family, healthcare, music, musings, religion


This morning, my guitar lesson on Fender Play consisted of learning “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. For some reason, I had the hardest time getting the opening riff right. I could do it if I focused on it and played slowly, but it took a couple of times. I also found it easier on my acoustic guitar over the Acoustasonic, which was a lot more expensive, but somewhat harder for me to play decently.

Once I got past the opening riff, which isn’t that complicated, but requires concentration and focus until muscle memory kicks in, the rest of it wasn’t too hard. The chords are pretty easy, although there is one spot that requires muting, which is still kind of tricky for me. But, I bet when I venture downstairs, Bill will congratulate me, because I think he could easily guess what I was playing. I always consider it a win when he recognizes the more recognizable songs.

A nice cover of this classic… I love the Playing for Change series.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about redemption. I’ve even written about it a few times. I tend to be in favor of redemption for most people, although there are a few exceptions. For instance, I tend to be less redemptive toward people who have hurt me or someone I love. I wish I could be more high-minded about some of these things… but, alas, when you prick me, I bleed.

The weird thing is, I think I am more forgiving toward criminals than I am people who are just assholes I know personally. Like… I would probably have more compassion for someone on death row than my husband’s former wife. That seems kind of backwards, until you get to know the type of person my husband is, the type of person I am, and the egregiously bad things that have happened to him and his family since he invited Ex into his life. And yet, Ex is still walking around, free as a bird, and only too happy to exploit those who are closest to her.

I often have a lot of forbearance toward the mentally ill. I’m pretty certain that Ex is mentally ill. I know she’s been hospitalized a couple of times for her issues, and I know that she’s had medical/physical issues that have caused her to be hospitalized, although I suspect some of those were purposely done for attention. I know she had a terrible childhood, and was abused horrifically by people she should have been able to trust. The people who should have loved her, treated her so badly that she passes along that bad stuff to others, who might love her more if she weren’t such a toxic person.

Why is it that I have some empathy for people that make the news because they went “viral”, but not for Ex, or other people who have crossed me personally? Maybe it’s because I have my own abuse issues. Mine are not as bad as Ex’s by a long shot. My parents conceived me and stayed married, and I was exposed to a loving family– albeit an extremely religious and quite politically conservative one. I don’t know many of my mom’s relatives, because she had such a small family and her parents died when I was very young. But my dad came from a large, loving, very southern family. They were close-knit, even though they were also pretty dysfunctional.

This week, I found out that the wife of one of my cousins suffered a very severe setback after having a hysterectomy. She experienced vomiting, severe headaches, and other troubling symptoms that led my cousin to take her to the emergency department of their nearest hospital. It was there that my cousin’s wife’s two brain tumors were discovered.

Making the situation worse is the fact that this cousin’s mother (my aunt) died of a primary brain tumor, back in 1995. His father and older sister also died of cancer. And now, it appears that his wife has a primary cancer somewhere that has caused metastasis to her brain. There was a lot of swelling around the tumors, which the doctor estimated had existed for a few months. And since there were two of them, the doctor says that they are the result of metastatic activity. Usually, with a primary tumor that originates in the brain, there’s just one. Metastatic brain tumors are a lot more common than primary tumors are.

A couple of days ago, my cousin’s wife had surgery to remove one of the tumors. She came through the surgery fine, and pathology will determine how to treat the other tumor. Everyone was delighted to hear that she was able to Facetime with family after the procedure was done. Still, the tumors’ existence was a devastating shock to everyone.

I found out about this situation because my aunt sent out an email to the entire family, asking for prayers. I am not a very religious person, but I don’t mind sparing positive vibes and good thoughts to my friends and family. I did send my cousin a note of support. He’s a nice man, even though we are very different in terms of religion and politics. I appreciate that he’s willing to accept me for who I am, rather than trying to bend me to his way of thinking, like some of my other cousins have done.

