At the end of yesterday’s post, I shared two videos by Mr. Atheist. On those videos, Jimmy Snow, aka Mr. Atheist, reacted to videos put out by anti-abortion activist, Kristan Hawkins. I watched the videos and cringed pretty hard. I thought maybe I would offer my own thoughts on them today, but I think that maybe I’ll postpone that plan. I had written I would comment on them if people were interested. It seems that no one was… or, at least no one is at this point in time. And frankly, I just don’t feel like writing about Kristan Hawkins today. I don’t think I can stomach listening to her talk about why abortions should be outlawed in all cases. Besides, Jimmy already does a pretty good job of explaining why Kristan’s opinions are wrong.
Nope. Today, I think I’d rather write about the book I’m reading right now. I’m finding it much more compelling than I did my previous book, The Case for Heaven, which really didn’t interest me much at all. I was glad to finish Lee Strobel’s book about what comes after death. I moved on to my favorite type of book– a celebrity memoir. I’m currently reading Jennette McCurdy’s new book, I’m Glad My Mom Died. The title alone is very compelling, isn’t it? You just KNOW there’s gonna be a trainwreck.
I’m not quite ready to review this book yet, as I’m only about halfway through it. What I will say for now is that Jennette McCurdy’s story reminds me a little of Melissa Francis’s book, Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir. Melissa Francis is, of course, much older than Jennette McCurdy is, but the two have a lot in common. They both suffered stage mothers from hell. Both were actresses, not necessarily because they wanted to be, but because their mothers wanted them to be. Both suffered extreme abuse on all levels. I think Melissa’s mom was more sadistic, while Jennette’s mom was more manipulative and emotionally abusive. Also, to my knowledge, Melissa’s mom is still living, while Jennette’s mom succumbed to breast cancer in 2013.
Before I bought her book, I didn’t even know who Jennette McCurdy is. I’m well beyond the years of watching new Nickelodeon shows– not that the show she was famous for is all that new anymore. Jennette was on iCarly, but she also did guest roles on other shows, commercials, and other stuff. McCurdy’s story is also interesting to me because, besides being raised LDS, she also had problems with eating disorders (which her mother enthusiastically encouraged), anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder. The chapters are very short, so even though I’m only halfway through the book, I’ve already gotten to chapter 44 or so. And each chapter is more shocking than the last, as McCurdy shares the sheer nuttiness of her mother, the craziness of being a child actress, her mental health issues, and the religion aspect that complicates everything. The crazy thing is, she NEVER even wanted to be an actress. She just happens to have a talent for acting, and her narcissistic mother exploited it to the hilt.
I have never been LDS myself, but Bill was LDS for awhile. His daughter is still a very active church member, and the LDS church– which was Ex’s idea– has had an impact on my life. I know a lot about the church, its practices, and what its members believe. However, I have never been a member, nor would I ever be one. McCurdy seems to have gotten a lot of comfort from church when she was growing up. I relate to that, because I know Bill’s daughter has also gotten comfort from the church when things were especially crazy as she was growing up. In some ways, I also see a lot of similarities between the way Ex behaves, and the way Jennette’s mother did. She is extremely manipulative, possessive, controlling, and just plain weird. But I’ll get more into that when I review the book, which at the rate I’m going, should be within the next few days. I’m finding the book a real page turner, but in kind of a trainwreck sort of way. I’m simultaneously fascinated by the story and horrified by what this poor young woman had to cope with when she was a child.
I know some people will take issue with the title… It sounds horrible. However, I can totally understand why she used that title. Her mother sounds like she was true nightmare to have to deal with. For just an example– imagine your mother sending you dozens of emails, text messages, and voice messages after she’s seen pictures of you on TMZ, taken by a paparazzo. You are an adult, in Hawaii with your boyfriend, but you feel you have to lie to your mother about where you are. You come up with a ruse to trick her, only to have it foiled by a photographer, hungry for a sale. Your mom sends you all manner of abuse, accusing you of giving her cancer, bringing her shame, and calling you things like “filthy whore” and “all used up”. Then, as she signs off with “love”, she adds a P.S.– “Please send money for a fridge. Ours broke, and the yogurt is going sour.”
Imagine your mother explaining how to engage in eating disordered behaviors when you’re still a child, in the midst of becoming a woman. Imagine being fourteen years old and still sitting in a booster seat in the car. Imagine your mother insisting on showering you when you’re sixteen, sometimes also with your brother; her excuse is that she’s a former beautician and wants to make sure you wash your hair “correctly”, so it will impress a casting director. Imagine your mom using your money to pay the mortgage, and being forced to sleep on a mat in the dining room, because the bed you purchased for yourself is covered in your mother’s miscellaneous crap.
I know that Melissa Francis and Jennette McCurdy aren’t the only ones with stage mothers from hell. Wil Wheaton has also spoken openly about his own abusive, money hungry, fame whoring parents, who forced him to act when he didn’t want to do it. I’ll probably read his book next, since it’s been in the queue for awhile, and it will probably dovetail nicely with I’m Glad My Mom Died. I love a good tell all memoir, especially when it involves questionable parenting. Shirley MacLaine’s daughter, Sachi Parker, wrote a pretty good one some years ago. It seems the kids who grew up in show business had it the worst, especially in the days before child welfare advocacy was less of a thing than it is today. If a parent was also a celebrity, then the chances for massive dysfunction go up exponentially. Christina Crawford started it when she wrote Mommie Dearest, but there have been some real whoppers since her book was published in 1978. Gary Crosby wrote a pretty shocking book, too.
Anyway… I am looking forward to finishing the book and writing a review of it. I think it will be interesting on many levels to several of my regular readers, as well as new ones who haven’t found my blog yet. So stay tuned. I’ll sign off now and get back to reading.
It may surprise some readers that my posts over the past couple of days have led up to today’s review of Les Carter’s 2018 self-help book, When Pleasing You Is Killing Me. Les Carter Ph.D. is a psychologist based out of the Dallas, Texas area. He has an excellent YouTube channel about how to deal with narcissists and other “high conflict” people. I discovered his channel a couple of years ago, when Bill and I were dealing with the after-effects of our dealings with our former landlady. At the time I discovered Dr. Carter’s channel, I was feeling quite burdened and distressed about the situation we were in, which I didn’t feel comfortable writing much about publicly.
