Hi, everybody. I decided to skip posting yesterday because I caught a virus and was feeling pretty wretched. I did put some posts up on the travel blog, but they were mostly photos. I didn’t take too many of them yesterday, because I slept for most of the day, fighting off a common cold. I’m happy to report that sleeping on my birthday was a wise move, as I feel much better today and will probably be mostly fine by tomorrow.
We are flying to Stockholm tomorrow morning, and should get there at around lunchtime. I’m glad to be going, because although I have enjoyed Bergen and there’s a lot we didn’t get to do that I wanted to do, we’ve spent four nights here. I am ready for new scenery!
I suspect our digs will get a lot swankier on the ship, too. At the very least, I can get my laundry done!
I’ve been reading about the men in the Ocean Gate Submersible. Lots of people are posting really ugly thoughts about them, basically saying they deserve to die because they’re “rich, spoiled, tourists”. Frankly, I have a hard time feeling that way about them… especially the 19 year old young man who was aboard with his father. I think it must be terrifying to be trapped in a vessel under the ocean, knowing that if you aren’t rescued, you will die of hypoxia.
I don’t think many people deserve such a horrible fate. I certainly wouldn’t wish it on someone simply because they happen to be very wealthy. Anyway, I do hope they are found relatively safe.
I’m glad my second day of being 51 was better than my first day. I did experience that legendary surge of energy when a cold starts moving to the next phase. Now, I’m pretty tired, and ready to crash. I’ll probably write more tomorrow from Stockholm tomorrow, but tonight, I’m going to dump more photos on the travel blog. So, if you’re interested in that, be sure to click the link at the top of the page.
The featured photo was taken at the top of the mountain overlooking Bergen. They have goats up there who are even friendlier than they seemed!
Ugh… Monday morning again. This week, I get to endure it all alone, as Bill is on another one of his many business trips. I truly hate it when Bill travels alone. I get lonely hanging out here by myself. The good thing is, I often finally manage to finish books when Bill goes away.
Early this morning, thanks to a bout of insomnia, I completed Heather Gay’s book, Bad Mormon, which I’ve been trying to get through for the past week or two. I bought this book just as it was published last month. I probably would have read it regardless, but I think it was a discussion on the Recovery from Mormonism board that made me decide to take the plunge so soon after its publication. There was a time not so long ago when I eagerly devoured books about ex Mormons, but I’ve since sort of lost interest in upbraiding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I also had absolutely no idea who Heather Gay was before I read her book. I don’t watch her on the Bravo reality show, Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, nor am I the sort of person who attends medical spas. I’m not impressed by vapid celebrity wannabe types, nor do I like facades. Someone on the RfM thread mentioned that Heather had been written up in the New York Times, though, and I am a subscriber to that publication. So I probably read the New York Times piece and headed off to Amazon soon afterwards. If you like, you can read the New York Times piece, too. I’ve used a gift link in this review.
Anyway, now I’ve finished reading Heather Gay’s story of becoming a “bad Mormon”. Overall, I’m left with a mixed mind. The book starts out very interesting, as Heather explains her family of origin and their devotion to Mormonism. Heather Gay (nee Deans), now 48 years old, was born in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, the third of six children. Her parents moved around a lot when they were first married, so her siblings were born in scattered places across the United States, much like my sisters and I were (we’re Air Force brats). When Heather was five years old, her parents moved to Denver, Colorado, where they settled for the rest of her growing up years.
Heather’s parents were fairly devout members of the LDS church, and she lived by the strict lifestyle rules of the faith. On the surface, she lived the wholesome lifestyle expected by her family and church leaders. She participated in church activities, dressed modestly, eschewed premarital sex, and did not use alcohol or other forbidden substances like coffee, tobacco, and tea. She dutifully submitted to interviews with her bishop, who asked her probing questions about her sexual habits and other personal topics. This was all normal in the LDS church, where members must prove “worthiness” before they can attend temple ordinances.
Heather attended college at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, earning at degree in Humanities. Then, having graduated BYU at age 21, she decided to go on an 18 month church mission in Marseille, France. She’d had visions of enjoying French culture and becoming super fluent in the language, but the reality was that she spent most of her time there trying to convince very reluctant and resistant French people to join the church. And she had very little success in that endeavor.
