Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Maidens of Virtue: Chapter Two

The second chapter of "Maidens of Virtue: A Study of Feminine Loveliness for Mothers and Daughters" by Stacy McDonald is titled "Modern Day Maidens".  It is a brief five pages and can be paraphrased as "Life was so much better during the olden days when women and girls had life really easy.  I want to go back to that life."

My response can be summarized as "That time never existed - and you'd not like being during those times as much as you think you would.

I have a different feeling of regret in reading this book compared to previous CP/QF works by women.  Debi Pearl has a piquant ability to rip apart her neighbors - but her writing skills are marginal.  Sarah Mally had similarly weak writing skill - but lacked the life experience to make her writings interesting.  One of the Botkin Sisters seemed to have some severe written language deficiencies - but the other sister could occasionally put together an interesting argument.  Mrs. McDonald is different;  her writing style is surprisingly solid - as long as the reader avoids thinking about what she's written.

Antique books are much like old friends. Neither one may be as new or as strong as they once were, but as the years pass their pages soften, their character develops, and their uniqueness is made evident to a new generation. Mysteriously, they grow more precious and even more beautiful as they age.

One day I was browsing the shelves of an antique book store and found a real jewel - a forgotten leather - bound treasure. After blowing the dust off of its cover, I observed a tender scene of children playing in a pasture. Like a solitary white rose positioned carefully on the deep velvet lining of a bejeweled box, the charm of the simple painting was curiously enhanced by its gilded, ornate border.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Homeschooling With a Meek and Quiet Spirit: Free Time? What Free Time?

Today, homeschooling mom Teri Maxwell lets us in on a rarely spoken of secret in homeschooling: moms who want to home school well have to trade off ever having free time for themselves again.

Personally, I couldn't never figure out how moms managed to do it all - keep a semi-clean house, prepare three meals a day,  teach 3-5 subjects for multiple children and run their own home-based business.

Well, we've found some answers to that so far: Have your kids do more chores than schooling, count those chores as schooling, and be ready to blame your mom for not teaching you how to keep a house.

Now, Mrs. Maxwell begins the process of shaming young moms for needing any time alone.

I remember speaking to a lovely young mother after giving a workshop at a homeschooling conference. She had four children, ages 6 and under. She came up wondering how she could get more time in her day to herself. I suggested she rise early enough in the morning that she would have time alone with the Lord before the children were awake. I also encouraged her to have an hour or more each afternoon when all the children napped or did quiet activities. That would be another hour of quiet time for her to use as the Lord directed. This mom assured me that she already had those times worked into her schedule, but she needed more time to herself. (pg. 86)

Friday, November 24, 2017

ATI Wisdom Booklets: How Not to Farm In Temperate Areas....

ATI Wisdom Booklet #18 tackles the rules involving farming and animal husbandry covered in the Old Testament. 

These rules are fascinating from historical and scientific perspectives.  These rules reflected pieces of hard-won wisdom about farming in an arid climate and methods of preventing loss of crops.  They are a great jumping off point for discussions of farming traditions in a variety of cultures and climates.

Since the booklet was produced by ATI, all of that subtlety and nuance is lost.  The rules are assumed to be universal and unchanging so facts are twisted, omitted or entirely falsified to force that conclusion. 

The first page is a jumble of verses from Deuteronomy that state that God will bless His people if they follow the laws of farming.  That's true enough  - but God spends most of Leviticus and Deuteronomy holding out a carrot for good behavior and a threat of absolute destruction for any disobedience - so a grain of salt should be used.

The first law discussed is the Jubilee Year in which no crops are to be harvested.  This happens every seventh year.  The booklet states that fallowing the land allows macro-nutrients to be replenished and erosion to be limited.  Both of those statements are true - but rather misleading.  Fallowing the land is the slowest way to regenerate macro-nutrients I can think of.  Faster ways include applying inorganic fertilizers, applying organic fertilizers like manure or compost, or rotating crops that fix nitrogen like beans.  Likewise, fallowing the land is better at controlling erosion than plowing a field before rain, but modern techniques like no-till planting are even more effective.  If farmers are using outdated and damaging farming methods like deep tillage before rain or stripping nutrients with no return, skipping one year out of every seven isn't going to save their soil.

The last reason is that "Moisture needs to be restored".

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit: It's Your Mom's Fault

This posts links with the next two posts to discuss Teri Maxwell's idea of why so many homeschooling mothers feel overwhelmed, overworked and underappreciated.  A quick paraphrase is "It's your mother's fault you feel like chores are never ending while never having any free time and expecting help from your husband."

This post covers how previous generations of mothers failed to teach their daughters how to keep a home.  There is also a hidden agenda to justify why children - especially daughters - should shoulder lots of domestic responsibilities without their mother feeling guilty.

The first group of guilty mothers stayed home - but sent their kids to school! *gasps in mock horror*

Many homeschooling moms were raised in homes where their mothers were home all day while the children went away to school. If our moms wanted to, they had six or more hours in a day to devote to house cleaning, laundry, and organizing. Perhaps because they stayed home, having time to do lots of housework, they were of the "children are only children once" philosophy. This often meant they didn't require very much of us as far as chores and responsibilities were concerned. (pg. 87)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Maidens of Virtue: Introduction and Chapter One

After a short break from emotional purity (Emo-Pure) books,  I'm moving into books on how to raise children to be Emo-Pure.

The first book that I am reviewing is "Raising Maidens of Virtue: A Study of Feminine Loveliness For Mothers and Daughters" by Stacy McDonald.

I discovered this book thanks to Amazon's "Recommended for You" feature.  Yes, I've bought enough CP/QF books that Amazon now finds me new ones to read on my own.  *sighs*   The one redeeming feature is that Amazon's big data has rather confusing data point now; I also enjoy biographies of spunky "feminist" women and every non-fiction analysis of natural disasters or shipwrecks I can find.

Stacy McDonald writes at the blog "Your Sacred Calling" which hasn't been maintained much in the last few years - but she does have an active Facebook feed.  She has 10 kids and has managed to marry off 5 of the 10 - which is pretty good for a CP/QF family with a lot of daughters.

The hardest part about starting this book is trying to figure out how to describe it.  Amazon and Mrs. McDonald describe it as a Bible study; I disagree.  Snippets and dabs of the Bible are included throughout - but the book is not about the Bible really.  The closest I can come is a collection of essays or an anthology that has been poorly edited.   A good anthology - or Bible study for that matter - arranges the works by connecting themes.  This gives a smooth transition between items. This collection has no transition between items and only a rough idea of themes across chapters.

The chapters are kind of arranged by topic - but the topic changes are jarring.  The first chunk of chapters are on how feminism has ruined chastity, how un-modest the Western world is and how much prettier the world was a long time ago (presumably in a galaxy far away as well....).

The middle chunk is by far my favorite because the reader is thrown between the evils of blue jeans - an entire chapter! - to how being dowdy is as bad as being impure to why God expects women to smell good all the time.  (These chapters caused me to laugh so hard while I was reading in bed that I woke my husband up - and he's a deep sleeper.)

The last chunk is a mish-mash of Emo-Pure hype, glorifying homemaking/farming and promoting unquestioning obedience in women of all ages.

