holidays

The last day of 2021… (cross post)

This post also appears on the travel blog, since I have different readers there. The featured photo is of cookies the landlord brought us.

I’m getting a late post up today. I was actually thinking of taking off the last day of 2021. I didn’t have anything earth shattering on my mind that I felt compelled to write about. Bill had the day off, and we were both kind of tired. Bill was especially tired, since he never gets a full night’s sleep. So I worked on reading my book, and he took a nap. Later, he’ll fire up the fondue/raclette grill set I got him for Christmas, and we’ll try it out. He’s already used the new hot tea pot I got him. He’s drinking tea as I write this.

Bill and Arran, preparing for tonight…

Arran took a nap with us, while Noyzi tried to steal my brand new fuzzy slippers. I think he thinks they’re small animals. I might let him take them, but he’s already eaten a couple of toys. The emergency vet is the last place we want to go tonight.

I managed to accomplish a couple of other chores, too. After I worked on trying to rid the toilet of lime scale and calcium stains, I went on Amazon.de and bought some citric acid, as well as cleaning soda and salt. Today, I tried the acid on a really terrible hard water stain in the shower that I’ve never been able to get rid of. I poured the acid on the stain and, wouldn’t you know it? That stain was gone in minutes! There’s no trace of it. I think it’s a wonder drug. It’s hard to believe it’s taken seven years to figure this out. Vinegar is good, but citric acid is the bomb! And it’s cheap, too!

I also climbed up on a stepladder in the shower and knocked the calcium off the shower head jets, so the nice rainfall spray won’t squirt all over the place anymore. Now, the new shower head is as nice as it was in September, when it was installed.

I heard that fireworks weren’t supposed to be sold in German stores again this year. Like last year, the government wants to discourage people from setting off fireworks, because they don’t want people getting hurt and needing to go to the hospital, thanks to COVID. I suspect there will be fireworks, anyway… Germans are law abiding people, but they love fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I think that’s pretty much the only day they are allowed to be set off, at least by the regular rank and file folks. I seem to remember that there were fireworks last year, despite the ban on them.

Our New Year’s celebrations are usually pretty boring affairs. We spend them much the same way we spend any night at home… listening to music, drinking wine, and talking.

I’m hoping 2022 will be a better year for everyone… although 2021 wasn’t, for me, a particularly bad year. I’ve had worse. But this COVID-19 shit needs to be fixed. Hopefully, 2022 will bring us some breakthroughs.

In any case… I want to offer sincere thanks to everyone who’s been reading my blogs. This site, in particular, has really taken off this year! In the past month or so, I’ve had an explosion in traffic. That really does my heart good, and makes writing this blog worth the time and effort.

The travel blog has been somewhat less trafficked this year, but I can understand why. I haven’t been traveling as much… nor have many other people! I’m sure the traveling we have done may even be a downer for some folks. I know some people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), and it can be depressing to look at other people’s travel posts when travel is so potentially risky and definitely stressful. I am very grateful, though, that we finally managed to go to Croatia. I hope we can visit again. There are more places I want to see. And with any luck and maybe God’s grace, if you’re into God, that is– maybe COVID-19 will be more under control by this time next year.

I’m still making music, too… Been getting better with my guitar skills and can even play some songs. There are some times when I find myself playing things completely spontaneously. I still have plenty of learning to do, which is a good thing. And I’ve also found someone to collaborate with on YouTube, too, which is very rewarding. Maybe I’ll put up a new song or two, now that I have new gear. Maybe I’ll try to learn bass guitar and banjo, too… if the virus continues to spread, I might have to do something else to pass the time.

Well… I don’t have much else to say, except…

I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year’s Eve, and a very fortuitous New Year’s Day… and 2022!

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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.

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holidays

Christmas Eve already!

A slightly altered version of this post also appears on my travel blog.

I know a lot of people think this year has dragged on. For me, it’s flown by. It’s hard to believe that a year ago, we were in Nimes, France, celebrating Christmas 2019 with my good friend Audra and her husband. Audra and I grew up in the same small town and attended the same small college. We have both ended up living in Europe, although Audra has gone native and will probably stay in France. I, on the other hand, will probably leave Europe at some point. Or, I’ll probably leave Germany, anyway. I don’t know when, and I’m not in a hurry to go anywhere.

I like living in Europe. I’m grateful we were able to move here well before the pandemic started. We’ve had a lot of fun over the past few years, despite some of the hassles. I don’t really miss life in the United States. I do miss a few people and some of the conveniences of living in my homeland, but the German lifestyle appeals to me. I like that life isn’t just about working. I like that the leaders seem to care about the citizenry. I like that our town is clean and the people are nice.

So homey… but Noyzi sure sheds a lot!

The weather could be better, but it’s not bad here. It’s noticeably milder these days than it was during our first time here. Of course, that’s probably because of global warming, which is kind of depressing. But in the meantime, global warming makes winters less snowy and icy, on the whole. We do have lots and lots of rain, and that’s turned our backyard into a sloppy mess. But it’s fenced in, and we have plenty of privacy. The dogs get to enjoy a few minutes out there to do their business without the need of a leash. We also have a nice landlord. He likes dogs, and yesterday brought us three bottles of bubbly and a box of chocolates, as well as free firewood.

Bill and I have a lot to be grateful for, even if 2020 has been a most unusual and horrifying year for so many people. We did have some losses, but we’re both still basically healthy and happy… and a few genuinely great things happened, too. The highlight was Bill getting to see his daughter again after fifteen years and meeting his son in law and grandchildren.

He’s getting braver.

Also… I think Noyzi the Kosovar street dog was meant to be our dog. He’s settling in well and enjoying being a pet with his own big, hairy bed, and his own private water bowl, because he doesn’t like drinking from the one in the kitchen. Noyzi and Arran aren’t buddies yet, but I have seen a few sparks of playfulness. He’s becoming a goofy clown. I notice he sniffs the air when something is cooking and he silently sneaks up behind me when it’s time for us to eat. I’ll feel his big nose tap me on the back as if to say, “Don’t forget the Nozyi snack tax.” It’s been very rewarding to watch him adapt and enjoy things that so many dogs love… like walks and treats and belly rubs.

Arran, lying on what used to be Zane’s rug. He’s finally the boss.

Arran is still very spry and engaged with life, despite being about eleven years old. He still loves his walks, food, sleeping with us, and cuddling with Bill, who is his favorite person. I’m grateful that I caught him heading downstairs last night before we went to bed. He needed a potty break, big time!

Bill and I are also learning guitar. A year ago, I didn’t own a guitar. Now we have four of them, and Bill is shopping for an electric version. I was even talking about picking up bass guitar last night. If this pandemic goes on for much longer, I might have to go for it. I’ve managed to make some nice vocal recordings, too, even if they aren’t as popular as my blog is (which isn’t saying that much).

I’m also grateful to all of you who continue to read and comment on my stuff, even when I go a little off the rails. Thanks for giving me a reason to write. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas. I may or may not write tomorrow. Depends on how bored I get, and if inspiration strikes.

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