Duggars, law, music, religion

A song leads me to ponder Christians and lawsuits…

Sorry in advance for those who are tired of this topic. I’m still working it out in my head. Also, please excuse me for taking so long to get to the point. 😉

A few days ago, I was working on my latest jigsaw puzzle. I had the music going, and a song came on that I think was by Paul Thorn. I can’t tell you which one it was, though, because I have a habit of downloading whole albums by artists I like, or even when I just hear a song I like. I don’t always get around to listening to the whole thing, like I used to when I was younger and poorer. I remember, when I was a kid, I would save my pennies for albums and listen to the whole thing over and over again, until I had the whole thing memorized. Nowadays, there’s just so much out there that I like, I don’t do that anymore.

In fact, just this morning, I was looking at songs by Stephen Bishop. I had heard his original version of the song, “Separate Lives”, which was made famous in the mid 1980s by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, who sang it for the film, White Nights. I was contemplating buying a live EP by Stephen Bishop, even though I already have a different live album by him. Then I noticed the Alan Parsons Project also had a song called “Separate Lives”. I have always liked the Alan Parsons Project… I’m nerdy like that, and I’m a bonafide child of the 80s. I ended up listening to a snippet, and liked what I heard, so I downloaded that. I’m now listening to that album. And I also bought an obscure early 90s album called The Law, which one of my college roommates had. I liked it back then, and it just popped into my head. So I bought that, too. I’m probably a record company’s wet dream of a customer. I’ll buy albums at the drop of a hat. It’s a good thing I gave up my obsession with horses, or Bill and I might legitimately be in the poorhouse.

Aha! I thought those backup singings sounded familiar. They also sing with the great Mike Farris, as well as on their own!

I am a recent admirer of Paul Thorn’s music. I discovered him when someone made a hilarious YouTube video using his funny song, “It’s a Great Day to Whup Somebody’s Ass”, speeding it up so it sounded like Paul was on helium. I found the original version and loved it. Next thing I knew, I was downloading shitloads of Paul Thorn’s music. His song, “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love” was very comforting to me in 2014, when I lost my dad rather suddenly. I was listening to my iPod on the way to my home state of Virginia, and that song, which I had never heard before came on… and I could really relate to it on so many levels.

I know Paul Thorn is the son of a Pentecostal preacher. He grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, and was not allowed to listen to rock and roll when he was growing up. He had to hide the two records he did own– one by Huey Lewis and the other by Elton John. It’s not surprising that some of his songs are about faith issues, even though his own career has involved rock and roll, and until recently, booze. Thorn has evidently given up the sauce… something for which I heartily congratulate him.

So anyway, this song came on, and it sounded like it was an indictment against lawsuits. I thought it was a song by Paul Thorn, but I could be wrong. I’m trying to find it now, but I haven’t been successful. I should have “Shazamed” it. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could do a topic search in my music library and find the song that way? I probably could do that, but lack the technical expertise to figure out how. The song got me to thinking, though. I have heard that Christians shouldn’t sue each other. But what if the lawsuit is for a good cause?

I am rather nominally a Christian myself. I was raised to be Christian, but I don’t go to church anymore. Even if lawsuits weren’t considered a “Christian” thing to do, I don’t think that would be a reason not to engage in litigation. I do think that people should only sue someone as a last resort. I don’t think lawsuits should only be about money, either.

One of the reasons my husband sued our former landlady was because we knew she courted junior members of the military– young, inexperienced couples who might not have the time or resources to hold her accountable. She was very proud of hosting several American families in her rental house, and according to her, they were all “perfect” tenants. Except for us, that is. She said we were the “worst” tenants she’d ever had.

