Bill, divorce, Ex, LDS

Lessons never taught– or, how to camp like a champ.

Morning, y’all. I hope all of you had a nice weekend. I know not everyone celebrates Easter, but if you did celebrate “resurrection day”, I hope it was a pleasant experience. Bill and I had a nice quiet day at home. I did some writing, of course, and afterwards, picked up my guitar and played “The Old Rugged Cross” with surprising ease. I was inspired by Rhonda Vincent’s beautiful live version, which is easily found on YouTube at this writing. Although I don’t play the song perfectly, I do play it reasonably well, especially for someone who has learned everything from Fender Play at this point. I might be a fairly decent player by now if I had an in-person guitar teacher. Maybe someday, I’ll get around to investing in one. For now, though, I am really glad I used the pandemic as an excuse to expand my musician skills/cred. I hope to eventually get good enough that someone besides Bill will want to hear me play.

After I played my guitar, I tried and failed to finish my custom made puzzle by Collage.com. My mother-in-law gave me a puzzle by them for Christmas. She found a photo I took in Slovenia and had it made into a one-of-a-kind jigsaw puzzle. I was so impressed by it that I ordered another one of a photo I took in Croatia. Unfortunately, I was not finished with the Slovenia puzzle when I made that decision, and didn’t realize that the quality of the puzzle wasn’t quite 100 percent. So, the Slovenia puzzle had five pieces that didn’t fit properly. I must have made a mistake, but obviously, there were pieces in the puzzle that were very close and fit convincingly. I had an even worse problem with the Croatia puzzle. Now, it could turn out that I put the puzzle together again someday, and somehow get the puzzle right. But I won’t possibly be doing that for some time, since I have several to do that I haven’t done yet.

Bill cooked baby back pork ribs on the grill that were delicious. We enjoyed some adult beverages and listened to music. We did some talking about current events, some of which have been pretty sad and dramatic, if you read yesterday’s post. Bill and I both feel kind of cut off from our families, and yet we do talk a lot about how completely dysfunctional some of our experiences have been. In fact, last night, we were talking about a post the actor Wil Wheaton shared by a Facebook page called The Holistic Psychologist, that we both could relate to with ease. Bill probably related more than I did.

Wil Wheaton, as many people know, has said that his parents were abusive to him. He describes them as “emotionally immature”. I’m sure Wil Wheaton’s observations are perfectly accurate from his perspective. I liked the link he shared, and commented that maybe it would be even more useful for younger daughter. There were many examples of “emotionally immature” parents included, and descriptions of how a child who was raised by such a parent might respond by their behaviors as an adult. Wheaton also shared another link by The Holistic Psychologist that might also be useful to anyone who has grown up with parents who never quite matured properly– at least in the emotional sense.

This morning, Bill got a video message from his daughter. She looked pretty, wearing pearls… like maybe she had come from church. She was talking about things she did on Easter and for her kids on Easter. Younger daughter is about seven months pregnant right now, so she’s pretty tired. She yawned a lot as she talked about her celebration, which somehow segued into talking about her experiences as an older teen.

Younger daughter says she doesn’t like to camp. She doesn’t find it appealing to pack up stuff, go out to the country, unpack, and sleep in a tent. As someone who worked for two summers at a Presbyterian church camp, I can understand why camping might not be so appealing. I lived in a platform tent for both summers, as I was the cook, and didn’t have camp programs to lead. It was rustic living for sure, although there were aspects of that experience that I really loved. For one thing, the camp where I worked was in an absolutely stunning area of Virginia. I would love to own property in that place– it was so tiny, unspoiled, and just pristine… We had so much fun there! Some of the fun included staff training, which included a short campout/canoeing experience– one or two nights in a tent, if I recall correctly. The first summer, we canoed on the Shenandoah River. The second summer, we canoed on the Potomac. I remember at another time, outside of our camp sessions, some of us got together and canoed down the Rappahannock River, but that was just a day trip.

I do remember learning how to pitch tents, cook food over a fire, and enjoy nature. But, to be honest, as fun as those experiences were– and as amazing as it was to be PAID to do that– I can admit that camping isn’t for everyone. It’s not always comfortable to sleep under the stars, even though it’s something that people ought to try. Yesterday, I even read about 8th grade kids in Alaska who camp out as part of their science class. It’s a learning project, yes, but it’s also taught because Alaskan kids, more than other American kids, may really have an actual need to use survival skills. But even though I think youngsters should learn outdoor skills, I know that not everyone wants to camp.

