expressions, funny stories, lessons learned, music, nostalgia

“You really don’t need to put a bow on that load…”

Greetings, blog fans. I decided to take a day off from blogging yesterday. Well, I did post something on the travel blog, but it was short and kind of sweet, because I’m still experiencing our current excursion and I’m not quite ready to write about it yet. So far, it has been an interesting trip, though…

For instance, today’s post title was contributed by Bill. It was inspired by a disgusting song on one of Red Peters’ compilation albums. Bill and I both enjoy off color humor. If it involves body functions, so much the better. Red Peters specializes in that kind of humor, whether it’s in one of his original songs, or a song he puts on one of his compilations, done by another artist.

Some years ago, I went looking for the song “Poo Poo, Pee Pee” on YouTube. No one had uploaded it, so I did, using pictures and video of our recently departed Arran and his old buddy, Zane, who died in 2019. I was probably inspired by one of Arran’s messier indiscretions. By the way, I can play this song on the guitar, now. Maybe I’ll redo it and sing it myself… and play along, too. Why not?

“Poo Poo, Pee Pee” by Bunkum… a classic!

Arran never really did get the hang of housetraining 100 percent. He was about 90 percent reliable. I think he did know better than to go in the house, but for some reason, he just didn’t think it was important enough to avoid having accidents. I had to be very vigilant about making sure he went out and actually did his business. Otherwise, I might get an unpleasant and stinky surprise.

Anyway, the above song has a line that goes “Put a bow on that load…” or something like that. When I was talking to Bill about the post I wrote two days ago, about the high school senior who applied to 70 colleges and got into 54 of them, Bill quipped “Right. You don’t need to put a bow on that load.”

I laughed, because it seemed like sort of a backward way of calling what the young lady did “gilding the lily.” I remember when I was in college, finishing up my bachelor’s degree. I had two minors– one in speech, and the other in communications– and could have taken just one more course for a third, in journalism. My advisor, the wonderful and departed Dr. Massie Stinson, said in his very courtly, gentlemanly, southern accent, “I think that would be ‘gilding the lily.'”

“Gilding the lily” refers to the practice of trying to decorate something that is already beautiful. One doesn’t need to paint a beautiful flower with gold, because it’s already magnificent. Putting gold paint on a beautiful flower would turn it into something garish, tacky, and gaudy. Let the flower’s virtues stand alone…

Of course, if I had wanted to take the journalism class, that would be something else. In retrospect, maybe I should have taken it. If I recall correctly, it was taught by the recently departed Mr. William Woods (although people called him “Doctor”– he didn’t actually have a doctoral degree). I took two classes with Mr. Woods, and found him to be very entertaining. Journalism class with him would have, no doubt, made my GPA a little better. Certainly, it would have helped me with my GPA in English. I was a pretty mediocre English major.

But, at the time, I didn’t want to take that class. I took journalism in high school and was actually pretty good at it. I like writing, as you can see. I think I was put off by the prospect of having to talk to people, especially after a tragedy. Isn’t it funny that a few years later, I would earn a master’s degree in social work? Which… as you can also see… I don’t use. If I had actually launched my career as planned, I probably would have aimed to use the public health degree… and I don’t know how successful I would have been, because it probably would have meant working with scientists or hospital administrators a lot. I likely would have been fired.

Fortunately, I found my husband, who finds it advantageous to keep me around, if only so we can laugh at our many private running jokes and enjoy scatological humor together. Otherwise, I might be living in a van down by the river… or a box under a bridge. And instead of going to our high priced dentist today, I could be sporting “summer teeth” (summer here, summer there… 😉 ). I’m kidding, of course. I have absolutely no doubt that if I needed to survive, I would, and my survival would neither involve homelessness, nor poor oral hygiene.