Three years have since passed, and as promised, and probably expected, I am dishing about that situation a bit more. In spite of what some people might think, that issue caused a lot of problems for Bill and me. A lot of the problems stemmed from an ongoing personality quirk that affects Bill, in particular. He is a classic “people pleaser”. He will often bend over backwards to keep the peace and avoid disappointing people. The end result is that he often attracts people with a high need for control, to include his ex wife, a former boss who tormented him in a war zone, and our ex landlady. All three of these folks quickly recognized that Bill has a tendency to acquiesce and go with the flow. And all three of them caused him, and me, significant angst.
And what about me? What am I doing in Bill’s life? Am I a “people pleaser”, or am I yet another “high control” person in Bill’s world? Actually, most of the time, I don’t think I fit either description, at least not at this point in my life. Therapy did a lot for me. Bill is welcome to offer his opinion of what he thinks about that. Other people have told me they think I’m pretty assertive, which is what I strive to be as much as possible. But, because I am married to a guy who hates to disappoint people and strives to give his all to everything, I sometimes catch some of the aftermath of his “people pleasing” ways. That means, sometimes, I get trapped in dilemmas like the living situation we were in a few years ago.
I really like Dr. Carter’s videos. I think he’s a very wise man, and I like his calm, gentle, but firm, approaches to situations that can arise with people who have a strong need to call all the shots. Bill has watched the videos with me, and he also likes Dr. Carter.
What is “people pleasing” behavior, and why is it a bad thing?
“People pleasing” behavior is appeasing behavior that is intended to avoid conflict with others. People pleasers will often put a more controlling person’s needs ahead of their own. People pleasers will do anything they can to avoid the unpleasant confrontations that can arise when an overbearing person doesn’t get their way.
In the short term, “people pleasing” can seem like a good thing, since it will often keep a high conflict person from erupting into aggressiveness. Some people pleasers will even assume that engaging in people pleasing helps them avoid pain. However, as Dr. Carter points out in his book, “people pleasing” actually just postpones the pain, or causes a different kind of pain, which can also affect other people. When that pain is postponed or shared with other people, it can turn into compounded pain. Compounded pain is not a better solution, since all that happens is that it’s multiplied, and now affects more people. Misery loves company, right?
Here’s an extreme example of how appeasing people can only postpone, or even compound, pain. And before anyone drags me for writing this, let me assure everyone that this is something Bill and I have talked about extensively and agree upon. I’ve also already written about it a lot, so this rather personal explanation shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads my blog regularly.
My husband’s first wedding day was not a good day. He knew, deep down, that she wasn’t a good match for him. But he’d already committed to marrying her, and he didn’t want to disappoint her, or her son. Out of pity, he felt the need to try to rescue her. Deep down, he also feared she might be his only chance for a wife.
So Bill ignored the voices and went through with the wedding, and he and his ex wife did not have a happy marriage. The marriage was not based on love or mutual respect. Consequently, it ended in divorce, and extreme parental alienation. Bill also almost lost his military career.
When we met, Bill was living on about $600 a month. He was recovering from financial disaster and enduring abuse from his ex wife, who was extremely angry that he’d agreed to divorce her. She’d only meant the divorce demand as a way to humiliate him into getting back under her control.
When Bill agreed to the divorce, it caused a severe narcissistic injury. She’d expected him to fight for her. But their marriage was a disaster. Left in the aftermath was his former stepson, who had known him as his dad, and two young daughters.
Ex quickly married another man and forced his daughters to call the new man “dad”, while she did her best to destroy Bill’s connections with his kids, his parents, his church, his friends, and his career. He had been talked into paying an excessive amount of child support and alimony, and was covering the mortgage for a house he had never wanted and wasn’t living in, which Ex had awarded to herself but couldn’t afford. It eventually went into foreclosure which, coupled with an earlier bankruptcy, temporarily ruined Bill’s credit.
See what I mean about compounding the pain?
Then I came along, and while I adore Bill and will never regret marrying him, decisions he made to appease his ex wife have also affected me. Because he allowed her to control the money in their relationship, he was recovering from serious financial problems when we first met. Because he let her talk him into having a vasectomy, we were not able to conceive– at least not without medical intervention, which we could not afford when the time would have been optimal to have children. Ex, meanwhile, had two more children with her third husband. And because he allowed his ex wife sole custody of their daughters, they grew up without Bill or most of his family in their lives. He let her control the narrative, simply to avoid one of her epic blow ups. In the end, not only was he hurt, but so were many people he cares for very deeply– me, his parents, his stepmother, his sister, and the children, among others.
Fortunately, in our case, things improved dramatically after a few years passed. Working together, we eventually completely fixed the financial issues. Bill recovered his military career and thrived in it, leading him to be a highly sought after contractor after his successful retirement.
The girls and their older brother grew up, which helped with the finances, since child support ended. Bill voluntarily paid support for his stepson, which seems generous, but in many ways, caused more problems. Stepson has a father, who was also denied access to him, and his father should have been paying support and seeing his son. The money Bill paid was later turned into a bone of contention that eventually ruined their relationship. But, there was also an opportunity for Bill to be assertive with Ex’s son, which was ultimately a good thing, even if they no longer speak.
Bill’s younger daughter has reconnected with him, which is a great thing. Her sister is still estranged, but that’s her choice. While I would have liked to have had children of my own, now that I see how the world is going– I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I don’t have them. But my point is, that if he’d just been honest– and firm– with his ex wife on, or preferably way before that wedding day in August 1990, a lot of this shit would have been avoided. Of course, he might have also married someone else who treated him better, which might have meant we never would have met… but actually, I think we were probably destined to be together.
What might have seemed like a bad decision, made back in 1990, for Bill and Ex alone, eventually turned into a bad decision that still affects a lot of us in 2021.
Lest anyone think I’m letting myself off the hook, I will hasten to add that I’ve certainly made some past decisions that were “people pleasing” in nature, or at the very least, the path of what seemed to be the least resistance. Let me just state that taking the “easier” path really has the potential to postpone pain, rather than avoid it completely. Many times, it’s much better to cause a little anger and strife by being assertive. Allowing other people’s needs to override your own may avoid a blow up, but that practice will often end in heartache or, at the very least, inconvenience and unnecessary expense. Many people worry that being assertive will cause damage to a relationship, but as Dr. Carter points out below…
This isn’t to say that being assertive won’t cause issues sometimes. Some people don’t appreciate it when you stand your ground, even if you do it calmly. In the past few months I have twice been approached by people who were hoping to rope me into doing things I didn’t want to do. While I could have been more assertive in those situations, in the end, I didn’t end up being stuck with “assignments” I didn’t want. One person got mad and ditched me as a “Facebook friend”, which is regrettable, but ultimately fine, since he wasn’t actually a friend. The other one now knows that I’m not the “go to” person when she has a thankless task to unload on someone. That’s a win for me.
