condescending twatbags, language, social media

For the love of Christ, stop nagging!

Thanksgiving is coming, and that means there are lots of articles on the Internet about holiday travels. This is nothing unusual. Every year, there are articles aplenty about that annual trip to Grandma’s house. It’s the busiest time of the year for travel. But this year, traveling is ill advised, thanks to the coronavirus. Experts are “begging” people to stay home, socially isolate, and love their family and friends enough to stay away from them for however long it takes to tame the virus. Lots of people have heeded the call and are staying home. Others are ignoring the advice and have made travel plans, COVID-19 risks be damned!

Well… given that an ocean and several countries separate me from my family, I have no problem heeding that advice. Bill and I haven’t been “home” for Thanksgiving since 2014, even though Thanksgiving is a pretty big deal in my family. Most years, there is a big reunion in Natural Bridge, Virginia. It’s gotten so huge that I don’t even know everyone who attends anymore. My aunt sensibly canceled this year’s event anyway, weeks ago. I suspect some of my relatives will be gathering in spite of the pandemic. While I don’t necessarily condone ignoring health and safety tips from the powers that be, I also know these folks well. Many of them are devout Christians and Trump supporters, and they’re simply not going to let a virus stop them from being with each other at Thanksgiving. And they’re sure as hell not going to let someone on the Internet shame them into changing their plans, either.

I will bet my Georgia relatives, in particular, will get together this year, because their sibling and my oldest cousin died last weekend and they will feel the need to gather and mourn. This branch of my family is unusually close-knit. Before their eldest sister died, there were four siblings. Among themselves, they had eleven children, and some of those children now have married and had their own kids. They all live somewhat close to each other and see each other often. One of my cousin’s daughters is about to have a baby, and another is engaged. Besides needing to mourn, they have a lot to celebrate. So I bet they’ll still gather, in spite of all of the expert advice against celebrating holidays in groups. I’ve seen them posting photos and videos of themselves living life as normal– sans masks or social distancing. Nothing I can say or do will change that reality.

Barf. Thanks so much for the stale PSA. Do you really think sharing something like this changes anyone’s mind, other than those who already agree with it? Are people who read this really saying, “Gee, maybe I should cancel the holiday after all. What a wise social media post!”?

My relatives aren’t the only ones who will probably be together. I just read an advice column in The New York Times entitled Ask Real Estate. Today’s question is, “Do I Really Have to Quarantine if I Visit Family for Thanksgiving?” I’m not sure what this question has to do with real estate, since it’s about visiting family during the holidays, not buying or selling a house. I guess it’s because the person lives in an apartment building in Manhattan and buildings have rules about quarantines. I actually like the answer this person got from the columnist. It’s reasonable and civil, with advice on how to lower the risks of contracting COVID-19 and running afoul of building management.

Of course, the comments are something different. COVID-19 is definitely a scary thing, and a whole lot of people have gotten sick and ended up dying. Quite a lot of people have also gotten the virus and are suffering from “long hauler” syndrome, meaning they can’t shake those lingering symptoms after the acute illness has passed. There’s also no telling whether or not the virus will lay dormant and re-emerge during times of stress, like the herpes virus does. What if, years from now, after you’ve forgotten about having had COVID-19, it roars back after you’ve had a cold?

And so it seems that a lot of people just can’t resist. They have to leave annoying, preaching, holier-than-thou comments, along with all knowing statements like “this is why we’re in this mess”. And then there are a few other statements like, “No, you don’t have to follow these ridiculous rules. We live in a free society.” Those statements always inflame the virtue signalers and shamers, and they feel compelled to respond in the most irksome way possible.

Naturally, the people who dare to post something other than, “love your family enough to stay home this year” are getting smacked down by those who insist on cajoling, pleading, demanding, nagging, and whining. I’m sure it makes people feel better to post these responses. I just wonder what good they do. Have you ever met anyone whose mind was changed because some stranger on the Internet insulted them? I don’t think I have. I know that when someone insults me, I usually withdraw from communicating with them. Even if someone doesn’t insult me by calling me a name, I probably won’t be too interested in conversing with them if they respond in a condescending manner.

I’ve seen a lot of people pointing to Asian countries as societies to look up to in this mess. One commenter on The New York Times piece wrote a lengthy story about how her son, who just moved from China to Thailand, has had to put up with all sorts of restrictions on his freedom to stop the spread of the virus. She wrote that Americans need to do what they do in Asia. I fear it will never happen because, on many levels, Asian cultures are not like western cultures. Moreover, I don’t think Asian cultures are necessarily better than western cultures are.

I mean, yes, they do some things much better than we do. In other ways, their culture is not so good. For instance, a couple of days ago, I read about how dog owners in one Chinese county aren’t allowed to walk their dogs and must keep them tied up or in a pen. Failure to comply with the rules can get the dog killed. I’ve also read about students and workers being so ashamed of not measuring up that they commit suicide. Some others die due to overwork. Or how about the guy in Singapore who was arrested for having a one man protest? It consisted of just him in a mask holding up a cardboard sign with a smiley face on it. These are just a few examples off of the top of my head.

