Sunday, December 8, 2019

Maxwell Mania: Bothering Service Reps - Case 1

Hello, everybody!

 Life has been busy in wintery Michigan. I am officially the mother of a three-year old preschool student! After two preparatory visits, Spawn has taken along swimmingly to the morning session of Early Childhood Special Education.  He's using his waker more around the house, talking up a storm and showing more and more independence which as been amazing to see as his mom.

The only downside is that he's been exhausted which has brought two (hopefully transient) issues.  The first issue is that he's started having night terrors again.  Spawn clearly doesn't remember the terrors in the morning - but he's so exhausted at night that getting him either awake enough to calm down or settled back in his 80% asleep state was taking over an hour.  He was having 2-3 a night so my sleep was getting badly disrupted.   The second issue is that when he's tired, he picks at itchy areas on his skin until it bleeds which then terrifies him.  That's something he inherited from me and my mom; we both do the same thing when overtired or stressed.  Thankfully, he seems to be less inclined to do it when we slather itchy areas with anti-itch cream and sore areas with antibiotics with topical pain relievers in them.

His teacher was happy with how school was going for him - and so was I.  Spawn was so proud of the art projects he made at school that he's been carrying them around the house for days at a time.  In consulting with his teacher, we all agreed that Spawn would benefit from a shortened day of two hours rather than three hours until he's a bit older and has a bit more stamina.  Thankfully, I drive him to school and have nothing going on during his preschool hours so adapting the schedule was a piece of cake.

The other part of my life that is really busy right now is work at my local DIY big-box store.  Turns out that Christmas shopping at that retailer is pretty busy for people who like power tools.  I was clueless about that before I worked there - but the more you know, right?

Now that I'm in the trenches of retail again, I'd like to start a sporadic series on how obnoxious the Maxwell-style of attempting to convert service workers are.   For the record, I find unsolicited conversion pitches obnoxious as fuck to start with - but targeting service workers is a sign of cowardice.

What do I mean by that? 

Let me start with a counter-example.  When I was a kid, there was a local church or cultic family that would show up at a corner during a local arts festival with signs about how God hated everyone who disagreed with this church and would debate all comers.   Obviously, I disagree with every statement made by these people inclusively - but at least they were facing opposition from people on a fair playing field.  Other people could attack their beliefs aggressively, insult them, or walk away without any fear of retribution.

Service workers don't have that.   When I'm mixing paint for you, I can't call your beliefs puerile and self-centered without fear of getting written up.   When I'm ringing up your order, I can't call you an evil minded sociopath with less intelligence or creativity than a mollusc without fearing for my continued employment.   And worst of all,  I cannot walk away.   I've still got to color match your paint swatch regardless of how obnoxiously you are trying to convert me.

And yet, the Maxwells share these stories as if they are something to be proud of.  This gem is the last few paragraphs of a "Seriously Dad" article on the dangers of worldly friends:

I had finished writing this article when I met a sixty-year-old man whose life story was the perfect but sad conclusion to this series. While I was waiting for him to complete some paperwork that I needed, I asked him where he would be in a million years. He said he would be dirt. I countered him by saying that certainly his body would be dirt, but where would he be?

Was the man a government official compiling some documents for Maxwell?  An underpaid public servant working their way through documents written in a strange form of English spoken by no one outside of government?  A medical office worker slogging through referral forms?  A custom furnishing associate working on placing an order for a kitchen remodel?

We never find out - but there is no part of filling out forms for another person that is made easier by having a self-important twit changing the subject.

The clerk is my hero for pointing out the obvious: in a million years, we will all be dirt.  And, Steve - the clerk's response is seriously Biblical according to Genesis 3:19 KJV.

The clerk had two other un-objectionable options here. 
  • My go-to is full-voiced self-talk while filling in the forms.  Steven Maxwell asks me where I'll be in a million years and I reply "So that's W-H-I...drat...W-H-I-T-E-space-M-O-D....there we go... click!...and that's...um .....Behr....drat...backspace, no, escape.....semi-....wait, interior" until I'm at a point where I can end the interaction.   After all, I'm required to get paint for you and to be polite; I'm not required to hold a running conversation to amuse you at the same time.  No manager is going to give me a hard time for choosing to do my work well by making sure I have the paint order entered right rather than discuss my theological leanings.
  • Another option - but I can only do it if I'm already in a good mood and not snippy - is to treat all subject changes as related to their paint order.  In this example, I'd say "I've never heard of 'Million Year' color.  Let me search it. " I would search the color - slowly - until either they break and state they are off-topic or I've found "Million Year" (or something I can try and pass off as that) so the person is faced with getting a weird unseen paint color if they continue this game of theirs.   As soon as they are back on-topic of buying paint and clarifying their paint color, I'd summarize their order, inform them of the expected time of completion and move to a computer away from them.  
Discerning where the conversation was going, he briefly described his childhood. He was raised by very conservative, Christian parents who went to church three times a week and read the Bible together every night after dinner. His folks didn’t drink or smoke, but he decided he wanted to do those things. Therefore, he hasn’t touched a Bible in many decades and has no interest in spiritual things. My heart was grieving for him and his parents when I summed it up like this. “So it is a personal preference—along the lines of your parents like vanilla but you like chocolate?” He smiled at me and said, “Exactly!”
I disagree a bit with Steven on the guy's motivation.  I've totally invented entire background stories to keep pushy fundamentalists busy.   Telling his story - or making up a story as he went - sounds much more amusing than listening to Steven try more and more hackneyed hooks to turn conversations into conversion spiels.

Steven spends a lot of time reading his Bible allegedly, right?   So....why doesn't he realize that the Bible has no admonitions against drinking alcohol as long as the drinker avoids drunkenness?  Similarly, remind me of the Bible passage that deals with smoking Steve. 

Does anyone find it unlikely that a 60-year old guy who is filling out forms said "I drink and smoke.  My parents didn't.  Clearly, I don't read the Bible and have no interest in spiritual things!"  Call me cynical - but I suspect that Steven is adding his own personal assumptions that no one who drinks or smokes can regularly read the Bible or be interested in spiritual things.   If you drop the sentence that begins with the word 'Therefore', the conversation sounds more plausible.  With it included, Steven makes the guy sound far more 'worldly' than most people are in my neck of the woods.

I asked him what had happened when it sounded like he had the perfect Christian home? Did he have friends who led him the wrong way? He looked at me with an expression that said, “Now you got it.” And then verbally affirmed, “Exactly!” With a heavy heart I left him and wondered how parents could ever think that it wouldn’t matter if their children had worldly friends.
To beat a dead horse - Maxwell reads the Bible, right?  Remind me of the passage where Jesus tells his followers to go to church three times a week and read the Bible daily.  Oh, wait......

How much more horrible would this story be if the guy responded to Maxwell's assumption about the 'perfect' Christian home with any of the stories of domestic abuse that have come out in CP/QF families?  Imagine if he had replied:
  • "I don't find drinking and smoking to be as bad as the fact that my dad was raping my sisters."
  • "Well, once I found out that my parents knew my brother was molesting my sisters and girls staying over at our house and didn't stop him, it really undermined the message of how bad drinking and smoking was."
  • "Yeah, my doctor wants me to quit smoking - but he really wishes that someone had intervened when my dad beat me so badly he left scars all over me.  Kinda undermines the message, you know?"
What kills me about this whole story is that Maxwell seems completely oblivious to how much of the conversation he spends asking leading question - and how little information he's communicating.    Look at it typed out as a script with the dialogue I'm skeptical about in italics:

Steven Maxwell (SM): "Where will you be in a million years?"

Heroic Form-Man (HFM): "Dirt."

SM: "Certainly, your body will be dirt, but where will you be?"

HFM: "Well, I was raised by very conservative Christian parents who went to church three times a week and read the Bible together after dinner.  My parents didn't smoke or drink, but I do.  (I have not touched a Bible in decades.  I have no interest in spiritual things.)"

