complaints, condescending twatbags, memories, mental health, Military, reviews

“Who cares what they think?”

This morning, Bill and I decided to take a day jaunt to the French ville of Bitche. I will admit, part of the reason I wanted to go there is because the town’s name tickles me. But I also wanted to go because a friend of mine went there a few years ago, before she moved to Hawaii. She mentioned that the town was militarily important. I told Bill about it, and he decided he was interested. So today, we went, and we had a fabulous lunch and walked around a bit.

On the way to Bitche, I recalled an incident from 2009, when we were forced to leave Germany a year early, because one of Bill’s narcissistic ex bosses decided to fuck with our lives. Not only did we have to leave early, we also spent four uncomfortable nights in a government hotel that is now, mercifully, defunct. On top of that, one of our dogs was dying of prostate cancer, but he wasn’t quite ready to go to the Rainbow Bridge. I was upset for a lot of reasons, most of which having to do with my not feeling like I was in control of my life. I mean, we weren’t even “allowed” to choose where to spend our last few nights in Germany, and the hotel where we had to stay was not very conducive to our needs. So I wrote a review of the place on Epinions.com

I really don’t think I was that harsh in my review, although it was clearly a mostly negative report. Below is a repost of what I wrote for Epinions in 2009.

God willing, my husband Bill and I, along with our two beagles, Flea and MacGregor, will be checking into a hotel in or near Atlanta, Georgia tomorrow afternoon. After spending the past few days at the Hilltop Hotel at Robinson Barracks near Stuttgart, Germany, I can’t say I’m sorry to be switching venues. In fact, I think I would have been happy to switch venues within Germany, if we’d only had a choice in the matter.

A captive audience

Hilltop Hotel is a hotel specifically for people who have business with the U.S. government within the Stuttgart area. It’s located on Robinson Barracks, which is a U.S. government installation; therefore, the general public can’t access this hotel. On the other hand, military and government employees must use the Hilltop Hotel and other government run facilities if there is space available. The Stuttgart area currently has three such facilities; a fourth one is under construction. When Bill and I first came to Germany two years ago, the three government run hotels in Stuttgart were booked solid, so we spent six weeks living in a German hotel very close to where Bill worked.

When it came time for us to leave, there was space available on the “pet floor” at Hilltop Hotel. I was not too pleased about this development, mainly because Robinson Barracks is located quite a distance away from the other three military posts in the Stuttgart area. Robinson Barracks is a pretty area, but it mostly consists of housing, an elementary and middle school, a post office, and a small “CX”, which is a combined commissary and post exchange. There is a bus that runs to the other installations, all of which are at least 30 minutes away. Unfortunately, I have two dogs, and they’re not allowed to ride the bus.  Our cars are currently on different ships bound for the USA.

Our room

Bill and I checked into the Hilltop Hotel on Tuesday, September 8th. I was in a foul mood because we’d been working all day to clean up our German house. I was tired, sore, and hungry. We took the elevator to the fourth floor, where all the other pet owners are assigned, and took a stroll to room 404. My mood worsened when we opened the door and I got a look at the bed we’d all be sharing. Covered with a cheap floral spread, the bed looked pretty small. It’s supposedly a queen, but really felt more like a full… especially with our two beagles on board.

I looked around the room and took everything else in. There was a wall unit with a microwave, coffee maker, small refrigerator, television, DVD/VCR player, and a telephone (which didn’t seem to work very well). The television carried local German channels, as well as Armed Forces Network (AFN) satellite channels, a couple of BBC channels, and a few other British stations. Curiously, there was one channel that appeared to be Polish and aired Polish commercials, yet broadcasted programming in English. There was also a DSL connection located near the TV. A cord reached the small, beat up desk located next to the door.  A small clock radio sat on the desk, while a safe, iron, and ironing board were located in the closet. A ceiling fan capably circulated the air and made the tight bed space a little more bearable.

The rooms at the Hilltop Hotel have a lot of storage space, probably because a lot of people end up spending weeks at this hotel as they do temporary work in the Stuttgart area or wait for housing.  Because we were in a “pet room”, our room was not carpeted. Instead, it had a faux wood-like floor covering. Actually, I liked that, since the lack of carpeting was easier on my allergies.  The decor is strictly early 80s “country” style… cheap, tacky, and kind of depressing.

The bathroom

The bathroom had a shower, sink, a hairdryer, and a toilet. Housekeeping had thoughtfully left us a little basket of cheap toiletries with soap, shampoo, and lotion. A small mending kit came in handy when I found a splinter in my finger. When we first checked in, there was only one full sized towel in the bathroom.

I found using the shower and the toilet rather annoying for different reasons. Though the shower had excellent water pressure, it also had a small seat in it that cut down on the space available for standing up. Every time I took a shower, my elbow hit the tap, inadvertently knocking it either to an unacceptably hotter or colder temperature. I found the toilet annoying because of the way the bowl was shaped. Unlike the usual “shelf-style” toilets one finds in Europe, this toilet seemed to be rather shallow and narrow. Consequently, every time I took a dump, I had to use the toilet brush to scrub the residue from the side of the bowl where it would invariably end up sticking in a disgusting splatter.

Sleep

Bill and I found the bed in our room very uncomfortable. We are used to sleeping in a king sized bed, so the bed felt very small to us. But even if it had been a king sized bed, the mattress felt too hard. Consequently, my back was killing me for the duration of our stay.  I think this problem was also exacerbated by the horrible chair at the desk, which was very uncomfortable and not particularly functional.

Eats

There is no restaurant on-site, though there is one next to the hotel that is open five days a week. Breakfast is included with the room and is served in the lobby. It’s typical continental fare– bagels, muffins, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, juice, coffee, and hot chocolate. Be careful to look before you eat. Bill opened one carton of yogurt and found a couple of spots of penicillin growing on the lid.

The restaurant next to the Hilltop Hotel serves edible food to go. The best meal we had from there was the roasted half chicken with fries. However, we had a couple of less tasty meals from there, too. One night, Bill brought me what appeared to be a “fish and chips” inspired meal. The fish looked like it had been baked to the point of almost being burnt on the bottom, then frozen. It was still pretty cold in the middle when it was served.

Other facilities

One nice thing about the Hilltop Hotel is that there’s a laundry room on the ground floor. There are five or six washers and dryers and they can be used free of charge. A vending machine dispenses laundry detergent, fabric softener, snacks, and drinks, as well.  In the lobby, there are books, videos, and DVDs available to borrow.  I also heard a rumor that Lifecycle exercise equipment was available in the hotel, but I never sought it out.

There’s a little outdoor area next to the hotel where folks can smoke or have a little picnic. Each floor has a kitchen, though one must go to the front desk for a key. There’s a storage area in the bottom of the hotel where guests are encouraged to store excess luggage. And parking is free.

Service

I thought the housekeeping service did a good job. We didn’t ask them to service our room every day. On the days we did have them clean, they did a thorough job. At the very least, they emptied our trash cans every day and exchanged our towels.

I thought the service at the front desk was less impressive. First off, Bill was supposed to pay up front for our stay. When he tried to take care of that, the clerk had computer problems. The next morning, he went down to pay, and the clerk charged him the wrong amount. A different clerk seemed to have a terminally sour disposition. When my key card stopped working one afternoon, I went to the desk with my dogs to get some help. The sour clerk was on the phone and refused to acknowledge me, until my dogs started freaking out at the sight of other dogs. He shot me a dirty look. I shot one right back to him. It was only at that point that he got someone to help me. When Bill tried to call me, he asked that particular clerk to connect him to our room. The guy ended up hanging up on him instead. Only one of the three clerks we encountered was truly helpful and good natured.

Prices

Most people who stay at the Hilltop Hotel are there on the government’s dime and paying the current per diem rate. The government is paying $68 per night for us to stay in our double room. There are also a couple of extra charges for pets. We had to pay a “deep cleaning” fee of $30 for our room on the pet floor (the fee is higher for carpeted rooms on the lower levels). Each pet also costs an extra $3 a day.  Both key cards have to be turned in at check out.  Losing a key card results in a $20 fee, which I think is totally ridiculous.

Auf Wiedersehen

I really wish our last few days in Germany could have been spent in a nicer and more authentic hotel. I think the Hilltop Hotel could use a little refurbishing and shudder at the idea of having to live there for weeks on end. Alas, like so many others, Bill and I are at the mercy of the U.S. government when we travel on government business. Thankfully, the lodging at our new post in Atlanta doesn’t allow dogs, so we get to stay in a Hilton. Hopefully, we will find a new home quickly and start settling in… at least until our next move.

For more information: http://www.stuttgart.army.mil/sites/about/hilltophotel.asp

FYI: The Hilltop Hotel has now mercifully closed.

