Good morning, knotty crew. After a day of reflection, I’m back with some new content. In the past 24 hours, I see there’s been yet another mass shooting. And the anti-abortion wars continue to rage in my homeland, putting more and more women at risk. I could write about either of those topics today. I could have written about them yesterday, too. I just don’t want to… I need a break from both of those subjects.
So… today, I wish to air a grievance I have regarding PayPal scammers and phishers. Now… to my knowledge, I have not yet actually been victimized by these criminals. However, I have to admit, their tactics are becoming scarier, as they now send their fraudulent emails from what appears to be an actual PayPal address. Yesterday, I got three emails from these fuckers. I reported all three, not that it will do any good.
I knew this email was bullshit, because I rarely use PayPal to pay for things. Also, while I think Bill might have an Acer computer, I am a confirmed Apple user. I never would have bought anything like this. But the biggest clue that this email is fake is that it doesn’t address me by name. It comes from a site I’ve never heard of, and would never use. Obviously, the folks who are sending this shit are hoping people will panic and call them, so they can try to talk the victims into allowing them to remotely install keystroke trackers and wipe out their money.
I don’t keep money in my PayPal account, but I know some people use it as a sort of bank. I mainly only use PayPal when I can’t use my credit cards, which are US issued. Sometimes European vendors can’t accept them or don’t allow for me to enter my US billing address. PayPal comes in handy in those situations. I almost never receive money through PayPal.
I usually just trash these emails as a matter of course, but yesterday, I decided to look carefully at the sender’s address. I was surprised to see that it came from a legitimate PayPal address. And, unlike other phishing emails, this one didn’t have any obvious tip offs that it was fake. There weren’t any glaring misspellings or design flaws that would arouse suspicion in the savvy. It also came to the email address I use for my PayPal dealings.
I logged into my PayPal account and checked my recent transactions, just to make sure there weren’t any pending charges. I was relieved to find that there wasn’t any recent activity indicating that something was amiss. Other people who have reported about this particular email scam have said that they did find invoices pending in their accounts. Some of them panicked, called the fake call center, and got taken to the cleaners.
Even though I knew the emails I got were fake, I decided to do some cursory research to see what the Internet was reporting about this scam. I found quite a few articles from cybersecurity firms explaining these surprisingly realistic looking phishing attempts. The open invitation to call a phone number to cancel the transaction is a big clue. Why would PayPal openly admit that the invoice might be fake, and actually INVITE people to call them? It doesn’t exactly promote confidence in their product.
Some reporters wrote that when they called the number, it was answered on the first ring. The person who answered was clearly not in a call center in California, as they could hear traffic and people in the background. The person also had a very strong accent that indicated that English wasn’t their first language, although granted, a lot of companies do have call centers abroad. But mainly, the fact that the phone was answered on the first ring was a major red flag. PayPal never answers on the first ring.
It’s infuriating that these crooks are using legitimate businesses to perpetrate their crimes. PayPal allows users to invoice each other, which is why these creeps can take advantage of the official email address. The fact that the emails come from PayPal make it pretty much a sure bet that the emails will get through the spam filters. Even though I know I didn’t buy an Acer computer through PayPal, there are other people out there who aren’t that astute. A lot of people have been victimized through these scams, which only encourages the lowlifes to continue their criminal activities.
So what is a person to do if they get one of these emails? Frankly, I say if you know you didn’t buy anything, just send the email to the round file. Check your PayPal account, and if there is anything in your transaction history that shouldn’t be there and you feel you must speak to someone about it, call PayPal using a number on the actual Web site. Do NOT call the number on the email, which will probably be answered by scammers in a fake call center. Do NOT pay any invoice that you don’t recognize. Remember that an invoice is just a request for money. You don’t have to pay for things you never bought.
Always examine the emails very carefully before you take action. Look for clues that any PayPal emails you receive are fake, like misspellings, poor grammar, or graphics that aren’t quite right. If the email doesn’t address you by name, it’s probably fake. I shouldn’t have to state this, but don’t click on any links in a suspicious email. And again– don’t call the phone number, unless you just want to fuck with the scammers. I realize that some people do enjoy that kind of thing, but the whole point of these scam emails is to get you to call so they can talk you into downloading their remote viewing software. Sure, they’d like it if you just paid the invoice, but that’s not their goal. They want your information so they can clean out your bank account and rip off your identity.
If you want more information about this, have a look at YouTube. Lots of people have made videos and some have actually gone much further than I’d bother/dare to, just so they can show you exactly what the scammers do.
I just now decided to change my PayPal password, just to be safe. Interestingly enough, it was easy to do that on my computer. However, when I tried doing it with my iPad, I had to go through a total rigamarole, to include answering security questions that weren’t very clear, and entering a security code sent to my alternate email address. Even after going through two or three checks, there was still another. I finally clicked off the page and tried the password I so easily changed on my computer. It worked.
Of the three videos, I think the second one is probably the best. The third one is probably the most entertaining. The first one is especially good if you like bald Brits. And below is an entertaining video featuring a guy who enjoys scamming the scammers.
Anyway, I didn’t fall for the scam. I hope you won’t either.
In other news…
Bill and I are in the preliminary stages of planning our big vacation. I’m not sure where we’re going yet, but I do know it’ll be in June.