Before she could go to France to sell the LDS church to the French, Heather had to attend the Missionary Training Center at BYU. There, she developed a crush on one of her language teachers. She was flirty and bawdy with him– as much as female LDS missionaries can be when they’re being heavily indoctrinated in religion and crammed with language training. One day, their class was in a different room, and the teacher tried to “warn” everyone through a lesson that they were being watched by the powers-that-be. The next day, the handsome teacher was gone, and Heather was sure it was because of her outrageous behavior (which would have been perfectly normal and appropriate for us “Gentiles” at her age). Years later, she looked him up on Facebook and determined that there was an entirely different reason for the teacher’s sudden dismissal.
At this point, I must interject. This part of the book was fascinating and a quick read. I was really enjoying the book through her stories of her mission in France, especially since we’re about the same age.
When Heather got back from her mission, she met her husband, Billy Gay, a member of so-called Mormon royalty. He came from a wealthy, connected family, but to Heather, had seemed very grounded and normal. She loved how he went surfing and lived a low key lifestyle, even though she hated his penchant for booking Southwest Airlines. Although she noticed some subtle signs that maybe they weren’t a good match, Billy and Heather got married, and he bought her a Porsche.
Then, Heather was pregnant with her first of three daughters, and the reality of being a Mormon wife hit Heather with a traumatic force. She was expected to quit working to be the perfect wife, mother, and helpmeet. Heather had a drive to work, a creative bent toward photography, a head for sales, and other ambitions. But she was supposed to be a good Mormon wife… quiet, obedient, servile, and always facilitating her husband’s and children’s dreams. The lifestyle was stifling, especially since Billy didn’t seem to appreciate his wife’s efforts toward domestic perfection. By the time their eldest daughter was eight years old, the Gays’ ten year old marriage was on the skids. Much to Heather’s horror, after a period of separation, Billy served her with divorce papers.
There Heather was, living in a McMansion that, without her husband’s help, she couldn’t afford. She was raising her daughters mostly without Billy’s help, although he insisted on having access to the marital home. Before their split, Billy showed up after Heather changed the locks. There was a fight, and Heather called the police, who filed domestic violence charges against Billy. At that point, there was no going back, and Heather soon found herself enjoying life as a woman outside of the LDS faith, drinking, partying, and getting stopped by the police while driving under the influence of alcohol.
Then, as she struggled to recover from her failed marriage, Heather ran into a woman at church who asked her who’d done her Botox. The woman said she’d been “spocked” (meaning her eyebrows took on a vulcan like appearance, like Mr. Spock on Star Trek). The woman, who was a nurse, offered to put Heather in touch with her boss, an ophthalmologist turned facial plastic surgeon who ran a medical spa in Salt Lake City. Soon, Heather was also involved in the business, and eventually bought it with her friend. As the spa blossomed, Heather found her way out of Mormonism, and apparently into certain television viewers’ hearts.
Like I mentioned up post, I’m of a mixed mind about this book. I loved how it started, even though I struggled to get far at first. Those darn afternoon naps have a tendency to kill my reading efforts. Heather offers some very juicy and revelatory comments about her experiences in the LDS church. I’ve been reading about Mormonism for many years now, since I’m married to an ex convert, so none of what she wrote was personally shocking to me. I was just surprised by how very open she was about it in the book for others to read.
Mormons typically regard temple rituals as secret– er, sacred– and they don’t talk about them outside of the temple. Now, it’s true that Heather Gay is an exmo, but she still has family members in the religion. I would imagine the backlash for being so open could be very serious… not unlike what Prince Harry is now experiencing in the wake of publishing his book, Spare. But just as she once taught church investigators about the LDS religion, so is she now teaching non-members about the church… but in a much more negative light.
My positive impressions of Bad Mormon started to wane as I read about Heather’s divorce. It’s not that I don’t think the divorce was warranted. It clearly was. It’s more that Heather seemed to trade one artificial construct for another. Although I know a lot of people love Mormonism, I’ve always thought of it as kind of the Wal-Mart of religions, borrowing a lot of stuff from many different faiths and passing it off as something “different”. I also know how difficult leaving the religion can be, especially when a person’s entire family is invested and devoted to it. Ex Mormons are some of my favorite people, because a lot of them are very brave and intelligent, while still kind and friendly. I also love that so many of them have lived abroad, like I have. I ‘ve found many ex Mormons to be very thoughtful and interesting people, with good taste in books and music.
