anyway, because Bill turns into Pat Boone if I don’t. But aside from that, I’m not an idiot. I know that seatbelts and car seats save lives. This is not a rant about car seat safety, five point harnesses, or rear facing children for as long as possible… although I’m pretty sure I would have puked a lot if that had been the rule when I was a child. I tend to get motion sickness when I ride backwards. But what’s a little vomiting when your life is at stake, right?

This rant is about what happens when people share these things on social media. It practically turns into a circle jerk of self-congratulations, as poster after poster brags about how strict they are about car safety with their own kids. In fact, looking on YouTube, the same phenomenon is happening among commenters there. So many people are boasting about how safety conscious they are, patting themselves on the back. They are probably at a higher risk of breaking their arms that way, than in a car accident.

Here’s a sampling of the comments on YouTube.

The comments on the Facebook post are very similar to the ones above. Based on the self-congratulatory mood of these responses, one could be led to believe that everybody who’s anybody rear faces their kids, their husbands, their wives, their pets, and would also rear face themselves, if they didn’t have to drive! And these threads almost always devolve into segues about how long to keep kids in booster seats, harnesses, and what not. I’m surprised people haven’t started making their toddlers wear helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads in the car. Below is another screenshot of comments on the YouTube video…

A little dissension creeps into the discussion… and it starts looking like there are a bunch of physics experts weighing in…

Again… I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with being concerned about car safety, especially when children are involved. After all, if Princess Diana had worn a seatbelt on her last car ride, she’d probably still be with us. I just don’t understand why some people feel so compelled to share their personal philosophies about it to the point at which it looks like they want a cookie or something. Do people really need validation about their personal choices that badly? I mean, rear face your eight year old if you can, and you want to do that. Keep that kid in a five point harness. Slap a helmet on them, if it makes you happy. Far be it for me to judge you on your car safety choices. But why tell the whole world about it? And why judge other people for not doing what you’re doing? Especially if they’re following the law?

Remember, though, I write this as someone who grew up in the 1970s and 80s, when kids were allowed to bounce all over the car… and although my parents were always devoted to safety and wore their seatbelts religiously, I was usually only forced to wear them when my dad was in control freak mode. That’s probably why I’ve always hated wearing them. I associated them with my parents– really, more my dad– being mean and controlling, and punishing me for being myself. It wasn’t about them caring about my safety, or the chance that I might become a flying object. It was about my dad being large, and in charge. Seatbelts, in those days were also uncomfortable, especially for short people like me.

It amazes me that I survived my childhood, when so many people smoked, and kids rode bikes without helmets and played outside for hours, their parents not knowing where they were, and not worrying until darkness fell. I’ve mentioned many times before that I grew up in rural Virginia, and it was not uncommon to see some of the kids in my neighborhood riding on the hood of their mother’s car to their trailer home at the end of our dirt road. It was hardcore redneck living, I tell you! I remember being embarrassed when I was forced to wear a seatbelt in the car, circa 1980 or so. It was not the “cool” thing to do in those days. It wasn’t until the late 90s, after I spent two years in Armenia, where NOBODY wore seatbelts, that I finally started to wear them 95% of the time.

Nowadays, just about everybody wears seatbelts. You’re not cool if you don’t wear one. And even people in the back seat wear them, which was definitely not the case even twenty years ago. The pendulum has shifted to the point at which people go batshit nuts when they see anyone not wearing a seatbelt. And if a child isn’t strapped in perfectly… well, prepare for the hammer of judgment to come crashing down. While I’m sure most people mean well, others seem to get off on edifying and judging their neighbors. It must give them a surge of sanctimonious supply to get to instruct someone on the errors of their ways…

Dreadful… and no seatbelts to be seen. I was about twelve when this aired. Blair tells Tootie to put a seatbelt on Natalie at 7:17, only because Natalie is embarrassing her. At 9:09, Natalie smiles as she talks about how she “bit down” on the seatbelt when they were stopped by a cop.

Yesterday, I was watching a truly wretched episode of The Facts of Life that aired during the sixth season. It was called “Cruisin'”, and it involved Blair, Natalie, Tootie, and Jo driving around Peekskill, New York in Blair’s daddy’s Caddy. Blair and Jo are in the front seat, and they’re all listening to God awful remakes of popular songs of decades past, acting like mom and pop to Natalie and Tootie. Neither of them are wearing seatbelts, and Tootie folds the front seat forward, causing Jo to chastise her. In fact, at one point, Blair tells Jo to hit the window locks and Tootie to “slap a seatbelt” on Natalie, when she gets too rambunctious. That was kind of the attitude back then. Then, at 9:09, Jo snarks on how Blair came up with a lame excuse for a cop, claiming Natalie was in labor. Natalie smiles and says, “Did you notice how I bit down on my seatbelt?”