The minor problem with this book is that Stacy McDonald and I are very, very different women.  She enjoys warmth, enclosed spaces, houses decorated with lots of tasteful odds and ends, and talking quietly with your girlfriends while drinking tea.   I wear sandals until the danger of frostbite requires shoes and am routinely upbraided by little old ladies for wearing too few layers of clothes during Michigan winters. (One little old lady recently told me to start dressing myself in as many layers as I put on my son.  That made me laugh.)   I believe in functional beauty which means I pick colorful objects that I use frequently so I don't have to deal with decorative junk.  I'm notoriously bad at picking the right vocal volume for talks - and it's not because I'm quiet.

The book starts with a foreword by Jennie Chancey who coauthored another book with Mrs. McDonald, Mrs. McDonald's acknowledgements, and a detailed description of how to use the book before reaching Chapter One.  In a 200(ish) page book, the introductory material takes up 13% of the book - and adds nearly nothing to the material.

The first chapter is a three-page humble-brag by Mrs. McDonald over how excited she is to review her work after 10 years and find that's it's still pretty darn accurate.  Most of the writing is about how moms need to focus to make sure that their daughter's inner heart is as pure as the outer Emo-Pure image that the rest of the book cultivates.

For me, the first few paragraphs of the chapter are a glimpse into a common issue in CP/QF life - pride.
When I was a young, twenty - something, pregnant mom without varicose veins, without morning sickness, and free of any back pain or fatigue, I arrogantly wondered what all the fuss was about. Pregnancy was fun! When I heard older women talk about the difficulties of pregnancy, I presumed that perhaps I was simply stronger than other women or maybe I just loved motherhood more than they did. I hardly even felt pregnant... until I went into labor.

However, each of my successive pregnancies became increasingly difficult. (Yes, I know, I deserved it!) Finally, I had to admit that maybe the women who struggled during pregnancy weren't whiny or discontent; they simply had a little more experience. They hadn't been speaking from the fresh zeal and vigor of youth, as I had been; they had simply lived through a few more days of harsh reality.

In my arrogance, I hadn't yet discovered that, although motherhood is deeply satisfying and children are indeed a blessing, some days, pregnancy is painful, and weariness is almost always inevitable. Even after they're born, children are hard work! (pg. 21)

I suppose "arrogant" is one description of Mrs. McDonald's attitude during her first pregnancy - but I see it as an expression of too much pride.  My understanding of pride is when a person gives themselves too much credit for a situation that ended well because of outside forces. 

In this example, Mrs. McDonald mentions that even as a young woman she knew on some level she was having an easy pregnancy.  She had no morning sickness, no fatigue (which boggles my mind), no back pain and no varicose veins.  That pregnancy sounds like fun - or even magical!  Instead of being grateful for the luck of the draw that gave her an easy pregnancy, she ascribes the easy pregnancy to "being stronger" than other women.

Look, even when I was in my early-twenties, I knew the difference between strength and luck.  Strength is what those older women who survived rough pregnancies had.  Luck is what Mrs. McDonald had with her first pregnancy.

I don't know if Mrs. McDonald was into CP/QF when she was first pregnant - but she describes a mind-set that makes her very susceptible to high-demand groups.  She believed that her good pregnancy might be a sign that she "loves motherhood more" than the other women.  That's a strange belief from objective standards - but the statement demonstrates a belief that the correct mental state directly affects the world.  That's a great sign for someone who is recruiting for a high-demand group; the high-demand group is offering a newly discovered set of methods that will allow her to control her life through correct thought! 

Welcome to "Maidens of Virtue"!  I hope you enjoy the wild and crazy ride.

Completely off-topic: My son is old enough that he's starting to be able to pincer-grip objects.  This means he finds paper fascinating.  Rather than waste good scrap paper, I've been ripping apart my copy of Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin's "It's (Not That) Complicated" and giving him a few pages to play with at a time.  Watching him crumple and gnaw on the pages has been deeply satisfying for both of us!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Preparing to Be A Help Meet: Background Information

I've been learning about the Pearls for the last two years as I've learned more about the Christian Patriarchy movement.    I have found Michael and Debi's books to be laughably bad - at best- and horribly abusive at worst.

Honestly, the first time I read this book, I tried to write some blog posts on the topic, but her writing was so absurd that I had a hard time.  I mean, no one would really believe the weird and contradictory crap she spews out.....right?  I'm a 30-odd year-old woman who was educated in a fairly liberal Catholic school system, earned a science degree with a teaching certificate,  and taught in inner city schools.  I met my amazing husband online through a dating website.  We've been married about two years and I can say that precious little of the advice given in this book would have been helpful at all during our dating, engagement or married life.  Since the advice was so clearly stupid, why bother writing about it?

Over time, though, I realized that there were women, young and old, reading this book.  Young women who had had a sheltered life who would not have the life experience to see the toxic messages.  Mothers coming from tough lives who wanted a better "Godly" life for for their daughters do not realize that they are giving their daughters a new form of hell to protect them from a different set of problems.

I write this as an outside critique both from a practical stand-point and an occasional theological standpoint.  I'm a Roman Catholic so my critique is slanted towards the religion I know best.  I have bounced a lot of the ideas of my husband who is a member of the Reformed Church of America.

And here we go:

Preparing to Be A Help Meet is an instructional self-help book aimed at unmarried young women and newly married women.  Debi Pearl's purpose in this book is to help women learn the skills needed to be the wife GOD wants you to be.

Just in case you don't believe her alone, the book is peppered with side comments by four men.  Debi divides all men into three categories - Steady/Priests, Visionary/Prophets, and Command/King.  Apparently, the Visionary man is 27-year-old single artist while the Steady is a Web designer aged 26 who is unmarried. The Command Man is actually two men who edited this book.  One is married, the other is unmarried.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the married Command Man is her husband Michael Pearl.....

She starts each chapter with a title page involving a MORAL and a CAUTION.  I will include these bizarre tidbits in the portion of the chapter that actually supports those ideas.

I am not including the whole book - simply the choicest bits that shed insight into Debi Pearl's mind and the extra-biblical lifestyle she espouses.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Homeschooling with A Meek and Quiet Spirit: Reasonable Expectations, Consequences, and Emotional Boundaries

I've reviewed several books on this blog - and the theme connecting the books is absolutely terrible advice. 

We've heard Debi Pearl's idea that girls should learn to make cheese because they might marry a dairy farmer who needs a wife who can make cheese.  (I've still not found an real-life situation where a woman who married in saved a dairy farm because of her cheese-making skills.)  The Botkin Sisters' advice to never show interest in a guy prior to his asking permission to court from your father is pretty atrocious.  Sarah Mally's worst advice was holding the Princess' life as being a shining example of Christian living when a better description would be nearly-terminal-ennui.

From that background,  I had a nice surprise in "Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit" by Teri Maxwell.  She has some good advice in the chapter on "Anger" that could save parents and children a lot of strife:

Consider for a moment a sin or habit that you have been praying about and would like to see changed. Here is a simple example from my life. A few years ago, Steve said he would like me to put a cookie sheet under the electric fry pan so that the heat from the fry pan would it damage the kitchen counter. High goal for Mom, but shouldn't be too tough, since she likes to please her husband and surely doesn't want to burn her countertop. However, Mom has never put the cookie sheet under the fry pan in all her life! She is usually preoccupied when working in the kitchen and finds herself forgetting, time after time, to put that cookie sheet in place. I did not want to forget. I did not purpose to ignore my husband's request. I just didn't think about it!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Babblin' Botkins: "Good Girls and Bad Guys": Four Types of Guys - Part Three

In hindsight, writing the posts about how ATI/ATIA/IBLP teaches people to brainwash victims while discussing how the Botkin Sisters mangle any understanding of human sexuality, consent and criminal behavior has been an absolute drag.

