Bill, music, songs, videos, YouTube

Bill’s 57th year has gotten off to a tearful start.

Today is Bill’s birthday. I already gave him some of his presents on Monday and Tuesday, because they came from Amazon and I have no birthday themed wrapping paper. Monday, I presented him with a book about the art of Carl Jung. Bill loves art, and he’s fascinated by Jung, so I figured it would be perfect.

But then I noticed that Jung’s seven volume set called The Black Books were also for sale. I had already given Bill a copy of Jung’s Red Book on request about eleven years ago. The Red Book was basically a refined and condensed version of The Black Books. It’s just one large volume. He left that book in storage because it’s so big, and we had precious little room for extra stuff when we moved to Germany. Bill’s first company only gave him enough money to ship 5000 pounds. Good thing we don’t have kids.

When Bill saw the Jung books, he got all teary. He came upstairs to my office and thanked me. I turned around and he was wiping tears from his eyes, holding the funny t-shirt I also got for him. This was obviously a good gift… especially since he’s also been undergoing Jungian analysis with an American who lives in Berlin and is being trained in Switzerland.

I’ve been bugging Bill to see a therapist for years, not just because he has a lot of trauma to unpack, but because I know from personal experience that undergoing psychotherapy can be a wonderful healing process. It helped me immensely and changed me in so many positive ways. I came to view it as something I did for myself– a form of personal care– like some people get manicures, massages, or have their hair professionally coifed. I thought Bill would see it the same way. Fortunately, he does. Every week, he tells me about new things he’s discovered about himself through dream analysis and art therapy. He and the therapist have a good rapport. It really helps that Bill knows about Jung, since the therapist specializes in the Jungian approach. I’m sure a lot of the therapist’s clients are just looking for someone to talk to. He’s told Bill that he appreciates having a client who understands the Jungian approach. I think they both get a lot out of the work they’re doing.

I wish people wouldn’t think of therapy as a negative thing for “crazy” people or people who are troubled. It’s useful for anyone. Bill is a very functional person who keeps things together very well. But I know that talking to someone other than me is helpful for him. He’s gaining a lot of personal insight that I think will make him a better person… certainly a happier person. He deserves that, as most of us do. I think he appreciates the support, too. On another note, I love that Bill is so smart, and so interested in topics like Carl Jung. He teaches me so much… and every time he talks about art and Jung and other deep subjects, I thank God I married him, instead of some guy who just wants to drink cheap beer and watch football. Not that there’s anything wrong with cheap beer and football– more that a guy like Bill is more my speed.

And this hat is probably more my speed. Bill likes his women a little on the trashy side.

As a joke, I was also going to give Bill the above pictured baseball cap with Mister Rogers giving the finger. I did order it, but I think when that hat comes in, I’ll just keep it for myself. I doubt Bill would want to wear it, even though he’d think it was funny. He’s getting one more book, which is arriving tomorrow. It’s not about Jung or bartending. We’ll probably also make a cherry cheese pie or Bill’s favorite chocolate blackout cake, which I’ve made for him many times over the years. The cake is fantastic, but it takes us forever to eat it, and it’s probably better for the cooler months.

The tears continued after the gift exchange. This time, they came from someone other than Bill.

Yesterday, I was invited to an online memorial service for my old Peace Corps friend, Matt, who died in New York City in May. Some readers might remember that I wrote about Matt when he was killed. Since I live in Germany and, until yesterday, wasn’t in the club, I missed Matt’s first memorial service. Now they’re doing another one for his many friends worldwide. I was asked to sing a song at the event. That doesn’t surprise me, since I was well known for singing in the Peace Corps. I sent a couple of videos to the person who is arranging the event, asking him which song he thought would be most appropriate for the memorial.

The songs I chose were “In My Life” (in the style of Judy Collins) and “Imagine” (as done by Eva Cassidy). I started with “In My Life”, since it’s not known as an atheist anthem and is very accessible to a lot of people. I remember Matt had once told me he was raised Lutheran, but I didn’t know if the religion stuck, although I doubt it did. I also don’t know if any of his relatives are religious. But then I sent “Imagine”, since I do that one well, and it’s popular and very Peace Corps friendly. The guy arranging the event said “Imagine” made him cry, and expressed preference for that one. He says he’ll check with Matt’s cousin to see if he thinks it’s appropriate. If the cousin likes it, that’s the one I’ll probably do… and hope I don’t cry, either.

This video only has 30 hits, but it’s one of my favorite songs to sing.
This did turn out kind of pretty.

