Military, musings, psychology, technology

What the hell is the meaning of all of this?

This week, I’ve been writing about some learning curves I’ve been handling as I’ve tried to make our house “smarter”. The “smart house” project has invariably left me feeling dumber, as I’ve repeatedly run into roadblocks in my quest to “modernize” and “simplify” my life. Life will often show you that sometimes trying to make things easier invariably leads to making things more complicated.

I did manage to solve a couple of annoying and persistent problems, though. For instance, we weren’t awakened at midnight by the lamp in the bedroom turning itself on, as it did the first two nights after I installed “smart light bulbs”. I figured out what was causing the light to turn on by itself and toggled the switch in the opposite direction. I won’t know if I was successful with the downstairs lamp that was doing the same thing until later today. I do have a feeling the issue is now fixed, though. I might as well think positive, right?

Yesterday, I was flummoxed by an issue with my blogs. My friend Thomas mentioned that he wasn’t able to comment. Since I don’t usually comment on my own posts, I was unaware of the problem. I thought my writing was just sucking unusually hard lately. Even my other friend, Alex, who is probably the current number one commenter, was as silent as the grave. I know Alexis, who is a long time reader, is very busy with her life right now, since she just got married and has embarked on her career.

I tried to summon help via WordPress. I clicked on the “support” button and was engaged in a chat, but then got knocked offline. Later, when I was back online, I couldn’t find the chat, so gave up on that. I resigned myself to trying again later, when I was in a better mood. What really annoyed me is the fact that I had just spent $500 to renew the site for two more years.

In the process of trying to troubleshoot my comment issues, I accidentally ended up deleting StatCounter from my site, which made it look like no one was reading the blog. That made me think about something that happened a few years ago, when we first moved to Wiesbaden. I think of that time as a low point in my “blogging career”.

At that time, we were having serious issues with our former landlady trying to bully Bill into letting her keep most of our security deposit. I think she had actually planned to keep all of it, but Bill protested, so she gave us about 660 euros (out of 3200). She made some false accusations to support her attempt to “take the piss”, as the Brits and Irish like to put it.

What made matters worse is the actions of the former tenant, who had lived in the house just before us, and was, unbeknownst to me, monitoring my blogs. She sent me a mocking private message, shaming me for being so “mean” to the former landlady. This person didn’t actually know me very well. She’d met me offline twice, back in 2014, and had otherwise formed her (apparently negative) opinions of me on what she’d read in my posts and heard from the ex landlady. She basically implied that I was a loser and my blog sucked. It was a sentiment that was echoed by other people in our community, although I know not everyone felt that way.

As you might imagine, ex landlady’s behavior really pissed us off. I vented about it in a couple of posts, though I never named any names. Former tenant disagreed with my assessment of my own situation and, for whatever reason, decided to try to intervene on our ex landlady’s behalf. Because I didn’t really know her very well, it was hard to determine if she was just trying to cover her own ass, or if she really thought I’m an awful person. She also made a false accusation that was pretty hurtful.

We eventually sued the former landlady, and I moved my blogs to WordPress, which required another learning curve. Then we got hit with COVID-19, which pretty much killed my once vibrant travel blog. Taking that action meant starting over, to some extent. I think WordPress is a better platform, current technical difficulties notwithstanding. Starting over has also been good, for the most part, although it has meant reposting a lot of stuff.

Back in late 2018-2019, I was feeling legitimately sad for several reasons. Bill and I had really enjoyed living in the Stuttgart area. It was our favorite of his duty stations when he was on active duty in the Army. In spite of our housing issues during our second stint, we still delighted in living in that area when we came back to Germany.