Before she went into the hospital, members of their immediate family– my cousin, his daughters, baby granddaughter, and their significant others, gathered around in t-shirts they had made. They held up signs of support for my cousin’s wife, who was smiling in her wheelchair. She’s still a very beautiful woman, and although I’m not close to her, I have always liked her. I admire how close she is with her daughters. She and my cousin just celebrated 37 years of marriage.

It occurred to me that if I had a brain tumor, it’s likely Bill would be taking care of me alone. Even if I were in the United States, I’m not very close to my immediate family. My sisters are much older and spread out around the country. We have never been the type to wear matching t-shirts or study the Bible together. In fact, I rarely talk to my sisters beyond birthday greetings and the odd private message from one of them.

I’m not sure I’d want my family wearing matching t-shirts if I had to go into the hospital… I doubt I’d want pictures, either, although maybe loved ones would. I don’t know how many loved ones I really have, though. Like I said, I’m not that close to my family anymore. Physically, I’m distant, and emotionally, I am, too.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to be one of those people who hangs around for a long time. I could be wrong… in fact, I kind of hope I am. But I doubt there will ever be a need for people to rally prayers for me. Even if they did, it would seem uncomfortable and strange to me. Some people might say that because of my lack of a need for “redemption”, I might not be heading north when the time comes for me to depart this life. In fact, I have a feeling some of my family members might even think that about me. I don’t feel like I belong with them anymore.

I look at Ex and see all of the damage she’s wrought, not just to herself and her immediate family, but also to so many other people. I see her spreading lies and promoting a facade, and I don’t feel like she’s worthy of redemption. I’d sooner wish for a convict to be redeemed than my husband’s former wife. That’s probably because she seems to get away with a lot.

I think it may also be because I watch a lot of Snapped, and Ex reminds me of so many of the women that are on that show. To my knowledge she hasn’t killed anyone yet, but Bill told me, more than once, that she had said she should kill him… usually when she thought he was sleeping. And now, I see her using people, just like she always does, for her own personal gain, and not being held accountable for it at all. Every time I try not to care about her, I get dragged back into the mire by something else she does.

Ex is probably the kind of person who would make matching t-shirts for her family and hold up signs, in a show of solidarity… but that’s all it would be. A big show. I don’t think my relatives are putting on a show. I know they love and care for each other deeply, and I admire that… although I don’t feel all that comfortable with it myself. They’re really into church. I am really NOT into church, except the less intense, more secular/social version of it. Ex used to be into Mormonism, but apparently only goes now when she needs something.

I often look at some of my family members and wonder how we ended up related. I seem to have taken after my mom’s side of the family, except for my tendency to be outspoken, funny, and musical. My dad’s family is a lot of fun… but they pray a lot. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve never really felt that kind of spirit myself. I feel a different kind of spirit, I guess.

I know I’m a hypocrite, because I don’t think I’ll ever see Ex as worthy of redemption. I know I should. Bill’s daughter, who has really suffered due to Ex, has outwardly said she tries to be forgiving and understanding. That’s her mom, of course, but she has suffered more because of Ex than I ever will or could. Even Bill has basic forgiveness for Ex… but when it comes to her, my heart stays pretty hard. I am sorry she was abused, and I have basic empathy for the bad things that put her at a disadvantage when she was young. But she never seems to learn from her mistakes and do any serious work toward being a better person. She was hospitalized for mental health issues, yet she still exploits anyone close to her, and she still makes terrible decisions that she puts huge pressure on other people to have to live with. Her decisions often lead to disasters, yet people still do what she says and allow her to enslave them. I don’t understand it at all, and it’s distressing to watch from the sidelines.

Anyway… I’m glad I learned “Redemption Song” today. I still need to practice it a lot, but once I get it down, it’ll be a good chestnut. I could probably have it pretty well wired in a few days if I work at it. I’m glad for that, but learning that song also gave me food for thought before I wrote today’s fresh post. Before my lesson, I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what to write about and was considering taking a one day sabbatical.

