Friday, August 31, 2018

In Italia...

And exhausted...  the drive down was pretty hellish, especially at the end.  We were stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour.

Now that we’re here, bring on La Dolce Vita...  

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A review of Dave Itzkoff's Robin

Sorry about the lengthy intro to this review.  If you just want the review, skip down a few paragraphs.

In August 2014, Bill and I had just returned to Germany so he could start a new job as a government contractor.  That summer was one of the most stressful and horrifying of my life so far.  Weeks before our international move, my father died somewhat suddenly.  And just after our return to Germany, I got the news that my mom had breast cancer (she had surgery and is fine now).

Robin Williams' suicide on August 11, 2014 was just one of many traumas during the summer of 2014.  I remember being absolutely shocked to hear about this man, who had been such a big part of my young life, had suddenly killed himself.  From his time as Mork, the gentle alien, on Mork & Mindy to his standup routines featured on HBO, to his many wonderful movies, I had so many memories of watching Williams be a genius.  And now he was suddenly gone.  He was 63 years old.

Robin Williams as Mork...

I seem to have a knack for being in Europe when legends die.  I was in Europe when Princess Diana was killed.  I was also here when Michael Jackson died.  I lived in Europe during 2016, which was when a whole host of legends passed away, and last week, we lost Aretha Franklin.  Still, I was pretty blown away when I heard about Williams' suicide.  At the time of the announcement, many people thought he had simply been an addict suffering from depression.  Quite a few people were angry about the suicide; some even went as far as to call Williams a coward.  They didn't know the truth.  Robin Williams suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, the same neurological disease my father suffered from during his final years.  Having seen it firsthand, I really can't blame Williams for what he did.  It's a horrible way to live, and ultimately die.

When I saw that Dave Itzkoff had written an exhaustive biography about Robin Williams, I decided I wanted to read it.  I downloaded Robin in May of 2018 and just finished it last night.  It's taken me a few weeks to get through Itzkoff's book, mainly because it's quite long and detailed.  Also, I don't have the attention span I used to have.  Back when I read real books, I'd whiz through them in a matter of days.  Now, I read most things on my iPad and get distracted by social media, games, or email.  Add in the fact that I usually read in bed and you might guess that sleep often also interrupts my reading sessions.

I see that I bought Robin just five days after it was released.  It was also just weeks before celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain killed himself.  When Bourdain died, many people compared his situation to Williams' situation.  Although they may seem similar on the surface, I truly believe Robin Williams' decision to commit suicide was caused by a very real illness.  I have seen Lewy Body Dementia in person.  It really brings the "crazy".  Not only do sufferers lose their physical faculties, they also have hallucinations, experience paranoia, and lose the ability to articulate their memories, even though they still have access to them.  It really is a special kind of hell.

I don't know if Williams killed himself because of acute symptoms of the disease or because he got a glimpse of what was coming.  What I do know is that I can hardly blame him.  In fact, his death was probably a blessing, not just for him, but also for those who love him.  I can speak firsthand about how hard it is to see someone you love turn into a stranger who has lost all ability to take care of themselves.

Anyway... about the book

Robin is an extremely detailed accounting of Robin Williams' life.  Itzkoff knew Williams, having interviewed him for the New York Times.  I get the sense that they were friendly, if not outright friends.  At the end of the book, Itzkoff reveals that he and Williams shared a love of comics and Williams had even invited him to go shopping for collectibles.  The author notes that many celebrities, hoping that the reporter will be kind to them, will try to ingratiate themselves.  In Williams' case, the offer to go shopping was genuine and based on a real desire to get to know the man who shared his love for comics.

In Robin, Itzkoff starts at the very beginning, detailing Williams upper class but lonely lifestyle.  His parents each had sons from other relationships-- two half brothers, with whom Robin was close.  However, Williams himself grew up by himself, playing in attics in empty mansions and attending private schools.  It was during those years that Williams found his voice as a comedian, which he later parlayed into standup routines at open mics in the San Francisco area.

Williams' big break came in the form of Mork & Mindy, an adorable sitcom that aired in the late 70s and early 80s.  I was a young child in those days and I loved that show, which also starred Pam Dawber.  Williams played Mork from Ork, a kind-hearted, gentle alien who had come to Earth to learn about the ways of mortals.  Every week, at the end of each episode, Mork would communicate with Orson, his boss on Ork.  He'd deliver that week's theme mallet/moral, often with witty aplomb.

During and after Mork & Mindy, Williams started making films.  The first one I remember seeing him in was Popeye, which was released in 1980.  I actually remember seeing that one, probably in the theater.  Itzkoff writes that Popeye was one of a number of films Williams did that wasn't all that popular.  But when Williams hit the right project, there was magic.  I want to say it started with 1989's Dead Poet's Society, which was a huge hit.  He went on to make a string of other good movies, as well as a few that flopped.  Itzkoff offers some good analysis about the vehicles that worked, as well as the ones that were less successful.

Williams had three wives.  His first wife, Valerie Velardi, bore their son, Zak.  While Williams was married to Valerie, he hired Marsha Garces as a personal assistant.  They ended up falling in love and Williams divorced Velardi and married Garces in 1989.  Garces had a knack for helping Williams pick out projects.  She kept him stimulated and organized his life.  She also had his daughter, Zelda, and son, Cody.  Twenty years after he married Garces, the marriage fell apart.  Williams' last wife was Susan Schneider, an artist and fellow alcoholic who had sort of a healing effect on Williams.  He married her in October 2011.

As lovable as Robin Williams was to so many of his fans, he did suffer from many demons.  Williams struggled with drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, and anxiety.  When he was sober, Williams was unstoppable.  When he was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or mental illness, he crashed into misery.  Williams would use his experiences in his comedy routines and characters, making him likable and relatable to many more ordinary people who had struggled with the same things.  I appreciated that Itzkoff took the time to explain Williams' demons and why they helped make him a better performer, even if they also tortured him.

Another important message from Mork...  I have to admit, Mork was probably my favorite incarnation of Robin Williams.

Robin Williams was also a good friend.  Itzkoff includes a very informative section on Williams' relationship with the late Christopher Reeve, who was his roommate at Juilliard.  The two made a pact that they would always be there for each other.  When Reeves had his horseback riding accident in May 1995, Robin and his second wife, Marsha, where there for him immediately.  Robin even dressed up like a Russian doctor and made Reeves laugh at a time when laughter seemed impossible. Williams was also friends with Billy Crystal, who would call him on the phone impersonating people like Ronald Reagan.  He was friends with Bobcat Goldthwait, too, and appeared in a couple of Goldthwait's movies.  Williams would go to open mics, even when he was very famous, and hang out with young comedians just getting their start.  He'd be one of the guys.

Robin is basically well written and loaded with details and information, as well as pictures and an extensive reading list.  I really think Itzkoff did a good job capturing who Robin Williams was, reminding me that Williams was a warm, funny, real person who was incredibly unique and irreplaceable.  But he also reminded me that Williams was fallible and did have his disappointments and failures.  As amazing as Williams' talent was, he was still a man.

