communication, family, holidays, karma

Thanksgiving thoughts… or, why I like holidays in Germany.

Here’s another too personal, introspective story about my psyche, and why I am the way I am. It’s probably not very interesting, but it’s what’s on my mind. The featured photo is of me in 1979, visiting Granny’s house. It was probably for my maternal grandfather’s funeral. I see there’s snow on the ground, but I’m not wearing a jacket. Seems pretty much par for the course. 😉

Traditionally, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. I grew up going to my Granny’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia, where my dad and his brothers and sisters were raised in a cool farmhouse by two creeks and surrounded by mountains. Granny died in 2007, but my Uncle Brownlee and Aunt Gayle have kept the tradition going. We lost Brownlee in 2019, which was very sad for me. Brownlee was probably my favorite relative. Gayle and my cousins are still throwing the annual shindig, which will no doubt include good food, dancing, singing, live music, and card playing… and probably some beer drinking. I wish I could be there, but for obvious reasons, I can’t… And actually, given the politics that are going on right now, maybe it’s for the best. I come from a long line of Trump admirers. 😉

Today, we’ve been invited to go to one of Bill’s co-worker’s homes for Thanksgiving. This guy is kind of special, because he’s someone Bill knew when they were both in the Army back in the late 80s. They served in Germany together, back when they were young and single. Now they work together again, and get along great. It was because of Bill’s co-worker that we were able to spend our 20th anniversary together in France and seeing James Taylor perform. Otherwise, Bill would have been in Las Vegas at a conference.

Bill will repay the favor to his friend for Christmas, since we almost never go anywhere for the holidays. The lone exception was 2019, when my hometown friend, Audra, invited us to France. She lives there, but we met in Gloucester, Virginia, when we were in high school. I have another hometown friend who lives in Stuttgart now. We met in the third grade at Botetourt Elementary School, in Gloucester. Sometimes I wonder if my hometown friends moved to Europe for the same reasons I did. I suspect at least one of them did. 😉

The funny thing is, I think we only spent one Thanksgiving in Gloucester out of the 19 years I lived there (Mom and Dad lived there for about 29 years). The rest were spent at Granny’s house… except for one year I went to a former friend’s house. I was 17 years old at the time. I remember my dad gave me a ration of shit for staying home that year, even though there were many times when he acted like, and even outright stated, that he couldn’t stand me. He was mostly concerned about what other people would say, worried that he would “look bad”.

I called my mom yesterday. She sounded terrible. She said she thought she had a cold, having been out with some friends of hers. She said she tested for COVID and the result was negative. Frankly, I suspect she didn’t wait long enough, especially since she said she had no energy. But aside from having a scratchy voice, she didn’t sound super sick. And she said she would be making herself a Thanksgiving dinner and eating it alone, since she doesn’t know what illness she has. She has plans to go to my sister’s house for Christmas next month.

We mostly had a good talk. She said she enjoyed my song for Bill… the one I did last month, not the more recent “Secret O’ Life”. Then, as I was about to sign off, she said she would like to see me. But then she said, “I know that won’t happen, though.”

I said, “I never said I wouldn’t come home. I said I didn’t know when we could come.” She hasn’t specifically asked me to come home, either… although maybe she asked my sister to invite me to Christmas. I had to decline because of Arran’s chemo, and because boarding the dogs at this late date would be a challenge.

Mom said she loved me and to take care of Bill and the dogs. Then we ended the call.

When our call ended, I kind of sat there dumbfounded. My mom isn’t usually one to pull guilt trips. It’s one of the things I like about her. She’s very pragmatic. I have explained to her that I find family gatherings very stressful and overwhelming. But I also remember how, when I needed understanding and support as a young woman with crippling anxiety and depression, she kept telling me she wanted me to leave. I actually wanted to leave, too. No one wanted me to move out more than I wanted to be gone. But she was very vocal and impatient about it. Now, that I’m gone, she wants me to come back again.

I am grateful that she and my dad let me stay in their home when I needed treatment for depression and anxiety… although I probably could have used that treatment when I was still a minor. A lot of it was caused by growing up in a very dysfunctional, alcoholic home, and having parents who made it clear to me that I had disappointed them. I know they love(d) me in their own ways… but breaking out of that place was very hard to do, and one of the best things I’ve ever done.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized a lot of things… maybe I’ve just become pragmatic like my mom is. I realize people are often disappointing on many levels. One of the great things about being an adult is that you don’t have to stick around or show up for disappointing people. I don’t like being around people who can’t accept me for who I am. My mom is probably more willing to accept me now, since we’re both a lot older… and I’m happily married and no longer a burden to her. I’m still a little traumatized by the past, even though it’s been 8 years since I was last “home”. I don’t want to spend hours on a plane to go back into a toxic situation. That’s less likely with my mom than it would be with my mom and my sisters together. But there’s still a risk.

I would like to see some of my family members. Some of them would probably like to see me. I would like to see my mom, too. I know I’m running out of time. But it’s kind of like making an appointment to see a doctor. Sometimes, it’s what you have to do for your own good, even if it might be unpleasant. I could probably use a doctor’s appointment, too. I have never been one for taking care of my physical health, because it wasn’t really a priority back when I was a child. It’s easier to stay where I am and just ignore everything…

Anyway… I’m sure we’ll have a good time with Bill’s friend. He lives in a beautiful home, and I remember him to be a lot of fun. Hopefully, Arran won’t get into any trouble while we’re out. I’ll still miss my family today. I do love them. Maybe someday, I can go home again. It’s not going to happen this year, though.

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communication, dogs, Germany, social media

No need to shoot the messenger…

This post could just as easily work in my travel blog, but I am currently working on my latest travel series, and I don’t want to break it up with this post. Also, I like to keep things as non-controversial as possible on that blog. This post could wind up being contentious.