Sometimes, I just like to stop and muse at the complete absurdity of my life and how it’s turned out. Quite a lot of it is, frankly, ridiculous… Like, for instance, how I met Bill in the first place. It was not the kind of scenario that I’d want to tell my mother the truth about… although his mother knows, and has no issues with it. Bill’s mom isn’t like my mom, though. She’s more of a woman of the world. Actually, my mom is also a woman of the world, but she has much less tolerance and patience for my bent toward vulgarity. Certain topics are off limits. However, she doesn’t mind when I cuss. I think that’s interesting. She will fuss about cursing at my eldest sister, who is 64 years old, but I can drop an f bomb in from of my mom, and she truly doesn’t care. She probably figures it’s a lost cause… “sigh”.

Every old sock needs an old shoe, though, and I guess I’m Bill’s. He likes me, and he comes up with funny lines, often based on nonsensical things in our lives. And instead of “gilding the lily”, he said “you don’t need to put a bow on that load…” which is sort of like calling what the high school student did “bullshit” and saying that a load of bullshit doesn’t need a big fancy bow on it to make it “prettier”. I don’t know that I would necessarily describe applying to that many schools as “bullshit”. To me, it seems more to indicate issues with compulsion or anxiety… or maybe it’s just a statement that our higher education system is complete bollocks.

The book I’m reading right now kind of addresses the phenomenon that a lot of young people think they HAVE to go to some big name college. They put all their eggs in one basket, and ignore less famous places that can give them a perfectly good education. That means the lesser known, but still excellent (or adequate) schools struggle to stay alive, and the really big ones are inundated with applications from way too many qualified students. And then we have wealthy people paying huge “donations” to athletic departments, falsifying records, faking credentials, and winding up in minimum security prison camps for fraud.

I look forward to reviewing the book, so I think I’ll stop here and finish it. I think I have about 30 percent to go… You can look forward to more of a rant about this subject in the coming days.

Hope you have a good Monday. Ours will be punctuated by a nationwide transportation strike and a date with the dentist. Joy of joys… but we’ll go home tomorrow; I’ll write up this trip; and maybe post a new book review. Ciao!

musings, narcissists

If God leads you to it…

Have you ever heard that saying, “If God leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it?” I’m not a very religious person, but I will admit that sometimes I have flickers of spirituality. I was probably more religious when I was younger, but as the years have passed, I’ve become less impressed by the mysterious ways of the Almighty. Bill is a lot more in tune with God than I am. He has more reason to have faith. He’s been through some major shit in his life. My shit, by comparison, is relatively small potatoes. I have never been to war. I have never been at war with an ex spouse hellbent on destroying me. I have never had a near death experience. I have never been divorced or had children. I have never been a child of divorce, either.

For some reason, despite never having these challenging, life altering experiences, I often feel exhausted and embattled by life. My challenges have been different than Bill’s have been, and we have learned different ways of coping. One of my methods of getting through tough times is by turning to creativity. I think maybe it would have been easier if I had been an artist, like my sister is. Pictures can be upsetting, but they probably aren’t as upsetting as the written word is. It usually takes longer to paint a picture than write an essay.

I’m also a singer, although I mainly do that as a form of self-therapy. I don’t share my music nearly as much as I do my writing. I doubt most people take it seriously, even if I do. Maybe it would be better if I simply made music rather than write… although I am finding this week that writing could end up saving me.

The past few days have been very challenging. Some of you are aware that Bill and I escaped the rental house from Hell last year. I didn’t initially think of the experience as “hellish”. What started out as having to deal with an eccentric, overbearing, nit picking landlady has turned into sheer craziness. I used to write about my frustrations dealing with her, but then it became clear that she had a negative advocate stalking my blogs and probably reporting back to her. Not that I wrote that much about her, mind you… and I certainly never identified her. 99.9% of the people reading my old blog and the scattered posts in which I mentioned ex landlady would never know who she was. Moreover, there were also posts in which I praised her. At first, I was sincere in my praise, because she had initially seemed nice. Later, I wrote those posts only because, in my gut, I knew they could be significant later. Two years ago, it became clear to me that we were going to be where we are now… on the brink of a lawsuit in a country that is foreign to me.

