Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sometimes I have entertaining dreams...

As I was waking up this morning, I had a dream about my former best friend.  It was more like a funny vignette, really.  I dreamt I was working in men's wear store, just like I did over twenty years ago.  She came prancing in and said she needed help finding clothes in a size 2.  I haven't seen her in person in years, but I highly doubt she wears a 2.

Anyway, I was very pleasant and businesslike when I said, "You do realize you're in a men's wear store, right?"

She rolled her eyes and pointed at a couple of ladies' fashions hanging on racks.  There were maybe two outfits and neither would be appropriate on a woman our age, regardless of the woman's figure.  I kind of shrugged and she grabbed this mini jumper looking thing and went into a dressing room.  I think her husband was with her.  I had a good laugh.

Bill and I did some more talking about our possible move to Italy.  This job that he's being offered is an excellent one.  It's a well-connected, high powered position and it would really be great if Bill could do it.  Unfortunately, because we live in Germany, it's likely that Bill would be considered a "local hire".  Local hires are not usually authorized "living quarters allowance" (LQA) because there's a law designed to discourage people from "homesteading" in Europe.  If you get hired in the United States, the government pays to move you and pays for your housing.  If you get hired somewhere else, you may or may not get LQA.  It depends on whether or not it's clear you were planning to move back to the States.  You have to produce a document from your employer specifying that they were planning to repatriate you in the US.  Bill has such a document, but it may not be specific enough to justify getting LQA.

Personally, I think this is a pretty stupid law because a lot of good people get discovered as overseas contractors.  Bill got his offer because he's worked with the people in Italy.  They know him and like him.  If we had been in the States, it's likely that he would not have had that contact.  What's more, if he doesn't take the job, it's likely that someone from the States would... and they would be getting financial help.  So the money would be spent anyway, but on a candidate that wasn't at the top of the list.

If Bill took the job, we'd have to move back to the States within 3 to 5 years.  The same would be true of a person who was hired in the US.  What the law is supposed to do is prevent people from staying in Europe indefinitely and give other people the chance to live abroad.  So what difference does it make where a person was hired?  If they were hired abroad, they'd still have to move back to the States in 3-5 years.

If this job were located in Stuttgart, it would be a lot easier to accept it without a second thought.  We could live on less money every month if we're already established.  But we don't want to pay thousands of dollars to move all our shit to Italy and then take a big pay cut.  There's a lot that goes into moving.  It's not just paying the moving company; it's also having to find a house and paying the start up fees for moving in (three months rent, anyone?).  It's having to pay taxes on the salary, too.  As a contractor, most of Bill's salary is currently tax exempt.  Maybe we could do that if we were younger, but we have to think about what happens when Bill retires.  On the other hand, getting into the GS system is also a good thing for Bill's retirement.  It's pretty hard to get laid off from a GS job.

Supposedly, there are GS jobs opening up locally.  They haven't been advertised yet.  I think if LQA doesn't come through, Bill will probably stay a contractor and then apply for the local GS jobs.  We live in an inexpensive place now and we like our landlords.  A move to Italy means new landlords and loads of money spent.  And even if they did give us LQA, there is always the chance that some asshole down the line will say we shouldn't have gotten LQA and demand all the money back.  Bill just got finished paying off the government for the bonus he got in the 90s when he temporarily left the military.

So... this is a difficult dilemma.  It would be nice if the logjam would break.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ciao Germany?

So... while we were in Italy, I had a very strange feeling that we could end up living there.  It was the same feeling I had three years ago when we visited Germany and I told Bill that I had a feeling he'd get a job there.  In April, when we found out that Bill's company lost its contract, Bill started job hunting.  One of the jobs he applied for is a government service position in Vicenza, Italy.

Bill got an email about three days after he applied, but never heard anything else until yesterday, when he got a tentative job offer.  They didn't even interview him.  Instead, the guy doing the hiring (who knows Bill) called up Bill's military boss and asked for a recommendation.  We now have two days to decide if we want to move to Italy in a couple of months.

It sounds like this would be a no brainer, right?  I mean, it's Italy, for Chrissakes.  But there are a few things we need to consider.  First of all, moving is a huge pain in the ass.  I have done it way too many times over the past ten years and I don't want to do it again.  It means exhausting cleaning, heavy lifting, finding a new place to live and decent landlords, and everything else that comes with moving.  Since Bill would be an overseas hire, it would also mean the government probably wouldn't give him a living quarters allowance, which might make our financial situation leaner than it needs to be.  We could definitely survive on what they'd pay him, but it would be a pretty deep pay cut.

I have seen Vicenza, and while it's by far not the worst place to be, it's a bit frenetic for my tastes.  I would probably learn to love it-- and being an hour away from Venice by train isn't a bad thing.  But I think I prefer Germany's cleanliness and orderliness.  I cringe at the thought of driving and parking in Italy, finding a new dentist, a new vet, and hoping no one breaks into our house.  Apparently, breaking and entering is a problem in the Vicenza area.

On the other hand, it IS a job.  It's also in the government system, which would mean more stability and support.  We would have to move back to the States in five years, but Bill would be building retirement and have actual authority instead of being treated like a temp.  And hopefully, in a few years, we won't have Trump running/ruining things anymore.

Given my 'druthers, I think I'd rather stay in Germany.  But Italy is exciting and beautiful, too, and it's nice to know that Bill is wanted there.  It's crazy that I accurately predicted this job offer, too.  Sometimes my intuition is dead on scary.

Bill still hasn't heard from the new company.  They interviewed Bill last week and will probably offer him a job.  And it will probably be more money.  However, if they don't offer him a job, that will mean moving back to the States... and where, we don't know.  So we have a lot to think about before Friday.

This is just nuts.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back to business...

We're back from Italy and I have written up our trip on my travel blog.  Now I can get back to the business of bitching.  Today, I could be bitching about the latest suicide attack in England.  But I figure everyone's going to be complaining about that today.  So instead, I want to share a link to an essay I read with interest on yesterday, while we were waiting to check out of our apartment.

Writer Ijeoma Oluo titled her essay, "I’m So Tired of Being Told that my Fat Body is Going to Kill Me".  Like so many of us who are fatter than we ought to be, Ms. Oluo has heard many health warnings about her weight from doctors.  The daughter and granddaughter of type 2 diabetics, she has been told since she was a teenager that she would inevitably get diabetes, have to give herself shots, and would probably die young.  She was told this even though her blood sugar usually runs low and she's had to be treated for hypoglycemia more than once.

I have to admit, although no one in my family has diabetes that I know of, Ijeoma Oluo's essay hit home for me.  I haven't gotten too many crappy comments from doctors, mainly because I don't go to doctors unless I am damn sick.  And that hasn't happened in a very long time.  Still, I have read a lot of comments from fat shamers who think they have a crystal ball and can read the future.  Somehow, in our country, a lot of people are under the impression that if you're fat, you're gonna become a diabetic.  And if you're not fat, you're perfectly healthy.  That's not so.

Anyway, I won't rehash Oluo's essay because y'all can read it for yourselves.  Instead, I want to write about the comments I got when I shared it with Facebook friends.  I have one friend, an American citizen originally from Italy and now living in Germany, who loves to take any opportunity to bash Americans.  He also enjoys fat bashing.  He writes that it's the doctor's job to tell his or her patients about the risks of obesity.  And you know what?  I agree.  However, what I relate to is Oluo's comments about how doctors keep insisting that she's going to be diabetic, even though she has no signs or symptoms of diabetes.  She's been repeatedly told that she's going to get sick, even though she's not now.

At one point in her essay, Oluo writes about how she had just given birth and was getting to know her brand new son when she heard a nurse ask about her weight.  The nurse assumed incorrectly that Oluo had suffered gestational diabetes.  Indeed, the medical folks were expected her to be diabetic and asked her to be tested numerous times throughout her pregnancy.  And there she was, gazing at her brand new baby while the doctor and nurse made comments about the miracle that she hadn't had gestational diabetes.  Way to fuck up the mood!

I get that medical people are supposed to be concerned about a person's health.  They are supposed to offer suggestions of ways to be healthier.  However, I think a lot of them have become lazy and think that a person's weight, particularly for females, is the only reason they might be suffering from an ailment.  Rather than looking at a patient objectively and individually, a lot of them simply tell the patient to lose weight.  For some healthcare providers, it seems that's the solution for everything.  It's not helpful to visit a doctor who can't see past a patient's size.

