Military, music, musings, nostalgia

The “road not taken” is sometimes an overrated thrill… Common paths can still lead to spectacular places!

In the spring of 1991, when I was a freshman college student, I joined the concert choir at Longwood College. I did so because the previous semester, the very first one of my college career, I had taken a group voice class. The teacher, who was acquainted with my musical dad, recognized that I, too, had some musical gifts. She thought I should join the Camerata Singers, which is one of Longwood’s auditioned ensemble. The trouble was, I had never really sung in a choir before. In fact, I had never really sung before. So, just so I could learn the ropes, I enrolled in the concert choir with the plan to audition for Cameratas that semester. I also took my first private voice lessons that spring.

My parents are/were musicians and I somehow knew that I’d wind up being enmeshed in their stuff if I studied music. This was not so much an issue with my mom, who was a church organist for about 50 years. But it was an issue with my dad, who had a habit of either competing with me or trying to show me off to his friends. My dad and I never really got along that well, especially once I hit puberty. I loved him very much, but we rubbed each other the wrong way. He was extremely active in choirs and choral societies. I relished the times he was at practices or in rehearsals, and I didn’t want to end up in a situation where we would end up spending too much time together and get into fights.

Also, I honestly didn’t know back then that I had a good singing voice. I knew I could sing on key, but I didn’t realize it was anything special or unusual. I did have some rudimentary music knowledge, having taken piano lessons as a very young child and been identified as having “perfect pitch” (AKA absolute pitch). I was in band for a year… first playing drums and then, when that turned out to be the wrong instrument for me, I played my sister’s clarinet. Although I was pretty good at playing clarinet, I didn’t like the band teacher and wasn’t encouraged by my parents, so I dropped out of that and focused on my horse. I have much less talent for horseback riding, but I do love animals. πŸ˜‰

Years later, when I decided to study voice outside of college, my dad proved that my instincts about his tendency to want to “compete” with me were dead on. I signed up to take lessons at the Eastern Virginia School of Performing Arts. I didn’t tell my dad at first, because somehow I knew he’d also sign up. Sure enough, when he did find out I was taking lessons, he signed up with the very same teacher. πŸ™‚ I wasn’t all that happy about it. I was taking lessons to help alleviate my depression and relieve stress. And at the time, he was a major source of my stress, as I was living with my parents after having finished Peace Corps service. As grateful as I was that my parents let me live with them, it was definitely not an easy time for any of us. But I am glad that they didn’t object to my decision to supplement my treatment for depression with voice lessons.

“The Road Not Taken” from Frostiana… words by Robert Frost, music by Randall Thompson.

Anyway, I digress… back to 1991… and my first semester in a choir. I remember during that semester, the concert choir did a piece from “Frostiana“. It was the American poet Robert Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken” set to music composed and arranged in 1959 by Randall Thompson. Much to my shame, when I was 18 years old, I had never been exposed to Frost’s poetry. “The Road Not Taken” was a new concept to me, and I actually loved the choral piece. I see from YouTube that it’s still commonly performed.

This morning, I’m reminded of that piece as I reflect on a conversation I had with Bill last night. We were talking about his career as an Army officer. Although he did well enough as an Army officer and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel promotable to Colonel, he thinks he made some regrettable choices during his time in the Army. Had he made different choices, he might have had a more successful career. Or maybe he never would have been in the military in the first place.

My husband is a kind, empathetic, gentle person. He’s probably the antithesis of most people’s vision of a military officer. Military officers are stereotypically tough, gruff, profane, impatient and politically incorrect. Military officers don’t cry easily. They have a “killer instinct”. A lot of military officers are politically conservative and somewhat old school in their views. They aren’t often interested in the arts, psychology, reading books, or visiting museums. They like to watch violent sports and action movies. And they aren’t interested in introspection.

I hasten to add that I realize this is very stereotypical thinking. Of course, the armed forces are comprised of people from all different walks of life, with all of the characteristics that go along with having such a diverse population. However, having been around military folks my whole life, I can attest to the idea that there’s a “type”. And, my point is, Bill goes against type.

When we were dating, my sisters warned me against getting involved with Bill. They seemed to think he was going to be a “knuckle dragger”. Even though I’ve always made decent decisions and have never been in any serious trouble, my sisters, and even my parents, didn’t trust me to choose my own mate. But it turns out that I was right on the money. This year, we will celebrate 19 years of a very successful union. We are shockingly compatible. I guess, like me, Bill sometimes has trouble fitting in with the crowd and goes “against type”.

