Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Ivy House & My Slipping Away Faith

This week I called up a Realtor friend, the lady that taught the Introduction to Real Estate class I took back two years ago. I wanted to tour the inside of the couple of homes we'd visited, been impressed with and been unable to do a walk through.

Mixed bag, but mostly the exterior matched the interior. If the exterior was crappy, chances are that the inside was the same.

But the one I was the most intrigued by was a house in the historical district that Jim and I had visited during our house hunt 24 years ago. It was going for about 15K less than it did 24 years ago and I wanted to see it again.

One of the things Jim and I had discussed in our rentals/sales/investments in real estate conversations was possibly getting a historically significant home in need of some tender loving care, remaking it into a sparkling gem of a place and selling it. Doing what others do, flipping it.

Back in college I'd done that a handful of times in the downtown historical district. A handful of us from the art dept/whatever would buy some crumbling former beauty, gut and transform the inside and sell it at a huge profit. Why not do it again, even if it's been over thirty years since I tackled something of that nature?

Back when we'd first started looking for a house in our tiny Southern town I wanted something in this historical district. We looked at about five homes in that area that is bounded by a brass Historical District plaque. This home, a red brick Cape Cod style cottage, had been the smaller of the homes we visited. It had only two bedrooms, which put it much farther down the possibilities list than any other of the houses on that street but it was beautiful, charming even, with crown molding, elaborately carved chair railing, antique solid oak floor. Post-Civil War yet not quite turn of the century.

It had a classic entryway, a rounded foyer with a perfectly round table and centerpiece that the front door opened on to. The rooms to either side, living room and dining room, were graciously beautiful, like something from an old plantation home. There were carved mantle pieces and fireplaces in all of the rooms, including the den off to the side of the house. The kitchen had been upgraded and modernized with a small half bath that looked like a professional decorator had picked the wall paper and accessories, darling!

At that point I was enchanted, ready to almost sign on the dotted contract line, the house was everything I'd dreamed of. Even the issue of the two bedrooms was doable as the house sat on an unfinished basement. All we needed to do was finish the basement and install at least one bedroom down there, perhaps two.

But then we went upstairs, and all desire for this house evaporated. One of the bedrooms was merely average sized and the other was minuscule. Jim and I started to murmur, and consider how much more an outlay of funds we would have to make to make the upstairs as charming as the downstairs. The bathroom was old, not antique in a delightful way, but just old, tiny, dirty looking grout, worn out fixtures. The costs were mounting. Discovering there were no closets upstairs, just a door in each bedroom opening onto unused attic space that could have been possibly used to adjust the size of the bedrooms was discouraging. The owners, a well scrubbed young lawyer and his wife, had strung poles in the attic spaces and were using those boiling hot spaces as a make shift closet.

We left and we had a conversation ruling that house out immediately. Too much money needed to have it the way we wanted it, moving some upstairs walls, adding closets, redoing the only full bath in the house before finishing the basement to add the additional bedroom needed for our growing family.

Over the years I've seen the house come up for sale at least four times. About five years ago whoever bought the house had a dumpster outside and it looked like the interior was being gutted, wall board ripped out and tossed. That must have been when they upgraded the upstairs.  So when the house came up on the for sale list again just as we were thinking about investing in rental property I knew I had to go back in and see what has happened in the ensuing years to cause this beautiful home to keep being treated like the ugly sister at the ball.

When we looked at the house all those years ago it had English ivy growing on one wall on the side of the house. Apparently none of the owners in the last twenty years took any trouble to trim it back. Now the house is a giant ball of ivy with a door in the front. The ivy has taken over the entire exterior.

That's not the only thing that has slipped the notice of the owners as far as maintenance. The beautiful antique oak floor is badly damaged, in need of being sanded down past the scratches and gouges, refinished and varnished. The walls are in good shape due to the replacement of the lathe and plaster walls. But the bath is still the same dreadful patched together shape. No ones finished the basement, it is still a no mans land of concrete and bare timber. The only improvement of any sort is that someone did finally hire a builder to turn the unused attic space flanking each bedroom into large walk in closets. Looks like little to no maintenance has been done on this old beauty.

We're talking about possibly finally buying this and doing the repairs and upgrades and flipping it. The thing that stops me is that while I can do the tile work in the bath and replace the toilet and sink myself as well as paint and Jim can rip out all of that ivy is the floors. With my asthma the idea of riding a floor sander followed by staining and varnishing makes my lungs tight just thinking about it. So, it's once again a slimmest of possibilities project.

It also sort of reminds me of my spiritual journey in and out of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. Like the beautiful and charming downstairs of the Ivy house the first time I saw it, when I first joined the church I wanted it so much, seeing the beauty and where I wanted to be.

As time went by I finally saw the upstairs at the old church, the things that I really didn't want, at least not so much and I walked away, just like we walked away from buying the house.

My faith isn't surviving the sea change of leaving much better than this house has. In fact, the house is probably in better shape than my faith. The more I read my Bible, the more it seems like a pile of ridiculous stories, the more time I spend in church, the more it seems like I'm surrounded by hypocrites playing games and striking poses. I'm seeing very little of any value, or anything that relates to life as I know it. Just some book of stories that has been so heavily edited through the years that it has no relation to reality.

As much as I'd like to rehab the Ivy house and return to my faith I'm afraid it's too late for either one at this point. I think for 2015 I'm just going to contemplate what truth actually is without worrying about if it's labeled Christian or not. Quite frankly, the very label of Christian triggers me. I'm going to have to find a way, but modern American Christianity isn't likely to be what I'm going to be embracing. I think what modern American Christianity has in common with the words of Jesus is very little. I want more.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Real Estate and Selling Cars

Today we went out looking at properties just to see what you could buy and use as rental property in the 200K and below range.

Boy was it a pitiful selection! Out of the twenty houses we did drive bys of only about five were good enough to consider going inside.

One was extremely unfortunate, a beautiful brick bungalow with a fully finished basement perfectly maintained. The unfortunate part is that the sellers bought it back at the very highest point in the real estate cycle, paying 180K. They have had it on the market for nearly a year asking 190K.

The house is beautiful, and it has almost 3000 square feet counting the gorgeous finished basement. The problem is that it is sitting in a crummy neighborhood surrounded by other houses for sale in the 120K range. One of the hard realities of the real estate market downturn is those poor folks that bought high and are now just trying to break even in a bad market.

Gave Jim and I some food for thought, another thing to consider, possibly buying rental real estate in our town to have some monthly income.

We also had a long discussion about my time selling cars. For a year back in college and ten years ago for six months, I worked at a car dealership as a licensed new car salesman.

One of our friends from church, who's had a bumpy up and down teaching career path, is going to sell cars now. He's going to be working at the dealership that was in direct competition to the one I worked at last.

I fear for him. He's beyond competitive, hot-headed and has a big temper. He doesn't suffer fools easily and he's clashed with every supervisor he's ever had. He's also giving up on working on his PhD in working with emotionally disturbed children, which has long been his dream. I hate to see that. He's put in so much work towards his education.

We talked after church for awhile and I tried to impart the things I learned selling cars.

I loved selling cars, and it was something I was pretty good at. But then again I've always believed in listening to the customer, putting their needs first and I am honest. When you sell cars your reputation for being fair, honest and helping out the customer the most goes a long way. You're not just trying to score a sale, you're building a client base. Even if your customer has no need for another car, they will send you friends and relatives if you do a good job.

Not everyone is well served by the fanciest brand new car. Some folks really need a good used vehicle. Listening, and steering them to what best fits their financial situation and life is of the utmost important. I've sold piles of young families used vans instead of the brand new top of the line van they qualified for because they shared they're trying to save up to buy a house.

The down side is those folks that have been screwed royally by other sales people, who are upside down on their car loans and cannot get any financing because of that. You want to make sure you don't add to the problem or turn someone into an upside down deal because they want more car than they can afford.

You had to balance this all with whatever model that month that Detroit was pushing, knowing that selling certain models would net you front end and back end moneys. Fine line between helping someone and pushing them into the Wagon Queen Family Truckster because you know the main company in Detroit is going to pay you an additional 500 bucks if you move that Wagon Queen Family Truckster. Yes, yes, the salesman in the original "National Lampoon's Vacation" movie pulled a switcheroo, likely for back end money, on the Griswolds.

The Wagon Queen Family Truckster - so damn ugly!

The other people at the local dealership ten years ago were the problem for me and the reason I ultimately quit selling cars. I was the only female working in an all male sales staff. I got the smart remarks thrown my way constantly and some very shitty happenings. Like the guy I shared an office with would immediately ball up my winter coat and throw it on the floor the second my back was turned.

My first two hours on the sales floor I sold an expensive diesel truck to an older couple. Asked the sales manager where the forms to write up the sale were only to be told, "You think you so smart, with your college education, you figure it out." I did, but I never forgot that even the sales manager wanted to put me down because I possessed a vagina in an almost entirely male world. It was the put downs, the remarks, the times they would sent me to McDonalds to buy breakfast for the entire staff, with the exception of me, that I suffered. But I smiled and sucked it up and kept outselling many of them.