I wrote this post for my original Blogger version of The Overeducated Housewife on February 4, 2016. I’m reposting it today, because it included an old Epinions review of a very good book I read years ago. I anticipate that this post will be mostly reposted as/is– that is, minimal or no editing of the original content. At the time I wrote this piece, we were living in Stuttgart, and I noticed someone who appeared to be a bit of a sociopath. That hunch was confirmed the following year. I’m no longer in the Facebook group I mentioned.
A few years ago, I read a fascinating book by Dr. Martha Stout called The Sociopath Next Door. I reviewed the book on Epinions and have included my review at the bottom of this page for your perusal. It’s a very good book and I wish I had brought my copy of it with me to Germany. I am reminded of it this morning as I consider something that happened in our local community the other day.
A father posted about a scary incident involving his daughter. She was walking home alone when she was confronted by a strange man who said he wanted to talk to her. The girl said no and kept walking. The man continued to try to engage her, so she ran from him. He chased her. Fortunately, she was able to escape.
The father of this girl was very upset– livid, actually– that his daughter would be harassed this way on a military installation. Most people who were responding to his post were very kind and comforting. They commented on how scary the situation must have been for the girl and expressed happiness and relief that she was okay. The vast majority of commenters were outraged that this had happened in our community and were very supportive.
There was one commenter, though, who seemed to be taking a rather adversarial view. He questioned the father’s version of events. At one point, he even called the father a nasty euphemism referring to a certain part of the female anatomy. When he was called out for being so contentious, the trollish commenter changed his tone to one that was superficially more supportive. He commented that he himself has daughters and would be concerned about their welfare. Then, curiously, he asked the father if his daughter had been able to tell if the person who had confronted her was a grown man or a kid.
I had noticed this particular commenter before. He struck me as being intelligent, charming, and even funny. My initial impressions of him were somewhat positive to neutral. He didn’t make me suspicious. In fact, at first blush, he seemed likable. But then I saw him in action last night and my mind changed.
I’ll be honest. I hadn’t been paying strict attention to this guy’s comments, other than noticing that they had turned the mood of that thread noticeably pissy. The father whose daughter was confronted responded in a hostile way when the commenter asked him to clarify his daughter’s story. Then I saw the way he changed his tone and it seemed to me that he was trying to knock the father off guard.
A couple of ladies in another local group noticed some sketchy posts the commenter had put up in a different private group. The posts did not suggest that he was a concerned father of three girls or even someone who respects women. He posted a joke about how all of Taylor Swift’s songs are about guys leaving her and none were about blowjobs. He also posted a picture of a woman in tiny bootie shorts and no top. On the very tiny shorts was written “Fuck me like you hate me.” I took a look at the man’s Facebook page and the photo that appears at the top of this post was once used as his cover photo.
One of the ladies dared to ask, “Do you think maybe the commenter is the one who harassed that guy’s daughter?” I have to admit, after weighing the evidence and taking a good look at the guy’s comments, I kind of wonder that myself.
Let me be very clear. I have no idea if the commenter was the guy who harassed the girl who was trying to walk home. I also don’t know if he’s a sociopath or a narcissist. However, the things he’s posted are very suspicious. One thing I’ve noticed about narcissistic types is that they usually don’t really hide. They thrive on drama and get off on seeing what kind of havoc they wreak. All sociopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are sociopaths. The fact that the commenter had once used a photo with a caption about sociopaths is very telling, even if it could be explained away. Bill looked up the photo and said it came from Sherlock Holmes. Even so, my question is why would a normal person even want to suggest that they might be a sociopath?
According to The Sociopath Next Door, one out of every twenty-five people is a sociopath. Our local Facebook group has over two thousand people in it. Chances are good that there are a bunch of sociopaths lurking around in there. I, for one, am going to keep my eyes peeled.
And below is a reposted Epinions review I wrote about Martha Stout’s excellent book, The Sociopath Next Door. I wrote the review on January 29, 2010.
Last week, while I was in Murfreesboro, Tennessee looking for ways to occupy my time, I stopped by a Books-A-Million. If all else fails when I’m killing time, I can usually find some books to read so that I don’t go crazy. My stop at the bookstore looked like it was going to be unsuccessful until I happened to wander into the psychology section. It was at that point that I found the three books that have kept me busy for the past week. There, on the shelf, nestled between books about borderline personality disorder and narcissism, was Martha Stout’s 2005 book, The Sociopath Next Door. Since I’ve been doing some research about narcissism, I thought it was only logical that I do some reading about the narcissist’s close cousin, the sociopath.
Martha Stout, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice. She has served on the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard University for twenty-five years. Aside from being an experienced teacher and clinician, she’s also a very captivating writer. Using vivid examples presented in story form, she accurately presents a clear picture of what a sociopath is, constantly reminding her readers that they are much more common in our society than they might care to believe.
What is a sociopath?
Sociopaths are people who look just like you and me. The difference is, they have no conscience and no feelings, not even for their own psychological or emotional pain. They may be very good at acting like they have feelings, but acting is all they’re doing. They learn how to behave like a regular human being the way a normal person would learn a second language. Any tears they shed are “crocodile tears” and mean absolutely nothing other than to put on a convincing show. They’re somewhat similar to narcissists, except narcissists do have feelings for their own psychological pain and can get their feelings hurt. Sociopaths, by contrast, are completely cold and calculating. They will sell out their own mother or their children if it will help them get ahead.
How prevalent are sociopaths?