Younger daughter says that she went camping as part of her LDS church indoctrination. I wasn’t surprised to hear that. I know, for instance, that part of the LDS church experience for young people includes going to camp. From what I’ve read, those experiences are very “churchy” and religious, and they include a lot of emotional bonding around a campfire, testimony bearing, singing church songs, and discussing passages from the Book of Mormon. I don’t know how skilled the people leading younger daughter’s camping experiences were, but from what I’ve read on RfM, the people who lead the camp experiences in the LDS church aren’t necessarily super well-schooled on camping outdoors. In fact, from what some ex members have said, the camp experience is more about creating meaningful church experiences, in remote places where outside influences are few, than teaching youngsters the joys of camping.

Likewise, I’ve heard and read that a lot of the Boy Scout troops affiliated with the LDS church are not led by people who are very skilled outdoors. I know that wouldn’t apply to every church affiliated Scout troop, but apparently, it did apply to more than a couple. A lot of former members have shared horror stories about their times camping with the LDS church. Of course, since the Scouts are now letting girls in, I think the church is less invested in encouraging boys to be Boy Scouts.

Anyway, younger daughter says that her experiences at LDS Girls Camp led her to realize that she doesn’t enjoy camping. If her experiences were like what I’ve read on RfM, I can understand why camping doesn’t appeal. But what’s really sad is that her perfectly good father, who was not allowed any access to his daughters when they were growing up, knows a whole lot about camping and how to make it enjoyable. Bill is a retired Soldier, and he’s spent a lot of time in the field. He could have taught his daughters how to camp effectively. Maybe, if they had been allowed to go camping with Bill, those girls would have ended up loving camping. Or maybe younger daughter might not have liked camping, even if Bill had taught her how to do it properly and used good equipment. One of younger daughter’s complaints, for instance, was that she had to sleep in a leaky tent and didn’t get any rest. I’m not surprised, as people on RfM have written that the tents used at the camps were basically Army surplus variety– circa the Vietnam era. But she would have had a bonding experience that she might not have forgotten. I had a couple of camping experiences with my dad (in a pop top VW van, rather than a tent)… but then, my dad wasn’t as good of a father as Bill is.

I don’t know if Bill would have taken his girls camping if he’d been allowed to raise them. But there would have been the opportunity to camp. Maybe, if they came back after girls’ camp complaining about being outdoors, Bill could have showed them a better way. He was denied that opportunity, though, because his ex wife is a selfish person who is more interested in punishing people than doing the right thing by her children. And so, Bill and younger daughter have a lot of years to make up for. I’m glad they are, at least, getting that time now. As we’ve learned recently, tomorrow is never guaranteed for anyone. Ex meant for Bill to NEVER see or speak to his children again, all because– over Easter in 2000– Bill didn’t grovel enough. Bill didn’t succumb to her demands that he humiliate himself to an LDS bishop and confess to hating women… which he certainly doesn’t, and never did. Worst of all, in her mind, was that instead of refusing to divorce his abusive ex wife, who used his parents’ home to, once again, emotionally abuse and humiliate Bill, Bill decided to accept Ex’s proposal to split up. She very clearly did not expect Bill to say “yes” when she proposed a divorce; it injured her deeply that he agreed. She had expected him to fight for her, and the fact that he didn’t want to fight anymore deeply disappointed her. She was so aggrieved that she decided to try to destroy Bill’s relationship with his own children.

Now, we’re seeing the result of that decision, and Bill’s choice not to insist on having contact with his kids. In retrospect, he probably should have involved the court system and law enforcement. Or, better yet, he never should have gotten involved with her in the first place. Hindsight is 20/20, I know.

It’s hard for me to understand how a parent can be so hateful, selfish, and misguided that they would deny their children’s access to another loving parent. I mean, yes, if a parent is severely abusive and harmful, it makes sense to limit contact. Bill is not an abusive person. He’s a very kind and loving person, who simply couldn’t tolerate his ex wife’s abuse anymore. Now that younger daughter is an adult, we’re finding out that he was not the only one who could no longer take her shit. It sounds like she simply reached saturation. I relate to that. I am pretty saturated by abusive people, too. I can’t tolerate them like I used to.

As I was listening to younger daughter, living in Utah, and not long from adding her third child to her family, I felt sad that after her parents’ divorce, she never had a chance to go camping with Bill… or eat at a fancy restaurant… or visit a museum. And now, thanks to the way our lives have gone, she may never have that chance. On the other hand, at least they can exchange videos and talk on Skype. And now that the world has reopened, maybe Bill will go back to Las Vegas for TDY and take another side trip to Utah, to see his daughter and her family. Ex had wanted to deny Bill that. Thank God they’re no longer giving her that power to divide and drive wedges.

Every time I think I’ve evolved beyond the mess that is Ex, and the massive damage she’s wrought, I see evidence of more damage that was done. But again, I am grateful that she wasn’t able to permanently destroy Bill’s relationship with his younger child. There remains hope that maybe someday, the older one will wise up and reach out. Even if she doesn’t, though, Bill never thought he’d have what he has with younger daughter. So we can be grateful for that… and the fact that thanks to what happened on Easter 2000, Bill can still enjoy life.