I have a friend who, until very recently, was very slender and petite.  She has gained a lot of weight over the past year or so.  Why?  Because her thyroid gland crapped out.  She's now significantly overweight, despite having been tiny for most of her life.  I'm sure people who don't know her assume that she eats a lot of junk and doesn't exercise.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have another friend who became a type 2 diabetic after giving birth to five kids and going through menopause.  She is heavy, but she's also fit.  She runs half marathons with her twin daughters and works full time as a nurse.  She's also a good cook who knows the value of nutrition.  Yet many people probably look at her and think she's irresponsible and in need of shaming and/or advice about her diet and exercise regime.

I am myself a big lady and have never spent a single night in a hospital since I left babyhood.  I haven't taken any prescription drugs of any kind since 2004, except for prophylaxis antibiotics I took last year after I had a dental implant placed.  Granted, I haven't seen a doctor since 2010, but I think if I were unhealthy, I would have had a real need to be seen.  There may come a time in the future when I do become sick.  It might even be because of obesity.  However, obesity is just one risk factor and causative agent for becoming sick.  What's more, if you're overweight, you still have to live.  Is it healthy to go through life worried sick that your body is going to turn on you?

I really related to Oluo's essay.  I have spent a good portion of my life hating my body, even though it's strong and basically healthy.  I don't fit the image of beauty that many people have, but some people also think I'm "unhealthy".  Well, if I am able to do all I want to do and my body performs as it should, how can I be "unhealthy"?  Maybe I am at risk for getting sick, but I would venture to guess that most anyone is "at risk" for getting sick for any number of reasons.  Far too many people are far too free with their opinions about other people's lifestyles.  And most of them are judgmental simply because they don't like the way another person looks.  They don't give a flying fuck about the person's health, as they so unhelpfully claim.

Life is hard enough without someone insisting that they know what's going to be another person's cause of death.  The truth is, everyone dies and no one knows what is going to cause death.  I prefer to enjoy my life rather than listen to other people's opinions about my appearance and whether or not I'm "healthy" enough for them.

Rant is now over.  Hopefully tomorrow, I will find something new to bitch about.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The beauty of not living a 24/7 lifestyle...

I didn't write yesterday because the Internet was down until the afternoon.  I took it as a sign that I needed to take a day off from writing.  I will definitely be writing about our trip on my travel blog, probably starting on Monday, when we get back to Germany.  I would start writing now, but the sun is out and I think there may be a chance that we'll go out and do something today.

Yesterday, I spent the morning napping.  The bed in this house isn't great, but it's especially not great when you share it with two dogs and a man.  I didn't sleep that well the first night here and made up for it after breakfast.  Then Bill and I walked the dogs, brought them back, and walked down to the main drag for lunch.  We spent a couple of hours enjoying a simple Italian meal.  Then we came back to the house, turned on music, and drank wine.  The weather was a bit stormy, so we watched the clouds over the lake and I took lots of pictures.  Anyway, I'll write more specifically about that on the travel blog.

It's been really great to get out of Germany.  I need the occasional change of scenery to remind me why living in Europe is worthwhile.  Actually, it's worthwhile to Bill and me for a lot of reasons.  I think some Americans don't like living in Europe because it's not as convenient as the United States is.  There isn't a 24/7 lifestyle in Europe.  People take days off and things move at a slower pace.  You can't always go grocery shopping in Europe on Sunday like you can in the States.  

The lack of a 24/7 lifestyle is precisely why I like Europe.  I like the fact that people aren't work obsessed and there's time to look around and smell the flowers.  I like all of the different types of people here and the many things to see and do.  I like that sometimes, I'm forced to take a day off from writing blogs because the Internet isn't working.  I need to be reminded sometimes that I lived over half my life without Internet access.  It wasn't a bad thing not to be connected to my electronics all the time, especially since they tend to cause me a lot of angst.

Think of the time I spend writing about Facebook, which I realize is pretty much a waste of time.  I mean, sure, I have met new people and learned new things courtesy of the Internet.  I have been able to keep in touch with some people that I might have otherwise lost track of years ago.  But then, some of those people turn out to be jerks.  Or they think I'm a jerk.  It's nice when you can unplug and remind yourself that life is best lived offline.

Well... the Internet is being wonky again today, so I'll stop here.  In a couple of days, I'll have lots to share about this trip.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My male Facebook friends are dropping like flies...


I just lost yet another male Facebook friend I know from life off the Internet.  This time, it was another guy I knew in college.  Back in January, I lost a male college friend over Natalie Maines.  Last month, I lost a male friend and his wife, presumably over my thoughts on abortion.  Last night, I lost one over a stupid click bait article about Melania Trump.

I was feeling my oats and decided to share an article about Melania Trump.  Granted, it was a dumb article with a click bait title promising photos that Donald Trump "doesn't want you to see."  There was nothing "wrong" with the photos in the article.  In fact, my friends and I weren't even discussing the article as much as we were the Trumps.  I commented that I don't think Mrs. Trump is that beautiful because, to me, she always looks like she's scowling.  Actually, so does Donald.  But I would probably scowl too if I had to screw Donald Trump.  The point is, we weren't really discussing the actual article or the photos appearing within it.

Along comes my former Facebook friend, same guy who, just two weeks ago, complained about women who breastfeed in public.  He chimed in on the discussion.

Now, in fairness to my former Facebook friend, I probably was a bit more abrupt than I should have been.  I think I was still feeling a little perturbed by his comments about public breastfeeding and other things he's said about women over the years.  He strikes me as the type of guy who wants to appear sensitive and evolved, but regularly lets sexist attitudes slip out.  I am usually fairly forgiving and ignore those comments, but I was kind of on edge last night.  Also, it was after dinner and I'd had more than a couple of drinks.  Anyway... he posts a comment that there's "nothing wrong with the photos".

I said, "I never said anything was *wrong* with the photos.  She was obviously a successful model at one time."

Then he complained about the clickbait title, to which I responded that I didn't "come up with the title."

But then he wrote this...

I just commented on the title. Ease up. If you post something, expect the world to scrutinize every detail. That's how the internet works.

That comment is what flipped my bitch switch.  So I wrote this.

It's my page... and I am not the one scrutinizing. You are.

I now realize that I misread what he wrote, probably because the condescending tone of his post set me off.  But, in fairness to him, my tone was also a little hostile.  That's probably because I wondered why he was looking at photos that Donald Trump supposedly didn't want him to see.  It seemed to me he was disappointed that they weren't more scandalous.  And it was also fresh in my mind that this is the same guy who apparently thinks breastfeeding mothers should be forced to cover up.

Anyway... the conversation continued thusly...

I was actually very calm when I wrote my comments and not really "upset".  I would say that if I was feeling anything last night, it was annoyed.  But even if I was feeling upset, it would be my prerogative and my right to express that, especially on my own fucking Facebook page.

Again, in fairness to him, I suppose I could have been nicer.  He happened to catch me at a bad time.  He probably also doesn't know that I have issues with authority sometimes.  Or... people who think they have authority over what I can and can't say or how I express myself.  I look at my Facebook page and my blogs as my "home".  I wouldn't go into someone's home and tell them to "Ease up." or "Relax." or "Chill out."  It just seems rude to me.  

Actually, last night's exchange seemed a bit more like "projection" to me.  Looking back at that post about projection, it occurs to me that he's the one who inspired that one, too!  He accused me of "projecting" because I don't like the Olive Garden.  And now he's telling me I'm "upset" when he has no way of knowing what my actual feelings are.  If he had been talking to me in person, he would have heard me speaking in a calm tone of voice.  But he assumes I'm "upset" because I asked him not to tell me what to do or presume how I feel.  I'm probably more upset as I type this than I was last night when this happened.    

Anyway... he did unfriend me.  It's probably for the best.  It's not the first time he's annoyed me and, I'm sure, I have been regularly annoying him, too.  I get the sense that he likes women who are quieter, more demure, and "nicer" than I am.  I do have an edge and can be bitchy sometimes.  Aside from that, if a disagreement about a stupid clickbait post about Melania Trump is enough to make you want to cut ties with someone, you weren't really friends in the first place.  But, I will be 45 years old next month and I don't see myself changing.  I was moved to post the following status.