SM: "So it is a personal preference - along the lines of your parents like chocolate, but you like vanilla?"

HFM:  (smiling) "Exactly!"

SM: "What happened (since you came from such a perfect Christian home)?  Your friends (lead you astray)?

HFM:  (hands Maxwell the forms) "Exactly!"

Ignore what we know about Steven Maxwell from his writings for a second - and this becomes a completely wasted effort by Maxwell.   Heroic Form-Man has no idea that Maxwell is piously heartbroken for the outcome of this man's life.  Honestly, Heroic Form-Man is rightfully patting his back at having pulled out the "dirt!" response and having gotten through filling out the forms without being pressured to pray the "Sinner's Prayer" in the middle of his workplace.

Heroic Form-Man - we salute you!  Hurrah!

May your break room discussions of the Maxwell Incident always bring shared humor and camaraderie!  Hurrah!

May we all follow your lead and answer leading questions by refusing to go there!  Hurrah!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Eight - Part Three

In Jasmine Baucham's "Joyfully At Home" the eighth chapter focuses on false ideas that young women may have about husbands.  In the previous post, Jasmine fielded a question from a young woman who wanted to know what she could or should do when she had a crush on a young man.

My answer was to spend time around the young guy.  (As answers go, mine feels self-explanatory.)

When we left Jasmine, her answer involved crying in her dad's office interspaced with implausible scenarios where God is getting her to do non-sexual things like prayer by making her attracted to this guy.   To me, it's a sad commentary on how emotional purity messes people up when the fact of being sexually attracted to a man is so terrifying that Jasmine has to rationalize it as being part of a Divine Plan to achieve completely non-sexual ends.

From there, we return to the minor theme that Good Girls (TM) can beat sexual desire by praying correctly:
We can close our eyes and grit our teeth and ball our fists all we want, but if we are not consistently on our knees before the Lord in prayer, our struggle is in vain. I didn't pray for the young man's future wife. I didn't pray for my future husband. I didn't pray that the young man would be my future husband ( well, not often....). I prayed that Thy will be done. And praying that prayer, and submitting my emotions and my hopes to the future for the Lord, I found a freedom that I never could achieve through my own self-help remedies. (pg. 96)
What a masochistic series of prayer options those are!  All of those prayers require abrogating self
beyond the point of sanity. 

My church teaches that prayer is communication with God.   Under that definition, Jasmine can pray by sitting down and pounding out her feelings - good, bad, and indifferent - about the crush she is having.   I remember praying more than once that I was lonely, sick of being single and irritated that God give me a desire to be married without bringing a man I could marry into my dating experience.  I remember praying more than once that I really, really, really liked so-and-so and maybe I'd like being married to him? 

And honestly - because I was having a conversation about where I was - I was more able to move into asking God to help me see God's Will in my life.  Writing that out sounds noble and spiritually mature; there was a better-than-half chance that I felt crabby that my current wish-wants-and-desires were taking a while.

Here's the thing, though. 

The process of being honest with God and being honest with self followed by waiting....that's how we grow.    I didn't grow beyond desiring marriage when single; that was an honest desire.  By waiting, I accepted that I could have a good life as a single woman.  I didn't grow beyond wanting to marry my boyfriends in the first heady weeks of our relationships, but I realized that relationships can feel amazing while being fatally flawed after being through a break-up.

Why is that different from the quote above?  My religion allows me to have wishes, wants and desires - and God's Will will be done.   I'm allowed to have feelings - just like the authors of the books of the Bible did.  Just like Jesus did.

Most importantly, no one recommended praying for my future spouse or the future spouse of the person I was crushing on.  That's next-level brainwashing techniques that you are applying to yourself - and not cool.

The second way to control our reaction is to embrace accountability. I talked to my dad about my feelings far too late. By that time, I had lost my appetite, I was morose and withdrawn, and I had so many feelings pent up inside that when I opened my mouth to express them, all that came out were inelegant sobs. The thing about a lot of us girls is that our emotions affect every aspect of our personality. Try as we might, we can't compartmentalize our strong feelings. I've found that being open with both my parents about what I'm feeling and for whom: 1) eliminates the stress of trying to keep an embarrassing secret; 2) turns that embarrassing secret into an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with my parents; 3) my parents know where I am emotionally, and helps them as they prepare me to become the wife of one of the men who drives me crazy; and 4) give them a point of reference when they need to admonish me for the occasional moroseness brought on by my - shall we call it a crush? That seems so trite. (pg. 96)

 Thinking back to when I had crushes as a teenager and young adult, my family always knew about it because I was generally in a good mood and talked incessantly about how great so-and-so was.  And did you know that so-and-so....?  Also - so-and-so said.....

In other words, I was neither subtle about what was going on in my head nor particularly unpleasant to be around once the adult listener kindly overlooked that I was dragging a guy they'd never met into every conversation.  I was also rather distracted - but I'm generally scatterbrained so that may not have been as noticable.

Oh, Jasmine.  I'm great at compartmentalizing strong feelings - and I'll bet you dollars to donuts that most of your loyal readers are, too.  To survive in a world that is freaked out by disabilities and death, I learned to stuff sadness and anger deep down inside of me.  Doing that allowed me to pass as a happy-go-lucky everygirl.

I suspect that sounds very familiar to young women in CP/QF land since they are not allowed to be angry, sad, sexual or ambitious outside of home and ministry.

After all, stuffing emotions inside doesn't hurt anyone, right?

Wrong.

Stuffing emotions hurts the person who is not allowed to express anger, sadness, sexual attraction or ambition ever; crushing all negative emotions means that all that negativity goes inward - why am I such a bad fit for my life? - rather than outward - I am angry that I can't flirt with Joe

That's a recipe for anxiety, depression and eating disorders. 

Good news is that you can unlearn the habit of stuffing emotions.  I've been doing that for nearly 20 years now.  I did a lot of hard work and in return I'm more centered, more able to handle strong negative emotions when they happen and more happy than I've ever learned before.

Speaking of strong emotions, I hope that Jasmine is describing the standard level of embarrassment that most pre-teens and young teens have when discussing anything sexual or romantic** with their parents. 

What I fear is that Jasmine has absorbed the emotional purity (emo-pure) junk idea that crushes are wrong, shameful, sinful and therefore embarrassing.  The reason I think that is she describes having a crush as needing to keep an embarrassing secret.  I also tried to keep my crushes secret - but not from embarrassment.  For me, I enjoyed having my own fantasies about why I liked So-and-so and enjoy the flush of energy and excitement that a crush brings.  No matter how sweet or sympathetic my parents (or friends) were, talking about a new crush consciously tended to kill my buzz.

As for the last two points, 19-year-old Jasmine can't have realized how oblivious her parents sound if the last two ideas are true. 

 Preparing a daughter to be a wife and a son to be a husband starts in early childhood with teaching children how to use words to express their feelings, teaching children how to share and rewarding patience and perseverance.  If her parents are waiting to start teaching interpersonal skills, job skills or the basics of human sexuality until Jasmine has a crush on a marriageable man, that's insane. 

And speaking of stuffing emotions, since when is moroseness a sin?  People have feelings.  People are responsible for their own feelings - not the feelings of others.  If Jasmine is morose, that's on Jasmine.  Her parents and siblings - but mostly her parents, I suspect - are responsible for dealing with their feelings of irritation, frustration, or helplessness when Jasmine is sad.   Instead, the parents essentially tell her to hide her feelings so that the parents can ignore their strong feelings.

That's not healthy - but that kind of emotional mutilation is the hallmark of CP/QF life.  Tread with care.