Martha Stout estimates that there’s one sociopath in every group of twenty-five people. That makes it more common than many major illnesses that we hear so much about in the media. And yet, a lot of people don’t know anything about this psychological phenomenon. Stout writes that we’re often too quick to dismiss antisocial behavior as a misunderstanding. Or we overlook it because we don’t want to “rock the boat”. Many Americans, as a whole, are often way too nice for their own good. Sociopaths count on that quality to further their agendas and get ahead.
Where can you find sociopaths?
Naturally, one can find sociopaths in prison, though Stout writes that most prisoners aren’t, in fact, sociopaths. The truth is, sociopaths really are everywhere. The ones that end up in prison are the ones who go too far with their aberrant behavior and get caught. Stout brilliantly provides examples that illustrate what typical garden variety sociopaths look like.
Take, for instance, that crotchety next door neighbor of yours who’s so mean to everyone and does everything in his or her power to make people miserable. Some people might dismiss that person as simply unlikeable. Stout demonstrates how, upon closer examination, that person might be a sociopath.
How about that spouse (or perhaps ex spouse) who is content to sit around all day and do nothing while you slave away at work and at home? Yes, it’s true that not everyone gets married for love. As Stout illustrates in another example, some people marry because it means they can stop pulling their own weight. If they have no appreciation for their partner’s work or conscience about their own sloth, they might be a sociopath.
What about that seemingly competent professional who is suddenly very publicly embroiled in a scandal over their credentials, or lack thereof? In one shocking example, Stout shows how a sociopath might get away with not quite being qualified for a job and how that person might use their position to belittle other people.
What causes sociopaths?
Stout explores what might cause someone to become a sociopath. Apparently, some factors are preventable while other factors aren’t.
My thoughts about this book
I really liked this book. Martha Stout has a very effective way of explaining the subject; it’s entertaining and informative. She not only explains what sociopaths are, she also explains how people might be able to spot narcissists and what they can do to protect themselves from them. Toward the end of the book, she also explains why it’s good to have a conscience. Sociopaths often die unpleasant deaths because of the terrible things they do to other people. They’re often either completely alone or they die violently, by murder or suicide. According to Stout, it’s somewhat rare for a true sociopath to leave this world in a mundane way, surrounded by friends and family. Strangely, I found some comfort in that revelation… wonder if that makes me a sociopath, too?
One negative I can come up with regarding this book is that there seemed to be a few sections in which Stout seemed to ramble a bit. A few paragraphs were a little longer than I thought they needed to be– she’d made her point and it seemed like she was reiterating unnecessarily. But even in those rare situations, the writing was interesting enough that I didn’t mind it so much. And I did learn a lot reading this book.
The other negative for me was that in a couple of chapters, Stout seeemed to be veering a little close to getting political and promoting an agenda. She mentions war and how it’s often based on “holy” principles, religion, and righteous indignation. I will agree that a lot of wars have to do with religion. But personally, I don’t think wars are all bad or unnecessary. It’s true that a lot of people die during wars and a lot of those deaths are senseless and tragic. But, in the same vein, a lot of people are also born because of wars. And in many ways, wars force cultural integration and innovation. She writes that until people start to recognize and contain the sociopaths in our midst, there will never be peace. I submit that permanent world peace is an unattainable goal. Even if world peace were attainable, I would think it would make things kind of boring here on planet Earth. Imagine how dull life would be if everyone were good and had honorable intentions… we wouldn’t need books like The Sociopath Next Door.
Anyway, I would definitely recommend The Sociopath Next Door to anyone who’s interested in psychology or thinks he or she may be dealing with a sociopath.
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It’s been quite a morning so far. Arran woke me up at about 2:30am, because he needed to pee. I got up and let him out, then tried to go back to sleep. I had minimal luck falling asleep again, so I wasn’t completely out when the fucking smoke alarm went off at 4:00am. I only used the stove at lunchtime, so I knew there wasn’t a fire. It was probably dying batteries that caused the thing to go off. Why does that always happen when Bill is out of town?
I distinctly remember in 2014, when we were living in Texas, and Bill was mere weeks from retiring from the Army. He went to Tennessee to visit his father for what turned out to be the last time. I stayed home to take care of the dogs for several reasons. First: we couldn’t spare the money for housing the dogs, since he was about to be out of a job. Second: the pump on the pool was broken, and someone needed to stay home and make sure it didn’t leak water everywhere. And third: I didn’t feel welcome there, and wasn’t interested in sitting around talking about Ex the whole time.
While Bill was gone on that trip, the smoke alarms, which were hardwired to the house, began to malfunction. They went off in the middle of the night, waking me from a deep sleep. There were a bunch of them in the house, and I couldn’t tell which one was malfunctioning, as if one went off, they all did. So I had to go and unplug each one of them so they wouldn’t keep going off at inopportune times. I know the smoke alarm thing happened another time, too, because I remember having to turn it off and being extremely annoyed about it. I know smoke alarms save lives, but goddamn, they can also be ANNOYING.
Anyway, since I was now wide awake at 4:00am, I got up and fed the dogs, made coffee, and started a few household chores– laundry, dishes, and picking up poop in the backyard. Then I went back to the bedroom and watched a few more YouTube videos, to include one by H.G. Tudor. H.G. Tudor has a podcast about narcissism on YouTube. He also has a Web site, has written books, and is supposedly himself a narcissist. I’m not sure when I discovered this self-described malignant narcissist. It might have been around the time I was watching videos by Jesus Enrique Rosas, “The Body Language Guy“. Rosas, as I have written before on this blog, is no fan of Meghan Markle’s, and he frequently makes rather negative videos about her, and her body language.
