Bill, home, lessons learned, love, marriage

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

Mushy bragging post ahead. You’ve been warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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music

Here’s to Life…

No… I have not become a pro-lifer. I just have life on the brain this morning, for a couple of reasons. First off, I learned this morning that Amy Jordan Duggar King (whichever last name she’s going by these days) just had her first baby, a son named Daxton Ryan King. It seems like nowadays, we’ve given up all the names that were incarnations of Aiden… Jayden, Braden, Hayden, Kayden, and Maiden… Now “axton” has become the popular suffix of modern names. We have Jaxton, Braxton, Saxton, and now Daxton. Well, as long he’s healthy and happy, I guess that’s all that matters. Amy had a C-section in a hospital. She looks like she’s over the moon due to the arrival of her son. Good on her! I hope the planet is good to him as he grows up.

Sigh… I love this song.

“Here’s to Life” is also the name of a beautiful song I first heard in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Composed by Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary, this is a wistful song about the passage of life. The song was made popular by Shirley Horn, but the version I heard was done very movingly by the Jordan Family, a musical family from New Orleans who, at the time of the Katrina fundraiser in 2005, were still missing a couple of people due to the flooding. The above video is a beautiful live version done on the second anniversary after Katrina hit.

Artie Butler talks about how he came to write this beautiful song and Phyllis Molinary wrote the lyrics. He wrote it for his dad.

I would love to do the jazzy rendition done by the Jordan Family, but it’s not available. Since I just updated my iMac to Catalina, I wanted to see if my music library was affected, in terms of DRM. I had Barbra Streisand’s karaoke version of “Here’s to Life” that I never uploaded, so I decided to do it this morning. I don’t know that I ever listened to Barbra’s version before this morning. Barbra Streisand is one of those singers whom many people love. Personally, she’s not my favorite, even though I recognize her brilliance. I would rather watch her act than listen to her sing. I feel the same way about Bette Midler, whom I think is a wonderful comedienne. But I do like what Miss Streisand did with “Here’s to Life”. Below is her version.

This is very nice. I like the arrangement very much, although it kind of misses the gut wrenching emotion of Stephanie Jordan’s version, which I can tell really came from her heart.

I also did a version this morning. In a former life, I may have been a torch singer. The lyrics are especially meaningful to me lately. Zane, the wonder beagle, has been on my mind a lot. I really miss him. I probably miss him more than some of the people I’ve lost over the past few years. Arran, our other dog, has been adjusting to the loss… it’s almost like Zane jumped into him and imparted some manners. He’s been very snuggly and cuddly, obviously enjoying not having to share the attention with Zane. We’ve had fewer behavioral issues. It’s been nice, although it doesn’t make up for the hole in our little family. Last night, we had beautiful rainbows as the sun came out during a rainstorm. Although I know it’s just a weather phenomenon, it made me think of Zane and made me wonder if maybe he was saying “hello”… So I took a few photos.

Even if he wasn’t greeting us, the rainbows made me think of Zane, and how quickly almost ten years can fly by. He would have turned eleven next month and we would have celebrated ten years with him in December. And now he’s gone. “Here’s to Life” reminds me that life is fleeting, and it’s a good thing to savor every moment if you can. Zane was one of those creatures who was almost always happy, and he made me happy. I was not blessed with a naturally cheerful personality, so I have to work at seeing the bright side of things sometimes. I try to maintain perspective as much as possible. I think that’s something everyone should do. Unfortunately, some people aren’t able.

This morning, I was looking through memories on Facebook and was reminded of an argument I had with a conservative friend of mine. He’s a police officer and, I think, is a bit embittered by the so-called “liberal media”. I had shared a video of a black woman who was in tears because she was pulled over by a white police officer for driving too slowly. She was absolutely terrified that she would be arrested, wounded, or killed by the officer. I was responding to this woman’s palpable distress at being pulled over and not understanding why the cop had stopped her. She obviously felt her life was in jeopardy and there was nothing she could do about it.

The police officer clearly felt terrible that the woman was so upset. He really was a good officer who was legitimately concerned about her safety. He gave her a hug and begged her not to cry. But the woman was still legitimately afraid. I thought her story was heartbreaking, and said so. My cop friend tried to make himself and other police officers out to be victims of the “liberal media”, who make people like the woman in the video terrified. But it’s a fact that unarmed people of color have been killed by law enforcement. The woman’s fear is not unfounded or unreasonable, and I empathized with that reality. That was what I was responding to, even as I understand that my cop friend feels badly when people complain about police officers abusing their power.

Here are a few comments from our discussion. He claims I “misread” his intent.

Not that I want to rehash this discussion, per se… this is more a comment on perspectives. My friend John has the perspective of a police officer. I can see his perspective on a cognitive level. I also see the terrified woman’s perspective. Being pulled over is scary enough when you’re not in a group who is regularly targeted simply due to your appearance. I can see why the lady in the video was so frightened and, as a fellow human being, I related to her pain. It doesn’t mean I can’t empathize with John. I just didn’t feel like we needed to turn the narrative of this particular video into something about the poor police officers.

I know that most cops don’t abuse their power. Too many of them do, though… and people sometimes get hurt or killed. A nice lady who was driving a little bit under the speed limit should not be reduced to tears of terror simply because someone who is supposed to protect and serve pulls her over due to legitimate worries about her ability to drive safely. The cop described in the video was doing his job well, and I commend him. He is a credit to his profession, and reminds us that no situation is truly “black and white”, and almost nothing is all good or all bad. But that doesn’t mean the woman was “wrong” to be scared, nor is her legitimate fear necessarily the media’s fault.

