art, musings, nostalgia

The many stray paintings and sculptures in my life…

If you read my first travel blog post yesterday, you might know that Bill and I went into Wiesbaden. We were on a special mission to have some newly acquired paintings professionally framed. This may not seem like the most exciting thing to be doing on a Saturday. I know that for many years, I would have preferred to have done almost anything besides visiting an art gallery with picture framing services. For most of my life, I found most anything involving picture framing unbearably dull. Why? Because I literally grew up in the business.

In 1980, my parents moved from Fairfax, Virginia to Gloucester, Virginia. For so many reasons, that move rocked my world. My dad had retired from the Air Force in 1978, when I was about to turn six. We moved from England, which was the only place I remembered living, to suburban Fairfax, where we lived down the street from my Aunt Doris and her family. Now, we were in very rural Gloucester County, where my father was going to be running his own custom picture framing business called The Corner Cottage.

The Corner Cottage was the name my parents gave the business, which was literally run out of our house. Prior to that, the framing business was called Ellis Smith Enterprises. That was the name of the tacky guy who had owned the house before my parents bought it. He really was pretty tacky– I remember he had put a mirror over the bed in one of the bedrooms. I guess he liked watching himself with his wife. I remember the bathroom in that room had a plastic, brown, padded seat and ugly mirrors all over it. My parents promptly redecorated that room, starting with taking down the mirror over the bed!

My parents’ decision to move to Gloucester and buy Ellis Smith Enterprises changed everything for me. My dad went from being an Air Force officer, to a salesman for the Solite Corporation (he sold gravel and concrete and such), to a self-employed picture framer who also sold art. I hated Gloucester when we first moved there. I still didn’t like it when I permanently moved away from there in 1999. It’s only recently that I’ve started appreciating the county where I grew up and can see why people love it. Of course, Gloucester has changed a lot since 1980, although a lot of the same people (or their descendents) live there.

As a kid, I had no interest in art, other than enjoying elementary art classes at school. I truly thought my parents’ business was really boring. Making matters worse was the way my dad would make me do things like clean behind the chopper, where he would cut moulding into precise pieces. I had to vacuum the shop and dust the pictures. All the while, he’d be watching CBS day TV, especially The Young and the Restless, which was his favorite soap. Or worse, he’d be listening to WFOG, the local easy listening station, which played absolutely cringey Muzak, which he’d sing along to. I’d watch him when he was on the phone, using his left hand to doodle mindlessly while he talked. I was reminded this morning of the many doodles my dad made over the years. He probably had a gift for drawing that he never explored.

For most of the years he ran his custom picture framing business, Dad had a woman working with him. For the first few years, it was our neighbor, Joanne, whose daughter was a year older than me. Joanne later opened her own framing business, which failed. Then he hired Deborah, who was a much better fit on many levels. In some ways, she was kind of an angel. She was, and still is, a tremendously talented artist in her own right, and she didn’t/doesn’t have a drinking problem. When my parents retired, Deborah eventually bought their house and the business. She still runs it today.

As I got older, the framing business sometimes came in handy. I never had to buy posterboard, because my dad had the vastly superior matboard available. He also had professional grade window cleaner, which I wish I could get ahold of now. Sometimes, he’d do fun things with products from his business. One time, he made me a periscope out of matboard, mirrors, and tape. That was cool.

My mom was also part of the business. She had her own shop, where she sold knitting, candlewicking, needlepoint, cross-stitch, and other art related supplies. My mom is super talented with a needle, among other things. In her 85 years of life, she has made many beautiful things with a needle and thread or yarn, as the case might be. And her business survived, even when Walmart came to town, because she offered high quality products, professional services, and had incredible talent for turning a canvas into a masterpiece. My mom’s business also occasionally came in handy for me, too. I grew up showing my horse, Rusty, and I never wanted for yarn for braiding his mane and tail. I never learned to knit or cross-stitch, though. I had no interest.

My mom taught many people– mostly local women– the secrets of her craft. I wasn’t among her students because I also found her business boring. I don’t have a gift for creating things with needles and threads. I don’t have the patience or diligence to stitch beautiful designs into cloth. Although I appreciate colors, I have a hard time deciding on color schemes. Consequently, a lot of my own artistic creations are a mess. My sister has artistic talent, no doubt taken from both parents. Me? My gift from them is music… but when I was growing up, I wasn’t interested in doing that, either. It wasn’t until I was an adult that making music captured my heart.

As a middle-aged adult, I’ve discovered that I like art, too. I like to buy art more than make it, because although I do like to draw, I’m not particularly good at drawing. I don’t come up with cool visual concepts like artists do. When I think of something I’d like to draw, something else intrudes and it turns into something too busy and messy. When I was growing up, I liked art class… until I had a teacher who asked me to draw only what I could see. I found it very difficult, even though being asked to do that was kind of revolutionary. It was at that point that I stopped taking art classes. I simply don’t have the knack.

My own personal artistic expression comes in the form of music and writing, probably in that order. I’m much better known as a writer, but probably more appreciated as a singer… especially when I behave myself and sing nice songs. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might know that sometimes I’m provocative. I like to cuss, and I’m not always nice or politically correct. I like to challenge people and make them think. And I won’t lie… sometimes I enjoy shocking people. But when I sing a pretty song written by someone else, people usually like it. They don’t always like what I write. Of course, if I start writing songs, all bets are off as to how that might turn out. I’ll keep working on learning guitar. Maybe sometime, I can experiment.