They have a different mindset over there. Personal honor is a big deal. Some Asian ideas are well worth considering, but hard to emulate. Some Asian ideas are just plain bad– like working so hard that you die, like the young woman in Japan who clocked 159 hours of overtime in a month and then promptly dropped dead. Yes, some Asian countries are getting on top of the coronavirus by aggressively locking down and forcing people to wear masks. But their citizens are dying of other things that are less likely to be a problem in the United States or Europe, like extreme overwork or suicide because they didn’t get perfect grades.

Still, I understand why people feel the need to school others and scold them for living their lives on their own terms. Right now, the virus is spreading like wildfire. Healthcare workers are stretched to the limits. Bodies are stacking up in morgues. People have lost their jobs, their homes, and loved ones. However– it’s not just coronavirus that is killing people. Natural disasters are also deadly this year. I seem to remember a lot of people in California having to run for their lives as wildfires swept through their neighborhoods. I’ve read about hurricanes and tornados and all manner of other disasters upending and ending lives this year. And goddammit, I think some people just feel like they deserve to eat turkey and mashed potatoes with their parents and children this year. Some people think that living in solitude is worse than the threat of catching and spreading a potentially deadly communicable disease. Nothing you or I say will make a difference– except maybe if they or a loved one actually gets sick and/or dies.

Either way, it takes time for attitudes to collectively change. I suspect there will either be a treatment or a vaccine before people voluntarily start deciding to adopt the draconian rules imposed in some Asian countries. In any case, drastic changes in American attitudes are definitely not going to happen this year. Many people are bound and determined to have their turkey. They have already made up their minds and made their travel plans. And no amount of nagging, virtue signaling, and insulting from strangers on the Internet will change that reality.

Oh… but people still think their pithy, sarcastic, shaming, scolding comments will change hearts and minds… or they just feel better for having written them. I suppose it comes from feeling helpful in the face of something so tiny, yet so very powerful. There’s, maybe, a bit of a rush that comes from telling someone off. I wonder how many stop to think about how the person on the receiving end feels. Frankly, at best, they very likely won’t care. At worst, it will make them angry and more resolved to do what they want anyway. Or maybe they’ll pass along that anger to someone else. In the end, all that nagging turns into more noise that makes living through a pandemic even more annoying and soul sucking.

I’m probably wasting my time by writing this piece. People are going to do what they’re going to do. I guess what I’m trying to do is comment on a behavior I see as mostly futile and highly irritating. I think it’s very unlikely that I’m going to change anyone’s mind about their plans for the holidays. I might be able to convince someone who has any regard for my opinions… that would most likely only be Bill, and that’s just because he has to live with me. I can’t think of too many other people who care that much about what I think or want to avoid disappointing me. So I don’t tell other people what to do… I mostly try to avoid giving advice, unless they ask for it. When I do, on occasion, offer unsolicited advice, I often apologize, because I think most people are irritated by it. Sometimes you can’t help yourself– and I get that, too. I also realize that people are going to do what they’re going to do, no matter what I think or say or post on social media.

But yeah… I think the holiday season is often annoying even during normal times. It’s especially annoying this year. It’s a good thing there’s booze and ibuprofen.

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family, memories, musings

The Heavenly Thanksgiving Party…

Thanksgiving has historically been my favorite holiday. For years, I loved it because it meant going to my Granny’s house, hanging around my mostly fun extended family, seeing the mountains of Virginia, and eating good food. Then afterwards, we’d have a party. There are a lot of musicians in my family, so on Friday after Thanksgiving, there was typically dancing and live music. I remember a few post Thanksgiving Friday night “hops” over the years that were real “barn burners”. Almost every year, for as long as I can remember, there’s been a big Thanksgiving family reunion party at Granny’s. It was something we could all count on, except for a couple of exceedingly rare years when it didn’t happen. 2020 is one of those years.

I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since 2014. I went there to sing at my dad’s memorial service, which was held over Thanksgiving so more people could come to his memorial. He actually died in July 2014. Since then, a lot more people have passed away, but living in Germany has kept me away from home for their funerals. Some deaths have hurt more than others.

I’m not a very religious person, but I do like to think that Heaven is a real place. I imagine my cousin Karen, who died on Saturday, arriving in Heaven, being greeted by long lost loved ones like her parents and our grandmother. I think of my Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Bob waiting by the Pearly Gates, ready to embrace her and lead her to see Granny, who passed away in 2007.

I love Rhonda Vincent’s music… even when she sings about Jesus. I picture the Homecoming kind of like this.

