Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Swearing with my eyes... part two

A couple of days ago, I wrote a rant about "swearing with my eyes."  The rant was mainly about our landlady and the house we've lived in for the past four years.  In that rant, I made a couple of ill advised comments about the people who lived in the house before us-- not just the ones immediately prior to us, but the ones before them, too.  It was wrong for me to make those comments because they were based entirely on my apparently erroneous assumptions and a few limited observations.  I don't actually know those people, so I will admit that it wasn't right to jump to conclusions.  What can I say?  I'm human, and sometimes I fuck up.  But a prior tenant has decided to set me straight.  She had a great experience with her and is still friends.  I can respect that, and have edited my rant accordingly.

However...  I do absolutely stand by my comments about our experiences in this house.  Maybe I come off as a complete bitch to some readers.  I have admitted more than once that not everyone likes me.  I totally understand that.  It is what it is.  But I have never in my life had a landlord or landlady come into my home and yell at me the way that our landlady did last year.

On more than one occasion, the landlady accused me of being "negligent" because the awning collapsed, when what really happened was a complete accident.  If it hadn't happened to us, it likely would have happened to the next tenants.  Moreover, someone could have been seriously injured or even killed when the awning fell.  It's very heavy.  If it had hit someone on its way down, there would have been medical bills to pay.

It might have been okay if we'd eventually had a chance to clear the air, but our problems with her went on for several months in email exchanges and issues with our liability insurance, which she complained didn't pay enough.  Then, once Bill said he was just glad no one was hurt when the awning fell, we got radio silence.

Instead of focusing on "what" was messed up, the landlady's focus seemed to be entirely on "who" messed up.  In this case, it was apparently me, and me alone.  When she yelled at me, she spoke to me as if I was a child.  I was shocked by her response.  She was fixated on how the awning collapse affected her, and did not seem to spare a passing thought about how it affected us.  Had her approach been less offensive, she might have found us more willing to help her replace the awning with a new one.  Instead, she harassed us about it for months.

I felt attacked in my own home and that upset me, because I certainly wasn't intending to cause the landlady any problems.  I didn't wake up on the day that awning fell and think, "Maybe I'll unroll this thing on a windy day and see what happens."  I also did not unroll the awning and do something improper with it.  It was a hot, sunny day.  I unrolled it simply to shade the living room.  The wind picked up and it collapsed.  I wasn't standing under it when it collapsed, which was one of her complaints.  For that, I'm grateful.  I'm already 46 years old and don't need more physical problems as I age.

Prior to the awning's collapse, the landlady had told us it was fixed, but she didn't know for how long.  I had no idea a sudden gust of wind would cause it to collapse, nor could I predict the wind would gust.  It was a completely unexpected event.  People have accidents.  Mistakes happen.  Unfortunately, at that time, we were also having unrelated problems with the electric rolladen, which I also got blamed for, though that was even less my fault.  She later admitted it wasn't installed properly, but didn't apologize for yelling at me about it.  In fact, she added unnecessary comments about "encrusted dog hair" in the doorway for good measure.  Really, all it took to remove the dog hair was a quick wipe with a rag.  The hair certainly wasn't "encrusted".  It was caused by my dogs walking in and out of the house.  

It got to the point at which I started to feel really unwelcome in the house.  I even started to feel a bit paranoid, wondering what was going on when we weren't there.  I spend a lot of time at home because I'm a writer and a bit of a loner.  I consider home my sanctuary and I value my privacy.  After that incident last year, my sanctuary felt violated, especially since she would sometimes show up unannounced and I wouldn't be prepared to receive her.  I got the sense that she felt like I don't do anything with my time and, therefore, should be fine with any unexpected intrusions.  Maybe other people don't think I work, but I do.  Even if I didn't, I think I have the right to expect basic respect, privacy, and consideration, just like everyone else does.  Basic respect does not entail yelling at someone in their home.

People are different, and they react to things differently.  Some people have no problems with being berated.  Some people are laid back and easy going about things, quick to let bygones be bygones.  I wish I were a more laid back person, but I'm not.  I get very upset when people yell at me.  It may be because of my upbringing and being on the receiving end of a lot of verbal abuse.  I don't tend to handle it well.  Of course the landlady can't know that about me; but then, she never really got to know me.

Maybe the landlady felt she had the right treat me like a child, complete with removing the crank to the awning because she thinks I can't be trusted not to use it.  I don't think her decision to treat me the way she did solved the problem, though.  I don't blame her for being upset about what happened, but I also think she could have been more understanding.  Also, if she had spoken to me calmly, even if it was after she had initially yelled at me, my response to her would have been very different.  I'm not an unreasonable person.  But she left me with the impression that she doesn't respect me, which naturally causes me to return the sentiment.

After that incident, I started to wonder about how I was coming across to her.  I wondered if she thought I was just a complete loser, staying at home with my dogs instead of having babies or working outside of the house.  I figure the way I spend my time is no one else's business, as long as the house is basically kept presentable, the neighbors aren't complaining, there's nothing illegal going on, and the money is continued to be paid on time and in full (and in our case, it's often paid early).

I don't think we've been terrible tenants.  Maybe I'm not as good of a housekeeper as the landlady would like.  Maybe she thinks my lifestyle is weird, since I don't often go out on my own and I'm not raising children.  Maybe my impressions about her are off base, but these are just a few things that spring to mind based on comments she's made to me.  I just want to live my life in peace, without bothering or being bothered by other people.  I try to be respectful to others until they give me a reason not to be.

I write this blog to process my feelings, but I understand sometimes readers don't like what I write.  Oftentimes, people don't agree with me.  That's alright.  We can't always bat a thousand, and no one gets along with everyone.  Sometimes, I really am bitchy.  It is what it is.  But I don't think my complaints about this situation are invalid.    

I get the sense that our landlady doesn't just see tenants as tenants.  In my opinion, she considers herself somewhat of a hostess.  She is very helpful and, up until last year, was basically nice and polite to me.  I can see why the prior tenants are still friendly with her.  I would have liked to have been friendly with her myself.  Unfortunately, we didn't seem to hit it off, which sometimes happens to the best of people.

It surprises me that the former tenant is reading my blogs.  I suppose I'm glad she cares enough to read, and maybe she won't continue after this post.  Or maybe she will.  Again, I am sorry for getting carried away, and she wasn't wrong to correct me.  However, I don't think my feelings are wrong, either.  I have to be free to express myself, and I will continue to do so.

Anyway... in a few months, we will be in a new place.  I didn't initially want to move, but now I think it will be for the best.  Hopefully, it will go better for all of us.

Monday, September 17, 2018

A review of Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed...

The summer of 2018 is just about over now.  It will go down in my personal history as a summer of equal parts fun and angst.  I had a lot of fun over the summer; there's no doubt about that.  Bill and I visited some beautiful places, ate good food, and really dove into some excellent concerts.

But it was also a summer of uncertainty and anxiety.  I've watched a lot of people I've gotten to know over the past few years move on to new places.  I've worried incessantly about my dogs as I've noticed them aging (although at this point, they're evidently fine).  I've seen Bill have to find a new job and now we're going to be moving.  I've also watched in horror as several middle aged white women were publicly shamed on the Internet as people cheered.