Sometimes, in the 70s and 80s, seatbelts were used as disciplinary devices for the unruly children of the world. It’s a weird mindset, I know… When I see evidence of how we were in the 80s, I suddenly feel really old. It’s amazing how many years have passed, and how much some things have really changed. I’m going to be 50 very soon… and I’m starting to realize that I’m getting old. Like, for instance, I often wake up with pain in my back… and I have to squint to read fine print. It’s hard to believe the women on The Facts of Life are even older than I am!

Our mindsets have really changed in a lot of ways, though. In the 70s and 80s, kids were a lot freer to do things on their own. And yet, it seems like less was expected of us. I see so many kids today being prepared for their lives as adults as if they were already adults. There’s so much pressure, yet so much protection. In my day, we all worried about nukes, especially in the 80s. And now, the threat of nuclear war seems even closer than it ever was. It almost makes wearing a seatbelt seem silly. If Putin hits the red button, we’re all probably doomed, anyway. The constant emphasis on safety could be completely pointless soon… if something isn’t done about that madman.

Here’s another thing that reminds me of how old I am… Bill retired from the Army 8 years ago. His service began during the Cold War, and he was trained to deal with Soviet style combat. He has a degree in International Relations from American University, which he earned before the Soviet Union fell apart. For the second half of his career in the Army, that training became almost obsolete, as the focus was more on the Middle East. Now, the Russians are a huge concern again, and Bill’s old training is becoming relevant again. It may even end up making him more employable. Isn’t that weird?

Well, anyway, I don’t think anyone should feel badly about rear facing their children in the car, if that works for them and makes them feel better… especially if the kid doesn’t mind it, isn’t uncomfortable, and doesn’t puke. I’m surprised more car manufacturers haven’t made cars with passenger seats that rear face by design. But I don’t understand why so many people feel like they have to announce this to the world. I mean, look at this…

I often tease Bill, because he’s very safety conscious. He’s also very health conscious. However, he doesn’t get on my case about never going to the doctor. It’s likely that I won’t die in a car accident… I’ll probably die of an undiagnosed chronic disease. I do know, though, that that’s ultimately my responsibility… I just think it’s funny that he’s so safety conscious. And I think it’s funny that so many people are so fixated on things like car seat safety, when there are risks everywhere that a lot of us ignore or downplay. I think seatbelts and car seats, much like face masks, are things that are easy to see, and easy to judge others on, particularly if they aren’t being used properly. It’s easy to judge someone for not using a seatbelt or car seat, or not wearing a mask. That’s why people do it with wild, reckless abandon!

However, chances are, we are all letting a lot of other things slide that will probably kill us someday. And chances are, someone is silently judging you for that, too… even if you’re still rear facing and harnessing your adolescent in the name of car safety. Yes, that includes every sanctimonious twit who wants to brag about their superior parenting skills and health and safety measures. But I guess there’s no harm in a little validation seeking online. Hell, we all do it. Now pass me another slice of pizza and a beer. Gotta get that cholesterol up so I can take that big trip to the great beyond… safely strapped in, of course.

*** But… this all being said, allow me to go on record that I think it’s crazy that Nathan and Nurie didn’t have their baby in a car seat. I hope they learned a lesson and will do better in the future. I’m not going to send them hate mail, though.

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family, healthcare, musings

COVID-19 has made some people MEAN… but one tragic story has given me the gift of perspective today.

I have been trying to make an effort to rant less about COVID-19, even though cases are rising in Germany again. I haven’t been in Germany since October 26th. We’re headed back there tomorrow. I look forward to going home and starting my travel series. I also look forward to seeing our dogs, whom I’ve really been missing… I think dogs are much better companions than most people are. At least they don’t judge people for getting sick, or parents for losing their children.

A few days ago, I read a post on the Recovery from Mormonism message board. It was posted by a popular board participant named Dave the Atheist. I’ve noticed that he’s been posting many articles about COVID-19, even though they’re technically off-topic. I don’t engage with Dave the Atheist much, although I’ve noticed he has a tendency to be kind of “salty”.

In any case, the story Dave posted was about a Texas mother named Amber McDaniel, who had to make the heartbreaking choice between having her 10 year old son, Zyrin Foots’s, arms and legs amputated, and an eye removed, or letting him pass away. Amber’s sister, Ashley Engmann, explained on a GoFundMe page that Zyrin contracted COVID, which weakened his immune system and made him vulnerable to other illnesses. Zyrin then contracted another virus, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and experienced a rare and devastating COVID related complication called MIS-C, or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, that caused inflammation in his heart.

Due to all of these medical complications, Zyrin’s heart was unable to pump blood adequately to the rest of his body. He developed gangrene in his legs. Doctors eventually told Zyrin’s mother that the only thing they could do for her child was amputate his legs, one of his arms, and remove an eye. Even if they did that, Zyrin only had a 25 percent chance of living. But if they didn’t amputate, Zyrin would surely die.

After considering what it would be like for Zyrin’s recovery, if she decided to allow the surgeries, Amber decided to let her son die. Zyrin Foots passed on October 13, 2021, having been on life support since September 30th.