Last night, Bill was telling me that he wishes he hadn’t been a “combat arms” officer. During his years in the Army, Bill was a “tanker”. He was in the Armor branch. Early in his career, a superior officer wrote that he felt Bill should do something different. The senior officer “fired” Bill from the job he was doing and gave him a bad evaluation. Another superior officer advised Bill that he didn’t have a “killer instinct”. At the time, Bill was offended by his bosses’ appraisals of him. He said he spent years resenting those negative comments that he got early in his military career. He felt that his superiors had been unfair and wrongly appraised him.

Then, in 1995, at his ex wife’s behest, Bill left active duty and worked in low paying and unfulfilling factory jobs in Arkansas. Here was a guy who had studied international relations at American University. He’d learned how to ride a horse and fence. He was interested in politics, religion, arts, movies, music, and so on… and he was making toys at a toy factory. Later, he was supervising a line for Whirlpool, overseeing the production of refrigerator doors. He wasn’t making any money, and he was living in a nightmarish situation with a woman with whom he was incredibly incompatible. Bill stayed in the National Guard to help supplement his meager earnings and, if we’re honest, to give him an escape from his ex wife, who by that time had made his life a living hell.

In 1999, Bill decided to go back in active duty via the Arkansas National Guard. He was unusual in that he managed to get a full time job as a Guardsman, working as if he was back on duty with the regular Army. That decision allowed him to continue his military career, but he was paid from a different pot of money and subject to different promotion procedures. It also helped him avoid lengthy deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He did spend six months in Iraq– again, working for a very narcissistic boss.

Bill later realized that he probably should have pursued another branch… maybe in military intelligence or as a Foreign Area Officer (FAO). Or maybe he should have become a mental health therapist specializing with working with veterans. Any of those fields might have been better fits for him, rather than combat arms. He was sorrowful about it last night, wishing he’d taken a different path, instead of being an Armor officer, and wondering where it would have led him.

I could relate, as I have often wondered what would have happened to me if I’d studied music instead of English. Maybe I’d still be where I am today. Or maybe I’d be somewhere entirely different. As I mentioned before, I didn’t pursue music when I was growing up. It wasn’t until college that I was especially turned on to music… and realized I had a knack for it. I often wonder what would have happened if I’d changed my major. I never seriously considered doing it, though. I probably suffered a bit of worrying about failure.

I was a very mediocre English major. I love to write and read, but I don’t really enjoy analyzing literature, and I had no desire to teach school. Longwood’s English department, at the time I was a student, was mostly set up for would-be teachers. They didn’t have a creative writing program. They only offered a few classes. Ironically, I never even took the creative writing class, and none of my professors knew that my goal was more to write than study literature. I didn’t tell any of them until after I’d graduated and my former advisor, who had been writing letters to me in Armenia, commented that he thought I had a gift for writing stories. I explained that I’d been an English major because I wanted to be a writer. He used to tease me about taking music classes, but I don’t know where I would have been if I hadn’t had them at Longwood. I loved my music classes. I took a bunch of them for fun. I can’t say that about most of my English classes.

So there Bill and I were on the patio, as the sun was dipping down, and we were enjoying the last of our red wine. Bill got a little choked up as he realized that those bosses who had noticed his “lack of a killer instinct” had been right. And if he’d been wise enough to heed their counsel, he might have gone in a different, far more successful direction. There wouldn’t have been any shame in changing course. Everybody fails sometimes, because no one is a superstar at everything they do. For a moment, Bill seemed genuinely troubled at what might have been if he’d only been brave enough to take “the road not taken”.

But again, it’s not like he was unsuccessful in his role as an Armor officer who lacked a “killer instinct”. In 2014, Bill retired from the Army with a full pension. He now gets a paycheck for getting up in the morning and gets to enjoy the benefits from having served in the military. Not only that, but he left the experience mostly mentally, emotionally, and physically whole. I’d call his career a success, even if he hadn’t done work he was perfectly equipped to do.

Realizing that Bill actually was a success, I said, “There’s no point in feeling badly about the career decisions you made. Because even though you might have been better at a different job, the fact of the matter is, you still managed to succeed. By all accounts, retiring from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel promotable to Colonel is still a very successful career. And you left the military whole– with two master’s degrees and marketable skills– free of mental illness and basically healthy and strong. You are very fortunate.”

Bill nodded in agreement. Then I said, “And now you are doing well in your post retirement career. Maybe what you’re doing isn’t thrilling for you, but you are among MANY people who work in jobs that aren’t a perfect fit for them. God knows, I have done plenty of jobs I hated so I could pay the bills. So have you.”

