dogs, politics, Trump

Everything is either changing, dying, or already dead…

The last few months have been really strange. Several people who were part of my life in some way have passed away. I just got the news that our beloved Arran is terminally ill with lymphoma, a cancer. Putin is threatening to use nukes if he doesn’t get control of Ukraine. Donald Trump’s legal woes deepen by the minute. And Britain has a brand new king, because his beloved mother finally passed the bar. I suppose it stands to reason that my stomach hurts a little bit… just enough to be annoying and get me to drink tea instead of coffee.

Hell, even my phone is changing. Yesterday, Apple launched a big update, and I updated most of my stuff, with the exception of my watch and my Apple Touch, which is too full of music to handle an update. I just tried to update the watch, and was informed that I have to update my phone before I could update the watch. So I just finished doing that, and now the watch is updating. My phone says it’ll take two hours. I notice the latest update was a pretty substantial one. The display on my phone is different now, and the phone prompted me to set up a new audio setting that involved letting the camera see my ears, get the angles of my face, and figure out optimal audio. I guess, anyway. I find that as I get older, I have less interest in figuring out everything my gadgets can do.

The season is changing from summer to fall. Days are getting shorter. Temperatures are noticeably cooler. Pretty soon, the trees will be changing, and there will be a lot more rain.

Soon, we’ll have just one dog instead of two and, for the first time since 2002, there won’t be a beagle mix in our midst. I was thinking about that last night at about 5:00pm, as we were waiting for Bill to get home from work. Arran has a routine most nights. He goes down to the foyer and waits near the door for Bill to come home. Last night, Bill was a little later than usual because he needed to stop by the store. I had asked him to get some canned pumpkin for Arran, as it’s soothing to his stomach. He wasn’t able to go to the commissary, and couldn’t find canned pumpkin in the German store, so he bought a fresh one and roasted it. Arran was a little confused by it this morning, but did eat it. He didn’t finish his breakfast, though.

Arran is still engaged for now…
Bill is a good dad, even if it’s just to our dogs.

Some of the changes that are happening are good things. I see progress being made in repairing some of the damage wrought by Donald Trump, although some people are stubbornly trying to defend him and deny that he’s guilty as hell. Yesterday, someone else tried to bait me into an argument, just based on that one comment I left on Amy Klobuchar’s page. I automatically wished him a good day, after reminding him that it’s still okay to disagree with one another.

I was relieved to read about how the “special master” Trump demanded that Trump “put up or shut up”. Trump couldn’t do it, so the documents he allegedly stole from the White House will be used as evidence as an indictment hangs over him, along with many lawsuits. I suspect this is probably going to ruin a certain small town judge’s reputation, too… for being Trump’s flunky. I really hope Trump is brought to justice. I also hope that people don’t lose their fucking minds if he is brought to justice… but you just can’t tell anymore. Everyone seems to be so angry lately. I long for normalcy, but maybe this is the new normal. Maybe people are going to be angry from now on.

I read this morning that people in Russia, having been told that Putin is about to draft people to fight his pointless war against Ukraine, are trying to flee to other countries. In a very strange twist, it seems that a lot of Russians are heading to Armenia and Turkey, where they don’t need visas. Why? Because they don’t want to fight and die for Putin’s ego, which is what this is all about. It’s very strange to read about this turn of events, though. When I lived in Armenia, Armenians were trying to leave to the country, and they were going to Russia, Europe, Australia or the United States. Now, people are flocking to them for safety. Something needs to be done about Putin, too.

We’re supposed to go away next week… I’ve really been looking forward to it. But now I’m not sure it’s a good idea to go. We’ll probably go anyway, though, as things get weirder and weirder. We might as well. Winter is coming, and this one might be a tough one.

This post is turning out to be about a lot about nothing… I have so much on my mind that it’s hard to settle on one thing. So maybe it’s time to stop writing and do something else, until I can settle on one specific topic. The featured photo is of Arran last night, who tucked himself into bed between Bill and me. He is the sweetest dog… and I am trying to enjoy him, as I know he’s going to be leaving us soon. Losing Arran is probably going to be the toughest change to get used to by far. Maybe he’s the lucky one.

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condescending twatbags, sexism, social media, stupid people, YouTube

Mama Doctor Jones gets unfollowed… but not by me!

This morning, I woke up to a Twitter alert on my iPad. I don’t really pay a lot of attention to Twitter as a general rule, but ever since my recent debacle with USAA, I’ve tweeted more frequently, and that may be why Mama Doctor Jones came up today. Some jerk named Neil sent her this…

Wow, Neil… don’t let the door hit you on the ass as you make your grand exit.

I don’t understand Neil’s delusional comments. It looks like he didn’t pay much attention in English or social studies when he was in school. He doesn’t know what socialism is, or what constitutes socialism in a country. He lacks compassion for people who don’t want to be pregnant, can’t afford to be pregnant, or for whom being pregnant is unsafe, for whatever reason. He cares more about an unaware developing person than a person who has already been born and is aware. And bafflingly, he seems upset that Mama Doctor Jones (aka Danielle Jones, MD) has left the country. If he has such negative opinions about her, and her beliefs, shouldn’t he be glad she’s left the United States to a place more to her liking?

