music, musings

50 years and counting… Belgian style!

Well, I have officially made it to my 50th birthday. Technically, I entered the world at 11:40am eastern daylight time, having been born at the now defunct Dixie Hospital in Hampton, Virginia on June 20, 1972. I turned 40 in Hampton, since Bill had business trip, and we lived in North Carolina at the time. We visited my parents, and I got to see an old high school friend of mine, who treated me to lunch at a pub. I turned 45 in Alveringem, Belgium, and now I’m turning 50 in Antwerp. Antwerp has turned out to be an awesome place to celebrate.

This morning, I was surprised with a delicious mascarpone strawberry tart and champagne, coffee, an orange juice, and absolutely no room for anything else. Half the tart is being saved for later. Bill just handed me a birthday card. I usually get a mushy one from him, but this time, it was a funny card.

As I sit here looking at Bill, I thank God all of the crushes I had in my earlier years never worked out. I can’t imagine a more perfect man in my life. A lot of women dread turning 50, but I have to say, it’s not such a bad thing… at least not yet. I feel pretty good, and I have most of what I would ever want or need… and I get along great with Bill. So life is pretty okay right now, in spite of everything that’s happened since… well, since birth.

I may not be as young and pretty as I used to be… not that I was ever particularly pretty… but I did used to have a nice figure, smoother skin, and better eyesight. I do think I’m saner than I used to be. Things don’t upset me as much as they used to. I don’t have panic attacks anymore, and I don’t often have crying jags, unless it’s because I’m listening to beautiful music or watching a particularly moving scene in a movie, or something. It’s usually music that makes me cry, though. Especially live music. That’s better than crying because someone was mean to me or I’m overwhelmed by something.

And I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed with basic good sense and better health. I’m especially grateful that when I met Bill, even with all the challenges he was facing at the time, I knew he was the right person for me to spend my life with. I never thought I’d be that lucky, given that I don’t have tons of friends and never dated much. And yet, there he was, just when I thought I was going to be single. He’s perfect for me, and the best gift I could ever have.

As we were sitting at breakfast this morning, enjoying the strawberry tart and bubbles, I mused once again about how I somehow found the right person in the least likely place, ever. I have never met anyone who makes me feel more comfortable and at ease. The miracle is, I think he’d say the same thing about me.

Belgium has wonderful strawberries!

This point was driven home over breakfast, when another couple showed up. They barely spoke to each other and seemed dissatisfied and unfriendly. Here we are in one of Antwerp’s best hotels. The staff is super friendly and helpful. And the lady is complaining about the coffee and cutting the crusts off her bread. She sent the coffee back twice, then the two of them sat at the table in silence, making it seem awkward for conversation even among ourselves. Who knows what was going on, though. God knows, I have my days, too. It was just something we both noticed. Maybe they’re both just very introverted… or they have the Monday blues.

Anyway… I’m sure the day will be full of surprises. Time to get off the computer and celebrate. Going to go home tomorrow and write up our visit, which has been a lot more fun than I was expecting. Antwerp truly is an awesome town… as long as you aren’t driving. 😉

By the way… just discovered this album. If you like jazz and Sesame Street, it’s fun!

Fun birthday find!

I think we’re going to do some shopping today… and probably more beer drinking. I can’t think of a better way to spend my first day of being 50. Nor can I think of a better person to spend it with.

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family, LDS, music, social media

My life is incredibly absurd…

This is going to be another one of my much too long personal postings… Some people might think it’s “inappropriate” to write this, but it’s what’s on my mind today. This blog is, really, more for me than anyone else. And maybe a few of you out there can either relate, or maybe there are even some “curious” people out there who wonder WTF when they read my posts.

I got a bit upset last night. I didn’t mean to get upset. In fact, the evening had started out relatively well. Bill came home from work with five boxes that were waiting for us after our trip. One of the boxes that came was from Bill’s younger daughter. In March, Bill sent her a box of gifts from our trip to France. Bill’s younger daughter, Catherine, who will be giving birth to her third child within the coming weeks, decided to send us a box from Utah.

Before she sent the box, she wondered what to include in it. Bill requested for her to send us things exclusively from Utah. He meant things like “fry sauce”, or maybe certain types of candy or locally produced products that are specific to Utahn culture. Catherine, who is a devout Mormon, joked that Utah is best known for sugar. We had a laugh at that, since we know how true it is. Since Utah’s population is heavy with people of the Latter-day Saint persuasion, sugar is the one vice in which many people freely indulge.