Once we started talking about it, it occurred to me that Eva Cassidy also died too young… and became famous after her death. I feel like that kind of happened to Matt, too. He was in the news after his death, because he was so beloved by his community and because the accident he suffered was so incredibly senseless and tragic. Eva also died in 1996, when we were in Armenia. Also, my sister knew Eva because they worked in a restaurant together in the early 90s. My sister waited tables and Eva played there. Or, at least that’s what my sister claims. I think it’s possible she’s telling the truth. She’s lived in the DC area for years, and often made extra money waiting tables, even though she had a regular “day job”.

And now that I think more about it, John Lennon also died much too young. He also died in New York City, as Matt also did. So while “Imagine” might seem a little too “Godless” for some people, I think it might be perfect for Matt. I don’t think he was really that into religion, although I really don’t know how he felt about God. My guess is that someone who exclaims “Christ on the cross!” in annoyance is not too worried about blasphemy. 😉 I’m not being critical about it, either, because I’m not all that religious myself. “Imagine” is a song written by a man who was a bright, shining star. He gave the world so much in his 40 years. And it was “reborn” by another bright shining star, who also gave so much before she died too young. It seems perfect for Matt, who was a shining star and inspiration to so many people– especially the many young people he taught.

Then this morning, I got an email from a complete stranger who found a video I made several years ago of the song, “On Heaven’s Bright Shore.” I couldn’t find accompaniment for that song, but I really wanted to try it. So I decided to sing it acapella. I coupled the acapella singing with pictures of clouds, mostly taken from airplanes. A lot of people have played it– or, a lot for my channel, at least. I would like to redo it with guitar, once I get better at playing. I make progress every day, but I’m still not quite ready for prime time.

I hope to redo this one someday, when my guitar playing is more advanced.

The person who emailed me wrote that his son had just died and he wanted to play an acapella version of “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” at his memorial. He said my version seemed to be the best. So he was kindly asking for permission to play my version, and wondering if I required payment. Of course I wrote back that he’s welcome to use the video, free of charge. I thanked him for asking me and expressed condolences for the loss of his son. It’s quite an honor that someone would want to play my version of that song at a memorial service, and it was so kind of the guy to ask me if I minded.

I was pretty surprised to get that email. I have some videos that have as few as four views! I don’t really promote my videos much. They’re mostly just songs I want to try. I get better recording results on YouTube than I do SingSnap, so that’s why I make the videos. But I don’t really have a rhyme or reason as to when I do the songs. I mainly just make videos when I need to for a blog post or when I’m inspired to try something. I have also done a couple by request. Not all of the videos are musical. Some are raw footage from travels– memories I want to preserve– or they’re videos featuring my dogs. I admire people who make successful YouTube channels, but I’m not very comfortable on camera, and I don’t want to deal with hostile comments. So I mostly just stick to blogging.

Bill and I were talking over breakfast and I was laughing about how I have such a raunchy sense of humor, tendency for depression, appreciation for profanity, and great love for obnoxiousness, yet somehow I wound up with this very sweet singing voice. The other day, I was practicing guitar and I asked Bill if he noticed I was getting better at barre chords. He said he didn’t know which chords I was playing, which I would not have expected. But then he said, “You were singing along, too.” And I said, “No, baby, that was Linda Ronstadt. But thank you very much for the compliment.” I’m not quite ready to sing and play at the same time. That’s like walking and chewing gum.

Anyway… I’m hoping the song goes off well. I have a feeling the memorial will be moving and fun. Matt was a special person, and I’m sure there are a lot of stories to be told, as well as songs to be sung. He had a lot of friends around the world and I think a lot of them will come together for this.

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Bill, disasters, lessons learned

Bill is finally back from Bavaria!

He got on the road at 5:00am and was home before 9:00am. It’s so great to see him… the dogs were super excited. Even Noyzi, who is kind of scared of Bill, was happy to welcome him. The weather is cold and yucky today, which means we’ll probably have a cozy afternoon… even though Germany is slowly reawakening after lockdown. I don’t mind, really… it’s just another week of the same shit, only I don’t have to do it alone. This month has been unusually cold and rainy, anyway. But as of Thursday, Bill will have his second shot, and I will follow on June 9th. And then, look out, world!

