funny stories, karma, law, stupid people

“Guido” and “The Giving Tree”…

This morning’s news has been downright entertaining. It’s not too often that I start the morning off with a hearty laugh, but I sure have done that today.

First, I read about a woman who is going to go to prison for at least nine years because she used a bogus Web site called RentAHitman.com to try to get her ex-husband murdered. Then, I read about a man who has cleverly rewritten the ending to the awful children’s story, The Giving Tree. Tuesday has gotten off to a good start!

She fell into a “honeypot”, trying to get her ex “waxed”… now she’s headed for the jug!

In July 2020, Wendy Wein was resolved to take the ultimate revenge on her former spouse. She waited in a cafe in Michigan, preparing herself to talk business with a man she thought was a professional killer. She hoped to hire him to murder ex-husband. Unfortunately for Wendy, the supposed hitman was actually a Michigan state trooper who had been alerted to her diabolical and illegal plans when Wendy filled out a request form on RentAHitman.com.

Wein had been fooled by the fake Web site, which she thought was genuine business, run by a guy named “Guido Fanelli”. According to the Washington Post:

What Wein found was presumably reassuring. The website promised her confidentiality. It boasted of industry awards. It showed off testimonials of satisfied customers, including one from Laura S., who had “caught my husband cheating with the babysitter.” The website bragged about complying with HIPPA, which it said was “the Hitman Information Privacy & Protection Act of 1964,” a nod to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, the law passed in 1996 to protect patients’ medical information.

Honestly, I don’t know why Wein wasn’t tipped off by the name “Guido”, but she obviously thought someone would be stupid enough to have a real Web site dedicated to murdering people. And she was… sorry… pretty stupid herself for actually filling out a request form with her real name, email address, and phone number so that a “field operator” (cop) could contact her about the deal. The form also required information about the person she wanted “taken out”.

Wein, who at 52 years old, hasn’t aged like fine wine, really thought the field operator she spoke to in her gray Ford EcoSport was a hitman. She accused her ex of being a “pedophile” and gave the cop his address, place of employment and the times he left for work and got home. Then she provided a down payment of $200 and promised to pay another $5000 when the job was done.

A few days later, Wein was arrested a few days later for seeking out an assassin. According to the Washington Post, she “pleaded guilty earlier this month to solicitation of murder and using a computer to commit a crime. Under her plea agreement, she faces at least nine years in prison when she is sentenced in January.”

RentAHitman.com was started in 2005 by a businessman in Northern California named Bob Innes. At the time he created his site, Innes was newly graduated from a network security program and thought he might like to start a business testing companies’ online infrastructures for vulnerabilities. “RentAHitman” was a play on words– Innes wasn’t thinking about “hitman” as a person who kills people for money. He was thinking of Internet hits. You know that word “hits”–which can refer to attacking a system as well as online views– not “hitting” a person and taking them out of commission.

The business venture failed, so when Innes finished his network security course, he put the domain up for auction. It didn’t sell, so he just let it go dormant and forgot all about it. Then in 2008, Innes evidently rediscovered the site and decided to check all of the emails. He was amazed by the number of messages he got asking how much he charged for services rendered. He was absolutely flabbergasted that people thought the site was really offering murder for hire and people not only wanted to hire a hitman, but some were looking for employment as hitmen!

Innes didn’t act at the time, since none of the queries he’d received seemed real. But then in 2010, he got a message from a British woman in Canada named Helen who wanted three family members murdered because she claimed they had “bilked her out of her father’s inheritance.” Innes didn’t take the request seriously at first, but when she wrote to him again, he decided to check out the people she wanted axed. He could tell that she was very serious about having them murdered.

Since the British woman in Canada was so serious about intending to kill her relatives, Innes forwarded the information to a cop friend of his, who then called the authorities in Canada. The Canadian cops found Helen, arrested her, and she wound up spending four months locked up for soliciting to commit murder. Then, once she was released from the jug, she was deported back to Britain.

The requests kept coming, so Innes decided to make the site into something that would actually do some good and save lives. He added the service request form in 2014. Seven years later, the site is still going, and still attracting “business” from the clueless. Innes even tries to give people an out before he turns them in. He sends each serious inquirer an email with two questions: Do you still require our services? And do you want me to place you in contact with a field operator? If they answer “yes”, he forwards the information to the cops.

One might think that this article about RentAHitman.com will render the site obsolete, since savvy people will know it’s a bogus site. However, it’s my experience that a lot of people are really stupid… and a lot of people don’t bother to read. And even more people don’t want to pay for newspaper subscriptions. So, it’s my guess that Innes will stay in business for awhile longer.

Moving on… someone has finally done something about the GODAWFUL children’s story, The Giving Tree

In the past, I’ve written a couple of times about how my husband’s ex wife ruined a number of children’s stories and albums with her toxic bullshit. One story that Ex really ruined for Bill was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Ex had a habit of comparing herself to the tree, and Bill to the selfish boy who keeps taking and taking until the tree is reduced to nothing. This is, of course, classic projection, as Bill is one of the least selfish and most decent people I know. But anyway, she used that story to mindfuck Bill, as well as at least one of her children (and really, probably all of them).