As I was reading this old review today, I was thinking that it was obviously kind of peevish. However, it wasn’t really a hatchet job or anything… I mean, I was pissed off about having to move, sad about losing Flea, and annoyed that we had to stay in a government run hotel that was inconvenient and uncomfortable. But I have certainly read worse reviews.

My write up went mostly unnoticed until about a year later, when someone– I am assuming a woman– decided I needed a good dressing down for daring to air my opinions on Epinions.com. She left me a rude, chastising response that made a lot of assumptions about me as a person. The comment made me very angry, so I wrote a rebuttal. In retrospect, I probably should have ignored the comment. If I got it today, I probably would have. But what can I say? I express myself through writing. I vent through using my words. So I wrote a rebuttal to the woman’s comment that was pretty caustic, which I also shared on the original version of this blog.

As I reread the comment I wrote, which basically took apart the woman’s critiques bit by bit, I realized that the casual reader might think I am a massive bitch. Or maybe, I’m just a little “crazy”. Below is what I wrote:

 My comments are italicized while the original commenter’s are in bold.

Wow… I’ll be honest. When I first read your comment, it really made me mad. But I’ve calmed down now, so allow me to take a few minutes to address your points. 

To complain about the furnishings is a bit snobbish. The toilet seat issue and the shower being too small…

My complaint about the shower wasn’t that it was too small. It was that there was a seat in it that took up space and made it difficult to take a shower. My husband and I are both short, average sized Americans and we both had the same complaint about the shower. As for the toilet, my comment wasn’t that the seat was too small, it was that the toilet was too shallow. I have never seen a toilet like the one at the Hilltop Hotel and it was a consistent issue for us. 

It surprises me that you think I’m a snob for expecting a basic level of comfort in a hotel, even if the government is paying the tab.

wow…I’ll be nice!

Your comment wasn’t in any way nice, though I do appreciate that you didn’t elect to add more undeserved snark to it.

I have been around the military for 20 years.

So what? I’ve been around the military for my entire 38 years of life. That doesn’t make either of our experiences any more valid than another person’s. Everybody’s different.

I have always seen those who are spoiled by our American ways, to be the first to complain. Come on now…this isn’t the Hilton…

Oh, so now you’re assuming that I’m a spoiled American, just because you’ve seen a few of them in your day? You don’t even know me. It so happens I’ve lived in three different countries, twice with the military, and once as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was in the third group to go to where my Peace Corps assignment was, so it definitely wasn’t cushy “American style” living. We had no electricity during my first year, and though I was lucky enough to have running water, a lot of my colleagues did not. I spent two years heating up bath water in a metal bucket on a kerosene heater, doing my laundry by hand, and reading novels by the light of an oil lamp. So yeah, I know very well that not every hotel is like a Hilton.

And the fact that the government is paying is irrelevant, especially given the fact that the government wasn’t doing us a favor in this regard. We stayed at the Hilltop Hotel because the government was forcing us to move, not because we were on a vacation. For $68 a night plus pet expenses, I certainly do expect that the furnishings will be somewhat up-to-date and comfortable, or at least utilitarian. That you would actually chastise me for expecting American style accommodations when, in fact, I was staying in an American run hotel is especially ironic. I probably would have been much happier if we had been in a German hotel.

the governments paying, why are you complaining??

Why aren’t you using basic proper English grammar and capitalization? Didn’t you go to elementary school? 

I realize most people are trying to profit from their reinbursement…if thats the case, then sorry for you.

This is an extremely offensive and totally baseless remark. While it may be true that some military folks try to profit off of per diem TDY payments, my husband and I aren’t in that category of people. But even if we were, it would neither be your business nor your place to make this comment. The fact is, a lot of people in the military use that extra money to make ends meet. It’s certainly not up to you to criticize them for doing that.

You made your stay miserable because you expected everything to be like America.

I beg your pardon? Who are you, Sylvia Browne? Again, you don’t even know me. You don’t know what my expectations or experiences are. You don’t know what the circumstances were during our stay. What a thoughtless remark this is.

Did you venture out to eat?

How could I? We had a rental car and my husband was using it for work purposes. And the hotel is not exactly close to the gates of Robinson Barracks.

There are so many wonderful restaurants in the area…some right there in the vineyards and they allow dogs inside!!

There are wonderful restaurants in Germany? No kidding! I lived in Germany on the economy for two years and had many opportunities to dine in some excellent locally run restaurants. But during my stay at the Hilltop Hotel, I had my dogs with me. While some dogs do great in public places, mine do not. Moreover, one of my dogs at the time was dying of prostate cancer and wasn’t up to hanging out with us in a restaurant.

I did stay in the room with my dogs, but it wasn’t because I had an attitude problem. It was because I did not want to leave them alone to bark and howl. I felt it would be inconsiderate to do that because I knew it was likely they would disturb other people in the hotel. But, according to you, I’m an ugly American and a snob because I was dismayed that there wasn’t a good restaurant nearby where I could get a good meal and still stay with my dogs to prevent them from bothering others. If I had gone out to eat and let them howl, I bet you would have chastised me for doing that, too.

I prefer diving right into the local culture…it makes the stay so much more fun… 

So do I. And believe me, the three times I’ve lived in other countries, I dove into the local culture and surrounding cultures with relish. I learned a lot and now I make money writing about my experiences. I certainly don’t need you to preach to me about this.

and who cares about the size of the toilet, the bed, the old beat up desk….

I do. And so do a lot of other travelers, especially when they’re spending their own money on a place to stay and/or having to do business. Since I make money as a writer, a decent desk is important to me. 

Moreover, a lot of people have read my review of this particular property, which leads me to believe that many people want to know what they’ll be getting for their money at the Hilltop Hotel. I’m surprised you’re not among them… or maybe you are? How else would you have found this review?

those things wouldn’t matter if you didn’t sit in your room and pout about them. 

And once again, you’re making an incorrect assumption about what I did, how I feel, and what kind of person I am. Let me remind you again that you don’t know me. Please stop acting as if you do. It’s giving me the creeps!

*** 
Since you’ve elected to leave me such a didactic comment, allow me to leave one for you. In your attempt to shame and belittle me for writing truthfully about my negative experiences at the Hilltop Hotel, you come off as a complete busybody… you know, the type I’ve often run into in my days as an Army wife. Wait– you’re not one of those? Pardon me. 

If I were to judge you solely based on your comments here, I might guess you are not very well educated, a bit of a gossip, and never actually ventured very far beyond the gates of the American bases in Germany… But, in fact, I don’t actually know you, so it would be terribly unfair of me to make that assumption about you, wouldn’t it? Especially since my assessment of you based on your comment might very well be incorrect. 

I can see that you’re a driveby, so I don’t expect you’ll ever read this comment, let alone respond to it; but I do think your incredibly condescending attitude is very unfair and every bit as snotty as you claim my review is. Believe me, if we’d had the choice to stay somewhere more conducive to our needs, we certainly would have. And then I never would have felt the need to write this review and make this unfortunate and hopefully brief connection with you. 

The next time you feel inclined to offer such personal comments about a complete stranger, I hope you’ll take a minute to think about it and focus on what the person said, not on what kind of person you think they are. And then, by all means, feel free to f*ck right off. 

Have a nice life. 

I don’t know what made me decide to put this exchange on the original blog, but sure enough, that post also invited some rather ironic criticism from the peanut galley. Two years after I posted the above, the blog commenter wrote this:

Umm-??
That seems like an AWFUL lot of time and energy to spend on responding to comments by – as you point out- someone you don’t even know/who doesn’t know you.
Honestly made my head spin:(

You seem like a nice woman. Why waste your words and your time??Who cares what they think?
I’m reminded of the saying” When you argue with fools….”(you risk looking like one):S 
Just sayin….

I don’t know the above poster. To my knowledge, he or she only visited me once, and it was ten years ago as of yesterday (seriously, the above person commented almost exactly ten years ago– why did this pop into my head today? Cue the Twilight Zone theme.). However, I was thinking about this today… and it struck me as kind of ironic. I wondered what made this person decide to offer their two cents on my blog, when they obviously didn’t enjoy the post. Also, the post they were commenting on was two years old, and the one that inspired it was three years old… Why take a moment to write a comment to me when you haven’t even bothered to notice when the post was written? And why tell me I’m wasting my time responding? Aren’t they kind of doing the same thing I did?

I thought about responding to this person with an explanation, but decided to leave them this retort:

You’re right. 😉

Obviously, the person didn’t see the irony of their comment. I mean, if you don’t like my post, and it makes your head spin, you can just keep scrolling, right? “Why “argue” with fools?”, and all. But, ten years later, I would like to answer the question that person asked. Why waste my words and my time?

