blog news

Eight years of contractor life…

I’ve decided to add another entry to my “contractor life” series. Aspects of this story might seem insensitive. Please bear in mind that it’s simply my perspective, and I’m trying to be honest about my personal experiences over here. Other people’s mileages may vary. Also, this article mentions suicide, so please proceed with caution. The featured photo is our current house!

This morning, I noticed that someone hit some old posts I wrote when we last lived in Stuttgart. They were about “contractor life”. I had completely forgotten that I had written those posts, which were pretty popular when I was still using the Blogger platform. I think I meant to maintain that series, but then March 2020 hit, and we all know what happened with that. 😉

My husband’s contractor life in Germany has continued, and now we’ve lived in Germany for eight years. A lot has happened over those years. Hell… I just look at old photos from August 2014, when we first moved back here, I realize that Bill and I both look different. I quit coloring my hair, for one thing. The hardness of German water turned it into straw when I used color, and I hate going to hairstylists. I’m sure this look would surprise people who last saw me stateside, back in 2014.

Last time I wrote one of these posts, we had just found out that Bill’s old job was being converted to a GS (government service) position. At that point, we didn’t yet know that Bill would be an attractive candidate in Wiesbaden. He waited to apply for the job, mainly because we thought we wanted to stay in Stuttgart. At the time, I was a bit trauma bonded– and I didn’t want to move— for all the wrong reasons. Finally, one of his old bosses came to him and told him that the folks in Wiesbaden were actually WAITING for him to apply for the job, and had requested him, personally. He had pretty much all of the experience and skills they were looking for. At the same time, I finally had a epiphany one night when I was home alone. Although I had been resisting leaving, I actually wanted to leave Stuttgart.

Actually, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to leave Stuttgart, as I wanted to move out of our old house. For several reasons, our former landlady and I didn’t get along at all. Complicating matters was the fact that former landlady’s ex tenant, an American who was also her “friend”, was monitoring my blogs and apparently reporting back to the ex landlady.

It wasn’t so much that I was posting a lot of stuff about the ex landlady, per se, as that I would occasionally vent in the blog when she would upset me. She had a habit, for instance, of yelling at me in my own home and treating me like an especially slow-witted child. I really resented it. Moreover, the whole time, former tenant (then living in the USA) was occasionally leaving me comments, then dirty deleting them, after reminding me about the importance of maintaining her “privacy”. It made for a very toxic, stressful living situation, which all came to a head when my husband sued the ex landlady for illegally withholding over 80 percent of our deposit (legal insurance for the win, though– get it if you come here).

I liked our neighborhood, but I didn’t like the house. Even if our landlady didn’t have a habit of popping over unannounced, blaming me personally for things that weren’t my fault, and yelling at me for inconsequential things, it was a house without much charm or convenience. It had two things going for it– a nice view into the forest, and a relatively low rent (low for Germany, not the United States). Because we lived there for four years, and we got tax breaks from living abroad, we were able to retire a lot of debt, including my student loans (about $40,000 when we arrived in 2014, and completely paid off less than four years later).

Okay, I also liked the fact that the house was close to Nagold, which is a great little town on the edge of the Black Forest. But the town we lived in wasn’t that interesting, and it was far from where Bill worked. Living there meant long traffic jams and a hideous commute for Bill. And, although the house was badly in need of renovation, our ex landlady acted like we should be grateful to be “allowed” to live there, and willingly put up with her micromanagement and surveillance without any complaint. She also seemed to think we should allow her to use our money to upgrade the house. I figured it was time for her to harass someone else– although hopefully not anyone from the US military community. We did submit her name to the non referral list, along with the paperwork from the lawsuit that took about two years to settle.

I also found the local Facebook environment in Stuttgart to be a little too dramatic, and it was way too easy to get caught up in the drama myself. Stuttgart has a lot to offer, and we still love going down there to see our dentist. But I had made the mistake of getting involved in too many local Facebook groups, and that led to a lot of embarrassing adolescent toxicity that frankly, at my age, I don’t have time for anymore. A move to Wiesbaden meant I could divorce that drama somewhat and start anew.