However, I doubt he’ll convince me to go camping. 😉

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Bill, family, love, marriage

Few people manage to “come see the softer side of me…”

Some years ago, before its recent financial woes, the retail store Sears had a catchy jingle that went, “Come see the softer side of Sears.” It was about how the store, known for its hardware, heavy mechanical goods, and power tools, also sold things like fuzzy sweaters and silky nightgowns. Potential customers were invited to “come see the softer side” of the retailer and maybe go home having bought new sheets or a fluffy bathrobe.

It’s not lost on me that, especially online, sometimes I come off as a really cantankerous person. There are a number of reasons why I’m like this. A lot has to do with my own personal baggage and traumas from my childhood. A lot of those damages were caused by my family of origin. Some were caused by people outside of the family. I’m not necessarily trying to blame anyone for this, by the way. I think everybody has the potential to unintentionally damage other people. We all have baggage, don’t we? Sometimes, that baggage causes pain to others.

For instance, I know that my father wasn’t an evil man. Most people who knew him would never think that about him. He was outwardly a very nice guy– at least to those who didn’t have to live with him. They saw him as a “peach”– soft, sweet, and fuzzy on the outside. But the truth is, he had a lot of personal problems that were brought on by his own upbringing and situations he was forced to face in his lifetime. Like, for example, his time in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era. He went over there and came home with PTSD. But he was also the eldest son of a violent alcoholic who was abusive. He never dealt with that issue adequately, so he passed that crap along to others. I was one of the recipients of his crap, and sometimes I pass it along in the form of being cranky online.

I don’t necessarily blame my grandfather for my dad’s crap. Like my father, my grandfather wasn’t an evil man. But he did have problems, and sometimes his problems became problems for other people. I know that my grandfather caused his family significant pain. I also know that he was a very funny man, and according to my Granny, he was a very kind person… when he wasn’t drinking. He was, in part, a product of his environment, just like we all are. He didn’t come of age in an enlightened time. I’m sure our strong Celtic heritage didn’t help matters much.

So anyway, this morning, I noticed that one of my sisters went on Facebook last night. She is a “friend”, but she almost never visits Facebook, and comments and “likes” by her are even rarer than that. I was surprised and amused to see comments and reactions by my sister. Then I looked at my Facebook feed and realized that an average person looking at it might come away with the idea that I’m kind of a bitch. I mean, seriously… it’s like looking at The Atlantic’s feed, which lately mostly consists of “doom porn”. A lot of my status updates are cranky. My blog posts, which I share on my personal page, often have cranky titles. I often share “bad news”. On the other hand, I do try to share “cute” stuff, too… like funny animal videos. But, by and large, my feed is kind of pessimistic and crotchety.

While we were eating breakfast, I looked over at Bill and said, as objectively as I could muster, “I see that Becky has left me a few comments and reactions. Looking at my my latest posts, I must come off as kind of a bitch.”

And Bill deadpanned, “I don’t think that’s ALWAYS true…”

I had a good laugh at that, and took a picture of Bill, who laughed with me. He knows I’m not always as cranky as I seem. Over our twenty years together, he’s had long talks with me. He’s seen me cry when I listen to especially beautiful or moving music. He’s heard me laugh when he says something funny, which is pretty often. I am easily amused, so offline I laugh a lot, even if I seem like a crab to people who have never met me in person. He’s heard me say loving things to him, and especially our dogs, who accept us the way we are. He knows that there’s a lot more beneath my prickly, bristly exterior. I can be kind and generous and very soft and emotional. But if you don’t actually know me, you might never see that side. Instead, I sometimes look like a jerk to other people. I’m kind of hard, rough, and coarse… kind of like a coconut. But beneath the shell is sweetness.

Bill has a good laugh with me after his observation that I’m not ALWAYS a bitch… Actually, he would never call me a bitch. Compared to Ex, I am an angel.

Maybe it’s not always a bad thing to look like a jerk, though. It’s kind of a defense mechanism, isn’t it? If I manage to turn someone off before they ever get to know me, maybe they aren’t actually worthy of knowing that softer side of my personality. It’s said that real friends are true rarities. Most people want to know you when you’re doing okay. It’s the ones that hang around when things are bad– and don’t have any ulterior motives for hanging around– that are real friends. I mean, a person could be dying of a terrible disease. If they are very wealthy or they have something of value to others, maybe others would hang around in hopes of being named in a will or something. But it’s the people who care for those who can’t give them anything that are real friends. In my experience, those types of people can indeed be rare.

So, when someone is good to me even when I’m feeling cranky or irritable, I pay attention. I give double points to those who make me laugh when I’m feeling like that. And I give triple points to people who don’t mind my many idiosyncrasies. For instance, yesterday I was trying (and failing) to finish my latest jigsaw puzzle, while listening to my HomePod. A karaoke version of the song “Hello Young Lovers” came on. I like that song, so I joined in… Bill complimented my “performance”.