Sure enough, the box younger daughter sent, addressed to both of us, was full of sugary treats. She did send us a bottle of fry sauce, too. I’m eager to try it, since I’ve heard how good fry sauce supposedly is. Also included within the box of goodies was a Book of Mormon. In fact, when Bill saw the book, he said “We got BoM’ed” (pronounced “bombed”). He was amused, especially since Catherine served a mission for the LDS church and has clearly not stopped being a missionary.

I shared the below photos on Facebook.

The comment I made with this post was pretty banal. I wrote “Bill’s daughter sent us a care package from Utah… complete with a BoM.” I don’t think that comment indicated that I was upset about or threatened by the gift. On the surface, my comment was rather matter-of-fact, but I probably should have clearly indicated that I’m happy to share in receiving this box. The reality is, I am delighted that Catherine is talking to Bill and sharing with him.

It’s true that I don’t like Mormonism, but I understand why Catherine is grateful for her faith. I know that people in the church helped her when Bill couldn’t. And no, I don’t mind that she shared a BoM with Bill, especially since she underlined passages that she finds comforting. This is a way for her to connect with her father, a man whose company she was denied for so many years. He can read those passages and relate to her. They will help him understand her more. I have no concerns that he’ll go back to Mormonism. Even if he did go back to the church, I’d still love him, as long as he didn’t try to convert me, too. I have no interest in being LDS.

Reactions to the post ran the gamut. A lot of people don’t know the intricacies of our story, which is pretty convoluted and, frankly, absurd. I think some folks might have thought I was offended by Catherine’s gift of a BoM. One person wrote, “Well, it was a nice gesture.” I assume it’s because a lot of people would be turned off by getting a Book of Mormon.

Another person wrote “You have to try to look at it as someone sending you their favorite book for you to read. You might not enjoy it as much as they did, but it’s the thought.”

I was initially somewhat puzzled by these comments, but I realize they come from people who either don’t know the whole story, or know full well that I don’t like Mormonism, and figured this gift would be objectionable to me. I think I have good reasons for not liking the LDS church. BUT– I absolutely do understand that there are some good things in the LDS church, and there are also very fine people within the organization. I don’t have to like Mormonism to appreciate Catherine’s gift. I’m just thrilled that she’s reconnected with Bill before it’s too late.

I fear Catherine’s older sister will miss the opportunity to really know her extraordinary dad. I’m torn between feeling compassion for older daughter, and anger that she’s already thrown away so many years with her father. I know this is a choice that older daughter has to make and live with. I still think it’s an incredibly stupid move on her part. It would be one thing if Bill were the kind of guy who didn’t care about other people, but Bill is an extraordinary man. He is so kind hearted, unselfish, and forgiving. He is loving, thoughtful, and brave. I haven’t met many people like Bill in my lifetime. Very few people trigger protective impulses in me. Bill does. He is a rare specimen who, sadly, tends to attract predators who take advantage of his decency.

It’s been heartbreaking to watch the fallout from the dissolution of Bill’s first marriage, even though Catherine, at least, had the good sense to reconnect with her dad. I wish older daughter would wise up, but that’s something she has to choose to do. Once again, I find myself cursing about the fact that Bill spent more than five minutes with his ex wife, who wasn’t fit to wash the shit stains out of Bill’s shorts. That may seem harsh, but it’s the God’s honest truth. Ex is a sick woman who has done some really vile things in the name of avenging her “shitty” childhood. She makes other people pay for her tragic past. Her actions have had devastating ripple effects on so many people, many of whom seem to be blind to the damages she’s wrought until it’s too late.

Last night, as I was pondering the comments left regarding Catherine’s gift to Bill, I chatted with my sister, who reminded me of my own “fucked up” childhood. On the surface, we had pretty normal and fortunate upbringings. My parents were married for 56 years. They came from families where there was no divorce. In my dad’s case, there were many other siblings who loved and cared about each other. My parents always had work, and we never had truly serious worries about finances. I had a pretty privileged lifestyle as a child. I owned a horse, and attended horse shows and fox hunts. I had a car to drive. My parents were even home all the time, because they owned and operated a business out of our house.

And yet, there was so much dysfunction… my sister wrote that she’d sent our mom a Mother’s Day card with a unicorn on it that read, “Keep on doing ‘mom’ things. You’re so good at them.” I knew she was being passive aggressive and sarcastic, because our very talented and beautiful mom was famously not into being a mom when we were growing up. Our mom wasn’t the type of mom who doted on her children, or her friends’ children, or served as a role model to others. She couldn’t wait for us to grow up and get out of the nest. She should not have had four children. But she did have us, and here we are… all four of us dysfunctional and neurotic, in spite of the many privileges we enjoyed when we were growing up.

