Ex, family, memories, music

Our married life in music…

Saturday afternoon, Bill and I decided to make a couple of CDs for his daughter. I came up with the idea after she sent us a book of guitar chords for our anniversary. She had asked us what kind of music we like. It was a hard question to answer, because I have an enormous, eclectic library of music. It grows larger almost every week.

As we were thinking about what kinds of music we like, it occurred to me that a number of songs in my library have a cool story connected to them. So I chose about 37 songs and put them on CDs, then wrote a brief backstory for each track. I figured maybe they would provide some food for thought the next time they Skype. She can ask Bill about the backstories, even if she doesn’t like the music.

I sent an email to Bill with my notes and invited him to add to them if he wants to. I had to email him with the comments because we don’t have a printer available. I miss good old fashioned mix tapes. Some of my favorite cassettes were made by my friends. I have a couple of them in storage that I listened to over and over again. I wish I could listen to them now. Sad that some technology is obsolete. I have a Mark Knopfler VHS concert tape that is more complete than the DVD version of the same concert. I don’t think our VCR works anymore, though.

I really enjoyed making the discs. Truth be told, I could have made a dozen of them. Music has been a huge part of my relationship with Bill. We have spent so many hours sitting around, listening to music, talking, and drinking wine. We both have broad tastes, so anything and everything comes up on my HomePod. The discs I made for younger daughter include everything from Led Zeppelin to Kathleen Battle, with a dash of bluegrass and even a couple of songs by yours truly. I added one song because it represented how I feel about Bill. The other was our wedding song and Bill requested that I include it. I put both at the end of the CDs, so they’re easy to skip.

One of the songs I included was Kathleen Battle’s magnificent rendition of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.” I used a solo version because it was shorter, but I would have liked to have included this one…

I would have loved to have seen this in person. Rest in peace, Jessye Norman.

I was introduced to Kathleen Battle’s music by my very first voice teacher, who presented me with one of her CDs. It was a life changer. I became a super fan. Incidentally, this particular album featuring Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle is absolutely glorious. It got me through so many hard days when I was younger. I am including a link at the bottom of the page for anyone who is interested. I’m not particularly religious, but I do love some of the music.

Younger daughter is religious. Hopefully, she will enjoy some of the religious songs I included. Bill is probably more into God than I am, though, and a lot of the religious music I put on the CDs are songs we bonded over. But really, I just want her to have some insight into who her dad is. She was denied any access to him for over fifteen years, and they have a lot to catch up on. I figure music is one way to bridge the gap somewhat. If anything, she can read the stories and ask him about them. Like it or not, I’m a big part of Bill’s life and part of the story.

Actually, I don’t get the sense that younger daughter resents me anymore. I think realizing that her mother is who she is has made me look better. And I’m sure that there’s a part of younger daughter who is going through sheer hell, because of all of the lies she was told and time that was lost to her mother’s craziness. Make no mistake about it. Her mother is not a well woman. She defines toxicity. Some of the things she’s said and done to Bill alone are just terrible. What makes it worse is that I can’t really write about them in a lot of detail because it’s just too fucked up. And Bill is just one person. She has no doubt done some real damage to other people, too.

And yet, I don’t think she’s completely evil as much as I think she has an honest to God mental illness. I have empathy for people who are mentally ill, but it can be hard to separate people from their actions, particularly when you are personally involved. If Ex was, say, a social work client and not my husband’s former wife, I might have a different opinion of her. I might even feel kind of sorry for her. But she’s my husband’s ex wife, and she really hurt him on many levels. Her actions have had ripple effects that extend far and wide.

Younger daughter’s husband sent Bill an email requesting stories about her, either from when they’ve been in contact recently or when she was a little girl. He’s making her a book of memories for her birthday, which is next week. Bill was there for her until she was almost six years old. Then, he was unceremoniously kicked out of her life. He last saw her as a child when she was eleven years old. It took fifteen years for them to see each other in person again, although they’ve been Skyping since 2017. I watched Bill working hard on an email full of memories of his daughter and realized that when his daughter reads what he wrote, she may feel angry that he was out of her life for so long. The good news is, she had the courage to reconnect, and they have some time to make new memories. Hopefully, anyway… if none of us gets sick with the dreaded virus.

I read a pretty harrowing account a food writer wrote about his experiences with COVID-19. He seems to be recovering now, but it sounds like he went through sheer hell. I remember being sick with the flu at Christmas time in 2013. I got really sick, although not enough to go to the hospital. I did consider seeing a doctor, but ended up not going. I imagine that if I got COVID-19, I would get very sick. Lately, I’ve been coughing and sneezing a lot because I have allergies and asthma. I think COVID-19 could possibly do me in. So I stay home and wait… hoping this virus can be tamed with a vaccine. I hear the vaccine isn’t very pleasant, but it sounds like it’s better than getting the actual illness.

