Ex, lessons learned, mental health, narcissists, psychology

On not being alone at the narcissist’s chasm…

You might say that today’s post is a continuation of the one I wrote on Sunday. In that post, I wrote about how a new and mind blowing insight hit me as I listened to a very familiar story Bill told me about how his narcissistic ex wife made him feel. If you haven’t read that post, this post may make less sense than it could. On the other hand, maybe it will make perfect sense. The first post has some of the backstory that led to the revelation that is spawning this morning’s post… which I don’t expect everyone to care about. It just helps me to write these things down, both for reference, and because it’s kind of fascinating to me.

Next month, Bill and I will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Throughout the course of our marriage, I’ve repeatedly heard the story about how Bill decided that he would agree to his ex wife’s demand for a divorce. He realized that she’d drawn a metaphorical line in the sand. She wanted him to cross it. But if Bill crossed that line, he would lose part of himself. It also would not have taken long before he was back on the wrong side of the line. Somehow, he realized that it was pointless to keep trying to appease his ex wife’s demands. He agreed to the divorce, even though it wasn’t actually what she’d wanted. What she wanted was to regain control.

Bill is a kind and sensitive man. He tries very hard to make other people happy. His ex wife was never an exception. He wanted to love her and care about her. She couldn’t, and didn’t, return the sentiment. She wasn’t driven by love. She simply wanted security and control.

In Ex’s defense, I suspect that the reason she wasn’t “driven by love” is because she grew up in a chaotic home, where she was taught lies and forced to accept abuse. Somehow, as she came of age in that home where she was never valued, she never quite matured beyond adolescence. She probably never had time to grow up, since she was probably focused on survival– or perhaps that was just the perception she had. Somehow, she never got the message that real love isn’t supposed to be a contest. It also goes both ways.

I don’t think Ex even really knows what actual love is, beyond the most primal passions and urges. Her version of love doesn’t include respect, kindness, or gentleness. It doesn’t include trust, or the ability to relax and enjoy another person for who they are. She is constantly testing people, keeping them on their toes to prove their loyalty to her. But it’s not a two-way street. She expects people to fight for her, but she won’t do the same for them, except in a bid to own them somehow.

When Ex’s victims inevitably quit trying to please her, she accuses them of abandonment… when really, they are simply exhausted and defeated. They get tired of trying to win a contest that can’t be won. In essence, they realize that they can’t cross the chasm and shouldn’t want to cross it. Crossing the chasm means losing themselves and becoming someone who isn’t authentic. They become a shell of who they are.

Last night, Bill and his younger daughter Skyped for the first time in awhile. During the discussion, Bill decided to test my theory that he was not alone at the “chasm” he had frequently described to me over the course of our relationship. He asked his daughter if she ‘dever felt like she was standing on one side of a chasm, while everyone else important to her was on the other side with Ex. Sure enough, she identified.

They talked some more, and Bill pointed out that, in Ex’s world, no one is supposed to talk to anyone else. This is especially true when there’s trouble or someone is being shunned.

It occurred to me that people in Ex’s realm are like spokes on a wheel. If you look at spokes on a wheel, you see that they all connect to the middle, but they don’t touch each other. Imagine the narcissist as the middle of the wheel and the spokes as all of the people in the narcissist’s realm. They all support the narcissist and keep the wheel turning. But if they ever touch each other, that means they’ve broken, and the narcissist gets less support, just as a wheel does. What do you do with a broken spoke in a wheel? You repair or replace it.

I have learned that no one in a narcissist’s life is indispensable. They are always looking for someone to support them. It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as they’re up to the job. A spoke in a narcissist’s wheel has to be willing to focus all of its attention to the narcissist. It’s a thankless job, but crucial to the narcissist’s existence. And when the spoke inevitably bends or breaks from the pressure, it has to be replaced– discarded… or maybe repaired– punished and “re-educated”.

That’s where the nonsense about coming across the chasm comes in. The narcissist looks at the victim and says, “You don’t have be alone. All of these other people are here with me. Just do what I want you to do, and you can partake of the feast with us.”

