communication, LDS, lessons learned, overly helpful people

Sometimes we teach best what we most need to learn…

Today’s main blog post isn’t going to be about my time in Armenia. That may be a relief to some of my regulars. I have one more blow by blow post for my travel blog, then my usual “ten things I learned” post. Then, Armenia is history… for the time being, anyway. πŸ˜‰

I used to spend a lot of time on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. For years, I read it on a daily basis, even though it would often become contentious. There are a lot of angry, hurting people that hang out in that community, and sometimes they can be really argumentative toward each other. It’s not uncommon to see people insulting others there, name calling, arguing, and just plain being rude. On the other hand, sometimes people can be very supportive and kind. I have made several decent online friends from the RfM community… people I think are truly good people and I could be friends with offline. However, I’ve also run into people I don’t like, and wouldn’t want to meet in person.

I’ve written a couple of times in this blog about certain posters on that site who get on my nerves. They tend to be “all knowing” types, who feel quite comfortable in confronting people whenever they think they’ve somehow been “offensive”. For example, I distinctly remember, during Christmas of 2019, Bill and I were in France and some jackasses popped our tire when we were at a rest stop. We saw the people who damaged our tire. They were swarthy men, who appeared to be from a certain group of people well known in Europe for running scams. Now, I don’t know for absolute certain that those guys were Roma– but when Bill went to the police station to report the crime, he was told that they were most likely either Roma, or perhaps from northern Africa. It’s a fact that certain people from those groups perpetrate crimes in Europe. But neither I, nor the police, ever insinuated that EVERYONE from those areas does criminal things, nor did I indicate that I think they’re bad people overall.

So, when I was relating the story on RfM, a couple of people took me to task for “assuming” the perpetrators were Roma. They basically called me a racist. Naturally, that didn’t sit well with me, particularly since none of these people even know me personally. I will admit that, like most people, I probably do have some racist proclivities. However, even if that’s the case, no one wants to explicitly be called a racist when all they’re trying to do is share an experience. It’s offensive. It would be one thing if I’d made very bold blanket statements that indicated that I think all “swarthy” people are criminals. But I was simply describing the physical appearance of the people who had popped our tire, and relating what the police had told us. It seemed to me that taking me to task for that post was unnecessarily hostile and aggressive, and it made me think twice about whether or not I wanted to share anything there anymore.

When I pushed back against the chief offender, a person I’ll call “overly helpful diva”, got snotty with me. Because obviously, it’s fine for her to call me a racist, but it’s not fine for me to defend myself, or tell her she’s wrong to say that about someone she doesn’t even know. What the hell kind of reaction does she expect when she hurls offensive labels at people?

Then, several months later, Mary Kay LeTourneau died. Someone posted about it on RfM. I posted that I had empathy for Mary Kay’s loved ones. No, I don’t condone what she did. She committed rape against a child. It was right that she went to prison and had to register as a sex offender. However, her victim didn’t see himself as a victim. He later married Mary Kay. They had two children together. He was at her side on the day she died, even though they had divorced. And even though I think that case is strange, and I don’t understand it, I do understand that my personal feelings about that case matter a hell of a lot less than how the actual victim feels about it. He loved her, in spite of her crime against him. He’s also now well into adulthood, and is free to feel any way he wants to about what happened to him and the person who perpetrated the crime.

Well, that same person, along with another poster, took me to task for that, too. One of them went as far as to call me a “rape apologist”. That was extremely offensive to me. I certainly don’t condone rape, and labeling me in such a way simply because I acknowledged someone’s humanity is ridiculous. I think that most people are worth more than whatever bad things they’ve done. I also don’t like black and white thinking, hypocrisy, or people thinking they have the right to tell me what to think, how to feel, or what to say. So, that incident also went down in my long log of memories that told me that poster is someone with whom I’d rather not engage.

The last straw came last March, when my beloved dog, Arran, died. I posted about it on RfM, because I have some friends on there who knew about Arran. Some asshole decided to leave a really MEAN and uncalled for comment about Arran, which pissed me off. I confronted the mean poster, and the same all knowing overly helpful diva poster came along and tried to tell me what to do there, too.

I vented about the incident in my blog, then actively avoided RfM for months, because I could not bear to interact with that person again. I was very angry with her for inserting herself in an interaction that didn’t involve her, and offering me unwelcome and unsolicited advice when I was grieving a family member. She had basically told me to shut up, rather than allowing me to handle the situation in my own way. She wrote that responding to the mean troll was just “adding fuel to the fire”.

I almost wonder if she read my post here, because ever since then, she’s left me alone. I’m fine with that. I can’t stand people who are “overly helpful” toward me and think I need their special help. I really don’t need their help in communicating. Their insistence on advising me in such matters is insulting and offensive. I don’t post much on RfM anymore, anyway. I no longer have a need to post there… although I do sometimes read there when I’m bored.

A few days ago, someone on RfM posted a tribute to the overly helpful diva. And in the course of that post, a person who wasn’t a fan of hers, nor some of the other more active posters, chimed in on the thread. The non-fan of the overly helpful diva identifies as transgender, and apparently had an argument with the overly helpful advice giver, and a few others, about transgender athletes.

I didn’t see the original offending RfM post, nor was I actively involved in the post I’m referencing in this post. However, I did take note of how the overly helpful person responded when she was called out for being transphobic and bigoted. She was insulted and offended, just as I was when she implied that I was a racist, and when she’d agreed with the person who called me a “rape apologist”.

