book reviews, celebrities, healthcare, mental health

Repost: My review of Brooke Shields’ Down Came the Rain…

One last repost before I hang up my blogging efforts for the day. This is a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in October 2006. I am posting it as/is.

Having come of age in the 1980s, I have always been very familiar with Brooke Shields’ work as an actress. Brooke Shields has always appeared to be a woman who has it all… looks, brains, money, a successful and apparently fulfilling career, and at last, just a few years ago, she seemed to have found love in her second husband, Chris Henchy. The one thing that was missing was a baby.

Shields was having trouble getting pregnant. She had once had cervical surgery to remove precancerous cells and the surgery had left her cervix shortened and scarred. As a result, in order to have a child of their own, Shields and her husband had to undergo in vitro fertilization. Shields got pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage that was so emotionally painful that she almost decided to give up on her dream of being a mother.

But Brooke Shields found that she couldn’t forget about having a baby. She underwent IVF again and got pregnant, and this time it stuck. Nine months later in May 2003, Brooke Shields and her husband, Chris Henchy, became the proud parents of Rowan Francis. And then, Brooke Shields found herself holding a ticket into the hell of postpartum depression. That hell is what prompted her to write her 2004 book, Down Came The Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.

I read this book partly because my husband, Bill, and I have been trying to have a baby. Like Brooke Shields and her husband, we have some issues that may prevent us from conceiving naturally. I also have a strong biological history of major depression, so I may be at risk of postpartum depression if I do have a baby. Also, I found this book used and dirt cheap at Fort Belvoir’s thrift shop. I doubt I would have thought to buy this book at its full price or even borrow it at a library, but I am glad I read it. It turns out Brooke Shields is a pretty good writer and her topic is both timely and relevant to a lot of new parents.

Down Came The Rain is not an autobiography of Brooke Shields’ life, although it does include some information about her family. The information is personal, but it also has something to do with Shields’ state of mind and stress level as she embarked on her quest to become a mother. First off, Shields and her first husband, Andre Agassi, were divorced after two years of marriage. Shields doesn’t write much about their time together, except to explain that they had both wanted children, but the opportunity had never presented itself. Not long after the split with Agassi, Shields met and subsequently married Chris Henchy. Then, Shields’ father became very ill with prostate cancer. He died just three weeks before Rowan Francis was born. All the while, Shields was also dealing with insecurity about her future in show business. She had taken time off for her pregnancy and Rowan’s birth.  

Divorce, remarriage, fertility issues, childbirth, career issues, and the loss of a parent are all extremely stressful events on their own. With all of those issues combined together, it must have been almost impossible for Brooke Shields to function. Shields also had serious medical trouble during the birth of her daughter. The child had to be delivered by Cesarean section; the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Shields’ uterus had herniated and she almost had to have a hysterectomy. Somehow, Shields and her baby survived the birthing process intact. Shields was left to recover from major surgery as she became acquainted with her baby daughter and the huge role of being a parent.

To be sure, I could empathize a bit with Brooke Shields. She’s a human being and certainly not immune to human problems like postpartum depression. Shields initially didn’t want to go on Paxil, the antidepressant that helped her get through her ordeal with postpartum depression. She didn’t like the connotations that she needed a drug to help her with her moods. I can identify with that sentiment. When I had depression, I didn’t want to take a drug to feel better, either. I liked to think I could will myself to feel normal. Once I found the right antidepressant, it became enormously clear to me that clinical depression is a very real biological problem that affects the whole body. Brooke Shields also came to that conclusion. She started to feel better and was able to function with the help of antidepressants. Like me, she became a believer in the drugs’ efficacy, despite her very famous public feud with Tom Cruise about their usefulness.  

I applaud Brooke Shields for writing this book about her very personal and painful experiences with the hell of depression and her success using antidepressants. I think it’s always helpful when people talk about personal experiences with mental illness because it helps reduce the lingering stigma. I also like the fact that Shields apparently no longer feels ashamed of her use of antidepressants. Too many people don’t seek medical help for depression because they fear becoming “hooked on happy pills”. As someone who has experienced depression and has taken antidepressants, I can affirm that the pills never made me feel “happy”. Indeed, they made me feel normal, which was a huge improvement over feeling hopeless and suicidal. 

On the other hand, as I was reading Down Came The Rain, it was very clear to me that Brooke Shields has advantages that most women don’t have. For one thing, she hired a baby nurse to help her as she was getting over her postpartum depression. Although Shields makes it clear that the nurse was temporary and she had no intention of handing over the job of raising Rowan to hired help, most women don’t have the financial resources to hire baby nurses when they suffer from postpartum depression. In fact, far too many women can’t even afford to take the antidepressants that Shields took as she suffered with postpartum depression. And it also occurred to me that some who read this book may even feel somewhat bitter about the fact that Shields was able to afford several rounds of IVF, too. That’s a procedure that is well beyond the budgets of many Americans.  

Clearly, with her financial resources, Brooke Shields can afford solutions that are well above the grasp of many women. I don’t mean to imply that Brooke Shields wasn’t right to use whatever means necessary to get past her postpartum depression; I just think that some women might resent the fact that they don’t have access to the resources that Shields does. Shields explains what she did to get over the depression, but she doesn’t offer solutions for ordinary women who can’t afford to hire baby nurses or seek out sophisticated medical help.  