This morning, I read that an enterprising playwright and writer named Topher Payne has rewritten the terrible ending to The Giving Tree so that it’s less toxic and fucked up. Payne has a series called Topher Fixed It, and he’s redone a number of children’s stories with questionable messages. I read Topher’s rewrite to Bill and, sure enough, he got all verklempt. He said Ex has also compared their daughter to the Boy in the story.

I remember that she used another children’s book called The Little Soul and the Sun: A Children’s Parable to shame Bill before he deployed to Iraq, and she actually sent the book to him before he left. I got really pissed off because she was, once again, using children’s literature to promote her false toxic agenda. It was very inappropriate for her to do that before he went to war, too. Especially since she refused to let him speak to their daughters. I told him to get rid of the book so I didn’t have to see it, because every time I saw it, I felt the urge to throw it away. So he sent the book back to her with a note that read, “I’m not the one who needs this.”

I’m not actually familiar with the book Ex sent, since it wasn’t one from my childhood. I think it’s about forgiveness. Bill was very hurt that she sent it to him. Anyway, there’s no reason why Bill should not have been allowed to speak to his daughters before he went to war. At the time, one of them was 16, and the other was 13. He could have died over there.

I just want to offer many kudos and congratulations to Topher Payne for his epic project, fixing the more fucked up children’s stories. In our case, it’s personal. Now, Bill might be able to enjoy what should have been an enjoyable and healthy story for children instead of thinking of his mentally ill Ex. I see on Amazon that The Little Soul and the Sun mostly gets good ratings. I suspect that as is the case with The Giving Tree, a lot of people fail to see the damaging message and how it can be used to hurt, rather than heal. One reviewer gets it, though, and posted this:

I found Conversation with God inspirational, but this children’s book is wrong. It gives an example of hurting another being as an act of great love. From “Conversations with God” I understood that hurtful acts are never prearranged agreements, but acts of free choice based on a level of “remembrance of who we are” on a physical plane.

The children’s book went astray. It sends an awfully dangerous message.

Yep. And another person wrote:

The premise of this book is that you wanted to experience individuality, and decided to incarnate with someone else who “loves” you so much they will be cruel to you, so that you can learn how to forgive them.

Isn’t it actually the other way around?

When your loved ones incarnated, somehow along the way they forgot that this reality is supposed to be loving, playful, and creative. So you decided to incarnate and remind them, even if doing so might hurt you, and then you’d go on to live that better reality for yourself and others.

Yeah… real cool of Ex to send this crap to Bill before he went to a war zone. What a bitch. There are so many beloved relics from childhood that Ex has ruined, because she’s used it to promote her toxic agenda and quest to control everyone.

Sorry… anyway, it’s time to close this post. The sun is out, and the boys need a walk, and my mouse needs to recharge… and I need to stop thinking about things that are upsetting. I do love what Topher Payne is doing, though.

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lessons learned, musings

Repost, plus new comments for 2020: Empathy: we can’t afford to waste it!

I originally posted this piece on January 10, 2018 on my old blog. I am reposting it today because as 2020 closes, I think we need a reminder. At the end of this as/is repost from 2018, look for a few new comments from yours truly.

When I was growing up, it was very common to see public service announcements on TV.  One PSA that I remember from my youth was one from the Department of Energy.  The ads had a very recognizable musical cue followed by a small chorus of singers who sang “Energy: we can’t afford to waste it!”  Their line would be followed by a very late 70s early 80s electronic musical flourish.  I wish I could find a video of one of those ads.  They used to run all the time.  As it is, I’ve only managed to find a picture of the record that used to be played for the radio PSAs.

I’m reminded of that campaign this morning.  The slogan was catchy, as was the dated musical interlude that came with it.  It’s sad that we no longer see PSAs the way we used to back in the day.  A lot of people could use a helpful reminder of what’s important.  Empathy is important.  We can’t afford to waste it.

Bill hates this story. I can’t blame him.

Last night, Bill and I were talking more about how he and his younger daughter have reconnected.  In the course of our discussion, the topic of empathy came up.  Bill was telling me about how his ex wife used to compare their relationship to the one described in Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree.  Bill hates that book, even though it illustrates a very effective lesson on empathy.  Bill recognizes the value in Silverstein’s story, but his ex wife had an annoying habit of using children’s books to make points about her perceptions of Bill’s “shortcomings”.  

You can watch the video above to get the whole story.  Alternatively, here’s a short synopsis.  The Giving Tree is the story of a boy and a beautiful tree.  They once had a loving and mutually beneficial relationship.  The boy would play on the tree and lavish attention on it.  The tree would provide shade, branches for him to swing on, and apples to eat.  Sadly, as the boy grew older, he began to neglect the tree.  His interests had changed.  His needs had expanded.  The tree could no longer give the boy all he wanted.  But she could provide the materials for him to give him what he needed.  She would suggest ways he could use her and he would thoughtlessly take her up on her offers to give herself to him.  