Some readers have pointed out that this book has some factual errors.  I'm sure an obsessive Williams fan would be able to point these out better than I can.  I liked Robin Williams, but I wasn't someone who studied his life on that level.

A criticism I could personally make is that this book is very long-- to the point of being exhaustive.  It took me considerable time and effort to finish this book, and I'm usually a pretty speedy reader.  If you prefer brevity, Robin may not be the best book for you.  I see on, many people had the same complaint I have.  This book could have used a talented editor to help pare it down just a bit.  440 pages is a long haul, even if a book is enormously fascinating.  On the other hand, as a writer myself, I can understand how easy it is to get bogged down in minutiae.

Overall, I liked Robin.  I learned new things reading this book and got an appreciation for who Robin Williams was.  If I were going to assign a rating, I'd probably give it 3.5 stars out of five.  If it had been maybe 100 pages less, I'd bump it to four stars.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

North Carolina boy gets in trouble for calling his teacher "Ma'am"...

Last night, as I was doing my best to occupy myself during Bill's absence, I ran across a news article about a mom who is upset because her son got in trouble for calling his teacher "ma'am."  A conservative friend of mine initially shared the piece, which was posted by USA Today.  I was intrigued, so I went looking for more detailed sources of this story.  Then I decided to share the story myself, since I knew it would generate discussion.

Ten year old Tamarion Wilson attends fifth grade at North East Carolina Preparatory School in Tarboro, North Carolina, a town about 62 miles east of Raleigh.  He is being taught by his parents to call adults "ma'am" or "sir".  This is not shocking in North Carolina or elsewhere in the South.  Kids are routinely taught that using "ma'am" or "sir" is respectful and polite.  It was so when I was a youngster and apparently remains true today.

For some reason, Tamarion's teacher doesn't like it when someone calls her "ma'am."  She asked him not to call her "ma'am", but he persisted in doing so.  So she made him write "ma'am" over and over again on a piece of notebook paper.  Tamarion was then to get his mother to sign the paper.

Tamarion's mother, Teretha Wilson, was understandably upset and confused when her son was punished for trying to be respectful to his teacher.  Tamarion was also hospitalized last month due to a seizure episode that included memory loss and may have contributed to misunderstanding of the incident.  Mrs. Wilson met with the school principal and Tamarion's teacher, armed with the definition of the word "ma'am", which is defined as a "polite form of address for a woman."

I grew up in Virginia.  My parents are/were Virginians from rural Rockbridge County and my dad was in the Air Force, where "ma'am" and "sir" are also used.  For some reason, my parents never forced me to use those terms.  However, a lot of my friends would have been knocked into the next week if they didn't call an elder "ma'am" or "sir".  It's simply considered proper behavior by children who are being brought up right in southern culture.

However...  as a woman in her forties, I also know that many women hate being called "ma'am."  Some women feel like it's an ageist term, used for old ladies.  It's offensive to them.  Although I don't care if someone calls me "ma'am", I do hate it when I get referred to as "hon" or "sweetie".  I've written about that many times on this blog.  I often get told to "get over it" or someone tries to explain southern culture to me, which is beyond irritating, given that I am myself a southerner.  Given how I feel about "hon" and "sweetie", which are considered terms of endearment, I have a lot of empathy for women who don't like being called "ma'am."

It seems to me the height of respect is to call a person by the name they prefer.  My given name is Jennifer, but I absolutely hate being called Jennifer.  I prefer Jenny.  If you know me well enough to be calling me by my first name, you would know to call me Jenny instead of Jennifer.  But sometimes people see my legal name on a piece of paper and assume they can and should call me by my given name... a name I hate.  They assume I would prefer a familiar address, although the name "Jennifer" is really not familiar to me.  No one calls me that anymore-- not even my mother.  And if you don't know that, you shouldn't be calling me by my first name.

So how do you find out what to call someone?  Use an honorific.  That gives the other person a chance to tell you what they want to be called.  Call me Ms. or Mrs. and I will likely tell you to call me "Jenny", which is the informal name I prefer.

I like the way this is done in Europe.  Here, if you are an adult, you will usually be called Mr. or Ms. until you tell the other person what they should call you.  For instance, I like that doctors are called by their titles, but they call me by my title, too.  There's no "Hi Jenny, I'm Dr. So and So."  They're Dr. So and So and I'm Mrs. Crossen.    

Naturally, teachers are usually called Mr., Ms., Mrs., or Miss.  A student won't go wrong if he or she uses the name the teacher has used to introduce themselves.  In every class I've ever been in, the very first thing a teacher does is introduce themselves, often by writing their name on the chalkboard.  Simply teach the child to use that name.  Problem solved.

If the teacher in this story doesn't like being called "ma'am", I think she is within her rights to ask her students not to call her that.  However, I don't think punishment was called for in this situation.  It seems counterintuitive to make a child write the word "ma'am" over and over again if your goal is discourage the word's use.  Moreover, the child was apparently intending to be respectful.  We weren't there for the actual exchange, so we don't know how he said "ma'am", which could be construed as disrespectful if it's said in a sarcastic way or paired with opposing body language.  Since we only know what was reported, we can only go by what's in the news.  The teacher could have appreciated the boy's attempt to be respectful and thanked him for that, while asking him not to use that term with her.  If he slips up, she can thank him again for being respectful and remind him that she doesn't like being called "ma'am."

Yes, I know this sounds petty.  Many people think the teacher should just "get over it" and stop undermining the child's parents' wishes.  But if your goal is to teach a child to be polite and considerate, it seems to me that this is a lesson that should be included.  Google "I hate being called ma'am" and you will find that many, many women absolutely loathe being called that.  Some women consider it an insult, for whatever reason.  Besides, the South does not make up the whole country.  In many parts of the United States, children are not taught that they must call their elders "sir" or "ma'am".  It's not in their culture.

A teacher's job is to teach.  This teacher happens to be one who hates being called ma'am.  As Tamarion grows up, he will run into all sorts of people who have opinions and values different than his or his family's.  He will have to learn to adjust to other people's differences.  The teacher, on the other hand, should learn not to punish children for doing what they've been taught is proper.  Yes, it's usually considered polite to refer to someone as "sir" or "ma'am", but what we really should be teaching is consideration and empathy.  Effective communication requires a give and take of information.  If a person feels insulted, good communication will be hampered.  And that is not optimal for teaching or learning.  Just my two cents.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Keep young and beautiful..."

I had yet another interesting comment thread going on my Facebook page the other day.  The funny thing is, the comment thread had started as a joke.  I follow "Middle Age Riot", which often has anti-Trump political humor.  A couple of days ago, the below post was shared to the masses.

"The worst crime you can commit isn't treason; it's being a smart woman"...

When I saw this on Saturday afternoon, I happened to be sitting at a fest table with my husband and another guy.  We were drinking locally produced wines and eating Schmalzbrot.  Schmalzbrot is basically bread smeared with bacon grease and sprinkled with dried onions.  I didn't order this.  It was chosen by Bill's co-worker, who implored us to try it.  I will admit it wasn't bad, but I had a feeling that if I'd eaten a whole slice, I would soon be experiencing heartburn.  Unfortunately, that turned out to be true, even though I didn't eat a whole slice.