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you might know that I tend to lean fairly liberal these days.  I am not a Trump supporter.  I like social justice and often support liberal causes, particularly when it comes to social policies.  I don't like racism, ageism, or sexism.  I'm also not a fan of shaming people.

However, over the summer of 2018, there's been a trend of people capturing people, usually middle aged white women, on their cellphones "behaving badly".  They put their videos online, often with a caption along the lines of "Let's make this bitch go viral!"  Sure enough, the videos wind up on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and the person being shamed does, indeed, go viral.  They go on to suffer the wrath of thousands of people they don't know, who weren't involved in whatever incident occurred to put them in a viral situation, and who actively cheer for bad things to happen to them.

I have seen a lot of the videos that have been posted online.  I will agree that in many of the videos, the people being filmed were, for the most part, behaving in a way that seemed wrong.  However, it disturbs me that people feel so free to call for the destruction of other people's lives.  Allow me to go on record to say that I really don't like this trend of publicly shaming people and actively trying to ruin their lives.  I think it's very shortsighted and, in the long run, harms more people than it helps.

Because I was so disturbed by all of the videos trending on social media, I decided to read more about this phenomenon.  That's when I discovered Jon Ronson's book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed.  This book, published in 2015, highlights several notorious cases of people who slipped up on social media and ended up going viral.  Ronson has a tongue in cheek way of describing how in this age of instant communication, a person can wind up being immediately punished for making an ill advised quip, sharing a racist joke, or not being reverent enough at a sacred place.

Ronson points out how, thanks to the Internet, the whole world can find out about something a person did and make a judgment, without knowing the context of what happened.  These shaming episodes can have real and devastating effects, and not just for the person being shamed.  I've written a lot about this over the past few months, so I won't rehash my points too exhaustively.  Suffice to say that you might feel great about Permit Patty or BBQ Becky being humiliated online for being "racist", but there are innocent people in their lives who are negatively affected by these public shaming episodes.  Moreover, 99.9% of the people sharing and opining about these videos have absolutely no idea about the context of what they're seeing.  They don't know the people being shamed, nor do they know what will happen to them once they've gone viral.  People's lives have been ruined and even ended over these episodes.

Since this book is three years old, you won't read about the most recent victims of viral shaming.  Instead, you might be reminded of people like Justine Sacco, who was a public relations executive who made some unfortunate tweets on a trip to Africa.  Sacco, who apparently has a politically incorrect sense of humor, famously tweeted back in 2013,  "Going to Africa!  Hope I don't get AIDS.  Just kidding.  I'm white!"      

Granted, this was a tasteless, racist joke.  I'm not surprised that many people were offended by it.  However, what happened after Sacco posted this Tweet was nothing less than phenomenal.  There was an incredible backlash lobbed at Sacco, who was soon the recipient of death and rape threats.  She lost her job.  However, in Sacco's case, there were a few positives.  Some people were moved to donate money to charities and Sacco did, apparently, manage to recover from the public shaming.

In another case, Ronson writes about a couple of guys who were at an IT conference.  They were talking among themselves and a woman named Adria Richards overheard and misunderstood a comment one of them made, wrongly assuming they were making sexist jokes.  She took a picture of them, placed it online, and set the wheels in motion to ruin their careers.  The sad thing is, she hadn't even gotten the context of their private joke, which had absolutely nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with IT.

And yet, thanks to Richards' decision to "out" them for being sexist, these guys went through the viral Internet wringer.  One of them, a guy calling himself Hank, lost his job and posted about it on a Web site called Hacker.com.  Hank was justifiably upset because he'd liked the job and had three children to support.  Adria Richards, who had taken his picture was then outed and started getting hate mail and death threats herself.  Hank condemned the death threats against Richards, yet amazingly, she still thinks he deserved to be fired for his "joke" that was part of a private conservation and that she completely misunderstood, anyway.

Ronson later spoke to Richards and she maintained that Hank was to blame for complaining about being fired, since "his actions led to his being fired."  In the aftermath, men's rights groups decided to make her go viral and she suffered backlash for trying to shame Hank for his joke.  Both Hank and Adria suffered the consequences of Internet vigilanteism.  I certainly don't condone the death threats or rape wishes directed at Richards, but I do think she could stand to learn something from this ordeal.  If she had minded her own damned business, neither she nor Hank would have ever been in this mess.

Although I had already been thinking about the horrifying ramifications of Internet shaming, Ronson does a good job of pointing out what can happen to people who wind up in an Internet shitstorm.  I would venture to guess that the vast majority never consider beyond that moment of Schadenfreude that this kind of vigilantism has real and devastating effects for others.  They simply focus on that delicious moment of riding a moral high horse and watching someone's life fall apart and never think beyond that.  That's one thing I do think Ronson's book is good for-- reminding people that a successful Internet shaming session doesn't just last for a day, nor does it have an off switch.

Ronson writes of Lindsey Stone, a charity worker who, in 2012, took an ill advised picture of herself showing disrespect at Arlington Cemetery.  The photo went viral and pretty soon, Stone was being publicly flayed.  Stone, who had been working as a caregiver to people with learning disabilities, had a running joke with a friend.  They took "joke" pictures of themselves doing things like smoking in front of "no smoking" signs.  This time, there was a picture of Stone flipping off a sign at Arlington Cemetery that requested silence.  The photo went viral and soon Stone was being called a "cunt" and a "psychopath" by perfect strangers.

Stone had previously been a happy go lucky kind of person who enjoyed going out, dancing, and doing karaoke.  But for over a year, she stayed home.  People were calling for her to be fired and, indeed, she was.  Then, after she lost her job, no one responded to her applications for a new one.  After a long time, she finally did find a new job, but lived in terror that someone at her position would find out about what she did.  She gave up on dating, worrying that a new love interest would find out that she had flipped off a sign at Arlington Cemetery.

Long after people had forgotten about that incident, Stone was still dealing with the traumatic aftereffects.  I wonder, how many people who felt Stone is a "cunt" for posting that photo even know her?  Can a person's character really be accurately summed up in a single photo or two minute video showing them "behaving badly"?  Do the people who called her names like "cunt", "bitch", and "whore" think her life should be ruined or even ended for posting that photo?  Do they really think she deserves depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder over that one moment of bad behavior that wound up online?

Stone ended up working with someone to rehabilitate her online image.  The professional, who was an expert at social media and Google searches, found ways to make Lindsey Stone appear to be a perfectly bland person.  Sadly, this was what it came down to-- she had to be rebranded from the spunky, politically incorrect, fun loving firebrand she is to someone who likes Top 40 music and cats. How sad that is.

You see, this is why I get really upset about these kinds of Internet shaming trends.  It's not just because I worry that someone is going to try it with the wrong person and wind up being shot.  It's also because sometimes people say and do things without thinking.  Everybody has a cellphone with a camera these days.  I think it's chilling that a person's life can be ruined in an instant of carelessness.  It's also chilling that sometimes people get things wrong and ruin people who truly don't deserve to be harassed.

To be honest, I would love to see the object of some of this kind of shaming turn the tables on their aggressors.  Personally, I think they should start suing, especially when the person gets it wrong.  Not long ago, I wrote about a woman whose life was upturned after she got involved in a heated thread on Facebook.  Monika Glennon had opined about a smiling teenager's photo at Auschwitz and offended someone who decided to make up a vicious lie about her and submit it to a Web site called "She's a Homewrecker".  Although the story went unnoticed for awhile, another user took it upon herself to share the story with Glennon's friends and family.  It took a lot of time and money for Glennon to clear up the lie and salvage her reputation.  She did sue the women involved and won, but Glennon will likely never see any of the settlement she was awarded because neither of the women have any money.  Glennon recently left me a very nice comment on my post.  I was glad to see she was able to recover from the public humiliation and be an example of why this kind of trend is potentially very harmful and wrong.