Now, we aren’t perfect people by any stretch of the imagination. But we do pay rent on time– early, actually– and we don’t throw wild parties, get in fights with each other or the neighbors, purposely destroy things, or complain a lot. I may not be a great housekeeper, but I do keep a basically sanitary home. She made us sound like we were total pigs. And although she accused us of being irresponsible slobs who were the “worst” tenants she’d ever had, I noticed that she never once asked us to move out of the house. She never claimed Eigenbedarf (needing the house for herself or her family). In fact, we have many emails in which she thanked Bill for paying her promptly and for being so “considerate”, which he certainly is. Although I had plenty of reason to complain about her many unplanned intrusions, I rarely did, at least in the beginning. It was only after she became verbally abusive toward me in my own home that I became really angry.

How is it, then, that she justified keeping our deposit, only begrudgingly giving us 20% back when Bill insisted? How is it that she clearly broke German laws, and we were the shitty ones? The money she kept, we could afford to lose. But there was a time when her decision to keep our money would have been financially devastating to us. I couldn’t help but notice that she appeared to prefer a certain type of tenant. Her place was priced reasonably for the Stuttgart area, although until we moved to Wiesbaden, it was one of the most expensive rentals we’d ever lived in. It was more than what we paid for housing in Texas and Georgia, though we lucked into a fairly cheap place in North Carolina. None of those landlords had problems with us, either. She was the only landlord that ever dared to rip off our deposit in such an egregious way.

We figured that if she was willing to rip us off without any compunction, she would certainly do it to younger, less assertive people with less experience living in Germany. She would count on them having to leave the country and not having had the foresight to buy legal insurance. She would bet they would be too intimidated by the court system and the lack of German language proficiency most Americans have. Plus, she’s a total bully, and most people don’t enjoy confronting bullies. That’s why they can continue to be that way to other people for as long as they do.

So, although we definitely wanted to hold her accountable for ourselves, we also saw suing her as a moral obligation toward those coming after us. She may very well continue to try to rip off her tenants, but at least someone has refused to let her get away with openly breaking German tenant/landlord laws. I strongly suspect that the people before us realized that she was a dishonest person and, instead of having the integrity to deal with her themselves, they lied to us and left us holding the bag. And then, when I started to figure out what happened, they tried to shame me into silence. They wanted us to pay the price for things that happened on their watch… because I KNOW that they didn’t get the same level of scrutiny on checkout that we did… and I KNOW that the house was not as clean for us as it was when we left it, in spite of ex landlady’s claims that it was filthy.

Bill watched her carefully when they did the walkthrough. She obviously had to look pretty hard to come up with defects, although she did have the nerve to complain that we left the trashcans full, as they were when we moved in back in 2014. I wish he’d had the presence of mind to remind her that we had paid rent and Nebenkosten (other costs– eg. water, trash) for December 2018, when we weren’t even living there. We had every right to use the trash cans in November 2018. The lease was in effect until 11:59pm December 31, 2018. If she was so upset that they were dirty, she could have asked us to come back and clean them after they were dumped. She knew we weren’t leaving the country. Of course, that would have meant she needed to cooperate with us, which she plainly wasn’t willing to do.

When it became clear that she was trying to portray us as people we clearly aren’t, to the point of even falsely accusing us of theft and other illegal things, we decided that a lawsuit was in order. It brought us no joy or pleasure to sue her. In fact, I know I was very angry about having to take that step. But what choice did we have? We could sue her and pursue what was rightfully ours under the contract, or we could let her get away with what looks to me to be like her usual scam involving Americans in Germany. To me, it seemed immoral not to hold her accountable, because it would only embolden her to continue doing the same sleazy thing to other people. In that sense, I don’t think what we did was “unChristian”. She did finally end up giving us our money, but boy, was it obvious she didn’t want to do it. Months after the case was settled, she still hadn’t paid. We contacted our lawyer, who must have sent her a very strongly worded letter. And then ex landlady didn’t pay us directly. She paid the lawyer, who then gave us our money. It must have been very painful for her to do the right thing.

