Today was our second full day in Ribeauville. We were supposed to spend another full day here, but James Taylor has caused us to leave tomorrow. It appears that his Copenhagen show went off without a hitch, which means that Frankfurt will probably be going on, as planned. So, tomorrow, we will pack up and go back to Germany and, in 24 hours, I suspect I will be sitting in a second row seat, listening to James play and sing. I know not everyone appreciates James Taylor, but he has gotten me through a lot.
Today, I thought we might go to Riquewihr, which is not even 2 miles away. But we ended up not going there, Instead, we had a very sumptuous and filling lunch, then bought some wine and goodies for Bill’s daughter and grandchildren. I would have liked to have gone to Riquewihr, only to pick up wine and maybe some Madeleines. Also, last time we were there, we had lunch in this restaurant, where I had the most delicious potatoes. I would have liked to have gone back for that… but I don’t even know if that place is open, since the Christmas markets are just around the corner.
It’s actually nice that it’s so quiet here right now, since we have the dogs. No one else is staying in the apartments, so the boys are not bothering anyone. And they’ve been very well behaved, anyway. Yesterday, they howled for about a minute before they quieted down. And Noyzi finally figured out that he needs to do his business on the leash. This was very important, because it’s the only way he can go on trips with us. He doesn’t mind being boarded at all, but I think he’s liked this outing. There is also every chance that we’ll be bringing him to the USA with us at some point, so he needs to learn that it’s okay to go to the bathroom on a leash.
This will probably be Arran’s last visit here… but one never knows. He’s been really surprising us over the past month. And this town is so easy to visit, especially when we just want a quick break from home. I envisioned a fancier holiday for our 20th, but this has worked out well. We feel at home here. I won’t have a lot of exciting stuff to travel blog about, but it’s been a beautiful visit, just the same. We’ve had lots of rest, too… and, the beauty of tomorrow is, we rented the apartment until Sunday, so there’s no rush to leave tomorrow morning.
I actually felt motivated to write a rant earlier today, but I think I’ll wait until I get home. I don’t want to shave my Alsatian wine buzz… I feel very fortunate that we have this ability, to just go to France when we feel like it, and hang out in one of its most beautiful areas. It’s a blessing, and I don’t want to spoil it with a complaint.
Today, we had sunshine, and we had rain… hence the title of this post… especially since we will (probably) be seeing the man who composed that song tomorrow night.
It’s already 5:00pm, and I’m just now sitting down to post on my blog. I can’t even say it’s been a particularly busy day. Last night, we had dinner at one of the few Ribeauville restaurants we’d never tried. It also happened to be one of the few places that was open right now. Our “host” says that a lot of the local businesses shut down around now, because the Christmas markets are about to start. When the markets start, they will be working very hard, so they take a break beforehand.
Isn’t that crazy? In America, you’d never see half a town shut down because of upcoming Christmas markets. But then, people in America don’t have the same concept of work/life balance as the French do. In a couple of months, a lot of them will shut down again, because it’ll be January and DEAD.
We often come to Ribeauville when it’s the low season. Although this is our sixth time here, we have only been here once when tourism was a thing. I remember we were relegated to a tiny gite, because the one we usually rent was booked. I don’t mind that a lot of places are closed, as long as a few restaurants are open so we don’t starve.
Noyzi took all day to pee. He’s not used to going to the bathroom while on his leash. Bill said it was a two minute stream. He still hasn’t pooped yet. I’m sure that’s coming soon. Hopefully, it will happen outside.
We took a walk this morning, then had a big lunch with a bottle of wine. When we came back in the mid afternoon, I was really sleepy. So I tried to read… and sure enough, I was soon in dreamland. It was a very nice nap, but now it’s dark outside.
Arran has been to this town a few times, although his last visit was in 2018. When we arrived here yesterday, he knew exactly where to go, and was leading the way. I know he has cancer, but you’d really never know it to look at him right now. He’s doing very well.
It looks like James Taylor’s show is going to happen on Saturday, so we will cut this visit short. I think it will be a good thing, if only because Noyzi will probably really need to poop. He usually gets poop zoomies before he goes. He can’t do that here. But he’s enjoying himself, and I think he’s loving seeing a new town in a different country. This is a good place to teach him how to travel. Maybe we can bring him along more often, although he really loves being boarded. Arran, on the other hand, would much rather be with us. I could tell, yesterday, that he was so glad not to be going to the Hunde Hotel.