I continued, “You now not only have recovered from a terrible first marriage and financial disasters, but you completed a successful career. Now, you are also enjoying a very comfortable and, I dare say, luxurious lifestyle. And you have the freedom to explore things that interest you. You can study Carl Jung. You can work with a therapist and talk about your dreams and travel to Switzerland to see Jung’s house. You can take courses at the Jung Institute and read Jung’s books and learn guitar… And the reason you can do those things is because, even though you think of the military as a ‘easy choice’ in terms of secure, decently paid employment, and maybe it was not where your true gifts lie, you did a good job. When it comes down to it, you were still successful. I think you should celebrate that, because you’re way ahead of many people.”

Likewise… although I have visions of where my talents and dreams might have taken me, I really can’t complain too much about where I am. I have had the great fortune to see and do many things that my peers never will have the opportunity to do. And they have seen and done things I will never do. That’s the nature of life. We all have strengths and opportunities that take us on a path through life. Maybe it would have been more exciting and fulfilling to take the “road not taken.” But we’re both halfway through life now… and we can’t recapture our youth. What we CAN do is take those experiences we had when we were younger and follow our passions now. So Bill will probably never have a fulfilling career as a FAO or as a “healer”. He can still pursue his interests and learn new things. And who knows, maybe there will still be a fork in the road that takes him down the “road not taken” after all.

Same for me… maybe in the second half of my life, I’ll finally write a book or record an album… or do something else that is earth shattering, life changing, or even just interesting. It beats the hell out of working in a factory or waiting tables to pay the bills. And before anyone gets upset, I hasted to add that there’s nothing wrong with working in a factory or waiting tables if that’s what gets you through life or it something you even enjoy doing. That’s not the point of todays’ post. The point is, there’s no use in lamenting past career decisions that can’t be changed. Life is a continual journey. As long as you’re still breathing, you have the opportunity to change course and try new things. And Bill, for one, is especially fortunate, because he truly does have the ability and the freedom to explore things that interest him, even if he got here on a well-traveled road that maybe he wasn’t the best suited to travel. He still got here… and he still has places to go. I’m glad I get to travel with him.

We’re both lucky, because we can and do continue to do things we love. Not everyone has that luxury. There are so many people who, due to financial, health, or personal constraints, end up spending their lives on the hamster wheel, working to get by and not especially enjoying the process of life as much as they could. We should count our blessings and realize that all things considered, things have worked out just fine. I think it also makes sense to consider that sometimes the “road not taken” is a road straight into Hell. πŸ˜‰

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Ex, lessons learned, mental health, music

It’s important to B.S.U.R… exactly who you are… Life lessons from James Taylor

There’s an old song by James Taylor that comes to mind as I type today’s blog post. The song, “B.S.U.R. (S.U.C.S.I.M.I.M.)”, comes from his 1979 album, Flag. Although a lot of critics might not share my opinion, I think Flag is a wonderful album. It’s probably my favorite of JT’s older albums, probably because it’s the one I remember best from when I was very young… my introduction to him, as it were. Yes, that album includes a cringey disco cover version of “Day Tripper” by The Beatles… which, actually, is kind of a guilty pleasure to me. But it also includes several good songs, including James’s wonderful rendition of “Up On The Roof”, which I prefer to all other versions. And it also includes the aforementioned “B.S.U.R.”, which has James’s ex wife, Carly Simon, singing backup, and some very wise lyrics.

Be as you are…

Here are the lyrics to “B.S.U.R.”, in case you’d rather not play the video.

She’s been holding on too long
Hoping I’m gonna change
Giving it up just a little bit more
Each time I come home
Looking and acting strange
Putting her down for putting up with me

Be as you are
As you see as I am, I am
Be as you are
As you see as I am, I am

Do you think you might improve me
Trying to take control?
Watching every little thing I do
Just like a bleeding movie
Just like a leading role
Mama, this ain’t me
And I don’t believe that’s you

Be as you are
As you see as I am, I am
Be as you are
As you see as I am, I am

First you make believe
I believe the things
That you make believe
And I’m bound to let you down
Then it’s I who have been deceiving
Purposely misleading
And all along you believed in me

So, we circle around one another
Playing a guessing game
Strangers at this masquerade
Pretending to know each other
We strain to catch a name
And never see the mistakes we must have made

Be as you are
As you see as I am, I am
Be as you are
As you see as I am, I am

(songwriter is James Taylor)

Just for the sake of context… in 1979, James Taylor and Carly Simon were the parents of two young children. They had been married for about seven years. In spite of the wise lyrics in this song, James was actually in a bit of trouble. He was a notorious drug addict, suffered from depression, and, according to Carly Simon’s book, he had a habit of cheating. It’s interesting to note that the “flag” used for this album’s cover is the international maritime signal for “man overboard”. Indeed, in 1979, James Taylor might have very well felt like a man overboard.