Well, I “waste my time” because it’s mine to waste. And I “waste my words” because I am a writer, and writing mostly brings me pleasure. Not everyone enjoys what I do, but I genuinely enjoy writing… even when it’s just me “telling off” a rude, driveby commenter. I knew the above person wouldn’t be back, but I still felt it was prudent to leave a comment in case someone else decided to chime in. No one else did, by the way, because Epinions went defunct in 2014. Again, by the time that person commented about how my rebuttal made their head spin, my Blogger post was already two years old. That “wasted time” and energy was long gone by then. And what would I have done to pass the time if I hadn’t ranted? Masturbated? Mowed the lawn? Cleaned the lint out of my belly button? Are any of those things more productive than writing a snarky rebuttal? I don’t know…

I like to preserve these kinds of posts, though, because they remind me of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. For example, if I had gotten the above comments today, I probably wouldn’t have been so hacked off. But in 2010, I was still an Army wife, and I was a bit angry and frustrated about a lot of things, not the least of which the judgmental and critical attitudes a lot of servicemembers and their spouses have toward each other. I also don’t like it when people tell me what to do, especially on my own space.

Anyway, my answer to “who cares what they think?” is, in reality, I don’t so much. But I don’t like being lectured by people, or judged. And the reality is, that poster from ages ago, was really offensive. I knew it wouldn’t matter if I responded, but I just felt like I had to. Today, I don’t think I would feel the same way. I am not the same person in 2022, at age 49 as I was in 2010, at age 38.

But also, in 2009, when I wrote the original review, I was legitimately feeling upset about a lot of things. The crappy hotel was icing on the cake. We were leaving Germany a year early, and it was our favorite duty station. The “job” Bill was going to was pretty bogus, even though he was requested by name. It turned out to be bullshit, although it ended up working out for us in some ways. Bill learned how to brew beer, and we found our sweet Zane. But that move also set off the next three moves within a five year timespan. That was rough on us. On the other hand, if we hadn’t left Germany when we did, we might not be living here now.

I’ve come to realize that things tend to happen for a reason. And that move, as painful as it was, happened for a reason. It led us to where we are now, which isn’t a bad place. Still… it would have been nice if we had been allowed to choose a better hotel that suited our needs instead of the shitty one at Robinson Barracks. And then I wouldn’t have written my rebuttal to that person, who had been at the hotel five years earlier and had a better time… and proceeded to try to “school” me on Army life. Seriously? What a fuckin’ asshole. And I know it’s unfair of me to stereotype, but I totally know the type of “spouse” she is… a busybody who makes themselves feel better by belittling others. At least my initial review was mostly about the facilities, rather than a personal attack. Then, to have some other person belittle me further for responding, on my personal blog, no less, was especially rich. What makes that person think I needed or wanted their advice?

Anyway… as Dr. Phil would say, it’s just one of my psychological sunburns. But the good news is, my physical health may be about to decline, so these types of “trivial issues” that strangers like to tell me I should “blow off” may soon become less important to me.

I did get a nice comment from my friend, Smorg, who was a fellow Epinionator and occasional blog reader. She wrote this:

I was tempted to check the ‘funny’ button, but I guess I was looking more for the ‘incredulous’ button instead. :oP That’s a downside of internet comments, it seems… The anonymity it allows makes it easy for people to let their Mr. Hyde side out. 

We get a lot of that from supposedly sophisticated opera fans on youtube opera clips. It still amazes me sometimes how some people can presume to deduce so much into an opera singer’s personal life just by listening to a 2 minutes clip of her singing an aria as an opera character. :oP 

Sometimes we all have gotta vent a little… Just like Visuvius or Etna or St. Helena… so that we can look serene and beautiful the rest of the time (that’s my excuse, anyhow). ;o)

And I wrote this in response:

This post was not really meant to be about the inane commenter as much as it was about how I processed the comment. I don’t usually “go off” in comments the way I did with that Epinions commenter. I think what set me off is that she (I’m assuming it was a “she”) came across like some of the stereotypical spouses I used to run into a lot when I lived on an Army post. To be frank, I don’t really fit in that well as an Army wife, even though I grew up a military brat.  

Anyway, the Epinions poster’s comment was just very personal and insulting and yes, very presumptuous. And yet, I get the feeling she really was trying to be “helpful” and edifying. So I decided to respond in an over-the-top way, even with the knowledge that she would probably never come back to read what I had to say. I have to admit, it was actually kind of fun to respond to her, even if the more adult reaction would have been to just let her stupidity stand for itself.  

Oddly enough, this particular blog post has mostly been ignored until just a few days ago… when yet again, someone felt strongly enough about it to join Blogger just to set me straight on MY blog, no less! Hey… it’s my time, my energy, and my image on the line. If I want to go off on someone, that’s my business, right? In all seriousness, I am grateful when people read my blog and leave comments, especially since this blog is mostly me blowing off steam.

Yeah… although I would probably not bother to respond the same way as I did in 2010 or 2012 today, I do sometimes feel like blowing off steam, as we all do sometimes. And the Epinions commenter has just made me realize how glad I am that I’m not in very many of the military Facebook groups anymore. That kind of snarky and derisive attitude is very prevalent in the military community, and it’s very damaging. But that’s a thought for another post, on another day…

Standard
communication, complaints, Military, rants, social media

“Educate yourself!” Most of us would be wise to follow our own advice…

The featured photo is a meme that was posted by a popular veteran’s page on Facebook.

Happy President’s Day, everybody. We had a boring weekend at home, as is par for the course in these pandemic times. In ordinary times, we would have gone away for the weekend, but I’m actually glad we didn’t do that. The weather has been downright crappy. This weekend was cold, windy, and rainy. There was some sun on Saturday, but the temperatures weren’t very pleasant. And since Germany still has COVID measures going on, that makes me not want to go out. I don’t enjoy being indoors with a FFP2 mask strapped to my face and people watching my every move to make sure I follow the rules.

Does that sound paranoid? It probably does… but this is an attitude I’ve noticed over the past couple of years. People are watching. I generally do follow the rules, but I don’t like the feeling of being surveilled by strangers. My desire to go out and see the world isn’t strong enough to deal with that kind of scrutiny, so I just stay home.

I spent several hours yesterday creating a new “AM Gold” playlist for my music library. I downloaded quite a number of albums and spent some money I probably shouldn’t have. But, as I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, ordinarily we would have gone out of town and spent the money anyway. We will be taking a trip next week to see our dentist in Stuttgart, then we’ll go spend the weekend in France. Hopefully, the weather will be somewhat better for that. I hope the COVID rules will be less onerous in France, too, but I’m not holding my breath.

We’ve come to a turning point in the pandemic, as was inevitable when this shitshow started in March 2020. Even cautious Germans are discussing dropping some of the rules. As of March 20, which would mark the second anniversary of the plague, most COVID restrictions are set to be rescinded. Masks are still going to be required, which I know makes a lot of people happy because they feel safer when people wear masks. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I hate the masks with a passion and will be delighted to see them go. But I generally follow the rules, so all I do is complain and avoid being in situations where masks are needed. Other people are much bolder about their rebellion, which sometimes leads to trouble.

Yesterday, I noticed a thread on Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. He wrote a very kind and caring post about how he hopes those who haven’t been vaccinated will get the shot(s), because pretty soon, it will be every person for themselves. I appreciated Wil’s thoughts on this. I think he’s reasonable and well-informed.

I wish all famous people were this decent.

Not surprisingly, Wil got a few rude comments about how this is all a conspiracy to make money for politicians and “Big Pharma”. I was impressed by Wil’s reasonable and calm responses to the people who pushed back against his rational thoughts on the vaccines. And there were also comments from the other side of the spectrum. Several people lamented about how no one cares about them or their lives because they are immunocompromised. They are legitimately scared that when the rules are rescinded, their lives will be in danger.

On one level, I can sympathize with people who are immunocompromised. It is scary to think that soon there could be a “free for all”. However, on another level, I want to tell them that this is the way it’s always been. It’s really every person for themselves. For two years, people have lived with rules that have upended lives and caused significant problems. Some people have died during the pandemic, not because they got the virus, but because they suffered from mental health issues or delayed necessary healthcare. Or they’ve been in accidents or been victims of crimes. The sad reality is, life is about risks. COVID presents another one of many risks that we all face every day.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to go on living with these rules and restrictions indefinitely. I also don’t think it’s realistic to assume that the whole world is going to get on the same page when it comes to their behaviors regarding the pandemic. Politics and religions, as well as cultural mores and personal needs, play into how a person behaves. I know that some people will choose to wear face masks for the rest of their lives. I don’t think there should be any issue with that. It doesn’t hurt you or me if someone chooses to wear a mask. On the other hand, other people will not want to do that. I think that should be okay, too.