I currently live in Germany. I live here courtesy of Bill’s employment. He’s a retired Army officer who found work here after he finished his Army career. I had wanted to come back to Germany because we had to leave early when Bill was last posted here with the Army. He was actually posted to Germany with the Army twice, but we didn’t know each other during his first stint, which was back in the late 1980s. Anyway, even though I had wanted to move back here to Germany, I didn’t bank on us doing that. I actually had expected us to buy a house– probably in Texas– and settle there. In retrospect, I thank God that didn’t happen. My opinion of Texas has taken a huge tumble since 2014.

When we moved here in 2014, I never expected we’d still be here in 2022. Granted, yes, we did move from Stuttgart from Wiesbaden… and although I was a bit angsty about the move in 2018, I’m now very grateful we moved. Moving helped me make some changes in my Facebook habits. I quit following most of the military groups, for instance. I have found that it’s given me a lot more peace.

For many reasons, I don’t really fit in with the military crowd, even though I was raised by an Air Force officer and have spent my whole life around military folks. I tend to have more liberal political leanings. I am older, and don’t have children. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. I have several college degrees, which isn’t necessarily a rarity among today’s military spouses, but having a lot of formal education is less common than it is common. A lot of people, especially in the military community, find me obnoxious or annoying. I suspect it’s because a lot of them have trouble dealing with strong and/or opinionated women, especially when the women are also formally educated, and especially when they are professionals. It is what it is.

Last night, I witnessed a professional woman working in the military community being berated. It was kind of a perfect storm– a woman who is passionate about her work as a professional dog trainer was trying to do a good thing. She ended up upsetting someone, who– I think– got his panties in a huge wad over something that, in the grand scheme of things, had little to do with him. The dog trainer really did appear to be trying to do the right thing, and the guy she inadvertently upset took her comments very personally and made a big stink. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in Facebook groups that involve the military, although in this case, I don’t think the man involved was ever in the military. However, he was kind of acting like some of the worst offenders in some of the military groups.

As we all know, it’s holiday time. That means a lot of people are wanting to travel. For those of us who have pets, travel can be difficult, especially when it involves flying to the US or other parts of the world. Many people in the US military community have limited incomes or want to travel on a whim. These two things can make them inadvertently break German laws regarding dog ownership. A lot of Americans will ask for people to come to their homes to feed and walk their dogs, rather than boarding them, or having the dog stay with someone, or having someone stay at their home. While this is not something I would ever feel comfortable doing myself, I know a lot of people in the States are perfectly okay with this arrangement. However– it’s against German law to leave dogs alone for hours on end.

A couple of people in our local pet group posted requests for people to come let their dogs out and feed them. The dog training lady, who is American but has lived in Germany for years, pointed out that simply having people come to the house to feed and walk the dog is illegal here. On one post, the original author was grateful for the clarification and open to suggestions. But then there was another post. See below:

hello! I will be in the States Dec 5-9.

We need someone to come take our dogs out to the enclosed yard DEC 6/7/8/9 to poop and pee and get some loving around 12n 1300 each day. (30min or so). We live in

Nothing more than inside playing with the 3 and making sure all

go out into the yard for pee & poo

The dog trainer lady, understandably, thought this was yet another solicitation for someone to just come over to feed and toilet the dogs. So she left a comment.

HBB= home based business. I also agree that the initial post made it sound like no one else would be home. I have a degree in English, so I don’t think I have an issue understanding grammar. A lot of people in the military community don’t have both spouses working and would travel together. This gent obviously doesn’t have a household like that, but that wasn’t clear from the initial post.

So anyway, the dog trainer lady then made a general “blast” announcement. She didn’t call out anyone specific in her post, and what she wrote wasn’t incorrect. See below:

Hello everyone,

I have met the most amazing dog owners who I work with in this community and I think the majority are absolutely wonderful.

However, as a professional dog trainer and behaviourist, it’s important that I try to inform as many dog/pet owners as possible that it is very unhealthy and cruel to leave your dogs alone at your home when you are out of town. It is not enough to just have someone stop by to let them out and feed them!

There are other options to board or have someone stay at your home if you plan enough ahead.

The gentleman who got upset with the trainer for misunderstanding his situation apparently felt “seen” and shamed. So, amid the people who were praising the trainer for her informative post, he added his own comment.

Oh wow. 

READ MY POST and use the grammar you learned in school. 

We have lived in Germany over 6 years. 

We know how to take care of our dogs and again, anyone can look at my original post and detect the difference between “I will be gone” and “We need help”

We are not stupid. 

Get a life.

I don’t quite understand why it was necessary to get this pissy over the dog trainer’s post. She didn’t specifically call the guy out, and there have been multiple requests in the group for people to come to community members’ homes and take care of their animals without actually staying over. Moreover, what the trainer wrote isn’t wrong. If someone feels “seen” or “judged” by what she wrote, maybe they should take a look at themselves… or realize that sometimes your actual meaning will get lost in what you write in a Facebook post, even when you do your best to be clear (which I don’t think this fellow did). It doesn’t mean someone is stupid or uneducated, nor does it warrant “shooting the messenger”. They had a miscommunication. It happens. That doesn’t require acting like your sandy undies are lodged way up your ass.

I felt the need to leave a comment, so I did… and I have to admit, I was a little nervous in doing so, because people tend to think I’m “uppity” or whatever. This was my comment:

I don’t think she’s calling out anyone specific. It’s pretty common for some folks in the military community to leave their dogs at home and just have people come by. It’s not an uncommon practice in the US, and some people just do what they always do at home.

I’ve lived in Stuttgart and Wiesbaden for ten years total, and I have seen people do this in both places. There’s no need to take things personally or shoot the messenger. The fact is, she’s right. It’s not legal to leave your dog alone for hours. She’s not wrong to point it out. Maybe her post will help prevent someone getting in trouble with their neighbors, landlord, the police, or all three. 

It’s also not legal to spank your kids here, but mention that in a military group and see how quickly things go south! 