Carly Simon reportedly wanted James to settle down and be more of a family man (another great song by James Taylor). But, as James titled his next album, Dad Loves His Work. He wasn’t going to change. They were divorced by 1983, and perhaps spurred on by the 1981 drug overdose death of his close friend, John Belushi, and the 1983 death of his friend, Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys, James got over his heroin and methadone habits.

But Taylor still struggled a lot with depression and considered retiring from music. He was asked to go to Rio de Janeiro in 1985 and play a music festival, which was recorded and put on an imported CD. I actually own a copy of it, courtesy of one of my sisters who gave it to me for Christmas in 1990. James was so well received in Rio that he got a second wind and released another album called That’s Why I’m Here. I distinctly remember reading the liner notes and saw that he’d dedicated the new album to Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Taylor would go on to consider retiring again, after losing his father and his brother, Alex, on James’s 45th birthday in 1993. Alex was also a severe alcoholic.

So… what’s this got to do with “B.S.U.R.”? Well, I just think this song, and its very astute lyrics, offer some sage pearls of wisdom. So many of us try to be someone we aren’t. It’s usually because someone else has told us that there’s something “wrong” or “inadequate” about who we are. Sometimes, there is a legitimate issue that needs to be changed. Like, for instance, getting treatment for an addiction or character flaw– say philandering or lying. I’m not referring to issues like those. I’m referring to little criticisms about things you can’t easily change about yourself, like becoming a night owl if you’re a morning person. Or becoming an obsessively neat person if you’re naturally more of a slob. Or acting like someone you’re not, simply because someone else thinks they would prefer that alternative version to your authentic self.

This morning Bill and I were talking, as we often do over our weekend breakfasts. Bill was telling me about a dream he’d had this morning. He was typing it out, because he sends his dreams to his therapist, who specializes in Carl Jung’s techniques. Dreams are an important part of their work. Bill has really been enjoying working with the therapist. He’s learning a lot about himself, revisiting decisions he’s made. Some of the decisions he made because he wanted to please other people. He didn’t want to disappoint important people in his life, so instead of doing what was best for him, he would acquiesce to what other people wanted. The end results of not advocating for his own self-interests sometimes led to disasters that affected a whole lot of other people. For more on this, you can read this post.

It occurred to me as we were talking that somehow, Bill got the idea from other people that who he was wasn’t enough. He bought into the idea that he needed to change. When he was growing up, he was often compared to his grandfather, a man he never got to meet, because his grandfather had died when Bill’s mom was 14. Apparently, Bill’s grandfather was a really wonderful man. And Bill was repeatedly told that he was “just like” his grandfather. It was as if some of his family members thought he was reincarnated somehow. It wasn’t enough for Bill to be who he was. He was expected to be like a dead man he’d never even met. It was impossible, and disconcerting. Why wasn’t it enough that he was Bill, a marvelous man in his own right? Why did he have to be someone else?

Later, he married his ex wife, a woman with whom he was completely incompatible and didn’t love the way he should have. He married her because she had him convinced that she was his one shot at having a family. Throughout their almost ten year marriage, he bent to her will and tried to change for her every whim. She criticized everything from his taste in music to the length of his hair. She didn’t like his choice of career and wanted him to leave the military. She wanted to live in a house that was a money pit, mainly because she thought it looked like a house she’d seen in a snow globe. She wanted him to be Mormon. She constantly drove him to “change”. Who he was wasn’t enough for her. Meanwhile, she was just fine with herself as she was and was unwilling to amend some of her own destructive habits, like buying things when she had no money to pay for them.

Bill wanted to please his ex wife, so he worked many hours at low paying jobs that didn’t suit him. He gave in to her demands that he have a vasectomy, live in a town where there were few jobs suitable for his skills, grow his hair, become a Mormon (which included giving up alcohol and coffee and wearing special underwear), leave the military, support his ex stepson as if he was the boy’s father, support Ex’s sister and her child on his tiny salary, let Ex spend his money on whatever she wanted, and let Ex handle the bills… which she handled by not paying them. By the time he cried uncle and let go of the marriage, he had been through bankruptcy and foreclosure and she had him convinced that he was a terrible person… so bad, that she could easily replace him with her next victim, #3.