**I grew up with parents who treated sexuality in a positive, educational way.  I still went through a phase between 10-14(ish) where I would have preferred to eat broken glass than discuss anything involving my body or budding sexuality with them.  I bring this up because I often hear 2nd generation CP/QF escapees hoping that their kids will be free of embarrassment if their parents teach sexuality just right.   Sex-positivity and age-appropriate education is wonderful and life-giving - but pre-teen/young teens may still feel awkward about discussing things with their parents.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Eight - Part Two

Winter has come crashing into Michigan this year.  We've got trees with leaves still on at the same time as accumulating snowfall.  Like...four inches of snowfall.   The Chinese Elms in my yard keep their leaves until the absolutely last minute possible so I doubt I'll have a chance to rake the leaves this year.   Similarly, there is...oh....six inches of unmowed grass in the backyard that will hopefully die back before spring.

This time of year, we generally get some snow flurries - but just flakes that are visible in the air with a slight dusting on the ground.  I clearly remembering harvesting parsnips from a raised bed a day or two before Spawn was born in late November 2016. The leafy portion of the parsnip was still alive and the ground was unfrozen.  This year, I harvested my parsnips on November 9th with the tops flaccid from being frozen and thawed.  That was gross enough to start with - but we've had so much rain this fall that the ground was slightly frozen mud.   Even with the gross working conditions, I was glad because I'm not the kind of person who would root around in early spring mud to try and find the parsnips that overwintered before they started growing again.

Reading this section of "Joyfully At Home" by Jasmine Baucham is a bit like rooting around in the mud for half-frozen parsnips.  I know I need to get through this chapter to move on - and eventually finish the book - but man, it's not a pleasant task.   This section includes Jasmine's way of dealing with crushes.  We get into the idea of dealing with crushes by reading a letter from an young woman:
I'm struggling with my thoughts. There's this particular young man I know, that I would REALLY like to marry. No matter how hard I try, I find myself thinking about him every day and ALL day long. How in the world do I get "free" from this? I mean, I don't want to pretend like he doesn't exist ( ie: convince myself that he was never born) , but at the same time, I know I shouldn't think about him ALL the time. Do you or others have any advice? And also, should I maybe not allow myself to want to marry him??? I'd appreciate any thoughts and advice. (pg. 95)

Hmmm. 

My best way of dealing with a crush is to spend time with the guy rather than trying to crush my feelings to death. 

Yup.  That's my advice.  Yuppers.

I mean, spend a bit of time to figure out if he's available, right?  You don't need to go panting after a married dude or someone who is in a relationship.  You deserve to be the main woman in a guy's life, not a piece on the side.

Then figure out if you still like him after spending more time together.   You'd be amazed how many crushes of mine have been killed by spending time talking with the guy. 

If you still like him and he's available, ask him out.  Or make it clear you're totally up for seeing him sometime.

In terms of feelings, just roll with them.  Personally, I often laughed gently at myself when I was daydreaming about a crush when I should have been doing something else like....I dunno....lecturing about evolution or ionic naming conventions. 

Of course, having a wide range of real adult responsibilities like a job, volunteer activities and a social life did impinge on my unstructured daydreaming time because you just can't daydream very well when you are lecturing on the role of genetic drift and gene flow in evolution to a classroom full of high school students.  Likewise, daydreaming while contra dancing never worked well for me; I was too busy focusing on the steps and my enjoyment of the dance in the moment.

If you feel like you want to marry him, you feel like you want to marry him.  Feelings are feelings; they are not an ultimatum or a binding contract.   But be sure to spend time with him; that's a far better way to determine if your feelings are accurate - or based in fantasy.

I remember sitting on a chair in my dad's office sobbing about a similar situation ( which is a familiar setting for my anecdotes), and realizing that maybe the Lord might be using my struggles to teach me something. Maybe when this young man came to my mind, I needed to pray for him. Maybe the Lord was showing me his admirable qualities so that I would file them away for traits for my future spouse. Maybe the Lord was teaching me a lesson about contentment. Perhaps I would end up marrying the man I was, frankly, pining over. In hindsight, the Lord has afforded me the wisdom to see that he knew what was right all along, and I'm glad my daydream did not come true. (pg. 95)
I sincerely hope the first sentence is an awkward construction and Ms. Baucham didn't spend a lot of times sobbing in her dad's office.  I am saddened that I fear that the sentence construction was fine and Ms. Baucham spent more than one time sobbing in her dad's office about a crush.

The fact that I had freaked out for around 30 seconds when Jasmine brought up the idea that she had a crush because that dude needed prayers was not her fault.   I was having a flashback to Debi Pearl's bat-shit crazy theological train-wreck idea involving angels giving girls crushes so they'd pray for Mike Pearl, psychopath extraordinaire.  To rehash my theological objections, the entire argument implies that God needs prayers to work in the world in the same way that a jukebox requires coins to play songs. 

Jasmine's take brings the addition weird complication that believers are supposed to take sexual attraction and assume the attraction is a sign that the other person needs prayers or that Jasmine needs to pray.  There's no Biblical support for that.

We agree that deciding which good traits Mr. Crush has is a good idea.  I would also add thinking about which bad traits (or even neutral traits) are deal-breakers is a great idea.  The problem is that Jasmine's not allowed to interact enough with Mr. Crush to figure out his negative traits.

At the time, though, I definitely considered that the last scenario would be the best-case scenario. My mother later reminded me, however, that, whatever the outcome of my current struggle, I have been called to be faithful in this situation: to use my single years to glorify the Lord, to wait patiently until he revealed them to me, not through wild imaginings, but through of sound sign of commitment, that the young man I was thinking about was the man he intended me to marry. I think one thing that kept me holding onto my struggle was the slim possibility that I'd get married to the man I was thinking about, and my struggle would be worthwhile. In reality, though, even if I married him 6 months from then, I'd been called to turn every distraction over to the Lord right now; I was to be whole devoted to him right now ( Isaiah 58: 1-8), because his love is utterly, beautifully sufficient. (pg. 95)

I respectfully disagree with Jasmine about why she had such a hard time with that crush.

Obviously, I'm in favor of dealing with crushes by spending more time around the person you are crushing on so their obnoxious or irritating habits will kill the crush faster.  (I'm deeply romantic, you see. 😃)

The other problem, though, is that Jasmine is literally allowed no other path in adult life than "wife and mother".   A young woman would have to be preternaturally calm to NOT obsess over any single man she might be attracted to.  After all, a man must approve of her enough to want to spend his life with her before she's viewed as an adult in that culture.

But what about that unicorn prancing in the mist - the much vaulted "family-based ministry" that is supposed to fill a young woman's hours?

There's some lip-service paid to doing family-based ministry, but precious few SAHDs seem to have access to a home-based ministry.    As I'm thinking about it, I can only think of two sets of sisters who have a standing ministry of any length.  Sarah Mally and her newly married sister Grace Moffiat have kept their family ministries (Tomorrow's Forefathers, Bright Lights, Just Men, Stand Strong, etc) hopping for over 15 years now.  The other SAHDs who deserve mention are Sarah Maxwell who runs the entirety of Titus 2 / Managers of Their Homes/Schools and has for close on 20 years now along with her sisters Anna and Mary who have been allowed to run a children's Bible club at an apartment complex.  Considering how sheltered the Maxwells are, that's pretty renegade of them...

But even those ministries are constrained in many ways. 

Grace and Sarah Mally set up various clubs, book studies, conferences and events that gathered obedient CP/QF teens and sent them out on missions to convert strangers.   What I doubt the Mallys are even aware of is the fact that "soul-saving" outings like that are much less about saving souls and far more about indoctrinating CP/QF young adults about how much they will be rejected by the wider world if they stray from the fold.   Because - seriously - I've yet to see a soul-saving technique that isn't guaranteed to annoy or anger most people. Why do people continue to do such daft techniques if they don't work?  Because the purpose is to solidify the unity between members of the CP/QF culture - not save the rest of us.

Similarly, Anna and Mary Maxwell have finally been allowed to run a Bible study for mostly children of color at a local apartment building.  That's more interaction that the Maxwell girls have had with non-CP/QF folks in their lives, but being immersed with elementary school aged kids is very safe for  women who are 27 and 23.  It's pretty unlikely that those kiddos would ask any really challenging questions like "So what are you planning on doing with your life?" or "If marriage is so important, why aren't you married?" Additionally, any time the kids allude to being raised by a single mother or dealing with poverty, Anna and Mary can pat themselves on the back at being such virtuous young women who have avoided reproducing before told to do so by a legal husband.