Forget the rampant sexism at this one dealership, which I did not experience during college at the dealership in South Louisiana, just here in small southern town redneck Virginia. Even without the sexism it's a very competitive field, to the point where the second someone drove onto the lot the sales manager would start screaming and frothing at the mouth if you didn't flat out run out to the customer.

Men have that competitive thing going on in the first place, so it really carries over to the sales thing.My friend the former teacher is also going to be selling with another mutual friend who's also very competitive. I'm curious to see if the running and fighting for customers might dent up their friendship. I hope it doesn't but from where I sit and my experience with it I'm betting it might end badly. Another truth of car sales is that a lot of people try to do it and fail miserably. Sales agents either generally do it for years and years at the same dealership or try it and either quit mere months later or dealership hop like mad. One of the guys I worked with, the one that loved to scrunch up my coat and toss it to the floor, he'd worked at 6 different car dealerships in 8 months.

I remember my last day selling cars all too well. It was a Thursday and I had a young couple coming in that were saving towards a house that were buying a two year old PT Cruiser that still had factory warranty on most of it. That was my morning appointment. My afternoon appointment was a young family with a baby and a toddler who were buying a van I'd taken as a trade in from another customer. It was very gently used and would be a great deal with that family, who was also saving up for a home.

Both couples qualified for new cars, but both wanted to go conservative with smaller spending so as not to derail their budgets. But both times the dealership manager showed up in the middle of my deals and started high pressuring each couple to buy new. I lost both sales! Both! Because of my jackass boss interfering in my sale at the very last second. He started screaming at me in a way that just scared me silly and I calmly packed up my desk and walked off the lot forever.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Of Con Men and Concussions

Yesterday I ended up going to Doc in a Box because the night before I was having trouble driving, thinking, seeing. Apparently when the dog jumped on my head I ended up with a concussion and a hairline fracture of the cheekbone, possibly even the orbital socket my eye sits in.

But there's nothing much that can be done about any of this, thankfully because none of the fine fracturing means that anything in my face has shifted. No damage to my eye. The vision weirdness is pure concussion. I cannot take most pain meds because of my bleeding disorder. The headache has been pretty constant.

About the only thing you can do is rest. So yesterday afternoon involved watching the last season of 'Mad Men' on Roku. We both laid around for most of the day before going to bed and sleeping in till nearly 11 am this morning. The last time I slept in that late I was suffering from pneumonia. Guess my body is trying to catch up on all the sleep I missed last week.

I wasn't long awake or up when Jim insisted we go down to the office of the man (con man) he met last week who was telling Jim that he could build a huge honking 300K house for us for a low 140K and then we could rent it. Jim's been obsessional about this, talking about it a great deal, failing to realize if something sounds too good to be true then it's usually not true.

We ended up having a long unfriendly discussion, mostly over the fact that I told Jim I wasn't sure I wanted to hand over the money from the sale of my land in Louisiana to what sounds like a fly by night con man to build a house too big to rent easily. I merely pointed out that the check would be in my name, not his, and I wasn't going to just hand it over. I wanted to use it to buy a few or three or four townhouses here in town and rent them out. Turn the money from the land into a steady monthly income stream only in my name.

I think I shocked him, for better, for worse, because Jim had never considered I might not go along with his ideas. Back in my Fundagelical days I'd handed over a check from the insurance on the death of my father to him to put in our stock portfolio that was six figures without a word. Those days are over forever. We talked, it was good and I was able to show him that buying/renting the townhouses might be a better thing for us.

But I did finally go with Jim and meet Mr. Con Man Salesman guy. He was a very interesting dude, with the skills of silver tongued flattery your good sociopath salesman has. Mr. Salesman was very convincing, until we went to run some numbers and he realized I was only going to agree to his possibly building smaller homes that we would have a much easier time renting.

What it actually boiled down to was we would have to buy the land outright first, an expensive that would likely be at least 50K and then put up the money for the build, which seems to start right about 50K. He would build it for the half price the company he's working as an office manager for routinely quotes for cost. We would be footing the bill for the entire project, he would handle the build and then when we sold it we would split the profit 50/50 with him. When Jim learned that Mr. Salesman had his hand out for half the profit and had zero interest in putting up rental homes for us that ended it.

If we were building a house to live in it might have been a good deal, or if we wanted to go into business with him to build and flip new homes it could maybe have worked. But we're really not. Plus there are so many pre-build sales attempts going on around here it's really a flooded market for that sort of thing.

My initial impression of the guy is that he is part con-man, part sociopath-like salesman. He was charming and likable, but I still don't trust him.

After the meeting Jim drove Mr. Salesman to our house to do an evaluation on what needed to happen to rent it out. The only things we really need to do is replace the carpeting in two bedrooms and paint. That's it.

While they were going over the house I went shopping at my favorite high end dept store in the markdown racks. One of the biggest money saving tips I've learned through the years is that if you want to dress like you have money when you really don't then the final markdown rack is your friend. I got about 325 bucks worth of stuff for about 80 dollars.. Several sweaters/jackets for the work environment, a few shirts and a thick winter wool skirt. All much more office appropriate than most of the stuff I currently wear.

After all of that I was just done for the day, my headache and concussion symptoms started making me miserable again, so I read and rested the rest of the day.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Oh Little Town of Zero Drama! How I Worship Thee!

After the idiotic sheer stupidity of Christmas Eve morn the drama stopped. Cold turkey.

The kids arrived in the evening. Presents exchanged. Food eaten. Small amounts of delicious adult beverages were sipped. A good time.

Yesterday Jim and I lay around watching our Christmas present from the kids, a large flat screen HD television. I'd never thought about replacing our 13 year old Sony Trinitron television, but I have to admit this new one is a world of better, clearer, bigger,.. I've never been a fan of huge televisions but that may change here shortly.

Jim surprised me by gifting me with a beautiful white lamp, the base of the lamp being white birds sitting on white wood. It totally killed my years long disgust/annoyance with him not paying enough attention to my likes and dislikes, to the point where he would always have the guys at the local gift shop pick something out for me for a present. As a result I have a pile of fancy jewelry boxes, a couple of silver brushes and mirrors and other luxury items that are very nice, but not really my thing at all. Poor dear, he tries.

Earlier in the year my mother, knowing I like birds, gave me a large soap dish, a pure white bone china dish with birds sitting up on the rim. Shortly thereafter I got a dish garden with a white ceramic bird perched on the edge of the garden. I have these two items sitting on my desk in my office, the soap dish holding paper clips and binder clips sitting right in front of the dish garden. The lamp is perfect! It fits with the other two things and looks awesome in my office. He paid attention for a change.

My irritation with his gifts was never because I didn't like what he got me, more that he put zero thought into it and left the selection to someone else. I would have been happy with something from Goodwill or hand made if he'd have only made the selection himself based upon some thought or knowledge of who I am.

I've always hated the whole Christmas consumerism thing, preferring something from the heart or brain.

Once evening started to fall last night we went to our friends house for dinner, Joanie and Paul, and had a splendid time. I admit, I was more than a little nervous going there as much as I love Joanie because last Christmas and at other holidays there have been former members of my old church I had no desire to ever see or interact with again.

When we pulled into their long driveway I was dismayed to see several cars, hoping against hope that the usual glomming onto any holiday at Joanie's house guests still members of the old church Janice and Susan weren't there. They weren't. Whew.

I used to feel sorry for Janice and Susan, a mother and daughter from the old church. Janice's husband was convicted from raping their eldest daughter twenty years ago when they were all members at the old church. Janice eventually divorced him after he'd been in prison a while. But she always was kind of weird, odd, very very very judgmental. She was in our Weigh Down Workshop meetings all those years ago and endlessly monopolized the meetings with her litany of self while subtly bashing the rest of us.

Susan, her daughter, was sheltered from boys, men and life in general so much through the years. Janice was so fearful of something happening to Susan that she hovered over Susan and would not allow the girl any freedom, controlling every aspect of her life. Susan is near thirty now and her Facebook account is filled with postings about either her depression or her God. I had to drop her as a FB friend in my great former church member purge last year when I realized most of them had friended me to criticize my faith or life. She kept demanding to know my phone number so she could call weekly and give me messages from God. I wish her no harm, in fact I have prayed hard before for Susan's escape through the years, but I have no desire to be triggered by those phone calls, which I'm pretty sure would happen.

In the last year and even more in the last few months, I manage my triggers by stopping others from access to me if all they are is someone eager to bash me using the excuses of God, Jesus or the Bible. I told Jim this week that I wish none of them, or anyone else I've pretty much cut off relations with, or situations that stress me out I now just refuse to participate in, any ill will. But my desire for peaceful existence with a minimum of stressors has a top priority in my life right now. Screw the rest. I need peace after the painful journey of the last eight years and the highly dysfunctional family of alcoholics I come from.

The only people at Joanie's house last night was one of her foster children who I knew very well from the three years she'd lived there, and the guy they rent a bedroom to, David, a former IFB pastor who is now an undertaker who apparently came to the old church right after we left. I don't remember him, but I do clearly remember his estranged wife because when I would visit the old church for things like Joanie preaching a sermon his wife would march up to me and introduce herself. On the fourth time she did it I was pretty rude to her, pointing out that she'd met me three other times.