One criticism I have of Ronson's book is that three years post publication, it's already dated.  So many more cases are out there now that should be written about.  I also felt that Ronson treated this topic a bit more glibly that maybe he should have.  A little humor is good, but I really think people should understand that this kind of "justice" can really mess up people's lives.  In the long run, it doesn't serve society for people to lose their livelihoods over something like a viral video, tasteless Tweet, or tacky photograph.  People should have the right to be forgotten so they can recover from their mistakes and move on.  Otherwise, why would they bother living out the rest of their lives?

Anyway... I think I'd give this book four out of five stars.  Here's a link for those who want to read it themselves.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

When I swear with my eyes...

A year ago, I was really fed up with my landlady and her house.  I wanted to move.  I had a lot of reasons for feeling the way I did, but when it came down to it, the main reason why I wanted to leave was because I felt she didn't like me and had no respect for me.  I can put up with infrastructure problems in a house if the landlord is respectful.

Our landlady had initially come across as very nice, but let her true colors show when we had some problems last year with a couple of things in the house.  For some reason, she felt entitled to loudly berate me for several minutes while we were standing in what I had considered my home.  She blamed all of the problems on me personally-- not Bill and me, but me alone.  She basically said I'm a terrible housekeeper who isn't taking proper care of her property (as in, I don't care for it the way she would).  She complained that I don’t keep the white plastic on her windows clean enough and there was dog hair in the doorway.  More than once, she's told me that other tenants had never given her any problems and, though I didn't challenge her on that comment, she even invited me to call them and ask for myself.

There was a time when I probably would have yelled back at her.  When I was younger and less in control of my emotions, I would not have hesitated, especially since we pay about $2000 give or take every month for what basically amounts to an old house, completely lacking in character, that really needs upgrades.  But I didn't respond verbally.  Instead, I stood there silently.  I'm sure my eyes said it all.

I probably looked a little like this...  

And this...  I'm wearing the same necklace, although the top photo was taken in 2011 or 2012 and this one was taken a few months ago.

I've been told that when I get very angry, it's obvious on my face.  I don't have to say a word.  I tend to flush and my eyes become very expressive.  I may not say "fuck you" in words, but my eyes do a lot of talking.  I don't have to open my mouth for the expression to come across loud and clear.

Housing in this area is very expensive.  It's not as expensive as Munich is, but it's up there.  We actually pay less than a lot of people do.  When we move to Wiesbaden, I anticipate having even higher rent.  However, we don't have a monthly heating bill because we fill an oil tank every year (or gas-- our first house in Germany was gas heated).  We have very low electricity, water, and Internet costs.  Rent is high, but overall, it costs less to live here than in the States.  Still, I know some people don't bat an eye at paying over 3000 euros a month for rent.  We pay 1600, plus another 130 for "other costs", for a total of 1730 euros.  It's comparatively a steal, but it's also pretty far away from Bill's work (which is actually a bonus in some ways) and is among the least comfortable houses we've lived in yet.

We took this house because, when we moved back to Germany, we had a lot less money than we have now.  We had to pay a lot of the expenses for our international move, and Bill's salary with his first company was much lower than it is with his current employer.  He was also having to repay the government part of his retirement for a severance he got in the 1990s when he temporarily left active duty with the Army.  At the time, we also had a lot more debt.

I don't like this house.  Here are the reasons why:

It has a tiny kitchen equipped with a poorly functioning dorm sized fridge that I regularly have to sponge excess water out of.  A lot of food has been ruined by that fridge.  We did buy a larger one, but it's still not quite as big as I would have preferred.  In retrospect, I should have gotten us a full sized fridge, but probably wanted to save money.  The oven is also pretty crappy, although it's better quality than the fridge is.

It's basically designed to be two apartments.  The room we have used as a walk in closet was supposed to be the upstairs kitchen.

It's a duplex.  Granted, a lot of houses in Germany are duplexes or townhouses.  I don't like sharing walls with people, although our next door neighbors are super nice.  I'll probably miss them, but I won't miss sharing walls with them.  Hopefully, our next house will be freestanding.

The bathrooms suck.  On the first floor, there's a tub/shower, but the toilet is in a separate room not near it.  On the plus side, the downstairs toilet is relatively modern and the WC has a window, although the sink is very basic and only gives cold water.  On the second floor, the bathroom has a decent shower, but the toilet is a "water saver" model that can't handle Charmin toilet paper and often takes multiple flushes to empty.  The bottom of the toilet is very hard to get clean.  It has old, dark stains that won't come up easily.  There are also no windows in either the downstairs bathroom or the upstairs.

The floors suck.  There's old, nasty, ugly blue industrial carpeting in the upstairs that stains ridiculously easily and obviously and getting rid of the stains is practically impossible.  On the first floor, there's old, cheap laminate and vinyl flooring that scratches easily and looks shitty.  The stairs have hard tile flooring that remind me of an early 80s era McDonald's.  The vinyl flooring also smells weird.

Seriously, the floors in our stairwell really resemble this, the flooring in a defunct McDonald's in my hometown...  Not exactly nice for bare feet, and I love bare feet.

The doors suck.  There are doors everywhere.  Our bedroom and the upstairs closet have doors with shitty old textured glass in them, which means light shines through them early in the morning when Bill is getting ready for work.  The front door needs to be replaced because it doesn't close all the way unless you pull it very firmly.  On more than one occasion, our dogs have gotten out and we've had to chase them down in our neighborhood.

It has irritating lighting.  Most of the rooms have those fucking paper IKEA shades on the lighting fixtures.  They hang low and get in the way, plus they just look really tacky.  We also have old fashioned German glass sconces that look dated.

The electrical sockets are in odd places.  We have a TV in our bedroom that hasn't been turned on in four years for want of an outlet.

The layout is strange.  There are also two weird and basically useless rooms on the first floor.  They aren't big enough to be bedrooms, yet they take up space and serve no obvious function.  Fortunately, there are only two of us.  We use one room for trash and the other as a pantry.  I'm sure there's a reason for these rooms, but they really seem like a product of poor design.  

There's no sun protection in my "office".  I sit in a large room on the second floor.  For several months out of the year, the sun hits my desk and practically blinds me.  I have to hang a towel or blanket over the window so I can function.  The room also gets unbearably hot in the summer.  Rolladens or landlord provided curtains (there is a track for the curtains, but standard drapes wouldn't work) would be a huge bonus.  Also, in the summer, this house holds onto heat like a vise.  In the winter, it's cold and inhospitable.  I hope our next house has a fireplace or a masonry heater.

There's no charm.  The most charming thing about this house is that it offers beautiful views of the forest and a large field.  That's not a small thing.  I've gotten some gorgeous photos of weather rolling in.  However, the house itself is just totally lacking in character and charm.  It's very utilitarian, bare bones, and not conducive to entertaining, relaxing, or much of anything else other than sleeping.