Also, it’s important to know that Down Came The Rain is not the story of Brooke Shields’ life. This is strictly an account of her experiences with postpartum depression. She explains what the depression felt like, how it affected the people around her, and what she did to get over it, but that’s about it. If you’re looking for a whole lot of insight about Brooke Shields’ life outside of her experiences with postpartum depression, you might be left disappointed. There is no photo section, although there is a small picture of Brooke Shields and Rowan on the inside of the book cover.  

All in all, I think Down Came The Rain is a good personal account of the phenomenon of postpartum depression. And if after reading this book you’re left wanting to learn more about postpartum depression, Shields includes a reading list and addresses to reputable Web sites that offer information about the disorder. I think Brooke Shields has written a valuable book that will help a lot of people who are caught in the throes of postpartum depression, whether they be new mothers or the people who love them. What’s more, Shields’ story ultimately has a happy ending, since she has gone on to become a mother again. On April 18, 2006, Shields and Henchy became parents again to daughter, Grier Hammond… ironically, on the very same day, and in the same hospital, where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had their baby girl, Suri.

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fashion, Military, royals

Meghan’s red dress…

A few days ago, I noticed articles about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attending the 2021 Salute to Freedom Gala in New York City. Meghan wore a bright red Carolina Herrera gown and slightly darker red Giuseppe Zanotti slingback heels. She also wore a poppy, which is customary among British people to commemorate Remembrance Day. The poppy was kind of obscured by the dress, which was the same color as the flower. Prince Harry wore a tuxedo, with four medals pinned to his jacket, and a poppy on his lapel.

I don’t know much about what this event was about, other than to recognize veterans. I’m not sure what the dress code was supposed to be, although I have been to a several military balls in my day. I’ve seen the kinds of dresses that are typically worn to them. Was this like a military ball or was it just a formal occasion? I can’t really tell, although based on the photos in the link, it looks like it was a fundraising dinner with speakers and probably a receiving line.

I will say, however, that personally, I’m not a fan of Meghan’s red dress. I mean, that color red does look good on her, and it’s a beautiful dress on its own. I even like the neckline, though not necessarily on Meghan Markle. I just think the dress was inappropriate, given the occasion. As Tom Cruise (yuck) might say, “she wasn’t wearing the dress; it was wearing her.” I read that Tom Cruise once said that to Katie Holmes when they were married, and she would choose dresses for the events they attended. In any case, I’m no fan of Cruise’s, but I think that comment makes sense in this situation.

Yeah… this screen shot kind of shows the fit of the gown… I like the color, although I think she should have chosen something more subdued for this event. I don’t like the style on Meghan.

I realize I’m kind of a hypocrite. I say this, even though I’ve certainly worn a few unflattering dresses in my day. The difference is, I don’t have access to stylists, nor do I have Meghan’s money, or even a figure even remotely like hers. I’m also not someone who is of interest to the paparazzi. Indeed, the vast majority of military spouses in the United States don’t have what Meghan has. Many of them were probably orbiting the intense red glow cast by Meghan’s red dress. She probably stood out like a beacon or maybe a traffic flare. I’m not sure that glowing like a beacon was appropriate on this occasion.

I would expect to see a gown like that at a show biz event, not a military event. If this was a “show biz” event, rather than a military event, then maybe I stand corrected. Even if it was a show biz engagement, I just don’t think that dress was the best choice for Meghan. Other people have commented on the way the dress fit, and that it looked like maybe it wasn’t the right size. I don’t know about the sizing, but the dress did seem to overwhelm her, except at the back, where she spilled over a little bit.

Many people liked the dress. A lot of other people, myself included, found it to be garish and rather tasteless, given the apparent purpose behind the event. Were they remembering fallen British military heroes, as one is supposed to do on Remembrance Day? Or were they honoring veterans who are still living, as one does on Veteran’s Day (Memorial Day is for our fallen American troops)? Either way, it seems to me the focus should have been on the veterans, not a big, red, designer dress.

That being said… I’m not here to say Meghan can’t or shouldn’t wear whatever she wants to wear. She’s free to make whatever fashion statements she wants. She’s an American, and she lives in America now, with her royal British husband, who has spent his whole life being taught about protocol. However, if the event was supposed to honor veterans, it seems to me that Meghan’s dress, with its tremendously low cut neckline, extremely bright color, massive train, and high slit up the front, was a bit unbecoming, too revealing, and overly showy, particularly for a event meant to honor veterans. Just my opinion.

Some people are wondering why Harry was asked to hand out medals in the first place. Personally, I don’t mind that Harry was at the event. He is a veteran, even if he served the United Kingdom, rather than the United States. A lot of us Americans would have been Brits if our ancestors hadn’t moved to America, like Harry has. But I can see that a lot of veterans and their families are wondering why an American veteran couldn’t have done what Harry was doing.

I find it interesting that Meghan and Harry have repeatedly complained about intrusive press, even to the point of moving out of England, and yet they constantly seem to do things that put them in the news. Meghan’s dress was definitely an eyebrow raiser, and of course people are going to talk about it, including the press. The dress got a lot of reactions, which seem to be very mixed. Some people thought it was stunning. Others thought it was a stunning disaster.