Anyway, while Bill and his buddy were discussing deep stuff, I was watching Facebook.  I saw the post above and, even though it was about Hillary Clinton, it kind of resonated with me.  A lot of people just plain don't like "smart women".  I suddenly thought about all the news stories I'd read about women being shamed-- yes, even the ones who were accused of being racist, but also turned out to be intelligent, successful women who didn't happen to be "camera ready" when they were caught "behaving badly".  Women like Dr. Jennifer Schulte and Alison Ettel, so called #BBQ Becky and #Permit Patty, were filmed.  The videos of them were shared online and the Internet went wild with accusations of what motivated them to confront people of color.  And among the comments, there were plenty of words written about how these women looked.  

But I wasn't just thinking of those women, who may or may not have been acting out of racism (in my mind, simply confronting people of color doesn't necessarily make a person "racist").  I was thinking about women like Randa Jarrar, a Muslim professor in California who posted her unpopular opinions about Barbara Bush right after her death last April.  I didn't agree with Jarrar's comments or her decision to post them after Mrs. Bush died.  However, I was dismayed by the reactions she got from the peanut gallery.  I must admit, after reading umpteen comments about how Jarrar wasn't "fuckable", I started having a lot more empathy for her.  To many people, men and women included, a very intelligent woman is a threat.      

To be clear, I don't necessarily agree with how any of those women have behaved.  I also don't necessarily agree with how Hillary Clinton behaves.  I respect Mrs. Clinton for being as smart and accomplished as she is.  I think if she hadn't been married to Bill Clinton, who has "zipper problems" not unlike Donald Trump's, but seems to be a much more decent person overall, I might have been more inclined to vote for her.  I think she's much better president material than Trump is.  She's much better qualified, smarter, and just simply more cut out for the job.  I chose to vote third party; however, I did so in a state that Mrs. Clinton could not, and did not, win, although she did win San Antonio, which was where I was voting.  Had I not been voting in Texas, I probably would have voted for her, simply because she had the best qualifications of the two candidates that stood a chance of winning.  If she had been a white man, she probably would have won by a landslide.

Yesterday, I spent several hours watching season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale.  I read the novel last year.  Much to my shame, I had not heard of it until I read an essay on  I found the novel very depressing.  I'm finding the show riveting viewing, but also depressing and scary.  For so many years, I had kind of a false impression of what being an American woman means.  Ever since Trump came into office, misogynistic types seem to be coming out of the woodwork, emboldened to spew their warped views on what women should be.  Apparently, a lot of people think that women should be beautiful, just smart enough, and most of all, quiet and subservient.  You can be smart, experienced, competent, capable, talented, ambitious, and overall amazing... but if you aren't young, beautiful, and aware of your place, you aren't worth shit to a lot of these folks.

"Take care of all those charms... then you'll always be in someone's arms!"  This is from 1933, but it still rings true today.

Anyway... I shared Middle Age Riot's post and it went unnoticed for about a day.  Then a conservative female friend posted an anti Hillary remark, that brought out heated responses from several of my liberal female friends.  One friend even accused my conservative friend as "trolling", which I know she wasn't actually doing.  The conservative friend and I "talk" online a lot and I know she's a very bright young woman who happens to have conservative politics.  She doesn't like Hillary Clinton and didn't feel the need to explain why to my liberal friends, who were demanding that she articulate why she's not a fan of Mrs. Clinton's.  I don't blame her for that.  It didn't seem as though that crowd would have been very receptive to her thoughts.

I do understand that the pressure to "fall in line" comes from either side of the political spectrum.  A person can be liberal in a crowd of conservatives and get called to task.  Or a person can be a conservative in a crowd of liberals and get called to task for not going with the crowd.  If the person is female, her looks will come up.  When I shared the above post, I was thinking of smart women who threaten people-- even other women.  But then it turned into a political thread about why Mrs. Clinton wasn't elected.  So I added this comment at the end...

Just so people know... when I shared this, I wasn't necessarily even just thinking of Hillary Clinton, although she is the most obvious example of a smart woman repeatedly battered by men who are threatened by her. I was actually thinking of some less famous women who are hated because they are smart, articulate, and courageous. I think, to some people, the worst thing a woman can be is fat, followed by smart, courageous, articulate, and old. Read any comment thread about a woman who dares to speak out and you will see a lot of nasty comments, many of which have little to do with the issue at hand and more to do with whether or not she's attractive, overweight, or considered "slutty".

Naturally, if I hadn't been high on land wine, maybe I would have stated that upfront and avoided controversy.  Hillary Clinton is just one of the poster women for smart, accomplished females who threaten men in power.  She is probably the most famous of all of them.  Even here in the Stuttgart military community, I get the sense that a lot of people, particularly men, don't like me.  A lot of them think I'm "too big for my britches".  The very name of this blog pisses some people off because they assume I'm bragging about being smart.  The fact is, I don't even consider myself that smart.  There are certainly smarter people than me.  I probably couldn't have even correctly solved that math problem I featured in yesterday's post.

However, I do realize that some people consider me a threat to them.  They don't like me, even if they don't even know me.  It doesn't help that I'm not particularly young or beautiful, although I do have a husband who thinks I am.  Some people don't think I deserve what I have.  Some people resent that I speak up and/or out on my blog.  Some people don't want you to say this.  Some people don't want you to say that.  As George Carlin once said, "Some people are really fuckin' stupid."

George talks about "stupid people"...  Wonder what he would think about today's reality?

Well, those are my thoughts today.  Two more nights before Mr. Bill comes home and we can go to Italy.  


Monday, August 27, 2018

Sometimes the right answers are in the comments...

This morning, I was looking at my Facebook memories and came across this math problem.

I asked Siri the answer...

Siri said the answer is 9.  However, plenty of people had other guesses that ranged from -5 to -21.  They were still guessing, even after Siri had solved the problem.  They were still guessing even after my cousin, Carol, who has been teaching high school math for years, piped up with the same answer Siri did.  9 is the correct answer, but people were still offering wrong ones.  Even funnier is the fact that Siri even showed her work, yet people still weren't getting the right answer.  Why is that?

I think a lot of people don't want to read other people's comments.  I can sort of see why that is, especially on a contentious topic.  People can be snarky and sometimes even downright nasty.  There are times when I will leave a comment and not read responses because I know they will upset me.  However, sometimes reading the comments can save you valuable time and make you look less dumb.

Look at this thread...

The correct answer was given very early and even confirmed by an expert, but people were still guessing... and mostly getting the wrong answer.

Why do you think people skip the comments?  Sometimes the reasons are valid.  For instance, if you're reading about a popular show on TV, maybe you don't want any spoilers.  Most of the time, though, I think it's because people are lazy.  It's the same reason why some people don't want to read the directions that come with their IKEA bookshelves.  They'd rather "save time" by trying to figure it out themselves, then wonder why their shelves fall apart so easily or look wrong.  