The fence is basically useless.  It's not high enough to contain my dogs and doesn't even really secure the yard, even though the gate locks.  The landlords erected new fencing along the field, but they didn't bother to make sure the new fence connects with the old, so that the yard is contained.  I can't let my dogs loose in the backyard or even really enjoy the terrace, since I have to keep them on a leash.

I could easily put up with all of these things if I got along better with the landlady.  Overall, they are annoyances rather than dealbreakers.  I used to live in Armenia, for God's sake, when there was no power or hot water.  It was communist block apartment housing, completely devoid of character.  I hate moving and I like our location and neighborhood, but I do look forward to having a much better house.  And hopefully, the next landlord will be less annoying to me.  (In fairness, I do like the landlady's husband, fine.  He's never been anything but calm and nice.  If we were just dealing with him, I'd be much happier.)

In a couple of weeks, the landlady will get the news that we're moving.  I'm not sure what her reaction will be.  She could be okay with it, since we've been here four years and it might be nice for them to have a change in tenants.  I don't think she likes me very much, so if I'm not here, she doesn't have to deal with me anymore.  Likewise, I don't have to ever experience being yelled at by her again.  Nevertheless, it hasn't escaped me that it might be good if I boned up on my people skills.  You get more flies with honey than vinegar, right?  Although maybe that's not the best example...  Who wants flies around, unless they're a frog or something?

I can do this quite well, particularly if I'm writing.  However, my eyes always give me away for what I really want to say...

Hopefully, I will already be in our new house when it comes time to hand over the keys.  Although the landlady might be more intimidated by me than she is Bill, I don't actually enjoy swearing at people with my eyes.  More than one person has also told me they don't like being on the receiving end of my optical swearing sessions, either.  I haven't seen it myself, but I've been told I have the tendency to look quite homicidal when I'm really mad.

Truly... there are a few things I will miss.  I like the dog friendliness aspect of the neighborhood.  I like our neighbors themselves, who are remarkably laid back for this area.  But I won't miss a lot of the other stuff.  I'm hoping for better digs up north and we're willing to pay for them.  And I look forward to no longer having to say "fuck you" with my eyes.  

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Gone by December?

Last night, Bill came home and told me that once he gets his official offer, which will be in a matter of days, we will be on the road to a quick move.  In fact, he anticipates we'll be in Wiesbaden by December, even though we're supposed to give the landlords three months' notice.  Apparently, the company is going to take care of the last month of rent so we can make a quick getaway.  Bill's services are highly anticipated and needed.

I wasn't really wanting to move so soon, but I guess it's better in the long run.  Pretty soon, the weather will start to suck and it will be good to get this sorted before the holiday season starts.  By January, there may be truly awful weather to contend with.  Also, I don't want to be involved with helping the landlords find new tenants.  If we're out of here during the last month, then they can do whatever they want and not bug me.

We were talking about this last night.  For the past year, the landlords have pretty much left us alone. They never drop by unexpected anymore, which I much prefer.  But they also don't really keep in touch with Bill by email, either.  I get the sense the landlady is snubbing us... however, I'm not at all bothered by it.  I have a feeling that she won't be happy that we're going, mainly because we pay early every month and don't bother them.  But I also don't think she likes me, which means that maybe this is an opportunity for her to get someone in here that she likes more.  I will miss our neighborhood, since the people are very nice and laid back.  It's also very dog friendly.  Hopefully, the housing gods will smile on us and we'll find something similar in the Wiesbaden area.

I think I've decided to go ahead and get the dogs their rabies shots on Tuesday.  I don't really want to. I'm afraid they might have bad reactions.  Zane usually reacts to it and, last time, he did end up with his first mast cell tumor afterwards.  But I don't think we can get around the law, especially if we want to board them.  Since that is the only legally required vaccine, I think we'll just do it and hope for the best.  I'll do what I can to mitigate any adverse effects.  If there is anything immediate the goes wrong, at least we'll be near a vet who knows the dogs.  It could be something happens months from now... but that could happen either way, whether we get the shots or not.

I have a feeling we could move back down here at some point.  This is a hub for guys like Bill.  But we could also end up in Hawaii or Italy at some point.  It's hard to tell.  Anyway, this is happening faster than I anticipated, but it's probably for the best.

Friday, September 14, 2018

I don't go to celebrities for my politics...

This morning, I read about Willie Nelson's decision to back democrat Beto O'Rourke in the Texas Senate race.  Apparently, this decision has angered a number of his conservative fans, who have vowed to stop buying Willie's records.

Willie Nelson is 85 years old.  He smokes a lot of weed.  He's long been liberal and, although he is best known as a country singer, he's got a very eclectic style that has crossed over into many genres.  He has the right to back whomever he pleases.  To be honest, I think given the band of corrupt morons the Republicans have foisted on the American public and the world at large, Willie is showing that his mind is still sharp.  Sorry, Republicans, but you lost my vote forever when you brought us Donald Trump and Mike Pence.  I'm not forgiving you for that anytime soon.

That being said, I don't go to celebrities for my politics.  I may not like it if a celebrity is a Trump fan, but if I like their work, I'm not going to stop enjoying it because they voted for Trump.  Frankly, I don't think another person's vote is my business.  Some will argue that when celebrities use their platforms to push politics, their vote becomes everyone's business.  That may be so, but I have a mind of my own.  I don't make my voting choices based on another person's vote.  I vote for the person I think is the best one for the job.  I would recommend that to anyone, although I know some people strictly vote for parties over people.  That's their right, of course.  I think it's misguided, though.

All of this nonsense over burning Nikes, especially when a minister preaches about destroying his Nike merchandise while at the pulpit, is just plain silly.  I keep reading about people boycotting Nike over the company's decision to have Colin Kaepernick make an ad.  I keep thinking it's a stupid, futile gesture.  Nike doesn't care if you burn stuff you've already purchased.  Furthermore, it's unAmerican to deny someone the right to protest.  Now... I get the argument that Kaepernick is protesting while he's "on the clock" and maybe that's wrong, but when you think about it, in most situations kneeling isn't considered disrespectful.

Some people kneel when they pray.  Some people kneel when they propose to a potential mate.  There are many situations in which kneeling is considered deeply respectful and appropriate.  Why is it suddenly wrong to kneel when the National Anthem is playing?  At least he's paying attention to it instead of heading to the bathroom or the concessions stand for a hot dog and beer.  My guess is that plenty of fans aren't bothering to hang around with their hands across their hearts when the "Star Spangled Banner" plays.

I don't think voting for Donald Trump is a smart thing to do, but I realize people have their reasons for voting the way they do.  I think celebrities should have the right to decide for themselves for whom they should vote.  It's the American way.

Now... if Willie Nelson's decision to vote blue or back a blue candidate is that offensive to his former fans, I guess they have the right to protest by boycotting him.  But I think it's kind of stupid to stop enjoying an artist's contributions simply because their politics differ from yours.  When it comes down to it, Willie Nelson and Colin Kaerpernick have the right to their opinions and to back whomever they want.  That's an American ideal.  Those who have lost sight of that should probably consider how they would feel if they were in Willie's shoes.  On the other hand, Willie probably doesn't give a fuck.  He'll just light a joint and keep playing.

Moving on...

The moving process is about to begin.  I dread it on many levels.