YouTube’s algorithms suggest videos that are like ones you frequently watch on the platform. So, if you binge watch bodycam videos about drunk drivers, you can bet that YouTube will suggest more of the same for you on different channels. I don’t watch Jesus Enrique Rosas as often lately, because I’ve fallen down the cop cam rabbit hole, but for some reason, I still get suggestions to watch H.G. Tudor’s podcast. And, I have to admit, I often take the bait. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to the man talk about Lilibet Diana, daughter of Harry and Meghan. Of course, Tudor never refers to Meghan by her name. Instead, he calls her “Harry’s wife” or the Duchess of Sussex.
H.G. Tudor claims that he is an expert on narcissism, because he is a narcissist himself. I don’t know if he is or isn’t a narcissist. Personally, I have my doubts, since Tudor is quite astute on the topic of narcissistic personality disorder, and most narcissists are either oblivious, or don’t care, how egregiously terrible their behavior is. But maybe Tudor really is a narcissist. I don’t know– but I will state that although he offers consultations for paying clients, I would not want to enter into a business agreement with someone who describes themselves as a narcissist. Narcissists don’t play fair. It’s kind of like the old story about the frog and the scorpion. Bill and I have had enough dealings with narcissists to know that it’s not a good idea to do business with them. Someone who self-describes themselves as a malignant narcissist is not someone with whom I want to take any chances.
I must admit, though, that Tudor’s podcasts are always interesting. He has a pleasing speaking voice, which is refined and British. He also has a cheeky English styled wit, referring to the “Harkles'” California hometown as “Monte-shitshow”, and sometimes using funny or snarky voices to make his points. I also genuinely think Tudor is insightful, and he confirms a lot of what we have experienced, dealing with less obvious narcissists. I hear a lot of truth in his discussions about their behaviors, motivations, and effects on other people. So obviously, H.G. Tudor knows a lot about narcissism, and for a malignant narcissist, he does seem to be unusually empathic, in terms of understanding why dealing with them is so difficult and hurtful. Nevertheless, below is a blurb he evidently wrote about himself, explaining his qualifications:
I am H.G. Tudor. I am a narcissistic sociopath (some state psychopath – this remains a matter of debate by the profession concerning the current application of sociopath or psychopath). By my terminology, I am a Greater Elite Narcissist. You will learn here what that means along with all about the other types of narcissists and empaths too. I convey this is an effective manner based on my perspective. I know what I am and I know the best way to communicate this to you. I am a very effective communicator. I write extensively about what this means and what I am. I have practiced this dark art for many years, I have honed and crafted my abilities. I am aware of what I am and I am engaged in understanding why I am this way and why I act as I do. I am sharing these ongoing revelations.
It’s important to remember the difference between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy involves understanding an issue or a problem from your own perspective and having pity. Empathy relates to imagining yourself in the other person’s situation and understanding why THEY may have certain feelings. When Tudor speaks about Meghan and Harry, I hear empathy for both of them, even though he clearly dislikes Meghan very much, and only seems to have marginally more regard for Harry.
To me, Tudor seems “empathic” on some levels, which I would never expect from someone with NPD or sociopathic traits. Most narcissists know how to talk a good game, but they are too self-absorbed to truly grasp other people’s feelings or motivations. I don’t think a person necessarily has to have positive regard for another person to be able to empathize with them. What is required is being able to put oneself in another person’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Tudor does seem quite able to do that, even though he claims to be a narcissistic sociopath– but apparently he’s the “good” kind. I don’t think there is such a thing as a benevolent or “good” narcissistic sociopath, so I hesitate to believe that he actually is one. However, since he claims to be one, as he also claims to be an expert, that leaves me rather reluctant to give him any attention, since attention is what narcissists crave, and their focus is never on anyone but themselves.
So, you see why I’m ambivalent about trusting H.G. Tudor? I suspect there’s some false advertising going on here. While I would agree that a lot of issues are better understood by people who have gone through them personally, I don’t think narcissism is one of them. Narcissists, by definition, are extremely self-involved, lack emotional depth, and are completely devoid of insight regarding themselves, or other people. In any case, I don’t want to do business with a narcissist, even though I obviously have, on many occasions. I’d rather avoid them when I can. Which tells me that maybe I shouldn’t give H.G. Tudor any hits on his YouTube channel… but I do, because, like I said, he’s got an entertaining style. Perhaps it’s that famous narcissistic charm at work. And again, this is just my opinion, based on personal experience.
I don’t believe there are many truly evil people in the world, anyway. Even people who engage in behaviors as revolting as Josh and Jim Bob Duggar have, do usually have some redeeming qualities. Even Donald Trump, who is a very famous and obvious narcissist, has some good things about him. From my perspective, he’s made a lot of people stop being so complacent about voting. Maybe that’s a bad thing when it comes to motivating voters who don’t agree with my choices in the voting booth, but I actually think everyone should vote. I think they should vote their consciences, too, even if it means Trump or someone worse gets elected. Because telling people they’re voting “wrong” is a sure way to polarize them, and drive them to extremes.