In unrelated news… our robotic lawnmower isn’t working properly. Bill spent a couple of hours re-laying the boundary wire in our back yard, because the robot keeps giving us fault loop errors. Now, I’m wondering if the power supply is malfunctioning. I kind of wish I’d just bought a regular mower a couple of years ago, but I have to admit I like the robot and I hate mowing. Hopefully, we can figure it out soon, so I won’t have to keep using the weed whacker to cut the grass.

Today’s featured photo is one of some horses that escaped their pasture and ran through a village… Bill and I looked at renting a house near where they were. It doesn’t have much to do with the post. I just think it’s a cool photo and I don’t feel like finding something more appropriate.

mental health, music

Pretty soon, I’ll be busting out some guitar songs…

This morning, I got a beautiful instrumental hymn stuck in my head, performed on guitar by Amy Grant and Vince Gill. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, but it’s one of those pieces I never get tired of listening to, even though I am not a particularly religious person at all. It’s just so pretty…

I first heard this version on Napster, of all things… years ago!

I downloaded the album this song came from, and every once in awhile, I decide I want to hear it. This morning, it was on the brain, so I played it. Then I looked at my guitar and wondered if I could play along…

I could have tried to figure out the chords myself, but I was in a lazy mood. I ended up on a site called Chordify, which had a very useful moving chord chart that scrolled as it also played the official recording of this song. Before I knew it, I had picked up my pretty blue guitar and was playing along quite well. I messed up in a couple of places, particularly with the Em7 chord, which is a new one for me. But sure as shit stinks, it sounded pretty damned good, if I do say so myself. I think if I practiced it a couple more times, I could probably play it quite passably… at least the rhythm part. And I could work on the riff, which is probably Vince’s work. I ended up subscribing to Chordify, because it’s a really cool tool.

The COVID-19 pandemic has mostly been a drag, but there have been some unexpected gifts, like finally learning guitar. For instance, Noyzi the rescue dog continues to bring us joy. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with Bill, and we still get along beautifully. I finally caught up on all the episodes of Glee and even discovered a few other series I probably never would have bothered with if not for the lockdown. Reading books is slower than usual, mainly because I fall asleep when I try to read and my eyes are not as good as they once were. I really need to visit the eye doctor for a new prescription. I think it’s time for bifocals. It’s also time for a dental cleaning.

I’ve been feeling kind of nervous and grumpy about a lot of things lately, but sometimes things get put in perspective when I get smacked in the face with reality. Every once in awhile, I watch a YouTube channel run by a mortician named Caitlin Doughty who lives in Los Angeles. She has a channel called Ask a Mortician, which is quirky and often very funny and informative. I don’t watch her channel religiously– I’m more of a casual viewer, I guess. But I happened to catch her most recent video, which really touched me. She presented the perspective of what it’s like to be a mortician in L.A. during the pandemic, particularly after the holidays. A lot of people decided to throw caution to the winds and see their friends and families. Sadly, that led to many people contracting COVID-19, getting very sick, and dying.

Well worth watching, especially if your patience is growing thin. I like this channel during less dire times, too. Caitlin is very cool and so interesting!

And now, Caitlin and her mortician colleagues are overwhelmed with business… and lots of people are finding out what it’s like to have a dead body waiting to be processed. At one point in this video, Caitlin is on the verge of tears as she describes the frustration and agony of having to deal with the constant and ever growing backlog of death, as well as the friends and family members who are left hanging when someone dies of COVID-19.

I have never not taken this pandemic seriously. In my case, it’s meant mostly staying in my house and trying not to go stir crazy. I haven’t been to downtown Wiesbaden in many months. I don’t even remember the last time Bill and I were there. I bitch about the face masks because I hate them, but make no mistake, this is a very real illness and a lot of people are not going to see the other side of the pandemic. So I sit here and hope for the best… and try to make the best out of this very strange time. I realize I’m very lucky because I’m in a living situation that allows for this. I probably have Bill to thank for it, too. If we weren’t together, I would probably not be able to hunker down so well.