So what does this all have to do with yesterday’s outing? I’m getting there…

As I was talking to the guy who took our order, breathing in that familiar smell of art supplies, moulding, matboard, and window cleaner, I noticed a very weird sculpture on the top of a curio. It was a very provocative piece of art. I have a feeling it’s no accident that they put it where they did. It would be easy to miss it. And yet, it seemed to jump off the curio at me, as if it wanted me to take it home. I kept looking at the sculpture and even snuck a photo of it.

It’s ugly and weird… and I would love to own it.

We didn’t buy the sculpture yesterday. We were too busy talking about what we wanted to do with the paintings. I had two kitschy dancing cat paintings we bought in Prague that I wanted to be framed. But I also had a gorgeous painting (see featured photo) that I found in Cesky Krumlov. Like the above sculpture, it had jumped off the wall at me… like a stray dog, begging me to take it home.

I remember walking into the gallery, noticing all the usual landscapes and modern depictions of people… and then I saw this fascinating painting of a bunch of different birds. I loved the colors. I enjoyed the weird paranoid mood of it, even if I’m not particularly interested in birds. It stopped me in my tracks and made me think, just like the weird sculpture above did. I found myself telling the proprietor I had to have it. She was delighted, especially when we threw in a pretty but somewhat less interesting painting of a snowy church in Cesky Krumlov.

The way I found myself saying “yes” to the painting is the same way I said “yes” to adopting Noyzi the Kosovar street dog. He was unlike any other dog I’ve ever had in my life. I worried that he’d turn our house upside down… and right now, he’s lying behind my chair, quiet and contented. I don’t regret bringing him home.

I also don’t regret bringing home any of the weird art in my house. And I do have a lot of weird art. I suspect it annoyed our former landlady that my taste in art is so strange and unconventional. I’m sure it helped convince her that I’m a terrible, peculiar, perverse person who deserved to be disrespected and cheated.

If that sculpture is still in the gallery when we go back to pick up our dancing cat paintings, there’s a very good chance I’ll buy it. I think it might be meant for me. I don’t know where I’ll put it. Maybe in the downstairs bathroom? I can’t stop talking about it, though. Just this morning, I was talking about how the way the artist depicted the hairy spots and the breasts… it reminds me of the face of panda bear. You see? I love that. I love art that makes me see other things and think about what else could be. I don’t care if it’s ugly, obnoxious, or weird… or depicts things like someone taking a shit, which is a universal part of life for every creature.

Some of the weird art in my office. Each piece has a story.

If the sculpture isn’t there when we go back to the gallery to pick up the art, I guess it wasn’t meant to be… We will be back at least twice, though. The painting in the featured photo has to be mounted and stretched before it can be framed. That will take time.

If the gallery does a good job on this, I may go back with more art that needs framing. We have a dinosaur painting that has great sentimental value to us. We bought it from a Russian artist named Korelov in Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) in the Czech Republic, back in 2009. At that time, we couldn’t afford custom picture framing. Now that we can, maybe it’s time I had it done… You can see it below with the cool painting we bought in Greece in 2013 and had framed in North Carolina.

If you come to my house, it won’t look like my mom’s house. My mom has beautiful stuff everywhere, artfully arranged. She’s a very neat person, so clutter is minimal. My house is messier. Not everything matches or coordinates seamlessly. I have some stuff that is odd and even offensive. You might not like it. But I’ll bet some of it will make you stop and think. That’s my goal… Come to think of it, making people stop and think is also often my goal when I write blog posts.

Yeah… some of my art is like a stray dog, begging to come home with me, where it will be loved and appreciated. I know it’s crazy, but I kind of love that sculpture. I almost wish we still lived in our old house in Jettingen. I’d buy it and display it in a conspicuous place just to annoy our former landlady. ๐Ÿ˜€

I’m kind of petty that way… ๐Ÿ˜‰

We’ll see if I am meant to buy that piece of art. If I am meant to give it a home, I may have to ask for opinions on where it should be displayed… Seriously, though… maybe I’d put it in the bathroom and remind myself that my body could always look worse than it does. At least my body doesn’t remind anyone of a panda bear.

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controversies, lessons learned, musings

Judging a “lemon” by its rind…

I tried to stay pretty busy yesterday, and I mostly succeeded. I got off to a somewhat late start, as I woke up after 6:00 AM, which isn’t so common for me anymore. Then I made coffee, fed and cleaned up after Noyzi, and started a load of laundry. I did a longer cycle so I could focus more on yesterday’s rambling post that wasn’t particularly tight. While I’ll admit it was a stream of consciousness type post, it did turn out interesting, at least for me. As I read it, I had all of these memories of my younger days, when it seemed like I had forever before I would be considered “older”…

I actually needed some help getting started writing yesterday. There’s a lot I could write about, but I don’t feel knowledgeable enough at this point. And it’s not really what’s on my mind, anyway… I mentioned yesterday that I went down “Memory Lane”, starting with reading old posts about our move to Wiesbaden. I’ve written about that a lot, but I don’t know if I’ve conveyed just how totally difficult that move was to make. It seems like it was just a bad landlady/tenant situation, but it was really so much more than that.

That situation with our former landlady really drove home to me how easy it is to fall into true mind fuckery when you’re dealing with an abusive person. They can make you feel like you’re worthless, as if everything is your fault… or as if you don’t deserve better. It’s hard to break out of that mindset once you enter it. It’s so hard when you trust someone and they betray you, or they turn out to be someone totally different from the person they seemed to be.

