mental health, movies, music, musings, Song parodies

Suicide is not painless, particularly for those left behind… (partial repost)

When I was a child, the old sitcom M*A*S*H was still airing on television. I remember the instrumental version of the show’s theme song, which was titled “Suicide Is Painless”. The song’s lyrics went:

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
So this is all I have to say

Suicide is painless (suicide)
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger, watch it grin

Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
“Is it to be or not to be?”
And I replied, “Oh, why ask me?”

Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

And you can do the same thing
If you please

The story goes that this song was written for the 1970 film version of M*A*S*H, and in the film, the song was sung by The Ron Hicklin Singers. The song’s composer is Johnny Mandel, and the film’s director, Robert Altman, wanted it to be the “stupidest song ever written.” Altman, then in his mid 40s, attempted to come up with “stupid” lyrics, but found that he couldn’t come up with any that were “stupid enough”. So he asked his then 14 year old son, Mike, to write the words to the song, which Mike was able to do in just a few minutes. The funny thing is, Altman only earned about $70,000 for directing the movie, but his son has reportedly made over $1 million for co-writing the “stupidest” song ever written. Absurd, isn’t it?

In May 2018, when I was still posting on my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife, I used the melody for “Suicide Is Painless” for my own lyrics. I renamed the song “Parenthood is Pricey”, which was inspired by the 2018 era sad news that births are declining in the United States, mainly because it’s EXPENSIVE to raise children today. Below are the words I wrote. I also recorded the song on SingSnap.

My early 20s
I could see
Visions of my life to be.
The costs that were laid out for me
I realized what I can’t be…

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
And the job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb remains empty.

The game of life 
is full of chance.
So much is left to circumstance.
There’s so much that is up to fate.
So childbirth, I’ll procrastinate.

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb remained empty.

Painful student loans
will last…
It doesn’t hurt ’til time
has passed.
By then, too many years have gone
For me to take parenthood on…

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb is so empty.

A brave reporter once asked me
“Why haven’t you made a mini me?
 Don’t you want your own family?”
And I replied
“How can it be?”

Cuz parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb is still empty.

And my friends are mostly
doing the same thing…

I remember the urge to make the parody popped into my head randomly. It was a flicker of inspiration that I decided to feed, after I wrote a blog post about reasons why people aren’t having so many kids these days. Of course, in 2018, we had no idea of the epic shitshow that awaited us in 2020, 2021, and 2022. I had written a lengthy and revelatory post about why Bill and I never sought reproductive assistance when it became apparent that his vasectomy reversal wasn’t going to be enough to make us parents. When I was still fertile, we were broke. We aren’t broke anymore, but I just turned 50 and pregnancy would probably either kill me or make me sick, if by some miracle it could even happen. And now, I don’t want kids anymore, because of the epic shitshow I mentioned. So maybe we were lucky things worked out how they did.

I’m not sure if the birth rate is still declining. That’s not really the point of this post. I just remembered the song, and how I rewrote the lyrics. I used to enjoy making song parodies, writing fiction, and engaging in other creative pursuits. But thanks to a former blog follower who mocked my efforts, I’ve lost a lot of the desire to do the funny, creative stuff I used to love doing. It’s like there’s a block there, because I really just want to get through this life with as few altercations as possible.

Ironically enough, that person is now dead, because she committed suicide. I don’t know why she took that action, and I don’t rejoice in her decision, especially since I have seen evidence that many people who were left behind are now hurting. She had two children who have now lost their mother forever, and will always have to deal with that huge loss for the rest of their lives. It will affect other people, too. People they’ve not even met yet, who will have to shoulder the baggage that came from that tragic decision. Suicide is definitely not painless for those who are left in the wake of it. I suspect it isn’t painless for the people who do it, either, even when it’s done quickly and violently.

A few months ago, I wrote about how several people in Bill’s and my world had made the choice to kill themselves. We weren’t particularly close to any of them– they were mainly just people on the peripheries of our lives. Still, we were affected by the fact that they made that choice and it was publicized. There’s always this sense of shock and wonder when someone takes their own life. What made them do it? What was the final straw that pushed them to make that decision? Bill was so shaken by it, he even searched Google for links about it while he was at work. That decision was discovered by the IT guys at his job, and he ended up getting a talking to by his boss, who was concerned that Bill might be contemplating suicide. See how suicide has ripple effects, even toward people who aren’t involved? The three people who ended their lives by suicide affected us enough to talk about it and search for information on the Internet. And then other people– completely uninvolved– felt compelled to talk to us about it, in case we were thinking of doing it ourselves.

A couple of days ago, I learned that yet another person in my sphere took their own life. Apparently, this person decided to exit life on their own terms because of a chronic illness that was causing them a lot of pain and disability. I looked at their most recent posts on social media, and realize that in the days before their exit, there weren’t really any obvious hints of what was coming. A couple of memes are there– they seem prescient now, but wouldn’t have seemed like that at the time they were posted. And now, there are so many tributes to this person about what a wonderful, kind, caring, awesome person they were, and how much they are already missed. I wonder how many of them said that before the suicide happened. I wonder what the point of saying it now is, although I know that many people believe in life after death, and assume that perhaps the person is looking down from Heaven… or maybe up from Hell? I don’t know.