However, instead of having a rational conversation with the person who was calling her out and, I think, making some valid points about her responses, she became condescending, discounting, and argumentative. I noticed that she couldn’t simply practice her own counsel toward me and “stop adding fuel to the fire”. She had to address the person who called her out, and was, in the end, quite dismissive. It struck me as a very superior and arrogant response to someone who probably knows a hell of a lot more about the experience of being transgender than she does.

I didn’t add anything to the discussion myself. I didn’t want to add “fuel” to the fire, after all. πŸ˜‰ Once again, I found overly helpful RfM diva’s responses insufferable and infuriating, and I had empathy for the person who had taken her on– even though the initial post had been complimentary toward the overly helpful diva. I noticed that she felt fine in repeatedly defending herself… but when I tried to do the same thing in a similar interaction with her, she got snotty, dismissive, and rude.

While I have no desire to wade into the topic on which they are arguing, I will say that I felt empathy for the poster who says they’re leaving RfM because of her, and people who act like her. I don’t know how I feel about the topic at hand. I don’t know enough about it, as it’s neither something that interests me, nor anything that affects me personally. But I do know how it feels to be dismissed, discounted, and name called on that messageboard by overly helpful diva and her ilk. And I did notice that when that happened to the overly helpful diva, she didn’t seem to like it any more than I had.

I think I’m at a point in which I’ve realized that most messageboards and groups on social media are often unworthy of the effort of joining. A lot of them eventually become toxic, as people clash and turn on each other. I did enjoy RfM a lot, back in the day. It was often helpful and entertaining, especially once I got to a point at which people quit calling me a liar about Bill’s situation… or assuming I was an evil stepmother (how could I be? I have only met my stepdaughters in person once, over twenty years ago!). But lately, it seems overtaken by this person and her overbearing, overwhelming personality, and her need to argue, belittle, and “prove wrong” anyone who has a different perspective than she has.

And when I read that stuff, and notice her reaction to it when people take her to task, I just want to tell her… “Sometimes we teach best what we most need to learn.” Then, I would follow up by advising her– if I were the kind to offer unsolicited advice— that instead of pointing out other people’s issues and faults and labeling them as “racists” or “rape apologists”, or telling them how to respond to other people, she might want to take a deep breath and check her own responses. She doesn’t know everything. Sometimes, her logic is flawed. And sometimes, she should simply shut the fuck up and listen. Maybe she might learn something new.

I literally cheered when the transgender told her she was “full of shit”. There’s some real truth in those words. But then, I think most of us are full of shit sometimes, myself included. The difference is, I’m willing to admit that. I don’t think the overly helpful diva ever has been willing to admit that sometimes, she’s totally full of shit.

I may not agree with everything the transgender poster wrote, but I did offer a hearty virtual high five when they declared to overly helpful diva, “I’m done compromising for people like you.” Bravo! I couldn’t have put it better myself. Life is short. Compromise for no one, unless they really deserve it. Most of the time, overly helpful divas don’t deserve the time of day, let alone an apology so that we can simply “go along to get along.” That’s how people end up with depression, anxiety, and in the worst cases, feeling uninterested in living anymore. So, by all means, feel free to tell the overly helpful diva to fuck off, and live your best life. πŸ˜€

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Armenia, lessons learned, musings

What can you bring to the party?

Yesterday’s post about not having to be a star captured the attention of my friend and former student, Stepan, who is now working for Peace Corps Armenia. Since I’ve been working on writing about my Armenia trip on my travel blog, I thought today’s main blog post should be connected to yesterday’s post. I’ll try to be brief.

Two years after I finished my Peace Corps service, I decided to enroll in graduate school at the University of South Carolina-Columbia. Originally, I had hoped to be a Peace Corps Fellow, but that didn’t work out for me. In retrospect, the fact that the plan didn’t work out for me turned out to be a huge blessing. If I had been a Fellow, it would have altered my life quite a bit. I would have been required to stay in South Carolina for four years after I finished my dual master’s degrees in social work and public health. Since I ultimately got married six months after I graduated, and then moved back to Virginia, it would not have been ideal for me to be obligated to stay in South Carolina for four years.

The Peace Corps Fellows program I had hoped to sign up for went defunct the year I matriculated. Then it was reformed, so that it was really best for people who had served in Spanish speaking countries. While I did study Spanish for several years, I am definitely nowhere near fluent. I’m much better at speaking Armenian than Spanish. There aren’t that many needy Armenians in Columbia, South Carolina.

So, I wasn’t a Peace Corps Fellow, but I did know a couple of other former Volunteers who were in my dual degree program and had become friends. They served in Costa Rica and Guatemala.

One of the courses I took for my public health degree was a health promotion course. It was about coming up with public health campaigns that could be “sold” to people willing to invest in the cause. I remember the professor, a man with the last name of Ureda, presented this idea by likening it to throwing a party. He brought up concepts of planning the party and deciding who should be invited, so the gathering would be fun and successful for everyone.

I took that course in the summer, and it lasted about five or six weeks or so, if I recall correctly. Our class decided on a public health issue to present. We were divided into groups, and we had to come up with campaigns for our “parties”. My memories are a bit fuzzy, but I do remember that our class decided the issue we should address was bulimia. Bulimia, for those who don’t know, is an eating disorder in which sufferers binge on vast amounts of food and then vomit or use other means (compulsive exercise, laxatives, purgatives, etc.) to quickly get rid of the food before they gain weight.

