family, memories, musings

“Little lady”– my big fat ass…

Yesterday, I went on SingSnap.com because I felt like singing a few pop songs. SingSnap has gone through a major overhaul since December 2020. Adobe Flash was retired, so the owner of the site had to completely revamp the system. It’s still a bit wonky, so I don’t find myself wanting to participate there as much as I used to. Every day, they put up a list of “featured songs”. If you sing those songs, it’s more likely someone will watch or listen to your videos and leave comments. Of course, the whole song catalog is also open to those who pay for a membership. It’s just less likely that anyone will comment.

The new site has changed the way users can find the featured songs. It used to be that a person could just choose certain genres and see the lists of songs that way. Now, they’ve made it so you have to wade through many pages, and they don’t always put all of the available versions of a song up. So one of the featured songs may not be the best version available.

I had some trouble finding songs to do yesterday, which is unusual for me. I have eclectic tastes. But I did finally find a few selections. I sang a few songs, briefly finding myself irked that one commenter kept calling me “little lady”. I’m sure he meant no harm, but I find it grating when someone who doesn’t know me calls me cutesy pet names. At the same time, I was genuinely thankful for the comments he left, which were definitely positive, even if I haven’t been a “little lady” in many years.

I mean, if the guy knew me personally, I don’t think he’d see me as a “little lady”. I’m definitely not “little” or “dainty” in any sense of the word, unless you’re talking about my height, hands, ears, or feet, which are kind of “little” (especially my ears). I’m also not that ladylike. I typically use language that would make a truck driver blush. I also fart, belch, and take massive beer dumps in the mornings. Sorry… it’s the truth. So if that guy actually knew me, he’d probably think I’m not much of a “little lady”. However, I was born with a singing voice that sounds kind of sweet and feminine. Maybe that’s why some people (mostly men) on SingSnap call me things like “kiddo” (cringe) or whatever.

I was about to click off the site yesterday when I noticed a Gershwin duet that was open. I don’t often complete duets because I can’t bear to listen to off key singing if I’m not in a bar or something. Finding a good partner on SingSnap often involves listening to some pretty bad singing that, for me, is not pleasant to listen to. I was cursed with “absolute pitch“, which makes me unusually sensitive when things are off key. Some people have a condition called “misophonia” and can’t stand to listen to people chewing loudly or smacking their gum. I don’t know that I have “misophonia”, but I do know that bad singing is like nails on a chalkboard for me, so I can’t stand to search for talent on SingSnap. Just writing “nails on a chalkboard” makes me cringe and grind my teeth as I think about how that sounds!

However, there are some legitimately good singers on SingSnap, and I happened to find one yesterday on the first try. When I find someone who can sing well, I like to pair up. So that’s what I did… and, in fact, this duet was rather unusual, since it featured me on camera. I HATE being on video. I don’t like the way I look on camera, and most days, I don’t have on any makeup or even wear a bra. That was the case yesterday. I decided to do a video, though, because the guy who presented the male half of the duet had done such a charming job, reacting to the lyrics. It seemed wrong to just do audio.

Maybe I could have put on a bra and fixed my face and hair… but I decided to just put myself out there, as/is… I really enjoyed singing with this guy, Eric, although I couldn’t bear to practice the song until it was just right. I’ve also never heard the recorded version that featured Frank Sinatra and Natalie Cole, so I was winging it. I played the duet for Bill, who got visibly moved… but even though I wasn’t watching the video and cringing at the way I look on camera, I was mentally critiquing myself. It strikes me this morning that maybe I shouldn’t be doing so much of that. Incidentally, I used a screen shot of our duet as today’s featured photo, but it makes me cringe to look at it. I’m all flushed because it was hot and I was a bit sweaty. I do have an air conditioner in my office, but I don’t like to run it when I record things. It’s pretty loud.

But hell, I’ll bet most of the people watching the video wouldn’t be offended by it. I was having fun. No, it’s not perfect or ready for a record company, but it was a few minutes of me doing something that is healing for me and brings me joy. I was letting it all hang out, not so focused on self-critique. I was able to share it with my friend, Andrew, who is also on SingSnap. A few others viewed it and if they had negative comments, they kindly kept them to themselves.

So why am I so hypercritical of myself? I think I was trained to be hypercritical by growing up in a family system that was focused a lot on image and what other people think. Many problems were “swept under the rug” in the name of avoiding conflict. Conflict would inevitably arise anyway, often after people had been drinking… and well, I remember a lot of fights, especially within my immediate family. I don’t like fights today, and go out of my way to avoid them, because it takes me a long time to recover from them. I was criticized a lot, though, and I think I internalized much of the criticism.