I said, “Thank you. You are a very tolerant man.”

And Bill said, “And you are very talented woman. It would be different if my ex tried it.” Then he gave me a grin, Stanley Roper style.

Bwahahahaha… I’m a Three’s Company super fan.
Kinda like Stanley…

To put this into context, Ex once serenaded Bill with her version of Juice Newton’s 80s era song, “The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)”. Because he’s a very good man, he listened to it with a straight face. For all I know, it really was a sweet moment between them. Ex reportedly wanted to study music, but was told she needed lessons before she could major in music at a local college. But now, Bill can’t bear to listen to “The Sweetest Thing” anymore. Ex actually ruined a lot of songs for Bill. Some of them are good songs, too. Like, he doesn’t like “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow, because Ex used it in one of her object lessons. And he doesn’t like “To Really Love a Woman” by Bryan Adams for the same reason. For the longest time, he didn’t want me to play Kenny Loggins’ children’s album, Return to Pooh Corner, because of Ex. Ditto to anything by Sesame Street or The Muppets. But he doesn’t mind when I burst into random song… or when I redo songs, replacing their words with silly, profane, or disgusting lyrics. At least when I sing, I do it with feeling and on key. 😉

Bill has proven to me time and again that he’s a real friend. So he gets to see the softer side of me whenever he wants. Or, at least he sees it after I’ve calmed down and had some dip.

The coconut vs. peach idea isn’t one I came up with. I’ve often heard certain cultures described that way. A lot of people think of certain southerners like peaches. They’re sweet, juicy, fuzzy, and warm on the outside. But beneath that sweetness, there’s a stone pit of a heart in some people. Those sweet “honey lippin'” types who are nice to people’s faces can sometimes be, deep down, hardhearted people who would disown their own family members for being gay or marrying someone who isn’t the same religion or race. And some people think of people from New York City as being more like coconuts. They’re gruff, cold, and hard on the exterior… but when something really terrible happens, they are compassionate and kind. Of course, neither of these stereotypes always apply to every situation. Some people from up north are mean. And some southerners are extremely kind and loving. But you get the idea, I hope…

Toodles!

Anyway, Mr. Bill wants to go to Wiesbaden and get a Swiss “vignette” for our car. We need one because we will be passing through Switzerland on our vacation, which starts next weekend. So I will close today’s post and get on with the day. I hope you all have a good Saturday. I’m really not as irritable as I seem… and contrary to some people’s opinions, I can be quite introspective. I just have some baggage full of peaches and coconuts.

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Bill, funny stories, karma

Repost: Bill and his Irish dark side…

Here’s a repost of a blog entry I wrote on July 15, 2018. At the time, we were visiting Dublin to see Paul Simon, James, Taylor, and Bonnie Raitt in concert. Yes, they were all performing in the same awesome show! I reread this story today, remembering our fun in Ireland, and the opportunity Bill got to right a wrong.

Like most everyone, my husband Bill has a dark side.  Sometimes it comes out inappropriately.  I’m usually surprised and amused when he says something egregiously shocking or mean.

Yesterday, after we had dinner and drinks at a local pub, we stopped by the Spar (Austrian mini mart) to buy some water and a bottle of wine.  We’d had several beers between us and a couple of whiskies, so we were feeling no pain.  As we approached the cash register, a very thin, bearded man standing behind us asked the cashier if the toilet in the store was working.

The cashier obviously lied and said, “No Mate, the toilet isn’t working.  Sorry.”

As we left the store, I said, “Well… that was clearly bullshit.”

Bill responded, “Right.  He probably should have said, ‘No, I don’t want you shooting up in our bathroom.'”

Just then, as we crossed the street, the guy passed us.  He turned and glared at Bill, who was mortified.  I don’t know if he heard Bill make that comment, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. Bill had kind of blurted it out in a normal tone of voice.  The toilet seeking chap did seem to send Bill a death ray with his eyes, which would make it seem like he’d heard him mock him.

It was kind of surprising that Bill was the one who made that crack.  Usually I’m the one who says stuff like that.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to think that guy was a drug addict, though, or even homeless.  He hadn’t appeared to be homeless to my eyes.  In fact, he simply looked like a working person, which Bill and I have both been in our lifetimes.

Poor Bill is wracked with guilt, though.  In fact, while we were enjoying afternoon tea today, he said, “I feel awful about that comment I made.  I think I’m going to donate to a homeless shelter.”  Sure enough, after we finished having tea, we came back to our hotel room and he started researching charities.  

So many people would have just brushed off the incident, but Bill feels the need to repent.  Actually, I had the same thought that it might be a good thing to do– give to a homeless charity.  Maybe it will improve our karma.  I’m just glad no one whipped out a cell phone to record the incident and put it on YouTube.