Ribeauville is a sight for sore eyes. I’m glad we came here to celebrate our 20th anniversary. This morning’s croissant alone, made it worth the trip. I may write something more substantial tomorrow, but today, I just felt like enjoying the break and taking a nap with my favorite boys…
Yesterday afternoon, I was feeling kind of inspired, so I decided to record a song in honor of our 20th wedding anniversary, which happens tomorrow. I spent some time looking through the songs I had available and tried a few before I noticed an old chestnut by James Taylor. Back in 1977, James released his album, JT. He was still married to Carly Simon at the time, and they had two young children– three year old Sarah Maria, “Sally”, and newborn Ben. James was transitioning to a new record label, moving on from Warner to Columbia Records. Just a few years after JT was released, James and Carly divorced. However, that album has some really nice songs on it. For the longest time, one of my favorites from that particular release is a song called “Terra Nova”, which includes beautiful vocals from Carly. Years later, Ben and Sally would sing the coda from “Terra Nova” on one of Ben’s songs.
That album also included an actual song for Carly… a love song James wrote called, “There We Are”. Maybe I could have done this one, but I don’t think it has quite the same ageless quality. Also, ultimately, James and Carly didn’t stay married. And I would have had to do it in the original key, which probably would have been hard.
I remember when I first bought JT on compact disc, back around 1991 or so, and listened to the whole thing. I realized that my sister, Becky, had this album on tape and played it when we were living in England. I heard the deep cut, “If I Keep My Heart Out of Sight” as a five year old in 1977, and remembered James’s lyric, “All I can say is I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.” I remember hearing this when I was about 18 or 19 and being kind of shocked by the deep memory. It had been so long since I’d heard the song, and I didn’t realize what a good song it was. The early 90s are when I really got into James’s music, and he helped me get through some very tough times.
But one song I never really liked, at least when I first heard it, was “Secret O’ Life”. I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I think maybe when I was 19, I thought it was boring… the lyrics are pleasant, but at least at the time, they seemed kind of banal. It wasn’t until I heard James sing it live that I realized what a good song it is. I still never thought I would have sung it myself, and yet yesterday, that is precisely what I did, after dropping the pitch three steps. And even funnier… this time, I actually videoed myself as I was singing, which I don’t do very often. I can’t be arsed to put on makeup or a bra… and as you can see, I didn’t do that yesterday, either.
Here are the lyrics, written by James Taylor:
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it. Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill. But since we’re on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride.
The secret of love is in opening up your heart. It’s okay to feel afraid, but don’t let that stand in your way. Cause anyone knows that love is the only road. And since we’re only here for a while, might as well show some style. Give us a smile.
Isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down, try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.
Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real. It’s just your point of view, how does it feel for you? Einstein said he could never understand it all. Planets spinning through space, the smile upon your face, welcome to the human race.
Some kind of lovely ride. I’ll be sliding down, I’ll be gliding down. Try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.
Isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down, try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Maybe it’s not obviously a love song… or an anniversary song. It just seemed perfect, for some reason. After 20 years, Bill and I are very comfortable with each other. And I feel like we’ve had a “lovely ride”, for the most part… and we’ve definitely done some things in style, even if we don’t usually dress in style.
I also thought this was a good song for us this year, because it looks like James might be able to do his concert in Frankfurt, after all. As I write this, James is in Stockholm, preparing for tonight’s show. He shared a video that I think he took himself, as he walked through downtown Stockholm. I heard the trace of a cough and he seemed a little tired, but that’s to be expected. COVID has that effect on people. I’ve never been to downtown Stockholm. I’ve only been to the dock.
It looks like we’ll see him this weekend. Or, I still maintain hope… especially since this might be the last time we get to see him. Or, maybe it won’t be. I know James loves to perform and will probably keep doing it until he physically can’t do it anymore, but things are getting weirder and weirder, and none of us are getting any younger. So, I’m glad I had a chance to try “Secret O’ Life”, and enjoy the passage of time with Bill. May we have twenty or more years together!
It’s time for another goofy selfie. Today’s featured photo was taken in Innsbruck, Austria, in August 2020.We’re both a bit broader and greyer.
Good morning, everybody. It’s November 16th, which means it’s my wedding anniversary. Nineteen years ago, Bill and I tied the knot under somewhat scary circumstances. He was a 38 year old man who had been through divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, domestic violence, and 9/11 at the Pentagon. I was 30 years old and recently graduated from a double master’s degree program that had put me in a lot of debt.
We met in a chat room in 1999. He was newly separated from Ex and had recently rejoined the Army as a full time officer. I had just started grad school and didn’t know anyone. We fell into a friendship in November of that year, finally meeting in person in 2001. When 9/11 struck and no one knew we were dating, we decided to go public… and not long after that, we got engaged.
