Monday, July 24, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Nine - Part Two

The first portion of the allegory from the chapter on how dreams have to die revolved around the Princess meeting and talking with Sir Valiant for a few minutes.  This meeting got her emotions all stirred up since she's got a crush on Sir Valiant.

Since Sir Valiant doesn't return to see her again, the Princess' excitement about being on the verge of having a relationship fades.  She does some light-weight work for others - the list includes being hospitable to dignitaries, standing in for her father at functions, sewing for the poor and playing with orphans - then indulges in her favorite past-time: moping and wringing her hands about her future.

One day when she's especially down she goes for a walk.  Her mother follows her and they have a conversation.

"Hearing soft footsteps, she turned around and saw her mother walking behind her. The princess waited but said nothing, telling herself that she was determined not to start crying.

Her mother seem to already know how she was feeling, as mothers usually do, and gently asked if everything was alright.

The princess was silent for a few moments then began to speak slowly. "Years ago I decided that I had a purpose in life much bigger than marriage and that I would gladly stay single if my Heavenly Father asked this of me. Time after time, I have prayed for His will to be done and purposed to be content. And just when I had thought I had finally understood contentment, just when I thought I had finally learned how to patiently wait, Sir Valiant came to visit, and... and... made everything harder. I don't understand why I can't learn to trust and I'm so easily distracted. And why- " she concluded with a sigh, " why does this have to be so difficult?"

"Struggles are a necessary part of life," her mother said. "They strengthen us and prepare us for the new trials that lie ahead. When one struggle is overcome, another is often around the next bend."

"I suppose. But Mother, I feel like I'm failing in each struggle, not overcoming them."

"Thou art growing. Thou art learning. These are the very things the struggle is designed to accomplish in thy life. Do not forget, dear daughter, that except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. " "(pg. 169)
  • No one in this book ever discusses emotions.  The Princess sounds sad, scared, discouraged, lonely and self-critical.  She's also infatuated with Sir Valiant.  All of these feelings deserve validation from her mother.  The royal family ignores all of their daughter's feelings at their peril:
    • The Princess is at least 21 at this point in the book and she's had minimal life experience.  She hasn't spoken to a friend in years according to the book.  Every time she wants to make a choice in her life, her father guilt-trips her about having met Sir Eloquence five years ago and railroads her into staying "pure".  No wonder she feels sad.
    • The Princess has been given the same quid-pro-quo promise given to all women through "emotional purity" or Emo-Pur:  if she guards her heart vigilantly by staying at home and letting her father lead her romantic life, she will have an early, fertile, romantic and deeply satisfying marriage.  The Princess has kept up her part of the bargain and all she has received in return is years of aching loneliness relieved only by circular arguments exchanged with the Allegator.  No wonder she feels scared, lonely and discouraged.
    • The Princess has received no direct compliments in the whole book.  Her parents describe everything positive she does as being based as a given.  By doing absolutely nothing, she's a rose or a candle.  When she struggles to follow the way, she's learning and growing in the way expected of her as a Christian.  When she wants to deviate from the way, that's all her fault.  No wonder she's overly self-critical.
    •  The Princess has so little exposure to potential mates that she's having a hard-core crush on a guy who she's seen on one occasion and talked with for a few minutes total.  Having a crush is normal and healthy; being continually distracted by marital fantasies about a man she hasn't seen in months and has no relationship with is abnormal. 
  • The most annoying part of the King and Queen is their continual claims that they understand exactly why everything happens in the Princess' life.  The Queen tells her daughter that all of her struggles happen because the daughter still needs to "grow".  On top of being insufferable, that's an extra-Scriptural claim; the Bible is pretty clear that life is simply hard at times.
  • This would be an excellent time for the Queen to commiserate with her daughter.  The Queen has to have struggles of her own.  She has to have struggled before on some issue.  Sharing her feelings and how the situations resolved themselves would be a lot more comforting for her daughter than telling her to suck it up and deal.
"Bear fruit --that is exactly what I want to do," the princess said quietly, as if deep in thought.

"Then your dream must die. "

"But my dream is a good dream, not a bad dream. It is the dream that God has given me. It is nothing wicked I desire, but only what is natural, wholesome, and beautiful. Why must it die? "

Her mother stepped off the path, knelt down, picked up an acorn, and explained, "Observe this acorn, perfectly designed for what it is intended to do - die. The acorn does not know why; the acorn does not understand what is ahead, but only if it is buried in the cold and dark earth --forgotten and alone --does it fulfill its purpose and become what it is created to be. Would the acorn ever have imagined that it would become the beautiful oak tree you see before you? Not in its wildest dreams. When you admire the oak tree, do you mourn the loss of the acorn? Of course not. By losing its life, the acorn becomes something so much greater, so much more beautiful, so much more valuable. The death is forgotten. The fruit is remembered. Nevertheless, death was required." (pgs. 169-170)

  • This section is the only section where the Princess admits that's she's got sexual feelings.  Oh, it's always disguised as either vaguely chaste romantic dreams like walking under the stars with a guy or as a longing to be a mother, but the Princess' has sexual urges.  This is the most normal moment the Princess has ever had in the book and one of the most honest moments.  The response of her all-wise mother is "Don't go there!  That's something you have to give up right now!"  
  • The Queen's appropriation of the verse about needing to die to bear fruit makes no real sense in the Princess' life.  The traditional interpretation of the verse is that humans as sinners need to overcome selfish desires to follow Christ.  The Princess isn't discussing any selfish desires - even under Emo-Pure guidelines!   She's not saying that she wants to chase after Sir Valiant, wants to go out from her father's protection. or saying that she questions any of the basic ideas. Having been thoroughly broken in spirit by five years of solitude, she's more meek than she's ever been before in the whole book.    Remember, the Princess' sole purpose in the Royal Family's "ministry" to the kingdom is to show how Emo-Pure is crucial for young adults to fulfill their God-given duty of marriage and reproduction.  Her testimony fails miserably if she doesn't marry and produce kids.  The plot hasn't introduced a more holy ministry that she's forsaking by wanting to marry and have kids because there is NO other option available in CP/QF theology.  That's the main reason the Queen's invocation of dying to self falls flat; she's telling her daughter that following Christ means giving up the only way available for her daughter to follow Christ....
  • Do not home-school using ATI/ATIA booklets.  Just say no to bad educational texts that teach kids that seeds die before producing plants.   That should reduce the number of books written that talk about dead, anthropomorphic acorns.
  • Replacing wheat plants with oak trees creates all sorts of problems with the metaphor from the Bible.  
    • The wheat plant acts in a way that makes the metaphor meaningful because wheat seeds that are buried have a good shot at becoming a wheat plant.  Wheat lives for a single season, produces a lot of seeds, scatters the seeds, and the parent plant dies before the seeds germinate.Wheat seeds need to be covered by a small amount of soil to retain enough moisture to germinate but that can be accomplished by forces as common and slight as rain drops, wind, the movement of animals or leaf litter from the parent plant.  Since all of the seeds are facing a growing area empty of adult wheat plants at the beginning of the next season, each wheat seed has a good chance of becoming a wheat plant.  
    • Oak trees are completely different.  Oak trees are long-lived perennials that produce massive crops of acorns every few years.  The vast majority of acorns will never become oaks and that's a feature, not a bug of reproduction.  Acorns are large enough that they need to be moved away from the parent oak and buried by an animal dispersion agent like a squirrel.   To attract the animal dispersal agents, oaks produce heaps of acorns at once.  Most of the acorns will be eaten directly or buried by an animal and eaten later.  Most of the uneaten, buried acorns will never grow because they are buried too deep, do not receive a signal to grow before the embryo dies or were injured in a way that destroys the embryo's food supply or the embryo itself.  Quantifying exactly how many offspring a plant produces is hard, but the best modeling suggests that the average tree in a forest produces at least 10,000 acorns to have 4-6 offspring survive to seedling age in hopes that 1-2 seedlings survive to maturity.
  • Incongruity point: The Queen delivered her whole "Dead Acorn" monologue while kneeling in the dirt.  When writing character actions, make sure that the action matches the personality of the character and that the writing conveys the right action.  There's no way a Queen regnant would kneel in the dirt to lecture her daughter about how trees work.  Rather than listing every action, keep it simple.  If the lead-in said "The Queen picked up an acorn", the basic idea of the Queen showing an acorn to the Princess is solved without the Queen groveling in the dirt.
That's the end of the allegory.  Literally.  The Queen's kneeling under an oak tree and the Princess never responds to her.

The exhort-and-advise section trots out some memorable (read: odd) anecdotes to support the "Let Your Dreams Die" theme.  The net outcome, however, becomes "If you let your dreams die, they come true!" which doesn't quite fit.....ah, well.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Nine - Part One

This chapter has the smooth title of "Dreams Must Die".  The book has been uniformly depressing since the Princess' most intimate relationship is with the Alligator who lives in moat who is trying to get her to have a life.  I don't even want to know how much worse this can get.

The allegory start with the Princess enjoying the nice weather while thinking and praying on the balcony.  She's decided to not go to the Merchants' Fest and plans to serve God with more energy.  There's no discussion at all of how she plans to serve God which is unfortunate; the Princess really needs a job, a hobby, an education or something that cuts down on the amount of time she spends alone in the castle moping.