Bulimia is a serious problem, especially among young women. I’m still not sure why that particular topic was chosen for our project. Maybe it was because we were on a university campus, and a lot of the people in the class were young women. In any case, I was pretty tired of writing and talking about bulimia by the time that class was finished. I had to write four long papers about it within the short timeframe of the class. But I managed to do it, and passed the class. And today, I’m reminded of the concept of planning “parties” while coming up with campaigns for helping people.

I don’t actually remember Ureda posing the question “What can you bring to the party?”. He was focused on saying “Come to the party!” But, when it comes to Peace Corps service, and the powers that be within it, I think “What can you bring to the party” is a good question to ask of any Volunteer.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote that I didn’t think Peace Corps should be super “results oriented”. I base that opinion on my experiences as a Volunteer, and how there wasn’t a lot of trust when I was serving. The earliest Peace Corps Armenia groups were kind of like “young pioneers” (see what I did there?) in what has turned out to be a very successful program. But, at the beginning of Peace Corps Armenia’s existence, some ice had to be broken. We couldn’t be expected to just go marching into a classroom or a business and expect everyone to immediately trust us. Building trust takes time, and two years isn’t a super long time to build a lot of trust… especially when you’re struggling to pick up language skills and get the lay of the land.

As I mentioned yesterday, though, almost every person has some kind of strength, talent, or skill… something they’re good at that has some value to other people. As I found out when I was a Volunteer, sharing those talents with other people is a great way to make connections and build trust. I am very fortunate, as one thing I’m really good at is singing. Armenia is a fabulous place for anyone interested in the arts. Whether you’re a singer, or a dancer, or an artist, or you play an instrument or act… all of these skills, as well as just about any other, are valuable and translate well.

Singing, for me, was a way I could connect to my three classes of first form pupils– seven year olds, who didn’t speak English at all and were just learning how to be in school. If I spoke to them, they’d talk over me. But if I broke into “The Hokey Pokey”, “Brown Squirrel”, or “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, they’d be quiet and we could get some things done. I used music with my older students, too. I remember singing “What a Wonderful World” with several of my tenth form students during my first year.

Using music also worked for bonding with adults. I remember joining some Peace Corps friends at a jazz club near Republic Square and there was a band playing. My friends wanted me to sing with the band, and they were kind enough to oblige. I sang “Summertime”, which was my go to song back then. I don’t remember the last time I sang it, but back in the 90s, I sang it ALL the time. And the sudden collaboration was a success. We bonded with the club owner and the band, and had a great time. That was one of the really GOOD times I had in Armenia.

Maybe your thing is basketball, instead of singing… Whatever you have to offer, you can bring it to the “party”.

Personally, I have found that music is an international language. I’ve connected with people in Germany, too, through the gift of song. But not everyone can sing or play an instrument. Some people have no interest whatsoever in the arts. Maybe they’re good at athletics– something I am definitely not good at! So they play a game with locals, maybe form a team or a club… I remember our training group used to play basketball or softball, and that was a good way of bonding with locals. There was also a guy who served in Vanadzor who formed a band with Armenians called “Snack”. They were great! They played at a lot of our parties! One of the band members married a woman in my cohort. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of years ago, but he was a really nice guy who knew most of us. Somewhere in storage, I have a cassette tape with Snack’s music on it.

Stepan told me about one of the current Volunteers who dances. Recently, Peace Corps Armenia shared a video of him dancing with the locals. I thought it was really awesome, because they were obviously having a great time and strengthening a bond. Those kinds of activities are not only fun, but they also promote understanding and trust. They help break barriers and destroy stereotypes. This is how relationships are built so that positive changes can happen.

My sister, who was a Volunteer in Morocco, loved to go running. She’d run through her village in 80s era Morocco, creating quite a spectacle, since local women didn’t tend to do that. I remember she said they used to call her Superwoman. I don’t know if any of the locals ever joined her, but she did present an example of someone doing something different… she was someone venturing outside the “box” and presenting a new perspective. This is one way people evolve.

If someone asked me to issue a challenge to today’s Volunteers, I would encourage them to take an inventory of what interests them and the areas where they have natural gifts. What are you good at? What can you share with others? What can you bring to the party? It could be almost anything, as long as it’s legal.

I was known as a singer… and later, I shared my talents in the kitchen, when I got recruited to help some business Volunteers with a dried produce project. I used Armenian produce to create recipes. One of our most successful ventures was using dried tomatoes, onions, and peppers to make pizza sauce. We threw a pizza party that was very well received! Not only was it a potentially profitable enterprise for Armenians, it was also a lot of fun for me. I loved coming up with creative ways to use fruits and vegetables grown in Armenia. I even got to use an electric oven, provided to me by the US Department of Agriculture. That was quite a coup in the 90s. During my first year, I made a primitive oven with a big pot and my kerosene heaters!

Maybe I wasn’t a star teacher, but I was successful in other ways. And after my experiences as a PCV in Armenia, I know that there are many ways to contribute to a community effort. In fact, I learned that it’s a good thing that people have different strengths. If everyone invited brought soda or cake to a party, that wouldn’t be a good thing, would it? It’s much better when someone brings the plates, another person brings the ice, someone else brings beverages, and maybe someone bakes a cake and brings that.