Maybe my comments seem harsh to some readers, although I’m definitely not as harsh as Jesus Enrique Rosas, the Body Language Guy, is. Check out this video…

He is definitely not a Meghan fan. He refers to her dress as “king sized drapes.”

Nor am I as harsh as River is…

River calls Meghan a Scarlet Pimpernel…

The Body Language Guy, Jesus Enrique Rosas, did another recent video about Meghan’s fashion choices and body language. In this video, he refers to the “marshmallow on Meghan’s head.” I have to admit, that comment cracked me up a bit.

Interesting video. I don’t think I’ll ever think of that hat in the same way.

Anyway… it’s Monday, and Bill is out of town. He went to Poland for the week. I am sitting here, the day before our 19th wedding anniversary, staring at Meghan’s red dress, wishing she’d chosen something else to wear. And I say this as someone who has a large collection of knit nightgowns, which I wear most of the time, unless we’re going out somewhere. Even then, half the time I don’t wear makeup. But at least I don’t attract attention to myself… except for when I open my mouth and say something completely shocking. My days of wearing shocking clothes are mostly over now.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Facebook fashion game, Covet, has a challenge involving Meghan and her red scare gown. I’m trying to stay neutral about Meghan Markle, but I have to admit, the more I see of her, the less I like her. She makes my “high conflict person/narcissist” alarms go off. But I’m trying to reserve judgment for a bit longer… because I do think that anyone marrying a British royal will have a tough time of it. I just don’t think she tells the truth, and she seems to come off as a bit clingy. Ever since I heard her claim that she didn’t know much about Prince Harry, I’ve thought she was full of shit. I don’t believe that claim for a second.

But fortunately, it’s not my marriage, nor is it my business… it’s just an observation as a veteran’s wife, and someone who’s married to a guy who was married to a “high conflict person/narcissist”. Fortunately, everyone still has a right to have their own opinions.

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memories, nostalgia

Repost: My brush with the rich and famous in rural Gloucester, Virginia…

I’ve been a little bit homesick, lately. It’s been years since I was last “home”. So, as I think about what fresh content I want to write today, here’s a repost from 2018. The featured photo is of me, running in my first race in April 1982. I won first place for my age and sex– which, at that time, was nine. It was a four mile race. My, how times have changed. Now, I feel great when I manage to walk a mile.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up in Gloucester, Virginia in the 1980s.  We moved there in June 1980, the day after I turned eight.  I remember very clearly that in those days, Gloucester was very rural.  I seem to remember just a few stoplights in the entire county and maybe a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut. 

Decades later, I see that it’s a lot more cosmopolitan than it was in my day.  Areas that used to be nothing but trees are now home to big box stores and chain restaurants.  Both the Pizza Hut and the McDonald’s that were there in 1980 have been torn down and moved.  And there are now many stoplights in Gloucester and there have been for probably thirty years or more.

I didn’t appreciate Gloucester when I was young.  In fact, I hated living there for most of my youth.  When we first moved there, I was mercilessly bullied by a group of my classmates– the smart, “preppie” kids whose families had lived in Gloucester forever.  Many of those kids rode the same bus I did and made my life a living hell.  I didn’t get along with most of the kids who lived on my dirt road, either.  They were a different group of kids.  They weren’t necessarily smart.  What most of them were was very “redneck”.  We didn’t mesh.  They probably thought I was too highfalutin’ and snobby.  There’s no telling.   

The one thing that saved me from succumbing to despair was my love for horses.  I wasn’t especially horsey when we lived in Fairfax, Virginia, which was where we spent the first two years after my dad retired from the Air Force our of Mildenhall Air Force Base in England.  My sister had taken riding lessons in England, but I wasn’t necessarily into horses myself…  but then we moved to rural, country Gloucester, where many people owned horses.  My neighbor, mother to one of the hoodlums who used to harass me, used to let me ride her horse every once in awhile.  I will never forget the intoxicating aroma of the horses and the thrill of sitting on one for the first time.  I fell deeply in love.

Within a couple of years after we moved to Gloucester, I started taking formal riding lessons.  I continued riding throughout high school, finally giving it up in 1990, the year I graduated.  Although Gloucester was, and probably still is, a rather provincial place, there were actually some interesting people living there.  In fact, there’s a lot of old money in Gloucester and many historic plantations are located there.  You could spend all day driving around the county looking at them if you wanted to.

Little me on Rusty, the pony who got me through high school still innocent.  I think I was about twelve in this photo.  The year was 1984.

In the 80s, the Sadovic family from France owned a big fancy plantation called Eagle Point.  I don’t know what their business was, but they were very French and apparently very wealthy.  Their son, Greg, was about my age.  He showed horses.  I believe he and the rest of his family now live in Palm Beach, Florida and he now shows horses professionally.  In the 80s, he was involved in 4H, like I was, and he sometimes rode in the small shows, like I did.  But his family owned beautiful horses and were very serious about the sport. 