Since every activity that marks adulthood for women in CP/QF land requires a man to declare that a young woman is worthy of being his wife, of course Jasmine Baucham went a bit overboard on her crushes.  I would have, too, since boredom is a powerful motivator.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Eight - Part One

Welcome to Chapter Eight of Jasmine Baucham's "Joyfully At Home"!  This chapter helps young women examine and move beyond a "false view of husbands". 

Honestly - the very term "false view of husbands" makes no sense to me.  This is a book written by an young unmarried sheltered woman to an audience of extremely young sheltered unmarried women.  How much of a false sense of husbands can they have?  They can't have had that many interactions with married women of their own generation to have much of a "sense of husbands"period.

Equally pertinent to me is the fact that the broad "view of husbands" is of marginal bearing on personal happiness compared to the very specific "view of MY husband" that these girls will one day be facing.   I worry very much that these girls and women will marry in the first heady blush of infatuation and be hurt badly when their relationship hits the normal growing pains that come with living together as a married couple.   Most married or committed couples in western society have a much wider series of life experiences prior to marriage that help young people learn that this current pain or struggle too will pass.   Going to high school and college brings awkward transitions that eventually become comfortable.  Working outside the home and safe confines of family always feels clunky and unwieldy at first - but people grow in skills.   Experiences like these serve as a touchstones for a young married couple navigating their first disagreements - that it is bumpy right now, but the bumps make for a stronger relationship later on.    Those touchstones also serve as a point of reference if things don't get better - and it is time to seek outside help.

Jasmine Baucham's recommendation at age 19 or so is to blame women's disappointments in marriage on having unreasonable expectations in the first place:
For so many of us young women, our ideal man might look like [ insert wildly attractive movie stars named here] on the outside , but, on the inside, his identity comes from making us happy. He is fine tuned to meet all our desires. He caters to our every romantic whim. He never disappoints us. He never aggravates us. He never falls short of our expectations, even though they hover somewhere in the stratosphere.

One young man once described him to me as the perfect man on the outside -- and the quintessential woman on the inside. We want a girlfriend on the inside and a husband on the outside, a hunter gatherer with Florence Nightingale tendencies. (pg. 93)

Of course your dream boyfriend is perfect; he's imaginary!  I think it's more mentally healthy to daydream about a man who fulfills all your needs and wants than to daydream about a man with carefully curated flaws.  Plus, most people understand that daydreams of the perfect job, the perfect lover, the perfect vacation will never translate - but a life experience is real so the mistakes, quirks and flaws are all part of the package.

Man, I'm still burnt-out from the Botkin Sisters' blathering "male friends" and really don't want to add Jasmine Baucham's male friends.   Actually, there's probably a pretty big overlap between the two groups since all of the women were in Vision Forum. 

Anyways.

 Am I supposed to believe that young men have a more mature and nuanced view of their future wives?  What few descriptions I've read seem to imply that many CP/QF young men view their future wives as adoring groupies who provide sex while doing all the work of cooking, maintaining the house, and rearing children.  That view isn't much more realistic than the women's imaginary boyfriends.

That last sentence makes me laugh.  Women apparently want a man who provides food for his family though wild sources and who also has time to demonstrate the power of using graphics to explain data while reforming the nursing profession.  This is going to be a hard combination to find, ladies!

I'm going to wake up one morning ( not right away, perhaps, but eventually) and realize that we were made to be the suitable helpers of flawed men, and not the other way around ( Genesis 2: 19- 25). Beyond that, we're flawed women who will react to flawed men, sometimes, in very flawed ways. Some days, there will be trouble in Paradise. And beyond that, we're not goddesses to be worshipped, but helpmeets who are going to be in the trenches. If we go into a marriage looking to have our needs met, we're eventually going to realize that marriage, like every other state of our lives, isn't about us. In fact, in many ways, marriage is less about us than singleness is. (pg. 94)

Listening to 19 year old Jasmine Baucham lecture about being in the trenches of marriage is both sweetly naive and so terribly young. 

She has no idea what being in the trenches looks like. 

We're approaching Spawn's third birthday (which I can't believe) so I am thinking frequently about the stress surrounding my severe rapid onset preeclampsia with HELLP syndrome while 26 weeks pregnant, Spawn's miraculous yet compromised birth, and the year of medical intervention that followed.   This may sound crazy - but I was often glad that if someone had to have a baby born very, very early, I was relieved/grateful that Spawn's birth happened to us rather than a teenage girl or young family.  The first week after Spawn was born was really rough since my preeclampsia didn't resolve after my son was born.  My OB kept me hospitalized for a week after Spawn was born because they couldn't find a drug regimen that kept my blood pressure under 150/85 - and I frequently had pressures in the 180/90 to 200/100 range when taken off of IV antihypertensives.  Between the 52 hours on IV magnesium sulfate, a variety of organs in the early stages of failure, abdominal surgery to get my son out, losing most of my blood volume from HELLP, continuing high blood pressure and all the hormonal changes of giving birth, I was physically shattered as well as emotionally hurting.  My husband was doing the best of us physically - but living in your wife's hospital room is exhausting before adding the stress of watching your wife and son struggling without being able to make it ok.  Plus, he was under a lot of pressure to return to work at the family farm starting the day after my son was born. 

The year after Spawn was born was just hard - but we got through it.  I did wonder - fairly often, actually - how much harder that year would have been if I was a young newlywed like Jill Dillard or Jessa Seewald instead of a older woman with lot of life experience.

I agree that married life can feel like you are in the trenches - but I disagree that the best way to prepare for marriage is to stay at home as an adult for spiritual reasons.  Resilience, endurance and communication are critical to surviving hard times in life.  We learn these skills through facing new, challenging situations and working through them.  While I suspect living at home is difficult at times, it often serves to keep women young and inexperienced rather than growing and mature.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Spawn has wheels!!!!!

Last week at PT, Spawn started using a walker.   I cried a lot.  I've been waiting for him to have independent upright mobility since he was 12 months old - and he's now almost three - so freedom has been a long time coming.

We've previously tried to interest him in one.  His facial expression was "You know that walkers are the first step in feeding children to wolves? Right?  What kind of a wolf feeding program are you running here?  I'm onto your game, lady!"

If I haven't been clear, Spawn is one of those kids who needs to accept an idea on his own time frame.

I can understand that; I remember when I spent weeks arguing with a young PT about my belief that walking on my toes 24-7 put me at an advantage if I ever went into ballet.  I was five and had seen about 5 minutes of "The Nutcracker" on TV months before.   My mom eventually told the PT that this was NOT a hill to die on; I wasn't using my newfound understanding of ballet to get out of PT.  I just wanted to share information.   So....Spawn's clearly my son.

Two weeks ago, he saw a little boy using a walker when we were waiting for his speech appointment after PT. Spawn was fascinated.   I asked him if he wanted to try a walker.   He said "YES!" very clearly - and he's in that phase where his favorite and most common word is "no".   I left a note with the receptionists to tell his PT in case I forgot - and the rest is history.

Seeing how proud Spawn was of being able to walk with a walker made me so very happy - and proud.   He is a walker champ!  He knows how to walk forward and shift weight backwards to free a wheel when it's caught.  He's a natural problem-solver so he figured out immediately how to slide his walker sideways to move around an obstacle.  And that's after less than 20 minutes of walker time with a PT!   (I come from a long line of crazily proud parents; it's genetic :-) )

His NICU PT happened to be over in the outpatient building and got to see a baby she knew as a 1 pound 12 oz snippet cruising the halls like he was all that and a bag of chips.  We gave each other hugs and cried.