What makes Dr. Carter’s book a good choice for help with chronic “people pleasing” behavior?
Dr. Carter’s book outlines less extreme examples of how “people pleasing” can lead to problems, not just for the person who does the people pleasing, but also for anyone else who is connected with them. He includes an example of a woman whose mother is intrusive and overbearing. She inserts herself in their business and tells them how they should do everything from budgeting their money to doing the laundry. Yes, it causes grief for her daughter, but it also really upsets her son-in-law, who is not as much of a people pleaser as his wife is. So now, the daughter has to deal with the annoyance of her mother who ignores boundaries, and the massive resentment that causes her husband.
In another example, Dr. Carter writes of a dentist who bends over backwards to help his patients. He strives to give them the absolute BEST care at all times. But no one’s perfect, and you can’t please everybody, so the dentist would still get complaints from his patients. Instead of being calm and assertive in handling the complaints, the dentist took them personally and worked even harder to please. He ended up with an ulcer, and still got petty complaints from people.
This isn’t to mean that working to provide excellent care and good customer service are bad things. Of course the dentist is right to want to make his patients happy. But his desire to be the best dentist was leading to bad things for his health, and probably his personal relationships outside of work. It was also causing issues on the job, since he had a tendency to allow some of his pushier employees to walk all over him. That lack of assertiveness caused problems for him and his other employees. The end result was that his patients actually didn’t get the best care from their dentist, because he wasn’t at his best.
Dr. Carter uses a plain, reasonable, conversational style in his writing. That makes his book easy to read and understand. I also really appreciate the calm, rational, encouraging tone of his writing. So often, people who are experiencing psychological issues are riddled with self-doubt, anxiety, and poor self-image and esteem. Dr. Carter uses gentle, but assertive language, reassuring readers that they can and should make healthy choices that suit them, if not all of the time, then most of the time. The vast majority of hyper-controlling people won’t appreciate it when others bend over for them, anyway. They are usually too focused on themselves to realize that they’re causing trouble or grief for other people.
One thing I noticed about this particular title is that Dr. Carter does not refer to religious tenets– Christianity, in particular– like he does in the other books I’ve read by him. I was raised Christian myself, so I’m not necessarily offended by references to religion. However, I do think it was a good move not to include religious references in this book. I know my atheist friends probably appreciate not being told they are “children of God”.
When Pleasing You Is Killing Me also includes checklists to allow readers to do self-assessments. If you have a physical copy of the book, you can even write brief notes in the margins. Maybe you can do it with the Kindle version, too. I like the Kindle version if only because I can highlight meaningful passages and share them, as I’ve done in this review.
Below are a few other excellent thoughts from When Pleasing You Is Killing Me:
I’m proud to say that both Bill and I have become more assertive in our relationships today. And while being assertive can feel selfish, or even wrong, in the long run, it’s often the kinder way to be. I think about what might have happened if, four or five years ago, when our former landlady was being overly intrusive, controlling, and rude, I had firmly asked her to be quiet.
I wonder what would have happened if Bill had not been so quick to apologize to her when there was a problem in the house. What if, instead of immediately allowing ex landlady to make a claim on our liability insurance, Bill had held her to task for not having the awning repaired by a licensed technician, instead of her husband? What if one or both of us told her that it was not acceptable to verbally abuse or harass me? What if I had insisted that we move out of her hovel or, better yet, listened to the gut feeling I had when we first met her and she seemed “off” and not rented that house in the first place?
Maybe we could have avoided the lawsuit. Don’t get me wrong. The lawsuit was educational and, in the end, we did prevail. But it wasn’t fun or cheap, and in terms of money, we simply broke even. It would have been better to have been able to avoid that experience altogether, especially in our host country.
What’s even more rewarding for us is seeing that Bill’s younger daughter has skills in assertiveness. She resolved to get out on her own, and does not let her mother dictate how she lives her life. So, instead of being stuck living in her mom’s house, taking care of her severely disabled brother, younger daughter lives life more on her own terms and makes her own decisions. She’s not going to be roped into anything, which is awesome. She’s got enough to do with her own life without being saddled with other people’s problems, many of which are of their own making.
Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of angry diatribes from high conflict, bullying, hyper-controlling people. I know from personal experience what that’s like, and why so many people are more likely to give in and be a “people pleaser” instead of being assertive. I like When Pleasing You Is Killing Me because Dr. Carter does such a good job explaining why, in the long run, it’s much less painful to be assertive. If you have issues with people pleasing behaviors, I would highly recommend reading this book, or at the very least, checking out Les Carter’s excellent YouTube channel, Surviving Narcissism, which he shares with collaborator, Laura Charanza. In closing, below is a link to just one of several videos he has posted about this topic.
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This morning, I watched a very interesting video by famed YouTube personality, Dr. Les Carter. I’ve written about his videos before, and I’ve reviewed two of his books. In fact, I am in the middle of reading another book by Dr. Carter that I hope to review before long. Maybe I’ll even finish it today, since the weather is dependably shitty for late fall in Germany.
The video I watched this morning is called “How Narcissists Build A Case Against You”. It’s all about the dreaded “smear campaign” that usually happens when a narcissist either wants to discard you, or get you back in line. Never forget that narcissists crave control, and they want to be in charge of the narrative, which will always be that they are never wrong, don’t make mistakes, and when something unfortunate does inevitably happen, it’s never their fault, and they are always the victim. On the exceedingly rare occasions when a narcissist takes responsibility, they will virtually always try to shift the blame somehow or make an excuse.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you might know that Bill and I have both had our ins and outs with narcissists. Bill has had a worse time of it than I have, mainly because he has a tendency to be a people pleaser. I am not as nice as he is, so I don’t tend to attract narcissists, or if I do attract them, I turn them off pretty quickly. But because I’m Bill’s wife, I’ve had dealings with narcissists who have been attracted to him. Our most recent narcissistic dealings happened in our last town, where we were caught in an incredibly weird predicament in which our landlady and her former tenant were working together to shame us into letting the ex landlady illegally rip off our security deposit.
