Sunday, September 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Seven - Part Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Seven - Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Seven - Part One

I mentioned in a previous post that I am in the middle of the Labor Day paint sale at the home improvement retailer that I work for.   The Sunday of Labor Day weekend, we had the internet connection fail to the paint dispensers.

I should step back and explain how we do work in the paint pit.  Our paint pit (also known as the paint desk) has two sides that are a short and a long stainless steel counter that make up two sides of a rectangle.  The short stainless counter is where we take orders from customers.  The long counter has six mixers underneath it for paint and stain containers that are one gallon or smaller.  We use the top of the long counter for securing paint can lids, placing dabs of paint on the lid and staging orders that are finished. At the leftmost corner where the two stainless counters come together, we have a standard computer where we can input orders and print off labels. The third side of the rectangle is made of three industrial paint shakers for 2-5 gallon containers and one of the paint dispenser.  This paint dispenser is called "Bert".  The last side is two half walls divided by a large entryway that opens into the aisle where the interior, exterior and masonry paints are at.  The right half wall is also where the second paint dispenser is located.  That paint dispenser is named "Ernie".

Due to a ceiling support column that sits about 18 inches off the front of Ernie, Bert is used much more frequently since filling paint orders on Ernie requires either walking around the column or shoving your shoulder and hip into the column.  Dispensing paint into 5 gallon containers is doable with Ernie - but there is not much room to maneuver due to the column, plus the 56 pound containers need to be wrestled across the pit to the industrial shakers afterwards.  Bert, on the other hand, is immediately next to the industrial shakers.

On a normal day, the work flow moves smoothly around the pit.  We discuss orders with customers at the short stainless counter.  Two workers can input the orders at a time into the CPU on the long counter or into Ernie who is next to the opposite end of the short counter. 

Currently, we have two paint order systems.  The older mostly DOS based system is completely baffling to new people.  None of the labels of the menus make any sense.  Oh, and the training videos were made before a large change in how the system works and never updated.   So the old system is crazy - but once you learn it after 2-3 weeks, it is very fast because the DOS package comes with keyboard macros for everything. 

Last month, we added a new internet paint order system.  The new system's labels make some sense on first read - but the functionality of the internet based system is much less than the old DOS system.  See, the old system has a lot of backdoor hacks that let us put all sorts of paint colors into exterior solid stains...or masonry paints...or primers.  The new internet system got rid of all those hacks.  Even on straightforward orders, the internet system takes longer for most people because it has no macros.

Once the order is inputted, we print out labels for each paint or stain can.  We tear off the labels and retrieve the correct bases (e.g., the cans of paint without pigments) from the aisles using the information on the label.  We put the sticker labels on the cans and go to either Ernie or Bert.  Since the computer and paint dispensers are all connected through the internet,  an order inputted at any terminal can be dispensed at either Ernie or Bert.  Once pigment is added, the top of the paint is secured and the can is shaken.  The last step is to re-open the can and visually inspect the paint.  Rarely, a paint appears streaky and needs an extra round of shaking.  If the paint looks good, a dab of paint is placed on the lid for customer inspection.  The can is resealed and placed on the customer's side of the long stainless steel counter.

Long story short: Bert disconnected from the internet around 9am.  Our boss got online with the IT department.  Through trial and error, we discovered that the computer and Ernie were still connected to the internet and each other so they had full functionality.  At the same time, Bert worked as a stand-alone machine where all orders to be dispensed were inputted on Bert.  Essentially, the two older nerdy co-workers (me and a gentleman nearing retirement) did our work off Bert while reminiscing about how great DOS systems were.  The younger folks who are college-aged OR preferred GUI systems kept the CPU and Ernie busy.  It was a little clumsy, but we were able to work at near full speed.

At 11am, IT tried to put a fix through.   The fix caused Bert to shutdown totally while disconnecting the CPU and Ernie from the internet. 

So...not the best fix.  More like a flaw, really.

This meant everyone now had to manually enter all orders in Ernie and all orders had to be dispensed on Ernie in the older DOS system.  Essentially, a system that we had honed to get rid of any bottlenecks - or rather, ended up bottlenecked at the paint mixers if we were really busy - now had a double bottleneck at inputting orders and dispensing orders. 