Well, that about does it for today. I finished my last Fender Play lesson yesterday, so now I’m going to go back and redo some lessons that need work. Maybe at some point, someone besides Bill will want to hear me play and I’ll feel worthy enough to oblige.

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Ex, family, LDS, mental health

Finally hearing each other…

This morning, Bill told me that his daughter sent him a long email. It was mostly about how her little daughter is doing with some physical therapy she needs. She also had tubes put in her ears, which has made it a lot easier for her to hear. The baby is now a lot less temperamental. In fact, Bill’s daughter said she had an insightful moment when she realized her daughter was basically hearing her clearly for the first time. It was probably a stunning experience for her.

I continue to be amazed, watching Bill reconnect with his daughter. For so long, we had the impression that she hated him. But once they started talking to each other, it was clear that the bond they had years ago was still there. Then they started comparing notes about what it was like to deal with Bill’s ex wife.

I know a lot of people, over the years, have gotten the idea that I’m just a bitter second wife. I guess I can’t blame people for having that impression. All most people get of our story is what I write, and I write with a bias. But, when two people who have had similar experiences with a narcissist get together and compare notes, it soon becomes a lot clearer what the problem is and who the culprit is. I may write with a bias, but what I write is based in truth, at least as I see it. And I do try to be fair as much as possible and, in fact, have even managed to change my mind about some things.

I used to feel compelled to write a lot about Ex. I saw her as someone who got away with terrible things against good people. I don’t feel compelled to write about her very much now. Because now I see that she isn’t getting away with anything, really. Sooner or later, the truth always emerges. I knew it eventually would in this case, too.

I’ve also found that the animosity I had toward Mormonism has also dissipated somewhat. I no longer feel nearly as angry at the church as I used to, mainly because the church helped fix this situation. Good people in the church helped Bill’s daughter leave a terrible situation. While I think she could have found help from many other sources, the Mormons were there for her. She’s comfortable with the religion. I don’t agree with a lot of the church’s beliefs or practices, but I have respect for the fact that church members did some good for Bill’s daughter. And I laugh a bit, since it was Ex that introduced the church to Bill’s kids in the first place, and used it as a means of alienating them from him. Now, that plan has backfired, as many of her harebrained plans eventually do.

Younger daughter has turned out to be a very kind, insightful, and unusually empathetic person. I didn’t see these tendencies in her when she was younger, but I guess she must have had them. And, of course, I was never allowed to get close to her anyway. The image that was projected to us was one that made her look a lot like her mother. But she’s not like her at all. I’m sure what we saw was carefully crafted to discourage others from throwing her a life ring out of the situation she was in.

When she and Bill visited earlier this year, they talked for hours. They compared experiences. She wanted to know about some painful things… although she doesn’t even know the half of what happened. But even as she was asking about those things, she recognized that talking about them might be painful for Bill. She even realized that he was a victim of domestic violence, which really impresses me. And she has said outright that she wants to avoid continuing the cycle of destruction and abuse.

Switching gears here… it just occurred to me that our new dog, Noyzi, could almost be a metaphor for what Bill has experienced with his daughter. Here he is, this very sweet dog born on the streets of Kosovo, a country where dogs aren’t necessarily adored like they are in Germany and the United States. When we first got Noyzi, he was so afraid of everything. He didn’t understand anything at all. He bumped into glass doors, because he’d never seen them before. He shied away from Bill and me, and didn’t want to eat or walk on a leash. In fact, his first day here, he didn’t want to come inside.

As time passed, he started to get used to life with us. It took him no time to realize that being in a house is a good thing. He quickly claimed his bed, as well as a spot by the loveseat, where I usually sit to do my jigsaw puzzles. He loves trying different foods and always accepts them gratefully and politely. He’s still terrified of Bill, but he makes progress every day.

It’s not unlike watching Bill rekindle his relationship with his daughter. It started very tentatively and has developed into something beautiful. And there’s new progress every day. It won’t be long until those old fears will be replaced by good memories and love. It’s so rewarding to work with him. Likewise, it’s so rewarding to see Bill and his daughter heal their relationship.

I watch a lot of videos about narcissism on YouTube. I’ve found several good channels. I like the ones in which the tone taken is one of empathy and kindness, even though I will admit my basic instinct is anger. Narcissistic people and others with character disorders are typically very abusive people who lack empathy. It’s hard to maintain empathy for people who have none, but I think it’s important to try. Otherwise, we aren’t much better than they are.