We were in a unique situation, because I am a blogger and I tend to be pretty open in the topics I write about. The former tenant was monitoring me, posing as someone who was actually interested in the subject matter, rather than just a common spy/flying monkey. But in retrospect, when I first met ex landlady and former tenant, I had a bad feeling. I ignored that feeling because the summer of 2014 was especially difficult for us.
Bill had retired from the Army that year, and we had been uncertain about his job prospects. Then we made an international move. My father had suddenly died, and we had somewhat fresh memories of our first move to Germany, which had involved living in a very basic and pretty horrible hotel for six weeks. We just wanted to settle somewhere and get back to a normal life. So, when we met ex landlady and former tenant, even though I noticed some things were “off” about them, I brushed those thoughts aside. A couple of months ago, we passed our anniversary of having moved into that house. I had posted on Facebook “The new landlords seem nice. Let’s hope it’s not just an act.” In retrospect, that was pretty damning… and even then, I pretty much knew that we were going to be in for a hard time.
It started off subtly and slowly, just as Les Carter describes it. Former landlady and ex tenant were both nice at first. However, I noticed from the outset that ex landlady was not trusting, and had some apparent control issues. I mostly chalked it up to the local culture. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. There was even a period during which I could even say she was likable. Former tenant had come off as a bit “oily”, selling us the stuff she didn’t want to take with her, which for all I know, was left there by former tenants. But she was otherwise basically pleasant, even if she was a bit weird about money. Bill had asked her about an energy bill and she was very adamant that it wasn’t her responsibility. Maybe it wasn’t, but her vehement reaction to his innocent question was more over the top than was necessary.
As time went on, I started making more connections and noticing things. Former landlady was becoming less reasonable. Some things went wrong in the house. I had been on the receiving end of more than one screaming tirade, rife with accusations about what an irresponsible person I was, how terrible my housekeeping is, and how they’d NEVER had problems like that before– which I don’t believe, and now know can never be true again. If ex landlady ever tells another tenant that, she will be lying. But it’s now my guess that she lied to me repeatedly, and unabashedly. Former tenant joined in the fun and games with lies of her own. A big red flag was that she’d often leave me comments on my posts, but then delete them. She didn’t want them biting her in the ass later. But she didn’t delete all of them, and her undeleted comments later came in handy.
Ex landlady’s behavior was very disrespectful and more than a bit puzzling. My husband is a well-regarded, highly responsible, and kind person. He was the one dealing with ex landlady, but she would often direct her abusive diatribes toward me. So yes, I was confused and anxious about the situation, because at first, I wondered if I really was the problem. I later realized that ex landlady was just trying to justify taking our money, and she and former tenant had both obviously learned from prior experiences that being accusatory and shaming toward “kind” people is an effective way to get what they want. And that was especially infuriating, because although landlord/tenant situations are almost always kind of awkward, we had never before been accused of the things ex landlady accused us of. Certainly not as a married couple.
The only exception for me, personally, was when I lived in Armenia and rented an apartment for about a year from a lady who had worked for the Peace Corps. As I was about to finish my Peace Corps service, she tried to accuse me of not paying her rent one month. That wasn’t true, and I could prove it, but she thought she could strong arm me into paying her for an extra month, because in those days I was a lot more easily upset than I am now. One Friday night, I came home from a night out to find her and her father waiting for me. They had let themselves into the apartment and were sitting there smoking when I came home, waiting to confront me over the month’s rent they claimed I didn’t pay. But her father came every month and I always paid him. I had proof, because I kept a daily journal and mentioned his visits. I also had receipts of the money I collected for rent from teaching English at an NGO.
She asked, “How do I know you didn’t just spend the money the NGO paid for the rent?”
But I could have asked her and her father the same thing. I gave him the money on her behalf, because she was studying in Hungary. He didn’t give me receipts, because that wasn’t how things were done at that time. How do I know what he did with the money after I paid him? The amount of rent we were discussing was just $100 a month, and she probably figured that as an American, that was chump change for me. But in those days, that was a lot of money for me, since I only got paid about $5 a day as Peace Corps Volunteer. My parents weren’t giving me money, and I didn’t have savings. And besides, she HAD been paid. She was just trying to intimidate me by shaming and humiliating me.
I think she saw me as a rich American who would simply pay her to shut her up. She did get me so upset that I hyperventilated in front of her, which made her so uncomfortable that she left. She obviously saw me as weak. But she was definitely wrong about my alleged weakness, and she did not get an extra month’s rent from me. Come to think of it, ex landlady acted a lot like my former Armenian landlady did. I heard the same complaints from both women about my housekeeping, since I’m admittedly a bit of slob.
Now, I’m not a dirty slob. I do take the trash out, wash the dishes, clean the toilets, sinks, and showers, change the sheets, mow the lawn, and pick up the dog crap (when I can see it). But I don’t dust compulsively, wash windows, vacuum every day, put my clothes away, or make my bed each morning. Ex landlady is evidently compulsively neat, and I think she was upset that I’m not like that. Former Armenian landlady had also noticed I’m not compulsively neat, because she would let herself in the apartment when I wasn’t there and let her son eat my food… and leave dirty dishes in the refrigerator, no less. If either of these women were that concerned about neatness, they should have mentioned it before agreeing to rent out their property. Or, they could have simply respected my privacy. That way, we both could have avoided heartache.
Anyway, one day, I wrote about the weird situation with ex the landlady on my old blog. It wasn’t so much that I had a habit of writing about former landlady. I would say that, until things went really south, on the rare occasions when I mentioned her, I mostly wrote positive things about her. It wasn’t until she started verbally abusing and accusing me that I wrote anything negative. But when she really started to behave offensively, I was legitimately confused and wondered about it. I mentioned it offhand in a blog post. I wrote about two or three sentences about the situation– mildly questioning and hardly accusatory, now that I think about it.
I thought about the sketchy story former tenant told us about why she and her husband were moving mid tour. They had a brand new baby, and claimed they needed to be closer to work. That, I could understand, since the house was pretty far out from the installations. But then she’d added that they needed to be closer to their babysitter, which sounded like a lame excuse. I probably would have been less suspicious of her story if she’d just said she needed to be closer to work.
