Today was our second full day in Ribeauville. We were supposed to spend another full day here, but James Taylor has caused us to leave tomorrow. It appears that his Copenhagen show went off without a hitch, which means that Frankfurt will probably be going on, as planned. So, tomorrow, we will pack up and go back to Germany and, in 24 hours, I suspect I will be sitting in a second row seat, listening to James play and sing. I know not everyone appreciates James Taylor, but he has gotten me through a lot.
Today, I thought we might go to Riquewihr, which is not even 2 miles away. But we ended up not going there, Instead, we had a very sumptuous and filling lunch, then bought some wine and goodies for Bill’s daughter and grandchildren. I would have liked to have gone to Riquewihr, only to pick up wine and maybe some Madeleines. Also, last time we were there, we had lunch in this restaurant, where I had the most delicious potatoes. I would have liked to have gone back for that… but I don’t even know if that place is open, since the Christmas markets are just around the corner.
It’s actually nice that it’s so quiet here right now, since we have the dogs. No one else is staying in the apartments, so the boys are not bothering anyone. And they’ve been very well behaved, anyway. Yesterday, they howled for about a minute before they quieted down. And Noyzi finally figured out that he needs to do his business on the leash. This was very important, because it’s the only way he can go on trips with us. He doesn’t mind being boarded at all, but I think he’s liked this outing. There is also every chance that we’ll be bringing him to the USA with us at some point, so he needs to learn that it’s okay to go to the bathroom on a leash.
This will probably be Arran’s last visit here… but one never knows. He’s been really surprising us over the past month. And this town is so easy to visit, especially when we just want a quick break from home. I envisioned a fancier holiday for our 20th, but this has worked out well. We feel at home here. I won’t have a lot of exciting stuff to travel blog about, but it’s been a beautiful visit, just the same. We’ve had lots of rest, too… and, the beauty of tomorrow is, we rented the apartment until Sunday, so there’s no rush to leave tomorrow morning.
I actually felt motivated to write a rant earlier today, but I think I’ll wait until I get home. I don’t want to shave my Alsatian wine buzz… I feel very fortunate that we have this ability, to just go to France when we feel like it, and hang out in one of its most beautiful areas. It’s a blessing, and I don’t want to spoil it with a complaint.
Today, we had sunshine, and we had rain… hence the title of this post… especially since we will (probably) be seeing the man who composed that song tomorrow night.
Yesterday was the 21st anniversary of 9/11. I noticed that not a lot of people posted about it, probably because a lot of us are preoccupied with the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II. I know I watched some of her final journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh. Although I’ve seen some posts about how the monarchy needs to be abolished, the truth is, a lot of people loved the queen. Of course she wasn’t perfect, and there were some things she did that angered people. But then, nobody’s perfect… and I’m not so sure it’s that easy to dissolve the British monarchy. Maybe it will happen someday, but I don’t think it will in my lifetime.
In any case, every year on 9/11, I remember what I was doing that day. I even remember what I was wearing. I remember how, all day, I wondered if Bill was okay. He had just been relocated to the Pentagon and was working there on 9/11. He happened to be in the wedge that got hit. In fact, his office had just been moved the week prior. If it hadn’t been moved, he probably would have been killed on 9/11. We were just “friends” at that point, having just spent a truly wonderful Labor Day weekend together. I knew we were developing strong romantic feelings for each other, but we still hadn’t really made our relationship public. And so, on 9/11/01, no one would have known to tell me if Bill had died or been injured.
I remember that evening, talking to my mom on the phone. I told her about my “friend” who worked in the Pentagon. She was an experienced Air Force wife, so she gave me some advice. After I got off the phone, I got a PM from Bill on Yahoo! Messenger. He said he’d tried to call me, but he had the wrong number. We had a serious conversation, and I told him that if he considered me his girlfriend, it might be a good idea to tell people about my existence. He agreed, and we announced to friends and family that we were together.
We also started to date in person regularly. This was a new thing for me, because I didn’t really date much at all before I met Bill. I’d had a high school boyfriend, but that was a very platonic relationship. I had no sexual history to speak of, and although I was only 29 years old, I thought I was going to die a virgin. So it was kind of strange to be dating a man, especially since he was divorced and had children.
Because I lived in South Carolina and he lived in Virginia, our dates involved long weekends at one or the other’s apartments. I came to enjoy those weekends very much, even though we were both broke. We were just so comfortable with each other. We always had a good time doing whatever… watching movies, taking walks, eating cheap food… and then he decided not to practice Mormonism anymore, which was a great thing. I remember going to his apartment once, having left beer in his fridge during my last visit. The beer was finished. I asked him what happened to it, and he said he drank it. I said, “Yea!”