This morning, as we were touring the Jameson’s Visitor’s Center, Bill was telling me how guilty he felt for making that obnoxious comment.  I have felt that way before and have made comments I later regretted.  Fortunately, I haven’t yet been caught on film.  As current events have shown us, though, it’s not hard to be caught having a bad day, saying or doing shameful things.  I know Bill isn’t a shitty person, but sometimes he does make shitty comments.  Don’t we all?

One time, we were walking into the German city of Ludwigsburg and we passed an enormous piggy bank in front of a bank.  The piggy bank has a name, though I can’t remember it at the moment (ETA: it’s Louise).  One can go inside of it and/or drop coins in it to be donated to charity.

It was 2014 and we hadn’t yet been back in Germany for long.  Bill said, “I wouldn’t want to go inside of that pig.  I’d be afraid someone would close the door and turn on the gas.”

Instantly, my mouth dropped open, since we were standing there in Germany, where people had once been rounded up to be gassed in concentration camps.  Bill, of course, hadn’t even thought about the concentration camps.  He was thinking of some book he’d read where people were killed that way– had nothing to do with Hitler’s era.  It was just a thoughtless comment, same as yesterday.  When he saw my facial expression it dawned on him that what he’d said was kind of shocking and potentially offensive.  It kind of revealed a dark side of a man who is usually one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know.  

Almost all of us have a dark side.  Some people are less ashamed of letting theirs show than others are.  I don’t think Bill needs to feel guilty, though.  Everybody fucks up sometimes.  And most people don’t feel the need to repent afterwards.  That’s what makes Bill such a special guy in my eyes.

Wish I were there.

EDITED TO ADD…

A couple of hours after I posted this, Bill and I went out into the city.  The Dublin area has been experiencing a drought for the past 40 days.  In fact, a significant archeological find was discovered recently thanks to the drought.  The New York Times reported on it.  Today, there was rain.  It’s been raining all day.  So after we tasted Irish whiskies, we came back to the hotel and had high tea.  Then we went to our hotel room, thinking we might not go out again.  But then I started to get a little hungry.

At about 6:30pm, we decided we might like to have some dinner.  I really wanted a Sunday roast or prime rib or something… but as we walked around the hotel, we found a number of places closed.  We thought about eating at a place that advertised tacos, but decided tacos in Ireland might be too weird.  So we kept walking and I decided to turn left at the first street we encountered.  I figured it would take us back toward the hotel where I knew we could get something.

Suddenly, just as we were nearing the end of the street, the same guy Bill had insulted yesterday popped into our path.  Looking more closely at him, I could see that he definitely was a street person.  He was very small and slender, with red hair and a beard, and obviously somewhat older than I’d originally thought he was.  He looked unkempt and was missing teeth.  It’s certainly possible he abuses drugs, but I can’t know for sure.  His appearance could be just as easily due to hard times or some other illness.  I don’t know if he recognized Bill, but Bill definitely recognized him. 

He said, “Do you have any spare change so I can get some coffee?”

Bill said, without any hesitation, “Yes, I do.”  And he pulled almost all of the change out of his pocket… about ten euros worth.  He said something had told him to carry it with him, while it was I who had decided to turn on that quiet street near our hotel.  We could have just as easily skipped dinner or had it at the hotel or the taco place.  But fate put us in the path of the guy Bill had insulted yesterday.

The guy was shocked as Bill gave him the change and the guy said, “God bless you,” as he accepted it. 

As we walked away, Bill’s eyes got teary and he started to look like Michael Landon during one of his more emotional scenes on either Little House on the Prairie or Highway to Heaven.  And then, as if things couldn’t get any more touching, there was a restaurant right in front of us specializing in beef dishes.  We stopped in and had a very nice dinner, topped off by a final nightcap in the hotel bar before we head back to Germany tomorrow.

Maybe this story means nothing to many people.  I have a weird knack for running into people, though.  I always have.  And Bill is a very perceptive and sensitive guy whose superego has a tendency to run amok.  It’s entirely possible that guy hadn’t even heard Bill’s snarky remarks yesterday, but I think both he and Bill ended up coming out winners in this situation.

Bill still intends to donate to a charity, too.  I think this trip will go down as one of our very best and most memorable.  I’m looking forward to writing it up, starting tomorrow evening.

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Bill, home, lessons learned, love, marriage

He still brings me flowers… but thankfully, he doesn’t sing me love songs…

Mushy bragging post ahead. You’ve been warned.

Yesterday, someone shared the photo below in the Duggar Family News group. They posted it because Josh Duggar is now a jailbird and is allegedly living this lifestyle. But as I read the characteristics in the meme, I realized that it’s also a pretty good description of my husband, Bill, who is definitely not worthy of the nickname “Wild Bill”, even though some of his friends jokingly used to call him that when they were in high school.