I'm reminded of this phenomenon this morning, as I look at a post shared by the mother of a friend of mine.  It's a well meaning post, but...

It was revealed in the comment section that this post is actually from 2015... Carter is in remission now.  That doesn't mean prayers aren't helpful, but as far as I can tell, Mr. Carter is not at death's door.

To read most of the comments, you'd never know that he's in remission.  People are reacting to this photo with sadness, prayers, and advice for the former president to use cannabis.  And even though a number of people have pointed out that this is old news, the prayers, "tears", and marijuana advice continue apace.  How long would it take for the average person to skim the comments before responding?  Obviously, too much time.

I know people are busy and they want to be heard.  But, it does seem to me that if you can take a minute to write a response to something, you can take a minute to scan or skim the comment section to see if what you are about to post contains wrong information, is a reaction to wrong information, or has already been stated multiple times.  In the long run, that would probably save even more time than skipping the comments.

That's my sermon for Monday morning as I eagerly await Thursday night, when my husband will be home again.  I hate it when he goes out of town without me.  Maybe his next job will require less travel.  One can only hope.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

PTA or day trip? Tough choices...

Yesterday, Sanctimommy shared this photo.

This was apparently posted by a frustrated mom.

Although I am not myself a "mommy", I follow Sanctimommy's page on Facebook.  I'm often amazed at some of the things people post that get featured on that page.  This particular photo is kind of tame, but it still generated an interesting discussion on my own page.  I have a number of friends who have children in school and a lot of them have either experienced trying to round up PTA volunteers or have attempted to avoid being a part of that organization.

As a non-mom, my comment is this:  If you had a choice between taking a day trip or going on vacation and hanging around people like the one who posted this, what would you choose?  I know what my answer would be.

Life is stressful and hard.  Why would you give up your fun time so you can hang out in a group of people who use emotional blackmailing tactics and guilt trips to get others to participate?  Vacation time is scarce.  Day trips are a nice diversion from everyday living.  Seems to me that it's an easy choice, even if the PTA does a lot of good for kids.  

Most people are just trying to get through life.  Some folks are very altruistic and service oriented.  It would be nice if everyone wanted to pitch in, but I have heard that PTA groups can be full of power hungry moms who have apparently never left high school.  And if you are a busy person-- perhaps a mom with a full time job or other priorities-- do you really want to hang out with people you can't stand?  I know I prefer to limit my exposure to such people.


I think this scene in Desperate Housewives kind of sums up how I imagine some PTA groups...

This reminds me... Maybe I should fill up the days Bill is in Africa this week by watching Desperate Housewives.  I had forgotten how good that show is.

I think if your aim is to round up volunteers, this is probably not the best way to do it.  At best, you'll get a few people who are there resentfully.  At worst, people will just ignore it and start talking smack.

Last night, Bill and I had a long talk about whether or not we want to move.  Bill's boss sent his resume to another office in a different city, located a couple of hours away.  That's not far from where we are now, relatively speaking, but it is a move.  I'm of a mixed mind about it.  In some ways, I can see the good in moving.  A change is good for the soul and it's not like we aren't overdue for a move.  On the other hand, moves are stressful and upsetting and I don't really want to leave where we are.  

I mean, I would love to have a different house, but with a different house comes all the hassles that come with living in a different community.  I also like that we already have a vet, a dentist, a dog sitter, and some friends.  The new town would be refreshing because I could start blogging about a different place.  But it would also be stressful... moving house is particularly annoying.

Anyway, it's early yet.  Nothing will even be discussed until next month.  And then, realistically, we wouldn't be able to move for at least three months beyond the discussion.  So if we do move, it probably won't be until after the holidays.  Now, if someone local wants to hire Bill, then his job could change sooner.  

Poor Bill was very upset last night, but he really shouldn't be.  The job change was just announced a couple of weeks ago.  He's already been talked to about going GS and staying here, working at another company and staying here, or moving to a new city with the same company.  He's already got options.  Better yet, we're almost debt free now and have some money saved.  It's not as dire as the situation we were in last year.  It's not nearly as dire as the situation we were in four years ago, when Bill retired.  We've been through worse.  

Change is hard, though.  One day at a time. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

"You want a bun with that?"

Today, I think I'll write something silly as opposed to something depressing or controversial.  It may not seem like it in most of my posts, but I actually have a pretty great sense of humor.  When I was younger, I had a male friend in college with whom I used to spend a lot of time.  His name is Chris.

I'm still friends with this guy, by the way.  I just don't get to see him anymore because he's in Virginia and I'm in Germany.  When we were in college, though, we were kind of inseparable.  We spent hours hanging out and, when he was a drinker, we often got drunk together.  He quit drinking when we were juniors in college because he turned out to be an alcoholic.

Anyway...  located right next to our campus was a McDonald's.  I didn't eat there very often because I never had any money.  But one night, my friend went there with some of his buddies.  I believe they were all inebriated and likely pretty obnoxious, too.

This wasn't Chris and his crew... but the idea is kind of the same.

Chris went up to the counter and ordered a cheeseburger.  The guy who took his order apparently got an attitude and said, "You want a bun with that?"

Chris, who was likely feeling no pain, said, "What kind of a question is THAT?  Of course I want a BUN with that!  Who the hell orders a burger without a bun?"

The guys who were with Chris were gently trying to extricate him from the situation, but he was still cussing as the dude handed him his order.

Actually, I can think of a few funny situations involving Chris and fast food.  One of his favorite things to do when we were in college was act like he was going to throw up.  He'd make a fist and sort of hesitantly place it to his mouth, then start fake hurling.  He said he'd always wanted to try that at a fast food restaurant.  He wanted to go up to the counter and act like he was going to puke, then sort of settle down and say, "Can I have another burger, please?"

The funny part of this scenario is that he'd then revert to acting like the no nonsense female worker behind the counter.  Her eyebrows would be raised, unbelieving, and her eyes would be downcast.  And she'd say, her voice laced with attitude, "Do you know how to work a mop?"

Then Chris would revert back to his fake puking self and say, "I just want another burger, please."

Chris, acting as the female worker, would say, "Do you see anyone else standing back here?  Who you think gonna clean up the mess if you toss your cookies all over my clean floor?"  With a wag of her head, she'd continue, "Now, you know how to work a mop, I'll give you another burger."

The little scenario would usually kind of end at that point.  Sometimes, I'd join in and play the fast food worker.

Chris also told me once about how he and his mom went to a McDonald's once and saw some woman cleaning with a toothbrush.  Chris's mom, who died in 2009, said, "Chris, I think that woman is a halfwit.  Why is she cleaning like that?"

This isn't to say, by the way, that I think people who work in fast food are halfwits.  I don't think that at all.  There is no such thing as truly unskilled labor.  I just laugh when I remember the way my old friend would do these imitations and act out these scenarios, especially in places like McDonald's, where you're liable to run into anyone...

This topic comes up thanks to the hamburger meat in our refrigerator that needs to be consumed.  I probably ought to go vegan, but I don't see it happening at this point in my life.