I am not a perfectionist about most things. I don’t keep an immaculate house, although contrary to what my ex landlady thinks, I’m not a filthy person, either. I don’t turn myself out dressed to the nines, nor do I put on a false persona of who I am. What you get is what you see, most of the time. But I can be a perfectionist about some things, like making music or writing blog posts. Even on a karaoke site, which is supposed to be fun, I can’t bear to put up recordings that aren’t close to being perfectly done. And I don’t do videos much, because I get too self-conscious about my looks and it throws me off. Putting up a duet video with me on camera was kind of a big deal. It was such a big deal that I shared the video on Facebook and tagged Andrew, who might be one of a few people I knew would appreciate it.

I grew up in a system where people were constantly telling me what was wrong about me and rarely offering positive feedback. My parents often disapproved of me for being loud, obnoxious, opinionated, and obstinate. My mom openly and very frankly told me that her friends didn’t want to hang out with her because I was such a terror. My dad would get angry with me for being outspoken about things. As I aged, we didn’t get along very well because he seemed to think I’m an asshole… and the feeling was mutual. At least I never slapped him or gave him enraged beatings when I got mad at him, though. I know he loved me, and I loved him, but he was very critical of me and didn’t seem to cherish me.

Other people would criticize me for all manner of reasons. I got bullied at school, and it wasn’t until we’d lived in Gloucester awhile before some of my peers started to accept me more. It was hurtful, and it made growing up difficult and painful, although I was fortunate enough to find some good people who were kind to me. Unfortunately, I also found “The Home of the Whopper“, a man who was kind and paid attention to me, but also showed me porn when I was about ten years old. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that a lot of people don’t like me. Even supposed loved ones don’t seem to like me that much. Or, at least that’s how it seems to me. There was a time when I would try to appease people who didn’t like me for who I am, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that those people would never understand or appreciate the effort. It’s not worth it in the long run to try to be someone I’m not, and frankly, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with who I authentically am.

The one person who cherishes me is my husband, Bill, which is a wonderful thing. But it would have been nice to have had that when I was growing up. Knowing how loving and kind Bill is makes me very protective of him and intolerant toward people who mistreat him. That’s why I was so angry at his daughters for so long. I understood on an intellectual level why they were so estranged. But the one contact he had from them, back in 2006, were awful letters that their mother forced them to write and practically dictated to them. In older daughter’s letter, she wrote that she wanted an “every day daddy”. She claimed that #3 was her “everyday daddy”, and he helped her when she was “stressed out”. We later discovered that her claim that #3 was a good dad to her was utterly false. It was just another one of Ex’s facades.

Really, what I wanted to tell older daughter was that I had an everyday daddy, and it was definitely not what it was cracked up to be. My father owned his own business and ran it out of our home. My mom also worked out of our house. Consequently, I had an unusual amount of time with both of my parents. They weren’t, and aren’t, bad people, but they always treated me like an imposition. My mom told me she hadn’t wanted me, and my dad was often disappointed in me. He didn’t protect me, either. My sisters treated me like I was incompetent or a brat, or they would chastise me for things like the way I laugh, my humor, or the way I looked. They didn’t appreciate me for who I am and told me so often. They made it clear that they wished I would change, even though I’m not a bad person. I’m just “different”, I guess… as we all are.

But what older daughter didn’t know is that she has a wonderful “everyday daddy”, and all she ever had to do was reach out to him, especially since she’s an adult now. Given a chance, Bill would have cherished his daughters and loved and protected them. He would have supported them in following their dreams and given them opportunities to grow. He is a wonderful dad and the best husband I could have ever asked for. He loves me for exactly who I am, and I’m pretty certain he loves his daughters in the same way. It’s too bad that only one of them recognizes that and is ready to accept what he can give them. But such is life.

Maybe I should just be grateful that my parents valued me enough to raise me to adulthood and support me enough that I was able to find the right partner in life. Because if they had just shitcanned me at 18, I’d probably be a completely different person. I probably never would have joined SingSnap, either, because I might not have ever learned to sing (I started in college) and I might not have had the time or the money to hang out online all the time. I might be waiting tables or struggling through community college… or maybe I would have had kids and be dealing with completely different problems.

I probably should just be happy to have Bill, instead of falling down this rabbit hole of self-absorption, ruminating about things I can’t change. I’m naturally kind of a free spirit, and people have told me that I shouldn’t be that way. But I can’t help it. So sometimes, I’ll record myself on camera with no bra or makeup and put it out to the masses. And people will think I’m loud, obnoxious, opinionated, or whatever else… Not everyone will like or appreciate what I do or who I am. But at least some people do… and I am fortunate enough to have one man who definitely does. I saw it in his eyes and heard it in his voice as he saw his “little lady” with a big fat ass singing braless and makeupless on SingSnap this morning. He definitely doesn’t expect me to be perfect… he loves me for being the mess I am and for sharing life with him.