Not that I actually know if New Zealand is more to Dr. Jones’s liking. I have no reason to believe that she left the United States as a means of protest or disloyalty. Maybe she just wanted to try living in a new country. I’ve done it myself a few times. It doesn’t mean I don’t love the United States. I just enjoy experiencing new cultures and meeting different kinds of people. It also helps that Bill makes an excellent living in Germany, inconvenient as living here can be sometimes.

I’ve never been to New Zealand, but I’ve seen pictures. I know at least one person who voluntarily moved there. I can see why it would be an appealing place to live. From what I’ve seen, the place is absolutely STUNNING. And it has a leader who cares about people, rather than money and power. I would love to visit New Zealand sometime. I envy Dr. Jones for her opportunity to work somewhere different. If and when she comes home to the USA, or even if she chooses to work somewhere else, she will have a unique perspective that will be useful to her colleagues and patients. I wish all Americans had a chance to live abroad for awhile. It might make us better, wiser people as a whole.

Many of the responses to Neil’s comments by Mama Doctor Jones’s Twitter followers are pretty classic. Some people have pointed out that in the United States, as a whole, we don’t really get taught a lot about other countries or their governments. I don’t remember ever learning about New Zealand when I was in school. I don’t remember learning much about socialism or communism, even though the Soviet Union was alive and well when I was in school. I mean, yes, we talked about communism, and we had kickass propaganda movies like Red Dawn to watch, but I don’t remember any of my teachers really explaining what communism is as an economic theory. We just talked about how sad it was that people were being forced to live behind tall fences, with no freedom to live as they pleased. That was pretty much the narrative. We didn’t learn much about why communism or socialism might be attractive on any level. We also didn’t discuss how communism and socialism differed.

It wasn’t until I lived in Armenia that I finally had an inkling of what it must have been like during the Soviet era. I met lovely, generous, intelligent, talented people– people who, just a few years prior to my arrival as a Peace Corps Volunteer, were considered “enemies” just for being Soviet citizens. But yes, I could see how the government system they had lived under was problematic. At the time, I didn’t see how my own “capitalistic” government was also problematic. Now that I live in a country where social democracy is the rule, I can see why some intelligent Americans are seeking to leave the United States. I mean, it isn’t a perfect system, but I think it’s better than capitalism.

A friend of Bill’s recently told him about his wife’s experiences being treated for cancer in Germany. This guy and his wife, both American citizens, went to Landstuhl, the largest U.S. military hospital outside of the United States, looking for help, when his wife came down with colon cancer. The military hospital couldn’t offer her care immediately, so she sought help from the local hospital. She was asked to come in for an appointment that very day. She went in; the doctors found the problem; she was treated; and she’s now in remission. Total cost? It was about $12,000, from start to finish; many of the expenses were covered by health insurance. That would not be the story in the United States, even with health insurance coverage. These folks would qualify for care in a military facility, but as she was not on active duty, and her husband is retired military, treatment probably would have been on a space available basis. And U.S. doctors and medical facilities aren’t always too keen on accepting Tricare, since reimbursement rates tend to be low, and filing for reimbursement is often complicated.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t problems in Germany or other countries. People here do pay a lot of taxes, and some things are more expensive here than they are in the United States. For example, gas is a lot more expensive. We can get gas on military installations, but it’s still costlier than it would be in the US. Electronics are more expensive. I think clothes cost more, too. But the overall atmosphere is more community minded. There’s plenty of public transportation, and always a “fest” going on (except during COVID lockdowns). Workers have rights, and so do families. New parents get paid time off work to take care of their babies when they’re born, and time off is allowed for workers to enjoy life. My husband works for the United States, but because we live in Germany, we benefit from a lot of the local rules here.

This doesn’t mean that I haven’t missed home, at times. I have family and lots of friends in America. It will always be my home. But I sure have appreciated being allowed to live in Germany. If anything, I’ve learned that our way is neither the only, nor necessarily the best, way to live. I don’t know how much longer we’ll live here, but I’m happy enough to stay for now. I don’t have a burning desire to go back “home” anytime soon. I don’t think many people there miss me, either. An added bonus is that people in Germany aren’t compelled to carry weapons with them wherever they go, like a lot of Americans are. I’m sure Mama Doctor Jones has noticed the same in New Zealand.

I also wonder why “Neil” was following Mama Doctor Jones in the first place. Does he require the assistance of an OB-GYN? I mean, I think it’s perfectly fine for a man to follow Mama Doctor Jones. My husband has enjoyed her informative and entertaining videos on YouTube. I have a couple of male friends who have watched her videos, too, because I have suggested them. They enjoyed learning from her, too. But Neil doesn’t seem like the type of guy who appreciated the so-called “gentler sex”. What prompted him to tweet Mama Doctor Jones? And was he really following her? It seems a bit strange to me that someone with an obviously anti-woman viewpoint would watch videos by a progressive physician like Danielle Jones, MD. Either way, I doubt she’ll lose any sleep over his decision to unfollow her. He obviously doesn’t need her help.

And finally, I wonder if Neil thinks that his tweet will cause Mama Doctor Jones to change. At this writing, Mama Doctor Jones is wildly popular and successful on her social media platforms. She has 72.3K followers on Twitter, and 1.15M subscribers on YouTube. I, on the other hand, have 87 YouTube subscribers and around 60 people who regularly follow my blog. ūüėÄ I used to have more followers, back when I was more assertively promoting my stuff. I learned that I don’t have the patience to deal with people like Neil, nor do I necessarily have the gift of charm or tact.

