complaints, rants, social media

Things Americans “know” about my life in Germany…

I got into a brief discussion yesterday with people from my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia. One of my high school classmates posted a picture of what she’d spent at the gas pump. If I recall correctly, it was about $125 or so… and that certainly is a mind blowing figure. While I didn’t expressly state it, I was initially sympathetic. I left the first comment on her photo, which was that [gas prices] have been like that in Europe for years. In fact, they’re even higher here than they are in the United States. I had originally meant the comment to be matter-of-fact, but it kind of blew up a bit.

A funny note someone left at a BP gas station near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, about twelve years ago. It was just after BP’s oil tanker started leaking in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last time I checked, which I will admit wasn’t super recently, gas in Germany was about 2 euros per liter. There are 3.785 liters in a gallon. A quick Googling tells me that gas prices near where I live are still at about 2 euros per liter, thereabouts. My trusty calculator tells me that a gallon of gas near me would cost about 7.57 euros. One euro is currently equivalent to $1.05, so that means a gallon of gas is about $7.96. If you’re driving a honkin’ big truck that holds 20 gallons of gas, it’s going to cost you about $160 to fill up in Germany. But that’s not unusual here. I remember it being very expensive here when we lived here years ago, although it wasn’t that expensive. I think it was the dollar equivalent of about $2.65 per gallon back around 2007 or so, which was still expensive for us spoiled Americans.

A few hours later, a woman from Gloucester whom I’ve never met, left me kind of a snarky comment about how everybody in Europe lives in houses that are the size of a U.S. house’s kitchen. Then she went on a rant about how much Europeans pay in taxes (she claimed 58%) and compared them to socialists. She finished her comment with an orange angry emoji… to which I laugh reacted, because her comment was so full of misconceptions and falsehoods that I was kind of flabbergasted.

The front of my current house in Germany. It’s bigger than a kitchen.

I added another comment. I wrote “I live in Germany, and I assure you that my house is bigger than your kitchen.” Indeed, the home we live in now is on three levels, has three bathrooms, three bedrooms, a large, finished basement with a granny apartment, and a fenced in backyard. There are also two large balconies. The one thing this house doesn’t have, that I wish it did have, is closet space. Most German houses don’t have closets. Our first German house was an exception to that trend. It was built by a man who had worked for IBM and was familiar with US houses.

At that point, another person from Gloucester, but living in Arkansas, left a lengthy, but basically polite comment, explaining that she knew Germans had nice homes, but they don’t have to drive much, because of the public transportation available here. She wrote me a tale of woe about life in rural America, and how the high gas prices are a real hardship. She wrote her comment as if she thought I was from Germany, which struck me as funny.

While it’s true that there’s a lot of public transportation here, not everyone uses it, nor is it necessarily convenient for everyone to use in every area. If the usual traffic on Autobahn 3, which is very near my house, is any indication of how many Europeans are driving, I’d say that lady is a little out of touch with how things are over here in Germany.

I do understand what life in rural America is like. I lived there myself for many years. So I commented, “I’m an American, so I know how it works,” adding a winky smiley. I know… that’s a little snarky, but I have to admit I was a little irritated that this person felt she needed to explain life in the United States to me. Especially since I never indicated that I didn’t have any empathy for Americans having to pay a lot for gas. My initial comment was simply that gas prices have been high in Europe for years, not that my friend needed to “get over it”. But after reading a couple of comments from obvious conservatives who blame Joe Biden for the price of gas, I was starting to feel like my countrymen were whining a bit and could use a perspective adjustment.

Then the first lady came back, still seemingly a little pissy, writing that she doesn’t want to spend $10 a gallon on gas, and she thinks taxes are too high in Europe. I was still left with the impression that she had no idea about what she was writing. So I responded with something along the lines of, “Okay, but you’ve made some comments about life in Europe that are not grounded in reality. Germans do pay a lot of taxes, but they get a lot for the money they pay. Most of the Germans I’ve known live perfectly nice lifestyles. Yes, gas is expensive here, but other things are much less expensive, like healthcare, education, and food. And Germany also isn’t a socialist country.”

I also added that here, one doesn’t have to go to college to have a hope of getting a “good” job. In fairness, people don’t necessarily have to go to college in the United States to get a good job, either, as long as they have a useful talent or skill. However, here, the emphasis is on people being able to find work so they can pay their bills. Young people don’t get saddled with humongous loans that will take the rest of their lives to pay off, and workers have rights. In the USA, it can be very difficult to find work that pays enough, even if one went to college, or even graduate school. And vacation leave is pretty stingy in a lot of jobs. You’re lucky if you get two weeks, unpaid.

I didn’t add that in Germany, new parents get generous paid leave. In fact, they also get generous guaranteed vacation time every year, which allows people the chance to rest, and to recover when they get sick or injured. We pay for energy by the year, and it’s less than we’d spend in the United States. We pay for heating oil every year, so we don’t have to worry about getting an unexpectedly high bill every month. Bill and I don’t pay German taxes for most things, because we have SOFA status. We pay US taxes, which are admittedly lower than German taxes are. But the United States makes every citizen file a tax return and pay taxes, no matter where in the world they are living. Most other countries don’t do that. Granted, if one makes under a certain salary threshold, there is a US tax exemption. Whatever one makes over that figure is taxed.