On the other hand, I don't live that shit and never have - compared to the poor souls who think this crap is real - and Biblical to boot.

This last section is trigger-laden for sexual abuse survivors - so please, don't read this if that will bother you.  I mean - it's the Botkin Sisters so their views manage to be punitive, half-baked, and trite at the exact same time.  Go pet a kitten or take a nap or whatever you need for good self-care.   We've got your back.

The Botkin Sisters have messily divided the men into three groups (with an assumed fourth group):
  • Assumed Group 0:  Men who are attracted to a woman, follow her family's courtship guidelines flawlessly and never by word, action or existence cause a woman to choose to pursue an physical relationship banned by CP/QF.  (The group is assumed - and peopled by imaginary men.)
  • Group 1: Men who don't follow the family courtship guidelines instantly and perfectly.
  • Group 2: Men who act like a woman they are attracted to has the skill and intelligence to choose if she wants to romantically interact with him.  (This is also known as "normal US dating culture")
  • Group 3: Men whose relationship with the woman causes her to freely chose to pursue a physical relationship,  any form of sexual abuse or assault that isn't being raped by a stranger (which the Botkinites term "molesters"), and "creeps".  (It's the worst example of "One of these things is not like the other" we've seen so far.)
Today, we get to meet Group 4: Violent rapists.    Needless to say, I find this division between groups of sexual criminals abhorrent.  I've seen the hurt and pain caused by "non-violent" sexual abuse; non-consensual sexual activity is ugly and hate-filled.  Pretending that abuse by family members or known adults is somehow less harmful than being attacked by a stranger is sick - and telling of how rampant it must be in CP/QF society.

[00:44:21] Ok. Oh, yeah. So the last type of guy. The last and the worst is the violent criminal. And, yes, these men are out there. And so the first thing that we will recommend is that you embrace whatever rules or limitations or boundaries or curfews that your father has given you for your protection. If your father counsels you not to be out after a certain time or not to go to certain places without a bodyguard, you should listen to him. Our dad has made rules for us like this. And um... we follow them. Like, like Anna said earlier this really is our dad's business.
That's absolutely worthless advice. 

 I've had one experience where I was followed by a man I didn't know and was getting seriously bad vibes.   It happened at a local grocery store in the middle of the damned day.   My mom survived a violent stranger sexual assault as a girl - and she was vigilant to keep all of us kids safe.  But she knew that there are no magic bullets in terms of times of day or locations that are always safe or always dangerous.  She took the time to teach us to trust our instincts and to never, ever be afraid of making a scene.

In that situation, I stared directly back at the man and asked him why he was following me.  He didn't reply.  He continued to follow me - so I walked up to Guest Services at the store and asked for a security escort.  They found the biggest male employee in the store and he walked me out to my car.  The other guy vanished.

Next, the Botkin Sisters try an amatuer-hour attempt at Biblical analysis that makes me queasy:
[00:44:56] We also need to know what God's Law requires of us to do in a situation like this. When we need to physically resist or call for help. In Deuteronomy 22, we find the principle that is that a woman's duty to resist violation is that at the very least it needs to start with --- it needs to be expressed in crying out for help. This, this duty goes beyond just saying "no" or telling somenone to stop. Just letting the guy know that you're not ok with what he's doing and that you are not a consenting isn't really enough.

The principle in Scripture is that we actually need to call for help. And bring in a third-party to intervene. And according to stories we've heard from women who .....we actually have a number of friends who were attacked and almost violated and they said that this takes a lot of courage and a lot of guts. 'Cause like I was saying earlier a very common response to this sort of situation is just to freeze up. I remember hearing one woman say "You know looking back it doesn't make any sense but the only thing running through my mind was that I didn't want to make a scene. I didn't want to make a ruckus or know... cause a disruptance.(​sic)" Umm. But if we don't cry out or make any move to resist, Scripturally we could be considered accomplices in the crime.

*slow claps*
These two hold themselves up as the mature flowering of homeschool education - which insults every homeschooled kid I've ever met.

Deuteronomy 22 is chocked full of obscure laws that no one follows anymore.  The first four verses are about how to deal with roaming livestock and how to set up a lost-and-found.  Verse 8 talks about making sure no one falls off your roof while verse 9 outlaws interplanting crops in vineyards.  Verses 10 and 11 - which are personal favorites of mine - outlaw plowing with a donkey and ox yoked together and wool-linen blends respectively.

After we've disregarded completely Deuteronomy 22:1-12 for obvious reasons, we reach verse 13 that starts outlining how to deal with sexual sins - and we should adhere to those diligently!

Yeah, right.

The strangest bit about the whole thing is that the Botkin Sisters don't even get the summary right.

 For engaged women living in the city who are caught having sex with a man not her betrothed husband, the burden of proof is if she cried out.  There is no discussion of physically resisting; in my opinion that is because the authors themselves understood(ish) the dangers of fighting back if no one is around to back up the woman.

For engaged women in the country, there is no burden of proof because no one would hear them if they screamed.

Is modern life anything like life in a city in ancient Biblical times?  People were living in very close quarters with non-existent privacy or soundproofing.  In a city, there were always people around - and always people listening - and always people ready to get into other people's business.

No, we essentially all live in the country now - and that's why no mainline denomination I know of holds Deuteronomy 22 as applicable at all nowadays.

Plus, the Botkin Sisters seem to have missed the reality of the "fight or flight" response.  "Flight" includes "freeze" as a defensive tactic.  If a predator - including a human predator - hasn't seen you, holding perfectly still in a hiding spot may well keep you safe.   Overriding that response is very, very hard because the body is following an old set of instinctual commands.

Remember, the Botkin Sisters sell women on the idea of being pliant, submissive and unobtrusive - so acting like women should be able to turn that off instantly and go all "female-Rambo" at the drop of a hat is disingenuous.

[00:46:11] And this is where our best weapon against evil comes in. We have to hate it as much as God does. One important byproduct of just really immersing ourself in the Word and in the Law is that it teaches us to love what God loves and to hate what God hates and the ability to hate sin is very important because our strength to resist sin is only going to be as strong as our hatred of the sin and our love of righteousness.

That would work if overriding cultural training combined with fight-or-flight response was a matter of correct, logical thinking. 

Alas - both of these require active practice as well as mental preparation so we've wasted another 30 seconds of our lives.

[00:46:39] And we also believe that if we are serious about resisting evil we should back that up with some resistance training or maybe even some firepower. Taking a self-defense class, maybe organizing one for the young ladies in your church, studying situational awareness, carrying pepper spray or a gun, all of these would be good lawful options. We both carry. And um if you want to take this option we would recommend that you take a gun safety course, get some training. Train and practice often because just having a gun with you isn't any good if you don't know how to use it and you are not comfortable with it.

I've never gotten used to how CP/QF society overreacts to some threats while underreacting to others.  The Botkin Sisters have wandered through sexual crimes - but seem strangely unaware of abuse in families and by people in authority.  Now, the Botkin Sisters have created a safety regime that's appropriate for traveling in remote wilderness areas - have a strong male around! carry pepper spray! be armed! - to be used in middle America. 

Situational awareness / self-defense is phenomenal - but using both of these requires being allowed to control who crosses personal boundaries.  Stay-at-home daughters have no practice in that!  They've been dragged along to massed family gatherings, expected to be the drudge worker at church and practiced being subservient to everyone their entire lives. 