Bill has never sued anyone. Neither have I. I don’t plan to be a party to this lawsuit, mainly because I didn’t sign the lease and wasn’t responsible for paying the landlady and her husband. In fact, I’m not officially the reason we’re in Germany. I’m tagging along, because Bill got a job here and I’m his wife.

Several months ago, when it became clear that my blogs were being monitored by former landlady’s ex tenant, I decided to move my writing to a more secure location. I removed any questionable posts, but left the old blog open. It has a lot of good information in it that has served a lot of people, including students in universities. I happen to know that at least one of my posts was used in a criminal justice course at Drexel University. Now… no one ever asked me about it, but I could see the hits and where they came from. And people had left comments letting me know that a book review I’d written was useful. So I left the old blog open for those people, even though I needed a more secure place for my new posts.

All spring, I anticipated the reaction to the bomb Bill planned to drop on our former landlady. I knew she was going to go ballistic. I mentally prepared myself for the fallout. I had a feeling she’d threaten us with legal action, too… because how DARE we hold her accountable for ripping us off? Our ex landlady is apparently obsessed with money and feels entitled to blatantly take what she thinks she has coming to her. Other people’s perspectives and opinions seem not to matter to her. She seems to have an astonishing lack of shame and self-awareness. She’s “right”; you’re wrong, and if you argue with her, there will be HELL to pay.

In February, Bill contacted ex landlady about our deposit. We knew she was going to deduct charges. The day she showed up to do the final check out, she made it clear that she was deeply dissatisfied with the days of cleaning we did. I knew very well that she would be. I knew that despite cleaning as best I could, she would find multiple issues. I resigned myself to it, even though my body ached from the effort of trying to turn her sow’s ear of a duplex into a silk purse.

I was in Wiesbaden on the day Bill checked out. I felt it would be best, since I can barely stand the sight of ex landlady. I had to put up with multiple incidents of verbal abuse and false accusations from her, and I had finally reached the point of saturation. The last time we had a real conversation was the day she stood in the living room of our old house and shouted at me because her 17 year old awning had collapsed on my watch. She was pissed off because it couldn’t be fixed and a brand new one would cost 2800 euros. But… I had told her the awning was listing and instead of hiring a technician with specific expertise related to awning repair, she sent her very handy husband. She later told us the fix was likely temporary, but it was repaired for the time being. Indeed, it did look like the awning was fixed, so I used it on an especially hot day to block the sun from the living room. There was a sudden gust of wind and the damned thing collapsed with a thud.

I wasn’t sitting under the awning when it fell. She claims that makes me “negligent”. Because if I had been sitting under it, I would have noticed the windy conditions and rolled it up before it collapsed. But… the wind was powerful and sudden, and although I have a lot of capabilities, I have not developed the ability to predict it. And if I had been sitting under it, the awning would have injured or possibly even killed me (if it had hit my head). It was very heavy and supported by metal. Ex landlady apparently hasn’t considered what would have happened if I had been sitting under her awning when it collapsed. She obviously doesn’t care.

So, on that September day in 2017, she berated me for the awning’s collapse. Then she berated me for an electric Rolladen that wouldn’t come down. She claimed it was because I didn’t use it often enough. Later, it was determined the Rolladen was not properly installed. No apology was forthcoming from her for accusing me of being “negligent” in that instance.

She also complained about a clump of dog hair in the doorway. She claimed it was “encrusted”. It certainly was not “encrusted”. It took two seconds to clean up, and if I had known this was going to cause her to have a meltdown, I surely would have made sure it was cleaned away before her tirade.

The weeks following that incident were awful. I wanted nothing more than to move away from that abusive bitch. But Bill didn’t want to move. He said it would cost too much and we had no guarantee that a new landlord wouldn’t be worse. So we kept living there and paying her, putting up with her passive aggressive hostility. I soon hated her and her house. Our insurance company gave her 300 euros because her awning was so old. That’s how insurance works. They don’t give you enough money for a brand new items. It’s meant to defray costs, not totally cover them. Prior to the payout, she had written in an email to Bill that she agreed that the collapse was caused by an “act of nature”. When the payout was so low, suddenly it was entirely my fault again.