For several years in the 1980s, the Sadovics employed an expert French horseman named Francois Lemaire de Ruffieu.  Francois was a bit of a “rock star” in the horse world.  He first trained and graduated from the Cadre Noir, one of the oldest and most prestigious riding academies in Europe.  During his six years in the cavalry at Saumur and Fontainebleau, he studied and showed extensively in dressage, stadium jumping, three-day eventing and steeplechase.  He was awarded the title of Master Instructor of the American Riding Instructor Certification program in 1996.  Given that he was born in 1944, Francois has been in the horse business for many years.  But I knew him during his prime.  In fact, I distinctly remember falling off my horse, Rusty, right in front of him back in the 80s.

In those days, Francois was in his 40s and he lived in Gloucester.  He’d give riding clinics at Eagle Point.  I know I attended at least one or two of them.  In those days, Eagle Point had a number of events that we’d attend– horse shows, competitive trail rides, and fox hunts.  It wasn’t located far from where I took lessons.  My riding coach took lessons from Francois and passed on some of his techniques to us when she taught us.  I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it was actually really cool that she was able to do that, especially in a place like Gloucester.

In 1988, right after Rusty and I won first place in a huge Hunter Pleasure Pony class in Richmond, Virginia.

In 1984, Francois published his first book, Handbook of Riding Essentials.  It made quite a splash locally, but I believe it also sold well internationally.  I see that Francois is still in business, too, giving riding clinics in places like Vermont.  I see on an old Facebook page that someone who worked with Francois in the 80s mentions having known him in Virginia.  He evidently also worked at Beau Shane, which was a beautiful farm in next door Mathews County (which I think is now defunct).  I knew it because the woman who used to run our 4H horse judging group was a horse trainer there and we used to visit Beau Shane to study conformation.  They had beautiful Swedish Warmbloods.  Mathews County is even more rural than Gloucester, but there were some really high caliber horses there.

This topic comes up because last night, I was noticing all the boat pictures and videos posted by some of my Gloucester friends and I felt a little bit homesick.  Gloucester is also home to several rivers and many people who live there own boats.  I joked that maybe it was time to move back to Gloucester.  My old riding coach mentioned that mosquitos are a thing there and maybe I’d forgotten that.  I was being a bit facetious.  I can’t see myself moving to Gloucester again.  It wouldn’t be the same as it was when I was growing up.  But another friend, a guy who lived there in the 70s, started talking about the plantations and mentioned Warner Hall…  He said it’s for sale.

Warner Hall is located right next to Eagle Point and, in the 80s, one could board their horses there.  It is now a five star B&B, but in the 80s, we rode our horses through the property while participating in events put on by Eagle Point.  I didn’t know it back in the 80s, but George Washington’s grandparents lived there.  Actually, Gloucester is a very historic place.  It’s also where Pocahontas was born.  And Dr. Walter Reed, a U.S. Army physician who led the team that postulated and confirmed the theory that yellow fever is transmitted by a particular mosquito species, rather than by direct contact, was also born in Gloucester, Virginia.  Gloucester was also used in a couple of films, notably Zelly & Me starring Isabella Rosselini, and Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise.  And John Lennon once owned a plantation in neighboring Mathews County called Poplar Grove.

When I was about eleven, I also used to occasionally visit Lisburne, another plantation that was restored by the Peebles family.  Their daughter, Laurie, showed horses on the A rated circuit and a church friend, also wealthy, hooked me up with her.  I remember I used to visit this marvelous home in Ordinary and play with Laurie’s horses.  This was before my mom got me into lessons with the woman who taught me all through high school. 

I think about all the places I could have grown up… places not as interesting or historic as Gloucester County is.  When I was a child, I thought it was a boring place.  Now I realize that Gloucester is pretty fascinating.  I still don’t know that I want to move back there, but it was a cool place to grow up.  There’s an interesting mix of old money, old redneck, and military transients in that county.  I still have a lot of friends there, although my family has moved on.  If it weren’t for horses, I don’t know that I would have had so many opportunities to see some of these wonderful old homes. 

Of course, I also got to see a few of them thanks to being a Presbyterian.  I think in Gloucester, a lot of Presbyterians were somewhat well-heeled and connected to old money.  But I see now, even the church I grew up in has changed.  I remember when that sanctuary was built, back in 1980, 100 years after the church was founded.  And now, it’s no longer First Presbyterian Church.  Now it’s Grace Covenant Church, affiliated with the new ECO branch of Presbyterianism because apparently, the minister didn’t want to have to marry gay couples, and disagreed with some of the other changing views of the PCUSA branch.

Anyway… I just heard the chimes go off, signifying that it’s time to move the laundry to the dryer.  I guess I’ve rambled on long enough this morning.

Here’s a link to Francois’ book…  I see it’s significantly more expensive these days!  But it is very well-regarded… Maybe I should buy a copy for old time’s sake.

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celebrities, condescending twatbags, narcissists

Let’s talk about Dave Ramsey…

Dave Ramsey… that’s a name I’ve heard bandied about in fundie Christian circles. Before this morning, I didn’t know much about him. I’d heard a little about what he does. He’s a Christian financial guru. I probably first heard about him from the Duggar family– Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, specifically– who used to tout their theories on how to stay out of debt and raise a humongous “quiver full” of children who would grow up to be God fearing, tithe paying Christians.