Anyways, she's on her way to tell the King of her plans when she finds Sir Valiant in the courtyard. As near as I can tell, the Princess has seen him once when she was about 17 years old.  She's now 20 or 21 years old.  The two of them have never spoken to each other.  Sir Valiant did give talk with the King about plans to fight Temptation and Lies in the Kingdom, but the Princess isn't aware of that whole discussion.

The two of them chat for a few minutes.  This section below is their whole interaction:
It was, as you may have guessed, Sir Valiant. He had finished a lengthy conference with her father and was just mounting his horse to depart from the castle, dedicated in his service for the king.

The princess stopped suddenly. Then she quickly smiled and cheerfully exclaimed, " Oh, hello! " Though her voice was calm, her heart was trembling, and dozens of questions raced through her mind. What shall I say? Shall I introduce myself? Why is he here? Does he know who I am?

Her anxiousness was forgotten, however, when Valiant dismounted his horse, returned her greeting, and said " Oh, and you must be the king's daughter? I have heard so much about you. Many in the village speak of thy virtue and kindness."

The princess laughed and replied, " Oh, well, I have heard about you as well. My father says thou art among his most trustworthy knights. He deeply values thy loyal service.

The princess thought that Sir Valiant looked even more handsome and radiant than ever as he stood there in the bright sunlight. In reality, if she could have seen herself, she would have been equally surprised to see the brightness in her own face. It is perhaps a good thing that the princess did not realize that her beauty was only becoming more and more radiant with time.

The two of them did not talk long, but as the princess waved goodbye and watched him ride away, she felt as if her heart would burst. She had never felt that way before. (pg. 166)
  • Historically, the reign of the King and Queen is in much more jeopardy from Sir Valiant than Sir Eloquence. 
    •  Sir Valiant has started making connections with other knights within the Kingdom; Sir Eloquence had none.  
    • Sir Eloquence was approaching a princess who was barely at marriageable age and emotionally dependent on her parents; Sir Valiant is approaching an adult woman who has started to push back against the rules of her parents.  
    • The Princess was defensive against Sir Eloquence; she's partial towards Sir Valiant.  
  • If the Princess marries Sir Valiant legally without their permission, the King and Queen are facing two unpalatable options: Overlook the lack of permission and allow Sir Valiant to reign with the Princess in hopes that the grandson(s) of the King and Queen inherit the throne or remove the Princess from succession and leave the throne to the next nearest relative.  
  • I feel really bad for the Princess.  At 21, she's as disconcerted and flustered at running into a guy she's got a crush on as most people are at age 12.  More disturbingly, she's got a crush on a guy she's seen once five years ago and has never spoken to.  The Princess is the poster child of crushing loneliness. 
  • I'm confused about what virtue the townspeople are attributing to the Princess.   The book is obsessed with chastity and modesty, but those are not virtues that people praise others for.  I'm trying to imagine one of those young women the Princess taught to goldsmith saying "The Princess is such an amazingly virginal person!  Not only has she not had sex, she's never given her heart away to anyone!"  On the other hand, I can't attribute any other virtues to her. She's not wise, not prudent, has shown no courage, has show no interest in justice, has very little hope and does a handful of charitable acts per decade.  I guess she might be faithful, but that's not usually a virtue that townspeople find attractive in young princesses.
    • Of course, this makes much more sense if Sir Valiant is buttering the Princess up as a first step in taking the throne.
  • *pssst* Princess!  When someone compliments you, the polite response is to acknowledge the compliment with something like "Thank you".  Blowing past the compliment is dismissive of the other person.  
  • If the Princess is not the only heir, she'd better hope that the King thinks that Sir Valiant's loyalty is a bit shaky; the King would be best served by marrying the Princess off to a lineage who he needs to keep in line rather than a slavishly devoted toady.
  • Reminder: Sir Valiant's service to the King so far has been offering to train knights and squires to fight Temptation and Lies.  He's not actually done anything for the King yet.
  • When looking at dynastic marriages, the physical attractiveness of the parties was pretty low on the list of concerns especially if they were next-in-line for a kingdom.  
The Princess is understandably excited by this turn of events and completely forgets about her previous plan to be a better servant of God.  She meets her parents and asks bunch of questions about Sir Valiant's meeting with the King.  The Princess was super-excited for a full week before she realized that putting the cart before the horse since Sir Valiant hasn't reappeared.

I'm going to stop here because there is still a long quote involving the Queen and Princess that deserves discussion.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming - Chapter Eight

This chapter is titled "Have a Life Purpose Bigger than Marriage".  That sounds promising - but that material was already covered poorly in the chapter titled "When God Says Wait".

The allegory section involves the Princess for less than a full page.  Like every other chapter, the Princess meets the Alligator.  The Alligator asks the Princess what she's going to do with her life.  The Princess has no idea what to do besides talk to the Alligator and mope.  The King appears and chides her that she needs to do something like training up the young women in the kingdom to live pure lives.  The Princess is cheered.  A messenger appears and tells the King that knight is here to speak with the King.  The Princess and the King part.

The rest of the allegory is a talk between the King and Sir Valiant about the dangers that are facing the Kingdom.  The Kingdom is being threatened by a giant named Temptation and a dragon called Lies.  The King decides that the Kingdom must stand up against the giant and dragon.  The King sends Sir Valiant to train the young men in the Kingdom to stand up against Temptation and Lies.  After a rousing speech from the King, Sir Valiant leaves and the allegory is finished.

The first oddity that jumped out at me in this allegory is that the Princess has no way of knowing anything about Sir Valiant's quest for the King.  The book is clearly setting up Sir Valiant as a worthy suitor for the Princess - but the book is giving the readers way more information about Sir Valiant than the Princess has.  From the Princess' point of view, Sir Valiant is a guy she saw read a message to the King several years ago.  That's the sum total of their interactions over the FOUR YEARS this book has been following the Princess.

The Giant and Dragon allegory section falls flat.  I think the root of the problem is that Ms. Mally hasn't focused on the difference between internal and external quests.  Temptation is an internal issue.  Avoiding Lies is an internal issue.  Since Sir Valiant is fighting against internal issues, the allegorical solution must align with a solitary knight.  Training legions of knights to fight against Temptation and Lies doesn't work.

The last oddity about the Giant and Dragon section is that the King is strangely reliant on a very young knight of from some unexplained lineage.  Successful monarchs know how to balance the desires and strengths of the noble families that underpin a stable reign.  Handing off control of any number of knights and squires (*sighs* letting it go....) to a young nobody is a great way to be deposed by disgruntled nobles.

Thus ends the allegory and begins the advice section.  This advice section is a mishmash of vaguely hopeful cheerleading about being single interspaced with mindless personal stories.

The main theme is that women should use their single years to do ministry of some kind.  That's a theme I could support.  The problem comes with the stories she picked:
  1. Sarah is feeling sad one day because she's never been in a romantic relationship.  She prays and realizes that wanting personal happiness is a bad purpose in life.  Sarah's going to work at making everyone else happy because that's what God wants!  

    At the risk of stating the obvious, her second goal will be impossible if everyone decides to forgo personal happiness like she did.....

  2. Melissa was mad at her dad.  Because she didn't immediately rid herself of anger, she felt angry about everyone and everything in her life and "hurt people in her life" (pg. 152) before she realized that the real key to happiness is overlooking negative things about other people.

  3. That story is a perfect setup for major depression and a great way to train children to attract abusers. Finding the people in your family deeply annoying is a normal, universal part of growing up.   The phase doesn't last forever so CP/QF writers need to stop treating mild teenage rebellion like high treason.

  4. A 15-year old decides to found a Bright Lights group for the girls in her area.  The girl thinks this is a great idea and feels awesome about this choice.

  5. Hey!  We have a story that supports the theme!  That's 1 in 3.  Whoo-hoo!

  6. The Mallys are trying to get to a place on foot before it closes in a busy city without extra time. They run into a parade that is blocking their route.  The Mally family proceeds to make their way down the parade route by snaking through the crowd, going in and out of shops, etc., until they get ahead of the parade to cross the street.  Sarah alludes to the fact that the Mallys must have been pretty annoying to parade watchers, but the family didn't stick around to hear any complaining.  They make it to the place with time to spare.

  7. I think the Mally family needs to work on being better humans.  Having five people who are carrying items start plowing through a parade crowd is simply rude.  What kills me is that they picked the least effective way to get around the parade I can think of.  They would have saved even more time if they walked back a block or two and traveled on a street that parallels the parade route.  Walking on a nearly empty sidewalk is much faster than weaving through crowds.  Another possible trick is walking towards the end of the parade instead of trying to race in front of the parade.  Plus,  they could probably cross the parade route between floats if they timed it right in most locations.

  8. The Mally Family takes two cars to church each week because not everyone can get ready on time.  One Sunday morning, someone left them a GPS module and power cord in unmarked envelopes in their front door.  

  9. Ms. Mally attempts to spin this into discussing how important knowing where you are is in getting your life in order.   My mind is blown that a family of 5 can't get Mr. Mally to get to church on time.  I am also really confused as to why someone would leave a GPS device in envelopes without an address.  More to the point, this has nothing to do with the theme of the chapter.  That's 1:5 that are on-topic.

  10. The Mally Family are in Florida and carrying all of their people-traps for conversions.  They decide to visit a family friend named Clorinda.  Clorinda wanted to advertise the Mally Family's visit at her retirement home, but the administration had a policy against "outside religious groups".  The Mally Family offers to play harps in her room for a group of friends as an opening to conversion.  Clorinda thinks this is great.  When they get to the home, the elevator to the upper levels is broken.  Since they can't carry the harps up the steps, they ask permission to hold their meeting in a ground-floor meeting room.  Permission is granted.  Lots of people show up to hear them play the harps and do chalk drawings.  The administration is ok with this.  The elevators start working when the Mallys are done.