LOL... that woman says what my mom used to say to me all the time when I was growing up.

Yes, kids, this is what we did in the 1990s, when Internet for everyone was still just a pipe dream.  I kind of miss those days.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

I loved your performance as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale!

I follow The Bitchy Waiter on Facebook.  I follow him because I used to wait tables and remember the pain, even though it's been over fifteen years since I last served anyone.  I think he's often funny and I get a kick out of some of the stories he shares on his page.  The Bitchy Waiter has also written a book, which he prominently hawks on his page and in his videos.  Yesterday, I watched his latest video, in which he answers two questions posed by his followers.

The first question comes from a new server wanting to know how to be confident.  The Bitchy Waiter advises her to "fake it until you make it".  Good advice, I guess.  I was not a very confident server at first and it took me awhile to get the hang of the job.  Once I did, it was easier, although I was yelled at, stiffed, and occasionally even driven to tears by some of my "guests".  I don't miss that job, but I am glad I learned how to do it.

The second question comes from someone wanting to know what The Bitchy Waiter's thoughts are when a pregnant woman orders alcohol.  I knew when I heard that question, the comments section would be on fire.  I was right.

Photo courtesy of Hulu.  

It never ceases to shock me how judgmental people can be when a woman is pregnant.  I don't know how moms of today do it.  There's always someone there to offer an unsolicited opinion or advice.  Here are a few of the more charming comments on this post...  It amazes me how many servers are also medical professionals!

This lady has very strong ideas about what pregnant women should be doing.  I liked the woman who said she loved her performance as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale.

This is just a sampling of the comments so far.  I didn't respond to any of them myself, but if I were going to answer the question about serving alcohol, my response would be the same as The Bitchy Waiter's.  I think it's best to MYOB and trust that the woman knows what she's doing.  Pregnant women are not incompetent and, by and large, they don't need "special help", especially from a stranger.  Moreover, sometimes there are situations going on that are just plain no one else's business. 

A couple of people commented that they saw visibly pregnant women smoking and drinking and it turned out they'd just learned that their babies had died in utero.  Another person commented that six weeks after childbirth, she still looked pregnant.  Sometimes, women are just fat and have a prominent gut.  I've been asked if I was pregnant before.  It was very embarrassing and infuriating, especially since I have never been pregnant and, if I were, it wouldn't be anyone else's affair.  But no... my "bump" comes courtesy of beer, not baby.  And no, you don't need to ask me about it.

Now... if a woman is pregnant and obviously wasted, then yes, you would be well within your rights to refuse to serve her.  But you would also do that if she wasn't pregnant, right?  

I think people who have moral oppositions to serving certain things to certain people should probably not work as a server.  There are plenty of jobs out there where you don't have to be in the position of violating your personal code of ethics regarding pregnant women who drink alcohol.  If it bothers you to serve a pregnant woman rare meat, bleu cheese dressing, caffeinated drinks, booze, or sushi, simply do something else for money.  It's that simple.

As for whether or not drinking while pregnant is "wise", it really depends on whom you ask.  Here in Germany, it's not nearly as big of a deal as it is in the United States.  I have friends who have had babies here and their doctors have encouraged them to have a small amount of wine, particularly when their blood pressure was up.  No one has said go out and get loaded.  That wouldn't be encouraged for anybody.  But a small amount of alcohol for pregnant women is not "verboten" in Germany.  In fact, one friend said her German doctor preferred that she have a little wine versus a prescription drug to bring down her blood pressure.  I also have a friend whose American doctor in Northern Virginia said the same.  

Personally, I would choose to listen to European doctors over a lot of American doctors, anyway.  Europe, by and large, has better healthcare outcomes than the United States does.  According to the World Health Organization, France's healthcare is at the top of the list, while the USA is ranked at 37.   

It really astonishes me how some people feel like they can make personal judgments about other people's choices, especially if they don't actually know the person or their situation.  One lady in the comments was saying she wanted to call CPS or even the police on pregnant women who drink.  Another was upset because breastfeeding moms were drinking beer.  Before you judge that woman who is drinking beer, be sure you know the mechanism of how alcohol is metabolized.  It's not like someone drinks beer and it immediately comes out of the breast like a tap.  Regarding those who think CPS needs to be called... does it ever occur to people that sometimes involving CPS makes things much worse?  Foster care is not a great solution for most children.

Anyway... my thinking is that it's probably safest to avoid booze while pregnant.  However, every single day of your life, you will be exposed to risks.  I think it's pretty much impossible to avoid every risk, especially when you're pregnant.  You can not drink booze at all, yet still require a medication that might put a developing fetus at risk.  You can breathe polluted air, fall down a flight of stairs, get murdered, or have a car accident.  It all comes down to personal decision making and judgment calls.  And, in my view, it's not up to a random waiter or waitress to be involved in an another adult's personal decision making or judgment calls.  Pregnant women aren't a special class of people who need help making decisions.  I agree with The Bitchy Waiter.  Mind your own damned business.

And just because I'm a sport, here's a link to The Bitchy Waiter's book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Reality check! Now, I'm triggered...

The other day, I came across this sign on Facebook...

I found this very triggering...

The person who shared this on her Facebook page is someone I never really interact with these days.  I "met" her years ago, after a mass exodus at a support site for second wives and stepmothers that had turned out to be a hotbed of abuse.  This was in the days before social media had really taken off and a bunch of us had found ourselves in need of a place to vent about "steplife".  The people who were running the site turned out to be corrupt and a whole bunch of us either quit or got kicked out.    

I didn't actually meet the woman who shared the above photo on the "abusive" site.  She had come and gone before my time there.  I met her on a spinoff site, where those of us who had been "abused" at the first site gathered to "lick our wounds", so to speak.  The spin off site imploded about six years ago.  

I'm still friendly with a number of women I met on that site, although a number of other people have faded out of my sphere.  When the poster sharing lady and I became acquainted, I was a bit more politically conservative than I am today.  Fifteen or so years ago, I would have considered myself a Republican.  She is likewise a Republican and is way more conservative than I will ever be.  She shared the above photo and was cheering about its no nonsense "lessons of life" for young people.

First off, I do understand why some people think the above sign is awesome.  I have been around enough young people to know that a lot of them aren't getting the home training young people once were expected to have.  There are a lot of reasons for that, which I won't get into with this post because it would take all day to cover that subject.  Suffice to say, I know that teenagers today are probably even more entitled than they were in my day, back in the 1980s.  A lot of that isn't their fault, though.

Personally, I found this sign kind of triggering.  It brought back a lot of unpleasant memories, listening to my father constantly telling me all the things that he thought were wrong with me.  He used to say things like "No one cares about your opinion." and "You are a very arrogant person."  He would use the same kind of belligerent language expressed in that sign and then expect me to respect him.  He didn't protect me from people like my perverted neighbor or the fourth grade teacher who employed a whale shaped paddle to discipline his students.  But I was expected to respect my father, simply because his sperm helped create me.  Well... I say that's bullshit.  