Mama Doctor Jones is a very appealing personality. She’s smart, attractive, funny, and empathic. No wonder people like her. Outliers like Neil, and their silly tweets, only make Mama Doctor Jones more popular. People love to stick up for sympathetic characters, and Dr. Jones is definitely someone who has an appealing message for MANY people. Sure, she’s for a woman’s right to choose abortion, but that only makes her a better doctor, in my view. Because she takes care of her patients, and when a pregnant person comes to her for help, they are the patient. I like that Mama Doctor Jones cares for people who have already been born. That’s the way it ought to be. And since Neil presumably has no need to see an OB-GYN, my opinion probably carries more weight than his does.

Anyway, I sure hope Neil is enjoying life among the clueless in whichever red state he’s dwelling in right now. I’m sure the rest of us who follow Mama Doctor Jones appreciate his consideration in taking himself out of our midsts. Neil’s tweets remind me of the below status update I saw on Facebook yesterday…

My response? BYE… Not gonna be able to deliver on that order of attention you wanted, Neil.

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art, music, musings, nostalgia, true crime

I experience synchronicity as The Police finally do their job…

In 1983, a band called The Police, fronted by the ever lovable Sting, released an album called Synchronicity. That album has always been kind of important to me, even though I wasn’t necessarily a Police fan in 1983, and some people think it’s their “weakest” work. Personally, I disagree. Maybe Synchronicity wasn’t as edgy as some of the other albums done by The Police, but it legitimately had some incredible songs on it that still sound amazing in 2022. I actually gifted this album on vinyl to my ex best friend, and it was probably through her that I learned to love The Police before Sting went solo. It could have just as easily been my older sister who influenced me, since she’s the one who turned me on to Kate Bush.

As I sit here writing this blog post today, I’m reminded of the wise and intelligent lyrics penned by Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland all those years ago, when I was still a kid, and some of the most important people to me were on the brink of starting their adult lives. I hope you’ll indulge me this clumsy foray into creativity today. Sometimes the clumsiest attempts can eventually lead to grace. Of course, this post could also turn out to be totally cheesy, non-sensical, and stupid crap. We’ll see what happens.

A picture of Matt from after I knew him… when he was younger, he looked a lot like Sting. I have pictures of him from our Peace Corps days, but they are unfortunately in storage. In 1983, Matt was turning 20. I wouldn’t meet him until 1995.

I was sitting on my bed last night, watching my new Facts of Life DVDs, pretending it was the early 80s again. I was a bonafide child in the early 1980s, while Bill was a young man about to embark on his career. Although I didn’t have the greatest childhood, sometimes I like to watch old TV shows from that time in my life. I also love the music from that time, even the really shitty stuff. There’s something about it that comforts me and makes me feel– temporarily– like I’m still young, with my whole life ahead of me. Then I’m jolted into reality as I realize that in a few short months, I’ll be 50 years old. And there’s still a lot I’ve never managed to do. Maybe watching shows like The Facts of Life temporarily make me feel like I still have a lot of years left. So does listening to albums like Synchronicity. But then, Sting is a master songwriter, so his work probably holds up much better than The Facts of Life does.

Tea in the Sahara

The sky turned to black
Would he ever come back?
They would climb a high dune
They would pray to the moon
But he’d never return
So the sisters would burn
As their eyes searched the land
With their cups full of sand

As I was soothing myself with the best seasons of a successful sitcom last night, I suddenly remembered my friend, Matthew Jensen, who was killed last May, just hours after celebrating his 58th birthday with family and friends. It was just after midnight in Brooklyn, New York on May 18th, and Matt was walking home from his own birthday party. He had almost reached his abode, and was crossing a dangerous intersection, when a man driving a black Rolls Royce mowed him down in the street and left him for dead.

Every Breath You Take

Since you’ve gone, I’ve been lost without a trace
I dream at night, I can only see your face
I look around, but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold, and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby please

I’ve written about Matt a few times, and I’ve thought of Matt many more times since his death. Although it had been years since we last spoke, Matt left an indelible impression on me. I was legitimately devastated when I heard about what had happened to him. I hated the thought that the person who is responsible for taking him out of the world was still free to harm other people. Since last May, I’ve been watching the news to see if anyone was being held responsible for killing my old friend and colleague. Every time I looked for updates, I was left disappointed that there hadn’t been any new news about the case. I was beginning to lose hope, so my searches had become less frequent. I don’t even know why I thought of Matt last night, in spite of the impression he made on me. Life goes on, even after someone interesting dies.

Synchronicity I

A connecting principle
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectible
Nothing is invincible

When Matt’s memory inexplicably and suddenly popped into my head, I found myself dutifully searching for news about his case. As usual, I didn’t have much hope that there would be any new developments. And then, there it was. Someone finally got arrested. At 8:45 AM, Brooklyn time, a 30 year old man named Tariq Witherspoon turned himself in to the 94th Precinct station house. Mr. Witherspoon, who was employed for eleven years as an Emergency Medical Technician for the New York Fire Department, is being charged with criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless endangerment, and speeding. Was it intuition that caused me to look for that news? I don’t know. Maybe it was synchronicity.