I don’t know a thing about this family, other than what I’ve read in the news and the GoFundMe campaign. I know a lot of people are jaded about fundraisers. I guess I can’t blame them for that. However, I was shocked and dismayed when I read a comment from someone on RfM that was something along the lines of “the mom will be fine” and “she still won’t get vaccinated.”

I don’t usually respond to those kinds of comments, especially on RfM. But, for some reason, I couldn’t help myself. I wrote a comment pointing out that based only on the article linked in the post, there’s no way to know how Zyrin got the virus. He lived in Huntsville, Texas, where mask and vaccine mandates aren’t popular. I did find another article that went more in depth into Zyrin’s story, written by journalist, Peter Holley. Actually, after reading the more in depth story in Texas Monthly magazine, I feel even more compassion for Amber McDaniel and her family, no matter what her stance is on COVID-19 and vaccines.

Making this situation even more heartbreaking is the fact that Zyrin was not Amber McDaniel’s first loss. Eight years ago, when she was 26 years old and six months pregnant with her third son, Zekiah, Amber was hit by a truck. Amber lost Zekiah, and she was left permanently disabled and unable to work. In that accident, Amber lost the use of her right hand and was left with one leg shorter than the other. For months, she was fed through a tube. She can’t drive, although she walks everywhere she can. She now only has one living son, nine year old Zaiden, and no insurance coverage to help pay for the massive medical and funeral bills.

I know people are tired of COVID-19, and they’re fed up with entitled attitudes from people who refuse to get vaccinated and deny the existence of the pandemic. I understand that it’s frustrating when people won’t cooperate to arrest this sickness so we can all go back to a more normal life. I just don’t understand why someone would respond to this story with so much anger and vitriol toward someone they presumably don’t even know… someone who had already suffered tremendous loss and tragedy even before COVID-19 existed.

Pastor Philip A. Hagans, a father of four, has been supporting McDaniels and her family as they cope with losing Zyrin in such a horrifying way. He’s mentioned in the Texas Monthly article I linked. From Peter Holley’s article:

A few days after Zyrin’s passing, Hagans, a father of four boys who range from seven to seventeen years old, told me he was struggling with the child’s death, not just because he was sad, but also because he was frustrated. Huntsville had always been the kind of place, he said, where people looked out for one another. But that same thoughtfulness didn’t seem to extend to concerns about COVID-19, even though Walker County has experienced nearly 12,000 cases and lost 181 residents to the virus. Some Huntsville residents were still not masking around vulnerable neighbors and family members. Others, he said, were sending kids to school with COVID-19 symptoms because it was more convenient than keeping them at home. That selfish behavior, he said, may have gotten Zyrin killed, and Hagans couldn’t understand it. “I chose to keep my kids home when they tested positive for COVID, and yes, it interrupted my schedule and my wife’s schedule,” Hagans said. “But I’d rather do that than allow them to get someone else sick whose body can’t bounce back and they end up losing their life like Zyrin—all because I didn’t want to miss work? That’s a disgrace.” 

It’s not just in Huntsville, Texas where people have become mean-spirited, disrespectful, and selfish. This attitude has been spreading for the past several years, but it seems to have gotten worse in the Trump era. Perfect strangers assume the worst about someone based on things like their political beliefs or tragedies that affect them. Social media makes it worse, of course. It’s so much easier now to read a story about someone and make assumptions about their choices or their characters. Everybody does it, including me.

Reading about Zyrin Foots has made me wish for a time when it was much harder to get bad news. On the other hand, his story has also made me stop and ponder my own attitudes about things. In fact, just now, Bill came back from picking up croissants at the grocery store. He discovered that there aren’t any napkins or paper towels in the kitchen of our guest house, and was grumbling about using toilet paper instead. It struck me as ridiculous that he was complaining about that, even though Bill is generally a much kinder and more considerate person than I am. So I just explained to him that, right now, having read this story about Amber McDaniel and the horrifying choice she had to make, I wasn’t in a place in which I could really complain about a lack of paper towels. The fact is, we’ve been on a marvelous vacation together, and we are so lucky on so many levels.

In any case, it’s hard for me to imagine that so much tragedy was in the cards for someone… but I have known other people who have dealt with similarly tragic and horrible events in their lives. I often forget their stories when I’m faced with inconveniences or annoyances, or when I am feeling depressed or anxious. But even as I write this, I realize that it’s probably fleeting insight. Because I know that I might soon forget this story and complain about traffic, or a lack of paper towels, or the fact that I hate to vacuum. When it comes down to it, petty annoyances are just that.

As for Amber McDaniel and the choice she made, I think ultimately, she did the kindest and most humane thing should could do in this situation. In the unlikely event that her son had lived, he would have spent the rest of his life battling horrific health problems. And those problems, I’m sad to say, would have been a tremendous burden to his already highly burdened family, as well as to Zyrin himself.