I'm not sold on either guns or pepper spray as a form of defense against other humans.  During an attack, the victim is already at a disadvantage by being surprised without adding tricky weapons to the mix.  Pepper sprays only work at fairly close range - around 10-13 feet -which is far too close to allow an assailant for my tastes.  I've sprayed myself in the face with enough harmless chemicals - hairspray, non-stick cooking spray, WD-30 - to not trust that in an emergency I'll be capable of spraying the assailant and not myself.    My husband and I did carry bear spray when we were in Yellowstone on our honeymoon - but I relied more on my incessant loud talking and the bells I had on my pack than the spray.

Guns increase the risk of death by suicide by far too much for me to feel comfortable dragging a handgun everywhere with me.  Also, my son is nearly crawling and starting to grab at every object he can reach.  I love him too much to risk him dying in a firearm accident.

Totally random side note: Soon after I moved out to the country, a relative of my husband's moved to a solidly middle class bedroom community near here from cow country.  Since that area is more populated (or something), she and her husband wanted her to have a firearm for self-defense.  When they told me that, I laughed so hard I cried.  I grew up in Wyoming, MI - which is a nice enough blue-collar area - but does have a local, home-grown gang presence and some occasional burglaries at empty homes.  Folks in the bedroom community often refer to Wyoming as a "ghetto" - partially from generalized racism, but mostly from good-ol' American classism.  Anyway, I told her that the standard home defense weapon of choice in Wyoming is a baseball bat - and I'd happily buy her a used Louisville Slugger of her choice.   It's multi-use, requires little or no training to use effectively, needs no maintenance, is very cheap, and sends a nice, clear message when you answer the door with it resting on your shoulder. :-)

[00:47:17] Also if you are dealing with or have dealt with criminal behavior, you actually really need to let someone know. There are times when the right thing is to go to your parents, there are times where the right thing is to go to your elders and there are times where the right thing is to go to the police. This speech isn't the speech to address all that, unfortunately. And finally, if a crime is committed against you that you tried to resist, you tried to call out for help, and it didn't work out. You know what? In the Lord's eyes, you are completely 100% innocent. You are not damaged goods. You are not soiled or tarnished. Even if your virginity has been taken away from you, your virtue has not been compromised.

I have no use for the Botkin Sisters as people. They can't bring themselves to say the word "rape" or "sexual assault".  They brought disgusting purity metaphors into the talk - which is horrifying beyond my ability to describe.   They can't even say "It's ok to go directly to the police if you've been hurt" or "here's a toll-free help line".

Here's my adult talk:

If you have been a victim of sexual assault, abuse or incest, you can call 1-800-656-4673 24/7/365 days a year to get in contact with a trained sexual assault counselor who can help you decide what to do next in terms of reporting the crime to the police, getting medical help, and providing a listening ear.   They know the resources in your area and are there to help you.  You can do this if you were hurt today or decades ago.  You can do this if you are a man or a woman.  The line is open to anyone.  It is confidential - unless state law requires them to report the abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult.

If you'd prefer, RAINN has a live chat online  .  For men who survived childhood sexual abuse, 1in6 offers support including a weekly online support group.

For those of us who have not been victims, listen to others.  Speak out against cultural beliefs that minimize the damage of abuse and assault.  Don't be a Botkin.

Monday, November 13, 2017

ATI Wisdom Booklets: Poisonous Counseling - Part Two

This is the second post on toxic counseling techniques taught in Wisdom Booklets.  Eight of the twenty steps can be summarized as "The Wronged Person is Always Wrong".  A previous topic of "Stay Under Authority" began this process by claiming that any disagreement by a woman or child is rebellion against their parents or husband and will be punished by Satan.  Now, a variety of techniques are used to minimize and brainwash the wronged person.

Step Two is "Realize that the One With the Grievance is Usually the Key to the Solution."  The counselor is told to assume that the person who complains about an issue actually struggles with the same issue themselves.  That's insane advice.
The highlighted portion reads "A clear guideline for any counselor is knowing that when one person condemns another, he is often guilty of precisely the same problem." This is a classic example of poisoning the well.  

Run away from any counselor who responds to "My spouse had an affair" with "You've lusted after someone in your heart and that's the same problem" or to "My child stole $1,000 dollars from us" with "You've been covetous before - and that's the same thing."

Step Five is "Understand that all conflicts are the result of resisting God's grace".  Truthfully, most of the section is a convoluted digression on what grace is.  The toxic bit is that when a person sins against us, we are supposed to instantly forgive the offender.  If we don't, we are bitter.
I might accept this argument as long as the definition of forgiveness is "do not retaliate against that person by wronging them in the same way." 

If the definition of forgiveness is closer to the idea of giving the person an immediate pass from all consequences of their behavior, I will never agree with it. 

You can forgive a spouse who commits adultery while ending a marriage.  You can forgive an attacker while working within the criminal justice system to see them punished for their crimes.  You can forgive an ex-lover for treating you badly while breaking off the relationship entirely.  Forgiving is not forgetting or forgoing consequences.

Step Six is "Look for Evidence of Three Root Problems"  Gothard teaches that all "problems" arise from greed, bitterness or moral impurity.  The booklet includes a diagram that makes absolutely no sense to me:

I can't take anyone seriously who lumps "wrong clothes" and "wrong music" into the same category as "runaways".  Ditto for putting "boredom" and "impetuosity" as attitudes.

Just out of curiosity, is the agonizing boredom of being a stay-at-home daughter due to bitterness, greed or moral impurity?  Can anyone answer that without laughing?

This step also gives a great example of how to blame the people who want counsel for their problems:

I was struck by posts I remember reading at "Recovering Grace" that detailed how teenagers were sent out to counsel real adults in ATI/ATIA/IBLP.  Imagine how horrifying it would be to state that you were having marriage problems to a teenager - then have the teenager start asking if it was due moral impurity now, moral impurity before your marriage or if you were actively involved in perversions.  *shudders*  Then imagine discussing how your family is struggling because your boss isn't paying you overtime required by law - and have the kid chirp up that that's a sign of greed.

Now imagine you are the teen hearing all of this and having to give sage advice. *shudders*

This is NOT ok.

Step Twelve is "Pinpoint the Problem before Agreeing to Give Counsel" which basically means have the person give a simple, one-sentence summary of the problem before agreeing to meet with them.  It's not terrible advice per se - but the twist is that people are taught that anyone who doesn't want to do that is rationalizing a sin like adultery or murder.

This is shitty advice regardless of the other person's problem.  There's no differentiation between Josh Duggar confessing that he's molesting his sisters and unrelated girls and one of his sisters' confessing they were molested.  There's no differentiation between the secretary who told the police that a principal was scamming the state for millions of dollars and the principal himself. 

Step Thirteen is "Set Up An Appointment - Do Not Give Immediate Counsel". Instead - make an appointment and have the write a one-page summary of the problem in hopes that they figure out the issue themselves.  Truthfully, I hope that people figured it out themselves rather than returning for some more brainwashing.

The most ham-handed example is Step 16: "Lead the Person in Precise Prayers."  Counselors are instructed how to encourage their client to spontaneously pray - while requiring the person to re-do the prayer until the person has included all of the points that the counselor wants in the prayer.

I was struck how there is no discussion of if the teenager really wanted to surrender their will to the Lord.  Even among the most ardent people, someone might not be ready to take that step.  This is creating a situation where the client will learn to parrot whatever the counselor wants them to say without thinking about it as a best case scenario.  Worst case scenario - the client is hiding the fact that they have no intention of changing their ways - and I don't like forcing people to lie to get out of a weird counseling session.

