Ex, family, funny stories, LDS, Twitter

Turns out I have both knotty and nutty family ties…

I woke up at 5:41 am this morning, after having had a vivid dream about a southern town somewhere near where I came of age. I don’t remember much about the dream now. Sometimes, I wish I had Bill’s discipline, when it comes to recording dreams. He writes his down and sends them to his Jungian analyst. They talk about Bill’s dreams every week during their video chats.

I have vivid dreams, too, but I don’t remember most of them for long. Maybe I’m genetically less inclined to remember my rapid eye movements. It’s possible that this is a family trait.

Several years ago, I submitted samples to 23andMe and Ancestry.com. I started with 23andMe, because it seemed to be the more health focused of the two. It also had no ties to Mormonism. Some people may not know this, but the LDS church is big into genealogy. It’s so that members can “baptise” their dead family members who were around before Mormonism was. That way, those dead people can choose to be LDS in the afterlife.

Living members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go to temples and do proxy baptisms for dead members of their families. Some also do “temple work” for dead celebrities, too, although they’re not supposed to do baptisms for people who aren’t relatives.

I know that, historically, descendants of Holocaust victims got pretty angry with the Mormons for “dead dunking” their family members murdered during World War II. Frankly, I find that practice pretty offensive, especially for people who died in the Holocaust because they were Jewish. These were people who literally died horrible, gruesome deaths for their beliefs. It’s beyond tacky to do a proxy baptism to allow dead Jewish people to be Mormons, as if they were wrong all along.

Faithful church members who do proxy baptisms for non-related people will simply shrug off the thought that they’re being offensive. They say that if the church isn’t true, it doesn’t matter if they “dead dunk” Holocaust victims. The ceremony is meaningless.

If you’ve been following this blog, you may already know why I don’t like Mormonism. These days, I’m somewhat less vitriolic toward the church than I once was. I still don’t like the church’s doctrine because I think it’s harmful to some people. My husband’s ex wife used it as a “reason” to alienate Bill from his daughters. She got everyone to join the church. Then, when Bill realized he didn’t believe in Mormonism, she told his daughters that he wasn’t worthy to be their father. He wouldn’t be going to the Celestial Kingdom because, when he ultimately resigned his membership, he turned his back on the “one true church”. Never mind that she’s not going there, either.

Ex has now apparently given up on Mormonism. It doesn’t suit her purposes anymore. However, Bill’s daughters are still believers. Younger daughter is particularly faithful. I also know that the church, which Ex had once tried to weaponize, was very helpful in helping younger daughter escape her mother’s clutches. I’m grateful to church members for that… and I know there are good people in the church. Nowadays, I try to be less negative about the LDS church, even though I still don’t like the doctrine. In fairness, though, I’m not a very religious person, anyway.

Ancestry.com has no legal ties to Mormonism, but it was founded by church members who, no doubt, tithe. I know that church members can be very persistent in tracking down inactive members. I don’t like to support organizations that make pests of themselves, especially religious organizations. After some time, I changed my mind about Ancestry.com. It probably happened when Bill started talking to younger daughter again, and she proved that she isn’t completely brainwashed.

23andMe recently made me .2 percent less Brit… 😉

After I changed my mind about Ancestry.com, I finally did a DNA test with them. The results were very interesting. DNA wise, my results were very similar to what 23andMe found. Both tests have my DNA down as extremely British and Irish. There’s a slight discrepancy on some of the other DNA predictions. 23andMe has me down as having a little Finnish and Spanish ancestry. Ancestry has me with Norwegian, Swedish, and Welsh. However, on both tests, my DNA has me as well over 90% British and Irish. Ancestry.com breaks it down even further, indicating that my DNA is (at this writing) 56 percent Scottish. No wonder I feel so at home there!

My people were homebodies, I guess…

One of the other advantages to Ancestry.com is that there’s a ton of genealogical data there. Recently, a lot more data has become available for my own family origins. I’ve been updating my family tree accordingly, finding little historical twigs from people who came from Switzerland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, and France. Earlier test results on the DNA tests had indicated that I had some origins in those countries, too. The results change as more DNA is added to the databases. For example, at one time, 23andMe indicated that I had Swiss DNA. Then it changed, and the Swiss connection went away. But based on my family tree on Ancestry.com, I do actually have some Swiss family members.

Neither test shows that I have any French DNA, but I’ve found French people in my family tree. Ditto for Germany… I actually know for sure that I have some German relatives. However, when it comes to my DNA, the connection isn’t as clear. Maybe that’s why I’m so short! I think it’s helpful to remember that the DNA analysis traces all the way back… not just within the past few hundred years.

So far, all branches of my family tree go back to about 1500 or so, which may be when people started keeping records. But the DNA goes back much further than that. It’s pretty mind boggling, if you think about it for too long. Bearing that in mind, it makes sense that my DNA would be overwhelmingly British and Irish, even though I can spot random other Europeans in my family tree. That French and Swiss DNA would be a tiny contribution, compared to the huge number of Brits who went into making me. 😉

And now, you may be wondering… what does all of this have to do with my post’s title? Well, now I’ll explain.