Spawn's PT started the paperwork to get a walker paid for by insurance.  Spawn has a diagnosis of hypotonic cerebral palsy - so that helps greatly - but it will take weeks to months for everything to move through the process.   I wasn't thrilled about that - but I had two backup plans.

Plan B: Spawn's special education team mentioned months ago that the county probably had one we could borrow.   Spawn had an IEP testing time that same day - and three appointments a day with a toddler is hellish - so I brought up the idea with his point person.   She said she'd bring it up with his care team - but he's transitioning between the county-level and district-level of care - so that kind of leaves him in a weird no-man's land.   I was not surprised by this response both because I've worked in education before and because I've been less than thrilled with the county level of infant education but I was still disappointed and more than a little annoyed.    My annoyance, though, was mitigated because I still had Plan C.

Plan C: The DIY retailer I work at had a motivational pamphlet describing lots of charitable things done at the store level.  One of the stories was about parents who came to the plumbing department with a list of items.   The associate asked them what they were doing and they said they were building a walker for their preschooler based on a video they found online since they weren't sure if insurance would cover a walker.   The associate let the store manager know about the project - and the store manager told the parents to go out to dinner while the store team members built it for them.

My takeaway from this was that you can find plans for DIY walkers online - and that the US's private medical insurance system sucks.

It took me 5 minutes to find the video followed by 20 minutes to find all the right parts on my store's website and order them.   My dad has a chop saw, helped measure Spawn and helped me glue all the pieces together.  My mom gave me lots of hugs.

We had a functioning walker for Spawn in two days.

The weather was windy today but over 50 degrees.   Since winter is setting in quickly this year, I decided today was a great day to do a paint job on his walker since the white PVC highlighted the printed batch information, UPCs and escaped PVC glue extant on the tubes.   I had high-gloss candy apple red spray paint that I used on the body and satin gloss teal spray paint for the white portions of the wheel. 

 He loves it - and so do I.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Maxwell Mania: The CURSE of Summer!

I love swimming and have as long as I remember.   Being immersed in water frees me from some of the restraints that mild CP puts on my legs.  The pressure on my body calms my anxiety.  The combination of repetitive sounds from breathing and the repeating but changing views as I swim laps tamps down my ADD.   I rejoiced when my son started showing signs of liking being in water; he's always gloried in baths.  My son and I have enjoyed "Mommy and Me" swim classes which have been a great break from our endless round of rehabilitation appointments.

Steven Maxwell, on the other hand, sees women swimming outdoors as a modern menace:

A family I know has backyard neighbors who have a swimming pool. The view is close and unrestricted when washing dishes or in the backyard. The problem is that neighbor chooses to wear swimming attire that is hardly noticeable.

No, no.  The problem is that the neighbors refuse to mind their own business.  CP/QF types are all about their own personal freedom - freedom to homeschool, freedom to preach to strangers, freedom to discriminate against LGBT+ folks - but don't give other people the same freedoms. 

This woman is enjoying herself on her own property in a swimming suit that is likely considered acceptable within the larger society.   If Maxwell's friends are genuinely disturbed at the sight, they have a wide variety of options.  For the offending kitchen window, there are a wide variety of window covering available.  Some of them include curtains, blinds, or translucent films that would set the family back less than $20.00 total.   Of course, I'm a tad skeptical that the dishes are being done by the men of the family on a regular basis, but I digress.

 For "in the backyard", the obvious solution is installing privacy fencing.   Yeah, that's a more expensive proposition - but the Maxwells had their unmarried daughters purchase a very large playground set from a church to keep their grandkids away from public parks so why not use a few hundred dollars to put in privacy fencing?  Or a hundred dollars for cheaper woven reed privacy fencing?  In the few years that the fencing lasts, a decent gardener could get enough yews going to screen out the view.

The downside of these solutions is obvious: the friends of the Maxwells would lose the chance to gossip endlessly about their neighbor.

Even if the dad is able to avoid looking and lusting, will his wife be concerned for her husband’s heart? What about sons in their home? It takes great maturity and self-control to avoid such visual temptation for men, but adolescent sons probably don’t have that.

Oh, Lord.

Remind me when the husband is going to be staring out the kitchen windows while doing the dishes?  Presumably only in the evening, right?  He's working after breakfast and lunch because he's got a bajillion kids to support, yeah?     I'm pretty sure the entire problem could be avoided if he puts off doing dishes until 10 pm at night.  Or if he closes the damned window blinds.  Or buys a dishwasher. 

OMG - he's MORALLY OBLIGATED to buy a dishwasher for his wife! It could SAVE their marriage! 

Meanwhile, we have a rhetorical question about if the swimming woman has thought about the effect that her existence might have on the wife of her neighbor - even if he's an adult male who can handle seeing the woman swim in a swimsuit.   After all, she might be causing her neighbor's wife anxiety because the neighbor's wife doesn't trust her trustworthy husband to keep his penis in his pants!  Clearly, the problem is with the swimming woman - not the horndog husband or his creepily possessive wife....

 And what about the children?!  Wait, I mean, teenage boys who could theoretically be the spiritual heads of their own household within a few years?!   

It's too bad that Steven Maxwell isn't old enough to have heard the song  "Stacy's Mom" before he was saved (although he might have seen The Graduate).  "Stacy's Mom" revolves around the irony that a teenage boy has fallen hard for the hot mom (who literally doesn't know he exists) of a teenage girl.   The reason the song is so damn funny is that teenage boys greatly prefer teenage girls over middle-aged women.  If the adolescent sons of the home are getting boners from watching the neighbor woman swim, the boys need to get out around young women more.

Clearly there is no deference shown by that woman. Likely, she considers what she is wearing to be appropriate and appears to have little concern for defrauding her male neighbors and perhaps welcomes the attention.

No, she's simply unaware that her neighbors are oversexed busybodies.  Well, unaware so far.  I'm sure she'll figure out their general creepiness soon enough.

Random topic change: Teri Maxwell borrows someone's pool each summer to give her grandkids swimming lessons.   Who wants to bet that the woman the Maxwells are cattily gossiping about is the same one who lets them use their pool? 

Sadly, today, many professing Christian women also show little, to no, deference for men and boys by what they wear to church or with family and friends, possibly seeking such attention. Most sin is private, but immodesty is “in-your-face” to those near. Sad times indeed. Summer is here dads.
Dude. 

You've declared that men are spiritually superior to women.  Men are the spiritual heads of their home, the only gender allowed to preach and the only gender allowed to start courtships. 

 IOW, men are supposed to be able to keep their shit together. 

Instead, God's handed the reins of spirituality to a bunch of moral weaklings unable to spend 30 seconds problem-solving!   Seriously, Steven Maxwell has spent several hundred words haranguing a woman for wearing a swimming suit in the privacy of her own backyard, but has NO words of censure for the gossipy friends who are maligning this woman or for their inability to close the blinds, turn away from the window or go inside if the view is that titillating. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Maxwell Mania: Hellish Halloween!

The last two weeks have been crazy busy for me - but in a good way!

The Spawn has been having huge jumps in his self-confidence around walking.  He took two independent steps from his physical therapist to me at his last physical therapy appointment - and I had to hide my sudden tears from my little guy.  We've been going to parks as often as possible because he'll walk assisted to a playground then climb up and down all the stairs.  Spawn also likes to throw objects down slides - so I've made him a bunch of duct-taped covered beanbags for him to throw.   He's having so much fun that his legs and arms will be shaking from exhaustion - but he still wants to play more. 

Spawn's also starting to stand independently for short periods on his own of his own volition - so we've started playing "Toppling Toddler!"  In that game, he stands with his back to me as I sit on the floor.  I let go of him and he stands by himself until he topples backward and I catch him.  He thinks that's hilarious because I keep saying "Oh, no!  When will the toddler topple? How will I know to catch him?  Oh, no! Oh, no!" in a fake-worried voice while Spawn laughs.  Little does he know that I love the fact that he stands a whole lot longer because he wants to surprise me when he falls :-).