So, one day in September 2018, when Bill came home from a business trip to Africa, I told him that I wanted him to take the job in Wiesbaden. He threw his hat in the ring, and after a very perfunctory phone interview, was offered the job. In late November 2018, we made the intra-Germany move to Wiesbaden. I did write a series about it, which you can find starting here.

The former tenant finally left me alone after the lawsuit with the ex landlady was settled, although I suspect that she was keeping an eye on me from afar (either by watching personally, or having “flying monkeys” do it). But she did finally quit monitoring me. I now know that this will be a permanent condition, because sadly, she took her own life a few months ago. Maybe it seems tasteless to mention this part of the story, but it IS part of the story, and a reminder that sometimes some crazy stuff can happen that you might never expect.

I don’t know why the former tenant took the actions she did. I had her blocked on Facebook, and did not go looking for information about her, because I wanted her to leave me alone. However, she had worked for the same company Bill does. Last spring, he noticed she was no longer on the email roster and wasn’t showing up in the GS system. So, at that point, I decided to unblock her on Facebook and look her up, because I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be re-entering my life. That’s when I made the shocking discovery about her tragic suicide. The news was easy to find, as it was widely reported online. While I’m glad to know she’s permanently out of my life, I’m also genuinely sad for her friends and family. I’m even sorry for the former landlady, whom I know had held her in high esteem. I never would have expected this turn of events, either. It was truly a shock to find about it several months after it happened.

It’s hard to believe that we’re now coming up on four years in Wiesbaden. It’s been quite a ride. I will say that living here, in spite of COVID-19 and a few personal upheavals, has mostly been less stressful. For one thing, we have a much better house and landlord. Yes, it costs a lot more, but our landlord is much fairer and more respectful. He lives next door, but he leaves us alone. Our neighborhood is very friendly, and we don’t share walls with anyone. Many of our neighbors have dogs, too, so I worry less about them annoying people.

I only know a handful of people in the local military community, which is also, frankly, a plus for me. Again– less drama and less bullshit with people in the military community. Some people like being “popular” and are very extraverted. I’m not one of those people; I just like to write, and I like to be honest when I write. I did have a temporary setback with my blogs, because I felt forced to relocate them to WordPress. That was a real pain, mostly because it meant a lot of work reformatting the travel blog and starting over completely with the main blog. The upside is that I think the blogs are better quality now. I do have fewer readers, especially on this blog, but the ones who do read are of a better quality. I get fewer “drivebys”, and more people who are actually interested in the content, rather than stirring up shit and causing trouble.

Anyway, aside from the difficult and stressful divorce from our Stuttgart life, we’ve really enjoyed living in Wiesbaden. No, it’s not as picturesque as the Stuttgart area is, but Wiesbaden offers a lot of its own charms, and a very different culture. Personally, I think my husband gets treated better as a contractor in Wiesbaden. The US military’s footprint is smaller here, and the population in the military community is somewhat more mature. There’s less traffic and fewer traffic jams. And again, I mostly stay away from any military affiliated Facebook groups, except for the one I run. It’s a food and wine group, so there’s very little drama involved with that. I’ve found that people here tend to be somewhat friendlier, and if you like wine, Wiesbaden can’t be beat!

I’m especially grateful that we’ve been able to experience living in two areas of Germany. The last eight years have flown by, and we’ve been so fortunate to be able to see and do many exciting things, not just in Germany, but in Europe as a whole. So, if you’re reading this, and wondering if you should move to Germany, I would highly encourage you to give it serious consideration. Yes, there are some aggravations related to living over here. But, on the whole, I find living in Germany more interesting and fun than living in the United States. I especially love being away from the crazy political climate in the United States. The European lifestyle suits us and, once you get used to how things are done here, it’s not hard to be an expat in Germany. It’s also been very good for us financially speaking. The only problem is, now I don’t want to move back home. 😉

I hope this latest installment is helpful. I know the current political difficulties in Europe will end up generating jobs, and that means that more Americans will probably consider making the move. If you have any questions, be sure to drop me a comment.


Where has Limburg been all my life?

First thing’s first. I had no plans to visit the Hessian city of Limburg, Germany today. I went there because I follow Wiesbaden Fest Finders on Facebook, and I run my own “wine and food” group, mostly for Americans in Stuttgart and Wiesbaden. My food and wine Facebook group started in 2017, when Bill and I lived in Stuttgart, and we made a point of trying new restaurants and doing new stuff every weekend. In those days, we had no clue that we’d eventually move to Wiesbaden, and we had even less of a clue that there would be a global pandemic.