My husband had a near death experience when he was a teenager. I know not everyone believes in those, but I have read enough books about people who have been clinically dead and came “back” from the beyond that I think there might be something to them. I think the experience changed Bill on many levels. Even if what he experienced was nothing but a massive discharge of endorphins as life briefly ebbed away from him, it still gives me comfort. A few months ago, an Epinions friend passed away from cancer, and I remember one of her last posts was that we shouldn’t fear dying. She said that it doesn’t hurt… you just slip away. But what if your death is unnatural? What if you weren’t meant to die? Is suicide that painless? Maybe after it happens, it’s painless. No one’s “home” anymore. It’s not painless for the people who remain in their Earthly existences. A lot of them are left with endless questions, guilt, and grief, as they try to make sense of what may seem senseless to them.

We really are all affected by each other. I used to love to write things that were “creative”. I lost the urge to write creative stuff after that huge mess caused by a woman who shamed me for doing it. That woman is now dead, because she decided to exit life on her own terms. I’m still left the aftereffects of her last words to me. They were her last words, because I blocked her from contacting me a few years before she died. Maybe all isn’t lost, though. That flicker could come back to life, as if it experienced a near death experience or resurrection.

The other day, when I was in the shower, thinking about the whole abortion debate, I had another flicker of inspiration as an idea for a satire piece came into my head. For a moment, I was excited about it. I thought maybe I’d sit down and write something. I wouldn’t be doing it for anything but satisfying my own urges to write and express myself in an interesting way. But then the doubt came back, put there by someone who couldn’t simply leave me alone, and I pushed it out of my head. Still, it was a flicker of inspiration… and maybe it’s time I got back down to business. Because I really do believe that expression can be one way to avoid committing suicide. Even if it’s just expressing oneself to someone who cares and might offer another perspective… one that offers a different reality that the person whose mind is muddied with thoughts of suicide can’t consider at the time.

And now, I am going to repost the article I wrote that birthed the song parody I wrote above. This was written on May 18, 2018, and I’m going to leave it “as/is”. Maybe the flicker will come back again.

My fat ass itches… (I’m sure this is one of the posts I wrote that the former “spy” disapproved of.)

Today’s blog post comes courtesy of my old buddy, Ken Turetzky, who wrote and sang a hilarious song of the same name.  I “met” Ken online about ten years ago, when I wrote a review of a compilation album done by comedian/musician Red Peters.  I discovered Red Peters when Bill and I went to a karaoke night at Fort Belvoir’s Officers’ Club and the hosts played Peters’ infamous “Closing Song” to finish the evening.  I thought it was hilarious, so I bought Peters’ two available albums and became a fan. 

Years later, Red Peters got into promoting other comedic musicians.  Turetzky’s hit song, “Her Shit Don’t Stink” was among the songs on Peters’ compilation, which I purchased the last time we were living in Germany.  To this day, I can’t listen to some songs on that album and not have idyllic memories of our first Germany tour.  Anyway, Turetzky happened to find my Epinions review and engaged me in the comments section.  Now we’re Facebook friends.

“Her Shit Don’t Stink”… I always dedicate this to Ex.
Ken shows off his blues chops.

This morning, as I was waking up, I read a news article about how the U.S. Fertility Rate Fell to a Record Low for the Second Straight Year.  Actually, the title of this article is misleading.  It’s not that Americans are infertile.  It’s that they aren’t having as many babies.  Frankly, I think that’s a good thing.  Our country is well and truly fucked right now and plenty of people are having trouble simply supporting themselves.  The Trump administration seems to be doing its level best to erase any protections for American citizens.  The whole country appears to be in a shambles.  So I don’t blame young people for not wanting to reproduce right now.  Besides, we’ve got PLENTY of people as it is.

But seriously, though.  Think about what young people are up against.  Young people today are leaving college saddled with massive student loans.  Student loans can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy.  And well paying jobs, which would make use of those hard won degrees, are in short supply.  Now… one doesn’t necessarily have to go to college in order to make a good living.  Some people are able to learn trades or are gifted athletes or musicians.  Some people luck into money or are born into wealth.  But, for a lot of people, college is the gateway to a decent career.  There are a lot of jobs that require a degree and, in America, it’s expensive to get a degree.  So lots of young folks start off their best fertility years ladened with debt.  That makes it a lot less appealing for young people to make babies.