Everyone has something they can contribute to the effort, and that’s what makes the whole party a success, and fun for everyone. Even if you can’t sing or play basketball, you almost surely have something to offer. Maybe it’s just two functioning arms to carry equipment, or a strong back. Never discount or underestimate the importance of those things. Any good project involves some kind of “heavy lifting”– whether figuratively or literally. A strong back and two strong arms can be the critical keys to the viability of any program. So can good critical thinking and communication skills. Maybe you’re not a singer or an athlete, but you are a good organizer. Maybe you’re empathic and good at managing people. Maybe you’re a whiz at budgeting. The possibilities are endless.

Back in the 90s, I lamented that I wasn’t a super talented and charismatic teacher… Or, at least I didn’t think I was. Maybe other people have a different take. But one thing I know I can do is sing a pretty song. I can make killer pizza sauce and bake delicious apple pies. I can write an engaging article– and when I was a PCV, it was I who put together the Peace Corps cookbook, with help from all of the Volunteers who also contributed. I can be entertaining in other ways, too… especially for those who like crude humor. πŸ˜‰ And, let me tell you, when I was in Armenia, I used every one of those skills and more. When it comes to living in a place where people don’t have much, those skills and talents turn into valuable tools that are essential for success.

So ends today’s “sermon”. I think I have two or three more Armenia blog posts left to write on my travel blog. Once those are done, I’ll probably return to my usual blog “programming” on this blog. So, if you’ve been missing my usual stuff here, hang tight. I should be getting back to that material in just a few days. For those who prefer this kind of post, fair warning that I’m not usually this mature. πŸ˜€

Today’s featured photo is part of the spread Bill and I enjoyed with Stepan and his daughter. We also had some killer khorovatz! It was a hell of a party!

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lessons learned, love, marriage, money

My husband’s “awful” teeth… a symbol of survival…

I am about to start writing about our trip to Yerevan, because if I don’t, I will forget things. I don’t want to forget this trip because it’s been very special. I have a lot of complicated feelings about Armenia, and those who know me well, have an idea of why I have these feelings. I didn’t have an easy time when I served here. But I managed to survive, and now I’ve come back and found out just how much worth it it was to stay the course… Which isn’t to mean that quitting isn’t also the right thing to do sometimes, in certain situations. In my case, the fact that I didn’t quit was the right thing, and I’m finding that out right now.

On Friday night, as we were making our way into transit at the Frankfurt Airport, Bill was talking about how, next Monday, he has to go to the dentist and have his implant put in. He lamented about his “awful teeth”, and how much work he’s had done on them over the years.

Bill certainly could have benefited from orthodontia and better dental care when he was growing up. But he was poor back then. His parents were divorced, and his mom was doing much of the raising alone. Neither of his parents had that much money, and Bill’s mom didn’t get much child support for Bill. Unfortunately, Bill’s teeth suffered, and he has kind of a crooked smile, although his teeth are mostly serviceable.

As Bill was complaining about his teeth, I said, “You know, your teeth are kind of a badge of honor.”

Bill looked at me with confusion in his beautiful blue eyes, so I explained.

“You grew up poor. Your mom couldn’t afford to take you to the dentist, let alone an orthodontist. But now, we’re about to fly to Armenia business class, and we’re going to stay in a decent hotel. And when we come back, you will go have a dental implant installed, and you’re not concerned about whether or not you can pay the bill when the work is done. That’s what makes your crooked teeth a badge of honor. You could still be in a situation in which you don’t see the dentist because you can’t pay the bill. But look at where you are today. You are successful. And you don’t need beautiful teeth to be handsome, at least not to me.”

Bill said, “Wow. I’ve never thought of it that way.”

And I said, “Neither have I.” Sometimes I do have flashes of insight that surprises people– including myself.

I’ve gotten so used to his crooked smile that I can’t imagine him without it. I find it kind of endearing. But I’m very glad he goes to the dentist now, because I don’t find halitosis endearing. πŸ˜‰

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condescending twatbags, fake people, lessons learned, mental health, narcissists, poor judgment, psychology, social media

Forever “misunderestimated” by people who should really know better…

I was never much of a fan of George W. Bush’s. On the other hand, I’d love to have him back in the White House over Donald Trump. Back when Bush Jr. was in office, people thought he was the antichrist. I can remember my sister actually calling him that. At the time she used that term, Bill and I were kind of appalled. We were more conservative then, and still had basic respect for Presidents, no matter who they were. Donald Trump has kind of ruined that mystique for us. He made a joke of the US Presidency.

Anyway… W is on my mind this morning, not because I want to write about his time as POTUS, nor because I want to bash Donald Trump. I’m thinking about Bush II because of his famous gaffes. One in particular is sticking out to me today. On November 6, 2000– almost 23 years ago to the day– Bush was in Bentonville, Arkansas, no doubt on the campaign trail. And he said, “They misunderestimated me.”

I’m assuming Bush II meant that people “underestimated” him and his ability to take care of himself or, perhaps, cause issues for other people. It’s usually a mistake to sell anyone short, especially when you don’t know them very well. People do it all the time, though. I suppose it makes things easier for them in the short term. Someone pops up as a “problem” and the person looks at them, gauges the threat, and blows them off, only to have that person later hand them their ass.

Bill and I are both the type of people who get “misunderestimated” a lot. People make assumptions about the type of people we are based only on what they see and perceive. They don’t take the time to get to know us, and assume we’re weak. It doesn’t occur to them to look at history, or consider things that aren’t immediately obvious to them. They underestimate everything from our maturity levels to our cognitive abilities to our level of fear of the unknown. They bluster at, threaten, or ridicule us, thinking that will get us under control. Then they’re surprised when we pull the rug out from under them and they land on their asses.

