Dying to be right…

It’s almost noon and I haven’t done any writing yet. That’s because I am not inspired. Ever since we left the hotbed of crazy that is Stuttgart, I’m finding it harder to write stuff. I’m no longer a member of most of the Facebook groups in the Stuttgart community, so I don’t get exposed to some of the crazy shit that inspires me to opine. I do run an annoying Facebook group, but it’s for winos and foodies in Wiesbaden and Stuttgart. It rarely gets dramatic in that group, because we mainly post about our indulgences.

I had a neighbor in our first village who had one of these…

Actually, this morning, Bill was telling me about someone in one of the Stuttgart groups who got bitched out by a local. His dog escaped the house and took a crap in the neighbor’s yard. The guy was trying to apologize to the neighbor and asked where the crap was, so he could clean it up. German neighbor wasn’t having it and said next time, he was calling the cops. Wow. Really?

A lady in the Stuttgart Facebook group said that a woman stopped her car, leaned out the window, and yelled at the Facebook lady for letting her dog pee in the street. She said the dog should hold it until it was out of the housing area. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had much success in preventing my dogs from peeing outside when they need to go. Moreover, having spent a few years in this country, I have seen PLENTY of evidence that they don’t have that much of an aversion to public urination. I have lost count of the times I’ve seen people pissing on the side of the road. Granted, it’s usually at rest areas, in rural areas where there are no restrooms or, when there’s a traffic jam, on the side of the Autobahn. But seriously, I have seen a lot of public whizzing… especially from men and children.

I do think it’s important to clean up dog crap when it happens, especially in areas where people are walking. I am very good about cleaning up after Arran. Generally speaking, I usually clean up his dumps just after he does them. Sometimes, I make exceptions if it’s pouring rain, as it was this morning, or too dark outside to see. Then I wait until the sun is up and the rain isn’t so heavy. But sometimes, I am not the one who takes Arran out and I miss a dump.

I remember being chewed out by ex landlady a couple of times because there were landmines in the back yard. I hadn’t seen them because they were covered by the tall grass it was her job to cut. Bill would take the dogs out in the middle of the night and they’d poop. I wouldn’t see that they pooped, because I was in bed and it was dark out there anyway. And although I always did a check in the morning, sometimes I wouldn’t see where they went, mainly due to the dumps being hidden in the tall grass or bushes. She would also show up whenever she felt like it, so it’s not like I’d ever know when she was coming so I could do an extra check. It drove me nuts. I would try to explain this to her, but she was never one for listening or being reasonable. Instead, she would simply tell me off, and with each ass chewing, I would have that much less respect for her. You might guess how much regard I have for her now. 😉

Fortunately, at our current residence, I don’t have to worry about the landlord showing up willy nilly, nor is he responsible for cutting the grass. He lives next door, yet I can count on one hand the number of conversations we’ve had. All of them have been pleasant. He respects our privacy. I don’t think he even knows we lost Zane last month. I still try to clean up the poop pronto, though. And if I happen to step in a pile, that’s life.

I guess that’s one thing about living in Germany that I can’t get used to. People seem to have no compunction about scolding others. I mean, they tell off perfect strangers for everything from crossing the street against the “red man” to driving a moving truck the wrong way down a one way street (because it’s the only way the truck can reach a residence). I find it very rude and disrespectful; it offends my southern sensibilities. Besides, in the United States, it’s not a good idea to yell at someone because they might be packing heat and in a bad mood. Maybe you won’t be yelled at by an American in the United States, but you could very well get shot by someone who is a bit unhinged.

I remember during our first tour in Germany, I frequently got yelled at by strangers all the time for doing things “wrong”. It took a long time to get used to it. I mean, sure, it’s not a bad thing to correct me when I’m wrong, but do you have to be so fucking nasty about it? One time, in the first week of our first tour in Stuttgart, I got screamed at by some lady because I walked the dogs through a playground. I didn’t realize that it was “verboten” to take dogs in play areas. I remember going back to our shitty hotel room at one of the worst hotels in Stuttgart and having a good cry. I was very frustrated, especially since I didn’t understand her. It wasn’t until later that I found out that dogs aren’t allowed in playgrounds.