Murder By Numbers

Once that you’ve decided on a killing
First you make a stone of your heart
And if you find that your hands are still willing
Then you can turn a murder into art

In the early hours of May 18, 2021, Matt was crossing the notoriously dangerous McGuinness Boulevard against the light. Mr. Witherspoon had a green light, but the speed limit was 25 miles per hour. Mr. Witherspoon was reportedly changing lanes at 50 miles an hour, when he and Matt had their tragic meeting with fate. And then, in spite of being an experienced EMT who should have been among the very last people who would commit hit and run, Witherspoon sped off into the night, evading responsibility for Matt’s death for over nine months.

Now if you have a taste for this experience
If you’re flushed with your very first success

Then you must try a twosome or a threesome
You’ll find your conscience bothers you much less
Because murder is like anything you take to
It’s a habit-forming need for more and more

You can bump off every member of your family
And anybody else you find a bore

According to an article published by the NY Daily News, Tariq Witherspoon has been sued several times for other accidents he’s either directly caused, or been involved in, over the past ten years or so. He seems to have a curious fondness for expensive cars. He allegedly hit Matt with a 2010 black Rolls Royce that he’d borrowed, but other accidents involving Witherspoon have involved a Porsche and a Mercedes-Benz, either driven by, lent by, or struck by him. For some reason, in spite of being repeatedly sued after seriously injuring several other people in accidents involving motor vehicles, Mr. Witherspoon has inexplicably been able to maintain his employment as an EMT. However, in light of his arrest, he’s now suspended from his job without pay. He is currently being held on $75,000 bail or a $15,000 cash bond. ETA: NBC says Witherspoon has posted a $15,000 cash bond.

O My God

Everyone I know is lonely
With God so far away
And my heart belongs to no one
So now sometimes I pray
Take the space between us
Fill it up some way
Take the space between us
Fill it up, fill it up

Witherspoon is a Brooklyn resident. He must have seen how much Matt’s community has suffered since he so callously mowed him down last year. There were many memorials for Matt, including one in which former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged $39 million to “fix” the dangerous intersection on McGuinness Boulevard where Matt and others have been injured and/or killed.

I was involved in a much smaller memorial for Matt last July. It took place on Zoom, but there were people from around the world who were there to remember him. I will never forget the sincere grief expressed, particularly by the Armenians Matt worked with when we were in the Peace Corps together. One Armenian man was in tears as he remembered the tall, blond man who helped him get a job with the Peace Corps and showed him a world beyond Vanadzor, the city where Matt worked. I’m sure he was just one of many. My heart breaks for Matt’s students, who reportedly adored him. And then there were his family members and friends who are now left without his presence… as well as two cats.

Mother

Well the telephone is ringing
Is that my mother on the phone?
Telephone is ringing

Is that my mother on the phone?
The telephone is screaming
Won’t she leave me alone?
The telephone is ringing
Is that my mother on the phone?

Matt was a much beloved person by many people around the world. He was incredibly charismatic, and he had a true gift for teaching and presenting. Matt wrote letters, and he had many friends in influential places. He loved to have fun, and he had many quirky interests that made him truly fascinating. He loved ABBA, royal families, and being irreverent. In the weeks after Prince Philip died last year, Matt wrote letters of condolences to Queen Elizabeth II and her daughter, Princess Anne. At the time of his death, Princess Anne had written back to him. Queen Elizabeth’s response, sadly, arrived after Matt was already gone.

I have always remembered Matt as a hilarious, warm, and talented guy, and back when I first met him in 1995, he bore a resemblance to the famous rock star, Sting. He was fun to dance with, and we had many memorable evenings in Armenia enjoying low sodium meals involving beets, lentils, and cabbage. He once told me that he’d learned to cook low sodium meals because his mother had high blood pressure. He also told me a hysterical story about how his mother had once watched a “sickening” Mother’s Day special involving Kathie Lee Gifford. Obviously, I drank in his stories, as did a lot of our colleagues and friends. He was just that kind of person. Unique, magnetic, and just unforgettable.

Walking In Your Footsteps

Hey mighty brontosaurus
Don’t you have a lesson for us
You thought your rule would always last
There were no lessons in your past
You were built three stories high
They say you would not hurt a fly
If we explode the atom bomb
Would they say that we were dumb?

I learned later that Matt was affecting his friends, students, parents, and family members the same way he’d affected me, as he worked as a much beloved and highly respected teacher in Brooklyn. I take some comfort realizing that Matt managed to influence people around the world. At our small online memorial last summer, a man from Armenia wept as he talked about how Matt had influenced him. Later, a woman who had worked with Matt in Brooklyn spoke about how Matt had helped immigrant children fit in at their new school.

Fifty million years ago
You walked upon the planet so
Lord of all that you could see
Just a little bit like me

I know for a fact that Matt spoke Armenian and French. It wouldn’t surprise me if he knew other languages, or at least tried to learn a few words, just to help welcome innocent children to their new home in New York. Everybody knew him, whether or not he was their teacher. He had a towering presence and an infectious energy that was impossible to ignore. He stood six feet four inches tall. And yet, Tariq Witherspoon allegedly hit him at 50 miles per hour and just kept going. For nine months, he’s been evading responsibility for exploding the atom bomb in so many people’s lives… especially the students left behind, some of whom aren’t from the United States and really needed Matt’s comforting presence.