In November 2001, Bill and his mom joined us at our Thanksgiving shindig at my Granny’s house in Virginia. They fit right in with my family. Bill’s mom liked me, and my parents loved Bill, which I knew they would. My dad made jokes about Bill being LDS, but I assured him that when he met Bill, he’d love him. Sure enough, I was right. I went to visit Bill at Christmas; then he flew to Arizona to see his kids. That turned out to be his last good holiday with his kids before his Ex went into full alienation mode.
A few weeks later, we were online, and I told Bill I wanted to give him a candy pop ring. He said, “Don’t do that… because I want to give you a ring.”
“Does this mean you want to get married?” I asked.
“Yes.” He said.
“So are we now engaged?” I asked.
“Yes, I think so.” He said.
I went into my last semester of graduate school unexpectedly engaged to be married. I never thought it would happen. Two months later, before I got on a plane to Jamaica to attend my sister’s destination wedding, Bill took me out to dinner at 1789 restaurant in Georgetown, where he presented me with a beautiful engagement ring. I’ve worn it every day since then. My finger has a permanent groove in it. 2002 was a big year for us… I finished dual master’s degrees and got married. I became a military wife and stepmother. Of course, I barely count myself as a stepmother, given how alienated Bill’s daughters were. But at least one of them came around, eventually.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for almost 20 years. In just two months, we’ll pass that milestone. It seems like yesterday, we were online friends, and I was wondering if he’d survived 9/11. I’m so grateful that he did survive, because I could not have imagined a more perfect husband for me. We are ridiculously compatible, which is no small feat. Like I said, it’s not like I dated much before we met. I look at the state of the world now, and I feel fortunate that Bill and I have been together to experience it. We’ve shared a lot of incredible life events that have run the gamut, happy, sad, infuriating, amazing… And we still light up each other’s faces. Below is a photo I took on Saturday, after we’d been drinking wine in the rain at our village’s wine fest. It amazes me that after twenty years, I still smile like this when I’m with Bill.
Anyway… I didn’t mean to get all mushy. I guess I just wanted to write something kind of sweet for once, instead of something angry, snarky, or depressing. The day after 9/11, we were an official couple. Four months after that, we were engaged. Ten months after we got engaged, we were married at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. The last twenty years have flown by. Despite my bitching, grousing, moaning, and negativity, it’s mostly been a wonderful trip. But it definitely hasn’t been without its challenges, as any regular reader of this blog knows.
I’m so glad I took that leap of faith. I would not trade my life now for what I was preparing for when Bill and I met. It would have been a very different life for me… I might have been successful. Maybe I might have even found another man to love, although I think it might be hard to find one that is as compatible as Bill is.
I don’t get crushes anymore. I don’t have any temptation to be with anyone else. I don’t know if that’s normal, but I do know that while I might notice a good looking man, I don’t feel like trading Bill for that other guy. I don’t wonder about intimacy with other men. I don’t wonder how it would have turned out if one of my old crushes had liked me back. I don’t know if that makes me unusual or lucky. I just know that the one thing in life that I really did do right was get married to Bill.
While I don’t cherish the horrific memories of 9/11, I do think that 9/11 pushed us together sooner. I don’t think we would have been as quick to get together if it weren’t for that terrible day, when I didn’t know if he was dead or alive, and he didn’t know if he was going to survive. Bill was recovering from a truly toxic relationship, and I was just nervous and scared, and wanting to finally launch a career I might have been proud of. I guess the universe simply had different plans for both of us. I really can’t complain. In fact, every day, it amazes me how things have turned out for us.
Thank God for guys like Bill… who appreciate complicated women like me. I can’t imagine being with anyone else…
Uh… actually, we didn’t do much dancing on November 16, 2002. I think we danced once, mainly because Bill doesn’t dance and I was wearing a big white dress that didn’t lend itself to moving around. And we didn’t do any horizontal dancing, either, because we were both too tired and I was being visited by Aunt Flow. She showed up right after the ceremony, right on schedule. So there wasn’t any dancing and, in fact, our wedding was fraught with tensions ranging from dealing with the obnoxious caterer, the irritating florist, my organist mom getting pissed off that the organist kept messing up hymns during our rehearsal, my father-in-law fainting right before we said our vows, and our photographer going into combat mode and taking pictures of the whole thing… It was probably the worst day of our marriage so far. 😉
The night before our wedding, Bill was very nervous. His mom tried to comfort him by saying, “Don’t worry, Bill. No one ever died at the altar.” Imagine Bill’s horror when, just as we were about to say our vows, Bill’s father starts to collapse. It turned out he’d locked his knees, trying to emulate the soldiers in their uniforms, and that caused him to faint. He was revived and we said our vows, but the first thing Bill thought of as his dad was having his sinking spell was that his dad was going to die at the altar at Virginia Military Institute, right in front of the huge mural of the Battle of New Market.