I am reminded of this phenomenon this morning as I was looking at my Facebook memories from 2017. That was one of the more challenging times in our marriage, as we were dealing with a truly terrible living situation. At the time, I was part of a Facebook group that, frankly, I never should have been in. It was aimed at making fun of people. The group had started off fun and lighthearted, but then the original creator of the group later decided he didn’t want to lead it anymore. He was a pretty healthy person who didn’t encourage anything dark or cruel, so it was kind of a sad day when he decided he didn’t want to run the group. I’m still “friends” with him, although we don’t interact much.

The formerly fun group was later taken over by a couple of folks who were also fun, at least on the surface. One of them is a person that I once admired a great deal. But then she showed me her true colors. I decided maybe she wasn’t as honorable as I thought she was, and disassociated from her. In retrospect, that was the right thing to do, as she later proved to me that my initial impressions of her were correct. The other is a person that I used to think was funny and basically an okay guy. He, too, showed me who he really was… It wasn’t a pretty sight. But, for awhile, it was still a fun group. We had barbecues that were a blast, and that convinced me that these were good people who were just having fun.

Anyway, in 2017, things had gotten pretty stressful for Bill and me, mainly due to our awful living situation at the time. Our landlady was being very abusive, and it was having a bad effect on both of us– but, especially me, as I had to deal with her more often. I was still in the Facebook group that was once fun, but had turned kind of sinister and mean spirited. There was a guy in that group who had oozed toxins to me. I had him blocked, because I could tell by his antisocial comments and behaviors that he wasn’t a good person. He used to laugh and brag about deliberately upsetting people and causing problems for them, plus he had a lot of misogynistic crap openly visible on his profile.

The group leader for whom I had once had respect found out I had blocked the toxic guy. For some reason, she shamed me for it. She made it seem like I was being unfair and judgmental. I respected her opinion, so, I unblocked him, and he later picked an online fight with me that showed me that my initial impressions of him were correct. He was the kind of person who would go way below the belt just to “win” fights with people. Looking back on it now, I can only assume that he had a really shitty childhood, and that’s what had turned him into someone who gets off on being mean to other people. I don’t know, nor do I care. He can rot in Hell.

Because I was in kind of a weak place back in 2017, I lost my resolve to protect myself. I let other people gaslight me into doubting what I knew to be true. I went along with the group… until I wised up and got away from them. I won’t say it wasn’t painful. I thought I’d liked these people. I found them entertaining and they rescued me from loneliness and boredom. Then they showed me who they were, and what they actually thought of me. It stung, but once I came to terms with it, I was fine. I was moving on with life and we were handling ex landlady with a well-deserved lawsuit that she ultimately lost.

In 2019, someone from the toxic Facebook group sent me a private message and suggested that I rejoin. She claimed that the group members had been reminiscing and remembered how entertaining I was. They supposedly “missed” me. I decided to respectfully decline, which I’m sure pissed her off… because they were hoping I’d either respond in a dramatic way, or eagerly accept, so I could be the butt of their jokes. In retrospect, I probably should have ignored her completely, but at that time, I still thought she was someone friendly. I now know otherwise, and she’s not in my life anymore. I noticed that she didn’t respond when I declined… That pretty much says it all. Especially since the so-called good leader wasn’t the one who asked me to come back to the group. She’d used a flying monkey to do her dirty work. How typical… and childish.

The 2017 era Facebook post that reminded me of all of this stupid drama was from someone else who turned out to be a fake friend. She’d tagged me in a picture of a shirt she’d seen at Target that read “I can’t adult today”. I’m not really sure why she tagged me. It could have been because I hate the trend of people using the word “adult” as a verb. Or maybe she was trying to say I was a childish person (and she’d be very wrong about that).

I noticed that she got a response from the Facebook group leader for whom I’d lost respect. She wrote something along the lines of “I can’t see her response because I’m blocked. But that shirt seems about right for her.”

I saw her response some time later, when I unblocked the former group leader. I thought nothing of it at the time. Now I realize she was trying to say she thought I was a childish person… which is an interesting observation from someone who was running a Facebook group expressly for making fun of people and didn’t even have the spine to speak to me directly. I’m ashamed I was ever in that group. I should have left it a long time ago, and trusted myself when I disassociated from her the first time. But, like a lot of people with dysfunctional backgrounds, I was carefully trained to doubt myself.

I also distinctly remember seeing her scathing comment about me in her group, as Bill was still a member at the time. She left her scathing comment about me about something that actually had nothing to do with her. I’d had a fight with the toxic, misogynistic guy, and had left the group because of him, and because I didn’t want to be around someone who was that hateful toward women. She wasn’t part of that fight, as she was living in a different time zone and it was long over by the time she was even aware of it. It had nothing to do with her at all. But she took the misogynist’s side, and was pretty mean to me when I was feeling legitimately hurt. And part of the reason I was feeling hurt had to do with something that had nothing to do with that toxic asshole guy OR her stupid Facebook group. She didn’t care enough about me to ask about it. She just denounced me publicly and showed me that she’s a fake bitch.

I guess that was what was especially hurtful to me. I once truly thought she was a good leader. I thought she had character and depth, and was a lot smarter than she gave herself credit for being. I never thought of myself as smarter or better than she was; on the contrary, I think I was just fortunate enough to have grown up with parents who had the money to send me to college. She joined the Marines and had a career until she retired. That is something I doubt I could have done myself, and I really admired her for it. She paid me back by stabbing me in the back and insulting me publicly. Her good friend and effective leadership act was just an elaborate facade. Deep down, she has no real strength of character. She only spoke to me so I could be the butt of her jokes.