And then I think about so-called Christians, like the Duggar family, who have certainly used the legal system to get what they want. Four of the Duggar daughters sued over invasion of privacy when their information was leaked to the press. That case was eventually dismissed after a couple of years of wrangling. Of course, right now the legal system is having its way with their brother, Josh Duggar, who is going to have an extra couple of months cooling his heels in the Washington County jail. His lawyers successfully petitioned the court for more time before he is formally sentenced for his horrific crimes against children. I have heard that jails are a lot less comfortable than prisons are. They are set up for short term stays, which means they have less in the way of resources for inmates. But Josh probably prefers to be in Arkansas, close to his wife, Anna, who is able to talk to him by phone. Once he gets to prison, he may be less protected from harm than he is right now. But of course he’s going to have to go to prison at some point. Frankly, I think the sooner he accepts that, the better off he’ll be.

Speaking of the Duggars… there was another wedding yesterday. Jeremiah Duggar, twin to Jedidiah, who was married last April, got married to the former Hannah Wissmann in Nebraska yesterday. Some photos have already surfaced of the event, which was apparently relatively subdued for a Duggar wedding. There weren’t any weird pranks played, for instance. This was also the first wedding Josh didn’t attend, obviously. I don’t know where they will honeymoon. Since TLC isn’t paying, I guess it won’t be anywhere in Europe.

Anyway… if I ever figure out who sang the song that inspired this post or the song’s title, I’ll try to post a link and perhaps offer more commentary. Next time, I’ll be sure to Shazam. But, suffice to say, I don’t think it’s always wrong or immoral to sue someone. Sometimes, lawsuits are completely justified and, in fact, even the “right” thing to do. It’s only when they are solely about taking money for frivolous or greedy reasons that I think they’re immoral. Sometimes, filing a lawsuit is the only way to get justice. And, I know in our case, it was also about reclaiming self-respect and maintaining dignity. Turning the other cheek is a good thing to do sometimes. Other times, it’s much better to fight.

One more thing before I go… I just discovered the wonderful music of piano prodigy Ruth Slencynzska, who is 97 years old and is Rachmaninoff’s last surviving student. If you love classical music, I would highly recommend checking out her brand new album, My Life in Music. It’s gorgeous!

It’s better to focus on Ruth’s sublime artistry and musicianship than people who lie, cheat, and steal from others.
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humor, music

Catching the “musical flu” and spreading it around…

My friend Ken Turetzky, pumping his own gas…

I should preface this by saying that Ken and I are only the most casual of Facebook friends. I have never met him in person, although he did reach out to me about twelve years ago, when I wrote a review of musical comedian Red Peters’ album, Best of Red Peters Comedy Hour, Volume 1. Ken’s song, “Her Shit Don’t Stink” was featured on that compilation. It reminded me of Bill’s ex wife, who was at that time, pushing a false narrative that her shit didn’t stink. Anyone with their eyes open and nose unstuffed knew the truth, though, and those who weren’t aware would soon become aware as they came of age.

Years later, I care a lot less about Ex than I used to… Bill’s daughters are now grown women and we’re no longer subsidizing Ex’s household to the tune of $30,600 annually. However, we have become aware that for all of Ex’s gas pumping, she was mostly full of hot stinky air. Enough said about that, although there’s a lot I would really like to write. I won’t, though. Not in this post, anyway. Instead, I want to write about something totally unrelated– except I wish I could have helped spread the musical flu to Bill’s daughters.

Yesterday, my sister sent me a private message, asking if I subscribe to Apple Music. I wrote back that I don’t, mainly because I prefer to own my music rather than renting it. Also, I read some disturbing accounts of Apple Music overriding people’s private music collections. I have some rare stuff that I managed to get from Napster back in the day. Those were the days of dialup, so you know I spent a long time downloading those things. I don’t want to lose them by allowing Apple Music to invade my machine. I would imagine that Apple Music has fixed this issue, but I still prefer to buy rather than rent, particularly when it comes to music. I have so many tracks that it would probably take a year to listen to everything, anyway.