I really enjoyed the evening and I enjoyed the time with David and the former foster child. David, like me, like Joanie, and like so many at NLQ, is struggling to recover from whatever wounds the other members of the body of Christ have inflicted on him.

The former foster child, who I'm not going to name because I knew her well as a child and don't wish to hurt/identify her. It was sweet and touching to see her return to her foster home and really have an appreciation for everything Joanie and Paul did for her, to have an emotional connection to them as parental figures after all these years and the total hell she put them through during her three years there.

Sometimes I think everyone on the planet is the emotional walking wounded or spiritually walking wounded and it would make the world a much better place if we remembered that.

For me I know I must come to a place where family and former church members cannot effect me. I can do this with strangers, deliberately not take offense at much, but I really need to develop it with those I know all too well.

I don't know where Susan and Janice spent their holiday but I hope it was in a place of peace and love.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All I Got For Christmas So Far is a Black Eye

Yeah, seriously, I have a black eye. I was playing rough with Laura's dog last night and she pushed me down before jumping on my head and walking on my cheek, temple and eye socket. She weighs something like 80 pounds. Today I have a pounding headache, black eye and assorted bruises and scrapes. Guess I'll think twice before teasing her with a squeaky toy again.

That encounter is a pretty good analogy for the past five days or so. Right after I finished praising Jim for his do-gooder-ness he started trying to argue with me about money. Money! Which was particularly stupid because we have biggest figure sitting in our checking account right now. A scary big figure that should be invested. Jim wanted to pay off the remaining two years of house payments owed so we could own our house outright, but our banker (and myself) pointed out to him that we'd not be getting any real break considering our house note is all principle right now.

So he was upset by the plumber's bill, which I thought the bill was way less than I expected, and the last Costco bill, which was Christmas presents for everyone and a new computer for me.

The problem with Jim is that he is sort of like Dustin Hoffman's character in 'Rain Man', he gets an idea and heaven forfend anyone try to disabuse him of that notion. It's like arguing with a brick wall, or a robot.

So by the time we had the unfriendly money discussion it was nearly 3 am before we got to bed. I could not turn off and sleep so I got only a couple of hours of sleep.

The next day things got weirder. He came home from the gym talking about this guy he met at the gym who is the office manager of one of the new Mennonite-owned construction companies. Jim immediately wanted to do as this guy suggested, put up 150K to build a house that would be valued at 300K and rent it out.

Pie in the sky obsessional dreams of riches because the houses in that 300K and above value range are not renting well. You can stroll through the neighborhood behind my house with huge houses like that and many of the rentals have been empty for at least six months to a year.

Which led to another set of angry discussions. I burst out crying because I could not get him to understand that I would be much more willing to consider this if we were putting 50K or 100K small houses on property to rent out. Those would rent. Or even an apartment building or duplex, not some huge honking place.

The more I questioned Jim about the builder the more came out about his not being able to finance any projects himself because of his crappy credit. The guy doesn't have the proverbial pot to piss in or the window to throw it out of yet expects Jim to put up the dough for these buildings. The builder is renting a room from someone here in town, yet we're supposed to trust him.

Also, I am fairly certain that what he is proposing is likely in violation with his contract with the construction company he's currently working for.

Sunday night I slept very few hours because I could not shut my mind off from the discussions and Jim wanting to trust what looks and smells like a con man to me.

Come Monday Jim sent out long ranty emails to our kids advising each of them to start thinking about buying a house, perhaps getting this guy to build them. Both kids contacted me, wanting to know if Dad was going off the deep end again. Had to tell them I just didn't know. I still could not sleep, could not turn off the mind.

Yesterday I went with Laura up to see her eldest sister and my granddaughters. Yeah, the family that's had all the problems. I got to witness things that I wish I could unsee! Sort of like the Weird Al song "With My Own Eyes". The truly weirdest point came while I was in a small room with the adults, who were smoking up the ganja while the subject of conversation was the sexiness of dwarf Tryion Lannister from "Game of Thrones"

I did enjoy seeing my eldest granddaughter, the girl who's cat I am fostering.

While all this was ongoing Jim kept calling me, requesting I check out getting our passports renewed, what shots we need for Central America, pricing out plane tickets, millions of tiny requests that I definitely did not have time for at that moment. The breaking point came when Jim called me to tell me he wanted to invite his new friend, the broke construction office manager, over for Christmas dinner. By that point I had had enough! Plus that contact high with the family dope smokers had warn off and I let him have it. I'd been telling him for week I was not cooking a traditional Christmas meal at all. I have a roast and some veggies, but no turkey or ham, no large amounts of anything. Plus the last three or four days have left me feeling most inhospitable. Plus tonight we're hosting family Christmas followed by dinner out. Its just not happening.

Then the dog stomped my head, the pain kept me from sleeping much last night. Today I had lots of shooting pain in the opposite temple to go with my black eyes.

I thought I was going to have a stress free easy day today, bake a few cookies, prepare for the family shin dig by doing a little picking up and vacumning. Not so, this morning was an insane goat rodeo and I was thrown into  by getting up this morning to a huge, rolling, conniption fit various people I know are throwing on Facebook over something NLQ-related that I had nothing to do with. This was topped with a misunderstanding about something said during work with a higher up. I am itching to say something even worse back, but I'm not.

The trouble is now that I'm super triggered, my PTSD is in full high setting. I am shaking this afternoon and want nothing more than to go hide in my bedroom. Instead I'm having a rum and coke and about to watch a "Game of Thrones" marathon and try not to laugh at the Imp's sex scenes, which will remind me too much of yesterday's boozy smoky afternoon discussion.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why Does He Do That?

Jim's bell ringing again this year for the Salvation Army. I don't approve, he knows this, but he's not exactly jumping for the joy to be ringing their bell either but I think he feels an obligation to do it because he used to be the coordinator for the bell ringers from our church. The guy that took his position of the president of mens ministry at our church has apparently dropped the ball on doing some of the community wide things, like scheduling bell rings. Hence Jim does it.

This is so much the good-guy nature of Jim that I admire and just don't always get. We've had many conversations in this house about the things that are abhorrent about the Salvation Army, from the money and support they give to organizations that oppose civil rights for gay people to the fact that the exploit their work force and pay the workers very little. There's more wrong with them than their involvement in active homophobia, that's the issue that gets publicity.

While Jim agrees with me about stopping supporting them he also seems to be unable to say 'no' when his successor dropped the ball. Jim steps up and does those things when others bail. Was today a day of bailing, oh boy!

We got a progression of phone calls of those scheduled to ring the bell in front of our Wal Mart today, most of them bailing on the flimsiest of excuses. didn't complain, he either covered or found someone to cover, pulling two of the six shifts the church was responsible for in the freezing assed cold. He's nicer than I by far.

It made the day fractured and frantic. I admit, I don't like surprises, but I wasn't totally surprised that Jim got stuck doing the work and schedules. This has happened in the past.

When his phone was obviously malfunctioning I had to drive out to that most hated of places Wal Mart, on a day when you would not catch me dead ever shopping, the Saturday before Christmas. Wal Mart's parking lot was a sea of every kind of vehicle, from rolling scrap iron to fancy Hummers and Mercedes with the wilder than our usual pageant of the transmundane people coming in and out.

While my heart was shrinking three sizes and I could feel the rest of me seizing up into Mr. Grinch proportions  Jim was cheerfully working that bell and approaching folks for cash in his kettle.

I'm starting to think this cheerful helping and acceptance that Jim always models as the real picture of a good Christian man, not any of that hideous leader of the family bullshit tin-plated dictator pushed by most.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Shouting and Pointing and Coughing

This morning was taken up with getting rescue kitty Dora her booster shots after last months main vaccinations. That and going to the bank to sign more papers in my recent disagreement with McDonalds.

I got to the bank and had the head teller tell me I looked like death warmed over. Just what you want to hear when you're sick. Ugh.

A couple of weeks ago I was running too late to make breakfast on my way out the door to class. I drove through the McDonalds drive thru. There was no one in line. It was actually deserted for once. I pulled up to the first speaker box at our two speaker box McDonalds.. and waited... and waited.. and waited.. until someone pulled up behind me to the second speaker box, which came on and they took the second car's order then mine. Okay, fine, this only seems to happen when I'm already in a time crunch.

Pulling up to the payment window with my debit card in my hand the older lady working there opened the window and plucked the card out of my hand without a word before handed me the card back and a receipt. I looked at the receipt and realized that she'd charged me for the lady behind me instead of my order. I pointed it out. She shut the window and went to consult a manager, came back and told me that they were just going to give me my order for the amount they charged me for her order. I had underpaid by like twenty cents.

This isn't the first time this has happened at this drive thru, but it hasn't happened in a couple of years, so I told her no, reverse the charge on my card and charge me the correct amount. I've worked retail a few times, I know on most systems you just have to hit 'refund' on the card machine, and rerun the card. She refused, got a manager, who told me she didn't know how to reverse it. So they gave me the cash they'd charged me for the other ladies order and reran my card for the correct amount.