The boy used the tree over and over again.  The tree was happy to have him use her to make his life better, even though his endless needs literally took away pieces of her.  She was selfless, empathetic, nurturing, and loving.  He was thoughtless, neglectful, exploitative, and cruel.  Finally, the day came when they were both old, and there wasn’t much left of either of them.  In one last act of selfishness, the boy sat on the tree’s stump and rested.

My husband’s ex wife claimed that she was like the tree and Bill was like the selfish boy who used the tree over and over again for his own self-interests.  She claimed she was “happy” to let him “use” her.  In my opinion, Ex’s decision to use The Giving Tree as an object lesson is a classic example of projection.  She is one of the least empathetic people I’ve ever known, and her penchant for using children’s literature to make her points is one of many grating features of her narcissistic personality.

In fifteen years of marriage, I’ve heard many stories about how Bill’s ex loved using children’s books for “object lessons”, particularly books by Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein.  She repeatedly preyed on other people’s empathy and twisted things so she’d somehow look both wounded and virtuous.  She had an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what “lessons” she thought her victims needed to learn and would most readily receive, but lacked the talent to “teach” them with original materials.  Instead, she relied on venerable children’s authors to deliver her toxic messages, ruining their works for her victims in the process.  She would also choose the least appropriate times to employ her methods, like during major religious holidays, on birthdays, when the whole family was gathered… or when Bill was about to go into a combat zone.

Right before Bill went to war, he wanted to call his daughters and ex stepson and tell them he loved them.  Instead of cooperating with Bill and arranging a phone call, Ex sent him a children’s book about forgiveness that he used to read to the kids when they were small.  He never got to say goodbye to them.  Instead, he got another shitty “object lesson” from his ex wife about “forgiveness” in the form of yet another children’s book. 

Every day for several weeks, I would see that book lying on the floor in a spare room we had.  Every time I passed it lying there, I wanted to burn it or at least throw it away.  I did not do so, because it wasn’t my property.  The sight of it made my blood boil.  Finally, I asked Bill to do something with that children’s book so I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore.  He finally sent it back to his former wife with a note that read “You need this more than I do.”  Then Bill went off to Iraq for six months without saying goodbye to his kids. 

I noticed this canister yesterday while I was pouring myself a beer…

All of this build up leads me to an explanation of the above picture.  That is an unopened canister of chocolate protein powder.  It’s been sitting on that shelf for about two years.  I had noticed it before, but figured Bill had bought it for himself.  When he was still in the Army, Bill often bought supplements to help him maintain his physical fitness.  He had to take physical training tests every six months and, as he got older, the tests were harder to pass.  I thought maybe he was going to use the powder to get in better shape.

Last night, I finally asked him about the canister on the shelf.  It had been there so long that I actually wondered if it had been left by the previous tenants.

Bill said, “I bought that for you when you had oral surgery a couple of years ago.  I was concerned about your nutrition.  I thought maybe you’d have trouble eating solid foods and wanted to make sure you’d be able to get some protein.  I’ve had a lot of dental work myself and I know how it is.”

My mouth dropped open.  I have always known Bill to be empathetic and kind.  He has always been thoughtful and solicitous, sometimes to a fault.  But for some reason, it never occurred to me that he’d think enough of me to buy protein powder.

I am really grateful to be married to such a genuinely empathetic person.  I never asked him to buy me protein powder.  He thought of that himself.  He had anticipated my needs.  I gave him a hug and told him just how much I appreciated that he cared enough to buy me protein powder so I’d be okay after my oral surgery (which turned out to be no big deal).  In my mind, it was extraordinary. 

A lot of people have the idea that all men are thoughtless jerks who don’t consider others.  I somehow got lucky enough to marry a man who is incredibly empathetic and thoughtful.  Every time I think of what Bill’s ex wife so thoughtlessly threw away, I experience a weird combination of rage and gratitude.  I will always be grateful to her for being dumb enough to dump him, but it also angers me that she abused him for so many years. 

Bill’s ex wife repeatedly took advantage of his kindness and rarely appreciated thoughtful things he did for her.  As a matter of fact, when he would do thoughtful things for her, she usually regarded him as a chump.  The kind deeds would inspire contempt rather than gratitude.  It was like she thought he was a sucker for being considerate. 

After awhile, Bill stopped doing nice things for Ex and withdrew from her.  That behavior also inspired contempt and complaints from Ex.  She used Bill’s new withdrawn behavior as “proof” that, deep down, he was really an asshole.  She predicted one day he would leave her.  No matter how many times he tried to reassure her, she wouldn’t believe him.  She’d escalate her bad behavior and disrespect to the point at which he could no longer ignore it.  Finally, the day she told him she wanted a divorce (Easter Sunday while at the in-laws’ house), he agreed.  Her predictions that they would split had finally come to pass.  And then, after he forced her to follow through on her divorce threats, she made him an enemy not even worthy of saying goodbye to his daughters when he went off to war in Iraq.

I mainly write about this stuff, not just so I can process it, but also for other people who are in this situation.  Plenty of people live with others who lack empathy.  I write these stories for them, so they know that they aren’t alone and they aren’t crazy.  But I also write them, maybe because I know that there have been a lot of false stories spread to people who matter to Bill.  I know his daughters and his parents heard a lot of lies about the kind of person he is.  I have no doubt that the ex wife used The Giving Tree and other children’s stories to make her point to people who aren’t wise enough to see the truth.  Maybe this story is to try to undo some of the damage wrought by her constant lies and truth stretching. 