Imagine being ten years old, having been perfectly healthy and brimming with promise, with dreams of one day being a great chef. Then, thanks to a novel virus, you’re left unable to walk, use your arms, see clearly, or go to the restroom without help. Think about the effect that would have had on every aspect of that child’s life, and his future. I know not everyone would see it the way I do… plenty of people have these lofty ideas that people with such severe and devastating disabilities can somehow overcome them and be an inspiration to others. I know that sometimes, that does happen. But the chances of it happening were definitely not in this child’s favor. Either way, death was in Zyrin’s future, just as it is in every person’s future.

Add in the fact that Amber McDaniel is herself significantly disabled and lacks resources… and she lives in a state where people aren’t all that interested in helping the poor and unlucky. Texas is also a grotesquely pro life state, to the point at which it has even forced a pregnant woman in a coma to be kept on life support, though the developing fetus was significantly deformed and would not have survived, even if he had been delivered.

It must have seemed like a heart-wrenching decision for Amber McDaniel to let her beloved son go. And yet, practically speaking, it probably was the best decision she could make. Because if Zyrin had lived, life would have been significantly more difficult for him, and everyone in his sphere, including his nine year old brother. Sometimes, death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Anyway… I decided to write about this story because I had read that nasty comment on RfM. As someone who has a tendency toward depression, it really disheartens me to read flippant comments from people who make the worst assumptions about those who have suffered loss or misfortune. It seems like so many people want to assume that anyone who is unlucky somehow deserves it. I even saw that attitude last year, when Jonny, our would-be new dog, escaped his pet taxi and got hit by a car. I never even had a chance to pet him before he was gone. People judged me personally for making that comment, and for the fact that he escaped. They didn’t know the facts, nor did they know me. They just judged… although, to the credit of the German people, once I explained things more fully to the ones who were blaming Bill and me, they came around.

I would like to hope that people might come around in this case and not judge Amber McDaniel for anything. Whatever her opinions were about COVID-19 before this happened, I’m sure they are forever changed now. And regardless, she has suffered profound losses that the vast majority of us will never have to try to fathom. I think she deserves all of the grace in the world, especially right now. I wish her nothing but peace and comfort.

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Ex, family, healthcare, love, marriage, mental health

Adam and Darla’s bizarre love story…

You know that old song by Billy Joel? I know it well. It was a hit when I was a young child. The lyrics are timeless. The melody endures. Many of us would love to have a friend or a loved one who takes us just the way we are.

Billy wrote a masterpiece that has stood the test of time.

But is it always best to love someone just the way they are? Are there times when it’s unwise or unhealthy to take someone just the way they are? Obviously, yes, there are. My husband tried to love his ex wife just the way she was until he realized he couldn’t anymore. His own life was at risk by accepting her “as/is”. So they got divorced and he’s much better off for it. I don’t know if she’s better off. It’s not my business, anyway.

This topic comes up this morning after I read an admittedly bizarre “love story” in The New York Times. Adam Barrows wrote an article entitled “I Wanted to Love Her, Not Save Her”. The tag line read, “The first time we spoke, she was so weak she had collapsed. Why did that not alarm me?” When someone uses the word “alarm” in a tag line, you can be sure high drama is about to ensue. I was hooked.

So I read Adam Barrows’ story about meeting his wife, Darla. They were both working at a chain bookstore in Minneapolis, Minnesota when Barrows came upon his future wife passed out on the floor. Although they had been co-workers, he had never really spoken to her. He just noticed that she was painfully thin.

As Darla’s vision came back, she explained to Adam that she suffered from anorexia nervosa and hadn’t eaten in several days. He asked her if he could get her something to eat. She said no, and asked him to just sit with her for a minute until her strength returned. Adam sat with her and they developed a friendship. As they got closer and eventually “fell in love”, Darla continued to starve herself. Adam did nothing to get her to change her behavior. He writes:

I didn’t try to help her with that. I’m not sure why. It’s as if I accepted her struggle as a given, as a fact of her. I was struggling myself after a recent heartbreak and was trying to teach myself how to do basic things again: to think for myself, to walk properly, to hold myself upright, to sleep and to breathe.

To see her struggle to force down solid food, to watch as she spread a thin layer of butter on a saltine that she would chew to a paste before it would go down (this was her only meal some days) seemed not natural, of course, but also somehow unremarkable to me. I watched her starve and held her while she did it.

Some people might call that enabling. I called it love.

After months of traveling around the United States together, they ended up getting married. They had a son who turned 18 last year and, at this writing, have been together for 23 years. Adam writes that Darla eventually got somewhat better. She ate more and, over the years, put on some weight. He writes that before the pandemic struck, she was actually considering going on a diet, but didn’t end up doing it. While many people have gained weight during the pandemic, Adam writes that he and Darla don’t go to the grocery store much and that has had a “slimming effect”. I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll take him at his word that he and his wife are doing okay.