At the same time, I noticed the former landlady was doting on the baby, and I knew, having been an Army wife for years, that the military typically doesn’t pay for people to move mid tour unless there’s a damned good reason, and it involves health, safety, or mission readiness. Also, she swore the landlords were “excellent” and like parents to her… and yet they couldn’t help her find a suitable local nanny so their very functional and family like business relationship could continue? Hmm…
After thinking about her story, I realized it was probably at least 95% bullshit. So I mentioned it casually in a very brief way in a blog post. I didn’t realize ex tenant was still reading the blog at that point. I didn’t even blame her for moving. Having dealt with the frequent unannounced visits and uncomfortable interactions I had with the ex landlady, I figured ex tenant had dealt with similar issues and wanted more privacy and professionalism. Nothing wrong with that.
Former tenant left me a sternly worded comment, which she later deleted, claiming that my speculation was all wrong. She shamed me for doubting her, and asked me to delete references to her involvement in our declining situation. I didn’t fight her on it, because I wasn’t wanting to argue with her. I just didn’t think things added up. But, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I knew she was concerned about her online footprint. In retrospect, I should have seen what she was doing for what it was… classic gaslighting. She was asking me to deny what I was seeing with my own eyes and knew from personal experience. She was very firm about it, and didn’t even seem to understand how I could have possibly come to the conclusions I had. But because I didn’t want a conflict with her, I allowed her to do that, and edited my post. That doesn’t mean I believed her story, or didn’t see that she was clearly up to no good.
Former tenant also claimed she didn’t want me to involve her in my speculation about what was happening. However, even though she didn’t want me to involve her by even casually mentioning her in a blog post, she was actually choosing to be involved and actively meddling in our business. She was sharing my blog with ex landlady and her daughter, and the three of them were probably gossiping and smearing the hell out of me, and coming up with ways to screw with us. She later even admitted to me that she was doing that, and was bold enough to think I would feel ashamed instead of extremely pissed off at her. She must have really taken me for a sucker. I could probably forgive her for gossiping, but having the audacity to admit it to me was a bridge too far, especially since she was so concerned about her own privacy and reputation.
The fact that she continued to monitor my blog, even years after she’d moved out of the house is a red flag, especially since she made it clear that she doesn’t like me and apparently doesn’t even think I’m a good writer. I base that last bit on the nasty private message she sent me, again shaming me for daring to object to the ex landlady’s abuse and false accusations, and the sarcastic remark she left about about my creative pursuits. If that’s how she actually felt about me and my writing, why was she still reading?
I think it’s because she wanted to deflect scrutiny from herself. I think ex landlady let her get away with not paying for damages that occurred on her watch. Ex landlady never did a check in with us, and I don’t think she did a check out with the former tenant, since we literally took the keys from her. She was still moving out as we were moving into the house. Ex tenant was likely worried that my speculations would cast doubt on her false persona as an honest and decent person, when it’s pretty clear to me that she’s a liar.
I also think that it’s possible that former tenant doesn’t respect me because, for whatever reason, she doesn’t approve of my lifestyle. I don’t have children or a regular job, so she probably thinks that makes me worthy of contempt. I suspect ex landlady agrees, and in fact, was probably put out that I was always at home, so she couldn’t come over at her leisure and snoop. More than once, she suggested things for me to do outside of the home, even though I never asked her for that kind of help. Neither of them seem to think that writing is a valuable use of my time. But I’m not sure why it matters, as long as the rent was being paid on time. What I do with my time is my concern, right? And even if someone thinks I’m a no-talent hack, shouldn’t I still be entitled to basic courtesy, respect, and privacy? Why is it their business if I write a blog? Of course now I know why they felt it was their business… but it’s pretty easy to stay out of my crosshairs if you aren’t someone who’s in the news. You leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone.
Bill and I made convenient scapegoats for the fact that the house was in desperate need of renovation. The truth is, it was not very clean when we moved in. And because there was never a check in protocol done, when we moved out, there was no way to prove we hadn’t done the damage she claimed. On the other hand, there was also no proof that we had done the damage. I also had proof that ex landlady made false and defamatory accusations against us– again, because I blog, keep journals, and take many pictures. So much for being a no-talent hack. 😉
So… Bill sued, and ended up prevailing. But the whole situation was very stressful and upsetting. It brought us no joy to pursue legal action. It was the first time Bill had ever sued anyone, and it was definitely not something he enjoyed doing. However, we felt we needed to take that action, because it was so very obvious that we were being taken for suckers. The way we were treated was absolutely terrible and completely undeserved, and we did not want to let her get away with it, for our own sakes and those of people who came after us. Even now, three years after we moved, I’m still angry about it. Those people obviously had no compunction about blatantly ripping us off and defaming us, while trying to deny us the right to respond or process. We bent over backwards to keep the peace in that situation, and we gave the ex landlady every opportunity to settle the situation fairly without involving lawyers and court. She refused to cooperate, and in the end, it cost her.
It’s a mistake to assume someone is weak and stupid simply because they are kind and sensitive, and don’t like conflict. Especially if they make their living planning military exercises, which is what Bill does. It’s literally his job to plan battles. Moreover, while I don’t have a fancy business title, I am not a stupid person, and I’ve done a lot of work over the years to get over the need to “people please”. Anyone who requires “pleasing” and constant appeasement is probably, at best, an asshole who would never return the favor. They certainly aren’t worth the effort of pleasing. For all of her spying and compulsive study of my blog posts, former tenant apparently didn’t realize that. If she’s smart, she will not engage me again. Meanwhile, I will hold on to the lessons I learned in this situation and try to recover from the blows to my psyche that occurred because of this ordeal.
I realize that most people who have dealings with narcissists deal with them on a more personal level. A lot of people get involved in romantic entanglements with narcissists. I can’t even say for sure that we were dealing with two narcissists, or just one narcissist and someone with a different kind of mental health issue. What I do think is that at least one of the people we dealt with was not behaving in a normal or businesslike manner. If that’s the way she treats people who are in a business relationship with her, I can only try to imagine the psychological beating the people who are supposed loved ones likely suffer.