Let this tale serve as a PSA, just like the one from the Department of Energy in 1980.  “Empathy: we can’t afford to waste it.”  Choose to be empathetic to those who will recognize and appreciate it.  To those who won’t, move on, because life is short and resources are limited.  Just like The Giving Tree, you really only have so much to give during your short time on Earth. 

And for 2020…

I was reminded of this post from about three years ago this morning, as I was reading a Facebook post that my friend Elizabeth commented on, pictured below.

Hmmm…

One might not think this would be a controversial post, but it was. I read through the comments, which quickly became very contentious. This post, while admittedly kind of confrontational, was basically about being decent and kind to others. I noticed my friend becoming somewhat sarcastic when other people disagreed with her. Pretty soon, the whole thing devolved into insults. It didn’t help that someone tried to hijack the post with complaints about male circumcision, complete with a graphic photo.

I noticed one young woman was disagreeing with the post. As people confronted her for her “Libertarian” views and going against the grain, it occurred to me that we would get a lot more accomplished if more people had basic respect for others. That means trying not to fall into derision and name calling when someone disagrees.

Although I am definitely not a conservative anymore, there are a few conservative ideas I accept. This lady, who later claimed to be transgendered, was basically pointing out some things that were common sense and, at least on the surface, correct. But what she was posting wasn’t politically correct, and people were calling her out for it in very rude, condescending, and offensive ways.

I didn’t get involved myself, except to call out the lady posting about circumcision with this photo…

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have, but…

When she laughed, I clarified that I am actually against circumcision, but I am even less for people hijacking threads with off topic spam. I encouraged her to fight the good fight. Then I got back to the very interesting debate going on, in which one poster had referred to the self-reported Libertarian transgendered woman as “honey” and tried to school her.

I wondered what that attitude accomplishes. It makes you feel better, sure. I will even admit to sometimes indulging in it myself. But in the long run, being really rude and insulting when you try to take someone to school doesn’t really help. It turns into a waste of time in a hurry.

I do think we’d get further in making things better if more of us would listen to what others have to say and respect their right to disagree, if they want to. As long as there’s basic respect and empathy for the other person’s viewpoint, new ideas that make more people happy can be formed. But right now, there’s just a lot of polarized noise. Nothing is getting accomplished. And discussions about tolerance and kindness ultimately go nowhere.

Of course… most of us are in a pretty bad mood. 2020 has been a really hard year for many people. We’re all hoping for better days in 2021. I sure am, anyway… at least an end to the constant sickness and violence and hatred toward each other. I do think if we were all a bit more understanding and kind, maybe things would be better. And that means if you preach it, practice it. Easier said than done, I know… and I will even admit to my own hypocrisy at times. As human beings, we all bleed when we’re pricked… and when we encounter a prick, we all bristle.

I’ve been very fortunate to have found an empathetic man with whom I can enjoy my life. I look to him for inspiration. If I need an example for kindness, I remember how Bill wanted to be sure I had protein after oral surgery and bought me a protein powder supplement. He did that, even though I was liable to be cranky after my surgery. And I didn’t have to ask him. He did it because he was thinking of me. Maybe if more of us were like that toward everyone, the world would be a nicer place.

Anyway, those are my deep thoughts for the last day of 2020. Time to have some lunch with Mr. Bill. Happy New Year, y’all!

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Ex

You took the part, that once was my heart…

so why not take all of me?

The first time I heard the classic jazz song, “All of Me”, was back in the 1980s when Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, and Victoria Tennant made a goofy movie by that name. It was about a very wealthy but bitter, nasty, dying woman (Tomlin) who wishes to transfer her soul into a young, beautiful, healthy woman’s body. The young woman who volunteers (Tennant) is a criminal who doesn’t believe the soul transfer will work. She figures she’s about to inherit a beautiful home with horses and money. Through a twist of fate, the rich woman’s soul ends up in Martin’s character. Adding to the conflict, besides the obvious inconvenience of sharing one’s body with another soul, is the fact that Martin’s character can’t stand Tomlin’s character. It’s classic 80s cheese, but I love it because Martin and Tomlin are so great together. I also love the song, “All of Me”. I even love to sing it. Maybe I’ll get around to doing another version today.

I love this… I’m actually sitting here with tears in my eyes. It’s oddly moving to watch Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin dance with with wild abandon, especially since Victoria Tennant was once Steve Martin’s wife. I think Lily and Steve have more chemistry. Maybe that’s why Martin and Tennant eventually split.

I think the song “All of Me” would make for a good theme song for any story involving someone with narcissistic personality disorder. People who have NPD require that everyone in their sphere give them everything of themselves. But, narcissists don’t give anything in return. They simply take and take until their victims have nothing left. And then they accuse their victims of being “selfish” when their victims finally object to the abuse.