By the time this snafu was over I was 15 minutes late for class and people behind me were honking and shouting.

Got home and guess what! I have many multiple charges on my bank around for the same amount! Not just the initial charge they gave me cash for or the correct total. They charged my card eight more times in total for the same amount. Small amounts, but really, it's the principle of the thing. Eight times four bucks twenty cents is not going to overdraw my bank account, but I know for some of their customers it would. They should be charging the correct amount only.

I call up McDonalds, try to speak to the manager and get told yet again that I should have just shut up and taken my meal at the discounted price, manager says my card was not repeatedly charged.

I go down to McDonalds, speak to a different manager, who is not sympathetic, tells me to take it up with my bank, because these aren't charges, but 'holds'. They don't appear as holds or pending on my checking account. I email McDonalds corporate to complain a few days later and still no response at all. So I am disputing the charges now. Pain. In. My Ass... but I will never use my debit card at McDonalds again without asking what the total is. Multiple, multiple charges just because I wanted a large coffee and egg white McMuffin. Ugh.

So when I called to order Christmas flowers for my mother as my last official purchase of the Christmas season I was anticipating some aggravation. My mother told me when I was visiting her in her small south Louisiana town that the florist I always use there and know well from my years working Big National Florist had been bought out by the biggest florist group in the area, who I also knew well and hated. Why? Because I had many conversations with them like the one below.

Me: Greetings, it's Suzanne calling from Big National Floral Service and I need to know if you can take an order out for us tomorrow to EZ Killem Off Funeral Home. $100 total, mixed arrangement or appropriate sympathy plant.
Asshole Floral Group: *dead silence for 5 seconds, crickets chirping before snotty voice answers* We DO NOT take your company's order. STOP calling us!

They were listed in our network yet they always acted like inconvenienced assholes whenever I called to get an order delivered, even if I offered a big delivery premium to get the order delivered. They were the only ones in a large area that acted like that.

Plus when my father died the funeral home director advised me not to order the casket spray from this company because they over charged and had 'bad attitude'. I believe it now.

I got the owner when I called, and it was a name I'd dealt with. I kind of let him have it, told him I was unsure about using him since everyone else in his asshole floral group behaved badly towards me when I was working at the national floral service. We had a long conversation, he and I. Once I finally established his bonafides, who all we knew in common and that he hadn't worked at the offices I had the troubles with I relaxed. Had a, 'say how's your cousin Joe in Hammond doing?' sort of a conversation.

Ordered the flowers and candy I always get Mom, she loves flowers. I'm waiting to see what they send. That will be where the rubber meets the road and I'll know just how good this guy really is.

One of the things I've started really being strict on is doing business with others. I don't mind paying for services done right the first time and for consistent performance, be it florist or plumber.

Speaking of flowers, Jim brought home a beautiful bouquet for me, roses, carnations, calla lilies and spray roses, some greenery and baby's breath. He must have been reading my mind because I'd just been thinking how much I needed some fresh flowers this week.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Cult Within A Cult

I was going to talk about my scintillating and thrilling day yesterday gravitating between lying on the sofa, the kitchen to shove batches of Christmas cookies in and out of the oven for Jim's office party, loading unloading folding ironing laundry between more bouts laying down on the sofa because of the flu but then I ran into a posting on Facebook that make me take a look at something I'd been heavily involved with over at the Creek Church - Gwen Shamblin and her Weigh Down Workshop.

It must have been around 1997 or so when one of the older ladies at Creek Church started a Weigh Down Workshop class and I was exposed to the grating hog-calling voice of one Mrs. Gwen Shamblin and her ideas that all fat is sin.

Since I'd been fully immersed in a church that saw sin in every breath and the devil under every bush I wasn't scornful of this idea, like I should have been. I joined the group, watched the cheesetastic videos of Gwen saying you could eat whatever you wanted as long as you were spending scads of time with God every single day, were actually hungry when you sat down to eat and you ate only until you felt the beginnings of fullness.

This dietitian with a degree from a legitimate university, not some Bible college without accreditation, claimed that your body could make whatever nutrient you needed from whatever you ate. Carbs, proteins, fibers, vitamins, whatever, God had designed your body so magnificently and perfectly that He could turn that baked potato from a starch to a protein if your body really needed protein.

Did she have scientific analysis or tests or anything to back up her claim? Nope, just the Bible, like others in a shilling for that fat stack of sweet Jesus cash from Christians ministry (business). Even at my most indoctrinated True Believer (tm) swilling the koolaid mode I had doubts about that claim. But I found out that a combination of eating only when I was hungry, only what I was hungry for and only to fullness combined with her Bible study worked for me. I lost fifty pounds pretty easily.

The whole simple idea of eating when you are hungry and only to full is so so so simple and basic that I don't know why any of us took this as a novel new idea! But all the Bible study was just some Evangelical mental masturbatory material to make us feel so special and holy.

Eventually I took over as the WDW coordinator for our church. I held the meetings, I led the study, I pushed 'play' on the VCR. We went through many cycles of the WDW, and I lost about twenty more pounds. But... as time went by I saw the same faces repeating the WDW every three months and they
weren't losing weight, most playing mind games with the material and claiming they were following Gwen's instructions. This went on nearly three years.

Then my father had a stroke. Jim and I had to drive through the night as I'd missed the last evening flight from DC to South Louisiana and by driving straight through we figured out we'd arrive about an hour sooner than if I caught the first flight with an open seat the next day. What followed was a horrible couple of weeks where I arrived only to be told my father was brain dead, had to make the decision with my step mother to turn off life support and watch him die. Lots of family dysfunction from my aunts and others, one funeral where I was the only one not too emotionally wiped out so all the arrangements and planning fell to me. Drama.

When I came back I was still so wiped out, just then starting to deal with the emotional fallout of my beloved father's death, that I never restarted the WDW meetings. I told the members that between work and working through my grief I had to take a sabbatical from the meetings. Before many months had passed I was called into our pastor's office where he told me that we could no longer do WDW as an officially sanctioned church activity because there was some question about the faith of the founder Gwen Shamblin.

I didn't investigate it, taking our pastor's word that Gwen had denied the Trinity and told the rest in the group that we would no longer be meeting. Handed all the materials back to the pastor where they were promptly thrown out with the trash. I thought no more about it and shortly after got pretty heavily involved with conference hopping, going to Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, Brownsville Revival (which I'd started attending every time I went down to Louisiana a few years before my dad's death) and up to Global Awakenings in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I've always said that the moment I started doing the conference hopping thing was the moment where my faith went from staid black and white to techicolor wide screen rainbow. I'm still glad I had that experience even if I no longer believe everything that was taught at those places. One thing that was pretty short supply at any of those places was legalism. Had I left the Creek without the teachings on love and the exposure to different types of theology I received I don't doubt I would be dead now, a suicide in the aftermath of our painful leaving from the Creek. The things I learned at other places sustained me during that time.

Years later I heard that Gwen had said most Christians weren't very Christian or serious about their faith. At the time I was shocked by her statement but after eight years out I have to say I agree with her. Where I disagree is in the fact that she started her own church, The Remnant, which has more in common with Michael Pearl and other dangerous theology than any movement to free Christianity from legalism.

After seeing someone mention Gwen and the Remnant church on Facebook this afternoon I did a great deal of Googling and reading, finding one of the best written pieces on the whole mess at describes her new teachings and church as this:
Each course, which is essentially a rehashing of her WDW philosophy and spirituality, is written with emphases that are rife with this unhealthy dimension of indoctrinating pressure. The targeted audiences for Shamblin's product line are all people already troubled by carnal perfectionism and pious obsession with one's "temple" - namely overweight people and her WDW/RF flocks. And Gwen expects her followers to not only agree with her fear-ridden view of God's severity but to adopt it into their own mindset with all of the spiritual, emotional and philosophical implications such fearful assumptions will personally bring to them.
Yep, like so many different hateful legalistic groups the Remnant church appears to be all about fear, fear, fear, getting others to join in the fearing and being exclusive.

Obsessed as she is with a desire to lead people in a church she would head and control, Shamblin has been repainting her entire WDW superstructure with all the bright colors her marketing successes could display. Gaining exposure on national and local TV markets provides for her new opportunities for market share. Such publicity is color coordinated seamlessly with the  promotional scheme of her Remnant programming, down to the "Before/After" photos, the teary testimonies by glowing, well dressed members, and the supremely self-assured visage of a beaming Gwen "loving on" her followers. But beneath it all to this day are the beautifully concealed snares of fear and dread Gwen had set for her audience to walk into.  
Shamblin has long known what she is doing. By continually making these fear-invoking moral and social codes binding upon all who join her Remnant movement, beginning with a rebaptism, she has established in essence a new body of pseudochristian religious law. Drawing from her obsession with Old Testament Judaism's perspective on Yahweh, and by adapting Jewish festivals and holy days out of her fertile religious imagination, Gwen Shamblin has - as she likes to point out through what others say about her - become a Lawgiver of a Remnant "Law" that her flock is to enthusiastically keep.  
In effect, she has become a modern day Ebionite, having created her own diet-oriented religion and culture, complete with its' own unique customs, rules and language using reinterpreted Christian and Jewish terminology. 
Many WDW and RF members and their families, tragically, never knew what hit them when they were seduced out of their Christian churches into this new cultic one. They smile and reckon themselves to be a "pure" and "free" people, but bear within themselves hidden wells of apprehension, terror and anxiety all the while hiding it so well from their fellow members of Zion. They are people of scarred and burnt out conscience in Remnant who will stand by it no matter what outrage of principle and practice evolves there, primarily because they are too petrified or fearful to come to grips with the consequences of freedom from it - namely the loss of their Remnant spouses, friends, even job connections and family circles. 
Any time anyone tries to tell you that only their group is 'pure', 'righteous', or 'free' run! People that want you to divorce your spouse because they don't believe the same way as you - quote Mr. Hoggwallop of  the movie 'Oh Brother Where Art Thou" you better R.U.N N. O.F.T! As fast as you can!