Now, here I sit, pretty much debt free, but never having used those degrees I spent three long years working to earn. Bill is retired. The last nineteen years have been full of adventure and, for the most part, a lot of fun. I talked to Bill and my mom last night. Bill is in Poland on business. Mom is in Virginia, watching ships pass from the windows of her apartment, which offer great views of the Chesapeake Bay. I didn’t have much to say to Bill, since I last saw him at 4:00am Monday morning, before he flew to Warsaw.
To my mom, I said I was surprised by how well marriage has worked out for Bill and me. Especially considering how and where we met. Lots of people had doubts about the feasibility of our relationship. My mom, especially, was creeped out that we met on the Internet. She thought it was WEIRD. Years later, she admitted she was wrong to doubt us.
My career didn’t work out the way I had hoped it might. Now I think that’s probably a blessing, even if it’s hard on my ego. I had always wanted to be a writer. Sure enough, that’s what I am. Almost every day, I write something, even if lately, I’ve been putting up a lot of reposts. I don’t mind the reposts, since a lot of them eventually do get read, especially the book reviews. The reposts are, for the most part, from days when I had good thoughts to put down, and I see nothing wrong with recycling stuff. I live in a country where recycling is the law. Aside from that, sometimes I just can’t think of anything I want to write about that badly. That’s not a bad thing. Taking the odd day off is good for the soul and helps me recharge, and sometimes old posts are still entertaining or educational.
This morning, I was reading some old posts I’d written. I was trying to think of what I wanted to write about today. I found a post I wrote called “My Special Brand of Shitty Sunshine“. I had forgotten what it was about, but was intrigued by the title. One might think that post would be full of vitriol. Actually, it’s a fairly thoughtful post inspired by Caleb Wilde, the guy who runs the Facebook page for Confessions of a Funeral Director. I wrote it on May 19, 2019, after having read an insightful post Caleb had written. I was struck by his thoughts on why he writes, and I related to it so much so that I quoted him:
“Speak and write about your scars, not your open wounds. That’s the axiom you’re supposed to follow as a writer.”
Anyone who regularly reads my writing knows that I often write about my scars. However, like Caleb, I also write about my gaping wounds. Sometimes people don’t know how to take some of my more “honest” thoughts, especially about certain subjects. I have occasionally been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice about some of my content or opinions. Some have warned me that sometimes I come off like an ass. Of course, that only stands to reason, because just like almost everyone else out there, sometimes I actually AM an ass. I’m just being authentic. 🙂
On the other hand, people have also told me that many times, the posts about my open wounds are useful. They relate to them, or are entertained by them. Or, sometimes they SHOW me the posts are useful to them, by stabbing me in the back and talking trash about me to a certain mutual former landlady, or to likeminded people who don’t like me and want to stir up shit among themselves. While I’d rather people didn’t use my writings to cause trouble, there’s not much I can do to stop people from doing what they’re going to do. That’s the price I pay for writing down my thoughts and sharing them. Besides, since we left Stuttgart, most of that juvenile crap has stopped, since I have made a point of not engaging with most of the military community in Wiesbaden.
I know a lot of people make lifelong friends through ties to the military. My parents had some dear, wonderful friends from my dad’s 22 years in the Air Force. Bill and I have made a few friends, too. But, by and large, I’ve found that trying to make friends with most people is kind of a fruitless exercise. It’s kind of like dating. You date someone for awhile and break up… and sometimes you can be friends afterwards, but a lot of times, there’s too much pain and the relationship falls apart. I haven’t dated much in my lifetime, but I have found that I’ve had a lot of “friends” who turned out to be temporary. On the other hand, I’ve had other friends who have been around for decades, even if very few of them are “close friends”.
Maybe finding real friends is more like panning for gold, which in some ways, is harder in the age of the Internet. It’s easier to find “friends”, but harder to find quality friends. A lot of people think I’m weird, anyway, and don’t take the time to get to know me well. But, in fairness, I don’t invest a lot of time in them, either, because I sense that they don’t quite accept me the way I am. At my age, changing for the sake of a friendship that will probably be temporary isn’t worth the effort. So, those who take me as I am, like Bill… and even my mom, these days, are people I make an effort to keep in my life. There are a few true friends, too… including a couple of people I’ve never met in person and know little about.
But, in all seriousness, having been associated with the military lifestyle for the past 19 years, I gotta say that as much as I loved living in Stuttgart– especially since a total of six of our years as a couple were spent there– it really is the most toxic place we’ve ever lived. It’s even more toxic and dramatic than living on Fort Belvoir was. We spent four years living there, and we saw a LOT of drama. And that was before Facebook or Twitter! Stuttgart the second time was even worse, even though we didn’t live in a stairwell apartment but, in fairness, that probably was because of social media.