I will be turning 46 next month and by September, I expect to have my student loans completely paid.  I will be accomplishing this goal about nine years ahead of schedule.  When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing, especially since Bill and I started our marriage completely broke.  That “broke” period lasted about five years, as Bill recovered from financial disasters wrought in his first marriage and paid massive child support.  It finally turned around when Bill went to Iraq and started earning combat pay.  I used the extra money to get rid of some debt and start paying ahead on my student loans.  I started by paying an extra $20 a month and snowballed it for years.  

For awhile, I got letters from my student loan service letting me know the extra money wasn’t necessary.  Like hell it wasn’t.  When I consolidated my loans, I owed $57,000 and that was before the interest.  Of course, I have three degrees.  However, I don’t currently use my college degrees to make a big paycheck.  Life did not go in a direction where that would have been possible for me.  I happened to marry a kind, generous man who was willing to help me.  Not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been.  Plenty of young people are now leaving college with as much debt as I once had, and they only have one degree.

When you have to pay a lot of money for your student loans and your job isn’t necessarily secure, it might make you think twice about buying a home.  It might make you think twice about getting married or having children.  And then, once you have those children, you have to worry about all of the things that come from having them… not the least of which is how much it costs.  Kids are expensive.  Even if your child is healthy, they cost a lot of money.  If your child isn’t healthy, then there are other expenses to consider.  

And then, as you have your kids– maybe when you’re in your thirties, prime earning years– your parents might start having medical issues.  In my case, I was blessed with healthy, independent folks.  My dad had full medical coverage courtesy of being a retired Air Force officer.  My mom is very healthy and independent and has a good head for money.  So she’s doing fine.  Bill’s dad and stepmother, likewise, seem to be doing okay.  Bill’s mom needs help, but Bill is lucky enough to make good money right now.  At any point, that reality could change and screw things up.  If your parents aren’t healthy and can’t afford to take care of themselves, then you might be tasked with helping them.  And that takes money.  Sure, you can tell your parents to bugger off if you’re really selfish or sociopathic, but most people aren’t like that.

So… I can see why a lot of younger folks are holding off on having children.  Those who wait until they have money might have a harder time reproducing.  Fertility declines as a person ages.  Yes, there are women out there who can get pregnant naturally when they are in their mid 40s.  Women who decide to wait for their kids until they’ve become settled in their careers might find themselves pondering spending thousands on fertility treatments.  Some might decide to go to another country for cheaper fertility treatments.  If anything goes wrong, though, their health insurance probably won’t pay for anything related to care they received out of the country.  That’s if they can afford to have health insurance in the first place.    

I have no idea how fertile I am, since our fertility issues were probably caused by Bill’s vasectomy and subsequent reversal.  I never bothered to get thoroughly checked out because when I was in my 30s, we were still broke.  Any kind of fertility treatment would have cost money we didn’t have, even if we could have gotten that treatment at a substantial discount, thanks to the military.  I didn’t want to stay broke, so I focused on getting rid of debt instead of having children.  

I was also influenced by a woman I met while living at Fort Belvoir.  Like me, she had trouble conceiving.  She got fertility treatments and eventually had a son.  Sadly, he was born with multiple devastating birth defects.  He needed round the clock care.  She went from being a wife in a comfortable financial situation with two dogs, to a woman who spent all of her time trying to take care of her very medically fragile baby boy.  I remember very clearly when she warned me that if I had fertility treatments, I could end up in the situation she was in.  She seemed bitter about it.  I have to admit that I had a lot of empathy for her.  All she wanted was to simply be a mother.  She was lucky, though, in that she had access to military healthcare and housing.  Still, caring for her baby meant she needed extra help.  And that also costs serious money.

These are just a few reasons why women aren’t having babies.  I haven’t even touched on the fact that a lot of men who might be decent fathers are scared of commitment.  Frankly, I can’t blame them for that.  If a marriage fails, and many of them do, it can cost a lot of money.  Men, more often often than women, wind up being on the hook for child support for years.  It happened to Bill.  It was a long stretch of being nearly broke while working his ass off, while his first wife denied him access to his daughters, and his second wife struggled to find work.  Trust me, it’s not fun, although Bill and I were lucky enough to be able to survive and thrive.  Not everyone is as lucky as we’ve been.

I also didn’t even get into people who are involved in religions that demand a lot of tithing.  When I met Bill, he was still a Mormon and obliged to give ten percent of his gross income to the church.  That was so he could be “temple worthy”… which meant he was allowed to wear the special underwear and enter the temple and participate in culty religious ordinances that were either very bizarre or very boring.  Again, ten percent of one’s income, especially when the income isn’t quite enough, is a lot of money.  It tends to discourage reproduction, even as church leaders are encouraging it.

Anyway, I posted the article by The New York Times on my Facebook page and it immediately attracted comments.  A few comments came from my old online comedian friend, Ken Turetzky.  I remembered his silly song, “My Fat Ass Itches” and its bluesy hooks.  I suggested to Ken that maybe he ought to write a blues song inspired by the article I posted.  But, you know what?  Maybe I’ll do it myself.  I have all day.  I have no job.  I have no other purpose other than to comment on the news.  And, by some miracle, I managed to get to middle age without defaulting on any loans.  But I have no descendants or dependents… and when I die, the mold will be broken.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  

Yeah… I’ll think about it.  If I come up with a blues song, maybe I’ll post it later (see above).  If I don’t come up with one or otherwise get distracted, I’ll just write another meaningless blog post about the state of life today.