As I wrote further up post, I’ve recently been adding new people to my family tree. Some of it has been truly fascinating. I’ve mentioned many times that I was born and raised in Virginia. Indeed, the vast majority of my relatives were also born and raised in Virginia, starting from the 1600s, or so. My family was in Virginia from the very beginning of its existence.

I can see how they migrated from Scotland, England, and Ireland to Virginia, working their way down from Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, and settling in the Shenandoah Valley or further south, near the North Carolina border. Both sides of my dad’s side of the family are mostly from Rockbridge County. My mom’s dad came from Grayson County. Her mother came from Amherst. However, I did have at least one relative from way back who was born in Gloucester County, which is where I grew up.

All of these discoveries were fascinating to me. But then I stumbled across one that really gave me pause… Behold!

You will notice the name Fraser…

I was updating my tree yesterday, when I noticed that my great grandmother’s ancestry connects her to the Fraser family. The Frasers are a prominent Scottish clan. I know this, in part, because a few years ago, Bill and I were on a Hebridean whisky cruise, and there we met a very obnoxious fellow American. Her last name was Fraser. She wore the Fraser tartan at the two gala dinners. When I met this woman, I didn’t know much about my ancestry. I just knew that I liked the Scots. 😉 Anyway, the American Fraser woman on our cruise was very proud of her heritage and never ceased to let us know about it.

A few years later, I started to pay more attention to my husband’s ex wife’s online antics. Over the past year or so, she’s been claiming that she’s related to a certain aristocratic Scottish family. Now, I have no way of knowing if Ex is really related to this family or if this is another one of her fantasies… I do know she was adopted. I don’t know if she’s claiming ties based on her DNA or her adoptive family. But this is what she’s been posting lately…

Hmm…given that, I now have hope that my stories will make it to print. The method you enjoy…works! Please, just keep doing it; you create lives, no small feat! Remember me, though; it would be a delight to collaborate. I’m a Fraser du Lovat, by the way, & that’s fun!!

The above quote comes from a post I wrote May 16, 2022. Ex was trying to engage the actors on Outlander. I don’t watch the show myself. I just know it’s a Scottish historical romance. Ex is so swept up in it that she’s claiming to be related to a well known Highland Scottish clan, Fraser du Lovat, which has origins in Inverness. I don’t know much at all about the Frasers du Lovat, or any other Scottish clan, for that matter. I never claimed to be of particularly noble breeding myself. But, if I’m to believe Ancestry.com, I’ve also got ties to the Fraser clan… although my ancestor is Sir Alexander Fraser, 8th Earl of Philorth, which is a Lowland clan.

Apparently, I have a Fraser as a grandfather on my dad’s side…

I know from cruising on Hebridean Princess, that Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland run right into each other. We visited the Glengoyne Distillery, just north of Glasgow. The guide told us that the distillery is located on the Highland Line. Consequently, Glengoyne’s stills are in the Highlands, while the maturing casks of whisky are across the road in the Lowlands. It’s considered a Highland whisky, even though the Lowlands are literally just yards away.

I wonder if Ex would react like Blanche if she found out that we could be extremely distant relatives… Maybe she might even quit bragging about her Fraser connection.

Again, I don’t know how accurate Ancestry.com’s family tree suggestions are. I also don’t have any reason whatsoever to believe Ex’s own claims about her ancestry. She has a long history of stretching the truth. She also has a very active fantasy life. BUT… I can’t help but be amused that I apparently have ties to the same big Scottish clan that she’s so proud of… which clearly seems to make her feel “special”. She feels so special that she tweets Sam Heughan on Twitter and claims to be descended from the Fraser du Lovat clan. And I… the hated homewrecking whore (which I’m actually REALLY not)… am apparently related to the Frasers of Philorth. 😉

Of course, all of that was very long ago… and I have other family ties that are interesting for other, and frankly better, reasons. I wish I could look at the whole tree at one time. But now it’s gotten very big and unwieldy. My ancestors were very prolific babymakers. It’s a bit mind boggling to realize that when I die, so will my particular branch of the tree. Oh well. It’s probably fitting that my branch got pruned… I also blame that on Ex.

Standard
law, Police, Reality TV, TV, YouTube

My evening with crusty, stinky feet, and “stinking drunk driving” cops…

Bill left for Stuttgart yesterday, so I spent last night on the proverbial wagon, catching up on episodes of My Feet Are Killing Me, which is a pretty gross, but oddly compelling, TLC show about podiatry. TLC isn’t exactly the best channel for highbrow television, but watching that show has given me new respect for foot and ankle surgeons. I remember how Dorothy on The Golden Girls was unimpressed when her daughter married a podiatrist. There were gags aplenty about what an uneventful, boring, unsexy speciality it is. But watching just one episode of My Feet Are Killing Me can prove just how challenging the field can be for the right people. I can see that they really do make a big difference in improving the quality of their patients’ lives.