Wrapped Around Your Finger

Devil and the deep blue sea behind me
Vanish in the air you’ll never find me
I will turn your face to alabaster
When you’ll find your servant is your master

Why did it take nine months for Tariq Witherspoon to be arrested? I don’t know. But I do know that he’s about to face judgment. I would not be surprised if there are many people who will want to attend his court sessions. There will be people who will want to speak about the man who died because of his careless actions in a black Rolls Royce. Imagine the absurdity of it. A teacher who had served twice in the Peace Corps killed by a careless man in a very expensive status symbol.

Matthew Jensen was a man who dedicated his life to teaching people, helping them make better lives for themselves. He served in the Peace Corps twice– in Senegal and Armenia– and he worked with children in New York who didn’t speak English. He taught university students. He taught other Americans who were going to carry on his legacy in Armenia, teaching youngsters how to speak English. It was a great loss to the world when Matt Jensen died… but at least we know that someone is finally going to answer for this crime.

King of Pain

There’s a little black spot on the sun today
It’s the same old thing as yesterday
There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top
There’s a flag pole rag and the wind won’t stop

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running ’round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain

I don’t know what kind of person Tariq Witherspoon is. I can only make assumptions. I don’t know what made him choose his line of work, which is supposed to be based in mercy and decency. He’s supposed to save lives, not end them. Based on his record of hitting people in cars, hurting them, and being sued for negligence, I can’t help but wonder if Tariq Witherspoon could have used another session with a guidance counselor.

Miss Gradenko

Don’t tell the director I said so
But are you safe Miss Gradenko
We were at a policy meeting
They were planning new ways of cheating
I didn’t want to rock your boat
But you sent this dangerous note
You’ve been letting your feelings show

Are you safe Miss Gradenko
Miss Gradenko are you safe

I’m glad to know that someone is finally going to answer for Matt’s death. I hope the police have the right guy, and that the charges will stick. I don’t wish pain or torture for Mr. Witherspoon. I just want him off the streets. My unmarried niece lives in Brooklyn now. She doesn’t have a car. I don’t want Tariq Witherspoon to be involved in any other accidents. I don’t want him tending to my niece if she’s ever in need of an EMT. He needs to be taken out of commission for awhile… and hopefully, he’ll learn.

Synchronicity II

Another suburban family morning.
Grandmother screaming at the wall.

We have to shout above the din of our Rice Krispies
We can’t hear anything at all.
Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration,
But we know all her suicides are fake.

Daddy only stares into the distance
There’s only so much more that he can take.
Many miles away something crawls from the slime
At the bottom of a dark Scottish lake.

Bill came home from taking our Kosovar refugee dog, Noyzi, to the vet for booster vaccines. I had just read about Tariq Witherspoon’s arrest when he walked into our bedroom. I looked up at him and said, “I don’t know why, but I just looked up Matt Jensen to see if anyone’s been arrested for his death. And someone was today, just HOURS ago. It’s so weird that I would think of him today– out of the blue– and someone got arrested.”

Bill is about Matt’s age, and he’s one of the kindest, most decent people I’ve ever met. For the past year, he’s been studying the psychologist, Carl Jung. He’s been in analysis with Jungian psychologist, and is even taking courses at the Jung Institute out of Zurich. The concept of synchronicity is one that fascinated Jung. Synchronicity, put simply, describes a situation that seems meaningful, but lacks a causal connection. This kind of thing happens to me all the time. I see important connections in things that might mean nothing to other people. What made me think of Matt last night, all of a sudden? Was there something in the universe– my subconscious? Maybe it was the ghost of Matt himself, tapping me on the shoulder. Who knows?

Later, we were in our dining room eating dinner and listening to music. My music collection is incredibly eclectic. There’s no telling what will play. I have everything from L.L. Cool J to Beethoven in my playlist. Last night, as I sipped a lovely Italian red wine, the strains of a familiar piece from Gabriel Faure started playing. When I was in college, I took many music courses. I was also in a choir, and we performed a number of pieces by Faure, to include parts of his Requiem and the ethereal Messe Basse. Messe Basse is one of my favorite works by Faure.

If you like choral music, I invite you to listen to this. It is a delight to listen to, and glorious to perform.

Then it occurred to me that Faure, was a French man, and Matt spoke French and had spent time in France… and next week, I hope to be in France, too. Just like I was at around the time Anthony Bourdain died. In fact, I was in the area where Bourdain died just a couple of weeks before he passed. Matt wasn’t unlike Bourdain, in terms of his influence or his very “New York” personality… And then I was reminded that back in the spring of 1994, our choir went to New York City at the end of our spring break and performed Messe Basse in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Synchronicity again!

It’s fitting that I’m reminded of choirs when I remember Matt. He had a way of unifying people in harmony. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to perform this magnificent choral work by Faure. Maybe someday, I will have the opportunity… if no one mows me down and leaves me for dead.