Today, that means exploring Chordify, which turns out to be a really cool tool for learning songs. If you pay for a subscription, which at this writing is less than 36 euros for a year, you get access to tools that show you the easiest ways to play. In my case, that means extensive use of the capo until I get better at barre chords. I do need to practice them more, by the way. But considering the fact that I have learned just about everything I know from Fender Play, I feel pretty okay about my progress since last May, when I first started this journey. And maybe before too long, I might even make a video featuring myself on vocals AND guitar. In any case, it’s probably about time I popped the guitar video cherry. Maybe sometime soon.

Ex, family, memories, music

Our married life in music…

Saturday afternoon, Bill and I decided to make a couple of CDs for his daughter. I came up with the idea after she sent us a book of guitar chords for our anniversary. She had asked us what kind of music we like. It was a hard question to answer, because I have an enormous, eclectic library of music. It grows larger almost every week.

As we were thinking about what kinds of music we like, it occurred to me that a number of songs in my library have a cool story connected to them. So I chose about 37 songs and put them on CDs, then wrote a brief backstory for each track. I figured maybe they would provide some food for thought the next time they Skype. She can ask Bill about the backstories, even if she doesn’t like the music.

I sent an email to Bill with my notes and invited him to add to them if he wants to. I had to email him with the comments because we don’t have a printer available. I miss good old fashioned mix tapes. Some of my favorite cassettes were made by my friends. I have a couple of them in storage that I listened to over and over again. I wish I could listen to them now. Sad that some technology is obsolete. I have a Mark Knopfler VHS concert tape that is more complete than the DVD version of the same concert. I don’t think our VCR works anymore, though.

I really enjoyed making the discs. Truth be told, I could have made a dozen of them. Music has been a huge part of my relationship with Bill. We have spent so many hours sitting around, listening to music, talking, and drinking wine. We both have broad tastes, so anything and everything comes up on my HomePod. The discs I made for younger daughter include everything from Led Zeppelin to Kathleen Battle, with a dash of bluegrass and even a couple of songs by yours truly. I added one song because it represented how I feel about Bill. The other was our wedding song and Bill requested that I include it. I put both at the end of the CDs, so they’re easy to skip.

One of the songs I included was Kathleen Battle’s magnificent rendition of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.” I used a solo version because it was shorter, but I would have liked to have included this one…

I would have loved to have seen this in person. Rest in peace, Jessye Norman.

I was introduced to Kathleen Battle’s music by my very first voice teacher, who presented me with one of her CDs. It was a life changer. I became a super fan. Incidentally, this particular album featuring Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle is absolutely glorious. It got me through so many hard days when I was younger. I am including a link at the bottom of the page for anyone who is interested. I’m not particularly religious, but I do love some of the music.

Younger daughter is religious. Hopefully, she will enjoy some of the religious songs I included. Bill is probably more into God than I am, though, and a lot of the religious music I put on the CDs are songs we bonded over. But really, I just want her to have some insight into who her dad is. She was denied any access to him for over fifteen years, and they have a lot to catch up on. I figure music is one way to bridge the gap somewhat. If anything, she can read the stories and ask him about them. Like it or not, I’m a big part of Bill’s life and part of the story.

Actually, I don’t get the sense that younger daughter resents me anymore. I think realizing that her mother is who she is has made me look better. And I’m sure that there’s a part of younger daughter who is going through sheer hell, because of all of the lies she was told and time that was lost to her mother’s craziness. Make no mistake about it. Her mother is not a well woman. She defines toxicity. Some of the things she’s said and done to Bill alone are just terrible. What makes it worse is that I can’t really write about them in a lot of detail because it’s just too fucked up. And Bill is just one person. She has no doubt done some real damage to other people, too.

And yet, I don’t think she’s completely evil as much as I think she has an honest to God mental illness. I have empathy for people who are mentally ill, but it can be hard to separate people from their actions, particularly when you are personally involved. If Ex was, say, a social work client and not my husband’s former wife, I might have a different opinion of her. I might even feel kind of sorry for her. But she’s my husband’s ex wife, and she really hurt him on many levels. Her actions have had ripple effects that extend far and wide.

