Sunday, June 30, 2019

Jill Dillard's "More than Sex" Post On Marriage: Issues Surrounding Family of Origin Issues

Hello, all!

Today is the start of my vacation!  The last vacation I took was a trip to Mackinac when I was 21 weeks pregnant with my son.  (It blows my mind to realize that I gave birth five weeks after that because I was simply not that pregnant at the time....)   My parents are watching my son while my husband and I go to a cousin's wedding out of town for three days, then I cleared my son's schedule for two days so I could enjoy time with my twin sister, her wife and her daughter while they are in town for a week.   

I've gotten so used to either taking the Spawn to therapy appointments or working that the idea of five days without either obligation feels surreal to me - but I'm sure I'll adjust quickly.

In that vein, I decided to cover a theme in Jill Dillard's post "More than Sex" that I summarized as "Issues with Families of Origin, amiright?"   All marriages require communication and compromise about how to combine two different sets of traditions and expectations to create a new nuclear family.  My husband's family introduced me to the joys of county fairs, vegetable gardening, and living within walking distance of extended family.   My family introduced my husband to community theater, ad-libbing new holiday traditions and ice-cream trucks during the summer.  Equally importantly, each partner needs to decide how they want their marriage to be in terms of similarity and differences between what they saw modeled in their family of origin.

While those are both areas that all marriages have to navigate, Jill Dillard mentions three different areas that are worth discussing.   Here's the first example:
-Never allow your husband to think you’re his mother! Whether it’s making demands, delegating, or licking your finger and wiping something off his face…if he says “I feel like you’re my mother when you…”, then pay attention to that and ask him what you can to do change/how to handle the situation the next time!

A basic skill that people work on in their preschool years is to recognize what characteristics join members of a group and explain why one object doesn't belong in that group.  For those of us of a certain age, this was covered by "Which of these things is not like the other?" on Sesame Street. 

I bring this up because Jill's list has discordant members in it. 

For starters, let's all agree that cleaning your spouse's face with saliva is a poor solution to the problem.   My preferred option is to say, "You've got food (dirt, oil etc) on your (fill in body part)" once someone is old enough to clean themselves up.   That option feels more respectful of their bodily autonomy.    Removing smut from someone's face with a finger also makes more sense in a household where the material is probably food; it becomes a much more fraught idea when the smudge could be food....or dirt....or manure....or oil.    Really, the only person I give spit-baths to is my toddler - and only when I have no options available.

On the flip side, delegating chores is a form of emotional/household labor that the wife in a family takes care of.    That option might not work well for Derick - but Jill's habit of delegating work to him is hardly abnormal or unusual in the US.   I'm mostly curious about how Derick offered to change the way delegation happened in their home.  Was Derick willing to take over dividing the work?  That'd be a solution I'd be fine with in my household.  Was this an unconscious way for Derick to wiggle out of doing household chores - i.e., I feel like a teenager when you tell me what chores to do because real men don't do chores?   Does Derick get to choose what chores he wants to do and Jill is responsible for the rest?  Do Derick and Jill discuss who is going to do what chores and make decisions as a team regularly?   In my marriage, I mostly keep track of what chores need to be done weekly, divide them up among the two of us, and my husband lets me know if he wants to adapt who does what.

Finally, he doesn't like it when his wife makes demands?   Darling Derick, that's what happens when you take up being the supreme leader of a household.  You get all the glory and decision-making power - but you also get all of the complaints and grumbling as well.

The next quote adds another dimension to the "don't be his mother" argument:
-Remember, your husband is not your dad. You are teammates and he is your God-given protector. Keep this in mind and let it shape the way you relate.

Honestly, I'm struggling to write about these quotes because I've never confused my husband with my dad - and he doesn't confuse me with his mom - on any major issue. 

And, actually, only on two minor issues.

Like, in the first year we were married, I made stuffed peppers for the first time.   When my husband came home, he asked me if I was upset about anything.  I wasn't.   My husband kept hanging out in the kitchen and asking if there was something he could do to make my day better.  There wasn't - because my day had been going fine until he started annoying me by asking me weird questions.  After around 30 minutes of this, I remembered that his mom only made stuffed peppers when she was mad at his dad because his dad hated stuffed peppers.   I let him know that I had only made stuffed peppers because they sounded good - not because I was mad in a passive-aggressive way.    My husband startled, thought about it for a minute, then relaxed.  Similarly, my dad often took waaay longer to complete do-it-yourself home improvement projects than he thinks he will so when my husband tells me that he'll have the new dishwasher installed in one afternoon, I'm always surprised when he gets it done in the right time frame rather than taking a weekend or week.