I really need a change of scenery.  Glad I'm getting the hell out of Dodge.

Well, it's time to pack a bag and head to Italy.  Hopefully, tonight, I'll be sitting in a really nice restaurant instead of posting on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Goodbye zero balance...

Last night, Bill called Hebridean Island Cruises and paid off the balance of the cruise we're planning to take in September.  I was a little sad to do it, since I've had a negative credit card balance for the past month.  That hasn't happened since the mid 1990s, when I lived in Armenia.  The balance for the cruise was a hefty hunk of change and I still need to buy plane tickets, so it may take a couple of months to get everything back down to a debt free balance.  We have been saving for the trip, though, so it won't take years.  ;-)

We still don't know if Bill is going to be able to take this trip with me, although it does look like we won't have to move this summer.  Bill's job interview was rather cursory, seemed to go very well, and afterwards, he was told someone from the benefits department would be calling him to tell him about what the company offers.  So I have a feeling he'll get an offer and it would really have to be poor for him not to take it.  If Bill isn't able to go, either his mom will go with me or I'll just go alone.  The dogs are already booked for boarding and I know where to go in Scotland to catch the bus to the ship.

I hope if Bill gets the job, he'll be able to negotiate coming with me on the cruise.  A lot of people will be starting the job at the same time, which means they will be accruing time off at the same rate.  I figure many of them will want to go somewhere for Christmas or Thanksgiving.  We don't have a need to go anywhere during those times and Bill can stay in town and cover for those who want to go home.  The time we want to travel is just after Labor Day, which means a lot of people will be at work.  By contrast, we could be in town for Labor Day, just as we plan to be local for Memorial Day (Bill's boss is going to Spain).

In a way, it would be interesting if I went on the trip alone.  I haven't done anything like that without Bill in a very long time.  I would miss having him with me, but it would also give me a chance to function by my lonesome.  And that would be good for me...  Besides, Hebridean takes excellent care of its passengers anyway.  I still want Bill to come, though.  I would miss him if he didn't.

Tomorrow, we are headed to Italy for a long weekend.  We're bringing the dogs with us and I hope for delicious food, good wine, and beautiful scenery.  It's been really nice to be able to take these long weekend trips to different places.  One luxury about living in Europe is that you can see a lot of places that aren't necessarily tourist destinations.  We are going to Lake Como, which we have seen before, but this time, we're staying in an apartment right on the lake.

Last time, we stayed in a hotel on a mountain near the lake.  There were no lake views, although the hotel itself was pleasant enough and offered good food.  Actually, the last time we were in the vicinity of Lake Como, we got trapped. But we were only there for the day as opposed to spending the night.  I hear there are storms expected on Friday.  Hopefully, they won't affect us too much.  I could just hang out in the apartment and watch the storm while sipping wine.  That would actually make me happy!

I actually prefer to stay in hotels.  I like really nice hotels with good bedding and awesome showers.  But it sure is nice to be able to bring our dogs with us when we can't book them somewhere.  I would rather not have them with us on vacation, but in some ways it's nice to be able to have them.  It means we save money and don't have to worry about dropping them off or picking them up.  Also, although they can get into trouble when they're with us, we also don't have to wonder how they're doing.

It may seem like we're always taking trips.  Our last one was in February to a tiny French town in Burgundy.  Even though no one has really heard of St. Marcelin de Cray, that trip remains very memorable in a good way.  I'm hoping this weekend's trip is similarly awesome.  At the very least, I hope to eat some good fish or something.

Well, it's time to get dressed and walk the dogs... then I'll make pasta sauce and maybe vacuum and do a load of laundry.  Yep.  I got big plans for the day.

But tomorrow, I get to see this again...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ringing the devil's doorbell to my "sin cave"...

I'm finally inspired to write something of substance again.  I owe it all to my gay cousin's husband, who shared the following meme yesterday...

The person who made this meme needs a lesson in proofreading...

I couldn't resist sharing this with some select friends in a couple of groups.  It definitely got some people talking, too.  There was a debate as to whether or not the above meme and others like it were real or satirical in nature.  I'm pretty sure this is satire.  What makes it good satire is that it's believable.  There are some religious groups that believe masturbation is dirty, sinful, and leads to a one way ticket to Hell.

But really...  this is clearly a joke.  

And the person who made this meme doesn't know the difference between Soldiers and Marines.

I have shared the video below a few times on this blog.  I do so because it offers real proof that there are people in the world who would dare to chastise you for "ringing satan's doorbell".  In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it's referred to as "self abuse".  Catholics also have issues with masturbation.  So do fundies and Muslims.  Like anything else that is pleasurable and makes life more worthwhile, many religious people think that jerking off will send you straight to Hell.  

Masturbation is seen as "selfish" behavior that deprives society of potential life.  If you're stimulating yourself or a partner solely for the purpose of pleasure, you aren't engaging in the business of bringing new souls to the world.  One of those new souls could end up being the next Pope.  Or, conversely, that soul could be a mass murderer.  Both could be potential tithe payers.

Mormon Mission Pres Allan Pratt On Masturbation!! von samueltheutahnite

Seriously.  This is a thing in the LDS church.  It's also a thing in other churches.  I'm pretty sure it's all about avoiding lust, keeping one's thoughts pure and chaste, and not looking at porn.

Folks, everybody masturbates.  I figure if God didn't want us to masturbate, our arms would be shorter and we wouldn't be able to reach the "joy button".  

This isn't to say that I don't think a person can have a problem with "sex addiction" or that excessively viewing pornography isn't harmful.  If you are spending all of your time and money looking at porn and jerking off to the point at which your genitals are raw and bleeding, that is clearly a problem.  Anything done in excess is unhealthy.  But most people don't spend all day masturbating or obsessively hunting for porn.  For most people, it's simply a pleasant way to pass time, relax, engage in a little fantasy.  

There is absolutely nothing wrong with masturbation.  It's completely natural and healthy, especially if you wash your hands when you're finished.  Masturbation is the safest sex a person can have.  If you do it with your significant other, it's also a way to bond.  It can even be a physically necessary thing to do for both men and women.  I can't speak for men, but I know that when Aunt Flow comes calling, nothing makes me feel better than self stimulation.  It relieves cramps, relaxes me, and makes it easier to fall asleep.

I think the attitude against masturbation has a lot to do with the idea that sex is somehow dirty or sinful unless you're doing it solely to make babies.  If you're making babies, you're making "arrows for the Lord".  More arrows for the Lord means more money and power for religious organizations and ideologies.  More power for religious organizations can lead to more political power and perhaps even eventual world domination.  If you're beating off to relieve tension, you won't be as pent up on the basketball court or the board room.  You won't have that edge that might push you over the top, right?  But you also might be more stressed out, angry, and unhappy.  It's not healthy to be on edge all the time.  Excessive stress can lead to strokes, heart attacks, depression, anxiety, and a host of other ailments that might lead to an early grave. 

Bwahahahaa... really?  Nah...

So I say you should keep masturbating.  It's no one's business if you do it.  It's healthy and normal and all the cool kids are doing it.  My sin cave is waiting for the doorbell to ring.

Just don't get any on ya...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Judith Ann sings the blues...

It's Monday morning.  Mr. Bill has a job interview today, having passed a phone screening the other day.  Meanwhile, I'm sitting here in my nightgown and watching this ridiculous Gong Show act from the 70s.

Someone commented that this lady, name of Judith Ann, was high on cocaine.  I don't know if she was, but I would not be surprised based on her "enthusiasm".  Another person commented that her pants are so tight he can "read her lips"!  I miss the 70s...  but this song sucks!  I'd love to know where it came from.

I talked to my mom yesterday,  who told me that she's going to move out of her apartment at some point.  She got on a waiting list for a place in Durham, North Carolina, which is a lot closer to my eldest sister's home in Chapel Hill.  Although Mom has a beautiful view and a nice place to live, the apartment has become prohibitively expensive and the place apparently isn't run very well.  The building was once a grand hotel and is very beautiful, but it has a lot of maintenance issues.  And they also keep raising the rent.