  11. The fact that the home only has a single elevator that stopped working is far more concerning to me than the potential states of the souls of the people there.  In case of a medical emergency, making paramedics evacuate a patient down a stairwell is time-consuming and potentially dangerous.   This is also age-appropriate for high-school students; I went with our women's choir to sing at local retirement homes in the area.  
Well, that gives a grand total of 2 on-topic anecdotes out of 6 for 33% rating.  That's underwhelming.
This is all of the material for chapter eight.  Chapter nine brings some new crazy to the table when the Queen has a talk with her daughter.....

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming - The Tobbogan Ride

There are many activities in life that I am clueless about.  I don't know how to play any instruments.  I've never ridden - let alone drove - an off-road vehicle.  My understanding of all things equestrian is based on what my best friend who adored horses told me.  

As a born and bred Michigander, though, there is one thing I know: sledding.

Look, I live in a place that becomes a grey and brown slushy-wasteland from Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day in a good year.  Throwing yourself down a hill on a sled is God's way of making up for the fact that Western Michigan has no appreciable sunshine due to cloud cover from October through Easter.  We are a land where our high school mascots should be Seasonal Affective Disorder.  That's why sledding and other winter sports are beloved here - we need something to look forward to.

I don't remember the first time I went sledding because I was a toddler.  If your kid is old enough to walk up a hill, they are old enough to sled down the hill - with a parent steering the sled.  Heck, my young infant son would probably be able to handle sledding on a gentle slope with my husband or I this winter.

Needless to say, I have feelings about this scene in the book.

The Great Toboggan Ride

Testimony by My Sister Grace

"Come on, you guys! " I called to my friends at the top of the sledding hill. "If we get a lot of people on this toboggan it will go really fast!" It was the first big snowfall of the year. The hill was packed. I had arranged for a group from our church to go sledding together, and I was delighted when I saw that one of my friends had bought a toboggan. This is going to be fun, I thought as I took the front seat and four of my friends piled on behind me.

As we were about ready for the push off, my dad approached the scene.

"Wait! You can't go down on that!" he said. " That's really dangerous!" (pg. 141)

Sledding can be dangerous if people aren't careful.  There are some pretty basic safety precautions that parents teach kids.

  • The most dangerous accidents involve collisions with objects so don't sled near trees, telephone posts, fences, etc.  
  • Be sure that you have plenty of room at the bottom of the hill to stop before roads, parking lots, ponds, etc.  
  • Be sure you can reach the bottom of the hill without hitting someone.
  • Climb the hill outside of the main sledding areas.  (Allegedly, people climb near the edges and sled down the middle of busy hills.  That's not quite how we did it on the hills we used when I was a kid.)
  • Know how to bail from a sled.
  • The only safe position seated with your legs in front.
A toboggan is a large sled with a curled front that can fit multiple riders at once.  A kid's sled is like driving a sedan; a toboggan is like driving a semi.  A toboggan requires the front person to have much more upper-body strength than a single person sled to steer.  A toboggan also handles much more slowly than a sled does.

Now, with that background, Mr. Mally is facing Grace and four other non-relatives in a situation he believes is dangerous.  Watch how he handles the situation.

Oh great, why does Dad always have to get involved and spoil the fun? I thought. Feeling slightly embarrassed by his cautiousness, I told Dad that we would be fine.

" No, " he insisted. "Look down there. There are tons of little kids. You could hit any one of them! It could be a very serious accident." (pg. 141)

This was the point where I started wondering if this story happened to Grace Mally or if it's being adapted from another one of Uncle Arthur's bedtime stories because I can't get this part to make much sense.

I grew up in an area that had fairly broad hills that could have many different groups of sledders at once.  On these hills, sledders sorted themselves by skill level.  The shallowest part of the hill was where the little kids sledded.  The steepest part with a bowl-shaped depression half-way down was where the teenagers sledded.  The remaining section was for the intermediate sledders.  In this type of sledding hill, Mr. Mally would be better off directing his kids away from the bunny slope area filled with little kids and into the area with teenagers.

My husband grew up in an area that had much more narrow hills.  Everyone was using the same area - but that also meant that everyone waited for a turn.  Little kids might well be on the hill right in front of you, but once they were at the bottom they needed to clear out so that the next person - or toboggan group could take off.  In that case, a bit of patience will take care of the kids in the way - plus you can always yell a polite reminder to them if they start messing around.

On a positive note, Mr. Mally is making a clear, basic statement about his views.  With some finesse, he can either re-route the group or convince them to go on individual sleds.

"Oh brother, everyone knows that sledding involves a little risk, but it always turns out fine, I thought.

"This toboggan is like a killer machine going down the mountain!" Dad continued. "Someone could die!"

" Dad, " I explained, " This is what sledding is. People know to move out of the way. "

"That's false! It will be going too fast. The hill is crowded. I don't think you should go down!" (pg. 141)

I adore sledding - but it doesn't always turn out fine.  My family has broken every rule I stated at the beginning - and that's when the injuries get worse.

  • As an adult who should have known better, I didn't bail early when I was losing control of a sled on an icy hill. I picked up enough speed that when I lost control that I rolled down the rest of the hill.  That sounds funny, but my clothes twisted and rolled too so that I skinned my torso from my bra line through my upper hips.  
  • I sprained two ankles in a single toboggan accident when I was in fourth grade when some cousins went down a heavily wooded hill.  
  • My brother knocked one of his front baby teeth out when he hit a fence.  
  • My uncle got a severe closed head injury when he was sledding head-first and hit a tree.
Having laid out my family's horror stories, Mr. Mally is making me want to break all the rules in front of him.  A killer machine that is too fast for people to dodge?  It's a toboggan, not a runaway freight train, man.

Getting completely unglued is not beneficial to drawing people to your point of view.

On the flip side, I'm not sure why Mr. Mally is arguing with his daughter.  I am very open to negotiation between parents and their kids - but not on issues of immediate safety.  Mr. Mally believes the toboggan is an imminent and severe danger to others on the hill.  He needs to clearly and calmly state that his daughter should not go down on the toboggan.  Right now, he sounds increasing frantic and that's not helping his case.

"By now the whole church party was listening and wondering what would happen. My friends on the toboggan all thought it would be fine. Sarah thought it was fine. I thought it was fine. Even the other adults didn't seem very worried, so finally my dad reluctantly backed off, and we started down the hill.

"We'll just yell really loud so that people will get out of our way, " we told my dad." (pg. 141-142)

Every other human being on the hill thinks Mr. Mally is acting crazy.  He can't even bring the other adults over to his point of view - at least not enough to get them to interfere.

There's also a minor continuity problem in the story.    Adding "we started down the hill" before telling her dad that they'll yell really loudly makes it seem like she's talking with her dad as they ride down the hill.

More importantly, some number of adults and kids/teens have been having a detailed discussion at the top of a hill with a toboggan.  That's given anyone near them plenty of time to clear out.
Down we went. We got going faster and faster and it was really fun - until - we hit a little 6 year old girl. She went flying and did a complete flip over the top of the toboggan.

We came to a stop, jumped off, and ran back to the girl who was now standing up and in her dad's arms. " Is she okay?" my friend asked.

"Well, what do you think? " her dad snapped back. It was obvious that he was very upset. Why did this have to happen the one time my dad cautioned us not to go? I wondered. (pg. 142)

True confessions time. I've hit kids accidently while sledding before. I've also hit siblings on purpose before when we were all a little bit older.  There are exactly two reasons why people don't hit other sledders while sledding.  The obvious reason is that people don't want to cause other people pain.  The second less obvious reason is that a sledding accident has a good likelihood of hurting the person(s) on the sled along with the person hit.

I've never managed to hit someone with enough speed to cause them to do a complete flip over the sled - and I highly doubt Grace Mally and her friends did either.  Presumably, the kid was walking up the hill or standing on the hill.  When the sled hit her, the front of the toboggan would knock her legs out from under her.  Depending on where her center of gravity was, the kid would either fall to either side of the toboggan or fall directly onto Grace Mally.

Notice that Grace Mally's response to hitting a kid is extremely bizarre.  She was steering the sled, but she's not the one who asks if the kid is ok.  She doesn't apologize for hitting the kid.  Grace seems completely oblivious to the fact that getting run over by a sled can lead to broken legs or head injuries.  She shows no sense of relief that the girl is uninjured.  Her main concern is that this happened when her dad warned her not to go down the hill.

"It turned out that the little girl seemed fine, just shook up. Then a disturbing thought came to me: Dad is at the top of the hill and saw all this happened.

Yes, Dad had endured several seconds of sheer horror from the top of the hill as he watched the little girl fly through the air. I returned to him right away, feeling repentant and concerned, and we discussed what to do. We looked for the little girl and her family but they had already left. (pg. 142)"

Let's discuss Mr. Mally's aberrant parenting style.  He started by failing to convince anyone to not go down the hill in the toboggan.  Grace implies that he gives into peer pressure since none of the other parents' present seem concerned about the situation.  To me, that is a damning statement since he was convinced that the toboggan was a "killer machine".  Parenting is not a popularity contest when health and safety issues arise.  Finally, he watches his daughter nail a kid on the sledding hill and does absolutely freaking nothing.  This is not rocket science or a complicated parenting moment.  When you see a potentially dangerous accident that your kid is involved in, you move to the scene of the accident immediately.  If the 6-year-old was injured, Mr. Mally would be needed there to help control the traffic of sledders on the hill, call for help, provide first aid, and keep an eye on Grace.