One last comment before I close this post. Former tenant tried to frame a narrative that I habitually drag people through the Internet mud. It’s true that sometimes I do vent, although I very rarely name names. I don’t go out of my way to harass people. You’ll also notice that I don’t write about my current landlord. That’s because he doesn’t give me a reason to vent. He’s our next door neighbor, yet he never bothers us, and as long as he gets his rent money, he doesn’t have a need to meddle. When we eventually move out of this house, I don’t think we’ll have any issues. If we do, I have every faith that they can be settled amicably and fairly. And hopefully, the next time we move, it will be into a home that we own.
This is a really long and personal blog post. Some people might find it offensive. If you are offended, I apologize… although this story isn’t easy to tell. It’s a lot more convoluted than I’ve explained here. I’ll just say that we tried… and we’re still trying to counteract the “Ripple eff-Ex”.
Back in 2013, on my original Overeducated Housewife blog, I wrote a post entitled “Ripple eff-Ex”. That post was basically the history of how my husband and I came to be as we were in August 2013. At the time, we had just moved from North Carolina to Texas. Neither of Bill’s daughters were speaking to him. Bill’s dad and stepmother were pressuring him to visit more, while his mom was a “neighbor”, in that she lived in the same city. I mused about how a series of decisions had led us to where we were. I was pretty bitter at the time. It looked like Bill had lost his daughters forever and we weren’t going to be having our own family, although I had wanted one. He was about to retire from the Army, and I was pretty anguished about the future.
In my “Ripple eff-Ex” post, I explained that Bill had made a bad decision in marrying his ex wife in August 1990, and that decision had affected many innocent people. It was ultimately a bad decision because they were not suited to each other. He had felt sorry for her and wanted to rescue her and her son. She was looking for a sugar daddy and a source of narcissistic supply. Bill is an empathetic person who hadn’t realized his own worth. He believed she might be his one chance at having a family. And she was looking to upgrade her life– ditching her son’s father, an enlisted man with whom she didn’t mesh– and hooking an officer. I don’t think “love” had much to do with anything.
Their marriage ended in June 2000. By then, Bill and I were Internet friends, and we would meet in person the following year and marry the year after that. Even meeting me offline was kind of a strange decision, given the conditions of how and where we met. Fortunately, our marriage has been successful, despite the odd circumstances that put us together. On the other hand, I kind of wasted three years in graduate school. Oh well… at least it’s paid for.
In any case, Bill’s decision to marry Ex wasn’t formed in a vacuum. It was the result of other people’s choices. There’s actually a whole lot to this part of the story, but I’m not going to get into that now, because it would make this post way too long and convoluted. Suffice to say that there was a series of misfortunes and missteps that had led Bill to his first encounter with his ex wife. And years after they met, it was like a perfect storm of dysfunction awaiting to put them on a crash course.
Bill met his ex wife because his mother had made a series of moves to escape a stalker who had threatened Bill’s life. She had initially left the Memphis area for Phoenix when Bill was a little boy; then they eventually ended up in Houston, Texas, where Bill’s aunt and uncle lived. Along the way, there were experiences Bill had that shaped who he is. Somehow, he learned that he should never disappoint people, even if pleasing others was detrimental to his own well-being or even their well-being. He never learned that sometimes not disappointing people leads to much larger disappointments in the long run.
Somehow, Bill never developed self-respect during that time– and I went into detail about how that came to be. I think a large part of it was because he wasn’t around his father much, and his mother had married a man who was actually a transgendered woman. Bill’s stepfather (or stepmother, if you’d rather– I don’t think he ever really transitioned) treated Bill badly during his formative years– from the time he was ten until he was fourteen, when Bill’s mom and his first stepfather (of two) got divorced. That was when he wound up in Houston, and he and Ex met.
Bill was three years older than Ex was, so they didn’t really get together during those early years. She went on to marry an enlisted Army guy, the father of her eldest son, who had also gone to high school with them. Bill went to college, then joined the Army. Fate put Ex’s first husband and Bill together on a flight to the States. First Ex husband told Ex about seeing Bill, and she tracked him down in Germany and gave him quite the sob story.
Bill never got comfortable with dating before he ran into Ex. He had little experience with women and didn’t think very highly of himself, even though he had a lot going for him. So, when Ex tracked him down in Germany after her first husband had run into Bill, she put the moves on him, and he was kind of like a sitting duck. No one ever sat him down and offered him any hard truths about the situation. Even though his inner voice had warned him not to marry Ex, he ignored it and went through with the wedding. That decision had many “ripple effects”– hence the name of the blog post. It had effects on so many people— his children, his parents, his stepmom, his sister, me, my family, Ex’s husband and their kids, and Ex herself, among others. Of course, had he not married Ex, he might have married some other woman. Maybe she would have been a better match, and I might have ended up an old maid.
Around the same time I wrote the Ripple eff-Ex post, I wrote another post called “Family Shit”. It was about how my mom was upset with me because my dad was in his last months of life, and she felt I was purposely distancing myself from the family. I was confused by it all, since our immediate family has never been particularly close. My parents were married for 56 years, but it’s not like we lived our lives like a Normal Rockwell painting. I have three much older sisters and we just don’t have a lot in common… and every time we’ve tried to have a family reunion, there’s inevitably some kind of fight. I swore off family gatherings, because too many of them had left me in tears and took weeks to get over.
I remember my Mom had wanted me to try to come home for Thanksgiving, but I demurred. I recall saying it was because of the cost. It wasn’t just because of the cost, though. It was also because I had been through so many dramatic and ruined holidays with my family of origin. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I had eventually learned to say no, because that was what was best for me. I don’t like to disappoint people either, but I had learned at a younger age that sometimes disappointing people is the best thing to do. It can spare a lot of heartbreak in the long run. I credit my mom for teaching me to avoid trouble by using my common sense. I know she was disappointed that my sisters and I weren’t closer friends– although that wasn’t just up to me. But in not giving in to guilt and going along to get along, I probably spared my mental health. I think I’m better off for it, even though it does pain me to disappoint people.
At that time in 2013, when I wrote “Ripple eff-Ex”, we were just recovering from the years of financial wreckage wrought in Bill’s first marriage. For the first years of our marriage, he was sending a lot of child support to his ex wife for his two daughters, and his former stepson, who was not even legally his. In 2009, we discovered that former stepson was planning a cruel “fuck you” to Bill, as he continued to collect money from the man he’d called “Dad” for years. That was also the year his older daughter turned 18. She refused to speak to Bill, so he cut off her child support. In 2011, he did the same to younger daughter, who also wouldn’t speak to him. Both daughters had sent him letters in 2006, disowning him and demanding that he give them up for adoption to their stepfather. Bill hadn’t agreed to the adoption, but they still refused to have anything to do with him. So, when they came of age and Bill was supposed to support them directly, he quit paying, even though he had tried, unsuccessfully, to contact his older daughter about his agreement to support her until she was 22 years old. Ex had never filed with child support enforcement, so this was easy to do. And there were never any repercussions.