I am grateful that my mom is so independent and pragmatic.  She makes her own decisions.  I'm not sure when she's moving; it could be years.  But she is making plans to go, which would mean I would no longer have any family living in the area where I grew up.  I will always have a lot of friends there, though.

Bill's mom is having a partial hip replacement this week.  She's nervous about the surgery, but is very healthy and independent.  She has a few friends helping her in Texas.  Hopefully, all will go well and she'll get to come see us in a few months.  Maybe she can even take Bill's place on my cruise to Northern Ireland in September, if it turns out Bill can't go.

As for me...  well, I am eagerly planning our weekend trip to Italy.  We're leaving Thursday and bringing the dogs with us.  Hopefully, it'll go well and we won't get trapped down there again.

I suppose I'll get dressed and walk the dogs.  Later on, I'll gear up to call Hebridean Island cruises and pay off the trip that I hope we'll still be able to take in a few months.  I know... first world problems.

This is a really dark photo because the sun hadn't yet risen.  Arran wishes Bill luck...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

80s era Mormon films...

Somehow, I landed on this today...

This was made in the 80s...

Filmstrips were kind of a thing when I was a kid.  I would have thought by 1988, they would have gone out of style.  But apparently, the Mormons were still making filmstrips in '88...  This one is about a nasty bitch who spreads malicious rumors about her rival in a school election.  Edited to add, I see that someone has corrected the uploader and said these were actually produced in 1983-84.  That makes sense.

I remember watching filmstrips when I was a kid, but I have a hard time watching this now.  It seems so cheesy.  The plot line for this appears to be straight out of The Brady Bunch, too.  Crappy acting abounds.

It's Mother's Day.  I suppose I could come up with something to write about my mom.  Right now, I'm not inspired and I'm distracted by Mormon filmstrips.  We didn't do this stuff in the church I was raised in.  

Here's a film from 1980.  I think the kids must be adopted.  They are far too pale to be their parents' kids.  

In the above film, a little girl willingly donates blood for her older, injured brother, even though she thinks she will die doing it.  I love how the nurse doesn't wear gloves as she handles the girl's blood.  I am probably about the same age the girl is.  

Here's one from 1986...  This one is about how sinful California is.

And one about a girl who ends up paralyzed after an accident.  The guy doing the sign language is very distracting.

I guess these films and filmstrips were shown during Seminary... which means kids had to get up way early in the morning to watch this crap.  Seems like torture.  I'd rather be sleeping.

I don't know what we're going to do today.  For the past two years, we've gone out on Mother's Day and encountered big crowds.  But the sun is shining and yesterday was kind of a bust that led us to McDonald's.  So maybe we should make an effort.  And maybe I'll call my mom and be inspired to write something more substantial.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Yesterday was military spouse appreciation day...

As God is my witness, I somehow never knew that military spouses had a special day set aside for recognition.  Even though I was an "Army wife" for twelve years, Military Spouse Appreciation Day was not something I ever celebrated.  In fact, three years after my husband's retirement, I'm just hearing about it for the first time.  And I heard about it for the first time, not from military spouses looking for a pat on the back, but from people who bash the special day and regularly make fun of so-called "dependas".

I have written about my dislike of the term "dependa" many times on this blog.  I feel no need to rehash too much about that.  Suffice to say that while I think there are a few spouses who take the military life a bit too personally and seriously, for the most part, I think a lot of military spouses handle their lot in life with grace and class.  It truly isn't easy to be the spouse of someone who is in the military, especially if you've ever had your own education or career ambitions.

What a shame that some people see all military spouses in this way.  How does the artist know she didn't just do some fundraising or volunteer with the FRG?  And really, are all "dependas" fat?

Military spouses often can't win.  Either they are "dependas" milking the system and spending their spouse's paycheck (and it's usually the wife supposedly doing this), or they are uppity bitches who don't know their place and are looked down upon for seeking something for themselves.  I was lucky enough to have a fairly easy time being married to an Army man.  I will be the first to admit it.  I only endured one six month deployment and Bill mostly had good bosses who let him take time off when he wanted it.  Bill also made enough money that I didn't have to worry about working, even though I initially wanted to work.  Not every spouse is as lucky as I have been.

Military culture is one in which the government tells you where you will live.  In some cases, the government even forces you to live in their quarters, where you might have to tolerate people you'd rather not.  Just a couple of days ago, I wrote about a woman whose husky shed in the dog park on one of our local installations.  Another spouse actually called her husband's command over the dog hair and the husband, who was simply the "sponsor", got in trouble.  That shit would not happen in the civilian world.  It would get laughed out the door.  Most spouses are considered civilians (unless they are serving, too)... but they often end up living according to military rules.  That's not necessarily easy, because it basically means having to put up with stupid shit, yet not earning a paycheck or, really, even having a choice-- unless the spouse gets a divorce or the servicemember quits the military.

While I'm not necessarily a fan of self-congratulatory behavior, I do think it's nice that the military now recognizes spouses and whatever contributions they make, even if it's just being a good partner and parent, if that applies.  What sucks is that so many people in the military belittle the contributions and sacrifices made by military spouses.  Some servicemembers do it to incredibly offensive and disrespectful levels, too.  I have written about that in this blog, as well.

Since Bill is retired, I guess I no longer have a dog in this fight.  I am now a contractor's wife, happily married to a retiree.  But I'm now hanging around more military folks now than I ever did, even when I lived on Fort Belvoir.  For the most part, I really enjoy folks who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses.  It's one area where you are sure to meet people from every walk of life and from all different corners of the world.  I think people from different cultures are fascinating.  I have also been around the military my whole life and am mostly used to the crusty ways they handle things sometimes.

I just think it's too bad that so many people in the military community think they have to degrade spouses for having a special day of recognition.  Quite a few spouses really do add a lot to the military cause and they mostly do it without a paycheck.  Besides that, regularly making fun of military spouses is just a low class and moronic thing to do.

I also notice that a lot of the people who have no trouble bashing military spouses get their noses out of joint when people bash military servicemembers.  In fact, I know a guy right now who likes to pick on "dependas", but will get pissy when my Italian friend jokes about US military servicemembers being knuckle draggers and thugs.  Basically, both of these guys are promoting unfair stereotypes.  Anyway... I know I'm wasting my time complaining about this issue.  It's not going to go away.  But count me among those who don't think dependa bashing is funny.  People need to grow up and get a life.

Judy Collins shares her thoughts on Cravings...

I have loved Judy Collins' beautiful music since I was about 18 years old.  She's recorded so many beautiful songs over the years and inspired others as well.  Although I knew she'd had trouble with alcohol and eating disorders, I didn't know the extent of her problems until I picked up her latest book, Cravings: How I Conquered Food.

Published on February 28, 2017, Cravings offers readers insight into what may have caused Judy Collins' issues with booze and food.  Collins' theories may also be helpful to other readers.  The book is also about Judy Collins' life, so if you read it, it helps to also be interested in her life story.  I suspect a lot of younger people may not be fans of Judy Collins' music, although I think they should be.  I should also mention that this is the first book I've read by Judy Collins, so I wasn't perturbed to read about her life.  Others who have read her earlier memoirs might feel like parts of this book are reruns.

Here Judy sings "Someday Soon" with Stephen Stills, who famously penned "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" in her honor.

Collins writes that when she was growing up, she loved all things made of flour, sugar, wheat, and corn.  She was addicted to sugar and would eat sweet things constantly.  That sugar obsession later turned to unsightly pounds and a neverending compulsion to eat more.  She eventually went on to become bulimic and would binge and purge to the point of developing a vocal cord hemangioma.  It almost destroyed her voice.

As she got older, Collins took up drinking and smoking.  She became an alcoholic and, for many years, would even drink heavily before and after taking the stage.  Although she indulged in self-destructive behavior, Collins somehow knew that what she was doing was dangerous.  She sought help from doctors, most of whom told her she didn't have a problem.

Eventually, Collins realized that there was a link between her cravings for sugar, flour, wheat, and corn and her addiction to alcohol.  She eliminated the problem foods from her diet and adopted what looks to me to be a paleo diet.  She says now her weight is stable and she know longer has such intense cravings for unhealthy foods or booze.  She also credits spending time in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and employing the Grey Sheet Diet Plan for helping her to stop the insanity.

