book reviews, celebrities, homosexuality

Repost: A review of Meredith Baxter’s Untied

I originally wrote this review for Epinions.com in March 2011. I am reposting it here, as/is.

As a child of the 1980s, I would have had to have been living under a rock not to know who Meredith Baxter is. The beautiful blonde actress had made her mark back in the 70s with television shows like Bridget Loves Bernieand Family, but I knew her as Elyse Keaton, feminist matriarch of the Keaton family on NBC’s hit sit-com, Family Ties. In those days, she was known as Meredith Baxter-Birney, having married her Bridget Loves Bernieco-star, David Birney. Baxter and Birney later divorced; recently, Baxter made headlines by coming out as a lesbian. I learned about all of this and more by reading Baxter’s brand new memoir, Untied: A Memory of Family, Fame, and Floundering (2011). I purchased this book for my Kindle last week and found it a quick and interesting read. 

Meredith Baxter’s beginnings

After a brief introduction, explaining how she came out as a lesbian, Baxter begins describing her childhood. Meredith Baxter’s mother was an actress named Nancy Ann Whitney, who later came up with the stage name Whitney Blake. From a very early age, Baxter was required to call her mother Whitney, because Whitney didn’t want people thinking she was a mother. Baxter’s father, Tom Baxter, was a sound engineer specializing in live television and radio. Though her parents were married for ten years and had three children, their union ended when Baxter was just five years old. After the divorce, Tom Baxter remained a very small part of his children’s lives. Meanwhile, Whitney remarried twice.  

Baxter grew up in southern California on the fringes of show business. Her first stepfather, Jack Fields, was an agent who helped Whitney Blake get parts that later blossomed into a successful career on television. Baxter describes Fields as cruel, manipulative, and strict, but it was Fields who helped Baxter with her own foray into show business when she was a child.  

A complicated life

Though Meredith Baxter grew up to be a beautiful young woman, she comes across as a bit mixed up. In confessional prose, she admits to dabbling in drugs and alcohol, half-heartedly attempting suicide, and getting married for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, she was both lucky and talented and eventually started working as an actress. She had two children with her first husband, Robert Bush, and three with her second husband, David Birney.

Bitterness toward Birney

Meredith Baxter has a lot to say about her second marriage to David Birney. Baxter was married to Birney for about 16 years. Their union lasted three times longer than her marriages to Robert Bush and Michael Blodgett. However, the added length of the marriage seems to have tripled Baxter’s pain. She makes some very unflattering comments about David Birney and basically describes him as an abusive narcissist.  

A book about Meredith Baxter, not Family Ties… 

Though Meredith Baxter does dish quite a bit about being on Bridget Loves BernieFamily, and Family Ties, as well as a few of her better known made for television movies, I want to make it clear that this book is really about her life. And she has led a very complicated but interesting life, fraught with struggles, including alcoholism, breast cancer, and coming to terms with her homosexuality. But while there were times I kind of cringed while reading this book, I do think that ultimately, Baxter has put out a very positive memoir.  

Toward the end of the book, Baxter writes about what it was like to meet and fall in love with her current partner, Nancy Locke. Though she is “out of the closet”, I still get the feeling that being out is kind of hard for her. She very candidly explains how difficult it was for her to admit and accept her feelings for women. She also explains how hard it was for her to come out to people she loves… and how their reactions to her big news were surprisingly low key.  Untied also includes plenty of pictures.

Overall

I enjoyed reading this book, mainly because I’m a child of the 80s and I love biographies. I think Meredith Baxter did a fairly good job writing her life story. She really comes across as extremely human and somewhat down-to-earth. I do think she’s still in some real pain over her relationship with David Birney, but she seems to have learned from the relationship as well. I think Untied is worthy reading for those who are interested in Baxter’s life story.

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book reviews, true crime

Repost: Kathryn Casey’s She Wanted It All…

Here’s a repost of a review I originally wrote for Epinions.com back in the spring of 2007. Of all of Kathryn Casey’s books, I think this one might be my favorite. Of course, it’s also very triggering, because Celeste Beard Johnson reminds me so much of Bill’s ex wife. Things have happily changed for Bill and me since I wrote this review.