I like to think of the arrival of a new soul in Heaven as a big party, like the ones we had years ago at Granny’s house, when everyone was still young enough and healthy, and wanted to stay up visiting. My mom would have a couple of drinks and get on the organ and play with my Uncle Brownlee’s band. Or my Uncle Steve would play trombone. There was a lot of dancing and singing and drinking too much… Maybe that’s what homecoming was like for Karen and my other relatives. Maybe they’re all sitting around a big table, as if they’re waiting for more people to join the party up in Heaven.

Actual footage from one of our Thanksgiving parties… That’s my niece dancing with one of my cousins. I’m pretty sure the music was live, too. It usually is.

I picture my Aunt Nance serving turtle cheesecake that has no calories. I picture my Uncle Kenneth sitting at the table telling stories with my Uncle Carl and his wife, Aunt Betty. I think of my Aunt Susan, who died in 1962, healthy and making up for lost time with her brothers and sisters who have finally passed the bar. I think of my Uncle Brownlee playing organ while my dad nods along approvingly. I think of Granny and Pappy looking on adoringly. No one is drunk or angry or being obnoxious. Everyone is having a great time, just like we did at so many Thanksgiving parties over the years… and they’re all waiting for the rest of us to arrive.

Thanksgiving 2014. A number of the people in this picture are no longer with us. They’re at the Heavenly Thanksgiving Party.

Then I start thinking about all of the people I’ve found as I’ve searched our genealogy. I wonder if they’re at the party, too. Will I somehow know my ancestors in Heaven? What about people I’m related to by marriage? What about Bill’s dad, who died just nine days ago? Somehow, I think if Heaven exists, he’ll be there. Because anything is possible in Heaven, right? And there will be no worries about not enough bathrooms, cleaning up the mess the next day, lack of parking spots, or paying for anything. There will be room at the table for everyone; everyone will be heard and appreciated; and there will be no talk about politics or controversy. And no one will be sneakily taking any unflattering photos, either. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Me and my sisters in 2014… this picture was taken by my cousin, Karen, who just passed away a few days ago.

My Uncle Brownlee was probably my favorite relative. We had a lot in common. His birthday was the day after mine and we shared a love for music and off color humor. He died in 2019. I couldn’t be at his funeral due to the logistics. Now that we have COVID-19, it’s even harder to go home. And even if we were in the United States, people would probably shame us if we tried to have a gathering this year. In fact, attending Thanksgiving with a bunch of relatives on Earth might hasten our own arrivals at the Heavenly Thanksgiving Party.

I don’t think about God as much as a lot of my relatives do. Some of my people are super Christian types. They don’t curse and they go to church a lot. They figure cursing offends God. Personally, I think if God is as perfect as people claim, S/he (does God have genitals?) is probably above being offended. Being offended is a human thing. I don’t think God is human. Humans aren’t perfect. I’d like to think that God is nothing but wisdom, kindness, and love, but that’s probably too simplistic of a description. The fact is, I can’t imagine God, although I’m not quite at a point at which I don’t believe in God. But even if there is no such thing as God or Heaven, I do think that concept has inspired a lot of people to do incredible things. And that’s mostly a good thing. On the other hand, the concept of God has also inspired some pretty horrible things, too… albeit for very flawed human reasons.

Granny’s house… it’s been the family homestead since the 1930s.

Anyway, as Thanksgiving approaches, I am picturing my long lost relatives, all of whom loved being together on Thanksgiving (I presume, anyway), and enjoying the holiday up in Heaven, eating, drinking, laughing, singing, dancing, and visiting, with no worries about anything. They could have that Heavenly Thanksgiving Party forever, if they wanted to. Because Heaven is a perfect place, where there’s no suffering. Or, if they hated parties on Earth, maybe they’re somewhere they loved to be. Sitting by a quiet, rushing brook in the most beautiful place, with nothing but the company of beloved pets… actually, that sounds more like Heaven to me. Ditto if I’m surrounded by books and music and maybe enjoying the company of my favorite person, Bill.

Maybe this perfection doesn’t exist. Maybe death just means cessation of life. In that case, it means there’s no more pain or problems. That’s not a bad thing for the person who’s gone. It’s bad for the people who miss that person, left here on Earth, stuck in a cumbersome body that eventually fails for everyone. But eventually, everybody gets an invitation to the Heavenly Thanksgiving Party. Or so I’d like to believe. And I find it comforting to think of my relatives and friends enjoying their time at the Heavenly Party, waiting for the rest of us to join them in the fun.

As for our 2020 Thanksgiving celebration, it promises to be as quiet and peaceful as the last five have been. We’re just not going to cook. This year, we’re ordering a Thanksgiving takeout meal from a restaurant. It makes sense– less cleaning up and leftovers, and we do our part to keep the restaurants going until we can get a vaccine against the dreaded COVID-19 virus. I expect our 2020 Thanksgiving will be much like our anniversary was yesterday… kind of boring in some ways, but extraordinary in others. Bill’s daughter wished us a happy anniversary yesterday and even sent us a gift. Up until a few years ago, I never thought she would speak to Bill again, let alone acknowledge our anniversary. So even though our 2020 celebration had no naked dips at Irish Roman baths or palatial accommodations, it was remarkable just the same. We had originally planned to see Keb’ Mo’ in concert in Mainz. Naturally, that concert has now been rescheduled twice, thanks to COVID-19. I expect we’ll still be here when it finally does occur… at this point, in September 2021.