Then the second woman wrote that she didn’t check my passport before assuming I was German, and apologized. It seemed like a snarky comment, but I chose not to respond in a snarky way. I wrote that I grew up in Gloucester, so I know the pain of commuting long distances in the United States. I also know that a lot of people, some of whom have never lived anywhere but Gloucester, and many of whom have never so much as visited another country, assume that the United States is the best country on Earth. I’m here to tell them that it ain’t necessarily so. Even if they did think Gloucester was the best place ever to live, after having experienced living in many other places, that wouldn’t be every person’s opinion. As my Italian friend Vittorio would say, “Tastes differ.”

At this point in my life, I’ve now lived in several countries. No place was ever perfect, but the other countries I lived in had their pluses and minuses. Even Armenia, which was really developing when I lived there in the 90s, had some aspects of life that I later missed. The beautiful produce at the shukas comes to mind… as well as the fascinating churches, amazing art and music, and interesting cultural traditions. It was also a very CHEAP place to live… much cheaper than the USA or Germany is. I was definitely ready to leave Armenia at the end of my Peace Corps service, but that was mostly because of a situation I was dealing with at the time that could have happened anywhere. I also missed Armenia when I got back to good old Gloucester, where I was stuck living for two years post Peace Corps.

Anyway, when I left my original comment about how expensive gas is, it was to the original poster. It was neither a positive nor a negative comment. I just wrote that gas prices have been high in Europe for years. The other people were the ones who made it negative, and then added a bunch of hooey about life in Germany… something about which they clearly know very little, or next to nothing. I probably should have just rolled my eyes and moved on… people are going to complain, and some will continue to blame the president for something he can’t, and doesn’t, control.

Personally, I would rather pay higher gas costs and know that if I get sick and need to go to a hospital, I won’t go bankrupt. Of course, we could probably use the military hospital in Germany, but I wouldn’t conclude that’s ideal, except that we would be more likely to get decent pain relief. One of Bill’s co-workers, who is American and a retiree, sought care at Landstuhl for his wife, who had colon cancer. The military hospital couldn’t accommodate them in a timely manner, so they called up the local hospital. They got a same day appointment. She went in, and over about a year’s time, they treated her for the cancer. She’s now in remission. When all was said and done, the whole thing cost about $13,000, which was entirely paid for by her health insurance. Try doing that in a US hospital, even with insurance.

The United States truly does have some great things going for it. I do love my country, and I even miss it sometimes. But there’s PLENTY of room for improvement in the United States. And to be honest, high gas prices are not what I would be focusing on right now, when children can’t even go to school without being afraid for their lives. Yes, it sucks to pay a lot for gas, but I’m afraid the days of cheap gas are coming to an end for many people. It’s not just because of the political situation in the United States; this is a global issue. Maybe instead of whining about high gas prices, American people might invest in more fuel efficient vehicles… or push for better and more extensive modes of public transportation. There’s a high price to be paid for living out in bum fucked Egypt, where there is no bus or train system.

But most of all, I wish ignorant, all-knowing people in the United States would stop trying to tell me how life is where I am actually living. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and it really drives home why so many non-Americans think so many Americans are so insufferable and arrogant. As an American, I didn’t see it so clearly when I lived in the US, but I can see it plain as day now… and folks, as the “orange hero”, Donald Trump, would say– it’s not a good look.

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social media

“Shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” When people of today, shame others over events from the past…

Back in the 80s, I used to love watching sitcoms on television. One of my favorites from those days was Alice, which, over several years, starred Linda Lavin, Vic Tayback, Beth Howland, Polly Holliday, Diane Ladd, and Celia Weston. A few years ago, I downloaded the entire series and watched all of the episodes. As I was watching the show, I had forgotten that Alice, along with many other TV shows from that era, wasn’t always “politically correct” by today’s standards.

I remember one episode featured cast members from The Dukes of Hazzard, which was a huge hit in the early 80s. I was still a child in the 80s, and I grew up in southern Virginia, where people proudly displayed Confederate battle flags. Consequently, when Alice originally aired in the 80s, I wasn’t shocked when an episode featured Boss Hogg and Enos, of The Dukes of Hazzard. Mel Sharples (Tayback), crotchety owner of Mel’s Diner, welcomed them by putting little Confederate battle flags on all the tables. In those days, seeing that flag was pretty common and even considered “normal”, especially in the South. I was about ten years old, anyway, and at that time, didn’t know anything about racism, or any of the issues surrounding that topic.

Yes, Enos and Boss Hogg visited Mel’s Diner.

I would later learn much more about racism, and why the Confederate flag is so offensive to many people, but I’m probably still pretty ignorant about the subject. What I know is mostly based on book learning and conversations I’ve had with people of color. I did happen to live in South Carolina when the Confederate flag was finally taken down from the top of the Statehouse dome. Because I was living on the campus at the University of South Carolina, I could actually see the flag come down from my apartment, as it was also being televised on CNN. The flag was moved to the Statehouse grounds, where it was guarded by a state trooper for some time. I believe the powers that be in South Carolina eventually removed the battle flag from the Statehouse grounds altogether, although I can’t swear to it, since I haven’t been in Columbia in years.