Those are the only two examples I can think of in a relationship that is nearly ten years old.

I can't imagine rebelling against my husband's dictates like a teenage girl would do to her father because my husband doesn't give me dictates - or I him.   We are both integral members of our family economy - not a boss and employee or dictator and subject.

Sadly, Jill can't explain any reasons for why women shouldn't rebel against their husbands other than parroting the old Basic Life Principles hogwash taught by molester-in-chief Bill Gothard.  What exactly has Derick protected Jill from?  Derick allowed her parents to parade her on national TV to defend her parents' unconscionable behavior in failing to restrain Josh's molestation of his sisters. Derick accepted money from Josh Duggar to fund their missionary/extended vacation in El Salvador.   Derick's attempted accounting, reality TV star, foreign missionary, domestic college campus minister, substitute teaching, and is 1/3 of the way through law school in the last 5 years so presumably the Dillards are living on money from Jill's appearances on "Counting On".  Derick's unhinged rantings towards Jazz Jennings lost his place as a recurring character on "Counting On".  They have two sons together - but they've been saddled with medical debt from their first son Israel's unplanned C-section and their second son Samuel's unplanned C-section and NICU stay.    Derick might have 'saved' Jill from being an old maid living in her parents' house - but marrying him is like going from the frying pan into the fire.

This last quote is simply sad:
Don’t let habits become problems. For example, if you start and then get used to always asking your husband permission to do something (different than getting his take on something or discussing something together)…more like the dad role, then he could start to expect it just because he is used to it. It might be easy to make a habit of this, especially if you don’t want to take responsibility for the possible consequences of a choices you make, and would rather have someone else make them for you so they bear the weight of the decisions if it doesn’t work out, but we are also responsible to God for our lives. It’s good for your husband to know you have a good head and can make your own decisions. (And I do believe you should be open with each other and try to be on the same page with decisions and work together as a team! Our husbands should know us best and their counsel should be valued above everyone else’s, as long as it’s consistent with the Bible!)

What the hell did Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar do to their daughter? 

Yes, asking permission to do things is completely appropriate for an elementary school kid.   When a kid is a teenager, parents trust their teen's judgement on "Can I eat cake right now?" or "Can I do my homework after this TV show?" so parental permission is only needed for big things like "Can I use your car?" or "Can I borrow $20.00?".   Jill is not a teenager - so why is she asking her husband's permission for anything besides an unusual invasion of his personal property or space? 

I'm racking my brain to think of the last time I asked permission of my husband...and am drawing a blank.   I often bounce plans off of him like "I'd like to go swimming tomorrow morning" - but that's in the spirit of talking out how we will balance work schedules with caring for our toddler son.  Similarly, we often ask if the other person wants a certain food before we take the last slice of pizza or finish a half-gallon of ice cream - but that's just basic courtesy.   Once or twice a year, I'll borrow his truck to transport a purchase that won't fit in my car...but that's not really asking permission either because we both own the truck and car. 

 About the only thing I can think of is when I'm thirsty and I ask if I can drink some of my husband's pop.   He always says yes - but I'd be ok if he said no because it's his pop.  That's it....

Really, the bit I find the most disconcerting about these family of origin issues is the fact that Jill Dillard brings up avoiding treating your spouse like your literal parent in the middle of a blog post riddled with reminders that wives must be ready to have sex all the time.   For me, having sex with someone is a pretty solid reminder that they are not my parent.

In the next post in this series, we'll look at Jill's not-subtle reminders that wives need to be ready to have sex 24/7.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Five - Part Three

Communication is a hallmark of human life. 

My son entered independent life much earlier than most babies - but I was amazed how quickly he figured out how to communicate with us through wiggles, grunts and growls.  He was fuzzy all over at birth - but his real hair on his head grew into a Patrick-Steward type ring of male-pattern baldness by the time he weighed 3 pounds.  That was around the same time he was moved into the 'big babies' room and Spawn started sulking when the other babies were crying too loudly.   Between his male-pattern baldness, the fact that he had very little fat on his face, and the fact that he has a killer scowl, I often felt like I was cuddling a curmudgeonly old man while cooing, "I know they're loud, Spawn, but they are new babies, not an old baby like you. They are too young to know that you only cry for serious reasons like diaper changes or a nurse weighing you."