"Suite Judy Blue Eyes"

Aside from explaining her secrets to eating and drinking success, Collins writes about her son, Clark Taylor, who sadly died after committing suicide.  Collins herself attempted suicide, although she doesn't delve too much into her experiences with suicidal ideation.  Before he passed, Clark fathered Judy Collins' only grandchild, Hollis, who is now herself a mother.  I enjoyed reading about Judy's family and can tell that she loves them very much.  She writes that not a day goes by that she doesn't think about and miss her son.

I also enjoyed reading about Collins' musical training.  Originally, she was trained as a pianist and she studied great and challenging classical works.  I never knew Judy Collins was once being groomed for the classical music world.  As she became a teenager, she was lured into folk music.  She picked up a guitar, learned how to play, and began to sing.  I was astonished to read that she once had a very limited vocal range.  Work with an excellent voice teacher eventually stretched her range to about three octaves, quite respectable for a singer.  I have always liked her voice for its ethereal quality.  I think my own style is kind of like hers.

Anyway... I thought Cravings was well-written and engaging.  It didn't take forever to finish.  Because I haven't read Collins' other books, the material and new for me.  It's also relevant for me personally on many levels.  I liked that she drew in interesting examples from history to backup her theories about diet, drinking, and health.  I learned something new in those passages.  And, given that Judy was born in 1939 and is still making albums and writing books, I figure she must be doing something right.  I recommend her book to those who are thinking about reading it.


Friday, May 12, 2017

So I watched "13 Reasons Why"...

Not long ago, I read and blogged about the new Netflix drama "13 Reasons Why".  A lot of my friends had opinions about the show.  Always one to embrace a good melodrama, I subscribed to Netflix again so I could see what was generating all the hype.

Over the past couple of days, I've been watching the series.  Much to my relief, last night I finished the last show.  Folks, I have to say, I am not a fan of the Netflix version of "13 Reasons Why", which was based on a bestselling novel of the same name that was published in 2007.  But it's not because I don't think there should be TV shows or movies about suicide.  My reasons for not liking "13 Reasons Why" are much more pedestrian than that.  I simply found it an annoying and unrealistic show.

"13 Reasons Why" is the story of Hannah Baker, a teenager who decides to kill herself and leaves behind cassette tapes for people who had to do with the reasons why she takes such desperate measures.  I must admit, I was amused at seeing the supposed teens (all of whom were clearly in their 20s) asking their parents if their "boom boxes" or classic Walkmans still worked so they could play the cassettes.

Hannah sounds very confident and clever as she explains the tapes.  She does not sound depressed.  In fact, there's an edge to her voice that sounds almost as if she's enjoying herself.  The first one to discover the tapes, at least onscreen, is Clay.  Hannah had a crush on Clay and apparently he's one of the 13 reasons why she decided to slit her wrists and hang out in a warm bathtub.  Clay is the one character who seems pretty "good".  The rest of the people in Hannah's midst are assholes who, I guess, screwed her over (literally in one case).  She plots her suicide as a means of taking revenge.

Allow me a minute to say that it seems pretty dumb to take revenge by killing yourself.  It's not like you'll be around to see how that affects the people who have pissed you off.  And you'll be dead.  Death is final.  But maybe that was the one realistic thing about "13 Reasons Why".  Teenagers are not necessarily known for being rational or logical.  Nevertheless, it doesn't make Hannah very likable or relatable.

Okay...  well, I think the premise of the story is interesting enough.  A lot of suicidal teens are angry and hopeless and maybe some would fantasize about leaving tapes letting the people who hurt them know what they did.  But in my experience, a person with clinical depression would not undertake such an auspicious and lengthy project of making multiple cassette tapes.  Depression often makes you tired, distracted, and apathetic.  Based on this story line, I'm not sure if Hannah is supposed to suffer from depression or if she's just throwing a hissy fit.  If she's just throwing a fit, would she have really taken the time to make tapes?  If she's depressed, would she always look well-groomed and "normal"?  And would she have had the ability to concentrate long enough to make those tapes?

Many people who attempt or commit suicide are suffering from some degree of clinical depression.  It is a significant problem for teenagers.  I was a depressed teen.  I have pictures of myself during those years when I was young and pretty and I often had a very sour, glum expression on my face.  There were days when I wanted not to give a shit, but I had enough anxiety to keep me caring about things.  Hannah just doesn't strike me as depressed or even that angry.  But if she were very depressed, I'd have trouble believing that she'd have the energy or the will to make audio tapes for the people left behind.

Consider that she would have had to talk for hours to make those tapes.  That would have taken energy and planning.  It doesn't really ring true.  At most, maybe one side of one tape might be somewhat realistic.  And since teens are often impulsive, especially when they get angry and dramatic, it doesn't ring true that Hannah would make so many tapes before killing herself.  Again, that requires a lot of pre-meditation that I don't think a lot of teens-- even the very bright ones who sound like they're 30-- would necessarily be capable of.

I also really don't think a teenager of today would use cassettes.  Why would they?  What would motivate a teen in this day and age to record a bunch of monologues on old fashioned cassette tapes?  I would think that if a person went to that much trouble to make the tapes, they'd want to be heard.  And yet, Hannah used a medium that would force their friends to find obsolete boom boxes on which to play them?  It sounds like bullshit to me, but I guess it makes for a nostalgic hook that will get the 40 somethings watching.

The characters irritated me due to everything from the fact that they all looked at least 20 and spoke like they were in their 30s, to the repeated and completely overdone use of the word "fuck".  I am certainly not offended by the "f-word", but when it is used over and over again by teens who are otherwise very intelligent, I'm just left scratching my head and wondering if no one teaches vocabulary anymore.  I certainly don't have a problem with blue language, but it really gets tiresome to listen to non-stop vulgar language (my dad would be so PROUD).   Yes, teens use a lot of profanity.  I sure did when I was a teen.  But these "kids" used the word "fuck" in every conceivable part of speech over and over again.  I would have been more impressed if the writers had found a few other obscenities to use.

I noticed that the soundtrack sounded very 80s inspired.  I have not had a look at the musical credits, but it sounds like they used music by The Cure a lot.  If you were a teenager in the 80s, as I was, you know that The Cure was the quintessential "teen angst" soundtrack for that era.  And as a music lover, I'll admit that their music has aged well.  Do today's teens listen to it?  I dunno...  But it seemed more like music intended to appeal to people in their 40s than teenagers.  Maybe that was done by design.  Maybe today's parents should be watching shows about suicide with their kids.

I have to admit, I paid close attention to the first couple of episodes, but before too long, I lost interest.  By the final episode, I was starting to get really twitchy with every utterance of the word "fuck" and its many incarnations.  I squirmed as each very attractive, very precocious, very annoying and teen-angsty "teen" shouted about those tapes and Hannah Baker (whose name also annoyed me... it reminded me too much of Studebaker).

I grew up in an era when we had Afterschool Specials and Movies of the Week on TV.  A lot of those programs, never longer than two hours, were melodramatic and smarmy.  But at least they got to the point quickly, and a lot of times, were entertaining enough to hold my attention.  I just got really bored and annoyed watching "13 Reasons Why".  It made me miss Aaron Spelling.  

In all seriousness...  in the mid 1980s, I remember watching an excellent movie of the week called "Surviving".  It was about teen suicide and starred Molly Ringwald, Zack Galligan, River Phoenix, Heather O'Rourke, Ellen Burstyn, and Marsha Mason.  Thirty plus years later, I still remember that movie.  And... lookie here!  Someone has posted it on YouTube!  No Netflix subscription required!


You're welcome. 

If I had a teenager, this movie is what I'd be watching with them if I wanted to address teen suicide.  I would not watch "13 Reasons Why", not because I would fear them being inspired by the show, but because the show simply sucks and lacks realism.  Sorry. 

Edited to add...  I could probably write even more about what I think is wrong with "13 Reasons Why"...  maybe later, I will.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dog fur incident gets hairy...

Some people in the local community really need to a get a hobby.  They have entirely too much time on their hands.

A few days ago, I wrote about how things blew up in a local dog related Facebook group.  Someone complained about a member of the community leaving their husky's shedded dog hair in the dog park.  I'm not sure what the big deal was about that.  Was the person upset because she considered it litter?  Was she upset because she's allergic to dog hair?  I don't know.  But things got really heated and a bunch of people got booted from the group.  Then, the booted folks made their own dog group.