The featured photo is my dad and his mother… looks like maybe it was taken at my sister’s wedding, which was also a pretty epic celebration at Granny’s house. My dad died just seven years after he lost his mother, so they probably had a pretty awesome reunion in 2014.

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nostalgia

Black Friday… not about slavery.

I don’t know how this happened, but I grew up the daughter of small business owners and never heard the term “Black Friday” until 1994, when I took a job working at Windsor Shirt Company in Williamsburg, Virginia. Although my parents were in retail, they never used the expression “Black Friday”, and somehow I never heard of it on television ads, in newspaper or magazine articles, or anywhere else.

My job at Windsor Shirt was one of two jobs I ever had in retail. The other job was more like a retail/food service hybrid… it was at a chocolatier that served desserts, coffee drinks, and sold chocolate themed gifts. I liked the chocolatier job more than the shirt company job for a lot of reasons. For one thing, my boss at the chocolatier was a lot nicer to me than my boss at the men’s shirt outlet store. For another thing, I like chocolate more than I do men’s dress shirts. I held both jobs at the same time, and although the chocolatier paid minimum wage plus the odd tip, I much preferred it to hawking menswear… although I liked the clientele at Windsor Shirt Company more.

I remember my boss at Windsor Shirt that year was complaining that no one wanted to work on Black Friday, including me. She hadn’t explained what “Black Friday” was or why it was important to work that day. In the 90s, I was still very much into our family Thanksgiving gatherings in Natural Bridge, Virginia, clear across the state, and I wanted to spend the holiday with my folks. In my defense, it was my first retail job and I just didn’t have a clue, despite being raised by parents who ran a retail business. They simply closed for Thanksgiving weekend rather than fool with “Black Friday”.

My boss, who was a vegetarian, said I could go eat with her family. I was kind of offended by that, since Thanksgiving isn’t about the food for me. Seriously… although I like turkey fine, I can think of other meals that are a lot more exciting to me than a roasted bird is. I wanted to see my family, not hers. In those days, they still knew who I was and wanted to see me, too. Every year, the family has a big party and that serves as our family reunion as well as a holiday celebration. It’s important to most of us.

This particular boss was the type who spoke in a sing songy voice that thinly veiled her condescension and hostility. She used to beckon me with her fingers and speak to me as if I had limited intelligence. Strangely enough, most of the people who worked there said her husband was unfriendly, but I got along with him just fine. I remember thinking he was a perfectly nice guy, albeit a man of few words. I guess heโ€™d have to be to deal with his wife every day.

In the end, my ex boss begrudgingly gave me Black Friday off, and I went to Natural Bridge, but rushed back to work on that Saturday. Ex boss was pretty nasty about that, too, warning everyone to park in the right area so that all of the parking spots were available for customers.

Man… I was so glad to quit that job, and she was glad to have me gone. My boss at Windsor Shirt and I didn’t mesh at all, for a lot of reasons. I’m also very glad I didn’t work Black Friday, since the following year, I was serving in the Peace Corps in Armenia, where I taught English, and I would not be home again for Thanksgiving until 1997. Little did I know that after I got married, I’d go “home” for Thanksgiving even less frequently.

My job at Windsor Shirt was handy, since I could buy clothes and shoes at a discount, and I needed both before I went to Armenia for two years. I stocked up on boots, sweaters, and turtlenecks, all of which really came in handy over there. That job did help me determine that I dislike working in retail, and I absolutely hate Black Fridays in stores, which brings me to the reason I’m writing today’s post about Black Friday…

This morning, someone shared this viral post on Facebook.

Shocking, indeed. I had never heard of this story and decided to investigate it.

I had never heard of this version of the “Black Friday” story, and I took courses in African-American literature and Women’s literature in college, where we discussed these things in depth. First off, by 1904, slavery in the United States was abolished. Secondly, while the term does have roots in the 19th century, it had nothing to do with slavery.

According to History.com, the first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” came about due to financial disaster. Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk decided to try to make a lot of money in the stock market by buying up a lot of gold and trying to sell it for huge profits. On Friday, September 24, 1869, their conspiracy fell apart and the stock market crashed, causing financial ruin to a broad array of people from all walks of life.

“Black Friday” was used again in the 1950s, when police in Philadelphia coined the term “Black Friday” to describe the masses of people who descended upon the city to watch the Army vs. Navy football game. The huge swarms of people made it impossible for any Philly based cop to take the day off work and caused them to have to work extra long shifts due to the bedlam. Not only did the crowds cause injury and property damage, there was also an uptick in shoplifting as criminals took advantage of the confusion.