Wow… if Bill was such a terrible person, why is it that we’ve been so happily married for almost 19 years? Do I seem like the kind of person who would marry a jerk? I have a lot of flaws myself, but I can tell you for certain that one flaw I don’t have is “people pleasing”. I don’t stay with people who make me unhappy. Not if I can help it. I don’t have a tendency to attract abusers. I’m probably too outspoken for them.

In any case, I love Bill just the way he is. I always have. He doesn’t need to change anything fundamental about himself for me. I think that’s why it’s so easy for us to be with each other.

Now… that doesn’t mean that there aren’t habits I’d like for him to change. Like, for instance, I’d like him to say no to me sometimes. I’m not always right. Bill likes to be a leader, but sometimes he gets a little bit wishy washy because he doesn’t want to disappoint me. But what ends up happening is, I end up disappointed anyway. Here’s an example of what I mean.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were in Switzerland, Bill had his heart set on visiting Carl Jung’s house and museum. Jung’s house and museum have very limited visiting hours and one typically has to book tickets in advance. Bill had done that, and we had an appointment to go to the house and museum at 2:00pm. But before we went, we visited a church to see Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows.

Now, I wasn’t particularly wedded to either of these activities. I would have been happy just to sit on the boat cruise and take a tour around Lake Zurich. But because Bill wanted to explore Jung, I was happy to do that with him. However, one thing that is a must, and something that we both know about me is that I get really “hangry”. So, as our time for the museum appointment approached, I told Bill I wanted to have lunch. He looked at his watch and got flustered. It was just after noon, and he was afraid that if we sat down to have a nice lunch, we would miss our appointment.

So I said, “I guess this means hot dogs for lunch, then?” I don’t really like hot dogs very much, but I could see that’s where were headed. I would have been just as alright with getting fast food.

But Bill hadn’t even decided how we were going to get to the museum. Would we be driving or taking the boat? He wanted to leave that to me, and hadn’t told me ahead of time. He asked me what I wanted to do.

I got irritated and said, “You wanted to lead. This is an activity that you want to do. I’m along for the ride. I know you want to go to the museum, but you know very well what happens when my blood sugar crashes.” I also needed to pee, and that wasn’t helping matters.

So we finally decided to take the boat. Sure enough, the only food available near the dock was the Swiss version of hot dogs… or currywurst or the like. So we had hot dogs and Coke for lunch. Bill was upset, because he thought he’d let me down. It’s true that hot dogs weren’t necessarily what I would have preferred for lunch, but I was willing to have that if it meant I wouldn’t be hangry. But he was beating himself up over the hot dogs. That wasn’t the issue, as far as I was concerned. I just wanted there to be a firm plan so everyone’s needs could be met.

It turned out the boat had concessions anyway, but our trip to the museum was just thirty minutes. It was just as well that we had our sausages. And next time, hopefully, we’ll make plans that are a little more than half baked, especially for something important, like visiting a museum that has limited opening hours.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting a partner to change certain habits like being too much of a people pleaser or being wishy washy. But I do think it’s wrong to ask them to change major aspects of who they are. I do think it’s wrong to demand that they make permanent alterations to themselves– yes, even like having a vasectomy or plastic surgery– if they would rather not do that. I think it’s wrong for a person to think they can change or β€œfix” someone– mold them into someone else– especially when their idea of what they want changes every day. And with Ex, it seemed very much like her idea of the “right” person was fluid and ever changing. There was always something to criticize, and I certainly don’t think she’s the best judge of what needed fixing in others. She didn’t enjoy Bill for the wonderful man he is. She wanted someone else. Perhaps she wanted someone who only exists in romance novels… I don’t know. But she didn’t want or deserve Bill, and as it turned out, he didn’t want or deserve her.

I think “B.S.U.R” is a surprisingly wise song, even though James Taylor was dealing with many personal demons and, perhaps, even serious character flaws of his own. I do think James has redeemed himself, and done a lot of work to be a better and happier person. It helps to be introspective and seek help to overcome things like addiction and mental conditions like depression and anxiety. He’s obviously not the same person he was in 1979, and that is to his credit.

As for Bill… I have never not loved and appreciated him for who he is. I love everything about him. No, he’s not perfect, but neither am I. We work on these things together. And I am so very proud of him and happy for him that he’s exploring things that interest him, like Carl Jung. He’s learning to play guitar, too, and trying to improve his skills in Spanish and German, because he wants to, and it interests him. Those are things that will enhance the wonderful person he is. I love him the way he is… and I will always advise him to “B.S.U.R.” Because asking anything else of him is asking for certain disaster. Life is hard enough without being married to a person who is constantly demanding that their spouse expend energy to be someone they’re not.