We all thought that was the end of it.  Unfortunately, it wasn't.  The person whose hair was left in the dog park confessed that her dog was the culprit.  Then, the aggrieved spouse who was upset about the dog hair apparently complained to the husky owner's husband's boss.  So now, the dog owner's husband's boss is involved in a ridiculous incident that had nothing to do with the husband or the boss... and really never should have turned into an incident beyond Facebook (and really not even there).

I don't know of any other profession where a person's spouse can call up another person's spouse's boss and complain about shit they're doing in a housing area.  I'm sure it's worst in places abroad where a lot of people are disgruntled about being forced to live in communal housing, but it also happens stateside.  When I lived at Fort Belvoir, some crazy bitch came over and yelled at Bill because he did a sloppy job cleaning up after our dog, Flea.  He missed one of Flea's turds.  This bitch came over, banged on our door, and proceeded to shriek at Bill.  She threatened to call the MPs because it was a violation of "regulations" right after she said she wanted to shoot people who didn't clean up after their dogs.  It's a good thing she didn't get me at the door because I would have asked her what she thought the MPs would find more interesting... a stray piece of dog shit or a woman threatening to shoot someone on government property?

I'm sure these kinds of incidents are annoying to the bosses, too.  Like they don't have enough work to do?  It just seems like a lot of needless drama to me and people not acting like adults.  It's stories like this one that make me really glad Bill is retired.  Of course, now we're waiting to find out if we're going to get to stay here or not.  That's a pain in the ass, too.

Sometimes these bored spouses stir up needless shit and end up with more than they bargained for.  I have a feeling the woman whose husband got in trouble over their dog's hair may go ahead and take some action herself.  I guess I wouldn't blame her if she did.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Things I didn't know on the day I became "overeducated"...

Wow... fifteen years flies by!

Today is May 10th, 2017.  I graduated from the University of South Carolina on May 10th, 2002.  On that auspicious day, I collected master's degrees in social work and public health.  I had big plans for my future.  I pictured myself working in an office somewhere, earning a salary, climbing the ladder of workplace success, and eventually settling somewhere and buying a home in the United States.  But there was a lot I didn't know that day that I have learned since then.

I knew I was marrying a soldier and we would be moving a lot.  I also knew that one day, he'd retire.  I didn't know we'd be in one area for about five years and then spend the next seven years moving to three different states and Germany twice.  

I didn't know that all the moving would make actually using those degrees rather difficult.  Oh, I'm sure I might have had an inkling, but in 2002, all I knew was that we were going to northern Virginia.

I didn't know that my husband's daughters would turn into PAS zombies.  I was blissfully unaware of parental alienation syndrome or people who use their children as weapons.  I didn't know my husband's "son" would one day obviously become his ex stepson.  In 2002, neither of us thought of him in that way, nor did it ever occur to me that one day I'd refer to his daughters as "exes".  But I want to reiterate that Bill doesn't share my feelings toward his kids.  He still has unconditional love for them.  I really respect and admire him for that.  At the same time, though I sometimes feel guilty about my feelings, I also realize that his daughters are truly strangers to me.

I didn't know that the first few years of my marriage were going to be very tough.  I also didn't know that Bill and I would survive and thrive.  We were just talking about how hard the early years were.  It took about five years before things got somewhat easier financially.  It took about nine years before the pain of PAS began to dissipate a bit.

I didn't know that I'd eventually come to be okay with not having children or even owning my own home.

I didn't know that I'd become pretty good at saving and managing money.  Of course, I still have some bad habits.  I fritter away money on things like games and entertainment.  But we have more money in the bank now than either of us have ever had.  Ten years ago, I put it in my mind to pay off debt and create savings.  As potential unemployment looms in the future, I feel better knowing we owe less and have more money banked.

I didn't know that I'd eventually come to really dislike the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In 2002, I had respect for Mormonism.  I didn't know a whole lot about it then, and hadn't seen how it can be used to break up families.  I still respect people's rights to believe as they wish, but I have little respect for churches that pressure everyone within a family to believe the same way or else.  And, in fairness to the LDS church, I want to reiterate that I know Mormons aren't the only ones who do this stuff.  They just happen to be the ones who affected us personally.

I didn't know that I'd make money writing stuff on the Internet.  I don't make as much now as I used to, but I can't really say that I'm not a professional.  I have made enough that I've needed to pay taxes, anyway.  I find that my writing helps me to use my education and experiences, even if I don't make enough money to support myself.  I know that the blogs are useful and interesting to some people.  That makes me want to keep writing.

I didn't know that I'd be a big help to my husband in many things.  While I haven't been able to help him pay the bills, I have tried to be a good wife and help manage what we have.  I think I've been successful.  We still get along beautifully because we are insanely compatible.  Seriously.  It's hard to believe how lucky we were to find each other.

I didn't know that I would write a blog.  I didn't know that my blog would introduce me to interesting people.  I have readers all over the place.  For some reason, I seem to be especially popular with the Irish.  I didn't know I'd eventually have a lot of readers in the military community and some of them would take offense to my referring to myself as "overeducated".  And I didn't know that others would totally "get it" and become friends.

I didn't know that I'd come to love living in Germany and that I'd get to live here twice.  I didn't know that I'd pick up some German, mainly through Duolingo and paying attention.  No, I can't really speak the language, but I definitely can read and understand more.

I didn't know that one day, I'd have a second chance to meet Germans and make friends.  It was a lot harder to do that the first time we lived here.

I didn't know that I would one day get to the point at which I could accelerate paying off my student loans... and that I could do it on Bill's salary.  I am very lucky that he's willing to help me.  I also know that I am ridiculously privileged in many ways.

I didn't know that fifteen years would fly by and I'd be middle-aged so soon.  I didn't know that I'd miss out on some things that people take for granted.  But I also didn't know that the experiences I've had are not the typical experiences I was expecting to have.

I didn't know that my former best friend would one day end up on my shit list.  I also didn't know that some people I didn't think were friends would become good friends.

I didn't know that I'd finally get out of Virginia for longer than three years.

I didn't know that I'd be able to express myself musically on the Internet and some people would even enjoy my efforts.

I didn't know that Facebook would one day rule my life... not that I'm particularly proud of that.

I didn't know I'd eventually go from being somewhat politically conservative to being rather liberal.

And... I didn't know that my affection for the South would eventually turn cold.  I used to be very proud of my heritage.  I am somewhat less so, now.  Maybe now, I embrace my European roots more than my southern roots.

Here's to fifteen years of being a boring ass housewife with too much formal education.  Thanks to everyone who reads this crap and helps me make a mark on the world somehow.  May we all enjoy another fifteen years of whatever's coming.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Younger ex daughter...

So...  a few months ago, my husband's father and stepmother lost their dog, Ginger, to death by natural causes.  My husband's younger daughter-- I refer to her as "ex daughter" because she disowned Bill in 2006 and allegedly got adopted-- left a comment expressing condolences.  Bill commented to ex daughter.  She briefly responded.  He sent her a private message and months later, she responded.

I haven't read the exchange.  I generally make it a policy not to read the stuff that comes from Ex or Bill's other family members, with the exception of his mother.  Bill inevitably tells me about these things and usually gets me upset.  This time, it sounds like the comments were relatively benign.  Apparently, younger ex daughter wanted to know what Bill's favorite color is.  And what it's like to live abroad.  She says older ex daughter, now aged 25, is still working on a college degree and does charcoal drawings.  She's supposedly also a talented florist and did the flowers for younger ex daughter's wedding.

Thanks to her mother's hateful PAS agenda, my husband's younger kid is now trying to get acquainted with her biological father as an adult.  She's asking questions she should have known the answer to and could have known had she only had access to her dad.  My husband's ex wife refused to allow Bill's daughters to spend time with him.  So now, his daughters are young women and their biological father is a stranger.

I have been very angry with Bill's ex kids for years.  Even as I understand that they were lied to and controlled by a very sick woman, I still hold them responsible for their behavior.  Furthermore, I don't trust them, because I made the mistake of trying to trust Bill's ex stepson.  It turned out all he wanted was money.  We found out about his real agenda in a very pathetic way that was truly heartbreaking for Bill and infuriating for me.