The diy home retailer that I worked at had two college-graduates leave their jobs for their first professional jobs - and they left out of two departments that I am trained in so I've picked up a lot of hours.  One of the jobs I've gotten trained in is working the guest service desk.  It's not my favorite job - but there's a lot of problem-solving which I'm good at and I have enough customer service experience to laugh off the rare irritated person.    I hadn't thought my skills were anything unusual - but I received an internal prize for willingness to learn new skills and how quickly I picked up my new skills.   Since Spawn will be starting school soon - so soon! - I'll be applying for a full-time position that will be opening in the paint department around New Year that'll be available for afternoon/evening shifts.

While all of that has been going on, fall has come to Michigan.  I love fall - and I love Halloween.  I enjoy seeing little kids all dressed up in their costumes - and the costumes of not-so-little kids as well.  For Spawn's first Halloween when he was nearly a year old, I dressed him up as an elephant.  Last year, I dressed him up as Mr. Peabody from "Bullwinkle and Friends" because his round blue glasses combined with the fact that his hair grows naturally into a part-less front triangle made it self-explanatory to anyone who saw the show.   This year, I found a cute second-hand lion costume which is as close to a cat  (Spawn's favorite animal) as I've seen.   I generally throw on a witch's hat and call it good.  My husband doesn't like group costumes so I've informed him that his costume this year is "not-a-wardrobe" because I can't pass up that obvious of a pun; my husband approves.

Since I haven't had time to read in the next few chapters of "Joyfully At Home", I decided to go for low-hanging fruit again.  I went to Titus 2, searched the term Halloween, and found this gem article where Teri Maxwell shares how her family evolved from celebrating Halloween like most Americans to where they are today.  Mrs. Maxwell begins with the trickiest bit of the whole story: navigating the fact that Steven and Teri Maxwell grew up trick-or-treating and enjoyed it!   She falls back on the trope of having a realization of how Christians shouldn't do that after she was born-again - but she's still got the issue of explaining why their family tried to celebrate Halloween in various ways for 15 years before giving up the ghost.

She declares that she thought that she could manage to celebrate Halloween while keeping her family's values intact.   That made me giggle a bit because parenting is essentially figuring out how to interact with the world in ways that pass important values down to your kids - but hey - why admit the Maxwells are all in the same boat as the rest of us?

After fulfilling that trope, Mrs. Maxwell launches into a second trope: good Christians are doomed to be miserable when doing worldly things:
The first Halloween our little ones were of an age to trick-or-treat (back in the early 1980s) I had made them very cute costumes. Out we trooped on Halloween night to the “safe” close neighbors, determined to make memories as we went. It wasn’t long until I had one child in my arms and two more clinging to my leg begging to return home. The lure of free candy did not overpower the fear in their hearts as they looked at the other trick-or-treaters.

How much of this story is true and how much of it is a technicolor creation for motivated readers thinking about forgoing Halloween?   A later section about their second attempt at Halloween happened when Nathan was six years old so the previous quote discusses Teri going trick-or-treating with a 5-year old, a two or three year old and an infant of less than a year.  The first thing that struck me about that is that no one can refute her memories; I have no clear memories of specific Halloweens until I was a pre-teen. 

More broadly, how much of this alleged fiasco was just plain bad planning?  We take our son out trick-or-treating while the sun is still up with two adults (or more if we have grandparents in tow) and are completely finished before it is dark.   Seeing strangers in masks is amusing in daylight with lots of company.  It can be totally terrifying in the dark for small children!  Honestly, trick-or-treating is more fun for my husband and I than it is for our son at his age - so why did Teri drag all three kids out by herself?  Couldn't Steven come along to help with crowd control?  Or stay at home with little Christopher and tiny Sarah while Teri took Nathan out?

Once we made the “no trick-or-treating” decision, we still had to deal with children who would come to the door on Halloween. Surely, this would be an opportunity to witness to them by handing out tracts along with the candy. We could involve our children in choosing tracts. Plus, we would still be building warm, childhood memories by letting them hand out the goodies and tracts.
Interesting fact: in 1984 when this attempt at Halloween went down, the Maxwells could have prevented children showing up at the door by turning the house light off.   I'm deeply sorry that the Maxwells had to suffer through eight more years of attempts at Halloween before they figured that little social norm out.

And yes!  Children LOVE doing the grudge work behind the scenes while other kids get to wear costumes and get bulging bags of candy!  Added bonus: CHICK TRACTS!  Nothing is more fun that giving other children comics that manage to be melodramatic and preachy at the same time!

Apparently, six-year old Nathan gave out candy and tracts once, then gave the bowl back to his mom and ran to his dad.  Teri Maxwell explains that he didn't want to do it because the masks of the kids were really scary - but I suspect Nathan was more than old enough to realize he was getting ripped off and refused to participate.

As someone who has lots of experience in customer service, this next anecdote made me laugh so hard I cried:
Our next attempts revolved around getting together with like-minded families and going out for dinner on Halloween. The first time we did this, the waitress was dressed up like a witch! The next year we phoned ahead requesting that our waitress not be dressed up as anything evil, but of course that couldn’t change what other customers and waitresses were wearing. Nor could we avoid our children seeing the trick-or-treaters on the streets as we went to and from the restaurant.
No!  Not a witch!  Who would expect an adult woman wearing a costume that costs around $5.00 for a hat added to serviceable black clothing in a waitress job?   Oh, wait.  Everyone.  Literally anyone who has celebrated Halloween in the US ever - except the Maxwells.

My apologies to the server who had two Maxwell parents glaring at her all night.  I hope she was still working there the next year when the Maxwells called to pre-approve the costumes of the waitstaff because that's customer service comedic gold!

Remember, the Maxwells were already speeding down the path to massively restricting reading materials for children - including animals that talk.    What costumes, then, would be acceptable?  Bible characters - but we aren't speaking the correct languages!  Oh, woe is us!

I grew up in a neighborhood where one family or another would stop celebrating Halloween for a year or two at a time for religious reasons.  My memories of these families didn't include trying to shelter their kids from knowing that Halloween existed; they just taught their kids that anyone who was celebrating Halloween was going to hell - and Jesus really loved the non-Halloween kids more.  Kinda like the Chick Tract I linked - but more self-important and prim. 

Finally, Mrs. Maxwell shares how totally isolated from society her kids had become with pride:
Our younger children didn’t even know the word “Halloween” for many years. When the now-popular Halloween lights began to go up, they thought they were Christmas lights. Steve does not take the younger children with him to do the nursing home ministry during the month of October because they would have to stare at evil figures hung on the curtains behind him for an entire hour. We encourage the children to look away from the grotesque and evil.

Pause and think about the level of sheltering the Maxwells claim to be proud of. 

The younger kids (e.g., everyone below Sarah) were unaware of a major holiday in the US.   Instead, the younger kids thought that people put out Christmas lights for a few weeks, took them down, and put up Christmas lights again?  Which makes me curious - are the younger Maxwells completely incurious - or did the parents lie through their teeth?  I have to imagine someone in the family asked why people changed out Christmas light colors - but I have no idea how to answer that without lying...a lot.

On the other hand, the last two sentences make me laugh every single time.   Man, that nursing home should know better than to decorate curtains with posters of serial killers and genocidal leaders.   No wonder the people in the nursing home are sad!   But seriously - that's how the Maxwells treat the fifty cent crepe-paper ghosts, witches, pumpkins and skeletons that predominate in institutional setting.   

It's really mean to keep the kids away from the nursing home ministry for a month.  First, those elderly Christians are the ONLY source of non-family interaction that most of the Maxwell kids have.  Second, if the residents have to listen to Steven Maxwell for an hour, they should at least get the amusement of seeing some Maxwell kids.   Actually, that makes me wonder if attendance at the nursing home services drops off in October...or if Maxwell thought about asking the home to cover the decorations during the service.

Ah, well.  I hope you enjoyed this as  much as I did!