Bill hasn’t been to jail… at least that I know of. But this describes him pretty well.

I had to copy and share the above photo, because I know those who know my husband would get a good laugh from it. The truth is, he’s really not the most exciting guy in the world in terms of loving the nightlife. His brain goes down with the sun, in that he really can’t function beyond 9:00pm. It’s like Cinderella at midnight. He turns into a pumpkin. BUT– he is kind, thoughtful, hardworking, decent, intelligent, and an excellent provider. I consider myself very fortunate to be his wife. And I’ll tell you something else… I don’t think I would enjoy being married to an “exciting” guy who loves the nightlife and wants to boogie. I’m very happy to be married to someone who is loyal, kind, and considerate, and loves me for just who I am.

Last night, Bill had to work late, thanks to Mr. Putin. He was also planning to telework today, although that was called off last night. On the way home, he stopped at the store to pick up some orange juice. While he was there, he noticed bouquets of roses. And although I hadn’t sent him any emails indicating depression, irritation, or anything else, he decided to pick up one of those bouquets for me, just because it was Friday night and he’d had to work late… and right now, things are kind of depressing and bleak.

When he got home, past 7:30pm, Bill found me sitting at our Eckbank Gruppe, listening to music and drinking beer. He didn’t know I was feeling a little blue as he pulled out the bouquet of roses in today’s featured photo and presented them to me with a big smile. I was pretty moved that, even after nineteen years of marriage, Bill still likes to surprise me sometimes with unexpected delights. He knows I like flowers– especially red roses, which are my birth flower. And it was such a small thing, but it put a much needed smile on my face, since I was feeling a little sad last night.

This time of year in Germany can be kind of rough, especially if you’re from the southern United States and used to sunshine. The weather usually sucks. It’s cold, dark, and often rainy, so it’s not always appealing to get out and about. When we lived near Stuttgart, it would often snow, though not as often as it did in decades past. Up here near Frankfurt, it doesn’t snow very often. When it does, we get maybe an inch or two and it quickly melts. I don’t miss the snow that would stick around for weeks, but the alternative is the soupy, sloppy mess in the backyard and gets tracked through the house. Of course, that happened in Baden-Württemberg too, as the snow melted. I remember coming in from walking the dogs inevitably always with mud all over my pants, because there was water and mud everywhere and we lived in a relatively rural area.

The pandemic makes the crappy weather worse, because we can’t really have much fun. Yes, places are open, but it’s just a real hassle to go out in public, and even going out for a change of scenery is a reminder of the plague and how transmissible it is. I have some hope that when the weather is better, I will feel somewhat less depressed. But for now, it’s especially stark and bleak. So that little bouquet of grocery store roses was a real pick-me-up. I genuinely appreciated it, and the thought that went into the gift. But one thing Bill doesn’t do is sing me love songs…

Bill doesn’t sing me love songs because he can’t… But he probably would, if he could sing in a way that wouldn’t send me running from the room.

I actually love the above duet, which is kind of a sad song about the death of a relationship. But I’m glad I can’t relate personally to this song, because nineteen years past our wedding day, Bill still brings me flowers and presents them with a sweet smile. I was terminally dateless in my younger years. It seemed like everyone thought I was weird or even legitimately “crazy”, and many people had criticisms about me that ran the gamut from my penchant for profanity and inappropriate frankness, to the fact that I don’t have a cute figure, or a desire to be dressed up and made up all the time, to my propensity toward depression. By the time I was 27 years old, I thought I was going to be an “old maid”. That was the year Bill and I ran into each other in an “adult” chat room… where no one was really chatting about adult subjects. At least not publicly.

It was absolutely the last place I would have expected to find my spouse. At the time, I was very new to the World Wide Web. I was bored and lonely, having started grad school in a strange city. I didn’t know anyone or have any friends. One night, I decided to indulge the kinkier side of my personality and wound up in that chat room, where Bill also was… freshly separated from Ex and living alone in a state far from me. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to meet him offline, let alone marry him. I am now convinced that we must have been destined to meet, because we’re just so perfect for each other.

A couple of days ago, I was reading a thread on RfM, and a guy was lamenting about how he was finding it difficult to meet a nice woman following the death of his wife. The guy complained that most of the women he had met were “in it for the money”, but he was looking for a companion. He lives in Utah, and does not want to go back to the LDS church (for which I can’t blame him). He asked for suggestions, and many people were quick to offer them. One woman even piped up with a post about how she is also looking for companionship with a man. She invited him to look her up on a popular dating site to see if they are compatible. He shot her suggestion down, because I guess he didn’t want to go through the rigamarole of joining a dating site. I can see that view… although he might want to consider the extra challenges that face women.