I have been feeling somewhat more peaceful lately. I haven’t forgotten anything, but I’m a lot less angry. When I see things evolving the way they always eventually do, it makes me feel better. The truth always comes out eventually. It may take years, but eventually, the jig will be up. And while I don’t take pleasure in seeing people suffer, I do think that bad behavior has to be addressed somehow.

Narcissists hate to lose. Just watch Donald Trump’s behavior as he’s being forced to reconcile the fact that he is about to be kicked out of power. But inevitably, they lose. Inevitably, their behavior causes them to be kicked to the curb. I find as I get older, I’m quicker at spotting them and have less patience for tolerating them. I think younger daughter is going to be even less tolerant at a much younger age. I applaud her for that.

Just as Bill’s granddaughter is finally hearing her mom clearly, Bill and his daughter are hearing each other, too. They’re learning new things, comparing notes, trusting and growing. And Noyzi is hearing kindness and love, and is learning to trust and grow. These are really good things. So that’s my positive post for today. Now, to get on with some music.

P.S. The featured photo has nothing to do with this post, but everything to do with how I’m about to start feeling.

psychology, social media

“We’re at war with the virus, not each other”

Yesterday, I ran across an article in the Washington Post about “Friendsgiving”, a trendy holiday that developed pre-pandemic involving young people gathering for a potluck meal. The article was about how canceling Friendsgiving was “hitting some young people hard”.

For some reason, it seems that a lot of people have lost the ability to empathize with others. Based on the comments for the Friendsgiving article, many folks are very grouchy and heartless. Here’s a quote from the article, which I think sums up its main idea:

The coronavirus pandemic has spoiled Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving’s younger and cooler cousin famous for potluck-style meals among friends. While it is a wise public health decision to cancel Friendsgiving, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, experts worry that its absence may exacerbate loneliness among young people already isolated from classmates, separated from co-workers and longing for touchstones of burgeoning adulthood.

Nowhere in that paragraph is there any mention of people gathering anyway. I’m sure some people did get together, against all advice, but I’ll bet more people than not decided to skip it. But that’s apparently not good enough for some people. I read comment after comment from people who wrote things like “Cry me a freakin’ river” and “Get over it”. Or they pointed out that some people, like medical staff or military, have it much worse.

These were the most recent comments on the Washington Post’s article.

I don’t understand why people can’t acknowledge the pain that some people are dealing with during the pandemic. A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog post that mentioned how some young people are having trouble coping with being so isolated. People are actually committing suicide because they’ve lost hope and the will to live during the pandemic. Some people may think that’s stupid, but what right do they have to discount other people’s legitimate pain? Why not just be kind and understanding?

Is it really helpful to call someone a “snowflake” when they’re struggling? Is it really necessary to be snarky and nasty to people who feel hopeless and depressed? Would these eye rolling assholes like to see people killing themselves because they’ve lost hope? Do they like it when they experience loneliness and someone discounts their pain?

I’m sure a lot of these unsympathetic attitudes come from the fact that 2020 has been an unusually difficult year for many people. People are angry, and anger causes grumpiness and lashing out at others. I’m not immune to it myself, although I haven’t suffered as much this year as a lot of other people have. I have, however, been young, scared, anxious, lonely, depressed, and wondering if it was worthwhile to go on living. I experienced those feelings years ago, when I suffered from clinical depression. Fortunately, I had a good therapist and effective antidepressants, as well as good friends and a weekly voice class. With time and effort, I overcame depression, but I didn’t do it alone.

Today’s young people are denied even a face to face conversation or a gentle hug from a loved one. Telling them to “get over it” seems especially unkind right now. In fact, it’s cruel. And yes, I get that many people have it “worse”– but one person’s version of worse might be different than another person’s is. No one person gets to tell another person what should or should not be painful for them. How hard is it to simply acknowledge that someone is having a tough time and wishing them well?

More “get over it” comments.

I get that we’re all suffering to some extent and it’s good to be tough and upbeat in the face of difficulties. But why is it necessary to be so shitty? Are people really incapable of stopping to consider, for just a minute, that everyone has a different pain threshold? It costs nothing to be nice, and show some understanding toward other people. There’s no need to engage in “whataboutism”. Acknowledging a person’s specific struggle takes nothing away from someone who is supposedly suffering “worse”. Who really decides who’s got it “worse”, anyway? Someone who dies of COVID-19 (which they hopefully picked up innocently while fully masked and socially distanced, lest they not be worthy of any sympathy) is no better off than someone who dies of suicide caused by depression. Both people are gone and will likely be missed by others, right? Both deaths are ultimately tragic.