This certainly wouldn’t fly today… but it was considered perfectly fine in the 80s. We can’t change that by shaming people.

One thing I remember from Alice was that the character of Vera, played by Beth Howland, was famously ditzy, “dinghy”, and batty. One of Vera’s best remembered taglines was “shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” She would always say it with the appropriate level of disgust and disdain, which usually got a laugh from the studio audience. That old line is in my head this morning, as I reflect upon a shaming comment I received this morning from a complete stranger. It’s actually one of a few unpleasant interactions I’ve had with complete strangers on Facebook over the past 24 hours.

I’m in a Facebook group called “Exploring Virginia”. It’s mainly a “feel good” group in which people share beautiful photos and memories of Virginia. I spent most of my childhood and a good portion of my young adult life in Virginia. It’s my home. I was born there, and both sides of my family of origin have been there for generations. I spent my childhood riding horses, and since my discipline was “hunt seat”, that means I went on the occasional fox hunt. Virginia, being one of the original British colonies, does have a lot of traditions that are British. Some people are continuing those old traditions, even if they seem wrong now.

Yesterday, someone shared a photo from a fox hunt in Middleburg, Virginia. Middleburg is horse country. I never lived in Middleburg, but I do know that’s where a lot of really stellar hunter jumpers are born and bred. So, it stands to reason that there would be fox hunts in Middleburg. I thought it was nice that someone shared a photo from a hunt, and posted:

“I used to go on fox hunts in my youth… Was a lot of fun!”

I haven’t been fox hunting since, oh, around 1986 or so… at that time, fox hunts weren’t necessarily considered politically incorrect. They were even still legal in the United Kingdom, which banned them in 2004, because they are considered “cruel” . Fox hunting is still permitted in Northern Ireland. I believe they are still popular in Ireland, too, based on the YouTube videos I’ve seen. Anyway, it’s been many years since I last partook of that sport. In fact, I haven’t even been riding since the mid 90s, and riding used to be a huge part of my life. Seeing that fox hunting photo brought back good memories of when I spent most of my free time with my horse.

Most follow up comments to mine were friendly. Several other people also wrote that they used to enjoy fox hunting. Others just expressed appreciation for the photo, which again, wasn’t my photo. But then, this morning, I got a comment from someone who felt the need to single me out, and shame me, for fondly remembering my fox hunting days. She wrote, in direct response to my comment that hunting was fun, “not for the fox.”

I decided to reply to her, which I think I managed to do in a somewhat measured tone. I wrote:

“In all of the years that I hunted, I never saw any killing. We mostly chased deer, who also weren’t killed. Think trail ride while wearing fancy riding clothes. I think I saw one fox in all the times we hunted. We all said “tallyho”, and that was it.”

I understand that fox hunting is no longer considered “politically correct”, because many people consider it to be cruel. However, when I went fox hunting, I was a child growing up in rural Gloucester, Virginia, where my classmates would routinely bring rifles on school grounds so they could go hunting after school. That’s how things were in the 80s, and it was normal for me, and my classmates. Maybe fox hunting wouldn’t be considered “right” by some people today, but when I was a young horsewoman, it was perfectly fine, and part of taking riding lessons. I also competed in horse shows and went on competitive trail rides. Doing all of that helped keep me physically fit, taught me responsibility, and sportsmanship. It also kept me occupied and out of trouble. Moreover, hunting– of all kinds– was part of the culture in Gloucester.

In fact, when I was in middle school, I remember having to take a hunter safety course as part of our health and P.E. curriculum. Teachers actually taught us about how to safely handle firearms, even though I have never actually owned a weapon. Enough people in my community had guns, that the school board felt it was a good idea to teach school kids about gun safety. In light of all the gun violence in schools today, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Should I be ashamed that I took a hunter safety course, too? I don’t remember having a choice in the matter.

Anyway, the actual kind of fox hunting we did was more of a ceremonial thing. It genuinely was fun, on the mornings when it wasn’t absolutely frigid outside. It basically boiled down to people putting on breeches, long johns, black boots, turtlenecks, and coats, and riding through the woods on fall mornings. After a few spirited canters through the woods, and a few jumps over ditches, fallen tree trunks, and fences that were put up by the hunt club, the adults would pass around a flask of Jack Daniels. It seemed to be more about camaraderie than a bloody sport involving wild animals being torn apart by dogs. I never once saw that happen, but even if I did, it’s not as if people weren’t also using their guns to kill wild animals in those days, and now.

While I probably wouldn’t choose to go fox hunting now, I don’t feel offended when I see a picture of a man in hunting attire on horseback with his dogs. Hunting serves a practical purpose. Some people get their meat that way, and actually hunt because that’s partly how they feed their families. Many people are going to choose to eat meat, no matter what animal rights activists say about it.