And then, we weren’t officially married until about two weeks after the wedding, because the court clerk of Rockbridge County misplaced our marriage license and wouldn’t cooperate with us in trying to find it. I’ve already written the story about that, and how Bill had to use his powers of persuasion to get that mess sorted out. We have definitely had our challenges since that rainy day in November 2002.
Despite the issues we faced at the wedding, it was still a wonderful day. My former boss, then a Presbyterian minister, was the officiant. We had beautiful music, including “Highland Cathedral”, and several other gorgeous hymns. My friend, Robert, a gifted pastry chef, made our cake for us. We got some lovely photos and no one said or did anything embarrassing or illegal. All in all, it was a successful day regardless. And the good news is, things have gotten even better as time has passed.
Today, we’ve been married for 17 years. They’ve all been good years, despite everything that has happened. Look at everything we’ve weathered! Here’s a list:
Nine moves, twice to Germany and once within Germany
Bill’s narcissistic ex wife and her smear campaigns
Shunning from his daughters and ex stepson
Multiple job changes
My prolonged unemployment and subsequent early retirement from the career for which I spent three years and many thousands of dollars in training
Manipulative family drama from my family
Manipulative family drama from his family
Deployment and extended TDYs
My father’s death
My mother’s breast cancer
Bill’s financial recovery from his first marriage, to include bankruptcy and foreclosure
My student loans
Bad living situations
Tyrannical and intrusive landlords (and there have been a couple)
Abusive boss in a war zone
Extreme child support payments
Bill’s decision to leave Mormonism
My depression and anxiety
Losing four rescue dogs to diseases
I’m sure I can think of more items to add to this already impressive list of the challenges we’ve faced. It’s more fun to think of our victories, though. Here’s a list:
Exploring life in five states and Germany
Visiting more countries than I can count
Mom has been cancer free since 2014
Bill reuniting with one of his daughters and meeting his grandchildren and son-in-law on Skype
Finally being completely left alone by Bill’s ex
Multiple job successes
Bill earning two master’s degrees
Paying off my student loans for my three degrees
My writing and music career, which some people appreciate and for which I have earned some actual money
Deciding to distance ourselves from family dramas on both sides
Confronting people who are abusive and taking legal action when necessary
Full financial recovery so that Bill’s credit score is now as good as mine is
Better living situations
Church free Sundays
Ending child support
Realizing that not having children isn’t the end of the world
Being basically healthy– neither of us has been hospitalized yet
Being more assertive instead of resorting to ineffective behaviors
Surviving war… and not having PTSD
Absence makes the heart grow fonder… TDYs and deployments can be blessings
Realizing that Facebook isn’t the end all, be all
Realizing that my dad and other relatives who have passed on are no longer in pain or suffering
Most of the time, I’m not depressed or anxious and I no longer require medication
Adopting five awesome dogs and making a commitment to keep giving a loving home to dogs who need them
Working hard to eliminate and minimize debts
Bill’s work being recognized and appreciated, and getting to live in Germany, which despite everything, is a great place to live.
We have had our share of trials, but I can truly say that as much as I loved Bill on our wedding day, I love him so much more seventeen years later. He is a wonderful, kind-hearted, decent, responsible, intelligent, honorable man, who loves and cares for me like no other. I will always be eternally grateful that we found each other and decided to share our lives. I think it would be very difficult for me to find another man who understands and appreciates me as much as Bill does. Not everyone can take my personality, my sense of humor, or my very distinctive, cackling laugh.
As I was writing the above lists, I suddenly remembered that day in early August 2007. Bill had been in Iraq for six months, working as a deputy for a very abusive boss who was later very publicly fired from the Army. Although Bill was never in much physical danger when he was downrange, he had a boss who enjoyed abusing him and others who worked with them. It was probably the longest six months of Bill’s life.
I spent those months alone with our two dogs in a brand new house at Fort Belvoir. Although I missed Bill terribly, I took care of myself and the dogs, and started to prepare us for our first move to Germany. Bill got a temporary bump in pay, so I took the opportunity to start paying off debts. I paid off his credit cards and bumped up my student loan payments by $20. I remember thinking we’d never get beyond those debts. Hell, even five years ago, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. As of last year, they’re gone.
And then there was that day in August when Bill came home from war. I drove to Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC– otherwise known as National– to wait for him to emerge. There was Bill in his uniform, a look of sheer delight on his face when he saw me. His boss walked ahead of me to greet his family and Bill came charging toward me and enveloped me in a tight hug that almost knocked me over. It was a true movie moment. People were standing around us, watching the reunion. We went home, where I had decorated the house with streamers and balloons, and baked him his favorite chocolate cake… and we spent several days making up for all of the sex we didn’t have while he was gone. Six weeks later, we moved to Germany, where things continued to improve.