But there is no feast… it’s all an illusion. It’s a mirage. Moreover, those people who seem to be on the narcissist’s side, are really on your side of the chasm. It’s as if you all wear blinders, forcing you to look directly across the abyss. You don’t see each other. You’re all focused on the narcissist– the center of the wheel. Somehow, the narcissist makes you think the center is where you really want to be. But the only person who can be in the center of the wheel is the narcissist. Everyone else is a spoke, and necessary to keep the narcissist’s wheel spinning. When one of you breaks, the wheel falters. Swift action must be taken to keep the wheel spinning. Otherwise, the whole thing falls apart. There is no time for a party on the other side of the chasm. There’s too much work to be done.

A good song for this… and I wish I still had this album. It’s out of print.

Why did it take me twenty years to see this? I think it’s because for so long, we didn’t have other perspectives. Many of the people in Ex’s wheel weren’t speaking to us, so we didn’t realize that she was treating them just as badly. It really did seem like Bill was being singled out as someone who wasn’t able to cross the chasm because of his perceived (and falsely attributed) character defects. I think we eventually assumed others were being mistreated, but we didn’t know for sure, because no one was communicating with us, except Bill’s mom. And Bill’s mom was probably the first one to get to the edge of the chasm, because she was the first one to threaten Ex’s perceived position of authority. Ex did her very best to separate Bill from his mother. When that didn’t work, she cast out Bill, too, and led them both to believe that they were awful people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is, in Ex’s world, everyone is defective. She, on the other hand, can do no wrong. Or, if she does do wrong, it’s only because people mistreated her. She’s “owed” the right to be an asshole, because other people were assholes to her. By that logic, being a narcissistic asshole is like a contagious disease– maybe we could even call it “narcissistic COVID”. Of course, Ex would never agree that other people have the right to mistreat her, even though she mistreats them.

Actually, the wheel metaphor isn’t new to me. That thought occurred to me at least ten years ago. I realized that Ex had all of these people working so hard to do her bidding. I wondered why people were so concerned with keeping her satisfied. Of course, now I know that I was on the outside of the wheel. I wasn’t a spoke. She tried to make me one of her spokes when she invited me to my own in-laws’ house for Christmas in 2004. I refused, which made me too dangerous to interact with the family. So she did what she could to lessen my influence and make me out to be a “bad person”. She told egregious lies about me and Bill, and she compelled Bill’s daughters, ex stepson, and even tried to compel his parents to cast him out.

Not long after I started thinking of Ex’s world as a wheel, I realized that everyone in her system was triangulated. She filtered and spun all of the information among everyone in the wheel; like spokes, they didn’t touch or speak to each other. She kept them all distrusting each other, focused solely on her, and competing for her attention. She also misrepresented the thoughts and opinions of other people.

For instance, Ex told my mother-in-law things like, “Bill and I don’t think you’re an appropriate grandmother figure for the kids.” Of course, Bill never thought or said anything of the sort. But by including Bill in that comment, she made it seem like he was on the other side of the chasm with her, when he was really standing right next to his mother, hearing things like “The kids don’t think you know them well enough to buy them presents they actually want.”

Meanwhile, Ex would tell Bill’s stepmother, who doesn’t like Bill’s mom, things like “Bill’s mom is smarter than you are…” or “Bill’s mom sends the children better gifts.” Or any number of other statements that are designed to isolate, alienate, or make the other person feel insecure, misunderstood, and not good enough. And Ex would slip in little comments that made it seem like other people shared her warped opinions, when, in fact, they didn’t.

Bill, his mom, and his stepmother, were on the same side of the chasm, looking over at Ex, who seemed to have everybody on her side. The reality was, no one was really on Ex’s side. Everyone was on the same side of the divide, thinking they were alone. But they weren’t alone at all… Ex had fooled them into thinking they were, and tricked them into focusing on pleasing her, when they should have been taking care of themselves and each other.

She would get people so spun up and angry that they wouldn’t speak to each other directly. They would just keep talking and listening to Ex, who would keep them agitated and misunderstanding each other. This was all done to keep her in charge. Got to keep the wheel spinning, you see… there’s no time for a party on the other side of the chasm. No time to build bridges to a place where everyone understands, respects, and simply LOVES each other. And Ex doesn’t want people to love each other. She wants them to admire and worship her. I don’t think even she wants to be loved. I think she simply wants to be adored. Maybe that’s what love is to her.