In late 2018, when we moved from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden, just about everyone in my Facebook group was based in Stuttgart. It was a pretty active group then. Since I spent six years living there in two different stints, I decided to just tack Wiesbaden onto the name of the group. In 2018, I thought I’d be going to Stuttgart often, if only because that’s where my dentist is. The main difference is, I don’t belong to a bunch of Wiesbaden groups. Living in Stuttgart and dealing with social media drama there made me want to be more under the radar. So I kept the group going, but while I thought I’d be going to Stuttgart more often than I do, that hasn’t happened. Thank COVID for that.

I still have lots of Stuttgart members, and some Wiesbadeners have joined. It’s not a particularly popular group, and frankly, I’ve been thinking about going defunct. But just when I’m about to abandon the group, something exciting happens that makes me keep going. Today was one of those days. Today, we discovered Limburg! And no, it’s not where the infamously stinky cheese comes from; that’s in Belgium.

A whole shitload of wine fests are happening right now in the Rheingau. I posted several of them this morning. The Limburg fest happened to be the first one I shared in my group. I was a little curious about Limburg, because in 2020, when we were trying to adopt a dog from a German rescue, we had a home visit done by a lady who was from Limburg. She said it was about 45 minutes away. She approved us for adopting the dog, but tragically, it didn’t work out for us. But no matter. Now we have Noyzi, the wonder dog from Kosovo.

So anyway… that brings me to this morning, as I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to go out, having just recovered from my first official bout with COVID-19. I finally decided that I did want… and NEED… to get out of the house. Like I wrote before, there were many things going on today. We had our pick. But I decided I wanted to go to Limburg, so that’s where we went. And, I have to say, we had a great time! This was our first time in Limburg, but God willing, it will not be our last. What a cute town! It’s on the Lahn River, and there are so many splendid timbered buildings dating back hundreds of years. The weather was perfect, and when we got there, I was enchanted by the many adorable shops. I even found something I wanted to buy, but decided not to, when I realized how heavy it was.

We stopped at the Leon Gerhard Weingut stall and tried several wines. I would have liked to have tried others, but we were a little pressed for time, thanks to the parking garage. It was one where you prepay, rather than pay when you’re done. Bill’s credit card wouldn’t work, and for once, we were short on spare change. While I didn’t think the cops were gonna bust us for overstaying, Bill was in a hurry… and we did have hungry dogs to consider.

There were a whole bunch of vintners at the Wine Fest, as well as food purveyors. As we were leaving, musicians were setting up for live music. I couldn’t help but feel so grateful to be in Germany now… as my homeland is embroiled in endless political bullshit, Germany is having wonderful festivals, reminding us that sometimes you just need to chill out and enjoy some wine and company. God bless Germany. It will always have a piece of my heart.

As for Limburg, it definitely didn’t stink… again, the infamously smelly cheese, comes from the Limburg area of Belgium, not Germany. So although I will make jokes about stinky cheese and cheesiness, this town isn’t the one affiliated with famously pungent cheese. We’ll be back, because I’m sure they have lots of fests. We were only there for a few hours, but I feel like I got a short vacation, and it was great for my soul. Especially when we visited Limburger Dom, which is a uniquely beautiful cathedral that has its origins in the 9th century.

We did stop for lunch at Werner-Senger Haus, which is a very cute and historic restaurant in a building that dates from the 1200s. We ate in their garden, which was up a couple of flights of stairs, or accessible from a gate on the other side of the restaurant. It was hot, so we drank Weizens, and I had a Wildschwein Burger, while Bill had Wildschwein Bratwurst with Pfifferlingen mushrooms. The food was good, and there was plenty of it, although it was a bit messy! Both dishes came with a Preiselbeer sauce that was a bit heavily applied on my burger, which was “molded” rather than hand shaped. But it tasted okay, even if it was a little rarer than I like it.