I spent yesterday thinking more about my old Peace Corps colleague, Matt, who just died. It’s not lost on me how completely crazy his exit from life was. Here’s a man who spent over four years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in two developing countries, helping people learn to speak English. I’m pretty sure he had a doctorate, and I know that he wasn’t about making a lot of money or owning material things. He valued art, music, travel, languages, and relationships. And he was taken out by someone recklessly driving a Rolls Royce, which is a product at the height of ostentatious consumerism. I just looked up the price of a 2021 Rolls Royce. Google tells me they cost between $245,000 and $382,000! A very nice home could be purchased for that amount! It’s like something out of an absurd novel or movie. It’s definitely an unusual and unexpected way to go. What are the odds? And what a horrible and terrifying fate… to be hit by someone driving a car that is the antithesis of what he stood for. They didn’t even have the decency to stop. They just left him to die. It’s heartbreaking to think of it… I hope Matt didn’t know what hit him.

I don’t think I have ever seen a Rolls Royce in person. I have only seen them in movies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black Rolls Royce, either– the ones I’ve seen have all been silver or champagne colored. I can’t even picture a black Rolls Royce. Granted, Matt was in Brooklyn when this happened, but it seems like something like this would have happened in Manhattan or Boston. It’s just bizarre… and very sad, because he obviously was much beloved by his family, friends, and colleagues. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in years, and his death has touched me, all the way over here in Germany. I have so many good memories of knowing Matt. It’s tempting to write something trite, like he was needed for a higher calling or something like that… but I don’t think Matt was much into religion, nor am I. Really, what I think it comes down to is a terrible tragedy that took someone out of the world much too soon, although what happened to Matt has already influenced me in a potentially positive way.

When Bill sent me a message last night from Bavaria, debating on whether or not he should drive back to Wiesbaden last night, he admitted he was tired and had a headache. So, while I told him I wanted to see him and it was up to him as to whether or not he felt like driving, I encouraged him to stay at the hotel and rest. I know Bill very well. He’s not a night person at all, although he is a very safe and careful driver. But he’s only a year younger than Matt was, and he’s already had a dangerous encounter being hit by a car… only his incident happened when he was 16 and the car rolled over his chest. If he hadn’t been a teenager, though, chances are good that he would have died. As it was, he had a near death experience.

I think Bill would have made it home last night if he’d tried to drive back, but I had Matt’s accident in mind when I asked him to wait until morning. Bill is much more coherent in the morning, and there was sure to be less traffic on the Autobahn on an early Saturday morning. He was originally talking about coming home starting at 4:00am, but then he said that technically, that would be violating the COVID-19 curfew that is still going on. People are supposed to stay home from 11:00pm until 5:00am, unless they have a good reason for being out. Of course, Bill could have told any cop who stopped him that he was on his way home from work. That would have been the truth. But waiting until morning was the more responsible thing to do. I’m glad he did that, since he probably would have been too tired to do much last night, anyway.

Bill worked so many hours in Bavaria, that he’s just going to work a few hours on Monday and take the rest of the week off. It’s too bad we can’t take a trip, but we can get some things done… he can rest up and get over whatever side effects come after he has his second COVID shot. I still have a faint red blotch where my first vaccine was given, but there’s no pain. I have a feeling the second shot will probably lay me out. Good thing no one depends on me for anything… unless you count the dogs.

Matt’s car accident is a grim reminder that you just never know when disaster will strike and you’ll be the victim of a senseless accident. So it’s a good thing to try to mitigate risks, if possible, although fate also could have played a part. Bill had already paid for the apartment he was staying in, anyway. He still has one more meeting to do for this latest exercise– it happens this afternoon from home. Then he can take a much needed and well deserved rest, and we can think about where we might go when we’re finally “free”… or as free as a person can be during the whole COVID-19 nightmare.

In other news… just days into his latest TDY, Bill’s windshield on his rental car was struck by a rock. I guess it’s a good thing he was driving a rental car, rather than his own car. I’m also glad he wasn’t hurt when that happened. Below is the reception Bill got from the dogs when he arrived home this morning. I was glad to see that Noyzi was just as happy to see Bill as Arran and I were! And it looks like the marathon TDYs from Hell will be over, for the time being.

Daddy’s finally home!
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Bill, musings

One night down…

I can’t think of anything earth shattering to write about this morning. I guess the one thing I can say is that I survived the first night of the first TDY in a year. This isn’t anything new for me. Over the past 18 years, I’ve spent a lot of nights alone. Bill has always had to travel for his job. This particular TDY is longer than most, though. He wont’ be back home until March is more than halfway done.