It’s also okay to say “no” sometimes. In fact, sometimes it’s essential, and the initial disappointment will spare everyone a lot of aggravation and grief. It’s okay to sometimes put your needs first… because, as they say before every flight, you should always put on your own oxygen mask, before you try to help someone else. If you don’t consider your own needs, you can’t be of optimal assistance to anyone else. So take a lesson from James Taylor and “B.S.U.R.” It’s easier and more sustainable than being someone you’re not.

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dogs, dreams, funny stories, Reality TV

My erotic dream about Derick Dillard was interrupted by Noyzi!

I need a good laugh. Do you need a good laugh, too? Well, how about this for a giggle? This morning, I had an erotic dream about Derick Dillard. Yes, the very same Derick Dillard who is married to the former Jill Duggar and recently graduated from law school at the University of Arkansas. Yes, the very same Derick Dillard who is on the outs with Boob and his wife, and was vilified online for being mean to Jazz Jennings. Yes– fundie Christian Derick Dillard, who is not my type! I could have changed his diapers.

He’s not really my type. In my dream, he didn’t have a beard.

I don’t know WHY I had this dream. I am not attracted to Derick. I have a husband who rings my chimes quite expertly. I don’t follow the Dillards on social media, and only know what I read about them on the Duggar Family News page and see on videos by Katie Joy. Derick is also quite a bit younger than I am, so I doubt we’d have much in common. I’m not exactly a “cougar”.

I woke up at the usual time of 5:30am, which is when Arran always rouses and asks for breakfast and a potty break. I spent about an hour reading my latest book, but then got drowsy. I put the iPad down and drifted off to sleep. At some point, the weird erotic dream began. I was just on the edge of an earth shattering orgasm when I heard Bill say, “Jenny, look at this!”

I opened my eyes and there was Noyzi, the Kosovar rescue dog, peering around the corner at me. He had a big smile on his face and was wagging his tail. It was about 8:00am by that point. I guess he came upstairs to see if we’d died. We’re usually up long before 8:00. We have nice weather today and agreeable temperatures, so I guess it was good “sleeping weather”. Good enough to have a hot dream involving a fundie Christian.

Here’s the weirdest part of it. The dream was taking place in a bedroom in the house I grew up in. I think the bedroom was supposed to be the master bedroom, since it had a bathroom. But it was a very small room, so my “princess” sister got it when we moved there in 1980. Then, it was a guest room… then it was my room when I was living with my parents for almost two years after the Peace Corps. Then it went back to being a guest room. Now, I’m not sure what it is. My mom sold the house to the woman who used to work for my dad and bought his business from him.

Anyway, in my dream, beardless Derick and I were nude and he had his head on my shoulder. He breathed in, closed his eyes, and was about to lay me down on the bed when we were interrupted by Bill. Nothing nasty happened. It took me a minute to realize it had been a dream. Once I did, I was grateful… since I would rather Bill be doing the honors than Derick. Below are are a couple of videos of Noyzi’s “good morning”. He’s getting to be a very confident dog.

Noyzi stops by to check on us.
Get your ass out of bed!

Speaking of Noyzi, he’s becoming quite adorable. The other day, he was wanting a walk in the worst way. Lately, he’s taken to coming upstairs at around 9:30am, which is about the time I’m usually done blogging on a typical weekday. He’ll sit in the hallway and whine a little. Then he’ll come into the office and look at me adoringly. Then, if that doesn’t work, he’ll follow me into the bathroom and watch me take care of business. On Friday, he was in rare form. I was getting dressed, and Noyzi stood outside the door and barked at me. It wasn’t his usual high pitched “yip”, either. He meant that shit. If you watch any of the videos in this post, this is definitely the one to see. Noyzi is hilarious!

Noyzi wants a walk. NOW! If you watch any of the videos, this is the one to watch.

After I took the above video, I took another showing Noyzi and Arran running around like a couple of freaks as we prepared for our daily ritual of strolling the neighborhood. Arran is about 12, but he’s still pretty feisty and full of life. We worry about him a lot, because he is getting old… but he’s definitely still kicking, as evidenced below.

They are NUTS! But they love their walks. It’s hard to believe that Noyzi was not leash trained when we got him and had never known the joy of a walk around the neighborhood. He demands walks every day, now.

I probably had that dream because I was very close to being awake. Bill has been seeing a Jungian therapist and they spend a lot of time talking about Bill’s dreams. Bill even writes them down and sends them to the therapist. Maybe all of the talk about dreams is what prompted me to have this erotic morning dream about Derick Dillard… but I just question why it was Derick and not someone else. I mean, I guess I can be glad it wasn’t Donald Trump who invaded my dreams.