I guess I was turned off a bit when Heather went from being a member of a very demanding and kind of fake religion to peddling cosmetic spa treatments. I know a lot of people are into their appearance. Heather writes that looking good makes people feel good, after all. I guess I’m just not that impressed by extremely image conscious people. I find that a lot of them are not very genuine underneath the veneer. Naturally, I don’t know anything about what Heather Gay is like. I’ve never seen her on her TV show. I thought the first part of her book was very interesting and substantive. But then, she falls into this sort of vapid lifestyle change that seems less genuine to me. I found it off-putting, and frankly, simply found Heather’s story about building her business less interesting.
I’m sure there are a lot of people who will love Bad Mormon. I see the book is already getting high marks, with only a modest number of neutral and negative reviews. I did really like about half of this book. The second half, however, impressed me far less. Heather Gay seems very fixated on looks and money and other obvious trappings of success, and while those are important aspects of living to a lot of people, I don’t find excessive image and money consciousness attractive. I am especially unimpressed when the image and money obsession is coupled with religion, although at least in Heather’s case, she finally decided to leave the religion.
Don’t get me wrong. I like having money, and I like looking attractive when I can. I just don’t like a shallow, single-minded focus of those things, because they don’t tend to last, and they usually matter a lot less to most people than less tangible markers of success.
Anyway, I’m truly not sorry I read Bad Mormon, although I do think it could have used some editing, especially in the photo section. I commend Heather Gay for figuring out the truth about Mormonism and living life on her own terms. I wish her well, and hope she continues in her successful endeavors, even if I, personally, don’t necessarily admire what she does for money.
Overall, I think I’d give Bad Mormon 3.5 stars out of 5.
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Here’s a repost of a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2011. I am reposting this review as/is.
As an average American of average means, I have never really considered how a hotel’s concierge services might benefit me. The most I’ve ever asked of any hotel concierge is directions, or perhaps to order me a taxi. But hotel concierges do a lot more than give directions or make reservations. The best ones can pull off logistical feats that would dazzle the average person. And if you’re in a place like New York City, a good concierge can mean the difference between eating in a hot restaurant at 8:00pm or eating at Sbarro’s. I never considered any of these things until I read Concierge Confidential: The Gloves Come Off—and the Secrets Come Out! Tales from the Man Who Serves Millionaires, Moguls, and Madmen (2011), a book written by concierge extraordinaire Michael Fazio and co-author, Michael Malice.
The book’s premise
Michael Fazio is the co-founder of Abigail Michaels, Manhattan’s premiere concierge service. But before he helped found Abigail Michaels, Fazio worked in Hollywood for famous actors and as a concierge at New York City’s InterContinental Hotel. He admits to having the “service bug”, which I would think one would have to have in his job. After all, he was routinely asked to do things like get tickets to sold out Broadway shows and score tables at hot restaurants for people who were “nobodies”.
But aside from helping unknowns who were staying at the hotel, Fazio also had to arrange for some exotic requests from people with more money than they could possibly spend. Fazio arranged for a bathtub full of chocolate for one client, who was hoping to impress a ladyfriend. He arranged for a last minute helicopter ride to Atlantic City for a mysterious Russian with a suitcase full of cash. And when the same people kept coming back to him for help, Fazio and his former co-worker, Abbie, started their own concierge business catering to the rich and famous.
I really enjoyed this book and probably would have gotten through it in a matter of hours had I not been trying to read it on a very small cruise ship. I have a tendency to get motion sickness, so every time I tried to make progress in this book, I started to feel sick! Once I was off the boat, I whizzed through it in record time. I really enjoyed Fazio’s anecdotes and the enthusiastic tone of his writing. I felt excited as I read about some of his more dramatic exploits in the concierge business. Aside from telling stories, Fazio also includes some handy tips on how to get what you want from a concierge, book the best restaurants and hotels, and even how (and how much) to tip.
I definitely have a new perspective on the value of a good concierge. Now that I’ve read Fazio’s book, I might even venture to the concierge desk during my next hotel stay! Who knows? I might end up with a completely different experience than I might have otherwise had!
If you’ve ever wondered what your concierge can do for you, you should definitely read Fazio’s book Concierge Confidential.