Other people left comments lamenting how expensive and difficult it is to find appropriate pet sitters for when they want or need to travel. I totally understand that. To one lady who commented on that issue, I wrote this story:

I get it, however, there is another solution to this wanting to travel/lack of pet care situation. When we lived in Stuttgart the first time, we used a boarding facility that was fabulous. In the five years we were gone, the lady who made it fabulous left. A new person, who was nice but not very competent, came on board.

It didn’t take long before that facility, which had once been highly regarded, fell into severe disrepute. My husband actually knew a guy whose dog DIED in their care. I knew someone whose dog got hurt and had to be euthanized. Other people’s dogs got very sick because they didn’t take care of them properly. This was especially true for any dog that needed medications, or other special care. Lots of people, understandably, quit booking there. 

So we switched facilities, as did a lot of other people. That led to having to book our spots ages in advance, if we were going on a cruise or somewhere on a plane. 

You know what we did? We started bringing our dogs with us. It was pretty great, too, because we found places we never would have gone to if we hadn’t brought our dogs. One of my favorite vacation memories is of a rabbit and snail farm in rural France. It was a really cool place with alpacas, goats, horses, and an awesome donkey named Antoine. We never would have gone there if not for our dogs coming with us. We had a great time, and so did our dogs. One of those dogs is now at the Rainbow Bridge, but I have great memories of him in France with us and the awesome donkey. 

Last week, we went to Ribeauville for the sixth time to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Why? Because one of our dogs is currently having chemo and I didn’t want him to be boarded. But I still wanted to celebrate our milestone anniversary. So he and our other dog— a mammoth sized street dog from Kosovo who takes up the whole back end of our Volvo— came with us. It was the Kosovo dog’s first trip, but I knew where we were going was very pet friendly. We went, had a great time, and our chemo dog got care from us, while the street dog finally learned to poop on the leash.

Pet boarding is always going to be tough. It’s not as bad here as it was in Stuttgart, when that place went into disrepute. When it comes down to it, though, it’s our responsibility as pet owners. The lovely thing about Europe is that, if need be, you can take them with you. And if anyone wants the link for where we stayed in Ribeauville, just let me know. The landlord is VERY pet friendly and his wife won’t let him have a dog.

She wrote that she has a very large dog, so she can’t travel with the dog so easily. I get that… and I understand that sometimes situations and circumstances lead people to adopt dogs that might be hard to travel with due to their breed, size, or other issues. But when it comes down to it, it’s our responsibility as dog owners to follow the laws. Many Germans, especially in military towns, already think Americans are irresponsible pet owners. The practice of leaving dogs alone for an excessive number of hours (more than five) doesn’t help repair that image. I do empathize, though. Especially when someone is single and has a dog, but has to work a lot. I am home almost all the time, and in all of the German villages where I’ve lived, someone has commented on my dogs’ barking. The most recent comment came from my next door neighbor’s mother, who is also a neighbor. They have a labrador who barks all the time, too.

Other people tried to diffuse the situation a bit. But the guy who was pissed at the trainer wasn’t moved, as you can see below.

Actually, she didn’t call him irresponsible. She said the practice of leaving a dog home alone while you vacation is cruel and irresponsible. And it is. But he hadn’t yet clarified his situation when she posted that comment. Then she advised him to be clearer about his situation, which obviously really upset him.

I would have thought that this would be the end of the spat, but no… the guy posted again– another separate post about how insulted he was by the situation.

Thank you for everyone who responded to my post about needing someone to visit & play with OUR dogs for MY trip to the states the first week of December.

WE have found someone who can take OUR 3 doggies out for the days I will not be in town and my partner can’t make it home during the day.

SO unfortunate others weren’t able to read my intent in my original post but I’m thrilled with those that stepped up to help. Whilst my initial punctuation was not correct, my grammar was.

Oh, and again, HBB business owners should never try and insult potential clients publicly. Get your facts straight before you call pet owners irresponsible.

Have a great night all!

Mmm’kay… well, I don’t know about how this came across to other people, but I don’t think the dog trainer was insulting him, personally. She was criticizing the practice of leaving dogs home alone for too many hours, which many Americans are guilty of doing. Here’s another post that appeared last night, as proof:

Please delete if not allowed but there has been hours of what sounds like 2 dogs barking and crying. This is not the first time this has happened (last time it occurred all night until 730am). The barking is coming from the area surrounding the playground at the top of Arizona/Virginia/Texas Strasse. As much as it is loud and makes it hard to sleep, I am genuinely concerned for these dogs.

It’s 12:50 am right now.

The dog trainer obviously didn’t know the guy from Adam when he first posted, and his initial post wasn’t that clear that someone would be home at night. But he took what she wrote as a personal insult, when it probably wasn’t meant that way at all. And then he turned into a proper jerk with the above comments in a follow up post, highlighting his grammar as if people are intellectually delayed and need the emphasis. I didn’t write this thought in his post, because I have no interest in engaging with someone that thin skinned, but my response to him would be that I would hope a dog trainer running a home based business in Germany would care enough to know the local laws regarding dog ownership and point them out, even if potential clients are “offended” or insulted. And honestly, I would not want this guy as a client, because he obviously has a pretty short fuse and is unreasonable. There was no need for this situation to blow up in the way it did. Imagine his reaction if something were to go wrong when he hires someone to take care of his dogs. He’s probably very litigious. He would not have liked Max, our sitter in Stuttgart, who was very free about lecturing us, sometimes unnecessarily. Yes, it was annoying and kind of insulting at the time, but he wasn’t wrong to do it. He had our dogs’ welfare in mind, which is a quality I highly regard in someone who makes their living taking care of or training dogs.

Should the dog trainer been a little more careful about her comment being seen as an accusation? Maybe… because obviously, some people are going to take offense when none is really intended. He clarified the situation, and she recommended that he add that to his original post so people wouldn’t make erroneous assumptions. He could have just done that and been done with the drama. Instead, he chose to get really offended and go on the warpath, insulting the dog trainer by insinuating that she’s uneducated. In the process, I learned a lot about him that wasn’t very flattering. He’s evidently a very rude person, which is interesting, given that according to his profile, he’s made his living in customer service.