I did notice a couple of my first cousins once removed, who also happen to be brother and sister, both posted photos last night. Each cousin is expecting a baby with their respective spouses, and both appear to be pretty close to the blessed event. Maybe my dream was influenced by my uterus, as it sighs through the waning days of my fertility. Ah… what could have been, if I’d only been more sexually active. Oh well. I wish them happiness and luck as they expand their families. I wish I still felt like I’m a part of the family, but I don’t, really. That is pretty sad. I remember my cousins’ dad, who was my very kind uncle. I saw him for the last time when I last went “home” in 2014. He passed away about six weeks later.

Anyway, I’m not in dreamland now, and praise God for that. Maybe if I get fired up later, I’ll write something more serious. For now, I hope this post gave you a moment of amusement… or perhaps a moment of horror!

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Bill, music, songs, videos, YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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complaints, poor judgment, psychology

She’s down with O.P.M.!

“Wah! Why won’t my boyfriend’s parents financially support me?”

Okay… so you should already know that I don’t have a boyfriend. I am happily married to Mr. Bill, who already supports my unemployed ass without complaint. Today’s blog post title comes from therapist Lori Gottlieb’s column in The Atlantic. The powers that be at The Atlantic decided to rerun one of Lori’s posts on Facebook this morning. I happened to read it before my eyes were fully opened after this morning’s nightmare, which involved Bill bringing home a bag of snakes. I ended up killing two of them with my bare hands! Naturally, that was traumatizing. Thank God it was just a bad dream. Bill has already tried to interpret it, though. He’s very Jungian that way.

A little old school mood music for this post… although O.P.P. is not quite the same thing as O.P.M. is…

Anyway, the post I read in Lori Gottlieb’s column this morning was originally published on December 24, 2018. A woman named Zoe, writing from Edinburgh, Scotland, writes that she’s involved in a long distance relationship with a man who has a twin brother.

Zoe’s boyfriend, whom she’s been dating for five years, but isn’t yet ready to marry (as of 2018, anyway), has a doctorate from a “top” university. He has a job and is “doing right” in life. The boyfriend’s brother, on the other hand, is apparently aimless and shiftless. He doesn’t have a degree, and has bounced from college to college. He moved to Florida, married an “older” woman (horrors!), and now has a baby girl with his wife (double horrors!).

Zoe’s issue is that the twin brothers’ very wealthy parents are “lavishing” money on the “aimless” twin, his wife, and their baby. But Zoe, as the long suffering “girlfriend” of the more established twin, is “out in the cold”. She is, herself, in a doctoral program and claims she will not be ready for marriage or child bearing for some time. And she feels it’s unfair that her boyfriend’s rich parents aren’t sharing their piece of the pie with her.

In other words, Zoe’s down with O.P.M. (other people’s money), and they aren’t getting with the program by sharing the wealth with her. She clearly feels like she has her shit together and is worthy of some renumeration from the boyfriend’s rich parents for being the girlfriend of the “good” twin, who also apparently has his shit together… except for the fact that he has terrible taste in girlfriends.

Perhaps mitigating what sounds like an outrageous attitude of entitlement to me, is the fact that Zoe’s family of origin has been “torn apart” because Zoe’s Granny didn’t share her money equitably with her children. And now, people in Zoe’s family all resent each other. She makes it sound like she’s worried for the twin brothers and their relationship, rather than just feeling greedy and entitled to O.P.M.– that is, other people’s money.

Zoe’s boyfriend has told her that she needs to zip it about this issue, since “the financial matters should be between him, his brother, and his parents.”

But Zoe, who has been dating the guy for five years but “isn’t ready” to put a ring on it, says “… if we are planning to spend our lives together, shouldn’t I also be able to voice an opinion on these things?” Uh huh… she’s definitely down with O.P.M.

Zoe writes that she would be “grateful” for any advice, since she’s so upset and jealous that she can barely think. And that is sure to be having a deleterious effect on her studies in her “doctoral” program, which is very important to her. Not that there’s anything wrong with being committed to higher education and finishing what one starts, of course.

Okay… well, I was glad to see that Lori Gottlieb rather gently and constructively pointed out what is blindingly obvious to all but the most obtuse of us. Zoe’s boyfriend’s parents are entitled to spend their money as they see fit. It’s their money. What the potential parents-in-law do with their money is none of Zoe’s goddamned business, especially when she has no legal ties to their family. But even if she and twin doctoral guy were married, it would still be O.P.M., and none of her business how the in-laws spend their dough. It’s their money!