Spawn's 2 and a half years old now - and we finally got a tentative diagnosis of apraxia for his speech delay.   I've always had some niggling concerns about his speech.   For example, Spawn's repetitive babbling sounded different than any other infant I knew.  Most infants go through a period where they make repeated plosive consonants combined with a vowel sound like 'babababa' or 'dadadadada'.  Spawn would occasionally give a single plosive sound - but he mostly babbled with a 'y' in the place of the plosive like "yayayaya' or 'yeyayayeya". At a year, he could say "ma", "da", "-ooh" (book), "meow" (cat) and "-ock" which was about right for his age.    By the time he was around 18 months, he was picking up new signs at a rate of around three signs a week, was trying to combine signs when he wanted to describe an object or action he didn't have a sign for (like 'food-drink' for an applesauce pouch) and was imitating lots of environmental sounds - but he had around 5 verbal words and was acquiring less than one new verbal word a month.   By two years, he was starting to use signed verbs for 'help', 'walk' 'do it again' and 'sleep' and starting to do new combinations of nouns and verbs that we'd never demonstrated like "Masha again!" when he wanted to watch an episode of "Masha and the Bear" - but he still had around 5 verbal words. 

The hardest part for me was trying to explain to medical and rehabilitation professionals that Spawn's skills in speech seemed way behind his ability to communicate.   Using sign language with small children has gone from being an anathema when my twin and I were tots in the early 1980's to progressive parenting today - but that only bridged some of the gap.  (Especially when professionals still don't understand the idea of a name sign like the one we made for Masha.... I digress.)  I've seen Spawn react with confusion when I tell stories about involving a coworker with the same name as Spawn.  Spawn looks at me like "Mama, I didn't do that!"  instead of grinning when I tell stories about his newest skills or glaring at me when I used to explain his tricks to new therapists*.  He's figured out a process to show me what he means by a sign when I am clueless by looking at my eyes, doing the sign, looking directly at the object, repeating the sign, then looking back at me to see if I get his drift.  He mimics the cadence of conversations and mimics different levels of intensity when talking to himself in his crib or in his car seat.  Heck, he used to run entire conversations that sounded like a business meeting that sounded like him alternating between someone who disliked an idea and a person who was trying to convince the other person - at less than a year old.   And that's ignoring the entire series of "Hootie the Babyfish" concerts** he would produce in lieu of naps.

People listened - but I kept getting a mix of platitudes (boys talk later than girls!  he's quiet! different schedules of development!) or explanations of how I should change what I what I already do with him.  I was losing my ability to be professional - or at least courteous - when people told me to use one or two word phrases repeatedly and provide context clues like holding a toy pig while saying "pig".   I was concerned that I would flash back, "Damn, here I thought toddlers enjoyed Melville!  No more Moby Dick for you, Spawn!  In your professional opinion, should we do Chaucer or Tolstoy first?".

With that background, you can imagine my relief when his most recent speech and language pathologist evaluation started with a simple question "Are you more worried about Spawn's communication or his speech?"   I teared up slightly and said, "Speech. I think he's pretty close to his age in communication across the board - but he wants to be able to talk like the rest of us and he just can't.  I didn't mind waiting it out before he started seeming frustrated - but he's acting more frustrated in communication now and I'd like to figure this out."  After an hour of medical background info, developmental info and yet another parent-reported behavior analysis, the SLP said that she was pretty sure that Spawn's low muscle tone issues that have made it trickier to learn how to walk also affected his mouth and made it harder for him to figure out how to make certain sounds.  The good news is that they see a lot of former preemies with that issue at his outpatient rehab center and that Spawn is at an age where he's participating more and more willingly in therapeutic activities either because he finds the activities fun, because he enjoys showing off to other adults or because he makes some connection between the activities and doing more things.

From that standpoint, I think you will better understand while I find the next section on communication in "Joyfully At Home" by Jasmine Baucham completely exaspering.   Yeah, communication is an art form and we can all learn new skills - but Jasmine is talking about communicating with members of your family of origin about household expectations.   Believe you me, this is something that started when Jasmine was a toddler and her parents worked on having her put her toys away and not standing on the couch.  By the time a teenager is graduating out of homeschooling and becoming a stay-at-home daughter (SAHD), the lines of communications between parent and child should be ingrained regardless of how functional or dysfunctional the family is.