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book reviews, celebrities, TV

Repost: A review of Surviving Cissy: My Family Affair of Life in Hollywood

Just found a book review from February 2016 that I never got around to reposting. It appears here as/is.

Although I was not yet born when the television show Family Affair was originally broadcast, I had heard about the show from people who had watched it when it aired from 1966-71.  I think I might have seen a couple of episodes at some point, though I was much more of a Brady Bunch fan.  Family Affair was about three orphaned kids– “twins” Buffy and Jody (played by non twins Anissa Jones and Johnny Whittaker) and Cissy, the fifteen year old big sister (played by Kathy Garver, who was actually a young adult and student at UCLA at the time).  The three children’s parents die in a car accident and they descend upon their Uncle Bill (Brian Keith), a confirmed bachelor who travels the world, and his gentleman’s gentleman butler, Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot).   

The theme song for Family Affair. It sounds straight out of Lawrence Welk.

Kathy Garver’s role of Cissy made her famous, even though as a child of the 70s and 80s, I couldn’t have told you who she was before I read her recently published book, Surviving Cissy: My Family Affair of Life in Hollywood.  To be honest, I think I bought this book because of the picture on the cover.  It looked like it was going to be a sordid tale and I am a sucker for sordid tales.  Well, I just finished Ms. Garver’s book and it’s definitely not a sordid tale.  Indeed, it reads a little like a Christmas brag letter.  Kathy Garver seems awfully proud of her long career in show business and the many important and notable people she’s met along the way.

Although I usually like show biz memoirs, this one was a bit of a struggle to get through.  Garver has a formal writing style that is technically mostly correct, but comes across as stilted and affected.  It also felt like the book was a little too long and could have been edited down somewhat.  Garver has had a few trials in her life, but none that merited the amount of “airtime” they get in Surviving Cissy.  She writes about her house falling down a hill during a rainstorm, her house catching on fire,  breaking her leg, having her one and only son at age 44, and her husband overdosing on potassium that she purchased off the Internet from a company in Vietnam.  The rest of the book is mostly a breathless and saccharine accounting of all the things she’s done and how wonderful she is.

On the positive side, the few chapters about some of the challenges Kathy Garver has had to face were somewhat interesting.  And I did also learn a little bit about Family Affair and what it’s like to be a child actor, or at least what it was like in the 60s and 70s.  Garver was a child actor before she was on Family Affair.  She had a supportive family who helped her in her career and fostered her development into an adult actor.  She writes that many child actors have parents who do everything for them except recite their lines on camera.  Garver was able to learn how to do her own legwork.  Also, since she looked young for a long time, she was able to play roles that were written for children.  That worked to her advantage, since as a young adult, she wasn’t limited by the child protection laws designed to prevent exploitation of minors.

While some readers may be interested in reading about Kathy Garver’s many wonderful friends and ex boyfriends from show business, real estate, law, and school, others will probably find this aspect of the book pretty dull.  To me, it came across more as Garver’s showing everybody how special her life is rather than offering insight into her career.  Patty Duke wrote the foreword to this book.  I read Duke’s book, the excellent Call Me Anna, which was about Duke’s harrowing childhood as a child star and her struggle with bipolar disorder.  In my opinion, that book was a lot more intriguing and engaging than Surviving Cissy is.  Moreover, Garver really doesn’t explain why she needed to “survive” Cissy.  To me, it seemed like Cissy was just her defining role… and one she played long ago at that. 

Another thing I noticed is that Kathy Garver is not someone you want to cross.  She writes about suing people, even though the things she sued over seemed to be at least partially her fault.  For example, her house caught on fire because she bought a new dryer.  The dryer didn’t reach the electrical outlet, so the guy who installed it asked if she had an extension cord.  She did, but it didn’t have the capacity to handle the electrical current.  It only had two prongs instead of three.  Two weeks later, the machine caught on fire and burned down her house, which her husband had failed to adequately insure.  So she sued the department store that sold her the dryer.

She also sued her son’s Montessori school because he fell and cut his face on a radiator that was turned on.  While I’m not sure she was totally wrong to sue over that, the way she goes on about her “gorgeous” son and his marred face came across as a bit unbecoming to me.  It was in jarring contrast to the self-congratulatory tone in the rest of the book. 

Anyway, I will say that this book did inspire me to watch part of the pilot episode of Family Affair.  I was surprised to find that the show was well written and genuinely funny as opposed to corny.  I probably would have been a fan had I been old enough to see it when it first aired.  I can’t say I’m very familiar with Garver’s work as an actress, despite having seen The Princess Diaries, in which she and her son had bit roles.  It’s my guess that she’s a better actress than writer.