What makes this worse is that someone else piled on with the pissy guy, agreeing that the dog trainer was “shaming” and lording her profession over “parents of fur babies”, who love their dogs but don’t always follow host nation rules. It’s the same kind of shit I’ve gotten in a lot of military groups, because as a woman and a “dependa”, I am supposed to just shut up and color, rather than express an opinion or be myself. I think the person who made the comment about being a parent of fur babies is someone who has bought into the mindset that no one should claim to be an expert, because it makes them feel inferior. Seriously… this is a thing in military communities. People get threatened by professionals and/or educated people, especially when the person who is educated is a woman. Military communities tend to be quite sexist.

I really didn’t think the dog trainer was “condemning” anyone in her “blast” post. Her comment to the pissy guy was a little less friendly, but my guess that came from the frustration of seeing a bunch of people asking for drop by dog sitting, rather than having someone stay with the dogs. Granted, she misinterpreted his initial post, but I can see how that happened. His initial post wasn’t absolutely clear. I got the same impression the dog trainer did.

To be clear– the original poster– the pissy guy– does not appear to be military affiliated. But his adversarial attitude is one that is very common in military groups. It’s not productive. And it added fuel to a post that, in my opinion, really should not have been controversial at all. Instead of just leaving a reasonable response and extending some grace, he got very offended by what he saw as a stranger insulting him. The woman who sided with pissy guy is still arguing about what the local laws are. She insists that dogs aren’t to be left alone, crated. I can tell her that the Germans in my neighborhood don’t hesitate to say something when dogs are howling, even if they, themselves, have dogs that howl and bark. 😉 It doesn’t matter if the dog is crated. If your dog is making a lot of noise and you have uptight neighbors, you might wind up hearing from the police. So knowing and heeding the laws is a good practice, even if it’s not what you’d do at home in America. And if a professional dog trainer doesn’t know, and/or isn’t advocating for following the laws, that’s a much bigger issue than “insulting” or offending potential clients. Just my opinion. 😉

Anyway… this kind of ridiculous crap is why I now avoid military affiliated Facebook groups, except for the one I run… which doesn’t tend to be very controversial, since it’s about food and wine. But even in that group, sometimes I have to clean house.

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communication, social media

The old American double standard…

The featured photo was shared on Janis Ian’s Facebook page. I think she might want to consider if maybe she, herself, falls into the “easily offended” category… And before anyone comes at me, I hasten to add that I know I can be a bit prickly and easily offended about some things myself. I am human, after all.

Some years ago, I heard George Carlin talk about what he referred to as “the old American double standard”. His exact words were:

It’s the old American Double Standard, ya know: Say one thing, do something different. And of course this country is founded on the double standard, that’s our history! We were founded on a very basic double standard: This country was founded by slave owners who wanted to be free.

As I sit here on a Monday morning, eyes barely cracked open after a busy few days, I’m remembering George’s wise words. In fact, I was talking to Bill about them this morning, as I read a scolding Facebook post by Janis Ian. A few days ago, as I was eating Quiche Lorraine in Ribeauville, I noticed a post Janis put on Facebook. It was a quote. For some reason, even though she is a critically acclaimed songwriter, Janis Ian likes to post quotes by other people. And somehow, when she posts quotes, the comment section goes south, and she ends up chastising someone and/or closing comments in apparent disgust.

One of the contentious posts on Janis Ian’s page. She turned off commenting.

Janis had posted the above quote that some people thought was misattributed. Someone left a comment pointing out that she was “spreading misinformation”. The person’s remark was a little bit rude, and Janis responded in a rather pissy way. I happened to agree with the commenter that people should be more careful about sharing quotes and making sure they are attributed to the right person. In fact, one of my most popular posts is about how people misattributed a quote to Betty White that she specifically stated she never said, and never would say in a million years.

Again, I do think it’s important to get quotes both correct, and credited to the right person. As a highly acclaimed songwriter, it seems to me that Janis Ian would agree. I mean, how would she like it if someone made a meme using a line from “At Seventeen” or “Society’s Child” and attributed it to Carole King, Joni Mitchell, or Janis Joplin? My guess is that she wouldn’t like it… and if someone dared to share it on her page, she would call it out. Below is one of the more civilized exchanges on the post in question. I cut and pasted it, because the poster and I agree that there’s a bit of a double standard going on here…

I didn’t comment on the post myself. I’ve followed Janis’s page long enough to realize that she doesn’t always concede gracefully. I continue to follow her, though, because she’s often funny. I also appreciate that she appears to do her own social media, something I find refreshing and interesting. I like her music. However, I have a feeling we probably wouldn’t get along if we were to meet offline somewhere.

This morning, I was reading her page again, when I noticed this:

Do people really stop to read up on the people whose quotes are shared online? My guess is that most of them don’t… just like they don’t read news articles before commenting on the headlines.

I don’t know anything about H.L. Mencken, but I do know something about Sunday School. I was forced to attend for years. I didn’t find it to be particularly awful, since I grew up in a mainstream Presbyterian church, but I do know that there are a lot of toxic religions out there that do a lot of damage to people. I’ve written about quite a few of them in my blog.

On the above post, I noticed a lot of people were sharing their experiences. Some people were agreeing with the quote from Mencken. Others were apparently offended that Janis Ian was posting about religion. Some pointed out that Ms. Ian is Jewish, so what would she know about Sunday School? I think that could be a valid point. I could also understand why some people felt offended by the quote, since they are, themselves, religious.

I didn’t find the quote offensive, but I do think how people will take it depends on their own perspective, and there are so many of them to consider. And unfortunately, there are a lot of jerks on the Internet who get off on trying to pull “gotchas” on people. On the other hand, sometimes people are simply trying to prevent misinformation. If, for instance, I posted that Dolly Parton wrote the “Star Spangled Banner”, I would expect people to correct me. If I truly believed she wrote it, maybe I’d get a little pissed off by having my pride insulted by a well-deserved correction. But in the long run, it’s better that I know the truth, right? That way, I don’t look foolish later, telling people something that is obviously wrong.