Take this quote as an example:
We have to communicate. What do your parents expect from you on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month to month basis? Something as simple as, " Jasmine, when you do such and such a thing, I don't like it -- stop" ( in much kinder, more biblically grounded terms) gives me something to go on. Something like, " Jasmine, by the end of the week, I want this done" or " Jasmine, it would really help us out if, every day, you did these chores" set clear boundaries. I don't make plans that infringe on the expectations my parents already have for me on a given day, for instance, and because we communicate about what exactly those expectations are no one has to become frustrated if they aren't met. (pg. 69)

I had daily and weekly chores starting when I was an elementary schooler - and I doubt I'm very unusual in that respect.   The chores were hardly onerous; it was "put the dishes away" daily and "dust the living room then vacuum the downstairs" on Saturday morning.   By the time I was capable of doing an adult's amount of work in the home as a late teenager, the instructions became less detailed because I knew what "clean the bathroom" entailed - but I also earned more freedom in discussing when making dinner would fit into my schedule of homework and extracurricular activities.   After all, children need a lot of help scaffolding time and daily living activity skills because they are still learning how to do both.   Young adults should need minimal - and ideally no - scaffolding from their parents to figure out how to fit daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal chores into their lives.

The largest impediment I see to developing these skills in CP/QF land is homeschooling.  In traditional schools, teachers are expected to collect work from students in a timely manner and track the skill progression of their students.  From a student's perspective, this leads to a mixture of daily assignment, longer-term projects and unit assessments that have due dates attached firmly to them.  As a teacher, enforcing the consequences of missing work was tedious - but students are not my kids.
When I taught, any disagreements over consequences had a firmly scheduled end because of changing classes or the end of the school day.   If a student failed to turn in an assignment and was angry/grumpy/sulky/whining because the resulting zero hurt their grade, I only had to deal with them for the remainder of that class period.   Occasionally, a particularly determined student might resume the argument the next day - but that 23 hours of cooling off tended to dampen their urge to change my mind.   I can only imagine the fun of being in the same household as a pissed-off teenager who missed an assignment deadline and trying to enforce that boundary.

Plus, over my 8 year teaching career, I taught at least 600 students which limited the amount I needed to prove based on any one particular student's academic track record.   In homeschooling, the ties that bind a teacher and student are so much stronger - but also more entangled.   The tiny numbers of students that a single parent-teacher will ever have in their homeschool makes the process fraught.   If a homeschooled kid drags their feet at doing their schooling, rushes through an entire subject the week before vacation and earns a 62% (D-) overall in high school Biology, how many parents are going to honestly record that grade on their teen's transcript - the only form of professional excellence that a parent-teacher can submit to colleges? How many parents would chose instead to make their kid redo the class the next year and use that grade instead?   How many parents would give their kid a higher grade based on 'outside interests' or some other philosophical construct?  In a traditional school, students retake classes if they failed them - but the new (hopefully higher) grade is added to the transcript rather than replacing the original D- unless there are extraordinary circumstances in play.  I did have a few focused, highly motivated students manage to scrape out a passing credit by doing 16 weeks worth of work condensed into a week - but the passing credit was generally in the "D" range and far more students who attempted this failed to meet enough standards to get a passing grade in the class.   That made me sad for the student - but I had 20 (or more) other students who passed the class.

That line about parents having to couch all of their requests in biblical terms harks back to the last post in this series on the dangers of living with a spiritual director.   People who live together can ask a relative or housemate to stop doing that irritating thing simply because it is irritating as hell  Making everything into a biblical thing is ridiculous.

This next quote makes me wonder if Jasmine was raised on the Pearl's horrible idea of first-time-obedience for children.   For anyone who has not heard of first-time-obedience, it is the idea that kids should obey their parents instantly and cheerfully without questioning or arguing.   The Pearls get this level of subservience by beating children early and often; they include recommendations for the correct diameter of plumbing line to use starting at under one year of age.   I bring up this because it's the only way I can think of to explain why Jasmine connects these two ideas in one sentence.

When your parents give you a directive you don't understand or don't agree with, learn to ask polite, respectful follow-up questions, and to make a gentle, biblical appeal when necessary. (pg. 69)

For normal human beings - and I include military commanders dealing with new recruits in this group - there's a world of difference between clarifying what a person wants you to do and objecting to doing an action.   At a staff meeting at my home improvement job, a store director asked for someone to help flat-stack the lumber department.   Being new, I had no idea what flat-stacking was so I asked what flat-stacking was.  The store director explained that flat-stacking was the process of dragging lumber to the front of shoppable displays in a roughly similar process to facing shelves in my paint department - but the lumber required the use of reinforced hoes.   I said that I could help out doing that.   That's an example of asking for clarification.  At that same meeting, a paint coworker was directly asked by the store director if he would assist in flat-stacking.  Said coworker had no interest in flat-stacking (based on his facial expression and his general dislike for extra work as observed in the department), but he simply explained that he had two paint chores that needed to be finished before the store closed.  The store director agreed that those two chores were more important and my coworker returned to paint.    I have no idea what a Biblical appeal looks like - but this interaction fit well within the framework of professional objection to a directive.