Follow-up: After a large(ish) windstorm, the one internet tower that reaches our house was damaged.  Our internet mostly dead and I can rarely sneak away to work on posts.   As soon as the tower is repaired, I'll be back online.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Maxwell Mania: Women reading "Seriously Dads" threatens marriage.

In terms of propaganda, I think the Maxwell's family ministry of "Titus 2" does a great job of presenting a wholesome face to draw viewers through their blog while hiding the more toxic - or just bizarre - aspects of their beliefs deeper in the website. 

Scanning through their recent blog posts, the posts are filled with muffin recipes and pictures of large family parties.  Who wouldn't want to be part of a family where grown siblings gather with their families to celebrate birthdays and enjoy an ever-expanding crew of nieces and nephews?  The quirks of the family seem fairly harmless; yeah, they do a nearly-identical round of events yearly - but that's not a crime.  Perhaps 25 year-old Jesse would like to open his birthday presents without his nieces and nephews 'helping' him - or maybe he enjoys how excited the kiddos get more than he'd enjoy opening presents himself.
The Maxwell family blog is harmless enough; but the weird, strange and absurd beliefs of the family are on display in Article section of their website.  Take this gem from Steven Maxwell's "Seriously Dad" newsletter published January 30th of 2019 titled "Man to Man":
I’m confident that not one of you dads is reading weekly articles on being a great Christian mom. Even if you were interested in the subject, there is a good reason for you not to read them. Wouldn’t you be comparing your wife to what was being shared? In doing that, might it cause you to focus on her shortcomings and then be discontent with her? I believe the answers would be “yes” to those questions.

Dad, if you have asked your wife to preview Seriously articles, please reconsider. Might you be creating in your wife unhealthy comparisons/expectations? Everyone is busy these days, and some with productive and edifying endeavors. If Seriously is edifying, embrace it, if not, why encumbereth the ground (take up room in your inbox)?

(Moms, do you really believe reading these is good for your heart and your marriage?)
Steven Maxwell is much more confident about what other blogs his followers read than I am!  I am certain that I don't read weekly articles about being a great Christian mom - not even the newsletter written by his wife.  I am nearly as certain that my husband has never read an article on how to be a great Christian mom...because that's not an interesting area of reading for either of us.  Outside of my husband and me, I've got no clue!

Let's say for argument's sake that my husband and I started reading the Maxwell's articles weekly.  I'd likely compare my husband to the ideal husbandly type put forward by Maxwell, but I find my husband to be a much more appealing husband than Maxwell_Pro_Husband.   My husband manages to juggle spending time with me, with our son and working on his career without needing to be reminded to do so by a newsletter.  He totally 'wastes' time (in Maxwell's opinion) on watching television or playing games - and thank God he does!  We've learned a lot about the world by watching tons of documentaries together.  Playing computer games is a fast, portable, and cheap way to relax from the stresses of working and raising a toddler.   We suit each other well and reading a blurb by a random Christian blogger is not likely to change that.

But - for the sake of continuing the argument - let's assume that I read something in Maxwell's article that'd I'd like to see my husband do.  A married woman should be able to talk to her husband about changes she'd like to see in their lives together.  The changes may not be possible; a husband may be unable (or unwilling) to make a given change - but an adult's first response to a situation shouldn't be to sulk in a corner brooding over the shortcomings of their spouse!

I don't share the same assumptions about how marriages work that Maxwell does - and I find his assertions to be a sign of excessive pride.   After all, Maxwell is implying that his views on men's roles in marriages are so correct and so deeply foundational to a healthy marriage that a woman's comparison of her husband to Maxwell's uber-husband can - and will - destabilize functional marriages.  His revealed knowledge is so potent that women must avoid his articles lest they set their husbands and marriage up for failure.  Communication between spouses is so poor compared to his insight that couples who can manage raising a passel of children on a shoestring budget will be unable to reach a mutual understanding of Maxwell's writings.

For those of us outside of his family-based-cult, this level of self-importance is humorously sad.   He knows nothing of the joy of giggling over absurd writings with your spouse.  He fails to recognize that a good spouse knows the shortcomings of their spouse - and accepts those shortcomings because we all have shortcomings that come with us into a marriage.   He can't even imagine that most women prefer not being married to her spiritual director. 

In Maxwell's defense - he's never described himself as a 'totally stable genius', either - so I guess we have something to be grateful for.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Seven - Part Three

Mary Ann Evans (whose pseudonym was George Eliot) is an author I wish I had discovered when I was a teenager.

 Like many teenage girls. I had read the "Anne of Green Gables" series by L.M. Montgomery along with "Little Women" and "Little Men" by Louisa May Alcott as a preteen.  As a teenager, I read the more adult short stories written by both women while discovering period authors like the Bronte sisters and Jane Austin.

For me, her novel "Middlemarch" was a poignant antidote to the seductive poison of novels that predict a happy, painless marriage based on a fairytale romance leading to marriage.  Specifically, characters named Lydgate and Rosamund fall madly in love, marry, and then realize that they are absolutely miserable together in a time and place where divorce is impossible. 

At the same time, Ms. Evan writes an equally striking rebuttal against expecting passionate women who want to change the world to do so through marriage to a well-educated but stodgy older man.   Dorothea was raised by a well-meaning but scattered-brained bachelor uncle.  Because they live in a small town,are technically members of the gentry,  and were educated on the models of the time, Dorothea and her sister Celia have grown up isolated and undereducated for Dorothea's desires in life to make changes.  Celia, by her less ambitious and more easy-going temperament, fits well into society's design for her.  Dorothea sticks out as being overly religious, too passionate and simply makes a lot of people uncomfortable by her inability to read a room. The following quote is a narrative description of the ideas that 19-year old Dorothea Brooke has as a single woman:

"The really delightful marriage must be that where your husband was a sort of father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wish it."
                                                                                            -from  George Eliot's "Middlemarch" 1871

Can you see why Dorothea reminds me of a lot of CP/QF girls?

Dorothea's flaw is not her passion or even her lack of education.  No, her flaw is that she expects to expand her ability to change the world by marrying a much older man who has been slowly creating a magnum opus about an obscure topic of mythology.    She embarks on her marriage to Casaubon in with cautious excitement about a greater level of sacrifice leading to personal fulfilment from a greater cause. 

What she receives is a marriage where she must stifle her very self to protect her husband's frail ego while he is dying of a heart disorder.

Nineteen-year old Jasmine Baucham's vision for a future husband reminds me so much of Dorothea Brooks

When you ask for something that you really want and your parents say no, don't fantasize about a rich prince who will be able to supply all your needs. Think, instead, of a hard-working man who will sometimes not be able to afford the latest and greatest appliance that you desire. When your parents take you aside to discuss a sin issue that has been cropping up in your character, don't fantasize about a doting prince who will never tell you anything that you don't like. Think, instead, about a God-fearing man who is going to have a frank conversation with his young bride when they reach a disagreement. When you do not want to do something your parents have asked you to do, don't fantasize about a giving prince who will never ask you to do anything you don't like. Think, instead, of a loving prophet, priest, provider, and protector to whom you'll have to submit - even when ( especially when)it becomes difficult ( 1 Peter 3: 1-6)). (pgs 86-87)

This quote triggers four areas of CP/QF ideology among young women.  First, their future husband is a paragon of quiet knowledge, calm sensibility and mature management of all emotional issues.  He is a pinnacle of hard-work, fair judgement towards his wife, and reigns over the family with benevolent kindness. 

All of this makes me more in favor of unchaperoned time between young men and women.  After all, the only way to keep this kind of idealistic future husband in mind is to never ever spend time around real men.   Some men work hard; others are lazy.   Some men work hard, but cannot turn hard work into enough money to support their families; some inherently lazy men figure out how to find jobs that pay well enough for their families' needs.  All men have emotions.  Expecting a young man (and I'm pretty much clumping everyone under 50 in this group) to dispassionately decide what is best for the entire family and then calmly lead his wife to the same decision is insane.  Most men will try and decide what is best for the entire family group - but some are selfish.  Some are so selfish as to be narcissistic.