I think we’re both getting tired of these kinds of trips. I was very fortunate as an Army wife, though, since Bill’s one deployment was for just six months. Granted, he spent those six months with a narcissistic jerk of a boss who made his life a living hell, but he made it home in one piece and, more or less, mentally sound. Having grown up with a father who was tormented by PTSD after the Vietnam War, I am very grateful Bill isn’t similarly afflicted.

I probably wouldn’t be so bitchy about it this year if we hadn’t spent the last several months locked down. In previous years, we’ve been able to go on vacations or even just out to eat. Or we could plan something for the future. The current lockdown is set to expire on March 7, but Angela Merkel is talking about extending it even longer. People are getting PISSED, too. Businesses are suffering, and some are wondering how they will be able to keep afloat. Germans are generally very law abiding and cooperative, but even they have their limits.

Bill was allowed to travel because he’s on business. No doubt, the people who run the little hotel where he’s staying are happy for three weeks of revenue. However, Bill did tell me that last night, he had to wait for the proprietor to arrive and unlock the hotel. When Bill put on a mask, the guy shook his said it was “okay” because he’s already had COVID-19. Um… I’m not so sure that means he’s not still at risk. I did have a chuckle, though, since it just goes to show that even the notoriously anal retentive law abiders of Deutschland will still bend the rules sometimes.

Vaccine roll out has been extremely slow here, too. This is a rare time when I’m kind of glad to be American, because Bill and I will probably be able to get vaccinated sooner on post than we could on the economy. Bill has already told me he will be dragging me by the hair to get my shot… not that I would refuse it. One positive thing I got from being in the Peace Corps is that I don’t get too upset by needles, as long as no one tries to dig for a vein. I’m usually fine with shots.

Last night, I watched a live stream of Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett. I’m a big fan of both of these guys. I saw Vince play with the Eagles in 2019, and Lyle played Stuttgart in 2009 and we attended that show. It was a great show. Both Lyle and Vince were so normal and it was obvious to me that they’ve been friends a long time. I enjoyed the stories they shared and the songs, some of which were ones I hadn’t heard. Vince did one song that was a tribute to John Prine. I loved it. I don’t think he’s released it yet, but it was very witty and kind of poignant… the perfect tribute, really. John Prine was such a gifted songwriter.

I don’t play with quite this much style yet, but I’m getting better by the week.

What was especially cool, though, was the effect watching had on me. At the end of the streaming session, they played “If I Needed You” by Townes Van Zandt. Next thing I knew, I grabbed my guitar and joined them. I went to Chordify, figured out the easiest way to play (using a capo on the 6th or 8th frets), and played along. I did well enough that I might be ready to record it sometime soon. Maybe that will be my goal before Bill comes home next month. That, and finishing reading my latest book. It’s time for a fresh review.

Bill was sad to leave yesterday. I think Arran knew he was going. I got a few photos of them before Bill had to go. Yes, there were tears. Bill made me lunch before he went and had a few tears in his eyes before he kissed me goodbye. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a kind and loving man for my husband and life partner. But you can see why I really miss him when he’s not here. He’s the best. Arran sure loves him. Noyzi is slowly coming around.

I did tell Bill I hope he’ll do what he can to bolster his cybersecurity skills. He earned a second master’s degree in cybersecurity a few years ago, but he hasn’t had a chance to put it to use. It’s a hot field, and perhaps working in cybersecurity might help curb the lengthy separations that exercise planning requires. Granted, he’s in a niche field now, and has good job security, but there’s more to life than money. After 18 years of this, I think we’re both a bit tired.

Edited to add… I was inspired to make a video.

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Bill, musings

PMS Pizza…

I made this for lunch and enjoyed lots of red wine with it. It is delicious!

I really need to cook more. There was a time when I loved cooking. I’m actually pretty good at it. But some time ago, Bill took over cooking, so I only do it when PMS forces me to. I have been craving American style pizza with pepperoni all week. Here, if you want pepperoni, you end up with either salami or peppers. I like both, but they aren’t the same as American pepperoni. Thanks to the commissary, we can get it.

Bill stayed home to telework today, owing to COVID-19 and his general exasperation with being in the office… so he got a thrill when I baked this pizza while he worked. The house smells of fresh garlic and bread, since I made the crust thicker than it needed to be. I spent the rest of the afternoon drinking red wine. I bet tomorrow, I’ll be in a fine way… because I think I’m about to encounter everyone’s favorite “aunt”.

Tomorrow, I hope to put away the outside furniture and lawnmower for the winter. The grass is being cut as I write this, probably for the last time until the spring. Then, maybe we’ll put up the fucking Christmas crapola. It’s been almost two months since I left my neighborhood… This lockdown shit is getting old. But at least Noyzi is loving life as a pet. He’s learning how to play now, and he enjoyed some of the pizza, too. Hard to believe he was so recently living outside with a bunch of other dogs. He likes being an indoor dog.