I made the mistake of getting too involved in the local military community, especially with a blog called “The Overeducated Housewife”, which seemed to really trigger some people. I wasn’t a blogger when we were in Stuttgart the first time, and Facebook was still in its infancy. In the five years we were back in the States, the community became overrun with Facebook groups. I joined way too many of them, which led to unpleasant interactions with strangers. It wasn’t unlike spending all day on a Facebook comment section for a major newspaper, if you catch my drift. Add in the fact that there were a lot of bloggers who were “competing” for readers and the odd “professional jealousy”. It wasn’t fun, although I had a lot more readers back then.

Regardless of the dysfunctional military community and my place within it, the Stuttgart area still held a lot of appeal for us. I hated that we were leaving Stuttgart on bad terms with our former landlady, whom we really had tried to appease on multiple occasions. I was also genuinely sad to be leaving Stuttgart. In spite of everything, we had loved living there. I actually still miss it. I don’t miss the drama, though, nor do I miss dealing with mean people.

Four years later, I’m now extremely glad we moved. For multiple reasons, Wiesbaden has been a big improvement for us. We have a much better house, and a landlord who is genuinely kind and respectful. Yes, we pay a lot more rent, but we get treated like adults. We enjoy our privacy, and I don’t feel like I have to keep everything to our landlord’s standards. He likes our dogs, and has outwardly stated that he wants us to be happy. Our community is very inclusive and friendly.

I didn’t join a bunch of local Facebook groups, so I am not immersed in local dramas. Wiesbaden is a smaller installation, and the people who come here are mainly older Army folks, rather than people from all of the services. Stuttgart had a lot of young and immature people and sometimes, it felt very high school.

Although we are happier in Wiesbaden, sometimes I still feel like writing my blogs is a waste of time. Few people bother with the travel blog. I can’t blame them, since we have been traveling less due to COVID and Arran’s lymphoma. Writing my main blog sometimes feels pointless. I wonder why I still do it, especially when people can’t comment… or don’t want to. Or I come off like an asshole, even though I’m just writing about what’s in my head at the time.

Then a few months ago, Bill got curious about the former tenant who had been trying to interfere and had caused me so much angst in 2019. I unblocked her and found out that she’d committed suicide. While I hadn’t had any interactions with her whatsoever since 2019, I still felt bad about her decision to kill herself. I wondered what led to it. I couldn’t help but wonder if the former landlady blamed me for it, as irrational as that thought might seem. She seemed to blame me for everything else.

Former tenant and former landlady seemed to have this weird “mother/daughter” relationship going on. All I was looking for was a place to live. I ended up unwittingly becoming part of a strange “triangle” of sorts, as former landlady and former tenant were apparently talking shit about Bill and me, and invading our privacy. Then, when it finally went south, former tenant seemed to want to justify her interference. I could probably write an interesting short story about it… if I didn’t feel so weird about writing fiction now. Again… courtesy of former tenant, who felt the need to mock me for that, too.

So all of this shit came up last night, as I was lamenting dealing with the blog’s technological issues, and the fact that I felt like I was throwing messages in bottles in the blogosphere. Suddenly, I felt frustrated. I said to Bill, “I really don’t know why I keep blogging.”

Bill said, “I like what you write. You are a great storyteller. You have a way of turning any subject into something conversational.”

Then I smiled, remembering that Bill met me in a chat room. He used to read my erotic stories. I wrote them when I was in graduate school. They were cheap entertainment for both of us… a good distraction from public health and social work courses and internships. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my programs. It’s more that I’ve always had an innate need to write. I’ve always done it. I was always good at creative writing in school.

In the same way, I make music… or, I sing other people’s songs… at least for now. I’m still working on becoming a better guitar player. Maybe when that happens, I’ll write an original song. That could be a goal. My YouTube channel has picked up more followers lately, although I still don’t have that many. My song covers on YouTube are less controversial than my blog posts are. šŸ˜‰

So, I guess the meaning of all of this is… I write because I’ve got nothing better to do, other than scrubbing lime stains out of the toilet, picking up dog shit in the backyard, and doing the laundry. I’m not a super happy housewife, but I’m probably happier doing that than working in a dead end job or waiting tables. I tell myself the blog is for me. If anyone else reads and enjoys it, so much the better. I actually like to read old posts, because they remind me of times past. I especially like the book reviews. But does it make me a worthwhile and productive person? Who knows? If people can’t or won’t comment, I can only guess.