Long time readers of my blog might remember that things came to a head in November 2016, when we were in Ireland celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary. Our finances were finally getting straightened out. We had started to accept that the kids weren’t going to come around. My dad died in July 2014, and I had managed to see him before he passed.
It was during that trip to Ireland that Bill’s younger daughter came up on Facebook as a “person he might know”. I was really upset about it, because for years the kids wouldn’t speak to or acknowledge Bill. And yet, they would somehow find ways to “intrude”. Bill would call his father (who died in November 2020) for Christmas and his dad would tell him about speaking to his children, adding that they hadn’t wanted to talk to or about Bill. It had happened so many times over the years… and I was just sick of it. I felt like if they didn’t want to see or speak to Bill, they should just leave us alone and get on with their own lives.
But then in 2017, Bill’s younger daughter came around. She started to trade messages with Bill. They started to Skype. They slowly got to know each other again. In March 2020, after fifteen years of physical separation, Bill got to hug his daughter again. He saw his grandchildren and met his son-in-law. Then, he made it back to Germany just in time before the borders closed. During that visit, Bill learned a lot more about what went on during those years they weren’t speaking. Bill’s daughter, having talked to Bill for a couple of days, very astutely came to the same conclusion I had, years before. Bill was a victim of domestic violence in his first marriage. She even sent him an article about it. I suspect she knew the truth about Bill, because she’s observed the same behaviors in Ex’s relationship with her third husband.
More has come to light recently. Younger daughter has opened up more… and we’ve learned that much of what happened back then was due to Ex’s bullying tactics to keep her children under her control. She was abusive in all ways, and used manipulation, triangulation, and other forms of emotional terrorism to keep Bill’s daughters away from him and his mother. Bill’s dad and stepmom were marginally acceptable, although the girls were discouraged from contacting them, too.
Bill has often felt guilty for the disaster his first marriage was. He went through financial ruin– bankruptcy and foreclosure. He was estranged from his children and remains estranged from his former stepson and his older daughter. He prematurely left the Army at his ex wife’s behest, although he was able to rectify that decision later. He had a vasectomy because his ex wanted him to have one, although that was later reversed. And now, he’s found out that he was not the only one who was profoundly abused by his ex wife.
What would have happened if Bill had said “No” to his ex wife in 1989? What if he hadn’t taken the bait? He’s not in a bad place now. He has a good marriage to a woman who loves him. One of his daughters has come around to speaking to him again. He has a good job, and has completely recovered from the financial ruin he was in when Bill and I met. He’s even become more assertive and willing to fight for his own interests. But if he had just learned to say “no” sooner, he could have spared himself and others pain.
There’s not much sense in looking back, I guess– except to learn the lesson that major life altering decisions affect more than just one person. By marrying Ex, he brought an extremely toxic and dangerous person into the lives of innocent people. Exposure to Ex is dangerous– she’s affected me profoundly, even though we’ve never even met face to face. But this is not really a sad story. We’ve learned some very difficult and painful lessons. I know how much Bill respects people and wants them to be happy. But somehow, he never learned to make himself happy first.
Now he’s learning that lesson and standing up for himself and his interests. He’s learning that sometimes “No” is the kindest thing you can say to someone. He knows that he shouldn’t have married Ex, simply because he pitied her and had no faith in himself. Marrying someone because you feel sorry for them is not particularly kind in the long run. Because you don’t actually love them… Ex knew Bill didn’t love her. She didn’t love him, either. They made children who have suffered, although both have turned out to be surprisingly resilient and resourceful.
Younger daughter told Bill that she’s paid off her student loans, although I don’t think she’s finished her degree yet. She said that she’s so happy to have paid that debt… which we discovered she undertook at about 16 years of age. At that time, Ex had made her drop out of high school and get a GED so she could take college courses. Ex got younger daughter to take out loans, then used the extra money for herself. That was around the time Bill had quit paying child support for older daughter. Instead of talking to Bill about arranging for the child support beyond age 18, Ex chose to steal from her daughters, forcing them to pay back loans that she had coerced them into getting. She refused to communicate with the father of those girls– the man she CHOSE to be their father– and she ripped them off. I would not be the least bit surprised if she’s also got credit cards in their names, but I don’t know that for certain. I did, back around 2009, find evidence that Ex was using younger daughter’s name on a dating site. She used her age and location, but younger daughter’s name. It’s not a stretch that she also got credit that way, since she would have access to their Social Security numbers. I hope those girls have checked their credit reports.
I think Bill has survived Ex. I think younger daughter has, too… and former stepson, who really doesn’t have anything to do with anyone in his family anymore. Older daughter is still trapped, but I think she knows how toxic her mother is. She’s still there for the youngest child, who has severe autism and will probably always need help. Ex doesn’t take care of him. That’s left to Bill’s older daughter, who is supposedly also on the spectrum. Older daughter was reportedly very upset when Bill’s father died… but she hasn’t had a relationship with Bill or his parents in years. She hasn’t learned to say “no” to her mother and do what is in her own best interest. For her sake, I hope she figures it out soon. There are many people waiting to help her, when she’s ready to take that step.
This morning, I watched yet another video by Dr. Les Carter. In it, he shares the fable of “The Alligator and the Rabbit”. I’m sure you’ve heard of or read this story yourself in any number of incarnations, like the similar fable, “The Frog and the Scorpion”. The version Dr. Carter shares is the tale of a foolish rabbit who trusted an alligator to go against its nature. The alligator agreed to take the rabbit across a rushing river on his back. Once they got to the other side of the river, the alligator ate the rabbit. The alligator then tells a bystanding turtle that he can’t help his nature. Alligators eat rabbits; therefore, the rabbit never should have trusted him. You can watch the video below.
