How to be the sweetest mother-daughter family NEVER.

Imagine being trapped in a wheelchair for nearly 20 years and being told not to walk, let alone move your legs. Being coerced to play the part of a leukemia and muscular dystrophy patient. To act as if you are five years behind your peers developmentally and suffer from “retardation.” And all of this is forced upon you by your own mother.

THEN, what if you were OVER IT and just killed her already?

GYPSY ROSE

This craziness is the basis of the HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest, which tells the story of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter, Gypsy Rose Blanchard. I watched it this weekend and it was fascinating, weird, upsetting and…..did I say weird? My husband said to me while we were watching it, “I’ve never seen you so engrossed in a movie this late at night.” Watching pretty much anything at 10:30 at night is quite a feat for me, especially when there are no Doritos involved.

Long story short, Dee Dee was really, really good at manipulating everyone around her and gaining accolades for being a wonderful, loving mother. Not only that, but she used her daughter’s “illnesses” to get a house and vacations for free.  She was able to get her daughter prescriptions which mimicked the symptoms of serious illnesses and when a doctor would catch on, she would just move onto someone else. Dee Dee supposedly had Munchausen syndrome by proxy which is a disorder in which a caregiver feigns or exaggerates the illness of someone under their care, with it typically being their child. By doing so, these “caregivers” get sympathy and attention. And free trips to Disneyland, apparently.

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Fast forward to 2015. “That bitch is dead” appears on Gypsy Rose’s Facebook page and Dee Dee has been found, stabbed to death in her bed. After a short investigation it was found that Gypsy Rose had met a young man named Nicholas Godejoh online and, after forming a very bizarre relationship, they completed “Plan B.” This plan involved Nick stabbing Dee Dee to death while Gypsy Rose waited in the bathroom. Afterwards, the two travel around, laughing and sharing brownies in bed together (they recorded this and it was, uh, very awkward).

So, now what? After the killing, Gypsy Rose is walking and healthy, shocking most everyone around her. She relays these horrific stories that she had never been able to tell anyone. Gypsy is initially charged with first degree murder, but as the stories of abuse and other mitigating circumstances are revealed the court allows some leniency. Is Gypsy Rose Blanchard better off in prison than living with her mother? Was Gypsy Rose just as manipulative as her mother? How much of this really is the truth? WE MAY NEVER KNOW.

This disorder occurs pretty rarely, but there are some other notable cases that I’ve listed here:

  • Lacey Spears was convicted of killing her son with table salt through a feeding tube and while he was “sick” she kept a blog about their life. I remember reading it with a heart full of sympathy before it was revealed that she had been poisoning him the whole time. Yikes.
  • In probably the worst case of Munchausen by proxy, Marybeth Tinning found that by having nine of her children die between 1972 and 1985 under “mysterious circumstances” she got a lot of sympathy and a lot of prison time.
  •  Julie Gregory wrote a book about growing up with a mother who coached her to exaggerate her medical symptoms and fed her foods she was specifically told not to by her doctors. This sweet mother also became upset when doctors would not perform (unnecessary) open heart surgery on her daughter.

One last thing. According to Dee Dee’s family members, she wasn’t very well liked. In fact, after her death her own sister suggested that they just go ahead and flush her ashes down the toilet. If I’m ever acting like someone who deserves to have their ashes flushed, please let me know. Deal?

 

 

 

 

Funny Obituaries (Part 1)

This gem came from my hometown newspaper, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Isn’t it great? I don’t like to beat around the bush, so I can respect a guy that just gets straight to the point.

DOUG DIED

 

I cannot count how many times someone has sent me a link to an obituary or a link to an NPR story about writing obituaries or, just a couple of weeks ago, a link to a new documentary about obituaries. Do you see a pattern here? I love obituaries. I even subscribed to the Sunday edition of the Star Tribune so I could peruse the obit page every week.

I’m not gonna lie. Some of them are snoozefests. No offense to the dearly departed or, rather, the person in charge of writing the obit, but when all I know is that the poor guy worked at X corporation for 35 years and was preceded in death by both of his parents, well, that’s not interesting. Not only is it not interesting, but I think it does a disservice to the person who died. C’mon, I want to know what they loved (the color yellow? suitcases with wheels?), what they hated (back stabbing motherfu*^ers that still owe them money?) and everything in between. Life is more than your job or who your second cousin is.

It is for this reason that I have put my dear friend, Rebecca, in charge of writing my obituary. She’s funny and she knows me. She’ll probably talk about my aforementioned crabbiness, my love of Chapstick and how I’m late for everything. How I love Prince and the Golden Girls and how I hate the song “Rockin’ Robin” with every fiber of my being. Anyway, you get the idea.

For those of you who don’t typically spend your free time reading about dead people, I thought I would share a couple of my favorite obituaries. After reading each of these, you get a sense of who these people REALLY were and all of the little things in life that they appreciated (or didn’t). A person’s uniqueness doesn’t die when they do and it breaks my heart to see a plain old boring, I-lived-here-I-worked-here-I-died-on-this-date story. Remember this when Aunt Janice dies and she needs a work up for your local newspaper. Deal? Deal.

Meet Jim Groth, whose obituary stated, “his ashes will be kept around as long as they match the decor.”

Christian Hacker, a New Yorker who liked to collect junk. This obituary reminded me of something I would write for my dad, who likes to collect…..stuff. Mr. Hacker’s obit stated that the “car parts sales and funeral services will be held at 11:30 a.m.”

William Ziegler was a firefighter from New Orleans who realized that “running away from burning buildings made more sense than running toward them” before quitting his job.