Just like the sign says, "Respect is earned.  It is not given."  I think that is a two way street.  I find the language in the sign disrespectful and unnecessarily harsh.  Hanging it in a room where everyone has to see it casts an aggressive mood on the environment that I don't think does anything to promote better behavior.  

I somehow pictured my reaction to being presented with this list and knew that it would have pissed off the teenaged version of me.  Teenaged me would have seen this and either would have internalized the negative, hostile tone of it, or it would have really put me on the defensive.  When people are defensive and pissed off, I find that it's a lot harder to get constructive messages to them.

My guess is that some teacher posted this in a classroom for young people who are being punished.  Look at number 10, which reads "You put yourself here.  You need to fix you."  The context of that makes me think that the people reading the sign were probably sitting in in school suspension or something.  However, my initial thought was, "Mom's and Dad's decision to copulate put me here.  Too bad Dad didn't take a cold shower."  No child ever asked to be born.  That was their parents' decision.  And sometimes young people end up in trouble, not necessarily because of things they've done, but because they happened to be in the wrong place or with the wrong people at the wrong time.  Item number 10 implies that there is something inherently "wrong" with the child.  Maybe there is, but it doesn't seem constructive to say that out loud and to everyone who looks at that sign.

My next comment was, "Personally, I think if you need to post a sign like this and you are the child's parent, you have failed."  Some friends took issue with that comment.  I stand by my statement.  I think if you have a teenaged child who needs this "reality check", you haven't been doing your job.  Moreover, I think many teens who would actually need this "reality check" won't care about a stupid sign.  Most defiant teens are well beyond reading signs for reminders of how they should be behaving.  They simply need to face the consequences of their actions, which doesn't require making them read a sign.  The ones who do care might find the sign hurtful.  

A friend of mine started a comment to me with the words, "As a parent..."  I immediately recognized that as a qualifying statement.  I'm not a mom, but she is.  I realize that my opinion may not be "informed", because I don't have children.  However, I was once a child myself and have worked with children in different job roles.  I think I can offer an opinion, despite my empty nest. 

I doubt it was a parent who wrote this... it was just a parent who shared it and cheered it.  I say, "Mom and Dad, these are things you should be teaching and modeling every day."  Preferably, you should be teaching children by example.  Telling someone to "Get over it." is not respectful.  If your son or daughter said, "Get over it." to you, how would that make you feel?  I have a feeling that if I had told my dad to "Get over it.", he would have smacked me in the face.  He would have felt perfectly fine in doing that, but if I retaliated, there would be a world of hurt for me, even though he was a lot bigger and stronger than I was.  

I think if you want your child to grow up well-mannered, there are ways to achieve that without resorting to being a brute or being rude.  "Get over it." is a rude thing to say to ANYONE.  If you wouldn't want to hear that said to you, don't say it to your child.

A couple of the "reality checks" on that sign are redundant.  I could argue that "You are not the boss." and "The world doesn't revolve around you." are pretty much the same thing.  The same goes for "You will not be rewarded for bad behavior." and "Fits and tantrums will get you nowhere.  Stop wasting your time."  Ditto for "Life is not fair." and "The world owes you NOTHING.  Work for it."  

It seems to me the sign would be more constructive and likely to be read if the person who wrote it had consolidated some of their points, removed the inflammatory and hostile language, and written it in colors that are less triggering.  I get the sense that the person who wrote that sign was pissed off, which doesn't seem like it would garner a positive response from the person receiving the message.  

Here's the way I would change that sign, which I will grant probably still wouldn't be read or heeded, but would at least serve as a less hypocritical example of how to behave.  First off, I would write the sign in a more neutral color, like blue.

Eight universal truths

1.  You may be rewarded for good behavior.

2.  You will hear the word "no", but sometimes it will be a blessing.  

3.  Good choices lead to good outcomes.  Bad choices lead to bad outcomes.

4.  The only fair thing in life is that it's often not fair.  That's true for everyone.

5.  If you want to be respected, act respectable.

6.  Hard work often pays dividends.

7.  I'm glad you're here.  Let's work together to make things better.

8.  Listening leads to learning.

Now... I am not stupid enough to think that this revised list of "truths" would be taken seriously by anyone.  However, neither do I think the very aggressive sign posted in the photo above would be taken seriously, at least not be the people who most need to read it.  I simply believe that you don't get respect by being rude, overbearing, and obnoxious.  

There is a difference between being firm and assertive, and being aggressive and hostile.  The sign in the picture is very aggressive and hostile, in my opinion, and that doesn't lead to effective communication.  But again... young people who need to be yelled at or "roughed up" probably won't bother to read a sign anyway, let alone follow its suggestions.    

Phew... I feel better now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Rage made him do it?

For the past few days, I've been following the very sad story of how pregnant Shannan Watts and her daughters, 4 year old Bella and 3 year old Celeste, were murdered on August 13th in Frederick, Colorado.  I first heard about this story when true crime author Kathryn Casey posted about it on Facebook.  At the time, Shannan's estranged husband, Christopher Watts, had gone on television to plead for the return of his "missing family".  Watts had said that he and Shannan had had an "emotional" conversation and she and the girls had disappeared shortly afterward.  In the interview, Watts said "I can't lose my best friend."

A couple of days later, Mr. Watts was arrested.  I wasn't surprised.  As soon as I read about the "emotional conversation" and the fact that Shannan's wallet, keys, and car were left at the home, I had a sinking feeling that she had been murdered, and most likely by the 33 year old man crying crocodile tears on television.  It brought back memories of South Carolina murderer Susan Smith, back in 1994, when she was on TV begging for her sons to be returned.  All the time, she knew exactly what happened to them and where they were.  Since Susan Smith is a woman, I think more people were inclined to believe her story.  Watts, on the other hand, has been suspicious since the get go.

He's lying with a straight face...  

This morning, I woke up to the news that Christopher Watts is blaming Shannan for her demise.  Mr. Watts claimed that the couple had an "emotional conversation" in the middle of the night on August 13th.  Apparently, he had been having an affair with a co-worker and had told Shannan that he wanted to separate.  According to Watts, after that conversation, Watts had looked at the baby monitor and saw Shannan strangling their 3 year old daughter, Celeste.  He said 4 year old Bella was lying on her bed and appeared to be blue.  Enraged by his wife's alleged decision to kill their daughters, Mr. Watts says his reaction was to kill his wife.  

First off, I don't believe Christopher Watts' story for a second.  Why would I believe his account when he's already lied to the public?  He knew what had happened to Shannan Watts and his daughters, yet he still went on television to plead for their return home.  He's already told a whopper of a lie.  So why would I expect the truth from him at this point?  It sounds to me like he's trying to save his own skin.

Watts has proven that he lacks character.  The man says he was having an affair, which also involves duplicity.  People who have affairs sneak around and hide things.

Watts also says he didn't kill his daughters, but he does admit that he dumped their bodies in oil tanks.  Tell me... why would a loving father treat his daughters' bodies that way?  Why didn't he call the authorities so that they could have a proper burial?  I don't believe for a second that Watts didn't kill his girls.  He showed no regard for them at all and his story stinks of bullshit.