I think there’s a fine line between being a jerk trying to make someone feel small, and honestly trying to give credit where credit is due. And while I agree that some posters were less than gracious in their comments on Janis’s page, I also think that Janis isn’t always as even-keeled as she could be. I’ve noticed that she has a tendency to scold people, sometimes when I don’t think they necessarily did anything to warrant such a response. It’s possible she does this because she’s a sensitive, creative, artistic person. Or maybe she’s a little narcissistic, as narcissists are often the type to shame and scold. Either way, it’s an aspect of her online personality that I don’t particularly like very much. Like I wrote up post, if we were to meet offline, I sense that we wouldn’t like each other. But then, if that turned out to be true, and Janis didn’t like me much, she’d be one of many people. 😉 I’m the kind of person people tend to love or hate. 😀

A recent post by Janis… I see her point, but her point is one of many that could be presented…

Janis Ian often posts quotes by people she apparently admires, even if they weren’t “good people”. I actually applaud her for discouraging the ever popular “cancel culture” that a lot of people think is justice today. People are complicated and complex, and sometimes brilliant people say and do shitty things. It shouldn’t necessarily negate everything else they do in life. On the other hand, if you’re going to post something for public consumption, chances are good that someone is going to be contrary or inappropriate.

If you’re a famous person, it’s even more likely that someone is going to take a dump on your post. I know it’s annoying. It even happens to me sometimes, and I am not famous at all. But one thing I would like to ask Janis is, why is it up to her to decide what should, or should not, offend other people? If someone is offended by Picasso, shouldn’t they be free to state that? Isn’t that how productive discussions in free societies get started? Wouldn’t it be better to just take a breath, validate the person’s viewpoint, and then try to have a civilized chat about it, rather than just dismissing them as being “too easily offended” and scolding them for being “argumentative”? Why post this stuff if it just leads to exasperation and shutting down the comment section?

I will admit that the comment sections on my own blog are set to shut down after a certain time. I don’t do that on the travel blog, because most of the stuff posted there isn’t controversial. I do it on this blog, because sometimes people find old content and try to stir up shit on subjects that are old news. I don’t get enough productive comments from people on old content to justify leaving comment sections open, although I’m always open to re-evaluating my policies. I prefer to let my regular readers be the ones who comment, though, and they usually do so on posts when they’re new. Troublemakers and spammers hit the old stuff.

I try not to be hypocritical, and while it can be hard, when I’m wrong, I do try to admit to it. I’ve been wrong about a lot of things. I’ve also been right about a lot of things. I think it’s best to try to stay open-minded about most topics, although I can agree that sometimes people can be so open-minded their brains can fall out. Or, that’s my opinion, anyway.

I guess my main point is that opinions run the gamut. As my favorite uncle, Brownlee, used to say “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one.” I know he didn’t come up with that quote, nor did he come up with the follow on… “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one, and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.” I think that’s pretty accurate, don’t you? I just wish people who claim to be open-minded and desirous of discussion would take a moment to examine their own behaviors before pointing out other people’s bad behaviors. Because chances are, the speck you’re trying to remove from someone else’s eye is obscured by the plank in your own. And yes… I know that’s a concept that comes from the Bible.

Maybe I learned something in Sunday School, after all. Praise be!

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communication, condescending twatbags, Ex, narcissists, Twitter

“More! I want MORE!” The tragedy of wanting everything NOW…

Like my title? It was inspired by Police Academy. I was thinking about the scene in that 1984 film, when all the hapless new police academy recruits are doing physical training, and the busty blonde Callahan is counting sit ups as she wails, “More! I want MORE!” The cadets all groan in unison as they heave their bodies on the upward count, another painful sit up done. I probably should have rethought that, though… Given today’s topic, maybe Veruca Salt would be a better inspiration for a title. It’s too late to change the title, though.

Some people are never satisfied with what they have…

This morning at about 3:00, Arran woke up and wanted to be fed. I think the combination of taking Prednisolone and being a beagle mix has made him ravenous and insatiable. He’s eager for his meals, and he’s eager to help us eat our meals. Although it’s obvious to us that he’s feeling a lot better than he was a month ago, I wonder if it’s a special kind of torture for him to always want to eat. But then he jumps up on the bed and snuggles with us, begs for a walk, and kisses me. Of course, I came to the rather sick realization yesterday, that one of the reasons he was licking me was because it happens to be my special time of the month. To a beagle mix, I probably smell like a rare steak right now. Sorry… I know that’s gross, but it’s probably the truth.

This theme of excess and never being satisfied with what one has is on my mind again today. Last year, I reposted an article I wrote about the Duggar family back in 2012. At the time, they were still talking about having more babies, and I wondered why they couldn’t just enjoy what they had. I mean, 19 children is quite a quiver full, right? They’ve done their part to repopulate the world with Republicans. Why not just enjoy the children and grandchildren, instead of trying to have more? In that post, I remembered how, when I was a small child, I would ask my mom for more food when I hadn’t finished what was on my plate. My mom, being ever the grouch, would say “Why don’t you eat what you’ve got?” Then I would try to enjoy what I had, and that would frequently be enough for me.

As I listened to Mrs. Duggar talk about “gifts from God” coming in the form of more children, I began to think she was sounding very unsatisfied. If I were to follow her reasoning about wanting more children, I would think she was pretty ungrateful to God, who had already “blessed” her with 19 precious “gifts”. Why not enjoy those children, most of whom were still under 18 at the time, instead of begging for more? More gifts that, by the way, she wouldn’t be taking care of… because we all know the daughters raise the Duggar children. But, thankfully, Mrs. Duggar’s womb finally cried “uncle”, and she’s now done birthing babies. Hopefully, she’s enjoying being a grandmother, because it appears that the “gifts from God” are no long forthcoming from her womb.