And suddenly, I’m reminded of how much I miss college… singing in choirs… traveling… hanging out with friends over bland foods that make me fart… sitcoms from the 80s… I am reminded of how important it is to always appreciate the people in your life who make it special or wonderful, because you never know when they will make an exit. I don’t know if I have ever affected anyone the way Matt affected me, and all of the other people in his life. I’m just grateful that the police in Brooklyn have done their jobs, as The Police from the early 80s do theirs every time I need to think about simpler days, or the complex concepts coined by Carl Jung. Somehow, it all seems to come together, at least in my head.

This song will never be the same.

I’m reminded of these lyrics by Sting… and Matt, a man who always reminded me of Sting… Somehow, we’re all connected.

With one breath
With one flow
You will know
Synchronicity
A sleep trance
A dream dance
A shared romance
Synchronicity

A connecting principle
Linked to the invisible

Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectible
Nothing is invincible

If we share this nightmare
We can dream
Spiritus mundi
If you act as you think
The missing link
Synchronicity

A connecting principle
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectible
Nothing is invincible

We know you
They know me
Extrasensory
Synchronicity
A star fall
A phone call
It joins all
Synchronicity

A connecting principle
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectible
Nothing is invincible

It’s so deep, it’s so wide
You’re inside
Synchronicity
Effect without a cause
Sub-atomic laws
Scientific pause

Synchronicity
Synchronicity
Synchronicity
Synchronicity
Synchronicity

Synchronicity
Synchronicity
Synchronicity
Synchronicity
Synchronicity

For Matt… hopefully in paradise.
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music, musings

Repost: There’s life beyond your senior year… confessions of a C student

Here’s a repost from the original blog, written March 28, 2018. It appears as/is. I know it’s not currently college application season, but I think this post could be useful for some people.

Yesterday, my alma mater did a fundraising drive called #LoveYourLongwood.  This is apparently a new development.  For many years after my graduation in 1994, Longwood University was rather relaxed about fundraising efforts.  I’d say in the past ten years or so, they have become much more assertive about pushing alums to donate money.  I usually ignore the pleas, although I did donate during the holiday season.

I probably would have made a donation yesterday, had I not looked at our rather paltry bank balance.  March still has three days left in it.  Still, as I get older and our finances have improved, I have given some thought to donating more money to my college.  The truth is, I owe a lot to Longwood.  Maybe my time there didn’t lead to a smashing career, but it did leave me with a lot of intangible gifts like wonderful friends, some excellent experiences, and the opportunity to study music simply because I love it.  It was a warm, nurturing place to go to college.  Today, almost 24 years after I graduated, I still reap the benefits of my four years there.

I have¬†written about my college admissions experiences¬†before, but I’m going to briefly repeat the tale for anyone out there in Internet land who is currently experiencing the pain of rejection from college. ¬†I’m inspired to write about this after¬†reading an article in the Boston Globe¬†about the immense pressure high school seniors are dealing with at this time of year. ¬†It takes me back to the spring of 1990, when I was myself trying to find a place to go to school.

I may call myself “The Overeducated Housewife”, but the simple truth is, I was a very ordinary student.  I didn’t earn great grades in high school and didn’t have super high SAT scores.  I did do well on standardized tests, particularly in writing.  However, I was a singularly unimpressive student in high school, even in English class.  I would get praises for my writing, but I didn’t care enough about the books we were reading to put a lot of effort into my papers.  Consequently, I earned average grades.

My parents, who had already raised my three sisters, didn’t really care too much about my performance.  I got through high school pretty much on my own efforts, with lots of Bs and Cs and the occasional D.  I remember working hard in school, particularly in my math and science classes, but not as hard as I probably should have.  I didn’t have any extra help, nor did I have anyone pushing me to excel.  I was also completely unmedicated, which isn’t a bad thing, but I think if I had grown up ten years later, I probably would have taken meds for depression or perhaps ADD.  I was encouraged to get good grades, but it was entirely up to me to accomplish that.  I didn’t really know how. 

In high school, I spent most of my free time riding horses.  I did do well in that activity, although I wasn’t particularly talented.  My success in riding was mainly due to my fabulous pony, Rusty, a dedicated riding coach, and a lot of dogged hard work.  I was definitely not “born in the saddle”.

When it came time to decide on a college, I had sort of a beer budget and champagne tastes on every level.  I didn’t have the money to consider attending private schools.  I didn’t have the grades or impressive resume to consider trying to get scholarships or applying to super competitive schools.  My mother, ever the pragmatist, told me I shouldn’t bother applying to the one school I really wanted to attend.  She didn’t think I’d get in there.  She was right.  In fact, Longwood was the ONLY school out of the four I applied to that accepted me.

Looking back on it, I think I would have had more choices if I had applied to a couple more schools.  The other three that I’d applied to, besides Longwood, were in a slightly higher league– too high for me at the time.  I do think I would have ultimately succeeded if I had gotten into any of the other three schools, but they were very popular choices among my peers.  My crummy grades and mediocre test scores were simply not competitive enough and I got the dreaded rejection letters.  Even Longwood accepted me conditionally, mainly because I was struggling in math.  Fortunately, I had a wonderful math teacher my senior year who made sure I got through with the required C.

My trend of mediocre academic performances mostly continued at Longwood.  I never once made the Dean’s List; however, I did blossom in other ways.  It was at Longwood that I finally started doing what I was probably born to do.