My sister, on the other hand, does use Apple Music. She wrote that she heard a song by the jazz player, Michael Franks. She hadn’t really liked him much, but got hooked on this song that came on Apple Music. I told her that I have a similar problem. I’m the kind of person who remembers really obscure songs from many years ago and tries to find out who did them. Sometimes, it takes years. I got tickled by my sister’s comments about Michael Franks, because it turns out that one of his songs was a track I obsessively “hunted down”.

I was first introduced to Michael Franks’ banal style back in the year 2003. Bill and I hadn’t been married a year. We lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in a cheap apartment, because that was what we could afford. We decided to go to the Army Birthday Ball. I needed a formal dress for it, so I drove to a mall in Northern Virginia to go shopping. It was probably Springfield Mall, which is where I used to go shopping when I was 6 or 7 years old.

Eureka!

I was in a department store trying on dresses, and this song by Michael Franks came on. I didn’t know who Michael Franks was, of course. I just remember the song and its monotonous, mind numbing chorus, “Don’t touch that phone.” repeated by female singers over and over again. I don’t even remember liking the song that much. I just remembered the chorus. It stuck in my head for years. I had no idea the name of the song or who sang it, but I relentlessly searched until, finally, I found it. And even though I didn’t love the song, I ended up downloading the album.

My sister and I kept chatting and it occurred to me that she has really had an enormous impact on my musical tastes. It’s almost like she was carrying a kind of “musical flu” bug. Although she is not the sister closest to me in age, I shared a room with her when I was a little kid. I was exposed to a lot of what she liked. My sister famously introduced me to the magic of Kate Bush. She also introduced me to James Taylor, The Police, and Dead Can Dance… as well as the hilarious stylings of Ami Arena, who can’t sing, but is funny as hell.

One of my favorite songs by Kate Bush. I was introduced to her when my sister bought Bush’s 1982 album, The Dreaming, when I was about ten years old. Years later, I bought the album myself, and have since bought it a couple more times.

Back in the early 90s, when I worked as a summer camp as the cook, I had a week off mid summer. My sister invited me to visit for a few days. While I was visiting her in Northern Virginia, she took me to Ellicott City, Maryland. We went shopping, and she introduced me to the band, Dead Can Dance. I remembered one song in particular and liked it, but it was about sixteen years later that I finally broke down and bought the album it came from. It’s still awesome music, even though the album is probably 30 years old by now.

This song stuck in my head for years until I finally bought the album. It’s still a great track… it doesn’t age.

During that same trip, I was exposed to Amy Arena and her sarcastic and very funny brand of music. Amy Arena can’t sing, but she’s witty and snarky and I enjoyed her very much. My sister played Amy’s album and we shared a laugh over the irreverent lyrics. Years later, I bought her CD, too…

She’s a certain king of gap toothed woman… I’m a gap toothed woman, too.

Then my sister told me that both Dead Can Dance and Amy Arena were introduced to her by a guy she used to date– a German dude by the name of Bernd, who played in a band that did live music at a restaurant where my sister used to wait tables. That restaurant, name of Whitey’s, is now long defunct. But for years, it was a great place in Arlington for live music, beer, and junk food. And the funniest part of all is that back in the 90s, when I had to get a food handler’s card to work in food service in Williamsburg, Virginia, I had to watch movies about food safety. One was made by the public health bureau in Virginia and they had actually filmed at Whitey’s. I immediately knew it was Whitey’s, because that place had a big sign that read “EAT”. It was unmistakable.

Both charming songs that you should learn…

When my sister told me about Bernd introducing her to that music, it occurred to me that Bernd had influenced me, too, even though I never met him. Although my sister hasn’t seen Bernd in years, he passed along the musical flu to her, which she then passed to me.