My husband hates Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree. He also hates a number of popular songs from the early to mid 1990s. Why? Because his ex wife used them as teaching aides to him about what kind of man she expected him to be. She was never satisfied with who he was. She always wanted him to be someone else. And every time he tried to change for her, she criticized him. But Ex wasn’t satisfied with simply being unhappy. She had to ruin songs like “To Really Love a Woman” by Bryan Adams and “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow. She’d take the lyrics to those songs and use them as “teaching aids”– examples to Bill as to what kind of man he should strive to be. Even when Bill tried to be what Ex expected, she wanted more, and was unfulfilled. Nothing was ever good enough. Nothing appeased her.

But, if Bill had done the same thing to Ex, she would have objected strenuously and accused him of abuse. Somehow, she gets a pass because she had a very fucked up childhood. Bill’s childhood was also a bit fucked up, but he has parents who love and cherish him, while Ex’s parents were truly abusive. Bill had the experience of meeting Ex’s adoptive parents, as well as her stepfather, and he confirms that they were not good people. I can’t deny that Ex was abused when she was growing up by the people who should have protected and cherished her. And that experience, no doubt, helped turn her into who she is today.

Of all of the parental figures in Ex’s life, her adoptive father, whom she didn’t know until she was seven (!) years old, was probably the best of the lot, although that doesn’t mean he was much of a dad. He was in the Merchant Marine, so he was away at sea a lot, and Ex’s mother had an affair with Ex’s stepfather, who turned out to be a sex offender. Ex’s adoptive parents got divorced when she was too young to remember. She spent the first few years of her life thinking her stepfather was her dad. And then her mom had a baby with her stepfather, and Ex’s sister was treated differently because she was a blood relation. Stepdad sexually abused Ex, but left his bio daughter alone. Meanwhile, Mom would do things to sabotage her children, like get them drunk the night before they took the SATs. Yeah… not good people.

Add to the fact that Ex already felt rejected by her natural parents, whom she later found out had conceived her in an affair. Ex’s bio mom was married, and her husband didn’t want to raise another man’s baby. So instead of divorcing her husband and raising Ex, bio mom put her up for adoption, and Ex landed in a terrible situation.

Unlike Ex’s current husband, Bill got to know all of these folks (with the exception of Ex’s biological parents), and he verifies that at least this part of Ex’s narrative is mostly true, even if a lot of the other stuff she says is either outright lies or distorted versions of the truth. Ex’s mother was as bad, or possibly even worse, than Ex is.

I remember one time, Bill called his ex wife’s house to speak to his children. That was back when there was still some hope that they would come to the phone. He heard his former mother-in-law’s voice for the first time in many years. The children, unsurprisingly, weren’t available. This was during the active parental alienation phase, when there rapidly decreasing chances that Bill’s kids would talk to him. He was sad that he couldn’t talk to his children. At that time, he’d included his ex stepson, whom he had always regarded as his son. However, he was chuckling as he hung up the phone. He turned to me and said, “Wow… I bet #3 is in Hell right now…”

“Worse than usual?” I asked.

Still laughing, Bill said, “Ex’s mom answered the phone. You want to talk about a social engineering psychopath? If she’s in that house, he’s got to be in Hell!”

I responded with an evil laugh, “And your daughters are around puberty age, too… That means lots of hormones.”

For a moment, the prospect of #3’s situation kind of made us both feel better, although Bill had always wanted to be there for his daughters, even when they were struggling with teen angst. But thinking about #3 trying to deal with Ex, Ex’s mother, a resentful adult stepson, two teenage girls, and two little kids, one of whom has special needs, brought on an extreme case of Schadenfreude for us. Frankly, #3 has always been a colossal asshole to Bill. Bill has always been a gentleman as much as possible to everyone, and he always tried to treat #3 with respect, even when #3 and Ex invaded his Bill’s dad’s house for the disastrous Christmas gathering of 2004. Instead of responding in kind, #3 repeatedly treated Bill with contempt. And so, we didn’t and still don’t have a lot of pity for his situation. We figure he deserves it for being such a disrespectful and unrepentant asshole.

Over last weekend, when Bill was visiting with his daughter, he learned Ex’s adoptive mom, whom I’ll call “Granny”, had moved in with Ex for the last few years of her life. This wasn’t the first time Granny was living with Ex. She had a long habit of glomming on to family members, claiming to offer free childcare, while she drained their resources and abused everyone with her sociopathic ways. At the end of her life, she had significant health problems and was still a heavy smoker. At one point, she even accused the children of stealing her cigarettes. That’s quite a statement, given that they were practicing Mormons. She also brought a loaded gun into the house, which Ex didn’t know about until after Granny died. Given that there were small children living there, that was a potentially very dangerous situation for everyone.

It’s possible that Ex felt “drained” by her parent figures, so maybe she figures she’s “owed”. She went through a terribly abusive childhood, so it’s “okay” for her to abuse other people. Maybe someone like Bill is irresistible, because he’s so safe. Bill is an extremely empathetic person who tries hard to be forgiving and understanding. He isn’t violent or the slightest bit abusive. So maybe she saw him as “safe” to project all of her shit upon… I’m sure she thought Bill would never leave her, not just because he’s incredibly loyal, but because she knew how much he’d been hurt by his parents’ divorce and how much love and empathy he had for his children.