Maybe, if certain high-minded, voter shaming, ivory tower liberal types hadn’t been so condescending to more conservative people, we wouldn’t be in the incredible “shitshow” we’re in right now. I, for one, would like things to be much more middle of the road. I doubt I’m alone in that wish. But I really think that a lot of the mess we’re in has come about because people are, in general, disrespectful and selfish, and are most concerned with “winning”, even if the prize isn’t really worth having.
To be clear– I am ABSOLUTELY done with voting Republican… at least until the other side sinks to the same level and the Republicans start to look better. Sorry… I can’t rule it out. I think the political parties matters less than the people within them. Right now, the Republican Party is loaded with horrible assholes who don’t care about the little people. But I’m not delusional enough to miss the idea that the Democrats could easily be just as terrible. Narcissistic, power hungry, unempathetic people are attracted to positions of power, and the Dems are just as guilty as the Repubs are.
Aw hell, who am I kidding? I have a tendency to mindlessly listen to endless YouTube videos when I’m not busy doing housework, acting like a housewife, making mediocre music, or writing pointless blog posts. So I’ll probably keep consuming H.G. Tudor’s distinctly British thoughts about Harry and Harry’s Wife. At the very least, they are entertaining, and in my opinion, quite insightful looks at what might really be going on in “Monte-shitshow”.
To be honest, I’ve never had a great impression of Meghan Markle. I tried to like her at first, and hoped Harry really did find a soul mate in her. But she makes all of my high conflict personality alarms go off, and I now realize that when those alarms go off, I have to listen to them. When I don’t, I’m always sorry in the long run. Now, Meghan’s and Harry’s marriage doesn’t affect me personally… unless Meghan gets it in her head that SHE needs to run for POTUS. Stranger things have happened. I fear that if Meghan got in office, she could be an incarnation of the left wing version of Trump… or maybe Sarah Palin. And God knows, we don’t need any more of that.
Maybe Meghan will turn out to be more like Ex, in that her big ideas often wind up being overcome by events… but seeing as how she’s managed to bag a prince, that seems unlikely.
It’s hard to believe that a month ago, country music legend Naomi Judd, the maternal half of country music mother-daughter act, The Judds, was still among the living. I was in Italy at the time, enjoying an eagerly anticipated vacation. I was shocked, like so many others were, when I heard of her sudden death on April 30, 2022. Although they weren’t saying it at the time, it was pretty clear that she took her own life. It came out that Naomi Judd had suffered for many years with terrible, untreatable depression and anxiety. And, although she and her daughter, Wynonna, were to be honored for their musical achievements the very next day, Naomi simply couldn’t face life anymore.
I was not a huge fan of The Judds, during their heyday. I do enjoy their music very much now, and I have a few of their greatest hits compilations. I read Naomi’s first book, Love Can Build A Bridge, which was published in the 90s, when Naomi was forced to temporarily retire due to her diagnosis of Hepatitis C. I also saw the made for TV movie based on that book. I also once saw Wynonna perform at a U.S. Army Birthday Ball. But, I am not a super fan of The Judds’ music, and wasn’t following news about them when Naomi died. I didn’t know about Naomi’s struggles with mental illness, and until my friend and fellow blogger, Alex, mentioned it in a comment, I also didn’t know that in 2016, Naomi published a book about her experiences with severe depression and anxiety. Although Naomi’s story clearly turned out to be less victorious than the book’s title, River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope suggests, I decided to delve into it.
I read Naomi Judd’s book for several reasons. First off, I too, have suffered from clinical depression and anxiety myself, and I understand why it seemed so hard to beat it, because I remember how it made me feel. I was fortunate, in that my depression was treatable with talk therapy and Wellbutrin SR. It does, on occasion, rear its head again, but for the most part, I am much better than I once was. Secondly, I am a musician. No, I am not a “star”, and at this point in my life, I will probably never be a star… and frankly, I probably would not WANT to be a star, anyway. But I do make music, and I admire Naomi’s talents as a singer and songwriter. Thirdly, I come from similar, salt-of-the-earth, family stock. I didn’t know it when I started reading River of Time, but I could really relate to a lot of Naomi Judd’s comments about her family, and how people in her family made her feel. I’ll get more into that as this review progresses.
River of Time reads as if it comes straight from Naomi, but in fact, it was ghost written by author, Marcia Wilkie. I appreciated that this book really seemed to come from Naomi Judd’s heart, and I never noticed an intrusion by a professional writer. Some people felt that the book “jumped around a lot” and was “repetitive”. Personally, I didn’t find that an issue, but again, it did seem to me that this was a book coming from Naomi, rather than Marcia Wilkie. I see that at this writing, the book is offered on Kindle for $1.99, probably because ultimately, Naomi succumbed to her depression and committed suicide. I still think it’s well worth reading, for MANY reasons. So here goes…
Naomi Judd’s early years never suggested the great heights she would eventually reach…
Naomi Judd was born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky on January 11, 1946. Naomi describes Ashland as a “grey”, ugly, industrial city. Her parents were poor, and not at all loving or demonstrative. Naomi made excellent grades in school and was a talented pianist, but her parents barely noticed. However, whenever she got any negative feedback from school officials, her father was quick to get out his belt and “whip” her. Naomi writes that she used to “borrow” her mother’s stiff rubber girdle when her father wanted to use the belt. She’d go to the bathroom, put on the girdle, and let him go to town, while she “hollered” like she was in pain. Apparently, he never caught on to Naomi’s ruse.