I watched four action-packed episodes of My Feet Are Killing Me, all of which featured people with various tumors, swelling, crusts, warts, and oozing lesions that were embarrassing and horrifying. Then I went back to YouTube, looking for something short to pass the last minutes before it was time to turn out the light.

I ended up on yet another police action channel. This must be the latest YouTube trend– people getting bodycam videos from police stations around the United States and uploading them to YouTube. I found myself on a channel called Real World Police. I’ve watched several videos on this channel and ended up subscribing to it last night, when I happened to catch the bodycam documentation of former Lower Township, New Jersey police lieutenant John Chew, when he was caught driving while under the influence of lots and lots of alcohol.

Below you can see the three videos that lay out this astonishing incident in detail. The first two pretty much detail everything, while the third is a short soundless synopsis of Chew’s booking. His arrest happened on the lovely spring evening of April 27, 2018. Chew, then 48 years old and off duty, was driving his black Chevy truck erratically enough that several people called the police to complain. One caller had said that Chew was driving at a high rate of speed, had run a red light, and crashed several times. Fellow cops quickly found Chew, and noticed that he wasn’t able to stay in his lane. After a couple of miles, Chew was finally pulled over, and he was clearly inebriated. He was so impaired that he needed to lean on his truck to remain upright.

After he failed the field sobriety tests, Chew was advised that he was being arrested for DWI. Chew then tried to sit in the front seat of the police cruiser, but was told he had to sit in the back. He was not handcuffed. Although his cop brethren were treating him with great respect, Chew behaved like he was enraged at getting caught while driving so obviously loaded with booze. Chew was a 23 year veteran of the force, and had even been promoted a few months before he was pulled over for DWI.

The officers who arrested Mr. Chew were put in a pretty awkward situation, as Chew had trained at least one of them.

Once they got to the police station, Chew was confronted by another colleague, also a lieutenant, who asked him questions. To each “yes or no” question, Chew raised his hand and extended his middle finger, to which the sober officer said, “I’ll take that as a ‘no’.”

The lieutenant who is handling Chew’s case tries so hard to preserve Chew’s dignity, telling Chew that he requested that his mug shot and other details not be uploaded to the agency’s Facebook page or Web site. News of the former cop’s arrest didn’t surface until a year after the incident happened, and only because the good people at Real World Police requested the public records regarding Chew’s case and reported on it. When officials at the agency were asked why the incident wasn’t publicized, Executive Officer Capt. Martin Biersbach explained “I requested it not be published at that time because an Internal Affairs complaint against Lt. Chew had been initiated and we are required by the Attorney General Guidelines to maintain confidentiality.”

As Chew is processed, his former colleague, the lieutenant, tries to reason with him, as Chew bellows that he intends to retire the following day. He is repeatedly told that he must go to the hospital. The lieutenant on duty repeatedly asks Chew to cooperate, warning him that if he doesn’t go quietly, they will have to “tie him down” and take him to the hospital. I assume that’s because they needed a blood sample, after several Breathalyzer tests indicated that Chew had a blood alcohol content of .36, which is EXTREMELY drunk. I also heard the lieutenant remind Chew of the police department’s policies, and then he said, “Frankly, I’m worried about your health.” Evidently, when suspects arrive at the police station with a BAC that high, they automatically go to the hospital for treatment.

In spite of being so wasted, Chew is able to stand up, walk, carry on a conversation… and sort of drive. That, my friends, is a professional level drunk. Chew obviously has an astonishing tolerance for alcohol. And believe me, I know of what I write. Most normal people who have that much booze on board are not coherent at all. According to the chart I linked, Chew must have had over a dozen drinks, and should have been about to drop into a coma. But, as you can see below, he was nowhere near losing consciousness. I was really thinking they were going to have to break out the restraints at some point. Chew kept insisting that he would NOT be voluntarily going to the hospital in an ambulance. He wanted the lieutenant to drive him, which was, of course, against policy.

Chew is handled with a lot of dignity and compassion… but he’s very belligerent, pathetic, and uncooperative. This second video is remarkable.
A shorter video with no sound.

On September 13, 2018, Chew pleaded guilty to a first offense of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was fined about $700, and required to use an ignition interlock for six months after losing his license to drive for seven months. He had to spend twelve hours per week at an intoxicated driver resource center. Mr. Chew was also suspended administratively from his job as police lieutenant, and later filed for retirement, as he was evidently unwilling to cooperate with the police department’s efforts to help him with his obvious problem with alcoholism.

Upon further investigation, I’ve found evidence that the incident from April 2018 was not Chew’s last experience with DWI. According to this link, he also got busted on December 28, 2020, this time while driving a 2015 white Nissan Altima. In that case, he was found sitting behind the wheel, slurring his speech, and stinking of booze. He was not wearing any shoes, but did have on a pair of socks. The police officer who approached him knew him, and Chew apparently felt he was owed a favor, as he asked the cop to either take him home, or follow him home. He repeatedly asked the officer to close his door, but the officer refused. When Chew exited the vehicle, he wasn’t able to stand upright. The officer arrested him, and handcuffed him in front, as Chew said he was in total pain all over.