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memories, musings

Repost: Ghosts of writings past… and so-called fake news

I am reposting this article from January 24, 2017 as I reflect on some changes that may be coming about soon. Ever since I moved this blog from Blogger, my “income” from writing, such as it was, has dried up. I don’t mind so much, since I never wrote for the money, anyway. It’s just something I’ve always been compelled to do. But, you know, no good deed goes unpunished. I just think this is an interesting look back, so I am sharing it again, as/is.

For about eleven years, I wrote articles for a variety of online publishers.  I was like a lot of people, making a few extra bucks writing about what I know or about subjects that captured my interest.  I sold a number of articles and, for awhile, writing served as a steady source of pocket money.  Then all the content mills dried up.  Now I only write on my own blogs and make whatever Google pays me every few months after I earn over $100 in ad revenue.

Every once in awhile, I find old articles I’ve written on the Internet.  They are always credited to “contributor”.  It’s weird, too, because they always have a copyright sign next to them, even though I’m the one who wrote them.  Some of the articles that turn up include my own stories.  I’ll give you an example of what I mean. 

Many years ago, I remember reading an article about a celebrity who engaged in a practice commonly referred to as “chew and spit”.  I want to say it was Glen Campbell, but I can’t be certain, since I’m pretty sure I read the article in the 80s.  Anyway, I absolutely do remember that in the article, “chew and spit” was referred to as oral expulsion syndrome (OES).  Both terms refer to the practice of chewing up food and spitting it out rather than swallowing it.  
In the 80s, I was fascinated by the idea of chewing and spitting food.  In those days, I flirted a bit with eating disorders myself and was always looking for tricks to shed pounds while indulging.  Eventually, I mostly grew out of my obsession and completely forgot about OES, having never tried it myself.  

Then, maybe six or seven years ago, I was a featured health and wellness writer on a Web site.  I had to write three articles a week and was trying to come up with an original topic.  That obscure memory of OES suddenly popped into my head.  I scoured the Internet for articles about it and came up with only a few very obscure references.  Jackpot!

So I started writing my article, aided by the fact that I’d recently read Dolly Parton’s 1994 book My Life and Other Unfinished Business after a trip to a thrift shop.  That was during a time when Bill and I were broke and I was getting a lot of reading material at used book stores.  I’m sure at the time I read Dolly Parton’s book, it was long off the best seller list and most people’s radar.  But then, I was also writing book reviews on a site where I could even make money if I reviewed old books, as long as the review drew readers.

In her 1994 memoirs, Dolly had included a passage about dieting.  One of the techniques Dolly suggested was the practice of chewing and spitting, though she didn’t refer to it as such.  So I wrote my very anecdotal piece and quoted direct passages from Dolly’s book in which she recommended chewing and spitting.  I found information as to why this technique might be more harmful than she let on.  I added links from reputable health related Web sites.  Voila!  A new resource was born to be used and abused by the masses! Below is a passage from the article I wrote for Associated Content about ten years ago. My original text from that article is in bold.

Those of us who have been around awhile know that Dolly Parton used to be significantly heavier than she is today. Indeed, in the 1980 film 9 to 5, she was downright plump. But several years after she made that film, she lost a dramatic amount of weight and now sports a thin body to go with her famously large bosom. Parton doesn’t share too much specific information about how she lost the weight, other than a passage she writes on page 255 of her autobiography:

One other hint I’d like to pass on has to do with chewing. Our taste buds are only in our mouths, after all, and we don’t really taste the food when we swallow it. You can get a lot of the satisfaction from the taste of things you love by just chew, chew, chew, chew, Chattanooga chew-chewing and then not swallowing. “Wait a minute,” you’re thinking. “If I don’t swallow, won’t I have to spit the food out?” You’re right. “That’s disgusting,” you say. That may be, but what’s more disgusting? Spitting out food or being a lardass?

As Dolly Parton puts it, “If you’re going to lose weight, you’re going to have to eat less food” (254). According to her book, Parton believes that heavy people are heavy because they eat a lot and, while she agrees that exercise is important, Parton seems to think that the real trick to weight loss is to not eat much. But even as she encourages eating sparingly, she admits that eating is pleasurable.

After she passes along her tip about chewing up food and spitting it out, she adds:

I’m not suggesting for a moment that you spit up food. That’s very dangerous, but it doesn’t hurt to spit it out. I know for a fact that many stars and models chew and spit. The first time somebody told me that, I was so shocked I dropped a whole Styrofoam cup of chewed doughnuts.

I’m pretty sure I sold that article to the publisher for a paltry sum.  Then, a few years later, the publisher went under.  But that article and others I’ve written are still out there, attributed to “contributor”.  What’s even funnier is that I’ve found that article referenced in other places, or hacked up by people who are claiming it as their own.  In fairness to the person whose article I just linked, I suppose it’s possible that she also read Dolly Parton’s book and decided to write about chewing and spitting, too.  It just seems eerily reminiscent of what I had written several years before.  Besides that, Dolly’s book was twenty years old by the time this person wrote about OES.  