Well… I learned something from that experience, and that’s that many people aren’t worth trying to befriend. If they show you who they are, believe them, and don’t give them another chance. And anyone who expects you to gaslight yourself, doesn’t care about your well-being, and mocks you for taking care of yourself, is neither a friend, nor a good leader. As she had underestimated me, I had grossly overestimated her as a person.

One of my real friends who knows me well shared something with me on November 5, 2017. It resonates a lot.

So true…

I’m so tired of people who can’t be real… and don’t appreciate people who are original and authentic. I’m tired of people who expect other people to ignore their own needs, so they can temporarily feel better about themselves. But, so many of us are carefully trained to be this way… we are taught to be “nice” at all costs, even if it causes harm. I was expected to be quiet about misogynistic crap being spewed by a man that I knew was toxic. I was expected to let him harass and humiliate me. When I opted out, I was accused of being “childish” and abandoning someone who wasn’t even involved in the initial incident. Who cares if just being around someone misogynistic and abusive like that literally makes me feel sick? I’m supposed to put that aside, so everyone else can get their “yuks” at my expense.

And then, a couple of years later, when I’ve broken away from that mess, they try to “Hoover” me back… No thanks. What’s really sad is that I fell into that shit in the first place. I thought Ex had taught me well, that I can opt out of the drama and not get involved in it in the first place. I guess sometimes we need a refresher course in self-care.

Looking at that memory on Facebook brought back the memories that has spawned today’s post. But today, I did something healthy in response to it. I untagged myself from the photo and hid it from my timeline, since I couldn’t delete it. Next year, on November 5, 2024– provided I’m still living– I won’t have to see it or remember what spawned it. I don’t wish any of those people ill, by the way. I just don’t want to waste mental resources on them anymore. They aren’t worth it to me. But they’re probably worth it to other people who know them better than I do. I’m sure to some people, they’re more genuine. I would sure hope so.

As for crazy ex landlady, she also horrendously misunderestimated us, and she paid dearly for it. I’m hoping it was bad enough to get her out of the landlady business. I did look at our former house on Google Earth, and it looks like there are German cars in the driveway. Good. Because if she’s their landlady, I know there’s pretty much no way she’ll be trying to screw them the way she tried– and failed– to screw us, and probably a lot of other Americans who were intimidated by her stern “Oma” act. They will more likely hold her to the straight and narrow of German landlord/tenant law than Americans will. That was ultimately our goal. I think it would be even better, though, if she sold that place and retired.

It’s true… I’m silly, giggly, blonde, and sometimes too emotional… but I advise you to never mistake that for weakness, stupidity, or childishness. You probably don’t know me well enough to discount the things I’m capable of doing. And if you’re laughing at me for writing this post, I hope you won’t ever engage me. I don’t need you in my life, either. I’d rather be alone.

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controversies, lessons learned, musings

Judging a “lemon” by its rind…

I tried to stay pretty busy yesterday, and I mostly succeeded. I got off to a somewhat late start, as I woke up after 6:00 AM, which isn’t so common for me anymore. Then I made coffee, fed and cleaned up after Noyzi, and started a load of laundry. I did a longer cycle so I could focus more on yesterday’s rambling post that wasn’t particularly tight. While I’ll admit it was a stream of consciousness type post, it did turn out interesting, at least for me. As I read it, I had all of these memories of my younger days, when it seemed like I had forever before I would be considered “older”…

I actually needed some help getting started writing yesterday. There’s a lot I could write about, but I don’t feel knowledgeable enough at this point. And it’s not really what’s on my mind, anyway… I mentioned yesterday that I went down “Memory Lane”, starting with reading old posts about our move to Wiesbaden. I’ve written about that a lot, but I don’t know if I’ve conveyed just how totally difficult that move was to make. It seems like it was just a bad landlady/tenant situation, but it was really so much more than that.

That situation with our former landlady really drove home to me how easy it is to fall into true mind fuckery when you’re dealing with an abusive person. They can make you feel like you’re worthless, as if everything is your fault… or as if you don’t deserve better. It’s hard to break out of that mindset once you enter it. It’s so hard when you trust someone and they betray you, or they turn out to be someone totally different from the person they seemed to be.

Granted, in ex landlady’s case, I did have a subtle warning. There was something about her demeanor that tipped me off at our first meeting. Under normal circumstances, I might not have been so eager to rent her house. Actually, I wasn’t that eager to move into the house, as I was to finally be settled. The summer of 2014 was a very difficult one for us… from Bill’s Army retirement, to my father’s somewhat sudden death, to the very rushed international move to Germany after we found nothing viable in Texas… We were vulnerable.

In August 2014, we still had sharp memories of September 2007, when we spent six weeks in a grubby German Gasthaus in Vaihingen, where there was visible mold on the bathroom ceiling and the place reeked of stale cigarettes. Today, I would have insisted that we move to a better hotel, but we had much less money and experience in 2007, and Bill was fresh from the war zone in Iraq (which he spent with a narcissistic boss). Besides, that particular hotel was in walking distance of where Bill was working, and it was very dog friendly. So we stayed for six weeks. It wasn’t all bad, but I certainly didn’t want to do it again.