I think I’d give this book about three out of five stars.

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book reviews, healthcare

Repost: Review of Confessions of a Former Cosmetic Dentist…

Here’s a reposted book review I originally wrote in 2011 for Epinions. com. Hope you enjoy it, as/is!

I guess I can thank our recent return to watching television for introducing me to former cosmetic dentist Michael Zuk’s 2010 book, Confessions of a Former Cosmetic Dentist.  It was sort of a “one thing leads to another” thing.  I was watching Extreme Home Makeover and remembered that there used to be an Extreme Makeover show dedicated making over peoples’ appearances.  I looked it up on imdb.com and someone mentioned Zuk’s tell all book about cosmetic dentistry.  I went to Amazon, noticed the reviews were pretty positive, and decided to download Confessions of a Former Cosmetic Dentist to my Kindle.

What’s this book all about? 

Back in the 1990s, Michael Zuk was bitten by the cosmetic dentistry bug.  He bought into the highly motivational speeches he heard about how cosmetic dentists can change peoples’ lives for the better by giving them beautiful smiles.  So Michael Zuk became a cosmetic dentist and eventually added orthodontics to his practice.  He got into the business of overhauling smiles by giving his patients veneers, replacing enamel with porcelain, and bleaching teeth into brilliant whiteness.

Somewhere along the way, Dr. Zuk lost his enthusiasm for cosmetic dentistry.  He started to notice how some of his overly aggressive colleagues were ruining their clients’ teeth with veneers.  He also noticed that cosmetic dentists were raking in a lot of cash for procedures that might eventually ruin a client’s perfectly serviceable, but not quite camera ready, teeth.

Dr. Zuk also discusses orthodontic treatments and offers his opinions on some of the newer treatments that are available, such as Invisalign.  A lot of clients are attracted to so-called high speed braces, even if the treatment won’t make that much of a difference.  Dr. Zuk explains why clients need to be more informed about their options and the potential risks that can come from cosmetic dentistry.

My thoughts 

I think Dr. Zuk has written a very interesting and useful book for the general public, especially those who might be tempted to undergo a cosmetic dentistry makeover.  Dr. Zuk is brutally honest about the effect some of the more popular procedures, especially bleaching and veneers, might have on a person’s teeth.  He seems particularly against veneers, which are apparently especially damaging to some people.  It seems a lot of cosmetic dentists sugar coat what actually happens to natural teeth when they undergo cosmetic restorations.  Clients may be left with a big bill and teeth that eventually fall apart.  I was pretty shocked when Dr. Zuk wrote that he’d sooner trust a good family dentist rather than a cosmetic dentist.  He seems to think the cosmetic dentistry industry is all about money and, in fact, often comes across as quite cynical.  On the other hand, some of his comments are pretty funny, too.  I actually laughed out loud a couple of times.

One thing I noticed about this book is that it seems to be somewhat poorly edited.  I don’t know if it’s because of the Kindle, but in many instances throughout the book, there was no spacing between words.  So I ended up reading several sentences thatlookedlikethis.  It got to be pretty annoying.  Another thing that might be off putting to some readers, particularly if they are in the dental profession, is Zuk’s rather pessimistic attitude.  He makes a lot of comments about how cosmetic dentists are only in the business to fatten their wallets.  He claims that cosmetic dentists are constantly fixated on other people’s smiles, looking for ways they could be improved at a pretty penny.    

Overall

I am lucky enough to have pretty good teeth, so I have never been attracted to the idea of getting cosmetic dental treatment.  Nevertheless, I did learn a lot from Confessions of a Former Cosmetic Dentist and would recommend it to anyone, especially those who might be thinking about taking the cosmetic dentistry plunge.  I do wish the book were better edited, especially for the Kindle. ETA in 2022: It looks like this book is no longer available on Kindle, anyway.

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book reviews, LDS, religion

Repost: A review of Jessica Bradshaw’s You’re Not Alone: Exit Journeys of Former Mormons…

Here’s a reposted book review from my original blog. It was written in June 2017, and appears here as/is. Some things have changed since I wrote this. Bill’s younger daughter came around, and now talks to him.

As many regular blog readers know, I frequently hang out on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard, although I have never myself been a Mormon.  I started hanging out on that site because my husband, Bill, used to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He and his ex wife were converts at the end of their disastrous marriage. 

Bill was once a fairly enthusiastic Mormon; when I met him, he still claimed to believe.  I think he had high hopes that the church would help him save his first marriage.  But over time, it became clear that the church would not save his family and, in fact, made his situation much worse than it might have been.  Unfortunately, Bill’s two daughters became devout members of the LDS church and he pretty much lost them when he divorced their mother and later decided to resign from the church. 