I don’t think I should be shamed because I once enjoyed fox hunting, especially since I was a kid at the time, and nothing was ever actually killed. What’s the point of shaming someone for something like that, other than trying to make them feel like shit? I can’t change the fact that I used to fox hunt and mostly enjoyed it. It was part of growing up in rural Virginia around horses. Given that Exploring Virginia is supposed to be a “feel good” group, I think that lady’s comment was out of place. As I was writing this, some other lady gave me a “sad” reaction. Seriously? I decided to just delete my comment, because I don’t want to spend my Friday being annoyed by shamers. I’m sure that reaction was not what the group creators had in mind when they started their group.

For more reading about fox hunting in Virginia, here’s an excellent blog post by someone who describes exactly what I remember from my “hunting days”.

Cue the judgmental responses from the vegan crowd…

I’m not the only one who’s gotten shamed, though. Singer-songwriter Janis Ian shared the featured photo yesterday. Janis Ian regularly posts things that get people riled up and snarky. I like her music, and often agree with her views. She can be funny, too. But I rarely comment on her posts, mainly because I’ve noticed that she can get quite testy in responses to people and, at times, she’s a bit hypocritical. On the other hand, some of her fans are pretty obnoxious. One person commented,

“Yes! I didn’t realise that you are a vegan!”

To which Janis posted, “I’m not.”

The post then became inundated with comments from a preachy vegan who shamed those who enjoy eating meat. There were also a couple of comments about people who feed their cats a vegan diet, which I think is a cruel practice. Cats are true carnivores, and they shouldn’t be forced to be vegans because some humans think hunting is cruel. Even the ASPCA agrees. Cats hunt. It’s in their nature. No matter how many human beings think killing and eating animals is cruel, there will always be creatures who kill their food. It’s part of life.

That being said, I totally agree that factory farming is horrible, and too many of us eat way too much meat. But a holier than thou exchange on Facebook with a complete stranger about veganism isn’t going to make me change my diet, nor do I think the complete stranger really cares. I think it’s more about them feeling superior and more “evolved” than other people.

Personally, I truly admire vegans, but I don’t think I could be a vegan. I might be able to be a vegetarian, if I really desired to make that change. But I will tell you one thing… being preachy and judgmental is not going to make me want to join the vegan cause.

When it comes to animal rights, there are varying degrees on what some people think should be reality. Some animal rights activists, for instance, don’t think humans should even have pets. I’d love to know what they think we should do with all of the dogs and cats and horses who depend on their relationships with humans for their survival. You can’t tell me that my dogs don’t love Bill and me, either. I refuse to feel guilty and ashamed for loving my pets, who also eat meat.

I guess what it comes down to is that everybody has an opinion. In a just world, people would respect other people’s rights to express their opinions without resorting to shaming or climbing up on a moral high horse.

And finally…

Yesterday, I got shamed for “not being fertile”. Some guy in a discussion about abortion commented that he thinks that since half of a developing fetus’s DNA belongs to the father, the father should be allowed to force the mother to gestate. It’s as if this guy thinks of the fetus as his property, even though it’s not developing in his body.

I wrote that it’s too bad that MALES aren’t the ones whose health and life are on the line. And the guy responded by saying “most men prefer women who are fertile.” That struck me as a totally stupid comment. I actually laughed out loud. I considered offering a snarky rebuttal, but then decided that the guy’s comment was so incredibly dumb that it was better to block him. I don’t want to have anything to do with an asshole like that. 😉

But seriously… on so many levels, that comment was very offensive. First off, how does he know about my fertility, or lack thereof? I don’t look old in my photo. Secondly, why is he speaking for all men? And thirdly, it’s those kinds of misogynistic comments that make a lot of women not want to have anything to do with men. I can totally understand why my cousin decided to conceive using donor sperm, rather than being involved with a man. For one thing, she’s a lesbian. For another, so many men are just assholes. I truly hope that no fertile woman lets that dude get within fifty yards of her vagina.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I need to get off of Facebook.

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mental health, psychology, social media

You just never know what someone is going through in life…

Today’s post is about suicide. If you think that will trigger you, please move on to the next Internet station.

Over the twenty years I’ve been in Bill’s life, he’s repeatedly told me stories about his friends from high school, and how they helped him through that time in his life. Bill owes his career, in part, to his high school days. At his mother’s insistence, Bill joined Army JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps), and flourished as a cadet. He had grown up without consistent access to his father, so being in the JROTC helped him immensely, by providing him with positive male role models.

Unfortunately, Ex was also enrolled in JROTC, and that was how and where she and Bill met. She later tracked Bill down when he was in Germany the first time, and managed to marry him. We all know how that turned out. 😉 But in spite of the connection with Ex, JROTC was also a place where Bill met some great kids, most of them guys who were a lot of fun. His friend Mark, who committed suicide last month, was among them.