After Chew was placed in a police car for transport to the station, officers noticed two bottles of Svedka Vodka in the front seat. One bottle was completely empty, and the other was partially empty. A third bottle was in the car’s console, with some vodka missing. At the police station, Chew initially refused to exit the vehicle, but was later convinced to cooperate. His breath was again tested, and that time, he blew a .33. Again– he should have been near comatose, and was very obviously impaired. And once again, he was taken to the hospital by ambulance for medical attention. I’m not sure if he protested as strongly the second time as he did the first time, back in 2018.

I wonder what caused Chew to imbibe so much. I know police work is very stressful. It’s hard on all levels, to include life at home, as well as on the job. Chew was a family man– a husband and father of two. I’m sure his work was hard on his family, especially his wife, who probably worried about him constantly. I hear him say, in the second video, that “life sucks” and to “fuckin’ take care of your fuckin’ marriage.” Chew’s wife probably had to deal with Chew in this state many times, along with the stress of his work. Maybe they were on the brink of divorce? It wouldn’t surprise me. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I also feel sorry for Chew’s kids.

Chew was a member of the SWAT team, which is definitely high stress, very dangerous work. Aside from that, I’ve been watching a lot of cop videos lately, and I’m astonished by what they have to put up with from members of the public. There’s a lot of disrespect and mistrust, which isn’t always unwarranted. But it is a dangerous and necessary job, and there is definitely a lot of danger and stress. I can understand why many cops drink. I also know, having been raised by an alcoholic, how devastating alcoholism is– for the alcoholic, and for all of the people who have to be around them. Then there’s the fact that alcoholism tends to run in families. It definitely does in mine. Maybe Chew has a family history of alcoholism, too.

I’m just glad Chew hasn’t killed anyone… yet.

I’ll probably watch more of the same kind of stuff tonight, as Bill will be gone until Friday. I also plan to keep trying to get through my latest book, so I can review it and move on to something a bit lighter. I could use a break from the doom and gloom that dominates the airwaves these days.

Incidentally, former TLC star Jill Duggar Dillard, has given birth to her third son, Frederick Michael Dillard. He was born July 7th, which is also Bill’s birthday. Looks like he was a little bit early, but otherwise basically healthy. Congratulations to Jill and Derick.

Standard
complaints, condescending twatbags, News, rants

“If someone is going to be examining your junk, you have the right to exact high standards…”

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I woke up to pee, probably because Bill got up to pee. He was on the potty when I went into the bathroom. After our encounter, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I started reading the news. There was an article about how hospitals in Ukraine are dealing with shortages of oxygen, thanks to the Russian invasion and the high number of COVID patients. I was kind of awestruck by the picture of the hospital interior. I was reminded that Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, because the photo reminded me of the inside of an Armenian hospital I once visited in 1996. I was surprised that the Ukrainian facility still looked like a 90s era post Soviet hospital.

Then I went to the comment section, where some guy was complaining about the paywall. It always irks me when people bitch about having to pay for newspapers, as if they would be willing to work for free or give away their valuables. The complainer maintained that all coverage about COVID should be free of charge, in the interest of health promotion. For many months, The New York Times provided plenty of free coverage on COVID. Moreover, there are lots of news sources out there. The New York Times isn’t a free publication. It never has been. One doesn’t go into a store and read a print edition, as if one would at a library. Why should it be any different online? And how do people expect journalists to do their jobs if there’s no income stream with which to pay them for their work?

I’ve complained about that phenomenon more than once in this rag of a blog of mine. I’m not wanting to do it again today. I’m just building up to my point, which I’ll get to in due time. Suffice to say that people who whine about having to pay for quality journalism really get on my nerves. I didn’t leave a comment for the whiny bastard. Someone else kindly did it for me, and in good style. However, one thing I did notice, was that the whiny bastard left an entitled response when someone recommended that he block The New York Times from his feed and/or find another, free or cost-effective, news source. This is what he wrote:

1. I will not block them from my feed. Even the headlines are of some value. 2. I certainly didn’t need you to tell me there are other sources of information. I’ve examined dozens just today. 3. If they could publish free articles about COVID, then they certainly could do it in this case, for the same reason – to preserve human life. (Profit took a backseat to doing the right thing then, and so it should now!)

Then, when the person who engaged him advised him to stop complaining, he wrote:

The NYT seems to have a purpose behind this article. To provoke empathy for the suffering people. And, knowing the long reach of their newsfeed, it will get the notice of people who could help. So why put a speed bump in the way, an impediment to humanitarian aid. It doesn’t make sense. (And to remind you, I have a right to express myself – remember America is a land of Freedom of Expression. So I’ll complain all I want, for as long as I want! Many times in my past my complaints have produced real change, sometimes they’ve just changed people’s minds. Either way, Not Going Anywhere !)

I still don’t understand why his points about the shortage of oxygen in Ukrainian hospitals entitle him to read the paper for free. It sounds to me like he’s just cheap. He even admitted that “even the headlines are of some value.” So he admits that the paper is valuable. He just doesn’t want to support it by subscribing. Either way, I guarantee that complaining about paywalls in a comment section on Facebook won’t make a happy damn to the bean counters. They offer a valuable product for which many people, myself included, are willing to pay. I use The New York Times every day. It’s worth the money to me.