I noticed one sanctimonious comment by a guy on Wil’s post who wrote he has a “needle phobia”, but still managed to get vaccinated. Someone else added, “I would tell anyone with a needle phobia to consider how many needles they’ll be subjected to if they are hospitalized because of COVID.” To those two people, I would say that neither of them understand phobias. The first person probably doesn’t have a legitimate “needle phobia”. The second person clearly doesn’t understand what it really means to have a phobia. People who have a phobia have an irrational fear, and even downright terror, of something that doesn’t ordinarily cause people to be scared.

For instance, I have a phobia of mushrooms. No amount of telling me how delicious they are, or how their flesh feels like a rubber ball, or how they are beautiful or cute, will make me want to see them, touch them, smell them, or eat them. I freeze up when I’m confronted by mushrooms. I know it’s ridiculous and irrational. That’s what makes it a phobia. Trying to scare people who have needle phobias, with mean spirited comments about what they will face if they are hospitalized, isn’t helpful. All it does is scare them even more, and it shows a stunning lack of compassion, as well as great ignorance. People have laughed at me for my whole life for having a phobia. I wish I could help it, but I can’t. Fortunately, avoiding mushrooms due to a phobia is not a life or death issue, as avoiding the vaccines might be.

One attitude that I’ve gotten really tired of is the constant need to shame people and discount their opinions. I’m not saying it’s wrong to express disagreement with someone. I’m saying that I’ve gotten tired of the derisive and downright rude responses people have toward each other– people they don’t even know– simply because they disagree. It’s on both sides of the pandemic issue. I don’t think it’s helpful, for instance, when someone writes a negative opinion about, say, vaccines, and a stranger posts a GIF of a crying toddler. Someone did that to me at the beginning of the pandemic. My response was to tell her to knock it off. That shit doesn’t help, and it’s rude and disrespectful. I won’t be having a dialogue with someone who does stuff like that. It doesn’t change hearts or minds, either. All it does is cause people to double down on their opinions.

This image is a false equivalency that really isn’t helpful.

Above is a photo that appeared on VoteVets, which is a left leaning Facebook page for people in the US military community. I know what the intent of sharing this was, but I don’t think these kinds of snarky, shaming posts are helpful. I also don’t think there’s any comparison between the two situations. One photo involves an adult person who presumably chose to join the military for whatever reason. Another involves a person who needs to go shopping for essentials. Everybody has to shop, and some people legitimately have good reasons why they have difficulties wearing face masks. Not everyone is suitable for military service or would willingly make the choice to serve. Moreover, I think it’s tasteless to use servicemembers to guilt monger others.

Sure enough, there were plenty of shitty comments posted about this image, with very few people changing their minds. It was just an echo chamber of negativity, wasted time arguing with people with diametrically opposed opinions, and plenty of virtue signaling thrown in for good measure. Actually, I’ve come to expect that in a lot of groups or pages devoted to the military community. Disrespect toward others seems to be a guiding principle, as long as there isn’t rank involved. It’s like they take out having to salute their leaders online, directing their rudeness toward perfect strangers. I’m so glad Bill isn’t like that.

Just a few days ago, there was an excellent editorial in The Local Germany written by someone who thinks Germany should be more tolerant toward people who can’t wear masks. The author cited his friend, an artist with autism and severe sensory issues that cause debilitating physical symptoms when she wears a mask. The artist lives in Britain, where people can get medical exemptions to wearing masks. Here in Germany, her experience was mostly very negative and unnecessarily nasty. Zero tolerance policies often lead to innocent people being punished, or people getting punished when they shouldn’t be, due to unforeseen circumstances. Since the article is behind a paywall, here are a few snippets:

What I think is especially sad is that whenever someone expresses an opinion, he or she is liable to be personally attacked by someone they don’t know. This is someone who doesn’t know a thing about the person they are insulting. They don’t know or care why someone has the opinion they have, nor do they care about the person they are insulting. They just spew aggression and insults. I know this is borne out of frustration and fear, not to mention the very real fatigue that comes with daily bad news about the rogue virus that keeps mutating and making people sick and/or killing them.

But… I’ve got news for those who think this COVID-19 lifestyle should go on forever. People die every day for a huge variety of reasons. Since March 20, 2020, I have lost three family members and a dear friend. Three of the four of them were pretty young to be dying, but not a single one of them died of COVID-19. COVID is just one of many risks that we face every day. A person who wants to go back to a more normal lifestyle isn’t a bad person for wanting that after two years of lockdowns, face masks, and limited travel. Yes, it would be great if every single person on the planet had 100 percent regard and consideration for other people, but unfortunately, that isn’t the way of the world. I wish it was, but it’s not. So instead of fretting about what’s going to happen when mask and vaccine mandates go away, I think it might be more prudent to take the steps that will mitigate risks and hope for the best.

There are always going to be people who think it’s too early to relax the rules. There will always be at least one person who will say the pandemic isn’t over yet. They probably won’t even be wrong. I commend those who are committed to being disciplined, as long as it makes them happy to be that way. I don’t think it’s right to condemn other people who choose a different path. This simply can’t go on forever, and there’s never going to be a situation in which everyone will be satisfied. That’s because we all have opinions, and those opinions are shaped by our own perspectives. If you want people to respect your views, you should probably try to respect theirs, even if you think they are dead wrong. I strongly doubt that we’ll ever have a situation in which everyone agrees. Part of living in a free society is having the ability to disagree.

I know it’s a pipe dream that people will be nicer about disagreements. I sure wish it weren’t so, though. For all of those who are screaming “educate yourself”, I would like to say that they should follow their own advice. Stop and think about it for a moment. Maybe that person does have a valid point. Either way, you probably don’t have to be an asshole to them… at least not at first. I know it’s easier said that done. So often, I’ve been tempted to leave a snarky or rude comment for someone. Then I’ll approach with more respect. Finally, I usually just delete my comment, because unfortunately, I’ve found that commenting on social media is just a waste of time. That’s mainly why I blog.

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bad TV, domestic violence, LDS, mental health, Military, poor judgment, psychology, true crime

You’re gonna have to face it; you’re addicted to DRAMA!

This post is potentially triggering, as it involves discussion of child abuse and death. Proceed with caution.

Over the past few days, and much to my chagrin, I have fallen down the Dr. Phil rabbit hole. I am not proud of myself for this habit. When we last lived in the States, I would watch Dr. Phil on TV, feeling a little dirty as the entertainer with expired and surrendered counseling credentials brought on one trainwreck after another. And I’d sit there and watch, as the people told their stories, and Dr. Phil would lob witticisms at them and, at times, bully, berate, and humiliate them with his overbearing Texas style. A lot of people genuinely like Dr. Phil McGraw. I really don’t like him, but I will admit sometimes he brings interesting stories to his show… interesting in terms of personal drama. And it’s easier to watch that show than try to read a book, as my eyesight gets less acute.

Someone on YouTube uploaded a bunch of episodes from 2014, and I started binge watching them earlier this week. Some of the shows have been downright ridiculous. A few have been sad. One or two were funny, but in a tragic way… like the woman who was married to a very dramatic and controlling man with anxiety issues. I made Bill watch an episode that featured a guy who treated his wife like a child, right down to shaming and scolding her as if one would lecture a six year old. But we saw an episode yesterday that actually made Bill cry… (not that it’s hard to do that… he’s a very kind and sympathetic person, and this episode was sad on multiple levels)

This show, which I think might have been taped in late 2013, was the story about Matt, his ex wife Mindy, and to a lesser extent, his second wife, Heidi. They’re all members of the LDS church, which of course drew in my attention even more, since Bill is an ex Mormon. You might think that Mormonism isn’t relevant in this situation, and maybe it isn’t in the grand scheme of things. However, at the beginning of the program, Mindy talks about texting her bishop as Matt held her and their four young children hostage. Then they showed a couple of typically Mormon-esque picture perfect family photos that were classic “families can be forever together” propaganda. I’ve gotten to the point at which I suspect a family is LDS simply by how they look in photos. Most of the time, I turn out to be right. Some of my ex Mormon friends refer to this special knack as “Modar”.