According to Twitter, Ex, like Mrs. Duggar, is unsatisfied with what she has. There she is, a woman who supposedly has so much, if you go by her tweets on Twitter. She still seems to think she is entitled to more than what she has. This is how she describes herself on Twitter.

Mom: 5+2 amazing people, 3 autistic, 1 nonverbal, 5 grands! Autism advocate, writer, seaglass lover & fibro warrior! I VOTE; you?

But then she has this very idealized view of what love should be. And even though she is a mother of five and a grandmother, she feels the need to promote an image on social media, interacting with strangers instead of tending to her own family. They apparently aren’t enough for her, if I’m to assess her latest comments. Lately, she’s been going off about student loans. I saw that she recently commented that she no longer owes them. But I also know that she made her daughters take out loans and used the extra money on herself. Then she posts this:

Me: M.Ed. Specializing in Educational Leadership with years of experience working in global higher ed and k-12 special education, about to embark on a PhD. You: ? I do not consider myself above others; rather, I’m grateful for the “Liberation of an Education”©, which all deserve.

Ex dropped out of high school and got a GED, then took about twenty years to finish a bachelor’s degree, which she finally did seemingly because, years ago, I wrote an email to her. I pointed out that she lacked the education and experience to diagnose my husband with mental health issues, which she had been doing for too long. Next thing we knew, she was back in college, then supposedly getting a master’s degree, which we’ve been told she doesn’t use professionally. Even back then, she was talking about going for a doctorate someday, but if you know the truth about her, it doesn’t seem feasible. Now… she DID work for a university, but not in any high level capacity. We were told she was released from that position for doing something “inappropriate” with funds. So, I think the above statement is a liberal stretch of the truth. Yes, she has worked in “higher education”, but it was as a glorified clerk. And yes, she has experience with special ed, but it’s only because she has a son with autism and has done some volunteer work with local organizations.

It’s not that I think Ex is dumb. She isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with her intellect, and if she put her mind to it, maybe she could earn a doctorate, although it probably wouldn’t come from a top school. However, doing that would mean several years of sacrifice, paying lots of money, and submitting to peer review, which I know would be very difficult for her. Then, what would she do with that degree? Does she want to teach or do research? Or is she just after a few initials after her name that she can flaunt on Twitter, or whatever follows it when it inevitably collapses? Isn’t there a smarter way to get that regard she’s obviously seeking? One that doesn’t involve years of study, high tuition bills, and more debt?

One thing I learned when I was in my graduate program– which was full time and took three solid years– is that I am capable of getting a doctorate if I want one. I took many classes with people who were either doctoral candidates or already had terminal degrees. They were my peers. For me, the knowledge that I’m smart enough, and capable of higher education, is sufficient. I’m satisfied. Graduate school, in my case, was in some ways a waste of time and money, because I don’t use the degrees in the way I expected to. In other ways, the time and money were very well spent, if only because I proved to myself that I could do it, and I learned skills and knowledge that are applicable in everyday life.

But I know I don’t need to earn a Ph.D. I’m fifty fucking years old, and I have nothing to prove. I also realize that I don’t have talents for either science or business (public health), nor do I particularly want to work with people (social work), nor do I want to analyze literature (English). So pursuing a Ph.D. would be a true waste of time for me. It would simply be for vanity’s sake, and people in the military community already dislike me enough for being an “uppity liberal woman.” (I’m sort of kidding… because at this point, I don’t care what people in the military think of me.)

Ex seems to think that having a doctorate will make her a more lovable, interesting, important person. I think that if she did get a Ph.D., she would become more insufferable, obnoxious, and arrogant. See this related tweet:

You cannot degrade the value of higher education, that implies exactly what I referred to… privilege, value, social standing! Every human being has their own capacity for learning; education should be based on ability to succeed rather than one’s ability to pay for it. 1/2

This woman denied her three eldest children the typical high school experience. All three of them dropped out and got GEDs, like her. Her eldest got a degree from the university where she was working before she was fired. Older daughter got a degree from a very expensive private art college, which she no doubt had to get huge loans to fund. Younger daughter didn’t finish college, but had to pay back loans she got at her mother’s behest. I don’t know about #3’s kids. I think their daughter is in college. Ex has made many comments about her desire for her daughter with #3 to study acting… as she apparently also hoped for former stepson and younger daughter. I think she has a dream that one of them will be rich and famous, so she can ride their coattails. She doesn’t seem to realize that a career as an actor, particularly a famous one, is fraught with pitfalls. One only has to read Jennette McCurdy’s recent book to understand that reality. But, on the other hand, her kids are at least used to being around narcissists, because they have apparently been raised by one.

Even though she seems to hope her children will someday be rich and famous, Ex is presuming to be an expert on education, a field where making a lot of money isn’t really a thing for most. And Ex is not a teacher. Younger daughter has told us that she was frequently told to “figure it out”, when she needed to know something. Her mother, who is trying to make people believe that she’s this benevolent, open-minded, intelligent person, denied her and her siblings the right to normal childhoods.

This next bit is truly ridiculous, as my husband still has an aversion to any kind of boxed convenience foods, thanks to his years of living with Ex… I don’t see her growing her own food. She doesn’t cook or clean; those duties were fobbed off on Bill’s daughters, whom she never even bothered to teach any skills. They had to figure it all out for themselves.

Sad that our governments [she is referring to the UK’s government] have utterly lost their minds. I want to immigrate to Scotland, don’t mind being poor and having to grow the majority of my food! I’m poor here… everyone is poor here because of policy. Everyone except that damnable 1%… we all live in debt to survive.

I would like to tell Ex that when Bill and I met, we were both broke and heavily in debt. I had student loans, a car loan, and credit card debt. He had child support, credit card debt, a car loan, and recovery from a bankruptcy and foreclosure he went through with Ex. When we met, Bill’s credit rating was in the 400s. Now, it’s in the upper 700s. Today, I have no credit card debt, no student loan debt, and no car loan debt. Bill owes some on our Volvo, and his credit card. If he needed to, he could pay off his debts today. It took years for us to get to this point, but we’re now here. And we’re going to stay here for as long as we can, barring any catastrophes.