Not long ago, I was watching the true crime show Snapped on the Oxygen network. Snapped is a half hour program that showcases murders committed by women who have “snapped”. It was while I was watching that show that first heard the name Celeste Beard Johnson, a woman who seemed to have everything and threw it away because of her greed. Needless to say, I was intrigued by her case and that’s what prompted me to purchase Kathryn Casey’s 2005 book, She Wanted It All: A True Story of Sex, Murder, and a Texas Millionaire. It took me the better part of a week to read this fascinating book. I don’t mind sharing that I had a nightmare the first night I started reading.

She Wanted It All is the complicated story of Celeste Beard Johnson, a sexy, money hungry, mentally ill mother of twin girls who changed husbands like she (hopefully) changed her underwear. Celeste grew up in California, one of four adopted children. Although Celeste’s adoptive mother claimed that her children enjoyed an idyllic life, the children claimed that their parents were weird and unhappy. Nevertheless, Celeste seemed to be a happy, precocious child who was the type of person who could sell ice to Eskimos. She could be so sweet, then suddenly turn psycho.

At age seventeen, Celeste married her first husband, Craig Bratcher. She was very pregnant with twins on her first wedding day. Three months after her wedding day, Celeste gave birth to twin daughters, Jennifer and Kristina Bratcher. Less than a year later, the marriage was on the skids. Celeste didn’t take to motherhood very well and was frequently distracted by other men. Eighteen months after their wedding day, Celeste and Craig got a divorce. Although Celeste was initially granted custody of her babies, she frequently dumped them with other people. At one point, the girls were in foster care. Craig and Celeste reconciled for awhile and Celeste became pregnant again. When she had a third baby girl in November 1986, she gave her up for adoption. That was probably the kindest thing she ever did in her life.

As the years passed, Celeste found herself with a series of different men. In December 1988, she married her second husband, Air Force mechanic Harald Wolf, who was wary of Celeste from the beginning. Like others in Celeste’s life, Harald described her as wonderful at times. Then, her behavior would become erratic and hateful. Harald wanted to get away from her, yet he missed her when they weren’t together. An overseas transfer to Iceland without Celeste turned out to be a lifesaver, but not before Celeste financially ruined him.

In August 1991, twenty-eight year old Celeste married for the third time, this time to Jimmy Martinez. Again, the marriage was not destined to last. Celeste continued living a wild life, leaving her twin daughters home alone. Her third husband had moved to Austin, Texas for a job and their apartment needed to be packed. Celeste ordered her eleven year old girls to finish packing while Celeste went out and partied.

Celeste made up wild stories about her past and even claimed to have suffered from cancer. She accused her father of molesting her. She alienated her daughters from their biological father, prompting them to tell him that they hated him. And when first ex husband Craig Bratcher took Celeste to court in a bid to take custody of their daughters, Celeste painted herself as a victim. It wasn’t long before her third husband, Jimmy Martinez, noticed that his credit was in the toilet. Soon, they were divorced and Celeste was courting husband number four, Steve Beard, an elderly, wealthy, lonely Austin television mogul whose beloved wife had just died. Though Steve was 38 years older than Celeste was, they married in February 1995. Craig Bratcher eventually became so broken that he committed suicide. At Celeste’s insistence, Steven Beard adopted the twin girls.

From the very beginning, Celeste wanted Steven Beard for just one thing– his money. While Steve Beard was looking for a loving companion and partner, Celeste was looking for someone to bankroll her extremely extravagant lifestyle. She would be loving to him in person, but in private she referred to him as an old fat f*ck. At night, she’d spike his food with sleeping pills and his vodka cocktails with Everclear, wait for him to pass out, then go out and party. She spent his money recklessly and lamented to friends that she was just waiting for him to die. At one point, Steve Beard grew tired of Celeste’s antics and suggested divorce, threatening Celeste’s source of cash. Celeste became so despondent over her plight that she threatened suicide. She ended up in a psychiatric hospital, where she would be diagnosed as having both Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorders.