And I have influenced Bill, by sharing the music with him. I have also shared stuff with people on the Internet whom I don’t know. A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about Rush Limbaugh’s death. In that post, I shared a video by the awesome band, Folk Uke, fronted by Willie Nelson’s daughter, Amy, and Arlo Guthrie’s daughter, Cathy. The video was of Folk Uke singing “Shit Makes the Flowers Grow”. I discovered Folk Uke when I lived in Georgia and I had downloaded Willie Nelson’s “children’s” album (quoted, because Willie gave up on the children’s part of that album about halfway through). Amy was featured heavily on that album and I liked her, so I went searching on YouTube for more of her music… and I found Folk Uke. Now, I am a devoted fan…

I used Willie Nelson’s version of “Rainbow Connection” for MacGregor’s memorial video. This song was on Willie’s “children’s” album, which featured his daughter, Amy, half of Folk Uke! I don’t know why, but there’s something about Willie’s take on “Rainbow Connection” that touches me.

When I met Bill, he was pretty limited in his musical tastes. He liked industrial, progressive music, and shunned anything vaguely country. But I think he had the idea that country music was nothing but the pink sequined pop stuff his ex wife listens to… He had not been exposed to bluegrass or classic country music, or outlaw country. It wasn’t long before I had him turned on to people like the Infamous Stringdusters…

I actually discovered them while watching a morning show in Murfressboro, Tennessee. Ever heard a U2 song done quite like this?

And then, thanks to my constant ear to YouTube, I found the likes of Todd Snider and Paul Thorn, both awesome musicians who are entertaining, talented, and fun…

Story of my life… or at least it was when I was at Longwood.
Damn, I want to see him play. If you have a raunchy sense of humor, listen to this.

Last summer, I was on Facebook, and Keb’ Mo’ shared a track that he was listening to. He had played on guitarist’s Lee Ritenour’s compilation album, 6 String Theory. I looked at the album and quickly downloaded it. Then, noticing that there was a cover of Sting’s song, “Shape of My Heart”, I alerted my friend Andrew. I think he was skeptical at first, but then he decided to check it out. Sure enough, I had guessed right that Andrew would like the cover– he’s a big Sting fan, like I am. But this was a great cover done by other people.

Thanks to Keb’ Mo’, I found Lee Ritenour and a new take on Sting.

Speaking of Keb’ Mo’. I’ve been trying to see him play live for years. I have tickets that were supposed to be used on November 16th, 2020. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and the show has been rescheduled three times at this writing. I think it might go on in September, if enough people get COVID-19 vaccines. I was introduced by Keb’ Mo’ by Martha Stewart, of all people. I bought an album she made for new parents. It had really lovely pop music that would appeal to babies and grownups alike, and Keb’ Mo’s song, “Infinite Eyes”, was on it. I liked it fine, recalling that I had heard Keb’ Mo’ on a Lyle Lovett cover of “Til It Shines”, a Bob Seger cover, and liked him then, too. Then one day, when we still lived in Fairfax, Virginia, Bill and I were having lunch at Austin Grill. They were playing some really great music over their sound system, and I heard Keb’ Mo’s unmistakable voice. He was singing “Folsom Prison Blues”, a song originally by Johnny Cash. I loved it, so Bill and I went to a Border’s to see if I could find the album there– it was still the era of CDs, after all.

Well, I didn’t find Keb’ Mo’s cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” until many years later, but on that day, I came home with, like, three of his CDs. And I quickly became a big fan of his music. Now, one of my favorite songs by Keb’ Mo’ is this song…

I love this song… it’s like Bill and me. He gladly indulges my musical obsession. But it’s just one of my favorites by Keb’ Mo’.
This song is more like the reality of my life… 😉 Especially the line about the dog shitting on the floor.

I could do this all day. In fact, thanks to COVID-19, I’ve got little else to do… although I will admit that the above video makes me want to practice guitar. This post does have a point, though. I don’t know how it is for other people, but I tend to catch musical influences like the flu. I hear something, like it, buy it, and use it to find other stuff I love. And then I spread my musical flu to everybody else… even people I don’t know. Just like people I don’t know spread it to me.

I caught Robert Randolph & The Family Band from Eric Clapton. They opened for him at a concert Bill and I attended, and were a hell of a lot better than Clapton was.