I wrote about Mark last month, even though I never had the chance to meet him. I was the one who told Bill about Mark’s death, as another one of Bill’s friends, who also “friended” me on Facebook, had announced it. Bill was really shocked by the news. He watched as his friends posted their reactions to Mark’s death, and their memories of knowing him. I felt sad for Mark’s friends and family members. Even though a number of them admitted that Mark had “demons”, they all had wonderful things to write about him. And even though they weren’t necessarily people who knew each other, they all shared in the commonality of knowing and loving this man who had violently left life on his own terms.

Sometimes, these things tend to happen in threes. When I initially wrote about Mark, I included some commentary about my cousin’s wife, who, in April, passed away of cancer. In another post, I also included some words about a guy I knew when I was in high school, who also had cancer and died on March 31st, having just turned 50 years old. I will be 50 next month, and I have been worrying a bit about my own health, lately. I have significant issues seeing doctors. So, although I’m sure I will need to pay a visit to one at some point, I’m having some trouble doing it. What makes things harder is when I hear or read about someone who commits suicide. Especially when they are presumably young and healthy. It makes me wonder what the point is of seeing doctors.

This morning, I’m realizing that the three deaths I thought had comprised that old adage of deaths happening in threes, actually weren’t that at all. Because since I wrote that post in mid April, two more people who have somehow affected my life have committed suicide. One of the people I’m referring to is country star, Naomi Judd, who abruptly ended her life on April 30th. Naomi’s death was tragic and shocking on many levels, but at least she’d lived a pretty full life. She didn’t live as long as she was physically able to, but she did live until an age at which a lot of people die for reasons other than suicide.

I wrote about Naomi, although I’m sure I’m not as affected by her passing as some people have been. I enjoy her music, and as a fellow human being who has experienced depression and anxiety, I have great empathy for the suffering she must have experienced to cause her to make such a decision. But this morning, I read an article on People.com about a man who spent some of Naomi’s last hours with her as they sat next to each other on a 90 minute connecting flight to Chicago. Strickland explained that Naomi “never met a stranger” and would talk to anyone.

At first, the man she sat next to on her last plane ride hadn’t realized she was famous. But they got to talking during that short flight, and Naomi had made a real impression on him. When he got news of Naomi’s death, he decided to reach out to her equally famous family via email. To my great surprise, I was feeling a bit choked up as I read about the man’s kind message to Naomi’s widower, Larry Strickland, who had been so concerned about Naomi flying alone. According to the People.com article:

“It’s a small comfort, I’m sure, but my life seems a lot richer after meeting your wife, however briefly,” continued the note, which visibly sparked an emotional response from Strickland onstage. 

“Obviously, I didn’t know Naomi at all, but I can tell you she spoke highly and warmly of you, and the life you shared together,” read the heartfelt email, which Strickland recited while choking up. “Rest assured she loved you and had no qualms about telling me, a stranger on a plane, that was so.”

The man concluded his letter by telling Strickland about the “measure and impact” his late wife left on him during the brief time they spent together, and Strickland told the audience the message provided “great, great pleasure and comfort to me.”

What a great gift this stranger gave to Larry Strickland. It’s a reminder to everyone that famous people are no different than non-famous people. I’ve thought about Naomi a lot, lately, but I am so glad that her husband was able to be comforted by a stranger’s loving message to him.

Now comes the part of this post when I write about third suicide that has sort of affected me on some level. It’s a convoluted story, so bear with me, and keep in mind that this is simply from my perspective. Other people, I’m sure, have different perspectives. This is just my version of the truth.

Some readers– especially those who remember my original OH blog– might recall that in 2019, I abruptly moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I made that decision for a couple of reasons. I had actually wanted to move the blog for awhile, since Blogger isn’t the most professional or functional blogging platform out there. But I put off moving the blog, because I knew it would be inconvenient, and I’d have to start over from scratch. I finally moved it when it became clear that the old blog was becoming a liability. I had some readers who weren’t friendly to me, and they were stirring up trouble. I needed the extra security and functionality that WordPress offers.

I was legitimately shaken by the actions of this woman I had perceived was “stalking” me, and was in cahoots with our former landlady. I’ll call her “Jodi”, though that’s nowhere close to her real name. She had lived in our previous house immediately before us. She and her husband had left ex landlady’s house in September 2014, which was about halfway through their stint in Germany. Since they were still living in the community, and back then, I was sharing my travel blog in the local Facebook groups, Jodi started following me. Because the travel blog was also on Blogger, it was easy for her to find my rawer original OH blog. She decided to follow that blog, too, which probably led her to make some erroneous negative assumptions about me, and my character.

Perhaps because she was feeling curious, or maybe even a little guilty about moving out of ex landlady’s house, Jodi was regularly monitoring my blogs, even though she’d left Germany in 2016, or so. Occasionally, she would leave me “friendly” comments, always with a fake name. At first, the comments were nice, but then when I started having trouble with former landlady, she would leave comments that were shaming or chastising. One time, she asked me to edit something I had written that she was uncomfortable with, since she claimed it had wrongly implicated her. Basically, I had wondered why she and her husband had moved out of that house halfway through their tour in Germany. She had told us that she thought of the ex landlady and her husband as parents to her, and claimed they were wonderful people. And yet, she had to move. The story she told me was one that didn’t ring true to me, based on my experiences with the Army. Jodi insisted that she’d told us the truth… but I still had my doubts. I wasn’t born yesterday.