Younger daughter’s husband sent Bill an email requesting stories about her, either from when they’ve been in contact recently or when she was a little girl. He’s making her a book of memories for her birthday, which is next week. Bill was there for her until she was almost six years old. Then, he was unceremoniously kicked out of her life. He last saw her as a child when she was eleven years old. It took fifteen years for them to see each other in person again, although they’ve been Skyping since 2017. I watched Bill working hard on an email full of memories of his daughter and realized that when his daughter reads what he wrote, she may feel angry that he was out of her life for so long. The good news is, she had the courage to reconnect, and they have some time to make new memories. Hopefully, anyway… if none of us gets sick with the dreaded virus.

I read a pretty harrowing account a food writer wrote about his experiences with COVID-19. He seems to be recovering now, but it sounds like he went through sheer hell. I remember being sick with the flu at Christmas time in 2013. I got really sick, although not enough to go to the hospital. I did consider seeing a doctor, but ended up not going. I imagine that if I got COVID-19, I would get very sick. Lately, I’ve been coughing and sneezing a lot because I have allergies and asthma. I think COVID-19 could possibly do me in. So I stay home and wait… hoping this virus can be tamed with a vaccine. I hear the vaccine isn’t very pleasant, but it sounds like it’s better than getting the actual illness.

Well, that about does it for today. I finished my last Fender Play lesson yesterday, so now I’m going to go back and redo some lessons that need work. Maybe at some point, someone besides Bill will want to hear me play and I’ll feel worthy enough to oblige.

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


My big announcement…

A couple of nights ago, while Bill and I were discussing what to do for my birthday this weekend, we got to talking about my new guitar habit. He has mentioned a couple of times that he’d like to learn how to play guitar, too. I asked him if he’d like me to find him a guitar. He said yes…

Since I’ve been using Fender Play and have joined the Fender Play Facebook group, I’ve been shopping on their site. Yesterday, I found a couple of guitars and ordered them. One for me, and one for Bill… which isn’t to say that my Ortega guitar isn’t good. It’s fine. But it’s a classical guitar and has nylon strings, and I prefer the way steel strings sound. Also, I wanted something that might be easier to play. Fender has a line of guitars that might be better for someone with small hands, wanting a smaller profile.

So… these are what I bought…

I get a 10% discount for Fender stuff, since I subscribe to their lessons. They used to not include people in Europe on that deal, but some people complained and now they give us some love. I’m really looking forward to trying out my new guitar and I hope it gets to us before Friday, since Bill claims we’re going to go somewhere for a couple of nights.

It’s funny, because I’ve only been playing since early May, but I’m already starting to strum along to songs I listen to. Yesterday, I had figured out the bulk of “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles. They’re a good band to play with, since a lot of their songs are in G, C, or D, and those are the chords I know best at this point. My fingers are getting tougher, too. I just wish they stretched more.

I was lucky enough to have some money saved, so after I paid for the guitars with my credit card, I made a big payment to offset the jump in my balance and mostly cover the purchase. I hated to do it, but that’s also kind of why I have the savings… to defray the cost of my splurges. Besides, we aren’t really traveling this summer, anyway. COVID-19 put a big damper on that.

My rock star friend says I should have gotten a Gibson guitar, but they are a lot more expensive and I don’t get a discount with them. Aside from that, it doesn’t look like they have a European store, so I’d probably wind up paying a shitload in duties and VAT. At least by buying in Fender’s German store, VAT is already added. I do wonder, though, if they have a better selection in the US store. Part of the reason I got a more “top of the line” guitar is because the cheaper ones weren’t available. But then I figured that if I was going to spend the money on a second guitar, I might as well get a nicer one than the one I have.

And yes, I’m still singing. I did a couple of videos last week. I’m rather happy with this one…

Anyway… I may write more later. It’s cold and rainy in Germany today, so I’ll have the time. But right now, I don’t have anything burning my fingers to get out. I could rant about the usual stuff, but that’s getting pretty boring for me. I’m sure it’s boring for you, too.