At the end of his essay, Barrows concludes:

Our married life has not been without conflicts. I have taken her for granted, put my needs ahead of hers, indulged my weaknesses. But I never have regretted the fact that I did the possibly irresponsible thing back then by not acting alarmed about her anorexia, by not pressuring her to do anything about it, and instead just loving her for who she was. She never wanted heroic intervention from me or from anyone else. She triumphed over her issues with food on her own terms and is happy for me to be sharing our story now.

I found this story kind of fascinating. I went to see what others thought of it. Most people seemed to conclude that Adam Barrows is some kind of an asshole. Here’s a screenshot of the first few comments. They are overwhelmingly negative.

Someone else wrote this rather scathing response:

Wow, less the confession of an enabler and more the confession of a narcissistic a-hole with a fetish for damaged, frail women. It’s so quaint to wax poetic about how deathly cold her hand was the time you found her after she fainted. It’s so sexy to talk about riding in the sleeper car with a starving person in desperate need of mental health intervention. You sound like a right tw*t.

I didn’t get that Adam Barrows is a “narcissistic a-hole” just based on this essay. It’s possible that he is one, but frankly, I kind of doubt it. Most narcissists I’ve known don’t have the ability to be introspective about their own faults. Adam openly admits that his wife had a problem. He also admits that he might have enabled her in her self-destructive habits by not insisting that she seek treatment. Some people would say he’s a bad person for not rushing her to a hospital or a rehab center.

On the other hand, there is some beauty in a person who simply accepts a person as they are. I didn’t read that Adam was encouraging Darla to be an anorexic. I read that he didn’t disapprove of her for who she was. He simply loved her. According to his story, she eventually got better. I don’t know how her improvement came to be. Was it entirely through the “kissing” treatment he writes of, or did she ever seek any kind of help? I don’t know… and I’m not sure if that’s the point of this story. It’s an article in the Modern Love section, which focuses on different kinds of love stories.

There are also people out there who consider eating disorders to be a “lifestyle”. I personally don’t agree with that viewpoint at all. But I’m just one person. As I’ve recently mentioned in other posts, there are a fuckload of eating disorders out there that never get any press. Who am I to say that one person’s eating disorder isn’t another person’s lifestyle. In fact, we don’t even know if Darla was ever diagnosed by a physician as having anorexia nervosa. We can only go by Adam’s description of her and her own declaration that she’s anorexic. When I was much younger, I used to go days without eating. I passed out a few times, too. No one would ever think of me as anorexic, even if I sometimes engaged in those behaviors.

I’m inclined to take this essay at face value. It wasn’t intended to be an in depth look at Darla’s eating disorder. It was a story about how Adam and Darla came to be in a relationship. I don’t think there’s enough information in this story to determine what kind of person Adam is. But that’s not stopping some people from judging him. One person wrote:

This is problematic in a variety of ways. The sentence about how Darla was actually considering a diet before the pandemic is particularly disturbing. This diet is apparently supposed to be proof that she triumphed over her anorexia, but it is not. Recovery is not about achieving a certain predetermined weight, it is about rediscovering comfort and joy in your body and the food that nourishes it. The author does not address this at all. He also minutely describes his wife’s eating patterns and ED rituals. The romanticization of theses behaviors is very triggering and could push ED survivors who read this article towards relapse. His wife’s battle with anorexia is ultimately just used as the backdrop for his coming of age story.

The only description Adam includes of his wife’s eating rituals is in a paragraph about how she would spread a thin layer of butter on a saltine cracker and chew it up until it became paste. He writes that some days, that was her only meal, adding “I watched her starve and held her while she did it.” I agree, that last sentence sounds awful on its surface. But looking a little bit deeper, I think it’s possible to see his perspective. It’s practically impossible to save people from themselves. It all comes down to deciding what you– yourself– can tolerate. It sounds to me like Adam accepts Darla as she is. And just based on his essay, I don’t get the sense that he necessarily encourages her to be anorexic. I think many people are making that assumption because he admits that he never tried to force her into treatment.

An argument could be made that a person who is extremely underweight and malnourished lacks perspective. But, unfortunately, when it comes to mental health care, a lot of Americans are shit out of luck. Mental health care is neither easy to afford nor easy to access, especially right now. Moreover, thanks to our civil rights laws, it’s pretty tough to force someone into treatment for an eating disorder. Even if someone is about to starve to death, our laws emphasize self-determination and the right to refuse care. It appears that Adam and Darla may be living in Canada now, as Adam is reportedly teaching in the English department at Carleton University in Ontario. I can’t comment on Canadian laws regarding the treatment of eating disorders or other mental health issues. He makes it sound like perhaps she no longer needs treatment, anyway. Does she need it, having apparently never received it? I honestly don’t know. All I know is what he’s written, and even that is pretty subjective.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that, in the vast majority of mental health situations that don’t involve some kind of biological issue, treatment works best when a person decides for themselves that they will cooperate. When it comes down to it, a person with an eating disorder needs to decide for themselves that they need help. They have to be motivated to get it. Perhaps if Adam had told Darla that he would be leaving her if she didn’t seek treatment, she might have found the motivation to get help. However, it’s my guess that she might have just as easily become resentful and angry about it. She may have seen him as trying to control and manipulate her. A lot of the angry women commenting on this piece would probably fault Adam for that, too. I think a lot of women blame men for most everything.