While religion is not supposed to be tied to politics, it often is. Fundie Christians have huge families, in part, so that they can make more voters who have been trained to vote for political candidates that champion their religious beliefs and make laws that favor Christianity. Dave Ramsey appears to be one of those people. He’s made a career out of courting Christians and recruiting them into his financial programs.

I don’t actually know too much about the quality of Dave Ramsey’s financial advice. I have read that some people like his budget plans. However, after reading an article about him this morning, I’m reminded an awful lot of another famous person who was recently in the news… Tom Cruise. Cruise, as we all know, is famously devoted to the Church of Scientology. He’s also quite narcissistic and abusive, as evidenced by his recent verbal tirade that put him in the news a couple of months ago. I’ll get to why Dave Ramsey reminds me of Tom Cruise in a minute.

Dave Ramsey is in the news this morning because he has said that he doesn’t agree with giving people stimulus checks to help them through the pandemic. Dave Ramsey said on Fox News, “If $600 or $1400 changes your life, you were pretty much screwed already.” He continues, saying “That’s not talking down to folks. I’ve been bankrupt. I’ve been broke. I work with people every day who are hurting. I love people. I want people to be lifted up, but this is, again, it is just political rhetoric,”

Probably because of Ramsey’s comment on Fox News, someone in the Duggar Family News group shared an illuminating article about people who have worked for Dave Ramsey’s company, Ramsey Solutions. It’s said that the company is run more like a church than a company, and being employed there means giving up a lot of privacy. Ramsey reportedly has a lot of dictates about his employees’ personal lives. People have been fired, for instance, because of things their spouses post on social media. In fact, according to the article, when a person is considered for a job working for Dave Ramsey, their spouses are also interviewed. Why? Because Dave wants to make sure no one is “married to crazy”. He says being married to crazy means that employees won’t be at their best. According to Ramsey’s Web site:

“When hiring someone, you are employing more than just the person… You’re taking on the whole family. And when they are married to someone who is domineering, unstable or simply full of drama, you’ll end up with a team member who can’t be creative, productive or excellent.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be judged for jobs that my husband takes. It was bad enough being an Army wife, which has really affected my life a lot. When my mom was an Air Force wife, back in the 60s and 70s, she was often judged as much as my dad was, when it came to promotion decisions. I remember hearing that my dad was once passed over for a job because the leadership didn’t think my mom was a good enough hostess. Thankfully, those days are mostly over in the military community. I think that nowadays, maybe the only people whose spouses might be judged are those who are going to be Generals. Ramsey’s running a private company, so I guess if his employees don’t have a problem with him running their private lives, it’s perfectly legal. But it sure doesn’t seem right.

Ramsey is being sued by a former employee after she was fired for having premarital sex, which is against company policy. Ramsey, angry about being sued, yelled at his remaining employees at a company meeting:

“I am sick of dealing with all this stuff,” Ramsey bellowed, according to a recording obtained by Religion News Service. “I’m so tired of being falsely accused of being a jerk when all I’m doing is trying to help people stay in line.”

Right… but who appointed Dave Ramsey as the person who has to “help people stay in line” in their private lives? Reading that quote by Dave Ramsey reminded me a lot of Tom Cruise, both when he screamed at his employees back in December… and back in 2008, when he famously said this:

“Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident it’s not like anyone else. As you drive past you know you have to do something about it because you know you’re the only one who can help,”

It sounds to me like Dave Ramsey and Tom Cruise are similar in their beliefs that they’re the ones who ought to be in charge. However, unlike Cruise, Ramsey isn’t taking the pandemic seriously. He thinks people who would rather work at home to avoid getting sick are “wusses”. While Tom Cruise screamed this to his employees about COVID-19:

“They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of us. We are creating thousands of jobs, you motherfuckers,”

“I don’t ever want to see it again! Ever!,” he rages. “If I see you do it again, you’re fucking gone.”

“And if anyone on this crew does it, that’s it — and you too and you too. And you, don’t you ever fucking do it again.”

Dave Ramsey says this to his customers and employees:

“You would think that the black plague was coming through the U.S., listening to people whine,” he told his audience. “You guys have lost your mind out there.”

“We have people calling in, they are wanting to cancel stuff for a live event in May — let me tell you how much of your money I am going to give you back if you don’t come for the coronavirus in May,” he said. “ZERO. I am keeping your money. You are a wuss.”

And yet, Dave Ramsey doesn’t let his employees think for themselves. He doesn’t practice what he preaches when it comes to minding one’s own business.

The messages are different, but the disrespectful, snarky, directive tone is very much the same. It’s abusive and mean-spirited. And again, even though Ramsey isn’t giving a paycheck to the spouses of his employees, the spouses are expected to toe the line as much as the employees are. They aren’t supposed to have credit cards, and their social media posts are monitored. One former employee’s wife who suffers from asthma and worries about COVID-19 posted this on Facebook:

“Jon’s company [Ramsey Solutions] wants to bring all 900 employees back asap when a majority can do their work from home… I do *not* understand how people don’t see we are setting ourselves up for a huge second wave. Ugh, people make me so angry.”