The hospital is also where Celeste Beard met her lesbian lover, Tracey Tarlton. Tracey Tarlton fell head over heels for Celeste Beard and believed her when she claimed to be married to a monster. Like so many people before her, Tarlton fell into Celeste Beard’s trap, becoming so entangled that at Celeste’s behest, she ended up shooting Steven Beard while he slept, after the two women tried to poison him by growing botulism. The poor man lingered on the brink of death before he finally succumbed to a massive infection brought on by the gunshot wound and Celeste Beard’s deliberate attempts to cause the infection. She dressed his wounds with dirty bandages and didn’t wash her hands when she touched her husband; she also visited him when she was sick in an attempt to pass her germs to him.

And yes, once Steve was dead, Celeste Beard did eventually marry a fifth time. Husband number five was a young man named Spencer Cole Johnson; they wed right before Celeste went to prison for murdering her fourth husband. Oddly enough, the woman married five times and her last names came full circle (Celeste Johnson Bratcher Wolf Martinez Beard Johnson)

Does this story seem complicated? It is. I’ve just scratched the surface with the summary above. There’s a whole lot more to the story and Kathryn Casey has done a masterful job of keeping the details straight. She includes a photo section that shows several incarnations of Celeste. Like her contemporary, Ann Rule, Casey keeps her writing dignified and classy. There’s a minimum of gore, although the story is very scandalous and almost unbelievable. But unfortunately, I can believe this story. I mentioned at the beginning of this review that this book gave me nightmares. That’s because my husband’s first wife is in many ways a lot like a less money hungry version of Celeste Beard. As I read this book, I was blown away by the uncanny similarities between my husband’s plight and those of Celeste’s ex husbands. I can only hope that I don’t someday read a book about my husband’s ex.

This book hit really close to home for me, mainly because I’ve seen firsthand the lingering damage that can come from having a relationship with someone like Celeste Beard. My husband bears battle scars similar to those of Celeste’s ex husbands. He went through a period of financial ruin and his kids no longer speak to him. But I’d say despite that, my husband is a very lucky man. He still has his health, most of his family, and he’s recovering financially. Best of all, he’s alive and married to me. I am appreciated like I’ve never been appreciated by anyone; in turn, he is also appreciated for the wonderful man he is.

Obviously, as much as this book fascinated me, I will issue a caveat that it may cause nightmares. On the other hand, this book also inspires hope because it offers a glimpse of what it was like for Celeste’s children. My husband once enjoyed a close relationship with his children and now they apparently hate him. Celeste’s kids acted the same way with their bio father, but it later came out that they behaved that way because they were terrified of their mother and knew what she was capable of doing. It gives me hope that maybe someday, my husband’s kids will come around. I just hope no one has to die for that to happen.

For the most part, I think She Wanted It All is a very well-written, compelling book. While it is a true crime account, it’s also a fascinating case study of personality disorders, which may especially appeal to those with an interest in psychology. 

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book reviews, LDS

Reposted book review: Saving Alex

I posted this book review on my original blog back on March 4, 2016. Because a friend reminded me of it, I’m reposting it here as/is. In other words, pretend like you’re reading this in 2016, because I’m not editing it.

Last night, I read almost entirely in one sitting, a brand new book that was released on March 1, 2016.  It’s been a very long time since I last read a book in a matter of hours.  My attention span is not what it once was.  Nevertheless, I was compelled to finish this book.  Once I was finished reading, I was good and angry.  I think if I hadn’t taken a couple of Advil PMs, I would have had a really hard time falling asleep. 

Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began is certainly a mouthful of an unoriginal title.  Had the author, Alex Cooper, simply called her book Saving Alex, it may well have gone unnoticed.  Ever since the blockbuster film Saving Private Ryan came out, there have been other titles that have used the “saving” motif.  It’s the second part of the title– the mouthful part– that got me to order it.  I read a lot of so-called “exMormon lit” and I am also interested in gay and lesbian issues.  I have also read a whole lot about the so-called “teen help” industry, especially as it exists in Utah.  It was only natural I’d want to read Alex Cooper’s story, so I did.  And folks, it made my blood boil, even though I am neither a parent nor homosexual.  Some parents are simply shitheads and I think Alex’s parents qualify.  Edited to add:  I read in another review that Alex and her parents are on good terms now and they are very sorry for what they did.  I’m glad they have made amends, though I still think what they did puts them in shithead territory.  Just my opinion, though.  I’m not known for being forgiving.