I guess it doesn’t bother me to much to know that a lot of my work is out there and I’m no longer credited.  I think I’m more amused than anything else, especially since that article I wrote about OES was hatched from a very old memory and obscure details.  This is not to say that what I wrote wasn’t factual.  I did do as much research as I could for the original article.  I would not have published it if all the information I had found were anecdotes or blog entries about chewing and spitting.  It’s just that my article wasn’t exactly peer reviewed or vetted by experts.  And now I see that information is being disseminated by others.  Maybe I’m partially to blame for “fake news”.

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musings, psychology

The trauma of sending and receiving “feedback”…

This morning, I’m thinking about the word “feedback” and how much I dread hearing it. One would think it wouldn’t be a bad thing to get feedback. Feedback doesn’t necessarily have to be positive or negative. It’s just information about how someone is doing.

I had to give someone negative feedback last night. I didn’t enjoy doing it. I don’t like to confront people, even when it’s sometimes necessary. I would prefer people to have common sense and basic respect for others. Unfortunately, some people don’t see the big picture and need to be called out. I woke up at 4:30am and that conflict from last night was the first thing I thought of.

Then I remember myself, back in 1996, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. The director of training for the 1996 Volunteers was a guy I’ll call Don (not his real name). For some reason, Don didn’t like me. I don’t know exactly why he didn’t like me. Somehow, I managed to step on his toes. And one day, he said, “I need to give you some ‘feedback’.” Then, he proceeded to tell me off in a way that was very humiliating and upsetting. At that time in my life, I was not really equipped to take his comments with a grain of salt. I felt personally attacked and pretty worthless when he was finished with me.

I have never forgotten that word, “feedback”, ever since that day in 1996. That was a period in my Peace Corps service when it felt like everything was falling apart. I was trying to do the right things, but lacked the assertiveness and confidence to make valued contributions. I was not a “go getter”, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I was pretty hampered by depression and anxiety. So although I really did want to do something good and useful, my attempts were a bit bumbling. I seriously thought about quitting my service because I felt useless.

Looking back on that time, I feel anger for 24 year old me. I wish I’d had the maturity and the backbone to stand up to Don and give him some feedback of my own. I had mostly forgotten about Don until a few weeks ago, when my former colleague, Matt, suddenly passed away after having been hit by a car in Brooklyn. It so happens that there’s a Facebook group for former Armenia PCVs. I sent a request to join, but when no one accepted me hours later, I decided to withdraw my request. I figured I wasn’t welcome there. And then I noticed that Don was one of the admins. I also remembered that Matt had once, quite explicitly, told me that Don didn’t like me.

Those old feelings rushed back when I saw his name and I realized I didn’t really want to connect with him, or some of the other people from that time in my life. Obviously, I didn’t fit in back then, and maybe I don’t fit in now. I don’t seem to fit in most places… even in groups I actually run!

Case in point… In 2017, when we still lived in Stuttgart, I started a food and wine Facebook group. I did so because, at that time, there weren’t any groups for that specific interest in the Stuttgart military community, even though they had groups for just about everything else. Back then, it was easy to go to different restaurants and gourmet stores. Bill and I did so most weekends and I would write about our experiences in my travel blog, which got to be somewhat popular.

When I first started that group, it was pretty active and useful. But then in late 2018, we had to move to Wiesbaden. I didn’t want to close the group because I had friends in it, and at that point, I thought we’d be visiting Stuttgart somewhat often. I predicted at least twice yearly visits to see the dentist. But then the pandemic struck, and we weren’t able to travel so much or dine out… and the group became a bit stagnant, even though we were doing a lot of drinking.

There’s a woman in my group who claims to be a wine expert. She started a group in Stuttgart, but remains a member of my group. She often directs people in my group to join her group, and organizes wine sales, which she freely advertises in my group. I mostly have been pretty laid back about moderating my group because I don’t like it when people micromanage others, especially on social media. Besides, I don’t have a problem with people involved with food and wine sharing information about things like wine sales. But a situation came up last night and I found myself offering some feedback. It made me feel uncomfortable, even though I felt compelled to speak up.

A woman in the group I run asked about restaurant recommendations in Stuttgart. The two places she asked about are places I’ve been. I offered my opinions. Next thing I know, the leader of the other group was pimping her “foodie” group in my group– telling the person who had asked about restaurants that she should join her competing group for more “relevant” help. It wasn’t the first time she’d made a comment that was kind of critical about my group. One time, someone asked about wine shops and she asked what city they were in, adding that the fact that my group addressed two cities made things “confusing”. That struck me as disrespectful and rude, because there was no reason why the “wine expert” couldn’t just act like a member of the group and simply answer the question without publicly directing the person to join the group that SHE runs, or simply appreciating the unique features of my group.