Jodi was “buddies” with our ex landlady, and in February 2019, a few months after Bill and I had vacated our previous house, she sent me a private Facebook message that really upset me. I had already blocked her on social media before I even saw the message, so when I finally discovered it on my Facebook page for this blog, she showed up as “Facebook User”. In that post, she chastised me for a new fiction blog I was starting. She’d read my initial posts on the fiction blog and mistakenly believed that I was going to write a “hatchet piece” about our former landlady’s daughter. She wrote that ex landlady’s daughter read my blog regularly and would be offended. Then she implied that I’m “crazy” and begged me not to “harass” the ex landlady by writing about her.

Now… the fact is, I have NEVER met our ex landlady’s daughters. Putting it lightly, ex landlady and I definitely weren’t friends, and I don’t think she would have condescended to introduce me to her family members, other than her husband. I didn’t even know her daughters’ names, and had not so much as been in their presence. I’m sure Jodi wouldn’t have believed me if I told her that, because I think she was wholly convinced that I’m a mean, unhinged, person who lies. You can say a lot of things about me, but I am generally a truthful person. I’ve written a lot of negative stuff about Ex, for instance, but now that I corroborate my posts with actual evidence, you can see where my posts are coming from. I may express things that are “ugly” and negative, but by and large, I am truthful.

One time, Bill met one of the landlady’s daughters, and he was impressed by her. He said she was very bright and articulate. She had a physical condition that made her different, but Bill did not mention this condition to me. The first paragraphs of my now deleted short story included a description of a character that had a physical condition similar to that of the ex landlady’s daughter’s. Naturally, “Jodi” read it, assumed that I was going to write a mean spirited story about her friend, and decided to pre-emptively stop me before I caused offense. However, writing a mean story about this woman I’d never even met hadn’t been my plan at all, and she hadn’t given me a chance to develop the character to what I had envisioned. I also didn’t know that Jodi had been sharing my blog with our ex landlady’s daughter, and probably ex landlady herself. It pissed me off that she was so concerned about her privacy, but had no regard for mine, even though my blog is, admittedly, public.

In her message to me, Jodi wrote I didn’t have the right to create a fiction story inspired by people in my life (from where did she think authors get their inspirations?) She implied that I’m a “hack”, and “begged” me not to drag her friends through the proverbial mud, even though they had treated us unfairly, and she had even corroborated some of my complaints in comments left on my blog (most of which she later deleted). Jodi’s false accusations, erroneous assumptions, and continuous meddling in what was my business, really made me angry with her. I felt violated and misunderstood by someone I had met in person only twice. It caused a lot of psychological angst, and I was very pissed. Some of my earliest posts in this rehashed blog spell that out.

It never seemed to occur to Jodi that I’m not a total shit. I would not have written a snarky story on the level that she was assuming. Even though I did write a few snarky fiction story posts in my original blog that had characters inspired by real people who bugged me, some of my characters are neutral, or even positive. The character she’d clued in on was going to be one of those, and was not actually based on ex landlady’s daughter. Above all, it was clearly FICTION, and very few people even bother to read my fiction.

The vast majority of readers of my blog aren’t at all connected with the military. Even if I had written a mean fiction story about people we both knew, most people reading wouldn’t be any the wiser. I figured that if my fiction bothered Jodi and her friends, they could exercise some self-discipline and find something else to read on another site. But, because we were planning to sue the ex landlady for illegally withholding our deposit, I decided to delete the fiction blog after only a couple of days. I had intended to restart it at some point, but just couldn’t find the heart to do it after Jodi’s meddling. Her actions really did some damage to me, although I’m sure she never thought about that, and likely didn’t even care. She didn’t seem to have much respect for me, and clearly expressed that she didn’t think of me as a “real” writer. I had also noticed some hits coming from places where she had family. I had a feeling some of them were watching my blog, too, and that made me feel kind of paranoid, even though most of what I write should have been of little to no concern to them.

For the past few years, I’ve had Jodi blocked on Facebook. I didn’t look her up, especially since I knew that she was very concerned about her privacy on the Internet. I really just wanted to forget about the whole incident involving my blog, as well as her seemingly shady behavior involving our previous house. However, since moving back to the States, Jodi had gotten a job with Bill’s company, and he’d noticed her on the company’s email list. A few days ago, he told me that she was no longer on the roster. She also wasn’t listed as a government employee.

That seemed strange to me, since I knew she was very much into her career and she seemed to be on an upward trajectory. But I just chalked it up to her moving on. I never looked her up online, because I knew she kept a low profile. I just wanted to forget about her, and how she’d made me feel. But, sometimes I get into trouble when I get bored. Sunday afternoon, I finally did a cursory search of Jodi’s name. I didn’t expect to find anything. Imagine my surprise when I immediately saw an obituary for her, along with a video of her memorial service, which took place several months ago.

I called Bill over and said, “I just found out why Jodi is no longer listed as an employee at your company.”