What I didn't do was jump onto the nearby display of throw rugs and scream to the sky, "What is it with you and all the jargon here?  WHY, GOD WHY?" while crumpling to my knees in agony and my coworker didn't begin chanting "Strike! Strike! Strike!"  While much more fun and memorable, those would be inappropriate ways to get clarification or object to a directive.

I worry very much about a culture where teenage girls need instructions on how to say "I'm lost on which lawn you wanted me to rake first, Dad" or "Can I switch that chore with my brother?" or "Can I do it on Friday instead of Saturday?"

This last quote makes me wonder if more communication is a good thing in a CP/QF family:

This one's hard, but if you keep those lines of communication open, you're bound to hear some correction from your parents. If you've made a conscious choice to live under the authority of your parents after high school, then know this: As an adult daughter, you are going to have to learn how to submit your will to the will of your parents. When I was a younger teen, the very word submit made my skin crawl - I wanted to be my own woman! But I had to learn that the authorities God has placed in my life weren't a punishment, but a blessing; my family and I were a team, and we all played in different positions, and we're all shooting for the same goal. Sometimes, daughters, you have to " take one for the team," so to speak, swallowing your pride, and trying to see things from a different perspective: every hill is not a hill to die on. (pgs. 69-70)

Just when I thought I'd faced all of the drawbacks of being a SAHD, Ms. Baucham brings up another one: your parents get to nag you about your spiritual shortcomings AND they get to use your labor to accomplish their goals regardless of your opinion about the goal.   Ironically - and thankfully - Ms. Baucham's mother informed Jasmine that Jasmine needed to lead her own life rather than trying to do her family's goals - and Jasmine is now a wife, mother and teacher.   Compare that outcome with Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin's attachment to the Western Conservatory of Arts and Science founded by Geoffrey Botkin and Sarah Maxwell's laboring going to keeping Titus 2 running while occasionally receiving some faint praise as the family's blogger.

God seems to have put a drive for independence in everyone - absolutely everyone.   Why shouldn't we celebrate the blossoming drive to accomplish new goals when it appears in young adults rather than squash it in women?    Some families work because the husband is a driving force, some work because the wife is a driving force and others work because both parties trade off being the driving force.   Honestly, forcing women with strong drives for achievement to be subservient to a more-laid back husband sounds like a recipe for disaster. 

The next post is three surprisingly good pieces advice from Ms. Baucham.

*He had an entire routine as a small infant where he'd slump over, cough dramatically three times, slowly raise his head with his last bit strength, bravely make eye-contact with his therapist, and give one deep hack.  I translated that as "PT, I really want to do PT with you today, but my multwi-dwug resistant tuburculosis -hack-hack-hack- is worsened by PT.   I will only survive if you cuddle me...." and start laughing.  Oh, if looks could kill, I'd be dead from the looks Spawn gave me.

**I tried to stop a "Hootie the Toddlerfish" concert during one nap time this month by going into his room and saying and signing "Spawn, you need to sleep now!" in a calm but serious voice.  Spawn looked completely innocently at me like "What do you mean, dearest mother?" , signed "Sleep, sleep" very seriously, put his head down like a good toddler - and began hooting and vocalizing as soon as I closed the door again.    

Monday, June 10, 2019

Jill Dillard's "More Than Sex" Post on Marriage: How to Greet Each Other!

There's something about anniversaries - specifically the ones that are multiples of five - that inspires interesting blog posts.   Jill (Duggar) Dillard has been married to Derick Dillard for five years now.   Honestly, I was a bit surprised by that.  I'm coming up on my seventh marriage anniversary and I thought she got married before me.   In honor of that milestone, Jill wrote a long post about how to love your husband. 

Her premise is that she found it highly annoying when people chalked the passion between Derick and her as a sign of being in a new relationship and thanks to a lot of work the two of them are still in love five years later.