Step Seventeen is "Learn to be an 'instructive listener'" which is jargon for "use your body language to convey judgement instantaneously".

This is epically bad advice for a multitude of reasons.

My first objection is that this is an underhanded way of expressing disapproval.  Adults speak up when they disagree with someone; they don't train themselves to use body language instead of speech.

My second objection is more practical; the advice for the "listener" will send a completely different message than the booklet tells them to expect it to.

When people are discussing emotionally sensitive topics, talking to a relaxed face listener who is attentive works pretty well.  Talking to a human replica of a bobble-head is not relaxing - in fact, excessive head-nodding with a forced grin is generally read as increased anxiety on behalf of the listener.  The net outcome is that the speaker thinks that the "good ideas" are causing anxiety in the listener - not the positive feedback they wanted.

When the practitioner of this crazed advice moves to the second stage where they nod less and their smile becomes natural,  they are conveying that they are more relaxed and less anxious about this topic.  In other words, they are conveying approval of the message rather than mild disapproval.

The last stage where the person is not smiling, not nodding and making eye contact - that's a neutral face that professional counselors spend hours learning to do while people disclose emotionally charged information.  It is often the least threatening or disturbing face for people who need support - which is the complete opposite of what the Wisdom Booklet is expecting to happen.

My last objection is pragmatic; learning to follow this advice is extremely time-consuming and requires active practice.  The listener needs to be monitoring their facial expressions and adjusting their expressions minutely in response to how well the speaker's ideas fit a preconceived notion all while processing continued speech by the speaker.  It's not like the speaker says one idea and pauses for 30 seconds while the listener works all this out.  Learning to have a neutral face - and how to quickly return to a neutral face when the listener has a strong reaction to a statement - is plenty hard; having to choose between "bobblehead", "active listening", or "neutral face" would be exceptionally difficult - and exhausting.

And presumably the listener would need to speak eventually.....if they haven't collapsed from exhaustion.

Speaking of exhaustion - I'm done with this wisdom booklet.  Thank God for small favors.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Babblin' Botkins: "Good Girls and Problem Guys" The Four Types of Guys -Part Two

The first post in this series covered the first two "groups" of "problem guys".  From an outsider's perspective, the only problem with these men is that they showed romantic/sexual interest in an adult woman and responded in a way that was appropriate within the larger American society.

The next two groups include more problematic behaviors - but also demonstrate CP/QF Christianity complete disregard for consent as the main determination of if an event is moral or immoral.

Group Three according to Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin in their podcast "Good Girls and Problem Guys: Taking the Moral High Ground with Men Who Are In Sin

[00:40:53] Ok. We're getting worse and worse as we go. [laughs] The kind of guys we're talking about.

Ok, so next would be dealing with the creep, the seducer, or the molester. And some of us may tend to think that we will never, ever come up against a predator or a pervert because we're really nice girls and we don't move in those kinds of circles. But the fact is guys like that pop up in every circle and the odds are that the most of the girls in this room will have to deal with that at least once at one point in your life. And a lot of us are not prepared for it.

And I think that the main thing that we're not prepared for is where the threat is likely to be coming from. It's true that there are plenty of creeps in the grocery store, on the street, and in the parking lot. And hopefully, [laughs] we're already alert to be watching out for those, but according to some of the research that I've done, the majority of sexual attacks are not perpetrated by strangers out on the street. They are perpetrated by friends, friends of the young lady and happen in her home or apartment.

[00:41:49] And the thing that I think that we can learn from this is that the biggest danger to us isn't streets. It's dangerous relationships. It's not who you already know not to trust, but it's who you do trust. Who you have already let into your trust. It's in who you let your guard down around. And it's more likely to be someone who is very dear and close to you that you don't want to hurt and that you don't want to cut off, but bad things can happen when a girl is not willing to do that.
Let's start with the obvious: "creep", "seducer" and "molester" are three massively different categories.
  • Seduction is based on mutual consent. There is no sexual assault in seduction.
  • Depending on how "creep" is used, a guy could be acting in a way that is potentially threatening - or it could mean he's homeless - or it could mean that the guy is acting in the boundary of US standards of behavior but outside of CP/QF norms. It's not a useful descriptor.
  • A molester is a criminal - pure and simple.
Words matter greatly. The Botkin Sisters are trying to explain that violent, stranger rape is rare compared to sexual assaults by acquaintances. That's an important point to make - especially since the Botkins Sisters believe that the young women in the audience are more concerned about being attacked by a stranger.

 The problem is that by choosing to describe the attacker as "friends", she's leaving out sexual assault or abuse by parents, relatives, people in authority and parents of friends. That's the situation that Ms. Torres found herself with Doug Phillips - and that's a particularly hard situation to handle without the added baggage of being trained as a girl to be gentle, non-confrontational, subservient to men and obsessed with physical purity. CP/QF has raised up a generation of young women who are particularly at-risk for assault - and we see the fruits of this in the victims of Josh Duggar, Toby Willis, Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard....the list goes on and on.

The last paragraph sounds good - but it assumes that unmarried daughters have way more control over the people allowed into their lives than they do. 

Cutting off a peer is mainstream American society is painful and awkward at times - but most people have some separation between family, church, school and recreation.  That's an impossible dream in CP/QF land; family is recreation, school and often church.  If a family is serious about protecting their daughter and maintaining that every interaction is based around whole families, then there must be a separation of the two families - no matter how that affects the other members of the family.  In that context, young women will be hard-pressed to minimize the effects that unwanted attention from a young man in the family has on her.

Imagine how much harder that situation is when the unwanted attention is coming from the father of the family.  In a worldview that blames the victim and represses any mention of sexuality, a young woman is facing intense scrutiny over what she did to attract his attention - rather than having her family stand up to the person who is preying on young women.

The situation becomes nearly impossible if the young woman is separated from her family.

[00:42:18] Ok, so let's... let's take a look at how do you... how do you recognize one of these? And it can be tricky. Some of these guys will seem really weird and off-balance, but some will be incredibly polished and well-mannered and respectable. Without becoming suspicious of every guy that comes around, here's just a few definite red flags we can watch out for and that we need to be careful for. I'm going to just list some. Um.

Number one: If he's trying to erode your boundaries.  If he's trying to create sneaky opportunities for physical contact that goes beyond what he knows you're comfortable with with young men.

Another one would be if he acts differently around you than your parents when your parents are not around or if he tries to go behind your parents' back or belittle their authority. If he seems to have a lot more interest in your looks and your charm than your character. These are all things you should watch out for.
This advice is only marginally helpful for interactions with predatory men and nearly useless against well-intentioned young men.

Let's look at the easy group of well-intentioned young men first.

Unless two people have sat down and discussed exactly what their boundaries are, one person is going to accidently "erode" the other person's boundaries because they are not exactly identical.   Even a dictate as clear as "no physical contact" has ragged edges - what about if one of you loses their balance?  Is the instinct to steady the person before they fall "eroding" a boundary?  A lab mate at a company I worked at had a female coworker accidentally pull over a phenol tower onto herself.  The other workers were all men - but everyone rushed to help her remove all her clothes and get into a chemical shower as quickly as possible since the imperative to protect someone's from severe chemical burns over 90% of her body trumped concerns about modesty.