Fast forward to February 2019. She clearly meant to keep our entire Kaution, but when Bill pressed her, she decided to give us 666 euros. I noticed that the amount she kept was about what a new awning would cost, minus the 300 euros the insurance company gave her. How very noble. She did not list the awning as a charge, but instead levied a lot of nitpicking charges for petty things, with no proof that she’d actually spent money to fix the items. She sent charges for things that were beyond the statute of limitations and charged us full price for things she’d decided to replace for arbitrary reasons. She also charged us to remove the awning, which she had no right to do.

She also sent us a receipt for what she spent to have her the roof of her carport cleaned. We hadn’t been expected to clean that, but she wanted us to know that she had already spent a lot of money. And dammit, she and her husband are pensioners and aren’t wealthy. We should be ashamed for demanding our deposit to be properly accounted for and returned to us. When Bill complained, she became progressively more hostile and shaming. She basically said we were the “worst” tenants she’d ever had and that we lived in filth. But… we were also the tenants she had the longest and she never once got a late payment from us. And over four years, it was clear to us that money was what mattered most to her. She never once asked us to leave her shitty house, although she did offer to find us a housekeeper (like I needed having someone spying on us and reporting back to her).

So in June, our lawyer sent her a demand letter. It was devoid of emotion and bluster. Our lawyer demanded our Kaution, as well as a refund of our Nebenkosten (money for trash, lawn care, and other costs) for four years, since she never did the required annual accounting of it. Now… Bill and I didn’t really expect to get the Nebenkosten returned to us. However, our lawyer pointed out that in Germany, the law states that landlords must do an annual reckoning of the Nebenkosten. Ex landlady never once did this; so legally, we are entitled to request that she refund that money. Over four years, it amounts to a lot of euros.

As I predicted, ex landlady went absolutely batshit nuts when she got the lawyer’s letter. Pretty soon, I noticed her friends and family members stalking my blogs, hitting certain posts repeatedly. I started to think she might try to accuse me of Beleidigung (insult). In Germany, it’s illegal to insult someone. I have never named ex landlady or posted a picture of her, but former tenant had been reading and knew whom I was writing about. Sometimes, she’d leave comments defending ex landlady or agreeing with me, but then she’d delete her comments. That practice left me realizing that she was up to no good.

Ex landlady had her lawyer send us an outrageous letter alleging that we had “destroyed” her house. As Bill translated it, I could practically hear ex landlady’s shrill voice through the lawyer’s bluster. And she demanded even more money from us, tacking on truly ridiculous charges. She’s trying to force us to replace her laminate floor and her carpet (at least 18 years old). She demands the fees for her lawyer, and the real kicker is, she claims we stole her refrigerator. Of all of the things she’s bitching about, the refrigerator claim amazes me the most. Apparently, she thinks the refrigerator I bought for us is her refrigerator, and the piece of shit German one that was in the house when we moved in was one we abandoned and– get this– it’s an “inferior American brand”. She evidently doesn’t realize that we have different voltage in the United States and would not be able to use an American fridge without a plug converter and transformer. The fridge that was left there is German and has a European style plug… and thanks to, we have proof that the fridge we took belongs to us.

Ex landlady also claims that we agreed that she didn’t have to do the annual Nebenkosten reckoning. That can’t be true, since before a few months ago, we didn’t even know that was the law in Germany. There’s no way we could have agreed not to hold her to that requirement. Our lawyer has seen our lease, so I’m certain that if it was buried in the language there, she would have noticed it. We used a standard military lease, same one we did for this house and the house we rented in 2007-09. I can’t think of a single reason why a military lease would exclude the Nebenkosten reckoning. And I know Bill never verbally agreed to it or even discussed it with ex landlady. As a German, she must know this is a standard thing. But she never did it and now she’s busted, so she’s claiming we agreed that she didn’t have to do it. Why would we ever agree to something like that? It wouldn’t be in our best interest to do that.