A more realistic expectation would be to expect to grow and change with a spouse - but that doesn't sound quite as nice.

The second and third ideas that I would like to discuss are intertwined.  I mentioned Lydgate and Rosamund from "Middlemarch" earlier.  The mismatch in their personalities and desires comes to a head because of the expenses and debts they acquired while setting up a home.  Lydgate, particularly, epitomizes two fallacies that CP/QF girls are prone to fall into.  Lydgate is quietly disparaging internally of people who are materialistic while being blind to his own assumptions of what is absolutely necessary in running a home. 

It's easy to see where Jasmine Baucham mocks young women who are too materialistic in her view.  These women want the newest and best appliances.  They want a husband who will put no restraints on their actions.  They want a husband who will dote on them.  These women want a husband who will check his actions and dreams if the actions required of the wife are too much for her to handle. Women like that are materialistic and therefore undeserving of a great marriage.

What Jasmine Baucham is blind to - like most 19-year-olds of all stripes - is her personal assumptions about minimal acceptable standards.  After all, labeling someone as materialistic is a bit like labeling someone a nymphomaniac; the label says as much about what a person believes is a normal level of material comfort or sex as it does about the other person's life.

She assumes hardworking husband will be able to afford to replace broken appliances without the wife working outside the home or cutting into other needed goods.  Her world is does not include Joy (Duggar) Forsyth living in an RV for years while her husband works at the family campground and flips a house a year.  Her assumptions cannot fathom Debi Pearl's oldest daughter illegally squatting on a Native American reservation without access to basic utilities like water, sewage or power.

She assumes that a similar-in-age husband will be able to provide wise and judicious insight to his wife's spiritual and character development.  Her world ignores a young man who is jealous of attention his wife draws from others.  She cannot conceive of a marriage partner like Ben Seewald who clearly could care less about fine-tuning other people's spiritual beliefs while trying to support a wife and three small children through manual labor.

Jasmine has been taught that her future husband will be a "priest, prophet, provider and protector" by her father - and she's too young or sheltered to recognize the absurdity of that claim.  In most religions, priesthood is conferred after an extensive period of study and close monitoring - not simply because a person is a married man.  Prophecy is even more rare of a talent - and no one pretends that  prophecy is anything besides a rare gift from the divine.  Provider is the least absurd of the claims - but how are the providing capabilities of a high school graduate with minimal career training in comparison to her father who has a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a professional degree in ministry?  Protector is anachronistic.   Women and children needed protectors when there were marauding bands from other villages attacking on a regular basis.  Today, the tragedies likely to strike a family cannot be warded off by a weapon and a strong arm.

My last observation is that sexual desire seems completely absent from this future marriage. Jasmine Baucham's writings often refer to raising children - and CP/QF families are very much in favor of babies - but the writings for unmarried daughters are completely scrubbed of any implication that the young women understand that babies come as a result of adults having sex. 

That's the end of the chapter on a false view of husbands....or was it marriage....I honestly don't remember - and I'm too lazy to look it up.  :-P

Friday, September 13, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Seven - Part Two

Before I had my son, I worried about balancing the needs of an infant or a toddler when I was ill. Specifically, I worried about trying to manage when I was sick and a small mobile child was well.  That sounded like my version of hell because trying to keep up with a little one while I was nauseated sounded terrible.

Well, so far, I've been pretty lucky.   My son is an active kid, but he's fairly easy to keep occupied.  He likes playing with toys for longer periods of time than a lot of kids his age so pulling out a set of toys that he hasn't played with in a while makes him very happy.    Plus, I have a solid immune system from years of teaching so I often miss a bug that makes him sick.

What I didn't expect is how easygoing my son is about letting me take downtime when I need it.  Yeah, he still yodels through a nap sometimes - but never when I'm sick.  He seems to pick up on when I feel sick and is more than willing to watch some extra TV while chilling with me.

I have the good fortune to live within easy driving distance of both sets of grandparents - and they've all come to take care of my son on the rare occasions when I was sick enough that I needed a few hours of sleep and my husband was available.   I've also provided coverage for other moms who don't have family nearby when they are sick.

The option I never considered was letting my teenage daughter care for a plague-stricken house when I've adopted four kids under the age of six:

This was illustrated for me several months ago, when my entire family caught a nasty flu virus --and when I say my entire family, I mean everyone except for baby Micah and me. While I do help out a lot at home, the full responsibility of taking care of my family rarely rest squarely on my shoulders. Although things can sometimes get hectic, with four adults and four younger children in the house, teamwork keeps us sane.

I didn't realize how much this arrangement spoiled me until everyone was down. Talk about a reality check! The Lord gave me a foretaste of what motherhood truly means ( although I hope that the days I have to take care of six sick folks - 4 of them five and under - are scarce). I can imagine that Johnny [....] wouldn't look so charming doubled over and in green in the gills. Diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, runny noses, and coughing where the symptoms. When I didn't get sick, I stopped to think of what the Lord might be teaching me: 1) I need to add a really strong immune system to my resume; and 2) although it was my joy to take care of my family, and I praise God that I wasn't ill, I loved the reminder that running a home is not always easy and romantic. When my dad was well enough to join forces with me, I was ecstatic. (pg. 86)

I seriously hope that Jasmine is stretching this story for the sake of her running point that marriage can deeply suck - that's the theme of Jasmine Baucham's "Joyfully at Home" Chapter 7, right? - because I'd have to be hospitalized before I'd let my kid completely take over running the house while I had three sick toddlers. 

Having said that, I doubt she's exaggerating.  A page earlier, she talked about trying to keep up with four young siblings, her normal chores and errands while her parents were away for a romantic weekend. 

Jasmine and Trey were 14 and 11 when their parents decided to expand their family by adoption.   Having Jasmine and Trey three years apart likely minimized the craziness of their youngest years.  Since there were only two of them, her parents would be able to play man-to-man defense when managing the kids rather than the zone defense required for three or more kids.   By the time Jasmine is 19 and Trey is 16, their parents have adopted four little boys in five years.   Faced with more small children that the couple had ever had before, they pressed their older kids into caring for the younger kids.   I don't think that having siblings care for younger siblings is a bad thing - but there's a difference between a 19 year old occasionally babysitting her siblings for an evening and caring for multiple sick people for days at a time.

I'm still hung up on this - but my bar for "well enough to care for my kids" is "not hospitalized; not dead".  I'm not saying that her parents needed to be doing parenting miracles - just making sure their children were fed, supervised, and had basic hygiene needs taken care of.   Now, Jasmine's mom currently has a diagnosis of lupus.  That's a disease that can make routine illnesses more severe and longer to recover from - but what is her dad's excuse?    Women and men having been dragging their sick bodies after their kids for millenia; he can do it too.

The worst part for me is that Jasmine logically expected some level of return on investment when she became a mother.  Yup, teenage Jasmine was racking up the hours caring for her four younger brothers (or five...six...seven younger siblings) - but that would mean that her mom and dad would have young kids at home when Jasmine started her family and that should make having her parents help out with her little ones easier.    I mean, as weirdly dysfunctional as the Duggar family is, at least the sisters have a mother, sisters and sisters-in-law nearby who can watch their kids for an evening or an afternoon so the mom can get something done without littles under feet.

It was a reasonable expectation - but Voddie and Bridget Baucham moved to Zambia not long after Jasmine married.   That had the rough combination of separating her from her younger siblings who she helped raise while massively reducing the amount of help either of her parents could give her when her two sons were born.  Becoming the dean at African Christian University was a huge career step for Voddie Baucham - and he's the only one of the CP/QF leaders who has the academic background to lead a post-secondary institution - but the price of that career step came at the cost of being around to support his oldest daughter when she became a mother.

In the last post for this chapter, Jasmine teaches young women to substitute one unrealistic set of expectations for their husbands for a different set of unrealistic expectations.