I didn’t really want to call her out and offer any “feedback”. I don’t enjoy conflicts, and really just want my group to be a place where people can relax and share information without any drama. But I guess she just touched a nerve… that “disrespect nerve” that so many people seem to hit, where they act in an inconsiderate or tacky way toward me and I’m expected to just shut up and color. So I very directly asked her not to “pimp” her group in my group. She came back with an “explanation” as to why her answer wasn’t disrespectful to me and then invited me to join her group, which she has done before. She didn’t even really acknowledge how she came across to me, but instead kind of “gaslit” me, explaining that what I can see– plain as day– isn’t what I’m actually seeing.

I don’t want to be in her group. I have a lot of reasons for not wanting to join. The main one is that I lived in Stuttgart for four years and I saw how the groups were down there. There is a different dynamic in that community… lots of young people from different military branches. There are TONS of Facebook groups in Stuttgart and, in my experience, they get very “high school” in a hurry. Some people get on power trips and some people really enjoy stirring up shit. I was overly involved in the Stuttgart groups back when I lived down there. They caused me a lot of stress and drama, which would inevitably get me into trouble. I’d always want to process the stress by writing about it, which invariably upset some people in the community. Up here in Wiesbaden, I don’t have a need to do that because: 1. there aren’t so many groups up here 2. I know very few people in this area and 3. I’m only a member of one other group in Wiesbaden besides the one I run. So I don’t run into the high school bullshit that often erupts in military centric Facebook groups, and it’s been nice.

Another reason I don’t want to join is because being in her group would make my group kind of redundant. But maybe that’s her plan. I’m not really interested in competing with anyone… but I do think it’s very inconsiderate to promote other groups within a group, especially when there’s no need or request for it. There’s no reason why people in my group can’t respond to that question about Stuttgart without having to be publicly directed to go to another source. The least she could have done was send the person a PM rather than blatantly advertising her group. It’s like going to a McDonald’s and telling everyone in line to visit the Burger King next door.

The original poster came back and explained that she’s going to be leaving soon, and wasn’t interested in joining another group. But just now, the “wine expert” left a comment about another group in my group. I just left her a stern comment letting her know that I wasn’t going to ask her again. Next time, I think I’ll just remove her and spare myself the stress.

My hands are actually shaking right now… because I feel like maybe this shouldn’t be a big deal. I don’t want to be “territorial”, especially on social media. But it obviously is a big deal to me, because my knickers are legitimately in a twist. I don’t want to be a micromanager, but I also don’t appreciate being trampled. I made it pretty plain that promoting the other group isn’t cool with me, but she completely ignored what I said.

Maybe it’s time I retired that group and moved on to other things. I can still visit places and write about them, and the legitimately interested can read about them. Or maybe I just need to remove her and let anyone who wants to follow her vote with their feet. I don’t know. But I feel kind of nervous and sick to my stomach, the same way I felt when I got “feedback” from Don, even though I am the one offering feedback this time. Being assertive is hard for me.

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healthcare, musings

I’m tired of thinking about health…

A few days ago, I got drawn into a rather unpleasant online argument on Toytown Germany. Someone had started a thread about how healthcare providers in Germany are dishonest. Lots of people were lamenting about how dentists are crooks, and how privately insured patients get fleeced by physicians. Meanwhile, publicly insured people are treated with apathy.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with German healthcare providers myself, although I do know of some Americans who have chosen to have major illnesses treated by German doctors instead of the American ones at Landstuhl. I know someone whose wife got colon cancer and was treated with relative apathy by the military docs. She contacted doctors in Wiesbaden and they were quick to see and treat her. Now, she’s in remission.

Bill and I love our German dentist in Stuttgart. We haven’t seen him in two years, but he’s still the best dentist either of us has ever had. He is a hybrid, of sorts… Mom was German and Dad was American, so he knows both cultures. We’re hoping to see him soon for cleanings we desperately need, now that we’re vaccinated. But I can understand that some people have had bad experiences with German healthcare providers.

There was one person, though, who was crowing about how great American healthcare is. Frankly, I don’t see it. I mean, if you have access to great health insurance or you have money, sure… but for the rank and file person who isn’t insured or wealthy, I don’t think American healthcare is that great. For one thing, it’s very expensive, and you don’t know what you’ll have to pay, because prices aren’t regulated. I know of a couple of people who have gone bankrupt after having had car accidents or other unexpected medical emergencies, even if they have insurance coverage. There are many horror stories online about people who have faced financial ruin after hospital stays, particularly when the stays were due to emergencies.

Some people have looked abroad for their needs to be met. I know someone who had a whole mouthful of dental implants done in Costa Rica, because she couldn’t afford the six figures she was quoted in the States. I know someone else who went to Mexico for a Lapband procedure for the same reason; she paid a fraction of the cost of what that procedure would have run her in the United States. Of course, going abroad for healthcare can be risky and results differ. My friend who went to Costa Rica is very satisfied with the result. The one who went to Mexico later developed a life threatening infection that her health insurance wouldn’t cover, because she had the Lapband operation done in Mexico by a physician who wasn’t in network. And because the infection, while certainly in need of urgent treatment, was related to an uncovered procedure done in Mexico, my friend had to pay out of pocket to get the necessary antibiotics and related medical care to cure it.