Granted, in ex landlady’s case, I did have a subtle warning. There was something about her demeanor that tipped me off at our first meeting. Under normal circumstances, I might not have been so eager to rent her house. Actually, I wasn’t that eager to move into the house, as I was to finally be settled. The summer of 2014 was a very difficult one for us… from Bill’s Army retirement, to my father’s somewhat sudden death, to the very rushed international move to Germany after we found nothing viable in Texas… We were vulnerable.

In August 2014, we still had sharp memories of September 2007, when we spent six weeks in a grubby German Gasthaus in Vaihingen, where there was visible mold on the bathroom ceiling and the place reeked of stale cigarettes. Today, I would have insisted that we move to a better hotel, but we had much less money and experience in 2007, and Bill was fresh from the war zone in Iraq (which he spent with a narcissistic boss). Besides, that particular hotel was in walking distance of where Bill was working, and it was very dog friendly. So we stayed for six weeks. It wasn’t all bad, but I certainly didn’t want to do it again.

So, when we met former landlady, even though I had some mental misgivings about her, I took the former tenant and her husband at their word that she was “great” and my gut feelings weren’t “right”. That was a mistake.

Although it wasn’t all bad, just like our six weeks in a really crummy Gasthaus in 2007, it’s not an experience I’d ever want to recreate. Never before had we ever had such an intrusive situation with a landlord/landlady, even though I’ve seen lots of videos and written plenty of accounts of nightmare property managers, landlords, and landladies. We’ve have had other rental situations that sucked somewhat, but none as personally soul crushing as dealing with our previous landlady. What made it very different and so much worse was the former tenant.

It was one of those perfect storm situations… I’m a blogger, and I made the mistake of sharing my posts in a somewhat small community. People in the military community– I’m sorry to say– are not always the most open-minded people you’d ever meet. You’d think they would be, given how much and how often military folks move to places worldwide. I don’t mean to say that people in that community aren’t diverse, nor do I mean to say that everyone is an asshole. But there are a lot of people who have rigid mindsets about things. Someone who dares to write a blog called The Overeducated Housewife is automatically going to catch shit. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I do know that some people down in the Stuttgart community got some good things from my writings. Quite a lot of people told me they tried restaurants I reviewed, or they visited places I wrote about. But there were so many who just wrote off my efforts because they didn’t like the name of the blog and lacked the desire to find out why I titled it the way I did. How dare someone refer to themselves as “overeducated”, even if they literally are for what they do every day? ๐Ÿ˜‰

I don’t actually think I am “overeducated”. There is obviously a whole lot I don’t know. I also don’t believe that being “educated” is the same as being “intelligent” or “smart”. I just didn’t need to spend seven years in college to be a housewife. If I had known this was going to be my future, I wouldn’t have bothered with college or grad school… but then, I probably never would have met Bill, either. THAT is why this blog is titled as it is… and it came into existence several years before I started engaging with military folks who might be offended by it. In fact, the beginnings of my blog were very humble, as I didn’t even share my posts on Facebook. It took a long time before it evolved into anything people read on a regular basis.

Former tenant probably wouldn’t have been so involved in our situation if I hadn’t been a blogger. Our situation with ex landlady might have turned out like every other situation in which someone hands off a “lemon” to someone else.

Here’s a for instance. Back in 2003, Bill and I adopted an adorable beagle named Flea who had been abandoned in rural Virginia. Flea was a very fancy beagle. His original owner likely paid a lot for him. But, he got separated from the pack when they were hunting. When Flea was eventually found on the side of a road, he was skinny, covered in fleas and ticks, had Lyme Disease, and heartworms. The lady who rescued him got him cleaned up and offered him to a beagle rescue, as she also fostered him for them. The beagle rescue gave her money to get Flea treated for heartworms and Lyme Disease. When we met her, she’d seemed so nice and committed to Flea. But then it turned out she’d never completed his heartworm treatment. Instead, she pocketed the money for the second half of the treatment. So, when we adopted him, we were unaware that he still had heartworms.

Months later, when we discovered Flea’s heartworms weren’t all dead, we tried to contact his rescuer… who then promptly ghosted us. Flea also turned out to be quite a bit older than she’d said he was. Flea wasn’t a “lemon”, per se. He was actually a fantastic dog. But we got stuck dealing with his problems, because someone lied to us. Fortunately, the beagle rescue paid for him to be treated a second time for heartworms. However, heartworm treatment isn’t easy on dogs. I think it took a toll on his health in the long run. We had him for six years before he got prostate cancer, which eventually killed him.

Just like the situation with Flea turned out to be, I guess that former tenant felt the need to get out of her rental agreement with the ex landlady. And she was eager enough to get away from her that she wasn’t entirely truthful or forthcoming about her when we showed up looking for a place to live. We were sitting ducks… because we really needed a place to settle after a tough summer. Former tenant probably figured there was no harm in what she did… I’m sure she totally justified it. Fair enough. Maybe ex landlady really was as wonderful to her as former tenant claimed, and she really did just need to move closer to her job. There was probably even an element of truth to what she told us… but it wasn’t the *whole* truth.