It may be different with Bill's children because they have part of him in them.  On the other hand, they also have part of their mother in them and she has no doubt taught them things.

I knew they weren't finished with us, though.  I knew there would come a day when we'd hear from them.  When younger ex kid started talking to Bill's dad and stepmother, I knew curiosity would win out and one of them would come out of the woodwork.  I don't know how much communication there will be between Bill and his kids.  I know he's excited about it, but I can't say I share in the excitement.

I'm sure people who read this and are unfamiliar with our story will think I'm heartless and evil.  I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.  I would have loved to have gotten to know Bill's children and had a normal relationship with them all these years.  I would have done my best to have been a good stepmother or, at the very least, a friend.  I never got that chance.  What's more, I have a feeling that Ex and Bill's stepmother have spun a narrative about me that makes those kids think I'm awful.  I'm really not awful.  I just don't tolerate abusive behavior.  Ex has never met me and SMIL has had limited contact with me.  I have been assertive and they don't like that.

Bill doesn't need my permission to have a relationship with his relatives.  I don't stop him from talking to them or seeing them.  But I refuse to put myself on the firing line with people who think their perspective is the only one that matters.  I believe in mutual respect and, so far, none of them have shown me much.  Bill's daughters have had no contact with us, except through very hateful letters that arrived just in time for Bill's 42nd birthday in 2006.  Their mother probably made them write them, but I get the feeling that they were manipulated into being more cooperative.  As they got older, one would hope they'd understand more.

For those who haven't been following along, here's a timeline of events from my perspective since Bill and I decided to marry...

January 2002- Bill tells his ex wife that he's going to propose to me.  Ex wife asks if I am a member of the LDS church.  He says I'm not and have no plans to join.  Ex informs Bill that she's going to say yes to her boyfriend's repeated marriage proposals.

March 2002- Ex is married to her third husband.

May 2002- Ex is pregnant with her fourth child.  At some point during her pregnancy, she tells my father-in-law that she's not over Bill.

November 2002- Bill and I get married.  It happens to be ex stepson's fifteenth birthday.  Had I known about his birthday, I would have picked a different date.  Not that it matters now.

March 2003- Ex has child #4, a daughter.

June 2003- Ex has a work conference in Washington, DC.  Bill and I are living in a crappy apartment in Fredericksburg, VA.  Bill takes several days off work so he can visit with the kids.  Ex manages to elude his phone calls and keeps us hanging for several days.  We finally get barely 48 hours with them.  At the time, ex stepson is 15 and ex daughters are 11 (almost 12) and 9.  During that visit, younger ex daughter slaps Bill for having beer in the fridge.  She accuses him of being a drunk.  Other than that, we mostly get along.  They also talk to Bill's mother on the phone for the first and last time in years.

August 2003- Ex goes on the warpath about life insurance.  She demands that Bill cover himself for $1 million.  We can't afford more coverage and it would require a policy from another insurance company.  Ex eventually backs off after sending an offensive email to Bill about how she's glad she won't have to fight me in court (But she certainly will have to fight me if it comes down to it.  If I have my way, none of them will get another cent from Bill.  This is how I feel now.  It wasn't how I felt back then.).

Over the next year, Bill fights continually with his ex wife about seeing the kids.  She comes up with repeated excuses as to why they can't visit us.  One excuse is that Ex is afraid to let them fly.  Bill's daughters eventually stop talking to him on the phone.  Younger ex daughter claims to have headaches or is in the bathtub when he calls.  Many times, they don't even answer the phone.  They start calling their stepfather "Daddy" and Bill is referred to by his first name.

September 2004- Ex proposes that we spend Thanksgiving at her house in Arizona.  We are broke, mainly owing to the huge amount of child support she gets for the three kids (eldest kid is not Bill's) and trying to recover from financial disasters during Bill's first marriage.  We can't afford to fly to Arizona and board our dogs.  Thanksgiving is also my favorite holiday and I don't want to spend it in Arizona with my husband's ex wife, who has made it clear that she despises me.  The feeling is mutual.  Next, Ex proposes that we go to Tennessee for Christmas.  She and her husband will stay with Bill's dad and stepmom, while we are expected to get a hotel room.

December 2004-  Bill goes to his dad's house at Christmas to see the kids.  I stay home with the dogs.  I get blamed because the gathering is a "disaster", ostensibly because I wasn't there.  Ex daughters are very hostile to Bill and younger kid refuses to speak to him at all.  Nevertheless, he's delighted to see them, even though his ex and her husband are camping out in his father's house.  This is the last time he will see his daughters in person while they are still kids.

2005 was mainly spent trying and failing to arrange more visitations and phone calls.

April 2006- Ex stepson decides to move out of his mother's home.  He calls Bill and re-establishes contact, making sure he'll still get child support ($850-- again, legally he is not Bill's son).  Ex calls Bill and demands that he talk ex stepson into staying home.  Bill refuses.  Ex sends Bill a horrible email, again blaming me for her problems, telling Bill that the kids don't like me (although they don't really know me), asking Bill to keep secrets from me, and accusing Bill of being a terrible father.  I have ignored Ex's bullshit up until this point.  I send her an email that pretty much eviscerates her.  It's the only communication I have ever had with her, aside from answering the phone the one time she calls us.  Ex is also pregnant during this time.

July 2006- Ex sends Bill a bunch of boxes restricted mail.  It's mostly stuff she's held onto since their divorce back in 2000.  In the boxes is an itemized list of the contents.  She includes adoption paperwork and  copies of hateful letters from Bill's daughters demanding that he give them up for adoption to their mother's third husband.  Bill very briefly considers signing the papers, but then decides not to.

Over the next months, Ex tries to get Bill's father and stepmother mad at him.  SMIL calls Bill and tells him off.  She also tells him to keep me under control (because I sent Ex an email straightening her out and letting her know that my husband doesn't keep secrets from me).  He forwards them Ex's emails and the whole thing backfires on Ex when they realize she's been lying and/or stretching the truth.  At that point, Ex stops sending written communications to us.

November 2006- Ex has her fifth child.  Ex stepson and then girlfriend, later wife, and now ex wife (I understand) come to visit us in Virginia for Thanksgiving.  Ex pays for their plane tickets, probably because she wants to appear to be cooperative.  She acts like she's happy he's seeing us, but really, she's likely just trying to save face.

For the next few years, Bill pays his ex stepson child support and has regular email and phone communication with him.  The daughters refuse to speak to Bill at all.  At one point, Ex shows up at Bill's father and stepmother's house with the girls.  They were not invited, nor did they tell the in laws they were coming.  Nevertheless, FIL and SMIL are glad to see them and willingly put them up in their home.

January 2007-August 2007- Bill is participating in the war in Iraq.  He tries to make contact with the girls in case he dies over there.  Ex's response is to send Bill a children's book he used to read the girls at bedtime.  The theme is "forgiveness".  Bill sends it back to her because she needs it more than he does.

Bill tells his ex stepson that he can have his car because we're moving abroad and can only ship one at government expense.  While Bill is at war, ex stepson calls me and tries to demand that I let him have the car before Bill has come home.  I refuse, because the car needs work and isn't mine to give him.  I also don't want to have to deal with ex stepson and his buddies, especially since we're living on an Army post at the time.

August 2007- Bill goes to Tennessee with his car, which he gives to ex stepson free and clear.  Ex stepson doesn't know how to drive a manual shifting car.  His girlfriend has to teach him as they drive it to Arizona.

September 2007- We move to Germany.

Fall 2008- Purely by luck, I find a way to check what Ex and her clan are up to in the Arizona court system.  I find out all sorts of interesting stuff, like how husband #3 was arrested for animal abuse and ex stepson is busted for marijuana possession.

January 2009- Using the court Web site, which is free and public information, I discover that ex stepson, whose last name had been changed to Bill's, is planning to reclaim his original surname.  He doesn't tell Bill about his plans, but continues to demand child support.  At the time, he is 21 years old.  When Bill asks him about his plans, ex stepson responds with anger that Bill knows about it.  I guess his name change is not Bill's business.  Bill's job is to send money and STFU.