That was how Bill lost contact with his daughters. She told Bill they hated him. She told her daughters that Bill was an abusive bastard who cheated on her. Bill and his daughters never had the opportunity to speak to each other and learn the truth. Meanwhile, Ex did everything she could to remove Bill from their lives. He was a broken spoke who could no longer be trusted to do the work she required. She couldn’t risk him breaking the other spokes with the burden of the truth. She sure as hell didn’t want the kids to think of me as someone who might be “good” or could offer them love, or anything else. That was too threatening for her.

As I sit here thinking about this– all this crazy imagery– another image pops into my head. Did you ever see the 1976 movie, Carrie? It was based on Stephen King’s book about a teenager who has telekinetic powers. She’s a mousy girl, timid and shy, and raised by a weird mother who belongs to a religious cult. The other kids make fun of her. When Carrie gets angry, she turns into a demon from hell, whose rage kills.

In that film, just before Carrie’s final act of rage at the senior prom, a sympathetic character named Sue, who had tried to show Carrie kindness and understanding, shows up to watch Carrie and Sue’s boyfriend, Tommy, be crowned prom king and queen. Sue is initially happy for them… but then she notices a slender rope that runs under the stage. There are two mean kids there, waiting to pull the rope, which will dump pig’s blood all over Carrie. Sue has a perspective that no one else has. She’s not a part of the wheel. She tries to warn someone, but the others, thinking she’s just there to cause trouble, refuse to hear her warnings. So Sue is banished… much like I was. And then, the carnage begins.

Sue knows what’s going on… but no one will listen to her.

Brian DePalma does a masterful job showing all of those perspectives. He shows what Carrie imagines to be happening. He shows Sue realizing what is actually happening. And he shows all of the other doomed people at the prom, not realizing that they’re about to be slaughtered. In fact, DePalma even shows these perspectives in a wheel that spins.

Naturally, this situation with Ex isn’t just like Carrie. So far, Ex hasn’t killed anyone with her narcissistic impulses. In fact, I don’t think Carrie was a narcissist. She was enslaved by her rage, which caused her to be destructive. Maybe if she hadn’t died at the prom, she would have had something more in common with the Incredible Hulk– a mild mannered scientist who turns into a green monster when he gets angry. The point is, in Carrie, there’s someone who has the perspective of seeing what’s happening. She’s not in the wheel. She tries to speak up, but no one hears her. Sue ultimately escapes, but everyone else stays trapped… until Sue lets her guard down in a nightmare and tries to bestow one more act of kindness toward Carrie, who betrays her by trying to pull her into Hell.

There’s so much to this last scene…

Hmm… maybe being friends with a narcissist is kind of like being friends with Carrie, after all. I still don’t see Carrie as a narcissist, though. Maybe given time, and enough cruel treatment by others, she might have become a narcissist. She might have become hardened and cruel, rather than misunderstood and sheltered. Maybe when she was much younger, Ex was more like Carrie, and turned into who she is because of abuse, abandonment, and cruel mistreatment from other people. Somehow, she got to the point at which she turned into someone who is directed by her destructive rages. Anyone who upsets her, threatens her, or doesn’t follow her orders has to be figuratively destroyed.

Anyway… I suspect Bill will have a lot to talk about with his Jungian analyst tonight. But I know he felt better after talking to his daughter, and realizing that, yes– they’ve all been standing on the edge of the chasm, unable to cross, and looking over at the illusion of everybody else, standing with Ex. If they’d only thought to trust each other enough to talk amongst themselves… The healing could have started a long time ago. But I understand now why they couldn’t, and didn’t. They were too focused on keeping the wheel spinning. They were too convinced that if the wheel stopped spinning, disaster would strike. That’s how it works in the narcissist’s world. Somehow, they manage to trick people into thinking that there will be hell to pay if they aren’t satisfied.

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book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Two book reviews about Karen Carpenter’s life…

These two related book reviews, written for Epinions in 2007 and 2010, are both about books written about Karen and Richard Carpenter. They appear here as/is.

The almost complete Carpenters story…

The cover for the paperback version of this book. I have the hardcover edition.

For years I’ve enjoyed listening to music by Richard and the late Karen Carpenter, popularly known as The Carpenters. The Carpenters will forever be known for their ability to create and cover 70s era pop confections like “Top Of The World”, “Close To You”, and “Superstar”. Richard Carpenter provided his considerable arranging talents and piano playing. Karen Carpenter contributed her unforgettable voice. Together, the Carpenters were a musical force who reached fame and fortune while they were still in their 20s.