Depression is a real thing. It can be deadly. Being bored, lonely, and cut off from support can push someone to the brink. As President-elect Joe Biden has said, “We’re at war with the virus, not each other…” These are wise, welcome words from someone who wants to be a leader. He’s shown more leadership in two and a half weeks than Trump has shown in his entire lifetime. And I’m going to listen to Mr. Biden and have a heart for those who feel lonely, anxious, and isolated right now. Those are valid concerns.

Just be kind. Show some decency and basic humanity. If someone is feeling sad or lonely and dares to express it, don’t invalidate them by telling them to “get over it” or “stop being such a snowflake.” If you were hurting, you’d want the same consideration, wouldn’t you?

Duggars, holidays

Jinger Vuolo’s new baby girl… and Happy Thanksgiving!

The news came out last night (my time, anyway), that Jinger and Jeremy Vuolo of Counting On have welcomed their second child, a girl named Evangeline Jo. The baby was born on Sunday night, November 22, and she joins her two year old sister, Felicity Nicole.

I don’t mind the name Evangeline, I guess… and that’s a good thing, since she’s not my kid. I think “Jo” is a bit of a weird middle name that doesn’t really have a ring to it, but Jinger says it’s in honor of Jeremy’s middle name of Joseph. Felicity’s middle name is Nicole, like Jinger’s is, so I guess it’s only fair. Now that both kids have their parents’ middle names, are they going to stop having babies? They do seem less interested in mass breeding than Jinger’s parents.

Sometimes, I think Jeremy Vuolo decided to “rescue” Jinger from her humongous family. I remember when 19 Kids and Counting was still on, and Jinger commented that she wanted to live in a big city. Michelle Duggar was quick to clarify that Jinger meant she wanted to live closer to a Walmart, not explore the streets of New York City. Of course, it was obvious Michelle’s clarification was a fabrication. Jinger married Jeremy, and now they live in Los Angeles, which probably suits her fine. And it looks like she’s kind of detaching from the whole fundie lifestyle, although she’s still religious.

It will be interesting to see which of the Duggar kids reject the whole super Christian shit altogether. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jinger does. I think Jill may also ditch it, too, which is funny since she always seemed to be the biggest Kool-Aid drinker and tattletale when they were growing up. But, just as heads tend to clear when people escape a toxic, abusive environment, so do adults tend to follow their own instincts and live their own lives when they break away from their parents’ domain.

Anyway, I wish Evangeline luck. She’s been born in strange and interesting times. And the people on the Duggar Family News page are relentless in their criticisms already. Now, the Duggars have Ivy, Evy (Evelyn), and Evangeline… maybe they’ll form a singing group someday.

Moving on…

I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. This year is going to be harder for a lot of people for many reasons. I’ve seen lots of people bitching about those who decided to travel. I’m not going to judge the travelers. I hope they’ll all be okay and don’t pick up or spread COVID-19. I know some of them will… but I also know that being away from family is hard for a lot of people. And I also think people should make up their own minds about what they want to do.

Bill and I, of course, are staying home. It’s cold and gloomy outside, but we have a fireplace, and we ordered a takeout Thanksgiving meal from a local restaurant. There are only two of us eating, and we need to do what we can to help businesses survive. They’re doing a Thanksgiving meal, so we’re taking advantage of it. We ate at their place before they moved to the German/American golf course last year, and we had a fantastic meal. Hopefully, today’s offering will be just as good.

I miss my annual family gatherings… but sometimes, being overseas makes things easier. It’s a lot easier to say no to gatherings when you live in Europe and your family is in America.

So… enjoy your holiday, be safe and happy, and eat your fill!

The featured photo was our living room last night. God, I love having a fireplace again!


The rules don’t apply to her…

I’m now going to write about a topic I have been purposely avoiding for the past couple of years. It’s time to write about it. I’ve wanted to write this post for ages, but didn’t feel safe enough to do it. Now, I’m ready.

Some readers may know that my husband and I lived for four years enduring abuse from our former landlady. On my old blog, I used to occasionally vent about the way she treated us. In my view, she was extremely disrespectful to us, especially to me. Her behavior made me want to respond in kind, although I usually did it on my blog. I stopped writing about her publicly because ex landlady had a “flying monkey” who was monitoring what I was doing and reporting back to her. The flying monkey probably still watches what I do. The difference is, I no longer care. It’s now abundantly clear that she was absolutely wrong to do what she did, and karma will catch up to her someday. She’d be really wise to give us a wide berth from now on, too.