Alex Cooper’s story

Fifteen year old Alex Cooper’s parents had moved to Victorville, California in an attempt to raise their daughter in a “safe” environment.  Alex’s mother was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Her father was a Mormon convert who didn’t necessarily agree with all of the church’s teachings, but decided to go along with them for his family’s sake.  Alex points out that her dad had chosen the religion as an adult, whereas she had been born into it and was forced to live by its tenets her whole young life.

Alex hated Victorville.  She found it boring and uninspiring.  As she was approaching adolescence, she also started to realize that she had romantic feelings for females.  Mormons are famously intolerant of homosexuality.  It’s considered a grave sin for church members to act on “same sex attraction”.  Nevertheless, despite Alex’s strict Mormon upbringing in the church and association with church members, she turned out to be a lesbian.

One day, a few of Alex’s Mormon friends introduced her to a beautiful 18 year old woman named Yvette.  Yvette was pretty much on her own, making her own money selling marijuana.  She was a lesbian.  Alex became fast friends with Yvette and they were soon engaged in a sexual relationship.  On a couple of occasions, Yvette and Alex took off together without telling Alex’s parents where they were going.  Alex’s parents did not know Yvette and would not have wanted Alex hanging around with her if they did.  They were faithful church members who believed homosexuality is wrong.  Besides that, Yvette was a legal adult who supported herself by selling marijuana.  Alex and Yvette were very attracted to each other and Alex describes Yvette as a good person, despite her less than church approved lifestyle. 

Alex’s parents became aware of Yvette’s presence in their daughter’s life after the second time the pair had run off for a couple of days.  Alex had left a note lying about her whereabouts.  During the confrontation, Alex came out to her parents.  They promptly kicked her out of the house.  Alex stayed with friends for a couple of weeks.  It was during the summer and Alex wondered what she was going to do when school started again.  Would she even get to go to school? Would she be homeless?  Little did Alex know, her parents had some big plans for her.

Conversion “therapy”

It’s not a big secret that many Mormons think they can “cure” homosexuality through so-called conversion therapy.  For many years, there was a program based on church teachings called Evergreen International.  It was considered a “support group”.  I have read some heartbreaking accounts of what “support” at Evergreen was actually like.  Evergreen is now defunct; it has been replaced by another program called North Star.  North Star supposedly focuses on the “law of chastity”, accepting that some church members struggle with same sex attraction, but must be encouraged never to act upon those feelings.

Alex was not sent to a program like Evergreen or North Star.  Her parents told her they were going to send her to live with her grandparents in Utah for awhile.  They packed up all of her things and drove to St. George, a town in southern Utah that has hosted a number of so-called teen help facilities.  There is big money to be made in the troubled teen industry.  Having informally studied the industry for about fifteen years, I have noticed that many programs targeting troubled teens are run by faithful Mormons.  Some are run by other religious groups, such as southern Baptists, but Mormons seem to really have a stake in the industry.  I have written about this phenomenon plenty of times in the past, so I’m not going to rehash it in this post.  Suffice to say that if you Google, you will soon find out more about churches and “troubled teens”.

LDS leader David A. Bednar explains why “there are no homosexual members in the church”.

Dirty trick

So Alex arrived at her Mormon grandparents’ home in Utah.  She greeted them warmly, thinking they would offer her love, acceptance, guidance and shelter as she tried to straighten out the mess she was in.  But her grandparents and her parents had banded together and came up with a plan to deal with Alex’s “problem”.  They enlisted help from Johnny and Tiana Siales, a Mormon couple who attended the same ward as Alex’s grandparents did.  The Siales took “troubled youth” into their home in an attempt to rehabilitate them, even though neither Tiana nor Johnny had any real training in counseling.  They were just devout Mormons who had worked in Utah’s burgeoning teen help industry and knew a few abusive techniques to get teens to do their bidding.

Johnny had a bad temper and suffered from gout, so he was unable to work.  He spent his days playing video games.  Prior to “helping” Alex, Johnny had been a goon at one of the teen help schools in the area.  Tiana worked nights as a “counselor/security guard” at one of the local facilities; it was her paycheck that mostly supported the family.  They also had young children of their own.  Alex was forced to share a room with the Siales’ young daughters.  She slept on a mattress and wore “modest” clothes that were cast offs from Deseret Industries.  The Siales destroyed Alex’s own clothes.