It’s still easy to get discouraged, though. It’s discouraging when you rent a place to live, and the former tenant acts as a tattletale/spy and then kills herself. It’s discouraging when people are shitty because they don’t like the name of the blog, even if they’ve never even read it. It’s discouraging when no one can comment or wants to comment… or it looks like no one is even reading. It all starts to feel really pointless and dumb.

If I didn’t have my blogs, though, I’d probably still spend my time doing equally pointless and potentially destructive things. Blogging, in a sense, keeps me out of trouble and forces me to use my mind. But then, I post something that gets me into trouble… Maybe it’s better to write these things than say them out loud.

Ah well. I’ll probably have to engage the WordPress support people again soon. But for now, I hope some people are able to post comments, if they wish. I also hope those who do post comments remember that there’s a person behind the screen. Be gentle.

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musings

My new address… there’s no HOA here.

It’s been two weeks since I changed blog addresses. I’ve had some time to reflect on the move. In many ways, moving my blog is kind of like moving from a former residence. Having been an Army wife, I’ve had the experience of moving many times over the past sixteen years. Every time we change addresses, there’s a price to be paid. Usually, we have to pay money, and we lose access to friends and familiarity. But with every move, we gain new experiences. The same can be said for this new blog.

I totally get that to some people, I’m like the crazy cat lady who is holed up in her house, shaking her rolling pin at people who walk on her lawn. Actually, I’m more of a crazy dog lady… and, if I’m honest, I’m not even much of a lady. I swear like a sailor, belch and fart like a truck driver, and drink like I’m Irish (which I apparently am, to some extent). But even though I’m not much of a lady, I like to have dominion over my “home”. My blog is like my home. I don’t invite troublemakers over for pie and punch in my physical home, so why would I invite them over on my blog? When I made my blog searchable, it was like opening the door to the world. Most people are nice and understanding, but some people don’t get it. Life is short, and I don’t want to have the clueless folks over for tea.

This morning, as Bill and I were having coffee and fruit, I reflected on the circumstances that caused me to change my blog. Had my old blog survived until this month, it would have turned nine years old. It saw me through our time in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Jettingen, Germany. It mostly served me well. I had many friendly visitors, and I had some not so friendly visitors. But the not so friendly visitors mostly moved on after a couple of random “eggings” and “TP’ings” in the comments section. I mostly felt safe enough there.

A couple of weeks ago, it felt a bit like my former “home” was being invaded. One of people who lived in the house we used to live in was surveilling me in my blog home. And, much like a pesky homeowner’s association officer, she kept “ringing the doorbell”, complaining about the “noise” and the loud colors. I have mentioned before that I don’t like to be fucked with. So, much like I would if I were living in a home where people were harassing me and I had poor security, I decided I wanted to move. It’s not so easy to move actual homes, but it’s somewhat easier to move blog homes. The only bad thing is that I had to leave all my “furniture” behind.

For some reason, when I tried to move my content from the old blog to this blog, it didn’t work. I tried a few times to upload my old posts, but WordPress wasn’t having it. I eventually decided that maybe it was for the best. Some of the “furniture” in my old blog home no longer goes with the new decor. For instance, at my old “home” there is post after post about how angry I was with my stepdaughters and their mother. Those pieces were useful at one time, but they’re not anymore. They would be out of place on this blog. Much like the yucky 70s bedroom furniture we donated to a battered women’s shelter in Texas, that stuff no longer served a purpose and had become downright tacky. So I got rid of it.