In this book, Naomi never refers to her original first name, or Wynonna’s. Wynonna was born Christina Claire Ciminella, although Naomi’s husband at the time of Wy’s birth was not her biological father. Wynonna was conceived when Naomi was seventeen years old, during Naomi’s very first sexual experience. She had a one night stand with a football player, she’d known in high school, a man named Charles Jordan. Naomi explains that she and Jordan got together for their tryst, because Naomi’s brother, Brian, was dying of leukemia. Naomi was very close to Brian, and she was feeling alone and vulnerable. As a lot of young girls do during their teen years, Naomi must have felt that connecting with a young man would make her feel loved and valued. Unfortunately, Charles Jordan abandoned Naomi, as soon as he found out about the pregnancy. Naomi quickly married Michael Ciminella, Ashley’s biological father, because Naomi’s mother, Polly, kicked her out of the family home.
Michael Ciminella’s family was sort of well off, and they lived a more comfortable lifestyle than Naomi’s family did. But Mrs. Ciminella was extremely obsessive about cleanliness and order. Naomi writes that when Wynonna was a baby, her mother-in-law had totally sanitized the whole house, and insisted that everyone wear masks and gloves before handling the baby. Even Naomi was expected to comply.
Naomi and Michael eventually moved to Los Angeles, California, where Ashley was born in April 1968. But the marriage didn’t last, and Naomi was soon raising her young girls by herself, with almost no help from Ciminella. After the divorce, Naomi reclaimed her maiden name and took the opportunity to change her first name, too. She enrolled in nursing school and eventually became a registered nurse. Unfortunately, when she was 22, Naomi was stalked by a violent, ex-con heroin addict, who beat and raped her. Still, somehow Naomi persevered and managed to launch her career in nursing. Meanwhile, she and Wynonna developed their musical chops, and eventually moved to Nashville, where they finally got their big break. Wynonna was eighteen years old when The Judds were on their way, but she and Ashley had still experienced a hardscrabble childhood, as their mother did everything she could to ensure their survival.
Naomi’s life heads south…
The Judds were wildly successful in the 1980s. They had fifteen #1 hit songs, and won dozens of music industry awards. Things seemed poised to continue in that direction, when Naomi started feeling ill. She went to a doctor, who told her that she had contracted Hepatitis C. She was told that her liver was “almost cirrhotic”, and that she had about three years to live. Fortunately, the medical establishment was wrong about her prognosis, but the diagnosis did force Naomi to retire in 1991. The Judds did a huge pay per view concert, which was a very successful event. Naomi eventually remarried in 1989, this time to Larry Strickland, a member of the Palmetto State Quartet, and former backup singer for Elvis Presley.
Although Naomi Judd had achieved great success in music, and also found the love of her life, she experienced extreme episodes of depression that left her feeling suicidal. So she did what wise people do when they feel sick. She saw a Nashville area psychiatrist. The psychiatrist did what a lot of psychiatrists do, when it comes to treating depression. He put her on antidepressants. She went through a huge list of them, and at times, she was never properly tapered off before the next drug was tried. Her doctor also prescribed the anti-anxiety medication, Klonopin. I took Klonopin myself at one time. Fortunately, it did nothing for me, and I quit taking it with ease. A lot of people get addicted to Klonopin, and other benzodiazepines. Naomi did, as did Stevie Nicks. Both women said that the drug destroys creativity and ambition.
The psychiatric drugs, and their lack of efficacy, along with the lack of talk therapy, made Naomi’s situation worse. She eventually landed in a psychiatric hospital at Vanderbilt University to be weaned off of the psychiatric drugs using IV phenobarbital. That was the first of several stays at mental health facilities, to include the psych ward at UCLA, as well as some posh rehab centers. She describes these experiences as if they were all horrifying– even the really plush, luxurious psych hospital was oppressive and terrifying. Eventually, she was able to get treatment from Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, a renowned psychiatrist at Mass General, in Boston. However, it was in Boston that she had electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which used shock waves to improve. A lasting side effect from that treatment was the destruction of her ability to enjoy the taste of food. While ruining her sense of taste helped her lose weight, it also made one of her passions, cooking, a lot less enjoyable. She couldn’t even eat the treats she would make for others, because it all tasted “putrid”.
Still, Naomi Judd did find help when she discovered dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which is a technique discovered by psychologist, Marsha Linehan. Naomi explains how the technique helped to center her and improved her mental health. DBT is a technique that is often suggested for people who aren’t helped by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a well-known method for treating depression. As of 2016, Naomi did seem to be very edified by DBT. Unfortunately, we now know that the help she received from DBT was temporary. She never lost her urge to end her life.
Naomi also writes a lot about her family of origin. There was a lot of tragedy in her personal history, some of which came before she was even born. Some of her blood relatives were legitimately severely mentally ill, and more than a couple of folks were real criminals. Indeed, Naomi’s granddaughter, Grace Pauline Kelley, has done time in prison for drug offenses. As I read about Naomi’s grandmother, Edie Mae, who allegedly killed her husband, Howard (who had almost been killed by his own dad, when he was a child), I could definitely see a pattern.