It's also time to get my dogs' rabies vaccinations updated.  I'm super worried about it, especially for Zane.  I'm afraid the vaccine will make him sick and hasten his demise.  Unfortunately, it's the law.  Hopefully, it'll turn out okay, but I'm still very anxious.  He's my baby.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Time to pack the Bier glasses...

Well... it looks about 95% official that our second tour in Stuttgart will soon be drawing to a close.  I'm not exactly sure when we will move, only that Bill has been told the job in Wiesbaden is his for the taking.  Given that new positions in Stuttgart have not yet materialized and the company is willing to offer substantial help to move us, it's a no brainer.  Basically, all it means is that Bill is changing locations and will be working in Europe instead of Africa.  He won't have to change contracts, salary, benefits, or anything else.  We just have to move about 100 miles north and slightly west.

Wiesbaden appears to be an interesting area.  It's just over the Rhine River in Hesse.  There's a good chance that we could be living in Rhineland-Palatinate while Bill works in Hesse, since the city is close to the state's border.  Wiesbaden is just west of Frankfurt, which means we will be very close to Germany's busiest airport.  We will also be closer to Belgium, which is a good thing if only because I love Belgian beer and chocolate.  France will still be a couple of hours away, although Switzerland will be more of a drive.  It looks like we'll be closer to Poland and the Czech Republic, too.

A couple of Bill's co-workers had interviews at places in Stuttgart and both were passed over for other people.  Although we had heard there would be a bunch of new jobs coming on a new contract, so far nothing has come up.  And though we have about six months before Bill's current job is set to end, there's no guarantee that the new jobs will ever show up.

I'll be honest.  Initially, I wasn't very happy about the prospect of moving.  I like our town and I truly hate moving.  I don't enjoy the process of finding new facilities for all the things we'll need.  However, this is a chance for us to live in another part of Germany.  My travel blog will get new life as we discover new stuff in our new location.  We'll probably end up in a nicer house and it's possible our new landlords will be less irritating (although our current ones have been leaving us alone lately).  I dread the process of moving, but at least this time we don't have to do it internationally.  We also have more time and money to organize the move.

When Bill first mentioned this possibility to me, my initial reaction was negative.  But then I started thinking about it and realized that we've now lived in this house longer than any other in our marriage.  And this house is definitely not my favorite, although we do absolutely love the area where we are.  It's very close to the Black Forest.  We also like our neighborhood.  We have very nice, pleasant and patient neighbors.  I will miss them, but I mostly won't miss this house.  The one thing I will miss is the view, because I can watch the weather.  God willing, we'll find something in a nice town near Wiesbaden... maybe even in a town where we can walk to a bakery or a bar.

So... although moves are always scary, we knew this day was coming.  And maybe it's better to get the pain over with.  I think this new job will be good for Bill, since it's a group he hasn't worked with before and in an area with which he doesn't have direct experience.  It's a good opportunity for him to expand his skill set and do something different, yet familiar enough that he shouldn't have too much trouble learning the job.  Also... I have a feeling that when Bill leaves his current job, the government employees will get a hefty dose of karma.  Some of them don't have a lot of respect for contractors.  But the best contractors, like Bill, will be scarfed up quickly and one by one, they will be leaving.  The most competent contractors will soon be gone and then they will face the pain of their decision to convert all of the jobs to government positions to "save money".

I just hope and pray for a seamless move.  I'm sure it'll be okay, but moves are always painful.  Some moves are worse than others, though.  I'm just glad we don't have to fly anywhere or take a massive road trip to another country.  Also, because of what Bill does, there is every chance we'll eventually move back to Stuttgart.  But there's also a good chance that after experiencing another area, we might not want to return.

We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Air Force Colonel loses his shit at a Boy George concert...

I was quite amused this morning when I ran across this story of Air Force Colonel Mark Eugene Muth.  The 57 year old man attended a Boy George concert in Kettering, Ohio and was apparently quite intoxicated.  It appears that the combination of alcohol and Boy George's tunes were too much for the good colonel and he started trying to rush the stage.

The security force at the venue tried to contain the drunken officer, but he started shoving them.  Police were called and Muth was soon cuffed and stuffed at the local jail.

Muth, who is currently stationed at the command surgeon general's office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, penned an article a few years ago about the importance of dental hygiene.  At the time, he was at Travis Air Force Base in California.  I suppose the prospect of moving from California to Ohio is enough to make anyone want to drink.  Also, it appears that Muth is a dentist and I have read that dentists sometimes suffer from mental health issues because many people hate going to them.

I myself lived in Dayton, Ohio many years ago.  I don't remember my time there, because I was just a little shit in those days, but I do remember that one of the reasons my dad retired from the Air Force was because they wanted to send him back to Dayton after his time at Mildenhall Air Force Base in England.

Perhaps Muth was simply looking for upbeat tunes and a little adult style fun when he decided to see Boy George and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins live, in concert.  Alcohol can make people do crazy things.  God knows I love my 80s music, too.  Combine it with a little booze and there could be trouble, although I can't imagine I'd get quite so animated that I might wind up arrested.

In all seriousness, this incident will probably have a deleterious effect on Muth's military career.  Besides shoving people and rushing the stage, Muth also resisted arrest, refusing to cooperate with Kettering Police Lieutenant Holly Murchland.  He's been charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and, besides dealing with civilian law enforcement, will likely face discipline from military authorities and perhaps even whatever organization granted him a license to practice dentistry.  It's probably pretty likely that he'll be quietly asked to retire, or at least seek treatment for what appears to be a significant drinking problem.

Despite all of that, I can't help but giggle a little when I think of Colonel Muth losing it at a Boy George concert.  I mean, yeah, clearly this man is in trouble on many different levels, but the mental image is pretty hilarious.  I must also give props to Military Times reporter J.D. Simkins for writing his hilarious report about the incident.  It's not often that a Military Times piece makes me laugh for the right reasons.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Burning mouth syndrome...

Slightly TMI... sorry.

I think I have this problem...

A few years ago, I had a couple of crowns done.  Unlike my first crown, these were porcelain, while my first crown was gold.  Not long afterwards, I started having a strange burning sensation in my mouth.  It was kind of bad for awhile, then subsided.  I also got a couple of ulcers on the bottom of my mouth, under my tongue.  After a few months, I started getting the burning sensation every once in awhile instead of all the time.

On Saturday evening, I started my period.  At the same time, that burning, tingling sensation in my mouth was going on.  It was pretty bad and constant.  It felt like paresthesia in my tongue, lips, and under my tongue.

Now it's Tuesday, my period is waning, and the burning feeling is going away again.

I have read that burning mouth syndrome tends to happen in older women.  I'm 46 and probably in perimenopause.  I have also read that plunging hormones can cause these sensations of burning and tingling in the mouth.  My dentist has also noticed a line of redness on my gums, well below where they meet the teeth and only on the front part of my lower teeth.  The last time I saw him, he said it looked like the condition was better, but not completely cleared up.

After a couple of days dealing with this burning sensation during my period, I'm thinking it's probably related to my hormones.  Supposedly, when your hormones dip, that's when this problem can occur in some women.  I probably should go to a doctor, but the idea of going is overwhelming, especially since we may have to leave Stuttgart.

Burning mouth is not pleasant, but at least it comes and goes now.  For awhile, I had it all the time.  I would rather it didn't get really bad when I have my period, though.  That's bad enough without having to deal with tingling sensations in the mouth.