On the other hand, my old address has a lot of posts I’m very proud of. Some of the posts make me proud because they were popular and funny. Some, I’m proud of because I think they’re well-written and even somewhat profound, even if no one else agrees with me. I’ve written some posts that I think are legitimately helpful and interesting, too. I would have liked to have taken them with me to my new “home”. Unfortunately, they were too heavy to move.

It’s a bit lonely at the new address. I don’t have many people reading my posts here, although a few people did follow from my old blog. I haven’t made this blog searchable on Google yet. I don’t know if I ever will. It took me years to do it with the old blog. I remember when I finally decided to allow my old blog to be searchable, I got a lot more attention, and that led to poisonous comments from people who don’t know or understand me or my situation.

The blog HOA lady has probably read my posts about Bill’s ex wife and his kids. She probably assumes that I was the “problem” in that situation. Many people like to project their problems, particularly on “stepmothers”. For all I know, HOA lady was a stepdaughter who hated her stepmom. Or maybe she is one of those people who thinks there’s always enough blame to go around. For the record, I happen to agree with that sentiment most of the time. You’d have to know my husband, though, to understand why that doesn’t really apply in his case or mine.

Nothing I ever wrote in my blog actually affected the ex or her kids, unless she read the posts and had “hurt feelings”. I never contacted them, harassed them, messed with their employment or other relationships, or interfered with them in any way. I simply wrote down my feelings and made them visible to the public. I did that because I know there are other people like me, in similar or much worse situations. I wanted them to know they aren’t alone.

I have written before that I don’t go looking for things people might have written about me. No good can come from it. It will only lead to hurt feelings and anger. According to stepdaughter, ex did find my blog and mentioned it to her. Apparently, stepdaughter wisely steered clear. She and Bill are now talking regularly. She even sent him a picture of her latest sonogram, as well as a video of her gender reveal party for her latest baby. Unfortunately, the video wouldn’t run, so we don’t know yet if she’s having another boy or a girl. Either way, I have changed my mind about Bill’s younger daughter. In the face of evidence, I’m still capable of doing that. So how crazy am I, really?

The blog HOA lady also knows my former landlady. Evidently, they’ve had a fantastic relationship. I’m happy for them, although I have lingering doubts that blog HOA lady was entirely truthful regarding the circumstances of her choice to move. But maybe she was… I really don’t know, and it doesn’t matter anyway. What I do know is that we didn’t have the same experience with the ex landlady, for whatever reason. It may have simply been a case of us not meshing, which happens to the best of people. Or maybe blog HOA lady had a very different experience than everyone else who has lived in that house. There’s no way to tell.

The point is, again, I was voicing my thoughts about that in my “home”– on my own blog. I did not name the landlady, nor did I do anything to harass her. I did not write about her in other places where her reputation might have been affected. I simply vented. For that, I got chastising comments, along with preventive chastising comments for things I hadn’t even done yet. Blog HOA lady assumed she knew what I was going to do and tried to stop me before I started. Or, at least that’s how it seems to me. Was she really expecting me to allow her to dictate what I do in my “home”? Would she stand for that if she were in my shoes?

Maybe she anticipated that I would move my blog. My guess is that this was a surprise to her, though. Maybe she’s glad I moved it, since she was compelled to keep coming around to write up complaints. Or maybe she’s sorry I didn’t stick around so she could keep spying. The lovely thing about my new address is that this “house” has better security. I can simply make individual posts available to invited readers rather than shutting down the whole blog whenever problems arise. I can speak my piece in relative privacy among people who get it, rather than open up the house to everyone and allowing them all to chime in.

In a lot of ways, this move reminds me of when I started my first blog. For many months, no one read it. I never got comments. I don’t even think I got any spam. I was in what amounted to blogging wasteland, out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but wild animals and tumbleweeds to keep me company. It was kind of lonely and, in some ways, it felt kind of futile. Why write something no one will read? Well… I’ve been doing that all my life. I got my first diary when I was seven years old. It was lockable and lavender and had a picture of a Catholic priest on it with the word “Confessions” over his head. I think that’s pretty funny, since I’m not Catholic and didn’t even get the context of that until the diary was worn with age.