For all the faults and foilables of my old church and i's cult-like behaviors at they were able to recognize the cult in all of this and shut it down. Being drawn into Shamblin's Remnant would have made everything I went through leaving the Creek all that much worse, even if I'd been pressured by those at my old church to stay and divorce my husband because he wanted to go to a mainstream denomination church.

People that wander off into their own weird ponderings on the Old Testament sure do end up in some odd places.

One of the big scandals of the Remnant church is the death of an eight year old boy disciplined to death in the same way that children who's parents use Michael Pearl's 'To Train Up A Child' book killed them. More from Religion News Blog, who reported on this along with many other media outlets:

But the new charges filed against two Remnant Fellowship members, Joseph and Sonya Smith from Atlanta, may raise even more questions.
The Smiths are accused of killing their 8-year-old son Josef.
The new indictment claims that not only did the Smiths beat Josef, they also had locked him up in some sort of a wooden box.
And, in charges that could reflect back on their church’s teachings, they’re also accused of cruelty to children and false imprisonment — specifically for confining him in a small room.
It’s an idea that, in a church tape obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, Sonya Smith told Shamblin that she’d learned from another Remnant leader.
“We got everything out of there and locked him in there from that Friday until Monday and only left him in his room with his Bible,” Sonya Smith boasted.
Shamblin told us, “Remnant does not advocate any of that.”
But here’s what she told Sonya Smith:
“That’s a miracle. You’ve got a child that’s going from bizarre down to in-control. So praise God.”
In addition, Joseph Smith, who is shown in one of Shamblin’s videos with an older son, is still charged along with his wife with child cruelty for allegedly beating young Josef with rod-like glue sticks.
“Glue sticks are actually sort of common within the Remnant Fellowship culture to be used to physically discipline children,” said former Remnant recruit Adam Brooks.
“Because they hurt like switches, that it really hurts, but it doesn’t make marks on your children,” former member Teri Phillips recalled.Former members say it’s an idea they heard at church.
Shamblin insisted it didn’t come from her.
“It came from a member somewhere, someplace else and then it went around.”
Sounds suspiciously like "To Train Up A Child" and Michael Pearl.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sexual Predators of All Stripes

I've been watching the news about Bill Cosby and his apparent habit of forcing beautiful women in his entertainment circles to have sex with him. I'm not surprised, it's been whispered about for years that he hasn't been faithful to his wife Camille. I am not even shocked at his rapist tendencies combined with his obvious disdain for sexual consent. Camille's statement denying what he's likely done is was particularly disgusting, but I get it, she has turned a blind eye to reality for all these years to keep her husband at her side.

What does puzzle me is her insistence in linking her husband's troubles with the ongoing Rolling Stone magazine confloption over a possible rape situation at the nearby University of Virginia. They aren't much related, no more than brussel sprouts and corn are related. They're both vegetables but aren't even prepared the same way most of the time, taste very different and have different growing seasons. Both scandals involve forced sex, rape, but in very different ways.

The local papers here in the Virginia Piedmont are minimizing the possible rape at UVA, but I'd expect that. UVA is practically a religion here. All Hail The Cavaliers!!

Last night one of my friends on social media, one of my church going friends, shared a link to a supposedly very Christian low-level entertainer/celebrity. He urged everyone to support this guy's projects because the celeb was SUCH a good Christian. Unfortunately I know otherwise. He's not quite as bad as Bill Cosby, but if he had been more famous I don't doubt at all he would have gone where Cosby went.

I'm not posting this guy's name here because the last thing I want is his ass here.

So how do I know this guy is a predator? Easy. Back in the late 1990s I first started doing online work after taking a number of classes on coding and web design. I was so busy with church websites and other websites that I quit working for the national social workers licensing agency I'd been employed by for years. I quit to do websites full time.

Through a friend of a friend of a friend I ended up doing a series of websites for some of the smaller indie film companies. I really enjoyed the creative aspects of this work and the perk of occasionally going to film festivals like Toronto and some of the other East Coast ones made it all the more enjoyable. Sometimes I took one or more of my kids with me, which is where my son Andy's desire to make indie films was born. Even if he's now working in the computer industry, film is his first love and he does his own films and some freelance work. I like to think I planted that seed by exposing him to the art house film community all those years ago.

One of the guys running a production company I'd done some work for asked me to do him a favor, help the unknown actor lead of his film by doing some web work for the actor at rock bottom prices. I agreed. I'd seen the film at one of the festivals and thought the guy was talented. Was contacted by the actor shortly there after and we agreed that I'd start a Yahoo Clubs site for him, do a pile of screen caps of his various commercials and projects with an eye towards doing a possible website.

I'm going to call his man King Creep. At that time he was being pitched also as the clean decent Christian entertainer and the person that asked me to help King Creep knew I was pretty far into the whole koolaid drinking Evangelical Christian community and lifestyle, figuring I'd likely do KC more good than someone that wasn't a Christian.

This was in the ancient days before social media, in fact Yahoo Clubs was about the closest thing to social media at the time. How ancient? So ancient that all those screen caps I did were from a VHS highlights reel.

Everything was set up and I rarely had much of anything to do with the Yahoo Club besides monitor it every few weeks. KC got a pilot followed by a 13 episode order for a sitcom. And gained a huge bump of new fans. Then the emails started.

The first one I blew off as a crackpot. It was from a father who was claiming that his 16 year old daughter had joined the Yahoo Club and had King Creep start private messaging her, highly inappropriate messages begging for sexual favors. King Creep also included some rude nude photographs. The problem was that no one could conclusively prove it was KC because his face was in none of the photographs. I decided this was some troublemaker and there was no real proof it was KC behind the photos and solicitations for cyber sex. Besides, he was a good Christian entertainer and engaged to be married! He would never do that.

But by the time I'd been contacted by something like 15 different people all claiming that King Creep had hit on them through private message and sent nude photos and sexual come ons I realized something was going on. Where there's enough smoke something is ablaze. I immediately made up a fake Yahoo profile using a photo of myself at the beach, cropped so that it only showed me from waist to shoulders with my long black hair and swimsuited breasts showing. A very modest suit that only hinted at cleavage. My daughter Margaret did something similar and we both joined the KC Yahoo club.

It didn't take long, KC showed up and private messaged both of us begging for cyber sex or phone sex and sending out nude photos that I was able to finally match to him, to a birth mark on the back of his elbow. King Creep was using the Yahoo Club for trolling for women to cyber sex with. We gave him Margaret's work number one afternoon and she told him she would have cyber sex with him. We both sat there, watching the caller id unit light up with the id of "Paramount Studios" and a Los Angeles area phone number before the call went to voice mail and we hear King Creep talk about wanting to get together for sex.

Shortly after I confronted him about all of this, asking how he could possibly market himself as a good guy and act like that with his female fans. He denied everything even as I had the nude photos, chat logs from many of the girls he approached, the voice mail and other things. He kept denying it, saying someone was setting him up. I had to tell him that day that I could no longer help him in any way. I took down the Yahoo Club and walked away.

Shortly after his sitcom was cancelled and he'd pop up on shows like "Law and Order" or the rare Comedy Central show. I wrote about what happened in great detail, much more detail that this, in my old Diaryland blog, even posting censured versions of the nudes. Over the course of a few months I started getting emails and blog comments from women who'd worked with King Creep, all with tales of being sexually harassed by him. One of the ladies had been a production assistant on Comedy Central's "The Man Show" and been treated with way more respect and no sexual harassment on that show compared to her days on King Creep's sitcom.

The bottom line. He was a sexual predator sixteen years ago and he's likely still preying on women in his path. He's still using the Good Christian Man mask too. A lesser version of Bill Cosby, but I think that has more to do with his smaller measure of fame than anything else.

My point? Don't be taken in by smiling masks and good Godly labels. You never know what is actually lurking behind that mask.

I still keep an eye on King Creep and yes, I still have all those chat logs, photos and other evidence on a flash drive. You never know when you might need it.

I hope that Bill Cosby is sued by all those women. I hope they win and I hope it sends a message to the King Creeps in the industry that preying on the women you work with will cost you more than it's worth.