I don’t mean this as a slam on my mom. Actually, I have generally gotten along fine with her, in spite of acknowledging that she was often pretty negligent and had some screwed up priorities. In my case, it was my dad with whom I had significant issues. He once told me I would never make more than minimum wage. He was an abusive alcoholic, although he was probably more into being a parent than my mom was. He and I didn’t mesh for a lot of reasons, but I do think he was the more caring of my parents. Of course, he also wasn’t doing the “heavy lifting” of parenting. That was a task that fell to my mom, who really wasn’t into the job. In a different era, I’m sure my mom would have made different choices, but she grew up at a time when women were expected to get married and have kids. So that’s what she did. In spite of my seemingly negative comments, I do think she did the best she could, under the circumstances. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that my memories of growing up mostly aren’t idyllic.

So I had a bit of a meltdown last night. Bill came down to me, having just spent an hour talking to his analyst. I was drinking red wine, wondering how I ended up in this bizarre situation I’m in. My life is incredibly absurd. To people on the surface, it seems like I live a “dream”. I don’t work outside the home. I don’t have children. I get to travel a lot to some pretty lovely places. That would seem like a fabulous lifestyle to many people. In fact, last week, a long time friend of mine told me that she envies my life. I didn’t know how to respond to that. She really has no idea… and yet, I absolutely CAN understand that most of my problems are of the first world variety. I do see why some people might feel envious of me. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I feel like so many people don’t like me.

Unlike Bill, I don’t feel the need to try to please others in order to get them to like me. I figure that if people don’t like me, that’s their choice to make, just like it’s older daughter’s choice to throw away her wonderful dad without ever taking the time to try to understand why he had to leave her when she was little. He had to leave, because staying with Ex would have meant dying… perhaps literally, but almost certainly metaphorically. He could not live with his ex wife anymore. If he had been a woman and Ex had been a man, absolutely no one would begrudge him for leaving. Ex is a domestic abuser. Even Catherine realizes that. She even went as far as to send Bill a link to an article for victims of domestic violence, which makes me wonder what she’s witnessed in her mother’s relationship with #3.

Maybe some people don’t see this when they talk to me, but I really am a good person. I am a decent, loving, kind person. I’m not always “nice”, but I am, deep down, “good”. I come by these qualities honestly. I try to do the right thing whenever possible, even if it doesn’t seem “nice”. Last night, I was frustrated, telling Bill about how my life has gone completely off the rails of what I thought it would be before we met. I meant to have a career and children of my own. That ordinary lifestyle was what I had planned for my whole life. But instead, here I am, writing blog posts in Europe, watching my friends and family members with regular jobs, children, and grandchildren… wondering how this happened, and if I make a difference to anyone besides my husband. It’s not a bad life at all, but it’s not what I planned. I also know that some people probably think negatively of me because of it. A few years ago, I was interviewed for my university’s alumni magazine. The person who interviewed me approached me because of an extraordinary experience I had when I was in college. But when he heard the reality of my life, he must have figured there was no story there worth putting in the alumni magazine. I didn’t become “someone”. I am just an “overeducated housewife” with an absurd lifestyle.

I do know that I serve a huge purpose in Bill’s life. But sometimes I wonder if that’s the only reason I managed to be born. Was I just born to keep predatory people like Ex and former landlady away from Bill? Was I born just to encourage him to have fun and travel? How is it that I’ve managed to land in this weird existence, where I feel envious of people with careers and children to worry about, as some of them envy me for my supposed “good life”? It’s absurd, isn’t it? Especially if you know just how totally FUBAR and totally bizarre Bill’s life has been. Even the way we met was very strange and kind of hard to specifically talk about with other people.

This morning, just before I started writing this post, I watched the funeral service for my cousin’s wife, Chris, who passed away last month after a lengthy cancer battle. I didn’t know Chris as well as I would have liked to, especially having heard several well-spoken people sing her praises. Chris was a very beautiful, vibrant, creative woman, who obviously touched many people’s lives. She was much beloved by friends and family, and so many people had stories of how she’d blessed them with her happy, warm, and thoughtful presence. Chris was a devout Christian, as are many of her bereaved friends and family members. I don’t know who she voted for in 2016, but I’d be willing to bet lots of cash that she voted for Donald Trump. I know for a fact her husband, my cousin, did.