I was still somewhat exasperated after reading that exchange. That guy is an example of a person I can do without, although he’s probably a nice enough fellow when he isn’t bitching about paywalls. As Bill and I were enjoying breakfast, I somehow got on a tangent about other people who get on my nerves. I was suddenly reminded of a woman I used to regularly rant about years ago. She was just one of those people who irritated the ever living hell out of me. I think that guy’s comment reminded me of that woman, whom I used to call “Ms. Overly Helpful”.

In the years before social media, I used to hang out on a messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. I ran into some really great ladies. I also ran into a few assholes, although in fairness, I’m sure some of them thought of me as an asshole, too. In any case, Ms. OH was just one of those people with whom I can’t mesh. I know she has many friends, fans, and loved ones. I’m just not among them.

There’s no shame in that, by the way. Even the most likable people in the world have some people in their lives who can’t stand them. Bea Arthur, for example, famously disliked Betty White, of all people! I don’t know why, but it was widely reported that Bea didn’t like Betty at all. Even Betty, herself, admitted it. I read that Bea found Betty’s unflappable optimism annoying. To be honest, I think that would annoy me, too. I remember on The Golden Girls, there was even an episode about how Rose Nylund annoys a work colleague by incessantly trying to be his friend, when he didn’t want to be friends with her. Below is an exchange from that episode.

Roger doesn’t want to be friends with Rose. I can relate.

Ms. OH was a little like that sometimes. She fancied herself an “Earth Mother” type, and would offer me unsolicited advice and opinions. Every time I made a comment, she would contradict me in the most patronizing and infuriating ways. And I would try to hold back on the urge to be rude to her, because her comments would almost always rub me the wrong way. Like, for instance, she would question things like whether or not I should buy a new car (used is sooo much cheaper), or a new computer (have I done everything I can to make the old one last)… or whether or not I should be concerned about a strange man loitering by my mailbox (maybe he’s perfectly harmless– stop being so suspicious!). See what I mean?

I remember one time, we had a row that got quite contentious. I commented to her, quite frankly, but as politely as I could, that whether or not it was her intention to be offensive, I found her contrary responses to be disrespectful and condescending. I really tried hard not to be as nasty as I felt like being, while still making it clear that she was pissing me off, and asking her to cease and desist. I didn’t tell her to “fuck off”, though. I just clearly informed her that her comments were offending me. Ms. OH’s response was to send me a private message angrily berating me for “insulting her”. All I really wanted was for her to just leave me the fuck alone! I couldn’t block her on the message board, because we were both “admins”.

So anyway, once we all migrated to Facebook, one day I quietly dropped her from my friends list. For awhile, it was fine. I didn’t have so many encounters with her, and that made my life better. But then I got added to a Facebook group for second wives and stepmothers. It was 2012, so I had just turned 40. I got a message from the local Army clinic that it was time to schedule my first mammogram (which I still haven’t done, and I’m now 49). The clinic had also assigned a primary care manager to me; someone I hadn’t chosen and had never met before. I knew that if I went in to see the physician’s assistant assigned to me, she’d probably want to do other stuff, and quite frankly, that was very scary to me. I have a real “phobia” of medical providers, particularly the ones who want to examine my junk. It’s because I had a traumatic first experience with an OB-GYN.

I looked up the P.A. online, and found some public photos of her that made me think she wouldn’t be mature enough to deal with my issues. She was quite young and inexperienced. So I casually mentioned to my friends in the group that I thought I would be changing my primary healthcare provider, because the one the Army had assigned to me was a poor fit. Ms. OH, and a few others, were offended by my decision. In Ms. OH’s case, it was because her daughter is/was a young healthcare provider who likes to party. She was sure to tell me that her daughter would give me “excellent” care if I went to her, even though she has a “personal life” and likes to party sometimes.

Of course, I had to sigh at that response… because my situation with the Army P.A. I’d never met didn’t have a fucking thing to do with Ms. OH’s daughter. However, I also knew that I would never voluntarily choose to see Ms. OH’s daughter for healthcare, simply because she is Ms. OH’s daughter. I would rather see someone who doesn’t have such an intimate connection to someone who gets on my last nerve. And that choice should be okay, since there are plenty of people in the world who would happily see her daughter for healthcare, just as the P.A. who was assigned to me had a whole shitload of people on her list who would have no issues whatsoever seeing her.

I was just a name on a piece of paper to the P.A., so it’s not like my choice not to see her was even a personal affront. She wouldn’t be losing any money or prestige by my decision. In fact, she wouldn’t even be the wiser about it. I just wanted someone older and more experienced. What the hell is wrong with that? Like I said… if you’re going to examine my junk, I have the right to exact high standards. I honestly couldn’t see why this was such a big deal, and I never expected the controversy to arise the way it did in that group.