I don’t get “told off” so often anymore, especially since we moved. In fact, a lot of people think I’m a local until I open my mouth to speak. And even then, sometimes I get mistaken for German. It happened yesterday. Some American guy thanked me in German for letting him pet Arran, even though I spoke in perfect American accented English the whole time. But then, a lot of Germans speak in perfect American English, too. Too funny.

I find the older I get, the less inclined I am to tolerate being scolded by people. I’m 47 years old and could be a granny. In fact, I actually am a step-granny. I figure I have earned the right to be given a modicum of respect from other people. However, I have not yet gone back to screaming at them in kind, as I might have before I got therapy. Maybe that would be the best way to deal with it, although in Germany, a person can get in trouble simply for flipping someone off or calling them a name. Some insults are worse than others. For instance, it’s never a good idea to ever tell a German that they’re acting like a Nazi or a member of the Stasi (East German secret police). Double that for a police officer or court official. However, I do think it’s kind of sad that instead of speaking calmly and reasonably to the other party and handling things at a low level, oftentimes shit has to escalate to the point of involving the police or taking someone to court. Sometimes, I don’t think Germans have a concept of win/win. There simply has to be winners and losers here, and many Germans seem all too willing to “die to be right”.

I do still love Germany, for the most part. In many ways, it’s a lot better than the United States. At least I don’t worry that my life is in my hands when we go to the grocery store. Also, Germans are always good for a fest. Yesterday, we went to an apple fest that was pretty epic. I know down near Stuttgart, it’s onion cake season and there will be festivals celebrating onions, of all things. There’s always something going on, and Germans love zany, slapstick humor. I love that about Germany. And I have also found that many Germans, once they know and trust you, are sincere friends. Germany is a beautiful place with many fine traditions. But sometimes, it’s nice to get out of the country for a few days and be around people who aren’t quite so tightly wound. Fortunately, I still have many friends… and some of them even live in Europe.

I look forward to planning our next trip. At this point, it appears that we’ll be going to France for Christmas… visiting friends. Yes, I still have people who like me enough to spend a holiday with me. Imagine that!

Ex, musings

On not being “nice”…

This morning, I was reading a post that I put on my original blog back in 2017. It was basically a top ten list of things that annoy me. I wrote it at a time when I was experiencing a lot of personal angst, which I explained after my vent. At the time, we were contemplating a move to Italy. Bill was asked to take a government job in Vicenza, but taking the position would mean significant inconvenience and a large pay cut. However, we both love Italy and it was an excellent career opportunity for Bill. Also, it would mean he’d have the chance to be a leader again and assume real responsibility. I think not having the ability to make decisions is a challenge for Bill, although it seems like that’s less of a problem now than it was a few years ago.

I was upset about the potential disruption, and feeling totally out of control of my life, so little things were irritating me more than usual. I vented about them in a way that probably made me look like a foul-mouthed, irrational nutcase. That’s my way of blowing off steam, and I do it often. If I had a therapist or a bunch of local friends, I might have vented to them. I don’t have those things, so I vented in my blog. Maybe that post and others like it aren’t “nice”, but writing them keep me sane and probably make some people laugh.

Anyway, as I was reading my top ten list, it occurred to me that some people read my stuff and probably think I’m a massive bitch. And, you know what? They might even be right. I’m not always “nice”. I admit it.

My husband, Bill, on the other hand, is almost always “nice”. He’s a very even-tempered, kind-hearted guy who very rarely gets upset. He almost never raises his voice and I could probably count on both hands the number of times he’s been visibly annoyed with me in the course of almost 17 years of marriage. Bill is naturally a very pleasant person, but he also places a high value on being liked. Unfortunately, always wanting to be liked isn’t always a good thing.

Last year, I got a pissy comment from one reader who tried to advise me on what and how I should be writing. She complained that I wrote “inappropriate” and TMI things, and that I came off as bitter and petty. She’s probably right, although she doesn’t know me from Adam and hadn’t taken the time to understand the context of why I write what I do.