Even though her parents didn’t know the Siales from Adam, they decided the Siales’ home was a better place for Alex to seek help for her “issues”.  They signed over custody of Alex to Johnny and Tiana.  And then, the nightmare began in earnest. 

My thoughts

I’m really tempted to keep writing Alex’s story and describe all of the horrors her caregivers subjected her to.  I’m not going to do that, though, because that would make reading Saving Alex unnecessary.  I think people should read this book, especially those who don’t have a clue about the Mormon church’s ugly policies regarding homosexuality and their attempts to “cure” it.  Alex was basically held prisoner by a couple of incompetents who abused her for months, trying to get her to change her sexual orientation.  What they did to her was cruel and disgusting.  I was seething as I read about Alex’s “treatment”.  Incredibly, she still wanted to go home.  She missed her parents.  Had I been in her shoes, I’m not sure I’d ever want to speak to my parents again.

Now, I’m not trying to say that Alex was totally innocent in this situation.  Had I been her mother, I would have been very upset about my 15 year old daughter running off with an 18 year old and not telling anyone where she was going.  I probably would have been highly inclined to discipline her.  I don’t think that’s unreasonable under the circumstances. 

What I do think is unreasonable is kicking your minor child out of the home and then sending her off to live with people you don’t even know.  Then, when she tries to tell you what they are doing to her– and what they are doing is legitimately abusive— turning your back on her and forcing her to continue to endure it.  And I ABSOLUTELY think conversion therapies are ineffective and damaging, even as I understand that there is a market for them.  If a legal adult wants to try conversion therapy, that’s their choice.  Personally, I don’t think it works, but I also think adults have the right to make their own decisions. But conversion therapy should never be forced on a child.  And a fifteen year old is still, by legal definition, a child!

Alex Cooper spent days wearing a backpack full of rocks, staring at a wall.  She was beaten, isolated, shamed, called a “dyke” and kept out of school.  Her parents completely abdicated their responsibility to raise their daughter to total STRANGERS with no actual expertise in helping teenagers except by employing abusive brute force methods.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  The many church members who witnessed the Siales’ abuse of Alex Cooper, including the many Mormon missionaries who came over for dinner and saw Alex wearing a backpack full of rocks, should also be ashamed of themselves.

I’m not sure how Alex’s life is going now.  She seems remarkably mature and evolved, especially given what she went through.  I admire her bravery and respect those who helped her, which included some good-hearted Mormon church members who are a bit more evolved than Alex’s family was.  Her book pissed me off, though.  I do recommend it to those who need to be educated about conversion therapy and Utah’s “teen help” industry. 

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funny stories, music, obits

Rest in peace, John Prine… and I am not a Catholic lesbian.

First thing’s first. This morning, as I was waking up, I was very sad to read about John Prine’s death yesterday. For the past few weeks, he’d been suffering from the affects of COVID-19. I knew he’d been on a respirator, and the longer a person spends on a respirator, the less likely it is that he or she will be able to recover. I knew he’d already beaten cancer twice, and that he was in his 70s. I still had hope that he would pull through. I won’t claim to be one of his biggest followers. I love his song, “Angel From Montgomery”, and have sung it many times. I also recently discovered some of his other creations, including the adorably quirky “In Spite of Ourselves”, a duet he did with Iris DeMent which makes me think of my life with Bill.

I think this song is a new favorite…

Thanks to my friend, Susan, I recently purchased several of John Prine’s albums and introduced his witty genius to Bill. We’ve enjoyed a few nights listening to Prine’s brand of offbeat, humorous, and poignant storytelling in the form of beautifully crafted songs. A lot of my friends are genuinely sad that we’ve lost another American treasure. I won’t pretend to grieve as much as they’re grieving, since I am admittedly late to the party. I do remember playing his music by request on my radio show back in college. Incidentally, college is also where I discovered Bonnie Raitt, who made Prine’s song “Angel From Montgomery” a hit back in 1974. I know Bonnie is grieving, too.