I don't know much about Christopher Watts, other than having read a bit about this mess he's in.  I look at him and see an attractive man who is probably used to attention from women.  Clearly, he still found his wife attractive enough to make a baby with; she was only fifteen weeks pregnant when she died.  Unless she too was having an affair, Watts still wanted her on some reptilian level.  Is it possible that she was also cheating?  I don't know... but Watts called her his "best friend", even though he knew she was dead and his daughters' bodies were dumped in an oil tank.  

What would make Christopher Watts kill his wife?  Was it the prospect of paying child support?  Was it the prospect of his reputation being run through the mud?  Had he simply lost control of himself?  I look at the very composed man in the above video and I don't see a man who is emotional, distraught, or sorry that his "best friend" and his daughters are gone from the world.  He's very calm.  It's chilling.  And yet, for being so calm, he's not very smart.  The average person suspected him from the very start.

I am usually one to wait until more facts are made available.  I happen to believe that sometimes men are falsely accused of crimes against women.  People are quick to blame the man in a lot of breakups and they tend to believe a woman is a victim before they believe a man is.  But Chris Watts' story has reeked ever since it broke.  I don't think his story was believable for even a day.

I see in the Washington Post, the couple filed for bankruptcy in 2015.  They had a $400,000 mortgage that they struggled to pay, $600 car payments, more than $50,000 in credit card debt, and thousands of dollars in student loans.  Shannan was about to add another baby to the family, which would sink them even further into arrears.  A divorce would also likely be costly, even if they did it the way Bill and his ex wife did it, sans lawyers (which is generally NOT a good idea).  Did Watts carry life insurance on his wife?  Was he expecting to get a windfall that would help him get out of this financial mess?  Honestly... I know being strapped for cash can make a person think desperate and irrational thoughts, but I don't know how Watts thought he was going to get away with murder.

I also see that Shannan Watts was involved in what appears to be a multi-level marketing business.  In her photos, she often wears patches that are made by a company called Le-Vel: THRIVE.  Although some people are able to make money in MLMs, it's been my experience that more often than not, these types of businesses are a losing proposition.  Shannan did have a regular job, too, but according to another news article, she suffered from lupus.  Evidently, just getting pregnant should have been a challenge.  I would imagine being pregnant with a chronic disease would also generate more medical bills.

It sounds like this couple was attempting to fake it until they made it.  They posted a picture of a lifestyle that appeared idyllic and affluent, but under the surface, things weren't going well.  Financial problems can cause people with criminal tendencies to go off the deep end.  I would expect Mr. Watts to be a lot more freaked out the murders and his debts than he appears to be... which makes me think he's probably a bit of a sociopath.  I'm sure more information will come out as this case progresses.

In the meantime, I'm truly sorry for Shannan's family.  What an awful thing for them to have to go through.  Hopefully, justice will prevail.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Know your audience...

I woke this morning having had an interesting dream.  In my dream, I was sort of a "mentor" to a young black family here in Stuttgart.  The family consisted of a mom, dad, and a little boy, maybe toddler age.  I was "helping" them somehow, even though I am not a parent myself and otherwise had little in common with them.  As I was opening my eyes for the first time today, they were smiling at me and climbing into their car to go to parts unknown.

Looks like this sea lion was having fun, anyway.

I think my dream may have been inspired by yesterday.  Bill and I went to the local zoo and I wrote about our experience on my travel blog.  I shared the post on my Overeducated Housewife Facebook page, my personal page, and in a local group for parents.  I wrote that I thought the zoo was worth a stop.  

Not long after I posted my link, I got a comment from a woman who had taken her son and said they didn't have a good time.  She said the zoo was outdated; the enclosures were too small; and her son didn't enjoy himself.  I was taken aback by the tone of her post and said I was sorry she didn't have fun there.  Then, I got another comment, this time from a German, who basically agreed with the first person.  She added that the Stuttgart zoo has a "bad reputation".  To be honest, that comment kind of made me feel shitty and sort of ruined what I thought wasn't a bad day.

I thought about responding to the second commenter, but decided not to.  Instead, I deleted the post and left the group.  I wasn't even that upset about it.  I just decided that it wasn't worth my time to be there, mainly because I don't even have children.  The admin of the group had asked me to join a couple of years ago and share my posts about kid friendly activities.  So I've been doing that, and even looking for ways an activity might appeal to kids.  I even try to do things that most people don't seem to do or report about.  For instance, on Saturday, we visited an elevator testing tower that was just opened to the public in October 2017.  It's very new and I don't think anyone else in the local groups has written about it... or at least, not that I've seen.  

But it occurred to me last night that I'm probably not the best person to write posts for that group.  Aside from that, it's not like I get anything out of posting there, except the occasional "like".  I mean, I don't get paid to do it and I don't hang out with the moms as a general rule.  So I decided maybe they weren't the best audience for me and I'm not the best blogger for them.  I've kind of been thinking that it might be best to simply let people find my blogs rather than promoting them.  

Now... having had some time to think about those women's comments, I can see where they are coming from.  I did notice that the zoo is kind of dated and some of the exhibits appeared to be empty.  However, my focus wasn't so much on the aesthetics as they were on seeing the animals, most of whom appeared to be contented and well cared for.  Yes, it was crowded and there are probably nicer zoos out there in the world, but we still managed to have a good time.  

I left the zoo with a smile on my face, so that's why I wrote that it was fun.  If I had gone there with an mind to be critical, I probably could have been.  But that wasn't my focus.  When I go somewhere, I go looking for fun.  I usually find it.  I can be a very negative person when I want to be, but when I write travel reviews, I'd rather not focus on the negative unless a place really deserves a skewering.  I don't think the Wilhelma zoo deserves a skewering.  Could it be more modern, cleaner, and better run?  Probably.  But at least the animals looked healthy and fairly contented and the park was reasonably clean.  Not all zoos have that going for them.

So... although it might have been rash to leave the group, I think in the long run, it's the right decision.  I blog mostly for fun and sanity.  My life doesn't depend on it.

This topic comes up as I was reading my memories from last year.  I posted a nice rant a year ago about a pseudo family member who took me to task for posting the word "fuck" on Facebook.  This guy is my aunt's brother and he's probably in his 70s.  For some reason, he felt it was alright to chastise me for swearing.  I finally had enough of his crap a year ago and kicked him off my friends list.  Here's a few screenshots of what went down.

Notice that my pseudo relative takes Bill to task for "double dipping"...  

You see... I try not to be overly offensive most of the time.  Knowing your audience is important in most every situation.  But sometimes people just don't fit.  I kicked the complainer off my page because I rarely heard from him.  When I did hear from him, it was complaints about my love for the word "fuck".  There comes a time when people need to be recognized as having "free agency".  As old as I am, I think I should be allowed to swear if I want to.

And... if I think the local zoo is fun, I think I should be able to say that too.  Granted, a person can criticize if they want, but the older I get, the more I think hanging around people who only know how to criticize is a waste of time and energy.  Life is short.  