Bill was curious, so I showed him her obituary, which listed her at just 34 years of age. The obituary made it sound like she’d had a very full and vibrant life. Naturally, we were curious about what happened. I unblocked Jodi’s Facebook profile, and eventually found out that she, too, had committed suicide.

Let me just say this, in case anyone who knows “Jodi” happens to be reading this. I am truly very sorry for your loss. No matter what I might have thought of Jodi and her actions toward me, I know there were people in her life who loved her very much and are devastated by her decision to commit suicide. I am especially sorry for her two children, who are still so young. Losing their mother at such a young age will affect them forever. All I can do is offer a sincere prayer that they will have as much peace as they can possibly have, under these circumstances.

After I discovered Jodi’s cause of death, I realized that she and I had some things in common besides the Army, living in Germany, and having had the same landlady. When I was growing up, I was a horse enthusiast, like Jodi was. I had a horse and worked at a barn to help pay for his upkeep. Jodi was a barrel racer, but my discipline was hunt seat. I spent my high school years showing my horse and going to fox hunts and competitive trail rides. I gave up my horse when I went to college, although I would have loved to have brought him with me to school. To this day, I miss having horses in my life.

Jodi was an animal lover, as I am. She had a cute little dachshund, whom I met when Bill and I toured the house we rented after her. I am a hound lover too, although mine have mostly been beagles.

I like to travel, just as she did. That’s why we moved back to Germany. I had remembered Germany as a beautiful place, and wanted to come back here to live for a year or two. I never thought we’d be here for as long as we have. I swear, when Bill and I met Jodi and ex landlady in 2014, all we were looking for was a place to live after a very rough summer. We weren’t trying to make trouble for anyone. But then, writers who don’t sometimes stir up controversy are often pretty boring and unsuccessful. No matter what Jodi thought of what I do, I am a writer. And yes, I have actually been paid to write.

Just like Jodi, I have also struggled with mental health issues. I was treated for depression and anxiety for several years, and I have felt suicidal at times, although obviously I haven’t yet committed to the idea. I haven’t been on antidepressants since my early 30s, but there are times when I think I would be better off with some chemical assistance for my moods. But again… I don’t like visiting doctors.

Jodi’s loved ones have posted many pictures of her doing things she loved, living in beautiful places, and reaching for her goals. I haven’t got the foggiest idea why she decided that suicide was an appropriate solution for her problems. I won’t even try to guess. I just feel compassion for those left behind… and yes, that includes ex landlady and her daughter, whom I know were her friends. I hope Jodi has found peace. I wish we could have had a mature discussion, so that the whole mess and the misunderstandings with my blog could have been avoided.

You just never know what’s going on in someone’s life. I had no idea that Jodi was troubled in any way. She seemed like a person who had everything going for her. Clearly, some things weren’t going right, in spite of her facade. Wherever she is now, I hope she’s out of pain.

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musings, social media

My thoughts on so-called “insufferable posters” on Facebook…

Our vacation is winding down… we are now in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. It took several hours to get here from Florence, which gave me plenty of time to look at Facebook. One of my friends shared a post from 2015. It was from qz.com and was titled “There is a good chance that you are the ‘friend’ that everyone finds insufferable on Facebook”.

I think I read this article some time ago, but I was reminded of it anew today as we sped north toward Modena. The post, which was written by a guy named Tim Urban, was originally shared in November 2015. It was all about how people on Facebook annoy their friends, family members, and acquaintances because they indulge their egos, seek attention, or try to make people jealous.

The friend who shared this post wrote that she thought it was a great read, as did some of her friends. A few others, myself among them, thought the writer was an asshole. I know I do my fair share of complaining about Facebook comments. Actually, it’s really mainly comments that annoy me, not status updates, or things that people mostly share on their own pages. I don’t like it when people go on other people’s pages and act like jerks. They can do whatever they want on their own pages. If it really bugs me, I’ll unfriend or unfollow. But I don’t think of those people as “insufferable”. If I did, I would probably go ahead and disassociate myself. I know I’m not everyone’s shot of tequila or whatever…

Mr. Urban’s post consisted of a list of seven types of posts people share that tend to be annoying… to him, I guess, but maybe to others, too. In Urban’s view, to “not” be annoying, a status update must either be interesting or informative, or it has to be entertaining somehow. All other posts– to include any about one’s blessings in life, “cries for help” (from loneliness), meaningful quotes from well-known sages, or humble bragging– are apparently irritating by Mr. Urban’s yardstick.

I’ll admit that I can see some of his points. I do have a few current and former Facebook friends who share quotes. It makes me wonder if they talk to their friends that way offline. Do they go up to their pals and say things like “laugh and the whole world laughs with you”? Somehow, I doubt it… but hell, it’s their Facebook page. I don’t have to respond to it.

And some people probably hate that I share my blog. As a matter of fact, during our Italy trip, I met a few people who live in Stuttgart. One was a couple who had been there since 2015, and the female half knew about my blog. I had a feeling she didn’t like it, or me, and that was before she’d ever met me. Whatever… c’est la vie. Lots of people don’t like me after never having read my writing, just as some people think they know (and don’t like) me after reading a couple of posts. I think that’s a pretty limited way to go through life, especially since I’m not really so bad once you get to know me.