I can’t believe that someone who is supposedly smart enough to be pursuing a doctoral degree doesn’t understand this basic fact. I wonder how Zoe would feel if, years from now, she’s made a nice living for herself and has a pile of money saved. And then some person dating one of her hypothetical offspring has an “issue” with how she doles out her largesse. There’s no legal requirement for parents to give their adult children any help whatsoever, financial or otherwise. Certainly the girlfriend isn’t entitled to anything from her boyfriend’s parents. If they choose to give her anything, she should be extremely happy about it and STFU. If they choose not to give it to her, she should also STFU. Access to their money is not her right, even if she and their son have been dating forever.

Maybe it’s just me, since I don’t expect much of an inheritance myself. My parents didn’t inherit anything but furniture and an old car from my mom’s dad, when he passed in 1979. When my Granny died in 2007, I don’t remember my dad, who was then 74 years old, getting anything from her estate. My mom has been living in a really beautiful senior assisted living apartment since 2009. It’s not a cheap place to stay. I don’t expect much of anything from her estate, when she dies. I’m just thankful that she’s still able to take care of herself, financially and otherwise.

My mom was pretty smart, as she gave me and my sisters special heirlooms as we were growing up. But I can’t imagine having the nerve to tell my mom, who is feisty, opinionated, and brooks no nonsense, that she needs to “share the wealth” with me. My mom hasn’t been the most demonstrative mother in the world, but she and my dad were always financially generous when they could be, and my mom, in particular, helped me a lot when I needed it. I’m simply grateful for that. As for my in-laws, I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of expecting either of Bill’s parents or his stepmother to give me a dime, especially when we were just dating.

That being said… having been through graduate school myself, I understand how financially stressful it can be. I lived on the proceeds of student loans and part time jobs– a graduate assistantship that paid $10 an hour and had limited hours I could work, and a job waiting tables at a country club with very occasional tips (but free food and a pretty decent hourly wage). I remember some stressful times during those three years, and I worried a lot about how things would be paid for. I was blessed in a number of ways when I was in school, though I sure wouldn’t want to repeat those lean years. Still, I handled my own business back then. I didn’t start mooching off of Bill until we were married and I started putting out.

Actually, given the financial havoc wreaked on him by his ex wife, I feel lucky that Bill trusts me and shares access to his good fortune with me, at all. It did take a few years after we married before he did start trusting me, and that was because he went to war in Iraq and I had to handle the bills. Since then, I have repaid his trust by investing some of his money. At this writing, the money I’ve invested on his behalf is about equal to what he paid for my education– we’re even about $10,000 ahead. It’s his money, though, and I’m grateful that he shares it with me, even as he insists that he considers his earnings “our money”. And I sure didn’t expect him to share it when we were dating, especially after what he’d already been through in his first marriage.

I guess I can kinda see why it’s distressing for Zoe to have a long-term, but unofficial, relationship with her boyfriend and feel jealous that his twin brother married an “older” (HORRORS!) woman who is getting so much financial help from the parents. But if she’s expecting the same level of generosity as the twin brother and his wife are getting, she will probably have to make the relationship official by way of marriage, at the very least. Even then, there’s absolutely neither a guarantee nor a requirement for her boyfriend’s parents to give either of them any cash. It’s entirely up to the boyfriend’s parents how they spend their money. And I’m not even sure, based on Zoe’s letter, that the boyfriend even wants to marry her. Maybe he’s smarter than we realize.

Zoe would do well to figure out how to make her own money, if it’s that important to her. If she marries her boyfriend, they can decide together how money matters will be handled. Even then, his parents shouldn’t be a part of the equation or expectation for support. If they do decide to contribute, Zoe should simply be grateful and zip it, other than to say “Thank you” to the in-laws for anything they do for her.

Frankly, I think Zoe ought to consider breaking up with her boyfriend, if this problem is really that upsetting for her. Or, really, I think her boyfriend, who sounds a lot wiser and more sensitive than she is, should consider breaking up with Zoe. She sounds like an insensitive clod. At the very least, I think Zoe should have an empathy check and, perhaps, put herself in her boyfriend’s shoes. I’m sure it’s embarrassing and irritating to him that his girlfriend is creating an issue over how his parents spend their money. He’s obviously a smart man, with a doctorate from a “top” university. He could probably do better. And then Zoe can quit obsessing over other people’s money (O.P.M.) and focus on building her career, which is obviously more of a priority for her right now (or at least in 2018) than family matters are.

You’d think someone smart enough to earn a doctorate would know better, right? But there are plenty of people with Ph.D.s who are down with O.P.M. πŸ˜‰

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