“Jon” was soon called by a supervisor, who chastised him for his wife’s Facebook comment. The wife of a co-worker had screenshot the comment and sent it to their boss. And yes, Jon was fired for it. On his way out, he was offered $18,000 in severance pay if he and his wife would sign a nondisclosure agreement and promise not to ever say anything derogatory about the company. To their credit, the couple chose not to sign the agreement. They have had to rely on the generosity of friends and family members to help them survive during the unemployment. Meanwhile, Ramsey’s legal goons are still trying to silence them by sending cease-and-desist letters.

When an anonymous employee sent a letter of complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for Ramsey’s failure to take precautions against COVID-19, Ramsey’s response was to berate his entire staff, calling them “morons”. First, he complained that the pandemic was ruining his golf game, then he reportedly said:

“So whoever you are, you moron, you did absolutely no good, except piss me off,” he told his staff. “You are not welcome here if you are willing to do stuff like that. If you are really scared and you really think that leadership is trying to kill you … please, we love you. Just leave. We really don’t want you here.

After warning his employees not to complain to anyone outside the company about the working conditions, he continued:

“If you really think the people here are evil, bad people and you think that you can effect change by reaching outside of here, you are wrong… And you are not welcome.”

Then, against the advice of his board not to speak about the OSHA investigation, Ramsey went on:

“I love this place and I really don’t want any morons here.” If he found out the person’s identity, he threatened,I will fire you instantaneously for your lack of loyalty, your lack of class, and the fact that you are a moron and you snuck through our hiring process, And then he reiterated that he “loves” his employees and Ramsey Solutions is the “best” place to work in the entire world. It’s also a place where your boss tells you he loves you as he calls you a “moron” and threatens you.

Ramsey supposedly “loves” his employees. But he calls them “morons” and tells them they aren’t welcome if they have a legitimate complaint or concern about workplace safety. Seems strange to me… but also familiar. Because after Tom Cruise screamed at his employees in December, he said something rather similar:

“That’s what I’m thinking about. That’s what I’m doing today. I’m talking to Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. Movies are going because of us. We shut down, it’s going to cost people their fucking jobs, their homes, their family—that’s what’s happening. All the way down the line. And I care about you guys. But if you’re not going to help me, you’re gone. OK? Do you see that stick? How many meters is that? When people are standing around a fucking computer and hanging out around here, what are you doing?

Now… it’s not that I don’t think Cruise had a right to insist on proper COVID-19 protocol. My issue is with the extremely disrespectful way he addressed his staff. He called them names. He swore at them. He threatened them. That is verbal abuse. Dave Ramsey does the same thing, for the opposite cause. But they’re very much the same in terms of how they deal with people. They treat them very much as if they’re objects who don’t deserve the most basic of respect. That’s what narcissists do, and I speak from experience when I say that being in an environment like that will take its toll. I definitely wouldn’t consider a fear based workplace where people are pressured to shut up and color the “best” workplace in the world. Far from it.

Ramsey’s company also has a policy against gossip. Gossip is defined by Ramsey as “when you discuss a negative with anyone who can’t solve the problem.” He fires people who “gossip”. Below is a famous Ramsey rant about gossip. Just listening to this, and Ramsey’s mocking tone, is kind of triggering for me.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound bad… until you realize that you can’t even vent about this to your spouse or a friend without risking your livelihood. It’s very controlling and abusive.

Many employees supposedly love the culture of Ramsey’s company. People are reportedly helpful and kind… until someone has a criticism. And then, Ramsey reportedly goes on a rampage to find out who is complaining. He even goes as far as to offer “bounties” to those who are willing to snitch. It sounds a little culty and East German-ish.

Ramsey also preaches a lot about Judeo-Christian values. He reportedly goes as far as to fire people for adultery and being pregnant outside of marriage, claiming that people have violated the company’s “righteous living” code. And yet, I see him writing and hear him saying things like “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.” and “I’ve got a right to tell my employees whatever I want to tell them. They freaking work for me.” That doesn’t sound very “Christlike” to me. It sounds controlling and abusive.

Unfortunately, Tennessee, where Ramsey Solutions is based, is an “at will” employment state. So Ramsey is within his legal rights to fire people for almost any reason. He has a lot of fans, too. Like Tom Cruise and Donald Trump, Ramsey has charisma and people are drawn to that, even if that magnetism includes a helping of narcissistic abuse.

Well… before this morning, I didn’t really have much of an opinion about Dave Ramsey one way or another. Maybe his plans do help people get control of their finances. But I don’t find him to be a likable person, and I think I would hate working for him. I sympathize with those who are trying to take action against his policies. He seems to delight in being the “boss” of his employees, telling them what they can and can’t do, even when they’re off the clock. It’s hard to escape such an environment, particularly when there’s a pandemic going on and jobs are scarce. And so, people who are legitimately frightened of getting COVID-19 have to suck it up and drive on, maskless, because wearing a face mask indicates that God isn’t in control. It doesn’t matter that the virus has spread through the company and people, in general, are getting sick and dying of the virus.

If you try to use your own free will to protect yourself, Dave Ramsey doesn’t want you to work for him. Working for him apparently means your ass is his, on or off the clock. No thanks. I’m an adult and can make my own decisions. And… as Bill and I found out, I can even get us out of debt without Dave’s financial plan. So I don’t have to buy what he’s selling.