Young people act differently around their parents than they do their peers.  Now, CP/QF types will immediately jump to the conclusion that this is because young people are being corrupted by other immature sin-natures.  That's not generally true - and it's not what I'm talking about.  Young people act more informally and ways that reflect their chosen personality around peers.  This is true about every aged adults as well;  I am more restrained in my language choice and topic choice around people who are substantially younger or older than I am than I am around peers.

Mix in the nervousness people have around impressing their potential love interest's parents with a giant heaping helping of normal sexual attraction and now every young man is going to have the red flags of "acts different by your parents" and "seems more interested in your looks than your character."

For men who are grooming a potential victim, the only useful bit of advice is the part about "creating sneaky opportunities for contact" because those opportunities are often very brief and sudden.  Women and men may not be able to respond to the first time that happened; but if it happens again, being assertive enough to state "Stop.  Don't do that!" can scare off some predators.

The rest is useless; Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard respected the authority of their victims' parents.  They were busy grooming the parents as well as the daughters.
[00:43:11] If you're starting to sense he's a danger or if he's not someone that ... or if you're starting to realize what his intentions are [laughs] then you need to take quick and decisive action. And this would include telling someone like your parents who are in a position to help not just your girlfriends or something. Maybe rebuking him openly. But definitely getting totally away from him.

[00:43:33] You remember when Joseph was being stalked and propositioned by Potiphar's wife, he verbally refused the first time then he just ran away and would not [laughs] not come near her again. But he didn't keep having that conversation over and over.
My feeling is that Anna Sophia or Elizabeth unconsciously realizes how impossible this advice is for the young women in the audience to follow. 

This is a society that values emotional and physical purity in women above everything else.  To tell her parents, a girl would have to admit that she was in a situation that may end up lessening her value because her emotional/physical purity was "damaged".

This is a society that values submission to male elders - even to the point of reassigning "protecting purity" from the traditional domain of mothers and other older women to men.  Reporting against a male peer's behavior is awkward enough; accusing a married man or  a spiritual leader is a gross violation of those expectations.

The Botkin Sisters know that this action will rebound badly against the young woman; why else would they have chosen the story of Joseph and Potiphar's Wife?   Joseph does the right thing in that he restricts their contact to talking and runs away when she physically accosts him..  The outcome is that Potiphar's Wife accuses him of attempted rape and Joseph is jailed..   The Botkin Sisters are saying "Do the right thing - but don't ask us how bad the consequences will be for you, please."

The last quote makes reasonable sense when discussing consensual relationships where neither person wants to transgress the sexual mores in their society.  When dealing with a predator....not so much.
[00:43:50] And then finally be aware that even the most scandalous interactions don't usually start off on a scandalous foot. They start out with one little tiny boundary crossing at time and you need to be firm and uncompromising in the very first moments at the very beginning. Don't go along with a conversation that you shouldn't be having. Don't let people talk to you into things that you know you shouldn't do. Don't let people sway you or wear you down. Resisting evil is something we probably need to be doing every day not just like one time in our lives. [laughs]

I believe that all people - men, women, and children - need to learn the skills to recognize and stop sexual abusers.  The problem is that the Botkin Sisters are not teaching any of the actual skills while putting far too much burden on the victims to stop their abusers.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Babblin' Botkins: "Good Girls and Problem Guys" The Four Types of Guys -Part One

At long last, I've finally had enough free time to start transcribing the free podcasts on the Botkin Sisters website.  I'm starting with Good Girls and Problem Guys: Taking the Moral High Road with Men who are in sin.

Because this is a transcribed talk, I had to make some decisions about where to place punctuation and divide topics into paragraphs.  (IOW, blame me for errors in that department.)  I've chosen to include filler word like "um" and "like" as well as times that the speaker laughed because I believe unplanned verbal reactions like those can be telling of the speaker's emotional state.  I've included time-stamps in case anyone finds errors in the transcription - and please let me know if you do!

After trying a variety of tricks, I've realized that I cannot reliably differentiate Anna Sophia's voice from Elizabeth's voice.  The audio recording of the talk is good - but they are sisters who have very similar vocal characteristics. Plus, there's no reason Anna or Elizabeth to identify themselves in the talk because the talk is being given at some sort of conference in front of a multi-age audience.  Their audience could tell very clearly who was talking by looking up at the speaker in front of them.

I'm not certain when or where this conference occurred - but I suspect it occurred within 6 months of Vision Founder leader Doug Phillips being accused of grooming and assaulting his children's nanny.  The Botkin Sisters reference a disturbing or shocking revelation that happened recently that they expect other members of Vision Forum to be aware of.

Needless to say, the Botkin Sisters spend most of the talk rehashing the book "It's (Not) That Complicated" but deviate from the text to add more victim-blaming.  If you are triggered by dumb-ass Biblical interpretation being used to victim-blame, please stop reading and go do something pleasant.  It's not worth the stress; let the rest of us handle these ding-bats.

At 37(ish) minutes into a 50-odd minute talk, Elizabeth gets around to explaining the "Four Types" of guys that girls need to be prepared for.

Type One - by the Botkin Sisters:
[00:37:30] "Anna and I are going to quickly give you some practical thoughts on preparing to deal with four different kinds of guy. These thoughts are not Scripture, not canon. It's not ex cathedra. This is just some big sisterly advice based on some things we've learned from our experiences of the last ten years. So, the first type of boy, and probably the one we all deal with the most is the nice boy who just doesn't have very good boundaries or maybe is just not very emotionally self-controlled and tends to be a little too emotionally intense in his relationships.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit - Magical Hubands

I like my husband.  He's a sweet, caring man who is bright and a good listener.  We suit each other well.  I don't like change much - so his love of new experiences pushes me out of my comfort zone.  He struggles with planning and organization outside of his job - so my skills in keeping our life organized makes our home pleasant place to live.  Most importantly, we enjoy each other's company and know how to support each other during hard times.

On the other hand,  neither of us abdicates responsibility entirely to the other person.  I don't ask my husband for input on how I handle grocery shopping or when to schedule Jack's medical appointments; that's my realm of expertise.  Likewise, my husband doesn't expect me to tell him how to fix the well; he's been doing that since he was a teen and I honestly have no experience in that area.

With that background, I hope you understand why the next quote from "Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit" scared the snot out of me:
Instead of fearing you are failing in an aspect of your homeschooling, trust that if you are truly failing, your husband will become aware of it and point it out. (pg. 54)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

ATI Wisdom Booklets: Poisonous Counseling --Part One

I find most of the Wisdom Booklets produced by the Gothardite cult - also known as ATI/ATIA/IBLP or the Duggar Family cult - to be amusing. 

I'm horrified at the idea of people using these booklets as an educational course - but a lot of the crap that gets included is hilarious.

This one booklet is not funny.  It's not mildly harmful or slightly misleading. 

It's a load of toxic shit theology combined with basic brainwashing techniques that puts any person who is not the paterfamilias of a family in danger of abuse.

This booklet makes it much clearer to me why the Duggar Sisters never spoke about Josh's molestation of them - even to report it to their parents.  Jill and Jessa's defense of Josh makes a whole lot more sense as well.

This will be divided into two posts covering the four themes in the booklet.  This post covers "Take Up Your Complaint With Your Abuser", "Listening Like a Grown-Up" and "WTF? No, seriously. WTF?" 

Next week's ATI Wisdom Booklet post will cover "The Wronged Person is Clearly the Problem"

The introduction to this section starts out with a medically and theologically flawed premise: physical and mental illnesses are caused by sin.