I told Bill about this piece and asked him what he thought. I know that if he were in this situation, he would have a really hard time watching. He would want to try to rescue. But he also tried to do that with his ex wife and he failed miserably. Eventually, it became too much for him to tolerate and, when she finally dramatically presented him with a divorce ultimatum, he took her up on it. Divorce was not what she had wanted. She was simply trying to be manipulative in a humiliating way. But he got tired of the bullshit and, ultimately, saved himself from her craziness by getting out of the marriage. He’s reaped the rewards and managed to stay alive, too.

Having recently watched a bunch of episodes of Snapped, and having witnessed my husband’s own dealings with a woman who is, frankly, very disturbed, I understand that this is a really tough situation to be in. Not knowing either of these people personally, I can’t judge if what Adam did was right, or if he’s a good person. A lot of people negatively judged Bill and me when I shared how Bill’s story eerily reminded me of an episode of Snapped I watched years ago. It was about a woman named Jessica McCord who, along with her second husband, murdered her first husband and his second wife over custody of their kids. I remember my blood running cold as I watched that episode. I dared to blog about how Jessica McCord reminded me of Ex. I ended up getting a shitstorm of negative armchair quarterback comments from people who wrongly characterized us as bad people. No… we aren’t bad people. We simply didn’t want to end up dead. And I believe Ex was capable of going that far. She threatened to kill Bill on more than one occasion.

Should Bill have tried to get his daughters away from his ex wife? Personally, I think so. In fact, I often encouraged him to try to do something about that situation, even though it wasn’t my decision to make. But, the fact of the matter is, we didn’t have the money or the time to wage a legal battle. It would have been very difficult to convince a judge to grant custody to Bill, especially since the girls didn’t indicate to us that they were unhappy with their living situation. It would have been great if he could have tried to get more equitable custody, but we live in reality. The reality is, it probably wouldn’t have worked. At this point, I’m simply glad he survived, and I don’t apologize for his decision to save himself. His daughters are grown now, and one of them has apparently forgiven him after confirming that her mother is mentally ill. The other remains estranged, but she’s almost 30 years old. She can reach out if she wants to. She chooses not to. As an adult, she has the right to make that choice for herself. Bill loves her anyway.

That’s kind of what I got from Adam’s piece. He loves his wife the way she is. Is it a good thing that he doesn’t press her to get treatment for her eating disorder? I know what most people would think. For me, it’s not so cut and dried. There’s something to be said for a person who loves someone regardless. And despite some people’s potentially erroneous assumptions that Adam prefers his wife “sick”, I get the impression that he had simply determined that he couldn’t be her savior. Moreover, it wasn’t Adam’s role to try to be Darla’s savior, simply because that’s what society deems is correct. What I got from Adam’s story is that he and Darla love each other and, against the odds, their love has survived… and so has his wife. I wish them well.

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celebrities, condescending twatbags, mental health

Wil Wheaton gets shamed over maskless visage. Internet goes berserk.

I recently started following the actor, Wil Wheaton, on Facebook. I only know him from his role in the 1986 film, Stand By Me, as well as his activism for mental healthcare. I have never seen him on Star Trek. I have also noticed that he’s a dog lover, so that automatically gives him extra points as far as I’m concerned.

A couple of days ago, Wil shared this #tbt photo from 2016.

Wil and his wife, Anne, looking smashing at an event that took place in 2016.

Most commenters were nice. One person came along and wrote this:

He was one of several.

I’ve noticed that people are even quicker to judge and jump to conclusions now than they’ve ever been. Maybe it’s because we’re all stuck at home, staring at our computer screens. I’ve also noticed that people are getting meaner. One lady named Barbara called Wil Wheaton “stupid” for not wearing a mask in 2016. She got quite a ration of shit from others.

Reading some of the “mask police” comments from people reminds me of the horror stories I’ve read about people who have had CPS called on them by some random stranger who doesn’t like the way they’re parenting. Many times, it’s just the work of a busybody who wants to feel “heroic”. Regardless, it’s not productive to call most people “stupid”, especially when it’s clear you didn’t read carefully before you leapt into action.

I actually missed this whole episode when it was occurring. But I did notice Wil’s blistering follow up post. Here it is.

This kind of gave me a giggle, although it does seem a bit harsh. He got called “stupid” by people who thought he was flouting the mask rules. Then he turns around and calls them “stupid” for not reading. I think we’re all on serious edge these days!