What you don't do: skulk at the top of the sledding hill while your kid interacts with an understandably upset strange adult and his frightened, possibly injured child.

To me, Mr. Mally is a coward, pure and simple.  He doesn't have the guts to order his daughter off the sled.  He never admits his responsibility for capitulating to peer pressure.  Mr. Mally remains at a safe distance from the accident and all of the messy ramifications of the accident until his daughter comes to him.  He also manages to "discuss" their next step long enough that the other family is gone before he has to interact with them - and that's not a coincidence.


The rest of the "testimony" is about how Mr. Mally gives them a small toboggan and poem at Christmas about how things that seem fun can be really dangerous.

I hope Grace Mally gave him a copy of Stephen Crane's "A Red Badge of Courage" for that Christmas.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Seven - Part Two

To no one's surprise, the section on parental help in staying pure is fluffy.  I figure the reason for this is that Sarah Mally's already demonstrated exactly how her parents have helped her remain pure.  First, when she's approached by a remotely eligible suitor, they help her create detailed lists of reasons why getting to know him better is a bad idea.  The fact that the parents don't know the suitor is irrelevant.   Second, if she's met a guy she's even remotely interested in, her father and brother will meet him at some point in the semi-distant future and create a list of things they don't like about the guy.

The process seems to be working well.  Ms. Mally is in her late thirties and unmarried while remaining in a sub-culture that idolizes early marriage and militant fertility - but she's still got all of her heart!

After a section of hand-wringing angst about how hard it is to remain pure when the Enemy is trying to destroy marriages before the marriages are formed, Mally launches into the idea that parents are critical for remaining pure.

She starts with a story cribbed from Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories by Arthur Maxwell.  In a habit Ms. Mally shares with the Botkin Sisters, the book is listed in a footnote but the footnote/literature cited is incomplete.  There are at least 47 volumes in the Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories series so she should have noted the volume number and the edition date since the series has had multiple printings.

Here's a synopsis of the synopsis: A family is in the mission field when their daughter becomes ill.  Her mom tells her to take some bitter medicine.  The daughter refuses.  Eventually, the daughter offers to take the medication if the mom leaves the room.  The daughter becomes severely ill within a few days; she admits that she dumped the medication out the window rather than taking it which endangered her life.

If this story sounds familiar without having read Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories, that's probably due to the fact that that trope has been done repeatedly in stories involving white colonial families who are in Africa or India.

It's a mildly interesting idea, but completely unrelated to courtship.  The daughter is clearly a young child who is too immature to understand the danger of malaria; someone that immature should not be courting.  Failure to take medication when critical ill with a dangerous disease is life-threatening; disagreements over dating or courting are inconvenient at worst.

After that rousing start to the chapter, Ms. Mally throws the obligatory bone of comfort to young women who have non-Christian parents that God wanted them to be in the families that they are in and that the girls can totally find a wise pastor or older couple in their church to act like parents when the time is right.  I've always found that to be questionable advice.

  • Parents/guardians have a long-standing, societally-sanctioned relationship with their child.  Parents and guardians face a basic expectation that they will be present to support their child after the marriage - especially if the marriage fails.  Will the wise pastor or older couple who are acting in the place of parents during courting provide the same level of support if the marriage fails?  
  • What happens if the courting overseers like a suitor who the non-Christian parents have genuine reservations about?  How does that pan out?
Ms. Mally transitions into recounting her memories of learning about parent-led courtship.
"The first time I remember discussing the topic of marriage with my mom was when I was very little. I can't recall exactly what she said, but I remember I had the impression that my dad was going to pick out my husband. That sounded fine to me. In fact, I liked the idea :-) A few years later while in class at my Christian school, my teacher explained the parents in Bible times would choose mates for their children. I raised my hand and enthusiastically told the class, "In our family we're going to do that too!" Needless to say, my classmates were surprised. One girl asked in disbelief, "Sarah, you are actually going to let your dad pick your husband?"

Despite the comments from these friends, I wasn't worried at all. I knew that our family was going to be like a team working on this together. I didn't know how the Lord was going to bring my future husband to me (I still don't know :-) ), but I knew that I could trust the Lord to work through my authorities." (pg. 130)
  • I've been trying to remember the first time my parents talked to me about marriage and I've got nothing.  I think my earliest memories revolve more around weddings with my parents explaining things like who the bridesmaids were.  Of course, there wasn't really anything else to discuss since I was going to meet and marry whomever in my future by dating like my parents did and like their parents did before them. Raising kids is much more simple when the end goal is well-adjusted reasonably productive members of society instead of culture warriors who will overturn the status quo.
  • I'm betting that Sarah's teacher was even more surprised than Sarah's classmates.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Sarah volunteered that her parents were going to set up an arranged marriage for her!  
  • A few paragraphs after the quoted section, Sarah emphatically states that she's not talking about an arranged marriage because her parents wouldn't want her to marry someone she doesn't love.  That's not what an arranged marriage means; it means that the bride and groom were either picked for each other by the parents directly or that the bride and groom were vetted heavily by the respective parents prior to the couple being allowed to assent or decline a relationship.
  • I don't remember if I've added gratuitous use of the word "authorities" as a sign of the Mally's affiliation with ATI/ATIA/IBLP yet.  In an unquoted section of this book, one young adult woman uses the phrase "character traits" in a discussion about a boyfriend.  
Immediately after her side note on how she's not talking about arranged marriages, Ms. Mally gives us a list of reasons why women should send potential suitors to ask permission from their dad.

"Seven reasons to send young men to your dad (...)
  1. Your father will respect you and know that he can trust you.
  2. You and your dad will be a team working on this together.
  3. The young man will respect you. Even if he was surprised and find this to be a completely new concept, he will still respect your conviction.
  4. If the young man won't go ask your father, then you know he's not the one for you. It's a good way to screen guys.
  5. If you aren't interested in a persistent young man, well, you can let your dad explain that to him - - makes it easier for you! :-)
  6. If he does go talk to your father, your dad will probably see things in this young man's life that you do not see. He will be able to give you caution, wisdom, and guidance.
  7. If this is the right man for you, he and your dad will start off their relationship on the right foot. From the beginning they will respect each other and have a good fellowship. This is going to be an important relationship in the years to come." (pgs. 130-131)
Allow me to explain my numerous objections to this list in order of ideas.
  1. Respect and trust between parents and children should be well-established prior to dating/courting/arranging marriages.  
  2. In Western cultures, parents are not integral persons in a marriage.  Since the married couple will be expected to "leave and cleave", having parents overly involved in picking a spouse is counter-productive.
  3. Basic respect is a right of all people. Men are not uncontrolled sex fiends who women need to guard themselves from.   Basic respect, however, does not require all men to be impressed by an adult woman telling a potential suitor to go talk to her dad first.  Men are well within their rights to be disturbed - and leave quickly.
  4. In terms of screening, this is a very weak screen.  Based on the sheer number of CP/QF men who are in favor of courting AND have been accused or convicted of sexual abuse, the screening accuracy of this test is close to 0%.  
  5. Women are more than capable of telling a persistent guy to stop.  I will concede that having a trustworthy male available in case of a creepy persistent guy - but that does not have to be a father.  Heck, my plan in case of emergency involved the nearest police department or a family friend who was a lifelong Teamster, gun-lover who has plenty of visible tattoos.  
  6. I do not understand how fathers magically know more about a guy than other people in a woman's life.  I appreciated the input of my parents - but I relied on other people as well.  My theory was the more eyes to see red flags the better.
  7. My dad and husband met each other with my mom and I at a local botanical garden.  Dad and my husband get along very well.  The relationship between any two men has far more to do with the character and interpersonal relationship skills of the men than how they met.

The rest of the chapter is anecdotes that can be summarized easily.

Theme 1) A young woman has a relationship with a guy that is causing her to feel (pick a negative emotion) because she's not talking with her parents about him.  She talks with her parents about the relationship.  Her parents' wisdom makes her feel (pick a positive emotion).  At no point are any relationships fleshed out enough to figure out if they are good, bad or indifferent.

Theme 2) A young woman wants to do some completely unspecified activity.  Her father objects on the grounds that it will interfere with her walk with Christ.  The young woman is initially disappointed, but comes around to her father's point of view at some point in the future.  The reasons for her change in point of view are never discussed at all.

Theme 3) Girl likes a guy who her parents/guardians dislike.  If the guy is a good guy, the parents will come around once God moves their hearts. The fact that the girl is probably sinning against her parents in the eyes CP/QF mores for pining after a forbidden guy is ignored.  Also, no guy ever gives up from sheer exhaustion prior to parents' giving their permission.

Well, that's the end of this chapter - but we have a bonus bit.  This book shoves a "testimony" from one of Sarah's followers between each chapter.  I've ignored them so far because they are pretty mindless, but Grace Mally wrote one that gives amazing insight into how her father works in the real world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Seven - Part One

This chapter promises to show us how parents can help young women during their wait for Prince Charming.  I'm skeptical about this chapter since the King and Queen have provided precious little support or help to their daughter so far in the book.