In a way, in Bill, she had a perfect victim. She probably looked at him and thought he was someone she could mold and control, because he’s very eager to please others. It never occurred to her that what she was doing was horribly abusive. Even if it had occurred to her, I doubt she’d care.

I don’t know what it’s like to be Ex. I don’t know if she’s really a hollow person, or if there’s a lot of pain and misery inside of her. I only know the aftereffects of being exposed to her. How? Because I know a lot of people who have spent time with her. They’ve all reported the same devastating symptoms of narcissistic abuse. And they’ve all reported feeling much better when they were able to get away from her, even if they were completely drained and on the verge of destitution. She could take everything and still demand more, with no thought about how she was hurting the people she took from. She has no empathy. And as someone who has never met her, but has been exposed to several of her victims, I too, have experienced the ripple effects of her narcissistic abuse.

Aside from acting like a bottomless pit and taking until her victims wither away, Ex sees anyone in her world as a possession, to do with what she pleases. That’s why she was so afraid that Bill would “steal” his daughters from her, even though his daughters are their own people and can’t be “stolen”. That’s why she accuses me of “stealing” Bill, even though Bill was divorced when we met. She was sure he’d come crawling back to her. She’d convinced him that no other person would ever want him, and even though she treated him horribly, she had some very powerful “bait” in her trap– Bill’s daughters and, to some extent, his dad, stepmother, and sister. Fortunately, Bill isn’t by any means a stupid person, and though it broke his heart to lose contact with his children, he knew that in reality, he hadn’t lost everything and was much better off by himself. And though we hadn’t met in person at the time of his divorce, he was already talking to me, and he had his job with the Army. He also had his wonderful mom on his side. So he was able to rebuild, although it took a long time and he still has some issues to overcome.

Last night, Bill told me that he doesn’t get angry. Or, he does get angry, but he doesn’t stay angry. I, on the other hand, have no issues getting and staying angry. Bill said he was actually a little envious of my ability to stay pissed off. That surprised me, because although I don’t think anger is a useless emotion, I do know that being angry with no resolution can be destructive and painful, although not being able to express anger can also be problematic. I guess Bill has a very different kind of “anger issue” in that he can’t express anger in a way that is healthy and validating. It’s like he’s either afraid to express anger or simply doesn’t know how.

Anger can be wonderfully energizing and motivating. Channeled properly, it can lead to necessary change. But I get angry and stay angry, mainly because my anger often never gets properly resolved. As an abuse victim myself, I’ve learned to stuff the anger until I can let it out in a safe place. However, I’m now so full of it that it still fizzles out. I have this fear of confronting people assertively because when I was growing up, being assertive often led to being abused. This isn’t to say that I’ve never been able to assertively express myself when I’ve been angry. There are some people, like Bill, with whom I can be assertive with no fear. But to other people– especially overbearing authority figures– I often have a hard time being properly assertive. My anger tends to be either expressed too aggressively, or too meekly. In contrast, Bill barely expresses anger at all… except when he’s in traffic.

Besides that, a lot of people have trouble being assertive themselves, so even if I tried to be assertive, there’s a good chance the other person is incapable of that. And so, my tentative efforts at being assertive are met with verbal abuse, which I can no longer abide. Like I said… I am full to the brim of abuse– saturated with years of being yelled at and occasionally hit for being who I am. So now, when someone is like that with me today, my reaction is usually over the top, and I stay angry for much longer than I should. That kind of anger is not very healthy at all. And yet, Bill says he’s kind of jealous that I can be that way.

If anyone has a right to be angry, it’s Bill. I think that I’m angry on his behalf, because I see how he’s been treated and how people have been quick to assume that because he’s a man, he’s automatically the guilty party. So it’s almost like I have a double dose of anger– my own from shit from my past, and Bill’s, because Bill doesn’t get angry… or stay angry. We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?

Well, I figure this post has rambled on long enough. It’s a bit more personal than I was expecting it to be, but who knows? Maybe someone out there can relate. Or maybe someone thinks this saga is like a soap opera. Recently, I haven’t felt the need to write so much about Ex, because she hasn’t been bothering us personally. But, as I mentioned earlier in this post, Ex is a special kind of toxic and, kind of like genital herpes, she’s pretty much impossible to totally get rid of, even if we’re now asymptomatic a lot of the time. Every once in awhile, we still have the occasional unpleasant flareup, and this is one of those times. I suspect it won’t be the last.

Time for me to sign off and do some reading… I hope everyone enjoys their Friday and stays safe from the Coronavirus.

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musings

Reclaiming The Giving Tree: here is where the story ends…

A little mood music… I just like how it sounds, and the title fits.

Back in January 2018, on my old blog, I wrote a post about how my husband, Bill, hates Shel Silverstein’s classic children’s book, The Giving Tree. People are usually surprised whenever I mention that Bill doesn’t like that book. The Giving Tree is a poignant story about a marvelous, loving, giving tree who provides so much to a selfish, thoughtless little boy who grows up never appreciating the gifts the tree bestows on him, even when he’s an old man. A lot of people love it and think it’s a beautiful story. For Bill, it represents a bad time in his life that he’d sooner forget.