Will I go back to the zoo anytime soon?  Probably not.  I don't like crowds.  And while I do like to visit animals, especially when I can interact with them, I think zoos on the whole are a little depressing.  But at least the animals I saw yesterday aren't going to be eaten by other animals.  I think even the huge male pig I saw will live out his days without turning into ham hocks and pork chops.  So there is that...

As for my audience... I think I'll start letting it come to me again.  I write for myself, anyway.  If others don't like it, so be it.  I'm just trying to be helpful.  I have good intentions.  The road to hell is paved with them, I guess.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Four years after "drunken rantings"...

Four years ago today, I wrote this post.  It was inspired by a rant I posted on Facebook one evening, having had too much wine and indulging a bit in a pity party.

I still can't believe I am in Germany instead of the USA. It's sad when a veteran with 30 years of experience has to go to Germany to get a decent job... Not that I'm sad that we are in Germany. I love it here. I just think it sucks that we were kinda forced to move here or live on unemployment. It's SHAMEFUL. It's shameful that I have three fucking degrees that I am still paying for and I know no one wants to hire me. I would have been better off not trying to better myself. And someone was advertising for a "bachelor's level" social worker recently in a city not near us. I have master's degrees in both social work and public health, but fat lot of good either does me. Good thing I like to write and have a shitload of musical talent. Americans are ridiculously short sighted.

Yeah...  I had the blues.  I was full of angst.  I was also kind of drunk and lonely, because Bill was in Chad.  

Let me set up the reason I wrote the above post.  It was 2014.  Bill had just gotten his first job after having retired from the Army.  We had to move from Texas to Germany.  We had only been back in Germany for about two weeks at that point, and Bill hit the ground running.  I was stuck in a tiny temporary apartment with the dogs, feeling a bit out of sorts and upset. I was probably also really hot, since it was August.  Also consider that my father had died about five weeks prior to that rant and my mom had just told me she had breast cancer.  And there I was, sitting in Germany, alone in a hot, temporary apartment that smelled like dog whiz.

Four years hence, I'm not complaining about living in Germany.  It's amazing how your perspective can change with the passage of time.  I still love Germany and always will.  It's not home, and I had always dreamt of having my own home.  But it is a very nice place to be.  Although we have gone through some upheavals during our four years here, for the most part, I've liked it here way more than I ever liked Texas.  

Four years ago, I couldn't conceive of Donald Trump being the POTUS.  I couldn't imagine that I'd be reading awful stories about people being rounded by immigration control (ICE) and kicked out of the country... or held in makeshift prisons.  On the other hand, I also didn't know that those "three fucking degrees" I was paying off would be paid in full so quickly.  Also, while I'm still not making money, I have actually made money by investing Bill's money...  and developing a small following here among those who like to read about our adventures.

I mostly try not to post this kind of drama on Facebook, mainly because it almost always attracts comments that upset me.  In this case, I got a mild dressing down from a guy who stopped following me last year.  He's still a "friend", but he never comments anymore, mainly because he doesn't like my responses to some of what he says.  This guy is probably twenty or more years older than I am and never went to college.  He seems to think college is for "chumps" and has the attitude that if one attends college and can't find work, they've been duped.

Personally, I think there's a lot more to the college experience than simply becoming employable.  However, I also know that one can get those experiences in places other than college.  I don't begrudge people who would rather not go to or pay for school.  That wasn't really the point of my rant, though, and I was kind of irritated that he tried to make it so.

That rant was actually prompted by a news article I read about a retired Air Force colonel who was living out of his car.  I was sitting there alone in that tiny apartment, trying to pass the time while Bill was in Chad.  When Bill goes away, I try not to drink.  It's mainly to give myself a break, but also because I don't want to be under the influence if I suddenly need to drive somewhere.  I did drink that night, though, because I was feeling anxious and bored.  I read about this man who had a distinguished career in the military, was well-educated, and wound up destitute after divorcing his wife.  Granted, he had military retirement pay and there were probably some bad decisions that came into play that led him to where he is now.  Still... considering what was going on in my life four years ago, the guy's story resonated with me.

It seemed crazy to me that we had to move to Germany.  A year previously, we'd moved to Texas and were told that Bill would have no problem finding work there.  Hell, I tweaked my resume on Monster and started getting inquiries, mainly for jobs I wasn't necessarily qualified for.  We thought we'd be staying in Texas, or at least the United States.  But when it came time to find work, no one was biting.  We endured a very anxious spring and summer, waiting to find out what was coming next.  What came next was an international move.

Don't get me wrong.  I am absolutely delighted to be here.  I love Germany and will happily stay as long as they let us.  But it does seem crazy that we had to move here...  or, at least that's how it seemed at the time.  I'm sure if we hadn't moved, Bill would have found something eventually, but there was nothing else on the table when we made our decision.  We had bills to pay, so we made the leap.

What if we couldn't afford to move?  What if we hadn't had credit cards to pay for things like shipping our cars?  What if I hadn't been saving money in a CD that helped carry us during that time?  What if we'd had people in the States who needed us to stay?  We're a couple unburdened by children or even really our parents.  A lot of people our age are not that unfettered.  And THAT was really what I was posting about.  There were (and probably still are) a lot of really good people in the United States who are looking for work that pays enough.  While it's easy to tell them to move to where the work is, sometimes that's not feasible.

Lately, I've been following Bernie Sanders on Facebook.  While I don't think his ideas are necessarily feasible for the United States, I think he makes a lot of good points about how so many workers aren't paid enough for what they do.  He posted a video of a woman who worked for American Airlines and she and a lot of her colleagues were having to get food stamps to supplement the $14 an hour they were earning at an airline that makes many millions of dollars a year.  You look at the people running corporations earning more money than they can ever spend.  And all of the worker bees who make those millions possible are getting crumbs and barely getting by.

This is another reason why I tend to get really pissy about folks who judge welfare recipients.  A lot of those people do have jobs.  Their jobs don't pay enough.  Sometimes, to get ahead, one needs a college degree.  College costs a lot of money, which can cause people to get into debt.  If that education doesn't pay off, then they can end up being in real trouble.  Add in unexpected medical expenses or divorce or both, and you can find yourself in an untenable financial position before you know it.  It's sad that so many Americans don't realize that this easily could happen to them as they sit in judgment of guys like the colonel who lives out of a van or the American Airlines worker who needs food stamps to supplement her paycheck.

Anyway... the above drunken rant was a culmination of my thoughts about all of that stuff, coupled with the stresses that came from 2014 (a very tumultuous year), coupled with the fact that I was bored, anxious, lonely, and upset.  So I had a little outburst on Facebook that made things a little worse.  Today happens to be my 10th anniversary on Facebook, which is kind of pathetic...  I see that it sort of serves as a substitution for real friends.  Actually, what makes my time worth spending there is that a lot of the people I interact with are people I actually know.  These are people I would happily spend time with if we weren't separated by thousands of miles.

And then there are guys like the dude who thinks college is for chumps...  It's probably time to prune my friends list again.