And Good Christians (tm) wonder why I'm having such a hard time believing in the goodness of religion or even God. Sometimes I look at the cross and all I see is a man suffering horribly at the hands of an abusive father.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Flu Round 2

This has not been a great year for me in regards to the flu. First, my last pulmonologist talked me into waiting until mid-October to get my flu shot, meaning I picked up the flu strain that hit our town in early September, right after I usually get my flu shot. Not that the shot prevents every strain.

Yes, the flu shot makers have to guess something like more than a year in advance as to what strains are likely any given year and sometimes they guess wrong. This year it looks like they may have really dropped the ball.

On Saturday afternoon I could not get warm, even wearing wool socks with my furry leather slippers with the wood stove in the bedroom running full out crazy high while I shivered beneath a pile of quilts so high it looked like I was hiding under a huge fabric crazy meringue. Told Jim that this wasn't a good sign, usually when I start having trouble controlling the hot/cold signals in my body I'm coming down with something. And come down I did. This morning.

Sitting in class trying desperately to focus on the lesson at hand while feeling my head pounding with the thumping bass line coming through the walls from the Korean nail salon next door. Yep, me and my sensory overload getting kicked into gear by noise and flu. After about ninety minutes I started to feel faint and like I might just hurl that delicious spinach feta wrap and latte from Starbucks I'd inhaled earlier. The fact that I followed Starbucks coffee with 7-11 java didn't help any. I left as soon as I realized it was a useless task for me to try and follow anything being said.

Got home and took my temp only to find it was over a hundred. I cannot focus, barely got NLQ updated before having to lay down. Wrote a piece for NLQ but I'm sure it makes no sense at all.

Most of today was spent laying on the sofa watching "Veronica Mars" reruns on Pivot channel while drinking ginger ale and pausing for the occasional Oscillococcium. This time it's not helping. I cannot even read for more than a few minutes without making my headache worse. Better help by tomorrow as I still have way too much to do.

Sort of reminds me of the year when I was 12. Both of my parents and myself came down with the flu a day or so before Christmas. This was the year that my father bought my mother and I each a big five pound box of Elmer's Mastercraft chocolates, the good stuff. Chocoholic me couldn't even look at the box because it turned my stomach and it made me so dizzy to think about eating chocolates. We unwrapped presents that holiday and then all went back to bed for the day.

Talked to Laura early and while she doesn't have the flu she's been fighting some sort of nasty upper respiratory crud, even had to leave work early today. Different times of crud going around right now. Flu epidemic here in my town that is another one not vaccinated for in this year's shot, so bad that the schools have about half the kids out sick. In Laura's town/university it's not the flu, but this lung/head cold. We need a good deep snow to kill off the viruses.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fit Bits, Submission and Gender Roles

When I was down visiting my mother in Louisiana I had lunch with my friend Kay. She and I worked together for some years before I got married and moved to Europe. She was my maid of honor at my wedding.

We were giggling over crawfish etouffee about how strange life has turned out. We're both traditional wives, traditional in the sense that we do all the cleaning, cooking, domestic things and fulfill the 'female' roles in our marriages.

I don't know how it happened, but it did. She seemed to think it was more unusual for me be a traditional 'wife' because of the fact that I had been something of a free spirit in my unmarried days, someone that was open to many things, experimented and didn't have many boundaries. Sometimes when I am down home people that knew me from all those years ago refer to me as 'The Wild Girl', now I'm more 'The Mild Girl (Woman)'

One of the most touching parts of that lunch was revisiting where we both used to work and discovered there were still a handful of people working there we both knew from our time there. A guy named Joe we knew gave us both the sweetest of welcomes and so many hugs, as we reminisced about those days nearly thirty years ago.

Many of my old friends down home are surprised that I'm still married to Jim, saying he was always sort of 'old man-ish', to my wild child. Guess none of them picked up on the fact that his old man side had a craving for wild girl while my wild side wanted security and stability, unconditional love Whatever it is, it still works and works well.

Our various traditional roles we've sort of fallen into have led to some interesting wrinkles. Laura knows I pick out and buy all Christmas presents. I put the tree, decorate the house, cook the food, bake the cookies and hang the outside lights. Jim doesn't help. It's just not his thing and I have never minded. I would rather have things done my way the first time than trying to shepherd or guide someone else into meeting my own creative ideas or standards.

This year Laura is insisting that Jim pick out and purchase one of her Christmas gifts. She sent her dad a link to it on Amazon and told him which stores in our area sell this item, bands for her Fit Bit, but it's done no good. Jim is still confused about it, not sure what it is he's supposed to get.

He's the guy slaying the mastodon and I'm the one out there gathering the herbs and wild onions to cook it with.

I took pity on him and violated Laura's request. Was out shopping at one of the few places in this tiny town that sells Fit Bit bands and bought the last set. I know Laura is feeling like her dad doesn't put any thought or care into her presents, but she doesn't get it that it's something that has always made him feel overwhelmed, it has nothing to do with any lack of love, or not knowing her likes and dislikes. Plus, he's a guy. If she had requested floor mats for her car, or a special NFL jersey he would have been the go-to guy. But, Fit Bits? Not so much.

Neither of us are going to tell her that I am the one that picked up the item. He's going to wrap and present it to her. If this is what she needs to think to feel extra loved so be it. We're not going to bust that bubble. But at the same time I know it's better to step in and do those things for Jim that stress him out. It's a two hour commute one way into Washington DC and his office Monday thru Friday, and many nights he comes home, has dinner and quickly falls asleep. I do what I can to make his life as stress free as possible, I always have. I love him deeply.

But, Suzanne, I hear some of my detractors say, I thought you were against traditional gender roles and the submission of women? There's a big difference between mutually doing what each person can where their talents lie as a couple to make a home and life run smoothly. I hire the plumber, decide when things need to happen like having the roof replaced, which is my next big project. Jim doesn't expect me to consult him on those things, he just expects it to happen.

In a home where Christian submission of women happens no women would dare to plan vacations, buy airline tickets/hotel rooms, pick out a tradesman to do the work around the house, budget for it, write the check, deal with the accountant or the IRS or make big investment decisions. I do all of those things without a second thought because I'm good at them and it takes some of the load off Jim. He knows that these things are things I do well he doesn't do as well.

He does do a great many things well. Just a few: Jim washes the dishes. I hate doing that and he's good at it. He also does the vacuuming due to my asthma. None of that makes him any less masculine or has a damn thing to do with submission.

In my eyes it is way more 'Christian' to do things out of love for the other partner that you can spare them without stupid things like submission or gender roles.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The First Yule of Fight Club

So it seems I have a real life person from class/work who's been possibly Googling me and found his/her way here, all over my Facebook page and various places I post online.


Greetings to the person that sits at one of the other desks. Couple of things you need to know.

First. When I speak of someone who is right in my circle of beings in my town - details, happenings and names are tweaked to protect the guilty, innocent and annoying. I've never used a real name except for the name of the lady I knew that was shot by the rogue cop.

Second. When I've spoken of different things happening at various employments it's also the same way, details and names obfuscated and fudged to keep people from jobs discovering that I'm sometimes going to mention something about our mutual work.

Unless it runs to the really bizarre: such as the time Bitchy Galore, lady I worked for in the next town over nearly ten years ago, decided after a martini-fueled DVD watching binge of "Calender Girls" in her office on one rainy afternoon that the way to fund raise was to get all her pals to post nude for a calender. She wanted to raise funds to build a bigger, better, fancier ladies locker room at her local country club (where she spent many boozy lunches and afternoons) and thought getting all the ladies of the country club to pose for that nude calender just like in 'Calender Girls' was exactly what needed to happen.

I spent one frantic week trying to do everything in my power to talk her out of it, pointing out that the sniggering woodchucks in that county would have a copy of the calender an hour after it was released and would be photocopying up that thing out the wazoo and distributing her nekkid photos to just everyone.

She didn't listen to me, paid me zero heed at all and did like she always did with her stupider ideas, bulldozed on ahead right over any opposition. She was unsuccessful in getting more than one or two of her pals to pose in the altogether on the golf course and sure enough, when the calenders came out, mostly of her rump and fun bags, it went down just as I predicted. Photo copies made and distributed and she sort of turned into the county laughing stock for a few months. Such goes life in a small backwater Southern town. You just do not do such things.

Even the years I worked at the medical clinic were with their moments that were too odd to pass unremarked, privacy laws or not. I have told the disguised tale of the man that showed up with the can of hairspray up his ass, claiming he slipped and fell upon it in the shower. Then there was the time a patient's wife drug him in and it turned out all the symptoms he was having that pointed to a stroke were mere side effects of the shit ton of meth he'd recently smoked. Add in feuding senior citizens, good church going couples fighting in the waiting room over who gave who an STD and it has emerged somewhere in my writings, either my novels or here or one of the message boards I've been a member of for years.

There's not much that's hidden or secret in small southern towns where listening to the police scanner and talking about your neighbors are what much of the local populace does for fun. So that lecture about not being allowed to name who works where or what happens is pretty unrealistic. I'm not talking big details, just the bizarre little tales that happen around and about.