In April 1994, the late Ray Coleman published an authorized biography called The Carpenters: The Untold Story. I was quick to purchase a hardcover copy of this book and I’ve read it several times. Unfortunately, it seems that Coleman’s very comprehensive and informative biography is no longer in print. Nevertheless, I think it’s a must read for anyone who is interested in the Carpenters’ careers.

Coleman includes brief information about Karen and Richard Carpenters’ ancestry and childhood, as well as information about the time they spent in New Haven, Connecticut before they moved to Downey, California to pursue their music careers. The biography continues with the story of how the Carpenters were discovered, their meteoric rise to fame, and Karen’s and Richard’s legendary demons. Karen Carpenter was, of course, afflicted with anorexia nervosa, whereas Richard developed a drug addiction which led to a stay at the Meninger Clinic in Kansas. There are two photo sections with pictures of the Carpenters as kids and adults. There’s even a copy of an essay Karen Carpenter wrote for school.

The Carpenters’ story has been told and retold by different sources. The television movie The Karen Carpenter Story was shown for the first time in 1989. There is also an independent unauthorized film called Superstar available, which was made with Barbie dolls. Check out YouTube and you’ll find plenty of news and interview clips documenting the rise and fall of the Carpenters. In my mind, Coleman’s book is the only source that really provides a glimpse into who Karen and Richard Carpenter were as people. Although this book was written with the Carpenter family’s cooperation, it doesn’t cast the family in a perfect light. Though Karen had the voice of an angel, she didn’t always behave like one, especially when it came to Richard’s love life. And Richard Carpenter, talented as he is, also comes across as a bit stodgy and demanding.

This is not a short book, but I always enjoy reading it; Ray Coleman had a way with words. The only drawbacks I can think of are that this book is not as easy to find as it once was and the story ends in 1994. Richard Carpenter is still around, having married his cousin Mary Rudolph (she was the adopted daughter of his aunt) in 1984 and fathered five children. He still performs and he’s always tweaking the Carpenters’ sound and repackaging their music. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who wants the lowdown on the Carpenters’ career.

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And now, my review of Randy Schmidt’s book, Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter…

Karen Carpenter’s life and death…

The cover of Randy Schmidt’s book.

It’s hard to believe that Karen Carpenter, who had one of the most recognizable voices of the 1970s and early 80s, has now been dead for 27 years. I remember quite clearly the day she died, February 4, 1983. I was ten years old and riding in a car with my dad to visit my sister, who was at that time a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University. An announcer came on the air and said that Karen Carpenter had died that morning. I asked my dad what had killed her and he said “Starvation.” He didn’t elaborate, but it wasn’t much longer before I first heard about anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder that plagued Karen Carpenter’s final years and eventually led to her sudden death at age 32.

Karen Carpenter was, of course, part of the brother-sister pop duo the Carpenters. The other half of that duo was her older brother, Richard. While Karen had that magical voice that made their music so appealing to so many listeners, it was Richard who was known as the “brains” behind the outfit. He wrote and arranged songs, occasionally sang, and played piano like a genius. And in their very close-knit family, Richard was apparently the most important child, especially to their mother, Agnes Carpenter.

Author Randy Schmidt has just published Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter (2010). I happened to find it two days ago, while playing with the Kindle my husband Bill just gave me for my birthday. Karen Carpenter’s story has always fascinated me and I do enjoy the Carpenters’ music, saccharine as it often is. I downloaded it and managed to finish it within several hours of dedicated reading. Considering the fact that this book is well over 300 pages long, that was quite a feat and a testament to my interest in the book.

Overlapping biographies

Back in 1994, the late author Ray Coleman wrote The Carpenters: The Untold Story. Coleman was a well known biographer of rock worthies as well as the editor-in-chief of Melody Maker magazine. Coleman’s book about the Carpenters was very comprehensive, so I was somewhat surprised to find Schmidt’s new book. Having read Little Girl Blue, however, I did notice that Schmidt had consulted many of Coleman’s works in Melody Maker and Coleman’s biography of the Carpenters in order to write this book. In fact, I even recognized a couple of paragraphs that appeared to come verbatim from Coleman’s book, which I have read several times since 1994. Coleman’s biography of the Carpenters, which Schmidt does list in a very comprehensive bibliography, obviously served as a major source for Schmidt’s Little Girl Blue. Why, then, if Ray Coleman had already written the Carpenters’ story, did Randy Schmidt need to write another book specifically about Karen Carpenter?