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For some reason, my post about Adam and Darla Barrows’ love story has attracted a lot of attention. I am intrigued, because it’s somewhat uncommon for items in newspapers to generate interest for so long. Usually, you get a burst of interest in the hours or days after something hits, then people move on to the next thing. And I am especially surprised by the interest in my comments on Barrows’ piece, which was a Modern Love story, rather than a hard news item. I’m just an American blogger in Germany. Why do people care what I think? Why do they care so much that they want to respond or even set me straight? And do they know that sometimes their comments lead me on unexpected paths? That’s what today’s post is about– my unexpected trip into high priced help for the hungry in Switzerland. I never thought my post about a newspaper story would lead me there.
I recently got comments from two people who have never posted here before, both of whom have direct experience of loving someone with anorexia nervosa. One commenter seemed to agree with my take on Adam Barrows’ New York Times article about how he fell in love with a woman with anorexia. The other one clearly did not agree with me, and in fact, says my views are “outdated”. Both commenters have children who have suffered from anorexia. I appreciated that they took the time to read and comment. I won’t be surprised if others also comment, since that post is clearly very hot even a month after I wrote it. Adam Barrows’ story obviously really resonated with and rattled a lot of people.
I just want to mention a few things about that post. First off, all of my posts on this blog are mainly just my opinions. I share them with the world, but I don’t necessarily expect people to agree with me, nor do I assume I’m always right. I wouldn’t want everyone to agree, because it’s hard to learn anything new if everyone thinks the same way.
Secondly, I really think that Barrows’ story was less about anorexia and its treatment, than the development of Adam’s unique love relationship with his wife. I think a lot of people read Adam’s story, got very triggered by it, and felt the need to judge him. He probably knew people would have strong reactions to the story. Ultimately, I think a lot of people missed the point entirely, and focused on anorexia rather than the love story and his perspective as a man who loves someone with an eating disorder. Furthermore, Barrows’ story is not a long piece and was probably edited a lot, so it’s not a good representation of Adam Barrows’ character. It pained me to read so many nasty comments about Mr. Barrows, and that was why I wrote about his NYT piece in the first place.
Finally, I’m really glad he wrote that story and shared it, despite the polarized reactions. It has really made me think and, as you can see, continues to inspire new posts for my blog. 😉
Which brings me to today’s fresh topic. One of the people who commented on my post expressed disappointment that The New York Times shared Barrows’ piece and “glamorized” anorexia. Looking on my Statcounter results, it appeared that “Danielle” might have been writing to me from England. If she is from England, it would make sense that she would give me hell about my comments. She may or may not be aware of how different the US and UK healthcare systems are. In the United Kingdom, citizens have access to the National Health Service, which means healthcare doesn’t cost people as much as it does in the United States. A basic level of affordable care is available to everyone.
In the United States, healthcare is very expensive for most people, even for those with decent health insurance, which is also expensive on its own. Mental health care coverage is often woefully inadequate. It’s been years since I last had a “civilian” health insurance policy, but I seem to remember that my coverage only allowed for thirty days of inpatient psychiatric treatment per year. And that’s if there were no pre-existing conditions! Outpatient care was somewhat more generous, but it was not covered the same way or to the same extent a physical problem would be.
In the United Kingdom, there is also a process called “sectioning”, in which people can be involuntarily hospitalized for mental health conditions. The Mental Health Act of 1983 allows for family members and physicians to act in another person’s best interests when it’s clear that they need psychiatric help and won’t cooperate on their own. Anyone who is being sectioned must be assessed by health care providers first, but it appears that a person can be sectioned for a much broader array of reasons than they can be in the United States. Someone who is starving to the point of death because they have anorexia nervosa could possibly be sectioned, for instance, even if they are over 18 years old.
In the United States, we do have the means for hospitalizing people against their will for psychiatric reasons, but it’s a lot more difficult to force an adult into psychiatric hospitalization than it is a child. A lot depends on the laws of specific states. Moreover, in the United States, involuntary commitment seems to be done most often in cases in which a person is clearly a danger to other people as well as themselves, and is not in touch with basic reality. Someone with anorexia nervosa is probably not going to pose a genuine threat to anyone other than themselves. They also tend to be basically rational in things besides their body image. Anyone who is curious about how eating disorders in the United States are treated may want to watch the excellent 2006 documentary, Thin, by Lauren Greenfield. As you’ll find out if you watch this film, a person’s insurance coverage is also quite important in their ability to access care. I can’t say that adult people with eating disorders never get forced into treatment in the United States, but I think it’s more difficult to do it there than it is in England and Wales.