Because the term “Black Friday” cast a shadow on the city during the biggest shopping season of the year, Philadelphia business people tried to coin a new expression, “Big Friday”. But that didn’t take off so well, so after a few years of trying, they eventually started using “Black Friday” to denote the big shopping day the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when the Christmas/Hanukkah seasons really get into gear and people start looking for gifts to exchange. By the late 80s, “Black Friday” became an expression that meant retailers would see their bank accounts go from “in the red” to “into the black” due to all of the money being spent.

And now that I’ve read about that, I can see why I had never heard of “Black Friday” until 1994. I graduated high school in 1990, and that was early in the history of today’s meaning of “Black Friday”. I moved away from home to go to college, and my parents didn’t open their business on Friday after Thanksgiving, anyway. As the History.com article points out, “Black Friday” isn’t even the biggest shopping day before Christmas. It turns out the Saturday before Christmas is even bigger. That makes perfect sense, if you think about it. I’d imagine convenience stores also do well, as people scramble to get something after all of the other stores have closed for the holiday.

Anyway, while I think my friend– an African– means well by sharing this mythical tale, there is no basis in truth that the original “Black Friday” involved slaves being sold at a discount or otherwise the day after Thanksgiving. Slave sales the day after Thanksgiving probably did happen at some point in history, but the event wasn’t called “Black Friday”, and today’s “Black Friday” has nothing at all to do with slavery, unless you want to facetiously include being forced to work that day or be fired. My former boss hinted at the possibility of my termination if I didn’t work that day; she opted not to fire me, because she happened to be pregnant at the time and needed me to stick around until after the baby was born. Personally, I find “Black Friday” pretty tasteless regardless, but there’s no need to make it more so by spreading falsehoods. Snopes agrees with me, by the way.

Who needs turkey? That dinner plate arrived yesterday after I broke one of our dinner plates on Tuesday. We weren’t able to bring all of our dishes with us when we moved in 2014, and World Market doesn’t ship to APO. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be here, but I guess I’ll just replace stuff with this pattern now. I just got three smaller plates delivered a minute ago.

Bill and I had a nice Thanksgiving. We had Cornish game hens, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and peas for me (since Bill can’t have them until he gets scoped), spinach for Bill, homemade rolls, and chocolate cake for dessert. I mentioned on Facebook that German ovens and hormone infused turkeys don’t mesh, due to the small size of the ovens most people have over here. Someone asked if hormone infused meats were “allowed” in Germany. As my German friend pointed out, they’re not. However, the commissaries on any American military base abroad carry American products, and that includes turkeys from the United States. We don’t just shop on the economy for food, although we certainly try to as much as possible.

If I was inclined to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I probably would not go to a German Metzgerei, because it’s not likely that their turkeys would be prepared the way I would expect them to be. For instance, the first time we tried to cook a German chicken, we mistakenly chose a “soup chicken”, which was intended to be boiled in a pot of soup. It was much too tough to eat. I would not want a similar disaster to occur with a turkey, given how much time and effort goes into cooking them, so I would probably opt for a Butterball, even though they’re not as clean as German birds are. Or we could just do a breast, but I like dark meat more than white, while Bill is a white meat man.

Since there are just two of us, and neither of us cares that much about turkey, we decided Cornish game hens were better. And we have plenty of leftovers, too. I only managed to finish about half of mine. Germans don’t seem to cook turkeys like we do, anyway. They prefer to eat goose this time of year. I wish Bill hadn’t made so much cranberry sauce. I don’t like it as much as he does, and he can’t eat any until after he gets scoped on Monday. The rolls were a hit, though, as were the potatoes!

We also had lots of wine and lots of Gordon Lightfoot. I bought all of his album in MP3 form from Amazon so I could stream it from my Bose speaker in the living room while I finished our latest jigsaw puzzle. It was 1000 pieces, and we were missing four until we found them under the couch.

This was a real bitch to put together, but seeing it completed is rewarding. And now, I’m going to take it apart and start on the next puzzle, which will probably also take two weeks to complete.

Well… I’m not sure what we’ll do today. Bill took the day off, since he worked enough hours last week to pretty much make up for today. We may venture into Wiesbaden in search of coffee beans, or maybe we’ll check out the Christmas markets… but that would mean shopping on Black Friday, which is sort of catching on in Germany, too, even though Thanksgiving isn’t a “thing” in Germany.

Today’s featured photo is not of Black Friday– it’s of the hellacious security line Bill and I endured a few years ago when airport workers went on strike. We went to Hamburg for MLK day in 2015. I think in 2020, we may visit London again. We’ll see…

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Duggars

Varicella, malaria, salmonella…

Yesterday, Josh and Anna Duggar welcomed their sixth baby to the world. They named her Maryella Hope, in keeping with their “M” name theme. I’m kind of surprised by the name, since they had originally said that the name Mary was too close to Meredith, which is the name of their second daughter, born in 2015, when Josh was having his whole “sex pest” scandal. Josh is still pretty much vilified by the press. Yesterday, I read an article in the Daily Mail about him and every time his name was mentioned, they added “sex pest” to it. I kind of think “sex pest” is a funny Britishism, but I feel kind of sorry for Josh’s children, who must be affiliated with a man who is still repeatedly being called a “sex pest” four years after his scandal. It’s not their fault their dad is a pervert.