I don’t understand how decent people can’t see who Donald Trump is, and why he’s so bad for the country. I know my family members were raised with conservative Christian values, and that means they feel they must always vote Republican. I can respect that on some level. I used to feel the same way. But how can a Christian ever cast a vote for Trump or anyone like him? How can they not see how truly awful and inhumane he is?

I listened to several people extol Chris’s many wonderful qualities as they spoke about her. I know they were a small sampling of many people who were touched by Chris. And please don’t get me wrong. Chris genuinely deserved every one of those accolades. She was a very special person. But I know, that as nice as those people are, they aren’t always as good as they seem to be. They are good to acceptable people within their own communities. I’m not sure they’re as good to people who are in trouble and need help. I don’t mean designing a room or catering a party. I mean offering real help to people who have very serious problems, sometimes arising from so-called “bad choices” they might have made. I mean people who might have done things that crowd would find immoral. As good as my relatives are, they probably think I’m immoral for swearing, drinking wine, and voting against Trump. Some of them might feel like I abandoned my family. I feel like very few of them miss me. If I died tomorrow, my funeral would probably be a pretty lonely affair. I know I haven’t touched people in the way that Chris did. I also know that my extraordinary husband is much better off with me in his life, even though a lot of people probably wonder what he’s doing with me. They don’t see the big picture. I guess I don’t see it either, at least as it pertains to older daughter.

Bill is probably like Chris in a lot of ways. He’s generous, thoughtful, loving, caring, kind, and incredibly smart. I can’t believe he married me. I would love to be more like him, because I admire how decent he is. However, this morning, when we were talking about last night’s little “meltdown”, Bill pointed out to me something I said during my rantings. He said, “you pointed out that you offer a counterbalance to my overly generous, people pleasing nature. If we were both people pleasers, we would be sitting ducks for predators.” And that’s true. If Ex thought she could drive a wedge between us, she would definitely try to do it. But she knows I can see who she is. And she knows not to fuck with Bill, because she will be fucking with me… and I am not nearly as “nice” as Bill is. But I would like to be nice. I would like to be thought of as a light in people’s lives, as my cousin’s wife, Chris, was. I don’t like to be annoying. I certainly never aspired to be a stepmother, or even an “overeducated housewife”. But here I am… obnoxious as the day is long.

I probably will address this video later, because there’s a lot I can say about it.

Which brings me to another point… One of the bones of contention people have with me is that I refer to myself as “overeducated”. I know a lot of people in the military community think I look down on them because of my education. If they got to know me, they might find out that part of the reason I call myself “overeducated” is because I literally am overeducated for what I do. That doesn’t mean I disparage others for not having degrees. In fact, if I had known this was going to be my life, I would not have gone to graduate school. But then, I probably wouldn’t have met Bill, and he was obviously meant to be in my life. I think education is very important, and I am grateful that I had the chance to go to school. The way our country is going, I worry that females may find themselves marginalized as they were in the not too distant past. I realize, again, that I’m fortunate. I just wish I could have used my education in a way that feels more significant. I was taught by my family that I needed to “be someone” and do something important. And I feel like I haven’t, in spite of multiple efforts… even though I know that I have made a huge difference in Bill’s life. But was this the only thing I was meant for? Was I, the daughter of parents who really didn’t seem to want me, and even told me on many occasions, only meant to help Bill evolve into someone who values himself more?

I love this song so much. I relate to it on many levels… although I did manage to find love.

Anyway… as Beau says in the video above, “it’s just a thought”. I would like to close this mishmash of a blog post with the beautiful lyrics to Ron Block’s song, “Someone”. If you ever wonder WTF when you talk to me or read my posts, you might consider these words and apply the context. I really need to hear this song every day. I hope someone reading this post will take the time to listen to this song. Maybe these are words you need to hear, too.

My father was an old man, he worked so hard and long
He asked me to believe that he had all that he could want
Holding up his hands he said, ‘These hands have bled for you
Lord knows you’ve been worth it, too’

He smiled at me sadly as I walked out of his door
I told him once again, just like time and time before
I know that you’re contented but before my life is done
I am gonna be someone’

I set out on my own to find the life I planned for me
I was longing for a high and lonely destiny
Spending all my days on the debt of my tomorrows
Looking for some love but I found none, ’cause I was gonna be someone

It took me years of pain to find what he already knew
Contentment doesn’t come from what you say or what you do
Peace just like a river comes by resting in the sun
And I don’t have to be someone

I set out on my own to find the life I planned for me
I was longing for a high and lonely destiny
Spending all my days on the debt of my tomorrows
Living comes from resting in the sun and I don’t have to be someone

Peace just like a river comes by resting in the sun
And I don’t have to be someone

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celebrities, music, obits

Rest in peace, Naomi Judd…

It’s been a very busy few days for Bill and me. As part of a tour, we left Florence yesterday for a night in beautiful Cortona, Italy. Our day was broken up by stops at a couple of wineries. We are going to visit a couple more places today, then head back to Florence for another night. Tomorrow morning, we will make our way to Vaduz for our last two nights of this vacation. It’s been a rather epic trip. I look forward to writing the whole story about it when we get home. I also look forward to sleeping in my own bed and seeing my dogs.