In the last chapter, we found out that the Princess is now at least 19 years old and is moping about not being married yet.  This chapter begins with the Princess crying in the courtyard because she's become an old maid.  The King tells her that God wants her to learn to be happy at home now before she moves into the next phase of her life.

I find the King and Queen's lack of any empathy or attempts at comforting their daughter disconcerting.  I was a high-strung child who grew into an anxious teenager.  I remember many times where I was worried or upset about a small issue that seemed huge to me.  My parents always attempted to comfort me before helping me put the issue I was worried about in proper context.  

The Princess settles down a bit when she remembers that she wanted to ask the King about doing something that would allow her to have a bit more autonomy for a period of time.

"Remember that time we talked about the Spring Fair? You said it was permissible for me to go, but explained how I must be a candle and a rose."

" Yes, I remember. You met Sir Eloquence there, " replied the king.

" Um, yes, " she said, not wanting to be reminded of him. Then she continued with her question. "I was wondering, thinkest thou that I should attend the Merchants' Fest in Carnalville? I realize it is not the manner of event which we approve-- " (pg. 124)
  • I am so sick of the damned "rose and candle" metaphors.  The metaphors are not deep or original to start with - but Mally's staid and heavy-handed use of them in every chapter drag the narrative to a halt each time.
  • The King's not-so-subtle reproach of the Princess' last attempt at being a normal teenager is trite.  
    • For those of you who have forgotten Sir Eloquence,  here's a plot summary:  Sir Eloquence meets the Princess and likes her.  He talks to her when she's in town.  He comes to the castle and asks to marry the Princess.   The King scares him off.    Nothing terribly remiss happened.  The Princess didn't give a hunk of her heart away let alone do something really scandalous like meet with him alone, kiss him or have sex.
    • The King is reproaching the Princess for Sir Eloquence's behavior - not the Princess' behavior.  I guess that's the natural outcome in a society where women are held responsible for men's attraction - but it makes no sense.
    • The Princess went to the Spring Fair when she was 16.  She is now at least 19 years old.  Most 19-year-olds are substantially more mature than they were at age 16.  The Princess may not be - but if that's the case, her parents have a lot to answer for in how she was raised since the Princess seems to be a dutiful daughter.
  • Let's talk about the newest plot hole.  The Princess has spent the last few years reaching the level of master craftsman in baking, painting, weaving, candle-making, dyeing and goldsmithing.  We know she made these levels because she's been allowed to teach the other young women of the village these skills.  (Who'd of thought the anachronisms still burn every time I read this....).  Why is anyone surprised that she'd want to go to the Merchants' Fest?  She's been working as a merchant for years now!  And yet - instead of having the King freak out about the fact he's been letting his daughter do work well below her station in life - Ms. Mally needs to clobber us with the fact that the real problem with the Fest is that it's in Carnalville.  
    • In terms of destroying her marriageability,  having her train as a dye master was a far more severe problem than worrying about a potential flirtation with Sir Eloquence.
The Princess concedes that the King told her that the Fest would be dangerous because there would be dancing and evil talk at the big party, but the Princess promises to stay away from trouble and mentions that she thinks she should be meeting more guys.  (Personally, I am deeply disappointed that the dangers of CARNALville are dancing and gossip. )  She also mentions that she's nearly 21 years old.

The King freaks out.  He tells the Princess that she has no idea what she's talking about and implies that if she goes to Carnalville now, she'll be immediately swept up by an unsuitable guy because the Princess has the audacity to admit she's lonely.

Personally, the King's overwrought protection of the Princess' virtue has gotten old by this point in the book.  The Princess wants to go somewhere that may expose her to "adult themes".  Let her go!  She's more than old enough to hold her own.

For the first time in the book, the Princess tries to press her point after the King has expressed disapproval.

"The alligator speaks of the festivities and the social banquets to be enjoyed, " she continued.

"The alligator eats the scum at the bottom of the moat, " the king added drily. (pg. 125)
  • This was the point I realized that I was making the book far more interesting by viewing the Alligator as a manifestation of the Princess' psyche.  After all, the Alligator never appears around others.  No one else has ever mentioned an Alligator living in the moat.  I enjoyed the idea of the creeping insanity that comes from solitude breaking out in the increasing frequency of visits of the Alligator who both comforts and torments the Princess.  Then, Ms. Mally ruins it by having the King casually allude to the Alligator that lives in the moat.  
  • Alligators do not eat scum.  Pond scum is a mixture of algae, phytoplankton, zooplankton and small invertebrates.  Animals that eat pond scum have mouths adapted for filter feeding.  Alligators have large, sharp teeth and powerful jaws.  This is because alligators are obligate carnivores and mature alligators are apex predators.  The fact that I have to explain this after reading a book written by an adult home-schooling graduate is not a strong recommendation for the Mally's home schooling methodology.
  • Turning the Alligator into an actual living reptile that skulks in the moat causes another gaping plot hole.  The King refuses to let the Princess go to any sort of social gathering for fear of corrupting her - but he lets the Alligator act as her sole companion.  Is he clueless, negligent or sadistic?  I'm starting to lean towards sadistic.
  • Random factoid: Alligators are native to two places.  One is China; the other is the southeastern USA.  This book is clearly NOT located in either place - so why is there an alligator living in the moat?

"The other maidens will all be going, and I will stay with them, " explained the princess as she began to wander slowly through the courtyard. "They mingle often with the young men in the village. The alligator says such relationships are healthy. "

" But you are forgetting that thou art a princess," said her father, following her. " Remember thou also that the alligator has dragon's blood in his veins."

"But, others - -"

" Others do not understand that a little foolishness ruins the testimony of one who has wisdom and honor. "

" But others - -"

" Others do not have me as their father. Others do not represent the royal family." (pg. 125)
  • The stage directions in this novel make no sense.  In the middle of a conversation with her father, the Princess walks away from him while still speaking as he follows her.  That's not how people interact in the real world.  It's plausible that the two of them would be walking together during the conversation - but having the Princess wander about as the King chases after her is an odd choice.
  • The Princess is forgetting that she's royalty - but we've established already that she's never acted like royalty before in the entire book.  This is one of those points where Mally would have been better off having the King reprove the Princess for acting inconsistently as a Christian (well, as interpreted through Christian Patriarchy).  Otherwise, the reproof about her testimony makes no sense; royalty have divine right of rule, not testimonies.
  • There are exactly two people who care about the Princess' testimony in the book - the King and the Queen.  If their nearly 21 year old daughter isn't into protecting her testimony, maintaining it through forced isolation is pointless.  After all, she's not a candle shining outwards if she's maintained her purity by avoiding all interactions with people her own age.  None of the young townspeople are going to look at the lonely Princess in the castle and think "Huh.  I should totally recreate that in my own life.  Let me go sit alone in my cottage for the next few years."
The King spends a long paragraph belaboring the point that when the Princess chose the way of purity no one said that it would be easy to follow through on.  That brings up an important point.  The Princess hasn't chosen the way of purity freely.  She might have picked to follow that way at some point in the past, but she's being railroaded into staying on the path now.  If she's never allowed to leave the path, that's coercion.

The King walks back into the castle leaving the Princess crying by the moat again.  This attracts the Alligator...again.  If Sarah Mally's life is as monotonous as this book is, I pity her.  The Alligator tells the Princess that she should go to the Merchant's Fest since her father never forbade her from going.  The Princess replies that her parents have given her good advice all her life so she prefers to obey the King's advice this time.  While I disagree with her choice, this is the first time she makes a choice and is able to coherently describe why she made the choice.

That's the end of the allegory for Chapter 7.  The advice portion is equally brief, thankfully.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Don't follow the Idiot off the Cliff: Nancy Campbell's Anti-Vaxx Stupidity

Hello all!

Nancy Campbell decided to crib a bunch of anti-vaxx shit from the internet to show why we shouldn't vaccinate children.

She's an idiot.

Let's look at some current statistics from the USA involving diseases that children are vaccinated against:

  • 1 in 4 people who contract measles will be hospitalized.
  • 1 in 1,000 will die.

  • 13 in 100 sufferers will die. 
  • Cannot be eradicated since the bacterium lives in the environment
  • Half of all cases do not involve either a deep wound or puncture wound

  • For people between 5-40 years of age, the death rate is 10% or 10 out of 100 people who get sick.
  • For kids under 5 and adults over 40, the death rate is 20% or 20 out of 100 people. 
  • Fairly harmless in men and children, but women who get rubella are at a much higher risk for arthritis.
  • If contracted during pregnancy, the virus can cross the placenta and do severe harm to the developing fetus.
  • There is a large population of deaf people in the USA who were born between 1968-1970 during a massive rubella outbreak; they were the lucky one since rubella can also cause fetal death.
These are not minor illnesses; they cause real suffering, disabilities and death.

So how did Nancy Campbell get so confused?  Well, a heaping dose of scientific illiteracy always helps.

Let's look JUST at the first paragraph.  She links to an article on  I decided to humor her since I wanted to read the actual study.  When I clicked on the link, I'm re-routed through Facebook - which is a tad annoying.  I do get to eventually.
On the actual website, the article she cited is categorized under "Big Government" which is an odd category for a health site.  On the other hand, it sells organic goods in the header, too!  The article is titled "Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated Children: First Study of It's Kind Shows Alarming Health Differences".  I generally don't trust writers who don't know that "it's" is a contraction for "it is" while "its" is the pronoun that should be used in this case.