Now that I've gotten that out of the way I have to say it's been a crazy week. After the plumbers left on Friday afternoon I discovered they'd somehow managed to crack the plastic cat box, lose my dust pan and do a few things that leave me scratching my head in confusion. Example: master bath. Now the waste basket is wedged in between the toilet and vanity. I cannot get it out! It's not coming out till the toilet is replaced again. I eventually just broke the damn thing to remove it. Not sure why the plumber moved it to that location considering I keep it across the room behind the door.

They put nothing back where they moved it from, my place was a mess after they left.

Had to buy a new cat litter box, waste basket and dust pan Friday night. On my way across the parking lot I came very close to being hit by a car that sped through the lot between the cars, I managed to jump back out of its path, falling on the pavement, bruising my knees, skinning my hands and jolting the thin discs in my back. Missed being hit by mere inches and to add insult to injury the driver rolled down her window to yell at me! She was the one cutting around through the cars and somehow this is my fault?

One of my cats has taken an extreme dislike to the new cat litter box and has expressed it by pooping on the floor next to the box and peeing on the bathmat before folding the bathmat up.

And on Sunday I took the bold step of not going to church. I've decided I'm on a Sabbatical from church, not just because of the sensory overload issues I'm having, but for a host of other things that are triggering my emotions wildly. I made the right call as I felt much calmer the rest of Sunday.

The only sensory overload problems I'm still having involve class. Will have to consider my options.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Sensory Overload

I am currently hiding in my office, lurking out of the way of the gang of plumbers that currently have the master bath and laundry room in a state of destruction. Getting a hot water heater replaced, a toilet and tub replacement and a leaking pipe fixed.

It's not that I don't like the guys, I do, I know them socially. But one of those crazy side effects I get from drug withdrawal is sensory overload. They have been banging and clanking up a storm and it's making me jumpy and tense. I cannot wait for them to finish and leave! Plus they've turned off all the water and there's not a lot of my Friday house cleaning that can be done without water, everything is picked up and swept. I just need them to go so I can mop and scrub toilets/sinks.

One thing life has taught me is that I just don't cope well with sensory overload for more than a few minutes.

Which is another reason why I think I need to take a long church sabbatical. I had sensory overload last night in worship team rehearsal. It doesn't help that for the last three weeks I've been tasked with playing the bass.

I play the bass. I play guitar. I play keyboards. I sing. But I haven't play much in the way of instrumentation up on the platform in more than a few years, so three weeks ago when a bass was slapped into my hand at the last second I was scrambling. Luckily for me muscle memory took over and started playing the bass more than my mind did.

But my hands hurt like fuck right now. My blisters have blisters now before the overwhelming flood of sound came through the PA system and amps to fry the brain. I quit the band, yet again, last night. I'm too old, too sick and too amped up on withdrawal symptoms.

But on an amusing note NLQ was contacted with a copyright claim over a widely circulated and used photo of several Duggar family members. The Duggar family attorney is demanding we not use any photograph with images of the Duggars on them. That's okay, I have my photos I took of the Duggars with my own camera from this spring's Duggar book signing and I'm contemplating some caricatures of the whole Duggar family for use on NLQ. Badly drawn over the top caricatures. Let someone else have some crazy sensory overload. Fuck the Duggars, NLQ must be starting to on their radar.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Pre Christmas With This Crank

Finally dawned on me after all the anti-Christmas ranting I did and the fact that I kept snapping at Jim all weekend followed by purging my Facebook list of people making very conservative borderline fundy comments or psychoanalyzing people they don't know, I'm having another bout of withdrawal symptoms. According to my doctor at Johns Hopkins some folks who have been on certain SSRI drugs for long stretches of time, or are sensitive to different drugs can take a year, a FREAKING YEAR!?!?!? to stop experiencing all the withdrawal symptoms.

Started withdrawal in March and here we are in December. I hope this means I'm close to the end. It happens in waves, I can go a month and de nada and then suddenly I'm freaking annoyed with everyone and everything on the planet! It's like life is too much of a sensory overload for me.

After I ranted here about the early arrival of the full on Christmas season I went outside and hung up the Christmas lights. Go figure. One of my friends laughed at that and told me I was the funniest bunch of contradiction he'd seen in a while. Heh.

Sunday night Jim was so over the top about his fantasy football team that he could not sleep, he kept tossing and turning, waking me up with the bed motion and to ask me to do various errands this week. He didn't sleep, which meant I didn't sleep. Which meant Monday morning I was dragging with raw nerves.

How raw, I hear you ask? So raw that stuff snipped out

When I left I went to the gym and worked out hard on the very newest just out of the box reclining elliptical. It was the best thing I've used at the gym in eons. With my bad back and knees I use what I have always called 'The Old Lady Machine', an old reclining elliptical that it was impossible for me to ever break a sweat on. This new machine allowed me to run so hard and fast that I got in one intense workout including sweating like a lumberjack. It felt so gooooooooooood to be able to push myself that intensely and not reinjure my back and knees! So good I'm going back tomorrow.

And a little bit of watching "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and my 'Bah Humbug' was broken. I have finished up the few little things I needed to complete my holiday shopping and dressed the cats in elf costumes so I could take a few happy happy snaps.

**snipped** Let's just say if you're going to shit at the office around your fellow coworkers you should at least try to use something like Glade or Poo Pouri (which does work well!). Color me officially grossed out.

Going at the office. Always a problem.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bah Effing Humbug!

Trigger Warning: If you are bothered by tales of sex toys, cattle prods, provoked emotions then you better just get the hell out of here. I'm ranting.

Today I find myself just irked and grumpy in church. Why? Because everything about it is starting to trigger me, from the hypocrites in the pews that I know all too well, to what I sense is fake game playing. The rancid cherry on the over-sweet sundae of guilt, goody-goody fakery and holier than thou attitudes is the too early for me Christmas over the top-top-top rah-rah-rah.

Once upon a time way before I joined my old cult church I used to love Christmas. When I was drinking the Koolaid my enthusiasm for the holiday was rote and forced than the genuine joy I felt for the season as a agnostic. I think it had to do more with the lots of extra things, extra work and extra making sure you were joyous over the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus and the pressure to conform, be the Bestest Best Good Christian You Could Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

After I left I had no more enthusiasm for the holiday, sort of like when you gorge on some food you love to the point where now you cannot even look at it. I feel that way about many things to do with my old religious life now. I gag over them. I have a hard time sitting still and listening to a sermon, I can 'do' ladies groups or retreats any longer. I don't join prayer circles, home groups, Bible studies, you name its.

It's not exactly triggering, it's more like a reaction to be force-fed something till you want to throw up the second you see it again.

Dawned on me the other day that part of this is a reaction like the one I had to a certain fun bedroom toy called The Rabbit.

More on 'The Rabbit'

Jim and I bought one to add to our fun box of sex toys that help keep 28 years of marital sex varied and fun instead of the same old 'in and out'. Unlike "Sex and the City" character Charlotte Yorke I did not become addicted to it. It was fun the first time but the second time I decided I didn't like it much even if it creates instant orgasm in like under a minute. Why? Because it was sort of like being sexually mugged, no different than when the big thoroughbred horse farms provoke orgasms in their stud horses by sticking an electric cattle prod up their asses to force ejaculation.

I don't like being manipulated into feeling a certain way without my permission. Recently I've started to realize that many of the Christian conferences, women's retreats and yes, even church sometimes, is the spiritual equivalent of being sexually mugged into an orgasm by a piece of merciless plastic. The whole thing is geared towards controlling you into a certain set of emotions or feelings and you're manipulated into an odd sort of group dynamic that creates feelings almost like you'd get from a drug.

I really do not want that. I want the freedom to feel and experience for myself, never mind what everyone else is doing. I feel this so strongly that I fired my pulmonologist of the last year for her insistence that I shouldn't feel frustrated or angry over my ongoing health struggles with my asthma. No one, let me repeat, NO ONE, determines what is the 'right emotion' or 'right thoughts' about any subject. That has stopped since leaving the old church. I own my emotions and thoughts and the quickest way to alienate me from you is to insist I have wrong emotions or thoughts. I am what I am. Love it or leave it, baby.

So now society has built Christmas into this hap-hap-happy time that starts before Thanksgiving and it's making me feel like Grumpy Cat. It's too much, it's too much hurry-hurry sensory overload. Whatever happened to having a few days, a week even, between the end of Thanksgiving and the starting up of the insanity that is American Consumerism Christmas. Not even December yet and church today was filled with Christmas sermons and Christmas carols.

When I was a child I used to get so mad at my mother because she would not allow my father to put up the family Christmas tree any sooner than two weeks before Christmas. Now I completely understand how she might feel that way. For me, the years or forced cheerful servitude in the old church during the Christmas season, combined with what Christmas has become in our society renders it as being 'unspecial', something we're all being provoked to do and show evidence of emotions we may not even feel. It's become ordinary instead of something special.

But perhaps I'm just feeling emotional exhaustion for everything I've been through since leaving the church in the fall of 2006. Spiritual emotional fatigue. I think I'm almost 'done' with church and holidays.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I've been a bit remiss the last few years because I haven't carried on the sacred fruitcake making tradition that I've done for many years. Didn't last year and during my very religious days I altered my family's over two hundred years old recipe by not adding one essential ingredient -  Brandy!