What I think Little Girl Blue offers…

What sets Little Girl Blue apart from The Carpenters: The Untold Story is that Schmidt managed to get information from sources other than those approved by Richard Carpenter. In particular, Randy Schmidt interviewed Karen Carpenter’s close friends, Frenda Franklin, Olivia Newton-John, and Karen Ramone. Karen Ramone was also interviewed for Coleman’s book, but from what I gathered in Little Girl Blue, Schmidt got more details, particularly about the time period when Karen Carpenter was in New York City in 1979-80, recording her one and only solo album, Karen Carpenter, with Karen Ramone’s husband, Phil Ramone.

Schmidt also updates Carpenters fans on things that have happened since Coleman’s book was published. For one thing, Karen Carpenter’s solo album, which had been shelved back when it was created, was finally released in 1996. For another thing, Richard Carpenter has become the father of five children– only three of them had been born when Coleman’s book was published. Schmidt also writes about why the Carpenters’ remains have been relocated from their original resting place at Forest Lawn in Cypress to Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, California.

What’s good about Little Girl Blue

Besides the fact that Schmidt updates fans on all things Carpenters, this book includes some photos– a few of which I had not seen before in Coleman’s book. Schmidt writes well and I appreciated the fact that he spoke to a lot of different people in order to give readers a less whitewashed version of events. Schmidt provides more details about Karen Carpenter’s ultimately doomed marriage to Tom Burris, making him out to be an enormous gold-digger.  If what Schmidt writes about Burris is completely true, it’s tragically ironic that she married him.  One of Karen Carpenter’s biggest fears was, allegedly, marrying a man who was a gold-digger.

Schmidt also makes Karen Carpenter’s mother out to be an extreme control freak, who refused to let either of her children grow up and be normal adults. Schmidt even interviewed actors Mitchell Anderson and Cynthia Gibb, who famously played Richard and Karen Carpenter in a 1989 movie of the week called The Karen Carpenter Story, which played on CBS on January 1, 1989.

What’s not so good about Little Girl Blue

Like I mentioned before, Ray Coleman had already written a superior biography about the Carpenters. I am very familiar with Coleman’s book, which is unfortunately now out of print. I do think there’s room for two biographies about the Carpenters– but– it was pretty clear to me that Randy Schmidt leaned on Ray Coleman’s work quite heavily. In fact, there were a couple of instances in which it appeared to me that he’d actually copied some paragraphs or at least paraphrased them to the point at which I knew I had read them several times before. I didn’t have Ray Coleman’s book next to me as I read Schmidt’s efforts on my Kindle, but I feel pretty confident that I’d be able to find the text in question. Reading Schmidt’s work pretty much felt, to me, like the literary equivalent of a re-run.

Should you read Little Girl Blue?

If you are a diehard fan of the Carpenters’ music, you may already know a lot of the information Randy Schmidt reveals in his biography, especially if you’ve already read Coleman’s work. However, if you missed Coleman’s book and can’t get a copy of it, Little Girl Blue is definitely worth reading. Personally, I think I liked Coleman’s book better, though Schmidt does offers some new information, particularly on things that have happened since 1994. And I do think his interviews with Frenda Franklin give this book a perspective that is lacking in Coleman’s book. I do wish, however, that I didn’t feel like I had already read parts of Little Girl Blue.

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music, videos

Sand and Water…

I couldn’t think of a subject to rant about, probably because I have been focused on music today… I did make a new video. It was inspired by an updated version of the song, “Sand and Water”, done by Beth Nielsen Chapman. She teamed up with Olivia Newton-John and Amy Sky in 2016 to make it a trio. I probably could have done this better, but I did have some fun using some video footage we got on our 2016 trip to Ireland…

Wish we were there right now.

It probably won’t get a lot of views, but at least it’s not me bitching, right?

Actually, this is a very comforting song for people who are bereaved. I found out last week that a woman I went to high school with died. I didn’t know her that well in high school and I doubt she thought highly of me, but I did donate some money to her children’s GoFundMe for her cremation. I found out that she’d moved from our hometown to my dad’s hometown of Natural Bridge, Virginia. She probably knew some of my relatives, at least in passing. I know there are some mutual friends among my relatives and her husband, who also went to our high school, but I don’t remember ever knowing him. I would remember his last name because it’s unusual.