I figure that if I weren’t a prolific and somewhat well-known blogger in the Stuttgart military community, former tenant would have just ghosted us, too. Ex landlady would have been “our problem”, even though the two of them were “friends”. Ex landlady probably would have complained and gossipped to her about us, but former tenant could have just laughed it off. She wouldn’t have been at all concerned about what I was thinking, saying, or writing. But because I was a somewhat well-known blogger, and she had loved Germany and was still following the community on social media, she couldn’t stop herself from following me… and she got upset that I was candid about our experiences.

Instead of realizing that I have the right to my opinions and perspectives and simply unfollowing me, former tenant felt the need to try to control me from afar. Not only did she deceive me, she also tried to silence me… and she seriously misjudged and underestimated me as a person. To her, I guess I was just a sucker who had the “audacity” to label myself “the overeducated housewife”. She probably thought I was just some silly twit– certainly not a match for her. She tried to take advantage of the fact that I’m basically a good person, using shame, obligation, fear, and guilt as a means of trying to fix the narrative. I complied with her for a time, but then wised up about what she was doing.

The irony is, if I weren’t a blogger, Bill and I probably would have been stuck paying for another lemon. Writers are recorders, so I had photos, blog posts, and bits of history that I could show proving the ex landlady’s version of events wrong. We probably would have won, anyway, but it wouldn’t have been quite so handily. Still, when all of that was going on, I felt like shit. I certainly had no desire to be on bad terms with anyone, nor did we want to sue anyone. But I’m also not about to be someone’s patsy.

As if that situation wasn’t bizarre enough… then I looked up former tenant last year. Curiosity killed the cat. I should have learned my lesson about not following people who show me who they are. That’s when I found out that former tenant took her own life. That makes me wonder about a whole lot of things… and it’s also left me with a burden.

All we had wanted to do was find a place to live in 2014. Now we’re left with this very strange chapter in our lives. We’ll probably always think about it and talk about it, and other people probably won’t understand. Some will even try to blame us, even though I only met former tenant in person a couple of times in 2014. Any interaction we had after we rented that house was initiated by her, after she read my blog. I doubt I had anything to do with her decision, but I don’t know. All I can think is that she had a lot of issues that led her to make a tragic choice. Her decision had ripple effects beyond her immediate family and friends that she’ll never even realize.

I never thought I’d ever be a blogger. I did like writing and likely would have loved a “real job” as a writer. But even when I was a teenager, I didn’t really let myself hope writing was how I could earn a living or make my way in the world. I used to have a lot of ideas and dreams about what my “adult life” would be. I figured I’d have a career and probably a family. As I got older, it seemed less likely that either convention was going to be in my future. I didn’t really date much, nor did I have great luck at impressing employers that would pay me a salary on which I could live comfortably.

Granted, after I finished graduate school, I might have managed to find a job to support myself properly. I didn’t really have a chance, as just after I graduated, I moved in with Bill, and six months later, married into the military lifestyle, with its constant upheavals. I was familiar with it, since my mom was an Air Force wife. But by the time I came along, my dad’s career in the Air Force was winding down. I didn’t know the realities, because my parents ran their own business for over half of my childhood.

I think marrying Bill was the right decision, and the best choice I could have made. But it definitely derailed the plans I tried to make for myself. I don’t think they were the right plans, anyway… but they were MY plans. And now I’m sitting here in Germany, writing this blog, wondering where it all went.

Yesterday’s post was a meandering stream of consciousness piece. It started in one place and ended somewhere else I hadn’t really meant it to go. Alex’s first comment to me kind of took me aback. He’d offered me consolation, which kind of distressed me. But, looking back at it today, I can see why Alex left a comment of reassurance. The end of yesterday’s post was about how I felt after reading the post that had inspired it. I was so very angry about the audacity of our ex landlady, treating us like we were the worst kind of people. It pissed me off anew, and brought up some old feelings of shame and worthlessness passed to me from someone whose opinion used to mean a lot to me.

No, I don’t mean ex landlady. I mainly did what I could to appease her, which I now realize was far too much. I mean my dad. I don’t think he hated me. I think he even loved me on one level. But he often treated me badly, and acted like he didn’t like me very much. He took out a lot of his frustrations on me, and treated me like an embarrassment. When I was a young woman, I realized that he was very often abusive to me, and that treatment shaped how I felt about myself. Some of that stuff still comes up today, as I try to stay out of trouble and hesitate to engage with people. I figure they won’t like me… and when some of them don’t, I get bitter and more reluctant to get to know people. When people treat me poorly, I remember it forever and hold it against them, even if their bad attitude doesn’t even have that much to do with me, personally.

There were a lot of times when ex landlady reminded me a lot of my dad. As a grown woman, I can now react in ways that weren’t safe when I was a child. I can speak out, for instance. So I often do. But doing that didn’t suit former tenant’s agenda, and I suspect she thought she could manipulate and control me. So she tried to do that, and I tolerated it for awhile… until I didn’t anymore, and the shit hit the fan. She took issue that I figured out what she’d done… passed off her lemon to Bill and me and expected us to see it as a favor. She wanted me to shut up and pretend I enjoyed the sourness of her lemon. Because it suited her, and her agenda. Who cared about how it affected us?! We’re just a couple of suckers and losers, right? Obviously, if ex landlady didn’t like us, it was entirely our fault, and it was our responsibility as Americans to make her like us

What a load of shit that is. Seriously… I can’t even believe it! We’re supposed to tolerate abuse and PAY for the privilege, because former tenant is/was friends with the ex landlady, and she doesn’t want to offend her or anyone in her family? If there’s a problem, it’s not because of anyone but me… and it’s entirely my fault. Again… that’s a lot of bullshit that doesn’t even have the courtesy of smelling lemony fresh! I can’t believe we wasted a single year on that crap, let alone four!