I do hope that someday, this mask nonsense will be over. People are becoming ever more uncivilized toward each other. It’s gotten to the point at which we’re all responding to each other with annoyance or even outright anger. Hyper-reactive people see old pictures of someone without a mask, freak out, and pounce! It would be so much better if more people stopped for a second, double checked what they were responding to, and saved the spite for items that truly deserve snark and bile. This is a cute picture of Wil and his wife. They look happy and healthy. A year ago, it would not have invited any criticism. This year, people just want to shit all over it because they look like they’re breaking the rules.

I’m sure that besides people worrying about COVID-19, a lot of this shit is being driven by outright anger. It’s the same kind of judgmental anger lobbed at anyone who appears to be trying to “get over” in some way. Like, for instance, when someone decides to use a SNAP card to buy Little Debbie cakes or steak instead of fresh vegetables and rice. I get that people are pissed. This year has been very difficult on many levels. And people who feel forced to wear a mask want to act like cops toward those who appear to be breaking the rules. But that’s not a very productive attitude. We’re all in this together, right?

Anyway… I have not seen this movie, nor do I even know that much about Wil Wheaton. I like what he has to say about mental health and dogs. I get why he got irritated by the people who didn’t read before they typed. As someone who has been very outspoken about suffering from depression, it surprises me that he would be so insulting… but as someone who has battled depression myself, I also know that it’s a condition that causes people to be grumpy, temperamental, and short of patience. This pandemic is taking a toll on all of us. I really hope that the danger passes sooner, rather than later.

And I hope people will take a minute and stop trying to act like cops. At best, that’s a very annoying and mostly unnecessary habit. At worst, it could get you publicly humiliated… or even killed, especially if you confront the wrong person in the wrong country.

Meanwhile, Germany is about to go into stricter lockdown. SIGH!

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divorce, Ex, psychology, true crime

Armchair quarterbacks…

When I used to post on Blogger, I would get all kinds of comments from all over the world. Sometimes, people would offer me unsolicited advice, based on what they thought they knew about me. Sometimes they would armchair quarterback when I’d post about situations we were dealing with. Often, the comments were left in a spirit of being helpful, but sometimes they were spiteful and cruel.

I think there must be a lot of people out there in the world who feel a lot better about themselves when they tell off some stranger on a blog or on social media. For most of my years on Blogger, I didn’t moderate comments before they were posted, so sometimes I would get nasty surprises from mean-spirited people who didn’t like something I’d written or disagreed with my opinions.

The first “nasty” comments I ever got were based on a post I wrote about Jessica McCord, a woman who, with the help of her police officer husband, killed her ex husband and his second wife. I had seen an episode of Snapped, a TV show on Oxygen about women who kill, and was horrified by how much Jessica McCord’s behaviors, prior to the murders, reminded me of Bill’s ex wife’s. So I wrote a post about it. That was a bad move.

News piece about Jeff McCord, a former cop who helped his wife, Jessica, murder her ex husband, Alan Bates, and Alan’s wife, Terra, after Alan won custody of his daughters.

My blog entry about Jessica McCord caught on fire several months after I posted it. I got all kinds of bile from people over that post about Jessica McCord and my comparison of our situation to hers… a lot of people wanted to blame Bill for not fighting harder to get his kids away from his ex wife. In retrospect, maybe he should have fought harder for custody… although by the time I saw that episode of Snapped, the girls were already grown women. Both of the girls stopped speaking to Bill in 2004 or so, and back then, we had no money or time for court battles. I saw and wrote about the Snapped episode in early 2012. By then, older daughter was 20 years old, and younger daughter was 18, and it had been over seven years since they had completely quit communicating with their dad.

I wrote my post about Jessica McCord because I was shocked by how much she had behaved like Ex before McCord and her husband resorted to murder. At least, to our knowledge, Ex never tried to murder Bill, although she did once tell him, when she thought he was sleeping, that she should just “slit his throat”. Surprisingly enough, Bill didn’t leave her at that point. He still had hopes he could save the marriage and be there for his kids.

Although a lot of people had negative things to say to me about my Jessica McCord entry, that post also attracted sympathy from someone who was friends with Alan and Terra Bates and understood the dynamics of dealing with an unhinged ex spouse. He was also a man, and he understood that it would have been difficult for Bill to get custody changed, and just taking the kids from her and refusing to bring them back would have landed him in jail. Ex had made it very difficult for Bill to see the kids, anyway. She lived on the other side of the country, was taking about $30,000 a year in child support, and absolutely refused to cooperate with him. We later found out from younger daughter that Ex was terrified that Bill would “steal” them from her. “Steal” was the actual word she used, even though two of the three kids for whom Bill paid child support were also HIS children (older stepson has a dad, but his dad didn’t pay support– Bill paid for him, instead– how’s that for being an irresponsible father who “copped out” of parenthood?). She clearly sees her offspring as extensions of herself instead of people unto themselves.