Look, medical doctors ask about some sensitive issues when an illness or injury could be caused by something like an STD, smoking, alcohol use, or relational abuse.  That's very different from asking - or caring - about the morality of a choice.

Interestingly, the link between sin and illness or disability is specifically rejected in the Gospels.  A major theme of John 9 is that being born blind was not because of the sin of the blind man or his parents.  That shoots a whole lot of the theology in CP/QF land to hell.

Of the 20 steps listed in counseling, four steps can be summarized as "Take Your Complaint Up With Your Abuser." 

The "religious rationale" for this is that every person is under the authority of of a male spiritual leader - father, husband, religious leader - who protects them from Satan's wiles.  If a person who is under protection rebels against their authority figure, Satan will capture them because they have committed the sin of witchcraft.   They've even made a kitschy clipart diagram to help people remember:

This argument works if you read the partially quoted verses of the Bible only - and never read any of the rest of the Bible.

Here's a quick list of people who stepped outside of their authority figures and ended up absolutely fine.
  • Rachel
  • Jacob
  • Joseph
  • David
  • Abigail
  • Ruth
  • Esther
  • Mary
  • Jesus

The Bible even gives a nice counter-example of how Job kept on the straight and narrow his whole life and still ended up being tortured by Satan.

The first step is "Determine who is spiritually responsible for him".  The author spends a few paragraphs giving a whole song-and-dance about the importance of keeping people under the correct authority, then uses a simple form of poisoning-the-well to guard against well-meaning counselors hearing abuse allegations:

The author does a nice job of sandwiching "I can't talk to my authority; he's the problem" between the two minor issues of "They didn't know the answer" and "Not Christians".  That's a classic way of diminishing the impact of a person's plea for help.

Once the concern has been diminished, the author reminds the counselor that problems can only be solved by talking to the authority figure.  
  • That's not entirely true even for the normal issues that happen in families.  
    • A teenager whose parent won't let them play death metal as loudly as the teen wants (true story :-) ) really doesn't need to have a deep heart-to heart with their parents on music volume expectations.  The teen was just looking to blow off steam - and chatting with a sympathetic teacher who pointed out that medicine isn't so good at treating hearing loss did the trick.
    • On the flip side, a 17 year old student who is struggling because they are caring for 4  siblings aged 12 and under since their only custodial parent went to Idaho to live with their newest significant other 2 months ago is beyond the "talk to mom or dad" phase as well.  Some situations move directly to "involve governmental organizations".
Step Three is "Discern any symptom of rebellion".  Step Four is "See the problem from God's perspective" which means "look for any signs of rebellion".  Both sections begin by directly stating that harsh or unjust treatment is always due to inappropriate behavior by the person who is rebelling.

From Step Three:

This section is terrifying because it provides potential abusers with a script for victim-blaming. 

Even setting aside abusive situations for a moment, this script is completely useless for among adults because it falls apart under a trivial marital issue. Allow me to demonstrate:

Me: "My husband spends more time playing video games after work than he does interacting with me!"
ATI dingbat: "What did you do that caused him to prefer video games to you?"
Me: "*side-eyes person*  I don't have level-up rewards?  I don't have gold reward tokens that he can exchange for building materials to work on his village? You are kidding me, right?"

The last of the steps that fits in this category is "Guard against inappropriate emotional attachments".  While this is pretty solid advice for trained counselors, this section focuses entirely on extramarital affairs.  The section reinforces the false idea in CP/QF theology that women and men cannot interact on any level safely.
I find it deeply ironic that the adherents of CP/QF beliefs purport to hold themselves to a higher standard than the rest of us heathens while living in dread fear that they will be completely unable to control themselves if tempted by someone of the opposite gender.  For most people, attraction can be nipped in the bud by self-control applied early and often.  I've found myself attracted to men who were married before - and yet I've never had an emotional or physical affair.  When I became aware of my feelings of attraction,  I accepted that I felt that way, affirmed my desire not to be involved in an affair, and made sure my actions were restricted to the role I played in my job, volunteer work, schooling etc.

I find the paragraph about women setting out to seduce male pastors to be questionable in the extreme.  I can see where women would be attracted to the role of a safe, emotionally available spiritual leader - but that's much different than calmly setting out to seduce a pastor so that the woman will feel less guilty.  In fact, that's just a weird assumption about how any person would assuage their guilt.

The next theme is "Listening like a Grown-Up".  Many people attracted to high demand religious groups come from backgrounds where they dealt with adults who never modeled good communication skills so this theme is attractive since it teaches how to be a good listener.  Steps within this theme are innocuous enough like
  • Step Seven: "Make Sure You Understand the Real Problem" - e.g., people will ask you about a relatively minor problem to judge your counseling skill before asking you about a major problem.
  • Step Nine: "Refuse to Be Sworn to Secrecy Before Hearing the Problem" - excellent advice but strangely passive wording of the situation.
  • Step Ten: "Handle Disabling Emotions before Working the Problem" - if the person is not in a fairly calm emotional state, help them settle down before dealing with the issues.
  • Step Eleven: "Identify the Point of Greatest Resistance" - figure out what's keeping them from resolving the problem.
  • Step Eight: "Learn to ask Perceptive Questions" - great tip; horrible Biblical examples.  Do not try and sound like Solomon or Jesus.......
The last clump consists of two absolutely insane pieces of advice. 

Step Fourteen is "Bind Satan Before Trying to Spoil his House".  Apparently, Satan can only be bound through using a three-step prayer constructed using ideas scattered throughout the Bible.  Allow me to point out my deep amusement at an extremely formulaic - and dare I say legalistic? - prayer from a group who routinely derides Catholics as being formulaic and legalistic.

Step Twenty is "Show how Past Failures Can Become a Positive Message".  Yup.  Everyone wants help in making sure they have the best testimonial out there!

The next post in this series will be outlining the problematic brainwashing techniques that Wisdom Booklets want counselors to learn to keep everyone in line.

(Blogger note: My posts may be a bit irregular on dates over the next few weeks.  My husband has a cold which means my son may get his first respiratory illness soon; we've in the middle of a full slate of assorted doctor/specialist/therapist visits and I managed to break a tooth badly enough that it needs to be extracted and replaced with an implant - but good news: the nerve is dead so the tooth doesn't hurt.  I was wondering why I felt more tired than usual -and then I read the last paragraph aloud.)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Mel's Epilogue

(Author's note: This is how I see the Princess' early married life unfolding.  Since removing the anachronisms would require writing an entirely new book, I decided to let them remain - and add a few of my own. )

Night Before Princess' Wedding
The Princess languidly watches the moon rise as she rests in the deep casement window of her bedroom.  Tomorrow she begins her real life - a life of joy,  ecstatic love and complete fulfilment as Sir Valiant's wife.

The Queen silently enters her daughter's room.  Even in the most private of moments, her regal bearing and unyielding gaze mark her as separate.

The Princess starts.  "Mother.  I didn't expect to see..."

The Queen's gesture silences her.  "On the night before I married your father, my mother gave this to me.  To honor her memory, I pass the gift on to you."

"Oh, how lovely!  Lady Gloria gave this to you?"

"Yes.  My mother was a flawed woman, I am sorry to say.  She was full of ...wrong...ideas. My mother never learned the beauty of submission to her husband much to my shame.  This pendant was her "insurance policy" for my future - a bauble for me to exchange for cash if my husband ever led me into dire times.  As I said, she was foolish and misguided - but she was my mother.  I believe she would want you to have it now."