I’m sure Josh and Anna named their new baby Maryella because Grandma Mary Duggar died earlier this year. I’m glad they remembered her, as she was a good woman, from what I could tell. However… I am not wild about the name Maryella, because it immediately makes me think of diseases like the ones listed in today’s post title. Even if it didn’t make me think of diseases like varicella, malaria, or salmonella, the way they spelled the name- Maryella- makes me think of MarYELLa, which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. I’m also reminded of someone I knew in high school whose name was Louella. She used to get picked on a lot. I guess Maryella won’t have to worry about attending high school or being picked on, since she’ll probably be homeschooled. Still… I hope she doesn’t get teased too much.

Maryella is, of course, not my baby and it’s not my job to name her. But if it had been my job and I had to use the name Mary to honor my granny, I would have chosen something different. Like, I think Mary Ella is okay. I have a friend who named her daughter that. That doesn’t sound like a sexually transmitted disease or a virus to me. What about Mariela? Or Mariel… like Mariel Hemingway? How about Mary Beth or Mary Ann or Mary Jo or Mary Louise? Or Marie or Maria? They haven’t used those names yet, and they are incarnations of Mary. Personally, I like the name Mary, too, even though it’s a pretty ordinary name.

I have read that Josh and Anna plan to pronounce their daughter’s name as Mary Ella, but they’ve chosen to spell the name Maryella. I think that’s a spelling that will probably be problematic for their daughter for the rest of her life unless she becomes famous. She may wind up being famous, since she’s a Duggar, but my guess is that this family’s cachet will eventually fade as more and more babies are born and people eventually stop caring. Anyhoo… it looks like she’s healthy and I’m sure Anna is relieved that the birthing is finally done so she can enjoy Thanksgiving.

Next up is Abbie and John’s daughter, who is likely due in January. For now, John and Abbie can entertain themselves by painting each other’s nails and giving each other haircuts in their trailer. Apparently, John David is good at painting nails. I want to see him paint her toes… that way, he can get between her legs for a reason besides joyful availability. Besides, I’m sure at least one of the Duggar men has a thing for feet and any number of other fetishes, common and uncommon. The odds are good they aren’t all into Biblically approved sex.

All kidding aside, so far of the Duggar guys, I think I like John David the most. He seems very self-sufficient, especially since he waited until he was 28 to get married. He doesn’t appear to put up with a lot of shit from JimBoob, which automatically puts him ahead of most of the guys in that family. Looks like Derick and Jeremy are also bucking against Boob, with varying levels of success. I also think Ben Seewald is turning out to be pretty good in the dad/husband department, although that’s probably because Jessa is in charge. They make very cute babies, too. Their daughter, Ivy, looks like she’s going to be Jessa’s mini me.

Meh… I only know about this because I follow the Duggar Family News group and page… I finally gave up on the show years ago. It’s one that really needs to peter out. And, I know, I shouldn’t write about them, because that just prolongs the time between notoriety and petering out. I just can’t help it, though. They’re just so snarkworthy. I’ll stop being irreverent now, and go do something helpful to prepare for our low key German Thanksgiving.

Well… happy Thanksgiving to those of you celebrating it today. Because our oven is too small for a turkey and we could never finish one anyway, Bill is going to cook Cornish game hens for dinner. Should be a hoot.

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musings

Sometimes the truth is in our dreams…

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of weird dreams. Most of them have included our dearly departed beagle, Zane, who died on August 31, 2019 of lymphoma. Zane’s death and subsequent “visits” haven’t followed the usual pattern that seems to happen after Bill and I lose a dog. Most of the time, I get a lot of “visits” in my dreams or otherwise just after the dog has died. With Zane, it took a few weeks before I started to “see” him in my subconscious. I have a feeling that it’s my brain telling me it’s time to find another pack member… or maybe it’s the spirit of Zane encouraging me to give another dog a home.

Unfortunately, adopting a dog in Germany can be problematic for Americans, particularly if they are affiliated with the military. Many of my countrymen have ditched their dogs in German shelters, which leaves a terrible impression. It’s understandable that Germans would assume Americans are irresponsible regarding pets, although not all of us are. Some of my friends have adopted dogs in other countries, or from other Americans. Some have purchased dogs from breeders, which I would prefer not to do. I have a couple of German friends who are rooting for Bill and me and, perhaps, will vouch for us if we attempt to adopt from a German source. In fact, I have one German friend who keeps sending me pictures of dogs who need homes. I plan to start looking after the new year, though, because we are planning a road trip to France. Also, we need to have a better idea of what’s coming up in the future. We could end up having to move or something.