Her daughter posted on Facebook that her mom died after being in a horrific car accident last year. She had to have surgeries and learn how to walk again, only to develop a severe infection a couple of months ago. Poor lady had to spend her last weeks in the hospital, separated from her family because of COVID-19, which she didn’t have, but nevertheless suffered from anyway…

When I read about her last weeks, I was genuinely moved and a bit overcome with compassion for her and her family. I actually cried. Like I said, we weren’t really friends when we were growing up, but we lived in a small community and everyone knew each other. I don’t think we hated each other, or anything, but I have a feeling she thought I was a weird person. A lot of people in Gloucester did… until they got to know me. I do remember one time she sang a solo for some talent contest. I think it was a Christian song she did… and she had a light soprano voice. She was in choir in high school, although I wasn’t. Most of our classmates never knew I can sing because it wasn’t something I did publicly back in those days. I remember she also dated my neighbor, but he pretty much hated me.

She married young, moved to Rockbridge County, which is where my dad was from, and had two kids. It looked like maybe her life was kind of hard, especially toward the end. I felt horrible for her family, and I do remember knowing her in school… or knowing of her, anyway.

And I also learned of a Facebook acquaintance’s sudden, tragic loss. Her young son was visiting his dad in Arizona when they were in a serious car accident. Dad and older sister were badly injured, but young son was killed. He was just eight years old. She shared pictures of him. He only had eight years to live, but seemed like such a beautiful child. My heart goes out to her, although I wouldn’t say we’re particularly close friends, either. In fact, I only know her from RfM and Facebook.

Anyway… it’s a pretty song, and one that has always touched me, so I decided to record it. Maybe someday, when I’m feeling less aggravated by iMovie, I’ll redo the vocals… although I think they mostly turned out fine. Sometimes, I’m my own worst critic. On the other hand, maybe those who listen will agree… I do love the beach scenery, though… and always find comfort and peace there.

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music

How I spent my morning…

A few years ago, I bought an album from Apple Music, then called iTunes. A friend of mine from college– big time Olivia Newton-John fan– had alerted me to a new album she had coming out with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky. It was called Liv On, and it had beautiful renditions of songs about the human condition, particularly from a feminine perspective. There are songs about childbirth, grieving, and even what to say when someone has experienced loss. It’s a really beautiful album and a lot of the songs make me cry. The artists even made a karaoke version, which is super handy for me.

The funny thing is, my old friend is not particularly musical. He just loves Olivia Newton-John. He can’t sing, although he does sometimes make up silly songs. He’s not particularly into moving lyrics. He just loves all things ONJ, which was one of our early bonds.

I have been an ONJ fan since I was a very young child, but I also love Beth Nielsen Chapman’s music. She’s a wonderful songwriter who has written so many songs that hit you right in the heart. I had not heard of Amy Sky, but today, I did decide to record a song she contributed to Liv On. It’s called “I Will Take Care of You”, and it’s a beautiful song especially for mothers and daughters. I never got to have a daughter, of course, but if I did have one, I would dedicate this song to her… even if the lyrics are a little treacly. I got teary the first time I heard it… and probably the second and third times, too. But then I got to work on making a version of it and that made me stop getting verklempt. Instead, I started cussing in frustration, due to messing up, having my Internet connection drop out, and/or the timing being wonky because of the Internet.

What I have done today isn’t perfect… the key is a tiny bit low for me and I had to learn the harmony parts, which I didn’t do completely or totally accurately. But I don’t think it’s bad for a couple of hours of work. Maybe I’ll redo it for YouTube, since those versions tend to have better results. When I record on SingSnap, I have to contend with Internet speeds, which can affect the timing and the way it sounds overall. Garage Band will give it a clearer sound. We’ll see how well it goes over…

I was probably moved to record that song today because of a comment I got yesterday on SingSnap. My mother-in-law left yesterday, so that was the first time in over two weeks that I’d had a chance to do any music. I don’t like to do music when other people are home because I feel self-conscious and distracted. I did several songs, including this new one, which I uploaded yesterday… I also did “Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain and Tennille, simply because it’s a fun song to sing. What can I say? I was born in 1972, and that song was a huge hit in my early childhood. Some guy left me this comment, which kind of pissed me off.