Anyway, I’m genuinely very sorry to see John Prine go. I was really pulling for him. And I offer my deepest condolences to his wife, Fiona, and their sons. Besides music, John Prine and I also had Stuttgart in common. He lived there during the 1960s, doing his stint with the Army. I read that he downplayed his military service, saying that he spent it drinking beer and “pretending to fix trucks”. I spent a lot of my time in Stuttgart drinking beer, too.

My own turn with John Prine’s song, “Angel From Montgomery”. I’m no Bonnie Raitt, but I get by…

And now… what’s this about Catholic lesbians?

Because I don’t want to write much more about the depressing subject of COVID-19 right now, I’m going to shift subjects. This morning, as I was looking at Facebook posts from the past, I noticed a quirky status update I wrote on this date in 2016.

Just so everyone knows, I am neither Catholic nor a lesbian.

And it’s true. I’ve never been a Catholic, and I’m definitely not a lesbian. However, I am on an email list from DignityUSA, which is an organization that celebrates “the wholeness and holiness of LGBTQI Catholics”. I’ve got nothing at all against that mission. I don’t care what people do in their bedrooms as long as everyone involved is able to consent. I think love is love, and everyone should be allowed to experience it. But it’s not a cause that I’m particularly passionate about, either.

So how did I get on DignityUSA’s mailing list? It’s kind of a funny story.

About ten years ago, Bill and I took our first cruise on SeaDream I, one of twin mega yachts owned by SeaDream Yacht Club. It was our first luxury cruise experience, but we were not really financially equipped to afford a luxury cruise. In those days, Bill was still paying child support for his youngest daughter; I still had student loans; we also had car loans and a lot of credit card debt.

I managed to find a five night Caribbean cruise taking place in late April 2010. I booked a guaranty rate of $1599 a person, which was a great deal for a SeaDream cruise, but still quite expensive for us. I had a feeling that if could just get Bill on the ship, he’d be sold on all inclusive cruising on small vessels. Naturally, I was correct. After our first cruise, Bill was as big of a SeaDream fan as I am.

Our first SeaDream cruise really bowled us over. On board with us were a couple of approachable celebrities, a group of rowdy Brazilians, some obviously wealthy people, and people who were more like us. It was mostly all inclusive. The food was amazing. The service was incredible. The scenery of the Caribbean was glorious. I actually got to meet the people who launched Joan Jett’s career and they still talk to me today. Michael Moloney of Extreme Home Makeover was also on the ship, although I didn’t know who he was. Yeah… we were blown away by it so much that I pre-booked another cruise for 2011. The next cruise was 7 nights, and cost a lot more than $1599 a person, although we did get a 15% discount for pre-booking onboard.

We scheduled our second SeaDream cruise for November 2011, in honor of our 9th wedding anniversary. I worried about how we’d manage to pay for it, while simultaneously salivating at the idea of going on another wonderful cruise with SeaDream. Someone on Cruise Critic had posted a tip that people could buy coupons for SeaDream cruises on some Web site that I no longer remember. All we had to do was make a $100 donation to one of the listed charities, and we’d get a $500 voucher for the luxury cruise. It was akin to getting $400 off of our cruise for donating $100. I thought that was a good deal, so I bought a coupon for DignityUSA and applied the voucher to our second delightful cruise.

I don’t remember if there were other charities to choose from besides DignityUSA. Knowing me, I probably did think it would be a good group to support. I think certain religions can do a lot of damage to some people, particularly strict religions where a person’s diet, dress, or sexuality are dictated. However, I do think a person can be of a non-traditional sexual orientation and still be religiously faithful. Some people get peace, faith, hope, and love from their religious beliefs. I don’t fault them for that, even if I’m not particularly religious myself.

Anyway, ever since then, I’ve gotten emails from DignityUSA. I think I also used to get mail from them, but that stopped after we moved a half dozen times. Sometimes I look at the emails, but since I am neither a Catholic nor a lesbian, I’m afraid that’s about as far as it goes.

I should probably unsubscribe from DignityUSA’s mailing list, since I’m only a casual and rather accidental supporter of their cause. However, for some strange reason, I just don’t have the heart to do it. I do support their cause on some level… even if I don’t believe in Catholicism and I don’t really understand what it’s like to be homosexual or transgendered or any other way other than straight.