Monday, September 10, 2018

"Not going to post anymore!"

Hair flip!

I'd rather have one by Maureen McCormick, but this works just as well...

This morning's topic comes courtesy of an angry post on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard.  A very active person named "Crazy Horse" has been posting all kinds of provocative shit for weeks now.  A few weeks ago, she posted that she'd put her dog in a boarding facility and, while the pup was a guest at the kennel, the dog was put to sleep.  She was understandably very upset about that and ranted about it.  Meanwhile, she was also posting multiple updates about her so-called "toxic family".  

Over the weekend, Crazy Horse posted that her family had foisted a six week old Boston Terrier puppy on her.  She claims she doesn't want the dog and apparently resents having to take care of it.  She'd prefer a German Shepherd.  She posted about that on RfM.  Naturally, people got very upset and more than a few ripped her a new one.  Sixty-five comments later, someone started a new thread, continuing to discuss this puppy that the aptly named Crazy Horse doesn't want.  The negative and unsupportive comments upset Crazy Horse, so she wrote a "hair flip" post claiming that she's done posting on RfM.

To be honest, I'm kind of tempted to post, "Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya..."  I can't stand this kind of attention whoring.  It gets everybody upset and takes attention away from people who deserve it more.  Moreover, I have a feeling that some of what this person posts is plain old bullshit and people are falling for it.  

On the other hand, I do remember being young and dramatic.  I don't remember being quite as dramatic as this lady is being, but I do remember having the odd "temper fit" once in awhile, when I was younger.  It sounds to me like she has a need for attention and isn't getting it offline, so she posts provocative stuff to get a supply.  It's working, because people are outraged about her complaints regarding the defenseless and presumably cute Boston Terrier puppy.

It also occurs to me that some people will read the title of today's post and decide to read it just to see if I'm the one saying I'm not going to post anymore.  I will admit, some people would probably love it if I hung up my keyboard and quit writing.  For some reason, there are a lot of people out there who resent bloggers, particularly if they share their posts.  They don't mind reading Facebook, but the bloggers can all piss off.

Well...  I would rather post on my blog, precisely because it requires people to navigate to it rather than passively see it on my timeline.  If I post a link on my timeline, a person can choose to read or not read.  But if I post something more, it's more likely they'll choose to read... and then an irritating argument might start, particularly among my more conservative friends.  

I like to write because it's therapeutic for me.  It forces me to use my skills and exercise my brain.  I like to write on my blog because it's potentially less contentious than writing on Facebook.  Some people fill their days at a job.  I fill mine thinking about goofy shit and writing about it.

"Hair flip" posts are immature and stupid and they are usually done by insecure people who crave attention.  Crazy Horse is supposedly 24 years old, but she acts more like she's 12.  If her family truly is "toxic", I guess I can see why she behaves that way.  Some people respond to toxic family by growing up faster and becoming more self reliant.  Others turn into permanent adolescents.  

Urban Dictionary has an interesting definition of the hair flip post.  

When a member of an online community leaves a group or forum because they just can't take the heat - can be performed with or without a lame exit speech.
"Where did that Jennifer girl go?"

"She hairflipped when she was called out by Lizz because she is isn't adult enough to come explain her stupidity."

Actually, I always equate hair flip posts with corresponding "lame exit" speeches. If a person simply leaves a group without a word, that doesn't equate to a hair flip, in my view. Hair flips are supposed to attract attention and usually come with the expectation that other people in the group will validate the person whose hair is flipping. I also don't think a person is hair flipping if he or she offers a calm, rational explanation for leaving. A person who posts a dramatic "Not going to post anymore!" is not the same as someone who posts, "I think it's time I left this group. It's no longer meeting my needs."

I kind of "hair flipped" last year around this time, when I left a popular group in my community.  Actually, I had been thinking about leaving it for awhile and finally did so when I got into a verbal altercation with a misogynist.  I didn't post an exit speech; I simply left.  It was noticed and talked about.  I did post a response in this blog because it got back to me that one of the group leaders was making derogatory remarks about my "being offended" and acting like a "snowflake".

One year later, I find that I don't miss that group at all.  I am still very disappointed in the way a few of its members behaved, because I actually liked and respected them for awhile.  However, once I got over the sting of seeing their true colors, I realized that my life is better off without that shit and those people.  They clearly were more interested in getting a laugh at my expense than they were about me personally.  And while I did care about them, they clearly didn't care about me.  Life is short.  It's too short to be allowing mean people to steal your joy.  I steal enough of my own joy by being depressed and anxious all the time.  I don't need any help... and I really don't miss those people. 

I'll tell you something else...  that experience also made me less interested in trying to make friends in this community.  I'm tired of people turning out to be fake when I offer them sincere friendship.  I'd rather keep my own company, where at least I'm with someone who won't stab me in the back.

I've been concerned about the prospect of moving.  I don't know when it will happen, only that it will happen eventually.  As much as I hate the whole rigamarole of moving, maybe it will do me some good to be in a new environment with different scenery and different people.  And next time, I'll let people find me rather than seeking them out.  But I am going to keep posting... even if I end up being the only one who reads.

As for the hair flipper on RfM, may she find what she ultimately seeks... somewhere else.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Showing too much skin...

Forgive me for this rant.  I understand that nowadays, people feel like they should be able to wear whatever they want to wear for whatever job they're doing.  There are dress code dramas aplenty these days, especially in schools.  For example, this week, I read about fifteen year old Isabella Messer, who was busted at her school for wearing a top that showed off her shoulders.  The next day, she wore a t-shirt that read "Do my shoulders turn you on?" on the front.  On the back, it read "If so, go back to the 1920s."  Apparently, a teacher felt "threatened" by the shirt and called the law...  Total bullshit, if you ask me.  But I guess the school officials needed to send a message to the students.

Messer got busted again by the school resource officer, who ended up putting her in handcuffs.  Apparently, in the course of being disciplined, Messer kicked the officer, which led to her being arrested.  She spent six days in a juvenile detention facility and is now on house arrest, unable to even go outside in her backyard.  Personally, I think sending Isabella to a juvenile detention facility over a dress code violation is huge overkill.  She shouldn't have kicked the police officer, but why something like this escalated to an arrest is beyond me.  In my day, the student would have either had a new shirt brought to them, would wear the existing shirt inside out, or would wear a school t-shirt.

Maybe it's time for school uniforms.  I didn't like the idea of wearing uniforms when I was growing up, but at least they might prevent stupid crap like this from happening.  This is the kind of thing that can end up on a permanent record.  Why not give the girl detention and call it a day?

I've always heard that dress codes in schools were supposedly to help keep order and help teach students how to dress appropriately.  A less popular reason for them is that short skirts and skimpy tops are "distracting" to hormonal boys.  Personally, I totally agree with those who think boys need to be taught to control their hormones and dress codes should be applied fairly to all genders.  However, I also agree that young people do need to learn how to dress for the environment they're in.  Messer's t-shirt was kind of sassy...  I kind of admire her moxie.  But I can also see why it inflamed the powers that be.  I'm sure it was deemed "disrespectful" and distracting.

But then, not long after I read about Messer, I saw a news clip done by Military Times.  Clearly, this organization affiliated with an organization noted for its dress code isn't worried about "distracting" fashions.  Maybe it really doesn't matter what young people wear, given what I've seen on the news...