It is certainly no secret that I despise my husband’s ex wife for many reasons– many of which have nothing to do with the LDS church. The truth is, what happened to Bill would have happened whether or not they had been Mormon converts. My husband’s ex wife delivered the same despicable treatment to her first ex husband. She effectively influenced her eldest son to reject his father. She did the same to Bill’s daughters. She will likely engage the same method if and when she leaves her third husband, with whom she has another son and daughter. That is simply what she does because she’s an abusive person, who thinks her children are extensions of herself, and uses them as weapons.

However, although I don’t believe the church was the main cause of my husband’s split from his now adult daughters, it’s been my observation that the LDS church is an excellent parental alienation tool. The importance of the church and its ridiculous lifestyle tenets– its insistence on being privy to the most private aspects of a person’s life and focus on perfect families– made it much easier for my husband’s young, impressionable daughters to reject their perfectly good dad as “unsuitable” and “undeserving” of them. To be honest, I agree that Bill doesn’t deserve his daughters. In my opinion, they aren’t good enough for HIM. Fortunately for them, Bill is a lot more forgiving about his daughters’ decision to reject him than I am. He once had a very close relationship with them. He is their father, and will always love them, while I have only met them in person once. I have no connection to them, and I think their behavior is unreasonable and just plain stupid.

Perhaps my brief rundown of my personal experiences with the church will offer some insight as to why I read so much about Mormonism– particularly about those who choose to abandon it.  Since I’ve been with Bill, I have come to know a number of impressive ex-Mormons.  It takes a lot of strength of character to go against the grain and reject one’s family religion, especially when it’s a very demanding belief system like Mormonism.  I have found that many ex-Mormons are very intelligent, sensitive, and open-minded.  I truly like them as a group of people.  For that, as well as for her decision to divorce Bill, I will always be grateful to Bill’s ex wife.  Her decision to go LDS and Bill’s decision to leave the church indirectly influenced my life in many positive ways.  Of course, had she not divorced Bill, I might not have gotten to be his wife.

It’s indirectly because of my husband’s ex wife that I “met” Jessica Bradshaw, who just published You’re Not Alone: Exit Journeys of Former Mormons. I read her first book, I’m (No Longer) a Mormon: A Confessional, which she wrote under the pseudonym Regina Samuelson. I enjoyed the book and reviewed it, and Bradshaw and I became Facebook friends. I was delighted when Bradshaw announced her second book, which would be published under her real name. She also solicited stories from her ex-Mormon friends and acquaintances. I wanted to get Bill to submit his story, but he never got around to writing it.

Over the past almost fifteen years of marriage, I have seen firsthand what can happen when a person decides to leave a high commitment religion like Mormonism.  Some Mormon families truly believe in “free agency” and are okay with family members deciding for themselves what to believe.  There are many more families that can make leaving the church extremely difficult.  Some ex-Mormons wind up getting divorced, being shunned by family members and friends, and even losing their jobs or getting kicked out of college over deciding that Mormonism doesn’t work for them.  Deciding to leave Mormonism was a huge decision for many past members; it can be overwhelming and terrifying.  Many ex members feel that they are alone as they make this monumental decision for their own lives. 

Bradshaw’s latest book is a compilation of stories by former church members who left.  Each story is very well edited and offers valuable insight into what makes a person decide to leave Mormonism.  I was amazed as I read about how each person’s eyes were opened to the world beyond the church.  It was gratifying to read how many of these ex church members began to develop insight, empathy, and an expanded perspective of the world around them, even as many of them found themselves ostracized from their families and friends.

One contributor wrote about how, as a Mormon missionary in Japan, he experienced extreme cognitive dissonance.  He observed how happy, moral, and loyal the Japanese people were to their families and employers.  They were able to be this way even without the direction and interference of a church’s oppressive lifestyle restrictions or strict “moral” code.  As the years passed, the contributor experienced a series of life events that led him from being an “acting Bishop” of a huge ward in Salt Lake City to a convicted felon who temporarily lost his license to practice optometry.  This was a decent person– a good guy who was having a crisis of faith and could not talk to his wife, other family members, or friends about his feelings.  He started playing racquetball, took his new passion too far, eventually got seriously hurt, and was put on opium based painkillers.  He developed an addiction to the painkillers, started calling in his own prescriptions, and soon lost everything. 

Many church members would look at that story and determine that it was the man’s decision to abandon the church that led him to such disastrous consequences.  Indeed, when church members resign, a lot of active members think it’s because they want to sin, are too lazy or weak to live by the church’s rules, or were somehow offended.  Active members tend to avoid those with weak testimonies because they fear they will lose their own testimonies.  It occurs to me that active members who fear those who are losing their testimonies must also have weak testimonies, because if their testimonies were strong, someone else’s doubts would not be a threat. 