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celebrities, complaints, condescending twatbags, psychology, rants

Has Trump “desensitized” Americans to abuse?

Yesterday’s post about Tom Cruise and his nuclear meltdown over social distancing on his movie set led to more interesting discussion. One friend wrote this:

I hunted down the recording and listened to it. Fuck the message; that’s a mood-disordered, entitled shithead if I ever heard one. Maybe it’s just a bad idea to make movies until everyone can be vaccinated.

I agree with the idea of suspending movie production until more people can be vaccinated. The fact is, people are really tired of COVID-19 and they’re going to do human things, even though people have been preaching about COVID-19 precautions for months. It’s perfectly normal and natural for people to want to socialize with each other. In fact, it’s a healthy thing for most people to socialize– that is, when there isn’t a pandemic going on. I’m sure working with Tom Cruise is hard. He’s a well-known perfectionist about a lot of things, and as we noted yesterday, he’s not shy when it comes to throwing massive profane tantrums.

Another commenter assumed that maybe Cruise had finally just lost it after multiple meetings about taking COVID-19 precautions. This same commenter is irritated about people not following the pandemic rules. Because of that annoyance with people flouting the rules in general, in the commenter’s view, what Tom Cruise did is totally okay. I had written that I disagreed with that notion. I think Cruise could have made his point about maintaining social distancing without calling his employees motherfuckers and screaming at them. I think he could have done that, even if there had been “multiple meetings” and he was at the end of his patience with his crew. He certainly could have addressed this problem without flying into a rage, even if it meant counting to ten and cooling off for a few minutes first. I think most people have enough self control to contain themselves if they try. Clearly, Cruise didn’t think he needed to try to control himself.

This morning, I found this comment from the commenter who is fine with a good old fashioned hissy fit:

Perhaps I have been desensitized by having listened to Trump for the past years. Given everything he’s gotten away with saying and doing I’ll still give Tom a pass. 🙂

I had to stop and think about that for a moment. Because of Donald Trump’s completely uncivilized conduct, some folks are now “desensitized” to similarly bad conduct by other people? Based on that comment, I’m assuming that this person isn’t a Trump fan. Indeed, I remember when Joe Biden was announced the winner of the 2020 election, this person expressed delight that we might soon be rid of Trump. But now, because of Trump’s constant abuse of his position and the people who work for him, they are “desensitized”? Does this mean that Trump has now made people meaner and less civilized? Even the ones who don’t admire him and his toxic brand of leadership?

I think it’s really sad that some people are evidently willing to accept Trump style leadership in people like Tom Cruise, just because they’ve had to listen to Trump’s verbal diarrhea for the past four years. Even if Cruise had a valid point that his staff needs to practice health and safety precautions on the movie set, his message is drastically weakened when it’s delivered in the way it was. And, to be totally frank, I doubt Tom Cruise really cares that much about COVID-19, anyway. To me, he sounded like he was getting off on the power of being a movie star and Scientology power player. No one else is going to be allowed to freak out like that on his movie set. And certainly, they won’t be allowed to do it to Tom Cruise. He’s made it clear that he’s just itching to fire them.

I didn’t want to get into an argument with this person, even though I completely disagree with the notion that Cruise’s outburst is acceptable because of Donald Trump. I pointed out that listening to Tom scream like that brought back awful memories of my father’s alcoholic and PTSD inspired rages. My dad never used the language Cruise used. He hated profanity. I almost never heard him use a word stronger than “damn” or “hell”. I think it was because his own father, who was also an abusive drunk, would go into rages and use a lot of filthy language. Hearing curse words would remind my dad of those ugly rages he’d been on the receiving end of by his own father. But even though my dad didn’t curse like Tom Cruise obviously does, the insanely angry mood was still there.

I remember, when I was a child, being terrified when my dad would get extremely angry. His face would turn red. Veins would pop out. His eyes would glaze over and look piggish as he would let loose with his fury. My dad, who was much bigger and stronger than I was, would grab me and administer corporal punishment with all of his strength and energy. Afterwards, I would be left quaking in my room, hysterical, while he’d finish cooling off. Then later, he would act like nothing happened. I was expected to forgive and forget.

I always hated my father after those rages. I didn’t have respect for him for beating on me or screaming at me. I was angry and humiliated, and his outbursts made me afraid to be around him. Thankfully, I’m a decent person, and I would eventually forgive him. At least until the next episode.

Fortunately, my dad didn’t go into rages on a regular basis. It happened more times than I can count, but it wasn’t like it was a weekly or even a monthly thing. And in between those rages, he was basically a good man. As an adult, I realize that he had his own problems. He was chronically depressed and never dealt with the traumas of growing up during the Great Depression with an alcoholic father. He went to Vietnam and saw action, which caused him to suffer from PTSD for the rest of his life. He used to have nightmares that would cause him to jump out of bed while he was still sleeping. One time, he almost lost his middle finger because he punched the wall while he was sleeping and having a nightmare. He injured his finger so badly that there was talk that it might need to be amputated.