I still struggle with thoughts about that totally mindfucking experience. We tolerated it for much longer than we should have, although I reached the end of my rope long before Bill did. Unfortunately, Bill and I have both been “trained” to tolerate a lot of abuse from people. We’ve gotten better at spotting it and dealing with it, but thanks to situations in both of our pasts, it still takes awhile before we’ll do what needs to be done when we encounter someone who is abusive. The end result is that we endure a lot of pain and sorrow for no good reason.

Ex landlady was surprisingly unabashed about her massive sense of entitlement and demonstrated a complete lack of regard for our privacy and right to live in peace. Now that we live in a place where we’re treated like adults, I can’t believe we spent four years in that hellhole. It pisses me off that we did. We should have left after the first year.

It’s taken me about two years to mostly recover from the psychic aftermath of that living situation. I’m not entirely recovered yet. I’m still upset that we were subjected to that treatment, but I’m also angry that, in the process of screwing us over and ripping us off, she had us feeling like we were “bad” and irresponsible people. The fact is, we’re not bad or irresponsible people at all. We did our best to be good tenants, and none of our other landlords have ever complained about us.

Ex landlady got her rent money early every month. We were fully insured. Bill was never anything but businesslike in his dealings with her, while she was frequently rude and abrasive to him (and we have the emails to prove it). While nobody’s perfect, I patiently listened to her complaints and suggestions and did my best to comply with what I thought were ridiculous and intrusive demands. She paid us back by completely shitting on us and boldly ripping off about 80% of our deposit. I think she was planning to keep ALL of the deposit, but finally conceded to giving 20% back because Bill pushed it. She should be ashamed of herself, but because she has a massive sense of entitlement and no regard for fairness, I know she’s not. In fact, in her mind, she’s the ultimate victim.

Her “reasons” for keeping our money were mostly illegal and completely unsubstantiated. Some of her claims were absolutely and obviously ludicrous. We did have a mishap with the awning on her property, but it was an act of God, and she accepted an insurance settlement for that. She was unhappy with the settlement, so she resolved to rip us off. Moreover, she wasn’t the least bit concerned that her failure to hire a real repairperson, when I pointed out that it was falling apart, could have resulted in one of us getting seriously injured or even killed. She was simply focused on herself and her own desires. Yet she accused US of being unfair to her. What a crock of shit.

She refused to compromise in an amicable way, so Bill sued her. It was his first time suing anyone. He hated to do it. We really just wanted to be done with her. But we finally determined that it wouldn’t be right to allow ex landlady to steal our money. She was not entitled to it. And while I can’t prove that she has a habit of ripping off people, I strongly suspect, based on her brazen behavior, that she’s done this kind of thing repeatedly and gotten away with it. She expected to get away with it this time, too, probably because Bill is such a decent person.

If there’s one thing I have learned over the years, dealing with and observing narcissistic creeps like Bill’s ex wife, his former war time boss, and Donald Trump, it’s that those types of people don’t think the rules apply to them. They will bitch and moan and scream about how they’re being disrespected and mistreated, but they refuse to acknowledge their own role in any problem. They put all of the blame on the other party and do their best to malign and marginalize them. It’s infuriating and crazy making. I have no doubt that we’ve been smeared to people in our former neighborhood, not that it really matters.

The end result of the lawsuit was that the ex landlady was forced to settle. She settled for less than what I think she should have had to. In my view, she should have had to give us all of our money back, at the very least. But, as I mentioned before, we really just want to be done with her. We also don’t need the money, and we know that it will pain her to have to pay us. And she WILL have to pay, even though she hasn’t yet. If she doesn’t give us the money we’re owed, she will still pay in another way. We have already reported her to the housing office in Stuttgart and we will make it our mission to see that she does not get tenants from the U.S. military community again. Bill has already sent the court paperwork to the office, so they will have real evidence of what kind of a person she is.

Taking action against people who are unfair and dishonest can be scary. However, it’s also empowering, and it’s morally the right thing to do. There are people who can’t fight back, for whatever reason. We were thinking of them when we decided to take legal action. Because the more people who let this kind of thing go, the more emboldened dishonest bullies become. I suspect that our former landlady has frequently gotten her way by being difficult, shaming “nice” people, and trying to play the “pity” card because she’s an older woman. When it comes right down to it, she’s dishonest and unethical and she deserves to be called out for that behavior.

I’ll tell you something else. When we had our mishap with the awning on her property, ex landlady was constantly up Bill’s ass about the money to pay for it. He told her to take it up with the insurance company, since she had decided to accept a claim from them. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, and she owes us, it’s been months and we haven’t seen a cent. Well… we have let our lawyer know, and I expect she will soon be contacted by the court… and if that happens, she may end up being forced to pay even more money. And all of this could have been avoided if she had just played fair in the first place.