I suspect she felt attacked because of some comments I made about my husband’s ex wife. She is herself a first wife, and I think she assumed I’m “crazy”, because she feels mistreated by her ex husband and his wife. I have a feeling she was projecting her situation onto ours, and assuming that I’m just a mean, nasty person without considering that our situations and the people involved are completely different. I’m sure a lot of people have read my comments about my husband’s ex wife and think I’m the whole problem. I can understand that, even though those people are wrong.

Sometimes nice people aren’t so nice. I’d rather people be kind, instead.

I’m not always “nice”, but I don’t go out of my way to screw people over, nor do I typically lie about major things. I may express unpleasant or unpopular opinions, but that’s pretty much all I do. My husband’s ex wife, on the other hand, has actively tried to ruin his family relationships, not just with his children, but also with his parents. She also tried to ruin him financially. Of course I’m pissed about that, although she was unsuccessful. I’m much less angry with the ex now, by the way. Now that one of Bill’s daughters is finally talking to him again, I find that I care a whole lot less about the ex.

One of the reasons Bill and I get along so well is because we balance each other out. I’m not always “nice”, but I usually try to be kind. People who get to know me soon find out that I have a big heart and empathy for other people. However, I have a low tolerance for annoyance and bullshit, and I tend to deal with it by expressing myself in writing. For a long time, that was okay, as very few people paid attention to the things I wrote. Now that I’ve become somewhat better known, people read stuff and jump to erroneous conclusions about my character. I totally understand that. I think we all do that to some extent. Everybody judges, since exercising judgment is one way to stay out of trouble. On the other hand, sometimes being judgmental leads to problems, particularly when that judgment is coupled with a lack of empathy.

I recently shut down public access to a couple of my older blogs. One of the blogs I cut off free access to is the travel blog, which I know has been useful and entertaining for a lot of people. Many of my regular readers are folks in the government or military community who are either already in Europe or are considering moving here. However, I also have a whole lot of readers from Cruise Critic, because I wrote a couple of very well-received blog series about Hebridean Island Cruises, a niche luxury cruise line that is not often sailed by Americans. Bill and I will soon be taking our fifth cruise with them, so people seek my blogs to read about our experiences in Scotland on a very unusual luxury vessel. If I had left access to the travel blog open, some people would want to read about our experience buying our new car directly from the Volvo factory in Sweden.

Unfortunately, I’ve been experiencing harassment from people who are interested in causing trouble for me. I won’t go into the reasons why they are harassing me. I suspect they feel completely justified, because they don’t think I’m a “nice” person and, because of that, they don’t think I’m entitled to privacy or freedom of expression, nor should I feel free to assert my basic rights.

I also think some people have the erroneous idea that I write to be popular. That’s not true at all. I’ve been a writer my whole life and I mainly do it to stay sane. Bill says writing is my “vocation”. I suppose he’s right, although I think music is even more my vocation than writing is. I am not writing for money or fame, but because it’s simply what I do.

Some people think I’m a no talent hack… or that I’m spewing nothing but nonsense or hatred or whatever. They are usually folks who read a few posts and jump to a conclusion. I know for a fact that I have plenty of regular readers who have gotten to know me beyond a couple of irate, profane, venting posts. Some people are also folks who know me offline and have actually taken the time and made the effort to get to know me personally, rather than just judging me. I write mostly for myself, but I also write for those people. They get it.

A couple of days ago, I proposed deleting my Facebook page for this blog. I have a few reasons for making that proposal. I don’t actually use the page that much for anything more than posting links to blog posts. A lot of the people who officially follow the page are my friends anyway, so they can see the links on my personal page. I was getting “likes” from creepy spammer profiles and was having a hard time finding out how to ban them from my page (I did discover how yesterday). But the main issue is that the page is wide open and allows people to monitor me without making their presence known. As I mentioned before, I know there are people who want to cause trouble for me, so I don’t want to make it any easier for them.

I was gratified to see comments from people who like what I do. It’s good to know that some people enjoy my writing and aren’t “out to get me”. I appreciate those who care enough to comment and want to read my stuff, even if it means “joining the club”. I hope that will be a temporary thing, since I’m now considering moving the travel blog, just as I did my original blog. It’s time for a more professional and secure platform than Blogger, anyway.