This episode of Dr. Phil was a real humdinger…

This episode was dramatic and, frankly, very sad. Matt was a member of the Utah National Guard and had deployed to Iraq. He was also, at one time, a sniper in the Marines. It’s very possible he suffers from PTSD and possibly, a traumatic brain injury, and that was brought up on the show. Maybe that could explain the sheer craziness of his life that, unfortunately, was visited on his four children with Mindy, and at least one child with Heidi. Here’s a quick and dirty list of the things their family faced in 12 years of marriage, before Mindy divorced Matt while he was incarcerated:

  • On January 31, 2008, Matt held Mindy and their children hostage inside their Eagle Mountain, Utah home at gunpoint. A SWAT team was dispatched to end the crisis. He had two pistols, two rifles, and a shotgun, as well as plenty of ammunition. Matt would spend 490 days in jail for this stunt.
  • The hostage situation arose that morning in 2008 because Mindy had “refused” intimacy.
  • Matt made his daughter lick the floor around the toilet to prove that she had cleaned it properly.
  • Their five year old son had gone through many surgeries due to kidney stones. One time, the boy was in so much pain, he told Matt he wanted to die. Matt handed the boy a knife and told him that if he wanted to die, he should just stab himself in the chest. Matt claimed he was trying to find out if the boy was “serious”, and assess “where he was mentally.” Then Matt told Dr. Phil that he would have stopped his son from harming himself if the boy– five years old, mind you– had tried to harm himself.
  • Matt whipped his children with a belt.
  • Matt duct taped his son to a bench when he was two. At the time of the Dr. Phil taping, that boy was 15 years old and in foster care. Mindy says she put him in foster care because he assaulted her. Matt said he wanted to take the boy home after his treatment.
  • Matt took the family dog, and his young son, out to the desert, where he shot the dog 15 times, because he deemed her a “danger” to the family. The young son was forced to bury her.
  • One of the couple’s daughters died of osteosarcoma just three weeks before this episode was taped.
  • Matt remarried, and his second wife “hates” Mindy, because she thinks Mindy is a controlling and manipulative liar who “pushes Matt’s buttons”.

I guess they had to stop at just these incidents, since each episode only runs for about an hour. Obviously, the most dramatic incident, of quite a few dramatic situations that occurred within this family, was the one involving the SWAT team. On the morning of January 31, 2008, they had an argument, and somehow, Matt decided he needed to hold Mindy and their children hostage. According to Dr. Phil, there were fifty police officers involved in that situation, thirty of whom were SWAT team members. Fortunately, Mindy was able to text their bishop, who called the police. Otherwise, there might have been some fatalities that day.

This particular true crime incident is well documented in the press, and it’s pretty easy to find news articles about it, even though fourteen years have passed. According to Deseret News in 2008, Matt “was arrested after refusing to come out and talk with police officers for nearly four hours. He has since been charged with aggravated kidnapping, domestic violence in the presence of a child and making a terroristic threat.

But the worst part of the story for both Bill and me, was the part about how he took the family dog to the desert and shot her in the head fifteen times, in front of his son, who was then forced to help bury the pieces of her that he could recover. I can’t abide animal cruelty, especially when it’s coupled with child abuse. According to Matt, the dog had escaped the yard and knocked over a child, then ran to a neighbor’s house where she attacked another dog. The story is kind of vague. I got the sense that Matt was just overcome with rage and wanted to kill something. So he took the defenseless dog and his son, claiming that his young son wanted to be a part of executing the family pet in an egregiously cruel and violent way. Personally, I think he should have gone to jail for doing that, but I prefer pets to most people.

Shockingly, in spite of the well-publicized violent crime perpetrated by Matt, he managed to remarry. His second wife, a woman named Heidi, also said that Matt had been violent in their home. However, at the time the show was aired, he hadn’t yet held her at gunpoint. She said he had destroyed pottery by throwing it at the fireplace.

Close to the end of the episode, the family shares part of the story about the daughter who died of cancer. Matt complained that Mindy would not allow him to see their daughter, who was hospitalized with cancer and immunocompromised. Matt complains that Mindy withheld visitation, and kept him from seeing their children. Personally, I can’t blame her for withholding visitation, given Matt’s violent nature, BUT… she also had four children with this man, and stayed with him for twelve years. And I get the sense that she enjoys being a victim and the drama that goes along with that. I can plainly see that that while Matt is obviously the worse parent in this scenario, Mindy is definitely no great shakes herself.

I got so invested in this story that I went looking for more information on the people who appeared on it. Sure enough, it didn’t take me long to find Matt’s ex wife. Much to my surprise, I discovered that Mindy was apparently later involved with yet another dangerous and violent man. I found a news article about how her ex boyfriend had burned down their home in 2019. At first, I wondered if maybe it wasn’t someone else who had the same name as hers, but the physical resemblance was right. And then I found Matt’s second wife on Facebook, and saw that she “liked” a Facebook page that was dedicated to Matt’s and Mindy’s daughter, who died of cancer in 2013. I did some digging on that page and discovered a couple of posts about the house fire. The GoFundMe that was set up to help Mindy and her family recover did not mention arson. I was thinking to myself… what in the hell? Was it not enough for her to be married to a violent man? She also got involved with another violent man who resorted to arson? Those poor kids!

I paged through the Facebook page for Mindy’s and Matt’s late daughter. I was a bit shocked to see that several times, Mindy had posted one particularly traumatic photo of her daughter being held down for a painful cancer treatment. The girl is in obvious distress, mouth open, eyes wide in fear, and there are several pairs of gloved hands holding her down. One person commented that she thought it was wrong to post that photo of the girl being traumatized like that. She wrote, “What on earth??? Who would think to take a picture…. not me that’s for sure.” Others wrote that Mindy was just trying to show everyone how terrible childhood cancer is. People shamed the woman who expressed shock at the photo and said it reminded her of taking pictures of child abuse.

I noticed that Mindy posted that horrifying photo of her daughter in distress several times, not just once, which makes me think that maybe the drama and the attention Mindy still gets by proxy is attractive to her. The more I looked at the page dedicated to the girl, the more I was reminded of Bill’s ex wife, who posts the same kinds of stuff. If you don’t know Ex, you might think she’s the mother of the year who is all about her kids. She’s constantly posting platitudes about what a caring person she is. In fact, Ex recently publicly posted the below photos on social media. But behind the scenes, the truth lies. In Ex’s case, it’s been affirmed by at least two of her adult children. She puts this stuff out there for strangers to see, obviously hoping to impress them and bask in the dramatic glory, while she alternately ignores and exploits her children, and other supposed loved ones in her life.

Sadly, Ex, in your own children’s lives, that’s not you… But keep posting these public platitudes. Maybe someone will believe your bullshit.
Could she be markedly different today than she was a few years ago? Maybe… but I really doubt it.

On the Dr. Phil episode, Dr. Phil says that Mindy’s and Matt’s eldest daughter wrote him a letter. In that letter, she wrote about the way her father treated her, and why she didn’t want to have anything to do with him. Below are a few screenshots from the letter the girl wrote:

At the end of Dr. Phil’s recitation of the excerpts of the daughter’s letter, Matt almost sounds like he’s going to cry, as he says he’s repeatedly apologized, but his daughter won’t accept his apologies. And there’s nothing more he can do; his therapist said that it was “all on his daughter”. I would agree with that.

Next, Dr. Phil talks to Heidi, who says she has a lot of animosity toward Mindy and she “hates” her. As I listen to Heidi, I can kind of empathize with her, on one level. She sounds a lot like I do, when I talk about Ex. However, the big difference is, my husband is NOT abusive or dangerous at all. He doesn’t even raise his voice, let alone resort to violence. I actually can’t blame Mindy for keeping their children from her ex husband. He is clearly a very violent and abusive man. On the other hand, I can also see why Heidi dislikes Mindy, because she does seem to be very egocentric, attention-seeking, and manipulative.

I don’t know if Heidi is still with Matt today, but I was really taken aback at around 29:00 into the video, during which she describes one of Matt’s violent outbursts toward her. She says he’s called her filthy names and threatened to beat the shit out of her if she called the police. He said he was not going to jail again unless he “deserved it”. At the time of that threat, she was holding their infant daughter. He took the baby from her, not because he was concerned for the baby’s welfare, but because he didn’t want her to take the baby from him. Heidi says she loves Matt, though, in spite of his obviously dangerous and violent nature.

Below are screenshots of Matt confronting Mindy about “stealing” his time with the children. You can see he’s on the verge of exploding. But Mindy looks dispassionate as she responds, “You stole my son’s childhood.” I would say that they both stole their children’s childhoods. She made a choice to stay with this man and have four children with him. Did this violent nature arise only at the end of their marriage? Maybe if he became violent only after going to Iraq, I could see it. I still definitely would have left after he killed the dog.

This story was quite the colossal trainwreck. I almost felt bad for watching it, because it was just so horrifying on so many levels. Yes, I know Dr. Phil brings people on his show that are trainwrecks, and he makes a living out of presenting cases of people who are in fucked up situations to be judged by the masses. It’s pretty terrible that this family’s drama was turned into entertainment… and I am slightly ashamed that I watched this episode, even though the drama was very compelling and, frankly, fascinating. But then, these folks agreed to go on the show, which they didn’t have to do. And the fact that they went on the show, apparently thinking that Dr. Phil would take a side, just shows that they’re all pretty delusional. I also found a recent Facebook post by Heidi that indicates she’s an anti-vaxxer who enjoys watching Tucker Carlson and Fox News.