Other people’s reactions to this book…
I took a look at the reviews on Amazon, to see what others thought of Naomi’s story about her mental illness. A lot of people wrote that they found River of Time “depressing”, and they described Naomi as engaging in a “pity party”. Some people wrote that they felt this book was a plea for attention.
Having now read River of Time, I guess I can understand why some people didn’t like the book. The truth is, Naomi’s life was depressing. She came from a family where there was a lot of mental illness and abuse. Naomi was sexually abused when she was very young, and she was not treated with love, consideration, or kindness when she was growing up. And so, it stands to reason that her true story is sad, and it should not be surprising to anyone that there are many depressing elements to Naomi’s life story. She had severe DEPRESSION, for God’s sake. What were people expecting? I do think that anyone who reads this book should NOT be expecting a chirpy book about how beautiful life is. That would be very disingenuous.
I mentioned earlier in this review that I can relate to Naomi’s story. My early years weren’t nearly as traumatic as hers were, by any stretch. But I grew up with an alcoholic father, as she did, and my father’s method of discipline was usually the corporal punishment kind. While I think my mom was more loving that Naomi’s was, she was somewhat cold and uninterested in me, especially when my dad was still alive. Mom is very different now, but when I was a kid, she was rather neglectful. And so, I could relate to Naomi’s yearning to have some acknowledgement from her parents, and other people in her family. I think that “pity party”, “whiny”, and “attention seeking” aspect of her writing that some people don’t like, was actually a facet of her illness. Her parents were, in part, responsible for the condition was was in… and make no mistake about it, it WAS a very real, physical, and mental illness that she couldn’t help. But at least she did TRY to get better, which is more than a lot of people can say. And she was fortunate enough to be able to consult some of the biggest and most successful people in the business. She was even friends with Maya Angelou.
I think the negative comments she got in Amazon reviews came from people who, bless their hearts, just don’t have a clue! They have not experienced depression themselves, so they don’t understand why Naomi, with all she had going for her in life, simply couldn’t snap out of it and be happy. They see her as selfish and self-indulgent, and don’t understand that she experienced real torment. Obviously, that torment was what led her to kill herself at age 76, even as she and Wynonna were about to be honored again. And no, she wasn’t the better singer in The Judds, but she was clearly a big part of the duo’s success. Wynonna was probably destined to be a star, but there’s no denying that her mom helped her on her way. I can understand why Naomi felt that she was left behind, and why that would be one of the many causes of her depression. On the other hand, she also accomplished a lot on her own, and somehow, those accomplishments evidently didn’t raise her opinion of herself, or her life.
I’m glad I read River of Time. It is a sad book, and it does have the capability of being depressing, but to me, Naomi’s story felt authentic. I could relate so much to a lot of what she wrote. My heart went out to her, on more than a couple of occasions, and I even felt a little verklempt at times when I read this. I really wish that she could have conquered her demons, and enjoyed her life until its natural end. As we all know, that wasn’t to be. Depression CAN be deadly, though, and her story is a stark reminder of that verifiable fact. It’s easy for people to look at someone else’s life and think they have no reason to be sad, or to complain about anything. I would urge people not to make those kinds of judgments. When it comes down to it, you never know what kind of hell someone might be experiencing privately. Life is tough for most people… even famous, beautiful, talented, and rich people, like Naomi Judd was. I hope wherever her soul is now, she’s finally at peace.
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Monday, after I had finished my usual chores, I was trying to decide what to do with the afternoon. Suddenly, I remembered the old talk show, Donahue, which aired the whole time I was growing up in the 80s. Hosted by the follicle blessed Phil Donahue, husband of actress, Marlo Thomas, this was a show I heard a lot about in those days, but never watched. It was a precursor to Maury Povich and Geraldo Rivera, and even Oprah Winfrey and her protege, Dr. Phil. But, as I was a child in the early 80s, I wasn’t interested in watching talk shows. I do remember the theme music, though, because I think my mom was a fan, even though Donahue was pretty liberal for those days.
Anyway, I went searching on YouTube, and sure enough, someone had posted episodes of Donahue that dated to the early 80s. The first episode I watched was particularly engrossing, as it aired on November 17, 1982. I was ten years old, and AIDS was becoming the latest public health terror. Prior to that year, AIDS existed, but rank and file Americans didn’t hear about it, because people mainly got it in Africa. On that November 1982 episode of Donahue, there were several fascinating guests. There was, Dr. Dan William, a doctor who was one of the pioneers in treating AIDS. Phillip Lanzaratta, man who had Kaposi’s sarcoma was there to talk about the then rare cancerous lesion he had because of AIDS. And there was also, Larry Kramer, a leader of a gay men’s crisis organization. All three of these guests are now dead, although Larry Kramer died fairly recently– in 2020, I believe.
What really struck me about the AIDS episode of Donahue is just how new and terrifying the disease was, and just how little we knew about it. I grew up in the time when kids who were unlucky enough to get HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, were not allowed to go to school. Ryan White was one of my contemporaries; he was six months older than me. Years later, I also read the heartbreaking story of Ariel Glaser, daughter of actor Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky and Hutch) and his late white, Elizabeth Glaser, who started hemorrhaging when she was giving birth in 1981. She was given a blood transfusion that, sadly, was contaminated with the virus. She breastfed Ariel, who contracted the virus that way. Elizabeth didn’t know she had the virus until 1985, when she and Ariel both mysteriously got sick. Ariel died in 1988, and her mother helped found the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Elizabeth, who died in 1994, also had a son with Paul Michael Glaser, Jake. Jake was born with HIV, but has survived into adulthood. Before she died, Elizabeth wrote a book called In the Absence of Angels, which is a great read. I read the paperback version years ago. Maybe I should try to read it again.