A person leaving the church often feels very much alone and may turn to habits that can turn out to be destructive.  In the case of the contributor I just wrote about, he turned to racquetball.  Racquetball is not a destructive habit in and of itself, but if one plays to the point of becoming seriously injured and needs pain pills, that can lead to a serious disruption of one’s life.  Perhaps if the man could have talked honestly to his wife or church leaders about his doubts, he might not have experienced such a calamity.  Maybe he would have eased up on the racquetball and not gotten seriously hurt.  Or maybe the positive feelings he got from the drugs would not have been as seductive, since he might have been able to get a sense of normalcy and calm without needing medication.

Unfortunately, for many people, the church does not lend itself to open discussion or honesty.  Married couples must cope with less intimacy because the church is a not so silent partner in their relationships.  Important decisions about things like religious beliefs are not left up to the married couple.  The church must be involved.  And the church’s involvement means there will be less privacy, pressure, and the potential for punishment and humiliation.  Many people who have doubts about the church don’t speak about them openly.  Instead, they simply fake it.  They lead lifestyles that are not authentic.  They miss out on a lot of wonderful life experiences and freedom due to fear of disaster and abandonment.  Being “fake” is also psychologically unhealthy and can ultimately lead to unhappiness.

I have only described one story in You’re Not Alone, but rest assured that the book is full of enlightenment about why people leave the LDS church and encouragement that there is life after Mormonism.  While the immediate consequences of leaving the church can be heartbreaking and devastating, most people are able to pick up the pieces and live better, more authentic lifestyles.  They make their own decisions and can accept their successes and failures as their own. 

I’ve seen firsthand how liberating leaving the LDS church can be as I’ve watched Bill.  When I met him, he was living on $600 a month and thought his life was ruined.  He thought God hated him.  What a blessing it’s been to have watched him blossom into a self-confident man who loves freely and enjoys his life.  He has plenty of money (not paying 10% gross to the church is a great thing), gets to travel, wears whatever underwear he prefers, and drinks whatever he pleases.  He is not afraid of being exposed to other people’s experiences and no longer has a testimony that must be protected at all costs.  And although he was abandoned by his daughters, Bill has found out that his life is still very much worth living and he is free to do it on his own terms.  I’m pretty sure that is what Jessica Bradshaw’s contributors have also discovered. 

Naturally, I recommend You’re Not Alone, especially to anyone who has been thinking about leaving the LDS church, but also to those who are in any belief system that has them in metaphorical chains.  I also think You’re Not Alone is a great read even if you aren’t LDS, although it probably does help to know something about the church before you read it.  I also recommend Jessica’s first book, I’m (No Longer) a Mormon.  Five stars from me.

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reviews, sex

Repost: A review of the Hitachi Magic Wand… 

I wrote this review for Epinions.com back in 2007, when Bill was deployed to Iraq, and just before we moved to Germany the first time. As you can see, I didn’t like it as much as a lot of others did. This review actually ended up in my getting some unwanted correspondents. However, this was one of my most popular reviews. It made a lot of money.

First thing’s first. I am a woman in my 30s (er, I’ll be 50 in a few weeks) and I haven’t seen my husband, Bill, in months. Like lots of women in their so-called sexual peak, I have certain needs. Unfortunately, while my husband has been off defending God and country, my old massager started an irreversible death spiral. As I was shopping for a replacement, I remembered my husband’s comment that the Hitachi Magic Wand Massager HV-250R was the “Cadillac” of vibrators/massagers. Guess he read the ads on the Internet, too. Remembering that little tidbit of information, I decided to purchase one to keep me company until Bill comes home.

What is the Hitachi Magic Wand Massager HV-250R?

Chances are, most people reading this review already know that lots of women use the Hitachi Magic Wand to satisfy their sexual needs. However, I think it’s important to point out that the Magic Wand is actually billed as just a plain old massager. If you look at the packaging, you see leotard clad women using the device on parts of their bodies that are perfectly acceptable for public viewing. Read through the instructions and you’ll find no mention that this product can or should be used for intimate purposes. In fact, the instructions even include a diagram of a fully clad woman marked with positions where the massager should be used. There are no arrows pointing toward the diagrammed woman’s genital region.

This massager is sold by drugstores and sex shops. Attachments are available and sold separately. They looked kind of scary to me, so I opted to just buy the wand. I had high hopes for this product, since it got so many great reviews and seemed to be so powerful.

Specifications

The Magic Wand has two speeds, high and low, which have vibration frequencies of 6000 and 5000 per minute respectively. Designed to be used in North America, the massager uses a 110-120 volt power source and consumes 20 watts. The manufacturers don’t recommend using the wand with an electric converter, which means that when I move to Germany, I’ll have to find a new toy. The Hitachi Magic Wand is about twelve inches long and has a soft, smooth, flexible head. The power cord is about seven feet long. The massager comes with a one year limited warranty and is intended for home use.

My first impressions

Oh boy, was I excited to get this package in the mail last week. I was especially happy because DHL had lost my package in transit and I had visions of some DHL employee playing with my new toy. I was relieved to get my new Magic Wand in a box that showed no signs of tampering. When I pulled my new machine out of the box, I noticed that the plastic seemed a bit lightweight. The power cord was also flimsier than the cord on my other massager.