Mental healthcare services in the United States are given very little coverage, even though conditions like depression and anxiety can cause physical health issues and impact the quality of life. They can also cause people to do drastic things that lead to tragedies. But try to get broad coverage for a mental health issue in the States. It’s not easy, particularly if inpatient care is indicated.

For another thing, the United States doesn’t actually rate that highly when compared to systems in other countries. If you look at the United States when compared to, say, France or Italy, or even Germany (which also isn’t that high ranking, but is better than the USA). you’ll find that it isn’t even ranked in the top 30 of 196 countries. A lot goes into determining what makes a great system, of course. Researchers look at factors such as infant mortality, life expectancy, the number of qualified medical providers available, mortality and morbidity, and how long patients manage to avoid being readmitted to hospitals after they’re released. Researchers also look at affordability, accessibility, and availability.

The United States certainly has a lot of excellent hospitals and some great doctors. But there are also many areas where healthcare coverage is poor, such as remote and rural locales. Some of those areas rely on telemedicine in order to help people meet their needs. Some healthcare facilities are also very poor, as are some providers. And then, there’s that pesky issue of people not being able to access healthcare because they simply can’t afford it. Those people are often the ones who end up going to the emergency room for routine care. It’s like doing your grocery shopping at a 7 Eleven.

So anyway, I pointed this out to the American healthcare system cheerleader. She came back to me with a rather nasty tone that didn’t suggest to me that discussing the issue further with her would be productive. So I signed off– inviting her to do her. It was kind of a snarky retort, but I just didn’t have the energy to get into it with a stranger over this subject, even though it’s something I know a little about, having studied it formally. Then, come to find out, she’s not even AMERICAN! She comes from Britain! And she fucking lives in Cologne! Maybe she has real experience with the US system, but I doubt she’s ever had to seek healthcare in a rural area of the United States. I could tell, though, that she wasn’t interested in another perspective, and frankly I just didn’t feel like going around with her. So I fucked off, although I did have a brief private conversation with someone else from that thread. She was kind and civil, so that wasn’t a bad thing.

Lately, I’ve found that I just don’t have the patience to engage with people online, particularly when they’re strangers. Maybe it’s me, but it just seems like a lot of people are just nasty lately. It could have to do with how on edge we’ve been, thanks to COVID-19 and the lifestyle restrictions it’s led to. Or, it could be because people have lost the ability to be civilized, thanks to being behind computer screens too much. It could also be a combination of both conditions. Whatever the issue is, however, I’ve found that I’m just not interested in discussing it anymore. I don’t want to talk or hear about most things related to health… or really, the pandemic.

Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t want to engage with people about other subjects, either. This morning, I ran across an article about Andrew Yang and New York City’s carriage horses and how so many people are divided about it. Personally, I think the people who are claiming the carriage horses are being abused are overstating things a bit. I’ve also realized that most of the people with opinions about the horses don’t actually know anything about horses, or the people who work with them. Here’s a good, balanced read about the issue.

I read so many comments from people saying the carriage horses should just be retired and sent to a farm somewhere. I just want to ask these people how they would feel if, one day, some well-meaning but ignorant person told them that they shouldn’t be doing their job anymore because it’s “cruel”. Suddenly, they lose their purpose… but how many people can afford to keep horses as mere pets? And is a life consigned to being sent out to pasture really as good as it seems? I spent a lot of time with horses earlier in my life. They like having jobs, particularly when they’ve been bred to do something. Also, some people who keep horses shouldn’t be keeping horses… like– I would rather see a horse pulling a carriage in New York City than wind up on a farm owned by a hoarder.

A lot of the folks who complain about the carriage horses don’t realize that unwanted horses are sometimes auctioned off and bought by people who send them to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered. It’s currently illegal to slaughter horses for meat in the United States. So the kill buyers will send them beyond the borders on long haul trucks, where they don’t get rest, proper food, or water; then they die a horrible death. Since they are companion animals, they aren’t even really suitable to be turned into food, either. I started to write about that this morning, but decided I just didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to get into it with the uninformed, and frankly it’s a depressing subject. So I clicked off the article and practiced guitar, instead.

It just seems like people aren’t interested in having a civilized discussion. Everyone has opinions, and everyone thinks his or her opinions are correct, and fuck anyone with a different view. Those with an alternative viewpoint are shamed, belittled, berated, and name-called. It’s frustrating and ultimately pointless to engage with those types, so I just let them win… and let the more energetic people deal with them. I’ve got more important things to do, like scrubbing my butt crack.