As for our love affair with SeaDream… well, it’s been about seven years since our last cruise with them. Our third cruise– which had stops in Italy and Greece– was probably our favorite of the three. However, I didn’t pre-book another cruise that time because it was a year before Bill left the Army and we didn’t know what his job situation was going to be like in 2014. I did have my eye on one of the cruises offered last summer, but Bill was reluctant to book it because, again, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to arrange the time off for when it was sailing. Also, SeaDream cruises are even more expensive now than they used to be, although to be honest, I’m not sure if the line is going to survive in the wake of the virus crisis. Based on what people are posting on Cruise Critic, it looks like their treatment of people who had signed up for cruises this year is alienating a lot of their customers (even though their crew on the ship is fantastic).

Still, I’m grateful that Bill and I were fortunate enough to sail with them three times. I see from Facebook memories that we booked our last cruise, which was on Hebridean Princess in Scotland, about a year ago today. It’s amazing that a year ago, we didn’t have a care in the world about a pandemic. And now, we’re seeing it ruin and end a lot of lives and livelihoods, as it also somehow brings people closer together in all kinds of ways. I suspect I’ll be writing more about that in the coming weeks.

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Uncategorized

Persistent spammers…

Boy, are they barking up the wrong tree…

This morning, I found two pages of lesbian porn spam in my Google mail account. I’m kind of amused by this, because I’m definitely not into women. I kind of wonder what causes this phenomenon. Does this spammer have a glitch that causes him or her to send out dozens of lesbian porn spam emails? Or are they just really enthusiastic about getting people to sign up?

Something tells me that this method must be, to some extent, relatively effective. Why else would they do it? There must be lesbians out there in Internet land who want to view this shit. Or maybe there are horny and curious males who want to see it. I don’t want to see it because lesbians aren’t my thing. I mean, I have lesbian friends, but I am myself straight.

Ah well… this is a problem easily dealt with with a push of a button. I won’t be viewing any lesbian porn today.

What I do hope to do is cut the grass. We have nice sunny weather this morning and my new lawnmower and weedwhacker are here. The only issue is, it’s a robotic mower, and although it will save me a lot of tedious time cutting the grass, the set up is going to require some work. We have to lay down wires around the yard that will tell the mower where to go. We have to fill in potholes and remove obstacles. We have to wait for the grass to dry. What’s really funny is that my new mower is made by a British company, but they didn’t send us any manuals in English. We have them in Spanish, French, Dutch, and German. Fortunately, I found a very helpful video made by McCulloch, the manufacturer of our mower. We watched it last night and it gave us more of an idea of what needs to be done.

Bill is working this morning. Hopefully, he’ll be finished by noon so we can get this project going. Despite my hatred of housework and substandard skills, I do like a neat yard. I probably should have just bought a plain old lawnmower, since our yard is so small. At our first German house, we had a non-motorized push mower. It did the job. We could have opted for another one at this house, but I don’t really want to hassle with it. It wasn’t very easy to use, although it was quiet, clean, and needed no fuel other than my muscles.

At our last house, our landlady insisted on doing the yard work. She did a good job, but frequently let the grass grow too high for my liking– especially during our last year in her house. More than once, I wanted to cut the grass myself, but knew it would cause her to freak. We never did complain about it, but I have a sense that she knew she was shirking her duties, since she showed up to mow the day Bill asked to stop by to speak with her. I think she assumed we were going to complain about the lawn, but actually, Bill served her notice that we were leaving. I was oddly happy to hear that we’d be doing our own lawn work at this house. It means more privacy and less bad juju coming from a resentful person.

So far, I’ve spent the morning mopping the kitchen floor, doing laundry, and cleaning one of the bathrooms. For such a filthy person, I sure do a lot of chores. I probably should do more of them, so my house will be sparkling clean… only to get dirty again.

March has been a pretty crappy month. I spent most of it by myself, watching too much TV and not reading enough. I also got hooked on Sims 4 again. It’s kind of fun, although my favorite of the Sims franchise was Sims 2. It had more quirky humor and more interesting gameplay. The original Sims was fun, too. I didn’t like Sims 3 and never even bought any of the expansions.

Hopefully, April will be more fun. I’m ready to go see some more stuff and remember why we left Texas.

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