Actually, when I think about how and where I found Bill, I am extremely relieved and grateful that he turned out to be so awesome. It definitely could have turned out badly for both of us. But fortunately, the stars aligned somehow… we were both honest with each other, and we just fit so well, even if I can’t really tell most people how, and specifically where, we met. That site is now defunct, anyway.

One of my friends expressed admiration for Bill’s ability to make me happy. He wrote that he “gets in trouble” almost every day. When I asked him what his wife would do if he spontaneously brought her flowers, he wrote that he would probably bring home the “wrong” ones. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad and surprised by that comment. I don’t know anything at all about my friend’s wife or their relationship, but his off the cuff quip reminded me of an old story I posted about in this blog regarding Ex. I truly hope he can’t relate to this anecdote, but I’m going to share the story, anyway.

The short version is, one day, Bill and Ex were traveling in the car– probably PCSing or something. They pulled into a gas station to get some gas, and Ex wanted a soda. So, after filling up the car, Bill went into the gas station and bought his ex wife a plastic bottle of Dr. Pepper. When he handed it to her, she immediately got very upset. Why? Because it wasn’t a fountain drink. Ex claimed that if Bill had really loved her and cared about her feelings, he would know that she prefers fountain drinks with ice in them to bottled ones. The rest of the road trip was spoiled by the heavy cloak of resentment that hung over them as they sat in the car, fuming at each other over the wrong soda.

This seemingly insignificant event in their marriage turned into a huge row, that Bill still occasionally talks about years later. It wasn’t so much about the soda, and the fact that Bill brought her a bottle instead of a fountain drink. It was about Ex’s constant need to test him, and to find ways to criticize him for anything and everything. It was her way of trying to stay in charge by turning on her rage machine and forcing Bill to be on the defensive. That kind of behavior, which she frequently indulged, was crazymaking. He never knew what would set her off.

For years, Bill excused Ex’s inconsiderate and ungrateful responses to his efforts to please her, because he wasn’t sure what would happen if they divorced. He couldn’t stand the idea of being estranged from his kids– including his ex stepson and his two daughters. They were incompatible and unhappy, and their marriage was full of these kinds of unfortunate and unpleasant interactions. She would not have been happy with a bouquet of grocery store roses. She probably would have preferred tulips or hydrangeas or something… or she would have scoffed at him for buying them in the grocery store instead of having them sent by a florist. Ex frequently used songs and children’s stories as object lessons, supposedly to inform Bill on how he should be and what would please her. But nothing he did was ever enough. She didn’t appreciate any of his efforts. In fact, she seemed to resent them.

Anyway, the rest of the story is pretty well laid out here. They did eventually split up, and things were pretty hard for awhile. But then Bill and I met, and the the rest is well documented history. After nineteen years, I do appreciate what he does for me. I can’t imagine not appreciating that he bought me a soda or a small bouquet of roses. It means he thought of me in a positive way. Why wouldn’t I be pleased?

Now, I will admit being a little less appreciative when he once brought me a bouquet of almost dead flowers that he bought at the Class VI store, especially since he could have picked a fresh bouquet from a field on the side of the road for a lot less money. Germany has fields of flowers where people can pick whatever flowers they want, and pay for on their honor at an unmanned cash box. But when I pointed that out to him, instead of getting angry that I wasn’t “grateful”, he brought me my next spontaneous bouquet from one of those fields! They were beautiful, and very patriotic looking– red, white, and blue!

But even when Bill has brought me half dead flowers, I still really appreciated the thought and care that went behind that gesture. I think small, thoughtful, and kind gestures like that one are what helps keep relationships alive. It’s a shame that sometimes those gestures go unacknowledged. Most of us are way too critical, especially of people who are closest to us. I like to think of myself as Bill’s staunchest ally. I don’t want to tear him down. And, in return, he has my back and is the one person I know I can turn to when I’m in need. It’s comforting to have that in my life, and I’m happy that I can offer that, in return, to Bill.

I’m still always so glad to see him when he comes home. I still miss him when he has to work late or go on trips for work. He’s truly my best friend. And it was so nice to be remembered last night, even after he’d worked so many hours and just wanted to come home and put on comfortable clothes and eat finger foods… I feel very fortunate we found each other, and I hope Bill does, too.

It’s nice to be remembered in such a kind way.
On another note… lately, I am really relating to this song. Leave it to James Taylor to have the best “Karen” story.

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Bill, home, housekeeping tips, music, YouTube

The power of teamwork and learning new skills…

Bill had to work late last night. Originally, he planned to go to work at noon and stay until 9:00pm, which would have been a reasonable work day. But it turned out that things kind of went to shit early in the morning, so he ended up heading to work at 7:30am. He stayed until 9:00pm.