So, when we met former landlady, even though I had some mental misgivings about her, I took the former tenant and her husband at their word that she was “great” and my gut feelings weren’t “right”. That was a mistake.

Although it wasn’t all bad, just like our six weeks in a really crummy Gasthaus in 2007, it’s not an experience I’d ever want to recreate. Never before had we ever had such an intrusive situation with a landlord/landlady, even though I’ve seen lots of videos and written plenty of accounts of nightmare property managers, landlords, and landladies. We’ve have had other rental situations that sucked somewhat, but none as personally soul crushing as dealing with our previous landlady. What made it very different and so much worse was the former tenant.

It was one of those perfect storm situations… I’m a blogger, and I made the mistake of sharing my posts in a somewhat small community. People in the military community– I’m sorry to say– are not always the most open-minded people you’d ever meet. You’d think they would be, given how much and how often military folks move to places worldwide. I don’t mean to say that people in that community aren’t diverse, nor do I mean to say that everyone is an asshole. But there are a lot of people who have rigid mindsets about things. Someone who dares to write a blog called The Overeducated Housewife is automatically going to catch shit. πŸ˜‰

I do know that some people down in the Stuttgart community got some good things from my writings. Quite a lot of people told me they tried restaurants I reviewed, or they visited places I wrote about. But there were so many who just wrote off my efforts because they didn’t like the name of the blog and lacked the desire to find out why I titled it the way I did. How dare someone refer to themselves as “overeducated”, even if they literally are for what they do every day? πŸ˜‰

I don’t actually think I am “overeducated”. There is obviously a whole lot I don’t know. I also don’t believe that being “educated” is the same as being “intelligent” or “smart”. I just didn’t need to spend seven years in college to be a housewife. If I had known this was going to be my future, I wouldn’t have bothered with college or grad school… but then, I probably never would have met Bill, either. THAT is why this blog is titled as it is… and it came into existence several years before I started engaging with military folks who might be offended by it. In fact, the beginnings of my blog were very humble, as I didn’t even share my posts on Facebook. It took a long time before it evolved into anything people read on a regular basis.

Former tenant probably wouldn’t have been so involved in our situation if I hadn’t been a blogger. Our situation with ex landlady might have turned out like every other situation in which someone hands off a “lemon” to someone else.

Here’s a for instance. Back in 2003, Bill and I adopted an adorable beagle named Flea who had been abandoned in rural Virginia. Flea was a very fancy beagle. His original owner likely paid a lot for him. But, he got separated from the pack when they were hunting. When Flea was eventually found on the side of a road, he was skinny, covered in fleas and ticks, had Lyme Disease, and heartworms. The lady who rescued him got him cleaned up and offered him to a beagle rescue, as she also fostered him for them. The beagle rescue gave her money to get Flea treated for heartworms and Lyme Disease. When we met her, she’d seemed so nice and committed to Flea. But then it turned out she’d never completed his heartworm treatment. Instead, she pocketed the money for the second half of the treatment. So, when we adopted him, we were unaware that he still had heartworms.

Months later, when we discovered Flea’s heartworms weren’t all dead, we tried to contact his rescuer… who then promptly ghosted us. Flea also turned out to be quite a bit older than she’d said he was. Flea wasn’t a “lemon”, per se. He was actually a fantastic dog. But we got stuck dealing with his problems, because someone lied to us. Fortunately, the beagle rescue paid for him to be treated a second time for heartworms. However, heartworm treatment isn’t easy on dogs. I think it took a toll on his health in the long run. We had him for six years before he got prostate cancer, which eventually killed him.

Just like the situation with Flea turned out to be, I guess that former tenant felt the need to get out of her rental agreement with the ex landlady. And she was eager enough to get away from her that she wasn’t entirely truthful or forthcoming about her when we showed up looking for a place to live. We were sitting ducks… because we really needed a place to settle after a tough summer. Former tenant probably figured there was no harm in what she did… I’m sure she totally justified it. Fair enough. Maybe ex landlady really was as wonderful to her as former tenant claimed, and she really did just need to move closer to her job. There was probably even an element of truth to what she told us… but it wasn’t the *whole* truth.

I figure that if I weren’t a prolific and somewhat well-known blogger in the Stuttgart military community, former tenant would have just ghosted us, too. Ex landlady would have been “our problem”, even though the two of them were “friends”. Ex landlady probably would have complained and gossipped to her about us, but former tenant could have just laughed it off. She wouldn’t have been at all concerned about what I was thinking, saying, or writing. But because I was a somewhat well-known blogger, and she had loved Germany and was still following the community on social media, she couldn’t stop herself from following me… and she got upset that I was candid about our experiences.

Instead of realizing that I have the right to my opinions and perspectives and simply unfollowing me, former tenant felt the need to try to control me from afar. Not only did she deceive me, she also tried to silence me… and she seriously misjudged and underestimated me as a person. To her, I guess I was just a sucker who had the “audacity” to label myself “the overeducated housewife”. She probably thought I was just some silly twit– certainly not a match for her. She tried to take advantage of the fact that I’m basically a good person, using shame, obligation, fear, and guilt as a means of trying to fix the narrative. I complied with her for a time, but then wised up about what she was doing.

The irony is, if I weren’t a blogger, Bill and I probably would have been stuck paying for another lemon. Writers are recorders, so I had photos, blog posts, and bits of history that I could show proving the ex landlady’s version of events wrong. We probably would have won, anyway, but it wouldn’t have been quite so handily. Still, when all of that was going on, I felt like shit. I certainly had no desire to be on bad terms with anyone, nor did we want to sue anyone. But I’m also not about to be someone’s patsy.