Whoa... lots of skin showing...

Maybe I'm a priss or something, but it seems kind of unprofessional to be wearing a tank top while you're delivering the news.  But then, given the wooden delivery of some of the anchors who read the news for Military Times, maybe the tank top is one way to get people to tune in.  Those who simply appreciate the view, though, may not be listening to what is being reported.  I thought maybe this was an isolated thing, but then I saw another clip by a different anchor wearing an even skimpier top.

What is up with this?

It seems strange to me that an organization reporting the news for the military, which is notoriously strict about its dress code, would be alright with these ladies wearing such revealing clothing on the air.  I would have expected a military news channel to ask its reporters to wear clothes that are less revealing.  Not that I don't think these women can deliver the news in a tank top.  Surely, they can.  It just doesn't seem very professional to me.  I wouldn't go to most job interviews dressed like that, even if I had the kind of body people wouldn't mind seeing uncovered.  For a casual, amateur video on YouTube, I could see being dressed like this...  for a newscast, I can't, really.  Maybe I'm just an old fart, though.  

This reporter is somewhat more professional looking.  

I know a lot of people might get upset with me for expressing this opinion.  Plenty of people think dress shouldn't matter.  But... you know... I think it kind of does.  The way a person dresses says something about them.  I'd probably be more okay with an anchor who wears a sleeveless top with a collar than a very casual looking, low cut tank top.  I guess sex sells...  which is a pity, because I would hope these young women are in their positions because of the way they deliver the news, not simply because of how they look.  I also haven't seen any men dressed like this.  I've noticed the women are all really young looking, too.  It kind of makes it hard to take the Military Times or their anchors very seriously.  But then, I probably wouldn't anyway, after listening to the way they read the news.

Saturday, September 8, 2018


Ever heard of it?  I first saw the "term" childism the other day, while I was reading Sanctimommy.  Someone started a page called Stop Childism, which was linked to Sanctimommy's page.  I was curious, so I checked it out.  Apparently, "childism" is akin to racism, in that people apparently discriminate against children and treat them with contempt.  However, most of the posts on that page were about how cruel male circumcision is and that spanking is wrong.

For the record, I happen to agree that in most cases, male circumcision is unnecessary.  If I had a son, I doubt I would have had it done.  I figure it's a personal choice made by parents, although here in Europe, it's pretty rare to have it done unless there's a medical reason or the parents are Jewish.

I am also really not a fan of spanking children, having had it done to me many times when I was growing up.  I would like to think I wouldn't spank if I'd had children, however I can't say for certain that I wouldn't have.  Spanking works for some children, although some parents have problems discerning between spankings and beatings.

That being said... I didn't realize that "childism" is a thing in our society.  On the contrary, it seems like everything is about children these days.  Everybody has a camera now and they are ready to whip it out at the slightest hint of a child being mistreated or neglected.  We have so many laws now designed to protect children.  It's not even so much that I don't think the laws are a good thing.  It's just that it seems like kids and their needs are now being considered more than they ever have.  It seems strange to me that someone-- actually more than one person-- is calling for the end of "childism".

I just did a quick Google and I see that Psychology Today published an article about this phenomenon back in 2012.  Basically, childism is about protecting children's human rights and promoting respect for them as "people" too.  But is this really a problem?

I really don't know.  I don't have children myself.  I like kids fine.  I think they should be respected, mainly because that is a behavior that they should model as they come of age.  If you want your children to be respectful to others, they should experience respect themselves so they'll know what it is.  But apparently, some people think this is a problem and even set up their own Facebook groups to try to educate and combat it.

Activists against childism contend that adults should stop thinking of children as property and start respecting them as individuals.  I don't disagree with that notion.  It just seems to me that our society has already come a long way, at least during my lifetime, to see this.  I guess maybe if I had children and hung out in more social media groups for parents, I might have heard about "childism" before a couple of days ago.  Even though my computer says that "childism" isn't a word, it's being written about in many respected arenas, including books published by Yale University, newspapers like the Washington Post, and well-known news magazines like Newsweek.  

I guess I should stay more abreast of these topics.  It just blew my mind to see that Facebook group, though.

I don't really have anything burning in my brain to write about today.  I can think of a few topics, but I don't really have the will to write about them right now.  I'm too concerned about what the future holds and the potential that we may be moving very soon.  I told Bill last night that maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing to move out of this area and get a fresh perspective on things.  But I do dread the process of settling in and moving out and the drama that is bound to occur.

Wish us luck.

Friday, September 7, 2018

We teach best what we need to learn...

I remember back in the fall of 2009, I was sitting at my computer in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Bill and I had been back in the States for just over a month.  I was rather embittered about some things.  At the time, Bill's daughters were still extremely alienated.  Ex was still getting $850 a month for the youngest one, who was going to be turning 16 in December of that year.

I was looking for information in the town Ex happened to be living in.  I was definitely NOT looking for information about Ex, but rather information about police sobriety checks in her town.  I wanted to see if the local police officers were busting people who were drunk driving or using marijuana.

That week, for some reason, a reporter happened to do a feature story on Bill's ex wife.  It was basically about how the United Way had helped her get "back on her feet" after she showed up in the town with an old VW van, three kids, and $3000 to her name.  The article popped up as I was scanning the crime log.  I remember being really irritated about it, because I went out of my way not to look for info about Bill's ex wife.

Against my better judgment, I read the article.  It made my blood boil, since I knew the truth about her arrival in Arizona.  For one thing, that money she had came entirely from my husband, who was not only covering her move, but also paid her $2550 a month for those three kids, one of which wasn't even legally his responsibility.  For another thing, she was not "driven" to Arizona for any reason, other than having a desire to make a new start where people didn't know her and where Bill would have a much harder time arranging visitation with his children.  At the time, she was very Mormon and Arizona has lots of Mormons around, many of whom believed her bullshit about having been "abused" by the kindest man I've ever met.

I remember really wanting to leave a comment on that article...  But I stopped myself.  Why?  Because I believe Ex is a narcissist and narcissists thrive on attention and drama.  And what better way for her to show everyone what a total bitch I am than if I left a nasty comment on a feel good "news" article about her?  I mean, all she's doing is "improving herself", right?

In all honesty, it appears that I'm the one who inspired her to improve.  Ex dropped out of high school to get married and later earned a GED.  She started and dropped out of college a bunch of times over a twenty year period.  It seems that back in 2009, she was back in school and on track to FINALLY succeed.  And she even had lofty goals of earning a master's degree, which she apparently did... although whatever school granted it to her must be desperate for tuition dollars.  I was especially horrified to find out she studied education.

Make no mistake about it.  I realize these comments make me sound mean and petty.  She brings out bad things in me, even as I realize that she gave me a gift when she divorced Bill.  He's the best husband a person could ever hope for.

Well... I stumbled across that article again yesterday.  Or, maybe it was a different article on the same theme.  It seems to me the one I found yesterday was somewhat different than the one I remember reading, although some elements of her official story were the same.  This time, as I read it, I wasn't nearly as pissed off.  In fact, I was downright amused.

You see, over the past year or so, we've learned more of the truth about what was going on back then.  I suspected that much of the information we were getting-- information that I mostly hadn't wanted to receive-- was basically either distorted versions of the truth or outright lies.  It turned out my suspicions were correct.  And while I'm actually really sad to hear about the conditions my husband's daughters had to deal with back then, I'm also glad to know that that shit is now in the past.  Bill's daughters are well into adulthood now.  What Ex says or does is immaterial to us.