There wasn’t any talk about Mormonism on this program, except for when Mindy says she contacted the bishop, who thankfully called the police when Matt was holding her and the kids hostage in their home. I do wonder, though, if people in the church noticed how completely crazy that couple was together. I doubt Mormonism helped them much, as bishops aren’t always qualified to counsel people in their wards, not that counseling would have helped this couple. I also notice that Mindy still uses her ex husband’s last name. I don’t know if they were endowed members of the church, but according to LDS beliefs, if they were “sealed” in the temple, she will be with him after they’re all dead. Comforting thought… NOT.

Dr. Phil ends this episode by telling the adults that the children did not “buy a ticket for this trainwreck” and they need to “declare peace.” I’m sure Dr. Phil knows that declaring peace is much easier said than done. It sounds to me like Matt does have a medical problem. It probably was brought on by neurological issues, perhaps due to his time in Iraq. But I also think his ex wife has some serious problems, and those problems existed even before the tragic death of their daughter. And while I can sympathize with Heidi, having been a second wife to a man with a dramatic, attention-seeking ex wife, I think our situations are very different. My husband is not violent at all, and thank God for that.

Maybe it’s wrong for me to write about this. I was a bit triggered, though, and I write when I’m triggered. I think people who go on reality TV or talk shows are kind of fair game, particularly when they augment their stuff by being in the news and posting public social media posts that are designed to get attention from the masses. Unfortunately, as we have learned from watching families like the Duggars go down in flames, going viral, seeking widespread attention, and being famous is a mixed bag. You can’t always control public perception. I think Mindy, like Ex, wants to portray herself in a certain way, but it’s pretty obvious to me that she’s playing a role. And while I might be able to excuse her for marrying one very violent and abusive man, the fact that she got involved with another violent person– one who apparently tried to burn down her house– and then she went on the news to complain about it– tells me that she enjoys being portrayed as a victim/saintly mother type. I would be a lot more impressed with her if she took some responsibility for herself and her children and focused on making sure they are safe, even though I’m sure her surviving kids are adults by now.

I guess today, it might be good if I went back to watching dog grooming videos.

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condescending twatbags, healthcare, Military, obits, politicians, politics, poor judgment, stupid people

Another Republican politician dies of COVID-19. It’s like watching Darwinism in real time…

Last night, after I played my latest solo project for Bill, I took a gander at the news. There it was… another sad news story about a “freedom fighter” dying of COVID-19, years before her time. This time, the deceased was one of my contemporaries, 46 year old Kelly Ernby, who was a “rising star” in conservative politics in California.

Ms. Ernby was a political newcomer and served as the Deputy District Assistant Attorney in Orange County. Two years ago, she ran for an Orange County state Assembly seat as a Republican candidate, challenging Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon in the primaries. Ernby lost to Dixon, who then lost to Democrat Cottie Petrie-Norris.

In spite of losing the election, Ernby remained passionate about politics. Before the pandemic, Ernby was especially riled up about a California state law that tightened immunization rules for children in school. According to the Los Angeles Times, Erby said at the time:

“I don’t think that the government should be involved in mandating what vaccines people are taking,” she said. “I think that’s a decision between doctors and their patients…. If the government is going to mandate vaccines, what else are they going to mandate?”

More recently, Ernby was fighting COVID-19 vaccine mandates. On December 4, 2021, Ernby spoke publicly outside the Irvine City Hall against vaccine mandates at a rally organized by a group called Turning Point USA, which has chapters at the University of California, Irvine and California State University, Fullerton. The Los Angeles Times reports that the event drew “dozens”… which may be impressive, given it was California.

Ernby, who was the daughter of Navy veterans, said “There’s nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now…” She also compared the vaccine mandates to so-called 1960s era “socialist ideals”, claiming that requiring people to be vaccinated is a violation of their civil rights. I would submit that freedom is totally useless when you’re dead.

I think she should have been paying more attention to what was going on in her own backyard. If she spent any time in Norway, she might have noticed that Europeans, as a whole, are more community minded than Americans are, and less selfish. Also, Norway is not nearly as populated and has a very different medical system. It’s interesting that she was a Republican, but looked favorably at a country with universal healthcare coverage as a model to emulate.

Kelly Ernby, who was unvaccinated, is now dead, and leaves a grieving husband, who has been speaking out against conservative wingnuts who are falsely claiming that his wife died because she was vaccinated. After Ernby’s death was announced, seemingly left-leaning trolls flooded Ernby’s Facebook and Twitter accounts with laughing reactions and mocking comments. They did the same to Ernby’s husband. Mattias Axel Ernby’s social media accounts are now being hammered with comments from people on either side of the spectrum. Lefties are laughing about her death, while right wingers are promoting ridiculous conspiracy theories. It’s a fucking circus and a disgrace.

It’s too bad she wasn’t vaccinated. I have read that Kelly Ernby was a somewhat sensible Republican. She might have done some real good.

I don’t think it’s funny that Kelly Ernby died. I think it’s sad, and it was probably preventable. If she had been vaccinated, she probably wouldn’t have gotten so sick that she died at just 46 years old. I think it’s shameful that such an obviously bright and articulate woman didn’t take COVID-19 seriously enough to save herself and get a safe, effective vaccination. I think it’s sad that her widower now has to deal with Internet assholes who are taking this opportunity to harass him, when they should show him basic respect and leave him alone so he can grieve.

After I read about Kelly Ernby’s unfortunate death, I saw another article run by the Army Times about how the Navy has been blocked from acting against 35 sailors who refused COVID vaccines on “religious grounds”. A federal judge in Texas has granted a primary injunction against Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s decision to make COVID vaccines mandatory. Although servicemembers can theoretically refuse to get vaccinated for religious or other grounds, no one who has applied for an exception to policy has been granted the waiver. So Justice Reed O’Connor, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, wrote:

“The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect… The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”

Again, to Judge O’Connor, I would say that freedom is pretty useless when a person is dead. I have never served in the military, but I have been around military folks my whole life. One thing I know is that the people who sued for the right to skip COVID vaccines should probably start looking for new work. I think their careers are over now. Of course, I could be wrong… but I doubt I am. The Army Times continued:

O’Connor wrote that they objected to being vaccinated on four grounds: “opposition to abortion and the use of aborted fetal cell lines in development of the vaccine; belief that modifying one’s body is an affront to the Creator; divine instruction not to receive the vaccine, and opposition to injecting trace amounts of animal cells into one’s body.”

“Plaintiffs’ beliefs about the vaccine are undisputedly sincere, and it is not the role of this court to determine their truthfulness or accuracy,” the judge wrote.

What I do know is that the military depends on the concept of “readiness”, which means that everyone has to be “ready” to deploy anywhere in the world. The last place an unvaccinated person needs to be is on a ship or a submarine, with super tight quarters and no access to medical facilities. We also know that COVID-19 spreads faster than a hooker’s legs. So a COVID positive person on a ship, in a tank, or an airplane, or any of the other tight spots where servicemembers typically operate, would be potentially disastrous.

Vaccines are just part of military and government service life. They were part of my Peace Corps experience, too. I had to get MANY shots to serve in Armenia, and I still came home with a nasty bug that took three courses of very strong antibiotics to get rid of permanently. I don’t know what these sailors have been doing over the course of their careers, but I’d love to know how COVID-19 can be exempted on religious grounds, when they clearly had no issues with the other shots they no doubt had to receive.

I went to the comment section, because I noticed a lot of gleeful laughter and love reactions. Sure enough, the first comment was by a guy who claimed that vaccines don’t work. He based his comment on the fact that vaccinated and boosted people are still getting infected. One lone brave man made a comment challenging him. I decided to chime in too, even though I usually regret communicating with certain military types, because a lot of them are ignorant and don’t appreciate “uppity women” like me. In fact, I noticed that the guy did respond to me, but I chose to ignore him completely, because I was about to go to bed.

What I wrote was that the vaccines are intended to prevent people from getting seriously ill. They are to keep people out of the hospitals so that folks with chronic diseases can still access care and the poor doctors and nurses who have to take care of the sick and dying can get a respite. I will admit I was a little testy in my response, mentioning that people who think they know more than scientists do are DYING, and many of them are pitifully BEGGING for the vaccines before they go. And then I linked the story about Kelly Ernby, who is just the latest Republican “anti-vaxxer victim” who has succumbed to COVID-19.

As much as I dislike it when people behave irresponsibly or ignorantly, I don’t take any pleasure in reading or hearing about people dying of COVID-19, alone, and gasping for breath or waiting to be intubated. I don’t laugh at people who die because they are stubborn or willfully ignorant. I think it’s tragic, and I feel sad for the people left behind when these folks refuse to behave in a sensible, community-minded, responsible manner. And I especially feel sad for the medical personnel who have to stand by, exhausted and defeated, while another one of their patients dies in front of them.