Yes, it IS possible to live with low debt loads, as long as you don’t have chronic medical problems. You simply have to make managing and controlling debt a priority, do some planning, make smart choices, and practice some discipline. We’re not in the “damnable 1 percent”. We aren’t rich, but we’re pretty comfortable. We work together as partners, and are committed to not be drowning in debt. Consequently, we have been able to enjoy a lot of the things Ex claims she covets. And no, we don’t live in debt to survive, although we used to do that. We made changes so we don’t have to do that anymore. We also don’t have kids, largely thanks to her. Kids are expensive. She has five of them, and one will probably never be able to live on his own. Imagine where she could be if she’d simply been satisfied with what she had twenty years ago and set a few goals, instead of wanting and trying to have it all. Maybe she could have even had it all at some point… just not all at one time.

This could be Ex’s theme song. It’s a great song, and maybe inspirational to some. But if you focus on having it all, you miss out on enjoying what you already have.

I get the impression that Ex lives as if she will die tomorrow. So, instead of taking things as they come, she wants everything NOW. And she wants us to believe that she is worthy of having it all, when the truth is, none of us can have everything. Even super wealthy people typically lack other things in their lives, like stable relationships with mentally healthy people who aren’t trying to use them for their money or influence. Like, Donald Trump supposedly has a lot of money and power, but he still wants more, doesn’t he? He’s not satisfied with being married to an ex model, owning hotels and golf courses around the world, or even being a former US president. And yet, he continually wants more. Ex is not that unlike him, is she?

Anyway, I think we can add this Ph.D. ambition to Ex’s long list of desires for her life… like a fence for her house, a therapy dog, a trip to Scotland, unlimited wealth, unconditional love from her husband and kids (which really doesn’t exist, unless you’re a dog), and an idyllic house that looks like one she saw in a snow globe. 😉 Nothing to see here. It’s just another typical day in paradise for a garden variety narcissist.

Queen’s lyrics to “I Want it All”…

Adventure seeker on an empty street
Just an alley creeper, light on his feet
A young fighter screaming, with no time for doubt
With the pain and anger can’t see a way out
It ain’t much I’m asking, I heard him say
Gotta find me a future move out of my way
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now

Listen all you people, come gather round
I gotta get me a game plan, gotta shake you to the ground
But just give me, huh, what I know is mine
People do you hear me, just gimme the sign
It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth
Here’s to the future for the dreams of youth

I want it all (give it all I want it all)
I want it all (yeah)
I want it all and I want it now

I want it all (yes I want it all)
I want it all hey
I want it all and I want it now

I’m a man with a one track mind
So much to do in one lifetime (people do you hear me)
Not a man for compromise and where’s and why’s and living lies
So I’m living it all, yes I’m living it all
And I’m giving it all, and I’m giving it all
Oh oh yeah yeah ha ha ha ha ha
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
I want it all

It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth
Here’s to the future
Hear the cry of youth (hear the cry of youth) (hear the cry of youth)
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it now

I want it all yeah yeah yeah
I want it all, I want it all and I want it now
Oh oh oh oh oh

And I want it (now)
I want it, I want it
Oh ha

Songwriters: Brian May / Freddie Mercury / John Deacon / Roger Taylor

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communication, musings, social media

Dining on fresh food for thought, and not “incorrecting” people…

I woke up this morning to an interesting post by Father Nathan Monk, a dyslexic former priest and author who has an impressive following on Facebook. This is what he wrote:

I think this makes a lot of sense.

Naturally, the above post attracted a lot of feedback. Many people made points that I thought were entirely valid, even if they didn’t agree with Father Nathan Monk. Some people protested that abortion is always a terrible thing, but a private decision that is sometimes necessary to make for one’s own well being. Some were on Father Nathan Monk’s side, and congratulated him for his words of wisdom on an experience that he will never personally face. Still others pointed out that the word “abortion” has wrongly been turned into a bad word that needs euphemistic language to get around the taboo with which it is associated.

Personally, I agree with Father Nathan Monk that abortion isn’t a dirty word. I’ve even written about that topic in this blog. But I also agree with people who have emotional responses to the term. Some people have no emotional connection to abortions. They don’t see it as anything other than a medical procedure. While many people associate abortion with tragedy, others have experienced immense relief after having one. Some have experienced gratitude that the procedure was available to them when they needed it. Reactions to the abortion experience run the gamut. No one’s reaction is “wrong”, because everyone has their own story.

As it so often happens in comment sections on Facebook, some people got on a soapbox, and the topic segued a bit into discussion about other societal issues. As the discussion developed, I noticed some tension. Some people took issue with other people’s opinions and felt the need to “correct” them. I especially noticed it when someone used a term that another person found objectionable. More than a few of them responded to other posters with condescension, hostility, and criticism, rather than measured consideration. I noticed that many people chimed in on comments that were directed to other people, and they often did so with a certain haughtiness. And some went into ass kissing mode, although overall, I agree with what this person wrote…

Dearest Father Nathan Monk I totally support your comments.

Furthermore, I know you are a gifted wordsmith but for a moment I’m going to take full on offense at the cretin level witlessness of the individual who took it upon themselves to *correct* your wording.

Dear Sir or Ma’am I suggest that you desist lecturing a published author on their use of words. You can take your insulting remarks and trot right off the end of that short dock over yonder. Yeah that sketchy one that’s probably going to dump you right back into the swamp of self-righteousness that you seemed to have crawled out of at some point.

Sheesh people. Give it a rest with the gatekeeping.

Alrighty. I’m done.

Carry on my friend. And my deepest apologies if I’ve crossed a line.