Caleb continues with this: “Burnout, secondary trauma, PTSD, depression, fear, disassociation, social anxiety . . . these are all a part of my concoction of diagnosed open wounds (more on the diagnosed part of things when I’m feeling up to talking about it). And these wounds rarely have time to heal when their source is your job. For some of us, like me, writing from our scars isn’t entirely possible because some wounds just remain . . . open.”
Well… he’s a funeral director, so he’s bound to see and hear a lot of sad stories. He’s not unlike a bartender or a mental health counselor of any stripe. I wrote the post that fathered this one in May 2019, before COVID-19 was a thing. Caleb’s business is bound to be even more difficult today than it was two and a half years ago. In fact, it occurs to me that I haven’t seen any recent posts by him. I just checked his Facebook page, and it looks like the last fresh post from him dates November 13, 2020. I can only assume that he’s very busy with his work. I hope nothing worse has happened.
But this is what he posted, almost a year ago… and I guess it offers some explanation:
There’s a sliver of time in a person’s life when society actually encourages us to care for ourselves. That sliver of time we’re afforded for self-care happens when we experience a loss. After we lose someone or something, it’s like all of a sudden everyone around us becomes caring and encouraging with phrases like:
“You can get through this!”
“It’s okay to express your feelings.”
And . . . “You need to take some time for yourself.”
And for a minute we believe them. We allow ourselves to let our space get a little dirty. Or maybe we stop shaving. Maybe we order out and watch more Netflix. During a loss, we let ourselves take care of ourselves.
But in the back of our minds we have an imaginary clock that’s counting down the days til self-care takes a back seat to “responsibility.”
Right now all of us are experiencing a loss. A loss of normality, of the rhythms were used to dancing to. Just like with the loss of a loved one, we’re suddenly having to learn an entirely new dance with no promise that the old dance will ever play again.
We’re friends, right? You’re here because you’ve read something I’ve written and you connected to it. So, as your friend, let me tell you:
“You can get through this.” There’s no promise the end of this will be the same as the beginning. It won’t be. But we can get to the other side.
“It’s okay to express your feelings.”
A lot of us don’t like the COVID versions of ourselves and that’s okay. It’s okay to be less patient, less stable. Take all the time you need to accept yourself as you are right now.
“You need to take some time for yourself.”
You can stay safe and not be a martyr. Nobody is asking us to sacrifice ourselves. Do something you like (the pic is me doing something I like). Stay away from things you hate. Train your mind to think on things you enjoy, not things that make you angry and fearful. You have total permission to care for yourself. I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay to be a little more patient and gracious to myself right now. I give that same grace and patience to the families I serve at the funeral home. I don’t have to starve myself of what I give.
I don’t know what Caleb Wilde is up to right now. I hope he’s alright, and the realities of life in 2021 haven’t buried him, either figuratively or literally. It occurs to me, though, that his writings about his scars and gaping wounds have inspired me, and taught me new things. Likewise, I hope some of the things I write are inspirational, educational, entertaining, or even just offer some reaction of some sort. Even if that reaction is disgust or anger… or something else negative.
And… just as I’m about to close today’s musings, James Taylor’s song, “Daddy’s All Gone” just came on. As I sit here, wishing Bill was home on our anniversary, and I’m reminded that his career has taken him away so many times… though so far, not permanently… I realize how prescient that song could have been for him. He wasn’t a James Taylor fan before he met me, but he’s come to appreciate his music. I’m sure I’ve played “Daddy’s All Gone” for Bill. It might have made him choke up, especially given that he missed out on raising his daughters.
We were supposed to see James play in Frankfurt on February 11. We have second row seats. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has fucked that up, and James had to postpone his European tour. I hope he gets here eventually. I really could use another show by him. I’m not surprised the tour was postponed, though. A year ago, we were supposed to see Keb’ Mo’ play in Mainz. He has postponed that show three times. At this writing, we’re due to use our tickets for last year’s concert on May 11, 2022. I had to look it up, because I can’t keep all of the updates straight anymore.
Well, I guess I’ve prattled on long enough. Those songs remind me I really need to practice guitar. Thanks to COVID-19, I may have more time for practicing, because I fear there may be another lockdown soon. Anyway… we’ll probably do something celebratory over the weekend. And maybe I’ll put up the fucking Christmas decorations while he’s gone. Wow… this year has flown by. Before we know it, I’ll be thinking about what to write on our 20th wedding anniversary.
Edited to add… Bill and I walked down the aisle to “Highland Cathedral”. I just happened to stumble across this rendition, and now I’m a blubbering mess. Seriously… it is GORGEOUS.
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.
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