I was feeling this way last year, too. This was what I posted a year ago on Facebook…

People are getting nastier lately. Three times in the last week, friends of friends who don’t know me at all have jumped down my throat for posting something they take offense to. They don’t even try to understand before they snap. Instead, it’s shoot first, ask questions later. It makes me hesitant to post comments on other people’s posts, because I can get snarky comments from so-called loved ones just as easily. I sure don’t need them from total strangers who don’t even know me.

I think it’s sad, because in my experience, most people truly aren’t bad people. If you take a minute to think before you respond with nastiness, you might end up making a friend instead making someone think you’re an asshole.

A year ago, COVID-19 was new, and there was a lot of rudeness going around on social media. It hasn’t changed much this year, although now that we’ve been vaccinated, maybe I can find something to do besides hang out online. Here’s hoping.

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musings

My blog is now more like Muzak…

A few years ago, when I was still writing on my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife, I wrote a post called “The blog equivalent to Muzak… on seeking a return to obscurity”. I was tired of the drama that often erupted on my old blog and wanted to go back to a less stressful outlet for my posts. Too many unfriendly people were reading the old blog and stirring up shit. The shit stirring was making it a lot harder to do what I love. When I first started writing my blog, I didn’t even share my posts with friends. I was pretty anonymous, mainly because my husband’s younger daughter was still a minor. I wanted to stay somewhat clandestine for that reason. I became more open once she turned 18; and that was fine, until we moved back to Stuttgart– which is a microcosm of American military types. That’s when all the drama ramped up.

In my initial “Muzak” piece, I lamented the drama that had erupted. I was so mindfucked at that time that I was apologizing to people who were offended by my writing. I now think I was wrong to do that. I can’t control how people react to what I write. It’s never my intention to be hurtful when I write. I mostly try to be honest, even though sometimes I dip into rants. Rants are fun to write and are probably entertaining for some people to read. But there’s often someone who gets offended. Sometimes, they leave me comments. I think of my blog as my “home”. People visit it because it’s open. But they can only do that because I paid for the space and left it open. Ultimately, it’s my “house”… and I shouldn’t have to apologize for what’s at my house, as long as nothing I’ve written is libelous.

At the time I wrote that post about blog “Muzak”, it was October 2018. We were about to move, and I was pretty stressed out about a lot of things. I’d say about 75% of the reason I was stressed out was because of our former landlady. I dreaded having to deal with her as we prepared to leave Stuttgart. She had gone from being somewhat annoying and intrusive in the earliest months of our time in her house, to being full on passive aggressive and hostile. She was trying to force us to pay for an awning that she’d neglected to have properly fixed by a repairperson. She blamed me for “negligence” when the wind blew it over, and added on a lot of insulting comments about my character for good measure. She didn’t seem to realize that she was negligent for not having the awning fixed by someone more qualified than her husband. She is damned lucky no one was hurt or killed when it fell. I resented the hell out of the disrespectful way she treated Bill and me. But I soon found myself unable to process those feelings on my blog, because a spy was sticking her nose in our business. I guess that’s an occupational hazard of blogging, especially when the writing is honest.

One of the people who had lived in the house before us was monitoring my writing. Now, I’m not that naive. I had a feeling she might be gossiping about me with her “friend”, the ex landlady. But then, months later after we moved, she later came right out and told me, quite brazenly, what she was doing, apparently expecting me to apologize to her. Then she tried to shame me for the content of my blog. She basically said I was being mean and cruel– having made totally wrong assumptions about some fiction content I’d written– and she put it all on me that Bill and I were leaving our former home on bad terms. I was both horrified and angry that this person felt the need to monitor and harass me– especially since I really hadn’t written anything that was that earth shattering. She was probably hoping we’d take the blame for damages done when she lived at the house. I also think I was correct when I suspected that she and her husband had moved out of that house early because ex landlady was driving them crazy, too. She once left me an indignant comment, claiming that my suspicions were way off base. She later deleted the comment. Why? Because she was being dishonest and didn’t want to leave the proof in plain view.

I hadn’t written anything directly accusatory; she’d objected to two sentences in which I wondered if they’d been completely truthful about their sudden mid tour move. In a comment she later deleted, she’d insisted that she’d told us the truth and that I shouldn’t assume anything about what happened. I think the real issue was that I’d actually hit the nail on the head. If she and ex landlady were that close, she shouldn’t have been worried about what I wrote. Rather than leveling with me about her bullshit, she decided to try to censor me and bully us into letting ex landlady illegally withhold our deposit. She made things so much worse than they needed to be by meddling. If she had just minded her own business and not tried to make trouble for me, it’s possible that we never would have ended up going the lawsuit route.