I was familiar with the story before I met Bill. As a child, I liked Shel Silverstein’s books, and as a music lover, I enjoyed the lyrics he wrote for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. I never had any personal reasons to dislike The Giving Tree until Bill told me about how his ex wife, in a classic moment of projection, accused Bill of being like the boy in The Giving Tree, always taking from her and leaving nothing behind. Ex had an unfortunate propensity of using children’s literature to make her points. Consequently, Bill has significant issues with Silverstein’s classic, as well as several books by Dr. Seuss. It’s a real pity, although entirely understandable.

I included this in my older post about The Giving Tree. I am also posting it here, for those who don’t want to go there.

Having known Bill for almost twenty years, sixteen of which I’ve spent as his second wife, I know that if anything, Bill was the “tree” in their relationship. Hell, he’s probably the “tree” in our relationship, too. He truly is a very selfless, thoughtful, considerate, empathetic person. Sometimes, his kindness works to his disadvantage, although I do my best to appreciate all he does for me.

When Bill and I met, he was at the beginning stages of recovering from the financial ravages of his first marriage. He lived in a super cheap efficiency apartment on about $600 a month, $200 of which went to pay his rent. Ex had claimed most of his paycheck and had done her best to ruin his credit. Unfortunately, he was so beaten down by his years with her that he put up little resistance to her unreasonable demands. Consequently, at age 35, Bill was living like a recent college graduate. So was I, since I was in graduate school. In retrospect, it was a good time for us to come together, since we were both at similar crossroads. One of my uncles noticed how good Bill was and told me I should do my best to look after him. I have taken that advice, which, along with my late grandmother’s advice to marry him, is probably among the best I’ve ever received.

Bill ate a lot of beans and rice in those days, and slept on a futon at a time when his career should have been taking off. His nightly chats with me were probably 90% of his entertainment. He experienced bankruptcy and foreclosure and had joined a church that demanded 10% percent of his gross income for tithing. He was BROKE– financially, spiritually, and emotionally– although he still had his health. One could say that much like the tree in The Giving Tree, Bill was left a dried up stump… with maybe a single struggling branch that was still marginally viable.

We got married in 2002. The first few years of our marriage were fun, but kind of stressful due to our lean finances. I was looking for work and he was paying child support for three kids, one of whom wasn’t even his legal responsibility (his bio dad was pushed out of the picture and quit paying). Still, we made it through those years. I remember one sunny Saturday morning in early 2005, we were sitting at the card table that served as our dining room set. I told Bill that this was a temporary condition and that I could see us living a good life. It would take awhile, but we’d get there. Then we ate our pancakes on our wedding china and probably had sex, since it was free.

Later that year, I scored a freelance writing gig that paid pretty well. I bought us a dining room table, chairs, and a couch and a loveseat. The table is in storage and has been replaced by a German Eckbank Gruppe. The couch and the loveseat are here with us in Germany, and they have been well loved, especially by our dogs. I think when it’s time to leave, we’ll be leaving them here.

We’ve come a really long way since 2005. Just as I predicted, things got a lot better for us. In 2006, we bought a new RAV 4, financing it through Toyota Finance Corporation. It was an expensive loan, although I had used Toyota to finance my first car. I later refinanced my first car through Pentagon Federal Credit Union. One of the best gifts I received when I graduated college in 1994 was a savings account at PenFed. One of my sisters started it for me. Ever since then, I’ve kept it going, and used some of their other products. I saved significant money when I refinanced my car loan with them. I also used PenFed when it was time to finance my grad school education, although those loans got sold a couple of times.

In 2007, Bill went to Iraq, which resulted in extra pay. I took the opportunity to retire all of the debt on the high interest credit cards he was carrying. I started paying down my credit cards and my student loans. When he came back six months later, his cards were paid off and I was ahead on my debts. We moved to Germany the first time, where we were able to get further ahead due to tax laws and money for utilities we didn’t need, but were allowed to keep. We used it to pay off more debt. Eventually, USAA, which had taken a loss when Bill declared bankruptcy, decided to trust him again. He’s now rebuilt his credit so that it’s almost as good as mine is, and I have never had any significant financial disasters.

One night in 2008, I noticed that PenFed was offering cheap rates for refinancing loans. I pitched the idea to Bill that we should try to refinance the loan on our 2006 RAV 4. Bill was reluctant, because he didn’t think they’d approve his application. He’d been through the shame of financial disaster and his credit rating was still improving. He didn’t want to hear the word “no”. I reminded him that my credit rating was excellent and I had already paid off a car loan with PenFed. He could be a co-signer for a loan in my name. After a few minutes of cajoling, Bill and I Skyped PenFed from Germany. Two minutes into our call, they agreed to refinance our high interest car loan. It would save us about $150 a month. I will never forget the look of gratitude on Bill’s face that PenFed trusted him. He was on his way back… the dried up stump’s one surviving branch had sprouted a couple of leaves and they were turning green!