Although I’ve had a few run ins with narcissistic people myself, by and large, they don’t tend to like me very much. I think it’s because I am not particularly eager to be liked. I mean, there was a time when I was more eager to be liked than I am now. When I was a child, it even seemed essential, and given that children are dependent on others, it probably was. But I’ve never had a “people pleasing” personality. I’d rather please myself. Maybe that makes me selfish, but it also keeps me out of the traps set by so-called “quick friends”.
You know what a “quick friend” is, right? A quick friend is someone who “sweeps you off your feet”. This person comes on strong with positive regard, flattery, and attention. I mentioned “love bombing” recently. Well, a “quick friend” is quick to love bomb and sweep other people up into their spheres. Once you’ve been dazzled by their seductive bullshit, you soon see another side of this person who seems too good to be true. Then, you try to focus on getting out of the situation, but the “quick friend” continues to blind you with more confusing love bombing mixed with something that seems more like disrespect and hatred.
You might see this phenomenon in a lot of different situations. If you’re thinking of joining an organization, for instance, like a very restrictive church or, especially, a cult, you might encounter love bombing. When Bill and his ex wife joined the Mormon church, they were “love bombed” by active members. They had many invitations to dinner and people were extremely friendly and nice. All of it dissipated once they’d all been baptized. Those people now had to turn their attentions to the next investigators/prospective members.
I experienced attempted love bombing back in 1994, when I attended a session for a multi-level marketing scam. People already in the organization paid a lot of attention to me and tried to flatter me into signing up, even though applying for the job involved a $20 “application fee” and I would have to “rent” a desk in the office to the tune of $500 a month. I look at those terms now and realize how preposterous they were, but when it was actually happening, I felt pressured to be nice and give in to the flattery. Especially since some of the flatterers were attractive men who acted like they liked me. Fortunately, while I do have low self-esteem at times, I also have a healthy measure of common sense.
You might experience love bombing in the form of a boyfriend or girlfriend who comes on very strong, overwhelming you with what appears to be genuine love and affection. But then you realize that what seemed like love was actually nothing but empty flattery designed to appeal to your ego and sweep you into an abusive trap where your lifeblood and self-respect gets sucked away. It can be very difficult to get out of these kinds of situations, particularly because the abusers will usually try to “Hoover” their victims back into the relationship. You can read more about the “Hoover” concept, as it pertains to emotional abuse, here.
This morning, I received a message from someone I once thought of as a friend. I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re on bad terms now. We no longer live in the same community, so we’ve stopped engaging very much. But while I once thought of her as someone I liked, after awhile, I started noticing that what had seemed to be genuine friendship had turned into something that seemed less genuine to me. I started to think perhaps this person was a bit untrustworthy, so I withdrew. I didn’t get the sense that she missed me, either.
Anyway, about two years ago, I was in a Facebook group with this person. Things got very toxic because of a charismatic male member in our group who had managed to impress everyone with his creatively crafted verbal abuse. He was the type of person who would stoop to very low levels to humiliate other people. A lot of people thought he was hilarious. When I first encountered him, I also thought he was clever and funny. It was all fine and good for those who thought he was funny, and a lot of people did. But if you found yourself on the receiving end of his abuse– the butt of his jokes– it was not funny at all. He would not hesitate to go way below the belt in order to appear to “win”.
Once I saw his uglier side, I mostly tried not to engage this man. In fact, for a long time, I had him blocked. I unblocked him when one of the group leaders suggested that my impressions of him were false. She convinced me to give him another chance. It’s too bad I listened to her, because my instincts about him turned out to be dead on.
One day, this verbally abusive guy turned his attentions to me. Rather than stay and try to fight with him, I opted to leave the group. I got a lot of shit from people for doing so, and I’m sure I was the butt of a lot of jokes for awhile. I could hardly blame them for making fun of me, since I had engaged in that behavior myself. Sure, it hurt, but I probably deserved it on some level. I resolved to do better in the future.
I eventually got over this big drama and moved on, even though it pained me to know that people I thought could be real friends, really weren’t real friends. Still, I wasn’t surprised at this outcome. I got to thinking that eventually, the people who thought Mr. Verbal Abuse was so funny would someday realize what he really is when he turned on them, too. I don’t think he picked on me because I was “special”. I think he eventually treats everyone– particularly women and men who defend women– in this way. Perhaps they’ve finally had their turn.
So this morning, my friend said that some people in the old group would love to have me come back. They felt nostalgic for the old days, and realized that, even though they’d allegedly thought of me as a “snowflake” when I opted out of the group, I wasn’t all that bad. My old friend wrote that the group was a lot smaller than it once was, but still quite active. And they supposedly miss me.
I have to admit that for a fleeting moment, I was flattered that I had been missed. My initial instinct was to let bygones be bygones. But then I remembered that I had actually left that group on two occasions, mainly due to ugliness that went too far and got way too personal. I realized that it’s been nice not being involved in the drama that erupted within that group. And, while there are people in it who are funny and genuinely likable, I don’t need any more toxic crap in my life now. I’ve got my hands full dealing with other, major, residual toxic crap that resulted from our four years of living in the Stuttgart area.
So I told my friend “thanks, but no thanks”, and offered my regards to those who “miss” me. I mostly feel good about that decision, even though I, too, miss the good times we had. We especially had fun barbecues, but since most of us have left Stuttgart, even the barbecues are in the past now.
In some ways, this situation seems a little like what Bill went through when he and his ex wife split. She very dramatically demanded a divorce. When he agreed to it, she saved face by going to the notary public she had arranged. But then she later had second thoughts. She tried to “Hoover” him back into the relationship.
Bill said that after their split, Ex would call him and sigh on the phone, whining about the “good old days”. She then tried to entice him back into her “parlor”, reminding him of the children she was holding hostage. Bill was tempted, because he really missed his kids and his paycheck… but then he realized that she’d drawn a line and he’d crossed it. One day, she’d draw another line and he would cross it again. They’d be right back where they started, but probably worse off. He also realized that being away from her made him feel much better, the same way anyone feels better after getting away from something toxic.
After awhile, once the FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt) fades, you start to realize you’re much better off without the seductive narcissist or any groups that employ abusive, narcissistic techniques to keep people entrenched. Moreover, once people show you who they are and what they are capable of, it’s best to pay attention and learn from it. Leopards don’t change their spots. Alligators don’t suddenly turn into peace loving vegans. Scorpions don’t give up their stingers for friendship with frogs. And those who don’t learn from mistakes made in the past are doomed to repeat them.
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