Shitty German fridge that was there on move in day… She claims we abandoned it because it’s an inferior American brand. Note the European plug and German brand name.
Nice German fridge that I purchased, but she evidently thinks belongs to her.

Now… I have been reading up on lawsuits and I know ex landlady does not stand a chance in hell of forcing us to pay for all she demands. I am pretty certain that she’s simply trying to scare us into capitulating. In fact, her claims are so completely asinine that I question her lawyer’s competence. It’s obvious that her case is weak. She never so much as did a real check in with us, probably because her former tenant was there on the day we moved in and still had crap she was cleaning up when we took possession. There is no proof of what the house looked like when we moved in, because ex landlady never did her due diligence. I know for a fact ex tenant didn’t get the thorough scrutiny we got when we moved out. I am absolutely certain that we are being blamed for things her ex tenant did, but because they’re friends, they feel perfectly fine in pinning all of this shit on us. And ex landlady has the nerve to claim we’re being “unfair”. Seriously? My husband is one of the kindest, most accommodating people I have ever met. In fact, I think that’s why she’s taking this hard line. She thinks he’s a wimp and has no respect for him.

Naturally, I’m pissed off, but I’m also horrified. Our lawyer sent us a letter encouraging us to file a lawsuit, since it was clear some of her assertions are “fictitious” and she won’t willingly compromise. I’m furious, of course, because it just feels like one more insult from her. I resent that we have to take her to court to force her to do the right thing. It will be expensive, inconvenient, and to make matters worse, we have to see her ugly face again. But now that she’s made her demands, we can’t let this go. Clearly, she also needs to be reported to the housing office in Stuttgart, because if she’d do this to us, she’ll do it to other people. I’m also angry because I feel like my privacy has been violated, and my hard work has been RUINED. And much of my work is good stuff. I know it’s helped people. Thanks to the ex tenant and her need to pry into my business, I can’t share that work with others… at least not until this mess is sorted out. And I think that could take a long time.

I don’t even care about the money. I want her to be held accountable for her absolutely deplorable conduct. Especially now that she’s falsely accused us of theft! She can’t expect to get away with this! This could affect Bill’s livelihood! And if she honestly didn’t know that fridge was hers (or someone else’s), how can we believe she knew the condition her house was in back in 2014? She didn’t do her job and now she’s being called on it, so instead of growing up and owning up to her laziness, she’s claiming we’re dirtbags. Once again, the familiar refrain, “We’ve never had any problems with other tenants.”… but she doesn’t realize we’ve never had problems with other landlords.

This would be enough. This shit with the ex landlady, comical as it may seem years from now, would certainly be enough. But now my beloved Zane has lymphoma that promises to kill him soon. Many of ex landlady’s complaints stem from the fact that we had dogs. She blames them for most of the issues in the house. She forgets that ex tenant had a dog, and the people before her had cats, and everything in that house is old. It was certainly not pristine when we moved in. In fact, I have an early blog post in which I lament the smell of the carpet and former tenant admits that many pets had been hosted in that house. It was one of the few comments she didn’t delete.

I know things could be worse. I know I have friends and family dealing with much worse. I also know that ex landlady’s case is so ridiculous that if we do go to court, chances are good that she will be humiliated. That’s probably why the lawyer sent such a strongly worded letter to us. He’s trying to scare us into letting this go, because if a fair and impartial person with a lick of sense hears this story, it’s likely they’ll lose in a big way. We’ve been assured by three lawyers and a housing official in Wiesbaden that our former landlady is completely out of bounds on this. But what if the judge is as wacko as ex landlady is? It’s a possibility.