It's taken so long for me to get to this point.  There were so many days when I thought we'd always have this unpleasant stench of bullshit hanging over us like a heavy cloak of duplicity.  Now I know that not only has the stench of bullshit dissipated, it doesn't even matter anymore.  Now, that article that was full of so many distortions of reality looks like a ridiculous joke... especially since the lofty goals Ex mentioned in that article never came to pass.  I suspect United Way never got much of a return on its investment in her, especially after she moved clear across the country with her then five kids-- two of whom were born while she was "bettering herself".

People used to tell me I needed to "get over it" and "let go".  It was a hard lesson to learn.  It was even more impossible to do.  What finally made "letting go" possible was finding out that my husband's daughters were not as brainwashed as they'd seemed.  They did remember their father.  At least in younger daughter's case, they did realize that he'd been given all the blame for something that largely wasn't his fault.  Had their mother been cooperative, Bill would have been much more than a source of child support.  But shitting on Bill was apparently more important to Ex than being a decent mother was.

My husband's children are now discovering what it was like for Bill when he finally split from their mother.  She now reportedly treats them in much the same way she treated him, although hopefully, she has omitted the sexual abuse aspect.  I don't cheer for them to be treated badly.  On the contrary, it makes me really sad to know that they've been neglected and abused, especially since they have always had a perfectly good father who wanted contact with them and was denied it.

Some years ago, I read an interesting book about multi-level marketing.  It was written by Rob Styler, who had managed to make a lot of money working for a MLM company called Equinox.  I have written about Equinox more than once... but one thing thing that really stood out for me as I read Styler's book was a comment he made to someone.  He said, "We teach best what we need to learn."  In other words, the things you preach to people about are possibly issues that you yourself need to visit.

The guy who was arguing with me yesterday about Judge Kavanaugh complained about the "lack of civil discourse" in the comments on my Facebook page.  He said that the discussion was "silly", because no one was going to budge.  He's right, of course.  He certainly wasn't going to budge on his position.  And I wasn't convinced by his, although I will admit that my lack of budging might have been due to his insulting all-knowing attitude.  He basically told everyone who didn't agree with his story that Judge Kavanaugh is an "excellent pick" for the Supreme Court is being duped and manipulated by the media.  I find that an insulting comment, even if it's true (which it isn't).  And the minute someone assumes they know how I come to my conclusions about things, whether or not they happen to be right, I pretty much stop listening to them.  Because that's not a respectful way to communicate with other people.

It was interesting that this man was complaining about our "lack of civil discourse" when he seemed unwilling to engage in it himself.  He told everyone that they had fallen for the media's "duplicity" and we weren't looking at Kavanaugh objectively.  We didn't see that he's a great family man who is dealing with constant death threats.  The video we saw of him dissing the father of a murdered teenager was "misleading".  We had all fallen for a "set up".  Basically, he was telling us we shouldn't trust our own senses, which is not quite the same as saying that one should look at a situation at all angles and through different perspectives.  He says we weren't respecting him, but he was not really respecting us, either.

My husband's ex wife is someone for whom I have absolutely zero respect.  In my heart, I know this isn't a good thing.  She's a human being, or so I'm told.  And I'm sure there are redeeming qualities within her somewhere, I guess.  I suppose I could be happy she didn't repeatedly drag Bill to court over stupid shit.  I think she did that, though, because he's a much more likable and believable person than she is.  And if it came down to it, it's likely that court could end up revealing her for what she really is.

Be that as it may, I suppose it would be a good thing if I could learn to respect his ex wife... just for being a fellow human, if anything.  I'm sure she must be hurting to be as hurtful as she is to other people.  She's a very convincing bullshitter and a lot of people fall for her crap until it's too late and she has her hooks in them.  But... what she thinks of me is not my business.  What she does is not my business.  In the long run, I think I won.  And I think maybe I can even "let go" and "get over it" now.  But I hope some folks won't begrudge me if I have a good laugh now and then... it's better than wishing death and destruction on her, right?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Apparently, Judge Kavanaugh really is a swell guy...

Like so many other people, yesterday I happened to watch this unfortunate clip of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh refusing to shake hands with Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was one of the seventeen people murdered in February in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.


I watched this clip several times.  Each time, I saw Guttenberg approach Kavanaugh, tap him on the shoulder, and offer his hand.  Each time, I saw Kavanaugh pause, look at the man, and turn away without shaking hands.  The look on Kavanaugh's face could be described as disdainful, although I honestly don't know if that was what he was feeling.

I shared the clip on Facebook and a friend of mine, who has a rather high position in law enforcement, claims that Kavanaugh's life has been threatened for months.  And that he's actually an excellent choice for the Supreme Court... and the kind of guy who does shake hands.  Except this time, he didn't.  Kavanaugh supposedly didn't get a chance to shake hands because "security intervened".  I don't really see that in the video.  I also don't see any look of empathy or apology on Kavanaugh's face as he publicly disses this father in mourning.

Actually, as I watched that clip, I was reminded of another incident that happened back in 2007, when Mitt Romney was running for office.

To Mitt's credit, at least he listens to the guy and deigns to speak to him before he dismisses him.

My cop friend insists that this video isn't showing the true story.  We've all been "duped" by the left swinging media.  My cop friend says that Kavanaugh is an "exceptional pick" for the Supreme Court.  My comment was that he looks more like an "exceptional prick."  You know, even if what my cop friend says is true, Kavanaugh didn't show a shred of humanity to that man whose daughter was killed.  I don't pretend to be a scholar on Brett Kavanaugh, but I have read that he is very much in favor of the right to bear arms.  I see that Kavanaugh has two beautiful daughters of his own.  They probably don't attend public school.  I guess he doesn't worry about them being killed while they're in class like Fred Guttenberg's daughter was.

I'll be honest.  I think anyone who is chosen by Donald Trump is going to be a loser.  I can only think of one of his staff members who is doing a somewhat decent job.  That would be James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense.  The rest of Trump's picks have been, at best, completely incompetent and uninterested in making the United States better for everyone, and not just the filthy rich.

Bill ended up sparring with my police officer friend, who claims that this whole incident was staged and intended to "embarrass" the nominee.  I'm not sure how anyone can make that assumption.  I mean, I don't know too many people who are mindreaders.  I don't think it's unreasonable for the father of a murdered teenager to be in favor of controlling access to weapons so that fewer deranged and enraged white boys with emotional problems can get their hands on them and kill their peers while they're in school.

Mr. Guttenberg describes the interaction he had with Kavanaugh.  He seems reasonable enough to me.  He says he went up to him as a "dad" after seeing Kavanaugh's "beautiful family".

Kavanaugh didn't have to shake his hand if it was really an issue of security.  He could have simply said, "I'm sorry for your loss."  He could have said, "Hello."  Hell, he could have said, "Kiss my ass!" and that would have been a better response than what he ultimately delivered.  My cop friend insists that this incident was a set up, intended to embarrass Judge Kavanaugh?  Well, embarrass him he probably did... but I doubt this was a set up.  And even if it was, Kavanaugh just failed spectacularly, especially as a human being.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

My brush with the rich and famous in rural Gloucester, Virginia...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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