After the above comment was made, someone else wrote this:

On a related note, I saw a stand up comedian a few months ago give a great response to unwelcome corrections:

“Thank you for incorrecting me”

Apparently, that quote was from comedian, Steve Hofstetter. I have never heard of Mr. Hofstetter, but maybe I need to look him up and see if I find the rest of his observations so astute. People do have a tendency to “correct” other people when they disagree with them. I think there’s a certain arrogance in assuming that one’s perspective is absolutely the only “right” one. As I mentioned up post, everybody has a story, and those stories can affect how people view things that aren’t cut and dried. It’s a barrier to communication, and ultimately, learning new things, when people come at others aggressively for saying something they assume is wrong, or just “politically incorrect”.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Years ago, I was part of an online messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. In that group, I sometimes used to post about how Mormonism had affected our step situation. It was a valid issue, as within Mormonism, there is a strong emphasis on spreading the faith and encouraging people within a family of maintaining their common belief system. For example, Mormons typically exclude non believers from their weddings, which usually take place in a temple (though some have civil weddings and then do the religious ordinance later). Mormon temples are only open to people who have “temple recommends”. The only exception is when a new temple is opened, and there’s an “open house”, which is for a set period of time. So, the fact that my husband’s daughters were converted and raised LDS, and Bill had left the faith, was a legitimate issue within the family.

There was a Mormon woman in the group who used to get very offended when I dared to bring up this topic. She insisted that I was being disrespectful to her. She claimed that I “misunderstood” and was confused by her religion, and that my “negative” comments were destructive to her. She was not receptive to “hearing” what I was trying to communicate. Instead, she focused on what she thought was my “bashing” her religious beliefs. In short, she basically labeled me a bigot, because I said something negative about her religion that she found offensive. She wasn’t willing to see it from my perspective. She just wanted me to shut up and color.

Honestly, I don’t give a shit what people’s personal religious beliefs are. It’s when your beliefs affect other people’s lives that I have a problem. The fact the Ex had decided to convert to Mormonism and raised Bill’s children LDS was a real problem that affected us, because Bill and I aren’t LDS. To be fair, I don’t think Ex is LDS anymore, either. But, back when the girls were still kids, the fact that they were LDS caused issues, because their perfectly good father was portrayed as “less worthy” simply because he didn’t have the same religious beliefs they had. It didn’t even have to be Mormonism that caused this problem. The girls could have been raised Orthodox Jewish or Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness, and that could have been an issue. I was simply trying to point that out, and being specific about how the LDS religion caused steplife issues for us. This should have been okay in an online support group for second wives and stepmothers, but instead, it was a “taboo topic” that I was strongly discouraged from discussing because one person found it “offensive”.

For the most part, I think people should be heard, even if they say something that seems “wrong” on the surface. And if someone does say something that seems “wrong”, it would be really excellent if more people would simply take a deep breath and hear them out… or at least try to respond with civility, instead of rudeness and snark. Being self-righteous and condescending is not how you win hearts and minds. And if you’re not trying to possibly change someone’s perspective, what’s the point of making a comment? Especially if you’re so insufferable that they block you.

A few days ago, I made a comment to someone about how most Americans have no idea of what we tolerate. They haven’t lived anywhere else, and they’ve been fed a bunch of horseshit about how “great” America is. I wrote that if more Americans experienced living in Europe, they might be outraged by what is normal here, and not normal in the United States. I was going to specify Germany, but I realized that there are a lot of countries in Europe that offer affordable healthcare, childcare, and education. As it was Facebook, I didn’t want to make a list, because that would make my comment too long and convoluted.

I then got a somewhat hostile comment from someone in the Czech Republic, who groused about how Europe isn’t so great, because medical care in her country isn’t “good”. I hadn’t addressed this person, but she chimed in on my comment to someone else, so I explained further. I don’t think I did so in a condescending way. I simply explained where I was coming from, and she came back with swear words and rudeness, as if I had insulted her intelligence. Her point was that not all European nations are created equally. My immediate reaction was “duh”, but that’s not what I wrote. Instead, I posted that I had originally considered writing only about Germany, but realized that much of the continent is similar and I didn’t feel the need to type out the countries for a Facebook post. I added that I did that because I didn’t want to wind up in a rude exchange with a stranger. Then I finished with, “but I see that’s happened, anyway. Have a nice day.” I was surprised she didn’t come back with more snark. I probably shocked her by calling her out for being unnecessarily offensive.

One of the things I really love about my husband is that we can have conversations about anything. He’s thoughtful and considerate, and he hears what I have to say as I flesh out a thought. He doesn’t react with indignation, or break out the red pen, wanting to “correct” my opinions. He doesn’t always agree with me, but he’s always willing to listen. I think we’re both better off because of that. We learn new things, and dine on fresh food for thought. Just as a new food can be exciting and interesting, so can a considering new perspective. But it’s hard to access that “fresh food for thought”, if you are preoccupied with correcting someone else for their opinions that don’t align with your own.

Now, when it comes to abortion, I can certainly understand why many people find it a sad and abhorrent thing. I understand why some people, having had an ectopic pregnancy that necessitated termination, can’t bear to think of that action as having an abortion, even if that is technically what happened. But I can also see how someone might find abortion liberating and even exhilarating. Father Nathan Monk’s post spells out how it can be a huge relief for someone to have an abortion. It should be okay for people to be honest about their feelings without fear of being shamed. We should be encouraging respectful communication, rather than trying to squelch things we don’t want to hear or read. Imagine how much more interesting life would be, if we could consider things that are “taboo” without feeling ashamed or threatened with censure.

I imagine that we might even have fewer Trump supporters if more people could stop themselves from being holier than thou toward others. I suspect that a lot of people like Trump because he’s not “PC” and doesn’t insist that people be “PC”. I think a lot of people like it when a loudmouth jerk like Trump says what they’re thinking, without any shame or hesitation whatsoever. This isn’t to say that I think people should be going around being deliberately offensive, but more that people might not be so compelled to be deliberately offensive if they felt heard and understood, even if the other person disagrees. A basic level of respect can be a great lubricant for productive discussion and– dare I say it?– a broader perspective on life, a keener intellect, and a more interesting existence outside of an echo chamber.

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