People who knew me when I was growing up didn’t know that I could sing. ¬†My mom knew that I had absolute (perfect) pitch, because I took piano lessons when I was very young. ¬†My piano teacher noticed I could name pitches without a reference note. ¬†But I would never sing in front of anyone because I was (and still am) very sensitive to bad singing. ¬†I knew I could sing on key, but didn’t think I sounded particularly good. ¬†So I wouldn’t sing in front of other people, and was never encouraged to try. ¬†My parents were both musicians, though, so it makes sense that I’d have a knack for music.¬†

To earn a bachelor of arts degree at Longwood, I needed to take a course in one of the fine arts.  I chose music appreciation and a one credit voice class.  I ended up excelling in the voice class and my teacher invited me to study privately.  Before I knew it, I had joined Longwood’s Camerata Singers, which required an audition.  I was soon singing with people who had been in choirs all through high school.  That experience was truly life changing for me.  Making music is now something I do most days, even if not many people hear my efforts.  It’s made me a much happier person.

It may seem like a minor thing now, but that one voice class opened up a whole new world to me.  I only wish I had taken it sooner.  I might have majored in music instead of English.  I both excelled in and loved my music classes.  I got straight As in them, with the lone exception of that one music appreciation class I took.  By contrast, I was a mediocre English major, except when I took writing classes.  In my writing classes, I excelled like I did in music.

It was an adjunct music professor at Longwood who cared enough about me to encourage me to study music, even if she couldn’t persuade me to change my major. I can’t help but wonder if I would have gotten the same attention at any of the other schools I had considered.  Looking back on it, it seems as if I was destined to go to Longwood.  Maybe I wasn’t a superstar student, but I think I flourished there.  Even today, I communicate with professors who knew me in the 90s.  My husband, Bill, attended much more prestigious American University and he hasn’t seen or spoken to any of his former professors since the 80s.  Sometimes, the less famous college offers a better value.  I know I’ve often mused about how much more I got out of my time at Longwood than I did the University of South Carolina.

After Longwood, I joined the Peace Corps kind of on a whim. ¬†I was soon exposed to people from other parts of the country and then the Republic of Armenia, a place that had been mostly off limits to Americans only four years prior to my arrival. I used my music skills a lot in Armenia. ¬†Then I went to graduate school and earned those two master’s degrees that I don’t use… which became the reason I call myself “overeducated”. ¬†Still, I recognize that I was able to compete with people who went to “better” schools, both as a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student. ¬†I don’t regret any of those experiences now, but sometimes I wonder how in the world I ended up here. ¬†In some ways, I have been extraordinarily lucky. ¬†I often feel kind of like a fraud, but I know deep down that I’m not one. ¬†¬†

I empathize with high school seniors who are now dealing with the hell of trying to get into college.  I don’t envy them at all.  They’re dealing with so many things that I didn’t have to deal with.  Life has gotten super competitive on many levels.  I thought it was bad in 1990, but my generation had nothing on their generation. 

It’s harder and more expensive to go to college these days. ¬†So many young people are racking up huge debts, and competition for well-paid work is stiff. ¬†Young people are having to worry about gun toting lunatics invading their schools and killing random people. ¬†We have a total buffoon in the White House who doesn’t care about anything but making rich people even richer (ETA: Remember, I am writing about Trump, not Biden).¬†

I don’t envy you young folks at all, although I am very impressed by how young people are standing up and making their voices heard.  And young people today are doing such incredible things… things that perfectly average, mediocre people can’t conceive of doing.  I would imagine that the pressure to stand out must be insane… and yet it gets harder and harder every year.

I’m impressed by that insane drive to succeed that some young people have, but I have a heart for those who were perfectly average folks like me. ¬†It’s true that life is not a dress rehearsal, but most people end up okay, even if they aren’t stars. ¬†These years on the brink of adulthood can be tough going, but eventually, most people come to a place where grades and test scores no longer matter. ¬†So take heart. ¬†There’s life beyond the spring of your senior year. ¬†You just have to get through it and keep your eyes on the prize.

A musical project I completed at the time I wrote this piece. Lately, I’ve focused more on playing guitar than singing. I’m better at singing than guitar playing, though.
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book reviews

A review of Yes You Can! Have a Second Life After 60

This review also appears on my travel blog.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had downloaded the book my former Peace Corps colleague, Loretta Land, published in 2019. I spent a good portion of today reading it, finally finishing it a little while ago. Loretta’s book, Yes You Can! Have a Second Life After 60, appears to have been self-published in 2019. Loretta died in January of this year, so she evidently just made it under the wire to fulfill her goal of writing a book. I remember back in 1995, when we first met as trainees for Peace Corps Armenia, Loretta told me she was going to write a book about her experience. Little did I know that after our service ended, Loretta would go on to work in Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ghana, and China.

Loretta’s overseas adventures began in Armenia, when she decided she wanted to be a Peace Corps Small Business Volunteer (SEAD). Originally, she’d planned to go to Fiji when she was 63 years old. This was because she figured she could do her two years, then come home eligible for Social Security. But she writes that God had other plans for her, and she, along with 31 others of us, got the chance to come to Armenia instead, two years sooner than she’d planned. As she mentions frequently in her book, God’s plans don’t always line up with ours.