After I wrote my response to the snarky servicemember, who probably answered me in the style of “Slow down there, ‘Dependa'”, it occurred to me that people like Kelly Ernby and her ilk have the LUXURY of speaking out about “optional” vaccines because generations before them did their parts and got vaccinated. Diseases that used to be much deadlier, like polio, smallpox, diphtheria, measles, influenza, cholera, malaria, anthrax, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and so forth, no longer kill as many people as they once did. And so, people like Kelly Ernby have no concept of how terrible communicable diseases can be, and how they can KILL innocent people, or cause permanent disabilities.

A few years ago, before COVID struck, I wrote a post about how a politician was promoting an episode of The Brady Bunch as an example of how “not serious” the measles is. Honestly, some politicians are truly stupid. Ignoring the fact that The Brady Bunch was, in no way, akin to real life, I suggest that anyone who thinks measles can’t be very serious and wants to use a 70s era sitcom as “proof”, first take a look at a 2001 episode of ER called “A Walk in the Woods” for a different perspective on how measles can affect and kill children. Yes, it’s true that many people don’t get that sick from measles, but it can and does make some people very sick and cause premature death. That’s why we’ve had a vaccine against it for so many years.

I’m against government overreach, as a basic rule, but when it comes to communicable diseases, particularly the kinds that are as deadly as COVID has proven to be, I definitely think that one person’s freedom of bodily autonomy ends where another person’s begins. And until COVID mutates to something less harmful, I do agree with vaccine mandates affecting those who can take the shots. It’s a matter of life and death for some people.

And as much as I don’t want to see Republican fringed nutjobs like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert in charge, I also don’t enjoy seeing people die of their own stupidity. I really hope some of these folks wise up and learn a lesson from people like Kelly Ernby. Unfortunately, it takes personal experience to change the hearts and minds of people who can’t see beyond their own pride. Isn’t it interesting that so many Republicans are supposedly devout Christians, but they still haven’t learned a very basic proverb– “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Let’s hope a few Republicans stop applying for Darwin Awards before they go completely extinct.

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business, condescending twatbags, dogs, Military, social media, stupid people

The wrong way of takin’ care of business…

Yesterday, Bill and I enjoyed another rainy Sunday at home. Even if the pandemic weren’t still in full swing, I doubt we would have chosen to go anywhere. It was cold and dismal outside, with traces of ice and snow. There wasn’t nearly enough for it to be pretty.

I decided to do some writing and listen to music. I heard a version of “Til the Season Comes ‘Round Again”, a pretty Christmas song that I originally heard Amy Grant do years ago, but then I heard her (now) husband’s, Vince Gill’s, version. I decided to try it myself, complete with harmony. Here’s the end result. I may try again in a higher key. Or maybe I won’t… it depends on how inspired I am.

The weather is rainy today, too, and although I know the dogs could use a walk, I’m not sure I want to venture out in the slop. At least it’s not freezing cold, though, so that’s a vote toward taking a quick jaunt so Arran can take a dump. He prefers to poop when he’s taking walks.

I’m also still working on reading my latest book. It’s a good book, but my progress is slow. My attention span and eyesight aren’t what they used to be. In fact, my attention span has never been particularly good… especially when I am distracted by petty dramas on Facebook. And that brings me to today’s topic. All names in the following tale are pseudonyms, in the unlikely event that someone local is reading this. I simply want to air my own opinion on this situation.

Yesterday, I happened to run across a thread in the local pet group on Facebook. A woman I’ll call Mary was frustrated because, back in October, she had hired a 19 year old woman to look after her pets for a portion of the holiday season. The young woman– I’ll call her Katie– had enthusiastically agreed to take the job. Mary has a dog and a cat, and she was willing to pay $250 for about 8 days worth of work. The stipulations were that Katie was to stay at Mary’s home, since her cat doesn’t do well with other animals and she wasn’t sure how the dog would behave. Katie agreed.

Two months go by, and it’s the day that Mary was supposed to leave on her trip. Katie sends Mary a message, suddenly changing the conditions of their agreement. Katie explained that her sister was flying in, so she wanted to spend time with her. And it would be more convenient for her to watch Mary’s pets at her parents’ home, since Mary lived far away from Katie’s parents’ house.

Mary was upset about this, since it wasn’t what they had agreed to… but she was kind of over a barrel. She had these travel plans, and though she hadn’t mentioned it in the thread, she probably pre-paid for her lodging and, perhaps, air fare. Her choices weren’t so good in this situation. She could: cancel her plans; try to find another pet sitter at the last minute; or let Katie do what she wanted to do.

Mary ended up letting Katie have her way. But then, when she came back to get her dog, she tried to have a discussion with Katie about what had happened. This is where it gets especially weird. Apparently, Mary’s feedback pissed off Katie’s mother. I’ll call her Alice. Mary had asked to speak to Katie privately when they were in person, and this didn’t sit well with Alice, who is evidently a bit of a “mama bear”. For some reason, I’m reminded of this pre-Trump relic…

Lordy…

Drama erupted when Mary picked up her animal, and in the end, Mary left the house with her dog, feeling unsatisfied, and missing her dog’s favorite toy. Katie then blocked Mary on Facebook, so Mary wasn’t able to resolve this dilemma privately. Mary later took to Facebook to air her grievances in our group, which was where she’d found Katie in the first place. In her initial post, she never mentioned Katie’s name. She simply put out what I would call a blanket PSA to all of the pet sitters in the group, asking them to be very clear about what they’re willing to do when they take a pet sitting job. Below is exactly what she wrote:

Ok. If you or your child are going to take on pet sitting jobs can we please have those taking on the jobs to ASK questions. How much are you charging. How long? Where do you live? I just had an experience where the sitter changed plans on us a *few hours before we were supposed to leave. It messed up our plans and made it more complicated and the reason behind it was they didn’t know how far our house was from them. This was something that was set up 2 months in advance. Why were these things not asked? It’s not just about the money. You need to be clear and tell our younger kids to be assertive and responsible. This sitter has now blocked me on FB even though they changed up the plans and did not follow through with what was expected. They also did not pack back up any of my dogs toys and one of them was a plush dog toy that he got when he was a puppy. . I’m so sad and disappointed.

Now… I notice that Mary didn’t “out” the young woman who looked after her dog. She doesn’t curse. She doesn’t write anything rude or nasty. She simply makes a polite request. One person misunderstood and thought the sitter had canceled at the last minute. Mary reiterated that Katie hadn’t canceled, she had simply changed the terms of what they had agreed to, which was to watch the dog and cat in Mary’s home, rather than at a stranger’s (to the pets) home. As it turned out, Katie only watched the dog. I guess the cat fended for itself.

A few people responded to her post, vague as it was. All of a sudden, Alice– the mom– shows up and writes this in response.

My daughter was your dog sitter, she’s also not a child. She’s 19. I don’t know where your dogs toy is but she took very well care of pippin to the point where you messaged her and asked her to keep him longer. She blocked you to avoid the drama that you brought into my home the other day, I have never met a more obnoxious, rude couple in my life. My daughter dog sits for many dogs and has never had a problem, until you. She returned everything she could find. Mind you we actually have a huge yard. Also, she watched him here because it was Christmas time and she wanted to spend it with her family. And lastly you still owe her $

At first, I wondered if maybe Mary had misrepresented herself in the thread. As we all know, sometimes people do act like jerks, but then try to cover it up when they talk about a situation to other people. But then I kept reading, and it became very clear that Alice was making the situation so much worse. First off, she basically outed her daughter. And secondly, she says her daughter is an adult, but yet “Mommy” is in the Facebook group, fighting her battles for her. I was not the only one who thought this was a bit fucked up.

Mary came back with this response. Again, I thought it was fairly even keeled and reasonable.

I have screenshots of the dates we agreed upon. Back in October Is when we talked about what the plan was. I also did not name names in this post. All I’m asking for is the toy back.

Alice responded:

you messaged her saying you didn’t know if you were still going with them dates and then asked her to keep him

So Mary wrote:

Because she told us an hour before we were supposed to leave, that she was going to take the pets to your house. That wasn’t the agreed upon plan. Our cat doesn’t do well with other pets. Then we had to wait a few more hours for her to show up to get “Fido”. I was trying to find another sitter to watch the pets and when I couldn’t, I just had to allow her to take just Fido. (not his real name)

Alice wrote:

she showed up @ 3:30 to pick up “Fido”, that was the agreed upon time.. she was at work and she left work early to get him.

And Mary conceded:

Ok I’ll give you this. Looking back at the messages I did say 3 pm. You are correct. I do still take issue with being told the day of travel that plans were changing.