As if that situation wasn’t bizarre enough… then I looked up former tenant last year. Curiosity killed the cat. I should have learned my lesson about not following people who show me who they are. That’s when I found out that former tenant took her own life. That makes me wonder about a whole lot of things… and it’s also left me with a burden.

All we had wanted to do was find a place to live in 2014. Now we’re left with this very strange chapter in our lives. We’ll probably always think about it and talk about it, and other people probably won’t understand. Some will even try to blame us, even though I only met former tenant in person a couple of times in 2014. Any interaction we had after we rented that house was initiated by her, after she read my blog. I doubt I had anything to do with her decision, but I don’t know. All I can think is that she had a lot of issues that led her to make a tragic choice. Her decision had ripple effects beyond her immediate family and friends that she’ll never even realize.

I never thought I’d ever be a blogger. I did like writing and likely would have loved a “real job” as a writer. But even when I was a teenager, I didn’t really let myself hope writing was how I could earn a living or make my way in the world. I used to have a lot of ideas and dreams about what my “adult life” would be. I figured I’d have a career and probably a family. As I got older, it seemed less likely that either convention was going to be in my future. I didn’t really date much, nor did I have great luck at impressing employers that would pay me a salary on which I could live comfortably.

Granted, after I finished graduate school, I might have managed to find a job to support myself properly. I didn’t really have a chance, as just after I graduated, I moved in with Bill, and six months later, married into the military lifestyle, with its constant upheavals. I was familiar with it, since my mom was an Air Force wife. But by the time I came along, my dad’s career in the Air Force was winding down. I didn’t know the realities, because my parents ran their own business for over half of my childhood.

I think marrying Bill was the right decision, and the best choice I could have made. But it definitely derailed the plans I tried to make for myself. I don’t think they were the right plans, anyway… but they were MY plans. And now I’m sitting here in Germany, writing this blog, wondering where it all went.

Yesterday’s post was a meandering stream of consciousness piece. It started in one place and ended somewhere else I hadn’t really meant it to go. Alex’s first comment to me kind of took me aback. He’d offered me consolation, which kind of distressed me. But, looking back at it today, I can see why Alex left a comment of reassurance. The end of yesterday’s post was about how I felt after reading the post that had inspired it. I was so very angry about the audacity of our ex landlady, treating us like we were the worst kind of people. It pissed me off anew, and brought up some old feelings of shame and worthlessness passed to me from someone whose opinion used to mean a lot to me.

No, I don’t mean ex landlady. I mainly did what I could to appease her, which I now realize was far too much. I mean my dad. I don’t think he hated me. I think he even loved me on one level. But he often treated me badly, and acted like he didn’t like me very much. He took out a lot of his frustrations on me, and treated me like an embarrassment. When I was a young woman, I realized that he was very often abusive to me, and that treatment shaped how I felt about myself. Some of that stuff still comes up today, as I try to stay out of trouble and hesitate to engage with people. I figure they won’t like me… and when some of them don’t, I get bitter and more reluctant to get to know people. When people treat me poorly, I remember it forever and hold it against them, even if their bad attitude doesn’t even have that much to do with me, personally.

There were a lot of times when ex landlady reminded me a lot of my dad. As a grown woman, I can now react in ways that weren’t safe when I was a child. I can speak out, for instance. So I often do. But doing that didn’t suit former tenant’s agenda, and I suspect she thought she could manipulate and control me. So she tried to do that, and I tolerated it for awhile… until I didn’t anymore, and the shit hit the fan. She took issue that I figured out what she’d done… passed off her lemon to Bill and me and expected us to see it as a favor. She wanted me to shut up and pretend I enjoyed the sourness of her lemon. Because it suited her, and her agenda. Who cared about how it affected us?! We’re just a couple of suckers and losers, right? Obviously, if ex landlady didn’t like us, it was entirely our fault, and it was our responsibility as Americans to make her like us

What a load of shit that is. Seriously… I can’t even believe it! We’re supposed to tolerate abuse and PAY for the privilege, because former tenant is/was friends with the ex landlady, and she doesn’t want to offend her or anyone in her family? If there’s a problem, it’s not because of anyone but me… and it’s entirely my fault. Again… that’s a lot of bullshit that doesn’t even have the courtesy of smelling lemony fresh! I can’t believe we wasted a single year on that crap, let alone four!

Well… at least it’s over now. We did prevail. But, like the proverbial lemon, that situation left a sour taste in our mouths. I’m left a lot more wary than I once was. I don’t share things like I used to. I’m not eager to get to know people like I used to be. I trust people less. The memory of that ordeal leaves me a bit depressed on some level. And the fact that former tenant killed herself makes it all the worse, because now it seems like I should feel sorry for her. Or at least act like I feel sorry for her. Really, I’m just angry with her on many levels. I’m sorry she felt the need to off herself, but I also realize that I spent weeks agonizing, feeling totally traumatized and fucked up, and the truth was, I wasn’t the fucked up one at all!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a believer in destiny… We were probably supposed to meet these people, and these experiences were probably supposed to happen. We’ll just have to learn from it, move on, and either keep our lemons to ourselves or be honest about them. Sometimes lemons are a good thing, after all. In the grand scheme of things, this particular lemon at least taught us to be wiser, and we got to see some beautiful parts of the Black Forest. So that ought to count for something, right?

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