As we were leaving Werner-Senger Haus, I noticed a portrait on the wall near the door. I thought maybe it was Werner Senger, but my German friend was kind enough to edify me with the startling truth. Apparently, the man in the portrait is the Schinderhannes, Johannes Bückler. The restaurant is in the house where he was brought after he was captured. Wikipedia tells me that Johannes Bückler was an outlaw and thief who lived from 1778 until November 21, 1803, when he was guillotined in nearby Mainz. Bückler was famous for organizing one of the biggest crime sprees in German history, so we were dining on true historic ground! I did marvel more than once that I thought the restaurant was really cool looking, but now I know it’s very historic, too.

I might have preferred street food at the fest, but I needed to pee, and as we walked through there, the public WCs weren’t quite open for business. They were when we came back an hour or so later. Our bill at the restaurant was about 49 euros. I would like to go back, if only because it really was such a unique and historic building, just as so many others in that town are. I felt like I got a half day vacation!

Below are some photos…

We had a great time today. I am sure we’ll be back to Limburg. It’s a very nice town, and I’ll bet they have some great fests. And once again, I am so glad to be living in Germany. I don’t know how long we’ll be here, but today was a reminder to enjoy and learn from every moment. Today was a treat, and I hope we can get back into enjoying them more often. At least until COVID gets bad again.


A “doggone” vent about certain types of people…

We woke up to a light dusting of snow today…

I usually try to keep the subject matter on my travel blog confined to posts about German living, light topics, and actual travel. However, as you might have read recently, even though some Christmas markets are still going, Germany is reeling from increased COVID-19 infections. It’s getting tougher to enjoy going out in public, thanks to increased rules about wearing masks and being fully vaccinated.

I’ve got no quarrel with vaccines. I am fully vaccinated and am scheduled to get a booster shot soon. And while I hate the face masks, I will wear them if I have to. But I don’t enjoy going out in a mask or having to show my certifications everywhere I go, especially since there is a risk that I’ll get the virus anyway. The weather also sucks. So lately, I’ve focused more on staying home, and that leads me to hang out on social media more than I should.

When we moved from Stuttgart, I made a conscious decision not to join a bunch of military Facebook groups. The reason for that is because joining them in Stuttgart led to my involvement in, and exposure to, a lot of unnecessary social media dramas. I also feel like I don’t mesh that well with a lot of people in military communities, even though I’ve been a military brat my whole life and was an Army wife for years. I do run a wine and food group, but I try to keep it low key. I don’t even care if people lose interest and leave the group because, quite frankly, running it is kind of a thankless job. But I am still in a couple of local Facebook groups. One of the groups I am in is the pet group.

The pet group is usually pretty helpful. Most people who participate are genuinely interested in finding the best local veterinarians, dog walking areas, and pet food. There’s usually not too much drama, and it’s a friendly bunch of people. But, every once in awhile, someone posts something that gets people riled up. A lot of times, the posts that piss people off are ones about rehoming animals. Last night, someone posted this, along with a picture that I am omitting…

Good Evening All,

Looking to rehome my 11 year old Chocolate Lab (although he is greying a bit) named Sugar(because he is a sweet boy). He has been in my life the last 9 years and deeply loved, but not getting the love he needs and deserves. His walks are getting to be shorter and shorter becoming simple potty breaks and back inside. And time between walks sometimes too long to be fair. He doesn’t get incorporated into our weekend plans anymore, and needs to be a bigger part of his new families life. The adjustment to stairwell living and no longer having a yard to run around and play means his level of activity is next to none now. We used to go on runs up to five miles together when he was younger, so he does enjoy getting out and moving. I had planned to have my mother take him this summer but things didn’t work out.

He just had his Rabies shot in September, is microchipped, and had his flea/tic prevention applied two weeks ago. He is in great health, his teeth and nails are upkept regularly, needs ears cleaned about every two-four weeks (probably more if his new family takes him outside more). He is excellent with children, and all other animals. Please PM me if you think you could be the new loving family this guy needs and deserves.

I usually don’t comment on these kinds of posts. I understand that sometimes people have legitimate reasons to rehome their animals. I would rather see a pet in need go to a loving home where he or she can be properly cared for, than stay in an environment where there is neglect or abuse. But this was the second rehoming post I’d seen recently that reeked of bullshit. The first one involved a beautiful German Shepherd who was offered up after the woman who took him in, suddenly determined, after about three months, that her husband was “allergic” to dogs, even though they already had a smaller dog. The woman also said she’s expecting a baby and feared the baby would be allergic, too.