I hadn’t actually wanted to go on this trip, but it’s turned out to be pretty awesome, for the most part. I’m glad Bill convinced me. It just struck me how weird that sounds… my husband had to convince me to travel to Italy! But, in the wake of all of the crazy and bad stuff happening in the world, yes, it’s understandable why someone might be reluctant to go out and live it up. I think we’ve all been having hard times lately, although some people have definitely had it much worse than others have.

Last night, I read the very sad news about Naomi Judd, of The Judds. Ashley and Wynonna Judd both posted:

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,”

“We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public… We are in unknown territory.”

Naomi’s husband, Larry Strickland, also gave a statement: “Naomi Judd’s family request privacy during this heartbreaking time. No additional information will be released at this time.”

The Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame today.

Like most others who have written about this news, the assumption is that Naomi Judd may have taken her own life. But that has not been confirmed, at this writing. When I heard the news, I was immediately reminded of The Judds’ story about their hardscrabble existence in eastern Kentucky. Wynonna and Ashley are a few years older than I am, so I could relate to them in the way I relate to my sisters. I admired how talented all three women were, and how they made it in the very difficult world of entertainment.

I remember reading about Naomi Judd’s work as a nurse before she became a star. Later, in 1991, she temporarily gave up performing because she had contracted Hepatitis C. I even remember reading a letter she wrote to the editors at People Magazine about her illness. She mentioned in the letter that she had been a nurse, and her statement came from a place of knowledge as a healthcare provider. That was impressive to me on yet another front. She never forgot her roots, which made her seem like someone with depth and character.

I also recall that the Judds had a reality show at one point, which highlighted the sometimes difficult relationships she had with her daughters. I also know that Wynonna’s own daughter, Grace Pauline Kelly, also had serious issues with drug addiction and spent some time in prison. She was apparently released last year. Her son, Elijah, seems to have been less troubled. He got married to his longterm girlfriend in 2020.

I never got to see the Judds perform, but I did see Wynonna at a short concert at an Army ball back in 2003. I have always respected the talented duo, and their music always brings back a lot of memories for me in my younger days. I don’t know what specific issues led to Naomi’s death, but I always thought of her as a very beautiful and gifted lady. I know she served as a role model to so many people, especially given how they all made it against the odds. Naomi, Wynonna, and Ashley were a feminine force to so many of us who grew up during the time when they were huge stars. They seemed to flourish together. I know her family is heartbroken to lose her.

One of my favorite songs by The Judds.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll hear more about what happened and why… not that it matters that much to anyone, except to satisfy their curiosity. Naomi was a beautiful, gifted woman, and my heart goes out to all who loved her. She gave a lot to the world and her legacy will continue every time someone listens to her sing.

As for me… I can chalk this up to one more celebrity who has passed away while I’ve been living in Europe. I’ve been over here when a lot of the world’s biggest stars have moved on to the next realm…Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Prince, Aretha Franklin, etc. Now I can add Naomi Judd to the list. This may seem like a strange comment to make, but then, I’m kind of a strange person. 😉

I’m kind of ready for this trip to wind down. I love traveling, and vacations are always fun for me, but I’m also a bit of an introverted homebody. So this excursion will probably hold me for awhile until I need another trip.

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expressions, music, obits

April truly is the cruelest month for some people…

I woke up this morning to read a gorgeous, heartfelt, loving tribute my cousin, Clark, wrote for his wife, Chris. Today would have been their 38th wedding anniversary, had his wife not passed away on April 10, 2022. My cousin has spent the past fourteen months taking care of Chris, who had cancer that spread throughout her body. I know my cousin and his family have faced cancer too many times. What makes the timing of this loss especially cruel for this couple is that Chris passed just days before their daughter’s wedding. But, as my cousins in that part of my family are very devoted to their Christian faith, they did note that Chris probably had the best view of her middle daughter’s spring wedding.