Black and white thinking– assuming someone or something is all good or all bad– is a bad habit a lot of us get into. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of people are not all good or all bad. Most of us are middle of the road. I don’t assume all police officers are horrible people based on a few media reports. However, I also don’t assume that people like the woman in the video are wrong to be scared when they get pulled over by the cops. Unfortunately, by sharing this video, I got into a minor argument that ultimately got kind of negative. But even this discussion led to something good. We had a discussion, and it’s a part of what inspires me to write today.

Zane, the wonder beagle, taught me that most everyone is inherently good on some level. He maintained a positive attitude and didn’t engage in black and white thinking. It’s easy to be bogged down by negativity and hatred when someone or something causes a negative reaction. But almost every situation has a silver lining, and that’s why it’s so good to try to maintain perspective. Even bad situations can lead to something positive and hopeful.

For instance, in 2012, when we lost our sweet “bagel” MacGregor, Arran came into our lives and brightened it. We also made several new friends in North Carolina. Zane brought good things to our lives, too. And now that he’s gone, his life still makes a difference… even if it’s just in the form of inspiration that comes from singing a song, taking a photo, or writing a blog post.

John Rasmussen, the awesome artist who made this, was inspired by Zane, too. Check out his Facebook page.

Well… this post turned into a roundabout discussion, didn’t it? I do enjoy my “music” days, even if other people don’t. I feel good when I can make music for myself and anyone who cares to share it with me. I write most days and writing often brings me satisfaction, but music brings me joy. I’d probably be a happier person if I could do more music and less writing… at the very least, I’d get into less trouble. So “here’s to life”… and here’s to you. And here’s to realizing that if you want to see rainbows, a little rain must fall.

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movies

A Star is Boring…

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I watched the 1976 version of A Star is Born, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. This was also the first version of the four versions of A Star is Born that I have seen. The original was made in 1937 and an updated version starring Judy Garland was made in 1954. I haven’t seen either of the earlier movies yet, but maybe I’ll watch them after I see Lady Gaga’s 2018 version.

I don’t actually care about Lady Gaga that much, but I keep hearing about how great this film is. And since I have a lot of time on my hands, I figure I might as well see it. It’s got to be better than Streisand’s version, which I found to be really dull. I was surprised by that, since I’ve heard so much about the 1976 version of A Star is Born. I know it won awards, although I was a wee child when the awards were given.

Lady Gaga might have shown up Streisand in this tale… maybe I’ll see later. Maybe not.

In Streisand’s version of A Star is Born, we have Kris Kristofferson playing John Norman Howard, a fading rock star who drinks too much, shows up late for concerts, can’t remember his lyrics, and makes a complete ass of himself. Streisand plays up and coming singer-songwriter Esther Hoffman, who sings lead in a band called The Oreos (because the other two singers are black). One night, Howard shows up while she’s performing and causes a ruckus. Even though he’s ruined her show, they leave the club together. He comes over the next morning for biscuits.

Hoffman is clearly very talented and on her way up the fame ladder, while Howard’s career is on the decline. Nevertheless, he gives her a boost, and pretty soon, she’s outperforming him. Barbra Streisand, as we all know, is renowned for her singing. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of her voice, although I recognize that it’s a remarkable and powerful instrument. There are other singers I’d rather listen to… I guess, to me, Streisand’s voice lacks warmth or something. She’s in stellar voice on the soundtrack for this film, which includes her big hit, “Evergreen”. Still, just as I like Bette Midler more as an actress, I kind of feel the same way about Babs.

One thing I noticed as I watched this movie is that Kristofferson and Streisand don’t seem to have very much chemistry. I didn’t believe it when they paired up as a couple, and I didn’t enjoy watching them together. Because of that, I didn’t find this film, which ran for well over two hours, very interesting. I kept wondering when it was going to end. I actually think Barbra Streisand had a lot more chemistry with Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides. Or maybe Nolte is just a much better actor than Kristofferson is.

It’s not the worst or most boring movie I’ve seen. I think one of the worst movies I ever sat through was The Natural, starring Robert Redford. But… the reason I didn’t like that movie was because I was 12 or 13 years old when I saw it in the movie theater with my parents. It was about baseball and, I guess, was just over my head at the time. If I watched it today, I might not dislike it as much as I did then. I kind of feel the same way about Gandhi and Out of Africa, other movies I was forced to watch as a kid and didn’t like. Maybe I’ll watch them again, now that I’m older.

Having seen A Star is Born starring Streisand, I kind of wonder if maybe I would have liked that film more when I was younger. The musical numbers are interesting, and music has always been a good hook for my interest, particularly when it comes to movies. Kris Kristofferson was handsome and is, in his own right, a great musician and songwriter. I didn’t find his singing particularly good in A Star is Born, but maybe that was by design. He was supposed to be in decline. I actually found his singing kind of cringeworthy, especially when he harmonized with Streisand, whose vocals are so different and, frankly, far superior. I didn’t think they made beautiful music together, literally or figuratively.

Another thing that annoyed me about this movie is Streisand’s hair. I don’t know why. I guess it was because in the 70s, perms were all the rage. I used to get them myself when I was a teenager. I’ve evolved since then. Curiously, I liked some of the 70s era clothes Barbra Streisand wore in A Star is Born.

Anyway, my curiosity about this film is now satisfied. I can now go forth with my life.

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