Well… at least it’s over now. We did prevail. But, like the proverbial lemon, that situation left a sour taste in our mouths. I’m left a lot more wary than I once was. I don’t share things like I used to. I’m not eager to get to know people like I used to be. I trust people less. The memory of that ordeal leaves me a bit depressed on some level. And the fact that former tenant killed herself makes it all the worse, because now it seems like I should feel sorry for her. Or at least act like I feel sorry for her. Really, I’m just angry with her on many levels. I’m sorry she felt the need to off herself, but I also realize that I spent weeks agonizing, feeling totally traumatized and fucked up, and the truth was, I wasn’t the fucked up one at all!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a believer in destiny… We were probably supposed to meet these people, and these experiences were probably supposed to happen. We’ll just have to learn from it, move on, and either keep our lemons to ourselves or be honest about them. Sometimes lemons are a good thing, after all. In the grand scheme of things, this particular lemon at least taught us to be wiser, and we got to see some beautiful parts of the Black Forest. So that ought to count for something, right?

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family, memories, obits

Repost: Godspeed Uncle Carl…

I wrote this piece on January 22, 2015. I am sharing it again because of yesterday’s post, which reminded me of a 2018 post that was “fathered” by my homage to Carl. I’ll probably repost those 2018 posts later, just to preserve them. Carl was a wonderful man, and it was nice to remember how kind and generous he was, even until the end of his life. I’m grateful I was able to speak to him one last time in November 2014.

As I woke up this morning, I checked Facebook, which is my usual habit.  My cousin, Lori, posted that her dad, my Uncle Carl, had passed away.  I wasn’t surprised by the news.  He was suffering from leukemia and my mom told me a couple of days ago that Carl was on hospice and had been told there was nothing more to be done.

Carl was one of my dad’s four brothers, younger by about seven years.  He was a great dancer, very friendly, loving, and warm.  For many years, he worked in Natural Bridge, Virginia, running all the tourist attractions.  Later, he worked in Luray.  Carl had a son and a daughter, eleven years apart in age.  He also had five grandchildren, three of whom are now grown and two that are still very young. 

Over Thanksgiving in 2014, I sat down with Carl and we had a long talk.  One of my other uncles, my aunt’s husband, Bill, interrupted us briefly to comment on a “houseguest” Carl was hosting, a young guy with serious OCD issues who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant.  The guy couldn’t live with his girlfriend because she was getting welfare and it was against the rules for her to co-habitate.  Uncle Bill said, “Carl, that guy at your house is a POW.”  I looked up at him questioningly and he clarified, “Piece of work.”

Carl then started telling me about this young guy who had moved into a spare apartment on his property.  He didn’t pay rent and couldn’t keep a job.  Carl told me his wife, Betty, could barely stand to be around him.  But Carl was determined to help this young fellow.  He did all he could to try to hook him up with people who could help him… ministers and social workers, even though the guy wasn’t interested in that kind of help.  He let him live in the apartment, even though the guy didn’t pay rent.  Carl said the guy did pay for his electric bills and food, at least. 

As Carl was telling me about his “guest”, he focused on the positive, saying that the apartment was kept immaculately clean, thanks to the guy’s issues with obsessive compulsive disorder.  He liked having the apartment lived in rather than sitting empty.  If no one lived there, he still wouldn’t be getting any money for the place.

I got the feeling that Carl just wanted to be kind and helpful, even though many people told him that he was being used and was enabling his houseguest’s irresponsible behavior.  Many people told him to toss the POW out on his ass.  But Carl wouldn’t do it.  He wanted to be a positive force in the young guy’s life.

I have a feeling that Carl’s “POW” is about to lose his free ride.  My Aunt Betty has been ill with Alzheimer’s Disease and Carl had been taking care of her.  When we saw each other at Thanksgiving time, Carl told me that his wife’s illness was getting worse and they often had the same conversations repeatedly because she would forget.  Betty can’t live by herself, so arrangements will no doubt have to be made.  That will likely mean that Carl’s POW friend will need to move on. ETA: Aunt Betty passed in October 2018.

I will miss my Uncle Carl.  He was a very loving and decent person.  He loved his family very much and was always smiling and laughing.  He was deeply caring and empathetic, yet he had a fun loving side, too.  I wish I had access to my wedding photos.  I have a hilarious picture of him at my wedding with a red rose between his teeth and a big toothy grin.  Every time I saw Carl, he was happy to see me.  He always gave me big bear hugs and he loved to just sit and talk and tell stories.  He told a funny story at my dad’s memorial just two months ago.  I will always treasure that memory and am grateful that he was able to spend his last holidays with his loved ones instead of in a hospital room.

I am not a very religious person, but I picture my dad up in heaven, waiting to show Carl the way to the rest of his loved ones who passed before him.  Four of Granny’s nine children have gone home now.   

The featured photo is of the ceiling at Mount Stuart House in Scotland. Below is what I wrote about the photo in my original post about Carl’s death.