This year there was lots of brandy added, even if I am a bit late starting my fruitcakes. Three or four years ago I was going to go back to marinating the fruitcakes in brandy, bought a big bottle of the same French brandy my great aunt, the previous family fruitcake maker, always used. But it never made it into the cakes or on them. My son, back in that lost year between his moving out of the dorms and taking the three credits he needed to graduate from college, seized upon that bottle with the picture of Napoleon on it, and drank it.

During that year it was obvious that Andy was in a grudge match against his liver, because he was dipping into the family liquor cabinet a little too freely. He even drank some rum that was older than him that I only used a little of for rum balls whenever the mood took me to make them. He drank an old bottle of Midori, all the Amaretto I use for my Cranberry Amaretto pound cake, his father's expensive but rarely touched Bourbon and that cheap coconut lime rum I like to imbibe on the rare hot summer day.

The inhaling ass-whooping hoovering up he used to do to the contents of the refrigerator he switched to the booze, old as most of it was.

Now he's living on his own and treating his liver more kindly now that he has to actually pay for his own alcohol.

Mixing the fruit and nuts with brandy

We're getting ready for Thanksgiving at Margaret's house, or as we love to call it 'Feed a Jew Ham Day' since we're part Jewish and Margaret's in-laws are very Jewish. This year I'm bringing the ham and Margaret is cooking boudin and turducken. I'm bringing the alcohol laden desserts too. Fruitcake and Cranberry Amaretto cake. The others are bring pies, challah and sides.

We're all hoping Andy brings his girlfriend as we'd all quite curious. They've been dating well over a year now and I've only caught a few glimpses of her. She seems sweet but very shy. His younger sister doesn't like the gf because she says the gf bosses him around. But she doesn't seem to get that Andy is just one of those guys that seems to do better when someone else keeps him on track. I have no problem with that.

With a little bit of the fruitcake brandy in me I've been opening up to Laura about my own horrible dating history from before I met her dad. Cautionary tales of the suckiness of dating.

Like the time I dated the NFL player for exactly two dates. Date one was to a nearby Mexican restaurant where we sat around in the South Louisiana heat eating chips and salsa and drinking the best frozen margaritas and talking. Date two was him picking me up in his car, I had naturally assumed that we were going out to eat or something like that. Oh no! He drove straight to the nearest Motel 6 and informed me that we were going to have sex. I got out and called a cab because there was no way I was going to screw this guy I barely knew, even if he was an NFL player. Later I discovered he was also seeing a girl I worked with. We started talking about him, comparing notes, realizing we'd both been played. Turned out he was married with kids and living with another woman. Dodged a bullet on that one. When he was transferred to the Atlanta Falcons we were glad to see him go. I got a best friend out of the deal, who ended up being my maid of honor at my wedding four years later. He got cut from the Falcons later that year and never played in the NFL again. I still gripe about him every single time I hear the words 'Atlanta Falcons'

Or the guy I met at work that took me on a casual date one Saturday afternoon to the Salvation Army store on Airline Hwy before taking me to McDonalds and magnanimously offering to buy me anything I wanted off the dollar menu. That was a first and last date, not because he was a cheapskate, mostly because he was just too weird on the date. Jim and I did the Salvation Army and garage sale things after we'd been together for awhile, shopping, not really a date. Guys out there, taking a girl to a thrift shop and offering her a meal off the dollar menu does not make a good impression on a first day.

But I think the worse of the worse date wasn't even really the man's fault. The UPS man had been shyly flirting with me for about six months when I was working during my college years before he finally asked me out. He seemed like a sweet guy, very nice, very respectful and rather attractive. We made a date and he took me out to a very nice restaurant. We were having wine and had just ordered dinner when his ex wife ran in the restaurant drunk out of her mind and yelling, screaming and cursing. She had all three of their children with her and they were all crying. I felt sorry for the poor kids because it wasn't early, they should have been in bed. They were also dirty and unkempt looking. The long story cut short is that they had been divorced two years and she kept showing up whenever he tried to have a relationship with anyone else and caused a scene. We took his kids to McDonalds that night before we went to his house. I sat there and talked to him quite a while after he put the kids to bed. He wanted to go out again, try again, and I had to sadly tell him that I was not prepared to have that type of drama in my life even though I thought he was a great guy. I didn't want to have to deal with his ex all the time.

I kissed a lot of icky frogs before I found Jim. I'm just happy that both Andy and Laura have stable relationships without any of that ridiculous bizarreness I experienced when I was their age or that their dad experienced. Jim has told me some crazy tales of some of his dating disasters before we met. Sometimes I think finding love and falling in love without there being insane drama is a miracle in and of itself.

Wow, I wandered a long way from talking about fruitcake. Too much brandy.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Settling In

Dora is settling in nicely now after a tense day of some feline stand offs between my guys, Mary, Pedro and Kiki. See how nicely she is settling in...

She's not following us around all the time like she did the first day.She's still doing the minute you sits you pets, but I have to laugh. She's done all the things that Margaret says she will not do, eat treats, eat canned food, beg to eat human food and done a quick dash out of the front door like my guys are wont to do. 

Guess cats are a little bit like us, they do whatever everyone else is doing, either because they think they suddenly can or to fit in. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Facebook 'Friend' Rant

Dear 'Friend',

Imagine my surprise when after almost seven years of not hearing from you I opened up my Facebook account this morning and found your 'friend' request.

You are now wanting to be my 'friend'?

What happened to you telling me seven years ago that because I'd left Poison Creek Church for the mainstream church I was clearly 'not' in 'The River' so you could no longer be my friend. Remember all those times I ran into you in the gym dressing room and you either said cutting things to me or refused to speak to me. It also got back to me that you were joining in the prayer gossip about me. Why now?

Oh, is it because you yourself were run out of Poison Creek on a rail, emotionally tarred and feathered, railed against, gossiped about and treated lower than dirt? So now you want to pal around because we're both kicked out of that church like some sort of drunken tattooed scooter-trash?

It's not going to happen. I will never approve you for my friends list. I'm not holding a grudge against you. I've had to forgive you long ago for my own peace of mind. But forgiving doesn't mean forgetting. It doesn't mean opening the door and allowing you a second attempt at knifing me in the heart. I wish you well, I just wish you'd stay away from me.

When I left the church all those years ago I left a broken woman, pulled between what I knew in my heart was right and my friends, like you. If anyone had ever told me before I left that you would cut me from your life with the same ease as someone throwing away an old newspaper I would never have believed them. We were tight, we were sisters.

You and I, we spent so much time together. I took your kids to Canada with me on vacation, you took mine with you to Pittsburgh. The two of us did all the heavy lifting at the church for the potluck dinners, we did the planning, execution, cooking, dish washing, decorating, etc, etc, etc. I have cherished memories of the two of us so exhausted we're laughing like lunatics while we wash up the mountain of dirty dishes from a church banquet. I helped you paint one wall of your bedroom purple and you brought me meals after one of my many miscarriages/d&c's.

Remember all the conferences we went to? The wine and chocolates? The motorcycle ride up to Toronto one summer for the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship annual Party Conference? Do you remember the imaginary tea party we had one day while cleaning up the TACF church for the conference? I do.

Which is why when you turned against me for leaving our mutual church it hurt so badly. If you'd had just been someone I had an acquaintance with I wouldn't have been much bothered. But you were like a sister, a sister that seemed bound and determined to punish me for daring to do something different, to leave because my husband insisted we leave.

You say in your message to me that you want to know all about my children, mostly because you feel like they are part your children too because of those years. If they are 'like your children' then why did you feel it necessary to abandon them for all those years?

Here's the aftermath: My son is now 26 years old and he thinks all Christians are evil insincere hypocrites because of the way he was treated when we left. That's with therapy and exit counseling. He's forged himself a good life, holds a degree in film studies, works full time and has a number of freelance commercials and indie film interests. He managed to channel his hurt and grief over leaving the church into his senior film project, a film about Christians doing the work of Satan.

My youngest, my daughter who is 23, is engaged to another refugee from the world of Fundamentalist homeschooling evangelical Christianity. She is working on her MBA and still gags when confronted with anything smacking of religion. This is also after therapy and exit counseling.

If you had really cared about them like you claim you do you would have at the very least tried to stay in touch with them and been a loving presence in their lives.

They see through your hypocrisy now and so do I.

I wanted to stay in touch with your four children because I loved them too. But you told me not to call, to stay out of their lives with my corrupting apostate presence. I did. 

I only have whatever time I have left on this planet and right now that means I'm concentrating on my family and those people who are my real friends, that have been there for me when the going wasn't pretty. Not those that are only my friends when it suits them. Friendship doesn't work that way.

This week that means I'm in class on two days, one day helping out my baby, another day going to court with my eldest daughter over my granddaughter's allegations and PINS (Person in need of supervision) hearing. It means tomorrow I'm spending the day with my husband and few other mutual friends who are veterans. There's not time for you anywhere in my life now.

I could have really used a friend eight years ago almost to the day when we left the church. I cried for several years while you and others decided that I needed to be punished till I came back into your narrow fold. It's too late now.