Well, the whole controversy was finally blowing over, until Ms. OH chimed in again, and then the issue blew up anew, with new people berating me for having my standards. They were more concerned about my not offending the healthcare provider by being “prejudicial” due to her public social media posts, than my own comfort and sense of trust. I was pretty flabbergasted, since I didn’t realize my choices regarding healthcare providers was up for debate. I mean, wouldn’t “friends” want me to be comfortable with and confident regarding my healthcare providers? But it soon got very ugly… so I quietly removed myself from the group. Ms. OH noticed, and sent me an email, which was, for once, not totally offensive. She wrote that she was glad I was “okay”. Fine.

Incidentally, Bill did end up seeing that P.A. and it turned out my instincts about her were correct. Bill has hypertension, but his case is unusual because he also has congenital hyponatremia (chronically low blood sodium). The P.A. gave him the usual spiel about avoiding stress, exercising, eating right, and not salting his food. However, because of Bill’s unusual and unique blood chemistry, actually he has been told by physicians that he should use salt. In his case, not salting his food is bad advice, in spite of his having high blood pressure. I’m sure the P.A. has plenty of textbook knowledge, and by now, she’s probably very experienced. But my instincts to avoid her were good, because in 2012, she was still pretty “green”.

A couple of years later, I ran into Ms. OH again on social media, and she made another passive aggressive dig to me regarding alcoholism, which is a sensitive topic for me. Having interacted with me for years, I think she was very aware that it was a delicate topic for me. I didn’t think her snarky comment, along with winkie smilies, was innocent, nor did I appreciate it at all. She also had a laugh at my expense, which angered me.

This time, I decided enough was enough, and I blocked her. Then I told Bill, “You wait. As soon as she sees that I blocked her, Ms. OH will send me an email.” Sure enough, I was right. Within a couple of hours, she’d sent an irate email DEMANDING to know why I blocked her. It was as if she felt I had no right to disassociate with her. My decision to block her was a personal affront, kind of like Rose Nylund trying to force her co-worker to be friends with her, when he didn’t want to be friends.

I was still really pissed off, and frankly, very surprised by her nerve. Usually, when people block you on social media, it means they DON’T want to talk to you. If you’re a basically decent person, you understand that the person doesn’t want to talk to you and respect that. And yet, here was Ms. OH, feeling quite entitled to bother me with an angry and demanding email. Part of me felt like ripping her a new one. But I thought better of it, and simply ignored her. Several years later, I unblocked her on Facebook. She took the first available opportunity to apologize to me, which was nice enough, although still kind of controlling– kind of like Hoovering. It was her way of getting the last word, I guess. I was gracious about it, and thankfully, that was that.

Anyway, I guess that commenter on The New York Times reminded me of Ms. OH, with his complaints about paywalls. How dare The New York Times expect payment for services rendered? And how dare a fellow reader take him to task for his whining, which he mistakenly believes will amount to anything more than laughing reactions and irritated comments from other Facebook users? And how dare I have standards for people who have intimate contact with my medical history and my body? How dare I make decisions about with whom I will communicate? People like the guy on The New York Times thread and Ms. OH are entitled twits. I don’t know the commenter at all, but I have to say that expecting to read newspaper content for free makes him appear to be pretty narcissistic, if not a bit deluded. But, since I don’t know the guy, and I feel that people should get the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, I’ll just assume he simply hasn’t thought very much about how journalists make a living.

Well, the dogs are demanding a walk, so I better wrap this up. Have a nice Monday, y’all.

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nostalgia, politics, travel

Repost: Remembering Samantha Smith… pen pal to world leaders

Here’s another repost from June 2018, a post inspired by my childhood in the 1980s. This one is about the late Samantha Smith, who made history by writing to Yuri Andropov and getting invited to visit the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Samantha was nine days younger than me, but sadly, she died in a plane crash in 1985. Little did I know, when Samantha was alive, that I, too, would one day go to what was once the Soviet Union. The 80s were an interesting time to be a kid.

I was born on June 20, 1972.  Nine days later, Samantha Smith was born.  Samantha Smith would change the world during her 13 years of life.  I’m about to turn 46 (and now I’m 49) and I’m still wondering what my purpose is. 

A few weeks ago, I suddenly remembered Samantha Smith, who was ten years old when she wrote a moving letter to former Soviet leader Yuri Andropov.  She was concerned about the threat of nuclear war.  In the early 1980s, everyone was talking about nukes and the so-called “red button”.  Like so many of her peers, Samantha was scared.  But she had guts and initiative.  So, in November 1982, she wrote:

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.

Sincerely,

Samantha Smith  

This was not Samantha’s first letter to a world leader.  In fact, she’d even written to another leader when she was five– Queen Elizabeth II– to express her admiration.  Samantha’s letter was printed in the Soviet paper, Pravda, but she did not receive a reply from Andropov right away.  Undaunted, Samantha wrote another letter, this time to the Soviet Union’s Ambassador to the United States. 

Mr. Andropov was very moved by Samantha’s letter.  He wrote back to her in April 1983, affirmed that the Soviet Union did not want to wage a nuclear war, and invited her to visit the Soviet Union at a time when Americans were not often allowed to go there. 