And, finally, Emily DeBrayda Phillips. She wrote her own obituary and claimed to be a championship “Hiney Getter.” She ended her story by saying, poignantly, “So…I was born; I blinked; and it was over.”

What do you think? Has anyone else found any that they chuckled, cried or guffawed at?

 

 

My friend, Andrew W.K.

If you told me 10 years ago that I would be practically fainting over this guy, I would of said you were bananas, because, c’mon. Dude likes to sing about partying, wears dirty clothes and likes bloody noses (cue the snicker and the eye roll).

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I don’t remember how I stumbled across his advice column for the Village Voice, but I was in love right away. His message is simple: every second you’re alive is a second not to be wasted. Every rotten thing that happens to you in your life is an opportunity to change and grow even if you don’t want to.  Life is way more enjoyable if you are in awe of the little things and recognize that life is impermanent. Joy is vastly more pleasurable than walking around crabby all the time. If you woke up this morning, hey, that’s a WIN! Even though that might be the only good thing that happened today, well, sometimes that’s good enough. As my grandpa used to say, “I’m breathing, right?”

Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to be happy allllll of the time. I mean, it was just yesterday that I threw a fit because somebody stole my salad dressing out of the fridge at work. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes you have to go to Subway and get a Cold Cut Combo because now you can’t eat your salad without said dressing. BUT, trust me, there are worse things in life.

If you knew me from ages 18-39, you would know I was THE crabbiest person ever. Then, one and a half years ago my mother died suddenly. I’m not going to pretend that we had the best relationship all of the time, but I loved her. She was my MOM. I know that everyone says their life changes after a major event like this, but it’s no joke. It’s the truth.

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I now have little tolerance for people that complain about THINGS all of the time. People that get bent out of shape over long lines or gum stuck to their shoe. There always has to be a different way of looking at things. Is there 10 feet of snow on the ground? Great! Now I can go sledding! My kid threw up all over my pants? Whatever, that’s what washing machines (or garbage cans) are for! To be clear, I am in NO way minimizing people facing really, really tough things like the loss of a child or a terminal illness. Those are completely different scenerios where higher feats of strength are required, for sure. I’m just talking about the grumps walking around, letting every.single.thing RUIN THEIR LIVES.

To put it VERY simply, dealing with my mom’s death was hard. I was looking for reassurance that life IS good and that there IS meaning in it all.  In the end, reading Mr. W.K.’s advice column/Facebook posts/interviews after my mom died helped me more than seeing Mr. Counselor for five sessions (no offense, guy!). I decided that the only way to grow was to embrace the loss instead of ignoring it seems to be working.

Click on the this link and you can meet Andrew for yourself. Welcome to the party, friends.

 

 

Drugs, maniacs and WWII

He picked at his skin with tweezers. His hands shook so badly that he couldn’t put his glasses on. He slept on an old mattress in a room with only a lamp, a telephone and some dust. His arm was full of red track marks. If you had to guess, who would you think I’m talking about? Did you guess Hitler? You’re GOOD!

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I’m not sure when this photo was taken, but Hitler’s not looking as feisty as usual. Compared to typical photos of a crazy man with his arm thrust into the air, he’s looking a little disheveled, sweaty and, hmmmmm, blank? I would like to say that it was probably just a little warm in the Wolf’s Lair, but I’m not so sure. According to the book Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler, Hitler was having some issues with drugs. Many drugs. Lots of drugs.

Hitler wasn’t the only one, according to Ohler, and drugs were an intregal part of the Third Reich’s operation. To give you an idea of the happenings, here are some fun (not fun) facts I pulled from the book:

  1. In the 1920’s, Germany loved making drugs and selling them to other countries. Between 1925-1930, 40% of the world’s morphine was produced in Germany (approximately 91 tons!). After WWI, Germany lost access to natural stimulants like coffee and tea and, you guessed it, they started making their own stimulants. In 1937, a German company manufactured a new type of methamphetamine called Pervitin, and, oh boy, people LOVED it!
  2. Ever heard the story of the German Blitzkrieg attack on France? Well, it’s a doozy and it starts on page 55. Let’s just say there was A LOT of Pervitin involved.
  3. Hitler’s special doctor, Theodor Morell, was sort of a leech of a guy who started his own pharmaceutical company with Hitler’s cash. Starting in 1941 when Hitler started visibly going downhill, guess who was by his side whipping out needles left and right? Said needles were for injecting Eukodal, which has twice the pain-relieving qualities of morphine and takes only a short time to become for a person to become addicted. Just for good measure, there was also pure cocaine involved!
  4. Towards the end of the war, Hitler was known to have conversations with HIMSELF that lasted for hours, going on and on about the horrors of smoking and drugs, while gazing at, well, no one.
  5. Ever hear of the time that Hermann Goring was arrested by the allies at the end of the war with 24,000 opioid tablets in his suitcase? Yeah, me neither.

“Eukodol [sic] is like a combination of junk and C [cocaine]. Trust the Germans to concoct some truly awful s—.”

—William S. Burroughs

It all ends with a lost war and Hitler committing suicide (obviously). Unfortunately, the doctor/enabler never received the accolades he was looking for and ended up a broken, sad man. And while the author doesn’t claim that Hitler’s drug use was an excuse for his behavior, he does provide insight into an aspect of WWII that most historians have ignored. I can also say that it’s not one of those DRY, boring history books (you know the ones). I loved every second of it and if you’re into WWII stuff, or just regular craziness, I think you’ll like it, too.

If you like this book, you might want to check out Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil by Ron Rosenbaum, which is a compilation of theories on why Hitler was the way he was. The guy doesn’t need any excuses, but interesting just the same.