I know there are a lot of people– especially in the military community– who HATE that I have the nerve to call myself “overeducated” and think I’m an asshole for my blog title alone. But I also realize that some people actually enjoy the blog, and don’t think I’m a pretentious asshole. Later, after I parted company with those folks, Bill and I went to another hotel, and met a couple of really nice American couples who were excited to be in Italy. We had a very pleasant conversation, unmarred by any preconceived thoughts about my activities on social media or this blog. 😉

Mostly, though, Tim Urban’s post made me think that I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with HIM. I like sharing my friends’ joy. When they share their proud parenting moments, news about their achievements, pictures of their trips, or even mushy posts about their spouses or other family members, I’m genuinely happy for them. I think anyone who would find those kinds of posts offensive, obnoxious, or annoying, probably aren’t much fun at parties. I would also like to know who make Tim Urban judge and jury for what people ought to post on Facebook. Especially since he’s not one of MY friends. 😉

Personally, there are a lot of days when I’m sorry I signed up for Facebook. However, I realize that it’s pretty hard not to be on some kind of social media, if you’re not in your 80s and completely removed from the Internet, like my mom is. I do hope a better alternative will come along, though. Or, maybe I’ll just lose interest in it, like I do most things.

Anyway… I gotta be me. Part of who I am may come off as profane, vulgar, and obnoxious. I own it. But I can’t be someone else, especially for people who don’t even care enough to try to get to know me before they pass judgment. For most users, Facebook isn’t a place for developing real relationships, even though I know some have developed there. And so, I think people ought to post what they want to, on their own pages. It’s when they’re shitty on other people’s pages and posts that I take notice and feel negative. I think people who are rude to strangers on news sites are the most insufferable Facebook posters of all.

Well, tomorrow, we will enjoy Vaduz, and then Wednesday morning, we’ll make our way home to Wiesbaden. I am looking forward to it, to be very honest. I look forward to doing laundry and seeing the dogs, and writing up all of these adventures… and I’m even more hopeful that the swelling in my ankles will go down. We had a very busy vacation and it was a lot of fun, but it’s time to get back to business.

Still… it will be hard to leave this view from our current hotel… and if that’s bragging, so be it.

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controversies, social media

Well… I guess I won’t be posting more often on Twitter, now…

Here’s another short post before I get dressed and head off to breakfast. I heard that Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter for $44 billion was accepted. Musk, who is the South African born CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, is, according to Forbes, the world’s wealthiest person. For some reason, that’s not enough for him. He wants to control a huge, global, social media app, too. I think there is a concern when the wealthiest people control the media…. But then, I guess that’s how it’s always been, since the days of kings and queens.

Musk says wants to “eradicate fake accounts” and “relax its content restrictions”. I guess this means that Donald Trump will be allowed to get back on the platform and spread his vile brand of disinformation for the clueless and selfish.

I never was a big Twitter user. I have an account, but i don’t use my real name on it, and I very rarely tweet or read the contents of Twitter. The one exception is when I recently had issues with my bank account. I went on Twitter to see if I was alone. I wasn’t. But after a couple of weeks, got tired of Twitter and went back to my usual habits. I thought I might switch to Twitter, given my annoyance with Facebook. But now that Elon Musk is buying it, I think I’ll pass. I don’t need more social media in my life.

I’m not a huge social media consumer. I don’t do Instagram, Tik Tok, or LinkedIn. I do have a YouTube channel that I use occasionally, and of course I’m on Facebook. Frankly, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I think it’s gotten too big for its britches. But, Facebook also happens to be the easiest way to keep in touch with friends and the few family members I still talk to. I have been giving thought to leaving Facebook, though. I wish someone would come up with something better.

I don’t think Elon Musk is going to change Twitter for the better. He strikes me as a voracious and power hungry person who likes toys. Twitter is probably just going to be a toy for him. But as I barely use Twitter, this decision probably affects me less than it does people who like the platform more than I do. Musk says that Twitter clamps down on “free speech” and he wants to change that. On the surface, that sounds good and noble. I don’t know that it’s going to work out that way.

I just find it disheartening that there are so many greedy, power-mad people out there. I’m pretty tired of all of the bad news, too, and the negative responses people have to everything. I am naturally a pretty negative person a lot of the time, anyway, so I don’t need any help.

Oh… how I miss the days when my biggest dramas came from writing on Epinions.com, and some of my biggest excitement came from seeing how much I made in income share. Sadly, time moves on, and things change. It would be nice to hear some good news… but at least I’m on vacation, and we’re discovering some beautiful places, good wines, and excellent food in Italy. It could be worse, right?

By the way… masks are still big in Italy, but most people don’t wear them properly. I guess I can understand why they’re slower to get rid of them here, given how hard this country was hit with COVID. But it’s really something when Germany and Switzerland are less anal retentive about public health measures than Italy is. On the other hand, again… people aren’t wearing them properly, anyway.

Today’s post is the 1500th on this blog… Go me!







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