This is a picture of the ceiling at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.  Bill and I visited there in 2012.  We had a wonderful little Scottish lady giving us a tour and she was a great storyteller.  She told us about how the house was used as a Naval hospital during World War I.  As she was telling us about the house under this beautiful ceiling, she talked about sick and injured military men, waking up to see that ceiling.  She said, in her delightful Scottish brogue, “One look at that and you would surely think you’d crossed the bar!”  I like to think that Carl and my dad both saw something amazing as they slipped away beyond the bar…  Maybe they saw something even more amazing than the ceiling at Mount Stuart…

This video reminds me a bit of Rockbridge County… where my dad’s family is from…
I think Carl would have liked this.
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love, marriage, relationships, Twitter

I sure do appreciate my man’s “feminine side”…

A little mood music for this post… Some might say I married a SNAG (sensitive new age guy).

God bless my sensitive new age guy… who does like to talk about his feelings, but doesn’t dress like Richard Simmons. He also cares about my orgasms.

It’s a blissfully quiet and peaceful Saturday morning. All of the home improvement work has been done, and the home invaders are wherever it is they’re living on the wrong side of the tracks. I base that, of course, only on their boorish behavior when they were in my home. For all I know, they are perfect gentlemen when they aren’t working. ๐Ÿ˜€

The carpenter came here yesterday, behaved in a respectable and courteous way, and quietly did his work for a few hours. His job was all done outside, and he even climbed up to the balconies using a ladder. Using a ladder certainly wasn’t my specific requirement; it was apparently what worked best for him. So that process went just fine. Now the job is done, and I can relax.

After yesterday’s blog ranting was over, I felt somewhat better. I did some chores, like washing ALL of the bed linens on my bed, which got polluted with dust. I walked Noyzi and watched a movie. I was calmly sitting in the bedroom, trying to stay cool, when Bill came home. He had a lovely bouquet of flowers in his hand and a very sweet expression on his face. “For you.” he said, handing the bright bouquet to me.

This man is such a thoughtful, considerate, sweetheart. How did I get so lucky?

“Awwww… that is so nice! Thank you!” I replied.

“I just wanted to brighten up your day. I know you’ve had a really hard week.” Bill added.

“Thanks! I really appreciate it!” I said with a big smile.

I couldn’t help but laugh, though, because of a tweet I saw by Ex. As usual, it was part funny, and part ludicrous. She used to be married to this kind, pleasant, gentle man, the kind of man who brings flowers to his wife when she’s stressed out, and will come home with red wine, steaks, and chocolate when Aunt Flow is visiting (which hasn’t happened in a few months).

Bill is a man who doesn’t get pissy when a guilty pleasure song by Air Supply comes on my HomePod, and will happily listen to me talk about funny scenes from The Golden Girls. This is a dude that knows what kind of face cream I use and will happily fetch some for me when he goes to the post exchange during the work week. He’s bought me the right feminine hygiene supplies, too… again, when it was necessary. Bill also sometimes cries when he visits churches and art museums. He loves to read literature and study psychology, and he’s very perceptive and compassionate.

I once watched him comfort my father when my dad had severe dementia. My dad was very agitated, because he was upset about being in a rehab facility. He had always been a man who was in charge of his own realities. But there my father was, disoriented and angry, sick in every sense of the word, with several days of beard growth and clothes that hung from his newly thin body. He was wearing inflatable compression socks that he hated, and was trying to remove them as he was muttering to us, asking for our “input”. Bill recognized that my dad was talking like the seasoned Air Force officer he’d once been before he retired in 1978.

I watched my husband gently push on the inflatable compression sock my dad had been trying to remove as he said, “Sir, don’t worry, we’ve got the mission covered. You need to rest and recover so you can get back into the fight.”

My dad immediately calmed down, and we were able to leave. Bill took us out to dinner at a tavern called Park Lane. My dad had stayed quiet for a short time before a nurse called my mom and asked her to return to the facility and help calm down my dad again. Mom blew a gasket and yelled at the nurse. She was exhausted and fed up with paying people to do a job that they seemingly weren’t able to do. Bill calmly took us back to my mom’s apartment and made my mom a Manhattan (her favorite cocktail).

This is a really good guy, folks. He’s the opposite of a “prick”. And yet, this is what Ex tweeted yesterday…

โ€œMost men, indeed. I asked my brother what happens to little boys to turn them into PR1CKS, when they grow up. He said they are forced to ignore their feminine side. Thoughts?โ€

There are so many thoughts that come to my head as I read that. I’m in a unique position to know some things about Ex. I know that she spent almost ten years married to a man who never fails to think of other people. In spite of his 30 years in the Army, my husband is a man who is very much in touch with his feminine side. He’s also one of the most non-dickish men I have ever known. I’m grateful she divorced him so it was possible for him to marry me. I am enjoying his company immensely.

I don’t know what it takes to please Ex, apart from sending her a man made out of her wildest fantasies, capable of instantly changing himself to suit her every whim before she has the chance to dream up whatever will satisfy her on any given day. All I know is that my husband thought enough of me this week to remember me with some flowers. Then, he cooked me dinner… and breakfast, come to think of it. Right now, he’s walking the dog.

I told Bill what Ex tweeted, and he seemed surprised. He knew her brother, and let’s just say he’s not the most introspective person. When Ex’s adoptive father died (whom she met for the first time when she was 7 years old), there was a 21 gun salute, because he’d been a veteran. The shells were supposed to be divided among his grandchildren. Ex’s brother gathered them up and kept them for himself. Ex’s father also left her three eldest children a total of $15,000 in his will. Ex used it on a down payment for a house, which later went into foreclosure. Seems to me that she’s not one who can really talk about what constitutes “prick” behavior in other people. She’s continually proven that she’s the female version of that, herself. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway… it’s not my circus and not my monkeys… but I did find that an interesting comment from Ex. I KNOW she was married to a man who is in touch with his feminine side, but is still all MAN. That wasn’t enough for her. Fortunately, it is more than enough for me.