The article links to a real published study from American Pediatrics.  The purpose of the study is to compare the health problems in publically insured vs. privately insured kids in the US.    The first problem with using data from this set for all kids in the US is that including publically insured kids will skew the number of severely ill kids in the set.  This is because any child who spends more than 30 consecutive days in the hospital automatically qualifies for Medicare - which brings all of the micro-preemies and children with severe congenital abnormalities.

Next problem: The study looks at 20 chronic health conditions plus two potential risk factors.  Nancy never bothers to separate the two - but the two potential risk factors are overweight/obesity and risk of developmental delay.

Let's take a look at the "chronic health conditions" that Nancy is freaking out about:
Over 20% of parents responded that their kids have:
1 )Overweight/Obesity (environmental risk factor)
2)Risk of Developmental Delay (environmental risk factor)
3)Environmental Allergies (excluding food)

Over 10% of parents responded that their kids have:
4) Learning disability

Over 5% of parents responded that their kids have:
7)Chronic Ear Infections (3+ in last year)
8) Conduct or Behavior Disorders
10) Speech problems
11) Developmental Delays that affect learning rate

Over 2% of parents responded that their kids had:
12) Food/Digestive Allergies
14) Depression
15) Bone, Muscle or Joint Problems
16)Hearing Problems

Over 1% of parents responded that their kids had:
17) Vision Problems
18) Autistic Spectrum Disorder
19) Epilepsy

Less than 1% of parents reported that their kids had:
20) Diabetes
21) Brain Injury or Concussion
22) Tourette's Syndrome

Of the 22 conditions listed, only four are presumed to be caused by problems with the immune system: environmental allergies, asthma, food/digestive allergies, and type 1 diabetes.

To make any claims about the effects of vaccinations on those four conditions, Nancy would need to produce data that shows that the number/percentage of children affected by these conditions has changed after routine childhood vaccinations have started OR that the severity of the conditions has increased after routine childhood vaccinations started.  The study she cited doesn't include that type of information since the study was looking at a completely different area of interest.

Additionally, Nancy - or the researchers if I wanted to be accurate - would need to exclude the effects of changes in our environment and medical treatment before claiming that vaccines alone caused any increase.  To start, diabetes treatment was in its infancy in the 1950's and 1960's.  Reasonably purified insulin was available, but there were no methods for testing blood sugar at home except urine tests that showed a rough range of possible sugar amounts.  With nearly instant blood testing available at home, a variety of insulin types available, and medical equipment like insulin pumps that were non-existent then, the survival rates of childhood diabetics has improved noticeably over time.  This wonderful change in survival rates has also increased the percentage of kids who have diabetes since fewer kids with diabetes die.

On a personal note, I'm watching my son kick his chubby little legs with two bandaids on them from his 6 month immunizations.  When he was born at 26 weeks gestation and was the size of a single-serve pop bottle, he had a 1 in 10 chance of dying.   Within a month, he was down to a 1 in 100 chance of dying - or less.  I was willing to risk permanent liver and kidney damage to give my son a better shot at survival - and I feel angry that I couldn't trade damage to my body in return for less pain and suffering for him.   (I know that medicine doesn't work like that; Jack and I weren't two separate systems yet so damage to my organs would poison him.  I get it; I don't have to like it.)

What kind of mother would risk giving their child a 13 in 100 chance of dying from skipping a tetanus vaccine?   What kind of mother would risk a 20% chance of their child dying and 100% chance of a miserable hospital stay from diphtheria?

I want my son to live.  That's why I vaccinate.  That's why Nancy Campbell is an idiot.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Six - Part Four

Welcome to the final post in a long, yet mindless chapter on waiting.

Ms. Mally decides to list some common fears that unmarried women have.
"There are two factors that will govern our decision-making: fear and faith. Young ladies commonly struggle with many fears, especially in the area of marriage:
  • What if I never get married?
  • What if I have to wait until I'm thirty?
  • How will I know God's will?
  • What if everyone thinks I'm unpopular because I don't have a boyfriend?
  • How will I know when I meet the right person?
  • How will I know it is the right time?
  • What if I don't like the person God picks for me?"
(pg. 114)
Let's look at each worry in order:

  • I think many people - male and female - worry about if they will ever get married.  Truthfully, the odds are in favor of getting married.  Roughly 85% of people in the USA will have been married at least once by age 40.  
    • A more important question is if marriage is the only way to have a fulfilling and successful life.  I think a marriage can be part of a successful life, but I certainly had many positive experiences that made a large difference in the world before I got married.  
  • I married for the first time at age 29 - and that's hardly an unusual experience for Americans.  What did I do between when I finished high school and got married?  First, I attended college while working part-time during the school year and full-time as a cashier at a grocery store.  I earned a science degree with a teaching certificate.  I also interned at a research department for a global company. was a camp counselor for high-risk kids and preteens, and tutored adults for the GED.  After I got my teacher's license, I taught in urban alternative education high schools for 5 years before getting married.
    • Using your late teens and early twenties to get advanced training for a career is a good investment even if your long-term goal is to stay at home with a large family.  Vocational or academic training at the postsecondary level hones memory, organizational and people skills.  All of those "soft" skills will be useful as a SAHM.  As importantly, you can contribute positively to your family and community more effectively when you have marketable skills.  
    • I know personally that I certainly helped more people in a Christ-like manner when I had the training to teach science and the life-experience to help students navigate the social services they needed for themselves and their families than I ever could have if I stayed at home without education until I married.
  • I'm sorry, but I don't have a magic trick to figure out if you're following God's will.  I will say that I don't think the process is terribly complicated and should never require denying your gifts and talents because "God wants women to be wives and mothers only."
  • If your motivation for dating includes "I want to be popular", you need to get your life priorities in order.  It's not ok to use another person so that you can be more popular.
  • There's not so much a "right time" to date or marry as a "wrong time".  Don't start dating to avoid a major problem in your life.  Don't make decisions about marrying someone in times of stress.  Those are "wrong" times.
  • For me, knowing that I wanted to spend my life with my husband was a process.  I needed time to get to know my husband well enough to realize how much I liked the idea of spending our lives together.  There wasn't a magic moment when I fell in love with him; instead, I grew to love him more and more as we spent more time together as a couple.
That last worry is the best example of how parent-led courtship is a cover for arranged marriages.  That worry doesn't exist in dating; couples that dislike each other break up.  I worried that I might not find someone to marry - but I never worried that my father would marry me off to someone I didn't like in the name of God.  That's what's happening in CP/QF families that court and the best proof is that there hasn't been a massive uproar about this book.

The last section in the chapter I'll discuss involves what I imagine is a common complaint among CP/QF SAHDs:
" I have occasionally heard young ladies say something like this: 'I wish I was a guy. They get to make all the decisions. They can just go and choose a wife. I mean, here is one of the biggest decisions in my life, and I can't do a thing about it! I just have to wait for someone to come to me!' "(pg. 117)
  • Kudos for removing the cult blinders a bit.  Young women are screwed in this system.  Not only are women denigrated for having the audacity to attempt to attract men, the overreliance on fathers and brothers prevents women from getting a realistic understanding of the number and quality of men interested in them romantically.  Dating can be rough, but both genders in that system tend to have a solid understanding of what type of person they can attract.  
    • The system can make women think that they have more suitors available than really exist.  Nearly every big name QF family has at least one unmarried daughter over the age of 24.  For some of those women, they clearly expected to have mobs of young men waiting to sweep them off their feet - except the mob never appeared.
    • The system can also cause women to underestimate the number of men interested in them.  Sarah Mally has recounted when a few guys reached out because they were interested in courting her.  How many guys reached out to her dad first and got rejected?  Zero?  Two?  Ten?  The total number would be important for Sarah to know to judge if waiting at home for a suitable husband to appear is working or not.
Sarah's response is....I'll let your read it first:
"But think about that statement. Would you really want to make the decision yourself? Imagine the mess we could so easily get ourselves into. Aren't you grateful that we can let God handle it? Yes, we can pray, we can prepare, we can get to know people, we can be aware of those whom the Lord brings into our lives, we can discern Godly young men, but we can't "cause" anything to happen. In fact, if we date, we have no guarantee that we will ever get married. However, I think of it this way: by putting ourselves in a situation where we are powerless and unable to bring it about ourselves, we have no other good option but to trust in the Lord." (pg. 118)
  • That's not actually rebutting the idea that women should be actively involved in finding a spouse.  
    • Yes, most women would want to be actively involved in dating - including the person who complained to Sarah.  
    • Yes, women can get into a mess - but so could all of the men who are looking for those silent SAHDs so that's not a valid reason for excluding women from actively seeking a spouse.
    • Neither men nor women are guaranteed a spouse through dating or courtship so I have no idea why she added that excuse to this argument.  
    • If the only way you can trust in the Lord is by being absolutely powerless, you don't have much trust in the Lord.  That's the same lack of logic that drives me insane about people who compulsively try to prove that the Bible is true; if you believe in facts, you don't have faith.
The last few pages of the chapter are a story taken with permission from another book.  Kids are supposed to wait for their dad to set off fireworks.  They decide to set a few off and manage to blow up the entire bag of fireworks.  The kids are sad when their dad explains that they can't set off any more fireworks because they all exploded.    Three pages condensed into three sentence with no loss of detail sadly enough.....

Personally, my parents would never have left us unattended with fireworks and a lighter or match.  That's some shitty bad parenting if your kids are too young or too impulsive to be safe.  Also, we would have understood that if the entire bag goes up in smoke that there are no fireworks left.