Although some people don’t think writing is a good use of my time and think these blogs are stupid, they do give me something to do. I know I could probably find something more “socially acceptable” to do with my time, but the fact is, I LIKE writing, and I’m good at it. I know I have written a lot of good stuff, even if I’ve also vented a few times and used language that would make a sailor blush. Nobody’s perfect. Aside from that, how I spend my time is my business. It’s my life.

I try to maintain perspective as much as possible, but I’ve found that being too “nice” and eager to please other people doesn’t always lead to fair treatment or equity. The fact is, a lot of people take advantage of “nice” people, especially when there’s money at stake. My husband is extremely nice, so I’m less so. It’s self-preservation. And… again, being nice is not the same as being kind or decent. A nice person isn’t always kind or genuine. Plenty of people have been taken advantage of by people who seem really nice… at least at first. I’ve learned that the hard way. You might not think I’m “nice”, but I promise you, I’m capable of being fair and seeing multiple perspectives, particularly if I am approached with basic respect. I’m also genuine. In fact, that’s one thing people who have gotten to know me have said they like best about me. You’ll always know where you stand with me.

Sometimes, people take advantage of Bill’s desire to please other people. It’s happened to him repeatedly, and I can’t bear to see it happen again. Rolling over may seem to be the easy thing to do in the face of confrontation, but it always comes back to haunt him. I think recurrent problems are karma’s way of showing us that we have to deal with an issue. Bill has turned the other cheek so many times and it never gets him where he should be. In fact, it only encourages more abuse. Sometimes, one just has to take a stand.

I mostly don’t write for money and consider my blogs my “home”. If I’m in my home and notice people casing the neighborhood, of course I’m going to take precautions to make my home more secure. So, for now, making some of my blogs private is one way to increase security and discourage harassment, abuse, and stalking behavior. But I do hate to do it… I won’t lie. It’s a pain in the ass to lock things down and, frankly, I don’t feel like I should have to, because I truly haven’t done anything wrong or unprovoked. And I’d rather not delete the Facebook page if people truly like it, even if a closed group would allow for more privacy. I’m not sure what else to do, to be honest.

I will keep writing, though, even if it means I go totally underground. So if you’re reading this thinking you’ve stopped me, think again. I’m going to keep doing what I do, even if I change the way I do things.

true crime

Sexting your 13 year old student… bad idea.

Yesterday, I ran across a salacious news story about a 28 year old woman named Brittany Zamora of Goodyear, Arizona. Until March of last year, Ms. Zamora was a schoolteacher who taught sixth grade at Las Brisas Academy. Ms. Zamora, who has been married to Daniel Zamora since 2015, just got sentenced to 20 years in prison. Why? Because she had sex with one of her students, a 13 year old boy. They engaged in intercourse multiple times; on one occasion, another student stood watch. Aside from that, the pretty young teacher was also sending graphic sexually explicit text messages to her student, who responded in kind.

Ms. Zamora getting sentenced earlier this month. She had a female judge who clearly didn’t cut her any slack for “coming from a good family.”

The boy’s parents grew suspicious of the way their son was behaving, so they installed an application called Sentry Parental Control on the child’s phone. At that point, they got wise to what their son’s teacher was up to and called the authorities. Ms. Zamora was then arrested. It came out that she’d had sex with the boy four times in her car and once in her classroom. She also sent the boy nude pictures of herself, as well as photos of herself in lingerie. Some of the messages they sent to each other were downright X rated, as were their in person sexual activities.

Everybody has a phone, which means nobody has privacy… so why would you send dirty text messages to a minor? Or to anyone, for that matter?

When I read this story, my first thought was that it’s crazy for anyone to think they can get away with this kind of thing in today’s hyperconnected world. Thanks to the Internet and prying, nosy, curious information seekers, it’s becoming more and more difficult to maintain privacy. I know some people do things in an effort to hide themselves online. Here in the military world, a lot of women don’t use their last names on social media. However, that’s becoming a futile practice, since a lot of times, just a few mouse clicks will reveal the person’s identity. If you know anything about them at all, you can get more information.

My husband, for instance, was able to find his younger daughter online because she’d left a comment on someone’s Web site. She didn’t use her last name, but she did use her first name, and wrote in a way that easily identified her. He clicked on the name, which was attached to a link, and ended up on her blog. It took less than a few minutes to do this. He read her blog for years before she finally came around to speaking to him again. It was the only way he could stay in touch with his children. Likewise, when my husband’s ex wife decided to move to New Hampshire from Arizona without informing Bill, it wasn’t hard at all to find that information.