The end result of all of this is that I have a very low tolerance for verbal abuse. I can’t stand it. It brings out a visceral reaction in me. This effect has gotten worse the older I get. I used to be able to put up with being screamed at a lot more than I can now. So, in my case, being exposed to people like Donald Trump and Tom Cruise has made me more sensitive to abuse, rather than less sensitive. But I’m only one person. Maybe some people are fine with a Tom Cruise style freak out in the workplace. I am definitely not, and when people freak out on me now, they can expect to be kicked out of my life. There’s no place for that in my world. But then, I also realize that my position is a very privileged one. If I were trying to support a family, I might be forced to accept abusive behavior from a narcissistic creep like Tom Cruise or Donald Trump.

I mentioned yesterday that I think Cruise’s fit was less about COVID-19 than it was about being in control. It’s interesting to me that the commenter on my thread brought up Trump, because I think Cruise and Trump have some things in common. They are both very wealthy and famous. They are both charismatic. They both had abusive, neglectful fathers, although Trump’s dad at least stuck around when he was growing up. In the Wikipedia article about Cruise (sorry, not the best source, but I’m lazy), it says of Cruise’s father:

Cruise grew up in near poverty and had a Catholic upbringing. He later described his father as “a merchant of chaos”,[11] a “bully”, and a “coward” who beat his children. He elaborated, “[My father] was the kind of person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life—how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang! For me, it was like, ‘There’s something wrong with this guy. Don’t trust him. Be careful around him.'”[11]

I find it very interesting that Cruise supposedly said those things about his dad. I see the very same tendencies in him. I have read about him being very generous and heroic in some situations, and that makes him look like a great guy. I’ve seen news articles about how Cruise has a tendency to sweep his love interests off their feet and shower his children with luxurious gifts and outings. But then, when Cruise gets pissed off, I read other accounts of the hellish fury he delivers on those who land on his shit list. If you’ve ever studied the behavior of abusers, you find that this is a very familiar pattern.

Special thanks to Wikipedia user Avanduyn, for making this image available in the public domain.

Actress Leah Remini, who knows Cruise personally, and was a Scientologist and a member of the Sea Org, says that Cruise’s tantrum was for publicity reasons only. She’s quoted in US Magazine:

“Tom’s reaction that was released yesterday shows his true personality. He is an abusive person,” the King of Queens alum said of Cruise, who is a high-profile member of the Church of Scientology. “I witnessed it, I’ve been a recipient of it on a small level … This is the real Tom.”

“Tom does not care about the families of his crew; this is all for publicity,” Remini, a former Scientologist, continued. “Tom does not believe in family values. I mean, how anyone is falling for this is just mindblowing. I would bet that Tom had this rant written for him and had his Scientology assistant record and release it. Hearing a rich actor with enormous power address his crew in this way is a sign of weakness and a deeply troubled person. This is not just a rant of another a–hole actor. Tom Cruise pretending that he cares is why a few have called him out. They know this is a publicity stunt, they know what Tom really is and what Tom really believes.”

Yes… you see, it kind of blows my mind that Tom Cruise would allow anyone on set to have a recording device handy. Seems to me, he’d want his staff to sign non-disclosure agreements and put their phones away for safe keeping. But either way, someone knew that he was going to melt down and was ready to record him. Whether or not he orchestrated this rant in an attempt to make himself look “caring” to the masses, or someone snuck in a recorder and taped him unawares, it says something that he was recorded going off like this. Either he’s done this as a stunt, or he’s abusive often enough that someone was fully prepared to tape his next meltdown. They knew it was going to happen.

While many people are siding with Tom, mainly because so many of us are so sick of the pandemic lifestyle, and many more of us are feeling sanctimonious these days, the fact remains that Cruise’s meltdown was totally inappropriate. If he had been going off about anything besides COVID-19, would people think this was okay? How about if he threatened bodily harm because he was enraged? Imagine how he must behave behind closed doors.

Remini continues:

“No one needs to be ‘addressed’ by Tom about safety codes. There are producers who could have and should have handled the situation privately and professionally. What more likely happened was, two crew members who were in the same zone were talking to each other and Tom saw this as an opportunity to appear as the epitome of strength; of a leader who is taking this pandemic very seriously,” she added. “This behavior is not normal or appropriate. No one can respond to his outburst without being fired.”

Exactly. There are other people on that set who can deal with the crew members, and they would have handled the situation professionally and, hopefully, privately. It’s not really Tom’s job to go off on crew members like that. He’s just trying to look “heroic” and doing so in the most bullying manner possible. I think his stunt has backfired, though, because although a lot of people are fully supporting him, other people are seeing his behavior for what it really is– pure verbal abuse and narcissistic rage. It was completely unprofessional and inappropriate.

Still, I am baffled by the notion that Donald Trump has “desensitized” people to this kind of behavior and some of us are willing to let it slide because of our feckless soon to be former president. Donald Trump is not someone I want to emulate in any way, shape, or form. I would not praise someone else for emulating Trump’s abusive style of leadership. I would not excuse someone for behaving the way Tom Cruise did because I’ve been “desensitized” by abusive behavior from an authority figure like Trump or my father. Having studied human communication, as well as having taken a few courses in counseling and undergone it myself, I would never condone the screaming approach as a means of effecting change. All it does is cause people to shut down and become depressed or anxious. And it just makes Cruise out to be a tyrannical bully.

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