The person who had originally rehomed her dog with the lady who was offering him up again is still in the group, even though she’s in the United States. She commented on the post, and was pissed. The German/American breeders also commented, upset at this change of events. And there was this beautiful animal, in real need of a good and loving home. Obviously, the dog needed to be somewhere else, but I didn’t appreciate the clearly bullshit excuses offered for the reasons why rehoming was needed.

I had the same irritated reaction to the above post, only it irritated me even more, because this dog is being rehomed after having spent nine years with his owner. So anyway, I decided to leave a response. Below is what I wrote.

I really try not to judge people who need to rehome their animals. I know sometimes stuff happens, and every single one of my dogs came to me because they didn’t work out in someone else’s home. But you have had this dog for nine years! How do you think he’s going to react to new people? He’s getting older, as we all do, and he has needs. How would you like it if your family rehomed you when you get older and have more needs? And why should someone else take the responsibility?

You live in a military community. There are plenty of older kids and teens who would be happy to help you out for a little spending money. Please reconsider this decision, if you can. That poor dog deserves better. He’s obviously been a great companion to you. You should try harder to return the favor. But if it will mean he will suffer, then maybe someone else should take him… but I hope that will mean you don’t adopt another animal.

Mine was just one of many similar comments. Some people were “nicer”, some were much less nice. The original poster commented to me thusly: “a lot of questions, but I didn’t see a PM?”

Someone else commented that people shouldn’t be offering comments or “advices” on this situation if they couldn’t help. I decided to respond to that, too. I wrote this:

If there is a compelling reason why this man, who has had this dog for nine years and brought him to Germany, can’t continue to care for him, I would love to know what it is. But as it stands now, it sounds like the dog has simply become old and inconvenient and he wants to pass off the responsibility of caring for him to someone else. That’s not kind to the dog, and it’s not really fair to the people who might adopt him, get attached, and lose him soon to old age. Rehoming is better if he really can’t take care of him. I just wouldn’t want to see him looking for a new dog.

Moreover, a post like this going to get honest feedback. That’s how the Internet works.

Mmmm’kay… here’s the deal. If a person decides to post something in a Facebook group and doesn’t turn off commenting, there will be comments made. The guy had jut asked for PMs only from people who can “help”, as in take in his dog. But sorry, people are going to react negatively to a post about an eleven year old Lab who has lived with someone for nine years and suddenly needs a new home. And people who decide to write such a post in a group full of animal lovers should be prepared to explain themselves.

I think it’s kind of sketchy to post something publicly in a group, but then demand that responses be made in private. It raises a lot of red flags. And while I get that no one likes to be scorned publicly, or responded to in a holier than thou way, I have personally been burned more than once in this country because I was “nice”, didn’t ask questions, and took someone at face value. The last time we did that, it led to a lawsuit.

Secondly, no one should be expected to engage in a private chat with a person they don’t know. In general, I don’t even like PMs from people I know well. I don’t mind PMs if the subject is important, but I don’t like them from strangers, and I don’t want to chat with people who aren’t friends. I don’t know this guy from Adam. Moreover, I can’t take his dog, because I already have two dogs, including one who is about twelve years old and is slowing down. I can’t even fathom the thought of giving him away, although I do realize that sometimes shit happens. But I think if one’s motives are pure and honest, one should be willing to explain. Especially when one is essentially asking people to do them a huge favor.

I noticed that the guy came back and left shaming and sarcastic comments to those who questioned him. That’s another huge red flag. If he really cares about his dog’s welfare, he should welcome questions, and be friendly and willing about answering them honestly. Being snarky and sarcastic, and shaming me for not PMing, is not a good look.

I didn’t PM this guy because I can’t take his dog. But I think I have the right to comment on his post, which was visible to everyone in the group. If his reason for needing to rehome is valid and doesn’t involve high pressure tactics, lies, or manipulation, he should be willing to be transparent. I get that nobody likes to be judged or shamed, but honestly, where has this guy been? He got treated the same way a lot of people who post rehoming requests get treated. In his case, it might have been more intense because he’s evidently had the dog for so long. But again, what the fuck did he expect?