In 2009, as we were leaving Germany, we decided to order a Mini Cooper for me to drive. By that time, two of the children he’d been supporting had become adults, so we had an extra $1700 a month. Since we’d been paying PenFed for a year, they trusted us with another car loan, again at a very favorable rate. The loan was in my name, with Bill as a co-signer. Eventually, I got my Mini, and in 2011, the last kid came of age. We used the extra money to shave down the loans and both cars were paid for ahead of time. We had a few more twigs greening on our tree!

In 2014, Bill retired from the Army. We worried about what he would do after he left the military. He was turning 50, and though he looks young for his age, he’s definitely not a whippersnapper anymore. He had a couple of interviews at companies that clearly wanted someone younger and cheaper on the payroll. Fortunately, the timing was just right for us to come back to Germany, and Bill happened to run into a contact who was able to help him get his resume in front of the right people. It turned out he was just the man they were looking for, and on my 42nd birthday, Bill got a job offer.

It was expensive to move here, mainly owing to skimpy relocation package his first company offered. Still, we were successful in our bid to move. Once again, we worked hard to pay off debt and eventually got to the point at which we had very little. I was socking away money in investments and savings accounts. For the first time ever, we had money saved in multiple locations. The green limb had branched out into a few new green limbs. The “tree” was getting taller, stronger, and healthier. The dried up stump was being overcome by renewed growth. It was quickly rotting into the Earth as our new tree grew more robust.

In 2017, Bill started working for a new company that paid him better. We had several months of extra money that allowed me to throw huge payments at my student loans. They were retired nine years early. Then, just as I had visions of saving up lots of money for our own house someday, we had to move. That was a setback, since the new house costs a lot more rent and moves are always expensive. However, in the long run, the move has proven beneficial to Bill’s career, and I am much happier in our new house. Now, it’s time to buy a new vehicle and send our trusty RAV 4 on to its next owner. Our old RAV 4 will probably end up in Africa. Supposedly, for cars as old as that one, Africa is the most common ending point.

This morning, as we were enjoying breakfast, Bill was talking about the new car he ordered yesterday. It’s a beautiful Volvo and we will be going to Sweden to pick it up. Yes, we are financing it. Maybe it would be better not to, although Bill prefers to buy new cars rather than used ones. Used cars are cheaper, but you always know where new cars have been. Since Bill isn’t the handiest guy in the world, that’s a selling point. We’ll probably keep the new car for a long time. My Mini is now ten years old and we aren’t ready to part with it. This time, Bill got a substantial car loan offer without my help. The offer was a lot more than what we’ll need, and Bill was very excited that they trusted him with that much of a loan. It’s so nice that he was finally able to make a full financial recovery. He’ll probably use about half of the loan amount USAA offered.

Somehow, over fresh strawberries and hot coffee, we got on the subject of The Giving Tree. Bill was reminded of how he’d been left so depleted in 1999, when he and his ex wife split up. He thought he was finished. I said, “All you needed was some fertilizer in the form of a little shit like me!” I think one of the reasons Bill and I get along so well is because he laughs at my ribald jokes. That, and he does listen to and respect me, most of the time, anyway.

Although things can always change, we’ve made a real commitment to work together for common, positive goals. In 2002, it seemed like it would take forever to become financially solvent. Yes, for a few years, life was tougher, although conditions gradually improved. We made decisions that would help the tree regrow into its former glory. I’m not just talking about finances, either. I’m also referring to health and happiness. In a way, maybe this story is less like The Giving Tree and more like the Christmas Tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Bill is fortunate because he chose a career that offers a lot of opportunities. He took advantage of educational benefits and, despite having once been sucked dry, didn’t become completely bitter and shriveled. He made better choices, learned about trusting the right people, and started standing up for himself against thieves and bullies. Everything is different now… everything is better. Even the “bitter fruit” from that old tree has ripened into the form of one previously alienated daughter who has reconnected with her dad and is sharing her life. Hopefully, someday, the other daughter will come around. Maybe, just maybe, Bill will also stop hating The Giving Tree, too. Especially since we’ve changed the ending!

I’m looking forward to our trip to Sweden. I don’t know exactly when it will occur. I suspect it will be in July or August. We did manage to get to Sweden in 2009, just as we were about to leave Germany the first time. Unfortunately, it was via a short Baltic cruise, and we barely got to see the port and the airport in Stockholm before we had to fly back to Germany so Bill could attend a conference in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I remember those weeks as being a lot of fun as I visited a bunch of countries in one last blast before we moved back to the States. We probably won’t get to see Stockholm on this trip, but we will drive through Denmark and northern Germany to bring home our new vehicle.

I have a tendency to be negative, cranky, and even downright bitchy at times. I do still suffer from anxiety and depression. But there’s another side of me that’s positive and “evergreen”. Things often work out, particularly if you keep the right mindset and work for change. Small changes, long range vision, and good decisions can lead to growth in all aspects of life.

At the risk of sounding corny, I just want to say that even when things seem totally shitty, small, positive changes, good decisions and mutual cooperation, and a little love, luck, and fertilizer can breathe new life into what once seemed like a lost cause. Bill’s “tree” is back and thriving, and we’re both reaping the benefits, without taking anything for granted. So maybe Shel Silverstein taught us a valuable lesson after all…

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