That leads to my first comment: your mileage may vary.   I'm skeptical that Derick and Jill are still in the limerence stage of a relationship.  That's the heady first stage of a romance when your romantic partner can do no wrong.  They are the most perfect creature God ever created and you want nothing more in life than to tell everyone what an amazing person they are.   Limerence is the reason hiding a crush is far more difficult than the person with a crush thinks it is; humans tend to talk about the person they have a crush on incessantly and with weirdly upbeat takes (from the perspective of an outsider).   

Limerence is wonderful - but it is transient.  Between 18 months and three years into a relationship, couples naturally transition into cycles of stress/doubt, molding expectations, and happiness.   The ability to form a lasting partnership for a couple is based on being able to navigate this cycle together.   I suspect that there are nearly infinite ways for a happy, lasting partnership to work - and following Jill's advice would have shattered my marriage because my husband and I are not Jill and Derick.  

A clear example of how your mileage may vary is the ironclad way Jill describes how to greet a husband who arrives home.   The examples are scattered through the post so I've clumped them together in a summary:
  1. Be super-excited when your husband comes home.  At the very least, sprint across your abode to meet him.  If your kids are gone, jump his bones right then and there.  If the kids are around, have everyone meet him at the door!
  2. Kisses when he's coming or going should last at least 6 seconds.   It's an affair-proofing vaccination.
  3. Get rid of the kids, dinner, phones or any other secondary distractions for at least 15-20 minutes of quality talking time.   Added bonus: if you point-blank tell people that you're cutting their conversation off because your spouse came home, that action counts as a public service because other women might start doing it too!
  4. Listen diligently to your husband regardless of how tired you are, how agonizingly boring the topic is or how many other things need to be done.   The hardest bit is forcing yourself to enjoy his hobbies that don't fit you at all - but if you keep it up, you'll learn to fake it well enough, I suppose.
My husband and I do fine with our routine when one of us comes home.   We greet each other and exchange a very abbreviated rundown of how our days went.  This is also when we exchange those random issues that popped up during the day that you need your spouse to deal with since we're both still in working mode like "We need more Pediasure" from my husband or "Can you cover Spawn's speech appointment next Tuesday at 9am?" from me.  

Since my husband has worked on farms and in HVAC positions and my retail job is both dusty and paint-covered, the next item of business is a shower to decontaminate before settling down for the evening.   I've jumped in the shower with my husband for fun adult time before Spawn was in the picture, but I don't trust my two-year-old enough to leave him unattended for more than about 5 minutes and not without having both ears peeled for signs of trouble.   Also - and this might just be me - hopping in the shower while Spawn is awake would lead directly to an emergency room trip where I'd have to explain that I didn't see my toddler fall off the couch and smack his head on the floor because...I was in the shower with my husband.   Finally, I would be so fixated on if any sound was a sign that Spawn was standing on the couch...or found an electrical outlet...or whatever toddler mayhem was on tap...that I would not be a particularly good shower partner for adult sexy time.

I like kissing my husband.   An informal experiment to see if kissing him for six seconds improved anything was terminated, however, when I realized how distracting counting the seconds in my head was.   On a related note, being told that we should kiss for at least 6 seconds by a former Duggar is a total romance killer.  This might be because I kept saying, "Jill Dillard says this is important!" before kissing my husband.    Your millage might vary.

Did I mention my husband is a very patient man?

Anyways, we save any deep talking until we are both cleaned up and fed.   We are both the type who come home rather wound-up from work and we both appreciate having our spouse wind down a bit before talking for any extended period of time. 

There was a period where my husband wanted to discuss his job frustrations before his shower - and that was a massive stressor for me.  He was so wound up that he'd cycle on the same idea or same event for 30 minutes or more - but the same idea or event after a shower was 5-10 minutes to work out. 
I laid out how frustrated I was by our talks prior to his shower.  He listened and was ok with trying to shower before discussion time.   We adapted and our current system works for us. 

That was a great example of a small cycle of unease -> molding -> new happiness that mature relationships move through.

In terms of discussing interests and hobbies, yikes! 

Yes, part of being a good friend in general and good spouse in specific is occasionally maintaining your end of a conversational topic that your friend enjoys and you do not.   My husband enjoys sci-fi/fantasy novels much more broadly than I do.  I, on the other hand, take a simple pleasure at watching homesteaders fail miserably on various TV shows.  We both listen patiently to our spouse's most recent adventures in entertainment because we love each other even if we're just not that into the topic. 