I knew it was going to be a crazy week, and after nineteen years of marriage, I understand the nature of Bill’s work. Sometimes he has to work at odd times. Sometimes he has to work very long hours. I wasn’t even that annoyed yesterday that he had to go in earlier than planned. In fact, I kind of expected it. Bill is a very dedicated employee and he’s extremely empathic. He knew they needed him, so he jumped right in to get the job done.

Last night, I was sitting in our bedroom listening to Katie Joy’s Without A Crystal Ball stream about Josh Duggar’s trial. I don’t even think I was paying a lot of attention to what was being said. I’ve been trying really hard to finish a book, but every time I try to read, I get really drowsy and either fall asleep or have to take a nap. I want to get the book finished, because I’m really looking forward to reviewing it.

At around 8:00pm, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything and felt like having pizza. So I went down to the kitchen and started making dough. I made a full recipe, so there were two crusts. I put one in the freezer. We have a pizza stone that I haven’t personally used much, although I have made pizza lots of times. Nowadays, Bill does most of the cooking. So I watched a video on how to use a pizza peel.

This was a big help! And yes, I was successful.

I used to be a great cook. I was even paid to cook at one time in my life. I am out of practice, though. It’s great to have YouTube around for handy household tips like this. Nineteen years as an overeducated housewife, you’d think I would have learned sooner.

By 9:00pm, I had eaten two slices of the delicious small pizza I made. The crust was infused with raw garlic, and I had topped it with bacon, green peppers, pepperoni, and lots of cheese. I never said I was a healthy eater. I cleaned up the kitchen, noticing that the oven door was brown with disgusting caked on gunk. Ex landlady liked to used the word “encrusted”. Well, in the case of our oven, the term fit. So I Googled how to clean oven doors, since I had great success with my quest in finding out how to clean the glass fireplace doors a couple of weeks ago.

Sure enough, some lovely housewife blogger provided a simple hack for cleaning oven doors. That was my project this morning, scrubbing the hell out of the inside of the oven door. I got most of the gunk off.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Bill got home at 9:21pm. I had two slices of pizza for him on a plate that I wrapped and put in the refrigerator. I also brought up his beer from the Advent calendar. We both have different ones, since Master of Malt is no longer shipping to Germany or the United States. I used to get us really fun liquor filled calendars from them.

He had stopped at the grocery store and picked up some food to cook. He wasn’t expecting that I had already cooked. But now there’s food to cook tonight, because he’s working late again. Since he was so happy that I made pizza, I might get inspired again today. Maybe I’ll even get fancy and make something healthier!

Bill was definitely delighted that there was already something for him to eat, but for some reason, he thought of me anyway and brought this home…

And one other thing I did yesterday that involved teamwork was collaborating with another YouTuber. Some time ago, I stumbled across a guitar player named John. We have similar tastes in music. A few days ago, he ran across a recording I did of Joni Mitchell’s song, “Urge for Going”. He wrote to me and said he loved it, and wanted to know if I would be willing to sing it to his guitar playing so he could add some harmony. He says he’s obsessed with harmony. So he sent me a recording of his guitar part.

This was the video John found and liked. On this one, it’s just me and a background recording.

I made a recording with my vocals and John’s guitar yesterday. It wasn’t without difficulty. For some reason, when I try to record lately, the music sometimes skips, ruining the recording. It happens on SingSnap (a karaoke site) and on Garage Band. After many tries, I managed to get a clean rendition. I added a simple harmony line and sent it to John, who added more harmony and added it to his channel. He says he didn’t do much editing because he was busy with work. But it’s our first collaboration. Maybe we’ll do another at some point and things will get further refined.

Not too bad for a first attempt. I’m still working on learning guitar so I can accompany myself more.

Personally, I wouldn’t have put as much harmony on this. I would have confined it to the chorus, which you can hear that I did. But hell, it’s just for fun. I do enjoy listening to him play. We like a lot of the same artists. And I’m flattered that he wanted to collaborate with me in the first place.

I haven’t been doing much singing lately, mainly because of the issue I have with the music skipping. It’s very frustrating. But maybe today, I’ll spend some time finding a solution for that problem, now that I know it’s not confined to SingSnap, as I thought it was. I’ve also done the dishes and am working on the laundry. As soon as I close this post, I’ll practice guitar, and maybe eventually walk the dogs and wrap some Christmas presents… and maybe even finish that book, so I’ll have a new book review ready. I’ve got a bunch of other books waiting to be read.

It’s good to be busy, especially when Bill has to work late. Makes the time pass… And I’m so grateful to YouTube and fellow bloggers for teaching me handy housekeeping tips that my mom never taught me.

P.S. I get a kick out of Bill’s penchant for sending me military-esque emails. I asked him to bring home some more baking soda, vinegar, aluminum foil, and bar soap. His response was “Okay. Acknowledge all.” I’m surprised he didn’t write “Roger.”, which he’s also been known to do.

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