March 2009- Bill stops paying ex stepson child support because he doesn't tell Bill when his name change is final.  Ex stepson begs for $500 and promises never to "bother" Bill again.  He's planning a trip to China with his college buddies, but has maxed out his credit cards.  Bill is disgusted and offers to help ex stepson, but never hears from him.  Ex stepson goes to China during the summer.

July 2009- Bill tries to send his older daughter information about how to receive child support because she's turned 18.  Bill's letter gets returned to him.  He keeps it sealed in case she ever wants to know the truth about what he did when she became a legal adult.

September 2009- We move back to the States.

December 2011- Younger ex kid turns 18.  Bill stops paying child support, even though he was supposed to pay until she turned 22.  Divorce decree stipulates that he is to pay her directly under certain conditions.  Since she won't communicate, he has nowhere to send the money and she isn't meeting the conditions of being paid.

At some point in 2011, Ex and her clan move to New Hampshire.  We find out about it online.  Ex stepson also marries in 2011.  Again, we discover this online.  Based on Bill's most recent research, it looks like the marriage fell apart, although now ex stepson has a daughter.

In 2012, younger ex daughter, who had not been speaking to my husband's dad and stepmom, calls them.  Bill calls his dad on Christmas and gets to hear about how his daughter still hates him.  He comes into the house crying and his mother and I console him as we make plans to visit my sister for Christmas dinner.

November 2016- Younger ex daughter shows up as a "person Bill might know" on Facebook.  I am livid, because this comes up on our wedding anniversary.

May 2017- Younger ex daughter sends Bill her message.

Tell me... should I trust her?  Maybe she's not an asshole like her mother is, but I have my doubts.  But, as I've said many times, she isn't my child.  Bear in mind, too, that Bill has not seen this person since 2004.  I haven't seen her since her one and only visitation with us.

On a human level, I do have empathy for her situation.  On the other hand, we've already been burned by them many times.  I think I've mostly decided to try to stay out of it as much as possible.  Bill loves his daughters.  He always has.  I am the one who thinks of them as "exes" because of the horrible way they've treated him and others in his family and because they disowned Bill.  Bill is very kind and forgiving, though.  He'll give them a chance.  All I can do is sit by and watch...  and worry about all of the other stuff going on in our lives.  At this point, we don't even know if we're still going to be in Germany three months from now, nor do we know where we'll be going if we have to move.

But yeah, I knew this was coming...  I told Bill they weren't through with him (or really us, since this crap affects me, too).  Happily, he's now in a better position to prevent them from screwing him over again.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Remembering Barbara Bejoian, diasporas, and amethysts...

Every once in awhile, I get reminded of people I used to know.  Sometimes I look them up to see what they're up to.  I didn't really know Armenian-American playwright Barbara Bejoian, although I did have the chance to meet her back in 1995.  At the time, I was a Peace Corps trainee in Armenia.  Ms. Bejoian was in Armenia on a Fulbright Scholarship.  She had come with her family and was teaching at the American University of Armenia (AUA) and, I believe, Yerevan State University.  She graciously came to see us TEFL trainees (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) one day.

I remember her as a woman in her youthful forties, with long dark hair, a bright and warm smile, and a very engaging personality.  She talked about her work in Armenia and introduced me to the word "diaspora".  That's not a joke.  There I was, 23 years old and a graduate of what was then known as Longwood College.  I had been an English major.  I had not come into contact with the concept of a diaspora before I moved to Armenia.

For those who don't know, a diaspora is a group of people from a certain place who live in another place.  Life in Armenia has been historically difficult.  Many Armenians have voluntarily left their homeland and resettled in places that are more comfortable or hospitable.  Others were forcibly driven out of their country.  In the United States, there are large Armenian communities in the Boston and Fresno areas.  France is also host to many ethnic Armenians, as is Iran.

Many Armenians lived in Turkey; some still live there, despite the Armenian that occurred in the early 20th century.  At one time, there were millions of Armenians in Turkey; now, their numbers are in the thousands and they are concentrated in the Istanbul area rather than the historically Armenian eastern part of the country.

Now I know that many people from different places are living in disaporas.  Diaspora is a word that is often used to describe Jewish communities around the world. But, as I found out when I was a Volunteer, Armenians have some things in common with Jews who perished in the Holocaust.  As a matter of fact, Adolf Hitler looked to what happened to the Armenian people as justification for his plan to exterminate Jewish people.

I remember Barbara Bejoian, gloriously American in her Armenianness, talking to our group about her work as a playwright and what it meant for her to be living in the diaspora.  She led us through a writing exercise and had us describe Armenia in a creative way.  She was so encouraging and intelligent and I remember being inspired by her achievements.  I remember my colleagues coming up with very unique ways to describe their impressions of Armenia.

One idea that sticks in my mind came from a fellow trainee who described Armenian homes like amethyst crystals.  The buildings many Armenians were living in back in 1995 looked bland, decrepit, and very Soviet.  Walk into one of those homes and you were likely to find it beautifully decorated.  It was like breaking open an the bland looking amethyst and finding gorgeous purple crystals on the inside.  In fact, the year after I met Barbara Bejoian, I had an experience that reminded me of that "amethyst" concept.

An Armenian couple I was friends with invited me to go with them to Lake Sevan for an afternoon.  We went, but missed the last bus.  So we started walking and my Armenian friend thumbed a ride.  A man picked us up and took us back to Yerevan.  Before we parted ways, he invited us into his home for coffee.  Although the building was very shabby looking, the inside of this man's apartment was decorated with paintings his son had done.  It turned out he was going to display some of them in Paris at an art gallery.  I remember being absolutely blown away by the experience.  Here I was with an Armenian couple.  We had hitchhiked, something I would NEVER do in the United States.  And we'd ended up meeting this man whose son was an amazing artist.  You'd never know it to see the outside of where he was living.  When I think of that experience, I am reminded of how Barbara Bejoian and inspired a colleague to compare Armenian homes to amethysts.

Like many Armenians, Barbara Bejoian had a gift for creativity and a love for the arts.  It's no small feat to be a successful playwright.  Barbara Bejoian's works had been performed in venues in several countries.  I could tell she was a very special person who had touched many, even though when I encountered her, she was still fairly young.  Below is a passage from her obituary...

Ms. Bejoian, winner of 10 National Endowment for the Arts awards, was a professor of playwriting, English, and creative writing. Her students ranged from children whose second language was English to undergraduates and graduate students at Brown University, New York University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Rhode Island College. One of her plays will appear in a future anthology of Armenian writers, to be published by Columbia University Press.

I did not know that Barbara Bejoian would die less than ten years after she led her session during my Peace Corps training.  In 2002, she was stricken with metastatic rectal cancer.  In April 2004 at age 49, she died, leaving behind her husband and two sons.

I don't know what made me think of her yesterday.  I guess it's just my wandering mind, which can alternatively be a blessing or a curse.  I was very moved by memories shared about her in her obituary and suddenly felt very fortunate to have had the chance to meet her in person.  I doubt I would have ever heard of her had I not been sitting in Peace Corps training that day.

The older I get, the more I think that sometimes you end up in places for a reason.  I never aspired to be a Peace Corps Volunteer when I was growing up.  I really only wanted what other people had.  I knew I didn't want to stay in Gloucester, Virginia, but I probably would have alright with settling in a town somewhat like it.  I was driven to join the Peace Corps out of a need to leave my hometown and strike out on my own.  I never thought I'd be accepted into the Peace Corps, but I was.  It changed my life, if only because it vastly broadened my perspective of the world and opened my eyes to people like Barbara Bejoian.

Of course, I write this realizing that my experience is not everyone's experience.  Some people have encountered disaster in the Peace Corps.  I will admit that I didn't always enjoy the work or the people I worked with.  Twenty years later, I can see that once I made that leap, I couldn't go back home.  Barbara Bejoian was part of that life expanding experience, as were many other people.  Actually, now that I think about it, I met a number of very interesting and inspirational people during those two years.  Several professors from the United States came to Armenia to lend their talents.  It was a real gift to be able to engage with them.  I didn't realize it then, but I do now.  I didn't think I made a difference back then, but I do now.  What a gift it is to have had the chance to meet Barbara Bejoian and so many like her.  Thinking about her today reminds me that one should always be open to accepting the gifts others offer.