At this point, other people started to chime in. There were a few who were on Alice’s side. Some had hired Katie to watch their pets and liked her. A few appeared to be friends of Alice’s and Katie’s. But, by and large, most of us were squarely on “Team Mary”, including yours truly. This situation is one major reason why Bill and I use a locally run Hunde Pension, rather than hiring a teen. I used to be a house/dog/horse/cat/turtle sitter myself, so I know how it goes, but although I’m sure our dogs would be happier at home, I prefer them to be somewhere where this is someone’s livelihood and the people involved have insurance.

Anyway, the drama continued. Alice wrote this:

You never have to allow someone to take your dog. There is always other options.

Then, Mary produced a screenshot of the chat she’d had with Katie, dating from mid October, in which she spelled out what she wanted and how much she was willing to pay. It’s there, plain as day, that Katie had agreed. And, as a 19 year old woman, Mary felt inclined to take her at her word. But then Alice basically proved that her daughter was NOT actually an adult, when she wrote this:

her mom ( me) said no to your home.. that’s creepy. And it was Christmas time, she didn’t know her sister was coming in from (across the pond) until last minute

Uh… excuse me? She’s 19 years old, Alice. You, yourself, said she’s an adult. Why do you get to veto Mary’s house as “creepy”? What the fuck? And this is a standard practice here– people who pet sit often go to people’s homes or stay overnight. No one was even at the house, so why would it be “creepy”?

And Mary agreed with me, writing:

creepy? To house sit and watch a cat and dog? There was no one there. How is that creepy? I thought she was an adult. Not a child… If she would have told me this back in October or even maybe not a few hours. Before we were supposed to leave, that would have been fine.

Alice brazenly came back with this:

100% creepy. Let it go, pay for the rest of services rendered and move on.

I’ve gotta say, if I were Mary, I probably would have ripped Alice a new one for that response. In fact, I probably would have considered complaining to the garrison about Katie. I would not have been nice. People who run businesses on the installations are supposed to get approval from the garrison as “home based businesses”. There are tax implications and rules to be followed. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts, as Bill would say, that Katie isn’t running her business the “legal” way.

But all Mary wants is her dog’s toy:

give me the dog toy back and we will… Even though we paid her the same amount to watch the cat and dog and she only watched the dog

Alice wasn’t moved, though. She wrote:

You asked to speak to her out of any ear shot of her family. Had I know you had asked her that, mama would been right with you both and then to express your displeasure after you got your dog watched and still her money..

At this point, I took a peek at Katie’s FB page. This chick is evidently in the military herself. And yet here she is, blocking her client, and letting Mommy fight her battles for her.

Mary was still being very reasonable, in my opinion, when she wrote:

but I thought she was an adult. And what I told her was that I was disappointed with the services rendered. I told her that going forward she should ask these questions and make sure that everything is clear. I didn’t cuss her out or even yell or anything. I just said, money is important but so are the other details.

All I said was, can I speak to you for a moment. She even stated that she knew I was disappointed and she understood why I would be.

But Alice continued:

16-24 8 days, you paid $139. My daughter charges $20 a day. Total would of been $160

Personally, under the circumstances, I think Mary was perfectly justified in not giving Katie the whole amount. Katie didn’t do the job to her client’s specifications. And she has her MOM arguing on her behalf! Mary shared another screenshot about the payment they had agreed to. I don’t see why Mary should have to honor the payment end of the agreement, when Katie didn’t honor her side of it by staying at Mary’s home and watching two pets. According to the screenshot, Mary had offered $250, which I would have loved to have gotten when I was 19 and house/pet sitting.

Alice very stubbornly persisted, writing this:

adult or not, she lives in MY home.. You don’t see me asking you for carpet cleaning $, your dog peeped and pooped several times on my carpet. Again, let it go. Learn your lessons and move on. Your screen shots mean nothing to me, you let her take your dog, you asked to have him here longer. Don’t try and blast someone for something you let happen.

Um… Alice? My takeaway from this exchange is that I shouldn’t ever consider hiring Katie to watch my pets. Because hiring Katie means that I’ll probably have to deal with you, and you are not a good representative of Katie’s brand! All you’ve done is show everyone that Katie can’t handle her own business; that, in fact, she ISN’T an adult; and that her client’s wishes mean absolutely NOTHING. What’s more, Mary never even outed Katie in our group, which is full of people who occasionally need a pet sitter. YOU DID THAT. It was a very stupid thing to do, and it will cost Katie. Some mama bear you are.

Mary continued:

so evidence proving my point means nothing? I literally had this arranged with your daughter. All these details and then last minute is when things changed.

And Alice responded:

you only complained after he was watched and you picked him up. He was very well taken care of. That’s what anyone with a pet wants

I suspect Mary didn’t “complain” at the time because she had travel plans that dated from months ago. She needed Katie’s help and was over a barrel. And sure, the dog was taken care of in the sense that he’s still alive and well, apparently. But Katie still didn’t do the job according to her client’s wishes. And contrary to Alice’s opinions, anyone with a pet actually wants that their pets are taken care of in the way that the owner wants the care to be given.

More people opined, including one woman who took on Alice, who responded about how she “loved” that people who weren’t involved had come for the “drama”. At that point, I think I would have told Alice that it was her choice to have people “come for the drama”, as she chose to air this shit in a Facebook group, instead of privately. Her grown ass daughter, Katie, blocked her client, rather than working with her privately to resolve this issue without input from other people. Moreover, Alice doesn’t seem to understand that when pets are stressed out in unfamiliar places, sometimes they have accidents. If Katie had watched the dog in Mary’s home, as was agreed, any accidents the dog had would have been on Mary’s floor, not Alice’s. I think the accidents were entirely Katie’s fault, in that case.

I finally had to comment myself. I wrote this:

You could have stayed out of this. Your daughter is an adult. You said so yourself. And Mary has clearly proven what was agreed. I don’t blame her one bit for being pissed. I would be too.

At that point, more people chimed in, including a few who were on Alice’s and Katie’s side. One person took Mary to task for putting a “kid” on blast. Another person commended Alice for having Katie’s back. I see nothing wrong with a mother having her child’s back, but she should have done it offline, and insisted that her 19 year old adult daughter speak up for herself. At this point, I’m left with the impression that Katie is very immature, irresponsible, and not equipped to handle taking care of pets. What would have happened if the dog had gotten sick? Would Katie have been able to get him to a vet? Could she pry herself away from the holiday festivities with her “sister” to look after the dog she was being paid to take care of? After reading this exchange, and seeing how her mother puts the blame on the paying client, I think not.

One guy wrote this, with which I completely agreed:

I like how you don’t name the sitter and her own mother dimes her out in this post and tries to justify the unprofessional behavior. Then the mom doubles down after your screen shots show everything was agreed upon in advance and calls services the adult sitter agreed on “creepy.” You’re completely justified in being pissed off. I would be pissed too. It doesn’t matter that her sister came in town or it’s Christmas, you were clear in what you expected well in advance and the sitter agreed to it as well.

Alice responded thusly:

I didn’t “dime” her out, I spoke up for my daughter. Big difference, what you read is only half the story, there’s always 3 sides and at the end of the day a service she actually agreed upon was complete and she then she still wasn’t happy. Period.

No, Mama Bear… you totally fucked this up and stuck your nose where it doesn’t belong. You and Katie are wrong, in this instance. Grow up and accept responsibility. Of course, they clearly didn’t, since Alice left the group.

The guy responded:

your daughter wasn’t named, therefore you DID dime her out. Literally no one reading this post other than the OP/you/your daughter knew who the sitter was until your comment. Take the L, you’re wrong, your daughter’s actions were wrong, period. But to clarify the point, once you make a commitment, you follow through. You don’t alter the agreement the day of travel ffs.

There were more comments, but most of them weren’t as juicy, and I think we get the point, anyway. I probably shouldn’t be writing about this, and I don’t know why I feel compelled to, other than to show some of my faithful followers some of the DRAMA that can erupt on military installations. Bill and I once lived on Fort Belvoir, pre-Facebook, and there was enough drama that went on before social media was a thing. I can only shudder to think what it’s like now.

I’m not in very many local American Facebook groups, though, because of situations like these that arise. I made the mistake of being in a lot of them when we lived in Stuttgart, and it caused me a lot of angst. Usually, the pet group is pretty placid, but every once in awhile, I’m reminded as to why I think it’s better not to join a lot of Facebook groups, especially when the US military is involved. Things can get really hairy and fucked up in a hurry. There are people from all walks of life involved with military service, with varying levels of maturity and sophistication. Some people are folks who just can’t understand normal thinking. I think this exchange is a prime example of that phenomenon at work.

Well… I think after I practice guitar and have some lunch, I’ll try to get back to my book so I can have another book review ready by New Year’s Eve. Wish me luck. Have a nice Monday.

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