I didn’t write regularly in my diary until I was about seventeen, but I still had it and occasionally wrote in it. No one read it, but I still have it in storage somewhere. It’s got value because it offers a glimpse of me at a different time. I lost the key to it many years ago, so it hasn’t been locked since I was a child. When I was sixteen, I bought a new diary that had a combination lock. I wrote in it every day, although that diary lacks the charm of my first one. It’s teal, and hopelessly 90s looking.

I’m sure blog HOA lady thinks I’m a bit crazy. She might think I’m mean-spirited and cruel because of things I write. Maybe I am… although I think it’s better to write those thoughts than act on them. All I’ve done offline, so far, is support my husband in his bid to get our security deposit back. But yes, I’ve written about how aggravating I’ve found both our former landlady and my husband’s ex wife. Yes, sometimes I sound bitter, petty, and “mean”. Is it worse to write down these thoughts and feelings, or simply act on them? I mean, I would like to find Bill’s ex wife and knock the hell out of her for the awful things she’s done, but she’s not worth getting arrested for. And that truly would be a “crazy”, destructive, and ultimately stupid thing to do.

Likewise, it might be fun to publicly smear the ex landlady, as angry as I was at her… (my temper has cooled in the past week, since Bill sent his letter) But I have no desire to be sued for defamation of character or have to deal with the potential legal consequences of losing control and going off half-cocked. So I write about her instead… I even tried to put a story in fiction, but blog HOA lady felt the need to intervene. She was happy to silently read all the other stuff I wrote about people, but not the ex landlady, whom she apparently holds dear. It evidently didn’t occur to her that she could simply stop visiting my “house”. Instead, she tried to tell me what to do in my house, and that is not acceptable.

I don’t want to live in a house where other people control what I do. If I want to paint the walls purple or magenta, I think that’s my right, especially if I own the place. I “own the place” on this blog, so I can do what I want. I will not allow blog HOA ladies to come over for tea and complain about my noise or loud colors. My new home is in blogging wasteland again, although I did tell a few friends where I’m “living”. Maybe someday, this blog will feel more like it’s in a suburb, although I hate suburbs. I don’t know. I don’t do this for money or fame. I do it to stay sane. I spend a lot of time alone, and writing helps me feel connected. And most people offline would rather not hear me spew… so I write it, now in a place where there’s no “homeowner’s association” for my blog. For now, anyway.

I hope this makes sense. It’s fun to write in metaphors.

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Uncategorized

Insurance… not a four letter word.

So, when last I wrote about our landlady’s shenanigans, I explained that she sent us extra bills for stuff she paid for, in order to make a case for how much she’s spent on fixing up her house. I am sure she meant to make us sympathetic to her plight, but all it did was really piss me off. I found it a very bold and manipulative move. I am not one to tolerate emotional abuse or blatant manipulation from anyone, especially hostile, passive aggressive landladies.

Anyway, Bill called Stuttgart’s housing office, who referred him to a mediator. The mediator wasn’t in, so he called our legal insurance company. He spoke to a very nice English speaking representative who told him the following:

She confirmed that the landlady cannot keep the money for the plumbing bills because the statute of limitations ended in December 2018. As for the rest, we can ask for almost all of it back. She recommended we let her have the money for the trash (Iā€™m okay with that).

Way ahead. I will send the landlady a letter asking for the Kaution back in May (she can keep it for six months). If she refuses, then I can call the insurance company back and they will set us up with a lawyer here in Wiesbaden who will send her a formal letter in German. 

Bill

I would not want to be with the landlady when she gets Bill’s letter. I suspect she’s going to shit a brick. I doubt she’ll surrender the money easily. We may very well have to involve a real lawyer, who will write her a letter and potentially take her to court. I hope it doesn’t go that far, but at this point, it doesn’t look like her bullshit is going to stand.