Loretta Land was the eldest member of our Peace Corps group, A3. We were the third group to come to Armenia and probably the first group that didn’t run into a significant number of problems. Loretta explains that A1, the first group, had arrived in Armenia in the dead of winter and things were not quite up to speed. A lot of people in that group either quit or found jobs. A2 was a smaller group that arrived just as the first group was finishing up. Likewise, that group endured a lot of hardships. Quite a few people quit or found jobs. Our group arrived when things were still pretty tough in Armenia, even in the capital city, Yerevan, but logistics had worked out enough that things were pretty livable. We did have a few people quit and/or get medically separated, and one woman decided to marry her host brother rather than serve (she never swore in). But, by and large, our group was pretty resilient and most of us did our two years.

I didn’t get to know Loretta as well as I would have liked. We both lived in Yerevan, but she lived on the other side of town. I always had great respect for her, as she was always so kind, productive, and caring. I admired how she had decided to come to Armenia and be of service to the people there. And boy, was she of great service to the people. I was very impressed with all she managed to do while she was a Volunteer, as well as afterwards. She came back to Armenia to work on a couple of occasions, and I guess found that she preferred living abroad in developing countries rather than working in the States. She did have a three month stint working in Americorps (formerly called VISTA), but ended up resigning from that and coming back to the former Soviet Union.

Loretta’s book was fun for me to read, mainly because I knew a lot of the people in Armenia she mentioned, as well as some of the situations she writes about. However, the fact that I was in Armenia with her also presented some problems. I’m kind of a stickler about editing, and as much as I enjoyed Loretta’s book, I also think it really needed a few rounds with an editor. Because I knew a lot of the people she mentions in Armenia, I know that a number of names were misspelled, and I don’t think she did that on purpose. Any of us who were in Armenia at the time she was would know the people she mentioned.

She also got some facts incorrect. For instance, on more than one occasion, she mentions that the Soviet Union consisted of thirteen republics; it actually consisted of fifteen. I knew this, but double checked just in case. She mentions that the wife of the U.S. ambassador who served Armenia when we were there was Korean. Actually, she was Vietnamese. I double checked that fact, too. And she mentions that abortion is illegal in Armenia. This is incorrect. I actually knew several women who’d had multiple abortions, as it was the main source of birth control. I actually went to a meeting to discuss the abortion situation in Armenia. A couple of A1s who were working in Armenia had done some work on the abortion issue and we had a discussion about how rampant it was. And I also double checked that fact, too.

Large portions of Yes You Can! consist of letters and emails Loretta lovingly wrote to her children. I enjoyed reading the letters and emails, although sometimes she addressed people within them without explaining who they were. I’m sure her family members and friends know who they are, but this is a book that was being sold on Amazon and presumably read by strangers. So the lack of explanation could be a problem for those reading who didn’t actually know Loretta. She repeats herself a few times, which adds to the length of the book, which according to Kindle, is about 670 pages. An editor could have helped her pare down some redundancies and make the book shorter and easier to digest. There are lots of footnotes, too, which I sometimes found distracting and/or unnecessary. The title of the book implies that it might be a “how to” book, when it’s really a collection of stories about Loretta’s experiences overseas.

I know it sounds like I’m being very critical, and I am. But my criticisms don’t mean I didn’t like Yes You Can! I’m actually really glad I read Loretta Land’s book. She managed to accomplish so much, and she made so many lifelong friends. One thing that puzzled me, though, and I wish she were still around to explain, is why more than once, she writes “I never learned how to love.” She mentions that she went to high school at a boarding academy because she had no home to go to, although she also mentions that she was the youngest child of six. She doesn’t really explain her upbringing, nor does she explain why she says she “never learned how to love”, when it’s very obvious to me that she was a person who both loved, and was loved very much by other people.

Above all, I am just really impressed by Loretta’s bravery and her fortitude. I was in my 20s when we lived in Armenia, and I thought it was tough living there. I think Loretta’s living conditions were harsher than mine were. I didn’t have electricity much during the first year, but I did always have running water. Loretta apparently didn’t have much of either. She faced some truly frightening situations, too. At one point, early in our Peace Corps stint, Loretta was actually threatened by the Armenian Mafia. She writes of two other situations in other countries in which she was afraid for her life. I did have a couple of scary incidents myself, but none involving the Mafia!

I mentioned in yesterday’s post how grateful I am that I had the chance to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. One reason I am grateful is because I got to meet people like Loretta, who was very inspiring. I really looked up to her, and now that I’ve read about how she spent the last years of her life– serving and teaching other people– I admire her even more. She really lead a fascinating life. She mentions that one of her sons predeceased her. I’m sure the rest of her children are amazing people. I already read about her son, Andy, who is a hospice nurse and climbs mountains. A few years ago, Andy was climbing Mount Everest when there was an earthquake an an avalanche. Andy managed to survive, but not before Loretta was interviewed by the news. I later caught up with Loretta on Facebook, amazed that she looked and sounded just like I remembered her years ago.

So, despite my criticisms, I am glad I spent the money and took the time to read my former colleague’s book. It was a treat to read, but mainly because I knew her. She was a wonderful woman. I’m glad she managed to accomplish this goal she had before her time on Earth came to an end.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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