Dear Samantha,

I received your letter, which is like many others that have reached me recently from your country and from other countries around the world.

It seems to me – I can tell by your letter – that you are a courageous and honest girl, resembling Becky, the friend of Tom Sawyer in the famous book of your compatriot Mark Twain. This book is well known and loved in our country by all boys and girls.

You write that you are anxious about whether there will be a nuclear war between our two countries. And you ask are we doing anything so that war will not break out.

Your question is the most important of those that every thinking man can pose. I will reply to you seriously and honestly.

Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants. This is what the great founder of our state, Vladimir Lenin, taught us.

Soviet people well know what a terrible thing war is. Forty-two years ago, Nazi Germany, which strove for supremacy over the whole world, attacked our country, burned and destroyed many thousands of our towns and villages, killed millions of Soviet men, women and children.

In that war, which ended with our victory, we were in alliance with the United States: together we fought for the liberation of many people from the Nazi invaders. I hope that you know about this from your history lessons in school. And today we want very much to live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on this earth — with those far away and those near by. And certainly with such a great country as the United States of America.

In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons — terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That’s precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never — never — will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on Earth.

It seems to me that this is a sufficient answer to your second question: ‘Why do you want to wage war against the whole world or at least the United States?’ We want nothing of the kind. No one in our country–neither workers, peasants, writers nor doctors, neither grown-ups nor children, nor members of the government–want either a big or ‘little’ war.

We want peace — there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha.

I invite you, if your parents will let you, to come to our country, the best time being this summer. You will find out about our country, meet with your contemporaries, visit an international children’s camp – Artek – on the sea. And see for yourself: in the Soviet Union, everyone is for peace and friendship among peoples.

Thank you for your letter. I wish you all the best in your young life.

Y. Andropov

In the summer of 1983, Samantha visited Russia, where she caused quite a sensation.  She spent two weeks in Moscow as Mr. Andropov’s guest and had the opportunity to visit Artek, which was a big Soviet pioneer camp.  During the Soviet era, young children were involved in the Young Pioneers, which was a massive youth organization.  She also went to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), where she was presented with many gifts.  Smith and her parents were amazed by how friendly the people were.

So many years later, I was watching Samantha Smith on old YouTube videos.  There are many comments from Russians who remembered and admired her.  She truly was a heroine to many Russians and Americans alike, although there were some skeptics out there who felt she was being used as a Soviet propaganda pawn.

When Samantha and her parents came home to Maine, they were treated to a warm welcome involving a red carpet and limousine.  Samantha was interviewed by many famous people, including Ted Koppel and Johnny Carson.  In 1985, she even tried her hand at acting when she was cast as a regular in a TV show called Lime Street

Samantha Smith interviewed by Johnny Carson.
Samantha Smith being interviewed on The Today Show, after she had become a media sensation.

Tragically, on August 25, 1985, Samantha Smith and her father, Arthur, died in a plane crash.  They were returning home on Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 after having filmed a segment for Lime Street.  The pilot was attempting to land the plane when it hit some trees 4007 feet shy of the runway. The airplane crashed, killing the six passengers and two crew members aboard.  Although some in the Soviet Union thought she might have been a victim of foul play, an investigation revealed that the pilots were inexperienced and the rainy weather conditions contributed to the difficulty in landing the plane.

News story about Samantha Smith’s death.

Samantha Smith’s visit inspired goodwill all over the world, especially in the United States and Russia.  In fact, in 1986, a Soviet child named Katya Lycheva even spent time in the United States.  A 1987 storyline on The Golden Girls was even inspired by Samantha’s story, although it was ditzy Rose Nylund who wrote the letter, not a ten year old girl.

Rose’s “Letter to Gorbachev”… 

I wonder what would have become of Samantha Smith had she been able to grow up.  I wonder what she would think of our current political situation.  I think of what it was like for me, 23 years ago, moving to what was once a Soviet country and finding out that the people over there are much like we are.  She could have had a wonderful career, spreading world peace and goodwill.  Some people are never meant to grow old, yet still manage to change the world.  

When I was watching videos on YouTube last night, I also thought of Ryan White, who was another one of my contemporaries.  He contracted AIDS after having been given a tainted blood infusion to treat his hemophilia.  Ryan White was kicked out of school and harassed by his peers for having AIDS.  In those days, a lot of small minded people thought of it as a disease God sent to punish gay people.  It didn’t help that Ryan was from a small town in Indiana, where there were many ignorant people who thought he was gay simply because he had what was then considered a “gay” disease.

White went on to influence the world, even making friends with Elton John and Michael Jackson, both of whom were at his funeral when he died in April 1990.  I vividly remember watching Lukas Haas play White in a TV movie about his life.  White was himself in the film with a minor role.  So was Sarah Jessica Parker.