Anyway… Arran’s personality has changed since we lost Zane. He’s a bit clingier than he used to be. He now sits by the door at about 5:00pm, knowing that’s when Bill usually comes home. He’s better behaved, too, since he has two humans who lavish attention on him. It’s been kind of nice, although I think he likes having other dogs around… especially if he can be the boss. Zane wasn’t a fighter, per se, but when he wasn’t sick, he didn’t let Arran be his boss. That caused insecurity and conflict, which I think is what led Arran to act out at times.

The ghost of Zane isn’t the only one wondering what the future holds. Last night, our landlord came over to talk to Bill about the annual Rechnung. This is an accounting that is legally required to be done between the landlord and the tenant. It shows how the Nebenkosten (money for other costs) was spent, and gives Bill the chance to reconcile any discrepancies. Bill will sit down with the landlord and they will discuss it together, rather than simply get an email with a bill for money we owe and no accounting of how the money we paid was spent.

We have no complaints whatsoever about our current landlord, who is also our next door neighbor. He wants to do business with us and it shows. He’s always kind and respectful, and has never shouted at me or blamed me for things I either didn’t do or couldn’t control. His house is updated and basically in great shape, so we really haven’t had many things that have needed to be repaired. When we have asked for repairs, he’s been fair and hasn’t freaked out or immediately accused us of negligence. He gives us free firewood and asks us how we’re doing, and he truly seems concerned about how we answer. He seems to like our dog(s) and doesn’t seem to mind Arran, now that Zane is gone. Even if he doesn’t like Arran, he doesn’t make it obvious. He also doesn’t seem to care about how I spend my time or whether or not I meet his wife’s housekeeping standards, not that I know what they are. That is a true gift. Blessed are landlords who live and let live, and don’t meddle in their tenants’ business.

Our next door neighbor on the other side is also nice. She has a super cute Labrador Retriever named Levi who is just a sweetheart and always comes over to say “hi”. She is also encouraging us to find a new hound.

I do think the landlord was a bit worried that we’re planning to move, since he knew Bill went to Poland on business last week and I accompanied him. He’s heard about Trump’s desire to expand our military presence into Poland and, perhaps, build a “Fort Trump” there. I guess he figured we were househunting, since our Poland trip was business based for Bill and I accompanied him. He jokingly asked Bill if we were moving… although actually, I don’t think he was joking. I think he was probably legitimately concerned that we’d move and he’d have to find new people. He seems happy with us and, I’m sure, each time he has to find new tenants, there’s also the worry about what kind of people he’ll have as neighbors as well as whether or not they’ll pay the rent on time.

We are not planning to move, at least not at this point in time. I went to Poland with Bill because his trip happened to be at about the time of our wedding anniversary and Poland is kind of a cool destination now. Bill likes having me with him when he travels for business because I get to see and do new things and write about my experiences. We also like being together and miss each other when Bill has to travel. It’s possible that someday, we might end up living in Poland, but that’s not in the plans at this point. On the other hand, two years ago, we didn’t know we were going to be leaving Stuttgart within a matter of months. I didn’t actually want to leave Stuttgart, because despite everything that happened, I liked it down there. Even though the traffic sucks, I know my way around. The landscape is beautiful, and though some of the people are crotchety and litigious, I kind of knew what to expect. I had no idea that the grass would be greener in Wiesbaden. You can’t miss what you’ve never had, right?

As of today, we’ve lived in our current house for a year. It was a year ago that the movers packed us up and Bill and I caravaned to Wiesbaden. Although we are in a much better living situation, it’s taken about a year for me to process the living situation we were in previously. I think it came out in my dreams this morning.

I dreamt that Bill and I went to a restaurant that we had been looking forward to trying. From the get go, the service wasn’t very good. We were seated at a table near a large party. The wait staff kept charging us extra for things we didn’t order. They were slow, and their table maintenance was sloppy. The staff was also eavesdropping on our conversation and gossiping among themselves. The food was somewhat attractively presented, but overpriced and not that tasty.

Still, even though the signs were there that we should look for another restaurant, we hesitated to go. “What if the next restaurant is even worse?” I asked Bill, as we watched other patrons get up and leave in disgust.

“Yeah, this isn’t really so bad, is it?” Bill confirmed. “I mean, at least the dishes look nice.”

We sat there for a few more minutes, resigning ourselves to settling for an overpriced meal served by surly, disrespectful wait staff. I mean, at least we weren’t hungry, right? But we certainly would have appreciated a better meal, served with more respect and less attitude and at a fairer price, without a bunch of bullshit upcharges.

Finally, a man at the big table full of loud people came over and said, “Come on with us. We’re moving to another restaurant that has better food at a more reasonable price. You might pay more, but you’ll get what you pay for and then some.”

“Hmmm… I don’t know.” I said. “What if it sucks even more? I don’t want to have to pay more for an even worse experience.”

“Could it get much worse?” Bill asked.