In the 1960s, there was a big push in the United States to deinstitutionalize people with mental illnesses, which meant that a lot of facilities closed down, for better or worse. The emphasis is more on outpatient treatment. In fact, healthcare is more for outpatient treatment for regular medical conditions, too, mainly because of how bloody expensive it is.
As I was thinking about Danielle’s comment and chatting a bit with my friend, Alexis, who is herself employed in healthcare, I got to wondering how eating disorders are treated in Germany. I went Googling, and found a few items that didn’t tell me much. But then my eyes landed on an ad for a rehab in Switzerland– specifically, Paracelsus Recovery in Zurich.
I know Switzerland has really excellent medical care. I also know that it’s an eye-wateringly expensive place. I know healthcare is not cheap in Switzerland, either. I was interested to find out what this place in Zurich was like. I found out that it’s a family run business. Clients are treated one at a time, and have the option of staying in one of two huge penthouses.
The fees include five star treatment, to include a personal chef and a counselor who stays with the client 24/7 in beautifully appointed accommodations. There’s a medical staff, including nurse practitioners and physicians, a wellness staff, with personal trainers and yoga instructors, and therapists. If you access their Web site, you can take a tour of the posh penthouse, which includes a bedroom for the therapist. If you like, you can pay separately for accommodations at a hotel, although the accommodations are included in the price of the treatment and I’m not sure if you get a price break for staying off site.
This center treats several different psychiatric conditions, including drug addictions, eating disorders, mood disorders, alcoholism, and behavioral addictions (porn addiction or gambling, for instance). It’s a very discreet place and, judging by the fees they charge, is intended for helping only the very wealthy. At this writing, it costs 80,000 Swiss Francs per person per week to be treated at this facility. To put this price into perspective, at this writing, 80,000 Swiss Francs is equal to about $86,000 or roughly 72,000 euros. The fees cover everything related to the treatment, although if you fall and break your arm or get sick with COVID-19 and need hospitalization, you will have to pay for that medical treatment separately. Also not included is accommodation for anyone who accompanies you or a two day pre-assessment, which is an additional 20,000 francs.
As I was reading about this place, it occurred to me that there must be a market for it. I’m sure their clients are mostly extremely wealthy people, such as royalty from the Middle East, Hollywood movie stars, rock stars, or business moguls from Wall Street. Paracelsus gets excellent reviews online, but I wonder how many people have had the opportunity to experience this kind of treatment. Still, it’s fascinating to read up on it. I wonder what it would be like to work at such a place. I’m sure they deal with some extremely high maintenance people. I also wonder what would prompt someone to start such a practice, which seems to cater only to extremely wealthy people. To be sure, that population is unique and may need special accommodations, but I’m sure the cases are uniquely challenging, too. People with a lot of money are often used to hearing the word “yes” a lot. Maybe such posh surroundings are less effective for people with addictions. But again, I could be wrong. At the very least, it looks like a very competently run place, and in a city well known for psychiatric care.
I found another rehab in Switzerland, Clinic Les Alpes, that has a relatively bargain basement cost of 45,000 Swiss Francs per week, although the typical stay is for 28 days, so you do the math!. It looks like there, you can be treated for exhaustion or burnout or addictions. They seem to focus on addictions the most and offer care that emphasizes comfort, as well as the classic 12 step program to sobriety. It’s in a beautiful area, just off the shores of Lake Geneva, in an area with many forests and no sound pollution (which sounds wonderful to me). But this program appears to be a lot less private. There are 27 rooms for clients to stay in rather than two exclusive penthouses.
I would imagine that healthcare in Switzerland there is delivered expertly, especially if one is paying many thousands of Francs. My experiences in Switzerland have mainly been in a few hotels, a couple of which were high end. The Swiss definitely do high end hotels right, although on the whole, I find it a rather boring, soulless place, even if it is also very beautiful and scenic.
Well… I’ll never darken the door at one of those very special rehabs in Switzerland. I do find them interesting to read about, though. They’re not for ordinary people with big problems. They are for extraordinary people with big wallets. Obviously, there’s a need and a market for them, since at least two of them exist… and to think I found out about them because of a comment on my post about a Modern Love story I read in The New York Times over a month ago! I am always amazed by what inspires me to think and to write… and that’s why I like to hear from people. I’m sure Danielle never knew her comment about how wrong my opinions are would lead me to research luxury rehabs in Switzerland. You learn something new every day!
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