I have an acquaintance who seems to go to great lengths to hide her identity. She doesn’t use her full name online, nor does she post any pictures of herself. When she’s left me comments on my blogs or sent me private messages, she’s always done so using aliases. But I know her name. In fact, I know her full name. The other day, I looked her up to see if she was still living in the same city. It wasn’t hard to get the answer to that question, or any others I had. The information is out there, despite her measures to maintain “privacy”. Curiously enough, she doesn’t seem to mind invading my privacy, but that’s a password protected rant for another day.

So… why is it that a teacher thinks she can send dirty text messages and photos to a 13 year old and get away with it? It shows an astonishing lack of judgment on her part. I don’t know what drives people who want to have sex with minors. Ms. Zamora claims she is not a danger to society. But she did molest a child… so if that’s not dangerous to society, I don’t know what is.

A couple of my friends commented that they didn’t disagree that Ms. Zamora should get 20 years in prison, but they do think it’s unfair that some men get slaps on the wrist for similar crimes. They’re thinking of people like Brock Turner, the Stanford University swimmer who did less than six months behind bars for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. The judge hadn’t wanted to ruin his “bright” future. Or, more recently, there is the case of the teenaged boy in New Jersey who got extreme lenience from a judge because the boy comes from a “good family”. The 16 year old in question had allegedly raped an unconscious girl, filming himself while he was engaged in the crime, and posting it on social media. He sent the clip to seven friends with the caption, “When your first time having sex is rape.” Some good family he comes from, right?

Bill’s comment to that was that, not too long ago, women were “slapped on the wrist” for molesting boys. He mentioned Debra Lafave, the blonde bombshell high school English teacher who famously molested a 14 year old boy who was one of her students. At the time, she was 24 years old and very attractive. In 2006, she pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd or lascivious activity and was sentenced to just three years on house arrest, seven years probation, and registration as a sex offender. Like Ms. Zamora, Lafave (whose last name is now Beaseley), had sex with her student. She also performed oral sex and engaged in these activities in front of another minor, her victim’s 15 year old cousin, who drove them around while they went at it in the back seat. I wonder why Ms. Lafave got such a comparatively light sentence. If she had been a male teacher molesting a female, she’d have probably done hard time.

Or, take Mary Kay Letourneau, the “brilliant” schoolteacher who had a sexual relationship with her student, Vili Fualaau, that turned into a torrid affair. Ms. Letourneau was given multiple chances to stay out of prison, but was eventually caught with her former student. She spent years in prison, but only after she violated her probation and got pregnant by the boy. Then, after she was released, she and Vili married. They have two daughters, in addition to the children Ms. Letourneau had with her ex husband, Steve Letourneau. If she had been a man, she probably would have spent much longer in prison.

Amazingly enough, according to the article I read, Ms. Zamora actually got the minimum sentence for her sex crimes. The boy’s parents had asked for the maximum sentence, which must have been much longer than twenty years (edited to add, maximum sentence would have been 27 years). As it is, Ms. Zamora will be in prison until she’s about my age, because she cannot be released on “good behavior”. Moreover, she will have to register as a sex offender when she’s released. Ms. Zamora’s husband, Daniel, tried to “settle” the matter with the boys’ parents, who, understandably, weren’t having any of it. The boys’ parents, instead, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Zamora for failing to contact the authorities when he learned of the affair between his wife and their minor son. Mr. Zamora recently settled with the boys’ parents for an undisclosed amount.

I don’t know if Mr. and Ms. Zamora will divorce in the wake of this legal morass. I would expect them to, even though they’ve known each other for many years and Zamora seems to be defending his wife. Fortunately, they don’t have any children. Hopefully, Ms. Zamora’s victim will be able to overcome this trauma and have a good life. In my experience, though, this kind of thing has significant ripple effects that will likely affect many people who will have dealings with that young man. For that reason, I don’t think it’s wrong that Ms. Zamora got a hard twenty year sentence. She deserves it.