“Um… yeah, actually, it could.” I said. “I mean, at least the roof isn’t leaking, the toilets aren’t overflowing, and there aren’t any rats running around.”

“But what are the odds it’ll be worse?” Bill asked.

I had to agree that it wasn’t likely that the next place would offer worse food or service. Why was I fighting to keep eating at a restaurant that didn’t seem to want me dining there? I decided it was worth the risk to move on to the next eatery. So we got up and left the table, even though the wait staff came running after us with a bill, demanding payment for other things we hadn’t ordered. We all went to the next place and, indeed, it was pricier. But the host smiled, welcomed us with a glass of bubbly, sat us down at a nicely set table with stylish silverware and china, and asked us how we were doing. I woke up just as we were about to tuck into a lovely holiday dinner.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I have agreed to bake Bill’s favorite chocolate cake. I haven’t made one since we moved last year, even though this house has a brand new oven (as of last year, anyway). I guess I’ll head downstairs and start baking in a bit, even though the house already smells lovely since Bill set the Crock Pot with tonight’s dinner.

We really should have enjoyed this past year more than we did, but the truth is, we’ve been recovering from a massive mind fuck. A year ago, I tried to be hopeful, but I knew craziness was coming, and it did. I spent a good portion of the year looking back on stuff and wondering if I really was as horrible a tenant as I was made out to be, even though no one else has ever had the level of complaints about us as our former landlords did.

When I lived in Armenia, three of my four “landladies”, for lack of a better word, wished I were a bit neater and better about housekeeping. We’re talking dusting, putting away clothes, straightening clutter, making the bed, and what not– stuff that makes the house look neater, but isn’t necessarily a matter of health, safety, or hygiene. I am not a filthy slob who leaves dirty dishes in the sink, lets the trash pile up, or allows the toilets get nasty. But I don’t bust my ass to make sure the house is constantly tidy, because frankly that just doesn’t matter to me. As long as things aren’t gross, I don’t care about dust or clutter. I feel like I’ve outgrown needing to be lectured about keeping my room clean, especially when I’m paying. Besides, even though I’m not a “neat” person, I have seen the living conditions other people live in that make me look like Mrs. Clean. I’d say my housekeeping is pretty average.

Three of these four different women in Armenia who were my landladies also used to regularly let themselves into my space and help themselves to my stuff, too. The daughter of one of them “borrowed” some of my cassette tapes without asking, which I later had to retrieve from her bedroom. The son of another ate my food and left the dirty dishes in the refrigerator. The younger brother of a third got into my colored chalk and broke all of the pieces. It was fine with them that they were doing these things– ripping off my personal property and getting into my personal business– but I was expected to be perfect, follow their orders, never complain, and keep paying by all means, and they had no qualms telling me this to my face.

All of these women had the same attitude that they were doing me a favor by renting me their space, rather than my doing them a favor by giving them a regular source of income. They acted like I was a child who was an “ungrateful guest” rather than a fellow adult in a business relationship with them. They had no issues invading the space I was paying for and nagging me about what they considered were my lax housekeeping standards, yet they didn’t see that letting themselves into my apartment and eating my food and leaving dirty dishes or taking my things was extremely disrespectful. Also, I was paying them a hell of a lot more than any Armenian would have, and I wasn’t constantly yelling at them about my legal rights or calling them to fix every little thing.

My last landlady in Armenia also falsely accused me of “theft”, claiming that I didn’t pay her the rent one month. But that was impossible– I had a record of it, and her father was always there on the first to collect the money. She actually accused me of lying and falsifying the documents, which certainly wasn’t true and was nothing she could prove. All she could do was accuse me of theft and expect that I would be so upset by her false accusations that I would simply pay her just to shut her up. I think she assumed that I was a wimp because, at that time, I cried easily and seemed depressed and sensitive. She thought I was “rich” too, and she could steamroll me by being a bully and yelling at me. All she did was strengthen my resolve to see that other Americans didn’t rent from her. I told everyone I knew about her business practices, including her former employers, the Peace Corps. In the end, she ended up costing herself a hell of a lot of money in lost rent, since her next tenants were locals who would never pay close to what I was paying for her apartment on the outskirts of Yerevan’s center.

Well… I can’t help the way other people conduct their business. I can only help how I conduct myself. I do the best I can. I don’t always please everyone, so there’s no use trying, especially when the other party is never satisfied and doesn’t show me mutual respect. I think 2020 will be a better year, because we’ve moved on to a better venue. Hopefully, we can stay awhile longer and add a new family member. I intend to start enjoying Germany again, regardless. My dream this morning spells it out. Sometimes you have overpriced meals served on Farberware by disrespectful wait staff. Rather than risk indigestion and a lightened wallet, it usually makes better sense to cut your losses and move on to a more appetizing location, if you can do it. We had the opportunity to do it last year and made it happen, once we realized that we shouldn’t keep paying people who didn’t really want to do business with us.

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