I don’t feel like writing anything earth shattering today. Yesterday’s venting was probably enough until tomorrow. Nope… too much red wine means I think I’ll play Sims 4 or think about what we’re going to get done tomorrow, as the holiday season approaches. I miss normal life, but some of the coronavirus stuff isn’t so bad. It’s always lovely to have lunch with Bill, especially on a weekday. And if I can make him smile by cooking or baking, so much the better…

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Bill, family

Life… and death… goes on.

Today is the 18th anniversary of my marriage to Bill. We usually take trips for our anniversary. This year we couldn’t go anywhere because of COVID-19. Bill went to work because there’s a big project he’s working on. I’m reminded that last year, he had a TDY that started the day after our anniversary. I went with him on that trip, because it was to Wroclaw, Poland, and Wroclaw is a neat town. That was before the pandemic radically changed everything.

A week ago, we learned of Bill’s dad’s passing. Bill was already dressed and ready to go to work when he found out about it. I told him he needed to tell his co-workers that he wasn’t coming in. That was a good decision, since he did need some time to process the news and the fact that we were not going to be able to go to Tennessee for the funeral. A few days ago, a relative sent Bill a picture of his father in his casket. He had said he’d wanted to see the photo, but I think it was a shock to see his dad laid out like that… not looking like the man he knew. Part of it might have been because he’d been very sick, and part might have been that when someone’s soul leaves their body, the body simply turns into a shell of what it once was.

The news about Bill’s dad came less than a month after my cousin lost his husband to liver cancer. And it came a week before I found out my cousin, Karen, passed away from colon cancer. I wasn’t very close to Karen, although we had some things in common. Like me, she was a musical person. Like me, she loved visiting our grandmother’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia. But she was much more religious than I am and we had very different political views. She was also significantly older and lived in a different state. I never got to know her as well as I might have, although her presence in our family was one of great prominence. She was the eldest grandchild on both sides of her family, and very much a leader among us. By contrast, I am one of the youngest grandchildren on my dad’s side and the youngest on my mom’s side (which consists of my three sisters and my cousin Sue).

2020 has really been a surreal year so far. It started off fine. We visited France three times between Christmas 2019 and February 2020. Bill’s mom came to visit, and he went to the States for business and found time to stop in Utah to finally see his daughter, her husband, and his two grandchildren. It was the first time he’d seen Catherine since 2004, when she was just eleven years old. She’s now grown into a beautiful, thoughtful, and kind young woman. As much as I complained about the Mormons over the years, I am grateful there were good people in the church who helped her escape her mother and launch a more normal life. Obviously, she had some good role models to emulate. And it was such a joy for Bill to see her and meet her family. It had been fifteen long years, and clearly, they have missed each other so much. It took awhile, but we finally learned that we weren’t in the Twilight Zone, after all. ‘Nuff said about that.

Then the pandemic struck, just as Bill was returning from that trip. Everything changed. Bill had to work from home. We tried to adopt a dog, only to have it escape its transport on the way to us and get hit by a car. We sued our former landlady, and Bill got asked to be a witness in a lawsuit. We did some traveling, but it was a different mood, with constant worry about masking and personal hygiene and not getting sick. And then we adopted Noyzi, the street dog from Kosovo, who has stolen our hearts.

It hasn’t been all bad. There have been some unexpected moments of joy as we’ve adapted to this depressing pandemic experience. I’ve loved having more time with my husband, who isn’t able to jet off to faraway places for work right now. We’ve been eating more meals at home, although I do really miss getting dressed up and going places. I’ve loved getting to know Noyzi, who amazes us every day as he adapts to life as a pet in Germany rather than one of many dogs in a group home in Kosovo.

I would have liked to have gone somewhere special to celebrate our special day today. The last 18 years have flown by, and we’re still happy together. But it’s not a bad thing to be home, safe and well, and enjoying the company of Arran and Noyzi. I didn’t expect to suddenly lose three relatives within a span of a few weeks, though. It really makes one stop and think how fleeting and fragile life can be.

Well… I think I’ll take the opportunity to make some music today. Maybe someone will like it. Maybe someone won’t. But at least it’ll keep me out of trouble. And I expect Bill will bring home some bubbly for tonight.

Edited to add… this was our wedding song and I somehow never did it for YouTube. So here it is…
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