I’m not the most religious person myself, but I like to think that Chris was watching her beautiful middle daughter walk down the aisle to her new husband. It’s a comforting thought. As we’re all in need of comfort lately, I see no harm at all in believing fervently that Chris is celebrating among the angels with other loved ones.

A few days ago, one of Bill’s high school friends also departed this life. His circumstances were very different than Chris’s. Mark decided to die on his own terms. I don’t know the exact details surrounding Mark’s death, other than that he committed suicide. He evidently left no clue to his family and many friends that he was choosing to die. Based on what’s on his social media, many people were left in total shock and grief. I see that in the days before he died, Mark tied up some loose ends. He spent time with friends and loved ones, and took pictures, which he posted on his profile.

While I am generally in favor of letting people exercise free agency and self-determination, I can’t help but wonder how those people who spent those last moments of Mark’s life feel about his decision. Granted, there is nothing they can do about it now, which probably makes this even worse for them. Maybe it’s pointless to be angry about Mark’s final actions on Good Friday. I can only speak for myself when I say that Mark’s decision probably would have devastated me, if I had known him better. As it was, I never met the man in person, although I know Ex knew him. I wonder if she knows what he did. I’m not about to tell her, of course… But I do wonder.

Even though I never met Mark, I have been affected by his decision to kill himself. Bill hadn’t seen Mark in many years, but he remembered him fondly and was still upset by his decision to kill himself. I have been here to comfort him, which means that Mark’s death touches me, too. Yes, there were tears shed for him in our house, if that matters to anyone.

Bill and I both understand that there were obviously things going on in Mark’s life that must have been too much for him to take. What went wrong was obviously none of our business… and, when it comes down to it, death is something we all have to face at some point. Maybe it gave Mark comfort to go out on his own terms. I am a bit concerned for his survivors, though… especially the ones who were there at the end. He apparently never let on to what he was planning, and he never gave them a chance to voice to him how they felt about it. Maybe they feel cheated or angry… although so far, I’ve seen nothing but an outpouring of love and good wishes. Personally, while I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes fantasize about doing what Mark did, I also think it was kind of a selfish thing to do. But then, I also remember that it was his life, and when it comes down to it, he wasn’t obligated to live for anyone. As far as I know, he had no children and was no longer married. His parents predeceased him. Maybe he just felt “done”. Or maybe he was very depressed or suffering from some ailment no one else knew about. I guess we’ll never know.

This morning, I noticed that I was getting a lot of hits from North Carolina. People are hitting a post I wrote back in February about a man named Chad Carswell. I had read about him in the Washington Post. Mr. Carswell was making news for needing a kidney transplant, but refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. To be honest, I wasn’t, and am still not, very impressed by that choice. However, I do recognize that not getting a vaccine is his choice to make. It’s his life.

My post about his case was admittedly a little snarky and, perhaps, even kind of rude. It’s been interesting to see the delayed reaction to that post from early February. I can see that the people who have found it are sharing it and clicking it repeatedly, also hitting the disclaimer link, and even my travel blog. I’m not sure what they’re looking for. My mind hasn’t changed about that situation, although I still agree that people should always have the right to make choices. That right extends to everyone, though. A surgeon has the right to refuse to perform surgery on someone who isn’t medically qualified to have surgery. I don’t know what’s currently going on regarding Chad Carswell’s case. It’s none of my business, and frankly, doesn’t necessarily interest me at this point in time. But obviously, something has triggered people to read my post about him. I do wish him well, even if I disagree with his decision not to get vaccinated. Hopefully, his decision doesn’t lead to his loved ones and friends mourning his passing in April, too.

Anyway, since death is on my mind today, I decided to record a song. I actually discovered this very simple song by John Prine only this morning. I thought it was kind of poignant and fitting, given how many losses I have experienced this April and in past Aprils… For some reason, April really is the cruelest month. It’s the month when it seems like so many people have died senselessly in school shootings, bombings, wars, suicides, and due to illnesses… As I watch flowers and trees literally bursting into bloom on a daily basis, I can’t help but think of people who have departed life in April, or have had their lives completely changed or ruined due to someone else’s choices. So below is my rendering of “I Remember Everything”, which was apparently released after Prine’s untimely and gruesome death from COVID-19. It gave me some comfort to sing it, even if it may not be among my better performances.

Incidentally, Switzerland is a place where people can legally choose to die… and it does appear to be a heavenly place to be in some areas.