I plugged in the Hitachi and tried it out at both speeds by just touching the vibrating head with my fingers, something the manufacturers warn that I shouldn’t do. I wasn’t all that impressed with its power, or lack thereof. Later, I tried it as a sensual aid and found that it’s not as powerful as my old massager was when I first bought it. For me, that’s a big drawback, especially since it takes longer to get the desired effect. The Magic Wand uses a motor to make vibrations. The longer you use it, the hotter the motor gets. The hotter the motor gets, the sooner it will overheat. Others may find the Hitachi Magic Wand plenty powerful.

One thing that does strike me as a good thing about this massager is that it’s very compact. Lightweight at just 1.2 pounds, it’s small enough to easily stow in a suitcase. It would be very easy to travel with this massager as long as you’re staying in North America. I also don’t think this massager is excessively noisy, so that’s another plus.

The Hitachi Magic Wand Massager HV-250R is widely available, so even if you’re feeling a little unfulfilled, you can buy it without embarrassment from a number of different retailers. The list price is $69.99, but I wouldn’t pay more than $40 for this massager. Luckily, that’s pretty much what it’s going for these days.

Precautions

I have to admit, I found reading the instructions for the Hitachi Magic Wand very entertaining. Obviously, they weren’t written by a native English speaker, although whoever did write them is very fluent in the language. Here are a few direct quotes from the precautions section in the instructions.

You’ll want to use your massager on your shoulders, arms, back muscles, and legs. It’s not for your chest and certainly not for use around you [sic] thyroid gland (just below the Adam’s Apple)…

The rated maximum continuous use of your massager is 25 minutes. That’s really long enough. Should you wish to use it longer, turn it off and wait about 30 minutes before using it again…

Don’t turn the vibrating head by hand or press it tightly to your body. You could bend the head-supporter, and heavy pressure does not produce a stronger massaging effect anyway…

Never drop or insert any object into any opening. 

Yuk, yuk, yuk…

There are also standard warnings about not using the massager while taking a bath or on inflamed or swollen areas of the body. In fact, the folks at Hitachi even specifically warn that the Magic Wand should not be used on an “unexplained calf pain”. Ouch.

Seriously, this massager seems safe to use as long as the user has common sense. Don’t use it around water, on open wounds, or when the motor is so hot your fingers are burning, and you should be just fine. And be sure to avoid that “thyroid gland”, too… (snicker)

Would I recommend the Hitachi Magic Wand Massager?

It depends. Frankly, I didn’t find this massager powerful enough for my particular “needs”. I don’t like the fact that it’s made of flimsy plastic and has a lightweight and somewhat short power cord. However, I think this massager would be fine for general use on sore muscles. And I also think that some women would find it plenty powerful enough for their sensual tastes. Hell, I find that just reading the instructions is a source of entertainment all its own! But for me, personally, this massager is less like a Cadillac and more like a Dodge Neon.

AND, since it’s a short post, here’s a repost of a blog entry I wrote in 2013, about taking this particular vibrator to the dump.

Taking my vibrators to the dump…

As we’re preparing for the packers to come here tomorrow, Bill and I have been discussing what to do with some items we haven’t been using.  A few years ago, when Bill was deployed, I invested in a “Magic Wand” vibrator by Hitachi.  I was really excited about getting this device, since I’d heard such great things about it.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with the wand.  Somehow, I also ended up with two of them.  I reviewed the wand on Epinions and ended up getting some uninvited correspondence with yucky, horny men on Yahoo! Messenger.  It was way gross.

So, since about 2007, my vibrators have sat in the bottom of a drawer, bereft of my attention.  I needed something a little more powerful than the Magic Wand and ended up finding something more like a jackhammer for my “special sensual needs”.

I have a few other massaging items that I don’t use anymore… a water bath with jets for my feet, an electric vibrating foot massager, and a cheap chair massager for my back that never fit any of the chairs in our house.  So there’s a pile of massaging items in our bedroom waiting for a trip to the dump.

I’ve been imagining what it will look like when Bill takes these items to the landfill.  One time, when he went there, there were people hanging out at the dump, waiting to see what people were throwing out.  They were delighted when Bill offered them an ugly 40 year old yellow American Tourister suitcase I had inherited from my mom.  They referred to it as an “Ike Turner” suitcase.  I can only wonder what their reactions would be if he offered them my vibrators…

Incidentally, the Magic Wand doesn’t really look pornographic.  In fact, if you read the directions, there’s no discussion of it being used as a sensual aid.  It’s supposedly intended for use on parts of the body that are perfectly acceptable for public view.  But I have never heard of anyone using the Magic Wand for anything other than a sexual toy.  Go figure.

As far as I know, no one who was hanging around at the dump in 2013 wanted my vibrators. I can’t blame them.

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