I try to reassure myself that this will be okay. I try to focus on Zane, who has temporarily improved on the prednisone I’m giving him. It’s borrowed time. When he goes, he’ll take a piece of my heart with him. Ex landlady won’t care about that. She doesn’t give a fuck about anyone but herself and her money. I’m tired of her abuse and her bullying tactics. It’s time to open a can of whoopass and teach that bitch that it’s not smart to engage in a war with people who make war their business. Even if we lose, I relish the idea of making her sweat and spend money on this, even if it’s just the deductible for legal insurance. I’m not sure she knows we are insured, too. And we intend to see this through. God led us to it… and maybe if He’s real, he’ll lead us through it. But I have a feeling that my sheer hatred for her and my resolute unwillingness to tolerate more abuse from her is what is really going to see us through this situation.


“Oh, for God’s sake, shut up and go shit in your hat!”

Back in 1995, I happened to read Kitty Kelly’s unauthorized book about former first lady, Nancy Reagan. I found it in one of the libraries run by Americans in the Republic of Armenia, either at the U.S. Embassy or the Peace Corps office. I wasn’t particularly interested in Nancy Reagan as much as I was dying to read something in English. As I was reading about the 40th president’s wife, I came across a passage about Ronald Reagan and his first wife, the late actress Jane Wyman. I knew of Ms. Wyman from watching her play Angela Channing on the 80s era nighttime soap, Falcon Crest.

Evidently, Ms. Wyman got annoyed with Reagan, who was yammering on about something boring when he was president of the Screen Actor’s Guild. Wyman, who had grown tired of his tedious talk, shouted in frustration, “Oh, for God’s sake, Ronnie, shut up and go shit in your hat!” By contrast, Reagan’s second wife, Nancy Reagan, was famously adoring of her husband and listened to every word he spoke with reverence and devotion. While Ms. Wyman was probably saying what everyone else was thinking, and what she said may have even been something Reagan needed to hear, it was Nancy Reagan who soothed her husband’s ego. They were married for many years. Did Nancy Reagan truly enjoy listening to her husband drone on? It’s hard to tell.

I never watched The Sopranos. Maybe it’s time I did.

For some reason, I was thinking of that passage this morning. It made me laugh when I read it the first time, and it still does now. I like that expression, “Go shit in your hat.” Maybe I’ll start saying that instead of the shorter, but more common and less colorful, “Fuck off.” Seems to me that “go shit in your hat” is a saying with lots of age and history behind it, but I never hear people saying it. Maybe it’s time to bring back that expression, even though not everyone wears hats these days. If they did, can you imagine them taking a dump in one? The mental image makes me giggle.

I did buy a new hat a couple of days ago. In 2017, I bought Bill this awesome charcoal grey flat cap from Aran Sweater Market. I’ve admired it ever since; it looks adorable on him, and he gets many compliments on it. I bought myself a blue suede flat hat in Ribeauville, France, although it was made by a German company. I don’t wear it very often, though. In a fit of loneliness and shopping compulsion, I bought a sweater, a wrap, and one of those Irish wool flat caps for myself, only the one I bought is blue. Blue is my color. I may not wear it often enough for people to tell me to go shit in it, though. In fact, I might end up giving it to Bill, since he’s balding and needs hats more than I do.

Right now, I’d like to tell several specific people to go shit in their hats, just so I can see the undoubtedly shocked and dismayed expressions on their faces. Some of them obviously have no problem verbally abusing and insulting me. Why shouldn’t I respond in kind? I’d like to be one of those saintly people who just forgives and forgets every slight. I’d like to pretend I’m Buddha, who doesn’t react when a person comes at me with anger and disrespect. Instead of accepting the insults and taking them to heart, I’d like to simply stand there blankly, or maybe with a serene smile on my face. Alas, I was not built that way. People who are shitty to me incur my wrath. So maybe it’s time I started saying “in your hat” to them.

Apparently, “in your hat” is a more polite way of saying “go shit in your hat.” I read on the Straight Dope messageboard that back in the 30s, actors weren’t even allowed to say “in your hat” in a movie, because it was deemed indecent, even without the words “go shit” before it. That seems kind of laughable today, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I won’t shit in my hat or yours… but I might suggest it to other people. I know the person with whom I’d most like to start… But I probably won’t, because deep down, I’m a fucking lady.

So what do you think? Is it me?