I read this a few times and went from being offended to kind of amused…

My first thought was to add this guy to my block list, mainly because it’s not the first time he’s left me an obnoxious comment. When I first ran into him, he was very complimentary and nice. Then, later, he got kind of critical and occasionally rude. He’d also send me unsolicited PMs, strike up a conversation, and dismiss me when he was finished. Makes me think he’s probably a very inconsiderate lover. When he has sex, it’s over when he’s done. Ha ha ha… 😀 Glad I didn’t marry a man like that.

I looked on his page yesterday, after he left this comment, and noticed he only has nine public recordings. I, on the other hand, have a couple thousand. And if he’d taken a look, he would have seen that I did several songs yesterday. Perhaps one of them would have met his expectations… Even if I didn’t do one challenging enough for him yesterday, I’m sure he could have found one if he’d searched through my recordings. Somehow, I doubt he cares, either way.

I initially left an offended comment, complete with the F word, but then deleted it and decided on this more measured response…

And I decided not to block him, because I figured maybe he didn’t mean it the way it came across…

I don’t interact much on SingSnap anyway, though, because I’m not really there to make friends, per se. It’s nice if I do make them, and I do have a few friends on that site, but I mainly use it as a tool for practicing music and maintaining my mental health. I have found that there are some lovely people there, but there are also a number of nuts on there and some who are just looking to hook up. I keep a pretty low profile and don’t join contests or challenges or anything. Consequently, I don’t tend to get a lot of comments either way. I did get a few comments on “Love Will Keep Us Together”– actually that was the most popular of the songs I did yesterday, though it certainly wasn’t the hardest to sing. It was, however, the most fun to do. I figure that’s the most important thing.

Anyway, when I listen to today’s effort, I cringe a little… but I wanted to record a version of my own because it’s not a particularly well-known song, but I think the lyrics will speak to a lot of people. I did find Amy Sky’s version on YouTube, but I didn’t find the version with Olivia, Beth, and Amy singing as a trio. So I decided to make one with the parts included. Now, if only I had a daughter to dedicate it to… I don’t think my very pragmatic mother would appreciate it. She’d probably think it was too corny.

This is Amy’s original solo version. Higher key, which would probably be better for me.

Here’s a link to the album, for those who are curious.

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book reviews

Olivia Newton John’s life story, Don’t Stop Believin’…

When I was a child, I loved Olivia Newton-John’s music. My dad was also a fan, and he had at least three of her albums. Two were on cassette tape and one was on 8-track. I wore all three of them out. She was the one singer whose music we could agree on when we were in the car. I loved her super sweet voice and light country sound, which eventually evolved into radio friendly pop. Her range was very impressive. Even in her country days, she’d try other genres. I remember her version of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”, which is not my favorite of her songs, but still impressively done.

As I got older, Olivia started doing other things. She was in Grease with John Travolta, then Xanadu. I loved Xanadu when I was a kid. I watch it now, only as a total guilty pleasure. When it used to air on HBO all the time, I’d watch it over and over again and I liked it better than Grease. What can I say? I was a child, and children aren’t always known for their good taste. I do still love the soundtrack from Xanadu, even if the movie is cheesy and ridiculous.

When I was in college, I had a good friend who loved Olivia’s music even more than I did. Although he admits his musical tastes “suck” (and that was actually how he put it), we do both share an affection for Olivia. He even added me to a Facebook group full of her fans. I don’t participate in it much, but I do enjoy some of the posts. That was where I first heard about her book, Don’t Stop Believin’, which was just released to U.S. readers in March. I believe it was available in Australia before then. I’ve also heard a movie was made, an edited version of which appeared on Lifetime. I haven’t seen it.

She’s looking great!

Olivia Newton-John was recently in the news because tabloids had reported that she was on her death bed. Olivia, just as sunny and beautiful as ever, responded by making a video letting everyone know she’s doing fine, even though she struggles with cancer. Much of Olivia’s book is about her cancer struggle, although she doesn’t include a lot of gruesome details about it. Unfortunately, it appears that besides stunning good looks, musical talent, and a winsome personality, Olivia inherited a tendency toward cancer. Her older sister, Rona, tragically died of a brain tumor in 2013 and Olivia has had three bouts of cancer, which started in her breast back in 1992.