Frankly, even if she does surrender the money without a fight, I want her to be reported to the housing office. If she tries this with people who lived in her house for four years and are still in Germany, imagine what she’ll do to people who aren’t there that long, don’t know about insurance or the tenant’s union, and have to leave Germany. She won’t hesitate to screw them over, especially if she doesn’t like them.

I really do want to move on with my life, but it’s gratifying to know that we don’t have to stand for this. And as yucky as this situation is, it does make me glad we’re in Germany, where people can get affordable legal insurance. In America, this might be a bigger and more expensive pain in the ass to settle.

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complaints, condescending twatbags

But wait… there’s more.

Bill said that the landlady explained the 100 euro charge for the dishwasher handle because she claims she has to buy a new machine. The handle can’t be replaced because the machine is old, even though it still works fine. So apparently, it is incumbent upon us to help her finance a new dishwasher because of a cosmetic defect with the old one. I would imagine her reasoning is the same for the hood over the stovetop. Yes, it works fine, but it’s slightly off-kilter, so she “must” buy a new hood. And we have to pay for it.

It amazes me how concerned she is about sprucing up that house for the new tenants. It’s even more amazing that she thinks she can force us to bankroll her efforts. According to what I’ve read, security deposits (Kautions) in Germany can only be used for specific purposes. She was supposed to have put the money in a separate, interest bearing account, and it was to be used for things like unpaid rent, unpaid utilities or taxes, or actual damages. Most of what she submitted to us were charges that were cosmetic in nature. Moreover, even if she was justified in asking us to help pay for a new stovetop hood and dishwasher, she is only allowed to charge us a percentage of the actual worth of the item. Now, whether or not 100 euros for the “askew handle” is fair is up to the law. My guess is that she’s charging much more than she is actually entitled to. I could be wrong, but I’m willing to ask a third party to find out.

I am certainly not an expert on landlord-tenant laws, particularly in Germany, but I think the fact that she sent us her bills for other, unrelated stuff, like washing the roof on the carport, is a sign that she knows what she’s asking is unreasonable. If she feels completely justified in sending us bills for things like a crooked stovetop hood and an askew dishwasher handle, why would she need to include a bill she paid for carport washing? That’s irrelevant, and not our business. She’s trying to guilt Bill into letting her get away with this because she and her husband are older and, I guess, on a fixed income. She’s also very cheap and entitled.

Little does she know, Bill used to be married to a woman who pulled this kind of manipulative bullshit. He’s been dealing with FOG– fear, obligation, and guilt— his whole life. And he’s made significant strides in overcoming the need to please other people. It would be so easy to just let this go and get on with our lives. We don’t miss the money. But it just seems like that would be morally wrong, because there will be people renting that place after us, and if we let her get away with this, she’ll try it again. For the good of the innocent people who will follow us, we have to take action.

I am reminded of this… “Didn’t want to do it. Felt I owed it to them.”

And yes… we definitely must speak to the housing office in Stuttgart and let them know about what’s going on. Chances are, they won’t care, since I would presume this is the first time she will have been reported. But if we don’t say anything, she could continue to do this for as long as she’s targeting Americans. And since she is advertising on Bookoo, we know that’s who she wants in her rental, probably because we don’t stay as long and we pay a lot more than Germans will.

Bill was reluctant to call the “Schade” hotline because he has to leave town in seven working days. He has work to do and no time for this nonsense. However, my thinking is that is exactly why he should call a lawyer. It’s their job to handle this crap. If he gets a legal representative, they can deal with the ex landlady and he can focus on his work. We have the insurance; we might as well use it. And chances are good that a letter from a lawyer will persuade her to stop trying to fuck with us. Or, it could lead to us going to court, but if we go to court, then I can write a cool blog post about it.

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