The first five years of our marriage were tough, especially financially… but things got a lot easier after Bill went to war. That was when we were finally able to get ahead financially. Moving to Germany also helped, since we got extra money there, and I was making some money from writing. By the time we left Germany in 2009, two of the three kids for whom Bill was paying child support aged out. And two years after that, number three turned 18 and refused to speak to Bill, so we reclaimed her share of the money, too. We started being able to take nice vacations, put money in savings, retire debts, and invest for our future together. Through it all, we loved and trusted each other. Even when we were broke, we were happy just being together. Now that we’re no longer broke, we’re still happy and thriving.
Considering how and where we met, and everything that seemed to be against us, it’s crazy to think we’ve survived everything for so long. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people were certain we’d wind up divorced. But it’s all working out beautifully… so much so that I’ve adopted Keb’ Mo’s lovely song “Life is Beautiful” as our theme. Because it just keeps getting better… despite everything.
Well… here’s to 17 great years with the best husband (for me, at least) ever. And here’s to at least 17 more. Now, time to pack a bag for our night in Frankfurt and days in Poland. It will be yet another fine adventure!
In two weeks, it will be our 17th wedding anniversary. I haven’t bought Bill a gift yet. Truth be told, after 17 years, it gets hard to decide what to buy for one’s love… I had the same problem a few years ago, as evidenced in my Facebook memories. I posted that I couldn’t decide what to get Bill for our eleventh year, and my former shrink and current friend suggested steel. He’d looked it up on Hallmark.com, which helpfully offers tips on gift buying for beleaguered spouses who can’t think of the perfect present at anniversary time.
Steel for the 11th anniversary? Perfect. “Handcuffs it is, then!” I cheerfully posted. But I’ve already given Bill handcuffs. In fact, they were the very first gift I ever bought for him. I did it on a dare.
We were dating, and had confessed to being a trifle kinky. Somehow, in the course of talking about kink, he told me his preferences for handcuffs. He said he wanted black ones, because they don’t reflect light and are easier to conceal. When I learned that he had survived September 11th, 2001 in the Pentagon, I decided it was appropriate to give him a congratulatory gift. I went on eBay and made my very first purchase… a pair of black, professional grade Smith & Wesson cuffs. I even remember the name of the vendor– Patty Wagon Express.
I sent them with my compliments to Bill, who said that he was very… ahem… excited to receive them, even though I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve even tried them on. It’s the thought that counts, right? Is it any wonder we were engaged a few months later?
So anyway, last night I went looking for a gift for our 17th year. A number of sources indicated that for the 17th year, it’s appropriate to give your partner furniture. We are in dire need of a new couch for our TV room. We threw out the shitty futon we bought when we moved into our last house because it was a cheap piece of crap and uncomfortable to sit upon, even though it had been one of Zane’s favorite places to lounge.
I was excited at the prospect of buying furniture. Hell, I could even make it kinky! There are stores out there in Internetland that specialize in sexy stuff. We live in Germany, where there are sex stores aplenty, even at the airport! There are lots of craftsmen around, too. I bet I could find a sexy Barcalounger that would spice things up at our house as the long, dark, winter approaches. Bill could force me to watch movies like The Matrix and The Big Lebowski (which I’ve seen three times now and still don’t enjoy) while I mainline wine through a bong.
But I was still curious to find out what Hallmark had to say about our upcoming anniversary, so I went looking… and Hallmark suggests wine and spirits! Like we don’t already have enough of that shit in our house! I don’t think I’m going to buy him any wine or spirits. I probably won’t buy him a kinky recliner, either. I’d never be able to get it up the stairs.
As it is, we’re planning to spend our anniversary night at a beautiful five star hotel in Frankfurt. I’ll find us a nice restaurant where we can toast seventeen good years together.
Then, the next day, we’re flying to Wroclaw, Poland, where Bill has to work all week, and I’ll be fucking around, looking for things to do and people to see. We have been to Wroclaw before, but we only spent a few hours there. It was in 2008, when we spent our sixth anniversary in Bolaslaweic, Poland with stops in Dresden and Prague. We spent the first weekend at our first luxury hotel in Dresden… absolutely a fabulous city. Then we spent five nights at the Blue Beetroot, a boutique hotel that was once an old barn. The British owners are of Polish descent and moved from London to make their hotel the hottest pottery stop in the district. We had a surprisingly good time in 2008, and eleven years later, they’ve added even more to it. Then on our anniversary weekend, we spent a couple of nights in Prague— also a fabulous town I’d love to see again. Of course, we had the benefit of our trusty Toyota when we visited Poland the first time. This time, we’re forced to fly due to company policy.
Maybe that’s enough. God knows, we have enough crap in our house. There’s no telling when the next move will be. It could be next year. It could be five years from now. Maybe it’s better to just collect memories than stuff to lug around. I still like the idea of a sadomasochistic Barcalounger, though. Sometimes even boring housewives like a dash of spice after seventeen years.
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