Add in the fact that a lot of other Americans in Stuttgart were reading my blogs. Granted, I had openly shared the travel blog, because I had lived in Stuttgart before and I enjoy writing. The travel blog is pretty benign, but it was connected to my mainstream blog. Sharing the travel blog ultimately led to unwanted attention from people reading the other blog. So, by October 2018, I had determined that I wanted to go back into obscurity. I just wanted to be able to write in peace. I determined that there’s a downside to being “famous”. I wasn’t really famous, per se, but I did become somewhat known in the Stuttgart military community, and that led to notoriety that I didn’t enjoy.

A few months after we moved to Wiesbaden, the flying monkey from our former house sent me a private message that led to my final decision to move the blog to where it is now. The funny thing is, I had blocked her the night before I saw her message. She must have sent it before I had her blocked, and I didn’t notice it for a couple of days. That’s unusual for me, but when I saw her message, it really offended me. She’d made accusations about some content I’d written that were flat out false, and decided to interfere in my personal business.

The truth was, I had been wanting to move the blog anyway, for several reasons. I had noticed that the more professional blogs weren’t on Blogspot, which seemed to get wonkier by the year. The WordPress platform has more functionality. I can make some posts open to certain people. I can make some private. There are also themes I can choose from with different features. Yes, it costs money, where Blogspot didn’t. But it has a nicer look and it somewhat easier to use.

I didn’t like having Google as a landlord. I own the domain for this blog, so I can write whatever I want without getting a nastygram from Google about “inappropriate” content. I once got dinged on Blogspot because I had a picture of a used pink dildo on a post about a woman who had decided to try to sell it on a yard sale page as a joke. I was informed that the photo of the pink dildo, which looked like a chewed up dog toy (and probably was used as one) was pornographic, even if there was nothing at all inappropriate in the story that accompanied it. It was a funny post about people getting uptight about the sale item.

I get fewer rude comments by drive by readers on this blog. Part of the reason for that is because I moderate all comments from new commenters on this blog. The other part is because this blog is only now picking up steam. It took some time for it to attract readers, which made writing here kind of painful at first. But now I’ve got more people reading… a totally different audience, actually, which is a nice thing. I have fewer immature people from the military community reading and more people who are actually interested in what I write and/or me as a person.

So… all in all, the move to this platform was a good thing. I buried a lot of toxic waste, too. The old blog has a lot of rants about personal issues Bill and I went through earlier in our marriage. While I found the writing kind of therapeutic and totally justifiable, strangers who don’t know us would think I was crazy or toxic and leave comments to that effect. Granted… I have my moments of toxicity, but I am nothing compared to my husband’s ex wife. She has done some truly diabolical things over the years… terribly hurtful things that have affected a lot of people besides Bill and me. I needed a place to put that stuff. Maybe I should have kept it private, but I felt that some people might be comforted that they aren’t the only ones dealing with a crazy ex… and some of what we went through was truly incredible.

Before I met Bill, I had never known anyone whose children were completely and unfairly turned against them the way Bill’s kids were. Bill is definitely not someone who deserves that treatment. I know some people don’t believe that, but it’s the truth. He doesn’t have a mean or irresponsible bone in his body. However, he is mild mannered and empathic, so he attracts bullies and people who think they can steamroll him. He’s come a long way in the years I’ve known him in being more assertive. For instance, I’m pretty sure our ex landlady thought she could take advantage of Bill because he was always nice and conciliatory toward her. He never raised his voice to her or got obviously angry. I think she assumed he’s a wimp. I also think she’s taken advantage of a lot of Americans. She found out the hard way that his being kind and nice isn’t akin to his being a chump. Also… while I’m not a mean person by nature, I am not as nice as Bill is… and he has to share a bed with me. Another important lesson she should have learned is that it’s not wise to wage war with someone who plans war for a living. And that is literally what Bill does.

For all of her complaints about me, one thing ex landlady can never say I did is sabotage her ability to get new tenants. I have noticed on Bookoo that landlords are starting to advertise their places and disgruntled former tenants are running warning ads. I’ve seen two of them so far. Both places were also blacklisted by the military housing office. We didn’t have ex landlady blacklisted before she got her most recent tenant. She’s probably blacklisted now, though, and for good reason. We got a judgment against her.

I guess I like the quieter, more Muzak, less drama oriented version of my blog. I don’t like dealing with people getting pissed off at me for expressing myself. I can assure anyone who reads my blog that I don’t deliberately try to upset people. I don’t wake up with the express intention of causing anyone problems. But if I can’t write freely, I can’t be authentic. And if I can’t be authentic, I really might as well be writing something as bland as Muzak. The truth is, I am not the kind of person who writes about hearts and flowers. If I tried to write that way, it would not be interesting or successful. I liken it to wearing shoes on the wrong feet. Maybe I could make it work, but it wouldn’t be comfortable for me or anyone reading. Besides, there are plenty of chirpy mommy bloggers out there. I’m not a mommy, nor am I “chirpy”. But I’m also not evil, irresponsible, or all that mean and cruel. I just don’t suffer fools or foolishness.

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