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communication, family, lessons learned, narcissists, psychology

My mom confirms something important to me…

The featured photo is a picture of Mom and me in Sousse, Tunisia, over the New Year’s holiday in 1978. I was five years old. We lived in England at the time, so it wasn’t a super long journey.

Last week, I tried to call my mom a couple of times. I had forgotten that she was going to be having knee surgery. She had told me about it in March, I think, and it slipped my mind. My mom lives alone in a senior apartment community in Hampton, Virginia. The community was formed out of what was once a grand hotel. It overlooks the Chesapeake Bay. She has a wonderful view from her two bedroom apartment, where she’s lived since 2009. My dad shared the apartment with her, until he died on July 9, 2014.

My mom is going to be 85 years old this year. She’s still quite independent. Her mind is sharp. She still drives, though not as far as she used to. She doesn’t go out much, though, so I was a little worried when I called her three times and didn’t get an answer. Our neighbor’s mom is my mom’s age, and she’s been having some problems lately. She broke her leg, and a few weeks ago, she picked up the wrong keys to her house and got confused. Not being able to reach my mom caused me to to worry a little. I hoped she wasnโ€™t suffering with the same things our neighborโ€™s mom (who is also a neighbor) does.

I sent one of my three sisters a private message on Facebook, asking her if she knew if Mom was okay. She reminded me about the surgery, but then contacted another sister– the eldest of the four of us– to confirm. Oldest sister said Mom was doing fine. The sister I contacted also called Mom’s apartment community to check on her, and they confirmed that Mom was okay. So that was that.

This sister and my mom have always had a lot of interpersonal issues. I don’t know what they stem from, but they’ve had difficulties for as long as I can remember. It’s too bad, too, because both my mom and my sister have things in common. They are both extraordinarily artistic. My mom can do almost anything with needles and thread. For years, she owned her own business, in which she sold cross-stitch, knitting, needlepoint, and other supplies. She taught many people how to do these needlecrafts (although I’m not among them). My mom, even in her 80s, has made some extremely beautiful things by her own hand. When I was little, she used to make clothes for me. She also knitted sweaters, hats, socks, and scarves.

My mom and one of her many incredible creations… She is a very gifted artist.

My sister, likewise, is very talented with needles and threads. She sews and does needle crafts, like our mom does. She’s also a legitimately gifted artist in the way most people think of artists. She paints, draws, and creates true works of art through many different mediums. In addition, she’s a skilled writer, having earned a master’s degree in journalism, and she has excellent taste in music. My sister introduced me to some of my favorite artists, including Kate Bush.

Really, though, my sister is probably best known as an artist. I’ve been to a lot of art museums, and I can tell you that I would expect to see something my sister did hanging in an art museum. Below are a few examples of her work:

You’d think my mom and my sister would get along famously. They have some things in common. But they don’t really get along. My sister seemed to mesh better with our dad (most of the time). I, on the other hand, have always gotten along with our mom. My dad and I fought a lot.

Back in July 2007, while Bill was in Iraq doing his “patriotic chore”, I attended my paternal grandmother’s funeral. Granny was almost 101 years old when she passed. She was much beloved by everyone in her community. I had to bring my dogs with me, because it wasn’t possible to board them. Consequently, when I stayed at the Natural Bridge Hotel (for the last time, it turned out), I got a room in the “cabins”, which were motel rooms on a hillside. My uncle ran the Natural Bridge Hotel for years, and I’ve stayed there many times. The last time I stayed, it was pretty uncomfortable. I think they’ve renovated since 2007, but I haven’t been back… in part, because it was uncomfortable, and in part, because of something my sister said to me that brings back traumatic memories.

After Granny’s funeral, my sister and I were talking. She was also staying in a “cabin”. For some reason, she chose that time to tell me that she’d always believed I wasn’t my dad’s daughter.

Keep in mind, we had just buried our grandmother, who was my father’s mother. If I wasn’t his daughter, that would have meant that Granny wasn’t my actual grandmother. She was pretty much the only grandparent I’d ever known, since my other grandparents died when I was very young. I do remember my mom’s father, but he had severe dementia when I was conscious of meeting him, and he didn’t really know who any of us were. I also met my paternal grandfather’s mother– my great grandma– but she was also very elderly and died when I was about nine years old. I didn’t have much of a relationship with her. So, as you might realize, Granny was very important to me– more so than she would have been in any case.

When my sister made that declaration to me, I will admit there was a part of me that wondered if what she was saying could have been true. My dad and I fought a lot. I don’t look much like him. Instead, I really favor my mom’s side of the family. But I only wondered about it for a moment…

My sister was telling me about how she formed this idea that maybe I was a “bastard” child. She said our mom was friendly with a neighbor in Hampton, Virginia, where I was born. She said he had blond hair and blue eyes, like mine. My dad had black hair and brown eyes.

I decided to gently challenge my sister. I say “gently”, because I didn’t want to fight with her, especially at Granny’s funeral. I asked her how it was possible that our mom could have had an affair. At the time, our dad was away on Air Force missions a lot. They had three children– my sisters are 13, 11, and 8 years older than I am. How would our mom have the time for adultery?