The next chapter lets us understand how helpful parents can be.  Goody-goody gumdrops! This should be a hoot.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Six - Part Three

The exhortation section of Chapter Six drags badly.

In the hands of a different author, I might think the author was demonstrating the painful strain that waiting puts on humans by making the reader slog through long anecdotes that lack any internal story arc.

From this author, though, I think the issue is an absolute lack of life experience.  The stories remind me of talking to my cousins when they were toddlers.  One cousin gave me a breathless description of how the grocery store was out of peas when they went shopping and so "mama had to buy green beans!!!".   Her twin sister detailed the horror of having a bunny appear out of nowhere in the yard when they were playing and running terrified into the house.

Funny stories from the mouths of two-year-olds.  Agonizingly dull when told by a 26-year-old author of a self-help book.

This section starts with Sarah talking with a 12-year-old after a talk delivered by Sarah and her dad.  The twelve-year-old has a boyfriend which Sarah is silently aghast at.  Sarah attempts to use leading questions to get the kid to realize that dating a non-Christian at least six years before the girl sees herself getting married is foolish.  The tween seems wonderfully immune to Sarah's line of questioning and mentions that it's hard to wait.  Sarah mentally devalues that statement by saying that the tween hasn't had to wait as long as some other people - but she walks that idea back in the next sentence.

I don't think it's a great idea for a 12 year old to be in a serious dating relationship, but Sarah never bothers to ask what "dating" or "having a boyfriend" means to the tween.  Asking that question, however, requires understanding that "dating" is not a single monolithic concept practiced identically by all age groups.  Ms. Mally would also have to be willing to learn from a less "emo-pure" person - an idea that is clearly beyond her worldview as demonstrated by this book...repeatedly.

The next page can be simplified to "God wants us to wait because God's Plan for us requires waiting."  Ms. Mally misses the circular nature of the argument.  She also lists a few Biblical characters who are required to wait without discussing the nature of their waiting.

After that warm-up, Sarah launches into an example of waiting in her life.
"How much longer, dad?" I complained.
I was about 13 years old, and Dad and I were late for a birthday party. I've been looking forward to it all day, but now that it was time to go, Dad wasn't ready. At first I tried to wait patiently, but after waiting about a half an hour, I was getting upset. After all, several families with girls my age we're going to be at this party, and I was hoping to have as much time as possible to be with my friends! (pgs. 111-112)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter 6 - Part Two

The first post on the allegorical section of Chapter 6 was me ranting about how insane Ms. Mally's insistence that the Princess learned how to weave, bake, paint, dye and goldsmith in less than two years while still being a female member of the royal family who was well into her marriageable years.

The rest of the allegory can be summarized as watching the Princess fall back on her traditional hobby - daydreaming in the castle until interrupted by the Alligator.

Apparently the Princess handled the year she was 18 pretty well - she mastered a heap of really complicated trades and taught those trades to the young women of the village.   *thumps head softly against desk*

In the year she turned 19, she started daydreaming about falling in love someday.  This doesn't seem to be as big of a character flaw in my opinion as it is to Ms. Mally.  I know that I daydreamed about meeting my future husband and falling in love; those daydreams helped me decide to actively focus on dating instead of focusing the majority of my energy on my career.

The first quote is a good synopsis of the rest of the chapter.

"But meanwhile she would often feel hurt when she heard of knights who came for other maidens, and she would find anxiety and even sorrow in her heart as she thought of her own predicament and the dreams that might never be fulfilled. The seed of Discontent grew. The more she was looked out the window, the more she felt sorry for herself. And the more she felt sorry for herself, the more she looked out the window." (pg 105)
  • I don't remember feeling hurt when other couples got married before I did.  My feelings were longing to begin a family of my own.  I did feel anxious sometimes that I may never find the right person but it wasn't an overwhelming feeling.
  • Ms. Mally and I do agree on one thing - the Princess' habit of wallowing in her angst to the point of removing her self from her family, her friends and her duties is a terrible idea.  
Some period of time later, the Princess ends up by the moat.  The Alligator notices that she's looking sad and asks what is wrong.  The Princess begins by denying his observation angrily and then admits she's down.  The Alligator recommends the Princess actively try to attract men which leads to the following dialogue:
""My father says I must guard my heart," the princess said.

"Guard my heart for whom? You actually believe that a prince will come for you? Thou hast too much faith in your father and his fairy tale dreams. You are sheltered here in this castle. Silly princess, even if a prince were looking for you, he could not find you!"

"But what if he does come? My father says that my heart is the greatest gift I can give him."

"Hast thou not noticed, dear princess, how many of the friends mingle freely in the courtyard, at the balls, and at the fairs? They are happy. Do you not see how much fun they are having? They are enjoying life. Such friendships are harmless - in fact they are healthy."


"Why, of course. Everyone knows that such relationships are necessary for one's education. How will you be able to know that Prince Charming is the one for you if you have never known anyone else? How will you get experience in socializing with knights? Think of all the fun that you are missing that you have every right to be enjoying!"

"Fun?" she asked." I am not sure that I would classify it as such. After all, Maiden Flirtelia is heartbroken because the knight who said he was in love with her married Miss Peacock instead. Several of my other friends from the village are married... but not happy." (pg. 105,107)
  • I'm struck by how weak the Princess' arguments for following Emo-Pure are.  
    • Two of her responses are "Dad said I should do it this way" with no reasoning on why this was the best choice.  That's the sticky bit with Emo-Pure after all; it's a new enough concept that Sarah Mally's parents didn't adhere to it before they married.  Neither did the senior Botkins or the Duggars for that matter.   When their kids write books, the kids have to walk along a knife-edged cliff.  If the kids say that their parents' marriage was irreparably harmed because the parents didn't practice Emo-Pure, the parents' ministry/income will take a hit.  If the kids admit that their parents are doing fine after dating, the kids undermine the main theme of their book.  
  • The third response of the Princess' begins with absurdity and ends in dangerous territory.
    • Enjoying dating and being sad when a relationship ends are not mutually exclusive.  Her friends are having fun at balls, fairs and running around in the courtyard; they are also sad when a relationship ends.
    • There is a world of difference between being unhappily married and being unhappy while being married.  
      • Marriage encompasses all of the emotional states of the spouses.  At the risk of being overly obvious, I was miserable when I found out I was critically ill and was going to have to deliver my son at 26 weeks gestation.  At the same time, I was grateful that I had the unwavering support of my husband.  I was unhappy while being in a happy marriage.
        • Ms. Mally's implication that happy marriages lead to perpetually happy moods for the participants sets her readers up for massive disappointment when they marry.
      • On the flip side, some marriages do not serve the spouses well.  Spouses can bring out the worst tendencies in each other.  One spouse can be abusive.  These marriages need either intensive work with professional help to change unhealthy patterns or should be ended.
  •  In real life, the Princess wouldn't need to worry about a Prince finding her.  She's a member of the royal family and apparently pretty to boot.  Members of the Court would be able to find a diplomatically beneficial marriage for her.  
  • For CP stay-at-home daughters (SAHD), being found by an eligible man is a real concern!  There are a limited number of unmarried men who have never been divorced, can support a potentially massive family, are theologically aligned with the SAHD's parents, and is interested in the young woman.  Making sure that the daughter is known to exist by every man who fits the criteria should be very high on the priority list of her parents.  The Princess' response of "Nah, I'm pretty sure he'll show up someday" is a non sequitur and a stunning indictment of the lack of practice SAHD have in defending their belief systems.
  • The most depressing bit for me is the fact that the Princess is right that "her heart" - whatever that means - is the most valuable thing she has to give to her husband.  
    • I can't imagine a Crown Princess' marriage prospects being treated so cavalierly so I'm going to assume she doesn't have a kingdom to pass on to her spouse or children.
    • She lacks the ambition and cunning sense of strategy that many royal women who lost kingdoms due to their gender used to determine the best marriage and how to influence  the new court to place their grandchildren back on the throne they lost.
    • The Princess' education seems to be non-existent outside of riding a horse and some manual household skills that would be of no use to a member of the royal family.
    • The Princess hasn't had a child yet and comes from a family that has never mentioned any other surviving kids.  That would count against her in many courts especially if she lacked a massive dowry.  After all, the first duty of female royalty was to produce heirs.
The Alligator tells her to do as she pleases but be aware that she will end up missing out on her dreams if she spends her life cloistered in the castle.  The Princess retorts with a fancier version of "Better to be single person wishing they were married than a married person wishing they were single!" and flounces off.
  • That aphorism is a true one, but not one that applies to the Princess.  Her guiding principle is "Better to lose every hope in my heart than lift one finger to make my dreams come true!"  That, however, isn't nearly as pithy a statement to storm away on....
This leads to an epic fit of moping by the Princess:
"She was tired of listening to his senseless words. Hoping to find a few minutes alone, she walked through the parlor, down the beautifully carved stone hall, and up the marble staircase to the bedroom. Closing the door behind her, she threw herself down on the bed and decided she would not even try to hold back the tears already beginning to roll down her cheeks. Through her large western window, the evening sun rays were shining brightly into her room, illuminating the soft white rug and warming the feather quilt on which she was laying. But she was not enjoying the sunlight or taking any pleasure in the beauty of her royal quarters." (pg. 107)
  • I've never heard the term "parlor" used in quasi-medieval literature before.  
  • The "soft white rug" sounds like a cleaning nightmare to me - but it was probably a nice spot for her lady-in-waiting to sleep.  You know - one of the massive retinue that the Princess had as a crown Princess that is strangely absent from this book.
  • This paragraph brings another first for me.  Sarah Mally is denigrating her heroine for excessive negative emotion demonstrated by the Princess' failure to enjoy the creature comforts of life.   By the same token, once your house has appeared in "House Beautiful" no one in your family is ever allowed to have negative emotions.
Up next: Ms. Mally's lessons in waiting patiently....