I tried to do another video featuring my homely, middle-aged, mom-bodied visage on camera, but I couldn’t get the video to sync properly with the audio. I don’t look particularly great on camera as it is, and wasn’t wanting the video to look like a poorly dubbed martial arts film from the 70s. I got tired of screwing with it and decided to just use some photos from our visit to Switzerland last summer. The shots are of Lakes Zurich and Lucerne, which I found very peaceful to look at. “I Remember Everything” is yet another song I could probably do on guitar if I put my mind to it. Maybe I’ll try that at some point. But for now, here’s my latest musical effort. I hope someone enjoys it. I’m sure John Prine would have appreciated the chance to get vaccinated against COVID, although I really don’t know how he would have felt about it. I do know that a lot of people miss him, including relatively new admirers like me.

Edited to add… It occurs to me that John Prine died in April, too… and I just discovered another one of his songs. This one was about what he planned to do after death. It made me smile, especially since the chords are super easy and I could play along with it. Wonder if this is what came to pass for him when he did finally die in 2020…

I can actually play guitar to this one, and it’s quite fun to do so!

Now, as it’s Thursday and we’re about to leave town, I better close this post and get on with my chores of the day, such as they are. Gotta vacuum, you know… and walk the dogs.

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homosexuality, music, psychology, YouTube

Phil Donahue inadvertently introduces me to a virtuoso…

Monday, after I had finished my usual chores, I was trying to decide what to do with the afternoon. Suddenly, I remembered the old talk show, Donahue, which aired the whole time I was growing up in the 80s. Hosted by the follicle blessed Phil Donahue, husband of actress, Marlo Thomas, this was a show I heard a lot about in those days, but never watched. It was a precursor to Maury Povich and Geraldo Rivera, and even Oprah Winfrey and her protege, Dr. Phil. But, as I was a child in the early 80s, I wasn’t interested in watching talk shows. I do remember the theme music, though, because I think my mom was a fan, even though Donahue was pretty liberal for those days.

Anyway, I went searching on YouTube, and sure enough, someone had posted episodes of Donahue that dated to the early 80s. The first episode I watched was particularly engrossing, as it aired on November 17, 1982. I was ten years old, and AIDS was becoming the latest public health terror. Prior to that year, AIDS existed, but rank and file Americans didn’t hear about it, because people mainly got it in Africa. On that November 1982 episode of Donahue, there were several fascinating guests. There was, Dr. Dan William, a doctor who was one of the pioneers in treating AIDS. Phillip Lanzaratta, man who had Kaposi’s sarcoma was there to talk about the then rare cancerous lesion he had because of AIDS. And there was also, Larry Kramer, a leader of a gay men’s crisis organization. All three of these guests are now dead, although Larry Kramer died fairly recently– in 2020, I believe.

If you have time and are interested, this is a fascinating episode.

What really struck me about the AIDS episode of Donahue is just how new and terrifying the disease was, and just how little we knew about it. I grew up in the time when kids who were unlucky enough to get HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, were not allowed to go to school. Ryan White was one of my contemporaries; he was six months older than me. Years later, I also read the heartbreaking story of Ariel Glaser, daughter of actor Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky and Hutch) and his late white, Elizabeth Glaser, who started hemorrhaging when she was giving birth in 1981. She was given a blood transfusion that, sadly, was contaminated with the virus. She breastfed Ariel, who contracted the virus that way. Elizabeth didn’t know she had the virus until 1985, when she and Ariel both mysteriously got sick. Ariel died in 1988, and her mother helped found the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Elizabeth, who died in 1994, also had a son with Paul Michael Glaser, Jake. Jake was born with HIV, but has survived into adulthood. Before she died, Elizabeth wrote a book called In the Absence of Angels, which is a great read. I read the paperback version years ago. Maybe I should try to read it again.

Joshua Bell’s dad!

Since I had nothing better to do, I watched the next episode of Donahue that came up on YouTube. That episode, which aired October 14, 1981, had to do with homosexuality. The episode’s title was “Are Gays Born This Way?” I don’t think Lady Gaga was yet born when this show aired. 😉 The guests were Alan Bell, Ph.D. (author of “Sexual Preference”) and Lawrence Hatterer, M.D. (Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell University), each of whom came to their respective conclusions in different ways. I was particularly interested in Dr. Bell’s comments. He was very emphatic about his conclusions. He also reminded me of an old soap opera actor I used to enjoy on Guiding Light, Ron Raines, who played Alan Spaulding in the later years of the show. Interestingly enough, he took over a role that was played by the late Christopher Bernau, who was gay and died in 1988 of a heart attack that was brought on by AIDS. Bernau was only 49 years old when he passed– same age I am now.

Are Gays Born This Way? Yes… but it would take many years before Lady Gaga gave us the news.