During the busiest times, I took to announcing in my teacher-voice that we were down to one slow-moving paint machine and that orders were taking 20-30 minutes to complete due to the bottleneck.  We would be thrilled if people stuck around - but we would not hold it personally if they left.

Eventually, we got Bert back to a stand-alone system which dropped order times to around 10 minutes for 1-3 cans and 15 for more than 3 cans. 

I have no idea what I'll see when I'm back at work on Wednesday - but the main topic of conversation was how we should commemorate the weekend.  Should we order commemorative pins?  Challenge coins?  My idea was patches embossed with "Labor Day Sale 2019 - DOS RULES!"

Anyway, we all survived - and we even sold some paint.

Ironically, my harried 8.5 hours shift yesterday ties into Chapter Seven of Jasmine Baucham's "Joyfully At Home" which allegedly deals with overcoming false ideas of marriage.  Well, that's what Ms. Baucham tried to do - but mainly by sharing how massively overworked she is as a single SAHD and declaring that being married is going to be that much work or more.

Some of these stories are mind blowing - like this anecdote where Jasmine tries to explain that being married is harder work than being a SAHD:

It's true: I am single, and I am a single who is very desirous of that infinitely more difficult state. Sometimes, though, it helps me to get a foretaste of married life. That always brings me back to reality and out of dreamland.

Well, you know when you have a pile of dishes in the sink, a load of laundry bleeping in the laundry room, a screaming baby in his playpen, two toddlers arguing over a toy in the living room, a list of chores as long as your arm, and errands to run before your mom and dad get back from their romantic weekend getaway... And you look to the heavens and sigh over the day when Prince Charming will come and rescue from the depths of despair? (pg. 85)
Let's be sure we've got the scene set.

 Jasmine (and possibly Trey) have been left at home with at least three (and possibly 5) kids under school age so their parents can have a weekend away.  In addition to keeping three or more small children alive, Jasmine is expected to do laundry, the normal household chores AND errands - while her parents are away for a romantic weekend.

That is completely absurd!

I'm an adult married woman with one toddler.  If I was leaving him with a teenager for a weekend,  I would leave a tidy house with all the chores done - and fully expect that I'd have to re-do all the chores to get the house clean again on Monday. 

Why?  Because teenagers are not adults.  I don't want my teenage daughter to be practicing multi-tasking child care with household chores without any adults around to put out fires if they happen.  Meals would have been planned ahead of time and require nothing more complicated than putting a frozen pizza in an oven or using the toaster to reheat frozen waffles.   Disposable plates were created for a reason.  Most other chores can be put on hold until the work week.   Toddlers can be hard on clothing - so maybe she'd need to do a load of laundry or two if there are a lot of accidents - but the rest can wait.  I certainly wouldn't want her running errands with three small children in the car with her.  Driving is a complex task that is hard enough alone.  Adding in three random loud noise makers in the back seat is cruel and dangerous.

Jasmine was very young when she wrote this - but common sense dictates that the average married couple doesn't go from wedding to a house filled with tiny children instantly.   Even if a newlywed couple gets knocked up on their wedding day, they've got 9 months to get used to being a couple before adding a kid or two.  Assuming a young woman can have a baby a year, a newlywed couple has four years before reaching the point of having two toddlers and one infant in the home.

As an older mom, I find Jasmine's scenario funny and naive at the same time.  It's really funny because she's pitching one of those awful afternoons where everything is going wrong as the standard operating procedure.  There are some days where everything is going wrong and there's nothing to do but power through it. Having said that, not every day is a hot mess - and if it is - there's something else going on.   Naivete comes when Jasmine Baucham at 19 cannot conceptualize that the wife and mother in a home has neither a list of chores nor a list of errands that must be done before her parents come home.  A SAHM often has a list of urgent chores like "Do dishes before next meal because we are out of silverware", "Wash toddler's shirt before that stain sets" or "We NEED milk".  There's also the list of chores that need to be done regularly like "Sweep the floor" or "clean the bathroom sink" - but those can be skipped on a day with crabby-ass toddlers.    Ditto for errands - although packing everyone up for a trip to the store can sometimes break up a generalized bad mood in the house.

The next post also cover another time where Jasmine's parents leave LOTS of responsibility on her shoulders.