Upon reading all of the nasty spew in the wake of that post, I ended up writing a follow up– not so much about Jessica McCord, but more for the people who read it and left negative, shaming comments and unsolicited advice for me. One woman who commented on the first post claimed to be an “academic” and pretty much gave us both barrels. I would say that for an “academic”, she was remarkably uneducated about parental alienation syndrome. She also lectured me about not showing appropriate “deference” for her academic achievements. However, she also used a pseudonym and blocked her profile, so there was no way to know if she was who or what she claimed to be. I would say that anyone who leaves a comment like that but doesn’t allow themselves to be vetted is probably brimming full of shit.

I am glad to point out that the follow up post got sympathetic comments rather than the hateful bile the first post attracted. In the follow up post, I explained in more detail what happened and reminded people that having one’s children completely disown and reject them without ever giving them a chance to explain their side is extremely hurtful. At that point, I was still very angry with Bill’s daughters. I thought they were complicit. Since they were adults in 2012, I held them responsible for their actions. I have since changed my mind about them, now that one of the girls has resumed communicating with Bill and we’ve learned more about what was going on from their end.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that people felt the need to “armchair quarterback” our situation. People react with righteous indignation when it comes to certain subjects, and they love to take what they think is the moral highground. When it comes to children, it’s easy for people to become sanctimonious about what other people should be doing, regardless of the individual circumstances they might be in at the time. For an easy example of what I mean, check out any video or picture of a child in a car seat. You can bet there will almost always be at least one comment on how the child is strapped in. It never fails, even if it’s a cute video. Nowadays, I’m seeing less about that subject as everyone is now preaching about wearing face masks. Many people take a “no excuses” attitude about some topics, even when such an attitude is not based in reality and doesn’t take into consideration other perspectives or circumstances. I guess it’s human nature.

On the other hand, it was pretty scary that some people felt that Bill should have been willing to be murdered for his daughters. What the hell good would he have been to them dead? Years later, Bill has finally reconciled with younger daughter, and he’s helped her out financially and emotionally, as she’s tried to make sense of her childhood. If Bill’s story had ended like Alan Bates’s had, his daughters would have lost BOTH parents forever.

My post about Jessica McCord was a source of a lot of angst for me, mainly because so many people left shitty, judgmental comments, mainly based on projection from their individual experiences. Also, a lot of people automatically blame men when a relationship doesn’t work out, and they assumed Bill was a “typical guy” (trust me; he isn’t). It got many thousands of views and, for years, it was one of my most popular posts of all time. It’s now been long surpassed by a post on my little visited music blog, Dungeon of the Past. For some reason, people are fascinated by a post I wrote about Mindi Carpenter, daughter of Richard Carpenter of the Carpenters. That post has generated many comments and, at this writing, has 117,790 hits.

Nowadays, I don’t get a lot of nasty comments. I moved the blog to WordPress, and comment moderation is turned on by default, making people a lot less willing to driveby with nastiness. I also have a smaller readership because a lot of the people who read the old blog were drivebys who read one or two posts and moved on. Now, I have some regular readers, but they’re mainly people who know me and know that Bill isn’t a deadbeat dad. I also don’t have as many posts about controversial topics on this blog, although I add new content pretty frequently. Today’s post, for instance, might ignite a fire.

Hope springs eternal that one day, I’ll write something as explosive as that Jessica McCord post was. In my experience, people tend to get the most upset about true crime posts. Sometimes I even hear from people directly involved in the cases I’ve written about. I can’t blame them for being upset– I suppose that even though I always try to be fair when I write, they still feel judged and/or attacked. I have to remind them that my comments come from what I’ve read or seen in the media, as well as my own deductive reasoning.

I empathize with them, too, because people did the same thing to me when I stupidly compared Jessica McCord to Ex. I couldn’t help myself, though. Jessica McCord really did eerily remind me of Ex. She pulled a lot of the same evasive tactics Ex did before Bill finally quit trying to fight with her. I’m truly grateful that she didn’t slit his throat or get her husband to help murder Bill and me, even if it pisses me off that she got away with what she did. Had it been my choice to make, I think I would have done all I could to take her to court and sue for custody. But I say that as a woman who wasn’t directly victimized and financially ruined by her, as Bill was.

I do sometimes get funny “advice” from spammers. Not long ago, someone left a comment on a post on my travel blog. It read like an actual person posted it. It started with something along the lines of, “Where’s your contact link? I have some ideas for your blog that I want to share with you.” Um… thanks for the attempt at giving me advice, but I don’t remember asking you…

I was a little astounded by that comment. It’s a fucking travel blog. Who says I want or need any help with it? I don’t write any of this for money! It’s mainly for myself and those who might find it interesting reading. If I make a little money from ads, that’s just icing on the cake! Really, I just write because it’s something to do, something I enjoy, is good for processing things, and helps me preserve memories. Not everyone appreciates what I do, though. Good thing the Internet is such a big place and people are free to go somewhere else.

Anyway, if my comments about Jessica McCord have piqued anyone’s interest, here’s a link to the episode of Snapped from which it came. I found it a truly chilling case. I am also going to repost my review of Death Trap, a book about the Jessica McCord case.

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