Having said that, we have very different hobbies that do not overlap.  My husband plays the ukulele with several pick-up groups.  I swim and do water aerobics.   My husband adores crossword puzzles.  I crochet.   We each pursue these hobbies without dragging the other spouse into the hobby because being married doesn't mean losing your own self.

Equally important, I don't feel like I need to monitor and cling to my husband because he'll have an affair if he is left unattended for more than 30 seconds.   More on that in the next post.

Monday, June 3, 2019

ATI Wisdom Booklet 24: Fallen Empires - Mayan Empire


Welcome to a new segment of reclaiming history from the warped and crazy summaries created by unpaid (and probably sexually harassed) workers for Bill Gothard's Advanced Training Institute!

In the last post, we learned how the Inca Empire fell because of laziness, false gods, and corrupt leaders.   I'm pretty sure that ALL empires past and present could be accused of all three - but life moves on even when governments fall.  Just ask China, Russia, England or the USA - we've all been there.

The next empire to receive a glancing overview of skills followed by an entirely made-up reason for their downfall is the Mayan Empire.  The Maya had an advanced civilization with massive building project, intensive agricultural works and a variety of written works at its height.  The Classic Mayan Empire collapsed around 900 AD - some 400 years prior to European contact.  The writers of the Wisdom Booklet seem to have missed this tidbit - but the Mayan Empire contacted by Europeans was much more fragmented and depopulated than it had been in the past.  That Classic collapse has had a variety of theories over time - but the best supported theory currently is that an extended drought of 200 years occurred across the Yucatan Peninsula.  Cities in areas where the water table dropped below an accessible point collapsed and survivors moved towards areas where water was available through rivers or cenotes - a settlement pattern seen at the time of European contact.

European contact and conquest followed a starkly similar pattern throughout the New World.  The first Europeans introduced a variety of disastrous epidemic diseases to the Maya who had no previous exposure to the pathogens.   Native Americans lost 70-90% of their populations in a short time prior to any incursions by European warriors.   In spite of this level of catastrophic loss, it took the Spanish Empire nearly 200 years to conquer all of the existing Maya states. 

One surprising advantage for the Mayans was their use of flint for arrowheads, spear tips, etc.   See, flint is a rock that is easy to shape, takes a sharp point, but is easily fracturable.  That fracturability greatly increased the mortality rate among injured Spaniards since the shattered flint in a wound introduced a high risk of fatal infections.

Let's get into the selected quotes:

This first sentence is the only direct placement of the Mayan culture within a timeline until the author brings up an event from Nunez de Balboa's expedition across Central America.  The author straight up ignores the fact that the fall of the Mayan Empire around 950 AD is separated from the later event (which has some additional problems discussed later) by 563 years.   An awful lot happens over 5.6 centuries; compare any European country in 1456 to today to serve as a comparison.

A lot of CP/QF history suffers from the same flaws as young-earth creationism (YEC).  YEC often makes a statement in a way that implies that the statement is a well-supported fact when in reality the statement is highly suspect outside of believers.   In this quote, Mayan civilization is casually described as being directly connected to Noah - but there is no evidence given at all for that claim.   There are at least 30 Mayan languages either used today or extinct but with enough written examples to allow analysis of linguistic connections - and no one can connect those languages with ancient Middle Eastern languages.    I suppose that YEC could argue that this lack of connection is due to the incident of the Tower of Babel - but that doesn't explain why population geneticists can show that humans left Africa in several different waves instead of one wave propagating outward from the Middle East.
The section on the Mayan invention of zero deserves a better explanation.  Several previous civilizations had a place-holding zero like the zero in 204 that represents 2 groups of one hundred, four ones, and no tens - but the Mayans had the first example of a zero that meant a total absence.  Figuring out how to deal with nothing seems easy - but it is a breakthrough that took many civilizations a long time to figure out. 

The Mayans were excellent at astronomy and determined lots of accurate future dates of astronomical events.  Really, my only pet-peeve with the Mayans is the fact that they created a roughly 5,125 year cycling calendar and left behind a stone tablet.  Some modern translators made a mistake when translating the stone tablet in the 1960's - and the next thing you know - I'm stuck with 30,000 questions about the world ending in December 2012 throughout the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.   It's not the fault of the Mayans but I still flinch slightly when Mayans are mentioned because I'm afraid I'll get dragged into a boring conversation about the end of times.

Woot-woot!  The Mayans homeschooled!  Woot-woot! 