And finally… as I sign off, here’s a plug for my alma mater. This morning, I donated $550 to the music department, not because I was a music major, but because the music department at Longwood University literally changed my life. And I really enjoyed this concert, featuring one of my former professors, Dr. Charles Kinzer. His wife is also a professor at Longwood. She used to be my accompanist, and now she teaches piano. This morning, as I watched the jazz concert, it occurred to me that these folks have also spread the “musical flu”, and still do– even 27 years after I graduated.

Anyway… I long for the days of live music again. I love to discover new stuff and spread it around. Bonus points if the music is also funny. And now, it’s time to play with my guitar. Maybe someday, I’ll play it for public consumption, and spread even more musical flu. At least it’s a kind of infection that doesn’t kill anyone.

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family

The holidays are coming…

I expect ours will be drama free this year, since we’re celebrating Thanksgiving in Germany and it’s not a German holiday. Christmas will be spent in France, with my friend from high school and college. She’s married to a Frenchman, so we’ll have the chance to experience a French Christmas. That should be fun, too.

I have had my fill of dramatic holiday seasons. Bill and I have talked about this a lot, especially since he’s also been through quite a lot of dramas over the years. We both treasure “heavenly peace” at this time of year. However, I must admit that it’s kind of fun to read about family dramas on www.exmormon.org. Who needs the Hallmark Channel when you can read about all of the control issues and high expectations that come from religious families?

Shunning, threatening, fighting, forced church attendance, forced praying, underwear checks, and leading questions abound, and people write about this stuff all the time on that site. I sympathize with them, even though I have never been LDS myself. I think stress during the holidays among family members is a given for many people. Christmas, especially, is a day that a lot of folks fill with great expectations and hopes for magic. It pretty much never works out that way, because Christmas is just another day. In some parts of the world, it’s not even a holiday!

Peter’s home for Christmas. Break out the Folger’s! Only the best for family, right? It’s all just a fantasy.
“O Holy Night”… that’s a challenge to sing even when you’re not emotional, missing your brother!

Should Christmas be a little “magical”? Well, sure… if you can manage to make it that way. Everybody likes it when friends and family can come together and be happy as a unit. But if you can’t make it magical, there’s no need to go nuts. It really is just a day.

Thanksgiving doesn’t tend to be quite as crazy as Christmas is. That’s why it’s my favorite holiday. Historically, I’d spend it with my extended family in Virginia, which has a reunion every year. There’s a lot of music, dancing, drinking, singing, game playing, football watching, and visiting. The best part about it is that everyone stays in the hotel, so there’s little fighting. And if a fight does erupt, there are plenty of other people to talk to and places to go to get away from the squabbling. Our Christmas celebrations were usually a lot more stressful, since most of us would stay in the house and spend too much time together. Inevitably, there would be a fight– as there was the last time we celebrated with my family, back in 2003. I swore them off after that year!

Last time we went to my family’s Thanksgiving party was in 2014, and we flew all the way from Germany to attend. We were mainly there to honor my father, who had died a few months prior. To be honest, as much as I had always loved those gatherings, they had become very crowded and chaotic. And now, even though I’ve always loved the family shindig, I kind of appreciate staying home and having a quiet time with my husband. This year, it’ll just be him, me, and our dog, Arran, since we lost Zane a few months ago. Maybe we’ll just go out to dinner… or we’ll cook something at home. Our oven is kind of too small for a whole turkey, though, and even if it were big enough, there are only two of us.

I’m always grateful to have a spouse who not only respects my preferences, but enjoys peace as much as I do. He doesn’t pressure me to hang out with his family during the holidays, and I don’t pressure him to hang out with mine. I miss some of my relatives, but I don’t enjoy fights. So I’m for staying home… and reading up on RfM for all of the inevitably outrageous stories that occur at this time of year. More people need to realize that they have the right to say “no” to drama, especially when the holidays are afoot.

Here’s a little mood music for this post! 😉

God bless Paul Thorn… he gets it!

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