I got caught up in the commercials, too, which were very different back then. They were longer, involved actual acting, and often starred people who went on to big fame. For instance, during the Donahue show, the actor Ian Ziering (of the original 90210 fame and a former Guiding Light alum) is in an ad for Scott paper towels. I’m pretty sure I saw Shelley Long, before her film and Cheers days, hawking furniture in another ad.

I looked up Alan Bell, and learned that his son, Joshua, is an incredibly gifted violinist. Much to my shame, I had no idea. He’s a few years older than I am, and very cute. Joshua Bell’s mother, Shirley Bell, worked as a therapist, and his father, Alan Bell, was a highly regarded psychologist at Indiana University. Shirley Bell’s mother was from Minsk, in Belarus, and her father was from Palestine; hence, she was Jewish. Bell was of Scottish descent. No wonder Joshua Bell had such great musical chops. 😉 The story goes that when Joshua was very young, he used rubber bands to make strings across the nine knobs on his dresser. His mother caught him plucking out music he’d heard her playing on the piano. Being a savvy sort of mom, Shirley Bell found her son a violin teacher. Now, Joshua Bell plays a Stradivarius and makes absolutely beautiful music. Seriously, I’m listening to him play as I write this… he really is extraordinary, and he doesn’t just play the classics.

The song I was just listening to… SIGH!!!!
And Joshua Bell playing “live”.

I also learned that Joshua Bell had a touch of his dad in him. Some years ago, he conducted an experiment for the Washington Post, donning a New York Yankees baseball cap and playing 45 minutes for free in the Washington, DC metro station. He earned $32.17 from passersby, not counting the $20 someone who recognized him gave him. Three days prior to his “free” concert in the metro station, Bell earned a whole lot more money playing for paying customers at a concert. Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his article about the experiment.

Fascinating! You just never know who’s busking.

As an aside, I always make a point of giving money to buskers. I know how much goes into learning how to play music, and I appreciate the ambiance they contribute, especially in Europe. There have been a few occasions when I’ve even cried listening to some of the more talented street players. Like, for instance, a certain Polish guitarist Bill and I met last time we visited Florence (in 2013). We will be going back to Florence at the end of this month. I hope I run into Piotr again… and I’m so glad we bought his beautiful CD.

My friend Donna used to work at a classical radio station when she was a teenager. She said she had a huge crush on Joshua Bell back then. I’m ashamed to say that I simply hadn’t heard of him until two days ago, but last night, I bought several of his albums not having heard them before. I am listening to them now, and I’m not sorry I bought them. And to think I have Phil Donahue to thank for this! Who says you can’t learn from TV? Or from YouTube, for that matter?

Speaking of YouTube… about a month ago, some people on RfM who had endured some of my videos told me that I should try singing on camera. I don’t typically do that, because I get very self-conscious about my appearance. Also, I don’t put on makeup or regular clothes unless I’m going out in public, which I don’t do very often these days. But one poster was pretty adamant that I should try it. He also looks forward to seeing me play guitar and sing at the same time on video. I decided to buy a mic stand after that discussion, but only got around to making an on camera video yesterday. No, I’m not quite ready to play and sing at the same time, but yesterday I decided to record my version of an Alison Krauss cover of “Dreaming My Dreams With You”. I got notified by my favorite karaoke track vendor that the recording was available, so I downloaded it… and since yesterday, it was chilly and cloudy and I wanted to stall walking the dogs, I decided to try it on camera. I kind of cringe watching it, but the music turned out nicely, I think.

No makeup, no bra, and in fact, that is one of my nightgowns I am wearing… But it was well-received, anyway. I shocked a few people who knew me in high school, when I didn’t sing.

I don’t know what today will hold. Wednesday isn’t a big household chore day for me, so I’ll probably watch more Donahue. He does seem to be pretty interested in homosexuality… or at least he was in the 80s. But what really blows me away are some of the comments from the audience members. Listening to some of these folks is a reminder of how different society was in the early 80s. It’s a poignant look at what people who weren’t (or aren’t) straight had to deal with in the days before many people started to accept that not everyone is cisgendered. I generally have a lot of compassion for people who are different, but I am especially compassionate towards people who grew up at a time when it was especially difficult to be who they really are without risking huge consequences. And listening to some of the callers and audience members talk about homosexuality really just drives home what a challenge that must have been for so many people. My heart goes out to them.

Well, so ends another blog post. I’m going to practice guitar and maybe walk the dogs… and then I might look for another rabbit hole to fall into. Later, y’all!

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