Of course, homeschooling wasn't enough to prevent their civilization from collapsing, was it?  What do you mean that's not the takeaway message?  *shrugs*

It took the Spanish nearly 200 years to control all of the Mayan states - and I suspect that historians and anthropologists could argue that the Spanish never really brought much cultural change to most areas.  Oh, various officials tried hard to get taxes or resources from the population and members of the Catholic Church tried various carrot-and-stick-but-mostly-stick methods of getting people to convert - but Mayans had the advantage of remote locations and an ability to syncretize their religion to appear Catholic while still honoring their religious beliefs.

That graph is a hot mess.   The vertical axis is a bit wonky - but I can kind of see it.  The Mayans developed new technologies on a smooth curve before losing said achievements in two collapses.  As a theoretical concept, it works - but the Mayan civilization existed - so I'm left with the feeling that the person who constructed the graph was half-assing their job by not actually determine how many technologies were lost over units of time.  That feeling gets worse when I look at the horizontal axis.  "Time" needs a unit of some kind.  We know that the Mayans had a high achieving Classic period that lasted roughly 600 years ending around 950 AD.  That could work for the top of the graph - but that means that the rest of the graph covers 1800 years and all hell is about to break loose in Central America.  The other option is to declare that second drop of technological advances is roughly right for the invasion of the Spanish - but it also means that the Mayan people are still losing cultural and technological advances - which feels wrong, too.

Next, we dive into the patently false ideas about why the Mayan Empire fell - but the false ideas do give a great deal of insight into how ATI works.

*slow claps*

Teaching kids to appreciate art from different cultures requires some patience and effort.  ATI decides to avoid that extra work by declaring that art that looks ugly by ATI standards is abhorrent to God.

The Mayans used political prisoners (e.g., conquered nobles) for sacrifices.  If you don't want to be sacrificed to the gods, be a peasant farmer like the vast majority of humankind.   Or at least make sure you have the best trained soldiers....your choice.

It's always fun to blame the human desire for novelty for everything wrong in the universe - but most of us are simply trying to raise a family and not die horribly at a young age.   That's the real human experience.   Another human universal is that "things that I do" are normal and divinely sanctioned while "things that outsiders do" are abnormal and demonic.   The Mayans could easily make the same claims about Christianity - and I'm disturbed that no one in ATI seems to have noticed that.

As near as I can tell - and it took a lot of digging - this entire smear on the Mayan Empire (and the Aztecs who are mostly ignored) is roughly third-hand at this point. 

Yes, when Vasco Nunez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama, he discovered the Pacific Ocean.

 Prior to that, he was moving through Central America looking for gold, silver and emeralds as a conquistador.  While he was governor of Veragua, he worked at subduing the local populations through diplomacy, negotiation or force. 

 At the same time, there was a great deal of discussion and hand-wringing in Spain about how Native Americans should be treated.  One line of thought was that Native Americans could be converted to Catholicism.  Since they could be converted to Christianity,  Spaniards had the duty to treat them like fellow humans who had rights in terms of governance and property.  The other line of thought was that Native Americans were not really human and so Spain had no reason to treat them as humans.

With that background, the story recorded by Peter Martyr d'Anghiera was meant to reconcile actions of conquistadors with the idea that Native Americans were humans.    The story goes that Nunez de Balboa came upon a group of 40 noble men who were engaged in homosexual activities so he had the men killed using his war dogs and the local people were happy that that abomination was destroyed.    IOW, the evil nobles were doing wrong in the eyes of the humble peasants who knew that the gods (or God) hated immorality and Nunez de Balboa freed those peasants from evil leaders and divine wrath.

I can make the history make a certain amount of sense - within the senseless hatred of racism and homophobia that is - but the ATI workbook proceeds to take a single event in a single polity, ignores the obvious spin placed on the report by the killer, and decides to insult the rest of the empire for fun. 

Oh, and they drag in the Aztecs.  *rolls eyes*


Most cultures have one form of astrology or another.  Heck, we use astrology to place the right dates for Easter.   It's another human quirk; we look at the movement of the sun, the moon, and various other astronomical bodies and try to use them to figure out what will happen next.  The idea is not so crazy when you consider that watching the movement of the moon let people estimate 1/12 of the year and determine when tides and seasons would change.  The biggest body orders a day, the next biggest orders the months, so why shouldn't the smallest bodies order events in human lives?

Conversely, the US has had various forms of astrology in use since colonial times - see your handy Farmer's Almanac for details - so if the Mayans were screwed, so are we. 

The next post in this series is on why Classical Greece fell.