While we’ve come a long way in the fight against AIDS since Ryan White’s day, we’re still really struggling with world peace.  I just started reading another book about the Holocaust.  It’s a story about a Jewish Dutch woman who watched as her country was overtaken by Nazis.  I have to confess, reading her comments about what happened before Hitler completely took over gave me chills.  So much of it is familiar today.  Maybe it’s not quite as extreme now as it was in the 40s… or maybe it just doesn’t seem as extreme to me as it might to someone with brown skin, living in America’s Heartland.  The one thing that gives me hope is that the world eventually came to its senses somewhat, after World War II.  I hope it doesn’t come to war to make the powers that be in the United States regain their senses…  

Well, those are my deep thoughts for today.  The 1980s were fascinating.  I’m glad I was around to see them. 

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politicians, politics

And now I feel like Pam Ewing after the Dream Season on Dallas…

Pamela Ewing wakes up to a surreal surprise…

Well, we did it. Donald Trump has lost the election and will be moving out of the White House in a couple of months. I’m sure the next couple of months will be pretty crazy, but it’s so nice to see a light at the end of the Trump tunnel. As I was watching the news last night, and hearing the bells that pealed all over Europe (though not in my town), it dawned on me that I have not set foot in the United States since November 2014. And since I have no plans to visit the USA anytime soon, that means I have pretty much “missed” Trump’s presidency.

Oh… I don’t mean that I missed being affected by his leadership. It’s more that I’ve been watching it from afar, in a weird position of being an American thousands of miles away from my homeland as it became more bizarre and dangerous by the day. It saddens me somewhat that the race was so tight and so many Americans were fine with Trump’s hateful rhetoric. But I am delighted that Biden prevailed and that may mean a return to decency. I even sent Bill to buy the bubbly in the photo above when it became clear that Biden was going to win.

I remember in 2016, when Trump won. I felt sick to my stomach that morning. I tried to be brave about it… and I posted this video in my blog post for that day, because Trump reminded me so much of Ming the Merciless.

And I must say, Trump is really not unlike Ming the Merciless…
And now Flash Gordon has finally arrived to save the day.

I consoled myself with this song from Avenue Q, comforted by the idea that everything is only “For Now”… and realized that kvetching about the election was pointless, since there was nothing I could do about it.

So… if you’re unhappy about the results of the election, just remember that everything is only “for now”… That’s what I told myself in 2016.

Donald Trump is only for now… just like Joe Biden will be, once he’s installed in the White House.

Until Trump came along, I mostly didn’t care about politics. I paid little attention to them, even when I had a job tracking healthcare policy. If there is one thing Trump has done, it’s made people much less complacent about politics and politicians. More people got out and voted this year because of Trump. Some voted because they wanted him to go. Some voted because they wanted him to stay. What’s important is that people exercised their rights to choose.

I don’t usually feel elated when we get a new president, as I do today. In fact, don’t usually vote for either of the main candidates, unless the election is particularly important or I’m living in a swing state. This year, I decided I would vote Democrat because it was important to me that Trump left office. I think he’s been a terrible leader and a wretched example of Americans to the rest of the world. I’ve been horrified to watch the hatred and violence from afar.

This Golden Girls storyline worked in the 80s because kids could write to world leaders back then… Imagine a kid writing to Trump!

I kept thinking about how, when I was a child, Ronald Reagan was the president. Kids would write letters to him and he’d answer them. We all knew about his love for Jelly Bellies. He was a Republican, and some of his policies weren’t popular. But– I don’t remember him representing hate and divisiveness the way Trump has. I remember being in school, learning about Reagan and seeing him as someone I could look up to, even though I was a kid and knew nothing about politics.

10 year old Samantha Smith, now sadly deceased, famously wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, because she was so concerned about the prospect of nuclear war. She went to the USSR and made many friends there, doing so much to foster goodwill and friendship. I can’t see this scenario with Trump.

Samantha Smith spent two weeks in the former USSR, being shown that people in the Soviet Union aren’t that different than Americans are. Her visit in 1983 was groundbreaking, and she became a heroine to people all over the world. Sadly, Samantha died in a plane crash a couple of years after she visited the Soviet Union. I guess nowadays, we have Greta Thunberg… who very wittily trolled Trump by advising him to go see a movie with a friend as he melted down over the election results. Trump had advised her to do the same last December.

Seems kind of tone deaf to talk about the military while standing next to the Easter Bunny…

If I had a child, I wouldn’t encourage him or her to write to Trump. I can’t see Trump caring about answering a letter from a child, the way other presidents have. I remember him talking to children at Easter, remarking about how none of the children had a weight problem as he gave them candy. And the above clip shows him talking about the military and money while the Easter Bunny just stands there, mouth agape. It’s pretty surreal.

I can see Joe Biden enthusiastically answering letters from children. I can see his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, working to get education back on track and improve literacy in the United States. I can see Joe Biden engaging with people of all classes, races, and creeds, and actually caring about them. Will he be perfect? No one ever is… but he’s chosen a dynamic Vice President in Kamala Harris. I have great hope that things will get back to some semblance of normalcy… or at least basic decency. And I feel a lot better today than I did four years ago. The Trump nightmare is about to end at last! Or, at least, for now…

Well, it’s time for breakfast, so I’m off… Enjoy your Sunday!

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