Since I had nothing better to do, I watched the next episode of Donahue that came up on YouTube. That episode, which aired October 14, 1981, had to do with homosexuality. The episode’s title was “Are Gays Born This Way?” I don’t think Lady Gaga was yet born when this show aired. 😉 The guests were Alan Bell, Ph.D. (author of “Sexual Preference”) and Lawrence Hatterer, M.D. (Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell University), each of whom came to their respective conclusions in different ways. I was particularly interested in Dr. Bell’s comments. He was very emphatic about his conclusions. He also reminded me of an old soap opera actor I used to enjoy on Guiding Light, Ron Raines, who played Alan Spaulding in the later years of the show. Interestingly enough, he took over a role that was played by the late Christopher Bernau, who was gay and died in 1988 of a heart attack that was brought on by AIDS. Bernau was only 49 years old when he passed– same age I am now.
I got caught up in the commercials, too, which were very different back then. They were longer, involved actual acting, and often starred people who went on to big fame. For instance, during the Donahue show, the actor Ian Ziering (of the original 90210 fame and a former Guiding Light alum) is in an ad for Scott paper towels. I’m pretty sure I saw Shelley Long, before her film and Cheers days, hawking furniture in another ad.
I looked up Alan Bell, and learned that his son, Joshua, is an incredibly gifted violinist. Much to my shame, I had no idea. He’s a few years older than I am, and very cute. Joshua Bell’s mother, Shirley Bell, worked as a therapist, and his father, Alan Bell, was a highly regarded psychologist at Indiana University. Shirley Bell’s mother was from Minsk, in Belarus, and her father was from Palestine; hence, she was Jewish. Bell was of Scottish descent. No wonder Joshua Bell had such great musical chops. 😉 The story goes that when Joshua was very young, he used rubber bands to make strings across the nine knobs on his dresser. His mother caught him plucking out music he’d heard her playing on the piano. Being a savvy sort of mom, Shirley Bell found her son a violin teacher. Now, Joshua Bell plays a Stradivarius and makes absolutely beautiful music. Seriously, I’m listening to him play as I write this… he really is extraordinary, and he doesn’t just play the classics.
I also learned that Joshua Bell had a touch of his dad in him. Some years ago, he conducted an experiment for the Washington Post, donning a New York Yankees baseball cap and playing 45 minutes for free in the Washington, DC metro station. He earned $32.17 from passersby, not counting the $20 someone who recognized him gave him. Three days prior to his “free” concert in the metro station, Bell earned a whole lot more money playing for paying customers at a concert. Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his article about the experiment.
As an aside, I always make a point of giving money to buskers. I know how much goes into learning how to play music, and I appreciate the ambiance they contribute, especially in Europe. There have been a few occasions when I’ve even cried listening to some of the more talented street players. Like, for instance, a certain Polish guitarist Bill and I met last time we visited Florence (in 2013). We will be going back to Florence at the end of this month. I hope I run into Piotr again… and I’m so glad we bought his beautiful CD.
My friend Donna used to work at a classical radio station when she was a teenager. She said she had a huge crush on Joshua Bell back then. I’m ashamed to say that I simply hadn’t heard of him until two days ago, but last night, I bought several of his albums not having heard them before. I am listening to them now, and I’m not sorry I bought them. And to think I have Phil Donahue to thank for this! Who says you can’t learn from TV? Or from YouTube, for that matter?
Speaking of YouTube… about a month ago, some people on RfM who had endured some of my videos told me that I should try singing on camera. I don’t typically do that, because I get very self-conscious about my appearance. Also, I don’t put on makeup or regular clothes unless I’m going out in public, which I don’t do very often these days. But one poster was pretty adamant that I should try it. He also looks forward to seeing me play guitar and sing at the same time on video. I decided to buy a mic stand after that discussion, but only got around to making an on camera video yesterday. No, I’m not quite ready to play and sing at the same time, but yesterday I decided to record my version of an Alison Krauss cover of “Dreaming My Dreams With You”. I got notified by my favorite karaoke track vendor that the recording was available, so I downloaded it… and since yesterday, it was chilly and cloudy and I wanted to stall walking the dogs, I decided to try it on camera. I kind of cringe watching it, but the music turned out nicely, I think.
I don’t know what today will hold. Wednesday isn’t a big household chore day for me, so I’ll probably watch more Donahue. He does seem to be pretty interested in homosexuality… or at least he was in the 80s. But what really blows me away are some of the comments from the audience members. Listening to some of these folks is a reminder of how different society was in the early 80s. It’s a poignant look at what people who weren’t (or aren’t) straight had to deal with in the days before many people started to accept that not everyone is cisgendered. I generally have a lot of compassion for people who are different, but I am especially compassionate towards people who grew up at a time when it was especially difficult to be who they really are without risking huge consequences. And listening to some of the callers and audience members talk about homosexuality really just drives home what a challenge that must have been for so many people. My heart goes out to them.
Well, so ends another blog post. I’m going to practice guitar and maybe walk the dogs… and then I might look for another rabbit hole to fall into. Later, y’all!
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