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Six - Part One

This chapter is nominally about what young women should do when God wants them to be single for a time in their lives.   Practically, the chapter is very, very vague; that's rather sad since Sarah Mally had started a ministry for tweens and teens called "Bright Lights" that's still extant today.  Some actual details about how she started "Bright Lights" would have made the chapter interesting and useful.

Instead, we get some more anachronisms.....

For anyone who remembers the beginning of the book, the reason the Princess is going out among the People is so that she can be of use to them.  This was the idea of the King since the Princess will be ruling them - or another suitable Kingdom - next to her future husband.  (Actually, I added the part after "since".  The book never spells out what the endgame of succession in the Kingdom is.)  This plan started when the Princess was 16.  At the beginning of this chapter, the Princess is now 18 - and has "helped" her People by picking up the vegetables of one old woman.  The narrator tells us that the King and Princess have another heart-to-heart talk and the Princess decides to start serving her people in a more active fashion.

  • There is never any mention of the fact that the King's plan has been a total failure at this point.  The graduating seniors at the school I taught at were required to put in more volunteer hours in a single trimester than the Princess has pulled off in two years.  
After that rousing start, we learn what the Princess is up to now:
Much was being accomplished during the time of her life. The princess often represented the royal family on important occasions, and she spent many days caring for orphaned children in the nearby villages - even beginning the courtyard club for them. Sometimes she would hosts tea parties, teaching godliness to village girls. God was also teaching her much during these years and filling her with understanding and ability in all manner of workmanship. She was gaining skill in many kinds of fabric work, weaving and tapestry, candle and soap making, as well as fine artistry with dyes, paints, and gold. She did not neglect her writing, archery, or equestrianship, and she also made it a goal to learn in the useful talents of floral decorating & baking. (pg. 103-104)
  • I don't really want to know how the Princess was representing the Royal Family.  Her skill set is so meager at this point that if she has to do anything harder than looking pretty in a dress and smile someone will get hurt.
  • Sarah Mally's insular life - and lack of critical thinking skills - shine out in the half-sentence on orphans.  
    • If there are enough orphans in the surrounding villages that the Princess is being co-opted into caring for them, this means a large percentage of the working age population is dead.   The Princess' Kingdom is in the earliest stages of a demographic collapse like Europe during the Black Death or sections of Africa due to AIDS.   Disease is here; famine, war and invasion are fast approaching.
    • The response of the Royal Family is to send their least competent member out to create a "courtyard club" for orphans.  That's..... wow. Future historians will be using that as an example of leadership failure for generations to come.
  • The whole bit about tea parties and teaching godliness is a wonderful example of how Christianity often conflates following Jesus' teaching with demonstrating middle-class culture and activities.  Bluntly, the Gospel never mentions tea parties - or the concurrent obsession on manners, image and fashion.
  • The section on "skills" makes my head hurt.
    • There are lots of types of fabric work - but this book manages to miss all of them except one.
      • Weaving is a type of fabric work - but "tapestry" is a noun, not a verb.  Weaving is the process used to make a tapestry.  Learning to weave well enough to make a tapestry was done by artisans that could be guild members.  In other words, the dilettante Princess isn't going to be whipping off finished tapestries in two years - even if she put all of her time and effort into learning the trade.  
        • Also, weaving is a TRADE - there is no way a Princess would be learning weaving.  
        • There is a much less anachronistic option: embroidery.  Queens, princesses, ladies-in-waiting and other court members often embroidered all the freaking time.  Katherine of Aragon brought a specific type of embroidery from Spain to England at the time of her marriage and it created a fad of blackwork for a few years.
      • Most importantly - weaving could be used to help people if she was weaving cloth to be distributed for free.  A tapestry, though, is the definition of a decorative object.  If the Princess wasn't a Protestant from the frill-free Calvinist persuasion, I guess she could weave a tapestry for a church - but I don't see Ms. Mally taking kindly to making her protagonist a Catholic.....
    • There is no damn way the Princess learned either candle-making or soap making.  Back during these times, there were no cute scented melt-and-pour candle or soap kits at the local arts and craft store for her to use.  
      • Candle-making was a guild craft - a full-time job for some of her People.  Candle-making in N. Europe was a rather gross proposition since most candles were made of rendered fat.  That means the first steps the Princess would have learned involved boiling animal fat until the collagen, water and other non-lipid parts floated to the top.  It's not the glamorous and feminine occupation that Ms. Mally dreams of.
      • Soap-making was worse.  Making soap requires taking animal fats and adding lye to make the fats transform into soap.  Lye is very caustic, the animal fats are kept liquid by heating, and there is a distinctive smell - or stench depending on your personal tastes - during the whole process.  In this case, not only is the Princess getting filthy from tending a fire, processing left-over animal fats and managing the ashes the lye was taken from, she's sweating like a stuck pig as she stirs the cauldron to keep the reaction going smoothly throughout the liquid.  If she stops or misses an area, she'll get a mass of congealed fat with pockets of lye that will burn the fabric or surface she's cleaning with the soap.  Plus, she needs to know exactly when to pour out the soap into molds or trenchers because if she waits too long it will seize in the cauldron into one giant mass of hardened soap.
        • Also - soap gets everywhere during this process.  I've made soap from tallow and olive oil before at home and no matter how careful I am a greasy half-saponified material ends up all over the place.
    • Oh, Lord.  The Princess became a master dyer?  I call bullshit on that one. Well, to be more accurate, I call human piss on that one.  Old urine was the best form of ammonia available for dyeing purposes.  Reading the recipes from the Innsbruck Manuscript (1330) published on that same linked website can be simplified down to a few easy steps - that are no more sweetly feminine than making candles and soap.
      • Obtain a natural pigment source.
      • Grind it into oblivion if possible or boil until soft, then grind.
      • Boil the prepared pigment in a strong base (lime water), a weaker base (stale urine), a weak acid (vinegar) and/or with a mordant (urine, alum, iron, copper).
      • Place the fibers into the dye for the right amount of time. 
    • Hey, I can't disprove that the Princess learned how to paint in a haphazard manner!  Oh, wait.  Painters were guild members, too. What I find suspect is the idea that the Princess had developed much skill in painting in two years while managing to skills in weaving tapestries, soap-making, candle-making, and dyeing...while also becoming a goldsmith.  
    • The awkward transition into goldsmithing in the paragraph above reminded me of a tangentially related topic: if home-schooling is a superior form of education why is Ms. Mally clearly lacking any understanding of the nature of guilds?  
      • I am not a historian by training or trade; I took three years of high school level history and don't have a particularly deep base of knowledge on medieval or early modern life - but I remember that there were organizations called guilds that covered most skilled trades.  I wouldn't have a member of the royal family attempt to become a member of the weavers', chandlers', dyers,' painters' and goldsmiths' guilds because that is simply bat-shit crazy.
    • Well, at least Ms. Mally didn't include any samples of the Princess' writings.  Let's be grateful for small favors.  Likewise, the Princess didn't join the fletchers' guild so that's a small mercy.
    •  I'm glad we've included the critical skill of floral arrangement.  That's a skill that the villagers needed desperately with all of the adults dying off from something. *rolls eyes*
    • And now we've added a sixth guild membership - the Princess now knows how to bake!  
Many widows and weary mothers were the joyous recipients of homemade gifts or meals from the princess. She tried to use each thing she learned in some way as a tool to accomplish her assignments from her heavenly Father. Each mastery acquired could also then be taught to all the wise-hearted young ladies in the kingdom. Her days were full and fruitful. Many stories, memories, and friendships were hers. In a hundred little ways, she was a candle spreading light everywhere she went, bringing strength and encouragement to many lives that were filled with darkness. (pg. 104)
  • As a weary mother, I can attest that getting a badly completed tapestry or a gnarly-colored hank of wool would not make my life easier right now.  Now, a loaf of bread - or a mass of pottage - may have been nice during this time; anything to stave off starvation.  Of course, what I would have really wanted back then was to stop whatever was killing off my family and neighbors.
  • Let's be honest here: the local peasant girls were well-versed in the skills needed to run their households.  They learned how to keep their home - how to cook, weave, sew, trade, and care for children.  The young women didn't need the beginning apprentice-level Princess parachuting in to "teach" them how to do things they already knew how to do.
  • Notice that the People are supposed to learn life lessons including Emo-Pure from the Princess while the Princess floats unsullied above them absolved from learning anything from the People.  The idea that charity moves in one direction from virtuous paragons blessed with material wealth to the lost rabble with nothing is rife in CP/QF life.  The Princess - and all of the SAHD she represents - are presented as being better people in every way than the People.  
  • I doubt her people viewed the Princess as a light in the darkness.  At best, she'd be viewed as a harmless lunatic; at worst, her naivete and thoughtlessness could end in a revolution.
Well, those two passages have been making me batty since I read them.  I feel better now that I've gotten that out of my system.  Next up - yet another chat with the Alligator.