I would have liked to have posted all of this to the guy when he asked me why I didn’t PM him, but he cowardly turned off the ability to comment. So that’s why he is the subject of my blog post today. I do wish him luck in finding an appropriate home for his dog. It sounds like the dog really would be better off with people who actually care and can commit to their pets for life.

Americans already have a terrible reputation among Germans for ditching their animals. It’s the main reason why I, as an American, can’t go to a local shelter and adopt a dog. I am discriminated against simply due to the fact that so many American servicemembers have abandoned their pets. And I think most people who know us will agree, Bill and I are excellent pet owners. It pisses me off that we are lumped in with people who pull this crap, and then get pissy when they are called out on it. We have a dog from Kosovo, mostly because of people who want to pass off their responsibility to their pets to other people. I don’t regret taking in Noyzi for a minute, but I do resent the hell out of being discriminated against simply due to the fact that I happen to share citizenship with irresponsible jerks.

I honestly don’t know if the man who inspired this post actually is an “irresponsible jerk”, but I’ve gotta say, based on my years of experience dealing with jerks, the signs are there. It seems to me that if the dog means that much to him, he should want him to go to a great home. He should have as many questions for potential adopters as they would have for him, because ultimately, giving someone the chance to adopt a wonderful dog is a great thing to do. I just wasn’t seeing that sentiment in this man’s post. He was more focused on people’s reactions to him and his ego, than the welfare of a chocolate Lab he claims he loves.

Now… I am a bit calmer. Below is a cute video from yesterday, starring my two boys, Noyzi and Arran,… both of whom are dogs we took in from rescues and have committed to caring for until it’s time for them to cross the Rainbow Bridge. Unfortunately, due to the snow and all the recent rain we’ve had, the backyard now looks like a slop pit.

I like to capture these moments when I can. And now that I finally have a new phone, so much the better.

Last night’s take out triumph!

In March, when our would-be new dog escaped from his pet transport and was later dispatched on the Autobahn, I joined a bunch of local Facebook groups spreading the news of his disappearance. Although the dog adoption did not work out, I stayed a member of the local groups. One Facebook group that has been particularly helpful is the Wir In Hofheim group.

We don’t live in Hofheim, but it’s very close to our neck of the woods. Though the Breckenheim community does have a Facebook group, it’s not as active or entertaining as the Hofheim group is. I should thank my Stuttgart area German friend, Susanne, for suggesting that I join these groups, even though they are mostly conducted in German. I’m learning a lot, not just about the local culture, but also language and community hot spots. It’s also a place where people sell things.

A couple of weeks ago, someone in the Hofheim group shared a link to a restaurant called Blanca Bistro. The food looked and sounded so good that I told Bill we needed to try it. Last night, we finally got our chance when Bill ordered take out.

Blanca Bistro serves healthy food. It appears to be mostly empanadas, salads, burritos, and Middle Eastern favorites like falafel and hummus. There are many vegan and vegetarian options, although the restaurant does serve beef and chicken, too. Last night, Bill got us a vegetarian tapas plate and chicken empanadas. He said when he went into the restaurant to get the food, it smelled wonderful in there. If we weren’t on lockdown, I think we’d happily go there to eat. I would love to eat better food, and if they can make vegetarian or vegan food that appeals to me, I’m all for it. I’d like to stop eating so much meat.

Here’s a picture of last night’s fabulous dinner. I am not a big “healthy food” fan, but I have to say that this food would make me a believer. Bill and I both felt great after we ate. The cartons were eco friendly and biodegradable. Only the sauces came in plastic.

The carton on the left contains two chicken empanadas and a delightful salad with greens, mangos, red peppers, and striped beets. The red dip was sort of a fresh tomato flavored sauce, while the white dip was creamy quark and chive sauce. The chicken empanada had peas, chicken, raisins, and carrots.

The carton on the right has a vegetarian empanada with ricotta, chia seeds, and spinach. It came with the same salad, as well as a chickpea and pomegranate seed salad, hummus, oven baked vegetables, and a falafel.

All of this cost about 27 euros, and it was delicious! We will definitely be back for more, and I will continue to keep my eyes peeled for more fun restaurants offering take out!

EDITED TO ADD… with much sadness… Blanca Bistro announced on May 8th that they will close because of COVID-19.