A 1976 gem… back in Olivia’s heyday. My dad had this album on cassette and I wore it out.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” (not to be confused with the epic song by Journey), was a song that appeared on Olivia’s 1976 album by the same name. I don’t think it was one of her best known hits, but the title does fit with the overall theme of her book, which is about being positive and living your best life. Olivia Newton-John maintains a lovely attitude and upbeat tone, sure to delight her fans, even if some people don’t see it as entirely believable.

I’ll be honest. I’m kind of a cranky, cynical person. I can’t help it. When I read a book that is about 99% sweetness and light, I have some trouble believing it’s entirely truthful. I’m sure Olivia Newton-John is a very warm and friendly person, but much of what she’s written in her book seems more about PR than the truth. One reviewer on Amazon.com gave her a one star rating and noticed a lot of the same things I did. Olivia has nothing bad to say– and she does a lot of name dropping. On one hand, a reader could conclude that even stars like Olivia can be starstruck by other celebrities. On the other, sometimes it comes off as a little tacky. Olivia Newton-John also promotes alternative healthcare therapies. I’m not one to totally dismiss alternative medicine, but she doesn’t really provide enough information, particularly from credible sources, that explains why these therapies are so good for cancer treatment. Instead, she does a lot of cheerleading for the cancer center she lent her name to in Australia. It actually sounds like a wonderful place for treatment, but it’s probably out of reach for a lot of her readers.

Olivia Newton-John’s book is relentlessly cheerful, even though she’s been through some challenges. Some people will appreciate that quality. Even I, as an admitted grouch about some things, was able to take a pearl of wisdom from the book. When Olivia was first diagnosed with cancer, a person noted that the cancer would cause her to grow. Although I wouldn’t wish cancer on a person to help them evolve, I do agree that difficulties in life help a person become resilient, resourceful, and wise. Maybe, in a weird way, a person can see the experience of having cancer as a kind of “gift”… on the other hand, my guess is that most people would not see it that way… especially the many people who do not have Olivia Newton-John’s fame and fortune to sustain them. Moreover, speaking only for myself, I appreciate it when people are honest. I felt like Olivia Newton-John’s book could have used a bit more honesty.

Olivia is not actually a native Australian, although she definitely promotes that image. Olivia Newton-John’s father was British. Her mother was German. Olivia and her siblings were born in England and they moved to Australia when she was a child. I did rather enjoy Olivia’s comments about her famous Nobel Prize winning grandfather, Max Born, who was friends with Albert Einstein. Olivia writes that she is a hopeless failure at math, just like I am. However, they say math and music are connected. Like Olivia, I excel at musical pursuits. Interestingly enough, like Olivia, I also have some family members who are great at math, but don’t do music.

I would have liked to have read a bit more about Olivia Newton-John’s upbringing, more about her important relationships… I guess what I’m really saying is that this book lacked depth. Olivia adores her daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, but really doesn’t write much about her, other than relentless positivity. Chloe famously suffered from anorexia nervosa, much like Olivia’s dear friend Karen Carpenter, who also gets a mention. This would have been a good opportunity for Olivia to write a little bit about anorexia nervosa and how she dealt with her daughter’s experiences with it. But she just glosses over it, and doesn’t mention her daughter’s cosmetic surgery at all. This wasn’t a book about Chloe, of course, but I think it almost would have been better to not mention the eating disorders than just gloss over them with a brief mention.

I remember back in college, a friend quipped that listening to Olivia Newton-John’s music is a bit like being wrapped in cotton candy and set out in the sun. As much as I enjoy her very sweet vocals, I have to admit, that description of her music kind of fits. I suppose it shouldn’t be any surprise that her book is almost as sweet. That quality might annoy some readers, but overall, I found Don’t Stop Believin’ to be an uplifting book. Olivia Newton-John shares with me a love of animals, particularly dogs and horses, and an affinity for music. I wish I could be as beautiful, kind, and lovely as she appears to be. I’m glad she’s found help for her cancer that focuses on wellness and natural healing. It appears to be working. When it comes to cancer, I say do whatever you can to make the healing as bearable as successful as possible. I wish Olivia well, and would recommend her book to fans. Just don’t expect a lot of dishing.

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