Also, our mom is painfully honest. I mean, she’s honest to a fault. I just couldn’t see her cheating on our dad. She isn’t the most demonstrative person, although she’s definitely friendlier and more demonstrative now, than she was when our dad was alive. There are a lot of things a person might say about my mom’s rather laid back mothering skills. The truth is, she was kind of neglectful to me– and she’d probably be among the first to admit it. I think she would have been better at mothering had she not been married to an alcoholic during the Vietnam War era, and had she not had four kids. But she has a strong moral compass and a very deep sense of loyalty and duty. She took excellent care of my dad until the bitter end of his life. I know she truly loved him, too, even when he wasn’t very lovable.

Finally, I suggested asking our mom point blank about it. My sister very quickly backpedaled, and said she had a wild imagination. It was clear she didn’t like that idea. Uh huh…

Still, for a long time, I wondered if there was any truth to my sister’s theory, because it was true that my dad and I had a rather contentious relationship. I didn’t know the people who were our neighbors in Hampton. I was a baby, and we left Hampton when I was about six months old, and moved to Dayton, Ohio, where my dad took a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I only have the barest memories of Ohio. It’s probably a blessing. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Dad and I didn’t share very much in terms of physical similarities. Now that I’m older, I think bone structure in my face looks like his, somewhat. Actually, I think I look a little like this particular sister, in terms of facial bone structure. She looks more like our dad, though, while I am very obviously my mom’s daughter.

Years later, I submitted my DNA to both 23&Me and Ancestry.com. I saw that a number of my DNA matches came from my dad’s side of the family. Obviously, I am his daughter.

Which brings me to last night’s chat with my mother. We’d been talking for about an hour and were about to ring off. Mom said the surgery and the drugs she was taking were causing her to need the toilet more frequently than usual. Before we finished our conversation, I asked her if she’d watched the coronation of King Charles III. Mom loves watching British ceremonies. She said she had, and that led to another rabbit hole of discussion.

The topic turned to Prince Harry and Meghan, and she brought up their children, Archie and Lilibet. I said that some people were speculating that perhaps the kids weren’t actually conceived between them (not that I believe that myself– it’s not really my business). I added that since everybody is getting their DNA tested these days, it would be hard to lie about something like that.

My mom said, “Well I want you to know that your dad and I are your parents.”

I thought that was kind of a weird thing to say, and before I knew it, I said “Well, thank you for that. There was some doubt at one point. But then I got my DNA tested.”

Naturally, Mom wanted to know what I meant. So I told her about that toxic conversation I’d had with my sister back in 2007… right after Granny’s funeral. I didn’t mention her name… but Mom quickly guessed who had said that to me. It turns out my sister had directly accused our mom of having had an affair. Mom thought maybe she was talking about the young Black male nurse who had been helping to take care of Dad in his last years. At the time, the nurse was an 18 year old nurse’s aid, and our mom was in her 70s. Dad had accused them of having an affair; he had severe dementia at the time. The idea of Mom having an affair with a teenager was ridiculous and laughable, and she did laugh about it. But no… my sister said Mom would have had an affair with a white person.

For sixteen years, I never mentioned to my mom that conversation my sister and I had. I hadn’t meant to mention it last night. To my mom’s credit, she was pretty cool about it and even apologized to me that my sister had said that. It was pretty hurtful.

And maybe I shouldn’t write about this here… Some people would find it inappropriate and too personal. On the other hand, abusers thrive on secrecy. They say and do mean things, counting on their victims remaining silent. In spite of what some people might think, I’ve been silent about a lot of things. It’s not really my nature to be silent, either. One of the gifts I inherited from my mom were, after all, the gifts of music and communication. Actually, I inherited both of those from my dad, too… Music and writing are a couple of a few things I got from him, even if I don’t resemble him physically.

I’m not angry with my sister. I don’t know why she has these issues with our mother. Some of the things she says seem rather fictitious to me… and in fact, she often reminds me of other people in my life with whom I’ve had to do battle. Perhaps dealing with her is one reason why I am so “saturated” when it comes to narcissistic types, like former landlady and Ex. My sister, by the way, thinks she’s an empath. Personally, I don’t really see it. Bill is an empath. I am not, and neither are any of my sisters.

I’m not sorry Mom and I had that talk. Thanks to DNA tests, I already knew that my sister’s conspiracy theory was utter bullshit. I never really believed her theory, even before I had my DNA tested. However, it was good to hear it from my mom, who even told me about the time I was conceived. Apparently, it happened after my dad had taken a “round the world” trip in the fall of 1971, escorting generals to different embassies. Mom said they used to joke that they were going to name me “Ethiopia”. She said she’d told me about that once, and I thought it was “terrible”. I swear, though, I don’t remember the story. She also said the person my sister thought she’d been messing around with was just a neighbor who, along with his wife, had kids the same age. They were just neighborhood friends. In fact, the wife of the couple recently sent Mom a letter. She’d tracked her down in Hampton.

We ended our conversation on a really lovely note. Mom said she loved me, and reminded me that I’d been a good kid who never got into trouble. I guess buying me a horse worked… (and my sister tried to take credit for that decision, too). I wished Mom a happy Mother’s Day, and said I’d call her before we go on vacation next month. It’s a gift to me that she and I can be friends now. She might be one of the few people in my family with whom I would probably choose to be friends, even if we weren’t related.

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