"Thank you, Mother.  I will cherish it."

"I am glad you have it - although you will not need an insurance policy.  Goodnight, my daughter. "

Two harvests after the wedding:
"...and that will get the People ready to fight Temptation!" Valiant finished triumphantly.

The Princess started awake.  Quickly, she glanced at her husband lying next to her in bed to see if he had noticed.  Blessedly, he hadn't.

"Oh, darling!  That plan is entirely what God intended for the Kingdom.  How lucky the Kingdom is to have a brave knight like you to plan and initiate protection programs against Lies and Temptation."

Valiant glowed at his wife's praise.  "What did you do today?"

"I had the servants move the furnishings of the West Wing again. This time it is just perfect! ......   Oh! The Alligator had the most absurd idea yet.  Shall I tell you about it?"

"I wait with bated breath."

"The Alligator wanted me to be out amongst the People more!  Can you imagine?  I explained to him that you were the heir apparent and that the People needed to see you as the future King.  The People need to learn to follow you - not your wife.  My role is to demonstrate the proper submission of wife to husband just as the Kingdom will model submission of subject to king."

"Well done, darling.  You need not worry yourself over the affairs of the Kingdom.  That' burden...." Valiant drifted off to sleep.

The Princess shifted, unable to shake her feeling of unease.  She had wanted a husband who saw the great struggles in life and fought them.  She had wanted to be his helper and accomplish more in the Name of God than any had before. 

God had given her everything she wanted - so why did she feel empty? 

A good God-fearing wife wouldn't fall asleep while he described his newest plan - let alone question the wisdom of the plan in her heart.   

Giving herself a good shake, she resolved to try harder tomorrow to be the wife that Valiant deserved.

The next day
The Princess wandered aimless through the castle.  She found herself standing in the sweltering sunlight by the moat.

"Good morning, Princess."

"Good morning, Alligator.  My husband and I agreed that your concerns over my presence in the Kingdom are overblown and absurd - as always."

"I am sorry to hear that.  I fear you are making a grave mistake.  The People love you because you represent security - a Kingdom that prospers under stability and peace."

The Princess threw her hair back dismissively.  "They will love my husband as well!".

"The People already know your husband.  Sir Valiant is a common-born man who has contrived to become the next king.  Mind you, I like that about him.  It shows he has ambition.  But he has not ascended to the throne yet.  He needs the gloss of your nobility next to him to make the people forget who he was..."

"Alligator!  I know I am right!"

The Alligator looked at the slim figure standing above him.  The Princess' artless understanding of human nature grated on him.  And the King married her to Sir Valiant - a callow windbag!    The Alligator took a deep breath and tried again.

"My informants tell me the harvest for this year is poor.  Many in the Kingdom fear Famine and Disease will ride again."

"And I told you, Alligator, that my husband knows the important enemies of Lies and Temptation ride now.  We cannot lose sight of the enemies before us in preparation for something that may never happen."

"Sir Diomed and his wife Lady Sophia are providing supplies of grain and roots to local villagers already."

"Diomed is my cousin.  He's Uncle Justheart's younger son.  Of course,  he would help our Kingdom."

"Princess!" the Alligator hissed.  "Open your eyes before it is too late. Diomed is cunning - and hungers to see himself on a throne.  Your husband is scorned by the nobility.  The knights of the Kingdom mock him as a coward.  Neither will rise to support Valiant's claim to the Kingdom's throne if Diomed challenges him.  The People love you - but they will love the man who stands between their families and starvation more. "

The Princess stepped backwards in anger.  "I'm sure I have no idea what you are talking about, scum eater!" she spat before escaping into the castle.

The Alligator tail-slapped the water in frustration.  "I EAT GOATS!" he yelled at the pitiless sun burning above.  Sliding back to the bottom of the moat, he chewed on a fat haunch of a wether while pondering his next line of argument.  His lineage had pledged to protect and serve the Royal Family in time past.  He knew his duty; he hoped he could convince the Princess of hers before it was too late.

Four winters after the wedding
The Princess woke from a fitful sleep.  She checked on little Phoebe huddled under a worn blanket on her pallet.  Rising, the Princess tucked her threadbare comforter around her small daughter to keep her warm in the cold night.

She paced silently through the halls questioning how her life had reached this point.  She had been separate from the sinful world.  She bent her will to the will of her father, the King.  At great personal cost, she had been pure and chaste.  Her life was supposed to reflect the gladness, ease and joy that came from an unsullied girlhood.  Her marriage to the righteous Sir Valiant would spark a rebirth of Godly values in the Kingdom which would shine as a beacon of holiness through the land.

Their shared dream propelled them forward through the last years they lived in the Kingdom

The second winter after her marriage Famine and Disease moved into the Kingdom.  Diomed and Sophia's food supplies prevented Starvation from entering - but the People struggled.  Disease preyed on the weakened populace.

Cosseted by her family's wealth and preoccupied with the impending birth of her first child, the People's despair went unnoticed by the Princess.  Her father and husband spoke of the benefits that suffering would bring to the People - "iron sharpening iron" for the battle against Lies and Temptation.

Phoebe was born that summer as the crops ripened in the field and the People hoped for enough to survive the coming winter.  Sir Valiant rejoiced in his newborn daughter before departing on a mission for the King the day after her birth.  He and the King had decided that the time was right to train up young men to fight Lies and Temptation.

Valiant returned three months later jubilant in his success of training up a small, select group of believers. The Princess was proud of her husband's success towards their vision for the Kingdom.  She hid her grief over Phoebe's discomfort in the arms of her husband and never admitted to anyone that she rarely missed Valiant during their time apart.  She commiserated with her husband that his newly trained force mistakenly placed the worldly concern of harvesting crops over moving forward immediately on their mission.

The downfall of the Royal Family began with a slow, steady rain a week before the grains were ripe.  When the rain stopped, the temperature soared higher than all but the oldest People remembered.  The elderly farmers warned of grains cooking in the fields and a starvation winter.

Valiant brought that folk-tale back to the castle for the Royal Family's amusement.  How could grain cook in a field?  The People were so gullible. 

The grain crops failed.  Famine gripped the land.  Diease moved through the People.  Baby Phoebe sickened, but survived.  Her grandparents did not.

Heartbroken, the Princess and Sir Valiant greeted Sir Diomed who came to offer his condolences - and assume the throne.  As foreseen by the Alligator, the hearts and minds of the People had been won over by Sir Diomed who brought safety and salvation in the form of food. 

Sir Diomed and Lady Sophia had no reason to harm the small remnant of the Royal Family.  In fact, they had prepared a place for them in the court at Carnalville. 

There the Princess languished.  She sought to educate the people about their faulty religious beliefs - and found she could not articulate her own beliefs.  The Princess demonstrated her hard-won skills of baking, painting, goldsmithing, weaving and dyeing - and found that impartial observers found her skills to be poor.  She wanted to capture the hearts of the court for Christ - but found that she could not capture the attention of the people at court.

Hardest of all, the Princess realized that there was no companionship in her marriage.  Valiant thrived on creating large dreams.  Trapped as an inconsequential member of a foreign court, Valiant escaped by dreaming of the days when God's Plans - as shown to Valiant - would succeed and he would reign over a God-fearing Kingdom. 

There was no place in this dream for a grieving wife and a tiny daughter in small, cold rooms. 

More alone than ever before,  Princess rested against the cold wall and wondered what the future held.